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The clock is ticking


Adam Serwer has a typically cogent analysis of why, as of now, the January 6th mob that attacked the Capitol is winning the political war in which their incursion was merely the most spectacular battle to this point:

Republicans are not blocking a bipartisan January 6 commission because they fear Trump, or because they want to “move on” from 2020. They are blocking a January 6 commission because they agree with the underlying ideological claim of the rioters, which is that Democratic electoral victories should not be recognized. Because they regard such victories as inherently illegitimate—the result of fraud, manipulation, or the votes of people who are not truly American—they believe that the law should be changed to ensure that elections more accurately reflect the will of Real Americans, who by definition vote Republican. They believe that there is nothing for them to investigate, because the actual problem is not the riot itself but the unjust usurpation of power that occurred when Democrats won. Absent that provocation, the rioters would have stayed home.

This is classic abuser logic, of course, which makes sense, given that the Democratic party is an abusive relationship with their Republican “colleagues” — a relationship that a remarkable number of Democratic party leaders still seem to think can be turned around, if they just try harder to be nice and not upset the Party of Real Americans:

There is a reason Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is announcing that “100 percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration,” which is what he said of the previous Democratic administration, while President Joe Biden is fruitlessly seeking bipartisan support for an infrastructure bill after his prediction of a Republican “epiphany” following Trump’s loss did not materialize. The reason is that they serve different constituencies with distinct expectations.

One of the striking features of American politics at the moment is that the Republican party is absolutely clear about two things: that Democratic electoral victories are per se illegitimate, and that no meaningful negotiation or compromise will happen — yet plenty of Democrats simply refuse to believe this, even though they are being told it explicitly, over and over again.

The only meaningful argument in the GOP right now is whether the Democratic party should be disqualified from winning political power by technically legal voter suppression, gerrymandering, and the massively biased structure of the Senate and the Electoral College, or whether some or a lot of extra-legal violence should be thrown into the mix, if necessary:

As New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait wrote, the “accommodation” that Republicans “have reached between their violent and nonviolent wings is a legal regimen designed to ensure that the next time a Trump rejects the election result, he won’t need a mob to prevail.” Trump did not impose this belief that elections are valid only if they result in Republican victory on the conservative rank and file; he was a manifestation of it. Nor are Republican officials held hostage by a base they fear; falsehoods about election fraud have been deliberately stoked by Republican elites who then insist that they must bow to the demands of the very misinformed constituents they have been lying to. The last thing ambitious Republicans want is to let this fire go out.

Trump infamously refused to concede the 2020 election until after the mob he had incited ransacked the Capitol in an effort to overturn the outcome. But even afterward, most Republicans in the House, and several in the Senate, refused to vote to certify the results. The rioters were outliers in the sense that they employed political violence and intimidation in an attempt to overturn the election. But the rioters fell squarely within the Republican mainstream in sharing Trump’s belief that his defeat meant the election was inherently illegitimate. The main ideological cleavage within the GOP is not whether election laws should be changed to better ensure Republican victory, but whether political violence is necessary to achieve that objective.

And Serwer is unfortunately correct that this goes way beyond Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema: a lot of elite Democrats, including to this point Joe Biden, have yet to display any sense of real urgency that time is running out, for them, and, infinitely more important, for American democracy.

Maybe all this will change over the course of the next year. But a year is not a long time, and the clock is ticking.

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