The Politics of Retaliation

Plus: Getting it right on Georgia

ICYMI: The Former Guy had an Easter message for the world:

“Happy Easter to ALL, including the Radical Left CRAZIES who rigged our Presidential Election, and want to destroy our Country!”

Meanwhile, the party of the working class was taking a firm stand against… baseball.

Ronna, of course, is a woman devoid of ideas, so it is not at all surprising that she was simply channeling TFG’s call for a boycott of the national pastime.

"Baseball is already losing tremendous numbers of fans, and now they leave Atlanta with their All-Star Game because they are afraid of the Radical Left Democrats who do not want voter I.D., which is desperately needed, to have anything to do with our elections," Trump said in a statement. "Boycott baseball and all of the woke companies that are interfering with Free and Fair Elections."

This is notable: a former president (albeit a one-term, disgraced, twice impeached one) calling for a boycott of major American employers. Like Ronna McDaniel, the oleaginous Matt Schlapp also heard his master’s voice.

And hacks gonna hack:

If you didn’t know better, you might think that this was some form of right-wing cancel culture.

But some Republicans want to go much further — and are proposing using the power of the federal government to punish the ideological miscreants.

So we get this from the Politicians Formerly Known as Constitutional Conservatives:

And this from culture war ambulance chaser Chip Roy:

This comes a few days after Republicans in the Georgia legislature tried to punish Delta Airlines for criticizing the state’s new voting law.

…[The] Georgia House retaliated by narrowly voting to end a lucrative tax break on jet fuel during the final, frenzied day of the legislative session. The measure never came up for a final vote in the Senate, where leaders are more lukewarm on overtly punishing Delta.

Unfortunately, the attempt to punish Delta was not a one-off. As the GOP embraces it’s new anti-corporatist culture war, we see the formerly pro-business party increasingly indulging its penchant for retaliation against speech it doesn’t like.

Senator Marsha Blackburn used a Senate hearing to question Google’s CEO, “whether Blake Lemoine, a senior software engineer and artificial intelligence researcher, still has a job at Google.”

“He has had very unkind things to say about me and I was just wondering if you all had still kept him working there,” Blackburn said during the hearing, where she and other GOP lawmakers accused tech companies of squelching free speech.

When he is not busy fomenting insurrections at the Capitol, Josh Hawley has made threatening tech companies a signature issue of his nascent 2024 presidential run. Quite explicitly, he is proposing “audits” of the company’s political leanings — and massive retaliation if they do not meet his standards.

The Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act would force large tech companies — under penalty of losing their immunity from what their billions of users do on their platforms — to submit to federal audits to ensure they don’t engage in politically biased moderation.

And here is Working Class Champion Marco Rubio explaining his unwonted support of a union campaign by Amazon workers.

Here’s my standard: When the conflict is between working Americans and a company whose leadership has decided to wage culture war against working-class values, the choice is easy — I support the workers. And that’s why I stand with those at Amazon’s Bessemer warehouse today.

In other words, it’s all about the culture war.

To be sure, it is not just Republicans who are nursing fantasies of retaliation against critics. Last week Elizabeth Warren reacted to a critical tweet from Amazon by pledging to “fight to Break up Big Tech so you’re not powerful enough to heckle senators with snotty tweets.”

As Robby Soave noted in Reason:

This is a classic example of saying the quiet part out loud. Warren inadvertently revealed that her crusade to hurt major tech companies is partly driven by personal animus: She wants to reduce the power of corporations so that they are no longer "powerful enough to heckle senators."

In fact, everyone enjoys the right to "heckle senators," if by "heckle," we mean engage in constitutionally-protected political expression. Senators are elected representatives: They are supposed to be accountable to their constituents and the public more broadly. It is not "cancel culture" when people criticize Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R–Ga.) for her previous enthusiasm for QAnon; similarly, there's nothing sinister or harassing about Amazon clapping back at Warren.


Exit take: Until recently, it was generally understood (even among conservatives) that the First Amendment meant that everyone should be able to criticize our government and elected officials without fear of retaliation. But that may turn out to be yet another casualty of the corporate/culture war.

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The Importance of Getting It Right

Let’s talk abut the Georgia law for a minute. Yes, the GOP legislature acted in bad faith, using Trump’s Big Lie to justify the new law; and yes, it’s possible that the law will make it easier for GOP politicians to manipulate the results of further elections.

But we need to acknowledge that much of the rhetoric has been waaaaaay over the top. And that matters.

As Nate Cohn wrote in the NYT over the weekend:

“There’s a real — and bipartisan — misunderstanding about whether making it easier or harder to vote, especially by mail, has a significant effect on turnout or electoral outcomes,” he writes. “The evidence suggests it does not.”

It’s also worth your time to check out this Will Saletan thread:

And some hard truths from Woke Joe Walsh:

So, not exactly Jim Crow 2.0 is it?


ICYMI: My colleague, Tim Miller addressed the problem over the weekend.

For some reason a lot of Democrats from Biden all the way down have tried to turn the Georgia law itself into something it isn’t—giving Karl Rove the opportunity to attack them with some basis in truth, which I deeply resent. 

The Georgia bill as written has some disgusting parts (no handing out food and water at the polls, except by poll-workers) and some concerning parts (giving state-level bureaucrats the authority to usurp county election boards) but it isn’t Jim Crow on Steroids in any meaningful sense of that phrase. The polls aren’t being closed at 5 p.m. And many of the most noxious proposals from the dregs of the bigoted Georgia GOP (such as banning early voting on Sundays) were removed from the final bill. 

After this bill, Georgia will still have 17 days of early voting. That gives folks a lot of opportunities to get to the polls! Both the early and absentee ballot rules are still more expansive than in many blue states. Yes the bill was ill-intentioned, but the end result doesn’t seem to be likely to yield a result that matches those intentions….

So given all that, is a little hyperbolic flapdoodle in service of stopping a phony, bigoted power-grab that big of a deal? 

My answer to that is . . . kind of, yes??

Miller argues that, especially after the gaslighting we’ve gotten from the White House in recent years, “we should probably ask for a critique that is a little more in touch with reality.”

The defense of these exaggerations comes in a lot of different forms but basically it comes down to: “But We Fight! the evil opposition.” And, well, I guess I’m a little triggered by those types of rationalizations exempting people from being tethered to critique. 

I’m also not at all convinced that it is strategically effective. On the one hand, turning the outrage meter from 9 to 11 might motivate more people to turn out in future elections, yes. But doesn’t that also undermine the merits of the argument? …

For me, given the nature of the threat from the anti-democratic GOP, the best path forward is to stick to the strong, truthful case that can be made against the bill based on the GOP’s ill intent, rather than trying to make the actual legislation something it’s not. 

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ICYMI: here is our weekend podcast:

David Frum on the GOP's Strange New Doctrine

On today’s Bulwark podcast, David Frum joined me to discuss his recent column on the GOP’s strange new doctrine, the Matt Gaetz controversy, and how secularization has caused race to replace religion as an organizing principle.

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Quick Hits

We Need a 9/11 Commission for COVID

A. B. Stoddard in today’s Bulwark writes that Deborah Birx’s attempt to whitewash her actions shows why we need a full accounting of what the Trump administration did.

If the rest of America understood exactly how badly Trump was handling the virus, then surely from the inside Birx and others knew what was wrong many weeks before 100,000 people had been claimed by the virus. Trump refused to do his job and stopped others from doing their jobs, too. Truth-tellers were punished, demoted, or fired, while liars and deniers were sent out as messengers to the American public.

By the time 200,000 Americans were dead, Trump himself got COVID. His office went to extraordinary measures to keep his true condition from the public, and lectured the country about not letting the virus “dominate” us. And then he lied again, saying he would make available to every American the combination of drugs he received. (Getting a monoclonal antibody cocktail is still hit-or-miss.)

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