Republicans at a Crossroads

In yesterday’s post I postulated that the Republican establishment would cut itself loose from Trump. But David Atkins at Washington Monthly disagrees.

By any normal political calculation, Trumpism should be a spent force.

But normal political calculations no longer apply to the Republican Party, because the Republican Party does not operate by traditional political incentives. The GOP is continuing on a pathway to radicalization that began as far back as Newt Gingrich, if not Ronald Reagan and even Richard Nixon.

Trumpism is merely a stepping stone on that journey that began with dependence on the Southern Strategy to smash the FDR coalition and win white supremacist support, and continued via an unholy alliance with conservative infotainment from AM radio hosts to Fox News to Breitbart. The GOP also depends for continued power on efficient geographic distribution in gerrymandered districts and rural states that maximize white evangelical power. All of these factors ensured that the GOP would continue marching rightward with increasingly devastating consequences.

And he could be right. It might be that it’s just too late to go back to a Republican Party that isn’t crazy, that had room for people like Nelson Rockefeller as well as Barry Goldwater. Too many of the GOP in Congress are too young to remember when the primary responsbility of a Republican legislator was not investigating Hillary Clinton.

Republican Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska has an article at The Atlantic called QAnon Is Destroying the GOP From Within. And he is right, I think. Sasse has voted with Trump about 85 percent of the time, and as a candidate he received endorsements from the Club for Growth, the Tea Party Patriots, and Ted Cruz, so Sasse is firmly right of center. But he’s smart enough to know it’s time to get off the crazy train, because it’s heading for a cliff.

Until last week, many party leaders and consultants thought they could preach the Constitution while winking at QAnon. They can’t. The GOP must reject conspiracy theories or be consumed by them. Now is the time to decide what this party is about. …

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

We also have to show a healthier path forward. The frustrations that caused so many people to turn in desperate directions for a political voice are not going away when Trump leaves the White House for Mar-a-Lago, because deception and demagoguery are the inevitable consequences of a politics that is profoundly, systemically dysfunctional.

He called out one Representative as an example of what not to do:

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

Of course, Republicans were preparing to impeach Hillary Clinton before the election she didn’t win, so pre-emptive impeachment isn’t new with them.

Also note that Rep. Greene appears to have no stand on issues other than “to stop gun control, open borders, the Green New Deal, and socialism.” And she also wants the Affordable Care Act to die. If she is actually for anything, other than guns, I can’t say what that might be even after checking out her website. In this, she exemplifies the problem the Republican Party faces. In a November profile of Greene in New York magazine, Zak Cheney-Rice wrote of Greene’s campaign positions, “The exact ways in which this kitchen-sink slurry of right-wing pathologies was meant to congeal into a coherent theory of governing was never very clear.”

In fact, the Republican Party has no coherent theory of governing any more. All it knows how to do is stop the Democrats from governing. But this isn’t new, either; Richard Hofstadter was writing about this phenomenon roughly sixty years ago, saying things like

The pseudo conservative is a man who, in the name of upholding traditional American values and institutions and defending them against more or less fictitious dangers, consciously or unconsciously aims at their abolition.


Writing in 1954, at the peak of the McCarthyist period, I suggested that the American right wing could best be understood not as a neo-fascist movement girding itself for the conquest of power but as a persistent and effective minority whose main threat was in its power to create “a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.”

What Hofstadter got wrong is that the American right wing really did become a neo-fascist movement that really did seize considerable power by taking over the Republican Party. But otherwise he had them pegged. They’ve created a political climate in which effective governing is near impossible, as our disasterous approach to the pandemic has shown us. The rest of the world has looked on with astonishment as Americans face hunger and eviction without help from our allegedly powerful government that can’t pass a relief package without the say-so of one Mitch McConnell, who has no interest in the rational pursuit of well-being and safety.

Going back to Sasse, I see that he hasn’t completely come over to the light — for example, at one point he wrote “Already on Twitter, a conservative position as long-standing as opposition to abortion has been recast as “domestic terrorism.” Senator, mere opposition to legal abortion is not terrorism, but bombing abortion clinics, stalking and harassing women, and murdering physicians certainly is. And so is rhetoric that incites others to do those things, and most of you Republicans are guilty of that. And the problem with the GOP is bigger, and older, than QAnon. But on the whole Sasse’s essay is worth reading, and I think he gets more right than wrong.

And if Repubicans are going to take their party back from Trumpers and QAnon, the first thing they have to do is to make it clear that Joe Biden fairly won the election. No more trying to take a middle position between truth and falsehood, or to stand silently by while Trump and his cult screams “stop the steal.” There was no steal. Most Republicans in the Senate know that, I believe, even if they won’t say it. What House Republicans know I cannot say.

And then Republicans need to stop winning elections by lies and dog whistles, not to mention gerrymandering and voter suppression. They need a coherent theory of government that applies to the real world.

In his essay on “Goldwater and Pseudo-Conservative Politics” from 1964, Richard Hofstadter wrote,

The difference between conservatism as a set of doctrines whose validity is established by polemics, and conservatism as a set of rules whose validity is to be established by their usability in government, is not a difference in nuance, but of fundamental substance.

Put another way, the distinction is between holding conservative values that guide one’s opinions and conservatism as a set of dogmas that must be “believed in” and followed loyally whether they work or not. And, of course, our Republican Party has been all polemics since Reagan. The polemics are what Paul Krugman calls “zombie ideas,” or “ideas that should have been killed by evidence, but just keep lurching along.” Supply-side economics is a prime example.

This brings us back to the crossroads. Can the Republican Party become a political party again and not a pseudo-conservative cult? And if you look at it that way, I have to say, probably not. They’ve been a pseudo-conservative cult for too long. There are none left in office who remember a Republican party that was anything but a pseudo-conservative cult, I don’t believe. But there are some who will try, and I hope they succeed.

The Twilight of the Trump

Although we’re going to be living with his zombie supporters for awhile, all signs point to Trump being a washed-up has-been once the clock strikes noon on January 20.

For example, see Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin at the New York Times, Post Trump, Republicans Are Headed for a Bitter Internal Showdown. The Republican establishment wants to be rid of Trump. Trump supporters want to be rid of the Republican establishment.

As President Trump prepares to leave office with his party in disarray, Republican leaders including Senator Mitch McConnell are maneuvering to thwart his grip on the G.O.P. in future elections, while forces aligned with Mr. Trump are looking to punish Republican lawmakers and governors who have broken with him.

The bitter infighting underscores the deep divisions Mr. Trump has created in the G.O.P. and all but ensures that the next campaign will represent a pivotal test of the party’s direction, with a series of clashes looming in the months ahead.

The friction is already escalating in several key swing states in the aftermath of Mr. Trump’s incitement of the mob that attacked the Capitol last week. They include Arizona, where Trump-aligned activists are seeking to censure the Republican governor they deem insufficiently loyal to the president, and Georgia, where a hard-right faction wants to defeat the current governor in a primary election.

We’ll have to see how that plays out. But the money is going to stay with the establishment, which also has more hands on the levers of government. The Trumpers have guns, flags, and pickup trucks. I think the Trump takeover of the Republican party will eventually fizzle away.

Trump himself is going to have bigger things to worry about than politics. See Jonathan Chait, Trump Is on the Verge of Losing Everything.

One crisis, though the most opaque, concerns Trump’s business. Many of his sources of income are drying up, either owing to the coronavirus pandemic or, more often, his toxic public image. The Washington Post has toted up the setbacks facing the Trump Organization, which include cancellations of partnerships with New York City government, three banks, the PGA Championship, and a real-estate firm that handled many of his leasing agreements. Meanwhile, he faces the closure of many of his hotels. And he is staring down two defamation lawsuits. Oh, and Trump has to repay, over the next four years, more than $300?million in outstanding loans he personally guaranteed. …

… If this were still 2015, Trump could fall back on his tried-and-true income generators: money laundering and tax fraud. The problem is that his business model relied on chronically lax enforcement of those financial crimes. And now he is under investigation by two different prosecutors in New York State for what appear to be black-letter violations of tax law. At minimum, these probes will make it impossible for him to stay afloat by stealing more money. At maximum, he faces the serious risk of millions of dollars in fines or a criminal prosecution that could send him to prison.

He’s talked about starting a media company, but that takes work, and it’s hardly a guaranteed money maker. And then there is the real possibility of criminal conviction.

The assumption until now has always been that Trump wouldn’t really be convicted of crimes or sentenced to prison, despite the fairly clear evidence of his criminality. American ex-presidents don’t go to jail; they go on book tours.

That supposition wasn’t wrong, exactly. It rested on the understanding of a broad norm of legal deference to powerful public officials and an understanding of the dangers of criminalizing political disagreement. But what has happened to Trump in the weeks since the election, and especially since the insurrection, is that he has been stripped of his elite impunity. The displays of renunciation by corporate donors and Republican officials, even if they lack concrete authority, have sent a clear message about Donald Trump’s place in American society.

Indeed, the Republican establishment would probably support — tacitly, of course — throwing Trump in jail. It would shut him up and get him out of their hair.

At noon on January 20, Trump will be in desperate shape. His business is floundering, his partners are fleeing, his loans are delinquent, prosecutors will be coming after him, and the legal impunity he enjoyed through his office will be gone. He will be walking naked into a cold and friendless world. What appeared to be a brilliant strategy for escaping consequences was merely a tactic for putting them off. The bill is coming due.


The real question is what will happen to the QAnon Cult? I think cult followers are more likely to somehow fold a ruined and jailed Trump into their evolving mythology than to give it up. But David Atkins thinks the cult can’t survive without Trump.

The QAnon conspiracy theory contains many elements that have long pervaded far-right beliefs: Satanic panicanti-Semitic blood-libelIlluminati control, a new Great Awakening, and similar notions. But what makes QAnon unique–beyond its distribution via the modern message board and social media technologies–is its focus on a single man: President Donald Trump. In Q world, Trump is the Messiah, the God-Emperor, the infallible 5-D chessmaster who knows all and can do no wrong. For them, he is standing in the way of a fallen world dominated by child-sacrificing Satanist communist cannibals addicted to adrenochrome, the one person who will bring about a new world order in which all debts are wiped cleanfree energy is released. The Cabal that has been holding humanity back is exposed and executed in secret military tribunals.

But all of this depends on Trump’s remaining president. In some sects of QAnon, it is believed that enough Americans must be “red-pilled” to create society anew once the shock of “the Storm”–in which their enemies are destroyed–has arrived, fulfilling the function of Q. In others, Trump is so totally in control that they are all simply “watching a movie”–the more dramatic, the better–depicting a historic transition unseen (in their worldview) since the time of Jesus.

QAnon is thus not just a conspiracy-theory cult like many in the history of the American right, but a cult of personality and a cult of power. Cults of power are closely associated with the worst authoritarian regimes globally and require significant cognitive gymnastics. The Great Leader is indomitable and infallible but also beset by insidious enemies both within and without. As Umberto Eco famously wrote of fascist ideologies, “The enemy is both strong and weak. By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.” So it is with Trump: simultaneously, the smartest and strongest saint ever give up his billionaire lifestyle to save the world but also opposed by the greatest forces in evil in human history.

Prophetic cults tend to survive when their prophecies are proved wrong, such as if the world doesn’t end or the Messiah doesn’t arrive on schedule . The prophecies are simply adjusted. But cults of power tend to evaporate when the leader falls, Atkins writes.

But Atkins also quotes a QAnon expert who thinks that the cult can survive without Trump. They’ll still believe in the Satanic forces stuff, just not in Trump. Without a singular focus on one person, however, I question if they will remain a political force. Some other God-Emperor would have to step into his place, and I can’t think of anyone who could pull that off.

David Horsey, Seattle Times

Can We Stop Coddling Right-Wing Extremism Now?

We keep learning that there were many intelligence warnings that should have inspired much better security in the Capitol before January 6. At Talking Points Memo, Josh Kovensky explains why the warnings were ignored.

Across conversations with multiple former DHS officials and analysts, TPM found that a top-down aversion from the Trump administration towards addressing the threat of far-right extremism, inept management, and the dismantling of DHS bureaucracies aimed at coordinating, analyzing, and disseminating information about extremist groups contributed to the lack of warning.

“Nobody wanted to write a formal intelligence report about this, in part out of fear that such a report would be very poorly received by the MAGA folks within DHS,” one former DHS official who served in the Trump administration told TPM, on condition of anonymity to speak freely.

And you know that’s true. You know that left-wing activism, especially involving Black Americans, is addressed very differently from right-wing activism. If anyone stumbles onto this blog who doubts this, please see Lafayette Square, Capitol rallies met starkly different policing response at the Washington Post. Back to TPM:

Multiple former officials described a climate of fear within DHS around reporting threats from the far right, specifically within the Department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A). …

… DHS’s deprioritization of far-right domestic terrorism has been well-documented over the years, as analysts in the unit were reassigned to cover other topics. 

One whistleblower, who went to Congress after himself getting involved in a scandal in which the unit surveilled journalists, said that DHS officials had ordered him to stay away from the threat of white nationalism.

Former officials at DHS echoed the whistleblower’s comments, saying that a climate of fear had been instilled in the office which made intelligence officers want to “keep their heads down” for fear of their jobs.

In fact, I had forgotten that in 2019 the Trump Administration dismantled a domestic terrorism watch group in the DHS.  In my blog post on this, I wrote, “If I were given to conspiracy theories, I might think this is a prelude to a putsch.”

There was also a failure of communication between agencies responsible for security, which you might remember happened before September 11. We don’t learn.

Josh Marshall has a post up headlined We’ve Been Coddling Right Wing Terrorists for Thirty Years. This one’s behind a subscription firewall, but I’ll explain it. Bascially, for the past thirty years we’ve seen cycles of reports of dangers from right-wing domestic terrorism followed quickly by Republicans quashing the reports and screaming that “conservatives” were being “demonized.” Josh Marshall:

Go back to April 1995 and the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building. This sparked the first widespread interest in the militia movement which had begun to take root in the country in the 1980s. But Republicans, who had just taken control of Congress in January of that year, quickly shifted gears to defending militias as conservatives being smeared the association with McVeigh and his accomplices. Indeed, in June of 1995 the Senate held a hearing aimed at humanizing members of the militia movement as little more than very motivated conservative activists. As Ken Adams of one Michigan militia group told Senators at the hearing: “What is the militia?. We are doctors, lawyers, people getting involved in their government.”

The whole spectacle turned into a bit of a PR debacle because the militia witnesses turned out to be characteristically feral, meandering off the ‘gee howdy’ bias narrative to darkly warning senators about “vengeance and retribution” and “armed conflict” if their demands weren’t met.

McVeigh was trying to start a race war, as I recall, which is also the aim of our current Boogaloo Bois.

And then there was the 2009 DHS assessment of danger from right-wing extremism. That threw Republicans and their media enablers into such a tizzy that the report was recalled.

Now go to something I wrote in 2018, The Terrorists Among Us.

Back in 2009 I wrote ablog post about a report issued by the Department of Homeland Security to federal, state and local law enforcement regarding the threat of terrorism from right-wing extremists groups. And I wrote about how “conservatives” threw a fit about the report and called it a political hit job. See “Malkin et al. Admit That ‘Conservatives’ Are Right-Wing Extremists and Potential Terrorists.”

Under pressure from conservatives, in a few months DHS repudiated the report. The chief author of the report no longer works at DHS.

Now the New York Times is running a major story called U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don’t Know How to Stop It. The truth is, they were warned.

This year, even when DHS released information that pointed to a greater threat from the Right than from the Left, somehow the news was all about the Left. See, for example, Far-Right Groups Are Behind Most U.S. Terrorist Attacks, Report Finds, in the October 24, 2020, New York Times. Somehow, the article was more about Left-wing violence. The article is not the actual report, but I get the impression that the report tries to blame Right-wing violence on the Left. Then there’s this:

Of the five fatal attacks this year, the report attributed one in Portland, Ore., to an activist affiliated with the loose far-left movement known as “antifa”; one in Austin, Texas, to a man described as a “far-right extremist”; one in New Jersey to an “anti-feminist”; and two in California to a man linked to the so-called Boogaloo movement, an anti-government group whose members seek to exploit public unrest to incite a race war.

In an endnote, the researchers said they did not classify the shooting in Kenosha, Wis., that killed two protesters in August, as a terrorist attack. They said that the person charged in the shooting, a teenager whose social media accounts showed strong support for the police, “lacked a clear political motive for the killings.”

Let’s start with the first sentence. The activist who self-described as antifa who was accused of a shooting was Michael Forest Reinoehl. After the shooting Reinoehl made a video saying that he shot Aaron Danielson, an activist affiliated with the right-wing Patriot Prayer group, in self-defense. Danielson was about to shoot him, Reinoehl said. I don’t know if Reinoehl was telling the truth. A video of the incident doesn’t show anything clearly. But Reinoehl was assasinated by federal marshalls who didn’t even attempt to take him into custody. No need for a messy trial that might have found Reinoehl was innocent; he was much more useful dead.

And as for the kid in Kenosha — Kyle Rittenhouse is out on bail and was just seen posing with Proud Boys, flashing white power hand gestures, in a Wisconsin bar.

In the past five years we’ve had the Charlotte Church shooting and the Portland train shooting and the Charlottesville car killing and the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting and the El Paso Walmart shooting and the 2020 Boogaloo killings and now the insurrection of January 6. Yet security agencies only turn out in force when there’s a left-wing demonstration. BLM might paint stuff on the sidewalk, you know.

I’m sick of it. Let’s hope the Biden Administration makes some changes.

See also Joe Biden’s Looming War on White Supremacy by Ron Brownstein at The Atlantic.

The Splintered Blue Line

One aspect of the November 6 insurrection I want to explore a bit is the role of law enforcement. There were cops on both sides.

Several of the Capitol cops took a real beating at the hands of the mob. One was killed. The story in common circulation is that Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick’s head was bashed in with a fire extinguisher, although I notice major media hasn’t corroborated that.

The Washington Post reported that more than 58 D.C. police officers and an unknown number of U.S. Capitol Police officers were injured defending the Capitol building and the legislators:

An officer was hit with a bat. Another was struck with a flagpole. A third was pinned against a statue. A fourth was clobbered with a wrench. One became stuck between two doors amid a frenzied mob. Many were hit with bear spray. …

…How those injuries occurred is varied: pushed down stairs, trampled by rioters, run over in a stampede, punched with fists. …

… Videos circulating on the Internet show horrific scenes, including one of an officer, identified by the police union as from the D.C. force, being dragged down stairs outside the Capitol and beaten by people with clubs, a crutch and a pole with an American flag attached. The officer was rescued by other officers swinging batons.

Do read this whole story. Some really horrific stuff happened. It’s a wonder more of the LEOs weren’t killed or seriously injured by the mob. I also get the impression from this article that the DC police got the worst of it, although it may be that the reporter got more details from the DC police.

The Hill reports that a retired firefighter, 55-year-old Robert Sanford of Chester, Pa., has been arrested for throwing a fire extinguisher at police officers. This charge is not connected to Brian Sicknick’s death, the article says.

In the footage, according to the court documents, the fire extinguisher can be seen hitting one officer wearing a helmet before it ricochets and strikes an officer without a helmet. The object then ricochets again and strikes a third officer in the head. That officer was wearing a helmet.

Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman is being hailed as a hero for leading rioters up a flight of stairs away from the Senate chamber. However, TPM reports that two Capitol cops have been suspended. One was taking selfies with the insurrectionists; another put on a MAGA hat and was giving the mob directions. At least ten other Capitol cops are under investigation.

TPM also reports that cops from around the country showed up to cheer for Donald Trump and march to the Capitol. Their departments are investigating them. Two cops from Virginia were arrested and charged by the Justice Department with violent entry on Capitol grounds and unlawfully entering restricted areas. A Houston cop resigned. Others are still being investigated.

In short, there were police doing their jobs to defend the Capitol, and there were police in the mob committing sedition. This morning I saw a right-wing columnist accusing “the Left” of hypocrisy for concern over the death of Brian Sicknick. We’re supposed to hate cops, you know. But in truth we tend to focus on cops who unjustifiably kill Black people and escape accountability for it, which happens all too often. Sicknick, widely reported to have been a Trump supporter, was killed by Trump supporters while doing his duty.

That’s different. And I won’t comment further about who the real hypocrites are here.

See also Steve M, Everything Is Liberals’ Fault, Part MCMLXXVIII

Donnie Two Times

Or, Impeached Again! Way to go, Donnie!

Yesterday I asked whether the Republican establishment would cut the Don loose or double down on the crazy. The answer appears to be the former. Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei write at Axios that Top Republicans want Trump done — forevermore. “Top Republicans want to bury President Trump, for good,” they write. “But they are divided whether to do it with one quick kill via impeachment, or let him slowly fade away.”

There are stories from multiple sources that Mitch McConnell more than likely will vote to convict. Other Republicans are fine with doing Trump in, but they don’t want to leave their fingerprints on the knife.

For the record, these House Repblicans voted to impeach: John Katko, NY; Liz Cheney, WY; Adam Kizinger, IL; Fred Upton, MI; Jaime Hettera Beutler, WA; Dan Newhouse, WA; Peter Meijer, MI; Anthony Gonzalez, OH; Tom Rice, SC; David Valadao, CA.

I’m not finding any news stories listing Democrats voting against impeachment. We still don’t know what the Senate will do.

But here’s an interesting bit, from Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak, CNN:

Two sources told CNN Trump has said he is bringing Alan Dershowitz back after his stint defending Trump during the first impeachment proceedings. Trump has told people that Dershowitz’s defense of him on the Senate floor saved him during his last trial. Rudy Giuliani is also expected to be involved, though no concrete legal strategy had been cobbled together as of Wednesday morning, even though Trump was slated to be impeached within hours.

Several prominent figures from Trump’s last impeachment — including Jay Sekulow and Kenneth Starr — have declined to get involved. The White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, is also not expected to play a role, and considered resigning in the wake of last week’s insurrection. Trump has been dismissive of Cipollone for months now.

See also NBC News:

Stripped of the ability to fire off real-time responses, Trump must rely on a White House staff that has largely been replaced with moving boxes as aides head for the exits and allies fail to offer a defense of him in public.

Are you tired of winning yet, Donnie?

Republicans in Disarray

Shane Goldmacher writes in the New York Times:

While all parties go through reckonings after losing power, the G.O.P. has lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections and, for the first time since Herbert Hoover, ceded the White House, Senate and House in a single term.

That’s got to hurt.

I have no doubt Republicans are already looking to take Congress back in the midterms. Dems hold the houses by a hair, and the president’s party usually loses seats in midterm elections. Even so, I bet the Republican establishment right now wishes it had never heard the name “Donald Trump.”

The base, however, may not let them forget.

But the most acute danger for the health of the party, and its electoral prospects to retake the House and Senate in 2022, is the growing chasm between the pro-Trump voter base and the many Republican leaders and strategists who want to reorient for a post-Trump era.

“Have you heard what some of these folks waving MAGA flags are saying about Republicans?” said Representative Peter Meijer, Republican of Michigan, whose first days in Congress this month were marked by evacuations to escape from a mob. “They don’t identify themselves as Republicans.” …

… Some party leaders fret that as of now, they cannot win with Mr. Trump, and they cannot win without him. Right-wing voters have signaled that they will abandon the party if it turns on Mr. Trump, and more traditional Republicans will sour if it sticks by him.

It’s obvious to me that the Republican Party would be best off in the long run if it let Trumpism go and resigned itself to being in the wilderness for awhile. For one, the big donors have turned against Trumpism. It’s possible they would return in time, but for now they are clearly signalling they want the pre-Trump GOP back.

It’s also the case that the Trump base has revealed itself to be a tad, um, unstable, and not necessarily interested in the serious issue of protecting the wealth of the wealthy, which has been dear to the hearts of Republicans since McKinley. The GOP has long had to pull the scam of firing up the base with culture war issues — fighting racial integration, women’s lib, affirmative action, gay marriage, etc. — and pushing different issues in government policies — deregulation; tax cuts for the wealthy.  But QAnon is like an alien life form that keeps mutating out of control. There is no guarantee that it won’t work against the Republican Party in the future.

Paul Krugman:

… it would be a foolhardy prophet indeed who looked at the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol and assumed that this time, under this pressure, the conservative coalition will finally break apart, sending the Republican Party deep into the wilderness and reshaping American ideological debates along new lines.

But breaking points do come, and the violent endgame of the Trump presidency has exposed a new divide in the conservative coalition — not a normal ideological division or an argument about strategy or tactics, but a split between reality and fantasy that may be uniquely hard for either self-interest or statesmanship to bridge.

The other problem for Republicans is that while it might be best for the party to move away from Trumpism, a whole lot of individual elected officials owe their relatively new careers to Trumpism. Will the likes of Josh Hawley or Marjorie Taylor Greene be willing to step away from the brink?

Of course, I’m also hoping that Democrats will use its majority to jump on election reform, and fast. No more voter suppression. And if they can do something about political gerrymandering that would be peachy.

It’s also the case that we haven’t yet gone through all of the fallout from the January 6 insurrection. Facts are still coming out. Today we learned that the FBI was given a stark warning about what would happen

A day before rioters stormed Congress, an FBI office in Virginia issued an explicit internal warning that extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and “war,” according to an internal document reviewed by The Washington Post that contradicts a senior official’s declaration the bureau had no intelligence indicating anyone at last week’s pro-Trump protest planned to do harm.

Yet, obviously, preparations were not made. Requests for National Guard were denied six times while the riot was happening.  It appears that people in the Pentagon and in Homeland Security made a deliberate decision to let the insurrection take place. Possibly that’s not true, but that’s what it looks like. We need to know. It’s all still very muddy right now.

And there could still be more violence from Trump supporters, which would dig the hole for Republicans much deeper.

Oh, and Chad Wolf resigned in the middle of overseeing security for the inauguration. Way to go.

But back to the Republicans — This afternoon, the New York Times published a story by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman saying that Mitch McConnell is pleased about impeachment.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, has told associates that he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party, according to people familiar with his thinking.

Interesting. And Liz Cheney says she will vote to impeach Trump. So these signs point to a break between the old guard and Trump. I can also see the possibility that the Trumpers could form a third party that would spllit the right-wing vote for awhile. We’ll see.

Today in the House

The House has new articles of impeachment drawn up. House Democrats also prepared a resolution calling on Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment. House Republicans objected to the latter measure. It may be voted on in the full House tomorrow. My understanding is that if Pence hasn’t invoked the 25th by Wednesday, the House will impeach. And the House Dems have the votes.

Of course, the Senate won’t remove Trump from office before he’s out anyway, but that doesn’t make the exercise pointless. But a post-term conviction, if obtained, would still be useful. “First, it gives the Senate the authority to prevent Trump from ever running again for federal office,” says Kevin Drum. “Second, it would rescind some of Trump’s perks of retirement, including his pension, office space, and government-paid staff.”

It would also force Senate Republicans to go on record one more time — are you with Trump, or are you with the United States?

Mike needs to face the reality that his political career is over. For once in his sorry ass life, he ought to do the right thing and invoke the 25th. I’m not holding my breath.

Ten More Days Without a Functioning Federal Government

Josh Marshall:

One thought I keep returning to: if there were a functioning federal government we’d be seeing regular press conferences updating the public on on-going arrests, health status of the injured, progress of the investigation. As far as I can tell there hasn’t been a single one. Nothing from DOJ, FBI, Capitol Police, the Pentagon. Normally you might expect such information to be channeled through press conferences at the White House. But, not to put too fine a point on it, it’s not clear or perhaps too clear which side the White House is on.

It’s not like we’ve had much in the way of a functioning federal government for the past four years, of course. But now that most of the cabinet has resigned and gone home, political hacks/Trump loyalists are still in charge of most federal agencies, and Trump himself has stopped even going through the motions of being POTUS, which was all he ever did, we’re pretty much just drifting at this point. No one is really in charge of anything in Washington.

You may have missed this — on November 6, while we were distracted, Beijing moved to completely wipe out the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. There were mass raids and arrests. A lot of people will now disappear. Washington, of course, said nothing. One wonders what might have been if we’d had a functioning State Department in recent years, never mind a functioning federal government. Trump was always just faking being tough on China; he never really was. And Mike Pompeo has been more tuned in to domestic politics than anything going on beyond our shores.

Also, one suspects Beijing chose to move during our transitionless transition knowing there would be no response whatsoever from the U.S. Yesterday the State Department posted a tepid joint statement (with Australia, Canada, and the UK) opposing the crackdown, but that’s it in the way of a response from the U.S. And the joint statement doesn’t have Mike Pompeo’s name on it anywhere. It’s possible some assistant to an assistant released it, since no one else was doing anything.

We’ll be very lucky if China is the only foreign power to take advantage of our vulnerable state in the next ten days. And given the lack of cooperation with the transition from the Department of Defense, it may take the Biden Administration longer than usual to get up to speed on national security.

Again, though, we can ask if anyone has really been in charge of much of anything these past four years. Trump is less of a leader than a bullying and abusive head of household. Instead of doing their jobs, family members — people who had to report to him — learned that what they had to do to survive was not piss him off. This is one of the factors that hindered our pandemic response, I’m sure. For example, as I wrote in March, one of the several reasons we fell so far behind in testing is that the FDA sat on its hands and did not give independent labs permission to get to work. This would have been a routine thing to do in previous administrations. It appears Trump Administration officials have been afraid to breathe without  permission from Dear Leader. They didn’t dare even exercise their own authority.

Here’s a prescient column by Michael Gerson from February 2017, the very beginning of the fiasco:

In early January, House Speaker Paul Ryan met on the issue of tax reform with a delegation from the president-elect. Attending were future chief strategist and senior counselor Stephen K. Bannon, future chief of staff Reince Priebus, future senior adviser Jared Kushner, future counselor Kellyanne Conway and future senior policy adviser Stephen Miller. As the meeting began, Ryan pointedly asked, “Who’s in charge?”

Silence. …

… Trump has run a family business but never a large organization. Nor has he seen such an organization as an employee. “Trump,” says another former official, “is ill-suited to appreciate the importance of a coherent chain of command and decision-making process. On the contrary, his instincts run instead toward multiple mini power centers, which rewards competing aggressively for Trump’s favor.”

And while personnel came and went, that pattern didn’t change. This might not have been a total disaster if the person at the head, Trump, knew what he was doing and followed a consistent plan. But Trump is both ignorant and mercurial, and he doesn’t do plans. Schemes and scams, sure, but not not long-term, comprehensive planning. That’s way over his head. So, not only were there no consistent directions or cohesive policies coming from the White House, all the heads of agencies and departments were kept tied up in knots, afraid to act on their own in fear that any action would run afoul of whatever mood Trump was in at the moment.

That’s one reason I haven’t been critical of Joe Biden’s cabinet picks, by the way. Although I’ve seen a lot of grumbling on the Left about people not being progressive enough, what we’re going to need at the beginning is just plain old experience and competence. A lot of the agencies and offices and departments of the federal government are going to have to be rebuilt to make them functional again before anything else much gets done.

There is still a lot of investigating to do to determine why the many law enforcement and security agencies in and around Washington DC so utterly failed to protect the Capitol on Wednesday. I don’t blame the Capitol cops as much as I blame people higher up the security hierarchy who simply did not act to send reinforcents. Whether that was by design or simply because they didn’t want to piss off Daddy, I do not know. But it’s clear that something, probably a lot of somethings, just weren’t working as they were designed to work.

David Ignatius wrote in late December,

Not to be alarmist, but we should recognize that the United States will be in the danger zone until the formal certification of Joe Biden’s election victory on Jan. 6, because potential domestic and foreign turmoil could give President Trump an excuse to cling to power.

This threat, while unlikely to materialize, is concerning senior officials, including Republicans who have supported Trump in the past but believe he is now threatening to overstep the constitutional limits on his power. They described a multifaceted campaign by die-hard Trump supporters to use disruptions at home and perhaps threats abroad to advance his interests.

The big showdown is the Jan. 6 gathering of both houses of Congress to formally count the electoral college vote taken on Dec. 14, which Biden won 306 to 232. The certification should be a pro forma event, but a desperate Trump is demanding that House and Senate Republicans challenge the count and block this final, binding affirmation of Biden’s victory before Inauguration Day.

Trump’s last-ditch campaign will almost certainly fail in Congress. The greater danger is on the streets, where pro-Trump forces are already threatening chaos.

And gee, guess what happened? The only thing Ignatius got wrong is that he assumed we’d be out of danger once the election was finalized. No; we’re still in danger until Joe Biden is inaugurated.

And it’s hard to believe that Trump didn’t pre-emptively move to stop reinforcements from going to the Capitol. His lackeys in the Pentagon, in DHS, were remarkably inactive.. See, for example, This is why the National Guard didn’t respond to the attack on the Capitol at Defense News.

See also:

Elaine Godfey, The Atlantic, It Was Supposed to Be So Much Worse

Kellie Carter Jackson, The Atlantic, The Inaction of Capitol Police Was by Design

New York Times, Trump has not lowered flags in honor of an officer who died from injuries sustained amid the riot.

Washington Post, Capitol siege was planned online. Trump supporters now planning the next one.


Where Are They Now?

I realized I hadn’t heard anything about Rudy Giuliani for a couple of days. We know that even during the Wednesday afternoon putsch, and the hours after, he was calling and texting Republican lawmakers to get them to at least delay the certification of the Electoral College votes because there was more evidence! Real evidence this time!

The most recent Rudy news I could find was in the right-wing Washington Times.

President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani said Friday that he is surprised more people did not try to storm the U.S. Capitol during the deadly insurrection they both fomented this week.

Mr. Giuliani, who on Wednesday recommended “trial by combat” as way of resolving the presidential election decisively lost by Mr. Trump, voiced disbelief “so few” people seized the Capitol hours later.

Speaking to Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s former aide, Mr. Giuliani also denied “Trump people” scaled the Capitol’s walls during the breach and baselessly laid blame on alleged outsider activists.

“Most of them hadn’t come there with implements to do it and also led on by people from, you know, groups that are experts at it. Believe me, Trump people were not scaling the wall,” Mr. Giuliani said.

“So there’s nothing to it that [Mr. Trump] incited anything,” Mr. Giuliani said on Mr. Bannon’s “War Room: Pandemic” podcast.

It’s a bit remarkable that the Washington Times admitted that the claim that not-Trump-supporters were behind the putsch is “baseless.” Note also that Steve Bannon’s channels since have been removed from YouTube. There is also speculation that Rudy could face charges in connection with the riot. Otherwise, Rudy seems to have crawled under a rock somewhere.

For that matter, we haven’t heard much from Ivanka since she deleted a tweet that called the insurrectionists “patriots.” See also Emily Jane Fox, “The Stink of His Family Is Nearly Impossible to Get Off”: Jared and Ivanka’s Final Chapter in Washington Demolished Their Future at Vanity Fair. In brief, Javanka is now persona non grata among pre-2016 friends and associates. Ivanka was serious about launching her own political career, and after Wednesday let’s just say she’s got a way to go with that.

I was also curious about Kimberly Guilfoyle, last seen dancing in this video made just before the pre-putsch “rally.” She told us the best was yet to come, but I’m not sure Wednesday was what she had in mind.

True story: I couldn’t remember Guilfoyle’s name, so I googled “crazy woman who spoke at Republican convention” and she came right up.

Ben Carson! I occasionally wonder about Ben Carson. I worry that people forget to check on him to be sure he’s still breathing. But in the past few hours he and Donald Trump, Jr., have both criticized Twitter for the lifetime ban of The Donald. Ben Carson also let us know he is aware the U.S. is not China. Well, good on you, Ben! You’re learning world geography!

I don’t wonder about Eric. I don’t want to know about Eric.

Bess Levin at Vanity Fair reports that Hope Hicks is resigning, again, but not because of what happened on Wednesday. Hicks wants everyone to be clear about that. Her second resignation is just a scheduling thing.

I am sad to report that Tiffany Trump is doubling down on family loyalty.

The 27-year-old Georgetown law school graduate hopped on Twitter, a platform she hasn’t much used recently, to issue a series of messages and retweets that repeated his false allegations of election fraud and that blasted Twitter and Facebook for locking his accounts or for removing his content that was seen as promoting election disinformation and inciting violence.

Oh, Tiffany. You got a law degree, girl. In spite of your least-favorite-daughter status and being stuck with a name worthy of a strip-club headliner, you were on the way to making something of yourself and building a life apart from Trump, Inc. And there you go making another appeal for Dad’s Approval. So sad. He doesn’t love anyone, you know.

I also regret to report that Steve Mnuchin has not resigned yet. He’s going to stay on the job until they drag him out. His wife Louise has made a new movie in which her character eats a spider, it says here, so we can still see her, if we want to.

Steve and Louise in happier (for them) times.

Mike Pompeo is also sticking it out. He will be addressing the staff of Voice of America on Monday. VoA staff are pissed they are being required to broadcast the speech, which they consider propaganda. That’s our Mike.

Acting Homeland Security Director Chad Wolf, whom you might remember was all over Portland last summer but who somehow couldn’t be bothered to respond to the riot in the Capitol, did emerge from his secret bunker long enough to issue a tweet condemning the violence on Wednesday. Yeah, we’re not impressed, Chad.

Although she’s not an official part of the Trump Administration, I want to give a special shout-out to Ginny Thomas, wife of Justice Clarence Thomas. She was a big online cheerleader of the “rally” on Wednesday. There are reports she sponsored 80 buses of insurrectionists that went to DC.  Since Wednesday she has been uncharacteristically quiet and, I understand, has even deleted her Facebook page.

Her husband might be concerned that if her involvement in the riots became widely known he might be pressured to resign. He might be right.

The Truth Is Marching On

Excuse me while I free associate for a while.

Today I ran into a post by Ed Morrisey at Hot Air providing testimony that the November election results matched the Trump campaign’s internal polling on the eve of the election, with the exception of Georgia, which internal polls showed Trump winning. They all knew good and well that Trump was losing and no fraud was going on. This is not a surprise to me, but it’s a surprise to see it reported on Hot Air.

Back in the heyday of political blogs, Morrisey was Captain Ed, a reliably hard-Right voice in support of George W. Bush and against liberalism. He was in lock step with the likes of Power Line and Instapundit, if you recall those blogs. Hot Air is a website founded by Michelle Malkin. So it’s a bit disorienting to find Morrisey being honest about bad actors on the Right. I haven’t been following Morrisey, however, and I don’t know if he was a Trump supporter until recently.

This testimony about internal polling is significant because it is more evidence — like we needed more evidence –that Trump planned to steal the election by declaring himself the winner based on an election night lead and then using courts to stop the counting of mail-in votes. That plot was foiled when Fox News called Arizona for Biden on election night. Trump’s very narrow path to victory required Arizona and Pennsylvania, it says here. Note that Arizona and Pennsylvania were the hills Cruz, Hawley, et al. were still trying to take at the end.

According to a YouGov poll out today, 45 percent of Republican voters approve of the riot in the Capitol building. The same poll showed 68 percent of Republican voters do not consider the assault on the Capitol to have been a threat to democracy. This puts Republicans way out of step with Democratic and Independent voters. But it also tells us that 55 percent of Republican voters don’t approve of the attempted insurrection, and at least some of that 55 percent do think it was a threat to democracy. We can hope some scales fell from at least some eyes.

James Ford, a Zen teacher and Unitarian Universalist minister, cited the YouGov poll on Facebook and quoted Hannah Arendt: “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.” James continues,

What was believed as true has been revealed to be a lie. Here as the prince of the lies has been revealed for what he is.

Those 55 percent are at that place. That hard place.

They are being invited to see something about themselves. Personally, I am completely sympthetic. It is something we humans find terribly seductive. I’ve swallowed more than one lie in my life. …

…A painful thing. I know. I know. And. Most almost certainly will not succeed. It is too hard a thing.

But a door has opened.

That’s about how I felt when I saw Ed Morrisey’s post. Look at you, being all factual. What happened? I don’t expect Morrisey to stop being a lot more conservative than I am. But “conservative” doesn’t worry me. Reasonable people can reach different conclusions when they apply different values and philosophies to the same facts. In that case at least everyone is mostly dealing with facts, which hasn’t been the case for the U.S. political Right for some time. There’s a big difference between opposing views on tax policy and not living in the same time-space continuum.

Which brings me to former Missouri senator John Danforth. Danforth may be one of the last living old-school Republicans. Danforth was first elected to the Senate in 1976, a time when the GOP was splitting between the more ideological Goldwater-Reagan wing and the old eastern establishment, sometimes derided as the “Rockefeller Republicans.” As a Senator, Danforth was conservative, and I disagreed with a lot of his votes, but he was more pragmatic than ideological. He didn’t think in talking points. He was respected by reasonable people of both parties. He lived in the standard time-space continuum. And it’s significant that Danforth says today that campaigning for Josh Hawley to take his old seat was “the worst mistake I ever made in my life.”

I think Hawley has done irreparable damage to his political career. I could be wrong about that. Certainly, if you look at Missouri right now you might assume there is no limit to how far Right you can go and still win elections. My sense of things, though, is that the riot in the Capitol could end up being “movement conservatism’s” last hurrah. The pendulum that kept moving further and further Right, from Reagan to Gingrich et al. to Bush-Cheney-Karl Rove to the ascendance of Trump and the MAGA cult may be about to swing the other way. The powers that be on the Right are arrogant and greedy but not stupid; they must see they are on an unsustainable course, politically. The more grounded and traditionally conservative sensibilities of the old Republican establishment may come back into vogue and squeeze out the nutzoids. That would be a good thing.

And if that’s so, Josh Hawley just bet the mortgage money on the wrong horse.

A sign of the times: The Wall Street Journal is calling on Trump to resign. I agree with WSJ that the events of this week have probably finished Trump as a serious political figure. Yes, he still has a devoted following, but Trump probably never realized how much of his power derived from the consent of the Republican establishment and Murdoch media, not to mention the complicity of mainstream media to “normallize” him. If he loses most of that, and I believe he has, there’s no way he wins another presidential nomination. His influence within the Republican party could fade quickly.

And, frankly, this crew is not exactly a solid power base.

Let’s talk about the insurrectionists. They were dangerous, no question. There is evidence some of them were hoping to take hostages. Some of them might have hoped to seize and destroy the ballots. Somebody planted explosives. One security officer was killed by rioters who, as I understand it, smashed in his head with a fire extinguisher. There was vandalism. Offices were looted. Poop was smeared in hallways.

But most of them, once inside, seemed to be a loose ends. Why were they there? What did they expect? They issued no demands and made no statements other than to wave flags — American flags, Trump flags, Confederate flags. Some of them seemed to think this was a big lark, like the time they left a rubber snake in the teacher’s desk back in 6th grade. Like this guy:

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: A pro-Trump protester carries the lectern of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi through the Roturnda of the U.S. Capitol Building after a pro-Trump mob stormed the building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Behold 36-year-old Adam Johnson, a father of five from Parrish, Florida.  And yes, this is what White privilege looks like. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that he’s commiting a crime. Felony? What felony?

At least the fellow who put his feet on Nancy Pelosi’s desk has been arrested. That’s a start. He is Richard Barnett, 60, from Gravette, Arkansas, and when he left the building he bragged about looting Nancy Pelosi’s office to the New York Times.

See When the Mob Reached the Chamber by Megan Garber at The Atlantic.

The glibness was its own display of dominance. Apathy can be its own kind of weapon. The images of the rioters that came from the Capitol yesterday conveyed glee and anger and many things in between; what they convey very little of, however, is fear. The insurrectionists grinned at the cameras. They waved, merrily. They shuffled through Statuary Hall as the frozen faces of America’s past looked on. They overran the place. And then they were escorted out, calmly—politely—by Capitol Police. They were fueled by lies and fantasies; one thing they got right, though, was that their attack on the government—an attack motivated by their desire to overturn a free and fair election—would incur very few consequences. By the evening, as newspapers ran all-caps headlines about the trauma the Capitol had just endured at the hands of militant invaders, law enforcement had reportedly arrested some 50 people. News networks that had spent years stoking violent delusions scrambled to announce their shock that the delusions had turned violent. Politicians who had demonized peaceful racial-justice protesters this summer found acrobatic new ways to define “law and order.”

Those rioters who returned home and expected a virtual hero’s welcome on social media found something else instead — claims that the riots were the work of antifa! See MAGA World Is Splintering by Kaitlyn Tiffany at The Atlantic.Tiffany spoke withTrump fan Bryson Gray, who had attended the insurrection but claims to have remained outside the Capitol Building.

“When I left the Capitol, I actually thought I was going to get on Twitter and see a bunch of support, because it was actually a very beautiful thing,” Gray said. Instead, he was met with a strange message spreading across the site: Trump fans weren’t behind the riots. Instead, it was antifa, the decentralized left-wing group that has become a bogeyman for Republican commentators and politicians, and for President Trump in particular. Many of Gray’s former #StopTheSteal allies had disavowed the insurrection, and a good number of them were using leftist antagonists as their scapegoat. “The first tweet I saw was somebody saying ‘Patriots don’t storm buildings; there were no patriots in the Capitol,’” Gray told me. “I’m like, Uh, that literally makes no sense; what are you talking about?

I don’t disagree with Greg Sargent often, but today he writes that the insurgency scored a propaganda coup.

“Make no mistake: Wednesday was a watershed moment for the far-right extremist movement in this country,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, told me.

“By all measurable effects, this was for far-right extremists one of the most successful attacks that they’ve ever launched,” Jared Holt, who tracks far-right groups for the Atlantic Council, added. “This will be lionized and propagandized on likely for the next decade.”

I don’t think so, although it depends on whether the rioters are allowed to get away, unpunished. These people violated the Bigger Asshole rule, big time, which is why so many righties were so quick to blame antifa. And as their behavior in the Capitol Building revealed, they don’t actually have a cause. They have no coherent governing ideology or purpose other than Trump. They have resentments. They see themselves as victims. That’s it. In far Right circles Wednesday’s events may become legend, but I don’t see a sustained movement.

I am hopeful that most of the rioters who broke into the Capitol building will be identified, arrested, and convicted of something. And I am hopeful that they receive enough punishments to change their attitudes. Some of them have already lost their jobs. I am also hopeful that any government or security official who in any way colluded to make the insurrection happen will do penitentiary time. We’ll see.

See also David Graham, The Atlantic, The Insurrectionists Would Like You to Know That They’re the Real Victims.

As for Trump, I do hope the House impeaches him. Right now, it appears this will happen.