Commentary

Ten Resolutions for the Republican Party in 2022

The Republian Party enters the new year languishing in the cesspool of dirty politics, all the while smiling and screaming, “Come on in, the water’s fine!” at the top of their very angry lungs.

Here’s the thing: Most of us have memories of the GOP of the past, when it still had some honor of which to speak. There was mutual respect, there was decorum, there was a sense of fair play...most of the time. There was statesmanship; there was a loyal opposition. Patriotism was the reason to come together with Americans who might differ in their opinions of government, not a club with which you attack a Capitol policeman defending the physical institutions of our Democracy. The Republican Party of the past is no more; its members sold out to a con man, choosing to accept propaganda as truth and truth as blasphemy.

So what can bring the GOP back from the brink? Here are a few places to start:

Clean Up the House
You know the old saw about there being no such thing as bad publicity? Not true in American politics. Your “troll caucus” of upstanding representatives like Colorado’s own Lauren Boebert is giving the Republican reputation a serious black eye, and she's not alone. Take a stand against the seditionist pandering of Boebert and her fellow idiots: Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan and, especially, Matt Gaetz. Come on, GOP: If there’s one stance that’s 100 percent safe, it’s got to be against a guy involved in child sex trafficking.
Re-Embrace Morality
For a party that still wants to define itself as the moral center of the American universe, there’s a frightening lack of ethical behavior on display in the GOP today — and those who still cling to those principles are either drummed out of public service (Illinois's Adam Kinzinger) or ridiculed to the point that they’re in large part without a party affiliation (Wyoming's Liz Cheney). Who knew that after 2012, Mitt Romney would become a rational moderate in comparison to the rest of his colleagues on the red side of the aisle? And here's a local example: In the summer of 2021, a Colorado GOP leader posted a selfie mocking the police shooting of a teenage girl. These are the sorts of ugly moves that show the worst face of a party that used to ascribe to the highest of moral fiber. Colorado Republicans, you can't buy class. Or apparently, even common sense.
Don’t Deny January 6
The events of January 6, 2021, are not something you’ll be able to reframe in a way that's more GOP-friendly: It was an insurrection purposefully fomented and strategized by the Republican president's supporters in the interests of retaining power and staging a coup. And it was backed by several senators and representatives who should likewise be held accountable — including Colorado’s own Lauren “Today is 1776” Boebert. The attempted revolution was, as promised, televised. We all saw it, and the rest of the records are only now coming to light that reveal who was involved, what was said, what was purposeful, and what might well be criminal.

Forget Cory Gardner
There's some word that good ol' Cardboard Cory might run against Bennet for his senatorial seat. That would be a disaster for Colorado and the nation for many reasons, not the least of which was that Gardner was a terrible representative for Colorado voters back in the day, and there's not one damn reason to think he'd be any different now. His election in 2014 was an anomaly in an otherwise turning-blue Colorado; if the GOP wants to mount a comeback in this state, then they're going to have to do better than the guy who didn't work out the last time.
Rebuild Your “Big Tent”
The GOP for years boasted about its “Big Tent” approach to politics, with room for everybody, from pretty much any faith or creed or system of belief. The problem is that the majority of young Americans today think the GOP tent is really, really stupid and sad. Sure, the rapidly aging-out of the GOP ranks can ignore this fact for a while, and do everything and anything they can to retain power as a minority, but eventually even this corrupt manner of governance will fail. Not from anything the Democrats might do, but just because at some point, most of the current and deluded GOP faithful will be dead and not supposed to be voting. Here in Colorado, that means reconciling the rural Republicans with those in the city centers. Those two groups are decidedly not the same, and that's dividing the conservative vote in ways that the GOP can't survive.

Admit That Some Don’t Deserve a Corner of Said Tent
Here’s the issue with a tent so big that there really are no limits to one’s beliefs or behavior: You’re going to get some whack jobs in there. One of the hallmarks of the Trump administration was the embrace of racially charged domestic terrorist organizations like the Proud Boys and other white supremacists. Trump himself observed that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville march in which protesters chanted “Jews will not replace us.” These are not people who deserve a place at any table, from the family dinner table to the Cabinet meetings of the sitting president to Colorado's gathering spots. These are not positions that are defensible, morally or otherwise. These are not segments of a voting populace that deserve a platform. These are people in need of serious therapy. Somehow, in just half a century, America has gone from actively fighting violent authoritarianism to one of our major American policies looking for its own Reichstag to set aflame. Every American — not just those of us not addicted to talk radio and FOX News — needs to stand against that, just like we did in the 1940s. And that goes for all of us here in Colorado, too.

click to enlarge This is not about trigger discipline. - TWITTER
This is not about trigger discipline.
Stop Making Excuses for Shitty Behavior
The supporters of the current GOP — all those Trump folks who still defend his presidency as though there’s anything positive to defend about it — make it impossible to have a rational conversation about the issues. Too many of them indulge in a fanatical “what-about-ism” that they apparently believe is impenetrable armor but most people recognize as Emperor Trump’s new clothes. If someone mentions that Trump committed fraud, they’ll bring up Hunter Biden. If someone criticizes Mark Meadows for the use of personal email accounts when discussing insurrection, they’ll write it off by conflating that with Hillary Clinton talking about appetizers. And it’s not just Trump and his cabinet — it’s everyone within the GOP bubble of non-reality. When Boebert responds poorly to being portrayed as a dimwit gun nut on an SNL skit, the majority of comments from her supporters are about how terrible SNL has been for decades and blah blah blah trigger discipline. And when all that purposeless misdirection misfires, too many in the GOP just resort to name-calling and misplaced condescension. The only way to recapture Middle America is to admit when the worst among you make their mistakes, and hold them to account.

Celebrate Intelligence Again
This isn’t to say that supporters of the GOP aren’t smart — on the contrary, they’re often smart people purposefully choosing to embrace some not-so-smart behaviors, which is arguably worse. It was Trump who called out the lack of schooling within his base: “I love the poorly educated,” he said during his 2016 campaign, and he wasn’t kidding. Much of his appeal remains predicated on not really understanding the issues he’s yelling about, from empty promises to lies presented as facts that “people are saying.” As a result, the intelligentsia of his own party fled in droves. The ones who stuck around — at least for a while —did so out of a sense of duty to the country in trying to make sure that Trump didn’t destroy it. Trump was instead surrounded by lackeys and yes men, many of them with vile agendas of their own: Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Mike Pompeo, William Barr and a rogues' gallery too depressing to keep enumerating. But that anti-intellectual stance has sadly survived the Trump presidency. Supporters have been told and trained to believe that their opinions hold as much weight in the world as do certified facts and actual science. That’s a real problem — not only because it’s just so very wrong, but also because it does nothing to encourage what’s right.

click to enlarge Yes, the flag is pressing charges. - YOUTUBE
Yes, the flag is pressing charges.
Accept Reality
Speaking of which, Republicans have to give up the myths that are currently buoying their base: Vaccines are safe and vital; Dr. Fauci has no secret agenda, and continues to work to keep your families alive. And the biggest myth of all: Donald Trump is pro-America. He is not. Donald Trump is pro-Trump, and sees you as a revenue source. No one is threatening to take your guns, or your Christmas, or your rights. No election was stolen. All the corruption-calling is coming from inside the house. American democracy is vital to the life and nation you purport to love so much, and it’s at risk. Serious risk. But that risk is coming from Mitch McConnell and Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, and anyone else who might suggest that success is measured by “owning the libs.”

Change your Victory Conditions
Any movement whose members purport to put “America First” doesn’t mean it. They’re just insisting that they get their own way, and draping the demand in the Stars and Stripes. GOP: You want to embrace the flag in 2022? You want to be patriots? Represent all of America again, and not just the shrinking group that already buys what you’re selling. Especially here in Colorado, no one's jumping on the Trump train — but there sure are a considerable number of people jumping off. The GOP is going to have to switch tracks both locally and nationally if it wants to survive the Trump era and still exist a generation from now.
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen