Republished with permission from Lucian K. Truscott IV
This is one of those subjects columnists hate, because it’s got the where do you even start problem in spades. Where indeed? Do you start in Michigan, where in 2022, Republicans lost control of both houses in the legislature, lost the governorship (again), and lost statewide races for secretary of state and attorney general? The latest stories out of the state about the Republican Party are about fights breaking out during party meetings, the MAGA wing of the party ousting anyone who doesn’t toe the “Trump won the state” line about the 2020 election (he actually lost by more than 154,000 votes), and the problems the party has with fund raising since major donors from the more moderate wing of the party have dropped out of filling the party’s coffers as they have done in previous years.
Or do you start in Florida, where the latest brilliant move by the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, who in his campaign for president has said he wants to turn the United States into Florida, recently refused more than $350 million in federal dollars from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that would have gone to projects to help the state deal with climate change, because of course, climate change is a liberal hoax. Over $174 million would have gone to fund a rebate program to support energy efficient housing improvements, and $173 million would have gone to help Floridians buy energy efficient home appliances like, say, new-technology air conditioners to help deal with the hottest summer in history. Let’s not even mention that Florida is one of the holdout states that have not taken the Obamacare money that would fund a huge expansion of the number of low-income people eligible for Medicaid, because, you know, libs.
Or how about Tennessee, a state so completely dominated by the Republican Party that they control every statewide office and both houses of the legislature. But even when their own Republican governor called on his party to hold a special session of the legislature and pass some modest gun control measures in response to a mass shooting at a Nashville school just a few short months ago, a fight broke out on the floor of the state house of representatives, visitors were ejected from the galleries, and not a single gun control measure was passed, this despite polling that shows 70 percent of Tennesseans want the legislature to do something about gun violence.
Or do you start with issues that huge numbers of American citizens have come to agree on. We’re talking really, really big numbers, like 70 percent of Americans being in favor of a woman’s right to choose abortion, or the 70 percent of citizens who believe that climate change is caused by human beings, and serious steps should be taken to deal with the effects of climate change on the planet, like maybe Phoenix having over a month of temperatures above 110 degrees, or, say, Hurricane Idalia, that is raging as we speak from the Florida panhandle across Georgia, heading for South Carolina. Massive storm surges, flooded rivers, fallen trees, hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed—the whole terrible picture of massive damage from a storm that leaped in intensity when it hit the hot tub waters of the Gulf of Mexico from a Category 1 to Category 4 in less than 24 hours. That didn’t used to happen. Neither did south Florida waters approach temperatures hotter than the human body for months this summer.
What’s up with the Republican Party? The party’s suicidal tailspin was on display last week on the primary debate stage in Milwaukee when only one candidate, Nikki Haley, who has said she is “100 percent pro-life” had the temerity to question the party’s stance on abortion because, like, they’re losing election after election on that issue alone. See also: Ohio, which just voted on a measure that would have made it harder to hold a vote in 2024 that would establish a constitutional right to abortion in the state of Ohio. Oh, by the way, anti-abortion Republicans lost that vote by 13 points.
Political parties exist in order to be the mechanism through which the parties’ candidates win their elections to office on local, state, and federal levels. The reason political parties want to win these elections is so that they get to run things in government. You don’t have to go to college and study political science to understand this stuff. Political parties and the wars between them to win these elections and control these governments have been around for more than 200 years.
There are all kinds of reasons political parties want to win elections and put their people into state and federal legislatures and into administrations from towns, counties, states, and the federal government. They want to reward members of their parties with jobs and benefits that accrue to the winners. They want to set policies that are friendly to their ideology. They want to spread governments’ money around. Political parties want to control the money that is used to build roads and bridges; both parties want to do this. Republicans want to cut taxes on wealthy people and raise taxes on poor people. Democrats want to do the opposite. Republicans want to fund programs they are in favor of, like subsidies for farmers, or they want to cut stuff they don’t like, such as school lunch programs that feed underprivileged children.
And political parties want their fingers on what are called the purse strings so they can control who is awarded contracts to supply heating oil for government buildings, for just one example. For another, they want to control the awarding of contracts for massive expenditures on national defense projects. Not just billions, but hundreds of billions of dollars will end up going into the coffers of thousands of companies in all 50 states of the nation, and political parties want control of the government that will award these contracts.
In order to do all this stuff, political parties need to win elections, so when the politicians who run political parties look around at potential candidates for offices like mayor, or county commissioner, or state representative and senator, or secretary of state or governor, they are looking for people who can win their runs for office. Winning is the point in politics. Winning is the point because getting and keeping power is the point. You don’t get power unless your candidates win.
So how to explain the Republican Party’s enthrallment to a four-times-indicted guy? He lost his re-election to president in 2020. Many if not most of the Republican candidates he endorsed for election during the 2018 and 2022 midterms lost their races for office. He is a loser, in other words.
In human beings, the suicidal impulse is a deeply complex and many layered thing, but it boils down to being so depressed, you can’t see any way out of the terrible feelings you have other than killing yourself. I think the Republican Party is approaching the point of being suicidal. It’s why you see so much anger among Republican Party members and politicians. Because it has been taken over at nearly every level by what are now called MAGA Republicans, the party cannot move away from the object of their obsession, Donald Trump. Party professionals from local, state, and national party operatives and chairmen all the way to leaders of the House and Senate cannot figure a way around the MAGA Republicans who are in most instances putting them into office and keeping them there, so they are stuck.
They know they are losing the votes of young Americans. Every poll tells them this. They know they are holding the losing hand on the issues of abortion and climate change. They are waist deep in flood waters in Florida and facing criminal investigations and even indictments in Michigan and other states for attempting to overturn the last election for Donald Trump. And yet they can’t move away from what their MAGA base wants, which is to love Donald Trump and stick it to the libs. They glom onto every cultural signifier they can find, from racist country music anthems to the Confederate flag, to assuage their anger.
The shooter in Jacksonville, Florida, who killed three black people at a Dollar General store last Saturday was angry and racist. He wore camo fatigues and a bulletproof vest and carried a Glock semiautomatic pistol and an AR-15 style rifle on which he painted a swastika. When he was finished with his killing spree, he turned his gun on himself and committed suicide.
The Republican Party, in ways large and small, is acting just like him.
Lucian K. Truscott IV
Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives in rural Pennsylvania and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better.