Discover more from The Bulwark
Down Goes Pence
Plus: Mike Murphy makes the case for Nikki
Muslim ban redux: Trump Vows to Deport Protesters and Reinstate Muslim Travel Ban
A pogrom in Russia: Mob storms Dagestan airport in search of Jewish passengers from Israel — The Guardian
Let’s start with a few words about Mike Pence, who bowed to reality this weekend, and dropped out of the race:
In the new book by McKay Coppins, Mitt Romney described the former vice president. “No one had been more loyal, more willing to smile when he saw absurdities, more willing to ascribe God’s will to things that were ungodly, than Mike Pence.”
All true. But that’s not what did him in, was it?
Pence was an artifact of the GOP Before Trump. He built his campaign around a nostalgic appeal to a conservativism that no longer exists.
In September, as his campaign sputtered for oxygen, Pence delivered a speech that he intended as a manifesto for a conservative restoration. But, as I wrote then, “it reads instead like a eulogy for a bygone era.”
Pence insisted that the choice facing the GOP was existential: “Should the new populism of the right seize and guide our party, the GOP as we have long known it will cease to exist. And the fate of American freedom would be in doubt.”
This choice is also binary, he insisted, because the divide between traditional conservatism and this new Trumpian populist was “fundamental,” and “unbridgeable.”…
Self-consciously echoing Ronald Reagan’s famous 1964 speech “A Time for Choosing,” Pence insisted “we have come to a Republican time of choosing.”
But — as Pence knows well — the GOP has already chosen. It chose Donald Trump. It chose populism. It rejected traditional conservatism. And for four years Pence stood at Trump's side and watched it happening around him.
The time for choosing has come and gone…
This weekend, Pence chose to quit.
Of course, Pence never had a chance. As a former vice president, he was a formidable candidate on paper, but he had committed an unpardonable sin in this GOP. He refused to go along with Donald Trump’s attempts to overthrow the 2020 election.
His refusal to go along with Trump’s coup may have been his finest moment; but it also meant that he would never be president.
That should speak volumes about the state of his party, but we have already read this book over and over. Just last week Tom Emmer’s candidacy for House Speaker was crushed for the same reason: He defied Trump’s lies and voted to certify the winner of the election. In his place, every last Republican member of the house voted for a full-throated election denier.
“If you don’t think that moving from Kevin McCarthy to MAGA Mike Johnson shows the ascendance of this movement and where the power in the Republican Party truly lies, then you’re not paying attention,” Gaetz crowed on Steve Bannon’s podcast.
He’s right. The MAGA-fication of the GOP is complete. And the moderates? Who will ever take them seriously again? Because it turns out that there are no normies left.
The Bulwark is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Two scary reads, just in time for Halloween: Via Axios: “Biden’s dual horror shows threaten his re-election campaign.”
Top officials believe Biden has been at his best in managing the early days of the Israeli-Hamas war. But they privately concede things have never been worse politically since the 80-year-old took office.
Most troublesome: It's hard to see how to brighten his public image on issues haunting the American public — crime, immigration, inflation, race, trust. And now two divisive wars America didn't start.
*Biden's top aides "are deeply frustrated, and somewhat bitter," said one backer in frequent touch with the West Wing. "They think he's doing a great job — and by many measures, he is."
Via Jonathan Martin in Politico: “Joe Biden’s Big New Hampshire Blunder.”
By scrapping Iowa, demoting New Hampshire from its first-in-the-nation perch and moving up South Carolina to begin the balloting, President Joe Biden was hoping to preempt a nuisance primary challenge that could embarrass him before the general election. But that may be precisely what he has invited upon himself…
Now, the Granite State will once again hold an election to begin the presidential nominating process, Biden will not appear on the ballot and Democratic insiders here are being made to organize a write-in campaign to ensure that the sitting president prevails when the vote is held in January. Which may have been the end of the story before last Friday.
That’s when, just hours before New Hampshire’s filing deadline closed, an earnest Midwestern congressman made clear he wasn’t totally free of guile and, to borrow from the famed Tammany Hall leader George Washington Plunkitt, saw his opportunities and he took ’em.
Moral Depravity Update
The anti-anti-Putin right edged toward becoming anti-anti-Hamas.
On cue, Elon Musk is now peddling Iranian disinformation:
Contrary to the suggestion of the post, there are no US military bases in Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Furthermore, the actual number of military bases that exist in the Middle East is not as depicted in the post. The highlighted flag numbers, suggesting bases' locations, are overrepresented and hence render the post misleading.
Meanwhile, in the Ivy League: Columbia University faculty members signed an open letter “that situated the military action begun on October 7th within the larger context of the occupation of Palestine by Israel.”
The phrase “military operations,” to describe the terrorist atrocities of October 7 was not inadvertent. The professors repeated the phrase:
In our view, the student statement aims to recontextualize the events of October 7, 2023, pointing out that military operations and state violence did not begin that day, but rather it represented a military response by a people who had endured crushing and unrelenting state violence from an occupying power over many years.
Yascha Mounk comments:
BONUS: “Nothing prepared me for antisemitism on college campuses” - Los Angeles Times
I am a 70-year-old Jewish man, but never in my life have I seen or felt the antisemitism of the last few weeks. I have heard antisemitic things from time to time through my life….
But none of this prepared me for the last few weeks. On Friday, someone in my school posted on Instagram a picture of me with the caption, “Erwin Chemerinsky has taken an indefinite sabbatical from Berkeley Law to join the I.D.F.” Two weeks ago, at a town hall, a student told me that what would make her feel safe in the law school would be “to get rid of the Zionists.” I have heard several times that I have been called “part of a Zionist conspiracy,” which echoes of antisemitic tropes that have been expressed for centuries.
I was stunned when students across the country, including mine, immediately celebrated the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel on Oct. 7. Students for Justice in Palestine called the terror attack a “historic win” for the “Palestinian resistance.” A Columbia professor called the Hamas massacre “awesome” and a “stunning victory.” A Yale professor tweeted, “It’s been such an extraordinary day!” while calling Israel a “murderous, genocidal settler state.” A Chicago art professor posted a note reading, “Israelis are pigs. Savages. Very very bad people. Irredeemable excrement…. May they all rot in hell.” A UC Davis professor tweeted, “Zionist journalists … have houses w addresses, kids in school,” adding “they can fear their bosses, but they should fear us more.” There are, sadly, countless other examples.
The Pro-Hamas Left
On our weekend podcast, Josh Kraushaar and I discussed the very loud, younger segment pf the left that is lending its support to the terrorist group Hamas—with marches on university campuses, extremist slogans, and outright hatred toward Jews.
1. Adam Kinzinger: Rebel in the Ranks
[There] is an underlying sense of urgency that permeates his book, a sense that all is not right and will not be right until Trump and others are held accountable for their actions. As Kinzinger puts it:
This Trumpism is un-American in the extreme. It seeks to undermine our elections, place controls on the press, sharply restrict immigration, politicize the judiciary, and polarize the people. This is a reality that demands that we all examine our basic beliefs. Do we want a democracy governed by free and fair elections? Can we consider our differences in matters of politics, ethics, and faith in a respectful way? Do we value our pluralism? Our success at managing these issues has made us the envy of the world for centuries. Do we want to discard what the Constitution gave us? What do we, as Americans, stand for?
These are good and important questions. Kinzinger’s book is a valuable contribution to our national endeavor to sort them out.
2. Mike Johnson, Polite Extremist
To understand the Republican party’s internal politics today, we need to redraw some old distinctions. The most important ones to keep in mind today are not between Christians and non-Christians, nor between conservative Christians and liberal Christians, but between conservative Christians and politically extreme conservative Christians.
There are principled, conservative Christians with heartfelt moral views on abortion, LGBTQ-rights, and a host of other cultural issues who value democracy and pluralism and recognize their preferred policies won’t always win the day. (Think Russell Moore and David French.) And there are politically extreme conservative Christians who might hold the exact same views on the same issues as Moore and French, but who are also willing to upend democracy to see their agendas realized, which Moore and French simply are not.
Politically extreme conservative Christians were some of the foremost leaders who bought into and bolstered Trump’s 2020 election lies, who used theology to justify their own authoritarianism, and who have brought their extremist theologies into the heart of right-wing politics. Mike Johnson can be located in this group.
3. Time to Consolidate Around Nikki
To be clear, I’ve been a grade-A Nikki Haley critic. I’ve found her to be depressingly cynical. If left up to me, her Secret Service code name would be “Too Clever By Half.” But in a race against the ghoulish, democracy-loathing madman Donald Trump, it’s an easy call: Go Nikki, go. I’m all in.
Why? Alone among the contenders, she he has a shot.
Nikki stumbled to the top in the last four months because she is the most talented candidate in the also-ran caucus.
She’s also the only candidate running for real in both Iowa and New Hampshire. If she is able to pull off upsets in the first two states, Trump will be hobbled and she’ll have a real chance to administer the killing blow in South Carolina.
Her messaging has been wobbly and inconsistent, but she has shown sparks—hard for her, I am sure—of telling the truth about Donald Trump.
And it’s working. She’s slowly, steadily, moving up. I was all over New Hampshire in August and you can feel movement toward her. It might not be enough, but the only upward energy is hers. It shows in fundraising too; the movable feast of “please not Trump again” donors who started with DeSantis and then moved to Scott have now landed on Haley. She is now the last hope to save the Republican party.
But not with zombie candidates wobbling about and cluttering her path. Christie, Scott, Burgum, and the rest: Get out of this race now. Forget Miami. Forget praying for a Magic Hobo to suddenly appear and hand you a shocking victory in Iowa or New Hampshire. Be patriots and serve the vital cause instead: Clear the way for Nikki Haley to take on Trump. Before it is too late.
Spoiler alert. This won’t even cause a ripple in the GOP.