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Noise and Evidence
Forget the silly partisan noise—look at the evidence for yourself.
“There’s a phenomenon where people refuse to look at the evidence for themselves and will instead become obsessed with the tribal partisan carnival—people need to forget about the partisan clowns and just look at the evidence for themselves.”
The danger stems from (1) what the GOP base believes when it comes to respecting electoral outcomes, (2) what the GOP is doing in terms of purging politicians who respect electoral outcomes, and (3) what the GOP is doing in terms of purging election officials who respect electoral outcomes.
There shouldn’t be all sorts of emotion and acrimony and tribalism about this topic—this should just be a simple and straightforward matter of investigation.
An Extreme Opposition to Rational Investigation
There’s a phenomenon where people refuse to look at the evidence for themselves and will instead become obsessed with the tribal partisan carnival—people need to forget about the partisan clowns and just look at the evidence for themselves.
There’s a tragic psychology—I’ve witnessed it myself a few times—where people somehow get suckered into thinking that (A) the way that MSNBC pundits criticize something is the only way to criticize something and (B) you shouldn’t entertain criticisms that happen to overlap with what MSNBC pundits are saying.
The trick is to ignore the anti-Trump—and anti-GOP—punditry and actually look at the evidence for yourself.
Nathan J. Robinson made an excellent comment during a discussion with Glenn Greenwald. Robinson pointed out that “Russiagate was all a bunch of bullshit”, that “the criticisms that were being made of Donald Trump were frequently the totally wrong criticisms”, that Noam Chomsky—in contrast to the MSNBC pundits—had always been making the correct criticisms of Trump, and that the anti-Trump chorus “was totally unpersuasive”.
Robinson has an interesting 14 December 2016 piece that does a great job shining the spotlight on all the stupid ways in which people were attacking Donald Trump back in 2015 and 2016—Robinson makes the excellent point that anti-Trump criticisms “can all end up bleeding together as noise”.
This annoying and silly noise has triggered an extreme opposition to rational investigation. People don’t want to even look into something that the MSNBC pundits are talking about—this dangerous attitude replaces inquiry and curiosity with mindless reflex.
The Threat to America’s Formal Democracy
There was a violent coup attempt in America—that’s shocking, but there wouldn’t be much of a threat going forward if (1) the GOP base respected electoral outcomes, (2) the GOP purged all politicians who didn’t respect electoral outcomes, and (3) the GOP made sure to cement in place election officials who respected electoral outcomes.
These things aren’t true, though—we see instead the opposite of these things.
Take a look at the following report about the GOP’s ongoing attacks on the electoral system:
The report provides evidence that the GOP is proposing legislation that threatens to: “paralyze the smooth functioning of elections”; leave election administrators “powerless to stop voter intimidation”; turn election rules into “a confusing and contradictory tangle” that could “change at the whims of partisan lawmakers”; make election results subject to endless questioning; make election results subject to endless and destructive reviews “conducted based on no responsible standard”; and—at the extreme—allow election results to “simply be tossed aside”.
Regarding the GOP’s ominous legislation, these aren’t the actions of a remorseful and apologetic organization that’s trying to weed out all of the Republicans who lack respect for electoral outcomes. These are instead the actions of an organization that wants to succeed—in the future—where the previous coup attempt failed.
There’s a 17 June 2022 NYT piece that notes the lack of remorse and the lack of apologies. The piece says that “Mr. Trump’s disregard for the truth and the rule of law have penetrated into the Republican Party”; that this disregard has taken “root in the fertile soil of a right-wing electorate stewing in conspiracy theories and well tended by their media of choice”; and that the “Republican response to the hearings” has been “a combination of indifference, diversion and doubling down”.
Martin Wolf writes in his 23 August 2022 Financial Times piece that “the US took another step on its journey towards autocracy” when Liz Cheney “lost the Republican primary for her Wyoming district”—Wolf writes that Cheney is “unimpeachably conservative” but that she “has become anathema to Republicans” due to her belief that “accepting the outcome of fair elections is a higher duty than promoting the lies of their ‘great leader’”.
Wolf writes that the “crucial next stage for Trumpism is the replacement of the leaders and staff of core institutions of the state by people loyal to him personally”—a GOP-controlled Congress might make it “not that hard to imagine” the replacement of “the permanent staff of agencies of the government with carefully vetted loyalists”.
There’s a 22 September 2020 Vox piece that provides evidence that “there is a consensus among comparative politics scholars that the Republican Party is one of the most anti-democratic political parties in the developed world”—the GOP has demonstrated “systematic disinterest in behaving according to the democratic rules of the game”. The GOP “views the Democrats as so illegitimate and dangerous that they are willing to employ virtually any tactic that they can think of in order to entrench their own advantage”—the GOP’s “core animating ideology” at “every level” is that the GOP “must win because the Democrats cannot be given power”.
There’s a 17 June 2022 Guardian piece that observes that the GOP’s “very few voices siding against Trumpism are being shunned and ostracized”. And that “most Republicans are united in their quest to install authoritarian rule by a reactionary minority”.
The piece observes that the previous coup attempt is a blueprint and that the GOP is “working hard at the state level to get themselves in a position to execute that blueprint more effectively”.
The piece points to the striking fact that Bill Barr is “on record saying he would vote for Trump in 2024” even though Barr “has left no doubt that he believes Trump is either willfully pushing treasonous conspiracy theories or is completely detached from reality”.
The piece says that Republicans (A) “subscribe to the big lie outright”, or (B) “feel queasy about the specifics of the big lie” but “consider Democratic governance illegitimate nonetheless”, or (C) “at the very least” think “anything is justified to defeat ‘the left’”.
What does it look like when anything is justified in order to defeat your political opponents? That’s the scary question—there needs to be an opposition to certain tactics that violate certain principles.
There’s a 29 November 2021 WaPo piece about Trump allies’ efforts to “replace officials across the nation, including volunteer poll watchers, paid precinct judges, elected county clerks and state attorneys general”.
The piece gives the following quote from Jeff Timmer, the Michigan Republican Party’s former chair: “‘The officials who fulfilled their legal duty after the last election are now being replaced by people who are pledging to throw a wrench in the gears of the next election. It tells you that they are planning nothing but chaos and that they have a strategy to disrupt the certification of the next election.’”
There are weak points in America’s electoral system—pressure was applied to those weak points during the previous coup attempt, but you have to consider what would happen if completely unprincipled people were guarding the weak points.
A Scientific Attitude
I was thinking the other day about the fact that I care less about what people’s beliefs happen to be than I care about whether people approach issues with a scientific attitude—a scientific attitude simply means that you entertain the possibility that you might be incorrect.
Does it bother me that people are climate deniers? Yes—that’s a sad and dangerous and scary belief. But suppose that someone tells me “I read through the IPCC reports, and I sat down with some climate scientists at my local university, and I just don’t think that there’s evidence of a crisis”—I would be impressed that this person at least approached the matter with a scientific attitude.
Was there a violent coup attempt in America? Suppose that someone tells me “I watched the hearings and I just didn’t find the evidence compelling”—I would be delighted to hear that they were able to subject their beliefs to challenge.
And is the GOP trying to succeed—in the future—where the previous coup attempt failed? I would be happy to see people look into the matter no matter what conclusion they come to—it’s impressive when people demonstrate a scientific attitude.