How a pandemic obliterated GOP ideology

Republicans must be shaking in their boots. And rightfully so. The deadly pandemic sweeping the country is demolishing the GOP’s ideological foundation at breakneck speed. From decades of right-wing orthodoxy undermining public health to a visceral denial of scientific expertise, the proverbial chickens have come home to roost.

But that’s just scratching the surface. COVID-19 exposes far more. How about the GOP’s unwavering fealty to well-heeled corporate management at the expense of the American worker? Or the right-wing mantra that “government is the problem”? The latter has, yet again, become a self-fulfilling prophesy at the worst possible time.

Congressional Republicans, for their part, have demonstrated staggering hypocrisy on spending and debt in times of national crisis.


Of course, such ideological failings and flip-flopping would not have wrought nearly as much damage without one critical accomplice: The factually-challenged, conspiracy-mongering right-wing media outlets pumping a steady diet of misinformation directly into the minds of millions of Americans.

Conservative propaganda aside, the truth is crystal clear: COVID-19 ushered in a rapid, wholesale dismantling of all that the Republican Party holds dear.

Let’s begin with health care. The GOP has fought tooth and nail against any effort to improve public health, a political position that our Western, industrialized peers can only shake their heads at.

In 1961, a young Hollywood actor named Ronald Reagan spoke out against “socialized medicine.” He was railing against Medicare, a program that is now one of the most cherished earned benefits programs in American history. The fear mongering that Reagan and the Republican Party employed six decades ago – which continues today – could not have been more flawed.

Fast forward to 2020. As America confronts a historic pandemic, the Trump administration proposed staggering cuts to the public health agencies tasked with fighting infectious diseases like COVID-19. Meanwhile, Republicans are refusing to drop a sweeping lawsuit that – if successful – will result in untold thousands of Americans losing health insurance.

Truly, how can the political party that claims the mantle of God, family values and “life” justify such life-taking positions?


Even more acutely, Americans exposed to COVID-19 – millions of whom recently lost health insurance – will refrain from seeking medical care or emerge bankrupt due to the staggering costs associated with hospitalization.

Republicans, in short, will see their unwavering fealty to a bloated, ineffective and staggeringly expensive for-profit medical system paid for with American lives.

Beyond this health care catastrophe, COVID-19 has underscored the GOP’s utter disregard for scientific expertise. As unfathomable as it may be in the rest of the developed world, our most respected public health officials receive death threats for speaking truths that will save lives. Take a moment to let that uniquely American reality sink in; it should prompt all of us to hang our heads in collective shame.

But this blatant disregard for expert opinion does not occur in a vacuum. The Republican Party’s systematic, decades-long denial of scientific fact – from climate change to the ozone layer and beyond – is squarely at fault. It should come as no surprise that the GOP’s war on science is underwritten by billions of dollars in “dark” money and political contributions from corporate interests that elevate profit above health, wellness and life.

Ideological failings on science and public health aside, COVID-19 also shines a glaring spotlight on the Republican Party’s deference to ultra-wealthy corporate management at the expense of the American worker. From the systematic denial of unemployment benefits and sick leave to the elevation of millionaire shareholders above workers, the Republican Party’s imperatives are crystal clear to anyone bothering to kick the tires and look under the hood.

That the GOP’s first instinct is to elevate these narrow ideological priorities above all else during a national crisis is all the more heinous.

Indeed, in a heartless display of political absurdity, Republican senators held up a sweeping coronavirus assistance package because, in their telling, temporary unemployment benefits were too generous and would engender a culture of laziness in American workers. This stunt came on the heels of the GOP’s insistence on passing a massive, taxpayer-funded corporate handout with virtually nonexistent protections for workers and laughably weak conditions on stock buybacks.

As we learned in the wake of the disastrous Trump tax cuts for the super-rich, corporations cannot be trusted to do the “right” thing. Thankfully, congressional Democrats successfully challenged the GOP’s favoritism of ultra-wealthy corporate management; their insistence on preventing mass layoffs by some of America’s most profitable companies saved countless jobs.

But it does not end there. President TrumpDonald TrumpMaria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back Republicans eye Nashville crack-up to gain House seat MORE’s hubris and blatant disregard for the dire warnings from his own intelligence agencies will cost thousands of American lives. Ditto for the administration’s catastrophically uncoordinated response to COVID-19.

Beyond sheer incompetence, these failings have a clear ideological undertone. The Republican Party has long peddled the mantra that government – even one designed by and for its citizenry – is the “problem,” or that it never works.

Well, when an administration is staffed by unqualified personnel (or not at all), the notion that government is dysfunctional becomes a self-fulfilling right-wing prophesy. That holds as true for George W. Bush’s disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina as it does for the Trump administration’s deadly failures on COVID-19.

Such ideological absurdity also makes Trump’s insistence that state governors fight other governors for precious, life-saving resources particularly unconscionable. Ditto for the president’s excruciatingly long refusal to invoke temporary emergency authorities instructing private industry to manufacture desperately-needed medical resources.


Not to be outdone, congressional Republicans have demonstrated unfathomable hypocrisy in responding to national crises. While the GOP raced at “warp speed” to spend trillions of taxpayer dollars in the face of an impending COVID-19-induced economic catastrophe, those same Republicans were hysterically opposed to similar spending in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The difference, of course, is that a Democrat occupied the White House back then, while a debt-busting, free-spending Republican does today.

Make no mistake: The GOP’s flip-flopping on emergency spending will go down as one of the most glaring feats of political hypocrisy in American history.

Amid a glut of bad news, one of the few silver linings of the current crisis is that it exposes the GOP’s monumental ideological failings. Unfortunately, a conspiratorial right-wing propaganda machine relentlessly peddles misinformation and lies to obscure these shortcomings. This political hoodwinking, it should be noted, now comes with deadly consequences.

Will Americans see through the spin?

Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, as well as an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense. Follow him on Twitter @MvonRen.