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Mitch McConnell's big bluff: Here's the real reason he wants to keep the filibuster so badly

Last week, United States Senator Kyrsten Sinema expressed ongoing support for the filibuster, arguing that "it is a tool that protects the democracy of our nation" and prevents our country from "[ricocheting] wildly every two to four years back and forth between policies." Then, over the weekend, Joe Manchin echoed a similar sentiment, writing that Democrats have "attempted to demonize the filibuster and conveniently ignore how it has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past."

Sinema and Manchin have been rhapsodizing over the filibuster and the virtues of bipartisanship for months, so these arguments are far from surprising. One obvious problem is they fly in the face of overwhelming evidence that bipartisanship is (mostly) dead. However, there's another, more troubling problem that warrants our attention.

Sinema and Manchin maintain that the filibuster protects not only our democracy, but also the Democratic Party. If we rely on a mere majority for legislation, the thinking goes, any leftward movement will be met with an equal rightward shift when the GOP inevitably returns to power. Thus, we are to believe that the filibuster not only ensures stability, but, in the long run, actually protects Democratic Party's legislative interests.

This analysis presumes that both parties are equally interested in passing legislation and that both equally benefit from a procedure that impedes democratic change. A moment's reflection on the contemporary GOP shows these assumptions to be false.

Consider this question: why didn't Mitch McConnell nuke the legislative filibuster during the first two years of Trump's presidency when the Republicans held control over both chambers of Congress? The Senate majority leader—with the support of Senate Republicans—happily abolished the filibuster for Supreme Court justice nominees. This was after McConnell had refused to hold a hearing for Merrick Garland, essentially hobbling another branch of government. At the time, McConnell even declared: "One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, 'Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy."

So is there something about the legislative filibuster's role that's more valuable to McConnell than other norms he's broken? No. He only wants to maintain the legislative filibuster because, despite what Sinema and Manchin claim, the procedure ensures an imbalance of power that benefits Republicans while harming Democrats.

A 60-vote threshold would benefit any conservative party over a progressive counterpart by minimizing change. Even if a conservative party desires regressive change—such as the privatization of a public entitlement (e.g., Social Security or Medicare)—their next priority is, at the very least, maintaining the status quo. The GOP is thus well-served by a procedure that favors inaction at the federal level.

The asymmetrical benefit of the filibuster doesn't stop there. The GOP doesn't want to build anything. They want to either destroy the safety net we have or, at the very least, ensure it doesn't get more expansive. This predictably results in congressional gridlock. Major legislation is rarely passed, which makes distinguishing the two parties' agendas difficult. And guess who benefits from this state of affairs?

Republicans.

An amorphous mass of congressional inaction fuels voter apathy which, in turn, negatively impacts Democrats more than Republicans among key constituents, such as young voters. Why vote in the midterms if neither party does anything meaningful?

Republicans further benefit from national gridlock because their policies are unpopular. Majorities support Democratic policies on a variety of issues, ranging from gun control to immigration to healthcare. For example, as polarized as we are as a nation, if voters hear a party-neutral description of the public option, 68 percent endorse it. Meanwhile, though Republicans were successful at ginning up opposition to the Affordable Care Act throughout Barack Obama's presidency, their actual attempt to repeal it correlated with increased support for the Democratic position.

So Democratic policies are popular on a national level. Republican policies are not. Republicans know this, which is one among their reasons for maintaining a dysfunctional Congress. Meanwhile, Republican causes are well-advanced on the state and local level, as well as through packing the federal courts with right-wing judges.

Consider abortion. Two months ago, McConnell threatened that, if Democrats abolished the filibuster, Republicans would respond by putting a variety of conservative measures, including a ban of abortion, on the docket once they regained power. McConnell was essentially making a similar argument as Sinema and Manchin: if Democrats abolish the legislative filibuster, Republicans will respond in kind.

McConnell is likely bluffing. A national fight over abortion would be disastrous for the GOP. Fifty-nine percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Younger Americans are pro-abortion by a whopping 69 percent. Pushing an abortion ban through Congress would not only serve to fully differentiate the two parties. It would also likely energize young voters and eliminate Democrats' midterm turn-out disadvantage. There's no better way to get a 25-year-old white guy passionate about voting than by telling him that he'll be stuck with a kid if the condom breaks.

Thus, Republicans are much better served by fighting on the state and local levels while packing the courts. This allows them to chip away at popular policies under the radar while resting peacefully with the knowledge they control the Supreme Court.

Importantly, if the ACA or Roe get struck down by the courts, the GOP won't be directly blamed. The dire consequences would be a step removed. McConnell and other shrewd Republicans recognize this. They know their battles are better fought on furtive ground. They also know that, due to the unpopularity of their policies, congressional gridlock serves as a shield. Voters will see nothing getting done and blame both parties. Apathy—which especially afflicts young voters—will prevail. Democrats and their popular policies will suffer when they're unable to enact them.

Sinema and Manchin overlook the differences between the parties and how these differences are asymmetrically bolstered by congressional inaction. The filibuster doesn't make our democracy more robust; it impedes democratic change, vastly privileging one party's agenda over the other's. Crucially, these benefits occur in an electoral system whose quirks give disproportionate power to Republican senators.

Like many Democrats, I am growing tired of Sinema and Manchin's arguments over the filibuster. The bipartisanship they hail does not exist. Retaining the filibuster won't fix that. Nor does it equally benefit both parties. Republicans know this, which is why the legislative filibuster is the only "democratic norm" they will fight to protect.

There's a dark history behind this revealing Fox News chyron

For decades, the GOP claimed the mantle of an economically conservative party and exploited societal issues such as racism and abortion to bolster their electoral support. Yet over the past few years, a reversal has occurred, such that the GOP's cultural identity now eclipses any pretense of an economic agenda. As an example, just this week, Fox News declared, "Critical Race Theory Replaces Economy as Top Issue."

Over the course of the 1980s through the 2000s, American conservative thought was often framed as primarily economically oriented. The Republican Party, however, gained electoral support by appealing to societal resentments. From Ronald Reagan's "welfare queen" to encouraging turnout with anti-LGBTQ legislation, the GOP augmented cultural wars. It knew how to exploit culture to win elections and power.

Yet during all this time, the GOP had an economic agenda—"fiscal conservatism"—that appealed to voters less moved by resentment. This agenda revolved around deregulation of industry, reductions in government spending and tax cuts. The GOP also had an even broader vision: deconstruction of the social safety net as established by the New Deal and the Great Society. From Reagan to Newt Gingrich to George W. Bush, Republican leaders mounted attacks on the safety net, largely centered on privatization and incentives to encourage Americans to choose other options.



The GOP's coalition thus entertained a hodgepodge of interests, ranging from those animated by culture wars to those more concerned with tax policy and their own pocket books. The GOP's image as a fiscally responsible party was primarily catered to the latter group, but their popularity was increasingly reliant on the former.

This dynamic was in full swing during President Obama's first term. To oppose the Democratic president's policies, the GOP leaned into economic complaints about the deficit. Billionaires funded "populist" anti-government uprisings. The success of this opposition was partially, if not primarily, driven by racist backlash against the first Black president, yet to some extent, the GOP seemed convinced they were also winning an economic argument, rather than just subsisting on bigoted fumes.

The GOP miscalculated the nature of the beast they cultivated, a mistake that, in hindsight, was evident during the 2012 election. Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate. Ryan, like Romney, rhetorically focused on economics over culture. At the time, Ryan's star was so bright it was considered almost heretical to question his economic bona fides. And Ryan wasn't just any economic conservative—he was radical. His proposals would effectively launch the safety net back to the 1950s.

So, at least in 2012, it looked like the GOP chose the conservative economic message. They relied, as they had for decades, on prejudice for electoral success, but their rhetorical focus was on extreme conservative economics. And then they lost.

In response, the RNC commissioned an election autopsy, which reported that the GOP should moderate itself on cultural issues, such as LGBTQ rights. It recommended the GOP pass comprehensive immigration reform and reach out to minority voters and organizations. Finally, the report stressed the GOP was in an epistemic bubble: "We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people," the authors wrote, before warning the party had "lost the ability to be persuasive" to other voters and risked "driving in circles on an ideological cul-de-sac."

The GOP stayed in the cul-de-sac. In 2016, the party nominated Donald Trump, who ran a campaign fueled by racism and rage, while leaving his economic agenda unspecified beyond rants about China and vague promises about healthcare.

Then Trump won.

After Trump's victory, the GOP held the holy trifecta of the presidency, the Senate and the House and was therefore well-positioned to reanimate the old battles of Reagan, Gingrich and W. Bush. Yet they not only squandered this opportunity, they seemed to be fully unprepared. For example, despite voting for ACA repeal over 70 times while Obama was president, no Republican leader—including the wonky Paul Ryan—had a plan for what to do with healthcare after demolishing the current system. The GOP cobbled together clumsy legislation, which they then failed to pass. It was clear: they had no real conservative economic vision for healthcare beyond "not Obamacare."

The 2017 tax cut legislation had a different outcome, but also served to undermine the GOP's brand as thoughtful economic conservatives. Whereas the ACA battle showed they had no real vision, the tax cuts revealed their eight years of screeching over the deficit was unprincipled pablum. Meanwhile, Trump's presidency was consumed by incompetence, criminality and racism. Though they packed the courts, the GOP didn't rebuild its economic brand in American minds; rather, it chose to defend Trump during endless scandals while embracing the cultural resentments he inflamed.

Both of these actions—the abandonment of any pretense of economic seriousness and the embrace of bigotry—likely contributed to the Republican Party's hemorrhaging of white college-educated suburban voters. This damage to the GOP's coalition facilitated a Democratic sweep of the House in 2018, as well as Biden's victory in 2020. Notably, the GOP made little attempt to win over any voters based on an economic agenda during either election. Instead, again, they chose the path of a culture war, with buzz-phrases such as "socialism," "defund the police" and "law and order."

Since the inauguration, the GOP has made a few flaccid endeavors to gin up opposition through appeals to their old economic standbys: excessive spending and looming deficit. Yet this rhetoric is doing what it did in 2009. Biden is perceived as moderate and, due to his whiteness, is not as vulnerable a target as Obama. It also hasn't helped the GOP that, during the Trump presidency, they chose to deprioritize any real economic messaging, as well as to undermine their previous reputation as conservative intellectuals. Meanwhile, Biden's economic policies remain popular.

So what is the GOP left with? They do not seem to be attempting to appeal to the white-college educated voters they've lost. Instead, they are doubling down on Trumpism as their final political form. They have spent the past months raging against "woke-ism," "critical race theory" and the imagined genitalia of a plastic potato.

The party has clearly decided that a grand culture war, rather than an economic agenda, is how they will maintain power. In this sense, the GOP is becoming almost indistinguishable from radical far-right parties in Europe, groups that also engage in fuzzy economics while focusing their primary rhetoric on nativism and bigotry.

None of this means that the GOP no longer entertains their longer goal of deconstructing the safety net. Many in the party are still deeply committed to this agenda and, once they regain power, they will likely turn once again towards gutting entitlements. However, in terms of messaging, the GOP seems to realize their base is unmoved by this economic agenda. And so they've made yet another choice: to embrace their emerging identity as a party that is fully oriented towards a cultural battle rather than a party with any real vision for the American economy.

There are decades of deceit behind Trump's 'Big Lie'

Since the 2020 presidential election, the phrase "The Big Lie" has been deployed to describe the former president's undermining of American democracy. This phrase has its roots in authoritarian propaganda, most notably in Adolf Hitler's assertion that if you tell a lie often enough, it will become truth in the minds of your audience.

Trump's own "Big Lie" began with a refusal to concede electoral defeat. This deceit was then formalized in frivolous lawsuits and it ultimately inspired an insurrection on January 6, 2021. Since then, members of the GOP have either explicitly endorsed Trump's "The Big Lie" or tacitly allowed it to flourish in the consciousness of their voters, such that 60 percent of Republicans now believe the 2020 election was stolen.

However, Trump's own "Big Lie" is not actually a singular falsehood; rather, it is the culmination of a long attack on our shared reality. The undermining of the democratic process itself is only possible due to the decades of disinformation that preceded it.

Where did the Republican lies begin? The assault on Medicare is a good starting point. In 1961, Ronald Reagan argued that Medicare was a stealthy vessel for complete government control over not only medicine but society. In this narrative, those who claimed to care for the vulnerable were exploiting the same to usher in socialism. Reagan warned that if Medicare prevailed, Americans would soon be telling their children and grandchildren "what it once was like in America when men were free."

The Republican Party followed Reagan's lead. It didn't take long before all government programs were called "socialism" and were framed as inherent threats to freedom. This GOP project was accelerated by the great white backlash against the passing of civil rights legislation in the 1960s. White people should not only fear the social safety net, they were told, but any government intervention to ensure equal citizenship.

After the 1960s, the GOP's attack on truth began to encompass not just antipathy towards government, but a broader rejection of institutions. Consider the issue of climate change: In the 1980s and 90s, there was at least some bipartisan recognition of the problem and support for addressing it.. The Republicans mounted a propaganda campaign in response. They were successful. In 2001, there was a 13-point gap between Democrats' and Republicans' belief in climate change. It's 53 points now. The Republican Party had therefore not only undermined government but science, too.

Since then, the Republicans lied about WMDs in Iraq. They lied about Obamacare, calling the market-based plan "socialism" and warning that it would lead to so-called "death panels." Though many did not explicitly lie about Barack Obama's birthplace, most of the Republicans allowed that lie to fester. It was among the biggest of them all: The president of the United States may not be an American given he's Black.

The GOP's status as the party-of-lies was then accelerated by Donald Trump, who told an estimated 30,573 falsehoods during his presidency. From the moment Trump took office and lied about the crowd size at his inauguration—something we could confirm or deny with our very own eyes—it was clear his presidency would be different. Trump proceeded to lie about things as varied as US intelligence on Russia's interference in the 2016 election to the extraordinary number of men who wept in his presence.

Then came COVID-19. Trump and the Republican Party compared the novel respiratory coronavirus to the flu, rolled their eyes at liberal hysteria, and pushed unscientific treatments with potentially deadly consequences. And, importantly, the Republicans didn't just lie to protect themselves; they actively exploited the crisis for broader cultural and political advantage. This is nowhere more evident than the almost religious fervor they employed to discourage the simple act of wearing a face mask.

Initially, it seemed possible that lying about COVID might finally be the breaking point in the GOP's history of dishonesty. Every other lie the GOP has told had distant effects, allowing them to escape accountability. From attacks on the safety net to climate change, the GOP evaded consequences because the harmful effects of their policies were temporarily distant. It seemed implausible that they could pull off equivalent deceit about COVID. That their falsehoods could overpower the pleas of doctors or the accumulation of hundreds of thousands of dead Americans.

Yet Republican lies took hold even in the face of immediate evidence. The pernicious effects of their disinformation continues. Now, in 2021, the GOP has shifted from being anti-mask to being anti-vaccine, with 43 percent of GOP voters expressing "vaccine hesitancy." Though general anti-vaccination efforts have gained steam over the past decade, there were few partisan divisions prior to COVID. In 2015, for example, Democrats and Republicans both endorsed standard vaccinations in roughly equal numbers. Thus, the political divides about vaccination are relatively new.

It is within this broader context that we should view the "Big Lie." This lie—which strikes at the heart of the democratic process— is only possible because of the GOP's longer assault on truth. Medicare is socialism. Welfare is for greedy, lazy people. Climate change does not exist. The president is Black and therefore not American. Russia didn't interfere in the 2016 election. COVID-19 is just like the flu.

In some ways, it might seem like we have reached the culmination of the GOP's deception. They have so thoroughly radicalized their followers that many no longer value medical advice about their own personal safety, let alone believe the results of a democratic election. How can it get any worse than this? It seems that it can.

Liz Cheney, who committed the crime of recognizing Biden as the legitimate winner of the 2020 election, has been expelled from party leadership. Believers of Q-Anon are clawing their way into Congress. Republicans continue to turn a blind eye, despite the clear anti-Semitic and racist nature of the movement. The rest of the party denies their previous leader, Donald Trump, inspired an insurrection against the US government. Now the House GOP leader says he doesn't support a commission to investigate it.

2020 was not just a year in which many denied the results of an election. They put their own health at risk for a culture war. None of this would have been possible if not for decades of deceit. The "Big Lie" is, in fact, the "Long Lie": the generational priming of minds to reject all evidence and view any authority—from the government to scientists—with hostility and distrust. From lies about Medicare to lies about Obama's birthplace, this project has been long in the making. The entire GOP is responsible.

How the right wing uses language as a weapon

Right-wing operatives have recently mounted a campaign against the idea and practice of "wokeness." The word has the pretense of a neutral reference, but is increasingly used to debase and belittle the underlying meaning of anti-racism and anti-bigotry. Similar rhetorical tactics have a long history in conservatism, as they allow the GOP to obscure policy objectives, while simultaneously evoking negative and positive emotions. Overall, the GOP benefits from imprecise language soaked with connotation. Unfortunately, journalists and some liberals keep falling for it.

In the case of "woke" and "wokeness," conservatives are undermining a positive idea with derisive figurative language. Consider a converse example, in which the Republicans advanced an ugly principle through positive framing: waterboarding. It was described as "enhanced interrogation" by conservatives, and that was repeated by the press corps. However, if you actually describe what's involved in waterboarding—making a person temporarily experience drowning—Americans respond with repulsion. Conservatives knew this, so they chose to be evasive. "Enhanced interrogation" is more palatable than both "torture" and "simulated drowning."

Language can be exploited to great political effect. Words convey meaning two ways. By denotations, the actual real-world reference of a given word or phrase. And by connotations, the feelings they evoke. The GOP systematically uses language that obscures denotation and advances connotation. The case of "wokeness" is not so different from "enhanced interrogation," but, in this case, the underlying denotation—awareness of social injustice—is good whereas the connotations are unfortunately negative. As they did with "enhanced interrogation," conservatives are using figurative language to obscure deeper principles and create a fog of feeling, rather than reason.

The GOP's use of such language—figurative, imprecise, but laden with connotation—gained prominence in their backlash to the civil rights movement. After a certain point, it was of little benefit to conservatives to explicitly state they were opposed to equal rights for Black Americans, so they adopted fuzzy terms. This strategy was famously outlined by the late Lee Atwater, a chief architect of modern GOP rhetoric:

You start out in 1954 by saying, '[n-word], [n-word], [n-word].' By 1968 you can't say '[n-word]'—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states' rights, and all that stuff, and you're getting so abstract. Now, you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites. … 'We want to cut this' is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "[n-word], [n-word]."

Here, Atwater specifically argued that, to advance racism, conservatives should embrace abstractions, given that racial slurs no longer confer electoral success. This tradition of linguistic manipulation continues to pervade our discourse. From "illegal alien" to "states' rights" to "politically correct" to now "woke," the Republicans have perfected the art of language devoid of concrete specifics, but charged with big feels.

That language has this power presents a challenge for journalists. Reporting should be informative and neutral. Yet with increasing frequency, the press corps uncritically adopts whatever linguistic frame has currency. The result, predictably, is neither informative nor neutral. What do Republicans actually mean when they criticize "wokeness?" It's unclear. Yet journalists repeat their rants without clarification.

Consider what "woke" actually denotes. The origin of the expression is unknown, but references to "staying woke" in African-American English can be traced back to Lead Belly's recording of "Scottsboro Boys," a song about young Black men who were falsely accused of rape. Recently, "woke" gained prominence during the 2014 Ferguson protests when it was used to signal awareness of anti-Black racism. "Woke" then proliferated online where its meaning broadened to describe anyone who was aware of systemic racism. Finally, the meaning shifted to encompass an awareness of bigotry in general. Now, lexicographers define "woke" as "aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)."

While the current use of "woke" arose from African-American English, "awake" as a metaphor for awareness has deep cross-cultural roots. Wakefulness as revelation is referenced throughout both Buddhism and Christianity as well as in the work of poets and playwrights. It is, in fact, the same metaphor underlying the "Age of Reason"—or the Enlightenment—such that Kant wrote, "Enlightenment is the release of man from a state of bondage. … Have the courage to use your own understanding!" "Wokeness" was present in American political movements long before BLM. Republicans—proud descendants of Abraham Lincoln—might be interested to learn that an early anti-slavery faction within their own party called themselves "The Wide Awakes."

So, what "wokeness" denotes is overwhelmingly positive: awareness of bigotry and concomitant opposition. Yet, recently, as conservatives have co-opted it, the term has become derisive. "Woke" people are unserious. You're allowed to roll your eyes at them, because they are sensitive and sanctimonious. In this sense, "woke" has unfortunately become a dysphemism. Whereas euphemisms soften underlying meaning (the dead "passed away," for instance, or the woman is "with child"), dysphemisms do the opposite (the dead "croaked', for instance, or the woman got "knocked up").

What's denoted by "woke" has been eclipsed by connotations. When we hear "woke" now, we do not think of its history as a metaphor for awareness. We certainly do not think of the Enlightenment. We think of pious scolds. And then, perhaps unwittingly, we transfer this pejorative connotation to the underlying principles of social justice.

We can't expect rhetorical honesty from the GOP, but we can ask more of the press corps that reports on conservatives' use of "woke." When reporters repeat the GOP's derision of "wokeness" without explaining the underlying denotation of the word, they are serving as a conduit of conservative propaganda. Such reporting is neither informative nor neutral. The meaning of what's said is, at best, obscure and imprecise. Failure to report the underlying meaning allows the negative connotations to prevail.

So, if an elected official claims "wokeness" is bad, journalists should ask them what they mean! Journalists could ask, for example: "Is anti-racism bad? What about anti-bigotry in general?" If they refuse to define what they intend when they deride "wokeness," journalists should do it for them by citing the dictionary definition.

We are in an existential battle. The forces of bigotry are strong, and, in many ways, our electoral system allows them to flourish. However, the evidence is clear: the actual principle of "wokeness"—the broad "awareness of social injustice"—is increasingly popular. We cannot let conservative rhetorical manipulations muddy this fact.

Here's why Republicans are suddenly panicked by the free market they used to love

Did Mitch McConnell cancel the market? Answer: No. He was never a real fan.

For the past few decades, the GOP's interests aligned harmoniously with those of corporations. Businesses amassed wealth while staying out of social issues. The GOP, in turn, rewarded businesses with tax cuts. The status quo was fine.

This state of affairs allowed the Republican Party to reward itself with the mantle of the "pro-market" party. However, as society has become more socially liberal, businesses are adapting to their customers' evolving preferences. A longstanding symbiosis has been upset and the Republicans have begun panicking.

The Senate minority leader issued an ominous warning to corporations who stood in opposition to voter suppression laws in Georgia, stating, "My advice to the corporate CEOs of America is to stay out of politics," adding these corporations would "invite serious consequences if they became a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country."

Many noted that McConnell's stance was blatantly hypocritical. How can a conservative party that has argued that corporations deserve the rights of speech now be telling these same entities to shut up? And, certainly, one wouldn't expect the party of markets to be troubled by corporations responding to customer preferences. So what happened to the Good Old GOP, champions of markets and freedom?

The answer is simple. The Republicans never defended markets on principle. It was always an alliance of opportunity. The rhetoric of markets was a useful instrument—an anti-government cudgel—wrapped in the language of freedom. The GOP's claim, since Reagan, was that the markets promote freedom and the government does not. Thus: lower taxes and shrink the government. Start with eroding protections for civil rights.

The branding was effective. The GOP is widely perceived as the pro-market and pro-liberty party by conservatives and liberals alike. But, if you start to poke beyond this veneer, a different picture emerges. Its love of markets, it seems, is as sincere as its periodic despair over the deficit, which reliably animates opposition to Democratic policies, but recedes as soon as the resident of the White House is a Republican.

To understand the GOP's relationship with the market, we need only to consider its entire platform since Reagan. Republicans have consistently advanced policies that facilitate what economists call market failure. Such failures occur when conditions, such as monopolies, information asymmetries, and externalities, prevent the market mechanism from operating properly. By this measure, the GOP does not fare well.

Consider, first, how the GOP's deregulatory policies proliferate negative externalities. The predictable result? Depletion of resources, increased pollution, and poisoned communities. In these cases, the Republican Party seems conveniently unconcerned about personal responsibility. They're happy to have businesses impose costs on the rest of us, and eager to ensure that responsible parties escape accountability.

The second issue stems from the GOP's cavalier attitude toward monopolies. While some Republicans opine about anti-trust when it suits their interests, the party as a whole continues to encourage monopolies. For example, few Republicans have expressed any qualms about Sinclair—a rightwing group—buying up local media stations, thus creating an information monopoly. While the GOP may wax poetic about the marvel of markets, their favored policies hamper their proper function.

That the GOP's commitment to markets is disingenuous—tenuous and unprincipled—is elsewhere apparent. For example, markets could better improve people's welfare if wealth and income wasn't so concentrated. Yet the GOP's fiscal policies reliably produce income inequality, as if by design. This correlates with lower market participation. Rather than using markets to improve lives, the GOP prioritizes the returns of a tiny minority. Or, to take another example, consider the GOP's resistance to increasing the labor force, such as investing in childcare. They favor policies that keep individuals in perpetual debt, unable to engage in a variety of markets, such as housing. They also oppose legislation that alleviates job lock, such as the ACA.

We should not believe this party ever cared about markets. They loved the rhetoric of markets. It was useful. It allowed them to adopt a faux neutrality in their opposition to civil rights. Their hostility towards government could be dressed up as principled support for freedom. Yet they have stood by while markets crumbled, content to encourage the accumulation of wealth, as others drowned in bankruptcy and poverty.

Despite all of this, the GOP is regarded as pro-market. Their rhetoric worked. Why? Because American consumers were largely content with the social status quo. There was little reason for corporations to take a stand on social issues. Thus the happy symbiosis between Big Business and the party of corporate tax cuts was preserved.

But now the times are changing. The GOP hasn't undergone a reformation, nor have CEOs developed a collective sense of social conscience. The real shift is occurring within American society. The market reflects this. It has become relatively unpopular to be a bigot. Majorities of Americans now support same-sex marriage and pluralities support the Black Lives Matter movement. Of course, let's not overstate the point. The country still has a problem with bigotry (we elected Trump, after all) and much of the anti-bigot movement might be performative or aesthetic. But, overall, people who identify as non-bigots are in the majority, especially among the younger generations.

Big businesses recognize this shift and its implications. They see how the path to profit has changed. They don't necessarily oppose the Georgia voter suppression laws because of deeply held moral principles. They just see the writing on the wall. Customers prefer companies that oppose bigotry and stand up for civil rights. Businesses, to survive, are doing what the GOP has always said they should: listening to the market. But the message of the market has changed. The GOP can't accept it.

As corporations have come out against Georgia's voter-suppression laws, Republican voters have launched their own boycotts. If the pro-market party truly cared about the freedom of the market, they would say, as they always have, "let the market decide." But now, given they're unhappy with the market's decision, they can't say that. The market is becoming less useful. The marriage of convenience is over.

So what is the GOP left with? Not much. Since they won't adapt to changing preferences—of consumers or voters—they'll resort to something else. There is already some indication of what's to come. They might deploy more of the empty populist rhetoric that served the previous administration. Or they might try to find some middle ground. They might argue, as The Wall Street Journal did in an editorial last week, that "markets" are still sacred; but the heads of business are nefarious. Perhaps they'll ultimately settle on a strategy. But at the moment, the party is panicked.

The GOP's future is uncertain. What's clear, however, is that the party will continue to do whatever it takes to pursue their actual goals: bigotry, wealth and power.

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