GOP = Grifter Operations Polytechnical

The news that Congressman Matt Gaetz is looking to move up in the world – and that he’s defining “move up” as getting a job with Newsmax TV (Axios) – says everything you need to know about the Republican Party … and it’s not good.

To be fair to Gaetz, he wouldn’t be the first Pensacola Republican Congressman to jump ship for a television gig; Joe Scarborough blazed that trail twenty years ago. If anything, that continuity is useful for tracing the devolvement of the GOP from “Grand Old Party” to “Grifter Operations Polytechnical” – or Grifter Tech for short. Simply put, Republican politicians are no longer interested in governing – at all.

I started to notice this a lot earlier than most, but even then I was missing the forest for the trees. Over a period of nine years (from 2004 through 2013), Republicans in Virginia had the opportunity to examine thoughtful and game-changing solutions to budget and transportation issues. They were the kind of challenges embraced with zeal by the GOP when I was growing up, to the point where Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1981 was forced to acknowledge from across the aisle, “The GOP has become a party of ideas.”

Instead, Virginia Republicans avoided serious government reform and raised taxes three times. They even shunned a cut in the corporate tax rate merely because a Democratic Governor proposed it.

What I didn’t recognize then was that a mentality of governing-by-symbol had taken hold in the GOP. Virginia Republicans were more than willing to make waves over issues that could generate grievances and fundraising lists (marriage equality, immigration, political correctness-turned-“cancel culture”), but actual governance mattered less and less to them.

To the extent that I saw it at all, it was with the “moderates” in the party with whom I argued on taxes. I completely missed it when those who claimed to agree with me about taxes also played performative politics. That was my mistake. Mea culpa.

The extent to which Republican “electeds” were willing to do Donald Trump’s bidding just to avoid primary challenges – or any other actual work – exposed how far the rot had grown. However, because Trump himself was more interested in playing at government that actually governing, he also made it infinitely worse.

When Scarborough made the jump to MSNBC in 2001, eyebrows were raised in surprise. Today, with Gaetz, eyeballs are rolled in understanding. Of course, Gaetz would prefer a job where he can keep ranting nonsense without needing to pretend he cares about governing anymore. The only difference is he has to do less work: no more constituency service, no more managing Congressional offices, no more paying consultants and fundraisers. He just screams at a camera and takes money.

That’s the new ambition on the right. Power is too much work. It’s much easier to just get rich milking the chimerical grievances of rural White America. Why ruin the grift with the risk of elections and consequences?

For the average Republican “politician” in 2021, elected office is no longer the goal. It’s just a stepping stone to the big media contract. The Republican Party is no longer a political organization. It has become Grifter Tech.

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