This Is What Election Subversion Looks Like
Plus: Our weekend reader feedback
(The Bulwark / Photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock)
At the outset the Cyber Ninjas’ presentation about its wildly incompetent review of the Maricopa County’s 2020 election, state Senate President Karen Fann stated that she had never intended to overturn the election. Oh no. She insisted all she had ever sought to do was satisfy voters’ concerns about fraud. It was just a weird coincidence that during the process former President Trump and Republican State Senator Wendy Rogers kept saying things like “Decertify the election!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Fann’s protestations were, in technical terms, complete bullshit. These partisan, kangaroo court investigations being passed off as “audits” are nothing but blatant attempts at election subversion. Their only purpose is to delegitimize the 2020 election.
And here is your weekly reminder that shamelessness is a super power:
Another reminder that this is the most important thing you will read this week: Robert Kagan’s essay, “Our constitutional crisis is already here.”
Revolutionary movements usually operate outside a society’s power structures. But the Trump movement also enjoys unprecedented influence within those structures. It dominates the coverage on several cable news networks, numerous conservative magazines, hundreds of talk radio stations and all kinds of online platforms. It has access to financing from rich individuals and the Republican National Committee’s donor pool. And, not least, it controls one of the country’s two national parties. All that is reason enough to expect another challenge, for what movement would fail to take advantage of such favorable circumstances to make a play for power?
We had another busy week on the pods.
This was also a particularly busy week for the mailbag. Once again, it overflowed with your darts, laurels, rants and raves. So, this week, we began opening up Morning Shots for comments from members of the Bulwark+ community. Check it out.
As usual, we love to hear from you, so email me at email@example.com.
We Get Mail
Re Kagan’s piece in WaPo: Sad but true. We are experiencing the dissolution of a marriage of convenience. The “marriage counselors” have failed to reconcile the differences and now the scorched-earthers are stepping up to make sure there remains no common ground, wringing every single ounce of joy out of the incredible advancements we made despite our human flaws. As the nation discovered in the 1850s, shared custody is not an option, especially not now when the rift is not a cause but a an ill-defined sense of grievance embodied in a single man's fragile ego. History — even our own — shows us this does not end well.
Keep fighting the good fight. We’ll need principled dissenters to people what seems inevitable: the new union.
Pacific Grove, CA
These days I see the disinformation surrounding the pandemic and the election as being the same animal. The link is so easy to make by simply distrusting facts in the news. I do not think that having articles come out regarding the Trump campaign and the deeply concerned lawyers presenting fraud in voting, ( Powell, Giuliani) as mattering at all. The purpose of that is the same as the material surrounding COVID and that is to cast doubt on the facts.
Once people stop believing reportable fact in the news, you can just say anything you want. The Trump base has it's mind made up. Trump was cheated, Covid is bullshit, voting is rigged and black people are just an unfortunate victim of righteous accountability in the states where it's needed.
Republicans no longer want a democracy because the demographics of the electorate will soon drown them. They know that. Stacy Abrahams made it all too clear in Georgia. If a minority is no longer a minority then something needs to happen NOW, before all influence is lost. Don't let them vote is a fast and easy solution. That's where democracy gets thrown to the curb. They never really did like it anyways. If republicans win, it's OK. It's not OK when someone else does.
The progressive movement may be about to shoot down its last chance to pass any legislation at all. If as doomsayers suggest, the house will be lost in 2022 we can expect an impeachment to quickly follow. The base would like that. We already have signs up on the roads here demanding it on billboards.
My gut hunch is that democracy is DOA now unless some miracle produces voters. Then you have to worry who counts them. Delivered by a con artist who really knows the art of grifting by preaching to barstool republicans. We have fallen from grace. If the world doubts that America is back, it has good reason.
Greetings from a lifelong Democrat in Atlanta Ga! I wanted to tell your podcast is my absolute favorite, and I listen to a lot of podcasts. First, I love that it is daily. Also, your take on current events is oddly comforting, even when the news is bad….
Don't listen to the haters. Democrats are bad at politics and need your help. Frankly, we are just plain boring. Americans vote emotion, not policy.
Just a shortish story, related to your first bit in today's Morning Shots.
My firm recently held a town hall to enthusiastically inform us about the exciting new re-branding (yawn!). Part of our new brand is an emphasis on diversity, pro Bono, socially conscious efforts. Something the firm has always stressed and now are inserting into our brand in order to make sure the world sees us as we want them to (it's still overwhelmingly run by old white men, of course).
Anyway, I texted my (Trump loving, anti vax) colleague to say - how much are they spending on this!? Her reply to me was - Way too much money. Now sit back and wait for training. Im waiting for the critical race crap. You are a bad white man and must atone for your white privilege. I swear if they make me say that i will quit on the spot.
So...this had nothing to do with any of that, there was no mention of race, other than diversity initiatives, but it is at the forefront of her mind. She has told me on other occasions that white men don't have a fair shot. I said -thats BS. I'm a white man and I've gotten 3 promotions in the last 10 years (and now on my 4th).
My response meant nothing to her because the message is crystal clear. For the past 10 years she has been seeking out sources to remind her on a daily basis that she is a victim and she's found them in spades.
Same woman who let me know that if we are interviewing a new job applicant in person and she needs to be vaccinated in order to be there then forget it (same woman who for years encouraged everyone in the dept to get the flu vaccine early).
I won't say she's normally sane, but she's functional and extraordinarily knowledgeable and valuable at work. The trouble is deep.
It really seems like we're past the breaking point. Like it's broken, but as if it's a glass breaking in super slow motion. Right now we're at the frame where the first shards are breaking off. What will it look like when we're at the point where all the pieces scatter?
And unfortunately, the victimization phenomenon is not just on the right, as I watch my daughter attempt to defend "protecting" the LGBTQ community and other marginalized person's from material that might make them feel bad. But at least I can push back with her and she's somewhat receptive (and only 15). My colleague is 60 and will hear nothing.
Dear Mr. Sykes,
I can’t tell you how much I enjoy The Bulwark podcast. I listen to you every day and literally do a little dance when you come on with your cool music.
I am a progressive Democrat from Virginia, living in Michigan now, who votes both sides of the aisle when necessary. I completely agree with you and your guests that our democracy is in peril, and we need to do everything we can to consign Trumpism to the dustbin of history.
You and your millions of conservative Never-Trumper‘s and disgusted middle-of-the-road Republicans need to join the Democratic party, at least for the next couple of elections. Your very presence will pull the conversation back to the center where it belongs, and we need you and your millions of followers rather desperately, I think you would agree.
Could you please address this concept in your main podcast? I know you don’t agree with Democrats in all kinds of areas:
Neither do I. But in the light of the peril our country faces, the Democrats are the only answer for now. We need to dispatch these throwback fuckers to the underside of the rocks they came from. You and your buddies can feel free to dump the Dems after the midterms and the next presidential election is over.
Help us pull the Democratic party back to the center, please. Do not wait for an engraved invitation: It will never come.
We Get More Mail
To whom it may concern,
I am a regular listener and have to say the two most important shows that Charlie has done lately have been the Stuart Stevens interview and the Adam Kinzinger interview. It seems obvious to me, a former Republican, that Stevens is right. The Republican Party has to be burned to the ground for the good of the republic. I think that Kinzinger is hopelessly naive in this regard, although I do admire his courage.
It also seems self-evident that the church, which Kinzinger seems to regard as somehow redeemable is in the same place. The institutional churches have so immersed themselves in the ideas of right wing extremism (for the most part anyway) that they are irredeemable. In essence, conservative churches have taken the same position as the Republican Party at large. That is to say that any tactics are fine so long as they serve some greater good. I wish Kinzinger luck but I do not see how people who countenanced and then embraced Trump’s outrages will be convinced that they have been wrong. More likely, Kinzinger will soon find himself on the outside of his faith community as he is on the outside of his political community. This is to be expected as the two move closer and closer to being indistinguishable from one another.
The image referred to on Charlie’s show of Trump riding a dinosaur with an AK-47 blazing will be replaced by Jesus on the back of the T-Rex with flags flying and neon crosses blazing.
Thank you all at the Bulwark for all you do. I just hope the remnants of your conservatism will not prevent you from helping to demolish the Republican Party, so that it can be replaced by a healthy political party that has the best interests of the country at heart. Until that happens, I am a Democrat as that is the only place where meaningful policy debates are happening in the country. And, until the existential crisis passes, I am voting only for Democrats. I would like to encourage your listeners to do the same. After all, as Charlie often says, we need to behave like there really is a threat to the republic, because there indeed is such a threat.
John Eastman needs to be disbarred. He is much more dangerous to law and democracy than Rudy ever could be. Even more than the insurrection caucus.
That said, it should be front page every day that the Republican coup -- done through Mitch McConnell and others, because they have no ideas, conservative or liberal, for actual governance and choose to just steal power -- the coup which has been going on for years in the states, is no longer a bloodless coup. Since Jan. 6, the McConnell GOP coup, theft of democratic process for raw power, is now the Republican bloody coup. Yet it continues unabated and in plain sight of ALL.
When do we acknowledge that the answer to "When will we have enough evidence?" is "Never"! This will not stop until Republicans go to jail for it! And Republicans who clawed their way to power at the top should be the first. That includes TFG. And please don't call him "president" without putting the word in quotes. DJT was NEVER an actual president. He just squatted in the oval and stole us blind and plotted his dictatorship. He never did any actual work of presidenting. Somebody should acknowledge THAT, too!
I so wish Democrats had the intelligence, vision and spine to save us. But so far they have been a huge disappointment in every branch and level of government.
And Even More Mail
Charlie, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your convo w/ Tim Miller about vaccinations in the Friday 9/17 pod. "The Bulwark makes me think." as I keep saying.
I feel like scylla and charybdis are whipsawing us https://www.britannica.com/topic/Scylla-and-Charybdis
On the one hand, we have these morons who refuse to get vaxxed, but on the other - we have these overly cautious government scientists.
I don't have a problem with people who believe in the existence of angels, ghosts, goblins, etc. Nor do I have an issue with the folks who think space aliens regularly land on the White House roof (except the government is hiding this fact from us due to some massive conspiracy organized by the Illuminati, the Bilderberg group etc.) And the 9/11 truthers? Sheesh.
In the greater scheme of things, such idiotic beliefs are harmless. However The Big Lie is toxic and we are now seeing its effects. The Little Lie about Jan 6 is also having effects.
Now, we are confronted by a tsunami of nonsense about the vaccines and innocent gullible folks are being harmed as a result. (Quite a number of them of course are dying, and what's at least as bad is that completely responsible people are being denied medical care for reasons that are not their fault. I don't even feel safe riding my bicycle anymore.)
Count me as being in two groups: (a) I join you and Tim in that I have ZERO TOLERANCE for the morons who trust their cousin on Facebook (or Nicki Minaj) more than their doctor. (b) I am a "booster bandit" because I am a few years older than you, and I decided to just get a third jab since my wife and I were fully vaxxed as of April (we COULDN'T WAIT). I am looking forward to my fourth dose at the end of Sept. There is no darned way that I am going to infect my wife, and I refuse to take any chances with "long Covid." We are throwing away FOUR MILLION doses a month here in the states. I recently gave $100 to Gavi, the organization that seeks to vax the world (which is a NO BRAINER as Mona Charen pointed out recently in an excellent piece). I urge you and others to do the same.
I'm no anti-government lunatic (an attribute that I share with all my fellow LibDems), and as a former teacher of math/comp. sci. I absolutely support the scientists. Nevertheless, I feel that our government could have done a much better job, and I do not put all the blame on Trump or Jared ("It's a blue state problem") Kushner.
1) The CDC massively screwed up by refusing the WHO tests which were offered early in 2020. That one month delay was critical, because it allowed the virus to propagate unnoticed.
2) The initial "hesitancy" (if I may use the term in this context) to recommend masks was unacceptable. I get the argument about depriving medical professionals of N-95s, but if you can tell the difference between a Ford and a Chevy or a Droid and an iPhone, then you can darned well tell the difference between a KN-95 and an N-95. Good golly almighty, do they really think we're all that stupid (most of us aren't). It's written directly on the mask. All you have to do is be able to read for crying out loud.
3) I am totally ticked off by the folks who wrote that piece in _The Lancet_ in which they argued that the side effects of a booster might encourage vaccine hesitancy. I'm no health care professional but as I understand it, myocarditis is extremely rare (on the order of one in a million or so) and generally only affects people under 40. Furthermore, it has lasting damage in extremely few cases (if memory serves, I believe exactly *ONE* person has perished). Do these epidemiologists understand the basic concept of net benefit? And what are the rest of us ... chopped liver? Yeah I was sick as a dog after my second Moderna jab, but only for 10 hours. Sure as heck beats being intubated.
We keep hearing "follow the science." Well how is it possible that scientists ever disagree? Poll a hundred, a thousand or even a million folks like me with a math BA and EVERY SINGLE ONE of us will agree that 2 plus 2 is four. We'll also agree on the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus (which I won't bother to explain, but trust me: it's absolutely true and it's why our GPS systems work).
There's an old song that I recall from the 70s called "Stuck in the middle with you."
We're all trapped between the morons who refuse to be vaxxed and the epidemiological professionals who appear to be terrified of their own shadows. Apparently, it's everyone for themselves.