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:
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:
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.