Footnotes to the Week

There remains a lot more to be said about the events of the week and the new circumstances now facing us. Herewith a few observations that I may expand into longer treatments at some point.

The events of the week have emboldened the vindictive and radical spirit of the Democrats and their allies in the media-academic-cultural complex—not that they weren’t radical enough already. You can see this in things like Simon & Schuster canceling Josh Hawley’s book, calls for the expulsion from Congress of Republicans who objected to the electoral college tally on Wednesday, and demands (by an ABC news person on Twitter, since deleted) that the nation needed to be “cleansed” of Trump supporters. Look for the censorious spirit of the left’s “cancel culture” to go into overdrive now, instead of receding with the end of the Trump Administration.

The first thing to watch for will be the seemingly arcane adoption of the Senate rules for the next Congress. I recommend Jon Adler’s refresher on the rules adopted in 2001, when the Senate was last split 50-50, with Vice President Cheney breaking ties. Then, the two parties agreed on a power sharing arrangement that tilted only slightly toward the Republicans. Will this Senate repeat those rules, or will they rely on Vice President Harris to deliver a more partisan set of rules for Democrats?

The next question, then, is Joe Manchin. Already today Manchin has said that he does not favor $2,000 COVID relief checks, and he’s on record against ending the filibuster and packing the courts. And of course he isn’t down with any of the Green New Deal nonsense. Back in 2001, the Senate flipped Democrat in May when Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords switched parties, after which he was hailed for his “courage,” of course. Keep your eye on media coverage of Manchin, to see whether he is labeled an “obstructionist” rather than a “man of conscience and principle,” as renegade Republicans are always described. And if he is pressured too much by the left, maybe he jumps ship to the GOP? He does not strike me as an especially tough-minded or courageous figure (he only announced his vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh after it became clear Kavanaugh had enough GOP votes to be confirmed), so that could cut either way.

A pair of details from Wednesday’s events deserve more notice: First, an apparent bomb planted at the Republican National Committee HQ (which is close to the Capitol); also an apparent bomb at DNC HQ. Why a bomb at the RNC if this was a pro-Trump mob? Second and related, while it is unclear to what extent Antifa may have been present as a false flag operation, it does appear that a number of figures appearing in costume committing the worst atrocities inside the Capitol can’t be seriously attributed to any distinct political ideology. The person photographed carrying out a podium from the House has been identified as a person from Florida who is a registered independent, but who has apparently never voted. And the fellow with the fur and horns is alleged to have been seen at both BLM and environmental protests over the last year. (I await further confirmation of this.)

What gives? My mind keeps running back to Max Weber’s famous long lecture “Politics as a Vocation,” delivered 100 years ago, in which he explains that extremist political commitment is often not a function of ideology at all, but a matter of both psychology and even warped theological commitment (in which “theological” can mean atheism as well as revealed religion). Or put more simply—it is just plain nihilism. The Proud Boys, for example, don’t actually appear to represent a coherent or at least non-contradictory ideology. The rag-tag militia group that planned to kidnap Michigan Gov. Whitmer apparently expressed a similar hatred for Trump. (And I still can’t quite figure out what the hell Qanon really is.)

When our leaders fail to understand that some of what is going on in the rioting of the last several months is not strictly speaking ideological or rational leads to spectacles such as Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler baffled about why his efforts to “engage” Antifa and “de-escalate” in Portland was met with contempt and, it is reported yesterday, a physical assault on him at a restaurant.

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