Why Does The Republican Party Always Stand On The Wrong Side Of Everything?

Photos show violent clashes as Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol

Imagine rooting for a pathogen to win because more dead people — even if they’re you — equals “winning” though “winning what” isn’t exactly clear. Why does “owning the libs” mean so much to right wingers, conservatives and Trumpanistas? Why does it mean more than life itself? Is being a raging asshole really that satisfying or is sharing power democratically simply beyond the pale? Apparently that’s a yes to both. I can’t imagine myself walking in lock step with a bunch of other Jewish people while we all shout “White people will not replace us!” the way white supremacists did at Charlottesville shouting about how Jews would not replace them. Replace them? Doing what? Being them? What does that mean? How little do you think of yourself that abstract humans can step in and disappear you so easily? Who the hell even “thinks” like this?

Oh, right… Republicans, Trumpublicans, Trumpanistas and right wingers in general. They never seem to operate from a place of optimism or hope. They don’t view the future expectantly. Rather, they see the future as a place to fear: “beyond here there be dragons!” Those dragons are Black and brown people. Women with political power and the will to use it. LGBTQ people who are simply trying to find a little peace inside their heads, inside their body chemistry. And then there’s the biggest dragon of all: shared political power. That’s like water to the Wicked Witch Of The West. Sharing political power would melt conservatives. Well, it would melt their political power into virtually nothing because, here in America, that conservatism is driven by white hegemony.

What do Republicans — self-avowed “conservatives” — want to “conserve” if not white hegemony? Anything less would, eventually, lead to the very diversity conservatives fear. The conservative game plan therefore is to stretch out that “eventually” for as long a period as possible. If they can — by screwing democracy — turn that “eventually” into “never”? Well, why wouldn’t a conservative choose that — considering the alternative? I’m just saying — the conservative position here isn’t hard to see or hard to understand. If we put ourselves in their shoes and see the world through their terrified eyes, we’d get it. We’d get what they feel, why they feel and how they feel.

That doesn’t mean we’d agree with their feelings however. That’s the problem, ya see. Conservatives are running entirely off their feelings and never about facts. And the one feeling driving the whole crazy shit show is fear. Conservativism is the uber lizard brain on fire. All it can think of is “stop what’s happening by whatever means possible”. “What’s happening” is forward progress.

What’s happening is fairness. What’s happening is America finally starting to live up to its full potential. The white, Christian, land-and-human-owning men who wrote up America’s founding documents had a great idea. That doesn’t mean they executed that great idea correctly. They didn’t. For starters, they didn’t really mean “All men are created equal”, they only meant white, Christian, land-owning men just like them were “equal”. In “Jeopardy”, that would count as an incomplete answer. You lose. America nearly did because white, Christian, land-owning men are not what makes America exceptional. “E Pluribus Unum” makes America exceptional. Out of many, one. THAT is the engine for American greatness. Progressivism fuels that engine because progressivism recognizes that the more Americans participate in this, the greatest experiment ever in human self government, the better the experiment gets.

Conservatism believes the exact opposite to be true: that the less Americans participate, the better. What they mean is “the more that THEY are the ONLY Americans participating in American democracy, the better”.

Spoiler alert: that ain’t how democracy works. It’s how authoritarianism and facism work.

Why do Republicans all stand on the wrong side of history? Because history, in the end, is made up of human progress. As much as conservative white Americans want to believe that THEY are the entire point of democracy, they’re not. Democracy is the point of democracy and the more democracy, the better. We know from experience how skewed democracy (the Electoral College for example or the structure of the US Senate) skews elections away from the will of the majority and toward a willful minority. In fact, we’ve gotten to see all the myriad ways conservatives have built brakes into the system — not because they want to make democracy better but because they want to make democracy less efficient. Less democratic.

If Republicans could, they’d end the American experiment right here, right now. They have zero interest in being a democratic republic if that means they have no control over it; to them, having a hundred percent control is the only alternative to having less than a hundred percent. It’s all v nothing and they want all.

Those are the stakes. That’s why Republicans are willing to stand alongside a pathogen if the pathogen will help get them what they want: permanent minority rule. By the same token, Republicans are willing to stand alongside treason and traitors to get what they want. That’s what made Vladimir Putin’s bet on the GOP such a sure thing. He understood how craven and corrupt they all were. He understood how hook them all so deeply they’d do whatever he told them to. He understood that he could have them betray America in the open — without America really questioning them. Example: we need to know what promises the “Prostrate Eight” — Senators Richard Shelby (AL.), Steve Daines (MT), John Hoeven (ND), John Neely Kennedy (LA), Jerry Moran (KS.), John Thune (SD) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), plus Rep. Kay Granger (TX.) made over dinner in Moscow July 4, 2018. While the rest of America celebrated our independence from outside interference, what were these traitors promising their Russian masters between the ice cold vodka shots and the caviar?

The GOP isn’t just standing on the wrong side of history. They’re standing on the wrong side of justice. On the wrong side of patriotism. On the wrong side of human decency. On the wrong side of logic and even their own self-interest. On the wrong side of literally everything.

Republicans Love Grievance Kabuki

Selling good ideas that people want isn’t nearly has hard as selling terrible ideas that no one except a privileged few would want. The majority of Americans have zero interest in what the Republican Party wants to sell them because the majority of Americans don’t want to live in the distant past — somewhere around 1850 — in what Republicans and white supremacists think of as their “Golden Age”. Regardless of their current political label (the Democratic and Republican Parties have swapped names; modern Republicans are Dixiecrats while modern Democrats philosophically are the “Party of Lincoln”), Republicans no longer stand for anything except racism and naked power lust. The demographic annihilation they’ve feared since the Reagan years has begun. White people — already a minority in states like California — are fast becoming a minority all across America. And that makes Republicans nuts.

What exactly did all those Trumpists mean when, marching in lock step together, they chanted “Jews will not replace us!” in Charlottesville? What did those armed thugs have in mind as they stormed Michigan’s capitol in 2020? Why do all those anti-vaxxers lose their shit when asked even to mask up (never mind vaxx up)? What outcome did the January 6 insurrectionists aspire to? And is there any grievance bigger than someone who cheated vigorously to win an election but lost anyway and whose tender ego still can’t bear it?

Quick side note: Donald Trump’s Grievance Kabuki may be inspired more by fear of treason charges than having lost the election he needed to win in order to never get charged with treason. But, I digress…

Grievance Kabuki is a bizarre pearl that forms inside the racist’s brain. The irritating grain of sand that starts this perverse pearl is an abhorrence of “the other” — anyone that isn’t exactly like him. They don’t believe for two seconds that E Pluribus Unum. But they’re all into “originalism” which is really a schoolyard bully insisting the rules are whatever he says they are. They’re down with the tacit understanding that “All men are created equal” referred only to men and only to white, Christian, land-owning men. No one else was equal to the white man and anyone who says or acts differently is challenging this bullshit orthodoxy.

A big reason evangelicals and other religionistas embraced Grievance Kabuki is because they embrace Grievance Kabuki’s cynicism. Jesus preached “Do unto others” (a good, tight distillation of the foundational Judaic concept “Tikkun Olam” — the obligation of every Jew to make the world a better place because they live in it) which the Apostle Paul (Christianity’s actual founder) and the early church fathers twisted into “Do what we say, or else”. Original sin looms large in this worldview. Regardless of whether they believe an actual Eve ever existed, these fundamentalists think that all human evil flows from women (to them, the lustful, it starts with lust). The whole point of Jesus is 1) to zero out the original sin’s negatives and 2) to give all these forgiven Christians a chance to live forever — just like Jesus is doing. The trick is you have to believe in Christianity’s version of Jesus in the exact, dogmatic way they’re telling you to. And woe is to you if you dare contradict their version of the world!

Feelings over facts. That’s the music playing in the Grievance Kabuki artiste’s head as he awkwardly shifts this way and that, white people having no rhythm. They think louder equals “more right” when louder only equals more loud. And, of course, there’s always their “Second Amendment Conflict Resolution” approach to solving their problems (like people who disagree with them, Black people too successful for their liking or women getting to do with their bodies what they want): you pick up a semi-automatic and the glorious spray of gunfire makes all those problems go away. Or at least, bleed out where you can see them. They don’t want to share power with “others”. It’s the part of democracy they’ve always hated on the down low. It’s the reason they voter suppress and gerrymander. It’s the reason they can shrug off Vladimir Putin being the leader of a crime syndicate with a corrupt government at its disposal as their ally in altering election 2016’s actual outcome (we will get to the bottom of exactly how Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin went red by 78,000 votes combined). Whether it’s violence to deal with personal issues or the political violence of an actual coup d’etat, violence is very much a part of the Grievance Kabuki toolkit.

And, ya know who else loves Grievance Kabuki? Our news media. They eat it with a spoon. Being acolytes of “both sides do it” brand journalism, most American journalists insist that all points of view are equally valid — the good and the bad, the true and the untrue (it’s not for them — journalists — to judge). But it also asserts that all points of view (even if diametrically opposed to each other) are equally valid. Therefore Hitler’s authoritarianism is equal to the Allies democracy. To be fair, that does correctly assert that authoritarian Germans had a point of view. Its mistake is in also asserting that their point of view was as valid as any other. As a Jew, I have big problems with that.

Our news media may have been taken aback by Donald Trump’s Grievance Kabuki when he began his presidential campaign in 2016 by announcing that “Mexicans are rapists” and “pussy grabbing” is okie-dokie for rich guys like him, but they quickly jumped aboard Trump’s Grievance Kabuki tour bus when it started their “But Her Emails” act. Any other former president — having lost the White House, the House and the Senate — would have hurriedly faded into the woodwork to avoid being harangued by the press. But, Donald Trump needs to be in the White House because, according to that stupid Department of Justice rule that says you can’t indict a sitting president, being POTUS means Trump gets away with EVERYTHING. And that includes turning America from the greatest (semi-flawed) experiment in human self governance into the biggest shithole country in the world.

That, really, is the goal of Grievance Kabuki — an America that looks like 2021 but feels like 1850. I’ve some bad news for my Republican chums: aside from them and their bitches in the American news media — no one else is interested. We ain’t buying tickets to the show. And if the GOP thinks it can shove this show down America’s throat? They’re about to witness a whole other kind of “performance art” — one where America finally lives up to its “EVERYONE is equal before the law (and the law is applied equally”) potential. It’s called E Pluribus Unum. And it rocks.

How To Beat Tribalism? Be Even MORE “Tribal”

Humans are tribal by nature; it’s a survival instinct. Since reproduction is one of our key “primal directives”, our genome has built into it behaviors that give our personal DNA every chance to create a next version of “us”. After our own precious ass, our family’s ass comes next in the pecking order. Then our extended family. Or, for some people, their friend circle. The block they live on. Their neighborhood. The school district they live in. The PTAs at their kids’ schools. The social issues that matter to them. Their city. The football or basketball or soccer or baseball team they love — and every other fan of that team. If you think about it, we form tribes with anything and everything we can — because we’re social creatures and this is what social creatures do.

White supremacists are no more tribal than anyone else. They just seem that way because they put all their emphasis on being in a limited number of tribes rather than as many as possible. “Jews will not replace us” — the rallying cry and tribal grievance of the Charlottesville Fascists Club — represents a particularly odd bit of tribalism. The whole “replacement culture” thing is bizarre because it assumes that those with the grievance are “replaceable” to begin with. Replaceable how exactly? In their jobs? In their marriages? In their lives? Being replaceable by “others” to whom you are supposedly “superior” is a strange way to think of yourself and your tribe. If your tribe excelled at something then that fact would make your tribe irreplaceable. Why don’t these “white supremacists” excel at anything other than having grievances? Why do THEY think THEY are replaceable?

In a competitive job market — in a competitive, capitalistic system — one MUST compete in order to stay in the game. Every group arriving here (aside from white people) have accepted that fact and worked their asses off to achieve some degree of success (and they’ve had to do that in the face of relentless white resistance). In that sense, EVERYONE is “replaceable” if they don’t continue to contribute to the group’s effort or hold up their end of the social bargain. Ah, but that’s where white privilege asserts itself. White people have gotten it into their heads that, since white men got together and wrote the Constitution – and framed it entirely to their advantage (as the “men” who were created equal”) – that this is set in concrete. That’s the whole point of “originalism” — to falsely assert that the flawed thinking of a group of (French) enlightened racists and misogynists is America’s bottom line. The country can only be exactly how the framers framed it.

Bullshit. The men who imagined this democratic republic made it changeable. They understood that this bold idea would need plenty of room around it to expand. They seemed to grasp, on some level, the incompleteness of their ideation — that “all men” was a bigger tribe than just white men. Congress approved of “E pluribus unum” as America’s motto (they put it on our Great Seal) in 1782. Out of many, one.

Out of many tribes, ONE TRIBE.

White supremacists can’t abide that. They think their TRIBE is replaceable. That, right there, is the problem.

I’m not sure there is a solution to white supremacy. Centuries of thinking one way about themselves versus everyone else has convinced white Europeans that their whiteness makes them superior. No, white people, it does not. White people are a minority of people on earth. If not for the greater lethality of the pathogens that evolved inside white Europeans over a thousand or so years (versus the pathogens evolving inside other human groups scattered across the globe), perhaps even their guns and steel would have faltered when they went exploring. A big piece of white people even thinking they’re “superior” comes from the relative ease with which white Europeans seized the Americas. The European colonizers told themselves their Christian faith — their god Yahweh — made them superior. Again, NO! Smallpox, measles and influenza — introduced into the Americas by European explorers — wiped out 90% OF NATIVE AMERICANS. If not for fleas — which carried the bubonic plague from China to Europe, bubonic plague might not have wiped out half of Europe in the fourteenth century. If not for Europeans and THEIR bugs, Europeans would have faced far more resistance when they landed on these shores.

How do we defeat tribalism? We don’t deny it; we can’t. It’s just too hard-wired into us. Why do you think there are soccer riots? Instead, we go at it, full bore. We make everyone “hyper-tribal” but not in that they see their exclusivity as a tribe. Rather, like two people who love the same song, they forget all their other potential differences and begin with that thing they have in common. Building from there (something as simple as a song), I bet those two people will surprise themselves with all their commonalities. Yes — there are differences. But, now there’s context for the differences.

Those two people might come to blows all the same; they just don’t like each other. But once you start talking together about how and why a song touches you, you will unlock pieces of your soul (such as it is) to that other person.

It’s a lot harder to feel tribally defensive toward someone whose soul you understand.