Has America’s Fever Broken?

Veteran national security journalist Thomas Ricks explains “Why I’ve stopped fearing America is headed for civil war.” It is not an essay brimming with optimism. Indeed, he was downright pessimistic not long ago:

I wrote in a series of articles and online discussions for Foreign Policy that I expected to see widespread political violence accompanied by efforts in some states to undermine the authority and abilities of the federal government. At an annual lunch of national security experts in Austin, I posed the question of possible civil war and got a consensus of about a one-third chance of such a situation breaking.

Specifically, I worried that there would be a spate of assassination attempts against politicians and judges. I thought we might see courthouses and other federal buildings bombed. I also expected that in some states, right-wing organizations, heavily influenced by white nationalism, would hold conventions to discuss how to defy enforcement of federal laws they disliked, such as those dealing with voting rights. Some governors might vow to fire any state employee complying with unwanted federal orders. And I thought it likely that “nullification juries” would start cropping up, refusing to convict right-wingers committing mayhem, such as attacking election officials, no matter what evidence there was.

We still may see such catastrophes, of course. Our country remains deeply divided. We have a Supreme Court packed with reactionaries. Many right-wingers appear comfortable with threatening violence if things don’t go their way, and a large minority of the members of Congress seems unconcerned with such talk. I continue to worry especially about political assassinations, because all that takes is one deranged person and a gun — and our country unfortunately has many of both.

And yet, for all that, I am less pessimistic than I was back then.

That’s a low bar, indeed! Sure, we might still have mass murders and episodic assassinations—less than ideal, to be sure—but civil war?

Oddly enough, the main things that give me hope arise from former president Donald Trump’s attack on the electoral process, culminating in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. At the time I feared that the unprecedented insurrection was the beginning of a sustained war on American democracy.

Yet nothing much happened. Rather, with the executive branch crippled and the legislative branch divided, the judicial branch of the federal government held the line. Again and again, both federal and state courts rejected claims of election fraud. Now those who alleged fraud without substantial evidence are themselves being investigated. Hundreds of people who invaded the Capitol, attacked police and threatened lawmakers were tracked down and charged with crimes. It was as if the American system had been subjected to a stress test and, albeit a bit wobbly, passed.

Moreover, the Capitol invaders turned out to lack the courage of their convictions. Having broken the law, they shied away from the consequences. Unlike the civil rights activists of the 1960s, they did not proudly march into jails, certain of the rightness of their cause, eager to use the moment to explain what they had done and why. They lacked the essentials that gave the civil rights movement and others sustainability: training, discipline and a strategy for the long term.

The first part of this—that the system survived the stress test of a President trying to steal an election and, indeed, was foiled partly by election officials from his own party putting their duty to the Constitution over to him or their party—is indeed cause for optimism. The second part is less hopeful. It’s like not being worried about crime because the overwhelming number of criminals are rather inept.

More recently, the House select committee examining how Jan. 6 came to pass has established a factual record that cannot be denied. While unfortunately not truly bipartisan, it also shows part of the legislative branch of the federal government finally awakening and responding to the attack that branch suffered. The Justice Department’s slow but steady pursuit of Jan. 6 perpetrators “at any level” targets those who thought they could speak or act without repercussions. And the American people are paying attention. A recent NBC News poll found that “threats to democracy” topped the list of pressing issues facing the nation.

Again, I agree that the Committee—about which I was decidedly skeptical—has done surprisingly yeoman work. But the vast number of those citing “threats to democracy” are Democrats. And some Republicans think Democrats stealing elections is the threat. That doesn’t make me all that hopeful.

Yes, we still have a long way to go. There are no signs of a national reconciliation in the offing. Some Trump followers no doubt will be elected to Congress and to state offices this fall, and control of both houses of Congress is uncertain.

But it is beginning to feel to me like the wave of hard right — not “conservative” — reaction has crested. As we saw in the recent vote in Kansas, the Supreme Court’s ruling against abortion has awakened many women, and some men, to the dangers of letting that court go wildly out of step with the American people.

I agree with all that. But the fact remains that the Court is stacked and likely to remain so for quite a while.

In addition, the events of the past few years, most notably the pandemic and some natural disasters, have reminded many Americans that there is a place for good and effective government, especially in providing the basic societal needs of public health, public safety, air and water quality, and roads and other forms of transportation. That revived appreciation is one more reason I think the danger of civil war is receding.

I’m not sure we’re been watching the same pandemic. There has been a massive reaction against the CDC, vaccines, masking, and all the rest. To be sure, it’s a minority position. But it’s a sizable, loud, sometimes violent minority.

So, while the patient is not yet healthy, I see some signs that the fever is breaking and the prognosis is improving.

Sadly, I’m less optimistic than I was two years ago. I thought there was a decent chance that Joe Biden’s sheer decency and decades-long relationships with so many Congressional Republicans could start a healing process that would return us to some semblance of normalcy. We turned out to be too far gone for that.

Now, as I’ve noted many times before, I agree with Ricks that we’re unlikely to have a Civil War in the sense of North vs South. Our divides are no longer anything like that neat. But I don’t think the fever is anywhere close to breaking, either.

FILED UNDER: Society, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tony W says:

    I think the Dark Biden trend has legs.

    When as decent a guy as Joe Biden calls out Republican antics as such, people listen. I think he won the election, at least in part, because of “c’mon man” during the debates. When Beto called out the heckler a couple of weeks back, he surged in the polls.

    Democrats are changing their approach, necessitated by the Republican’s willingness to burn down the entire country just to keep warm for a few hours – and it’s working.

    The next powerful Democratic leader will follow this more aggressive trend, and escalate it into a call for decency that humiliates those who, frankly, require humiliation for their viewpoints and actions.

  2. Cheryl Rofer says:

    Juliette Kayyam also has a Twitter thread saying that as people are sentenced for their actions on January 6, particularly now that the courts are moving up the chain to sentences of years, the Trump election denial movement becomes less attractive to many people. I’ve said this for a long time. We finally seem to be reaching the point where following Trump is no longer attractive.

    Trump is beginning to look like a desperate old man not in full possession of his senses. As usual, the major media outlets preferred to ignore it, but there’s a clip of him from Saturday making the rounds in which he claims that Mark Zuckerberg visited him last week in the White House to “kiss his ass.” His words, not mine.

    Biden’s speech of last Thursday will embolden Democratic politicians and others to speak the truth.

    So yes, I think we are turning a corner. But it’s not time to let up the pressure on Trump and his followers.

  3. Cheryl Rofer says:

    Steve Schmidt, Republican, is saying it too. I won’t reproduce the entire thread.

    1/ President Biden has offered a compromise to tens of millions of Republican voters who don’t want to abandon democracy. He has said let’s work together and destroy the MAGA movement. That is the compromise. It is necessary. It must be crushed to save America.

  4. Scott says:

    I don’t think we have turned the corner. I think that those who are undermining our country have just burrowed deeper working to capture the levers of government. At some point, they will have reached the tipping point of power and, poof!, people will look around and ask what happened. Who could’ve seen that coming?

    Always risky to use the Hitler analogy but violence didn’t put him in power. It was ultimately the collusion with the wealthy elite and the Lutheran establishment that allowed him to seize power.

    Don’t just focus on the surface ravings of the MAGA movement. Focus on the flow of money.

  5. Matt Bernius says:

    This report this morning from 538 is a big entry into the “not hopeful” column for me. It’s also a reminder of how a politically savvy minority can game our election system in dangerous ways:

    More Than 1 In 2 Americans Will Have An Election Denier On The Ballot This Fall

    There are a lot of election deniers on the ballot. Out of 529 total Republican nominees running for office, we found 195 who FULLY DENIED the legitimacy of the 2020 election. These candidates either clearly stated that the election was stolen from Trump or took legal action to overturn the results, such as voting not to certify election results or joining lawsuits that sought to overturn the election.

  6. MarkedMan says:

    I thought there was a decent chance that Joe Biden’s sheer decency and decades-long relationships with so many Congressional Republicans could start a healing process that would return us to some semblance of normalcy.

    I was never optimistic on that front. If it were a case where both sides had the same idea of what government should be, then we could get back to some amount of cooperation and mutual respect. But one side believes the purpose of government is to enforce both the rule of law and the fair and equal treatment of everyone under it, while the other side believes the purpose of government is to benefit the victors and crush the losers, that law is just a sham, and that anything is justified in seizing power and imposing your will. These are diametrically opposed views, and so there is no compromise position between them. Biden is taking the best possible tack: a two pronged effort, with the first being to drive a wedge between those engaged and committed Republicans who do believe in the rule of law (a frightening small, but important, number) and their delusional, angry and violent co-partisans, and the second to give the mushy middle, non-engaged Republicans a tough and vocal alternative to Trump and the pseudo-Trumps. To the extent that they are actually attracted to Trump, his perceived toughness is probably the most significant reason.

  7. CSK says:

    Chauncey DeVega doesn’t think the fever is abating anytime soon, either:


  8. Sleeping Dog says:

    We probably won’t know if we’re turning the corner till after the elections, if the election deniers/trumpists lose in large numbers, it will demonstrate a rejection of trumpism. Dems retaining and expanding their majority in the senate will be a huge tell, but district demographics likely will make retaining the house a bridge too far. A single digit, low two digit R majority in the next congress is a win for democracy. Watch the governors’ races and state legislative races. Dems over performing expectations is another win for democracy.

    We’ve not gotten to the point where the forces of authoritarianism are on the run, but the masses are beginning to pay attention.

  9. Modulo Myself says:

    1/3rd of the voting electorate is not coming back from Trump. It’s never going to happen. No matter what repudiations occur, they are not coming back. And there are enough people aiding them and egging them on and making money doing it for it to go on for a long time. The best we can hope for is what has happened since Jan 6–anger, menace, and nutjob judges but a pushback against what the right wants. There was a WSJ poll on abortion showing 57% against a 15-week ban. That’s huge. Dobbs probably destroyed the possibility of a Republican majority for a decade. Nobody, and I mean nobody, wants Ted Cruz or Ron Johnson to have more authority than a doctor.

    The worst-case is the fire that the right and its collaborationists tolerate–like death threats against children’s hospitals–escalating into something bigger and dragging the pro-Trump judges and police onto the wrong side.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Some Trump followers no doubt will be elected to Congress and to state offices this fall, and control of both houses of Congress is uncertain.

    But it is beginning to feel to me like the wave of hard right — not “conservative” — reaction has crested.

    Some Trump followers no doubt will be elected to Secretary of State and as local election officials. I will wait and see what November brings before I dare to hope that “the fever has broken.”

  11. CSK says:

    @Modulo Myself:
    Boston Children’s Hospital has already gotten death threats and a bomb threat.

  12. Moosebreath says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    “a single digit, low two digit R majority in the next congress is a win for democracy.”

    Not if the R’s use that majority to ensure that the R Presidential nominee wins in 2024, regardless of actual voting.

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Moosebreath: On the bright side, a GOP led House can’t do it by themselves. They can gum up the works and engage in politically motivated investigations tho. Not like they’ve even done that before… 😉 s//

  14. gVOR08 says:

    I’m hopeful, but I’ll hold off on any confidence until I see MAGA weakening here in my retirement paradise of FL. DeSantis is maintaining a steady 7 point lead over Charlie Christ. Charlie’s not much of a candidate, but he seems to be the best dispirited FL Dems could come up with. DeSantis is ready and eager to take over the reins of the MAGA movement nationally and he lacks TFG’s endearing incompetence.

  15. Jay L Gischer says:

    I think the MAGA faction still has a lot of strength, and I also think that time is not on their side. Several different trends are slowly eroding support. One of them is abortion rights. Another is Trump’s current legal troubles. Another is exposure and process around just what happened in the 2020 elections.

    There are those who will never change. I tend to place that fraction at something like 27 percent, but that’s a quibble. But so many of the “loud and proud” are flippers who opposed Trump early, and will go back to doing so when its safe for them. You know — politicians.

  16. Scott says:


    I think that those who are undermining our country have just burrowed deeper working to capture the levers of government

    They are working it as we naively think the fever may be breaking.

    Missouri secretary of state throws support behind controversial election theory

    Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has lined up behind a U.S. Supreme Court case legal experts believe could radically reshape how federal elections are conducted by handing more power to state legislatures and blocking state courts from intervening.

    Ashcroft announced last week that his office had filed an amicus brief in support of Republicans in North Carolina who are asking the nation’s highest court to restore a Congressional map that was rejected as a partisan gerrymander by that state’s Supreme Court.

    The North Carolina Republicans argue the state court had no authority to throw out the map under the so-called independent state legislature doctrine.

    “Secretary Ashcroft is the first elected official to file an amicus brief in the US Supreme Court in support of state legislatures in historic elections case,” the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office tweeted last week.

    The independent state legislature doctrine would give state lawmakers the power to set election rules and draw congressional maps without any review by state courts.

    Some legal experts contend the doctrine could also be interpreted as allowing a legislature to refuse to certify the results of a pres­id­en­tial elec­tion and instead select its own slate of elect­ors.

    A version of the theory was pushed in 2020 by allies of then-President Donald Trump in their effort to toss out legitimate election results in swing states won by Joe Biden and have electors appointed by Trump-friendly legislators.

    The North Carolina case concerns the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause, which says: “The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.”

    Proponents of the independent state legislature doctrine argue the Election Clause clearly gives legislatures sole responsibility for drawing congressional districts — and state courts have no role to play.

  17. steve says:

    Nope. The cult is strong. They still believe Trump won the election. A few are unhappy about the abortion ruling but that only changes things a bit on the margins. Still, they will mostly threaten to kill. Since the MAGA group is so dominated by old, fat guys who like to parade around in camo, they all get tired and short of breath if there is any exertion involved. Occasionally someone young enough to both breathe and kill at the same time is going to shoot up something because they believe Democrats are eating babies, or something, but dont see it happening at scale.


  18. Rick DeMent says:

    I think talking about the rank and file MAGA’s is useless. They aren’t really the ones causing the damage. It’s the big money players who are funding all of this from the federalist society to backing crackpot MAGA candidates for “hinge” election positions in all the states they can in order to just throw out the votes and push everything to highly gerrymandered state legislatures. In addition, there is this huge amount of Astroturf being funded that supports everything from online forums (and the bots that infest these sites) to these crazy ad buys of generic political ads that are basically the same script except for the “paid for by …” slug line being changed. They are the ones who want the current status quo burned to the ground so that they have a free hand to use their money to destroy the democratic part of our democratic constitutional republic.

    This is all keeping up the appearance that the MAGA brand is not shrinking, but growing. While I do think that MAGA is in decline, it’s not declining all that much and slowly. These numbers you are seeing regarding the support for abortion rights, even among republican woman, is probably just around this one issue. I hope I’m wrong.

    If the Democrats hold at the midterms and the large majority of these MAGA candidates are repudiated in the midterms, I will breath slightly easier. but what these MAGA funders are ultimately gunning for is a constitutional convention that will pretty much turn the US into a state, run by oligarchs to a much greater extent then we have now and far more then we think possible.

  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    But it is beginning to feel to me like the wave of hard right — not “conservative” — reaction has crested.

    Okay. Still, you guys seem to be doing a really poor job of policing your own movement. Part of the problem emerges from the same problem that parties here have. Any dipwad can call himself a conservative.

  20. Sleeping Dog says:

    Something to consider, it is a mistake to believe that a fading of trumpism means long term success for Dems. What the rejection of trumpism will mean is the returning of power in the R party to some version of the old establishment. The former anti-trumpers that flipped, will flip back. The establishment, needing to replace the MAGAts, will selectively adopt positions on issues that are moderate on abortion, gender issues and turn down the heat on cultural issues. The will make a large play for suburbanites and particularly suburban women, voters who were comfortable voting for Romney, McCain and Bush. They may not be successful, but they’ll try.

  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    About a month ago, right here in these august pages, I suggested that the country was ‘centering’ a bit. I still think that’s true.

    The prosecutions of hundreds of January 6 criminals, and the lack of reaction from the MAGAts is one sign. The Mar a Lago documents case. The Georgia case. And above all, Dobbs, because Dobbs changed the trajectory of the conversation. It gave Democrats a unifying, liberals + progressives issue.

    Also, inflation may be coming down, gas prices certainly are. And people have forgotten about Afghanistan. I thought they would. Ukraine has killed off any idea that Biden could be labeled weak on foreign policy.

    And it helps that progressive Twitter has chilled – there are real issues to be dealt with: abortion, book banning, anti-trans laws.

    A quieter, more focused Left, a legally beleaguered Right, and polls moving our way in the Senate and the House and for Biden. Voters are registering, and may lean female and Democratic. The ‘endangered democracy’ issue is rising, and I think given the coding those are more our people than theirs. Biden calling out the fascist MAGA GOP. The slow death of Truth Social. The defeat of SF’s progressive AG. The Dominion Voting machine suits against Fox. The crashing of ‘Hollywoke’ as the market weighs in. Trump’s impotence and the dilemma of WTF happens if it’s Trump vs. DeSantis.

    It’s some data and a lot of straws in the wind. But it seems to me that the straws are all blowing in one direction.

  22. Slugger says:

    I saw a clip from Trump’s rally in Pennsylvania a few days ago. He said that Mark Zuckerberg met with him a week ago at the White House (and kissed his a**). While I have no doubts about MZ’s potential for backside slobbering, I don’t think that Mr. Trump was in the White House since 20 Jan 2021. There was a lot of applause. If Biden had made a misstatement like this, the media would be full of comments about senility. There are a zillion other examples. What power does Trump have that holds so many in thrall?

  23. Cheryl Rofer says:

    Couy Griffin removed from Otero County Commission for his participation on January 6.

    On the basis of the Constitution’s insurrection clause.

  24. CSK says:

    I hate to defend Trump, but according to Newsweek, Trump said only that Zuckerberg came to dinner at the White House, not that he’d come there last week.

    I have some vague recollection that this happened several years ago. And I can’t believe Zuckerberg begged for an invite.


  25. Mister Bluster says:

    @Slugger:..What power does Trump have that holds so many in thrall?

    There are people who believe that the Earth is flat. There are people who believe that outer space aliens are being hidden by the government somewhere in New Mexico (one of the 50 States for anyone who doesn’t know that). There are people who believe in the existence of invisible angels. There are people who believe that Donald Trump was sent by God and that Jesus will return to Earth soon.
    Trumps hold on his devotees relies on their extraordinary ignorance.

  26. Rick DeMent says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    This was just at the State District lever though. I’m sure this weasel will exhaust every appeal. I guess my question is would this stop at the state supreme court or do you think they will try and get SCOTUS to have a stab at it?

  27. Scott says:

    @Mister Bluster: Marks can never admit they’ve been conned.

  28. Andy says:

    I think that Ricks got trapped in the elite groupthink bubble. Normie Americans are not at all interested in civil war, and the elites who are and like to talk about it endlessly only do that – talk about it. They clearly don’t expect to do any actual fighting.

    Once again, I’ll just point out that there is a tremendous difference between words and actions and if you want to know what people really think, then look at what they do, not what they say.

  29. Kathy says:


    Maybe Four Seasons was booked solid?

  30. charon says:


    He said that Mark Zuckerberg met with him a week ago at the White House (and kissed his a**).

    One of the sites I follow that monitors Trump’s mental health says he has no sense of time.

  31. CSK says:

    As I mentioned upthread, Trump didn’t say it was last week that this happened.

    What I find interesting is the increasing vulgarity in his public speeches. Isn’t that a sign of mental decline.

  32. DK says:

    A quieter, more focused Left…The defeat of SF’s progressive AG.

    The promised recall Los Angeles’s “progressive DA” went down in flames.

    But, of course, that was quickly memory holed and got no ink. Because, of course, it doesn’t fit the “ANTI-PROGRESSIVE BACKLASH, DEMOCRATS ARE DOOM3D” preferred MSM narrative.

    The left hasn’t changed, quieted down, or changed focused. Its attackers have changed focus, forced to acknowledge real threats and pivot from their dishonest clickbait caricature of the left.

    Whining about wOkEnEsS has had to take a backseat to the tragic realities of climate disaster, children’s bodies ridden with bullet holes, Treason Trump’s semi-fascist MAGA thuggery, and Republicans forcing women to carry headless and rotting fetuses to terms.

    The establishment just couldn’t keep gaslighting voters into believing some random lib’s random tweets are a real threat when lives are being destroyed by the radical right’s incompetence and amorality.

  33. DK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    The will make a large play for suburbanites and particularly suburban women, voters who were comfortable voting for Romney, McCain and Bush. They may not be successful, but they’ll try.

    McCain voter here. I can’t promise to vote for every Democrat that comes down the pipeline, but I will never vote Republican again. I will never, ever forgive them for Trump. Ever. I’m not the only one like this in my cohort of millennials and Zoomers.

    I predict they’ll be successful, at least with McCain and Romney voters with any sense of decency, ethics, and patriotism.

  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: What I find interesting is the increasing vulgarity in his public speeches. Isn’t that a sign of mental decline.

    If so, I went thru a huge mental decline on my first job site.

  35. Michael Reynolds says:


    It’s just dumb, dishonest, clickbait caricature of the left

    What do you think that means? Politics IS perception. This is of a piece with progs whining, “But that’s not what we meant by defund.” You mean the other side didn’t read the whole position paper? You mean they seized on a lazy hashtag and beat us over the head with it? No shit.

    It’s 2022. Twitter has an impact. Lazy progressive Twitter has an impact. You live by the hashtag, you die by the hashtag. Politics 101: message discipline. There are only so many cameras, only so many pages above the fold, so you choose what message to put out, and you try to avoid putting out messages that easily distract from the important messages.

    Important: abortion, LGBTQ rights, democracy, wages, climate.
    Not important: pronouns, cis-anything, school names, Dave Chapelle.

    Just because you are passionate does not mean you’re right, either in the broad sense, or in the political sense. You seem to be stuck in the political equivalent of pre-WW1 military thinking. Elan! Esprit! Courage! Counterpoint: machine guns. Being righteous is not enough, you also have to be smart and a very big part of being smart is recognizing your own fuck-ups and not repeating them. Self-criticism: it’s not just for Maoists.

  36. CSK says:


    Me too.

    But I very much doubt you were babbling about ass-kissing in front of thousands of people.

  37. Chip Daniels says:

    I’ve said before that the most likely model will be the Norther Ireland Troubles, where there wasn’t open war, but a low level pattern of bombings, assassinations and murders.

    And the Republican Party will be a political wing like Sinn Fein, with a winking and nodding association with the violent militias.

    What will complicate matters is the federalist structure in America, where states like Texas and Florida will become extremely fascist, while states like California and New York will remain democratic.
    The conflict zones will be the purple zones where neither side has a commanding position.

    So depending on where you live, the American Troubles may be a faraway abstraction, or something terrifyingly immediate.

  38. gVOR08 says:

    @Rick DeMent: @Sleeping Dog:

    It’s the big money players who are funding all of this from the federalist society to backing crackpot MAGA candidates for “hinge” election positions in all the states they can in order to just throw out the votes and push everything to highly gerrymandered state legislatures.

    The legislatures gerrymandered by GOP majorities supported and created by the REDMAP project and ALEC and gawd knows what else paid for by these same “big money players”.

    People sometimes talk about the invisible primary, the contest between the big money bundlers before and during the voting primaries. It was always mostly invisible but post Citizens United etc. it’s impenetrable. I commented yesterday linking an article that says big dollar GOP fundraising is way off. One may hope they’re discouraged.

    The Kochs, Adelsons, Mellon Scaife, etc. who made up the Kochtopus and funded the Federalist Society, the Tea Party, ALEC, and so much else are being replaced by DeVos/Prince, the Uihleins, Thiel, and who knows all. Some guy I’d never heard of just gave Leonard Leo 1.6 Billion dollars to continue his efforts to destroy democracy on the way to destroying the “regulatory state”. Leo has been Kochtopus funded. I don’t know if the newer billionaires are joining the Kochtopus or going their own way. Philosophically they’re all glibertarians who believe billionaires should be able to do whatever they want, including polluting the world and not paying taxes.

    Trump was something of an unpleasant surprise for GOP money. He started out independent of Koch and Adelson, et al. But as long as he was so effective at manipulating the GOP base they’d adjust to him. Since Trump didn’t give a damn about governance, had no beliefs, and basically knew nobody, they were able to slide in Pence, who was virtually a Koch employee, as veep and ingratiate Leo in to run judge appointments.

    Trump’s been an embarrassment and cost them an otherwise winnable 2020 prez election. They’ll be glad to see him gone. And once he’s gone, you’re right, the GOP moneyed establishment will be back to business as usual, trying to find new ways to govern with a minority. Or at least block anyone else from governing.

  39. Chip Daniels says:

    What has really gone under the radar is the slow and incremental progress made here in California by the incredibly un-radical Legislature and governor.

    A dozen small bore but important bills affecting homelessness, housing, and worker safety have all been passed, and while none are particularly radical in themselves, are making real tangible improvements in people’s lives.

    The national media love to conjure up “People’s Republik of California” stories, but miss the more mundane progress.

  40. Gustopher says:

    I’m not even sure that 110°F temperatures are enough to convince Americans that Climate Change isn’t a Chinese Hoax with scientists chasing research funds.

    A handful of Republicans toning down rhetoric doesn’t seem indicative of anything about the fall of MAGA.

  41. Gustopher says:


    What power does Trump have that holds so many in thrall?

    He’s willing to look them in the eyes and tell them that things are going to be great again.

    He might even believe it, if he can be said to believe things. Everyone else blinks a little, and tries to hide their shame.

    Someone like Josh Hawley might pretend to be a man of the people, but everyone knows that he knows the difference between a Merlot and a Cabernet and that he looks down his nose at anyone who doesn’t. Meanwhile, Donald Trump is a man whose idea of high class would be to use his money to buy an extra dipping sauce to go with his McNuggets.

    (He would probably actually get a loan from Dueschebank for that extra sauce packet)

    I think a better question is why are people so scared that they are willing to believe this man? How much of that fear is real, and how much is manufactured?

    I don’t know for a fact, but I think the collapsing middle class and the consolidation of jobs into a relatively small number of very large, very expensive cities is a part of it — and this fear then gets transferred to culture issues.

    Anyway, god help us if there is a caravan of Black Muslim drag queens heading towards our southern border.

  42. Modulo Myself says:


    Someone like Josh Hawley might pretend to be a man of the people, but everyone knows that he knows the difference between a Merlot and a Cabernet and that he looks down his nose at anyone who doesn’t.

    I mean, it’s fairly clear. The difference between right bank vs left bank Bordeauxs are what any old fella knows about, right? Seriously, you can find craft beer and lattes and foodies everywhere in America and nobody is freaking out. A good Burgundy or Bordeaux is a definite stretch for most people, but the kind of snobbery that exists in the minds of the culture war c 1988 is less and less relevant. People know way more about wine than they did in 1988–when most people knew nothing except red with meat and white with fish–and it’s not just the ‘elites’.

  43. Sleeping Dog says:


    You’re clued in and apply a philosophical construct to your politics, like most here, but by far most voters are going to vote on the issues that effect their lives when they go into the voting booth. Given that reality, many alienated R voters will return to the fold for candidates that resemble those that they previously voted for. It’s human nature.

  44. charon says:

    Searched around, could not find the comment re missing sense of time, (i.e., separate from the dementia, long-standing) but did find these:


    Last night, Trump said “LAST WEEK weirdo Mark Zuckerberg…came to the White House and kissed my ass.”

    Trump hasn’t been in the WH since January 2020. Just one more clear sign of his advancing dementia.


    There are many signs of cognitive decline. And many causes. Trump’s decline is both in mind and body. He is not yet overtly forgetful in the manner or degree we associate with dementia but there is aphasia, slurring, and major posture, gait, and balance issues, to name a few.

    Also muscle spasms, difficulty swallowing. We have seen him needing both hands, like a child, to lift a glass of water.

  45. charon says:


    He actually does tend to forget names of people, countries etc., he covers by describing them instead of naming them.

    Tongue protrusions are specific to the frontotemporal type of senile dementia.

    (Forgetfulness is an early symptom of some types of dementia, but it appears late with frontotemporal).

  46. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: But I very much doubt you were babbling about ass-kissing in front of thousands of people.

    You misspelled kiCKing. 😉

  47. dazedandconfused says:

    Trump and the MAGAs depend strongly on intimidation. It’s a rule that’s hard but brittle. People resent being forced to act in ways they don’t want to act. They loathe the people who force them to do that but more they loathe themselves for knuckling under, and that self-loathing can become toxic. When the day comes they rebel against you it comes with a fury that you won’t believe.

    Like McCarthy in the 60s his end, when it comes, will likely be sudden. The catalyst will be some negative event…like not getting the R nom for POTUS in 2024.

  48. Gavin says:


    I’m not even sure that 110°F temperatures are enough to convince Americans that Climate Change isn’t a Chinese Hoax

    Not the 110 temps, those have happened before.. the drying up of both Lake Mead and the Colorado River should focus the mind of millions.

    Seems pretty stupid to wait until 3 states are uninhabitable to consider enforcing the concept that water taken out is at max the water that goes in, but that’s part of why I only spent 18 months in Denver..
    Some will blame everything on liberals because that’s their reflex, but that 21% of the population is unreachable.

  49. Ken_L says:

    Any loss of mass within the Trump Cult is being outweighed by its increasing resort to extreme measures that are not mere rhetorical flourishes, but concrete changes to laws and institutions which will work to its advantage. Day after day, proposals like this are published by or on behalf of the Claremont Institute:

    It’s the Midnight Hour:
    Saving America Now Requires Ruthless Offense
    Congress should defund most federal agencies, investigate and refer charges, and create rapid offense comms teams. States should block federal agencies from operating within their borders.
    By Rod Thomson

    September 3, 2022
    The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us there is nothing new under the sun. But there is undeniably something new happening in American history. New and terrible. No hyperbole; we are living through the greatest threat to America since the Civil War.

    If Republicans take back the House with a narrow majority, the lunatics in the Freedom Caucus, enthusiastically egged on by Trump, will insist that the party tries to implement these kinds of measures (along with impeaching Biden and half the cabinet and investigating everything from the 2016 election to Hunter Biden’s laptop). There is no telling what the outcome of the ensuing two years of chaos might be, but a reduced level of partisan hostilities is unlikely to be one of them.

  50. DK says:

    @Michael Reynolds: @Michael Reynolds:

    Important: abortion, LGBTQ rights, democracy, wages, climate.
    Not important: pronouns, cis-anything, school names, Dave Chapelle.

    Just because you are passionate does not mean you’re right,

    This is all true, and just because you have a perception doesn’t mean it’s real.

    Based on your rubric, the left has always been more focused on the unimportant than the important, seeking laws to address the important. There’s not now and never has a been Dave Chappelle bill or a pronouns bill.

    But that simply can’t be acknowledged, just like Gascon not being recalled can’t be. Fake perceptions must be clung to, facts and reality be damned.

    I’ve read more trans panic posts on OTB, and more lamentations about non-issues like “Latin X” in comments here, than on any of the lefty political blogs I follow. Earlier this summer, I commented negatively about the number of trans-focused posts here, while other issues were more prominent.

    But the establishment narrative then was abortion might change things at the margins, but wouldn’t go very far for Democrats in the midterms #RedWave2022. Well that was wrong. Just like “Nancy Pelosi is a huge liability for Democrats in 2018 midterms” was wrong, and “The progressive DA backlash is coming for Gascon” was wrong and “Newsom is in trouble” was wrong and “Hillary’s emails are the biggest scandal ever” was wrong and “Warnock and Ossoff are going to lose on Jan 5” was wrong and recent polling favoring conservatives in Kansas, in NY-19, and Alaska was wrong.

    It wasn’t “the left” that trashed Mark Udall and Terry McAuliffe for sounding the alarm on abortion rights before it was cool, or who defended Manchin for dithering while climate disaster loomed.

    But apparently self-criticism is *only* for Maoists, because I’m still waiting for cosplay centrists in the press and elsewhere to admit they were wrong about any of this. They never do. They just memory hole and move on.

    Y’all may be controlled by MSM narratives and stuck in the extremely online Twitterverse, but don’t project your lack of focus onto the activist left writ large. Those kids are out registering angry women voters. I’m no big fan of Bernie and Warren acolytes (again, former McCainite here), but slacktivists they are not.

    The actual real groundwork that gets Democrats elected: it’s only for the woke.

  51. DK says:

    @Chip Daniels: Yes, you are right. Pains me to say it, but Newsom is doing an effective job. California continues to exceed my (admittedly low) expectations for quality of life in the US. I’ve been impressed at how the state is managing our drought, fire, and power grid crises this year thus far — knock on wood.

    And does Mississippi have usable water yet? Do Republicans have any comment on that, or nah?

  52. Gustopher says:


    He actually does tend to forget names of people, countries etc., he covers by describing them instead of naming them.

    Is this a change? It’s only a medical problem if it is a change. And given that Trump has long been described as very stupid by people who have met him… I would assume that not remembering the names of people and things is part of that.

    I have never been able to remember names, and “cover” by saying things like “I’m sure all you people have names.”

  53. Tony W says:

    @Gustopher: Remembering people’s names is also closely tied to caring about other people.

    My Aspergers-like tendencies tend to put me in the camp of appearing not to care when I actually do care deeply.

    I wonder if Mr. Trump just never learned to show it because he never had to, due to the silver spoon hanging from his mouth?

  54. Not the IT Dept. says:

    I think at rock bottom someone is in a psychological position to be tempted by Trumpism if they’re the kind of person who finds the idea of non-personal causes to be really unsettling, and need to hear that a particular person or group is really responsible for all the bad things going on in their world.

    And it’s complicated by the fact that sometimes they’re right: 9/11 was down to Osama bin Laden, the Japanese did bomb Pearl Harbor, Hitler did declare war on various countries including us, etc. etc.

    But if it can’t be personalized, then pre-Trumpists can’t get their heads around it. Climate change? How can that be possible – the weather changes every day, come on! A pandemic? Impossible that it just evolved and started going through the human population – someone evil must have created it in a lab and unleashed it on us.

    And my personal favorite: if we’ve got the greatest armed forces in the galaxy and we’re the best country EVER, how come we keep not-winning wars on the other side of the world? I mean, it’s got to be that someone is preventing us from winning, someone in our own country, some back-stabbers.

    And Trump is there – a guy who starred in some reality tv show for years, a multi-bajillionaire with a gorgeous wife, a really successful guy in material terms – and he’s telling them they’re right! He agrees with them!

    Truth and reason don’t stand a chance against that.

  55. charon says:


    Is this a change?

    It’s a question of degree, pretty much everyone getting old finds recalling names increasingly problematical. Trump has trouble with names that are prominent in current news, so, yeah a problem.