We have been watching the slow-motion transformation of the Republican Party from a political party to the vehicle for a crusade – led by zealots and followed by true believers over the last half century. As been noted by many observers, as late as 1960 Republicans included moderates, liberal and conservatives from all parts of the country.
As late as 1960 Richard Nixon garnered over 30% of the Black vote, a percentage never seen again. As late as 1964, the Republicans and Democrats in Congress found a way to work together on a wide range of issues.
And then along came Barry – Goldwater that is. As the presidential candidate of the party in 1964 he proclaimed that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue”. He was speaking about liberty from government – things like Social Security and civil rights for Black Americans. He was speaking about the need for justice for white Americans who were feeling increasing disenfranchised as the concept of rights for all Americans began halting steps towards reality.
Goldwater lost by a landslide, but Nixon followed the Goldwater playbook and was narrowly elected in 1968 and reelected by a landslide in 1972. And since then, despite efforts to soft pedal the rhetoric of its leadership, the Republican Party has moved inexorably rightward, so much so that the ascendancy of 45 could have been foretold.
In a crasser, brash and obscene fashion, 45 gave voice to the most fundamental and fundamental core values of the Republican Party – nativism, xenophobia, racism, sexism and intolerance. And most of all, he legitimized a total disavowal of any aspect of the governmental system that did not provide infinite and boundless power to the white majority that saw minority status looming on the horizon every time a nonwhite baby was born in the United States.
And now, after 84 million Americans voted for Joe Biden for president, the Republicans and their 74 million voters want to disenfranchise the majority by making false and baseless claims of voter fraud. And now, 70% of Republicans say that they do not believe that President Biden is legitimately the president.
Clearly a democracy cannot endure for long where, in a two-party system 70% of the membership of one party refuses to acknowledge the victory of the other party. Yet somehow the Republicans believe that it is o.k. to keep promoting the Big Lie and they are therefore blind to the institutional consequences.
First, going forward the losing party of either party in any local, state or federal raise is going to raise the false flag of voter fraud. And when a significant portion of the population in a city, state or in this country starts believing lies on a regular basis the January 6th insurrection in Washington is going to look like a picnic when compared to the civil warfare that will rage across this country after every single election.
The Republicans and 45 are playing with fire and either they don’t know it, which makes them fools, or they do know it and don’t care, which makes them malignant domestic terrorists.
These are very dangerous times indeed.