Anybody who has ever stepped on a nail protruding from a piece of lumber on the ground knows that if the puncture isn’t promptly and thoroughly treated, it could lead to infection, or worse. The disinfection process is painful, but necessary.
Plenty has been said about the damage Donald Trump did to our country, our economy, our environment and our standing in the global community of nations in only four years. The consensus is that it will take many more years, maybe even decades to make repairs. It’s also clear now that the GOP’s reluctance to disinfect the wound inflicted by Trumpism may allow that injury to become lethal.
Like the nail in the foot, Trumpism has cleared a path for a swarm of societal illnesses to proliferate and flourish. Racism, misogyny, the glorification of violence and moral and ethical transgression have always been present in our culture. Corrupt and incompetent politicians have always held some percentage of office. Like dormant diseases, these afflictions have generally been kept in check by the body politic’s relentless struggle to keep itself healthy and functional, but now the infection is gaining steam and the symptoms are everywhere.
Trump is out of office, thankfully, but his malignant influence lives on, arguably strengthened now that he’s free from the trappings of the presidency. Hundreds of members of both houses of Congress continue their cowardly kowtowing to his electoral faction. They ignore the pleas of ordinary Americans to acknowledge systemic racism and to curtail police violence. They offer crocodile tears at the mass shootings that are occurring now on almost a daily basis. They willfully turn a blind eye to the political buffoonery of the likes of Boebert, Greene and Gaetz, as well as the latter’s alleged criminality, which in the very recent past would have been considered grounds for disciplinary action or removal, even among Republicans.
The Trump-driven explosion of propaganda and the networks that deliver it have given birth to a virulent cynicism and a willingness to believe in easily disprovable falsehoods. For example, the 2020 election was certified by all 50 states, recounted by some, and recounted multiple times by a few. More than sixty lawsuits to overturn the results were unceremoniously and unanimously tossed out by the courts, including the United States Supreme Court, which has more than adequate representation by Trump appointees. Yet an astonishing 70% of Republicans cling to the fantasy that the election was mysteriously “rigged”, eagerly devouring this fruit of the poison tree that is Trumpism, because these are the signals being sent by their leaders in Congress. A sham “audit” is being conducted in Arizona, laws suppressing voter rights are being written and passed in every GOP-controlled state, and the few Republican lawmakers with the courage to denounce the Big Lie have been turned out like a pariah by their own party.
The oldest trick in the political playbook is to polarize the base by demonizing an opponent through mischaracterization. The GOP, for instance, has breathed new life into the McCarthy-era terms socialist and communist, inadvertently exposing the number of people who obviously lack even a 9th-grade civics class understanding of the words. But is there any arguing the fact that the people with their hands on the party’s wheel are actively, openly and successfully working to destroy the democratic process, and that they’re willing to take the GOP itself over the cliff in the bargain?
The decay and impending collapse of the GOP has been shameful and horrifying to watch. But the Republican Party isn’t a gangrenous foot that can be amputated to allow rest of the body to live on in relatively good health. Anyone -- in either the liberal or conservative camps -- who believes that the other side should be eradicated from government is ignorant of the principles that drive our political system. In a functioning democratic republic (which, debatably, we are not at this point in our history), some people don’t get what they want, but the most good is done for the most people through discussion, debate, compromise and majority rule.
In the wake of the 2020 election, and more importantly the January 6 insurrection, the GOP missed an invaluable opportunity to scrape Trumpism off its political shoe, preferring instead to hedge their bets and continue their dance with the devil to ensure short-term survival. As the midterms approach, Republicans will have what might be one last chance at ensuring their viability as a party. The Trump cult needs to be sent a strong, clear and easily understood message that while they may be an influential percentage of the electorate, they do not represent the majority of the American people. They can’t be extinguished, but their rallies need to go back to the basements and cow pastures where they started, and their messages consigned to shadowy websites and telephone pole posters. If they fail in this, the consequences will be dire for all of us.