Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Repub Mayday

(Tom Toles via GoComics.com)

Cry me an ocean, I’m sure. For some reason, FYWP won’t let me copy and paste from the article, but Eric Levitz’s Trump’s Base Has Become Too Delusional for the GOP’s Own Good in NYMag is worth reading.

Open Thread: Repubs Running… for Cover

(Jim Morin via GoComics.com)

Don’t lose hope just yet, we’re scaring the bastids. From Jonathan Swan at Axios, “A blue wave is obscuring a red exodus”:

Dave Wasserman, the Cook Political Report’s House analyst, says the most under-covered aspect of 2018 is that “a blue wave is obscuring a red exodus.” Republican House members are retiring at a startling clip — a trend that senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told me earlier this year was worrying her more than any other trend affecting the midterms.

What’s happening: There are 43 Republican seats now without an incumbent on the ballot. That’s more than one out of every six Republicans in the House — a record in at least a century, Wasserman says.

Why this matters: Just in the past eight months, the number of vulnerable Republican seats has almost doubled, according to Wasserman. Democrats need to win 23 seats to claim control of the House. Today, the Cook Political Report rates 37 Republican-held seats as toss-ups or worse. At the beginning of the year, it was only 20.

The big picture: Wasserman says the most important sign that 2018 will be a “wave” year — with Democrats winning control of the House — is the intensity gap between the two parties. In polls, Democrats consistently rate their interest in voting as significantly higher than Republicans. And Democrats have voted in extraordinary numbers in the special elections held the past year, despite Republicans holding on to win almost all of these races…

Open Thread: Steve Bannon, Holding A Boombox Under Donald’s Window

As Simon Maloy notes at MMA, Bannon is scattering those “exclusives” around like candy corn at a sad Halloween party. How humiliating must it be for a guy of Steve’s multifarious talents to be reduced to making little political trailers for the yammering Deplorables, as though he were a try-hard like that Dinesh dweeb? Steve is a macher, a BSD, just ask him! — why won’t the Important People around Donald answer his calls any more?

Tina Nguyen, at Vanity Fair:

On Thursday morning, Axios unveiled, with some skepticism, Steve Bannon’s latest attempt to re-insert himself into Donald Trump’s good graces: the trailer for Trump @ War, a documentary purporting to show the violent liberal backlash against voters who chose to make America great again. It is a fairly simple trailer, featuring footage that appears to show Trump supporters clashing with leftist antifa rioters, a generic, ominous orchestral soundtrack, and footage of CNN anchor and fake-news avatar Don Lemon ripping on Trump’s policies, interspersed with Trump’s favorite talking heads (Sebastian Gorka, Corey Lewandowski) and Bannon’s own personal allies (Raheem Kassam) calling for a midterm war. Their thesis: the midterms are a Trump “re-election campaign,” and voting in November is akin to voting Trump back into office—an easy case to make, considering prominent Democrats have repeatedly called for his impeachment. In an interview with Axios, Bannon insisted that the film would practically flood the polls with Trump voters—“If you’re a deplorable, you’ll literally be standing on your chair with your pitchfork saying: ‘I’ve got to get people out to vote’”—but also tipped his hand as to the film’s real purpose: “How jacked do we think Trump will be when he sees this?”

It was a typical Bannon move, both tonally and strategically. As one person who formerly worked with him told me, “He always used his second-rate filmmaking to get in with celebrities.” But this time, Bannon’s charm offensive included a few extra goodies to sweeten his re-entry: a new populist-nationalist political group called Citizens of the American Republic, a September event called the “Deplorables Conference” to coincide with the film’s premiere, and, of course, as much public praise as he could feasibly lavish on Trump. For any other ex-Trump employee, this would seems like overkill. But Bannon, whom Trump decimated in a statement as a leaker who had ”lost his mind,” has innumerable sins for which to atone. Not only was he directly responsible for the Republican Party losing the Alabama Senate special election to a Democrat, but he trashed Trump’s own children to a reporter, suggesting that Donald Trump Jr. had committed treason for holding a meeting with Russian lawyers. Even worse, he had reportedly begun mulling a challenge to Trump in 2020…

It was a bluff, Donny! A cry for attention!

Bannon’s loathsome, but he’s not stupid. He knows that he doesn’t wear well among normal human subcommunities — every few years, he has to start another Big Project with a new batch of potential marks. The whole Trump White House gig was supposed to be his ticket into serious politics, a platform where he could finally blossom into the Kissingeresque Great Strategist he knows he was born to play. If only he could’ve resisted blowing off steam to that Wolff dude! If only Rebekah Mercer hadn’t been so invested in her own dreams of being the next Pamela Harriman!…

Well, alea iacta est — the die is cast. And the reviews are… not kind.

Even worse, there’s a twitter hashtag — #stevebannonamovie

Friday Evening Open Thread: SPACE FORCE! Forces Space!

Riveted by the sociological significance of it all…

Per the Hill:

VoteVets, an organization that focuses on nonpartisan education and advocacy on behalf veterans and their families, said on Twitter that it has submitted a Letter of Intent with Washington, D.C., to hold the race around the National Mall next year.

The announcement came the same day Trump canceled his plans for a military parade in the capital, citing its soaring cost estimates.

“So, unless he kicks out a veterans race, [Trump] will not get his ego parade there, on that day next year, either,” the organization added in the tweet, with the hashtag #NoTrumpParade…

In an email asking for signatures to support their request, the organization also said that it decided to make the race five kilometers long to symbolize “each of [Trump’s] deferments.”…

Their statement arrives on the heels of Trump’s Twitter announcement on Friday morning that he was canceling plans for a military parade over the estimated $92 million cost.

The president said in his tweet that “local politicians” in D.C. were to blame.

“The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it. When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it. Never let someone hold you up! I will instead attend the big parade already scheduled at Andrews Air Force Base on a different date, & go to the Paris parade, celebrating the end of the War, on November 11th,” Trump wrote…

Late Night Open Thread: Trump Is Also Bad for Domestic Relationships

First time I saw George Conway, he was literally holding his wife’s coat at a post-Trump-election gala, looking like a man who could not believe his own luck. Apparently his feelings about the Oval Office Occupant in Chief… aren’t so warm, any longer. Ben Terris, the Washington Post Style reporter who first alerted us to then-Rep. Aaron Schock’s taste in office decor, introduces us to one of DC’s power couples:

… “He’s not just my boss,” Kellyanne, 51, says. “He’s our president.”

“Yeah,” George says, walking out of the room. “We’ll see how long that lasts.”

Here at the Conways’, it’s a house divided. She is Trump’s loyal adviser, the woman who carried him over the finish line to the White House. He is one of the president’s most notable conservative critics and wishes he had never introduced his wife to Trump in the first place.

Kellyanne invited me here because she thought it would be a good symbol for her commitment to, and the enduring strength of, the Trump presidency. The White House may be shedding staff at record speed, but this new home is a sign that Kellyanne isn’t going anywhere; that she is, in fact, flourishing.

And that may be true. But as I spent time with Kellyanne and George, I saw an alternative symbol: The Conways, like the rest of the country, have been jolted by the Trump presidency. They love each other, are exasperated by each other, talk about each other behind each other’s backs. They share a roof and live in different bunkers…

And their feud, thanks to George’s newfound Twitter hobby, is playing out for more than just the neighbors to see.

When the president was in search of a new communications director last year, George tweeted it was “absurd” that the president so often says one thing and then does the opposite. In addition to various tweets about corgis and the Philadelphia Eagles, he has retweeted dozens of articles critical of the president and his administration, and he penned a 3,473-word essay rebutting Trump’s assertion that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation was “unconstitutional.”…

“If you make this story all about him, I’ll definitely push back on that after it’s printed,” Kellyanne says, talking about George. “There’s no story about me, except the overcoming of circumstance and the fact that I’m so independent.”

But it’s a story about both of them. Of course it is. The more time I spend with them, the more I know that. It’s the story of people who love Trump, and the people who are trying to love them.
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#QAnon and ‘the Church of Trump’: A Grifter Runs Through It

“Pushing the theory on to bigger platforms proved to be the key to Qanon’s spread — and the originators’ financial gain”:

In November 2017, a small-time YouTube video creator and two moderators of the 4chan website, one of the most extreme message boards on the internet, banded together and plucked out of obscurity an anonymous and cryptic post from the many conspiracy theories that populated the website’s message board.

Over the next several months, they would create videos, a Reddit community, a business and an entire mythology based off the 4chan posts of “Q,” the pseudonym of a person claiming to be a high-ranking military officer. The theory they espoused would become Qanon, and it would eventually make its way from those message boards to national media stories and the rallies of President Donald Trump.

Now, the people behind that effort are at the center of a fractious debate among conspiracy enthusiasts, some of whom believe the three people who first popularized the Qanon theory are promoting it in order to make a living. Others suggest that these original followers actually wrote Q’s mysterious posts.

While the identity of the original author or authors behind “Q” is still unknown, the history of the conspiracy theory’s spread is well-documented — through YouTube videos, social media posts, Reddit archives, and public records reviewed by NBC News.

NBC News has found that the theory can be traced back to three people who sparked some of the first conversation about Qanon and, in doing so, attracted followers who they then asked to help fund Qanon “research.”…

The hell of it is… #QAnon’s true believers probably wouldn’t find its grift-based foundation disqualifying. Believers are notorious for being able to hand-wave away much worse behavior, and it’s been argued that the hardcore Deplorables of Trump’s base are already using his rallies as a substitute for the communal bonding they can’t find in more ‘mainstream’ churches. Alex Wagner, in the Atlantic:

Last spring, my colleague Peter Beinart looked at the increasing secularization of American society and how it had contributed to the rise of political tribalism:

As Americans have left organized religion, they haven’t stopped viewing politics as a struggle between “us” and “them.” Many have come to define us and them in even more primal and irreconcilable ways.

Non-college-educated whites are the Trump base, now set adrift:

Establishing causation is difficult, but we know that culturally conservative white Americans who are disengaged from church experience less economic success and more family breakdown than those who remain connected, and they grow more pessimistic and resentful.

You could draw a straight line from a disenfranchised, pessimistic, resentful audience to Trump’s brand of fear-driven, divisive politics, but this would leave out an equally important part of the Trump phenomenon, and something critical to its success: the elation. Go to a Trump rally, speak to Trump supporters, and the devotion is nearly evangelical…

Durkheim’s theory—that a gathering of the tribe can create a certain energy that renders particular people or objects sacred—goes a long way toward explaining Trump’s infallibility among his supporters. But it also brings to the fore something that Trump critics have missed so far when focusing on his (not insignificant) negatives: Trumpism, like many forms of non-secular worship, makes its believers feel good

Organized worship, cultish or not, has been a method of social bonding for as long as humans have come together in groups. And for as far back as we have records, there’s been satires about the failings of the local clerical class — satires that in no way measure the actual religious belief of the worshippers laughing at them. If the Proud Deplorables are really treating Trump as the figurehead of their communal worship, then the self-interested profit-seeking of #QAnon’s “experts” are not necessarily going to wean them off the conspiracy fantasy, any more than the steady parade of Evangelical preachers exposed as grifting frauds / sexual abusers has weaned their base away.

Post-Racial Open Thread: “Well, He Never Called ME That Name… “

The scramble to (once again) cover up the sorry truth that the Oval Office Occupant is a lifelong racist (BUT IF HE DIDN’T USE THE N-WORD IT DOESN’T COUNT!, goes the ritual incantation) is stirring up even the most sluggis bottom feeders…

Because they can’t be sure there isn’t a tape… and that is a depth to which even the professional Repub Defenders would prefer not to sink. Per the Washington Post:

Asked whether there is a tape anywhere of Donald Trump using the n-word, as former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman has claimed, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pointedly and repeatedly declined to rule it out. At one point she even said, “I can’t guarantee anything.”

White House spokespeople have occasionally emphasized that denials were coming from the president and not from them personally — apparently not wanting another false denial to damage their own credibility — but on Tuesday it was crystal-clear exactly what was happening. Sanders, like others in President Trump’s orbit, including Kellyanne Conway, wanted no part of ruling out the president having used such a racial slur, just in case there is actually a tape…

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