The MAGA memory hole – The Atlantic

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For years, leading Republicans have chosen to let their memory lapse about things they once said about Donald Trump. It’s a disingenuous forgetting that has deepened since Trump went on trial in New York.

First, here are three new stories from The Atlantic:


The New Order for the Day

Winston Smith, the protagonist of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, works for the totalitarian Ministry of Truth, where his assignment is to produce lies. He rewrites history so that whatever the regime says today cannot be contradicted by something it might have said yesterday. (He ensures, for example, that Big Brother’s “Order for the Day” announcements about the regime’s achievements match up with everything the leader predicted in previous statements, and he excises any untidy references in the state media to people who have been arrested and disappeared.) Once history is fixed, Winston drops contradictory materials into “the memory hole,” a small opening near every desk that leads to a furnace, where the inconvenient past is quickly incinerated.

Leaders of the current GOP presumably do not have such memory holes in their offices, but they’re doing their best to replicate the effect. Republicans who once claimed to be against Donald Trump, and ridiculed him, are now expending kilocalories of political energy to convince their constituents and the rest of the American public that they have always been faithful to Trump.

Some of them, including Senators Lindsey Graham and J. D. Vance, have admitted to dramatic conversions, and like good members of any authoritarian party, they have come forward and sought mercy for their mistakes. “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed…….and we will deserve it,” Graham in May 2016 (after among other things), and on the night of January 6, 2021, he to be done with Trump: “Count me out.”

Less than a month later, he was .

Vance, for his part, once described Trump as “cultural heroin” —a wonderful phrase that I will never tire of repeating here. When Vance decided to run for the Senate, however, he apparently felt that it was time to see the light. “I’m not just a flip-flopper, I’m a flip-flop-flipper on Trump,” he in the summer of 2021. Trump, he said, is “the leader of this movement, and if I actually care about these people and the things I say I care about, I need to just suck it up and support him.”

After this stirring statement of principle, Vance went all in. Last week, at the New York courthouse where Trump is on trial, he in the required blue suit and red tie not only to affirm his allegiance (obligatory for anyone who hopes to be Trump’s vice-presidential pick) but also as part of his of the entire American justice system. If Vance once had any reservations, they have gone into the memory hole.

Few Trump sycophants play this game better than New York Representative Elise Stefanik, who this weekend with the Fox News anchor Shannon Bream after Bream had the temerity to snatch back some of Stefanik’s history from the furnace. Bream quoted from a in which Stefanik’s friends noted the representative’s transformation from Republican moderate to Trumpian conspiracy theorist. Stefanik immediately snapped at Bream for quoting unnamed sources from the hated Times.

But Bream was having none of it: “Folks can go read that article for themselves,” she countered. “There are plenty of names, people who went on the record. And we’ll leave it there.” The article is more devastating than Bream let on; as an opportunist, Stefanik leaves even a dedicated newcomer like Vance in the dust. But her approach worked. “In the beginning,” one of her voters after Trump lost in 2020, Stefanik wasn’t a big Trump backer. “But I’ll tell you, she’s come around.”

Indeed she has. “To say that Stefanik displays the zeal of a convert,” earlier this year, “doesn’t do justice to the phrase.” She is now a reliable voice echoing almost anything Trump says, including his attacks on the rule of law and the American election system.

I am an adult, and I have worked for politicians. I know hypocrisy is endemic to politics. I know that liberals and conservatives both have made excuses for their preferred candidates. I know that, yes, everyone does it. And people are allowed to change their mind when facts change. But nothing about Trump has changed. This GOP embrace of Trump’s nihilism is not some standard-issue, “my guy, right or wrong” defense of the party leader. What Republicans are doing now is a deeper and more stomach-churning abandonment of dignity, a rejection of moral agency in the name of ambition.

The defense of Trump and the memory-holing of any vestige of past adherence to principle is, of course, rooted in expediency and fear, but it also reflects a deep-seated resentment among people such as Vance and Stefanik.

The fear is obvious: Republicans are afraid of their own voters, sometimes even with a direct concern for their personal security. As my colleague McKay Coppins reported in , “One Republican congressman confided to Romney that he wanted to vote for Trump’s second impeachment, but chose not to out of fear for his family’s safety.” Likewise, the crackling-static cloud of opportunism that surrounds so many Republicans—especially the hyper-ambitious gadfly Vivek Ramaswamy—generates a political version of ozone so strong that its metallic odor practically seeps through the screens of TVs and smartphones.

But do not underestimate the power of resentment among Stefanik, Vance, and the others now circling Trump like the cold fragments of a destroyed planet. They resent the and did not take the deal that required trading decency for power. Stefanik and Vance, of course, still have jobs in Congress, but they now must pretend to be tribunes of an electorate with whom they have almost nothing in common and among whom they seem to have no interest in living. (Vance that people in depressed rural areas should move out, and he himself did not have a primary residence in Ohio until 2018.)

The cognitive dissonance produced by this self-knowing resentment encourages extremism, not moderation. The shame of signing on with Trump again means that any memento of an earlier political life must be shoved into the memory hole. The only way to prove loyalty is to take the new line, and to repeat Big Brother’s new Order for the Day more energetically than all of the other comrades. Each time, they will shout louder—to rise above the din of the mob, and to silence the fading voice of conscience that tells them that this self-abasement is terribly, inexcusably wrong.

Related:


Today’s News

  1. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the Iranian foreign minister were after their helicopter crashed yesterday. Iran’s Supreme Leader announced that the first vice president, Mohammad Mokhber, will become the acting president; he must set up elections for a new president within 50 days.
  2. The International Criminal Court is for three Hamas leaders, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. They are all with war crimes and crimes against humanity.
  3. Michael Cohen wrapped up his last day of testimony for the prosecution in Trump’s criminal trial in New York. The prosecution , and the defense will continue its case tomorrow.

Dispatches

  • : It’s powerful to hear our , Isabel Fattal writes. Sometimes our loved ones need a nudge to share a bit more than they might’ve otherwise.


Evening Read

Matt Eich

God’s Doctors

By Matt Eich and Bryce Covert

Nearly people gained health-insurance coverage between 2010 and 2016 under the Affordable Care Act. But of insured adults worry about affording their monthly premiums, while roughly the worry about affording their deductibles. don’t include dental coverage in Medicaid, and 10 still refuse to expand Medicaid to low-income adults under the ACA. never get treatment.

Religious groups have stepped in to offer help—food, community support, medical and dental care—to the desperate …

These groups operate out of trailers and formerly abandoned buildings; they are led by pastors and nuns, reverends and imams. In many cases, they are the most trusted members of their communities, and they fill care gaps others can’t or won’t.

More From The Atlantic


Culture Break

Hopper Stone / Max

Watch. What’s the The Sympathizer? Think of the show (out now on Max) as a ghost story, Paula Mejía writes.

Listen. The of How to Know What’s Real examines what we can learn from real-life urbanization to improve online living.


Stephanie Bai contributed to this newsletter.

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