Forever Trump?

On Monday, in a joint statement, Georgia Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue called on their state’s secretary of state to resign, arguing that there have been “too many failures in Georgia elections this year and the most recent election has shined a national light on the problems.”

The public denunciation and request for termination was remarkable for a couple of reasons. Not only did the senators fail to provide specific evidence supporting their claims, but Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, is a fellow Republican.

There certainly has been some electoral drama in Georgia over the past week, but not so much with the voting process. Sure, like everywhere else in the country, huge turnout amounted to long lines and a few problems at individual polling places, but it was nothing of particular note or consequence.

The real drama has been political. Georgia is a traditionally red state, but President Trump lost there by over 12,000 votes (they’re still being counted, but Trump’s loss is only widening). Additionally, while the Republican Senate candidates (which included both Loeffler and Perdue) outperformed their Democratic opponents (and also Trump), none of them reached Georgia’s 50% threshold required to win. Thus, there will be a runoff election in January, where the Republican incumbents will face their individual Democratic opponents in one-on-one contests, with a majority in the U.S. Senate on the line.

“Georgians are outraged,” Loeffler and Perdue included in their statement, and on that they’re right… at least among those who really wanted Trump to remain president. But without evidence pointing to these alleged “many failures” supposedly attributable to Raffensperger, it’s pretty clear that the angst is coming from the efforts of President Trump (along with his toadies in the conservative media) who has been doing everything he can to stoke doubt in the election results (something he’s been doing since even before election night), by alleging mass corruption.

Unfortunately, Trump’s endeavor has been rhetorically effective not only in Georgia, but throughout the country. In fact, new polling suggests that 7 out of 10 Republicans voters believe the election was not free and fair.

To be clear, voting problems occur in every election. So does voter fraud, to a very small extent. Yet, as conservative commentator Erick Erickson pointed out the other day, it almost never rises to the level of affecting the outcomes of even very local races, and there hasn’t been evidence of anything unique or systemic in this year’s election.

Back to Georgia…

Anger and distrust without evidence of wrongdoing isn’t grounds for a state’s highest-ranking election official to resign. Such sentiment apparently is grounds, however, for two GOP incumbent senators scoring points with President Trump, and throwing one of their own to the MAGA wolves in hopes of it generating an extra bump for them in the runoff election.

One would think that once Trump is gone from office (early next year), a lot of these tasteless, tribal political stunts would fall by the wayside. It stands to reason that Republican leaders who’ve debased themselves for the president’s ego, political standing, and tribal lock on the party for the past four years would rediscover some independence, and perhaps even return to some of the prior ideological principles that got them elected in the first place. But a recent (and sobering) interview with former RNC chairman and White House Chief of Staff for Donald Trump, Reince Priebus, suggests otherwise.

Speaking to The Dispatch’s Stephen Hayes on Monday, Priebus made no bones about the GOP remaining beholden to Donald Trump, even after the president has left office.

“I think, in the near future, Republican leadership is going to have to be Trump acceptable,” said Priebus. “In other words, there is not going to be immediate leadership within the Republican party that Donald Trump doesn’t find to be an acceptable person to be a leader of a particular… whether it be the Senate, the House… They have to be acceptable to Donald Trump if they’re going to be able to survive in this Republican party.”

Priebus qualified his remarks by pointing out how popular Trump is within the party, despite many Republicans, who ran for congress this year, outperforming Trump on the ballot.

When pressed by Hayes to define what the Republican Party currently stands for, beyond deference to Trump, Priebus had some trouble iterating a vision, ultimately settling on past GOP tenets like “limited government” and “morals.” Hayes rightly pushed back on the narrative, citing Trump-era spending levels ($7 trillion added to the national debt) and the extensive moral allowances Republicans have made for the president.

On the issue of the national debt, and how it was the driving force behind much of the GOP’s efforts against President Obama over eight years (before completely disappearing under Trump), Preibus made a glaring — I would say astonishing — admission.

“On both sides of the aisle, it’s a big lie,” said Preibus, referring to concerns over the national debt. “People don’t want to tackle debt and deficits, because they really don’t want to tackle Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. You know that. Everyone in congress says, ‘Oh we’re going to get rid of the debt. We’re going to get rid of the deficit.’ It’s been going on since I was a teenager, we’ve been talking about this… No one wants to get serious about it, because they really don’t want to do what you actually have to do to get that kind of spending curve under control. It isn’t going to happen. It will happen when things get so bad that no one’s going to know what to do about it.”

Preibus alluded to that event being a debt crisis, which he described as inevitable. He even went as far as saying that the elected representatives who’ve sounded the alarm on the national debt (a Tea Party fueled, GOP war cry during the Obama years that earned the GOP a ton of congressional seats) are basically full of crap.

“I find it to be the most insincere, hypocritical, commentary… from politics in general… I don’t think there are three or four people that actually believe it enough to do anything about it. Believing it, and doing something are two different things. I think we’re going to face a major problem in the country in 20 years.”

Preibus did concede that one of the very few people who actually did believe in what he was saying about spending and the debt, and risked a lot of political capital to actually do something about it, was Paul Ryan.

Ryan, as we all know, was essentially chased out of the Republican party for not being sufficiently loyal to President Trump.

In summary, if one is to believe what Preibus says, the GOP has effectively washed its hands of any premise of fiscal responsibility, and Republican voters just need to accept that. Also (as has been further demonstrated by the conduct of people like Loeffler and Perdue), the party’s leadership, for the foreseeable future, is completely reliant on (and must remain loyal to) the instincts and ego of a single individual who won’t even be in public office in a little over two months.

If Trumpism truly is the path forward for Republicans, even after Donald Trump was decisively voted out of office last week, I can’t think of a more abysmal testament to the glaring weaknesses, spinelessness, and lack of vision of the Grand Old Party.

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Why Some Conservatives Are Harder on the Right Than the Left

On occasion, readers have asked me why — these days — I tend to criticize people on the Right (aka people on “my side”) more often than I do people on the Left. Some find it puzzling, being that I have long written from a conservative point of view, including hundreds of stiff critiques of President Obama and his administration from 2011 (when I joined this website) to early 2017 (when Obama left office).

Of course, I haven’t stopped criticizing liberals and liberalism in the Trump era (not by any stretch of the imagination), as evidenced by my writings here, on other websites, and on social media (primarily Twitter). But yes, I have been harder on my fellow righties over the past three years or so, and I believe for good reason.

It’s not because I’ve suddenly become more liberal (a lazy accusation I often hear from Trump enthusiasts). On the contrary… My political positions haven’t changed one iota since the Obama years. The same can’t be said, however, for a lot of people on “my side,” who’ve had an awfully hard time figuring out that their conversion to Trumpism has made them far more liberal than they used to be.

Let me be clear: I’m a conservative, not a Trumpist. My views are decidedly to the right of most of those calling me a liberal.

So what’s the explanation? Why do I spend so much time taking “my side” to task? Well, that brings me to the point of this brief column, and why I chose to publish it today…

This morning, I stumbled across a long Tweet thread by a guy I follow on Twitter. His name is Neville, and he uses the handle “ConservativeBlackMan.” I noticed a while back that we share many views on (and frustrations over) today’s political landscape. And like me, Neville receives questions on why he’s harder on his side than the other side.

He addressed those questions last night. His explanation was thorough, thoughtful, and quite representative of mine. So I figured his post was worth sharing with the rest of you. Enjoy:

And in trademark Neville fashion, he includes some humor.

Hopefully Neville has helped explain some things for some of you. I’d be happy to discuss this topic further in the comment section below, if anyone’s interested.

The Remarkable Forgiveness of Trumpism… Sometimes

Many on the Left have long cast Republicans and conservatives as an unforgiving bunch — intolerant naysayers who resist change, and have little patience for those who hold opposing views. It’s a theme that’s been bolstered by the mainstream media and Hollywood for decades, and though the generalization isn’t particularly fair, there has been a self-fulfilling element to it.

Over time, the Right has become increasingly resentful of the narrative and those who fuel it, which is understandable. And after years of being on the defensive over daily accusations of bigotry and holding anti-Science views, many have found refuge in a populist movement that formed during the 2016 election, which centered around Donald Trump’s campaign.

Trump’s political revolution (often referred to these days as Trumpism) targeted the excessive and often paralyzing taboos of political correctness. It was never about a common set of principles, but rather cultural grievances. And without guiding principles to maintain it, a political movement can only be kept together by a charismatic leader and a shared attitude, aka tribalism.

President Trump didn’t create the sentiment that led to where we are, but he certainly harnessed it, and has managed to maintain it (with the unwitting help of his most deranged detractors).

What’s particularly fascinating is that while tribal politics are exclusionary by nature (just ask a conservative Trump-skeptic how many times he or she has been called a “libtard”), it’s astonishingly easy to fall into the good graces of Trumpism. All you have to do is flatter Trump in a meaningful way, or go to bat for his team. When that happens, all of your past sins are immediately forgiven, even if you were previously a sworn enemy or vile detractor of the American Right.

For example, I still find it amazing that WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, has become a darling of the Republican base. It was just eight years ago that that same base believed Assange to be an international villain — an anti-American fiend whose online publishing of secret diplomatic cables had put American lives at risk. Fox News host Sean Hannity even said at the time that Assange was “waging war against the U.S.,” and called on the Obama administration to arrest him.

But in 2016, when Assange started publishing documents that were harmful to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign (and thus helpful to Donald Trump’s), all was miraculously forgiven. Assange suddenly became a beacon of truth and a pursuer of justice. Despite the belief that Assange had been working in accordance with  governments that were hostile to America, the one and only Sean Hannity turned into one of WikiLeaks’ biggest proponents and publicists. Hannity even invited Assange onto his show (via satellite), where he lavished him with praise and expressed his wishes for Assange’s freedom (Assange had been taking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid sexual assault charges by Swedish authorities).

Roseanne Barr is another individual who has become an unlikely hero of today’s Republican base, not just for her personal support of President Trump, but for the unabashed support lent by the iconic character she portrays on “Roseanne,” the popular sitcom from the 80s and 90s that was rebooted earlier this year.

If you’ll recall, this is the same Roseanne Barr who once wrapped up a public screeching of the National Anthem at a baseball game by grabbing her crotch and spitting on the ground. Years later, she posed (at her request) for pictures in a Jewish satirical magazine, dressed as Hitler and pulling burnt gingerbread cookies (shaped like people) out of an oven — a stunt that earned her multiple condemnations from Fox News commentators. In 2011, Barr said she’d slap Sarah Palin. And in 2014, while touting abortion rights and arguing that Republicans defend private schools because they “love” racial segregation, Barr blamed Ronald Reagan for 9/11, claiming that the terrorist attacks were the direct result of Reagan’s busting of the Air Traffic Controllers union.

Barr, in fact, has a long (and even recent) history of attacking Republicans and conservatives with highly incendiary charges, but her recent support of the Trump administration has managed to earn her a special place in the hearts of the Right. Sean Hannity even recently offered Barr the hosting chair on his Fox News show for a night.

The latest unlikely sweetheart of the Modern Right has been singer/entertainer, Kanye West.

Yes, we’re talking about the same Kanye West who famously declared, during a Hurricane Katrina benefit concert, that Republican President George W. Bush “doesn’t care about black people.” This is the same Kanye West who has compared himself to God and Jesus, to the anger of social conservatives, countless times. This is the same Kanye West who donated thousands of dollars to (and even endorsed) Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign against Donald Trump.

But West surprised some people shortly after the 2016 election, when he told a live audience that he hadn’t voted for anyone that year, and that if he had, he would have voted for Donald Trump. The remark generated boos from concert goers, but it earned West a meeting with President-elect Trump, at Trump Towers.

For the next year and a half, West didn’t weigh in much on politics, even taking a long hiatus from social media. He recently returned, however, surprising a number of people by expressing support for Candace Owens, a conservative black commentator and fervent Trump supporter.

Soon after, West began tweeting video-commentary from Scott Adams, the creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip, and a consummate Trump explainer/defender. And over the past couple of days, in radio interviews and on social media, West has been saying, without apology, that he “loves” President Trump.

Unsurprisingly, the Trump base has been loving the new Kanye. Numerous media-conservatives have lavished praise upon the entertainer for being an “independent thinker.” Fox News’s Jesse Watters even went as far as to call West a “modern day philosopher” the other day. Meanwhile, liberal commentators and longtime fans have been going a bit ballistic over the transformation, portraying West as a sell-out.

Now, in case my point isn’t clear, let me assure you that I couldn’t care less about the evolving political views of people like Kanye West and Roseanne Barr. I don’t care which politicians they like, and which ones they don’t like. I don’t think celebrities (whether they be liberal, conservative, or somewhere in-between) have an inherent political wisdom that the rest of us don’t. In fact, I usually tend to think just the opposite.

But it’s remarkable to observe just how cheap of a date the Right has become (especially after years of the base demanding conservative purity within its ranks). In the absence of guiding principles, whether one is embraced or rejected by the base is now largely determined by that person’s sentiments toward a single individual: Donald Trump.

If those sentiments are good, you’re good. Any past issues are immediately forgiven and forgotten. If those sentiments are not so good (even if you subscribe to Trump’s party’s platform), well, you might as well just join the Democrats… and don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out!

Believe me, I know a little something about this.

This mindset is not a celebration of “independent thinking.” It’s a celebration of fandom.

And it’s not just the Right, of course. As we were recently reminded with the disgusting treatment of country singer Shania Twain (simply for expressing support for President Trump), the Left uses the same litmus test… over the same individual (just in reverse).

Team-sports politics are in full force, folks. And the rules of game are increasingly shallow and stupid.