Joe Biden’s first act as president was an inspiring and passionate call for Americans to come together and repair our wounded nation. Republicans responded by spitting in his face and aggravating the wound.
Republicans haven’t explicitly rejected Biden’s moral appeal for unity. There has been no confession that their contempt for democracy (and Democrats) is so total, that their sense of entitlement to power is so profound, they must disrespectfully decline the president’s offer, slap his extended hand, and continue to wage bitter war on the basic rights and interests of the American majority. They understand that such abominable truths must not be spoken. They know they have to pretend to care. So what they did is seize on the president’s plea for unity and turn it into a perverted cudgel, which they have used to relentlessly bludgeon their reviled opponents and drive the bloody wedge of factional division deeper still.
It ought to be obvious what Republicans are doing and it’s maddening when respectable media outlets buy into the right’s unity grifting frame even a little. The plain fact is that, although Trump is gone, the GOP remains heavily invested in a form of ethno-nationalist populism that denies the moral and political equality of America’s multicultural urban majority and, therefore, the validity of the Democratic Party’s claim to govern. The Republican Party doesn’t want unification. It wants submission.
That is to say, Republicans couldn’t be less sincere when they speak “unity.” When they argue that Biden’s call for unity is a joke because Democrats insist on impeaching a president who, in an attempted coup d’etat, incited a mob that laid siege to the Capitol and scattered the U.S. Congress as it counted electoral votes, all they’re saying is that they don’t have a problem with it and wish it had worked.
What do you call insincerity so depraved that “bad faith” feels like euphemism? I don’t know, but whatever it is, this is it. It’s just an impossibly shitty, grotesquely dishonest move. But, man, do they love to make it.
Check out Matt Gaetz’s comments in this piece (in what appears to be some sort of right-wing propaganda site about Florida politics) mere hours after the inauguration:
Though President Joe Biden says he wants “unity,” Gaetz contends that Biden and the left won’t be happy until conservatives are effectively silenced, with the left desiring to “cancel [conservatives] from the public square all together.”
“I guess they’ve caught us,” Gaetz joked. “Lauren Boebert‘s leading recon tours for insurrectionists. I abducted the Lindbergh Baby. Jim Jordan knows what happened to Jimmy Hoffa. And Devin Nunes was on the grassy knoll.”
“I guess to go along with these very fake allegations against Republicans we see, there are real consequences for our fellow Americans who are being erased in the digital space, who are being targeted in the real life and the flesh, who are entering a period of time where Joe Biden tells us to accept unity, but that unity appears to be at the expense of anyone who offers dissent or disagreement,” Gaetz said.
“They don’t want to just have a debate or a discussion, but it appears they want to cancel us from the public square all together.”
Gaetz, of course, fomented the lies that drove the insurrection at the Capitol and then gave his seditious stamp of approval to the seditious attack by voting to overturn the election after Congress was sacked by the mob. And now he’s gone on a jihad against Liz Cheney, one of the ten House Republicans who honored their oath and voted to impeach Trump for inciting the riot. From Politico:
"Defeat Liz Cheney in this upcoming election, and Wyoming will bring Washington to its knees," [Gaetz] told a group of hundreds of spectators, many of whom did not wear masks. "How can you call yourself a representative when you don't represent the will of the people? That's what all the neocons ask about the Arab dictators. I figure maybe we ought to ask the same question of a beltway bureaucrat turned fake cow girl that supported an impeachment that is deeply unpopular in the state of Wyoming."
It might be tempting to think Matt Gaetz isn’t a representative Republican. But, sadly, he is. He’s right that the impeachment is unpopular with Republicans. And that’s because Trump’s attempt to steal the election isn’t. The South Carolina Republican Party censured Tom Rice for his honorable impeachment vote. The GOP in several Michigan counties have censured Fred Upton for rising in defense of American democracy. The Arizona GOP seems to be censuring anyone who ever had an unkind word for Donald Trump. No doubt, Gaetz is a despicable buffoon, but he’s at one with the prevailing spirit of the party.
That’s why Republican senators aching to be president, like Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, are on the same page. Here’s Marco:
It doesn’t take genius to grasp that this sort of Republican appeal to unity is completely empty in the absence of a clear and unambiguous statement condemning Trump and affirming the legitimacy of Biden's election. Indeed, it’s worse than empty: it's an implicit re-affirmation of the seditious Big Lie.
But unity grifting isn’t just for papering over your role in aiding and abetting domestic political terrorism. You can unity grift about anything! Here’s Ted Cruz (who is very complicit in the seige on the Capitol) on Biden’s executive orders on climate and energy:
Here’s John Cornyn on Biden’s executive order on transgender people in the military:
Once you see it enough, the ridiculous underlying logic is clear. It’s easy to do if you know how!
First, start from the supremely question-begging axiom that Republicans are right and good. Because Democrats disagree with Republicans, it follows that they are wrong and bad. (Sorry, that’s just how it is!) But people ought to be right and good, not wrong and bad. What kind of monster would disagree with that? Thus, Democrats ought to agree with Republicans. Indeed, they probably ought to just go ahead and be Republicans. It follows further, then, that the existence of any acrimony, resentment or division is entirely due to Democrats refusing to do what they ought to do: agree with Republicans.
Now, if Democrats would just do what they ought to do, Republicans would have their way on every question of politics and policy. However, because the Democratic majority refuses to be right and good, not only does it outrageously refuse to cede power to Republicans (which good Republicans rightly believe belongs to them no matter what), but it also continues to insist on wrong, bad policy, which is an intolerable form of divisive antagonism that makes unity completely impossible!
Of course, the whole unfortunate problem of social and political division would vanish in a puff of smoke if Democrats would adopt Republican beliefs, values, and priorities. Though it’s wrong and bad for Democrats to have power at all, and it’s ridiculous and unjust to expect Republicans to make any concessions at to all their wrong bad wrongness, Democrats could at least take responsibility for causing division, ease off their willful antagonism of Republicans, and meet them halfway on everything. It’s not enough to be half right and half good, but it’s a lot less outrageous than being maximally wrongheaded and evil. That’s the least Democrats can do to bring down the temperature. But they refuse to do even that much, which is why Biden’s calls for unity are joke at best and sinister at worst.
That’s it! Now you can unity grift, too!
Seriously though, this bullshit is so dishonest and insulting, it drives me absolutely nuts, especially when the papers fall for it. It annoyed me so much I tweeted a bitter joke about it the night of the inauguration and now here we are. Unity grifting upended my life, so I’m not about to let the bastards get away with it.
It’s really not a trifling thing. Because there’s more than a little wisdom in Joe Biden’s remarks about unity:
We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors.
We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature.
For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.
I agree, which is why I fear that the path forward may be blocked. With a few honorable exceptions, the GOP has no interest in unity, in peace, in progress, in a nation of free and equal citizen. Unless Republicans get their way, they offer only bitterness and fury, exhausting outrage, chaos, war.