GOP

republican vs. democrat cage match boxing ring

Buckle up, we’re in for a wild ride. Many of the serious scholars of political history and authoritarian regimes are sounding the alarm bells that, although it is a very very good thing that we got the Trump crime family out of the Oval Office, it is still a very very bad thing for America to have so rapidly tilted towards authoritarianism. How did we get here?! How has hyper partisanship escalated to the point of an attempted coup by 126 sitting Republican House Representatives? How has political polarization gotten this bad?

These are some of the resources that have helped me continue grappling with that question, and with the rapidly shifting landscape of information warfare. How can we understand this era of polarization, this age of tribalism? This outline is a work in progress, and I’m planning to keep adding to this list as the tape keeps rolling.

Right-Wing Authoritarianism

Authoritarianism is both a personality type and a form of government — it operates at both the interpersonal and the societal level. The words authoritarian and fascist are often used interchangeably, but fascism is a more specific type of authoritarianism, and far more historically recent.

America has had flavors of authoritarianism since its founding, and when fascism came along the right-wing authoritarians ate it up — and deeply wanted the United States to be a part of it. Only after they became social pariahs did they change position to support American involvement in World War II — and some persisted even after the attack of Pearl Harbor.

Scholars of authoritarianism

  • Hannah Arendt — The Origins of Totalitarianism
  • Bob Altemeyer — The Authoritarians
  • Derrida — the logic of the unconscious; performativity in the act of lying
  • ketman — Ketman is the psychological concept of concealing one’s true aims, akin to doublethink in Orwell’s 1984, that served as a central theme to Polish dissident CzesΕ‚aw MiΕ‚osz‘s book The Captive Mind about intellectual life under totalitarianism during the Communist post-WWII occupation.
  • Erich Fromm — coined the term “malignant narcissism” to describe the psychological character of the Nazis. He also wrote extensively about the mindset of the authoritarian follower in his seminal work, Escape from Freedom.
  • Eric Hoffer — his book The True Believers explores the mind of the authoritarian follower, and the appeal of losing oneself in a totalist movement
  • Fascism — elevation of the id as the source of truth; enthusiasm for political violence
  • Tyrants and dictators
  • John Dean — 3 types of authoritarian personality:
    • social dominators
    • authoritarian followers
    • double highs — social dominators who can “switch” to become followers in certain circumstances
  • Loyalty; hero worship
    • Freud = deeply distrustful of hero worship and worried that it indulged people’s needs for vertical authority. He found the archetype of the authoritarian primal father very troubling.
  • Ayn Rand
    • The Fountainhead (1943)
    • Atlas Shrugged (1957)
    • Objectivism ideology
  • Greatness Thinking; heroic individualism
  • Nietszche — will to power; the Uberman
  • Richard Hofstadter — The Paranoid Style
  • George Lakoff — moral framing; strict father morality
  • Neil Postman — Entertaining Ourselves to Death
  • Anti-Intellectualism
  • Can be disguised as hyper-rationalism (Communism)
  • More authoritarianism books
Continue reading Hyper Partisanship: How to understand American politics today
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The Council for National Policy is a conservative organization founded in 1981 by far-right Republican activists in the U.S. including Paul Weyrich, Richard Viguerie, Phyllis Schlafly, and Tim LaHaye to advance a Christian Right agenda in American politics.

Today, the CNP is enormously influential on the right and almost unknown on the left. Its secretive cabal designs policy for federal and state lawmakers to amplify or parrot, and they dutifully do. Members include a who’s who of the Trumpian rogue gallery, from Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway to Mike Pence, Jim Jordan, Cleta Mitchell, and of course, Ginni Thomas.

The CNP gave Mike Flynn an annual award. Then-President Trump spoke at their 2020 annual meeting. That tells you pretty much all you need to know about how dangerous and well-connected this organization is, and how great is the extent of the group’s influence on American politics — and it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Columbia University scholar Anne Nelson describes the primary impact of the group as β€œconnecting the manpower and media of the Christian right with the finances of Western plutocrats and the strategy of right-wing Republican political operatives” in her excellent book, Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right.

CNP and the Big Lie

They go to great lengths to conceal their activities, membership rosters, and connections within the corridors of Washington as well as in state legislatures and the judiciary. For more than 40 years the CNP has united the deep pocketbooks of right-wing donors with strategists, media campaigns, and activists. The group was deeply involved in both the efforts to overturn the 2020 election, leading up to and including the January 6 insurrection — from funding and planning to propaganda and “legal” challenges.

The CNP continues to press its narrow, historically revisionist ideas about America, including efforts to influence the 2022 midterm elections and, undoubtedly, the 2024 contest. In the quest to understand this fractious moment of bitter partisanship, the Council for National Policy is one of the secret keys to unlocking the true inner workings of the right-wing political machine.

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The Big Lie about the 2020 Election was hardly the first or even the Biggest of the Big Lies in American history — fomented in vast majority by the right wing. Call it a personality trait, an ideology, or perhaps a financial preference — but Republicans seem to lean towards the disingenuous end of the truth scale.

What are Big Lies?

A Big Lie refers to a propaganda technique that involves repeating a falsehood or exaggeration so frequently and convincingly that people begin to accept it as truth. The term was popularized by Adolf Hitler in his book Mein Kampf, where he wrote that propaganda must be based on a “big lie” because people are counterintuitively more likely to believe a colossal falsehood than a small one because of its sheer audacity.

The technique of the Big Lie is often used by authoritarian leaders, political parties, and movements to manipulate public opinion and gain power. It relies on the psychological phenomenon known as the “illusory truth effect,” which suggests that people are more likely to believe something if they hear it repeatedly. Ironically, even a debunking of the Big Lie can contribute to the illusory truth effect by keeping the content of the falsehood top of mind in the eye of the believer.

Examples of Big Lies

Examples of the Big Lie include the claim that the 2020 US presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, the false assertion that vaccines cause autism, and the Nazi propaganda (blood libel and global cabal theory, among other hateful ideologies) that blamed Germany’s problems on the Jewish people, scapegoating them unfairly and setting up a justification for the horrific murder at scale known as the Holocaust.

The danger of the Big Lie is that it can lead to widespread disinformation, polarization and hyper partisanship, and even violence. It is essential to fact-check claims and resist the impulse to accept information at face value. Instead, critical thinking, fact-checking, and seeking out multiple sources of information can help individuals and society avoid falling prey to the Big Lie.

The following table is a compendium of GOP Big Lies known so far.

MythDefinition
"Antifa did it"This is a pre-planned "reusable" false narrative for right-wing extremist actions. It's a ready-made "false false flag" conspiracy for repeated deployment as white supremacists and homegrown extremists ratchet up the level of political violence.
"government overreach"When Democrats pass a law that Republicans don't like
"Makers and takers"
"National security party"
"Quality" of votes
2nd Amendment"We can't do anything about guns because 2A" (and also because NRA) + "Democrats are coming to take our guns!"
Abu Ghraib
American DreamThey inverted it away from a sense of social justice and equal opportunity (self-governance) to simply embody the venal pursuit of money.
America FirstInvoked by right-wing propaganda campaigns over the past century, starting with Charles Lindbergh in 1939 through to Reagan (1980s), and again with lazy plagiarizing Donnie
American Exceptionalism
Anti-gay
Anti-immigrant
Anti-TaxWhat do you get for the billionaire who has everything? Tax policy.
Be Best
Black and white thinkingLabel anything slightly left of center as socialism or Communism
Blacks are commies
Cancel culture
Christian nationalism
Cities are bad
Climate change is a hoax
Coastal elites
Communists
Confederate statues
Conscience voters
Corporate liberalsAnti-Semitic throwback with a modern twist
Covid is a hoax; covid is overblown
Covid is no big deal
Crime
crisis actor
Critical Race Theory
Cry more, lib
Democrats are Satanic
Drain the SwampRather than rid Washington of its layers of corrupt supplicants as he had promised on the campaign trail, he invited all of his cronies in to benefit from the greatest expansion of corrupt graft under any President we know of thus far.
Economic superiority
Election integrityVoter suppression
elites should rule others
Elite resentment
Enemy of the people
Flawed savior
Free speech
Freedom of religion
George SorosHungarian billionaire whose liberal politics irritate Vladimir Putin.
Government is the enemyThe Reagan-flavored twist on drowning government in the bathtub
Government spendingBlack and white thinking: "all govt spending is bad" (except military)
Great Man theory
Guantanamo Bay
Heroic redeemerThis singular leader who saves the nation has a mystical connection with his people and takes the nation out of all time
HollywoodPart of an "excuse framework" to ignore or dismiss something, by smearing it with vague "Hollywoodness." A cue to tune out and discredit the source. Prominent in the Qanon ideology.
Identity politicsThe right are the ones who often insist on identity politics...
Insults
Jim Crow
Job creatorsRepublicans claim their system of trickle down economics produces jobs and growth, but it inhibits both as compared to a less extreme approach.
Kyle Rittenhouse deification
Law and order"White people should fear Black people, and support other white people who fear Black people (or brown, or women, or gays, or trans, or immigrants, whatever is the hatred du jour)"
Leftist apocalypse
LiberalsIt's like Russia recycled the Greatest Hits of Cold War Lingo and piped it in through every orifice starting (at least) during the 2016 election cycle.
Lost CauseAn American mythology manufactured after the Civil War by the Confederates, to soothe their wounds from the loss and whitewash the role of slavery in fomenting their sedition. In the Reconstruction era and beyond, the retcon held that "states' rights" had animated the southern states to secede from the union when in fact, the bitter contest had been inarguably about whether or not the peculiar institution was to continue in the new nation.
MAGA
Marxism
minority rule
Mueller Report
MuzzledSaying "I'm muzzled!" means "I can't talk openly about how much I hate certain types of people!"
National debtSuddenly out of nowhere (aka, when a Democrat comes to town), the national debt is a pressing problem.
Nostalgiathe role of nostalgia in fascist politics is to harness people's strong emotions to the central tenets of the ideology:* authoritarianism* hierarchy* purity* struggle
Personal responsibility
Poll taxes
Pro-life
QAnon
Racism"We're not racists and it's racist to call us racist, you racist."
Reaganomics
Refuse to recognize the legitimacy of one's opponentQuestion the use of legitimate authority for spurious or unsubstantiated allegations, to create the appearance of impropriety even if there is none.
Religious freedom
Run the country like a business
Sadism
silent majorityLoudly extremist minority
small government1) Grab resources 2) Privatize government functions 3) Cheat 4) Crime
Social Justice Warriors
SocialismAnything Democrats do or want to do is socialist and/or communist
States' rightsA dog whistle for first whitewashing the reasons for the Civil War, and later to rationalize defense of segregation
The Big Lie
The Civil War wasn't about slavery
The New Deal was bad for America
The Swamp...corruption?!
Trickle down economics
Trump "says it like it is"They mean that he agrees with them about saying the racist, sexist, or X-ist quiet parts out loud
Uberman
Venezuelaa dog whistle for socialism
Voting is a privilege, not a right
War on Christmas
Warmongers
Welfare queens
WMDs
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The American Founders, by me and Midjourney

The Founders meant for the republic to be agile in philosophy — always changing to meet the new demands of the next generations. They meant for us to be self-governing, and empowered to create policy for problem-solving in new eras they themselves could not even conceive of. Thomas Jefferson wrote forewarningly of the Dead Hand of the Past and how critical it would be to not remain trapped by it. The Founders were agile not in the sense of software development (obviously!), but in the same spirit: they embraced responding to change over following a plan, and in continuously uncovering ways to develop a more perfect union.

Conservative ideology on the other hand — and in particular, Originalism — flouts the actual intentions of the Framers while cloaking itself in nationalist symbology. It tries to claim that our modern hands are tied by the dead ones of the past. The Originalist doctrine currently holding sway at The Supreme Court, The Federalist Society, and the majority of right-wing judiciary maintains that the best we can do is peer feebly into the distant past and try our best to squeeze ourselves into the minds of the men who inked our Constitution some 235 years ago.

The Founders wrote things. A lot of things.

Leaving aside for a moment the impracticality of that theory as an actual practice of interpreting the law, some consideration of materials on hand shows us that we needn’t go to all that trouble in the first place — why? Because the Founders left a lot of writings behind about exactly what they meant, and the principles they were thinking about, at the time of the nation’s founding and the drafting of our Constitution.

Continue reading The Founders were agile
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The Republican National Committee, in perhaps the most stunningly stupid self-own in the history of modern politics certainly in my lifetime, finally said the quietest part out loud: that in their official pronouncement, the events at the Capitol on January 6 constituted “legitimate political discourse.” Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger were censured by the RNC in the statement as well, for their role on the January 6 Committee and their investigation into these “legitimate” events involving a murderous attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power.

Yale historian Joanne Freeman had this to say about the RNC statement:

Democracy vs. Authoritarianism is on the ballot in 2022

If there’s any upside to the dark situation we’re in, it’s these gifts Republicans keep on giving — further debasing themselves each time you think they can’t possibly stoop any morally lower — that we can use to our advantage to turn out our base in record numbers in these upcoming midterms. We did it in 2018, and there’s no reason to believe we can’t do it now. Trump’s support is waning, not growing — and the fractures within the GOP are widening, not tightening. Plus, we’ll have 8 million new 18-year-old eligible voters we can potentially reach — the vast majority of whom statistically speaking, are going to be progressive Democrats.

None of the other policy questions or culture wars will matter if we cannot solve the most fundamental question at the heart of our democracy: do we still believe in the ideals of the Constitution, the rule of law, and the vision of a self-governing people shared by the Founders? Or do we want to hand over the keys to the nation to the erstwhile billionaires, old money heirs, and trust fund playboys who want to drag us back to some perverted nostalgic fantasyland that’s part Leave It To Beaver, part wild west, and part Silence of the Lambs?

Do we want democracy, or authoritarianism?

Do we want to choose our leaders, as citizens — or do we want politicians to choose our leaders?

It’s the only question in 2022.

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Bootlicker Kevin McCarthy showboated his way through an evening of scorn and ridicule for his audience of one: Herr Trump. His sad evening comedy routine for the “just joking!” crowd was an act of political theater given no votes in his caucus were ever in danger of voting for the bill, thus no need to persuade them. McCarthy’s speech sparked jeers and heckles from the chamber itself as well as the wider outside world, as tweets poured forth from inside and out of the Capitol.

Fortunately, the GOP Leader failed to stop Biden’s Build Back Better plan while gifting the Democrats with a healthy dose of both comedy gold and some irresistable mid-term slogans:

Continue reading McCarthy’s speech stunt gives gift of Democratic midterm slogans
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The articles of impeachment 2021 are so much clearer and simpler than last year’s impeachment — it’s the Marie Kondo version of indicting the president’s conduct. His coup attempt most certainly did not spark joy!

At least, not to the patriots who defended the United States Capitol from invasion on January 6, several of whom lost their lives including Brian Sicknick who lied in honor last week, as well as 2 Capitol Police officers who took their own lives subsequent to the events of that darkest of days in American history.

That is why it is important to both get the memory of that day seared into the historical record, and continue good faith efforts to seek justice for the trauma inflicted upon the nation by its supposed guardian. The House impeachment managers are doing an incredible job evoking both the clarity of the law pointing to his guilt, and the emotional gravity of what Republican House #3 leader Liz Cheney referred to as the “gravest violation of his oath of office by any president in the history of the country.”

He’s guilty

He said he would do it, and he did it — Trump refused to accept the results of a free and fair election, convinced his supporters it was stolen from him (and them), and that they had to “fight like hell” to “take their country back.” And yet Republicans want to claim that he could have had no idea what they would do, and that the whole thing was “obviously” an innocent misunderstanding and a “boys will be boys” sort of thing.

Nonsense — his droogs Mike Lindell, Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, and of course his royal brood were involved in planning this, along with multiple sitting members of Congress, some of whom spoke at the “Save America” rally at The Ellipse. Rally organizer Ali Alexander fingerprinted Reps Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama as his co-conspirators in the endeavor.

They made sure security was intentionally lax by decapitating the defense apparatus during the lame duck period, and installing a bunch of loyalist partisan hacks into “acting” positions of power who were pliable or even eager to do the president’s ill bidding.

Free Speech does not protect the abuse of public trust

Trump’s lawyers filed a brief indicating a First Amendment defense for their client, which former acting Attorney General Peter D. Keisler ripped to shreds in a scathing essay. Free Speech does not give you a license to be incompetent at your job, and the Trump’s failure to secure the Capitol during a violent insurrection was a dereliction of duty of the highest order — even if he hadn’t been involved in sowing it, planning it, funding it, promoting it, hosting it, and encouraging it.

1A also does not give you the right to use words to plan criminal activities, because that would be absurd. It would essentially render all law meaningless as a deterrent, so long as you only ever give orders to someone else to carry out your dirty work indirectly vs. getting your own hands dirty.

His conduct is not defensible

Republicans are trying to squirm away on procedural grounds so they can remain cowardly supplicants to the tyrant they love or fear, or both. They do not want to have to confront the reality of Trump’s abhorrent and unforgivable behavior on January 6, their role in enabling it, and their continued role in undermining small d democracy in this nation.

There is no defense of Trump’s behavior, but the GOP wants to pretend it has a mere technical disagreement with a document’s language as an excuse to not put themselves on record for the more serious and obvious hypocrisy of giving egregiously anti-American behavior a pass — it’s like a plea bargain of sorts.

He cannot hold public office

Breaching the public’s trust is grounds for disqualification from holding future office. Why should a free people suffer the tyranny of one who abrogates duty and holds in contempt an oath they swore, as if words have no meaning? Which, in essence, is the argument of Mr Textually from day 1 of the Trump impeachment trial.

The idea that a former official cannot be impeached is baseless, because the provision of preventing them from holding future office is enumerated in the Constitution to explicitly explain the rationale. And if ever there were a case of clear unfitness for duty, it is before the Senate right now.

Acquittal nullifies impeachment power altogether

If fomenting an armed insurrection to stay in office when you lose a democratic election is not an abuse of power, I really don’t know what is. If throwing out the will of the people and keeping yourself in power by force is not a violation of the oath of office, then oaths are worthless and there’s no point in speaking them anymore. They will have become dead sea scrolls, in a language dead to us and on a parchment too brittle for continued use.

Let us not throw out the Constitution while professing to save it. Senators know better, and they know that We the People — and not their ever-shrinking base — know they know it as well. The game theory is on our side as the timeline keeps ticking away.

Senators should vote to convict, for what is most certainly the highest presidential crime ever committed in the history of this nation. To preserve this republic, if we can keep it, Congress must hold him accountable for his behavior and apply consequences for defiling the founding principles of America.

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Is it possible the Condorcet jury theorem provides not just a mathematical basis for democracy and the justice system, but a model predictor of one’s political persuasion as well?

If you’re an optimist, you have no trouble believing that p > 1/2. You give people the benefit of the doubt that they will try their best and most often, succeed in tipping over the average even if just by a hair. That’s all it takes for the theorem to prove true: that the larger the number of voters, the closer the group gets to making the “correct” decision 100% of the time.

On the other hand, if you’re a pessimist, you might quibble with that — saying that people are low-information voters who you don’t think very highly of, and don’t find very capable. You might say that people will mostly get it wrong, in which case p < 1/2 and the theory feedback loops all the way in the other direction, to where the optimal number of voters is 1: the autocrat.

A political sorting hat of sorts

Optimists will tend to believe in the power of people to self-govern and to act out of compassion a fair amount of the time, thus leaning to the left: to the Democrats, social democrats, socialists, and the alt-Left. Pessimists will tend to favor a smaller, tighter cadre of wealthy elite rulers — often, such as themselves. They might be found in the GOP, Tea Party, Freedom Caucus, Libertarian, paleoconservative, John Birch Society, Kochtopus, anarcho-capitalist, alt-Right, and other right-wing groups including the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and other white militia groups around the country.

Granted the model is crude, but so was the original theorem — what is the “correct” choice in a political contest? Or does the Condorcet jury theorem imply that, like becoming Neo, whatever the majority chooses will by definition be The Right One for the job? πŸ€”

…if so, we definitively have the wrong President.

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