In which a guy who’s been accused of being a closet Republican because he hates wokeness explains why he still prefers Democrats. If he’s forced to choose between a democratic system in which wokesters sometimes get elected and a dictatorship in which they don’t, he’ll take door number one.
When did Republicans, or at least many Republicans, begin to prefer door number two, he wonders?
For instance, the cretin who recently said this is currently favored to become the next senator from Ohio with the endorsement of a former Republican president:
“I think Trump is going to run again in 2024,” [J.D. Vance] said. “I think that what Trump should do, if I was giving him one piece of advice: Fire every single midlevel bureaucrat, every civil servant in the administrative state, replace them with our people.”
“And when the courts stop you,” he went on, “stand before the country, and say—” he quoted Andrew Jackson, giving a challenge to the entire constitutional order—“the chief justice has made his ruling. Now let him enforce it.”
This is a description, essentially, of a coup.
“We are in a late republican period,” Vance said later, evoking the common New Right view of America as Rome awaiting its Caesar. “If we’re going to push back against it, we’re going to have to get pretty wild, and pretty far out there, and go in directions that a lot of conservatives right now are uncomfortable with.”
Vance said in the same interview that he wants to “seize the institutions of the left,” whatever “seize” might mean, and engage in a “de-Baathification program” against the woke. He doesn’t describe himself as a fascist but I imagine that’s less a matter of him being uncomfortable with the term than knowing that the normie voters he’s courting would be uncomfortable with it. For now.
But as an insight into how far gone the party is already, simply note that Vance’s chatter about ignoring court rulings and “de-Baathifiying” his fellow Americans isn’t the reason he stands a chance of losing his Senate primary. As far as I’m aware, his opponents aren’t even making an issue of it. The reason he might lose is that he said some unflattering things about Trump six years ago and, for many Republicans, no amount of groveling and pledges of slavish loyalty can ever properly atone. Vance’s sin, in other words, isn’t that he’s an authoritarian but that he hasn’t been consistently authoritarian enough.
As for the answer to Maher’s question, it starts with the fact that Republicans have won the popular vote once in the last eight elections. Viewed through that lens, the “rigged election” insanity in 2020 is a sort of coping mechanism. It simply can’t be that populists could nominate their political hero, a man running on a platform of restoring American greatness, and fail to receive even 47 percent of the vote for the second straight election. It can’t be that Republicans have been the less popular party in every election for nearly 30 years save one.
So the election must have been rigged. Trump won. He said so himself.
But even the true believers must feel a bit of doubt nag at them from time to time. What if Trump did lose? What if the GOP’s pre-Trump small-government incarnation was unpopular with voters but its current Trump-era nationalist model is also unpopular — at least when it’s represented on the ballot in the person of Trump himself? What if the Democrats’ claims that demographic change will produce a durable Democratic majority are true, locking Republicans out of power forever? (They aren’t true.)
What good is democracy if your side always loses?
Republican disillusionment with democracy is partly a product of results, then, but also partly a matter of media in the Internet age. Anyone with an interest in politics in 2022 can envelop themselves in a warm bubble of online information in which their beliefs are affirmed repeatedly, every hour of every day. The tribal dynamics of social media, where users are incentivized to reinforce their group’s beliefs with the promise of virality, make matters worse. If you’re constantly being told that you’re right in all particulars but you’re also losing the popular vote in election after election, go figure that you might develop a siege mentality that would lead you to conclude there must be something fundamentally wrong with America’s system of governance.
If democracy keeps putting people who are Wrong About Everything in power, there must be a problem with democracy.
It’s hard to know to what extent populism is a cause or an effect in all this. But populism and classical liberalism coexist uneasily, as we were reminded this week in Florida. Maher dislikes having to choose between them — don’t we all — but he’s made his choice.