Saturday, August 18, 2018

Be Careful What You Wish For

So, as has been discussed and documented endlessly, the arc of the Republican party over the last several decades has been to increasingly put winning politically over governing responsibly. Under Clinton, they tried hearings and even impeachment. Then, under the odious GW Bush, they discovered that, hey, governing is really hard and probably takes a level of expertise and careful attention to detail that they were unable to muster. Then, under Obama, they discovered that full on burn-it-down, sand in the gears obstruction didn't result in any political costs at all. And now, under Trump, they are fully prepared to sacrifice American sovereignty as long as they can hold onto power.

So now, as the truth about the 2016 Trump campaign slowly trickles out, the Republicans, both in government and in the electorate, are working themselves around to a simple conclusion about Russian interference. It amounts to "so what?" Once it becomes impossible to argue, even on the margins, that the Russian government didn't intentionally hack the Democrats and work with the Trump campaign to influence American voters in the run-up to the 2016 elections, the party and its voters will simply decide that foreign interference doesn't matter - that it's essentially no different from any other interested party. Voters can make up their own minds, and if no actual votes were changed, the election was free and fair.

But here's where that's going to get dicey. If the November mid-term elections go as expected, the Republicans are going to be massively butthurt. Led by their Tweeter-in-chief, they're going to be screaming about rigged elections and voter fraud and...wait for it...interference. As soon as they need evidence of electoral shenanigans to support their desperate cries that they simply COULDN'T have lost, suddenly that interference by the GRU and the Internet Research Agency is going to take on a whole new look.

Now, hypocrisy as a political gaffe long ago lost its cachet. You can look at Mitch McConnell shepherding through the Kavanaugh nomination and compare what he's saying to what he said when Merrick Garland was the nominee, and see that the most blatant hypocrisy doesn't merit any more than an occasional snarky tweet. But this is going to be political hypocrisy on an entirely new level. Suddenly all the denials about Russian interference and collusion with the campaign are going to switch to a full-throated condemnation of the Republican party and its candidates for winning as a result of Russian interference and campaign collusion.

And just like that, in the course of two years, American electoral credibility will be gone forever. By placing this stunted, angry man-child in the highest position in the land and letting him and his cult members dictate so much of the narrative, we will have reduced every electoral outcome to a matter of opinion to be argued about and never accepted. I always thought American small-d democratic institutions were strong enough to withstand even the GW Bush/Trump onslaught. That might have been optimistic, because I just never anticipated the attacks would follow such a bizarre path, and the institutions would be threatened in such an indirect manner.

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