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Has Extremism Already Eaten Up The GOP?



As Jonathan Last noted this week at The Bulwark, The GOP lives in fear-- afraid of it's own voters. But for any Republicans who would like to see their party inch back in the direction of sanity, there was a bit of good news yesterday: Fox News fired Lou Dobbs. That's a step in the right direction and maybe some think it will serve as a warning to other inflammatory Trumpist lunatics on the network, like Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Judge Jeanine, Steve Doocy... Recently Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger (IL) urged his party to wake up and confront "how much we peddle darkness and division." That hasn't gone all that well.

Back at The Bulwark for a moment, yesterday Charlie Sykes was lamenting how rapidly devolution has come to the GOP, although it actually started long before he recognized it had grabbed his party by the pussy way before he rejected Trump.




Today, claims Sykes, "the GOP’s immune system to crazy has been completely destroyed. Here is a take so obvious it makes my head hurt: The case of MTG was an easy one. She not only had a long history of bigotry, but had actually promoted the assassination of some of her colleagues. It is less than a month since the January 6 insurrection that left five dead. Republicans had a precedent for dealing with toxic members [Steve King]. They could have cleaned up the mess themselves. Instead, they gave her a standing ovation, did nothing, and-- as Tim Miller writes this morning-- allowed a floor vote in which Republicans 'voted 199-to-11-- in a public ballot-- to keep the assassination-supporting, school-shooting-denying, coup-backing, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim bigot in her position on the House committees for Education/Labor and Budget.' ... [Conservatives] used to believe in things like personal responsibility and accountability. Now they prefer to be victims. And as victims, any criticism or demands for accountability can be dismissed as attempts to 'cancel.' It’s a simplistic, cartoonish notion, but it makes for a handy all-purpose defense in the political ecosystem where cliches have replaced ideas. But rejecting the culture of consequences also means that the right has destroyed its last antibodies against viciousness."

Speaking of which... ready for the re-emergence of Michael Flynn-- now as as MAGA-martyr and one of the ghoulish faces of the new GOP? The NY Times' Matthew Rosenberg began his Flynn column today by noting that "In Washington’s respectable circles, Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser, is a discredited and dishonored ex-general... who went off the rails ideologically." A paid Russian asset, Flynn should be in a super-max prison. Instead, pardoned by Trump, some think he's "found redemption... one of the most extreme voices in Trump’s 77-day push to overturn the election, a campaign that will be under scrutiny as the former president’s second impeachment trial gets underway next week. Flynn went so far as to suggest using the military to rerun the vote in crucial battleground states. At one point, Trump even floated the idea of bringing Flynn back into the administration, as chief of staff or possibly F.B.I. director. And now, safely pardoned and free to speak his mind, Mr. Flynn has emerged from the Trump presidency much as he entered it-- as the angry outsider who pushes fringe ideas, talks of shadowy conspiracies and is positioning himself as a voice of a far right that, in the wake of the Capitol riot, appears newly, and violently, emboldened. All that has changed for Mr. Flynn are the subjects at hand, and his apparent willingness to cash in on his notoriety."


Flynn’s dark view of Islam and eagerness to cultivate President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia have given way to an embrace of QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy theory, and a readiness to question the very fabric of American democracy. He has swapped a government job and an obsessive focus on “radical Islamic terrorism” for selling QAnon-branded T-shirts and a new media partnership with conspiracy theorists called Digital Soldiers.
...With Trump now in his post-presidency at Mar-a-Lago, a loose coalition that draws together militia members and conspiracy theorists along with evangelical Christians and suburban Trump supporters is searching for direction. Call it the alt-truth movement, and if it is to coalesce into something more permanent, it may well be, at least in part, because figures like Flynn continue to push false claims of how a deep-state cabal stole the election.
“In order for us to breathe the fresh air of liberty, we the people, we are the ones that will decide our path forward, America’s future forward,” he said at the Jan. 5 rally. “It may not be a Republican Party, it may not be a Democratic Party, it will be a people’s party.”

How much has to be amputated? Or is it too late?

And what all these is a lead-up to is Timothy Egan's plan to keep extremists out of the GOP. Maybe someone should have devised one in the 1950s? Perhaps right after cirrhosis of the liver removed extremist sociopath Joseph McCarthy from the GOP in 1957?

Egan is betting that the two mainstream conservatives in his state, Washington, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse, both of whom voted to impeach Trump, will do better in 2022 than they did in 2020. [Jaime Herrera Beutler had a fairly serious-- though GOP-lite-- opponent and won with 56.4%. Newhouse's opponent never got off the ground and Newhouse was reelected with 66.2%.] It would be hard for either to do much better than they did in 2020. But Egan asserts that "They will win because Washington is one of the few states where voters have designed a method to keep extremists from both parties on the fringe of politics. It’s something the rest of the country could learn from. In other words, how can we save the Republican Party, now in the midst of a fight over its confused and darkened soul? Take it away from Republican Party activists and give it to the people. We already have a way to make it work." He's talking about the Jungle Primary, in which "the top two vote-getters in a congressional primary, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election. Sometimes two Democrats make the final. Sometimes two Republicans. Often, it’s one of each, with partisan zealots left out."


In my home state of Washington, the Trump fanatics, conspiracy theorists and misinformation merchants who dominate the G.O.P. are in a lather over the votes by Herrera Beutler and Newhouse to impeach Trump.
“Turning a blind eye to this brutal assault on our Republic is not an option,” Newhouse said last month in announcing his decision.
“I’m not afraid of losing my job,” said Herrera Beutler. “But I am afraid that my country will fail.”
Republicans in her district, a moderate to conservative swath of southwestern Washington, called her vote shameful, and they vowed to primary her. Good luck with that.
In a top-two primary system, Herrera Beutler will almost certainly make the runoff, even if another Republican gets more Republican-leaning votes in the primary. But in the general, she’ll pick up independents and many Democrats, as she did in the past.

That's certainly true if the Democrats run another uninspiring GOP-lite candidate with nothing to offer other than trying to present herself-- as the outspokenly gun-friendly Carolyn Long did-- as the lesser evil. Herrera Beutler's district, WA-03, has a PVI of R+3 and Trump's share of the vote was just 50.6%, six points less than hers. Newhouse's district has a different dynamic-- a PVI of R+13 where Trump won 57.8% of the vote, his best performance in the entire state, even if not as strong as Newhouse's numbers. Still, Egan wrote that "Newhouse has already survived an attack from the far right, in 2014, when he got only 26 percent of the primary vote, versus 32 percent for the right-winger. Still, that was enough to make it to the November election, where he beat the extremist with the help of Democrats and independents. He has won by wide margins since then."

Egan wrote that this system will also "protect Representative Dan Valadao of California, another one of the 10 Republicans on the side of impeachment. President Biden carried his district, but Valadao attracted enough votes from both sides to win." This is a D+5 district in which the DCCC pushed a miserable and corrupt wealthy centrist, New Dem TJ Cox, who beat Valadao in 2018 but then lost two years later in an abysmally low-turnout election by 1,522 votes, 50.4% to 49.6%. Cox had nothing to offer Democratic voters and they returned the favor at the polls. Biden beat Trump there by over 10 points-- 54.4% to 43.5%.

If the Democrats eschew the pull of nominating another pointless careerist and nominate a progressive candidate running on a strong people-oriented platform instead, they'll easily displace Valadao. If they run another centrist like Cox, as Egan thinks they should, they'll lose again.




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