Trump Owns the Republican Party

Populist power > Elite power.

1. Trump Is Forever

Yesterday Axios ran a piece about the two different strategies elected Republican elites have been considering:

Top Republicans want to bury President Trump, for good. But they are divided whether to do it with one quick kill via impeachment, or let him slowly fade away. . . .

The big picture: Sources tell Axios Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be more likely than not to vote to convict Trump — a green light for other Republican senators to follow.

  • House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy would love a Trumpless world, but doesn't want to knife him with fingerprints. This school of thought wants to let Trump do himself in, without a big party fight over his sins and sentence.

  • The fade-away caucus sees a danger that the impeachment-conviction route is, as a prominent conservative put it, "making him Jesus. ... Truly stupid."

I have to admit: I actually laughed—out loud—when I read this yesterday. Because the level of delusion from McConnell-McCarthy world is stunning.

Let me give this to you Axios style:

  • There are not multiple pathways for excising Donald Trump from the Republican party. And Republicans do not have the luxury of choosing the best option.

  • It’s not even clear that there is any way to “bury” Trump.

  • McConnell pushed all of his chips into the center of the table when he publicly warned Republican senators not to object to the EC vote certification.

  • Not only did multiple senators object, but then 8 of them—almost one-fifth of the caucus—voted to reject the EC vote and thus overturn the results of the election.

  • After signaling that he might vote to convict Trump on impeachment, McConnell then had to change direction and declare that he would push the trial off indefinitely.

The big picture: Mitch McConnell is a lame-duck senator in a minority party. His power is waning, quickly. Kevin McCarthy is a minority leader who is now at odds with the most popular figure in the GOP. How long do you think he’ll hold on to even that small shred of power?


  • 91 percent of self-identified “Trump supporters” say Trump was right to try to overturn the election. 46 percent of people who say they are only “traditional Republicans” agree.

  • Poll after poll shows that three quarters of all Republicans say that the 2020 election results were fraudulent.

  • 92 percent of “Trump supporters” say he should run in 2024.

Donald Trump owns this party because he owns its voters. What guys like McConnell and McCarthy don’t understand is that to the extent that they have any power, they serve at the pleasure of the man who commands their mob. Sorry, I mean “their voters.”

Never forget that in the modern world:

Popular Power > Elite Power

Thanks to everyone for joining us on the livestream last night. If you missed it, you can watch the replay any time, here.

And if you haven’t joined Bulwark+ yet we hope you’ll sign up now so you can join us on next week’s show.

Join Bulwark+

2. Masks

Why are we still using cloth masks? Because it’s just one more way the federal government failed the management of the pandemic:

Taiwan massively scaled up its manufacturing of masks at the start of 2020, such that by April every citizen received a fresh supply of high-quality masks each week, and the distribution system was regulated by the government. Taiwan’s COVID-19 death rate per capita is more than 1,000 times lower than that in the U.S. Hong Kong has been distributing patented six-layer masks (the efficacy of which has been laboratory tested) to every citizen. Singapore is on at least its fourth round of distributing free, reusable, multilayer masks with filters to everyone—even kids, who get kid-size ones. In Germany, Bavaria has just announced that it will be requiring higher-grade masks. If all of these places can do this, why can’t we?

I think we all know why: Because we have a president who was committed to turning masks into part of his culture war. He did everything possible to discourage even the use of masks by citizens, so he sure as hell wasn’t going to direct his government to aggressively ramp up the supply and distribution of high-grade masks in order to slow the spread of COVID.

How has that worked out for us? About as well as you’d expect.

Having the president of the United States incite an insurrection is very bad and it is fitting and proper that the legislative branch attempt to impeach and remove him as a consequence.

In the seven days since, 27,385 Americans have died of COVID.

That’s roughly half the total number of Americans killed in the Vietnam war (58,209).

In a week.

Because of his mismanagement of the pandemic.

There is no appropriate Constitutional remedy for such a dereliction of duty from the chief executive, no censure, or impeachment, or removal that could possibly balance the books against such catastrophic failure.

History will remember Donald Trump as America’s worst president, orders of magnitude worse than Herbert Hoover, even.

After losing to FDR is a sacred landslide election, Herbert Hoover was desperate to run for president again. But this was the days of smoke-filled backrooms, when elite power was greater then popular power. So the GOP was able to keep the vicious little man sidelined.

But I wonder if Republican voters in 1933 were ready to storm the nation’s capital to overturn Hoover’s loss or, had anyone had bothered to ask them, if they would have demanded that Hoover be their party’s nominee in 1936.

3. Mostly Harmless

Several weeks ago I linked to a Wired story which attempted to puzzle out the identity of an anonymous hiker who was found dead in Florida in 2018. The only thing anyone knew about him is that he had gone by the trail name “Mostly Harmless.”

The internet hive mind solved the mystery:

On the trail, Mostly Harmless had carried a notebook full of ideas for Screeps, an online strategy game for programmers. And so a group focused on digital forensics went through the accounts of every possible user who had been on Screeps up until April 2017, the date Mostly Harmless had given other hikers for when he’d begun his journey. They had a bead on a user named Vaejor. Meanwhile, a woman named Sahar Bigdeli had arranged for one of the country’s leading isotope analysts to study the hiker’s teeth in hopes that clues could be discovered about where he had lived. A genomics company, Othram, had taken his DNA and started to do cutting-edge genetic analysis to identify him. Collier County had sent them a bone fragment; they had extracted the hiker’s DNA and then begun searching for genetic similarities among people in a database called GEDmatch to build a tree of potential relatives. They learned that the hiker had Cajun roots; that his family had come from Assumption Parish, Louisiana; and that there were family members with the name Rodriguez. The founder of the company, David Mittelman, went on Facebook to talk about the case. I bought Facebook ads on my personal page to promote my story in the region of Louisiana where I thought his relatives likely lived.

In the middle of December, photographs of Mostly Harmless found their way to a group of friends in Baton Rouge, one of whom called the Collier County Sheriff’s Office. This friend, who asked to be referred to by her middle name, Marie, told the detective that she knew who the hiker was. The sheriff’s office had received hundreds of bad tips. But this one seemed real. Marie recognized the face and she knew all about the scar. The handwriting was familiar, and the coding style too.

At 5:30 the next morning, my phone rang. It was the same person who had first sent the tip in August. We have a name, he said: Vance John Rodriguez.

Read the whole thing.