Whatever principles the Republican Party may have once held (or pretended to hold) have completely rotted away and been replaced entirely by the MAGA movement, a self-destructive cult of personality with only one central tenet: obey Trump.
A functioning political party with even a scrap of morality left would have rejected Trump after he lied about the 2020 election results and incited a deadly insurrection. Instead, Republican politicians condemned the event and Trump’s role in it only to coalesce around him once again to block an investigation into the January 6th siege.
As a result, the lie that Joe Biden and the Democrats stole the presidency through mass voter fraud has taken deep root amongst GOP voters and the foundations of our Republic have been gravely weakened. If a large portion of the electorate no longer has faith that our elections are legitimate, it’s entirely possible that they will take up extralegal, perhaps even violent, methods to rectify the imagined problem.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party has recognized that it’s only a matter of time before they become completely electorally unviable due to the narrow focus of their party platform on white grievance politics and pandering to the wealthy. Rather than reform and offer something new to the American people, they’ve decided to launch a massive voter suppression effort. If they can’t win by getting your vote, they’d rather you not vote at all.
All of this adds up to a GOP that is increasingly antagonistic towards the idea of democracy itself. It’s perhaps easy to see the signs of this metastization of the GOP in hindsight, but few thought it would ever get this bad — including former President Barack Obama. In a new interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Obama said as much.
“Did you ever think it would get this dark?” Cooper asked Obama about the Republican Party.
“No,” responded Obama. “I thought that were enough guardrails institutionally that even after Trump was elected that you would have the so-called Republican establishment who would say ‘Okay you know it’s a problem if the White House doesn’t seem to be concerned about Russian meddling.’ Or ‘It’s a problem if we have a president who’s saying that, you know, neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, there are good people on both sides.’ That’s a little bit beyond the pale.”
“And the degree to which we did not see that Republican establishment say ‘Hold on time out, that’s not acceptable, that’s not who we are,’ but rather be cowed into accepting it and then finally culminating in January 6th where what originally was ‘Oh don’t worry this isn’t going anywhere we’re just letting Trump and others vent.’ And then suddenly you have large portions of an elected Congress going along with the falsehood that there were problems with the election,” said Obama.
Cooper brought up the brief dalliance some GOP politicians had with condemning the insurrection.
“And then poof! Suddenly, everyone was back in line,” said Obama, illustrating the way in which the Republicans abandoned the issue. “Now, the reason for that is because the base believed [the Big Lie]. And the base believed it because it had been told to them not just by the president but by the media they watch. And nobody stop up and said ‘Stop. This is enough. This is not true.'”
Obama tells Anderson Cooper he never foresaw the Republican Party getting this bad pic.twitter.com/sXpRev0wAS
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 8, 2021
Obama went on to discuss the Republican efforts to dismantle democracy and offered a warning that America won’t lose its democratic functions “in just one bang” but rather in a “series of steps.” His sobering analysis isn’t without hope though, and he still seems convinced that American democracy can be saved.
It falls to all of us as American citizens to fight for our democracy. The Republicans must be defeated at the ballot box again and again until they’re forced to step back from the brink of authoritarianism.
"The path towards an undemocratic America is not gonna happen in just one bang. It happens in a series of steps" — Obama pic.twitter.com/6StXPiG2a6
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 8, 2021
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Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.