Even if the Republican Party suffers crippling losses in November’s election, that won’t solve the problem of the “malignant Republican voter.”
President Donald Trump’s conservative opponents have been publicly debating whether the GOP deserves to survive, but The Week columnist Damon Linker says reducing the party to cinders and ash won’t root out the party’s rotten core.
“The head of the party is a corrupt and malicious imbecile,” Linker wrote. “Republicans in Congress are a mix of Trump enablers, obstructionist-demagogues out to maximize the wealth of their donors, know-nothing conspiracist loons, and a few reformers experimenting with the most politically palatable way to blend nationalism with socialism. All of them are primarily motivated by the drive toward self-promotion within the right-wing media complex. And when we move further down the Republican hierarchy to the state and local level, things only get worse.”
The problem isn’t just GOP candidates and elected officials, Linker wrote. The problem is the voters who gladly elevate and elect those candidates.
“The voters who swooned for Sarah Palin in 2008; who seriously considered giving the nod to Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Ben Carson, and Rick Santorum in 2012; who four years later elevated a reality-show conman to the head of their party, cast ballots for him to win the presidency, and have rallied around him ever since — most of these voters remain undaunted in their conviction that politics is primarily about the venting of grievances and the trolling of opponents,” Linker wrote. “The dumber and angrier and more shameless, the better.”
Linker isn’t buying the conventional wisdom that decisive election losses over the next few years would set the GOP on a new, more reasonable course.
“This assumes Republican voters are primarily motivated by self-interest rather than raw animus and the entertainment value of nastiness,” he wrote. “It also assumes that such voters are reasoning on the basis of facts and evidence. Some Republicans obviously are. But this is also a party led by a man who routinely suggests that the severity of the country’s public health crisis is a function not of how many people who are sick or how many have died but of how many COVID-19 tests have been administered. It’s also a party whose rank-and-file members have turned the refusal to wear protective masks in public during the worst pandemic in a century into a gesture of political defiance. So let’s just say I’m skeptical that Republicans are inclined to discipline their reasoning by tying it too closely to the contours and constraints of reality.”