MAGA movement running aground – Herald-Mail Media
I’ve parsed a lot of political talk in my time, and like to think that I’m pretty good at it. Still, I was baffled by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said last week that increasing the debt ceiling was the right thing to do, the smart thing to do and the American thing to do — and that Republicans were prepared to vote in unison against doing it.
Even my savvy conservative friends were stumped at what this was designed to accomplish. It seemed useless as a negotiating tool, since congressional Republicans have made it clear they have no interest in negotiating. Politicians are notable for speaking to their base in code, yet this seemed to be a dog whistle that not even a dog could hear.
Default would crash the stock market, slash 6 million jobs and wipe out $15 trillion in wealth. Not even the Proud Boys think that’s a good idea.
Maybe — and this is only a guess — McConnell is implying that nuking the American economy and trashing America’s reputation and handing the keys of world leadership over to the Chinese is OK so long as the Democrats get blamed for it.
Perhaps we saw the seeds of this in 2009, when Republicans — fearful that Democrats would get the credit for reviving the global economy, saving the U.S. auto industry and essentially cleaning up the mess left behind by lax GOP financial regulations — tried to hamstring President Obama’s ultimately successful effort to heal the economy to health.
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Yet even this was nothing compared to the knife currently being held to America’s jugular by a group of people for whom America’s well-being seems of no particular consequence.
Maybe this through-the-looking-glass experience of the past five years is just a speed bump, a logical growing pain of a still relatively young and robust nation trying to find its way. Or it could be a sign of something more, that we’ve taken our particular brand of republicanism as far as it will go, and it is time to tear down and rebuild.
Certainly this is what the MAGA movement has in mind, although it would use despotism, not democracy to create a sea change. Despite all the hand-wringing, however, it doesn’t appear that this group poses much risk to democracy itself.
It’s true that they learned from their failures of 2020, and have responded by tilting voting law in their favor and replacing election professionals with political hacks in some swing states. But even if they retake power, then what? The military establishment has made clear it has no taste for any sort of dictator for life, and even if it did, the rip tide of American history is too strong to overcome.
Foreign tyrants can hold democratic protests at bay if they encompass 8,000 or even 80,000 people. They would stand no chance in the face of more than 81 million, which is the number of Americans who affirmed in 2020 that they prefer the ballot box to an overlord. But this 81 million is correct to despair that, for now, the minority is able to do just enough mischief to create a standoff, an environment where great leaps of progress are a pipe dream.
So America stands as a .500 team, too mediocre to make the playoffs but too good to get that high draft pick. To continue the metaphor, it is our good fortune that the world stage at the moment appears to be made up of the National League East, where no one is capable of rising to seize the day.
Maybe this buys us time until the inevitable happens. The MAGA movement is old and it is dying, falling on its own sword of indignation by refusing vaccines and maintaining unhealthy habits that have, against all odds, stunted our upward trajectory of longevity. Hillary Clinton was wrong, it is not deplorable, it is tragic, because we have trusted and counted upon people who have failed us. Yet many have reached the point of no turning back. There is no methadone for political addiction.
History never turns as fast as you would think or want. If you think something should be happening in 20 years, double it. Or triple it. In history it’s just a blink.
Anti-democratic and anti-American forces are galvanizing an army against them, an army of young people who have democracy in their blood. Every effort to stack the deck at the ballot box or blow up the nation’s economy is steeling this young army that much more.
Maybe leaders of these efforts don’t care because they won’t be around in another 30 years. Maybe that’s for the best, because they wouldn’t be able to stand what they would see.
Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.