I touched on this the other day, The plot for post-election Tea-Publican tyranny, but Paul Waldman of the Washington Post adds new insights into the plot for post-election Tea-Publican tyranny. Republicans are now vowing Total War. And the consequences could be immense.
The election is just five days away, and something truly frightening is happening, something with far-reaching implications for the immediate future of American politics. Republicans, led by Donald Trump but by no means limited to him, are engaging in kind of termite-level assault on American democracy, one that looks on the surface as though it’s just aimed at Hillary Clinton, but in fact is undermining our entire system.
I know, my conservative friends will say that this kind of talk is just fear-mongering and exaggeration. But there is something deeply troubling happening right now, and it goes beyond the ordinary trading of blows in a campaign season. Consider these recent developments:
- There appears to be a war going on inside the FBI, and from what we can tell, a group of rogue agents, mostly in New York, may be in such a fervor to destroy Hillary Clinton that they may be aggressively leaking damaging innuendo to the press against her in the waning days of the campaign. They succeeded in their apparent goal of making FBI director James Comey a tool of their campaign — and the basis for their investigation is an anti-Clinton book written under the auspices of [Breitbart: Why an anti-Clinton book from Breitbart got the FBI’s attention] of which the CEO of the Trump campaign is co-founder and chairman. Pro-Trump FBI agents now seem to be coordinating with Trump surrogates to do maximal possible damage to Clinton.
- Republicans continue to cheer the fact that the electronic systems of American political groups were illegally hacked, and then private communications were selectively released in order to do damage to one side in this election. The Republican nominee has explicitly asked a hostile foreign power to hack into his opponent’s electronic systems.
- High-ranking Republican officeholders are now suggesting that they may impeach Clinton as soon as she takes office. These are not just backbench nutbars of the Louie Gohmert variety, but people with genuine power, including Ron Johnson, the senator from Wisconsin, Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and veteran legislators like James Sensenbrenner and Peter King. The message is being echoed by top Trump surrogates like Rudy Giuliani.
- There is a growing movement among Republicans in the Senate to simply refuse to approve any nominee appointed by a Democratic president to the Supreme Court, leaving open any and all vacancies until a Republican can be elected to fill them.
- State and local Republican officials are engaged in widespread and systematic efforts to suppress the votes of African-Americans and other groups likely to vote disproportionately Democratic; in many cases officials have been ordered by courts to stop their suppression efforts and they have simply ignored the court orders.
- Republican elected officials increasingly feel emboldened to openly suggest violence against Clinton should she be elected.
It is important to understand that is not normal. This is not just bare-knuckle politics. Something extraordinary is happening.
Let’s take the FBI case as just one example. You have a situation where a group of FBI agents is in direct conflict with prosecutors who believe the agents have a weak case in their attempt to find evidence of corruption that can be used against Clinton. The agents, in an atrocious violation of FBI policy against injecting the Bureau into an election, begin leaking dark innuendo to reporters. That convinces the FBI director that he has no choice but to go public with the fact that the Bureau is looking at some emails that might or might not have something to do with Clinton, though no one has actually read them. That news lands like a bombshell, despite its complete lack of substance.
And then it turns out that these agents are basing their investigation on a book called “Clinton Cash” by Peter Schweizer. Schweizer is the president of the Government Accountability Institute, an organization co-founded and chaired by Steve Bannon. Who is the CEO of the Trump campaign.
While the “imagine if the other side was doing this” argument can sometimes sound trite, in this case it’s more than apt. Imagine if a group of FBI agents were leaking damaging information on Donald Trump in violation of longstanding departmental policy, and it turned out that they were basing their innuendo on a book published by the Center for American Progress, which Clinton campaign chair John Podesta founded and used to run. Republicans would be crying bloody murder, and I’m pretty sure the entire news media would be backing them up every step of the way.
It’s not that this kind of thing is completely unprecedented. When Bill Clinton was impeached, people talked about “the criminalization of politics” — the idea that Republicans were trying to use the levers of the justice system as a means to prevail in what should be just ordinary political competition.
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But as he has in so many ways, Donald Trump takes every ugly impulse Republicans have and turns it up to 11, and just about the entire party follows him down. So now they are making it very clear that from literally the day Hillary Clinton is inaugurated, they will wage total war on her. There will be no rule or norm or standard of decency they won’t flout if it gets them a step closer to destroying her, no matter what the collateral damage.
It’s important to understand that strong institutions are what separate strong democracies from weak ones. In a strong democracy, one party can’t come into power and just lock up its opponents. It can’t turn the country’s law enforcement agencies into a partisan tool to destroy the other party. It can’t say that the courts will function only at its pleasure. We have the world’s most stable system not just because there aren’t tanks in the streets on election day, but because we have institutions that are strong enough to restrain the venality of individual men and women. And now, Republicans are not even pretending that those institutions should be impartial and transcend partisanship. They’re saying, if we can use them to destroy our opponents, we will. Something is seriously breaking down.
And please, spare me any explanations for this phenomenon that rely on how “divided” Americans are. Are we divided? Sure. But there’s only one party that is so vigorously undermining core democratic institutions in this way. You may not like what Democrats stand for, but they aren’t engaging in widespread official vote suppression, chanting that should their candidate win her opponent should be tossed in jail, promising to prevent any Republican president from filling vacancies on the Supreme Court, suggesting that they’ll try to impeach their opponent as soon as he takes office, cheering when a hostile foreign power hacks into American electronic systems, and trying to use the FBI to win the election.
Only one party is doing all of that. And we should all be very worried about what Republicans will do after November 8, whether they win or lose.
The Beltway high priests of political centrism, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, warned Americans about this in April of 2012: Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.
We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.
The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.
When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.
This passage framed a core part of Mann and Ornstein’s argument of their 2012 book, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.”
“Fast forward to 2016. Incredibly, Republican destructiveness is even worse than it was four years ago — and the party is paying for it with a surge of anti-establishment populism that is tearing apart its coalitional base.” Republicans created dysfunction. Now they’re paying for it.
It is the radicalization of the Republican party — not just in terms of ideology but also in an utter rejection of the norms and civic culture underlying our constitutional system — that has been the most significant and consequential change in American politics in recent decades.
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The Trump disaster, especially if it leads to a Democratic sweep of the 2016 elections, may provide the basis for a major rethinking and realignment of a deeply dysfunctional Republican Party.
Then again, it may not.
The impeachment process is for wrongdoing committed while in office. They can’t impeach President Hillary Clinton on “day one”.
To “impeach” means to charge with a crime, on day one, what crime will she have committed while in office?
The modern Republican party continues to promise their base things they can’t deliver, because they speak before they think.
And their base will be even angrier than usual a year from now when they realize they were sold yet another handful of magic beans.
That is a very astute observation, Not Tom. The GOP won’t be able to start impeachment on Day 1, but I don’t think many conservatives took him literally. I certainly didn’t. But he did make it clear that the GOP is on watch to impeach.
You see, one of the things you can count on is that when Hillary is elected – and she will be – she is not going to change. Criminality is how she and Bill do business and she will, eventually, commit “high crimes and misdemeanors” that the GOP can use to impeach her. She won’t be removed from office…that is too much to hope for…but I think she is going to screw up and give the GOP all the ammunition they need. Both Bill and Hillary’s first instinct in any situation is to lie. Even if it is not necessary, they have been doing all their adult lives and I don’t think they can stop themselves. Anyway, a lie brought Bill down and it is likely the same will happen to Hillary.
I believe you will be disappointed if these prediction don’t come to fruition, AzBM.
But let’s say are you are correct. Then it would mean there are significant numbers of Americans that are deeply unhappy and politicians (of both parties) play on that discontent. Republicans provoke some Americans who feel America is not what it should be and democrats are dragging it further the wrong way. democrats goad some Americans into fear that the new America they want is threatened by Republicans who oppose the new vision. Both Trump and Clinton are guilty of using fiery rhetoric to stoke the resentment and hate against the other side with virtually every speach they give. Republicans have beat up a few protestors at Trump rallys, but democrats have turned out in large, usually violent leaning, crowds to protest at every Trump rally. If you are correct, then perhaps this election will become known as the “trigger point” for some sort of revolution. I doubt it seriously.
Here is a thought for you: Perhaps it is time for some serious change. When I was growing up, I noticed a phenomenon that has now reaped its fruit. There was a sharp divide between right and left in the 1960’s. That divide grew in the 1970’s, and as young Baby Boomers of that generation grew up, I noticed large numbers of leftists went into the Government, while most from the right went into the military and business. Today, huge numbers of people people working for the Government are leftists (minus the military). The result is HUGE numbers of regulations to control the individual down to the “everyman” level with even more regulations being produced each year to excercize more control, a stripping of the adherence to the Constitution (it is now considered a “living” document, which means it has no real meaning other than the whim of the day), a level of control that reaches into every facet of peoples existence, a stripping out of any shared morality in daily life, a pre-eminence of the Courts (with usually liberal democrat prenouncements) above all other branches of Government, and a thousand other inroads into the daily lives of people.
If the Government no longer responds to the needs of a large percentage of it’s citizens, what do you do? The Founders gave us a template that would work, and it did work for the first 200 or so years, but is it working now? We are choosing between Trump and Hillary…what if they DO accurately represent America today? Two criminals backed by two widely divergent groups of citizens. Perhaps the old saying is right and we DO get the government we DESERVE.
We live in interesting times.
The Republicans control the House, they control something like two-thirds of the state Houses. They have a not inconsiderable chance of holding the Senate.
How, precisely are the losing this war? Just why is unending obstruction hurting them?
It’s hurting Americans, but so long as they can convince at least half of the voters that it’s the Dems/Liberals/Blacks/Illegals/Gays/etc fault that their lives are shitty, they’ll keep winning.