If there’s one thing that 2016 taught me, and all the years subsequent to 2016 up to the present moment, it’s that I suck at predicting the future. If that recent string of years starting at 2016 had a catch-phrase it would be something like, “I did not see that coming,” complete with the not-so-accidental reference to He Who Shall Go Unmentioned, whose birthday it was yesterday.
As a corollary, everybody else sucks at predicting the future too. Oh sure, Michael Moore scored some points by calculatingly stepping out of the mainstream and predicting a Trump win in 2016. Nevertheless, Michael Moore also sucks at predicting the future. Out of the last three presidential elections Moore only got one prediction right. Those aren’t exactly Nostradamus numbers.
Nobody needs to be embarrassed, though. These last few years really have been hard to see coming. So much odd and scary and bewildering and unexpected crap has happened in the last six years that I have a hard time keeping track of it all. Business as usual has decidedly not been business as usual.
Even so, I’m going to make a prediction. And this is a prediction that I think you can hang your hat on. If Donald Trump doesn’t run for president in 2024, the Republicans are going to pick someone very much like him. I don’t know who it’s going to be, but I can almost set my watch to the certainty that it’s going to be a Donald Trump clone. He might even walk like a Trump and quack like a Trump. He (and it most emphatically is going to be a he) will be another Trump — only a whiter shade of pale. Or maybe a paler shade of white.
The reason I say this is because Republicans have effectively painted themselves into a corner. More and more of them are trying to out-Trump Trump. I suspect even Trump is trying to out-Trump Trump. Whatever it is that’s gotten into the Republican well and poisoned the water these last few years, virtually every one of them is sick and getting sicker. No one in the Republican camp, with the possible exception of Mitt Romney who has ossified forever into himself, has stayed the same or gotten better. Trump has poisoned the party.
It would not be hyperbole to say Republicans have become radicalized. What I mean by that is their political agendas have been subsumed into fanaticism to the point where all they do is hate. There is no longer even so much as a pretence of service to the American people. When service to the American people is mentioned at all it’s only ever done so in the name of heaping scorn and abuse on Democrats.
Of course, there is no general agreement on what is meant by “radicalization.” For example, Republicans refer to us as the “radical left.” The problem with their use of that word is that it doesn’t hold up under examination. We are trying to save the planet from destruction by our own hand, save each other from disease and poverty and rescue the economy for all Americans and all citizens of the world, not just the richest one percent or the oil companies. There is really no way to frame that goal as “radical” except to lie about it and claim that we’re really up to something else, something sinister. But these are nothing more than the claims of the lunatic and the conspiracy theorist. It’s simply not true, and that we are consistent within ourselves and our goals is proof that it’s not true.
But Radical right-wing ideologies are motivated by a variety of different right-wing movements, most prominently neo-fascism, neo-Nazism and white nationalism. These unequivocally radical elements are still occasionally a deep embarrassment to some members of the Republican Party. White nationalists are growing more and more happy with Republicans. It’s why there is increasing internecine strife among Republicans. Growth toward the radical is painful for many in the party. It is well known that many of them secretly hate where the party is going. But there’s nothing they can do about it.
And because there’s nothing they can do about it, by 2024 I expect we will be getting another Trump, possibly worse, as a candidate. The good news for us is that it will make it very difficult to get him (whoever he turns out to be) elected. Most Americans agree with us, even if they won’t admit it out loud. But the bad news is that Republicans are assembling an apparatus designed to see to it that their presidential candidate gets elected whether or not he wins both the popular vote and the Electoral College. It’s going to be a real schoolyard game of making up rules to suit themselves and, if we don’t stop them, they just might get away with it.
I’ve said it before and I say it again, this is why the Republican Party must go. I know that’s a big ask, but the times and circumstances demand it. They are growing more radical and evil with each passing day, and that is why we can no longer afford to lose an election, not even one. The alternative is simply too terrible to contemplate. As I said, I suck at making predictions, but I fear that’s one prediction that is inevitable. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.