It was Monday. It was a new month. Something was up. Trump had forced the issue, or that nasty woman from Georgia had. It was time to walk away. Reuters had the story:
Dozens of Republicans in former President George W. Bush’s administration are leaving the party, dismayed by a failure of many elected Republicans to disown Donald Trump after his false claims of election fraud sparked a deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol last month.
These officials, some who served in the highest echelons of the Bush administration, said they had hoped that a Trump defeat would lead party leaders to move on from the former president and denounce his baseless claims that the November presidential election was stolen.
But with most Republican lawmakers sticking to Trump, these officials say they no longer recognize the party they served. Some have ended their membership, others are letting it lapse while a few are newly registered as independents, according to a dozen former Bush officials who spoke with Reuters.
That was their way of going public, of sounding their alarm. They knew a thing or two and the public should know this:
“The Republican Party as I knew it no longer exists. I’d call it the cult of Trump,” said Jimmy Gurulé, who was Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in the Bush administration.
Kristopher Purcell, who worked in the Bush White House’s communications office for six years, said roughly 60 to 70 former Bush officials have decided to leave the party or are cutting ties with it, from conversations he has been having. “The number is growing every day,” Purcell said.
Perhaps so, but everything is fine, really it is:
The Republican National Committee referred Reuters to a recent interview its chair Ronna McDaniel gave to the Fox Business channel. “We’re having a little bit of a spat right now. But we are going to come together. We have to,” McDaniel said, predicting the party will unite against the agenda of President Joe Biden, a Democrat.
Representatives for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.
That was bullshit:
The unwillingness by party leaders to disavow Trump was the final straw for some former Republican officials.
“If it continues to be the party of Trump, many of us are not going back,” Rosario Marin, a former Treasurer of the U.S. under Bush, told Reuters. “Unless the Senate convicts him, and rids themselves of the Trump cancer, many of us will not be going back to vote for Republican leaders.”
This particular Senate will never convict Trump. These guys are as good as gone, but something else was up. It was time to make these Trump folks squirm:
Top House Democrats are moving to force Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene off multiple committees this week – with or without Kevin McCarthy’s help.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer delivered an ultimatum to McCarthy on Monday: Either Republicans move on their own to strip Greene (R-Ga.) of her committee assignments within 72 hours, or Democrats will bring the issue to the House floor.
The Democrats’ move, while highly unusual, comes amid intense fury within the Democratic Caucus over Greene’s long record of incendiary rhetoric, including peddling conspiracy theories that the nation’s deadliest mass shootings were staged. Greene also endorsed violence against Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats before she was elected to Congress.
Last week, Greene was officially awarded seats on the House Education and Labor Committee and the House Budget Committee.
The message was clear. Okay, defend that. Defend her calls for the assassination of Pelosi and others of your colleagues and all the rest. We dare you.
Republicans have been slow to act, with McCarthy saying only he’s planning to have a “conversation” with Greene about the mounting controversies sometime this week. The meeting between McCarthy and Greene has still not been scheduled… And Greene has shown zero contrition for her past actions, tweeting over the weekend that she will “never apologize.”
She also took a jab at Hoyer on Twitter Monday and revealed plans to travel to Florida “soon” to meet with former President Donald Trump, who she said supports her “100 percent.”
She has Trump on her side. No one can touch her. No one would dare, and the Democrats will stick it to the Republicans:
Democrats are already teeing up potential floor action if McCarthy doesn’t act, scheduling a Rules Committee hearing for Wednesday afternoon on a resolution to strip Greene of her committee posts.
The Republicans have two days. That’s it:
The effort to force McCarthy’s hand creates even more of a conundrum for the California Republican, who is under increasing pressure from Democrats and some GOP-affiliated groups to take action against Greene yet may be reluctant to alienate the Trump wing of the party. The GOP leader, desperate to keep his ranks united, even trekked to Mar-a-Lago last week to make amends with the former president.
If McCarthy declines to deal with Greene internally and Democrats indeed bring this issue to the floor, it will force every single Republican to go on the record over Greene – a scenario that could put some GOP lawmakers in a tough spot.
Will they defend the crazy stuff? Who knows? But something just changed:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday delivered a scathing rebuke of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s actions and defended Rep. Liz Cheney’s decision to vote to impeach former president Donald Trump, weighing in for the first time on the criticism facing both lawmakers.
The statements together are both an unusual venture from a Senate leader onto the other chamber’s turf and an unmistakable signal to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) that, for the party’s sake, he must sideline extremists such as Greene (R-Ga.) and maintain a place for traditional Republicans such as Cheney (R-Wyo.).
On Wednesday morning, House Republicans will hold a conference-wide meeting during which the actions of both lawmakers are expected to be discussed.
Choose one or the other, Kevin, but you can’t have both. Choose crazy or sensible:
In the statement on Greene, first reported by the Hill, McConnell did not mention the freshman lawmaker by name but listed a series of actions that describe her pattern of inflammatory behavior.
“Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country,” McConnell said. “Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’s airplane is not living in reality. This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debates on substance that can strengthen our party.”
Yeah, well, bring it on:
Greene responded Monday night on Twitter. “The real cancer for the Republican Party is weak Republicans who only know how to lose gracefully,” she said. “This is why we are losing our country.”
This will be fun, but Mitch has made his choice:
In a separate statement, McConnell did name Cheney, describing the No. 3 House Republican as “a leader with deep convictions and the courage to act on them.”
“She is an important leader in our party and in our nation,” McConnell said in the statement, first reported by CNN. “I am grateful for her service and look forward to continuing to work with her on the crucial issues facing our nation.”
Forget that nonsense:
In the weeks since her vote to impeach Trump on the charge of incitement of insurrection, Cheney has faced a backlash from Trump allies, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who spoke at an anti-Cheney rally in Wyoming last week.
Everyone has now chosen sides and Michelle Goldberg sees this:
By now, you’ve surely heard her theory that California wildfires might have been caused by a space laser controlled by Jewish bankers. That wasn’t Greene’s first foray into anti-Semitism; in 2018 she shared a notorious white nationalist video in which a Holocaust denier claimed that “Zionist supremacists have schemed to promote immigration and miscegenation.”
Recently, Greene met with a far-right British commentator, Katie Hopkins, who has described migrants as “cockroaches” and said she doesn’t care if they die. Greene told her, “I would love to trade you for some of our white people here that have no appreciation for our country.” She described the results of the 2018 midterms as “an Islamic invasion of our government.”
When the New Yorker’s Charles Bethea met a group of Greene’s local supporters last year, they were generally familiar with QAnon, and several agreed that Democrats are controlled by Satan. There’s a reason Kelly Loeffler, who needed to get out the pro-Trump vote, touted Greene’s endorsement when she was trying to hold on to her Georgia Senate seat.
But this is more than a Georgia thing:
On Jan. 4, the Arizona GOP retweeted a “Stop the Steal” activist who’d pronounced himself willing to “give my life” to overturn the election. Said the party’s official account: “He is. Are you?” An Arizona lawmaker has since introduced a bill that would let the Legislature, controlled by Republicans, override the presidential vote of the state’s increasingly Democratic citizenry.
The Oregon Republican Party approved a resolution suggesting that the Capitol siege was a “false flag” attack. The Texas Republican Party has adopted the QAnon slogan “We are the storm” as its motto, though it insists there’s no connection. The chairman of Wyoming’s Republican Party, who attended Trump’s rally on Jan. 6, said he might be open to secession.
Greene is not the outlier here:
American conservatism – particularly its evangelical strain – has fostered derangement in its ranks for decades, insisting that no source of information outside its own self-reinforcing ideological bubble is trustworthy.
If you’re steeped in creationism and believe that elites are lying to you about the origins of life on earth, it’s not a stretch to believe they’re lying to you about a life-threatening virus. If what you know of history is the revisionist version of the Christian right, in which God deeded America to the faithful, then pluralism will feel like the theft of your birthright. If you believe that the last Democratic president was illegitimate, as Trump and other birthers claimed, then it’s not hard to believe that dark forces would foist another unconstitutional leader on the country.
Wait. That would mean there’s no fixing this, and at Commentary, Noah Rothman sees everyone stuck in a loop:
The negative attention Greene has received from the left has induced a predictably tribal response from the right. “The Democrat mob has declared me enemy #1,” a typical fundraising email from the congresswoman’s office reads. “But in reality, they’re not after me. They’re after you. I’m just in their way.” Taking advantage of the Democratic Party’s efforts to single Greene out has proven a lucrative enterprise. According to her office, the congresswoman raised $1.6 million since she became the target of Democratic criticisms.
Thus, the vortex in which Republicans find themselves becomes self-perpetuating. Greene makes reckless, inflammatory remarks, and Democrats demand satisfaction, thereby raising Greene’s profile and triggering the GOP’s protective instincts. Everyone gets what they want out of this deal, except for the Republican Party…
And yet, the loop is not a fact of nature. It can be broken. That would be a difficult prospect – one that would elicit punishment from this most vocal and dogmatic Republican. But Republicans are going to be dealing with pain one way or the other. In Greene’s case, they can punish her and risk the wrath of their most committed voters, or they can do nothing and allow her to become the new face of the Republican Party, thereby further alienating the suburban voters who abandoned the Republican Party over the course of Donald Trump’s presidency and cost them control of Congress and the White House. Either way, the forecast calls for pain.
Steve M at No More Mister Nice Blog offers a different alternative:
Notice what Rothman never suggests: that Republicans should repudiate Greene because it’s the right thing to do – because it damages America if a large segment of its population, including one of the country’s two major political parties, is in thrall to leaders who spread mass delusions…
Yes, at this point there might be an element of physical risk in challenging Trump, Greene, and their allies. But in that case, get yourself some extra security and suck it up. There are low-level state election officials who make much less than a member of Congress, and who are now facing threats from the same crazies. If they can handle it, so can Republican members of Congress.
But I’m talking as if it’s reasonable to expect elected Republican officials to have courage, or concern for their country.
He expects nothing, but Eugene Robinson suggests this:
Parties reform and rebuild themselves after suffering massive, scorched-earth defeats. Since Republicans decided to follow Donald Trump and Fox News into the dystopian hellscape of white supremacy, paranoid conspiracy theory and know-nothing rejection of science, they have lost control of both chambers of Congress and the White House. Yet it has become obvious that those defeats are not nearly enough.
You might think the violent and deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol – an unprecedented attack on our democracy, incited by Trump’s election-fraud Big Lie – would snap the GOP back into reality. Unbelievably, though, you would be wrong.
If anything, the party is heading deeper into the wilderness.
So that leaves this:
The GOP bears no resemblance to the party of Abraham Lincoln. It is now the party of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who believes in the hallucinatory QAnon conspiracy theory, who has suggested that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is a child murderer and who thinks 2018’s California wildfires may have been ignited by a giant space-based laser somehow controlled by Jews. Also, high-speed rail is involved somehow.
To mainstream Republicans such as McCarthy and McConnell believe such nonsense? No, but down by only 10 votes in the House and with a tied Senate, they do believe they are within striking range of regaining control of both the House and the Senate in next year’s midterm election, and they are choosing power – or its prospect – over principle.
For the sake of their party and the nation, those hopes must be utterly dashed.
Yes, run them out of office:
The 2022 midterms have to be more like 2002, during President George W. Bush’s first term, when his party gained seats in both the Senate and the House. That uncommon result was generally attributed to a groundswell of solidarity following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But the nation, right now, should be equally traumatized. In January, the United States lost more than 95,000 people to COVID-19 – the equivalent of a 9/11’s worth of death every single day. Just weeks ago, we saw the Capitol sacked for the first time since 1814. And a majority of the Republican rank-and-file clings to the lie that the election was somehow stolen from Trump.
And they must lose, big:
We saw how Georgia voters recoiled from Trumpism by ousting two Republican senators and electing two Democrats, one Black and one Jewish, in their place – and that was before the Capitol riot. The necessary ruin of the GOP is far from an impossible quest.
It was GOP voters in Georgia who gave us Greene, most accurately identified as (R-QAnon), and she should be made the face of the GOP. The choice is binary and stark: If you don’t believe in Jewish space lasers, you can’t vote for Republicans. And if you loved the old Republican Party, you can’t have it back until you smash today’s GOP to smithereens.
It may be too late for that. Michael Gerson was George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter from 2001 to June 2006, a senior policy advisor from 2000 through June 2006, and was a member of the White House Iraq Group. He’s old-school. And he sees danger:
It is revealing how a political movement that claims to be dedicated to the recovery of national greatness has so readily and completely abandoned many defining national ideals. Donald Trump’s promise of American strength has involved the betrayal of American identity.
That’s because Trump redefined what citizenship means:
What type of citizen has Trump – and his supportive partisan media — produced? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) still holds her job in Congress because she is representative of ascendant MAGA radicalism. Those who reflect her overt racism, her unhinged conspiracy thinking and her endorsement of violence against public figures are now treated as a serious political constituency within the Republican Party.
Trump has come down firmly on Greene’s side. One participant in the Jan. 6 attack sent a video to her children saying: “We broke into the Capitol. We got inside, we did our part. We were looking for Nancy [Pelosi] to shoot her in the friggin’ brain, but we didn’t find her.”The detail that gets to me? She sent this to her children. She was living in a mental world where vile, shameful things are a parent’s boast. And she saw her actions as the expression of a public duty – an example of doing her part.
This is new to this country:
Call this civic barbarism. Instead of promoting the values of responsible citizenship, Trump and his media enablers are elevating and blessing the very worst among us. They are making many Americans less suited for self-government and more dangerous to their neighbors. And they are doing so for the reason some of the Founders most feared: To lead the mob against true democracy.
And there’s a name for that:
This approach to government promises the recovery of a mythical past. It feeds a sense of White victimhood. It emphasizes emotion over reason. It denigrates experts and expertise. It slanders outsiders and blames them for social and economic ills. It warns of global plots by Jews and shadowy elites. It accepts the lies of a leader as a deeper form of political truth. It revels in anger and dehumanization. It praises law and order while reserving the right to disobey the law and overturn the political order through violence.
This is a reality that I have resisted naming. The 45th president and a significant portion of his supporters have embraced American fascism.
And yes, Gerson is serious:
Trump’s buffoonery does not disprove the point. Though he probably cannot name the political theory he has embraced, his own recklessness, vanity and authoritarian instincts have led him down fascist grooves. He displays an intuitive affinity for leaders such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hungary’s Viktor Orban. And Trump would have subverted the legitimate result of the 2020 presidential election if he could have, which would have broken a constitutional continuity that has endured over two centuries.
I don’t think Trump came particularly close to success. This time.
But what’s next?
“But what’s next?”
We could start that discussion with what is apparently Trump’s gift to American politics:
If nothing else seems to work for you, go radical! Try outright bald-faced lying! It worked for Trump — or at least it almost did.
Pick some ridiculous lie — like that “Democrats eat little children” — and repeat it over and over!
It will drive the libs crazy! They won’t know how to handle it! It confuses them and confounds them when they find themselves constantly “fact-checking” you, as if anybody cares. Just ignore them. Your base will love watching the Dems sputtering away. Eventually, everyone will forget what we were arguing about.
So why do so many Republicans turn to lying for their salvation?
Here’s something that will surprise most of us: Republicans are actually in the minority in this country:
And when you’re a political minority in a majority-rule country, sooner of later you find yourself at the end of the road and discover you’ve actually gone nowhere, and that playing by the rules no longer gets you where you want to be, which is winning all elections, and running the country.
So, like Trump, you get creative. When truth isn’t your friend, what else can you do but make stuff up?
Did you see the way Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene weaseled out of her claim yesterday, that all those school shootings didn’t really happen? Okay, she finally confesses, maybe they did, but they only happen because we don’t adequately defend our kids, or something.
So where does she stand on telling the truth? It hardly matters, she might just as well say, since whether something actually happened or not is not really the point.
The real point is to troll Democrats just enough to keep your base awake and liking you. But try to avoid dwelling on “The Truth”, since, as Republicans learned from Donald Trump, “The Truth” will not “set you free”, and it might just land you in jail — or at the least, impeached. (And maybe even twice!)
So the answer to your “What’s next”?
Expect to see Trump clones, all competing to see who can get the most attention with the most outrageous lies. We’re not rid of Trumpism by a long shot.
If you, like I, thought the world might now wake up out of a bad dream, we both need to remember that, in those movies, just after the wife turns her back on what she thought was the dead body of the wife-beating husband she just killed, he springs back to life.
In other words, we should expect more of the same, but on steroids.