A NEWSLETTER FROM DAVID CORN
Snowflake Fascists and the GOP Politics of Rubber and Glue
By David Corn September 2, 2022
Donald Trump speaks at the NRA convention in May 2022. Bob Daemmrich/ZUMA
A few days ago, Donald Trump issued a statement on his struggling TRUTH Social platform: “Why are people so mean?” This came in the middle of a conservative crusade to depict liberals and Democrats as nasty folks. Trump’s remark captured the absurdity of this campaign. The fellow who routinely assails political foes and critics as “losers,” whose misogynistic history of denigrating women is unparalleled in American public life, who rose to the top of the GOP pile by disparaging the physical appearances of his opponents (and, in one case, the wife of an opponent), who railed against Muslims and “shithole countries,” who called for locking up his political rival, who worships revenge and lives on spite, who denounced journalists as “the enemy of the people,” who relishes conjuring up ugly and dismissive nicknames for his political adversaries, whose entire political project is built upon denigration and vilification—this guy complains about people being mean? And this list does not include his incitement of an insurrectionist riot or his attempt to destroy the foundation of American democracy.
Yes, you can chalk this up to Trump projection: his habit of accusing others of his own pathological sins. But his whine occurred as other right-wingers boo-hoo’ed about President Joe Biden’s recent blast at Trumpism. During a campaign rally in Maryland, Biden noted that Trump has embraced “political violence” and no longer believes in democracy: “What we’re seeing now is either the beginning or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy. It’s not just Trump, it’s the entire philosophy that underpins the—I’m going to say something—it’s like semi-fascism.” Of course, the right went berserk over this.
A Republican National Committee spokesperson howled that Biden’s comment was “despicable.” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu exclaimed that it was “horribly inappropriate” and urged Biden to apologize. Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted that “communists have always called their enemies ‘fascists.’” (Biden is a communist?) But what to call a movement that denies election results, falsely claims an election was stolen, and refuses to admonish or excommunicate a leader who encouraged and used violence in his effort to overturn that election? In a flurry of unhinged tweets this week, Trump demanded his restoration to the presidency (a move impossible under the Constitution) and hinted that the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago might spur his supporters to violence. That all sounds a bit fascist-ish.
Trump and his cultists are masters at the I’m-rubber-you’re-glue form of name-calling. Each day, I receive a bunch of fundraising emails from Trump or other Republicans lambasting evil Democrats as radical socialists or communists pursuing devious plots to purposefully destroy America. In a recent request for money, Sen. Marco Rubio, citing the FBI raid, railed that the Biden administration was comparable to “Marxist dictatorships.” (As the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Rubio ought to care about the handling of the intelligence community’s secrets. Yet he pounded the FBI for the raid, claiming in MAGA-like fashion that the bureau was “doing more to erode public trust in our government institutions, the electoral process, and the rule of law in the US than the Russian Federation or any other foreign adversary.”) During the 2020 campaign, Trump asserted that Biden was in league with antifa, Marxists, looters, anarchists, Black Lives Matter, terrorists, and radicals to demolish America’s suburbs, where a law-abiding citizen could easily become the victim of a “very tough hombre.” (Not too subtle, eh?) He portrayed Biden as an ally of “far-left fascism.” For decades, the GOP has depicted Democrats as an anti-American force (commies! radicals! subversives!) actively scheming to wreck the nation. Now they cry foul?
Alt-right (and white supremacy-supporting) Stephen Miller went bananas on Fox. Referring to the FBI search, he huffed, “What you are seeing is the classic technique of tyrants and authoritarians where they use the methods of dictatorships while accusing their opponents of being fascists.” (Miller called the FBI raid an effort to “seize and steal [Trump’s] property and his documents”—an utterly false characterization. The records belong to the US government, not Dear Leader.) Also on Fox, right-wing commentator Mollie Hemingway harrumphed that Biden’s semi-F-word remark “is more hateful than the worst thing Donald Trump has ever said.” Last year Hemingway enthusiastically tweeted out an article from the conservative Federalist that proclaimed Biden’s vaccine program was a “fascist move.” Apparently, F-word for thee, not for me. And amid this kerfuffle, Trump posted a photograph of Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi in which their faces were covered by the words “Your enemy is not in Russia.” In other words, they are your enemy. Not mean, right? Such meme-ing could well lead to violence.
One of the silliest retorts of the right came after Matt Lewis, a level-headed conservative columnist for the Daily Beast, posted a column that zeroed in on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Pennsylvania Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz and asked, “When did the GOP become the party of jerks?” Right-wing writer Bethany Mandel replied, “If I had to pinpoint a moment, when Mitt Romney spent his entire campaign being accused of killing Big Bird, building binders full of women, torturing the family dog, etc etc.” That certainly set off Twitter. She was suggesting that Trump’s party was driven mad-mean because the Ds had been too rough on good ol’ Mitt.
Did Mandel forget that in the years prior to the 2012 campaign, Republicans and conservatives regularly accused Barack Obama of being a secret Muslim socialist who despised the United States and was conspiring to ruin the nation? Did she not watch the Tea Party rallies attended by John Boehner, then the top House Republican, where the crowd cried out, “Nazis! Nazis,” when Democrats were mentioned? Did she never view Glenn Beck on Fox, as he claimed the Obama administration was creating concentration camps and prominent Republicans appeared on his show to validate his conspiratorial lunacy? Nothing said about Romney matched the right-wing vitriol hurled at Obama. (At McCain-Palin rallies in 2008, Republican voters shouted out that Obama should be killed.) And also: Rush Limbaugh. By the way, Romney embraced this guy named Trump, the number-one birther.
On Thursday night, at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Biden again addressed the issue of MAGA extremism in a formal speech. Noting that not every Republican is a MAGA Republican—which is a charitable position these days—he declared, “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.” He put it simply: “MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people. They refuse to accept the results of a free election. And they’re working right now, as I speak, in state after state to give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies, empowering election deniers to undermine democracy itself….They promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence.” Factcheck: True. Biden did not use the F-word, but he fully and passionately explained how Trumpism presents a profound danger to the nation.
And this, too, triggered the Trumpers. Mercedes Schlapp, a former Trump White House official, exclaimed, “No Republican can feel safe in Biden’s America.” (Ask the 150 cops who were brutally assaulted by MAGAites at the US Capitol.) In pro-Trump internet forums, Biden was cast as Hitler. Ari Fleischer, the onetime White House press secretary who helped the Bush-Cheney administration lie the United States into the Iraq war, slammed Biden as “the most divisive, over the top, rhetorically vile, bumbling, inarticulate president in history.” Did Fleischer just wake up from a five-year coma? What’s more divisive than inciting political violence and purposefully doing nothing to stop it because it benefits you?
There has long been an asymmetry in American politics. The GOP, going back to McCarthyism, has wielded falsehoods and paranoia to cast its political enemies as malevolent and nefarious threats to the nation—as literal enemies of the state. Democrats have tended to assail Republicans as being on the wrong side. And now we see that Trump and his Republican enablers are snowflake fascists. They hurl false accusations to demonize and dehumanize adversaries, plot against democracy, peddle outrageous lies to their followers, support dangerous and nutty conspiracy theories, and fan the flames of political violence. Then they moan when they are called out. C’mon now. Fascists ought to be made of sterner stuff. Perhaps that’s why Biden called them semis.
Got anything to say about this item—or anything else? Email me at email@example.com.
American Psychosis Tease of the Week
If you’re getting tired of me promoting my new book, well…sorry, not sorry. If that’s the case, feel free to skip this item. But as I’ve mentioned previously, desperate is a superfluous adjective for author. After spending a year or more writing a book—my first book took five years—an author yearns for readers and buyers. After all those sleepless nights, lost (to work) weekends, and hours and hours of deliberating over word choices—how many ways can you say extremist?—you want your book to find an audience, to mean something to others. And you don’t want to be a commercial flop. So extreme (or annoying) measures are deployed. But don’t fret: American Psychosis: A Historical Investigation of How the Republican Party Went Crazy comes out on September 13. So you will only have to bear with me a few more weeks on this. (The special offer for Our Land readers—35 percent off a signed copy—does truly expire tonight at midnight. So click HERE for your last chance at that deal.)
Here's the latest sneak peek: These days, Republicans have been hysterically complaining about the provision in the Inflation Reduction Act that will provide an additional $80 billion to the IRS so it can better pursue tax cheats. Cruz responded by calling for abolishing the IRS. (Then where will the money come from for the military, Social Security, and his paycheck?) In the abovementioned fundraising email, Rubio went full-paranoia: “After [the] raid on Mar-a-Lago, how do you think the left plans to use those 87,000 new IRS agents they just voted for? You could be next.” (The 87,000 figure is a made-up number being deployed by Republicans.) All this fearmongering is reminiscent of the GOP’s attack on federal agents in the mid-1990s during the Clinton administration, when Republican members of Congress exploited and encouraged the far-right anti-government movement that was spreading.
In early 1995, Rep. Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho), who had been elected the previous year with support from the nutty John Birch Society and anti-government militia extremists, held a hearing in Idaho and voiced concerns about black helicopters (a focus of conspiracy theorists who believed they were the sign of an imminent UN takeover of the United States). The hearing featured a militia activist who had declared that some lawmakers might have to be killed in the coming civil war. Around this time, the GOP-supported National Rifle Association decried law enforcement agents as “jack- booted government thugs” who wear “Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms,” and the gun group ran a bulletin board on which its members posted bomb-making instructions and cited the need to prepare for armed conflict against the government.
After the horrendous Oklahoma City bombing in April that year killed 168 people— the bomber, Timothy McVeigh, and his accomplice, Terry Nichols, were each linked to anti-government militias—the Clinton administration and the FBI moved to monitor the militias more closely. Yet Sen. Bob Dole and House Speaker Newt Gingrich opposed this move and refused to criticize the right-wing militias. Gingrich even expressed sympathy for those expressing virulent anti-government notions. And Representative Steve Stockman, a Texas Republican, wrote an article for Guns & Ammo endorsing a favorite conspiracy theory of the militia crowd: The Clinton administration had orchestrated the 1993 raid of the Brach Davidian compound in Waco, Texas—in which 76 members of the cult were killed—to bolster public support for gun control.
During this ugly stretch, Republicans played footsie with anti-government fanatics, feeding their paranoia and harvesting it for votes. American Psychosis has the full story and shows how this episode was one more instance of the GOP partnering up with conspiracy-minded and dangerous extremists. You can read other sneak-peeks of the book here.
Dumbass Comment of the Week
Some weeks it seems this entire newsletter could be devoted to inane and disturbing comments from people who influence and pervert our political discourse. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), a regular in these here parts, denounced Biden’s college loan forgiveness program and groused, “Joe Biden is robbing hard working Americans to pay for Karen’s daughter’s degree in lesbian dance theory.” Is this how she views higher education? Don Bolduc, a Republican senatorial candidate in New Hampshire, said the state’s GOP governor, Chris Sununu, is “a Chinese Communist sympathizer,” called for repealing the 17th Amendment that allows direct election of senators, and suggested abolishing the FBI. (Killing the FBI is definitely a policy the Chinese government would love, for then no one would pursue Beijing’s spies in the United States.)
Trump offered several contenders for this week’s winner. In a social media post, he essentially called for an uprising against the government and seemed to threaten violence in response to the investigation of his apparent theft of secret documents. Falsely claiming the FBI had intervened in the 2020 election by suppressing evidence of alleged Hunter Biden wrongdoing, he declared that he should be reinstated as president. He also shared a barrage of posts promoting conspiracy theories associated with QAnon, fueling baseless paranoia and enmity among his followers. It was a spree of a craziness proving yet again that there is no bottom to Trump’s lunacy and demagoguery.
Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson was back to auditioning for a job with Russia state television. He proclaimed, “By any actual reality-based measure, Vladimir Putin is not losing the war in Ukraine. He is winning the war in Ukraine.” This is Baghdad Bob stuff. Here’s a good take on the current state of things in this dreadful war. Russia has not yet been defeated. But it certainly is no winner. Carlson’s rah-rahing for Vlad is a good reminder, as I reported in March, that the Kremlin has instructed Russian media outlets “to use as much as possible fragments of broadcasts of the popular Fox News host Tucker Carlson.” How do you say “viral” in Russian? I know, I know: популярный (populyarnyy).
It would be too easy to award the prize to the former-but-still-crazy guy. So the judges this week are going with Blake Masters, the Republican Senate contender in Arizona. An acolyte of dangerous neo-reactionary tech billionaire Peter Thiel, Masters is an alt-rightish candidate who has praised Unabomber Ted Kaczynski (with caveats) and who is part of a conservative wing that blends Trumpism with libertarian, tech-ish disruption. He most recently drew widespread notice for scrubbing from his website his support for a highly restrictive abortion ban—a sign that Republicans fear a voter backlash for their war on women’s freedom. The Trump-endorsed Masters also removed from his site the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.
But Masters, who has lost the full support of Sen. Mitch McConnell’s PAC, hasn’t totally dumped his hard-right stances. In a campaign video, he railed against affirmative action, in particular diversity at the Federal Reserve. As part of this rant, he decried Biden’s 2020 campaign promise to choose a woman as his running mate and assailed Vice President Kamala Harris as “so incompetent she cannot even get a sentence out.”
That’s quite a statement to make about a person who was a district attorney in a major American city, the attorney general of the most populous state in the nation, a US senator, and a vice president. She cannot even get a sentence out. At congressional hearings, Harris was often one of the most articulate and best questioners of witnesses. (Ask Brett Kavanaugh.) It’s fair game to criticize Harris for her actions and policies. But why diminish her as a nitwit when she clearly is not a nitwit? I can think of two reasons: Harris is Black, and Harris is a woman. On Twitter, I wondered aloud if there could be any other explanations for Masters’ remark beyond racism and misogyny, and I was informed of a term I was (I admit) unfamiliar with: misogynoir. It was coined by Black feminist Moya Bailey, and it means exactly what you think it means. I’m not sure if misogynoirist is a word. But it should be, and Masters wins this week for demonstrating how easy it is to combine two core components of bigotry and Trumpism.
The Watch, Read, and Listen List
The Cat’s Table, Michael Ondaatje. When the film version of The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje’s award-winning and brilliant novel, was released in 1996, I resolved not to see it. I had been entranced by the book and Ondaatje’s form of magical realism that contains far more realism than magic. In his stories, the unexpected has a supernatural quality without being supernatural. He conjures up the poetry of exceedingly real situations and interactions, such as an unknown man burned beyond recognition being treated by a Canadian army nurse in an Italian villa during World War II. His writing is so evocative that I did not want my vision of the world he created to be shaped and burdened by a rendition on the silver screen. Alas, I was dragged kicking and kvetching to the cinema by a girlfriend (and future wife) and (in my mind) proven right, for the too-pretty Calvin-Klein-in-the-desert gloss of the movie subsumed my envisioning of Ondaatje’s tale. I did not hide my irritation.
That’s how serious I take Ondaatje’s work. Recently, I was delighted to discover that I had missed one of his seven novels, The Cat’s Table. Published in 2011, the book is a coming-of-age account of an 11-year-old boy named Michael who leaves Sri Lanka on an ocean liner for a three-week trip to England. Ondaatje at that age experienced just such a voyage, but he has insisted the book is not autobiographical. During this trek, Michael befriends two other pre-teens and together they explore the mysteries of the vessel and its passengers, including a prisoner being conveyed to England for trial, a circus performer, a thief, a passionate horticulturist (who knows much about poisons), a mute tailor, and others. As the three engage in their boys-will-be-boys adventures—breaking into cabins, hiding in lifeboats to spy on their fellow travelers—Ondaatje elegantly depicts one of the prime objectives of youth: figuring out the puzzlements of adult life. And as the trip progresses, the novel interweaves events on the high seas with Michael’s reminiscences as an adult. The story turns in on itself, as adult Michael, tracing what happened to his mates in later years, reflects on how the Michael of the boat became the Michael for whom this trip (in retrospect) was a turning point. Reviewing the book in the New York Times, Liesl Schillinger wrote, “Reading Michael Ondaatje’s mesmerizing new novel, ‘The Cat’s Table,’ is like being guided, just as surely and just as magically, through the author’s lustrous visions.” That pegs it.
Now would I want to watch a movie version of this novel? At least not for some time, not while its imagery and haunting quality remain fresh for me. I did see that last year the BBC announced it was was developing a new adaptation of The English Patient. Maybe I’m finally ready to enjoy a screen version of that.
Any movies ever ruin a book for you? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“You and Me,” Sara Watkins. It’s the end of summer. After spending several weeks on Cape Cod, I came up with a good way to try to hold on a bit longer to that vacation feeling. Once off the Cape, I continued to listen to some of the local radio stations that provided the soundtrack for those beach-hopping days, particularly WMVY, a non-commercial alternative radio station that broadcasts out of a house at the end of a dirt road on Martha’s Vineyard. I highly recommend it. (Live-streaming has made it possible to experience the delight of independent music stations from across the country that aren’t dominated by playlists, and I don’t do that enough.) One tune I caught on WMVY came from Sara Watkins, a singer-songwriter and accomplished fiddler whose work I don’t know too well. She once was part of Nickel Creek, the progressive bluegrass band that included the far-too-talented Chris Thile, who hosted the wonderful Live From Here show that replaced A Prairie Home Companion and that, unfortunately, was cancelled in 2020 during the pandemic. The Watkins number that caught my ear was a sweet song, “You and Me,” off a 2012 solo album entitled Sun Midnight Sun. Enjoy.
A lot of people wrote to say that they had recently signed up for Our Land but had not received an issue. That was because a solicitation for new subscribers was sent out right before we took a short summer break. You should now be seeing the newsletter in your inbox on a regular basis. It usually comes out twice a week, but on some occasions merely once.
Mary Louise Lyman emailed:
You are doing a good job with the new newsletter, but at age 96 I find my attention focusing more on what I’ll be served for lunch at my retirement home than issues over which I have no control. Thanks for letting me “sample.”
Thanks for the praise, Mary Louise, and I understand. As Warren Zevon once said, “Enjoy every sandwich.”
Patricia Moisan wrote:
I do so enjoy reading Mother Jones, Our Land, and watching David Corn on MSNBC segments. I trust and enjoy his reflection on today’s world. The other day, my son-in-law announced that Joe Biden was arming the IRS agents with AR15’s to go house to house collecting unpaid taxes. This didn’t sound right to me so I fact checked it on Reuters. I had no TV in the month of July, due to moving from Georgia back to New England. I’m thinking that is why he caught me off guard. A package passed in Congress that provides for hiring agents and other thing. I missed the facts and would appreciate your perspective.
Patricia, please see above, where I discuss the matter. This is a canard that Rubio and other right-wingers are using to demonize Biden and the Democrats. It’s false, but it does resonate with their base, as evidenced by your experience.
Responding to the recent issue in which I wrote about the January 6 committee and praised preaching to the choir, Priscilla Labovitz sang out:
I’ve sneered at preaching to the choir for a very long time, but never considered how it can activate the choir. Thanks, David, for teaching me something.
And Pat Gernes agreed:
Yes, for all the reasons you stated, please keep preaching to the choir! Your breakdown of the NBC poll and persuadables were very helpful. Clear messages are where it is at.
That’s the essence of politics…and all communication.
Read Recent Issues of Our Land
August 26, 2022: In praise of preaching to the choir; American Psychosis tease of the week; J.D. Vance and the podcaster who said “feminists need rape”; Dumbass Comment of the Week (Mitch McConnell); comparing The Old Man, Westworld, and For All Mankind; the Mailbag; MoxieCam™; and more
August 19, 2022: Has Biden learned from Obama’s big #fail?; American Psychosis tease of the week; conflicted feelings about Liz Cheney; Dumbass Comment of the Week (Ted Cruz); Better Call Saul’s magnificent finale; MoxieCam™; and more.
August 5, 2022: The January 6 Rudy Giuliani mystery; American Psychosis tease of the week; Dumbass Comment of the Week (Alex Jones); the Mailbag; MoxieCam™; and more.
July 29, 2002: We need to worry about Christian nationalism; American Psychosis tease of the week; Stranger Things jumps a ghoulish shark; Steve Earle honors his forebears; Joni Mitchell’s glorious return; MoxieCam™; and more.
July 23, 2022: Trump’s trap for the GOP; American Psychosis update and tease; Dumbass Comment of the Week (John Cornyn); the Mailbag; MoxieCam™; and more.
July 19, 2022: Announcing the forthcoming release of American Psychosis; Breitbart gets something right; The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and The Player (three decades later!); Simon Winchester’s The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology; and more.
July 16, 2022: Does Steve Bannon buy his own BS?; Dumbass Comment of the Week (Catherine Glenn Foster, Lauren Boebert, and Dave Yost); the Mailbag; MoxieCam™; and more.
July 12, 2022: It’s about sex; Iran-contra flashback: the day reality died; a dangerous state Supreme Court decision; and more.
July 9, 2022: Why did the Atlantic enable Mitt Romney’s dangerous both-sidesism?; Dumbass Comment of the Week (Marjorie Taylor Greene, again); the Mailbag; MoxieCam™; and more.
Got suggestions, comments, complaints, tips related to any of the above, or anything else? Email me at email@example.com.