This week the Arizona Republican Party censured Cindy McCain, Jeff Flake, and current Republican governor Doug Ducey. The public shaming of these longtime conservative Republicans from their own party reflects two major features of today’s GOP: authoritarianism and anti-intellectualism.
These themes are nothing new in America’s right wing, going back to the days of slavery, to McCarthyism, to modern Fox News culture. But nowadays authoritarianism and anti-intellectualism have never been so prominent in mainstream American politics. To be Republican and not be lockstep behind Donald J. Trump is heresy. Moreover, Trumpism, like other cults, is not based in reason and fact, but in mindless groupthink.
The censuring of McCain and Flake is a clear example. Cindy McCain, the widow of the late Senator John McCain, endorsed Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, as did former Senator Jeff Flake. The Arizona Republican Party could have chosen to see such dissent as an opportunity for self-reflection and to do some serious soul-searching. But, alas, asking honest questions is apparently anathema to Arizona Republicans, as it is for much of the GOP in general.
As for Governor Ducey, the Arizona GOP found reason to censure him for implementing emergency restrictions to combat COVID-19. Never mind the fact that Arizona was getting pummeled by the virus and executive actions were needed to manage this public health crisis. To the Arizona Republicans (and many Republicans in general), such orders were unconstitutional and were an exercise of “dictatorial powers.”
It remains an open question if Trump will continue to enjoy major political clout in the next couple of years. Regardless, authoritarianism and anti-intellectualism are corrosive to democracy. The recent case in Arizona is yet another example that today’s Republican Party can’t be trusted in safeguarding democratic norms.