1. The UnBattle of Ohio
A dour, sullen, unsmiling, political hack. This was former president Donald Trump’s assessment of Mitch McConnell in a press release this week. Politico reported that Trump was persuaded to leave a comment about McConnell’s droopy jowls on the cutting room floor, so maybe there’s more to come. Wattle’ Mitch or Dewlap Mitch or some such.
But underneath this war of words was the substance of Trump’s threat. In the statement, he promised to “back primary rivals” to any of the McConnell supported Senate candidates who do not prostrate themselves before the Apricot Idol and swear to uphold the MAGA truths about the Sacred Landslide Victory of 2020 that was thwarted by the thieving apparition of Hugo Chavez and voting machines that revealed Satan’s Dominion over the earth.
There has been much hubbub in the press about this promise as they speculate about what a Mitch vs. Don hot war would look like. Might it take a similar shape to Mitch’s previous primary battles with the Tea Party and Bannon-backed nationalists? Might Cocaine Mitch get the last laugh?
Color me skeptical.
Out there in America where this “civil war” is gonna be fought, it sounds a lot more like a dinner-time family dispute at Jefferson Davis’ country home than the battle of Antietam.
The Ohio Senate race provides a nice preview to what I’d like to call the Republican party’s UnCivil Unwar. There are currently two major, declared candidates in the GOP contest to replace the retiring Rob Portman.
The first, Josh Mandel, was formerly the state treasurer and back in 2012 he ran for Senate against Sherrod Brown as your conventional Marco Rubio/Eric Cantor/Mitt Romney style Republican. The second is Jane Timken, the former Ohio GOP chair, a Harvard graduate and the wife of a steel magnate. Both had been allies of the centrist Republican Governor John Kasich, with Timken even supporting his bid for president in 2016.
If you were not familiar with Ohio politics, you might think that both of these candidates would be on the McConnell side of the “Civil War” and that there must be some rabid, Gym Jordan-style Trumpkin waiting in the wings.
But in fact, both Timken and Mandel are competing in the “Trump Lane” in the primary according to NBC News. No, really. After Trump beat Kasich in 2016, Mandel started vouching for Pizzagate Jack Posobiec while Timken Brutused John Kasich and cleansed the state party of anyone who wore the scarlet K.
Trump fealty (and Kasich calumny) has been the coin of the realm in the nascent primary campaign. Ohio Capital Journal reporter Tyler Buchanan notes that over two-thirds of each candidate’s tweets have been about Trump since they launched their respective campaigns.
So who exactly is on the “McConnell” side of this primary fight? I see no indication that a candidate will emerge who will dare echo anything in the ballpark of McConnell’s post-acquittal speech about Trump’s “unconscionable behavior.”
And forget Ohio: I don’t expect there to be any contested Senate primary in the lower 48 where there will be a viable Republican candidate who blames Trump for the insurrection, admits Biden won the election fairly, and argues we need to turn the page on Trump.
The Trump/McConnell Civil War is one big Spiderman Doppelgänger meme, with Spidey #1 supporting a Trump autocracy both privately and publicly and Spidey #2 supporting a Trump autocracy in public, while privately whispering to donors that the cop-killing coup went a tad too far for their taste.
In the Ohio Senate primary the “Trump Lane” is the entire highway. And if you are looking for political analysis the next two years that sees this one-lane MAGA highway for what it is, then you should come hang with us and sign up for the Bulwark+
2. UnBattle of Pea Brain Ridge
Arkansas is another front in the GOP Civil War that wasn’t. We all know by now that Sarah Huckabee Sanders is running for governor based on her experience as the most deft liar among the cadre of Trump press secretaries.
But this development wasn’t met with immediate excitement among the Republican establishment in the Natural State. You see, before SHS asserted the Trumpian right of prima nocta on the Little Rock statehouse, there were two long-time establishment Republican pols who were primed for the type of primary battle the party used to have in the Before Times: Arkansas Lt. Gov Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.
Both are vets of the Republican National Committee. Rutledge was an attorney for the committee when I worked there in 2012 and Griffin was a mentor and friend to my post-RNC business partners.
Griffin ran for Congress and was elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave, besting one of the late-stage blue dog Democrats. In 2014 he returned to Arkansas to run for lieutenant governor and patiently waited his turn, plotting an ascension to the governorship in 2022. Griffin was not in any sense a “Trump” Republican in style or substance, but like everyone who wanted to survive, he went along with it to the extent required of a local GOP elected. Meanwhile Rutledge ran for attorney general in 2014 and went whole hog with the Donald, thinking she could outflank Griffin.
Along came SHS. Whose only credential is that she is closer to Trump than anyone in America outside of The Family. Bowing to reality, Griffin quickly gave up his gubernatorial dreams without a fight—he’s now running for AG instead. Rutledge is still ostensibly running for the top job, but her last tweet asking for people to join her campaign has 3 retweets and 11 likes. So things aren’t exactly looking up.
Here’s the thing, working your way up through state government, going to the county party dinners, developing subject matter expertise, having a policy agenda—it’s all a fool’s errand now. Tim Griffin followed the ‘90s and ‘00s success model to a T and got big footed by someone whose only resumé item is “Don’s favorite lib owner.”
So there’s no civil war in Arkansas, either. The party regulars are almost entirely on one side of the battle. And your ability to rise through the ranks is determined entirely by your relational proximity to the former president.
3. The Real Civil Unrest In Tigray
I was astounded this week when I read about a massacre in Axum, a holy city near Ethiopia’s northern border. According to a report from the Associated Press, about 800 people were slaughtered in and around the Church of St. Mary of Zion as part of a broader ongoing battle between Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Tigray regional forces.
What particularly caught my attention were the circumstances. This church massacre didn’t happen last week. It happened in November. And the Associated Press only reported on it this past Thursday because a deacon who had escaped the slaughter confirmed it on the record.
Reports from Ethiopian activists began to surface in December, but they were dismissed by self-described armed conflict authorities who cast doubt on the possibility that such carnage could happen under the radar.
In 2020 you can be connected via video to a person almost anywhere in the world. News and lies travel the globe in an instant. How could it take the media months to confirm an atrocity like this in an ostensibly free country?
More from the AP:
For weeks, rumors circulated that something ghastly had occurred at the Church of St. Mary of Zion in late November, with estimates of several hundred people killed. But with Tigray cut off from the world and journalists blocked from entering, little could be verified as Ethiopian and allied fighters pursued the Tigray region’s fugitive leaders.
The deacon, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he remains in Axum, said he helped count the bodies — or what was left after hyenas fed. He gathered victims’ identity cards and assisted with burials in mass graves.
He believes some 800 people were killed that weekend at the church and around the city, and that thousands in Axum have died in all. The killing continues: On the day he spoke to the AP last week he said he had buried three people.
“If we go to the rural areas, the situation is much worse,” the deacon said. . . .
While the world clamors for access to Tigray to investigate suspected atrocities on all sides and deliver aid to millions of hungry people, [Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed] has rejected outside “interference.” He declared victory in late November and said no civilians had been killed. His government denies the presence of thousands of soldiers from Eritrea, long an enemy of the Tigray leaders.
Abiy—who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 (!!)—is apparently covering up the deaths of his citizens either to hide his complicity in the violence or to avoid admitting he has lost control of the Tigray region of his country.
Urgent action is required to stop the carnage and a leader like Abiy, who has sought the recognition of the global community, must be pressured to come clean and provide access to outside humanitarian organizations. If ever there were a situation that requires sunlight, this would be it.
Until that happens if you want to support the victims of the violence in Tigray, ARAHA is supporting refugees who have escaped to Sudan.
Until next weekend...