As recounted in Garry Wills’s 1970 book Nixon Agonistes, after Richard Nixon lost his campaign for governor of California in 1962, just two years after losing the presidential election to Jack Kennedy, he called a press conference where he proceeded to lash out at the media that he thought was hostile to him. It was their right, he said sarcastically, to “give a man the shaft,” but their fun was coming to an end, since “you won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore, because this, gentlemen, is my last press conference.” This tantrum attracted much mockery, but it did not, of course, prevent him from winning the presidency six years later.
It’s always good politics to have a hate-figure, a role in which Nixon served the Democrats admirably for a quarter of a century. Normal political parties in a democracy have other things to offer in addition, such as policies, which the MAGA-tized Republican Party infamously refused to put forth in 2020, choosing instead to submit itself to the whatever might be the will of the Trumpenfuhrer. That will was and is entirely about hate and destruction, though the master of the derogatory nickname appears to be losing his touch (“Ron DeSanctimonious,” really, Don?). For thirty years now, though, the Republicans have thrived by demonizing one Democratic politician after another, usually either a woman, such as Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi, or a Black man like former President Obama. With Pelosi stepping down as House Democratic leader after the Republicans finally succeeded in inciting an attempt on her life, they will need a new hate-figure. Who will it be?
Logically, the answer should be President Biden. After all, he is genuinely loathed by millions of MAGA fanatics for “stealing” the presidency from its rightful owner, the Very Stable Genius. But all that “Let’s Go Brandon” merch, and the more straightforward FUCK BIDEN signs, just haven’t caught on outside the fever swamps. Sadly for the Party of Trump, vicious anti-Catholic bigotry is as extinct in America as the woolly mammoth; were it not, they would gladly seize on it to try to destroy the country’s second Catholic president. (Can you imagine how often Trump would have gleefully tweeted, back in 2020, about “PAPIST JOE”?) Making a White man who is a genial, soft-spoken stutterer into a demon just isn’t working out for the MAGA-tized Republicans, and the sooner they realize that, the less taxpayer money will be wasted on endless Congressional inquisitions into the president’s son’s laptop.
Perhaps Ilhan Omar might serve their purposes. After all, presumptive Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (Quisling-Calif.) long ago threatened to keep people like her off committees when Republicans regained control, in retaliation for Democrats keeping Marjorie Taylor Greene, (QAnon-Georgia) and Paul Gosar (Whacko-Ariz.) off committees. Were the retaliation limited to Omar, it might actually be fair enough — mess with our deranged antisemite and we’ll mess with yours — but unfortunately, the Very Stable Genius long ago taught the Republicans that any sense of proportion is for p****es, so McCarthy is likely to try to keep the entire Congressional Progressive Caucus off all committees. Or maybe the entire Democratic caucus! But that won’t solve the problem of finding a new hate-figure. Omar is perhaps too exotic, and too obviously isolated even within her own party, to be effectively demonized. Who, then, will appear alongside Biden in the next cycle of Congressional Republican ads warning that a vote for their opponents is a vote for Radical Left Socialism to murder babies, open the border, and miscegenate your daughters?
I think it’s down to two New Yorkers, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Chuck Schumer. Like Omar, AOC is a photogenic provocateur, which makes her an ideal target. Even better, Schumer’s New York accent and demeanor brand him immediately as a foreigner to Sarah Palin’s “real America,” and of course he is Jewish, one of those disloyal people the Very Stable Genius just warned again to “get their act together” and bow down before him, “before it’s too late!” So as the 2024 “election cycle” begins, I expect we will see this sinister duo depicted in ad after ad, he leering down a nose that (it will be hotly denied) has been digitally lengthened, she made up as the mischlinge Jezebel of white nationalist nightmares. The faces change, but the Two Minutes Hate must go on.