Making excuses for dictators is nothing new: “Mr. Republican” and the Nazis

GOP’s boy-crush on Putin and Orbán shouldn’t be surprising — consider legendary Republican Sen. Robert Taft.

It is true that today’s GOP has sunk to unprecedented depths, crossing the threshold from a quasi-normal political party to an authoritarian movement and leader cult. On Jan. 6, 2021, a majority of House Republicans defended violent insurrection against constitutional order. The party’s reliance on reflexive negativity rather than constructive alternatives and its knee-jerk propensity to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted have been features ever since the onset of the Great Depression. Robert A. Taft is not an alternative to the current GOP; Mr. Republican was simply the larval stage of what exists today. 

The negativity and obstructionism that we witness daily from the GOP is straight out of their old playbook for contesting the New Deal and crucial areas of World War II policy. The positioning on issues is also much the same: Taft decried Roosevelt and Truman as warmongers, but turned on a dime to extol MacArthur, a general so imperious he was called the American Caesar. Likewise, current GOP issue positioning largely depends on whether a Democrat or a Republican is president.

That Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was the keynote speaker at the recent CPAC convention only heightens the suspicion. A substantial overlap between Republican opponents of aid to Ukraine and those defending an attempted overthrow of constitutional government on Jan. 6 is hardly coincidental. Republicans have signaled the possibility of cutting off aid to Ukraine, an act which would have grave implications not only for Europe but would indicate U.S. unreliability throughout the world. If Republicans abandon Ukraine, it would sabotage the deterrent effect of any security guarantees to Taiwan against China, the country the GOP claims to take seriously as a threat. 

Republicans’ willingness to hold hostage America’s full faith and credit in 2023 is based on their alleged concern about the deficit — but only when a Democrat holds the presidency, a reflex that goes back to Taft. The goal is to force cuts in Social Security and Medicare, arguably the country’s two most successful anti-poverty measures, one of which was proposed by FDR almost 90 years ago. In a sense, the GOP has never ceased running against Roosevelt and the New Deal.

As this is being written, our country is without a functioning House of Representatives. Twenty legislative terrorists from the GOP are holding their own leader, Kevin McCarthy, hostage in order to receive plenary powers to run the institution according to their whims. The overlap between these members and supporters of both the Jan. 6 insurrection and a Ukraine aid cutoff only increases fears that they would abandon Ukraine and destroy the full faith and credit of the United States from no deeper principle than the nihilistic urge to break things.