Is Sedition Now A Policy of the GOP?
It’s not just mean tweets.
1. Hard Truths
The former president of the United States has made a new pronouncement. He now demands that the federal government either:
Declare him the winner of the 2020 election and install him as president. Or,
Re-do the 2020 election.
No, really. Here is Donald J. Trump truthing his truth out yesterday:
I know what you’re thinking:
Who could declare him the rightful winner?
What is that process? What is the controlling legal authority?
How do you have a re-run of an election that took place two years ago?
When would this election take place? Does “immediately” mean tomorrow? Next week? Next month?
How would the nominating process work? Who would determine ballot access for candidates? Would this procedure violate current election laws? What would the campaign finance restrictions be like?
And then there’s the big question: Is this guy forking serious?
That question is more important than you might think. Let’s move down the decision tree:
If Trump is serious, then he is cognitively impaired. There is no way to accomplish the “remedies” he proposes. The idea that someone could simply “declare” him the rightful winner of the 2020 election is preposterous. Who has that authority? Not Congress. Not the Supreme Court. Not the president. There is no piece of paper that can be signed and ratified that would accomplish this goal.
So either Trump does not have the baseline intelligence to understand how the government and the U.S. Constitution function—or he has suffered from some mental decline which has rendered him incapable of basic deductive reasoning.
In either case, even the most ardent anti-anti-Trumpers would be forced to acknowledge that under no circumstances should he be president again.
On the other hand, if Trump is not serious—by which I mean that he does not actually believe that either of these remedies are even theoretically possible—then he is advocating the overthrow of the legitimately elected government of the United States and rejecting the Constitution.
Maybe this rejection is an expression of authoritarian aspiration. Maybe it’s nihilism. Or maybe it’s performance art.
But no matter what the motivation, the result is the same. It’s sedition. So anyone who wants to throw in with Trump on the “oh he doesn’t really mean it” tip is signing up for sedition and rejects the Constitution.
That’s it. Those are the only options.
This is all part and parcel with the Mean Tweets view of Trump, by which many of his supporters who saw themselves as Good Republicans said that (a) they didn’t agree with the crude, cruel, racist, or inflammatory statements Trump would make from time to time, but (b) they were forced to put these superficial matters aside because they agreed with Trump on policy.
You’ve heard this argument a thousand times. Here’s Ted Cruz making a version of it a few days ago:
“I don’t like everything he says and does, I like the policies . . .”
Well, sedition is now explicitly one of the policies.
Many parts of the Republican party have embraced this fact: Kari Lake, Doug Mastriano, Ron Johnson. I haven’t done a hand-count, but I’d guess the pro-sedition caucus is somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 percent of the party.
And I understand that. It makes a certain kind of sense. If you’re all-in on Trumpism, you might as well be clear-eyed.
What I don’t understand is why guys like Cruz and the rest of the anti-anti-Trumpers won’t just own it.
2. New Hungary
Jonathan Rauch is clear-eyed:
Viktor Orbán has been the prime minister of Hungary twice. His current tenure began in 2010. He is not a heavy-handed tyrant; he has not led a military coup or appointed himself maximum leader. Instead, he follows the path of what he has called “illiberal democracy.” Combining populist rhetoric with machine politics, he and his party, Fidesz, have rotted Hungarian democracy from within by politicizing media regulation, buying or bankrupting independent media outlets, appointing judges who toe the party line, creating obstacles for opposition parties, and more. Hungary has not gone from democracy to dictatorship, but it has gone from democracy to democracy-ish. Freedom House rates it only partly free. The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance’s ratings show declines in every democratic indicator since Fidesz took power.
The MAGA movement has studied Orbán and Fidesz attentively. Hungary is where Tucker Carlson, the leading U.S. conservative-media personality (who is sometimes mentioned as a possible presidential contender), took his show for a week of fawning broadcasts. Orbán is the leader whom the Conservative Political Action Conference brought in as a keynote speaker in August. He told the group what it loves to hear: “We cannot fight successfully by liberal means.” Trump himself has made clear his admiration for Orbán, praising him as “a strong leader and respected by all.”
It is illuminating how the anti-anti-Trump forces simultaneously insist that:
It is ludicrous to believe that Republicans want to impose the Hungarian model on American democracy. But also,
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Hungarian model.1
Once again, some parts of the Republican coalition have the courage of their convictions. There’s no need to tick down all of conservatives who have gone the whole hog with Orbán. The list is long and distinguished.
What I don’t understand are the conservatives who insist they aren’t interested in Orbánism, but refuse to acknowledge its dangers.
Why do I harp on this subset of Republicans/conservatives? Why should you care if they’re being dishonest or hypocritical?
What Rauch’s piece details is exactly how Republicans could dismantle our democratic system without breaking the law.
All of the tools and loopholes are there. They always have been. Because while the Constitution is lovely, no system of laws can constrain illiberalism when a large enough cohort of the population wants it. Under our current electoral system, that cohort needn’t even be a majority.
The reason I keep pointing to these anti-antis is because everyone ought to put their cards on the table. It’s important that Americans understand what the real choices are and where people stand.
It would be tragic if the American people took a long look at illiberalism and chose it, openly.
It would be much worse, though, if people chose it by accident—because they were duped into believing that the question before them wasn’t about the future of democracy, but just a bit of stylistic unpleasantness. Some “mean tweets.”
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3. Home Libraries
A beautiful essay in the WSJ:
My mother, 12 years a widow and a deeply private woman all her life, died in January, at home, surrounded by 800 friends.
Like my father, she had entered the workforce as a high school English teacher, serving in a rough area of New Haven, Conn., where she was once admonished by a student for calling Shakespeare’s Polonius a criminal (“I checked with my parole officer, Mizz Lloyd—he was an accessory.”). And like my father she adored books—teaching them, reading them, owning them. But in those days of $4,000 annual salaries, neither she nor my father could remotely have foreseen building a world-class collection of first editions, 800 of which graced the shelves of the home library into which she had moved a hospital bed for her final days.
So it was bittersweet this month to watch my parents’ collection sold via online auction to settle their estate. One at a time they went, one per minute, each with a ping of the computer, a steady disassembly of this literary family built over 50 years—orphans sent to new homes.
Books surrounded us growing up—us being the surviving children, an edition of five, of which I was the second printing. Groaning shelves and unclosable cabinets were features of every house we advanced through as my father forged a career as a television writer. His first job in TV was as a monologue writer for Johnny Carson, which became a springboard to writing for such shows as “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Taxi,” “Cheers” and “Frasier.” Along the way, the books got upgraded, some beginning to wear protective jackets (hmm…did standard-issue “Sister Carrie” sneer looking up at untouchable, plastic-adorned “Lolita”)? . . .
When my father won his first Emmy in 1976, for the “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, he indulged himself not with a Porsche but with “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” (lot 161). He was nominated again the next year but lost. Was that what inspired him to buy “The Grapes of Wrath” (lot 273)?
Deliveries seemed to come daily, sometimes more than once. At least, that’s how I imagine “The Postman Always Rings Twice” (lot 13) joined the team. . . .
My parents’ library grew to contain perhaps 3,000 volumes, with those rarest 800 a source of pride and of abiding interest to most of their guests. If you had dinner at Siegfried and Roy’s house, you shook hands with a white tiger. If you ate at my parents’ home, it was a first edition of “The Great Gatsby” in your hands. And the magic of that moment is exactly what electrifies the first-edition collector. Hold that book with its luminous purple cover and you are back in 1925, when it was published and changed the world. . . .
Books still matter, deeply, to some people—the kind of people who might have enjoyed a moment from my mom’s last days, the vigil days, when the family was asked by a visitor where the Ross Macdonald books were and, from her bed, an index finger shot out, archer-true, pointing at shelf 4 in bookcase 7.
The auction rolls to its end, the books all adopted. My mind wanders back to a final stroll I took through my parents’ library just before the home was sold—acres of empty shelves, a breath-catching sight. A quiet library is quieter when the books are gone. But those books are noisy somewhere, on new shelves, in new hands, seeding new collections, straining budgets, firing imaginations—living things, as they were meant to be.
You see this kind of sentiment expressed by Republicans quite often: “You must support Ron DeSantis so that the party doesn’t bend toward a crazy person like Kari Lake.” But also, “There’s nothing wrong with Kari Lake!”