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How to keep on losing

People in these parts are still flying their Trump flags. Many are faded and tattered. This one has fallen and has been down for days.

The Republican Party, as it is currently constituted, and, given the course it’s on, cannot win another national election. The 2020 election made that clear. And yet, with the exception of a very few Republicans such as Liz Cheney who retain the ability to work with facts and reason, the Republican Party has chosen to double down on its losing politics. That begs a question: What’s the real goal? Do they actually believe that they can revive Trumpism into a winning politics? Or is there some other goal?

A Reuters-Ipsos poll in May found that 53 percent of Republicans believe that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. For Americans as a whole, the number is 25 percent. Both numbers have dropped slightly since last November. What could possibly reverse that trend, given the indictments against Trump operatives that are in the works, the public hearings that Congress will hold, and the trials and guilty pleas of those who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6? I fully expect that Trump will be indicted, too — the greatest perp walk in American history.

It does make sense that Republicans would have a competition to be the next Trump — people such as the governors of Florida and Texas, and some people who will soon be indicted, such as Matt Gaetz. But what’s in it for them other than some publicity and getting a piece of the Trump grift pie? There is no way to win an election with a politics that only 25 percent of the population will buy. And not only that, but Trumpists also don’t seem to realize that, every time they talk to the cameras, every time they pull off a move such as requiring a state’s students and faculty to state their political views (which just happened in Florida), they horrify reasonable Americans and drive their support even lower.

So what do they really want? We can only guess, or try to connect the dots, keeping in mind that different players may have different motivations. The most benign guess I can make would reflect the position of players such as Mitch McConnell, senator from Kentucky. What he wants, I think, is to use every erg of power he can muster to block progress and to protect a status quo which redistributes income (and power) up. Greater equality is the last thing that Mitch McConnell wants. Others, I’m afraid — and the Trumpier they are the truer it is — want to maximize turmoil, rage, division and disinformation, because that kind of environment best serves their purpose. There are many who believe (including some on the far left) that nothing can be changed without tearing everything down first. That Trumpian purpose aligns with the purposes of the non-NATO world, which wants a weaker America. They have been meddling, too, though it’s difficult to sort out foreign meddling from homegrown sabotage.

The media, unfortunately, benefit from turmoil and division. The more we are afraid that Trump or Trumpism is going to return to power and that Trump is going to get away with everything, the more the media benefit. And yet, we cannot turn our backs. The very best single source I know of for following ongoing events is Heather Cox Richardson’s daily posts on Facebook. She is a historian.

Some of my liberal friends seem to be even more afraid of Trump and Trumpism now than they were when Trump was in power. They seem to be concerned that I’ve had a Panglossian failure of my faculties because I don’t think that doom is inevitable. We always knew that Trump would smash as much furniture as possible on his way out. But Trump lost. He cost the Republican Party the White House and the Senate. The power of the state is no longer at Trump’s disposal. Trump can no longer use the power of government to (like Russia) harass the opposition and obstruct justice to cover up the crimes of the powerful. Neither Trump nor his style of politics has anywhere near the support it would take to return to power. The more noise they make, the more they lose.

The Republican Party is still very dangerous, to be sure. For decades, Republicans have had to lie to win elections. Lies are no longer enough. Now they also have to cheat. Republicans still have strongholds in the states, and they are hard at work to try to leverage that for every advantage possible, including trying to legalize cheating.

Thinking about today’s politics always seems to bring me back around to the question of character. What kind of people would lie and cheat to win elections, push rage, like crack, to the point that people actually would invade the Capitol with violent intent, and poison the American democracy to keep the rich rich (and untaxed) and the people they hate down? That kind of people can’t be reformed or reasoned with. They can only be contained. My view is that, not only is their power now contained at the national level, the law and norms that contain them are closing in, in the form of justice. A cracked-up, fact-free, completely unprincipled minority cannot seize or hold power without committing crimes. Seeing their leaders in prison should do a lot toward showing the Trumpian hordes that they’d best go home and rethink their lives.


  1. Henry wrote:

    It is beyond my ability to think how and why those who purport to be a Republican can still deny the truth of reality. I feel if they admit the truth its on them i.e., an embarrassment and they can’t face that. Have you seen the news re Giuliani has been suspended in New York State?

    Thursday, June 24, 2021 at 12:36 pm | Permalink
  2. daltoni wrote:

    Hi Henry: Yes … And I think that much worse is in store for Giuliani.

    Thursday, June 24, 2021 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

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