They Crave Faux Martyrdom-- Trump Coup Plotters Need To Face Biblical Justice
Claudia Tenney is one of the most far right members of Congress. She was slightly chastened when she was defeated for reelection by Anthony Brindisi and then was reelected in 2020 winning a court case two years later that sent her back to Congress. But that "chastened" period of keeping a low profile and keeping her extremist views to herself ended entirely after the redistricting process handed her a district with an R+22 partisan lean. Watching the first select committee hearing, she told a reporter that she "just can’t believe how embarrassing it is to have Liz Cheney stand there, being praised by Bennie Thompson as a patriot, and all I can think about is the years of ridicule and vicious statements made about her father. And here she is, currying favor with the Democrats because she has an obsession with Donald Trump." Later she issued a statement about the hearing saying "It is partisan performance art produced by the mainstream media to defame President Trump, attack his supporters, divide the American people, and advance the federal takeover of our elections."
Her opponent, progressive Democrat Steven Holden told me this afternoon that Tenney "has made comments saying that she was Trumpier than Trump, and she was Trump before Trump. She is in on the grift, as she funnels campaign donations through her businesses. She embraces The Big Lie, opposed the January 6 Commission, and is, at times, on par with the likes of Boebert, Greene, Gaetz, Jordan, Biggs, and Gosar. She, though, at least tries to come across as a standard Republican, even though she could turn in a heartbeat. The furthest-right candidate in the race, and the only one who could beat Tenney, is Mario Fratto. He is on 'Team Crazy.' Besides all the other things that Tenney claims, he uses the rhetoric of Putin against Ukrainian aid. He has courted alt-right figures in endorsements and would consider my victory in November as 'fraud. Whereas both candidates believe that Democrats are either mass murderers (Tenney) or communists (Fratto), at some points, you cannot tell them apart. Both are talking like they will continue after the August 23 Primary on an Independent or Conservative Party line. If so, the GOP in our District would fragment into three parts-- the far right going to Fratto, 'Team Normal' going to Tenney, and moderates and disaffected GOP coming to us."
This morning, New York Magazine published a column by Jonathan Chait, They Will Do It Again. He had quote a bit to say about Republicans like Tenney and like Fratto. "The January 6 hearings are about the events of a single day," he wrote, "but they implicate a much broader phenomenon: the Republican Party’s faltering commitment to democracy. The mob attack on Congress a year and a half ago was merely the most grotesque manifestation of Donald Trump’s rejection of democracy, and Trump himself merely the most grotesque manifestation of his party’s authoritarian impulses. 'Parties that are committed to democracy must, at minimum, do two things: accept defeat and reject violence,' wrote the political scientists Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way earlier this year. Trump has built a movement that does neither. And while he is justifiably known for his petty egocentrism, he has finally and genuinely infused this movement with beliefs that are greater than his self-interest and whose power will outlast him."
[T]he Republican mainstream has used the existence of Team Normal to dismiss Trump’s effort to overturn the election as little more than a prank gone wrong. The Wall Street Journal protested that the committee “makes it seem as if there was a chance of success. There wasn’t. It was an impossible plan hatched by screwballs, and it would have gone down as such if the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers hadn’t breached the Capitol.” Sure, Trump might have gone off the deep end along with a handful of advisers, but Team Normal always had it under control.
...Team Normal was willing to engage in a great deal of abnormality. Trump was planting the seeds to challenge the election outcome for months in advance, depicting mail ballots as a source of uncontrollable fraud. Barr echoed these lies, nonsensically claiming that people in foreign countries could easily mail in fake ballots. Trump’s plan was to encourage his supporters to vote in person and use the fact that those ballots were counted first to claim victory. Jonathan Swan of Axios reported that Trump was telling confidants about this scheme before the election.
And while they now pronounce themselves shocked, shocked, to have discovered gambling in the establishment, the response by Team Normal to a sitting president’s attempt to steal an election was neither deep nor sustained. Barr resigned quietly, publishing a sycophantic letter depicting Trump as a victim, rather than a perpetrator, of partisan hardball and political conspiracies. Stepien said nothing and is now working for a primary challenger to Liz Cheney, who has been ostracized for criticizing Trump’s coup attempt.
The deepest flaw in the Team Normal worldview, and the point at which its belief system turns from merely naïve to dangerous, is its assumption that it is safe to give power back to Trump’s party even if Trump is leading it. Barr made this plain when he admitted that while he strongly prefers a different nominee, he would support Trump again should he win the 2024 primary. It is the underlying premise of the non-Trump Republican Establishment.
This complacency fails to account for the party’s rapid transformation since Trump left Washington on Air Force One to the sounds of the Village People. Trump’s intraparty critics have portrayed his relentless focus on litigating the election as the self-defeating tactic of a loser. “Trump is acting on an entirely personal and selfish priority,” complains National Review editor-in-chief Rich Lowry. “There’s no principle at stake in embracing the Jan. 6 mob or advancing 2020 conspiracy theories.” In truth, it is actually an effective organizing tool built around the unifying idea that Democratic election victories are inherently illegitimate. He has inspired millions of followers and harnessed their energy to reshape the party into a vehicle to advance his vision.
Well over 100 Republican nominees for national or statewide office explicitly endorse Trump’s fantasy that the election was plagued by large-scale fraud. A much greater number of Republicans simply refuse to say one way or another if Joe Biden won the election fairly. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, asked recently about Barr’s confession that Trump had no grounds to dispute the election results, first asserted that something fishy did occur (“You saw some states not follow their state-passed legislation”) before pivoting to his desire not to “keep relitigating 2020.”
The party is split between those Republicans who refuse to take a stance on Trump’s coup and those who actively endorse it, with the latter faction rapidly gaining ground. The Republican nominee for Nevada secretary of state, a job that would oversee elections, has asserted, “Your vote hasn’t counted for decades. You haven’t elected anybody. The people that are in office have been selected.” Pennsylvania’s Republican candidate for governor not only supports Trump’s election-fraud lie but was present at the storming of the Capitol on January 6.
Recently, the New York Times reported that members of the Proud Boys, a paramilitary sect that planned an operation to infiltrate the Capitol on January 6, are joining the Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee. The group’s chairman feebly protested, “Yes, we have different points of view in our party. That’s how we are. And my job as Republican chairman is to protect everyone’s First Amendment right, however wrong they may be,” as though political parties have no right to engage in viewpoint discrimination.
Asked if he approved of his home city’s Republican organization welcoming Proud Boys, Senator Marco Rubio refused to say. (“Well, when you ask me about the communists and socialists that are part of the local Democratic Party, then we can talk about who’s a member of the Republican Party.”) Rubio, a barometrically perfect measure of the center of Republican opinion, is giving his tacit endorsement of a modern version of the Brownshirts joining the party cadres.
A party that could be trusted not to launch another attack on democracy would be willing and eager to expunge its sins. The Republicans’ refusal to reckon with January 6 and exclude the insurrectionists is the strongest sign that they will try it again the next chance they have.
I asked Jamie McLeod-Skinner, the Oregon progressive who just handily defeated reactionary Blue Dog Kurt Schrader and is now in a heated general election battle with Trumpist crackpot Lori Chavez-DeRemer. Jamie told me that she ""will fight to protect the right to vote and the integrity of our elections. It is highly disturbing that my opponent has already allied herself with the politicians that voted to overthrow the 2020 Election and continue to undermine our democracy. It's a given that she would take marching orders from those same extremists if she were in Congress. We cannot give her that opportunity." If you'd like to help her-- and Steven Holden-- get to Congress, please consider contributing to their campaigns here.
Tom Nelson is running for the Wisconsin Senate seat held by Trump enabler and ally Ron Johnson. "This week's hearings are further evidence," he told me today, "that Ron Johnson was complicit in the attempted overthrow of the US government. He may not have understood the gravity of his actions-- or inaction-- at the time. However, hindsight is 20/20 and there is no excuse for Johnson to see painfully clear the awful truth behind the insurrection and the other day of infamy in our nation's history."