On Thursday, writing for The Atlantic, Naval War College professor and Trump-skeptic conservative Tom Nichols compared the current state of the Republican Party to the decline of the Soviet Communist Party in the 1970s — not in terms of ideology, but in terms of the corruption and stagnation thereof.
"The Republicans have entered their own kind of end-stage Bolshevism, as members of a party that is now exhausted by its failures, cynical about its own ideology, authoritarian by reflex, controlled as a personality cult by a failing old man, and looking for new adventures to rejuvenate its fortunes," wrote Nichols, who has previously denounced the far-right evangelical takeover of the party he once backed and warned of the poisonous influence of right-wing media.
"No one thinks much about the Soviet Union in the late 1970s, and no one really should," wrote Nichols. "This was a time referred to by the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, as the vremya zastoi — 'the era of stagnation.' By that point, the Soviet Communist Party was a spent force, and ideological conviction was mostly for chumps and fanatics. A handful of party ideologues and the senior officers of the Soviet military might still have believed in 'Marxism-Leninism' — the melding of aspirational communism to one-party dictatorship — but by and large, Soviet citizens knew that the party's formulations about the rights of all people were just window dressing for rule by a small circle of old men in the Kremlin."
This kind of decline, wrote Nichols, is exactly what the GOP is going through now.
"The Republican Party has, for years, ignored the ideas and principles it once espoused, to the point where the 2020 GOP convention simply dispensed with the fiction of a platform and instead declared the party to be whatever Comrade — excuse me, President — Donald Trump said it was," wrote Nichols. "Like Brezhnev, Trump has grown in status to become a heroic figure among his supporters. If the Republicans could create the rank of 'Marshal of the American Republic' and strike a medal for a 'Hero of American Culture,' Trump would have them both by now."
There is no coming back from this kind of decay, Nichols argued.
"Another lesson from all this history is that the Republicans have no path to reform," wrote Nichols. "Like their Soviet counterparts, their party is too far gone. Gorbachev tried to reform the Soviet Communist Party, and he remains reviled among the Soviet faithful to this day. Similar efforts by the remaining handful of reasonable Republicans are unlikely to fare any better. The Republican Party, to take a phrase from the early Soviet leader Leon Trotsky, should now be deposited where it belongs: in the 'dustbin of history.'"
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