Republican Reich or GOP Clown Car? The 2024 Race Heats Up Early

Photograph Source: Government of Florida – Public Domain

You knew Florida governor Ron DeSantis has presidential ambitions, right? What gave it away – his law banning vaccine passports a couple of months back? His dislike for masks to protect from covid? Or when he signed a law against alleged censorship of conservatives by Big Tech? Or maybe it was his June 25 announcement that he would send 50 police officers to the Texas border? Or perhaps his desperate clutch at Trump’s coattails from day 1.

Things are getting kinda crowded on those coattails. So many politicos all bumping their heads against the former president’s behind that you might be tempted to say something rude. I’ll forgo that, and just note that there’s a whole slew of GOP governors on those coattails, along with former Trump secretary of state Mike “Bomb Iran!” Pompeo and various congress critters like Matt “She Didn’t Look like a Teenager” Gaetz and Marco “Invade Venezuela!” Rubio. But what I want to know is, where is Mark “Machiavelli” Meadows? I’m not getting upset about the GOP presidential clown car till he clambers onboard. Then it’s time to head for the hills.

All these contenders aim to corner as much of “the base” as they can. Problem is, the core of that base, Trump’s so-called “fine people” like the Oath Keepers, find themselves under indictment and are too busy with their plea bargains to throw their weight behind DeSantis or Pompeo. You see, the base supported a little caper on January 6, one that involved rioting at the capitol and interfering with an election transition. That does not deter the Republican Reich, however. These are its shock troops. The Proud Boys, the Three Percenters, the Oath Keepers…and probably the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party – but we don’t talk about that.

For those that didn’t get the email, the 2022 midterms – and, of course, the 2024 election – will be punctuated from beginning to end by howls about Democratic electoral fraud. The radical right considers this their knockout tactic. That’s debatable, but it’s also their ONLY tactic. Some of those howlers started early, like Rep. Mo Brooks, currently claiming, as the Washington Post reports, that he cannot be sued over the capitol riot that his howls incited, because he is a federal employee. While the brazen deceit of this defense may astonish the casual observer of the American political scene, I’m sure its results will be watched closely by other right-wing congressional insurrectionists, who figure if it works, they’re home free. If it doesn’t, they’ll say antifa made them do it, amirite?

Or they can take Trump’s Orwellian approach, recently on display at the Conservative Political Action Conference meeting. There, the former president informed attendees that the January 6 capitol riot was a “lovefest” between his supporters and the police. CNN reported that Trump claimed that “love was in the air,” as rioters attacked the capitol and beat police officers. Anyone who watched videos of the failed insurrection would be excused for concluding that Trump inhabits an alternate universe. The rioters I saw had put up gallows and chanted “hang Mike Pence!” Aside from lynching the vice president, they also wanted to get their hands on the House speaker and other congresspeople. What for? Suffice it to say, Pelosi et al might well not have survived it. So Trump has an odd idea of love, but then we knew as much from his sleazy history with porn stars. Just like his peculiar ideas about electoral fraud, which somehow don’t include telling the Georgia secretary of state to “find” him thousands of votes.

But plenty of Republicans want to jump on Trump’s vote fraud bandwagon. On July 5, the Post reported that some sententious young self-promoter named Wren Williams “defeated a 14-year incumbent in a Virginia House of Delegates primary after claiming he had seen evidence of fraud while working as a lawyer for the Trump campaign.” There you have the GOP template – associate oneself with the disgraced Duce, all while bellowing lies about dead voters, fractional voters and phony voters shipped into the country by Hugo Chavez’s ghost. Because who can believe any charges of electoral fraud without the involvement of a dead Venezuelan communist?

“He wasn’t taking election integrity seriously,” the Post reported Wren Williams saying of his GOP opponent. “I’m sitting here fighting [sitting and fighting at the same time – interesting!] for election integrity in the courts, and he’s my elected representative who can legislate and he’s not.” Whatever exactly this solecism means, it translates roughly to “I’m busy buttering up Trump and he’s not.” Expect more of that from Republican candidates. Much more.

Unfortunately, the Dems don’t exactly have anything on tap dazzling enough to counter this array of shameless sycophants. True, Biden’s done a decent job with covid, and he’s sincerely trying to rectify the crime against humanity embodied in Trump’s abysmal migrant family separation policy. But what about, er, all those promises Biden broke? There’s kind of a pile of those, and claiming “Oh, but Joe Manchin” only goes so far. In fact, Biden broke so many promises – student debt, a public option, the minimum wage, the $300 weekly unemployment benefit and repealing the God-awful Trump tax cut for billionaires, for starters – that he’s providing Trump’s estranged relationship with the truth some serious competition.

Biden’s department of justice has further blurred differences. Just recently attorney general Merrick Garland announced that Justice would DEFEND Trump against E. Jean Carroll’s defamation suit. Those who thought DOJ would defend Carroll, who claims Trump raped her in a department store changing room and whom Trump then called a liar, were left with their jaws on the floor. Apparently, team Biden’s concerned about the presidential prerogative to slander a citizen accuser. Still, not a good look.

So the GOP is ghastly and the Dems are hopeless cowards. No wonder the geniuses in the Democratic Party worry about the Green Party. ANY third party’s looking pretty good right about now, especially one that takes our collapsing climate seriously. The Democrats sure don’t. Oh, they pay plenty of lip service to science, and they wring their hands over forest fires, heat domes and 116-degree weather in Portland, Oregon, but heaven forbid they should actually DO something.

No, that’s asking too much. They’re delighted to talk up the Paris Accord’s laughably weak anti-climate change standard. But zeroing out subsidies for fossil fuel corporations? Time to offer up corporate tax cuts for supposed good behavior. Or better yet, time to appoint a committee, then get its recommendations in 10 years. By which time the climate catastrophe will be irreversible. Then the Dems can throw up their hands and wail “but we had a committee!”

The chief Democratic selling point in 2020 was that it was not the party of outright fascism led by raving lunatics. But with Biden prolonging much of Trump’s ghastly foreign policy like the Cuba blockade and sanctioning every left-wing government under the sun, and with all those broken promises about domestic policies, the bipartisan chickens have come home to roost, namely, it’s getting pretty darn difficult to tell the two parties apart. Two hydra heads on one bipartisan war-inequality-and-roast-the-planet party. That’s what we’ve got. Aren’t we the lucky ducks?

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Lizard People. She can be reached at her website.