What in God’s name has happened to the Republican Party? Large groups of it now, in the words of the Apostle Paul (2nd Corinthians 11:19), “suffer fools gladly” on a regular basis.
Clearly, most Republicans are not fools. But many have left the party, offended by the MAGA emphasis on hate, lies, racism and anti-democratic policies. Ordinary decent Republicans still within the party are too often complicit in this awfulness by staying silent for fear of the consequences.
Marc Racicot, Montana’s respected former attorney general, governor and Republican National Committee chair, was recently kicked out of the state Republican Party for speaking out against nonsense and hate and in favor of democracy. We saw what happened to Liz Cheney in Wyoming for supporting truth and democracy. Authoritarian political parties cannot abide facts, truth or differing opinions that diverge from the party line.
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Life experience, general knowledge and cursory education enable most people to discriminate differences of opinion, tethered to reality, from foolishness. But this distinction is increasingly a problem for many Republicans. Democrats are not immune either, but their promoting and tolerating foolishness is not at epidemic levels as it is among Republicans.
Much of the foolishness is not the result of ignorance. Some is cynical, political calculus. In other instances, it may be some sort of cerebral blind spot. A competent dentist may still be a member of the Flat Earth Society, a collection of delusional people. Montana’s U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale surely knew that Donald Trump had clearly lost the 2020 election when he voted against Joe Biden’s certification. He decided to play the fool for political reasons. Well, let’s hope so, anyway.
Examples of the foolishness supported by many elected Republicans and the MAGA base include:
“The 2016 presidential election was rigged, there is no man-made climate change, the Holocaust is fake, the prevalence of gun ownership in the United States is in no way related to our level of gun violence, trickle-down economics is a proven theory, vaccines do not prevent disease and are a government plot, Fox News is committed to the truth, January 6th was not an attempt to overthrow a duly elected government, and Donald Trump is an honorable, truthful, law-abiding individual.”
Believers in this stuff, if not themselves fools or supporting fools gladly, are distressingly untethered from reality. But it is the foolishness, regardless whom you consider a fool, that is the problem and becoming ever dangerous. Together with Republican extremism, it is rendering our political and civic discourse difficult. The Missouri attorney general is trying to protect vaccine misinformation as free speech, which would endanger public safety and kill people. The Texas Board of Education has at least asked for an alternative to the proposal to call slavery “involuntary relocation” in its school curriculum. It is all mind-boggling.
And how about elected Republicans? There were 147 Republicans who voted against certifying Joe Biden’s election. Are they fools or just shameless political hacks? You pick the characterization. There are over 165 Republican “election deniers” in the current 118th U.S. Congress. These are the Apostle Paul’s fools, representing you and “protecting” your democracy. Say your prayers at night.
The election deniers, of course, are beyond cynical and foolish. They essentially declare that they will not accept an election that has been proven to be one of the most secure in our history. In other words, they do not believe in free and fair elections. Second, they will not accept an election which over 60 court cases have determined is without consequential blemish. This means they do not believe in the rule of law, either. If you do not believe in free and fair elections and the rule of law, you do not support the most fundamental tenets of American democracy.
That is where we are: a political party that largely supports dangerous foolishness and no longer supports American democracy. Let us protect the nation from them until some responsible conservative party, like the Phoenix, rises from the ashes to participate in sensibly governing the country.