Who Is Going to Meet the Moment?

As much as I dislike him, I have always believed that Lindsey Graham was smart enough to know his entire career was built on shams and demagoguery to keep the rubes on his side. But now I wonder. At least one of us is a moron, and I don’t think it’s me.

Miz Lindsey did not just whiff on doing his duty in the impeachment vote. He is doubling down on the crazee to help Republicans take back Congress in 2022. Aaron Rupar writes at Vox:

If Graham’s Sunday morning appearance on Fox News Sunday is an indication, his loyalty to the former president is stronger than ever.

“Donald Trump is the most vibrant member of the Republican Party,” Graham said, distancing himself from former UN ambassador Nikki Haley’s comments about Trump not having a future in the GOP. “The Trump movement is alive and well … all I can say is that the most potent force in the Republican Party is President Trump.”

Those comments came at the end of an interview that began with Graham suggesting Republicans will go as far as to retaliate for Trump’s second impeachment by impeaching Vice President Kamala Harris if they take back the House next year.

Rupar goes on to say that “Graham seems to be calculating that Trumpism represents the Republican Party’s best bet to retake one or both chambers of Congress next year.” Maybe, but I question if loyalty to Trump will provide the political capital Graham assumes it will in 2022. I think the political landscape is very much in a state of flux right now. It’s too soon to know what it will look like 20 or so months from now. It may be time for the old dogs to learn new tricks.

Right now congressional Republicans seem to be divided between those who, at the very least, realize the party can’t continue down the same road. That’s the minority. The majority are stubbornly clinging to the shams and demagoguery that have sustained their entire political careers and which have crystallized in the form of blind loyalty to Trump, no matter what he did. See, for example, Dana Milbank, Trump left them to die. 43 Senate Republicans still licked his boots. Among other things, Milbank records this revelatory moment:

On the Senate floor, Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.), an always-Trumper, was seen pointing at Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) and saying “blame you” in a raised voice. Romney was one of five Republicans who joined all 50 Democrats in voting to allow witness testimony.

See also Colbert King, In rallying to Trump, Senate Republicans sacrificed Pence. Yes, they’re okay with Trump trying to get his own vice president killed. But Pence himself is hardly a profile in courage; he remained at a safe and silent distance from the impeachment trial.

See also Peter Wehner, Why Are Republicans Still This Loyal to a Mar-a-Lago Exile?, at the New York Times. Wehner is a Republican who served in various roles in the Reagan and two Bush administrations. The short answer to the question is “tribal loyalty.” But it goes deeper:

For nearly a half-decade, Republicans became accustomed to saying one thing and thinking another. The impeachment vote was the last, best chance to break decisively with Mr. Trump. Yet once again most Republican lawmakers couldn’t bring themselves to do it. Mr. Trump still seems to haunt them, to instill fear in them. More than that, however: He has become them, weaving himself into their minds and communities so seamlessly that they are no longer capable of distinguishing their own moral sensibilities and boundaries from his, as they might once have done.

In short, too many Republicans have become hollowed-out simulations of human beings, incapable of independent thought or moral agency. But in trusting their fortunes to Trump, they are taking terrible risks. Trump, after all, lost. Not only did the Trump GOP lose the White House; it lost the House and Senate also. This hasn’t happened to Republicans since Hoover.

Further, Trump is facing multiple investigations, both criminal and civil. There could be big, splashy trials that reveal a lot of ugly truths.  There could be criminal convictions. There could also be more terrorist activity by his MAGA-head followers. I see no reason why Trump won’t be at least as much of a liability to the Republican Party as he was in the past two elections. Republicans may assume they can’t win without Trump’s rabid base, but I don’t see them winning with that base, either, outside of already deep red territory.

E.J. Dionne writes that it will be “wrenching … for Republican politicians to appease the GOP’s Trump-supporting majority while pretending to be another party altogether.” Frankly, I don’t think they can do it.

Kevin McDermott, a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, thinks The GOP deserves to have Trump stalking their party for the next four years.

Trump’s acquittal may actually turn out to be good for the country.

Why? Because it will be bad for the Republican Party. And the GOP has become a dangerously dysfunctional cadre of extremists, cynics and cowards who would best serve America by sidelining themselves for a while. …

…Happily, Trump’s continued presence on the political stage will be especially bad for the most toxic elements of the GOP — the Josh Hawleys and Ted Cruzes of the world. Hawley, Missouri’s self-pitying, demagogic junior senator, has been positioning himself to inherit Trump’s base for a couple years now; Cruz, the reptilian Texan, has been doing it even longer (throwing his own wife and father under the bus in the process).

Yes, the party out of power does nearly always come roaring back in midterm elections. And there’s always the real possibility that the Democrats will fail to meet the moment, leaving voters confused as to why it matters who they vote for. We’ll see.

But for now the House Republicans who voted for impeachment, and the Republican senators who voted to convict, are facing censure from their own state parties, revealing how deep the rot goes.

Right now there is a bumper crop of editorials and opinion pieces declaring the Republican Party dead, at least as a political party. I say it hasn’t been a real political party for a long time, at least on the national level, but whatever. Now the current GOP is  finally being recognized as just the zombie version of the party it used to be. Will Bunch has an absolutely magnificent obirtuary at the Philadelphia Inquirer that begins:

The Republican Party was born on March 20, 1854, the green shoots of a political spring. Unlike America’s other parties that were often shotgun weddings of convenience, the Republicans burst forth around moral ideas that were so powerful — ending slavery and making America a world industrial power — that the tail of this supernova lasted for more than 166 years and inspired its eventual nickname, the Grand Old Party.

That GOP died — morally, if not officially — in the late afternoon gloaming of a grey and bitterly cold winter’s day, Feb. 13, 2021. After 43 Republican senators who’d been given a green light to “vote their conscience” on Donald Trump’s impeachment still managed to come up empty — thus enshrining the notion that an end-of-term president can foment a deadly insurrection to thwart a peaceful transition of power and not face any consequences — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell strolled to the well of the Senate. He was presumably holding the bloody knife with which he’d repeatedly stabbed American democracy for a dozen years hidden behind his back.

Do click on the link and keep reading. Toward the end Bunch writes,

There is, arguably, a large opening for a completely new second political party — one that actually promotes the economic interests of a multiracial working class and some of its social conservatism, but embraces ethics and eschews racism — but the stench of the GOP’s corpse may have to get worse before that can happen.

In 2021, the only hope for American salvation is not bipartisanship with a dead body but instead a Democratic Party that is every bit as bold as the Republicans are cowardly.

Can the Democrats be bold? Some of them seem ready; some not. I fear we’re going to be held back by the likes of Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin, and Dianne Feinstein. You want to win in 2022 and 2024, Dems? Kill the filibuster and pass H.R. 1

If there was ever a time that same old, same old ain’t gonna cut it, this is it. Who will break out of the old, dysfunctional patterns of the past few years? Who is going to meet the moment?

Probably not Lindsey Graham.