Republican lawmakers have approved the voting limits to appease right-wing activists who have yet to give up former President Donald Trump’s lie that a largely favorable election was rigged to undermine them.
Republican leaders have ruthlessly attacked Trump-style businesses, baseball entities, and the media to please the same conservatives and voters. And discussions about the dimensions and scope of government action have been left in the background, in the shadow of the kind of cultural warfare clash that was so much to the liking of the king of the tabloids.
This is the party that Trump has recreated.
As Republican leaders and donors gather for a party retreat this weekend in Palm Beach, Fla., Which will include a reception with Trump at his resort town of Mar-a-Lago on Saturday night, the widespread influence that the ex-president wielding in Republican circles reveals a party deeply dominated by a defeated president – a bizarre twist in American politics.
Banned from Twitter, quietly despised by many Republican leaders and reduced to receiving supplicants in his tropical Florida exile, Trump has found ways to exert near-gravitational dominance over an obvious party, just three months after the attack of the Capitol that his critics hoped to marginalize him and tarnish his legacy.
His preference for engaging in aggressive and brutal political struggles, rather than governing and drafting public policy, has left Republican leaders in a state of confusion about what they stand for and stand for, even in matters of business. , which in the past was basic. of republicanism. But Trump’s single tenure made it clear what the far right is up against – and how it intends to fight its battles.
Having literally abandoned their traditional party platform last year to adapt to Trump, Republicans have organized themselves around opposition to what they see as leftist excesses and adopted the tactics of the Trump’s scorched earth in their battles.
Republican Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell sharply criticized companies this week for siding with Democrats on Republican-backed voting restrictions – but backed down after giving the impression he wanted companies to abstain from politics altogether.
Republicans are doing relatively little to make counterarguments to President Joe Biden on his response to the coronavirus, his proposals to expand social protection, or, with the important exception of immigration, virtually any other political issue. Instead, Republicans want to shift the debate to issues that are more unifying and inspiring in their own coalition and that can help them tarnish the image of Democrats.
So, Republicans embraced disputes over seemingly minor issues, to present a larger argument. Highlighting the withdrawal from publication of certain books by Dr Seuss which demonstrate racial insensitivity, the rights of transgender people and the willingness of major institutions or corporations such as MLB (the main baseball league) and Coca-Cola to take the party of the democrats with respect to the right to vote, the right wants to portray a country dominated by elites obsessed with identity politics.
This is a very different approach to what was seen the last time Democrats were in full control of government, in 2009 and 2010, when Tories used the Great Recession to fuel discontent with the president. Barack Obama and federal spending, on the way to making major advances. in parliamentary elections.
But Biden, a seasoned white politician, is not such an easy target for the party’s far-right base, and he’s unlikely to be seen by the population at large as a polarizing figure.
“2010 had a veneer of philosophical and ideological consistency, but today we don’t even bother to pretend we are looking for that consistency,” said Republican lobbyist Liam Donovan. “Trump took the complaints about the appetizer and made it the main course.”
This approach may not be the political equivalent of a well-balanced meal – a long-term stimulus package – but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad strategy for success in the 2022 election that will decide to control the House and the Senate.
Even Democrats see the risk that the Republican message on cultural issues will resonate with a large segment of the electorate. This week Dan Pfeiffer, a former Obama aide who suffered what his boss called a “resounding defeat” of 2010, warned his party members that they shouldn’t just roll their eyes when Republicans deplore the so-called “culture”. cancellation ”.
“Republicans are raising these cultural issues to unite their party and divide ours,” he wrote in an article. “Therefore, we must make an effort to bring the discussion back to the economic issues that unite our party and divide theirs.”
Longtime Republicans don’t deny it. “The Democrats did the one thing I never imagined it could happen in such a short time: they forced Republicans to shift their attention away from the things that divide us and focus on the real opposition,” he said. delighted Republican strategist Ralph Reed.
That may be an overly optimistic assessment, given that Trump still craves revenge on his critics within the party, with a series of controversial primaries ahead and Democrats in a position to reap the rewards of an economic recovery.
But there is no doubt that Republicans are uniting around a post-Trump political style that makes this prefix redundant.
They especially want to draw attention to immigration, at a time when there is an increase in the arrivals of undocumented migrants at the border. As well as being Trump’s most iconic issue, it’s also the issue that elicits the strongest cultural backlash among the majority white Republican base.
An NPR / Marist poll released this month found that while 64% of independent voters approve of Biden’s handling of the pandemic, only 27% support his approach to immigration.
With so much to gain from blaming the issue on Democrats, Republicans have all but given up on discussing a comprehensive immigration deal, despite calls from corporate lobbying.
But this is far from the only issue on which Republicans distance themselves from the industry stance, although they have been selective in their choices.
McConnell, for example, continues to describe the tax cuts passed in 2017, which sharply cut corporate tax rates, as the biggest legislative achievement of the Republican Party since Trump’s years, and it is unlikely that ‘it thickens a picket of trade unionists in the near future.
But it is clear that he sees a political advantage in taking a stand against the MLB and corporate titans like Delta and Coca-Cola, who have denounced the electoral law passed in Georgia – an intervention that would hardly have been seen in the world. pre-Trump era. .
“Big business will risk serious consequences if they become a means for unruly left-wing mobs to lift our country out of constitutional order,” McConnell said, later adding that he had no problem with the idea that companies continue to fund political candidates. .
Other Republicans have gone even further, threatening the antitrust exemption enjoyed by professional baseball. This is a clearly Trumpian vindictive tactic.
Recent party polls indicate that, more than any other question, Republican voters want candidates “who don’t back down in the fight against Democrats.” This conclusion came earlier this year in a survey conducted by the Republican firm Echelon Insights.
Kristen Soltis Anderson, the Republican researcher who conducted the survey, said in an interview with Ezra Klein that people who have moved to the right “feel that the way of life they have always known is changing rapidly.”
Republicans have done everything they can to fuel this fear, using liberal positions on issues like the police or transgender rights as weapons in the culture war, even if that means letting go of some conservative values.
In Arkansas this week, a move by conservative lawmakers to ban transgender children from receiving gender-affirming drugs or surgery was vetoed by Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
He argued that the bill “would create a new model of legislative interference in the actions of doctors and parents” and that it does not include exceptions for children who have already started hormone treatments. But lawmakers in his party overturned his veto and Trump overthrew it, calling it “RINO (short for ‘Republican by name only’) light.”
The willingness to engage in aggressive political battles without restraint is the most important part of the party at this time.
“It has become the greatest quality Republicans look for in their leadership today,” said Reed, the Republican strategist. He said that in an earlier, less tribal era, the party would have avoided passing Georgia’s dividing law that limits access to the vote.
“After the big business and the media formed a protective seat, we would have called the lawmakers back, made some amendments and moved on,” he said. “Now, however, we haven’t given up an inch.”