No, We Don’t Need A ‘Big, Strong’ Republican Party, For Christ’s Sake!
Last week, while accepting an honorary degree from Smith College in Massachusetts, Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Republicans to “take back" their party from the far right, which is like asking the Corleones to take back their family business from all those scuzzy gangsters.
PELOSI: I say to my Republican friends, “Take back your party. The country needs a big, strong Republican party. Here, I say that as a leader in the Democratic Party, but we need a big, strong Republican party. You've done so much for our country.
OK, I don't enjoy sharing bad news, but sometimes it's best to rip off the Band-Aid: Pelosi has no Republican friends. This isn't 1988.
Also, even if this were 1988 and I was wearing Bugle Boy jeans again, I'm not convinced a “big, strong Republican party" has done anything positive for the nation. Ronald Reagan's union-busting and slow strangulation of the middle class for the benefit of the wealthy is hardly worthy of praise, especially from the Democratic speaker of the House.
PELOSI: Take pride and take back your party. Don't have it be a cult of personality on the extreme, extreme right. This isn't about liberal or conservative. This is about radical ... they don't believe in governance.
I have to disagree with Madame Speaker here: The current MAGA-fied GOP has great pride in its corrupt outfit that's on track to reclaim the House majority. Also, I think this is a clear issue of liberalism versus conservatism. Pelosi mentioned the GOP's rejection of the science regarding COVID-19, but that's not necessarily a surprise. The party's been filled with climate deniers for a while, and the “big, strong" GOP has always prioritized short-term profits over the long-term health of the planet. Their response to COVID-19 isn't a shock, because their Randian, individualistic conservative ideology is doo-doo and always has been.
After George W. Bush passed his surplus-shredding tax cuts in 2001, Grover Norquist boasted that he wanted the government small enough to drown in a bathtub. Reagan cynically said in 1986, “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government, and I'm here to help." He was the leader of the federal government! This has always been a party more interested in picking the poor's pockets than in actual governance.
However, Pelosi still pleads with the GOP to “take back your party, which has done so much for our country." She'd expressed similar sentiments last year during the presidential campaign:
"One of my prayers is that the Republicans will take back their party," Pelosi said. "The country needs a strong Republican Party. It's done so much for our country, and to have it be hijacked as a cult at this time is really a sad thing for America."
This prayer obviously remained unanswered. Donald Trump tried to overturn the presidential election and incited a mob to attack Congress. Republicans rallied to his defense during his second annual impeachment, and they now openly treat him as the leader of the party. The few Republicans who dare push back against the Big Lie and support an investigation into the January 6 insurrection are considered traitors and Democratic “spies."
The current GOP is a post-democracy authoritarian movement. A "big, strong Republican party" is one that wins elections, and you can't share power with a death cult. Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney, along with every former Republican on MSNBC, can't redeem this party. It must be defeated utterly.
We should also accept that even non-seditious Republicans are an existential threat. Neither Kinzinger nor Cheney supported voting rights legislation or the Equality Act. Last year, Kinzinger said Amy Coney Barrett was “exactly the kind of judge we need on the Supreme Court." Non-MAGA Republicans would still support the policies that resulted in the Texas voter suppression laws and grotesque abortion ban.
Look, don't tell me about how Democrats have to say nice things about Republicans so we won't scare independent voters. That strategy has never worked, and at this point, we just look weak, desperate, and naive. Midterms are a year away, and it's not the best pitch to suggest the country needs a “strong Republican party" when our very democracy depends on Democrats maintaining their tenuous control of Congress.
Voters are not naturally inclined toward one-party rule. Democrats need to hammer the message that the GOP is no longer an American political party. If voters are obsessed with a two-party system, Democrats currently have at least three viable ones: The Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez/Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren wing, the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris/Jim Clyburn wing, and whatever it is Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are doing. At their worst, these groups at least believe in democracy and won't attempt a violent insurrection if they don't get their way.
We don't need Republicans. We never did.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."