^ Two Republicans : one from the era of reform, one from the era of losing
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Today, with very few exceptions, the national Republican party is all but dead. Yes, numbers of living people call themselves Republican, but a name is more than the sounds that come out of one’s mouth when speaking it. What we call the national Republican party now is a negative thing, a subtraction, not an addition.
The Republican party was formed in America in the 1850s to be an American political party pursuing American ideals; and so it remained, generally, for the next 130 years at least. Republican electeds initiated great reform legislation and saw them to enactment : the Land grant College Act, the Homestead Act, anti-trust laws, the Interstate Commerce Commission (which regulated railroad rates so as not to bankrupt farmers), and even labor legislation : the Norris-LaGuardia Anti-Injunction Act gave labor the right to picket as a tool for organizing and bargaining with employers. Republicans saw the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments presented and ratified. Republicans supported the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s, even if by then a large part of the party were opposed. Republican-appointed Judges and Justices enforced those civil rights acts and, earlier, gave us the unanimous Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision that ended legal segregation in schools and public accommodations. Republican-appointed Justices like the two John Marshall Harlans, Wiliam Brennan, and Oliver Wendell Holmes led the Supreme Court into the modern era of Constitutional rights. As late as the 1970s, Republican reformers like Nelson Rockefeller, Ed Brooke, Jacob Javits, and Clifford Case effected important reforms in Federal housing policy. Republicans enacted the Clean Air Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1991. It was a fearless heritage of idealism in action on the practical level.
But that Republican party is no more. Less than 30 years — just one generation — after President Bush 41 signed the AWDA into law, the Republican party has become the enemy of reform and, indeed, of the nation’s ideals themselves. We see it every hour : the cruelty of Mr. Trump, the corruption, the ignorance. We see Mr. Trump degrading LGBT people, immigrants, and people of color expressly othering them all and calling for them to “go back where you came from” — the exact opposite of what America calls upon people to do : come here, from wherever you came from, just come and be part of us.
We see this, and we see almost every national elected Republican go along or even endorse it all.
We see Mr. Trump condone and even applaud direct Russian manipulation of our elections, and we see nothing counter except for a few elected Republicans,. most of them not running for re-election .
Those who are classic Republican — economically conservative, jealous of our national est interests, and embracing the national mission, including welcoming all immigrants of god will — have had to quit the party, as Congressman Justin Amash has done. Joe Scarborough, Max Boot, George Will, Jennifer Rubin, Ana Navarro, and dozens of state legislators.
Yes, Republicans of reform persuasion still find place in the states, which, thanks to the localizing checks written into our Constitutional system, continue to elect reformist Republican Governors and a few such legislators. How long this sort of Republican can continue to exist is unclear.
The destruction of the Republican party begins in 1957, when Lyndon Johnson, as senate majority leader, got the Democratic-controlled Senate to enact a Civil Rights Act which, however, token, predicted the coalition which would, eight years alter, enact Civil Rights Acts that truly mattered. The 1957 act split the Republican party and gave the Democrats the Civil Rights initiative. By 1965, that year’s civil rights acts were passed with bipartisan majorities, but though they split the Democratic party, anti-Civil Rights Democrats who became Republicans confirmed the direction of the times : the Democratic party would now be the party of rights reform, the Republican party its opponent : a complete reversal of 100 years of political custom.
The more anti-Civil Rights Democrats who became Republican, the more they weakened the party, now torn free of its roots and traditions and in the Congressional minority to boot. As such, the Republican party more and more became home to the losers in the many reform fights of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. When, in the 1980s, Evangelical Christians — losers in the battle to secure women’s rights to abortion — began to organize within the Republican party, its status as the nation’s losing side party became destiny.
A party of losers is a party of grievance. It’s a party of negatives. And pretty soon a party of losers forgets the actual loss that brought them a loser frame of mind; and they begin to view everything political that is happening as directed at them, so that when it enacts, they are somehow defeated by it, no matter what sort of law is being enacted. Thus, when the Bush ’43 administration opened its major anti-AIDS initiative, somehow that was a loss for Republicans. And when Ronald Reagan, and then Bush ’43, oversaw immigration reforms, these too were somehow loss for the loser mindset. When war hero John McCain became the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, this too was, in the loser mindset, a loss to be complained of. Yet again when Mitt Romney became the 2012 nominee : another loss for those whose political identity was “in all battles, the loser.”
But losers eventually tire of being outnumbered by winners. They want the politics of losing to become the majority. By 2016 it wasn’t enough for candidates to embrace the Evangelical platform to make the nation’s public law conform to Evangelical writ. That was nice, but it wasn’t the truth. The truth was LOSING. Losing as an attitude, losing as a policy, losing as a statement of purpose of identity. For the plurality of Republicans who voted for Mr Trump, the tipping point was his loser attitude, his loser language, his loser opinions. Everything that had won in America, he spat upon. Everyone who was respected in America, he degraded. And if the committed Evangelicals resisted — supported Ted Cruz — well, Mr. Trump turned upon his own loser platform and embraced theirs: and why not ? The evangelical platform had also lost, and though it seemed paradoxical to depend upon a loser to get the laws that they wanted, they could see which way the political wind was blowing : losers of the world, unite !
Had Mr. Trump lost the 2016 election, the Republican party might have turned from its 25 years of loser attitude and loser policy. (I say MIGHT have. It also might have not.) But the election went Mr. Trump’s way, and this gave to a loser party the one gift it cannot achieve by itself : power. All of the terrible things that have happened politically since January 20, 2017 owe their existence to the anomaly of a party of losers having winners’ power. What does someone do with power who never expects to have it and whose entire mindset is dedicated to despising everyone and every principle that has defeated them, and to keeping themselves in the loser position ?
We are seeing the answer to that question now. A policy of against. Everything you have lost to must go. Everything that you felt you had lost to, even though you didn’t lose at all from it, that too must go, because you felt that you had lost to it. If LGBT people secure the right to love who they want to and live as they want to, well, that is a loss for those who find every change a personal loss. If some categories of undocumented immigrants secure permission to reside in the nation, well that too is a loss. Because immigrants ARE America. And the more American an idea, the more that a professional loser dislikes it.
The loser in power invents all sorts of losses to feed his or her appetite for loser-hood.
People watch this orgy of losing causes embraced and say “there must be a bottom.” There IS NO bottom. Neo-nazis, the KKK, “go back where you came from,” anti-Semitism, harassing Black people who are just living life, scrawling graffiti on Synagogue walls — all of it becomes a revelation to the loser as he or she realizes that you can actually be a hero to the “loser community” by being a punk.
(So far actual violence seems off limits, but how long will that last taboo on loser-hood last ? Charlottesville doesn’t exactly give one comfort that violence isn’t the next phase of losers embracing being loser heroes, loser martyrs even.
And one further step down the road to negation : an entire species of attention-getter has blown up on cable Tv and in social media, dedicated to saying and publishing outrageous, disgusting, loser’s shit — punk’s, jerk’s, liar’s, con gamer’s shit — because it gets them attention (from fellow losers but also from the shocked rest of us, who cannot believe the stuff these attention addicts say) and thus advertising dollars which makes them rich. The money being real, there’s a veritable swarm of liars competing to become “influencers” — Laura Loomers, Milo Yannopouloses, Tomi Lhrens, Jacob Wohls, Mike Cernoviches, Jack Posobiecs, Pam Gellers, what have you — and thus the nation today is smothered in every sort of broadcast pollution, the stepchildren of supermarket tabloid sensationalism which purports to be political punditry but is nothing more than the monetarization of the loser attitude and loser policy which Mr. Trump’s victory has given a momentary currency.
Of course it cannot last. Negation is its own destroyer, and soon enough the torrent of negation will swallow itself as a black hole swallows gases and masticates particles that get near to it. Thus we see the Republican party turn on itself, devouring its own body, as Mr. Trump, the President of losing, attacks a Republican of the old reform type, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, and is joined in said attack by losers for losing’s sake.
You cannot build a political party on negation, only destroy it. Most people believe in their lives. Most people want to succeed, not to lose. Most people believe that they will succeed and should succeed and that losing is a ditch in which one should never wallow. Confidence and success will win out; it always does. And confidence is the foundation of political achievement. Which fact is no comfort to a Republican party completely trapped in the black hole of losing, a hole that material people know to avoid at all costs.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere