Thinking of it as foreshadowing.
Our friend, Christian Vanderbrouk reminds us that Donald Trump has a long career of election denialism and lies. And, I admit, I’d forgotten this, because back in 2012, we couldn’t imagine where this would lead us.
"He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election," he tweeted [inaccurately]. "We should have a revolution in this country!"
Over the next half hour, he continued.
The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation. The loser one! We can't let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!
Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us. More votes equals a loss ... revolution! This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy! Our country is now in serious and unprecedented trouble ... like never before. The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.
Exit take: Trump’s facts were, of course, wrong back then, as they are now. But the details don’t matter. It’s worth remembering that DJT will never, ever, under any circumstances acknowledge the legitimacy of any electoral defeat.
On our radar: A big vote on same-sex marriage appears set in the Senate; new worries about the Queen’s health; California’s green energy crisis; Steve Bannon does a perp walk (again); and a new poll finds that most Americans see Trump's MAGA as threat to democracy.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Days after Democratic President Joe Biden gave a fiery speech attacking former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies as an extremist threat, a Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Wednesday found a majority of Americans believe Trump's movement is undermining democracy.
Fifty-eight percent of respondents in the two-day poll - including one in four Republicans - said Trump's "Make America Great Again" movement is threatening America's democratic foundations.
A.B. Stoddard joins Will and JVL for the September 8 edition of Thursday Night Bulwark. Starting at 8:00 p.m. ET, the gang will discuss the midterms, the latest with the Mar-a-Lago investigation, and President Biden’s prospects for 2024.
Exclusively for Bulwark+ members.
Lies, Politics, and Democracy
ICYMI: A powerful new documentary from PBS’s Frontline features commentary from Mona Charen, Bill Kristol, and yours truly.
Here’s a partial transcript from the interview that took place in January 2021:
FRONTLINE: Charlottesville. The reaction of the GOP to this is interesting. Here we have the president saying some pretty outrageous stuff and very little blowback from it. There were some complaints, and those people got attacked, because Donald Trump would not back off. And so the Jeff Flakes of the world and the [Bob] Corkers of the world were batted down pretty harshly. But the rest of the—McConnell, Pence, basically were quiet or supportive. How important is that moment, Charlottesville? How big a warning shot was it? …
CJS: I’m really glad you’re asking this, first of all, because I really feel that what happened last week [Jan. 6th] was very much like Charlottesville.
It felt like it, because Charlottesville was a long time coming. Even during the campaign, Donald Trump’s flirtation with white supremacist organizations and the “alt-right” was a real problem. This, again, was not a secret. He gave them a “wink, wink.” He would go on some of the conspiracy theory shows, their podcasts. He gave them encouragement.
So the alliance between Donald Trump and his willingness to use these "alt-right" activists from the dark corners of the fever swamps was not a new development. This had been building for a long time.
So when Charlottesville happened, you could easily say the same thing that you could say about Jan. 6. This was inevitable. It was always heading toward this. You have a president of the United States who is willing to give tacit approval to some of the darkest elements of American politics. And even when it goes wrong, even when it turns ugly, he’s unwilling to denounce it, because at some point in his mind or in the mind of Steve Bannon, these were allies. Or these were allies that were useful, and you didn’t want to alienate them.
But again, in 2016, this was one of the things that people warned about: that Donald Trump had this dark alliance with people on the far right. And you know, look, conservative Republicans have wrestled with this for a very, very long time. And back in the ’60s, William F. Buckley Jr. said, “Look, if we’re going to have a conservative movement, we need to excommunicate the John Birchers and the Klansmen and the anti-Semites. Get them out of the movement.” Well, those folks were being brought back into the political mainstream by Donald Trump, and Charlottesville was the moment.
And the other point that was crucial was when the Republican Party didn’t push back, that was the moment you realized that their—their surrender was complete, that they were not ever going to stand against him.
If you didn’t break with Donald Trump for Charlottesville, then basically you were saying, “We’re done.” So that was a—the acquiescence of Republicans after Charlottesville, I think, was really an inflection point.
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin
Make sure you read Bill Lueders’s excellent piece in this morning’s Bulwark: “Ron Johnson’s Latest Fiction: He’s a Man of the People.”
As we’ve noted before, RonJon is the GOP’s most vulnerable incumbent, and his approval ratings remain caught between abysmal and ghastly.
But he could still win.
Even though a recent poll showed his Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes, in the lead, that was before a massive oppo-research dump that is just now beginning. The latest blitz involves Barnes’s support for abolishing cash bail — a toxic issue in Wisconsin, a state still reeling from last year’s Waukesha Christmas parade massacre perpetrated by a man out on bail.
Back in April, I talked with Josh Kraushaar about how the bail issue might effect Democratic prospects in the mid-terms. Josh had recently written a column on the Wisconsin senate race.
Wisconsin polling shows that [Mandela] Barnes is still largely undefined in the eyes of Wisconsin voters -- well over half respondents in a February Marquette Law poll hadn’t heard of him -- but his decision to embrace controversial causes is likely to damage his general election prospects if he’s the Democratic nominee.
His continued support of ending cash bail for criminals is politically mystifying, especially coming after the revelation that the Waukesha Christmas parade murderer had been previously released on a mere $1,000 bail five days before mowing down parade-goers.
Despite that, Barnes didn’t budge. Via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Barnes, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, once sponsored a bill to end cash bail in the state.
The 2016 measure would have barred judges from using the "nature, number and gravity" of the charges as the sole reason to hold a defendant before trial. Instead, a judge would be required to release a defendant unless there was "clear and convincing evidence" that a defendant was a flight risk or a danger to an individual or a witness.
In a statement, Barnes' campaign said he remains firmly in support of his proposed legislation, which didn't make it out of committee….
The Milwaukee Democrat also pushed a bill in 2016 that would have lowered the penalty for bail-jumping in certain instances.
So it’s a legitimate issue to raise.
Here comes the NRSC with a new ad, which closes with this image, depicting Barnes along with three women of color — AOC, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib —and the words: MANDELA BARNES DIFFERENT. The word “Different” then morphs into “Dangerous.”
Subtle it is not.
Of course, the NRSC will insist that the point is that Barnes has aligned himself ideologically with the Squad. But, trust me, the imagery of the four is not designed to highlight their ideas.
The NRSC knows exactly what they are doing in a state that is 86.6 percent white.
BONUS: Here’s how RonJon himself is attacking Barnes:
1. The Battle Over Diversity Training
Must-read piece by Cathy Young in today’s Bulwark: Many diversity, equity and inclusion programs are toxic. The laws trying to curb them are worse.
Let’s grant that DeSantis’s Trump-lite culture-warmongering is cynical and noxious, and the “Stop WOKE” law—which should be taken out and shot for its moniker alone—is a very real speech infringement, especially given the broad scope and the vagueness of its prohibitions. (For example, the law prohibits training or teaching that individuals “must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions . . . committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin.” Does this apply only to instructing trainees that such reactions are required, or could any material that inspires employees to feel “psychological distress” or shame over racial inequities fall under suspicion?)
And let’s further grant that Rufo is a political hack who is upfront about his end-justifies-the-means approach to stopping “wokeness.”
But DEI training is also one of those issues on which the right and the left tend to get trapped in a mutual cycle of escalating culture-war follies. The right seizes on a real problem, blows it up into an imminent threat to Civilization As We Know It, and demands ham-handed—and often unconstitutional—action to root it out. The left circles the wagons and ferociously argues that whatever the right is complaining about is either nonexistent or actually a good thing. The right attacks even more forcefully. Rinse and repeat.
2. Trump Pushed Officials to Prosecute His Critics, Ex-U.S. Attorney Says
Anyone surprised by this? Via the NYT:
A book by a former top federal prosecutor offers new details about how the Justice Department under President Donald J. Trump sought to use the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan to support Mr. Trump politically and pursue his critics — even pushing the office to open a criminal investigation of former secretary of state John Kerry.
The prosecutor, Geoffrey S. Berman, was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York for two and a half years until June 2020, when Mr. Trump fired him after he refused a request to resign by Attorney General William P. Barr, who sought to replace him with an administration ally.
58% of Americans believe MAGA is a threat to Democracy after Joe Biden's speech.
Democrats, Republicans, independents and the majority of women are outraged over Dobbs.
But cash bail is going to do in front-runner Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin.
Charlie, I will bet you that Democrats end up with +5 in the Senate and pick up at least 10 seats in the House. If they don't, I will gift 10 Bulwark subs. If they do, I get to write a guest piece for the Bulwark. ;)
Hey, maybe the most famous Wisconsinite in the "grow the pro-democracy coalition" should invite Mandela Barnes onto his podcast to hash some of this stuff out.