Monday, June 14, 2021


In an opinion piece adapted from her forthcoming book, Dissent: The Radicalization of the Republican Party and Its Capture of the Court, Jackie Calmes, the White House editor for the Los Angeles Times, writes:
The radicalization of the Republican Party has been the biggest story of my career. I’ve been watching it from the start, from the time I arrived in then-Democratic Texas just out of college in 1978 to my years as a reporter in Washington through four revolutions — Ronald Reagan’s, Newt Gingrich’s, the tea party’s and Donald Trump’s — each of which took the party farther right.
Here's how she describes that third revolution:
After the near-collapse of the financial system and its bailout by the Bush administration, in 2008, Barack Obama became the first Black American elected president. Almost immediately, the third Republican revolution took shape, this one a headless movement from the bottom up: the tea party.

Republican Party leaders sought to unite with tea party activists against their common enemy — Obama. In the midterm elections of Obama’s two terms, Republicans regained control of the House in 2010 and then the Senate in 2014.
I wouldn't describe the Tea Party as "a headless movement from the bottom up" -- the Koch brothers had heads -- but she's right about the sequence of events.

George W. Bush left office with a 34% job approval rating, according to Gallup -- at times in 2008, it had been in the twenties. He left in disgrace, responsible for two wars that had become quagmires and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. His party suffered massive losses in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

In other words, he'd sunk as low as we hope Donald Trump sinks if civil, criminal, and congressional investigations eventually reveal the full scope of his criminality.

I'm in favor of getting to the truth about Trump. I hope he dies in prison, although I assume he'll never spend a night there.

But why do we think a disgraced Donald Trump would mean a damaged GOP? It didn't happen after 2008 -- the party just rebranded itself and became even more dangerous.

The party is ready to rebrand itself right now if necessary. It's obsessed with critical race theory and cancel culture. It rails against vaccine passports and "open borders." Its fixation on "election integrity" references Trump's defeat in 2020 but could easily continue even if Trump were in federal custody, because it's an extension of a strategy Republicans have pursued since before Trump entered politics.

Maybe you'd say that the Tea Party happened because we had a Black president. But that Black president had just won his election by the largest popular and electoral vote margin in twenty years. Do we think there wouldn't have been a Tea Party if the 2008 winner had been Hillary Clinton?

There's a level of rage on the American right that apparently results from only one thing: profound resentment at having to share power with people who don't think (or look) the way they do. Accountability for Donald Trump, if it ever happens, won't change that. If we want to do something about the right's power to damage America, we have to take on the Republican Party directly, in real time. Investigations of January 6 or Donald Trump's taxes won't get the job done, and probably won't weaken the post-Trump GOP at all.

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