Democrats Blowing Out the Insurrectionists

Society vs Backlash. America has been destabilized by two broad and related developments, the evolution of a multicultural, socially liberal mainstream and a bitter backlash among white conservative best seen in terms of permanent insurrection. Politically, the Democrats are the party of multicultural mainstream America and indeed the civil rights, diversity politics of the Democrats has been one of the main vehicles for creating and defining that mainstream. But politics is also important for understanding the destabilizing and dangerous white conservative backlash. As America’s conservative party, the Republicans have been a focus of backlash since Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and backlash phenomena like MAGA, QAnon, the Big Lie, the re-articulation of bigotry as “anti-woke,” and the campaigns against transsexual teens and drag shows are intimately connected with GOP politics.

Politics of Insurrection. The assault on the Capital building in Washington was an attack on the United States on the same level as the Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor that brought America into WWII and al-Qaeda’s attack on New York City, the Pentagon, and the Capitol on 9-11. The American media has under-estimated the extent to which the insurrectionary energy of Jan. 6 continued for more than a year after President Biden’s inauguration. There were many examples of insurrectionary activity, including the continuation of the QAnon movement, all the bizarre conspiracy theories around Covid vaccines, and local insurrectionary activism in places like Idaho. In politics, insurrectionary energy focused around the Supreme Court taking a case that would allow state legislatures to ignore the popular vote in presidential elections, MAGA fascists like J. D. Vance, Blake Masters, Doug Mastriano, and Kari Lake running for governor and Senate positions, and a number of Republican candidates for the state Secretary of State positions that controlled elections in the states. GOP Secretary of State candidates in Michigan, Arizona and Nevada all claimed (one way or another) that Democratic candidates could only win by fraud and promised to attack voting by Democratic constituencies.

Blowing Out the Insurrectionists. Of all the insurrectionists who ran for major office, J.D. Vance was the only one who won and that only happened because of a major injection of cash from Mitch McConnell. Insurrectionist Republican Doug Mastriano lost by 15 in the race for governor in PA, Blake Masters by 5 for the Senate seat in Arizona, and Tudor Dixon by 10 for governor of Michigan. The most prominent of the insurrectionists running for statewide office was Kari Lake in Arizona and she’s currently trailing by 34,000 in a still undecided race and Adam Laxalt has lost in Nevada now that all the votes are counted from Las Vegas. Even more to the point, all of the insurrectionist candidates lost for Secretary of State offices in Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, and Wisconsin. For example, Arizona GOP Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem lost by 5.6%, Kristina Karamo by 14% in Michigan, and Jim Marchant in Nevada by 2% (where the GOP won the governor’s race and only lost in the Senate by 5,000 votes). Insurrectionist candidates like gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels of Wisconsin wanted to guarantee that  “will never lose another election” in their states but were turned back by their Democratic opponents.

When Will Normal Become Normal? Hard left podcaster Matt Christman tweeted that Democrats did well in the 2022 mid-terms because they are the “normie” party and were able to remain “normal” despite determined Republican efforts to “flip that by associating them with crime and immigrants and gender sickos.” Christman added that “[t]his is problematic for people who are obsessed with defining themselves in counter-cultural opposition to the normie mainstream, but ON BEHALF of some imagined heartland “normal” American.” Of course, the “counter-cultural opposition” isn’t much of a force in American life and indeed it seems that multicultural and liberal Democrats have not been able to establish as “normal” even though they were successful in portraying themselves as “more normal” than MAGA Republicans. That’s because the far more powerful force of the mainstream news media agrees with both the counter-culture and Republicans in imagining a “normal America” of small towns, small business, farms, and factories in which the template is white conservatism even though Democrats do make inroads. That’s why the New York Times, CNN, and Politico sent so many reporters trekking to diners, bars, and gun shows since 2016. Like Paul Simon, they all wanted to “look for America” or at least the “normal America” that they thought was Saginaw rather than NYC, Chicago, or Detroit. In 2022, the Democrats were able to portray the MAGA extremists of small town America as threats to democracy but were not able to establish their own multicultural, socially liberal base as the American normal. Even though the Democratic coalition “is” the norm, it doesn’t “seem” to be the norm. And that’s still a problem.

Insurrection as Personal Power

I bet yesterday was a good day for Lauren Boebert, the gun toting first-term Republican member of the House from Colorado. Over the Thanksgiving recess, Boebert entertained an audience with her account of an interaction with Rep. Ilhan Omar that never took place.

Over the Thanksgiving break, Lauren Boebert said she was recently in a Capitol elevator with Ilhan Omar when a fretful Capitol police officer ran up. Lauren Boebert said: “Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine.” Boebert then called Ilhan Omar, “jihad squad.”

The story was a big hit with her bigoted audience, but was leaked which Boebert then took as an opportunity to launch a baiting campaign against Rep. Omar with a tweet apologizing “to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar.” Boebert was called into the principal’s office by McCarthy but he seemed to be placated by the apology and Boebert indicating that she wanted to meet with Omar in what McCarthy thought was an effort to put the issue to rest. But Boebert was all about personally baiting Omar at this point. She called Omar and responded to Omar’s demand for an apology with her own demand that Omar apologize for her “anti-American, antisemitic, anti-police rhetoric. ” In other words, Boebert wanted Omar to apologize for Boebert’s own smears of Omar’s policy positions.

At this point everything was good for Boebert. She got in her Islamophobic digs, she wasn’t in trouble with Kevin McCarthy, and she’d offended a prominent member of The Squad enough that Omar hung up on her. For a right-wing extremist who lives for publicity, that’s all winning.

From Boebert’s perspective, it then got better.

Yesterday, Rep. Ilhan Omar held a press conference in which she played a video of a voicemail threat that she received in the course of her dispute with Boebert. The text is below the picture.

“We see you, Muslim sand n***** bitch,” the message began. “We know what you’re up to. You’re all about taking over our country. Don’t worry, there’s plenty that will love the opportunity to take you off the face of this fucking earth. Come get it, you fucking Muslim piece of shit. You jihadist. We know what you are. You’re a fucking traitor. You will not live much longer, bitch, I can almost guarantee you that. We the people are rising up, and you will be tried before a military tribunal, and you will be found guilty.”

I have both a lot of sympathy for Rep. Ilhan Omar and much respect for the courage it took to play this. But I also think her response is inadequate to the challenge posed by Boebert and the threatening caller. Rep. Omar’s argument is that Lauren Boebert needs to be held accountable for her bigoted statements against Omar because such statements have “real consequences” in the shape of threats of violence against her and other American Muslims.

When a sitting member of Congress calls a colleague a member of the ‘jihad squad’ and falsifies a story to suggest I will blow up the Capitol, it is not just an attack on me but on millions of American Muslims across the country… We cannot pretend this hate speech from leading politicians doesn’t have real consequences. It is time for the Republican Party to actually do something to confront anti-Muslim hatred in its ranks and hold those who perpetuate it accountable…

At the same time, the threatening call works as a demonstration of power on the part of Boebert. Her hate speech was not only a way to entertain conservative audiences, it’s a mechanism for stimulating terrorist threats and possibly terrorist actions against Ilhan, other Muslims, and Democrats more generally. Because the caller is responding to Boebert’s hate speech, his call also serves as an exercise of power by Lauren Boebert herself against Ilhan Omar. With the reference to trying Omar before a “military tribunal,” the caller also put Boebert and Omar into the larger context of insurrectionary politics as well as violent anti-Muslim bigotry. Given that Lauren Boebert has been promoting insurrection ever since she disclosed Nancy Pelosi’s location on Jan. 6, that would be a another plus

Lauren Boebert is bringing the insurrection to bear on Ilhan Omar and I bet she was glad to see the threat played over the media. In this context, I don’t think it was best for Rep. Omar and the Democratic leadership to campaign for holding Boebert accountable for her hate speech. Truth and politics are both best served if Omar and other Democrats use the death threat as an opportunity to tie Boebert, McCarthy, and other Republicans to the on-going insurrection.

Peter Wade, Rolling Stone,

Summer Concepcion, Talking Points Memo,

Felicia Sonmez and Mariana Alfaro, Washington Post

Biden, Normalcy, Competence

Ford F-150: Why is Joe Biden driving a battery-powered Ford F-150? - ​Avid  car enthusiast Joe Biden | The Economic Times

President Joe Biden is going through tough times and its showing up in public opinion polls. The surge in the Delta variant, withdrawal from Afghanistan, Haitian refugee situation, and problems in passing an infrastructure bill have all had a negative impact on public opinion with Biden approval sinking from 52.4% two months ago to 45.4 in the latest poll index.

According to Amy Walter, who has taken over as the head of the Cooke Political Report, Biden’s problems come down to questions of “normality” and “competence.” According to Walter:

When Biden was running for president, his message was pretty straightforward: I’m the guy who will bring normal back to Washington. Where President Trump was unorthodox and chaotic, Biden would be conventional and organized. Trump ran the White House like a reality show, Biden stocked his cabinet and high-level staff with Washington insiders with establishment credentials. He was going to usher in an era of boring, but predictable

Biden was able to create an appearance of normality by rolling out COVID vaccines quickly and effectively. But that was all a mirage. “Normality” went out the window with the Jan. 6 Insurrection, the continued promotion of the Big Lie by the right-wing media, and then vaccine refusal among white conservatives. A majority of Republicans believe Trump is the “true U.S. president while the same survey found that 2/3rds of Republicans believe Biden won the election through fraud. Likewise, a “majority (56 percent) of Republicans support the use of force as a way to arrest the decline of the traditional American way of life.” Vaccine rejection has gone down from 32% to 16%, but that 16% is still almost 35 million people and they’ve maintained their hard core stance in the face of the current Covid surge associated with the Delta variant.

In the United States, “normality” is no longer a settled thing and hasn’t really been settled since Obama’s election as the first black president in 2008. What will sooner or later become the “normal” for a Democratic administration is pursuing a radical reformist combination of a civil rights agenda, infrastructure spending, climate legislation, and lowering the wealth gap while also managing the on-going Republican refusal to engage with policy issues, the proliferation of conspiracy theories, and the right-wing refusal to cooperate and violent resistance to the operations of federal and state government. That’s not to mention militia and paramilitary violence.

Being able to deal with both sides of the “new normal” will also be the measure for Biden administration competence. Needless to say, the short and medium term future in the United States is civil and political unrest at best and fascist takeover at worse. If Biden and the Democrats want to be seen as competent, they’ll have to deal with this situation in at least a somewhat satisfactory way.

They Might Have Been Normies

Living in fear and unemployable: Far-right extremists are finding themselves doxed and out of work
Screensgrabs, Unidentified far right activists

The Washington Post has an interesting and telling story on left-wing doxing of far-right activists such as Edward Jeremy Dawson and his wife Michelle Dawson.

The Story: While at the “Million Maga” March on Nov. 14, 2020, Edward Dawson stepped on the feet of left activist photographer Laura Jedeed. Their ensuing argument attracted a crowd of far right marchers and the incident escalated to the point where Jedeed was in danger of being violent assaulted. Recognizing that the bullying of Jedeed had gone farther then he wanted, Dawson then led her through the crowd to safety. After Jedeed’s video of the incident went viral, Edward Dawson was fired from his job as an iron worker. His wife Michelle also lost her job with Walmart and believes her activism was the reason for being fired as well.

The Undertow: The Washington Post story was primarily about the doxing on the left which led to the Dawsons getting fired from their jobs. Other than anti-fascist activist Christian Exoo working at my old college St. Lawrence University that was not so interesting. There were other themes though.

Montagues and Capulets: The violence between anti-Nazis and right-wing extremists is taking on Shakespearean dimensions in Portland. That’s especially true on the right where the Dawsons were members of Patriot Prayer, a group dedicated primarily to “”trolling” the Pacific Northwest with the intention of provoking a response from far-left antifascists.” Attending gatherings with the Oathkeepers, Three Percenters, and Proud Boys, the Patriot Prayer group seemed more intendant on brawling with antifa activists than anything else. Far from making them less dangerous, the radicalism of Patriot Prayer members like the Dawsons had a violence for its own sake feel to it. As Edward Dawson said of his bullying and harassment of Jedeen, “I mean, I wasn’t harassing anyone. I just wanted to make her feel just a little bit scared.”

The Non-Elite of the Left Behind: In an interview with Salon’s Chauncey Devega, sociologist Arlie Hochschild calls Jan. 6 Insurrectionists the “Elite of the Left Behind.” The Dawsons are more the working class/lumpen proletariat of the Left Behind. Edward and Michelle Dawson both dropped out of high school and Edward had been a drug addict who served six years in prison for felony possession of a controlled substance. Edward Dawson “got clean” in prison and claims to have cut off ties to the drug life before getting married, buying a house, becoming a father, and holding a job as an iron worker. But it does not appear that living as a “normie” working citizen and wasn’t enough and that Edward and Michelle Dawson found a larger purpose in Trump and extreme right-wing activism. She was emphatic about Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson: “He talked a lot about freedom and God . . . I’ve seen his fire and I’ve seen that he had a voice and he wasn’t afraid to use it.” Michelle Dawson can’t bring herself to love a multicultural, socially liberal democracy but loved Trump. “I like everything that Trump stood for . . . I loved how he loved our country.”

Now or Never: Like everyone else, I have no idea of how the present national crisis will work out in the U.S. But there is some anecdotal evidence of the violent extreme right being culturally ephemeral. Jan. 6 insurrectionist Guy Reffitt was reported to the FBI by his own son who not only supported Black Lives Matter but attended at least one BLM rally in the Dallas area. With the Dawson’s, one of their children saw nothing wrong with her father’s bullying and harassment of Laura Jedeed but Michelle Dawson reported that an 18 year old daughter was disgusted with her: “But she’s 18, so she’s all, ‘Orange man is bad. George Floyd shouldn’t have died. Blah, blah, blah.’ She hates what I do.”

If extreme right wingers can’t get their own kids behind them, it may be now or never for them.