Inauguration day is less than a year away, and it is hard to believe that three years after then-President Donald Trump left office Republicans are still descending deeper into the bleak hopelessness of MAGA authoritarianism. No doubt that if Dante were alive today, he would be writing about the Republican Party. Lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, fraud and treachery — the GOP has it all.
Politicians and political parties so often center themselves around better angels and hope.
In 2016, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and other Republican presidential candidates followed this script. They each, in their own way, invoked hope in the future of America as a key theme in their campaigns.
As we now know, they lost to Trump who ran a hellish campaign based on fear and despair. Once elected, it didn’t get much better. The most memorable line from Trump’s inaugural speech was, “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”
Abandoning hope for a better future is not a byproduct of Trumpism, it’s the essential core. In Trump’s worldview, hope, like honor, is for suckers. Hate and revenge rule the day. Cynicism and lies are viewed as smart.
No longer part of a party with any ideas, Republican politicians prioritize attacking and belittling their opponents, not uplifting their constituents. In 2020, the GOP literally rejected having any party platform. Instead, it wanted to be able to pivot in support of whatever utterance came out of Trump’s mouth.
Since then, it has gotten worse. Virgil’s ghost is still leading the faithful down the Republican Inferno.
Take for instance, how the GOP spends money on elections. Even as it prepares for 2024, the party is spending more and more of its money each year to undermine free and fair elections in court. In 2021, the Republican Party was responsible for 25% of all anti-voting lawsuits filed across the country. In 2022 it was 52%. Last year, it was 68%.
The candidates have become more extreme as well. In 2020, Jeb Bush was a Florida governor who ran on a platform of raising educational standards. In 2024, another Sunshine State governor, Ron DeSantis, based his campaign on banning books, attacking gay rights and lying about vaccine efficacy.
In 2020, John Kasich was the moderate happy warrior of the bunch — eating his way across America. In 2024, the closest candidate to a moderate in the race refused to acknowledge that slavery was the cause of the Civil War and insists America has never been racist.
Nowhere has the GOP’s descent hit harder than the Republican House conference. Five months after Jan. 6, 2021, House Republicans ousted the third highest ranking member from her leadership position for criticizing Trump’s involvement in that fateful day. The House GOP replaced her with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) who recently called those convicted of participating in the Jan. 6 attack “hostages.”
Without any policy mooring, the Republican conference has increasingly descended into chaos. The simple act of choosing a speaker paralyzed the House for days. When Kevin McCarthy was unceremoniously dumped for acting minimally responsibly, it took weeks to find a replacement.
As ultra-conservative Rep. Chip Roy (Texas) aptly observed: “By the way, it does not matter who’s sitting in the speaker’s seat or who’s got the majority. We keep doing the same stupid stuff.”
Worse still, while every member of Congress takes an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” virtually no Republican member is willing to apply the U.S. Constitution to Trump.
In December 2020, 126 House Republicans supported Trump’s legal effort to throw out the election results in four states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. By nighttime on Jan. 6 — after the storming of the Capitol — that number grew to 139. Most recently, 179 members of Congress, including an astounding 42 of 49 Republican senators, filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court claiming that Trump did not engage in an insurrection.
It is not just members of Congress. Twenty-five of the country’s 28 Republican attorneys general also filed a brief supporting Trump’s eligibility to be on the 2024 ballot. Eleven Republican secretaries of state submitted a brief disclaiming their own authority to disqualify presidential candidates. There is no bow too low to please the former president.
What about the other Republicans, who have not signed onto the briefs and have not endorsed Trump? They too have become cogs in the MAGA hate machine. Even the most moderate Republican candidates mouth skepticism over the results of the 2020 election and voted against much needed federal voting rights legislation. Most defend Trump over his four felony indictments and judicial findings that he committed rape and financial fraud.
These so-called moderates play an essential role in Trumpism. They wring their hands and speak in regretful tones while they launder the cult of Trump through a false veneer of respectability. They are today’s equivalent of the “good” white southerners that led Martin Luther King, Jr to write his letter from a Birmingham jail. “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people…but for the appalling silence of the good people…”
The good news is that we are not trapped in Trump’s political inferno. We still have time to once and for all reject his invitation to go deeper into the hopeless MAGA void. That is why we must be committed to voting this November and protecting democracy for everyone. If we do that, we will keep hope alive for another generation.