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GOP resorts to cheap tricks and extremism

According to popular and expert opinion, last Tuesday’s elections went exactly as expected — the Democrats won the House and made decent gains in state legislatures. The general assumption of the public is that U.S. institutions of government, like bodies of water, experience red low tides and blue high tides; to question these political currents is to question the rules of nature. 

While it’s true that the two parties have always ebbed and flowed with popularity, the nature of the game has changed. Where once the Republican and Democratic parties changed rhetoric and policy platforms to appeal to an ever-changing social landscape in the U.S., the Republicans have embraced an extremist, hard-ball conservative doctrine as the only way forward. Where Democrats accommodate for everyone from pro-business types sensitive about social issues to democratic socialists, Republicans consistently draw from one demographic: white conservative Christians.    

How did the GOP come to shun political normality? And how is it they can rely on one homogeneous bloc of the electorate? When Obama won the White House and Democrats took control of Congress in 2008, many political experts believed Republicans would mellow out as to appeal to the growing non-white electorate, and that Reagan-style conservatism would go the way of the dinosaurs. Instead, the GOP initiated REDMAP, a project that targeted key purple states for initiatives to flip state houses and Governor’s Mansions, then using this newly-gained influence to gerrymander electoral districts to favor Republicans. Along with redistricting, Republicans also tightened state voting laws to disenfranchise poor non-whites. In Congress, GOP leadership in John Boehner and Mitch McConnell sandbagged Obama and the Democrats at every possible turn. The level of obstruction was simply unprecedented, but media outlets failed to call Republicans out for fear of seeming biased, instead painting Congressional gridlock to be “Washington as usual.”

The Republican Party has become the faction of absolute victory at all costs, with no room for compromise. This is evident in the rise of Donald Trump, a political outsider who won the Republican nomination for the presidency with inflammatory rhetoric that offered endless affirmation for the right while painting the opposition — be it moderates, “the radical left” or marginalized minorities — as illegitimate. Trump’s ascension not only heralds this new direction for the GOP but has enabled the party to continue its rightward march. 

We’re inclined to look at Washington to understand our nation’s politics, but the governor’s race in Georgia is a good microcosm for today’s political dynamics. Georgia is a rapidly changing state that, while fast-growing, has horrible economic inequality. We have Stacey Abrams, who promises to promote justice for struggling minority groups; she would be both Georgia’s first woman governor and its first black governor. Then we have Brian Kemp, who in a campaign ad totes his big pickup truck just in case he needs to “round up criminal illegals” himself. As Georgia Secretary of State, he oversaw the very election in which he ran, refusing to resign despite calls for him to do so. Sure enough, Kemp opened an investigation into the Georgia Democratic Party for “possible cybercrimes” just two days before election day. As of Nov. 12, Abrams has not conceded the election, though Kemp leads by 60,000 votes. 

The world is changing faster than ever before, and the Republican Party will stop at nothing to keep things the same or bring it back to something it once was. Not only do their aims run contrary to what is best for Americans as a whole, but their methods threaten to obliterate civil democracy. 

Ciaran Lyons, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at CLyons20@wooster.edu.

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