Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

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I'm not sure anything better captures the GOP's inability to grasp what's happening to it than the House Freedom Caucus wrestling with how to grapple with the rise of Donald Trump and how to resist his candidacy. Donald Trump is the Freedom Caucus. You might even say, in the beginning was the Freedom Caucus. And then the Freedom Caucus became flesh and walked among us. And his name was Donald Trump.

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The #NeverTrump non-movement has taken a blow, as Rick Perry has apparently taken himself out of contention as the standard bearer of a #NeverTrump third party conservative ticket. A deeper issue is that, remember, Rick Perry was basically drummed out to the 2012 and 2016 elections as something close to a laughing stock. In 2016, he barely rose to the level of a laughingstock since no one was even paying attention. This isn't meant as ridicule. It was a more a matter of expectations: the million term governor of the biggest red state in the country, couldn't even make a respectable showing in a run for president. #NeverTrump looks very much like a vehicle with which DC power brokers take the guys they wanted in the first place but couldn't get through primary process and nominate them by acclamation through what amounts to a GOP in exile.

I want to tell you a weird story about the Trump campaign. Only this one starts before Trump ever announced his candidacy, actually before he even became the national media figure he's been for decades.

Let's go back to the early 1980s in Southern California, a very different place from what it is today. I know it well because I grew up there. Back in the very early 80s, when I was 12 or 13 or 14, I and a number of friends were big fans of a guy named Wally George. George was the originator of what was once called 'combat TV.' His show briefly went nationwide. But he was overtaken by imitators who were more polished, less odd and ungainly. The late and much-better-known Morton Downey Jr successfully took George's schtick nationwide and himself become the pioneer of tabloid daytime talk shows like Geraldo and Jerry Springer. He and especially George also paved the way for Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, O'Reilly and more. In a sense, Stephen Colbert - in his Colbert Report persona - was a direct lineal, if parodic, descendent of Wally George.

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If you look around over the last week there are a number of highly sophisticated Republican voices arguing that Donald Trump is the sort of demagogue and potential strongman our political system was designed to prevent from gaining power in our country. They are portentous and ominous words and true in many respects. But they would be far more credible if so many Republicans - not necessarily the same writers, but countless formal and informal spokespersons including numerous high-ranking elected officials - hadn't spent the last seven years ranting that the temperamentally cautious and cerebral Barack Obama was a 'dictator' who was trampling the constitution.

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There was an apparent replay of the escalating Trump rally violence at a rally in Tucson this afternoon. We're still trying to piece together what happened. But one incident seems oddly reminiscent of the incident in Fayetteville, North Carolina where a Trump supporter sucker punched a protestor as he was being escorted out of the arena. This time another protestor was being escorted out of the arena when a Trump supporter punched him, knocking him to the ground, and then repeatedly kicked him before being restrained by police and himself being escorted out of the arena.

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As you've seen from our reporting, there have been a number of groups of Republicans, generally fairly sad sack, who've met to plot a third party candidacy on the assumption that Trump either cannot or should not be denied the nomination in Cleveland. In the nature of things almost all these embryonic efforts have proceeded on the belief that the independent candidate must be a "movement conservative." But this exposes a key problem with the whole concept - indeed, a key driver of the crisis itself.

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As we've noted, endangered Senate Republicans, especially in the northern tier of the country from Wisconsin over to New Hampshire, are the Achilles Heel of the GOP 'three nos' SCOTUS blockade strategy. Now Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), facing a tough reelection battle, has gone from dissenting from the McConnell strategy to going on the attack against his own colleagues, telling a local radio station Friday that GOP senators need to "just man up and cast a vote."