Monday, January 18, 2021


The Atlantic's McKay Coppins believes that the Republican Party will develop amnesia about the Trump presidency.
How will the GOP recover from the complicity and corruption of the Trump era? To many Republicans, the answer is simple: Pretend it never happened.

“We’re about to see a whole political party do a large-scale version of ‘New phone, who dis?’” says Sarah Isgur, a former top spokesperson for the Trump Justice Department. “It will be like that boyfriend you should never have dated—the mistake that shall not be mentioned.”

... the narrative now forming in some GOP circles presents Trump as a secondary figure who presided over an array of important accomplishments thanks to the wisdom and guidance of the Republicans in his orbit. In these accounts, Trump’s race-baiting, corruption, and cruel immigration policies—not to mention his attempts to overturn an election—are treated as minor subplots, rather than defining features.
Jonathan Last of The Bulwark doesn't buy it.
... it’s a theory that rests on the idea that institutional power trumps popular power. It presupposes that Republican voters are going to do what they’re told and revert back to the benign electorate that nominated Mitt Romney and John McCain and pushed John Boehner into the speaker’s chair.

I would argue that for both structural and psychological reasons, this dynamic no longer exists and for the foreseeable future, popular power matters a good deal more than institutional power in the GOP.

... the Republican party has conditioned voters to value affect and mien over policy. The promise of the Republican party to its base voters is not “we can pass legislation to make your life better.” It is, “We will make the people you hate angry.”
Even after January 6, I'm inclined to believe that Last is closer to the truth than Coppins is. But both of them overlook the fact that the Republican Party won't be (re-)branding itself in a vacuum.

The GOP narrative in 2021 and beyond won't be primarily about Trump -- it will be primarily about Joe Biden ... and Kamala Harris, and Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

It will be about tax increases (which will be described as increases on everybody even if they aren't). It will be about mask mandates and contact tracing. (Biden intends to significantly improve America's ability to trace the contacts of COVID-infected people, and Republicans will describe this as more totalitarian than the Oceania government in 1984.) It will be about "socialism." It will be about "Obamagate" (whatever the hell that is) and any new scandals the GOP can gin up involving Hunter Biden. It will be about smearing Harris and Pelosi and Schumer as evil forces who will destroy America as we know it unless they're constrained.

In other words, in a less Trumpian way, the GOP is going to make the people GOP voters hate angry. It's going to make GOP voters angry at the people they hate. In other words, it;s going to do what Trump did, but less crudely.

Remember, in 2009 the GOP didn't try to rebuild the reputation of George W. Bush. Instead, the Tea Party and the right-wing media attacked Barack Obama on every possible front. And that's exactly what Republicans did in 1993 -- the narrative was about Whitewater and other nothingburger Clinton scandals, which, along with the usual "make America ungovernable" Republican tactics in Congress, was enough, before Monica Lewinsky, to give the GOP control of the House and Senate after the 1994 midterms.

When Republicans do this to Joe Biden, it won't matter whether Trump is involved or not, because we'll no longer be judging him -- we'll be judging Biden and the Democrats, and the GOP will want us to believe they're proven failures.

(I'm sure Trump will be involved in this.)

"Mainstream" Republicans can pretend Trump was nothing more than a bad dream by focusing on the Failed, Scandalous Biden Presidency, all while ignoring Trump, who'll be doing ... exactly the same thing.

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