Tuesday, October 12, 2021



Senator Chuck Grassley this past weekend became a sorry symbol of just how entrenched the idea of an authoritarian personality cult has become in the Trump-usurped Republican Party—which we might as well start calling the POT (Party of Trump). Leaving any sort of political authority or personal pride mothballed at home in his closet, Grassley sidled up onto the podium at a Trump rally in his home state of Iowa over the weekend to kiss the ring (or whatever) of the man whom the GOP hierarchy has obviously accepted as their king.

Grassley with Trump, backhanded acceptance

It was a pathetic display to see someone who has clearly lived long enough to become a Republican icon obviously feeling that he had to pay tribute to an authoritarian outlier who, in just the last six years, has managed to wrest power out of the hands of the party’s most senior officials and to convert the GOP into an unmitigated cult of personality that is willing to subvert its founding conservatism and to conjure up a narrative to justify the unjustifiable at the expense of constitutional democracy.

Perhaps Senator Grassley’s performance would have been somewhat less humiliating and obsequious if he could have at least sounded as if he were sincere—no matter how insane that might be—in his undying support of the man who tried to lead a coup against the United States of America last January 6th. But he made it abundantly clear that he was there because he felt he had to be, not because of any great fondness that he might have for Donald Trump.

In one of the most backhanded responses imaginable to Trump’s endorsement of his umpteenth run for the Senate, Grassley shambled onto the stage next to the former president and said: “I was born at night, but not last night. So if I didn't accept the endorsement of a person who's got ninety-one percent of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn't be too smart. I'm smart enough to accept that endorsement.”

The message was clear to anyone listening with an objective ear. Basically, Grassley was saying, like it or not, you’ve taken over my party and I have no choice but to accept that fact or be rendered irrelevant. But is that true?

Sadly, Senator Grassley is doubly emblematic of the Republican Party: First, because he is the longest serving Republican in the Senate (a body of which he is president pro tempore emeritus), but second, because he has joined the rest of the GOP “leadership” in shrugging their collective shoulders and embracing Trump’s far-right populism for the sole reason that he has a multitudinous base that neither understands nor cares about democracy and is only interested in following a patriarchal figure who has no problem filling their heads with hollow promises that he has no intention whatsoever of keeping.

The choice Grassley clearly has, but has eschewed, is that of embracing his country and the original tenets of his once democratic party and refusing to be an accomplice to a movement bent on undermining democracy and leading the country into a dark era of authoritarian designs. It is obvious that the senior senator is willing to trade party, country and democracy for access to the votes that his party’s usurper commands.

This is, to my mind, sad beyond all understanding. Chuck Grassley, who turned eighty-eight last month, has a political career that stretches back to before anyone under seventy can recall.  He was first elected to the Iowa legislature in 1959. He was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1975, and he was first elected US Senator for Iowa in 1981. In other words, Grassley has been serving in government as a GOP lawmaker for the past six decades. The question that springs to my mind is, how did he not die of shame climbing onto that stage last weekend and admitting that, at eighty-eight, he was still willing to make a pact with whatever devil might come along, simply to keep holding onto office by his fingernails?

Fiona Hill - "dress rehearsal"

The loyalty of the GOP “leadership” to Donald Trump would appear to be in direct proportion to their faulty memory of the January Sixth Insurrection. They are playing a dangerous political game in which what is being gambled away is the very core of American democratic traditions and institutions. 

Brookings Institution senior fellow Fiona Hill, who also formerly served as an expert on Russia with the National Security Council, has called the January Sixth Insurrection “a dress rehearsal for something that could be happening near term, in 2022, and 2024.” Her assessment jives with that of a growing number of political observers who see January 6th as a symptom in sort of a so far cold civil war that is taking shape in the US. Speaking to CBS news last Sunday, Hill expressed her opinion that the United States finds itself in “a very dangerous place.”

Liz Cheney - a duty to truth
Another symptom of the depth of the democratic crisis in the GOP was the refusal of second-ranked House Republican Steve Scalise to answer repeated attempts by Fox News’s Chris Wallace to get him to admit that President Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election and his tangential suggestion that state legislatures, not voters, should determine the president—a view held by numerous dictators throughout history who have used rubber-stamp legislative branches to legitimize their designations.

In a tweet, Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney called Scalise out: “Millions of Americans have been sold a fraud that the election was stolen,” she wrote. “Republicans have a duty to tell the American people that this is not true. Perpetuating the Big Lie is an attack on the core of our constitutional republic.”

Cheney couldn’t be more right, but in the Trump-usurped GOP, she and only a handful of other traditional Republican conservatives form a very tiny choir of support for democracy in what has clearly become the Party of Trump.


No comments: