American Exorcism: Republican Power and Politics in the Age of Trump
We could have had taco trucks on every corner.
For those of us lamenting the loss of Hillary Clinton, this has been a rallying cry over the past year. Said partly in jest, it represents the larger idea that our country could have had so much more if Hillary Clinton had been elected. We would have had a competent administration, made up of qualified individuals and experts in their field. We would have had stability in the healthcare system, including continuing coverage for 9 million children. We would have had fair, just, and more importantly, qualified judges appointed to circuit and appellate courts. We would have had appropriate and timely federal responses to natural disasters. We would have had 800,000 young, talented men and women with limitless potential pursuing their dreams in the only country they've ever known. And, most importantly, we would have had someone whose demeanor, intelligence, and work ethic would have been praised by foreign allies and international communities.
But despite all this, a Hillary Clinton presidency would not have been all sunshine and roses. In fact, she would have run up against the same opposition that plagued Barack Obama for his second term; a Republican-controlled House and Senate. Starting with the filling of the 9th Supreme Court seat, a President Clinton would have been forced to negotiate with a Republican Party that would undoubtedly be working to make her a one-term president. With a continually-improving economy and consistently low unemployment, Clinton would not be facing massive civil unrest. But that wouldn't prevent Republicans from trying to drum up fake scandals, likely led by Trey Gowdy leading his committee to investigate Hillary's role in Benghazi, the use of her email server, the Clinton Foundation, uranium one, Pizzagate, or any combination of the five. The American public, unaware of Republican obstruction efforts, would continue to see President Clinton as a stable yet not spectacular president and her approval ratings would likely hover in the mid-40s due to her inability to pass any meaningful, progressive legislation.
There is no doubt that this would have made the Republican Party perfectly content. They could blame President Clinton for any and all misgivings including ISIS' role in Iraq, the continuing civil war in Syria, North Korea's efforts to create an ICMB, or any domestic (non-White) terrorist attacks here at home. They could continue to polarize and demonize political movements like Black Lives Matter. Should President Clinton have the audacity to use her authority via executive order, Republicans would cry foul and claim it to be a gross abuse of power. Fox News would have enough material for round-the-clock coverage of the Democratic president. And former presidential runner-up Donald J. Trump and his former campaign CEO and Breitbart editor Steve Bannon would make sure to remind conservative America just how much better off America would have been under a Trump Administration.
And all this would be lost among average Americans. Their lives would remain more-or-less the same. They would continue to enjoy all the benefits of the policies Barack Obama put in place while simultaneously not realizing how and why there were able to enjoy those newfound benefits. The auto industry would continue its recovery. Alternative energies would continue to be explored while coal country workers would continue to blame Democratic politicians for their dying industry. White supremacist websites would continue underground but would lose traction due to the fair complexion of the new president. Gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia wouldn't be seen as significant and Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions would still have his seat in a Senate that would continue to hold a 52-48 Republican advantage. Despite pleading from prominent Democrats, it would appear that there simply wouldn't be enough positive momentum to buck the historical trend of first-year presidents losing significant seats during their first midterm elections. With continued obstruction and unlikely midterm gains, President Clinton would be facing a difficult reelection campaign.
Instead of that, we got this. The most corrupt administration in history. Open grifting from the president on down. A musical chairs effort to try and identify competent government employees. A complete assault on both historical norms and the rule of law. Aiding and abetting a foreign adversary who openly attacked the sovereignty of our elections. Openly intimidating the FBI Director. Waging war on individual states' rights to end marijuana prohibition. Giving away American public lands to mining corporations. Passing a tax cut adding nearly $2 trillion to the deficit while simultaneously raising taxes on middle-class Americans. Unconstitutional executive orders targeting Muslims, immigrants, and refugees. Failed disaster relief for American territories. An inability to disown White nationalists and an active inclusion of them in our government. And an America First foreign policy that has alienated our allies, emboldened our enemies, caused our country to lose out on trade and climate agreements, and made our government the laughingstock of the world.
All of this has happened because Republicans in Congress did nothing to stop it.
They knew. As Michael Wolff's book has verified, Republicans closest to Donald Trump know how unfit he is for office. The gravitas of this has been secondary to passing their agenda. A political party once concerned about our national security has willingly handed over the nuclear codes to a man engaged in a pissing contest with the North Korean dictator. A political party once concerned about manufacturing job losses has now willingly given CEOs extra money with zero guarantees that money will ever make it into the hands of their workers. A political party once concerned about rising deficits (remember the 2012 deficit counter at the RNC Convention?) has now willingly voted to add $2 trillion to the deficit. A political party that once prided itself on compassionate conservatism has now willingly endorsed a child molester for Senate. And a political party that once warned of an overreaching federal government is now willing to trump states' rights in order to send more people of color to private prisons.
In short, Republicans have been like the family members of a drunkard. But rather than seek help for that drunkard, they not only let him keep his keys but they walked him out to his car and encouraged him to take it for a ride. They have done this with Donald Trump because they saw him as a means to an end: a way for the party to enact its regressive agenda after having endured 8 years of successful progressive policies that positively impacted the lives of millions of Americans. The extent to which they sold their soul remains to be seen. But in due time it would not be surprising to see prominent Republicans like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and Lindsay Graham be called before the Special Council to answer questions as what they knew and when they knew it. Like giving that drunkard the keys, Republicans may not be feeling guilty about anything now. But when the police show up at their door asking what they know about the accident down the street, they will be quick to give answers and sell each other out to save their own careers.
The great irony in all of this is that every day America needed to witness all this first hand to truly understand who Republicans were. It's easy to be the Party of No but it's a lot harder to be the Party of Yes when your yeses demonstrate what your true priorities are. Over the past year, we've seen what Republicans value: they want to make America great again by instituting racist policies that protect wealthy White men and roll back protections and advancements for women and people of color. They care nothing for the people they were elected to represent. They are willing to take health care away from 22 million Americans. They are willing to support a White House that employs Nazis and fails to condemn their rallies. They are willing to slow track disaster relief to Puerto Rico. They are willing to jail peaceful protesters. They are willing to demonize Muslims, immigrants, and refugees. And they are willing to ignore the concerns of their constituents, the vast majority of whom have been women.
Republicans haven't changed who they are over the past decade. But in finally achieving power they have shown everyday Americans their true evil intentions. None of this would have been possible under a Hillary Clinton presidency. For Americans to finally turn on Republicans, it required them to see what the party would do when finally given the opportunity to inject their values on to everyday Americans. It's easy to bitch and moan when your party is out of power, it's a lot harder to complain when you have control. With unlimited checks and balances, Republicans have shown Americans exactly who they are over the past 11 months and if Virginia and Alabama are any indications, Americans are not impressed. Ultimately, the legacy of Hillary Clinton may actually be just how low Republicans were willing to both undermine her potential presidency and to enact their massively unpopular agenda on America.
In the era of the #MeToo movement, leave it to a woman to singlehandedly destroy a whole cabal of corrupt, conservative men.
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