Dirge /derj/ noun: A lament for the dead; music accompanying a funeral rite
Whatever the outcome of this election, no matter what happens from right now unto the final breaking of the world, one thing is certain: The Republican Party is dead, and Donald Trump done did the killin’.
Oh, they will shamble about for a while like extras on The Walking Dead, of course. Trump has made it clear that he’s not going anywhere if he loses this election, and has been talking about running for president again in 2024 “to see media, Democrats, and RINO heads explode,” according to The Daily Beast.
The only good thing about that report is the fact that Trump is actually making plans for life after defeat, which means he accepts at least the possibility of losing, which makes it less likely the Capitol Police will have to drag him bodily out of the West Wing to the street on January 20 if he does, in fact, spit the bit tonight/tomorrow/whenever.
I mean, don’t get me wrong: I’d pay long green to actually see that happen, to watch his stubby fingers leave long grooves in the plush Oval Office carpeting as he howls in thwarted despair, but it would be a bad look for a country that has been mass-producing bad looks for far too long now. Still, it’s a pleasant visual. We take comfort in strange places these days.
There’s an old joke: What was the last thing that went through the bug’s mind when it hit the windshield? Answer: Its ass.
That’s the GOP: a smear of ass on the windshield of Trump’s limousine. Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy made a Faustian bargain with this gobbledygook president: judges. More than 200 right-wing federal judges, and three conservative Supreme Court Justices, all for the price of kneeling in undying silence before the permanent tantrum tornado that is and will ever be Trump’s hollow, spiteful, endlessly needy selfishness.
None can deny they got quite a bit for their investment. Those judges are going to be with us for decades, tilting a center-left country to the right with as many racist, homophobic, anti-choice, anti-voter, pro-polluter thumbs they can slap down on the scale. This is no small thing, and for Mitch and Kevin, getting that done perhaps seemed worth the plundering of whatever shreds of dignity each man had left.
In hindsight, one wonders if that dynamic duo really thought this through.
Mitch and Kevin probably believed they had a handle on Trump as late as January of 2018, after they got their grotesque tax cut passed, but they were as wrong as wrong can get. The monster they made left a Trump-shaped hole in the laboratory wall and went roaring into the night. Every day, day by day, his deportment, demeanor and despicable behavior tore a chunk of flesh from the body of the GOP. Every day the Republicans Trump was mauling by proxy chose to remain silent was another pint of blood on the floor.
The midterm election wipeout endured by the GOP in 2018 was a great big “STOP, GO BACK” sign for Republicans, but it was far too late by then. Inertia is physics, and physics says a body in motion tends to stay in motion. I was an English Lit major, and even I know that. Trump, in motion, stayed in motion and razed the china shop to flinders and dust.
Tonight, we will bear witness to the long handiwork of Donald Trump, Cannibal King, Eater of His Own. He may win this thing by fair or foul, but the party he represents is nothing but bone and gristle now, and those Republicans like Mitch and Kevin who have spent four years buttering him up with their jaws wired shut deserve nothing less. Sure, they got the judges. What else did they get?
“The secret of Republican success in the 2010s was not votes, but maps and rules,” writes permanently guilty Republican expatriate David Frum for The Atlantic. “Republicans scored their big comeback election in 2010, a census year. That allowed state-level Republicans to redraw maps in 2011 to favor their own party. That redrawing occurred at a time when a conservative federal judiciary was stepping back from oversight of voting processes.”
This is a census year. This is a redistricting year. If the numbers hold true and even if Trump wins, the House and Senate both look like they will be under new Democratic management in a couple of months. The Republicans are a minority within the population, but utilized the levers of power in 2010 to astonishing effect to effectively control the last decade in politics. If everything falls into place, Democrats and left-leaning Independents — already a majority within the population — will have those levers in hand come January.
I am Ozymandias, Mitch. Look upon my works and despair… and in case you don’t recall, the rest of that poem is about dust and desolate dissolution. Millennials and Gen Z are about to become the largest voting bloc in the country, and they mostly, massively don’t truck with right-wing bullshit.
Black Lives Matter will be a significant force in politics from now until justice. Young climate activists are demanding environmental transformation. Bernie Sanders and AOC are only the beginning, and while that rising tide begins to wash away the filthy residue of the last ten (40!) years, the GOP will collapse back onto itself and become the Old White Angry Man Gun Party. Their best and only tools: voter suppression and intimidation, everything we are seeing now, the furious wail of diminished returns served upon a bed of lavishly broken promises.
As the years go by they’ll kick up the dickens in places like North Dakota and Idaho, reliably sending wreckers and traitors to Congress for the edification of the masses, but that’s about all they’ll manage. The party’s power is at ebb tide now, and will remain there until the moon decides to forgive them for supporting and defending an existential menace like Donald J. Trump. I am not holding my breath.
Nor am I weeping any tears as I sing this dirge. I was born under Richard Nixon, came to horrified political awareness under Ronald Reagan, watched in nauseated awe as Newt Gingrich reshaped the GOP into the twisted artifice it is today, pledged my life to resist the serial horrors of George W. Bush, watched the post-Bush GOP incite the racism of the Tea Party to thwart a Black president, and have lived long enough to see the so-called “party of Lincoln” become the party of Louie Gohmert. When I hear “Republican,” that is what I think of, and it is always a dreadful thought.
“Sometimes,” said Jud in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, “dead is better.”
Yet even with all this rightly said, it is worthwhile to note that, once upon a time and not so very damn long ago, Republican “radicals” pledged their lives and sacred honor to the obliteration of slavery in North America — in a fight that was, of course, driven by Black abolitionists, including enslaved people themselves. While some Democrats envisioned a slave-owning empire stretching from Canada to Tierra del Fuego, “radicals” like Salmon Chase and Thaddeus Stevens laid their bodies upon the odious gears and, after an ocean of blood was spilled, prevailed in seeing that gruesome edifice toppled.
Abraham Lincoln gets the credit because he was there to sign the papers and make the speeches when the wheel came round, but it was those “radical” Republicans who for years and years stood stoutly against slavery in the long, just and moral quest for emancipation, and did not yield. It was a different party with the same name back then, but Trump loves to reach back to the legacy of Lincoln these days while he’s lying on the stump, even as he and his party fail utterly to live up to the name.
One hundred and nine years later, when another rogue Republican president threatened to topple the nation out of pure furious spite, it was a clutch of Republicans who went to him one night and said, “Mr. Nixon, it is time for you to go.” And go he did, because those members of his party had the courage to tell a president the truth to his face, so that he knew he had lost all meaningful support even among his own people. What do you call a leader with no followers? Just a guy taking a walk. It’s really that simple.
How so very far that party has fallen, and now, it is nothing but a corpse on the ground, gnawed bones gleaming white, the space where once was a heart of sorts filled with the dry rattle of fallen autumn leaves. It almost sounds like a heartbeat, but it isn’t, and never will be again.
You see, win or lose, Trump isn’t going anywhere, and the Republican Party is stapled to his thick orange hide for all time. Where he goes, they go, forever and ever, unto the final breaking of the world. Like Mary Shelley’s original Frankenstein’s monster, Donald J. Trump is on the loose, Milton’s Paradise Lost clutched unread in one orange hand as he shrieks, “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven!”
Be careful who you bargain with, Mitch and Kevin. Your reign in Hell has only just begun.