Yesterday in Part I of this essay we all went for a bracing walk through recent American political history to establish beyond any doubt that the racist Republican party that nominated, elected and still overwhelmingly supports Donald Trump was at least 50 years in the making.
We called this canonical history of of the modern GOP "Critical Base Theory Prime" (because we're clever that way), and it holds that the Republican base is the way it is because of the long-term Republican strategy by Republican politicians, think tanks and Conservative media to build an electoral army of reprogrammable meatbags -- a strategy which proved to be both highly successful and highly profitable. And we did so without me having to force you to read long passages from the comprehensive history of the modern Republican party I wrote four years ago ("In The Beginning...") , so you're welcome!
Then, with that that firm foundation laid, we looked at some of the ways in which prominent anti-Trump Republicans have attempted to explain their obliviousness to the overt racism that more and more came to be the central electoral pillar of the GOP (and the loyal consumers of all forms of Conservative media) even as they helped shape that party's trajectory.
For example, the most successful Republican political strategist of his generation, Stuart Stevens, has said repeatedly that he was just wrong. That he knew that the "dark side" of the GOP existed, but never believed it was dominant until it rose up and slapped him in face in 2016.
Similarly, in his more lucid moments, former RNC chair Michael Steele can recite chapter and verse of the long history of the carefully cultivated racism at the heart of his party. But Mr. Steele always absents himself from that history by bizarrely insisting that while the Republican party won elections by pandering to its racist base both before he was chairperson and after he was chairperson, during his one term in that office (from 2009 - 2011) he managed to drive all the racist out of the GOP. Just like St. Patrick drove the snakes in Ireland! And it was only after he was cruelly betrayed and deposed that the racists all came running back.
This is one of the many, many lies that Michael Steele routinely tells that none of his very good friends on cable teevee are interested in pressing him on.
Finally we came to the intersection of the craven and the ridiculous with Messers Tom Nichols and Charlie Sykes insisting that it was the Left that denied them the ability to have Serious Conversation About Race with a vast and imaginary army of Reasonable Centrist Conservatives because we Libtards keep pointing out that the GOP has been leaning harder and harder on its racist base for decades.
And for just a moment I thought that might be as low and chicken-hearted as Mr. Sykes could go.
Oh how wrong I was. Hence Part II of Critical Base Theory.
You see, once Mr. Sykes committed himself to the notion that, somehow,
Barack Obama' Tan Suit Liberals were responsible for the
sorry condition of his Republican party (while he -- a life-long member of the
GOP and prominent Conservative influencer and radio personality for 30 years
-- bears little or no responsibility for what his party has become) I guess he figured, well, what the fuck? In for a penny, in
for a pound. Which is how Mr. Sykes and his guest,
Fred Travalena Robert Tracinski egged each other into
not only blaming Liberals like you and me for the election of Donald Trump,
but also that we also somehow compelled the entire Republican Party to
Maybe you think I'm joking but I'm not. In their long and desperate flight from taking any personal responsibility for the party they spent entire adult lives building, sooner or later Conservatives like Charlie Sykes always end up in the same place: hunkered down and snarling in the "Blame The Left" panic room.
In fact, you can play the audio for yourself here if you're of a mind to. I have started it at the point after Mr. Sykes had spoken length about his empty, performative gesture of an Open Letter to Paul Ryan.
Or, if you're a reader, and you find the sound of two of our Conservative "allies" feeding the ugly modern history of their political party through the wood chipper irritating, here are some of the highlights from this Bulwark podcast entitled "The Danger of Crying Wolf".
Sykes: But I'm getting getting some of the, uh, response that I'm also getting to my defense of Liz Cheney, I, y'know, I wrote a piece saying, y'know Liz Cheney's really a profile in courage. I... I don't agree with her and everything but I admire her... her guts. And there's a strain of thought out there -- and you... I saw that you Tweeted about it earlier today -- which is, uh, from from the Left which is, uh, "No, y'know, uh... I don't feel sorry for... for Liz Cheney, um, because she built this!" and therefore there's, y'know they're deaf to any appeal to Conservatives to stand up. See my position is, at a moment like this, if somebody is willing to stand up for truth they need to be supported and applauded. But there is a there's a class of thought out there that all people on the Right are so evil, are so corrupt, have failed so much that we just don't need them.
driftglass: Charlie, you know that's not strictly true. We also believe that some of you were either too stupid to see the dark road down which your party has been racing for decades, or that you were willfully blind to the dark road down which your party has been racing for decades, or that you were aware of the increasingly unhinged rage, racism and paranoia of your party but you didn't much care as long as none of it affected you personally and as long as you were getting your terrible ideas enacted into law But please continue, because I'm dying to see where this is going!
Sykes: And, and I think that you want to speak of a Doom Spiral...to basically condemn everyone, and so that to the extent that there are these anti, y'know, anti-Trumpist voices or potential anti-Trumpist voices out there it's like, "Yeah, we don't want to hear from you because you guys have always been a racist. You've always been bigoted. You've always been corrupt. So we don't need Romney. We don't need we don't need Ryan. We don't need any of you guys. We don't need McCain. We don't need Bush and we don't need Cheney." You've seen that right?
I'm pausing here for no reason other than, when I read, I quickly get tired of long slabs of exposition coming one on top of another.
Robert Tracinski: Oh yeah. And... and what you have to... They did do to Bush. They do... they do it to Bill Kristol. Uh, y'know, "Bill Kristol, you... you built this!" I'm like, "Really? Did he build Trumpism? I don't think so."
driftglass: But Bill Kristol did have a huge role in building your depraved Republican party ya lying shit. Y'know, the party whose decades of metastasizing racism and lunacy manifested itself in the nomination and election and re-nomination of a monster like Trump. So yeah, he did build that.
Tracinski: But, um, the... you have to understand that... that half the purp... a large part of the purpose of Twitter is for people to fear superior to somebody else, right? So -- and and I've seen this a bunch of other issues -- that... that if you, y'know... when... if you come belatedly... if you come to accept the truth after the other person did, that makes you, like, even worse in their minds!
driftglass: Nope. It's the whole having-to-be-dragged-kicking-and-screaming to the truth after actively lying about it for decades ... and then continuing to weasel and equivocate and lie about critical elements of the truth even after the truth has punched you in the mouth that we have a problem with. But please, do go on.
Tracinski: Because, y'know when... if you... if somebody else believes something is true and then you come to believe it's true also, that raises you to a position of equality with them, right? And the purpose of Twitter is not for us to be on a position of equality: the purpose of Twitter is for me to be morally superior and intellectually superior to you, the other person, whose job is to... to be the target of my barbs and show how superior I am. So there's that sort of whole social media posturing sort of aspect to it that's going on. Uh... uh you know we can't possibly admit that... that somebody on the other side who designated as a bad guy has done something good because that might puncture our illusion of complete moral superiority.
driftglass: You mean like you mopes categorically refusing to admit that the Evil Left was actually right about the Right all along? You mean like that?
But my little chickadees, the best is yet to come.
Tracinski: But the other aspect of it, um, is that how in... in terms of how you got Trump... how do you get Trump. A big part of the story is crying wolf, right?
Yes kids, Mr. Tracinski is, in fact, gearing up to blame the election of Donald Trump on you and me and not the racist shithole party that nominated and elected him.
Tracinski: So if Mitt Romney is a sexist and a racist and a big rich guy who doesn't care about the average person and he has contempt for the poor -- if that's your view of Mitt Romney, right? -- eventually, if you keep saying that sort of thing over and over again with Mitt Romney, with George W. Bush, with everybody else, people tune you out and stop listening to you.
driftglass: Kinda forgot about that whole Birther/Kenyan Usurper/Barack The Magic Negro thing that your racist party was super-duper into for eight years didn't you, Mr. Tracinski? Also Mitt Romney was and is a big rich guy who doesn't care about the average person, and he was nominated by your party which is very definitely a racist party, a misogynist party, a homophobic party, an anti-science party, and which does, in fact, have contempt for the poor, or as you Conservatives refer to them, "moochers" and "takers" and "welfare queens". But please, do go on.
Tracinski: And then a guy comes along who actually is a sexist, who actually is a, yeah, is racist, who actually, uh, is a a pompous rich guy who has contempt for the poor -- all the things you've been saying all along -- he comes along and people won't listen to you because you've cried wolf too many times.
Well golly, this is all news to me. I had no idea that before we Liberals were mean to Mittens von Romney and the Bush Crime Family, you Republicans used to heed our wise words of us all the time., even as we were being stomped stomped hourly by Conservative media as America-hating, terrorist-loving Libtards.
It brings a tear to eye of this old mooching Commie surrender-monkey to learn that all of that time you were secretly listening respectfully to our opinions and taking them seriously.
But then we had to go and ruin it all by being mean to Romney and Bush, and Republicans stopped listening to us and instead nominated Trump over a field of 16 other very Conservative candidates all of whom, Mr. Tracinski, were warning that Trump was a monster too. And then, because we Libtards are so terrible, your party went on to re-nominate Trump and vote for him in record numbers after four years spent proving that he was exactly the monster we said he was.
But please, do go on
Tracinski: So this is sort of their fallback from the crying wolf thing of saying, "Well no, maybe Mitt Romney wasn't a wolf but he made the wolf possible" right? So this is their their way of wriggling out of the fact that that they had of their own role in making this possible -- in crying wolf against people who were, y'know disagreed, with them about politics but were... had some level of basic decency.
Sykes: So Robert I'm gonna get huge blowback about what you just said there and people say "Oh, y'know that'... that...that's not true." And so I... I just want to pause here and underline for the listeners of this podcast that I could not agree with you more on this... on this, because I lived through this! And... and I've tried to make this point... um... that if for years and years and years every Republican, every Conservative is a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, a fascist ... if supporting school choice makes you a fascist ... if supporting lower taxes makes you a fascist and a racist ... if again all of the Bushes were, y'know, were racist if you said that about McCain ... if you said that about Romney, at a certain point people shrug their shoulders and they roll their eyes and... and they say, "Yeah you know what? You know what? Whatever."
The Alert Reader -- especially the Alert Reader who has been damnfool enough to have listened to more than one of Mr. Sykes' extended bitch sessions about the villainies and calumnies of the Left -- will not fail to notice that Mr. Sykes never actually cites any specific Liberal person or publication by name. Even though he is apparently the target of continued, widespread harassments by the mighty forces of the Liberal Conspiracy, no links are provides and no documentation presented. Instead, Mr. Sykes whispers to his listeners about a Liberal army so vast and powerful and well-organized that they were able to change the trajectory of the entire Republican party on a whim but are also somehow unidentifiable. They're just ... out there ... somewhere ... like Donald Trump's "many people".
The Alert Reader will also remember that George H. W. Bush knew enough about the base of the GOP to hire a stone-cold racist scumbag like Lee Atwater to run his 1988 campaign.
Nor will the Alert Reader forget that it was the George W. Bush campaign's explicitly racist push-polling of rumors of "John McCain's black baby" that broke the back of McCain's 2000 campaign when those rumors took root and flourished un the shadow of all those racist Confederate flags flying over the deeply Conservative state of South Carolina.
THE TRASHING OF JOHN MCCAIN
Simultaneously stumping for Bush and defending Kerry against attacks by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, John McCain must be haunted by the vicious South Carolina smear campaign (he was crazy, a traitor, he fathered a black child) that helped Bush win the 2000 Republican nomination...
Nor will the Alert Reader forget that it when George W. Bush ran for re-election in 2004, he relied on Karl Rove and Matthew Dowd to convert the already constantly fulminating rage, paranoia, homophobia and other "anger points" of the GOP base into enough votes to put him back into office.
Dowd packaged his vicious tactics as nothing more than the application of basic advertising technique. His slicing and dicing of wedge issues was no such thing, he explained. He was, he said, just creating a new Republican "brand." After Rove executed Dowd's carefully calculated targeting to produce Bush's narrow victory in 2004, Dowd was triumphant. "Issues don't matter in presidential campaigns," he exulted in 2005, "it's your brand values that matter." For Dowd, facts didn't matter either, only "brand" identity.
But the fun doesn't stop there citizens. Because here comes the cherry on top. Watch now as Mr. Sykes blames Liberals -- blames you and me -- for compelling Republican voters to become racists.
Sykes: There's another, uglier part of that as well which is that if people are called "racist", y'know, for a variety of things, y'know, all... all the time, at a certain point not only [do] they become numb but they go, "Okay, y'know what, I don't care and maybe I should become a racist!" you know what I'm saying...
Yes, Charlie. I do, in fact, know what you're saying.
Because this is not the voice of a rational, conscientious adult taking honest stock of what really happened to his party over the past 50 years and allocating responsibility for the catastrophe accordingly.
No, this is the frantic voice of Winton Smith strapped into the rat mask in 1984, finally breaking and lashing out with wild, desperate denunciations in all directions. Except in this case, you're strapped into a rat mask that you yourself helped to build. And staring back at you from the rat's enclosure are the rabid, red eyes of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, your old Wisconsin running buddies Ron Johnson and Paul Ryan and Scott Walker, 99% of elected Republicans in Congress, virtually every elected Republican at the state and local level, and the 74,216,154 Republicans who voted for avowed racist Donald Trump in 2020 after he spent four years amassing an unparalleled record of lies, treason, death and corruption.
Yes, Charlie. I know exactly what you're saying.
Do it to the Liberals! Do it to the Liberals! Not me! It wasn't me! It was those Evil Liberals! They're to blame! I don't care what you do to them. Tear their faces off, strip them to the bones! Take them! Take them, not meeee!