The Funniest Thing
For a generation or more, Republicans have built a substantial and ardent, albeit frustrated, grassroots voter base largely on the mantra, implied or directly stated, that the Democrats are trying to shift America toward despotism. The entire array of opinion sources that are generally collected under the term “conservative media” have built their considerable audience on the more explicit form of that mantra. Meanwhile, the GOP establishment — the old boys club — has cynically used the implication of despotic fears (“binary choice,” “But Hillary”) to keep the grassroots voters on board, in spite of the establishment’s consistent electoral drag toward the “moderate” edge of the party platform.
And the mantra, on its face, was and is true. The Democrats have been gradually shifting the political debate, and weighting the unelected administrative state, toward a form of quasi-Marxist totalitarianism for more than a century. It does not follow, however — and it never did — that the Republicans, in repeating this mantra, were themselves opposed in principle to despotism. It only follows that they were opposed to the Democrats.
Thus, here at the end of the Republican rainbow, we see the sad truth at last: It is the Republican Party today that at the highest levels is proposing to step far beyond a mere incremental shift into tyranny, and instead positioning itself as the party of outright brute force dictatorship. For that is exactly what Donald Trump is threatening, and more importantly (since Trump himself is all cheap show) what his supporters among both the elected and the electorate are demanding today. They are declaring, on Trump’s behalf, the power to override an election result, to delete Electoral College votes, on the basis of absolutely no rational argument, supportable evidence, or constitutional provision, but simply and entirely because they want Trump to remain president.
By and large, even those elected Republicans who, to their half-credit, are refusing to join the overt champions of tyranny in supporting the overturning of an election, are trying to have their cake and eat it too — that is, to distance themselves from the direct advocacy of military dictatorship, while still trying to maintain the allegiance of the grassroots voting base that has become nothing but Trump’s personality cult. Given the cynicism the establishment displayed in directly creating this monster for their own benefit, it serves them right that they should now have to face the full meaning and reverberation of what they created. The GOP grassroots, “the base,” is tens of millions of Americans who used to irk the McConnell elite by rallying for the U.S. Constitution, but who are now cornering that elite, torches in hand, screaming for a tyrant. By refusing to disavow Trump and his followers outright, the establishmentarians are showing their own hearts as clearly as if they were all signed on to Louie Gohmert’s lawsuit against Mike Pence. They are revealing that they can live with a populist putsch in their midst, as long as they feel they can keep the mob somewhat under their control at election time. In other words, it is not the reality of the despotic mood in their ranks that disturbs them, but only the bad optics.
The Republican Party is now a party of tyranny. Republicans, therefore, no longer have any credibility in accusing the Democrats of despotic tendencies. To my recollection, no Democrat in high office has ever led a movement to reject an election as such, condemned the Electoral College and the U.S. Supreme Court outright, and simply declared himself the “real” office-holder against all procedures and constitutional provisions, not to mention without providing any evidence of the sort that anyone would dare to take to court. You need a leader with nerves of steel, insecurities of titanium, and shamelessness of kryptonite for that, and the Democrats, to their demerit, have never found a figurehead as impressively detached from reality and adulthood as Donald J. Trump. Lord knows they have tried. But Trump is a special case, even among puppet kings.