Jarring Reminder

Friday night I remarked to Marguerite about how nice it was not to have had some gut-wrenching news bomb dropped by our President late Friday afternoon and how good it was to go to bed confident that the ship of state was in competent hands.

This morning the L. A. Times reminded me not to go to sleep…

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, May 15, 2021.

Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.Two weeks ago, judging by your emails, I upset a number of readers by writing this in the newsletter: “At best, today’s Republican Party is a dwindling reactionary faction bereft of workable ideas; at worst, it is a nationalist, race-baiting, Trumpist sect that threatens American democracy.” The observation then was pegged to news that the movement to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom had gathered enough signatures to force an election, but now it applies just as neatly to the spectacle that played out in Washington this week over Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-Wyo.) unremarkable yet heretical honesty about Donald Trump’s dangerous mendacity.

Cheney, as you may know by now, was removed from her House Republican leadership position because of her continuing insistence that Trump is lying about the 2020 election being stolen and that he deserved to be impeached for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection. Your mileage may vary on whether it was Cheney’s embrace of the truth or her inconvenient stridence in telling it that got her removed from leadership — a topic explored by former GOP operative Scott Jennings. But there should be no mistaking what this means for the party: It is a movement devoted not to an ideology or an approach toward governing, but almost solely to Trump. It is a party about its leader and not about any ideas. In other words — and to borrow Masha Gessen’s phrasing — the Republican Party is an autocratic party.

Some have found different ways to say this; many L.A. Times readers prefer to describe today’s GOP as a cult, language that was used in a Times editorial referring to a Trumpist cult within the party. I prefer Gessen’s language here, mostly because cults tend to direct their predatory energy inward and close themselves off to the world (except to gain new followers). Describing the Republican Party as an autocratic movement acknowledges the cultishness that exists while also conveying the threat to democracy it poses.

For all its ideological degradation and self-delusion, the GOP is certain to govern again soon, and in its current state it will do so as a fully Trumpist, openly autocratic party.

How fortunate we are to live in California.

If you love truth, justice, liberty, and American democracy, don’t get too relaxed. Those who thirst for power and those whose interests are not aligned with the common good are busy at their nefarious work.

At least forty percent of us are being played with great success. Paul Thornton’s opinion is well grounded.