The Democrats' lawyer picks the wrong targets
What we need is to take voting completely out of partisan hands. I agree with Elias that Cheney and Kinzinger are hypocritical in not supporting voting rights, but GOP has made this an insanely political issue because in their minds the more people vote, the more likely it is for Dems to win. Which is true, for the most part. Although more people voted in the last election than ever before and 75 million people voted for Trump. The fact that GOP can run on a complete lack of policy ideas and still get that many votes is impressive, even if terrifying.
Unfortunately, Elias hasn't learned the important lesson, which all progressive bros on the internet should learn, that yelling/lecturing people on Twitter doesn't create better outcomes. It'd be better to focus his frustrations on fixing gerrymandering, a bipartisan problem.
Gerrymandering should be left to independent commissions. Everyone should be able to vote by mail, and elections should be decentralized and state run. There, I just fixed voting.
I remember being asked over and over again if I truly believe democracy is under existential threat then act like it. Cheney and Kinzinger, while good on 1/6, are not acting like they think democracy is under existential threat.
They voted to protect Republican voter suppression.
They voted to send the federal government into default.
Cheney voted to let MTG stay in her committee assignments.
They looked at Trump in 2020 and said, "Yeah, we want 4 more years of this" and voted for him against Biden.
I'm not willing to give them a free pass just because they've been good on the 1/6 committee.
I read the whole piece and every time I see what Elias writes I respond with "yes, I agree 100%". Was this supposed to be a post about how bad Elias is, because it feels more like a post on how bad the silent are.
I know there are so many important things for you to write about, but maybe it is time for another of your pieces about COVID. It struck me this weekend that perhaps a hundred or so people were killed in the Kentucky tornadoes, and there has been universal sadness at the tragic loss of life, while 1,200 people a day - 12 times that amount - are dying every day of COVId and the country shrugs its collective shoulders and says “oh, well, too bad.” How did our country come to this?
While I appreciate Cheney's and Kinzinger's principled stand against the republican insurrection, Marc Elias is spot on about voting rights. Being against insurrection should be a given. It's a sad commentary on the republican party that it's not; that only two members of the 'party of law and order' were willing to speak out against it and to serve, honestly, on the 1/6 Commission. So, in the circumstances, they deserve credit for that.
Voting rights, however, are the foundation of all our other rights. The even sadder commentary on the state of the republican party is their unanimity in opposing voting rights legislation. Without them, the next insurrection will be silent - because it will take place at the voting booth.
If Elias has any idea how a moderate Democrat -- or any Democrat -- could win a statewide election in Wyoming, he should explain it to us.
Until then, Cheney is the best that Democrats will ever see from that state.
You know who did ask Kinzinger about his vote on the John Lewis bill? Charlie Sykes.
Would love to hear Marc Elias on the Bulwark Podcast....
I agree that Elias is completely off-base on this. The politics of democracy defense at this moment is about aggregation and coalitions, not about absolutism. Democrats need to reign Elias in.
I'm a big fan of Marc Elias, but I think you are right about this, Charlie. We have to cooperate with people we don't agree with much at all to save our democracy. And this kind of attack probably just puts their backs up and stops them from seeing that voter suppression is another form of anti-democracy that Republicans are employing.
While I tend to believe that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, there's one major problem with this idea in this time period: you actually have to be willing to do the things that will be helpful. Democrats are, at this point, reflexively against Trumpism, if only for tribal reasons. But the issue with people like Cheney is that they seem to be entirely unaware of their position.
Politically, there are two paths forward. You can be a Trumpist, or you can be a Democrat. This isn't about forcing people to take sides from the top down, this is just a practical matter. R voters want the craziest person in the race. And democratic voters won't support someone who holds every R position just because they have a D next to their name.
But let's zoom out from that for a moment. The issue with Cheney is that she's voting against all the things that, supposedly, she's for. Voting rights bills? She opposes them. The bill for limiting presidential pardon power so it can't be abused? She voted against it. Shutting down the government? She was for it. Defaulting on the debt causing a recession? She was for it.
The point that Elias is making is that you shouldn't lionize someone just because they're against someone you hate. Cheney is just as destructive as MTG when it comes to how she votes, she just isn't making you mad in tweets.
I think what you're missing Charlie, is that you're doing the equivalent of 'but Gorsuch.' You're ignoring the real harm that Cheney and Kissinger are actively doing, because 'but anti trump!' Like being anti most things, anti-trump doesn't mean pro-democracy. And it's unclear that Cheney or Kissinger or any of the others are willing to actually do more than be anti-Trump.
Fair points all, Charlie. The political point about not burning to the ground any R who stands up against Trump, Trumpism and the wholly anti-democratic Trumpist agenda, even if not for the voting rights bills is fair and important. Your closing nails it: we need these people if we’re going to have any chance of holding Trump and his allies in the attempted coup to any kind of accounting. At the same time, Elias is the best chance we have of restoring equal, fair and unrestricted access to the ballot box.
His tweets are foolish and counterproductive. But he is the only one that is actively engaged in the fights. What are we doing? Hollering on the sidelines?
These people are not any better than most of their compatriots in the GoP. They get a lot fo attention paid to them and a lot of criticism thrown at them because of that reality (despite their largely ineffectual an meaningless actions and words against Trump).
In other words, they seem to want to be recognized and rewarded for being these staunch Democracy advocates, but they refuse to do much beyond words. As Kevin S says below, if Democracy is under existential threat should yo not be doing more? I will throw the same thing in the face of many members of the Democratic party.
I don't waste my time doing so against many of the other members of the GoP, because that would be (on the basis of evidence) useless effort. One of the reasons that Cheney, et al come in for so much heat is that pretty much everyone with a function brain KNOWS there is not going to be a Saul on the road to Damascus moment with the vast majority of GoP politicians. You MIGHT get onw with Cheney and the other few--but that is also doubtful.
The reality is that people berating this people SHOULD STFU... because it isn't going to do any good in the end (probably the reverse) and if you need to work off your angst, maybe there are better and more product ways than Tweets?
The case of Marc Elias is not strange, though I can understand how it might be viewed as unproductive. The explanation lies in the difference between a moderate and a progressive, or between a pragmatist and an idealist.
The average elected Repub would rather the neediest starve & die than have able-bodied abuse of social programs. The average elected Dem allows that in order to reach the neediest, some of the less needy will abuse the benefit. The moderates will target spending & programs that minimize abuse and address a "good" portion of the hungry. A moderate understands that compromise is required, and helping some people is better than helping no one. A progressive knows that allowing anyone to starve is immoral, and no amount of spin/publicity/etc will change that basic fact.
So Elias is a progressive on voting rights. If we are all equal, then it should not be harder for some people to cast their vote than others. People already have their own hurdles to jump in order to cast their vote - disability, work schedule, childcare, don't have 8 hours to wait in line, etc. It is simply wrong for law & policies to make it harder for some to vote.
And the GOP's views are not simply an alternate view that attempts to weigh election security versus voting access. You yourself have said Dems are here to govern, Repubs are here to obstruct. And because they don't have opposing views on how to accomplish governance, they choose to rely on messaging, emotion, misdirection, gerrymandering and so much more that has nothing to do with solving a problem or accomplishing a goal that means something to citizens.
Democrats are far from perfect, but as a party, they try to accomplish things for the good of citizens. Repubs obstruct and look for ways to reward the richest. No messaging, lying, inciting is too low for them.
And so back to Elias, who does not want us to think there are "good" Repubs. If the party platform and the most viewed messaging represent all Republicans in office, then a good case can be made that there are, in fact, no "good" Republicans. And so instead of watching and wondering how bad the Repubs will get, how much lying they will stand, he is saying that we as a society need to write off the entire Repub party as anti-truth, anti-citizen, anti-worker, anti-little people, anti-letter of the law, anti-plan-for-the-future, etc. We need to "grow up" and move on with getting the real work done without expecting any help from Repubs in office.
I do feel regard for the traditional conservatives that no longer have a home or a way to influence our political world without getting in bed with the McCarthys and McConnells, or worse. I also feel for the "good" Republicans in office held hostage by the insanity river flowing all over this country & around DC. I enjoy reading you & the other Bulwark writers & hope you all stick around. Thank you!
First, props to Elias for what he has done to date. That said, if this guy's so busy being the tip of the spear defending democracy in our courts, running a website project ostensibly for the same purpose and perhaps a few other worthwhile things, where does he find the time for other much less worthwhile things, like, uhhh...Twitter, for instance?
Everybody needs a hobby, I guess.
Just another example of a high profile somebody-who-gets-it-right on the big thing, only to get it completely wrong on many of the less-big ones. Oh, wait. Isn't that sort of like the people he's excoriating in the course of pursuing his hobby?
You know, there's that old saying about one Aw, Shit! wiping out a hundred Atta' Boys. But sometimes one really big Atta' Boy proffered at a critical moment can go a ways toward making up for a goodly number of slightly less-big Aw,S!'s
Given what we're facing in this country at the moment, we should take the Atta Boys where we can find 'em, and worry about the other some other time.
If being the tip of the spear is Mr. Elias's talent and calling, he should stick to that.
He should also find a new hobby.