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The Hollow Men of the GOP
Plus: Decoding Elon
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar — “The Hollow Men,” T.S. Eliot
The most notable thing about this weekend’s parade of GOP presidential hopefuls in Las Vegas was… that it was a parade.
Donald Trump did not clear the field.
If Trump “thought his early 2024 announcement would cow prospective Republican primary rivals into submission,” Alex Isenstadt writes in Politico, “he clearly miscalculated.”
Just a few years ago, that would have been an unthinkable act of lèse-majesté.
But this time around, they are still in it. All of them. None of them deferred to the exiled president, whose campaign is experiencing a serious bout of no-mentum, even as his legal problems mount.
Endorsements have not flowed, and Trump is getting little traction among elected GOPers. The Hill reports that only a single Republican senator (and, no it’s not Lindsey) has announced publicly that he will back Trump’s re-election bid.
So let’s acknowledge that even though Trump remains the dominant figure in the GOP, there is a crack in the cult. It may be a hairline fracture, and it may be temporary, but an array of Republicans all made the same case this weekend: Trump is a Loser. It’s time to move on. Via AP: “The details varied, but within most speeches was an extraordinary sense of defiance rarely seen since [Trump] seized control of the Republican Party six years ago.”
Chris Christie says Republicans should stop being afraid to call Trump out by name. "You're going to run against him? Say his name. You think he did something wrong? Say his name," he said, and then proceeded to do so over the weekend. “We keep losing and losing and losing,” Christie told attendees at the Republican Jewish Coalition candidate gaggle. “The reason we’re losing is because Donald Trump has put himself before everybody else.”
“It’s basically the third election in a row that Donald Trump has cost us the race, and it’s like, three strikes, you’re out,” declared outgoing Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu urged his fellow GOPers to “stop supporting crazy, unelectable candidates in our primaries and start getting behind winners that can close the deal in November.”
And former Speaker Paul Ryan belatedly declared that he was a “Never Again Trumper.”
RYAN: Look, here's how it -- I - I was not a never-Trumper. People sort of think of me --
KARL: You worked with him as speaker. I mean -
RYAN: I worked -
KARL: Yes. Yes.
RYAN: I was - I - I governed with him. And I'm very proud of those days. I'm proud of the accomplishments of the tax reform, the deregulation, of criminal justice reform. I'm really excited about the judges we got on the bench, not just the Supreme Court, but throughout the judiciary.
But I am a never-again-Trumper. Why? Because I want to win. And we lose with Trump. It was really clear to us in '18, in '20, and now in 2022
But when Karl asked him the existential question, notice how Ryan punts.
KARL: But - but if - I'm saying if he wins the general election, if he becomes president again, I mean the way Liz Cheney has put it, it's like an existential threat to the country.
RYAN: I just don't think he's going to -- I don't think that's going to happen. I don't think he'll win. I think --
KARL: He's just unelectable?
RYAN: That - yes, I think he's unelectable…
One hand clap.
Look, I get the political dynamic here. The best hope for convincing GOP voters to finally take the off-ramp from Trump is by emphasizing that the former president is a stone cold loser.
That may be necessary, but without any real substance, it’s not sufficient, is it?
Unless these Republican critics also make the moral and constitutional case that Donald Trump is unfit for office — that he is a disgrace and a danger who should never be entrusted with power again— we’re likely to see a replay of 2016, when the Hollow Men of the GOP fell into line after a series of Trump wins. “Perhaps,” my colleague Bill Kristol tweeted yesterday, “Paul Ryan should be a Never Again Trumper not because ‘I want to win’ but because Donald Trump should never again be president of the United States.”
Instead, Ryan (and others) continue to engage in the revisionist fantasy of a successful Trump first term, at the same time they are deep in denial about the threat of a second one.
Exit take: There’s also a very real downside to the size of the Anybody But Trump field.
Trump’s team believes, as do a growing number of anxious donors and Republican operatives, that the GOP’s emboldened 2024 class may already be unintentionally re-creating the conditions that enabled Trump’s success in 2016. That year, a crowded Republican field splintered the primary electorate and allowed Trump to become the party’s presidential nominee despite winning just 35% or less of the vote in each of the three opening primary contests.
In the earliest days of the 2024 season, the 2016 parallels are eerie.
We remember. Even if Paul Ryan doesn’t.
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ICYMI over the weekend, Elon Musk continues trying to sh*tpost his way out of his $44 billion fiasco.
That, of course, includes this artifact of Late Musk Social Media Onanism (which may also explain why advertisers are fleeing the site):
What is actually going on in Musk’s mind? Nobody knows, but this is by far the best analysis I read this weekend:
I’ve unrolled the thread (but without Swisher’s brilliant GIFS.)
1. Twitter will not collapse imminently. Probably. It’s a resilient system and things are backed up. But it’s less failsafe and more prone to attacks by hackers who have an easier target. Elon is a gambler and he is betting on odds that fewer staffers will handle. Risky obvi.
2. He is also counting on users to put up with inconveniences like you can’t get your archive or user count. Tech users are used to glitches and they might not leave yet over small jams. He’s probably right even if it’s a sucky attitude toward consumers. Does he give a fuck? No.
3. Moderation firings? He is hoping to build an AI system that replaces them that will not work well now but will presumably get better. And will costs a lot less, which is the move most logical. Does he care about the damage in the interim to users, advertisers? He does not.
4. All the hand waving meanness & fetid stunt tweeting? It makes folks come look & grows usage, even if it is to see the traffic accident. The look-at-my-frantic-antics is called marketing or snarketing as one Twitter user put it. Growth at all costs? That sounds familiar.
5. The indiscriminate firings? All tech is bloated and so is Twitter and he’s counting on the cuts to remove those who don’t revere him. Then he’ll pack up the circus tent and move it to a more malleable state like Texas, where the pols will suck up like a Hoover on steroids.
6. Does he care that you think he’s an amateur/asshole/wackjob/chode while doing it? He does not. The brand is Elon and always will be that is what you know now more than ever. If it works, he’s done it ONCE AGAIN; if not, it’s mostly OPM and who cares if the Qataris lose $.
7. In that vein, a chance to own the media/critics/pols who don’t fellate him is an added bonus? Trolling works as well as inspiring & your sad concerns of decorum & decency do not interest the Silicon Valley I know. Move fast & break things? Destroy things is more like it. Fun!
8. Did I mention marketing? As Trump uses outrage to raise money from suckers, Elon is doing much the same to focus the attention on Twitter. You can’t buy this kind of advertising & the crazier the tweeting, the better. Oh let’s do a poll to see if Donald should return! Burn.
9. Silicon Valley is cheering him on, whether they say it out loud or not. The tech bigs have lost a step of late for reasons mostly their own fault. So his obstreperous obnoxiousness is welcome & encouraged. He’s a bloated champion but he’s still swinging.
10. He still needs revenue and quick. Blue checks nonsense didn’t work. Payments a zillion miles away. Enterprise services too. Advertising is even more fucked. That said, will tech shore up its own & will bankers let him off the hook & will we forget his ugliness? You betcha!
11. I’m still not paying $8. Fuck that.
Meanwhile, in Arizona…
[Bill] Gates, a Republican and one of the leaders of the Maricopa County Elections Department, has been a fierce defender of the county's election system and an outspoken critic of false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
In a similar vein, Gates has continued to defend the county against continued claims of fraud during the midterms. Some have focused on an issue with printers on Election Day that led to numerous tabulation machines being unable to read some ballots.
His stance has caused a slew of backlash online and in person. Some people were seen launching verbal attacks on Gates during a meeting with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors earlier this week.
PHOENIX — A Chandler Republican recently elected to the Arizona House of Representatives says that she will not cast her vote on any bill unless the 2022 election is redone.
Liz Harris, recently elected to represent Legislative District 13 which encompasses much of Chandler, issued the statement on Instagram and her campaign website saying in part "it has become obvious that we need to hold a new election immediately."
1. Appointing a New Special Counsel Was the Right Call
Kim Wehle in today’s Bulwark: Merrick Garland didn’t run away from a tough decision—he made one.
Attorney General Merrick Garland is under fire for taking the extraordinary step of appointing a special counsel to investigate what he called “certain extraordinary cases” involving potential criminal actions by former President Donald Trump and his cadre of enablers. The probe is twofold, involving (1) the unlawful interference with the transfer of power and certification of the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021; and (2) the taking of classified documents and other presidential records to Mar-a-Lago and possible obstruction of the related investigation. Garland made clear that the criminal investigations and prosecutions of 900+ people based on their “physical presence” at the Capitol will remain with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C.
Translation: Special Counsel Jack Smith is tasked exclusively with deciding whether to go after the big fish.
2. The Conservative Case Against the Independent State Legislature Doctrine
In today’s Bulwark, Paul Rosenzweig writes that SCOTUS will decide whether power politics and partisanship will trump history, tradition, logic, and the text of the Constitution.
At no time since the ratification of the Constitution 234 years ago has any court or legislature adopted the ISLT as law. For the Court to do so now would be as transformative and as radical as Ellis’s transformation of soccer into rugby. The difference, of course, is that Ellis merely gave us a new sport. Were the Court to accept the ISLT, it would give us a new country—one that would be recognizably less democratic and more partisan.