I struggle with the “nihilism” framing. It may well capture what’s driving some Republican officials. But it tends to obscure the nature of the reactionary political project that animates most people on the American Right: They aren’t motivated just by the prospect of power.
Here is a long thread on why we should start from the assumption that Republicans are true believers in what they do, convinced to be justified in preventing multiracial pluralism - the downfall of “real” (read: white Christian patriarchal) America - by whatever means necessary:
I also think that focusing on opportunism and lust for power is not only inadequate analytically, it also benefits shameless cynics like Mitch McConnell, at least in terms of media coverage: Better to be seen as a devious, nihilistic genius than a reactionary white nationalist.
Finally, I believe the idea of nihilism in politics quickly leads to an analytical impasse. As a general rule, the question of ideological commitments always applies - because ideology circumscribes and defines the realm of opportunity.
I reflected extensively on the question of opportunism vs ideology in this thread - an attempt to understand what animates Joe Manchin, differing ideas of “democracy,” and what all of this tells us about the history of democracy in America more broadly:

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More from @tzimmer_history

21 Jul
Exactly right. These biases hamper the ability of most civic institutions to recognize, acknowledge, and react adequately to the GOP’s anti-democratic radicalization.

These problems are most visible in the mainstream media’s continued failing to handle the rightwing threat.
More and more journalists and analysts - including some who work for mainstream media institutions - see this clearly, of course, and use their platforms to alert the public to the problem, demand change, and suggest a better way forward, as @ThePlumLineGS does here:
But we’re still being fed a steady diet of the “both sides squabbling as always” kind of obscuring nonsense that @EricKleefeld rightfully criticizes here:
Read 10 tweets
16 Jul
I have somewhat ambivalent feelings about the use of the term “fascism” to describe the American Right. It’s complicated.

But this - the racist demagoguery, the idea of the racialized Other as a diseased threat, the desire to keep the nation “pure” - is pretty fascist.
I reflected a little bit on the “Is it fascism?” question here, with links to a great piece by @lionel_trolling and an excellent episode of the @KnowYrEnemyPod podcast, both providing insightful, nuanced explorations of the fascism debate:
I’ll also link to this thread in which I reflected on – and rejected – an argument advanced by some scholars of Nazism that today’s American Far Right can’t be “fascist” because fascism was a phenomenon exclusive to Europe’s interwar period:
Read 14 tweets
15 Jul
Here’s the thing: Many scholars and observers saw this clearly and spent the entire Trump era trying to get America’s civic and political institutions to acknowledge the threat and act accordingly - while constantly being derided by the Very Serious Pundit class as “alarmists.”
When it comes to the authoritarian threat to democracy - and the anti-democratic radicalization amongst conservatives in general - the “alarmists” have been right every step of the way. A lot of self-proclaimed Very Serious People should really grapple with that fact in earnest.
The issue is that those who actively worked to obscure the threat to democracy with their anti-alarmism - whether or not they fully understood that’s what they were doing - are still shaping the political discourse going forward. And few have engaged in sincere introspection.
Read 18 tweets
15 Jul
This really applies to all the rightwing moral panics. Political correctness, cancel culture, wokeness: Much of the anxiety that fuels these reactionary crusades stems from the fact that white people - white men, in particular - face a little more scrutiny today than in the past.
#metoo is another excellent example for this dynamic: As soon as traditionally marginalized groups gain enough power and enough of a platform to make their demands for respect and accountability heard, certain white people / men start bemoaning “persecution.”
Important to note that it’s really just the *threat* of scrutiny, the *potential* of being held to account that is enough to cause the next round of reactionary panic. In practice, the power structures that have traditionally defined American life have unfortunately held up fine.
Read 22 tweets
12 Jul
Here’s @ThePlumLineGS making a strong argument for why Democrats need to accept and set out to win the culture wars.

I’ll add some general thoughts on the idea that “kitchen table issues” can be separated from “culture war stuff,” to which too many Democrats still cling. 1/
The column outlines many of the reasons why ignoring the culture wars dimension is doomed to fail, as a matter of political strategy, in a situation in which the GOP, aided by the rightwing propaganda machine, is guaranteed to succeed in making it a salient issue. 2/
Aside from the question of political strategy, many in the Democratic camp seem to be basing their insistence to focus solely on socio-economic and financial matters on an analytical error: the idea that those “kitchen table issues” can be separated from the culture wars. 3/
Read 16 tweets
11 Jul

It is never inevitable, never irrevocable, never linear. It is always the result of difficult struggles that often involve heavy losses, and it always comes too late for so many people who would have deserved better.

But it is possible. This, here, is progress.
Yesterday was a good day at Charlottesville. And a good day for America.
A great thread on the history being made at Charlottesville yesterday.
Read 4 tweets

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