The Stupid, Evil Party

It's not getting any better, folks.

This work is in the Public Domain, CC0

M. Stanton Evans famously quipped, “We have two parties here, and only two. One is the evil party, and the other is the stupid party.” Alas, the GOP is now both. Scrolling through memeorandum on what is thus far a slow news day, things continue going downhill for my erstwhile party.

Juan Williams sums things up nicely in an op-ed at The Hill (“Republicans prefer Trump’s fantasies over truth and facts“):

The dark reality is that no matter how fair the final report of the select committee [on the 6 January Capitol riots], it will be ignored by most Republicans.

Similarly, it won’t matter to many Republicans in Congress if federal and state investigations in New York find Trump’s company guilty of engaging in a criminal enterprise full of tax fraud.

Republicans in Congress are even willing to close their eyes to a disease taking the lives of their constituents.

They refuse to rebut mindless, conspiracy talk about vaccines even as Republican-majority states that voted for Trump are disproportionately hit by a new variant of the virus.

To be a Republican in good standing these days requires buying into conspiracies, expressing racist grievances and repeating the “Big Lie.”

That, sadly, is pretty much where we’ve been during the Trump era. But it’s actually getting worse rather than better.

POLITICO (“‘Get on the team or shut up’: How Trump created an army of GOP enforcers“):

In Oklahoma, the newly installed party chair is endorsing a primary challenge to GOP Sen. James Lankford, the home state incumbent who crossed Trump by voting to uphold results of the November election. In Michigan, the state party chair joked about assassinating two Republican House members who voted to impeach Trump. Arizona’s state chair accused Republican Gov. Doug Ducey of nothing less than killing people by restricting the use of hydroxychloroquine, a Trump obsession, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

There and elsewhere, state party chairs have been at the center of a raft of resolutions to censure or rebuke GOP lawmakers deemed insufficiently loyal to Trump.

In red states, blue states and swing states, these leaders — nearly all of whom were elected during Trump’s presidency or right after — are redefining the traditional role of the state party chair. They are emerging not just as guardians of the former president’s political legacy, but as chief enforcers of Trumpism within the GOP.

Fox News (“Nikki Haley calls for every governor in America to ban funding for critical race theory in schools“):

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Monday eviscerated critical race theory, calling for “every governor in the United States” to “ban” the racially charged academic movement.

“Think about a 5-year-old that starts kindergarten and they don’t know anything about color. If she’s White, you’re telling her she’s bad. If she’s Brown or Black, you’re telling her she will never be enough and she’s always a victim. That’s harmful for the well-being of our children,” Haley told “America Reports.” 

WaPo (“Health official fired in retaliation for coronavirus vaccine guidance for teens, she says“):

Tennessee fired its top immunization official Monday, the official said, in retaliation for her attempts to let teenagers choose whether to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

Michelle Fiscus said she was fired from her job as director of immunization programs at the Tennessee Department of Health on Monday afternoon as retaliation for the department’s efforts to vaccinate teenagers against the coronavirus, a plan that angered several state lawmakers.

“This is about a partisan issue around covid vaccines and around people in power in Tennessee not believing in the importance in vaccinating the people, and so they terminated the person in charge of getting it done,” Fiscus told The Washington Post on Monday evening. “The government is sacrificing public health to be in the good graces of our legislators; it’s a horrid dereliction of duty,” she said.

ABC/KVUE (“‘They will be arrested.’ Gov. Abbott responds to Texas Democrats’ flight to Washington, D.C.“):

“[Y]es, there is something the governor can do. First of all, I’ll tell you what the House of Representatives can do. What the speaker can do is issue a call to have these members arrested. In addition to that, however, I can and I will continue to call a special session after special session after special session all the way up until election next year. And so if these people want to be hanging out wherever they’re hanging out on this taxpayer-paid junket, they’re going to have to be prepared to do it for well over a year. As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done. Everybody who has a job must show up to do that job, just like your viewers on watching right now. State representatives have that same responsibility.”

NY Magazine/Intelligencer (“The Anti-Vaxx Party Is Taking Shape“):

The COVID-19 vaccines are saving lives, but watch Newsmax, and you’d never be able to tell. “I’m not a doctor,” host Rob Schmitt recently warned, before adding, “I feel like a vaccination in a weird way is just generally kind of going against nature.” Perhaps “there’s just an ebb and flow to life where something’s supposed to wipe out a certain amount of people, and that’s just kind of the way evolution goes. Vaccines kind of stand in the way of that.”

There’s nothing inherently conservative about anti-vaccine sentiment. The false claim that childhood vaccines cause autism attracted adherents of various political stripes, from typical right-wingers to crunchy liberals. COVID, however, has become an intensely partisan affair, with the pandemic doubling as a referendum on the Trump presidency. On the right, listening to Joe Biden and Anthony Fauci on vaccines means rejecting Donald Trump, which is heresy.

At a CPAC event over the weekend, audience members even applauded low national vaccination rates. “They were hoping, the government was hoping, that they could sort of sucker 90 percent of the population into getting vaccinated. And it isn’t happening,” a panelist bragged. Also at CPAC, Madison Cawthorn told a right-wing news site that a door-to-door vaccine push would build “mechanisms” that could someday infringe on dearly held personal liberties. “Think about what those mechanisms could be used for. They could then go door-to-door to take your guns. They could go door-to-door to take your Bibles,” he claimed, without evidence.

As the vaccine becomes a partisan dividing line, the right-wing martyrdom complex also swings into effect. Marjorie Taylor Greene has repeatedly linked the Biden administration’s pandemic guidance to Nazi practices, as though the unvaccinated and unmasked are at risk of genocide. If colleges require vaccinations, they’re enforcing “medical apartheid,” Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk claimed. Now Republicans in several states have either introduced or passed legislation prohibiting “discrimination” on the basis of vaccination status, hampering businesses, schools, and employers from implementing common-sense pandemic-safety requirements. On Fox News, Tucker Carlson recently discouraged college students from getting the vaccine altogether. “It’s not good for them. There’s a risk involved, much higher than of COVID, b

Virginia Mercury (“Virginia Bar Association cancels debate after Youngkin chooses to skip it“):

The Virginia Bar Association has cancelled its planned gubernatorial debate after Republican Glenn Youngkin broke with recent tradition by skipping what is usually the first face-to-face matchup of the general election.

[…]

The Youngkin campaign said the Bar Association “refused to correct several problems” with the debate format, including the selection of PBS Newshour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff as moderator. Woodruff has moderated VBA debates in the past, but the Youngkin campaign has highlighted a $250 donation she made to the Clinton Foundation’s Haiti earthquake relief efforts 11 years ago as a possible conflict of interest.

“Unfortunately, the VBA refused to dedicate a portion of the debate to a discussion on Virginia’s economy and jobs, which proved to be an insurmountable barrier in our negotiations,” said Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter. “It would also be a conflict of interest to have former Clinton Foundation board member Terry McAuliffe being ‘questioned’ by a Clinton Foundation donor.”

A PBS ombudsman once called Woodruff’s donation to the Clinton Foundation a “mistake.” But recent Republican nominees Ken Cuccinelli and Ed Gillespie agreed to VBA debates she moderated, and this year she received a Peabody Award for journalistic integrity and an accompanying commendation that described her as “one of the most trusted broadcast journalists in America.”

The American Independent (“GOP House candidate who led disruption at Porter town hall holds extremist views“):

Nick Taurus, a Republican running for the seat in California’s 45th Congressional District currently held by Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, was reportedly involved in what the Los Angeles Times called a “scuffle” at a town hall Porter held on Sunday in Irvine, California.

According to the Times’ reporting, Taurus and a group of his supporters interrupted Porter with chants and shouting as she spoke, leading to physical confrontations between his supporters and hers that were broken up by police.

On July 8, Taurus had posted a call on his Instagram account for his supporters to cause disruption at the event. “CONFRONT KATIE PORTER!” Taurus wrote, adding, “Her America Last policies are awful for the 45th district and we intend to voice our displeasure.”

[…]

Taurus, who filed official paperwork declaring his candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on June 15, says on his official campaign website, “Our Movement of ‘Christ, Country, Community,’ Starts in Orange County!”

“I am an American nationalist and Roman Catholic who is most concerned with addressing the issues surrounding immigration, vaccination and Critical Race Theory,” the site reads.

A review of Taurus’ social media posts reveals a history of homophobic, racist, and conspiracy theory-related rants.

“No longer will AMERICANS bow to the billionaires, anti-White extremists and the GAY mafia,” he wrote on June 19.

In isolation, I could likely explain most of these away. Taurus isn’t a serious candidate. Haley is herself a person of color and her follow-on comments are perfectly reasonable. Abbott is simply playing hardball in response to Texas Democrats’ own game of hardball. But they’re all part of a pattern where people who would have been considered staunch conservative Republicans five, certainly ten, years ago now have to pander to the lunatic fringe to be viable. Or, worse, the lunatics simply are no longer the fringe.

Regardless of how many posts Steven and I write advocating for reform of our electoral system to make it otherwise, were essentially trapped in a two-party system that consists of a “Democratic” and a “Republican” party. That has been the status quo since 1860. The policies of the two parties have evolved radically over time since that they would be unrecognizable to Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln but the names remain with us.

Historically, when one party moves too far out of the mainstream, they’ve been punished at the polls and, eventually, forced to moderate their positions. But the combination of chicanery to make it harder for Democrats to vote and the inherently undemocratic nature of our system for electing Presidents and Senators have ameliorated that, handing Republicans the White House for twelve of the past twenty years despite having won a plurality only once since 1988. And, as the standoff in Texas demonstrates, this has simply motivated Republicans to work harder to further rig the game in their favor.

This is simply bad for the country. We need two viable parties to force honest competition, new ideas, and moderation into the system. But that only works if the parties have to please the general population, not their hand-selected constituencies.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, 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 and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    This morning’s Globe has an article on a rebellion by the deep pockets against the Mass R party leadership.

    In escalating drama for Massachusetts GOP, some donors say they won’t give unless the party makes major changes

    It’s probably too much to hope that the underwriters of the national R party would take a similar stand.

    3
  2. MarkedMan says:

    Take a look at NYC. One party government. People of all political persuasions ran seriously competitive campaigns The guy who won is a conservative by the traditional definition. Absent a miracle, he will win the mayors seat.

    This myth that there is a monolithic Democratic party is just that, a myth. And even 30 years ago the same could be said for the Republicans, but no longer. Our best hope is that the Republicans increasingly spiral into lunacy and irrelevancy and the factions within the Dems develop in a healthy way.

    10
  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    They are insane. and so are 40% or so of the country’s voters.

    13
  4. Barry says:

    James, I’d be sparing with the ‘stupid’ label. Their supporters have been marinating an a right-wing mediasphere so long that they can’t comprehend the outside world.

    The politicians and officials are evil, pure and simple. They just sound stupid to you and to me because they’ve realized that lies work far better than the truth. There might be some who are stupid, but ‘evil’ explains things far more.

    19
  5. Scott says:

    We drove to the Texas Coast (Surfside Beach, just south of Galveston) for a few days of beach time. Drove through rural Texas to get there. Not only are there old Trump/Pence banners/signs/flags but now there are Trump 2024, Trump Won, and Eff Biden banners/signs/flags everywhere. I am extremely pessimistic for our future.

    6
  6. gVOR08 says:

    @Barry: That is the maddening thing about this. The Trumpy voters think Trump and the rest of them care about people like them, when in fact the Trumpy pols hold them in complete contempt. Just sheep to be shorn.

    9
  7. MarkedMan says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    They are insane

    I’m not sure that’s the right analysis. Since before the Civil War, the Southern States have elected and appointed leaders not for competence in governance but rather based on their ability to use racial and ethnic tensions to enforce the class structure and keep wages low. The National GOP’s Southern Strategy starting in the 60’s played out just as traditional Republicans feared – the Party eventually was taken over by the Southerners. And because the whole deal with the Southern Strategy was that the GOP would not ask for Civil Rights or governance changes in exchange for Southern votes, the GOP in the South has never advanced or evolved.

    Bottom line, Southern-mentality GOP leaders don’t have any competence in governance or administration. They know they have nothing to offer in getting things done and managing emergency services, so instead they generate a mob and then get in front of it. The GOP leadership is reacting exactly like you would expect power-hungry narcissists to: They know they don’t have the skill set to handle an epidemic so they minimize it and rile up the crowd against those doing what they can’t – trying to lead competently and seriously. You know, that thing that leaders are supposed to do.

    11
  8. Matthew Bernius says:

    Has there been another case in recent memory in another Democracy where the head of a party lost both the legislature and the presidency (or head of state position) and remained in this much control of the party direction?

    6
  9. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:
    I read somewhere recently that Trump referred to the Capitol Hill rioters as “the great unwashed.”

    Yeah, he really, really loves them.

    3
  10. Teve says:

    I was born in The South, and I’ve lived in Florida, Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina. A lot of the explanation is no more complicated than “there are a lot of stupid, racist, uneducated, assholes.”

    14
  11. Teve says:

    This very morning, at the nearby Panera, I saw, for the 100th time, the elderly lady decked out in Confederate regalia, whose car is bejeweled in both confederate flags and TRUMP bumper stickers, with a front plate that says IF THIS FLAG OFFENDS YOU, YOU NEED A HISTORY LESSON. And when her generation dies off I’ll probably drink lots of cocktails.

    6
  12. Kathy says:

    I see some similarities with the Chinese Communist Party as it was during the Great Leap Forward. Whatever the leader says is true, regardless of the available evidence. If Mao ways planting rice seedlings closer together will make them grow faster and yield more rice, then that is so, even if the result is they compete for limited soil nutrients and wind up both stunted.

    Hydroxychloroquine cures and prevents COVID, both a powerful Chinese bio-weapon and a Democratic hoax, even if it did not prevent trump from catching it, and he was not treated with it when he was gravely ill with COVID.

    You can lie to others, you can lie to yourself, but reality won’t conform to your lies, or to your sincerely held beliefs.

    14
  13. Teve says:

    20 years ago, in Valdosta Georgia, I was smoking a cigarette on a loading dock with one of the drivers. He told me a story about how he kept dead batteries in the console of his truck, and when he saw a black person walking alongside the road, he’d throw the batteries at them. And then he giggled.

    That’s your modern Republican Party.

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  14. Kylopod says:

    @Teve: Out of curiosity, do you know if that driver was a Republican?

    Even just 20 years ago, there were still a lot of ancestral Ds; there’s less and less of that as time goes by. For many such voters, Obama was the final nail in the coffin.

    7
  15. senyordave says:

    What I don’t get most are some of the Republican megadonors. Case in point is Peter Thiel. He’s not some old white guy pining for the good old days when people of color were invisible and women knew their place. He’s 54, German born, gay. Yet he has become as hard right as you could be, and is now the money behind fraudulent hillbilly J.D. Vance’s senate campaign (naturally, the guy who campaigns against tech companies is funded by a guy who made his billions in tech). Apparently, Peter Thiel just adores Ann Coulter. The same Ann Coulter who called John Edwards “faggot” and regularly uses slurs to refer to people of color. She would probably round up people like Peter Thiel and put them in camps if she had a chance. WTF is wrong with a guy like Thiel??? Does he hate brown and black people so much that he supports every right wing lunatic that comes down the pike?

    11
  16. mattbernius says:

    The Bulwark’s long form exploration into the intellectual decline of the Claremont Institute seems like a perfect companion piece for this essay. Its a depressing read for anyone who, like James, is interested in a robust and grounded conservative party.

    Highlights include:

    That Claremont has been unparalleled in its intellectual submission to Trumpism should give us pause. After all, in some respects the Claremont crowd is precisely the sort who should have known better: deeply read in political philosophy and history, and familiar with the many warning signs that Trump would be a damaging and divisive president. There is also a sense, however, in which the Claremont crowd’s submission to Trump was the most predictable thing in the world—the simple culmination of a political theory rooted in jingoism and denial.

    […]

    Like think tanks from time immemorial, Claremont hoped that it could influence the president and his administration. But the lines of influence mostly pointed in the other direction: Claremont’s encounter with Trumpism left Donald Trump unchanged—he did not become enamored of America’s highest ideals—while the Claremont Institute was remade in his image. Not just nativist and racist. Not just illiberal and prone to conspiracy theories. But even post-truth. And now, explicitly anti-democracy.

    https://thebulwark.com/what-the-hell-happened-to-the-claremont-institute/

    4
  17. Kylopod says:

    @senyordave: A little historical tidbit:

    The Association of German National Jews (German: Verband nationaldeutscher Juden) was a German Jewish organization during the Weimar Republic and the early years of Nazi Germany that eventually came out in support of Adolf Hitler….

    The goal of the Association was the total assimilation of Jews into the German Volksgemeinschaft, self-eradication of Jewish identity, and the expulsion from Germany of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Naumann was especially opposed to Zionists and Eastern European Jews. He considered the former a threat to Jewish integration and carriers of a “racist” ideology serving British imperial purposes…. A possible reason why some German Jews supported Hitler may have been that they thought that his antisemitism was only for the purpose of “stirring up the masses”….

    Despite the extreme patriotism of Naumann and his colleagues, the German government did not accept their goal of assimilation. The Association of German National Jews was declared illegal and dissolved on 18 November 1935. Naumann was arrested by the Gestapo the same day and imprisoned at the Columbia concentration camp. He was released after a few weeks, and died of cancer in May 1939.

    6
  18. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Teve: She’s the one who needs a history lesson; the last Confederate flag was a white flag of surrender.

    10
  19. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I have to say I am heartened by Cheney’s record fund raising haul. Her long game is showing Republicans the way out of the woods. Will they follow?
    And, can she even win a primary in uber-red Wyoming?
    Unfortunately Democrats insist on bringing cupcakes to a war-zone…and are unlikely to make any of this stick to Republicans.
    FFS…Trump is directly responsible for the deaths of ~400,000 COVID victims, depending on the study you read; only Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee have killed more Americans. Yet he is still the unchallenged leader of the Republican party.

    4
  20. Sleeping Dog says:

    @mattbernius:

    Its a depressing read for anyone who, like James, is interested in a robust and grounded conservative party.

    As someone who views themselves a liberal in good standing, I too want a robust and grounded conservative party. We simply create more stable, broadly accepted policies if we have a broad consensus. Joe Manchin isn’t wrong in that belief, but what he doesn’t understand or won’t accept, is that today’s R’s and the broad swath of today’s conservatives don’t want anything but political power.

    Looking at one issue, healthcare. While I’m on board with M4A, my primary desire is universal access to good healthcare regardless of ability to pay. If we consider the countries that provide universal access, we’ll see numerous methods of achieving it, some are statist, like the UK’s National Health System, while others are fairly market driven with state intervention at a high level.
    An avenue that should appeal to American conservatives, but won’t; Fixing Health Care with the All-American Krankenkassen

    So yes, a robust and grounded conservative party, but I won’t hold my breath.

    11
  21. KM says:

    No one likes to think themselves stupid or foolish. A good point made on one of the The Alt-Right Playbook videos is that conservatives truly believe that rationality is an inherent trait and not the result of deliberate action and choices. You’re either rational or you aren’t and if you’re rationale, everything that you do or say must therefore be inherently reasonable. These people cannot be made to see what they are doing is madness because they cannot be mad due to who they are. At best, they might believe they were lied to and shift the blame outwards; that’s why the conservative ecosystem does it’s damnedest to demon the media and liberals so there’s a built-in scapegoat for anyone who hits that level of self-awareness.

    In 10 years, we’ll see the GOP vehemently denying they let hundreds of thousands of Americans die because of their lies. Instead, they’ll claim the Great American Massacre happened because liberals pushed hyped-up lies & restrictions and thus freedom-loving patriots, naturally wary of such intrusions, were forced astray and sadly lead to their deaths. FOX valiantly tried to speak the truth but alas, villains like Biden and Fauci caused innocent MAGAts to make poor choices and killed them off. It will never be their fault nor the fault of those who choose to believe their absurdities – the Party’s always been at war with Eastasia, after all. No one rational will ever choose to do such a thing in the face of a pandemic and since they’re clearly rational beings, it must be *your* fault the bad thing happened (cue newest conspiracy theory as to why).

    7
  22. gVOR08 says:

    @senyordave:

    What I don’t get most are some of the Republican megadonors. Case in point is Peter Thiel.

    This is not unusual, in fact, it’s the norm. Thiel, like the Koch Bros, and Mellon-Scaife before them, and so on back to at least to the Hunt brothers wants a libertarian paradise in which billionaires are free to do whatever they want. But we live in a democracy, at least so far. So how can they get non-billionaires to support them? By being faux-populists, pandering to the worst prejudices of the gullible.

    So Thiel is, in best Gilded Age style, trying to buy his very own personal senator. And his boy, Vance, amongst other lies, is following conservative tradition, pretending to be a man of the people.

    10
  23. Barry says:

    @Kylopod: “Out of curiosity, do you know if that driver was a Republican?”

    As you said, ‘Ancestral D’. Even if he claimed to be a Democrat, I’ll bet that he still voted GOP.

    1
  24. Barry says:

    @senyordave: ” WTF is wrong with a guy like Thiel??? Does he hate brown and black people so much that he supports every right wing lunatic that comes down the pike?”

    He’s an evil person who likes power and money. He’s got wealth, but he craves power. And the GOP loves giving power to elites over peons. As a billionaire, he has lived his life quite successfully under the theory that if you’re rich, most rules don’t matter.

    3
  25. Barry says:

    @mattbernius: About the Claremont Institute, I have three thoughts:

    1) ‘Apes do read philosophy, Otto, they just don’t understand it’.
    2) Traison de clercs – even well educated people can hold to foul right-wing ideas.
    3) I’ll lay $100 that there’s a big bucks donor who basically bought the Institute in the last 20 years.

    5
  26. Kathy says:

    I also kind of get the feeling the GOP has become a victim of its own rhetoric.

    If state action is oppressive, they will use the government to oppress, because that’s what government does. If taxation is theft, then all taxes are bad. And so on down every rhetorical position.

  27. Barry says:

    @Kathy: ” If state action is oppressive, they will use the government to oppress, because that’s what government does. If taxation is theft, then all taxes are bad. And so on down every rhetorical position.”

    Or more simply, government is tool; your friends get subsidies, bailouts, protections and no limitations; your enemies get persecuted.

    2
  28. becca says:

    @Barry: kinda like the CCP, huh?

  29. drj says:

    @mattbernius:

    I’m not sure “decline” is entirely the right word. These people (at the Claremont Institute) were fantasists from the start. From the article (emphasis mine):

    Jaffa is also considered the founder of the so-called “West Coast Straussian” school of thought […] West Coast Straussians tend to embrace natural right as settled truth.

    In addition to elevating Lincoln, West Coast Straussians are singular in their attachment to the American Founding and the Founding Fathers, both of which, for them, represent something truly unparalleled and exemplary in the political history of the world: a modern, constitutional, popular government built upon the high ideals of liberty and virtue.

    The flipside of the group’s attachment to their heroic American forebears and to (what they view as) American principles of natural right is an overwhelming distrust of anything that smacks of (what they view as) Hegelian historicism or statism. The idea that principles or truth might have a historical, changing, or perspectival character is anathema to the thinkers at Claremont, who have long stood in defiance of both “the living Constitution” and the “administrative state.”

    These people are certainly not “deeply read” in history (or perhaps they are, but didn’t understand much of what they read). I would argue that their understanding of history falls in the “not even wrong” category.

    It’s just wholly unserious – in much the same way as originalist legal thought is. These people know shit about the 18th century, and (if possible) even less about prior times.

    4
  30. Gustopher says:

    Historically, when one party moves too far out of the mainstream, they’ve been punished at the polls and, eventually, forced to moderate their positions.

    The right wing has successfully redefined the mainstream for a lot of people, and the Republican Party followed. First Fox, then Newsmax and OANN. People believe absolute bullshit, and are then making semi-rational decisions based on that.

    Without a fundamental change to the first amendment — which isn’t happening — I don’t see how this leads to a stable, safe country. I hope I’m wrong about that.

    1
  31. the unoriginal Herb says:

    I think it was Reinhold Niehbur who remarked that stupidity is more dangerous than evil. When facing evil there are things that we can do. We can expose it, we can protest, even fight against it. But with stupidity there is nothing. He was writing about German citizens and Nazi propaganda.

    Correct me if I got the quote or source wrong. Maybe I can look it up later but we are about to have house guests.

    11
  32. the unoriginal Herb says:

    It was Bonhoeffer. Sorry to have reacted so quickly but I feel strongly about the danger such stupidity brings us. Here is the link

    8
  33. CSK says:

    @mattbernius:
    Didn’t the Claremont Institute appoint Jack Posobiec a Lincoln Fellow in 2019?

    2
  34. Kylopod says:

    @Gustopher: The notion that parties moderate after being stomped in elections is a bit of conventional wisdom that does not match up with the history.

    It’s generally recognized that Goldwater’s 1964 defeat was the precursor to the Reagan Revolution. It didn’t happen overnight (Nixon was kind of a moderate), but it did happen, and the end result was that the party moved to the right relative to where it had been prior to Goldwater. Reagan, much like Trump several decades later, was initially dismissed as an extremist who couldn’t win.

    Likewise, while it’s conventional to say that the Dems kept nominating candidates who were too “liberal” before they started winning with moderates, the facts don’t line up so neatly with this narrative. There were polls in 1984 indicating that, on most specific issues, voters sided with Mondale. The Republicans found a way to package themselves to sound like they better represented the public than Dems, and a lot of that was through rhetorical sleight of hand–for instance, claiming they were for “tax cuts” when what they were actually for was shifting the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class. When Dems became more popular on the issue it wasn’t because they fundamentally changed their positions, it was because they learned how to frame the issue to better highlight the rich vs. non-rich distinction, and even then Republicans to this day still bamboozle a large chunk of voters by speaking of “taxes” in a generic way.

    Still, it’s broadly true that Bill Clinton’s rise did involve a shift to the center relative to previous Democrats and an abandonment of certain unpopular positions on crime and welfare that had stymied those earlier candidates. That just goes to show the difference between Republicans and Democrats. Democrats did historically shift toward the center after suffering electoral defeats; Republicans, by and large, just doubled down.

    5
  35. MarkedMan says:

    @drj: Two or three decades ago I read a fair number of think tank papers, and I noticed a definite trend. If a think tank was labeled conservative their papers were well reasoned and well written, usually in a calm, authoritative manner. And consistently left out the strongest arguments against their position. It didn’t take long before I realized their stuff was often a sham, only concentrating on the weakest and most easily refuted of the arguments against their position.

    It didn’t surprise me when someone leaked a marketing pitch from, I think, the Heritage Foundation that simply laid out what it would cost to have Heritage “Scholars” write pieces in support of whatever position you wanted.

    1
  36. Scott F. says:

    Regardless of how many posts Steven and I write advocating for reform of our electoral system to make it otherwise, were essentially trapped in a two-party system that consists of a “Democratic” and a “Republican” party.
    – – –
    Historically, when one party moves too far out of the mainstream, they’ve been punished at the polls and, eventually, forced to moderate their positions.
    – – –
    This is simply bad for the country. We need two viable parties to force honest competition, new ideas, and moderation into the system. But that only works if the parties have to please the general population, not their hand-selected constituencies.

    The two party system is only a trap as long as rank and file Republicans, those “decent” Republicans James is always telling us vote out of tribal loyalty, remain comfortable with the fringe in charge of their party. Only Republicans have agency in this regard – the structural advantages all redound to their favor and right now Biden is trying his damnedest to “please the general population” – so it is long past time for the good people of the GOP to rise up against the evil (and the stupid) and vote for Democrats until it hurts. It will cost the GOP power, perhaps for a few cycles, but punishment at the polls is the only possible corrective in our system.

    As Mitt Romney asked at May’s Utah GOP convention, “Aren’t you embarrassed?” The GOP voter is either okay with being fully Trumpist fringe or it isn’t. It’s time to find out.

    3
  37. Gavin says:

    $10 says Obama still truly believes The Fever Will Break Any Day Now. Or – he’s paid enough to say publically he believes that.

    Will Biden believe/say the same thing during his entire presidency? I’m buying popcorn futures.

    1
  38. Mister Bluster says:

    @Gavin:..I’m buying popcorn futures.

    You need to stop drinking the toilet water.
    ‘I know Trump said it would make you smarter but he was lying!

    2
  39. Scott F. says:

    @Gavin:
    It matters not a whit whether Biden or Obama calls out the GOP as evil/stupid or not. Anyone who would listen to them already knows. It will matter only when more than 10 Republican Senators calls it out. And that will happen only when their constituents demand them to do so.

    Don’t hold your breath, but also don’t expect someone who is not Republican to ride to the rescue. The problems are in the Republican’s house and only they can fix it.

    5
  40. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan: Southern-mentality GOP leaders don’t have any competence in governance or administration. They know they have nothing to offer in getting things done and managing emergency services, so instead they generate a mob and then get in front of it. The GOP leadership is reacting exactly like you would expect power-hungry narcissists to: They know they don’t have the skill set to handle an epidemic so they minimize it and rile up the crowd against those doing what they can’t – trying to lead competently and seriously. You know, that thing that leaders are supposed to do.

    In other words, they are insane.

    1
  41. DrDaveT says:

    They were hoping, the government was hoping, that they could sort of sucker 90 percent of the population into getting vaccinated.

    Words fail. I cannot comprehend the topology of a mind that could find this a plausible assertion. What would be the government’s nefarious purpose here? What’s in it for them?

    3
  42. Gustopher says:

    The modern GOP, with it’s intolerance, willful ignorance the performative cruelty, makes me wonder…

    What if the “Good Germans” were assholes?

    4
  43. Gustopher says:

    I always come back to this scene from Sin City — which is based very, very closely (shot by shot, line by line) from a ridiculous and over the top comic book by then-fledgling lunatic Frank Miller.

    Power don’t come from a badge or a gun. Power comes from lying. Lying big and gettin’ the whole damn world to play along with you. Once you’ve got everybody agreeing with what they know in their hearts ain’t true, you’ve got ’em by the balls.

    Here it is, performed by the late, great Powers Boothe.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5eFubO_iLM&ab_channel=Present

    But even then-fledgling lunatic Frank Miller wasn’t cynical enough. What happens when people tell the lies so often that they believe them?

    3
  44. Gavin says:

    @Scott F.:
    My point was that Obama treated the petulant children like adults — when the only thing they are willing to understand is the use of power. They will not be negotiated with — and so Democrats need to treat them precisely as such. You know, exactly how Republicans treat Democrats when they have the whip hand.
    If Republicans want bipartisanship to exist, it’s well past time for them to demonstrate it.. whether Democrats agree to the token R offers OR NOT. If Republicans choose not to play along, then bipartisanship was dead anyway.

    5
  45. MarkedMan says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    In other words, they are insane.

    I find such behavior reckless, narcissistic, evil, and stupid, but I don’t see how it is insane.

  46. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Scott F.: True, but even Mitt noted that he wasn’t embarrassed by the policy/positions/goals/accomplishments of the party, only by the spokesperson, in one of his early speeches after reelection. They’re fine with the fringe stuff; they just don’t want their names on it. IOW, there are no “reasonable” Republicans; there are only Republicans who wish the base wasn’t so “base.”

    4
  47. senyordave says:

    I turned 18 just in time to vote for Jimmy Carter (b’day was Oct 24th). Didn’t know a lot about politics but there was no way I would vote for the man who pardoned Nixon. I did not vote for Reagan, didn’t like him, thought he was pretty dope yfor a POTUS, and detested his lack of action on AIDS. But I didn’t believe he was a bad person. I did think he had a lot of bad people around him. It seems that as time passed the GOP went from having some bad people involved in the party to a party that featured bad people running it. There is a nastiness in the Republican party that acts as though bad things happening to people is something to be celebrated. I remember in one of the debates when a question was asked about a hypothetical person dying because they had no access to health care and people cheered. I always thought that Palin was a perfect example of the modern Republican party. Dumb and mean. Trump isn’t dumb in the Palin sense, he’s ignorant, but he beats her in meanness by a mile. IMO, Trump’s meanness is his defining feature, and his minions love him for it.
    There is simply no bottom for the Republicans.

    4
  48. Nightcrawler says:

    This is why I feel so hopeless about it all. I feel like we’re headed straight towards another, much larger apocalypse in 2024, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t wave a wand and make ~40% of this country stop being sociopaths.

    People who feel the way I do react in one of two ways:

    1) They give up and kill themselves immediately, seeing no point in going on and not wanting to see what happens next.
    2) They live like there’s no tomorrow, knowing that when they go down, they’ll go down having done what they wanted, as much as they realistically could, for as long as they could.

    I’m in group 2. I don’t want to see what happens next either, but I also don’t want to die. I want to live as long as I can.

    2
  49. Scott F. says:

    @Gavin: I understand where you are coming from and I agree that Obama got nothing from dealing with the Republicans maturely when they were petulant. But, I see no evidence that Obama would have done any better treating the Republicans horribly. Republican politicians simply don’t care how the Democrats treat them – they’ll feel disrespected and abused regardless. Now, I’m with you in encouraging the Democrats to use the whip hand. I just don’t think it will matter much what the Democrats do.

    What will matter is getting Republicans to turn on Republicans. If there are no “reasonable” Republicans, as @Just nutha ignint cracker observes, then democracy is dead any way. There’s no white horse action the Democrats can take to save it. But, if there are some in the mega-donor class, or some country club Republicans, or some casual GOP team players who can be shamed out of voting for the party out of habit, then “punishment at the polls” could change the party’s course.

    Simply put, the GOP won’t moderate due to rhetoric or political maneuvering. They will only change when not changing costs them campaign funding or votes. As Steven as often noted, the only meaningful incentive for politicians is re-election. With all the structural advantages, only Republican voters can deprive them of their re-election by withholding their votes or giving their votes to Democrats.

    1
  50. Kylopod says:

    @Scott F.:

    But, I see no evidence that Obama would have done any better treating the Republicans horribly.

    That isn’t the point. The point is that Obama wasted a lot of time and capital trying to woo Republicans who mostly went on not to vote for the bills in question.

    3
  51. Scott F. says:

    @Kylopod:
    Yes!!! Obama wasted a lot of time and energy trying to work with Republicans. Yet, my point remains, what different policy outcomes might Obama have achieved with all the time and capital that wouldn’t have been wasted in your counterfactual, beyond more time with his lovely family and fewer gray hairs? I’m having a hard time seeing what advances in the Democratic agenda it cost Obama to at least try to work with some Republicans. I see the same dynamic playing out now with Biden. He’s pursuing his policies pretty methodically and the lip service he’s giving some Republicans is pretty irrelevant (both pro & con) to the political dynamics.

    At heart, I’m pushing back from what I see as instances of Murc’s Law (that is, the insistence that only Democrats have any agency or causal influence over American politics) being applied here. This is a Republican problem where the Democrats have very little influence. At best, they can do as Bonhoeffer wrote (as @the unoriginal Herb references above), and combat evil with protest and exposure. Since Democrats don’t have much, if any, “force” to use against Republican evil, their best bet is to make run of the mill Republicans uncomfortable with their political affiliation with the white supremacist, anti-science, anti-democratic evilness that has claimed the GOP.

    1
  52. Paine says:

    These morons are literally killing us with their lax gun laws and anti-vaccine paranoia. How much longer do we need to share this country with them?

    1
  53. Kylopod says:

    @Scott F.:

    what different policy outcomes might Obama have achieved with all the time and capital that wouldn’t have been wasted in your counterfactual

    He wouldn’t have had to make as many concessions, for one thing. He’d have completed the ACA sooner, not allowing it to be dragged out so that it became unpopular, collected a ton of Republican amendments, and nearly got derailed after the Massachusetts upset that was itself partly a result of the bill getting dragged out. He wouldn’t have been forced to use reconciliation to get it across the finish line, preventing him from making more substantive changes to the Senate bill. He wouldn’t have had to resort to a meaningless executive order to get the anti-abortion Dems on board, imperiling their reelection. He would have had a lot more time to move to other elements of his agenda.

    3
  54. Scott F. says:

    @Kylopod:
    A comment thread on a post about how the Republican Party has devolved into a sordid combination of evil & stupid has made its way to an account of how Obama misplayed the ACA. Republican politicians everywhere are delighted.

    I’d rather focus on driving a wedge into the GOP versus more coulda/woulda/shoulda games between the Dems.

    1
  55. Kylopod says:

    @Scott F.: Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

    Also, I don’t think Obama misplayed the ACA. He got a comprehensive health-care bill passed, something many previous presidents had tried and failed at. That matters. It was indeed a BFD as Biden put it. I’m just pointing that there was a real cost (both politically and in terms of the policy outcome) to trying to appease the Republicans.

    1
  56. Gustopher says:

    @Kylopod: The amount of time the Democrats had 60 votes was short — Franken wasn’t seated for quite some time because of the recount — and there was the dynamic of the conservative Democrats wanting bipartisan cover, and every Dem vote being needed.

    Obama was lucky to get anything passed.

    1
  57. Blue Galangal says:

    @Kathy:

    If state action is oppressive, they will use the government to oppress, because that’s what government does. If taxation is theft, then all taxes are bad. And so on down every rhetorical position.

    It’s projection writ large. You can read the excerpt in the WaPo about Trump’s 2020 Election Night and basically see a roadmap of how the RNC and the Republicans planned/ did commit their own actual voter fraud. Some of what Trump says is bizarrely detailed, as if he had firsthand knowledge of exactly such efforts…

    2
  58. Gavin says:

    Gustopher, time for you to smell reality.
    Obama accomplished very little not because he was “lucky” to get passed only some small thing.. but rather because (1) he simply didn’t believe in any of the things he said.. and because of that, (2) he refused to actually use his power as chief executive to persuade/force other D politicians to bend to his will.

    Even today his quotes are “We simply don’t have votes” — as though there’s no pressure to be brought to bear on other politicians. No politician EVER “has the votes” for anything immediately but rather has to cajole via dollars to a district or rallying in their area or other things known as politicking.. Doing each of those things for every bill that you want to get passed is in fact the job.

    Obama just sits around whining about how The Fever Will Break because he saw Republicans portrayed as honest actors on some episode of the west wing many years ago, so of course that must be true today.

    Of course Republicans are evil and stupid — as a side benefit of having no position on anything, they’re spineless cowards who can be manipulated via the same politicking that Biden refuses to do… because that politicking could piss off the same donors Biden takes money from.

  59. Kylopod says:

    @Gavin:

    he refused to actually use his power as chief executive to persuade/force other D politicians to bend to his will.

    That’s not what I saw. Remember how in the run-up to the final vote on the ACA, numerous Dems who had been in fervent opposition to the bill for months just suddenly folded? That didn’t come out of nowhere.

    Even today his quotes are “We simply don’t have votes” — as though there’s no pressure to be brought to bear on other politicians. No politician EVER “has the votes” for anything immediately but rather has to cajole via dollars to a district or rallying in their area or other things known as politicking.

    And that’s exactly what Obama and the Dem leadership in Congress did do (often controversially–remember the Cornhusker Kickback?).

    In my previous post I offered concrete criticisms of how Obama marshalled legislation, while also giving him credit for achievements that many past presidents had tried and failed at. All you’ve said thus far is that Obama didn’t believe anything he said (an unprovable and irrelevant ad hominem) and implied that presidents have an endless ability to bend Congress members to their will and that any failure to do so is on them (superstitious crap that shows a poor understanding of how the presidency works or has ever worked).

    Obama just sits around whining about how The Fever Will Break because he saw Republicans portrayed as honest actors on some episode of the west wing many years ago, so of course that must be true today.

    I have no shortage of criticism for the “fever will break” line, but you’re misrepresenting the remark. He wasn’t talking about “honesty” but about political pressure. He was wrong–but not because he’d watched too many episodes of West Wing, but because he expected Republicans to behave like literally every opposition party in US history prior to his own presidency (well okay, maybe not the Jacksonians under John Quincy Adams–but doesn’t that further bolster my point?).

    Also, it’s interesting that you mention TWW. Contrary to an oft-heard criticism of the show, it never suggested the president was magically able to break through gridlock due to giving a nice speech. Bartlett spent his entire presidency facing a Republican Congress and as a result never passed any substantial liberal legislation. One of the show’s writers, Lawrence O’Donnell, has said Obama was in fact a much better president than Bartlett.

    1