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What Republicans Are Fighting For

What Republicans Are Fighting For

2021 was the year science rendered mass COVID deaths unnecessary. Ready availability of a vaccine meant the pandemic and its horrors could have come to an end. Republicans said no.

We had more COVID deaths in 2021 than in the previous year, though they weren’t spread evenly across the country. These states led the way in pandemic carnage this year:

Data as of Dec. 21, 2021 / Last revised Dec. 28
Source: Johns Hopkins University; U.S. Census; CDC  Created with Datawrapper

Florida’s COVID death rate in 2021 was 50% higher than California’s and roughly double the figure for New York or Massachusetts. There wasn’t a Democratic-led state in the top ten.

It’s not just the pandemic. These are the ten states that led the country in mortality rate between 1999-2019:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2019 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released 2021.

At the bottom of the list? Hawaii, California and New York, followed by the usual blue-state culprits. Having a Republican government leaves you far more likely to die.

Half a century ago our political debates were relatively mundane, centering around matters of tedious adminstrata. Al Gore made his “Social Security Lock-Box” a keystone of his campaign. The idea consumed debate for weeks. Bush’s top campaign promise was a plan to provide greater educational rigor in public schools. Twenty years later it’s difficult to imagine life in a republic in which such arcane matters could consume our attention.

We just finished four years under a Republican President who paid his first money laundering penalty in the 90’s and his most recent one just as his campaign was kicking off. He spent his entire time in office skimming public money into his chain of resorts and shell companies. His refusal to even acknowledge the existence of a pandemic made the United States one of the deadliest places to be in that emergency, stifling the global response. When he lost, he sent his cult followers into the streets of DC where they ransacked the Capitol and disrupted the selection of the next President, injuring dozens of police and nearly murdering Trump’s own Vice President. Republicans don’t care.

Where we once faced a choice between a Social Security lock box or private accounts, now each election determines whether to continue with democracy or impose herrenvolk Fascism. Today, after figures like John McCain and Jack Kemp have died, the Republican Party is a Confederate Death Cult, determined to run back the clock to an easier era for white men.

How we got here is a long, tortured story, combining the flight of segregationist Democrats into the GOP and the decline of white supremacy as America’s unifying national myth. More important is what’s at stake now. What are Republicans fighting for? What will they do to us if they win? How do we stop them?

Not so long ago Republicans had goals as mundane as replacing the ACA with another program. However, you may have noticed that there’s no policy remaining in the Republican pitch. There will be no repeat of Trump’s endless “Infrastructure Week” farce in which concrete policy proposals are always just around the corner. Republicans have no policy aims. No governing objectives. No new healthcare plan or school reforms. Republicans are all about secession, but not the 19th century mold. That kind of secession would require at least some form of real world program, and attempt to do something. Our modern Confederates are determined to secede from any concept of public life, demolishing all of the infrastructure on which health care, education and civic cooperation are built.

Republicans don’t need a governing agenda because they are selling a great reversion, a grand Neo-Amish cult in which white people, no longer able to control public life through the machinery of democracy, dismantle public life entirely.

Name one great policy innovation to emerge from the right over the past decade. Forget about attempted repeals (Roe, ACA, etc), and focus on new policy ideas. Can you name one? Believe it or not, prior to the Tea Party, conservatives devoted a lot of time to policy innovation, some of which was quite interesting. Remember the hole in the ozone layer? What about acid rain? Hardly anyone born after 1980 can recall these devastating threats because an environmental innovation cooked up in right wing think tanks and sponsored by Reagan and Bush largely resolved them.

Conservatives invented the idea of Obamacare and a Republican Governor, Mitt Romney, was the first to form it into policy. That program in Massachusetts remains among the nation’s most successful health care initiatives. John McCain ran for President promising to enact a carbon tax. Republicans invented the 401K, Section 8 housing vouchers, opportunity zones, the EITC and in 1970 came closer than any administration in our history to enacting a basic income. Republicans haven’t always been like this.

What are Republicans doing now? Banning books. Seizing control of state-level Secretary of State positions so they can invalidate election results. Threatening school boards to block discussions of our racial history. Blocking efforts to contain the pandemic or distribute the vaccine. Making it as hard as possible for people to vote, including limits on weekend and mail-in voting. Building a wall on our Southern border. Ending immigration from countries perceived as “non-white.” Taxing electric vehicles, blocking the expansion of renewable energy infrastructure, blocking new rail and urban mass transit construction. Republicans’ most coherent public policy effort of the past half-decade or so has been their campaign to free their last ally in urban areas, white police departments, from public oversight.

Scour Republican think tanks, campaign websites, party platforms or other right wing data sources and I dare you to find a single coherent policy plan. Republicans don’t even attempt to govern anymore.

Republican politics celebrates the destruction of public life and revels in the death and poverty that follows. With no positive Republican agenda around which negotiation could rise, there’s nothing left to our politics but a bare contest of power against power. Republicans are preparing their cult members for the violence made inevitable by their choices.

Josh Mandel, the bizarre clown leading the Republican race for Senate in Ohio, is urging followers to use violence to resist pandemic containment measures. A white supremacist terrorist cell planned to kidnap the Governor of Michigan in 2020. Republicans consistently invoke the language of holy war in political settings because there’s nothing left in their movement but identity.

Republicans don’t have a governing agenda. They’ve shed all the burdens of public policy, and with it, all the elements on which negotiation could be conducted. What do Republicans want? Permanent rule by a white, cult minority enforced by violence. If they can’t have that, and they can’t, they’ll settle for the destruction of public life in every form. They’ll dismantle every form of public capital from schools to hospitals to energy infrastructure. Whatever they can’t maintain under white control, they will ruin.

Thoughts or preferences about specific Democratic policy plans are irrelevant at this point. The Republican Party is a death cult. Defeat it and there will be opportunities to debate specific public policies down the road. Let Republicans obtain the control they seek and we’ll forget what public policy looked like. Do whatever it takes to stop them.


  1. I just get really annoyed that after the Republicans successfully throw wrenches into the Democrats’ machines, the American public goes, “Blah, the machine doesn’t work, we should try voting for Republicans rather than Democrats.” Literally none of the things people are pissed off at Biden for would be better under any Republican, and many of them would be worse. But hey, time to deliver Republicans to Congress again.

    1. It’s not that they go “we better vote for Republicans” it’s more “well nothing worked so i might as well not vote at all.” that’s the thing, the republican voters ALWAYS show up they ALWAYS vote. others have to be “inspired.”

      it’s an unfortunate thing, there are far more democrats in the country than republicans, by several orders of magnitude but various factors (many exacerbated by republicans) work to stop them from voting.

      On top of that the problem you run into is that, until you’re staring down a full fascist coup, most people wont take it seriously. and that bleeds into the inherent disorganization and fractiousness son the left.

      leftists don’t respond well to authority and have little commitment to ideological battles. this means that if they don’t get what they want i.e. Bernie being the nominee, BBB actually passing, getting Medicare for all. they are more than happy to let the fascists win and let them burn down the whole thing down as they figure they can pick things up in the aftermath.

      in their mid it’s let the democrats suffer the consequences of their actions for not giving us what we want. maybe next time they’ll listen to us. the democrats wont as they would rather hand the country over to fascists rule than go against their donors but there it is.

  2. This is a slight tangent, but since you brought up Covid…

    I work in healthcare, and one of the developing stories, as it were, is how absolutely broken our health care system is right now. The fact that somehow the system didn’t break in past surges I think has lulled people into a sense of false security. The healthcare system has been running flat out for 2 years with no breaks. People are burnt out, many have left, and even little things like equipment maintenance, supplies, construction projects, etc. have not recovered.

    One of the biggest developments with the latest surge is that many hospitals have open beds, but no nurses, techs, etc. to staff them. And whereas in past surges people volunteered for double shifts and extra overtime, assuming that the surge would be temporary, people are now so burned out that the opposite is happening: no one wants to take on extra work and if you force them, they leave. There are no reserves left.

    The rule of thumb in military logistics is for every day spent on the battlefield, you need to spend 1 day in recovery / maintenance, and 1 day in training / re-equipping. The healthcare system has not had any of that. Without that, the effectiveness of your troops and equipment declines even if, on paper, numbers such as size and quantity still seem fine.

    If in past surges the story was how the healthcare system was somehow able to cope even as the official statistics of capacity like open beds, ventilators, supplies, staff, etc. seemed to indicate that everything should be collapsing, I suspect the new stories will be the opposite: why the system is underperforming despite its official statistics (“Why are ERs turning away patients when the hospital officially is at only 80% capacity?” Maybe because there are no nurses to staff the other 20%?).

    The real statistic to watch here will not be bed utilization (as mentioned, many hospitals now have empty beds they can’t fill because so many nurses and support staff left), but mortality rates. With everyone burned out and the remaining ones overworked to the point of exhaustion, combined with the “deferred maintenance” of people not able to get their elective surgeries and other care for 2 years and counting, I suspect overall mortality rates, i.e. the excess death rate (number of extra deaths above the expected historical norms) which includes not just covid deaths but the cumulative effect of poor, deferred, and triage-based health care for the general population for 2 years straight will start rising, even as other indicators like bed utilization and employment numbers stay “normal”.

    (Also, even the numbers won’t stay normal. Lots of rural hospitals, for example, have closed because the pandemic has hit them the hardest over the past 12-18 months, and they were already in precarious finances beforehand. So combine reduced capacity with reduced effectiveness of the remaining capacity, and you’re looking at a double whammy).

      1. While it’s too early to say for sure (human bodies are surprisingly resilient), I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re right. We’ve been practicing disaster protocol medicine for the past 2 years. How long can you defer routine stuff like cardiac care, cancer, diabetes, etc. until the overall burden of disease starts to rise? How long before you start to see late-stage disease because stuff is going untreated in the early stages? For 2 years people have been told to stay home unless they’re actively dying or gasping for breath. This is the exact opposite of what we usually say (“see the doctor early because it’s always better to catch something early rather than late”). At some point, even when the pandemic subsides, all that growing burden of delayed, untreated disease will undoubtedly have an effect on overall mortality and health statistics. Untreated early stage cardiac disease will present 5-10 years from now as a “puzzling” increase in heart attacks. The same for early stage cancers now being missed which will show up as increased rates of late-stage metastatic disease. Same with poorly managed diabetes leading to spikes in foot amputations, kidney failure, etc. years down the road.

        Our bodies are surprisingly resilient, and can tolerate some delays, suboptimal care, etc. But only to a point. At some point, temporary delays start to add up to permanent injuries, and the effects will be seen as puzzling rises in mortality in all sorts of diseases for years / decades to come.

      2. The media is starting to catch on:

        Here’s a scary quote:
        “This is why any comparisons between past and present hospitalization numbers are misleading: January 2021’s numbers would crush January 2022’s system because the workforce has been so diminished. Some institutions are now being overwhelmed by a fraction of their earlier patient loads.”

        The problem isn’t just raw numbers. Even if somehow we could replace every nurse and tech that left, those would all be new graduates, and the loss of experience, institutional knowledge, etc. is tremendous and will take decades to replace.

        I do think this means we will see worsened health statistics for years to decades to come as the system slowly rebuilds itself and we deal with the effects of widespread delayed care. And that’s in the best case scenario where everyone gets vaccinated / boosted and this pandemic tapers down over the next 6 months.

  3. The policy initiatives that Chris mentioned were all developed prior to Movement Conservatism seizing control of the Republican Party and the maturation of the Southern Strategy. Those were completed and consolidated win 1994 with the TEA Party Sweep. They forced all the more moderate Republicans out of the Party.

    Movement Conservatism does indeed have a program. That is to develop an Oligarchy, in which only the elite have power. All others are consigned to an existence supporting those in power. This was explained best by James Hammond a Senator from SC in his Mudsill Speech in 1858, The Wikipedia Article is linked to below.

    The Mudsill Theory basically typified the Oligarchic / Oligopolistic economy of the Antebellum South, which was depended on Slavery with the White underclass kept satisfied via White Supremacy.

    Wikipedia Mudsill Theory Article:

    With the failure of Secession, The corporate and business sectors were able to consolidate control over the Republican Party and later created the Gilded Era and the Roaring Twenties, when they were basically allowed to to as they pleased. In both cases, they were will on their way to establishing an American economy based on economic fiefdoms similar to the fiefdoms of “Medieval Europe” as you mention.

    Movement Conservatism< AKA Republican Party, now has as its immediate goal the establishment of an economic system similar to that of the 1920s in which the wealthy rule supreme in all sectors, that necessitates a weak national government because it is the only governmental unit in the American system that has enough power to control the corporations. White Supremacy and the associated policy of libertarianism are the means of weakening the national government so much that it is no longer powerful enough to control the corporations. The only legitimate powers the national government would have is maintaining a supremely powerful military and domestic policing to keep the "riffraff" under control. Furthermore, human nature being as it is, the wealthy would continually want to expand the control of the US throughout the world. Accordingly there would be continual wars of conquest and the military would be very aggressive.

    This essentially fits the definition of fascism. And it the scenario sounds like Orffwell's "1984", that is because it is.

  4. Well Chris, more and more your manifestos read more like more thoughts.

    The loser party is incapable of dealing with the death cult. It simply does have the skills. And more so, it does not have the moral character to do what is necessary to stop the complete destruction of democracy that started in 2017 and continues apace.

    The true irony is that because the the Biden admin has been so inept, let alone the dem’s on the state level, the tyrant’s group will reascend to power in 2022, sealing the deal in 2024, simply using the traditional democratic process.

    Neville Chamberlain chose the path of reason, rule of law, and appeasement….”Peace in our time”. The loser party is following the same path. What would have happened if the Brits or French had found a way to assassinate the leader of the Nazi party, say in 1936 or 1938?

    “Do whatever it takes to stop them.” is what you ended this article with. Sane people can see what is happening. There is only one option left.

  5. DFC

    They’re fighting for and against feelings. Conservatives have never been able to say exactly what policies they’re for, so where the rubber of “conservatism” meets the road of actual policy-making, they’re at odds among themselves over what to do and how to do it. They’ve admitted as much since Reagan, who, for example, defended their insistence on the balanced budget by turning the US from history’s greatest creditor to history’s greatest debtor in just eight years. Their non-negotiable positions have fallen like dominoes ever since: prudent foreign policy, smaller government, traditional roles and procedures, Constitutional fidelity, law and order…now they stand in the rubble of their own reversed and betrayed beliefs and admit they never really had any convictions, just tactics and inductions. Fighting “for” something requires they they make a clear case, and now they won’t even commit to that much.

    They have one last goal: martyrdom. They are committed to spectacular failure, denial, pride, and spite. It’s an echo of 1865, when Jefferson Davis addressed the people:

    Danville, Va., April 4, 1865.

    The General in Chief of our Army has found it necessary to make such movements of the troops as to uncover the capital and thus involve the withdrawal of the Government from the city of Richmond….

    The hopes and confidence of the enemy have been constantly excited by the belief that their possession of Richmond would be the signal for our submission to their rule, and relieve them from the burden of war, as their failing resources admonish them it must be abandoned if not speedily brought to a successful close. It is for us, my countrymen, to show by our bearing under reverses how wretched has been the self-deception of those who have believed us less able to endure misfortune with fortitude than to encounter danger with courage. We have now entered upon a new phase of a struggle the memory of which is to endure for all ages and to shed an increasing luster upon our country.

    Relieved from the necessity of guarding cities and particular points, important but not vital to our defense, with an army free to move from point to point and strike in detail the detachments and garrisons of the enemy, operating on the interior of our own country, where supplies are more accessible, and where the foe will be far removed from his own base and cut off from all succor in case of reverse, nothing is now needed to render our triumph certain but the exhibition of our own unquenchable resolve. Let us but will it, and we are free; and who, in the light of the past, dare doubt your purpose in the future?

  6. Great article, Chris, and, a “Happier”New Year. I followed the development of the ACA which, of course, led to the MA model, or, as it became known, “Romneycare”. I have not been able to find the article that supports this statement, but recall reading that Romney was a reluctant partner in the beginning of serious legislative discussion about changing health care in MA to a model that included access for all persons, penalties (IRS) to those who refused, and federal/state partnerships in expansion of Medicaid. As Romney observed both the resolve of the political forces and support from a broad cross-section of MA (more liberal state, more wealthy per capita, no focused opposition), he got on board….why not? The rest, as they say, is history, and Romney indeed did sign and support this novel plan built upon the twin pillars of (1) health exchanges in which people could select the health insurance plan that best met their individual/family needs; and, (2) utilized the Individual Mandate concept including financial penalties for those with means who opted out.

    This article offers an interesting historical study of the evolution of Romneycare into Obamacare. Romney certainly deserves credit but there were forces at work that likely would have prevailed (majority in MA state legislature wanted this plan), so he wisely helped it over the finish line. Such is politics, no?

    1. Mary, I too watched the development of the ACA. As you say the Massachusetts Plan was indeed the basis for the ACA. However due to the politics significant changes were required which did weaken the ACA. Nevertheless, it is still as significant step. the next step will be to somehow adopt a public option and to allow early buy-in to Medicare. After that perhaps the US will eventually adopt a Single Payer plan similar to the Canada.

  7. “What do Republicans want? Permanent rule by a white, cult minority enforced by violence.”
    I don’t disagree with anything you have written Chris but I can’t escape the idea that there is a parallel story here. I agree that this is what Republican VOTERS want but what does the Money want? We would not be here if BIG money wasn’t behind this and shaping the story to sway voter opinion.
    When the Berlin wall fell a flood of cash washed unhindered over the planet. The Neo-liberal policies launched by Reagan no longer had any restraining walls and Kleptocracy reigned supreme. White Supremacy and the 1950’s Disney Fantasy are the bait, line and reel but the anglers are the true culprits and the heart of the story. Identify what’s in this for Foster Friess, the DeVoss clan, Rupert Murdoch et al and you will discover how to defeat it.

    1. The money wants the world broken into fiefdoms. Wealthy people want to be set free from the chains of the only power strong enough to limit them – national governments.

      With governments decimated their power will only grow. They would BE the government, the only power that smaller, weaker people could turn to for support and protection.

      It sounds a lot like Medieval Europe, but that political arrangement reached its absolute zenith in the Antebellum South, and in certain corners of the colonial world. That’s the model the wealthy are looking to recreate.

      1. This.

        Oligarchs want to be the founding members of an Aristocracy.

        The rich have a much easier time buying local, city, and state governments than they do national governments. They are much cheaper and much easier to control.

        The Police already pretty much act as knights for the oligarchs, and private police forces using the Second Amendment and Stand Your Ground laws will be their knights once government has been replaced by their fiefdoms.

        Neofeudalism. Not even once.

    2. Brent-
      And this is why the Democrats are so mealy-mouthed in trying to stop the Republicans. Their money interests are the same as the Republicans. How do you destroy the Koch Brothers when NYC’s symbol of liberal elitedom, the Lincoln Center’s main stage, is named for its biggest patron, David H. Koch?

      The Global Financial Crisis started under Bush, but Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan, sat on Obama’s economic recovery team. While the Republicans actively march their supporters off a cliff, the Democrats could at best be described as benign neglect, not pushing, but not caring if you fall off the cliff anyway. Just ask minorities and poor people in liberal cities dying under Democratic dysfunction.

      “Identify what’s in this for Foster Friess, the DeVoss clan, Rupert Murdoch et al and you will discover how to defeat it.”
      To which the Democrats reply “We have met the enemy and it is us.”

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