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Incompetence or Malevolence?

Frank Bruni prompted a line of my thinking today in a piece entitled, "They Didn’t Drink the Bleach, but They’re Still Drinking the Kool-Aid" to describe the modern Republican leadership. He notes the repeated failure of GOP leaders to rein Trump in. He highlights Trump's incompetence and notes that it "meant one thing pre-pandemic and means quite another now. The same goes for Republican lawmakers’ enabling of the president."

Mr. Bruni applies the rules of “normal” political behavior to our current situation, basing it on finding common ground even between fierce opponents. He is to be commended for his optimism. We all hope to find that day when opponents can cooperate to fashion policies that benefit the greatest number. We do not live there now. 

We live in the age of mortal enemies. Not that they are challenging each other to a duel, but if some people die because of their actions that’s the price we pay. For example, the meat-packing industry is forcing employees to return to work despite massive outbreaks of COVID-19. They are forced to return because that's what the owners want and in part because of a presidential order. The result is an explosion of cases with thousands of workers infected and more that a score dead—so far. It seems that Republican leaders consider this collateral damage for the sake of pork chops. 

These decisions are in line with far-right economic thinking that exalts the investment class over workers. This is particularly true among Republicans who subscribe to the teachings of the economist James Buchanan. The best shorthand description of his thinking is to take Ayn Rand and make her darker and harsher. The devaluation of human life did not begin with Trump, but it seems to be reaching its apogee. 

For Trump, Graham, McConnell, and the other bluest Republican lights, there are only two kinds of people: the peers and the help. Guess which group most of us belong? Some of the help are clearly expendable, but that’s the price of doing business. Nasty, deadly business. 

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