Nothing, Gerard Manley Hopkins once observed, “is so beautiful as Spring/ When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush.” It is, as Tennyson wrote, the season when “a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
It is also, apparently, the time for crackpots to bitterly cling to their delusions and push bizarre audits of an election that took place nearly 6 months ago.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Arizona election audit, which is surely one of the most guano-soaked bits of weirdness in our never-ending Season of Crazy.
The story so far: the AZ GOP Senate, pondering ways of keeping alive the Big Lie that the state’s electoral votes were stolen from TFG, “used its subpoena power to take possession of all 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County and the machines that counted them, along with computer hard drives full of data.”
They ordered the “audit,” despite the fact that three previous recounts had shown no problems, and no evidence of fraud. Despite that, the GOP senators insisted on a hand recount of 2.1 million ballots cast in the county that represents two-thirds of the vote statewide.
This is where it gets even stranger. “They've handed the materials over to Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based consultancy with no election experience, run by a man who has shared unfounded conspiracy theories claiming the official 2020 presidential election results are illegitimate.”
The head of Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based firm that Republican senators hired to oversee the audit, has embraced Mr. Trump’s baseless theories of election theft and has suggested, contrary to available evidence, that Mr. Trump actually won Arizona by 200,000 votes. The pro-Trump cable channel One America News Network has started a fund-raiser to finance the venture and has been named one of the nonpartisan observers that will keep the audit on the straight and narrow.
Predictably, the “audit” has so far been a clusterf*ck.
The audit has been beset by amateur mistakes that critics view as evidence the auditors are not up to the task. Hand counters began the day using blue pens, which are banned in ballot counting rooms because they can be read by ballot machines. For days leading up to the audit, a crew from a group of Phoenix television stations, azfamily, had unfettered access to the supposedly secure facility as auditors were setting up equipment and receiving ballots and counting machines.
The Arizona story is worth keeping an eye on for at least two reasons: (1) It will likely be used to feed the Big Lie and sundry conspiracy theories, and (2) it is an indication of the metastasizing Crazy in the GOP. Notes the NYT:
Critics in both parties charge that an effort that began as a way to placate angry Trump voters has become a political embarrassment and another blow to the once-inviolable democratic norm that losers and winners alike honor the results of elections.
“You know the dog that caught the car?” said Steve Gallardo, the lone Democrat on the Republican-dominated Maricopa Board of Supervisors. “The dog doesn’t know what to do with it.”
I had some thoughts on TV last night:
Santorum’s birth of a nation.
“We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here,” Santorum declared, before admitting (sort of) the existence of Native Americans.
“I mean, yes we have Native Americans but candidly there isn't much Native American culture in American culture,” he said. “It was born of the people who came here pursuing religious liberty to practice their faith, to live as they ought to live, and have the freedom to do so.”
Maybe Santorum could come to Milwaukee (named after the Algonquin word “Millioke”), or Waukesha (from the Potawatomi word for “fox”) here in Wisconsin (originally "Meskonsing") to discuss his understanding of the nullity of Native American culture. If he wants, he could also read up on the origins of corn, and peanuts, and cranberries.
He might also benefit from learning something about this: How the Iroquois Great Law of Peace Shaped U.S. Democracy
We also couldn’t help noting that Santorum made his remarks at an event sponsored by the Young America’s Foundation, which is headed by former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who has said that his mission is to wage “a war for the soul of the nation.” (We’ve written about Walker’s project to save conservatism here.)
At the heart of that mission, besides a lot of lib-owning, is a renewed focus on American history and values. As part of that, Walker & Co. could have drawn on dozens of actual historians.
Instead, they brought in Santorum. Actual, real-life historians were not impressed:
Walker continues to put his imprint on YAF. His newest speaker? This guy:
“Young America’s Foundation is thrilled to have Stephen Miller join our monumental campus lecture program,” said Governor Scott Walker, President of Young America’s Foundation. “A longtime ally and alumnus of the Foundation, Miller is a great example of a freedom fighter–someone students can look up to as they navigate the conservative experience on campus.”
Exit take: back in July 2019, our colleague Jim Swift asked: “Can Scott Walker Save the Future of Conservatism?”
On the other hand….
Liz Cheney isn’t budging. “McCarthy-Cheney divide deepens at GOP retreat.”
“If we minimize what happened on Jan. 6th and if we appease it, then we will be in a situation where every election cycle, you could potentially have another constitutional crisis,” Cheney said later in an interview with POLITICO. “If you get into a situation where we don't guarantee a peaceful transfer of power, we won't have learned the lessons of Jan. 6."
"And you can't bury our head in the sand," she added. "It matters hugely to the survival of the country.”
Anatomy of a bullshit narrative.
You might want to bookmark this CNN fact-check of the bogus story that the Biden Administration was going to take away your burgers. It is a handy illustration of the path that fake stores take. It goes something like this: Academic paper that has nothing to do with Biden’s proposal —>Misleading story in a British tabloid —> Fox News —> political hacks who want to own libs on social media.
Facts First: Biden has not proposed any limit on Americans' red meat consumption. In fact, he has not proposed any limit on Americans' consumption of any food. The false claim about Biden trying to restrict people to four pounds of red meat per year appears to have originated with a deceptive Thursday article by the British tabloid The Daily Mail. The article baselessly connected Biden's climate proposals to an academic paper from 2020 that is not about Biden and says nothing about the government imposing dietary limits.
Update: Fox runs a correction:
UPDATE Number Two; Here’s the latest bullshit narrative being pushed by the folks at Fox/NYPost/GOP: “No, officials are not handing out Harris’s picture book to migrant kids.”
Long Beach city officials told The Washington Post that Harris’s book is not being handed out in welcome kits. A single copy of the book was donated during a citywide donation drive, officials said.
A new consensus on spending?
Let’s concede that we don’t have a consensus on anything these days. The signs of our division are all around us, right? We are hopelessly fractured and everything is tribal.
Which makes this new Monmouth poll so intriguing. It seems to suggest broad, bipartisan, cross-tribal support for many of Biden’s big spending plans.
About 2 in 3 Americans support the president’s multitrillion-dollar infrastructure package as well as the proposed tax hikes to pay for it.
The Monmouth University Poll finds similar levels of support for expanding healthcare access and other aid – a plan slated to be released this week….
Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal is broadly popular, registering 68% support and just 29% opposition. Support for this spending plan – covering a gamut of projects from roads and trains to clean energy and internet access – comes from 94% of Democrats and 69% of independents, but just 32% of Republicans.
The poll also finds widespread support for massive new social spending.
Biden is also set to unveil a large spending plan to expand access to healthcare and childcare as well as provide paid leave and college tuition support. Nearly 2 in 3 Americans (64%) support this idea while 34% are opposed. The poll also finds nearly 2 in 3 Americans support raising taxes on corporations (64%) and individuals earning more than $400,000 (65%) to pay for these plans.
Exit take: After four years of Trumpian deficits, the center of political gravity has shifted to the left on spending issues, at least for the time being.
ICYMI: This is awesome. The Republican Accountability Project is out with its Democracy Report card.
Definitely worth your time:
RAP’s Democracy Grade is determined by evaluating members of Congress based on four criteria:
Did he or she sign on to the amicus brief filed along with Texas’ lawsuit to the Supreme Court that sought to nullify votes cast in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia? More Info
Did he or she object to the certification of Electoral College votes from at least one state? More Info
Did he or she make public statements that cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election? More Info
Did he or she vote to hold Trump accountable via impeachment or conviction? More Info
Did your members of Congress support American democracy when it needed it? Use our legislator search tool.
1. Bad Cops, Bad Narratives
Must read in today’s Bulwark: Cathy Young’s thoughtful and even-handed analysis of the problem of police violence. Racial bias in policing is real, she writes. But the full picture is far more complex.
Despite many loud voices on the right questioning or even deploring Minneapolis ex-cop Derek Chauvin’s murder conviction last week for the death of George Floyd, the trial’s outcome has been met with a remarkably bipartisan degree of public approval: In an online USA Today/Ipsos poll conducted just after the verdict was announced, 71 percent of the respondents in the weighted sample said they believe the guilty verdict was correct, while only 13 percent thought it was not. Even among Republicans, only 23 percent said they flat-out rejected the result; cries of “mob rule” from the likes of Scott Adams and Matt Walsh may have gotten their share of Twitter likes but seem to have had little broader impact.
But in the aftermath of the Chauvin trial, plenty of wrongheaded or plainly irresponsible rhetoric about policing and justice has been voiced by the progressive left—some of which may both hinder good law enforcement and make it harder to reform the bad.
2. The Rise of “Anti-Woke” Punitive Populism
The “virtue signaling” from elitist CEOs about things such as democracy and racial inclusivity is offensive to Republicans. The idea that corporations would withhold donations from PACs supporting members of Congress who objected to the certification of Joe Biden’s election was bad enough—but then companies started opposing state legislators seeking to restrict voting rights. That was the last straw. Trump may be out, but there’s a new way of doing business in This Town: Screw with our elections, Republicans grumbled, and we’ll screw your trusts, tax cuts, loopholes, and credits. So show some respect!
It sounds like something Donald Trump might have tweeted out back before Twitter—another one of the companies the GOP likes to rail against—shut down his account. Republicans try to pretend that their bullying is something more principled—that it’s anti-woke corporate populism—but in reality it’s little more than grievance weaponized as policy.
But don’t laugh. The way things are going, this could be the next grand unifying theory for the GOP.
So, now “FREEDOM!” means…. calling the cops?
Dying to own the libs.
The GOP Is a Grave Threat to American Democracy
The Trump presidency might have been the first act in a longer and even darker political drama, in which the Republican Party is becoming more radicalized. How long this will last is an open question; whether it is happening is not.
The radicalization manifests in myriad ways, most notably in Trump’s enduring popularity among Republicans. Trump’s loyalists have launched ferocious attacks against Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach him for his role in the insurrection, even as national Republicans eagerly position themselves as his heir. Right-wing media display growing fanaticism, while public-opinion polls show GOP voters embracing Trump’s lie that the election was stolen from him. The Republican Party’s illiberalism, its barely disguised nativism, and its white identity politics are resonating with extremist groups. Slate’s Will Saletan, in an article cataloging recent developments, summarized things this way: “The Republican base is thoroughly infected with sympathies for the insurrection.”