For those of us here in the land of the sane and rational, looking on at our fellows living in Trump’s nether regions or lost in the thicket of his cocks-comb-over can be a bewildering experience. It’s like being the only sober person at a frat party: you start to wonder what the fuck everyone else thinks is so gottamn funny and interesting when all it seems is stupid, futile, and disgusting.
Every now and again, someone sobers up, smears the puke on the front of their shirt, and breathes their nauseating fumes on you as they “explain” it all. There have been several refugees from the far hinterlands of Conservativelandia who have climbed out of their dens of inequity and arrived panting, sweating, and fearful in the land of HunhWTFareyouguysdoing to expose what is going behind the Confederate Flag Curtain they’ve erected between our two lands.
One such survivor is Tim Miller who climbed up out of the gutter, rid himself of the scabies, and started his long slow lonely journey down the road of redemption by publishing a book that he would like us all to buy or at least request that your local library buy if it hasn’t been banned by your local crazed book-banners club. That book is called Why We Did It: A Travelogue From The Republican Road To Hell , and luckily for you, you don’t need to buy it or check it out of your library because you can either read or listen to the interview by Dave Davies in for Terry Gross on Fresh Air. Thanks, BobCabKings! Or, you could just read my hOt TaKeS here and leave it that, or you could do all four or none or any combination because it’s a free country and you can do as you gottamn please.
Tim Miller is talking a comprehensive exposé of Republican politics from the elected and appointed politicians to conservative media to MAGA and the base. Let’s deodorize the lingering smell of puke and feces from our hazmat suits and dive right into this festering pit of democratic values rapidly putrefying into fascist authoritarianism.
Since Old Dick Nixon dribbled his Cowper’s fluid on all of us unsuspecting somnambulant silent majority-types, the Republican Party has been on a path rocketing towards right-wing totalitarianism. Tim Miller specialized in oppo research or dirty tricks or rat fucking as Tricky Dick put it or business as usual as the BeBest Loser describes it. His job was to figure out some angle on the opposition — Republican and Democratic alike; Republican in the primaries and Dems in the regular election — and get it out there for voters to be swayed by.
The problem begins with the sportification of politics. That is by viewing it as a zero-sum game played between two parties that you are either totally for or totally against. You can’t be a half-assed Republican that occasionally votes for the Democrats or compromises with a Democratic politician or is against any facet of the Republican social grievance orthodoxy. It is all or ostracized.
In this culture of yer-either-fer-us-or-agin-us, you support whatever candidate the cat drags in and hides under the couch to be found only once it has become fetid enough to attract your attention. So, what drives politicians and operatives to accept the kind of moral degeneracy and fascistic oppression that the Repubes are foisting on us?
Politicians, Staffers, and Operatives
The professionals, the people holding paid elected or appointed offices, the operatives that run the campaign, the professional fundraisers, and others who are paid to do whatever, so that excludes the donor class, have several motivations that I think we can all relate to. Many of them like being in the spotlight. They like the fame, even if it is just Twitter or TikTok or inside the Beltway. They like those feelings that come along with those positions of authority.
These are the Chuck Grassleys, Tim Scotts, Kellyanne Conways — whatever happened to her anyway? — of the world. They struggle to remain relevant and slowly imbibe the Kool-Aide that eventually turns them into Mr. Hyde convincing themselves that they really are Sue Collins, the nice Maine grandma who doesn’t want women to die in pregnancy but somehow voted for GoSuck and Boof-K and cast a meaningless vote against Coathangers and for impeachment squared.
People are so desperate to work at the White House that they are even willing to work for someone like Trump. They tell themselves all kinda stories like they’ll be the grown-up in the room, the country still needs governing by someone competent, and I, alone, can talk Trump out of cancelling Stars and Stripes Magazine. Somehow, though, all of these “grown-ups” were dead silent in 2020 when the election was coming up and the conspiracy to insurrect was unfolding, but could manage to squeak a wet one into their shorts when it came time to write their tell-all book.
Apparently, if you’re an operative reviewing a communications missive that is offering up blatant lies or half-truths or just dastardly implications, and you question the wisdom of it, well then, buster, you just aren’t serious about winning at all costs because winning is the only thing that counts in politics!
The power of wanting to remain in the good graces of your party, in office, getting a job, move in the professional circles is such that you’ll promote people who support policies that are against your best interests. It is how LGBTQ+ folks remain professional Republicans. It is how women remain professional Republicans. It is how Black and Latinx folks remain Republicans. It is just the siren call of fame and fortune and belonging that seduces these folks.
In many ways it is even worse because the staffers and operatives have a thin outer veneer of professionalism covering over a smoldering inner core of anger and hatred for the left. They are as bad as the MAGA base. Here’s Caroline going on the record for why she supports Trump:
I actually think it’s all negative. I’m just so sick of the people with their Priuses and their coexist stickers drinking their coffee coladas and wagging their finger at me. And I was like, this is preposterous. I don’t – you know, she mentioned plastic – or paper straws. I was like, I don’t like paper straws, either, but voting for Donald Trump over it?…in this D.C. culture… at dinner parties, that is what they do to comfort themselves, right? They talk about all the things that have made them mad about the left…. I was playing this game the whole time, which has its own problems, as we’ve been discussing. But they were developing a real-life anger that allowed them to justify working for somebody they knew was dangerous.Tim Miller This former GOP hatchet man didn’t support Trump — but still enabled him
In other words, they have loose morals and are willing to get into the pot, believing that the temperature won’t ever increase not noticing that the water is boiling all around them.
There is depraved symbiotic relationship between conservative media and political operatives. It goes like this. With the advent of grievance-the-other-side-is-evil-out-to–destroy-us-hating-us-for-our-freedoms politics, conservative media, especially the 24-hour type was in dire need of stories to fill air time to advance the agenda of their billionaire-class owners.
Who better to supply them “tips” than the guy who started an organization that would pay people to follow Democrats around with cameras to film and record their gaffes? That’s what Miller did. It weren’t no common Project Veritas, neither. To be fair, the Dems were doing it, too.
So, someone like Miller, the self-professed a “centrist” supporter of John Huntsman, John “The Maverick” McCain, and Mittens, had to climb into the icky bed of Steve Bannon and Breitbart or worse writing them stories about Jeb! as long as they offered up some support for the political-social outrage du jour.
But, it was win-win, right? Jeb! got positive coverage in Breitbart or from Jim Hoft or whatever and they got legitimized in the eyes of the other centrists and everybody got clicks and mad ad money! Only it wasn’t win-win. It was radicalizing the base, monetizing hate, and pulling moderate Republicans to the right. In the end, we all lost, except for Steve Bannon, unless he goes to prison and that only happens if we dodge the authoritarian bullet they’ve fired at us.
One of the most telling quotes concerns Miller’s anecdote about hearing from someone he described as being the Ralph Wiggum of conservative media in the book. This Ralph Wiggum guy says:
[T]hese Republican establishment guys that work for Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy still think they own us [conservative media]. But that is not true. We own them. Like, we can – we slowly but surely are co-opting them and dragging them to the right. And, you know, they are – we are the puppet masters. They are the puppets. And I [Tim Miller] think that’s right. It’s very clearly true.
Conservative media in their hot pursuit of clicks, views, likes, shares, and cash just keep feeding the base more and more red meat. Here’s another telling anecdote. Miller interviewed the founders of the Independent Journal Review, a kind of Buzzfeed for the right about what how it started and how it’s going:
[T]hey said that at the beginning, we thought of our material as kind of like the FDA guidelines… where… we give people a little bit of red meat and maybe a little bit of the hard stuff for desserts. But we’d also give them some vegetables and some fruits, right? And so hopefully some real news and some… kind of harmless, funny material could live in harmony with this… kind of race-baiting, red-meat kind of conservative news that you see on Breitbart… the readers didn’t want the veggies… They wanted the heroin. They wanted the dessert. They wanted the red meat. And so slowly over time… the only writers at the site who got any clicks were the ones who were just writing effusively [sic] praise or the articles about Donald Trump and… really nasty memes and… short social media posts about the left… the only thing that is left is…the really conspiratorial, kind of cruel material that you see on, like, Libs of TikTok these days or the Daily Caller or any other conservative media site.
Now, that is sobering. The only thing that sells is stuff that appeals to the flying monkey brigade so they can issue death threats and obscenity infused vitriol to a growing list of folks who were only out doing their jobs until the ravenous conservative media got ahold of them because they had airtime to fill, nutritional supplements, and trucker speed to sell. It’s all fun and games until you lose a civil suit, isn’t Alex Jones?
What exactly are the MAGA voters getting out of it? Miller was one of the guys on the infamous autopsy that the Repubes published after losing the popular vote for the umpteenth time since god first sliced bread. As he tells it, not one of them ever thought of responding with maybe we should address the concerns of rural conservative Christian white base.
Instead, they shifted to be outraged about Black and Brown takers moving to the front of the line for the American dream — spoiler, there ain’t no more American dream no more, you ain’t ever getting it — and the immigrant caravans and the Ground Zero Mosque and trans story-time at public libraries and CRT and whatever other BS the hogs feeding at the trough are choking down today.
The shocking thing is that none of the other stakeholders in the conservative ecosystem give two shining shits about MAGA voters. All they want is their money and votes. And, MAGA is pretty much okay with that.
Miller is telling us that they intentionally spawned this generation of voters fertilizing them outrage and grievance to reap the fruit of sputter spittal inflected intolerance, hatred, and violence. They’ve purposefully set these people up to be simultaneous cannon fodder in whatever street violence they deem necessary to steal an election or keep our failed blunderer out of prison, funders of the aspiring billionaire class, and sufferers of a system that really is woefully stacked against them by the very folks they are voting for.
Is There A Way Out?
Miller makes quite an astute observation: since the Repubes took generations building this 74 million-headed beast, it’s going to take generations to unmake it. I’m reminded that it took three hundred years for the Medieval Witch Hysteria to run its course. As I concluded that post, we’ve got a whole lot more cray-cray to get through.
He offers another interesting insight, though. He points out the two Repubes who voted for impeachment that got onto the November ballots did so in jungle primaries — the top vote getters regardless of party are passed through — and not in partisan primaries. That’s comforting? In other words, we’re fucked.
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