The GOP fed the beast. Now the beast is turning on them

I have been posting a lot about the utterly chaotic search for a new speaker for the House of Representatives. This is not because that news story is so important that nothing else matters. Although the lack of a speaker and the resulting paralysis in government may well lead to a government shutdown on November 17, there are other important things going on in the world as well.

My fascination with this story is because I do not think that I have ever witnessed such a spectacular act of self-immolation by a major political party. Let us be perfectly clear. This is a completely self-inflicted party death. It was not caused by any external factors or forces. It was not caused by being routed at the polls. It was not caused by people rioting in the streets against it. What happened is as if some members of the party secretly decided to destroy the party from within and set the wheels in motion. I am not saying that that is what happened. But if it had, this is what it might have looked like.

I have to admit that I am feeling considerable schadenfreude at this implosion. The GOP has become a vehicle for hate and demonization of anyone who does not support serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) and all his lies and attacks on people. It has been waging war on marginalized groups and opposing anything that might seek to redress the legitimate grievances of anyone who does not belong to the ruling class. It has welcomed to its bosom white, right wing, xenophobic, misogynistic, transphobic, racists. Seeing it turn on itself provides a satisfying feeling akin to what one experiences in films where the bad guys, after riding high for a while, get their just deserts at the end. But that enjoyment is tinged with concern that it also shows that the state of democracy in the US is not healthy.

How did it get this way? That is going to be the topic of many, many political science dissertations but one thing is clear that it has its roots in the decision by the party leaders to abandon any commitment to norms of democratic discourse and use any strategy and tactics, however dishonest and vicious, if it provides a means of gaining power. And when the perpetrators of these poisonous methods found that they got plenty of attention from the right wing echo chamber, plenty of media coverage, and financial contributions from both ordinary people and wealthy zealots, there was nothing to hold them back from escalating the rhetoric and spiraling into a situation where anything goes. What does it say about a party that three of the most recognizable people in it are Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Lauren Boebert?

A political party needs some kind of glue to hold it together. It could be a broad ideology or specific policy goals or even a charismatic leader who has some kind of vision for what they want to achieve. The current GOP has no ideology or positive policy goals to unite around and its purported leader SSAT has no vision but only self-interest. The speaker debacle and the humiliation of Jim Jordan may not be the end result of that lack of cohesion (it could and likely will get a lot worse) but it is definitely symptomatic of deep dysfunction.

Soon after [Jordan] lost the party nomination in a secret ballot, putting Republicans back to square one. Critics saw it as the awful spectacle of a party – held together by the glue of grievance, “owning the libs” and a cult of personality – coming apart at the seams.

Kurt Bardella, a Democratic strategist, said: “We are seeing the inevitable outcome of years of neglect, years of lack of leadership, years of lack of courage culminate with what is a completely ungovernable and dysfunctional Republican party. The fact that there isn’t a single Republican right now who can get 217 votes is illustrative of deep schisms within the party and these deep wounds that there is no healing from.”

Bardella, a former spokesperson and senior adviser for Republicans on the House oversight committee, added: “Time and again the bad actors in the Republican party have been rewarded for their bad behavior. They get rewarded with television time. They get rewarded with raising millions of dollars in contributions.

“They get rewarded with plum committee assignments. Whether it’s Jordan or a Matt Gaetz or Marjorie Taylor Greene, who time and again we’re told represent the fringe of the party, they continue to be elevated and empowered by the leadership that’s in charge.”

The so-called ‘moderates’ or ‘respectable leaders of the party all share the blame for this. They were cowardly and complicit during the early days of this decline when they might have been able to tame the beast. But instead they fed it, hoping that the beast would be satisfied and leave them to run the party as they had done before. But the beast’s appetite is voracious and is no longer satisfied with what is being offered and is now turning on the very people who had enabled its growth.


  1. Bruce says

    The Republican Party is like this:
    ‘I never thought leopards would eat MY face,’ sobs woman who voted for the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party.

  2. lanir says

    It’s definitely the fault of democrats. Not just the politicians but democrats everywhere. If they were all republican they would vote in better republicans. It’s that simple.

    (sarcasm, in case that wasn’t clear)

  3. KG says

    My fascination with this story is because I do not think that I have ever witnessed such a spectacular act of self-immolation by a major political party.

    I think the UK Conservative Party runs it close, although it’s been much more drawn out. First electing “Boris” Johnson, well-known to be a corrupt, narcissistic liar. Admittedly, he won the 2019 general election, but arguably almost any other leader would have done so at that point. Then, when Johnson’s succession of scandals brought about his downfall, they elected the “libertarian” fruitcake Liz Truss, who proceeded to crash the economy within weeks. They are now some 20 points behind Labour in the opinion polls, and losing their safest seats in by-elections (generally brought about by additional scandals or tantrums).

  4. Matt G says

    I used to think of cults as containing hundreds to thousands of members, not tens of millions. The weapons-grade narcissism and naked bigotry of half the US population is shocking. The racism, the rejection of science, the blatant hypocrisy, and the celebration of dishonesty (among so many other things) -- it doesn’t bode well for the future.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    Almost 42 years ago Reagan was inaugurated into the white house after a campaign blaming the poor situation of southern whites on black welfare cheats.
    He would continue by ignoring the AIDS pandemic and stacking federal courts with right-wing judges.
    His election was the end of the “moderate” wing, the Rockefeller Republicans.
    If the Republicans wanted to be better than Reagan, they have had time to prove it. Instead, they keep getting worse.
    The Democrats are full of hypocrites and people who take money from rich interest groups, but the difference is one or two orders of magnitude milder.
    Maybe Quentin Tarantino should just invite all leading Republicans to a movie theater in Paris…

  6. garnetstar says

    KG @3, you’re right! The UK situation is pretty funny, too.

    And bigger @5, you’re right too. With Reagan, the republicans began to ignore governing and their only policy became greed, supporting more and more power to corporations. The whole downward slide of the US began then too.

    So, after these forty-some years, the republicans have to do something to stay in power. Since 1992, they’ve lost the popular vote in every presidential election except 2004. They can’t rely on votes anymore, they had to turn to slimy antics. Not a good strategy, should have formulated some policies to get the voters back! And so we see their ever-faster destruction.

    The problem with whipping up the base with hate and fear is that you need an end game to stop it when you want to. Of course, they never bothered to figure one out, and now they are the slaves of the hate and fear of the voters. They have to follow them, they can’t get out of it, and so self-destruction.

    Matt G @4, to be fair, I’ve read that it’s only about a third of the population who really believe in the bigotry, racism, etc. That’s not much better! And those who don’t buy the whole thing still vote for republicans out of tribalism.

  7. birgerjohansson says

    (I have waited for the downfall of these guys since Reagan, so forgive the rant)

    -Wait, Mano Singham is an academic, and thus a member of the ultra-rich “elite” (which Donald Trump is not) who despise Christian morality (unlike Republicans who would never date teenage girls or committ fraud).
    [Sarcasm, aimed at Fox News]

    And don’t get me started on how the
    (minority descended from the Levant) pays the libruls with caskets full of Krugerrand to undermine society.
    In fact, our noble GOP congressmen are the only thing standing between us and (long rant about blood libel).
    [sarc, aimed at Alex Jones et al]

    -Now that I think of it, ordinary sarcasm fails. Only the crudest jokes in South Park* -which I doubt physics professors watch- are adequate for the heritage this generation of Republicans have left us.
    *Like the part where Mel Gibson smeares his (CENSORED) all over the place. 😊

  8. seachange says

    ‘Cowardly and complicit’ is at odds with ‘small group’.

    There have always been folks who don’t agree 100% with the party they belong to. They usually get squished or marginalized. These guys didn’t. The Tea Party was proof-of-concept. Those who would speak out for morality and good governance were expelled from the party. We saw it happen.

    Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, oh gosh golly.

    There might be fear there such that the ‘large group’ does nothing. But also, they might not be such a ‘small group’. They may believe exactly what the ‘small group’ believes. They were never small-d democratic and just don’t want to say the quiet parts out quite that loud because democracy isn’t entirely dead yet.

  9. says

    @8 hyphenman,

    How does that old saying go… If a person claims things for which they have no evidence, we call them a crackpot or a crazy person; if 100 people make the same claims, we say they’re a cult; but if thousands claim likewise, we call them a religion and give them tax breaks.

    All of the commentary about the in-fighting and fracturing of the GOP may be true, but don’t think for a moment that it will prevent them from continuing to win elections. All they need is some effective gerrymandering (check); major media that will support them to the end (check); and a highly motivated base that will vote for them with very high turnout in spite of the fact that it will only hurt them in the long run, while the opposition turnout remains small (check); and you’ve got Repubs in office.

    I strongly suspect that one reason Repubs get into office is because the average person simply does not have the time to devote to digging up accurate info about the candidates (the destruction of local media is part of this). That, coupled with the constant drumbeat that “both sides are equally bad” from a variety of sources, and you get people who simply do not vote. Local elections often have turnouts under 50%, so even someone who wins with a landslide of 60/40 is getting less than one third of the eligible votes.

  10. Allison says

    The thing I worry about is that, in my (rather limited) view of history, when a democracy becomes ungovernable, the people turn to a strongman, e.g., Mussolini. This BTW is one factor in the popularity of Trump among Republican politicians.

    I think this is also a factor in the rise of fascism in the USA: as people become convinced that elected officials, e.g., congress, can’t steer the ship of state, they look for someone who will take over from them. They will prefer dictatorship and even oppression over chaos.

  11. birgerjohansson says

    hyphenman @ 8
    About religion with blatant hypocrisy…
    Yes, but they are dying in their core countries, Italy and Spain.
    This is what modernisation and higher standard of living leads to all over the world. USA is an outlier -- but I notice the most well-off states in the US are less religious.
    Anyway, the CC is hardly weird enough to attract the MAGA demographic.
    -As Latin America gets higher living standards, maybe Africa will be the final redoubt of the Catholic Church.
    (And for a look into West African religiosity, I recommend some of the ‘Nollywood’ films. Aimed at African Alex Jones fans? Who knows.
    -“God Awful Movies” have looked at several of the films so we don’t have to.
    For example, check “God Awful Movies 51” at Youtube)

  12. Holms says

    This is a completely self-inflicted party death.

    “Death” is premature, they’re still alive and kicking. Each other, but still.

  13. John Morales says

    The party is singular; there is only one.

    Its elected representatives are one component of it.

  14. John Morales says

    My fascination with this story is because I do not think that I have ever witnessed such a spectacular act of self-immolation by a major political party.

    There’s the party; there are its constituents, one of which is its elected members.

  15. Silentbob says

    @ ^

    Pretending not to understand a party is composed of members to have something to argue about.

  16. John Morales says

    Silentbob, fallacy of composition.
    As I noted. It’s not merely its members, it’s a whole thing.

    Pretending not to understand a party is composed of members

    “There’s the party; there are its constituents, one of which is its elected members.”

    Where you imagine this supposed pretence comes in is left unspecified, but I suppose you could change your habits and actually respond for once.
    I don’t expect that, of course. Yappy dogs yap and then run away.


    The ideas of a party are part (heh) of the party. So is its ethos.
    So are its processes. So is its perception by the great unwashed.
    So are its institutions, and its donors. Etc.

    Many, many things are part of the party.
    Point is, it’s not just the elected constituents.

    (A bunch of car parts is not a car, yet a car is constituted from a bunch of parts — and is fuel part of a car? Heh. Conceptualising is hard, for some)

    (So tedious)

    I always accept your implicit invitation to call your your bullshit claims and your obsessive behaviour, bobiferous. It is as tedious as you care to make it with your repetitive, pointless, bullshit objections.

    Already told you, if you don’t like my comments, don’t expose yourself to retorts over your jaundiced, foolish attempts to be objectionable.

    Or, carry on. No biggie, not like I can compel you to desist from your obsessive Morales binge.

  17. John Morales says

    This is a completely self-inflicted party death. It was not caused by any external factors or forces. It was not caused by being routed at the polls. It was not caused by people rioting in the streets against it.

    Hyperbole, of course.

    The party is not dead.

    That’s the whole point, it holds United States House of Representatives by virtue of the number of its elected members. It’s representatives of the people.

    Anyway, I perfectly understand the concept of political polemics and allusive allegories and so forth.

    But the reality is what it is, nonetheless.

    Not death.

    [dedicated to the bub]

  18. sonofrojblake says

    I do not think that I have ever witnessed such a spectacular act of self-immolation by a major political party

    I’m with KG @3 -- the UK Tories are running it close. Two by-elections last week deserve a little more detail:

    Tamworth had been held by the Tories since 2010. The by-election was triggered by the resignation of Christopher Pincher, the ironically-named queer sex-pest who was appointed to the office of Chief Whip by then-PM Alexander Johnson despite Johnson knowing about the multiple sexual assault accusations dogging him for over a decade -- an action that eventually caused Johnson’s removal from the post of PM. Pincher resigned when his appeal against his suspension from Parliament failed. In 2019, he had got 30,542 votes, against second-place Labour with less than 11,000. Last week The Conservatives got 10,403 and Labour got 11,719.

    Mid-Bedfordshire had been Tory since 1931, most recently by the ridiculous Nadine Dorries, who announced she was going to “resign with immediate effect” in a fit of pique at the beginning of June this year when she found out her elevation to the House of Lords had been blocked and “demanded” an explanation, but didn’t actually resign until late August. In 2019 Dorries got 38,692 votes, against a second place of 14,028. Last week the Conservatives polled just 12,680, while Labour got 13,872.

    We’re now long past the point where the Tories think they’ve any chance at the next election. They just recently had their annual conference. The highlight of that conference was the run-up to it, when the PM, Rishi Sunak, repeatedly refusing to talk about the rumoured cancellation of the northern section of HS2, the massive planned infrastructure project that was going to connect a High Speed rail link from London, through Birmingham, to Manchester, as part of the “levelling up” strategy to support the economy in the deprived north of the country. He was controlling the narrative, allowing him to triumphantly make the announcement at conference that yes -- the section of HS2 running to Manchester would indeed be cancelled. An announcement he made at the conference… in Manchester. In a building that is a former railway station. It’s hard to imagine how much worse it could have looked.

    They’re not even trying to look competent any more.

  19. birgerjohansson says

    Sonofrojblake @ 22
    Sunak is blissfully unaware of the finer points of PR, ensuring the next election will be a fun disaster to watch.
    Thatcher at least came up the long way, these entitled public-school persons are clueless when they don’t have assistents doing the thinking for them (BoJo and Liz Truss being the most extreme examples).
    -I don’t live in Britain, but I will stock up on popcorn and watch the election coverage in 2024 or whenever.
    The current batch of Republicans seem like a mixture of ordinary Ivy League opportunists and extreme vulgarians like Gaetz.
    It would be interesting to place Republicans and Tories next to each other and notice differences and similarities. My guess is, both groups lack curiosity and have a serious shortfall of empathy.

    But do not underestimate the power of groupthink; maybe a subset can be quite ‘normal’, just going with the flow and not bothering to think for themselves in their pursuit of prestige. Intellectual laziness can be as dangerous as outright malice.

  20. jenorafeuer says

    I’ve commented before that you can trace a lot of this back to Nixon. Both in the run-up to his presidency where the ‘Southern Strategy’ actively welcomed racists into the party, and in the aftermath where a lot of his rich supporters decided that the problem was the fact that the news accurately reported on Watergate and other scandals, and started building their own alternate news ecology starting with Conservative Talk Radio to ensure that supporters would never have to actually hear about the real problems ever again.

    Reagan accelerated it with his joining up with the ‘Religious Right’, which was mostly formed after Bob Jones University v. United States, and which used abortion as a fig-leaf over their real cause, racism. (Bob Jones University was having its federal funding pulled because of openly racist acceptance policies.)

    We’ve had three generations now of deliberate lies from the Republican elite as to what the actual problems were, two generations with explicitly religious overtones and making promises as to how to ‘fix’ the problems; problems which they never had any intentions of actually fixing because that would end up giving up the lever that they were using to get low-information voters riled up and going to the polls. So they blamed their opponents and ‘legal loopholes’ for stopping them from doing things.

    We’re now dealing with the people who were raised on the anger and lies their entire lives and believe them, and who are pissed off that the previous generations never ‘fixed’ the problems they were told were so serious. They don’t care about process, they’ve been told that the only thing stopping their vision of a ‘perfect’ society is the other side, and they’re treating it as a religious war against evil. The Tea Party was the first serious wave of people like this, angry people with no interest in running the country and no knowledge or care about how to actually do it, they just wanted their ideals in place even if it would destroy everything.

    The Republicans have been spending generations raising the beast on hatred and poison. The cancer has long since metastasized.

  21. sonofrojblake says

    @birgerjohannson, 24:

    I will stock up on popcorn and watch the election coverage in 2024 or whenever.

    It’s 2024 -- it has to be.

    I stayed up to watch the whole night’s coverage in 1997 -- it was glorious. I stayed up again in 2001 and it was a massive anti-climax and I haven’t bothered since.

    I’m going to be up all night next year though, for sure. Some Tories are already jumping ship for fear of being the next Michael Portillo -- not least the chancellor of the exchequer Jeremy HHHHHHHHHHHunt-you-have-to-be-so-careful, who is apparently going to stand down before he’s humiliated (too late Jezza).

  22. says

    FWIW my take is this: do a web search on ‘Steve Bannon Leninism’.

    Bannon’s goal has been to destroy the state. His influence on SSAT and other right wing radicals does not make the daily news but is a steady drip drip drip of organizing and relentless propaganda, funded by various right wing billionaires. I do not know if the Mercers are still funding Bannon’s efforts but they certainly gave him a major boost.

    If the past few years of GOP behavior seems senseless and counter-productive, I would argue it is only counter-productive for those of us who prefer to live in a reasonably organized society. Bannon and his fellow revolutionaries want to burn it all down and it is up to the rest of us to stop them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *