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Let's Not Forget Sister Sarah--Even If Virtually The Whole Country Skipped Her Part Of The Circus

I don’t know anyone who stuck around after Biden’s speech to watch Trump’s old spokesperson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I know a couple of people who tuned in to see if she would be wearing one of those dresses made out of a bedspread and then tuned out when she had been dressed to look normal. As it turns out, people who did watch her, said the dress was the only thing about her that was normal. Of course, it was viewed differently inside the Fox bubble, where they reported that she she “is being showered with praise from her fellow Republicans” and lauded her describption of the choice between Democrats and Republicans as a choice "between normal or crazy." Actually, people on the left would agree with that as well. In Fox World her mostly-ignored speech was “a slam dunk.”

Ed Kilgore didn’t think so. He wrote that raucous Republicans in the chamber when Biden spoke, “the howling mob,” played into Biden’s trap, demonstrating efforts to display some openness to bipartisanship while exposing the extremism of the kooks and nuts who “eagerly fell into it. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was sitting behind the president, seemed to understand that. He glowered at his riotous backbenchers like a school principal trying to stare down unruly kids chanting obscenities at a basketball game. In effect, the unforgiving cameras made it look like Marjorie Taylor Greene, ringleader of the hecklers, had displaced McCarthy as the leader of House Republicans. I’m sure he felt that this was terribly unfair.”

But any “this doesn’t reflect our party” defense doesn’t apply to what the country saw immediately following Biden’s address. The official GOP response from newly elected Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders may have been more coherent than the shrieks aimed at Biden in the House chamber, but it was no less uncivil and extremist. From the very beginning, she compared Biden to a lying child. It’s true that she didn’t have the benefit of knowing exactly what the president would say, but her characterization of him was so remote from anything he’d said as to be hallucinogenic:
I’m the first woman to lead my state. He’s the first man to surrender his presidency to a woke mob that can’t even tell you what a woman is. In the radical left’s America, Washington taxes you and lights your hard-earned money on fire, but you get crushed with high gas prices, empty grocery shelves, and our children are taught to hate one another on account of their race but not to love one another or our great country. Whether Joe Biden believes this madness or is simply too weak to resist it, his administration has been completely hijacked by the radical left.
Sanders offered zero evidence for this remarkable assertion or for ancillary howlers— like her claim that law-abiding citizens live in cowering fear “after years of Democrat attacks on law enforcement and calls to ‘defund the police.’” How many times must Biden and other Democrats deny that they want to “defund the police” before cynical politicians like Sanders stop making remarks like this?
It got worse:
President Biden is unwilling to defend our border, defend our skies, and defend our people. He is unfit to serve as commander in chief. And while you reap the consequences of their failures, the Biden administration seems more interested in woke fantasies than the hard reality Americans face every day
What on earth is she talking about? Certainly not about anything Biden said in his address or has ever said in his many decades in the public eye. But here’s the pièce de résistance of this remarkable speech: “The dividing line in America is no longer between right or left. The choice is between normal or crazy.”
Keep in mind that Sanders served Donald Trump for two years. Even if you unaccountably agree with Trump’s own self-characterization that he was the greatest president ever, there is nothing “normal” about him. He would stand out in a zoo of exotic animals. And there’s nothing “normal” about MTG, Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar, and a host of other Republicans who (like Sanders) are very clear about their conviction that this is a time for extremism in the defense of what they consider liberty. Are these words from Sanders a normal political sentiment?
Every day, we are told that we must partake in their rituals, salute their flags, and worship their false idols… all while big government colludes with Big Tech to strip away the most American thing there is— your freedom of speech. That’s not normal. It’s crazy, and it’s wrong.
This is apparently a reference to the idea of equal rights for all Americans— including those Sanders doesn’t deem “normal.”
Unfortunately, this performance was nothing new for Sanders. In her all-but-unopposed bid for the Arkansas governorship, she frequently offered herself as the “last line of defense” for citizens under siege from socialists and the ravening beasts of “cancel culture.” In Arkansas, for God’s sake. That’s not normal. It’s crazy.
Some think Sanders wants to run for president or vice-president sooner rather than later, positioning herself as a Trump protégé who’s acceptable to “normal” Republicans. She wouldn’t be the first politician to use a State of the Union response to charm her party’s base and make herself more of a national figure. But at the moment, barring objections from her fellow partisans, she represents the entirety of the GOP, and that should alarm all of us.

Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent seem to think Huckabee Sanders was, at best, an ineffective echo of the far right echo chamber. She “tried,” they wrote,to link the 80-year-old Biden to a ‘woke’ mob and bragged of banning ‘CRT’ in her state. Sanders didn’t define either term. She used the initials ‘CRT’ without spelling out 'critical race theory,' apparently certain most Americans know what that means. Watching Sanders toss around those extremely online terms— only months after her party badly underperformed in the midterm elections while campaigning against those very things— vividly demonstrates a problem for the GOP. Republicans are extremely skilled at grabbing attention, leveraging their formidable media apparatus to turn the spotlight on the manufactured controversy of the moment. But these days they are far less good at persuading the broader public. Given a rare opportunity to communicate a conservative vision to the entire country, Sanders delivered a message that was, as Matthew Sheffield put it, ‘filled with far-right buzzwords that were likely incomprehensible to most Americans who had bothered to watch.’”

Republicans continue speaking mainly to their most committed supporters. More of this is coming: House Republicans are planning investigations of a menu of right-wing obsessions, from fantasies of conservative oppression by federal law enforcement to whether Twitter is conspiring to suppress the truth about Hunter Biden.
At a House hearing Tuesday, Republicans hammered border police officials with hallucinatory notions about immigration. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) pushed them to say many arriving unaccompanied minors are MS-13 gang members, and Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) prodded one official to say his testimony was doctored to make it less negative about the border. The officials politely shotdown both assertions.
Still, the claims went viral, demonstrating the GOP skill at harnessing agitprop to compete in our attention economy. But at the same time, House Republicans have failed to persuade the moderates in their own caucus to support the party’s extreme new border security bill. They can demagogue an issue brilliantly, but theycan’t persuade the middle to support their policies.
There does seem to be a theory guiding these efforts, one developed during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Pour enough wild accusations and feigned outrage into the discourse and whip the base into a frenzy, and swing voters might develop general unease about the opposition and the country’s direction. Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg calls this the right’s “negative sentiment machine.”
But how well has this worked for Republicans in recent cycles?
…Biden talked about protecting Social Security and the need to continue creating the green and tech manufacturing jobs of the future, many for Americans without a college degree. Then Sanders fulminated about confusing acronyms.
Democrats should relish taking that contrast into 2024.

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