Idaho COVID Insanity Shows How Much Worse the GOP Can Get
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When Idaho morgues and intensive care units were overcrowded with COVID patients, Republican Governor Brad Little said he would fine companies with over 100 employees if they waived masking mandates.
It's a crazy attitude rooted in his desire to find his challenger, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, to give no reason to attack him while fighting for his job.
Dying people will be damned as Republicans head up and down in competitions across the country to see who is furthest to the right to claim the Trumpian cloak.
The Idaho governor has every reason to be on his guard. McGeachin pulled a power play while briefly out of the state in May and used her temporary status as incumbent governor to enact a mandate against masked mandates. As soon as he got back, he barely flipped it - not that he was a big fan of masked mandates, but he left it to individual places and that didn't go far enough for the Trump base, so he's now punishing companies for trying to recruit their employees to protect in a pandemic.
This COVID-ravaged Boise family has a message for the Idaho mask burners
"She seems to be channeling Trump here and seeking Trump's support," said Jessica Taylor, who follows the governors' races for The Cook Political Report.
This dynamic is hardly confined to Idaho. In another red state, Alabama, where COVID cases have overwhelmed the health system, Governor Kay Ivey blamed the surge on the unvaccinated, a rare moment of truth that has brought her three main challengers, with two more contemplating the race.
Even in Texas, where Governor Greg Abbott doesn't face a very serious challenge, Taylor says he's not taking any chances and, at Trump's request, orders a recount of four voting counties that Trump won in 2020, adding to the madness. At his rally in Georgia on Saturday, Trump bizarrely claimed that months of Arizona election scrutiny revealed he had won, despite Cyber Ninjas, the company selected by the GOP that conducted the scrutiny, found Biden won - and even more votes than the original number.
The Republican primaries develop like the Hunger Games, dystopian battles among the Trumpians. "What you see is incredible downward competition that mutually rises to be the craziest and trumpiest in any context," said Matt Bennett, co-founder of Third Way, a moderate democratic group. The fights and lies can be through mask mandates or vaccines or how we teach children slavery, all of which tie in with the big lie that Trump somehow won the election and was cheated of his supposedly rightful victory.
Tomorrow, the lies about Afghanistan refugees or what is happening on the southern border or calls to defuse the police could be "the things that create heat," says Bennett, "and these politicians are fanning the flames as aggressively as possible."
That's politics, you say, but that's different, says Robert Kagan, a neo-conservative foreign policy official whose essay in the Washington Post over the weekend set out loudly and clearly what has been worrying many on the political spectrum for some time, namely fascist tendencies Trump and his supporters in introducing guidelines that could allow Republican parliaments to reject elections if they do not like the results. Kagan argues that we've never seen a political movement in the U.S. as passionately tied to a man and his lies as Trump.
The term fascist is associated with murderous genocide, and appropriately given its dark history. What we see on the populist right is a rhetoric leaning towards fascism and fueling the main challenges of figuring out who can be the purest, toughest, and most extreme voice of the Trumpian right to win the approval of the Dear Leader.
Another early test of whether this Trumpian, dystopian approach will work is Virginia, where Democrat Terry McAuliffe, once considered a shoo-in, is in a close race with Republican Glenn Youngkin, a political freshman who is Refused to say over the weekend if he would have voted to confirm the 2020 elections if he were a member of Congress. He's running for “Electoral Integrity,” the code for the Big Lie, and of course he's skeptical of mask requirements even for nurses treating immunocompromised cancer patients.
"The overall environment for the Democrats is bad right now," said Jessica Taylor of Cook Political United Power. "Fundamentals still favor McAuliffe," she says, but it is time for the Democrats to shut up and the party's disagreement could cost him dearly if not resolved.
Before the 2020 election, Matt Bennett says, one could argue that Republicans were simply trying to discourage people from voting who were not their voters, obnoxious behavior in a democracy but within limits. "Since the elections it has become clear that if they don't like the result, they will change it." Trump's allies are pushing for laws in Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that would allow Republican lawmakers to overturn the vote if it doesn't go their way. "If we talk about suspending or canceling people's votes, that's the end of the American experiment," says Bennett, who is otherwise no alarmist. "Our democracy will be over, at least for the time being."
What happens in Idaho won't change the national image or the dynamics of power, but people will die needlessly because politicians who see a path to power play with their lives. In Virginia, where the November 3rd gubernatorial election is being voted early, McAuliffe's greatest enemy is lack of enthusiasm, but how can that be done with all that is at stake?
"When democracies die, they no longer die in coups or tanks rolling in," says Bennett. "They die because people give up power or they don't pay attention."
Or they disappear when politicians act only to maintain and expand their power, as Idaho's governor and lieutenant governor do in a political exchange that treats a population stricken with COVID as collateral damage in an undeclared and unnecessary war.
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