The GOP becoming a cult of the ignorant

The Republican Party becomes cult. Its leaders are under the influence of Donald trumpDonald Trump Stowaway found in airplane landing gear after flight from Guatemala to Miami Kushner looking for Middle East investors in new venture, a defeated former president who refuses to acknowledge his defeat. Its ideology is MAGA, Trump’s deeply divisive view of what Republicans assume to be unifying American values.

The party is now in the process of purging heretics who do not worship Trump or accept all of MAGA’s principles. Compliance is enforced by social media, a relatively new institution with the power to harness populist energy against critics and opponents.

What is happening on the right in American politics is not really new. To understand this, you have to read a book published 50 years ago by Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab, “The Politics of Unreason: Right-Wing Extremism in America, 1790-1970”. Right-wing extremism, now embodied in Trump’s MAGA movement, dates back to the country’s earliest days.

The title of Lipset and Raab’s book was chosen with care. Right-wing extremism is not about the rational calculation of interest. These are irrational impulses, which the authors identify as “status frustrations”. They write that “the political movements that have succeeded in appealing to status resentments have been irrational in character. [The movements] focus on attacking a scapegoat, which conveniently symbolizes the threat perceived by their followers.

The most common scapegoats have been ethnic or religious minority groups. In the 19th century this meant Catholics, immigrants and even Freemasons. The Anti-Masonic Party, the Know Nothing Party, and later the American Protective Association were major political forces. In the 20th century, the United States experienced waves of anti-immigrant sentiment. After World War II, anti-communism became the driving force behind McCarthyism in the 1950s and the Goldwater movement in the early 1960s (“Extremism in defense of freedom is not a vice”).

The roots of current right-wing extremism can be traced back to the late 1960s and 1970s, when Americans began to be polarized on values ​​(race, ethnicity, gender, military intervention). Conflicts of interest (like business versus workers) can be negotiated and compromised. Conflicts of values ​​cannot.

You see “the politics of unreason” in right-wing extremism today. While it remains true, as for decades, that the richer you are, the more likely you are to vote Republican (this is the interest), what is new today is that the more educated you are, the more likely you are to vote Democrat. , at least among whites (these are values, and this has moved white college-educated suburban voters away from Trump’s brand of “know nothing” republicanism).

Oddly enough, religion has become a major force behind the current wave of right-wing extremism. No religious affiliation (Protestant versus Catholic) but religiosity (regular attendees versus non-attendees). This is not because of Trump’s religious appeal (he doesn’t), but because of the Democratic Party’s adherence to secularism and the resulting estrangement from fundamentalist Protestants, Catholics. practitioners and even Orthodox Jews.

The Democratic Party is defined today by its commitment to diversity and inclusion. The party celebrates diversity in all its forms – racial, ethnic, religious and sexual. For Democrats, this is the tradition of American pluralism – “E pluribus unum”. Republicans celebrate “unum” more than “pluribus” – we can come from diverse backgrounds, but we should all share the same “American values”.

One of the reasons right-wing extremism thrives within the Republican Party is that there is no party figure willing to lead the opposition there. Republican voter polls show no other GOP figures, even close to Trump’s level of support for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. The only other Republican who seems interested in running is Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, who has recently criticized “Trump cancels culture”.

If Trump shows up in 2024, as he seems inclined to do, will he be able to win?

It all depends on President BidenJoe BidenGOP plans to kick Democrats out of seats if House rocks Five House members meet with Taiwanese president over Chinese objections. supply chain problems and inflation persist MORE‘s record. At present, Biden’s popularity is not very high. In fact, Biden and Trump are roughly equally unpopular (Biden’s job approval is 52-43% negative, while Trump’s favorability is 54-41.5% negative). Biden will be 82 in 2024. If he doesn’t run, Democrats will most likely name Vice President Harris. When a president does not run for office, his party almost always appoints its most recent vice president, assuming he does run (Richard Nixon in 1960, Hubert Humphrey in 1968, Walter Mondale in 1984, George HW Bush in 1988, Al goreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreMan seen with Pelosi desk Jan 6, pleads guilty Judge says Gore, unlike Trump, “was a man” and accepted election defeat Meet Red State Governor Democrats should appoint in 2024 instead of Biden or Harris PLUS in 2000, Joe Biden in 2020). Democrats are unlikely to deny a black woman the nomination. We also talk about the transport secretary Pete ButtigiegPete Buttigieg Advocates sees pilot program to tackle highway inequality as crucial first step Poll: Harris and Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn’t work Five reasons why Biden, GOP to be grateful this season MORE running if Biden doesn’t.

The 2024 election could be a revenge between Trump and Biden. Or a race between Trump and a black woman. Or between Trump and a gay man with a husband and kids. Lee Drutman, a political scientist at the New America think tank, recently told the New York Times: “I find it hard to see how we have a peaceful election in 2024 after everything that has happened now. I don’t see the rhetoric going down. I don’t see the conflicts going away. … It’s hard to see how it gets better until it gets worse.

Bill Schneider is Professor Emeritus at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and author of “Standoff: How America Became Ungovernable” (Simon & Schuster).

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