Is there still a possible democratic path for the American Republican Party? The fascist carnival promoted by Donald Trump – which culminated this week in Washington on Ash Wednesday – proved that there is an ultraconservative wing that has no attachment to democracy, institutions and the law – and that it is ready to embrace violence when it suits you politically.
It is possible that this is an inflection point. Perhaps the party leaders are forced to fire, for once, the fascists who today represent a significant part of their base. But there is no reason to be optimistic.
Republicans have been radicalizing slowly but steadily for the past six decades: ever since they adopted veiled racism as their political platform.
Donald Trump opened the door wide to fascists, but it was already being opened slowly by people like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Closing it will be almost impossible.
There is a significant portion of the American public who has never accepted the idea of democracy. They are the heirs of those who went to civil war to defend that black people were property, not people. The same who, when defeated, implemented the legal system of racial segregation that prevailed in the southern United States until the mid-twentieth century.
The Republicans’ bet is to be able to embrace these people without being contaminated by their ideological filth. They would win the votes, but they would keep the extremists in check. The Capitol invasion on Wednesday showed that it is the fanatics who control the party, not the other way around.
Trump has the unmistakable support of most Republican voters. Between 60% and 70% of them believe that the election was stolen from them. As much as he deeply loathes Trump and truly believes in democracy, how can a party leader afford to abdicate 70% of his voters?
Behind every American politician’s calculation is the primary election – an institutional outgrowth, in which affiliates (invariably the most radical) determine who will be the candidate in the actual election. Any deputy or senator who is not sufficiently considered as a Trumpist by the base risks losing his nomination in the next primaries.
Perhaps the most optimistic reader points to the fact that Congress ended up certifying Biden’s victory. That’s right, but he did so despite six Republican senators and – sample – most of the party’s House members.
Let me say it another way, because this information is so serious it needs to be clear: more than half of Republican MPs have spoken out in favor of a reversal of the will of the electorate simply because that their base does not accept Trump’s defeat.
There is a reason to hope. The Democratic victory was significant. It is the first time in modern US history that a first-term president has not been re-elected while, simultaneously, his party loses control of Congress.
It may be that defeat will cause the party to reassess the trajectory of extremism that it has adopted for more than half a century. For now, however, it is a hope that has little or no basis in reality.