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The Republican Civil War May Be Scary, But Will That Be Enough For Democrats To Save Themselves?



There's been quite a bit of talk lately about how next time the far right tries a coup, they'll be better prepared and... successful. Jonathan Chait covered the idea in his New York Magazine column yesterday: Trump's Insurrection Is Building Professionalized Institutions-- Next Time They Won't Rely On Amateurs. He noted that the New York Times has recently exposed "the role of Cleta Mitchell, a longtime conservative Republican who is recruiting activists inspired by Trump’s stop-the-steal crusade to serve as poll watchers [and] Politico reported both on efforts to flood election sites in Michigan with right-wing volunteers as well as a broader national effort to link up Republican district attorneys who can mount real-time challenges."


He added that "[I]t’s entirely possible this organizing will overwhelm the system’s capacity to function and generate a crisis in which Trumpists are able to prevail... The plan is to flood voting sites with Republican volunteers, who largely believe they are witnessing crime scenes. The Republican poll watchers will almost inevitably harass and challenge both voters they suspect of fraud (i.e., ones who have dark skin) and the poll workers processing their votes. These objections can gum up the workers, increase lines, and discourage potential voters. Worse, they can trigger messy disputes, which opens the door for legislatures to override the results and select the winner... Just like Christian conservatives and gun owners, election challengers are becoming an entrenched wing of the Republican Party. They are building organizations, training cadres, raising funds, and planning for contingencies. What is happening is the institutionalization of an insurrectionary movement."


On Wednesday, Paul Ryan-- who still wants to be president-- was betting that eventually his party will recover and decide to not become a fully fascist organization. He was in South Carolina campaigning for Trump-enemy Tom Rice, whose reelection Trump is trying to derail by endorsing state Rep Russell Fry. Trump wants vengeance for Rice's vote to impeach him. Ryan just endorsed Rice. The Myrtle Beach Sun News noted that "It’s an inter-party battle, as Rice has said, between 'nerds' like himself and Ryan who care about enacting conservative policy and 'flamethrowers' who place allegiance to Trump over policy ideas and other convictions. But that stance has placed Republicans like Rice, who’s represented South Carolina’s 7th district for a decade, and Ryan squarely in Trump’s cross hairs. Ryan on Wednesday said he’s made his unfavorable views of Trump 'very clear.'... Ryan... applauded Rice and other conservatives who-- as Rice has argued-- voted their conscience to impeach Trump.


“There were a lot of people who wanted to vote like Tom but who just didn’t have the guts to do it,” Ryan told a small crowd of supporters at Hotel Florence. “There are a lot of people who say they’re going to vote their conscience, they’re going to vote for the Constitution, they’re going to vote for their convictions but when it gets hard to do that they don’t do it.”
“Tom Rice is a man of conviction,” Ryan added. “Tom Rice is the kind of person you want in Congress.”
Ryan’s trip from Wisconsin to Florence marks the latest high-profile endorsement Rice has won as he seeks a sixth term in Congress. Rice, in April, earned the backing of former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who helped him raise funds in Myrtle Beach.
And, it’s the first endorsement Ryan has made in the 2022 primary elections. Ryan said he chose to endorse Rice in part because the two became friends serving on the House Ways and Means Committee-- which controls the federal budget-- and because Rice is a “work horse.”
Ryan added that endorsing Rice also meant he would square off against other conservatives seeking to enact Trump’s “vengeance” against those who impeached or criticized him.
“This is just such a crystal clear case where you have a hard working, effective, senior member of Congress who deserves reelection vs. people who are just trying to be celebrities who may be trying to help Trump with his vengeance,” Ryan said.
“That’s not who voters want, voters want people focused on their solutions not on Trump’s vengeance and that to me is a really clear cut case here,” he added.
But Rice’s vote to impeach Trump is exactly why he’s had to tap high-profile conservatives like Christie and Ryan as he seeks re-election.


Speaking of which-- today at The Bulwark, William Saletan asked a simple question, What Makes a Republican a RINO? Trump has changed the meaning of RINO from people who weren’t Reagan conservatives to people who are. "Trump, he wrote, "may well succeed in purging Cheney and other Reagan Republicans from his party. In 2020, he scrapped the drafting of a platform entirely. He could do so again in 2024. Through purges, capitulations, and retirements, he might complete the transformation of the GOP into a party that worships dictators, ignores Russian aggression, tramples the Constitution, scorns the rule of law, and substitutes presidential favoritism for free markets. That party might manage to gain and hold power for many years. It might even do so by winning elections. But it wouldn’t resemble the 'Republican' party any of us have known."


Now let's get to Robert Reich's Guardian essay yesterday Abortion and guns may awaken a slumbering giant for Democrats. Most people what to live their lives with as little government interference as possible. The Republicans have devolved away from that-- in part because of their alliance with evangelicals (and with the NRA). "The American people," he wrote, "are not evenly divided on these issues. A large majority wants to maintain access to abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy, which has been the rule since the supreme court decided Roe v Wade in 1973. An even larger majority (including many Republican voters) support requiring universal background checks for would-be gun buyers, and most favor banning high-capacity magazines and the sale of assault weapons."


Do the opinions of the majority matter on these two issues, where politically potent minorities have demanded the opposite? At first glance, it seems not.
After the 2 May leak of a draft opinion in the case of Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, written by Samuel Alito and evidently joined by four other Republican-appointed justices-- which argues that no right to abortion can be found in the constitution and that, therefore, no such right exists-- Senate Democrats tried to codify a national right to abortion.
But on 11 May, the Women’s Health Protection Act failed in the Senate, by a vote of 49 to 51. That was short not only of a simple majority but, more importantly, of the super-majority of 60 votes required to overcome the inevitable filibuster. (Only the West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin crossed party lines.)
Now, in the wake of last week’s massacre of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, Congress is about to vote on regulating guns. Almost no one believes there are 10 Republican senators who will support any form of gun control, even after last week’s horror.
While steadfastly refusing to maintain access to abortion services and refusing all recent attempts to control guns, Republican lawmakers at the federal and state levels also remain opposed to government funding for childcare, parental leave, sex education and contraception, and for reproductive, maternal, neo-natal and pediatric health services.
It takes a great deal to awaken the slumbering giant of American voters. Most do not belong to either major political party. Many are turned off by politics. In the typical midterm election, only about half of those who are eligible to vote do so.
Yet every so often the slumbering giant awakens-- and with a swoop of its huge arm at the ballot box remedies the growing disconnect between what voters want and what politicians do (or fail to do).
In the 2014 midterms, only 20% of young people between the ages of 18 and 29 went to the polls.
But in the 2018 midterms, after two years of Donald Trump and congressional Republicans trampling on issues young people cared about-- such as the environment, education and protection for undocumented immigrants who came to America as children-- young voters were stirred to action: 36% of them voted. That was enough to switch control of the House to the Democrats.
Most pundits are convinced that the Democrats are doomed to lose the House and Senate in the upcoming midterms. They point to the fact that after 15 months in office, Biden is polling badly, at about 40%.
But the punditocracy is ignoring the disconnect between what most Americans want on abortion and guns and what Republican lawmakers are doing.
The two issues of abortion and guns may have a larger impact on Americans together than they have had separately because of the moral relationship between them-- being free to decide whether and when to have children and keeping children safe from gun violence.
(The pundits also forget that at the same point in his presidency, Ronald Reagan was polling at about 40%. But as inflation declined, Reagan ran for re-election against Walter Mondale and won 49 states.)
If the slumbering giant does awaken, a mobilization such as America has rarely seen could propel Democrats to larger majorities in the House and Senate this November-- giving them enough votes in the Senate to eliminate the filibuster and consigning Republicans to a near permanent minority.


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