BUT HE DOES ADMIT TO A FONDNESS FOR WEARING HORNS
Nope, definitely not Antifa
And the feds have got him.
Just as well. Not the kind of fella you want to see at your $10,000 a plate country club fundraiser, don’tch know.
Nope, definitely not Antifa
And the feds have got him.
Just as well. Not the kind of fella you want to see at your $10,000 a plate country club fundraiser, don’tch know.
Two hours ago, Timothy Snyder, the Levin Professor of History at Yale University, published an essay entitled The American Abyss. Prof. Snyder wrote,
When Donald Trump stood before his followers on Jan. 6 and urged them to march on the United States Capitol, he was doing what he had always done. He never took electoral democracy seriously nor accepted the legitimacy of its American version.
Even when he won, in 2016, he insisted that the election was fraudulent — that millions of false votes were cast for his opponent. In 2020, in the knowledge that he was trailing Joseph R. Biden in the polls, he spent months claiming that the presidential election would be rigged and signaling that he would not accept the results if they did not favor him. He wrongly claimed on Election Day that he had won and then steadily hardened his rhetoric: With time, his victory became a historic landslide and the various conspiracies that denied it ever more sophisticated and implausible.
People believed him, which is not at all surprising. It takes a tremendous amount of work to educate citizens to resist the powerful pull of believing what they already believe, or what others around them believe, or what would make sense of their own previous choices. Plato noted a particular risk for tyrants: that they would be surrounded in the end by yes-men and enablers. Aristotle worried that, in a democracy, a wealthy and talented demagogue could all too easily master the minds of the populace. Aware of these risks and others, the framers of the Constitution instituted a system of checks and balances. The point was not simply to ensure that no one branch of government dominated the others but also to anchor in institutions different points of view.
In this sense, the responsibility for Trump’s push to overturn an election must be shared by a very large number of Republican members of Congress. Rather than contradict Trump from the beginning, they allowed his electoral fiction to flourish. They had different reasons for doing so. One group of Republicans is concerned above all with gaming the system to maintain power, taking full advantage of constitutional obscurities, gerrymandering and dark money to win elections with a minority of motivated voters. They have no interest in the collapse of the peculiar form of representation that allows their minority party disproportionate control of government. The most important among them, Mitch McConnell, indulged Trump’s lie while making no comment on its consequences.
Yet other Republicans saw the situation differently: They might actually break the system and have power without democracy. The split between these two groups, the gamers and the breakers, became sharply visible on Dec. 30, when Senator Josh Hawley announced that he would support Trump’s challenge by questioning the validity of the electoral votes on Jan. 6. Ted Cruz then promised his own support,joined by about 10 other senators. More than a hundred Republican representatives took the same position. For many, this seemed like nothing more than a show: challenges to states’ electoral votes would force delays and floor votes but would not affect the outcome.
Yet for Congress to traduce its basic functions had a price. An elected institution that opposes elections is inviting its own overthrow. Members of Congress who sustained the president’s lie, despite the available and unambiguous evidence, betrayed their constitutional mission. Making his fictions the basis of congressional action gave them flesh. Now Trump could demand that senators and congressmen bow to his will. He could place personal responsibility upon Mike Pence, in charge of the formal proceedings, to pervert them. And on Jan. 6, he directed his followers to exert pressure on these elected representatives, which they proceeded to do: storming the Capitol building, searching for people to punish, ransacking the place.
Of course this did make a kind of sense: If the election really had been stolen, as senators and congressmen were themselves suggesting, then how could Congress be allowed to move forward? For some Republicans, the invasion of the Capitol must have been a shock, or even a lesson. For the breakers, however, it may have been a taste of the future. Afterward, eight senators and more than 100 representatives voted for the lie that had forced them to flee their chambers.
Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around, and the era of Trump — like the era of Vladimir Putin in Russia — is one of the decline of local news. Social media is no substitute: It supercharges the mental habits by which we seek emotional stimulation and comfort, which means losing the distinction between what feels true and what actually is true.
Post-truth wears away the rule of law and invites a regime of myth. These last four years, scholars have discussed the legitimacy and value of invoking fascism in reference to Trumpian propaganda. One comfortable position has been to label any such effort as a direct comparison and then to treat such comparisons as taboo. More productively, the philosopher Jason Stanley has treated fascism as a phenomenon, as a series of patterns that can be observed not only in interwar Europe but beyond it.
My own view is that greater knowledge of the past, fascist or otherwise, allows us to notice and conceptualize elements of the present that we might otherwise disregard and to think more broadly about future possibilities. It was clear to me in October that Trump’s behavior presaged a coup, and I said so in print; this is not because the present repeats the past, but because the past enlightens the present.
Like historical fascist leaders, Trump has presented himself as the single source of truth. His use of the term “fake news” echoed the Nazi smear Lügenpresse (“lying press”); like the Nazis, he referred to reporters as “enemies of the people.” Like Adolf Hitler, he came to power at a moment when the conventional press had taken a beating; the financial crisis of 2008 did to American newspapers what the Great Depression did to German ones. The Nazis thought that they could use radio to replace the old pluralism of the newspaper; Trump tried to do the same with Twitter.
Thanks to technological capacity and personal talent, Donald Trump lied at a pace perhaps unmatched by any other leader in history. For the most part these were small lies, and their main effect was cumulative. To believe in all of them was to accept the authority of a single man, because to believe in all of them was to disbelieve everything else. Once such personal authority was established, the president could treat everyone else as the liars; he even had the power to turn someone from a trusted adviser into a dishonest scoundrel with a single tweet. Yet so long as he was unable to enforce some truly big lie, some fantasy that created an alternative reality where people could live and die, his pre-fascism fell short of the thing itself.
Some of his lies were, admittedly, medium-size: that he was a successful businessman; that Russia did not support him in 2016; that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Such medium-size lies were the standard fare of aspiring authoritarians in the 21st century. In Poland the right-wing party built a martyrdom cult around assigning blame to political rivals for an airplane crash that killed the nation’s president. Hungary’s Viktor Orban blames a vanishingly small number of Muslim refugees for his country’s problems. But such claims were not quite big lies; they stretched but did not rend what Hannah Arendt called “the fabric of factuality.”
One historical big lie discussed by Arendt is Joseph Stalin’s explanation of starvation in Soviet Ukraine in 1932-33. The state had collectivized agriculture, then applied a series of punitive measures to Ukraine that ensured millions would die. Yet the official line was that the starving were provocateurs, agents of Western powers who hated socialism so much they were killing themselves. A still grander fiction, in Arendt’s account, is Hitlerian anti-Semitism: the claims that Jews ran the world, Jews were responsible for ideas that poisoned German minds, Jews stabbed Germany in the back during the First World War. Intriguingly, Arendt thought big lies work only in lonely minds; their coherence substitutes for experience and companionship.
In November 2020, reaching millions of lonely minds through social media, Trump told a lie that was dangerously ambitious: that he had won an election that in fact he had lost. This lie was big in every pertinent respect: not as big as “Jews run the world,” but big enough. The significance of the matter at hand was great: the right to rule the most powerful country in the world and the efficacy and trustworthiness of its succession procedures. The level of mendacity was profound. The claim was not only wrong, but it was also made in bad faith, amid unreliable sources. It challenged not just evidence but logic: Just how could (and why would) an election have been rigged against a Republican president but not against Republican senators and representatives? Trump had to speak, absurdly, of a “Rigged (for President) Election.”
The force of a big lie resides in its demand that many other things must be believed or disbelieved. To make sense of a world in which the 2020 presidential election was stolen requires distrust not only of reporters and of experts but also of local, state and federal government institutions, from poll workers to elected officials, Homeland Security and all the way to the Supreme Court. It brings with it, of necessity, a conspiracy theory: Imagine all the people who must have been in on such a plot and all the people who would have had to work on the cover-up.
Trump’s electoral fiction floats free of verifiable reality. It is defended not so much by facts as by claims that someone else has made some claims. The sensibility is that something must be wrong because I feel it to be wrong, and I know others feel the same way. When political leaders such as Ted Cruz or Jim Jordan spoke like this, what they meant was: You believe my lies, which compels me to repeat them. Social media provides an infinity of apparent evidence for any conviction, especially one seemingly held by a president.
On the surface, a conspiracy theory makes its victim look strong: It sees Trump as resisting the Democrats, the Republicans, the Deep State, the pedophiles, the Satanists. More profoundly, however, it inverts the position of the strong and the weak. Trump’s focus on alleged “irregularities” and “contested states” comes down to cities where Black people live and vote. At bottom, the fantasy of fraud is that of a crime committed by Black people against white people.
It’s not just that electoral fraud by African-Americans against Donald Trump never happened. It is that it is the very opposite of what happened, in 2020 and in every American election. As always, Black people waited longer than others to vote and were more likely to have their votes challenged. They were more likely to be suffering or dying from Covid-19, and less likely to be able to take time away from work. The historical protection of their right to vote has been removed by the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, and states have rushed to pass measures of a kind that historically reduce voting by the poor and communities of color.
The claim that Trump was denied a win by fraud is a big lie not just because it mauls logic, misdescribes the present and demands belief in a conspiracy. It is a big lie, fundamentally, because it reverses the moral field of American politics and the basic structure of American history.
When Senator Ted Cruz announced his intention to challenge the Electoral College vote, he invoked the Compromise of 1877, which resolved the presidential election of 1876. Commentators pointed out that this was no relevant precedent, since back then there really were serious voter irregularities and there really was a stalemate in Congress. For African-Americans, however, the seemingly gratuitous reference led somewhere else. The Compromise of 1877 — in which Rutherford B. Hayes would have the presidency, provided that he withdrew federal power from the South — was the very arrangement whereby African-Americans were driven from voting booths for the better part of a century. It was effectively the end of Reconstruction, the beginning of segregation, legal discrimination and Jim Crow. It is the original sin of American history in the post-slavery era, our closest brush with fascism so far.
If the reference seemed distant when Ted Cruz and 10 senatorial colleagues released their statement on Jan. 2, it was brought very close four days later, when Confederate flags were paraded through the Capitol.
Some things have changed since 1877, of course. Back then, it was the Republicans, or many of them, who supported racial equality; it was the Democrats, the party of the South, who wanted apartheid. It was the Democrats, back then, who called African-Americans’ votes fraudulent, and the Republicans who wanted them counted. This is now reversed. In the past half century, since the Civil Rights Act, Republicans have become a predominantly white party interested — as Trump openly declared — in keeping the number of voters, and particularly the number of Black voters, as low as possible. Yet the common thread remains. Watching white supremacists among the people storming the Capitol, it was easy to yield to the feeling that something pure had been violated. It might be better to see the episode as part of a long American argument about who deserves representation.
The Democrats, today, have become a coalition, one that does better than Republicans with female and nonwhite voters and collects votes from both labor unions and the college-educated. Yet it’s not quite right to contrast this coalition with a monolithic Republican Party. Right now, the Republican Party is a coalition of two types of people: those who would game the system (most of the politicians, some of the voters) and those who dream of breaking it (a few of the politicians, many of the voters). In January 2021, this was visible as the difference between those Republicans who defended the present system on the grounds that it favored them and those who tried to upend it.
In the four decades since the election of Ronald Reagan, Republicans have overcome the tension between the gamers and the breakers by governing in opposition to government, or by calling elections a revolution (the Tea Party), or by claiming to oppose elites. The breakers, in this arrangement, provide cover for the gamers, putting forth an ideology that distracts from the basic reality that government under Republicans is not made smaller but simply diverted to serve a handful of interests.
At first, Trump seemed like a threat to this balance. His lack of experience in politics and his open racism made him a very uncomfortable figure for the party; his habit of continually telling lies was initially found by prominent Republicans to be uncouth. Yet after he won the presidency, his particular skills as a breaker seemed to create a tremendous opportunity for the gamers. Led by the gamer in chief, McConnell, they secured hundreds of federal judges and tax cuts for the rich.
Trump was unlike other breakers in that he seemed to have no ideology. His objection to institutions was that they might constrain him personally. He intended to break the system to serve himself — and this is partly why he has failed. Trump is a charismatic politician and inspires devotion not only among voters but among a surprising number of lawmakers, but he has no vision that is greater than himself or what his admirers project upon him. In this respect his pre-fascism fell short of fascism: His vision never went further than a mirror. He arrived at a truly big lie not from any view of the world but from the reality that he might lose something.
Yet Trump never prepared a decisive blow. He lacked the support of the military, some of whose leaders he had alienated. (No true fascist would have made the mistake he did there, which was to openly love foreign dictators; supporters convinced that the enemy was at home might not mind, but those sworn to protect from enemies abroad did.) Trump’s secret police force, the men carrying out snatch operations in Portland,was violent but also small and ludicrous. Social media proved to be a blunt weapon: Trump could announce his intentions on Twitter, and white supremacists could plan their invasion of the Capitol on Facebook or Gab. But the president, for all his lawsuits and entreaties and threats to public officials, could not engineer a situation that ended with the right people doing the wrong thing. Trump could make some voters believe that he had won the 2020 election, but he was unable to bring institutions along with his big lie. And he could bring his supporters to Washington and send them on a rampage in the Capitol, but none appeared to have any very clear idea of how this was to work or what their presence would accomplish. It is hard to think of a comparable insurrectionary moment, when a building of great significance was seized, that involved so much milling around.
The lie outlasts the liar. The idea that Germany lost the First World War in 1918 because of a Jewish “stab in the back” was 15 years old when Hitler came to power. How will Trump’s myth of victimhood function in American life 15 years from now? And to whose benefit?
On Jan. 7, Trump called for a peaceful transition of power, implicitly conceding that his putsch had failed. Even then, though, he repeated and even amplified his electoral fiction: It was now a sacred cause for which people had sacrificed. Trump’s imagined stab in the back will live on chiefly thanks to its endorsement by members of Congress. In November and December 2020, Republicans repeated it, giving it a life it would not otherwise have had. In retrospect, it now seems as though the last shaky compromise between the gamers and the breakers was the idea that Trump should have every chance to prove that wrong had been done to him. That position implicitly endorsed the big lie for Trump supporters who were inclined to believe it. It failed to restrain Trump, whose big lie only grew bigger.
The breakers and the gamers then saw a different world ahead, where the big lie was either a treasure to be had or a danger to be avoided. The breakers had no choice but to rush to be first to claim to believe in it. Because the breakers Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz must compete to claim the brimstone and bile, the gamers were forced to reveal their own hand, and the division within the Republican coalition became visible on Jan. 6. The invasion of the Capitol only reinforced this division. To be sure, a few senators withdrew their objections, but Cruz and Hawley moved forward anyway, along with six other senators. More than 100 representatives doubled down on the big lie. Some, like Matt Gaetz, even added their own flourishes, such as the claim that the mob was led not by Trump’s supporters but by his opponents.
Trump is, for now, the martyr in chief, the high priest of the big lie. He is the leader of the breakers, at least in the minds of his supporters. By now, the gamers do not want Trump around. Discredited in his last weeks, he is useless; shorn of the obligations of the presidency, he will become embarrassing again, much as he was in 2015. Unable to provide cover for their gamesmanship, he will be irrelevant to their daily purposes. But the breakers have an even stronger reason to see Trump disappear: It is impossible to inherit from someone who is still around. Seizing Trump’s big lie might appear to be a gesture of support. In fact it expresses a wish for his political death. Transforming the myth from one about Trump to one about the nation will be easier when he is out of the way.
As Cruz and Hawley may learn, to tell the big lie is to be owned by it. Just because you have sold your soul does not mean that you have driven a hard bargain. Hawley shies from no level of hypocrisy; the son of a banker, educated at Stanford University and Yale Law School, he denounces elites. Insofar as Cruz was thought to have a principle, it was that of states’ rights, which Trump’s calls to action brazenly violated. A joint statement Cruz issued about the senators’ challenge to the vote nicely captured the post-truth aspect of the whole: It never alleged that there was fraud, only that there were allegations of fraud. Allegations of allegations, allegations all the way down.
The big lie requires commitment. When Republican gamers do not exhibit enough of that, Republican breakers call them “RINOs”: Republicans in name only. This term once suggested a lack of ideological commitment. It now means an unwillingness to throw away an election. The gamers, in response, close ranks around the Constitution and speak of principles and traditions. The breakers must all know (with the possible exception of the Alabama senator Tommy Tuberville) that they are participating in a sham, but they will have an audience of tens of millions who do not.
If Trump remains present in American political life, he will surely repeat his big lie incessantly. Hawley and Cruz and the other breakers share responsibility for where this leads. Cruz and Hawley seem to be running for president. Yet what does it mean to be a candidate for office and denounce voting? If you claim that the other side has cheated, and your supporters believe you, they will expect you to cheat yourself. By defending Trump’s big lie on Jan. 6, they set a precedent: A Republican presidential candidate who loses an election should be appointed anyway by Congress. Republicans in the future, at least breaker candidates for president, will presumably have a Plan A, to win and win, and a Plan B, to lose and win. No fraud is necessary; only allegations that there are allegations of fraud. Truth is to be replaced by spectacle, facts by faith.
Trump’s coup attempt of 2020-21, like other failed coup attempts, is a warning for those who care about the rule of law and a lesson for those who do not. His pre-fascism revealed a possibility for American politics. For a coup to work in 2024, the breakers will require something that Trump never quite had: an angry minority, organized for nationwide violence, ready to add intimidation to an election. Four years of amplifying a big lie just might get them this. To claim that the other side stole an election is to promise to steal one yourself. It is also to claim that the other side deserves to be punished.
Informed observers inside and outside government agree that right-wing white supremacism is the greatest terrorist threat to the United States. Gun sales in 2020 hit an astonishing high. History shows that political violence follows when prominent leaders of major political parties openly embrace paranoia.
Our big lie is typically American, wrapped in our odd electoral system, depending upon our particular traditions of racism. Yet our big lie is also structurally fascist, with its extreme mendacity, its conspiratorial thinking, its reversal of perpetrators and victims and its implication that the world is divided into us and them. To keep it going for four years courts terrorism and assassination.
When that violence comes, the breakers will have to react. If they embrace it, they become the fascist faction. The Republican Party will be divided, at least for a time. One can of course imagine a dismal reunification: A breaker candidate loses a narrow presidential election in November 2024 and cries fraud, the Republicans win both houses of Congress and rioters in the street, educated by four years of the big lie, demand what they see as justice. Would the gamers stand on principle if those were the circumstances of Jan. 6, 2025?
To be sure, this moment is also a chance. It is possible that a divided Republican Party might better serve American democracy; that the gamers, separated from the breakers, might start to think of policy as a way to win elections. It is very likely that the Biden-Harris administration will have an easier first few months than expected; perhaps obstructionism will give way, at least among a few Republicans and for a short time, to a moment of self-questioning. Politicians who want Trumpism to end have a simple way forward: Tell the truth about the election.
America will not survive the big lie just because a liar is separated from power. It will need a thoughtful repluralization of media and a commitment to facts as a public good. The racism structured into every aspect of the coup attempt is a call to heed our own history. Serious attention to the past helps us to see risks but also suggests future possibility. We cannot be a democratic republic if we tell lies about race, big or small. Democracy is not about minimizing the vote nor ignoring it, neither a matter of gaming nor of breaking a system, but of accepting the equality of others, heeding their voices and counting their votes.
Last evening, I wrote about the breakup of the three-legged stool that is the Republican Party. If you take issue with the point I made, or think I am exaggerating, check out N.Y. Times, Trump’s Legacy: Voters Who Reject Democracy and Any Politics but Their Own: The mob attack on the Capitol, and interviews with Trump voters this week, show that the president’s subversion of democratic values will have enduring influence within the Republican Party.
Please read the Times article together with this very lengthy thumbsucker from the Washington Post: Companies backed Trump for years. Now they’re facing a reckoning after the attack on the CapitolL ‘It was a classic Faustian bargain,’ one critic says. ‘They should have known from the beginning.’
Not every Republican voter has taken leave of her senses.
Not every plutocratic businessman has had it up to his eyeballs with Trumpism.
But most of them have.
In both factions.
Reflect on the actions of Twitter and Facebook in banning Trump.
The picture from 30,000 feet is that the right-of-center establishment woke up, smelled the coffee, and decided that, for their own self-preservation, this is the time to come down on Trumpism with hobnailed boots.
The Trump cultists will scream censorship, repression, and oppression.
That’s pretty much the size of it.
They left no choice.
In 2010 Senator Lisa Murkowski suffered defeat in the Republican primary. She mounted a write-in campaign, and thus won reelection as a senator from Alaska. Now, incensed by the Orange God-Emperor, she is threatening to join the Democrats.
Hold that thought.
Tonight, on the PBS Evening News, we learned that Jonathan Capehart will be replacing the retiring Mark Shields as David Brooks’ foil. In their first disagreement, Brooks took issue with Capehart’s prediction that the Republican Party will not be viable, going forward. Brooks’ specific point was that there are lots of rightists and center-rightists left. Witness Trump’s 74 million votes in 2020.
There are lots and lots of those folks, and there are a damn sight more of them than we thought there were in October.
But here’s the point that Capehart should have made. The current Republican Party is a stool with three legs. Leg One are the Trump cultists. Leg Two are the country club folks. Leg Three are the plutocrats who finance the thing.
If the first part can no longer cooperate with the second and third parts, then what used to be a three-legged stool now has only two legs. And the cultists now have a stool with only one leg.
Each of those stools is unstable. If you sit on the one-legged stool or on the two-legged stool, you will fall off.
There are some politicians who will now refuse to lead a mob of Trump cultists. There are some politicians who may try to keep on marching at the front of the peasants with the pitchforks, but who will no longer be accepted as leaders by the raving mob. The mob will primary them.
For a lot of the politicians, the logical option is to declare themselves Independents. For still others, the most attractive option is to join the Democrats.
The Democrats will shortly control the Senate. They may be prepared to offer some choice committee assignments to folks who see the light.
And this, dear ladies and germs, is why the Republican Party “as we know it” is at risk of extinction.
This blog is subtitled “living in an implausible, poorly written dystopian novel.”
On January 6, we reached the apogee of the dystopian, as the deluded mob ran through the Capitol.
And then, as January 6 turned into January 7, the world turned into a place that is no longer dystopian but still not rational.
A strange place. A liminal place. A place full of anomalies and contradictions. A place that has not sorted itself out.
Because we are, as of this week, no longer living in a dystopian novel, my blog will soon come to an end. But in the meantime, let us take note of three contradictions, three anomalies, three rents in the fabric of space-time.
Today, my European correspondent has been looking for American fascists. I told him his task was like unto one who goes shooting fish in a barrel.
Around 74 million people voted for Trump in November. Polling is said to show that almost half of them support the January 6 insurrection. Let’s make that about 30 million people. Nice round number.
OK, then, how many showed up for the January 6 Trump rally? No one can say for sure. Probably, about 10,000, though it could have been higher.
And how many actually got into the Capitol? No one has said, or at least no one, to my knowledge. Let’s say a couple of thousand.
Today, the Democrats are pushing for impeachment.
Why aren’t there ten million MAGA folk in Washington, D.C. this afternoon, screaming bloody murder?
To paraphrase Joan Baez: Where Have All the Brownshirts Gone?
Much has been made, and rightly so, of the polls showing widespread approval of the insurrection.
Much has been made, and will be made, of polls showing that “the Republican base still loves Trump.”
But the monied Establishment has realized that Trumpism has no future, and they are no longer going to subsidize politicians who appeal to the dumbest and most irrational part of the base.
And then there is Georgia: Trumpism no longer wins elections in close states.
And then there is the matter of the sedition.
And so, whatever they might want to do, and whatever they might be tempted to do, the mass of the Republican Political Establishment has no choice but to ditch Trump. Otherwise, no money from the National Association of Manufacturers. Otherwise, no more winning contested elections. Otherwise, no more dodging the treason bullet.
Congressmen and congresswomen representing 138 of the poorest and most backward of the 435 congressional districts voted to overturn the election. Something calling itself the Republican Party will still be a viable force in those 138 districts, and in a handful of states like Alabama and Arkansas.
Elsewhere, the current Republican Establishment will be between a rock and a hard place. Some may cross the aisle and declare themselves Democrats.
Others will try to retain political viability and relevance by calling themselves Independents.
Yet others may decide that public service is no longer their calling.
And now, brethren and sistern, let us all rise and join together in song:
This from old friend Vasari, who says it comes from Finland:
The Washington D.C. district attorney is by way of prosecuting the rioters and all those who egged them on, including Dear Leader. There is much talk of the 25th Amendment. There is much talk of impeachment. All big news, and rightly so.
But, amidst all this talk, let’s not lose sight of another signal feature of the situation. The rioters thought that Dear Leader had finally commanded them to undertake a violent insurrection. They thought he would have their back. They did not expect him to fold like a cheap suit.
Dear Leader does not have many friends left. By now, pretty much everyone hates his guts. The country club set are washing their lily white hands and scrubbing the shit off their shoes. The racist bullyboys are listening to the Neo-Nazi recruiters; see infra. And the prosecutors are coming for him.
There are many reasons to head to the liquor cabinet of an evening. There are many reasons to lie awake at night. I don’t think worrying about Trump in 2024 is one of them.
This evening, the Washington Post expatiates on the current thinking among the ragtag bullyboys:
Men wearing camouflage shirts began building a makeshift defensive camp outside the Capitol Wednesday afternoon. They moved barricades and green fencing into a circle, then pulled helmets from a crate and donned goggles in preparation for a clash that had been brewing for weeks and, arguably, for years on far-right forums devoted to President Trump.
“TheDonald.win, that’s where it’s at,” said one of the men, referring to the website where defiant talk, conspiracy theories and tips on how best to lay siege to Washington have grown since Trump lost the Nov. 3 election.
Trump supporters overtook Capitol Police officers to enter the building as lawmakers attempted to count the electoral college votes on Jan. 6. (The Washington Post)
The comment underscored the potent, interactive role between the online and offline worlds in Wednesday’s takeover of the Capitol. Violent talk on far-right forumsfomented violent real-world action, which was then captured by smartphones, uploaded and celebrated on the same forums. The boundaries between the digital and analog all but disappeared as rage, provocation and gloating bounced back and forth, again and again.
TheDonald, as the camouflaged men at the Capitol suggested, offered a particularly vivid view of this combustible dynamic. The forum, banned last year from Reddit for hate speech and violent talk and now turned into a website, had been one of many online staging grounds for Wednesday’s riot, and the success of the takeover of the Capitol spurred celebration and calls for further action, including the execution of leading Democrats. For days before, the forum had featured advice on how best to sneak guns into Washington, despite its strict weapons laws.
By Thursday morning, though, different moods had set in on this and other pro-Trump forums. Anger and gloating were still there, but so was unease at the furious public and political backlash against the events of the day before, which led to dozens of arrests and left one person fatally shot by police and three people dead after medical emergencies. Some posters worried their favorite forums, including TheDonald, would get knocked offline by chastened Internet service providers. There also was a pitched effort to redirect blame against left-wing activists, such as antifa, for somehow dressing up as marauding Trump supporters — a claim that was obviously ridiculous to anyone who watched the events unfold on their televisions, computers or smartphones.
On TheDonald, as users argued that the removal of some violent comments suggested the site’s leaders had been “compromised,” one moderator wrote, “What do you want? Us to try to lead a [expletive] revolution … from a forum on the internet, which ends up getting the site shut down in a matter of days and all of us sent to the gulag?”
Many things born on the darkest corners of the Internet found their way to the heart of American democracy on Wednesday. Ludicrous claims among adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory — including that leading Democrats are satanic pedophiles — got shouted by the mobs taking over the Capitol. The emerging garb of the far-right — camouflage, goggles, American flags draped as shawls — leaped directly from the far-right memeworld into the nation’s capital.
Years of social media comments about “lynching” political leaders opposed to Trump, meanwhile, manifested themselves as an actual noose, hanging from a makeshift gallows on the Mall. Someone wrote “BIDEN,” in reference to President-elect Joe Biden, on the wooden structure, with an arrow pointing toward the noose.
It was not clear if TheDonald or any similar pro-Trump forum directly coordinated the takeover of the Capitol, or if posters simply shared general advice, promotion and celebration of the idea of thronging Washington in support of the president. Much of that was included in a popular thread called, “PATRIOTS STORM THE CAPITOL | WATCH PARTY.”
The resulting mayhem appeared to proceed without obvious leaders, a common feature of political action developed and coordinated online, said Rita Katz, executive director of SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks political extremism.
“It’s a new age of terrorism that can’t exist without the Internet,” Katz said. “Having said that, the movement has a spiritual leader, which is Trump.”
Advance Democracy, a group headed by former FBI analyst and Senate investigator Daniel J. Jones, who led the review of the CIA’s torture program, also was tracking pro-Trump forums as they built toward Wednesday’s assault.
“In the lead-up to yesterday’s violence, the Capitol rioters needed a place to plan for how the violence would unfold. They found this on unmoderated pro-Trump forums such as TheDonald.win,” Jones said. “There, they posted their plans to take matters into their own hands and literally threatened to kill lawmakers. They encouraged each other to bring illegal weapons. When this came to fruition, the real-life actions provided fodder for those on the forum.”
In the aftermath, pro-Trump forums wavered between glee, deflection and recrimination, shunting blame for the chaos onto a mass of scapegoats. They blamed Vice President Pence, for not subverting the reality of Trump’s loss, and old foes like Democrats, the media and the “deep state,” They also blamed the Capitol Police and other members of law enforcement.
Some pro-Trump posters conjured new conspiracy theories to explain away the damage: “Does anyone else feel like this was all a complete setup?” conservative commentator Evan Kilgore tweeted late Wednesday, in a message that was ‘liked’ more than 114,000 times.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter worked belatedly to tamp down some of the fervor. Facebook indefinitely suspended Trump‘s accounts Thursday, while Twitter blocked him from tweeting for 12 hours. A number of less-moderated alternatives offered refuge for Trump supporters eager to egg the chaos on.
The pro-Trump attorney L. Lin Wood, whose Twitter account was suspended Wednesday after he baselessly accused Pence of being a “child molester,” leaped quickly to the alternative social network Parler, where he urged Trump-supporting “patriots” to keep fighting, saying, “Almighty God is with you. TODAY IS OUR DAY.”
“Get the firing squads ready. Pence goes FIRST.” Wood wrote in a Parler post that has been directed toward user feeds nearly 3 million times.
TheDonald, Wood and Parler did not respond to requests for comment.
Parler positions itself as the “free speech” alternative to Twitter and Facebook. And after the 2020 election, conservatives welcome that. (The Washington Post)
Seeing the chaos as a marketing opportunity, extreme right-wing groups used encrypted messaging services to coach their followers on recruitment strategies for winning newly disillusioned Trump supporters to their cause.
One self-identified neo-Nazi account wrote to more than 7,000 followers on Telegram, advising them that many people normally averse to a violent ideology could now be more vulnerable to radicalization.
“It will soon be the time to start individually reaching out to Rightwing types and spreading our ‘There is No Political Solution’ message,” the account said.
Another white supremacist “fraternity” discussed the possibility of a White-led uprising after Wednesday’s attempted insurrection. “Your mission is to invite [Trump supporters] into our spaces. Tell them there is a solution to their problem. Invite them to telegram. Seize the opportunity,” the administrator posted. “I’m sure a lot of them lost faith with [Trump] today,” one commenter responded.
On TheDonald, where users had proudly shared their travel itineraries for Wednesday’s demonstrations and planned meetups at hotels and restaurants near the White House, the triumphant mood quickly soured after Pence refused to intervene, with thousands of commenters labeling him a criminal traitor compromised by the “swamp.”
Even as they posted, their real-world compatriots tore through the Capitol building voicing the same anger. “Where’s Pence, show yourself!” one rioter said after barging onto the Senate floor.
When Trump tweeted a video asking protesters to return home, a barrage of posts ripped through the forum expressing a mix of disbelief and frustration.
“HE ASKED US TO COME. ‘JAn 6 WILL BE WILD,’ ” wrote the user “RiverFenix” in a post quoting Trump’s tweet from last month. “IM AM SO CONFUSED SOMEONE SHAKE ME AWAKE,” the account added.
While some posters expressed continued allegiance to the president, many others responded with cynicism. “Let’s move on to someone that will actually fight and isn’t afraid of scrutiny,” one user commented. “He led us to slaughter,” said another.
Still, a contingent of Trump supporters and believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory voiced the belief that the siege was all part of a plan to keep Trump in power — and that more tumult would come in the days ahead.
“Sleep well tonight patriots. … You are going to love how this movie ends,” wrote “StormIsUponUs,” a QAnon-espousing account with more than 450,000 followers on Parler. “’Nothing can stop what’s coming’ wasn’t just a catch-phrase.”
This from Mitzie–inspired, I assume, by the events of yesterday:
This morning, talking heads are talking about what to do with Trump in the remaining days before January 20. It’s a damn good question.
Others want to know how the law enforcement authorities let the insurrection happen. Also a good question.
“When will the whackos who took selfies in Nancy Pelosi’s office be arrested?” others ask. Well, I guess we’ll find out when we find out.
“And, will proper precautions now be put in place for the inauguration?” sages inquire. One hopes the answer is yes.
These are all important inquiries, but I do not attempt to add anything to the conversation on these concerns.
What I want to note is this: For four years, I have been looking forward to the day when a deep and unbridgeable chasm opens up among the ranks of our right-wing adversaries.
That day has arrived. Look at the data above.
I don’t trust the polls. I don’t know whether the figure is 20 percent or 17 percent or 22 percent or some other percent. But it’s clear that, for the hard core cultists, if you aren’t with them, you’re against them. While Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz were doing their insurrection pantomime kabuki show, the unhinged mob was breaking down the door.
So, if you are an elected Republican politician, you have to choose.
If half of your erstwhile base want to go and live on Planet Krypton, then they will just have to live on Planet Krypton.
And you will just have to make the best of the situation in which you find yourself. All while making sure that the police and the National Guard are standing by, ready to protect you.
No more kabuki performances. The audience has left the building.
Live chat here.
Just heard them say there are protestors on the Senate floor.
Back in November, 2,462,617 Georgians voted for Perdue. They represented 49.73 percent of the electorate. Meanwhile, 2,374,519, or 47.95 percent, exercised their franchise for Ossoff. One Shane Hazel, proudly carrying the banner of the Libertarian Party garnered, the remaining 2.32 percent..
One might have expected that, with Mr. or Ms. Hazel, as the case may be, out of the picture, the Libertarian vote would shift to the Republican side, and that Perdue would thus defeat Ossoff by about four percent.
One would have been wrong.
As of a few minutes ago, Ossoff is ahead, 50.19 percent to 49.81 percent. The remaining votes are expected to trend Democratic.
What was going on with all that water flowing under the bridge between November and now?
You may wish to check out this excruciating statistical analysis by Philip Bump.
Several factors played a big role. Black folks in the Black Belt turned out. A fair number of Trump’s voters believed his lies and drew the obvious conclusion: ne reason to vote in a rigged election. But I think we are going to find out that the final straw was this:
As Dr. Aardvark knows, my second choice would definitely be Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland. My ardor is only increased by this afternoon’s story: Trump’s plan is to spend Biden’s Inauguration Day playing golf in Scotland. First Minister Sturgeon’s plan is to tell Orange Man to take a very long walk off a very short pier.