The answer to those questions will be found in a series of lies the GOP will tell the country, lies they are already previewing. Let’s understand them now, so we can avoid being hoodwinked come next year. Here are a few:
We never liked Trump anyway. Should Trump lose the election — and especially if it’s a resounding loss that echoes down the ballot — even Republicans representing conservative states and districts will want to avoid the stench of failure that will surround Trump’s memory. So they’ll claim to have been secret Trump opponents who went along only because they got some of what they wanted (tax cuts, right-wing judges), while courageously standing up to him … when no one was around to see it.
For example, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, now facing a surprisingly tight reelection race of his own, has been one of Trump’s most loyal supporters. But in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he claimed that in private he has disagreed vigorously with the president on multiple issues. Why did he keep it secret until now?
“I have found that has allowed me to be much more effective, I believe, than to satisfy those who say I ought to call him out or get into a public fight with him,” Cornyn said, without actually providing evidence of how “effective” his protestations have been.
The idea that Cornyn has been fighting a noble yet silent fight against Trump is laughable. But expect many other Republicans to tell the same tale about their brave disagreements with the president.
The deficit is bad again. This is one we’ve seen coming all along, because Republicans follow a pattern as consistent as the rising and setting of the sun. When a Republican president is in office, they cut taxes for the wealthy and increase spending, increasing the deficit. When a Democrat takes office, they cry that the deficit is a dire threat to America’s future and the only solution is austerity policies that hamstring the economy and make that president less popular.
As former Trump acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said in a weird attack of candor earlier this year, “My party is very interested in deficits when there is a Democrat in the White House.” If Biden becomes president, they’ll pretend to care deeply about deficits again.
Partisanship is bad. This is a lie Republicans know they can wield because of the naive but widespread idea that there are bipartisan solutions just waiting to be had if lawmakers would sit down together and hash them out, when the truth is that the two parties simply have fundamentally different agendas.
So Republicans are able to execute a cynical two-step: First, they unite to obstruct any effort by Democrats to pass meaningful legislation. Then they claim it was necessary because the Democrats’ effort wasn’t “bipartisan.”
But there’s nothing wrong with partisanship. If the public elects a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, it expects that they will pass the agenda those Democrats ran on. That isn’t “partisanship,” it’s democracy. Which leads us to …
Democracy is tyranny. The GOP is now a minority party that has held power through anti-democratic means, both those built into our system (the electoral college, the way the Senate gives outsize power to small rural states) and those they maintain and expand on an ongoing basis (gerrymandering, voter suppression).
Which is why any attempt by Democrats to smooth the way to enact the agenda they won the election with, and which is supported by most Americans, will be met with cries of “Tyranny!” Eliminate the filibuster to allow the side with the most votes to win when legislation is considered? Tyranny! Grant statehood to D.C. and Puerto Rico so nearly 4 million Americans living in them get meaningful representation? Power grab! Pass legislation to make voter suppression harder and voting easier? Fraud!
Republicans know when they make these preposterous arguments, the news media will help them by deploying the double standards that constrain only Democrats.
Democrats, but not Republicans, face the demand that every penny they want to spend be offset by tax increases or spending cuts lest it increase the deficit. Democrats find any suggestion that they’ll play procedural hardball greeted with shock and condemnation, while Republicans manipulating the rules is taken as just what we expect. (Look at all the discussion about the mere possibility of expanding the Supreme Court.) Democrats are scolded if they don’t seek Republican support for legislation, but nobody expects Republicans to do the same.
But here’s the thing about all these lies: We don’t have to take them seriously. When Republicans start squawking about the deficit, we can dismiss it out of hand. When they start crying about tyranny, we can remind them that when you lose an election, the winning side takes power and does things you oppose.
And when they whine about Democrats using the rules to their advantage, we can tell them that, if they don’t like it, just try to win the next election. But as a minority party with a dwindling base, that’s going to be increasingly difficult for Republicans to do.
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