The GOP Is All About Feral Instinct
May 23, 2021

With no offense to anyone making observations on the nature of the former Republican Party, we are missing the forest for the trees. All the handwringing over our conservative neighbors’ misbehavior misses something in attributing it to racism or ambition or money or simple hatred of its foes.

It is about power. Who has it. Who doesn’t. And who is unwilling to share it. (All they really need to know they failed to learn in kindergarten.)

“American politics is being conducted under the threat of violence,” Michael Gerson wrote this week. “If Trump has a political philosophy, one of its main tenets is toxic masculinity — the use of menace and swagger to cover his mental and moral impotence.“

Trump’s art of the deal is in fact Digby’s Art of the Hissy Fit, simply alpha dog behavior — showing who’s boss by barking loudly in the other dog’s face until he rolls over on his back and pees in the air. This is called winning. For all the long-gone conservative pretensions to being a party of ideas, the idea is to win and hold power for its own sake.

Whether it is money or politics or intimidation by people “who view the right to bear arms as the right to make armed threats,” as Gerson wrote, having power and wielding it is everything. Base instinct. Nothing more.

Like Trump, the more conservative whites feel their monopoly on power slipping away, the more dangerous our situation becomes. Yes, as Jay Rosen suggests, exploitation of standard process is common in both the Big Lie and the denial of tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones.

But the real common thread is not the particularities of the exploitation of process or the rejection of democracy, but a feral instinct for domination. Like the T-800, that cannot be reasoned with or bargained with.

Adam Serwer addressed this at The Atlantic:

In the specific case of Hannah-Jones and UNC, the objective is to intimidate those who might share her views by showing that such views could cost them a job. As the conservative writer and aspiring politician J. D. Vance put it in a speech to the Claremont Institute, “If you’re fighting the values and virtues that make this country great, then the conservative movement should be about nothing if not reducing your power and if necessary destroying you.” The traditional argument between American liberals and conservatives is over what problems the state can or should remedy; the position of the Trumpist GOP is that the state is an instrument for destroying your enemies—by which its members simply mean Americans who disagree with them.


Except it’s not about values and virtues. That’s highfalutin window dressing. It’s about power, and about who wields it over whom.

Published with permission from Digby's Hullabaloo.

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