“It feels like every week now we learn of a new way that Donald Trump posed a threat to American democracy when he was president.
On Friday, we learned from new documents provided to lawmakers and obtained by The New York Times, that Trump “pressed top Justice Department officials late last year to declare that the election was corrupt even though they had found no instances of widespread fraud, so that he and his allies in Congress could use the assertion to try to overturn the results.”
As an aide’s notes of one conversation read, Trump put it plainly: “‘Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me’ and to congressional allies.”
That last part is the key: Trump wasn’t trying alone to destroy our democracy; he had help and support. Some of it was in Congress. But today it has spread to include Republican voters, and it is out of that spirit that the Jan. 6 insurrection was born.
A May Quinnipiac poll found that 85 percent of Republicans want candidates running for office to mostly agree with Donald Trump, and two out of three want Trump to run again for president in 2024.
What do you call members of a party who, from top to bottom, from elected officials to voters, largely believe a lie and a liar determined to undermine, corrupt and even destroy our democracy? What do you call a party whose leaders use that lie as a pretext to suppress the votes and voices of Americans with whom they disagree? What do you call a party slavishly devoted to a cult over the stability and prosperity of a country?
What do you call a party where many of its members have worked against a lifesaving, society-freeing vaccine in the middle of a pandemic, exposing many of their own followers to the deadly virus, all for the sake of being contrarian, anti-establishment and anti-science?
I call that party a national security threat and a cancer on our democracy.
Now, I am an unabashed liberal, and coming from me that will sound like naked partisanship. I understand that. Sometimes people prefer criticism of this Republican Party to come from disaffected Republicans. I get it. It feels more authentic, I guess.
But as Malcolm X once put it, “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it.”
I have heard all the things that the moderates and neutralists have to say: Overheated language helps nothing and alienates people who could otherwise be converted. Don’t cast as evil someone with whom you simply have a disagreement. Build bridges, don’t burn them.
I could understand and appreciate all of that in another time. I can recall being impressed by how well a conservative argument was asserted, even if I disagreed with it. I can remember when conservatism was just as intellectual as liberalism, and compromises could be made to feel like the combining of the best of both.
But I’m also not consumed by romantic, hagiographic illusions of yesteryear. No time in American politics has been perfect and without strife and drama. This is not the first time that the country has been gravely rived. We fought a Civil War, for Pete’s sake. We had Jim Crow that robbed most Southern Blacks of the right to vote for three-quarters of a century.
America has seen the darkest of seasons.
But we should also not underplay or sugarcoat the darkness of the current season.
I don’t see how we continue to pretend that this is politics as usual, that it’s normal squabbling between ideological opposites. No, something is deeply, dangerously wrong here. This is not the same as it has always been.
This Republican Party is a menace to society. That must be said. That is the truth.
And when one of the country’s two major parties is so close to the brink of the falls, it threatens to pull the entire country over.
So I have no intention of treating this Republican Party the way I treated it just 10 years or 20 years ago. That party doesn’t exist anymore. It died. This thing we have now is its zombie. Zombies can’t be reasoned with.
We have to stop making people who call this Republican Party out for what it is feel like extremists, reactionaries and alarmists, rather than truth tellers. It is not extreme to tell the truth, but it is delusional to twist yourself into a knot to not tell the unvarnished truth because you believe your tone of conciliation will lead to rehabilitation.
If you are reminiscing about another time, one of more comity and gentility, one in which differences between the parties seemed bridgeable over a beer or in a locker room, you are longing for a time when the white racist patriarchy reigned supreme and women, minorities and L.G.B.T people weren’t also in the halls of Congress.
The Republican Party is rebelling against change as much as anything else and Donald Trump is the apotheosis of their anger and irrationality.“