Political analyst. Opinion columnist.

As Trump’s impeachment approaches on the heels of a deadly siege, we’re about to find out where Republicans stand on democracy

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After President Joe Biden rejoined the Paris climate accords in his first week in office, Senator Ted Cruz disparaged the move, remarking that Biden cares more for the “views of the citizens of Paris than in the jobs of the citizens of Pittsburgh.” Ted Cruz, however, made it perfectly clear how much he values the people of Pittsburgh when he voted to throw out the votes of the entire state of Pennsylvania, propping up Donald Trump’s malignant fiction of a fraudulent election.

As Sen. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley wait to show off their election misconduct to the 2024 GOP primary voters, a whisper campaign to convict Trump in his upcoming impeachment has begun among Republicans in the Senate. Brandishing a nine point bulletin that includes the brave notion that it isn’t conservative to steal elections, donors and top former Trump administration officials are trying to ensure the party does away with the disgraced president at his second impeachment. …


Trumpism was fueled by alienated Americans who would rather see the system burn than live in a pluralist democracy.

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The assorted white supremacists, militant Christians, and Q Anon adherents joined together in prayer in the just-evacuated U.S. Senate, after violently seizing the Capitol to disrupt the sealing of Donald Trump’s defeat. Political nihilists, aching to dismantle democracy for a new America cast in their image were praying not just to Jesus, but for the demise of our representative system of government.

Trump was never so much a Republican president, as he was a political pyromaniac, setting fire to the norms and institutions of democracy and the vision of globalist modernity his followers so loathed.

Donald Trump’s presidency and its bloody conclusion was a picture of a democracy in peril. Broad swaths of the American electorate have rejected the democratic process, believing that elections and democratic governance are largely incompatible with their interests. Instead, more than 74 million Americans embraced an archetypal strongman leader who stood against democratic norms, pluralist culture, and truth itself. Many of these supporters cheered Trump’s efforts to overturn an election he decisively lost. Among these voters are ardent white nationalists, fanatical fundamentalist Christians, and men and women that feel themselves so culturally and economically excluded from the American democratic project that they would gladly see it burn. …


A disgraced president leaves behind a divided and fearful nation, as he refuses to participate in the transfer of power on his way out

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As we begin to process the immense costs of a cataclysmic presidency, with a raging pandemic and the specter of political violence hanging in the air, Donald Trump feels aggrieved. He’s angry that he’s a one-term president. He’s angry that aides compared him to Richard Nixon. He’s angry that Twitter and Facebook finally muted him. He’s angry that his brand and business have suffered irreparable damage. He’s angry that he is now forever branded with the scarlet letter of being the only American president to have been impeached twice.

After his January 6th incitement of the mob that assaulted the U.S. Capitol, Trump’s once-potent political elixir is fast going rancid. …


Extremists online view January 6th as a pivotal moment, and they are adjusting tactics in the face of renewed scrutiny from law enforcement

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Donald Trump’s political movement has always been a sanctuary for fringe racists, white supremacists of every kind, and ultra-nationalist extremists on the far right of American politics. Federal law enforcement officials were reportedly unsurprised to learn that hundreds of people on the Terrorist Screening Database participated in the attack on the Capitol, as they had come from a Trump rally. I spent some time in their natural habitats on the web learning about their reactions to the events of January 6th, their current modus operandi, and to better understand their evolving outlook for the future.

Tactical adjustments

The first thing to understand about extremists online is they’re not going anywhere. They are technologically savvy, and they’ve ensured durability of their ideas and their movement in numerous and effective ways. Their websites backups have backups, and they are actively dispersing themselves across the internet as widely and deeply as possible. …


With Washington on lockdown, and a second impeachment coming, the GOP tries to purge itself of its sins

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Donald Trump was impeached for the second time, a historic first in American history. Ten House Republicans voted yes, making it also the most bipartisan impeachment in American history. The majority of congressional Republicans, however, made grating and hollow calls for unity, disingenuously claiming the impeachment was dividing the nation. Rather than finally seizing the opportunity to confront an unstable, dangerous president, a man who stoked a murderous mob that stormed their chambers, they’ve fallen back on the usual false equivalents and dishonest rhetoric that have come to define discourse on the right these days.

It seems even the attempted overthrow of the government in which they serve is not reason enough to part ways with this president for most Republicans. It’s unclear what then, if anything, could ever cause these loyalists to break with Trump if not incitement of insurrection against the very bodies in which they serve. Perhaps, for the hard right faction dominating the GOP, sedition was the point rather than something to be condemned. …


The last days of the broken alliance between Donald J. Trump and the Republican Party

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The president had just unceremoniously thrown his most loyal Republican hireling to very hungry wolves, without a moment of hesitation. For weeks Donald Trump had alternately flattered and threatened the vice president to defy the congressional certification of his defeat, but Mike Pence simply would not do it. This enraged the president, who was unused to any kind of open defiance from among his party, much less from someone as servile as Mike Pence.

Trump watched live from the White House, enthralled, as his armed supporters prowled the Capitol, hunting his enemies.

On stage, Trump felt powerful before his raging crowd, massed down below and behind the bulletproof glass separating the president from his followers. He told them to march on Congress, assuring them he’d be right there with them. Then, incredibly and predictably, the teeming mob, a sea of Trump 2020 banners and red Confederate rebel flags flying behind them, violently sacked the U.S. …


A more capable politician might have successfully realized the GOP’s autocratic ambitions.

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In the 21st century, aspiring autocrats have a familiar and effective playbook with which to realize their ambitions. After the initial seizure of power through elections, wily leaders subdue recalcitrant political opposition, silence uncooperative media coverage, disable the independence of the judiciary, and establish firm grips on the military and intelligence agencies. Donald Trump might have learned a few things from Vladimir Putin’s long reign. The former KGB officer nimbly and efficiently sidestepped constitutional constraints, engineered dirty reelections, and rid himself of bothersome political opponents all while leading a theoretically still-functioning democracy.

In comparison, Trump’s attempt at autocracy was an ill-conceived mess. …


The Republican officials most culpable for enabling Trump are coming out in dishonest attempts to save face

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There was no shortage of high-profile Republicans coming out to condemn Donald Trump for provoking the storming of the Capitol. Loyal Trump supporters and facilitators like former Attorney General Bill Barr, Senator Lindsey Graham, and former Chief of Staff John Kelly have all taken their turn at flinging mud at Trump following the surreal violence at the Capitol.

At best, these efforts are too little, and far too late. At worst, they are duplicitous attempts to rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of a country they betrayed in service of Donald J. Trump.

At this late hour of a historically disastrous presidency, after the Capitol has been stormed by extremists, and with national politics thoroughly set ablaze, these empty gestures are next to meaningless. After loyally serving a president who has used the amplification of division and animosity as his primary political methodology, it’s difficult to see these late defectors’ critiques of the president now as anything but insincere ploys designed to save face. …


Trump’s hold on power is becoming tenuous as Pence orders National Guard to respond to Trump-inspired assault on Capitol

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Invoking the 25th amendment to remove the president is an increasingly plausible option for members of Trump’s cabinet. After inciting his supporters to rise up against his own government, provoking an unbelievable day of chaos in the Capitol, speculation about the larger government’s response is rife. Mike Pence reportedly ordered the National Guard to respond to the crisis Trump manufactured, and questions are percolating about who is actually in charge at the White House. Twitter finally blocked the president following his last tweet supporting the mob that had just stormed the Capitol. …


Trump told him to block certification of the election and Pence said no

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The alliance between the fair-haired evangelical and the impeached reality TV star turned president was always an unnatural, if mutually advantageous affair. Mike Pence’s aggressive moral posturing never quite looked right next to the thrice-divorced and bankrupt mogul. But Trump saw political gold in Pence, famously declaring that he was a running mate straight “out of central casting.” Donald Trump, political arriviste and moral libertine, got to pocket the religious Indiana governor, and with him he banked the Christian Right and nervous establishment Republicans in one fell swoop. …

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