Unmasking the Republican Party

“Why don’t we just kill them? Every last democrat, down to the last man, woman and child?”

“It’s time for the day of the rope. White revolution is the only solution.”

Responses to Donald Trump’s December 16, 2021 call to come to Washington on January 6th.

Sometimes you have to call a thing what it is. Sometimes you have to speak the truth no matter how ugly it is, no matter how divisive and polarizing it is, no matter how organizationally disruptive it is and no matter how many family get-togethers it spoils. And here it is. The Republican Party has become a vector for the darkest angels of our national character. It has become a haven for hateful ideologies, vile prejudices and paranoid conspiracy theories. As such, it is a force dangerous not only to our democratic traditions and institutions, but to the very lives and well being of many American citizens.

It is long past time for viewing the G.O.P. as benign political party with a lunatic fringe. The lunatics are now firmly in charge of the asylum. If that was not clear from the moment Donald J. Trump won the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, it became crystal clear on January 6, 2021. On that day the Republican Party demonstrated that it will employ lies, propaganda and racist screeds to incite killing in order to stay in power. A year and a half later as I write these lines, Republican politicians are vilifying the FBI following its entirely legal search of Donald Trump’s Mara Logo home to recover illegally retained government documents, some of which have the highest classification of secrecy. Their rhetoric has instigated at least one violent attack on FBI headquarters, protests in front of FBI buildings by groups armed with military style guns and death threats against FBI agents and employees.

These and other violent threats and attacks against government employees, election officials and people who have done no more than testify to what they have heard and seen stem from the “big lie” of the “stolen election.” That lie is still being propagated by Donald Trump and his loyal followers. Though this narrative is not supported by a single shred of evidence and has been debunked by numerous courts, audits and investigations, Republicans continue to propagate it-or remain tactically silent as their colleagues do so. The strategy has proven as effective as it did for Adolph Hitler, who famously said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” A solid majority of Republicans have been convinced that the lie is true. These are not simply “hard ball” political tactics. They are the acts of a party bent on seizing power and imposing it by any means necessary, including lies, intimidation, slander and violence. The Republican party as it exists today is a fascist organization.[1]  

Am I being too harsh? Is this just more inflammatory rhetoric that is unhelpful and only further polarizes our society? Judge for yourself. Trump himself is reported to have said he wished his generals were as loyal to him as Hitler’s were.[2] Revisit the remarks of Republican Marjory Taylor Green in a recent podcast interview. Ms. Green compares Democrats to the British colonial government during the revolutionary period of our country and suggests that true Americans might have to use their Second Amendment rights to maintain/restore American freedom. Huff Post, January 11, 2022. Or replay a speech given on May 27, 2021 in which Republican Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, told his audience that “the Second Amendment is about maintaining within the citizenry the ability to maintain an armed rebellion against the government if that becomes necessary.” New York Post, May 27, 2021. Finally, consider Oklahoma GOP Chair John Bennett, who is running for Congress, referring to Democrats as “communists” who “stole” the 2020 election and with whom “we are at war.” Huff Post, April 27, 2022. And recall the cheers from his audience, when he called for the execution by firing squad of Dr. Anthony Fauci. When Mr. Bennett says “war,” he means the literal sort. The kind in which people are killed. As is evident from the violent reactions and threats of Trump’s mob, this rhetoric is doing exactly what Republicans want it to do-incite violence and terror.

People like Gaetz, Taylor Green and Bennett may be outside of the Republican party’s traditional mainstream. But the traditional mainstream is no longer the engine driving the party. Who is driving the party? Consider that nearly every high ranking Republican absolutely refused to censor Donald Trump-even as he praised Vladimir Putin whose rockets are daily bombing orphanages and hospitals. Consider how the Republican leadership, to a member, refused to hold him responsible for propagating the “stolen election” lie and refused to criticize him for promising to pardon all those who violently attacked our Capital Building on January 6, 2021 in the unfortunate event he wins another presidential term. Despite all this, Senator Lindsay Graham still insists that Trump is the “leader” of the Republican party. Senator Mitch McConnell has stated his intent to support Donald J. Trump if he is chosen in the primaries as the Republican presidential candidate. Even “moderate” Senator Susan Collins will not rule out supporting his presidential bid. These “mainline” Republicans know on which side their bread is buttered. They don’t care about the Constitution. They don’t give a damn for all the high minded principles they once espoused. They could not care less about the standing of their nation on the world stage. They want to keep their party in power and that means standing with their strong man. If keeping one’s congressional seat means placating a man who stirs up the lowest, ugliest, most hateful, bigoted and violent underbelly of the U.S. population into a frenzied mob, so be it.

Donald Trump might be a failed businessman, cowardly draft dodger, adulterous philanderer, sexual predator and incapable of forming, much less carrying out coherent policy. Nevertheless, like all good fascist leaders, he knows how to whip up a lynch mob. He knows the buttons to push that get a crowd on its feet and screaming for blood. If you want to understand the Republican party, you need only examine the anatomy of a lynching. There are the few that actually do the dirty work of murdering the victim. There are several more in the forefront cheering them on. There is a much larger group that might find it beneath their dignity to get their hands dirty with such crass brutality, but are secretly glad that somebody else is. Others might have some misgivings about the methods but figure that, as this is a battle for the soul of America, the ends justify the means. There is a large group that might disapprove of the whole affair, but because the victim is not one of “their people,” they decide that it isn’t any of their business and not worth risking the ire of the mob. There is a group of people with a semblance of conscience who slip away in horror, go home, shut their doors, draw the curtains and pretend the whole terrible event is not taking place. But whether by action, encouragement, tacit approval, inaction or cowardice, all are participants. All are enablers. All share responsibility for the crime.

So here’s the deal. Your choices are no longer between the competing political philosophies, priorities and policies of two parties equally committed to the electoral process. Your choice is between an imperfect, sometimes corrupt, frequently inefficient and often inept democracy that has nevertheless given us freedom and opportunities that are the envy of much of the rest of the world, or a regime built on the foundation of mob hatred governed by criminals, extremists and the opportunists riding their coat tails. You don’t have to like Democrats, their policies or their candidates. But if you want your democracy to survive, you had better get out and vote like hell for them as if your life depended on it-because it does. The Republican party has given you fair warning that lethal violence is not outside the scope of what it will do, encourage, tolerate or ignore to advance its agenda. To be clear, most Republicans are not inherently violent people. You can be certain that most Republicans will never raise a violent hand against you. But you can be just as certain that they won’t lift a finger against the rest of their tribe who have promised you in no uncertain terms that they will. If you are not wearing a MAGA hat, that should scare the crap out of you. More importantly, it should inspire you to use your voice, use your witness and use your vote to dump Donald Trump and his party into the dust bin of history along with George Wallace, Lester Maddox, Bull Connor,  Joe McCarthy and all the rest of our nation’s embarrassments.

[1] “Yes, but the Democrats…” I have nothing to say in defense of the Democratic Party. I am not a Democrat myself and have no interest in becoming one. I know very well that the Democratic Party is just as beholden to corporate donors, special interests and lobbyists as are Republicans. That being said, there were no Joe Biden flags at the January 6, 2021 insurrection. There are no Democrats that I know of invoking the support of the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers or KKK organizations, referring to them as “very fine people.” To be fair, there has always been a deep seated strain of racist hate, anti-intellectualism, misogynism and xenophobia in the American DNA, often legitimized by bastardized expressions of American Christianity. On February 20, 1939 the dark side of Americana was on full display at Madison Square Garden. There the German American “bund,” a pro Nazi organization established in 1933 held a rally attracting over twenty-thousand participants. The Bund’s youth members were present that night dressed in uniforms identical to those of the Hitler youth, as were the “Ordnungsdienst,” the group’s vigilante police force dressed in the style of Hitler’s SS officers. Banners hanging in the auditorium had messages like “Stop Jewish Domination of Christian Americans” and “Wake Up America. Smash Jewish Communism.” See “When Nazis Took Manhattan,” All Things Considered, NPR (February 20,2019).  From the birth of our republic, politicians, both Democratic and Republican, have exploited these darker angels of our national nature for their own purposes. In my own time, they had names like George Wallace, Lester Maddox, Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms. These men drew their support and their ability to thwart the advance of civil rights from a deep pocket of white rage against a changing world and white resentment against feminists, racial minorities, liberals and communists who  were believed to be taking the country away from its rightful owners. But I think it is more than fair to say that no leader in the history of the United States has succeeded so thoroughly in marshalling the seething pots of white resentment into a national political movement than Donald J. Trump.

[2] In all fairness, this statement was reported by General John Kelly. During his short tenure as Trump’s chief of staff, Kelly’s own loyalty led him to lie about a member of congress in defense of his boss. Now, from the safety of his retirement, he has decided to speak up and play the elder statesman by warning us at this late hour about the danger Trump poses to the republic. It is therefore more than reasonable to question the validity of anything the general has to say. All that being said, however, this statement attributed toTrump is thoroughly consistent with the man’s fanatical demands for loyalty and I have no reason to think he wouldn’t make such a statement.  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s