The Republican Party doesn’t care about democracy: On the New York Times’ Anonymous Op-Ed
It’s what we do that matters.
The opportunity all of these late-breaking anonymous “unsung heroes” had to protect American democracy from an unfit executive was during the 2016 GOP national convention, when, instead, they allowed Trump to receive the Republican presidential nomination.
They didn’t want to protect American democratic ideals then. They wanted to “Take back the country!” and “Lock her up!” They wanted a big, White wave to wash away Obama’s legacy.
Now, these people want to tell us how they are “protecting American democracy” from the inside, by covertly disobeying the insane will of a corrupt leader, whose Russian-sponsored coattails they happily rode straight into the White House. You can’t subvert democracy in order to save it — not if you actually value it.
All they want is power. They have systematically burned through every American value to get it. They remain unwilling to give it up, no matter how many crocodile-tear-stained op-eds they write.
I want to say that the Democratic Party has behaved just as badly, in its efforts to gain and retain power in this century, but I can’t. All politics can be corrupted. The deal-making, compromise, money, and legal power involved make that all but inevitable. It’s not the surface-level, special-interest brand of corruption that concerns me at the moment.
No, what I am concerned about is a hypocrisy so deep that it almost can’t be seen, except from the air — from the 10,000-ft drop the vision of our democracy is taking, from where some imagined we were, to where we actually are.
It is the hypocrisy of ends justifying means.
Perhaps, around the mid-1970s, Republicans believed they had a beautiful idea — a libertarian utopia, of successful businesses, moral uprightness, men and women in their natural roles (whatever that means), a strong military, and a balanced budget. Surely, some of those aims are laudable. Many voters at the time agreed with them.
After a decade of power, a fall from grace, and the rise of Democratic populism in the person of President Clinton, perhaps they had a second thought… a powerful thought, a thought that so many future despots have had before:
“Our aims are so laudable. Why do the people not see? We cannot wait for seemingly endless debate and reason. We cannot bear to slog through ethical means of attainment — through fair elections, clean campaigns, and balanced news coverage. We cannot patiently educate until enough hearts and minds are aligned — what if we never get there? We cannot lose one more moment, on the path to creating this glorious utopia. We must have it now, by any means necessary.”
This is how the downfall of an open, democratic society begins. This is the corruption accidentally exposed by the New York Times’ anonymous op-ed, a ridiculous perversion of patriotism, the extremes of which are used by authoritarian, dictatorial regimes the world over:
“We do evil in the name of the people, for the greater good. Someday, you will thank us.”
It’s no surprise that the party that has historically valued law and order would be the most willing to adopt authoritarian methods in the “service” of American democracy.
From giddily inflaming the Culture Wars over gay rights and abortion in order to get formerly apolitical evangelical Christians to mobilize for Reagan, to strategically designing harmful, divisive rhetoric and unethical character assassinations in order to win Senate seats, the Republican party of the late 20th and early 21st centuries has been methodically building the socio-political trash fire in which we now find ourselves, one power-driven, democracy-undermining, purposefully-misinforming choice at a time.
In a quest to win elections by any means necessary, they adopted a political style originally put to successful use by Newt Gingrich. Attack your opponents’ motives — ignore their ideas. Impugn their character at every opportunity. Use divisive rhetoric and manipulate voters’ emotions to set decent people against one another. Use ideology as a weapon. Misinformation and distortion are tools. Facts don’t matter. Winning is everything.
Democracy is less important than winning. If democracy were more important than winning, the GOP wouldn’t be the modern-day apostles of gerrymandering — redrawing districts in order to privilege particular voters. Without gerrymandering, the liberal majorities of so many districts and states would trump (pardon me) the minority of conservative voters in those areas.
Even with gerrymandering, races can sometimes be close. Enter voter ID laws sponsored by Republican lawmakers. With almost zero statistical evidence of voting fraud, what good reason could there be to attempt to implement empirically unnecessary policies that so thoroughly suppress the votes of the poor and people of color? Bad, undemocratic reasons — and nearly every one of them has been found unconstitutional (until this year).
When a political party’s continued power is literally predicated on subverting the democratic process, are we dumb enough to believe that their values don’t match?
It’s what we do that matters.
Have we forgotten how the Republican Party of the 1990s sought to impeach a very popular Democratic president over lying about an extramarital affair? Was their concern truly the danger to democracy posed by a lie they carefully orchestrated, or was it blatantly, grossly, a naked bid for power? Just 20 years later, they cheered the inauguration of an amoral demagogue who has openly boasted about non-consensual sex acts, is known for repeated marital infidelity, and who is almost certainly guilty of lying about a much more serious matter.
And now, when our Putin-approved president is widely regarded as too unstable for the office, they write self-aggrandizing love notes to the American people about how much they care about our democracy.
Impeach him (or invoke the 25th) if you care about us, and about the danger of his leadership, so much. Otherwise, shut up and lie in the bed you have been making for 40 years — or resign. You had a moral choice to make, and you made it when you gave him the nomination. What is left for you now is a humble exit, or a Custerian apocalypse. Try not to choke on your own hubris.
The American people are being gaslit like a 19th-century street lamp. When words are this cheap, our only hope is to remember that people’s actions always reveal their values. Always.
Author’s note: I’m a registered independent. This is an indictment of the hypocrisy and lack of ethics the political institution known as the Republican Party continues to demonstrate. Keep your “whatabouts” to yourself. Other wrongs don’t make right. No part of this essay is directed toward Americans who are registered Republicans, though my advice to them is simple — demand better. There are good conservative ideas and a valid conservative check on liberalism being lost to this perpetual smarminess, and you do your ideals no justice by letting this circus continue.
Sources and further reading:
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