Monday Reads: The CPAC Weekend of Insanity Evolves into something much Darker and DangerousPosted: July 12, 2021
Good Day Sky Dancers!
I always feel extremely sorry for the reporters whose beat includes going to the CPAC each year. It’s always an alternative universe and usually a bleak, exclusive one that I would never want to inhabit. This year, the participants–including the former guy and his congressional minions–presented insurrection on parade. I’m going to read this stuff, so you can glance through it and get an idea of how far off the rails “conservatives” are these days. I use that word while cringing and knowing how far the extreme right-wing has come in co-opting it. Their movement isn’t about “conserving” anything. It’s about blowing up democracy and installing a white nationalist christianist autocracy in its place.
There is so much packed into the weekend that I’ll try to unpack some of the major themes. First, there is now a whine of ‘discrimination against anti-vaxxers and continued call by the insipid Marjorie Greene to continue to avoid vaccines against COVID-19 at any cost. Those costs include over 600,000 and rising Covid-19 deaths along with the stress on our health infrastructure, economy, and people. Yes, it’s impacted all government budgets too.
This is from Literary Hub: “Hell Among the Canceled: Day 2 at CPAC with Marjorie Taylor Greene. Timothy Denevi Encounters the Party of the Opposition.” I never ever thought I would find one–let alone several– right-wing women that were worse than Phyliss Shafly but here there are smack dab in the Trump Zone. There’s always a good reason to avoid Dallas, but this weekend was a horrific tsunami of shit. It should have come with warnings.
I went into Saturday afternoon’s speech by Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene expecting things to get weird—that’s her brand, after all.
The room assigned to her was small and overheated, forcing the crowd, most of whom refused to wear masks, to jam in together. There didn’t appear to be a functioning live stream. Her audio feed to the speakers wouldn’t link up. Earlier in the day, on the CPAC app as well as its corresponding website, her name had completely disappeared from the official listing. Whether this was an attempt by the conference organizers to limit their legal liability, I’m still not sure. All I can tell you is this: from the very start, Greene, a five-foot-three-inch former CrossFit competitor from Alpharetta, Georgia, held the room at attention. In that small space, no larger than a church basement, her voice rang out.
“I am the most canceled member of Congress,” she announced by means of an introduction. “They even canceled my microphone.”
What followed was predictable but still registered as a jolt. Story after story, she cast herself as a hapless truthteller, a normal American, a mom, someone who saw things simply because things were simple. Congresswoman Marie Newman, Georgia Senators Ossoff and Warnock, they all became stand-ins for anyone who made you feel out of place or turned away. “Right now,” she explained, “it’s like we have only one restaurant, and every time we go they spit in our food and beat us!” She said, to a crowd that whooped its pleasure. “And I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty damn tired of it.” The nods in response were solemn.
And everything and everyone she didn’t agree with was communist. “Corporate communism!” she said about airlines that required you to wear a mask. “District of Communism!” she rechristened Washington, DC. And California—“It’s Commufornia!”
The mainstream media, the Democrats, sure, they’d tried to cancel her. But it wasn’t about her, she wasn’t that important. “No, understand—what they really want, is to cancel you.” The audience shifted and murmured, adjusting themselves to the idea that they had power.
You can read more at the link, along with a chance encounter at the hotel with Matt Gaetz. It even has a bit of Roger Stone thrown in just to complete the Hunter S Thomas vibe.
Later in the day I’ll find out that, had I simply ridden a different bank of elevators down to the street, I would have stumbled upon Roger Stone, the recently pardoned Trump ally and former dirty-trickster for Richard Nixon, dancing absurdly while, alongside him, a Trump supporter sings, “Patriots pulling up, knocking at the Capitol.” That truck I’d spotted earlier from my balcony—the one that had been decorated feverishly with our former president’s face—has been set up behind them as a backdrop.
I’m personally not going to hunt for that image. But I will share this tidbit from Caitlin Owens at Axios: “Republicans push to ban “discrimination” against unvaccinated people” We can’t even talk about systemic racism or sexism or bias against the LBGT community without hurting their Lil fee-fees but damn, let’s get a law out there to protect the plague rats. Once again, we see the snowflake meme is just a projection.
State Republican lawmakers around the country are pushing bills — at least one of which has become law — that would give unvaccinated people the same protections as those surrounding race, gender and religion.
Why it matters: These bills would tie the hands of private businesses that want to protect their employees and customers. But they also show how deep into the political psyche resistance to coronavirus vaccine requirements has become, and how vaccination status has rapidly become a marker of identity.
- At a state level, there’s more bite to the bark. Many Republican-led states have enacted some kind of restriction on vaccine mandates or vaccine “passports.”
- And some state lawmakers are trying to make it illegal for employers, governments or private businesses to treat unvaccinated people any differently than vaccinated people, using the same language found in federal civil rights law.
“When we think about the normal discrimination statutes…we have protected classes based on something that is sort of inherent to you, with religion maybe being the one that is a choice,” said Lowell Pearson, a managing partner at Husch Blackwell, which has been tracking the bills. “But vaccination status you certainly can control.”
Between the lines: The states with restrictions on vaccine requirements tend to have lower vaccination rates than those without such laws, and cases are on the rise in several of them.
- Most of the measures are full of loopholes or have limited application, meaning unvaccinated residents may still face consequences for their decision.
- But vaccine requirements aren’t very popular in general among employers, experts said, although it is relatively common among private businesses to have different rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated employees or customers.
Rather, the laws and low vaccination rates in states that have them both stem from the politicization of vaccination.
You may read what states like Alabama and Montana are up to at the link.
The problem for the GOP and Fox News is that politically, the insurrection remains a huge problem if Trump wants to run again in 2024. The challenge being that the insurrection was one of the most recorded current events in our lifetime, as the deadly riot unfolded live on national television and was captured on thousands of smart phone clips, which were soon plastered onto social media.
So now there’s a huge effort underway to try to neutralize the event. “By and large, it was peaceful protest, except for there were a number of people, basically agitators that whipped the crowd and breached the Capitol,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) recently insisted.
“Let’s be honest with the American people — it was not an insurrection, and we cannot call it that and be truthful,” claimed Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) earlier this year. He added that the rioters looked like they were on a “normal tourist visit.”
“People who call the few-hour riot at the Capitol by unarmed protesters an “insurrection” are bad people who are harming the country,” claimed Trump journalist Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist, who dismissed the protesters as nothing more than, “Mr. Buffalo Head or Grandma-in-the-Rotunda, or Mr. Feet on Desk.”
As for Fox News’ role, it’s always simple to predict where the network will land on a controversial topic — just assume the worst. Back in January when Fox News was doing its best to downplay the insurrection story, the smart money was not assuming that that strategy would remain static and they would be content to turn away from the most important and dangerous domestic uprising in modern American history. The smart money was to assume that over time Fox News would become aggressively more awful and irresponsible, which is where Carlson now resides — the bloody insurrection was just a bunch of senior citizens marching around with signs.
Yes, the Former Guy is running for President again. Yes, he’s still pushing the big lie to the point Fox had to add a disclaimer chyron on its coverage of the crazy. Here’s Josh Marshall’s take.
A week ago I noted that Donald Trump’s Sarasota campaign rally demand for freedom for indicted insurrectionists signaled the central theme of the 2022 midterm campaign. Trump also demanded retribution against for the officer who shot Ashli Babbitt as she broke through the final line of defense protecting fleeing members of Congress. The subsequent week has only confirmed that prediction as Trump has escalated his demands and fine-tuned his rhetoric.
Trump returned to the theme twice yesterday, first in an extended interview with Fox Business News’ Maria Bartiromo and then in a speech to CPAC in Dallas. With Bartiromo he declared the insurrection “a lovefest between the Capitol Police and the people who walked down to the Capitol” and repeated his demand that “they have to release the people that are incarcerated.”
Trump has also begun to rebrand shooting of Ashli Babbitt, who he calls “an innocent, wonderful, incredible woman.” Far from being shot as she broke through the doorway separating the insurrectionists from the evacuating members of Congress he now says she was “fatally shot on January 6 as she tried to climb out of a broken window,” as though she were shot down trying to flee.
He has also begun to claim that the officer who shot Babbitt was working either for Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi. On front after front, Trump has returned to the escalating incitements to violence which caused the Jan 6th insurrection in the first place.
I’ve seen numerous journalists and commentators refer to this as Trump’s ‘revisionist history’ of the events of January 6th. That’s the wrong way to look at this. No one, especially Trump’s target audiences, forgets the pictures of Capitol Police officers being struck with flag poles and dragged into the crowd for beatings or insurrectionists marauding through the halls of Congress. The point of his over-the-top claims isn’t to litigate the particulars of any specific encounter. Their very absurdity is less an effort to deceive as a demonstration of power. They are meant to make the case that the whole event was justified, righteous and right. It was right and necessary and praiseworthy because the election was stolen, rigged, illegitimate. The Big Lie and the insurrection are inseparable and Trump is arguing that one can’t be vindicated without the other.
This argument about inseparability and vindication is a clue to the first goal of this push: maintaining an iron grip on the GOP and making the 2022 campaign about him. Congressional Republicans have almost unanimously opposed any efforts to investigate the events of January 6th. But that’s not enough. Trump wants them to embrace the insurrection explicitly. He is defining the embrace of the insurrection as the dividing line between RINO insiders and pro-Trump true believers. He is using it as a cudgel to maintain his hold over the party and keep his own grievances, demands and drama as the party’s animating core.
Oops! I may have gone beyond fair use, but Marshall is right here. The former guy is gutting whatever is left of the Republican party to maintain what’s left of his hold on everything.
This analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN, “A weekend of demagoguery shows why Trump can’t be ignored.”
“We were doing so well until the rigged election happened to come along,” Trump said, voicing the lie at the center of the conference that he has made the entry point for GOP candidates in 2022, potentially poisoning US elections for years.
There is an argument that a former President who is out of power but still desperate for attention should just be ignored. Certainly, a rambling, vain and lie-filled speech by Trump lacked coherence and any kind of aspirational appeal, instead highlighting his characteristic cocktail of racial demagoguery, personal swipes at enemies, mountainous falsehoods and desperate trawling for personal adulation. To an outsider, it may have come across as tedious and a pale imitation of the rollicking and sometimes even humorous appearances that paved Trump’s path to power in 2016. But in hitting every sensitive hot spot in the conservative media canon — from law and order to “cancel culture” to immigration, to complaints that all the media speaks about is “race, race, race,” Trump demonstrated his still unmatched capacity to sell outrage politics. But more than that, he demonstrated his ability to conjure an alternative belief system that is divorced from reality but that his supporters immediately adopt — the hallmark of strongmen leaders throughout history.
Trump is not just popular at CPAC where the crowd greeted his speech with glee. That his populist extremism is now being implemented by GOP governors across states he won shows his enduring power. So do the countrywide efforts by Republican state lawmakers to restrict voting based on his lies about a stolen election. Trump’s capacity to orchestrate the behavior of Republicans is almost as intact as it was when he was sitting in the Oval Office — his derailing of a bipartisan, independent probe of the January 6 outrage is proof of that. All these are reasons why Trump cannot be just disregarded.Six months after his supporters ransacked the US Capitol — amid an effort by top GOP officials to reinvent the history of that moment, the former President’s threat to American democracy remains extreme. And even if Trump never runs for President again — and he gives every impression of already being launched on a four-year campaign — the brand of grievance politics he invented and maintains will be on the ballot — as his list of possible heirs, from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, shows.So while much of Trump’s speech was backward looking, providing a rosy and untrue picture of an administration that left his country deeply divided, the false belief system that has captured the hearts and minds of millions of voters is real.The crucial question is whether the message that is so electric to Trump’s supporters will still cause the kind of revulsion among suburban and more moderate voters who deserted Trump’s GOP and saw him lose the House, the Senate and the White House over a single four-year term.And could another messenger like DeSantis or Noem, or Texas Gov. Greg Abbott make it quite so bewitching to the conservative base?The former President is relentless on targeting issues like undocumented migration, the calls by some liberals to defund the police and the rising crime wave to paint the country as out of control and under the sway of far left wingers — as a possible route to broadening his appeal.
Dr. Fauci was interviewed by Jack Tapper on Sunday. HuffPo has this coverage.
“I mean, if you just unpack that for a second, Jake, it’s almost frightening to say, ‘Hey, guess what, we don’t want you to do something to save your life. Yay!’ Everybody starts screaming and clapping. I just don’t get that,” he said. “And I don’t think that anybody who’s thinking clearly can get that.”
Fauci was responding to a clip of author Alex Berenson, who spoke at CPAC in Dallas on Saturday.
“The government was hoping that they could sort of sucker 90% of the population into getting vaccinated,” said Berenson, who routinely spreads misinformation about COVID-19 and was dubbed “The Pandemic’s Wrongest Man” by The Atlantic.
“And it isn’t happening,” he added, prompting cheers from the crowd.
In a new interview with the New York Times, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, seems to hint that the party will go on offense on these issues, to hold suburban voters who defected from the Trump-era GOP.
“The post-Trump Republican brand is bad politics in the suburbs,” Maloney said. He added that Republicans have embraced “dangerous conspiracy theories” and “flat-out white supremacists” and an all-around “harshness and ugliness” that will continue alienating suburbanites.
It’s often said that Democrats shy away from such battles, preferring to campaign on “kitchen table issues,” in the belief that if you deliver good governance, the politics will follow. I don’t know how true that is overall, but it’s certainly true in some cases: As Tim Miller points out, in the Ohio Senate race, GOP candidates are burning covid masks and mocking reporters who were traumatized on Jan. 6 while the Democrat talks about jobs.
Okay, I think that I’ve run out of the ability to see the tsunami of shit’s human detritus. At least, I didn’t have to hear any of it spoken by folks who deserve the Victorian Bedlam treatment for sure. I only hope Rep. Maloney can act on those words.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?