GOP Response To Any Challenge: Change The Rules
The news that the RNC is contemplating changing the rules in order to eliminate any chance that Trump could actually face the “possibility of contested primaries and caucuses” is symptomatic of what the Republican party has become. As Eric Cortellessa insightfully noted, the Republican party has become “not a set of ideas, not a vision of America’s role in the world, but a commitment to sustaining its own power, no matter the costs.”
Changing the rules in order to maintain power is the current modus operandi for the Republican party and, to an ever increasing degree, it really has been that way since the Gingrich-led takeover of the party in the 1990s. The Clinton impeachment effort was a failed effort to turn a consensual affair into a high crime or misdemeanor. The Brooks Brothers riot was an outright effort to steal an election through intimidation.
Mid-decade gerrymandering in Texas was Tom Delay’s raw grab of electoral power. Karl Rove’s targeting US Attorneys that refused to provide cover for disenfranchising voters by pursuing mythical voter fraud that would create a basis for voter suppression was a simple play to ensure certain Democrats would not be able to vote. Dick Cheney’s embrace of the unified executive theory and even John Yoo’s redefinition of torture were bold and brazen and successful attempts to broaden presidential power via fiat.
The election of Barack Obama and the 2010 GOP wave election further emboldened Republicans to redefine and expand the power they had gained. Mitch McConnell redefined the meaning of “advice and consent” to not only block Obama’s judicial nominees but also refuse to even give Merrick Garland hearing. GOP-dominated legislatures implemented both unconstitutional racial and questionably legal extreme partisan gerrymandering in order to redefine the electorate that would keep them in power. Voter ID and other voter suppression efforts accomplished the same goal.
Nowadays, virtually any successful electoral effort by Democrats to regain power is met by Republican attempts to redefine and diminish that power. We’ve seen it multiple times in North Carolina, and now in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Missouri.
Trump, of course, has taken this approach to its extreme for his entire presidency. He has attempted to redefine what “divestment” really means in order to keep personally benefiting from his business interests. For him, the words “conflict of interest” have no meaning. He has replaced cabinet secretaries with personal or corporate cronies, his version of Putin’s oligarchs, completely bypassing the constitutional requirement for Senate confirmation. The attempt to add the citizenship question to the Census is yet another effort to redefine the electorate in Republican favor.
The Trump government shutdown is perhaps his most brazen attempt to change the rules of the game. It allows him to keep benefiting financially as it delays the emoluments case against him. But, more importantly for Trump, the shutdown, by making the entire government dysfunctional, is his way of denying the power of the new Democratic House. And it is no coincidence that his discussions with Democratic leaders yesterday about the shutdown began with a profanity-laced rant about impeachment. For Trump, the oversight power of the Democratic House and the shutdown are inextricably linked.
In fact, the shutdown is just the next logical step in Republican efforts to sabotage any Democratic power and maintain their own. And that effort has been going on for years. As Charles Pierce keeps on maintaining, our democracy will not be restored and our planet can not be saved until the current incarnation of the Republican party is thrown on the ash heap of history.