Once upon a time, the Republican Party didn’t suck. Actually, there were lots of times it didn’t suck.
It didn’t suck when, at its founding in the late 1850s, it declared slavery an inhumane, barbaric practice, and eventually ended it. It didn’t suck when it ended repressive and predatory Mormon polygamy a few decades later. It didn’t suck when it declared late 19th-century corporate monopolies to be injurious to representative democracy and citizen welfare, and diminished their power.
It didn’t suck under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who presided over a postwar era of peace and prosperity. It didn’t suck when it fought segregationist Democrats to ensure equal application of the law. It didn’t suck when it fought against communism for half a century, and then won.
But starting with the presidency of George H. W. Bush, it really began sucking.
It was Bush Senior who pushed America into the first Persian Gulf War amidst a massive PR snow job involving fake stories about little Kuwaiti kids. It was Bush who framed that war as a glorious opportunity and morally obligatory step toward a “new world order”—by which he meant the eventual dissolution of national borders (including those of the United States) and the rise of one-world-government.
He also pushed economic corollaries to his political one-worldism. He relentlessly preached free trade ideology, eventually signing NAFTA in December of 1992. He laid the groundwork for the World Trade Organization, which would officially emerge in 1995. He began pushing for open trade with Communist China. He refused to protect American manufacturing—auto manufacturing, among other types—against subsidized imports intended to destroy American industries. His 1990 Immigration Act triggered a perpetual flood of cheap Latin American labor which inevitably undercut working-class wages at home.
Every step of the way, establishment Republicans supported him. All in all, in just four years, the Republican Party, under Bush Senior, initiated the de-industrialization of the United States of America; the devastation of thousands of working-class communities and families; the acceleration of disruptive demographic change; and the national slide toward dependence on—that is, control by—China.
So, obviously, all that sucks. What also sucks is that ever since, the Republican Party—with only a few exceptions here and there—has just sucked more and more.
Take W’s tenure. It includes an FBI which failed to intercept a devastating 9/11 terrorist attack, months in the making, which killed 3,000 people, despite many opportunities for detection.
It includes W’s proto-Woke demand, immediately after the attacks, that we all become as reality-resistant as he was and deny, against all sense and reason, that Islamic terrorism had anything to do with Islam. It includes his refusal to consider any alteration of Middle Eastern immigration into the country.
It includes the legitimation and foundation of the lawless, panoptical surveillance state we now live in.
It includes large-scale Middle Eastern wars poorly prosecuted, initiated with little or no exit strategies, fueled by delusions that Iraqis and Afghans not only wanted something like American-style secular, liberal democracy, but also were capable of maintaining it.
To top it all off, it includes policies which helped trigger the 2008 financial crash. And once again, establishment Republicans supported him the whole time. So that sucks, too. Subsequent presidential candidates Mitt Romney and John McCain also sucked, as did the whole do-nothing lot of Congressional Republicans between Bush and Trump.
Unsurprisingly, the Republican Party continued sucking once Trump arrived.
Nearly all its leading lights lined up against the only candidate in decades to address the concerns of the party’s own base. For every Newt or Rudy, there were dozens of snarky, Romney-like Republicans who tried, overtly and covertly, to take him down. Those who didn’t mostly sat by in silence as rogue federal agencies tried to remove Trump from office based on false allegations fabricated by the agencies themselves.
And now, post-Trump, the Republican Party still sucks.
Consider, just for starters, that as the Biden Administration resumes the national demolition job started by Barack Obama, but interrupted by Trump, Republicans overall have remained oddly passive. Where’s the robust resistance? The alternative proposals? The focused effort on a party rebuild? Nowhere, or near nowhere.
Yes, the party finally found the cojones to remove the Deep State Drizella, Princess Liz Cheney, from her House leadership position. But just as quickly, they revealed their cojones to be illusory: they chose the worst possible replacement they could find. New York representative Elise Stefanik’s voting record on all the important issues is indistinguishable from that of any garden-variety Democrat: pro-Paris Climate Accord; pro-amnesty; anti-wall; anti-energy-independence, etc. So why choose her? Because they’re the Republican Party. Sucking is what they do.
The current Republican Party sucks so bad, it can’t even manage to stick up for the reality of biological sex anymore. The obligation to protect female athletes from unfair competition, and indeed, injury, as well as female athletics as an institution, is clearly no match for Chamber of Commerce, NCAA, and Walmart money. That Governors Asa Hutchinson and Kristi Noem had the nerve to cynically justify their corporate kowtowing by invoking the virtues of “limited government” would once have been shocking. Sadly, it isn’t anymore. It’s just what they do. We expect it. Because they suck.
The brute fact is that the Republican Party today—unlike its original incarnation—has no rootedness in any specific moral conception of political life. It is an unmoored, mercenary instrument for hire. And members of a would-be permanent ruling caste have hired it.
That’s why to the extent the pre- and post-Trump Republican Party represents any kind of philosophy at all, it is an economic neoliberalism which in practice enables, and acts as cover for, a crony capitalism heading toward state capitalism—the full fusion of big business and big government into one giant blob of increasingly totalitarian control freakery.
It says a lot about Republicans that the most notable recent example of a politician standing up to this noxious fusion came from a Democrat. In 2018, Amazon kingpin Jeff Bezos (personal net worth: $200 billion) announced he’d build a new corporate headquarters in Queens, New York—but only on condition the city and state give his company $3 billion in tax breaks and subsidies. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) opposed Amazon’s subsidy shakedown. We want you to come, she said in effect, but only if you play by the same rules as everyone else. In the end, an affronted Bezos pulled out. He’d build his headquarters elsewhere.
Establishment Republicans—with perfect predictability—immediately erupted in jeers. Airhead Cortez has cost Queens thousands of jobs. She has no idea how markets work. Dumber than a rock!
Unnoticed by the jeering Establishment Republicans was that Amazon’s initial offer amounted to the commencement of a negotiation. Team AOC made a counteroffer. Bezos threatened to walk. Team AOC refused to budge. Bezos then walked. But in the end, Team AOC won, and won big, because only a few months later, Amazon came slinking back into Queens and decided to build its new headquarters there anyway—and pay all the taxes all the other businesses there pay, just as Team AOC had originally insisted. In fact, there was good reason to suspect Amazon would cave all along. And they did.
A Republican Party that didn’t suck would see this episode as a victory for small businesses, taxpayers, Queens, New York state, common sense, fundamental fairness, equal application of the law, and even for republican government over a politically corrosive crony capitalism. Instead, establishment Republicans don’t mention it anymore. These self-styled geniuses of market capitalism would have handed $3 billion in corporate welfare over to the 200-billion-dollar man the second he asked, and then congratulated themselves on their business acumen and communitarian bona fides.
Because, again, they suck.
No one has any clue what the Republican Party stands for anymore except for whatever its fat cat owners and operators tell it to stand for at any given moment, or barring that, whatever the Democratic Party stands for at any moment—except less of it.
Those of us in favor of what Burke called “ordered liberty” and a revitalized America view the Democratic Party as a target worth destroying. Before that can happen, however, we need to destroy—or at least conquer and completely recreate—another target altogether: the Republican Party.
Why? Because it sucks.