By Joe Trippi
This time is different. Oh sure, I have seen the Republican Party follow its conservative wing too far to the right and suffer massive election losses. The same holds true for the Democratic Party when it has moved too aggressively to its left and suffered similar defeats.
But this time is different and dangerous.
Historically, there’s a repeating pattern of a party moving to its ideological right or left and then continuing that shift too far until it is clobbered in a national election. It goes like this: The more conservative base of the Republican Party and the more liberal base of the Democratic Party turn out more in party primaries. More conservative or more liberal candidates are nominated, and the cycle continues until that wing takes the party over and eventually overreaches and suffers an embarrassing margin of defeat.
Barry Goldwater led the conservative wing over a cliff in 1964 against incumbent President Johnson, and Walter Mondale led liberals to lose 49 states in 1984. I was with Vice President Mondale in that 1984 campaign. Our relationship played an important role in my life, which I tweeted about. After the liberal wing of the Democratic Party had failed to nominate Ted Kennedy in 1980, then nominated Walter Mondale in 1984 and Mike Dukakis in 1988 - losing the Presidency three times in a row - only then did the Democratic Party look inward and change nominating a more centrist Bill Clinton and winning the Presidency in 1992.
What we are witnessing today in the MAGA-controlled Republican Party is far different. We are not witnessing an ideological shift further to the right. It’s not a party that is becoming more and more conservative to the point of being unacceptable. It is no longer a conservative party, and its nominating contests are no longer fought over conservative ideas, ideals, or policies.
What the press and pundits are missing is that the usual shift towards a party’s extreme base is happening. But the extreme in the MAGA-controlled GOP is not conservative. Its movement is not to the extreme right but towards extreme anger, resentment, and retribution against “the other”.
We are not witnessing the usual overreach of a wing of a party too extreme ideologically for a majority of the nation. Instead, we are witnessing a party so subsumed by grievance that it is circling the doom drain. The extremes of where this goes will not end well for the party or the nation.
The signs of this should be obvious as the MAGA-controlled GOP presidential campaigns get underway. It is no longer the conservatives that are winning Republican nominations for office. What matters now to primary voters is who is meaner, angrier, louder, and ready to identify and get in the face of whoever they fear or hate. Trump will teach another masterclass in this field. DeSantis is putting his macho hate and division on full display. Nicki Halley is gonna grind her heels into the backs of anyone who gets in the way. Larry Hogan has opted out, and those that stay in will only get darker in their attacks. Sunshine and optimism are out, and doom and gloom conspiracy theories are in. The gloomier, the better.
The MAGA base has been trained not to want more conservatism - they want more revenge. But the problem is it takes an ever-angrier or more fearful new impending doom to stoke the base.
What is different now is that in the past, an ideological shift too far to the right would end in an election defeat. The reality of the GOP’s current shift towards the doom drain is that when it does lead to defeat, it may also lead to violence. January 6th was one clear sign that this is not only possible but likely.
It’s not just the MAGA-controlled GOP that’s circling the doom drain. You can see it in Tucker Carlson and the FOXNews Primetime lineup’s need to manufacture new and complex impending doom conspiracies to keep the audience tuned in.
Today a major political party is circling the doom drain. As it grows darker, it will also become more dangerous as FOXNews feeds the demands of the MAGA base and viewers.
It’s a political party’s movement toward the extreme over time that makes it clear to the electorate that the party has lost its way. That’s what we are witnessing in the early stages of the MAGA-controlled GOP Presidential nomination fight. DeSantis, Trump, and the other candidates are going to put on full display that anger and retribution, not conservatism, fuel Republican primary voters. MAGA is no longer a wing of the party - it is the party. In 2024 it will be ours to make sure that the broader electorate sees the Republican Party has lost its conservative mantel and hands the GOP a devastatingly-clear loss before it takes the nation down the doom drain with it.
Fortunately, MAGA and the MAGA-controlled candidates and their thirst for anger, revenge, and retribution will be on display every day and help do some of the work for us. It’s going to be extreme - let their ugly fight begin.