Heather Digby Parton

Leaving Mitch in the ditch: Trump loyalty may prove too potent a force in the GOP for McConnell to handle

It took a little longer for the inevitable post-election Republican implosion than might have been expected. Perhaps they were exhausted from all the excitement of witnessing a historic violent insurrection or maybe they are just aimless without former President Donald Trump's Twitter feed to guide them. It's possible they were a little bit gun-shy since people are being investigated for committing sedition all over the country after their assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. Whatever the reason, the normally voluble Republicans went uncharacteristically quiet for a few days during Joe Biden's Inauguration week. That silence ended over the weekend after two state Republican parties decided it was time to deal with the traitors in their midst.

In Arizona, the party reelected Kelli Ward — a Trump fanatic who lost her bid for the GOP nomination to the Senate in 2018— as the state chairman and her first order of business was to offer a censure motion against a raft of prominent Republicans, including former Senator Jeff Flake, Cindy McCain, the wife of former Senator John McCain and sitting Governor Steve Ducey, all for the crime of failing to be properly loyal to Donald Trump. The first two are vocal critics and didn't vote for Trump, but Gov. Ducey has been a loyal minion whose only crime was refusing to break the law and somehow give Donald Trump more votes in the election.

Meanwhile, the Republican State Central Committee of Kentucky met on Saturday to vote on a resolution demanding that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell support former President Donald Trump and condemn his second impeachment. The resolution failed on procedural grounds but the people who brought it up say they plan to bring another motion demanding McConnell's resignation. There is no chance that will pass either. Mitch McConnell is the most powerful Republican in the federal government and the Kentucky political establishment knows that. But both of these events reveal that Trump loyalty remains a potent force in the party.

It also illustrates the bind that Mitch McConnell finds himself in.

Polling shows that a large majority of Republicans are still in thrall to Trump to be sure, but somewhere between one-fifth and one-fourth of the party has fallen away. A Pew poll taken after the insurrection found that more than 30% of Republicans disapprove of Trump. That may not seem like much but it is enough to make it impossible for Republicans to win nationally if those people fall away from the GOP permanently. As the Atlantic's Ron Brownstein put it, "if Biden could lastingly attract even a significant fraction of the Republican voters dismayed over the riot, it would constitute a seismic change in the political balance of power."

Nobody knows that better than Mitch McConnell who just lost four Senate seats in Arizona and Georgia, states that were solid red not long ago. Those kind of wins are predictable in purple states like Colorado (which the Republicans also lost) but losing four seats in Arizona and Georga is a harbinger of big problems for the GOP in metro and suburban areas around the country. And after what happened on Jan. 6th, Trump and his agitated, radical following are very likely to make things even worse. In that Pew Poll, 43% of Republicans said they do not want Trump to remain a major political figure.

It has long been obvious that Mitch McConnell doesn't care for Donald Trump. He's a big pain in the neck if nothing else and McConnell understands that a leader who can never get above 50% approval is not someone they can count on to deliver for the party. In fact, Trump never did. He barely pulled out an electoral college win in 2016, lost in 2020 and lost both the House and the Senate during his only term. It's not a good record.

McConnell gave a strong speech condemning the move to object to the electoral votes before the riot started on Jan. 6th, even making the point that the election was "not unusually close." And after the attack, he floated several trial balloons in the mainstream press to test out the appetite for convicting Trump in a second impeachment trial. He's made it clear that his senators are free to vote their conscience and even gave a speech on the floor saying "the mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the President and other powerful people."

But before we get too excited about this born again, patriotic Mitch McConnell, let's not forget that he declined to step up and say that the election was decided until very late in the game and then held back from his criticism until the Georgia runoff elections were over, just in case he got to keep the majority. He, along with all the other GOP leaders, allowed Trump's Big Lie to spread and metastasize into a massive conspiracy theory that led hundreds of people to storm the Capitol. And for four years, knowing what Trump was didn't stop McConnell from using the power he had while he had it. Just because Trump was driving the party into the ditch was no reason not to confirm a whole bunch of right-wing judges and pass some huge tax cuts, am I right? He even went out of his way to make sure that Trump stayed in office when the Democrats conveniently offered him a way to get rid of him and replace him with good old, reliable right-wing Mike Pence. McConnell made that deal with the devil and he's scrambling to figure out what to do about old Beelzebub now that he's on the outside looking in.

McConnell isn't the only member of the GOP leadership who is dancing as fast as he can either.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, one of the most verbally incontinent politicians in Washington, doesn't know which way to turn either. At first, he said Trump won the election and he voted to overturn the electoral college, then turned around and said Trump bears some responsibility for the insurrection, then reversed himself and said Trump didn't provoke it and finally laid the blame at the feet of all Americans.

The 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump are being threatened including Liz Cheney who is in danger of losing her leadership role in the caucus. The House Republicans are all at McCarthy's, and each other's, throats.

And nobody knows what they're going to do about the Senate impeachment trial. Some Republicans would like to draw it out and make it a Trumpian spectacle, while McConnell would prefer not to have Trump back in the spotlight. And now there may even be some jockeying for power within the Senate leadership:

McConnell has plenty of tricks up his sleeves and it's unlikely Cornyn is actually maneuvering. But it's been years since they had this much tension within their caucus and he may not be able to control his fractious bunch of Trumpish radicals like Josh Hawley, R-Mo, Ted Cruz, R-Tx, and Lindsey Graham, R-SC, who is strangely obsessed with defending Trump far beyond what is politically useful. I hope the Democrats are prepared to battle a party that's in disarray. It may not be as easy as it seems.

How 3 major events in rapid succession shaped the surreal ending of the Trump era

It seems like only yesterday that we were all making jokes about 2020 being the worst and reassuring ourselves that 2021 was bound to be better. Looking forward to the departure of the most divisive president in U.S. history we slid into the new year relieved and a little bit complacent, secure in the knowledge that the country was soon to be rid of him. Instead, this has been the most tumultuous January in modern memory.

Each week of the new year has been momentous. Specifically, every Wednesday of the new year has been historic.

We started with the January 6th insurrection, of course, in which then-President Donald Trump incited an angry mob of thousands to storm the U.S. Capitol during a joint session of Congress to stop the constitutionally-mandated counting of the Electoral College votes for the next president, Joe Biden. That had never happened before, obviously. Until then, we never had a president so radical and so psychologically unbalanced that he would try to stop the peaceful transfer of power. But, of course, Trump was unlike any other and he persuaded tens of millions of people that they could believe him or they could believe their lying eyes and convinced them that the election had been stolen from them despite all evidence to the contrary.

That Wednesday is going to be one of those days that will be remembered like December 7th and 9/11. It will be commonly referred to as the January 6th insurrection or, more likely, just January 6th.

The nation was left reeling and in shock by what they saw unfold on their TVs, including the speech by a president who egged the mob on and then stood by and did nothing for hours, reportedly delighted by the mob violence. Members of Congress had been targeted by the murderous rioters and were left traumatized by the experience. It was so outrageous that on the very next Wednesday, the House of Representatives took the bold and unprecedented step of impeaching President Trump for a second time.

They had no choice. Five people died on January 6th and dozens were injured. The horrific pictures were beamed around the world leaving our allies shaken and our adversaries rubbing their hands together with glee. Despite the fact that Trump would be out of office in just one week, Congress had to take a stand and they did. Even ten Republicans voted to impeach, which is saying something considering their normally supine attitude when it comes to Trump.

So on the first Wednesday of January, the United States suffered a violent insurrection and on the second Wednesday, the House of Representatives impeached the President of the United States for his role in it. Then one week later, on the third Wednesday of the month, a new president was sworn in.

Suddenly this week, after what the nation went through the first few weeks of the new year, the government went back to normal, observing its usual quadrennial rituals, necessarily altered due to the raging pandemic, but nonetheless offered up to the public as a cheerful, optimistic event as if nothing had happened.

Ask yourself what you would think if you watched these events take place in another country. Would you call that a stable democracy?

These three major events happening in rapid succession was more surreal than anything that happened during Trump's four years. And perhaps the weirdest part is the fact that the day after the Inauguration, he had vaporized. After dominating our political culture for almost five years, we are quite suddenly in a world in which he simply doesn't exist. Sure, there are remnants of his reign to be dispensed with and his former collaborators are still throwing a few punches from the sidelines. But with Trump banned from social media and no longer commanding the attention of the press, we are watching the last four years already wash down the memory hole in record time.

Americans don't have a great capacity for introspection and there is a great propensity for amnesia when it comes to our unpleasant past and inability to live up to our ideals. Leaders tend to prefer to sweep things under the rug with the excuse that we are a forward-looking culture that doesn't wallow in nostalgia as some others do. (That's bunk, of course – we valorize the founding as if the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are holy writs.) It's a habit that has led to an America in the 21st century still having failed to deal adequately with the original sin of slavery and the racism that festers and creates much of the division that the right has been exploiting for decades and which finally exploded into the violence of January 6th.

Let's face facts: Donald Trump ran two presidential campaigns on blatantly racist culture war themes and when he lost this time he told his supporters that Black voters in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Milwaukee and Detroit stole the election from him. And yet, just two days after the new president is sworn in it feels as if that clear realization is already slipping away.

The right is naturally doing what it always does. Its top voices are already energetically clutching their pearls at the mere mention of white supremacy and racism and fatuously insisting that Joe Biden is dividing the nation by even suggesting it might be a problem. As The Atlantic's McKay Coppins put it, they plan to pretend it never happened:

People who spent years coddling the president will recast themselves as voices of conscience, or whitewash their relationship with Trump altogether. Policy makers who abandoned their dedication to "fiscal responsibility" and "limited government" will rediscover a passion for these timeless conservative principles. Some may dress up their revisionism in the rhetoric of "healing" and "moving forward," but the strategy will be clear—to escape accountability by taking advantage of America's notoriously short political memory.

And, as usual, a Democratic administration has been elected in the wake of catastrophe and they will have their hands full dealing with the urgent emergencies of the pandemic and consequent economic fallout as well existential long term problems that can no longer be put off. The temptation is going to be great to just pretend we are back to "normal" and write off this strange episode as an anomaly. But sweeping the radicalization of the faction of Americans that is organized around racism and resentment under the rug is what led us to January 6th and it won't be the last time if we don't face up to these problems.

We have one more Wednesday left in January. It should be the first day of Donald Trump's second impeachment trial. It would be a good day to take the first step in a long, overdue process of accountability, restitution and reconciliation. There can be no healing or unity without it.

The ghost of Trumpism will haunt the GOP

During the House of Representatives' impeachment debate on Wednesday, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., turned to the Republican side of the aisle and asked, "Is there any depravity too low? Is there any outrage too far? Is there any blood and violence too much to turn hearts and minds in this body?"

For 197 House Republicans, the answer, apparently, is no — at least when it comes to President Donald Trump and his rabid supporters. After all, just one week before Trump sent an angry, deluded mob, which he had summoned to gather on that day, to storm the U.S. Capitol and stop a joint session of Congress from certifying the Electoral College votes for Joe Biden. The violence that ensued targeted the elected representatives who were in the building, including Republican Vice President Mike Pence.

"This is a moment of truth, my friends," Connolley asked his Republican colleagues this week. "Are you on the side of chaos and the mob? Or on the side of constitutional democracy and our freedom?"

Only ten GOP House members defended their colleagues, their institution, the democratic process and the Constitution by voting to impeach Donald Trump for a second time. Only ten. So yes, Congressman Connolly was right to ask the question. As we've seen over the past five years of the Trump nightmare, one that has featured everything from sexual assault to national security betrayal to massive corruption and now incitement of a violent insurrection, there is no outrage too far nor depravity too low.

Sure, these Republican officials sometimes grumble anonymously to the press and many of them privately assure their congressional comrades that they disapprove, but the base loves Trump so there's nothing much they can do about it if they want to keep their jobs — which many are apparently willing to sell their souls to do.

Polling done after the assault on Congress shows that Trump has lost a little support from Republicans but not much. According to a Politico–Morning Consult poll, 75 percent of Republican voters said they still approve of the job Trump is doing, which is 8 points less than it was a month ago. A Reuters–Ipsos showed a steeper decline of 18 points since August, bringing Trump down to 70 percent approval among Republicans. That's right. He's lost some support but you'll notice that in both polls the vast majority of Republican voters still approve of Donald Trump.

And it appears that they don't find the violence that was perpetrated on police officers or the vandalism and threats to Vice President Pence's life to be deal-breakers. As this New York Times article illustrates, many local and state Republican officials across the country either believes the violence was perpetrated by people other than Trump supporters or was something they didn't have a problem with in the first place. The report quotes one Oklahoma County GOP chairman wondering on Facebook just hours before the riotous mob took over the Capitol why violence is unacceptable. He wrote, "What the crap do you think the American revolution was? A game of friggin pattycake?"

According to The Times, "the opposition to [Trump] emerging among some Republicans has only bolstered their support of him." That's the support that turned into ugly mob violence on Jan. 6th.

When Trump boasted that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose any voters, he may have been right. And this does present something of a dilemma for the Republican establishment which looks at his national record and sees someone who lost the popular vote twice, the electoral college once and put both the House and Senate back in Democratic hands over the course of his single term. And yet his blatant white nationalism, lies and conspiracy-mongering has proven to be catnip to the hardcore base of the party, rendering any attempt to purge him very difficult.

Nonetheless, they are testing the waters. While it's true that Trump maintains a large majority of support among GOP voters, it's not as large as it used to be and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was not pleased by the losses in Georgia which he reportedly lays at Trump's feet. For his part, McConnell got what he wanted from Trump and no longer has any reason to put up with him. And neither does Corporate America which, unlike Trump's cult followers, is not immersed in conspiracy theories and doesn't want to see the country descend into violence and chaos. That's bad for business. (Of course, it's just a total coincidence that they are taking this "principled stand" against Trump at the moment when Democrats are a week away from taking total control of the government.)

On the House side, you have a national security hawk and a member of the House Leadership, Liz Cheney, R-Wy, coming out strong against Trump to see if there are any remnants of the old flag waving Republican Party that can be reached with calls to traditional America patriotism. So far, it isn't looking good. The Trump followers may chant "USA!, USA!" and babble about "Communist China" but their real enemies are already within the U.S. borders and it appears that Liz Cheney may be one of them.

I don't think anyone knows yet whether Trump will survive this or if Trumpism survives without Trump. He's dominated our political culture for five years, with his desperate need for attention and our compulsion to give it to him. Obviously, tens of millions came to worship him as a cult leader — the QAnon believers among them, and they are legion, even think he is "a messianic warrior battling 'deep state' Satanists." But he deeply invaded the consciousness of the rest of the country as well, even those who hate him with the same passion as those who adore him. From the moment he came down that golden escalator in 2015, we haven't been able to take our eyes off of him, even when we desperately wanted to.

But after Jan. 20 he will not be able to command that level of attention, even if he decides to announce his run for 2024 that same day. There is no novelty in anything he might do, he will no longer wield real power and without access to his social media following, he simply will not be particularly accessible, at least on the level he has been for the past five years. He still has his supporters, of course, but without the grandeur of the office and the ability to dominate the political stage, you have to wonder if he will be able to maintain their attention much longer.

I have no doubt that "Trumpism," if it's defined as the right-wing extremism that let fly at the U.S. Capitol last week, will continue to be a threat. It existed before Trump came along. He just grew it and brought it mainstream. But I'm afraid it now has a life of its own and I'm not sure that Corporate America, Mitch McConnell, or even Donald Trump can snap some fingers and make it go away. The problem really isn't Trump. It's all those people who said over and over again, "he says what I'm thinking."

Tale of two Americas: Before Trump's deadly coup, Georgia went blue

While life in America has gone on over the past five days — football games are still being played, people are having cookouts, kids are going sledding — much of the country is still in a state of shock over what happened on January 6th in Washington D.C. As more and more of the video footage from that day becomes available, it's clear that what happened was far more violent and dangerous than we knew. The pictures we saw on television and social media as it was unfolding looked bad, but what has emerged since then shows that something feral, ugly and deadly was afoot in that crowd that day:

The police officer beaten in that video by a Trump-motivated mob was not Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died of wounds from a different incident. It was another officer from the Metropolitan Police Department. That comment by Radley Balko may sound arch, but it isn't. That is exactly what happened and it's clear that there were many in the crowd also prepared to commit violence against elected leaders, presumably in order to force the illegal installation of Donald Trump as president on Jan. 20. That is what they came for. It's what Donald Trump sent them there to do.

Some people on the right have tried to rationalize this by saying that violence that ensued after the George Floyd murder this summer sent the message that the best way to resolve political differences is through violence. This is beyond sophistry. Violent protests have been part of American history since the beginning, starting with the revolution itself. Violent civil unrest has happened in every decade since. The idea that liberals invented it last summer is completely absurd.

But that's not the point. There is a difference between protests, peaceful and otherwise, which people do all over the world, and an attempt to violently overturn an election. To do that by storming a joint session of Congress, with all the representatives present, as it ceremonially certified an election is beyond anything we've ever seen before in this country. In all the protests, riots and uprisings, no one ever took over the U.S. Capitol and marauded through it looking for leaders chanting "we're coming for you" and threatening to hang them. It was no protest, it was an attempted putsch, a violent overthrow of a democratic government on the basis of a Big Lie that the election was fraudulent.

Plenty of people saw it coming. Many of the ringleaders had planned the violence in plain sight and they were incited by the President of the United States and several of his henchmen. People had been pouring into DC for days, ready to rumble. The day before the riot, they held a rally in which The Big Lie was broadcast over and over:

Everyone knew the city was filling up with far right extremists yet for reasons that are still unexplained, the authorities were unprepared at best, complicit at worst. Perhaps they believed that this group of Real Americans from around the nation (and in the Congress) were just blowing smoke when they shared their little #1776 hashtags and plotted their "Stop the Steal" insurrection. But anyone who was paying attention knew that they were focused on the Capitol where the certification ceremony would take place. Why it was left so thinly guarded is still a mystery.

We still haven't had an official briefing from any law enforcement agency on the status of the investigations or analysis of what happened, which is unprecedented. We've had nothing from the Capitol Police, the city police, the FBI, the Department of Justice, no one. The worst violent attack on U.S. government property since the plane hit the Pentagon on 9/11 and there has been no communication from the federal government.

What we are left with are accounts from those who were reporting on the event both inside and outside the Capitol and from those who were inside, terrified that they were about to be taken hostage or worse. Perhaps the most heart-rending is this Buzzfeed account from some Black Capitol policemen who had to deal with the grotesque racism of these insurrectionists, (many of them flying "blue lives matter" flags) including being repeatedly called the n-word:

At the end of the night, after the crowds had been dispersed and Congress got back to the business of certifying president-elect Joe Biden's victory, the veteran officer was overwhelmed with emotion, and broke down in the Rotunda."I sat down with one of my buddies, another Black guy, and tears just started streaming down my face," he said. "I said, 'What the fuck, man? Is this America? What the fuck just happened? I'm so sick and tired of this shit.'"
Soon he was screaming, so that everyone in the Rotunda, including his white colleagues, could hear what he had just gone through."These are racist-ass terrorists," he yelled out.

One of the heroes to have emerged from this riot is this man:

Reading these stories from the Black officers and seeing the footage of that lone cop facing the angry mob and luring them away from the Senators who were still being evacuated made me think about the other story of last week, the one that would have been an earthquake of its own, in a good way, if this hideous violence hadn't happened. I'm speaking, of course, of the wonderful outcome in the two Senate races in Georgia. For the first time in American history, this Southern state voted for a Black man and a Jew for the U.S. Senate.

Considering its fraught racial history — including being the home of the Moore's Ford lynchings, which the New York Times noted "is considered by many to be the last mass lynching in American history," and the earlier lynching of Leo Frank, a famous case of anti-semitic violence — this was a singular moment that we didn't have time to savor and analyze. For all of its politically reactionary, racist violence and conspiracy-mongering, the country is progressing anyway. It usually does, much too slowly and backsliding often, but inexorably nonetheless. In the midst of all this horror, we shouldn't forget that.

I'm sure there will be hours of commentary and analysis of the Capitol Insurrection and rightly so. This Trump cult has gone further than any group of Americans since the civil war to assault our government institutions and the democratic process. The big question now is if anyone in power will face consequences for what they did, starting with Trump and going all the way down the line. If there is no price to be paid for this you can bet that there will be more political violence from this faction down the road. If there is one thing in the footage that is crystal clear it's that they've tasted blood --- and they liked it.

The Republican party is collapsing — and Trump may finally pay

Donald Trump has two basic talents. The first is for self-promotion and the second is a strong, feral survival instinct. Those two things were really all it took for him to rise to become the most famous man in the world with the most important job on the planet. (That should tell you something about American culture but it's too depressing to contemplate.)

The talent for self-promotion has snowed everyone from sophisticated investment bankers, who kept loaning him money year after year despite repeated business failures, to small-town business owners who thought that he was a great real estate developer and later a great president just because he told them so. They all believed his lies.

The survival instinct is probably the more important characteristic because it spared him repercussions for failure after failure. It didn't hurt, of course, that for most of his life he had a rich father he could tap whenever things got rough. Nonetheless, for someone who isn't very smart, charming or interesting, Donald Trump has shown amazing resilience. His survival instinct got him to the White House and it sustained him through four years in a very difficult job for which he was uniquely unfit. Any one of the dozen scandals that have engulfed him since he started running for the presidency in 2015 would have finished off any other politician. But Trump survived all of them, just moving like a shark through the water from one self-induced crisis to another.

I had assumed that his survival instinct would kick in with this electoral defeat and he would see it for the opportunity it was. He could leave office whining that the election was stolen from him but use it as a springboard to make more money by promising a big rematch in 2024. He would leave office gracelessly, of course, because it would make better TV to stand on the White House steps making a Douglas MacArthur style "I shall return!" promise before flying off in Marine One for the last time. Who wouldn't tune in to that spectacle?

But something went wrong. His instinct failed him and he believed his own hype. Maybe it was the pomp and the power of the office overwhelming him or the addiction to his ecstatic crowds but, for the first time, he couldn't see how to turn his failure into a win and his personality fractured under the weight of his frustration. I don't know if he came to believe the absurd conspiracy theories he spun about the election or if they were just a frantic web of lies he wove to keep himself from coming apart. But his only two talents have let him down and it's led him to a moment of ignominy from which I don't think he'll be able to recover.

Trump's manic insistence that he could persuade, strongarm and coerce various Republican officials around the country to reverse the election results in his favor seemed to be based upon the idea that if he just wanted it enough it would happen. Perhaps that's how he's talked to himself all his life and good timing and fortunate circumstances made it so. But his luck has run out. The people he needed to buy his line of bullshit just didn't buy it this time.

By the time he was reduced to cajoling and threatening the Georgia secretary of state to "find" the votes he needed to win the state, he was so unglued he didn't seem to realize that it wouldn't make a difference even if he managed to persuade the man to do it. This week's last-ditch fantasy that Vice President Mike Pence and some of his congressional henchmen could magically hand Trump the second term and make everything alright finally took him to the dark place where he incited thousands of his delirious followers to a full-fledged violent insurrection.

To be clear, such events had been in the back of his mind already.

Trump posted that the "protest" scheduled for the day Congress was going to finally certify the election would be "wild." He expected them to be confrontational and he egged them on at the rally just before the vote was to take place. He'd been reassured that a substantial number of collaborators in Congress, led by his MAGA maniacs in the House and Josh Hawley, R-Mo, and Ted Cruz, R-Tx, in the Senate, might just pull off the miracle and he clearly believed that a big crowd of angry Trump supporters in the Capitol would help the cause.

He sent them there to start a riot during a joint session of Congress presided over by Pence and that is what they did. People everywhere watched in horror as pictures of this violent insurrection were beamed live all over the world.

Congress rightly decided to reconvene that night and finish the Constitutionally mandated job that had been interrupted by Trump's mob. You might have thought the level of terror they'd experienced, along with the global disapprobation, would have dissuaded the Republicans from following through on their plot to object to the vote based upon lies about voter fraud. But they inexplicably kept to their plan, apparently believing that appeasing Trump and his violent supporters was still their ticket to higher office.

Their survival instincts failed them too. None other than George Will said of Hawley and Cruz, "everything they say or do or advocate should be disregarded as patent attempts to distract attention from the lurid fact of what they have become. Each will wear a scarlet "S" as a seditionist." By late Thursday even the oleaginous Ted Cruz was backtracking as fast as he could while Hawley whined on Twitter about his book on Big Tech being canceled due to his actions.

The Democrats are demanding that Mike Pence evoke the 25th Amendment or they will make Trump the first president to be impeached twice. Members of Trump's cabinet and top staff are resigning and even the Wall St. Journal opinion page is demanding that Trump resign or be removed. Prosecutors are suggesting that Trump could be criminally liable for some of the violence that took place and talk of self-pardon and pardons of his family and inner circle are reportedly becoming more serious.

Whether Trump leaves before the inauguration is unknown, but his post-presidency is looking less like a shadow presidency and more like permanent exile. The Republican party is collapsing. The MAGA insurrectionists blame Republicans as much as Democrats for Trump's loss and the establishment is being forced by these events to repudiate their own base. It is likely that this schism is going to divide the GOP for some time to come.

Until now, Trump was the hands-down front-runner for the nomination if he wanted it in 2024. And even if he decided not to follow through he had years of lucrative grifting on the possibility. But he couldn't accept that he would have to admit he lost, even if he could say it wasn't legitimate. His narcissism finally defeated his survival instinct and it has brought him low. It's brought the country even lower.

The fictional "American Carnage" of Trump's inaugural address four years ago is now reality with hundreds of thousands of Americans dead, an economic catastrophe for millions more and a violent political faction so addled with lies and conspiracy theories that this week they attacked the US Capitol to intimidate lawmakers into reversing a free and fair election. The knowledge that Donald Trump may have destroyed himself in the process is hardly comforting. He's left America in shambles.

American carnage: Let's never forget the Republicans who enabled this catastrophe

It may seem as if President Donald Trump has done nothing since losing to Joe Biden but watch TV and rage tweet about his stolen election fantasy, however, he's actually been quite busy.

He's reportedly considering a military coup or an executive order to seize the voting machines in swing states that Biden won. He spent a lot of energy pushing Attorney General Bill Barr to pursue some of his wild theories about the alleged election theft and pressed him to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate Biden's son Hunter. He's also been engaged in purging the federal government of those he considers disloyal, particularly at the Pentagon, where he has spent the final few weeks of his presidency installing some of his closest collaborators for reasons that remain unclear.

So you can't say he is doing nothing — he's just not doing his job.

Last week, we were informed that there was a major cyber intrusion into both business and government by what the intelligence services and private security companies believe was the Russian government. By all accounts, it is an unprecedented case of cyber-espionage, however, Trump had nothing to say about this for days until this weekend when he downplayed the attack:

Needless to say, he has also been silent about the worst public health crisis America has faced in over a century as COVID-19 once again surges across the country, filling up hospitals and morgues at a frightening pace. According to the Washington Post, one of his closest advisers, speaking anonymously, said, "I think he's just done with covid I think he put it on a timetable and he's done with covid. . . . It just exceeded the amount of time he gave it." Trump is known for projecting his own dark thoughts onto others so I suppose it's not even ironic that he spent most of the fall campaign insisting that after November 4th, nobody would talk about COVID anymore. For instance, he told the Republican Convention that it was all fake news, that "they want to make our numbers look as bad as possible for the election." At one campaign rally on October 24th, he told his ecstatic crowd:

"That's all I hear about now. That's all I hear. Turn on television—'Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid.' A plane goes down. 500 people dead, they don't talk about it. Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid.' By the way, on November 4, you won't hear about it anymore,"

This Christmas week, our country is losing an American every 33 seconds to Covid, Covid, Covid. As the Washington Post's Philip Bump points out, "every time you listen to Bing Crosby's 'White Christmas,' about five people have died of the virus between the beginning and the end of the song." The death toll is over 318,000 and climbing.

Oddly enough, Trump can't even tear himself away from his scheming about the election he indisputably lost six weeks ago to take a victory lap for the successful approvals of the vaccines. All he could bring himself to do was whine pitifully to the press that they'd better not give Biden credit because it was all his doing. He has barely mentioned the successful rollouts of the first two vaccines on his hysterical Twitter feed.

This is in keeping with his attitude about the crisis from the beginning.

You may recall that both the Washington Post and the New York Times have done deep reporting on the administration's crisis response from the emergence of the virus in January to their desperate attempt to re-open the economy in the spring to this summer's surprise surge. They are all excellent, long-form "tick-tock" pieces of how this emergency unfolded and unraveled. It was very bad in the beginning and hasn't gotten any better since.

In the latest installment, a report from the Washington Post called "The inside story of how Trump's denial, mismanagement and magical thinking led to the pandemic's dark winter," reporters Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker, and Philip Rucker lay out a narrative that would be farcical if it weren't so very, very tragic: If Trump and his cohorts had made even the slightest effort to encourage mitigation strategies and public health guidelines instead of fighting them all the way, they could have saved tens of thousands of lives.

The vaccines are, as the Post puts it, a "triumph of scientific ingenuity and bureaucratic efficiency" but they don't make up for the fact that the president, whom they describe as being "perpetually in denial," has led a monumentally dysfunctional federal response that was the direct cause of proportionally more deaths in the U.S. than in other developed countries. It is an embarrassment that is laid directly at his feet:

The catastrophe began with Trump's initial refusal to take seriously the threat of a once-in-a-century pandemic. But, as officials detailed, it has been compounded over time by a host of damaging presidential traits — his skepticism of science, impatience with health restrictions, prioritization of personal politics over public safety, undisciplined communications, chaotic management style, indulgence of conspiracies, proclivity toward magical thinking, allowance of turf wars and flagrant disregard for the well-being of those around him.

He would not listen to the scientists because they didn't tell him what he wanted to hear. That is the story of his presidency, isn't it? It's got to be happy talk or Trump doesn't want to hear it.

But let's not forget all the Republicans who enabled this catastrophe. From the governors who refused to take the measures that might have spared lives to their accomplices in Congress who refused to save businesses from going under so they wouldn't feel compelled to open up prematurely. Instead, they all genuflected to the man who can't hear bad news without falling apart.

For instance, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fl., actually had the temerity to post a picture of him getting the vaccine before everyone else:

The argument for doing that is that we need important and famous people, regardless of their politics, to get vaccinated so that others will know it's safe. I have a sneaking suspicion that I could count the number of people who will be reassured by Marco Rubio getting the vaccine on one hand, however. But ok, perhaps this is what we must do. Still, how infuriating for him to have the gall to then post this:

The obtuseness on display by a man who has excused the grotesquely incompetent response to this crisis having the nerve to lecture people who tried to save lives and businesses with almost no support from the federal government is almost too much to bear.

This is on Trump, to be sure. But all of his Republican accomplices were right there with him. They couldn't bring themselves to do what was necessary to help the economy weather the crisis and instead decided that it was better to let businesses struggle and hundreds of thousands of Americans die over these past few months. Even though the Republicans finally agreed to a $900 billion relief package late Sunday evening, i's very late and far from being enough. According to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Republicans only came to the table after months of stalling to help the two GOP Senators in the Georgia runoff election. The carnage they've helped create is unforgivable.

Trump now has real reason to be worried

I have been chronicling the atrocities of the Trump era almost daily for five years and I'm exhausted. I don't think I'm alone. One of Trump's most insidious talents is to dominate the spotlight to such an extent that you can't look away even if you want to. He's everywhere. There is just so much, more than we can fully absorb, so we just keep watching, waiting for the spectacle to end, paralyzed and psychically drained.

And now it's almost over.

Aside from some short appearances in the press room to declare himself the winner, a couple of desultory interviews with friendly cable news hosts, one low energy rally in Georgia and the extended, puerile whine of his Twitter account, Donald Trump has been blessedly out of sight for most of the past five weeks. There's been no chopper talk, no televised Cabinet meetings with sycophantic tributes to his greatness, no crude insults toward reporters, nothing.

If one didn't know better, one might assume that the president is ashamed because he lost the election and doesn't want to face the public. But that would be wrong. If there's one thing we know, it's that Donald Trump has no shame.

We don't know if Trump will fire more people, pardon himself and his family, start a war or simply continue to sit in the White House raging against his enemies and tweeting out lies about the election but the fact is that this long national acid trip is winding down at long last. Unfortunately, the hangover is going to be titanic. Unless the nation sobers up quickly and takes action, we may never recover.

The good news is that we are seeing signs of life in the U.S. Congress in this regard.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, gave notice this week that his committee intends to pursue the subpoena of former White House Counsel Don McGahn. You will recall that McGahn was not allowed to testify before Congress on the basis of a novel legal concept called "absolute immunity" which, if allowed to stand, would render congressional oversight practically impotent.

So while Democrats continue to pursue the subpoena as a means to push back against a legal principle that attempts to usurp their oversight powers, they will undoubtedly follow up on just what happened with all of that obstruction of justice Trump committed. They may not be able to sanction Trump for it, but they need to build the record — after all, this guy may try to bust his way back into power in four years.

Meanwhile, we have also learned that the Manhattan District Attorney and the New York Attorney General's cases are proceeding apace. These cases are beyond the scope of any federal pardon, as you know, so Trump may be seeing the inside of a courtroom whether he pardons himself or not.

But is any of that enough? It can't be, particularly when the New York Times and Politico reported earlier in the week something so shocking that it would be a crime not to investigate it.

Two political appointees at the CDC admitted that they had been instructed to slant pandemic advice according to guidance from people such as Ivanka Trump and Kellyanne Conway. And it's now quite clear that the administration did adopt a herd immunity strategy to deal with the pandemic and lied about it. One incompetent adviser actually wrote "we want them infected" in an email.

We knew this, sort of. Trump had been quoted early in the pandemic wondering why we didn't just let it "wash over the country" which Dr. Fauci, the head of infectious diseases at the National Institute of Health, explained would result in a horrible death toll. Still, Trump clung to that notion and ended up hiring a radiologist he first saw on Fox News, Dr. Scott Atlas, who promoted the concept. These new reports show the extent to which this policy filtered through the government and negatively affected the response. It was a conscious decision. Now over 300,000 people are dead and counting, many of whom might be alive today if Donald Trump were not the president of the United States when a pandemic hit our shores.

The Atlantic's James Fallows took a look at the problem of accountability for what's happened and I think his ideas for how to deal with it make a lot of sense. He suggests that the Biden White House steer clear of most of that work except for the important job of trying to make the executive branch work properly again. Obviously, he should remain hands-off any criminal investigations that might come through the Department of Justice, his only obligation there would be to appoint someone with credibility and integrity to handle whatever cases may already be percolating. So that leaves the Democrats, who control the congressional committees in the House, to create a Good Cop—Bad Cop dynamic between Biden and Nadler which might just be effective if the Democrats stay strong and don't react to bad faith caterwauling from the Republicans.

Fallows also believes that Biden should appoint three commissions, which I think are vital and I really hope that someone in the administration is listening.

The first would be a commission to look at the pandemic response. This won't be the last time we face such a crisis and this one was so much worse than it should have been. The country needs to know how it happened and understand how to ensure it doesn't happen again.

The second commission Fallows recommends would look into the cases of family separation at the border, with an immediate task to find the children and then document meticulously exactly how such a program came to be implemented. As Fallows points out, this didn't happen by executive fiat. There was complicity at all levels and it has to be exposed and dealt with. This grotesque policy is right up there with the pandemic in terms of sheer cruelty.

And finally, Biden needs to appoint a commission to investigate the Trump administration's assault on democracy itself. He didn't invent it, of course, but he's taken it to a level that is in danger of permanently damaging our election system and people's faith in their democracy. And he's done so on the basis of crude lies and propaganda.

Biden doesn't have to be personally involved in any of this. He can stay above the fray and concentrate on doing the job he was hired to do. But these commissions would go a long way toward reassuring the majority of Americans who are still shell-shocked by what has happened in these four years that at least there will be a public airing and permanent record of what went wrong. Most people are hungry for the truth and while I doubt Trump's followers will want to hear it, we need the truth for the history books. At some point, their children or grandchildren may want to know what really happened.

Bill Barr was Trump's biggest enabler — but his real legacy is even darker

Poor Bill Barr.

After all that he did for President Trump, Barr was forced out of his job as Attorney General anyway for failing to hurl himself over a cliff as a human sacrifice. Trump wanted him to use the Department of Justice to help overturn the election which even Barr wasn't able to finesse. And Trump just couldn't forgive him for failing to "pull a Comey" and use a DOJ investigation of Hunter Biden to sabotage Joe Biden's campaign.

Not that it stopped Barr from debasing himself even more ostentatiously than usual by offering a "resignation letter" that he obviously cribbed from one of those flowery love notes North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un used to write to Trump during their passionate bromance. I'm guessing that was the price of getting out without being fired with an insulting tweet which seems to be something Republican men fear even more than thermonuclear war or feminism.

It just goes to show that no matter how much people are willing to prostitute themselves for Donald Trump, they are only as good as their last bad deed. As Amanda Marcotte pointed out, Trump even stabbed his old mentor Roy Cohn in the back when he no longer had use for him.

And Trump certainly used Barr. Marcotte writes:

Barr, who publicly lobbied for the job, proceeded to spend the next two years as a loyal flunkie for Trump, leveraging the power of the attorney general's office to shield Trump from any accountability for his various criminal and ethical violations. Barr covered up for the Russian collusion. He tried to fix the Ukraine scandal. In the last days of the campaign, he even bolstered Trump's lies about "voter fraud", obviously an effort to support a conspiracy to steal the election.

To that list I would add his blatant political interference in the Michael Flynn and Roger Stone cases as well as his personal interest in the Durham probe all of which created massive turmoil in his department causing several career prosecutors to leave in disgust. Barr never even tried to hide the fact that he considered it his duty to protect the president and his cronies from prosecution.

William Barr has a political philosophy about the imperial presidency honed by decades of fulminating about the allegedly poor treatment of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan by congressional upstarts and special prosecutors. His infamous, unsolicited memo asserting that Robert Mueller could not charge the president with a crime, echoing those famous words of Richard Nixon ---"if the president does it it's not illegal" --- was what got him the job in the first place. The inane pretense that he is adamantly opposed to "politicizing" the department of justice, even as he politicized it more than any Attorney General in history was a true triumph of gaslighting.

He is also a right-wing culture warrior who believes in authoritarian policies to ensure that the nation subscribes to his definition of "order" and has argued forcefully for a dismantling of secular society (His eagerness to reinstate the federal death penalty and immediately begin executing prisoners as fast as he can speaks to that most clearly.) And yes, he is a hard-core partisan zealot whose so-called principles are applied solely for the benefit of the Republican party.

Frankly, I also think in his private moments he is probably a lot closer to the 1970s Archie Bunker style of old-fashioned bigot that he is willing to let on. He's barely able to hide his revulsion for anyone who doesn't conform to his idea of respectability and it's more than obvious that he is hostile to Black people. And we saw that play out in his reaction to the George Floyd protests and the grotesque militarized responses in Lafayette Square and Portland, Oregon. It's not hard to see why he was so keen to join up with Donald Trump.

However, Barr seems to have realized that Trump's loss means that he's done all he can to create the precedents for future Republican imperial presidents to consolidate their power. He successfully protected his president by exerting his own power while ensuring that the norms he broke are still available for Republicans to use against Democratic administrations. His work is done.

As I mentioned on Monday, there has been some chatter that after Barr took the unusual step of making John Durham into a Special Counsel, which somewhat insulates him from a Biden Department of Justice, Trump wanted Barr to appoint other Special Counsels to investigate the baseless election fraud claims and, of course, Hunter Biden. Presumably, Barr declined to lay these landmines on Trump's behalf because the AP reported on Tuesday that Trump is still obsessing on this idea and has been discussing it with numerous other people including White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

His aides are all pushing him hard to do it because they believe "that a special counsel probe could wound a Biden administration before it even begins." And Trump is still debating whether he should pressure Barr's replacement, Jeffrey Rosen and if he can't persuade him, whether to replace him with someone who will do it. This could end up making the Saturday Night Massacre look like a schoolyard squabble. Trump has even suggested that he might be able to appoint the Special Counsels himself. (Bill Barr's many lessons on the unlimited power of the Imperial President — "I have an Article II!!"— seem to have penetrated.)

It's good to see that Trump has his priorities straight, as usual. Sure, we may still be in the throes of a deadly pandemic and facing logistical complications in getting the vaccines to everyone who needs them. And yes, the congress is flailing about under Mitch "Grim Reaper" McConnell's malevolent desire to make people suffer instead of offering necessary relief. Oh, and we seem to have been the victim of a massive cyber attack by Russia which Trump has not bothered to discuss even once. But that's because he's still busy blustering about voter fraud and plotting to sabotage Joe Biden.

And Bill Barr, his obsequious "resignation" letter notwithstanding, is obviously making a break for it before the whole thing explodes. Perhaps he thinks that by getting out now, before Trump could fire him and replace him with someone who would do even more dirty work to subvert the incoming administration, he will have saved his reputation. But it's way too late for that. Barr will forever be remembered as Donald Trump's Roy Cohn and nothing more.

The future of Trumpism: How the right's fallen hero could become yet another embarrassing regret

One version of conventional wisdom holds that if the Republican establishment had tried harder to control Donald Trump, his supporters might have started to question him and he would have lost his stranglehold on the Republican base. We fondly recall those Republican leaders, led by the right-wing senator and former presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, going up to the White House to tell Richard Nixon it was over, or the Senate's vote to censure red-baiting Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy, as events that broke the fever and brought their rabid followers back to reality.

As far as Nixon is concerned, I don't think any of us should be soothed by that example. It was only six years later that the conservative movement that had been turbocharged by Goldwater's 1964 defeat reached the pinnacle of national power with the election of Ronald Reagan. The fever didn't break. It got stronger.

And according to an article in the Washington Post by Yale historian Beverly Gage, we might recall McCarthy as the most hated man in America, but he maintained the support of a third of the country even after he was driven out of politics in disgrace. I wrote last week about the GOP's reluctance to confront McCarthy (and Trump), out of both fear and opportunism. But Gage points out that out of that ignominious defeat, a new generation of right-wing activists was born. And she adds, ominously:

Something similar is likely to happen as Trump departs the Oval Office warning of elite conspiracies and rigged ballots, encouraging his base to see themselves as noble warriors against an illegitimate political order. While the Trump presidency will soon be over, the history of Trumpism is just beginning.

We don't often hear, she observes, about "the counter narrative that began to build among McCarthy's grass-roots supporters during those years, in which the sheer volume of criticism aimed at the senator became proof that he was right all along: that the country was, indeed, run by a menacing but elusive liberal-communist conspiracy aimed at taking down right-thinking, God-fearing Americans."

That certainly sounds familiar. Gage also notes that this began the construction of right-wing institutions that took advantage of the conspiratorial thinking that sprang from that era. Over the years they dropped poor old McCarthy from their list of mentors, replacing him with more respectable names like Goldwater and Reagan. But McCarthyism was the genesis of what came to be defined as the conservative movement.

Gage continues:

Trump's story of what happened in the 2020 election bears all the hallmarks of McCarthyite myth: conspiring elites, hidden corruption, even the threat of an imminent socialist takeover. And though Trump will no doubt leave office on Jan. 20, that story — and the powerful sense of grievance behind it — is sure to thrive in the years ahead ...
Today's Republican establishment may ultimately repudiate the man who has held it in thrall — and in fear — for four-plus years. But it is Trump's base, and their interpretation of his ouster from Washington, that will determine the future of Trumpism.

Trump held a rally in Georgia over the weekend, ostensibly to support the two Republican senators campaigning for the runoff election in January and gave his interpretation:

If you wanted a plain and simple definition of Trumpism, McCarthyism or any other version of the conspiracy-addled conservative mindset, there it is. This sense of grievance has been there for many decades now.

I don't know whether this will have legs, though. Trump's supporters are up in arms about what they've been told is a stolen election. They believe their leader when he tells them that he has proof and that his forces will prevail. It's hard to predict what they will do when confronted with the hard cold fact that Trump is no longer going to be president. This Tuesday marks the "safe harbor" deadline for the resolution of all electoral disputes, and the members of the Electoral College will cast their votes next Monday, Dec. 14. Trump's fans may enjoy playing victims, but when it comes to their leaders, they don't like losers.

As we consider whether Trump will retain his popularity with this base, I would just remind people that we've just recently seen a Republican president topple from dizzying heights of popularity that Trump has never come close to seeing. I'm speaking of George W. Bush, who entered the White House having lost the popular vote and won in the Electoral College, thanks to machinations in a state that was governed by his brother, along with an overtly partisan Supreme Court decision. He nonetheless entered office with a 57% approval rating, which soared to 90% after 9/11. Bush soon fell out of favor with Democrats after he launched the Iraq war, but Republicans adored him as fervently as they love Trump.

Bush flew high for years. The mainstream media extolled him as the second coming of Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln rolled into one. His cocksure declaration that the terrorists would "hear from us real soon" at the World Trade Center site had pundits swooning as if he had delivered FDR's "a day that will live in infamy" speech. He was perceived as a cowboy who liked to clear brush on his faux ranch in Texas, but also a guy but with a great arm who could "throw a strike" over the plate in the first Yankee game after the terrorist attack. A year or so later, he was seen as a fighter-pilot president who landed on the deck of an aircraft carrier, evoking hours of stomach-churning, sycophantic media coverage. Here's one of the most egregious examples from that day, a so-called commentary from Chris Matthews:

We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like Clinton. ... Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president.

If you think Trump's rallies are filled with ecstatic followers, you don't remember the Bush events in 2004 in which he would land on the field on Marine One to the thundering strains of "The Natural" theme. By the way, Bush actually won his re-election campaign, unlike Donald Trump. And guess what happened after that? Within three years, his war was a train wreck, the economy was in free fall and he had bungled the horrific disaster of Hurricane Katrina. Then the global economy imploded and Bush became monumentally unpopular, seeing his approval rating sink as low as 25% by October 2008, just before the election of Barack Obama.

Will Trump's followers go the way the Bush-loving base once went? I don't know, but it's certainly possible. As I said, for all their grievances and feelings of victimization, Republicans don't like losers. And Donald Trump is most definitely a colossal, historic failure, whose pathetic attempts to pretend otherwise have sealed his legacy as the sorest loser in recent human history.

Unfortunately, whether they call themselves the conservative movement, the Reagan Revolution, proud patriots, the Tea Party, MAGA, Trumpism or something else, that rabid base will still be with us. They love to worship their leaders, but when they get tired of them they toss them out like yesterday's papers and start looking for the next one. But Wingnut Nation will live on, Trump or no Trump.

Republicans suddenly want norms, ethics and 'civility' — even as Trump actively tries to steal the election

Throughout this post-election period, the reaction from congressional Republicans has been entirely predictable. Mostly they've remained mum about the demented behavior of their president during the last month as he has continued his precipitous dive into a rabbit hole filled with conspiracy theories so delusional that it calls for medical intervention. A few have stepped up to say publicly that Trump has a "right" to pursue legal remedies in court, while privately assuring reporters that the president just needs to act out a little bit before he finally can emotionally accept what's happened to him.

His stalwart manservant, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., initially involved himself in Trump's attempts to strong-arm state officials into throwing out legitimate votes in order to help him win. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has evidently been poring over some alleged statistical analysis he found on a dodgy website, and has convinced himself there's something hinky about votes that were counted after midnight. And Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the man Trump once accused of stealing the Iowa caucuses back in 2016, now wants the Supreme Court to take up one of the president's absurd cases.

This isn't the first time a demagogue and conspiracy-monger has captured the Republican Party. CNN's Ron Brownstein has pointed out the unpleasant parallels between the way the GOP establishment kowtowed to Joseph McCarthy during the Red Scare of the '40s and '50s and their servile acquiescence to Trump's malignant narcissism. In fact, this seems to be a permanent strain in American conservatism:

Whatever their private doubts about his claims, [Sen. Robert] Taft and other GOP leaders concluded that McCarthyism was a political winner for the party. ... Gallup polls showed that about three-fifths of Republican voters viewed McCarthy favorably well into early 1954.

In another parallel to Trump, congressional Republicans were deferential not only because they considered McCarthy an ally, but also because they recognized him as a potential threat. The journalist William S. White captured their skittish ambivalence when he wrote, "In McCarthy, embarrassed Republican leaders know they have got hold of a red-hot bazooka, useful in destroying the enemy but also quite likely to blister the hands of the forces that employ it. Their private fear is that a lethal rocket may at any moment blast out through the wrong end of the pipe."

Brownstein notes that this dynamic drove the party further and further into conspiracy theories being disseminated by the progressively unhinged McCarthy. It was years before his reign of terror was ended and one of the few Republicans who stood up against him, Sen. Ralph Flanders of Vermont, told the truth about what had happened: "The responsibility for this thing lies squarely on the heads of the Republicans who have been obsessed with the value of McCarthy to the party. We are reaping what they have sown."

I don't know what it is about the Republican Party that invites this sort of thing but it's disturbing, to say the least, that we have seen it reappear in the 21st century. I have to say that I'm even more disturbed by what we are seeing in the aftermath, which also closely resembles what happened during that dark time. The Republican establishment, which so eagerly enables dangerous demagogues, seems to emerge from these episodes without any sense of responsibility for what they've done, or even any memory of what happened.

Sure, McCarthy was consigned to history's dustbin, remembered as a malevolent drunk who railed against communism and was finally taken down by Joseph Welch, chief counsel for the U.S. Army, who famously demanded, "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?" But there is little mention of the cowardice and opportunism of the Republicans of that time who acted as McCarthy's accomplices. They carried on with their careers as if nothing had happened. (In fact, one of the great Republican red-baiters of the era, Richard Nixon, went on to become president.)

This brings me to today, when I watch with astonishment as Republicans who have actively collaborated with Donald Trump are partying like it's 2009, as if Donald Trump were still hosting "Celebrity Apprentice." Take, for example Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who had the unmitigated gall to go to the floor of the Senate and say this on Tuesday:

Your jaw has to drop at the utter absurdity of any Republican saying such a thing, particularly one who not only supported Trump with his opaque, byzantine business dealings around the world but voted for every one of Trump's corrupt Cabinet picks, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who was just revealed to have remained on the board of a Chinese company up until last year.

Even more outrageous is Cornyn's opposition to Joe Biden's choice to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, supposedly because of her insulting tweets:

Here's another member of the Republican establishment weighing in on that "bad judgment":

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio is also clutching his pearls over Tanden's "partisanship":

"I think it's very important to have someone who can work with both sides of the aisle," said Portman, who held the budget post under President George W. Bush. "She has a very liberal public record and a very partisan series of comments she's made."

That's right, the people who routinely say they don't read the president's outrageous tweets are now pretending to care about online civility. Moreover, they are complaining about "partisanship" when they all voted to confirm Mick Mulvaney, the onetime Tea Party congressman and founder of the House Freedom Caucus, which was so "partisan" it chased both John Boehner and Paul Ryan out of the speaker's chair and forced regular government shutdowns. (Mulvaney himself told the Washington Post that Tanden has no chance of confirmation.)

We are seeing a return to the smarmy, sanctimonious, "adults in the room" pretense of Republicans who will wring their hands over Democrats' alleged incivility and partisanship — toward Donald Trump, the crudest, most insulting brute in American politics since Joseph McCarthy. Hypocrisy doesn't even come close to describing this. It is shamelessness on a level that is downright psychopathic.

I maintain that one reason the Republicans did as well as they did in down-ballot elections was an ongoing desire on the part of people on all sides of the political spectrum to say, "Oh that's just Donald Trump — he's nuts, but now he's gone." Plenty of people all over the country apparently believed that and split their tickets, voting for Biden for president and Republicans for other offices. If the two Georgia runoffs don't go the Democrats' way, then that party's inability or unwillingness to make clear to voters that the Republican Party was equally responsible for everything Trump did will end up being one of the biggest mistake they've ever made. Republicans are already "pivoting" to being the grownups who need to tame the unruly Democrats, as if none of this ever happened, and the Democrats are already on defense.