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The GOP Is In A Death Spiral
The Republican strategy of outrage, bigotry and extremism puts the party on a collision course with destruction.
Something’s been on my mind of late.
Since the shocking election result of 2016, we’ve watched the GOP underperform repeatedly in elections, losing the House in 2018, the White House and the Senate in 2020, and then failing to retake the Senate in 2022 in a “red wave” that never materialized.
One thing is clear to anyone looking at this objectively and dispassionately: Americans in the center—the independents and moderates who decide elections—have had enough of the extremists in the GOP. Voters punished the party for putting up Trump-backed candidates in key states, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia and my own home-away-from-home state of Arizona.
All of them lost.
Any sane, rational party would look at this record and decide to change course. It would abandon the twice-impeached, multiply-indicted ex-president who led them three times to electoral ruin. It would also cast aside the ideas that voters have resoundingly and repeatedly rejected, from election denialism, to abortion extremism, to the near-worship of firearms.
But the GOP won’t do this.
And that’s because, in my humble view, it is a party locked in a death spiral.
Instead, Republicans seem to be doubling down. The MAGA base, and many in Congress, are still flocking to Trump, even as he faces further indictments in Georgia and from two federal grand juries.
They are passing draconian anti-abortion laws, from Florida to Idaho to North Dakota.
In states like Tennessee, they won’t even hold votes on any sensible gun safety laws like universal background checks and red flag laws. Instead they are busy expelling representatives who dare to call them out on their cowardly inaction.
And in states they control, they are targeting the trans community horrifically, as if these people are somehow the root of America’s problems and now a convenient political scapegoat.
It’s cynical, disgusting, and wrong.
It’s also political suicide. The midterm elections showed us that the Americn political center isn’t on board with MAGA. Among those who voted for moderate Republicans, there were many who refused to cast their votes for any extremist Republicans on that same ballot. And even after they lost, what did candidates like Kari Lake do? They claimed the election was stolen.
We’ve heard that tired refrain before.
So what really accounts for this self-destructive behavior by the Republicans? Why are they locked in this death spiral? Here are some of the reasons that I see.
As someone who has been in the spotlight myself, as well as had my share of influence on social media, I know how intoxicating the limelight and all that attention can be. But I also know that if you’re not careful, if you let it get the better of you, it can seriously warp your outlook on the world and your behavior.
And that’s what I see happening with some of these fools.
Many in the GOP have learned that they can gain an audience and a following by being the worst versions of themselves. The more extreme their statements, the more amplification and attention they receive. And that translates into appearances on cable networks like Fox, and importantly into dollars from the captive base who are eager for their leaders to “own the libs.”
It’s a toxic cycle.
A Republican leader says something awful, they make more money and get more attention for it, so they say and do even more awful things.
But it’s also a downward cycle—what I call a death spiral. In order to hold the attention of the base, and to stay atop the right-wing news, the far right has to go, well, farther and farther to the right. The lies grow worse, and the conspiracies get weirder and weirder. The hate grows all-consuming.
It is spiritually and even physically exhausting for humans to be filled with hate and anger all the time. As with any bad drug, those addicted to right-wing grievance media have to be fed an increasingly potent diet of outrage and fear, or they simply can’t be motivated to act.
And that pulls those caught in the cycle, including GOP leaders, ever further away from the sensible middle ground—the place elections are won and lost.
The Media Guardrails Are Gone
The political divide today is part of what happens when journalism goes out the window and gets replaced by “opinion” news. These talking heads come with agendas, not answers. In fact, they have so few answers that they often admit that they’re just up there “asking questions.” But real journalists should come with facts. They don’t ask us to do our own research.
Somewhere along this downward spiral, the information echo chamber teleported a whole segment of our society to an alternate reality. Those not inside of that bubble universe cannot recognize the world of those within it. As a result, the country cannot even agree upon a baseline set of facts. Reality, in very Orwellian fashion, has become whatever the propagandists say it is.
It’s here where you wind up with a Fox “News” meltdown like we just witnessed. Behind the scenes, hosts like Tucker Carlson were ridiculing their own guests as nut jobs, while on camera they were shoveling their lies about the election at their own audiences just to keep them watching and to keep ratings—and profits—high.
A meltdown is the logical end of any relationship built on lies.
Once one side does not want to hear the truth, the other either has to keep manufacturing false and even defamatory stories—and ultimately face financial ruin—or give up the game and walk away. Fox may have fired its liar in chief, but soon its audience will demand a new one with equal guile and as few scruples.
And so, locked in their dance, the liars and the lied to, they will tumble and spiral ever downward in that death spiral, leaving sane America far behind.
The Clowns Are in Charge
If the public needs any more evidence the GOP has jumped the shark, it need only see who is actually calling the shots for the Republican Party.
Hint: It isn’t Kevin McCarthy.
For the past months, we have watched the most extreme House members take the gavel and the mic at hearings.
Ohio Representative Jim Jordan’s “oversight” committee failed out the gate when his much-vaunted “FBI whistleblowers” wound up being a trio of conspiracy theorists without a case.
Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene—the woman who believes 9/11 was an inside job, Sandy Hook was crisis actors and climate change isn’t caused by humans—holds McCarthy by his private parts and received plum committee appointments after getting kicked off of them two years ago for inciting violence.
New York Representative George Santos is a proven liar and fabulist who has violated almost every election law there is, but his party won’t remove him because they need his vote.
Republicans don’t have principles—they have power, and that is all that matters.
Then there is Donald Trump, the ultimate clown. He is—charitably put—a badly damaged leader who will have to run for office as an indicted criminal.
And yet, any Republican who has tried to stand up to him and call out his lies about the election has been hounded out of power in the party. Just ask Liz Cheney.
Where Does This All Lead the GOP?
The Republican Party knows it cannot win the popular vote in national elections—it hasn’t done so in nearly 20 years—and it’s rapidly losing ground in the key battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, where nearly all the GOP extremists got thumped in 2022 and 2023. Without those states, there is no Electoral College path victory for them.
And yet, they aren’t changing course.
They are clinging to their extremist ideology and practices on abortion bans, gun fanaticism, election denialism, and anti-LGBTQ hate. All of this will continue to drive out moderate voters by the millions.
So this is a death spiral, and we are witnessing it in real time.
But here’s the frightening thing: The extremism, hate and even violence will likely become more dangerous and explosive the farther they spiral down. For this we must be prepared, and we must not falter.
The great task ahead is to manage the GOP’s inevitable implosion without it going supernova and swamping us all. This will consume much of our energies and attention in the coming year leading up to the election.
I hope you are ready.
I know I am.
— George Takei