For Republicans, 2020 Election is Political. Democrats Understand It is Existential.
It is clear — from the audacity of their actions, from the near-unanimity of their ranks — that the Republicans view the 2020 presidential election solely as political: that is, the absolute need, no matter the cost to institutions or norms, to retain governing power.
Their latest audacity and its cost? Ramming another conservative onto the Supreme Court (Amy Coney Barrett), at the cost of destroying the Court’s conservative-liberal balance, making it 6 to 3, and rewriting their own rules of blocking President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland. Audacity upon audacity, Republicans pronounce themselves shocked, shocked that Democrats, growing ever confident of winning both White House and Senate, should even consider “packing” the Court as they themselves are doing. Republicans can read polls as well as any pol, thus knowing a blue tsunami is heading their way, this particular audacity comes off as deeply cynical, a last “win” before their banishment to the political wilderness.
But Court-packing is only the latest Republican audacity. Others include: voter suppression, faux-dropoff boxes for ballots, gerrymandering (and cutting short the 2020 census to favor future gerrymandering). But most egregious: standing by a President, Donald J. Trump, who not only destroys the institutions and norms integral to American democracy since our inception, but takes us into territory where we never, ever should be: into strongman rule, autocracy. Nearly zero is Republican pushback to Trump’s embrace of the world’s autocrats or to his own proto-autocratic acts: killing truth with lies, sliming the media as “the enemy of the American people,” pardoning accused war criminals, condoning white supremacists, equating protesters with domestic terrorists, and ominously, signaling armed militias to “stand back and stand by” as he refuses to say he will agree — as any small-d democrat would — to abide by this election’s results.
To all appearances, Republicans look at all this accrual of power, ill-gotten as it may be, and their complicity with a proto-autocrat and say: “Well-played.” Yes, there have been demurrals to Trump’s vandalism (senators Sasse, Romney, Murkowski, Collins), but they are few and, soon enough, they’re back in lockstep. Oddly for politicians, they seem not to know how to organize an insurrection. Instead, they purr: “Well-played.”