The Republican Party of the Perpetual Now

Not much need for History in Trump’s America

W.J. Astore

As a historian, I have an allegiance to the past, and to getting the facts right about that past. Because, if you can’t get the facts right, if you can’t do research with rigor and honesty, you can’t call yourself an historian.

So you won’t be surprised to learn that Trump’s version of the Republican Party is anathema to me. The party has no respect for the past. And getting facts right? What does that matter in a time of “alternative facts,” in an administration that lies routinely and about everything?

Trump’s version of the Republican Party is a party of the perpetual now, in which the meaning of “now” is remarkably labile and open to interpretation (and re-interpretation). In a strange way, Trump’s party is the party of post-modernism, where all facts are contingent, where everything is open to being constructed and deconstructed. Truth itself is a social construct in the Trumpian universe, determined by Trump himself and the various ass-kissers he’s assembled around him.

Not only is the Trumpian Party without a meaningful past: it’s also without a mediated future. According to the official platform of the Republican Party adopted last night, the party and its platform is what Trump says it is, world without end, Amen.

Here’s how it was put in a press release:

“RESOLVED, That the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda” and “The 2020 Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform until the 2024 Republican National Convention.”

The platform is Trump and Trump is the platform. The future is whatever Trump wills it to be, in his usual egotistical and often nonsensical way.

Facts don’t matter. The (true) past doesn’t matter. America as will and idea, as defined by Trump’s mind and driven by Trump’s desires.

As many have said, this isn’t a party, it’s a cult. A cult of unreflective minds, a cult unconcerned with critical thinking about the past, a cult that believes the future is best defined by one man.

One thing is certain: You won’t need any historians in Trump’s world. Just a lot of stenographers and sycophants willing to accept reality as Trump presents it, a perpetual now that’s constantly constructed and deconstructed before your eyes, the only constant being the celebration of Trump.

Remember: you can’t believe your lying eyes, but you can believe in Trump. If that’s not the end of history, I don’t know what is.

Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the End of History

Rumsfeld and Cheney
Rumsfeld and Cheney

W.J. Astore

Mark Danner has a probing article at TomDispatch.com on the career arc of Dick Cheney, the self-selected Vice President under George W. Bush.  Cheney’s approach to history, an attitude he shared with Karl Rove and Donald Rumsfeld, was the idea he could make his own reality, independent of history.  Previous precedents on waterboarding as torture?  They don’t matter.  The predictable civil war that resulted from our invasion of Iraq?  Doesn’t matter.  History is made by the big swinging dicks, no regrets, no apologies.

Even when the insurgency in Iraq was obvious to all, Cheney and Rumsfeld sought to deny that reality.  Recall that Cheney said in 2005 that the insurgency was in its last throes even as it was beginning to peak.  Recall that Rumsfeld said in July 2003 “I don’t do quagmires” even as he and the U.S. military were sinking into one in post-invasion Iraq.

History teaches humility, but Cheney and Rumsfeld were having none of that.  History is a sovereign remedy to hubris, but Cheney and Rumsfeld were all about hubris.  Faced with history’s uncertainty, as represented by favorite questions like “Yes, but” and “Are you sure,” Cheney and Rumsfeld hissed like vampires confronting garlic.

The end of history — in the sense of ignoring its lessons — came with Cheney and Rumsfeld.

And like Danner says in his article, we’re left today with the bloody mess these dicks created.