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The Heart of the Matter

(This is actually the title of one of my favorite novels of all time, by Graham Greene, which I am currently reading aloud, and almost at the ending, which one never forgets).

To take many decades of politics and summarize them in one very significant and definitive sentence, “Republicans will do anything to win.” It is hard to put oneself in such a mindset if you did not grow up that way, or if you have psychologically and emotionally developed, often at a very early age, not to be that way. You care about such things as the other person, feelings, ethics, the ultimate consequences. Those are actually seen as vulnerabilities and weaknesses by the people who only want to win right now, and every time.

I have written about this before in various contexts, but there really is nothing else needed to be focused on. Republicans will do anything, whether it is lie, cheat, be hypocritical, change positions, break promises, destroy the entire concept of democracy. Their “hierarchy of values” has one word on the pyramid: WIN. Nothing else matters to them.

They always have a particular place that they want to get to, and then they just make up rationales for it, which have no inherent meaning other than that they said it to advance their position, and mislead people. The actual words in the sentences have no significance, they might as well say, “Gabble goo.” It is just words as placeholders, because they are expected to say something.

One of the most telling examples, though they are myriad, is when Justice Scalia died, which would have seemed to have given the Democratic president the ability to pick the “swing justice.” Faced with that, McConnell simply refused to give Garland a hearing. He knew that Garland would be confirmed, so to “win,” he said some nonsense about, “let the people decide,” which violated 150 years of precedent, but sounded good to his followers. Gabble, gabble.

Then when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died much closer to an election, McConnell made sure to ram through the confirmation of Barrett, not a moderate like Garland, but a rigid radical. What happened to “let the people decide”? He said something about, “when the president’s party also controls the Senate, then the people want him to choose…,” some utter inanity. Lindsey Graham, who said when standing for not giving Garland a hearing, “If it happened the other way, I would say the same thing, quote me on it,” of course turned around and was all for Barrett being rushed through before the election. He said that he was taking the exact opposite position, because Democrats had been mean to Kavanaugh in his hearing. Gabble gibble.

Again, the words have no meaning. There is a Point X that they want to get to, and so they get there. By any means, legal or illegal. They will do absolutely anything. If you doubt this, please note that when they lost the two Senate races in Georgia, they determined to make it impossible to happen again. Each day, any state where they control the legislature, is passing more and more repressive, unconstitutional, and abhorrent bills; closing down voting sites; making it impossible to vote by mail; setting up panels which invalidate signatures of Democratic voters. That wasn’t sure enough, so they are setting up bodies which can overturn the results of any election that the Democrats win.

And they tried to keep Trump in power by overrunning the Capitol, setting up armed barricades, and thus making it impossible to put Biden in office. They drew up false slates of electors, and were going to submit them as valid. Anything to stop the transition, to get the decision to the House, where they controlled more delegations than Democrats did. Bottom line, only goal. Win. If they had to assassinate Biden, they probably would have farmed that out, too, but they thought the other things would work.

Far too many people just want to attribute this to Trump. Oh, Trump was the catalyst, and the personification of Nazi “do whatever is necessary to triumph” philosophy. But there are millions of Republicans who feel that way, and many are in office. Trump just gave them the power and the permission. They have been doing the same kind of thing, minus the violence, in states for decades. If you read about the laws they are passing, you will see it. They are unanimous and relentless in their pursuit of winning and power.

Democrats are simply not like that. A few may be, but not that many. Democrats seek compromise, bipartisanship, treating the other side with respect and fairness. Virtue is its own reward, or something like that. Or, “We value democracy, and so we value working together, and being honorable.” Republicans ignore that, or view it with contempt.

That is where we are, and how we got there. Over and over, Democrats tried to be fair, tried to project their values to the other side. And Republicans took every offer, every unwillingness by Democrats to twist things to their advantage, or to grind them to defeat, as weakness, and as opportunity which they took full advantage of.

That is how we got to 42% of the populace controlling the Senate, That is how we won the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections, and see the Far Right dominating the Supreme Court. If someone from another country or planet tried to understand how this could possibly happen, they could not. What would we say? “Well, they took advantage of loopholes, voting as a rigid group, took control of the media which then would always support their position; confused the voters.” That is not sufficient explanation. That is not enough of an excuse The truth is that Republicans spent all their time figuring out ways to take all meaningful power, while Democrats did not.

Everything that Republicans did in states or in the Congress, could have been anticipated by Democrats and combatted. How it might have all come out, is not known, but it certainly would have been a lot better than where we are now. Just think, Democrats won all those elections, and Republicans are ready to install themselves in permanent power. I don’t know if a science fiction writer could have carried off a story like that.

The crux of the mater is that Democrats were either so unperceptive, or unprescient, or so unwilling to fight their foe on the necessary terms, that they were almost destined to lose. The Eloi are never going to beat the Morlocks, unless the Time Traveller somehow is able to impart his perspective and will to them. The flower children were never going to win, over Nixon’s thugs. Hillary and Kaine were not able to be elected over Trump, Putin, and the totalitarians. It is not a case of Good not being able to defeat Evil, it is about the tactics which each use, how far each is going to go.

If you are playing heads-up poker against someone who will cheat any way he can, you have to stop playing with him. I would occasionally play with some kid who refused to lose at a board game, or playing basketball; calling made-up fouls, knocking the board over; and so you have to stop playing with him. But Democrats cannot stop contesting with Republicans, because to do that is to give up the field to them, and hundreds of millions of people would suffer.

Someone once described a usual Philip Dick science fiction plot as it being like the bottom of the ninth and you are losing. But often the stories would end with some hope, which was gratifying to read. Whatever one believes in for a better ending–a longshot winning, a deus ex machina, the good guys finally finding a way to break the stranglehold–is what we need. Doing it the same way we have been doing it for the last fifty years, will not give us even a partial victory. Surely that should be abundantly obvious by now.

One Response

  1. Republicans will do anything to win

    YEP, and it’s so Christian of them… The Religious Right has got to be one of the most hypocritical groups of all times. I blame Gingrich for this attitude among Republicans.

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