The Biggest News Story That is Not Being Told: the GOP Has Given Up on Liberal Democracy

In February of this year, I started a writing the following post (which I have edited just now):

Acquittal of Trump Feels like the Beginning of a Dangerous Moment in the U.S.

I actually think that for most of the Trump presidency, the U.S. was in a dangerous situation. Trump is erratic and ignorant. Even if he didn’t start a catastrophe, he could mishandle a situation and create one. But here’s why I single out the recent Senate acquittal. Even if Republicans actively or passively supported Trump, in spite of his egregious acts of corruption, incompetence, and gross unfitness—I believed Republicans still could still redeem these failings and their party, if they stood up to or stopped Trump in a significant way at a critical time. Impeachment and conviction/removal of Trump was one such moment. Up until something like impeachment and removal, I had a small glimmer of hope for Republicans, at least a meaningful number, deep down respected the rule of law and Constitution, and would ultimately put the country ahead of their party. Senate Republicans, joining Democrats, to convict and remove Trump would have shown this.

But this did not happen. This action now suggests to me that Republicans, overall, either do not embrace the rule of law and Constitution or are too weak and craven to meaningfully defend it—which, to me, is another way of sayingthe Republicans, as a party, have essentially stepped away from being a liberal democratic party, and have become an authoritarian one instead. (Continued in the next comment post.)

39 thoughts on “The Biggest News Story That is Not Being Told: the GOP Has Given Up on Liberal Democracy

  1. (continued)

    If this is true, this has to be one of the biggest news stories, and news outlets should devote more time and space to this story. Largely, they haven’t; certainly not like this May 26, 2020 Bloomberg News op-ed I just saw today, American Politics Is Now Democrats Versus Authoritarians, which I recommend reading. (It’s short.)

    I want to comment on a few passages.

    One hallmark of authoritarian politics, in addition to an adversarial relationship with the truth, is ignoring the law as it applies to party interests while deploying it as a weapon against political opponents. For example, party politicians might ignore lawful subpoenas intended to expose their corruption while subsequently using subpoenas of their own to construct a phony case of wrongdoing by opponents.

    I could argue that the GOP has been using this approach before (maybe long before) Trump, but their authoritarianism seems more pronounced given their support and protection of him. In any event, expect to see this tactic in the upcoming months—with Republicans trying to subpoena and investigate Biden and Burisma, as well as Barr investigating the origins of the Russian investigation (which the author points out).

    Because neither the news media nor the nation’s larger political culture has reckoned with the GOP’s authoritarian evolution, the habitual response is to mislabel GOP authoritarianism as hypocrisy. Calling out hypocrisy is a pointless shaming mechanism for a party that has broken free of shame. Worse, it camouflages a war on democracy as democratic politics as usual.

    I really agree with all of this, and I want to make specific comments about each point:

    • While I agree the news media has failed to recognize and accept that the GOP transformation into an illiberal party, while the Democrats, overall, remain a liberal-democratic party, I do sympathize with their plight. I do not believe their current modus operandi, which also includes set of beliefs about journalism, politics, and political parties, cannot adequately handle this notion. To accept the difference in the parties would lead largely destroy their approach, which are based on the assumption that both parties largely the same—i.e., accept liberal democratic values, operate in good faith; respect the truth and facts; have an ability to feel shame, etc. They cannot accept this unless they can find a new way of covering the politics and the parties—and this new way also has to be economically sustainable as well (which can’t really be known). The news media is in a tough place. Still, without accepting this change, they are actually obscuring a major story—that Republicans have become an authoritarian party.
    • I agree using hypocrisy is somehow inadequate and inappropriate. It’s like describing an authoritarian Putin as a hypocrite if he only invoked laws and democratic norms when it suited him, but subverted it when it didn’t. Maybe cynicism is a better word? I think simply calling him an authoritarian is more appropriate.And yes, I agree that using hypocrisy to describe Republicans is ultimately misleading the public.
    • I think the news media and pundits are also making another error, similar to using hypocrisy to describe Republican actions. I’m thinking specifically of expressions of confusion about GOP continued support of Trump—the way this would ruin the Republican party, if not in the short term, then the long one. The congressional Republican support can be hard to understand if you assume that the Republicans are typical, liberal-democratic party. But if you assume they are largely authoritarian—that they are willing to subvert the rule of law, undermine democratic institutions and processes—then their position isn’t so confusing. Even if one doesn’t fully agree that the Republicans are authoritarian, I think it’s unwise to rigidly believe they are typical liberal-democratic. One should at least be open to the idea that they are not. (The case for this: Trump has history of publicly undermined legitimacy of elections—calling it rigged, before results; playing coy that he would accept the winner; claiming millions voted illegally for Clinton; and he and Barr de-legitimizing mail-in ballots. McConnell has refused to allow discussion and vote for a bill to secure elections as well; and of course the Senate Republicans acquitted Trump even when he used his office to pressure a foreign leader to politically damage Biden.)
    1. A quote from Stuart Stevens’s new book mentioned in this Max Boot op-ed seems apropos for this thread:

      “How do you abandon deeply held beliefs about character, personal responsibility, foreign policy, and the national debt in a matter of months? You don’t. The obvious answer is those beliefs weren’t deeply held.… [I]t had always been about power. The rest? The principles? The values? It was all a lie.”

      (emphasis added)

      This basically describes a party who is authoritarian.

      And yet they will continue use principles and values to justify their actions, when really, it’s about power. A good current example is the Republicans desire to investigate Joe Biden and his son because they’re concerned about corruption. But if they were concerned about corruption, there would support multiple investigations on Trump. Actually, if corruption really mattered to them, they likely would have impeached Trump. But like Stevens said the concern about corruption is a lie.

  2. A lot depends on what you mean by “Republicans.” One could argue the difference is negligible, as your actions speak for what you are, but there are the Republicans in elected office and there are the Republicans who vote them in.

    There is a connection between the conservative evangelical takeover of general Republican politics and the behavior of their elected officials. Evangelical churches have moved more and more toward fundamentalist interpretations precisely (and I suppose this could be debated but I’m not really willing) for authoritarian direction for Christian living. Consevative believers in every religion want to be told what to believe and how to act. Which is ironic because until these past three decades or so, Southern Baptists (the largest evangelical denomination) have stood for the autonomy of the local church, soul competency, and the preisthood of the believer, tenets that go against authoritarian leadership.

    I’m making this distinction because if the pendulum swings back within the party, I think it has to be via a changing of heart by the electorate. Here’s where you and I are going to differ (if we haven’t already). The country is becoming less religious. The church may be getting older (I honestly don’t know, but I suspect it is because the nation is getting older), but as churchgoing ranks get smaller, even if the nature of the evangelical base stays the same, its influence ought to shrink.

    If you look at how quickly the country swiveled on gay marriage and how suddenly it seems to have swiveled on Black Lives Matter, this seems possible. Not overnight, mind you. But maybe a few elected seats at a time. The idiot in chief lost the popular vote by three million votes. Whether he wins or loses this November’s elections, he’s going to lose the popular vote by even more. It’s a sign, I’m nearly convinced, that the Republican masses are creeping toward the conservative center while the Democratic masses are (perhaps to their detriment) creeping toward the liberal left.

    I don’t want to speculate on the election at all. I’m trying not to even think about it. My hopes were so high four years ago that I never recovered from the sense of betrayal and feeling of personal failure. But look at what’s happening: the idiot in chief is playing more than ever to his base, and his overall support wanes, at least according to what people are telling pollsters, which I have less faith in than ever.

    This isn’t really a response to your entire treatise. Whether it’s an underreported story or not, I’m not that interested, if only because my beleaguered soul can only handle so many outrages at a time, and my metaphorical throat is raw from screaming so desperately into the abyss. But in that last bullet, I think there’s room for a little sunlight. When I have moments to turn away from the abyss, I welcome whatever light I can get.

    1. A lot depends on what you mean by “Republicans.”

      I was thinking primarily of elected officials, especially congressional Republicans. I could include party leaders, especially on the national level. I haven’t thought much about citizens who are Republicans.

      This isn’t really a response to your entire treatise. Whether it’s an underreported story or not, I’m not that interested, if only because my beleaguered soul can only handle so many outrages at a time,…

      I understand we’re you’re coming from. Most people have to prioritize their attention and outrage, but you don’t think this story, if true, should be near the top of the list–at least in terms of attention. It should be one of the main stories the media should be trying to convey to the public–especially voters– in my view, also that Trump is essentially an authoritarian wannabe as well? If this is accurate, it shouldn’t matter what their policy positions are. They are a threat to the republic.

      And if this story is accurate, I really think it would fundamentally change coverage, and it would color every story about Trump, Republicans versus Democrats. The press still largely operates from the assumption/framework that Trump and Republican party are essentially normal, liberal-democratic party. My guess is that the vast majority of voters view them this was as well. If that’s no longer the case, that’s a big deal, right?

      1. I’d like to think so, but I don’t. People don’t see things this way, at least not in specific terms. They have a vague notion of what’s good for the country and what’s not, and the see things through this lens. This is actually why liberals’ rhetorical question about how conservatives can vote for officials whose policies work directly against them isn’t really a valid point. A lot of people vote for a greater ideal over their personal benefit, even if they don’t actually use those words or see it that way.

        The Republicans who are planning to vote for Biden might be doing so because they see an authoritarian party emerging from what they thought was just conservative politics, or they (more likely) see that the legislative and executive branches are not governing in good faith, which they see as bad for the country.

        The ones who are planning to vote for the incumbent don’t care or won’t agree with coverage pointing to an authoritarian slide. Shoot, if you ask the most conservative people in the Senate if their party favors authoritarianism, they’ll say no, not because they’re hiding anything — they just won’t believe it.

        As usual, I’m going to stick to letting people decide for themselves what’s good for the country and what’s bad, using whatever is at their disposal. It’s like the racism discussion we just had — at some point, it doesn’t matter what someone’s intentions are or what’s in someone’s heart. What matters is what they’re doing, and even reasonable conservatives can see what’s going on is bad.

        I hope.

    2. I’m making this distinction because if the pendulum swings back within the party, I think it has to be via a changing of heart by the electorate. Here’s where you and I are going to differ (if we haven’t already).

      Well, let’s see if we disagree. Ultimately, I think Republicans–the politicians and party leadership–are only going to change if they suffer huge losses at the polls. That’s basically it.

      Which is ironic because until these past three decades or so, Southern Baptists (the largest evangelical denomination) have stood for the autonomy of the local church, soul competency, and the preisthood of the believer, tenets that go against authoritarian leadership.

      Yeah, there’s a definite irony, here, but if we dig below the surface, isn’t this essentially about power? At some point, the state was a bigger threat to the autonomy (power) of Southern Baptist and other Christian denomination. But now the cultural and social influence and prominence of Christianity seems to be waning, the threat is non-Christian, non-whites. At this point, if they can use state, or anything, to push back, they will. I haven’t thought this throw, but off the top of my head this makes sense.

      But that is tied to Republican voters–a change in their hearts, as you say. I think we agree there. I don’t think this depends on decline of influence of evangelicals–or at least I don’t think that’s specific enough. I think the heart of the matter is the grievance and anxiety of white Christians–specifically their fear and resentment at social and cultural changes, creating an imminent sense of loss of their status, influence, and prominence. I think the Republican party, Republican politicians, and American politics overall will dramatically change, for the better, if these white Americans can work through and move past these grievances; or, the number of aggrieved white Americans dramatically shrinks.

    3. I’d like to think so, but I don’t. People don’t see things this way, at least not in specific terms.

      Put aside how people view the parties for a moment. If, in fact, there is considerable evidence that one party no longer embraces the rule of law, crucial democratic norms–if the quest for power far outweighs vital principles, norms, and institutions for a functioning democracy–then this should be a big story–from the point of view of a journalists, particularly in the context of prioritizing stories. This is what I mean by “big deal.” Are we on the same page here?

      Now, whether many citizens care about this or not is another question, and on some level I don’t care what their reaction is. The Russian interference in the 2016 election was an important story. I get the sense that many Americans don’t think it’s a big deal–not as big as I do, anyway. On some level, that doesn’t matter. I’m thinking about the people and institutions, who play a primary and critical role in informing the citizens of a democracy. What events or stories should receive the most emphasis?

      But this story actually goes beyond a matter of emphasis. The normal assumptions journalists apply to covering both parties would have to radically change–they’d have to portray one party as a threat to liberal democracy. One huge problem would be that this would create the impression that the journalists were being unfair and biased towards Trump and the Republicans. On the other hand, failing to do this would hide the threat of the Republican party.

      Suppose journalists found a way around this problem. Some people may not care. Again, I’m less interested in that; I’m more interested in journalists serving, not misleading, the citizenry on something that I think is a very important story. Does that make sense? And is this something you would agree with?

      As usual, I’m going to stick to letting people decide for themselves what’s good for the country and what’s bad, using whatever is at their disposal.

      Would you agree that this determination by individuals is greatly influenced by the decisions journalists make about what is important and what is good/bad?

  3. I used to work in US intelligence advising presidents on risk. The biggest threat to our country today is the Republican Party from The Independent (caveat emptor: I’m not familiar with this outlet.)

    In an event, I do agree with the article. (Fox New would be up there, as well.)

    Let me say it again: the Republican Party is the biggest threat the United States is facing. And without proper attribution, recognition, and a well-articulated and implemented counter-strategy, it could be terminal.

    There is no other reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the facts.

    An enemy of the United States might seek to sow discord between ethnic groups, or to wage a disinformation campaign, or to highlight moral inconsistencies that weaken the standing of the United States on the world stage. An enemy of the United States might try and degrade the capacity and public trust within our intelligence apparatus. It might use propaganda and weaponised information. It might seek to engage in fraud or other criminal acts to sway an election in their favour.

    Does any of that sound familiar?

    This was written in July 17, 2019, and it seems even more accurate.

    (The author is writing under a pseudonym. If he is or was an American, he now spells words like a Brit.)


    Actions of the GOP and congressional Republicans since Election Day have vindicated this op-ed.

    Stuart Stevens, long-time GOP campaign adviser, agrees:

  4. Another piece of compelling evidence the Republican party–and Fox News–are abandoning liberal democracy and embracing authoritarianism.

    Mail-In Voter Fraud: Anatomy of a Disinformation Campaign paper from Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.

    (Note: I didn’t examine the entire report–I’m just going by their summary of their findings.)

    One of the main findings is that Trump, Fox News and the RNC spread disinformation more than social media (which I presume are entities like Facebook, twitter, instagram, etc.).

    Throughout the first six months of the disinformation campaign, the Republican National Committee (RNC) and staff from the Trump campaign appear repeatedly and consistently on message at the same moments, suggesting an institutionalized rather than individual disinformation campaign. The efforts of the president and the Republican Party are supported by the right-wing media ecosystem, primarily Fox News and talk radio functioning in effect as a party press. These reinforce the message, provide the president a platform, and marginalize or attack those Republican leaders or any conservative media personalities who insist that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud associated with mail-in voting.

    Also, from Trump’s former National Security Adviser, General McMaster, here:

    By logic we can conclude that the RNC and Fox News–and AG Barr– are also aiding and abetting Putin by sowing distrust in the voting process. That’s where we are.

  5. From one of Utah’s senators:

    At best, this is a bad choice of words–particularly in the context of a president who is publicly undermining the legitimacy of the election, who won’t say he will accept the election results or commit to a peaceful transfer of power, and has been open to receiving assistance from a hostile foreign power to win an election, and has been undermining the US Postal Service to hinder mail-in ballots from getting on time. The next tweet sums up what I mean:

    It is reasonable to see this as indication that Republicans are giving up on liberal democracy. If you told me in 2015 that Republicans would do this, I would think you were being irrational.

  6. In the OP, I explain the reason the Senate’s acquittal of Trump was such a key moment–why it signaled to me that the GOP had become a authoritarian party. I reasoned that that was a key moment that the GOP could have stood up to Trump and redeemed themselves. Not doing so green-lit Trump’s authoritarian behavior.

    But Republicans had other opportunities to redeem themselves–e.g., when Trump began undermining the election, both before and after it. Not only have most remained silent, some have actively helped Trump. Recently, 126 congressional Republicans signed onto a Texas lawsuit (which 18 other state AGs joined) to overturn the elections in WI, MI, PA, and GA. Today, the SCOTUS rejected the suit, and leader of the Texas GOP suggested that a handful of states leave the union. Republicans seem to be embracing authoritarianism more vigorously.

    The following are pundits and journalists commenting on this.

    First, The Republican Party As Totalitarian State from Jonathan V. Last of The Bulwark.

    The Republican party is, as of this moment, an autocracy.

    Consider: Why has the GOP gone crazy and insisted that the election was “stolen”?

    The answer—the only answer—is: Because Donald Trump said so.

    What if Trump emerged after the election and said, “Tough loss. Joe Biden put up a good fight. I’ll be back in 2024 to beat him like a drum.” Well, in that situation, there would be no move to overturn the election and no one in the precincts of Conservatism Inc. would be arguing that, ackshually, Donald Trump won by a landslide.

    They would not be arguing that because there is no evidence for this argument. None. Absent a command from Trump, no outside observer would have come to this verdict on their own.

    But present a command from Trump, this position became mandatory.

    This is the definition of autocracy. And once you understand that the GOP itself has become an autocracy, it becomes easy to understand a lot of what’s going on.

    I totally agree with JVL. The GOP is slavishly following Trump–he’s their Dear Leader now.

    From yesterday,

  7. Liz Cheney slams Trump’s attempt to brand 2020 election ‘the Big Lie’ from WaPo

    On Monday, Trump made an announcement attempting to appropriate the term “the Big Lie” and redefine it to refer to Biden’s victory.

    To her great credit, Rep. Liz Cheney spoke out strongly against this:

    “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen,” Cheney tweeted. “Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”

    Most reasonable Republicans know this is the case, but refuse to say this, out of fear, self-interest, and partisanship.

    “Trump is still a very active part of our party,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said in an Axios interview Friday about the tension between Cheney and McCarthy. “This idea that you just disregard President Trump is not where we are.” Scalise also voted to contest the 2020 presidential election results.

    (emphasis added)

    Then the GOP, a liberal-democratic party, is dead. And Scalise and other GOP who believe Trump is still very active and can’t be disregarded are grossly unfit to serve in Congress. The lie about the election is a threat to our democracy, and that is not a red line for these Republicans.

    Michael Gershon in a WaPo op-ed said it well today:

    The people who accepted this political mythology and stormed the Capitol were not lying about their views. They seemed quite sincere. And who knows what Trump really thinks? When a congenital liar surrounds himself with sycophantic liars, he can easily lose radio contact with reality.

    No, it is the elected Republicans who are lying with open eyes, out of fear or cynicism, who have the most to atone for. With the health of U.S. democracy at stake, their excuses are disgraceful.

    (emphasis added)

    1. Recommended: Opinion: Liz Cheney: The GOP is at a turning point. History is watching us. WaPo op-ed by Rep. Liz Cheney

      The Real Reason Republicans Want to Oust Liz Cheney from Politico

      The gist of the article is that some of Cheney may be losing support from some colleagues that have sympathized with her views because she hasn’t really “scratched their back” or done enough schmoozing. (The article suggests she came to power relying on networks her father built–therefore she doesn’t know appreciate these networks or how to cultivate them.)

      That may be true, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s doing the right thing, while the Republicans who oppose her are betraying the country.

      Or, as a second GOP operative put it: “She is choosing not to pivot. Mitch McConnell is no fan of Donald Trump, but he doesn’t say a goddamned word.”

      And that is to his eternal shame!

      Team Cheney argues that Trump remains a threat even if he is tapping out inanities from a beach chair at Mar-a-Lago, rather than from the Oval Office, and that Cheney’s silence would be a concession to Trump’s version of events.

      Cheney and her team are right. And to concede to Trump’s version of events is to poison our democracy. These Republicans who remain silent or actively promote Trump’s falsehoods are complicit. If they cared so much about restoring faith in our elections, not to mention working in a bi-partisan way, they must speak out against Trump’s claims about the election and his role in the January 6 insurrection.

      But they don’t care about these things–they have put their power and their personal interest ahead of the country in a way that betrays America.

    2. Normally, I would add this in a previous comment (to avoid cluttering the most recent comments list on the main page), but I feel strongly about the Republicans and Trump continuing to promote the lie that the election was stolen. I also strongly support what Rep. Liz Cheney is doing and I’m upset by the GOP reaction to her.

      Here’s my post:

      GOP says Cheney focuses too much on the past … as Trump continues to focus on the past from WaPo

      Cheney’s bad because she’s dwelling on the past. But Trump is dwelling on the past, but that’s OK because he’s riling up the base and helping the GOP. But he’s doing this by poisoning our democracy. Here’s an example from today:

      On Friday morning, Trump was out with a new statement accusing Michigan and Wisconsin — two states he won in 2016 but lost in 2020 — of “miraculously” finding votes for Biden. He’s urged audits of ballots, insisting still that massive corruption will be uncovered, when there is no evidence of any malfeasance that would have turned the election in his favor.

      If you care about our democracy and trust in our elections, you must push back against this claim. Silence is not an option, especially from Republicans and conservative pundits. By speaking out, about the past, Liz Cheney is showing she cares about our democracy and trust in our elections. On the other hand, those who are silent are complicit in the undermining of our democracy, and those actively pushing these falsehoods are betraying America. Republicans are punishing Cheney for putting her country ahead of her party.


      Sidebar. There’s talk that Rep. Elise Stefanik will replace Cheney as the #3 GOP leader in the House. Stefanik voted to overturn the election results and continues to push the election lie, I believe. That’s why she’s been considered. There is some hesitation because her voting record isn’t strongly conservative. Indeed, Cheney’s voting record is much more conservative, and she voted 97% of the time with Trump.

      Here is a sign that the GOP has abandoned a policies–they’re all about power, and have become cultlike and irrational. An example of the latter is the recent efforts to examine the votes in Arizona. The group has is checking the ballots for bamboo. Why? Because they suspect the ballots came from China, which caused Trump to lose. Jake Tapper talks about all of this in the clip below:

    3. This provides important context for Liz Cheney’s desire to speak out against Trump’s election lies–and the Republicans who believe keeping quiet and moving on is better (for the party).

      This is disturbing. This a red flag that more people could get hurt, and even if they don’t, that government officials and their families are terrorized in this fashion is despicable. It’s also despicable that Trump promotes the lie that fuels the people who make these threats, and many Republicans sit by silently.

      To me, it’s obvious that Cheney is right. Republicans have to speak out against this lie. McConnell, McCarthy and Cruz have said the Biden won the election. The clip above is one reason their silence is despicable and irresponsible.


      Another example that makes the Congressional Republican silence or support of Trump like an utter failure to our republic:

    4. I recommend listening to Rep. Cheney’s opening remarks in the House Select Committee’s opening day of investigating the 1/6 insurrection.

    5. This has become a subthread on Liz Cheney’s laudable efforts to fight back against Trump and his enablers–particularly regarding the election and 1/6 insurrection.

      So I wanted to put the following article, Cheney and Kinzinger Are Too Late from Mona Charen in The Bulwark here. It’s a different take–one that I agree with. And my position is the same for all the Republicans who have had laudable moments of courage (e.g., Romney, Murkowski, Flake, etc.)

      Here’s some of Charen’s most compelling arguments for her position:

      Both Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, may they live to be 120, had many, many earlier opportunities to extinguish this forest fire before it became a raging inferno. Both supported Trump’s re-election in 2020. Kinzinger said he was “upset” by Biden’s victory. Cheney appeared on Fox and Friends in July 2020, and while she allowed as how she disagreed with President Trump on some issues, most notably withdrawal from Afghanistan, she emphasized how important it was that Trump be re-elected: “Whether or not we have debates and discussions internally—as I’m sure we continue, we will continue to do—we are going to be absolutely united going forward on the big issues, and I’m not going any place.”

      Both Cheney and Kinzinger voted against the first Trump impeachment. They stuck with their support for his re-election despite the first debate with Biden, despite the catastrophic handling of COVID-19, despite Trump’s green light to China’s Uighur camps, despite QAnon, and despite the avalanche of lies and cruelty that corrupted America’s soul—and prepared the ground for the violent insurrection they are now investigating.

      Is it welcome that they finally found a line they couldn’t cross? A thousand times, yes. But how might this story have unfolded differently if they, and thousands of other Republicans, had found their uncrossable lines sooner?

      Charen seems genuinely appreciated of Cheney’s and Kinzinger’s recent actions. I feel the same. I would even say I admire their patriotism and courage. But the truth is that they also significantly failed the country prior to their recent actions.

      The tricky thing is, how should one view them now? At this moment, I, personally, put aside their past failures. What matters most is what they–and other Republicans and conservative pundits–do now. If they do the right thing now, that’s what should matter most. Nevertheless, I think Charen is right–those failures are significant. (I don’t necessarily agree that Cheney and Kinzinger are too late, though.)

    1. I think so, yeah. There have been op-ed writers and journalists who have said this, but I don’t get the sense that this the biggest news outlets have coalesced around this story, making it the top story.

      I should add that as a top story, it would have overarching and far-reaching effects. For example, it would should cause news outlets to dispense with both-sides coverage. This approach would be sensible if both sides agreed upon fundamental principles critical to our nation (e.g., adherence to the rule of law, the ability to put one’s country ahead of one’s party, etc.). I don’t think this has really occurred.

      Finally, my sense is that casual news consumers have not gotten this story–or they’ve dismissed or don’t know whether to believe it or not. Or maybe this just don’t care.

      I don’t know if you agree, but this story is huge–I struggle to describe how significant it is. We can’t have a functioning democracy if one of the major parties has given up on liberal democracy. If you are a Republican, the choice is between an authoritarian party or liberal democracy. Cheney has made a choice for the latter, while those who oppose her or remain silent, have chosen the former.

      1. It’s big. I was just curious about how you felt about its being not told. I don’t know what casual followers of the news know or believe, but most of the stuff you’ve cited (and commented on) these past couple of days is stuff I’ve been aware of, so from where I am, it’s being told, but I acknowledge I’m more than a casual follower of the news.

    2. Suppose we found hard evidence (e.g., recordings, videos, etc.) that Trump and other prominent Republicans were in direct talks with Russians to win the election and also assist with the solar winds hack. Suppose we discovered that the Russians were blackmailing some of these Republicans to get their cooperation.

      But now suppose only handful of opinion writers or journalists were telling this story–that is, it wasn’t dominating every major news outlet; and let’s further suppose the news outlets were treating both parties as if they were basically the same, in terms of their loyalty to the country, commitment to the Constitution and rule of law, etc.

      In such a situation would we say the story is being told? In one way, yes. In another way, I think we could argue that it’s not really being told–at least not being told adequately. I think that’s where I’m coming from.

      Aside: The worrisome thing to me is that, in my scenario above, even if the major outlets did adequately tell the story, I wonder if it would have the impact I would normally expect. If Fox News was not one of the major outlets and if they and outlets like OAN and Newsmax pushed a counter-narrative or downplayed the story, maybe the story wouldn’t have the impact that it should. Maybe I’d feel like journalists weren’t adequately telling the story. In other words, maybe my problem right now stems from the way Fox News and other conservative outlets and pundits have been operating.

      1. I don’t really have an opinion on whether it’s being told or not. Maybe, as you indicate in your aside, everyone who cares to know already knows? In which case it’s begin told adequately? I don’t know.

    3. One of the main reasons I feel the story is not being told–not being told adequately, at least–is that I would expect a different reaction–from people around me to different segments of the society. If the press is doing a really good job of telling this story, in a way that matches it’s importance, then I have to wonder if significant Americans are open to authoritarianism, or to, say it another way, far less committed to the American system of government.

      I actually don’t believe this. I tend to think the bigger problem is that we do not have sources of information that people from across the political spectrum trust. If Fox News and prominent conservative pundits rang the alarm bells about the GOP, the situation might be different. But of course, for them to do that, they would have had to have warned Americans about Donald Trump.

      Basically, there is an alternative media ecosystem that’s pushing an entirely different narrative, creating a different reality. This not only makes it easier for true believers to remain true believers, but I think this causes confusion and uncertainty for moderates and casual news consumers.

  8. GOP giving up on decency and rationality

    …which I guess goes with embracing authoritarianism.

    Rep. Taylor-Greene’s words need to be condemned by the GOP, but as Berman says, “McCarthy is letting this happen.” If her words aren’t taken out of context (although it’s hard to imagine a context that would make her words acceptable), the comparison she makes is ridiculous and beyond the pale.

  9. Carl Bernstein, one of the reporters who broke Watergate scandal, is sounding the alarm here (and it’s not the first time):

    There are have been others like him including David Frum and the Bulwark website (made up of conservatives who worked for the Weekly Standard (?)), among others. But I feel like these are individual voices that either can be dismissed or drowned out by other noise. When a casual news consumer hears Bernstein’s remarks, I imagine them perceiving Bernstein as a partisan and/or a crackpot; or maybe they don’t know whether to believe this or not.

    What I think could remove uncertainty is if all the major news outlets made this a big story–putting in on the front page–and starting a discussion about how this will change their coverage. Specifically, news coverage was previously based on the assumption that both parties respected democracy and the rule of law. If that assumption is no longer true, that will change the way journalist cover the parties. The journalists have to explain these changes and the reasons for them. As far as I know, that has not happened.

  10. I’m not sure where to put the recent news that the DOJ, under Trump, was looking at metadata for Democrat Congresspersons (Rep. Schiff, for one; Rep. Swallwell, too, if I’m not mistaken.) Here’s a clip with Trump’s public comments, accusing Schiff of leaking (classified?) information:

  11. “We are living through, hour by hour, a rolling coup d’etat on our voting system, the election system that is so sacred to our democracy.” That’s what Michael Bechloss, presidential historian, says in the clip below, and he’s right it’s further evidence that the GOP has given up on democracy and become an authoritarian party.

    And yet if he, and others like him, are correct, do the daily headlines and nightly news reports, as well as the coverage of Democrats and Republicans, truly reflect this? I tend to think not–I feel like something is missing. What that could be is an “Emperor has no clothes!” moment or series of moments that have that effect.


    Threatening election officials across the country, including those that are Republican:

  12. We asked Republican senators about Tucker Carlson’s favorite authoritarian leader. Their praise and dodges underscore the danger to the US. from Business Insider

    BI interviewed some prominent Republicans–e.g., Ted Cruz, Chuck Grassley, Ron Johnson. Cruz’s office didn’t comment, but Grassley did, and his comments were disturbing:

    Grassley said he didn’t have “the slightest idea” what Orbán had done in Hungary but had a favorable opinion of the leader after watching clips of Carlson’s show last week. He went on to suggest that it wouldn’t be out of character for Republicans to look abroad for political inspiration.

    “Have you ever heard of Mrs. Thatcher?” he said, referring to the former conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. “A lot of things that Republicans started to do in the 1980s was because of what Thatcher was successful doing in Great Britain.”

    An aide to the senator interjected to say Grassley didn’t condone what Orbán has done in Hungary, but the senator insisted the Hungarian leader appeared “rational.”

    Senator Ron Johnson’s comments were just as bad:

    He called Carlson’s glowing portrayal of the autocrat “pretty accurate.”

    “I recognize the liberal left doesn’t like Hungary, but there are so many positive things about what they’re doing in that country,” Johnson told Insider.

    These two know better than to put Orban in a positive light. What’s bad about Orban? See below.

    On Viktor Orban:

    Orbán has spent the past 11 years in power asserting control over the judiciary, enriching his loyalists, and eliminating the free press, while remaking his country’s laws to benefit his far-right Fidesz party.


    Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem), a project that monitors the health of democracy worldwide, said in its 2021 report that Hungary lost its status as a democracy in 2018 and ranked among the top 10 autocratizing countries.

    “Over the past decade, the Orbán government has undermined the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, and freedom of the press; impeded Ukraine’s cooperation with NATO; and cozied up to Russia, among many other acts inconsistent with a modern European liberal democracy,” James Kirchick, a visiting fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution, told Insider.

    But here’s where I’d guess the source of Orban’s appeal is to people like Carlson, Trump and his supporters/enablers:

    In his domestic policy, Orbán has taken particularly aggressive stances against immigration — including erecting a 180-mile border wall — and LGBTQ rights in his efforts to keep the country of nearly 10 million white, Christian, and conservative.

  13. Rep. McCarthy threatens tech and telecom firms that comply with Jan.6 committee’s request from WaPo

    Here’s a clip discussing what McCarthy said:

    Trump and his minions behaving like authoritarians or the mob–both are the descriptions hyper-partisans would use on the other party. But there are many indicators that both are accurate.

    The problem is that the mainstream news outlets, as a collective, haven’t made this a central story, in my view. They haven’t emphasized it enough. Another problem is that their authority and trust has weakened, and there other other sources of information, not always as reliable, in a crowded information space.


    Here’s McCarthy’s statement:

  14. If American democracy is going to survive, the media must make this crucial shift” from Margaret Sullivan from WaPo

    Sullivan is not exactly making the same claim I am, but it’s close enough. She acknowledge important and impressive reporting pointing to the danger….

    And yet, something crucial is missing. For the most part, news organizations are not making democracy-under-siege a central focus of the work they present to the public.

    Later, she says,

    But, in general, this pro-democracy coverage is not being “centered” by the media writ large. It’s occasional, not regular; it doesn’t appear to be part of an overall editorial plan that fully recognizes just how much trouble we’re in.

    (emphasis added)

    To me, centering should involve raising and then attempting to answer uncomfortable questions about the GOP–specifically, whether they’ve essentially given up on democracy and taken steps towards authoritarianism. Walk the public through this process, and once they can show substantial evidence for this, they should signal that they can no longer cover the GOP under the assumption that it embraces the rule of law, generally operates in good faith, etc.

    This should dramatically change the coverage of both parties. The press shouldn’t implicitly convey the notion that both parties are the same–with regard to a commitment to liberal democracy. In a policy debates between the parties on issues like infrastructure, taxes, immigration, etc. are moot if the GOP has given up on democracy. The latter supersedes the former–and the press should convey this.

  15. I believe Republicans are criticizing President Biden for using the term “semi-fascist” to describe their party. Has the media given a serious examination of whether his use of the term was fair? I think they should.

    On that note, here’s a social media post from Trump today that’s relevant:

    Something else worth pointing out:

  16. More proof the GOP has given up on liberal democracy.



    I agree with almost everything Stuart Stevens says here:

    I believe Youngkin and Desantis campaigned for Lake as well. Lake has not conceded, and is still spewing reckless claims. As far as I know, I haven’t heard any prominent Republican call on her to concede.

    The one area where I slightly disagree with Stevens. The GOP is primarily about obtaining power, but their reason for being a political party is based on expressing resentment and rage at the social and cultural changes happening in America. (I also think they exist to protect the wealth of people with money–but that’s really closely connected with obtaining power.)


    The implication is that the coup would have been successful. If the GOP believed in a constitutional system, they would not only denounce this, but they would push her out of their party.


    The GOP will likely do nothing.

  17. “A very large portion of my party,” he told me one day, “really doesn’t believe in the Constitution.”

    This is from Senator Mitt Romney in a recent excerpt on an upcoming biography of him featured in theAtlantic

    If Romney is correct, this should alter the framing news agencies use when the cover actions by the Republicans and Democrats. For example, with regard to election coverage, this should supersede any of the issues we normally look at. Who cares what the Republicans think about the economy, taxes, immigration, etc. if they don’t believe in the Constitution. Voters need to know that a “very large portion of Republican party really doesn’t believe in the Constitution.” Therefore, Americans voting for Republicans either really don’t believe in the Constitution or they don’t believe other issues are more important (which seems to amount in the same thing).

    Now, I know the press has to cover more stories than this one. Presidential candidates are competing for the nomination. Congressional hearings are going on, etc. But the press can view these stories through a lens that accounts for the Republicans not believing in the Constitution–that is, they are embracing authoritarianism. Politicians from a liberal democracy run campaigns and conduct hearings in ways that dramatically differ from authoritarian politicians. Reporters should bring this to light when covering these stories. My sense is that they’re not.

    (Actually, I think journalists will have to spend considerable time and skill making the case that the GOP has moved towards authoritarianism. This is not easy, and I suspect it’ll take a long time to establish this. And they’ll have to do it without creating the impression that they’re being biased and/or partisan.)

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