Bulwark Readers Have Some Thoughts
Cheney, Kinzinger, the Arizona Fraudit, and third parties....
Happy Saturday. Another busy week. Another full mailbox….
Do you have thoughts, feedbacks, laurels, darts? Feel free to write me at email@example.com.
As you can see, the Bulwark community is diverse, thoughtful, engaged, passionate, and often eloquent. Lots of thoughts this week about Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, the 1/6 Commission, the Arizona Fraudit, third parties, the Tulsa Massacre, and life among the progs…
The best political mind in the GOP. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
ICYMI, I had some thoughts last night about Ted Cruz:
As you might be able to tell, I was struggling a bit to say this without using the term “assh*lery.”
Checkout our weekend podcast:
On this weekend’s Bulwark podcast, Tim Miller joins me to discuss the mask wars, and the GOP’s fight against the 1/6 commission, and their phony performative nonsense.
We Get Mail
What exactly does JD Vance think are "the values and virtues that make this country great"? Certainly not the ones that made this country great: humility, equality, justice, charity, generosity, fairness, truth, honor, respect, civility, anti-authoritarianism, etc., none of which exists in today's Republican party.
You've spoken often about the degradation of language. I think we need a new dictionary of the current political lexicon because "conservative" certainly doesn't mean what it used to.
Along the same lines, many people use terms as epithets, such as socialism or fascism, but have no idea what those words mean, and reporters allow them to get away with it. Just once, I wish a reporter would ask someone who is clearly parroting a partisan talking point to explain what they mean without using the word itself.
Thanks for what you do.
I enjoyed the podcast with Kinzinger but a couple of things hit me the wrong way.
1) The idea that Trump was only obviously a threat to democracy post election is laughable and you shouldn't have let Kinzinger just throw that pitch by you. The output of YOUR site alone makes that clear, combine that with nonpartisan sites like Lawfare and it just doesn't pass the smell test for a smart guy like Kinzinger.
2) The comment about liberals being unwilling to give something up to fight for democracy. I'm sorry but do you think Joe Biden was anybody's idea of a 1st choice? Hell no we circled the wagons around Biden because we saw the same thing TM saw after NH. So we sacrificed our most outre ideas for the sake of getting rid of Trump. Hell I pay money to support a website for a guy who cheerled gutting public education in WI because THIS is more important. Unlike say But Gorusch voters like Kinzinger and Cheney.
Keep it up but diversify the roster a little bit and get some guests on who will push you on some stuff. The rotation has gotten pretty staid with journos/Republican types.
Have a great day,
This was a great conversation, but one part of your discussion touched on the area where I (as a long time liberal Democrat) don't trust the elected Republicans who oppose Trump.
At one point, Kinzinger criticized the liberals who are not embracing Liz Cheney in her current stand because they disagree with her politics. And he is right about that! And he gave the right reason: however bad (to liberals) her politics may be, she is right on this issue which is more important.
But my question for Kinzinger (and Cheney, and the others) is whether or not he would pass his own test.
It is clear to me that Kinzinger, Cheney, Mitt Romney, and others are fighting to make the GOP what it should be (a conservative but pro-democracy party) rather than what it is (a Trumpist Party intent on holding on to power regardless of what the voters want). It is less clear to me what they will do if (when?) they lose this fight? Will they side with Democrats over Republicans because, as Kinzinger said, restoring our democracy is more important than any partisan issue? Or will they not?
Somehow, Mitt Romney has said that he is undecided about a Jan 6th Commission. That's an inexcusable position, IMO. As good as Romney has been, he seems poised to abandon his fight.
Just want to offer some feedback regarding Adam Kinzinger's appearance on the podcast. I think you could have pushed him a lot further on a number of issues, although I am glad you asked a couple of tough questions.
Kinzinger is frankly delusional in wanting his party to take control of the White House in 2024. Even though House Republicans tone down their "The Election was Stolen" rhetoric, they have proven time and time again that we cannot trust them with upholding basic norms or democracy.
So for Kinzinger to stay and fight for the party (the prick even voted for Trump in 2020) is to quote Tom Nichols "giving top cover to the crazies".
Maybe if he feels so strongly about it, he should consider leaving the party and becoming an independent and caucusing in the House as an independent, like David Jolly is trying to do.
Otherwise, I say no thanks. Screw him and screw Liz Cheney. Leave the party, become independents and challenge Republicans, if you are seriously worried about saving democratic norms. Even if they DON'T vote for Kevin McCarthy for House Speaker, they are going to vote for another craven individual who will be of a similar mold. Not a crazy assumption given that 70% of GOP voters believe in the BIG LIE.
Anything else is just talk and enablement of a quasi-fascist extreme right wing party!
Hey Charlie, hope you're doing well.
While I have definitely been in the 'to hell with Liz Cheney' quadrant of the left (and for that matter I'm not a big fan of Kinzinger, either), it does occur to me that she has a potentially very singular opportunity that's not accessible to most Never-Trumpers.
Rather than strapping herself to the regular Never Trump crew or whatever, she should straight solo this and take her moment to be a nondenominational voice for American unity. Tying into any given moment would strap her down to a party line, but if she simply sets out to make speeches and appearances as an American citizen first and a Republican congresswoman second, there may be room for that message.
Don't wallow with Trump, there are plenty of people for that. What we need is somebody speaking specifically and firmly for American democracy, and she has the street cred to speak to the regular citizen about that, as compared to the weirdos who watch the news all day and night or sign up for newsletters and write informally to their purveyors.
I think there's a real window for somebody to come out and do a real, earnest pro-America tour with sincere patriotism, and I think she's in the best position to do it.
The Arizona Fraudit
I tend to be on the JVL/Tim Miller spectrum of pessimism, but I listened to the discussion of the Maricopa fraudit in Arizona on last night's Thursday Night Bulwark, and I am not totally dejected by what's going on there. For one, Maricopa County Republicans are shrieking about the fraudit, trying to end it, and they may have good reason to be concerned, I think for two reasons:
1) Whatever the result of the fraudit, Democratic voters in AZ will still trust the integrity of their electoral process, knowing that the fraudit is a fraud.
2) Whatever the result of the fraudit, Republican voters in AZ will not trust the integrity of their electoral process.
I don't expect the fraudit will have much of an impact on Democratic turnout in AZ, but I do think, regardless of its conclusions, it will suppress Republican turnout there. Why vote when you think the election isn't on the up and up? How did that work out for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in Georgia on Insurrection Eve?
The only way I see this working to Republicans' benefit in AZ is if they can leverage it into justification for running some sort of major voter suppression efforts through their state legislature, which they may be able to do. But I think it's very likely this whole kabuki charade will backfire on them.
Thanks for all you folks do,
I saw the May 17th Tweet from Stephanie Ruhle of you urging anti-Trump Republicans to leave the GOP. The question is, where shall we go? I disagree with Bill Kristol that we should join the Democrats because if the energy of that party barely tolerates Biden’s foreign policy and economic ideas, it certainly won’t embrace or accommodate the ideas of former Republicans.
On Monday, Scott Walker Tweeted “Taxes in Wisconsin have gone down by more than $13 billion (when Republicans took control of the Legislature and I became Governor).” All that I could think about that the GOP used to be about winning elections with actual ideas and implementing good policies instead of spending their time “owning the libs” and reading Dr. Seuss books. That was the party with which I identified and it no longer exists. It’s just sad. I am now politically homeless.
Although I agree with many ideas of the Libertarians, the reason that I don’t vote for them is because if they can’t win elections they can’t implement their ideas. That is my fear of abandoning the GOP only to let it be taken over by the Marjorie Taylor Greenes and Matt Gaetzes of the world. While living in exile, I will probably vote for the non-crazy Republicans whenever I can, the non-crazy Democrats if running against crazy Republicans, and the Libertarians when faced with a choice between a crazy Republican and a crazy Democrat.
Ashburn, Virginia (originally from Plymouth, Wisconsin)
I am a Bulwark early adopter, constant reader/listener.
I fear we are all looking at the rise of the radical right from too high an altitude. It is easy but lazy to dismiss their actions as those of a crackpot fringe in society being enabled by a few hypocritical, scared, (otherwise good people) Republican politicians fearful of loosing power.
Look at our political landscape from ground level. We have hard evidence that they are willing to use force and violence to reach their goals. We have Republican leaders at the state level working in concert to gerrymander their own legislatures, constrain voting rights, and intimidate the electoral process in their favor. We have allegedly normal, accomplished Republican politicians aiding and abetting these efforts.
Looking to ’22 we have a dominant but concentrated Democratic voting majority up against Republican controlled state voting systems skewed in their favor. Imagine a post election frenzy where there are unrelenting attacks on any Democratic state's voting results, or ample evidence that voting has been manipulated to favor the Republican candidate (to say nothing about outright fraud). The courts will overflow with time-consuming lawsuits from both sides.
And here is the rub: 40 years of conservative judges being placed in courts throughout the country will determine the results. While not necessarily part of the raging crowd, these judges are firm supporters of "the rule of law" and the primacy of each state legislature's right to pass any laws they choose, thus they will uphold the legitimacy of even the most obviously biased laws and legislation.
The only course of action is to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. They win. Minority rules. They same structure will be in place for ’24.
We are heading toward American apartheid.
I read the two letters you published. And I wonder did these two men push back at all?
One man says he has a child of color. When racist comments were made did this man speak out? Did he disavow violence and point out truth?
In the other letter, the man said his "friend" believes the election was stolen. Did the man refute the lie?
I KNOW there are die hard MAGA's out there. But I don't associate with them and would never consider these people friends. Beyond that, I would push back against the Big Lie if someone was stupid enough to espouse it to me.
As long as weak people don't speak up, things will worsen. My grandmother always said water seeks its own level. Sounds like these two found theirs.
We want a third party, but that is heavy lifting and it requires Republicans who care about democracy to split their party handing the Democrats power - which goes against most priorities they care about.
There are congressional centrist/moderate caucuses. The Tuesday Group, Problem Solvers Caucus among others. The one thing nobody has attempted is also the easiest way forward:
Moderates Caucus together - for real regardless of party affiliation. If the GOP takes the house in 2022, they work together to elect a Republican speaker from their caucus and vice versa. What if they don't have a majority - which they probably won't - doesn't matter because they are still the king makers.
They can do this right now. Goodbye Speaker Pelosi, hello Speaker Gottheimer. That essential "For The People Act" that is stuck in the senate can be reworked by the moderates to focus on the real problems, not a wish list, and then move it forward to conference.
What does this require? Moderate Democrats willing to say - enough - and to put country over party. We've asked a lot of the Republican moderates/Sane Caucus. It's time the moderate Democrats do their part and help save democracy. Why fight over the details of the infrastructure plan when the country is heading to imminent civil war? It's happening right now - start acting like it.
Bring me the finest sane, moderate Democrat and Republican lawmakers in the land and put an end to all of this. It can be done and while working with the opponents (NOT enemies) may feel like eating a cicada, it is much more palatable than civil war.
Finally, I was struck by your argument on your Kizsinger podcast: What if things were reversed? What would you be prepared to do if you truly believed that the election was stolen. At that moment, I became afraid. Because I had just finished a disturbing conversation where normally level headed Democrats were talking about how many rifles they had in case of a coup. And these weren't 50 year old men who can barely climb the steps without sweating (I'm included in that group), they were in their 20s and 30s and were resolute. This has to stop. Now.
We are headed toward civil war Congresspeople - start acting like it.
Thank you for the Bulwark.
I just wanted to start off by saying that as more of a moderate Blue Dog type Democrat the Bulwark in general and your podcast specifically have been an absolute joy to follow as it is so refreshing to hear from voices that aren't totally dedicated to pushing one side or another's narrative. I also wanted to put in my two cents regarding the Call for American Renewal statement and signers.
Personally I don't get all this handwringing regarding whether "Never Trump" Republicans and moderate Democrats should form a new party. It seems simple enough to me for the signatories of the statement to simply form an American Renewal committee layout their principals and establish some criteria for when to get involved in particular elections and simply endorse reasonable Republicans or moderate Democrats and if a particular race lacks either such option let it be known that the Committee would be willing to circulate donation and volunteer requests from center right independent candidates. Am I just being obtuse? It just seems that there's a more realistic half step that could be taken rather than going through the herculean effort needed to form a viable third party or or in my opinion the more herculean effort needed to reform the bulk of the GOP?
Thanks and keep up the amazing work
The Tulsa Massacre
Watched the livestream last night and kudos to all.
You didn’t know about Tulsa 1921 until recently so you might not know about Rosewood Florida 1923 either. It serves as an example of the different Americas we inhabit. We are separate and bound together in this country we love.
When I was young, we celebrated Negro History Week (yes, I am in my sixties) in our churches, homes and de facto segregated schools. That week in February eventually morphed into Black History Month and moved from our private world to the public world. It was (and is) not about “hating white people or America” but rather sharing our full and complex history in this nation. A history which included slavery, civil war, lynching, migration, military service, medical and scientific contributions, struggles for the right to vote and much more.
As you observed in an earlier podcast, these events are not ancient. Our lessons were taught by teachers, ministers and family with firsthand knowledge of the events. Pride in our accomplishments, caution in our interactions with whites, confidence in our ability to excel in our pursuits, faith that God would not abandon us here and America was our home too were all taught.
Perhaps everyone would benefit from this advice - Read Dr. King’s I Have A Dream speech but pay close attention to the first part of the speech before you get all caught up in the last part.
Love, love, love the podcast and everything Bulwark. I believe I googled "centrist Democrat media" sometime last spring, and the Bulwark appeared.
I have been a liberal Democrat since my first vote at age 18 for Clinton. But I proffer this: the silent majority everyone worried about last cycle as being silent Trumpers is actually a massive voting bloc of centrist Republicans AND Democrats. We all voted for Biden because he was the moderate and was not Trump.
We Dems watched in horror last spring as the radical left cheered on those who would "burn it down" and who now are so obsessed with identity politics and falling in line, they have become indistinguishable from MAGAverse. When you talk about the GOP having lost its collective sanity (which is true) I can insert "radical left" and not skip a beat.
We are the Obama voters. We want sanity, thoughtfulness, smarts, equality and constitutional clarity. We want expectations to be high, for people to work hard, for government to lead in crises and provide a reasonable safety net. College should not be free for all but grants should be accessible; medicare should be robust and private healthcare regulated; capitalism should thrive but only if the playing field is level; the US is not a racist nation but cyclical poverty as a result of Jim Crow is a crisis.
When I hear you, and Liz Cheney, and Hogan, Manchin and others, I hear truth making a comeback, something people are desperately seeking. We are not the loudest, or in perfect agreement, or sexy in any way. We are not good at creating sound bytes or concise tweets. We are not at the party. But perhaps, finally, because of this, an independent candidate, backed by both sides, could have a shot at 2024. When do we start our super PAC?
All best regards,
Charlie (and The Bulwark team),
I cannot express enough my appreciation for what you have built and recognizing early on how key it is to stand up for democracy both abroad and domestically against demagogues while at the same time having the flexible mindset to consider new ideas when past ones turn out to be off. Your group is one of the few I have ever paid to become a member of, devouring your articles and podcasts because of how on-target they are to my mindset, the political humor used, and how much the joy (or dark humor in the case of JVL) I perceive in your new-found arena to express ideas not tied to having to be partisan or through a specific ideology.
(If it’s okay to mention, this where I see you as having grown so much more than The Dispatch group, which gets an honorable mention for being Never Trump, yet feels like they want to go back to a pre-Trump idealized ideological world than recognizing what has changed.)
I sympathize with the hard decisions the group had to make in breaking with former friends and standing up for American ideals; I did so in my own little way self-publishing my first book series documenting the daily norm-breakings of Trump’s presidency. I’m just happy I didn’t have to do 8 years’ worth of it…
For me, as one that generally sits in the moderate political lane (on average: socially liberal, domestic economic moderate, neo-liberal international economic, personally conservative) this niche (hopefully to be more) you’ve developed I feel right at home with that I haven’t felt among any of the parties, major or minor, and cheer you and the team onwards to wherever this will go….
I've followed the election and the post-election period and I'm glad to have had the Bulwark as a corrective to any of my liberal biases.
My family is from Chile and I grew up around the big lies of both left and right. Family members often spoke of General Pinochet as a "savior" who saved Chile from a totalitarian Marxist dictatorship and justified the prolongation of the right-wing dictatorship in order to protect the country from such horrors as Marxist coercion, torture, and mass murder. Guess what? They were willing to justify their own coercion, torture and mass murder as long as it was done to those other people.
Of course, I also know there was a totalitarian left that would have justified their own horrors. The Cold War was real and the Cuban dictatorship had scared plenty of people in Latin America into accepting right wing dictatorship until, of course, they did not.
The thing is in this adopted country where I have become a citizen, I see something pernicious happening. People who are accepting the idea that Obama already was a socialist threat and now Biden, or perhaps his VP as a hidden Marxist manipulating the country behind the scenes. I am horrified that people who believe this nonsense are perfectly willing to justify a Proud Boys coup or a QAnon coup like the attempt on January 6th on the basis of protecting the country from socialism. The United States is not supposed to be a Latin American country. I gave up my old citizenship in order to live in a democracy that accepts the peaceful transition of power.
I am even looking back at how Chile got back into democracy by voting out the old dictatorship and forming a center-left alliance that has endured to this day in spite of whatever problems the country has had. I am giving my former country a second look because I really don't want to go through this again. Chile went through 17+ years of fascist dictatorship because people were willing to believe big lies, and I really can't stomach the idea of going through it again. I don't agree with Liz Cheney on much but I appreciate her efforts to actually honor the idea of the peaceful transition of power or that reality matters.
I appreciate the Bulwark because you seem to agree on reality being a foremost value. I learned long ago to tune out the fantasists of left and right, and I get up every day not wanting to give an inch to those who would threaten democracy.
We Get Even More
The Bulwark has focused most its attention on the threats to democracy from the right. It is unfortunate that we have to, because there is growing strength and confidence on the woke left. You probably do not see it much where you live in Wisconsin. But I live in Oakland, California (where your colleague, Tim Miller, lives). Oakland is located in California Congressional District 13, and our member of Congress is Barbara Lee. This district is the most liberal in California and the fourth most liberal in the country.
Here are some episodes from my life among the progressives. I give them without commentary. You can draw your own conclusions. I’m also not saying I disapprove of everything; just pointing out the valence of the political culture…
I work as a lawyer. My county bar association holds many seminars. One of these is the “Racial Equity Series”. One recent topic in the series was “Intersection of LGBTQ Identity and Race”.
My son attends a private Catholic high school in Berkeley. Last semester he took a course entitled “Social Justice.” The curriculum included a viewing of “13th”, about the connection between 13th amendment (which abolished slavery) and the prison system.
My Catholic church, in Berkeley (which borders Oakland), held a course on racial reconciliation. The course was produced by JustFaith Ministries, an organization out of Kentucky. We read two books in this course. One was “White Fragility” by Robin D’Angelo. The other was “I’m Still Here – Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” by Austin Channing Brown.
After George Floyd was murdered, our neighborhood formed a discussion group to talk about race and other political issues. In group discussions, I am the most conservative by far, even though my views would make me, as Tim Miller might say, a “RINO squish”. During our first meeting, the leader introduced herself by her identity group and pronouns (she/her). She sent us a document for discussion at one of our meetings: White Supremacy Culture, by Tema Okun. Among the elements of white supremacy culture are “perfectionism,” “worship of the written word,” and “individualism.” Okun provides “antidotes” for each of these. (To be fair, the group was somewhat skeptical, thinking these had more to do with power in the workplace than race.)
Oakland recently announced “Oakland Resilient Families,” the purpose of which is to “to give 600 BIPOC families with low-incomes an unconditional $500 per month for at least 18 months.” (I will comment here to say that, hey, might as well do the experiment here.)
Across the Bay, in San Francisco, the Board of Education announced a while ago the renaming of 44 schools. In addition to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, Herbert Hoover’s name was also on the list. While the Google Doc that explained the reasons for the changes is no longer accessible, I understand that Hoover’s name was included because he “appointed committees that helped lay the groundwork for redlining.” (Apparently the renaming is now on hold.) While this action was mainly performative, other activities in San Francisco schools are not. I’m told by a teacher that in some San Francisco elementary schools, white and black students are separated for math study.
So this is my world. If politics is downstream of culture, we can imagine how woke culture will manifest in legislation. At least here in the Bay Area of California.