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.

Today’s Recommended Read: Polling Fascism

Commenting on this poll—to find the Washington Post story, click the graphic above—in today’s recommended read, Greg Sargent writes,

Trump’s GOP has an ugly authoritarian core. A new poll exposes it.

Greg Sargent

In the wake of President Trump’s incitement of a violent insurrectionist assault on our seat of government, a new Post-ABC News poll offers perhaps the most detailed look yet at public attitudes about the attack and the underlying questions it raises about the stability of our democratic future.

The poll contains good news and bad news. The good news is that large majorities are standing up for democracy and the legitimacy of our election, and believe Trump should be held accountable for inciting violent warfare on our political system and, indeed, on our country.

The bad news is that large majorities of Republicans are very much on board with much of what Trump has done.

First, let’s note that truly overwhelming majorities, including among Republicans, condemn the attack itself. That’s great, but deeper in the crosstabs are some pretty dispiriting findings.

On questions that probe underlying attitudes about Trump’s efforts to undermine democracy, the contrast between the broader public and Republican respondents is stark. Here’s a rundown:

    • By 66 percent to 30 percent, overall Americans say Trump acted irresponsibly in his statements and actions since the election. But Republicans say Trump acted responsibly by 66 percent to 29 percent.
    • By 62 percent to 31 percent, Americans say there’s no solid evidence of the claims of voter fraud that Trump cited to refuse to accept Joe Biden’s victory. But Republicans say there is solid evidence of fraud by 65 percent to 25 percent.
    • 57 percent of Americans say Trump bears a great deal or good amount of responsibility for the assault on the Capitol. But 56 percent of Republicans say Trump bears no responsibility at all, and another 22 percent say he bears just some, totaling 78 percent who largely exonerate him.
    • 52 percent of Americans say Republican leaders went too far in supporting Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. But 51 percent of Republicans say GOP leaders didn’t go far enough, while 27 percent say they got it right, a total of 78 percent who are fully on board or wanted more. Only 16 percent of Republicans say they went too far.

On these questions, independents are far more in sync with the broader public: In this poll, support for what Trump did is largely a Republican phenomenon.

Meanwhile, solid majorities of Americans believe Trump should be charged with a crime for inciting the riot (54 percent) and removed from office (56 percent). But among Republicans, opposition to both is running in the mid-80s, demonstrating extraordinary GOP unity against any form of accountability.

To sum up: Large majorities of Republicans support the effort by GOP leaders to overturn the election (which included lawsuits designed to summarily invalidate millions of votes and an extraordinary effort to scuttle Biden’s electors in Congress) and believe (or say they believe) that those GOP leaders were joining Trump’s efforts to correct a confirmed injustice done to him.

By the way, this poll also badly complicates a comforting narrative that has emerged in the aftermath of the storming of the Capitol: The idea that the refusal to accept democratic outcomes is largely driven by economic dispossession.

Indeed, a small but real core of respondents who are either college-educated or come from households with incomes of $100,000 and more say there is solid evidence of Trump’s fraud claims, that Trump bears no responsibility for the attack, that he has acted responsibly, and that GOP leaders did not go too far in helping him try to nullify the election.

In our poll’s crosstabs, the percentages of those classes of educated and relatively affluent voters who support those positions vary from the low-to-mid-20s to the low 30s. As Adam Serwer suggests, there was a middle-class strain among the rioters — cops, reactionary business owner-operator types — and that pattern may be reflected more broadly in an educated and middle-class reactionary component to support for overturning hated election outcomes.

It is strange and dispiriting to watch the more ambitious Republicans try to navigate these surging sentiments inside their rank and file.

While they surely would have cheered if Trump and the party had succeeded in overturning the election (ignore the nonsense that they attempted this only because they were certain it would fail), many Republicans have treated this as something that can be easily harnessed for their own instrumental purposes.

Dan Crenshaw of Texas, for instance, appeared in an authoritarian cosplay videodepicting him as a commando in the military war against leftists (Jonathan Chait callsthis “authoritarian porn”), and Crenshaw joined the lawsuit to overturn the election. Yet he has also tried to present himself as a pious defender of the constitutional process for counting electors.

Meanwhile, Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz jockeyed for position as leader of the effort to subvert the election in Congress, and Hawley saluted the rioters before the insurrection. Now both are scrambling to find their way back to the sweet spot, in which they oppose the violence but without retracting their active enabling of the stolen-election fiction that incited it.

Bubbling underneath all this is the fact that there really is a serious anti-democratic movement afoot among the class of intellectuals who are trying to carve out a purportedly respectable version of post-Trump liberalism.

As Laura Field and Damon Linker demonstrate, this movement is getting darker, more desperate and more radical, and some strains of it appear to be contemplating a fundamental and permanent break with liberal democracy’s most basic core commitments.

How deep all this runs among the GOP electorate, and what it will mean for the future of GOP politics, is hard to say. But it’s hard to look at the above polling and feel optimistic. 

The Morning After the Night Before

The Article of Impeachment was officially “engrossed” last night. Today, I would submit, three things are clear. First, it’s clear that the events of the last days have caused a minority of the Republican Party to hive away from Trump. That’s exemplified by the ten (out of 211) Republican congresspersons who voted to impeach.

Second, in view of the fact that the Republican Party was already a minority of the population—a very large minority, but a minority nonetheless—it’s clear that the loss of a minority of its minority will make it hard will make it damn hard for the Republicans actually to win elections, going forward. See Georgia.

Third, because of the first two circumstances, supporting the Republican Party, going forward, looks like a piss poor way for the monied elite to advance its agenda.

I won’t reargue these points here. I think we may take them as given. Even so, this afternoon, the pundits are all over the place about whether the effort to expunge Trump from the Republican Party is likely to succeed, or to fail miserably.

Politico, Trump’s grip on the Republican Party loosens ever so slightly

Greg Sargent, Trump’s ability to terrorize Republicans is fizzling out

But compare this, from Jonathan V. Last, in my inbox:

    • 91 percentof self-identified “Trump supporters” say Trump was right to try to overturn the election. 46 percent of people who say they are only “traditional Republicans” agree.
    • Pollafter poll shows that three quarters of all Republicans say that the 2020 election results were fraudulent.
    • 92 percent of “Trump supporters” say he should run in 2024.

Donald Trump owns this party because he owns its voters. What guys like McConnell and McCarthy don’t understand is that to the extent that they have any power, they serve at the pleasure of the man who commands their mob. Sorry, I mean “their voters.”

I don’t know the answer to Trump’s future hold on the Republican Party base.  I don’t think the pundits know the answer. I don’t think Mitch McConnell knows the answer. And I strongly suspect Mitch McConnell knows that he doesn’t know the answer. But I think Mitch will do what he has to do, to bar Trump from seeking office again. Not because Mitch is stupid. Not because Mitch has miscalculated. But because Mitch has no other choice.

Representative Liz Cheney’s Thoughts for Today

Congresswoman Cheney’s statement reads, in its entirety, as follows:

“On January 6, 2021 a violent mob attacked the United States Capitol to obstruct the process of our democracy and stop the counting of presidential electoral votes. This insurrection caused injury, death and destruction in the most sacred space in our Republic. 

“Much more will become clear in coming days and weeks, but what we know now is enough. The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution. 

“I will vote to impeach the President.”

The Lighter Side of Sedition and Deadly Coup Attempts

Couldn’t sleep, so I googled “cartoon sedition” within the last week. Far too much material to choose from, but here are two favorites.

Favorite Headline This Morning

Bess Levin, REPORT: MITCH MCCONNELL IS EXTREMELY JAZZED ABOUT DONALD TRUMP BEING IMPEACHED: Regardless, it should never be forgotten that the Senate majority leader is the spawn of satan

I Don’t Know How Moscow Mitch Will Vote on Impeachment—Que Sera Sera—But He is Certainly Encouraging House Republicans to Vote Yes on Wednesday

At the 10:00 hour tonight, Axios shared this little jewel:

McConnell leans toward convicting Trump in impeachment trial – Axios

Mike Allen14 mins ago – Politics & Policy

There’s a better than 50-50 chance that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would vote to convict President Trump in an impeachment trial, sources tell Axios.

What they’re saying: “The Senate institutional loyalists are fomenting a counterrevolution” to Trump, said a top Republican close to McConnell.

Why it matters: This would represent one of the most shocking and damning votes in the history of American politics, by the most powerful Republican in Congress.

    • McConnell’s vote would open the door to the possibility that Trump could be convicted and prohibited from running for president again.

An anti-Trump infection is spreading among Hill Republicans:

    • House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming — the third-ranking House GOP leader, and a top establishment voice — announced that she will vote to impeach Trump.
    • Cheney said of the Capitol mob: “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

The New York Times reported that McConnell “has told associates that he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him.”

    • Axios is told McConnell sees this fight as his legacy — defending the Senate and the institution against the verbal attack of the president and the literal attack of his followers.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Ross Douthat, How the Republican Party Could Break: After the Capitol Hill riot, the divide between reality and fantasy may become too wide to bridge.

Douthat on one of his lucid days—his lucidity being evidenced by his agreement with me. Definitely worth a read, IMHO.

Tom Friedman, Trump Is Blowing Apart the G.O.P. God Bless Him.

Bride of Douthat.

Paging Moscow Mitch! Paging Moscow Mitch!

Four hours ago, the New York Times let us know that McConnell is said to be pleased about impeachment, believing it will be easier to purge Trump from the G.O.P. Moscow Mitch is an unusually poor excuse for a human being. But, like Yogi Bear, Moscow Mitch is smarter than the average bear. Being a very smart fellow, Moscow Mitch knows that, very probably, the only way in which the Republican coalition might be preserved—the only way which might allow the party to keep on business as usual—is to throw the God Emperor under the bus.

Ineluctable conclusion: let’s all throw the God Emperor under the bus.

Splitsville

Some of the country club Republicans are getting off the Trump Train. See above. House Minority Leader, Representative Kevin McWeathervane, is twisting slowly, slowly in the wind. The online wingnuts are being forced underground. As I predicted a long time ago, American politics is being trifurcated.

Per Jim VanDerHei of Axios, two days ago:

Insurrection and misinformation tears the country into three Americas

The United States, torn apart by insurrection and mass misinformation, is witnessing a political and social realignment unfold in real time: We’re splitting into three Americas.

Why it matters: America, in its modern foundational components, is breaking into blue America, red America, and Trump America — all with distinct politics, social networks and media channels. 

The existential question for Republicans, and perhaps for America, is whether Trump America — animated by the likes of Newsmax + Rush Limbaugh + Tucker Carlson + Parler (or whatever replaces it) — eclipses the traditional Red America in power in the coming years. 

    • The danger: Parts of Trump America, canceled by Twitter and so many others, are severing their ties to the realities of the other Americas, and basically going underground. There will be less awareness and perhaps scrutiny of what’s being said and done. 
    • Axios’ Sara Fischer reports that Apptopia shows a surge in downloads for conservative-friendly social networks — Parler, MeWe and Rumble — in the past two days, following Trump bans by mainstream social media and tech.

The big picture: The Republican Party is splitting into two, starting with the relatively small Never Trumpers breaking off in 2016 and joined four years later by a new slice of establishment Republicans repulsed by President Trump’s post-election actions. 

    • We have no clue how big this faction will grow. But it seems clear that the Trump vs. them saga will dominate the coming months, and maybe years.

There’s no hard evidence yet that Trump America has shrunk significantly, despite the lies about the election and mob assault on the U.S. Capitol. 

    • There is hard evidence Trumpers are flocking to social media groups and hard-right outlets like Newsmax to get and share news that reinforces their views. 
    • It’ll take a while to determine if voters share the anti-Trump views of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
    • Twitter’s decision to permanently suspend Trump forces this faction further underground. 

Blue America is ascendant in almost every area: 

    • It won control of the House, Senate and White House; dominates traditional media; owns, controls and lives on the dominant social platforms; and has the employee-level power at Big Tech companies to force corporate decisions. 

The bottom line: Now, more than ever, is the time to read and reflect: Our nation is rethinking politics, free speech, the definition of truth and the price of lies. This moment — and our decisions — will be studied by our kid’s grandkids.

 

Soul Searching, Together With Some Observations on Pelagius

This afternoon, the Washington Post embarks on a fruitless search for the soul of the Republican Party. See ‘War for the soul’: Capitol riot elevates GOP power struggle between pro-Trump conspiracy theorists and party establishment.

You already know the gist of what’s in the article, but it contains many amusing anecdotes. I recommend laying in a supply of beer and popcorn before sitting down to read it.

You will, in any event, not come across the Republican Party’s soul, because the Republican Party does not have a soul to be discovered. The Republican Party of recent memory is a business enterprise. Now, as the article cited above makes plain, the business model is no longer viable.

What happens when your business model is no longer viable? This, dear readers, is not a hard question to answer. The answer is that you either find a new business model, or you go out of business.

In the case of the Republican Party’s plutocratic wing, going out of business is not an option. So they will find a new business model. They will so this as surely as God made little green apples. As surely as Augustine of Hippo and Josh Hawley have condemned Pelagius for heresy.

On that note, Katherine Stewart lets us in on The Roots of Josh Hawley’s Rage: Why do do many Republicans appear to be at war with both truth and democracy?

That would be because they’re fighting Pelagius, depicted above—and long to establish a theocracy.

The United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers do not want to establish a theocracy. Bad for business, doncha know? So, no more rubles for Josh Hawley.

If establishing a theocracy in the United States were (1) feasible and (2) in the economic interest of the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, then they would be about establishing a theocracy in a New York minute. Yea, in a nanosecond.

But it’s not.

So they won’t.

How to Think about the Trumpateriat

Frank Rich, The Trashing of the Republic: The only response to the carnage in Washington is to banish Trump and his traitorous collaborators from civil society.

Frank Rich is deeply offended by the Trumpateriat, and, most definitely, will not be inviting any of them to his next backyard barbeque. Well, me neither.

But addressing the problem of the 74 million Trump voters among us is a political concern of the first water. It demands that we get the analysis right, not just that we take a proper moral and emotional stance. In other words, we have to think with our heads as well as our hearts.

Here’s the thing. I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, deep in the Heart of Dixie. Lord only knows, and I surely know, there’s nothing new about virulent racism. The question in my mind is: why is virulent racism on the rise, and turning into full-throated fascism?

Well, if I knew for sure, I would be happy to tell you. But here’s a pretty good working hypothesis.

There are two kinds of people in. our country. Those of us with a goodish amount of money in the stock market are doing just fine. Those of us with no money in the stock market, trying to make ends meet on low wages, living paycheck to paycheck, are in a world of hurt.

And we know that a sense of being cheated–a sense of undeserved inequality– is one of the most powerful drivers of human behavior.

With that thought in mind, I think Richard North Patterson’s piece, The Political Context of the Assault on the Capitol: Bonfires of grievance and dispossession in a country riven by alternate realities, pretty much hits the nail on the head. Patterson writes, in part,

The paralysis reflects a deeper social pathology with multiple tributaries—the toxins of racial and cultural estrangement; the disintegration of communal bonds; the proliferation of mind-numbing misinformation; the accelerating gaps in wealth and opportunity; the increasingly ossified class system—which, in turn, erode faith in democracy as a means of resolving our problems. Running through this is the crabbed doctrine of shareholder capitalism which reduces human beings to disposable units of production divorced from the conditions that give life dignity: health, safety, security, opportunity.

This largely accounts for the oft-remarked “deaths of despair” among those left behind. Fearing that our widening economic inequities will breed resentment, an oligarchy of the outnumbered wealthy bankroll political parties and politicians to protect their interests and augment their power—notably Trump, who diverted the marginalized and insecure by trafficking in racism, xenophobia, and phony populism while passing tax cuts for the rich.

As we glide toward plutocracy, ever more couples struggle to sustain their families on two insufficient incomes. Increasingly, overstressed Americans are divorced from communal associations—clubs, unions, recreational sports, mainstream places of worship. Instead our fragmented society offers gated communities of the mind: the nostrums of white nationalism or religious fundamentalism rooted in hostility to the “other”; online conspiracy theories offering fantastical but simple explanations for an increasingly abstract and menacing world; broadcasters profiting by promoting discontent and loathing—Fox News, Newsmax, OAN, talk radio.

As economic power concentrates and executive power swells, the workings of globalism and government become yet more incomprehensible to ordinary citizens. This sense of disempowerment and estrangement further abets the arsonists of truth who traffic in rage and paranoia to mesmerize the credulous. …

It therefore falls to Joe Biden to revive a politics of the common good. Defeating the pandemic and reviving our economy are but the prerequisites restoring a shared sense of opportunity, equity, comity, and confidence in democratic governance as a force for bettering the lives of all.

Then, perhaps, we can begin to restore a shared sense of citizenship wherein more Americans feel welcome to re-engage in the social and political enterprise of improving their communities and their country. One can but hope for a national service program which allows Americans to know each other again, and a renewed civics education which reintroduces our democratic institutions to a citizenry which, all too often, misapprehends them.

Harder yet is to reform those institutions. But we must try. The Electoral College promotes minority rule and electoral chicanery; gerrymandering breeds extremism; our campaign finance system engenders oligarchy.