Today I share with you an excerpt from an opinion column by Dana Milbank in The Washington Post earlier this month. The article, which is adapted from Milbank’s book, “The Destructionists: The Twenty-Five Year Crack-Up of the Republican Party”, is too lengthy for me to repost in its entirety, but is well worth the read, so I encourage you to read ‘the rest of the story’. Meanwhile, here is a brief excerpt …
The GOP is sick. It didn’t start with Trump — and won’t end with him.
4 August 2022
Much has been made of the ensuing polarization in our politics, and it’s true that moderates are a vanishing breed. But the problem isn’t primarily polarization. The problem is that one of our two major political parties has ceased good-faith participation in the democratic process. Of course, there are instances of violence, disinformation, racism and corruption among Democrats and the political left, but the scale isn’t at all comparable. Only one party fomented a bloody insurrection and even after that voted in large numbers (139 House Republicans, a two-thirds majority) to overturn the will of the voters in the 2020 election. Only one party promotes a web of conspiracy theories in place of facts. Only one party is trying to restrict voting and discredit elections. Only one party is stoking fear of minorities and immigrants.
Republicans have become an authoritarian faction fighting democracy — and there’s a perfectly logical reason for this: Democracy is working against Republicans. In the eight presidential contests since 1988, the GOP candidate has won a majority of the popular vote only once, in 2004. As the United States approaches majority-minority status (the White population, 76 percent of the country in 1990, is now 58 percent and will drop below 50 percent around 2045), Republicans have become the voice of White people, particularly those without college degrees, who fear the loss of their way of life in a multicultural America. White grievance and White fear drive Republican identity more than any other factor — and in turn drive the tribalism and dysfunction in the U.S. political system.
Other factors sped the party’s turn toward nihilism … the ascent of conservative talk radio, followed by the triumph of Fox News, followed by the advent of social media. Combined, they created a media environment that allows Republican politicians and their voters to seal themselves in an echo chamber of “alternative facts.”
But the biggest cause is race. It is crucial to understand that Donald Trump didn’t create this noxious environment. He isn’t some hideous, orange Venus emerging from the half-shell. Rather, he is a brilliant opportunist; he saw the direction the Republican Party was taking and the appetites it was stoking. The onetime pro-choice advocate of universal health care reinvented himself to give Republicans what they wanted. Because Trump is merely a reflection of the sickness in the GOP, the problem won’t go away when he does.