The GOP Remains An Unserious Party
Day Two of Trumpless America
When we launched the Bulwark, we laid out our mission.
“The Bulwark,” we wrote, “will stand in the breach and shout, ‘You can’t be serious?’”
At that point, we were talking about a Republican Party in thrall to the Mad Orange God King; but even now, on Day Two of Trumpless America, the challenge retains its salience.
Even without Trump, the GOP remains a deeply unserious party.
A serious party, for example, does not number in its ranks someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene.
She is, not to put too fine a point on it: a nut, a fabulist, and a conspiracy theorist of the most wretched water. But today’s GOP has not only elevated her to a seat in Congress, but has made her a member in good standing, embraced by party leadership, and supported by the party’s apparatus and dollars.
A serious party has at least minimal standards of political hygiene, but when she and fellow crazy person Lauren Boebert were elected, GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy welcomed and defended them.
At a news conference on Capitol Hill, McCarthy (R-Calif.) was asked whether he was concerned about Greene (R-Ga.) and Boebert (R-Colo.) creating controversy for House Republicans after embracing elements of the theory, whose adherents believe President Trump is battling a cabal of “deep state” pedophiles who worship Satan. The FBI has deemed the group a domestic terrorism threat.
“Our party is very diverse. You mentioned two people who are going to join our party, and both of them have denounced QAnon,” McCarthy said. “So the only thing I would ask for you in the press — these are new members. Give them an opportunity before you claim what you believe they have done and what they will do.”
Since then, of course, Greene and Boebert have become the new hotness on the right… which tells you a great deal about the state of both the conservative movement and the GOP.
Greene has quickly become a vector of disinformation, recklessness, and dumbness. Just yesterday CNN’s Oliver Darcy documented the “11 false claims Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has tweeted in the last month.”
But that only hints at the woman’s full frightfulness. The Daily Beast is now reporting the woolly extent of Greene’s sojourn in the vilest corners of the fever swamps.
The Parkland shooting isn’t the only school shooting over the past decade that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) thinks was a false flag. In a 2018 post uncovered by Media Matters, the QAnon-supporting now-congresswoman responded “that is all true” to a commentator who asserted that the Parkland and Sandy Hook shootings were “STAGGED [sic],” along with the 1981 assassination attempt of Ronald Reagan and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Earlier this week, Media Matters uncovered a separate post in which Greene wrote that “Nancy Pelosi tells Hillary Clinton several times a month that ‘we need another school shooting’ in order to persuade the public to want strict gun control.” Last week, Twitter suspended Greene for 12 hours for sharing similarly ludicrous theories that the 2020 election was stolen.
It would be comforting to believe that Greene and Boebert are merely aberrations in the GOP. But they are part of a growing Caucus of the Insane that is increasingly defining the party. (A short roster includes Louis Gohmert, Paul Gosar, Bob Good, Marsha Blackburn, Matt Gaetz, Madison Cawthorn, Andy Biggs, Debbie Lesko.…) And they seem to attract one another.
This includes, of course, the full roster of the representatives who signed onto insane lawsuits to overturn the election and voted to uphold objections to the count.
But consider what else is happening. It isn’t just their refusal to wear masks; Republicans members of Congress are now in the midst of a tantrum over basic security measures like metal detectors.
Naturally, they try to pass off their recklessness as a matter of high principle.
Just yesterday, one of them actually tried to bring a gun to the floor of the House:
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), who has repeatedly flouted the magnetometers that were installed near the House chamber after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, set off the metal detectors while trying to enter. When an officer with a metal detector wand scanned him, a firearm was detected on Harris’s side, concealed by his suit coat. Police refused to let Harris in, and the officer signaled a security agent that Harris had a gun on him by motioning toward his own firearm.
HuffPost witnessed the interaction and later confirmed with a Capitol official that Harris was carrying a gun.
It actually gets better. “HuffPost watched Harris try to get another member to take the gun from him so he could go vote. The member, Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), told Harris he didn’t have ‘a license’ and refused to hold the weapon for him.”
Appropriately enough, this unserious caucus is lead by a profoundly unserious leader. Politico reports:
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Thursday he does not believe former President Donald Trump incited the riot at the Capitol earlier this month, pivoting away from comments he made last week that the president bore some responsibility for the assault.
"I don't believe he provoked it if you listen to what he said at the rally," McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters.
Just last week McCarthy said on the House floor that "the president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump."
The unserious GOP leader calls to mind the immortal words from Ghostbusters:
Ray: Everything was fine until the grid was shut down by dickless here.
Walter Peck: They caused an explosion!
Mayor: Is this true?
Peter: Yes sir, it’s true. This man has no dick.
Some thoughts on bullshit.
If you haven’t read it, you should check out Harry G. Frankfurt’s classic essay, “On Bullshit,” which is indispensable reading even in the post-Trump era.
Professor Frankfurt distinguishes the bullshitter from the run-of-the mill liar. “The bullshitter,” he writes, “does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.”
“When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he consider his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.”
Sound like anyone you know?
The transition in one picture.
Anthony Fauci seemed almost giddy as he declared his liberation. Via Upworthy:
Some thoughts on conservativism and authoritarianism.
In How The Right Lost Its Mind, I wrote about the “unnatural alliance with the authoritarian and nationalistic right.”
In her 2005 book The Authoritarian Dynamic, Princeton professor Karen Stenner had noted that authoritarianism and political conservatism “appear to be largely distinct predispositions,” and that conservatives, with their abhorrence to government power and radical change “can be a liberal democracy’s strongest bulwark against the dangers posed by intolerant social movements.”
“Those by nature averse to change” she noted, “should find the ‘shining path’ to a ‘glorious future’ far more frightening than exciting, and can be expected to defend faithfully an established order—including one of institutionalized respect for difference and protection of individual freedom—against ‘authoritarian revolution.’”
This, however required that status quo conservatives be given “reassurances regarding established brakes on the pace of change, and the settled rules of the game to which all will adhere,” as well as “confidence in the leaders and institutions managing social conflict, and regulating the extent and rate of social change.” In her 2005 book Stenner had written:
Liberal democracy would seem least secure when conservatives cannot be persuaded that freedom and diversity are authoritatively supported and institutionally constrained, and when authoritarians can be persuaded that greater sameness and oneness—the “one right way” for the “one true people”—lie just at the other end of the “shining path.”
Seems relevant today.
Who was responsible for the original decision to order them out without making sure they had a place to go?
Thousands of National Guardsmen were allowed back into the Capitol Thursday night, hours after U.S. Capitol Police officials ordered them to vacate the facilities, sending them outdoors or to nearby parking garages after two weeks pulling security duty after the deadly riot on Jan. 6.
“We differ from one another in our politics, and we also differ from one another on issues of constitutional interpretation,” wrote the signatories, which include the co-founder and other members of the conservative Federalist Society legal group.
“But despite our differences, our carefully considered views of the law lead all of us to agree that the Constitution permits the impeachment, conviction, and disqualification of former officers, including presidents.”
You can read the whole letter here.
1. Energy (and Honesty) in the Executive
On Tuesday, the day before the end of the Trump administration, I found myself walking to the West Wing on a damp, cold morning.
Just before I pushed the button that opens the Brady Briefing Room door, I glanced up, as I occasionally do, at the White House residence.
The famous large arched window on the third floor, a central feature from that vantage point, caught my eye. The curtains, usually drawn, were open. Standing and staring out at the White House campus was a female figure. She looked like a ghost. I blinked. It appeared to be the first lady, Melania Trump.
She seemed to be looking right at me. I waved.
She didn’t move or return the gesture. But the curtains slowly closed. I felt a sudden cold wind and I shivered. It was like the closing scene in a Gothic horror film. Very Turn of the Screw.
A network photographer I know walked up behind me and said, “I saw that. I’m a witness.”
2. The Origins of Trump’s Slapdash, Last-Second ‘1776 Report’
The world will little note, nor long remember, the 1776 Report. But before it passes entirely from memory, it is worth taking a moment to examine what it is and how it came to be, not because it is intellectually serious—in fact, it is a self-plagiarized mishmash of sanitized history, high school civics, right-wing gripes, and authoritarian gestures—but because of what it reveals about the rise of a certain strain of conservative ideology: fundamentalist “West Coast Straussianism.”
3. Fragments of Rage
Brent Orrell describes the neuroscience of how social media and fake news are hijacking our brains and fomenting violence.
Through the fragmenting lens of social media we are living, increasingly, in the left-brain’s world. By stripping information of context and then actively manipulating it, social media has the power to prey upon left-brain tendencies and preferences by transforming bits of information into world-historic conspiracies. This phenomenon pre-dated the Internet, of course. Oliver Stone used the technique to brilliant effect in his film JFK, running and re-running the Zapruder film showing the killing of President Kennedy (“Back and to the left, back and to the left”) to make it seem impossible that the fatal bullet shot from behind could have driven Kennedy’s torso backward. Stone’s distortion helped fulfill the requirement for a second gunman and provided support for a conspiracy Stone said involved the entire U.S. military and intelligence apparatus. In fact, experts have demonstrated conclusively how that movement was not just possible but required by the ballistic and other conditions in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963. Partial information can be manipulated in the left hemisphere to create conspiracies; a fuller context protects against them.
Our pariah ex-president.
With the exception of the murdered cop, of course.
Thoughts and prayers.
Witless Ape Rides Helicopter
ICYMI: Kevin Williamson isn’t holding back. “Maybe turning your party over to Generalissimo Walter Mitty, his hideous scheming spawn, and the studio audience from Hee-Haw was not just absolutely aces as a political strategy.”
“But the judges!” you protest. Fair point: Trump’s absurd attempts to overturn the election through specious legal challenges were laughed out of court by the very men and women he appointed to the bench. Even his judges think he’s a joke.
Everybody has figured that out. Except you.
And so, goodbye, Donald J. Trump, the man who wanted to be Conrad Hilton but turned out to be Paris Hilton. Au revoir, Ivanka and Jared, Uday and Qusay — there’s a table for four reserved for you at Dorsia. So long, Melania — it’s still not entirely clear what you got out of this, but I hope it was worth it. A fond farewell to Ted Cruz’s reputation and Mike Pence’s self-respect, Lindsey Graham’s manhood and Fox News’s business model. In with “Dr.” Jill Biden, out with “Dr.” Sebastian Gorka.
Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.
I’m sure we’ll all meet again. But I’d really rather we didn’t.