The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Has a Few Annotations to Share with You

Opinion: Senator Ron Johnson calls editorial about him ‘unhinged and uninformed.’ The Editorial Board responds.

Senator Johnson objects to the Editorial Board’s call for him to resign over his actions after the presidential election.

Ron Johnson

Editor’s note: After the Editorial Board called on Sen. Ron Johnson to either resign or be expelled from office for his role in spreading disinformation about the presidential election, the senator asked for space to respond. We are providing him that courtesy today. We also are taking the rare step of footnoting Johnson’s commentary to provide additional context so that readers have a fuller understanding of the senator’s actions.

In an unhinged and uninformed editorial, the Journal Sentinel called for my resignation or expulsion from the U.S. Senate.  Among its many baseless charges, it accuses me of “inciting violence and an act of domestic terrorism,” being “a leading member of the Senate Sedition Caucus,” “stoking an insurrection,” “violating my solemn oaths,” being a racist (they must have overlooked my involvement with Milwaukee’s Joseph Project) and “shilling for Trump” (apparently along with 74 million other Americans who voted for him). 1

All this because I did half of what Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer did in 2005 when she objected to Ohio’s electors, forcing a two-hour debate. 2   Unlike Senator Boxer — who to my knowledge was never asked to resign or be expelled — I did not vote to sustain the objection. 3   When asked by the Associated Press immediately afterward why I voted no, I responded, “We needed to have the debate, but we also need to respect the rule of law and our constitutional constraints.”

Does that sound like incitement or a violation of my oath?

Far from “stoking an insurrection,” an honest examination of my actions would show me attempting to defuse growing passions.  Ever since the Electoral College met, I have acknowledged that former Vice President Joe Biden is the president-elect and repeatedly said I could not envision any scenario where Biden electors would be rejected. Supporting the first objection gave me a voice in negotiations to bring about an honest but not endless debate. 4

But we needed to have the debate.  A growing belief 5  that votes to disallow electors would be based on one vote per state — where Republicans have an advantage — instead of involving every member, had to be proven false. It is also important to acknowledge — instead of scornfully dismissing — the legitimate concerns of tens of millions of Americans and to recognize that it is not sustainable that so many have lost faith in our institutions and the fairness of our electoral process. 6

Those who have lost confidence are not crazy. They are citizens who dearly love America and are alarmed by what they witnessed over the last four years: political opponents decrying a duly elected president as illegitimate and participating in a resistance to him; a thoroughly corrupt FBI investigation of that duly elected president; 7  a grossly biased media 8  that chose a side and used its power to interfere in our politics to a far greater extent than any foreign entity could ever hope to achieve; an increasingly powerful social media that censors news and conservative voices; 9  and courts and election officials that usurp the constitutional authority of state legislatures in setting the times, places and manner of holding elections. 

They were reminded of the Carter-Baker Commission’s caution regarding absentee balloting: “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.”  Then they saw COVID-19 exploited to dramatically increase absentee voting — and simultaneous extensive efforts to weaken the controls governing it. 10  They heard that Facebook’s CEO spent almost half a billion dollars to increase Democrat turnout in Democrat-controlled jurisdictions, and they wonder, “Is that even legal?” 11

Then on Election Day, they saw poll watchers being thrown out or obstructed from observing.  

They heard credible allegations of voting fraud that they know are too rarely investigated or prosecuted, 12  of large Democrat-controlled counties dumping their vote totals in the wee hours of the morning only after Republican counties have reported, 13  election officials and others refusing to turn over evidence to those investigating irregularities, and courts refusing to hear what evidence was obtained and instead dismissing election challenges on procedural grounds. 14   

The Journal Sentinel is wrong to imply these citizens would shut up and forget their concerns if only elected Republicans tell them to. 15  This is not a problem that can be swept aside with the hope it will somehow solve itself. I recognized this early and held a hearing in December (full video here), but was only able to scratch the surface of the issues involved. Witnesses testified under oath, subject to the penalties of perjury, but the Journal Sentinel calls it “bogus.”  My opening statementin no way can be viewed as an incitement.  Unless election irregularities are fully investigated and explanations provided, I fear this problem will fester and could lead to even greater rancor and division. 16  

I hoped this debate would serve as a wake-up call to state legislatures to recognize the legitimacy of these concerns, fully investigate the irregularities in their states, reassert their authority over federal elections, and establish controls to restore confidence in our election system. The solution lies in the states, not with the federal government. For the future unity of our nation, it is crucial that states properly shoulder their responsibility, take the action required, and alleviate any doubt that future elections will be fair and legitimate. 17

There is no justification for the violence that occurred at the Capitol. I condemned it then and I condemn it now.  I also offer my sincere condolences to the loved ones of those who died.   But unlike many in the media and on the left, I am consistent in my condemnation of “peaceful protests” that become violent. Where is the media condemnation of Democrats who have actually promoted violence over the last four years and, prior to the election, told President-elect Biden never to concede18

Prior to publishing its partisan screed, the Journal Sentinel could have reviewed the public record and investigated the validity of its baseless and incendiary allegations against me.  Casually and wrongly using terms like “insurrection,” “incitement,” “sedition” and “domestic terrorism” might feel good when putting pen to paper, but when the state’s largest “news” publication does it, it simply confirms what a large percentage of Americans already believe: The mainstream media have dropped all pretense of objectivity and can no longer be trusted. It’s well past time for the media to look in the mirror and acknowledge the role their bias has played in widening our national divide and exacerbating the problem. 19

Annotations

    1. Sen. Ron Johnson took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. In our system, the states certify Electoral College votes and Congress acknowledges the victor. Senators and representatives cannot overturn the will of citizen voters by rejecting a state’s electoral votes.

As for racism: Underlying the attack on the U.S. Capitol was a “tribal fury against people targeted as scapegoats,” we wrote, a fury President Donald Trump stoked repeatedly during his time in office. Johnson showed he was a willing accomplice in this shameful politics by repeatedly failing to adequately call out Trump’s appeals to the worst prejudices in people.

    1. Although one senator, Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., challenged the results in Ohioafter the 2004 presidential election, the situation was radically different from 2020. Boxer stood alone in the Senate that year, and fellow Democrats distanced themselves from her actions. She was not supported by the Democratic candidate for president, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. In fact, Kerry followed normal protocol for U.S. presidential elections and called President George W. Bush to concede and congratulate him on Nov. 3, the morning after the votes were counted. Unlike Trump, Kerry never questioned the overall integrity of the election.  
    2. Johnson only voted against objectionsto Joe Biden’s victories in Arizona and Pennsylvania after the deadly sacking of the U.S. Capitol had interrupted Congress’ tallying of the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6. Up to the insurrection, Johnson had publicly stated he would vote in favor of challenges to the state-certified votes. Originally, those challenges were to include Wisconsin’s tallies.

Worse, like Trump, Johnson spent weeks questioning the validity of the election without citing any evidence. That included holding a one-sided hearing that allowed Trump’s lawyers to once again air allegations of fraud that had already been rejected by dozens of courtrooms across America, including both Republican and Democratic judges and even federal judges appointed by Trump.

Johnson’s role in spreading and amplifying lies about the election — including his threat to challenge the ceremonial counting of electoral votes in Congress — encouraged Trump supporters to believe the result could be overturned, and that helped lead to the tragedy at the Capitol.

In an interview broadcast Monday night, William Barr, Trump’s former attorney general, said that doubts raised about the legitimacy of the Nov. 3 election “precipitated the riot” at the Capitol.  

And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Tuesday blamed Trump and other leaders. “The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people and they tried to use fear and violence,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

In our view, those “powerful people” include Senator Johnson.

    1. Despite filing more than 60 court cases, Trump and his supporters could find no evidence of fraud or “irregularities” that would have changed the result. They lost case after case. Senator Johnson should have acknowledged Biden’s victory immediately and repeatedly as Trump spread lies and challenged the election like no president in history, of any party, has ever done. Instead of “attempting to defuse growing passions,” Johnson did the opposite.

After working on bills to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition of power at the end of the Obama administration, Johnson did a complete flip when Trump lost. Asked a week after the election if he had congratulated Joe Biden, Johnson snapped: “Nothing to congratulate him about.” His decision to “investigate” the election results gave more life to conspiracy theories designed to mislead and stir resentment.   

    1. And where did this “growing belief” come from? Not from reporting by independent, fact-based news organizations. It came from interest groups and politicianswho were careless with facts in their support of Trump.  
    2. Why have some Trump supporters lost faith in the fairness of the electoral process? It is precisely because irresponsible politicians like Trump and Johnson, aided by reckless allies at right-wing propaganda outlets, continually called those election results into question.   
    3. This is a Johnson hobby horse, again parroting claims by Trump. A Department of Justice inspector general in Trump’s own administration found in 2019that while the FBI had “serious performance failures” in its investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 election, there was ample reason for an investigation and political bias didn’t drive it. In an August report, the Senate Intelligence Committee, under Republican leadership, found numerous contacts between Trump’s campaign and the Russians and said Moscow posed a “grave” threat. 
    4. Like Trump, Johnson frequently claims “media bias” to divert attention from his own failures. America’s founders established a free and independent press precisely so politicians in power could not control the information citizens receive. The Journal Sentinel and its partner wire services would have reported the exact same way if a Democratic incumbent had been defeated by a Republican challenger and refused to accept the will of the voters.  
    5. This is a fallacy.Despite the alleged liberal bias of social media companies like Facebook and Twitter, an analysis by Politico in October found that Trump and his supporters have dominated those spaces, with right-wing social commentary being shared sometimes as much as 10 times more often than posts by liberals and Democrats. The companies banned Trump only after the Jan. 6 uprising — for violating policies against inciting violence, which all users agree to in advance.  
    6. This didn’t happen in Wisconsin. Many people voted absentee but they did it under existing rules. More Wisconsin voters were allowed to vote absentee without showing photo identification in counties Trump won than in counties that backed Joe Biden.
    7. This issue was raised in lawsuits in Wisconsin. Judges found the practice was legal
    8. The way to challenge election results under the rule of law in America is through the courts and judicial branch. Senator Johnson and President Trump have not produced evidence of any wrongdoing that would change the outcome. No court has found the accusations of fraud credible.  
    9. This is misleading. Votes were not “dumped.” They were counted. This took a long time in Wisconsin because state law prevents ballots from being counted prior to Election Day. Johnson is well aware of this: Before the election, he called for the law to be changed. Everyone knewit would take time to open envelopes, check ballots against registration lists and put them through the machines, especially in population centers. Republican and Democratic observers were present the entire time and the process was broadcast over the internet for all who wanted to watch it. 
    10. Conservatives have long argued for tight rules over who has “standing” to sue in many types of cases. Election rules in Wisconsin were adjusted and reviewed by a Republican-led government and were not challenged in past elections. 
    11. How about telling the truth? Instead of spreading the lie that the election wasn’t valid, Johnson should have done as Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, suggested in a speech the night the Capitol was sacked. “The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth. … The truth is that President-elect Biden won this election. President Trump lost.” 
    12. By encouraging the lie about election “irregularities” and by acting as if Congress could overturn the results and negate the certified ballots of millions of Americans, it is Johnson who has done more than most to foment “rancor and division.” As U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher of Green Bay put itin a commentary for USA TODAY: “The objectors were giving millions of people false hope that somehow Congress or Vice President Mike Pence could change the outcome of the election. This was, of course, a lie.” That lie helped lead to the insurrection at the Capitol as election results were formally accepted by Congress.
    13. Federal officials, including Trump’s Attorney General William Barr, vouched for the integrity of the election. On Nov. 12, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency — part of Trump’s own administration — and two other groups said: “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. … There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”  Hand recounts of paper ballots in jurisdictions, such as Georgia, only confirmed the results. The same was truein two Wisconsin counties that did recounts.
    14. Blame the media and act like a victim of bias — a classic propaganda tactic to divert attention from the facts in question. Johnson links to a foreign news organization quoting Hillary Clinton to support his claim. (Clinton, who won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote by the same margin that Trump lost to Biden, called Trump to concede and congratulate him the morning after the 2016 election). Johnson also links to a conservative site that uses quotes about unrest without appropriate context. 
    15. This is a page right out of the Trump playbook — blame the “mainstream media” when you don’t have an answer. The Editorial Board will defend the right of the citizens to choose their elected officials — government of the people, by the people, for the people — even if Senator Johnson will not. 

The USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin Editorial Board operates independently of the network’s news reporters and editors. Email the Editorial Board: jsedit@jrn.com

Originally Published 4:48 p.m. EST Jan. 19, 2021 

Updated 26 minutes ago

 

George Mason (1725-1792) Has a Thought for Today

The President ought not to have the power of pardoning, because he may frequently pardon crimes which were advised by himself. It may happen, at some future day, that he will establish a monarchy, and destroy the republic. If he has the power of granting pardons before indictment, or conviction, may he not stop inquiry and prevent detection? The case of treason ought, at least, to be excepted. This is a weighty objection with me.

Senator Sasse Ain’t Lookin’ for No Sweet Spot in the Middle Between Lunacy and the Business Roundtable

His views are in marked contrast to those of Josh Hawley. Senator Sasse’s views, noble as the sound, in large measure, are not likely to prevail, IMHO. Be that as it may, here is what Senator Sasse had to say yesterday, writing in The Atlantic:

QAnon Is Destroying the GOP From Within

Until last week, too many in the Republican Party thought they could preach the Constitution and wink at QAnon. They can’t.

Eugene Goodman is an American hero. At a pivotal moment on January 6, the veteran United States Capitol Police officer single-handedly prevented untold bloodshed. Staring down an angry, advancing mob, he retreated up a marble staircase, calmly wielding his baton to delay his pursuers while calling out their position to his fellow officers. At the top of the steps, still alone and standing just a few yards from the chamber where senators and Vice President Mike Pence had been certifying the Electoral College’s vote, Goodman strategically lured dozens of the mayhem-minded away from an unguarded door to the Senate floor.

The leader of that flank of the mob, later identified by the FBI as Douglas Jensen, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with a red-white-and-blue Q—the insignia of the delusional QAnon conspiracy theory. Its supporters believe that a righteous Donald Trump is leading them in a historic quest to expose the U.S. government’s capture by a global network of cannibalistic pedophiles: not just “deep state” actors in the intelligence community, but Chief Justice John Roberts and a dozen-plus senators, including me. Now Trump’s own vice president is supposedly in on it, too. According to the FBI, Jensen “wanted to have his T-shirt seen on video so that ‘Q’ could ‘get the credit.’”

January 6 is a new red-letter day in U.S. history, not just because it was the first time that the Capitol had been ransacked since the War of 1812, but because a subset of the invaders apparently were attempting to disrupt a constitutionally mandated meeting of Congress, kidnap the vice president, and somehow force him to declare Trump the victor in an election he lost. En route, the mob ultimately injured scores of law-enforcement officers. The attack led to the deaths of two officers and four other Americans. But the toll could have been much worse: Police located pipe bombs at the headquarters of both the Republican and Democratic National Committees. Investigators discovered a vehicle fully loaded with weaponry and what prosecutors are calling “homemade napalm bombs.”

The violence that Americans witnessed—and that might recur in the coming days—is not a protest gone awry or the work of “a few bad apples.” It is the blossoming of a rotten seed that took root in the Republican Party some time ago and has been nourished by treachery, poor political judgment, and cowardice. When Trump leaves office, my party faces a choice: We can dedicate ourselves to defending the Constitution and perpetuating our best American institutions and traditions, or we can be a party of conspiracy theories, cable-news fantasies, and the ruin that comes with them. We can be the party of Eisenhower, or the party of the conspiracist Alex Jones. We can applaud Officer Goodman or side with the mob he outwitted. We cannot do both.

If and when the House sends its article of impeachment against Trump to the Senate, I will be a juror in his trial, and thus what I can say in advance is limited. But no matter what happens in that trial, the Republican Party faces a separate reckoning. Until last week, many party leaders and consultants thought they could preach the Constitution while winking at QAnon. They can’t. The GOP must reject conspiracy theories or be consumed by them. Now is the time to decide what this party is about.

The newly elected Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. She once ranted that “there’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it.” During her campaign, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had a choice: disavow her campaign and potentially lose a Republican seat, or welcome her into his caucus and try to keep a lid on her ludicrous ideas. McCarthy failed the leadership test and sat on the sidelines. Now in Congress, Greene isn’t going to just back McCarthy as leader and stay quiet. She’s already announced plans to try to impeach Joe Biden on his first full day as president. She’ll keep making fools out of herself, her constituents, and the Republican Party.

If the GOP is to have a future outside the fever dreams of internet trolls, we have to call out falsehoods and conspiracy theories unequivocally. We have to repudiate people who peddle those lies.

We also have to show a healthier path forward. The frustrations that caused so many people to turn in desperate directions for a political voice are not going away when Trump leaves the White House for Mar-a-Lago, because deception and demagoguery are the inevitable consequences of a politics that is profoundly, systemically dysfunctional. We must begin by asking how we got to such a discontented place, where we are mired in lies, rage, and now violence. In this essay, I am focusing on the maladies of the right, but Americans across the political spectrum are falling prey to the siren song of conspiracism. Here are three reasons.

America’s junk-food media diet

The way Americans are consuming and producing news—or what passes for it these days—is driving us mad. This has been said many times, but the problem has worsened in the past five years. On the supply side, media outlets have discovered that dialing up the rhetoric increases clicks, eyeballs, and revenue. On the demand side, readers and viewers like to see their opinions affirmed, rather than challenged. When everybody’s outraged, everybody wins—at least in the short term.

This is not a problem only on the right or only on obscure blogs. The underlying economics that drive Fox News and upstarts such as One America News to cultivate and serve ideologically distinct audiences also drive MSNBC, CNN, and The New York Times. More and more fiercely, media outlets rally their audience behind the latest cause du jour, whether it’s battling supposed election fraud or abolishing local police departments.

The conservative swaths of this media landscape were primed for Trump’s “Stop the steal” lie, which lit the fuse for the January 6 riot. For nine weeks, the president consistently lied that he had “won in a landslide.” Despite the fact that his lawyers and allies were laughed out of court more than 60 times, he spread one conspiracy theory after another across television, radio, and the web. For anyone who wanted to hear that Trump won, a machine of grifters was turning clicks into cash by telling their audiences what they wanted to hear. The liars got rich, their marks got angry, and things got out of control.

America’s institutional collapse

Traditional media outlets are only some of the long-standing institutions collapsing as the digital revolution erodes geographic communities in favor of placeless ones. Many people who yell at strangers on Twitter don’t know their own local officials or even their neighbors across the street. The loss of rootedness and institutional authority has created an opening for populists on the right and the left. It’s not a coincidence that in 2016, millions of Republicans threw in their lot behind a man who for almost all of his life had been a Democratic voter and donor, and millions of Democrats wanted as their nominee a senator who staunchly refused to join their party. On both sides, conventional politicians were being told they had lost the thread.

The anger being directed today at major internet platforms—Twitter, Facebook, and Google, especially—is, in part, a consequence of the fading of traditional political authority. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes inadvertently, Americans have outsourced key parts of political life to Silicon Valley behemoths that were not designed to, and are not competent to, execute functions traditionally in the province of the government. The failure of our traditional political institutions and our traditional media to function as spaces for genuine political conversation has created a vacuum now filled by the social-media giants—who are even worse at the job

Civic authority has ebbed in other ways. Political incompetence and malpractice around the COVID-19 pandemic have only deepened suspicions that some politicians will never let a crisis go to waste. The decisions in California to keep churches closed but to keep open strip clubs and marijuana dispensaries baffle Main Street. Similarly, the jolting juxtaposition of a media-addict mayor breaking up Hasidic funerals while marching in Black Lives Matter protests not only deepens the cynicism of many Americans, but it indisputably undermined institutions of public health that should have been cautiously protecting their standing.

America’s loss of meaning

Our political sickness has a third cause. At least since World War II, sociologists and political scientists have been tracing the erosion of the institutions and habits that joined neighbors together in bonds of friendship and mutual responsibility. Little Leagues were not just pastimes; soup kitchens were not just service organizations; they were also venues in which people found shared purpose. Today, in many places, those bonds have been severed.

In 1922, G. K. Chesterton called America “a nation with the soul of a church.” But according to a recent study of dozens of countries, none has ditched religious belief faster since 2007 than the U.S. Without going into the causes, we can at least acknowledge one cost: For generations, most Americans understood themselves as children of a loving God, and all had a role to play in loving their neighbors. But today, many Americans have no role in any common story.

Conspiracy theories are a substitute. Support Donald Trump and you are not merely participating in a mundane political process—that’s boring. Rather, you are waging war on a global sex-trafficking conspiracy! No one should be surprised that QAnon has found a partner in the empty, hypocritical, made-for-TV deviant strain of evangelicalism that runs on dopey apocalypse-mongering. (I still consider myself an evangelical, even though so many of my nominal co-religionists have emptied the term of all historic and theological meaning.) A conspiracy theory offers its devotees a way of inserting themselves into a cosmic battle pitting good against evil. This sense of vocation that makes it dangerous is also precisely what makes it attractive in our era of isolated, alienated consumerism.

Whatever the Republican Party does, it faces an ugly fight. The fracture that so many politicians on the right have been trying desperately to avoid may soon happen. But if the party has any hope of playing a constructive, rather than destructive, part in America’s future, it must do two things.

First, Republicans must repudiate the nonsense that has set our party on fire. Putting it out will take courage—and I don’t mean merely political courage. This week, after realizing that some Capitol insurrectionists wanted to capture the vice president, several Republican House members said privately that they believed a vote to impeach the president would put their lives, or the lives of their families, at risk. That is not the “constituent engagement” that elected officials are duty-bound to deal with on a daily basis. That is simply tyranny, just from the bottom up, instead of the top down. When arsonists are inside our house, can we just stand by and hope that they’ll depart quietly?

Second, the party has to rebuild itself. It must offer a genuine answer to the frustrations of the past decade. Other than by indulging Trump’s fantasies about building iPhones in America, Republicans have not figured out how to address Americans’ anger about community erosion, massive dislocations in the labor force, or Big Tech’s historically unprecedented role in governing de facto public squares.

Sensing a chance at tribal expansion, some on the left are thrilled by the chaos on the right, and they’re eager to seize the moment to banish from polite society not just those who participated and encouraged violence, but anyone with an R next to his or her name. Already on Twitter, a conservative position as long-standing as opposition to abortion has been recast as “domestic terrorism.” An MSNBC host talked about the “de-Baathification” of the GOP, comparing rank-and-file Republicans to supporters of Saddam Hussein. In an exchange on CNN, a host accused Republican voters of making common cause with Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. Yet the exploitative overreaction by the left should not allow an underreaction by the right.

The past four years have wounded our country in grievous, long-lasting ways. The mob that rushed the Capitol had been fed a steady diet of lies and conspiracy theories. It is very possible that the QAnon devotee Douglas Jensen believed the junk he’d been sold—that he was a valued foot soldier in Trump’s war against shadowy forces of darkness. So, according to the FBI, he put on his Q T-shirt and acted like a foot soldier. Right up until he ran into Officer Goodman.

In a standoff between the Constitution and madness, both men picked a side. It’s the GOP’s turn to do the same.

A Highly Questionable Prediction: Finding That Sweet Spot between Lunacy and a Veneer of Respectability

Dan Zak, a Washington Post reporter, asks What does Josh Hawley think he is doing? His answer—in my words, not Mr. Zak’s—is, “being cuter than Bambi, smarter than Yogi Bear.” In short, trying to be the next person to appeal to Trump’s base, yet gain support from the country club set and the Business Roundtable.

The implication of the op-ed is that Hawley’s strategy may work, and that he may yet have the last laugh, despite current criticism from the white shoe crowd. Zak explores this thought at very great length. If you wish to do the same, please feel free to click the link and read all about it.

As for me, I have said for a long time—and it required no great prescience to say it—that, logically, that Orange Man is a royal fuckup, but that there’s a place in the political firmament for someone with all of Dear Leader’s villainy, but none of his delusional stupidity.

Plainly, Senator Hawley has had a like epiphany. He has looked in the mirror. And he has decided that, “By God, I am that man.”

He may be right.

But I don’t think so. I think The Party Formerly Known as Republican is distilling itself down to about a quarter of the population, who are determined to live in Neverneverland. I think that, for that reason, it is rapidly evolving into an institution of no use whatsoever to the ruling plutocrats.

I think that, therefore, Senator Hawley will not find the sweet spot between respectability and Trumpian lunancy.

That is because, I think, there is no such sweet spot to be found.

But it is inevitable that someone, or someones, will give it a try. As inevitable as the flowers that bloom in the spring, Tea La.

Two Propositions

As we reflect on the rampant craziness on the right. I want to make a point that is important, that is so obvious as to seem trite, and yet seems largely to have been overlooked by the chattering class. I have no idea why.

Consider these two propositions:

  1. Republicans garnered far more votes than Democrats and easily won the Electoral College, but the election was stolen from them due to a massive criminal conspiracy.
  2. It doesn’t matter very much which side got the most votes; only aggrieved White people have the right to rule, and if that rule must be established via insurrection and dictatorship, then so be it.

The Wingnut’s Perspective

Proposition 1 is an empirical proposition. In other words, it is, in principle, subject to falsification.

If you are a wingnut and you actually believe Proposition 1, then you want to prepare for the next stage of political warfare by expelling from the Republican Party all who disbelieve in Proposition 1. After which, you will plan to wage war at the ballot box—and work toward an accurate count of the votes in the next election.

Unlike Proposition 1, Proposition 2 is not an empirical claim, and it is not, in principle, falsifiable.

If you are a wingnut who does not actually believe Proposition 1, but adheres instead to Proposition 2, then waging war at the ballot box will not look like a promising course of action. Too many brown and black people, don’t you know? Your practical alternatives are (a) violent insurrection, or maybe the odd assassination here and there, or (b) just to crawl back under the rock where you are accustomed to live, and let the world go on its way.

Of the two, the second option is, to the reasonable wingnut, by far the more attractive course of action. Under the rock is Home Sweet Home. Much more comfortable than a jail cell. 

The Rational Person’s Perspective

Apropos those who embrace Proposition 1, there is some good news. One piece of good news is that they claim to support democracy. They continue to assert that the side with the most votes should win the election. The second piece of good news is they will continue to contest elections rather than storming capitols. And, for the most part, they will continue to lose elections.

As for the insurrectionists, even though there are a whole lot of them, as and when they take actions based on their beliefs, the authorities will find them and prosecute them.

Because, if your side won’t accept anything less than dictatorship over our side, then our side has no choice but to come down on your side with hobnailed boots.

If it’s Us or Them, then we are going to choose Us.

A Line in the Sand: Three Morning Reads to Improve the Shining Hour

David Brooks, Trump Ignites a War Within the Church: After a week of Trumpist mayhem, white evangelicals wrestle with what they’ve become.

Politico, Trump blows up the Arizona GOP on his way out: “The craziness from the state Republican Party … it’s pretty embarrassing,” said a former top Republican official.

N.Y. Times, Post Trump, Republicans Are Headed for a Bitter Internal Showdown: G.O.P. leadership would like to blunt President Trump’s influence over the party. Mr. Trump and his allies want to punish those who have crossed him. A series of clashes looms.

Sometimes, You Know, You Just Can’t Win for Losing

According to Huffington Post—an unimpeachable source, I trust—Feeling Betrayed, Far-Right Extremists Have a New Message for Trump: ‘Get Out Of Our Way.’ Huffpost writes, in part,

In online havens for MAGA extremists, including Gab, CloutHub, MeWe, Telegram and far-right message boards such as 8kun, the tone toward Trump is shifting. HuffPost reviewed thousands of messages across these platforms and found that a growing minority of the president’s once-devout backers are now denouncing him and rejecting his recent pleas for peace. Some have called for his arrest or execution, labeling him a “traitor” and a “coward.”

One Can Hope

From Axios this morning:

Post-Trump Republican Party has been gutted in almost every way imaginable – Axios

Jim VandeHei6 hours ago – Politics & Policy

Republicans will emerge from the Trump era gutted financially, institutionally and structurally.

The big picture: The losses are stark and substantial.

    • They lost their congressional power.
    • Their two leaders, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, are hamstrung by corporate blacklisting of their election-denying members.
    • The GOP brand is radioactive for a huge chunk of America.
    • The corporate bans on giving to the 147 House and Senate Republicans who voted against election certification are growing and virtually certain to hold.
    • The RNC is a shell of its former self and run by a Trump loyalist.
    • Democrats crushed them in fundraising when they were out of power. Imagine their edge with it.
    • Sheldon Adelson, the party’s biggest donor, died Monday.
    • The NRA is weaker than it has ever been, after massive leadership scandals.
    • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, once controlled by rock-ribbed Republicans, also gave to Democrats in 2020.
    • Rank-and-file Republicans are now scattered on encrypted channels like Signal and fearful of Big Tech platforms. 

What to watch: Conservatives hold power in the courts and state legislatures, two foundational pieces to rebuilding their party. But they likely will face a raging internal war over policies and political leaders as they grapple with a post-Trump world — whenever that might be.