Republicans ‘big’ tinfoil tent transformation is the gift that will keep on giving to Democrats

"I've been freed," bragged QAnon Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on Friday, the day after House Democrats forced a vote to strip the reality-adjacent, pugnacious provocateur of her committee assignments because her GOP counterparts refused to do so.

Greene—whose momentary show of near-contrition Thursday melted away by Friday—blasted Democrats as "morons" for elevating her platform, or giving her "free time," as she put it in a tweet. "Oh this is going to be fun!" Greene declared—an apparent threat, now that the shackles of decency are off and she's done pretending she's anything other than a menace to society, not to mention the republic itself.

But Greene isn't the only one who has been freed. After nearly two months of witnessing Republicans spit in the face of democracy, Democrats watched the GOP's depravity sink to a new low this week. Not only are Republicans the party of sedition, by circling the wagons around Greene they have refashioned their so-called "big tent" to include everyone from traditional fiscal conservatives to loathsome Nazis and white supremacists, fanatical militia members and extremists, and wackadoodle conspiracy theorists. In short, the GOP is now a big tinfoil tent—an explosive experiment that could detonate at any moment. 

And guess what—many of those traditional fiscal conservatives are fleeing the tent as fast as humanly possible. In fact, ever since the November election, tens of thousands of conservative voters across the country have been defecting from the Republican Party, a trend that spiked in the immediate aftermath of Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. In Colorado, for instance, the GOP lost about a half a percent of its registered voters in the single week following the riot, according to NPR. Similar trends are taking place in multiple states, including some that will be central to the 2022 battle for control of the Senate, such as Arizona, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania—where nearly 10,000 Keystone State voters dropped out of the Republican Party in the first 25 days of the year, according to The Hill.

The House Democratic campaign arm is already on it, moving aggressively to rebrand House Republicans as the Q-caucus. As Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, the new chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told POLITICO, Republicans "can do QAnon, or they can do college-educated voters. They cannot do both."

But as Republicans transform into a tinfoil tent community, Democrats are experiencing an equal and opposite reaction of sorts—an unrestrained clarity of vision and purpose. After all, why bother listening to a party so toxic it just rallied around someone calling for executions of your own members? Not only did House Democrats move without equivocation to strip Greene of her power, House impeachment managers put Donald Trump on the spot by inviting him to testify under oath for his impeachment trial. Trump, ever the coward, quickly declined, but that conversation may not be over, since the Senate could potentially subpoena him. 

And as long as we're on the subject of Trump, President Joe Biden told CBS News he thinks Trump should be stripped of his intelligence briefings, citing his “erratic” behavior. "What value is giving him an intelligence briefing?" Biden said. "What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?"

Democrats also greased the legislative skids this week for passage of President Biden's American Rescue Plan by a simple majority vote in the Senate, sidelining the necessity of winning GOP votes. Democrats might still lamentably trim back who is eligible for the $1,400 direct payments, but overall, this is the relief package Biden and Democrats promised on the campaign trail. And despite an incessant drumbeat of questions from reporters about the quaint notion of bipartisanship, Biden hasn't blinked.

"If I have to choose between getting help right now to Americans," Biden said Friday, "and getting bogged down in a lengthy negotiation or compromising on a bill that's up to the crisis, that's an easy choice. I'm going to help the American people who are hurting now." Biden also invoked the Defense Production Act and mobilized more than 1,000 active duty troops to help increase the rate of vaccinations and make 61 million more coronavirus tests available by summer. 

Overall, Biden's White House and Congressional Democrats have taken a muscular no-nonsense approach to getting the nation back on its feet and providing quick relief to the Americans who need it most.

In some ways, progressives owe a debt of gratitude to Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell, who burned the bridge of good will beyond recognition in the last Democratic administration, and Kevin McCarthy, who has turned the GOP into a haven for the dangerous and unmoored. Democrats will spend the next several weeks making that transformation abundantly clear to the American people during a vivid recreation of the deadly Capitol riot that was inspired by Trump and underwritten by his GOP enablers. 

And just as soon as Trump’s Senate impeachment trial concludes, Democrats will likely be in position to punctuate the differences between the two parties by delivering a desperately needed relief bill to the American people.

It's a promising start—a foundation from which to build. Success begets success. But the stickier issues are yet to come. Even Biden admitted to CBS that he doesn't think his $15 minimum wage proposal will "survive" in the rescue package given the Senate rules on reconciliation. At some point, the rubber is going to have to meet the road on eliminating the filibuster so Democrats can continue delivering results at a time when Americans need their government to go to bat for them. But building momentum is at least a good place for Democrats to start. 

An unapologetic Biden is finally saying goodbye to the centrism that hobbled Democrats for decades

As Barack Obama's inauguration kicked off on Jan. 20, 2009, LGBTQ Americans across the country watched with mixed emotions while evangelical pastor Rick Warren delivered the invocation. Though the vast majority of them had voted for Obama, Warren had urged members of his California-based megachurch to vote in favor of a ballot measure stripping marriage rights from same-sex couples; indeed, Proposition 8 narrowly passed on the same night Obama was elevated to the highest office in the land. Election Night had been a double-edged sword for gay and transgender individuals, and Warren's presence made the inauguration bittersweet as well.

But Obama's pick of Warren symbolized what ultimately emerged as a stumbling block to his ability to accomplish many of the priorities liberals had voted for in 2008 and which were also broadly popular—action on immigration, climate change, and, at least initially, queer rights. Obama was an incrementalist at heart, and he was still approaching Republicans as rational players in America's democratic experiment. Including an anti-gay evangelical pastor in his inauguration was one of several olive branches Obama extended to conservatives in the early days of his administration in what would prove to be a fruitless effort to win their cooperation. A dozen years later, however, Obama's former No. 2—a man who was viewed in the 2020 Democratic primary as far less progressive than Obama had been in the 2008 contest—is quickly advancing a far more unapologetically progressive agenda from Day One of his administration.

In fact, President Joe Biden has quickly dispensed of many of the old Obama-era battles that flummoxed liberals and eventually drew them to the streets to protest the administration's inaction. Biden has already sent Congress a bold immigration bill that unequivocally includes a pathway to citizenship, expanded green card access, and fortifies the DACA program for Dreamers established by Obama in 2012. Biden also immediately yanked the Keystone XL pipeline permit—an action Obama didn't take until 2015, after years of pushing by climate activists. And building on the many hard-fought Obama-era wins on LGBTQ equality, Biden quickly signed an order pushing the most aggressive interpretation of Title VII protections for transgender and gay Americans in employment, housing, and education.  

Sure, these are old battles. And to some extent, Biden has benefited from a natural evolution of the issues over a decade. That is particularly true on policies concerning the LGBTQ movement, which emerged from Obama's presidency lightyears ahead of where it began. But it is also a measure of how far the progressive movement has come over the past decade that we aren't immediately having to go to battle with a Democratic administration that seems less intent on advancing liberal causes than using them as bargaining chips on the way to accomplishing other goals. So far, that vestige of 90s-era Clintonian politics seems to have finally been laid to rest in the Biden White House. 

The departure is clearly throwing some Washington journalists for a loop after decades of watching Democrats kowtow to Republicans.

During Thursday's White House press briefing, The New York Times' Michael Shear fixated on why President Biden wasn't extending more olive branches to Republicans, like Obama had in early 2009. Biden, for instance, doesn't have any GOP Cabinet members such as Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates—a holdover from the Bush administration. Shear also marveled that Biden's first directives were "largely designed at erasing as much of the Trump legacy as you can with executive orders"—the inference being that such an aggressive rejection of Trump policies would turn off Republicans, thereby crushing all comity. Gee, what ever happened to "elections have consequences"? 

Part of what has gotten lost in translation for journalists is the word "unity," which Biden peppered throughout his inaugural address in some form or another no less than 11 times. Washington journalists view the word almost exclusively as a measure of bipartisan compromise. And to be fair, Biden's emphasis during the Democratic primaries on working with Republicans worried many liberals too. But whatever Biden meant by his compromise talk during the campaign, his definition of unity now appears to be centered around coming together to save America's democratic experiment. This political moment is simply that “dire,” as White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki put it, that fraught. In Biden’s view, no true American patriot needs to sacrifice their values or core beliefs in order to mobilize against white supremacy and the corrosive scourge of disinformation.

In his inaugural address, Biden decried "lies told for power and for profit" and named the truth as one of the "common objects we love" as Americans. Lawmakers, he said, "who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation," bear a special responsibility to "defend the truth and to defeat the lies."

Biden also declared war on white supremacy, imploring Americans to unite in battling the nation's "common foes" of "extremism, lawlessness, violence."

In response, many Republicans are already reverting to their old tricks. They are calling Trump's impeachment divisive—as if siccing a murderous mob on the Capitol to overturn an election was a great unifier. They say they are uncomfortable with holding a trial for a president who is no longer in office—as if watching the nation's chief executive unleash an attack on the homeland wasn't uncomfortable for the vast majority of Americans.

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters this week: "The fact is, the president of the United States committed an act of incitement of insurrection. I don’t think it’s very unifying to say, ‘oh, let’s just forget it and move on.’ That’s not how you unify."

And the very same Republicans who saddled taxpayers with some $2 trillion in debt to pass a giant tax giveaway to the rich and corporate-y, are now lining up against Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package to help struggling Americans and shore up the economy.

“The one thing that concerns me that nobody seems to be talking about anymore is the massive amount of debt that we continue to rack up as a nation,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, who voiced no such concerns before casting his 2017 vote for the GOP's tax bonanza for nation's wealthiest.

The White House has consistently said Biden believes there is bipartisan appeal for the relief package priorities, such as funding for unemployment insurance, vaccinations, and opening schools. “What are you going to cut?" Psaki posited at her first press briefing on Wednesday.  

Psaki said Biden plans to be personally involved in rallying support for the package. But she also didn't rule out using the budget reconciliation process as a way to pass relief with a simple majority vote in the Senate, rather than the 60 needed to bypass a GOP filibuster. Biden has been here before, in 2009, as the country was staring down the Great Recession and negotiations with Republicans yielded a modest stimulus of $787 billion that ultimately hamstrung a quick recovery as many economists had warned. How much patience Biden has for haggling with Republicans in this moment of need remains to be seen.

But what jumps out from his first days in office is both Biden's resolve and his unapologetic use of the tools at his disposal to take decisive action. He seems uniquely clear about the perils of this political era and what is required to meet them—a distinct break from the centrist dogma that has hung over Democrats for the better part of 30 years. And congressional Democrats across the liberal-to-moderate spectrum seem entirely bought into Biden's vision.  

Republicans, for their part, are playing very small ball. The best any of the saner ones can manage is clinging to the same tired Reagan-era talking points that left the party open to hijack by a vulgar populist demagogue. It seems safe to say that it's going to require a lot more inspiration and creativity than what we are currently witnessing for the Republican Party to build an electorally viable coalition of voters over the next several years.

If President Biden continues to rise to the moment, the unity he engenders may ultimately be less about winning GOP votes for his policies than it is about unifying some 65% of Americans against a factionalized but dangerous party of seditionists.