This week, the Republican National Committee voted overwhelmingly to censure two members of its own party. Their crime? Cooperating with the House Select Committee on January 6.
To underscore the reason for the party’s disfavor, chair Ronna McDaniel helpfully spelled it out. The select committee was, according to the censure resolution, involved in the “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.” That discourse being smashing through windows, stealing computers, assaulting police, smearing walls and desks with sh#t, and prowling around with handcuffs hoping to do a little kidnapping and murder. Real First Amendment stuff.
McDaniel later amended the censure proposal—after the vote—to include the objection that the January 6 select committee wasn’t sticking strictly to January 6. Which is right on. Just like how the 9/11 Commission wasn’t allowed to look at any of the planning, funding, and training that came before those planes took flight.
It’s easy to mistake this for more evidence that the Republican Party exists only in service to Donald Trump, but there’s more than that. Not a lot more, but more. The Republican Party has a deeper purpose than doing whatever Trump wants at the moment. And it’s one that was perfectly articulated 74 years ago.
This censure resolution didn’t happen in a vacuum. It came in a week that began with Donald Trump declaring openly that, should he be returned to power, everyone who engaged in crimes on January 6 could look forward to a pardon. Not only that, Trump put a double underscore beneath the fact that his plot to halt the counting of electoral votes meant “overturning the election.”
All that was firmly part of the unwritten text of the censure resolution. This wasn’t so much about the people waving flags on January 6, it was about the name on those flags. It was about the Republican Party placing support for Donald Trump infinitely ahead of concepts like “the Constitution” or “law and order.”
None of which comes as a real surprise, This is, after all, a party that went into the 2020 elections with literally no party platform. It’s a party coasting along on some past claims without a single plan to do anything other than whatever mischief arises in the moment. It’s a party where belonging means supporting Donald Trump, but that doesn’t mean it’s just about Trump.
There have been moments where the party that Trump helped to redefine started to get away from him. Such as when Trump was booed for supporting the vaccines. There have been moments when the circenses threatened to run away from the man providing the primary source of panem.
That’s why this statement by a Trump supporter from Florida so perfectly defined what modern Republicanism is about:
“I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”
The Republicans didn’t bother passing a party platform going into 2020 because they didn’t need to. They had no formal positions. They needed no formal positions. Everyone in the party knew their real platform: Praise Trump, of course, but also hurt the people who need hurting.
And that's where they still are going into the 2022 elections. The unwritten Republican Party platform is just this: "Own the libs." Do whatever it takes to hurt the people they oppose, physically and emotionally, no matter how much damage—to the nation, or even to themselves—is created in the process.
Which is why these words from George Owell’s dystopian classic, 1984, are so perfect.
“Always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever. ”
For Republicans, that intoxication is there in forcing children to attend school without masks. The thrill of victory warms them as they stand next to a pile of burning books. Hurting the people who need to be hurt gives them a sensation of righteous joy even when they're spewing out invective against vaccines from their deathbeds.
It’s what makes the claims about Critical Race Theory a perfect Republican issue in 2022. Neither the executive orders passed in states like Florida and Texas, nor the legislative resolutions spreading across the country, have a single positive outcome. It’s an issue that’s only about causing pain to any group other than their own lily-white core. That it also makes public education nearly impossible is the delicious cherry on top of the sundae. It is all pain, no gain. Perfection.
The more clearly just a cause may be, the more pleasure can be derived from opposing it. See “voting rights.” Force those 12-year-olds to have babies they don’t want, then starve both mother and child of support? Oh, yes, please.
It’s also why the RNC, along with Republicans from local levels all the way up to Congress, have said things that embrace rather than scorn the assault on the Capitol that took place on January 6. It’s not just that they enjoy the distress and destruction caused on that day. It’s not merely the overt support for crushing democracy and installing Trump as president-for-life. It’s that they can squeeze fresh juice from that event by the reaction generated when they treat the insurgency as no big deal, or even a good thing. Like a serial killer fingering a trophy, they get off on an echo from the original thrill.
That’s what the GOP is really offering this fall — a chance to join in. Take up that cup. Sip from that power. Plant a boot on that face and feel the intoxication of trampling on the helpless. It’s an old, old vintage. Even the labels aren’t new. But the bottles now come in extra large.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos