The Trump wing of the Republican Party (and by “wing” I mean three-quarters of the bird) has continued its post-election vengeance tour apace, stopping recently at the Republican National Committee (RNC) to pummel two of the party’s far right congresspeople for being insufficiently loyal to Donald Trump. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger have been dealing with this Trumpian agita for a while now, but the RNC forcefully took it to a whole new gear.
“Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger crossed a line,” RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement denouncing the recalcitrant duo. “They chose to join Nancy Pelosi in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol.”
…and all manner of cats came blasting from the bag. That 1/6 horror show, the one that killed five people, is “legitimate political discourse?” Starting now, or is this retroactive back to, say, Appomattox? The RNC issued a non-reversing reversal — “We didn’t mean the violent protesters!” — while no lesser light than Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came down with both feet on the idea that the attack on the Capitol was anything other than “a violent insurrection.”
So it came to pass that the violence at the heart of Trump’s crusade has finally split the party most visibly in two. The most powerful Republican congressman and the most powerful Republican, period, are at each other’s throats while partisans of each side line up to denounce the other. If the Republican Party splits for real, not just cosmetically or in a momentary fit of pique, the ultimate irony will be the fact that McConnell and his ilk are primarily responsible for the creation, care and feeding of the violently racist horde at his gate.
Faced with this context, I can’t help but be surprised to hear members of the Republican Party describe certain behaviors by fellow Republicans as “anti-American.” Really? I ask myself. Since when, exactly? While some immigration activists and many others within the big tent of the left have valiantly sought to stake a claim to the word “American” and give it a positive meaning rooted in democracy and inclusion, the cynic in me always returns to the fundamentally violent and racist roots of the United States, which was formed through a crucible of genocide and slavery by white supremacists who more often than not believed God put them there to plunder and conquer. Leave out the God part, and the butchery was still exceedingly and attractively lucrative.
At its peak, slavery was this continent’s first billion-dollar industry, containing the original nucleotides of American-style capitalism, right down to the concept of a thoroughly fungible, eternally replaceable and therefore cost-efficient workforce. This peerless crime — still bereft of justice save for the easy cracking of statues — is the banner to which the modern Republican Party has flocked to.
The party has embraced brazen racism and its right-wing militant banner-carriers with the kind of gusto not seen since George Wallace stood in front of the Alabama State House bleating about, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” It is no accident that the scaled heart of the party burns brightest in the presence of its father/king, an egotistical cartoon caricature who would happily put half the country to the torch if it garnered positive coverage from Fox News.
People want to know what Donald Trump was doing while his minions violently sacked the Capitol, seeking to murder his vice president. I imagine he was laughing. On the inside, the outside and everywhere between, laughing fit to split. January 6, 2021, was the best day of his life.
Simultaneously, in 20 years the Republicans have never missed a chance — by way of war, legislation or both — to loot the Treasury and enrich their wealthy friends. Trump pulled it off in December of 2017, to the tune of almost $2 trillion. Speaking of history, some of the people who get a slice of that Treasury pie go on to fund increasingly violent right-wing groups and their protests, which like Trump’s rallies serve to make “the movement” seem larger and more menacing than it actually is.
Case in point: The Ottawa truck strike, which was originally focused on vaccine mandates but has devolved into a seething cauldron of every galaxy-brained conspiracy theorist who can find their way there. It is supposed to look organic, this truck protest, sui generis and therefore troubling to the status quo… except for the fact of the millions of dollars flowing into the protest across Canada’s southern border. Expect very similar protests to start popping off on this side of the lakes, and soon. Ottawa, I strongly suspect and fear, was a testing ground for a new level of right-wing hostility. Cops do fine against unarmed protesters. Facing down a wall of snarling Macks and Peterbilts? I mean, assuming they don’t agree with the ones behind the wheel.
So, some boxes to check. Racist? Yes. Violent? Yes. Organized? Yes. Funded by wealth? Yes. Shock troops (i.e. analogous to KKK cells spread nationally)? Yes.
Well… one may sugarcoat history until the cake collapses on itself. This country was forged in violence; that even a garbled Second Amendment exists at all speaks to the passion some have for a right to deal death as they please and choose. Violence is and has always been the “American” way, a truth that has inspired millions of others to oppose it and its racist peddlers at all available turns.
It’s all out there now; a majority of Republicans aren’t interested in even pretending to be anything other than exactly what they are. The racism, the mob mentality, the denial of bare-faced fact: The Republican Party has been actively feeding this beast since the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, when the North and South exchanged political parties over the basic question of human worth and dignity. A reckoning for all those years spent stoking the simmering flames of hate to keep the party base engaged could prove to be the cul-de-sac where final ownership of “Republican” is decided once and for all.
And that’s the best part of all: This is Mitch’s Republican Party as much as it is Trump’s. Racism, violence, plunder and fear: In the end, they both believe in fundamentally the same things, and that is as American as an 18-wheel Freightliner gleaming in the conquered desert sun. Call them “anti-American” if you need the sugar, but the taste of it won’t change.