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The Grand Old Orange Juice Party: How Today’s Republican Party Reminds Me of Minute Maid Concentrate

S.E. Cupp, Tribune Content Agency on

If you’re over the age of 30, you probably recognize the iconic black and orange can that sat in so many of our freezers and supermarkets growing up: the Minute Maid concentrated orange juice can.

Developed in the 1940s to safely ship Vitamin C to our troops in WWII, it was so named because it was, well, made in a minute by adding water and stirring. They’re no longer as ubiquitous, but my memories of taking a wooden spoon and water to the thick, syrupy, orange, congealed ice cylinders are as vivid as my brown and other-brown Fischer-Price cassette player and the Pogo Ball I desperately wanted and quickly tired of.

I’ve thought about orange juice concentrate a lot lately, believe it or not. In conversations with friends and colleagues about the state of Republican politics in America, it strikes me as a fitting metaphor. Where the party was once defined by Lee Atwater’s “big tent” — a mix of moderates, the religious right, debt hawks, war hawks, libertarians, etc. — today’s GOP looks and acts more like a can of orange juice concentrate.

No longer are the party’s leaders interested in adding water to grow it, make it more drinkable, make it last longer and taste better. Rather, the idea is to keep concentrating it to its most potent form, even if that means it’s smaller, more sour and harder to stomach.

Of the 293 Republicans serving in Congress when Trump was inaugurated, nearly half of those are gone, or are retiring or resigning. From Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) to Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) to Rep. Justin Amash (Ill.), lawmakers with reliably conservative voting records were either primaried by Trumpier candidates, left as a result of Trump’s pollution of the party or were effectively pushed out.

And some, like Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio), one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump the second time, cited unrelenting death threats against his family as one reason for his early retirement.

 

While they were being squeezed out for their lack of fealty to whatever Trumpism demanded in the moment, kooks and quacks like Rep. Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), and Rep. Madison Cawthorn (N.C.) were ushered in with varying degrees of open arms.

The systematic hemorrhaging and purging of Republican lawmakers has left the GOP an undiluted coagulation of Trump’s worst and most corrosive impulses. The conspiracy theories, the bigotry and white nationalism, the xenophobia and violent populism, the decidedly dumb culture wars over Big Bird and manhood are all that’s left now.

The party, unconcerned with facts or reality, no longer bothered with once-trivial distractions like adding new voters, and unencumbered from nuisances like principles, is now free to focus solely on concentrating the base to its purest, most rabid form.

That project is evidenced everywhere the party has influence.

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