Do Republicans Want a Civil War?

The GOP is unraveling democracy and menacing American peace
By Alexander Ziperovich
It is a complicated and perilous moment for the world’s oldest modern democracy, as the United States emerges from under the darkness of a catastrophic, gravely mismanaged pandemic and the violent political upheaval that marked the end of Donald Trump’s failed presidency. Yet Trump’s stolen election lie lingers in America like a slow-burning infection, a political poison pill undermining the stability and security of the nation, with multiple converging symptoms and as yet unknown final consequences.
The Biden administration is doing what it can to douse the flames of partisan rage and cultural warfare, tamping down the rhetoric while focusing on the business of governing a bitterly divided nation, though that hasn’t quite ended the raging conflagration Donald Trump gleefully set alight.
Indeed, there are burning embers in the air above the tinderbox of American politics, threatening to reignite the inferno that was only temporarily subdued on January 6. The bellicose rhetoric from leaders on the right seems designed to provide the spark for more political violence and madness.
Joe Biden can only do so much to ease tensions when people like Michael Flynn, Trump’s embattled former national security advisor and a lieutenant general in the Army, recently said a Myanmar-style military coup “should happen” in the United States. Congressman Matt Gaetz, who is currently being investigated for sex trafficking a minor, spoke of “armed rebellion against the government” during a fiery speech on the second amendment.
As America learned on January 6, this kind of violent rhetoric has grave consequences, and perhaps that is the point for these Republicans.
The Republican Party has demonstrated that it remains wholly committed to Donald Trump’s platform of lies, serving as an all-purpose protection racket and public relations firm for a criminal former president who showed he was delighted to watch America’s democracy burn to retain his grip on power.
In a nauseating display of cowardice, Republican senators used their first filibuster of the Biden era to prevent Americans from learning the truth about the January 6 coup attempt Donald Trump and his acolytes unleashed on Washington, D.C., in an attack against their own workplace that threatened their lives, and even after hearing the tragic pleading from slain Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick’s grieving mother, Gladys Sicknick.
Mrs. Sicknick responded with stunned disbelief after Republicans voted to kill the commission, dumbfounded that they would place partisan politics and Donald Trump over the pursuit of truth and justice for the worst attack on the U.S. Capitol since the war against the British in 1812.
This comes in the shadow of the grand jury that’s currently hearing testimony in New York, examining Donald Trump’s vast catalogue of crime and corruption, and providing for the distinct possibility that the former president could be indicted in the run up to the 2024 election, an election he insists he will be running in as the presumptive Republican nominee.
Against all evidence, Trump continues to claim that he won the 2020 election, and Republican voters continue to believe him, with several supporters unfurling a massive “TRUMP WON” banner at a recent Yankees game before being led away in handcuffs. Recent polling showed 53% of Republicans believe Donald Trump is the “true” president, an astonishing and frightening measure of the brutal effectiveness of Trump’s long, mind-numbing campaign to poison confidence in American democracy.
Thus, even as the country seems to be getting back on its feet and regaining a modicum of equilibrium, the byproducts from Donald Trump’s brazen and continuing crusade to discredit the 2020 election lay just below the surface, a political ticking time bomb that threatens to explode once again.
Any notion that Republicans might finally break with Donald Trump following the insurrection he incited has by now been extinguished, along with the last slivers of hope that the GOP might somehow reform itself after the nightmarish odyssey of Trump’s presidency.
Instead, the GOP has exiled Republicans who dared to challenge Trump’s leadership, treating any attempt to move the party away from him as an existential threat to their immediate electoral prospects, to be stifled and ruthlessly eliminated. Liz Cheney’s removal from House leadership, and her subsequent replacement by fawning loyalist apparatchik Elise Stefanik only reinforced the fact that Donald Trump’s death grip remains tightly wrapped around the neck of the Republican Party.
It is a measure of the depth of the moral and intellectual rot at the heart of the GOP that it continues to allow itself to be led by a twice-impeached one-term president on the verge of criminal indictment, a man who launched a lethal attack against his own government after leading his party to ruinous defeats in the presidential, congressional, and senate races.
Republican efforts have been focused on appeasing this volatile and vindictive narcissist’s damaged ego, and retaining Trump’s rabidly enthusiastic, increasingly radicalized base of support, namely through the enacting of a broad sweep of state legislation nationwide designed to restrict voting, actions predicated on Trump’s false allegations of rampant voter fraud in the 2020 presidential race.
Under the meticulously cunning tutelage of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republicans decided that a complete and bipartisan investigation of the January 6 insurrection would be politically inconvenient, damaging GOP candidates in the run up to the 2022 midterm elections, damage to the United States apparently notwithstanding.
Instead, Republicans opted to allow the worst national security and political crisis since 9/11 go without the kind of full, honest, and definitive appraisal only an independent, bipartisan commission could provide, predictably placing the Republican Party’s short-term political interests over the best interests of the nation and the American people yet again.
Without an independent commission dedicated to providing a complete and unbiased picture of January 6, the terrible events of that day will continue to be distorted, minimized, and mischaracterized by Republicans eager to restore Donald Trump’s tattered reputation and protect themselves from scrutiny over their enabling of his misconduct and their involvement in the insurrection itself.
Republicans are already referring to the deadly attack on the Capitol in increasingly positive terms, like Congressman Andrew Clyde of Georgia saying January 6 was akin to a “normal tourist visit.” It makes sense that Republicans would refuse to cede control of a narrative they are actively rewriting with lies.
The repulsive extremism, ugly racism and nativism, and the unhinged conspiracy-mongering that has always existed like a toxic mold on the fringes of the American right are now at its emotional and political center, a place where throngs of QAnon believers gather with Christian nationalists and white supremacists to form the very heart and soul of the new Republican anti-orthodoxy.
These are the nihilistic ideas of a shattered political movement, one fueled by the antipathy and lies of its corrupt leaders, and reflected back in the anger, ignorance, and seething paranoia of their loyal followers.
The Republican Party is an existential threat to the constitutional order and viability of the United States, dedicated to an authoritarian vision and the obliteration of a pluralistic society with a diversity of viewpoints, ethnicities, religions, and peoples. Rather, the GOP has become a neofascist cult of personality, dedicated to the accumulation of raw power for its own sake by dividing Americans using lies, fear, and hatred.
Following the violent collapse of Donald Trump’s presidency, the Republican Party might have walked away from Trump and Trumpism, rejecting his lies about a stolen election and moved toward reestablishing sanity in conservative America. Instead, they protected Trump at his second impeachment, and promoted his lies among voters, firmly establishing his stolen election narrative in the conservative imagination.
There are three long years until the next presidential election, though I doubt that is long enough to purge this antidemocratic disease from the conservative firmament. As it stands, the threat from the GOP is increasing, as new voter suppression laws are written and more lies about the last election disseminated and believed. Perhaps there is still time for more Republican leaders to have a moment of clarity, though that seems unlikely. The Republican Party of old is long dead and gone, conservatism replaced by the emptiness of a reality TV star’s cheap gimmicks, fueled by the fear, hatred, and lies that were ultimately his most popular product.

The question inevitably arises, will the Republican Party change course? Thus far, the courage and the will to stand up and fight for what is right and decent and ethical has been sorely absent in the GOP, eroded through their dark alliance with a criminal president, and American democracy finds itself profoundly imperiled. /, June 5, 2021