Who Votes For These Clowns?

At the recent CPAC meeting, Donald Trump gave a rambling, largely incoherent speech during which he promised attendees that–if re-elected–he would be their “retribution.”

Maybe that’s the clue. Maybe the voters who cast their ballots for obviously mentally-ill candidates are seeking retribution– using those ballots as weapons, as signals of hostility to a society that they believe has failed to properly appreciate them.

Or perhaps they are as nutty as the Congresscritters Dana Milbank recently profiled., Maybe they suffer from what he labeled “long covidiocy.”

The pandemic has faded, but one of the least understood effects of the virus still eludes treatment: There is no known cure for long covidiocy.

House Republicans presented with a textbook case of the ailment this week. The newly formed select subcommittee on the coronavirus pandemic met for the first time for what its chairman, Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), said would be some “Monday-morning quarterbacking.” It instead became a Tuesday afternoon of false starts and illegal blocks.

Republicans on the panel, some of them medical doctors and others just playing one on TV, offered their predictable assessments. Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) kicked off with the unsupported allegation that “covid was intentionally released” from a Chinese lab because “it would be impossible for the virus to be accidentally leaked.”

Rep. Richard McCormick (R-Ga.) advanced the ball by informing the panel that coronavirus booster shots “do more harm than good.”

And then, of course, Marjorie Taylor Greene secured her position as the poster child for lunacy, testifying about a stunning (albeit wholly imaginary) medical discovery: “Researchers found that the vaccinated are at least twice as likely to be infected with covid as the unvaccinated and those with natural immunity.”

As Milbank responded, “Thank you, Dr. Jewish Space Lasers.”

The panel heard from three scientists who had championed a herd-immunity approach to covid. Two of them had co-authored a 2020 publication in which they argued for just letting COVID run wild through the general population.

Marty Makary, a Johns Hopkins surgeon and Fox News regular, suggested (among other things) that Dr. Fauci had bribed people in the medical community to dissemble about the virus.

Makary is the guy who predicted in late February 2021 that “covid will be mostly gone by April.” He was also the source of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s dubious claim that face masks cause unhealthy levels of carbon dioxide in children’s blood.

Another witness, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University (also a Fox News regular, on matters medical and nonmedical), had called coronavirus testing “actively harmful” and warned about “great harm” and “danger” from vaccination. He worked on a study that claimed the covid death rate was similar to the flu’s, and he argued in March 2020 that “there’s little evidence” that “the novel coronavirus would kill millions” if left unchecked….

Milbank noted that the Trump Administration embraced these scientific outliers; they became right-wing celebrities, and their fantasies promoted resistance to masks and vaccines. The results of that resistance are now being tabulated;  actual research confirms that  covid deaths in counties that voted for Trump vastly exceeded the death toll in counties that went for Biden.

The hearing that was the subject of Milbank’s column raised a number of questions, the most obvious of which is why on earth presumably serious public officials would provide a platform to people promoting “facts” and conspiracies that medical science has conclusively disproven.

That question, of course, leads us back to the central conundrum of our times: the voters who support these deranged people. Who looks at a Marjorie Taylor Greene or a Paul Gosar (whose siblings took out a TV ad warning voters that he was nuts) or the multiple others who are at best an embarrassment and at worst a threat to America’s civic fabric, and thinks “Yes, I want that jerk to represent me”?

What sort of seething vitriol impels an American voter to cast a ballot for a candidate who doesn’t even try to present a rational facade? Who chooses the candidate who proudly parades bigotry while exhibiting an utter lack of  temperament and gravitas?

The answer, evidently, is “the GOP base”–voters looking for White Christian retribution.

Those voters are in the minority, so in order to win elections, Republicans need to depress overall turnout.  Like Republicans elsewhere, Indiana’s GOP is working on that.

 Governing recently reported

The Indiana Senate Committee on Elections heard testimony Monday concerning an absentee voting measure that would change who may deliver absentee ballot applications to voters and what proof of identification is required from voters to be able to obtain a ballot…

Voters’ and civil rights’ organizations say the measure duplicates existing processes and laws and will disenfranchise the most vulnerable of voters: the elderly, disabled and members of the military.

 Extreme gerrymandering evidently wasn’t anti-democratic enough…


How Has It Come To This?

One of the Republican Congressmen who voted for the extremely popular infrastructure bill has reported getting death threats.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) — a moderate who voted for the infrastructure package — said during an interview Monday evening on CNN that a caller left a message with his office that was filled with expletives and called him a traitor. “I hope you die,” the caller said, adding that he hoped everybody in his family died as well.

Paul Gosar–one of several GOP Representatives who are clearly and demonstrably mentally ill– posted a “cartoon” video of himself killing Democratic Congresswoman AOC. (In Gosar’s case, it’s notable that all six of his siblings ran an ad opposing him in the last election cycle; you really need to be “out there” for your family to publicly warn that you pose a danger…)

If these and similar examples were equally “out there”–that is, if the party leadership was distancing itself from its racists, anti-Semites and other assorted nut cases– it would be troubling enough. But the party not only isn’t distancing itself, it has arguably stopped behaving like a political party that needs to appeal to as many voters as possible, and has stopped even the pretense of caring about governing or policy or the future of the country.

This recent headline from the Washington Post would have been unthinkable not that long ago: “Tensions rise among Republicans over infrastructure bill and whether any agreement with Biden should be tolerated.”

Republicans are increasingly divided over the bipartisan infrastructure bill that will soon become law, with tensions rising among GOP members over whether the party should remain united against all aspects of President Biden’s agenda or strike deals in the rare instances when there is common ground.

Former president Donald Trump has led the call to trash the bill while deriding Republicans who voted for the measure, saying they should be “ashamed of themselves” for “helping the Democrats.”

Politicians have always played partisan hardball, but until recently, they have done their best to portray that game-playing as zeal to protect a policy goal –to prevent excessive spending, or government over-reach, or to protect “state’s rights.” (Dissident Democrats with personal agendas still maintain that public posture–Manchin comes to mind.) Incredibly, however, today’s GOP no longer even pretends that concerns for the common good or responsible governance are involved. As the article notes, the “divisions and hard feelings over the bill reflect the degree to which Republicans have defined themselves heading into the 2022 midterms as being against whatever Biden and the Democrats are for.”

We now know why the Republicans didn’t bother to craft a platform for the 2020 election: the party is simply against whatever the President of the United States is for. No matter whether a Presidential proposal is good for the country, no matter if it is popular even among the rabid base of their own party, if the President wants it, they oppose it.

Publicly. Unashamedly.Incomprehensibly.

Several media outlets have reported that allies of Trump are advocating for more than criticizism of party members who voted to repair the nation’s decaying infrastructure. They are proposing to punish them, particularly those who hold senior committee positions.

Former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said in interview on Stephen K. Bannon’s “War Room”podcast Tuesday that all 13 members should “absolutely” be stripped of their committee assignments by House leadership in the coming days.

This isn’t traditional politics, and the pathetic remnants of what used to be a normal political party can no longer be viewed as political actors.  They are consigliere and henchmen to the aptly-named Don.

I have to believe that there is a limit to just how long Republican gerrymandering and vote suppression can protect people who lack even enough shame to impel pretense; these  corrupt and clueless empty suits don’t care about governing, and they are uninterested in  feigning concern for the people they are supposed to be serving.

They are willing to be exactly who and what they are.