The late great film critic Roger Ebert once got into a feud with Vincent Gallo over The Brown Bunny, a film in which Gallo was the star, director, producer, editor and writer. Many critics found the film self-indulgent, and not just because Gallo unzips his pants so Chloë Sevigny’s character can perform “unsimulated fellatio” on him.

The Brown Bunny got scathing reviews at Cannes, but Gallo focused his attention on Ebert, calling him “a fat pig with the physique of a slave trader.”

Ebert wonderfully retorted: “It is true that I am fat, but one day I will be thin, and he will still be the director of The Brown Bunny.”

What does this have to with our current political situation? It’s a simple analogy:

The Biden administration may struggle in some respects, but one day those struggles will pass, and the GOP will still be the party that enabled autocracy and hate, disregarded science in ways that have hurt us (COVID) and will hurt us (climate change), eroded the USA’s international alliances, disrespected the military, exacerbated our national debt to widen economic inequality, and consistently punched downward in a full-fledged “othering” of gay people, immigrants or anyone else who had dared to believe that the discrimination they long faced was in the past.

In other words, the problems in the Republican Party are features, not bugs.

We’re at a crossroads. It’s not between high inflation and low inflation. It’s not between properly managing a withdrawal from Afghanistan after selling out the country to the Taliban or bungling a withdrawal from Afghanistan after selling out the country to the Taliban.

It’s about freedom — to pursue knowledge that can keep people safer and healthier, to live with less fear of gun violence, to live with less fear of sinking into poverty, to be live in the bodies and identities given to them by genetics or the Almighty Creator, to know that intolerance of racism is one thing we will not tolerate, to follow a religion other than evangelical Prosperity Gospel Christianity, and to be governed by reasoned, empathetic leaders determined by fair elections. Taken to the extreme, but not that far to the extreme, freedom to use birth control.

Did I say crossroads? I’m sorry, that’s not the right analogy. We’re on one road. We’re determining whether to keep going in a car that occasionally needs some maintenance or to grab the gear shifter and slam the car into reverse, attempting to go back to a supposedly idyllic past that wasn’t so idyllic for a lot of Americans — demographically, more Americans today, after generations of interracial marriage and immigration from non-European countries. An idyllic past where we didn’t care about clean air and clean water, let along climate change. An idyllic past where infectious disease was more common because vaccines had not yet given us herd immunity.

I’m going to sum everything up in two main pieces. And these pieces will be supported by links to smaller pieces that have links to news stories, opinion pieces and research papers that often have links within them to news stories, opinion pieces and research papers that often have links with them … etc. This isn’t the simple ranting of someone who gets all his information from MSNBC. (I don’t think I’ve watched MSNBC since they started out as sort of a technology-driven news channel for hipsters. As a journalist, I find cable “news” to be utterly useless. It’s talking heads yelling at each other. I don’t even watch that on ESPN, where the stakes are far lower.)

The second of these pieces will be “The Deal,” a way forward for the vast majority of those of us who are neither part of the hate-spewing New Right or the smaller but also sinister extreme left.

But this first piece is about the priority for 2022, 2024 and every election year in the foreseeable future.

We have to stop the Republican Party.

You can argue that you blame Biden and the Democrats for current economic volatility. That’s debatable, given that the problems are global — inflation, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, lingering COVID effects, a sudden surge in demand that strained global supply chains, etc. See the economics page. But assume for a minute that Biden and the Democrats bear considerable responsibility. That’s unfortunate, but it’s something you should address in primaries.

There’s a big difference between being ineffective and being intentionally detrimental to the rule of law and to civil harmony. So I’ll say it again.

We have to stop the Republican Party.

You can argue that Biden and the Democrats aren’t as progressive as you like. But consider the damage we’re seeing now from the Supreme Court. Do your LGBT+ friends feel safe? How about women who may no longer have access to abortion? How about poor women in particular? What about guns? It’s not a question of “the lesser of two evils.” It’s a question of basic humanity and decency. It’s easy to be cynical, but cynicism and intelligence aren’t the same thing. And cynicism is really just a way of insulating yourself from facing up to inhumanity.

We have to stop the Republican Party.

This year can be a good start. The doomsayers forecast a “red wave,” typical of midterm elections but especially probable this year because of economic concerns. But the Democrats actually have a pretty good chance of taking over the Senate for real. All they have to do is hold on in Arizona (very likely), Nevada (quite likely) and Georgia (toss-up for now, but Herschel Walker’s baggage is going to be very heavy by the fall), and/or take the seats in Pennsylvania (quite likely) and Wisconsin (toss-up for now, but Ron Johnson’s record will haunt him). Take three of those races, and the Democrats hold. Take four, and they’re no longer dependent on Joe Manchin.

“Thank God Trump Isn’t President Right Now,” wrote conservative commentator Mona Charen. Indeed. But the 2020 election has proved to be an insufficient bulwark, to borrow the name of the conservative anti-Trumpist publication for which Charen was writing, against the extremism that is now a feature of the GOP rather than a bug.

We have to stop the Republican Party.


The parties

The issues