The resounding message from Tuesday’s elections, even though they’re very limited and nothing like the scale of the mid-term ones next year, is very clear. One year out from the election of Donald Trump, if you are a Republican, you should be afraid, very afraid. It’s really not about Trump, not about him alone for sure. It has taken just one year for the entire Republican Party to thoroughly self-destruct.
The worst part of the debacle is, notwithstanding the madness of Trump, how abjectly pathetic the leadership and most of the rank and file of the Republican Party has become. Giddy with a false notion of entitlement from last November’s presidential election, they’ve been “all in” on Trump’s march off the cliff until the present day.
What now for those alert enough to weigh the consequences of this week? No less than seven proud transgender Democrats around the U.S., and scores more of racial and ethnic and LGBT minorities were elected, including against some of the most established and seemingly invulnerable old white male Republican standard bearers.
Who predicted this? Did anybody really think that a transgender millennial could unseat Bob Marshall in Virginia, for example? It was shocking enough for Danica Roem to come out with the Democratic primary victory last June. By what kind of craziness would partisan Democratic voters cast their lot with such an underdog?
After all, Bob Marshall is known in Virginia as the nastiest old white racist in the legislature who’s been unmoveable because he’s deliberately wielded his brand as a raving homophobe, and radical anti-feminist. His name appeared on the infamous Marshall-Newman measure in 2006 which amended the state’s Constitution to define marriage as limited to one man and one woman, which became law until it was deemed unconstitutional in 2014.
He flaunted being a snarly homophobe in a district that seemed to fit his politics. So now what?
People like Danica Roem are now actively rethinking their role in U.S. politics, based on Roem’s success Tuesday and those of scores of others who achieved similar results. The is the real America, this quilt of associated, joyful differences with shared generosity and compassion, the heirs of the Roosevelt “New Deal” redefinition of governing that led to the establishment of Social Security and subsequent social safety net programs. This was the new Obama coalition that was blindsided starting in 2009 by the toxic Tea Party creation of the Koch brothers and their allies that came into being the virtual day that Barack Obama took over the presidency in January 2009.
That was when a gathering of radical right wing activist billionaires assembled in Palm Springs, Calif., under the leadership of Charles and David Koch who espoused radical libertarian views called “anarch-totalitarianism” by conservative William F. Buckley Jr. As author Jane Mayer wrote in Dark Money, The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (2016), “Obama’s election stirred such deep and widespread fear among conservative business elites” to ensure the conference was swarmed.
In addition to the Kochs, with roots in the John Birch Society, the group included those in the tradition of Richard Mellon Scaife, Harry and Lynde Bradley, John M. Olin, the Coors and DeVos families. It was decided at that tumultuous meeting to actively resist everything Obama tried to do, without exception.
The application of that fanatical radicalism changed the Republican Party at its base, giving it over to a kind of cynical nihilism that wound up infecting the party’s soul and those in it. Everything became obstructionist. No wonder it became so easy for Putin and the Russians to weigh in on this process with a phalanx of angry online bots whose methodology was grounded in a proliferation of intensely foul-mouthed, divisive negativism.
In Virginia, the last-ditch attempt to try out a so-called “Trumpian” campaign approach meant launching a series of the most foul and evilly deceptive TV ads imaginable. It didn’t work.
Now, the GOP is trapped in a matrix of evil that has paralyzed it from any reasonable action on health care or gun control, for example. Evil exists, as Dante knew, as a downward-spiraling trap descending to the lowest pit of hell.
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected].