A Faustian Bargain

There are currently three categories of Republican elected officials: the incredibly stupid (QAnon believers, pandemic and climate change deniers, the “representatives” who make you wonder who in the world voted for them); the not-stupid-but-willing-to-pander; and a very few willing to publicly oppose both. (And when I say “very few,” I mean one or two at most.)

Of course, there are also the “Never Trumpers” who are mostly former lawmakers or former campaign strategists, but for purposes of this analysis, I’m only categorizing those currently holding public office.

Senator Josh Hawley falls into the second category. He is someone willing to pursue goals by taking positions that he knows to be ridiculous and unlikely to succeed in order to ingratiate himself with the rabid, uneducated GOP base.

Of course, he isn’t the only one. The execrable Ted Cruz and ten other Senate Republicans–including Indiana’s dim, embarrassing Senator Mike Braun– also plan to protest the non-existent “voter fraud” that led to Trump’s loss. Like Hawley, Cruz clearly knows better. The two of them are already competing for the 2024 GOP nomination, which will largely be delivered by the party’s ignorant Trumpian base.

It’s the very definition of a Faustian bargain– an action or agreement in which a person sells his soul, abandoning his spiritual values, moral principles and presumed afterlife in heaven, in order to reap a benefit in the here and now.  Another way to put it is to make a deal with the devil.

Peter Wehner called Hawley out in a New Year’s Eve article in The Atlantic. Wehner suggests that Hawley’s planned objection to the Electoral College vote is evidence of what he calls “the enduring power of Trumpian unreality.”

Hawley knows this effort will fail, just as every other effort to undo the results of the lawful presidential election will fail. (A brief reminder for those with faulty short-term memories: Joe Biden defeated Trump by more than 7 million popular votes and 74 Electoral College votes.) Every single attempt to prove that the election was marked by fraud or that President-elect Biden’s win is illegitimate—an effort that now includes about 60 lawsuits—has flopped. In fact, what we’ve discovered since the November 3 election is that it was “the most secure in American history,” as election experts in Trump’s own administration have declared. But this immutable, eminently provable fact doesn’t deter Trump and many of his allies from trying to overturn the election; perversely, it seems to embolden them.

One such Trump ally is Tommy Tuberville, the newly elected senator from Alabama, who has suggested that he might challenge the Electoral College count. And there are others. But what makes Hawley’s declaration ominously noteworthy is that unlike Tuberville—a former college football coach who owes his political career in a deep-red state to Trump’s endorsement in the GOP primary against Jeff Sessions—Hawley is a man who clearly knows better. According to his Senate biography, he is “recognized as one of the nation’s leading constitutional lawyers.” A former state attorney general, Hawley has litigated before the Supreme Court. He graduated from Stanford University in 2002 and Yale Law School in 2006. He has clerked for Chief Justice John Roberts; he taught at one of London’s elite private schools, St. Paul’s; and he served as an appellate litigator at one of the world’s biggest law firms.

Wehner accurately calls Hawley’s planned action unpatriotic “civic vandalism.”

He quotes an acquaintance of Senator Hawley for confirmation of his assertion that Hawley is perfectly aware that the election wasn’t “rigged” or otherwise illegitimate, and that the legal arguments he his parroting are ridiculous. Nevertheless, he has calculated that he will benefit politically from the lie, from the pretense. He has made his deal with the devil and has dispensed with any shred of integrity he may once have had.

As Wehner says,  this is obviously a very bad sign about the direction of the GOP in the coming years.

What is happening in the GOP is that figures such as Hawley, along with many of his Senate and House colleagues, and important Republican players, including the former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, are all trying to position themselves as the heirs of Trump. None of them possesses the same sociopathic qualities as Trump, and their efforts will be less impulsive and presumably less clownish, more calculated and probably less conspiracy-minded. It may be that not all of them support Hawley’s stunt; perhaps some are even embarrassed by it. But these figures are seismographers; they are determined to act in ways that win the approval of the Republican Party’s base. And this goes to the heart of the danger.

Quite right. The current Republican base is racist, ignorant and terrified of modernity. (It is also uncomfortably large.) A willingness to pander to that base isn’t simply a Faustian bargain–it’s an overwhelming threat to America’s future.


  1. Politicians always do what has worked for them in the past and they are always the last to know when it is no longer working. The road from Nixon to Reagan to Trump is clear.

  2. The fact that our own Mr. Braun felt compelled to sign on to this shows just how low the Indiana GOP are willing to sink.

  3. As patmcc says about the persistence of ; “the enduring power of Trumpian unreality.”; it continues to scare the crap out of me. Viewing the current election situation (before THAT phone call yesterday); Hawley, et al, have stated they will file an objection “if a commission is not formed”. Even they must know there will be no commission formed to formally object; is this all grandstanding and distraction to maintain Trump’s chaos and turmoil which is where his power lays? Or lies?

    It is those Republican Representatives and Senators who have spent four years sitting mute and idle that could be a greater danger when the administration changes. Just a thought.

  4. Wehner was kind to describe the collective initiative of Banana Republicans as “civic vandalism”. The group is aiding and abetting fratricidal political gaslighting engaged by the incumbent President revealed this morning from a recorded conversation with Georgia Republican officials. This is Shakesperein drama unfolding at its very best.

  5. And just how many other “phone calls” to Republican Congressmen and Senators has Trump made in the last week?

  6. In the last six months l’ve written Sen. Braun, in polite, rational and forceful language, appealing to him to oppose the irrationality of Trump. I’ve not received even an acknowledgment of my concerns. I don’t count.

  7. Why does anyone assume that these people ever actually had moral or social values?

  8. Wayne Moss
    Ditto. Over the past few months, I’ve written and called several times, and met with a staffer (college intern) at a mobile office hours event. Not a single acknowledgement or response. Meanwhile, every public reference to the election dispute has mentioned how upset and mistrustful his constituents are about the election.

  9. And those are just the Senate lovelies. In the House we have the likes of Dan Cranshaw a rising star of Trumpdom…

  10. @Wayne … I, too, have written Senator Braun with probably similar content and respectful demeanor. At first I received the predicted script responses, but now I believe I have been profiled as a born again Democrat on the no need to respond list. Contrary to Senator Todd, whose office has consistently responded, though his prescribed topic selection does not include “President” or “Election” … so I choose next best: “Homeland Security”. I can tell when his staff do not actually read my message when I get a letter with the scripted ovation of Senator Young’s tireless advocacy for homeland security that has nothing to do with the content I sent. Sometimes we wrestle with a formula republic, but I keep on writing anyway.

  11. These idiots all have one vote each, so as a country, it’s up to each of us to emphasize truth and education and humanitarian principles, from cradle to college. After college, everyone is pretty well set in their vote.

  12. The cult of Trump is populated by weak, ignorant fools just as all cults. Yes, Republicans with brains know they have to curry favor with the cult because they have neither the intent nor the ability to govern. The Hawley/Cruz/et.al. clown show is just another attempt by Republican back benchers to acquire power over those cultists.

    Tuberville is the perfect example of WHY those cultists are so ignorant. After teaching in public schools in Colorado, Ohio and Texas, I can tell you first hand that civics classes are “taught” not by educated sociologists with real degrees in government, but by… wait for it… coaches. Many of my science students told me flat out that those history and government classes were conducted by the coach putting in a video while he drew up plays and such. I’m not making that up. Oh, and most of the school districts are led by Republicans.

    Finally, Wish the media would stop using the phrase “widespread” voter fraud. There was NO voter fraud whatsoever….. anywhere. Using the word “widespread” implies that there was SOME voter fraud; to whit: the orange crapstain haranguing the Georgia Secretary of State. Just as the media shares the blame for bringing Trump to the public’s consciousness in 2010, so it is culpable in promoting inappropriate language regarding this idiot-level contest between fact and fantasy.

  13. As a DailyKos commenter mentioned recently, even when the current Republican coup attempt fails, it will have established a precedent that the Congress, potentially, has a veto power over the Electoral College and that in the future, a political party with enough pull in both houses of Congress can simply refuse to count election results that are inconvenient to it, and substitute their own preferred outcome.

  14. The Constitution sets out how the executive is to be elected and the Congress is only ceremonially involved on the periphery. The Congress is not involved in the election of executives per se. With Tilden v. Hayes and what Trump is trying to pull in mind, I am comforted to know that the courts would strike down the attempted theft by the latter, which is nothing more than a naked power play sans evidence or support in law by a would be tyrant.

    Republican sycophants such as Cruz and Hawley are no more dangerous than Cotton (who has announced that he will vote to seat Biden in his outlook for 2024), but all such announcements designed to (at some point between now and 2024) gain the Republican nomination are meaningless since none of them has the constitutional power to alter the outcome of a certified election by electoral count today. One can hardly give up a power he or she (Marsha) never had.

    Result? Biden will become president in a few weeks whether we are at war with Iran, under martial law or national quarantine – whatever – since the Constitution does not provide for exceptions to this iron rule. (See the elections of 1864 and 1944, in the midst of the Civil War and WW II, respectively.)

    It is no time to panic and play Trump’s game. Indeed by his seditious conduct it is clear that he is the one in the grip of panic, and rightly so, considering his future after being defrocked. Our task with our democracy at stake? Stay the course.

  15. Okay,

    Just as a quick historical analogy, in Nazi Germany, the ones that saw the handwriting on the wall, the Never Hitler’s, were eliminated! Night Of The Long knives took care of that. The Hitler loyalists fell into your 2 listed categories, the really stupid hangers on, those that could not really function in a democratic society, those that enjoyed the hate. Then you had the more educated calculating loyalists looking to position themselves as the next Furor.

    The 1st group couldn’t tie their own shoes without permission, the 2nd group was the more dangerous. Being able to adapt and learn from the mistakes of their Furor, they figured they could keep the 3rd Reich going and morphing a 4th Reich for thousands of years. A global hegemonic force of hatred.

    Just because someone is supposed to know better, just because someone is educated, just because someone seems to be endowed with foresight, and a knowledge of the inner workings of government and its bylaws, doesn’t make them any more sane, but it does make them more dangerous! Those are the ones who are successful Seditionist’s, those are the ones who are successful purveyors of Treason! And, those in the 2nd group were the ones who took note of the never Hitler’s and eliminated them.

    I was talking to a friend of mine is a very successful businessman, he is of Greek origin, (born in Greece), and his grandfather was a freedom fighter against the Nazis! Which I might add, if it wasn’t for the Greek resistance tying up Hitler’s forces in that region, the outcome of the war might’ve been different.

    He was generally perplexed at how it doesn’t seem there is enough venomous vigor (penalties) towards these arsonists leading the charge against government. And I think he’s absolutely spot on in his observations. Those who seem to be well-meaning, put themselves in the category of Neville Chamberlain, and by time the realization reveals itself, that’s not the way to go, it probably is going to be too late!

    Once again, history is cyclical, but eventually, the magnitude of the disruption and the arson of society will be so great because of modernity as Sheila says, it will not be able to be overcome. And, we have probably reached that point in human history right now, this period of time is the fulcrum, and it will tilt humanity one way or the other. I don’t have the faith that some have concerning man’s ability to see through his self induced foggy delusion, that this is just another small hiccup that can be remedied by goodwill!

    When there is no cohesion in society, no cohesive camaraderie amongst human civilization, it’s like rowers on a ship! The rowers in the bow are rowing forward, the rowers in the stern are rowing backward, no progress! And eventually the ships command structure and everything else including the ship itself disintegrates.

    Our governmental system or, the ruling kingdoms so to speak, have proven themselves incompetent throughout history! They invariably devolve into inhumanity towards their fellow man! As mentioned yesterday, Thomas Paine recognized this, and, he was whitewashed out of history.

    The phrase “Man’s inhumanity to man” is first documented in the Robert Burns poem called Man was made to mourn: A Dirge in 1784. It is possible that Burns reworded a similar quote from Samuel von Pufendorf who in 1673 wrote, “More inhumanity has been done by man himself than any other of nature’s causes.”

    But thousands of years before the above men put this dirge to pen, they must have been aware of King Solomon’s ponderings on the subject!

    Nearly 3,000 years ago, King Solomon wrote: “I myself returned that I might see all the acts of oppression that are being done under the sun, and, look! the tears of those being oppressed, but they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power, so that they had no comforter. And I congratulated the dead who had already died rather than the living who were still alive. So better than both of them is the one who has not yet come to be, who has not seen the calamitous work that is being done under the sun.”​Ecclesiastes 4:1-3.

    So, the wisest man alive has shown us over 3000 years ago, and we still haven’t listened! The die seems to be cast concerning man’s ability to rule himself!

    The prophet Daniel mentioned this very thing, in Daniel the 5th chapter verse 22 through 30, the ruler of the most powerful kingdom on earth was warned that his rule had been weighed in the balance and found lacking! Bel·shazʹzar was killed that very night!

    Humanity has constantly been warned and constantly found lacking!

  16. @Wayne
    Me, too, and with the same result, but after receiving no responses I’ve taken to copy/pasting his oath of office with the note, “In case you forgot…”

  17. The fact that Trump’s phone call to GA was not met by calls for him to resign by any leaders of either party is a sad sign of how immoral/unethical behavior is the new American norm. “Teach your children well’ by example….SHAME!

  18. Sadly, the damage the lunatic incumbent is causing will be his biggest legacy, and the cultists will probably follow the jackasses who rise to the top of the cesspool that the GOP has become.
    They will cite “small government, family values(?), and fiscal responsibility” as their excuses, or rationalizations.
    We need to be rid of the Electoral College,which was set up, in the first place, to support the “elite.”

  19. I picture how little regard Republican politicians on average have for the people of this country – the real people on the street going to work and raising families and searching for the best for those families and voting in their interest. Where did that insulting belief come from? It’s certainly not normal or traditional.

    It has to come from years of pandering to voters who can be recruited to support those politicians so it has to be true of Republican voters but not all of the voters. Obviously, people like those who contribute to this blog won’t stand to be treated that way by anyone.

    I think that Hilary was wrong about them. They aren’t deplorable on average. They are those susceptible to suggestions that not they but others in the country are deplorable threats to the culture that they have come to regard as American, that they are comfortable and have experience with.

    Bringing about cultural change is the whole purpose of advertising and just walking the streets of any place in America you will see fashions of every imaginable type on display. Did each person displaying each fashion really invent that look? No, we follow ‘influencers”.

    That’s great for business but could be fatal to democracy and therefore freedom and our rights.

  20. Just learned there were two of Trump’s lawyers on the call that asked for illegal action. They should be disbarred. Where are the outraged???

  21. But the continually deepening mystery is that so many so recently chose to believe that disloyalty to democratic principles, to their country, shamelessness, lies, demagoguery, abandonment of character, cult-like behavior, lawlessness and irrationality have become a path to power and wealth (or to some nameless desideratum) that persuades them to abandon all that once was held inviolable in American politics and most of society. Perhaps such behavior rises solely out of sipping the Kool-Aid hawked by their cult, thereby subsuming every mental process once thought normal. Since none exhibited these extreme symptoms before his presidency, perhaps they are simply victims of Trump’s gaslighting.

    Until we can pinpoint what has turned these obnoxious but relatively sane people into revolutionary wannabes, they will proliferate and overwhelm our ability to counter the poison they spew. We must diagnose before prescribing. Is performing an intervention on several of the afflicted a way to gain insight into what mysterious force has hijacked their brains?

    My proposed approach is to gather a team of leading psychiatrists and political scientists (and Sheila, of course) to analyze what has transformed these former Americaphiliacs into Americaphobes.

  22. The GOP Base was just waiting for someone like the Trumpet to come along. The Trumpet fit their Matrix of a Macho-Male-Authoritarian who gave them permission to stand up and be vocal about all the fears, and prejudices they have. Pastor Pence brought along the Bible Thumper’s to The Trumpet.

    Now we have the Trump Cult which is the vast majority of the GOP Base. The wealthy were rewarded by receiving a big tax cut. The GOP Base could now express the social and cultural bias, with out worrying about the the consequences. They could even dress up in Camouflage and walk around brandishing their weapons to intimidate elected officials.

    As usual you can always find someone who will betray the rules or others if they can stay on the team or climb the ladder.

    The calculation is The Trumpet is finished as far as future public office. He will continue to have a huge influence on who will advance in the GOP. There will be no shortage of stooges and boot lickers to genuflect to The Trumpet.

    I am also sure that somewhere along the way a Trump Scam will emerge – Loyalty will be determined by how much money you can direct into some Trumpet PAC or Super PAC.

  23. Our Indiana Senator Mike Braun cited the fact that 39% of the voters (67% of Republican voters) believe there was voter fraud as his reason for supporting invalidating the Electoral College votes.

    The reason 39% of voters believe this, is because seditious politicians like Mike Braun keep pandering to the liar in chief by supporting his baseless and unsubstantiated claims.

  24. I say again…

    We are mistaken to conclude that America is faced with a MERE conflict and/or befuddled obfuscation over what is Truth. That has passed us by. It’s over. At least, according to some of the “minds” behind Trumpism, such as Steve Bannon.

    Bannon says that war over Truth is OVER and they — the Trumpists –have won. Paraphrasing Bannon:

    From now, on Truth is what WE say it is, and the only job regarding Truth for the rest of you is to react to the Truth which WE dictate.

    So, maybe Bannon and the Trumpites overestimated their superiority by seven million votes, but that more clearly explains their hysteria over election results…and their insane determination to overturn the election.

    We are NOT dangerously in a state of Truth confusion, as all of you conclude; WE ARE DANGEROUSLY IN A STATE OF FALSITY ACQUIESCENCE, giving into Alternate “Facts”, acceding to the Trumpite/Bannon dictated “Truth”.

    This tragedy of Lost Truth is existential. It cannot and will not be turned right by closer examination of the various contentions of Truth. Or by just a bit more education.

    It can only be corrected by closer attention to dry powder, the population of weaponry in the armory and the mettle in the gut.

    Make no mistake: it is war, a war that already rages to the very tipping point, very likely to be determined within the next 16 days, perhaps by the mere introduction of a few thousand guns and crazies into the streets.

    So, this is the Trumpist strategy: that hysteria among Trumpist leaders played to the Shakespearean hilt — even leaked recorded phone calls — will bring those game-turner guns into the street in a last second cavalry charge; it’s the strategy of madmen, but it’s a more formidable strategy than our liberal strategy of soft, never-calloused hand-wringing Liberal hope in Truth that has lost its leverage.

  25. I want to isolate this contention from my above entry: it deserves special attention…because so far no one, here or in national media, has put it out there in its bare, unequivocal bones.

    The Trumpist strategy is …that hysterical victimhood among Trumpist leaders PLAYED TO THE SHAKESPEAREAN HILT— including deliberately leaked recorded phone calls — will bring those game-turner guns into the street in a last second cavalry charge to save Trump’s election. No order need be given. No illegal request for violence can be attributed to Trump. A simple whine played just right will suffice, and the Deplorable Militias will hear the siren summons.

    Don’t short Trump on subtlety; it may not be in his intellectual makeup, but it is in his gangster shrewdness and coached by a cadre of lawyers.

  26. Larry,

    While I share your vision of where things are headed in the coming weeks, it seems to me that truth may have a second act in this Shakespearean drama. The loudest truth is the first word spoken, and he who owns the microphone – soon to be Biden – is the spokesman. Trumpists will soon switch to response mode, and only to the extent that the press allows them will they continue to receive the attention they’ve enjoyed since 2016. Internecine war will confuse their voice, and Republicans like Hawley and Cruz will make the party look even daffier as they spar over the 2024 nomination. Without Trump lurking, some Republicans may attempt to reclaim the party’s center and dress up the platitudes they’ve muttered since the end of WWII. The party will agree on little apart from obstruction. Their lot becomes even harder if they lose Georgia. They’ve handed us a bag full of ammo to use against them (election fraud, Covid, ineptitude on all fronts, racism). If they can drown us out while we hold the microphone and they are spewing nonsense, maybe we don’t have a marketable message. And demography favors Democrats.

  27. Marv: Dang-it, Marv, get on back in here! You’re a man of few words, thank God, and those few words mean a lot! I miss your input!

  28. Betty,

    Marv said to tell you he’s good, and he is perusing the blog as we speak. Also, he appreciates your support!

    He’s involved with some other stuff, but he said he will try to make an appearance every so often! And, he is truly involved in a lot of stuff right now. He said keep the faith and hang tough, he also said you have the grit, and that you would know what that means?!?!?!

  29. John’s reference to Neville Chamberlain and Larry’s comment about this not being a “mere” conflict or obfuscation are on the mark.

    So Trump solicits election fraud on a phone call and I hear – “well, let’s not get carried away” – “maybe a censure” – “he could claim he has no grasp of reality and isn’t culpable” — balderdash.

    I also blame all of those judges – 60 cases and not a single ding for bringing a frivolous lawsuit – the “media” was long in calling Trump a liar, and hedged on that – He is a LIAR – the lawsuits are all balderdash and the judges should have stated so clearly – $50-100K fine for the attorneys (maybe more, I don’t know the limits) – Then we would have had the Judicial Branch of the government screaming LIAR. Since they didn’t, well, maybe it’s true?

    Even tonight, Chris Hayes referred to the Republicans as a “center right party” – Really? Maybe 40-50 years ago. They are far right, bordering on authoritarian. They are closer to Hungary’s Orban and Turkey’s Erdogan — edging towards Putin and Kim Jong-un.

    We sugar-coat, euphemize, soft-pedal, and “give a pass”. We have to quit excusing the “stupid”, but especially the “panderers” and call them out. They are giving aid and comfort to the enemies of America and promoting the overthrow of our Constitution and our way of governing. They are Traitors plain and simple, violating their oaths of office, and deserve universal condemnation.

    BTW – John – great final comment yesterday – I so agree with your solution.

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