The corrupt and the incompetent

Published April 21, 2022

By Thomas Mills

 “If this isn’t impeachable, I don’t know what is.” Mitch McConnell in the wake of January 6.

McConnell, of course, voted against impeachment just a few days later. He lost his spine, just like House Minority Kevin McCarthy who told colleagues he would call on Trump to resign but never did. They represent a party that is utterly beholden to a conman. There’s nothing Trump, and by extension other GOP elected officials, can do that will bring consequences or accountability from Republicans. The conservative party has essentially eschewed the rule of law in favor of power at any cost. 

Our country is in deep trouble. One party is incompetent and the other is immoral. Both are largely defined by their fringe elements and neither has figured out how to regain the center. 

 The two are not equal, though. Republicans have been captured by their reactionary base. Once mainstream conservative are now stumbling over themselves to show fealty to a man who lies with impunity, pays off porn stars, encourages White supremacists, and who tried to undermine the very foundation of our democracy. They justify their support because, somehow, the Democrats are worse. 

Trump’s rapid takeover of the Republican Party verified what many liberals long suspected. The foundation of the Republican Party was right-wing reactionaryism, not movement conservatism. The Reagan Revolution was little more than cover for bigotry that lay just beneath the surface of society and was only buried by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

 The election of a Black man to the presidency animated, energized, and expanded a Republican base that, before then, responded to Willie Horton, Jessie Helms’ Hands ad, and a host of other paeans to racial animosity. The tax cuts and smaller government espoused by movement conservatives was like a thin layer mulch covering the roots of racism that fed the towering tree of bigotry that motivates the GOP base. Today, the movement conservatives have split into three factions: those who resist, those who acquiesce, and those who capitulate, but none of them have much influence over the reactionaries and grifters driving the GOP now.

Democrats, for their part, maintain their core belief that government can have a positive role in the lives of people by offering a strong social safety net, protecting the rights of minorities, and mitigating the most negative impact of capitalism through common sense regulations. However, they are divided between a left flank with both too much faith in bureaucracy and a seemingly endless demand to expand rights for people they consider marginalized and technocratic centrists who don’t understand how to create broad or emotional appeal. 

The Democrats also rely on a coalition that can’t deliver consistent results, primarily because they depend on high turnout from younger voters, the people who have historically resisted showing up for elections. The left naively believes that the party can motivate them by offering progressive policies like eliminating student debt and a Green New Deal, whatever that is. 

Regardless of the virtues of these policies, they aren’t driving anybody to the polls. Fear and anger are the primary motivators for voters. People showed up in 2018 and 2020 to stop Donald Trump, not because they were fired up by the Democratic platform. But even then, they didn’t show up in as a large a number as the Republican base. Democrats won because they were able to peel off more of the middle that was tired of the endless tweets and drama of the Trump era. 

As a country, we’re saddled with a precarious situation. Republicans have demonstrated that they willingly reject truth, values, and constitutional restraint to take power. Democrats have shown that they don’t understand how to appeal to people who don’t know what the New Deal was or understand what Build Back Better means. 

If we’re going to fix our political system, somebody must figure out how to find the middle again. Elections need to quit being zero sum games with each party trying to push through massive changes despite holding the narrowest of majorities. We need broad coalitions, not narrow ones, that are based on shared values, not groupthink. Republicans have allowed themselves to be led by people who appeal to our basest instincts. Democrats are driven by people who use terms like intersectionality conversationally. One party is largely corrupt and the other is largely inept.