Facebook’s Oversight Board upheld its ban of former President Donald Trump this week, for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building.
But the group that the New Yorker has called “a sort of private Supreme Court” for Facebook also declared that an indefinite suspension was not appropriate and that founder Mark Zuckerberg, not the board, was going to have to decide whether Mr. Trump will be allowed to return to the omnipresent social media platform.
The fact that Mr. Trump could eventually have one of his biggest megaphones back – he’s also currently banned from Twitter and YouTube – is scary. As is his continual grip on an iconic political party that he is, beyond all logic, reason and imagination, defining in his image.
What is taking place is more than disturbing – it’s terrifying. It is not an exaggeration to say that the GOP has abandoned all of its moral values in a singular pursuit of power, and it doesn’t care who gets sacrificed in the process.
Currently, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney – the third-most powerful politician in the House Republican leadership – is being targeted for removal in favour of a Trump loyalist from New York, Elise Stefanik. Why? Because Ms. Cheney has refused to buy the Big Lie perpetuated by Mr. Trump: that the last election was stolen from him.
This falsehood has now become the litmus test by which a person’s loyalty to the party is measured; you either support the crackpot theory that last year’s presidential election result was a massive fraud orchestrated by the Democrats, or you are betraying the cause. Troublingly, an April poll by Reuters/Ipsos showed that six out of 10 Republicans still believe the presidential election was “stolen” from Mr. Trump due to fraud.
Mitt Romney, the veteran Republican senator and former presidential nominee from Utah, has, like Ms. Cheney, resisted propagating the Big Lie. But last week, at his party’s state political convention, he was met with cries of “traitor, traitor, traitor” from delegates when he got up to speak. When Mr. Romney asked the crowd, “Aren’t you embarrassed?” they only chanted louder.
People like Mr. Romney and Ms. Cheney have become relics in a party that has become unrecognizable. Conservatism has been abandoned as the Republicans’ guiding canon in favour of fealty to a twice-impeached former president and the racist, anti-democratic trajectory he has set the party on.
The Republicans’ response to losing last November’s election has been to adopt voter suppression as the party’s new political weapon of choice. To that end, legislatures in 47 states have seen a total of 361 bills introduced that contain limitations on voting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
This is a far easier and more manageable way to avenge the party’s 2020 defeat than peering inward and trying to reinvent conservatism in a contemporary persona. Why go through all that trouble when you can simply try to “fix” the rules in your favour?
It is far from certain whether Mr. Trump has aspirations to run again, but clearly the nomination is his, should he want it. From his Mar-a-Lago headquarters, he has effectively become the Don of this mafioso version of the Republican Party – a puppet master who anoints his preferred candidates for the 2022 midterm elections and puts political hits out on those who fail to show enough loyalty to him.
From his luxury estate, he orchestrates an odious culture war scented with white nationalism. A group of House Republicans, all fervid Trump supporters, recently tried to organize an America First Caucus that paid homage to “Anglo Saxon political traditions.” Quickly dubbed the White Peoples’ First caucus, the idea was scratched when it was met with fierce public disdain.
Part of the Republican logic stems from the fact Mr. Trump tallied more than 74 million votes – the largest total of any presidential candidate in its party’s history. A large swath of those came from lower- and middle-class white voters who feel disenfranchised and marginalized in an increasingly educated, multicultural and globalized America.
This is the Republican base, along with a white suburban upper class that would never dare mingle with its lower-class brethren but who share their disdain for Democratic ideals and tax policy. They much prefer a party led by someone who looks out primarily for those who appear and sound just like them.
It is now clear that the Republicans have made a choice to stay the course under the direction of a dangerous megalomaniac and to turn their backs on any notion of decency, honour and principle. In two years’ time, Americans will have a say in how broadly they want them to represent the country.
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