A Party Unfit For Government
From Trump to Jordan, the GOP is a nihilist, incoherent shit-show.
According to the polls, Donald J Trump has a massive lead in the race to be the GOP nominee for president next year; and is more likely to win the general election than Joe Biden. This week’s Morning Consult poll on the swing states was particularly grim: Biden would lose five of the seven key races and is down 47 - 43 percent in the overall vote in the states that will decide the election. In these states, Trump has 22 percent support among African-Americans, and 38 percent among Hispanics: a breakthrough if it were to pan out. Other polls this week confirmed the Trump edge.
I mention this because of how the former president has responded this past week to a serious foreign policy crisis. In any other era, or with any other candidate, it would be instantly disqualifying. His core point about Hamas’ pogrom was as follows: “If the election wasn’t rigged, there would be nobody even thinking about going into Israel.” Even when it comes to a complex and metastasizing Middle East war, it’s all about how he was wronged in 2020. In case we weren’t fully aware of this, he reiterated it in all CAPS: “THE ATTACK ON ISRAEL WOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED, ZERO CHANCE, IF THE ELECTION OF 2020 WAS NOT RIGGED AND STOLLEN [sic].”
How would he engage Israel and the region at this moment? We have no idea. All Trump seems to care about is that prime minister Bibi Netanyahu allegedly backed out of supporting the Soleimani assassination at the last minute and took credit:
I’ll never forget that Bibi Netanyahu let us down. That was a very terrible thing. So we were disappointed by that. Very disappointed. But we did the job ourself. It was absolute precision, magnificent, beautiful job. And then Bibi tried to take credit for it. That didn’t make me feel too good. But that’s all right.
That last phrase — “But that’s all right” — is a common one for Trump. Translated it means: “And I am absolutely still livid about all of this, and cannot begin to let it go.” Trump’s other searing complaint against Netanyahu is that he recognized Joe Biden as the new president of the United States too quickly: “He was very early — like earlier than most. I haven’t spoken to him since. Fuck him.”
Then Trump pivoted to immigration, insisting that he’d reboot a new version of the unconstitutional Muslim ban:
If you empathize with radical Islamic terrorists and extremists, you’re disqualified. If you want to abolish the state of Israel, you’re disqualified. If you support Hamas or any ideology that’s having to do with that or any of the other really sick thoughts that go through people’s minds — very dangerous thoughts — you’re disqualified. Under the Trump administration, we will revoke the student visas of radical anti-American and antisemitic foreigners at our colleges and universities and we will send them straight back home.
There are, of course, vetting procedures already in place with respect to Islamist terror. But it’s fascinating to watch how he segues so quickly from terrorists abroad to immigrants at home. He even claimed Hamas was on the “southern border” of the US:
These are the same people, many of them, that did a number in Israel, a sneak attack. Same people we have pouring into our country by the thousands. Are they planning to attack within our country? Crooked Joe Biden and his boss Barack Hussein Obama did this to us ... people are pouring in from the Middle East into our country, largely males, strong young males. What;s [sic] going on over here? Are we going to be raided like Israel was raided?
Trump’s own Israel policy while in office was to give Netanyahu everything he could possibly ask for — recognition of Jerusalem as the capital, moving the US embassy thither, annexing the Golan Heights, backing the ethnic cleansing that Israel is conducting on the West Bank (funded, in part, by his son-in-law), and decimating aid to the Palestinians … while asking for absolutely nothing in return. The “art of the deal.”
Then his administration reached the Abraham Accords, which were premised on the idea that the Palestinians did not exist, did not need to be consulted, and could be indefinitely suppressed with no consequences. Netanyahu, for good measure, did what he could to keep Hamas strong enough that Palestinian unity would be a permanent chimera, and the project of Greater Israel could continue. You can see how a policy of this kind of contempt and denial could lead to a new surge of violence.
And I know you know this, but it’s still vital to remember that a major political party is backing this incoherent, unhinged, fact-free narcissist to be president of the United States. It is therefore no surprise to discover that the same party is completely incapable of forming a stable majority in the House of Representatives because it too is incoherent, divided, unhinged, and narcissistic. We’ve never had this amount of time without a Speaker in the history of the House. But then we’ve never had a majority party as utterly vacuous as this one.
The leading candidate for the Speaker, who keeps running and keeps losing, is Jim Jordan, the apotheosis of Republican nihilism: he has passed no legislation in his time in office — zero! — and he was up to his neck in the attempt to overturn the last election and in the storming of the Capitol on January 6. He has launched investigations into every Trump prosecutor. His supporters have run intimidation campaigns, including death threats. He is entirely a negative, howling artifact of ideology.
So is his party. A party wedded to ideological abstractions, emotional hissy-fits, constitutional brinkmanship and a strongman candidate is not a conservative party. It is the anti-conservative party. Objecting to everything is objecting to nothing. Gerrymandering yourself into a homogeneous, minority cult only rewards ever more extremism. Obsessed with themselves, demanding the impossible, and risking everything for it: this is not a party that is in any way fit for government, and yet it is a party that is all but guaranteed huge sway because America is so polarized that extremists get away with anything.
I have plenty of issues with Democrats. They too have a hard time corralling their extremes. But they are capable of governing a democratic society according to the rules that such a society is built upon. The Republicans, quite simply, are not. Their candidate is a terrifying joke. Their party, as it has devolved into Bannonism, is a cancer on our democracy.
(Note to readers: This is an excerpt of The Weekly Dish. If you’re already a subscriber, click here to read the full version. This week’s issue also includes: my take on the MSM’s misinformation over the Gaza hospital; many reader dissents over my views on Israel/Palestine; nine notable quotes from the week in news; more listener commentary on animal rights; a new convo with Spencer Klavan on God and the humanities; 14 pieces on Substack that we recommend; a Mental Health Break of a collab from two big artists; a placid view from a pond in Colorado; and, of course, the results of the View From Your Window contest — with a new challenge. Subscribe for the full Dish experience!)
From a Dishhead who re-subscribed this week:
I have been a subscriber before. I sometimes have deep dissenting opinions from yours, but your piece on the situation in Gaza was the best I have read. These type of insights need to be supported. I will just ignore your fascination with religion, and the standard bevy of “intellectuals.”
Narratives, Truth, And That Hospital
I have to say that this was a week I’m particularly grateful I don’t run a 24/7 live-blog anymore. The Dish helped pioneer the online practice of covering unfolding events with a constantly-updated stream of content during the 2009 Iranian Green Revolution. It was hazardous then — even when we were not a “news” site as such and not really competing with anyone. It’s ever more hazardous now, with social media far more systemically distortive.
But social media, it turned out, was irrelevant in this case. It was the mainstream media that became the source for rampant, reckless disinformation.
(Read the rest of that 800-word piece here, for paid subscribers)
New On The Dishcast: Spencer Klavan
Spencer is a writer and podcaster. He’s currently an associate editor at the Claremont Review of Books and the host of the “Young Heretics” podcast. He’s also the author of How to Save the West: Ancient Wisdom for 5 Modern Crises and the editor of Gateway to the Stoics. You can follow his latest writing on Substack.
For two clips of our convo — on finding God in the humanities, and why so many gays throughout history have been drawn to the Church — pop over to our YouTube page. Browse the Dishcast archive for another convo you might enjoy (the first 102 episodes are free in their entirety — subscribe to get everything else).
Coming up: David Brooks on his new book How to Know a Person,” his fellow NYT columnist Pamela Paul, and the authors of Where Have All the Democrats Gone? — John Judis and Ruy Teixeira. Also: David Leonhardt, Cat Bohannon, and McKay Coppins.
Have a question you want me to ask one of those future guests? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, and please put the question in the subject line. Send any guest recs, pod dissent and other comments to email@example.com.
Dissents Of The Week: Covering Your “But”
A reader pushes back on my latest column:
Israel’s “ethnic cleansing”?? Not very long ago, there were hundreds of thousands of Jews spread out across the Middle East. Today, there are basically no Jews living in Iran, Syria, Jordan, and so on. Meanwhile, millions of Arabs live in Israel, participating in society and serving in government. But, according to you, it’s the Jews who need to stop doing the “ethnic cleansing.”
Yes they do. The attempt to immiserate and intimidate the inhabitants of the West Bank, along with settlement of Jewish fanatics there, is a form of ethnic cleansing. It’s morally repellent.
In The ‘Stacks
This is a feature in the paid version of the Dish spotlighting about 20 of our favorite pieces from other Substackers every week. This week’s selection covers subjects such as the new war in the Middle East, the populism of driving, and imposter syndrome. Below are a few examples:
Now taking Ozempic, Barro explains why “10 years from now, it’ll be obvious GLP-1 drugs were a way bigger deal than AI.”
For online dating, Danielle Crittenden tells all the defeatist men to shape up.
You can also browse all the substacks we follow and read on a regular basis here — a combination of our favorite writers and new ones we’re checking out. It’s a blogroll of sorts. If you have any recommendations for “In the ‘Stacks,” especially ones from emerging writers, please let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The View From Your Window Contest
Where do you think it’s located? Email your guess to email@example.com. Please put the location — city and/or state first, then country — in the subject line. Proximity counts if no one gets the exact spot. Bonus points for fun facts and stories. The deadline for entries is Wednesday night at midnight (PST). The winner gets the choice of a VFYW book or two annual Dish subscriptions. If you are not a subscriber, please indicate that status in your entry and we will give you a free month subscription if we select your entry for the contest results (example here if you’re new to the contest). Happy sleuthing!
The results for this week’s window are coming in a separate email to paid subscribers later today.
See you next Friday.