Updated: Dec 31, 2020
It is clear that as Trump's days look numbered, his legacy itself will long outlive him in the Republican Party and right-wing politics. The transition from "compassionate conservatism" to an ideology centered around the person who led it now seems almost irreversible, with over 90% of Republicans in support of the president in polls taken before the election. And given the instantaneous, outlandish attack against the president’s perceived enemies by Republican elected officials, it's likely that the President holds an even greater, near-total support of the Republican electorate.
With this strong level of control, it's easy to see why most down-ballot, elected Republicans at various levels of government are either publicly supporting the lame-duck president's baseless allegations of electoral fraud or choosing to be complicit in their silence. One word - one tweet - from the most powerful man in the country, and a governor, Senator, or county judge's fates are guaranteed for recall or primary revolt.
"Compassionate conservatism" and "family values" were once the metric for being a "Republican", but now, in the Republican Party as it has existed from 2016 to 2020 — and likely will exist to 2024 and beyond — fervent, uncompromising, (publicly) unshakeable fealty to a president who breaks every single presidential norm possible is the only definition of a good, perfect, Republican. Those who call themselves "Republicans" must therefore excuse the constant misinformation hurled from the bully pulpit, the use of government property to stage a national political convention and enrich its leader, the skyrocketing, hypocritical increase in the federal deficit, the incompetence of the president when handling a global crisis and policing reform, but most importantly with regard to such issues, the inability to take responsibility.
In the modern Republican Party, there can be no dissent or critique towards this incompetence. There can be no public repudiation through a vote to convict or an appearance on national television. Instead, the only form of disagreement and divergence is through a resignation letter that rids its writer of their ability to exercise their opinions.
It is instead a sense of constant spin - of defending the indefensible - that makes the president's control over the Republican Party even more dangerous.
In a world of post-truth politics, the national Republican Party under Donald Trump openly defies logic and common sense. It turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to unspeakable abnormalities about its leader and the sense of how he governs. Any attempt to disagree and object to these abnormalities, and the person in question turns in ten minutes from a good, loyal member of the cult to a RINO, socialist, Bernie-supporting Democrat traitor.
Take Senator and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney: throughout his unsuccessful 2012 campaign, his public rebuke of Donald Trump, and his election to the Senate by carpetbagging into Utah, he was considered a Republican who fought for tradition and tax cuts. But on February 5th, 2020, everything changed. When Romney publicly announced on the floor of the Senate that he would vote to convict on one of the impeachment charges against then-President Donald Trump, his own niece, the Chair of the Republican National Committee, declined to defend her uncle and instead allowed a press release from her party to be sent out reading "Mitt Romney turns his back on Utah." She did not oppose Donald Trump, Jr., a potential 2024 contender for the White House, when he argued for Sen. Romney's expulsion from the party he had fought to bring into that very same building. There was no attempt to cool the temperature; no attempt to bash Republicans for pursuing such an insane, fanatical line of attack against the very man they had nominated for president eight years ago.
Today, the president of the United States stands above criticism and above reproach from most Republicans in all levels of government, but combine the power of the right-wing talk radio/TV primetime show hosts that endlessly spit out his diabolical talking points through social media and the mass availability of weaponry to thousands of diehard fanatics,(some of who have formed anti government militias) and not only is there an entire political party ready to tolerate a path to implosion and collapse, but an entire, nationwide movement ready to use force to achieve its means and preserve its dwindling power against a diversifying, increasingly out-of-touch population. There is no concern for the fact that under his leadership, more than 200,000 Americans have died from a deadly virus, or that the economy he once touted collapsed overnight with nothing but a Band-Aid for a gunshot to fix it from him. He cannot be criticized. He cannot take blame. Instead, any example of his failures is sourced from the deep state, Hillary Clinton, China, or George Soros.
It is such a nature of this major political party that America has in government, aside from a few local governors and municipal officials. And perhaps for many who voted for Joe Biden on November 3rd, there may have been hope in casting a ballot for other Republicans that they would stand up and work with the Biden presidency to repudiate this movement. Hope that they could retake the Republican Party and reform it into one that takes responsibility, where the buck stops with them.
But alas, if this gloomy analysis of the modern Republican Party tells them anything, it is that they should regret their vote. And that they should work to sweep out every single Republican who stands with the president, especially now, with a dangerous and obstructive Senate Majority Leader set to head back to Washington as the kingmaker for legislation in the upper chamber. In the national Republican Party of 2020, the buck never stops; not with anyone.
That’s why it’s important to elect those who will take responsibility - who will do the right thing for their constituents. It shouldn’t matter if a candidate has such characteristics, whether there’s an “R” or “D” next to their name. If they’ll work for the good of a community, party lines should not be the issue. But now it is.
When Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock begin their service as Democratic senators from the Peach State of Georgia, they would ensure the will of the American people is heard and reflected in their government and would together restore confidence in American institutions. With them, the buck will stop there. They will own up to their mistakes, and put all of their effort into getting the pandemic under control, but going further, addressing why a group of Americans became such fanatics to begin with.
The fact of the matter is that many of the changes that Joe Biden plans to put in place are long overdue, whether they be student debt relief, a public option, or paid family leave. And perhaps it's precisely the reason why these things have not yet taken effect that the 45th President has attracted so many to his movement. The people in “middle America” were not swayed by the democratic socialist message of Bernie Sanders and his call for radical reform, neither were they attracted to the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, with the many allegations of corruption and the unpresidential behavior of her husband while in office turning them away from the Democratic nominee in 2016. They wanted a man who would deliver for them, to address why they had to go to Mexico for cheaper dental care or Canada for affordable insulin. To fix the drain of automobile factories from Detroit and Youngstown, Ohio. And in that moment, they saw Donald Trump as the man for the job - only to be betrayed by his inability to make sure the buck stopped with him, as the pandemic exacerbated their differences with those in Manhattan and Hollywood. They saw a man who exemplified success, who was a bright beacon of light that they hoped to be one day. Instead, he became a brightly burning dumpster fire of failure, leading many to once again search for that true emblem of leadership.
The Joe Biden that they found is like “middle America”, and so are Ossoff and Warnock. They are all men who have surmounted the hardship of economic instability. The three together understand, as many Americans do, that feeling “content” or economically stable does not depend on whether the Dow Jones rises or falls, or whether their stock portfolio increases in value, but rather whether wages continue to rise, and families can feel that their effort at work for the day was worth it. They understand that whether the yield curve is inverted or not, government is never the problem; government is always the solution to the problem. They are ingrained in the principle that a civil servant’s duty is to do what is best for a community; and if they cannot, to step aside and let another take the reins.
Even when the pandemic passes, some problems will remain for middle America, including healthcare and college tuition costs. With the service of Biden, Ossoff and Warnock, these problems will be addressed in a manner that ensures the buck stops with them. They will put their mandate to work, passing legislation that reflects their duty as responsible servants of the people, to do the best for whom they serve. But without it, permanent obstruction and gridlock may very well energize the movement that the undemocratic commander-in-chief is building, instead of ensuring that the roots of the movement are cut off.
With these three, it’ll be time to change America so that “middle America” comes first. It will be a time of strong and steady leadership that can steer the ship out of the storm and into a peaceful morning where the problems of so many Americans who have lost hope will be understood and rectified. It will be time for a Marshall Plan for America, so that this lost hope can be restored, rather than betrayed by the movement of Donald Trump. With a responsible Senate, House, and White House, the America where people seek affordable medical care in foreign countries or deny themselves a shot at college because of its cost will be reinvigorated with a Miracle on the Potomac. Americans will not give into this group of people that forsakes them when their purpose expires, but instead resist their empty promises. They will instead, time and time again, give their trust to those who understand that the buck stops with them, without care for the “D” next to their names.
Sammy Baek is a staff writer at The Incandescent Review. He is a junior in Naperville, Illinois. He is a 2019 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards National Silver Medalist, a finalist at the 2019-20 Chicago Metro History Fair Senior Division, and a finalist at the 2019 Martin Luther King Oratory Contest. He is currently a member of his school's Model UN club and covers history and politics for the Plvs Vltra blog. Follow its Instagram account @plvsvltra_sb.