In the immediate aftermath of the 2020 Presidential election, Democrats are celebrating and Republicans are denying and crying. The current President is pursuing his legal remedies and screaming, “fraud,” but without any evidence. Democrats are blinded by the light of the Biden/Harris ticket. But, there are issues that the U.S., not just each individual political party, has to solve before we can really move forward.
There is the issue of civility. There is a bigger issue of right-wing extremism. The current discourse between members of the two political parties is rancorous and hateful. Democrats resent the Party of Trump and the changes that have happened in his name over the last four years. Republicans seem to want a continuation of those policies, though most except his most enthusiastic cheerleaders (Lindsey Graham, anyone?) remain silent. Waiting to see what happens. It’s this writer’s opinion that the Republican Party, which I now think of as the Party of Trump, may have the more realistic view of the situation in the U.S. There are groups of right-wing extremists that are not going to go away just because Donald Trump does. Trump was a figurehead of extremism. Where there is one, there will be another.
Not only will there be another strongman, Trump is not going anywhere. Oh, he will leave the White House, but he will start his own media company and continue to disseminate right wing propaganda and fake news. The 70 million people who voted for him will swallow it all, hook, line, and sinker. There will be more conspiracy theories, started by the strongman himself, Trump. Of course, all the people who voted for Trump will believe every word even in the face of evidence to the contrary.
The Democrats have always been optimistic and hopeful. They don’t seem to see that just because Trump is gone, it does not mean Trumpism is gone. Forty-five percent of the country voted for Trump. True that it is a minority, but a large minority. Trump and his minions brought the lack of civility to the U.S. Also, Trump brought the image of a strongman into the American conversation for the first time. Joe Biden, good man that he is, is probably not going to be able to wipe that image from our consciousness nor from the Republicans‘ hopes for the future. For some reason, the GOP has made a hard right turn and has embraced the strongman image without realizing the problems that it brings along with it. Such as the demise of our democracy.
Democracy does not flourish under authoritarianism. I’m reasonably sure that the Republicans in Congress realize this and that they have made the choice to follow the Pied Piper, or the strongman in charge, anyway. Is it because they are closet racists? Surely not all of them are. But even though Donald Trump will fade into the background of national politics soon enough, another strongman will emerge. It is as inevitable as the grass growing. Once there is a perceived opening in the consciousness of a group of citizens that allows authoritarianism in, it is not easily pushed aside. There are already probable 2024 candidates waiting in the wings.
Senator Tom Cotton is one who will probably run as a populist isolationist. Senator Josh Hawley seems to be the upcoming darling of the Republican Party and has made statements exhibiting his strongman tendencies. Whether either is the personality type that can pull it off is a question yet to be answered. Don’t forget that we’ve had one reality show President. Another non-politician could certainly be waiting in the wings ready to take conservatism as far right as it is possible for it to go.
Democrats need to be prepared for this. We can’t let our party swing too far to the left since that is a recipe for the alienation of a portion of the party. Regardless of what rhetoric Republicans want to spew, Joe Biden is a centrist, which is a good thing given the current political climate. There are a number of possible Democratic Presidential candidates for 2024 waiting in the wings and many of them do not occupy a centrist position in the party but rather a progressive position. That sets us up for a 2024 election between far right and a far left candidates.
Even though the Democratic Party should give a voice to the progressives, it would be a mistake to fully embrace progressivism at this point in our political history. Such a sea change takes decades to make itself comfortable in the consciousness of people. The Republicans have been moving toward ultra-conservatism for awhile. It started decades ago with Rush Limbaugh’s TV and radio show, continued with the Tea Party, and came to fruition with the election of Trump. The Democrats don’t need to give an opening to another possibly charismatic political figure on the right who can blindside us like Trump did. The way forward is a centrist strategy to appeal to most of the people most of the time.