Monday, May 10, 2021


The Republican Party is engaging in a high-profile bad act -- it's about to make Liz Cheney an unperson -- so, naturally, some in the "liberal media" are thinking: How can we blame this on both sides? Obviously, the purge of Cheney by the Republicans must be partially the Republicans' fault, but there's no way it can be entirely their fault! Right?

According to Hayes Brown, writing for NBC News. the rest of the blame goes to Twitter, for kicking Donald Trump off the platform. What's the connection between that and Cheney's upcoming show trial? I've read Brown's explanation more than once, and I barely understand it. Hayes writes:
I would say Trump is actually in a precarious position. Even as he holds court at Mar-a-Lago for a stream of GOP luminaries seeking to kiss the ring, it's still unclear exactly how much juice Trump the person holds inside the party versus Trump the brand....

... Trump's vision for tearing down the walls against autocracy has found a home in the Republican Party. And without his particular attention-grabbing self-aggrandizement, two things are happening.

First, it's allowing the work to proceed unhindered. Without Trump's constant interjections to sway priorities, Republicans are basically working on autopilot, like a computer in a post-apocalyptic world still running protocols based on the last commands put into its mainframe. It's the kind of plodding, relatively long-term strategic thinking — even if it's in the interest of short-term goals like winning elections — that's impossible with Trump looming over you, dropping new tweets into his feed every few hours that upend whatever you've been working on.
If I understand this correctly, Brown is saying that Trump himself has lost a lot of clout, but Trump's ideas, particularly about elections, have become GOP dogma. I'd say that means he hasn't lost any clout in the GOP at all, but Hayes is a professional pundit and I'm not, so he must be much smarter than I am.

Brown goes on to say that Trump's absence from Twitter makes it impossible for him to dominate everyone's attention. But Brown also says that Republicans are following his orders anyway. So what difference does it make whether he's on Twitter or not? Well, according to Brown, if Trump were on Twitter, he'd be contradicting himself several times a day, and Republicans wouldn't be quite so relentless about their pursuit of his agenda because the agenda itself would keep changing.

But why would it be changing now? What's motivating Trump is personal vengeance. Trump changes his mind about some things, but one thing he never changes his mind about is wanting to destroy anyone who's displeased him. Brown says Trump couldn't maintain focus when he was on Twitter, but if that's the case, he did a remarkable job of faking it between Election Day and his post-January 6 ban. We had a surge of COVID cases, we had vaccines to distribute, we had a presidential transition that needed to be conducted in an orderly fashion, and we had a country desperate for an additional round of pandemic relief -- and yet all Trump could focus on was the alleged election "steal." He's perfectly capable of concentrating on one subject if the subject is directly connected to his ego.

So Brown is wrong -- Trump's election agenda and the purge of Cheney would actually be a more urgent priority for the GOP if Trump were still on Twitter, because Trump would be tweeting about nothing else. What else does Brown say?
And second, it's allowing Republicans to work in the relative shadows. Yes, my fellow columnists and I have been raising the alarm about the GOP's attempts to infuse Trump's lies into state election laws for months. But it's also true that without Trump commanding the microphone, it has become easier to tune out these warnings. Even in March, just two months into the Biden era, audience numbers were falling across the news industry compared to when Trump was in office.
But when Trump was on Twitter -- and was in the White House -- he tried to steal the election in plain sight, using every means at his disposal, and many Republicans were right there with him. He was stopped, but not because we were paying attention. He was stopped because he didn't hire competent lawyers and never found actual evidence of election theft, and because, fortunately, there were enough officials in both parties who didn't want the legitimate election results overturned.

Removing Trump from Twitter hasn't made it easier for Republicans to pass new vote suppression laws and purge Liz Cheney. They passed vote suppression laws with great ease during Trump's presidency, and before it. They purged anti-Trump legislators like Jeff Flake and Justin Amash while Trump was in office.

But the media loves shifting blame from Republicans, doesn't it?

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