How is it possible that things are moving forward so impressively these days in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, even as other states like Tennessee, Kansas, Idaho, North Carolina, and Florida are devolving into complete hellholes? How is such a thing even possible?
The answer is that these two trends are in fact connected – and it has to do with the Republican Party’s ongoing shift to the extremist, unpopular, unhinged far right that started under Donald Trump and now continues without him.
The further into extremism the Republican Party shifts, the more nonviable it becomes in national government. The Republicans had an overwhelming built-in historic advantage in 2022 but just barely won the House majority and failed to take the Senate. In 2024 you can expect Republicans to fully slip out of having any remaining power in the federal government. And while the right wing controls the Supreme Court, it’s just a matter of time before these Justices start dying off and getting replaced. The Republican Party is done as a national party, and has now been reduced to regional party status.
The trouble is that with the Republican Party no longer seeing a point in even pretending to be close enough to the center to retain any nationwide power, it just gives the party an excuse to shift even more aggressively and abusively to the extreme right in the states it still controls.
So it’s not really a surprise to see Tennessee Republicans, who already have a supermajority in the state legislature and gained nothing from such a stunt, expelling two Black Democrats on false grounds, just to see if they could get away with it. It’s not a surprise to see the Kansas state legislature approving something as grotesque as genital inspections of school age athletes. It’s not a surprise to see Idaho trying to punish women in the state who dare to travel somewhere else to get an abortion. And it’s not a surprise to see North Carolina Republicans carrying out whatever corrupt and likely criminal deal they used to get a Democratic state legislator to suddenly become a far right Republican overnight.
When you’re a deranged villain who’s been trying to keep up the appearance of being a respectable member of society, but then you lose the opportunity to continue being seen that way, you figure there’s no longer any point in trying to keep up appearances. You figure you might as well just openly be the grotesque monster that you’ve always been. What is there to lose?
Well a lot, actually. All you have to do is look at these other states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, where the Republican Party used to solidly control the state legislatures. But Republican Party extremism got so bad, voters decided they’d had enough, and they handed those legislatures to the Democrats. Then there’s Wisconsin, where voters got so sick of Republican Party extremism, they just handed the deciding state Supreme Court seat to the Democrats by a ten point margin – paving the way for fairer maps that may end up handing the Wisconsin state legislature to the Democrats.
Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are the three “swing” states that have narrowly decided the last two presidential elections. Yet now the Democrats are rapidly taking control of all three states. The Republicans took things way too far to the right, and ceased being competitive in all three states. We’re now seeing Arizona strongly shift from red to blue as well, for the same reason. And we’re seeing a partial shift from red to blue in Georgia as well.
These other states like Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kansas are, to varying degrees, more red in nature than the ones listed above. But even states that lean a bit conservative tend to have their breaking points, where the Republican Party shifts so far to the extreme right that it loses the majority of voters in that state. Until this week, we might have thought that the breaking point in a state like Tennessee was unreachable. But now, because of just how astoundingly deranged the Tennessee Republican Party is behaving, we’re suddenly looking at something different.
Even if this doesn’t shift things such that the Democrats can win a majority in the Tennessee state legislature, it certainly opens the door for the Democrats to win enough seats to cost the Republicans their current supermajority. That alone would add the kinds of checks and balances that would make it a lot harder for the Republican Party to pull off the kinds of things it wants to pull off. So yes, the Republicans really can harm themselves, and cost themselves power, with these kinds of extremist antics.
The Republican Party isn’t actually helping itself retain power in red states by moving this aggressively and derangedly to the extreme right. It’s only putting its current power in those states at risk. But now that the Republican Party is losing its status as a national party anyway, its remaining “leaders” seem intent on continuing to make the same grotesque mistakes that cost the party its national status to begin with.
As the Republican Party continues to insist on setting itself on fire in the hope of causing the rest of us to choke on the resulting smoke, all that we can do is fight back. We have to unite, organize, peacefully protest in the short term, gear up to win the next round of elections, and remove this Republican Party toxin from one state at a time until it no longer exists.
If you want proof that it can be done, just take a look at how we’ve gradually managed to chase the Republican Party out of power over the past few years in the “moderate” states it used to firmly control. Those states are blue now, because we worked hard and worked smart and made it happen. If the Republicans are really going to give us an opening to try to turn a redder state like Tennessee more blue, then we’ll just have to keep putting in the work and make it happen. The alternative, which would be to sit back and do nothing and let these outrageous red state injustices keep happening, would be unacceptable.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report