There can be no ‘politics as usual’ when ‘radicalized’ Republicans reject democracy itself: historian

There can be no ‘politics as usual’ when ‘radicalized’ Republicans reject democracy itself: historian

President Joe Biden is fond of bipartisanship and hasn’t hesitated to brag about his relationship with the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona and all the other Republicans he worked closely with during his decades in the U.S. Senate. And to a degree, that approach has worked: many right-wing conservatives, from GOP activist Cindy McCain (Sen. McCain’s widow) to former Ohio Gov. John Kasich to former Sen. Jeff Flake to Washington Post columnist George Will, endorsed Biden in the 2020 election.

But “Real Time” host Bill Maher — a liberal with a libertarian streak — has been warning that the MAGA movement and much of the modern GOP is dangerously authoritarian and that the days of conservative President Ronald Reagan and liberal House Speaker Tip O’Neill having a cordial relationship despite their policy differences are long gone. Bipartisanship, according to Maher, doesn’t work when MAGA extremists don’t even believe that Biden has the right to govern. And similarly, visiting Georgetown University history professor Thomas Zimmer laments, in an op-ed published by The Guardian on February 22, that there can be no “politics as usual” when the GOP of 2022 is so “radicalized.”

“Republicans could not be clearer about the fact that they consider Democratic governance fundamentally illegitimate,” Zimmer writes. “Yet some establishment Democrats act as if politics as usual is still an option and a return to ‘normalcy’ imminent.”

Zimmer cites Biden’s friendly tone with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as an example of his desire for bipartisanship.

The 79-year-old Biden and the 80-year-old McConnell go way back and served in the U.S. Senate together for 24 years. McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984, and they were in the Senate together up until Biden’s inauguration as vice president under President Barack Obama in January 2009.

“Over the past few weeks,” Zimmer explains, “President Joe Biden has repeatedly emphasized his friendship with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. At the National Prayer Breakfast in early February, for instance, he praised McConnell as ‘a man of your word. And you’re a man of honor. Thank you for being my friend.’”

Zimmer continues, “Biden’s publicly professed affinity is weirdly at odds with the political situation…. It is true that he has, at times, signaled distance to Donald Trump and condemned the January 6 insurrection, but McConnell is also sabotaging any effort to counter the Republican Party’s ongoing authoritarian assault on the political system.”

Sen. Rick Scott of Florida has unveiled an 11-point blueprint for GOP talking points that he recommends for Republican candidates in the 2022 midterms, and its tone is bitterly divisive. Journalist Judd Legum and economist/New York Times columnist Paul Krugman have commented on Scott’s desire to raise taxes on Americans who aren’t rich:

Zimmer, in his Guardian op-ed, goes on to argue that Biden isn’t the only Democrat who is “hoping for bipartisan support” while MAGA Republicans declare war on U.S. democracy.

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insists the nation needs a strong Republican Party,” Zimmer observes. “Meanwhile, radicals like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar, who fantasize about committing acts of violence against Democrats, are embraced by fellow Republicans, proving they are not just an extremist fringe that has ‘hijacked’ the Party, as Pelosi suggested.”

The history professor concludes his op-ed on a disturbing note, arguing that Democrats are being naïve if they underestimate the “radicalization” of the 2022 GOP.

“‘I actually like Mitch McConnell,’ Biden said during a press conference a few weeks ago, providing a window into what he sees in Republicans — no matter what they do, underneath they’re good guys, they’ll snap out of it. Promise,” Zimmer writes. “It’s the manifestation of a specific worldview that makes it nearly impossible to acknowledge the depths of Republican radicalization — a perspective that severely hampers the fight for the survival of American democracy.”

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