Greg Sargent's column this morning was a quickie look into the bizarre mental workings of GOP elected officials. He notes how their latest spin is to claim that "the very idea that Republicans remain committed to Donald Trump’s lie that his 2020 loss was illegitimate is just your imagination. Republicans do accept that President Biden was legitimately elected, say these Republicans." And Sargent says it should be really easy for them to prove that if they want to: "You can begin by full-throatedly denouncing the sham recount that’s underway in Arizona right now, and calling for it to stop, on the grounds that the outcome there-- and everywhere else-- is not remotely in doubt in any way... If Republicans widely denounced the Arizona recount, it would function as a kind of 'off-ramp' from ongoing GOP radicalization... Again and again, Republicans have had the option of taking such offramps, yet they have not:
Republicans could have held Trump accountable for subverting the nation’s foreign policy to strong-arm a vulnerable ally into helping him corrupt the 2020 election. Virtually all voted against impeachment and conviction.
Republicans could have acknowledged Biden’s victory and defused Trump’s lies about the outcome at the outset. Many waited weeks before doing so grudgingly, and the elevation of Stefanik to House leadership-- and removal of Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming-- shows their devotion to continuing to seed doubts about it.
Republicans could have voted en masse to confirm Biden’s electors in Congress as an endorsement of the integrity of the election. One hundred and forty seven House Republicans did not.
Republicans could be forcefully declaring that Trump’s lies incited the Jan. 6 insurrection, and that democracy depends on a willingness to accept election losses. Though McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell initially made such noises, they’ve gone quiet on that front, and many Republicans are hurtling in the opposite direction, claiming Trump didn’t inspire the violence, that the insurrectionists weren’t Trump supporters, and that the attack was no biggie.
This later point is about to come to a head. This week, House Democrats will hold a vote on a new commission to examine the attack. The commission’s structure is very fair, with concessions to both parties.
Yet as Punchbowl News reports, Republicans are likely to oppose it. Why? Because their conference is “filled with loyalists to Trump.”
All this is deeply puzzling. If-- as McCarthy and Crenshaw claim-- a lot of Republicans do accept the legitimacy of the 2020 election and appreciate the importance of this to our democratic system, why do they keep declining opportunities to show us so?
Why? The DNA of the Republican Party is so screwed up now that it really is not salvageable. The latest mega-donor who is now working on buying off the US Senate is crooked German billionaire (think PayPal) Peter Thiel. Trump once nearly sold him a Supreme Court seat! Now he's moved on to buying Senate seats for his lackeys. (I'm not trying to say that the Democraps wouldn't do the same thing if they could, by the way.)
"Thiel," reported Alex Isenstadt this morning, "has given a pair of $10 million donations to separate super PACs that are backing J.D. Vance and Arizona Republican Blake Masters, another protégé poised to launch a Senate campaign. The contributions are the most ever to outside groups supporting single Senate candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks political giving. The largesse has transformed Thiel, an early Facebook investor and PayPal co-founder, into an outsize figure in the fight for control of the 50-50 Senate, providing fuel to two longtime associates who embrace his populist-conservative views. Top Republicans have expressed astonishment at the size of the donations and say they’ve turned Vance and Masters-- who’ve never before run for elected office and will have to overcome primary rivals with far longer political resumes-- into formidable contenders in the blink of an eye. 'A lot of people didn’t know if they should take Blake [Masters] seriously as a candidate before the money came in, and when the money was announced Blake became a serious prospective candidate,' said Kirk Adams, a former Arizona state House speaker. 'Before folks didn’t really have any metric to judge his prospective candidacy, but now they do. Ten million dollars is a pretty damn good metric.'"
Thiel’s latest contributions stem not only from his growing political involvement but from his closeness with Vance and Masters. Vance became acquainted with Thiel when he was at Yale Law School and then went to work for Thiel in Silicon Valley; Thiel later became an investor in Vance’s venture capital firm. Masters, meanwhile, was a student of Thiel’s at Stanford University and eventually became chief operating officer of Thiel Capital and president of the Thiel Foundation. He maintains a website in which he’s posted detailed notes from Thiel’s class at Stanford.
Vance and Masters appear to closely embrace Thiel’s ideological beliefs, including his distrust of globalization-- one of the issues that drew Thiel to Trump.
Vance, who authored Hillbilly Elegy, a bestselling memoir about growing up in working-class Ohio, laid out his views during a July 2019 speech lamenting the shifting of jobs overseas. Last year, he published an essay titled “End the Globalization Gravy Train.”
Masters, meanwhile, co-authored with Thiel the 2014 book Zero to One, in which they portrayed globalization as the enemy of innovation.
Thiel’s support for 2022 candidates is expected to go beyond Vance and Masters, those familiar with his plans say. The list includes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a rising star in Republican politics up for reelection next year, with whom Thiel has met privately.
Thiel is also looking at donating to an assortment of House candidates, including Army veteran Joe Kent, who is waging a challenge to GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Trump impeachment backer, in Washington state's all-party primary next year. Earlier this year, Thiel contributed to Brian Harrison, a former Trump administration official who ran unsuccessfully in a Texas congressional special election. [He came in 4th with 10.8% after raising $647,334.37, including max donations not just from Thiel but also from 7 people named DeVos.]
Over the years, he has supported an array of libertarian-leaning politicians, including Utah Sen. Mike Lee, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and former Michigan Rep. Justin Amash.
But Thiel has never made political donations at this scale before-- and not all of his political bets have paid off. In 2018, he backed the gubernatorial campaign of Kansas Republican Kris Kobach, an immigration hardliner who defeated the sitting Republican governor in the primary before losing the general election to Democrat Laura Kelly. Two years later, he spent more than $2 million in support of Kobach’s failed Senate campaign, which ended with a loss to an establishment-backed candidate in the Republican primary.
Thiel’s giving drew scrutiny in 2017, when he donated to then-Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley’s Senate campaign. The contribution landed just days before Hawley launched an antitrust investigation into Google, a company Thiel has criticized as monopolistic.
Within Republican circles, Thiel is seen as an unconventional donor. Unlike other major givers, he lacks a singular political adviser or gatekeeper for candidates looking to court him. The billionaire has operated mostly independently of those in the tight-knit world of Republican operatives, though he counts the incendiary conservative commentator Ann Coulter, with whom Thiel co-hosted a 2019 fundraiser for Kobach, as a friend.
...Republicans in Ohio and Arizona say Thiel’s money by itself won’t be enough for either Vance or Masters to win the GOP nomination. Vance is squaring off against a handful of wealthy candidates with the ability to pour millions of dollars into their own campaigns, which would offset Thiel’s funding.
Masters will need to get by Jim Lamon, a deep-pocketed energy executive who could self-finance his campaign, and state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a potential candidate who would benefit from widespread familiarity among voters.
There are also limitations as to how far Thiel’s money can go, given that super PACs must pay higher rates for TV advertising than a candidate’s official campaign. Both states include expensive media markets, making it necessary for Vance and Masters to build formidable war chests on their own, say Republican strategists in Arizona and Ohio.
It’s unclear whether Thiel’s $10 million donations are a one-time investment-- or if more money is on the way.
“Unless you’re Stephen King with successful movies, bestselling authors are not household names,” Doug Preisse, the chair emeritus of the Franklin County, Ohio, Republican Party said of Vance. “It’s a super start, but he’ll need every bit of that-- and more-- in a race with a number of other well-connected self-funders.”
Well connected self-funders who are better known among Republicans statewide, like Trump extremists former state Treasurer and frequent candidate Josh Mandel (endorsed by Mike Lee and Club for Growth), former state party chair Jane Timken (endorsed by Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro), bankster Mike Gibbons (endorsed by Rand Paul) and wealthy used car salesman Bernie Moreno (endorsed by Kellyanne Conway and Richard Grenell).
Juan Williams' column today was about how Republican politics is speeding into absurdity. "The party is in the grips of the kind of distorted thinking that compelled the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) to last month hide internal poll findings from its own members, Republicans in Congress," he wrote. The polling was a danger because it showed 'Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core [battleground] districts'... That poll also found that Biden was far more popular than Trump in those districts."
These reality-based polls threaten to explode the lies propping up Trump as the GOP’s best hope to return to power in Congress and regain the presidency. But Graham and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) keep nodding along, repeating the nonsense to each other.
The findings in the NRCC poll pose a personal danger to 139 House Republicans and eight Senate Republicans. Why?
They fear the heavy burden of Americans knowing that they acted to undermine American democracy by voting against certifying the proven results of the last presidential election.
But that’s not the view from the former president.
Trump called into Fox News in March to say the insurrection was actually an exercise in “hugging and kissing the police” by people who posed “zero threat.”
...The distortions coming from Trump are no joke.
But the lack of clear political vision from Republican leaders who continue to support him is best described by late-night comedian Seth Meyers.
The GOP, the comic said, is “obsessed with lies and conspiracy theories and feigned culture war grievances, and they’re still being led in large part by the disgraced, twice-impeached former president who never won the popular vote and who never once cracked 50 percent approval.”
The serious and conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page agrees with Meyers.
Trump’s fantasy rewrite of the 2020 election might please some of his supporters, the paper editorialized, “but it won’t appeal to the swing voters the GOP needs to retake the House and Senate.”
Reality says if the 2022 midterm elections are a referendum on Trump instead of Biden, Republicans will not gain control of either chamber.