Nearly a year ago I predicted the downfall of the Republican Party. I won’t make any grand prognostications for exactly when and how the Republican Party will cease to be because while it could be utterly decimated in the next few days with the Senate impeachment of Donald Trump, it could also limp on divided and largely irrelevant for the next few years. It’s even possible the Grand Old Party will linger on for decades and eventually re-establish itself as a relevant part of our democratic republic. But for the time being it has become incompatible with American ideals of equality, liberty, and justice for all and also democracy.
But this does not mean that all those Republicans who voted for candidates some of whom were appalled by the events of January 6 and others who participated will just gasp in realization of the irrelevance of their Party and either become diehard Democrats or snap out of existence. I can name a few Republicans I wish would do the latter, but I will refrain. What I’m saying is that those Republican voters and even those Republican candidates will have to go somewhere.
It is weird for our system, which is essentially Parliamentarian, to have been just a two-Party system for so long. And for this discussion I will ask the reader to refrain from thinking about the Presidency. I know a lot of you think the President can solve all because Obama, but that’s not how this works and it’s not how it is even meant to work. But with all that said, I am really happy that if we do end up with an additional major Party, the split will happen on the conservative side rather than the liberal side.
I say this because outside of Georgia and Congress, most American elections may be decided based on plurality as opposed to majority. That’s not a very safe system because if — just to pull a random scenario, indicative of nothing, out of the proverbial hat — a supposedly liberal candidate were to tell potentially liberal voters that they should “vote their conscience,” and not necessarily for one of the two candidates on the ballot where the conservative choice was a fascist then there is a high likelihood that the fascist could win a plurality of votes even though the majority of voters did not vote for him. Having a split on your own side in this kind of system is electorally lethal.
It might sound like I’m ramping up to say that the Democratic Party will take on moderate ex-Republicans and therefore become more centrist or that I’m saying the Democratic Party will be free to skew further leftwards. I am saying neither of these things. And not to sound like a complete wonker (I’m coining a term: it’s wonk + wanker,) but that’s too linear an interpretation of a more complex multidimensional reality to ultimately be true either way.
This is about to get weird, but there are multiple factors which determine ideological perspective and position and a really important indicator which is often overlooked is the embrace or rejection of white supremacy. A lot of people try to explain ideology in terms of economics, but that’s not just reductive; it’s wrong. We have seen multiple different socialists do incredibly racist and/or sexist things and we have seen some pretty hardcore capitalists support things like immigration reform, access to affordable care, higher and equal wages, and environmental conservation. Economics is not really a consistent indicator of ideological position, but racism or anti-racism absolutely is.
So, with that in mind up until about 2015 or arguably a bit earlier the Democratic Party was the anti-racist Party. But around that time there was a clear divide that began to form if not in the Democratic Party proper then among liberal voters or likely Democratic voters. The Party itself was pretty anti-racist, but in part because white people pave their path to hell with good intentions and in part because the Republican Party was having severe racist peanut allergies to the Obama Presidency, a faction of the liberal bloc of the US started skewing increasingly white populist. This never went nearly as far as it did in the Republican Party and some of it can even be partially attributed to Republicans who did become Democrats in that time weirdly because the Republican Party leadership itself was trying to do a course correction regarding a rise in racism in its ranks, but at least from my white girl perspective, there was a definite rise in the acceptance of racism among so-called liberals starting around 2015.
I do stipulate that that last is from my own white perspective because Martin Luther King Jr. talked about exactly this problem in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” I’m a palaeopathologist rather than a political historian so I do not have absolute historical and demographic data on this, but if the early multidimensional ideological studies were accurate then the rise of racist sentiment among “liberals” around 2015 should have been an anomaly. MLK was decrying what he called moderates, and while I suspect his words would be wilfully misinterpreted today, I’m pretty sure the man knew what he was talking about.
Essentially, I am actually saying that the Democratic Party is either going to get a whole lot more liberal as a result of being guaranteed a majority with the dissolution of either the Republican Party or coordinated conservative voting, or it is going to become a whole lot more conservative as it takes on essentially Republican refugees. But that will happen in the sense that it will either become more racist or more anti-racist.
I actually suspect — and hope — that the Party will become more anti-racist. And I have, as always, numerous reasons for believing this.
For one, American general ideology does behave a bit like a pendulum and for this I will discard what I said earlier about not thinking about the Presidency. Obama behaved as a moderate-left President, but he and the other elected Democrats who served with him at the time were able to enact what at the time was super far left legislation. Additionally, because he was our first Black President a lot of racist resentment built up against him. This does not make Trump’s racism his fault or inevitable, but it does explain some of the motivations and corrupt justifications behind the racist resentment. But particularly after the openly white supremacist attack on the Capitol it is likely that we are currently experiencing as a country a dramatic ideological shift towards anti-racism.
Secondly, and in part due to Trumpism and the overt racist domestic terrorism which surrounds that movement, it has become far easier to ideologically define voters and voting blocks as either racist or anti-racist. Whilst economics was never really a primary spectrum for ideological definition except among white men, it is now obvious to even the most casual observer that economic position is not a sufficient or even relevant ideological delineator. While it is unlikely that the worst mostly white male offenders supposedly on the left will see many or any ramifications for their previous anti-immigration or anti-Black sentiments, they can no longer openly hold those sentiments and maintain their position as “far left.”
But probably most significantly, the Georgia elections have made it absolutely undeniable that race and anti-racism is a primary determinant in voting behaviour. As voting rights are enforced and as it becomes easier for every American regardless of race to vote there will be a national shift towards anti-racism. Whilst minorities are still minorities — with the exception of women who are the only majority minority bloc — it will become increasingly impossible to dismiss minorities as “special interests,” in favour of economic reckoning.
Again, all this is reflective of what is happening with the Republican Party. The GOP has been able to maintain it’s semblance of a majority in areas of the country where it wasn’t actually that well supported through a combination of gerrymandering and voter suppression most of which was implemented through clearly racist policies. It is somewhat telling that one of the most outspoken advocates for the promotion of the myth of “voter fraud,” calls himself “Thor” Hearne despite that not being his actual name and him not being even a little Scandinavian. (As someone who can trace her lineage back to Denmark I take issue with racists using Norse mythology to justify their foolishness particularly when they themselves are not Scandinavian.)
Republicans as a Party and conservative voters were able to maintain a voting bloc and power in politics because they were implementing racist policies and appealing to white supremacist reactive sentiment. Whilst many Republicans would not describe themselves as racist and whilst many of them might genuinely consider other spectrums of ideology more defining of their position, they were benefiting from a clearly racist system which they have demonstrably done nothing to dismantle for the reason that it preserves their power. This is how white supremacy works. You don’t have to openly or even consciously buy into it to participate.
But Republican reactions to the terrorist attack on the Capitol and Trump’s criminality have been both telling and predictable. They are scrambling and — for better or for worse — having profited intentionally or not from a racist system, they will not be able to maintain power in the same way they have previously. Exactly how this happens depends on their actions, but we’ve reached an inflection point where the GOP will no longer be able to successfully ply racist resentment to gain or maintain power.
For Democrats this is mostly good. The most likely scenario is that the Republican party or the conservative voting block will fracture in some way. It is possible that Trump will be in a position to make good on his threat of creating an openly racist third Party which will itself undermine the GOP but also never be strong enough to threaten the Democratic Party thereby handing all foreseeable elections to the Democratic Party in the most historically ironic set of events imaginable. But it is also possible that due to Republican elected officials’ unwillingness to commit to a position — either support the anti-American racist terrorists who attacked the Capitol despite where they came from or denounce them as anti-American racist terrorists who attacked the Capitol — no or few Republican politicians will be able to walk the line between the anti-American racist sentiment that has come to define their party and actually doing their duty to the republic.
The issue and danger for Democrats comes from the fact that there are absolutely racists within the Democratic Party and caucusing with it. White men in the Democratic Party also still do benefit from the institutional aspects of white supremacy. Racism does define the GOP but the reason I have repeatedly stated that economics is insufficient for defining political ideology is because economic leftism is often used to obscure racist sentiment and behaviour. There has been openly bigoted behaviour in the campaigns of several Democratic or leftist candidates and a not insignificant portion of the Democratic or liberal voting bloc insists on calling itself “progressive,” while simultaneously working to silence and control women and BIPOC.
Because of the now increasing strength of minority voters and the history of accomplishments of actual progressives as opposed to what I like to call “fauxgressives,” it is unlikely that the Democratic Party will be pulled towards racism and bigotry similar to the way the GOP was. But the systems which benefit white people, particularly men are still very much in place. White men still unironically appropriate the works of MLK and Toni Morrison on twitter and white women still don’t have the same sort of strength of character as women of colour.
I truly believe we are finally witnessing a true national shift to actual leftist ideology in the Democratic Party and in the nation as a whole. I — for the first time since Obama’s Presidency and Hillary Clinton’s electoral win in 2016 — am excited for the future of our nation and the Democratic Party. But all my hopes and dreams still live in the future. We have not overcome bigotry yet and while I am stubbornly and relentlessly hopeful that we might, we have only just identified the problem. There remain to us many, many dangers.