By Hugh Bowden
For the more than 79 years I’ve now lived here on planet Earth, I have believed that U.S. democracy would long outlast me. For the first time in my life, I now have serious doubts. And those doubts are completely attributable to a Republican Party that has been transformed from a once legitimate and honorable political entity to a cult that worships Donald Trump as a deity and is driven solely by the desire to retain power in the face of an inexorable shrinking of white America.
I know in my heart that there are some Republicans who still cling to the conservative, small-government values that for decades provided the grassroots foundation for their party. But they are in a distinct minority. And too many of them, both among those who hold political office and those who don’t, are too afraid of offending the Trump cult to speak out publicly.
We see evidence of the transformation of Republicans to Trumplicans everywhere.
In a country that, for decades, has sought to involve as many citizens as possible in our voting process, Trumplicans are now doing everything they can, in state after state, to prevent or nullify votes that would be cast by people of color, who in a matter of a few years, will outnumber white Americans.
In the ongoing battle against the ever-mutating coronavirus, Trumplicans are leading the way in efforts to oppose mandatory vaccinations and the wearing of masks, the two most available safeguards we have to minimize the spread of the virus. To justify their position, they trot out the argument that they believe in personal responsibility and choice. But their belief in choice suddenly disappears when it comes to a woman’s right to control her own body or the rights of two people of the same gender to marry.
In Congress, the goal for Trumplicans has become to block almost any legislation proposed by Democrats, no matter how much public support that legislation may generate from Americans across the country. And Senate Trumplicans, aided by a pair of Democrats completely out of touch with reality, have so far successfully preserved the filibuster-on-demand, which blocks Democrats from using their razor-thin majority to enact voting rights measures that would help ensure the very survival of our democracy.
Too many Trumplicans have bought into the kind of asinine, truth-denying conspiracy theories espoused by such entities as QAnon. Just one example: Here in Maine, we recently heard a legislator from Alfred declaring that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is running a child slave colony on Mars.
Millions of American Trumplicans professing to be evangelical Christians turn their backs on the teachings of Jesus to support whatever Donald Trump tells them to do, no matter how harmful it may be to America and its people. The argument of many of them? We have to do this so we can have a U.S. Supreme Court that’s dominated by a right-wing Trumplican majority that will eventually overturn a woman’s right to abortion and the rights of gays and lesbians to marry.
Sadly, the Trumplican cult is willing to exercise every bit of power it has accrued through creative manipulation of voting districts, voter suppression and the use of the filibuster as a federal legislative blockade. But at the same time, the Democrats refuse to go on the offensive, choosing instead to play defense and losing battle after battle rather than even trying to exploit their slim – and perhaps soon to disappear – House and Senate majorities because they are unable to unite in support of a common goal. So, they settle for half a loaf, or less, every time they have a legislative objective.
There are two federal voting rights bills now languishing in Congress. Unless Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona can be convinced to overturn the filibuster, there’s no way in hell either of those bills will see the light of day – and meanwhile, we’ll see more and more Republican-dominated legislatures across the nation enacting voter suppression laws.
The Trumplican cult would have us believe their goal is to “save America.” But the America they have in mind would abandon democracy in favor of their own autocracy; an America where individual choice would prevail even in times where the exercise of that individual choice would threaten the health and lives of other Americans.
It’s taken a long time, but I’m finally convinced that I may live long enough to see the end of democracy as we know it. And I fear desperately for the future of my children and grandchildren – all because a mostly white minority of the American population doesn’t care about those futures. To them, it’s all about the accrual and retention of power – right now.
Hugh Bowden, a retired journalist, is a former Republican state legislator and longtime political observer. He lives in Ellsworth.