In the year 168 of its existence, the party of Lincoln entirely succumbed to right-wing populism.
Conservatism, a la Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush (and his son), has become an afterthought in today's GOP. Instead, craziness, conspiracy theories, culture wars, and the proclivity for eroding America's democracy, culminating in the January 6 riots, are the vanguard of the party's agenda.
The January 6 committee provides impeccable insights into the GOP's state of affairs. These investigations are concerned about nothing less than an attempted coup d'etat Donald Trump and his team are said to have meticulously planned and executed, based on what Trump and his supporters call the Big Lie, the idea that the election was stolen.
But remorse from those responsible for the carnage caused that day has been non-existent. Retcons and revisionist history recently found their apogee when the GOP consecrated the events as a "legitimate political discourse". Gallows outside the building designated for Mike Pence seriously injured police officers, and five deaths connected to the insurrection notwithstanding.
Blaming the party's transformation on a single man would be easy. The entire party has become a threat to American democracy.
Early symptoms date back to the 90s, when Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House, taught the Republicans to change the party's modus operandi and declared political opposition the enemy. A rather controversial presidency of Bill Clinton provided vast ammunition to enshrine rhetorical abuse, denigration, and polarisation in US politics.
Instead of creating progress through cooperation, the GOP was henceforth inclined to obstruct almost any Democratic agenda. Trump's way was paved via the Tea Party movement in 2009 and a further enhancement of the principle of fundamental opposition.
Meanwhile, Republicans became cognisant that Trump's modus operandi was a recipe for success in modern-day America. But this "success" came with a hefty price tag: under Trump's leadership, the GOP has become increasingly nihilistic. The country no longer stands over the party - a trend that has only continued to metastasise.
After all, the farce of a "stolen election" is just one example of the party's radicalisation.
Already, the GOP has implemented policies that display its change towards the extremes and lack of regard for constitutional norms.
For instance, various GOP states have changed their voting rights. Inter alia, these restrict postal voting and tighten the identification requirement. Republicans justify these actions with alleged susceptibility to fraud in the elections – the Big Lie, while others were claiming the intention is simply to prevent minorities from voting - similar to the concept of gerrymandering.
The GOP’s paradigm shift has allowed fringe elements and individuals to become featured prominently. Moreover, remarks that were once considered contemptible at best and disqualifying at worst are now deemed adequate in the world of performative politics.
Party members may now pontificate over comparisons between the Biden administration's Covid-19 policy and the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany, the claim that mass shootings are false flag operations staged to have Americans relinquish their guns, or the Great Replacement Theory with impunity.
Members of Congress such as Marjorie Taylor Greene - who once attributed California Wildfires to a "Jewish space laser" -, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, and Paul Gosar - to only name a few – have taken advantage of this carte blanche and continue to not only shift the Overton Window but to fracture it, all while remaining in the party's good standing, needless to say.
In turn, traditional Republicans such as Mitt Romney, Liz Cheney, or Adam Kinzinger are persona non grata, pariahs, and outcasts in a party they once represented proudly.
Kinzinger already declared he would not run again. Cheney watched as Wyoming's GOP voted to censure her over her reluctance to support the Big Lie and is likely to lose her reelection bid and thus her seat in the House to Harriet Hageman, a Trump-endorsed candidate.
This purge is where America's greatest threat currently lies. The alleged coup in 2020 did not fail because of a lack of intention but due to politicians like Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Speaker of the Arizona House Bowers, and Vice President Mike Pence opposing Trump's will. However, while the coup failed, it still provided a blueprint for future elections, which is why what has been occurring behind the GOP's scenes is so fascinating and concerning.
Those who stood up for democracy have been or will be successively replaced by MAGA loyalists, who fulfil the party's litmus test of spreading what they call the Big Lie. This election cycle, at least 120 GOP candidates for Senate, House, governor, attorney general, and secretary of state on the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
Imagine the following scenario: Election night 2024, with the GOP candidate trailing. A concession is already out of the question. However, this time, when called upon to "find" additional votes in a particular state, the GOP operative responsible could simply ask, "how many do you require, sir?"
It may sound exaggerated, but it is precisely what the GOP is currently working towards.
Change is not in sight. Since 1945, an incumbent president has lost on average 26 seats in the House of Representatives and four in the Senate. Only Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were able to add seats. Considering Biden's low approval ratings, the House is most likely lost, and even the Senate seems up for grabs.
Conversely, Joe Biden would no longer be able to push any of his plans through Congress as Republicans would simply block Democratic legislation. In fact, a Republican-led House, instead of focussing on legislation, is likely to establish new precedents in the art of performative politics: They are almost certain to launch investigations into Hunter Biden, the Afghanistan withdrawal, and other matters.
Moreover, various GOP lawmakers have already indicated that a Republican-led House would start Impeachment proceedings against Joe Biden, which would essentially be an "all for show" undertaking.
It is apparent that the GOP is no longer interested in serious legislation. The victims are the American system on the one hand and the American people on the other. Paralysis has always reigned in US politics, but seldom was the status quo such that one in two parties in America has essentially abandoned democracy while the other, the Democrats, have no answers.
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.
We welcome all pitches and submissions to TRT World Opinion – please send them via email, to firstname.lastname@example.org