Today is Super Tuesday. Can I get an amen?
After more than a year of being bombarded with campaign propaganda, voters head to the polls to choose a Democratic candidate. The results can’t come fast enough. We don’t live in normal times. The sooner the party settles on a nominee, the better.
In normal times, partisanship is vigorous, but not so much that it prevails during periods of emergency. In normal times, loyal partisans set aside normal politics and join forces with natural adversaries for the benefit of the greater common good.
Disloyal partisans, however, don’t do that. Instead of suspending ordinary partisan conflict during extraordinary crisis, they seek ways of exploiting crisis in the interest of gaining political advantage. Take what happened during the 2007-2008 panic.
President George W. Bush asked House Republicans to support a bill that would bail out Wall Street in order to prevent an economic collapse the size of the Great Depression. “If money isn’t loosened up, this sucker could go down,” Bush said.
John Boehner, then House minority leader, said no can do. His conference refused. Moreover, his Republicans would, under the Tea Party banner, spend the next two years attacking the Democrats after they backed Bush and saved the US economy. The result was a takeover of the House and total obstruction of President Barack Obama.
Disloyal partisans don’t think of themselves as disloyal, because their greatest loyalty is partisan, not patriotic. Today’s GOP can’t be faulted too much for that, though. The party has warred against the very notion of a greater common good for half a century.
It was Margaret Thatcher who said back in 1987: “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no governments can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first” (my italics).
Republicans used to make exceptions to that rule when it came to the economy, natural disasters and public health. But since the twin shocks of the financial crisis and the election of the first black president, the exceptions have rapidly narrowed.
After Hurricane Sandy slammed into New Jersey, New York and New England in 2012, devastating the local economies here, Senate Republicans, led by Ted Cruz of Texas, fought against emergency legislation providing disaster relief. No society meant no common good meant no help for fellow Americans. But when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017, Cruz changed his mind. There was a such a thing as society after all.
There may still be an exception when it comes to the new coronavirus. Obviously, Republican voters get sick too. But even that window appears to be closing. The president isn’t so much concerned with containing what is now a pandemic. His greater concern is the outbreak might make his reelection all that much harder.
Donald Trump pressured the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates. He was hoping that would goose markets spiraling downward out of fear of the coronavirus’s spread. The gambit isn’t working. “Stocks are tanking,” Bloomberg’s Joe Weisenthal said today.
If he can’t goose the markets, the president can satisfy supporters in other ways. He can use the pandemic as a rationale for implementing fascist policies he already wanted but didn’t have a convincing enough rationale to implement them with.
Trump wants to shut down travel from Muslim-majority countries. The pandemic gives the administration reason for expanding the “Muslim ban.” He wants to divert money allocated for other things to complete a border wall. The pandemic gives the administration reason for taking billions from the Pentagon. He wants to close the border entirely. The White House cited the coronavirus as reason for doing just that.
Discriminating against a religion is an abomination. So is spending money any which way he wants. The Congress has the power of the purse, not the presidency. But Trump can do these things and more because Senate Republicans betrayed their loyalty to the US Constitution when they acquitted him of crimes against America.
That’s to be expected, I suppose, from a Republican Party that refuses to recognize the political legitimacy of American citizens who are not members of the Republican Party. The common good is not common—unless you’re a Republican. The common good is not good—unless you’re a Republican. If you’re sick or jobless or struggling to recover from a natural disaster, you’re on your own—unless you’re a Republican.
Super Tuesday’s results can’t come fast enough. We don’t live in normal times.
The sooner the Democrats settle on a nominee, the better.