The implosion that is today's Republican Party, choosing Trumpism – whatever it means beyond blind personal loyalty to a would-be king – and principled conservatism that veers from the idolatry is growing in intensity.
It is something to heed as another signal for the triumph of emotion over serious information.
Normally, I try to stay away from the tactical inside-baseball stuff of politics; it is not that interesting or determinative unless one is part of that game. But discussions with friends have underscored value concerns about the effects of a continuing downward spiral among Republicans.
The changes were most recently highlighted in an article in The Daily Beast that tracked the ouster of longtime, regular, conservatives Republican party stalwarts – people who had personally supported Donald Trump – from local party organizations in South Carolina, itself hardly a swing state. The new, self-appointed inheritors of the GOP mantle were a number of political newcomers who had no agenda other than support for Trump, the Big Lie, and a hatred for those reflecting the status quo.
The woman leader thrown out of her local political organizing job and all possible secondary roles "seemed to offend simply by having a whiff of experience in local politics, a black mark that was linked to the worst possible offense to the GOP base: not doing enough to support Donald Trump in the wake of the 2020 election." The incoming replacement explained that Trump's instructions to the faithful were clear. "He said, 'Go purge, get rid of the RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) in the Republican Party.' So, we took him seriously."
So, the target now is not just Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and the nine others in the House who supported impeachment. It is all Republicans in sight unless they are outspoken allies of the Jan. 6 insurrection attack on the Capitol and all things Trump – the only real political religion of this newest version of Tea Party/Freedom Caucus right-leaning authoritarians.
Showing Your Beliefs
It is this active show of support for the gone-but-not-forgotten Trump that is prompting the sudden splurge of anti-democratic voter suppression bills around the country, that is prompting even longtime conservative members of Congress to just call it quits, that is going to fuel a bottom-up takeover of GOP party apparatus.
Antipathy for immigrants, gun control, Black Lives Matter, gays and transgender rights and abortion are expected but not unique to this group, though wider acceptance if not fealty to white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and claims of victimhood by a perceived cultural elite (and journalists) certainly are part of the picture.
Still, the question here is basic: Do I care what crazy Republicans are doing to one another? Does it make a difference to the country beyond the chances of one conservative Republican to outlast the purge of other conservative Republicans?
Of course, Democrats argue all the time, though they generally don't throw each other out of all political roles if they are more centrist or more progressive than the other guy. Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Joe Manchin all seem to share a belief in the same facts, just not necessarily what to do about them. Not so these newcomers, who have learned from Trump and right-leaning news outlets how to turn events inside out to come out with a totally different story – as in blaming the Jan. 6 attacks on left-wing antifa rather than Trump supporters, and to insist that it was a peaceful get-together when five deaths showed the opposite.
The voluntary departures of senators like Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania and Rob Portman in Ohio, and a host of "moderate" congress members like former Rep. David Jolly of Florida or Charlie Sykes of Wisconsin are seen as losses to the ability of government debate and compromise. All parties except Trump claim to miss John McCain, whose voice and influence were strong.
So, we're now moving to replace thinking lawmakers with Trump puppets – and we have a generation of the disgraced Matt Gaetz of Florida, fun-toting Lauren Boebert from Colorado, the vocal Jim Jordan of Ohio and Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia of Jewish-space-laser fame, all willing to stand tall for QAnon, conspiracy theories, anti-everything and to threaten anyone who criticizes them or policies that defend and defer any loss of White, Christian right power – whether the issue at hand is taxes, border walls or public health. There is no compromise with the incoming group, as former Speaker John Boehner outlines in his new book, "On the House: A Washington Memoir."
How's this new generation of No working out?
Does It Matter?
On some level, it's amusing to see Republicans who oppose anything I seek from government in disarray. And I can see the danger in replacing even committed small government conservatives with authoritarian yahoos who know nothing about the issues, the processes and reject the values of democracy.
But here's the snag: What's to happen with these Republicans pros ousted by Trump? Do they drift leftward, and find themselves supporting a Joe Biden? Doubtful. Do they turn against Trump, should he run again? Again, doubtful.
No, they are likely to keep on as they have, albeit from corporate jobs to which they will turn or return, and vote again for Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott as Republicans from South Carolina, in this case, and Trump whenever they can.
The group formerly known as Republicans and its plasticized replacement vote the same way. They are going to support the full anti-immigrant, anti-voting rights, anti-health, anti-environment agenda they always have.
Meanwhile, state legislatures and Congress will become more a house of extremes and untruths. That's hardly a formula for dealing with the nation's most pernicious issues. In realpolitik terms, what actual policy changes do these purges achieve?
"Trump's toxicity continues to poison the Republican Party," writes columnist Greg Sargent of The Washington Post, one of a slew of articles on dozens of publications about the problems of trying to de-Trump the party. Among the political pundits, the consensus is that Trump's very possibility of running again is freezing other potential candidates in place, and Trump himself is using all of the turmoil to siphon more money to himself—outside campaign fund review -- than to Republican coffers
We are getting different faces, likely less proficient, as political figures, who come into office already ready to say No to anything that even Joe Manchin suggests. They are carrying water for white supremacy, for nationalism and tribalism, for uncaring isolationism, indeed for everything we find objectionable in our value systems, anything even remotely touching racial or even legal justice, public health or a reckoning with climate.
The only difference is that they also bring a personal loyalty to King Trump, who would throw out democracy too. It is hard to see the political gain of purging people who already vote the way these folks want.