But that was the superficial cause of the eruption. The deeper catalyst was How? ‘Or’ What Hawley does this – that his arguments are saturated with almost bottomless levels of bad faith. This is the real subject of Schatz’s tirade, and you should watch the whole thing:
This raises a few questions: Why don’t Democrats create moments like this more often? Are there other ways to make noise, like Schatz has done here, that don’t degrade our politics and are substantively and politically productive?
What ignited Schatz’s ire was Hawley’s justification for his hold on President Biden’s nominees, particularly Hawley’s assertion that Biden is not providing enough military aid to Ukraine quickly enough. Schatz also lambasted Hawley’s demand that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin resign over the pullout from Afghanistan to have his grips lifted.
One can legitimately criticize Biden for being too cautious in his aid to Ukraine. But you rarely hear critics explaining why the reason for this caution from Biden — fear that Russia is discerning an act of war and escalating — is wrong, and they downplay everything the administration has already given Ukraine. . This allows Republicans to wildly inflate the meaning of relatively narrow disagreements over the response.
Beyond that, Schatz noted that it’s absurd to use those differences as an excuse to enforce a suspension, especially given Hawley’s vote against a spending bill containing billions in military aid to the US. Ukraine requested by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. And Schatz derided Austin’s call for resignation as ridiculous grandstanding.
“That’s not a reasonable request from a U.S. senator,” Schatz fumed on the Senate floor. “And coming from someone who exonerated Donald Trump for extorting Zelensky!”
Indeed, to this day, few Republicans will fundamentally renounce Trump’s strong arming of Zelensky or Trump’s years of effort to align our interests with Russia and against Ukraine and the West.
“Spare me the new solidarity with the Ukrainians,” Schatz said of Hawley on the floor. “Because this man’s record is the exact opposite.”
Demagoguery and deceit are endemic to politics. The tension between sleazy political theatrics and the higher ideals it serves goes back to the ancients. But at a certain point, the pile of nonsense becomes so ridiculously comical, so obviously detached from the most basic standards of conduct, that it must be called out.
Yet, we don’t hear enough Democrats lay down harsh emotional markers indicating that at times like these, something is seriously wrong and something unusually absurd and depraved happens.
Like Josh Marshall arguesstaking such ground minimally lets voters know that an honorable position exists amid the daily sludge, and that such levels of Hawley-style bad faith are fundamentally unacceptable.
Just this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) practically sneered when he refused to say that a GOP-controlled Senate would hear from a future Biden nominee for the Supreme Court.
We are constantly told that the American people hate dysfunctional Washington. Yet McConnell knows he can happily threaten something so obscenely destructive without fearing any political setbacks. But Why does McConnell know?
McConnell may instinctively know that little noise from the Democrats will reach their constituents, or alert the community that something so unusual has happened. Meanwhile, the vast right-wing media apparatus will keep pace with the wildly inflated hysteria over the threat of radical Democratic rule, which means threats like these will only energize Republicans further:
Things that are not real:
Dem election fraud
Most of the conversations Republicans have with their constituents are about things that aren’t real.
It’s really unbelievable.
— Simon Rosenberg (@SimonWDC) April 8, 2022
This tweet is from Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg, who has long argued for a new emphasis on pure amplification to avoid being drowned out by right-wing noise.
This lopsided asymmetry is addressed in a new book by former Barack Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer. The Republicans have a less varied coalition and a more developed media apparatus. The Democrats have a more diverse coalition less in the grip of a uniform message. Their constituents rely more on mainstream media coverage that inevitably reflects the gravitational pull of the right-wing outrage machine.
This results in what Pfeiffer describes as a “megaphone” imbalance between the parties. You might call this a “loudness” gap.
Schatz, for his part, points to unfortunate complications. Biden was elected president in part to turn down the volume on our politics, and moderate voters surely want that. But one side did not follow.
“The central selling proposition for many moderate voters was that they could put Biden in place and then stop caring about politics,” Schatz told me. Yet the noise of the “MAGA movement continues to grow”.
That forces Democrats to raise the noise level themselves, Schatz continued, especially when occasions like this Hawley moment arise.
“Voters who pay normal attention to our politics are inspired by elected officials to know how outrageous something is,” Schatz told me. “If we don’t seem particularly upset,” he continued, then they’ll assume that a given standoff or situation is “no big deal.”