Saturday, October 28, 2023


I spotted this paragraph in a Jonathan Chait post about the newly elected House speaker:
New Speaker Mike Johnson is a hero of the far right — not only for his leadership role in pushing Trump’s coup attempt, but also in his comprehensive commitment to right-wing policy across the board. He has endorsed the Paul Ryan style and spending rollbacks, expressed militant hostility to gay marriage and abortion, and voted against aid to Ukraine.
But wait -- haven't we been told for years that there's a "mainstream" Republican Party, which rejects abortion and LGBT people and wants to slash taxes and entitlements, but that party is rapidly being replaced by a Donald Trump Republican Party that's isolationist (no aid to Ukraine!), populist (protect Social Security and Medicare!), and skeptical of democracy (Trump won!)?

In the pundit class, it's widely believed that Trump won the 2016 presidential race because he promised not to cut Medicare and Social Security. (I'm sure that helped a little, but the anger, the racism, and the mythologized business career helped more, as did the widespread contempt for his opponent.) Many pundits think the GOP is becoming a "working-class party" -- they point to a handful of Republicans (usually Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, and J.D. Vance) who advocate policies meant to transfer more wealth or benefits to the non-rich and say that this is the party's future, even though these policies are firmly rejected by the vast majority of Republicans.

I think the post-Trump GOP will be a party that combines the worst aspects of the pre-Trump GOP with the worst aspects of Trumpism. Trumpist isolationism when the enemy is Russia? Check. Cheneyesque interventionism when the enemy is Iran, China, or the Mexican drug cartels? Check. An embrace of Andrew Tate-style toxic masculinity? Check. A simultaneous embrace of Mike Pence-style policies on abortion and LGBT rights? Check. Efforts to game democracy by legal if unethical means (gerrymandering, crackdowns on ballot dropoff boxes)? Check. Efforts to game democracy through brute force? Check.

It's possible that Trump, if he's elected again, will succeed in preventing cuts to Social Security and Medicare (it's a big idea that's so simple even a guy as stupid as Trump can grasp it easily, and it involves borrowed money, so of course Trump is in favor of it). However, he might flip, and even if he doesn't, the policy won't survive him. The future of GOP economics will look exactly like the Reagan/Ryan past, unless it's even meaner to the non-rich.

You could argue that the war on "critical race theory" is just Republicans who know how to use their inside voice dressing up Trumpist racism in pseudo-intellectual garb. I think much of the GOP's future will look like that: the visceral hatreds Trump unleashes channeled into policies that can pass for policy wonkery if you don't look too closely.

Speaker Johnson is pointing the way to the GOP's future: one that's almost indistinguishable from the party's past, but, like Trump, is stupider and nastier.

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