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Sunday, July 22, 2018


Late to his own party

by Tom Sullivan

Donald Trump will devour the Republican Party from within, warned David Frum. In an excerpt from "Trumpocracy" published in The Atlantic in January, the former George W. Bush speechwriter cautioned (emphasis mine):

Maybe you do not much care about the future of the Republican Party. You should. Conservatives will always be with us. If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy. The stability of American society depends on conservatives’ ability to find a way forward from the Trump dead end, toward a conservatism that cannot only win elections but also govern responsibly, a conservatism that is culturally modern, economically inclusive, and environmentally responsible, that upholds markets at home and U.S. leadership internationally.
In short, Frum hopes Republicans will outgrow Trumpism and into everything Trump and his followers are working to smash with a mallet. Will reject democracy?

The Frum quote resurfaced a few days ago, in a week one a radio pundit called the longest month in memory. For those who spent it on a beach somewhere, the sitting president of the United States met Monday in Helsinki behind closed doors with Russian president Vladimir Putin, the former KGB officer. No record of their conversation exists (except perhaps at the headquarters of Russian intelligence). Their press conference two hours later left jaws hitting chests across the planet. Donald J. Trump all but made public obeisance before Putin, siding with him in the conclusion that Russia had not hacked U.S. computers and run influence operations during the U.S. 2016 presidential campaign. The rest of the week, including Trump's follow-up non-walk-back of his slap at the U.S. intelligence community, went about as well.

One cannot help but think Frum is late to his own party. Democracy is like the red, white, and blue bunting it hangs at campaign events and conventions — a political decoration but not a declaration of deeply held principle.

McCay Coppins, also from The Atlantic, conducted a thought experiment on Twitter. He asked if there would be blowback if Trump supporters approved Russia helping Trump defeat Hillary Clinton:
The question was rhetorical. The answers that began trickling in were not.

“No,” said Cassandra Fairbanks, a writer at the right-wing news and conspiracy website Gateway Pundit (and a former Sputnik employee). “I mean, I would be cool with it. Im already there. If russia was involved we should thank them.”

“No,” responded another self-identified Trump voter. “Hillary is a greater threat to our Republic.”
There were more, of course. Frum's party is deeply committed to law and order so long as it is used to keep the lessers in their place. Otherwise, law and order and democracy are as disposable as "cold shoulder" tops will be next summer.

During a 2012 recount hearing here, the votes of students at a local college determined the outcome of a county commission race. T-party members argued at a hearing that votes of students legally registered at the school should not count. Symm v. United States did not matter. North Carolina statute did not matter. (The Board of Elections chair quoted it to them.) The T-party alleged voter fraud (naturally) and argued, essentially, that the law should be what what they wanted it to be. During the hearing, one GOP supporter turned around to flash a hand-written sign at a student spokesperson standing near me, “You are a law breaker.”

As we have seen modeled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, by GOP-led legislatures across the country, and by Trump himself, Frum's party has long rejected the norms and practices of democracy except as pageant. They don't want to govern. They want to rule. Laws exist to be enforced "strongly" ... against others.

Jeff Sharlet (The Family) commented on the arrest this week of Marina Butina, the 29-year-old Russian operative, who had become a minor celebrity with the National Rifle Association. We had known the Russians had been using the NRA as a backdoor into U.S. politics, but Butina also involved herself in the National Prayer Breakfast.

Organized by "a private and deeply secretive Christian organization called the Fellowship," the breakfast is the only public display of a group with a historic affinity to strongmen, writes Sharlet. The group believes in bringing key men to power as a means of shaping society for Jesus:
It’s not just the means that are antidemocratic. God, the Fellowship believes, can be understood through a study of strongmen. “You know Jesus said, ‘You got to put Him before mother-father-brother-sister’?” the late Doug Coe was fond of preaching. “Hitler, Lenin, Mao, that’s what they taught the kids.”


Putin would be a prize of another order. American fundamentalists admire his anti-LGBTQ crusades, his revival of the Russian Orthodox Church, his “family values” lip service, his bare-chested manliness. The GOP, observed Butina in The National Interest, a conservative foreign-policy publication, “derives much of its support from social conservatives … and those that support an aggressive approach to the war against Islamic terrorism. These are values espoused by [Putin’s] United Russia.”
Thus, American evangelicals' embrace of Trump, the walking antithesis of their public faith. They embrace Putin as well, seen "as an ally in a global clash of civilizations between Christianity and Islam."

American as "a government of laws, not of men," principles of plurality and democracy be damned.

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For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.