Wednesday, September 08, 2021


I approached this piece with -- as you can imagine -- quite a bit of skepticism.

Atkins writes:
Trump’s greatest gift to Republicans is also his greatest curse: He gave them permission to be their worst selves. By liberating the GOP to embrace its most noxious impulses, he has breathed new life into the staid culture that nominated John McCain and Mitt Romney while destroying basic norms of public decency and weakening the guardrails of democracy.
I fail to see how there's a downside for Republicans in this, but Atkins assures us:
Despite short-term appearances, unmasking the GOP base’s most vicious instincts might also be disastrous for the party in the long term.
If you think the GOP was already quite toxic prior to Trump, Atkins agrees.
It’s not that the animating ethos of the GOP was terribly different before Trump. It was the party of Watergate, Iran-Contra, the southern strategy, Willie Horton ads, Newt Gingrich, Brooks Brothers riots, Valerie Plame outings, Freedom Fries, Iraq invasion lies, Social Security slashing, Benghazi hearings, and Mitch McConnell–led Supreme Court seat theft. Simply put, the party was never fundamentally decent in any way.
Before Trump, however, it at least pretended to be. The party cloaked its inherent viciousness in Reagan’s sunny smile, baseball, Mom, apple pie, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington. Since the turn of the civil rights era, the GOP’s id always belonged to Roy Cohn and Roger Stone, but it was carefully kept hidden behind a veil of cordial respectability.
Can Atkins give an example of pre-Trump Republican "cordial respectability"?
The Fox News era slowly began the process of unmasking—but even Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity tried to hide behind avuncular charm and high school quarterback looks, portraying themselves as the steady voices of decent, normie America.
Steady and decent? Bill O'Reilly? You mean this guy?

Atkins continues:
All of that pretense is now gone. Today’s Republican politics is deliriously brazen and overtly cruel....
There's only one difference between the allegedly benign pre-Trump era and now: In order to be a Republican politician with national ambitions, you're now required to be an unapologetic attack dog. In the past, it was believed that presidents and presidential aspirants should leave the truly vicious attacks to subordinates -- George W. Bush didn't personally accuse John Kerry of being unworthy of his Purple Hearts -- but Trump proved that there was no need to do that.

So how might Trump destroy the party -- and when? Atkins sees some short-term hope.
The cracks are starting to show. Trump is deeply unpopular by historic margins for an ex-president, yet he appears poised to hoist his flag for another presidential run....

The Big Lie that Biden’s win is somehow illegitimate due to voter fraud is giving fuel to Republican attempts to steal Democratic victories in future elections.... But it also appears to hinder Republican turnout when their voters don’t believe their votes will count....

Republicans are also engaged in an anti-public-health campaign that can objectively be described as pro-COVID-19 and pro-death.... it could ... generate enormous public backlash as COVID-19 increasingly becomes the MAGA plague.
Really? Then why is Ron DeSantis still leading in most polls of his 2022 reelection race?

How will Trump destroy the party? He'll do it gradually -- maybe.
It doesn’t take big shifts in the population or the turnout model to breach the walls. You can take over government by winning five-point margins in congressional districts and states. But not if those five-point margins suddenly become competitive due to turnout or coalition shifts.

Trump gave Republicans permission to be themselves. It “worked” for a time at the expense of the country, and it could allow them to dominate politics for decades to come. But the party may face a high price for allowing the cruelest and most vicious elements of American society to run rampant. It might take some time, but the Trump effect could very well backfire on them in surprising ways.
"Decades to come." Republican control of this country for decades to come will leave America, and probably the planet, a smoldering ruin. At the very least, they'll nationalize the assault on democracy and "coalition shifts" won't matter. Sorry, but we can't wait decades.

No comments: