Now that primary season is upon us throughout the land, it is very interesting to see that what was once the Republican Party is being primaried out of existence by its one time leader, the previous president. Just Tuesday, The Former Guy (TFG as he is known throughout the cyber world) had candidates challenging what were once regular Republicans in primaries in West Virginia and Nebraska.
TFG has become the major issue in Republican politics this year. A Republican politician is either endorsed by TFG or he or she isn’t endorsed by TFG. The issue that gets an endorsement from TFG is whether or not a candidate supports TFG’s big lie that the 2020 election was a fraud. That is it.
The kind of candidate that is willing to sell their soul for a TFG endorsement is a sad character indeed. But the TFG endorsement is powerful. His followers vote. His endorsed candidates in West Virginia won, one defeating an incumbent representative. His endorsed candidate in Nebraska lost, but there were some really bad extraneous circumstances involving sexual assault allegations.
So far TFG endorsed candidates are winning and winning big, but this is the primary. Thus primary by primary TFG has basically taken firm control of what was once the Republican Party. I think we can dispense with the name “Republican.” This party has no relationship to Republicans of any other vintage.
Today’s TFG Party is much closer to the extreme right politics of Viktor Orban in Hungary. They are only distantly related to Ronald Reagan and certainly no relation to former party heroes Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower.
This new party is being built in two ways. The first we described above where TFG is challenging those in the current party in primaries and winning. This is causing a major shift to an even more extreme right wing stance among both current party regulars and primary challengers. Even as current party regulars go even further to the right than they have ever gone, they are finding themselves outflanked to the right by challengers.
The other way the new party is being built is by having the old guard simply surrender to avoid a primary challenge. In Iowa we saw such a surrender from the old Republican Party to Trump at the state fairgrounds early last October, when Iowa Republicans from Grassley on down lined up to kiss Trump’s ring:
Sen. Chuck Grassley gave a stirring, 25-second explanation of why he was accepting former President Donald Trump’s endorsement last night: solely because it would help him politically.
The 88-year-old senator briefly took the stage with Trump before a crowd of thousands of energized Trump fans in Des Moines on Saturday evening.
“I was born at night, but not last night,” Grassley said while standing next to Trump. “So if I didn’t accept the endorsement of a person that’s got 91% of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn’t be too smart. I’m smart enough to accept that endorsement.”
Kim Reynolds, Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Ashley Hinson were all there to supplicate themselves before Trump and surrender to his new political order. We wonder how smart that will look as the January 6th Committee starts revealing Trump’s deep involvement in the attempt to overthrow our government.
In return for Trump’s endorsement Grassley et alia silently agree to support Trump’s Big Lie. Also they sign on to the even more extreme politics of what was the Republican Party. This includes an absolute ban on abortions, ending gay marriage and ending Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare.
This also includes the unholy entanglement of Church and State that Republicans charged into to get Ronald Reagan elected. Historian Heather Cox Richardson had some observations on this in her sub stack newsletter Thursday:
“The modern Republican Party rose to power in 1980 promising to slash government intervention in the economy. But that was never a terribly popular stance, and in order to win elections, party leaders wedded themselves to the religious right. For decades, party leaders managed to deliver economic liberties to business leaders by tossing increasingly extreme rhetoric and occasional victories to the religious right. Now, though, that radicalized minority is driving the party. It has thrown overboard the idea of smaller government to drive economic growth and embraced the idea that a strong government must enforce the religious and social beliefs of their base on the rest of the country.
This religiously based government wants to control not just individuals, but also businesses. We are seeing not only the apparent overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, but also the criminalization of contraception, attacks on gay and trans rights, laws giving the state the power to design school curricula, fury at immigrants, book banning, and a reordering of the nation around evangelical Christianity.
<< snip >>
This is no longer your mother’s Republican Party, or your grandfather’s… or his grandfather’s.
Today’s Republican Party is not about equal rights and opportunity, as Lincoln’s party was. It is not about using the government to protect ordinary people, as Theodore Roosevelt’s party was. It is not even about advancing the ability of businesses to do as they deem best, as Ronald Reagan’s party was.
The modern Republican Party is about using the power of the government to enforce the beliefs of a radical minority on the majority of Americans. “
For those who support the current radical turn in what is now a party based on fealty to Donald Trump, they had better be ready for the time when Trump’s wrath turns on them. It always turns in a cult of personality.