By Sid Schwab / Herald columnist
Last week’s column began with a quote from an actual conservative. Here’s another, from Michael Gerson, former adviser to George the Second: “The GOP is increasingly defined not by its shared beliefs, but by its shared delusions. To be a loyal Republican, one must be either a sucker or a liar. And because this defining falsehood is so obviously and laughably false, we can safely assume that most Republican leaders who embrace it fall into the second category. Knowingly repeating a lie … is now the evidence of Republican fidelity.”
He’s referring, of course, to the perpetuated prevarication that, but for rampant fraud, Trump won the election. “Laughably false,” indeed. Yet believing or pushing it is now the standard by which Republican politicians are judged. Leave the lie, live lurched and languishing like Liz. In the United States of America, exceptional exemplar of democracy and integrity, it’s inexplicable. So let’s try.
Republicans’ descent began long before Trump; otherwise, he’d have been laughed out of contention. Now they’re desperate to maintain the delusion. Why? The pandemic. It’s revealing truths about current conservatism so indisputable that the only available responses are lies and attacks on democracy. As in Arizona (NBC News: tinyurl.com/crazy4AZ) (Esquire: tinyurl.com/DOJonIT)
The pandemic has floodlit the falsehood of fundamental post-Reagan dogma; namely, that government is the problem. True enough, about bad government, of which we’ve seen plenty. And now we’re seeing the good kind. In differing responses to the pandemic, that truth is writ larger than Trump’s name on a bankrupt building. A wholly owned subsidiary of multi-sued Trump, Inc., today’s Republican Party is doing its best to obscure the writing. In that, they’ve had a head start for decades. But it’s been a struggle to rationalize more than half a million deaths and the incompetence, dishonesty, and contumacious denial that caused them.
Yes, the ground-breaking mRNA coronavirus vaccines, for which federally financed research and development began years earlier, became available during Trump’s “presidency.” We acknowledge his big-government spending on final production, which any president would have ordered. But then he stopped. Because of absent planning, misinformation and what’s been described by taskforce participants as Trump’s disinterest, distribution lagged, while he deliberately sabotaged other efforts to stop the spread. When leadership in (mild) sacrifice was called for, he provided the opposite. Someday, psychiatrists might explain why.
But it supports the hypothesis: Without government, the vaccines might never have been created; and had there been better government, distribution would have been wider and faster. For that, it took President Biden. Had Trump not spent months lying about or ignoring the virus, had he not hired sycophants and liars, had he not ridiculed protective measures, experts say, half the deaths wouldn’t have occurred. The contrast couldn’t be greater, the lesson more easily learned.
For Republicans, the consequences are monumental. When people were hurting, the economy in ruins, systems overwhelmed, Trumpublicans did next to nothing. Worse than nothing, after Biden took office, as they voted, unanimously, against his measures to restore the economy and help the desperate; laying down an unmistakable marker. (Unbelievably, as benefits arrive, they’re touting them, implying they deserve credit.) People needed good government, and are grateful for it. The pandemic brought recognition of current, effective leadership, and of its previous lack. Bad news for those voting “no.”
Or so you’d think. Never hesitant to dissemble, Republicans answered President Biden’s speech to Congress with plenty of it. A tale of two ditties, the best of words, the worst of words. What our president proposed were policies any functioning, democratic society should expect from a government of, by, and for its people. As he spoke of addressing child poverty, Republicans sat, stony. When he spoke of internal threats to democracy, of the value of government, tax fairness, education, health care, Ted Cruz nodded off. Seventy percent of listeners, however, liked what they heard. Republicans represent the 30 percent.
Knowing the implications, their response warned of “socialism” and government takeovers. Understanding the threat to their rich-people-first agenda, they’re committed to blocking any progressive (i.e. helpful, popular) legislation “100 percent,” as Mitch McConnell just said. Lacking attractive alternatives, they’ll prevent as many Democratic voters as possible from voting, while ensuring their voters will distrust any lost elections. (tinyurl.com/nowFLA2)
The preceding thoughts are fact-based. Now for speculation: Perhaps what’s behind Republicans’ pathological push to forestall mask-wearing and vaccine-taking, now said to have made herd immunity unlikely, is discrediting President Biden’s people-positive leadership, which Republicans haven’t provided for decades; and, mainly, keeping his example of competence from taking hold among voters, even if it kills them. Far-fetched? In today’s GOP-Q, we’re already seeing destructive anti-democracy treachery in abundance.
Email Sid Schwab at email@example.com.