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Seriously and literally

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Above: The Sedition Twins

Good column by Ezra on how the Selena Zito tightrope elite Republicans have been walking since they learned that Donald Trump could be useful finally blew up inside the Capitol:

On Wednesday, at the Capitol, those who took Trump seriously and those who took Trump literally collided in spectacular fashion. Inside the building, a rump of Republican senators, led by Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, were leading a feckless challenge to the Electoral College results. They had no pathway to overturning the results and they knew it. They had no evidence that the results should be overturned and they knew it. And they did not act or speak like they truly believed the election had been stolen. They were there to take Trump’s concerns seriously, not literally, in the hopes that his supporters might become their supporters in 2024.

But at the same time, Trump was telling his supporters that the election had actually been stolen, and that it was up to them to resist. And they took him literally. They did not experience this as performative grievance; they experienced it as a profound assault. They stormed the Capitol, attacked police officers, shattered doors and barriers, looted congressional offices. One woman was shot in the mayhem and died.

If their actions looked like lunacy to you, imagine it from their perspective, from within the epistemic structure in which they live. The president of the United States told them the election had been stolen by the Democratic Party, that they were being denied power and representation they had rightfully won. “I know your pain,” he said, in his video from the White house lawn later on Wednesday. “I know your hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it.” More than a dozen Republican senators, more than 100 Republican House members, and countless conservative media figures had backed Trump’s claims.

The belief of most Republican elites that they could just keep playing some kind of Straussian kayfabe in which the dominant Republican message was that Trump was robbed of his landslide but none of his followers would act accordingly never made any sense, and the bloodshed this week hangs on all of them.

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