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Sunday, June 16, 2024

The GOP’s single-message machine – The Atlantic

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After the 2016 release of the Access Hollywood tape in which Donald Trump boasts about groping women, Republicans considered their options—and Trump’s candidacy faced a moment of maximum peril. But after Trump’s conviction last week, an enraged MAGA establishment moved quickly to enforce new litmus tests.

First, here are three new stories from The Atlantic:

No Hesitation

Think of last Friday as a bookend to the transformation of the GOP.

Back in October 2016, after the Access Hollywood tape was made public, many Republicans paused and took a deep breath. Then, some of them—such as Senator Mike Lee of Utah—decided to openly abandon their party’s nominee. I remember texting Reince Priebus, then the chair of the Republican National Committee. “I am the guy trying to fix this!” he wrote. “I am in tears over this.”

Within a few hours, House Speaker Paul Ryan withdrew his invitation to Trump to appear at a joint appearance the next day in Wisconsin. For a moment, it seemed like a turning point. But it wasn’t, at least not in the way I thought it would be. In the end, most of the Republicans returned after a few days of fruitless soul-searching.

This time, there was no hesitation. Republicans fell seamlessly in line last week, not merely defending Trump after his conviction on 34 felony charges but also embracing his threats of retribution. Seemingly prewritten statements of unwavering, fervent support were issued within minutes. The GOP presumptive nominee had just been found guilty of paying hush money to a porn star and covering it up, and not a single prominent Republican withdrew their endorsement.

Prior to the arrival of the jury’s decision, Larry Hogan, the former Republican governor of Maryland and a current Senate candidate, issued a statement urging Americans “to respect the verdict and the legal process”; after the verdict, the Trump adviser Chris LaCivita fired back at Hogan: “You just ended your campaign.” Even though the former governor is locked in a competitive race that could determine control of the Senate, the RNC co-chair Lara Trump also lashed out at Hogan, saying that he “doesn’t deserve the respect of anyone in the Republican Party at this point, and, quite frankly, anybody in America.”

Hogan stood nearly alone: One after another, Republican politicians at every level of government rallied to Trump’s postconviction defense. Wealthy conservatives and business executives such as Bill Ackman and David Sacks also rushed to support Trump, perhaps thinking that they are buying while the stock is low—hoping that Trump will remember, and repay them for, their loyalty. (This, of course, is the same logic the GOP politicians have been using for a while now.)

Meanwhile, right-wing influencers echoed and amplified Trump’s defiant calls for payback. Trump, of course, has made locking up his opponents a central theme of his campaigns and has repeatedly threatened to use another presidential term to retaliate against his critics, his opponents, and the media. Thus far, it has been tempting to dismiss all of this as Trump’s peculiar and personal animus. But it’s now clear that he has a substantial constituency for his campaign of vengeance. In fact, his base is demanding it. As Ali Breland reports in The Atlantic, the MAGA internet is seething with threats of violence and retaliation—not just at the fringes, but from well-known right-wing media outlets as well.

GOP members of Congress are seeking revenge too. Marjorie Taylor Greene called for defunding New York as a result of the jury verdict. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician turned Texas congressman, declared that if Trump wins, he will encourage members of Congress to go after Joe Biden and members of his family: “I’m just telling you right now, President Biden should be ready … What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

And then there is Mike Lee. Back in 2016, Lee was so appalled by the Access Hollywood tape that he recorded a video asking Trump to step aside as the Republican nominee. Lee said that if someone had spoken to any of the women in his family the way Trump had spoken, “I wouldn’t hire that person, wouldn’t want to be associated with that person,” and most important, “I certainly don’t think I would feel comfortable hiring that person to be the leader of the free world.”

On Friday, Lee declared that his fealty to Trump was now so unbreakable that “strongly worded statements” were “not enough.” “Those who turned our judicial system into a political cudgel must be held accountable,” he declared, as he joined seven other GOP senators in refusing to cooperate with “any Democrat legislative priorities or nominations.”

Prominent Republicans have not only made their peace with Trump’s character; they have also made his revenge tour the centerpiece of their agenda. If Trump wins and enacts his campaign of retribution from office, do not expect any resistance from the GOP establishment. They will be cheering it on.


Today’s News

  1. Jury selection began in Hunter Biden’s criminal trial in Delaware. He is charged with three felonies, including lying on his 2018 federal firearms application about his drug use.
  2. President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order tomorrow that would allow him to temporarily close the U.S.-Mexico border to asylum seekers once the number of illegal migrant crossings exceeds a daily threshold. The restrictions would likely apply to most asylum seekers who try to cross the border illegally.
  3. Anthony Fauci testified during a House subcommittee hearing about the federal response to COVID-19 and the possible origins of the coronavirus.


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Evening Read

A hand reaching out of a briefcase, begging
Illustration by Adam Maida for The Atlantic

The Rise of Poverty Inc.

By Anne Kim

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “unconditional war on poverty,” and since then, federal spending on anti-poverty initiatives has steadily ballooned. The federal government now devotes hundreds of billions of dollars a year to programs that exclusively or disproportionately benefit low-income Americans, including housing subsidies, food stamps, welfare, and tax credits for working poor families. (This is true even if you exclude Medicaid, the single-biggest such program.)

That spending has done a lot of good over the years—and yet no one would say that America has won the War on Poverty. One reason: Most of the money doesn’t go directly to the people it’s supposed to be helping. It is instead funneled through an assortment of private-sector middlemen.

Read the full article.

More From The Atlantic

Culture Break

A person shrinks, grows larger, and taller
Illustration by Matteo Giuseppe Pani

Read. These nine books are candid about the realities of aging, growing, and changing.

Watch. John Wayne’s performance in The Searchers (available to rent on Amazon Prime) explores the sadness of the obsolete man he plays, Caleb Madison writes.

Play our daily crossword.

Stephanie Bai contributed to this newsletter.

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