The once-conservative GOP has been 'radicalized' by 'authoritarian MAGA World': Ex-Bush speechwriter
When President Joe Biden called out former President Donald Trump and other “MAGA Republicans” as anti-democracy extremists during his September 1 speech in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, he made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t attacking conservatives in general. Biden, in fact, has often bragged about his ability to help get bipartisan bills past the finish line during his decades in the U.S. Senate, and the productive relationship he enjoyed in the past with conservative Republicans like Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas.
Regardless, Trump allies ranging from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel attacked the speech as divisive. McDaniel claimed that Biden’s speech was attacking “millions of Americans.”
But one conservative who agrees with Biden that the modern Republican Party has taken a dangerously “authoritarian” turn is author Peter Wehner. In a scathing article published by The Atlantic on September 8, Wehner argues that the Trumpified GOP of 2022 is not traditionally conservative, but “authoritarian” and “radicalized.”
Over the years, the 61-year-old Wehner hasn’t been shy about criticizing liberals and progressives. But the Republican Party, as Wehner sees it, took an incredibly dark turn when it nominated Trump in the 2016 presidential election. The GOP’s “radicalization,” according to Wehner, was evident when a violent mob of Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 — and MAGA Republicans have not abandoned the “authoritarian tendencies” they showed that day.
“The majority of the party has gotten more radicalized, more aggressive, and more conspiracy-minded, not less, since Trump left office,” Wehner laments. “The MAGA movement has provided many of its adherents with an identity, a source of personal meaning, and a cause for which to fight. They have created a narrative in which they are heroic figures fighting malevolent forces. They find psychological satisfaction in relentless conflict; their lives seem more vivid and more purposeful within MAGA’s ever-combative frame. Politics has become, for them, an ersatz religion. In this activated state, they are not reachable by reason or open to amelioration. In fact, many in MAGA World are looking for reasons to take offense, to feel victimized, to lash out.”
Wehner, author of the 2019 book “The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump” and a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, goes on to argue that “the time for mollifying grievances is over.”
“In our political endeavors, the task is now to contain and defeat the MAGA movement, shifting away from a model of psychological amelioration and toward a model of political confrontation,” Wehner emphasizes. “This is the model that Liz Cheney embraces, and so do I. It requires defeating Trump Republicans at the polls, but it goes well beyond that. It also means rallying the forces that must rise up to oppose authoritarianism by speaking honestly about the nature of the threat.”
Wehner continues, “It means telling the truth about not just Trump, but many of his supporters, who remain complicit in a corrupt and corrupting enterprise — one that is inflicting grave injury on our nation and its ideals…. I am not suggesting ‘giving up’ on individual MAGA supporters, writing them off, throwing them out of polite society…. I am suggesting that much of MAGA World is authoritarian; that Liz Cheney is right to turn all her political energies to opposing it; and that containing and defeating MAGA — not hoping it will change, not placating its grievances — is now the No. 1 priority for friends of democracy. Maybe we’ll succeed, maybe we’ll fail, but the mission is unavoidable. And honorable.”
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