There are so many memorable quotes from Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather series that be can be applied to our current political environment. “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer,” comes to mind, for example.
But there is a lesser known quotation, specifically from The Godfather Part II, that seems uniquely suited to the way Democrats ought to be viewing the circus of abject Trump tongue-bathing currently underway in Orlando at CPAC. It’s a line Michael Corleone delivers to his adopted brother Tom Hagen early on in the film, reflecting a strategy he learned from his father, Don Vito Corleone, but one he applied to friend and foe alike. He advises Hagen to “try to think as the people around you think,” noting that “on that basis, anything is possible.”
A grandiose, egotistical and sociopathic carnival barker with no demonstrable features of human empathy, one with a sordid, shady and criminal past, leaving two impeachments, a single term, and a record of abuses (including the deaths of over a half million Americans) in his wake. For all intents and purposes, this person now wields complete control of the Republican Party, with the power (and intention!) to create or destroy individual careers in that party with a single expression of his disapproval or distaste.
And now his very presence, his likes and dislikes, are being slavishly catered and accommodated in the expectation that he will save that party from irrelevance, simply through the force of his own erratic personality.
It’s no understatement to say that we’re witnessing an unprecedented moment in the country’s history. One of our political parties has willingly allowed itself to become subservient and beholden to a cult of personality—not just any personality, mind you, but one with a distinct, unmistakable character and history.
So if we want to follow Vito Corleone’s advice, we should try to put ourselves in the positions of Republicans and try to divine exactly what it is they are thinking.
Perhaps, to that end, its most useful to start with what they’re not thinking. They’re clearly not motivated by any high-minded fealty to the country, conservative principles or the Constitution. Other Republicans have survived for over a century paying homage to those things without abjectly prostrating themselves before a figure like Donald Trump. Nor in the last hundred years has a president with so many glaring failures (loss of the House, loss of the Senate, and loss of the general election) continued to hold sway over the Republican Party.
In fact the cult-like devotion among elected Republicans that we are witnessing with Trump points to only one cause—these Republicans are operating solely out of self-interest, and that self-interest is being driven, for the most part, by fear: specifically, fear of being primaried by someone more closely aligned with Trump, but also fear of what certain of their constituents will do to them if they do not continue to display their fealty to Trump.
For most of them that calculation is purely political, and it goes something like this: By aligning closely enough to Trump, Republicans hope to retain the base of constituents that put them into the office in the first place. They won’t grow that base, but it will be enough to secure reelection. That was the 2020 thinking; although Republicans lost control of the Senate, the margins were not as great as some predicted, and in the House they even gained a few seats. Many voters, disgusted by Trump but still loyal to the Republican Party, chose to keep their Republican senators and representatives even as they voted for Joe Biden.
But these same Republicans saw what happened in January’s Georgia special elections. Trump was nowhere on the ballot, and two GOP incumbents in what had long been considered a very “red” state promptly went down. They went down because of substantial and significant voter participation by people of color, which is why the upsurge in passing voter suppression has been such an urgent imperative in Republican-dominated state legislatures since that election. They went down because Trump himself had cast doubt on the integrity of the election itself, prompting a small but not insignificant number of Republican voters to sit the special election out.
Without Trump on the ballot, any conclusion that could be drawn from either the 2020 general or the Georgia special election would remain murky for Republicans. But faced with this inconclusiveness, the party as a whole has collectively decided to cast its lot with Donald Trump.
Just one short week ago, now-former Georgia Sen. David Perdue thought he might run for Senate again in 2022, for the seat that ex-Sen. Kelly Loeffler lost to Sen. Raphael Warnock. Following the lead of his party, he went down to Mar-a-Lago to pay homage to the dethroned and embittered Orange Ozymandias and secure his blessing.
It didn’t work out well. As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Trump didn’t want to talk to Perdue about 2022. Instead, the one-term president wanted to enlist him in his vendetta against Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, whom he blames for declining to falsify the results of the 2020 election in his favor.
Perdue trekked to Trump’s private Mar-A-Lago club in Florida on Friday to play golf with the former president, according to people with direct knowledge who said Trump spent much of their time together railing against Republicans he claimed didn’t do more to overturn his defeat.
AJC reports that Perdue later stated that Trump’s behavior didn’t influence his decision. But that’s not what was reported by other outlets, including The New York Times.
The meeting did not go well, people briefed on it said. Mr. Trump was focused on retribution, particularly against Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, and Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, a Republican whom Mr. Trump views as having betrayed him.
Trying to navigate a feud between the former president and his state’s sitting governor for the next two years was deeply unappealing to Mr. Perdue, according to a Georgia Republican who knows the former senator.
One of the people briefed on the meeting with Mr. Trump said it appeared to be a factor in Mr. Perdue’s decision not to run…[.]
Let’s hit the pause button for a quick recap. To emphasize, the Republican Party leader is exactly what he was before 2020: an accused rapist and sexual harasser who was twice impeached. One who miserably failed the country in the time of its most dire need and incited an insurrection against the American government. An emotionally volatile, spite-driven figure, with multiple looming legal challenges that might very well end him up in prison. One who, with the assistance of a right-wing media firmly in his thrall, has managed to hoodwink tens of millions of Americans into believing that the election was stolen from him through some murky and fantastical exercise of widespread fraud.
Perdue tried to reason with him, to enlist his support, but he quickly discovered that it’s impossible to reason with such a person, to rise and fall with his whims, with his vindictiveness—whims and vindictiveness that are extraordinarily unpredictable. As unpredictable, in fact, as Trump’s own future.
This is the person in whom the Republican Party has placed both its trust and its future. In effect, through their allegiance, they’re consciously angling to make 2022 another referendum on Donald Trump. Beyond demonizing their usual targets (LGBTQ citizens, undocumented immigrants, and people of color they consider inferior) they have no ideas or policies to speak of—this is what “conservative values” have effectively devolved into.
So that explains what they’re “thinking.” It explains their motivation, and, as Michael Corleone would doubtlessly point out, it reveals their weaknesses, in spades.
President Biden is likely to have the benefit of some strong tailwinds going into 2022. The country will be reopened, and many people will be eager to spend money in ways they have been unable to do over the last year, leading to a huge upswing in the economy. Everyone who wants to be vaccinated against COVID-19 likely will be by 2022, and in many ways, able to go back to lives we all considered to be normal before the pandemic struck. The change in quality of life for literally hundreds of millions of Americans will be palpable. The COVID-19 relief bill, which will be passed in about two weeks, will have worked its way through the economy, pumping nearly two trillion dollars into the system, relieving state governments and providing aid to millions of those currently—but hopefully only temporarily—unemployed. Since the bill will pass with exactly zero Republican support, the transformation this country undergoes will be solely attributable to the Democratic Party.
In contrast, we will see a Republican Party that has irrevocably tied itself to the failed presidency of Donald Trump, with all the baggage, current and ensuing, that Trump will force upon them as a consequence of that allegiance. Meanwhile the mercurial, unstable, and vindictive nature of Donald Trump himself will only grow worse. His legions of deplorable followers, including Republican elected officials who chose to become followers, will only become more and more radicalized as their futures grow inexorably attached to his failure. Even the slightest effort to acknowledge Biden’s successes will subject them to irredeemable punishment, resulting in ballot box rejection from their base.
Democrats must be out in front, emphasizing their successes, and taking credit for the resulting changes and improvements to Americans’ lives, as they happen, over and over again, ad nauseum. Draw these accomplishments into sharp relief with the presidency of Donald Trump, and particularly the empty platitudes his followers, elected Republicans, will offer in response.
Those Republicans who have now chosen, out of expediency, to tie themselves to Donald Trump should be given no quarter. They are making their bed now, and they should be forced to lie in it.
The Republican Party has chosen to make 2022 a referendum on Donald Trump. If Democrats do their job till then, it absolutely will be … just not in the way Republicans would have hoped.
I like our chances.
From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.