There’s No Fence to Sit On

First, here’s a sad story about Rep. Elise Stefanik’s journey from respected conservative voice at the Harvard Institute of Politics to MAGA-head zombie. My take on this is that Stefanik simply found that the fence she was sitting on evaporated out from under her. As a congressional Republican she had to support the voter fraud lie or be slammed by her caucus, and for that the Harvard IOP bounced her. So she took the road left to her and went full MAGA.

There’s also an in-depth report on Josh Hawley’s road to the insurrection at the Washington Post. Synopsis: Hawley is an egotistical prick. But if you want to know more about how he got to be an egotistical prick, and more about the dimensions and depth of his egotistical prickiness, read away. This was reprinted in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I noticed.

Here’s another sad story: In his quest to be the lone Democrat holding aloft the sacred torch of bipartisanship, Joe Manchin has been floating an alternative proposal to the For the People voting rights act that he thinks could get bipartisan support.

Manchin is now pitching a fix to the Voting Rights Act that would subject all 50 states to the so-called preclearance process. That goes farther than the VRA restoration legislation that has been previously introduced, which is moving separately from s1 so Democrats can create the kind of legislative record that will make the law more resistant to legal attack. Manchin nonetheless has described the approach as something to be done with bipartisan support.

The “preclearance” part means that all states would need to get federal approval for changes to their election practices. You can read more about Manchin’s proposal here. It really would do some good. But the sad part for Joe Manchin is that it appears Senate Republicans have shot his proposal down already.

On Thursday, [Sen. John] Cornyn signaled that such an idea would not get much buy-in from the Republican Party.

He characterized it in suspicious terms. The idea of a 50-state preclearance system has only been outlined by Manchin in vague terms, which to Cornyn, meant that there is an “effort afoot” to do through the “back door” what S1 was trying to do through the “front door:” a supposed federal “takeover” of the U.S. election system.

See also Biden is reaching out to Republicans. But his real target is Joe Manchin. by Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent. “The only way Manchin will be part of a purely party-line vote for infrastructure is at the end of an extended process in which Biden makes repeated attempts to bring Republicans in, attempts that are clearly rejected by McConnell,” they write. So sad for Joe Manchin. So sad for the rest of us.

It seems to me that we’ve reached a place in our ongoing political drama that there is no longer any place for fence-sitting. The fence is gone, and the middle ground is a sinkhole. Everyone has to choose a side now. Of course, Joe Manchin hasn’t figured that out yet, but maybe the Red Wall of No being offered by his Republican colleagues will provide a hint.

Now a group of prominent Republicans — mostly retired, I think — have issued an ultimatum that they will leave the party if the Republicans don’t get themselves out of the MAGA trap. Jennifer Rubin:

In a document titled, “A Call to American Renewal,” the signatories reference Cheney’s ouster and write, “This ‘common-sense coalition’ seeks to catalyze the reform of the Republican Party and its recommitment to truth, founding ideals, and decency or, if unsuccessful, lay the foundation for an alternative.”

The list of signatories include former governors Bill Weld of Massachusetts, Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey; former representatives Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Barbara Comstock of Virginia, James Leach of Iowa, Tom Coleman of Missouri, Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma and Denver Riggleman of Virginia; former CIA director Michael Hayden; former homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff; former Republican Party chairman Michael Steele; and conservative voices such as George Conway and Mona Charen.

That’s going to mean nothing to the MAGAts, I fear. Rubin says the goal of this group is not so much to restore the Republican Party but marginalize the current Republican Party so that sane people can move back in to occupy it. They are especially focused on getting Kevin McCarthy out as House Republican leader, Rubin says. I am skeptical much will come of this, but we’ll see.

Last night on the Chris Hayes show, Sam Seder argued that we’re way past the point at which the GOP can be saved. This is worth watching.

The GOP has been heading in this direction for at least 20 years, Seder says. We are at least five or six years beyond the point at which the party could have been saved. There is no “coming back to their senses.” There is no leveraging this.

Republicans have been going down the path of believing obvious lies that support the reality they want to see for many years. They were well down that road even before we got to the Iraq War buildup, with the ominous aluminum tubes and yellowcake uranium that would turn into mushroom clouds at any moment.

The current situation provides a grim demonstration of how far confirmation bias can be stretched by people who are not, as far as we know, actually psychotic. Increasingly Republicans aren’t just sellling out their principles and their country; they are selling out reality. They are so far gone now that there is no longer a way out. Recent examples include their new theory that Dr. Fauci is responsible for the covid pandemic and that the January 6 insurrection was just tourism. Now Republicans in the Michigan legislature are pushing a bill that would muzzle newspaper “fact check” columns.

Under the legislation, fact checkers would have to register with the Secretary of State and file proof of a $1 million fidelity bond. Civil actions could be filed against the fact checkers, and any violations could result in fines of at least $1,000 per day for as long as the violation continued.

There’s no way back from this. There aren’t enough “reality based” Republicans left in government to reconstitute a workable party.

Back in 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.

It’s been some years since the GOP gave up on government and instead went with polemics alone. Current Republican office holders don’t seem to know how to do anything else. No, there’s no coming back for them.

14 thoughts on “There’s No Fence to Sit On

  1. I think the answer to all of this is put Donald J Trump in jail. Cut off the movement at the head. I am certain he and lots of his nefarious connections are pressuring the Republicans to walk the plank or else. There are other reasons why people sell out, but this is an obvious cause for most of it. Sine qua non – without which, nothing.

    And so whoever is investigating DJTs financials, please get on with it. Without sending Trump to the slammer, it's a massive uphill struggle against the army of low level Republicans who are more than happy to sell out the Truth for the sake of power, dominance, and their leader.

  2. I'm of Russian-Ukrainian descent, so I'm usually pretty pessimistic – as my friends here, maha's regulars, can attest to – but this time I'm about as pessimistic about our rapidly devolving democracy as I ever have been in my life.

    Why am I this pessimistic about our ability to hang on to this representative democracy?

    While we're all (and I include myself)  very worried about Joe Manchin and his fence-sitting skills on the critical voting  rights legislation, I've also been freaking out about what can (will?) happen if Joe says, "Ok, I'm in on John Lewis and HR 1!"

    And no, it's not AZ's Sinema that ultimately worries me – though she certainly appears to be another roadbloc… Uhm, concern.

    It's what will happen if it does pass.

    I'd hold-off on celebrating like it's 199… 2099!

    Remember who can kill this bill with just a few pages:  SCOTUS CJ John Roberts.

    Roberts is the bigoted asshole who gave us the Shelby decision – in a 5 – 4 SCOTUS vote, where he was the deciding vote.

    Remember that little Shelby ditty?  He said the 1965 VRA wasn't needed anymore!  


    For evidence?  Just look at the Black guy who's POTUS!!!!!  "Move along!  No more descrimination here!!!"

    And then after Shelby, he put "Killing the VRA" in the "Completed" column on his bucket-list.  That was his goal ever since he worked in the Reagan (mal)administration on that specific topic.

    So you worry about Manchin.

    I'll remain freaked-out about CJ John Roberts, and his 6 – 3 majority of bigoted socio/psycho-paths.

    "First, kill all the lawyers.". Best advice we didn't follow.

  3. Oh, Jeez, I forgot something!  AGAIN!!!!!

    I swear, sometimes I'd forget to inhale if breathing wasn't an involuntary reflex!

    A few days ago, Elie Mystal, The Nation magazine's justice correspondent – and GREAT pundit! –  said on the TV machine that even BEFORE we pass HR 1, we'd better expand the SCOTUS, since in its present (untenable) form – and as I mentioned in my earlier freak-out – HR 1 will go down 6 – 3, much to Roberts' uncontainable joy.

    Now do you see why I've got my "Fear-flag' flying?!?


  4. I'm about to go for 3 comments in a row!  A "Comment 'Hat-trick,'" si to speak!!

    YAY!ll  For me.

    BOO!!!!  From you!

    You want to see what I'm afraid may be in our not too distant future!

    Take a look at the blooming civil war in Israel!   Or should I say, "The Apartheid" state of Israel?).

    Treating Palestinians like we White American "Christians" used to (and to a {too} large degree still do) treat Black Americans has resulted in riots in the streets.

    Most Palestinians are Israeli citizens.

    Proud-boy like Jewish thugs are pulling Palestinians out of theur cars, and beating them!!!

    I see that, and I see "tRUMP Youth" monsters here, killing and maiming Black people.  Fellow Amerucan citizens.

    I don't think we're that far away from a similar civil war.

    Hopefully, ten years from now, you can all have a great laugh at my expense!

  5. C U N D – Your record of three in a row will not stand. Just sayin'.

    Set emotion aside and look at numbers and trends. Here's the percentages with voters.

    Republicans –    25%

    Democrats    –   31%

    Independents –  41%

    Independents don't participate in state primary elections (with a few exceptions.) So the most radical red states WILL elect nut-case Trumpsters to run against the democrat (who may lie somewhere between Dipwad Joe and OSC.) Independents go to vote in the General Election in November and they have to choose between the choices that the Democrats and the Republicans made in the Primary election. 

    The analysis gets interesting here. The majority of Republican voters believe the last election was stolen and they'd vote for my pet turtle if Trump told them to. If the poll breakdown on Covid is an indicator, Independents aren't breaking for Trump even if they favor Liz Cheney conservatism. 

    If there's a new party, formed by X-Republicans, they'd have to put up candidates as Independents, (Think Lisa Mukowski – she was beaten in the Primary by a Trumpster, ran as an Independent in the General and WON.) So I'm suggesting that the GOP incumbents that Trump turns into human sacrifices in 2022 could run as Independent spoilers and clear a way for the Democrat to win.

    Why? Perhaps 20% of GOP voters (or 5% of registered voters) aren't fans of Trump, but they sure as hell won't vote for the Democrat. A much bigger percent of conservative independents fall in that class. (Say it's 15% of registered voters.) In the General election, we're peeling off 20% of voters from the Trump candidate at virtually NO COST to the Democrat. Because almost all those anti-Trump voters can't ever vote for a Dem. They have the opportunity to register a protest vote against the Trumpster and FOR conservatism. 

    Now factor in radical Gerrymandering for House races. In red states, the GOP packs an urban district to make it 80% registered Democrats to create several narrow-majority (say, 60%) Republican-majority districts. IF disgruntled Republicans run as anti-Trump conservatives and peel off independent votes, that 10% majority may not be enough.

    The best thing Democrats might do to preserve the House and grow in the Senate is the back an anti-Trump conservative party.

  6. The GOP has been heading in this direction for at least 20 years, Seder says. 

    And quiet as its been kept of late, Liz Cheney was an engineer on the crazy train that got them where they are now.  There are no words to really capture the irony and yes, schadenfreude of her now playing the principled martyr as she's thrown like a shovel full of coal into the boiler of the steam engine she helped build and direct, to keep it going.  Which informs Cheney having voted with Trump on average 93% of the time.  She cries crocodile tears now for "democracy" and the Constitution, the same document that her and her father wiped their butts with during the Bush II years.  She has mildly critiqued white supremacy lately, but she showed her true colors when she fell all in on birtherism when Obama was in office.  All of this can be said of many of these newly "woke" conservatives pearl-clutching over Trump sycophancy, which is really the logical extension of what they've been working towards all these years.

    So what's the *real* deal here?  Is it just Cheney was angling to run for president ("Its my turn!") and Trump is in the way?  Are they just embarrassed of the crass and uncouth Trump, who doesn't get that they speak their bigotry through dog whistles and not bullhorns, but otherwise they agree with his walls, tax cuts and racist policies and voter suppression?  Notice that they haven't come out en masse against the GOP's democracy destroying "voter integrity" legislation. 

    Liz Cheney and the rest of 'em want to keep the party exactly as it is, and lock the rabid Trump deplorables back into the basement, and return to the pre-Trump, Paul Ryan dog whistle days, where lies and obstruction was the order of the day, racist talk was limited to the parlor, and hate for all things democratic was “politely” de rigueur.  If that was not the case, we'd be seeing these people renounce their membership in the party and become independents, at least.  That's the best way to put leverage on the crazies, and they'd do that if they were serious about really rebuilding the party into something sane and useful.  They're not.

    • I am still terrified of the GQP crazies in the GQP death cult, even though they are all dead enders, but I know that the consequences that I face because of their insanity will be grave.

    • The Cheneyists won’t leave The Party, because ultimately they love power much more than their “principles”. But they promise to Furrow Their Brows Meaningfully as they vote for everything the Trump Fascists want.
      Their only real objection is that they’re not the ones in charge of the machine.

  7. I've been predicting that the Trumpists would break away & start a new Party, because I assumed that the Old GOP still controlled the internal machinery of  the GOP.  It's starting to look like the Old GOP screwed up worse even than I imagined – allowing the Crazies to take over the Party – so now it's the Old Guard who will have to break away.  I have no sympathy for them, but sure hope they break the GOP.

    IMO, the core of the GOP is it's big donors.  I wonder how they will "vote".  

  8. Elise Stefanik is my Congresswoman.

    I never voted for her.

    She is a liar and moral coward. She was a moderate up until the 1st impeachment.

    As of last week she 2was bragging about being 13th in Congress for her bipartisan votes.

    She is not to be trusted.

  9. The news isn’t all bad: Rep. Matt Gaetz Snorted Cocaine With Escort Who Had ‘No Show’ Gov’t Job, subtitled “The Grand Ol’ Party”.

    The Florida congressman’s one-time wingman, Joel Greenberg, will identify the escort to investigators as one of more than 15 young women Gaetz paid for sex, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

    But what distinguishes this woman, Megan Zalonka, is that she turned her relationship with Greenberg into a taxpayer-funded no-show job that earned her an estimated $7,000 to $17,500, according to three sources and corresponding government records…

    • The news isn’t all bad    cheeky

      I'm in a state of euphoria, and rapidly approaching Nirvana with the impending news/ indictment of Matt Gaetz getting his comeuppance. I hope he wears his gasmask at his arraignment to mock the foolishness of prosecutors who think they can pin ole sugar daddy Matt down. Won't they be surprised when the altruism and generosity Matt has shown to his " dating partners" proves to be just that.

      I just read about 35 pages of Joel Greenberg's 86 page plea agreement. In plain English, he's fucked. They've got him by the balls, and my guess is they are going to squeeze an indictment of Matt Gaetz from them.

      The plea agreement makes clear that Greenberg and others who had sex with the "minor" absolutely knew she was underage when they engaged in sex with her. Seems Matt got a little too carried away in his political rumspringa from Florida politics.

  10. I'm so sick of manchin. He and susan collins need to be put in life boat and launched. Their meely mouthed blindness is always a threat to the ship. Biden needs to pull a lbj and twist manchin's arm behind his back.

  11. Since we are talking about what the GOP has become… 
    Maha's post is pretty solid.  And I want to share some thoughts that have been troubling me for many months.  (I thinks it's worse than we think.) My thoughts aren't really original, just a synthesis of different things that many have observed.

    1) The GOP has not become the party of DJT, it has become the party of WWE. Performative politics. DJT just happens to be the current world champion of performative politics. Chris Hayes last night was on this track (it only matters that you are perceived as fighting against those da*n socialist Dems.) Reality doesn't matter.  Story matters.  The voters they are aiming at only care about whether the story "seems right".  Neither data, nor evidence, nor facts are required.  If the story feels good, no problem.  Think WWE Smack Down. Look at how excited those "fans" get!  The GOP no longer has political adherents; it has fans. Hayes pointed out that Taylor-Greene doesn't do anything legislative. She just creates video content for social media, driving a fund raising behemoth by milking fans.  That's a distillation of the GOP today.

    2) In your closest city (even if a small city) suppose there are two events the same night: a) a panel discussion on why our economy isn't working for so many people and b) a WWE event.  Which one is going to sell more tickets?  That's depressing.

    3) So then the question becomes: How many conservatives and independents today decide on voting in the same way they decide on that choice of events in #2?

    4) This is a deliberate GOP strategy, based on an understanding of social media, entertainment, and the mind set of their target voters. 

    5) Last year the Lincoln project was talking about purging the GOP of the wingnuts.  But a major political party is not just the elected people.  It's a huge organization of unknown people at the state, county and local level.  It's the people who do the grass roots work at campaign time. Where do THOSE people stand? MAGA? And parties own actual assets like voter lists, call lists, canvassing results, etc.  If the sane old-school repubs form a 3rd party, they're leaving all of those assets behind to the whack job scam artists that have taken over their party. 

    This whole mess is a nasty complicated thing. Yes, it's the Frankenstein monster they have been building for decades, so their hoisted on their own petards. But the problem is that we all suffer the consequences as our country slides into authoritarianism.



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