The Mahablog

Politics. Society. Group Therapy.

The Mahablog

The GOP Is Drowning in Entitled Narcissism

So Trump had the entertainer formerly known as Kanye West plus White supremacist/anti-Semite/Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes as dinner guests at Mar-a-Lago this week. Much hand-wringing and pearl-clutching ensued. I’m struggling to understand why anyone would find this remarkable, given that it’s Trump we’re talking about, but apparently some do.

Ye, who has announced he is running for President, reported that he asked Trump to be his running mate. Whether this was meant to be a jest I do not know, but of course Trump does not comprehend “humor.” “Trump started basically screaming” and told Ye he would lose.

By several accounts Fuentes had not been invited but was allowed in because he came with Ye. And Trump found Fuentes completely captivating. As Zack Stanton and Garrett Ross write at Politico, “The quickest way to DONALD TRUMP’s heart is flattery: Say nice things about him, and you’re in.” Trump’s advisers were aghast.

Advisers to Trump privately acknowledged that the decision to host the Tuesday dinner, just one week after Trump launched his reelection bid, was a significant concern. One adviser described it as “horrible” and another as “totally awful.” They and others in Trump’s orbit spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private discussions.

David M. Friedman, who served as his ambassador to Israel, publicly took Trump to task for consorting with the troublesome pair, tweeting that the former president was “better than this.”

No, he’s not. He’s not “better than this” at all. That’s exactly who he is, and who he has been all along.

Anyway, the more interesting read is at Talking Points Memo. Josh Marshall writes Elon Musk and the Narcissism/Radicalization Maelstrom. This post isn’t so much about Elon Musk as it is about Musk and Trump, both entitled narcissists, being pulled deeper and deeper by their own egos into a hard-Right alternative universe.

It’s clear that Donald Trump had dark political impulses and beliefs going back decades. He put his cards on the table clearly enough when he announced his presidential campaign with denunciations of Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers. But the politics wasn’t as fleshed out ideologically or as clearly articulated as it would soon become. You could watch in his online interactions how his ego followed the praise and fawning. His narcissism pulled him toward the people who became his most loyal online devotees and they were routinely and unsurprisingly the most ardent white nationalists and far-right agitators. They showed up increasingly in his Twitter timeline. He started engaging with them and promoting them. The point isn’t that Trump was some kind of naif pulled into a radicalization spiral. He had all the building blocks. I doubt very much that in mid-2015 Trump had any real familiarity with the arcana of racist and radical right groups, their keywords or ideological touch-points. But they knew he was one of them, perhaps even more than he did. They pledged their undying devotion and his narcissism did the rest.

Elon Musk is on the same path. There are various theories purporting to explain Musk’s hard right turn: a childhood in apartheid South Africa, his connection with Peter Thiel, disappointments in his personal life. Whatever the truth of the matter, whatever right-leaning tendencies he may have had before a couple years ago appear to have been latent or unformed. Now the transformation is almost complete. He’s done with general “free speech” grievance and springing for alternative viewpoints. He’s routinely pushing all the far right storylines from woke groomers to great replacement.

I’ve paid little attention to Elon Musk until recently. There is copious testimony from many former employees that he is basically an entitled child with little understanding of how his cars and/or space ships work. Both he and Trump were men born into money who somehow gained reputations for being genius business people when in fact they are both a bit dim. More ego than brains.  Josh Marshall continues,

Most of us know what it’s like to be caught up in the moment. In a moment of tense confrontation or ego injury it is natural, if unlovely, to pull tight to those who are there to defend you. Some of this is simply human nature. But with the likes of Musk and Trump it operates on a qualitatively different and more explosive level, the consequence of an innate narcissism, an ingrained sense of grievance and entitlement and the unique dynamics of social media. Their power and wealth also make their meltdowns vastly more consequential than yours or mine.

Right now the Republican party is being pulled further and further into Crazy Land because of Trump. More of them now are willing to come out and say that they need to cut ties with Trump. However, they’re still afraid of him. They also don’t have much else to offer. See Jennifer Rubin on this point. For example,

In yet another entry in the poor argument sweepstakes, former vice president Mike Pence went on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday to opine, “Candidates that were focused on the issues that people are facing today and solutions for tomorrow, focused on the future did quite well. But candidates that were focused on the past, candidates that were focused on re-litigating the 2020 election did not fare as well.”

Hmmm. Which prominent Republican laid out a rational anti-inflation policy or a jobs policy or anything of substance that might have a prayer of passage? It seems the party spent more time running away from the extreme agenda outlined by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, than explaining what it would do if elected.

The Republicans for too long have leaned on fear mongering and dirty politics to win elections, going back to the 1950s. They started out with McCarthyism and Red baiting, and then they learned to use racism and sexism and homophobia to keep the base marching to the voting booth. For a long time there were still “serious” Republicans who could write legislation and who had some understanding of policy issues, but now that group has mostly been replaced by Internet trolls. Even Jim Geraghty, a National Review guy who also writes for the Washington Post, has realized they’ve hit a wall.

Yes, the GOP underperformed in a lot of places this year, but the limits of “angertainment” were perhaps most vividly illustrated here, a rough lesson in the diminishing returns from an approach to governing that mistakes “owning the libs” for getting things done for constituents.

The razor-thin near-rejection of Boebert — from a district that Donald Trump won by eight percentage points in 2020, covering much of the western half of the state — demonstrates that Trump-esque style of turning the performative outrage up to 11 hit a hard ceiling among the electorate, repelling not just Democrats and independents but apparently a thin but decisive slice of Republicans. It likely isn’t a coincidence that the last good year for Colorado Republicans was the one before Trump announced his 2016 presidential campaign.

Geraghty has realized that the cheapest and easiest way for a Republican politician to gain attention is to be controversial and crazy. The problem is that not enough of the voting public watches Fox News.

But now the GOP finds itself in something like a perfect storm. Too much of “the base” is seething with bigotry and grievance and really is just about owning the Libs. They have no discernible interest in policy other than knee-jerk opposition to whatever the Democrats are trying to do. They dismiss Republicans who aren’t as radical as they are as RINOs. And they alienate centrist and conventionally conservative voters.

It’s like riding a tiger. How do you get off without being eaten?

See also At Protests, Guns Are Doing the Talking. Gun-carrying at public demonstrations is becoming more and more common, but only among right-wingers.

A partisan divide — with Democrats largely eschewing firearms and Republicans embracing them — has warped civic discourse. Deploying the Second Amendment in service of the First has become a way to buttress a policy argument, a sort of silent, if intimidating, bullhorn.

“It’s disappointing we’ve gotten to that state in our country,” said Kevin Thompson, executive director of the Museum of Science & History in Memphis, Tenn., where armed protesters led to the cancellation of an L.G.B.T.Q. event in September. “What I saw was a group of folks who did not want to engage in any sort of dialogue and just wanted to impose their belief.”

A New York Times analysis of more than 700 armed demonstrations found that, at about 77 percent of them, people openly carrying guns represented right-wing views, such as opposition to L.G.B.T.Q. rights and abortion access, hostility to racial justice rallies and support for former President Donald J. Trump’s lie of winning the 2020 election.

They believe themselves to be right, but they won’t, or can’t, engage in dialog because they honestly have no arguments. And I don’t know where the nation will go from here.

Fashion News and Other Leftist Plots (Updates)

The Stewart Rhodes insurrection case went to the jury yesterday. Maybe we’ll get a verdict before Thanksgiving.

For an interesting read on what’s being called “salad bar terrorism,” see Composite Violent Extremism: A Radicalization Pattern Changing the Face of Terrorism by a bunch of people at Lawfare Blog. This is about an increasing phenomenon of mass shooters and others committing violent acts who don’t fit into pre-existing ideological categories.

In recent congressional testimony, for example, FBI Director Christopher Wray described extremists who hold a “weird hodgepodge blend of ideologies,” noting that this trend is producing challenges in “trying to unpack what are often sort of incoherent belief systems, combined with kind of personal grievances.” Other government officials and private-sector researchers have used a variety of different terms to discuss the same phenomenon, including ideological mixing and ideology à la carte.

What the fashionable Balenciaga Leftie was wearing in 1954. You can tell she’s a Communist getting ready to infiltrate something.

Speaking of ideological confusion, yesterday a guy at the Right-Wing site Hot Air wrote a post headlined Kids and Bondage that began, “The Left gets creepier by the minute. And that is saying something.” It was about some advertising featuring children in sexualized poses from the luxury fashion house Balenciaga. Since when is Balenciaga  “the Left”? Oh, it’s explained late in the post — the NAACP commended Balenciaga for leaving Twitter. That’s the connection.

Well, obviously, this is solid proof that Hillary Clinton up to something. Maybe Anthony Fauci also. They’ll find the truth on Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Alas, fashion can’t fix stupid.

The new leak allegations aimed at Justice Samuel Alito are showing us how very wealthy right-wing people get access to Supreme Court justices. Through money, of course. The money isn’t going into the justice’s personal pockets, but it still stinks. See The Real Problem With the Second Alleged Leak at the Court by Dahlia Lithwick at Slate.

Update: Lindsey Graham is testifying to the Fulton Country Grand Jury today. He probably didn’t wear Balenciaga.

Update: The Supreme Court has decided the House can get Trump’s tax returns. Of course, now there is some question about whether they can get the returns before the Republicans take over.

If the House Dems can get the returns before the term is up, they should be sure Democratic senators get copies. They should send a copy to Susanne Craig at the New York Times. Hell, I’d make PDFs and put them all online.

Also, this happened today at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. This is from Law & Crime:

In the first courtroom match-up for newly anointed special counsel Jack Smith, the Department of Justice urged a conservative panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to void the privilege review stopping them from using certain files seized from Mar-a-Lago in their investigation against former President Donald Trump.

“Delay is fatal to the vindication of criminal law,” Justice Department attorney Sopan Joshi, on loan from the solicitor general’s office, declared on Tuesday afternoon.

From the general tenor of the roughly 40-minute hearing, that warning resonated: A three-judge panel of all Republican appointees from the conservative 11th Circuit Court of Appeals suggested that a lower court judge may not have had equitable jurisdiction over the case and appeared deeply concerned about the precedent finding in Trump’s favor would set for any subject or target of a criminal investigation.

Time and again throughout oral arguments, Trump’s attorney James Trusty faced sharp questioning from the three-judge panel, even over referring to the search of Mar-a-Lago as a “raid.”

“Do you think that ‘raid” is the right term for execution of a a warrant?” U.S. Circuit Judge Elizabeth “Britt” Cagle Grant, a Trump appointee, asked.

Trusty apologized for using loaded terminology, only to earn another rebuke later for referring to the document authorizing it as a “general warrant.”

“You didn’t establish that it was a general warrant,” Pryor countered.

The exchanges encapsulated the rough reception Trump’s legal team has had in the 11th Circuit since the Justice Department’s appeal began.

 

How Serious Is the GOP About Herschel Walker?

Josh Marshall catches the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) playing a fast one on donors. The NRSC is pushing an email campaign for donations to elect Herschel Walker to the Senate next month. That seems normal. But if you keep reading, you see that only one cent of every dollar donated is actually going to “Team Herschel.”

The most notable thing is that for ever dollar I give literally one cent goes to Herschel Walker’s campaign. 98 cents goes to the NRSC. This is fairly shocking in itself. But at the moment the NRSC’s main task is getting Walker elected. That’s the only outstanding Senate race. So maybe you can argue that NRSC money is mostly going to support Walker. Maybe.

But the thing that really jumped out to me is that the NRSC gets 98 cents, Herschel Walker gets one cent and “Team Rick Scott” also gets one cent. Rick Scott ran the NRSC for this cycle, a fairly disastrous run. This cycle continues with the runoff. But what’s Team Rick Scott? That’s Scott’s own personal campaign committee. And what’s the point exactly? After all it’s just one cent. If he’s going to put his hand in the till why not take more? The Times‘ Shane Goldmacher I think has this right. It’s not the money so much as the data. Scott only has a one cent toehold but he gets the donor data on every dollar these NRSC fundraising pitches bring in. It’s just astonishingly brazen.

Here’s what Shane Goldmacher said.

In other words, this is about Rick Scott possibly preparing for a presidential run, not about the head of the NRSC trying to get one more seat in the Senate.

There was a lot of griping within the GOP about Scott’s handling of the NRSC. A few days ago there was talk of an audit to find what Scott had done with donations. Scott blamed the NRSC’s financial problems on whoever was in charge before Scott took over, two years ago.

This New York Times article from September says that the NRSC racked in millions of dollars, but that Scott blew it .

It was early 2021, and Senator Rick Scott wanted to go big. The new chairman of the Senate Republican campaign arm had a mind to modernize the place. One of his first decisions was to overhaul how the group raised money online.

Mr. Scott installed a new digital team, spearheaded by Trump veterans, and greenlit an enormous wave of spending on digital ads, not to promote candidates but to discover more small contributors. Soon, the committee was smashing fund-raising records. By the summer of 2021, Mr. Scott was boasting about “historic investments in digital fund-raising that are already paying dividends.”

A year later, some of that braggadocio has vanished — along with most of the money.

Do tell.

Now top Republicans are beginning to ask: Where did all the money go?

The answer, chiefly, is that Mr. Scott’s enormous gamble on finding new online donors has been a costly financial flop in 2022, according to a New York Times analysis of federal records and interviews with people briefed on the committee’s finances. Today, the N.R.S.C. is raising less than before Mr. Scott’s digital splurge.

You can read the NY Times story (no paywall) for the whole story. The gist of it is that Scott went to the small donor well too often and too aggressively. Returns diminished after a while.

As far as Herschel is concerned, the GOP seems mostly concerned about keeping Trump out of Georgia so he doesn’t step on whatever chance Herschel has in winning. I am not finding any new polls since November 7, most of which had Walker beating Warnock.

Garland Names Special Prosecutor

I just have time for a short note that Merrick Garland has named a special counsel to “oversee the criminal investigation into former president Donald Trump’s possible mishandling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago club and residence, as well as key aspects of the Jan. 6 investigation.” This ought to discourage the Right from complaining the DoJ investigation is “political,” but of course it won’t. The prosecutor is Jack Smith, “a longtime federal prosecutor who has in recent years been working at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.” There’s a little more about him here.

Trump has already declared he “won’t partake” in the special counsel investigation,  calling it “the worst politicization of justice in our country.” Dude, you won’t have a choice. “I hope the Republicans have the courage to fight this,” he continued. Sorry; Republicans will be too busy investigating Hunter Biden’s laptop, Anthony Fauci’s alleged ties to the Wuhan laboratory, and everything else they can think of to “own the libs” and damage the Biden Administration.

See also A federal judge compared the January 6 mentality to ‘Nazi Germany’ at the sentencing of a Capitol rioter.

GOP Wedge Issues Aren’t Working

I still remember, dimly, Pat Buchanan’s “culture war” speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention. Which was, wow, 30 years ago. I watched it because I had the flu or something like it and didn’t feel well enough to get off the sofa to change the channel. I must not have had a remote for that teevee. So there I was, feeling sick and stuck listening to Buchanan say stuff like this —

The agenda that Clinton & Clinton would impose on America – abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat units – that’s change, all right. But it is not the kind of change America needs. It is not the kind of change America wants. And it is not the kind of change we can abide in a nation that we still call God’s country.

Thirty years later, the culture wars are finally biting the Republicans. A bill projecting marriage rights for same sex and multiracial couples looks like it will pass very soon, with at least some Republican support.

After the 2004 midterms, Karl Rove was saying stuff like this

President Bush’s chief political adviser, Karl Rove, said Tuesday that opposition to gay marriage was one of the most powerful forces in American politics today and that politicians ignored it at their peril.

“This is an issue on which there is a broad consensus,” Mr. Rove said, discussing a presidential election that took place as voters in 11 states backed constitutional amendments barring same-sex marriages.

“In all 11 states, it won by considerable margins,” Mr. Rove said, adding, “People do not like the idea or the concept of marriage as being a union between a man and a woman being uprooted and overturned by a few activist judges or a couple of activist local officials.”

Gay rights was one of Karl’s favorite wedge issues back then. He liked to get referendums regarding gay marriage on ballots to drive conservatives to the polls, and while they were there they’d also vote for Republicans.

But same-sex marriage was legalized by Obergefell v. Hodges, and the world didn’t end. And last year a Gallup poll found that more than 70 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage. So at least some Republicans are not afraid of supporting gay marriage now.

The GOP is feeling snake bit by the abortion issue, or at least it should. The hard core forced childbirth crowd doesn’t see it that way, yet.

Some leaders and commentators who want to restrict abortion rights say they see no convincing reason to moderate their goals in the wake of the midterms.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, has been working to push back on what she calls a “facile narrative” that abortion rights were a winning issue for Democrats. In a Fox News op-ed she published on Monday, Dannenfelser argued that Republican candidates who went on the offense on abortion, and challenged their opponents’ “pro-abortion extremism” prevailed, citing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, North Carolina Senator-elect Ted Budd, and Ohio Senator-elect J.D. Vance. She contrasted them with Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and Adam Laxalt in Nevada, who she said “buried their heads in the sand” on abortion. (Laxalt ran an ad this fall stressing that abortion rights are protected under Nevada law, and Oz mostly focused on how the federal government shouldn’t be involved.)

My sense of things is that GOP candidates, especially incumbents, in deep red states were not penalized by being anti-gay rights and anti-abortion. But in the purple states it cost the GOP dearly, and of course in blue states it’s a nonstarter. Laxalt and Oz probably would have lost by bigger margins had they more aggressively pushed the forced childbirth position. And this is one reason why Ron DeSantis is not a viable national candidate for the White House, IMO.

And even Marco Rubio appears to have toned down his opposition to legal abortion. In 2016 he was ranting fire and brimstone about Roe v. Wade as “a historically, egregiously flawed decision” that “has condoned the taking of innocent life on a massive scale.” Further, “It is fundamentally impossible for America to reach her destiny as a nation founded on the equal rights of all if our government believes an entire segment of the human population doesn’t have a right to exist.”

This year, Rubio said that while he favored banning abortions, the matter should be dealt with by the states not the federal government. He also added that he would vote for exceptions because he recognized that not everyone shares his viewpoint. And DeSantis, before the midterms, was dodging questions about abortion.

The Fetus People will not back down, of course. They’ll take every opportunity to punish women, because it’s what they live for, and red states will continue to pass restrictions.

See also School culture war campaigns fall flat in some tight races. The “parent’s rights,” anti-Critical Race Theory hysteria didn’t help Republicans win tight races in the swing states. It seems pretty clear that the old wedge issue strategy didn’t work for the GOP in the recent midterms, and I don’t see it working in a presidential race in 2024. 

Update: Nancy Pelosi has decided to step down from the House Dem leadership role.  

Republican Blame Game

On the day Trump is expected to announce he’s running for the White House again in 2024, the Guardian is reporting that Rupert Murdoch really won’t be backing Trump any more. And some guy who is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute has an op ed in the Washington Post blaming Trump for a whole lot of losses in competitive House districts.

In short, Trump remains quite popular among Republican voters, and his endorsement was decisive in plenty of House primaries this summer. But close association with the twice-impeached president was a clear liability in competitive 2022 House races, turning what would have been a modest-but-solid Republican majority into (at best) a razor-thin one. … the evidence from this year’s House races overwhelmingly suggests that conforming the party to Trump’s vision is an electoral dead end.

I wasn’t aware Trump has a “vision” other than him being King of the World. It’s like when a Trump supporter claims they know Trump isn’t perfect but appreciate what he accomplished in the White House. I honestly can’t think of anything he “accomplished.” Can you? But even now the wingnuts are still trying to pretend his tenure as POTUS was not just a four-year-long embarrassment for the GOP. And the nation. Hell, our species.

It came out yesterday that Trump really did have the FBI audit people who annoyed him. Trump also made noises that Ron DeSantis should be grateful for his sending the FBI to be sure DeSantis was elected governor of Florida in 2018.

“After the Race, when votes were being stolen by the corrupt Election process in Broward County, and Ron was going down ten thousand votes a day, along with now-Senator Rick Scott,” Trump wrote, “I sent in the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys, and the ballot theft immediately ended, just prior to them running out of the votes necessary to win. I stopped his Election from being stolen.…”

I am inclined to think this is utter bullshit, but the DoJ probably needs to check to be sure.

A large part of the GOP seems to be working itself toward a consensus that everything that went wrong in the midterms was just the fault of a few people. Trump is one. Mitch McConnell, inexplicably, is another. I’d normally be the first person to blame Mitch for anything, but he really wasn’t running the circus this time. And nobody seems to be standing up for Kevin McCarthy these days.

[Update: Sen. Rick Scott, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has just announced he is challenging Mitch McConnell for the minority leader position. So the guy who was in charge of electing senators, and failed, thinks he can do a better job gumming up the works of government than Mitch? It’ll be fun if Scott wins, though.]

Paul Waldman writes that the Republican party is preparing to tear itself apart.

One of the notable features of all this conflict is how disorganized it is. Some people have a beef with McCarthy or McConnell. Some are upset with Trump. Some want to put all their election denialism behind them. And many are just angling for their own advantage. Unlike in previous moments of tumult, it’s hard to draw a clear line between the establishment and the insurgents.

That’s partly because the person who still leads the party — Trump — always presented himself as a scourge of the old guard. Trump loyalists, no matter how high their position, fancy themselves rebels, iconoclasts or brave opponents of the stodgy and self-satisfied. …

… At the moment, it’s far less clear just what Republicans are fighting about. It certainly isn’t substantive issues; the party remains remarkably unified on policy, partly because outside of tax cuts and immigration, they don’t care much about policy at all. Instead, policy debates are increasingly about how radical Republicans should be to achieve their goals.

What is clear is that they now have a leader around whom all their political problems revolve.

And then there’s Josh Hawley, who declared “The old party is dead. Time to bury it. Build something new.” By the “old party” I assume he means the old Washington establishment. Later he tweeted, “Washington Republicanism lost big Tuesday night. When your ‘agenda’ is cave to Big Pharma on insulin, cave to Schumer on gun control & Green New Deal (‘infrastructure’), and tease changes to Social Security and Medicare, you lose.”

So what about abortion rights and election denialism, Josh? Those were the issues that really cost your tribe last week.

The fact is that it’s the insurgents who seem to be even more out of the loop than the old guard. Michelle Goldberg:

A common rap on liberals is that they’re trapped in their own ideological bubble, unable to connect with normal people who don’t share their niche concerns. This cycle, that was much truer of conservatives. The ultimate example of this was the Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters, the human incarnation of a right-wing message board, who lauded the Unabomber manifesto and put out gun fetishist campaign ads that made him look like a serial killer.

[Losing House GOP candidate Joe] Kent suffered from a similar sort of insularity. He attacked sports fans, suggesting it’s not masculine for men to “watch other men compete in a silly game,” a view common in corners of the alt-right but unintelligible to normies. [Winning House Dem candidate Marie] Gluesenkamp Perez said Kent seemed shocked when, during a debate, his line about vaccines as “experimental gene therapy” didn’t go over well, which she took as a sign that he’d spent too much time “operating in the chat rooms.”

The ultimate expression of the right-wing echo chamber was the Stop the Steal movement itself. Conservatives might have been less credulous about it if they weren’t so out of touch with the Biden-voting majority.

Goldberg’s column is worth reading all the way through.

The Trump monster in heels known as “Kari Lake” has lost her bid to be governor of Arizona. Right-wing media is in meltdown mode over this one. Some of them are talking about a recall effort against governor-elect Katie Hobbs. Lake may be the one loser to launch a “stop the steal” effort. See Philip Bump, Reality waits to see if it has a new supporter.

Republicans Still Can’t Face Reality

Based on what I’ve seen so far, I’m predicting the Republican party as a whole will not learn a thing from last week’s election results and will likely double down on the crazy in 2024. They might or might not move away from Trump himself. They appear to be doing that now, but we’ve seen this dance before. With or without Trump, however, the GOP is still going to be the party of culture wars and grievance in the foreseeable future.

Former Republican David Frum writes at the Atlantic that Republicans refuse to learn anything.

The question after the 2022 midterms is: Can conservatives learn?

Through the Trump years, the Republican Party has organized itself as an anti-learning entity. Unwelcome information has been ignored or denied.

Trump lost the popular vote in 2016, and by a worse margin than Mitt Romney had in 2012? Not interested: It was a historic landslide victory.

Trump never rose above 50 percent approval (in any credible poll) on any single day of his presidency? Not interested: All that matters is what his base thinks.

Republicans were crushed in 2018 in the highest midterm turnout of eligible voters since before the First World War? Not interested: The result showed only that voters wanted more Trump and more Trumpiness.

Trump got swamped by a margin of 8 million votes in 2020? Joe Biden won the second-highest share of the popular vote than any presidential candidate since 1988, next only to Barack Obama’s blowout win in 2008? No need to pay attention: After all, Rudy Giuliani and Dinesh D’Souza said the election was stolen! Besides, check out those Latino votes for Trump.

Democrats won two Senate seats in formerly bright-red Georgia after winning the state’s electoral votes in the presidential contest? Only a temporary setback; wait ’til next time. By then, Trump will have helped get elected a bunch of “America First” secretaries of state who will rewrite the rules so that a Democrat can never win again.

In contrast, Frum wrote, Democrats after 2016 took a remarkable interest in what red state voters were talking about in diners. Democrats didn’t like what happened, but they wanted to understand it. Of course, we mostly ended up arguing with each other about what really motivated Trump voters, and there was much unfair blaming of Bernie Sanders, but at least Democrats engaged in some degree of self-reflection. Can Republicans do the same now?

Probably not. Frum continues,

In their anti-learning culture, conservatives have come to view everything that happens, however unwelcome, as proof simply that the most extreme people were the most correct. In the state of Florida, Republicans are proceeding postelection with more of the draconian anti-abortion laws that cost their colleagues so dearly across the country. Conservative pundits are gamely insisting that they did not really lose the 2022 elections but were once again cheated by a rigged system.

Should conservatives start noticing that they lag among unmarried women and the young? No, instead: Ridicule and insult unmarried women, especially the young. Having hooted and jeered Mitt Romney, John McCain, and George W. Bush, and pushed Liz Cheney and other principled Republicans out of Congress, the right now expresses bafflement and outrage that those rejected leaders did not rally to help candidates who condoned the January 6 insurrection and opposed aid to Ukraine.

A bedrock chunk of the right-wing psyche is a certainty that most Americans believe the way they do, no matter what the polls or election results say. Of course, “most Americans” in their minds are not necessarily “most Americans” as reflected in the census. “Americans” by their definition are people like them, not those other people who are different, so of course there’s broad agreement within their demographic.

For example, here are some numbers Republicans don’t want to know about: “Exit polls show 72 percent of women ages 18-29 voted for Democrats in House races nationwide. In a pivotal Pennsylvania Senate race, 77 percent of young women voted for embattled Democrat John Fetterman, helping to secure his victory.” Not a surprise.

I dimly remember, sometime during the Bush II years (probably after the 2006 midterms) Republicans were complaining about the quality of voters. What they were offering as a party was not the problem; voters were just too clueless to appreciate them. I’m starting to see something like that now. For example, do see this guy on the right-wing site American Greatness.

Where did Republican messaging stumble? The party, perhaps, could have been more affirmative about what they support. But they cannot be blamed for betting that voters would recoil at the ugliness of the alternative. Even the Democrats are surprised by their success. The choice here was pretty stark: “You can vote for more crime, child mutilation, and toddlers in masks, or you can vote for us, but you have to give up your abortions.” There was a rational choice, and the people didn’t make it. 

Those expecting a thundering rebuke of tyrannical COVID restrictions, Biden’s incompetence, the border crisis, and economic mismanagement underestimated the passivity of the people.

Passivity? In several battleground states voter turnout broke the previous midterm record. This was not passivity. People really didn’t want what the Republicans were selling, and they got their asses to the polls to vote against it.

But how can you reason with someone who considers mask orders during a deadly pandemic to be tyranny but thinks women with unwanted pregnancies, including from rape, including those with life-threatening complications, should just suck it up and gestate? You can’t. There is no reasoning with these people. You might as well try to explain astrophysics to a tree stump.

And don’t expect the Wall Street Journal or Fox News to send reporters to cafes in blue states to listen to what voters are saying. They aren’t capable of listening to us and aren’t about to change anytime soon.

Here’s another one, This guy at Townhall at least understands that it’s time for Trump to step aside, although he can’t bring himself to admit that the 2020 election was not rigged.

The midterm clusterfark has drawn plenty of hot takes and instant analyses that range from insightful to self-serving to unbelievably stupid. But now that we have gotten past the initial blasts of the flamethrower, perhaps we should take a breath and sit down, and think about where we are as a movement and what we need to do as a party for 2024. There’s a lot to talk about, from procedural questions like how we intend to cope with the new world of extended mail voting to substantive imperatives like how we must repeal the 19th Amendment as it applies to single, liberal women who vote for their Democrat Daddy in appalling numbers. We need to ask questions about candidate selection, money, issue choices, and a bunch of other stuff. And we need to answer the question of what to do about Donald J. Trump.

Again, he’s blaming “single, liberal women who vote for their Democrat Daddy in appalling numbers” rather than asking himself why it is women, including a lot of married ones, might feel strongly that they don’t want the government to have a say in their reproductive choices. This is called “still not ready to face reality.”

Republicans lost the close “battleground” states because the real majority of “most Americans” disagree with the Right. See Election deniers lose races for key state offices in every 2020 battleground.

Voters in the six major battlegrounds where Donald Trump tried to reverse his defeat in 2020 rejected election-denying candidates seeking to control their states’ election systems this year, a resounding signal that Americans have grown weary of the former president’s unfounded claims of widespread fraud.

It looks as if the GOP will have a tiny single-digit majority in the House. Don’t expect the “freedom caucus” tribe to modify their plans to turn the House into a retribution machine to punish Democrats. They’ll still want to impeach President Biden and Merrick Garland and Anthony Fauci and Hunter Biden’s laptop and everyone else who ever pissed them off, never mind that Fauci is retiring, as well as hold the debt ceiling hostage to force cuts in Medicare and Social Security. Let’s hope they don’t have the votes to do any real damage. Let’s hope that at least a few Republicans will be willing to vote with Democrats on critical issues, so that the House isn’t completely shut down as a governing body.

I think most voters are done with culture wars, with drama, with endless hate speech from the Right. They want the government to be a government, not a reality show. They want issues they care about addressed soberly and sensibly, and they want an end to the endless pubescent whining and gaslighting. And the hard-core Right is no where close to understanding that. Because pubescent whining and gaslighting is what they live for.

(Update: See also Josh Marshall, Abortion, Democracy and The Bogey of Issue Literalism.)

Chris Hayes explains the election results.

Update: One more example — the headline on Hugh Hewitt’s column at the Washington Post:

Classic. Here’s the column if you want to read it. Note that he doesn’t mention “Trump” even once.

A Bad Week for Boy Wonders

Dems are keeping the Senate, and it’s probably going to be a few days yet before we have the final House results. I am trying to catch up on what else has been going on this past week.

And was it ever a bad week for boy genius billionaires. Truly, however much your life may or may not suck, at least you’re not Sam Bankman-Fried. (Well, unless you are. Sorry about that, Sam.) SBF is a 30-year-old crypto currency guy who lost $16 billion last week. Seriously.

CNN reported, “Based on net worth calculations by Bloomberg, Bankman-Fried was worth about $16 billion at the start of the week. But as his crypto exchange, FTX, collapsed, the value of his assets was reduced to zero in what Bloomberg called ‘one of history’s greatest-ever destructions of wealth.'” I almost feel sorry for him. Also, “At least $1 billion of customer funds have vanished from collapsed crypto exchange FTX, according to two people familiar with the matter.”

The Financial Times reports, “Sam Bankman-Fried’s main international FTX exchange held just $900mn in easily sellable assets against $9bn of liabilities the day before it collapsed into bankruptcy, according to investment materials seen by the Financial Times.”

I’ll leave it to other people to decide whether SBF was trying to pull off some kind of Ponzi scheme or if he just made some bad decisions.

And then there’s Mark Zuckerberg, age 38, of the company formerly known as Facebook but which is now Meta. Last week Zuckerberg laid off 11,000 Meta employees and announced the company would stop developing smart displays and smartwatches. Fast Company::

The news out of Meta couldn’t get much worse, with hundreds of billions in value already lost this year followed by the announcement of massive layoffs at the company. Despite deep pockets and unfathomable reach, there suddenly seems to be little hope for Meta’s future right at the very moment that Mark Zuckerberg needs us to believe in the technology that he claims is his company’s (and our) future.

I comprehend the Metaverse somewhat better than I understand crypto. Maybe someday it will be something lots of people can’t live without. But right now, not so much. And I understand investors are not investing.

And then there is Elon Musk, still boyish at age 51 but no longer a wonder.  In October Musk was considering charging all verified Twitter accounts $20 a month. Then he reconsidered and decided to make it $8 a month. The paid service would be called Twitter Blue. Then Twitter added a free gray verification checkmark that Musk killed a few hours later. On November 9 Twitter Blue was officially launched. On November 11 Twitter Blue was suspended after a wave of impersonators took over the platform.

From two days ago on CNN:

The world is watching the world’s richest man single-handedly destroy one of the world’s most powerful and important communication platforms, just weeks after acquiring it for $44 billion. And of course, the world is watching the dramatic spectacle unfold on — where else? — Twitter.

It’s hard to succinctly summarize the absolute chaos that has consumed Twitter over the last 12 hours as Elon Musk continues to wreak havoc on the Silicon Valley company. “It feels like the beginning of the end, honestly,” one recently laid-off Twitter employee said Thursday evening, describing the company as the “Titanic” with “everyone looking for lifeboats.”

I’ve seen reports that Musk plans to bring Twitter Blue back as soon as the kinks are worked out. I’ve also seen reports saying that since buying Twitter Musk has sold almost $4 billion in Tesla stock, presumably to keep Twitter afloat. And bankruptcy may be an option.

See also Elon Musk heads to court over Tesla pay that made him the world’s richest person and The tech CEO spending millions to stop Elon Musk.

They’re all starting to resemble one of the great boy wonders of history, Napoleon Bonaparte, who was 45 years old when he lost at Waterloo.

Saturday Evening Post Midterms

As I write this the Dems are one seat away from keeping the Senate, and keeping the House is not yet mathematically impossible. I’m still reading post-mortems. The answer to the question of why Republicans didn’t do better seems to be that in several states — not all of them — where abortion rights had been shut down and a bunch of MAGA election deniers were running as Republicans, more independents and some centrist Republicans voted for the Democrats. So while people may have said they were mostly worried about the economy, a lot of them were voting abortion rights and saving democracy. Here’s a New Yorker article that explains this pretty well.

Dan Balz writes at WaPo that the elections turned into a kind of dual referendum on both Biden and Trump, and Trump lost. Balz also noted that congressional incumbents are mostly keeping their seats. Voters weren’t demanding big changes in Congress. I suspect what they want more than anything else is some stability. We’ve had enough drama. Some states flipped from red to blue, however.

Anyway, the anti-abortion nutjobs and Trump cost Republicans big time, and I suspect a lot of them are smart enough to realize that. Unfortunately for them, there is no way Trump will be persuaded to step aside graciously.

Update: Catherine Cortez Masto wins in Nevada, so Dems keep control of the Senate. Mitch is shut out once again.