Gingrichism Rampant: Trump’s Threats to Delegitimize Democracy Repeat the Standard GOP Playbook

Lots of hand-wringing through the internets today over Donald Trump’s accusations that the voting system is rigged and that even if he loses, he didn’t really lose because, well, the system was rigged. And it gets worse, because of the statements of Trump consigliere and sleazeball Roger Stone concerning the issue. Stone said that Trump’s supporters will “shut the government down” if Clinton wins.

Their inauguration will be a rhetorical, and when I mean civil disobedience, not violence, but it will be a bloodbath. The government will be shut down if they attempt to steal this and swear Hillary in. No, we will not stand for it.

The “government will be shut down” is a tell, although not the only one. It is crucial to point out that Trump’s and his surrogates’ threats of physical violence and delegitimation of American democracy is doing nothing but extending Republican Party tactics to their logical conclusion. Five years ago on this page I referred to these tactics as Gingrichism, i.e. the destruction of the informal institutions of American governance. The process began with Gingrich but did not end with him, because the entire GOP is the party of permanent constitutional crisis.

Repeated government shutdowns, impeachment, the use of congressional investigations for political purposes, threatening the full faith and credit of the United States, Mitch McConnell’s throwing the Senate into dysfunction, the violent shutting down of the Palm Beach County recount (aka “The Brooks Brothers Riot”) and of course Bush v Gore all represent the Republican Party’s attempts to crush the informal norms that make democracy work. Trump’s most recent threats are simply the latest iteration and nothing outside what has become the Standard Operating Procedure for the GOP.

The irony is that if there is a threat to election integrity, it comes from Trump’s friends in the Kremlin, who will have little compunction hacking into US voting machines.

All in all, it’s good that I have taken up Post-apocalyptic literature as a hobby. At least I won’t be surprised.

Overestimating Perry, Underestimating Gingrich

For the past half year I have been on the wrong side of received opinion regarding Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. The day that Governor Perry declared his candidacy, and the punditocracy was at his feet, I expressed doubt that he had what it takes to survive the inferno of a national campaign. This was only half of my isolation. My nadir came in mid-December, when I opined that Newt’s surge was more sustainable than all those that had gone before in the GOP race. The next day his poll numbers plunged, and I experienced the twin pains of having a commenter mock me with “If only you could have held off on this column for 24 more hours…” and having my “Newt Won’t Wilt” post replaced on the coveted masthead spot of Washington Monthly’s web page with my co-blogger Jonathan Bernstein’s post entitled “Newt in Free Fall“. I donned sackcloth and ashes and wandered alone and ashamed in desolate places of which I will not tell.

Now that Andrew Sullivan is handing out “Von Hoffman” awards to those who were sure of a Perry nomination and Gingrich has romped to victory in South Carolina’s primary, I return from pundit purgatory, like Gandalf the White, to ask why so many intelligent political observers didn’t see all this coming.

Perhaps two lessons of political history that once reliably guided expectations about elections are today more likely to mislead. Continue reading “Overestimating Perry, Underestimating Gingrich”