Today, America will inaugurate an actual President. I have hopes for a resurrection of governing.
Biden’s success will rest to a considerable extent on what happens to today’s totally dysfunctional and arguably treasonous GOP, where signs of schism are growing.
Among those signs are two columns written by longtime Republican conservatives–Michael Gerson and George Will. It bears emphasizing that both of these examples were published on January 4th–before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Both are representative of the pre-Trump GOP. In other words, sane. (Although in Will’s case, also irritating and supercilious.)
Michael Gerson was a speechwriter for George W. Bush; he is a committed Christian Evangelical. His column in the Washington Post focused on the leaked telephone call between Trump and Georgia’s Secretary of State–the Republican officeholder who oversaw Georgia’s election. As Gerson says, the great virtue of that recording is that it “clarifies the goals of all concerned.”
And those goals, as he points out, were not to expose abuses in the electoral system.
Trump intended to pressure the elected official of an American political subdivision to falsify the state’s electoral outcome–to “squeeze out” 11,780 additional votes in his favor– in order to overturn his loss in Georgia.
His cynical, delusional justifications are beside the point. He would say anything — invent any lie, allege any conspiracy, defame any opponent, spread any discredited rumor — to perpetuate his power.
Gerson then turned to Trump’s Congressional enablers.
This, in turn, illuminates the motives of his congressional enablers. In light of Trump’s clarifying call, the term “enablers” now seems too weak. When Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and their GOP colleagues try to disrupt and overturn a free and fair election, they are no longer just allies of a subversive; they become instruments of subversion. They not only help a liar; they become liars. They not only empower conspiracy theories; they join a conspiracy against American democracy. They not only excuse institutional arson; they set fire to the Constitution and dance around the flame.
In the remainder of the column, Gerson excoriated this attack on the constitutional order and pointed out that Republican “populism” ( a nicer word for the GOP’s current Nazification) is diametrically opposed to actual conservatism and other former Republican beliefs: in law and order, in the U.S. constitutional system, in individual liberty and federalism, in judicial restraint. Worse still,
Anti-constitutional Republicans are teaching, in essence, that partisan and ideological victory is more important than democratic self-government. They may try to dress up their betrayal as fighting against socialism, or against the “deep state,” or against multiculturalism, or against antifa, or against secularists, or for white pride, or for a Christian America. But what they are really saying to their supporters is this: Your anger is more important than our republic.
Gerson writes that these anti-constitutional Republicans are shredding the work of America’s founders, and deserve nothing but contempt.
For his part, George Will writes that Josh Hawley’s announced intent to challenge certification of the Electoral vote is evidence that Hawley’s conscience “compels him to stroke this erogenous zone of the GOP’s 2024 presidential nominating electorate.”
Hawley’s stance quickly elicited panicky emulation from Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, another 2024 aspirant. Cruz led 10 other senators and senators-elect in a statement that presents their pandering to what terrifies them (their Trumpkin voters) as a judicious determination to assess the “unprecedented allegations” of voting improprieties, “allegations” exceeding “any in our lifetimes.”..
Never mind. Hawley — has there ever been such a high ratio of ambition to accomplishment? — and Cruz have already nimbly begun to monetize their high-mindedness through fundraising appeals.
Will then enumerates what rational Americans all know–that allegations of election fraud are themselves fraudulent. He concludes that the Hawley-Cruz cohort is in violation their oaths of office; despite swearing to defend the Constitution from enemies “foreign and domestic” they have become the most dangerous of those domestic enemies.
Over the past couple of decades, the Republican Party has slowly but steadily lost membership– it has barely managed to retain power through gerrymandering and vote suppression. Public defections of more high-profile Republicans began with Trump’s election and have continued. But the transformation of those who remain in the GOP–their metamorphosis into Trumpers–has also accelerated.
Sane people–including conservatives like Gerson and Will–can only hope that the abomination that is today’s GOP goes the way of the Whigs. It needs to be replaced by an adult, responsible center-right party that understands the importance of negotiation and compromise.
America needs differing perspectives on policy–it doesn’t need existential battles between a political party and a racist cult.