Where Do the Republicans Go From Here?
This man is the face of the post-Trump party.
The continuing dumpster fire that is what remains of the Grand Old Party is evident in a trio of somewhat-related stories out overnight.
POLITICO (“GOP can’t escape ‘self-inflicted injuries’ as they fight to reclaim House“):
House Republicans should be riding high: The majority is in their grasp and President Joe Biden’s poll numbers are tanking.
Instead, they’re getting in their own way, again.
Ahead of a vote on Democrats’ biggest agenda item, the GOP conference is embroiled in messy internal spats that have spilled into public view, including the censure Wednesday of a far-right House member, the first such vote in more than a decade. At the same time, some rank-and-file Republicans are still pushing to punish their own colleagues for backing a bipartisan bill reviled by former President Donald Trump.
That turmoil is no longer an anomaly for the GOP. The party’s emboldened conservative agitators have repeatedly stoked controversies that threaten to become all-consuming distractions, leaving House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to seek out a fire extinguisher. The recurring problem could hurt the party as it works to claw back the majority next year.
“I find it unfortunate,” said Rep. Daniel Meuser (R-Pa.), who recalled thinking earlier on Wednesday: “It’s a shame these self-inflicted injuries occur. But that’s all it is and we’re gonna get past that because there’s far more important things to be concerned with.”
While few Republicans voted to rebuke Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday, several GOP lawmakers privately say his antics brought Republicans an unneeded diversion in an otherwise upbeat month. It forced them on defense just hours before Democrats are expected to take a high-stakes vote on Biden’s signature bill to expand the social safety net. And Republicans would much rather talk about that bill — since they widely believe it’s their ticket to flipping the handful of seats needed to reclaim the speaker’s gavel.
Instead, GOP drama is dominating headlines. Inflation and Democratic infighting have taken a backseat to Gosar’s violent social media posts — he published an animated video that depicts him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — and the intraparty backlash against the 13 Republicans who backed this month’s infrastructure vote.
Their predicament was captured Wednesday afternoon, when McCarthy and dozens of Republicans held a press conference to speak out against Democrats’ social spending plan. When the top Republican opened up the event to take questions from journalists, the first question was about Gosar.
“Did you listen to anything we said?” McCarthy responded to the reporter, before dismissing the question and ultimately ending the press conference. The GOP leader later delivered a fiery floor speech condemning the vote: “The speaker is burning down the House on the way out the door.”
But while tensions have certainly escalated, Republicans say the Gosar vote hasn’t split the party, particularly compared to other moments this year. All but two Republicans voted against the censure, arguing that Democrats went too far in stripping him from committees. That move — once unheard of — has now happened twice this Congress.
If anything, Republicans say Democrats’ efforts to pointedly bash Gosar, as he sat three rows from the back of the chamber, has further poisoned relations across the aisle.
McCarthy privately told a group of Republican Study Committee members on Wednesday Gosar’s office was wrong to post the video, but that he opposes the majority-led efforts to censure the Arizona Republican. The GOP leader said if they recapture the majority, he doesn’t think Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) should be serving on the House Intelligence Committee, according to sources in the room. Republicans have also named Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) as lawmakers who should be worried if Republicans retake the House.
Still, some moderate Republicans grumbled that McCarthy and his team could have done more to address the situation. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) pointed out “this was not the first thing” with Gosar, recalling previous comments in support of Nazis, white supremacists and baseless conspiracy theories.
To be honest, the idiotic video that got Gosar in trouble (and for which he retweeted after being censured!) is the least of my concerns with him. One could at least make the argument that it’s a weird joke, apparently a photoshopped . And strange fantasies where politicians are action heroes saving the Republic from certain doom seem to be all the rage these days. But we simply can’t have Members of Congress openly supporting Nazis and white supremacists. There was no choice but to strip of his power; indeed, he should have been expelled. That essentially no Republican Member saw fit to support the censure of him or the lunatic Marjorie Taylor Greene does not bode well for the state of the party.
WaPo’s Dana Milbank isn’t wrong when he declares “Paul Gosar killed his colleague in a cartoon. Kevin McCarthy is killing democracy in real life.”
McCarthy was outraged — not by the unrepentant Gosar’s homicidal cinematography but by Democrats’ move to reprimand him. Instead of condemning the video, McCarthy said Democrats would “break another precedent” of the House.
So Gosar depicts himself murdering a Democratic colleague, but Democrats are the ones breaking precedent for reprimanding him?
McCarthy, on the House floor, mentioned the matter only in passing (“I do not condone violence, and Rep. Gosar had echoed that sentiment”), instead reciting a meandering list of grievances: Proxy voting! The Steele dossier! Afghanistan! He threatened that when speaker he would retaliate by stripping committee assignments from five Democrats over various perceived offenses.
The victim of Gosar’s anime sword, speaking immediately after McCarthy, noted McCarthy’s strained search for equivalent wrongs. “When the Republican leader rose to talk about how there are all of these double standards … not once did he list an example of a member of Congress threatening the life of another,” Ocasio-Cortez pointed out.
“It is a sad day,” she said, “in which a member who leads a political party in the United States of America cannot bring themselves to say that issuing a depiction of murdering a member of Congress is wrong.”
Sad, but to be expected from McCarthy.
Gosar claimed that Ashli Babbitt, the insurrectionist shot dead by Capitol Police on Jan. 6 as she breached the final barrier protecting lawmakers, was “executed in cold blood” by a police officer “lying in wait” for her. Gosar attended a conference run by a White nationalist banned from YouTube because of hate speech and was listed as the beneficiary of a fundraiser by the same White nationalist. Gosar alleged that the FBI planned and carried out the Jan. 6 insurrection, and he was named by an organizer of Jan. 6 as one of the lawmakers who “schemed up” the atrocity. Gosar joined 20 Republican colleagues in voting against awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6.
And McCarthy pretty much let it all slide.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) earlier this year posted an image of herself with an AR-15 next to photos of Democratic Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.) with the caption “Squad’s Worst Nightmare.”
Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) warned that “if our election systems continue to be rigged and continued to be stolen then it’s going to lead to one place and that’s bloodshed.”
Former president Donald Trump said Babbitt “was murdered at the hands of someone who should never have pulled the trigger …. The Radical Left haters cannot be allowed to get away with this.”
Several House Republican lawmakers have been tied (or tied themselves to) violent or anti-government groups such as the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters.
And McCarthy pretty much let it all slide.
Instead, he threatened to strip Republican lawmakers of their committee assignments — if they joined the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. McCarthy also had a laugh when noting that, if he wins the speakership, “it will be hard not to hit” Pelosi with an oversized gavel.
There was once a case to be made that McCarthy was simply a weak leader. But now it’s clear he is blessing the provocations to violence.
Whether he’s “blessing” them or simply so enamored of power and too afraid of the Trumpist base to speak out is unclear but, ultimately, irrelevant. There are some genuinely dangerous kooks who have managed to get elected to the United States Congress and McCarthy is enabling them.
And, alas, there seems to be no turning back any time soon.
CNN’s Gloria Borger (“For the GOP now, all roads lead to Donald Trump“):
Sometimes, during a busy week in Washington, a recap is in order. So let’s take stock of the Trump GOP for a moment:GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, a diehard conservative, daughter of a diehard conservative vice president, has been excommunicated from the Wyoming Republican Party.GOP Rep. Paul Gosar, who tweeted a bizarre anime video showing him appearing to kill progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is forgiven at a House GOP caucus meeting. (And when Democrats decided to censure him and remove him from his committee assignments Wednesday, only two Republicans agreed his behavior warranted such punishment. The final vote was 223-207.)
And what about those 13 House GOPers who dared to vote for the Biden infrastructure bill, which two-thirds of the American public actually wants? There’s talk of stripping them of their committee assignments.
As only Alice in Wonderland might ask of the Republicans, “Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”Well, maybe not such a puzzle.
Meet the Trump 2022 caucus, in which all that matters is whether a) you are willing to say the 2020 election was rigged, b) you voted against impeachment, and c) anything Trump is against (like the infrastructure bill), you are against, too. There is room in your heart only for Donald Trump.
If you’re Kevin McCarthy, add one more priority: becoming House speaker, for which you believe you need Trump. (Even though the ever-loyal Trump has told people he doesn’t really like you and could go on a jihad against your bid for the speakership even if you win back the House majority. The august Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene seems to be in favor of that program.)
Some might be able to summon some pity for McCarthy, who, after all, is trying to navigate between his moderates and his Gosar goons, but nah. After all, how much is a speakership worth? Enough, apparently to justify a defense of Gosar on the grounds that Democrats are simply a bunch of hypocrites, abusing their power by taking action against a member who threatened another member’s life. (Just reminding: Republicans also shrugged or fled for the hills when asked about Trump’s offensive, even dangerous, tweets. So at least they’re consistent.)
But I digress. Back to the unfolding GOP scenario. The worry, says former Republican National Committee communications director Doug Heye, is that the party is heading to a place in which “we don’t have to accept elections and policy doesn’t matter, like penalizing people voting for an infrastructure bill.” (Not to mention the fact that Trump himself was gung ho in 2019 for a $2 trillion measure until he walked out because Democrats wouldn’t halt their investigations of him.) And the question, Heye adds, is “How do we get past this?”
As a result, by my last count, there are two Trump-endorsed Senate candidates who have been accused of domestic abuse: In Pennsylvania, the party’s front-runner, Sean Parnell, has been accused by his estranged wife of choking her and hitting one of their children — charges he denies. And in Georgia, Trump’s buddy Herschel Walker had to answer questions about his ex-wife’s accusation that he had held a gun to her head. He said in a 2008 CNN interview that he didn’t remember being violent toward his wife, but he didn’t deny it. A Walker candidacy is not exactly what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had in mind, but now Walker has his blessing. Go figure.
But wait. There’s one wannabe senator with sexual misconduct allegations against him who is still vying for the Trump thumbs-up: former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens. Never mind that he resigned the governorship in 2018 after revelations of an affair with a woman who accused him of sexual misconduct and threats of blackmail. Greitens admitted to the affair, but denied the rest. He’s a Trumpist now, as are many in the Missouri GOP US Senate primary race. So the primary is getting ugly, which isn’t a happy place for Republicans as they struggle to see whom Trump loves the most.
The list of potential problems goes on: Trump wants former Georgia Sen. David Perdue to run against Gov. Brian Kemp, who actually had the temerity to challenge Trump’s rigged election conspiracy theories. GOP candidates in Arizona are still talking rigged election to make Trump happy, as are Republicans in Ohio. It is as if they have nothing else to run on. The irony, of course, is that they do.
All of which pleases Democrats. “He’s elevated problematic and flawed candidates,” says David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “It’s intensified vicious and expensive infighting. And he’s deterred some candidates from entering some races.”
Consider GOP New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu — seen as a great Senate recruit — who recently declined to run for the seat. While he has declared himself a Trump supporter in the past, he also was reelected in 2020 with 65% of the vote — 20 points better than Trump. Considered a moderate, he complained about gridlock in Washington as a reason for deciding against a run. But he’s not exactly a candidate who would have been excited to worship at the shrine of Trump.
This isn’t completely new, of course. The Republicans did far less well than they otherwise should have in the 2010 midterms because they put up so many crazies. Then, the crazies lost. I’m not so sure now.
Indeed, it’s quite likely that Republicans will take back the House and the Senate a year from now, absent something on the scale of Pearl Harbor or 9/11 changing the landscape. The President’s party almost always loses seats in the midterms and the Democratic majority is razor-thin in the House and nonexistent in the Senate. All of the usual indicators point in a positive direction for 2022.
Regardless, the concern isn’t so much how the party will fare in the midterms or even in 2024 but the moral and intellectual state of the entity that has been half of our two-party system for 140 years. The Republican Party first fielded a presidential candidate in 1856 and permanently displaced the Whigs with Abraham Lincoln’s victory in 1860. There is no viable replacement in sight and no obvious path to build one.
To be sure, it’s theoretically possible that sane conservatives could take back the party. After all, parties evolve and the two current parties have flip-flopped as to who is the “liberal” party, the “populist” party, and the “civil rights” party more than once over the course of their existence. But I don’t know that we’ve ever had this degree of institutional rot in either party during the 140-year run.
To paraphrase an old business expression, “The buyer doesn’t realize the horse is already dead but hasn’t hit the ground yet.” The Republican Party doesn’t have anywhere to go, as they arrived at their destination years ago. They are the Southern Party now, regardless of where in the country they hold sway. And the Southern form of governance is basically: Wealthy and powerful patrons put politicians in power to do their bidding, which frequently works against the interests of their voters. In order to maintain power they generate racial and social bigotry and hysteria and rile up vigilante mobs to create violence. They keep voters angry against minority groups and then portray themselves as champions of the majority tireless in efforts to keep the minorities in their place. It has been an effective policy for more than two centuries in the South. The Republican embrace of the Southern Strategy in the 1960’s inevitably led to this result, as Party leaders predicted back then.
That has been quite plain for some time now.
And yet, Gosar and Green–and the two domestic violence tainted Senatorial candidates for that matter–will more than likely all get reelected/elected. Beyond that, even censuring Gosar or whatever other action might have been taken against him would have had no great effect over the longer term and would not force voters to reconsider. The Republicans know their constituencies. McCarthy is wise to pay more attention to that than to the concerns of those who, to quote a famous statesperson of the past, “are paling around with terrorists who want to destroy our country.”
The Democrats should propose a $15 trillion bill to fund expedited research in transplanting or growing human spines.
If it were possible to post pictures, I would post a picture of Nazis goose-stepping and saluting Der Führer, in answer to the title question. Or of the Nuremberg rallies.
And yet, MarkedMan, they are still poised to retake Congress with an odds on opportunity to retake all the White House in 2024. We keep saying they are moribund, but they are winning elections.
The US currently has only one functioning political party, and McCarthy isn’t leading it.
Gosar is a nut, and absolutely should have been expelled.
Cults of personality don’t generally evolve into fine, upstanding defenders of reason and law. (See Hitler, Stalin, Kim Il Sung, Shoko Asahara). Where Republicans go from here is pretty obvious. They’re delusional, mentally unstable, ideologically lost but grandiose, heavily-armed and violent. It’s a fascist party that will work to overthrow the US government and erase the Constitution. @MarkedMan: is absolutely right: this die was cast long ago in the 60’s when Republicans had a simple, straightforward choice between good and evil.
These are not self-inflicted wounds, but part of a process of purging the remaining decent members, and the loyal ones proving that loyalty.
Gosar’s meme reminds me of the clip of a photoshopped Trump shooting and stabbing members of the press and his political opponents (i.e. John McCain, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama) in “The Church of Fake New,” shown at the Trump National Doral in October 2019.
At the time, someone restrained Trump from approvingly retweeting this, which he did with photoshopped clips of him beating up a CNN reporter and of him hitting Hillary Clinton with a golf ball.
Gosar learned from the master.
Every time I see the name “Gosar” I think of Gozer in Ghostbusters.
@Michael Reynolds: Hitler committed suicide after 11 years in office and having led his country into a disastrous war, Stalin died in office and the USSR survived another 39 years, Kim’s grandson is in power, and Asahara doesn’t really fit this list, Mussolini or Castro would. Maybe we’ll survive this without going full fascist. But if we do, we won’t recover from it without a major disaster.
I can’t conjure any possible paths for sane conservatives to take back the GOP, even theoretically.
The only way sane conservatism rebounds is for the Republican Party to be destroyed via the ballot box followed by the ‘sane’ having maximal influence on whatever rises from the ashes to replace it.
The only way for the Republican Party to be destroyed via ballot is for all Independents and the ‘decent’ Republicans we keep hearing about to vote for Democrats understanding that their preferences on tax cuts, regulation, fiscal policy, foreign policy, and anti-wokeness are not worth the installment of a authoritarian, violent, white nationalist regime. As Mona Charen wrote at The Bulwark recently, people need to be one issue voters at this time with the issue being the survival of democracy.
“But we simply can’t have Members of Congress openly supporting Nazis and white supremacists.”
The dissonance between your moral views and those of the majority of elected members of your party is staggering.
@Scott F.: I’ve been ahead of Charen on this, actually endorsing and voting for Biden in 2016, whereas she was a Never Trumper but voted for Evan McMullan. (In fairness, Virginia, where we both live, is not a swing state in presidential elections.)
@Moosebreath: There’s no meaningful sense in which I’m still a Republican, not having voted for its candidates for major office since 2012. I don’t know where the hearts of “the majority of elected members” are but, for all practical purposes, they’re collaborators at best.
@James Joyner: You’ve been an exemplar in this regard, James. I hope only to embolden the persuasion impulses of you (and the Mona Charens of the country) within your particular circle(s) of influence. I’m convinced only Republicans (and former Republicans) can clean the GOP house. As the woke thread showed me yesterday, Democratic efforts to restore political sanity will always be construed as meddling and prove to be counterproductive.
Yesterday we had some discussion of messaging, and how bad Ds are at it. Political Wire quotes a paywalled piece by one Edward Luce at FT with some good advice.
Too true. Ds do need a simple message. Anti-fascism is obvious and valid, but I fear the electorate are too apathetic. I’d go for something about seizing the future, but as Reynolds points out occasionally, the creatives are mostly on our side, coming up with a message and a bumper sticker slogan aren’t the problem. The problem is herding the cats into some sort of message discipline without having something like the Kochtopus infrastructure the GOPs have. I’d keep the message broad, we’re helping everyone, especially the left behind in the heartland. The GOPs are good at doing the really crazy stuff in targeted social media. Ds should be able to reassure minorities with microtargeting to avoid triggering negative partisanship.
Luce doesn’t mention a critical part of Trump’s messaging, an enemy. GOPs are really good at enemies: minorities, globalists, elitists, whatever. Ds aren’t very good at enemies for many reasons, some admirable. Also, Ds need to develop a talent for dog whistling. Whoever Ds pick as enemy, they have to maintain deniability. Seems to me Hannity, Carlson, and DeSantis have volunteered, but it’s better to have a class as an enemy. Chuckles Koch and the Kochtopus are the real enemy, but too likely to effectively counterattack. Perhaps Ds could work something with imaginary enemies like the GOPs do with globalists and elitists. Corporatists maybe? Isolationists? Hell, the Illuminati. Vagueness works for the GOPs.
Also from Political Wire,
The sort of thing GOPs think is clever. The depressing thing is that it works.
The end result of GOP ideology isn’t Stalin or Hitler. It’s Putin’s Russia, but with the main economic product being idiotic RW bullshit subsidized by the government. We will be the largest exporter of anti- Gender Ideology MLM schemes in the world. Bari Weiss will get a 7 billion government contract to create a 12-part video series on how bad cancel culture is, and everyone will be forced to watch it, because half the teachers will have been fired due to being woke and the government-authorized Bob Jones U teacher’s program will have collapsed in a haze of rip-offs and everyone in charge turning out to be gay or a pedophile. It will be like the Pentagon and 500K staplers and SDI but with conservative grift being the absolute centerpiece of this country’s existence. Get ready.
So, I’m groggy as the caffeine is just starting to take effect, and I think, nah, don’t wrack your lazy brain, Michael, no one will notice a slight dissonance in the examples you give.
OTB notices all.
@gVOR08: He also repeats his message over and over and over again. I can’t remember how many times he claimed credit for the best employment numbers for african americans, but I remember his message, regardless of how much of it is bs.
Or his inaugural speech, how he repeated “american carnage” over and over and over?
He was bad at everything else, but he knew how to hammer home a message so people (and not only just his base) would remember it.
Isn’t it amazing that the Party of Reagan has become the party of Trump, Gosar, Gohmert, Gym Jordan, Gaetz, Greene, Boebert, Cruz and Hawley?
@Scott F.: As we noted yesterday–at significant length and acrimony–the center isn’t that woke. And the “independent moderates” who pull the lever/punch the chad for Republicans are doing it precisely because of the tax cuts, regulations, and anti-wokeness and additionally, may well welcome an authoritarian, white supremacist government of the “independent moderates.” We need better “independent moderates” for the situation to change.
“Isn’t it amazing that the Party of Reagan has become the party of Trump, Gosar, Gohmert, Gym Jordan, Gaetz, Greene, Boebert, Cruz and Hawley?
Not particularly. Entropy is a fact and condition. Stalin wasn’t as good a Lenin, Khrushchev wasn’t as good a Stalin, and so on. Same thing with Buckley to Reagan to Trump to Gosar and the gang. We may see a GQP Gorbachev rise to try to pull the party out of its spin, but if situations hold that will only get them to Putin. Good time to be old.
@gVOR08: Another thing that trump did was he did speak to the truth that the game is rigged, and most of the people in this country aren’t benefiting. Of course, he just wanted to make the system rigged so that he benefited from it more instead of making it fairer.
So maybe the answer is to modify that one. “Yeah, things ARE rigged, but republicans are only worried about tax cuts and leaving us the bill.”
But even that’s too wordy and doesn’t quite land.
The Republican party has been taken over by a bunch of rebellious idiots who want to totally destroy all guide rules, legal or otherwise. “You don’t get to tell me what to do!” is the default meme, where it’s getting vaccinated, the government, paying sufficient taxes so as to support all the services that they take for granted, working with other people across the aisle….or even the simple definition of democracy, to gracefully step away from power when the vote goes against you.
Guess we’re going to have to learn the hard way that a decaying democracy resulting in a Mad Max world isn’t actually that much fun to live in.
P.S. I’ve already decided that if Trump gets re-elected, it’s adios, U.S.A. I’ll take my chances somewhere else in the world.
@Daryl and his brother Darryl:
Back when I was a library grunt at a DC law firm, one of the things I helped with were legislative histories. These were (in pre-computer days) a step-by-step re-creation of all the hearings, amendments, debates, etc… that went into a bill.
If we do an intellectual history, tracking back from where Republicans are now, I think there’s a bright clear line of continuity from Nixon to Reagan to Tea Party to the Trump Cult. Nixon steered the party deliberately toward racism. Reagan continued that track. Reagan added the element of hero worship, a sort of softer cult of personality. Reagan also introduced bald-faced lies as the common currency of the GOP. He lied for example, about his own history, and he was caught, and Republicans didn’t care. He lied about trickle-down economics, the theory was exposed as nonsense, and Republicans didn’t care.
The GOP has been the party of white resentment, personality cults, criminal efforts to subvert elections, the glorification of ignorance, lies and threats of violence, for a long time. They’ve just shed their camouflage.
Canada takes pretty much anyone who can earn a living. Portugal and Spain have ‘golden visa’ programs, but even without a pile of money they’re generally easy-going as their own populations decline. Vietnam’s cheap. Ireland’s not cheap, but do-able. God knows where the UK will come down on immigration, but they’re turning inward and dark.
@Michael Grant: One can get permanent residence in Malta for 100K Euros and a rental contract of 10K Euros/year for five years. Malta is an EU country which means free travel throughout the Schengen Zone.
A lovely island nation in Europe with rich history and 90% of the people speak English. Not a bad deal for 100K Euros.
I’ll reiterate I point a make frequently and try to explain it a bit better.
First, there’s the obvious question of why this dysfunction is happening now and why hasn’t it happened through most of US history.
In my view, if you look at what’s changed and when it changed, there are four salient factors that I think are the primary causes of this political dysfunction:
– The weakness of political parties. Today they are little more than brands. There is no central control or authority. Party “membership” is completely atomized.
– Democratic primaries. This is obviously related to the first point, but it stands on its own as a huge factor. Primaries are the way that small minorities can gain control of the party brand. Trump in 2016 is the perfect example of this – a candidate that the entire GoP establishment opposed, but who won anyway. The over-democratization of party primaries has pretty much been a disaster.
– Campaign Finance Reform. Well-meaning efforts to reduce the role of money in politics failed to achieve that goal. Instead, like trying to crush jello in your hand, the effect was simply to displace money to other areas. In this case, parties were further weakened because their ability to control significant amounts of campaign funds weakened them further. Instead, money has moved to individual small-donation funding by candidates as well as the various 527 and 501 groups.
– Changes in media. The two biggest sub-factors IMO are cameras in the Congress and social media. These have both synergized in bad ways with the other factors. Politicians now feel obligated to pander on TV and social media to ensure the financial and political support of primary voters and the organizations that support them.
Taken together, the result is that parties, but especially the Republican party which has progressed further and faster in this than the Democrats, don’t exist as coherent entities. There are no institutional or structural party mechanisms to force compromise between the various factions that identify as part of the Republican brand. There is no structure or organization to set rules and standards of conduct and enforce them. There is no structure or organization to prioritize goals and maintain focus on them. The party has zero influence in candidate selection and has no ability to defend incumbents from primary challenges either through structural impediments or by controlling funds.
Yet our hollowed-out parties endure. The main reason the GoP, in particular, hasn’t gone the way of the Whigs is that decades of partisan meddling have entrenched the two brands in the various election systems. Why should, for example, any organized interests want to create a new party when capturing the brand through the primary system is so much easier.
If you want to understand why many politicians act the way they do today, just consider the incentives that members of Congress have at the moment in the current system. The opinion of the party leadership is irrelevant. They are so irrelevant that the media no longer even bothers reporting on the actual party leadership at all. Instead, the parties have symbolic leadership – usually the sitting President, former Presidents (ie. Trump), the House and Senate leaders along with the leaders of various factions and influencers in the media. This symbolic leadership, however, does not have much real authority over the party and is often at odds.
Secondly, the opinions of other members of the party don’t matter all that much either, which increases the atomization of our politics. Most representatives in the House have their own sources of funding and are primarily focused on pleasing the primary voter in their district. The reason for that is that getting “primaried” is their biggest political threat and the party has no ability to protect an incumbent.
Gosar is a perfect example of this. There is no party leadership or centralized party control that can set, much less enforce, standards of conduct for party members. There is no authority to kick someone out of the party. And when the vote on reprimanding Gosar in the House came to the floor via the Democrats, there is no collective action – individual members of Congress have to consider how to vote in light of their own political situation. It becomes a big prisoner’s dilemma in game theory terms when there is no central, collective party action. Complaining about Democrats and voting no is an easier sell to the primary voter back home. Voting yes simply invites a primary challenge.
It used to be that parties had the authority and ability to protect incumbents which would allow them to make politically risky votes. And a coherent party can set and enforce standards of conduct to deal with people like Gosar. All that used to exist – it doesn’t today, and we are seeing the results.
These same dynamics are in play with the Democratic party, but aren’t as strong (yet) because most members of the Democratic party are still adhering to the old norms, even as the Democratic party as an organization is just as structurally weak and ineffective as the GoP. Like the GoP, the Democratic party cannot do the things normal political parties everywhere else in the world do. And in recent years they’ve stripped away impediments to the democratization of candidate selection and further weakened the party. The result will eventually be the same kinds of political incentives that Republican politicians face – the primacy of the primary voter and primary elections, as well as reliance on independent fundraising generated by a media presence and the support of “nonprofit” fundraising.
So my prediction is that things are going to get worse. The parties will continue to get more fractured. In my view, this is the danger of “faction” that Madison worried about and is a much bigger problem in terms of political stability than the two-party system itself. Because we have a two-party system in name only.
@Joe: Southern governance can be quite successful. It has, after all, ruled Supreme in the South for over 200 years. The problem isn’t that the techniques (pitting groups against each other and inciting violent vigilantes to attack minorities in order to distract from your real agenda) doesn’t work, it’s that it does.
@Daryl and his brother Darryl: There is an absolutely straight line from dignity, decency, competence and practicality of Eisenhower to the depraved chaos of Trump (and Gosar, Greene, etc) and Reagan is exactly at his proper place on that line. He fully and completely embraced the Southern Strategy and lied as only an actor could.
@grumpy realist: “P.S. I’ve already decided that if Trump gets re-elected, it’s adios, U.S.A. I’ll take my chances somewhere else in the world.”
My wife’s trigger point is the Republicans winning back the house. Amsterdam, here we come!
@Michael Grant: “God knows where the UK will come down on immigration, but they’re turning inward and dark.”
I love Britain, but they’re going bad the same way we are and it’s only going to get worse. I may dream of living in Devon, but if I want to be part of a fascist state, it’s a lot cheaper here.
As much as I hate to, I’m going to quote Mona Charen, today in the Bulwark.
It sickens me that we are tossing away popular policy positions by arguing over pronouns, defending “defund the police”, and telling parents that they have no right to know what their kids are being taught.
We are so screwed.
Remember the guy from the opening of Saving Private Ryan on Omaha beach? The guy who got his arm shot off? He picks up his arm with his other hand and wanders about wondering to himself “How did this happen? How did I get here?”
(If you grant it was fully fascist, of course.)
The Republicans may not be under party control, but they are coherent. Only Cheney and Kinzinger voted to censure Gosar. If the GOP were incoherent, one would expect to see a more fractious response on the record to Gosar’s behavior. Call it setting standards of conduct by omission.
Sure, the four factors you note are likely causal, but the monolithic alignment of GOP pols is the biggest obstacle to any sort of mitigation. Lack of party unity still leaves open the possibility of negotiation – see Sinema and Manchin – whereas there’s nothing to be done with or against a solid block.
And yes, it will get worse.
It sickens me that we are tossing away popular policy positions by arguing over pronouns, defending “defund the police”, and telling parents that they have no right to know what their kids are being taught.
Certain parents shouldn’t be interfering with their children’s educations. The police are not reformable. And if you can’t handle the ‘debate’ over pronouns, go fuck yourself.
The Democrat’s problems is that everything they say is a classic Kinsley gaffe. The truth hurts and they can’t say it. Angry parents are angry because they fear they suck. Defund The Police traumatizes voters because the police are terrible and show no ability to take accountability. And anyone with problems over pronouns is useless. It is Hillary Clinton and ‘deplorables’ but everywhere at every moment.
I have no solutions, and my blather is certainly not the right public tone, but the Democrats are at a basic level screwed. The GOP can say they’re pro-parent and the Democrats hate education and the Democrats who have kids aren’t upset because it’s nonsense. Progressives get called Maoists and it’s not offensive to progressives. But call a Republican deplorable or a racist or suggest that teachers know better than parents and they get outraged because they fear it’s true.
Charon follows Murc’s Law (the widespread assumption that only Democrats have any agency or causal influence over American politics) to a T. Don’t let her put the return of Republicans to power solely at the feet of the Democrats.
Charon has only one job. Convince anyone who values her opinion that arguments over pronouns, “defund the police,” and CRT are minor annoyances compared to the death of democracy in the US.
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
I think of this often, as I watch Democracy in America ending.
Thank you for making my point for me.
To be honest, there are any number of Democrats who can’t be classified as being members of the phylum Chordata either.
Two observations I’ve made before, but will repeat anyway:
1) If the Trumpified Republicans take Congress in 2022, Trump will run.
The GOP will block everything, and probably try to impeach everyone they can.
Republican states will lay the groundwork for skewing the vote.
If Trump loses narrowly, a Republican House and Senate will attempt to install him, supported by most Republican held states.
2) Democrats must focus relentlessly on winning in 2022, and at clawing back their positions at state level.
It may be that the politics of the centre to left in the US are radically different.
But I doubt it.
If NOT different, the lesson from other countries is that “energise the base”, “enthuse the left”, “bring out the young”, “mobilise the non-voters”, etc may be a real hit with left activists, but tend to go down like sour milk with the winnable voters.
I am not aware of ANY election campaign in the UK or Europe where pandering to activists proved a winning strategy for the left: see e.g. Mr J. Corbyn and friends.
(Though in some cases left enthusiasm has left the Left hopelessly split. )
Unfairly, populism works better on the right because they can go nuts in way that appeals to an unfortunately rather larger base of enthusiastic head-bangers.
I’ve thought about Malta. Never been but it gives me a claustrophobic feeling. But you’re right, schengen travel is the prize.
My argument is that this isn’t the result of any kind of considered or organized group effort – it’s the result of politicians being individually in thrall to or afraid of the median Republican primary voter. And it’s the absence of a coherent party organization and leadership that allows that to happen.
Many Republican politicians will admit this in private and off-the-record. There are many reports like this one going back several years.
Why do so many Republican politicians say one thing in private and another thing in public? Besides the fact that most politicians are spineless liars, they realize opposing Trump will make the median primary voter unhappy and that will get them primaried. And they realize there is nothing to stop that from happening. There is no party organization or anything else to counterbalance that. And, for now, at least, the most engaged and active Republican primary voters are the nativist Trump supporters and they are big enough to be a dispositive force in primary elections determined by plurality vote.
edit test@Michael Reynolds:
If you are a citizen of one EU state, the whole union is your oyster.
So long as you can get a job or have means of independent support, you’re good.
(Which you do of course)
“Free movement” only doesn‘t apply if you are burden on wherever you move to; that is, unemployed people with no means of support can be, and are, deported back to their home state.
What sickens me is people like you surrendering to despair, or somehow weighing a pointless fight over pronouns to the actual work we as Democrats are supposed to be doing to help real people with real problems. It’s elitist and it’s entitled. It’s also callous and irresponsible.
You aren’t living under a bridge. You aren’t working two jobs so you can maybe manage a few cheap Christmas gifts for your kids. You aren’t drug addicted or mentally ill. We are not meant to be a debating society, we’re supposed to be protecting the weak and giving opportunity to those without. But hey, if we can’t convince the country to embrace our favorite neologisms and Twitter memes, I guess fuck all those people.
You’ve lost the plot.
I’ve thought about Malta too. It’s affordable for and we could conceivably live there. But I like open spaces and mountains which are not available on Malta.
Some people trace the origins of the Trumpification of the Republicans back to the “Southern Strategy”.
But if the Republicans at national level had continued to support civil rights etc, what even then would have prevented the Southerners pursuing a “Republican Strategy”: i.e. simply moving in and taking over via local parties and primaries?
For that matter, what if the “Dixiecrats” had NOT departed from the Dems, but dug in and fought a guerilla war of primaries, local control, and violent intimidation?
Strikes me the US tradition of “open parties” leaves either one or the other of the two vulnerable to sectional takeover by racialised populism.
See my above to Michael Reynolds: if you are a citizen of one EU country you’re free to live anywhere in the Union if self-supporting.
(Absent “Maltexit”, and they aren’t that daft.)
It’s what we lost, and it really saddens me.
But at least I’ve not lost out as badly as, for instance Richard Rose has.
Afterthought: not sure about Malta rules: some countries do NOT allow dual citizenship.
But as long as the one you pick does, then you are still OK everywhere else.
Yeah, I understand that, it’s just that to get to mountains and open spaces I’d have to take a plane or boat from Malta. Very inconvenient.
In my view, politics abhors a vacuum. There is simply no conceivable way that both major political parties could willfully ignore an entire region and you’re right, even when parties had more organization and central control, they couldn’t control who voted for them. Like it or not, the Dixiecrats were a constituency and one that was too big to ignore. I’m sure if the Democrats could have kept them in the fold, they would have.
I concede your argument. My point is that it doesn’t matter whether it is comes from an institutional effort or if it’s driven by fear of the median primary voter, it’s the unity that blocks any path that might improve the situation.
Your “And, for now, at least…” is the most interesting thing at play here. If the Trumpist faction can seize the GOP brand, then who’s to say some other faction of conservatism can’t seize it from them?
I think I’m being pretty consistent in these discussions. I’m not expecting any politicians (spineless liars or otherwise) to lead the way. I’m saying that there needs to be a relentless message to Republican voters (primary and general) that will discomfit them with their current acceptance of nativists and seditionists as a means to their policy preferences. They need to be convinced that the Trumpist association is too high a price to pay for whatever they want out of government – that democracy can not survive normalizing such a destructive faction and that the authoritarian governance that will take hold will not be to their liking.
Drive a wedge into GOP unity and you might break off enough sane Republican voters to form a new force that drives the primaries.
Nope; if you become a citizen of Malta rather than just a resident, you can move wherever the hell you like in the EU to live.
Just depends if you can pass the citizenship criteria, whatever they are (dunno re Malta); but lots of EU countries if you can get a job in advance, or are over the threshold for require private means, you need to reside for 5 years and learn the language, and you can apply.
Over a course of roughly three generations. That’s part of why it’s good to be old. I may not quite see our new fascist overlords before I shuffle off.
Just googled re. Malta citizenship, out of curiosity.
My word, they are quite admirably mercenary 🙂
Plus, dual citizenship is fine.
Pity it’s beyond my means 🙁
Incidentally, it is rumoured that a lot of wealthy Brexiteers have gone this route for a backup plan.
In 1964 Republican Senator Jacob Javits, a leader of the Party, wrote an impassioned editorial in the New York Times in a last ditch effort to turn his party away from the Southern Strategy (his editorial is the first use of that term in print), which they were intent on using for Barry Goldwater’s campaign. The plan consisted of courting white Southerners by talking about “States Rights” and making it clear that it was code for dropping the federal government effort to protect the rights of blacks and other minorities in the South. Some Republican leaders believed that the Goldwater campaign was a fluke, a relatively unknown and extremist candidate who had little shot of winning without some kind of Hail Mary play. They believed that the party could pursue the Southern Strategy for this one election, but would not need it going forward, since they would run more traditional candidates in the future.
Javits said this was folly. By embracing the Jim Crow South, the party would repulse civil rights Republicans (not an oxymoron then as it is today) and drive them away, meaning that the Southern Strategy would be critical even for the more mainstream candidates. Javits was right, and a feedback loop developed, not ending until the early aughts when the last Republicans willing to speak out against racism and bigotry were driven from the party.
This much pooh-poohed strategy almost got Stacey Abrams into Georgia’s governorship in 2018, laying the groundwork for the Biden, Ossoff, Warnock 2020-21 trifecta. Eould not write off this strategy completely yet.
Maybe it will prove more effective as time marches on and Mitch McConnell’s generation cedes some of the power its held onto because of increasing lifespans.
Sadly, there’s no guarantee — based on current events — that there will still be a real America by then. Although, yes, Spain’s recovery offers hope.
@MarkedMan: (Too quick to post and no edit button!) My point in bringing this up in response to JohnSF’s comment is that if it were possible for the Southerners to take over a national party from outside, they would have just taken over the Democrats. Like Vampires, though, they needed to be invited in. The Republicans of 1964 believed they could “kinda” invite the Southern racists in and then later kick them back out. Vampires don’t work that way though.
Perhaps I’m just depressed today (low last night was 15, groceries have redone stocking of entire sections on the assumption you’re shopping to feed a dozen or more dinner so had nothing in the quantities I was looking for, we’ll be wearing masks inside in the county until past Christmas), but I feel like both national parties ignore the West.
That’s what I’m hoping for. But that doesn’t change the fact the parties are structurally vulnerable to takeovers.
I agree. I just don’t know how that happens. And I’m not a Republican, so I’m not invested in or interested in being part of such of movement to change the GoP. Although we do have open primaries here in Colorado, so I will at least vote for the sanest primary candidate I can.
I also think back to the 2020 Democratic primary. The moderate vote was split between several competing candidates. That gave Sanders an edge. If moderate support hadn’t consolidated around Biden, which likely wouldn’t have happened without the black vote in South Carolina, Sanders could have won the nomination on a plurality basis.
I get what you’re saying. But the problem is that I don’t know where in the EU I would want to live that would also be affordable. So the question of citizenship isn’t the main issue. Malta is affordable for us and has a great climate but doesn’t have mountains. The places that I like with mountains aren’t affordable or have really crappy weather. If I were richer, I could have a winter and summer home but alas, I am not. Plus I still have kids in grade school.
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
Well, 1939 to 1975, so arguably only one and a half generations
If you wanted to to be pedantically picky about it: what me? 🙂
OTOH, Spain arguably only switched out of sheer embarrassment.
The whole rest of western Europe was sniggering at them and going: “C’mon guys, second half of century, OK? Mucho uncool, y’know”.
More seriously, they wanted in to the EU; you can be awkward once in, but there are rules re. getting in in the first place.
Thanks for that! Yeah, that’s beyond my means as well unless the dollar gets a lot stronger.
As I recall you are also a Colorado native who currently lives in the Ft. Collins area?
I think if you exclude California from the West, we have historically been ignored as a region, but a lot of that was due to a low population and western states not being important for the electoral college. That’s changed a lot and will probably continue to change.
And I feel your pain about grocery shopping and masks. There are so many breakthrough infections – I know of 12 people that are vaccinated but got covid in the past couple of months. My sister’s memory care facility closed visitation because of breakthrough cases. I’m still not eligible for a booster, but hopefully soon.
@Modulo Myself: The Democrats’ real problems are a) a hostile corporate media the party still doesn’t recognize as hostile and b) a flawed political system full of undemocratic relics like gerrymandering, the Senate, and the electoral college.
In “other countries,” Hillary’s 3+ million popular vote margin would have put her into the presidency. In other countries, the upper chamber of the legislative branch would not be controlled by a right wing senators that represents 44 million fewer voters that senators from the center-left party.
For all of the criticism thrown at Democrats for message ineptitude and allegations that their activist base is out-of-touch, let’s remember that Democrats consistently win the most votes in nationalized context, and the gap really isn’t that close. It’s our ludicrous, anti-democratic political system that creates an illusion of parity. That, in turn, allows Republicans to legitimize their otherwise-losing messages, which then generates even more wins for the right.
Democrats have to win supermajorities to govern effectively and generate favorable conventional wisdom.
If I wanted affordable plus good weather, my thoughts would be northern Spain: Cantabrian or Pyrenees mountains areas.
Or maybe the northern side of the Pyrenees in France.
Ooh, or northern Greece?
But, employment prospects in those areas prob. not the best, if that’s an issue.
Alpine areas are pricey, Scandinavia a tad coolish in the the winter 🙂
Ditto Carpathians and other central/east Europe.
Though probably, by US standards, nowhere in Europe is that cheap these days.
Taxes and a lot of prices would be a shock for most Americans, I suspect.
Gosar the Gosarian.
You aren’t living under a bridge. You aren’t working two jobs so you can maybe manage a few cheap Christmas gifts for your kids. You aren’t drug addicted or mentally ill. We are not meant to be a debating society, we’re supposed to be protecting the weak and giving opportunity to those without.
The people who will be entrusted with helping the mentally ill or addicts or trying to find a way out of the death spiral of NIMBYism and new housing stock being solely an investment opportunity think more or less like me. People who are compassionate aren’t screaming about gender ideology. They might stumble over new things but they’re not upset about it. It’s just not happening. We’re asking the bare minimum, and the we is not the Democratic Party it’s just society.
Oh, interesting options to research! Thanks!
My job is fully remote and can be done anywhere, and I feel very lucky to have that flexibility. My main limitations are family-related – kids in school who don’t want to move and me being the legal guardian for my sister who has dementia. I’ll be here likely for 7 or 8 years before I can consider a big move – but I can still window-shop and dream.
One of the things I say regularly is that the huge political history story of the last 30 years in the US is the enormous swing of the Midwest from blue-to-red, and the corresponding swing of the West from red-to-blue. At present, there are 17 Democratic Senators from the West, 8 from the Pacific states and 9 from the interior (yeah, yeah, Sinema, but her winning the seat is still the difference between Schumer and McConnell as majority leader). I have my own set of theories about why those happened, which don’t match well with the usual ones. Among other things, such theories have to accommodate the heavy shift to vote by mail in both red and blue states in the West, and the introduction of redistricting commissions there in both red and blue states.
@Daryl and his brother Darryl:
@Mike in Arlington:
Agree, but a good starting point. Ds really are the populists and Rs really are the oppressors.
If you don’t mind Spanish, you should consider Ecuador. Cheap cost of living. Great medical care. Minimal expenses to become a legal resident. All you need is a guaranteed income of $800 (Yes. Eight Hundred) dollars per month. There are large expat communities from the US, Australia, UK, Germany, and France.
Currently, you can buy an ocean front single family home within an hour of an international airport for less than $150K. Oceanfront. Or less than $100K for a 2/2 condo. oceanfront. And the beaches in Ecuador are amazing.
I love heterodox theories, so please share more if you’re willing and have the time!
Thanks! Definitely adding Ecuador to the research/wish list!
In other countries, they don’t do free and fair elections.
In other countries, they have leaders for life.
In other countries, they enslave women and children.
In other countries, they use child labor.
In other countries, they limit how can people procreate?
In other countries, they have national religions.
In other countries, they have fairer tax systems.
What’s your point?
I haven’t checked this, but I read recently that we and the UK have far higher income/wealth inequality than the rest of Europe, My impression is that Brexit was largely about keeping it that way, just as so much of our politics is driven by low taxes at the top end and corporate regulation. And Brexit was sold on faux populism. So, yes, my impression is Britain is getting worse exactly the same way we are.
I spoke above about Ds needing a simple message. By happenstance, they had one in 2020, “Dump Trump”. It worked. It won’t in 2022. But Moscow Mitch et al want rid of Trump because it might work in ‘24. But they have a collective action problem, they’d all much rather someone else led the charge.
@Andy: All Colorado residents are eligible for a booster right now, as far as I know. I have some friends down there and as soon as Polis gave the order, they got their shots. Go get you one!
Utah, you too!
@EddieInCA: Well, first of all, we lack free and fair elections, have child labor, and participate in human trafficking in the US. None of that has anything to do with my point, which, obviously and specifically, compares the undemocratic US system to countries with systems that are more democratic. Not a bunch of unrelated, hysterical, non-sequitur comparisons that have nothing to do with that.
Not sure why me saying so is so triggering and upsetting to you, except that you seem to have a bizarre obsession with responding to me, and that in general you seem to be an angry, cranky, negative, and unhappy person. I will pray for you, that you feel better. Kisses.
Are only commenters with anger management problems allowed to comment on how other countries do things?
@Andy: “So my prediction is that things are going to get worse. The parties will continue to get more fractured. In my view, this is the danger of “faction” that Madison worried about and is a much bigger problem in terms of political stability than the two-party system itself. Because we have a two-party system in name only.”
@Barry: The GOP is getting more unified, around Q and Trump.
Definitely agree re. the faux populism.
However, the UK does not appear, going by the data, to be exceptionally unequal.
This is a difficult area to get consistent data; the way income and wealth distributions are measured vary quite a bit.
Depending on measures and dates it is more unequal than the EU average in income disparity, but not by much.
In wealth, UK is perhaps surprisingly less unequal than Scandinavians.
British top 10% has c. 55% of national wealth; in Norway, Denmark and Sweden the top 10% have over 65% of wealth.
British top 1% has 23% ; not far off EU norm and the same as France.
And guess the least wealthy 1% in the EU?
Hungary where they have 17.5% of national wealth.
Compare the USA: 1% has 37%; 10% has 74%.
And Russia: 1% has 75% ! 10% hold 87%.
Russia really is the capitalist oligarchy.
Also, the European Union has little influence on the things with the most impact on income and wealth: direct tax policy (income, wealth, inheritance), minimum wage levels, inheritance law, etc remain under the control of the states.
There are parallels between Brexit and Trumpified Republicanism, but differences too.
IMHO the Leave elite was driven far more by political and even psychological factors than economic interest.