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Where Do Republicans Go From Here?

It's time to stop speaking delicately about this.

President Donald Trump jokes with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wy.), Vice President Mike Pence, Spaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) during an event celebrating the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on the South Lawn of the White House December 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“A shepherd must isolate such an animal (with scrapie) from healthy stock immediately because it is infectious and can cause serious harm to the flock.” —German agricultural publication, 1759.

Scrapie is a prion disease, similar in its effect to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (Mad Cow Disease) and to the wasting disease that afflicts herds of deer, and to kuru, a disease first seen among tribes in Papua New Guinea that was transmitted in part through the ritual cannibalism of the tribe’s dead. Elsewhere in Asia, the custom of eating the brains of a monkey was responsible for cases of Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease, yet another prion illness. Once established in the victim, prion disease destroys the human nervous system. It eats away at the higher functions of the brain. So, when I talk about the prion disease that afflicts the Republican Party, and the conservative movement that is its only life force any more, I do not use the metaphor idly. The party has lost what’s left of its mind.

Far too many people are far too delicate about this. The Republican Party is completely mad, and it has been going in that direction for a very long time. It has been raving through all the halls of all the governments, large and small, like a lost soul with a big knife. The symptoms of the enveloping disease have been obvious for decades, ever since Ronald Reagan served up the first helping of monkey brains in 1976, when he nearly wrested the party’s nomination from Gerald Ford. It is full-blown now, and it is general throughout the Republic. The Republican Party has infected every institution with its own private insanity.

Just on Monday, the President* of the United States declared insufficient applause at his State of the Union address to be a treasonous act. From The New York Times:

“Can we call that treason?” Mr. Trump said of the stone-faced reaction of Democrats to his speech. “Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

The White House dismissed this as simply a “tongue-in-cheek” remark by our laff-riot president*. I guarantee you that most of his intended audience, fed as it is with daily doses of the monkey brains by its favorite radio and TV stars, did not take it that way. They cheered because, in their minds, he meant every word.

The Republican Party is completely mad, and it has been going in that direction for a very long time.

While the president* was speaking in Cincinnati, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by Republicans in Pennsylvania of a ruling by that state’s supreme court that Pennsylvania’s electoral maps were rigged to favor Republicans. Time was when something like this would cause the offending party to get a little humble and try to fix the damage it’s done, perhaps even with a little help from the other side of the aisle. That is not the way things work when the prion disease is raging. From The Daily Beast:

State Rep. Cris Dush went after five judges of the state’s high court after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling from last month, which found that 18 districts must be redrawn. Dush reportedly asked his fellow Republicans to co-sponsor legislation late Monday to have the state’s justices impeached for the court-ordered redrawing, which he described as “misbehavior in office.” Dush claims the justices’ order “blatantly and clearly contradicts the plain language of the Pennsylvania Constitution.” Despite the state having more registered Democrats than Republicans, Republicans hold 13 of 18 congressional seats. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Dush’s initiative had won any support among his colleagues.

Dush is a product of the afflicted political party. He also is a symptom. There is only one solution. Isolate the afflicted from the rest of the herd before we all go truly mad.

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Charles P. Pierce

Charles P. Pierce

Charles P. Pierce is a writer-at-large for Esquire and his work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the LA Times Magazine, the Nation, the Atlantic, Sports Illustrated and The Chicago Tribune, among others.

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