GOP Response Shows Party May be Fighting the Last Battle as World Changes

Historians in the News
tags: Republican Party, State of the Union, Joe Biden

Just after Donald Trump was impeached for withholding military aid from Ukraine to strongarm its president into doing his corrupt political bidding, Kim Reynolds took note of how badly the whole saga reflected on our nation.

“I think it was a sad day for history in America,” the Republican governor of Iowa told the Des Moines Register in 2019.

You’ll be startled to hear that the occasion for Reynolds’s sadness was not Trump’s extortion of a vulnerable ally pleading for help against Russian aggression. It was his impeachment, which she termed “ridiculous.”

When Reynolds delivered the GOP response to President Biden’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, she bent over backward to declare her party’s “solidarity” with Ukraine, as well as its outrage against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “tyranny.”

So it’s fitting that long before Reynolds was tapped for this national moment, she offered that absurd whitewashing of Trump’s appalling corruption, which was only one of an extensive series of official acts that aligned with Putin’s interests against those of Ukraine, the West and democracy.

Reynolds represents the face of the GOP that party leaders want to present in the midterms. She’s a soft-spoken conservative mom with small-town rural roots who, just like you, is anxious about how out-of-control things feel: We’re teetering on the edge of a major global conflagration; inflation is rampant; racial activism has taken on a vaguely threatening aura.


Numerous reporters and commentators have compared this to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts to build the case for an international response to “tyranny” in 1941. As CNN’s Stephen Collinson put it, Biden’s speech suggests “a hinge in history to compare with other great presidential moments.”

The comparison is apt, not because Biden will necessarily prove to be another FDR, but for another reason: Because the contours of the larger dispute right now are similar.

“In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the key question was, are you an internationalist in terms of forming alliances with other liberal democracies," Eric Rauchway, the author of several books about the New Deal, told me.

Rauchway noted that the Trump movement’s treatment of Putin resembles the “America First” movement of the World War II era. This isn’t to compare today’s Trumpists with supporters of Adolf Hitler. It’s to argue that there are historical echoes in the broader dispute over how aggressive an international response should be mounted in defense of democracy, and against autocracy.

Read entire article at Washington Post