I began writing this on the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year — appropriate, I suppose, at the end of such a dark year. With little grasp of what the future holds, we all are fumbling. We don’t yet know how different strains of COVID will affect our economy and our teetering democracy. We don’t yet know how the midterms will go. Will Republicans who have pledged their allegiance to a disgraced former president regain control of Congress, as now seems likely? Will that set the stage for Trump or a Trump clone to return triumphantly to the White House in 2025?
Yet we began the year with hope. After enduring four of the worst years of our lives with a former reality TV star perfectly playing the part of an insane president, I thought we’d catch a break in 2021. With 45 no longer on the stage, perhaps the majority of Republicans would come to their senses and regret their allegiance to a twice-convicted tax cheat who fomented a coup. Then things might become semi-normal again. Boy, was I ever wrong.
After 2021, semi-normal is now well out of our collective grasps. What has become clear is that Republicans are working every day against the continuation of the American republic. The GOP has evolved into a personality cult dedicated to a reality TV grifter, interested in subverting democracy and sabotaging the economy. When Biden mandated shots for businesses of more than 100 people, 14 Republican state attorneys general, all of whom I imagine are vaccinated, sued him. Since our economic well-being is dependent on getting more people vaccinated and boosted, it seems clear that Republicans don’t want the economy to succeed because in their twisted worldview, that would be a victory for Biden. To them, the dead are justifiable collateral damage.
And speaking of the dead, here in Texas, the three-decades-long sclerotic Republican regime enters 2022 with blood on its hands after the deaths caused by the collapse of our poorly managed electrical grid and Abbott et al.’s continuing cruel refusal to expand Medicaid. It appears Texas functions as a Matrix-like simulated reality to test how much Texans can stand to be governed by incompetent greedheads, until we get off our asses and vote the fools out. From the clearly unconstitutional vigilante-fueled anti-abortion law to the undemocratic super-gerrymandering and limiting voting of Democratic constituencies, we are the nation’s laboratory for Republican misgovernance. Is this the year when we finally have had enough?
And nationally, too. Less than a year ago, for the first time in our 232-year history, we failed to have a peaceful transfer of power because 45 decided that Brand Trump could never concede to the unsurprising reality that he’d lost by 7 million votes. The fact that around 70% of Republicans still buy his conspiratorial shtick shows the deep shit we’re in. Violence and threats of violence have now become totally normalized in the Republican party of Gosar and Boebert. And even talk of Civil War is de rigueur.
So awash in disinformation are Republicans that they call Democrats Marxists, which never fails to crack me up and leave me wondering where in Das Kapital Marx makes his case for workers to unite so we can have a 26.5% corporate tax rate? But for sheer ludicrousness, you can’t beat the fact that, when surveyed, Republicans refuse to believe their lying eyes that the economy is booming. Though in the Ludicrous Olympics of our political world, that might be edged out by Tucker Carlson’s contention that immigrants who trek thousands of miles through deserts and jungles using their ingenuity to survive multiple dangerous encounters with law enforcement and gangs will be pliant Democratic automatons. In fact, it’s his mostly elderly couch potatoes being spoon-fed white supremacists’ lies who are by far the most robotic automatons around.
In a sane country, after two impeachments, the botching of his COVID response leading to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths, not to mention, organizing an insurrection to stop Congress from doing its constitutional duty to count electoral votes, Trump should’ve been declared persona non grata by his party, yet he’s still the hero of his base, which speaks both to the incredible power of the fact-free right-wing media and its total depravity. After Jan. 6, you would’ve thought that Trump supporters would be so ashamed of themselves, they’d hide under a rock, but no. In the insane 2021 universe, they were everywhere — screaming lies about masks, shots, and CRT at school board meetings, proudly basking in their ignorance.
I should end by giving some faint ray of hope, but I won’t. Because of the intransigence of Republican governors, including ours, people are unnecessarily dying of a disease they shouldn’t. Because of the work of Republican legislators at the national and state level, we are in danger of losing our democracy. And yet, these same duplicitous Republicans are the very people who will most likely take power at the end of 2022 without paying any political or legal price for their deadly incompetence and treachery.
The forces of darkness are counting on our sheer exhaustion after four years of the Trump Shit Show and almost two drawn-out years of COVID. They may well be right. But if those who want to preserve our republic don’t march and organize like it’s 2017, insist those responsible for Jan. 6 be held accountable, and vote in numbers we’ve never seen in a midterm, the only place our children and grandchildren will be able to learn about democracy is in a museum.
Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue is a Fort Worth writer who has been proudly raging against the right for decades.
This column reflects the opinions of the author and not the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a column, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at Anthony@FWWeekly.com. Columns will be gently edited for factuality and clarity.