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Did the John Birch Society Win in the End?
Plus, the fight within the Michigan GOP.
Recently at The Bulwark:
CHARLIE SYKES: Words and Weapons for Ukraine.🔐
The Next Level Pod🎧: Welcome to Fantasy Politics.🔐
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ROBERT TRACINSKI: Did the John Birch Society Win in the End?
The John Birch Society, to refresh your memory, was started in 1958 by a conservative businessman who thought President Eisenhower was secretly a Soviet agent. It had a certain kind of cracked appeal as an easy explanation for various setbacks in the early years of the Cold War. The Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, the Communist takeover of China, the Soviet development of nuclear weapons—these weren’t the results of Western mistakes, or large and difficult-to-control social forces, or just the fortunes of war. No, it was all a secret plot, and THEY were lying to you.
This worldview was tremendously popular, more popular than today’s conservatives would probably like to admit. In 1962, Barry Goldwater complained, “Every other person in Phoenix is a member of the John Birch Society. I’m not talking about commie-haunted apple pickers or cactus drunks. I’m talking about the highest cast of men of affairs.”
The Birchers had such a big following on the right that Buckley, Goldwater, and Reagan hemmed and hawed for years before breaking with them. Even then, it took repeated denunciations, combined with the Birchers’ increasing notoriety as a national laughingstock, to eventually reduce their appeal and relegate them to the crazy fringes.
Like Hitler and Mussolini before him, Putin’s acting with hubris and arrogance because he’s been in power for too long. And to save face, he’ll likely escalate his terror tactics in Ukraine. Today, the amorality of strongmen — including Trump. Ruth Ben-Ghiat joins Charlie Sykes.
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MONA CHAREN: How to Disarm the Crazies.
It’s already the law in Alaska and Maine for state, congressional, and presidential contests and has been adopted by more than 20 cities. In Virginia, the Republican party used a ranked-choice system to choose its gubernatorial candidate in 2021, with the result that Glenn Youngkin rather than Amanda Chase (“Trump in heels”) secured the nomination. In New York City, predictions that the city’s 5.6 million voters would find the ranked-choice system confusing were not borne out. Turnout was up compared with the last contested mayoral primary, and 95 percent of voters said the system was easy. There were no differences among ethnic groups in understanding the system, and the winner was a moderate former cop.
There are many different approaches to ranked-choice voting, and experimentation will determine which is best. But even with the small sample we have, we can judge that the incentives seem better. Among the three GOP senators who voted to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, only one is up for reelection in 2022—Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Brown’s politics may not be Murkowski’s, but Jackson is clearly qualified and it’s good to uphold the tradition that the president should get his pick barring some scandal or malfeasance. Murkowski could uphold this norm and not fear a Trumpist primary challenger because Alaska now holds an open primary in which anyone from any party can participate. The four candidates who win the most votes go on to the general election. Voters rank their choices. If one candidate gets over 50 percent, he or she is the winner. If not, the bottom polling candidate is dropped and the second choices on ballots are distributed and so on until someone has a majority.
New from me: Michigan Gets Crazy.
Michigan Republicans are at war . . . with each other. A GOP candidate for Michigan attorney general, Matt DePerno, encouraged Trump supporters to storm the county conventions in order to prevent not-sufficiently-pro-Trump Republicans from taking over.
So storm they did in Macomb County, where incumbent Mark Forton faced a challenge from Sterling Heights City Councilman Eric Castiglia.
Macomb is one of the state’s largest counties and is the bedrock of Trump Republicanism, having helped deliver the Wolverine State to him in 2016. Trump was in Macomb on his rally tour earlier this month.
Who is Mark Forton and why was MAGA Michigan so worked up about him? In a way, Forton was a Trumper before it was cool. More than twenty years ago he ran the Macomb County Republican party. But when Michigan Republicans went full RINO during the Spencer Abraham years, Forton quit his job in the auto industry to run against Debbie Stabenow for a Senate seat on the Reform party ticket. He got 0.6 percent of the vote.
Pundits skeptical of or even hostile to Ukraine’s cause in its defensive war against Russia have different reasons, or rationalizations, for their views and hail from different points on the political spectrum. But there is one belief that unites nearly all of them: the conviction that Ukraine is not a democracy fighting for its survival but an American “Deep State” project, with a regime installed by a 2014 coup that was led by Ukrainian far-right extremists and backed or even engineered by the U.S. State Department. The corollary of this view is the belief that the pro-Kremlin enclaves in Eastern Ukraine, the “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk—whose defense was the stated purpose of the Russian invasion—are genuine expressions of the will of the local populace which rejects the pro-Western, anti-Moscow regime in Kyiv.
This narrative is embraced by the progressive left (CodePink’s Medea Benjamin, the Nation’s Aaron Maté, etc.) and the populist right (the Claremont Institute’s David Reaboi, Newsweek opinion editor Josh Hammer, and many others) and gives both permission to disregard their ostensible values—anti-imperialism and liberation struggles for the left, commitment to national sovereignty for the right.
It has been echoed even by some people broadly sympathetic to the pro-freedom aspirations of the Maidan (Independence Square) protesters who rose against Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych in late 2013 and early 2014. Take, for instance, a piece by Branko Marcetic published in the left-wing magazine Jacobin this past February on the eve of the war and purporting to set the record straight on the “widely misunderstood” events of 2014 known in Ukraine as the Revolution of Dignity. Marcetic acknowledges that the Yanukovych regime was not only corrupt but brutally authoritarian; while he believes that the United States exploited the Maidan uprising, he concedes that it’s an “overstatement” to say that the protests were “orchestrated” by Washington. Yet Marcetic concludes that the revolution was hijacked “to empower literal neo-Nazis” and enact the agenda of opportunistic Western backers, ultimately setting the stage for war with Russia.
The war on… ‘folks.’ Move over, CRT. Move over, “groomer.” The newest word in our lexicon triggering conservatives is… folks? I use this word all the time, I know Joe Biden uses it a lot. Too much, even. But this? Get ready.
In case you don’t want to watch Dr. James Lindsay, a sword and axe aficionado who is a Young America’s Foundation speaker and runs a place called “New Discourses”, I have a brief transcript for you:
So you might be wondering why critical social justice activists always use the word folks to describe people, brown folks, black folks, white folks, queer folks. Well, my name is James Lindsay. I'm from new discourses.com and I'm writing an encyclopedia called Translations From the Wokish there on the website.
And I'm going to break it down for you. There are a lot of reasons that they use the word folks. It depends on where you're looking. The queer theorists, for example, use the word folk so they can have a gender neutral alternative to Hey guys or ladies and gentlemen, something like that. Uh, but there's a deeper reason as well.
And you see that, especially in critical race theory, critical race theory looks back to a, uh, black scholar from the very early 20th century, late 19th century named W.E.B. Dubois. And the boys went to Germany and he studied there with Gustav von Schmoller was a scholar, particularly of another German philosopher called Herder, who was a great nationalist and believed in folk national identities.
So when they say brown folks or black folks or white folks, what they're trying to do is put those groups into a kind of a nationalistic type identity that's rooted in their race. So we're talking about race nation thinking at the level of folks, and then it just kind of meshes into that whole... Let's have a gender neutral version.
So, uh, yeah. This is where the right is going.
How Russia’s Ukraine invasion… Put India in a pickle. Where will they buy their weapons now?
This is destined to be the best movie in the Star Wars franchise. You can’t deny it.
The nightmare on Foxhall Road. A disturbing local read at Washingtonian. But wait, there’s more. What about paying $800k for a house with a squatting couple in the basement that you have to solve on your own? Because that is happening. Real estate is crazy.
Wait, we’re going to sink the ship again? Interesting news from Alexandria, VA, about an old ship.
Uh oh, Mark Meadows! Removed from the voter rolls, I see. Is this voter fraud?
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