The Chinese government’s unlikeliest standoff is with … fandom

“In 2016..China formally banned K-pop…The ban, ironically, turned many former K-pop stars back into Chinese celebrities whose K-pop influence is still being felt.”

“The K-pop ban both is and isn’t about Korea. It began as a response to a US-Korea missile deal, but really embodied disapproval of three things the Chinese government perceived as tied to K-pop culture: the encroaching influence of US individualism, over-zealous fanbases, and effeminate men.

That last one is a major part of the K-pop ban, which forbids men from wearing earrings and excessive makeup on live TV.”

“Dan Chen researches authoritarian politics at the University of Richmond. She told Vox that the CCP’s fixation on masculinity is a recent byproduct of Xi’s growing nationalism — because “nationalism is a very masculine ideology.” Framing foreign influences like K-pop as anti-masculine plays right into Xi’s narrative of an idealized China that’s strong physically as well as economically and politically. Toward this end, the government has worked to eradicate effeminacy in schoolchildren and promoted images of strong, muscular soldiers as the masculine ideal.”

Despite its brutal tactics, Iran’s regime fails to contain mass protests

“The Iranian regime is struggling to crush a massive wave of nimble and durable protests, unlike any the Islamic Republic has faced in the past. The leaderless movement has grown in strength despite increasingly harsh crackdowns, relying on unprecedented solidarity between ethnic minorities, different religious groups, and men allied with protesting women.
The movement started in September after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, an ethnic Kurd from Saqez in northwest Iran, who was arrested in Tehran by the morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly and who later died in police custody. Protests in Saqez quickly spread to Tehran and other cities throughout the country. Now in their third month, the protests show no signs of stopping, despite the shocking violence security forces have deployed against the demonstrators, including savage beatings, mass arrests, and indiscriminate killings of protesters, including children.”

“more than 300 have been killed during the protests. That number includes roughly 50 children under 18, the New York Times’ Farnaz Fassihi reported last week. But casualties and arrests are difficult to track; social media and internet access have been severely curtailed, and foreign reporters can’t access the country. Thus far, five protesters are set to be executed for participating in the uprising.”

Both Left and Right Are Converging on Authoritarianism

“partisan animosity suits the authoritarian elements on the left and right just fine. Their goal is power, and they have little patience for procedural niceties that interfere with its exercise. As history teaches, a base whipped up into fear and fury is ready to accept almost anything to ensure its own survival. Perhaps even the destruction of the institutions and ideals that make America distinctively itself.”

“At a time of polarization, you might expect the right to react by doubling down on support for free markets and private property. Instead, concurrent with democratic socialism’s ascendance, many prominent conservatives have taken a leftward turn of their own.
In June 2019, Tucker Carlson spent five full minutes during his prime-time Fox News show praising a plan from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) to promote “economic patriotism.” The proposal, which called for “aggressive” government action to bolster domestic manufacturing and keep American companies from creating jobs abroad, “sounds like Donald Trump at his best,” Carlson enthused.

President Donald Trump exhibited a high degree of comfort wielding state power for mercantilist ends, from his imposition of tariffs to his use of subsidies and bailouts to support American companies facing competition. Now a rising cadre of nationalist conservatives (a.k.a. “natcons”) are happy to provide the intellectual ammunition for this America First agenda.

In 2019, Republican policy wonk Oren Cass appeared at the inaugural National Conservatism Conference to argue for industrial policy—a robust program of federal interventions meant to resuscitate American manufacturing. He went on to found a think tank, American Compass, that promotes such familiar policies as making corporations give board seats to labor representatives.”

“Economics is the arena in which the left-right convergence is most obviously apparent. But there are other places in which the two movements, though superficially worlds apart, are tracking in the same disturbing direction at a deeper level.”

“This is what feels most broken in our politics. It’s not the ways left and right are further apart than ever; it’s the ways they’re closer together, with powerful elements on each side having jettisoned the longstanding liberal ideal of respecting the rights of even those with whom you strongly disagree.

The two camps, of course, have different substantive moral visions for the society they wish to construct. But each views a broad conception of individual liberty as a barrier to achieving that vision.

Economic liberty, including international trade and private property rights, stands in the way of progressives’ desire for an egalitarian and democratic order in which no one is ever again expected to work for someone else—and in the way of natcons’ desire for a revivified American manufacturing sector in which male breadwinners can support a large family on a single income. Speech protections prevent both sides from controlling the conversation as they wish. Religious freedom is seen as either a cover for rank bigotry or a rationalization for excluding God from the public square. And liberal toleration, with its norms of fair play and civility, is at odds with the reigning conception of politics as total war.”

“Individual liberty, equality under the law, protections against the arbitrary exercise of governmental power—these are unmistakably American values. While influential elements on both the left and the right have turned against them in recent years, most Americans are not on board with total-war politics.

Much has been made of rising affective polarization, and there is some evidence to support the concern. People have become more likely over time to say they would be displeased if they had a son or daughter who married someone from the opposite political party, for example. Yet Americans from both parties are still significantly more likely to say they would not be bothered at all. In fact, a 2020 survey commissioned by The Economist found just 16 percent of Democrats and just 13 percent of Republicans saying they would be “very upset” in that situation. Severe affective polarization remains mostly an elite phenomenon.

In a poll commissioned last year by the group More in Common, three in four respondents agreed that “the differences between Americans are not so big that we cannot come together.” Demonization of the other is a powerful political weapon, and those inclined toward authoritarianism are particularly comfortable using it. But what is sometimes called the “grand liberal bargain”—a social truce in which each side broadly agrees to respect the other’s freedom, even if it doesn’t like what the other side will do with it—is a powerful defense, and one in keeping with the natural ethos of America. It’s not too late to choose it.”

A new book claims Trump’s efforts to politicize the Justice Department were worse than we knew

“As I wrote in August 2020, there was effectively a dam preventing the president’s corrupt or political pressures from crashing through and flooding the DOJ — but, as Trump’s term stretched on, that dam began to spring more and more leaks.
Berman, in his telling, was part of the dam. And according to the Times, his book provides new details on how he faced private pressure to prosecute two Trump targets in particular: former Secretary of State John Kerry and former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig. In both cases, Berman reveals a troubling pattern: Once he concluded no charges were merited, top Trump appointees working under the attorney general simply reassigned each case to another US Attorney’s office in the hope of a different outcome.”

“Despite Trump’s many efforts to bend the Justice Department to his whims, officials resisted many of his demands. None of his big targets — Clinton, Kerry, the Bidens, Comey, and McCabe — were prosecuted, and the Department largely did not assist him in his attempts to overturn the 2020 election result.

But if Trump should return to power after 2024, there’s no guarantee that resistance will continue. He would no longer need to constrain himself for reelection, and after January 6, he’s embittered against traditional Republican establishment forces he believes abandoned him.

So Trump and his team may well become more skilled at identifying and empowering true loyalists who really would act in Trump’s personal interests, defying law or tradition. Indeed, his recent legal peril will make that of paramount personal importance to him.

Furthermore, Trump allies have recently been floating a plan to purge many career government officials, including at the Justice Department and FBI, should he return to power, according to Axios’s Jonathan Swan. Trump has repeatedly argued that the Justice Department has been politicized against him, after four years of trying to politicize it against his enemies. So there’s every reason to expect he’d go much further in his second term — including to totally unprecedented places.”

Republican Nominees In 40 States Think The 2020 Election Was Stolen. Here’s Why That Matters.

“Almost 200 Republicans who are on the ballot in November 2022 believe that President Biden’s win in the 2020 election was illegitimate. But the 2020 election is over, it can’t be undone — so why is this such a big deal? If a Republican thinks the 2020 election was stolen despite multiple investigations finding no evidence of widespread voter fraud, they might not accept the results of the 2024 election, either. And if they’re elected this November, they will be in a position to influence, and potentially overturn, the next presidential election.”

When an election denier becomes an election chief

“Many of the election deniers running for secretary of state this year have spent their time talking about something they can’t do: “decertifying” the 2020 results.

The bigger question — amid concerns about whether they would fairly administer the 2024 presidential election — is exactly what powers they would have if they win in November.

Atop the list of the most disruptive things they could do is refusing to certify accurate election results — a nearly unprecedented step that would set off litigation in state and federal court. That has already played out on a smaller scale this year, when a small county in New Mexico refused to certify election results over unfounded fears about election machines, until a state court ordered them to certify.

But secretaries of states’ roles in elections stretch far beyond approving vote tallies and certifying results. Many of the candidates want to dramatically change the rules for future elections, too.

The Donald Trump-aligned Republican nominees in a number of presidential battleground states have advocated for sweeping changes to election law, with a particular focus on targeting absentee and mail voting in their states — keying off one of Trump’s obsessions.

And even if they cannot push through major changes to state law using allies in the legislatures, they could still complicate and frustrate elections through the regulatory directives that guide the day-to-day execution of election procedures by county officials in their states.”

Trump is pushing us toward the abyss

“The litany of grievances, the sense that Trump has been forever persecuted by the government, the unfounded implication that the FBI was “planting information” at his house — all of it screams victimization, that Trump is the target of a vast and shadowy conspiracy pulling the FBI’s strings.

The fact that a Truth Social user had just been radicalized by such talk — posting violent threats on the site before attempting an armed breach of an FBI building — isn’t deterring Trump at all. He is, as the political scientist Julia Azari puts it, a nationalist who has no concept of a nation; a narcissist who abuses the language of patriotism without any commitment to the underlying idea that he has some responsibility to preserve order and cohesion in the polity. In fact, he does the opposite — sowing division and stoking violent distrust if it helps him.

Perhaps Trump’s talk wouldn’t be so dangerous if the rest of the GOP would work to tamp it down. Yet it’s become excruciatingly clear in the wake of his emergence as the GOP’s standard-bearer that Republicans are not taking Trump’s transgressions and troubles as opportunities to dump him, but rather to dig in, right by his side, in similarly radical terms.”

“As it escalates, there is every chance that Trump’s supporters will become more radicalized.”

“The Department of Homeland Security has thought since at least 2020 that white nationalists are now the greatest terrorist threat to the American homeland. The odds of a greater increase in far-right terrorism, especially from disgruntled Trump supporters who have been taught to see the Biden administration as part of a tyrannical “Regime,” are rising — and will continue to rise as the broader conservative movement keeps using the virulent anti-government language of the fringe right.

The United States is at a troubling crossroads. If investigators in jurisdictions around the country drop their inquiries into Trump, they are tacitly conceding that he can break any laws without consequence prior to a near-certain 2024 presidential run — an incredibly dangerous precedent. If they continue their work, they risk stoking further unrest and civil conflict, pushing an already polarized country toward an even more dangerous form of division.

Trump and his enablers have taken the country to a very dark place. And we have every reason to believe things will get darker before the dawn.”

With Cheney’s Loss, Just 2 House Republicans Who Voted To Impeach Trump Are On The Ballot In November

“But while Cheney’s loss is particularly high-profile, it is not surprising. Of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, only two advanced to the general election, four lost their primaries and four didn’t even try to seek reelection, retiring instead.”

“That said, it’s probably not a coincidence that both Valadao and Newhouse won in states that use a top-two primary system. In that format, all voters can cast a ballot that includes every candidate, regardless of party, whereas party primaries mostly involve voters who are either registered with that party or generally back it and who are voting only for candidates from one party. Still, Valadao, the only pro-impeachment Republican running who didn’t face a Trump-endorsed challenger, barely edged out fellow Republican Chris Mathys, an ardent Trump supporter, 26 percent to 23 percent for second place in his top-two primary.1 Newhouse didn’t do much better, essentially tying with the lone Democrat in the race with 25 percent.

In fact, not a single pro-impeachment Republican captured a majority of the GOP primary vote. This amounts to an especially weak set of performances for incumbents, who in most cases easily win their primaries.”