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The Republican opposition to the Capitol riot commission is even more deplorable than it seems

Imagine if, after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the Republicans in the United States House of Representatives said let's move on. The United States Congress need not investigate. Other agencies are already doing that work. There's no sense in duplicating efforts. There's no sense in being counterproductive. Anyway, an inquiry can't do much good unless it examines all forms of political violence. Sure, 3,000 people are dead, but a proposed bipartisan commission would just be too political.

This article was originally published at The Editorial Board

That's right. You can't imagine that. It's not possible. So why is Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, coming out this morning against a similar proposal to investigate the January 6 sacking and looting of the United States Capitol? Not as many people died, of course, but the insurrection was worse than 9/11 in that it was an existential threat to the democratic faith, the Constitution and the republic itself. An attack worse than 9/11 deserves a bipartisan commission similar to 9/11's, right?

You'd think so, but McCarthy is shielding from scrutiny the man most responsible for planning, organizing and leading the insurgency. He's doing that because his party is clinging to a losing president like it's given up hope of returning to power through valid democratic means. Most people are paying attention to state-level Republicans squeezing electorates to prejudicial sizes. Less attention is being paid to terrorism as a Republican option. The takeaway to today's news should be the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, might've been tolerable had Osama bin Laden been a Republican.

Make no mistake. McCarthy's reasoning isn't persuasive. The Republicans pushed for and launched dozens of investigations into the Benghazi attack of 2012, during which four Americans were killed, with the goal of undermining trust in Hillary Clinton, who was then secretary of state. They spent millions to conclude she wasn't responsible. It might have been funny had their mission gone nowhere. But from those investigations came revelations that Clinton used a private email server to conduct official business, a scandal the Russians exploited in 2016 to sabotage her presidential candidacy.

I continue to believe, perhaps naively, that most Americans would choose democracy and loyalty without a second's reservation over treason and tyranny if the choice were clear to them. I suspect Kevin McCarthy believes this, too. That's why the GOP leader and (I have no doubt) nearly all the House Republicans will vote soon enough against a proposed commission to investigate the January 6 attack despite the fact that a whole bunch of them, including McCarthy, pushed for and launched dozens of investigations into the Benghazi attack of 2012. Standing in the way muddies the water, as it were. It prevents Americans of good conscience from making a clear and patriotic choice.

It does something else, though. It covers their asses. Kevin McCarthy and the rest of his conference must know any formal investigation into the terrorist attack of January 6 has a high likelihood of finding its way back to them. At the very least, it would remind people that most of the House GOP voted against counting electoral votes after the insurgency, as if indifferent to acts of domestic terrorism. It would remind voters all but 10 voted against impeaching the former president. They are, therefore, doing far more than shielding Donald Trump. They are shielding themselves. In this sense, the Republicans are involved in what can accurately be called a conspiracy of silence.

Again, I suspect Kevin McCarthy probably thinks standing in the way of a bipartisan investigation prevents Americans of good conscience from making a clear and patriotic choice. But it does the opposite. There's just no good reason to stand in the way unless you fear what the investigation is going to find. And if it appears that you fear what it's going to find, Americans of good conscience have good reason to put more of their faith in the party standing against terrorism than in the party seeming to think terrorism is an option in a democracy when all other democratic options have failed.

I said 9/11 might've been tolerable had Bin Laden been a Republican. I'm (mostly) kidding to make an ominous point. I think the Republicans are betting that most (white) Americans are as cynical as they are—that they have lost so much faith in American democracy, and what it's capable of producing for the betterment of all, that they are ready to stop believing in doing the right thing for its own sake. In this sense, terrorism isn't the problem. The problem is who's doing it. If it's Osama bin Laden, or other nonwhite people here and abroad, it's bad. If not, it's good, or at least defensible, because, I mean, let's be honest, those people would murder us all if they could. Instead of asking Americans to choose their values, the GOP is asking them to pick their poison. We have better options. The question is whether we see them clearly.

The ridiculous new fight about masks shows the hollow moral core of many media pundits

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that it was safe for people who have been fully vaccinated to go about their business without wearing a mask outdoors as well as indoors. That sparked controversy of the kind I want to talk about today, the kind that is very, very important to the reputations of a select few members of the pundits corps but that has almost no bearing on normal people. In brief, virtue-signalling is what a few pundits talk about when they're signalling their virtue, which isn't virtue so much as ordinary self-centered professional ambition.

I'll explain but before I do, let me say I'm going to wear a mask indoors (and outdoors in crowds) for the foreseeable future, because I can catch the covid even though I have been fully vaccinated. I'm going to wear a mask because my wife and I have a kid at home who is not yet eligible for vaccination. Children can get the covid, too. The last thing I want to do is catch it before giving it to her. That's a dad's nightmare. When will I stop wearing one? The only answer I have is this: When I feel it's safe to stop.

In this, I'm pretty sure I'm not alone. I see plenty of mask-wearing in my part of New Haven.1 I see masks inside as well as outside, even though Connecticut's governor has lifted the requirement for wearing them outside. I see them at the grocery store. I see them as the gas station. I see them at the dog park. I see people wearing them in their cars. Nearly everyone was wearing a mask recently during Westville's outdoor arts festival. No one required or asked us to. We just did. Mask-wearing is a normal part of life. When will it stop? Well, it's obvious. When safety is again a normal part of life.

Every grownup I talked to at the arts festival I just mentioned had been fully vaccinated. The topic of conversation was about feeling safe without a mask. Some did, some didn't. That, to me, was the context for the CDC's latest announcement. That, to me, made the CDC's latest announcement seem reasonable. The more people are vaccinated, the less likely it is for the covid to spread. The less it spreads, the less risk the public is going to face. Those who are more risk-averse, like me, can keep doing what we've been doing without much inconvenience. After all, mask-wearing is so internalized some expect it to return periodically, as the flu season comes and goes.

Which brings me to those select few members of the pundit corps who are compelled to comment on the CDC's latest announcement. This pundit is the kind for whom making the argument is much more important than whether the argument is right or wrong, good or bad. This pundit is the kind for whom simple and ordinary morality is too simple and ordinary. To make his mark, he must work against the grain of virtuous social behavior. He must take good personal conduct and make it look bad. If you insist on wearing a mask after the CDC's latest announcement, you're not being risk-averse, this pundit says. You're showing off your superiority. Here's Yascha Mounk:

It's time to stop. Over the past year, we have had to make all kinds of adjustments to our everyday lives to combat a deadly pandemic. The reason to take these actions was to save lives, not to adopt a superior lifestyle or show off our virtue. For those of us who are fully vaccinated, those actions are—at least until the situation changes, as it one day might with the emergence of new variants—no longer necessary. If a restaurant or coffee shop requests that you wear a mask, do so. But when and where possible, it is time to resume normal life. … Go watch that movie. Meet your friends and give them a long hug. Eat inside the restaurant if it's a little chilly out. Take off your mask. Stop the hygiene theatre, and don't feel bad about it for one moment.2

Wearing a mask, even when you're fully vaccinated, is morally justified in that you're not hurting anyone in the process of wearing one. You might have reasons for wearing one, but you don't need them. You can wear a mask simply because you feel like it. For some people, though, that moral justification is nearly impossible to see because they do not have a moral core with which to see it. For them, there are only incentives that either advance or do not advance their self-interest. Therefore, wearing a mask post-vaccination isn't just a sign of risk-aversion, as it is for me. It's a sign of "virtue-signaling." I wear one to show off my superior lifestyle and my superior virtue (ha!).

That's ridiculous, but being ridiculous doesn't matter. It would only matter if the pundit of the kind I'm talking about had a moral core. He does not make arguments, however, with concern for them being right or wrong, good or bad. He makes those arguments for the purpose of getting attention, which is the metric by which he measures the advancement of his self-interest. People who wear a mask don't make a big deal about it. Those who refuse to wear one, however, often do. Moral people don't draw attention to their virtue. Amoral people are the ones sending all the signals.

Lie-addicted Republicans have put themselves in jam with no honest way out

I don't pay a lot of attention to policy. I don't care enough about the particular details to say with any confidence which one is better and which one is worse. I do care about policy outcomes. So I'd take the so-called public option. I'd take Medicare for All, too. Yes, one is a small step. The other is a big step. Both, however, arrive at the same place eventually, which is universal health care. Either way, I know one party is going to lead us in that direction generally while the other is going to lead us nowhere in a hurry.

This article was originally published at The Editorial Board

In this way, I'd guess I'm fairly representative in how most people regard the parties. There are outcomes you want. So you side with the party most likely to realize them. Conversely, there are outcomes you do not want. So you side with the party most likely to oppose them. But what happens when one of the parties stops caring about policy? What happens when achieving a meaningful objective, however small it might be, even if it's just opposing the other party's policies, no longer matters to the party? Where does that leave normal people who want the party to accomplish something concrete?

I said yesterday that ousting Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney from the House Republican leadership meant the Republican Party is now officially anti-democracy. I forget to say it's officially anti-policy, too. Cheney voted for the former president's legislative agenda nearly all the time. Her rival, New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, did not. Yet it's the latter who's getting elevated to the position of House GOP conference chairwoman while the former is getting knocked down. Stefanik has embraced Donald Trump's Big Lie—that he's the legitimate president. Cheney, however, rejects that. It doesn't matter that Stefanik agreed with Trump less while Cheney with Trump more. The GOP is now post-truth. It's now post-policy, too.

Among the very few things I believe in categorically, there is this: Most Americans most of the time have something else to do than pay attention to politics. (They will find something else to do.) From that, I extrapolate, not unreasonably, that most people are not as invested in political conflict as the conventional wisdom would have it. Sure, voters want their representatives to fight for their interests, etc. But they also want them to get things done, especially amid long periods of mass death such as ours.

National crises demand national action. So it's one thing for the Republicans to oppose the other side's policy proposals, but quite another for the Republicans to oppose the other side's proposals on account of the other side is the one proposing them. They have convinced GOP constituents they can focus 100 percent on stopping the Biden administration, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, while at the same time delivering the goods back home. They have put themselves in jam with no honest way out. And because there is no honest way out, the Republicans must keep lying.

Nearly all the Republicans voted for relief-stimulus programs proposed by the former president while he was in office. They could rightly take credit for them. Not one of the Republicans in the entire United States Congress voted for similar programs in the nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law in March. But that has not stopped many from taking credit for them. The AP reported last week dozens of House Republicans, including Elise Stefanik, who is poised to assume Liz Cheney's chairwomanship, have in one way or another allowed voters to believe they had something to do with a hugely popular law they came close to killing. Post-truth has led to post-policy, which has led back to post-truth. Among Republicans, there is no there there, anymore. They are deathly afraid of constituents finding out. So they lie.

Like many things, this boils down to opposing interpretations of America. For the Democrats, it's a real place with real people in it who must find ways of getting along tolerably enough for everyone's sake in the most useful ways possible. If we don't, we're doomed. As Joe Biden said, after winning the election, "America is a covenant." It's the common ground shared between and among individuals and communities, the bonds that tie our fates together in the form of a union we must try perfecting more.

For the Republicans, however, the covenant isn't between and among individuals and communities. It's between God and God's chosen. The covenant isn't an abstract set of republican virtues. It's literal. It's the US Constitution. That the Republicans find themselves jammed—that nonstop lying is how they prevent supporters from figuring out they can't accomplish anything—well, that's what happens when a literalist interpretation rams into a crisis as bad as the covid pandemic has been. Something's got to give. First, it was truth. Then, it was policy. What's next remains to be seen.

The Liz Cheney fiasco exposes something profoundly rotten at the core of the Republican Party

It's done. The Republicans in the United States House of Representatives voted this morning to oust Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney as chairwoman of the House GOP conference. I've been writing obliquely about this pending vote, as I've been trying to make other points. But let me be plain. Ousting one of their own for the sake of a losing president means the Republican Party is now officially anti-democracy.

This article was originally published at The Editorial Board

Think about it. A pro-democracy party is one that would leave behind the losing president. It would look at his failure, which almost never happens, and reassess what the party must do to win more votes than the other party did. It would expand greatly its policy repertoire to attract a winning national coalition. It would reorganize and restructure to compete harder for a broader spectrum of voters. In brief, it would do something similar to what the Democratic Party did after Hillary Clinton's 2016 loss.

Instead, the Republicans are behaving in two anti-democratic ways. One, they are rigging elections with new laws disenfranchising wholes classes of people. Two, they are preparing to ignore election results if rigging fails. Going all-in for the losing president means the party doesn't care anymore about legitimately winning or losing. It does not care anymore about the very principle of legitimacy. It has effectively given up on democracy, because it keeps getting in the way of keeping its grip on power.

But it's worse than all this. Hillary Clinton dutifully accepted the results of the election as an expression of the people's sovereignty. (She did this, though by the standards of democracies around the world, she won by dint of winning more votes.) She did not lie. She did not cast doubt. She did not scheme with state-level Democrats to "find" a few thousand extra votes. She did not plan, organize and then incite the sacking and looting of the United States Capitol. She did not seek to violate the almost sacred tradition of the peaceful transfer of power. Treason was not the price of her vanity.

More importantly, the Democratic Party did not follow her. The Republicans, however, have been following Donald Trump wherever he leads, even when he palled around with a dictator (Vladimir Putin); apologized for a murderer (Mohammed bin Salman); neglected a once-every-100-years plague that will kill more than a million Americans in the end; tried defrauding the American people by way of extorting a foreign leader; and planned, organized and incited an insurrection against the United States. There was no crime, injustice or outrage they were not willing to sidestep, overlook or defend. The Democrats are more republican than the Republicans in the Republican Party. The GOP hasn't just given up on democracy. It's warring against democracy.

Despite all this, we can have faith. Most people most of the time have something better to do than pay attention to politics. But they do hear what leaders like Liz Cheney are saying, and the message is, I think, pretty simple. There is something profoundly rotten at the core of the Republican Party. There is something about the Republican Party that's against America itself. That must be the case given the party is booting from its leadership the daughter of a towering Republican figure and a former vice president. She's a member of the United States Congress whom the Democrats normally hate. That's the impression left on normal people. Everything else is noise.

I have talked a lot about the importance of getting swing voters, which is to say, respectable white people, to side with patriotism over despotism. If there's anyone who looks, acts, talks and thinks like that great globular middle of American politics, it's Liz Cheney. During a floor speech last night, she said the GOP is going to war:

"I am a conservative Republican and the most conservative of conservative principles is reverence for the rule of law. The Electoral College has voted. More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple judges he appointed, have rejected the former president's claims. The Department of Justice in his administration investigated the former president's claims of widespread fraud and found no evidence to support them. The election is over. That is the rule of law. That is our constitutional process. Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution. … I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president's crusade to undermine our democracy.

Those who say Cheney should switch parties are mistaken. The moment she became a Democrat would be the moment she lost all influence over independent voters, many of whom are just like her, once loyal partisans alienated by the GOP's disloyalty to the United States. Indeed, Cheney is where she should be, for her own political reasons (she probably has presidential ambitions) and for reasons benefiting the rest of us.

As long as she's a Republican bucking the party line, she'll command the attention of the Washington press corps.5 That attention will in turn deepen the impression among normal people that something is seriously wrong with the Republican Party, so serious as to be dangerous. The more the GOP acts like an insurgency, the more normal people are going to respond politically. The patriots among us are getting woke.

GOP's 2022 strategy risks blowing up in their faces — and hurting where they're most vulnerable

On Monday, the Associated Press released the results of its latest polling on the new president. Joe Biden enjoys an approval rating of 63 percent over four months. When it comes to his response to the covid, it's even better. Seventy-one percent of Americans give him a thumbs-up, including nearly half of Republicans (47 percent). The survey also "shows an uptick in Americans' overall optimism about the state of the country. Fifty-four percent say the country is on the right track, higher than at any point in AP-NORC polls conducted since 2017; 44 percent think the nation is on the wrong track."

This is one of two polling stories I want to share. The other poll was leaked to the Post over the weekend. A survey of battleground districts, it was conducted by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). Its results were reported during a recent gathering of GOP leadership, but a key part was suppressed. Why? Because it showed support for the former president is much softer than generally believed. "Trump's unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results … Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one."

It gets worse: "The internal NRCC poll partially shared with lawmakers in April found that President Biden was perilously popular in core battleground districts, with 54 percent favorability. Vice President Harris was also more popular than Trump, the poll showed. Biden's $1.9 trillion covid stimulus plan and his $2.3 trillion jobs and infrastructure package both polled higher than the former president's favorability, which was at 41 percent, compared to 42 percent in February" (my enthusiastic italics).

I'm the first to tell you to take any individual poll on anything with a healthy grain of salt. These polls in concert, however, suggest something fundamental about our politics. Two things. One, that Donald Trump's grip on the Republican Party may be getting tighter, but not where it's needed most. Two, and more importantly for our collective sanity, that Americans like it when elected officials tell them the whole truth. The former president told tens of thousands of lies. His approval rating never exceeded 50 percent. Biden mostly tells the truth.1 A majority of Americans now believes the country is headed in the right direction for the first time in four years.

Remember that lying is not just a matter of deceit. It's an injury. I mean this literally. Lies are intended to loosen our perception of reality. They make us feel crazy. Many Americans experienced a great sense of relief after Donald Trump left the White House. There's a very good reason for that. After being punched in the face every day, often many times a day, for four years, it felt fantastic after the punching stopped. I think the Washington press corps underestimates what swing voters2 are feeling right now and how they will respond to a political party waging war against the truth.

Not all lies are the same, of course. Most are small. Most, I'd say, are harmless. But the Republicans are not into small and harmless. They are embracing the big one—that Donald Trump is the legitimate president of the United States. That lie casts a shadow over everything, even those rare moments when the Republicans speak truthfully. Make no mistake. This is not about fear or cowardice. The big one is a conscious and rational choice. With the Democrats' razor-thin majorities in both chambers of Congress, the Republican leaders believe they have the advantage in the coming midterms. But they may not have considered a major risk. Going all-in on Donald Trump's Big Lie means injuring swing voters who already know the whole truth.

Congressional elections, or midterms, are usually referendums on the person sitting in the White House. When Trump was president, the House went to the Democrats in 2018. Now that Biden is president, the Republicans expect 2022 to be their year. But this dynamic depends on the incredibly short memories of voters. It depends on voters not comparing presidents but instead judging them in isolation. The Republicans, by going all-in on Trump, are threatening that dynamic entirely. They are threatening the historical advantage they have when voters forget. Instead, they're pushing Trump to the forefront of their minds. They're literally injuring them by repeating the biggest Big Lie. No one alive today has seen anything like this. No one has seen a major political party yoking its short- and long-term fate to the fate of a losing president.


In bizarre and unprecedented move, Trump-obsessed Republicans are on the verge of destroying their own advantage

On Monday, the Associated Press released the results of its latest polling on the new president. Joe Biden enjoys an approval rating of 63 percent over four months. When it comes to his response to the covid, it's even better. Seventy-one percent of Americans give him a thumbs-up, including nearly half of Republicans (47 percent). The survey also "shows an uptick in Americans' overall optimism about the state of the country. Fifty-four percent say the country is on the right track, higher than at any point in AP-NORC polls conducted since 2017; 44 percent think the nation is on the wrong track."

This article was originally published at The Editorial Board

This is one of two polling stories I want to share. The other poll was leaked to the Post over the weekend. A survey of battleground districts, it was conducted by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). Its results were reported during a recent gathering of GOP leadership, but a key part was suppressed. Why? Because it showed support for the former president is much softer than generally believed. "Trump's unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results … Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one."

It gets worse: "The internal NRCC poll partially shared with lawmakers in April found that President Biden was perilously popular in core battleground districts, with 54 percent favorability. Vice President Harris was also more popular than Trump, the poll showed. Biden's $1.9 trillion covid stimulus plan and his $2.3 trillion jobs and infrastructure package both polled higher than the former president's favorability, which was at 41 percent, compared to 42 percent in February" (my enthusiastic italics).

I'm the first to tell you to take any individual poll on anything with a healthy grain of salt. These polls in concert, however, suggest something fundamental about our politics. Two things. One, that Donald Trump's grip on the Republican Party may be getting tighter, but not where it's needed most. Two, and more importantly for our collective sanity, that Americans like it when elected officials tell them the whole truth. The former president told tens of thousands of lies. His approval rating never exceeded 50 percent. Biden mostly tells the truth.¹ A majority of Americans now believes the country is headed in the right direction for the first time in four years.

Remember that lying is not just a matter of deceit. It's an injury. I mean this literally. Lies are intended to loosen our perception of reality. They make us feel crazy. Many Americans experienced a great sense of relief after Donald Trump left the White House. There's a very good reason for that. After being punched in the face every day, often many times a day, for four years, it felt fantastic after the punching stopped. I think the Washington press corps underestimates what swing voters are feeling right now and how they will respond to a political party waging war against the truth.

Not all lies are the same, of course. Most are small. Most, I'd say, are harmless. But the Republicans are not into small and harmless. They are embracing the big one—that Donald Trump is the legitimate president of the United States. That lie casts a shadow over everything, even those rare moments when the Republicans speak truthfully. Make no mistake. This is not about fear or cowardice. The big one is a conscious and rational choice. With the Democrats' razor-thin majorities in both chambers of the US Congress, the Republicans leaders believe they have the advantage in the coming midterms. But they may not have considered a major risk. Going all-in on Donald Trump's Big Lie means injuring swing voters who already know the whole truth.

Congressional elections, or midterms, are usually referendums on the person sitting in the White House. When Trump was president, the House went to the Democrats in 2018. Now that Biden is president, the Republicans expect 2022 to be their year. But this dynamic depends on the incredibly short memories of voters. It depends on voters not comparing presidents but instead judging them in isolation. The GOP, by going all-in on Donald Trump, are threatening that dynamic entirely. They are threatening the historical advantage they have when voters forget. Instead, they're pushing Trump to the forefront of their minds. They're literally injuring them by repeating the biggest Big Lie. No one alive today has seen anything like this. No one has seen a major political party yoking its short- and long-term fate to the fate of a losing president.

The GOP's bizarre obsession with 'critical race theory' has almost nothing to do with critical race theory

The right-wing media apparatus, which is global in scale, has lately been making a fetish of something called "critical race theory" (CRT). This has prompted academics to defend it. It's not a radical political ideology, they say. It's merely a form of critical inquiry. It is not the boogeyman it's being made out to be. There's nothing to fear.

This article was originally published at The Editorial Board

I understand the need to defend critical race theory. Colleges and universities are beset on one hand by Republican fascists accusing scholars of indoctrinating students, on the other by anti-left liberals accusing the same of hostility toward freedom of speech. Meanwhile, administrations act more like corporations that privilege efficiency over research and teaching. It's enough to think CRT is an appropriate hill to die on.

This, however, overlooks the larger dynamic at work. The more you defend CRT as an ideologically neutral mode of seeing and thinking about the world, the more the propagandists are going to do what they do best, which is terrifying the ignorant. More importantly, CRT defenders are not seeing the true nature of their opponents. From the authoritarian perspective, modes of seeing and thinking about the world are never ideologically neutral because once you learn to see and think about the world on your own, you don't need authoritarian leaders to tell you what to see and think.

I risk making them seem like cartoons. I risk making people who treasure "traditional" and "conservative" and "Judeo-Christian" values look like they yippy-skippied over the Enlightenment on their way from the Spanish Inquisition to the 21st-century America. But it's worth the risk given that most respectable white people, in my opinion, tend to overestimate the societal effects of liberal arts education. Critical thinking is so uncontroversial among respectable white people as to be barely worth mentioning. The authoritarians, however, see it quite clearly for what it is—an existential threat.

This is why the particulars of critical race theory don't matter. (You don't care about the particulars when you're fighting for survival!) This is also why explaining those particulars to people who seem to fear them won't change their minds if you don't also take into account that explaining the particulars of critical race theory can itself be seen as intolerable aggression. What most of them fear is loss of social control. What most fear is loss of authority. Where you see an individual merely muddling through life the best she can, coming to the best conclusions she can, most of them see an individual whose ideological aggression is so monstrous as to justify any response.

Respectable white people look at the right-wing media apparatus, which is global in scale, and marvel at the fact that Americans consuming its propaganda inhabit a fact-free world. I think what they misunderstand is lying isn't a bug. It's a feature. Facts are available to individuals to see and think about on their own, free and independent of authorities licensed to say what individuals see and think. Facts, therefore, are aligned politically with perceived enemies. A rational response to facts is nonstop lying. So "alternate facts" are not a result of authoritarian politics. They are a first principle.

Critical race theory is not a political ideology, but it may as well be to the world of the right-wing media apparatus, which is global in scale. It might as well be because anything that teaches individuals to see and think about facts independent and free of groupthink compromises the integrity of the authoritarian's grip on the group. Case in point is Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney. The Republican believes the former president tried bringing down the republic. She is factually correct. For the "crime" of seeing and thinking about the world on her own, she's now being punished. The House Republicans are poised to purge her from the House conference leadership. The Republicans are not individualists. They are collectivists enforcing groupthink.

Respectable white people marvel at the fact that Americans consuming right-wing propaganda inhabit a fact-free world. As a consequence, they do not take it seriously. People who insist on inhabiting a fact-free world are not just ignorant—not when democracy depends on the ability of individuals to associate and organize themselves for the purpose of self-rule. When huge numbers of people inhabit a fact-free world, and collectivist leaders police the integrity of that groupthink, they threaten not only democracy's ability to function minimally, but its survival. Liz Cheney is now being reassimilated into the collective. Democracy itself faces the very same fate. Do not marvel at these people and their fact-free world. Regard them as the danger they are.

The GOP is falling into mass delusion — and the time is coming for Biden to call McConnell's bluff

Something I have learned since taking up national politics as a vocation is that most people won't see what's happening even as what's happening is happening right in front of them. There's just something about the human mind that won't accept what's plainly visible if what's happening does not fit into what's already clearly understood.

For instance, most people understand the Republicans elected to the United States House of Representatives are conservative. Most people, therefore, are going to stick to that understanding even as the GOP's conference takes the final step in a decades-long process of transmogrification, shedding the last remnant of Reagan-Bush-style conservatism to become the party of what can only be called fascist collectivism.

The hallmark of fascist collectivism in international history is totalizing loyalty to The Leader, which, in a foreign but familiar turn-of-phrase, would be translated to Der Führer. That fuhrer, when it comes to the Republican Party, is Donald Trump. The former president insists he defeated Joe Biden. He insists everyone in the GOP believe and repeat the same lie. Anyone who does not believe and repeat the same lie is quickly identified as insufficiently loyal. This is how fascist collectivism works. The sky isn't green because the fuhrer says it is. It's green after everyone agrees. If that sounds like mass delusion is the heart of fascism collectivism, that's because it is.

Mass delusion is hard to believe yet here we are. Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, yields to no one when it comes to conservative bona fides. Her voting record is far more conservative than that of her challenger, New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. But unlike Cheney, Stefanik believes and repeats the lie that the fuhrer won the election, the lie he insists everyone in the GOP believe and repeat. The House conference, with Donald Trump's blessing, is set to purge Cheney from its leadership, replacing her with Stefanik. Again, that's fascist collectivism. Individuals do not matter even when they are, in every meaningful way, in agreement with the fuhrer. What matters is totalization. In short order there's a dime's worth of difference between the party and the leader.

Mass delusion is hard to believe. As a consequence, it's hard to take seriously. From the liberal perspective, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell seemed downright irrational when he said Wednesday that, "One hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration." Why would he give away his bargaining power? Why would he say out loud the Republicans don't care about solving the problems all Americans face in the middle of a once-in-a-century plague? If there's a way to blow the Republicans' chances of taking back control of Congress in 2022, that's it. This, as Thom Hartmann said, is how "Mitch McConnell is about to destroy the GOP."

Actually, McConnell spoke rationally. The Democrats have razor-thin majorities. History favors the out-party. (It's the GOP's turn.) Structures, like gerrymandered congressional districts, favor them. (So do reapportioned seats resulting from the latest census.) States controlled by the Republicans are squeezing their electorates down to prejudicial sizes. The fuhrer's lie, amplified by the right-wing media apparatus, which is global in scale, proliferates like variants of the coronavirus. All this is quite clear to McConnell. Sure, mass delusion is the heart of fascist collectivism. But do not confuse that for electoral disadvantage. Why should mass delusion matter when there's a dime's worth of difference between the base of the Republican Party and the leader?

As I said, most people—politically active though they may be—won't see what's happening even as what's happening is happening right in front of them. The current president is no exception. The difference is Joe Biden is upfront about it. During a White House presser Wednesday, he said the Republicans seem to be undergoing a "significant sort of mini revolution" detrimental to the country's need for two healthy political parties. He added: "I think Republicans are further away from trying to figure out who they are and what they stand for than I thought they would be at this point."

This is something of a relief to those of us who had worried the president really believed the Republicans would have an "epiphany" in the wake of the 2020 presidential election. In reality, it's the opposite. Instead of becoming diluted and easier to bargain with, the party's radicalism has become darker, denser, purer and (literally) deadlier. That Biden thinks they are further away from figuring things out for themselves than he thought suggests he might conclude they'll never get there, and therefore not wait around for the spirit of bipartisanship to materialize out of thin air.

Then again the above quote is something to worry about. It's not that the Republicans haven't figured out "who they are and what they stand for." They have figured out exactly who they are and what they stand for. The Republicans are in the process of purging the last conservative leader in the House to condemn unconditionally the fuhrer's attempt to overthrow a free and fair election by organizing and inciting a coup d'etat. Liz Cheney is the last Republican leader in the House willing to stand against Donald Trump, willing to stand up for the truth and willing to stand for democracy. For the president to say they haven't figured out "who they are and what they stand for" suggests he is not seeing what's happening as it's happening right in front of him.

Elderly as he is, however, the president is still a quick learner. And he's shrewd, too. To say the Republicans can be bargained with in the face of all evidence to the contrary is, nevertheless, the right thing to say for someone who wants to command the center. It isn't, however, the right thing to believe. McConnell has one card to play. Just one. Everything else is bluffing. The time is coming when Biden will have to call his bluff.

FROM YOUR SITE ARTICLES

Republicans have figured out who they are and what they stand for -- and it's bad

Something I have learned since taking up national politics as a vocation is that most people won't see what's happening even as what's happening is happening right in front of them. There's just something about the human mind that won't accept what's plainly visible if what's happening does not fit into what's already clearly understood.

This article was originally published at The Editorial Board

For instance, most people understand the Republicans elected to the United States House of Representatives are conservative. Most people, therefore, are going to stick to that understanding even as the GOP's conference takes the final step in a decades-long process of transmogrification, shedding the last remnant of Reagan-Bush-style conservatism to become the party of what can only be called fascist collectivism.

The hallmark of fascist collectivism in international history is totalizing loyalty to The Leader, which, in a foreign but familiar turn-of-phrase, would be translated to Der Führer. That fuhrer, when it comes to the Republican Party, is Donald Trump. The former president insists he defeated Joe Biden. He insists everyone in the GOP believe and repeat the same lie. Anyone who does not believe and repeat the same lie is quickly identified as insufficiently loyal. This is how fascist collectivism works. The sky isn't green because the fuhrer says it is. It's green after everyone agrees. If that sounds like mass delusion is the heart of fascism collectivism, that's because it is.

Mass delusion is hard to believe yet here we are. Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, yields to no one when it comes to conservative bona fides. Her voting record is far more conservative than that of her challenger, New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. But unlike Cheney, Stefanik believes and repeats the lie that the fuhrer won the election, the lie he insists everyone in the GOP believe and repeat. The House conference, with Donald Trump's blessing, is set to purge Cheney from its leadership, replacing her with Stefanik. Again, that's fascist collectivism. Individuals do not matter even when they are, in every meaningful way, in agreement with the fuhrer. What matters is totalization. In short order there's a dime's worth of difference between the party and the leader.

Mass delusion is hard to believe. As a consequence, it's hard to take seriously. From the liberal perspective, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell seemed downright irrational when he said Wednesday that, "One hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration." Why would he give away his bargaining power? Why would he say out loud the Republicans don't care about solving the problems all Americans face in the middle of a once-in-a-century plague? If there's a way to blow the Republicans' chances of taking back control of the Congress in 2022, that's it. This, as Thom Hartmann said, is how "Mitch McConnell is about to destroy the GOP."

Actually, McConnell spoke rationally. The Democrats have razor-thin majorities. History favors the out-party. (It's the GOP's turn.) Structures, like gerrymandered congressional districts, favor them. (So do reapportioned seats resulting from the latest census.) States controlled by the Republicans are squeezing their electorates down to prejudicial sizes. The fuhrer's lie, amplified by the right-wing media apparatus, which is global in scale, proliferates like variants of the coronavirus. All this is quite clear to McConnell. Sure, mass delusion is the heart of fascism collectivism. But do not confuse that for electoral disadvantage. Why should mass delusion matter when there's a dime's worth of difference between the base of the Republican Party and the leader?

As I said, most people—politically active though they may be—won't see what's happening even as what's happening is happening right in front of them. The current president is no exception. The difference is Joe Biden is upfront about it. During a White House presser Wednesday, he said the Republicans seem to be undergoing a "significant sort of mini revolution" detrimental to the country's need for two healthy political parties. He added: "I think Republicans are further away from trying to figure out who they are and what they stand for than I thought they would be at this point."

This is something of a relief to those of us who had worried the president really believed the Republicans would have an "epiphany" in the wake of the 2020 presidential election. In reality, it's the opposite. Instead of becoming diluted and easier to bargain with, the party's radicalism has become darker, denser, purer and (literally) deadlier. That Biden thinks they are further away from figuring things out for themselves than he thought suggests he might conclude they'll never get there, and therefore not wait around for the spirit of bipartisanship to materialize out of thin air.

Then again the above quote is something to worry about. It's not that the Republicans haven't figured out "who they are and what they stand for." They have figured out exactly who they are and what they stand for. The Republicans are in the process of purging the last conservative leader in the House to condemn unconditionally the fuhrer's attempt to overthrow a free and fair election by organizing and inciting a coup d'etat. Liz Cheney is the last Republican leader in the House willing to stand against Donald Trump, willing to stand up for the truth and willing to stand for democracy. For the president to say they haven't figured out "who they are and what they stand for" suggests he is not seeing what's happening as it's happening right in front of him.

Elderly as he is, however, the president is still a quick learner. And he's shrewd, too. To say the Republicans can be bargained with in the face of all evidence to the contrary is, nevertheless, the right thing to say for someone who wants to command the center. It isn't, however, the right thing to believe. McConnell has one card to play. Just one. Everything else is bluffing. The time is coming when Biden will have to call his bluff.

The tide is turning against conservatism as the failures of the greed-based ideology are exposed

My friend and fellow New Havener Tom Krattenmaker has a new piece in USA Today worth amplifying, in my own modest way, but also worth setting in the larger context of ideological shifting taking place in the country. Tom argues that big profit-seeking corporations aren't "woke." They just believe the customer's always right. To the extent they irritate the Republican Party, by way of objecting to various state-level anti-democracy laws, it's the result of doing what they do best: following the money.

Whether you're conservative or liberal, whether you condemn or cheer things like Nike's Colin Kaepernick ads or the corporate pushback against Georgia's new voting law, don't be tricked into thinking that America's corporate giants are becoming something fundamentally different from what they've always been.
What you can see them as … are bellwethers—highly useful signalers of where the culture is headed and how reality-based organizations are positioning themselves for success. While you can't count on corporations to be your political best friend (or enemy), you can certainly pick up a thing or two observing their behavior.

If Tom is right (and I think he is) in asserting that corporations are "highly useful signalers of where the culture is headed," where then is the culture headed? Among other things, I'd suggest the culture is going in the direction of greater political inclusion, broader equality and more fully realized justice. There seems to be, especially among Americans under 40, more tolerance of the differences of "identity," and less tolerance of the divisions that arise from "identity." In general, the culture seems to be increasingly plural, increasingly honorable and increasingly democratic.

Which is another way of saying liberal. During the reign of Ronald Reagan (from 1980 to 2016), liberalism was put in a box so small it could afford only the bare essentials, individual liberty and, eventually, free markets. Being called a liberal was so bad for one's reputation, the GOP co-opted those truly liberal principles while also claiming to be conservative. Entire schools of thought emerged, such as civic republicanism and communitarianism, to support liberals who did not want to be identified as such. But as big firms like Delta are suggesting, the tide has turned, nationally, away from Reagan and toward an unknowable future. Whatever it becomes, it won't be conservative.

Blame the covid. Nothing in the last 40 years has better exposed conservatism's unique weaknesses. Nothing has better exposed liberalism's unique strengths. To be sure, competition and economic self-interest are important qualities, but they cannot be allowed to overwhelm, and supplant, our obligations to each other, our duties to communities large and small, and our moral responsibility to take care of the republic. More than 591,000 are dead thanks to a president who refused to honor his oath. That's what happens when a democratic community loses itself to the temptations of greed.

Consumers used to be the units of the old political order. Competition and self-interest were the currency. Citizens—in the communal form of neighborhoods, towns, cities, states and nation—are the units of the new order, cooperation the currency. Civic republicanism and communitarianism seemed separate from liberalism when liberalism fit in a tiny ideological box. Now, in this age of the covid, in an age in which most Americans seem to recognize the great need for union, liberalism is so popular, it's getting the attention of big firms usually focused on maximizing shareholder value.

Blame Donald Trump, too—specifically, his failed January 6 coup. Corporations, especially multinational corporations, are exquisitely sensitive to patriotic winds. (They want to sell to Americans and do what they can be to seem all-American, even when, or especially when, everything they sell is made by foreigners.) These "reality-based organizations" are positioning themselves to succeed in a future America in which something about the GOP, from a national perspective, smells a little treasonous. This drives the Republicans and the allies bonkers. They understand clearly they have handed the keys of patriotism, as it were, to the Democrats for a generation. All they can do is nit-pick the president for saying, as he did last week in his State of the Union address, that the insurrection was the worst attack on democracy since the Civil War.

It was a clown-show. It was not as violent or deadly as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. But Joe Biden was nonetheless correct. Just like the shelling of Fort Sumter in 1861, the enemy wasn't foreign. The enemy was us. Perhaps the closest equivalent is the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995. Even that, however, did not threaten the very seat of our government. It was also not organized and fueled by a sitting president of the United States. In that sense, nothing is comparable to the January 6 coup, because no president has ever tried to cancel the will of the American people. The more the Republican Party yokes itself to Donald Trump, the stronger the stink of treason clings to it. Hence, the more corporations, and hence the culture generally, is likely going to find them as politically repellent as they did the Southern segregationists of yore.

The messy truth about America the right wing can't bear to admit

I got a second dose Saturday. I was bed-ridden Sunday. I'm feeling better today, but writing is hard labor. I won't do the usual dissection of recent events. I'll instead swing for the fences and see what happens. Even if I strike out, it might prove to be useful.

The president and the vice president were asked last week if Tim Scott is right. In a GOP response to the State of the Union address to the United States Congress, the United States Senator said America is not a racist country. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris agreed. America is not racist country. But, they said, there is work to do.

Harris in particular got some push-back from progressives who believe the first woman and first Black woman to be a heartbeat away from being the leader of the free world ought to know better. But make no mistake. She does. So does the president (I'm mostly sure). Let's remember these are not empirical statements. To say America is or is not racist is not a statement of fact as much as it is an assertion of public morality.

What do I mean? Viewed from the right, the country is fine. Sure, there are some bad apples, but that's for the law to take care of, not politicians. Otherwise, the status quo is jim-dandy except for the parts where it's not as good as some mythical golden age that only exists in the minds of those on the right. From this point of view, social problems are not problems. The only trouble is people on the left making trouble.

When the left says—or, rather, when the right says the left says—that America is a racist country, the point isn't whether that's true or false. It's attacking the left. That's the right's assertion of public morality: the left is full of trouble-makers who are bent on taking away what's rightfully yours and on changing forever "our way of life."

That's not entirely true, but that's not entirely false either, which illustrates that the political challenges of the left are more complex than those of the right. The left does want to change "our way of life," because the "our" has never been fully equal or equally just, and it will never be as long as "our way of life" is untouched by politics. Freedom is the goal for the left, as it is for the right, but while the right is satisfied without equality and equal justice, the left can't be. While the right succeeds by demonizing the left, the left won't. It must carve a majority coalition out of the status quo's great national girth. While the right needs only to fight at the front, the left must fight at the front as well as the flanks and the rear. As Black people and people of color have known in our history, the left has to be twice as good as the right just to be equal.

The left, I think, sometimes forgets how complex its challenges are. Some progressives seemed genuinely outraged by the president's and the vice president's remarks, as if saying "America is not a racist country" is an assertion of monolithic fact. It's not, and insisting otherwise is a waste of time and energy. Fact is, Biden and Harris did not agree with Tim Scott. They were speaking in terms most palatable to the people they need to build and sustain a majority coalition while at the same time insisting that the goals of full equality and equal justice have not been achieved. Again, the politics of the right is one-dimensional because it has the vast accretion of white-centered history on its side. The politics of the left, meanwhile, is multidimensional. For the right, the question is always either defense or offense. For the left, it's always both.

America is a racist country. America is not a racist country. That's the strict, gangly and empirical truth. Big parts of America are OK with, or even prefer, the status quo of white supremacy. Big parts of it are not OK with it (though this part might not be as hostile toward white supremacy as white supremacy is toward challenges from the left.) The right is under no delusion about truth or falsehood, though, because it does not care. What it cares about is using statements like "America is not a racist country" as an assertion of public morality, which is to say, as a hammer for beating what it sees as a dangerous left. For this reason, the left should focus on its own moral assertions.

Which brings me to my conclusion: the left loses in a myopic fight over fact or falsehood, but it wins in a fight over broad public morality (which includes narrow questions of truth and falsehood). After all, what is the left demanding? It's asking (white) people to recognize what has been done to non-white people in our past, and in our present, and to reorganize politics so these things don't happen again for the sake of full equality and equal justice, and in the name of the common good. The right has no answer to that, because it believes America is fine the way it is (or it would be fine if the leftists would just shut up already). When it comes to carving a majority coalition out of the status quo's great national girth, one moral assertion is better than the other.

This maniacal anti-vaccine quote highlights the GOP's embrace of sadism

I think normal people possess an instinct the Washington press corps does not, which is this: some things are debatable while others are not. Specifically, very few things are debatable at all. More specifically, very few are worth debating. Who's got the time when there are jobs to do, kids to raise, classes to attend, elders to care for and so forth? Most people most of the time have other things to do than sit around debating minutia. Most people seek out, and accept, what's reasonable—and move on.

What's reasonable is getting vaccinated in the time of the covid, a disease that has killed, as of this writing, more than 589,000 Americans. It will probably kill a million before it's over. Getting vaccinated in the time of the covid is as reasonable as washing your hands after using the bathroom; as wiping your feet before entering the house; as brushing your teeth before going to bed. The likelihood of death or serious harm from failing to wash your hands, wipe your feet and brush your teeth is too ridiculous to bother mentioning. But that doesn't make doing those things any less reasonable.

Yes, you can debate whether washing your hands, wiping your feet and brushing your teeth are reasonable, but that would mean putting yourself on the other side of a galaxy of things that make up the prevailing view on healthy behavior. Most people most of the time are not going to put themselves on the outside looking in. When it comes to getting vaccinated, it would put you on the other side of what's universally understood about the covid, which is it can kill you and the people you love if you don't get vaccinated. The collective wisdom of human history often comes to us in the form of proverbs, and the most salient in the time of the covid is "better safe than sorry."

Even if you think the covid is overblown, you must admit a) it can kill you and therefore, b) it's reasonable to protect against it. Better safe than sorry. Hence, getting vaccinated is as reasonable as washing your hands, wiping your feet and brushing your teeth, even if failing to wash your hands, wipe your feet and brush your teeth does not result in death or serious harm. If you think getting vaccinated is unreasonable, you must, by logical necessity, believe washing your hands, wiping your feet and brushing your teeth are unreasonable. And if you're willing to go down that road, my friend, you're prepared to abandon human relationships for good. Indeed, you already have.

You don't care about human relationships if you can't dominate them. Somewhere along the way, you have confused cruelty for strength, obedience for morality and deprecation for love. That's usually not where the anti-vaccine crowd wants to go.1 They understand how it looks to say, out loud, that you're against getting vaccinated because you're against whatever most people want you to do, because you don't care about human relationships if you can't dominate them. The anti-vaccine crowd understands it's better to talk about freedom and tyranny. To find an unvarnished articulation of that crowd's fetish for dominance, you have to go to the bottom of the right-wing barrel, where people are more interested in saying terrible things than they are in saying acceptable things, to a desiccated ghoul by the name of Peter D'Abrosca.2

My primary reason for refusing the vaccine is much simpler [than principle]: I dislike the people who want me to take it, and it makes them mad when they hear about my refusal. That, in turn, makes me happy. Maybe it's petty, but the thought of the worst people on planet earth, those whom I like to call the Branch Covidians, literally shaking as I stroll into Target vaccine-free, makes me smile [emphasis mine].

It's often said the Republicans have no recognizable ideology. They no longer stand for state's rights, fiscal conservatism, limited government and the rest. That ignores the obvious, though. They stand for whatever the Democrats stand against; they stand against whatever the Democrats stand for. We have reached a point in political history in which the parties are yin and yang, such that the Democrats go out of their way to be reasonable while the Republicans go out of their way to be unreasonable. The Democrats take pleasure in helping people in this time of the covid. The Republicans, meanwhile, take pleasure in hurting people. In short, the GOP's ideology is sadism.

Most people most of the time seek out, and accept, what's reasonable—and move on. So most people are going to look at a ghoul like Peter D'Abrosca and think he's full of shit. He got vaccinated like everyone else did. He's just trying to get a rise out of people by saying things most people would never say, because most people get more pleasure out of human relationships than their sadistic ability to dominate them.

While sadism can yield short-term electoral results, as might be the case for the coming midterms, it can't over time. Most people are going to be drawn to messages like Joe Biden's. During his address to Congress this week, he asked all Americans over 16 to get vaccinated. Not just for yourself, he said, but for everyone—for "we the people." "In America, we do our part. We all do our part. That's all I'm asking. That we do our part. If we do that, we'll meet the central challenge of the age by proving that democracy is durable and strong. Autocrats will not win the future. We will."

The Supreme Court's shocking ruling sends a cold-blooded message

Take a walk with me inside the mind of Brett Jones. He was the plaintiff in Jones v. Mississippi, the United State Supreme Court case I told you about Monday. In a 6-3 opinion, written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the court rolled back two previous rulings regarding lifetime imprisonment without parole for minors. The previous rulings, called Miller and Montgomery, held that lifetime imprisonment for juvenile offenders was justified only in the worse of the worse cases—when a convict is "permanently incorrigible." In Jones, Kavanaugh said nah. Life in prison's fine even if corrigible.

I want you to take this walk with me to understand more fully the complex layers of cruelty in Kavanaugh's opinion. By understanding that his point is not punishment in the service of democracy and justice but instead punishment in the service of impunity and power, I hope you will understand the need for calling this barbarism instead of what we usually call it. Conservatism seems like something debatable. Barbarism isn't.

I am able to take you for this walk, though I do not know Brett Jones or his family, because there's not that much distance between me and him. To be sure, the details differ. The degree and magnitude of suffering differ. But survivors of childhood trauma, the kind that stamps you forever, recognize each other, and I recognize in Brett Jones, who murdered his grandfather 23 days after turning 15, a familiarity. I recognize that if my brain had functioned a bit differently, I might be where he is.

When children are assaulted, abused and neglected, as Brett Jones and I were, their brains adapt to survive. Most people dissociate. Their minds split in two or more pieces. That way, the suffering does not trigger psychic death. Part of you understands the suffering is wrong. Part of you insists the wrong is right. Why? Because, as a child, you love the person inflicting the pain and, importantly, you cannot stop loving that person. The person you cannot stop loving must be right, and so the suffering you are experiencing must be right, too. This is the source of the perversion of morality.

As I said, most people dissociate, opening a window to a galaxy of psycho-social problems later in adulthood. Some people don't, though. They're not so lucky. They are not born with brains capable of benevolent deception. While a dissociated child deludes himself into believing his mom punishes him because she loves him, someone like Brett Jones doesn't. He has eyes that see. He sees his dad beating his mom. He sees his stepdad beating him. He sees his grandfather deepening the violence. He understands the truth but cannot accept it. When that happens, people really need help more than anything, because they might feel the only exit is harm to oneself or to others.

The latter is what Brett Jones did. In 2004, as his grandfather was making a move to strike him again, Brett Jones stabbed him to death. That he did this soon after turning 15 should not be surprising. Though he could not dissociate, he could not do anything about the assaults against him. He was a kid. At 15, though, he was strong enough to defend himself. I never murdered anyone. I was one of the lucky dissociaters. But 15 was about the age when what had been a lifetime of physical assault came to an end. If my brain chemicals had been just slightly different, I might be among the many people sentenced right now to juvenile lifetime without parole who have no shot at freedom thanks to six "conservative" justices sitting on the United States Supreme Court.

Juvenile lifetime without parole is barbarous, but only one variety of barbarism. In saying it's OK to jail young people forever, no matter how much they try to redeem themselves, the court said that, for some people, there are no second chances. For them, merit is meaningless. Their fate is determined by their birth. The court said the values these people hold dear are benevolent deceptions, tricks of the mind invented to endure pitiful lives that are nasty, brutish and short. And indeed, it's hard to avoid thinking the court chose Brett Jones' case in order to send a cold-blooded message.

Despite everything breaking against him in childhood, Brett Jones did the right thing by confessing to the crime of murdering his grandfather. He became, by all accounts, a model inmate. He earned a GED. He kept a prison job. He studied the Bible. His grandmother, the widow of the victim, asked repeatedly for release. He did everything he was supposed to do, in the hope that redemption was possible, but in the end, the court, led by Brett Kavanaugh, said no. Not only does he deserve life without parole. The court seems to have picked his case to ensure no one defies its authority by trying.

In this, the Supreme Court affirmed what every single survivor of childhood trauma secretly believes but fights every single day: the idea that the weak in this world are the playthings of the strong, and that democracy, equality, freedom, morality and all the rest have nothing to do with it. In deciding Jones, the court, led by Kavanaugh, said yeah, you're right. What matters began long before you came into being, so that Boy Kavanaugh can commit crimes with impunity while rising to the pinnacle of judicial power to sit in judgment of Boy Jones who can now only curse the day he was born.


How the Supreme Court just revealed the true face of American conservatism

In Friday's column, I said the Republicans seem to have frightened David Brooks, which suggests the party has frightened respectable white people, too. I consider the Times columnist to be representative of the conventional wisdom of that great globular middle of American politics. The more these people fear the Republicans, the better.

Today, I want to take this a step further. If I'm right in thinking that respectable white people are less willing to give the Republicans the benefit of the doubt, on account of most of them being okie-dokie with Donald Trump's attempt to overturn a free and fair presidential election, this is an ideal time to push them, by way of persuasion, to an important conclusion, to wit: conservatism has become a byword for barbarism.

Consider a recent decision by the United States Supreme Court. In Jones v. Mississippi, the court ruled a person convicted of murder while a minor does not have to be shown to be "permanently incorrigible" to be imprisoned for life without parole. In a 6-3 decision, the court's six conservative justices reversed years of progress in the courts to show mercy toward juveniles who had committed heinous crimes. The AP: "Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the majority, said previous decisions only require a judge to consider 'an offender's youth and attendant characteristics' before imposing a sentence of life without parole. Kavanaugh rejected a more demanding standard."

In fact, Miller and Montgomery held that life without parole for juveniles was justifiable only in the worst of the worst cases—if the convicted person cannot be rehabilitated or, in other words, is "permanently incorrigible." Kavanaugh said his opinion was in keeping with those previous rulings, but it was a departure from them. He said Miller and Montgomery didn't require a more demanding standard, but, um, they did. Only Justice Clarence Thomas was honest. He said the old decisions were wrong anyway.

All this is made worse by the facts of the case. According to Slate's Mark Joseph Stern, quoting Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissenting opinion, Brett "Jones was 'the victim of violence and neglect that he was too young to escape.' His biological father was an alcoholic who physically abused his mother, who had severe mental health problems. His stepfather abused him, too, using 'belts, switches, and a paddle.' He openly expressed his hatred for Jones. When Jones moved to Mississippi to live with his grandparents, he abruptly lost access to medication he took for mental health issues, including hallucinations and self-harm. Jones' grandfather beat him, as well." Twenty-three days after his 15th birthday, young Brett Jones stabbed his grandpa to death.

Jones was convicted after confessing to the murder. He became a model prisoner. His grandmother, the victim's widow, asked for his release. Jones met the criteria required by Miller and Montgomery. He had demonstrated corrigibility. So the court didn't only make a return to free and open society impossible for Jones. It handed judgment down on the idea of reform, to wit: that reform, however much a free and open society depends on it, is a delusion. No amount of rehabilitation will change bad people. Brett Jones' fate was sealed the moment he was born. That he was born into violence and suffering merely means he deserved it. As for jailing him for life, the court is just furthering a process begun by God, the only true source of goodness and mercy. If all that doesn't sound conservative so much as barbarous, that's because you're right.

That Kavanaugh, and presumably the rest of the conservative justices, were dishonest about whether or not Jones was in keeping with Miller and Montgomery suggests they know a ruling allowing juveniles to be put away for life without any chance of getting out is indefensible. They know Jones is going to get flak from legal activists on the right and the left, people who won Miller and Montgomery thanks to former Justice Anthony Kennedy. They know Jones moves in the opposite direction of democracy, but they are going to move that way nonetheless. Why? They can. They have the power. Because they have the power, they must be good. Otherwise, they wouldn't have it.

The Republicans benefit greatly from the word "conservatism." It sounds like just another school of political thought in free and fair competition with others. It sounds like a way of thinking about the world seeking to conserve the collective knowledge and traditional values of humanity for the sake of our progeny. But that's not the case. The Republicans abandoned democracy after the twin shocks of 2008, Barack Obama's election and the financial panic. Inside a democratic context, conservatism can be healthy. On the outside, it's not. Outside the rule of the majority, it becomes barbarism.

The Republicans used to worry about their national reputation for cruelty. That's why the campaign of George W. Bush invented out of thin air the popular concept of "compassionate conservatism." His politics would be more palatable to respectable white people who did not want to be seen supporting a candidate who'd punch down as president. Punching down, and enjoying it, has become the point of conservatism. This is what we need to press respectable white people into understanding clearly.

Brett Kavanaugh just revealed a horrifying fact about the modern conservative movement

In Friday's column, I said the Republicans seem to have frightened David Brooks, which suggests the party has frightened respectable white people, too. I consider the Times columnist to be representative of the conventional wisdom of that great globular middle of American politics. The more these people fear the Republicans, the better.

This article was originally published at The Editorial Board

Today, I want to take this a step further. If I'm right in thinking that respectable white people are less willing to give the Republicans the benefit of the doubt, on account of most of them being okie-dokie with Donald Trump's attempt to overturn a free and fair presidential election, this is an ideal time to push them, by way of persuasion, to an important conclusion, to wit: conservatism has become a byword for barbarism.

Consider a recent decision by the United States Supreme Court. In Jones v. Mississippi, the court ruled a person convicted of murder while a minor does not have to be shown to be "permanently incorrigible" to be imprisoned for life without parole. In a 6-3 decision, the court's six conservative justices reversed years of progress in the courts to show mercy toward juveniles who had committed heinous crimes. The AP: "Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the majority, said previous decisions only require a judge to consider 'an offender's youth and attendant characteristics' before imposing a sentence of life without parole. Kavanaugh rejected a more demanding standard."

The Republicans abandoned democracy after the twin shocks of 2008, Barack Obama's election and the financial panic. Inside a democratic context, conservatism can be healthy. Outside rule of the majority, though, it becomes barbarism.

In fact, Miller and Montgomery held that life without parole for juveniles was justifiable only in the worst of the worst cases—if the convicted person cannot be rehabilitated or, in other words, is "permanently incorrigible." Kavanaugh said his opinion was in keeping with those previous rulings, but it was a departure from them. He said Miller and Montgomery didn't require a more demanding standard, but, um, they did. Only Justice Clarence Thomas was honest. He said the old decisions were wrong anyway.

All this is made worse by the facts of the case. According to Slate's Mark Joseph Stern, quoting Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissenting opinion, Brett "Jones was 'the victim of violence and neglect that he was too young to escape.' His biological father was an alcoholic who physically abused his mother, who had severe mental health problems. His stepfather abused him, too, using 'belts, switches, and a paddle.' He openly expressed his hatred for Jones. When Jones moved to Mississippi to live with his grandparents, he abruptly lost access to medication he took for mental health issues, including hallucinations and self-harm. Jones' grandfather beat him, as well." Twenty-three days after his 15th birthday, young Brett Jones stabbed his grandpa to death.

Jones was convicted after confessing to the murder. He became a model prisoner. His grandmother, the victim's widow, asked for his release. Jones met the criteria required by Miller and Montgomery. He had demonstrated corrigibility. So the court didn't only make a return to free and open society impossible for Jones. It handed judgment down on the idea of reform, to wit: that reform, however much a free and open society depends on it, is a delusion. No amount of rehabilitation will change bad people. Brett Jones' fate was sealed the moment he was born. That he was born into violence and suffering merely means he deserved it. As for jailing him for life, the court is just furthering a process begun by God, the only true source of goodness and mercy. If all that doesn't sound conservative so much as barbarous, that's because you're right.

That Kavanaugh, and presumably the rest of the conservative justices, were dishonest about whether or not Jones was in keeping with Miller and Montgomery suggests they know a ruling allowing juveniles to be put away for life without any chance of getting out is indefensible. They know Jones is going to get flak from legal activists on the right and the left, people who won Miller and Montgomery thanks to former Justice Anthony Kennedy. They know Jones moves in the opposite direction of democracy, but they are going to move that way nonetheless. Why? They can. They have the power. Because they have the power, they must be good. Otherwise, they wouldn't have it.

The Republicans benefit greatly from the word "conservatism." It sounds like just another school of political thought in free and fair competition with others. It sounds like a way of thinking about the world seeking to conserve the collective knowledge and traditional values of humanity for the sake of our progeny. But that's not the case. The Republicans abandoned democracy after the twin shocks of 2008, Barack Obama's election and the financial panic. Inside a democratic context, conservatism can be healthy. On the outside, it's not. Outside the rule of the majority, it becomes barbarism.

The Republicans used to worry about their national reputation for cruelty. That's why the campaign of George W. Bush invented out of thin air the popular concept of "compassionate conservatism." His politics would be more palatable to respectable white people who did not want to be seen supporting a candidate who'd punch down as president. Punching down, and enjoying it, has become the point of conservatism. This is what we need to press respectable white people into understanding clearly.

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