The GOP’s New Heroes Are All Killers, Kooks, and Creeps
The party has shed the last of its old skin, and what’s emerged is hideous to behold.
Instead, we are witnessing the end of a long molting process as the GOP slithers into its final form: a counter-majoritarian, fascist entity.
Republicans are shedding their masks and hoods, spitting out their dog whistles and outright embracing the Big Lie and the violent insurrectionists, conspiracy theorists, and racists who make up the party’s base and, increasingly, its representatives in Congress.
The foolish hope that Donald Trump was merely an outlier, a freakish aberration whose eventual exit would allow “adults” like Mitch McConnell to go back to their belligerent obstructionism, court packing, and shameless cravenness to corporate America and the 1 percent— you know, “business as usual,” as if any of that was normal or healthy — is gone.
During a House Oversight Committee this week, Rep. Andrew Clyde tried to gaslight America by declaring there was no riot and that the violent insurrection actually resembled a “normal tourist visit.” I would hate to vacation with Rep. Clyde and his family. The majority of Republicans believe that the 2020 election was rigged in favor of Biden.
Trump was not a cancerous growth but the end product of the party’s decades-long molting process. He’s the beating heart. He’s Republicans’ orange avatar, their unrestrained id, their boiling, festering rage that quenches its appetites while securing power and wealth by any means necessary. Democracy, rule of law, equality, fairness, voting rights are all unnecessary and cumbersome obstacles that must be either removed or weakened to achieve the ultimate goal: power for an overwhelmingly white, Christian conservative minority.
Just because Trump is golfing in Mar-a-Lago instead of rage-tweeting from the White House, doesn’t mean the threat has been removed. His tactics and tantrums have merely been picked up and copied by Republicans desperate to ride the same strategy to power in 2022 and 2024, perhaps with less sensationalism and fanfare.
Those who still want to pretend that there is a war for the “soul” of the Republican Party will point to 100 Republicans, including Miles Taylor, Trump’s former Homeland Security official, who are threatening to leave the GOP and create a new party. Taylor said, “The civil war within the GOP is not ending. Today, it is just beginning.”
Someone should tell Rep. Liz Cheney, now removed from Republican leadership for voting to impeach Trump and condemning the violent Jan. 6 insurrection that left five dead. Rep. Madison Cawthorne, reflecting the civility of his party and its cult-like fealty to Trump, tweeted, “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye Liz Cheney.”
You know who hasn’t been punished or admonished yet? Rep. Paul Gosar, who gave a keynote at a white supremacist conference, tweeted out a white supremacist slogan, pals around with violent militias and racists, and just this week gave a full-throated defense of the violent insurrectionists he says are “peaceful patriots.”
All but one of Cheney’s Republican colleagues cleared the House when she gave her defiant speech against Trump this week, a day before she was stripped of her leadership role. Over half the GOP House gave a standing ovation and applause to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene when she gave a speech before Democrats stripped her of her committee assignments. Greene actively endorsed the violent insurrection, promotes the QAnon conspiracy—which is a domestic terror threat according to the FBI—supports the white supremacist “replacement theory,” and is an antisemite who believes Jews control space lasers.
She’s currently on a “America First” revival tour with Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican in good standing even as his associate is facing a 33-count indictment that includes sex-trafficking a minor.
You can tell a lot about people from their heroes. Students for Trump founder John Lambert was just sentenced to 13 months for posing as a lawyer, by a judge who called him a “cold-blooded fraudster.” At least he isn’t a killer—one of Trump’s favorite terms of praise, incidentally— like Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year old who illegally carried a firearm to a Black Lives Matter protest in another state and fatally shot two unarmed people. The McCloskeys, who illegally brandished firearms at a peaceful BLM protest in front of their house, were given prime real estate at the 2020 RNC to warn about the dangers of Black and brown people “invading” the suburbs. War criminal Eddie Gallagher, who was pardoned by Trump, now openly admits “we killed that guy,” and alleges his fellow Navy SEALS intended for his 12-year-old unarmed detainee to die, and that “nobody at that time had a problem with it.” There’s no protest, shock, disgust or condemnation from the GOP and right-wing media. They love it, because this is who they are.
This process is nothing new. It began with white colonizers coming to this country and claiming it as their own, annihilating indigenous people, enslaving Black Americans, and spending the next four hundred years promoting the big lie echoed by Rick Santorum that, “We came here and created a blank slate.” That was the larvae stage.
It gestated and refined its anti-democratic barbarism through segregation and Jim Crow. Eventually, it had to grudgingly evolve in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement, replacing the egregious racism and criminality with the “Southern Strategy” to win over disaffected white Democrats and Southerners. This was the pupa stage and lasted until 2016. Several beautiful examples of this animal included Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and even John Boehner, who is currently gaslighting us in his memoir, pretending as if he didn’t actively enable, support, and encourage the radicalization of the right. Other examples include conservative intellectuals like George Will and Bill Kristol, who are now mocked, ridiculed and shunned by the modern MAGA GOP as RINOS, or Republicans in Name Only. Even former Republican presidential candidates cannot escape the purge. John McCain and Mitt Romney, who mostly voted with Trump’s agenda but decided Russia interfering in our elections and a president abusing his power to tamper with our democracy was a bridge too far, are now shunned and loathed by the party faithful for their brief, small acts of courage and patriotism.
That Republican Party they belonged to is dead. It’s over. Gone.
The final molting stage is almost complete. The adult will emerge. An increasingly radicalized, weaponized, and fascist entity that is actively hostile to the majority and our democracy.
It will openly support violent insurrections, lies, conspiracy theories, authoritarians, and racists. It will attack democracy, voting rights, the rule of law, our allies and the truth.
It is no longer a political party, though if you engage in a harmful “both sides” false equivalence and squint like the Sunday morning political shows do, you can pretend it is. They merely look the part, because they’re barely wearing the old skin, which they are about to shed.
Long live the new flesh.