What is the Republican Party’s answer to this pressing and urgent state of affairs?
Broadly speaking, it runs as follows: Provide the absolute minimum in financial assistance, and only when the political pressure to offer that bare minimum becomes too overwhelming to ignore.
Meanwhile, instead of offering a serious agenda to deal with either crisis, sell the party as a check on a wholly manufactured one: the specter of an impending socialist-antifa Democratic takeover.
And finally, rely on voter suppression — combined with a base energized by fantasy fiction about the election being stolen from President Trump — to do the rest.
Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s latest antics in the Georgia runoff lay all this bare.
First, let’s note that there are important exceptions to these ugly tendencies. Some GOP officials have defended our elections at great personal risk. A handful of GOP senators flatly condemned Trump’s effort to get state legislatures to overturn the popular vote.
But to watch Loeffler in action is to become overwhelmed by the sheer nihilism that seems to have captured so many other Republicans.
‘Firewall to socialism’
Loeffler is now offering herself and fellow GOP senator David Perdue, who also faces a runoff, as the last line of defense against a “Marxist” takeover. On Wednesday night, Loeffler robotically told Fox News: “We are the firewall to socialism in this country.”
At the same time, Loeffler is flatly dissembling about the affirmative agenda that Republicans are offering to voters. Loeffler said this week that Republicans are “focused very much on delivering relief that Democrats have held up time and again.”
This is nonsense. It’s true that Senate Republicans are finally moving toward an agreement on an economic package. But not only is it far too small — its stimulus checks and supplemental unemployment insurance are at far lower levels than in last spring’s package — those two things were not on offer from most Republicans throughout much of this year.
While the parties differed over overall spending levels, the basic history here is this: For many months, Democrats wanted generous stimulus payments and unemployment assistance, and most Republicans opposed them.
It is only now, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) privately admitting that Loeffler and Perdue are “getting hammered” over the issue, that Republicans are moving toward a deal that includes both those things.
Without the need to save two senate seats, there is zero reason to think McConnell will agree to another serious relief package next year. Instead, Loeffler is selling the GOP Senate as a check on that fictitious socialist-antifa takeover.
Keeping GOP voters in a state of delusion
Meanwhile, Loeffler is now doing her part to keep alive the delusion that Congress might somehow overturn the election and deliver it to Trump.
Under questioning, Loeffler refused to say whether she will object to President-elect Joe Biden’s electors when Congress counts the electoral college voters. This plot is completely doomed. But to advance at all, one GOP senator must go along. Loeffler cannot bring herself to tell GOP voters that she will not join this scheme or that it’s time to accept Biden’s win.
Worse, Loeffler again said this week that Trump is still merely pursuing his “right” to “legal recourse” against the election results. That’s also nonsense: Trump wants Congress to object to Biden’s electors so GOP legislatures can send pro-Trump electors, which would be outside the law. Trump absolutely does not have the “right” to do this.
Loeffler still won’t tell GOP voters the truth: Biden won the election, and Congress will not overturn the results. You see, the truth might depress Republican turnout. So those voters must be kept in a state of delusion for as long as possible, to keep them energized.
It’s revealing enough that Loeffler cannot count on her invocations of an impending socialist takeover to energize those voters sufficiently. Indeed, these runoffs are just a bit too close for comfort. Which is where the voter suppression comes in.
Don’t forget the voter suppression!
As Politico reports, Republicans in Georgia are moving forward with numerous efforts to restrict mail voting amid pandemic conditions, including trying to get rid of drop boxes and create more onerous signature-matching hurdles, a standard tactic to get votes invalidated.
But here’s the bigger picture:
The legal efforts are likely just the start of a yearlong push by state Republicans to tighten voting rules in response to the 2020 election … Republican lawmakers in Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania, among others, have already announced their intention to seek changes to state election laws next year in response to perceived irregularities.
All these things are connected. The refusal to ditch the myth that the election was stolen from Trump provides the fake justification for even more onerous voter suppression efforts.
Meanwhile, if Trump never lost at all — and keeping this myth alive can be counted on to energize GOP voters — why bother developing a more affirmative agenda? Remarkably, as one GOP official put it, the lesson to be drawn from the presidential election’s outcome is that “everything’s great.”
Of course, in Georgia, this might prove correct: Given the state’s GOP lean, Republicans really might win despite campaigning largely on nihilistic white noise. But is this really what the Republican Party has to offer voters, amid two of the most serious crises of the modern era?