Liberals are losing their minds over the Lincoln Project
by Eoin Higgins
Liberals are losing their minds over the Lincoln Project, a political action committee made up of a coalition of Republican strategists and admen who raised $16.8 million this past quarter to continue their mission of making commercials and posts aimed at upsetting Donald Trump.
The group has been regularly praised for its "fearlessness" and the "powerful" content of its ads, liberals say, deeming the anti-Trump commercials "MUST WATCH" because "they are driving him crazy." A recent example used the coronavirus pandemic to make the case that Trump is an existential threat to the country. "If we have another four years of this, will there even be (big dramatic pause) an America?" asks a passably Ronald Reagan-imitating voice actor as somber music plays in the background in the punny "Mourning in America"-titled ad that came out this week. It was celebrated by Politico’s Joanna Weiss as a "masterful nugget of compact filmmaking."
Yes, Trump is bad. Historically awful. But liberals, I’m begging you, do not turn to these snakes for salvation.
Unsurprisingly for a group of former aides to Republican campaigns and party attachés who have run in the same circles for decades, the Lincoln Project is made up of exactly the kind of people who liberals profess to loathe: a collection of right-wing ghouls dominated by angry white men with bigoted, racist views that they've seldom been shy about sharing.
The group is reportedly little more than a slush fund for its members. A study on the Lincoln Project from the Center for Responsive Politics in May found the group's finances suspect, at best, and that the organization was acting as a funnel for what The Atlantic called the coalition's "motley crew" of leadership by directing the PAC's cash to the interests and businesses of its directors and staff. "The Lincoln Project reported spending nearly $1.4 million through March," the Center explained. "Almost all of that money went to the group’s board members and firms run by them."
The Lincoln Project's Team is led by eight founders and ten senior advisors, but the group's core four is made up of George Conway, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver, and Rick Wilson. The quartet self-importantly announced the formation of their PAC in a tedious opinion piece for the New York Times last December, claiming that Trump represents some great departure from American conservatism (beyond saying the quiet part loud) and concluded the piece by likening their consultancy-trough-feeding and make-work organization to the Union forces in the Civil War.
Of the four, Weaver has the lowest profile. The longtime GOP aide devoted himself in the 21st century to the failing presidential campaigns of John McCain (twice), John Huntsman, and John Kasich. He has a long history of working with some of the worst that the GOP has had to offer, beginning his career with former Sen. Phil Gramm in 1978 when Gramm, then a hard-right Texas Democrat, first went to Washington. Weaver continued to work with the notoriously cruel and racist Gramm for years, before and after the Texan's conversion to the GOP, then took a leading role in the Texas state party. His time with Gramm and his decades in the Texas Republican Party and his closeness to Rick Perry belie Weaver's moderate self-presentation. Liberals are ignoring that record of work for the GOP though because Weaver tweets banalities like "There will be justice. Righteous justice." when Trump does something like commuting Roger Stone's sentence.
Fellow founder Schmidt also worked on the 2008 McCain campaign, and became a minor political celebrity as the senator's go-to man frustrated by the rise of Sarah Palin, the vice presidential nominee who sucked the oxygen out of the room and, for a time, defined the race. Nicolle Wallace, a fellow Bush administration alum, would also spin her time with Palin as campaign senior advisor into career gold. Both Schmidt and Wallace were the centerpieces of the book and HBO movie titled "Game Change." Today Wallace hosts a daily show on MSNBC, where Schmidt is a frequent guest.
Before the McCain campaign Schmidt, with future ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd, helped to craft a re-election campaign for George W. Bush in 2004 that relied on racism, xenophobia, and homophobic panic to turn out the incumbent's rabid, bigoted base. Schmidt, who had previously served in Dick Cheney's office, returned to the White House after Bush's re-election and became a Karl Rove devotee, working under the president's political mastermind to push the nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court through the Senate.
Conway was relatively unknown outside of Washington. He's ridden his wife KellyAnn's coattails to liberal superstardom as the husband of a White House advisor who tells the president off on Twitter. Recently the couple's daughter has gotten in on the game, playing at being a leftist, but to quote journalist Gaby Del Valle, "the Conway daughter is so obviously in on the scam and if you believe her you’re a mark."
There's honestly not much more to say about George other than he is a longtime GOP lawyer whose turn against Trump appears more due to being passed over for a position in the Department of Justice than any actual ideological rift (George was reportedly lobbying for a job with the administration as recently as mid-2017). If you believe anything about his attacks on Trump is genuine, I have an open letter for you to sign without telling you who else is on it.
Which brings us to Wilson, whose rise to Resistance hero has been, frankly, incomprehensible even by degraded liberal standards in the era of Trump. A GOP stalwart whose career has taken him from one Republican campaign to another, Wilson has been a frequent cable news guest in the age of Trump as a caustic foul-mouthed conservative who really lets the president have it. That edgy attitude has won Wilson friends and supporters from across the liberal sphere.
But before his career reinvention as a "principled Republican," Wilson was known for his unfiltered bigotry on Twitter, unapologetically throwing transphobic slurs at his enemies in attempts to emasculate them, slinging racist insults at Trayvon Martin, xenophobic just-this-side-of-genocide prescriptions for the U.S. military in its dealings with Muslims, and other equally repulsive illiberal racist and bigoted views including now deleted Instagram posts showing prominently displayed Confederate paraphernalia on his boat.
Yet Wilson is given a pass, because he now trains his fire on Trump. Tweetin’ historian Kevin Kruse is a fan, despite his own minor online celebrity beginning with pushing back on racist right-wingers like Dinesh D’Souza whose views are indistinguishable from those of Wilson. Even Mehdi Hasan, whose smug self-presentation is that of a bemused outsider appalled by the racism and hate of American discourse, has featured Wilson on his show "Head to Head" in a segment that presented the right-wing operative as an opponent of Trump. Hasan did not, despite his repeated self-promotion as a journalist unafraid to ask tough questions, interrogate Wilson's past statements.
Many of the PAC's other members share an obsession with finding ways to discredit Black Lives Matter and an antipathy to nonwhite people. Ad producer whiz kid Ben Howe before 2016 tweeted multiple times that he wished he, not Darren Wilson, had murdered Mike Brown, while prominent Never-Trump professor Tom Nichols has spent years using “well actually” just-asking-questions obfuscation tactics to discredit protests over police brutality against people of color and other marginalized communities.
It's more than these extreme examples of right-wing hate and bigotry found throughout the group's members' pasts. The fact is that the coalition is made up of people who until very recently were happily ensconced in the GOP—meaning that it's not the policies pursued and beliefs espoused by Trump that are the issue. It’s just his delivery.
This is not an abstract issue. The president is part and parcel of the entire Republican project and its logical conclusion after five decades of cultivating an increasingly enraged white base filled with economic and cultural grievances for which the GOP has blamed on the uneven but inexorable march to greater equality in American society. As Trump promoted birtherism and racist hate against Barack Obama in the early 2010s, there was no particular condemnation from the party; instead, 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney made a big show of bending the knee at Trump Tower for an endorsement.
The more that liberals refuse to hold right-wing operatives like the Lincoln Project brain trust accountable for their past behavior and contribution to the current state of conservatism in America the more we will see the rehabilitation of such ghouls as an ongoing scheme by conservatives to push the Overton window even further right and assume the position of moderation. For someone like Rick Wilson to enjoy the social capital afforded by his acceptance by liberals like Hasan and Kruse would be unthinkable were there a chance the Democratic Party and its attendant opinion makers had an attention span for a period longer than the time since the last presidential election.
Trump's rise has led liberals to descend into a fearful, paranoid, goldfish-like existence where an all-consuming terror of the possibility of angering the right has overcome all other impulses, leaving the left-leaning body politic without the ability to remember what happened four years ago—let alone four months.
That kind of memory hole is a nightmare situation for historians, journalists, and anyone who hasn't given up yet. But it's perfect for the personal fortunes and future career opportunities of the Lincoln Project, and that’s the whole point.
Eoin Higgins is senior editor and staff writer at Common Dreams, a non-profit progressive newsroom. You can find him on Twitter at @EoinHiggins_
I wouldn't mind being a dolphin for a while I think. Swimming around like an absolute freak and housing mackerel for dinner and shit. Getting lifted off of pufferfish. Not being able to read Twitter. That’s an honorable life right there if you can get it.
Yesterday I sent out to paid-subscribers a really informative interview I did with Wesley Lowery one of our finest reporters and a two time Pulitzer winner before the age of thirty an accomplishment for which I invited him to go fuck himself. I opened it up for free on Twitter for a bit so he could share it but now it’s back behind the paywall. It’s important and I think you should read it and I feel guilty every time I do a paid-only post for some reason but on the other hand posting everything for free doesn’t keep the lights on around here and I have a lot of lights to keep on. I basically live in a lamp store. Also I’m starting to commission pieces from other writers I admire so I’d like to be able to start paying more for those. I don’t know man I am literally terrible at the business and marketing aspects of all this I hate it don’t know what to tell you.
Here’s a bit of my discussion with Lowery.
I really don’t want to keep the conversation going about the goddamn Letter, but it does tie into some of the stuff you’ve been talking about lately. What are your thoughts on the debate about “cancel culture” in general we’re having now?
I don’t like the term cancel culture. I find it to be pretty meaningless, in part because as long as there has been an American culture there have been some views that are seen as outside the mainstream, and people have faced recrimination for expressing them. To be clear, most often the victims of that type of pressure are not people like the signatories, but are, in fact, Black people, or other minorities, native people, immigrants, Muslims, communists… Typically not white, very well-platformed centrists types.
But beyond that, there’s a fallacy sometimes in this conversation, where many of the signatories of a letter like this would also assert that one of the ways to combat what they would consider to be bad speech would be additional speech. But the very thing they are upset about is people exercising speech: people sending a bunch of tweets at them saying they suck, or writing a column saying they shouldn’t receive commissions to write any columns because they suck. All of those things are people’s speech rights, and I think that’s important.
I think two things can be true at the same time. It is important for the leaders of our institutions to operate from a position of what is the right decision to make versus what is the wrong decision, and not always be swayed… “Everyone’s mad on the internet right now so I need to do something” decisions get made that way all the time. I think we see that in terms of some of the overreactions. To be clear, this still happens more often to Black people or radical leftists or women than it does to the types of people that the signatories are. It’s also true that there are cases where there’s institutional overreaction. Secondarily, a lot of these folks are people that have held a monopoly on the marketplace of ideas and are suddenly in a world that is more diverse and where speech is more democratized, where everyone can have a Twitter account. Some of what these folks are reacting to is criticism of their speech. Suddenly they face reputational recrimination because their ideas are bad. And they’re going “This is unfair, it’s the end of democracy!”
When I say that I am 100% biased in my writing that doesn’t mean I’m going to lie or make things up. You don’t need to exaggerate the details of corruption or worker abuse or whatever because they’re already bad enough. There's no need for fabulism.
I think about this all the time. If a story is that stunning or insane you can write it with the calmest language. If the facts themselves are ridiculous you don’t have to write it up at all. You can just list the true things.
But don’t you also think you can present something horrific in a neutered language that drains the blood from it? Especially with the Times…
I certainly think that happens. Some of that is about pulling punches, not actually writing down the true things. But the way we do sourcing, the way we allow people sometimes to rebut allegations against them in the same sentences where we are saying what the allegation is... These are decisions that are made in the writing and editing process. It’s less about the individual reporter than the structure of how our journalism works. Fairness is important. You call everyone, you talk to them and hear what they say, but at the end of the day we have to write what we believe.
Subscribe then read the whole thing here or don’t who cares I’ve probably only got like two months tops left anyway before I come down with the virus.
I will admit it’s going to be tough when my wife instantly catches covid from twenty booger kids all at once within the first five minutes of the first day of school this fall and then gives it to me and we both die but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for Mr. Trump’s stonks numbers. Are you a teacher who reads this shit? Feel free to write in and tell me what you’re thinking about the prospects of schools opening again.
Remember the grotesque mansion villains in St. Louis from like five whole things ago? Turns out they are even worse than we might have imagined.
Here’s just a tiny fraction of some of the dirtier shit these litigious cartoon villains have gotten up to from the St Louis Post-Dispatch.
Mark McCloskey has run off trustees trying to make repairs to the wall surrounding his property, insisting that he and his wife own it. In 2013, he destroyed bee hives placed just outside of the mansion’s northern wall by the neighboring Jewish Central Reform Congregation and left a note saying he did it, and if the mess wasn’t cleaned up quickly he would seek a restraining order and attorneys fees. The congregation had planned to harvest the honey and pick apples from trees on its property for Rosh Hashanah.
Mark McCloskey left this note after he destroyed bee hives placed just outside of the mansion’s northern wall by the neighboring Jewish Central Reform Congregation.
“The children were crying in school,” Rabbi Susan Talve said. “It was part of our curriculum.”
Mark McCloskey filed a defamation case against his father and sister in 2011, dismissed it in 2012, and refiled it in 2013. By the time of the final filing, Bruce McCloskey was living in a memory care unit in Ballwin; he died in 2014.
Richard Rose died of complications related to covid on July 4. A thirty seven year old veteran from Ohio his family said he was “active in helping homeless vets and in preventing veteran suicide.”
The reason why his death is notable the reason why we know about it in the first place among all the tens of thousands of other deaths is because he’s gone posthumously viral for something he posted back in April on Facebook. “Let’s make this clear,” he wrote. “I’m not buying a mask. I’ve made it this far by not buying into that damn hype.”
It’s funny but it’s not. Or maybe it is I don’t know.
When I saw one of the many tweets going around yesterday dunking on him I shared it myself my gut instinct at the time being fuck this fucking reckless asshole who knows how many other people he might have infected.
Naturally many of the people laughing at his death have turned him into a MAGA caricature but after reading through his Facebook that doesn’t really seem to be the case he seems like he was a more complicated person than that occasionally posting about gay rights and arresting abusive police and so on. I’m not sure why that matters but I guess it does. Maybe it doesn’t. I don’t know. Mostly the whole thing makes me feel sad at the moment and angrier at the president and our other idiot leaders and the denialist media who have convinced people like Rose that this is all a hoax. He should have known better sure but there are so many people constantly lying to us so professionally and without shame is it any wonder that a lot of people are going to believe them? Either way he did not have to die. None of these people had to die.
“We were blown away, you know? You hear about this virus and you don’t expect it to affect people, younger people like ourselves,” Nick Conley his friend told Cleveland 19 News.
“Rick is getting slaughtered online right now for his decision that he made not to wear a mask and that’s not right,” he said.
Is it? I don’t knowwwwwwww. This is going to become a more regular occurrence I imagine. People who were pandemic deniers are going to die and their old posts are going to circulate and we’ll all go lol… and then we’ll go wait… :(
“We should still be compassionate whether we agree with someone’s beliefs or not. Someone has passed away and we should have some compassion towards that,” he said.
Should we? I honestly don’t know.
I just read this story from News 4 San Antonio about a patient in their thirties who died at a hospital there. In it Chief Medical Officer of Methodist Healthcare Dr. Jane Appleby said one of her patients died after going to a covid party and I don’t know if I necessarily believe that that is a real thing but who knows. I don’t know.
“Just before the patient died, they looked at their nurse and said ‘I think I made a mistake, I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not,’” Appleby said and that seems a little too good to be true so maybe I don’t believe that either but maybe I do who knows.
What do you imagine happening when you imagine yourself getting it? I imagine it sucking real bad shit but at the same time I envision a full staff of medical professionals working night and day tirelessly to save my specific ass but that is because I am a white able-bodied cis straight male who naturally and instinctually expects no cost to be spared when it comes to saving my life because my life is obviously valuable. Logically and rationally I know that’s now how it works but I still believe it anyway even though as I’ve written in here many times usually when I go to the doctor for one of my recurring chronic injury pain issues they fuck around for like five minutes staring at a clipboard while I sit there with a cold ass on the cold paper they pull over the cold bed and say something like uh I don’t know what to tell you bud then peace out because my pain is not their problem. It’s their job but not their problem which is different.
Read this old Hell World if you never did it’s in the book and ~~one of the good ones~~
A while back I was at the Pain Center which sounds like a much more metal place than it actually is. It’s really just a place where they send you when your real doctor takes a look at your whole deal and is like eh not my problem. A nurse was taking my blood pressure and the machine malfunctioned somehow so she wheeled it out of there sort of embarrassed and then never came back and I never saw her again.
Eventually a doctor turned up and I was telling him about my back pain. I had a bottle of water I was drinking with me and he knocked it over accidentally then we both sort of watched it spill out onto the floor. When you have back pain the world becomes very small. Literally, because you don't want to go anywhere, and figuratively, because it's hard to care about anything else.
I had had back pain before but on this particular visit it was one of the worst in my life aside from the time I snapped myself in half on the squat rack at a gym somewhere in Arlington, Virginia when I was working as a White House intern during college which really just meant printing out articles to read and jacking off in the bathroom near where Al Gore worked. That type of back pain is bad it’s where you don't want to leave the house type of pain and you have to do physics equations and shit when you're trying to sit down type of pain.
The doctor spent thirty seconds examining me and he was nice and sympathetic but he could only tell me what I figured he would which is that I have to stretch so essentially he told me nothing. He said there was a type of shot they can give me to relax the muscles but it wouldn’t be for three weeks and not because they're too busy or anything the process itself takes minutes, but because it takes weeks for the insurance company to say it’s ok to do. Three weeks doesn't seem like too long but when you've got back pain every second is forever and any task encompasses summoning the entirety of the world.
I just read a thread about our expectations around being saved if we catch the covid that I found illuminating.
They go on:
All these people (ableds) are speaking about this virus as a hypothetical scenario. They are naive to the reality of being hospitalised and facing their own mortality. They can’t fully conceptualise it because they haven’t experienced it. I have. Many disabled people have.
Also they are used to living in a body that doesn’t let them down. A body that recovers easily from illness and probably doesn’t get ill very often - that is not my baseline assumption about my own disabled body because it’s not been my experience at all.
And lastly, they operate under an assumption that if they were to contract it the medical professionals would do everything they can. They’ve not had traumatising medical experiences like I have. They’ve not been ill for years and had doctors give zero shits.
Their baseline assumption is that doctors can and will fix things. That again has not been my experience. Also goes without saying they don’t have all the fears of being disabled in this pandemic and thus seen as expendable - an opinion legitimised by our government.
As regards contracting the virus you will want to read this from Patricia Lockwood about her experience being sick for a long time with the shit. It starts like so.
My story will be that John Harvard gave it to me. ‘Who’s that?’ I asked, pointing at a bronze bust in the reading room where I had arrived to give my lecture, and was told that it was the university’s founder, John Harvard. ‘Damn,’ I said. ‘It never even occurred to me that Harvard was a guy.’ It was the night of 3 March, and travelling didn’t seem so foolhardy as it would even a week later; at that point the accepted wisdom was that hand sanitiser was the great necessity, and that the virus was being mostly spread by touch. (On a Q&A message board I frequent, there were multiple questions in those early days from people desperately wondering how to stop picking their noses. Something was coming for us eventually.) It was a pleasure to be in the reading room, a pleasure to note that the carpet was ugly, a pleasure to learn that Harvard was a guy, a pleasure to send the controlled flow of my voice into the microphone and out to the hundred or so people in the room. The fireplace was big enough to roast me in; there was a statue of Kronos in the corner, spreading inflexible wings from a soft central nakedness. It was, according to the new formula, the last normal thing I did.