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No One Cares About the Republican Presidential Primary

Viewership of GOP presidential debates has steadily declined throughout the year.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Americans seem to have no interest in the Republican primary debates, even with two more of the mud-slinging spectacles freshly lined up by CNN for January.

Over the last several months, viewership of the debates has tanked. The first crowded debate in August hit a high of 14.2 million viewers, though those numbers have since plummeted, with just 3.2 million people tuning in to Wednesday’s debate between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Koch-backed former Ambassador Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and biotech millionaire Vivek Ramaswamy.

The 90-minute punch-packed bully specials haven’t done much for any of the GOP contenders in the polls, according to aggregated data from FiveThirtyEight. As of Thursday, DeSantis’s and Haley’s numbers have barely budged; they continued to poll at a measly 12.7 and 10.6 percent, respectively.

At this point, it’s a scramble to gain an inkling of the attention so easily pulled by the GOP’s greatest showman, Donald Trump, whose strategy of outright avoiding public debates has proved effective among Republican voters—he leads the primary with around 60 percent of the vote, per aggregate polling.

To that point—Fox News’s sleepy town hall between Sean Hannity and a sluggish Trump was the most watched program on Tuesday, pulling just as many viewers as a full and formal debate stage, according to ratings released by the network.

If Americans are voting with their remotes, they’ve made it abundantly clear that none of the candidates on the GOP debate stage are of any interest to them.

Even DeSantis’s one-off, completely unrelated matchup against California Governor Gavin Newsom held more public interest than the most recent debate. Fox’s “Great Red vs. Blue State” publicity stunt, which saw the Florida governor thoroughly scorched and humiliated amid his own references to poop and science denialism, garnered 4.7 million viewers.

Still, faltering public interest might not be the only reason why Wednesday’s debate fell flat on its face. Droves of potential viewers complained online that they weren’t able to find it—perhaps unsurprising given that the debate was aired on The CW, the network most famous for airing Gossip Girl and the final (and worst) season of Gilmore Girls.

Republicans Are Once Again Being Very Weird About Taylor Swift

Do conservative men just hate to see a girlboss winning? Or is something deeper going on?

Taylor Swift on her “Eras” tour earlier this year

Taylor Swift was named the 2023 TimePerson of the Year” on Wednesday, and of course conservatives have been quick to claim that there is a vast liberal conspiracy to blame.

Right-wing commentator Jack Posobiec posted to X, formerly Twitter, early on Wednesday morning, writing that Swift’s “girlboss psyop has been fully activated,” and claimed that Swift is gearing up to be part of a “2024 voter operation for Democrats on abortion rights.”

Psobiec posted again, linking a video of Taylor Swift crying while talking about her frustrations with former Tennessee Representative Marsha Blackburn’s conservative voting record.

“I can’t see another commercial and see her disguising these policies behind the words ‘Tennessee Christian values.’ I live in Tennessee, I am Christian, that’s not what we stand for,” Swift said in the video. Swift broke her career-long political silence in 2018 to post on Instagram urging her followers to vote against Marsha Blackburn during the 2018 midterm elections when Blackburn ran for Senate.

Posobiec captioned the video of Swift, “The day the op was born.”

Former Trump adviser and resident internet twerp Stephen Miller also took to X on Wednesday night to air a similar grievance:

Conservatives’ claims that the billionaire superstar is secretly a political operative come after a remarkably apolitical year from Swift.

In 2022, she tweeted her disappointment with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, but she hasn’t done all that much since. In October, Swift posted on Instagram encouraging young people to register to vote on National Voter Registration Day. As a result, over 35,000 people did so, contributing to a 23 percent increase in overall registrations. Swift’s call to action was distinctly nonpartisan.

So why all of the fuss? Do conservative men just hate to see a girlboss winning? Maybe a post by one of Donald Trump’s dear Fulton County co-defendants, Attorney Jeff Clark, can give us some idea of what’s going on.

Clark quote-tweeted Posobiec’s first post, and added, “This is what happens when we cede culture to the Left. Brainless youth raising themselves on Taylor Swift’s saccharine bland music and that washing over into the serious world of politics.”

Clark seems to hate Taylor Swift because he deems her representative of the so-called “brainless youth,” but to some degree, Swift is a uniquely apolitical pick for Time’s Person of the Year, with the possible exception of 2006’s “You” (seriously, what was that about?). But now it seems like conservatives are confused. Is Swift a major political player, or is she just a piece of leftist cultural flotsam washing up onto a more “serious” shore?

The answer is neither. Swift is a billionaire singer-songwriter and movie star who has kept everyone’s attention for the last 365 days. And ultimately, Swift was granted one of the biggest platforms in the world—the only women’s rights mentioned in the article anointing her as “Person of the Year” were Swift’s rights to her own master tapes.

The GOP’s House Majority Is in Big Trouble

The Republican majority is hanging on by a thread, thanks to a series of retirements and George Santos’s expulsion.

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Kevin McCarthy, who announced his retirement on Wednesday, earlier this year

Republican politicians are making morbid warnings about the future of the party’s narrow majority in the House in the wake of a mass exodus of their elected officials.

The dwindling GOP caucus is thanks in part to several major retirement announcements, including those of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, former Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry, and Representative Bill Johnson, as well as the expulsion of serial fabulist George Santos last week. Those vacancies set the House balance at 219–213 for the time being, meaning that Republicans need a practically united caucus—a rarity—to pass their conservative agenda.

“I can assure you Republican voters didn’t give us the majority to crash the ship,” wrote Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene on X, blaming the Freedom Caucus for inducing the legislative nightmare that ousted McCarthy and stoking division.

“Hopefully no one dies,” she added.

So far, 30 members of the House and seven senators have announced they will not be seeking reelection in 2024, though some seem to be expediting their exit. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Wednesday, McCarthy revealed he wouldn’t even wait until the end of his term to ditch Capitol Hill, opting instead to vacate his seat by the end of the month.

But the retreat might be about more than just a legislative migraine. In recent years, Republican officials have become increasingly incensed by a lack of action by their party on Capitol Hill, voicing anxieties about returning to the campaign trail empty-handed.

“One thing. I want my Republican colleagues to give me one thing. One. That I can go campaign on and say we did,” lamented Texas Representative Chip Roy during a speech on the House floor last month, coming down hard on former President Donald Trump for failing to act on border security while wielding a Republican majority in the White House and both chambers of Congress.

“Anybody sitting in the complex, if you want to come down to the floor and come explain to me one material, meaningful, significant thing the Republican majority has done besides well, ‘I guess it’s not as bad as the Democrats,’” Roy added.

Trump’s Proposed Cabinet Is the Stuff of Nightmares

A second Trump term would be far, far more radical than his first.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Steven Miller in 2017

Donald Trump is starting to plan his Cabinet for a potential second term, and the people on his shortlist are nothing less than nightmare fuel for democracy.

Trump is weighing different options based on two main factors: “pre-vetted loyalty to him and a commitment to stretch legal and governance boundaries,” Axios reported Thursday, citing anonymous sources close to the GOP presidential primary front-runner.

First and foremost, Trump needs a running mate. Former Vice President Mike Pence is out after he refused to overturn the 2020 election results and then ran a (lackluster and short-lived) presidential campaign against Trump.

Trump has apparently considered Senator J.D. Vance, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and failed Arizona gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake. He has also mentioned Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is definitely gunning for a spot on Trump’s ticket.

Melania Trump wants her husband to pick erstwhile Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Trump has previously said he was open to having Carlson as a running mate. During a November podcast interview, Trump said he thought Carlson has “great common sense.”

Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, two of the most reactionary and vile former members of the Trump White House, could make a comeback. Miller has been floated for attorney general, while Trump is considering Bannon, who currently hosts a podcast that regularly traffics in white nationalism, as chief of staff. Kash Patel, a former member of the Trump administration and a current Trump adviser, could return for a top national security position.

Trump’s former assistant attorney general could also return for a top Justice Department job. Clark pushed department officials to say they were investigating claims of election fraud after the 2020 election. In August, Clark was indicted in Georgia alongside Trump and 17 other co-defendants for allegedly trying to overturn the state’s 2020 election results.

Trump’s inner circle is working hard to find ways to stack both the executive branch and his legal team with loyalists who will obey his every command. Trump has already said that if he is elected, he would be a “dictator” on the first day of his new term. If he succeeds at filling his Cabinet with allies, then it won’t just be day one.

Nikki Haley Thinks TikTok Is Magic

The Republican presidential candidate thinks exposure to the app turns users into antisemites—and she has (extremely) dubious stats to back it up.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Nikki Haley at Wednesday's debate

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley claimed that TikTok is making young Americans more antisemitic, during the primary debate Wednesday night, but she got her one crucial stat so very wrong.

“For every thirty minutes that someone watches Tik Tok every day, they become 17 percent more antisemitic, more pro-Hamas, based on doing that,” Haley said, pulling those shocking numbers seemingly out of nowhere. The reason this statistic is so shocking is that it is false.

The study Haley is referencing was conducted by Generation Lab. That study claimed that research “suggests TikTok is a meaningful driver of the current surge in antisemitism.” The problem is that it conflated antisemitism and what it calls “anti-Israel” sentiment.

The Generation Lab survey asked 1,323 Americans under the age of 30 questions like “How true or false are the following statements: The Holocaust did not take place or the death toll of Jews is exaggerated,” alongside ones like “Please indicate your agreement or disagreement with the following statements: Israel has a right to exist as a homeland to the Jewish people.” The result is a study that is biased and that erases any and all distinctions between pro-Palestinian sentiment, concern about Israel’s ruthless bombing campaign of Gaza, and hateful antisemitism and bigotry.

TikTok has denied allegations that it is promoting pro-Palestine content, saying that young people just tend to be more pro-Palestine, a fact that has been borne out in a number of more rigorous studies.

Haley has previously called for the U.S. government to ban TikTok after a letter penned by Osama bin Laden circulated on the app in November. Haley has made talking about TikTok a central part of her campaign and promised that social media reforms would be some of her first major moves if she gets to White House.

One can only imagine how fearful a world would be where watching six and a half hours of hospital TV show edits and P.R. unboxing videos on TikTok would make a user’s antisemitism double. Thankfully, we don’t live in that world because it would be logically and mathematically impossible.

One Republican Running for George Santos’s Seat Is Also a Crook

Sean Grillo was just convicted for his role in the January 6 insurrection.

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George Santos shortly after his expulsion from the House of Representatives.

A candidate for former Representative George Santos’s old seat was convicted on January 6 charges after mounting an astoundingly stupid defense, according to a Department of Justice release.

Former Queens Republican Party District Leader Philip Sean Grillo was found guilty on Tuesday of one felony for obstructing the certification of the presidential election and four misdemeanors related to rioting on Capitol grounds. He has yet to be sentenced, though obstructing an official proceeding has a possible maximum sentence of 20 years.

Despite filming himself throughout the insurrection entering and exiting the Capitol building several times while shouting things like, “We stormed the Capitol” and “We shut it down,” and despite his experience in politics, Grillo testified in court that he had “no idea” Congress met inside the Capitol building.

“I’m here to stop the steal. It’s our f— House,” Grillo said in one clip.

“We f— did it! We got to the Capitol building. We f—did it! We f— did it, baby! We f— did it, you understand? We stormed the Capitol. We shut it down! We did it! We shut the mother—,” he said in another.

The court also saw videos of the local Republican official smoking weed and high-fiving rioters as he opened doors to help them flood inside the building, yelling at one point, “Our House.”

The New Yorker’s attorneys argued that Grillo “believed he was authorized to engage in the conduct set forth in the indictment,” according to legal documents.

The court didn’t buy it.

Grillo was arrested on February 23, 2021, by the FBI. He filed in May 2023 to run against Santos, whose own shady dealings have earned him a 23-count federal indictment, a scathing ethics report, and an expulsion from Congress. It is currently unclear if Grillo’s arrest will prevent him from participating in the February 13 special election to replace the disgraced lawmaker.

Vivek Ramaswamy Went Full Q at Wednesday’s Debate

The Republican presidential candidate rattled off as many kooky ideas about 9/11, January 6, and QAnon as he could.

Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Vivek Ramaswamy at Wednesday’s debate

Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy went on a conspiracy theory–laden rant during the latest primary debate that needs to be seen to be believed.

Ramaswamy took aim at his fellow contenders Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, and Nikki Haley during Wednesday night’s debate. The biotech millionaire accused the other candidates of trying to toady up to front-runner Donald Trump and of failing to see who the “real enemy” is.

“Here’s my issue with all three of my other colleagues on this debate stage: It’s all three of them have been licking Donald Trump’s boots for years,” Ramaswamy said, which is a spicy opener from a man who appears to have based his entire campaign, public persona, and even approach to lawsuits on Trump.

“I think the real enemy is not Donald Trump. It’s not even Joe Biden,” Ramaswamy said. “It is the deep state.”

Ramaswamy then proceeded to spout multiple dangerous right-wing conspiracy theories, including that the January 6 insurrection was an inside job and that Saudi Arabia was involved in 9/11. He also claimed that both the 2020 and the 2016 elections had been rigged against Trump.

Ramaswamy insisted the great replacement theory is a “basic statement of the Democratic Party’s platform.” This theory is a far-right, white nationalist conspiracy that white people are being replaced by nonwhite immigrants.

Ramaswamy has been struggling to gain support among voters. Some experts have pointed out that Ramaswamy has failed to differentiate himself from the former president. If people want someone who acts like Trump, they could just vote for Trump.

So instead, Ramaswamy seems ready to say the wildest things possible in order to keep getting attention.

It’s Crazy, but at Least George Santos Is Finally Earning an Honest Dollar

It looks like George Santos is about to make more money on Cameo than he did as a member of Congress.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Former New York Republican George Santos seems to be turning a new leaf, exiting a life of (alleged) crime and deception in favor of an honest day’s work on Cameo, the platform offering personalized messages by mid-tier celebrities.

The disgraced politician, who was expelled from Congress’s lower chamber last Friday, is already making more than six figures off the platform, according to Semafor. That puts him on pace to make more than his old congressional salary of $174,000, through Cameo alone.

In just 48 hours after creating his profile, the fabulist former congressman has reached a popularity rivaling some of the platform’s biggest stars, raking in thousands of requests for $200 to $300 videos averaging a minute or less.

Cameo’s founder and CEO, Steven Galanis, told the outlet that he expects Santos to be “an absolute whale.”

“Sarah Jessica Parker, Bon Jovi—he’s putting numbers up like that,” Galanis said.

The moment is so irresistible that even other politicians have hopped on the Santos-Cameo bandwagon. Hours after Santos announced his new venture, Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman tapped the “seasoned expert” to tell indicted New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez to “stay strong” amid foreign bribery allegations.

The upshot of all this is Santos—who lied about having a high-paying job working for Goldman Sachs or Citigroup and ultimately used stolen campaign money to bolster his Botox and designer goods binges—won’t be strapped for cash in his criminal trial, which is set to begin in September 2024. Santos faces 23 charges related to wire fraud, identity theft, and credit card fraud. He has pleaded not guilty to the first 13 charges announced in May and has since denied another 10 charges announced in a superseding indictment in October.

Still, that’s only half the battle, according to Santos. More important is his F-U legacy.

“Obviously there’s a monetary benefit,” Santos told Semafor. “I’m not here doing it for charity—but the other aspect is to remind these assholes who think they’re holier-than-thou that they will be forgotten in history and I will live forever, period.”

Santos’s transition to social media fame is one of the more unusual career pivots post-Congress, and interrupts what many believed would be the lawmaker’s quick jump to reality TV. For those still holding out for the drama king’s soul-fated appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, Santos has a reminder: “I am the most conservative member of the New York delegation.”

It Never Ends: Yet Another State Has Indicted Fake Trump Electors

The fake Trump elector schemes are all falling apart.

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Nevada state GOP Chair Michael McDonald is one of several people who participated in a scheme to pass off fake electors as real ones in 2020.

Nevada on Wednesday charged six Republicans, including the state Republican Party chair, for pretending to be state electors in 2020 to hand the election to Donald Trump.

State Attorney General Aaron Ford opened the investigation earlier this fall, and a grand jury issued an indictment Wednesday. Nevada is now the third state to seek charges against fake pro-Trump electors.

“When the efforts to undermine faith in our democracy began after the 2020 election, I made it clear that I would do everything in my power to defend the institutions of our nation and our state,” Ford said in a statement. “We cannot allow attacks on democracy to go unchallenged.”

After Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election, Republicans in seven highly contested states launched attempts to overturn the results. GOP operatives signed certificates falsely stating they were the state’s Electoral College representatives and tried to claim that Trump had won their state.

Many of the fake electors were highly ranked state Republicans. The Nevada fake electors included Nevada GOP Chair Michael McDonald. McDonald was one of those indicted on Wednesday.

Nevada is now the third state to charge fake electors. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel charged 16 people in July with felonies for pretending to be 2020 electors. The accused include state Republican Party Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock and state Republican National Committeewoman Kathy Berden.

In Georgia, the Fulton County district attorney has charged some fake electors as part of her larger indictment against Trump. The former president and his allies have been indicted in the Peach State for trying to overturn the 2020 election results.

There is also an investigation into the fake elector scheme in Arizona. Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, 10 Republicans who posed as fake electors settled a lawsuit over their actions on Wednesday. Under the agreement, the Republicans acknowledged that Biden had won the state and promised not to serve as electors in 2024 or any other election where Trump is on the ballot.

The other states where Republicans tried to overthrow the results—New York and Pennsylvania—have yet to publicly announce whether they will probe the fake elector plot.

The plan to use fake electors was initially thought of by lawyer Kenneth Chesebro, who was indicted in Georgia, and then eventually taken over by Trump lawyer John Eastman. An internal memo reveals that Chesebro knew his “bold, controversial strategy” would “likely” be rejected by the Supreme Court.

But the point of Chesebro’s plan was not actually to pass legal and judicial scrutiny. Instead, the goal was to increase the spotlight on the baseless claims of voter fraud and to give Trump’s campaign more time to win its multiple lawsuits challenging the vote results. Judges threw out every single one of those lawsuits because they had no basis.

Senate Republicans Don’t Even Need a Vote Now to Stop Gun Control

Senate Republicans just blocked even the smallest step toward gun control.

Jon Cherry/Getty Images

A historic year for mass shootings across the country wasn’t enough to convince conservatives that it’s time to implement some restrictions on assault rifles.

On Wednesday, Senate Republicans blocked an assault weapons ban along with universal background checks for a class of weapon designed solely for the slaughter of people. They wouldn’t even let the legislation come up for a vote.

Congress’s blatant dismissal of potential gun reforms flies in the face of what a majority of not just Americans but even gun owners say they want—more than eight in 10 gun owners support universal background checks for all gun sales, according to an Ipsos poll, while 92 percent of Americans support the same, according to a 2022 Gallup poll.

“This just feels like a test of democracy. It really does. Like, how does democracy survive if 90 percent of Americans, 90 percent of Republicans, 90 percent of Democrats want something, and we can’t deliver it?,” Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy asked prior to a request for unanimous consent to pass the background checks bill.

The bill, originally sponsored by the late Senator Dianne Feinstein, would have made it illegal to produce, transfer or own military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Rifles and guns with military features, like pistol grips, forward grips, folding, telescoping or detachable stocks, grenade launchers, barrel shrouds, or threaded barrels would have been outlawed.

But Republicans ignored even those modest attempts at gun control—blocking the request for unanimous consent to pass the bill.

“Americans have a constitutional right to own a firearm. Every day, people across Wyoming responsibly use their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms,” Senator John Barrasso argued. “Democrats are demanding that the American people give up their liberty.”

Ten states in the nation—including Washington State, Illinois, Delaware, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, as well as Washington, D.C.—already effectively have assault weapons bans, though their efforts are curtailed by the weaker regulations of surrounding states.

This past weekend, the U.S.—which is the only country in the world plagued by large-scale gun violence—hit a new record for the amount of mass shootings suffered in a single year. After a pair of weekend attacks and back-to-back shootings in Texas and Washington State on Tuesday, the U.S. has tallied up 38 mass shootings in which four or more people have been killed, and 630 mass shootings in which four or more victims were shot—almost two per day, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

That’s higher than the number of mass shootings in any other year since 2006, two years after Democrats allowed the 1994 assault weapons ban, which didn’t give gun manufacturers any incentive to stop producing the gun, to lapse.

AR-15s are nothing short of civilian-killing machines. As The New Republic’s Colin Dickey noted in his review of American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15, Eugene Stoner’s 1954 invention “exists to extinguish human lives.”

Its popularity within the contemporary American canon comes from an early failure to land its place in the military arsenal that it was designed for, kneecapped by Army bureaucracy that frowned upon a weapon developed out of house.

The gun’s subsequent infiltration of the public sphere has made the AR-15 the bestselling rifle in America. Roughly a third of Americans are estimated to own a gun, according to a 2022 Ipsos poll, while one in 20 U.S. adults are expected to own an AR-15, according to a Washington Post/Ipsos survey that same year.

Further still, the modular rifle has become ingrained in the American consciousness by way of mass casualty events, favored by killers who are looking to do as much damage to the human body as possible.

At least 10 of the 17 deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history saw a gunman wield an AR-15 style rifle, reported the Post.

Despite Republican attempts to wash Democratic efforts to curtail the weapon’s availability as an infringement on the lifestyles of blue-collar countrymen, invoking images of farmers and backwoods hunters, the vast majority of AR-15 owners are actually nonrural, with 48 percent living in suburban sprawl and 24 percent living in cities. Additionally, AR-15 owners tend to be some of the wealthier among us, with 56 percent having annual incomes in excess of $100,000, according to the WaPo/Ipsos survey.