Recurring Themes

Not enough time to write a review this afternoon, so I’ll just post a few links about current events.

NY Times, Charles M. Blow, 4 Jan 2023: The Burn-It-All-Down Republican Caucus

The party’s thoroughly embarrassing inability to choose a speaker of the House after multiple attempts is a crisis of its own creation. Since at least the Barack Obama years, the Republican Party has seen a strengthening of its right flanks, one whose mission was not to produce policy but to prevent progress, one whose tactic was destruction rather than diplomacy.

As I’ve been saying: “not to produce policy but to prevent progress… destruction rather than diplomacy.”


Le Monde (France), 3 Jan 2023: US: Republicans are being crushed by the party’s ideological breakdown, subtitled “Since 2016, when the Grand Old Party’s last official platform was released, it has repudiated its former beliefs, igniting a culture war that is likely to result in electoral setbacks.”

But Le Monde forbids reproduction of its article without express permission, as it told me when I tried to copy and paste a portion of this one into my blog. So no quote. The point in mentioning it anyway is that most Americans are oblivious to the fact that the rest of the world it watching the antics in the US and shaking their heads, wondering whatever happened to the supposed leader of the free world.


Salon, Brett Wilkins, 5 Jan 2023: House GOP’s top priority if they ever get a speaker? Protect wealthy tax dodgers, subtitled “Watchdog group warns GOP trying to ‘protect their rich tax cheat friends from paying taxes they owe'”

As I said yesterday. Of course, the bill is named as if it is families and small businesses that are being abused by the IRS. Do people believe this? Republicans have had it in for the IRS ever since Ronald Reagan expressed sympathy for cheating on taxes, having apparently gotten into trouble with the IRS during his Hollywood years.

Republicans began their control of the 118th Congress Tuesday with a narrow majority that failed six times to elect a speaker but had in hand “hit-the-ground-running” plans to pass legislation that critics say will “protect wealthy and corporate tax cheats” by rescinding tens of billions of dollars in new Internal Revenue Service funding in the Inflation Reduction Act.

On Monday, Steve Scalise, R-La., a party leader, said that the lower chamber’s first order of business after electing a speaker will be taking up the Family and Small Business Taxpayer Protection Act.


Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 5 Jan 2023: McCarthy debacle comes with a lesson: There’s a downside to being a party of fascist trolls, subtitled “Calling Republican renegades “ultraconservative” doesn’t cut it: This clown show is a symptom of the big F”

… So if this godawful mess is not personal or ideological, then what is it? Ultimately, it’s not about Kevin McCarthy at all. It’s about the Republican Party’s self-conception in its exciting new fascist iteration (which was forged under Donald Trump but doesn’t really have much to do with him either). Fascism needs to be understood less as an ideological movement and more as a movement devoted to the worship of power for its own sake, and also a dramatic aesthetic of constant warfare and performative purification of an ever-narrower conception of the body politic.

Those are big words, and I apologize, but here’s a simpler way to put it: Fascists are a bunch of trolls who are never satisfied. They must always prove their power by ganging up on someone who’s been cast as an “outsider.” As the Atlantic’s Adam Serwer famously observed, “The cruelty is the point.” Most of the time, the targets are racial and sexual minorities, liberals or immigrants. But sometimes, that restless need to constantly bully someone manifests in purification rituals, where a once-trusted or even beloved insider is deemed an outsider who must be ritually purged. It’s just Kevin McCarthy’s turn in the proverbial barrel, though he almost certainly hasn’t helped his cause by constantly debasing himself before the hardliners. He’s marked himself as a weenie, and that just makes his tormentors enjoy watching him suffer even more.



NY Times, Nicholas Confessore, 31 Dec 2022/4 Jan 2023: The Invention of Elise Stefanik, subtitled “To rise through the Trump-era G.O.P., a young congresswoman gave up her friends, her mentors and her ideals. Will it be enough?”

What I did notice, skimming it, is how often she was willing to shift her earlier positions in order to stay aligned with what she felt was and is a winning coalition. Just as Kevin McCarthy has done throughout his career.

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