The Way We Are

Persuasion’s Yascha Mounk recently interviewed Rachel Kleinfeld, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Kleinfeld’s response to a question about interpreting the midterm results, and whether those results showed a rejection of  extremism and election denialism, was–in my opinion–an important summary of just where we Americans find ourselves politically, and although it was rather lengthy, I’m quoting it in its entirety:

The election showed that with a gigantic amount of work on behalf of many, many organizations, you can move a tiny percentage of independent and right-leaning swing voters away from election denialism and real authoritarianism in swing states. That mattered a lot, because it means that the 2024 election will be free and fair. But what it didn’t do was fundamentally shift the dynamics in the Republican Party. While Trump might be losing steam, Trumpism, Christian nationalism, othering people to build your base with wink-and-nod authoritarianism, is still alive and well. We’re seeing DeSantis do it. We’re seeing other front runners do it. We saw candidate intimidation. We still saw election deniers win in deep red states. We have about 16 states now where there’s trifectas—a state in which the governor, the attorney general and both chambers of the legislature (basically all of your major executive roles that would control elections) are all of one party. In about 15, maybe 16 states, those are all Republican and a number of election deniers were elected to those positions. It’s worth remembering that the Jim Crow South was only 11 states, really, in its full form of election suppression against African Americans and poor whites. It doesn’t take the entire United States to have an authoritarian enclave somewhere. The role of the RNC in Arizona was notable. Arizona is really the only place we saw any kind of election violence, with the supervisor of Maricopa County elections going into hiding. An RNC phone call seems to suggest that the Republican National Committee was possibly threatening that the mob would be released if certain things didn’t happen. 

A significant minority of Americans continue to embrace “Trumpism, Christian Nationalism and ‘othering'” and the most obvious question is why?  Those of us who follow politics and policy answer that question with various allocations of racism, anti-intellectualism and (especially) fear of loss–loss of privilege, loss of social dominance.

As Kleinfeld highlighted, attacks on the bases of America’s governing philosophy are being nurtured and encouraged by today’s GOP. 

Devoted Republicans with whom I worked “back in the day”–when the GOP was a very different animal– bemoan the reality that the party that bears that name has no resemblance to the party we once knew. The lack of  two respectable, adult parties in America’s two-party system is more than troubling for a multitude of reasons, many of which I have previously explored, but in a recent column, Jennifer Rubin discussed a  consequence that had not occurred to me: the GOP’s disdain for objective fact attracts voters and candidates who also believe facts to be irrelevant and governance beside the point.

Rubin calls this “politics as performance art,” and references GOP fabulists besides George Santos. She says that Republicans have moved on from the party’s lies about climate change, vaccines and voter fraud — they’re increasingly lying about themselves.

Granted, it would be hard to beat Santos for lying, and no one else (to the best of our knowledge) comes close. But not for lack of trying. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna has claimed to be Jewish– to have been raised as a “Messianic Jew.” (Messianic Jews aren’t Jews, for one thing, and it seems her father was Catholic and her grandfather fought for Nazi Germany.)

She changed her last name from Mayerhofer to Luna, and The Post found no evidence for her claims that her father was incarcerated for long periods. Other claims that she was traumatized by a home invasion in 2010 did not check out, either.

Rep. Andrew Ogles is not an economist, despite claiming to be one during his campaign-he has no degree in economics and was never employed as an economist. He also wasn’t a “trained police officer and international sex crimes expert,” as claimed; he was actually a volunteer reserve deputy. (Shades of Hershel Walker…)

It isn’t only in folks running for Congress. Arizona’s Republican attorney general investigated election fraud, then buried the findings when  no evidence emerged. (The documents were just released  by his Democratic successor.)

If it is “harmless exaggeration” to fabricate a life story, and “politics as usual” to insist that your election loss was due to vote fraud, what are assertions that “those people” want to replace White Christians, or that “woke” people are indoctrinating your children?

When such people hold office, how can we hope for governance based upon evidence and reason?


  1. Today’s blog certainly captures the national psychosis regarding politics. Yet, it remains the 25% of Americans who create 75% of this nonsense, fear, bigotry and utter stupidity. Winning and power have clearly supplanted governing in the GOP. MTG, Boebert, Gosar (Whose brother called him unhinged) and so many other Republicans are representing that 25% of the lunatics who fear their own shadows…mostly, I suspect, because shadows tend to be black.

    The solution to breaking the social stalemate is for the 75% to get off their asses and out-shout, out-vote and out-perform the 25% in every way. Over 90% of the 25% vote, while barely 50% of the 75% do. THAT is why the red states have their trifectas.

    If the nation doesn’t destroys itself beforehand, we have only a couple of chances to rectify this situation. Do something to push back against the disgusting fascists like DeSantis. Show them what the 75% stand for and what real power is.

  2. “A significant minority of Americans continue to embrace “Trumpism, Christian Nationalism and ‘othering’”.” Indeed. And as the long quote makes clear, it wouldn’t take a majority of Americans, or even of so-called “conservatives,” to reach a critical mass that tips us into chaos.

  3. Have you seen the Indiana Republican Governor calling out the big lie? Did you ever see him on TV telling the Rubes and Boobs that Joe Biden won and is the real President? I know I did not see that. The supposedly NON Crazy Republicans refuse to stand up and say STOP THE BULL SHIT. They cower in fear of their crazy base. They vote for more crazy crap – more victimizing the “other”. We are a long way from any resolution of this mess. Good Luck America.

  4. “…you can move a tiny percentage of independent and right-leaning swing voters away from election denialism and real authoritarianism in swing states. That mattered a lot, because it means that the 2024 election will be free and fair.”

    Kleinfeld overrides her own brief conclusion regarding our 2024 election being “free and fair” in the remainder of her comments. Those comments explain why we are where we are and going nowhere fast with the Republican slim majority in the House forcing inaction as their agenda on the silent and idle Republicans who continue voting with them while muttering against them out of the sides of their mouths. They also have their slim minority in the Senate holding up action while awaiting results of the House investigations of anything and anyone Democratic to maintain MAGA’s stronghold, with or without Trump. It was Trump’s deal with the Afghanistan government to remove our troops by the end of May 2021; all President Biden could accomplish was extending the date to the end of August. Trump’s deregulation, including those of the EPA, is the crux of any problem regarding our assistance in New Palestine, Ohio and shipping hazardous waste to Michigan and Texas. Republican House committees are investigating President Biden and Sec. Pete Buttigieg for their lack of action which is now law as set up by Trump and those on the current Republican investigative committees, sans any Democratic members. A Catch 22 situation for the Democratic lawmakers. All of which is endangering the outcome of the 2024 election at all levels. This IS “The Way We Are” and democracy, Rule of Law and the Constitution of the UNITED States of America are at stake.

    “When such people hold office, how can we hope for governance based upon evidence and reason?”

    How, indeed!!!

  5. We’ve moved from the period of the Great Enlightenment to the Great Resentment. Their laws and policies are against their political foes – back and forth we go…

    If you’ve ever had resentments against a person, place, or institution, you’ll know it’s based on the stories we tell ourselves – partial truth.

    While we process these resentments, we learn more of the truth, and the grievances fade. For example, many people who identify with a political party are learning that the oligarchy funds politicians. The politicos work for Big Railroad. Once that grievance (resentment) shifts to the truth, they will look at the political institution.

    To me, this is their Enlightenment Period. And then, the growth continues, it doesn’t stop…it’s continual, but there are many who want to stop right where they’re at today.

  6. By the way, this should stir up a resentment (grievance) or two:

    “The University of Central Florida (UCF), one of the state’s public universities, has a robust program in Women’s and Gender Studies. More than 170 current students have chosen to minor in Women’s and Gender Studies, a curriculum that “emphasizes intersectional approaches to the study of gender, race, class, ethnicity, and sexuality in national and transnational contexts.” The program’s courses include Intro to Gender Studies, Women and Leadership, and Theories on Masculinity.

    Under new legislation championed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R), however, UCF’s program — and similar programs at other public colleges and universities in Florida — would be banned.”

  7. To be quite frank about it, I’m not sure we ever did have “governance based upon evidence and reason.” It’s always been easier to gin up fear than rationality and most of what gets accomplished is a mishmash designed not to offend the fearful. That’s why we don’t have universal healthcare, why we don’t have effective low cost housing programs, why we don’t have universal paid leave, and why we still have food deserts, high infant and mother mortality among people of color, and too many other bad things for me to mention.

  8. As a child of evangelicalism, I began to recognize their alternative narratives about reality early on. I guess my only salvation was attending public schools, where I discovered diverse people, science (vs creationism), logic, critical thinking, progressive ideas, and worldviews that were not all hell-bent as I had been taught in the church. That their alternative universe has persisted, become a metastatic cancer and now manifests itself as a co-opted force behind liars for profit and power is no surprise to me. I tried to work from the inside to counter its excesses for decades, but evangelicals isolate and expel rational voices like a virus. They have become the straw man they created to hate and now believe all that they do or deny or distort or destroy is in the name of God and for the preservation of the nation. Sigh.

  9. While I don’t have data in front of me my impression is that in the countries that went full Nazi pre-WWII, the percentage of ardent extremists was also not a majority. But that is the real threat of right-wing extremism. Intimidation works. Once civility and rules are off the table, power is well on the way to winning. Too many people are not extreme in their hearts but go along to get along.

    Trump has built his power precisely by that principle. Don’t follow any rules. Intimidate, belittle, diminish, insult and some will cower. That’s how he’s come to define the Republican Party and now he’s taught them those techniques. MTG is a miniature Trump. So is Loren Boebert. So is Jim Jordan. They have done to McCarthy exactly what Trump did post Jan 6.

    Is the intimidation spreading or diminishing? I believe that it tends to spread. Trump will die soon or run next year and get beat once again but his legacy is more or less a permanent philosophy baked into the GOP.

  10. Strong rant Pete! Four more cents…despite the “huge” turnout in 2020, one third of eligible folks didn’t. The voters who are not registered GOP or DEM are the majority “party”. The trust in all government institutions, especially at the Federal level is abysmal and falling. With Biden at the head of the ticket, folks with yawn…Deep darkness is on the way…

  11. Pete,

    I have to agree with Lester, insightful rant! An excellent job of identifying The symptoms of the disease. But what about the festering cause of it?


    I think that’s an excellent diagnosis. Vernon brought out an interesting sequiloquy which I have mulled over with myself many times. The shadow!

    Just like the approaching shadow, dark, devoid of direct light, valley of shadows, equates to a death! The Boogeyman lives in the shadows, he thrives in the dark. And I have to agree with both of you! The fear of that black shadow makes that deep void of darkness even darker and deeper. Despair and apathy dwell in darkness. So does insurrection and treason, so does criminality!

    I suppose those who seem to be unhinged, those who wish to, fabulize themselves, it has to be done in the open, at least there’s light on it. Self-a-grandizing and self-fabulizing, seem to be both sides of the same coin!

    I think the eventual backlash is going to be jaw-dropping. But it really is not going to save anything, it is though, going to make a big mess even bigger.

    Sheila brought out the Messianic Jews, and granted, the Messianic Jews are really not Jewish at least the vast majority.

    Jesus Christ was a Jew, his apostles were Jews, and, he made it clear that he was not here to minister to the gentiles, he was here to minister to the Jews. Unfortunately, the hierarchy of the Sanhedrin didn’t want to hear that, and were Dead set against anything Jesus Christ had to say about being the Son of God. As a matter of fact, that very thing was used to have him put to death. The gentiles were ministered to after the death of Christ, beginning in 33 CE. Approximately 6 months after the execution of Christ. And in actuality, during the festival of firstfruits, in Jerusalem, those Jews and Judaism proselytes or practicers of Judaism, we’re converted to be followers of Christ and went back to their own countries of origin as disciples to spread Christ’s law. Those would be the real Messianic Jews.

    Of course like everything else, and like today, The attempt to rewrite history for one’s personal benefit is alluring but dishonest.

    It’s human nature, and human nature has a bad heart!

    Read; Matthew 24:15-22, Luke 21:20 – 24 discusses the ravaging of Jerusalem, and refers to Daniel 9:26, 27. The same is brought out in Mark 13: 14 – 20.

    All of these things were written by those who were born in the Jewish faith. These were the true Messianic Jews, and not the Protestants of today claiming that title! Of course There is a caveat, Daniel was a prophet and definitely not a Messianic Jew.

    It was brought out earlier in this thread, that people went along to get along, that didn’t mean They didn’t know what they were doing was wrong, It just helped their own suquiloquy of the mind, they convince themselves, they absolved their conscience to allow them their misdeeds.

  12. “Performance art!” Aye, there’s the rub!
    Peggy, I think you have it right, about “governance.” None of the issues you mention
    is an “issue” in the real European democracies, as far as I understand it.
    Joann, one’s calling put the Rubes and the Boobs, on the facts of the 2020 election would, almost
    certainly, result in a loss of funding for the next election cycle, as well as get the one’s rabid
    former fellow travelers, officials and not, up in arms.
    The Republicans have known for decades that the only way to hold onto power has been to
    cheat, exactly what they accuse the Dems of doing, in true demagoguerish style.

  13. Any time I read “independent voters” I crack up. Someone defined independent voters as republicans who are too embarrassed to identify themselves in public. For example, If there are true “independent voters” Trump, Youngkin, and Santos, could not have won their elections.

  14. I seem to remember that sometime back in the 2970’s it became taboo to call any statement a lie or any person a liar. I’m glad to see that taboo currently being lifted. While I don’t like seeing the accusation thrown around without evidence to support it, some statements are lies and some people are liars. Refusing to acknowledge this weakens our defences against them. And defense is needed because they can be lethal, especially the big lies and the shameless liars.

  15. kembilk – When I read your post….”Independent” voters are strongly non-partisan and non-ideological and trust few “pols” with governing, so…they vote less often today.

  16. Many years ago, I read a book about politicians (can’t remember the title) that suggested that Taft had a choice of turning the party over to Roosevelt and keeping the Republicans in power, or keeping control of the party and losing the election. He chose to preserve the Party, and after Wilson’s term in office, the GOP came back in the pro-monopoly, pro-business form that Taft favored. He also got his place on the Supreme Court.

    Today”s GOP have chosen the opposite. They have ceded power to MAGA, rather than vote for a “ugh” Democrat. If today’s GOP (not counting those who have left) truly cared about having a rational Republican party, they would have to work hard to get the MAGA crew totally thrashed at the polls. Instead they talk about supporting the so-called moderates, who sit back and let the MAGA crowd rule.

    The solution, as Vernon suggested, is to organize all non-MAGA voters and get them to the polls.
    In the words of Joe Hill – “Don’t mourn; organize!”

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