5 Profiles in Courage and Cowardice in a Trump-Dominated GOP

“Even before last week’s deadly invasion of the Capitol, McConnell, to his credit, forcefully rejected efforts to challenge duly certified electoral votes for Biden. “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral,” he warned less than an hour before he was forced to flee the president’s enraged fans. “We would never see the whole nation accept an election again,” he added, and “every four years would be a scramble for power at all cost.”

Based on “sweeping conspiracy theories,” McConnell noted, “President Trump claims the election was stolen,” but “nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale…that would have tipped the entire election.” He added that “public doubt alone” cannot “justify a radical break” from historical practice “when the doubt itself was incited without evidence.”

These were strong words, but they came two months too late. From the moment that Trump began insisting that he actually won the election by a landslide, it was clear that the president’s conviction had no basis in reality. Yet McConnell humored Trump, neither backing nor rejecting his wild claims, based on the premise that Biden’s victory should not be conceded until the president had exhausted his legal options and the Electoral College had met. In the meantime, the fantasy underlying last week’s riot grew and spread, unchallenged by all but a few Republican legislators.”

“Even McConnell and Pence are models of bravery compared to Sens. Ted Cruz (R–Texas) and Josh Hawley (R–Mo.), who led the legally groundless objections to Biden’s electoral votes in the Senate. In doing so, they cynically and recklessly reinforced the twin delusions that gave rise to last week’s violence: that Trump won the election and that Biden’s inauguration could still be prevented.

At the same time, neither Cruz nor Hawley had the guts to explicitly endorse those beliefs. They calculated that they could reap the political benefits of kowtowing to the president’s supporters without paying the political cost of looking like kooks. It apparently never entered the minds of these two Ivy League lawyers that they might pay a cost for so blatantly trying to advance their careers by sacrificing their supposed devotion to the Constitution. The crucial question for the Republican Party now is whether they were right to ignore that possibility.”

Republicans own this

“On the morning of January 6, first-term Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Colorado Republican chiefly notable for her support for the QAnon conspiracy theory, tweeted that the efforts to overturn the 2020 election results amounted to a new American Revolution.

“Today is 1776,” she wrote.

It turned out that describing Wednesday as a violent revolution was more apt than Boebert may have intended. Several hours later, on the heels of a speech by the president decrying the 2020 election as stolen, a pro-Trump mob descended on the US Capitol, overwhelming Capitol Police and storming the building. Trump supporters waved Confederate flags and seized control of the Senate chambers; police drew their guns. At least four people died as a result of the chaos.

Blaming President Trump for this violence is, at this point, stating the obvious. He has been inciting his supporters for weeks, telling them that the election has been stolen and they need to stand up to save freedom. If you really believe that — took what the president said seriously — why wouldn’t you take dramatic action?

But the blame needs to go beyond Trump and land squarely on the Republican Party itself — an institution that, for decades, employed a political strategy that sowed the seeds of an uprising against the American state.

The animating force of modern Republicanism is this: Democratic Party rule is an existential threat to America and is by definition illegitimate. It is a belief that explains much of what we’ve seen from the GOP in the past few decades, the glue that binds together Republicans ranging from shitposters in the QAnon fever swamps to much of the GOP congressional caucus.”

“their delegitimizing rhetoric has been the fuel of the conservative movement for many, many years now. Trump’s presidency, and the violence with which it is ending, represents the logical next step for the modern GOP — and where it goes from here will determine our future as a democracy.”

“In 2010, during the height of Tea Party fervor, then-Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R-NV) told talk radio host Lars Larson that she believed Americans might need to take up arms against the tyranny of Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress”

“Angle’s story is illuminating. Initially, she ran as an insurgent, casting herself as the rock-ribbed alternative to a weak, corrupt Republican establishment. The party actually tried to stop her, but she was embraced by the GOP once she won the Republican primary in Nevada. The party held a glitzy fundraiser in Washington for Angle several months after the “Second Amendment remedies” comment.

Hardly a relic of the Tea Party era, it’s a story that’s emblematic of the contemporary GOP. The party leadership has created an institution where people like Angle can win primaries; though leaders may resist extremists at times, they end up admitting them as members in good standing when it becomes clear that the choice in a given election is either a right-wing radical or a Democrat. As a result, there’s a one-way ratchet toward an increasingly extreme party, one that has convinced itself over time that Democratic rule is so dangerous that getting in bed with anti-democratic radicals is preferable.

There are at least three critical features of the GOP as an institution that have allowed this process to go on as it has.

First, there is the argument, offered by mainstream Republicans at the highest levels, that freedom itself is on the ballot: that the Democratic agenda is so catastrophic that it might spell the end of America as we know it.”

“This rhetoric might not be so bad if it weren’t for the second prong of the problem: the alternative conservative media ecosystem that disseminates those messages.

From practically the inception of the modern conservative movement in the 1950s, a central tenet has been that the mainstream media is irredeemably biased against them — an agent of liberalism, not to be trusted. The conservative response has been to relentlessly delegitimize the media in their public discourse and to construct alternative media institutions for its base to consume.

This created space for extreme voices who, out of sincere belief or rank opportunism, chose to peddle dangerous falsehoods.”

“If you are a rank-and-file Republican, the kind of person who listens to your party’s elected officials and friendly media outlets, you have been marinating in anti-democratic beliefs for years: that Democrats are fundamentally hostile to the American way of life, that people telling you otherwise cannot be trusted, that you have an obligation to fight against tyranny on your own.

In a 2020 survey, 51 percent of Republicans agreed with the claim that “the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.””

“The day after President Trump incited a mob to attack the Capitol, he called in to a Republican National Committee winter meeting. The assembled Republicans did not greet the president with horror or anger; instead, he was met with cheers.

Of course, not every Republican is as corrupted as the ones on that call. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted for Trump’s impeachment and has gone after him in the day since the attack on Capitol Hill. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has called for a second impeachment after the mob.

But even the “responsible” leaders have often been complicit. Lest we forget, Romney courted Trump’s endorsement during his 2012 presidential run — while Trump was in the midst of his birther crusade against Obama. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), famous for his thumbs-down vote on Trump’s Obamacare repeal proposal, is the man who unleashed Palin on the world by making her his vice presidential pick in 2008.”

“They knew who they were enabling. In 2016, Ted Cruz called Trump “utterly amoral” and a “pathological liar.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) described him as a “race-baiting xenophobic religious bigot.” And Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), in comments that proved prescient, describes him as someone who was inciting violence among his supporters”

“The dangers of Trump were obvious to these men. But they chose to enable him after his victory anyway, much in the way their party chose to embrace Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle and Glenn Beck and all the other extremists who have proven useful to it. The Republican establishment created the conditions for Wednesday’s violence and chaos, and these conditions will persist even if Trump is removed prematurely. QAnon supporters are now sitting in Congress; Newsmax, a more unhinged version of Fox, has only grown in recent months; Trump was greeted by applause by House Republicans Thursday morning.

Just hours after her 1776 tweet, Rep. Boebert tweeted fearfully about the attack on Congress. “We were locked in the House chambers,” she said, as if the chickens weren’t coming home to roost.

But the fact that they don’t really want a violent uprising doesn’t mean their most committed supporters feel the same way. Republicans — not just Donald Trump, but the entire political movement — own that mob. If they do not change course, they will own the next one, too.”

A majority of House Republicans voted to reject results from Arizona and Pennsylvania

“The majority of House Republicans still chose to reject electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania, hours after a pro-Trump mob fueled by conspiracy theories stormed the Capitol Wednesday, leaving one woman dead and a nation rattled.

These votes had no material effect on the transition of power. After the Capitol had been cleared, Congress met in a joint session to fulfill its legal obligation to count the Electoral College’s votes, but given that Democrats hold a majority in the House and most Senate Republicans were unwilling to object, there was no path forward, and the votes failed. A majority of both chambers have to reject a state’s votes for an objection to stick.

However, after a day of violent insurrection, it has become too clear just how dangerous it can be to feed into anti-democratic delusions.”

Mitch McConnell and Several Other GOP Senators Finally Acknowledge Biden’s Victory

“Rep. Paul Mitchell (R–Mich.), a retiring congressman who congratulated Biden on November 7, announced yesterday that he was “disaffiliating from the Republican Party” out of disgust at its humoring of Trump’s increasingly desperate explanations for losing the election. “The president and his legal team have failed to provide substantive evidence of fraud or administrative failure on a scale large enough to impact the outcome of the election,” Mitchell wrote in a letter to Republican Nation Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel. “It is unacceptable for political candidates to treat our election system as though we are a third-world nation and incite distrust of something so basic as the sanctity of our vote….If Republican leaders collectively sit back and tolerate unfounded conspiracy theories and ‘stop the steal’ rallies without speaking out for our electoral process, which the Department of Homeland Security said was ‘the most secure in American history,’ our nation will be damaged….With the leadership of the Republican Party and our Republican conference in the House actively participating in at least some of these efforts, I fear long-term harm to our democracy.””

Democrats Have a Republican-Women Problem

“The women—all white, all from the greater Phoenix area—had been repelled by Trump in 2016. None of them voted for Hillary Clinton. But over the past four years, as they watched their party fall to Trumpism, their disgust sent them all in the same direction: the Democratic Party.”

“This suburban shift has been especially clear here in Maricopa County, the 9,000-square-mile of beige housing developments and lush golf courses around Phoenix, which accounts for more than 60 percent of Arizona’s votes. The candidate who wins Maricopa—one of the most populous counties in the nation—nearly always wins Arizona, and no Republican nominee has ever won the White House without Arizona since it became a state in 1912. But the state has become much more hospitable to Democrats since Trump’s election. In the 2018 midterms, which were seen as a repudiation of Trump, especially in the suburbs, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema won Maricopa and became the first Democrat to win a Senate race in Arizona in 30 years. Sixteen percent of Republican women in Maricopa broke with their party to vote for Sinema that year, exit polls showed.”

“Overall, most white Republican women supported Trump. But nationally, “we’ve not seen this amount of defection from the Republican Party in 20 or 30 years,” Christopher Weber, a professor at the University of Arizona School of Government and Public Policy, told me.
The suburban shift went well beyond Maricopa. Through organizing by activists of color and the leftward tilt of white, college-educated women, Biden was able to capture many of America’s other big suburbs, including Cobb County, Georgia, outside of Atlanta, and the counties surrounding Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Detroit; and Houston.

For many of the GOP defectors, it came down to the president’s personality—his flagrant racism and misogyny, his bullying, his insult comedy.”

“the women were careful to note that it’s not just Trump’s personality that turns them off. It’s his antipathy toward the issues that feel most urgent to them. That attitude helps make them prime targets for the Democratic Party. These women are conservative, yes: They believe in low taxes, limited government, free trade, and “the responsibility of individuals,” as Andersen put it. But they also crave action on climate change. They want affordable health care for all Americans. They want a humane immigration system. They want policies to promote equality and address police brutality. For many Republican women in America, the starkest example of Trump’s failure has been his administration’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, his refusal to encourage mask wearing, and his blasé attitude toward the crisis, experts told me.”

“Since he won the Democratic primary, Biden has tried to forge a healthy partnership with Bernie Sanders–aligned members of his party. He’s accepted their counsel on issues such as climate change, and he’s adopted several progressive policy positions. But all along, leftists have questioned just how genuine his commitment is. That’s why women like Andersen and Skousen scare them: They worry that the addition of anti-Trump Republicans to the Democratic coalition will nudge the former vice president back toward the ideological center, a place where he’s traditionally been most comfortable. They fear that the moderates and former Republicans who helped him win in crucial swing states will be the voters he most wants to appease in office. They worry that he’ll stock his executive branch with Bill Clinton–era Democrats and corporate executives, and fill his Cabinet with Republicans such as former Ohio Governor John Kasich.”

Poll: 70 percent of Republicans don’t think the election was free and fair

“70 percent of Republicans now say they don’t believe the 2020 election was free and fair, a stark rise from the 35 percent of GOP voters who held similar beliefs before the election. Meanwhile, trust in the election system grew for Democrats, many who took to the streets to celebrate Biden’s victory on Saturday. Ninety percent of Democrats now say the election was free and fair, up from 52 percent before Nov. 3”

“Among Republicans who believed that the election wasn’t free and fair, 78 percent believed that mail-in voting led to widespread voter fraud and 72 percent believed that ballots were tampered with — both claims that have made a constant appearance on the president’s Twitter thread. Like President Donald Trump, a majority of the people that thought the election was unfair, 84 percent, said it benefited Biden.”

How ‘Never Trumpers’ Crashed The Democratic Party

“By pure numbers, the anti-Trump conservative bloc is both fairly small and not that remarkable. The group of Republican voters who disapprove of Trump is similar (but slightly smaller) than Democrats who disapproved of then-President Barack Obama during his first term. Conservatives who really hate Trump probably no longer identify as Republicans — 11 percent of Republicans switched their party affiliation between December 2015 and March 2017, according to Pew. But surveys suggest that the share of Democrats switching affiliation in that same period is about the same. It’s hard to be precise about this: Data suggests at most 10 percent of American voters overall are anti-Trump but generally lean Republican.1 That’s not nothing, but between 40 and 50 percent of Americans are likely to vote for Trump in November.”

“anti-Trump conservatives are arguably way overrepresented in elite media, at least compared to their numbers in the general population. The New York Times, for example, has three conservative-leaning but Trump-skeptical opinion columnists — David Brooks, Ross Douthat, Bret Stephens — and no columnists who regularly align with the president. MSNBC has programs fronted by two anti-Trump hosts once closely aligned with the GOP establishment — ex-Rep. Joe Scarborough and Nicolle Wallace, a former communications director for President George W. Bush — and no explicitly pro-Trump hosts. Among the 53 Washington Post opinion writers highlighted on the paper’s website, seven are people who have identified with conservatives and/or the Republican Party in the past but regularly attack Trump. Just four are conservatives who regularly defend the president.2 Numerous anti-Trump conservatives are also featured prominently on CNN.3
How did this happen? Well, from the media perspective, the prominence of “Never Trump” conservatives makes perfect sense. The readers and watchers of The Post, The Times and MSNBC in particular are disproportionately left-leaning.4 So these audiences probably don’t want too much explicitly pro-Trump commentary. At the same time, news outlets usually like to present themselves as both offering a diverse set of voices and not too closely aligned with one party or the other. So by featuring, for example, George Conway, a conservative lawyer turned “Never Trump” leader5 who sharply criticizes the president in his cable news appearances and columns in The Washington Post, the press can essentially suggest, “It’s not just the ‘liberal media,’ even Republicans were angry when Trump did X.”6

But it’s not simply as if the media has hired every Republican who says that they don’t like Trump. Many of the conservatives in high-profile media slots (like Brooks) were there before Trump’s rise. Robert Saldin, a political science professor at the University of Montana and co-author of a new book on anti-Trump conservatives, said the kind of conservatives who get jobs at places like CNN were predisposed to dislike a Trump-style GOP politician.7”

“getting into media consumed by liberals is in some ways the only game in town for anti-Trump conservatives, since Fox News is very pro-Trump and features few critics of the president. And that platform to reach Democrats has been particularly useful for “Never Trump” conservatives because they allied with more centrist Democrats”

Are There Fiscal Conservatives in a Pandemic? The Club for Growth Says It Doesn’t Matter.

“Prominent conservative groups are refusing to criticize Republican lawmakers and President Donald Trump for the massive spending package, and polling shows fewer than 1 in 10 Republican voters disapprove of the measure’s passage.
That tells you something about the current state of the conservative movement. When the last Republican president signed the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), otherwise known as the 2008 bank bailout, polling from Gallup found that fewer than half of all Republicans supported it. When President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the $833 billion stimulus passed in the wake of the last economic collapse, only about 30 percent of self-identified conservatives approved, Gallup found.

Now, we’re spending a whole lot more money with a whole lot less opposition.

As Reason Editor at Large Matt Welch put it last week: “There is no more politics of fiscal prudence in America, just a competition to see who can wag the biggest firehose.””

“If fiscal conservatism still held any cache among Republican lawmakers, voters, and activists, there would have been an outcry about President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress inflating the deficit to record highs over the past three years. It wasn’t all that long ago that grassroots conservatives were toasting the toppling of high-ranking Republicans for lesser slights.”

Oregon Republicans are subverting democracy by running away. Again.

“In 2001, Oregon Democrats walked out of the legislature, and in 2003, Texas Democrats did the same thing. In both cases, they were objecting to efforts by the majority to engage in the kind of gerrymandering that would stitch together future Republican majorities even if they got fewer voters.
In 2011, Wisconsin Democrats walked out; later that year, Indiana Democrats did the same. In both cases, they were objecting to bills being rushed through by small majorities, opposed by most state voters, to permanently cripple unions.

Republicans cite these cases as a defense of their actions. The media, hopelessly ensorcelled by any kind of both-sides story, has dutifully run with it, failing to note the differences in context. So it’s worth pointing out:

These examples are from almost 10 and almost 20 years ago, respectively.
Each of them was meant as an extraordinary gesture, to highlight extraordinary circumstances, taken at extraordinary political risk.
Each episode ended with the majority getting what it wanted after a short delay.
Oregon Republicans have walked out more times in the past 10 months than all Democrats have in modern history.
There is simply no precedent for what Oregon Republicans are doing, treating walk-outs as routine, using them to prevent passage of what is a fairly milquetoast set of carbon policies (less stringent than in many other states) and even to set the pace of work in the legislature. Democrats have never done anything like this, anywhere.”

“In Oregon, a quorum is two-thirds of the legislative body — 40 out of 60 representatives or 20 out of 30 senators. Is there some governing rationale for this higher requirement? Not really. It’s just something the fledgling state of Oregon copied from Indiana when it was assembling its constitution.

As of 2018, Democrats have supermajorities in both houses of the state legislature, with 18 out of 30 Senate seats and 38 out of 60 House seats.”

“even given their small minority, if every Republican chooses to walk out of the Senate — literally refuses to show up and do their job — they can prevent a quorum, thus preventing any legislative business from being done in the Oregon legislature.”

“None of the Republicans were ever bothered by police, but in response to the threat, GOP state Sen. Brian Boquist said, on camera, addressing himself to state troopers: “Send bachelors and come heavily armed.””

“People didn’t have much time to absorb the fact that an elected official had openly threatened the lives of state police, because that weekend, large crowds, including members of Oregon’s far-right militias, began amassing in the capitol. At one point, state police found the many threats from those militias sufficiently alarming to shut down the state capitol for a day. Republicans subsequently mocked Democrats for being afraid.

In the face of lies and intransigence backed by the threat of extralegal violence, Democrats … caved”