There is no point in accusing Republican senators of hypocrisy. Absolutely none. Only hours after the death of Supreme Court icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republicans—who had previously gnashed their teeth at the audacity of the suggestion that the nation's first nonwhite president had the constitutional power to make nominations to the court at any point during the final year of his term—began declaring that this time around, obviously that new rule no longer applies. And obviously the president of their own party, impeached and transparently corrupt, must be granted a scrambling court even as voters line up to cast early ballots.
Hypocrisy implies there’s a previous ideology being upset; there wasn't one, and isn't one, and no serious politics-watcher ever thought otherwise. The principle being upheld by Sen. Mitch McConnell and clan then and now was more simple: Retain power using all available tools, and deny the opposition power using all available tools. There is no "ideology" inside the modern conservative movement, either before Trump's arrival or afterwards, that can survive its first brush with expediency. Each argument lasts only as long as the soundbites require and will be replaced with a new one immediately, without hesitation, when required.
Expediency as ideology is not a senate-only device. Former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia practiced it with aplomb, often resulting in lawyers and courts using his past words against him in new cases—a futile gesture. Of his "originalist," "textualist," or "institutionalist" allies, the same approach is used by All Of Them.
It's not hypocrisy if the principle all along was "whatever best increases power." And it is irrelevant if it is.
The relevant part is that it is accomplished by lying. The practitioners claim some bold new notion of how the world should work, and it is an absolute, baldfaced, bullshit-laden public lie. Those who watch McConnell or Sen. Lindsey Graham in their public appearances can easily identify, at this point, the schtick that makes up their entire persona.
They look the American public in the eye, and they simply lie to them.
It was a lie from the moment he uttered it, and there was not a person in the room who didn’t know it from the outset. The movement is devoted to lying as governing principle. It works because there are countless channels through which those lies can be disseminated, and amplified, and praised. It will continue for as long as it works.
Over and over. About everything, all the time. The Moscow Turtle has never cried a sincere tear in his life, but according to him all Democratic actions are Devastation, all Republican actions are Sorrowfully Required Due To Democratic Existence, and the rest is puppet show. Graham is superb at being outraged in showy defense of the outrageous. Sen. Marco Rubio's usual deployed device is to respond to each act of corruption or depravity with a Bible verse, typically as non sequitur, and wiping his hands of the rest of it. Sen. Susan Collins is forever concerned by gross incompetence or criminality within her movement, and remains equally as concerned the next time around, and will make good on that "concern" exactly zero times as she votes to enable each concerning act one-by-one-by-one.
It's not hypocrisy. They're just liars. Conservatism is a movement of fictions, a series of nonsense falsehoods deployed like a squid ejects ink. Nobody asks the squid whether it stands by the cloud ejaculated in the last crisis. It would be pointless. The squid doesn't remember, and can't tell you.
It is not that the nation is run by a movement of "hypocrites." The nation is run by a collection of liars.
Those who issue false statements and make false claims relentlessly in order to deceive the public, or to stir their base into new heights of feverishness, or—and this is rather more to the point in this particular year—to justify and endorse criminality in service to the movement. Incompetence, if in service to the movement. A quarter million deaths, if in service to the movement.
The lies are consequential. McConnell and his allies lied their way through the impeachment of a president, simply insisting that the evidence was not evidence and the testimony not testimony. The movement has lied its way through a pandemic, turning even the most rote of pandemic safety precautions—masks, even—into conspiracies and partisan litmus tests.
When Michael Caputo and his aides insisted that children were nearly immune to the virus and could not spread it, it was not ideology. It was a lie meant to keep more of the "economy" open even if the more pertinent metric—deaths—was multiplied.
When the movement claims "antifa"—a group that does not actually exist—is behind police reform protests, it is a lie. It is propaganda intended purely to discredit protestors, and better facilitate state and militia violence against them.
When Sen. Ron Johnson pipelines the work of known Russian operatives into his committee to declare that he has discovered very serious doings, doings that suggest his opponents are secretly corrupt in ways no American law enforcement has ever been able to find, he is fully aware of his own actions. He is not stupid.
When Attorney General William Barr releases a document that grossly undermines a report on Russian election interference that benefited his party, and follows up by launching conspiracy after conspiracy all premised on the notion that it is American law enforcement that is corrupt for going after Republican targets, he is lying to the public for the sake of the party.
The movement of Republicanism is propagandistic in nature. Lies are deployed towards political ends. All involved know they are lies. All involved spread the lies willingly. Fox News exists as propaganda factory. Donald Trump exists as propaganda factory. McConnell exists as propaganda factory. The sitting attorney general, the president's odd private lawyer—the only through line is relentless lying to the public about everything, all the time, for power.
There's no textualist in conservatism. Nonsense about precedents and institutions is barely even given lip service. There are no "deficit hawks," or "small government" idealism. None of those things have survived. The only takeaway from White House press briefings is a single, fundamental point: These are today's lies. If you don't like them, there will be others tomorrow.
There is a word for all of this. Declaring that your leaders are allowed to commit crimes while demanding the arrest of enemies on false charges; the rejection of facts and the explicit declaration that the free press is an enemy of the people for presenting information that conflicts with the state's own preferred interpretations; the altering and realtering of supposed norms so that the opposition is, invariably, declared to be out of control in their requests, so out of control that it is now necessary to alter the rules of government to properly constrain them:
It is authoritarianism. The party is a propaganda movement devoted only to self-preservation. There is not a stitch of prior ideological principle that will survive from 2016 to 2020—or from 2018 on a Monday to 2018 on a Tuesday. The rules are whatever they need to be to suppress the movement's perceived enemies. Not merely for a desperately needed Supreme Court seat, but for the now-existential election and all its myriad details.