Wednesday, January 17, 2024


Oliver Willis writes:

I believe Willis is referring to this piece by Timothy Noah in The New Republic, which approvingly quotes Liz Cheney:
Liz Cheney declared Wednesday that the GOP is finished. “The Republican Party,” she said on ABC’s The View, is
clearly so caught up in this cult of personality that it’s very hard to imagine that the party can survive. I think increasingly it’s clear that once we get through 2024 we’re gonna have to have something else. Something new. I believe the country has to have a party that’s based on conservative principles and values where we can engage with the Democrats on substance and on policy.
Cheney is right.
Noah also quotes one of America's most esteemed political historians:
Historian and author Sean Wilentz told me by email that “I’ve been saying something similar”:
[I’ve been saying] that the Republican Party is dead as a doornail, that mainstream parties come and go in American history ... that what was the GOP is now over, having been fully supplanted by an authoritarian political cult.

Taking it another step, it’s time everyone in the news media woke up to that fact and owned it. Anything being done under the presumption that the Republican Party still exists (primaries, &c.), that it can be reconstructed after Trump ... is sheer fantasy. Some of the Never Trumpers, maybe most, have come to realize this. But covering events, like Iowa, while denying that the GOP is a corpse normalizes the situation, which is extremely dangerous, giving Trump a degree of legitimacy he has long ago lost—or should have lost.
Noah himself writes:
Without artificial support, the body cannot long survive brain death, and the GOP’s brain, as I documented in February, is pretty obviously dead. The Republican Party maintains a fragile House majority, a narrow majority of governorships, and a larger majority of state legislatures. In the next election, current projections suggest the GOP will lose the House but win back the Senate and, possibly, the presidency. Even so, I agree with Cheney that the Republican Party is running on fumes and that we are witnessing something rare in American politics: the death of a major political party.
It's fine to argue that the Republican Party of some past era is dead. But to say that it will die soon? That's crazy.

When Cheney says the GOP is dying, she means it's not the party she likes anymore. Cheney is like an old guy saying that "music sucks now" because there's no new music he likes, even though plenty of younger people really like the new stuff.

But when Wilentz and Noah say the GOP is dead, they seem to be saying that it's not a political party anymore. Noah, in the February 2023 article he cites above, argues that the GOP has "lost its brain," using the word "brain" to mean "ideology."
... I’m using the word “ideology” to describe, in a neutral manner, some set of reasoned and coherent principles and policies, however mistaken, around which a society can be organized. That’s how [the sociologist Daniel] Bell (mostly) used the term. He called ideology “the commitment to the consequences of ideas.”
Does the modern GOP really lack a "commitment to the consequences of ideas"? Let's look at Republican gun policy. It's led to an America where mass shootings happen more than once a day, and where guns purchased in Republican states with loose gun laws fuel crime in Democratic-run cities. Republicans know all this, and they have no intention of changing their views in order to reduce the frequency of the bloodshed. They fully accept the horrible consequences of their misbegotten ideas about firearms.

Republicans know that women are being put at risk by abortion laws that threaten criminal consequences for the termination of dangerous pregnancies. They're not worried about that. They know that their pro-billionaire tax policies, their war on government social spending, and their unswerving opposition to unions make the lives of poor and lower-middle-class people immeasurably worse. They're fine with that. They know their "fossil fuels forever" energy ideology literally threatens the survival of the planet. That doesn't trouble their sleep at all.

The idea that there's no ideology in the Republican is absurd. The party is much more than a personality cult -- it's still driven by a set of absolutely horrible ideas that will long outlast Donald Trump. And I haven't even gotten to the racism, the sexism, the homophobia, and the xenophobia, which Noah, in the February article, dismisses as "pathologies, or resentments, or ethnic hatreds." Why aren't those considered part of an ideology? They lead to "principles and policies" that are "coherent ... however mistaken." Offering unwavering support to on police forces that brutalize non-whites, or forcing school libraries to shut down or purge collections because they include books about gay people and prominent Blacks, or separating migrant families at the border -- all of these are policies based on principles, whether we find the principles abhorrent or not.

Much of what I'm describing is policy on which Donald Trump is a follower, not a leader -- which is why I argue that the GOP isn't a personality cult. The party will survive him even if it doesn't have a charismatic figurehead, because it will still finde ways to drive voters to the polls with anger-driven ideas, which it will then translate into policy.

The GOP isn't dying. It doesn't even appear to be sick, however sick it makes the rest of us.

No comments: