Ernest Hemingway supplied two of his characters in The Sun Also Rises with a pair of memorably terse lines.
‘How did you go bankrupt?’ Bill asked.
‘Two ways,’ Mike said. ‘Gradually and then suddenly.’
Mike’s answer has been quoted endlessly since then, probably because it seems to perfectly encapsulate a recurring modern sensation of having things firmly under control, then seeing them start to slip slowly from our grasp, and then the next minute realizing we’ve lost hold completely.
And now, in 2021, the modern Republican Party seems to be taking its turn in Mike’s spot, sliding slowly — and soon suddenly — downwards along this sort of trajectory.
Let’s examine some of the indicators.
Just today I saw reported a Fox News interview in which host Chris Wallace challenged Senator Roy Blunt over his attacks on the Biden infrastructure plan, suggesting that the Republicans had lost all credibility when it comes to concerns about our national debt, since it had increased by more than $3 trillion during the Trump presidency, even before the pandemic hit.
And then there are the increasing volumes of data indicating that the “trickle-down” theory of economics touted by so many Republicans has been a consistent and abject failure in terms of providing prosperity for anyone other than the very rich.
And then there’s the repeated Republican insistence they they are pro-life, even though their willingness to provide societal support for the young seems to end as soon as they are born, based on their unwillingness to ensure adequate food, water, housing or education for the children of our nation.
I could go on, but the bottom line here is that the Republicans seem to have abandoned any worthwhile ideas or principles they might have once had, and settled instead for a grab bag of resentments that they can use to try to motivate their fragmented base.
This worked in the 2016 elections, but it failed in 2020, and it will be hard to motivate more than half of our nation’s voters with this sort of strategy, unless the Democrats…