The Insurrection Is the Message. And Republicans Are All Still Onboard. 

Inside the Republican donor retreat.

Charlie got his shots and is on a much deserved and long-overdue holiday with his family (woo!) this week.

I couldn’t do justice to the essential morning rundown that injects everything you need to know about our insane politics into your inbox every single day while the rest of us are still in REM, so I didn’t even try. Instead here’s a free Monday edition of my weekend Triad and you can catch me guest-hosting The Bulwark podcast Thursday and Friday.

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A peaked-looking former president spent the weekend traipsing about one of his various clubs in a flabby white polo taking selfies with creepy imitators, hitting the links with his most eager submissive, and avoiding Newt Gingrich. The panoply of GOP elites once again made the pilgrimage to one of God-King Trump’s holy sites, choosing Trump International Palm Beach to host their spring donor confab rather than retreating to literally any other high-end club which would’ve brought the dual benefits of (1) not being owned by a failed insurrectionist and (2) serving rock-hard steaks with a side of ketchup. 

Look, I don’t want to torment you with gratuitous reading about the details of the RumpRoast Master of Palm Beach’s unemployment routine, but here’s the deal: When the party’s entire leadership reaffirms their captivity to a man who attempted to overturn our democracy, it merits being called out with specificity. And that’s what happened Saturday night in South Florida. 

The Republican party wants all of us to forget what happened in the lead-up to January 6. Kevin McCarthy said recently that his vote to overturn the election “wasn’t to overturn an election” because it wasn’t really going to happen . . . or something.

Well on Saturday, at an event that also featured such top Republicans as Ron DeSantis, Marco Rubio, Rick Scott, Kristi Noem, Tom Cotton, and McCarthy, Trump once again clarified—for anyone who had lingering doubts—that he did, in fact, want the election to be overturned.

According to Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post, Trump told a cheering crowd that the election was “rigged” and “bullshit” and he lamented Stacey Abrams getting help from Oprah Winfrey and Barack “Hussein” Obama. Some really subtle racist airhorning there. 

Trump once again stated specifically that he wanted Mike Pence to have “the courage” to not certify the election, for the purpose of keeping Trump in the White House.

Now you might think that a former president declaring that he was disappointed that his sincere effort to become an unelected autocrat would get some pushback from attendees. That people with live political careers—people who currently hold elective office and are due to face voters soon—might see some benefit to distancing themselves from the most direct assault on our democracy undertaken by a president in the postwar era.  


And while all of the elected officials who are asking voters to entrust them with their judgment were silent in the face of Trump’s continued anti-democratic assault, there was one group that spoke out . . . some of the Republican donors in attendance. 

Well, they didn’t speak out exactly. They whispered. On background. To Politico. (What journalistic purpose is being served by granting donors anonymity exactly?) 

These donors thought the speech had been a bit “dour” and “negative.” 

Donald Trump, negative? You don’t say! 

These concerns were not echoed by Ron DeSantis—the top official in the state hosting the wannabe despot in exile—who is not so subtly positioning himself as the heir for people looking for “competent Trumpism” (one of the most startling oxymorons ever uttered in American English).  DeSantis has had allies suggest that his hands are clean of the Trumpian coup, seeing as he didn’t directly vote for it like Kevin McCarthy did. 

But the reality is that in DeSantis’s case, “competent Trumpism” means calling for coups in a less dour and more deft manner. 

DeSantis has not just been silently “humoring” Trump throughout these last five months in the hopes that the former guy flames out. 

He has continually expressed explicit support for Trump’s attempt to overturn the election. 

Here was DeSantis on November 5 telling Laura Ingraham that her viewers should pressure Republican state legislators in Pennsylvania and Michigan to overturn the results in their states. 

His support for the coup attempt was called out for praise by Donald Trump Jr., who said that of all the potential future presidential contenders only DeSantis and Hawley were fighting with them: 

A month later, long after the election had been called, DeSantis told a private gathering that he had been encouraging Trump to “fight on!”

Trump’s anti-democratic fight continues, and DeSantis was there with him on Saturday as he made his intentions explicit and attacked Mitch McConnell, Mike Pence, and others who didn’t stick with him the whole way like the Florida governor did. 

DeSantis might think that he can argue sometime in the future that the “fight” he was pushing was something other than an insurrection that resulted in a deadly siege of the Capitol. But Donald Trump continues to publicly disabuse him of that notion every time he opens his mouth. And DeSantis and the rest merely smile and applaud. 

Then and now, insurrection was the message.

They are all on board. 

We are not. And we will never stop calling them out.

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As The Bulwark’s California correspondent, I wanted to weigh in on the proto-candidacy of Caitlyn Jenner for my state’s governorship, an idea that has been floated aggressively by the political press over last week. 

Let me cut to the chase: Any person who supported Donald Trump has failed the entry-level test of political viability for statewide office in California. End of story. 

I had some folks push back on this notion on Twitter, citing The Governator’s recall victory in 2003. This might make sense from afar, but doesn’t take into account the changes which have happened in American politics over the last 20 years.

The same demographic changes in the country and the suburban shift towards Democrats that helped the party improve in places like Atlanta are also operative in San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and even the Bay Area. 

Let me lay out some numbers for you to demonstrate how different of a world we are in today from that of 2003. 

In the two presidential races bookending the 2003 recall, George W. Bush lost California by 1.3 million and 1.2 million votes respectively. Not exactly close. 

But get this: 

Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by 5.1 million votes

For a sense of scale here, the gap between Biden and Trump was greater than the entire raw vote total Bush got in California in 2000. 

And it’s not just Trump. Gavin Newsom won his race by 3 million votes and just under 24 percentage points in 2018. Back in 2002 Gray Davis won his race by just 400,000 votes and 5 percentage points. 

Not all blue states are the same. California in 2003 may have been one of the nation’s bright-blue bastions, but now it is the deepest of indigos.

Someday the political status quo will be disrupted in the Golden State—politics is always in motion. But if somebody tells you the disrupter is  going to be a red-hatted reality-show star (or an obnoxious internet troll turned interim director of national intelligence) well, tell them you’d like some of whatever it is they bought at our local dispensary. 

Build This Woman a Statue 

Well gang, I got my first dose of the mRNA vaccine this weekend and have been on cloud nine, plotting my travel agenda, and feeling thoroughly indebted to the smarties who made this public health miracle happen for all of us. 

One of those smarties is Kati Kariko and if you haven’t read about her yet, you absolutely must. 

She grew up in Hungary, daughter of a butcher. She decided she wanted to be a scientist, although she had never met one. She moved to the United States in her 20s, but for decades never found a permanent position, instead clinging to the fringes of academia.

For her entire career, Dr. Kariko has focused on messenger RNA, or mRNA—the genetic script that carries DNA instructions to each cell’s protein-making machinery. She was convinced mRNA could be used to instruct cells to make their own medicines, including vaccines.

But for many years her career at the University of Pennsylvania was fragile. She migrated from lab to lab, relying on one senior scientist after another to take her in. She never made more than $60,000 a year. . . .

For Dr. Kariko, most every day was a day in the lab. “You are not going to work—you are going to have fun,” her husband, Bela Francia, manager of an apartment complex, used to tell her as she dashed back to the office on evenings and weekends. He once calculated that her endless workdays meant she was earning about a dollar an hour.


I hear there are a lot of schools in San Francisco that need a new appellation. They could do worse than Kati Kariko Elementary. 

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