There are two Republican centers of gravity coming together in and around Washington D.C., and on spec, they couldn’t seem to be more different. On the one side, there are the truckers currently engirdingIn an effort to create a Woodstock-style dystopia, where everyone took the brown sugar, the D.C. Metro area despite repeated warnings. American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ultra-conservative think-tank, is hosting its annual World Forum confab. The event will take place this weekend on posh Sea Island, Georgia. The event will include a group of Republican leaders and deep-pocket conservative donors, all looking to share their collective frustrations about the current state of politics. They would have the upcoming midterms by the throat, they fret, but for that headless orange chicken down in Florida who keeps running and running because it refuses to believe it’s already dead.
AEI and its upcoming forum positioned themselvesAs vividly Not Trump. The former president was not invited to the event. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will be one of the key speakers. McConnell has made his disgust for Trump very public. Arizona Governor will also speak. Doug Ducey, who made Trump’s all-time shit list for doing his job by certifying President Biden’s win in that state. Other Republicans of similar mind are expected speak. The affair could serve to formalize growing discord between the old-line and Trump-obsessed bases.
Take a drive out of town and find that base in its truck convoy, however, and pumping up Trump appeared to be the last thing on most everyone’s mind. Terry Bouton, a historian who visited the Hagerstown Speedway trucker camp, was struck by the absence of politics. “Lots of Trump gear, but no one was talking about him,” he noted. “Not one person mentioned Russia or Ukraine all day.”
What are they looking for? The trucker protest convoy idea was born in Canada, funded with U.S. contributions. However, mandates are rapidly disappearing and convoy organizers opened the doors to all far-right ultranationalist white power superconspiracy advocates. This created a bizarre scene at warp speed. It was strange and a little bit ominous.
“This was a movement-recruiting event,” reported Bouton. “It was designed to draw people in with a family-friendly, carnival atmosphere. Free food & drinks. Booths, activities, and a prayer tent. Bright lights, honking horns and revving engines. ‘Sign My Truck’ with sharpies. T-shirt and flag vendors. There was an apparent attempt to make the group more mainstream. The focus was a big-tent ideology of ‘Freedom.’ Although started by anti-vaxxers, it was re-framed as ‘protecting our liberties’ in ways that allowed for diverse beliefs. Christian Nationalism mixed with QAnon spiritualism.”
“Christian Nationalism mixed with QAnon spiritualism” is what passes for “diverse beliefs” on the trucker circuit these days, I guess. There is no such wildness at AEI. A CEO who worked for Democrats is about as outlandish as it gets. These are serious people who care about serious business.
AEI, you may remember, is the mother of Project for a New American Century. This think tank, which is right-wing, was home to most George W. Bush-era neoconservatives at some point around the turn century. Their blueprint for the future, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” envisioned a far more militarily muscular U.S. bringing “Pax Americana” to the Middle East. All they needed was a catalyst, “a new Pearl Harbor” as they put it, and on September 11, 2001, they got exactly what they needed.
In short, this — all this, every bit of this, this ash pile we occupy, this careening juggernaut, this doomed and double-damned moment, right now — is the future PNAC and AEI set up for us 20 years ago. Soon, they’ll be down at Sea Island taking in the ocean air and plotting their next big play… and that right there is the THUD in the middle of the sentence: What play canThey have Trump bashing about and the GOP base in his grasp.
Trump is losing some high-profile GOP figures, it’s no surprise. Mike Pence can easily be mistakenly mistaken for a glass low-fat milk if your prescription is out of date. smacked Trump aroundAt a GOP fundraiser the other night. That’s like getting attacked by a footrest.
Mitt Romney, who spends most of his time doing an excellent “Sam the Eagle from the Muppet Show” imitationHe channeled some undistilled Don Rickles into his recent takedown of Trump’s most ardent allies within the party. Trump’s only response has been incoherent yelling about the fact that his precious new social media platformIt works almost as well with two tin containers tied together with string (and these are some of my favorite things). When Pence and Romney get bold, it’s hats over the windmill.
The Not Trumpers have their work cut out for them, because it isn’t just QAnon spiritualists flooding his corner. As recently as a week back, a large number of AllRepublicans want him back to run in 2024. They prefer Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis should be the nominee only if Trump stays home. Many people still believe the big lie Trump has been telling since more than a decade. A lot of the GOP has become like one of those bouncy rooms that gets caught in the windMcConnell takes off, flying over the horizon with his children still inside. McConnell and his ilk will require long ropes to bring them back to Earth.
The GOP is like a bread loaf with the middle split. The one half is old and moldy and the other is hot and stuffed with mealworms and grubs. They have lived together for a very long time, and even thrived together.
The party is still dangerous and a threat to all. It can be repaired but it will cause serious damage to the rest of us, possibly even death. This is worth watching.