Sunday, January 31, 2021

How to Destroy the Republican Party

Jonathon V. Last, writing in The Bulwark, offers some advice to President Biden: Just do the popular stuff. This isn’t rocket science.

Democrats have a pretty substantial opportunity right now because there are large chunks of their agenda that are broadly popular. Biden will succeed or fail as a president in large part because of his willingness to prioritize the broadly popular parts of the Democratic agenda and back-burner the issues that appeal more narrowly to Democrats.

What should that look like? Well, here are some numbers:

  • 79 percent of voters favor another round of COVID stimulus.
  • Between 60 percent and 70 percent favor a robust democracy reform package. (The number depends on which elements you include.)
  • Close to 70 percent are in favor of a public option.

Boom. That should be Biden’s phase one legislative agenda, right there.

There are other issues, which are deeply important to Democrats but either do not have broad appeal outside their caucus or have broad appeal only in specifically limited circumstances.

For instance, infrastructure spending is popular—but only when accompanied by tax hikes on the rich, which gets into dangerous territory.

And there are some elements of climate-change legislation that have broad support—planting trees, giving tax credits to businesses that control emissions, restricting power plant emissions. But there are elements that are deeply unpopular, such as a gas tax and encouraging the use of nuclear power.

Putting aside the merits—there are strong arguments for both the gas tax and nuclear power—it will be important for the Biden administration to be hard-headed about the opportunity costs.

Or, to put it another way:

The administration has a 12-month window to pass legislation and any item they take up—even a policy with 60 percent public support—will require a brutal fight with congressional Republicans and a disciplined, rigorous approach to rallying public opinion.

They should not spend a single minute of this precious time fighting on any ground that isn’t immensely favorable to them from the start.

Here is the ugly truth about Joe Biden’s first term:

His absolute top, overriding goal must be keeping Republicans out of power in 2024. The GOP is now a quasi-authoritarian party, which has demonstrated that it is not only willing, but eager, to overturn American democracy.

Everything Biden does should be in service to this one, overarching goal.

And that means being relentlessly focused on popularity and opportunity costs. It simply isn’t enough to say, “Well, Policy X may not be popular with everyone, but it’s a big priority for Democrats and we won, so we ought to see if we can bring the public around.”

Too much is at stake for that kind of sentimentality.

Stick to the popular stuff. Relentlessly make the case for these policies to the public.

Oh, and one more thing: If Democrats decide that they are intent on killing the filibuster, don’t do it in the abstract. Find the most important and broadly popular issue available, turn it into a piece of legislation, and then nuke it from orbit after Republicans obstruct from the wrong side of public opinion.

Voters care about policies, not process.

And popularity matters.

One might ask of the current GOP - What is wrong with you

Never mind. The could not, or should not, answer. Because, to revise “John Brown’s body”, the GOP’s body lies mouldering in the grave.

The GOP isn’t doomed. It’s dead. Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post explains.

Excerpts follow.

With the electoral eviction of Donald Trump from the Oval Office, Republicans had a shot at redemption and resurrection.

They missed and failed — and deserve to spend the next several years in political purgatory. The chaos now enveloping what’s left of the Grand Old Party after four years of catering to an unstable president is theirs to own. Where conservatism once served as a moderating force — gently braking liberalism’s boundless enthusiasm — the former home of ordered liberty has become a halfway house for ruffians, insurrectionists and renegadewarriors.

What does Trump have on these people, one wonders? The continuing loyalty of so many to a man so demonstrably dangerous can’t be explained by “the base,” a word never more aptly applied. What secrets were shared by Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who, after blaming Trump for the Jan. 6 mob attack, visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago this week to make amends? It seems that The Don, yet another appropriate nickname, need only purse his button lips and whistle to summon his lap dogs to Palm Beach, there to conspire for the next Big Lie.

For Donald Trump, you went down this road? Either Trump has a stockpile of incriminating videos — his people have people, you know — or today’s Republicans are the weakest, wimpiest, most pathetic crop of needy nincompoops in U.S. history.

Suddenly, the “good ones” are worried about their newest member, Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a QAnon-promoting female version of Trump — only without the charm. You begin to see how this monster mutates like a certain virus into ever-more-dangerous versions of itself. Among other things, Greene embraces the conspiracy theory that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and the slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., were staged. One struggles for words, but I’ll settle for “creep.”

Good work, GOP. You got yourself a live one. Naturally, Greene has been assigned to the Education and Labor Committee.

Going forward, not only will House Republicans be associated with a colleague who “liked” a Twitter post calling for Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s murder. They’ll be attached to QAnon, which promotes the extraordinary fiction that Trump was leading a war against Satan-worshiping pedophiles and cannibals, whose leadership includes Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks and, oh, by the way, yours truly, as well as U2’s Bono.

To those Republicans who can read: You own all of this. The party isn’t doomed; it’s dead. The chance to move away from Trumpism, toward a more respectful, civilized approach to governance that acknowledges the realities of a diverse nation and that doesn’t surrender to the clenched fist, has slipped away. What comes next is anybody’s guess. But anyone who doesn’t speak out against the myths and lies of fringe groups, domestic terrorists and demagogues such as Trump deserves only defeat — and a lengthy exile in infamy. Good riddance.

48 hours to go and no defense team for Trump - no 'chemistry' there

Remember Rick Wilson’s dictum: “Everything that Trump touches dies.” So it is with Trump’s legal team defending him in his second impeachment trial.

Trump Parts Ways With Five Lawyers Handling Impeachment Defense reports Maggie Habberman of the NY Times. The departures, which include his lead lawyer, Butch Bowers, come more than a week before his Senate trial is set to begin.

Mr. Trump had pushed for his defense team to focus on his baseless claim that the election was stolen from him, one person familiar with the situation said. A person close to Mr. Trump disputed that that was the case but acknowledged that there were differences in opinion about the defense strategy. However, Mr. Trump has insisted that the case is “simple” and has told advisers he could argue it himself and save the money on lawyers. (Aides contend he is not seriously contemplating doing so.)

The decision for Mr. Bowers to leave was “mutual,” another person familiar with the situation said, adding that Mr. Trump and Mr. Bowers had no chemistry, a quality the former president generally prizes in his relationships. Mr. Trump prefers lawyers who are eager to appear on television to say that he never did anything wrong …

Mr. Trump is due to file a response to the House charges by Tuesday.

The question of who will represent Mr. Trump in his Senate trial has vexed him and his advisers since it became clear that he would become the first American president to be impeached twice.

Hey, Hey, Hee, Hee: Rudy Giuliani? Nope. Rudy is a witness in the Jan. 6 riot.

… he spoke at a rally of Trump supporters on Jan. 6, hours before hundreds marched to the Capitol and rioted. Almost all of Mr. Trump’s advisers blame Mr. Giuliani, who encouraged Mr. Trump’s desire to find ways to overturn the election results and to call their legitimacy into question, for the latest impeachment.

So it goes.

(Thanks to Editor-at-Large Sherry.)

Friday, January 29, 2021

House Minority Leader McCarthy Dines with the Devil

New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz reports that Kevin McCarthy Stuck with Check for Lunch at Mar-a-Lago.

Hey! What do you expect from a professional grifter like Trump?

McCarthy sucks up
Dining with the Devil

PALM BEACH (The Borowitz Report)—Representative Kevin McCarthy was stuck with an “extremely large” check after having lunch at Mar-a-Lago, aides have confirmed.

The House Minority Leader had enjoyed a sumptuous five-course lunch with one other person, but when the check arrived his dining companion had vanished.

The check, which amounted to more than seven hundred dollars, raised eyebrows among the congressman’s staff.

"Even if you count all the Diet Cokes, that was a lot,” one staffer said.

Upon closer examination, the lunch bill included a mysterious “administrative charge” amounting to six hundred dollars, which McCarthy had no choice but to pay.

For his part, the Republican leader said that his visit to Mar-a-Lago was “great,” and downplayed reports that he was unable to get his parking validated, costing him an additional ninety dollars.

Scriber’s Usually Unreliable Sources report that McCarthy, hat in hand so to speak, asked Speaker Pelosi for funds to cover the bill. He’s still waiting for the reimbursement check.

Controlling the domestic insurgency

In the January 28, 2021 Edition of Letters from an American Heather Cox Richardson describes factions within the fracturing GOP - and addresses how to control the domestic insurgency.

It has been just three weeks and a day since a crazed mob, egged on by the former president and his supporters, stormed the U.S. Capitol to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election. They smashed into the building, carrying handcuffs and searching for our elected officials, whom they threatened to harm. They killed one police officer and wounded 140 more. Our vice president, senators, and representatives, along with all their staff, had to be evacuated to secure quarters, and then to hide, while rioters took over the building, rifling through their offices and smearing excrement on the floors.

That anyone is trying to downplay that attempt to destroy the central principle of our democracy—fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power– is appalling.

And yet, Republican lawmakers are doing just that. Within the party, the pro-Trump faction and the business faction are struggling to take control. Those in the business wing of the party are not moderates: they are determined to destroy the government regulation, social welfare legislation, and public infrastructure programs that a majority of Americans like. But they are not openly white supremacists or adherents of the QAnon conspiracy, the way that Trump’s vocal supporters are.

Members of that second faction have risen to power by grabbing headlines with more and more outrageous statements that play well on right-wing media, although they appear to have no program except hatred of the “libs.” Members of this faction are going after the business wing of the party, seemingly with glee. Today Florida Representative Matt Gaetz held a rally outside the Wyoming state capitol to lead a challenge against Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney, the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives. Cheney was one of ten Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the January 6 riot.

Take note: (1) Cheney is no liberal; au contraire she is a hardline right winger. (2) That the Trumpies are going after her speaks volumes about how the domestic terrorists pick their targets. (3) Said terrorists, and I count members of the House among them, are demanding their “rights” to bring guns into the House chamber.

SNIP

Former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center Robert Grenier noted yesterday in the New York Times that the United States is facing a violent insurgency and should apply the lessons we have learned about counterinsurgency to head off political violence. Grenier notes that the nation must insist on criminal justice, tracking and trying those responsible for crimes. We must also return the nation to a fact-based debate about issues.

Crucially, Grenier noted that it is a national security imperative to convict the former president and bar him from future elective office. “I watched as enraged crowds in the streets of Algiers, as in most Arab capitals, melted away when Saddam Hussein was ignominiously defeated in the Persian Gulf war,” Grenier wrote. “Mass demonstrations in Pakistan in support of Osama bin Laden fell into dull quiescence when he was driven into hiding after Sept. 11. To blunt the extremists, Mr. Trump’s veneer of invincibility must similarly be crushed.”

In all my years of studying U.S. politics, seamy side and all, I never expected to see the name of an American president in the New York Times in a list comparing him to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. But then, I never expected to see an American president urge a mob to storm the U.S. Capitol to overturn an election, either.

Here are excerpts from the Grenier Times op-ed.

The challenge facing us now is one of counterinsurgency. Though one may recoil at the thought, it provides the most useful template for action, which must consist of three elements.

First, the easiest and most straightforward, is criminal justice. We should continue to track known extremists, and investigate and bring to account those who commit crimes. We have the expertise and the infrastructure to do so, and to do it while preserving civil liberties. We need no new statutes, nor should we import terrorist designations that should apply only to foreign groups beyond the reach of domestic law.

But the first element will not succeed without a second, which is even more important but far more difficult: We must isolate and alienate the committed insurgents from the population. Just as Al Qaeda in Iraq depended on a much larger community of disaffected Sunnis for tacit support and recruitment, we face the prospect of there being a mass of citizens — sullen, angry and nursing their grudges — among whom the truly violent minority will be able to live undetectably, attracting new adherents to their cause.

The final element of the plan concerns insurgency leadership. Mr. Trump’s transition from mere subversion of the constitutional order to open incitement of mass violence exposes what he has long represented to the most radical fringe of his supporters: a charismatic symbol. By shamelessly espousing the politics of white grievance and convincing so many that he actually won re-election, Mr. Trump has created the conditions necessary for the extremists’ success. They know better than to take his recent, ritualistic admonitions against violence at face value, and so should we. He will continue to be their champion, and his self-serving lies will be their most potent enabler.

As the Senate prepares to sit in judgment on Mr. Trump, we should be wary of the excuses put forward by his defenders — that his conviction will only divide the country further, that we should simply move on. No: It is far too late for appeasement. Those of us versed in counterinsurgency know that in violent extremism nothing succeeds like success, and that the opposite is also true.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

House Minority Leader McCarthy finds Taylor Greene's comments 'disturbing' and 'plans to have a conversation' with her

Scriber follows on to yesterday’s post about Marjorie Taylor Greene. CNN reports: Parkland shooting survivor calls for House GOP leader to denounce Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. (With thanks to roving Editor-at-Large Sherry.)

Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg called on Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy Thursday to denounce Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has faced intense criticism this week over incendiary remarks she made in recent years as well as a viral video in which she harasses Hogg.

“My message to Kevin McCarthy is, take all of her committee assignments away … also, don’t support her when she runs for re-election again and try to get her primaried. If you say this is not your party, actually call it out and hold her accountable,” Hogg told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day.”

He continued, “Republicans always act as if they’re the party of decency and respect. But would the party of decency and respect question whether or not school shootings happened? Would they harass the survivors of these shootings for having different opinions than them? I don’t think so. And if Kevin McCarthy doesn’t think so either, he needs to actually stand up and do something about this congresswoman.”

[SNIP]

Republicans have remained mostly silent about Greene in the wake of this week’s controversies.

Mark Bednar, a spokesman for McCarthy, told CNN in a statement Wednesday that her comments are “deeply disturbing” and that the California Republican “plans to have a conversation with the Congresswoman about them.”

What a wimpy Ch!ckensh!t response.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy shows that the GOP is cowardly in dealing with Trump and violence

What will Republicans do about Trumpist radicalism in their own ranks? Most likely nothing. They have a very short memory for their own complicity in the Jan. 6 riot. That Q&A is explored in three featured articles.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports on how Marjorie Taylor Greene’s record of radicalism gets even worse. The question isn’t whether Marjorie Taylor Greene’s radicalism is defensible. The question is what Kevin McCarthy will do about it.

As I said: must likely nothing. Scratch that. Make it “worse than nothing”.

When it comes to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-Ga.) record of radicalism, there are basically two parallel tracks to consider. The first is the right-wing congresswoman’s sillier political antics, which include having filed impeachment articles against President Joe Biden on his first day in office and claiming she was “censored” on the House floor while her remarks were broadcast to a national television audience.

The second is much less amusing.

Greene, whose association with the crackpot QAnon garbage is well documented, has also embraced other deranged conspiracy theories. Last week, Media Matters noted a newly uncovered online exchange in which Greene in 2018 agreed with a Facebook commenter who claimed that 9/11 “was done by our own gov[ernment]” and that “none of the school shootings were real or done by the ones who were supposedly arrested for them,” including the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

CNN reported yesterday, meanwhile, that the Georgia Republican also “repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019 before being elected to Congress.”

In one post, from January 2019, Greene liked a comment that said “a bullet to the head would be quicker” to remove House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In other posts, Greene liked comments about executing FBI agents who, in her eyes, were part of the “deep state” working against Trump. In one Facebook post from April 2018, Greene wrote conspiratorially about the Iran Deal, one of former President Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy achievements. A commenter asked Greene, “Now do we get to hang them ?? Meaning H [and] O ???,” referring to Obama and Hillary Clinton. Greene replied, “Stage is being set. Players are being put in place. We must be patient. This must be done perfectly or liberal judges would let them off.”

Two years later, Greene was elected to Congress.

A spokesperson for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Axios overnight that the GOP leader is aware of the comments and will discuss them with Greene. The emailed statement added, in reference to the revelations from the CNN report, “These comments are deeply disturbing and Leader McCarthy plans to have a conversation with the congresswoman about them.”

And who knows, maybe McCarthy, who embraced Greene as a member in good standing after her election in November, and who urged the political world to give her “an opportunity” to succeed, will take this matter seriously. Perhaps the House Republican leader will conclude that Greene is simply too radical for an ostensibly mainstream political party to tolerate.

Or maybe McCarthy will find some new excuse to defend the indefensible.

As we recently discussed, House Republican leaders have meaningful options. McCarthy and his team could call for Greene’s expulsion from the U.S. House. They could also strip Greene of her committee assignments – which is precisely what McCarthy did to then-Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) two years ago, concluding at the time that the House Republican conference would no longer “tolerate” the Iowan’s record of racism.

Indeed, by taking actions to sanction King in 2019, saying his extremism was simply intolerable to the GOP, Republican leaders, whether they intended to or not, set a standard. By treating the radicals in their conference as normal members, the party’s congressional leadership is effectively extending its imprimatur to extremists like Greene, making clear that King’s racism may have been too much, but these radicals’ dangerous conspiracy theories are in line with the party’s values.

If Kevin McCarthy and his leadership team are willing to prove otherwise, now is their chance. The question isn’t whether Marjorie Taylor Greene’s radicalism is defensible; it’s obviously not. The question is whether House Republican leaders will pass the test Greene’s radicalism has created for them.

Here is one sign that the Republicans are sticking to Trump - like flies on a pile of sh!t.

McCarthy to visit the former president in Florida, showing where he stands in a post-Trump Republican Party reports CNN.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had an important decision to make — stick with former President Donald Trump and his loyalists in the Freedom Caucus, or side with more establishment House Republicans who want to take the party back.

The answer became clear when instead of calling Trump, as he often did when Trump was president, he is now set to visit with Trump in Florida on Thursday. The meeting was initiated by McCarthy, a person familiar with the meeting said, and is part of an effort to get back into the good graces of the former president.

McCarthy has backtracked on Trump’s role in the insurrection as recently as this week, when he was criticized at his most recent news conference for saying he didn’t believe Trump “provoked” the insurrection “if you listen to what he said at the rally” – after saying two weeks earlier that Trump bears responsibility.

When asked in an interview Sunday with Gray Television if he had changed his stance on Trump’s role in the Capitol attack, he said: “No, I have not changed in that.”

“I thought the president had some responsibility when it came to the response. If you listen to what the president said at the rally, he said, ‘Demonstrate peacefully,’ ” he told Greta Van Susteren.

As I said: it’s worse than nothing. McCarthy is not above rewriting history.

Many Republicans are choosing collective amnesia of Jan. 6. That would be disastrous opines Michael Gerson writing in the Washington Post (via Daily Star).

This party-wide retreat from memory and accountability has been symbolized by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s ritual renunciation of his initial moral sanity. When the violence was fresh, he affirmed that President Donald Trump “bears responsibility for [the] attack on Congress by mob rioters.” More recently, under political pressure, McCarthy (R-Calif.) claimed: “I don’t believe he provoked it.” In the process, a whole generation of idealistic young people has been given a reliable guide to public character: Don’t be like this man.

Those politicians, such as Trump, who view the political enterprise as nothing more than a dirty game are quite literally shameless. Those such as McCarthy, who choose cowardice over sacrifice, are discrediting their calling.

Now Trump is impeached and to be tried. What will the Republicans do about that? Gerson gets the last word.

By convicting Trump, Senate Republicans would be saying that the insurrection was something very different: the last gasp of a dying presidency, a uniformly condemned outbreak of hatred and an act of eternal dishonor.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Ohio U.S. Senate seat opens up with Portman's resignation.

Daily Kos Elections/Daily Kos Staff reports:Morning Digest: Scramble is on after unexpected retirement opens up Ohio Senate seat.

OH-Sen: In a big surprise, Republican Sen. Rob Portman announced Monday that he would not seek a third term next year in Ohio. Portman, who is 65, had not shown any obvious interest in retirement, and he had a large $4.6 million war chest at the end of September of 2020. The senator, though, explained his decision by saying, “I don’t think any Senate office has been more successful in getting things done, but honestly, it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy, and that has contributed to my decision.”

Portman’s departure will likely give Democrats a better shot at his Senate seat, but Ohio’s rightward drift over the last few years will still make it difficult for Team Blue to score a win in this traditional swing state. Joe Biden targeted the Buckeye State hard in 2020, but Donald Trump still defeated him 53–45. However, Ohio isn’t a place that Republicans can take victory for granted: Portman’s Democratic colleague, Sen. Sherrod Brown, earned re-election 53–47 in 2018, and last year, Democrats won an officially nonpartisan race for the state Supreme Court.

Republicans, though, have the far larger bench in this state …

See the report for that large bench.

And see this one for more background on Portman: Republican senator’s surprise retirement could give Democrats a pickup opportunity in Ohio from Jeff Singer for Daily Kos Elections.

The OH race will be brutal: Ohio GOP senator announces 2022 retirement, kicking off ‘sh*t show’ cycle for Republicans reports Kerry Eleveld of the Daily Kos Staff.

Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio announced Monday that he would not be running for reelection in 2022, setting up a raucous GOP primary for the open Senate seat. For instance, a relatively sane GOP conservative like Lt. Gov. Jon Husted could go to head-to-head with staunch pro-Trumper seditionist Rep. Jim Jordan.

“Well, this will be a total shit show,” one Ohio Republican strategist texted to BuzzFeed reporter Henry Gomez.

In fact, Ohio is just one of a handful of places where a “total shit show” could play out for Senate Republicans as Trumpers go to battle for open seats in states where Democrats have real pickup opportunities. That includes North Carolina and Pennsylvania, where GOP Sens. Richard Burr and Pat Toomey respectively have already announced their retirements. Other states that might see high-profile retirements include Iowa, a seat now held by Sen. Chuck Grassley, and Wisconsin, where current sitting senator Ron Johnson has yet to announce his plans. Republicans have already been devoting considerable energy to trying to talk 89-year-old Grassley into running for an eighth term—that’s how bad their map is.

In fact, this tweet from conservative journalist Josh Kraushaar about sums it up.

Josh Kraushaar @HotlineJosh

Nightmare scenario for Senate Rs;

PA GOP nominee: Scott Perry (https://nytimes.com/2021/01/23/us/politics/scott-perry-trump-justice-department-election.html…)

NC GOP nominee: Lara Trump (https://cnn.com/2020/12/16/politics/lara-trump-north-carolina-senate-mark-walker/index.html…

AZ GOP nominee: Kelli Ward (https://wsj.com/articles/arizona-gop-censures-cindy-mccain-doug-ducey-re-elects-kelli-ward-as-chair–11611453988…)

OH GOP nominee: Jim Jordan (https://cincinnati.com/get-access/?return=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cincinnati.com%2Fstory%2Fnews%2Fpolitics%2Felections%2F2021%2F01%2F25%2Fwhich-republican-might-replace-ohio-u-s-sen-rob-portman%2F6698169002%2F…)

Trump cultists want to 'Give the man a break' even while the impeachment process continues

Quote of the Day: Republicans have a problem. “We’re eating sh*t for breakfast, lunch, and dinner right now.” - “an aide to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.”

The war between two Republican factions is featured in the January 25, 2021 edition of Letters from an American by Heather Cox Richardson.

It breaks down to “business Republicans” vs. “cult of Trump.”

… what is taking oxygen today is the war between the two factions of the Republican Party: the Trump faction and the business faction. Republican leaders embraced Trump—unwillingly—in 2016 because he promised to bring energized voters to a party whose pro-business policies were increasingly unpopular.

During his presidency, Trump delivered to business Republicans their wish list: tax cuts and appointments of right-wing judges who are generally opposed to federal government power, which will benefit the businesses who oppose regulation. Trump played to his base and did his best to politicize the U.S. government and make it loyal to him. He seemed eager to turn the government into an oligarchy overseen by him and his children. Business Republicans looked the other way, refusing to convict him in his first impeachment trial.

But when Trump botched the coronavirus response, tanking the economy and turning the U.S. into an international laughingstock, business Republicans began to slide away from the Trump administration. His increasingly unhinged behavior over the course of the past year increased their discomfort. And then, his refusal to accept the outcome of the 2020 election sparked their alarm.

In contrast, Republicans who were hoping to pick up Trump’s supporters in future elections signed on to his challenge of the election outcome. For some of them, pushing the idea that there were questions about the election was a safe way to signal support for Trump and his supporters, knowing that argument would fail. Others, though, apparently intended to take that idea forward to attack our government.

The January 6 attack on the Capitol split the party. It was a profound attack on our government, in which a group of the president’s supporters overpowered police, broke into the Capitol while Congress was counting the electoral votes, and threatened the lives of the elected representatives who refused to throw out the results of the election and name Trump president.

The attack implicated a number of Republicans: the president, of course, and also Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO), who was the first senator to agree to challenge the counting of the certified electoral votes for Biden, and Ted Cruz (R-TX), who jumped on board the challenge, along with about ten other senators. More than 100 Republican representatives also signed onto the challenge.

Arizona Republican representatives Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs reportedly asked Trump for pardons before he left office because of their participation in the events leading up to the attack on the Capitol. Seven Democratic senators filed a complaint with the Senate Committee on Ethics asking for an investigation of how Hawley and Cruz might have contributed to the January 6 attack. Hawley is trying to brazen it out: today he filed a counter-complaint continuing his objection to the election results and attacking the seven senators who asked for the investigation.

The actions of the insurgents spurred corporate donors to flee, refusing to donate money either to them or to the Republican Party, at least in the short term. Today, Dominion Voting Systems, the company Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other supporters accused of falsifying the election results, announced it was suing Giuliani for defamation, seeking damages of more than $1.3 billion.

In contrast, Republicans who care about the survival of our democracy joined Democrats to impeach Trump for inciting an insurrection. Some Republicans are taking a principled stand. Others are aware that Trump’s attack on our government destabilizes the country and hurts business. Further, they are aware that, if Trump or his supporters do manage to put a dictator in charge, the end to the rule of law would make it impossible to do business in this country. Finally, some business Republicans—like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—are furious with Trump for working against Republican Senate candidates in Georgia in his attempt to pressure party members to overturn the election results for him. Trump now has nothing to offer that they want.

The two Republican factions are struggling for control over the party. The Trump faction is organizing around the former president, who is launching broadsides at business Republicans he fears will vote to convict him in his upcoming impeachment trial. Over the weekend, he threatened to start a new political party—the Patriot Party—with the idea of backing Trump challengers to Republican politicians in upcoming Republican primaries. He took in a lot of money after the election on the promise to fight for his reelection; he may or may not have significant money to spend on new candidates. Determined to continue to pressure Republicans, today he launched an unprecedented “Office of the Former President.”

His supporters—including the Republicans implicated in the January 6 insurrection—are downplaying the attack on our government and suggesting that impeaching the president or holding accountable the lawmakers who helped the attack is “cancel culture.” They are insisting that questioning the election is simply free speech. “Give the man a break… move on,” former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said in opposition to Trump’s conviction in the Senate.

With Trump blocked from most major social media channels, state Republican parties are acting on his behalf. This weekend the Arizona Republican Party voted to censure Republicans Jeff Flake, the former Senator; Cindy McCain, Senator John McCain’s widow; and current Governor Doug Ducey, who got swept up in their dislike of Trump opponents because he didn’t try to switch the state’s electoral votes to Trump. The Oregon Republican Party did them one better, suggesting that the January 6 insurrection was a “false flag” operation by Democrats to discredit Trump. The Texas Republican Party is now openly supporting the QAnon conspiracy theorists.

Other Republicans are running away from the party as it becomes a personality cult. More than 2000 Florida Republicans switched parties after January 6, and today former Representative David Jolly of Florida, a Republican who has criticized Trump, floated the idea of running for Congress as an independent. About 7500 Republicans switched parties in Arizona. In North Carolina, 6000 Republicans switched out. An ABC News/Washington Post poll from January 10–13 discovered that almost 70% of Americans said the Republican Party should move away from Trump.

But business Republicans still need Trump voters, and the Wall Street Journal today urged them back into the fold. It will not be an easy sell: they are now wedded to Trump, not the party, and his interests are in pressuring Republican senators not to convict him in his upcoming impeachment trial and in keeping his supporters loyal to whatever he decides to do next.

Republicans have a problem. As an aide to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Alayna Treene of Axios, “We’re eating sh*t for breakfast, lunch, and dinner right now.”

Lawmakers will soon have to make a choice about where they stand. The House managers took the article of impeachment to the Senate [yesterday] evening.

Monday, January 25, 2021

January 6th insurrection drives FL Repubs away - and fuels a third party.

Axios.com reports this Scoop: David Jolly eyes independent run for Florida governor.

Scriber has a lot of respect for Jollly. From the Axios report, here is why.

Former U.S. Rep. David Jolly is “strongly considering” a run for Florida governor in 2022 as an independent, a source close to him tells Axios.

Why it matters: Jolly, who repped Florida’s 13th district as a Republican from 2014 to 2017 and publicly left the GOP in 2018, has built a brand on cable news as a critic of former President Trump and his allies in Congress.

*The state of play*: Since the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, an unusual number of Republicans in the three biggest Tampa Bay-area counties have switched parties, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

  • Election supervisors say 2,025 Republicans switched parties in the eight days after Jan. 6 — mostly dropping their party affiliation— compared to just 306 Democrats, even though Ds outnumber Rs in those counties.
  • The number switching is far higher than in the same period following the 2016 presidential election, per the Times.

The big picture: Jolly has also been using his influence to attract Republicans who have left the GOP to a new party he’s chairing — the Serve America Movement, or SAM.

  • He calls SAM, born in 2017, a “big tent party” and also hopes to woo defected Democrats and independents.
  • He tells Axios it’s working: “The new party conversation has just increased dramatically since January 6,” Jolly said. The lingering question: Are there enough anti-Trump Republicans to make room for a new party, or will most stay put and hope the GOP eases back from the radical fringe?

Jolly’s answer: The GOP is “a party of Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan and the QAnon woman from Georgia now,” he told us. “The greater that disruption, the greater the chance for a third party to emerge.”

Thanks to Charlie Sykes at The Bulwark for the alert.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Trumpty is out to rupture the Republican party

Grumpty Trumpty sat on a wall
Grumpty Trumpty had a great fall
All Kelli Ward’s censures and all the MAGA’s arms
Couldn’t put the GOP together again …

Roving Editor-at-Large Sherry calls our attention to Trump’s effort to rupture the Republican Party.

Here goes …

The Washington Post reports that Trump jumps into a divisive battle over the Republican Party — with a threat to start a ‘MAGA Party’.

Former president Donald Trump threw himself back into politics this weekend by publicly endorsing a devoted and divisive acolyte in Arizona who has embraced his false election conspiracy theories and entertained the creation of a new “MAGA Party.”

In a recorded phone call, Trump offered his “complete and total endorsement” for another term for Arizona state party chairwoman Kelli Ward, a lightning rod who has sparred with the state’s Republican governor, been condemned by the business community and overseen a recent flight in party registrations. She narrowly won reelection, by a margin of 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent, marking Trump’s first victory in a promised battle to maintain political relevance and influence after losing the 2020 election.

In recent weeks, Trump has entertained the idea of creating a third party, called the Patriot Party, and instructed his aides to prepare election challenges to lawmakers who crossed him in the final weeks in office, including Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), according to people familiar with the plans.

Multiple people in Trump’s orbit, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, say Trump has told people that the third-party threat gives him leverage to prevent Republican senators from voting to convict him during the Senate impeachment trial. Trump advisers also say they plan to recruit opposing primary candidates and commission polling next week in districts of targeted lawmakers. Trump has more than $70 million in campaign cash banked to fund his political efforts, these people say.

The prospect of a divisive battle threatens to widen a split in the Republican Party and has alarmed leaders in Washington, who have been pleading publicly to avoid any new rounds of internecine retribution. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel are among the leaders who have worked to protect politicians like Cheney, who supported Trump’s second impeachment and now faces an internal effort to remove her from her role as the third-highest-ranking member of the House Republican leadership.

McDaniel has also spoken out about the idea of a third-party split, while repeatedly pushing back against moves by Arizona state party leaders to censure fellow Republicans, such as Gov. Doug Ducey and Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who have broken with Trump. (The Arizona party on Saturday night censured Ducey, McCain and former Arizona senator Jeff Flake, all longtime establishment Republicans.)

The central issue between the warring party elements is whether Republicans will continue to organize themselves around fealty to Trump or whether a broader coalition should be built in the coming years that can welcome both his most avid supporters and those who have condemned his behavior. The scale and shape of the big tent built by Ronald Reagan, nurtured by George W. Bush and transformed by Trump is once again up for grabs, as the party finds itself without power at the White House, the House or the Senate for the first time since 2014.

“What we have seen in President Trump is an incredible politician but one who was limited to getting 46 or 47 percent of the national vote,” said Henry Barbour, a Mississippi national committeeman who serves on the board of the Data Trust, a company that manages the party’s data infrastructure. “We can win over 50 percent if we grow the party by addition and not division.”

Good luck with that.

As it now stands, the big tent is tearing at the edges. Business groups have called for a Grand Old Party purge of more extreme leaders, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has blamed Trump and other Republicans for provoking the U.S. Capitol riot and McCarthy has said Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack by not immediately denouncing the violence once it began — although he later said he did not believe Trump provoked the riot.

Trump’s fiercest supporters in Congress, meanwhile, have continued to threaten and denounce those who criticize the former president, repeatedly raising the prospect of a more fundamental party division. Adding to the conflict, Republican voters remain overwhelmingly supportive of Trump, suggesting strength in primary races that the establishment figures fear could prompt losses in competitive state and national races. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 6 in 10 Republicans believed the party should follow Trump’s leadership going forward, rather than chart a new path.

“Here’s a warning the GOP needs to hear,” tweeted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a newly elected member who has embraced Trump’s conspiratorial view and made supportive comments about the extremist group QAnon. “The vast majority of Republican voters, volunteers, and donors are no longer loyal to the GOP, Republican Party, and candidates just because they have an R by their name. Their loyalty now lies with Donald J Trump.”

AZ GOP is the canary in the Republican coal mine

Nowhere is the division more stark now than in Arizona, where the state Republican Party, run by Ward, has tried to lead the challenge of Biden’s victory. Before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, she filed a failed lawsuit against Vice President Mike Pence in Texas in an effort to force him to rule on the legitimacy of Arizona’s electoral votes. She has also recorded conspiracy-laden videos about election impropriety that have attracted legal threats for defamation from Dominion Voting Systems, which makes software used to count ballots in parts of Arizona.

At a state party meeting Saturday in Phoenix, hundreds of party activists gathered in church for a largely maskless gathering where some members disregarded yellow caution tape on chairs meant to enforce social distancing. Political divisions were often described in near-apocalyptic terms, and chaotic shouting dominated large parts of the proceedings, as different members of the party and people who have advocated for a new third party fought over parliamentary procedure during nominating speeches.

[Ward’s] efforts to reject the results of the presidential election, which were run in her state by Ducey and other Republicans, have created a massive backlash among moderate elements of the party and among the business community, which has historically sided with Republicans in the state.

The divide in the party was evident on Jan. 6, when Republican protests at the Arizona Capitol physically split in two when jumbotron screens showed the riot happening thousands of miles away in Washington. One group of protesters said they supported the raid, while a separate group opposed it.

"Right now on the Republican side, I don’t have a word to describe what is going on,” Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Glenn Hamer said. “Whatever the worst-case scenario is, this is worse. There will be a reaction to this. I have no doubt about it.”

For example: “In the first nine days after the riot, nearly 5,000 Arizona Republicans changed their party registration, compared with 719 Democrats, according to the secretary of state’s office. The pattern has continued since then at a reduced scale.”

Neil G. Giuliano, the president of Greater Phoenix Leadership, a group of the state’s corporate leaders, says he personally knows more than a dozen people who have left the party after the attack on the Capitol and the decision by Republican lawmakers to endorse Trump’s false claims of fraud. The group put out a statement this month condemning as “reprehensible” the behavior of Ward, Gosar and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) for “disinformation and outright lies to reverse a fair and free election.” The two members of Congress were among the most vocal in seeking to deny Biden his electoral victory.

"They all know the truth,” Giuliano said about the Republican officials who nonetheless claimed the election result was fraudulent. “I can’t remember a time when there was something as serious as this that compelled CEOs to speak so strongly about what was going on in a political party.”

Trump himself is likely to decide how vicious the coming fights will be. Since leaving office, he has played golf in Palm Beach while remaining focused on his political fortunes. In recent weeks, Trump has told advisers that he remains angry at both McConnell and McCarthy and has the popularity to drive down their support within the party. He is encouraging his most loyal Republican lawmakers and advisers to attack other Republicans for being disloyal — and is launching an effort to blanket the airwaves during the impeachment trial, according to a person familiar with his efforts.

A timeline of how Trump tried to overturn the election

Articles of impeachment to be sent by the House to the Senate this Monday. Following is information relevant to the January 6th attempted coup.

Mark Sumner of the Daily Kos Staff exposes Trump’s extraordinary efforts to overturn the election: A timeline. Following is just a small part of the timeline for January.

With thanks to Mrs. Scriber for this alert.

Even as the votes continued to be counted in the early hours of Nov. 4, one thing became obvious before dawn: Joe Biden was going to be the next president of the United States. Though networks were extremely slow to acknowledge Biden’s wins across Rust Belt states, every model showed that Biden was going to win decisively in Minnesota and Michigan. Though Donald Trump had a large early lead among votes counted in Pennsylvania, it was easy to see from the make up of those votes that this was going to change. The closest of these swing states, Wisconsin, had already been called by the Associated Press. While it would take all the way until Saturday before networks made the final call, really the only thing in doubt by that point was the exact size of Biden’s victory.

But well before the final calls were made, at 2 A.M. on Nov. 4, Donald Trump had already made it clear where he was going. Trump appeared before the nation and said, “This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment for our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election. We did win this election.”

Since Trump is constitutionally incapable of admitting a mistake, but only responds to errors by doubling down, everything that happened after that might have been predicted. Even so, the catalog of actions Trump took in an effort to subvert democracy is astounding.

Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results can be broken down into five broad categories:

🔵 Legal challenges on both state and federal level 🟢 Recounts, signature challenges, etc. 🟡 Efforts to suborn perjury from state officials or coerce state legislators 🟠 Reverse coup using government to defy election results 🔴 Overt calls to violence

January

🟠 Jan. 01—DOJ officials warn B.J. Pak, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, that Trump is “obsessing” about his office and may take actions to replace him.

🟠 Jan. 02—DOJ attorney Jeffrey Clark meets with Trump. The two develop a plan in which Trump will replace acting AG Rosen with Clark, and Clark will then move forward to inform Georgia legislators that the DOJ is investigating serious election fraud in the state; simultaneously, Clark will file suit in effort to prevent Congress from counting electoral votes on Jan 6.

🟡 Jan. 02—Trump calls Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, asks him to “find” votes. He also warns that U.S. attorney B.J. Pak is a “never-Trumper” who won’t support him. The recording surfaces the next day, after a member of the secretary of state’s office releases recording due to Trump’s continued complaints about Raffensperger following the call.

🟠 Jan. 03—The recording drops just hours before Rosen and Clark meet with Trump and White House attorney Pat Cipollone. With the tape causing problems, Cippollone convinces Trump not to execute Clark’s plan.

🔴 Jan. 06—While a joint session of Congress meets to certify the electoral college vote, Trump’s violent MAGA army swarms the Capitol in a deadly assault.

🟡 Jan. 09— B.J. Pak resigns.

🔴 Jan. 15—MyPillow founder Mike Lindell visits White House with papers urging Trump to carry through with Flynn’s plan for martial law.

Jan. 20—Joe Biden inaugurated as 46th President of the United States.

Trump tried to manipulate Justice Department for his political gain ...

… but scheme didn’t work.

Trump entertained plan to install an attorney general who would help him pursue baseless election fraud claims reports the Washington Post.

BEGIN QUOTE

Then-President Donald Trump in early January entertained a plan to replace the acting attorney general with a different Justice Department lawyer who was more amenable to pursuing his unfounded claims of voter fraud, nearly touching off a crisis at the country’s premier federal law enforcement institution, people familiar with the matter said.

The plan — if enacted — would have pushed out Jeffrey Rosen as the acting attorney general and installed in his place Jeffrey Clark, whom Trump had appointed to lead the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and who later would come to lead the Civil Division. Clark, then, could have taken steps to wield the Justice Department’s power to help keep Trump in office. But the president was ultimately dissuaded from moving forward after a high-stakes meeting with those involved, the people said.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a politically sensitive matter. The move was first reported by the New York Times. Legal analysts said it amounted to a disastrous attack on the Justice Department’s independence, and perhaps something worse.

“Before the insurrectionist assault on the US Capitol, there was an attempted coup at the Justice Dept. — fomented by the President of the United States,” former Justice Department official David Laufman wrote on Twitter.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment, as did Rosen.

In a statement that seemed to draw on language in the New York Times account, Clark said, “I categorically deny that I ‘devised a plan . . . to oust’ Jeff Rosen. . . . Nor did I formulate recommendations for action based on factual inaccuracies gleaned from the Internet.”

“My practice is to rely on sworn testimony to assess disputed factual claims,” Clark said. “There were no ‘maneuver[s].’ There was a candid discussion of options and pros and cons with the President. It is unfortunate that those who were part of a privileged legal conversation would comment in public about such internal deliberations, while also distorting any discussions. . . . Observing legal privileges, which I will adhere to even if others will not, prevent me from divulging specifics regarding the conversation.”

Asked for a response to the article, a Trump adviser said, “President Trump has consistently argued that our justice system should be investigating the broader, rampant election fraud that has plagued our system for many years. Any assertion to the contrary is false and being driven by those who wish to keep the system broken.”

Throughout his four years in office, Trump persistently pushed the Justice Department to make moves to benefit himself and his friends, though his moves in his final days in office threatened to be particularly damaging. Even former attorney general William P. Barr — who had been one of Trump’s most loyal and effective Cabinet secretaries — had publicly broken with the president on the issue of voter fraud, declaring publicly that investigators had found no evidence of substantial malfeasance that might affect the result of the election.

Barr’s statements angered Trump, who, along with his allies, had been waging a public campaign to get Barr to appoint a special counsel to investigate election fraud. The men’s relationship was near a breaking point. Trump already had been angry that his attorney general had not taken public steps in two other investigations that might have helped his chances of winning: U.S. Attorney John Durham’s examination into the FBI probe of his 2016 campaign, and the Justice Department’s probe of Hunter Biden, President Biden’s son. On Dec. 14, Barr submitted a resignation letter indicating he would leave the department two days before Christmas.

For the last month of the Trump administration, Rosen would be in charge. Barr was confident that Rosen shared his views and would thus not succumb to any pressure campaign to upend the election results, people familiar with the matter said. But soon, there emerged a bizarre plot to go around him, the people said.

Clark, the people said, somehow connected with Trump and conveyed he felt fraud had impacted the election results. Then Clark began pressuring Rosen and others to do more on voter fraud — such as holding a news conference to announce they were investigating serious allegations, or taking particular steps in Georgia — though Rosen refused. At some point, Rosen was informed Clark would replace him, and he pushed for a meeting with Trump in person, the people said. It was theoretically possible that, if Clark were installed, he could push for some type of challenge to the election results.

At the meeting were Trump, Clark and Rosen, along with Richard Donoghue, the acting deputy attorney general; Steven A. Engel, the head of the department’s Office of Legal Counsel; and Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, the people familiar with the matter said. The people said Rosen, Donoghue, Engel and Cipollone pushed against the idea of replacing Rosen, and warned of a mass resignation.

Cipollone, one person said, pushed hard against a letter Clark wanted to send to Georgia state legislators, which wrongly asserted the department was investigating accusations of fraud in their state and Biden’s win should be voided, insisting it was based on a shoddy claim.

“Pat pretty much saved Rosen’s job that day,” said one senior Trump White House official. Trump ultimately left Rosen in place.

END QUOTE

How Trump's money may have funded the January 6 insurrection

Articles of impeachment to be sent by the House to the Senate this Monday. Following is information relevant to the January 6th attempted coup.

Trump campaign used shell companies to provide funds and support for Jan. 6 pre-insurgency rally reports Mark Sumner of the Daily Kos Staff.

With thanks to Mrs. Scriber!

At last count, Donald Trump is the 100% owner of over 500 companies. Most of these companies exist just to move money between accounts, minimizing Trump’s taxes and maximizing the confusion for anyone trying to make any sense out of his finances. It now appears that Trump took this expertise to his campaign, where a number of campaign aides helped to shuffle dark money from shell companies right into the supposedly independent organizations that organized events leading up to the Jan. 6 insurgency.

Though the permit for the “Stop the steal” rally was supposedly given to the group Women for America First, and the whole thing was supposed to be separate from Trump’s campaign, the Associated Press reported back on Jan. 17 that an attachment to that rally listed a number of people as staff members of that organization who had—just weeks before—been paid directly by the Trump 2020 campaign.

Now OpenSecrets.org has provided a more detailed look at the web of dark money and shell companies that Trump used to fund his “wild” event while pretending it wasn’t his campaign behind the event.

For anyone tuning in that awful Wednesday morning, it was hard to differentiate the Stop the Steal rally from any of the other rallies that had marked Trump’s campaign from the beginning. Not only was Trump coming to speak at the close of events, everything from the signs to the music (almost all of it played over the objection of the artists) seemed like another stop on a campaign that simply failed to halt when the election was over.

But of course, protesting the counting of electoral votes over two months after the election is not the kind of event that is generally sanctioned for a campaign operating under FEC regulations. So they outsourced it. Sort of.

Trump’s campaign paid out over $2.7 million to the list of individuals and firms that were officially on the hook for the Jan. 6 rally. That includes at least half a dozen people who had previously collected six-figure incomes from the Trump campaign. At the top of that list: Megan Powers. Powers was listed as one of two operations managers for Women for America First in the permit for the Jan. 6 event. However, she was also director of operations for the Trump 2020 campaign, a role that netted her $290,000 in pay.

As OpenSecrets makes clear, even the money that flowed to people who miraculously left the Trump campaign just in time to host the rally doesn’t represent the full extent of the campaign’s involvement. Undisclosed to the FEC were a set of transactions where money was moved through shell companies, making it nearly impossible to trace all the funds that flowed out of campaign coffers, or where that money ended up.

As just one example, Justin Caporale was the Trump’s campaign’s advance director up until November 2020. Then he partnered with another former member of Trump’s campaign staff to create a firm called Event Strategies Inc. That firm was then paid over $1.7 million that came either directly from Trump’s campaign or from post-election fundraising. That wasn’t all: The dark money group America First Policies kicked another $2.1 million to both Event Strategies and the “nonprofit” Women for America First.

Even that is just a fraction of the different organizations, shell companies, and PACs created to allow the Trump campaign to operate indirectly, and to funnel campaign funds to activities that aren’t allowed under FEC regulations.

It’s not the first time someone has attempted to make an end run around these regulations. In 2012, Ron Paul’s campaign shuffled money through a vendor, and then a subvendor, in order to hide bribes. They were caught and given serious sentences as a signal from the FEC that this kind of action would not be tolerated.

Trump pardoned everyone involved in December.

In just the months following the election, Trump raised over $500 million from individuals who were asked to help pay for his legal battle in the attempt to overturn the election. It’s clear that Trump spent about $3 million in recount efforts, very little on actual legal issues, and several million more providing behind-the-scenes funding for events like the Jan. 6 insurgency. It’s not clear where the rest of that money has gone.

AZ GOP moves 'forward' as censure vote divides Republican party

We knew this was coming …

Arizona Republicans Censure Party Leaders At Odds With Trump.

Arizona Republicans passed resolutions on Saturday to censure three of the state’s most prominent party leaders who have found themselves at odds with former President Donald Trump: Gov. Doug Ducey; former Sen. Jeff Flake; and Cindy McCain, widow of the longtime Sen. John McCain.

The sweeping — yet essentially symbolic — rebuke took place during a meeting to figure out how to move forward after the state flipped blue in November, narrowly giving its 11 electoral votes to now President Joe Biden.

Really? This censure is moving forward? Remember that these people practice Orwellian double-speak.

State Republicans also reelected party chair Kelli Ward, an unwavering Trump supporter who had challenged the state’s election results in a lawsuit that was rejected for insufficient evidence of fraud.

And then there are these guys - the January 6 bunch.

Rep. Paul Gosar spent much of his time arguing that various voting machines used in the November elections were susceptible to hacking. Gosar was one of the Republicans who challenged the certification of electoral votes on Jan. 6, moments before the U.S. Capitol was breached and overrun by Trump supporters.

“We will not cede the battlefield to Marxist totalitarians who want to destroy this country,” Rep. Andy Biggs told the mostly maskless crowd, which responded with raucous applause.

Both Gosar and Biggs have been criticized by liberal groups for their role in allegedly inciting the Capitol riot.

In response to the censure, Gov. Ducey’s political director Sara Mueller said in a statement, “These resolutions are of no consequence whatsoever, and the people behind them have lost whatever little moral authority they may have once had.”

Likewise, McCain was unfazed by the vote.

“It is a high honor to be included in a group of Arizonans who have served our state and our nation so well … and who, like my late husband John, have been censured by the AZGOP,” she wrote on Twitter. “I’ll wear this as a badge of honor.”

Thanks to our roving Editor-at-Large, Sherry.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

How Republicans can atone - 'cut Trump loose, completely'

Megan McArdle, writing in the Washington Post (and reprinted in today’s Daily Star), has a message for those who still cling to Trump: If Republicans can’t cast Trump off, their wounds — and the country’s — will only get deeper.

Here’s the whole of McArdle’s column.

BEGIN QUOTE

These days, I am frequently reminded of an observation by a psychologist of my acquaintance that America seems like “a hopeless marriage between people who have no recourse to divorce.” Now, things are getting violent, and we’re still locked in double harness, unable to work together, unable to leave. Watching Wednesday’s impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives, it struck me that neither left nor right seems to fully grasp our predicament.

“This really does remind me that the most dangerous period in an abusive marriage is when you leave,” the New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum tweeted, and this seemed an eerily apt metaphor for President Trump’s behavior. But I get the sense that some on the left are taking the analogy too far — applying it to Trump’s voters, not just the man himself. And, of course, there’s no way to leave them.

I have not yet heard anyone on the left outline a credible vision for what happens after we impeach the president and, one hopes, convict him and bar our insurrectionist in chief from ever holding office again. I would like to know that there is one, and not just a fond hope that the backlash for Jan. 6 will break the Republican Party once and for all. The Democrats have wasted the better part of two decades on deterministic assumptions that, one day, demographic destiny or some other deus ex machina will do its work, Republicans will obligingly die off, and the woke will inherit the Earth.

Try assuming instead that they will be a political force to be reckoned with — and negotiated with — for the rest of everyone’s life.

But this is a reasonable and benign fantasy compared to the one Republicans indulged in Wednesday: that if they were willing to condemn the Capitol insurrection as the work of a few bad apples, Democrats should admit their part in stoking our increasingly bitter divides, and we should all move on. “It will only serve to further divide a nation that is calling out for healing,” said Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) as the House took up impeachment.

This was such an incredible suggestion that I did its authors the credit of assuming that none of them actually meant it. It was, I thought, the sort of well-I-had-to-try-didn’t-I? absurdity that politicians are sometimes forced to utter. But it quickly became clear that, no, there are people who seriously thought that this was not just a reasonable thing to ask, but a plausible one, after the events of last week.

This was beyond a fantasy. To circle back to our earlier metaphor: Republicans who humored Trump’s seditious lies as he made a serious run at overturning the results of a democratic election need to understand that their party is the abusive spouse in this scenario. It doesn’t matter what the other party did first. What matters is that a Republican president brought an angry mob to Washington, told it there was a crime happening on Capitol Hill, and then urged it to do something about it.

If this family can ever be put back together, it will start with more Republicans acting as though they understood this was almost unforgivable. Making up lies about a stolen election is wrong in itself, and when those lies end up with five people dead, everyone who helped spread them is responsible, particularly if they knew better — as everyone in Washington politics either did or should have.

The cheapest and easiest way for Republicans to make the necessary atonement is to cut Trump loose, completely. Vote to remove him from office and bar him from running again. Let the man who brought this down upon his country languish unlamented in electronic exile. This will make it clear to voters that they understand what a grave thing happened, and that they are determined not just to make amends, but also to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again.

What’s that, you say, your base will punish you? It’s not realistic to expect anyone to do something so politically costly?

Well, yes, of course, it is going to be costly; cheaper and easier is not the same as cheap and easy. But you cannot restore a broken relationship with perfunctory gestures and empty words. What’s needed is a demonstration that you are willing to pay any price to fix what is broken and to undo as much as possible the damage you have done.

If Republicans cannot do this, then the wounds that they allegedly want to heal will only deepen and fester, especially within their own party. They might purchase a little temporary peace by catering to the mob-friendly base. But doing so will drive off the moderates who want no part of what happened last Wednesday — and further empower a mob that has already terrorized their party into submission, and would like to do the same to the rest of us.

END QUOTE

What Democrats need to do - Just help people, and do it fast

Quote of the Day: We can’t afford for the Senate to remain the place where good ideas go to die. We need to make the Senate great again. - Adam Jentleson in the NY Times.

Two op-eds, highted by our roving Editor-At-Large Sherry, are featured today. Both, in different ways, address what the new administration needs to do to restore faith in the ability of our democratic government to make a difference in people’s lives.

Ezra Klein, now an opion writer at the NY Times, advises Democrats, Here’s How to Lose in 2022. And Deserve It. You don’t get re-elected for things voters don’t know about.

Here are several excerpts.

President Biden takes office with a ticking clock. The Democrats’ margin in the House and Senate couldn’t be thinner, and midterms typically raze the governing party. That gives Democrats two years to govern. Two years to prove that the American political system can work. Two years to show Trumpism was an experiment that need not be repeated.

Two years.

This is the responsibility the Democratic majority must bear: If they fail or falter, they will open the door for Trumpism or something like it to return, and there is every reason to believe it will be far worse next time. To stop it, Democrats need to reimagine their role. They cannot merely defend the political system. They must rebuild it.

“This is a fight not just for the future of the Democratic Party or good policy,” Senator Bernie Sanders told me. “It is literally a fight to restore faith in small-d democratic government.”

Among the many tributaries flowing into Trumpism, one in particular has gone dangerously overlooked. In their book “Presidents, Populism and the Crisis of Democracy,” the political scientists William Howell and Terry Moe write that “populists don’t just feed on socioeconomic discontent. They feed on ineffective government — and their great appeal is that they claim to replace it with a government that is effective through their own autocratic power.”

Donald Trump was this kind of populist. Democrats mocked his “I alone can fix it” message for its braggadocio and feared its authoritarianism, but they did not take seriously the deep soil in which it was rooted: The American system of governance is leaving too many Americans to despair and misery, too many problems unsolved, too many people disillusioned. It is captured by corporations and paralyzed by archaic rules. It is failing, and too many Democrats treat its failures as regrettable inevitabilities rather than a true crisis.

But now Democrats have another chance. To avoid the mistakes of the past, three principles should guide their efforts.

  • First, they need to help people fast and visibly.
  • Second, they need to take politics seriously, recognizing that defeat in 2022 will result in catastrophe. The Trumpist Republican Party needs to be politically discredited through repeated losses; it cannot simply be allowed to ride back to primacy on the coattails of Democratic failure.
  • And, finally, they need to do more than talk about the importance of democracy. They need to deepen American democracy.

You should read the entire Klein’s essay for details. For example:

“The wisdom from much of the political science research is that partisanship trumps everything,” said Amy Lerman, a political scientist at the University of California at Berkeley, and author of “Good Enough for Government Work.” “But one of the insights from the policy feedback literature in particular is that when people experience policy, they don’t necessarily experience it as partisans. They experience it as a parent sending their child to school or a patient visiting a doctor, not as a Democrat or Republican. And because people are often thinking in nonpolitical terms during their day-to-day lives, they are much more open to having their views changed when they see the actual, tangible benefits of a policy in their lives. It’s a way of breaking through partisanship.”

In her book “Good Enough for Government Work,” Lerman argues that the U.S. government is caught in a reputation crisis where its poor performance is assumed, the public is attuned to its flaws and misses its virtues, and fed-up citizens stop using public services, which further harms the quality of those services. The Trump years add another dimension to the analysis: Frustration with a government that doesn’t solve problems leads people to vote for demagogic outsiders who create further crises. But this is not an inevitability. Her titular phrase, she notes, “originated during World War II to describe the exacting standards and high quality required by government.” It was only in the 1960s and ’70s that it became a slur.

It is no accident that World War II led to the idea that government work was a standard to strive for, not an outcome to fear. Crises remind us of what government is for in the first place. Biden has an extraordinary opportunity to change the relationship between the people and their government. If he succeeds, he will not only deprive authoritarian populists like Trump of energy, he will give Democrats a chance to win over voters who’ve lost faith in them, and he will give voice to millions more that the American political system has silenced. “The best thing we can do right now to reduce levels of anger and frustration on both sides of the aisle is to give people the things they need to live better lives,” said Lerman.

In other words, what Democrats need to do is simple: Just help people, and do it fast.

But: Joe Biden May Have Only Two Years to Get Things Done. Democrats must kill the filibuster and make the Senate great again. Observes Adam Jentleson author of “Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy.”

In his memoir “A Promised Land,” Mr. Obama chronicles his regret that he “hadn’t had the foresight” to rally Senate Democrats to “to revise the chamber rules and get rid of the filibuster once and for all.” Because of his long Senate service, Mr. Biden has unique credibility to lead a successful push for reform. We can’t afford for the Senate to remain the place where good ideas go to die. We need to make the Senate great again.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Even after Trump is gone, Republican lawmakers provide lots of fodder for bloggers

Arizona GOP lawmakers advance changes to election laws in wake of Trump’s loss reports Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) in the Daily Star.

In the wake of protests over the election results in Arizona, Republicans on a state Senate panel approved two changes in election laws Thursday that would audit more votes and require automatic recounts in more situations.

Why? I hear you say.

"There are hundreds of thousands of people … that think the election was fraudulent or full of irregularities or breakdowns in process,” said Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler. Changing the laws on recounts and audits, he said, would increase voter confidence.

I get it. The GOP tells “hundreds of thousands of people” that “the election was fraudulent or full of irregularities or breakdowns in process.” Then the GOPlins point to those “hundreds of thousands of people” to justify the GOP’s changes in voting laws.

It’s called a feedback loop. X–>Y, and then Y–>X.

And, for a brief moment, I thought there would be fewer things to blog about after Trump’s ignominious departure. Silly me.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

At the inaugural Biden asks for mutual tolerance and respect for the democratic process

Quote of the Day: Mr. Biden’s call for unity was not a demand that Americans agree, but rather that they live in mutual tolerance, recommitted to the democratic process and to peacefully adjudicating their differences until the next inauguration. All Americans should be able to agree on that. - NY Times Editorial Board.

Read the rest of the summary of Biden’s speech by the NY Times Editorial Board here: Biden Bets on Unity. The new president called for comity. Can the country heed it?

Here’s one snippet: “Inaugurations are, by their nature, the closing of one chapter in the nation’s story and the beginning of another. Now at the helm of the executive branch, along with Kamala Harris — the country’s first female vice president, first Black vice president and first Asian-American vice president — Mr. Biden has a chance to test the firmness of common ground. For the new president and the nation to succeed, there must be enough like-minded leaders willing to put prosperity over party and the good of the nation above all else.”

Thanks to our Editort-at-Large Sherry.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Terms of Surrender for Losing Trumpists

Charlie Sykes cites: After Trump: A Time for Choosing

Eric Genrich — the mayor of Green Bay, Wisconsin — in the Bulwark: Trumpism won’t go away on its own. It will have to be actively repudiated.

Now is the time to complete that project, to rebuild a country in an image much closer to our ideals. Now is the time to sideline the zealots and philistines, the ideologues and apparatchiks, and elevate the champions of love, decency, and democracy. To do otherwise, to vote to acquit or absolve Donald Trump or to support anyone who does, is to forgive the unforgivable, to appease an open enemy of legitimate self-government. But another path is possible, which leads to a truly multiracial democracy that recognizes the civil rights and the dignity of all Americans. Let’s walk it together.

From Rick Wilson, Daily Beast Editor-At-Large:

Trumpists, Here Are Your Terms of Surrender. Also, Fuck You. _There’s no repairing the damage he’s done until you confess to the normalization and rationalizations that let him bring us to the edge of a conspiracy-driven insurrection.

Donald Trump is a war leader who failed. Before he was the leader of a failed insurrection, he was a man who’d stoked the violent and unstable tendencies of his most fanatic supporters into a hot flame that came dangerously close to incinerating the Republic.

It’s time for Donald Trump and his allies to surrender unconditionally, permanently, and without another goddamn word about a “stolen” election.

Let me put in my Scriber 2 cents. I don’t want to hear any more sh!t from Lindsey Graham about healing and unity. He was complicit in breaking the nation. Now he should shut up (#STFU) and surrrender.

[Wilson considers] today’s Republican Party, its alleged leaders, and all of you who are still standing with Trump as the least popular departing president in American history continues fighting his lost war.

Whether you know it or not, you’ve lost. On Nov. 3 and again when your allies assaulted cops, killing one, on Jan. 6. America’s reaction wasn’t “Fuck YEAH, Trump 2020!” It was horror. Think of the furious response as the Doolittle Raid: an unmistakable signal that America is done with your Trumpian shit.

Since you lost, you’ve done your damndest to ensure Donald Trump gains a second term through lies, conspiratorial agitprop, clownish legal chest-beating (with a 1–60 record so far), and an all-out effort to disenfranchise tens of millions of African American voters. Your new Jim Crow movement to tell Black voters they still don’t count is going swimmingly. And by “swimmingly” I mean it’s a fucking disaster. You lost two Senate seats in Georgia. GEORGIA.

Like Japan facing loss after loss against America’s island-hopping campaign, you rationalized each new defeat. Each time, you promised some new miracle to your people. And each time, you felt the vice tightening, the lies harder to tell, the conspiracies more lurid.

Until, on Jan. 6, your shock troops launched a Kamikaze raid on the Capitol. It shook America hard.

Oh, yes, I’m using the collective “you” here because the blood of a dead cop and four others is on the hands of all of you who empowered, enabled, and normalized Donald Trump. The damage to America’s reputation that day will echo in the laughter of our enemies around the world for a generation.

The rally itself, following the obvious incitements from Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Mo Brooks, and the rest of the jackals was just striking the match. This White House staff, along with everyone in his orbit who stayed on the job while abdicating all responsibility, spread the gasoline around the country. The funders, organizers, and implements of the march accelerated and enabled it.

Those vandals, murderers, Karens and Qarens, Q-hadi wanna-be terrorists, swag-bellied revolutionaries in their too-tight LBVs and helmets, fanatic dead-enders, and oddly-clad randos who stormed the Capitol did so after they had been directed, organized, and motivated by Trump and his allies.

They came in groups organized and motivated by Roger Stone and his current little helper Ali Alexander; between the two of them, the reek of larceny stings the eyes and burns the throat. The mob also came at the call of the Republican Qaucus in the House, who kept insisting Trump was robbed of an election.

That mob beat a police officer to death with a fire extinguisher and flagpoles. They stormed the Capitol to seize power and kill Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi, and others. This isn’t speculation. It’s on hours of video, and in a waterfall of indictments. Mobs seek blood. Trump’s mob sought it that day, and failed.

America is protected by some Providence, be it divine or just the stumbling, ratfuck incompetence of so many of our enemies. The effort to seize the Capitol was a strategic failure and a tactical mess.

Heroic D.C. Police and Capitol Police pushed back the mob and ended the first and let us hope only battle of the Trump Civil War. They protected elected leaders of both parties from assault, violence, and murder.

To the Republicans who stoked the absurd conspiracy theories that fueled this mob, I would like to extend to you a hearty fuck you. Most of you aren’t stupid—I know Louis Gohmert drags down the average—and thought your repetitive lies about a supposedly stolen election were just politics as usual.

You knew better; mobs do what mobs do, and that means the lives of anyone they encountered that day were at risk. Your post-hoc bleating on the House floor about reason and comity and unity was complete horseshit. Your people, your base, were out of control, and you helped make them so. Ask Officer Brian Sicknick’s family if the Trumper horde who beat him to death on the steps of the Capitol were responsive to reason.

So let’s be clear; Jan. 6 was a cataclysmic defeat for you, for Trump, and for Trumpism.

You’ve lost a war for the soul of America so completely that your surrender must be unconditional and immediate. You don’t understand what the Hill attack did to Americans. They were pissed after four years of Trump’s bullshit; now, they’re steely in their determination to preserve the country from his mob.

For all of you “leaders” who stoked this fire, these are the terms of your surrender.

State in public that Joe Biden won this election freely and fairly. Don’t just slip it out in a tweet or a press statement. Do it on camera, and make it count. So what if it costs you a primary? It’s the truth, and if you don’t think your constituents deserve the truth, you’re a conspirator to overthrow the election.

Call for the expulsion, censure, or other consequences for the ringleaders in the Senate and House of the coup plot.

You know their names, and let’s be honest; you won’t really miss them. Josh Hawley. Ted Cruz. Rick Scott. Cindy Hyde Smith. Tommy Tuberville. Matt Gaetz. Jim Jordan. Mo Brooks. Kevin McCarthy. Lauren Bobert. Marjorie Taylor-Greene. Devin Nunes.

They have violated their oaths of office in the most profound and hideous fashion; they were the vanguard of an attempt to overturn a free and fair election, all to reinstall a man into office they privately acknowledge lost this election. They did so for reasons of ambition and partisan gain, nothing more.

Admit that you fueled the terrorism we just survived.

The lunatic conspiracy rantings. The lies about stolen ballots and mail-in voting. The absurd Dominion voting machine craziness. Any legal effort that includes Rudy, Lin Wood, Jenna Ellis, and Sindey Fucking Powell was by definition unserious. Admit you were lying about this and that you understand the bloody consequences of your lies. Some of you will have the integrity to speak, a handful will have the integrity to quit.

Stop Pretending This Was Normal

Donald Trump will go down as the worst president in American history, having reached that height on the wings of dozens of enablers, toadies, and climbers who will not be forgotten or forgiven. Over and over you lied to yourselves, the media, and the country that Trump wasn’t something new and destructive.

He is, we know, a pernicious grotesque, a shambling mound dedicated to causing the most pain, division, and humiliation possible, and always trying to deliver it at scale. He is an embarrassment for the ages, a shame and a stain that will be hard to remove. He is the indefensible man, a sick, sad coda to a party, an era, and a nation that deserved better.

Confess it. Admit it. There’s no repairing the damage he’s done until you confess to the normalization and rationalizations that let him bring us to the edge of a conspiracy-driven insurrection. You can stop pretending that you respect him; his Twitter feed is dead. You’re safe now.

The alternative is brutal and simple: You can watch the GOP be swiftly rebranded as a party of terrorist violence and QAnon batshittery. You give in to the rising calls for political violence and revolution and you go the way of the Whigs.

If you abide those calls, let alone incite them, you’ll stop raising corporate money. The nutcase Trump crowd will become your finance engine, and they’ll demand you take even nuttier positions. It’s not a long leap from telling the crazies that “The election was stolen” to just-asking if “Kamala Harris is a cannibal Satanist Lizard Creature.”

Japan surrendered unconditionally because the alternative was more pain with no possible benefit. They realized that America’s victory was complete, and the price of pride would be terrible. That lesson on the severity of American retaliation when we are threatened and attacked applies today.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Good news about effectiveness of COVID Vaccines - and why you should get one now

Jonathon V. Last has this good news featured in “JVL - The Bulwark thetriad@substack.com”.

David Leonhardt at the NY Times explains why the COVID vaccines seem to be better than advertised:

  • The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines — the only two approved in the U.S. — are among the best vaccines ever created, with effectiveness rates of about 95 percent after two doses. That’s on par with the vaccines for chickenpox and measles. And a vaccine doesn’t even need to be so effective to reduce cases sharply and crush a pandemic.
  • If anything, the 95 percent number understates the effectiveness, because it counts anyone who came down with a mild case of Covid–19 as a failure. But turning Covid into a typical flu — as the vaccines evidently did for most of the remaining 5 percent — is actually a success. Of the 32,000 people who received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine in a research trial, do you want to guess how many contracted a severe Covid case? One… .

Did you get that? 1/32000

After asking Richterman [an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Pennsylvania] and others what a better public message might sound like, I was left thinking about something like this:

We should immediately be more aggressive about mask-wearing and social distancing because of the new virus variants. We should vaccinate people as rapidly as possible — which will require approving other Covid vaccines when the data justifies it.

People who have received both of their vaccine shots, and have waited until they take effect, will be able to do things that unvaccinated people cannot — like having meals together and hugging their grandchildren. But until the pandemic is defeated, all Americans should wear masks in public, help unvaccinated people stay safe and contribute to a shared national project of saving every possible life.

Read the whole thing but the big takeaway is that as soon as you are eligible for the vaccine, you should get it.

Scriber made his appointment today.