The Republican Party’s Death Drive
The GOP should have been positioned well as we headed into 2020. Instead, the party committed an inexplicable but undeniable suicide.
On January 6th, a mob of Trump supporters staged a coup—a PR coup for the Democratic Party.
Liberals have been calling Republicans “fascists” for as long as anyone can remember. The trouble is, there’s never been any real proof. There was no Beer Hall Putsch, no March on Rome, to which the Left could point and say: “There! You see? They’re trying to take over! And it’s not the fringe, either. These are ordinary, rank-and-file conservatives trying to overthrow democracy.”
Well, now they have their proof. It might not be good proof; the “QAnon Shaman” wasn’t going to seize control of the federal government just by sitting in the speaker’s chair. But it seemed to prove that, in any crowd of Trump supporters, a startling number are fairly comfortable with political violence.
That’s heinous. It should be addressed on its own. Thankfully, it has been—in these pages and elsewhere. But now, every time progressives refer to us as fascists, they’re going to evoke the Battle of Capitol Hill (which, you have to admit, is rather a striking visual aid).
We can blame the Left for introducing violence into our politics in the anti-police riots that swept several American cities over the last year. But here’s the thing: until Wednesday, conservatives could reasonably claim to be above such thuggery. Literally all we had to do was not lay siege to Washington, D.C., and the GOP came across as relatively sane. Yet we couldn’t even manage that. Whatever high ground we claimed in 2020, we threw away on the sixth day of 2021.
This has become something of a pattern. As soon as the polls closed on November 3rd, 2020, conservatives began a relentless campaign of self-sabotage.
Really, this should have been a great year for Republicans. Despite losing the White House and the Senate, the GOP’s future looked bright. For the first time since the 1960s, a Republican presidential candidate made significant gains among nonwhite voters. We might have finally put paid to the myth of a “permanent Democratic majority” wrought by demographic shifts in the U.S. population. The party’s base also finally began to take the issue of voter fraud seriously.
Then, the GOP immediately went about destroying their own political fortunes.
In Georgia, Senatrix Kelly Loeffler (another billionaire who puts on a baseball cap and declares herself a populist) ran against the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a black preacher whose homilies focus strongly on social-justice issues. Mr. Warnock is undoubtedly radical: his church once hosted Fidel Castro. Yet there’s no denying that his sermons resonate strongly with many black Americans.
Now, Ms. Loeffler could have taken one of two routes. On the one hand, she might have told black Georgians that she understands their suffering, their fear, and their isolation. She might have told them that, when we say “Make America Great Again,” we mean for black folks, too. She might have thanked black churches for their witness and pointed out that Americans of all colors have been abandoned by our globalist economy. She might have asked for their support in building a new economy—one that works for ordinary American families, not those corporate elites who bankroll the Democratic Party.
Of course, she didn’t do that. Instead, she ran an attack ad with a black businesswoman warning that Mr. Warnock is a “socialist” who wants to “defund the police.” It was pure Romneyism: the token minority pandering to the well-to-do and dismissing anyone with grievances against the status quo as an unpatriotic Marxist.
Wasn’t the whole point of the Trump Moment that conservatives are now the tribunes of the proletariat? Aren’t we supposed to be speaking for the voiceless, the disenfranchised, and the forgotten? That was the message nonwhite voters responded so well to in 2020. It was only middle-class whites who swung to Mr. Biden. They had the luxury of voting against the President because they didn’t like his “tone.”
Quelle surprise! Ms. Loeffler dramatically underperformed Mr. Trump among poor and nonwhite voters. She only bested him in Georgia’s affluent, white suburbs. Barely two months after Election Day and the Republican Party is going back to its roots, shilling for the well-to-do.
You know, I almost believed Josh Hawley when he declared on November 3rd that the GOP is now a working-class party.
Then there’s the voter fraud thing. Speaking of Mitt Romney, remember how he allegedly received zero votes in fifty-nine Philadelphia divisions back in 2012? That was unbelievable—literally unbelievable. Mr. Romney apparently didn’t care, because he never spoke about the matter publicly. Very few Republicans seemed fussed, either—probably because the extent of the fraud wasn’t nearly enough to swing the election. Still, corruption is corruption.
Clearly, Pennsylvania has long been rife with electoral fraud. What a relief that Republicans finally resolved to do something about it in 2020. We had a golden opportunity to say to the American people: “Whichever side of the aisle you stand on, these fraudsters are attacking the very foundations of our democracy. It’s time for state and federal lawmakers to get serious about protecting the integrity of our elections.” Then, the wonks at the RNC could have rolled out all kinds of prohibitions on mail-in ballots, passed tighter regulations on voting machines, etc.
That would have been the sensible thing to do—which is why, of course, the Republicans didn’t do it.
Instead, they immediately declared that voter fraud cost them the 2020 election, beyond any shadow of a doubt. They made that claim before it was even possible to have gathered all the evidence, assuming any such evidence existed. And, just to make sure that nobody would take their claims seriously, they blamed the fraud on a grand conspiracy of Hillary Clinton, George Soros, and the ghost of Hugo Chavez.
Remember, this isn’t an issue conservatives have been fuming about for years. This was the first time that Republicans seriously confronted the issue of voter fraud. Obviously, fraud exists. Obviously, it’s a coordinated, long-term effort by progressive operatives. But why did conservatives automatically reach for the most bizarre and convoluted explanation possible?
Because the American right loves to lose. Freud called it the death drive: an unconscious yet irresistible tendency towards self-destruction. And Republicans have it bad.
We couldn’t accept the modest gains we earned in 2020. We didn’t have the patience for a long-term strategy of winning over working-class and nonwhite voters. Our attention spans were too short for a substantial, policy-driven campaign against voter fraud. No: when the Democrats burned down Kenosha, we had to one-up them. And, so, we ransacked the U.S. Capitol Building.
G.K. Chesterton once said, “There is many a convert who has reached a stage at which no word from any Protestant or pagan could any longer hold him back. Only the word of a Catholic can keep him from Catholicism.” Apparently, the same is true of Republicans. Nobody could stop the momentum of the new populist, nationalist conservatism—nobody, that is, except conservatives. In January of 2021, we shot it dead in its tracks.
Michael Warren Davis is the author of the forthcoming book The Reactionary Mind (Regnery, 2021).