I can show you the future of the Republican Party in two numbers, one quote, and two legislative proposals. Ready? (Hint: You won’t need shades.)
Let’s start with the numbers: 199, the House Republicans who opposed stripping QAnon lady Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments on Thursday; and 61, the House Republicans who voted to remove Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership position last Wednesday.
Cheney’s transgression, of course, was voting to impeach Donald Trump for plainly impeachable acts — which immediately produced a primary challenge and the threat of censure from the Wyoming GOP. You could interpret the caucus’s 145–61 vote in her favor as a sign that the party is moving past Trump, as some Beltway reporters did. But it was a secret ballot.
The vote over Greene’s committee seats was not. Greene had Trump’s support, and a vote against her amounted to a public repudiation of the party’s leader and his base. So Republicans bent themselves into pretzels trying to defend Greene without defending her lunacy.
Some claimed to take at face value her newfound commitment to reality. On the House floor, she admitted that 9/11 and school shootings were not false flags — a round of applause, everyone — and said she’d abandoned QAnon in 2018: “I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true, and I would ask questions about them and talk about them, and that is absolutely what I regret.” (Not only is that a bizarre mea culpa, but it’s a demonstrable lie.) Others said Democrats would rue the day they asserted “a new right to be able to exercise a veto over minority committee assignments,” as Rep. Tom Cole put it, a thinly veiled acknowledgment that Republicans would abuse the precedent at their first opportunity.
At a press conference on Friday, an unrepentant Greene declared that the party “doesn't belong to anyone else” but Trump. (Weirdly, she also made Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida Man, horny. “It was so good I almost had to smoke a cigarette afterward,” he told Fox News.)
After the last week, the dynamic among House Republicans is clear: At least a third, probably more, are full MAGA. Those with reservations mostly keep them to themselves. The handful with brains and spines won’t be welcome much longer.
The party may be Trump’s, but the White House isn’t. That brings us to the quote, from a woman named Alice O’Lenick: “I will not let them end this session without changing some of these laws. They don’t have to change all of them, but they’ve got to change the major parts of them so that we at least have a shot at winning [italics mine].”
Context is everything, so here it is: Joe Biden won Georgia by 12,000 or so votes. Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won by razor-thin margins, too. So the legislature began its session this year by creating a Special Committee of Election Integrity — led by an infamous vote suppressor, state Rep. Barry Fleming — and filing a raft of bills to restrict ballot access: eliminating automatic registration, ballot drop boxes and no-excuse absentee voting, for starters.
The ostensible justification, according to Fleming, is election fraud: “Democrats are relying on the always-suspect absentee balloting process to inch ahead in Georgia and other close states.”
As became blindingly obvious during Trump’s post-election bullshit campaign, however, the only truly suspect thing was that Democrats voted in numbers Republicans didn’t like.
The reality is what O’Lenick said.
She’s the Republican chairwoman of the elections board in Gwinnett County in the Atlanta suburbs. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the county 51–45, a 19,000-vote spread. In November, Biden won it 58–40, a 75,000-vote margin.
O’Lenick made the classic political gaffe of telling the truth: If Republicans don’t stop voters in Democratic areas from voting, they won’t be able to compete in a rapidly changing state. So that’s what they’re doing.
Finally, the legislation, which brings us to Florida and the mini-Trump who runs it. Gov. Ron DeSantis is neither compelling nor charismatic, but he nonetheless intuits the belligerent mentality that was central to Trump’s appeal.
Like Trump, DeSantis’ political patron, he scorned expertise during the pandemic — pushing herd immunity, banning mask mandates, withholding information from the public, purchasing absurd quantities of hydroxychloroquine, even siccing his cops on a prominent critic — while Florida racked up more than 27,000 deaths.
Also like Trump, DeSantis saw protests against police brutality as a chance to burnish his authoritarian cred. In his case, it was a bill that makes it a felony to pull down racist statues, allows the state to overrule any local government that cuts its police budget and severely increases penalties for criminal acts committed during a vaguely defined “riot.” The bill also prohibits “mob intimidation” — in other words, protests, if the DA says the protest carries the “threat of force” — and makes doxxing a first-degree misdemeanor.
And when Trump got banned by Twitter, DeSantis saw an opportunity. He proposed a law — obnoxiously unconstitutional, stupidly impractical and the opposite of laissez-faire — to slap $100,000-a-day fines on social media companies that deplatform a political candidate. Just to underline this: DeSantis wants to require private corporations to provide politicians with a free platform from which to spread propaganda, regardless of whether it’s factual, disseminates hate speech, or explicitly calls for violence.
This is the future of the Republican Party: extremists acting with impunity, politicians basking in victimhood, and a party that unapologetically cheats when it can’t win.
If there was a post-Trump civil war, it didn’t last long.
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