Two Sides Now

TPM alum Greg Sargent has a column up at the Post looking at the work of experts in the field of democratic breakdown. Not collapse — that’s a bit different. We hear a lot of predictions about a coming U.S. civil war. But if the analog is the civil war of the 1860s that’s never been realistic. If nothing else the political geography doesn’t work. This would rather be an era of chronic political violence and instability: with episodes of paramilitary violence often egged on by elected leaders, assassinations, bombings, political crises, claimed stolen elections and actual stolen elections.

Earlier I noted that one of the most conspicuous aspects of the Jan. 6th hearings is the relative silence of elected Republicans. Where are the Republican electeds running to the cameras to counter-program at every intermission? Where are the outraged press conferences. Greg notes the same silence, but from the other direction. The scholars I referenced above note what a bad sign it is that we have this detailed look at an organized coup attempt by an outgoing president using political violence as a tool and yet Republican leaders are saying nothing about it.

“It would make all the difference in the world,” one of these scholars, Steven Levitsky, told Sargent, if Republicans would take this moment to definitively say that events like Jan. 6th and the lead up to it are beyond the pale, unacceptable in America. And yet, very clearly they’re not.

From one vantage point it may seem like Greg and I are saying diametrically opposed things. But I don’t think that’s the case. I also don’t think this is just the same as all those earlier times when Trump did something horrible or absurd and Republicans kept scurrying away after pretending not to hear reporters’ questions. They want Trumpism but they’re ready to be done with Trump. In a way they are playing out the dynamic which Florida Governor Ron DeSantis embodies. He’s a man who has not only remodeled his whole political persona around Trump but even apes his most signature hand mannerisms. And yet DeSantis is focused not on being Trump’s number one fan but his replacement. They seem to have learned not to love the Jan. 6 Committee but to appreciate its convenience.

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