Tuesday, December 08, 2020


Michelle Goldberg is right: Relatively harmless acts of politcal rudeness by Democrats and progressives routinely send right-thinking citizens to fainting couches, while the same citizens shrug off violent threats by right-wingers.
Perhaps you remember the terrible ordeal suffered by the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the Red Hen in 2018. She was awaiting her entree at the Virginia farm-to-table restaurant when the co-owner, appalled by Sanders’s defense of Donald Trump’s administration, asked her to leave. This happened three days after the homeland security secretary at the time, Kirstjen Nielsen, was yelled at for the administration’s family separation policy as she tried to dine at a Mexican restaurant in Washington.

These two insults launched a thousand thumb-suckers about civility....

Somehow, though, few are asking the same question of Republicans as Trump devotees terrorize election workers and state officials over the president’s relentless lies about voter fraud. Michigan’s secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, described her family’s experience this past weekend: “As my 4-year-old son and I were finishing up decorating the house for Christmas on Saturday night, and he was about to sit down and to watch ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas,’ dozens of armed individuals stood outside my home shouting obscenities and chanting into bullhorns in the dark of night.”

So far, what happened to Benson doesn’t appear to be turning into a big cultural moment.
It isn't a big cultural moment partly because, as Goldberg says, shows of aggression by weapon-wielding right-wingers are seen as signs of heartland "authenticity," but also because Republicans don't need to be a majoritarian party -- they can use the Electoral College to win the presidency without winning the popular vote, they can control the Senate based on dominance of smaller rural states, and they can control state legislative bodies via gerrymandering. So Republicans can afford to alienate centrist voters. Democrats can't.

However, Goldberg sees a way out:
One thing would change this dynamic overnight: a Democratic victory in the Georgia Senate runoffs on Jan. 5. Republicans might learn that there’s a price for aligning themselves with a president trying to thwart the will of the electorate. They might regret the arrogance of Senator David Perdue, who didn’t deign to show up for a Sunday night debate with his Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff. Trumpism might come to be seen as an electoral albatross, and Republicans would have an incentive to rejoin the reality everyone else operates in.
Nahhh. If Democrats win both runoffs, we'll hear even more talk from "authentic" angry Republicans about stolen elections, despite the fact that GOP officials will have overseen the two runoffs. D.C. Republicans will privately ask themselves whether they're out of touch with the zeitgeist, but publicly they'll just demand even more restrictions on voting by Democrats. Goldberg's colleague Jamelle Bouie is right:
The upshot of all of this — the charges of fraud, the refusal to acknowledge the president’s defeat — is a party prepared to do even more than it already has to restrict voting. “This election has shown we need major reforms to our election systems, including voter ID laws across the nation, to protect against fraud and rebuild the American people’s trust in fair outcomes,” Senator Rick Scott of Florida said in a statement touting a federal bill that would introduce a strict ID requirement in addition to making it more difficult to get a mail-in ballot. Representative Dan Crenshaw of Texas has similarly called for new ID requirements and a crackdown on mail-in voting. And Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky told his Twitter followers to “look at the evidence” of fraud “and decide for yourself” while he shared a conspiratorial blog post on “anomalies in vote counts.”
Regardless of how the Georgia runoffs turn out, "authentic" Republicans in trucker hats won't stop demanding that the results of the 2020 presidential election be overturned. How do you think these folks will act if the Senate goes Democratic in a swing state where they think the presidential election was stolen from them?

And the media will just drop the word "baseless" into every story as a description of what these people are arguing, and assume that's sufficient, while devoting paragraph after paragraph to depictions of their protests. The media will continue giving airtime and column inches to prominent Republicans who cry fraud. The fraud idea will rapidly become normalized.

And don't forget that if Democrats seize control of the Senate, even 50-50 with Joe Manchin as the swing vote, all the talk in the media will be about potential Democratic "extremism." Court-packing! New states! The Green New Deal! There'll be armed right-wing thugs in the streets, but we'll be talking about left-wing radicalism.

Republicans won't be scared if they lose two runoffs in Georgia. They know how few seats they'll have to flip in the House and Senate in 2022 to seize control of Congress. And they know that until the media and the Democratic Party start talking about the extremism of the entire GOP, they'll control the narrative.

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