The Two Styles of Current GOP Authoritarianism Complement Each Other to Benefit the Super-Rich
Trump’s authoritarianism and McConnell’s are two very different strains. The president is a narcissist who gathers power for personal gain self-gratification. He cares little for the specifics of policy outcomes, and merely wants victories that he can boast about. (SNIP)
(Trump) is the authoritarianism of pure spectacle. McConnell, by contrast, is withdrawn and diffident in his public. (He’s jokingly likened to a turtle because of his appearance, but behaves like one, too.) While the majority leader doesn’t crave attention, he does care deeply about a specific policy agenda: advancing the plutocratic preferences of the Republican party’s donor class. Infinitely more knowledgeable than Trump about how government functions, McConnell subverts norms with a laser-like focus on advancing that agenda. His authoritarianism, in other words, is one of procedure.
As different as they are, these two forms of authoritarianism depend on each other. It’s unlikely that the Republican Party would have won a unified government last fall without Trump’s theatrical flair.
To judge not only by last year’s election, but also this week’s special congressional election in Georgia, Trump’s tribalist politics have far more appeal with the Republican base than a forthright agenda of tax cuts for the rich and entitlement cuts to the poor.
And when it comes to that agenda, all that really matters is that the policies be sold through the lens of negative partisanship. After all, Trump campaigned on a promise not to cut Medicaid, whereas McConnell’s version of the AHCA would slash the program by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.
But Trump easily resolves such dissonance by reminding his supporters of the real enemy here: Obamacare. If the Republican Party needs Trump, the president is equally dependent on the GOP. Given his manifest disinterest in policy and the details of governance, he would be unable to pass anything without crafty leaders like McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
But there is a more sinister dimension to Trump’s alliance with these Republican leaders: Congress has the power to check the president, including impeachment and removal if necessary. Ryan and McConnell are the bulwarks protecting Trump from a wide range of areas where he should be held accountable.
If they wanted to, they could push for laws requiring him to reveal his taxes, force him to place his assets in a blind trust, and use nepotism rules to limit the power of family members, among a range of other checks.Republicans in the House and Senate have implicitly made a devil’s bargain with Trump, giving him a free hand to indulge his kleptocratic and autocratic tendencies in exchange for what they want: stalwart conservative judges for the Supreme Court, and a presidential signature on whatever bills Ryan and McConnell manage to pass. And make no mistake: He will sign any major legislation that crosses his desk.
Also keep in mind they are also protecting each other from the crimes of the 2016 election: the Russian-collusion and TREASON.