How The Right Gamed Out A Coup
Plus: The fight over Big Bird is our dumbest yet
I’d planned a completely different newsletter this morning, until I saw Christian Vanderbrouk’s piece in this morning’s Bulwark.
On October 20, 2020 — just a few weeks before last year’s election — the Claremont Institute and the Texas Public Policy Foundation issued a detailed roadmap for overturning the presidential election.
At the time, the war-gaming strategy was largely ignored outside of right-wing circles, but in retrospect, Vanderbrouk says, “It’s kind of a smoking gun document.” And he’s right.
It’s amazing stuff.
[Despite] the authors’ pretensions to scholarship and rigor—“for a simulation to be valuable, the other side gets a vote and actions must be based in realism”— the final document is a frenzied and paranoid piece of work, revealing of the anxieties and aspirations of the authoritarian right.
Really, read it… and take particular note of the folks who participated in the exercise of gaming out this Trumpocalypse.
The sun rises on January 6, 2021 while a nation is in crisis.
Michigan’s presidential electors are in dispute after a mysterious fire in Detroit destroyed thousands of mail-in ballots, ultimately throwing the election to Congress.
The nation’s capital is overwhelmed by riots organized by left-wing radicals.
A Republican member of Congress is attacked and critically injured in the violence, potentially depriving Donald Trump of the decisive vote.
However, the representative heroically insists on being taken to the House floor. “With IVs and blood transfusions being administered, the member casts the deciding vote, giving Trump 26 state delegations and the needed majority.”
This is the grisly climax of a report by the Claremont Institute and Texas Public Policy Foundation’s (TPPF) called “79 Days to Inauguration,” prepared by “Constitutional scholars, along with experts in election law, foreign affairs, law enforcement, and media . . . coordinated by a retired military officer experienced in running hundreds of wargames.”
Among these luminaries were figures such as John Eastman—lawyer for Donald Trump and author of a memo advising Vice President Mike Pence to unilaterally block certification of Joe Biden’s win in order to buy time for GOP-controlled state legislatures to send competing slates of electors—and K.T. McFarland, who served as deputy national security advisor under Michael Flynn in the Trump White House.
Other participants include Kevin Roberts, then-executive director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation (soon to be head of the Heritage Foundation), Jeff Giesea, “a [Peter] Thiel protégé and secret funder of alt-right causes,” and Charles Haywood, a fringe blogger who anxiously awaits an American “Caesar, authoritarian reconstructor of our institutions.”
The dumbest possible timeline comes for Big Bird.
Because, as Tom Nichols frequently says, we are not a serious country, we find ourselves embroiled in a controversy over a character in a children’s television show.
Behold the unhinged takes from some of the deepest thinkers in our polity.
Newsmax’s Steve Cortes pushed the anti-Big Bird line even further, insisting that using the Large Yellow Bird to promote vaccinations was “actually evil.” (Irony alert: “Newsmax says it will implement vaccine requirement.”)
And then there is this tweet from a former OAN host — an Escher-like-model of mind-bending stupidity. Try to wrap your head around it:
Biden gets good news, but ghastly poll numbers.
Yes, he won a huge legislative victory, jobs numbers are up, the Dow is over 36,000, and there is hope on the horizon for the pandemic.
But Biden and the Democrats continue to suffer dismal ratings, including this grim poll over the weekend:
A year before the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans hold a clear lead on the congressional ballot as President Joe Biden's approval rating sinks to a new low of 38%.
A USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, taken Wednesday through Friday, found that Biden's support cratered among the independent voters who delivered his margin of victory over President Donald Trump one year ago. …
Among the findings:
Nearly half of those surveyed, 46%, say Biden has done a worse job as president than they expected, including 16% of those who voted for him. Independents, by 7-1 (44%-6%), say he's done worse, not better, than they expected.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans, 64%, say they don't want Biden to run for a second term in 2024. That includes 28% of Democrats. Opposition to Trump running for another term in 2024 stands at 58%, including 24% of Republicans.
Vice President Kamala Harris' approval rating is 28% – even worse than Biden's. The poll shows that 51% disapprove of the job she's doing. One in 5, 21%, are undecided.
Americans overwhelmingly support the infrastructure bill Biden is about to sign, but they are split on the more expensive and further-reaching "Build Back Better" act being debated in Congress. Only 1 in 4 say the bill's provisions would help them and their families.
Inside a Trumpian sulk.
Interesting story from Jonathan Karl’s new book:
In an angry conversation on his final day as president, Donald Trump told the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee he was leaving the GOP and creating his own political party -- and that he didn't care if the move would destroy the Republican Party, according to a new book by ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl.
Trump only backed down when Republican leaders threatened to take actions that would have cost Trump millions of dollars, Karl writes his upcoming book, "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show."
They should have let him go.
1. Kinzinger Answers Hasan
After MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan took a shot at Liz Cheney (for voting against the bipartisan infrastructure bill), Adam Kinzinger posted this thread:
Let’s take Maslows hierarchy. Most basic need is physiological… this to me is democracy’s existence. This is where we need a basic even if temporary alliance. Next is safety, then love, etc….
I believe safety is where the issue of voting rights lies, unless people are being physically denied ability to vote (more on this and voting rights act further down).
I don’t mind people hitting Liz and I with the “they’re still awful conservatives jab” because we ain’t new at politics.
BUT it does say that there is not a baseline understanding of the threat, and no temporary and necessary alliance. So in order to survive some politicians realize they can tell the truth, and just piss off everyone, so they retreat to a tribe…
Some of us don’t care. It’s politically damaging but the threat is too real. So Dems and the left have a choice: retreat to political attacks then when Trump (or similar) re-elected wonder what happened, or make temp alliance with “despicable” conservatives…
Now some will argue that the John Lewis act IS democracy protection. Ok, but that is largely about the issue of pre-clearance that the Supreme Court in 2013 threw out saying in essence we can’t pretend history defines the current challenges. This would restore the power that belongs to states into the Fed AG for only some states. I disagree with the prescription to the challenges addressed, and obviously this was not an attempt at a bipartisan solution.
Today it’s more convenient to vote than ever, there is no IQ test or poll tax anymore. Instead of finding that middle ground solution, it is used as a bludgeon on Twitter etc. fine, but don’t pretend you recognize how serious the authoritarian threat is then. Because successful attempts to stop authoritarians mean alliances among those who agree on little else.
After all, even if the right act was put into law, an authoritarian could then use that for their OWN ENDS. So yep, Liz Cheney is a conservative. I like that, you may hate it. But what’s the biggest threat we face?….
I have made common cause on defending our country and Jan 6th accountability with people I agree with on little else. So has Liz, but we can’t do it alone (though we will if we must.). //
2. DOJ Sues Texas Over Its New Voting Restrictions
Kim Wehle writes in today’s Bulwark:
What DOJ’s complaint reveals, once again, is that the Texas legislature is hellbent on pushing back against established individual rights of some of the most vulnerable in society. According to DOJ, S.B. 1’s targets include “voters with limited English proficiency, voters with disabilities, elderly voters, members of the military deployed away from home, and American citizens residing outside of the country.”
2. Don’t Normalize Syria
Brian Stewart, in this morning’s Bulwark:
Any normalization with Assad will make a farce of the Biden administration’s avowed desire to put human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy. It will also erode the West’s (already diminished) strategic position in the Middle East. It will lend precious legitimacy to a government that has plumbed––and continues to plumb––the depths of barbarism.
None of this should be deemed remotely tolerable. The Assad regime is a vicious stain on the history of humanity and on those who had and have the ability to prevent, mitigate, or end it. In its character and behavior, it is the kind of thing civilized nations ought to object to—starting with the United States.
Even as some right-wing media figures and politicians try to outdo each other over Big Bird's PSA, freelance writer Meg St-Esprit sent this tweet about her 10-year-old son, which received a lot of likes and retweets.
Children have more empathy, kindness, and community outlook than adults do.
As my 10yo got his @pfizer vaccine tonight he was nervous but kept whispering his (high risk) best friend’s name over and over. And I have zero regrets that my kid was scared and yet did something out of love for another person anyways.
Stay on the Claremont story, Bulwark. This is some dangerous shit, attempting to mainstream extremism.
I live in Nebraska where 91 of 93 county governments passed some version of "gun sanctuary" resolutions. Some of these resolutions tiptoe up to the sort of nonsense about the authority of Sheriffs that Claremont is selling. This choice of the word "sanctuary" is telling. This is meant to assert that state and federal regulation of gun rights can be ignored by counties.