We’ve been beaten. Some time ago the GOP made a decision to opt out of the American project of forging compromise and consent and decided instead to seize power. They played to win, and the only cost was America itself. Too dramatic? Let's go over it.
You could go back further than this. There’s been a strain of self-destruction in our politics all along — and not every data point comes from the other side (though most do). But it all seemed to coalesce into its worst incarnation with the ending of the fairness doctrine and the rise of talk radio.
By the time Bill Clinton came along it was in full bloom. I'll never forget seeing Limbaugh on tv the day Clinton was inaugurated. He had a graphic on the screen that said, “America Held Hostage: Day One.” Then they went to commercial, selling Clinton watches in which the hands went backwards. I'd seen Watergate. I'd seen Willie Horton. But I’d never seen the kind of naked partisanship that treated a new President as a foreign interloper before.
From there I watched as things got worse. I would read about Newt Gingrich’s GOPAC sending out charts training GOP surrogates to use words like “sick” and “decay” when talking about liberals. I saw the Clinton's accused of murders and dragged through a criminal fishing expedition that led to an impeachment trial for personal failings that many of his accusers also shared.
Things got worse from there. We endured the election of 2000, and even though most of us felt burned by the Supreme Court’s decision (and perhaps flirted with some “not my President” sentiment in the immediate, angry days that followed), we did unify behind President Bush after 9/11. That turned later, as he manipulated his way into an unjust war in Iraq — but still, he found partnership across the aisle throughout his Presidency (perhaps too much so).
Then came Obama. Never before in modern history had a President been more openly desirous of working across the aisle. But clearly the GOP saw the potential for a Democratic President with coattails — so they hatched a plan to destroy him by sabotaging the country throughout his term. It was a kind of chemotherapy...kill just enough of the body to kill his Presdency and hope the rest survives. That they undertook this plan just as our nation was on the brink of financial collapse was truly monstrous.
It didn't stop there. They forced a downgrade in our nation’s credit for partisan gain. They sabotaged healthcare reform that would benefit their own constituents. The masterstroke was denying the President the right to fill a Supreme Court seat, thus giving themselves a chance to steal it — and giving themselves a wedge to keep evangelical voters in their tent despite nominating a candidate they’d normally find loathesome.
All of the above is history you know, but I repeat it to point out that it has worked. The one failsafe that could have (and should have) stopped the GOP from going so far was that the public should have made them pay. That is the mechanism that has always kept demagoguery in check. Instead...they’ve been rewarded by voters at every turn. The press has assisted by democratizing the blame for where we are with a false “both sides do it” narrative —so why should Republicans ever participate in governance again? And here’s the really sick part: At this point, people are correct to vote for the GOP, because a vote for the Democrats is a vote to be hobbled by intransigent GOP resistance. Indeed, a vote for the GOP is a vote for your hostage-taker...but one whose opposition would never hurt innocent people just to make a power play. Essentially they’ve forced the country to choose them. Choose us or we burn the country down. That the despicable contract on America they’ve forged.
So that’s where we are. Game. Set. Match. America can't function as America anymore. And what is the road back? There is none.
United States of America
1776 - 2016