THE FRINGE FEEDS A DISGUSTINGLY FAMILIAR NARRATIVE
Finally, it has come to pass in the land of the free and the home of the brave that the cancerous core of America’s Republican Party is in full metastasis, spreading its poisonous tentacles far into the body politic. There is so little substantive pushback from Republican Party “leadership” that the spread of the disease threatens not only the Republican Party but the institutional integrity of the nation as a whole. The only good news is that unchecked cancers usually destroy the host.
In this case, it might just be the best outcome. The fringe has morphed into the identity of the Republican Party so completely that somewhat hinged used-to-be Republicans don’t stand a chance of turning this around. But they don’t deserve another chance, having previously sold their souls to Ronald Reagan’s vision of undermined governance and unchecked capitalism as a means to a better end. Many Americans are just now beginning to figure out how poorly that has actually worked out for them.
The spectacle of the Republican Party dancing around their new posterchild, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene,* is a bit like watching some moron taking a selfie at the edge of a cliff only to realize as she falls that the rope around your waist is tethered to her waist. Republicans should have known that they would be in trouble when their old Uncle Mitch warned them that that rope was a bad idea.
Since Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is no ordinary moron teetering at the edge of a cliff, she has been empowered to drive the Trump narrative as a creed for both the party and the nation. Then there is the newly crowned “conscience” of the Republican House leadership, Rep. Liz Cheney. She covered herself in “glory” by voting to impeach Trump for sedition and inciting an insurrection, and then a few scant weeks later covered herself in dung by failing to take the minimal step of removing Rep. Greene from her committee assignments.** I can only guess, but maybe she used up her family allotment of “conscience” on that first vote.
If you are wondering about the top guns in the Republican Congressional orbit, you would be wondering about Mitch McConnell, now Senate Minority Leader, and wannabe Speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy. These two supported the whole Trump national trauma for four years and then, faced with armed insurrection inside the Capitol, still can’t say never again. And still can’t clearly and unequivocally hold Trump responsible for his incitement of the mob.
Let me be clear about one thing – even though there are those trying to proclaim themselves newly-crowned “heroes” of the Republican Party, they are all frauds of one kind or another. This includes the Lincoln Project crowd*** and the host of “former” Republicans trying desperately to resurrect THEIR right-wing version of their right-wing party. Today’s self-proclaimed Republican heroes did everything they could to torch the Affordable Care Act, have for decades pushed scandalous tax relief for the wealthy, and have promoted some version of unregulated capitalism through which their personal greed could thrive amid the economic distress of so many others.
And that doesn’t even reach the infamy of a political party and its adherents who have for those same decades fueled racial animus and anti-immigrant sentiment in the country for political and personal gain. Before trying to find virtue amid the wreck of the Republican Party, remember that the party and its minions are now, and have for those decades, promoted the delusional “American exceptionalism” so comforting to their White base and so destructive of a meaningful confrontation with the nation’s past that is rooted in the truth.
As with the racists in their midst that Trump legitimized and encouraged, any welcome unmasking of these new Republican “heroes” is long overdue. Some of them served a useful purpose in giving voice to the national disaster that was the Trump presidency. But none of them has given us any reason to believe that the recent past has engendered a new and truly inclusive vision for a policy partnership with Democrats that could begin to legislate a better future for those who have watched and waited for so long.
The pandemic has done more than even a close reading of history and outraged truth telling could have done to lay bare the moral and institutional bankruptcy that is America today. Systemic racism is finally on the lips of a US President, because it has to be. Huge healthcare, housing, educational and economic deficits are everywhere to be seen, and now so obvious that ignoring them again would be yet another epic betrayal.
To understand the depth of that betrayal and the Republican Party role in it requires a clear understanding that the kind old Republican “hero,” Ronald Reagan, cravenly gave White America a clear path away from the promise of the civil rights movement. That same national “hero” told the nation that government was the problem not the solution and then set about to prove it on the backs of those most dependent on good government to realize a share of America’s bounty. Other Republican Party “heroes” willingly followed in those soiled footsteps.
This is not to say that there is a purity of vision or spirit in the Democratic Party. Rather it is to say that America’s way forward cannot depend on either the cooperation or the acquiescence of Republicans. If you doubt this, the spectacle of the Trump impeachment trial in progress will again demonstrate the depths to which the Republican Party has sunk in its drive to regain power at all cost. A disgraced president with the blood of hundreds of thousands of citizens already on his hands who delivered insurrection to the Capitol will continue to command Republican loyalty and get it.
So, President Biden, don’t waste a minute on them. Don’t repeat the mistakes you and Barak Obama made from 2008 forward. Go all in this time. With those same Republicans already at work legislating new voter suppression measures where they can, your time to act may be short. In doing so, remember every day that closing the human value gap in America is essential to any attempt to reach for a better nation.
And whatever else you do, President Biden, remember every day that systemic racism is the original sin that begat today’s deeply flawed America. Telling the truth about that is America’s irreplaceable first step forward.