When I read Danny Westneat's latest column, "Republicans spent 400 days calling to end pandemic restrictions, and they’re finally right," a line from Kate Bush's heartbreakingly beautiful "Cloudbusting" came to mind almost immediately. "Oh, God, Daddy. I won't forget," she sings.
But with Westneat, Bush's "won't" becomes a "will." The Seattle Times columnist clearly will (or is willing to) forget that the GOP has been nothing but wrong on every matter related to the pandemic only because they might finally have something right: The economy should open now, in early June, rather than at the end of June.
OK, it’s possible I’ve finally gone bonkers from playing too much lockdown solitaire, but … I actually agree with this. After a pandemic of epic wrongness, local Republicans, like the proverbial blind squirrel, have stumbled into a nut.
The thing to pay attention to—the thing that provides a key to Westneat's line of thinking—is that he does know that the GOP failed to address the pandemic early and succeeded in opening the economy too early. He also seems to be aware that the GOP is responsible for the great loss of life and for the bungled rollout of the vaccine because their leader spent three crucial months trying to launch a coup instead of trying to launch a major public health response to a deadly virus.
Why write the column, then, Westneat? The answer is obvious.
He is actually nostalgic for the American political ideal that registers the white party, the GOP, as a legitimate participant in American political discourse.
“If Trump truly believes he’ll be back in the White House this August, he should get help... Same goes for the GOP.” — Jim @Acosta #MarALagoVille pic.twitter.com/o0jSNaihXl
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) June 5, 2021
Why is Westneat cutting the GOP so much slack? Why is he making such a big effort to show that a party that is ruled by an authoritarian freak who thinks he is returning to power in August has something in it that can still be recognized as reasonable? This is the party that's actively un-remembering January 6, or rather completely actively re-imagining it.
This is a whopper of an allegation (without any supporting records) from Rep Louie Gohmert (R-TX) … saying Capitol police told *him* they expected Trump opponents disguised in MAGA gear to appear on Jan 6 at Capitol pic.twitter.com/bj9LJ8Gz1E
— Scott MacFarlane (@MacFarlaneNews) June 10, 2021
Why does Westneat long to believe in the political fiction one also finds in the premise of Brandi Kruse's "The Divide," which is that those on the left got something to say just like those on the right? 600,000 Americans dead under GOP leadership, and yet this fiction still gets you a show on TV and a column in a major newspaper. Why?
The fact is that white America is politically split in a way that other American groups are not. If you are a white American, then the majority of your group actually follows (and in many ways worships) Trump. To fully dismiss the GOP would be to fully break with a huge section of your group (over half of it). How would Thanksgiving be possible? The future of this national holiday from the present view of white America has to see houses with Republican turkeys and houses with Dem turkeys. But can't we just get along, white America? Remember Archie Bunker? Those were the days.
For other groups, such as black people, for example, this is not much of an issue—and this is not to say that black conservatism is nonexistent. No. It is a real thing. But black conservatism does not see the pussy-grabber as the ultimate Big Daddy. The longing for the days of All in the Family, the days when the Republican daddy could be right and could be wrong is all over. The GOP is presently wrong on every issue, and they have power not because of votes but because of formalities.
In short, Westneat, if the GOP says open the economy right away instead of cautiously, and you find yourself agreeing with them despite their recent history of failed policies, it's because you still long for a Big GOP Daddy at the head of the dinner table. You want to love him while you hate him. (This feeling, by the way, is the substance of Lynn Shelton's last film, Sword of Trust.)