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Chasing Trains Leaving Stations

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Daniel Drezner has a recent-ish post on “the weaponization of government” by Republicans.

It’s a perfectly fine, sensible piece.

Republicans have been railing about the “weaponization of government” for quite some time now. And yet today, the hard-working staff here at Drezner’s World couldn’t help but notice two small news items suggesting that the weaponization was coming from inside the GOP’s house.

The first item concerns a New York Times profile of House Oversight and Accountability Committee chair James Comer. After recounting an anecdote that Comber told to the reporters, Drezner remarks that:

[A Kentucky sheriff’s decision not to issue Comer a speeding ticket because he’s investigating the Bidens] almost seems like… what’s the appropriate phrase to describe it… weaponizing the government to spare political allies and punish political opponents (This, by the way, is exactly what Comer is doing as committee chair; Swan and Broadwater note that he has dropped committee investigations into Trump and Jared Kushner).

The second item is about Christopher Rufo’s “jihad against university departments that he does not like in Florida’s state universities.” Drezner remarks that:

There are many, many problems with this approach. The most obvious is that Rufo’s explicitly conservative agenda has no quarrel with right-wing activism in the academy — it’s only a problem if it’s “left-wing.” Another obvious problem is that Rufo’s system requires everyone to trust state legislators to be able to independently categorize scholarly outputs between “rigorous academic work” and “partisan polemics with a scholarly veneer.” How to put this gently… I doubt their abilities to do this job competently. Instead, it seems like they would follow Rufo’s lead and — wait for it — weaponize the government.

He concludes:

Conservatives have been very fond of decrying the “deep state” and warn about “weaponizing the government.” But it sure seem like whenever they are elected, the GOP behaves in exactly the way that they believe their opponents will govern. 

This creates two problems. The first is the damage that Republicans will wreak while engaging in this behavior. The second is that Republicans are setting the norm for this kind of behavior by both parties for decades to come.

Drezner’s right, of course. But his comments strike me as rather quaint.

To whom are they addressed?

Which members of the GOP, exactly, are swayed by this kind of reasoning? Even those GOP officials who balk at the most blatant abuses of power—such as Senators Romney and Murkowski—turn around an enable most of the political practices, appointments, and policies that fuel the erosion of U.S. liberal-democratic governance.

The fact is that the GOP doesn’t behave “in exactly the way that they believe their opponents will govern.” It behaves in exactly the way that its base believes Democrats do govern. Years of (mostly) phony scandals, scorched-earth attacks on Democratic administrations, and “whatever it takes” defenses of Trump have convinced Republican primary voters the party is simply “fighting back.”

And if the GOP does go “a bit” further than the Democrats? That’s justified self-defense against the sinister forces that are hell-bent on destroying “America,” grooming its children, and selling the country out to the Chinese Communist Party.

Sensible is, like or not, long left behind on the platform.

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