We heard much during the Donald Trump era of the so-called “resistance,” as we witnessed endless displays of virtue-signaling and self-flattery by those who hate Trump with every last fiber of their being. The members of this informal coalition proclaimed themselves part of a righteous movement akin to the French Resistance to the Nazis during World War II. And their four years of daily bomb-throwing at the 45th president apparently succeeded, because he is no longer in the White House.
But now that the presidency and Congress have flipped, has a similar “resistance” grown among Republicans, conservatives, libertarians — and anyone else who believes in free people and free markets? Or will the leftists be granted the run of the house because their opponents either don’t have the will to fight, or can’t agree on much more than their common disdain for Democrats?
Whatever resistance there has been to Joe Biden and his party has, of course, been led by Trump, still expressing his distaste for all things Biden but without the bully pulpit of the presidency or the magnifying glass of Twitter. Ron DeSantis of Florida has been the most outspoken among a handful of governors in opposition, particularly to the administration’s COVID-related policies. There have been spasms of outrage over vaccine and mask policies, the border crisis, our shameful exit from Afghanistan, and the Democrats’ assault on our pocketbooks and the federal Treasury. But the GOP has not presented anything approaching the type of organized, united front assembled by the left to oppose every move by Trump.
Perhaps Jan. 6 split the GOP even more than we know, leaving many elected officials uncertain how to process and move past that fateful day. Maybe Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (KY) and the dwindling but ever-present Representative Liz Cheney (WY) wing of the party are so at odds with Trump as to make genuine GOP unity a faint hope. Maybe Biden is not the kind of opponent to incite nearly the degree of bitter emotion as Trump.
But if the Republican Party, including everyone from Trump to McConnell, fails to present a united front in aggressive opposition to a president now very much on the ropes, then they will clear a path for Biden to forge a comeback and Democrats to maintain power in Congress. You can bet major media are waiting in the wings, eager to advance just such a narrative as the 2022 midterms approach.
So, what would an organized GOP resistance look like? The immediate challenge is how to effectively oppose the Democrats’ profligate spending in their $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” plan. The left will assert that Republicans are hypocrites because they hardly clamped down on spending or reduced the size of government during their years of control of Congress and the White House from 2017 to 2019. Nevertheless, to prevail in this battle for the ages, the GOP must find a coherent way to alert the citizenry, weary from the pandemic and perpetual political warfare, of the consequences of the Dems’ massive reconciliation bill filled with everything, including the kitchen sink. It is nothing less than a follow-on to FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society, designed as a one-stop shop for a massive expansion of federal power and control. They must be able to make the case that, while only corporations and those making over $400,000 are supposedly ticketed for a tax increase, history has taught us that they will soon come after the rest of us.
But if Republicans are serious about regaining power lost in 2020, decrying the left’s assault on the federal Treasury must be only the tip of the oppositional iceberg to which Republicans should be trying to steer this 46th president. They must depict the progressive deconstructionists with outsized influence in the Democratic Party as actual threats to the constitutional order. GOPers must get up in the faces of the left and draw bright lines of distinction between traditional capitalism and the Democrats’ mutinous socialism, their support for the founding principles compared to the left’s embrace of critical race theory, and the rejection, contrasted with Democrats’ acceptance, of the notion of America as a hotbed of systemic racism.
Republicans must go well beyond just defending the controversial new voting laws passed in more than 20 states and make the case that they are the only ones standing in the way of a permanent Democrat takeover through the federalization of elections. They must oppose every single one of Biden’s judicial nominees and remind voters of the Democrats’ shameful treatment of Brett Kavanaugh. They have an opportunity provided by the pandemic and widespread outrage among parents to draw a striking contrast between their endorsement of school choice — particularly popular in minority communities — and the left’s support for a revisionist view of American history and the ever more powerful teachers’ unions. There are issues aplenty upon which to base unfiltered, unambiguous opposition to the entire Democratic agenda.
It is true that Biden landed in the Oval Office because of the simple fact that he is not Trump. But given the current political climate, Republicans do not have the reverse luxury. They need to demonstrate, boldly and coherently, that they are more than just not-Democrats.
The American system of order that has settled in over more than two centuries has produced just two major political parties. In such a political environment, where Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), or Donald Trump and Liz Cheney, must fit under the same umbrella, intra-party disputes have always been common. Conflicts in both personality and policy in a parliamentary system are most often settled with the formation of new parties, which can in turn influence policy by forging governing coalitions with larger parties. But no such option exists in our two-party state. So it is left to the grown-ups to step forward not only to rein in those who would foment dissent in their own ranks but also to execute the larger fight. Perhaps the live possibility of a Biden comeback and Democrats holding power beyond 2022 will be enough to snap them to attention.