Authoritarian populist secession talk (Update #4)

Updates

  1. Originally published, December 22, 2020, at 7:12 am.
  2. December 22, 2020, 4:09 pm:
    • Yesterday, I wrote,

      I would not take it as consolation that the crazy, such as Rudy Giuliani, in Donald Trump’s orbit are turning on the crazier, such as Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell. But if Trump appoints the conspiracy theorist Powell as special prosecutor to investigate election fraud,[1] take it as a sign that the crazier are prevailing. Trump is desperate,[2] so it just might happen (but probably not by outgoing Attorney General Bill Barr’s hand[3]), in which case, the prospect of an attempt to invoke the Insurrection Act might become very real.[4][5]

      We don’t have the level of confidence I was looking for there yet, but based on Jonathan Swan’s reporting, it sure looks like Donald Trump is tilting in favor of the crazier.[6] Richard Nixon was notorious for a Saturday Night Massacre, firing acting attorney general after attorney general to try to quash the Watergate investigation. Will it be a Christmas Eve massacre with Trump? Will it even take that long? And in the meantime, if indeed he’s pissing on all his erstwhile sycophants,[7] the same sycophants who previously made an invocation impossible, what about that 25th amendment?

  3. December 22, 2020, 8:57 pm:
    • For once, I agree with Donald Trump (actually, this has happened before, but it’s exceedingly rare). He doesn’t like[8] the COVID-19 relief measure agreed by Congress.[9] Not even one little bit. Too much, he says, has nothing to do with the pandemic and the checks are much too small. He wants $2,000.[10] But I’m also taking this as another sign that the craziers are prevailing over the merely crazy,[11] because this threatens to blow up a hard-won agreement that passed with overwhelming margins[12] (easily large enough, by the way, that so-called progressive congress members, you know, the ones who cover the neoliberals’ left flank, could vote against it without even the remotest fear of derailing its passage), at a time when it’s pretty clear that Trump’s stock with his own party is in decline.[13]
  4. December 23, 2020, 7:44 am:
    • I’m honestly not quite sure what all to make of Congressional Republican infighting over attempting to challenge the electoral college tallies and try to overturn the result. The thinking on one side seems to be that this is doomed, which it indeed almost certainly is, therefore they’ll look bad even trying.[14] But the failure to try further convinces Trumpsters that Republicans are not doing enough to “defend” Donald Trump, which, as I’ve previously noted, is a problem in the Georgia runoff.[15] The one thing that is clear is that not all Republicans, especially not in the Senate, are falling in line behind Trump, a reflection of a “lame duck” status that clearly stings our delusional raging narcissist-in-chief.[16]

Secession

Casey Michel argues that authoritarian populist talk of secession in the wake of Donald Trump’s defeat is really about seeking leverage to nullify or resist the policies of a federal government allegedly dominated by the Democrats.[17] As a practical matter, he’s likely right, but the historical precedent he cites culminated in the Civil War, which arguably failed to settle much of anything.[18]

Casey Michel, “What All the Secession Talk Really Means,” Politico, December 21, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/12/21/secession-donald-trump-449348


Donald Trump

Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey, and Toluse Olorunnipa, “Republicans plunge into open battle over attempts to overturn Trump’s loss to Biden,” Washington Post, December 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-republicans-election-fight/2020/12/22/fa0c2744-446b-11eb-b0e4-0f182923a025_story.html

Jonathan Swan, “Trump turns on everyone,” Axios, December 22, 2020, https://www.axios.com/trump-white-house-conspiracy-theories-d95450a4-c7a3-4579-a568-0473b18529c9.html


  1. [1]Jonathan Chait, “Trump Floats Coup Plan That’s So Wild Even Rudy Giuliani Is Terrified,” New York, December 19, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/12/trump-coup-sidney-powell-martial-law-michael-flynn-meltdown.html
  2. [2]Michael Kruse, “Is Trump Cracking Under the Weight of Losing?” Politico, December 20, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/12/20/trump-white-house-losing-448903
  3. [3]Matt Zapotosky, “Undercutting Trump, Barr says there’s no basis for seizing voting machines, using special counsels for election fraud, Hunter Biden,” Washington Post, December 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/barr-trump-special-counsel-voter-fraud-hunter-biden/2020/12/21/4d85f060-439c-11eb-b0e4-0f182923a025_story.html
  4. [4]Tina Nguyen, “MAGA leaders call for the troops to keep Trump in office,” Politico, December 18, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/12/18/trump-insurrection-act-presidency-447986; Felicia Sonmez et al., “A frustrated Trump redoubles efforts to challenge election result,” Washington Post, December 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/tuberville-electoral-challenge-trump-conversation/2020/12/20/1658573e-42db-11eb-b0e4-0f182923a025_story.html; Felicia Sonmez et al., “A frustrated Trump redoubles efforts to challenge election result,” Washington Post, December 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/tuberville-electoral-challenge-trump-conversation/2020/12/20/1658573e-42db-11eb-b0e4-0f182923a025_story.html
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Look out below! It’s a pigeon, not a partridge, in a pear tree,” Irregular Bullshit, December 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/12/20/look-out-below-its-a-pigeon-not-a-partridge-in-a-pear-tree/
  6. [6]Jonathan Swan, “Trump turns on everyone,” Axios, December 22, 2020, https://www.axios.com/trump-white-house-conspiracy-theories-d95450a4-c7a3-4579-a568-0473b18529c9.html
  7. [7]Jonathan Swan, “Trump turns on everyone,” Axios, December 22, 2020, https://www.axios.com/trump-white-house-conspiracy-theories-d95450a4-c7a3-4579-a568-0473b18529c9.html
  8. [8]Rebecca Ballhaus, “Trump Asks Congress to Amend Covid-19 Package, Boost Direct Payments,” Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-asks-congress-to-amend-covid-19-package-boost-direct-payments-11608684702
  9. [9]Jeff Stein, and Mike DeBonis, “Senate majority leader announces approximately $900 billion deal on emergency relief package,” Washington Post, December 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2020/12/20/stimulus-congress/
  10. [10]Rebecca Ballhaus, “Trump Asks Congress to Amend Covid-19 Package, Boost Direct Payments,” Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-asks-congress-to-amend-covid-19-package-boost-direct-payments-11608684702
  11. [11]Jonathan Chait, “Trump Floats Coup Plan That’s So Wild Even Rudy Giuliani Is Terrified,” New York, December 19, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/12/trump-coup-sidney-powell-martial-law-michael-flynn-meltdown.html; Jonathan Swan, “Trump turns on everyone,” Axios, December 22, 2020, https://www.axios.com/trump-white-house-conspiracy-theories-d95450a4-c7a3-4579-a568-0473b18529c9.html
  12. [12]Rebecca Ballhaus, “Trump Asks Congress to Amend Covid-19 Package, Boost Direct Payments,” Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-asks-congress-to-amend-covid-19-package-boost-direct-payments-11608684702
  13. [13]Jonathan Chait, “Trump Floats Coup Plan That’s So Wild Even Rudy Giuliani Is Terrified,” New York, December 19, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/12/trump-coup-sidney-powell-martial-law-michael-flynn-meltdown.html; David Charter, “Trump announces law chief Bill Barr has quit as electoral college backs Joe Biden,” Times, December 15, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/trump-announces-law-chief-bill-barr-has-quit-as-electoral-college-backs-joe-biden-wnzzxkczt; Marianne Levine and Melanie Zanona, “McConnell warns Senate Republicans against challenging election results,” Politico, December 15, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/12/15/mcconnell-gop-election-results-445524; Jonathan Swan, “Trump turns on everyone,” Axios, December 22, 2020, https://www.axios.com/trump-white-house-conspiracy-theories-d95450a4-c7a3-4579-a568-0473b18529c9.html; Matt Zapotosky, “Undercutting Trump, Barr says there’s no basis for seizing voting machines, using special counsels for election fraud, Hunter Biden,” Washington Post, December 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/barr-trump-special-counsel-voter-fraud-hunter-biden/2020/12/21/4d85f060-439c-11eb-b0e4-0f182923a025_story.html
  14. [14]Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey, and Toluse Olorunnipa, “Republicans plunge into open battle over attempts to overturn Trump’s loss to Biden,” Washington Post, December 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-republicans-election-fight/2020/12/22/fa0c2744-446b-11eb-b0e4-0f182923a025_story.html
  15. [15]David Benfell, “The curious logic of Mitch McConnell,” Irregular Bullshit, December 18, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/12/16/the-curious-logic-of-mitch-mcconnell/; Greg Sargent, “Georgia Republicans beg Trump to release them from his prison of lies,” Washington Post, December 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/12/01/georgia-republicans-beg-trump-release-them-his-prison-lies/; Christina Zhao, “Pro-Trump Rally Chants ‘Destroy the GOP,’ Boos Georgia ‘RINOs,’” Loeffler and Perdue,” Newsweek, December 12, 2020, https://www.newsweek.com/pro-trump-rally-chants-destroy-gop-boos-georgia-rinos-loeffler-perdue-1554354
  16. [16]Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey, and Toluse Olorunnipa, “Republicans plunge into open battle over attempts to overturn Trump’s loss to Biden,” Washington Post, December 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-republicans-election-fight/2020/12/22/fa0c2744-446b-11eb-b0e4-0f182923a025_story.html; Jonathan Swan, “Trump turns on everyone,” Axios, December 22, 2020, https://www.axios.com/trump-white-house-conspiracy-theories-d95450a4-c7a3-4579-a568-0473b18529c9.html
  17. [17]Casey Michel, “What All the Secession Talk Really Means,” Politico, December 21, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/12/21/secession-donald-trump-449348
  18. [18]Marc Fisher, “Confederate statues: In 2020, a renewed battle in America’s enduring Civil War,” Washington Post, June 11, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2020/06/11/confederate-statues-attacked-protesters-george-floyd/; Stephan Richter, “Shutdown shows the Civil War never ended,” Salon, October 8, 2013, https://www.salon.com/2013/10/07/shutdown_shows_the_civil_war_never_ended_partner/; Robin Wright, “Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?” New Yorker, August 14, 2017, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/is-america-headed-for-a-new-kind-of-civil-war

The worst president in history? It’s complicated. (Update #2)

Updates

  1. Originally published, October 24, 2020, at 1:30 pm.
  2. October 25, 2020, 6:21 am:

Presidents

Attempting a comparison of U.S. presidents, Nicholas Goldberg

quickly realized [he] was in over [his] head trying to determine who was worst among them. Is a corrupt president worse than a incompetent president? Is it worse to separate children from their parents at the border or to allow fugitive slaves to be caught and delivered back to their owners? Is killing thousands of Native Americans worse than denying the existential dangers of climate change? Do the 12 presidents who owned slaves belong automatically at the bottom of the list, regardless of their other achievements or the times in which they lived?[1]

This is a problem with a quantitative approach, as with IQ tests: It can attempt to rank things that compare more like apples and oranges on a single, linear scale. The questions Goldberg raises here will always be problematic.

Nicholas Goldberg, “Is Trump the worst president ever? He’s got some competition,” Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-10-20/the-worst-president-in-american-history


California

Ryan Sabalow, “‘That is unacceptable.’ California megachurch faces local backlash for dismissing COVID-19,” Sacramento Bee, October 23, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/article246671032.html

Ryan Sabalow, Lara Korte, and Jason Pohl, “Rural California is divided, armed for revolt. What’s the matter in the State of Jefferson?” Sacramento Bee, October 24, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/article246652603.html


Social conservatism

The carefully choreographed dance goes like this: Moral character in public officials matters quite a lot when the public officials who morally fail are Democrats; it matters hardly at all when they are Republicans. If it’s a liberal who has crossed ethical lines, emphasize righteous conduct; if it’s a conservative, emphasize forgiveness and verses like “Judge not lest you be judged.” If it’s Bill Clinton in the dock, savage him; if it’s Donald Trump, savage his critics.[2]

Peter Wehner, “Evangelicals Made a Bad Bargain With Trump,” Atlantic, October 18, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/10/the-evangelical-movements-bad-bargain/616760/


  1. [1]Nicholas Goldberg, “Is Trump the worst president ever? He’s got some competition,” Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-10-20/the-worst-president-in-american-history
  2. [2]Peter Wehner, “Evangelicals Made a Bad Bargain With Trump,” Atlantic, October 18, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/10/the-evangelical-movements-bad-bargain/616760/