Secluded in an underground location at the Capitol for his protection on January 6, MIke Pence looks at a Trump tweet. (CSPAN screen grab).
A rogues’ gallery of conspiracy-pushing celebrity wannabes, grifters, and mere garden-variety windsocks hoping to locate a good-paying government job without the help of a moral compass – all endorsed by or embracing Donald Trump – won their primaries in Nevada this week. For reasons none of them have explained, all of them promise that if you vote for them the price of gas will go down.
Which naturally got me yet again thinking about… the January 6 committee hearings.
And that in turn naturally got me thinking about… Liz Cheney’s dad and the invasion of Iraq.
Many of the same people who have embraced Trump’s Big Lie narrative – not only Republicans in Congress whose “dishonor will remain,” as Cheney the Younger put it in the first hearing, but also a significant portion of the Trumpist electorate – were the same people who exhibited fist-pumping excitement and enthusiasm for Cheney the Elder’s optional war of naked military aggression.
Just as the GOP is the party of Trump now, during the Bush-Cheney years it was the party of war. The war was what defined Republicans and what they believed in, and if you didn’t agree with them then as far as they were concerned you were soft on terrorism and didn’t support the troops and were anti-American. Things were super ugly then, too, you see.
Going on two decades since Republicans, assisted by Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Joe Biden and way too many other Senate Democrats, gave the Bush-Cheney crowd a blank check to go a-warmongering, most of the people who were so very hot for the war in the first place have now modified their strong and heartfelt passion about the issue.
Their new position on America’s runaway war on terror: Never mind.
The day after January 6, I suggested Trump and Trumpism was destined for a similar fate; that Trump’s madding crowds, including hordes of sycophantic Republican politicians, would begin to oh so conveniently forget how in thrall they were to Trumpism, and hope that everyone else would politely not remind them of their, well, dishonor.
And on the day after January 6, shocked and stunned by what we’d all seen, I assumed the GOP’s convenient never-mindism with respect to their full-throated embrace of Trump and Trumpism was already starting. Obviously I was wrong (not unprecedented).
Now, by letting testimony from Republicans, most of them from Trump’s own orbit, tell the tale, the January 6 hearings are powerfully demonstrating the importance of unpacking the real events that prompted the insurrection, and the very real crimes committed and condoned by Trump & Co. along the way.
And once again I find myself thinking that Republicans, both elected ones and individual voting ones, will inevitably wrap themselves in comforting cloaks of denial and convince themselves that they were never that into Trump – not them – and distance themselves from Trump and Trumpism sooner rather than later.
Which brings us back to Nevada’s ludicrous GOP primary results.
Wanted: Less frenzy, more sense
In the governor’s race, nominee Joe Lombardo’s campaign handlers have echoed Virginia GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s campaign strategy from last year, basking in Trump’s endorsement while striving to keep Trump somewhat at arm’s length. And while Lombardo has pandered to the stop the steal crowd with deliberately vague (and evidence-free) suggestions that some unspecified something somehow was very wrong with the 2020 election, he has, to his credit (it’s a low bar in the GOP these days), declined to declare that Biden’s victory is illegitimate.
That makes Lombardo unique among the cast of characters launched into the 2022 general election by Nevada Republican primary voters.
Adam Laxalt, Jim Marchant, Michele Fiore, Sigal Chattah, and Sam Peters, candidates for Senate, secretary of state, treasurer, attorney general, and the fourth congressional district, respectively, are only some of the full-on Nevada Trumpists who won their primaries.
Nevada Republican voters are stuck with them, but by now they should be accustomed to such indignities. After all, long-time state GOP chairman Michael McDonald is one of Nevada’s dopey fake electors who wittingly or not were at the heart of John Eastman’s madcap but very real plot to overturn the election. Or as Mike Pence referred it to, as we learned in Thursday’s January 6 committee hearing, “rubber-room stuff.” Which sounds like McDonald all over.
Nevada Democrats hold the governor’s office and all but one of the other statewide offices, along with five of the state’s six seats in the Congress, including Catherine Cortez Masto’s U.S. Senate seat that Laxalt wants. Yet those offices are, if not literally, at least figuratively the GOP’s to lose this year. The midterm election looked like it would be a bloodbath for Democrats even before large chunks of the electorate hardened their belief that the most existential issue of our age is not the rule of law but the price of gas. (To be fair, that belief is especially likely to take hold in a state where politicians and the powerful interests for which they stand are more inclined to stigmatize public transportation than build it.)
If Nevada Democratic voters do the same thing in the general election they did in the primary – check out in resignation and don’t bother to vote – Nevadans will be subjected to a state chock full of elected officials wallowing in the aforementioned “rubber-room stuff.” With rubber-room consequences.
The January 6 committee isn’t going to change the fundamentals of the campaign cycle. Or not change them much, anyway. The committee’s investigation isn’t going to save the Democrats.
But the January 6 committee’s investigation isn’t about saving Democratic politicians in Nevada or anywhere else. It’s about far more important things, like the future of democracy and the rule of law in the U.S.
The prospects of a less frenzied, more sensible nation have seemed dire, even hopeless, as Trump, after slithering away from the White House in disgrace, has not only maintained but strengthened his control of pliant Republicans. Yet the Jan. 6 hearings provide a glimmer of hope that, unlikely as it may seem, hearts and minds can and will be changed, and that Trump and Trumpism will eventually become something Trump’s legions, you know, would prefer not to talk about.
No one can be blamed for scoffing at such an optimistic view. Given this miserable timeline, pessimism is warranted.
On the bright side (where I’m always looking), there was also a time when it was impossible to imagine the base of Republican voters quietly slinking away from Bush-Cheney militarism as their organizing principle. And yet, as the scale of the “oops” sank in, they did.
Portions of this column were originally published in the Daily Current newsletter, which is free, and which you can subscribe to here.
Correction: This column initially misidentified the winner of the CD4 Republican primary.
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