The outcome of this past Tuesday’s primaries has been taken to mean that Trump’s grip on the MAGA-fied GOP is slipping. Notably, in Georgia, Republican voters, while still very much attached to Trump, defied his wishes and voted to renominate their incumbent Governor, Brian Kemp, and Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger. In case anybody needs to be reminded, the Very Stable Genius was determined to bring down these right-wing Republican stalwarts for not playing along with his attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia and steal the state’s electoral votes for himself. Who can forget the infamous recording of Trump attempting to browbeat Raffensperger into “finding” him the votes he needed, which did not exist? Georgia Republican voters refused to carry out their leader’s vendetta against their local officials for their failure to behave like good little fascists.
What are we to make of this? Is Trump himself less of a threat? Is MAGA fading into the background of “normal” American politics? The only thing I know for certain is, I was wrong to compare Trump’s grip on the Republican Party to Stalin’s hold on the Soviet Union. To contradict any pronouncement by that “Greatest Genius of All Times and All Peoples” in any of the lands he ruled while he was in power was to court death. Trump does not have that kind of power, nor did he even when he was president, though it’s no secret how much he wanted it, as witness his endless praise of Putin, Kim Jong Un, etc. I am happy we don’t yet live in such a land. And it is very slightly encouraging that ordinary Republican voters in Georgia and elsewhere don’t necessarily demand of state officials that they overturn a majority vote that goes against the Party.
But the little hope this might offer can only be stretched so far. Those same Georgia Republicans anointed the super-Trumpist nitwit Herschel Walker as their Senate candidate, while in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial primaries, Republicans have just nominated Doug Mastriano, who has all but vowed to ensure that the swing state’s electoral votes go to Trump or a MAGA fascist to be named later, no matter what the voters say. And Kemp has long championed legislation tailored to try to discourage Black people from voting. The anti-democratic spirit of the MAGA-fied Party is undiminished—in fact, it is still intensifying—even if ordinary GOP voters and officeholders alike no longer regard Trump’s word as law. All the pieces are still being assembled to ensure the 2024 election goes to the Republican candidate, no matter what the voters do. With the majority of state legislatures and governorships, the federal judiciary, and after November, probably, both houses of Congress in GOP hands, the decapitation of the American republic will be nearly complete. In the hands of DeSantis, J.D. Vance, or really anybody less obviously buffoonish and incompetent than Trump, a concerted attempt to install a white supremacist, “Christian Dominionist,” soft dictatorship on the Hungarian model promoted by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and the Conservative Political Action Committee is likely to succeed, at least temporarily. Even without a Stalin.