I don’t know how many of you reading this digital page still get a REAL newspaper (i.e., paper) and, if you do get one, is it the Quad City Times?
Since I am (currently) reading the Austin American-Statesman, a 150-year-old newspaper that was named Texas Newspaper of the Year 3 times and won national reocognition for investigative reporting from the National Headliners, the Online News Association, and the Investigative Reporters and Editors, in addition to hundreds of state awards, I’ve been sharing some of the editorials highlighted in that paper.
Let me be clear: these are “the best” of the editorials I read on a regular, daily basis, and, if you, like me, find that many of the newspapers whose editorials you would most like to read are behind a “pay wall,” this is a service to those who really want to be informed.
The New York Times’ Paul Krugman wrote this editorial entitled “HOW DID WE GET HERE? WHAT HAPPENED TO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY?” and you won’t face a pay wall to read it (below):
HOW DID WE GET HERE? WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GOP?
“There have always been people like Donald Trump: self-centered, self-aggrandizing, believing that the rules apply only to the little people and that what happens to the little people doesn’t matter.
The modern GOP, however, isn’t like anything we’ve seen before, at least in American history. If there’s anyone who wasn’t already persuaded that one of our 2 major political parties has become an enemy, not just of democracy, but of truth, events since the election should have ended their doubts.
It’s not just that a majority of House Republicans and many Republican senators were backing Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss, even though there is no evidence of fraud or widespread irregularities. (*If you watched into the wee hours—3, 4 a.m., as I did, on Wednesday—you know that there were still substantial numbers of Republicans who argued against confirming Pennsylvania’s counted electoral votes.) Look at the way David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler campaigned in the Senate run-offs in Georgia.
They weren’t running on issues or even on real aspects of their opponents’ personal history. Instead, they claimed, with no basis in fact, that their opponents are Marxists or “involved in child abuse.” That is, the campaigns to retain Republican control of the Senate were based on lies. (*Fortunately, the GOP efforts based on blatant lies, failed and Ossoff and Warnock were elected, but, still…)
On Sunday, Mitt Romney excoriated Ted Cruz and other Congressional Republicans’ attempts to undo the presidential election, asking, “Has ambition so eclipsed principle?” But what principle does Romney think the GOP stood for in recent years? It’s hard to see anything underlying recent Republican behavior beyond the pursuit of power by any means available.
So how did we get here? What happened to the Republican Party?
The party’s degradation has been obvious for those willing to see it, for many years. (*As the child of a Democratic office-holder in the 30s and 40s, I’m old enough to see how the Republican party has changed since the days of Bob Dole, Ike, and other admirable GOP leaders.)
Way back in 2003, I wrote that Republicans had become a radical force hostile to America as it is, potentially aiming for a one-party state in which “elections are only a formality.” (*Think Ted Cruz’s remarks on the Senate floor just before all Hell broke loose in that august body, where he was proposing appointing a 10-day investigatory commission a la the Hays-Tilden election of 1876, to circumvent the will of the people in voting).
In 2012, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein warned that the GOP was “unmoved by conventional understanding of facts” and “dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
If you’re surprised by the eagerness of many in the party to overturn an election based on specious claims of fraud, you weren’t paying attention.
But what is driving the Republican descent into darkness?
Is it a populist backlash against elites? It’s true that there’s resentment over a changing economy that has boosted highly educated metropolitan areas at the expense of rural and small-town America. Trump received 46% of the vote, but the counties he won represented only 29% of America’s economic output. There’s also a lot of white backlash over the nation’s growing diversity. (*”The Browning of America”).
The past 2 months have, however, been an object lesson in the extent to which “grassroots” anger is actually being orchestrated from the top. If a large part of the Republican base believes, groundlessly, that the election was stolen, it’s because that’s what leading figures in the party have been saying. Now politicians are citing widespread skepticism about the election results as a reason to reject the outcome—but they, themselves, conjured that skepticism out of thin air.
And what’s striking if you look into the background of the politicians stoking resentment against (so-called) “elites” is how privileged many of them are. Josh Hawley (R, MO), the first senator to declare that he would object to certification of the election results, rails against elites but is, himself, a graduate of Stanford and Yale Law School. Ted Cruz has degrees from Princeton and Harvard.
The point isn’t that they’re hypocrites. It is that these aren’t people who have been mistreated by the system. So why are they so eager to bring the system down?
I don’t think it’s just cynical calculation, a matter of playing to the base (*and potentially bolstering their own chances for a race in 2024). My best guess is that we’re looking at a party that has gone feral—that has been cut off from the rest of society.
People have compared the modern GOP to organized crime or a cult, but, to me, Republicans look more like the lost boys in “Lord of the Flies.” They get their information from partisan sources (*Fox, OAN, Parler) that simply don’t report inconvenient facts. They don’t face adult supervision because, in a polarized political environment, there are few competitive races.
So they’re increasingly inward-looking, engaged in ever more outlandish efforts to demonstrate their loyalty to the tribe. Their partisanship isn’t about issues, although the party remains committed to cutting taxes on the rich and punishing the poor. It’s about asserting the dominance of the “in” group and punishing outsiders.
The big question is how long America as we know it can survive in the face of this malevolent tribalism. (*Note: It’s not surprising that in the wake of a woefully mishandled pandemic, 400,000 dead citizens that Trump’s neglect of duty and poor example make him complicit in their demise, the resulting cratering of the economy, and long lines of Americans out of work and waiting literally hours in food lines, there is a sense of urgency and despair that is surfacing. The unbelievable thing is the misguided belief that “more of the same” is the cure.)
The attempt to undo the presidential election went on far longer and attracted much more support than almost anyone predicted. And unless something happens to break the grip of anti-democratic, anti-truth forces on the GOP, one day they will succeed in killing the American experiment.