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And There It Is...
A stew of sedition and obstruction.
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021. (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)
The distinguishing characteristic of the various Trump scandals/outrages is that they all take place in broad daylight, playing out in real time, without mystery or subtlety.
CONROE, Texas — Donald J. Trump said on Saturday that if elected to a new term as president, he would consider pardoning those prosecuted for attacking the United States Capitol on Jan. 6 of last year.
He also called on his supporters to mount large protests in Atlanta and New York if prosecutors in those cities, who are investigating him and his businesses, take action against him.
There was nothing veiled about his suggestion that he would hand out get-out-jail-free cards to the rioters — and, by implication, to anyone held legally accountable for his attempted coup.
“If I run and I win, we will treat those people from Jan. 6 fairly,” he said, addressing a crowd at a fairground in Conroe, Texas, outside Houston, that appeared to number in the tens of thousands. “We will treat them fairly,” he repeated. “And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons, because they are being treated so unfairly.”
“If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protests we have ever had in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere, because our country and our elections are corrupt,” he said to a rally audience in Conroe, Texas, reading from teleprompters set up on either side of his lectern…
“They’re trying to put me in jail,” he said. “These prosecutors are vicious, horrible people. They’re racists and they’re very sick. They’re mentally sick. They’re going after me without any protection of my rights by the Supreme Court or most other courts.”
This stew of sedition and obstruction does not require extended commentary. Trump is not only fully embracing the Jan. 6th insurrection/coup (and perhaps the next one), he is also clearly hoping to discourage any sort of cooperation with ongoing investigations. He’s obstructed justice before, and its worked for him.
By raising the possibility of mass unrest, he is also — quite unsubtly — trying to intimidate the prosecutors and grand juries who are investigating him.
Two other points:
(1) As S.V. Date noted, Trump’s comments were not off-the-cuff or throwaway lines. He read “this entire rant directly off the teleprompter. He fully intended to threaten unrest if he is criminally charged. And others with him to deliver that message.”
(2) For anyone paying any attention at all, none of this should come as a surprise. None of it.
Will Saletan has some advice.
As you know, Will is joining the Bulwark after 25 years at Slate.
ICYMI, he wrote an essay about what he has learned over the last quarter century; and has some thoughts about the state of our political discourse.
Today, however, at Slate and many other publications, the range of political perspectives has shifted in ways that exacerbate our echo chamber problem. The left edge of left-leaning outlets used to be liberal; now it’s socialist. And the right edge, which used to include Republican viewpoints, is now liberal. Conversely, on the right, Fox News has lost its more moderate pundits—including longtime Republicans who left the party over Donald Trump—and now competes with more extreme outlets such as Newsmax and One America News Network. In both cases, this shift toward the wings has created platforms for viewpoints that—in some instances for good, and others for ill—used to be marginal. The two wings differ in many significant ways (to start with, leftists didn’t sack the U.S. Capitol), but both have insulated themselves from engagement with fundamentally opposing views.
Debates between the left and center left often focus on limits or tactics. That’s because on many issues, such as health insurance, abortion, and climate, the two sides share basic values. But if you bring a smart conservative into that debate, you’ll hear broader, deeper objections. Grappling with strong arguments from the right has often helped me find weaknesses in my thinking. Without that kind of challenge, you can grow complacent.
You can break free from the echo chamber, but it takes work. The first step is to look at your friends and colleagues, the people you talk to and listen to every day. What do they have in common? Are they all white? Christian? Liberal? Under 40? Whatever it is, that’s your bubble.
The next step is to venture out. This is one healthy practice that the internet has made easier. You don’t have to travel 40 miles to meet conservative people in the countryside or liberal people in the city. You can meet them online. My favorite social medium is Twitter, so that’s where I go. But I don’t just read what Twitter feeds me, because that feed is based on whom I’ve followed, liked, or responded to. It reinforces my biases. Instead, I use Twitter’s “List” function to build alternative channels where I can get smart contrary views and information. Every day, I try to find and circulate at least one tweet that confounds my assumptions.
If you do this a lot, the algorithm will learn from you. Twitter will begin to show you more content from the people in your alternative channels, and it will recommend other folks like them. And that’s how you progress to the third step: diversifying your circle and your audience. You can get out of an unhealthy feedback loop—captive to the left or right—and cultivate a more integrated community.
So that’s what I’ve learned in my time here: seek out other perspectives, study your failures, and try to become wiser every day. I can’t thank Slate enough for giving me that opportunity. I won’t be a regular here anymore, but I can’t leave the Slate family, any more than I could leave my family of origin. I have too many friends here, too many memories, and too much of myself woven into the place. This is where, as an adult, I grew up. It’s where I got my scars, learned about the world, and tried to do the best I could. Now it’s time for new people—people who see things I never could see—to come in and teach and learn. I can’t wait to read them.
In the spirit of that advice…
… here’s an article from “Outside the Beltway,” in which Matt Bernius argues that I am almost (but not quite) completely wrong about identity politics and the Supreme Court.
It’s one of those rare sightings in the media these days — a disagreement that it also intellectually honest.
Calls of reverse-racism or identity politics have come not just from typical far-right sources like The Federalist, but center-right (and notably Never-Trump) publications like The Bulwark, in which Charlie Sykes wrote:
“In a stroke,” write the editors of National Review, “[Biden] disqualified dozens of liberal and progressive jurists for no reason other than their race and gender. This is not a great start in selecting someone sworn to provide equal justice under law.”
Andrew Sullivan was even harsher.
“The replacement will be chosen only after the field is radically winnowed by open race and sex discrimination, which have gone from being illegal to being celebrated and practiced by a president of the United States.“
Go ahead, take umbrage at my citation of Sullivan and the reactionaries at NR. The commentary at Fox News is even worse.
But that doesn’t mean they are wrong.
Think about it this way. In announcing that his pick would be constrained by racial/gender identity, Biden did indeed, tell a generation of young progressive jurists that they need not apply.
I think it’s worth reading Sykes’s article in that it is both right (in a perfect world sense) and completely wrong (in terms of the world we live in). The argument crystalizes how far we, as a culture, still need to go in our understanding of intersectional issues (like race, gender, and more). And one of the key things standing in the way of that is our attachment to the myth of “meritocracy.”
Before this goes any further, let’s restate the obvious: If all the tea leaves reading is correct, and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is the nominee, her C.V. is impeccable and there is no question she is qualified for the court. In fact, as a former Public Defender, she would bring a perspective to the court that has been missing for three decades.
This is a point that Sykes doesn’t dispute. In fact, he says as much in his conclusion:
All indications are that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson would be an impressive choice and could go on to be a consequential Supreme Court justice.
It’s the sentence that follows where the specter of meritocracy and the issues of pretending we live in a colorblind culture emerges:
But, in retrospect, Biden would have been better off putting the content of her character and her legal mind ahead of her identity.
Earlier this morning, James wrote about how Ilya Shapiro has been called out for a deleted Twitter thread in which he predicted that Biden pick will end up being “a lesser black woman.” What’s particularly notable is not just those tweets, but the argument that Shapiro made in 2009 about the nomination of current Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor:
Again, this does not mean that Sotomayor is unqualified to be a judge — or less qualified to be a Supreme Court justice than, say, Harriet Miers. It also does not detract from the history she would make as the first Hispanic Supreme Court nominee — if you don’t count Benjamin Cardozo, a descendant of Portuguese Jews. But a Supreme Court nomination is not a lifetime achievement award, and should not be treated as an opportunity to practice affirmative action.
Shapiro’s critique of Sotomayor demonstrates how our adherence to the concept of meritocracy undercuts Sykes’s argument.
Joe Manchin sank Biden’s agenda. Democrats are lucky to have him.
James Carville has some thoughts about the Democrats’ tactics and strategy. Via Vox:
Just look at how Democrats organize and spend money. For Christ’s sake, [South Carolina Democrat] Jaime Harrison raised over $100 million only to lose his Senate race to Lindsey Graham by 10 points. Amy McGrath runs for Senate in Kentucky and raises over $90 million only to get crushed by Mitch McConnell.
They were always going to lose those races, but Democrats keep doing this stupid shit. They’re too damn emotional. Democrats obsess over high-profile races they can’t win because that’s where all the attention is. We’re addicted to hopeless causes.
What about the secretary of state in Wisconsin? Or the attorney general race in Michigan? How much money are Democrats and progressives around the country sending to those candidates? I’m telling you, if Democrats are worried about voting rights and election integrity, then these are the sorts of races they should support and volunteer for, because this is where the action is and this is where things will be decided.
You know who is paying attention to these races? The Republican Party. Last I checked, Republicans raised $33 million for secretary of state races around the country. The Democrats had until recently raised $1 million. I think it’s now up to $4 million. That’s the story, right there. That’s the difference, right there. Bitching about a Democratic senator in West Virginia is missing the damn plot.
Tucker Carlson’s Self-Loathing International Tourism
Carlson, whose father was the head of the agency that ran Voice of America during the Cold War, surely knows all of this. He understands he is following directly in the footsteps of the old communist fellow travelers, the men and women who made regular pilgrimages to the old Soviet Union, Mao’s China, or what used to be East Germany. I suspect that he, unlike some of the other right-wing fellow travelers, has not actually fallen for the Orbán con. But Carlson’s cynicism about America is so profound, and his nihilism is so overpowering, that he doesn’t care. If he can make people angry, he achieves his most important goal.
Sen. Ron Johnson Is Betting On Conspiracy Theories For Reelection
“You may have consultants that say it is not a good idea to run a general election campaign on crazy conspiracy theories, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he continues to double down on that,” said Charlie Sykes, a Wisconsin-based political commentator who hosted an influential Milwaukee conservative talk radio show for more than two decades.
In 2010, Johnson and Sykes were allies; Johnson credited Sykes with helping him oust Democrat Russ Feingold in an incredible upset election that catapulted Johnson from unknown Republican businessman to a two-term statesman. Sykes, a “Never Trump”-style conservative, said he now hates talking about Johnson.
“Trumpism broke his brain,” Sykes said, reflecting that the Wisconsin senator has always had an affinity for conservative talk radio in the state, a platform that has “become very open to conspiracy theories.”
We Get Comments
As you’ll notice, there’s no mailbag today. As usual, we got lots of feedback, but I want to call your attention to what’s going in our open comment section of Morning Shots.
All Bulwark+ members are able to comment on any post or any of my daily newsletters, and the response so far as been both encouraging and impressive. If you haven’t checked them out, please do so… you will find many of the same folks there who used to show up in the Sunday newsletters.
Let me know what you think: firstname.lastname@example.org