For much of its early history the Democratic Party was – particularly in the South – the home of racism and white supremacy. A half century ago, the bigoted and conservative governor of Alabama – George Wallace – won several primaries, including North Carolina, in the contest for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination.

Conversely, for much of its early history, the Republican Party – the party of Lincoln, emancipation and Reconstruction – was the party of Black Americans. It was Roosevelt’s New Deal that really hastened the switch, but as recently as the 1970s, Massachusetts was represented in the U.S. Senate by a man named Edward Brooke, who was Black, liberal and a Republican.

Today the situation has changed dramatically. In 2021 all the Wallaces are now Republicans and all the Brookes are Democrats.

And while it seems likely that things will have undergone all manner of new and unforeseen changes 50 years hence, it’s also not an exaggeration to say that the Republican Party of today has arrived at a watershed moment – both for itself and the nation.

Perhaps nowhere has this fact been in sharper relief than it was Monday night in North Carolina, as Republicans censured their senior statewide elected official, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.

The impetus for this remarkable action, of course, was Burr’s Saturday vote to convict former President Donald Trump at the conclusion of his Senate impeachment trial for inciting an insurrection – a failed coup attempt that was carried out in large measure by Confederate-flag-waving white supremacists.

By any honest assessment, of course, the question of Trump’s guilt in the matter wasn’t even a close call. As Senate Republican leader and longtime Trump apologist and accessory Mitch McConnell carefully detailed in a speech that followed the Senate vote, Trump was unquestionably guilty of the crime of which he was accused.

“There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day,” McConnell said.

Of course, McConnell failed to pursue the obvious course that his on-the-mark assessment of the facts demanded. Instead, he chose the cowardly path of hiding behind the hastily concocted fig leaf that it is somehow impermissible to try an impeached president after his or her term concludes – an excuse that runs contrary to precedent, the overwhelming consensus of constitutional scholars and common sense.

Burr too, tried initially to take refuge in the constitutionality dodge, but once the Senate ruled on the matter, he properly assumed his role as juror, listened to the overwhelming evidence and, unlike his colleague Thom Tillis and 42 other GOP senators, performed his sworn duty appropriately.

Now, however, because of this latter action, Trump loyalists in the leadership of the North Carolina Republican Party have voted unanimously to punish and disown Burr – an action, it’s worth noting, they declined to take or explore a year ago when Burr was credibly alleged to have used insider knowledge about the coming pandemic to make stock trades.

In some ways, of course, the GOP action isn’t that significant. Sen. Burr is a lame duck who is not seeking reelection next year, anyway.

In other ways, however, it constitutes yet another quite remarkable step in the ongoing and precipitous descent of the Republican Party – a spiral that has radically transformed the party of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and even the Bushes, into the cult of a criminal and would-be Neo-fascist dictator.

Indeed, it was precisely people like those running the North Carolina Republican Party that veteran conservative voice George Will clearly had in mind this past weekend when he authored a column entitled “Will Senate Republicans allow their louts to rule the party?”

As Will put it:

“An essential conservative insight about everything is that nothing necessarily endures. Care must be taken. The Republican Party will wither if the ascendant Lout Caucus is the face it presents to this nation of decent, congenial people.”

Meanwhile, as if taking a direct cue from Will, former North Carolina Republican Supreme Court justice, gubernatorial candidate and paragon of decent congeniality, Bob Orr, was more explicit in a tweet posted in response to the condemnations of Bur’s vote:

I CAN’T WAIT TO LEAVE THE GOP. PAPERWORK TO BE FILED NEXT WEEK.”

Does this mean that the GOP’s demise is nigh and that it will soon go the way of the Whigs? Probably not.

As we’ve seen in country after country in recent years – from Russia’s Putin to India’s Modi to Poland’s Duda to Brazil’s Bolsonaro – there remains, for now anyway, an appetite amongst fearful people around the world for authoritarian strongmen (it’s almost always men) and the political “parties” that act as their apologists and enablers.

It does mean, however, that absent swift and determined action by a handful of powerful individuals and interest groups with the wherewithal to rescue it, the GOP could soon cease to be a legitimate governing party, and as growing chorus of observers and advocates have rightfully characterized it, a genuine and dangerous threat to our democracy.

Somewhere, the ghost of Lincoln weeps.

Rob Schofield is director of N.C. Policy Watch.

(29) comments

Carol Hartsoe

This article should be published in every newspaper in North Carolina and the rest of the country to boot. Well done!

mpjeep

Ah, Mr. Schofield, is taking the route of The Atlantic “Wallace never won the presidency, but the base he mobilized has found a home in today’s Republican Party”.

And quoting Bob Orr, who has always been known as a Rhino (never Trump republican), who was kicked out of the 2016 GOP convention in Cleveland and was also asked by GOP leaders to unregister as a Republican. And as a former NC judge, Orr was against voter ID laws. Orr also supported Biden in the 2020 election and seems to be a BLM supporter (not all lives matter).

I do take exception to the writer’s use of the word “insurrection” concerning the events on January 6th in DC. What happened on January 6 was no “insurrection” in any sense of the word, especially not to those who survived the summer insurrections of 2020 or the insurrection in LA during 1992.

What happened on Capitol Hill was a few rednecks acting like fools and occasionally fighting with the cops, while many other folks watched and took selfies.

Burr, who was not known as a wheeler-dealer in the stock market, committed a crime with his stock selling info and now is taking his money and getting out. Good riddance.

George Will is a libertarian, political commentator, and author. He writes regular columns for The Washington Post, which I never read.

I agree that today is a turning point for the Republican Party. They must gather together by defining a new group of leaders and move in a somewhat different direction. And yes, Mitch must go!

Don’t know about most folks, but I don’t believe in ghosts.

drewski

There are republicans and there are trumpists, and judging from the recent vote darn few republicans left. Moscow mitch voted against then laid the responsibility for the attack right at trumps feet. He has now been excoriated by trump, and I suspect as trump creeps/ slithers back into the spot light via call ins to fox and friends and various other outlets, his revenge will be exacted on those he perceives as disloyal. I sincerely hope he uses what stop the steal money hasn't already been diverted to trump businesses to start the Patriot Party, Let the trumpists gather and congeal like the rancid grease of Trumpism. The GOP was dying a slow painful death, this could be considered a mercy killing.

JusticeForAll

Very well written. Maybe some of the Trump fan club will eventually see, as time passes, the truth, as the lies, Trump facilitated, are revealed. The harm being caused by today's Republicans and the demagogue they follow, will be felt for many decades. Honor and respect are a hard virtues to win back.

noitall

The subject is:, "Republican party change threatens legitimacy". GOP has done nothing. Zero. So doing nothing is still OK? The Democrats have sieved power and are illegitimate beyond any legal measure. Five years of rule without Law is enough don't you think? And now the covid crisis has been weaponized to crush small business, education, and anyone else who speaks about of turn.

JusticeForAll

To minimize what happened on Jan. 06, 2021..."What happened on Capitol Hill was a few rednecks acting like fools and occasionally fighting with the cops, while many other folks watched and took selfies." is absurd. NO, five people died. That is not acceptable. What happened was an insurrection, period, based on lies. No alternative rational will alter that fact.

It is scary to know the mindset of the Trump fan club, but the good news is that some Republicans are getting the message, like Mitch.

And how can you believe in religion and not believe in ghosts, which are..."an apparition of a dead person which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living," That describes all of your gods.

noitall

The GOP (operationally) is happy to sit in the stands and watch the Rule of Law be destroyed by a group of Democrats that don't like Trump. The last "impeachment carnival" was a disgrace. Every American is entitled to a fair trial. The congress did not follow the Constitution - that is the problem. Trump's personalty is moot. Weaponized and politically based impeachments are the future.

mpjeep

If Democrats don’t lie, they certainly exaggerate the truth.

From January 6th on, all you saw from the left Media was Five People were Murdered at the Capital.

But here is the Truth: One man died of a heart attack, one woman collapsed and died from unknown reasons, one man had a stroke and died, one woman was shot and killed by a police officer and one police officer died and as of today, the medical examiner still doesn’t know if the officer died from an external force.

My point is that the left lies, it’s part of their nature.

David Collins

A bunch of fools taking advantage of a situation does not make it an insurrection . Insurrection is constantly tossed about for dramatic effect . If it was a real insurrection there would have been bodies strewn about the halls of Congress . There were no bodies . Just a bunch of idiots cutting a fool and taking selfies . After all , it is the people’s house . Isn’t it ? All this is getting totally old and the lack of convictions screams loudly . Tempest in a teapot personified . The lack of security , that is always there except on that day , has never been explained . Can’t hide that ! All about drama and no substance and that is what sells these days . That is what the left excels at .

JusticeForAll

Some might need to take a refresher class in civics. What happened at the Capital was federal, the "summer riots" took place under state jurisdiction. The insurrection at the Capital was because of the lies Trump told. The riots happened due to police issues. BIG DIFFERENCE. Trump and his fan club are responsible for the five deaths and trying to minimize them is unconscionable.

noitall

Plenty of lying to go around - five years is enough. I voted for Trump and I do not feel any responsibility for anyone's death beyond the US Constitution.

mpjeep

Damaged Federal buildings in Portland: the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building and the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse.

At least two Federal buildings in downtown Los Angeles were damaged.

Damage to two federal buildings in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Damage to one Federal building in Minneapolis and Chicago.

ETC….

drewski

The trump apologists are doing double time to modify and minimize what happened. No doubt the wish to see the orange king return, and sweeping an insurrection under the rug, and calling what happened just good ole boys playing the fool, is one of their tools. What is most interesting is any violence at a blm protest sears everyone and everything involved. White folks riot at capitol, well that has nothing to do with nothing and was a few bad foolish ppl unrelated to stop the steal or Donald our king.

Plus it was likely antifa dressed as decent folk.

Hypocrisy with a capitol H.

JusticeForAll

Seeing how some Republicans are trying to steer their colossal Trump mistake in favorable and legitimate ways speaks volumes on how people can stray from common decency and moral resoluteness. Just like any cult following, it will take years for them to be "deprogrammed," if ever. The news outlets that promote the Trump ..... are just garnering a collective group to support their agenda. The constant attack on how constitutional rights are on the brink of extinction are an insult to Americans. The spoiled brats are not on the "left", but on the "right" of wrong.

(Edited by staff.)

Jackie Gleason

Please...if Burr wasn't saying Aloha he would have voted with Tillis.....Burr is part of the establishment....can anyone say "stock market" insider trading??....don't we remember? no censure? This guy did what he did because of the establishment and no other reason. There is the old GOP guard and the Trumpist's. Burr's hands are dirty and if it was you or I who did our trading like he or his minions we would be in jail....but he's covered because the elite left and right protect their own. You want woke?.....just investigate what he did and why...people pay big to remain in power and they pay bigger when someone is leaving a power position. The kiss had been given to Senator Burr....good riddance.

noitall

Burr violated our trust and got caught red handed - same as Martha Stewart got caught red handed doing the same thing. Ms Stewart did hard time 18 moths I think. Burr will retire, spend time with his famiily, lecture, and write a book.

dc

Was that Sullivan blm type white?

dc

Did the chief who resigned or was fired testify yesterday that Antifa was present?

mpjeep

"One of the first people arrested was a leader of Antifa," Attorney Van der Veen said.

dc

Are BLM and Antifa cults? You proposing de-programming them? Didn't think so. Guess if Wolf believes your crowd are the totalitarians it must be true don't you think? Or is she another Mitt or trading stock inside and a G vote for a break for same like the trader senator?

mpjeep

2,000 cops injured in the 2020 summer riots and 30 deaths. Surely some liberals think this is egregious?

drewski

No matter how many times you try to redirect the convo, the title of the piece remains the same. No amount of false equivalence, what about ism or but mommy Jonny did it too is going to change the facts. Twice impeached trump incited an attack on the capitol. Trump fans not antifa or blm is who attacked the capitol. Trump cultists who were gop but now only cult members all in on their orange hero God djt. It is just pathetic !

JusticeForAll

The Trump fan club has become the swamp they wanted to eradicate. Remarkable how they can sink so low and claim their savior will still save them. (except for those who believed his lies and participated in Trump's insurrection in Washington on Jan. 06th. No pardons for them...those are only for his friends/family in his exclusive liars club.)

There is no "witch" hunt. There is a truth hunt. Guess he could be a witch though, since he did cast an evil spell over America.

David Collins

Some things will never change but that’s fine . Keep the fires a burning bro. .

dc

Your so-called VP and many others in your cult have definitively called for and supported violence.

dc

There is a striking and scary difference in the two major "cults" if you insist on calling them that. Your cult of the past enslaved one race. Your modern-day cult demands that everybody but the ruling class submit to slavery. But for shenanigans of that ruling class and its minions which are many the country had its 2nd great emancipator. Can the emancipation be revived? Time will tell. Taking the code away from the "pen guy" while Willie's gal looks over his shoulder and the stack is telling to be sure.

dc

Not letting the CCP virus coverup crisis go to waste along with other shenanigans your cult can claim a first. The first virtual president is yours to hold near and dear.

mpjeep

I still can't believe America voted for a feeble old man with dementia who mumbles and clearly would be more at home in an assisted living facility than the White House.

As Biden stumbles out of the gate, and occasionally comes in front of the cameras to try and make himself appear Presidential, while the real powers continue to manipulate him. Biden is not the president. He's a puppet for Obama.

He currently is ruling by issuing a bunch of executive orders and is receiving some pushback from other Dems. No $2k stimulus as he promised and botching Covid. Parents are getting sick of public school teachers refusing to work but insisting on getting paid. And Texas froze his global warming theory.

Failure is his biggest success to date.

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