What's A Wacko Bird?
Yesterday, writing for Politico, Meredith McGraw asked if even Trumpworld is starting to realize they've grown too conspiratorial. "There is growing worry that talk of stolen elections, machine rigging and foreign plots will hurt 'election reform' efforts and sap turnout. For months, conspiracies about the 2020 election being stolen from Donald Trump have fueled Republican efforts nationwide to rewrite election laws. But now, some GOP operatives and Trumpworld luminaries are worried that the truly wild conspiracists may be mucking it all up... [I]n recent weeks, some prominent Republicans have begun warning in increasingly sharp terms that so much talk of fraud and the 2020 election could depress turnout."
One problem is that this kind of crazy talk works for primary candidates. It's leading to possibly unelectable extremists winning nominations-- from Josh Mandel (OH), Ted Budd (NC), Kelly Tshibaka (AK) and Sean Parnell (PA) to one who is as crazy and his state's voters and is anything but unelectable, Mo Brooks of Alabama.
This morning, Politico's Playbook team reported on what they called the week's biggest overheard a few days ago at the Sonoma Restaurant on Capitol Hill between relatively mainstream (non-fascist) Republicans Ann Wagner (MO) and Michael McCaul (TX). "[A] person in their group asked about redistricting in Missouri and said he hoped Wagner gets a more conservative district to help her win reelection. Wagner, a center-right Republican, responded skeptically: 'Then you get those wacko birds,' she said. To which McCaul, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “That’s why we had to vote the way we did today!” That day, House Democrats and nine Republicans voted to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress for ignoring a Jan. 6 committee subpoena. Wagner and McCaul voted against the contempt effort." Contacted for a comment, McCaul, always the sniveling coward, said it never happened and that if Politico pushed it, he would 'never speak to another Politico reporter' again. They smirked, laughed and published it.
This morning, Bloomberg News opinion writer Jonathan Bernstein asked if the Republican Party can return to reality. So not to being good or decent or moral or patriotic, just to reality. He noted that "One of the most important facts of U.S. politics right now is the terrible shape the Republican Party is in. It has been dysfunctional for more than a decade, and more recently the mainstream of the party has been acting as if they live in a fantasy world." I would have imagined everyone would be discussing the Democratic Party in similar terms today. Even Politico referred to Manchin as "Majority Leader Manchin" (although they're still afraid to just call him "President Manchin").
Just to look around over the past several days …
Republicans on the Senate judiciary committee decided to gang up on a nominee by pressing for her views on a Virginia criminal case, which they presented as evidence that trans kids are lurking in restrooms, ready to commit violence. Only it turns out that they botched the facts of the case, which does not appear to have anything to do with school bathroom policies. There’s nothing new about the occasional reality-challenged member of Congress. But this wasn’t some kook in the House; it was senator after senator repeating what were basically wild, inaccurate rumors. Nor was this an isolated incident. These sorts of panics run constantly in Republican-aligned media, and are rapidly picked up and repeated by party politicians, often with further exaggeration. So one week the republic is in danger because people are censoring Dr. Seuss; the next week it’s because not enough people are censoring Toni Morrison.
A second example? Fox News’s Tucker Carlson… you know what? I’m not even going to go into it.
And of course, we have former President Donald Trump still out there repeating an array of lies about the 2020 election-- including in a letter printed in the Wall Street Journal. If anything, there are fewer high-profile Republicans willing to challenge Trump on this nonsense now than there were nine months ago, and more officials amplifying his message.
This whole thing is hard to describe because of course all politicians are prone to exaggeration, and it’s not hard to find examples of Democrats getting facts wrong. Nor is it hard to find Republicans who stick to reality. So it’s easy to conclude that everyone does it, and anyone who says otherwise is simply making partisan attacks. Easy, but very wrong. What’s happening now among Republicans is more extensive and mainstream than any distortion of fact within the Democratic Party-- or, for that matter, within the 1980s Republican Party.
The same applies to the antidemocratic views that some Republicans have expressed. Again, it’s not hard to find examples of frustration with U.S. institutions, or ideas to reform them that would help one’s party at the expense of the opposition-- including ideas that scholars of democracy would consider misguided or dangerous. But Republican thinking has moved well beyond that, as with their fascination with the authoritarian government in Hungary. Of course, we’ve seen such things before-- many American socialists expressed enthusiasm for Stalin’s U.S.S.R., after all. And it’s entirely reasonable to consider Southern segregationists, who had a central place in the Democratic Party, antidemocratic. Is this worse? Perhaps not, but even if it’s just as bad as Stalin sympathizers and Dixiecrats, then it’s dangerous in its own right.
Even now, there are a lot of Republicans, some with moderate policy preferences and some with very conservative ones, who embrace democracy and reject fantasy and conspiracy thinking. But many others are with the Republican-aligned media outlets, and the rest of the party hasn’t come close to restraining their influence. Many members haven’t even tried; they’re happy to accept whatever allies they can get, even if doing so erodes the party’s ability to govern and harms the democratic system. Others don’t know where to start.
Nor does anyone else. I attended the American Political Science Association’s annual conference in Seattle last month and heard nothing but a string of pessimism about the Republican Party-- something that simply was not the case even 10 years ago. Of course, not everyone was pessimistic about the future of the republic. But no one seems to be able to imagine how the Republicans can turn themselves around, and I can’t remember the last political scientist I’ve spoken with (yes, Republicans included) who didn’t see serious problems here.
I suppose if I wanted to look for optimism, I could think about the Democrats in 1948, who broke from both the Henry Wallace faction and the Dixiecrats (although the latter was only the beginning of a long, ultimately successful, struggle). But then I look at today’s Republican Party. And I just don’t know how to get there from here.
No-- and neither does John Pavlovitz who asked his own not unrelated series of questions yesterday: What will you do on the day fascism wins in America... when you realize that the terrible things you always dismissed as virtual impossibilities have actually come to pass, how will you feel; when it becomes sickeningly clear that January 6th, 2020 was not a final and resounding defeat of this malignant ugliness but merely a postponement of its eventual victory, what will run through your mind? Will you regret not taking it all more seriously? Will you grieve the loss of the nation you dreamed we could have been?"
He had more, too. "Will your heart break for your children and grandchildren and for the terrifying future they will now inherit? Will you lament your silence, your inaction, all the times you abstained from the fight because you were too tired or too lazy-- or simply because you never imagined this was even a remote possibility? Will you desperately pray to rewind the world and have one more chance to do and say and give all that you did not before fascism won?"
And, as he wisely points out, "It will all be somewhat irrelevant, because on the day fascism does win you will have far fewer choices than you do right now. Your voice and your vote and your options will no longer mean what they mean as you read this."
And how has this happened to our country? One three letter word: Fox. Fox has a lot of broadcast licenses. They should lose all of them tomorrow... all of them. This is Fox spreading its poison to its low IQ audience: