The Morbid Decline of the Republican Party

Right-wing protest.

Image by Colin Lloyd.

The morbid decline of the Republican Party is real. When Dick Cheney, one of the key architects of the colossal moral failure of going to war in Iraq, states that he no longer recognizes the Republican Party, it’s clear that the U.S. is in serious trouble.

One of the main reasons the Republican Party is unrecognizable is because a large segment has transformed into an actual cult. While there is a wide assortment of cults, they do share some common characteristics: a blind devotion to the leader, profound irrational thinking, absolute intolerance of criticism of the leader and ideology, chaotic organization and reorganization and eventual decline into violence. January 6, 2021is an excellent example of cult-driven behaviors.

The Republican Party was not always a cult. For example, 40 years ago, when President Reagan – a man today still esteemed and venerated by many within the Republicans party – vetoed the Anti-Apartheid Act in 1986, more than 25 Republican Senators and more than 50 Republican Representatives joined the Democrats to overturn Reagan’s veto.

In a similar manner, about 15 Republican Senators and 30 Republican Representatives joined the Democrats to overturn Reagan’s veto of the 1988 Civil Rights Restoration Act. Can you possibly imagine today’s Republicans voting against a Trump initiative? The few that have attempted to obstruct Trump have had to leave the party.

Recall the decades-long efforts by the Republican Party to defend the tobacco industry and obstruct virtually any regulation. It wasn’t until Judge Gladys Kessler declared in 2006 that for decades the tobacco industry lied to, misrepresented, and deceived the American public, that the hypocrisy was dramatically exposed.

That big business interests reign supreme within the Republican Party is evident in its preposterous advocacy of the Citizens United decision that corporations, like individual real people, have the same rights to political contributions. If corporation are the same as individuals, why haven’t I ever seen a corporation sitting next to me in a doctor’s office, buying groceries, riding a bus or a train, or having a conversation?

For decades we have known about the impending climate crisis. And the Republican response? As with the tobacco industry, they deny! deny! deny! According to them, real science is irrelevant and there is no climate crisis. Thus far in 2023, not one Republican presidential candidate has even uttered the word “climate” in their campaign rhetoric and basically shrug when it got mentioned briefly in one of the “debates.”

Can we realistically expect that the Republican Party will turn this country in the right direction and address our profound crisis after their traitorous dereliction of duty as seen on January 6th when eight Republican Senators and 139 Republican Representatives voted not to fulfill their Constitutional duty and certify a legal and fair election?

In 2000, Al Gore lost the election by 534 votes in merely one state and decided that it could harm the country to engage in a prolonged legal dispute after a states’ rights-oriented Supreme Court overruled the decision of the Supreme Court of the State of Florida and actually stipulated in their decision that their judgment applied to this case and this case alone – thereby publicly certifying the extent of the abnormality of their decision.

Where would the climate crisis be today if Al Gore were president in 2000? In addition, it seems likely to me that a Gore presidency would have preserved the lives of 4,492 American servicemembers in the Iraq war that died, the more than 32,000 U.S servicemembers injured, the countless numbers of PTSD victims, as well as a quarter of a million Iraqis (the Iraqi number can only be estimated).

It has taken less than 20 years for the Republican Party to be largely transmogrified from a corporate-friendly party of the rich into a cult veering sharply toward autocracy.

But there is no shortage of “Judge Kesslers” now exposing Trump for the fraud, liar, and election denier that he is, so we the people will ultimately be our own Judge Kessler in the court of public opinion. We will either pass sentence in favor of decency and democracy or we will continue to suffer the wounds inflicted by Republican devotion to shameless “leaders.”

Alan Kanner, Ph.D., is a psychologist in Amherst, MA.