#1473 How the GOP Became a Radicalized Strongman Cult (Transcript)

Air Date 3/2/2022

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[00:00:00] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we shall take a look at the not-so-slow transformation of Republicans from a Bush-McCain-Romney sort of party to a Trump-DeSantis-Putin sort of party, complete with cultish devotion and dependence on near total dismissal of truth, replaced by propaganda.

Clips today are from The Rachel Maddow Show, The Slate, Political Gabfest, The Al Franken Podcast, The Bradcast, The Mehdi Hasan Show, Vox, and All In with Chris Hayes, and with additional members-only clips from The Brian Lehrer Show and In The Thick.

Trump Victim Act Follows Authoritarian Playbook Drawing In Fanatical Supporters - The Rachel Maddow Show - Air Date 1-8-22

[00:00:40] ALI VELSHI - HOST, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: I'm going to ask you about, um, this, this issue that you write about in your book and other, uh, historians talk about. And that is that there is something about American exceptionalism about the, the, the strength of belief that Americans have in themselves, which is a little bit different from, from Patriots and other countries that doesn't allow us to see fundamental fall of flaws or faults, like the one that you described.

There's something that doesn't want us to believe that what we saw a year ago was actually an attack on democracy.

[00:01:11] RUTH BEN-GHIAT: Yeah, Americans have always been very invested in the idea of America as a beacon of freedom. And it has been for so many immigrants who have come here. But there's a whole other side to American engagement with democracy, such as all the coups and during the cold war, the who and test that, uh, the United States, you know, propped up and helped to, to happen.

It's taken away democracy from countries and what's so poignant about that is right now, we're living through a very serious assault on democracy. And some of the people involved in that Trump and Roger Stone and Bannon and Paul Manafort. These are people with decades of experience in wrecking democracies and propping up dictatorships and funding dictators in the case of Trump's money loans.

And so Trump, the it's been a huge wake up call and, you know, because I studied fascism, I saw very early who Trump was and I wrote Strongmen because I wanted to, uh, let my fellow Americans know that it can happen here, that over history many other cultures and peoples have been very amazed that it happened to them.

And that Trump was not going to leave, um, quietly because he was using an autocratic rather than a democratic playbook to govern.

[00:02:33] ALI VELSHI - HOST, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: Let me ask you about the language we use, or you can talk about it being a wake-up call, but not everybody's woken up yet. I want to quote from your book in which you say for a political system that affects the lives of so many authoritarianism remains a surprisingly fuzzy concept.

We still lack a common language to speak about the governments of the 21st century authoritarian rulers who repress civil liberties, but use elections to keep themselves in power. There are many Americans today who will say, there's nothing wrong with our democracy. We have elections. We will continue to have elections.

[00:03:07] RUTH BEN-GHIAT: Yeah. The problem with that is a, and we can look to Victor Orban who Tucker Carlson and the GOP, even Mike Pence are all trotting over to Budapest. Uh, today you don't normally ban elections. That's less common. You hold elections and you fix them like the ruler of Kazakhstan and Belarus and Putin. So you can say you are like Orban calls to station illiberal democracy.

Well, there's not much democratic about it. But this is what's of course happening now at the level of the states that GOP is, uh, assaulting our election mechanism. But this idea that you can still say, you're a democracy, you leave a pocket of opposites. So we are in this period of time where many states are in a transition between democracy and autocracy and some people use the word electoral autocracy.

Some people use the word and ocracy to use some people call the United States that after January six. So, uh, we do, we're still searching for a language because authoritarianism is itself in transition.

[00:04:14] ALI VELSHI - HOST, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: I want to read something else that I think is interesting from your book, because one of the discussions that we have is how we have this conversation with people who do not believe what you are saying to be the truth.

You write that the decay of truth and democratic disillusion proceed hand in hand, starting with the insurgent's assertion that the establishment media delivers false or biased information while he speaks the truth and risks, everything to get the real facts out. Once his supporters bond to this person, they stop caring about his falsehoods.

This may be where we are with a good portion of Americans right now.

[00:04:49] RUTH BEN-GHIAT: Yeah and Trump did this right away. And, um, you know, I have a picture in my book about with Hitler, with his mouth taped shut because there was a speaking ban on Hitler and Weimar Germany, because it was hate speech and the Nazi party made political capital out of that, calling him a victim.

So victimhood is very important to the strong men, uh, profile. And the whole thing with Trump right now is that he is a very able propagandist, a very able storyteller who is always the victim. And so this very compelling story of him as the leader, the hero, the savior of the nation, who's been wronged that something that's rightfully his, the election, has been stolen from him.

And he's dead. He's trying to tell the truth. He's always had that persona and it's been really effective at building a fanatical base who are willing to go and wreck Congress for him. And I really see January six was a coup event. It was a milestone on a race war. But it's also an authoritarian leader cult rescue operation.

Legitimate Political Discourse - Political Gabfest - Air Date 2-10-22

[00:05:54] DAVID PLOTZ - HOST, PP;OLITICAL GABFEST: "Legitimate political discourse!" shouted the mugger as he knocked down the old lady in the street. "Legitimate political discourse!" cried the school bully as he beat the snot out of a fourth grader. "Legitimate political discourse" -- an absurdist euphemism of a phrase, a creepy bit of linguistic confusion has entered the lexicon this week. The Republican National Committee, the official arm, the official armature of the Republican Party, passed a resolution censuring two House Republican members, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, for participating in the January 6th committee, and in passing this censure resolution, described the committee as attempting to persecute ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse. The RNC says No, no. What we were talking about were not the not the January 6th protesters; we were talking about other people who were drawn into the dragnet of January 6th, and you’re misreading what we’ve said. But it is kind of what they said. But should we mock them for this phrase?

[00:06:50] JOHN DICKERSON - HOST, POLITICAL GABFEST: Well, there are a lot of things that we should be deeply concerned for about, and there should be real heavy mocking for me, and you guys know about this because I wrote about it in the Atlantic this week. The thing to be most mocked for is the fact that Donald Trump, the person who is the leader of the Republican Party and who is likely to be the nominee, is the person that you have the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, the leader of the House Republicans and now the vice president have all said he is thoroughly unfit for the presidency by the actions he took while he was president. Mike Pence last week said that there was no more un-American thing than what Donald Trump wanted him to do by overturning the election. So you have the leader of a party, who’s going to be the next nominee, who all the leaders of the party say is unfit. That’s the thing that to me is the most cockamamie.

With respect to the "legitimate political discourse," it is fine in America to gather people together under a delusion and rally and be delusional in your rally. There is legitimate political discourse in a campaign. You have debates, you have rallies, you have a lot of big conversation that everybody settles that legitimate political discourse with a vote. We should note what they were trying to do is overturn that vote. You’re not in great territory. You’re also not in great territory when the leader of your party was inciting that riot. That’s not me talking. That’s Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy said he incited that riot. So when you have the leader of your party inciting a riot, it gets really hard to slice the baloney so thin that you say "the thing I’m most concerned about is the name we attach to the people who were just at the rally under this delusion, not the people at the rally who were using fire extinguishers to attack police officers." As a political matter, you can’t slice the baloney that thin.

[00:08:36] DAVID PLOTZ - HOST, PP;OLITICAL GABFEST: So Emily, John is mentioning that the political leadership, Mitch McConnell, this week did condemn this resolution and and repeated the truth that January 6th was a violent attempt to overturn the legitimate election. Mike Pence said that Trump was wrong. Can you imagine how hard it must have been to say those three words: "Trump is wrong"? But these are party mandarins. Do the institutionalists actually have any sway in their party?

[00:09:04] EMILY BAZELON - HOST, POLITICAL GABFEST: I mean, I think the answer’s no. That’s why we had this censure. That’s why we had this language. And I mean, OK, mock, but this is actually really alarming, really grim for the country that this is where we are, that a year on one of the parties is in its entirety and some of its leadership totally committed to just pretending this didn’t happen in some way that was dangerous and celebrating and lifting up Donald Trump. And it doesn’t matter how many lies he tells about this. It doesn’t matter how much obfuscating. They’re all part of it, and they’re just pretending that this really scary event did not have the meaning that it’s so obviously had.

[00:09:51] JOHN DICKERSON - HOST, POLITICAL GABFEST: And what’s politically crazy about what the RNC did was it seems to me that the Republican strategy was to let January 6th be in the past. It was a bad day, but that was long ago, and Joe Biden’s messing everything up, and elect us in the future because we’re going to make things better. And who put January 6th back on the map? Donald Trump, who continues to say that Mike Pence could have done something, saying it so much and so regularly that Pence felt he had to speak out. Again, as David pointed out, that must have been somewhat difficult, given that Mike Pence has been the most loyal person and has in many previous instances where it obviously was a chance to speak out hasn’t. And then secondly, the RNC raising this out of the blue, also they were doing, they were wrapping the knuckles of Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney, two members of Congress on the January 6th commission. That was the other thing they did was censure them for not acting in the standards of Republican members of Congress. So these are unforced errors. And January 6th is being re-discussed in current terms, so they’re not just trying to forget it, they’re basically trying to rewrite what happened.

[00:10:55] DAVID PLOTZ - HOST, PP;OLITICAL GABFEST: Are you so sure that it’s an error? I mean, there is this conviction that, oh, this is that this is an unforced error. This is a known goal. Why would they bring this up? They’ve coined this phrase, "legitimate political discourse." I don’t know. It feels like we’re at the stage in American politics where there are no errors anymore, because everyone is so tribal. So no matter what you do, your tribe is on your side.

[00:11:14] JOHN DICKERSON - HOST, POLITICAL GABFEST: Well, absolutely true. I think you’re exactly right. I think the idea that what used to hurt you in the past relied on the maintenance of norms of a variety of people we’ve seen don’t maintain those norms. I do think it is a different situation where you have the leader of the Republicans in the Senate calling out basically the leader of the Republican Party. That is new. You also have splits in the party where you have the Republican Governors Association running ads on behalf of Brian Kemp, the incumbent Georgia governor, against David Perdue, who’s running against him in a primary. And part of the reason the National Gubernatorial Committee has to support its own person against another Republican, which I think never happened before, is because Donald Trump is supporting David Perdue. And these are tensions within the party which are causing upset. And the reason they’re causing upset in the Senate race is because they’re a bunch of races in places like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where Mitch McConnell is worried that a party that gets defined as too thoroughly in the Donald Trump camp will actually lose in those states where where the electorate is not wholly tribal.

[00:12:25] EMILY BAZELON - HOST, POLITICAL GABFEST: So is that why McConnell spoke out? And is that an effective move for him to make at this point? Is it enough? Is it anywhere near enough?

[00:12:34] JOHN DICKERSON - HOST, POLITICAL GABFEST: I mean, I think that is why he spoke out. I think it’s a signal which he has to keep sending about making sure that Republicans nominate people who can win in those competitive states. So it’s not that it changes. It’s a signal to the political insiders. And you saw a number of other senators speak out as well, including Uncle Mitt Romney, who is the uncle to the head of the Republican Party, Ronna McDaniel, which must have been an interesting text chain, the family text chain. But so whether it’s effective, I don’t know. But yes, it’s in the context of that, of those places where the races won’t be determined wholly by the strength of the Republican Party. Of course, McConnell can’t get too far out because he obviously needs the Republican base to show up, too. Although what we call the Republican base is a shifting thing.

[00:13:26] DAVID PLOTZ - HOST, PP;OLITICAL GABFEST: I mean, there is this desire -- there’s some people who want a Republican Party that is Trump. That’s most of Republicans want a Republican Party, which is led by Trump. Then there’s a bunch of people who want Trumpism without Trump, because they feel that Trump is toxic. And then there’s an increasingly tiny group of people who want neither Trumpism nor Trump. And for the Republican Party, too, you know, which is Mitch McConnell. I mean, not Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney and and a few friends of his. So our choices are: a Republican Party which is in the thrall of of Trumpism. That is our only choice. And then the question is, can you have it with or without Trump? And I guess my hope is that they can somehow find a way to do it without Trump. But it doesn’t look likely at this moment.

[00:14:10] JOHN DICKERSON - HOST, POLITICAL GABFEST: I would just add one other thing about McConnell. He wants every conversation to be about inflation, crime, the border and Joe Biden -- have the entire election be -- and all the political winds are at his back. So anything that changes the conversation to anything having to do with Donald Trump, who energizes the Democratic Party, is a conversation he doesn’t want to have happen.

The NYT’s Jeremy Peters on How the GOP Went Batshit Crazy - The Al Franken Podcast - Air Date 2-27-22

[00:14:30] AL FRANKEN - HOST, THE AL FRANKEN SHOW: In your book, you just have this line of assholes that you profile and their role in all of this. And it's Limbaugh, Rush Limbaugh, of course, Sean Hannity, Pat Buchanan, who at least could be kind of fun to be with, I mean, he's not... Roger Ailes, a monster but also kind of charming.

[00:14:54] JEREMY PETERS: Sociopaths are often quite charming.

[00:14:57] AL FRANKEN - HOST, THE AL FRANKEN SHOW: Then you have some sort of less well-known assholes, the guy from Operation Veritas, what's his name?

[00:15:06] JEREMY PETERS: James O'Keefe.

[00:15:08] AL FRANKEN - HOST, THE AL FRANKEN SHOW: James O'Keefe. Just a whole slew of these guys. Alex Jones, Steve Bannon, Glenn Beck, Anne Colture, Tucker Carlson.

[00:15:19] JEREMY PETERS: You keep going no one's going to want to read this book.

[00:15:21] AL FRANKEN - HOST, THE AL FRANKEN SHOW: Newt Gingrich. Well, no, it's all like a trip down nightmare lane. Giuliani, Stephen Miller shows up, Breitbart, Carl Rove, Roger Stone, and of course you start with Sarah Palin, and what's fascinating about this is just how the Republican party just got taken over by these insurgents and it's their party now.

[00:15:48] JEREMY PETERS: Yeah, that's exactly right. I mean, every one of those people you named through for the most part, we're kind of at the periphery of the conservative movement and the Republican party. I mean, these were not people who were invited to speak at Mitt Romney's Republican National Convention, and they were dismissed and they were laughed at and disrespected to a large degree by the Republican leadership, and that was a really important part of their political identity and created a real galvanizing sentiment, I think, among a lot of them, and why they identified with Trump because Trump is ultimately somebody who is not ideological, he's driven solely by his grievance and his desire for revenge.

It's something I get into in the chapter, I'm glad you mentioned Roger Ailes, because there's a scene, which has long been like lost into the void of canceled cable news shows, but Roger Ailes, when he was president of CNBC, gave himself a talk show and he had all sorts of interesting..

[00:16:54] AL FRANKEN - HOST, THE AL FRANKEN SHOW: I was on tha talk show believe it or not.

[00:16:57] JEREMY PETERS: Where are you really? That's amazing.

[00:16:59] AL FRANKEN - HOST, THE AL FRANKEN SHOW: Isn't it amazing?

[00:17:00] JEREMY PETERS: Consider yourself flattered, cause he picked really interesting people to be on that show, and one of them was Donald Trump. You probably don't enjoy being in that company, but in 1995, of course, Donald Trump was not a political figure, but he in, many ways, was the same type of grievance oriented character that he is now, and Roger says to him, "you know, I don't get it Donald. These, these construction workers, the road crews, they say, 'Hey Donald, how are you doing? We love you,' and you're this millionaire from Manhattan. How does that work?" And Trump's answer is as resonant today as it was back then. He says, 'Well it's because the rich people, they're the ones that don't like me." So what Trump was doing there is that, you know, he identified that it's not just about his appeal, it's about who people think hate him. It's about his enemies as much as it is anything in his own personal character that people find appealing.

[00:17:57] AL FRANKEN - HOST, THE AL FRANKEN SHOW: Oh man, I shouldn't say I hate him then, that give him fuel. What's interesting, basically what the arc of this book is, how the party became the Trump party, and if you think about who the nominees and a couple presidents, a couple of Bush presidents, who the nominees for the Republican party were since '88. H.W., you profile Buchanan who challenged H.W. In '92, but then it was Bob Dole, George W. Bush, then it was McCain, and then it was Romney, and those were what we used to think of when we thought of Republicans. And then it was Trump.

[00:18:52] JEREMY PETERS: What you're doing right there, and you would have no way of knowing this, but you're actually spelling out the idea that formed my book proposal. I was having lunch with a well-known Republican strategist who worked for all of those people, except for Trump, you just named over the years, including, he worked with Roger Ailes, and he said to me, "you know, one of the things that we're going to be puzzling over for years is looking at that line of Republican nominees, Bush, Bush, McCain, Romney and who!?", I felt that that question, the "Who? How did it get to this guy? Explain this," because 25 years from now, when people in grade schools are looking at the wall, at the portraits of the presidents above the chalkboard there, Donald Trump's picture is going to still be there, and there's going to be a lot of explaining to do about how we got to that point, because it looks like such an anomaly, and what my book tries to argue is that Trump wasn't an anomaly in the Republican party, he was actually kind of the soul of it for the last 25-30 years, starting with, a guy like Buchanan who ran in '92 on a lot of the ideas that Trump ended up running on.

[00:20:09] AL FRANKEN - HOST, THE AL FRANKEN SHOW: Yeah. If you think about it now, Romney's the anomaly, and basically this has always been there. This is always been and the roots are in the Tea Party, but it's also, I mean, you talk about Limbaugh, about how he got this.

[00:20:28] JEREMY PETERS: I think you wrote a book about him, didn't you?

[00:20:30] AL FRANKEN - HOST, THE AL FRANKEN SHOW: It was funny. I wrote that in '95, it was called Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations, and basically my thesis was that he's spreading a lot of disinformation and that's dangerous.

[00:20:47] JEREMY PETERS: Yeah, exactly. I could have cribbed from your book because it's true. What Limbaugh called, as you well know, that the four corners of deceit on his radio show: academia, government, science, and the media, that was conditioning his audience for years and years, not to trust authority and knowledge, and so we shouldn't at all be surprised by the time we get to 2020 and Trump says, "they're stealing this from you. The media, the Democratic party, it's all a big conspiracy," they had been hearing that kind of stuff for years.

They'd been hearing, it was a hoax from Trump ever since he started running for president, and even before that, when he claimed that the Emmys were rigged, because he'd never been nominated for an Emmy for The Apprentice. I think Trump was speaking there to the sense that people who identify with conservative movement politics, who identified with the Republican party, but not exclusively with the Republican party, felt like they were one presidential election away from losing their purchase on cultural, political, and social power in this country. They thought that for a variety of reasons...

[00:21:53] AL FRANKEN - HOST, THE AL FRANKEN SHOW: And that election was Obama.

[00:21:56] JEREMY PETERS: Yeah, that election was Obama, that's exactly right.

[00:21:58] AL FRANKEN - HOST, THE AL FRANKEN SHOW: That freaked them out boy, that freaked them out.

[00:22:01] JEREMY PETERS: It really did. You know because you served with John McCain, and McCain is an interesting figure in the book because what I report that hasn't really been out there before is the extent to which the McCain campaign was actually using the grievances and the anger out there in a way to, in a way that they crafted Sarah Palin's words for her, Sarah Palin when McCain chose her, she took a dark turn because the McCain people not only allowed her to do it they wrote, those words into her script, including the most famous line I think that she ever uttered during that campaign, that Obama was palling around with terrorists that came from the McCain campaign headquarters

[00:22:45] AL FRANKEN - HOST, THE AL FRANKEN SHOW: And I think that would surprise everyone because you don't think of Steve Schmidt who was running that campaign and you don't think of McCain stooping to that, but they did.

[00:22:59] JEREMY PETERS: Yeah. I mean, it's a complicated part of his legacy because for all that, he was, you know, the, a war hero who stood up against the, the Bush administration's uh, use of terrorism. Um, and, and, and somebody who ran as a Maverick himself against the establishment Republican party, it's a complicated legacy because ultimately the choice of Sarah Palin was on him and he, he let this happen.

Republicans in complete disarray, Biden's economy booming, so what's up with corporate media? - The Bradcast w/ Brad Friedman - Air Date 2-7-22

[00:23:23] BRAD FRIEDMAN - HOST, THE BRADCAST: Former vice president Mike Pence directly rebutted Donald Trump's false claim that he somehow could have overturned the results of the 2020 election, saying that the former president was simply, quote, "wrong." It was a speech to a gathering of the far-right Republican Federalist Society down in Florida. Pence addressed Trump's intensifying efforts this past week to advance the false narrative that as vice-president he had the lawful, constitutional, unilateral power to somehow prevent Joe Biden from taking office, to somehow decide who the president would be all by himself.

[00:24:03] FORMER VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: But there are those in our party who believed that, as the presiding officer over the joint session of Congress, that I possess unilateral authority to reject electoral college votes.

And I heard this week, that president Trump said I had the right to overturn the election. But president Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone. And frankly, there is no idea more un-American than the notion than any one person could choose the American president. Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election. And Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024.

[00:24:58] BRAD FRIEDMAN - HOST, THE BRADCAST: Now here's something I don't often say: Good for Mike Pence.

Now we talked in some detail about Congress's ongoing effort underway right now to rewrite the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which Trump had misused as a predicate, a pretext to declare that Pence somehow had the right to simply pick whoever he wanted to be the winner of the 2020 election.

But it doesn't really work that way. And last week we discussed in detail with a congressional reporter, who's doing a deep dive on the Electoral Count Act and the bi-partisan efforts now underway to clarify the stupid and terribly written 1887 law now in the U S. Senate. They're trying to rewrite it before 2024. I suspect we will be revisiting that matter in still more detail in the days ahead. As AP posits, Mike Pence's declaration marked his "most forceful response yet to Trump" who has spent his post-presidency fueling the lie that the 2020 campaign was stolen from him. I would argue that it marked Pence's only response, at least his only known public response, to Donald Trump. But sure, yeah, we can pretend that he had some other response to it over this past year, because as usual, the media seemed to be in the business of helping to normalize all authoritarian republicanism these days.

Trump responded to Mike Pence and a statement on Friday night. Once again, falsely claiming that there were, quote, "obvious signs of voter fraud in the election." Despite more than a year later now, zero actual signs of any such fraud, beyond a bunch of Republicans, by the way, being found to have voted twice in several states for dead relatives, et cetera, nothing, however, that could possibly be used to overturn the returns in any state. Much less three of them that would have been needed at a minimum to have flipped the results to Donald Trump, to somehow declare him the winner of an election that he lost by more than 8 million popular votes and 74 electoral votes. As Pence countered Trump in Florida, Republicans, meanwhile, were gathering on the very same day in Utah to align themselves even more closely with the disgraced former president. The RNC censured congress members Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois for participating on the committee investigating the January 6th insurrection, with the GOP assailing that panel for leading a, quote, "persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse."

Yes. According to the Republican party today, not the Republican party a year ago when they condemned what happened on January 6th, but now, what happened on January 6th was just citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.

Pence of course was inside the Capitol on January 6th presiding over the joint session of Congress to certify the presidential election. When that legitimate political discourse consisted of a mob of Trump's supporters violently smashing their way inside, assaulting police officers, hunting down lawmakers, chanting, "Hang Mike Pence" among other things.

But the GOP is condemning some of the most conservative, previously pro-Trump members of their own party for trying to hold folks accountable for what happened on that horrible day. GOP officials took a voice vote to approve censuring Cheney and Kinzinger at the party's winter meeting in Salt Lake City. The censure was approved a day after an RNC subcommittee had actually watered down the resolution. They had recommended expelling Cheney and Kinzinger from the party entirely for daring to investigate, you know, deadly crimes and terror attacks on the US Capitol -- I mean, I'm sorry -- for legitimate political discourse on January 6th. The censure accuses Chaney and Kinzinger of quote, "participating in a Democrat-led persecution."

But GOP Senator Mitt Romney, who voted to convict Trump in both of his impeachment trials, excoriated his own party for that censure, quote, "Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience who seek truth in the face of vitriol." He tweeted that "Honor attaches to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for seeking truth, even when doing so comes at great personal cost."

And here's something I also don't say very often: Good for Mitt Romney.

The most consequential element of the censure is a call for the party to no longer support either Cheney or Kinzinger as Republicans. The censure, combined with support from RNC members from Wyoming, allows the party now to invoke a rule to back candidates other than Cheney. It sets in motion -- and by the way, they only have one congressperson in Wyoming; that's Liz Cheney -- and now the Republicans are putting up someone to run against her in a primary, a woman by the name of Harriet Hageman, who has been endorsed by Trump. Wyoming's primary is in August. Cheney spokesperson Jeremy Adler said in a statement that the move subverted the will of Wyoming voters. But of course that's what Republicans do, Liz. Sorry. Are you just now starting to figure that part out? You have been a part of that for years, Liz Cheney, as have you Adam Kinzinger. You both even voted against the critical election reform bills, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act that might have prevented some of that, some of that attack on American democracy.

Kinzinger for his part, he's not running for reelection. He is essentially been run out of Congress by his own party.

And because the Republican party now really, really hates democracy and public discourse of the actually legitimate type, RNC members on Friday also voted in favor of a rule change that would prohibit their candidates from participating in debates organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates. That's right. There will be no presidential debates, apparently at least as long as they're headed up by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has headed them up for years. That should be particularly convenient if their nominee turns out to be one Donald J. Trump who really, really does not like having to answer for his twisted criminal career and his attempt to blatantly steal the 2020 presidential election, including, as we now know, after last week, his attempt to use the Defense Department or the Homeland Security Department or the Department of Justice to try and undermine, to try and, yes, steal the 2020 election.

Thankfully he's largely a failure. So he failed at that as well. At least he failed in 2020. And he and his party are now working very hard to prevent screwing up that take down of American democracy again in the future.

But can you imagine if a Democratic president had tried to use the Department of Justice or the Department of Homeland Security or the Pentagon to try and steal a presidential election?

Rick Scott: The Man With The Plan? - The Mehdi Hasan Show - Air Date 2-23-22

[00:32:49] MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: The answer man among Senate Republicans today, rick Scott? Yes. It's the Floridas man most famous for pleading the fifth 75 times in one deposition and for giving Ron DeSantis confidence than anyone can be elected governor of Florida, but ex governor turned Senator Rick Scott, who now leads the group responsible for getting Republicans elected to the Senate has unveiled an 11 point campaign plan to quote rescue America.

And if you love phony culture wars, you're in. Here's the plan one, make every kid say the pledge of allegiance, stand for the Anthem and learn that America is the greatest country in the world. Don't worry. It tackles the issues that matter to like a complete end to racial politics. Of course, it wouldn't be Rick Scott talking.

It wouldn't be a Rick Scott talking point. If it didn't mention socialism to which you'd like to treat as a foreign adversary and use quote all forced to stop it from destroying our country. What does that even mean? Republicans planned to arrest Bernie Sanders and AOC. Scott says he also wants to stand up for quote, common sense by which he means attacking trans people and reproductive freedom, as well as finishing the border wall and naming it for Donald Trump.

There are also some classic hits on this album. Like Scott demanding term limits. They promise Republicans made and broken. Then Gingrich contract with America. In the middle of Gingrich's own 20 years in Congress. Scott also wants to divest the U S completely from Chinese interests because quote, I think they're part of killing a hundred thousand Americans last year with fentanyl.

You're worried about hundreds of thousands of Americans dying unnecessarily in a year due to a cynical government's incompetent. Billy boy, Rick Scott, if I got some wild news for you about that, look, this is a power play by a Senator with big ambitions, but it's also a clue to how the GOP sees a way forward in lieu of actual policies to improve American's lives.

Republicans wanted to fuse the Trumpian crazy with establishment donor cash. They think they found an arm. So in the cultural. It's an effort that also dominate CPAC the annual conservative political action conference, which kicks off this week. Just look at the schedule of event in two hours. This coming Saturday, we are not making this up at 3:45 PM.

It's why the working class hates the Democrats. Would that work in class hero? JD Vance, Yale law school, class of 2013 at 4 25 5 Fowchee with Matt gates. Don't miss woke Inc. At 5 0 5. You should just get out just in time for lock her up for real with Devin Nunez. Those are real panels happening this week at CPAC, which used to be the marketplace of conservative ideas during the 2016 primaries CPAC organizes disk Trump on Twitter for skipping the conference. His absence sends a clear message to conservative. They wrote, but by 2018, the act of simply criticizing Trump was enough to get conservative columnist, Mona Taran booed and escorted out of the conference.

It's a shift that's been overseen by Matt Schlap the wealthy CPAC chairman who used to get stories written about his 30 acre weekend retreat in the blue Ridge mountains. But who now wants to defund PBS because Sesame street just introduced its first Asian American Muppet. No, really.

[00:35:59] MATT SCHLAP: They're trying to bring race into Ernie and Bert, which I grew up watching.

I'm older than you, but I grew up watching and it wasn't ever about race. It was about learning lessons and learning to read and learning tolerance and they want to inject race. They just, they won't stop with, uh, their push for woke politics.

[00:36:20] MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: This is it. This is conservatism in 2022. Own the libs. Smash the socialists. Destroy Sesame street.

It's a cynical marketing strategy with all the substance and charm of a Trump bumper sticker. We can laugh at how dumb it all is, but if we've learned anything in recent years, instead of American politics, American right wing politics can always get dumber and more dangerous. Joining me now is David jolly.

He's a former Republican Congressman who is no longer with that party. He's also chairman of the serve America movement and an MSNBC political analyst. David, welcome back to the show in 2020 Republicans opted not to have a party platform. Now heading into midterms. Mitch McConnell has been telling parties.

That the plan is to have no plan to run against Democrats instead of running for office with a plan of their own, the closest thing they now have to a plan is this Rick Scott culture war manifesto today. But that seems to be more about winning elections than actually governing.

[00:37:22] DAVID JOLLY: Yeah. And look, I'd, I'd take a more biding approach, which is it raises the question.

Are Republicans more interested in hatred or ignorance? I mean that if you look at the Rick Scott approach, if you look at match slaps, The question is, are they truly ignorant of where our culture is and where our society is going? Or is there a hatred of, uh, people that are non-binary or LGBT, is there a hatred of people of color?

What is the issue that leading Republicans have today? That's a fair question. And look at Maddie. I mean, I listened to your whole, run-up your whole intro and I. Boy, I'm kind of embarrassed that I was associated with what used to be a party of ideas, but today is no longer, as you mentioned, it's a party without a platform.

Mitch McConnell has no policy agenda. Rick Scott is somebody who is desperate to find a lane to run for president, but can't find that lane. And so he's going to continue to try to do what he does match slap admitted this week. This is not a conservative conference anymore. Seatback is not about conservatism.

It's about the American first populous grievance agenda that Donald Trump introduced to the party and the party widely.

[00:38:30] MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: And to be fair to Rick Scott, there is one policy in his, a grab bag list of grievances, and it's a weird one. He calls for income tax increases on every American, uh, you know, referring back to the Mitt Romney, 47% stuff, the moot, just stuff that Americans poor Americans don't pay enough tax, which of Democrats a small that jump on and say, we want higher taxes for the wealthy Rick Scott and the Republicans want a higher taxes on everything.

[00:38:58] DAVID JOLLY: Yeah, but you know, what's in that Rick Scott thing, and this is, I'm glad you brought that up because this is fascinating. You look, 20 years ago, Republicans would have said a dollar earned is a dollar earned and everybody should pay the same tax on that where the Republican party is today. It's actually a war on income inequality, or at least the ability to elevate income inequality.

If you will. Rick Scott is happy to pursue the kind of rich Republican corporate America agenda as he also pursues the culture wars. And at the end of the day, what Republicans have missed, what they have absolutely missed is if you're trying to level the playing field. At least invest in ladders of opportunity for people of all walks of life, education, healthcare, careers, transportation, where is the Republican agenda there?

Because if you tell me that you care about people and the ladders of opportunity being provided to everybody, then I'll listen to you on equity within the tax code. But if you start with tax codes, you've lost.

[00:39:59] MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: Yeah. I mean, it's so bizarre on so many levels. And let's talk about Rick Scott for a moment because one of the big narratives before this year see pack is the emerging rivalry.

Supposedly between Trump and fellow Florida mountain run DeSantis the governor, but Rick Scott Senate term is up in 2024. He has this secret souls. That's won him three tight races in Florida. That secrets. $64 million of his own money that he poured into those campaigns. Is he the Florida man, we should be watching out for really.

[00:40:28] DAVID JOLLY: Now look, not just in Florida, but nationwide and the Republican party. I mean this, including Donald Trump, it's Ron DeSantis and everybody else. Ron DeSantis is the future of the party. And what you're seeing from Rick Scott in front of the Marco Rubio, who has a very competitive race against valve. Is there two and three out of three in Florida politics.

There are afterthoughts in Florida politics. This state, the Republican party and the state of Florida belongs to Ron DeSantis. And I think the party nationwide does as well. The question is there's only one person that can stop Ron DeSantis and it's Donald Trump. If he decides to enter the 20, 24.

[00:41:04] MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis. Ray's always reminds me of Henry Kissinger on the Iran, Iraq war. I hope they both lose. I think he famously said, um, I have to ask about Mitch McConnell in all of this because he hasn't always been, uh, eye to eye with the Trump wing of the policy. You haven't listened to what the Senator Lindsey Graham said last month.

[00:41:21] SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: If you want to be a Republican leader, uh, in the house or the Senate, you have to have a working relationship with president Donald Trump. He's the most consequential Republican since Ronald Reagan, but here's the question. Can Senator McConnell effectively work with a leader of the Republican party, Donald Trump? I'm not going to vote for anybody that can't have a working relationship with president Trump.

[00:41:47] MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: Is this Scott plan, David, just another part, another attack on McConnell and the future of his leadership in the.

[00:41:57] DAVID JOLLY: Yeah, look it. Mitch McConnell has never been a perfect fit with Donald Trump, but neither was Lindsey Graham.

Neither has been Rick Scott, but they all acquiesce to Donald Trump's leadership until somebody beats him until somebody overtakes him in the race. And that's where you see Lindsey Graham and Rick Scott and Mitch McConnell, frankly, flirting with the idea of how to unset donald Trump, but until it happens, it's not there Lindsey Graham's right.

Donald Trump is a leader until somebody beats him or until Donald Trump steps back and here's, what's going to happen when Donald Trump steps back. All of those voices, Lindsay Graham, Mitch McConnell, Rick Scott, Kevin McCarthy are gonna tell you that they never really believed in Donald Trump anyway.

And we're going to see the true soul of the Republican party come out in a way we've never seen it. Even in these last five years of Donald Trump.

[00:42:45] MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: And David just on CPAC, which was always a bit of a fringe circus conference. And yet it's really crazy now where you have proud boys bull welcome that then longstanding gets over this anti-Trump conservatives like Mona Charron, who was a school tonight in 2018.

This is the rights incubator of new ideas.

[00:43:04] DAVID JOLLY: Yeah, look, you're at CPAC. You're going to see the crazy and you're going to see the conservative and the crazy is gonna win out. Look, I think mash, laugh and saying this is no longer. The conservative movement was the most telling statement this week. This is.

He calls it America first, this populism it's grievance, but at the end of the day, it's not, principle-based it, it is a cult of personality, not a party. And the danger in that is look, Republicans are in a good position right now because they get to be opposed to anything Democrats do. But what we saw in 18, when they lost their shirts at the election, what we saw in 20 when they lost their shirts at the election is when you actually have the reigns of power in America and you stand for nothing, you lose.

So they might win on an opposition platform in 22, but it's not an opposition platform. That's going to sustain them for decades to come. The majority of the country wants to see America work in the government work. That's not what Republicans are offering them right now.

How Vladimir Putin won Republicans' approval - Vox - Air Date 1-13-17

[00:44:00] NARRATOR: In 2014, Russian president Vladimir Putin was not very popular among Republicans or Democrats.

[00:44:08] YOCHI DREAZEN: Which made sense, given that he's a somewhat murderous strong-man with the nasty habit of invading his neighbors.

[00:44:12] SENATOR MITT ROMNEY: This is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe.

[00:44:16] REPORTER: Breaking news, signs of a Russian invasion in Ukraine tonight.

[00:44:19] REPORTER 2: Since 2000, 25 journalists have died under mysterious circumstances.

[00:44:23] REPORTER 3: The Russian military campaign in Syria, after a week of air sites, now escalating dramatically to prop up Syrian president Assad.

[00:44:31] NARRATOR: This chart shows Putin's net favor ability among Republicans. That's the percentage of people who view him favorably minus the percent who view him unfavorably. You can see the net favorability begin to rise steadily through 2014 and 2015. And then, all of a sudden, in August, 2016, it spikes. By December, 2016, the share of Republicans who saw Putin favorably had more than tripled. His popularity fell among Democrats, but by a much smaller margin. So what's going on here, and what does it mean for the United States relationship with Russia?

[00:45:10] YOCHI DREAZEN: What I think you're seeing is two years of constant Republican propaganda about how Vladimir Putin is a strong leader.

[00:45:19] RUDY GIULIANI: Putin decides what he wants to do, and he does it in half a day. He makes a decision and he executes it, quickly, then everybody reacts. That's what you call a leader.

[00:45:29] SARAH PALIN: People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans.

[00:45:37] YOCHI DREAZEN: What you see is just this Republican talking point that builds and builds and builds, and finally, really hits a peak with Donald Trump.

[00:45:43] DONALD TRUMP: I think I would get along very well with him.

I respect Putin. He's a strong leader.

If he says great things about me, I'm going to say great things about him. I've already said he is really very much of a leader. I mean, you can say, oh, isn't that a terrible thing, he called [inaudible] the man has very strong control over a country.

[00:45:58] YOCHI DREAZEN: What we see with Donald Trump is that he believes in the great man theory of history, both the great part of it and also the man part of it. He's a man who sees himself as a tough, decisive leader, authoritarian if necessary, but willing to do whatever it takes to push through what needs to be done. It looks to Vladimir Putin and Russia, someone who has made clear if you're a dissonant and criticize the same, you may disappear. If you're someone in the public who is in fully in support of him, you may lose your job. And he looks at that and thinks, it works.

[00:46:23] NARRATOR: There's also a financial connection. Trump has had trouble getting loans from US banks, following his multiple bankruptcy filing since 1991. We know from a speech that his son, Donald Trump Jr., Made in 2008 that Russia investors have played a big role in financing Trump projects ever since. Most wealthy Russian business people maintain warm relationships with Putin, who holds absolute power in the country. That means the investors who helped save Trump's business empire are likely to include several close Putin allies.

[00:46:54] YOCHI DREAZEN: We're in this extraordinary moment where a US present is potentially financially pulled into an enemy country, led by a dictator.

[00:47:00] NARRATOR: Republican voters might be taking their cues from Trump when it comes to Putin, but Republican lawmakers are a different story.

[00:47:07] SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Vladimir Putin is a person who has killed. He's jailed and murdered journalists, political opponents.

[00:47:12] REP. PAUL RYAN: Putin is an aggressor that does not share our interests. Vladimir Putin is violating the sovereignty of neighboring countries. It certainly appears that he is conducting in state sponsored cyber attacks on what appears to be our political system.

[00:47:26] SENATOR LINDSAY GRAHAM: The Russians are undermining democracy throughout the entire world. They're taking land owned by others by force. They did hack into our political system. They're doing it to other political systems.

[00:47:37] NARRATOR: Before he was Donald Trump's vice-president, then representative Mike Pence held a similar position.

[00:47:43] MIKE PENCE: Now an increasingly antagonistic Russia has been rewarded for bullying and threatening its neighbors.

[00:47:51] NARRATOR: Seven years later, he was singing a different tune.

[00:47:54] MIKE PENCE: I think it's inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country.

[00:48:03] NARRATOR: When Trump praises Putin, he's also flouting his party's long history of skepticism towards Russia.

[00:48:10] YOCHI DREAZEN: We think of Republicans and the kind of leader that they venerate, it's Ronald Reagan. They come back to Reagan again and again and again.

[00:48:16] GEORGE W. BUSH: I remember when Ronald Reagan was the president, he stood on principle, standing up to the Soviet Union.

[00:48:21] SENATOR TED CRUZ: Ronald Reagan reignited, the American economy, rebuilt the military, bankrupted the Soviet Union, and defeated Soviet communism.

[00:48:30] YOCHI DREAZEN: And they come back to him because they think he won the Cold War, and because they think he beat the Soviet Union.

[00:48:35] PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: The March of freedom and democracy, which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history, as it has left other tyrannies, which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self expression of the people.

[00:48:46] YOCHI DREAZEN: This is not just a break with Republicans on the hill in 2016, this is a break with the last 30 years of Republican ideology dating back to president Ronald Reagan, who they held up as a near godlike figure.

Wagner: Some Republicans Are Uniting Against Biden And Siding With Putin - All In w/ Chris Hayes - Air Date 2-23-22

[00:48:57] ALEX WAGNER - HOST, ALL IN W/ CHRIS HAYES: Tonight, Republicans are uniting against president Joe Biden and siding with a foreign autocrat Vladimir Putin, as he is invading a sovereign and peaceful country, that in and of itself should be enough for all Americans to unite against Putin, but that is not what's happening.

The leader of the Republican party, Donald Trump recently praised the brilliance of Putin's invasion while criticizing his successor in the way.

[00:49:24] FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I went in yesterday and there was a television screen and I said, this is genius. Putin declares, a big portion of the Ukraine of Ukraine. Hootin declares it as independent.

Oh, that's wonderful. So Putin is now saying it's independent, a large section of Ukraine. I said, how smart is that? And he's going to go in and be a peacekeeper. That's the strongest piece for us. We could use that on our Southern border and you know what the response was from Biden. There wasn't no response.

They didn't have one for that. Now it's very sad, very sad.

[00:50:02] ALEX WAGNER - HOST, ALL IN W/ CHRIS HAYES: House Republican's piled on tweeting this photo of president Biden walking out of the east room of the white house yesterday afternoon, after he announced sanctions against Russia and defensive military operations. Those house Republicans, captioned it, quote, this is what weakness on the world stage looks like. To be clear

Biden is literally just walking away from the podium. Former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, echoed that critique talking about Biden's dealings with Putin in an interview on C-SPAN.

[00:50:31] MIKE POMPEO: took a fifth of the country under president Obama when Biden was vice president, I am, and president Biden has now told them you can make a minor incursion into the country and that'll all be square.

And just, uh, just spiffy by me. Those are, those are signs of feebleness signs of weakness. And those are the kinds of things that never happened to during our four years.

[00:50:52] ALEX WAGNER - HOST, ALL IN W/ CHRIS HAYES: Feebleness and weakness. That is how he characterized the sitting president of the United. And here is this very favorable assessment last week of Vladimir Putin.

[00:51:04] MIKE POMPEO: Very shrewd. Very capable. I have enormous respect for him. I've been criticized for saying that. Uh, no I have enormous respect for him. Uh, he was also an interlocutor that was always well-informed and deeply clear about what Russian interests were. I appreciated that. It required the same from us, for me, from my team, we had to be equally prepared and equally protective of the interests that matter to the United States.

He is very savvy, very shrewd.

[00:51:35] ALEX WAGNER - HOST, ALL IN W/ CHRIS HAYES: Yesterday senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told the press that he thinks Biden has been outmatched by Putin.

[00:51:43] SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: The president button. You said a couple of years ago. Putin does not want you to win because you're the only person that could go toe to toe with him. All right.

Now, Mr. President, you're playing footsie with food and you're losing, here's walking all over you and our allies.

[00:52:02] ALEX WAGNER - HOST, ALL IN W/ CHRIS HAYES: We're seeing this message repeated all the way down to Republican candidates for office Ohio, Republican Senate hopeful, JD Vance has been railing against Biden for focusing on what he says is the wrong border.

[00:52:14] JD VANCE: I think it's ridiculous that we're focused on this border and Ukraine. Uh, I don't, I gotta be honest with you. I don't really care what happens to you friend one way or another. I do care about the fact that in my community right now, the leading cause of death among 18 to 45 year olds is Mexican fentanyl that's coming across the Southern border. I'm sick of Joe Biden, focusing on the border of a country. I don't care about while he lets the border of his own country become a total war.

[00:52:38] ALEX WAGNER - HOST, ALL IN W/ CHRIS HAYES: And in New York, a Republican candidate for Congress is speaking positively about the Russian autocrat tweeting quote, Putin protects the church tradition and Russian culture to an extent that globalists can not accept.

He added that we deal with far worse governments regularly. Of course, all of these Republicans are being supported by their friends at Fox News. Tucker Carlson has been, especially persistent in pushing the anti-Biden and pro-Russia message. Last night, he asked his audience why they're following Democrats' orders to hate Vladimir Putin.

[00:53:11] TUCKER CARLSON: Since the day that Donald Trump became president Democrats in Washington have told you, you have a patriotic duty to hate Vladimir Putin.

It's not a suggestion. It's a mandate. Anything less than hatred for Putin is treason. It might be worth asking yourself since it is getting pretty sick. What is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much? Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him as he shipped every middle-class job in my town to Russia? Did he manufacture a worldwide pandemic that wrecked my business and kept me endorsed for two years?

[00:53:44] ALEX WAGNER - HOST, ALL IN W/ CHRIS HAYES: Now, let's be clear about who Vladimir Putin is. Exactly this guy who Republicans are praising for his strength and his smarts. Putin is an authoritarian ruler who has kept himself in power for over two decades. Using anti-democratic tactics. He has prevented elections in Russia from being free and fair. He does not allow freedom of the press.

He is overseeing the passing of numerous laws that allow for censorship and surveillance of journalists who are sometimes threatened, attacked, or even killed. Vladimir Putin does not treat dissenters kindly. He silences them like opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, who was arrested and thrown in jail.

Last year. You may remember a former Russian intelligence officer accused of being a double agent for Britain was poisoned in 2018. Human rights abuses are widespread and. LGBTQ people are often targeted with legislation and with violence last year, Putin signed a constitutional amendment, outlawing same-sex marriage and banning transgender people from adopting children.

Even if you put all of that aside, there should be no doubt that Bladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine is abominable, and yet many Republicans are siding with him. And not just because they hate Joe Biden and want to oppose everything he says. They actually seem to share certain anti-democratic values with Vladimir Putin.

They want our elections to be less free. They target the trans community. They'd prefer we had less freedom of the press. The shocking thing is when these Republicans look at Russia, it's repression and flouting of democratic norms and restriction of essential freedoms, when they look at all that they may not see a cautionary tale, but an aspirational one.

How Jan 6th Changed Extremism - The Brian Lehrer Show - Air Date 1-5-22

[00:55:24] BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: Your article begins with the story of a militia member named Denise Aguilar, who is there on January 6th, praised the quote, "Patriots who broke open the doors," but you find her at a school board meeting near Sacramento. Tell us a little bit of the Denise Aguilar story, if you would.

[00:55:43] BRANDY ZADROZNY: Sure. Denise Aguilar is a California mom, she's has been pretty active in the anti-vaccine movement before this starting in California when they were trying to pass some laws getting way of religious exemptions for childhood vaccination.

She's been a low-key activist for a while, but 2020 came and many like her, people who had never dabbled in politics or thought about activism, slowly became mass radicalized, as the phrase that we're using and experts are using. That led her to the statehouse to protest COVID precautions, masks, and then the coming vaccines, she was detained by police. Eventually, it led her to the Capitol where she was part of this health freedom summit on January 6th, and she gave a rousing speech, and then according to her now-deleted Instagram video, she was bare maced and she said, "We stormed the Capitol." She said, "We will continue to storm capitals as we go home."

She went back home. She's not been storming any capitals. Instead, as she said, she has been doing this small-time work of local protesting, going to city council board meetings, going to school board meetings, which -- her children do not attend the public schools, of course -- but arguing and fighting to do away with mask mandates, vaccine mandates, the culture war stuff that we're seeing a lot of around the country.

[00:57:19] BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: Wait, her kids don't attend public school, and yet she's getting involved with the local school board to tell others what they're allowed to do?

[00:57:28] BRANDY ZADROZNY: That's absolutely true. I've been watching a lot of school board meetings, which is weird as an extremist reporter, but I've been watching a lot of them. That is a recurring theme, that a lot of the fights that we're seeing at local school boards from so-called fights against critical race theory or mask mandates, stuff like that, most of the speakers that are against those things and are the most vocal are usually not parents of children in the district.

[00:57:59] BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: What's the Denise Aguilar story representative of? There are many Denise Aguilars. Are there many Denise Aguilars getting more involved in local politics around the country after they supported or participated in January 6th?

[00:58:14] BRANDY ZADROZNY: Yes, I think it is part of a broader transformation by specifically the extremist groups that were there. I think that the stat is something like one in 10 of the over 700 people arrested and charged from the Capitol riots were part of a known extremist group. Many of those people, yes, it's very indicative of how their groups have come home and are doing small-time work. They had a cooling-off period, and now they're focused on local politics, specifically school boards, county health boards.

They do this as a way to not only battle their PR crisis, because they're widely condemned following the riot. Everybody can see that with their eyes, and most people would say that's going too far. And so a way to engender support is to glom onto the larger culture wars mainstream conservative movements. And so you see, for instance, Proud Boys at a North Carolina public health meeting against masks, and they're just sitting in the back. A lot of the people that are there support them, they clapped for them, and they were glad they were there, and not all of those people are extremists. They get into the mainstream that way. And they also use it for recruiting. Like that North Carolina meeting where the Proud Boys showed up, they used the media from that, made posters of themselves sitting in the back, menacing, all in masks, and looking quite scary, and said that the tagline was "saved you a seat." The message being, "We are involved in local politics, get involved too, join our group." It's this cycle of recruiting, propagandizing, and then also engendering support within your communities and then widening out broader.

[01:00:04] BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: To what degree is this being centrally directed? For example, you wrote that by last spring, there were internal calls in far-right circles for them to refocus, including by Steve Bannon, to what you call his far-right nationalist foot soldiers. What did Steve Bannon say, and what was the context for that?

[01:00:24] BRANDY ZADROZNY: Right. There is no national thing to bring everybody together. There is no election right now. There is no rallying cry to unify people on the far right. Leaders of the far-right, from not only Steve Bannon on his podcast, but also you have hardcore white nationalists, and they are all calling to refocus on these local groups. Steve Bannon back in the spring said basically people need to retake the country village by village.

ProPublica actually had this great investigation where they followed up on that, and after that call -- and he has a ton of podcast listeners, it's a very, very popular podcast -- he found there was this really crazy increase in local level party officers doing just what he said, filing to be involved in their local level politics.

I think it's incredibly popular. I think that you see it not just in -- we see it with the QAnon thing too. We've seen an uptick in QAnon members running for school board, running for low-level public office, with a vacuum of a national unifying topic. What's happening is that people are going to local levels to affect change.

[01:01:57] BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: This may be an uncomfortable question, but if the far right is participating in school board democracy and county health board democracy, and things like that, that's not the same as trying to kill Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence or stage a coup after a legitimate election. Is it wrong to demonize people we disagree with as a threat to democracy for getting involved in democratic institutions?

[01:02:22] BRANDY ZADROZNY: I think that's a really fair question, and it's one that's been proposed a lot. That's what you're supposed to do if you want to affect change. I personally think that's fine. My job as a reporter is just to document. If we see that there is a contingent in the United States, a growing contingent of domestic extremists that pose a real threat to the country according to the FBI and law enforcement agencies and extremism researchers who have said that right now, we have a bigger domestic terror threat than we'd ever had ever.

I think that it's fair to say, to look at what they're doing. Especially when it's described like Nick Fuentez, for example, on his podcast, or his live stream, he blatantly says that it is a tactic. It's a tactic that works. If you cover school board meetings, you cover local politics, you're used to getting the wild ones maybe, but it is important that we realize that this isn't just local people getting involved in local things. It's blatantly a strategy to grow their movements and move the mainstream conservatives farther towards the extremes.

The America We Deserve - In The Thick - Air Date 2-8-22

[01:03:40] MARIA HINOJOSA - HOST, IN THE THICK: We do talk about people power, but what we saw in January 6th, Was a violent attempted coup d'etat. It remains an attempted coup d'etat to overturn a legitimate election. So on Friday, Matthew Dowd, a political consultant who was formally a Republican was on Joanne Reed's show on MSNBC talking about the state of the Republican party.

So let's take a quick listen.

[01:04:03] MATTHEW DOWD: And I think the days of blaming this on Donald Trump, we have to stop. I mean, Donald Trump is obviously a proximate cause, but. Was basically a reflection of who the Republican party is as opposed to a cause of it. It's like saying Jefferson Davis was in, was the reason why the state succeeded no, the state succeeded because the people in the states wanted to secede and he just happened to run the show after they succeeded in this.

And so to me, that's, what's the reflection. And one of the things having worked in the Republican party in an episode brief time that I did with George W. Bush. The RNC there's people I keep this in mind is the most is the people most in touch with who the Republican party basis, the RNC is closest to the Republican party activists and the Republican party grassroots.

So when they put out a statement like that, there were here a complete reflection of the Republican party basin and the unicorns like Adam Kinzinger and what Mitt Romney said today. And, uh, Liz. Uh, there are the complete exception to the rule in this, and you know, you're in a bad place. When the person today who has moral fiber in the Republican party is Mike Pence.

[01:05:13] MARIA HINOJOSA - HOST, IN THE THICK: Okay. He just laid it out pretty quickly. So Chrissy, your reaction to the gas lighting from the RNC.

[01:05:21] DR. CHRISTINA GREER: What I think is so shameful for the Republican party, is that on January 7th, 2021, you saw Republican leader after Republican leader denouncing what they saw. They saw the same swastika flags we saw. They saw the Confederate flags.

They saw these, these insurrectionists beating police officers and terrorizing our nation's Capitol. And they denounced it. And then fast forward a year, we've gone from, we cannot have this. This is not democracy. This is not who we are as American people to this is peaceful protest and Democrats are just trying to use this as a wedge issue and they're making an attempt instead of a teapot.

And we just need to all go back to business as usual ignoring the fact that the police officers have died by suicide because of what they experienced on January 6th, 2021. And so the fact that the Republican party has essentially thrown down the gauntlet and said, we are now the party of white nationalists, we are now the party of insurrections. We are now the party that rejects small D democratic principles, even at the cost of the safety of the nation, that's who they are. And so before, when we would say this, Maria, you and I, and LaTosha would say it much more eloquently when it came to voting rights, you know, we were accused of being extremists.

We were accused of being alarmist and histrionic, and now we have visual evidence. Of these individuals trying to overthrow the government at the behest of at the time, a sitting president, and we have members of the Republican party, a vast majority now of members of the Republican party saying it wasn't that big of a deal.

This, this committee is just a witch hunt. This is so damaging and so frightening for the future of our democracy that if we don't cut this off at the head, soon, before the midterms, I would argue that we're in a really dangerous position to see where this country actually goes in the next few years.

[01:07:14] MARIA HINOJOSA - HOST, IN THE THICK: So LaTosha, how do you take that with the hope that you have, which is, you know, we can use this moment to build a true democracy, but it's like they ain't trying to build shit.

They trying to tear everything down.

[01:07:26] LATOSHA BROWN: I agree with everything that Chrissy said when she was talking, it reminded me of the image of the gremlins. You remember the grim lumps seem like. Furry and harmless, and then water gets on them at midnight and they turn into these monsters. The Republicans have always been that, but they used to at least have the furry component.

You know, they've decided that they're going to be the party of white fear of white supremacy. And. Consolidate it anti-democratic control. And I think we have to really recognize that there are more of us in this country that have a vision of a real true America. There are more of us in this country that respect the diversity there, more of us in this country that are literally communities of color.

When you look at where the growth, the projected growth in this country, it is from our communities. And so we have to recognize that it is really the. For us to forge a vision of a new America, a kind of America where it's multiracial is multi-generational. And so in this moment where it is extremely painful, we can no longer hide behind American exceptionalism and operate that as if America's democracy, as it's laid out in the constitution, the declaration of independence hasn't been achieved, I'm saying this is the moment for people to take their.

This midterm election, we've got to send a message loud and clear that that is not the direction that we're going to go. That's not the direction we want to go. We also have to see ourselves a little bit differently. We have to see ourselves as founders of new America. Yes, we should be honest in this moment and say, this is Hell what we're experiencing right now. The democracy that we have is being dismantled, but we also have to take it a step further and literally get people engaged and say what is possible when people are showing up in the fullness of their power and they're relentless and they're resilient.

Final comments on sheepdogging, coalition governments and power dynamics

[01:09:10] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard eclipse today, starting with the Rachel Maddow show, discussing these strong man philosophy ascendant in the GOP, the slate political gab Fest looked at the internal debate among Republicans on how to address the January 6th insurrection. The Al Franken podcast explained how the fringes of the GOP worked to make themselves the mainstream of the party.

The Brad gassed explained Pence rejecting Trump's take on January 6th while the GOP rejected Cheney. Kinzinger. The concept of presidential debates. The Medhi Hassan show looked at Rick Scott's talking points and the, the intellectual bankruptcy of SeaPak Vox in a video from 2017 explained to the sudden shift in approval for flattener Putin, among Republicans and all in with Chris Hayes explained to the far right's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

That's what everyone heard, but numbers also heard bonus clips from the Brian Lehrer show, looking at methods of masks. by the far right. And in the thick, following up on the GOP gas lighting the events of January six. To hear that and have all of our bonus contents delivered seamlessly into our members.

Only podcast feed that you'll receive. Sign up to support the show at Best of the Left dot com slash support or request a financial hardship membership, because we don't make a lack of funds, a barrier to hearing more information. Every request is granted. No questions asked. And now I just want to finish up today's episode with a few thoughts.

You know, we just heard a whole episode about the profound transformation of a political party and how the French. I managed to take over the party. Right. And so I thought I would share some thoughts that I've had recently about the dynamics at play of the left. Now, going back to 2016, I learned a new term, then sheep dogging.

And I learned this from a show that was criticizing Bernie Sanders. They had been a supporter of his, when he was running in the primary, but they began to criticize him for encouraging his supporters. To vote in the general election for the ultimate winner of the primary campaign. And so the term sheep dogging refers to the idea of sort of getting a group of people, excited, getting them to follow you and then guiding them.

Sort of somewhere else. So Bernie Sanders, this show was suggesting, could have guided his followers into the green party movement or could have started a totally separate party. But instead he corralled these Bernie Sanders supporting progressives into the democratic party away from the green party or anywhere else.

And for some reason it was until this past week when I just had a bit of a brain flash. The only thing I can think of is that so much of the world, these days feels bizarro, feels like everything is its own opposite. Everyone is sort of saying the exact same thing about their political opponents, but they mean something completely.

Diametrically opposed to the other. So we have this sort of bizarro world effect, which got me thinking about sheep dogging, or I don't know, it came to mind somehow. And I realized that, you know, here's a counter point about sheep dogging people into the democratic party, which, you know, this commentator, uh, was very much opposed to think about how the green party and its supporters could just as easily be said to be sheep dogging, Progressive's away from.

Toward disempowerment. If you just take the party labels off of it, that really is what it comes down to the democratic party. As an institution in this country has political power. The green party as an institution in this country does not have any political power. And so if you have people and they're excited and they're politically engaged and you want to corral them somewhere, would you want to corral.

Into the entity that has power or into the entity that doesn't have power. And think about it this way. If I were a Neo liberal Democrat, looking to fend off the far left, I would be grateful for the existence of the green party every day. And think that if it didn't already exist, then we would be smart to invent it because it does such a good job of corralling the most progressive people in the country away from.

Where they are not a threat so that the neo-liberals can go about their Merry way, implementing their deeply moderate, or conservative economic and other policies without worrying about those progressive getting in the way, because they have no power. They're not even within the institution that has power.

And if you have any doubts that taking radical enough, Into the party structure can fundamentally change the party and the power it wields. All you need to do is look at the Republicans from 2010 onward. If you add your doubts before that, I would consider it very understandable. If you have your doubts after that.

It seems like you have not been paying attention, but look, if you still find the idea of working within the democratic party structure to be distasteful, or, you know, you want to debate with someone who does feel that way, try this reframing on for size. In a parliamentary system, there is room for many minor parties who are capable of getting elected in small percentages.

And the way these minor parties exercise their power is by forming coalition governments with other parties, none of which won the election outright. So for instance, New Zealand has that very popular prime minister who got famous by handling the pandemic so well, but they're only. Because the green party of New Zealand is in a coalition with the prime minister's party.

So the green party, isn't just a fringe party and they're certainly not out of power. They are in a position to exert power within the coalition and make demands for more progressive policies in exchange for their support within the coalition. In the U S we have a two party system, which gives the impression that no fringe perspectives can gain traction.

But I argue that that is an illusion, a better way of understanding our two parties would be that of two permanent coalitions. If we lived in a parliamentary system, Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Manchin would very likely exist within three separate caucuses. And then those three separate parties that they.

Would ultimately end up entering into a coalition with each other. Same with Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz on the Republican side, they don't belong in the same party, but they do belong in the same coalition. So under this reframing. Understanding that we do live in something much more akin to a parliamentary system than we usually think anyone who is choosing to be on the outside looking to gain power for a true third party in the U S is effectively removing themselves.

From the political structure entirely, which they wouldn't do if they lived in New Zealand, they'd be part of the New Zealand green party and would be part of the governing coalition. Whereas here they voluntarily leave themselves outside the gates, allowing the democratic party as a coalition to become even more conservative due in part to their absence.

They are the ones who could make the democratic party more progress. But they say no, no, no, no. We're going to stay outside. So for those of us wanting to remake American politics in our own image, we could give it no greater gift to the neoliberal powers that be within the democratic establishment than to voluntarily disempower ourselves and even worse.

Sheepdog our friends and allies in that same direction. And to keep it short. The one thing I will say about the futility of trying to build a third party in America is that it is structural. If you want a third party to exist, you want the green party to exist and have power in America. There's a decent chance you believe in structural racism, there's also a decent chance you believe in structural patriarchy.

Well, if you can understand that structure, understand that the forces laid out against third parties in America are also structural. They are insurmountable without fundamentally changing those structures. So if you want a third party, you might as well get into power first within the only entity that has power.

That is even vaguely on your side, which is the democratic party and then work to fundamentally change the structure of our election system. Then once the structures have been changed, you can advocate for a third party. No problem. And I'll be right there with you as always keep the comments coming in at 2 0 2 9 9 9 3 9 9 1.

Or by emailing me to Jay at Best of the Left dot com. That is going to be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to the Monosyllabic, Transcriptionist Trio, Ben, Ken, and Scott for their volunteer work, helping put our transcripts together and thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism, segments, graphic designing web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting.

And thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at Best of the Left dot com slash support through our Patriots. Or right inside the apple podcast app membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good bonus episodes. In addition to there being extra content and no ads in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player.

So coming to you from far outside, the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to twice weekly. Thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from Best of the Left dot com.


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  • Jay Tomlinson
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