Releash the Kraken

Supporting efforts to steal the election isn’t just fan service, it’s bubble fortification. (And it will last beyond the court's rejection of the Texas case.)

Editor’s Note: Literally moments after this “news”letter was finished and ready to be sent, the Supreme Court rejected the offensively absurd Texas lawsuit. But the author—who for the purposes of this Editor’s Note is also the editor—could not go back and revise it for numerous reasons, including general weariness. Instead he opted to rely on the good will of his readers that they could take these factors into account. But, under more conducive circumstances he would note that this wise, just, and unassailable decision by the Supreme Court will not stem the tide of power-hungry jackwads defiling the Constitution in the name of sycophancy to Donald Trump. It will only embolden them.

Dear Reader (Including the Masters of the Iron Crotch),

The rot, my God, the rot.

I’m trying to maintain my typical good cheer, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more disgusted by my own “side” than I am right now.

Since I wrote my column for today, which was hardly subtle in its disgust with the ongoing effort to steal the election with a lawsuit that reads like it was written by the five-time “Taste Tester of the Year” at a lead paint factory, it now appears that this is going to be the new litmus test for a whole swath of right-wingers (I think I’m done calling them conservatives—more about that in a moment). Just today, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy issued a statement which read that he wasn’t on the original Kraken Caucus because of a “clerical error.” Assuming this is a lie—because of course it is—it’s a sign that this asininity is gaining steam. (Indeed, some 20 more Congressmen have mounted the Kraken since I wrote that sentence.)

Oh, and just because I need to indulge in genuine nerdiness to keep from blowing a gasket, let me say I can’t stand this “Kraken” thing. First of all, Clash of the Titansboth of them—were very bad movies. In the original, Cerberus had only two heads because they couldn’t make the claymation or the budget work with three. More annoying, the movies are supposed to be about Greek mythology, but the Kraken is a Norse myth, not a Greek one. The name itself is Scandinavian. But what really disappoints me is that amid all of the people invoking the Clash of the Titans—the 2010 version, not the the 1981 version in which Zeus says “let loose the Kraken”—no one has referred to the best and most relevant pop culture line about the Kraken. In Game of Thrones, the Kraken is the symbol of House Greyjoy. Ramsay Bolton points to the Kraken on Theon Greyjoy’s armor and says “Kraken! Mmmm. Strong—as long as they’re in the sea. When you take them out of the water, no bones. They collapse under their own proud weight and slump into a heap of nothing.”

That’s what Sidney Powell’s Kraken is. In the ocean of conspiratorial groupthink she and her fans swim in, the Kraken is strong and powerful. Take it out of that sea and put it before a judge, it collapses under its own weight into a heap of nothing.

This comes as a shock to a lot of the people who live in those fetid waters because, I think, they don’t even realize it’s all nonsense. Fish don’t know they're wet, and people who soak in media that just tells them what they want to hear don’t know they’re being duped.  

Switching metaphors, if you rummage through the dumpster that is much of the right these days, just past the soiled diaper and underneath the half-eaten chimichanga, you’ll find this garbage. It’s a petition from something called the Conservative Action Project demanding that the election be handed to Donald Trump:

The evidence overwhelmingly shows officials in key battleground states—as the result of a coordinated pressure campaign by Democrats and allied groups—violated the Constitution, state and federal law in changing mail-in voting rules that resulted in unlawful and invalid certifications of Biden victories.

There is no doubt President Donald J. Trump is the lawful winner of the presidential election. Joe Biden is not president-elect.

This is now the preferred rhetorical trope of the Trumpy right. I don’t mean the open lying, that’s been de rigueur for a while. I mean the phrase “There is no doubt that.” It suggests that there’s no disagreement out there; everyone sees the same thing. The ocean is everywhere.  

It’s a bit like the old Marxist formulation, “It is objectively true that …” fill in the blank: “the exploitative ruling class is destined to disappear,” “the workers’ interests are best represented by Comrade Stalin,” “a daily ration of one piece of bread is enough for a family of four,” etc.

The other day at a press conference that was supposed to be about vaccines, President Trump said, “Now, let’s see whether or not somebody has the courage—whether it’s a legislator or legislatures, or whether it’s a justice of the Supreme Court or a number of justices of the Supreme Court—let’s see if they have the courage to do what everybody in this country knows is right.”

Everybody? You can dismiss this as a rhetorical flourish, though calling this bullying bilge “rhetoric” is a bit generous. Rhetoric, as Wayne Booth said, it is “the art of probing what men believe they ought to believe.” This flatulence-powered gaslighting is what one man needs you to believe. After all, if everybody knows overturning the election is right, there’d be no need for courage, no need for overturning it. Trump would have been re-elected without all the drama. If there was “no doubt” that the states behaved illegally or unconstitutionally, the Trump legal team wouldn’t have a record in court that would make Bob Uecker say, “Wow that’s unimpressive.”

This isn’t just fan service anymore, it’s bubble fortification. “Everybody knows” is a shorthand way of saying, “We’ve made up our minds and don’t care about the evidence, or facts, or consequences anymore.”

Fraud was so yesterday.

The most interesting evolution, or devolution, in this chapter of moral and intellectual corruption is how they’ve given up trying to claim there was systemic election fraud (as Aaron Blake elucidates here). “Whatever doubt there is about fraud by voters or political operatives,” the Texas lawsuit asserts, “there is no doubt that the officials of the Defendant States changed the rules of the contest in an unauthorized manner.” It adds:

“Despite the chaos of election night and the days which followed, the media has consistently proclaimed that no widespread voter fraud has been proven. But this observation misses the point. The constitutional issue is not whether voters committed fraud but whether state officials violated the law by systematically loosening the measures for ballot integrity so that fraud becomes undetectable.”

Get it? The rule changes in various states made it impossible to find the fraud they all were claiming 10 minutes ago was obvious and overwhelming. This is the conspiracy two-step on a massive scale. First they say, “The evidence is screaming at you in the face!” Then, when called on it, they say “The fact that we can’t find the evidence is proof of the conspiracy!”

As I noted in my column, this constitutional argument is bullshit (I’m paraphrasing). Under the Constitution, the Pennsylvania or Michigan state legislatures could have opted to allot their electors by any means they wanted—flipping a coin, trial by combat, beer pong round robins, whatever. And while subsequent precedents (there’s a logical paradox for your weekend ruminations) or various state or federal laws might look askance at such procedures, one thing is very clear: Texas has no right to say jack about it.

Right-wing, not conservative.

For years, I’ve been making the point that one of the hallmarks of 20th century progressivism is its tendency to take the path of least resistance toward power. Woodrow Wilson began his academic career as a congressional supremacist (because when he was young, Congress was powerful). Then when he was a president, he and his progressive supporters argued for an imperial presidency and ridiculed the Constitution as a dead-letter relic. This continued with FDR and his administration (packed with Wilson retreads, including FDR himself), who believed in the supremacy of the executive branch—because they controlled it. The Supreme Court was fine, until it got in the way, then it was necessary to pack it. When the court became the fastest route to success, progressives suddenly embraced the court as a super-legislature. Any time some part of the Madisonian structure of our government was an impediment to the progressive quest for power, that feature became a problem. This is why until 2016 Democrats boasted about their “blue wall” Electoral College advantage. Then, after Trump won, it suddenly became a tyrannical anachronism of slavery.

You don’t have to agree with that analysis, but you know who did? Pretty much everybody on the right. “Progressives don’t care about the Constitution!” “They only care about power!” “They’ll do anything!”: These were standard applause lines or invitations to sagely nod your head in solemn, dismayed agreement. I know this because I spoke to (or attended) literally hundreds of conservative events held by the vast archipelago of conservative institutions over the last 20 years.  

And now they want to throw it all away. Here’s Marco Rubio being oh-so-clever:

So zingy!

If you take him seriously, which I don’t advise, Rubio is saying that the Supreme Court has stepped out of its lane for the left, so it should now do likewise for the right and take up a frivolous suppository of a case seeking to defenestrate the Constitutional order and trample a legitimate election, just to own the libs.

Okay, not just to own libs. They also want to restore to power a president who lost the election—and not just any president, but Donald Trump.

At least the power-hungry progressives I’ve heaped scorn on for so long mostly believed in what they were doing. They believed that they had a gnostic insight into truth and how to advance the wheel of history toward some utopian Brigadoon. This ain’t that. This is just cowardice and politics as the crow flies—not for any claimed higher principle or ideal, but for Donald Trump, the most unlikely dashboard saint imaginable.

There’s no way Rubio admires Trump. There’s no way he actually believes this case has merit. There’s no way he believes the election was stolen. He’s just lying because he’s suffering from the political equivalent of battered spouse syndrome, which Trump induces in so many former proud constitutionalists, out of desperation to win favor with his base. Oh yeah, I’m sure there’s also a lot of rationalizing about winning the Georgia runoffs because “Flight 93”—blah, blah, blah.

And that’s the favorable interpretation. Because if Rubio has actually done his due diligence and concluded that the Texas case has merit, he’s lost his mind and truly never understood anything he ever said about the Constitution or the importance of being a democratic example to the world.

Rubio’s not alone. And that’s the problem. I’d admire him more if he were alone, because that would show courage. This is cowardice, and there’s an epidemic of cowardice on the right these days. (This is one reason that I perversely sympathize with Lou Dobbs—he actually believes the election was stolen and is furious at Republicans for not doing more.)

I don’t know how many donors the signatories of that Conservative Action Project petition would lose for their respective organizations if they didn’t join in this prairie fire of cowardice. But you can be sure that if their donors didn’t support this, that petition would never have been written in the first place.

But the cowardice is so much worse than that. Right now, people are threatening to kill election officials. People who believe Limbaugh, Hannity, Metaxas, and the Pillow Dude are showing up with guns at the homes of local officials. How many hours of cable and radio time did Trumpists exhaust freaking out that somebody was rude to Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a restaurant? How many of those people have uttered a peep about the Arizona GOP openly encouraging violence to steal the election?

I am sure that Rubio and Ted Cruz, and all of these attorneys general, and at least most of the cowardly Kraken Caucus know this case is going to be thrown out by the Supreme Court, yet they’re endorsing it anyway. I’m sure they’re telling themselves that’s what makes it okay. Sure, Trump and the true believers are serious, but since the court will reject the case it doesn’t really matter.

But that’s what makes it even more cowardly. If you run in terror from a grizzly bear without concern for the people you’re leaving behind, that’s certainly not brave. But in life-or-death situations, such fear becomes a biological imperative that is definitionally hard to overcome. But if you run in terror from an angry chipmunk, you’re just a pussy.

These right-wingers are running in terror from doing the right thing while telling themselves that it’s okay, because the Supreme Court will do their work for them. They don’t care about the damage they’re doing to conservative arguments, because they either never really cared about those arguments in the first place, or because they don’t care enough about them now to speak up. If you don’t stand up for what you believe when the stakes are low, why should I ever believe you’ll behave differently when the stakes are high?

And just to be clear, the stakes are high here. No, the Supreme Court will not install Trump for another term. But the damage being done here is real. Rush Limbaugh is trial-ballooning secession talk. People are talking about fighting and dying in the streets over a glaringly obvious lie peddled by perhaps the sorest loser in the history of sore-losing. Far more people now believe that the election was stolen because they’ve made the terrible-but-understandable mistake of trusting leaders who only know how to follow their audiences. They make people crazy and then say they’ve got to indulge the craziness because that’s what their fans want. 

And for what? This guy? Ratings? To own the libs?

It’s all so pathetic and disgusting.

Various & Sundry

Canine Update: Things are a bit on edge because we have a bit of a crisis in the Goldberg household in that we’re planning to be away for Christmas, but our dog/cat/housesitting has fallen through. We have no idea yet what we’re going to do. Zoë says that she’s old enough that she doesn’t need a babysitter, but the last time we trusted her like that she racked up thousands of dollars in live rodent purchases using my credit cards. No one, as they say, knows you’re a dingo on the internet.

Meanwhile, the week has been pretty good dog-wise. Pippa hasn’t rolled in anything terrible. They still enjoy the cold weather, at least more than I do. And good times have been had by all—though Zoë still doesn’t approve of all the canine photography (while Pippa remains very cooperative). The Fair Jessica even helped me with the treat video this morning. 

ICYMI

Last week’s G-File

Last weekend’s Ruminant

The week’s first Remnant, with fellow Dispatch-er Sarah Isgur

Trumpism is a psychological orientation, not a coherent ideology

The Midweek Epistle, on general topics

The week’s second Remnant, on urban policy with Reihan Salam

Everything’s crazier in Texas

And now, the weird stuff

Home Depot has you covered for all of your secret chamber needs

On Christmas, the British return to their world-historical role as the Fun Police

The Greeks and Egyptians traded gods like baseball cards

Advice about visiting America from a Japanese travel forum (“They have so much free time!”)

David Hasselhoff has decided that the world needs him once more