Trump's latest statement may show the authoritarian Republicans have lost their last best hope for power

I want to share a thought with you. It may sound strange. It's that the 2020 presidential election may have been the Republican Party's best and last shot of an authoritarian takeover of the country. Now that it has failed, now that a majority of the American people understands what's going on and what's at stake, everything we are seeing now, no matter how scary it is, is a slow unwinding of an all-but-spent threat.

I'm getting ahead of myself, I know. We don't know what we can't know until the time has come in which knowing is possible. So I might be right about this, but I don't know if I am, because I can't know if I am until months or years from now. But there are small things suggesting to me, yeah, I could be right. What happened yesterday, for instance.

A judge in Georgia dismissed an attempt by the former president's supporters to review absentee ballots from last year's election. The ruling came a day after investigators found no counterfeits. According to the AJC: "Superior Court Judge Brian Amero's ruling ended the last remaining major lawsuit over Georgia's 2020 election and prevented an outside review of Fulton County's 147,000 original absentee ballots."

In short order, the former president's office said this: "If we don't solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in '22 and '24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do."

What does this have to do with the idea that 2020 was the best and last shot at an authoritarian takeover? The answer is rooted in the political psychology of authoritarianism. Specifically, humiliation.

Humiliation drives everything. It's what they fear most. (Regular EB readers are familiar with this.) Humiliation is what happens when they are knocked out of their place in "the natural order of things": God over Mankind, men over women, white people over everyone else. The authoritarian collective that now constitutes the foundation of the GOP would rather give up on democracy than share political power with people who refuse to stay in their place in "the natural order."

When Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, he didn't lose. It is impossible for the leader of the authoritarian collective to lose on account of his being the leader of the authoritarian collective. If he were to concede defeat, he would be humiliated. That's unthinkable.

So he and his Republican confederates are going around the country creating conditions in which the leader really can't lose. In order to defeat a system threatening to humiliate them with defeat, they are trying to rig the system so that Trump's humiliation can't happen.

This is what Trump means when he says the Republicans must "solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020." The fraud isn't fraud in any normal sense. The "fraud" is that he lost, something that's not possible on account of his being the leader. (He's correct, by the way. President Biden's victory has been "thoroughly and conclusively documented.")

So far, I have been arguing against my idea. So far, I have suggested that 2020 is the beginning of an authoritarian takeover, not the best and last shot. But again, you have to think like an authoritarian.

You already believe the system is rigged against the leader (and, therefore, against you). A political system, like a democratic republic, that gives power to his and your perceived enemies (think: Barack Obama in 2008) is a tyrannical system that can't be trusted until it's prevented from further empowering his and your perceived enemies.

If it isn't prevented from "oppressing" your "rights" and "freedoms," then you and the authoritarian collective you belong to might not vote. After all, why risk being humiliated again by the fact that the fix is in. This is why the former president's statement said "Republicans will not be voting in '22 and '24" if the "Presidential Election Fraud of 2020" is not "solved." They refuse to enable tyrants in their own oppression.

The same problem exists, however, if the "fraud" problem is "solved." Again, think like an authoritarian. If the leader says it's solved — meaning, that elections are now rigged to ensure the leader's victory in order to prevent something that can't happen, which is his and your humiliation — you, first of all, believe him. The leader is infallible. Second of all, you might not have the motivation to vote, because the chief motivation for doing anything, the thing that drives everything about being an authoritarian, is the prevention of humiliation. If the leader says "fraud" has been "solved," well, there's no reason to vote.

The conditions that led to this damned if you do, damned if you don't situation did not exist prior to the 2020 election. To the extent that they did exist, they had been waning in potency since the 2016 election when the country really was blind-sided by a shameless candidate who conspired with a foreign power to sabotage his opponent. Since then, however, we have learned, especially about how authoritarians think.

Again, I don't know if I'm right. I can't know. The moment in which knowing is possible has not come. However, I want to believe it's true that the majority of the American people, however slim, never looked back. I want to believe a union of Americans filled with the spirit of democracy overwhelmed the GOP confederates in 2022 and 2024. They had their best, last shot. They blew it. They won't get another.

Republicans have fully embraced political illegitimacy — leaving Biden to thread a tight needle

The thing you are not hearing from the Washington press corps is this: The Democrats are the party of the American majority. Right now, they represent the full range of legitimate politics. That includes the full range of ideologies, from conservative to democratic socialist. They aren't totally alone. There are maybe 10 House Republicans who want to cut deals. Ditto for maybe five Senate Republicans. Other than that, the Democrats are on their own. Frankly, that's how it ought to be.

The Washington press corps has created in recent weeks what Post columnist Eugene Robinson calls The Narrative. That's the story about a Democratic Party that can't get its act together, about a president who can't get competing factions to stop bickering. If they can't do that, then they are headed for defeat in the coming midterms. Yeah, well, Robinson said Tuesday, let's take all that with a grain of salt.

Read Robinson's column yourself, but I want to highlight this part: "What I see is a pretty normal exercise in legislative give-and-take, except that it's all happening within the Democratic Party — while Republicans hoot, holler and obstruct from the peanut gallery. When it comes to Congress, things never go as quickly as they might, and there always comes at least one moment when it appears that all is lost."

All is not yet lost, as Robison said, and in any case, I think we should cut these Democrats some slack. Yes, they can be maddening. Yes, there's so much at stake. (Yes, no one knows what Kyrsten Sinema wants!) But let's be clear. The Republicans are doing everything they can to take power in the next election without being responsible for having done anything to justify taking power in the next election. The GOP represents the full range of illegitimate politics. They don't want anything to do with governing. Frankly, that's how it ought to be.

Think about it. Do you want Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise to have any say in the president's legislative agenda? During an interview with Chris Wallace over the weekend, the No. 2 Republican in the House advanced, once again, Donald Trump's Big Lie about the 2020 election being stolen from him. Do you want him to have a say? Do you think he has the right to ask for something, anything? I don't. Same for the House Republicans who voted to overturn the election. Same for the Senate Republicans who voted to acquit Trump of treason. Same for anyone who thinks the people's sovereignty can be dismissed and disrespected. If the Republicans who voted to impeach and convict Trump want in, I think that's fine. Otherwise, I don't want anyone else having any influence on anything related to righting this ship of state.

Of course, they are influencing matters by sabotaging matters. But that's beside my point today. Other than Joe Manchin, virtually no one is asking what the Republicans think or want, because virtually everyone understands the Republicans refuse anything to do with governing. They literally can't do the hard work of democracy. It's all up to the Democrats. The political party representing the majority is doing the work of the majority. Frankly, that's how it ought to be.

What we are seeing, as Robinson noted, used to take place between the parties. But now that the Republicans have fully embraced political illegitimacy, and now that the Democrats (most of them, anyway) have recognized that, all the "normal exercise in legislative give-and-take" is taking place inside one of the major parties: between and among its conservatives on one end, its liberals on the other and its moderates in-between. Whatever the outcome of a "normal exercise in legislative give-and-take," it will be as close to "bipartisan" as it's possible to get in a period in which a major party won't participate in democracy.

I have my preferences. I'd like to see the Democrats pass $3.5 trillion in "human infrastructure." I'd like to see another $1.2 trillion in traditional infrastructure. I'd like to see reforms to Medicare and to the tax code, which enriches the already very obscenely rich. I'd like to see democracy reforms included to combat the slow-motion coup at the state level. (See Lindsay Beyerstein's latest for more on that.) I'd like to see the filibuster done away with. The United States Senate is a hindrance to the republic, not a help. Anyway, it's not that special.

I think there's still reason to hope the Democrats will work things out, but it's increasingly clear, given the time going into negotiations, that they won't satisfy my preferences (and perhaps yours, too). But even if they pass $2 trillion in "human infrastructure" instead of $3.5 trillion, as the president asked for recently, I'll take it. I'll take it knowing that's still a BFD, but also knowing that that's probably the best outcome democracy can produce in a period in which one of the major parties wants nothing to do with democracy. Frankly, that's how it ought to be.

GOP sadism is out of control -- when will respectable white people wake up?

Too much depends on respectable white people. Those are white people who care about appearing respectable to other white people, who themselves care about appearing respectable to other white people. They are the great globular middle of American politics that determines electoral outcomes in this country. For the longest time, they sided with the Republican Party on account of tax cuts and other goodies.

Sadism isn't only about sex, though it can be, obviously. When I say "sadism," I mean the pleasure derived from seeing other people suffer. The Republicans have no policy goals. Their only goal is creating legal and political conditions in which the in-group is protected while the out-group is punished. But it doesn't end with punishment. It can't.

For the longest time, they sided with the Republican Party on account of tax cuts and other goodies. My hope is that, for the foreseeable future, they will side with the Democrats on account of tax cuts and other goodies being a banner for hiding the fact that sadism is the GOP's point.

When the out-group gains power, the in-group feels powerless. When the in-group feels powerless, the in-group feels oppressed. When the in-group feels oppressed, it cries out for freedom. But in order to feel free, the in-group must do more than merely punish the out-group. It must derive pleasure from seeing pain and suffering. This is what I want respectable white people to understand. When they vote for tax cuts and other goodies, they are doing far more. They are helping the GOP's authoritarian base feel a freedom that depends on suffering.

When white police officers pulled a Black paraplegic man out of his vehicle by his hair last month in Dayton, Ohio, on illegal drug suspicion, that might appear to be another case of police brutality. (Body cam footage of the incident was released Friday. An investigation by the police department is underway.) But to the authoritarian base of the Republican Party, what the Dayton cops did was the goal itself. Seeing the man's pain produced pleasure. It made them feel free.

It is sadism. It is not cruelty. Cruelty is not the point. Sadism is. You can be cruel without meaning to. You can be cruel without taking pleasure in pain. You can be cruel because you can't help it (on account of repeating past traumas, for instance). But sadism takes intention. It takes the desire to set aside priorities, like tax cuts and other goodies. It is its own cause. It is its own effect. This is another thing I want respectable white people to understand. Sadism isn't an unintended consequence. It's the point. When you vote for the Republican Party, when you give money to Republican candidates, you are joining a concerted effort to bring more suffering to more people, and you are complicit in the derivation of pleasure from suffering. You have become a sadist.

This sounds extreme. That's because sadism cancels equality. If the Republicans had some degree of commitment to equality, they might seek conditions in which the in-group feels free regardless of whether the out-group feels pain. But there is no equality. Therefore, there is no equal protection under law. Therefore, there is a one-to-one relationship between in-group freedom and out-group pain. Put another way, it's quite impossible for the in-group to feel free when the out-group does not feel pain. Sadism is the GOP's vital link.

Given the reality of this one-to-one relationship, you can see they don't mean freedom when they say freedom. They don't mean the presence of choice. They don't mean the absence of coercion. They don't mean freedom in any conventional sense. What they mean is the pleasure of seeing other people's pain, because their freedom can't exist without their suffering. Respectable white people need to understand this. Cries for freedom are in fact cries for sadism.

Just as they don't mean freedom when they say freedom, they don't mean borders when they say borders. Ten Republican governors went to the southern border to pressure the president to do more about immigrants coming in. Most of them were from non-border states. And that's the tell. The border they are defending isn't the border. It is the border between us and them, between the GOP's authoritarian base that can't feel free unless someone suffers, like immigrants, and everyone else who can feel free as they share power with others.

This is the last thing I want respectable white people to understand. There is no middle way. There is no neutral position. "Every state is now a border state," said Wisconsin Congressman Tom Tiffany last week while visiting the border. Every state is a border state. Every issue is a border issue. Every person is a border person who must choose a side. Are you with us or against us. Sadism is the point.

Also in the news: an obscure provision of President Joe Biden's agenda could deal a big blow to one of Donald Trump's most controversial legacies. WATCH:

An obscure piece of Biden's agenda could deal a big blow to Trump's right-wing nationalism youtu.be

Merrick Garland thinks he’s being neutral in the face of Trump’s crimes. He’s wrong -- he’s being complicit

The Senate Judiciary Committee released Thursday the latest in its investigation into the January 6 insurrection. The report detailed the degree to which the former president tried to straw-boss the Department of Justice into taking the side of his lies. It recounts what happened on January 3 when Donald Trump demanded Jeffrey Rosen, the former acting attorney general, give credence to fraud allegations. Trump failed, but three days later came his attempted coup d'etat.

I like Dick Durbin. He's the chair of the Senate Judiciary. He's a good senator. But I think he and the other Senate Democrats are not seeing what the rest of us are seeing. Donald Trump was more of a crime boss than president. His presidency is a crime scene as wide as it is broad. It can practically be seen from space. (Yesterday's findings are only the latest. More to come.) Yet Durbin and the Senate Democrats still insist on swaddling Trump's crimes in gauzy rhetoric. It not only veils who did what to whom. It's veiled what must be done to whom. After the report's release, Durbin said this is "a full-blown constitutional crisis."

I understand why some oppose prosecuting a former president. They fear doing so will foment even more distrust of institutions than we already have. But it's the reverse that's true.

Again, I like Durbin, but he's wrong. If Trump were still president, it'd be plausible to assert that we're facing a constitutional crisis. Many said the same during Trump's one term. (I did, too.) But the former president is now a private citizen who committed the highest of crimes. (A House panel released documents today showing Trump's luxury hotel in Washington took in millions from foreign governments, despite ultimately losing money. That's what you could call bribery.)

Therefore, we are not facing "a constitutional crisis" unless we're talking about a crisis of internal fortitude of a political party, the Democrats, and an administration, run by Democrats, that fear doing what's right. Fear is the predicate to Durbin's "strong words." Howling about a "constitutional crisis" is starting to sound like a dodge.

The United States Attorney General has the motive, the means and the opportunity to set in motion a criminal investigation into the January 6 insurrection and the tireless prosecution of its leaders, including Trump. He has the power and authority to appoint a new special counsel. All that's missing is the will. But let's be clear about why.

It isn't, as Merrick Garland and his champions have said, because of some kind of tradition prohibiting the Department of Justice from getting involved in partisan politics. There is no such tradition. To be more precise, there is no such tradition that is not regularly broken when politically convenient to. (Former FBI Director James Comey's eleventh-hour intervention into the 2016 election, reporting on Hillary Clinton's email server, is a case in point.) When Garland appeals to "tradition," he's rationalizing his way out of doing something hard.

But why? Shouldn't voters decide? If Trump is the Republican Party's next nominee, which seems likely so far, then shouldn't it be the American people who pass ultimate judgment? I strenuously disagree. First, because the people have already done their part. That's what 2020 was about. An incumbent got kicked out of office, something that has rarely happened in American history, because the American people understood a crime boss can't stay as the leader of the country. And what did he do in reaction? He affirmed their decision by planning, organizing, executing and leading a failed coup d'etat on January 6.

The court of public opinion was central to kicking him out. It had to be. Trump and his minions had control of the machinery of justice. Former US Attorney General Barr minimized and suppressed knowledge of Trump's crimes in all ways all the way up to and including lawlessness. (Remember how Barr sabotaged the Mueller report.) He otherwise enabled Trump's corruption. Institutions were powerless to remove him. (Remember how the GOP acquitted him the first time.) Our last best hope was the American people voting him out.

The court of public opinion is exhausted. What we need is for the courts of law to start doing their part again. Instead, the Democrats are acting like institutions are powerless again, as if they are not the party controlling them. I understand why some oppose prosecuting a former president. They fear doing so will foment even more distrust of institutions than we already have. But it's the reverse that's true. The more the Democrats fear using the power they have for the purpose of administering justice, the more Americans will distrust institutions.

Why? Because why trust institutions, especially the institutions dedicated to the rule of law, when it's so obvious that some people really are so obviously above the law. As long as the Democrats don't pressure Garland, and as long as Garland twiddles his thumbs, that collective sloth proves that some people are above the law. Just as laws are meaningless without people to enforce them, principles are meaningless without people putting them into practice. Someone is going to be above the law when other people are afraid to uphold it.

Garland thinks he's being neutral. No, he's being complicit.

And we the people should make him know it.

​How the right wing uses the Constitution and the Supreme Court to squeeze liberty out of Americans they don’t like

Yesterday, I described a situation in which local boards of education are being squeezed between two separate but related forces. On the one hand are shadowy nonprofit organizations funded by the very obscenely rich that are staging "protests" against masks, vaccines, the teaching of anti-racism and other things they don't. I call them the death-threat squads. They harass, intimidate and threaten board members in such numbers as to trigger waves of resignations. Their goal isn't changing minds. It's silencing enemies. The tactic works.

But it only works due to the help of a tandem force in question. On the other hand are local law enforcement officers, even whole police and sheriffs' departments, who do not or will not enforce the law in order prevent such crimes from being committed. Why? Because they are sympathetic to the interests of those who are committing the crimes. For this reason, a national school board group called on the president to help. The US attorney general is now taking steps to investigate.

I'm summarizing yesterday's column, because I want to stress this pattern — the squeeze play — that's between active agents of the very obscenely rich and passive agents of the state. I want you to be aware of how these lawless forces work in tandem, though not necessarily in explicit coordination, to shape not only our views of politics but our understanding of freedom, too. I want you to see more fully that what they are doing now is how they want America to be, a nation in which the in-group can harass, intimidate and threaten the out-group, and the out-group is legally and constitutionally bound to put up with it.

Consider an upcoming case to be heard before the United States Supreme Court. It's the biggest case on Second Amendment rights since Heller in 2008. Heller established the right to self-defense. The state is forbidden to outlaw guns for personal use and safety. In New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, plaintiffs hope to take Heller a step further to establish the right to conceal one's weapon.

It's important to understand the context of Bruen. Heller was decided before America elected its first Black president. After the election, the "gun-rights" movement sprang into action. I said this yesterday, but didn't say why. It's because democracy "unexpectedly" empowered non-white people. For many white people, empowered non-white people, especially Black people, means disempowered white people.

Something had to be done. Since American democracy could no longer be trusted, they turned to their guns. They turned to tactics to fight the feeling of being "enslaved." Thanks to Heller, they could legally carry their guns in public, in places where they'd never need a gun, like the library. They said they were exercising their rights. They were lying. They were doing exactly what the school board death-threat squads are doing now. (Local law enforcement officers said then as now that nothing can be done.) They were harassing, intimidating and threatening people they don't like. They were doing that because harassing, intimidating and threatening people makes them feel free.

The need among some white people to feel "free" in the face of a treacherous democracy that empowered non-white people — thus robbing white people of their freedoms — was so fierce that a day that might otherwise have triggered a national reckoning on gun violence was barely noticed. While most Americans saw the slaughter of 20 innocents at Sandy Hook as an overwhelming reason to increase gun regulation, the "gun-rights" movement was focused on something else: the 2012 reelection of Black president and chief avatar of tyranny.

I used to say the Republican reaction to the Sandy Hook massacre was the rapid expansion of laws deregulating access to firearms and their use. I was wrong. Those laws, including concealed carry laws, were a reaction to Barack Obama's reelection. They were a reaction to American democracy betraying white people for a second time. (The good guy with a gun is not just a good guy who shoots back. He's a white guy who's "free" to shoot whomever he pleases. That's what makes him good.) It is the expansion of these laws, and all they symbolize, that's set to be heard by the Supreme Court. I don't have reason to doubt this court will establish a concealed carry right. Once that happens, the right to military weapons might not be far behind.

Thus the high court will do its part in squeezing freedom out of Americans. On the one hand, the in-group gets to harass, intimidate and threaten the out-group with guns, concealed and/or open. One the other, local law enforcement gets to shrug, pointing helplessly to the Supreme Court and its interpretation of the Constitution. The out-group does indeed have the right to equal protection. What we're seeing, in stages, is a slow-motion conspiracy to pretend otherwise.

Which is the point. Freedom for the out-group is equal to tyranny for the in-group. More accurately, freedom for the in-group is dependent on the out-group living in fear of the in-group. Without that fear, the in-group just doesn't feel free enough. That's why freedom isn't and can't only be doing whatever you want. Freedom must mean harassing, intimidating and threatening the out-group while enacting laws and interpreting the Constitution so the out-group can't fight back.

Republicans are assimilating corporations into an authoritarian collective — giving Democrats a big opening

The first bit of news today is that the United States Chamber of Commerce has been sitting in on strategy calls by the GOP leadership of the United States House of Representatives. That's news, because the chamber speaks for every major corporation you can think of. It claims to be nonpartisan and strictly business-focused. That was a lie.

The second bit of news is the decision by the chamber to flip-flop on its support of a Democratic plan for nation-building at home. After months of lobbying for a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, at a cost of millions, it decided this morning to oppose it. That's news, because its decision was announced after reporters revealed the House GOP leadership was kicking the chamber off its strategy calls.

What can we take away from this news? First, as I said, the chamber has been lying to us. It has been an active participant in advancing the House Republican agenda, even when that agenda is a hit-and-run over democracy itself. (Many of its members have resumed making donations to Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 election.)

Second, the interests of business are becoming subordinate to the interests of the party. That's a third bit of news, actually. For decades, wherever corporations went, so did the Republican Party. Now it's corporations, represented by the chamber, are struggling to hang on. Indeed, it was Mitch McConnell, the Senate GOP leader, who said earlier this year that corporations should "stay out of politics."

In reality, everyone benefits from federal investment in public works, but especially multinational firms that use the roads, bridges, airports and harbors to get their goods and services to consumers. Yet here's business saying its interests are secondary to staying on those calls.

I don't want to make too much of this. The GOP has long served the very obscenely rich. But rare is the moment in which one partner turns to the other and says, it's time for you to choose: us or them?

This seems to be one such moment. The biggest business lobby in the United States decided today that it's better to support the Republicans than oppose them, though its members lose. How much gain is there in staying on good terms? How much loss is there in being on the outside of the party looking in? This is something new. This is the Republicans assimilating corporations into an authoritarian collective.

Well, not that new. In 1964, Eugen Weber wrote Varieties of Fascism. In it, the late historian wrote that assimilation into the authoritarian collective, or "mass conformity," as he put it, was necessary to achieving the goals of fascism. A nation's "ideal cannot be one of individual freedom, free enterprise, and enlightened self-regard," he wrote, "because such concepts are disintegrating and divisive."

Fascists sought a "group ideal which will encourage the individual to transcend his private interests and give, abandon, and devote himself to the greater good of the greater whole."

That ideal was called "corporatism." It was organizing the economy such that "the state is no longer an instrument for the conservation of individuals and the achievement of their ends," Weber wrote. Instead, "individuals become means, instruments of the life of the State."

Benito Mussolini was clear about his vision. "The individual exists only insofar as he is in the State and subordinate to the necessities of the State," the Italian dictator said in 1929. "The more complex the forms of civilization become, the more freedom of the individual is restricted."

Where is capital in this scheme? Not good. "The Fascist tendency is towards collectivism," Professor Weber wrote, which welcomes "the gradual squeezing out of capital and the diminution of its influence."

So again, with feeling: What we saw today is something new. It's the GOP's assimilation of corporations into its authoritarian collective. The spokesmen of capital should bear in mind the possibility of "the gradual squeezing out of capital and the diminution of its influence."

This isn't new but it's unfamiliar. The greatest achievement among conservatives over the last half-century was getting a majority of (white) Americans to believe they stood for the rights of individuals, private enterprise and private property. Conservatives have always stood for ordered power, rights be damned, but pretending otherwise was useful during the postwar years during which Americans still had memories of right-wing collectivism (the Nazis) and, later with the Cold War, left-wing collectivism (the Soviets). It's been so long since its authoritarian wing dominated the party, no one remembers. But by forcing the chamber to choose sides, the GOP is returning to form.

Liberals have long accused the Republicans of being hypocrites. Why is it bad to give poor people "handouts" but good to give rich people "stimulus"? Why are one "welfare queens" and the other "job creators"?

My hope is that liberals will see today's decision by the chamber as an opportunity. Not only are the Republicans assimilating corporations into their authoritarian collective. The representatives of capital are willing to be assimilated, risking themselves and democracy along the way. So forget hypocrisy. A fully fascist target is coming into view.

Liberals should hit it. Hit it hard.

The media is making a big mistake about the so-called 'moderates'

I continue to think regime change is a useful way of understanding politics. That's the idea that American political history turns in cycles. For 40 or 50 years, one party and its ideas prevail over the other with a majority of voters. From the 1930s to the 1970s, it was the Democrats. From the 1980s to the 2010s, it was the Republicans. Each period is punctuated by crisis — world wars, economic shocks or, in our case, the covid pandemic.

Regime change is useful because it helps put the chaos of lived experience into a coherent historical context. But that's not all. Once you're aware of the cycles of political history, you realize very little is set in stone. The political assumptions of the past may or may not be relevant to the new political assumptions of the present. Plus, the political assumptions of the present are not really new. Even as one set of assumptions dominates an era, another set is always already in some stage of development. It just needs an opportunity to emerge.

Regime change is useful to bear in mind while critically engaging the work of the Washington press corps. Many reporters, editors and talking heads come of age, personally, during one cycle while hitting their stride, professionally, in another. For example: By the 1990s, most Democrats felt it better to concede to conservative demands than to the demands of their party's liberals. (They were convinced they would pay electorally for what was known as "liberal overreach.") Most of the press corps, having come of age in the 1990s, still believes that assumption. That's why we see headlines like this one in the Sunday Times: "Biden Throws In With Left, Leaving His Agenda in Doubt."

I'll get to that story in a minute. First, implicit in the above assumption is that the political center cannot be wherever the left flank of the Democratic Party is. But knowledge of the cycles of political history helps us understand that the center is fluid. It slides back and forth, depending on which party has the ear of a majority of voters. During the 1990s, the center was center-right because most Democrats saw utility in conceding to conservative demands more than liberal demands. The center cannot be center-right now. Only a minority of both parties speaks for the center-right. While most of the Democrats are left of center-left, virtually all the Republicans are so far to the right they're better understood as dangerous authoritarian collectivists.

The center, moreover, might be said to be wherever loyalty to the US Constitution and the United States ends and treachery begins. In other words, the center is usually defined as the line between the parties. But it's more usefully defined as the line between everyone who voted to impeach and convict a losing president for his failed coup d'etat and everyone who voted to acquit him of that high crime. The Congress is in the thick of debating Joe Biden's legislative agenda. That the Democrats are bargaining with themselves and a handful of loyal Republicans seems to indicate the actual range of legitimate politics. Wherever "the center" is, it's not anywhere close to the GOP's center.

About that agenda. Last week revealed that the president had put almost no pressure on his party's liberal faction (represented in press coverage by the Congressional Progressive Caucus) to support the important but unambitious bipartisan infrastructure bill. (That's the one for roads, bridges and traditional stuff.) Last week also revealed that he turned the screws on so-called moderates to support the important but ambitious "human infrastructure" bill. (That's the one with provisions for child care, elder care, health care, education and more. It would be, as the Editorial Board's Magdi Semrau put it, Biden's Great Society.) This, according to the prevailing assumption of the last 40 years, is not how it's done. A president is supposed to lean on liberals, not moderates. Joe Biden is putting his agenda "in doubt."

Is he? I don't know more than anyone else. But presidents do tend to be pretty good at knowing where the actual center of the electorate is. Otherwise, they would not be presidents. (Donald Trump is the exception to that rule of thumb, obviously.) I have no doubt Biden is thinking about the coming midterms. I have no doubt he's worried about Democrats from swing districts. But it seems to me that by taking the liberals' side in this fight, the moderates should take heart.

Why? Because if a Democratic president is taking the liberals' side, that indicates that the country is entering, or has already entered, a new political regime with a new set of prevailing assumptions. Biden's job, then, isn't so much leaning on moderates and thus risking defeat in the midterms. It's getting moderates to recognize the times have changed. It's getting them to see that being a moderate isn't what it used to be.

If I'm right, going big won't hurt the Democrats. It will help them win. Moreover, it will make visible, even to our naval-gazing press corps, a new set of assumptions that aren't really new but had been in some stage of development for 40 years. The government isn't a problem, liberals have been arguing since the Reagan administration. The government is us. It's a solution to our problems, because we the people are the solution. Biden is leaning on the right people. The liberals are now at the center. The moderates have to catch up.

The fight over Biden's agenda reveals the truth about the so-called 'moderates'

I continue to think regime change is a useful way of understanding politics. That's the idea that American political history turns in cycles. For 40 or 50 years, one party and its ideas prevails over the other with a majority of voters. From the 1930s to the 1970s, it was the Democrats. From the 1980s to the 2010s, it was the Republicans. Each period is punctuated by crisis — world wars, economic shocks or, in our case, the covid pandemic.

Regime change is useful because it helps put the chaos of lived experience into a coherent historical context. But that's not all. Once you're aware of the cycles of political history, you realize very little is set in stone. The political assumptions of the past may or may not be relevant to the new political assumptions of the present. Plus, the political assumptions of the present are not really new. Even as one set of assumptions dominates an era, another set is always already in some stage of development. It just needs an opportunity to emerge.

I have no doubt the president is thinking about the coming midterms. I have no doubt he's worried about Democrats from swing districts. But it seems to me that by taking the liberals' side in this fight, the moderates should take heart.

Regime change is useful to bear in mind while critically engaging the work of the Washington press corps. Many reporters, editors and talking heads come of age, personally, during one cycle while hitting their stride, professionally, in another. For example: By the 1990s, most Democrats felt it better to concede to conservative demands than to the demands of their party's liberals. (They were convinced they would pay electorally for what was known as "liberal overreach.") Most of the press corps, having come of age in the 1990s, still believes that assumption. That's why we see headlines like this one in the Sunday Times: "Biden Throws In With Left, Leaving His Agenda in Doubt."

I'll get to that story in a minute. First, implicit in the above assumption is that the political center cannot be wherever the left flank of the Democratic Party is. But knowledge of the cycles of political history helps us understand that the center is fluid. It slides back and forth, depending on which party has the ear of a majority of voters. During the 1990s, the center was center-right because most Democrats saw utility in conceding to conservative demands more than liberal demands. The center cannot be center-right now. Only a minority of both parties speak for the center-right. While most of the Democrats are left of center-left, virtually all the Republicans are so far to the right they're better understood as dangerous authoritarian collectivists.

The center, moreover, might be said to be wherever loyalty to the US Constitution and the United States ends and treachery begins. In other words, the center is usually defined as the line between the parties. But it's more usefully defined as the line between everyone who voted to impeach and convict a losing president for his failed coup d'etat and everyone who voted to acquit him of that high crime. The Congress is in the thick of debating Joe Biden's legislative agenda. That the Democrats are bargaining with themselves and a handful of loyal Republicans seems to indicate the actual range of legitimate politics. Wherever "the center" is, it's not anywhere close to the GOP's center.

About that agenda. Last week revealed that the president had put almost no pressure on his party's liberal faction (represented in press coverage by the Congressional Progressive Caucus) to support the important but unambitious bipartisan infrastructure bill. (That's the one for roads, bridges and traditional stuff.) Last week also revealed that he turned the screws on so-called moderates to support the important but ambitious "human infrastructure" bill. (That's the one with provisions for child care, elder care, health care, education and more. It would be, as the Editorial Board's Magdi Semrau put it, Biden's Great Society.) This, according to the prevailing assumption of the last 40 years, is not how it's done. A president is supposed to lean on liberals, not moderates. Joe Biden is putting his agenda "in doubt."

Is he? I don't know more than anyone else. But presidents do tend to be pretty good at knowing where the actual center of the electorate is. Otherwise, they would not be presidents. (Donald Trump is the exception to that rule of thumb, obviously.) I have no doubt Biden is thinking about the coming midterms. I have no doubt he's worried about Democrats from swing districts. But it seems to me that by taking the liberals' side in this fight, the moderates should take heart.

Why? Because if a Democratic president is taking the liberals' side, that indicates that the country is entering, or has already entered, a new political regime with a new set of prevailing assumptions. Biden's job, then, isn't so much leaning on moderates and thus risking defeat in the midterms. It's getting moderates to recognize the times have changed. It's getting them to see that being a moderate isn't what is used to be.

If I'm right, going big won't hurt the Democrats. It will help them win. Moreover, it will make visible, even to our naval-gazing press corps, a new set of assumptions that aren't really new but had been in some stage of development for 40 years. The government isn't a problem, liberals have been arguing since the Reagan administration. The government is us. It's a solution to our problems, because we the people are the solution. Biden is leaning on the right people. The liberals are now at the center. The moderates have to catch up.

A Republican Senate candidate's remarks reveal the party's slide into authoritarianism

JD Vance is an author, former Wall Street trader and current senate candidate in Ohio. He was a guest on Tucker Carlson's white-power hour. He railed against people he doesn't like. "The basic way this works is that the Ford Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Harvard University endowment — these are fundamentally cancers on American society, but they pretend to be charities, and so they benefit from preferential tax

He continued: "Why don't we seize the assets of the Ford Foundation, tax their assets, and give it to the people who've had their lives destroyed by their radical open borders agenda?"

Jay Nordlinger was shocked. Or at least demonstrated shock on Twitter when he quoted Vance before adding: "If this is conservatism — conservatism is going to need a new name, at least in America."

It is conservatism. And it isn't. But explaining all that history is better left to historians. Anyway, it's better to set aside the old ways of thinking. The most constructive way of viewing Vance, and today's Republicans, is through the lens of authoritarian collectivism.

That might sound strange. Collectivism is tied to socialism and communism. The Republicans accuse liberals of being communists for merely wanting to use the government to help people. But collectivism is complex. There are left-wing strains, like Soviet Russia and Communist China, and right-wing strains, like the Nazi Party. If you prefer something more contemporary, like Afghanistan's Taliban. The common thread is the belief that power is about us against them.

To wit, JD Vance identified an enemy who, as the enemy, is no longer entitled to the rights, liberties and privileges of the in-group, i.e., the Republicans. The enemy deserves whatever's coming to it. In this case, "asset forfeiture," a violation of the sacred right to property, as conservatives in the past would have understood it. In this, Vance is helpfully describing how the Republican Party has changed from a party elevating the interests of the individual to a party elevating the interests of the collective at the expense of the individual. If we insist on it being a conservative party, we're actually misunderstanding it.

Vance is tapping into a pattern I noticed during the 2016 GOP primaries. On the one hand, Donald Trump would blame Barack Obama for pretty much everything. On the other, he would propose a solution to the problem that was exactly what Obama himself had proposed. (He could not achieve it, though, thanks to GOP obstruction in Congress.) Trump's supporters didn't mind. If he said it, it was good. If Obama said it, it was bad. Even if they were the same thing.

This held true even when the proposal, for instance, raising taxes on the very obscenely rich, ran right over a half-century of cast-iron conservative principle. Trump showed us the base doesn't care about abstractions like low taxation, and the like. What they care about is not being whatever the enemy is. And vice versa. So seizing the enemy's assets may sound like communism to old-school conservatives like Jay Nordlinger, but to the Republican Party's base, it sounds like freedom.

This freedom, you may have noticed, is upside down, backward and prolapsed. It's also a key feature of authoritarian collectivism. You are not free when the governor, for instance, Florida's Ron DeSantis, not only permits the coronavirus to spread unfettered but forbids local authorities from preventing its spread. You are free, however, when the governor, for instance, Connecticut's Ned Lamont, takes your side against the coronavirus and legally forces scofflaws to get vaccinated.

Members of the authoritarian collective see it the other way around. "In Australia right now … they're still enforcing lockdowns by the military," DeSantis said this week. "Is Australia freer than communist China right now? The fact that's even a question tells you something has gone dramatically off the rails." In fact, it's nothing of the sort.

The Australian government is protecting the citizenry's freedom. To DeSantis, however, freedom for the enemy is tyranny for the authoritarian collective. It is impossible for both sides to be free at the same time. His speech, therefore, shouldn't be taken as an expression of conservatism. It should be taken as a description of how the Republicans have changed from a party that elevates the individual to one that sacrifices the individual — in this case to the covid — in order to protect, preserve and perpetuate the authoritarian collective.

For years, the Democrats were put on their heels every time the Republicans raised the specter of communism. Of course, the Democrats were not communist. But they were forced to defend themselves. Thus far, the Republicans have not had to defend themselves against allegations of authoritarian collectivism.

I think it's time for that to change.

GOP candidate JD Vance just offered a startling description of modern Republicans -- are we listening?

JD Vance is a bestselling author, Wall Street trader and senate candidate in Ohio. He was a recently on Tucker Carlson's white-power hour, where he railed against people he doesn't like. He said: "The basic way this works is that the Ford Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Harvard University endowment — these are fundamentally cancers on American society, but they pretend to be charities, and so they benefit from preferential tax treatment."

Why don't we seize the assets of the Ford Foundation, tax their assets, and give it to the people who've had their lives destroyed by their radical open borders agenda?

Jay Nordlinger was shocked. Or at least demonstrated shock on Twitter when he quoted Vance before adding: "If this is conservatism — conservatism is going to need a new name, at least in America."

From a party elevating the interests of the individual to a party elevating the interests of the collective at the expense of the individual. If we insist on it being a conservative party, we're actually misunderstanding it.

It is conservatism. And it isn't. But explaining all that history is better left to historians. Anyway, it's better to set aside the old ways of thinking. The most constructive way of viewing Vance, and today's Republicans, is through the lens of authoritarian collectivism.

That might sound strange. Collectivism is tied to socialism and communism. The Republicans accuse liberals of being communists for merely wanting to use the government to help people. But collectivism is complex. There are left-wing strains, like Soviet Russia and Communist China, and right-wing strains, like the Nazi Party. If you prefer something more contemporary, like Afghanistan's Taliban. The common thread is the belief that power is about us against them.

To wit, JD Vance identified an enemy who, as the enemy, is no longer entitled the rights, liberties and privileges of the in-group, i.e., the Republicans. The enemy deserves whatever's coming to it. In this case, "asset forfeiture," a violation of the sacred right to property, as conservatives in the past would have understood it. In this, Vance is helpfully describing how the Republican Party has changed from a party elevating the interests of the individual to a party elevating the interests of the collective at the expense of the individual. If we insist on it being a conservative party, we're actually misunderstanding it.

Vance is tapping into a pattern I noticed during the 2016 GOP primaries. On the one hand, Donald Trump would blame Barack Obama for pretty much everything. On the other, he would propose a solution to the problem that was exactly what Obama himself had proposed. (He could not achieve it, though, thanks to GOP obstruction in the Congress.) Trump's supporters didn't mind. If he said it, it was good. If Obama said it, it was bad. Even if they were the same thing.

This held true even when the proposal, for instance, raising taxes on the very obscenely rich, ran right over a half century of cast-iron conservative principle. Trump showed us the base doesn't care about abstractions like low taxation, and the like. What they care about is not being whatever the enemy is. And vice versa. So seizing the enemy's assets may sound like communism to old-school conservatives like Jay Nordlinger, but to the Republican Party's base, it sounds like freedom.

This freedom, you may have noticed, is upside down, backward and prolapsed. It's also a key feature of authoritarian collectivism. You are not free when the governor, for instance, Florida's Ron DeSantis, not only permits the coronavirus to spread unfettered but forbids local authorities from preventing its spread. You are free, however, when the governor, for instance, Connecticut's Ned Lamont, takes your side against the coronavirus and legally forces scofflaws to get vaccinated.

Members of the authoritarian collective see it the other way around. "In Australia right now … they're still enforcing lockdowns by the military," DeSantis said this week. "Is Australia freer than communist China right now? The fact that's even a question tells you something has gone dramatically off the rails." In fact, it's nothing of the sort.

The Australian government is protecting the citizenry's freedom. To DeSantis, however, freedom for the enemy is tyranny for the authoritarian collective. It is impossible for both sides to be free at the same time. His speech, therefore, shouldn't be taken as an expression of conservatism. It should be taken as a description of how the Republicans have changed from a party that elevates the individual to one that will sacrifice the individual — in this case to the covid — in order to protect, preserve and perpetuate the authoritarian collective.

For years, the Democrats were put on their heels every time the Republicans raised the specter of communism. Of course, the Democrats were not communist. But they were forced to defend themselves. Thus far, the Republicans have not had to defend themselves against allegations of authoritarian collectivism.

I think it's time for that to change.

Why aggressively taxing the obscenely rich is key to fighting fascism

A reader asked the other day why the Republicans are voting against the full faith and credit of the United States when the GOP comprises so many millionaires and billionaires invested in financial markets. In other words, why would the very obscenely rich support a party that's clearly threatening the very obscene power of the very obscenely rich?

One theory, which I think is the right theory, is they don't want the Republicans to prevail. They think the Democrats will do the right thing for the sake of their country, not their party. The gamble is almost certainly the right one. Bringing the economy to the brink of panic is dangerous, but the actual risk is minimal given the Democrats are the party of governance. They would not call the Republicans' bluff.

Proof of this theory can be seen in the near-total silence of the very obscenely rich in the wake of news that the Senate Republicans had voted against the full faith and credit of the United States. Sure, there's been a few gentle reminders that defaulting on the national debt would be, um, subpar. But that's nothing compared to the hysterical outcry against the Democrats and their big plan to raise taxes on the very obscenely rich to pay for reshaping the government. While they have little to say about the real danger of default, they have a lot to say about higher taxes! That would hurt business! The economy! Jobs!

One takeaway is the very obscenely rich are lousy with bad faith. The government taxed them at much higher rates decades ago (at more than 90 percent during the Eisenhower administration). Yet they still managed to continue being very obscenely rich. During the same period, the economy was gangbusters. Jobs, too. The Democrats haven't yet passed their 10-year infrastructure bills, but so far, they seem unaffected by the lousy bad faith of the very obscenely rich (though the rates they are aiming for are not nearly high enough).

The other takeaway is the very obscenely rich are fully supportive of the Republican Party's efforts to sabotage the country just enough to maintain parasitic control of it. The GOP and the very obscenely rich don't want to kill off democracy. That would be bad for business. They only want to weaken it. As I said earlier this week, the party voting against America's credit is the same party "undermining the national recovery from the covid pandemic, which is the same party tolerating insurgents who nearly brought down the republic, which is the same party eroding the rule of law, which is the same party welcoming interference by Russia, which is … so on and so forth." The very obscenely rich, meanwhile, have resumed campaign donations to Republicans who voted to toss the 2020 election results. Firms like Home Depot and Walmart want the people to buy their stuff. They also want to prevent the people from flexing the sovereignty that would prevent them from continuing to extract wealth from the people.

Those of us worried about the future of democracy have pinned hope on the Democrats passing election reform. I've pointed out one reason that's not enough. We need to crack down on lawlessness, too. But all of the above is another reason reforming elections is insufficient. If we're going to fight authoritarianism creeping through the body politic, we need to do more about the very obscenely rich who are paving the way for that authoritarian creep with their money. The democratic way of doing that is with higher, much higher, taxation.

The problem is worse than it looks. The very obscenely rich are not only financing Republicans prepared to deny the sovereignty of the people. Directly and indirectly, they are enabling the bullies, thugs and terrorists trying to bring the republic down. In April, The Guardian reported a Christian fundraising site connected the Proud Boys and other violent groups to "anonymous high-dollar donors." Robert Mercer, Donald Trump's sugar daddy, backs far-right candidates and a social media network insurgents used to organize the assault on the US Capitol. Charles Koch, the industrialist, is tied to a vast propaganda network that includes VDare, a fascist organization. Virtually all organized anti-government "protests" during the covid pandemic can be traced back to the very obscenely rich. Mercer's daughter, Rebekah, has been called "one of the chief financiers of the fascist movement."

Right now, the Democrats are focused on getting two infrastructure packages through the Congress to reshape government and the US economy. Their focus is on raising taxes on the very obscenely rich just enough to pay for it. Democracy demands taking that another step. To fight fascism, we must fight the people paying for it. That means raising taxes higher, much higher, on the very obscenely rich.

The anti-vaxxers' lies are collapsing around them as mandates come into full force

Monday was the deadline here in Connecticut for state employees to get vaccinated, per order of the governor, Ned Lamont. The state press corps spent last week speculating about the number of workers who'd walk off the job before being forced to get the shot. Attention settled on school bus drivers. Around 500,000 children depend on them. Reporters asked the Lamont administration what it would do if thousands of kids were left stranded. But by Monday, it was clear that the vast majority of drivers complied with the law.

A similar pattern played out across the country. Deadlines were imposed. Blood oaths were taken. Anxieties grew. Americans of seemingly sound mind swore they'd never get vaccinated against their will. Then — obedience. The people who said they'd never do what they were told did what they were told. The people with so many "reasons" for being against vaccines forgot all about those "reasons." The people whose identities were built on "beliefs" decided those "beliefs" weren't as important as the consequences of keeping them.

What lessons can we draw from this? Most importantly, Americans with authoritarian tendencies are weak. They don't know how to make decisions independent of authority figures in their lives (whoever they may be). Because of this, they fear making the wrong choice. They fear the humiliation and pain they believe comes with being wrong. Legally enforceable mandates make the choice easy by making the choice for them. Authoritarians are weak. Vaccine mandates helped save face.

Second, they don't want freedom. Yes, I know. They say they want freedom. They say they will die for it. They won't, though. They won't do anything demanding sacrifice. What they want is the sense of community that comes with belonging to an authoritarian collective that does, in its own way, what mandates do — choose for them. So while they say they want freedom, what they desire is being told what to do. They don't have the skills. Coercion and force come as a relief.

They are not rugged individualists, far from it, but they believe they are. That tells you their true ideology. The lies. All the lies. The wild, howling lies they tell about their enemies and themselves. The lies bind them together to form an authoritarian collective. But the lies cannot exist outside the group. As soon as the lies encounter democracy — that is, as soon as they encounter people who don't already believe the lies — the lies shatter, causing authoritarians to feel enormous pain and humiliation. They retreat back to the authoritarian collective, where they don't have to do the work of figuring out the truth.

The lies are the tell. They can't and won't engage democracy, which privileges facts and truth. Democracy does not already believe, and probably won't ever believe, the lies they tell about their enemies and themselves. They can't stand the humiliation and pain, however. They want that to stop. Freedom isn't the answer. It risks more of the same. So the solution is the opposite of what they say. The solution is forcing democracy to believe their lies. The solution is taking away your liberty.

Like most liberals, I used to believe there was nothing to fear from weakness. After all, what harm can be done without strength? But I have come to believe the weakness I am describing is dangerous. It's the reason behind the election of Donald Trump. It's the reason behind the January 6 insurrection. It's the reason the United States has not recovered from the pandemic. It's the reason a major political party behaves more like a separatist movement than the loyal opposition. These people don't want liberty, but they fear yours. They don't want democracy, but they can't tolerate ours. They can't be trusted to act on their own in accordance with norms, rules and laws when those norms, rules and laws cause them enormous feelings of humiliation and pain.

The appropriate response, therefore, is not what liberals normally think it should be. Liberals typically try to understand fear. We typically try to feel empathy. That's why, after Donald Trump was elected, all those stories about "economic anxiety" made sense. We were trying to give them the benefit of the doubt. They were not domestic enemies. They were victims of unfettered capitalism. I hope all of us, but liberals especially, draw the right lesson from the fact that nearly all of these people caved under legal pressure. The political answer to authoritarian weakness isn't compassion. It's coercion and force.

The party of sabotage: Mitch McConnell leads Republicans to vote against the United States

Last week, in a piece about how the Republicans are humiliating the Democrats, I said there's no real chance of the United States Congress failing to raise the debt ceiling. Failure would instantly trigger a worldwide economic calamity. Though the Republicans are behaving irresponsibly, don't worry, I said. The Democrats won't let that happen.

The point of last week's piece was that the Democrats, in standing by the filibuster, are giving the Republicans the means of humiliating them. Today, I want to focus on the GOP's role, specifically that voting against raising the debt ceiling is a hostile war-like act. We're so familiar with their war-like hostility, however, it seems like old news. It shouldn't be. The GOP's war-like hostility drives the news. If you do not understand that, you do not understand American politics.

Last night's unanimous vote by the Senate Republicans against raising the debt ceiling (and against funding the government) should be seen in the context of sabotage. The party playing chicken with the full faith and credit of the United States is the same party undermining the national recovery from the covid pandemic, which is the same party tolerating insurgents who nearly brought down the republic, which is the same party eroding the rule of law, which is the same party welcoming interference by Russia, which is … so on and so forth.

The Republicans have a reputation for being anti-government. But the current iteration of the Republican Party is much more than that. It is anti-American. I would normally provide evidence of such a claim, but the evidence to such a claim is all around us. Pointing out that the Republicans are anti-American is like pointing out the sky is blue.

Yet it must be pointed out. The Washington press corps has not figured out, or refuses to figure out, that the GOP does not represent Americans. It represents "real Americans" who do not live in the United States but in a wholly imagined "nation" inside the United States that was given to them by God to rule in His name. The GOP's first loyalty is to this confederacy of the mind and spirit, not to the United States. This is why political sabotage comes so easily.

And this is why Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, is not a hypocrite. He does not represent Americans. He represents "real Americans." When he was in charge, he voted to raise the debt ceiling. Now that he's not, he voted against it. The point isn't about what's good for the Republicans being good for the Democrats. If that were the case, equality would be central to McConnell's thinking. It is not. The point is who's in charge. When the Republicans are, up is up. When the Democrats are, up is down. There's nothing hypocritical about the pursuit of power stripped of all democratic morality.

This point about who's in charge can't be overstated. It's not that McConnell and the Republicans want the United States to default on its debt. That would hurt the very obscenely rich people who are their benefactors. But these very obscenely rich people are nevertheless supportive of the Republican Party's willingness to sabotage the government if sabotaging it helps maintain control of it. So it isn't just an amoral pursuit of power. It's parasitic, too. The confederates don't want to kill off the host nation. They just want to be in charge of it.

This is why I say "war-like." They don't want to go to war, not yet anyway, but they do want to intimidate, bully, harass and terrorize perceived enemies into doing what they want. They cannot get what they want through democratic means, because no majority can be found anywhere in the country that wants what the GOP confederates want. This was the lesson learned after the election of the first Black president. The GOP confederates have since forged a path that's outside the boundaries of democracy, outside the boundaries of the rule of law and outside the boundaries of the republic itself (again, think Russia). The politics of sabotage is the politics of the GOP.

I said the Washington press corps has not figured this out. Fact is, neither have many of the Democrats. Or they refuse to. Joe Manchin and other Democratic conservative cling to the idea of a Republican Party that's loyal to the United States and therefore desires bargaining with. Manchin, but not only Manchin, clings to the belief that the filibuster forces compromise. It does the reverse. As I said last week, the Senate rule is being used to humiliate the Democrats. But a larger question hangs over Joe Manchin and his peers: Why must we compromise with people whose politics push them toward sabotage? Bipartisanship between loyal Americans is difficult enough. Is it even desirable with GOP confederates who stand against America itself?

The Supreme Court's fall from grace gives Democrats a big opening

Last week, Jennifer Rubin wrote about the sinking reputation of the United States Supreme Court. With respect to a new abortion law in Texas, which invalidates Roe v. Wade, the Post columnist said that, "The nub of the problem is not that (or not only that) voters are angry that the court allowed a diabolical and invasive Texas law to go into effect. The problem, rather, is that once the facade of impartiality and nonpartisanship is shattered, it is nearly impossible to get back."

It's an important piece. You should read it. But the assertion that "the facade of impartiality and nonpartisanship" is hard to put back together once it's started coming apart is worth dwelling on. Is it true? Well, I have to repeat myself, to wit: most people most of the time have something better to do than pay attention to politics. 2000's Bush v. Gore should have shattered "the facade" utterly, but didn't. Why? For one thing, 9/11. For another, most people have other things to do.

Three recent polls show the high court's approval rating taking a nosedive. "Just 40 percent of Americans approve of the court, according to the latest Gallup poll," the Associated Press reported. "That's among the lowest it's been since Gallup started asking that question more than 20 years ago. Approval was 49 percent in July." (Such was the occasion for Rubin's piece and other pieces you saw last week.) But each poll can be pointed to as evidence of the nosedive being temporary. Unlike the United States Congress, which has an abysmal reputation, the court's numbers never stay low. They go up a little. Then down a little, or a lot, before returning safely to the mean.

Left to their own devices — which is to say, left to find something better to do than pay attention to politics — most people can be trusted to forget whatever bad thing the court does. (Voters are renowned for their short memories.) What's more, most people tend to agree with Justice Stephen Breyer's rose-tinted view: that the court is an institutional source of liberty. Combined, apathy and myth create conditions in which the court can weather pretty much anything.

But what if most Americans were not left to their own devices. What if a major political party had the incentive to never let them forget? What if a major political party grew hostile toward court myths?

Incentive has existed on the margins of the Democratic Party since at least the moment Mitch McConnell robbed Barack Obama of a justice. Those marginal voices have been growing louder, and hence less marginal, since 2015 with every court-related outrage, particularly the GOP's ramming through of a nominee during an election year, which was the reason given for robbing Barack Obama. (Not to mention expediting Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation before the FBI could thoroughly vet him; not to mention the appointment of three justices in all by a president who colluded with a hostile foreign power to win.)

The Democratic Party's centrists, however, have not felt the same pressure, despite all the outrage over more than half a decade. They have continued to see the utility in respecting the court. Unlike liberals and progressives, centrists have not been moved by the court's approval of the former president's Muslim ban, by the court's gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, by the court's kneecapping of trade unions, by the court's eviction, in effect, of essential workers from their homes and other rulings of factional Democratic interest.

But the Supreme Court's lawless decision to use the "shadow docket" to allow an anti-abortion law in Texas to invalidate half a century of court precedent without a single argument or a single written opinion cuts right through the Democratic Party's respectable white people. It has radicalized those voters who had hoped against hope during more than a half-decade's worth of outrage that Roe would not fall. They see it falling now. Fast. It's open season on the court's legitimacy.

This would explain the court's recent polling slump. If I'm correct about these incentives, we might see its numbers shift profoundly — from a familiar pattern of gentle ups and downs to a new pattern of permanent and painful lows. "I do think there's a sustained campaign to delegitimize the court that has gotten some traction on the left," a big-wheel attorney who often argues before the court told the AP. But it's not the left. This is respectable white people we're talking about.

Let's hope I'm right. If most people most of the time continue to think of the court as an institutional source of liberty, and if most people most of time continue to forget the bad things it does, there's no hope of reforming it, whether that means expanding the number of justices, implementing term limits or something called "jurisdiction stripping." (See the Editorial Board's Chris Sprigman for more.) There would be, therefore, no hope in turning Roe into statutory law. The court would strike it down. The Democrats must beat them to it. Before they can save the village, however, they have to burn it down.

How the myth of 'border security' empowers American fascists

Last week began with photographs of white men on horseback cracking whips at Black Haitians at the southern border. The El Paso Times captured images of mounted Border Patrol agents trying to force migrants, carrying food and supplies, back over the Rio Grande into Mexico. Last week ended with Joe Biden expressing outrage. "I promise you those people will pay," the president told reporters this morning. "They will be investigated. There will be consequences."

That's good, but the larger problem is that the president keeps accepting the premise of "border security" — an ideologically conservative premise. The first step to reforming the government's attitude and hence policy toward the border is to stop accepting the premise as if the GOP means it. They don't. They don't care about "border security." What they care about is having a tool with which to bully Democratic presidents into doing what they want them to do.

That strategy has been wildly successful. The Democrats have been on their heels since at least the Clinton administration. According to the Editorial Board's Elizabeth F. Cohen, professor of political science at Syracuse University's Maxwell School, so-called border security "is a familiar posture, whether or not immigration reform is on the table. Bill Clinton presided over the creation of a legal architecture leading to mass immigrant incarceration. Barack Obama pushed the limits of the deportation infrastructure that was built in the interim, deporting more people from this country than any president to this day."

Biden has proven progressive in ways a lot of progressives have been delighted to discover. When it comes to immigration and border policy, though, he's in the vein of his former boss. Barack Obama once believed mass deportations would inspire the Republicans to negotiate over comprehensive immgration reform. After many years and many families rent asunder, he came to understand they didn't mean what they said. By the time he realized "border security" meant "don't admit Black and brown people" — by the time he realized "illegal immigrants" meant "Black and brown people are illegal" — it was too late.

And yet the Democrats keep talking about "border security" as if the Republicans really believe it's important. Worse, they keep funding it. Customs and Border Patrol is now the biggest federal law enforcement agency in the United States. Along with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the CBP eats up "nearly $20 billion a year, a non-trivial portion of which goes to shadowy private companies like Geo Group and Core Civic for incarceration," according to Elizabeth. With virtually unlimited resources comes incredible and virtually unchecked power. "They decide who gets arrested, who gets hearings, who is deported, and who will be jailed indefinitely. They are huge, awash in cash, poorly supervised and incentivized to be maximally cruel," Elizabeth wrote.

You might think that's an acceptable price to prevent drug and human trafficking, gun-running and other criminal activity. You might think that's an acceptable price to keep Americans safe. Fact is, though, you're getting more security from local police departments than you're getting from America's biggest cop shop. For all the billions spent, for all the advanced technology, and for all the miles of border wall built over 20 years, ICE and CBP "have not reduced crime rates, ended the illegal narcotics trade, prevented the flow and use of deadly weapons, or in any other way made people safer," Elizabeth wrote in April.

What has been accomplished? A huge and lawless bureaucracy. ICE is subject to thousands of sexual assault and harrassment complaints every year. CPB is known for working with armed vigilantes who "patrol" the border. An inspector general report found that American citizens and American journalists were being tracked by CPB. Both agencies served as the former president's "secret police" last year. Elizabeth: "There are many reasons that we find ourselves living with two sprawling immigration police forces that each year encroach further on the basic civil rights and safety of everyone in the US." Me: The more we accept the premise that we need "border security," the more we empower fascists inside the United States government.

Border Patrol's most basic purpose is regulating flows of people in and out of the United States. It can't do its job, though, because its job is impossible. The horsemen incident is a case in point. The pictures we saw showed mounted Border Patrol agents trying to force Haitian migrants back into Mexico. Thing is, they already crossed. They had gone back to Mexico to get food. Video of the horsemen show Haitians just walking around them. It was an exercise invoking images of slave catchers, yes. But it was also an exercise in futility. I mean, more than 10,000 people walked over in broad daylight. The CBP was impotent.

For those wondering if a wall would work, no, it wouldn't. The southern border is nearly 2,000 miles long. Most of it is the Rio Grande. It's subject to seasonal monsoons. That means flooding, major flooding. No sooner does the government put up walls and other barriers than Mother Nature comes along to knock it all down. And if the monsoons don't knock them down, the smugglers will. America's effect at "border security" has been as successful as its war on drugs.

While "border security" isn't attainable (in the way Republicans define it), it might be desirable to try — if the Republicans meant what they said. They don't, though. Every time Barack Obama tried meeting their demands, they created new ones, forcing the former president to keep chasing ever-receding horizons. I don't know what Joe Biden has in mind by putting Haitians on airplanes and sending them back. But if we're ever going to get a Democratic president to change his mind, we have to convince more people that "border security" is a canard.

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