What Republicans’ Kool Aid Moment Means for the Rest of Us

Republicans rolled out a preview of their suicidal final act last week, gathering in Madison for a massive C19 party, spreading the virus to each other to own the libs. It’s a particularly apt gesture of self destruction, as Trump won the state in ’16 by such a tiny margin that natural mortality has already eroded it away. They have no voters to spare. Similar scenes played out in Michigan this week, as Republicans barged into the Michigan Capitol carrying assault weapons to protest measures meant to save their lives.

This follows a press conference in which the President speculated that the C19 pandemic might be cured by injections of disinfectants, or a “very powerful light.” When Dr. Birx, his medical expert, began to explain the realities behind this moronic idea, he cut her off and continued, lecturing her that “it’s a good thing to look at.” Republicans responded to this searing display of incompetence by flooding Facebook with posts about the therapeutic value of light. Dr Birx herself deflected blame to the press, sanctimoniously lecturing that “it bothers me that this is still in the news cycle.” 

“Drinking the Kool Aid” is a phrase seared into our collective consciousness by a mass suicide on November 18, 1978. Almost a thousand members of Jim Jones’ “People’s Temple,” including children, drank cyanide-laced Kool Aid under their orders of their mad leader. Their bodies were left strewn about their Guyana compound, rotting in the heat. This horror was seared into our collective memory, written into our vernacular through the now-common expression of blind allegiance, but almost half a century after this incident, we seem no closer to absorbing its lessons.

Over the past two decades, as the GOP absorbed a wave of Dixiecrat refugees from the Democratic Party, Republicans have waged an escalating war on reality in the service of a Lost Cause ideology, utterly at odds with facts, reason, and the nation’s best interests. For most of this time Republicans have been able to limit the damage from their actions to their enemies, but as one addled Trump supporter mused in an interview last year, “He’s [Trump] not hurting the people he needs to be.” As happens in any cult, realities carefully ignored eventually exact a toll so severe that the members must bear it personally, all the way to death. C19 is bringing the Kool Aid to Trump country and they love the flavor.

Real American John McDaniel took to social media on March 15 to rant about the Ohio Governor’s stay at home order, calling it “bullshit,” “paranoid,” and “a political ploy.” He became Marion County’s first COVID-19 fatality on April 15.

Joe Joyce got his information about COVID-19 from Fox News, where he learned it was at best being blown out of proportion, at worst, a hoax ginned up as stealth impeachment. Against the strenuous warnings of his son, Joyce decided to take a cruise in Spain as that country was entering the worst of its outbreak. He died of COVID-19 on April 9.

Trump supporter, Karen Kolb Sehlke, had the Fox-inspired wisdom to see COVID-19 for the Democratic hoax that it is. In a lengthy, March 14 Facebook rant she carefully and thoughtfully regurgitated the Fox News talking points. She finished with this stirring call, Kool Aid dripping from her frothy lips, explaining:

You don’t need hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and Lysol. You need common sense, a sense of direction, faith, a will to fight, and of course guns!

Now wash your hands and live the life they don’t want you to have!

#America #Trump2020

The guns didn’t save her. That was her final Facebook post. She died from the Democratic hoax on April 2. It wasn’t pretty. As with many patients, the disease caused kidney failure and subsequent septic shock, as documented in an earlier version of her GoFundMe, set up to help defray medical expenses.

Why do people destroy themselves to defend their investment in a lie? We need to understand this dynamic to know how to fight it, and how to prevent these cultists from taking us down with them. Perhaps most importantly, we need to understand this phenomenon to avoid succumbing to it ourselves.

Confronted with displays of cult loyalty we commonly resort to some mistaken conclusions, dismissing these people as crazy or stupid. These assumptions are born of the same logic that leads people to blame the sick for their illness, a desire to manufacture some difference between them and us, something that would leave us immune to their condition. We want to believe that there’s something uniquely broken, inferior, or even subhuman about the people in those pathetically sad images of self-destruction. Those dismissive characterizations of cultists aren’t just false, they are dangerous.

Cultists are showing us something we desperately need to understand about human reasoning. None of us are as rational or logical as we want to believe. A model of political life predicted on the notion that humans are inherently rational is crumbling before our eyes while we refuse to acknowledge its vulnerabilities. These Kool Aid drinkers are not aliens, they are sending us a valuable warning about the limits of our own rationality and its implications for democracy.

We are not inherently rational creatures. By nature, our model of reality is not a product of careful individual inquiry, formed through a critical review of all available data, but a social construct heavily influenced by our preferences, hopes, and the collective will of our tribe. Human beings are capable of independent, rational thought premised on a body of constantly moving data, just like we are capable of juggling or riding a bike. Absent special training, critical, data-centered reasoning is so effortful, difficult and unnatural that any political order premised on the rationality of the average man will be consistently unstable.

Even with careful training over years, a life of critical thought remains a challenging endeavor, costly to maintain and not suited to every circumstance. Riding a bike sounds easy once you’ve learned to do it but try dialing your phone or eating a sandwich while peddling and you’ll see the challenge. Careful, critical reasoning is resource-expensive. None of us engage in it as much as we think we do.

By our nature we reason through shorthand. Our decisions are mostly collective rather than individual. And thanks to that emphasis on collective or tribal thinking, we naturally prioritize loyalty and consensus over accuracy or optimal outcomes in our decisions. Given the right set of conditions, this combination of decision-making preferences can lead us down a destructive funnel toward cult logic and authoritarianism.

No one reasons from first principles consistently, across every aspect of their lives. If we did, it would take us a week to complete every trip to the grocery store as we poured over the merits and competitive value of each different brand of soap. We all rely on shortcuts to make decisions. It’s not because we’re dumb or even lazy. No one has the mental hardware necessary to reprocess a universe of data to reevaluate each and every new choice. Our tendency to rely on habits, loyalties and patterns to make decisions is, in most cases, a strength that enables us to make minimally competent decisions, faster. We adapted these patterns of reasoning because for tens of thousands of years they produced superior outcomes.

When, as in politics, our choices and their consequences involve other people we tend to reason collectively rather than individually, emphasizing consensus over accuracy. In part, this is a strength born of our social and communication skills. I don’t need to know how to do everything necessary for my survival. I can trust someone else to do the farming, another to be a doctor, another still to operate heavy machinery or fly an airplane, while still benefiting from all of their skills. We evolved to incorporate circles of trust into our reasoning process. In an age before science, complex math or portable data, being in harmony with our clan was far more important to our survival than arriving at accurate factual conclusions. In most cases, almost all of us prefer being in harmony with our tribe over being right about questions of fact.

I might think I’m too clever or independent to fall for the lure of a cult, but I’m made of the same gray matter as everyone else, vulnerable to same logical shortcuts that produce cultists and Nazis. Consider this example, how does it feel emotionally to discover that you were wrong about something, even something relatively unimportant? Logically, I should welcome this, just like I’d welcome someone who found a valuable object I’d lost, but that’s not our primary, base response.

We become emotionally invested in our model of reality. Our first response to a challenge to that model, even if that challenge might improve that model’s accuracy, is some blend of fear and anger. Cognitive dissonance is the psychological strain we experience when new information creates a conflict with our established model of reality. As with juggling and riding a bike, we can train ourselves to sustain a degree of permanent dissonance, a condition absolutely essential to survival in a big complex world of constantly changing conditions. But it sustaining this dissonance never ceases to be a strain. The more complex and sophisticated my model of reality becomes, the more uncertainty, conflict and unresolved doubt will be constantly churning within that model. The more complex the living conditions for a group of people, the greater the aggregate burden of cognitive dissonance, and the larger the fraction of the population surviving at the edge of their wits.

If you feel invested in Joe Biden’s campaign for President, what was your immediate emotional response to news that someone had accused him of sexual assault? Resist the urge to recount potential weaknesses or inconsistencies in that report, and focus instead on your initial emotional response, prior to learning any of the details. Did you welcome an opportunity to update your model of reality to something that might be more accurate, or did you feel a powerful urge to shoot the messenger? How do you think you would have responded if the claimant were more credible, and stronger supporting evidence was available? Honestly.

We are not coldly rational creatures. Even with years of education and training, we feel an urge to defend our imagined reality against a relentless tide of cognitive dissonance. By our innate evolutionary programming, we want mental peace and harmony with our peers more than we want accuracy.

Our resistance to cognitive dissonance can be weaponized by making us feel threatened as a group. One of the core tactics of a cult leader is to redefine “us” for their followers, and frame that “us” as embattled by a menacing “them.” Those who possess the special qualities to see the reality defined by the cult leader are redefined as chosen elites. They are trained to tune out dissonant data emerging from the “them” of the uninitiated. If the leader is sufficiently embattled, they might call on this special band of initiates to sacrifice themselves, sometimes in nothing more significant than a display of idealized loyalty, to inspire and discipline the ranks.

When an ambitious leader identifies an already existing set of fears that can assemble a group of people into a frightened unit, he can play those fears like music. Our collection of cognitive glitches, of little real concern under normal daily circumstances, can be composed into a mental orchestra, moving those with ears properly tuned to dance. No one is naturally immune to this psychology, just like no one is born with an immunity to heart attacks or diabetes, but certain conditions, experiences and attitudes leave people more vulnerable to manipulation.

For Republicans in our time, that cult loyalty was assembled out of an already embedded American pathology of race. Since Southern Democrats completed their long migration into the Republican Party, the GOP has become the bastion of whites worried about the erosion of their racial dominance and patriarchal power. Trump convinced them to set aside all reason, morality and ethics for a promise to restore their lost privileges. He gave them an enemy. Redefined them as special elites, the initiated capable of seeing his special reality. He played on their racial fears and their “flyover country” insecurities, teaching them to hate all sources of empirical or objective facts, with a special loathing for journalists. He began as their prophet and has become their god.

White people, particularly men, and particularly those over a certain age, hear Trump’s music like the march of their gods. Of course, people carry marginally more resistance to this tune the more their education, exposure and global experience, but Trump is tapping an emotional matrix wired deep into the psychology of white Americans. His cultists will die for him. They are already dying for him. And if they will die for him, you can be sure they will kill for him as well. For Republicans, no source of information be trusted unless it has passed a test of loyalty to Trump.

The greater the emotional investment in an idea, the more that person will resist dissonant facts. When someone considers an idea central to their personal identity, then that resistance becomes nearly absolute. There are no casual Trump supporters. Support for Trump is not a vote, it’s a membership. As damage from their disastrous decisions swells around them, they will lash out with greater force. Resurrect one of the dead Trumptists after their failed bout with C19 and they’d probably keep spouting Fox News talking points. Your odds of persuading a Trump supporter today with facts or reason are about equal to your chances of stopping someone from drinking the Kool Aid at Jonestown.

Why does this matter for those us outside the cult? Once this dynamic takes shape on such a large scale as national politics, it extends like a hydra across everything. Republicans have created an environment in which half of our political system functions as a death cult. What does that mean for the other half?

Republicans’ descent into a cult dynamic creates the conditions necessary to cultify the rest of the political culture. Democrats are now an embattled “us” locked in an existential clash against a “them.” A Republican cult won’t be defeated by persuasion or outreach, but in a bare-knuckled battle of power against power. All the space that would once be available for nuanced debate and healthy public discourse is under fire. When a Tara Reade arrives on this scene confronting Democrats with their own #MeToo logic, she is greeted as a traitor or a heretic before the first elements of her story emerge. Reade’s story carries relatively little credibility, but what are we being trained to dismiss? In an environment like this, where the temptation to cult logic runs so strong, we have to ask ourselves: what wouldn’t we let Biden get away with to rescue us from Trump?

It is not necessary to become a cult to defeat a cult, but it certainly makes things easier. How much of our hope for a better world will we bargain away just to avoid a worse world?

We are all made of the same stuff. I may not be moved by appeals to restore a lost racist paradise, but the mental logic of us versus them still tugs at me when it’s tuned to the right pitch. Those doughy white Republicans dressed up for racist Halloween with their camo and mechanical penises look ridiculous, but they should serve as a warning. There, but for the grace of God...

Republicans are communicating their willingness to kill themselves and us for their cult leader. We have to destroy their power by any means necessary, but we do not have to sacrifice reason for survival. We do not have to manufacture our own gods to defeat the cult gods of our enemy. We do not have to permit our leaders to loot or rob to defeat the Republican griftocracy. We do not have to become a cult to defeat a cult. That temptation will come. There is nothing special about us that makes us immune to the disease of cult logic infecting Republicans, beyond our willingness to sustain the cognitive dissonance that defeats it. Fighting a cult by becoming a cult might be an easier way to win, but what would we be winning?

References:

From The New Yorker: Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds

Book: The Enigma of Reason

From Vox: How politics makes us stupid

From Yale Law School: The Cultural Cognition Project

From The Journal of Empirical Legal Studies: Explaining the White Male Effect in Risk Perception

Book: Thinking, Fast and Slow

From The Los Angeles Times: George Lakoff’s theory on political framing

From Wait, but Why: A series on the interplay between our thought patterns and society.

34 Comments

  1. Hi Mary G. Surely there are SOME lukewarm Trump supporters who on some issues might think twice upon reading a piece that presented con-Trump info without pulling any emotional triggers. If not, then November really is iffy since Trump does not need a majority to win.

    But there’s another reason for us to practice presenting information and opinion in emotion-free language. Very nearly the entire media sphere, and almost all statements by politicians, is a constant din of emotion-triggering exchanges. I submit that a viable democracy cannot function effectively in such an environment. Unless one really believes that democratic process just consists of one faction bulging another, I think there’s no other alternative than trying to communicate with other citizens with different views. If one is posting here just to vent, OK, but aren’t we trying to share information and help each other consider alternative views?

    Since I am constantly bombarded with emotion laden messages, I find that I have to watch myself to avoid during the same. All personal human thought is associated with emotions. It takes effort to try to communicate unadorned information and opinion.

    Thank you for the link to justsecurity.org. The article you cite is a good example of emotion-free communication. But the issue it deals with, using emergencies to expand executive power is not by nature amenable to much correction by democratic discourse. By definition, legislative action that expands executive power happens too quickly for much democratic discourse. The best one can do is badger one’s legislators to place limits on the emergency powers. Post crisis one can try to mobilize opinion to cut back expanded power, but these are not usually hot issues. As you point out, such executive power expansion is an important problem that more dedicated citizens need to address.

  2. A bit over the top, Chris, but very well put. I especially liked that you included references for those of your readers that want to dig deeper, or to contest some of your assertions.

    I would go one step further in characterizing rational thought versus emotional response. It seems to me that EVERY thought, or idea, or fact in a human mind is associated with emotions. Don’t even pure mathematician get into heated arguments about mathematical proofs?

    Whether or not we go so far as to regard hard core Tumpsters as cultist, for me your really important assertion is “Your odds of persuading a Trump supporter today with facts or reason are about equal to your chances of stopping someone from drinking the Kool Aid at Jonestown.” If irrevocable Trumpsters were a majority of voters, we would probably have no chance of deflecting the US away from its drift toward an authoritarian dystopia. But that is not the case. Dismissing all Trumpsters as irrevocable cultist is a tactical error. I wager there are some Trumpsters that can break through the bonds of cultism and at least not vote for Trump in November. I think this group of possible cross overs is critically important. It is imperative that we do everything we can to encourage these citizens loosen their addiction to Trump.

    There is a simple thing that we all can do that might at least encourage non-irrevocable Trumpsters to at least hear alternative views. Almost everywhere I look in the media sphere I find that what could be stated simply as a point-of-view is associated with emotionally triggering words that make it quite impossible for someone with a different view to even begin to hear an opposing view. To I counter this pollution of rational discourse, all we need to do is review what we write and remove (or rewrite) the bits that are there to bolster our view by appealing to emotions. It’s a small thing, and one could argue that such restraint of our part won’t make an iota of difference, but these are desperate times. If it just might help, we should do it.

    1. We can all improve our rhetoric by stripping hyperbole and emotion, but I disagree that doing so will change any minds and hearts of conservatives. Civility, yes, simply delivered facts, yes. Effective? I don’t think so.
      The house is burning down. Might I suggest there are greater challenges before us. The immediate crisis is controlling covid 19 infections and deaths, but the deeper problem may structural and may have far greater impact upon the survival of our democracy.

      https://www.justsecurity.org/70029/emergency-powers-in-the-time-of-coronaand-beyond/

    2. I keep hearing about these Trumpanzee that are willing to listen fact based evidence but I have yet to meet one.

      If you are a Trumpanzee then it is because you refuse to accept different ideas or possess an open mind. Sorry but I have a better chance at Jessica Alba showing up at my door demanding sex then meeting a rational thinking Trumpanzee.

  3. Thank you everyone for your conscientious pushback on my post below. I’m not being sarcastic, I appreciate the discussion. Part of why I put it out there is because I was finding it difficult to articulate my position and seeing the pushback helps me a little more.

    I have a very long response to separate points I simply don’t have the time to write out now. A few things I’d like to address directly:

    > Maybe the word ‘rapist’ was too far, though it was used mostly to illustrate the nearness of how Biden and 45 can both be described with very blurred distinctions. However the major part of my argument wasn’t whether he did or didn’t or whether Reade is credible or not — it’s that neither he nor his campaign are capable of addressing the issue, even to put it aside. You want to know how his administration will handle things? That way. See also the manner in which he’d dismiss people during the campaign by saying “Don’t vote for me.” He’s not going to engage well with anything that needs to be done.

    > I live in a deep blue state now, but I would have come to the same conclusion anyway. But if the deep blue surroundings I come to this conclusion in gives you guys some relief, have it. I’m big on relieving people of their stress and worries.

    > Chris’s specific response regarding optionality had the most resonance for me, and I’m thinking about it. But regarding optionality, I think Chris it might help to realize a little personal history, and that’s that the Democrats lost me as a life-long voter when they ran Kerry against Bush and defended such deeply inane concepts as ‘civic unions’ instead of looking people in the eye and saying “Nah, gay people are people so they can marry.” Kerry was basically a half-assed Bush but less entertaining, and Biden’s giving me strong vibes of being the same. Yes, there’s ‘the administration,’ but I was already deeply annoyed by the number of septuagenarians up for the office, and it’s even more disheartening to end up with the most worn-out and rundown of them. I don’t want the option of voting for people who were full adults before the Civil Rights Act was passed.

    Rather, for optionality, I’m focused on everything I can do to support my family and my surrounding communities, plural, that I’ve developed in various places across the U.S. and worldwide. That’s where I seek optionality and find many promising developments and a lot of satisfaction. That’s why I’m writing off the executive branch. It doesn’t give me options right now. The rest of the world does.

    Cheers guys, I’m still listening to and thinking about your thoughts.

    1. >] “> Maybe the word ‘rapist’ was too far, though it was used mostly to illustrate the nearness of how Biden and 45 can both be described with very blurred distinctions. However the major part of my argument wasn’t whether he did or didn’t or whether Reade is credible or not — it’s that neither he nor his campaign are capable of addressing the issue, even to put it aside. You want to know how his administration will handle things? That way. See also the manner in which he’d dismiss people during the campaign by saying “Don’t vote for me.” He’s not going to engage well with anything that needs to be done.

      And what, exactly, would you want them to do to “put it away”? I argue there’s absolutely nothing they can do beyond what they’ve already done, which is to call for the Senate to release any official complaints that they have and deny it as they’ve already done.

      Beyond that, simply let Tara Reade come out and destroy herself. She’s done a nigh masterful job of it thus far.

  4. As a Bernie supporter, I’ll sidestep the broad brush of me and my political friends in the comments here and focus on Biden and Tara Reade.

    I’m not sure why it’s so hard to understand that this could very well have happened. The “Middle Class Joe” persona, if it ever was true, died a quiet death several decades ago. I think he’s arrogant and entitled, and has a pattern of hair sniffing creepiness that is well documented. He even joked about it on the campaign trail after the woman in Nevada called him out on it! “Nice guys” don’t do that.

    Not sure why so many here are quick to rush to his defense.

    I will say that IMO someone that entitled would not have stopped at one person when it comes to sexual assault (see Trump, Donald). So I’m looking for additional women to step forward as the ultimate validation of Ms. Reade’s claims. Or not. Time will tell. And like everyone else here, I have no idea who’s telling the truth.

    1. Who’s defending Biden here? Saying he’s nowhere near as bad as Trump even when you assume worst case in several bad behavior metrics is hardly a ringing endorsement, besides being 100% true.

      What I want to know from Bernie supporters is whether they would really turn down half a loaf (or even a third) in exchange for none. I get why many of you don’t like or trust establishment Dems, but do you guys really think a 2nd Trump term is going to help you? You want more Kavanaughs on SCOTUS? I vowed long ago to vow Blue no matter who, so if Bernie had won out in the primaries, he would have had my vote in Nov, not with enthusiasm, but because he absolutely would have been a better choice than Trump. How many of you will hold your noses and vote Biden to kill this budding fascism?

      1. Can both Biden and Trump be not great people, with the understanding that there are shades to the discussion of relative terribleness?

        Not you, but a few posters are rationalizing their support for Biden by assuming the worst of Ms. Reade, are they not? Based on what, exactly, other than their own opinion? If anyone has credentials and expertise on matters of sexual harassment and sexual assault, I’d love to hear why they are so sure that Ms. Reade’s accusations are opportunistic lies and she’s a shill as has been stated in these comments.

        Maybe she’s just a sexual assault survivor.

        As to your last thoughts, I’m not quite sure why you think all Bernie supporters think alike when it comes to voting in the general. I’d expect that, just like in 2016, the vast majority of Bernie supporters will pull the lever for the Democratic nominee. I’d expect that, much like myself, far fewer of us will be excited when we do so.

      2. Fly-
        I’m only going to speak for myself as a Bernie supporter, but this type of aspersion-casting is part of the reason why Bernie supporters so despise mainstream Democrats. Asking all Bernie supporters to swear our loyalty because a few are publicly stating their disappointment with Biden is like asking all Muslims to prove they’re not terrorists. Don’t lump me with a few outliers who are planning to stay home or vote for Trump just because we all supported Bernie in the primaries.

        Most Bernie supporters are loyal Democrats, who poured blood sweat and tears into electing someone *in the Dem primary* that we believe in, to change the party like everyone keeps exhorting people to do (“Get involved!” “Vote for change!”, yadda yadda), and at the end, we’re looked at as crazy, disloyal, cult followers. Forgive me if I’m not enthusiastic about voting for someone who views me as at best crazy and at worst dangerous. Meanwhile, every candidate falls over themselves to fellate so-called “undecided” voters, who are typically the most low-information, least engaged politically, voters who tend to make their decision based on whoever is popular on Monday night before the polls open.

        How about this: I am a Bernie supporter and if a politician wants my vote, I expect him/her to work for it just like any other voter. When African Americans say they want someone who understands their issues, no one questions it. When women say they want someone who views their issues as important, no one questions it. When hispanics want someone who makes them feel welcome in the party, no one questions it. None of these people are crazy, and most aren’t litmus test extremists either. Most of them will vote for the Dem candidate even if he/she doesn’t tick off every single wish. But their turnout *does* drop slightly. Do you think Biden would publicly state he wants a woman for VP if he didn’t believe it would bring in more women voters?

        And yet Bernie supporters are all uniquely tar’ed and feather’ed as disloyal DINOs unfit to be Democrats because *a few* decide they’re demoralized enough to stay home. It is unfair to blame Nader supporters for Gore’s loss in 2000. It is unfair to blame African Americans for their slight dropoff in voting participation in 2016 compared to the Obama years. It was unfair to blame Bernie supporters for Hillary’s loss in 2016. And it is unfair to blame us again if Biden loses this November. It’s not on us to blindly support a candidate. It’s on candidates to earn our vote.

        That said, I expect Biden will earn most of our votes (including mine). If anything less than 100% enthusiastic fealty to a person you’re not excited about means we’re all considered disloyal and unworthy of being part of the party, then, well… don’t be surprised if that becomes a self-fullfilling prophecy.

    2. I’d like to make one thing perfectly clear. Insofar as it’s likely that Biden was inappropriately ‘affectionate’ and touched Ms. Reade in ways that made her unacceptably uncomfortable, I’ve been there near from the beginning. As you mentioned, we’ve plenty of recent video to attest to his behavior on that front; and the times being what they were back then, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

      That said, *that is far and away from being the same thing as openly sexually assaulting someone*.

      To date, Ms. Reade has done all of the following and more to undermine her case:

      – Publicly admitted that any complaint she filed against Biden *specifically* did not mention assault.

      – Changed her story within the last year. Specifically, Reade gave a newspaper interview in ’19 and did, indeed, say that Biden inappropriately touched her, but made no mention of assault. When asked about it later on, Ms. Reade said the reporter’s tone made her uncomfortable and just, according to her, “really got shut down”.

      For those unaware, Tara Reade is a lawyer and victims’ rights advocate. I do not, not for one hot second, believe she is stupid enough to be unaware how ridiculous that sounds.

      https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/04/29/joe-biden-sexual-assault-allegation-tara-reade-column/3046962001/

      – Retroactively tried to change her own public account of her accusation against Biden. Something a totally innocent person would do, amirite?

      https://romansresearch.wordpress.com/2020/04/29/tara-reades-updated-medium-post-all-material-edits/amp/

      – Has multiple on-the-record sources contradicting her claims.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/12/us/politics/joe-biden-tara-reade-sexual-assault-complaint.html

      – Shot: Is an enthusiastic and heartfelt supporter of Vladimir Putin

      – Chaser: Waited a full 27 yrs and until Biden was the Democratic nominee against Putin’s favorite American “president” to come forward with her sexual assault allegation, despite the fact that Biden was VP for a full 8 yrs.

      Y’know, I’m sorry. It may be likely, even obvious, that Biden touched her in a way that made her uncomfortable (and nothing about that is acceptable in the least) – but barring a truly chessboard-flipping revelation, Tara Reade is full of shit when she says that Biden sexually assaulted her.

      1. And yet, with all due respect, you made no case as to why you’re uncertain. You just say that you are.

        Can you? If you can, I’d be most appreciative to hear it. If not, then I have to say that you’re not leaving much room for motivations that are less than honorable.

      2. 1. How am I supposed to know what happened here?

        2. Story inconsistencies are not all that unusual in these situations, and the FBI does not consider them to be indicative of false reports in and of themselves.

        3. Other people have confirmed Ms. Reade’s story from her telling at that time. Maybe they’re lying sure, but to me that is meaningful. And of course the “Larry King call” is a data point although inconclusive.

        4. Joe Biden is running to be POTUS. It’s true that Ms. Reade might be an opportunist and lying. But it’s also true that it’s in the Democratic Party’s best interest for this to go away. The power dynamics that help to shape this story are decidedly in Biden’s favor.

        4. Joe Biden is at a minimum a hair sniffing creep. (We appear to agree on that part.)

        As I said up thread, if this is true I’d be looking for more victims to come forward. If Biden would do what Tara Reade says he did, I’d be willing to bet she’s not the only one who’s been victimized.

        If no one does come forward, her story would have less credibility in my eyes. But I would never claim to know that I know the truth of what happened.

  5. This is horrifying and infuriating, but not unexpected:

    https://amp.detroitnews.com/amp/3075515001?__twitter_impression=true

    These Covidiots are the absolute worst. Wearing a mask in public isn’t a major imposition on you. It’s a bare minimum and you can’t even be bothered to do that. What whiny, self-centered assholes some of my countrymen have become. It makes me ashamed.

    I’ll be able to go back to work this week (maybe even tomorrow). Damn straight I’ll cover my face when needed.

  6. Rob

    I would point out that the Sanders cult are ineffectual as they are not capable of building a coalition. The Democrats who are capable of building a coalition, compromise because they need actual things and actual policies. Flights of fancy are not conducive for such things. Republicans are a monoculture gone mad. Democrats are not a monoculture and can’t afford insanity. By the way, Sanders himself has proved himself to work within the system. His bark is worse than his bite.

  7. Eric Hoffer covers much of this material when he wrote his True Believer series of books in the late 1940s and 1950s. His first book was ‘The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements’. It was first published in 1951. The inspiration for his writing were the Nazi’s and the Communists. He was a self made person having been a stevedore on the docks of San Francisco and having lived in homeless camps during The Depression. I read those many years ago and have realized ever since those characteristics in the modern Republican Party. When people refer to them as Nazi’s there is more truth than they realize. That has become especially true as the Dixiecrats flooded into the party.

    Nevertheless, I recognize some of those tendencies in myself. When I first heard of Tara Reade’s accusation against Biden, I thought “Oh No!” not another sexual imbroglio. The next thought was that it was totally unlike the Joe Biden that has been on the national stage for two decades. Then I started analyzing Reade’s accusation and realized there are a lot of inconsistencies and it is very problematical. Since I’ve read additional information and she appears to be a scam and con artist from way back with no credibility. I do not believe there is any substance to it. Furthermore, I suspect that she is being paid by “fixers” someway associated with the Trump campaign. The Russian bots are of course working it, to elevate it on social media. In the event Biden becomes President, this will be the first of an unending series of investigations.

    I do not believe Biden is an angel by any means. He has been caught plagiarizing and bending his beliefs to suit the political winds. His son, Hunter, was definitely working the Ukraine situation for personal benefit and was trading on his name. However, he is much better than the alternative. He is also basically a “good guy”. Regarding Biden’s gaffes and speech difficulties, those come naturally. He did have a severe stuttering problem as a youngster and has worked very hard to overcome that. He can deliver a good speech, unlike the other candidate, but it does take a lot of preparation and hard work. I cannot hold the speech difficulties against Biden.

    I do believe that he will staff his administration with highly skilled people, will listen to them and consider their opinions. The present WH occupant has deliberately chose sycophants and toadys, for his staff. He makes decisions without deliberation and based solely on his instincts, which are invariably to maximize self aggrandizement.

  8. I am not in love with any political party. I wanted Senator Warren as the nominee but Biden is going to be the one. If he wins he is going to have one hell of a mess to deal with. But he is smart and experience enough to assembly a good team to deal with it. Remember no one governs by themself. Trump is running the government like he ran his mom and pop organization by himself. Which is one of the major reasons why it is so dysfunctional right now. I will vote for Biden if I am around this fall. Sadly a lot of us seniors will die from cov19. A lot of them are already dead that might be alive if they had voted for Hillary. Elections have conequences.

  9. “In an environment like this, where the temptation to cult logic runs so strong, we have to ask ourselves: what wouldn’t we let Biden get away with to rescue us from Trump?”

    This is a great question and fundamental to values (and I think people should ask it the other way, what would we let x person get away with to vote for them, since some people I know are so adamantly extreme on their ideas of what is allowable to vote for that it basically precludes any functional and social adult human. We’re not talking ‘He may have touched someone inappropriately’ level extreme but ‘He once saw a person worth more than $1million and said ‘Hi’ so therefore he’s clearly fundamentally no different than a kleptocratic mob boss’ level extreme).

    So the thing is, among the many reasons I was repulsed by Republican embrace of 45 was that all you had to do was listen to him for more than a minute or two to notice he cannot speak in full sentences and cannot address allegations. I had the same problem with Dubya. So I decided that was my limit: I simply cannot vote for a person who a) cannot speak in full sentences and b) cannot address allegations.

    I wrote those down in 2017.

    I returned to that piece of paper and looked at, long and hard, recently regarding Joe Biden.

    I’m sorry Chris, I can’t vote for Biden. He cannot speak in complete sentences and he cannot address allegations. Apparently he’s scheduled something to address the Tara Reade situation but it’s very clear that came from pressure rather than leadership and I really doubt the address will really focus on the allegations and repairing trust moreso than defense and deferral of responsibility. It’s the standard politico playlist really, but it matters moreso when the person can’t even think straight.

    And I know I live in a world where my choice on the ‘response to allegations’ parts marks me as the type of person who doesn’t accept any apology, like the people who still felt Louis C.K. should be deplatformed after he a) apologized and b) expressed that he tried to understand and learn from the complaints and c) wrote out a roadmap to changing his behavior in his apology letter, basically the type of response you really want from someone sincerely trying to make amends (but my more extreme friends were too pissed so they deconstructed several individual phrases in the letter to show that he doesn’t REALLY mean it, which proves to me that there’s literally nothing a person can do to fix the problem to them).

    Andrew Cuomo is a pretty good example of a politician I don’t like or agree with a lot, but I can respect his leadership and mostly trust his competence. He responds to allegations like “Why did you delay closing down the state?” contains the usual politico passing of the buck (“the federal government told me it wasn’t that big of a deal”) but he has also said, “I take full responsibility” and also “I probably shouldn’t have listened to the federal guidance but I didn’t know. Now here’s what we’re doing about it.” He’s absolutely not the perfect example of what a politician should be, but I’d say he represents somewhere around the basic, lowest level political skill I expect from public figures.

    The fact that he’s currently a standout exceptional and highly appreciated example of American political class at this time just proves how fucked our leadership has become, truly. Cuomo is minimum viable candidate and yet towers head and shoulders above our expectations. So sad.

    But yeah, I’m not voting for Biden in the general. I know that breaks the ‘vote your ideals in the primaries and tactically in the general’ but I am going to vote tactically — I’m already supporting several Democratic Senate races in swing elections and am very active in local activist communities. I’m doing everything I believe I can, I’m just writing off the executive office for the next four years.

    I’m not going to vote for a logorrheic septuagenarian rapist regardless of their party affiliation, and that’s final.

    1. Putting someone in the White House is not the same thing as making them a god. I see nothing whatsoever wrong with backing Stalin to defeat Hitler, so the prospect of using Uncle Meathands to defeat Trump seems like a no-brainer.

      My vote for President is not a referendum on my universal moral values any more than the decisions I make about who to hire for any other job.

      I’m just concerned about the urge, inspired by the Republican descent into cultism, for everyone else to embrace the same thinking. Voting for Biden doesn’t mean ignoring his weaknesses, or at least it doesn’t have to. It’s just a rational (though very tentative) step back toward representative government.

    2. It’s your call on not voting for Biden, but I hope that at least you are not in one of the swing states.

      Let’s confront the worst case scenario head on- that Ms. Reade’s accusations are 100% true. Very bad, but not even close to what’s on Trump’s table, which is far worse in terms of both the numbers of women accusing him, and the things he’s been accused of. There’s also the matter that Biden at a minimum understands that attacking Ms. Reade is a bad call, while Trump’s responses to his accusers check every box in the misogynist’s list. The lesser of the two evils on this issue isn’t even a close call.

      Another Biden downside: the issue with his son Hunter. That Ukrainian gig was slimy as hell, and the practice ought to be banned (I’ve posted before about the COI disclosures that I must do every year, so I do not take these issues lightly). But that’s a molehill compared to the Jared Kushner mountain. What qualifications does he have to make him the guy to settle the Israeli-Palestian dispute, or coordinate the White House’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic? Unlike the operations of a Ukrainian energy company, these are literally life and death issues. Incompetence will get people killed. Then we have Ivanka’s convenient trademarks, her sticking her nose into things where she is also unqualified, and the SO’s of Donny Jr. and Eric getting those cushy campaign jobs. With a Biden Presidency, I see a reasonable chance of getting some proper teeth into ant-nepotism and corruption rules. I shudder to think where the corruption would go with a 2nd Trump term.

      Another sore spot- Biden’s gaffes. He’s got a long track record of them. But I challenge anyone to find a Biden misspeak as bad as suggesting introduction of disinfectants into the body as treatment for Covid-19. Or retconning a hurricane tracking map with a sharpie. Or suggesting using nuclear weapons against hurricanes.

      Biden is a chance, not a guarantee, but a chance to start fixing the problems with our system. This upcoming VP pick is the most consequential one ever. I personally think that he goes with either Warren or Harris. I also think it’s likely that he doesn’t make it through a complete term, and unlike Trump, that he would step aside if the health issues got too bad.

      1. Assuming Biden does not pick Senator Harris for VP I would love to see her fill the Attorney General position. She would be a witch on wheels. Like you I think the VP pick is important as I cannot see Biden doing two terms. Even one is iffy. I would love to see either Harris or Warren debate Mike Pence. Warren is a Sunday School teacher and she would pin him to the Wall about his false Christianity. And Harris is a prosecutor who would prosecute Pence into a corner. I think Trump could not intimate either woman and he would be plenty intimated by them. Also I think either one could do the job of president and could run and win the job if good old Joe could not run. Joe was not my first choice. But like Mr. Ladd I see him as a step back to a functional government.

      2. At this point I’d be legitimately shocked if Ms. Reade’s accusation were true. In just the few days that this has been cycling, she’s already admitted that any complaint she did file (if there is one) made no mention of sexual assault at all; which isn’t to say that Uncle Touchy-Feely didn’t do anything inappropriate on his part or make her feel uncomfortable (he very well could have), but that’s a far cry from ramming her against a wall and violating her in the halls of Congress.

        I mean really, are we to believe that, somehow, Joe Biden managed to hide a legitimate rape accusation from Obama’s entire campaign apparatus during ’08, not to mention the entire Republican machine for a full 8 years?

        Biden’s a nice guy, but he’s no Professor Moriarty.

    3. Rob

      Republicans have gone into cult land but Democrats can’t. Unlike the Republican coalition which is homogeneous and cursed by white supremacy, Democrats are diverse with very different interests. Diversity may be inconvenient in putting a disparate coalition together but forces people to live in reality not fantasy as you can’t win elections otherwise when you have to talk to different kinds of people. So I don’t anticipate the Democratic party going down the same weird cultish path. After all, Republicans get in line and Democrats fall in love.

      1. White people used to have a lot of different interests, a lot of different shades and religions and associations and even languages. I do think it will be harder for Democrats to sink into a single mass cult, because they are mostly a default entity, but you can’t look closely at the Sanders campaign without seeing shades of this kind of mentality taking shape.

      2. Democrats for sure can go the cult route. We already are. And I don’t mean Bernie. The danger of fighting an enemy for a long time is that you gradually become him. Dems have been fighting the cultish tendencies of Republicans since the Gingrich revolution in 1994. And they’ve been admonished by plenty of people within the party that we need to become like the Republicans (ruthless, disciplined, on message, etc.) in order to defeat them.

        And largely, we have. It wasn’t so long ago that you could be a pro-life Democrat (around the same time that guys like Chris could be a pro-choice Republican). You could be a white Texan or Georgian and be a Democrat. No longer. Homogeneity is not just about racial and gender makeup. More importantly, it’s about thinking and willingness to tolerate dissent within the ranks. For at least the past 30 years, those traits have been considered the Democrats’ mortal weakness (by both Republicans and Democrats), and they’ve slowly been eliminated.

        I’m guessing, you probably were horrified by GWB’s warrantless surveillance and wiretapping of telephones post 9/11. How horrified were you when you learned Obama ordered assassinations of U.S. citizens without trial, including killing his 16 year old son in a separate attack, while denying his father’s petitions to at least be allowed to learn what the accusations were against his son, nevermind contest them in even a kangaroo court like FISA?

    4. I would read a bit before calling Biden a rapist. It’s pretty clearly nonsense.

      https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/04/29/joe-biden-sexual-assault-allegation-tara-reade-column/3046962001/

      You say you’re writing off the executive office– why? As anyone can see, it matters very very much, not even necessarily in the person, but in the people they choose to surround them. Every Trump appointee is an incompetent grifter. That would certainly not be the case in a Biden administration.

      There’s no plausible explanation for preferring Trump to Biden. I understand you didn’t get something you feel good about, but this isn’t about feeling good. It’s about a choice, for which the preference ought to be very clear. Not voting is a vote for a labradoodle breeder at the CDC. It’s not rational.

    5. Aaron…there are very few words for someone like you. Yes, you are clearly as bad as any member of the fascist cult. You views are “final”, and there has been no vetting of this story at all. All I can pray is that yours is a tiny tiny viewpoint, but somehow I doubt it.

      Clearly, there are morons in the anti-fascist group as well.

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