Clown Coup


The attack on Congress on January 6 was horrifying; the pathetic defense caused anger. The Capital police actually there acted mainly heroically; what happened to their leadership? The idea that the mob considered themselves patriots creating freedom, them bragging about it after the fact, ridiculous—creating the Clown Coup. Apparently, they thought the Capital Police were the welcome wagon and would hand them the keys. I can just shake my head in wonder. Some of these people were professionals, serving in the military, police, a Chicago CEO, an Olympian and so on. They somehow missed basic common sense. This will be investigated for years. New findings seem to pour out every day.


Trump claimed he could only lose in a fraudulent election. After four years of what the majority of people consider failed leadership (consider the pandemic response as the most obvious example), Biden consistently led in the polls by a lot. States and counties emphasized the steps they took to demonstrate that the election was fair. Popular astronaut Mark Kelley ran for senator in Arizona as a Democrat and won, along with Biden. Stacey Abrams led a voter registration and get out the vote drive in Georgia. Biden won, as did two Democratic candidates for senator in January. These are states led by Republican officials, who ran a fair election—call them “principled Republicans.” After dozens of court cases challenging the vote, it does not take much brain power to consider Biden the president-elect.


The riot looked like Trump-inspired sedition to me. People were killed and injured and the elected officials were certainly threatened. Then, there are lots of visuals of clown coup, thanks to selfies, capital videos, and sundry other digital evidence. It would have been hilarious if not so tragic. QAnon Shaman Jake Angeli is exhibit A. Then the Trump-draped guy gloating in Pelosi’s office chair and another in the Speaker’s chair, zip-tie guy, confederate, US and Trump flag wavers everywhere (aka, police beaters) and on the house floor. Texas contributions include “Baked Alaska” and bragging real estate lady expected to increase business.


What will happen to these people? Smile—MAGA celebrities. Trump pardons followed by celebrity contracts on Fox News and media outlets far and wide? Million-dollar book contracts? Serious slammer time? Polls show most people opposed to the riots, but a hefty portion of Republicans favored them and likely consider them patriots and heroes. Who knows?


What will happen to these people? Smile—MAGA celebrities. Trump pardons followed by celebrity contracts on Fox News and media outlets far and wide? Million-dollar book contracts? Serious slammer time? Sedition leaders for the foreseeable future? Polls show most people opposed to the riots, but a hefty portion of Republicans favored them and likely consider them patriots and heroes. Who knows what happens?


Who Are the Republican Politicians?


Despite the obvious results, many Congressional Republican leaders claimed the election was stolen—with Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz leading the charge. How was this possible? Various pundits break Republicans into groups. On one end are the “principled Republicans,” like the ten house members voting for impeachment (“principled” may be an overstatement). Of more interest are the other 192 House Republicans voting against—after they all could have got killed, which apparently was the intent of many of the rioters.


New York Times columnist Tom Friedman in “Trump is Blowing Apart the GOP. God Bless Him” (January 12, 2021) divided Republicans into four groups. First are the principled center-right leaders like Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski and the Problem Solver Caucus in the House. At the other extreme is the “Trump Cult,” [Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz come to mind, plus the “rump-Trump GOP.” Friedman noted that Cruz and Hawley were so power hungry they would willingly burn America to the ground to be “president of the ashes.”] Of course, the Trumps are only interested in “Trumpism with the Trumps.” Friedman calls the two middle groups: 1) the cynically tactical conservatives. Leading this gang is Mitch McConnell, who will go along with almost anything until it breaks the law—like when all the votes are counted and Trump lost in a fair election. These are the “rule benders,” not “rule breakers.” 2) The “rule breakers.” Friedman puts Hawley and Cruz in this category, along with “other seditious senators and representatives who tried to get Congress to block its ceremonial confirmation of Biden’s election.” I assume Lindsey Graham is in this group. Apparently, he will say or do anything to promote himself (he say’s “stay relevant”). He certainly has no regard for his own integrity or legacy. I could generalize that to most of the current Republican Party. As Robber Baron “Jubilee Jim” Fisk said to Congress after his attempted 1869 gold corner: “nothing lost, save honor.”


Friedman’s Trump cultists include the QAnon conspiracy, “true believers in and purveyors of the Big Lie.” I understand the first QAnon believer was just elected to the House. Given Trump’s 74 million votes, this may be a huge group across the country. Maybe less so after January 6; but many just viewed the rioters as “patriots and heroes of the revolution.” Maybe a basic civics lesson and a review of critical thinking skills is the solution.

No obvious Profiles in Courage.


Are There Any Moderates Left?


The whole point of MVG is the moderate message. The historic rationale was politics from conservative to liberal represented as a bell-shaped curve with most people in the middle. Therefore, politicians must campaign for the middle: MVG. Now, the focus is just left versus right, with Republicans and Democrats representing the two positions (what MVG calls the two extremes) and political races mean getting out your party’s base to vote. Predisposed considered conservatives and liberals psychologically, carefully assuring each perspective is equally good (or bad). Conservatives favoring self-reliance and tradition, liberals empathy and change. In their analysis there are just two groups. My interest would be the complete distributions (in part, because I’m right in the middle); complicated but more useful.


Gallup polls people on their political ideology, but the group self-selects to participate. I don’t know how well they line up to the psychological profiles. Given Gallop has results from 1992-2020, it’s worth reviewing. In their analysis, moderates are significant. As of the most recent 2020 poll, conservatives represented 36% of respondents, moderates 35%, and liberals 25%. Those numbers have been moving from 1992. Then, conservatives were 43%, moderates 36%, and liberals 17%. Assuming Republicans are conservative and Democrats liberal, Republicans should win most elections, presidential, state and local. That seems reasonable, with American’s focus on self-reliance and limited empathy.

In fact, elections seem perpetually competitive. Consequently, it’s more complicated. Gallup polls on party as well as ideology. It’s not straight-forward. The Democrats are the Big-Tent party and that’s what the polling suggests. In 1994, almost half of Democrats labeled themselves conservatives (48%) and 25% each liberals and moderates—that was a moderate party. It’s more liberal now: 51% liberal, 35% moderate, and 12% conservative. Republicans have been predominately conservative: 58% in 1994, rising to 75% in 2020. Moderate Republicans fell from 33% in 1994 to 28% in 2020. Liberals went from 8% to 4%. Independents aren’t necessarily moderate. In 2020, 29% claimed to be conservative and 20% liberal. They are, however, moderate on average.


Consequently, MVG has a potential group of about a third of the population. More information is needed. Factors include the urban/rural split, education levels, income levels, white versus minorities, and male/female. Pew did a poll of the US electorate in mid-2020. Major Republican advantages (over 60%) went to white evangelicals (78%); white men, non-college (62%); and rural southerners (60%). Major Democratic advantages were black women (87%); urban northeasterners (72%); religiously unaffiliated (67%); Hispanic Catholic (68%); white college-educated women (62%); and millennial women (60%). In other words, many factors are contributing to election results.


Then there are the factors difficult to capture. How about charisma; think Kennedy, Reagan or Obama. All gave great speeches. Then the people without the great speech-making abilities. John Glen gave a dull speech at one of the Democratic conventions, presumably as a presidential audition. He had all the hero qualities and political experience, just not eloquence. Never the party’s nominee. More recent (especially since 2016, but growing before that) has been the importance of misinformation and outright propaganda. (Scott Adams labeled Trump the Master Persuader.) Propaganda is amazingly effective (think of all those convincing adds). Granted, honesty is not very effective when campaigning. When is the last time you heard someone honest about Social Security? People are living too long for the current system to be sustainable. The truthful politician would say that higher taxes and lower benefits are needed. Yah. That would work. Trump promised anything and everything with no follow-through. Persuasion. Horrendous result—except for his avid followers. Plus, they had issues, which only he seemed to understood. Given his 30,000 lies and misstatements (according to the Washington Post, he fulfilled all the promises and no failures were his. To this group, Biden seems to represent an existential threat (a communist hellhole?); possibly true of Congress as well, Trump acolytes or not. Beware. Clown Coup may return.

A CBS poll after January 6 found recent disturbing attitudes. Fifty-four percent of respondents thought America’s biggest threat was other people in America and 71% thought democracy was threatened. After inauguration, 51% of Republicans don’t believe Biden is a legitimate president.


Despite these attitudes, it looks to me like a Biden presidency could work. Democrats remain the “big tent party,” seemingly willing to compromise. The Republican Party seems fractured, say 50%/50%. That could mean a necessary set of principled Republicans willing to compromise on legislation that don’t violate traditional conservative norms; or not, but I’m optimistic for the moment—despite disturbing poll results.