Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Republican Party Cannot Be Distinguished From President Trump

Let's start with the political demise of Steve King of Iowa. If you don't know who King is, you are the better for it, since King is, put simply, an unrepentant racist who wondered aloud what was the problem with the phrase "white supremacist," a comment that, on the heels of dozens of other similar dog whistles to his largely white, rural constituency, led him to be stripped of his committee assignments in the House. The loss of influence arguably allowed alternate Republicans to make the case that they should become the Party's standard bearer for the Iowa Fourth Congressional District. A guy named Randy Feenstra won, beating King handily, 46-36.

So...this is good news, right?

Not really. For in truth, Randy Feenstra is no different in substance from Steve King. I don't say this because I have a detailed understanding of Randy Feenstra's policy proposals, and I haven't studied his campaign website for hours on end. I haven't looked for any interviews with him on race. I say this because I know one key piece of information about Randy Feenstra, which is that he is a member of the Republican party. And to be a national elected representative of the Republican party, in this day and age, is not merely to be anti-liberal, but simply and forthrightly, to be anti-democratic. That's a small "d," just to be clear, which means we're talking about the institution of democracy, not a political party.

Now had I written those words twenty or thirty years ago, I would have been dismissed as a crank by an enormous number of people from left, right, and center. Not all Republicans are the same! I would have been told. Such people would have bemoaned my radicalism, my rigidity, my self-righteousness. And to be fair, a good deal of people today would say the same thing; effectively, David Brooks has been saying this to people on the center-left for nearly two decades.

Maybe that's right, maybe not. But others share my opinion these days. Take this, for instance:
The Republican party, which was founded in 1854, has never been more united. Ninety percent of self-described Republicans support President Trump. I do not believe that Ronald Reagan ever achieved that degree of homogeneity in the Republican party. So, the Republican party today is a Trump party. For that reason, the party has been a) impotent to act as a restraint on the President, and b) thoroughly complicit in his behavior. For that reason, the party itself has to be judged, as well as the President that it nominated and helped reach the White House. [my emphasis]
What about this quote isn't a frothing, rabid, insane rant? It's another of those Antifa people, right?

Well, no, actually: it's this guy, George Will, and that clip is from this interview with Rachel Martin after he wrote this op-ed in the Washington Post. Anti-Trump op-eds in the Washington Post are about as surprising as dog-bites-man pieces, but this one even got the attention of Fox News.

Let's just stop and appreciate that quote for a second, and that it came from George Will. George Will!

So is it really a victory for decency that we have just replaced an unrepentant racist in a tucked-away corner of Iowa with someone who will support without any change the same program that gave our country Donald Trump? I say no. I say, he's not only just as bad, but in fact he's worse, since he will provide cover for maybe ten or twenty percent of voters to maintain their denial of the bedrock truths that George Will is trying to force them to confront above. The Iowa Fourth is PVI R+11. With King the nominee, that seat is a tossup; without King, it is safely back in the hands of Republicans.

Could Randy Feenstra be a decent individual? Of course he could. That would put him in company with tens of millions of Germans between 1933 and 1945.

The Republican party today is a Trump party. It is worth reminding ourselves of this as we look toward the Congo, where another Ebola outbreak has begun. The World Health Organization has, for decades, been critically important in containing and ending Ebola outbreaks. That would be the same WHO that President Trump has stated the US Government will no longer fund, and if he is able to put this into effect, would constitute a major budget cut for the group.

You think a mismanaged federal COVID response is bad? Just try having Ebola out there when the world doesn't have the resources to track it. We are lucky to be living in a time when air travel is significantly limited. But it won't always be so, and you can rest assured that, whatever else Randy Feenstra is as a person, he's not going to be out there fighting hard to rebuild institutions like the WHO after this total assault on expertise that is the Trump administration, and the party that not only enables him now, but created the kind of politics that led to his rise in the first place.

At other times, we should support or oppose Randy Feenstra based on his statements, his record in the Iowa State Senate, his debate performance, and so forth. Alas for Randy, it's much more straightforward this year. He is a Republican, which means he is not only part of the problem, he is the problem.

If that strikes you as the overheated prose of a left-wing fanatic, then let me direct you to one George Will.


PS. Since we are on the subject of "political people with whom we almost never agree," we cannot let Jim Mattis's astonishingly eloquent essay in The Atlantic pass by without a mention. So many writers have written such eloquent denunciations of Trump and Trumpism, and have also written encomia on the better angels of our American nature, even in the dark hours we find ourselves in after the murder of George Floyd. But Mattis's piece is pitch perfect as a clarion call--and like Will's excoriation of the Republican party and its profound moral and intellectual failure in this hour, cannot be so easily dismissed by any but the most intransigent, or unredeemable, of souls.

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