I will admit I am more than a bit puzzled over the direction politics have taken in this country. Not just since 2015 when Trump rode the escalator down to begin his campaign, but beginning back after Barack Obama was elected. I saw the Rick Santelli rant live in early 2009 that began the tea party movement, and realized at that time how prescient and how divisive his words were. They were prescient since they acknowledged this country was not of one mind, but had become a bimodal distribution, where one group had grabbed all of the growth in the economy, and one group had lagged behind, suffering competitive disadvantage as the world’s manufacturing was reconfigured to arbitrage labor and regulatory costs. The words were divisive since a sub-group of Republicans used the energy released from Rick’s rant to grab onto elective power, leading to such eminent personalities as Marjorie Taylor Greene.
We now have one of the two political parties in this country who have completely adopted a nihilist philosophy. This party believes our federal government is totally broken, and violence is justified in breaking it into smaller and smaller pieces, leading to its dissolution. That is why so many folks do not recognize 1/6/21 as an insurrection. To true believers of this philosophy, they internalize what Barry Goldwater claimed nearly 60 years ago. “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!” were the words Barry said in his acceptance speech for his presidential nomination in 1964. It has taken nearly 60 years, but that is now the mantra shared by far too many of the followers of Donald Trump.
What is worse, this philosophy has been successful at the state level far too many times. While Democrats were congratulating themselves over their success at a national level, the real power was slipping between their fingers at the state level. Indeed, we are about to see the fruits of two rounds of redistricting solidify control of Red legislators at the state level. You now have states like North Carolina, which had a 50% (Republican) to 49% (Democratic) result in voting for state legislative seats. Due to just one round of gerrymandering, this resulted in a 69 (Republican) to 51 (Democratic) margin in the North Carolina house. What will happen this year after a second round of gerrymandering? It will probably increase the margin of Republican legislators despite what the voters of the state really want as reflected by their votes.
So the Republican Nihilists are not yet resting on their laurels. They have discovered another tier of government they can eat away at like termites chowing down on a stack of 2×4’s. The down ballot races at the state level, like Attorney General, and Secretary of State, are actively being devoured by deniers. Soon these false prophets will have us writing out our choices for any office in cursive, and woe be to those whose script is deemed illegible. These luddites do not accept that machines have an error rate orders of magnitude less than humans. They realize they only need one cycle of elections to break the habit of citizens to vote. So much of our democracy rests on the premise that our votes count, even if candidates we support are unsuccessful. If an election cycle goes through where it becomes obvious that inconvenient votes do not count, millions who are only tangentially connected to the voting process will make the decision to skip any future elections.
That is when the Republican Nihilists will have truly won. What travesties they will attempt to institute when there is no one to provide a counterbalance, one can only guess. All I keep thinking about is the question I heard growing up – how could the Germans have supported a system that led to Hitler taking power? In future years, after I am gone, I can only hope we do not have future generations asking how we in the United States could have gone so wrong. It can indeed happen here.