Republicans trend toward authoritarianism because what they want to do is massively unpopular
It can’t be said often enough that the core goal shared by all factions of the Republican conference is to gut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security:
The most talked about part of the deal Kevin McCarthy made with Republican radicals to become speaker of the House involved concessions to those members on rules, powerful committee assignments for members of the House Freedom Caucus and the creation of a new select committee on the “weaponization” of government that would give Republicans like Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio an official platform from which they could undermine the investigations into former President Donald Trump and the Jan. 6 insurrection.
And although there has been plenty of chatter about the effect this may have on the basic functioning of government, less remarked on but still significant is McCarthy’s pledge to force major budget cuts using the debt ceiling as leverage with the Biden administration. McCarthy has also agreed to pursue a resolution committing the federal government to a balanced budget within the decade, which could not be done without major cuts to Social Security, Medicare and a lot of what’s left of the American welfare state.
None of this comes as a shock or a surprise. Conservative opposition to social insurance goes back to the New Deal itself, with figures like the previous president Herbert Hoover denouncing Franklin Roosevelt’s policies as “socialism” that would place the nation on a “march to Moscow.” And of course, successive Republican Congresses have, since the 2010 Tea Party wave, tried to pass or force gigantic cuts to federal social spending, with the debt ceiling as their preferred hostage.
This juxtaposition of extreme opposition to social insurance with contempt for constitutional democracy and the rule of law helps illuminate the tight connection between these two strands of contemporary Republican thought. Many of the Republican radicals who seized control of the House last week also voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, and they have been vocal apologists for the Jan. 6 insurrectionists.
And not only does the reactionary opposition to the New Deal breed contempt for democracy, it’s why they feel the need to try to achieve these goals by blackmailing a Democratic president rather than taking responsibility for them when they control the government.