Kirk Swearingen

Republican millionaires with Ivy League degrees have somehow convinced people they’re fighting the 'elites'

Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell recently posted some thoughts on the subject of high school sports, of all things. High schools do a good job at elevating elite athletes, he wrote, to the detriment of students of more average ability, or who lack parents who could afford to pay for soccer or baseball camps starting at age six.

Gladwell, who is a lifelong, serious runner — and can run a mile at age 55 nearly as fast as I did when I was 15 and winning races on the track team — came up with a law he named after himself: In any sporting endeavor, elite achievement comes at the cost of mass participation.

We can easily expand Gladwell's Law to the whole of society. Don't many of us view life in America as a dispiriting continuation of the ruthless, often shallow competitions of high school? And our thinking about how we relate to so-called elites can be complicated by our culturally driven feelings of envy and shame.

At least arguably, America's national sport is not played with a ball. It's electoral politics, which has always had elements of ruthless competition but used to be a lot more "sporting" than it is now. At its best, politics is about knowledge, hard work, compromise, mutual respect and some acknowledgment of shared goals, even alongside vigorous disagreement. None of those qualities are evident in the churlish zero-sum game that the Republican Party, with its backs against the demographic wall, has played in recent years.

This sea-change goes back at least as far as 1994, when Newt Gingrich invited Rush Limbaugh to train the incoming Republican House majority on how best to despise your political opponents and push disinformation and conspiracy theories. It was either un-American or, sadly, quintessentially American at the time, and has since metastasized into the right's embrace of false narratives, ever-wilder conspiracy theories, and authoritarianism — which is epitomized by a certain orange-hued former president, but certainly not limited to him.

We see prissy, stuck-up, wholly self-interested Ivy Leaguers like Ted Cruz (Princeton; Harvard Law), Josh Hawley (Stanford; Yale Law), Ron DeSantis (Yale; Harvard Law) and much of Trump's inner circle playing good ol' boys, affecting down-home dialects, and decrying the "elites" on the left who supposedly dominate American business, politics and culture. This would be merely laughable if they weren't also insisting that religious liberty means that everyone must live by the retrograde religious dogma they pretend to believe.

The Trumpist cult and other far-right political organizations around the globe continue to profitably press their pseudo-populist game plan of going after elites (often the "educated elites") to inflame and enrage the mind of the common citizen.

If we know something about the role of actual elites throughout history, we know that they have understood the power of anger and contempt in motivating the masses; while a helping hand may be quickly forgotten (or even resented), an insult, real or imagined, locks itself in memory.

When the phony Wharton grad who reluctantly departed from the White House in January 2021 said he loved the "poorly educated," they were happy not to take that as an obvious insult. How, exactly, did he intend it? Both as contempt and affection. Any con man keeps a special place in his black-hole heart for people who cannot, or will not, see how he is hoodwinking them. None of us finds it easy to deal with the cognitive dissonance of realizing we may be wrong.

While Republican politicians have for decades praised and catered to the needs of oligarchs (as well as the merely wealthy who merely dream of being oligarchs), creating the greatest income disparity since the Roaring '20s, they have simultaneously encouraged working- and middle-class Americans to resent people who went to college and quite likely graduate school and have become specialists in various fields: historians, scientists, journalists, civil servants, elementary school teachers. Somehow, in this demented narrative, those professions are part of an administrative system that thwarts ordinary people's quest for freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. (And some of them asked you and your kids to wear a mask during a global health crisis.)

The "elites" despised by the actual Republican elites like Cruz, Hawley and DeSantis are, of course, the people able to expose their grifting, their disinformation campaigns, their flouting of the rules, their contempt for the rule of law (at least as it applies to them) and their determination to retain power at any cost. They and their compatriots in propaganda TV and social media are bringing authoritarianism to America under a marketing label borrowed from Hungary: "illiberal democracy."

Today's Christian fascists don't ask what Jesus would do; they ask what Viktor Orbán would do. Anti-immigrant "Christians" get a kick out of seeing red-state governors troll the libs by using real human beings as pawns in a deliberately cruel media spectacle.

As these beliefs begin to spread in cult-like fashion, then teachers, judges, health experts, academics and even members of law enforcement — whom Republicans have always claimed to venerate — become objects of derision, even death threats.

In this classic divide-and-conquer move, the right has worked hard to get Americans to believe the worst possible things about elites, those conspiratorial, secular liberals who read books, believe that science and history should be based in research rather than political agendas and maintain a naive faith in democracy and the rule of law.

Such has been the power of this slow brainwashing that the right has gleefully separated brothers from sisters, children from parents, and friends from friends. The MSNBC–New York Times side regrets the loss of political comity; the Fox–Wall Street Journal side cries for insurrection or civil war, or just shrugs at such threats.

All of this (or at least a lot of it) has been in service of a phony, shameless, sexually predatory, pathologically insecure, malignant narcissist who somehow (surprising even himself) was elected president, impeached twice and refused to concede defeat after losing by more than 7 million votes, inciting a violent, if amateurish, insurrection.

Meanwhile, there really are elites in America — you know, the people who went to school with Hawley and Cruz and DeSantis and can afford multiple residences, exotic vacations, well-tended stock portfolios and Washington lobbyists. Those elites are still pushing discredited Reagan-era "trickle-down" economics, working to destroy the last threadbare remnants of the social safety net and gleefully eroding democracy — all while laughing at how easy it was to convince the "people" to look somewhere else.

America's 'masculinity crisis': Republican men 'prostrating themselves before Donald Trump'

Why do people who attack the gender identities and romantic and sexual affiliations of others often seem so twisted up? I suppose history tells us that it pretty much goes without saying. But we need to speak plainly about it because we are all now hyper-aware of the serious damage that damaged people can do to others and to society.

The Republican Party long ago slipped under the sheets with the religious right to become bedfellows in the culture wars, encouraging bigots, misogynists and Christian zealots to insist that others live by their morals (or lack thereof).

This bizarre-tent party of religious grifters, p*ssy grabbers, gun polishers, closeted men, angry incels, alleged rapists and take-girls-across-the-state-line Lotharios is evangelically intolerant of the personal business of others and determined to dictate whom you can love or marry, how you should come to terms with your gender identity and how much of your reproductive future you should control. These people believe they have the right to demand that you go through your entire pregnancy even if you have been raped or are the victim of incest, and they're not particularly concerned if you die fulfilling their will.

In a country with a maternal mortality rate that ranks last among all industrialized nations, these religious and political grifters have created anti-abortion statutes that make health care professionals hesitate to address dire childbirth situations and even delay urgent treatment because they need to consult with lawyers.

This hyper-focus on anything and everything sexual extends to the right's self-proclaimed tough guys, the seeming adults who so much enjoy playing dress-up. When five members of the Proud Boys were indicted on charges of seditious conspiracy for their role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, we were reminded in various news stories that members of their "fraternity" are told to masturbate no more than once "in a calendar month." (Is that part of the bylaws? Is there an actual calendar with titillating monthly photos of white guys carrying tiki torches, or manly images of Confederate heroes?)

Of that rule limiting self-pleasuring, Stephen Colbert quipped: "That's going to make those 20 years in prison seem pretty long. But I do understand why they are so angry." He went on to ponder, "I don't get once a month. I get none. That makes sense. But once a month?"

Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina claimed he was invited to orgies by other members of the House Republican caucus? And those claims, unlike all the false and outrageous things a certain Republican former president has said, were enough to get Cawthorn literally canceled and expelled from the GOP.

Madison Cawthorn claimed he was invited to orgies by other House Republicans. Unlike all the false and outrageous things Trump has said, that got him literally canceled.

Look, if longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone who, as we know, was present at the Willard hotel on Jan. 5, 2021, proudly being "protected" by those white-supremacist boys considers himself a "trysexual" (because he says he's willing to try everything) or Cawthorn enjoys a bit of frat-boy-style cross-dressing while drinking with his bros, that's none of my business.

Which is exactly the point.

For all Tucker Carlson's bluster about masculinity (including his risible special "The End of Men" whose promo included a fair amount of plausibly-homoerotic imagery), a more accurate tagline for his Fox News show program might be a variation on Teddy Roosevelt's famous saying: Speak hysterically — and fret about carrying a tiny stick.

Among those most vocal about the supposed crisis of masculinity, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley's much-publicized scamper away from his own insurrectionist supporters inside the Capitol building on Jan. 6 wasn't much of a revelation, though it was objectively hilarious.

It bears repeating that creating fear about the "state of manhood" is a key move in the authoritarian playbook (and abstention from masturbation was, by the way, a Nazi rule.) As historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat noted in an essay last November for the Atlantic:

Illiberal political solutions tend to take hold when increased gender equity and emancipation spark anxieties about male authority and status. A conquest-without-consequences masculinity, posing as a 'return to traditional values,' tracks with authoritarianism's rise and parallels the discarding of the rule of law and accountability in politics.

These days, boys will adamantly be boys, and this means they don't expect to be held accountable. For anything. The more loutish among them long for the days when they could easily slide from responsibility for their actions. That's why many Republicans, including a distressingly large number of obedient Republican women, are willing to support men who face multiple allegations of sexual abuse, or who have been accused with domestic violence.

Insecure young men are not being taught how to be better persons in their relationships with young women; they are being taught to hate by misogynistic grifters.

On the Trumpian right, flip a coin heads is racism; tails is misogyny and homophobia. Heads they win, tails you lose.

Meanwhile, as Republicans rant about fantasy pedophiles and LGBTQ "groomers" and call others (and often each other) "cucks," school children and ordinary citizens are being cut down by young men with legally purchased assault-style weapons. Survivors get "thoughts and prayers"; families are left to figure out how to carry on after the lights of their lives have forever been extinguished.

Gun fetishes, closeted sexuality, talk of "p*ssy" and rape, sadistic name-calling and general hate-mongering, worship of power and that telling focus on "manliness" anyone else feel like we're back in a really bad high school locker room? That stink isn't coming from healthy athletics.

I agree that there is a masculinity crisis in this country, but it is most obviously found among the cohort of Republican politicians and their supporters who have prostrated themselves before Donald Trump. I would add fathers who refuse to teach their sons about sexuality and healthy, nurturing relationships but are all too eager to teach them that their guns and their jobs should define who they are as men.

There is a masculinity crisis in our country — most obviously found among the spineless Republican men who spent six years prostrating themselves before Donald Trump.

Boys and girls both desperately need our help. They need to feel safe at home and at school. They need to grow up in a reasonably clean environment. They need to learn from their parents and teachers to treat one another respectfully. They need to build a strong sense of community, and to know they can get an affordable education (and/or job training) and find a decent job at a living wage, with benefits. They should be able to find a comfortable and affordable place to live, and be able to start a family of their own, if such is their choice. They should be able to find affordable health care throughout their working lives and into retirement. All of that, in fact, should be considered the bare minimum, the starting point.

Furthermore, children and young adults need to be educated broadly, so they can find something more in life than a cycle of consumption, acquisition and constant work-related striving. They should feel psychologically safe to love who they choose to love. (Our younger daughter just introduced me to the sad phrase "compulsory heterosexuality," which I'd somehow missed but which makes sense in this patriarchal, still-puritanical country.)

But as the younger people in our society wait for adults to do positive things that may help them move forward in life, they are, by force, living in a country with more guns than people.

Does anyone genuinely believe that Republicans in Congress or the mean-spirited, small-minded Trumpians who have taken over so many state legislatures are even the slightest bit interested in elevating the lives of young people? Even so-called moderate Republicans don't care a whit about, say, the concept of a living wage.

So-called conservatives dehumanize liberals with horrifying and hateful epithets, calling them "cucks," cannibals, "groomers" and pedophiles again, tellingly sexual insults while leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the country, have a massive, far-reaching sex scandal to face up to.

In his seminal 1964 essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics — which famously begins, "American politics has often been an arena for angry minds" — Richard Hofstadter noted that sexual obsessions are frequently projected on one's political opponents, to build a case that they are inhuman or unacceptable:

[T]he sexual freedom often attributed to the enemy, his lack of moral inhibition, his possession of especially effective techniques for fulfilling his desires, give exponents of the paranoid style an opportunity to project and express unacknowledged aspects of their own psychological concerns.

We all knew mistreated or abused boys in school who felt they had to play "yes men" to the local bully, no matter how badly he treated them — or, more likely, because of how badly he treated them. I can easily imagine the young Lindsey Graham or Sean Hannity or Marco Rubio or Tucker Carlson or Kevin McCarthy really, any of the spineless, fawning, unprincipled Republicans who failed to stand up to Trump at any point during his rise or reign, playing that part in their youth.

In the face of all the grim, twisted, hateful and self-hating moralism from the right, liberals and progressives must reclaim their mojo as celebrants of the beauty and joy of life, as Salon's Amanda Marcotte argued a few months ago. Masculinity and femininity need not be prisons or traps or destinies. Those supposed poles, and all points in between, are available to all of us as we go through life figuring out who we are. Isn't that wonderful?

'Originalism' and other nonsense: How right-wing Supreme Court Justices rationalize mass murder

When I moved to New York City in 1981, I first stayed at the YMCA, and every day I encountered street hustlers on 34th Street, taking people's money with the shell game. You know how it goes: A pea or a little ball is placed under one of three cups and moved around rapidly; you are enticed to bet on where it ends up. (And after the first "lucky" guess, you are invariably wrong.)

I've been thinking about those shell games because of the endless, reverent talk of "textualism" and "originalism" by conservative, Federalist Society–approved justices on the Supreme Court.

It was Justice Antonin Scalia who first articulated a handy way to expand "gun rights" beyond any reasonable limits, and to render our Constitution as dead as any of the innumerable victims of American gun violence — in the process, going against the explicit wishes of some of the most prominent members of the founding generation, ounders, including Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. In the 2008 Heller decision, which somehow blithely dispensed with the whole "well regulated Militia" thing, and in various of his writings, Scalia outlined the right-wing constitutional interpretation now known as "textualism" or "originalism."

"Strict construction "— meaning an absolutely literal reading of the Constitution or of a statute — was supported by conservatives until it received too much criticism. That clenched-sphincter dodge was then replaced by "textualism" and later "originalism," both of which, more or less, allow a judge just a bit more interpretive leeway. Then there are the different kinds of originalism — one that seeks to divine the writer's original intent, and another that looks at original meaning, as supposedly understood by reasonable people at the time of the writing. Failing that, originalists, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who formerly clerked for Scalia, will detour into a "common-law Constitution" (or "living Constitution") and wander through English common law, historical documents and even favored philosophers until they find what they're looking for.

I don my tricorn hat and declare this "poppycock."

Historian Heather Cox Richardson has detailed, referring specifically to Barrett, how conservative justices have used this interpretive technique to limit the powers of the federal government and reverse the gains made since World War II in regulating business activities or and in expanding civil and women's rights:

The originalism of scholars like Barrett is an answer to the judges who, in the years after World War Two, interpreted the law to make American democracy live up to its principles, making all Americans equal before the law. With the New Deal in the 1930s, the Democrats under Franklin Delano Roosevelt had set out to level the economic playing field between the wealthy and ordinary Americans. They regulated business, provided a basic social safety net, and promoted infrastructure.

And what about all of our nation's current problems, ones the founders could not possibly have anticipated? The simple algorithm for textualists and originalists appears to be: 1) If the founders didn't write explicitly about it, then we don't need to know about it, because the Founders were godlike and are still totally pertinent; 2) If the founders did write about it but were vague in their expression, we'll consult English common law or our fave-rave philosophers (e.g., Plato, Edmund Burke) for answers, because, well, everyone knows the founders were in a big hurry and often imbibed too much cider.

In other words, it's a rigged game in which you cherry-pick whatever quotes seem to support the decisions you are determined to make anyway. We all try to fight confirmation bias when we go searching for evidence in other people's writings. Even a journalist writing an opinion piece with a solid point of view needs, at least, to appear reasonable to the other side, to state facts clearly, to link to reputable sources and to outline or otherwise anticipate the likely objections.

In other words, it's a rigged game in which you cherry-pick whatever quotes seem to support the decisions you are determined to make anyway. We all try to fight confirmation bias when we go searching for evidence in other people's writings. Even a journalist writing an opinion piece with a solid point of view needs, at least, to appear reasonable to the other side, to state facts clearly, to link to reputable sources and to outline or otherwise anticipate the likely objections.

But Republicans have declared war, at least since the era of Ronald Reagan, on government itself, so making laws to address public needs has become anathema to those who want only to "starve the beast" or, in Grover Norquist's troubling and violent metaphor, "drown it in the bathtub" and thereby send power back to individual states. So here we are, with only one functioning political party, while the other is enthralled with nonexistent voter fraud and other wacko conspiracy theories, harboring a growing devotion to authoritarian leaders, and doing anything possible — including flouting public health rules — to "own the libs." And now that unreasonable minority has supermajority control of the highest court in the land.

Republicans steadfastly refuse to make laws that address issues of grave public concern — such as regulating gun ownership, for example — because they are deeply invested in proving that our form of government cannot or does not work. That perverse effort has been in play for so long now that Republicans reflexively try to cast themselves as the victims and make tragedies like mass shootings further alienate Americans from one another, insisting that nothing can be done because sowing that sense of helplessness and isolation far and wide yields short-term political benefits for them.

Remember the Obama signs that said "HOPE," which Republicans countered with "NOPE"? They meant it. They told us then that they were the party that stood for hopelessness.

As least as they're utilized now by emboldened right-wing judges, both textualism and originalism are merely august-sounding forms of judicial obstructionism or revanchism.

Despite the Heller ruling, any good-faith textualist reading of the Second Amendment would instantly reveal that the so-called right to bear arms depends on the continuing need for a well-regulated militia, an observation made by previous Supreme Court justices and other legal minds much more qualified than I am. But even a dope like me can read the plain meaning of the text: The second part of that 27-word statement is dependent on the first part. It's a conditional clause. If the first part is not true or no longer valid, the rest does not stand.

But, again, the so-called originalists will, from time to time, allow themselves to delve deeper and find their justifications wherever they can, in order to get that pea under the shell where they knew it would wind up from the beginning.

Even if you steadfastly don't want to believe that, then ask the question so many people have asked about the Buffalo shooter, the Uvalde shooter, the Tulsa shooter and the dozens or scores of others: Which well-regulated militia were they members of?

Scalia often wrote about the need for a "reasonable" interpretation of the Constitution, and that is exactly what has been abandoned, especially in his own on-the-fly remix of the Second Amendment.

The entire world sees it as it is, absurd and monstrous. If the United States is going to act as the "muscle" around the globe, we seriously need to get over our fake tough-guy fetish and our "exceptionalism" and learn from what works in other developed or even developing countries, where these kinds of mass shootings simply do not happen. The U.K. managed to quell gun violence after suffering tragedies, and now has a very low rate of homicide (0.04 per 100,000 people) relative to the U.S. (nearly 4 per 100,000). Australia and Ireland have done the same. Canada stands poised to ban assault-style weapons and limit ownership of handguns. Speaking of Heller and the "right" to own a handgun in the home, more than half the gun deaths in the U.S. result from suicide, because having a gun in the house makes suicide attempts far more likely to be lethal.

In this particular shell game, Americans lose more than pocket money — they lose many hard-won rights, environmental regulation and consumer protection, almost any action on the existential threat of climate change and their freedom to feel safe, for themselves and their loved ones, in public places.

In a 2018 New York Times op-ed, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens urged post-Parkland protesters to do more than fight for gun regulation. He wrote that they should "seek more effective and more lasting reform" and work for a repeal of the Second Amendment. In his view, the amendment was originally intended only as a stopgap measure:

Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of that amendment, which provides that 'a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.' Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century.

My wife and I got to see our daughters finish elementary school and move on to middle school. My wife worked at their elementary school, and made lovely videos to commemorate those graduations to the next level. It breaks our hearts that the parents of all the children slain in the name of preposterous policies allowing for easy access to guns and assault weapons — or, for that matter, the parents who have lost a child to suicide made more efficient by a gun in the house — will never experience the joys and pains of seeing their kids grow up and become amazing adult versions of the beautiful children they once were.

But there are more guns to sell, more "patriotic" lobbyists trying to make a buck, more "pro-life" politicians to bribe, and a population that needs to be constantly reminded that government cannot work. (Especially when the Biden administration, in numerous ways, is proving that it can. Even Fox News admits to some positives.)

At the moment, the Supreme Court looks primed to strike down an eminently reasonable, century-old law in New York that regulates who can carry a handgun in public. So much for all the talk about being reasonable and including notions of fairness and good policy in decisions. Or even precedent — a once-cherished concept, now tossed to the wind.

They want you to listen up when you are told that, after the prayers, we will move on from this tragedy.

As gun fanatics continue to make increasingly absurd and often revealing arguments about who or what is to blame for the endless slaughter of their fellow Americans, of even schoolchildren, people of good faith in this country need to do everything we can to quell the gun violence. Public health campaigns are important, as are "red-flag" laws and regulations of semiautomatic weapons. But ultimately, Justice Stevens' solution will probably be necessary: The Second Amendment has to go.

Will the House January 6th panel hold complicit lawmakers accountable?

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, recently tweeted: "We now have evidence to support the story of the worst presidential political offense against the Union in American history."

OK, good. Bring it. Please.

In terms of holding onto power, this may still be a country for old men, but it should be no country for insurrectionists. The committee plans to present its case to the American people at last, with at least eight public hearings, starting on June 9.

More than 800 citizens (many also full-time denizens of the Confederacy and QAnon) have been arrested for their actions that day at the Capitol, and about 250 have pleaded guilty so far. The FBI has video and photos of other suspects, many of which are so clear one wonders how it can be that they have not yet been identified. But there are other suspects — far more culpable for what occurred that day — and we can see them walking in and out of Congress every day.

The highly placed "public servants" who instigated the insurrection — the Insurrection Elite, as it were — have been allowed to slide so far, and keep on defending the deadly attack or obfuscating what happened. Republican leaders first claimed that it might be a "false flag" operation, in which members of some imaginary anti-fascist group dressed down as Trump supporters; then a GOP congressman from Georgia suggested that the attack wasn't really so bad, but more like "a normal tourist visit." After that, some gleefully claimed that the whole thing was Nancy Pelosi's or President Biden's fault.

The most popular guy on Fox News has quipped that the day when the president of the United States and members of his cult nearly succeeded in a violent subversion of the peaceful transition of power "barely rates as a footnote" in history.

Was someone talking about the "elite" and their privilege? Here, their confidence about getting away with anything and everything is so great that they blithely change the narrative of things we all saw with our own eyes.

Nearly a year and a half after 140 Capitol and Metropolitan police were injured, some grievously, by the stun guns, chemical sprays, clubs, batons, poles, sharpened shafts and other makeshift weaponry brought by Trump followers — who engaged in a kind of hand-to-hand combat likened by police to "a medieval battle" — the public is learning how planned out the day really was, and how duplicitous and shameless the Republican leadership is.

The Jan. 6 committee has done an exhaustive study of the events of the day and the planning that led up to it. In a lengthy, rambling speech to his crowd of supporters on the Ellipse that day, Trump insisted they must "stop the steal," claimed he had won by a landslide, said that many Republicans were weak, and told the crowd they should march to the Capitol and "fight like hell" or else they would not have a country anymore. Of course he skipped the march himself and repaired to the White House to gleefully watch on television as they rampaged at the Capitol. During the siege, Republican members of Congress, including Kevin McCarthy, along with Fox News personalities and his own family members were calling and texting Trump, begging him to call things off. (We don't know who Trump spoke with for most of that day because there is a gap of more than seven hours in the official White House phone logs.)

Beyond that clear example of hiding or destroying evidence, indulge me in a list of the things that most stand out:

  • Trump had been setting up his Big Lie for months before the election, saying at rallies that if he lost it could only be because of voter fraud. He did the same thing before the election in 2016, and even when he squeaked out an Electoral College victory then (losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million), he complained, with no evidence, about "voter fraud."
  • After the 2020 election, Trump told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" him 11,780 votes, and then started suggesting various things he had heard "that may or may not be true" about ballots being destroyed in various ways. (It's worth listening to that again, if only to be reminded how pathetic it was and how much pressure he put on Raffensperger.)
  • Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani repeatedly cut a ludicrous figure — even without that press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Philadelphia — as he endlessly claimed he had evidence of voter fraud but declined to offer any of it in court, where there happen to be rules against making things up.
  • Nothing came of any of the recounts in any of the disputed states — including the "audit" performed by the so-called Cyber Ninjas, hired by the Republican-led state Senate in Arizona to audit the votes in Maricopa County. That audit actually found more votes for Biden but kept the Republican base roiled up about voter fraud for months on end, which was the entire point. Then the company went belly-up rather than turn over their records to officials.
  • The only instances of voter fraud uncovered in the past year or so were by Republicans, including Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows, who lives and votes in Virginia but also registered to vote in North Carolina, at a remote rural trailer he has probably never visited.
  • Speaking of Meadows, the 2,319 text messages he turned over to the Jan. 6 committee were so revealing, historian Heather Cox Richardson wondered what could possibly be in the 1,000-some other messages he has fought to withhold.
  • Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, lawyer John Eastman, Giuliani, and many others were concocting a strategy to keep Trump in office and working the phones in their "war room" on Jan. 5 at the Willard Hotel. Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone was also there, "protected" by a group of Oath Keepers.
  • Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, raised money for, and attended, the "Stop the Steal" rally. She also sent numerous emails to Meadows begging him to do whatever was necessary to keep Trump in office. (Here's a quick and illuminating history by Greg Olear of that Washington power couple.)
  • MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, an endless font of conspiracy theory, was allowed access to the Trump White House. In a mildly sensible age, that fact alone would be damning enough to keep Trump from holding any position of responsibility in the future.
  • As we now know, both Mitch McConnell, at the time Senate majority leader, and Kevin McCarthy, House minority leader, recognized what Trump had done and said so in the moment. To his credit, McConnell did so in public (later, characteristically, retreating into serving himself and his party), while McCarthy privately said he would tell Trump to resign — and then did not. And then lied about it.
  • Marjorie Taylor Greene can't remember a gosh-darned thing. If the republic survives, perhaps that will be a sing-song phrase that school children will learn. In any case, someone with that level of memory loss would appear unfit for public office.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., that anti-elitist champion of the common man (and graduate of Stanford and Yale Law School) not only betrayed his country but betrayed the high emotions of his fellow conspirators on Jan. 6, when he couldn't help himself from raising his fist in solidarity with the roiling mob. That he and multiple GOP members of Congress who appear to have engaged in planning to stop the certification of electoral votes are still allowed anywhere near the Capitol boggles the mind.

Near the end of Joel and Ethan Coen's 2007 Academy Award­–winning film "No Country for Old Men," adapted from the novel by Cormac McCarthy, two older lawmen are ruminating about how the culture — and criminals — have changed. Speaking of the relentless killer-for-hire Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), El Paso sheriff Roscoe Giddens (Rodger Boyce), shakes his head and says to Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones): "Strolls right back into a crime scene. Who would do such a thing? How do you defend against it?"

It appears to many of us that quite a few insurrectionists walked right back into the scene of the crime, the U.S Capitol, or "the People's House," as they like to call it — as if they had some special claim on it and could do whatever they like with it — and have been lying and stonewalling about their roles ever since. One hundred and forty-seven Republicans voted against certifying the electoral votes, even after the riot by Trump's supporters, after chaos had come to the Capitol and people had died. Why persist at that point? Well, because some of them were in on the plan and still thought it might succeed. Some were apparently asking for presidential pardons in real time.

The People's House is not theirs to destroy. And the people who live in my house want any traitor to this country out of office and banned from even running for dogcatcher. The third section of the 14th Amendment may have been written with members of the Confederacy in mind, to disqualify them from holding office, but who doesn't see that we have a new Confederacy standing tall and defiant in front of us? It wasn't for nothing that the rest of us had to suffer seeing the Confederate flag carried into the Capitol.

Thinking of another scene from the film, it could be that I'm just an old man who doesn't know what's coming. But I think I see it clearly — and the mainstream press is finally seeing it, too. And it won't be the United States of America anymore — my country, and presumably yours — if the small but relentless gang of white nationalists and religious right zealots that Trumpism let loose prevails in the end.

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