OPINION — Not so long ago I wrote of an identity crisis that the Democratic Party is going through. I made it clear in that article that I believe Democrats have to reckon with themselves on how the party should continue. My feeling is that the party had to return to its progressive roots of the 1940s. Today, I would like to do something similar, but for the Republican Party.
I do not think it would be a stretch to say (but certainly controversial) that the Republican Party is deeply ill, ideologically speaking. The Republican Party makes the Democrats, who could not organize a one-car parade to save their lives, look like political savants.
Republicans en bloc, historically, were much more progressive than Democrats; the party was formed to literally break chains of human bondage, after all.
Representative Thaddeus Stevens, a Radical Republican from Pennsylvania, fought for most of his congressional career on ending slavery and committing the United States to the adoption of laws that would grant African Americans the full blessings of American citizenship. Theodore Roosevelt was the brash trust-busting, nature-conserving bully of a president we all know and love. Dwight Eisenhower warned against the military-industrial complex. Even Richard Nixon, whose presidency ended in such shame unrivaled until Donald Trump, signed into law an act creating the Environmental Protection Agency. Although there was always a conservative counter-faction within the party to oppose this progressive faction, that was never the dominant until about the 1960s when Sen. Barry Goldwater lurched the party rightward.
I would even go so far as to say that the Republican Party doesn’t even have a conservative faction anymore either. Indeed, the party’s adherence to specific ideology is so weak that I doubt it even has one, or if it does, it should be called “Trumpism,” a hollow, vague reference to whatever Trump decides to believe on any given issue.
Trump’s grip on the party is so iron tight that despite him inciting insurrection against his own country, only ten Republicans voted to approve the second impeachment against him. And those that did vote to approve impeachment articles suffered intense backlash within their own party. House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, was one of those who voted to hold a reckless and dangerous president accountable, yet was formally censured by the Wyoming Republican Party.
Worse than this new cult of personality aspect of the Republican Party is the rise in general acceptance in fascist and authoritarian principles that are antithetical to our democracy, specifically the undermining of our elections — faith in which, I cannot stress enough, is absolutely critical to our democratic success. Republican politicians and citizens cheered on and on and on at Trump’s repeated, baseless and dangerous attacks on the free and fairness of the 2020 election. Trump did not usher in this new Republican Party — it had been in the making for quite some time — and it will not snap back to normal now that he is gone. We cannot survive if that continues.
We do not live in an authoritarian regime now, but the seeds have been planted in large swaths of the American citizenry that such a system is not only okay but desperately needed. We do not live in such a system because of our institutions — the judiciary, our election officials (both state and local), the media, administrative bodies and investigative bodies — that have held firm against the inward and outward assault against them. But they are not permanent. Indeed, they only remain because a majority of Americans continue to believe in the democratic system that they live under.
The Republican Party as it stands today is deeply ill and is infecting America’s democracy with a patriotically disguised trojan horse of authoritarian policy. America’s democracy will never work when one of its main parties openly supports insurrection, the deprivation of minorities the right to vote, enabling election-related falsehoods and draconian stances on immigration, abortion, contraception, labor and economic stimulus. America’s democracy will only ever work when its policies benefit not those in power, but We the People to whom political sovereignty ultimately rests. The Republican Party used to believe in that, but that party is no more.