We Do Have a Democracy Problem
I am less than excited about the GOP’s prospects going into the midterm elections—not because I fear the Republicans will underperform the polls and forecasts but because I think they very well may outperform them, if only modestly.
I do not much expect that the quickly fading memory of the events of January 6 and thereabouts will be a large factor in this election, nor that abortion or many of the other issues that are big on Twitter but relatively small in the real world will matter much. With real wages still falling and gasoline prices ticking back up, this is going to be a single-issue election. I don’t think that’s how things should be, but I think that’s how things are.
I remain comfortable as a party of one, and I do not think that the GOP can really move forward in a meaningful way as a political organization until it has had a reckoning with the attempted coup d’état staged by Donald Trump and his allies in the Republican Party, the conservative movement, and right-wing media. This isn’t only a question of moral considerations but also one of practical political considerations: In its current thralldom, the Republican Party has shown essentially itself unable to act in any way other than a performative and symbolic one. Power isn’t power if you can’t use it, and Republicans have shown themselves scarcely able to do so. The biggest political development of the past decade—the intellectual reform of the Supreme Court typified by the Dobbs decision—was mostly the work of non-party actors from Reagan-era institutions, most prominently the Federalist Society. And there was a critical assist from Mr. Establishment himself, Mitch McConnell, who still knows how to use power. Marjorie Taylor Greene is very good at drawing attention to herself, and her media allies are very good at selling terrified oldsters lucrative fear-based products, but she wouldn’t know what to do with power if she had any. And, blessed be, she doesn’t.
But the Republicans we can expect to be setting the agenda in Washington will be more Marjorie Taylor Greene’s type, aspiring Fox News pundits and social-media celebrities, rather than wily parliamentarians and legislators. And so the GOP will remain tangled up in the web of rapacity and perverse incentives that produced the coup attempt and the many idiotic justifications of it that remain a staple of right-wing media today.