Welcome to "Stop the Steal," Forever

No true Republican loses an election.

Former US President Donald Trump supporters are seen as a motorcade with US President Joe Biden arrives at a campaign event for California Governor Gavin Newsom in Long Beach, California on September 13, 2021. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

1. Never, Ever, EVER Concede

This morning Charlie noted that Big Lie 2.0 is currently in beta and slotted for release later this week.

I’d like to talk about why.

One of the theories I’ve floated here over the last couple years is the idea that the GOP is no longer a traditional political party—an institution with diffuse power centers and clear policy goals—but rather an authoritarian personality cult.

I mean this not pejoratively, but descriptively. The institution of the Republican party now takes whatever position Donald Trump insists because if the party does not, the party’s voters will turn on it.

Examples:

  • Maintaining that the COVID pandemic was overhyped.

  • Declaring that the 2020 election was stolen.

  • Defending people who refuse to be vaccinated.

Each of these postures hurt the “Republican party” in that they were unpopular and hurt the party’s chances of winning elections.

But each position became mandatory for one reason and one reason only: Because Donald Trump took them.

This is a serious question: If Trump had conceded the election and said it was a tough fight and that he’d be back in 2024, what percentage of GOP voters would today say that the election had been “stolen”?

Because right now, something like 60 percent of Republicans say that Trump actually won.

So if all of the facts remained the same, but Trump had not demanded that people believe he was the victor, what would that percentage be?

If your answer is “less than 60 percent” then it means we’re looking at a cult where people are taking their positions purely on the say-so of the maximum leader.

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In the current Republican party, all of the normative behaviors are being anchored by the whims of one guy. And the norm for election loss is now to refuse to acknowledge it. It’s stop the steal, all the way down.

Another serious question: If you are a losing Republican candidate, what penalty will you pay for insisting that your election was stolen? Will you be read out of your local party? Will you be unable to raise money for future elections? Will your fellow travelers snicker about you behind your back?

I doubt it.

Now take the opposite angle: If you are a losing Republican candidate, what penalty will you pay if you concede your loss? I suspect that such a concession will put you crosswise with your party’s base voters and make any future campaigns more difficult. You will be labeled a RINO cuck who was afraid to fight and get kicked to the curb by the next MAGA clone looking to take your spot.


I will be very interested to see what happens with Glenn Youngkin in Virginia.

Youngkin is the millionaire CEO running as the working-man’s champion in the Virginia governor’s race. He might well win.1 But if he loses, what’s he going to do?

Youngkin was the establishment pick in Virginia—the horse the state GOP chose to beat back the really MAGA candidates. He’s the reasonable guy. The one who would nod at all the right places, but didn’t actually believe any of that crazy stuff. He just wants to cut taxes and create jobs like every pre-2016 Republican before him.

And yet, Youngkin is a realist. He played footsie with the #StopTheSteal crowd. He spoke at an “election integrity” rally at Falwell State. His campaign has an Election Integrity Task Force—with its own membership card!

So you’re Glenn Youngkin and you’re desperate to buy your way into Republican politics. You’ve gone pretty close to all-in on 2020 having been stolen, though you’ve tried to never totally, unequivocally, say it out loud. You’ve made “election integrity” a signature part of your campaign.

Let’s say you lose by a few thousand votes.

What do you do? If you want to run for office again as a Republican, you’re going to have to say the race was stolen.

That’s the new precondition for being a Republican in good standing with the party’s base.


Smash the Cult.

Join Bulwark+


2. The Future of Work

Over at Galaxy Brain, Charlie Warzel recently floated the idea that the rising generation might just opt out of “careers” in order to find fulfillment elsewhere in their lives.

His essay produced a backlash, funnily enough. And Warzel believes that the reason some readers (especially older readers) were so triggered by it is because they all had to suffer through careers:

A meaningful part of the resistance to changing how we work has come and will continue to come from those who suffered from the old way of doing things. . . .

In the case of the angry late career workers, they are right to be mad. The system did fail some of them. At the very least, it abused a number of them. Many workers have eaten a lot of shit and some of them have risen above all the crap and made something out of their career that they are proud of. But even those folks share something in common with the people who struggled: hearing that you’ve been playing a rigged game can bring about feelings of shame. We can, however, break this cycle by admitting the flaws in the current system.

Spoiler: You can’t break this cycle.

There is a disequilibrium in leverage between capital and labor inherent in our system.2 And the systemic changes we are undergoing due to technology are likely to magnify this disparity.

Example: Thanks to the internet, big chunks of information sector jobs are no longer bound by geography. You might think to yourself: Advantage workers! You can leave high-cost San Francisco and move to low-cost Cleveland and improve your standard of living.

And maybe that’s true in the shortest term. But what it also means is that everyone in Cleveland can now compete for the job that used to be based in San Francisco. The notional labor pool increases by a lot. And pretty soon you wind up in a situation where the employers are going to be able to wage discriminate based on where their worker lives. It’s the intramural version of off-shoring jobs.

I’m open to the idea that this is a net positive for America as a whole. It would create a more efficient allocation of capital and make the employers more competitive. It would reduce costs to consumers. It would reduce the penalties some workers face just for being born in less dynamic areas of the country. But it sure isn’t going to be a positive development for all workers. Some of them are going to get screwed while the capital holders shift toward greater efficiency.

All of which is the long way of saying that if Zoomers think they can opt out of all of this stuff, they’re probably mistaken. Labor competition is likely to intensify and the best we can do as a society is to make the safety net stronger for people who get the short end. Because trying to shift power away from capital and back to labor in the aggregate is a sucker’s bet.


Just to emphasize how much power capital holders have relative to workers, take a look at this piece from Buzzfeed on how super progressive Dem Rep. Pramila Jayapal treats her employees:

In November 2020, she laid off two staffers without severance, two people familiar with the incident told BuzzFeed News. Chris Evans, a spokesperson for Jayapal, said the decision to consolidate was made to “best utilize” the office’s resources, and the staffers were given six weeks’ notice. But one staff member who was told they were being laid off was invited to reapply for a new job in the office that would consolidate the two roles, those familiar said. The staffer was required to go through the full application process, despite the job being nearly identical to the one they had been laid off from. And then, without advance warning, they found out in an all-hands meeting that they did not get the job. . . .

In interviews with BuzzFeed News, they described Jayapal as a boss who berated staff in front of others, demanded grueling hours, and maintained an office culture marked by constantly changing expectations and little tolerance for error, to the extent that some staffers sought therapy and questioned their careers in public service. Since taking office, Jayapal has had one of the highest staff turnover rates in the House, due in large part, former employees said, to the unrealistic standards she sets. “It's not sustainable to be able to stay for too long,” one said.

The point of this isn’t Jayapal’s hypocrisy—it’s to underline that she treats workers this way because she can.

Pramila Jayapal’s “business” is a congressional district. The capital for that business is votes. By winning a majority of the votes in her district, Jayapal became the sole possessor of 100 percent of the capital. And so she is able to run her business as she wishes and the workers have no recourse except to leave. At which point they are eagerly replaced by new workers.

And Jayapal’s business continues chugging along just fine.


3. ICU

Come spend 12 hours in a Florida ICU with the unvaccinated:

Jennifer Tellone has started calling it “The War Zone.”

In the small office she shares at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Jen lifts her mask to sip her drink. She hasn’t even put down her purse when another nurse rushes in.

The patient in Room 84 can’t breathe. She needs to be intubated — right away. “Want me to put in for a chest X-ray?” Jen asks, pulling an N95 mask over her surgical one.

“They’re on their way.”

“Is there anything you need me to do?”

“Ask for fentanyl.”

Through the glass wall, Jen sees the patient on her back, gasping, arms flailing. Nurses wearing plastic gowns and respirators are struggling to sedate her. Others are pumping air into her mouth with a plastic bulb. Tubes snake from her wrists and chest. Above her head, monitors blink green, red and blue lifelines. Outside the door is a cart labeled: “For Code Use Only.” The patient is 63 years old, someone reads from a chart. She had been hospitalized two weeks earlier and rushed to the ICU that morning.

“Where’s her family?” asks Jen.

“Her son is here,” says another nurse.

Jen nods, then sighs. “This is how yesterday started.”

Yesterday was the worst day on her ward. Ever. Three COVID-19 patients died — two before 8 a.m.

They were 44, 50, and 64 years old.

Jen had to tell their families.

Read the whole thing.

1

If you forced me to bet $5, I’d probably take Youngkin. But this race looks like a pick-em to me.

2

I don’t mean this as a value judgment. It’s just a fact.