Links and Comments 19 Feb 2021

Voter suppression; extremist behavior; “people are asking”; lack of predators; just world theory; covid revisionism; QAnon and Book of Revelations; radical women politicians; lousy tippers.

The state of conservative politics. Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin: Opinion: Republicans are in the business of subtraction.

The GOP’s “solution” to losing the House, Senate and presidency is the same it has been for a decade or so: voter suppression. As the party becomes even more unpopular, and as election turnout improves, Republicans will become even more frantic to stop people from voting. I suppose it is on-brand for a party that embraces a cult-like leader, relies on a right-wing media to create a fact-free environment and perpetrates the notions that White Christians are under assault. It is only natural that a party that caters to white supremacists in a multiracial society must turn against democracy itself.


Washington Post, Brian Klaas: Opinion: Restoring sanity to the GOP will take years. Here’s how to start.

On May 24, 2017, a Republican candidate for Congress assaulted a journalist. He grabbed the reporter’s neck with both hands, slammed him to the ground and began punching him. What did the journalist do to provoke the attack? He had asked the candidate a question about his position on health-care reform. The candidate — who initially lied about the attack — was arrested. He ultimately pleaded guilty to assault.

What happened next illustrates the core problem with the modern, Trumpified Republican Party. The candidate who performed the assault was elected in the 2017 special election, reelected in 2018, and is now Montana’s governor. His name is Greg Gianforte.

Gianforte’s ascent tells you everything you need to know about today’s Republican Party. Disqualifying, extremist behavior isn’t just tolerated in the modern GOP — it’s encouraged. If America is going to have a functioning center-right party — and it sorely needs one for democracy to survive — then Republicans need to find a way to stop rewarding violent thugs, crackpot conspiracists, and those who troll Democrats on social media rather than solving problems.


The Week, Bonnie Kristian: The populists’ slipperiest lie.

This slipperiness has become a hallmark of modern discourse, especially online and among the populist, Trumpy right. There’s a deliberate ambiguity and innuendo, a way of dancing around statements, a feint-disengage, an incessant “not really, but seriously … ” “I’m just asking questions.” “I’m just joking.” “I don’t know, hahaha! But actually …” It’s frustrating, trollish — intentionally so. And perhaps the most powerful troll of all is the old populist lie: “A lot of people are asking.”

The problem with this use of “people are asking” is it’s a lie. It’s not a surface-level lie, because Metaxas and the senators are in the barest sense correct: Many people are making these allegations and, as Metaxas oddly admits, doing so in ignorance, willful or otherwise.

No, the lie is in the assumption that the popularity of the allegation tells us anything about its truth. That’s nonsense.


NYT, Thomas L. Friedman: What Trump, San Francisco and the Deer in My Backyard Have in Common, subtitled “Democracy depends on understanding the connection.”

The connection is that deer, in urban settings; the San Francisco Board of Education; and Donald T****, have no predators.

My deer and San Francisco’s school board are local problems. The fact that one of our two national parties would stick with a leader who dispatched a mob to ransack the Capitol in hopes of overturning our last election is an acute national problem — a cancer, in fact. And like any cancer, the required treatment is going to be painful for the patient.


Slate: The Theory That Explains How Senate Republicans Justify Acquitting Trump

If we look at the place in the narrative where the hole is, for voters the flaw is not, “This happened. This was violent. You could have been killed.” The flaw, the missing piece narratively, is why did this occur? What caused this to happen? And when we look at deeply conservative people, people who are at their core ideologically conservative, there are certain psychological underpinnings to their thought structure that we have to contend with. One is many of them are adherents to a “just world theory.” In short, just world theory says good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. And there needs to be some explanation, some underlying vindication and rightness and order.

Of course, “just world theory” is magical thinking, as psychologists have been explaining for decades now. It’s a simplification of the real, random world, into a neat one where “everything happens for a reason.”

So if, for example, people are struggling to make ends meet economically, it needs to be the case that they have somehow done something wrong, because otherwise we’d have to believe in reality. We’d have to believe that we live in a society in which people are systematically barred from well-being based upon their color, based upon their accent, based upon their gender, which is in fact true. But if you believe unconsciously in a just world theory, that can’t be the case, because that would not be a just world. And your material wealth, your material well-being would be nothing more than what it is, which is a product of winning the womb lottery. And it wouldn’t be about you and your goodness.


Washington Post, Paul Waldman: Opinion: Beware the GOP’s coming covid revisionism

You can already see the shape of that disagreement in the way Republicans are revising recent history. To summarize, this is the argument they’ll make in the coming years:

  • Trump did a great job on the pandemic.
  • Whatever success President Biden has in cleaning up the mess Trump made only proves that the pandemic was no big deal in the first place.
  • The damage the economy suffered was not because of the pandemic itself but because of Democratic politicians who overreacted to it.
  • Republican officials who denied, minimized and politicized the threat of the virus are the real heroes.

Motivated thinking. The more examples I see like this, increases my distrust of history.


Bill Maher: Bill Maher: It Makes Perfect Sense That Christians Are Into QAnon (Video)

“It’s fun to laugh at QAnon with the baby-eating lizard people and the pedophile pizza parlors, but have you ever read the Book of Revelations? That’s the Bible, that’s your holy book, Christians, and they’ve got… stuff you only see after the guy in the park sells you bad mushrooms,” he joked.


NYT, Jennifer Senior: The Women Who Paved the Way for Marjorie Taylor Greene, subtitled “She’s the latest descendant in a lineage of Republican women who embrace a boffo radicalism.”

Marsha Blackburn, Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin.


Slate: The Lousy Tippers of the Trump Administration, subtitled: “They were exhausting, impossible, stingy, and cruel, just like at their day jobs.”

Is this verging on ad hominem? Or is it revealing the kind of personalities attracted to right-wing, authoritarian politics? I think the latter. Written by a waitress at a DC restaurant. One example of many:

The perma-scowling almost-billionaire Wilbur Ross, Trump’s commerce secretary, became a regular despite what always seemed to be a vibe of great displeasure enveloping his presence when I approached his table. He ordered the cheapest wine on the by-the-glass list and didn’t tip more than 14 percent, no matter how often you topped him off without charging.

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