Recognizing–and Stopping–Republican Nihilism

That’s what today is ultimately about. Leaving aside how Republican COVID-19 Surrender Monkeys have giving up fighting the pandemic–and their lies about why they should do so (it’s literally existential)–there’s a larger phenomenon at play (boldface mine):

The Republican Party’s core rottenness—its dishonesty, corruption, pettiness, racism—is the defining political fact of our time. Whatever we say about it, confronting all of us in the weeks and months ahead is the more important question of what we do about it. What do the rest of us—most importantly elected Democrats, but also journalists, political elites, and regular citizens—need to change about public life to account for the fact that one of the two major parties has embraced bad faith as an organizing principle?

…Some amount of lying, and even more hypocrisy, is inevitable in politics. The Democratic Party isn’t immune. But it would be a mistake to confuse the acts of bad faith that have saturated Republican conduct for garden-variety hypocrisy or lying. These contradictions don’t point to a lack of self-awareness or passing acts of shame-faced expediency. Republicans and professional conservatives revel in double standards because by embracing double standards they claim power over their opponents. The Republicans have become a party that celebrates rulebreaking, because they have come to see rulebreaking as a show of strength. Their moral compass, inverted by their single-minded pursuit of self-interest, now points south.

This established pattern of behavior would be difficult to reckon with even if it were widely understood and acknowledged. It becomes impossible when the political system, including the opposition party, is structured around the view that “it’s always appropriate to question another man or woman’s judgment” but “never appropriate to question their motive.”

If after four years of the Trump presidency, we can’t stipulate that Republicans have been malicious rather than simply misguided, we may as well also stipulate to their implicit terms: that rules, laws, and norms apply only to those who care about rules, laws and norms. We may as well stand back as they transform the United States into a kleptocracy.

Alternatively, we can free ourselves from any sense of obligation to behave as though we were born yesterday.

So if Democrats win, then we have to start leaning on Democrats to be Democrats:

But if he makes no secret of the Republican opposition strategy, Democrats shouldn’t feel obliged to pretend it’s a secret either. They can begin their legislative processes under the assumption that Republicans will never vote with them, they can craft bills that have buy-in from all wings of their party, but not the GOP. And when they write those laws, they can let the majority of their party, rather than the rightmost (or leftmost) fringe, shape the terms.

They can also codify norms so that Republicans can’t violate them or take hostages going forward. Rather than increase the debt limit, they can eliminate it; rather than devise new stimulus every time the economy turns downward, they can create permanent programs that snap into effect when unemployment climbs. Donald Trump proved that Republicans will withhold disaster relief from states that don’t vote for Republicans; Democrats can change the law to treat all victims of disaster equally, no matter their politics or the partisan leanings of their states. Rather than shame Republicans out of suppressing votes, they can expand the franchise by law. Rather than acquiesce to the GOP theft of the courts, they can expand the judiciary, erasing decades of conservative scheming to rule the country without winning elections.

These are strategies that the House and Senate can implement. But they won’t do it without presidential leadership, and that would require Biden to govern with the understanding that Republicans don’t just disagree with him, but want to destroy his presidency. He can’t, for instance, stop Republicans from pretending to care about deficits the minute Donald Trump departs the political scene, but he doesn’t have to play along. When they pretend to believe that backward looking accountability for Trump’s wholesale corruption of the government is petty retribution, he can ignore them. Or he can behave as if he was born yesterday.

First, we put Democrats in office. Then the long, hard slog really begins.

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2 Responses to Recognizing–and Stopping–Republican Nihilism

  1. Art says:

    Dems can also remind the GOP that hardball isn’t their exclusive domain. McConnel keeps his seat and is going to be as obdurate as he was with Obama. In response on day one Biden, as CinC, having absolute power over the military, can move all US military units out of Kentucky.

    Actually shutting down bases may require congressional approval but depopulating the bases by moving the units is within the power of the POTUS. Move units stationed at Ft Knox and Ft Campbell to the coasts.

    Similarly, it shouldn’t be hard to systematically remove federal personnel, activities and organizations from Kentucky.

    Hundreds of thousands of people leaving and billions of dollars in federal dollars will put a massive dent in the local economy.

    Of course while doing it all at once would have more shock effect twisting the senator’s arm a little at a time to get him to cooperate and vote for Democratic bills and Biden appointments might be more entertaining.

  2. John says:

    There’s always this catch: in order to get the Democrats to govern as Democrats, we have to elect Democrats who will do that. We mustn’t elect Democrats with a temperment for bipartisanship. I have to admit that Biden is an unknown to me, but it appears that Biden is one of those “bipartisan” Democrats who would do precisely what we urge them not to do — and avoid what we urge — who would rather poke their base in the eye than fight the Republicans.

    I sometimes suspect that we need to use Reverse Psychology on the national Democratic leaders.

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