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Friday Talking Points -- Welcome To Cloud Cuckoo Land

[ Posted Friday, May 14th, 2021 – 18:03 UTC ]

The Republican Party has officially divorced itself from reality. They have, quite simply, moved their headquarters to Cloud Cuckoo Land. Any among their ranks who do not swear fealty to the fantastic lies they now believe must be either shunned or expelled. That is the state of one of the two major American political parties, in the twenty-first century.

Normally, such a development would be a reason for glee among the other political party, but this is not merely a matter of Republicans believing that the world is flat, the moon is made of green cheese, or tax cuts always pay for themselves -- no, this is no mere pedestrian fantasyland they have now taken up residence within. This is far more dangerous.

Republicans now must bow down to Trump's Big Lie, that the 2020 presidential election was somehow "stolen" from him (with zero evidence to back this up, of course). Because of this forced fealty, Republicans have turned the Big Lie into a perpetual motion machine, feeding on itself. Since the election was stolen, that means lots of fraud must have taken place, and that means passing laws in as many states as they can to change the game for the next election cycle. But while most of the attention has been centered on all the voter-suppression aspects of these new laws, a much more insidious thing is also taking place -- Republicans are changing the rules of how votes are counted and certified. They saw what happened to Trump's attempt to steal an election last time, when Republican officials actually took their election oversight jobs seriously and resisted; and they aim to replace that system with one where Republican politicians are in charge of determining which elections they deem valid and which they don't. Elections with more votes for Democrats are obviously suspect and need overturning, to put it more plainly.

Think this is alarmist? We don't. What will happen if Republicans win back the House in either 2022 or 2024? Then Kevin McCarthy would be in charge of certifying the Electoral College vote in the 2024 presidential election. Think he's going to stand up for reality and the truth? We don't. We think he's going to do exactly what his Dear Leader tells him to do. We know this because he already is. Immediately after the insurrection attempt, both he and Liz Cheney denounced the violence and Donald Trump for instigating it, but while Cheney has remained consistent, McCarthy has changed his tune considerably since then.

As an admirer of erudition, we had to be impressed that we read more than one article this week which used the same word to describe what the House GOP (led by McCarthy) just did to Liz Cheney: they defenestrated her from her leadership position. Just chucked her right out the window. She refused to bow down to the Big Lie, so she had to go. She insisted that the emperor was naked, so obviously she was not fit to lead the party anymore. It didn't even matter that she is far more conservative than the woman who replaced her -- because the GOP's not about policy anymore, they're only about fawning devotion to a megalomaniac

Again, if the circumstances weren't so serious, Democrats would be popping popcorn and watching the GOP cage match with glee. But this is no laughing matter. Even though Cheney is completely complicit in how the Republican Party got to this sad juncture -- by recently supporting claims that "election integrity laws" are necessary, for instance (which is no more than a continuation of Republican lies about voter fraud that stretch back decades) -- her ouster is still a big danger signal.

In a hearing this week on the events of the January 6 insurrection, Republicans trotted out the freshest lies: that the insurgents were just "normal tourists" and "patriots." That there was no insurrection, and if there was, it was probably a bunch of antifa people in the crowd provoking all the violence. This is Orwellian territory, folks. The Washington Post reminded these lunatics of what really happened that day:

The Republicans' distortions about the most violent attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812 defy the well-documented reality of what occurred that day -- 140 police officers were injured, some bludgeoned with flagpoles and baseball bats, with one officer's eye gouged, another later losing an eye; rioters chanted "Hang Mike Pence" and erected a gallows on the Capitol grounds; and members of the House and the Senate were rushed to safety in secure locations for several hours. The attack resulted in five dead.

But back to Cheney. McCarthy put the icing on this cake by writing a letter urging Cheney's ouster where he made the up-is-down claim that "unlike the left, we [Republicans] embrace free thought and debate." That's only true if by "embrace," McCarthy really meant "squeeze to death like a jungle python."

To use a word Republicans just love to toss around: Liz Cheney was cancelled by Republicans.

She went down fighting, though. Here's what she had to say to the meeting where she was voted out: "If you want leaders who will enable and spread [Donald Trump's] destructive lies, I'm not your person, you have plenty of others to choose from. That will be their legacy. But I promise you this, after today, I will be leading the fight to restore our party and our nation to conservative principles, to defeating socialism, to defending our republic, to making the GOP worthy again of being the party of Lincoln." She's got her work cut out for her, that's for sure.

The entire Republican Party is not just delusional about the results of the last election, they are actively planning how to steal the next one. That is an existential threat to American democracy. A group of over 100 deranged former generals put out a letter this week repeating Trump's Big Lie, chapter and verse. This is banana republic territory -- a place that America has never been before. Thankfully, virtually all of them have been out of uniform for decades, but even so it is a chilling precedent.

McCarthy's not the only one who has utterly divorced himself from reality, obviously. As one Washington Post writer (who had been on book leave for months) summed up what's been happening:

In Arizona, supporters of the defeated Trump are examining ballots with UV light to see "if there's bamboo in the paper" in support of a conspiracy theory that 40,000 fake ballots were surreptitiously flown in from Asia.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had a Fox News-only signing ceremony for a state law that will disproportionately stop non-White people from voting.

Republican legislators in Tennessee and Colorado have offered defenses of the three-fifths compromise.

House Republicans attempted to form a caucus in support of "Anglo-Saxon" traditions.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) got ensnarled in a sex-for-cash probe that involves an underage girl.

Rudy Giuliani had his home and office raided by federal agents.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that "100 percent of my focus is on standing up to this [Biden] administration."

Update: Matt Gaetz must be getting nervous, since the guy he used to call his "wingman" has now cut a plea deal. This is likely to mean he'll spill the beans on Gaetz having sex with a 17-year-old for money. But of course, Kevin McCarthy has yet to reprimand Gaetz, since Trump is a big fan of Gaetz.

In other House news, Marjorie Taylor Greene (whom we are going to start referring to by the moniker the internet has bestowed upon her: "Marjorie Three Names," because it is so funny) ran down a hallway screaming at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Nancy Pelosi is calling for ethics charges to be investigated, since this does not live up to the standard of "never dishonoring this house with your behavior." A.O.C. later wryly noted: "I used to work as a bartender. These are the kind of people I threw out of bars all the time."

One Democrat already had to have her office moved away from Marjorie Three Names, due to threatening behavior. And a video just surfaced from a few years ago (before she was elected to Congress) of Marjorie Three Names literally shouting through A.O.C.'s mail slot because she likes to yell at people so much. She's like a ticking time bomb, and everyone already knows she's going to explode so ferociously at some point that even the Republican leadership will have to take note, but until that future explosion happens they are happy to pretend that she is somehow a normal and respected member of Congress. Because that's what the all the newspapers say in Cloud Cuckoo Land, of course.

Also in those fantastical papers is the story about how Liz Cheney had to be removed from leadership because she was so obsessed with the past, rather than the future of the party. This is laughable, since the specific things Cheney was being punished for were all reactions to things Trump recently said. Cheney was just contradicting Trump, who is the one who is truly obsessed with the past. Just check his new blog out (we refuse to provide a link, sorry, but here's the article this quote is from):

Trump posted to it 16 times this past week; nine of the posts rehash a 2020 election that is now six months in the past. On Friday morning, Trump promoted long-debunked theories that the votes added to the totals in Michigan in the early-morning hours after the election were suspicious.

"At 6:31 in the morning on November 4th, a dump of 149,772 votes came in to the State of Michigan," Trump said, six months and three days after that "dump."

Here's a different way of measuring it:

On Sunday, former president Donald Trump condemned "our fake Presidential Election." On Monday, Trump railed against having been cheated of a second term in "the greatest Election Fraud in the history of our country" and compared November to a jewel heist. On Tuesday, he called for new actions "so we never again have an election rigged and stolen from us."

Astoundingly, Kevin McCarthy responded by phoning in from Cloud Cuckoo Land: "I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that is all over with." Just beyond Orwellian. [The Washington Post helpfully provided an extended list of Republicans who have been saying exactly that.]

Here's how Trump is "thinking about the future," from an insider:

Privately, many Republican officials -- including some Trump allies -- are growing frustrated, worried that the former president is wasting his time on petty rivalries and grievances. They say they wish he was working to protect policies from his term and affirmatively helping Republicans in 2022. "All the 2022 stuff is, 'Well, what's in it for me?'?" said one former senior White House official, summarizing Trump's thinking.

And yet, in Cloud Cuckoo Land, it is Liz Cheney who is guilty of not letting go of the past.

State-level branches of the Republican Party are still actively censuring and calling for resignations from any Republican in Congress that voted against the Big Lie (or to impeach Trump). That is not looking towards the future.

In Michigan, a state GOP lawmaker just introduced a bill to license (and penalize) fact-checkers. No, really -- this is how far the "party of free speech" has sunk:

"My legislation will put Fact Checkers on notice: don't be wrong, don't be sloppy, and you better be right," Maddock wrote in a Facebook post announcing his proposal last week.

Maddock's bill, the Fact Checker Registration Act, was introduced Tuesday and would require fact-checkers to register with the state and insure themselves with $1 million fidelity bonds. Any fact-checker who did not register with the state could face a $1,000 per day fine. The proposed legislation would also allow anyone to sue a fact-checker over "any wrongful conduct that is a violation of the laws of this state."

Further west, Arizona state Republicans are conducting what has rightfully been called a "fraudit" of the vote from 2020. The state Republicans forced this "audit" forward and hired a brand new firm run by a supporter of QAnon theories to run it. They are consumed with examining the ballots under ultraviolet lights (for watermarks that do not exist) and under microscopes (to look for bamboo fibers that also do not exist, as supposed proof that tens of thousands of ballots were snuck in by the Chinese communists). Here is how one state Republican senator put it:

"It makes us look like idiots," Republican state Sen. Paul Boyer, who represents the kind of suburban district Ayres is afraid of losing, told the New York Times. "Looking back, I didn't think it would be this ridiculous. It's embarrassing to be a state senator at this point."

Boyer better watch out. It can be career-ending to admit the truth these days in the GOP. Another remaining realist, Adam Kinzinger (who voted to keep Cheney in her leadership role) said last weekend his party is "basically the Titanic... in the middle of this slow sink." He went on to identify the larger problem:

But Kinzinger sees this craven acceptance of lies destroying the Republican Party. "I have watched us compromise with crazy basically every two years," he said. "All that becomes is the starting position for the next iteration towards crazy."

This has even led some of the few remaining sane Republicans to publicly call for the creation of a new party. The reason why this effort is doomed is that all of them are merely former elected or appointed officials. Their political careers are all over already, in other words, so they have nothing to lose. It's doubtful that even if they spend a boatload of money setting such an organization up they could entice many sitting Republican politicians to jump ship.

Democrats can't sit on the sidelines of this fight. The push to pass two election reform bills (the For The People Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act) needs to be front and center very soon now. For some unfathomable reason, the Senate can only concentrate on one thing at a time (even with all those committees and whatnot), so this major push may have to wait until after Biden's next two spending bills are dealt with, but the clock is ticking and time is already running out.

Because if the new laws are going to change the 2022 election cycle, they need to be in place as soon as possible. Especially the provision for creating independent redistricting commissions, since the new districts will have to be drawn long before next year's election takes place. Democrats need to start fighting for these bills and explaining to the public the existential nature of the Republican attack on democracy. So far, the issue hasn't seemed to have gotten the proper amount of urgency. With one notable example, which we will identify in the awards section.

 

Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

Democrats need to be pointing out the dangerousness of the other political party becoming the Big Lie Party, because the outcome of all this could be so incredibly serious. It is not safe for one political party to become so wildly unhinged, but so far Democrats haven't been doing a great job of consistently making this critical point.

Meanwhile, Republicans, as usual, have zero shame about how they twist things politically. Speaking of those two voting reform bills, Senator Ted Cruz had a rather breathtakingly Orwellian way of reframing them:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called the bill "Jim Crow 2.0."

"This legislation is profoundly dangerous, and the reason it suppresses millions of votes is by allowing millions of people to vote illegally," Cruz said during a Senate rules committee hearing on the bill. "That is the intended effect and that would be the actual effect of this bill. It dilutes the legal votes of American citizens."

During a brief hallway interview after Cruz's comments, HuffPost pointed out that Jim Crow-era voting laws actually stopped Black people from voting.

"And in this instance the Democrats want to stop the voters from voting Democrats out of power," Cruz replied.

Of course, none of the idiocy coming out of the pie-hole of Ted Cruz is true, but you'll note how forcefully he sells his nonsense. Democrats need to equal this urgency with the solid truth.

One Democratic political action committee is doing a good job of not mincing words and bringing the proper amount of alarm to the issue. MeidasTouch released a new ad this week to mark the defenestration of Liz Cheney by warning that the Republican Party "has completed its transformation into a fascist, authoritarian death cult."

Here's the story (and here's the video, on YouTube):

Progressive PAC MeidasTouch's new viral video examines how ex-President Donald Trump is following "the rules of the demagogue."

The ad shows how Trump has been guided by a tried and tested method of manipulating "weak-minded people" to his own advantage -- by establishing a common enemy, telling simple stories "with no regard for the truth," attacking democratic institutions and the media, and cultivating a cult of personality.

Footage of the ex-president is interspersed with clips of dictators from history and the current day, including Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler, Cuba's Fidel Castro and North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

"We've seen this happen before," says the narrator. "We can't let it happen again."

The video concludes with a call to reject GOP fascism.

Think that is overstating the case? We don't. We think they deserve this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award for it. Now is not the time for half-measures. Now is not the time for timidity. The Republican Party has sold its soul lock, stock, and barrel to Donald Trump, who is a completely amoral and narcissistic person. We (barely) survived one Trump presidency, but we might not survive a second one. So we offer our thanks to the MeidasTouch team for so clearly laying out what is at stake here. And we offer them this week's MIDOTW, as well.

[Contact MeidasTouch on their website, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

Sadly, we have to award the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week to Joe Biden. While Biden has been doing an admirable job of fumigating the federal government to get rid of all the Trump pests infesting so many different departments, they seem to have dropped the ball on a rather major one. As The Hill reports:

The Biden team has hired a slate of immigration judges initially selected during the Trump era, angering advocates who argue the White House is already failing to deliver in its pledge to push back against the prior administration's shaping of the judiciary.

The first 17 hires to the court system responsible for determining whether migrants get to remain in the country is filled with former prosecutors and counselors for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as a few picks with little immigration experience.

Almost none have made their career representing migrants in court.

The Thursday announcement from the Department of Justice (DOJ) initially perplexed immigration attorneys, advocates and even some former immigration judges who wondered why the group so closely mirrored the jurists favored by the Trump administration.

"The 17 new immigration judges referenced in the notice all received their conditional offers under the prior administration," a Justice Department spokesperson told The Hill.

Critics said the Biden administration has an obligation to fully vet the judges hired under their watch and rebalance a court system heavily shaped by the Trump team.

It's also a surprising move for a president that has otherwise sought to quickly reverse a number of Trump immigration policies while calling for a more humane response to migration.

"This is a list I would have expected out of Bill Barr or Jeff Sessions, but they're not the attorney general anymore. Elections are supposed to have consequences," said Paul Schmidt, now an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law School after 21 years as an immigration judge. That included time serving as the chair of the Board of Immigration Appeals, the highest administrative body dealing with immigration cases.

"No one on that list is among the top 100 asylum authorities in the country, and that's the kind of people they should be hiring -- not prosecutorial re-treads," he added.

There is no real excuse for allowing 17 Trump appointees to become federal judges (with lifetime appointments). Especially not in such an important area of the judiciary.

We haven't noticed Biden hiring a whole lot of other Trump retreads, which makes this all them more inexplicable, really. So our only recourse is to urge the White House to rethink this move, as we hand Biden this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.

[Contact President Joe Biden on the official White House contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 618 (5/14/21)

We had a lot to get to this week, which meant a few talking points fell by the wayside. Like pointing out that while it is nice to hear the federal government is now going to take white supremacist domestic terrorism seriously now, it would have been even nicer if Republicans hadn't blocked doing so for the last 26 years (since the Oklahoma City bombing, in other words). Or to point out once again the idiocy of the people in Arizona looking for bamboo fibers in ballot paper. Or the fact that the GOP is just fine with an accused sex trafficker of children in its ranks while it swiftly moved to remove Liz Cheney for insisting on telling the truth.

In fact, we have nowhere else to mention that Vice (how appropriate!) has gotten ahold of Larry Flynt's F.B.I. file, just in case anyone needs a diversion this week.

In any case, let's just jump right in, shall we?

 

1
   Stop the GOP steal

Turn the phrase around -- always a fun thing to do.

"Republicans are right about one thing -- there is a group actively plotting election fraud in order to steal an American election. But it's not liberals or Democrats or undocumented immigrants who are doing this nefarious plotting -- it is Republicans who are doing so. It's really the only item on their agenda, these days. GOP statehouses around the country are considering how best to ensure that politicians and not professionals will henceforth be in charge of determining election and ballot-counting procedures. There is only one good reason for them to do this, and it is to prepare for the next election. So I call on all good men and women to stop the GOP steal! Pass the two voting rights bills in the Senate to guarantee free and fair elections for all Americans no matter what state they live in. This is serious stuff -- our American democratic system is at stake."

 

2
   Who is obsessed with the past?

This really needs to be pointed out. With all the sneering contempt it deserves.

"Kevin McCarthy thinks nobody in his party is still questioning the 2020 presidential election results. McCarthy also used the poor excuse that Liz Cheney was too obsessed with the past -- the election in particular -- to be in the party's leadership. What I wonder is has Kevin McCarthy ever met Donald Trump? I mean, Trump is the one who cannot let go of his Big Lie. Cheney was doing no more than responding to Trump for the past few weeks, but according to McCarthy she was the one obsessing over the past instead of looking to the future. So, yeah, Kevin, there is one person in a Republican leadership role who does keep bringing it back up and does still think Joe Biden was not fairly elected. But his name isn't Liz Cheney, sorry."

 

3
   Always projecting

This is another bugaboo of ours -- how little Democrats point out the fact that Republicans are just masters of projecting their own sins onto others. So when we see it spelled out, we have to applaud it. This was from an article in Salon this week:

Despite all the preening about "free speech" on the right, the truth is complaints about "cancel culture" have always been code for "conservatives can say whatever terrible things they want, and liberals can shut up about it." And while play-acting as the victims of censorship because liberals mock or criticize them, Republicans have been busy actually silencing free speech: from demanding that athletes be fired for kneeling during the national anthem to, memorably, Donald Trump ordering the tear-gassing of peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park. While conservatives whine about oppression because people call them "racist" on Twitter, they are actually using complaints about "wokeness" as an excuse for the literal government censorship of discourse that acknowledges the reality of racism, as Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times chronicled.

That's conservatism, of course: Always projecting their own sins onto their liberal opponents.

 

4
   Orwell should sue

The up-is-down/black-is-white nature of the current GOP craziness really needs a spotlight.

"The Republican Party has apparently gone right 'round the Orwellian bend, folks. The GOP leader of the House Republicans wrote a letter to urge his caucus to expel Liz Cheney from leadership because of her thoughts and what she said, and he actually tried to state that Republicans, quote, embrace free thought and debate, unquote. The entire party is up in arms about 'cancel culture,' so they showed their disapproval by cancelling Cheney. Senator Ted Cruz, meanwhile, describes a bill that would expand voting rights as 'Jim Crow 2.0.' And the entire party is trying to sell itself as 'populist,' except for the inconvenient fact that they are against expanded unemployment benefits, against helping parents with child care, against free preschool, against free community college, against paying for home healthcare, and against increasing Obamacare subsidies. So what populist economic ideas does the party support? Your guess is as good as mine. Republicans are not just divorced from reality, they continue to try to gaslight us into their own fantasyland, where war is peace, freedom is slavery, and (of course) ignorance is strength. Orwell's estate should really sue them for plagiarism!"

 

5
   Cow patties!

[Since this talking point contains stronger language than its subheading, we have to issue a language warning up front.] The following was how D.C. police officer Michael Fanone -- who served on the day of the Trumpian insurrection attempt and fought hard to protect the Capitol -- reacted to hearing all the Orwellian descriptions from Republicans that the whole day was just some sort of "normal tourist visit" by a bunch of patriots, who didn't mount a violent insurrection and besiege the Capitol on January sixth:

I don't expect anybody to give two shits about my opinions. But I will say this: Those are lies. And peddling that bullshit is an assault on every officer that fought to defend the Capitol. It's disgraceful.

 

6
   So much for GOP populism

This is an excellent talking point from Senator Ron Wyden, and it was so good we had to run it untouched. Wyden is making the case for how Joe Biden and the Democrats want to pay for their American Jobs Plan versus how Republicans want to pay for their pathetically-smaller "infrastructure-only" plan:

The Republicans are saying those megacorporations that use roads and bridges and transportation systems every single day as part of their efforts to generate revenue... shouldn't have to pay a penny, and their employees, middle-income workers, should have to bear the burden.

 

7
   Seems to be quite popular

Republicans are desperately trying to paint America as having slipped into some sort of hellscape, as they normally do when a Democrat is in the White House. A pipeline company gets attacked by ransomware? Gotta be Biden's fault, or maybe the Green New Deal -- yeah, that's it! That's the ticket! However, the actual voters out there seem to think differently, so this line of spin has a long way to go to get any traction.

"A recent AP poll showed President Joe Biden with a healthy 63 percent job approval rating with the public. That's over ten points higher than Donald Trump ever managed, to state the obvious. People really like how Biden is cleaning up Trump's COVID-19 mess, which is why Biden gets an astonishing 71 percent approval on his handling of the pandemic. Almost half of Republican voters -- 47 percent -- think Biden's doing a good job on the pandemic. But the truly optimistic number from the poll is that over half the country -- 54 percent -- thinks America is on the right track right now with Biden at the helm. That number is higher than it has been since 2017, when Trump took over. No wonder Republican politicians are so desperate, since even their own voters think Biden's doing a good job."

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground