There is some unfortunate news to report today. Sadly, I have died. My cause of death was, as I always knew it would be, The New York Times. Seldom do we talk about the ongoing dangers presented by the Times, which is the unregulated gas stove of newspapers, but anyhow I read this new Times focus group piece talking to yet another band of unrepentant Trump voters and it caused me to immediately die. It's a damn shame, but I probably had it coming.
The premise of the piece is the same premise used for each of its one hundred million previous incarnations: The Times gathered up a dozen average-Joe Republican Americans it had previously talked to and asked them yet again what they thought about seditious coup conspirator Donald Trump, about the Republican Party, and about oh right the Jan. 6 insurrection and subsequent hearings publicizing what investigators have been able to learn about the origins of the violence.
What you get, when you ask any random dozen Americans to weigh on any subject not in their personal wheelhouse, is almost certain to be a train wreck every single time it is attempted. We know this. We have always known this. The whole genre is mostly an exercise for the press to find out how badly the press has fucked up its own public responsibilities, and in specific it really can't be anything more than a parlor-game premise in which we attempt to deduce, knowing nothing at all about the handful Americans corralled for public display, which news channel their television most frequently ends up on.
Most. Americans. Do. Not. Pay. Attention. To. Politics. They know only what they have heard thirdhand. The most useable quotes almost always come from the volunteers who are the least informed but the most hardheadedly confident in themselves, a bad combination that never gets any better than absolutely awful.
This is a very useful exercise if you want to lose all hope in America. It's one of the best approaches possible if your paper is looking to collect all its readers who do pay close attention to politics for the purpose of killing them all off at once.
When it comes to actually collecting useful information about anything other than the relative reach of various television and radio programs, however, the assault-every-diner approach is useless. So it must be that the Times really did intend to kill readers. They are serial killers. Their depravity knows no bounds. The murder weapons? Quotes from Americans still willing to say they support Republicans even after the party egged an attempted coup into being, Americans who have been selected for inclusion based explicitly on their utter disinterest in any politics that cannot be sloganed onto a hat.
(Sandy, 48, white, Calif., property manager) Well, I think Republicans are our only option as far as getting us out of this mess that the Democrats have started with inflation and all that. Do they have a plan at this point? Doesn’t look like it. But are they organized? Doesn’t look like it. But there is hope there.
See, I don't want to write about politics anymore. I just don't. I want to write stories about elves and dwarves and dragons, stories in which the dwarves and elves are at each others throats because elves think trees should exist and dwarves can only find joy in extraction-based industries, and both are competing for control of a fantasy legislative body but they're evenly matched and can't make progress but then a collection of mountain trolls begin to run for office as well, and the mountain trolls argue that since the main reason for electing dwarves is that dwarves really hate elves, well then mountain trolls hate both elves and dwarves so that makes them even more qualified for office.
Anyway, it would all end with the head dwarf, whose name is Kevli or whatever, bargaining for the trolls' support by allowing them to eat both of his legs, one of his arms, both ears, and five dwarven legislators to be named later. It's all a mess, and while the dwarves are all arguing over who to feed to the trolls in order to keep Kevli from looking like a complete dork here the Dark Lord Braendoen is gathering his forces to give everybody slightly cheaper insuli—I mean, potions. Slightly cheaper potions.
I don't have to write about politics. I've got a vivid imagination that could, like, totally nail a story about racist dwarves that conspire with even more racist mountain trolls to keep anyone from getting cheap insuli-I mean, health potions.
But no, here I am, a corpse, because the Times had to kill me before I even had the chance to switch careers in self-defense.
Q: Is there a particular idea or value that you’d like [Republicans] to stand up for?
(Judi, 73, white, Okla., retired) Honesty.
See, I'm dead now. Everything you're hearing from me after this point is just gas escaping.
(Andrea, 49, white, N.J., executive assistant) Just start putting things back on the right track. It makes me scratch my head that the country never did better than when Trump was president — never. You know what I mean? The gas prices were low. The border was under control. Everything was just great. And he got run out of town just because he sends mean tweets and has a big mouth. They’d rather elect a nice guy and have the country in the toilet.
Andrea, a MILLION PEOPLE DIED and you're fucking on about cheap gas prices? THERE WAS A COUP, ANDREA. How the hell did The New York Times ever even find you, how is it that you even became aware that something called The New York Times even existed and wasn't just a phishing effort aimed at getting hold of your Social Security number?
(Alissa, 29, Latina, Fla., procurement) Just thinking back to how well we were doing as a country when [Trump] was running it, I would love to see that again. I think he’s strong. I thought he was a great president. If DeSantis decides to run, I might turn a little bit. It depends.
What Donald Trump brought to America was hats. That's it. There's not a damn thing he actually did except the hat thing. And public belligerence. And being a rapist who bought an entire beauty pageant brand so that he could see teen girls change in the dressing rooms. Oh, and the international extortion bits. And the complete upending of American standing overseas, selling out allies while prodding enemies to open up new beach resorts. And using the presidency of the United States as a reason to mark up cocktail prices in his Washington hotel.
It's the hat thing, isn't it. The exchange Donald Trump made with America is that he gets to ignore laws and be roundly incompetent and kill off so many people that we’re stuffing bodies in refrigerated trucks for lack of other places to put them, but in exchange the shittiest people you know all get the opportunity to buy Chinese hats with a meaningless slogan on them. I mean, who wouldn't go for that deal.
Q: Is there anything about [Trump] that’s turned you off over the last year or that you sort of lost steam on?
(Judi, 73, white, Okla., retired) Well, when Covid started, I think he was swayed into the vaccine thing. He listened to the wrong people. I’ll leave it at that.
Yeah, that's when I died the second time, becoming double-dead. So far I cannot report any meaningful differences from just being the usual kind of dead. This must be what it's like to be a cat.
(Lorna, 60, white, Mo., customer service representative) I think it’s ridiculous people want to put him in prison. For what? And look at Biden and his son.
Again, there is only one reason why any journalistic outlet should ever do any of these diner-inspired stories about The Common American. It is a window into which news outlets they consume and nothing else. There is not one glitteringly enfuckened thing Lorna, 60, of Missouri could tell us about the relative legal jeopardy of Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, or Beefystevo Biden that would be the slightest bit informative or useful.
And I do mean that: You could concoct an entirely fictional Biden son named "Beefystevo," ask 12 Republican voters about Beefystevo's crimes, and at least eight of them would insist that Beefystevo has done many, many crimes, all very bad, some of them in Ukraine and some of them in Narnia, and they will tell you that The New York Times is crookedly covering up the very existence of Beefystevo Biden in coordination with Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and a giraffe in Texas that looks kind of similar to Bill Gates.
I dare you to ask your focus groups about Beefystevo and his crimes. I dare you, New York Times. You know what will happen, and I know what will happen. Do it, you diner-hounding cowards.
(Sandy, 48, white, Calif., property manager) I want DeSantis to run. He’s just like Trump. He’s just as cantankerous, but I think he’s a little bit more refined. For example, you have Jack Daniels, or you have Gentleman Jack. Gentleman Jack is a lot smoother, but it’s still whiskey.
Thank God we finally have someone willing to be honest about Republican politics. That's the word that comes to mind when you think about Florida's Ron DeSantis: Refined. The man is refined, in that you can either suck on what he's selling or what Trump's selling and both will get you nice and politically shitfaced but the DeSantis version goes down smooooother. It's probably because Ron DeSantis doesn't have as much golf-course bunker sand in his shoes. It might be because the DeSantis bottle is spiked with 20% hydroxychloroquine siphoned from an early-pandemic Florida stockpile DeSantis is still trying to get rid of.
Hey, so do any of our fine Normal Republican Americans want to revise or extend their past remarks about the 2020 presidential election being stolen just because a traitorous crapsack and his eight syphillitic reindeer shouted about it way back when? Anyone want to walk that back, or not walk that back?
Was Trump, glorious figurehead who raised American life into the highest tier of awesomeness that has ever been, "cheated" out of winning his pandemic economic-crisis post-(first)-impeachment election?
(Andrea, 49, white, N.J., executive assistant) Cheated as in ballots — truckloads of ballots showing up in the middle of the night. There’s videos of it. There is proof. [...]
(Sandy, 48, white, Calif., property manager) I know the videos that Andrea is talking about. It’s well documented, but the media doesn’t want to cover that type of stuff.
(Judi, 73, white, Okla., retired) No, I still think [Trump] won the election and that he should still be our president. He should be our president right now.
Truckloads! Truckloads of secret vaccines! I mean, ballots! It's all on video! It's streaming in 5G from every maple tree, but the government doesn't want you to know! It is very important that we, the readers of The New York Times, are exposed to the free and unfettered opinions of our nation's most thickheaded and source-agnostic of opinion havers, because reasons! How would America know that one specific retired Oklahoma vaccine skeptic believes Joe Biden is not the legitimate president if The New York Times did not create an entire "interactive" web feature highlighting this important fucking information? How could the readership survive if we did not contact these people not once, but a second time so that they could rub their curlicue opinions in our eyeballs twice instead of once?
What about the whole coup thing? You know, the attempted coup, the one in which Trump advertised for a rally coinciding with the certification of the United States presidential election, got angry when his security forces tried to deprive the mob of their weapons, and told them all to march to the Capitol during a joint session of Congress as means of threatening Congress if they did not overturn the election's results? That whole thing? The thing that should have made any decent person look for an exit sign, rather than being thought a supporter of a genuine bona-fide traitor to the nation?
(Andrea, 34, biracial, N.H., I.T. support) The internet was just ablaze. I made a post in support of it, and a lot of people came to attack me in the comment section. That day was really crazy. [...]
When I saw videos of everything that happened, I was pretty embarrassed. I was like, “Oh, no. We’re going to hear about this forever.” It did look very chaotic and violent. I knew it was going to come down to blaming Trump somehow, saying that he was a ringleader and he’s responsible, he riled everybody up.
Ah, the very American view of "you make comments supporting one violent riot and everybody gets on your case about it" followed by "oh jeez, this turned out very fucky, now we're all going to be stuck hearing about it." Can't kill me any more than twice, New York Times. Not in a single day, anyway.
What about all those congressional hearings detailing what investigators found out about the coup's organizers, allies, and origins? Any minds changed over here in the Republicans Who Don't Pay Attention To Politics ballpit?
(Sandy, 48, white, Calif., property manager) If anything, I think my views have become more solidified. If you look, they made a big thing out of it in the media. They didn’t cover Black Lives Matter, antifa. I mean, you talk about Jan. 6 being planned. Antifa, throughout the whole summer of 2020, I mean, those things were planned, organized. The media didn’t cover it.
I cannot emphasize how enraging it was that the media kept covering things that did happen while ignoring things that did not happen. You know who else planned, well, not the violent overthrow of our nation's government but, like, other stuff? Antifa, probably! But no, instead everybody made a Big Damn Deal out of a Republican-led attempt to erase a constitutional United States election. Gawd.
Please tell me any of these Informed Public Voices at least watched the hearings they're now being asked to opine on?
(Barney, 72, white, Del., retired) I didn’t see anything live. It was a waste of $3 million.
I cannot emphasize this enough, but I mean this in kindness: There is no amount of government money that could be spent that would not be a waste of money, when it comes to convincing Barney of Delaware, retired, to have an opinion other than the one he wants to have. This is indeed a terrible waste of government resources.
But the crowd Donald Trump gathered to march on the Capitol was a pretty violent bunch, at least we can all agree on—
(Alissa, 29, Latina, Fla., procurement) No, I don’t think it was. I’ve personally been to Trump rallies. They’re very peaceful. So I don’t think what happened that day had anything to do with Trump. I think it was planned.
EVERYBODY FORGOT TO ASK ALISSA WHETHER TRUMP’S JANUARY 6 CROWD WAS VIOLENT, I BET YOU POLICE OFFICERS ALL FEEL PRETTY STUPID NOW.
Surely the news of an attempt to violently overturn the results of a U.S. election have left at least some small impression on Republican Jus' Folks.
(Lorna, 60, white, Mo., customer service representative) Well, a couple of people locally here were arrested. So of course, they’d show them every news clip, on every channel. It just got old. It was just a waste of taxpayers’ money, in my opinion.
I mean, that's the thing about failed violent coups, they're just so boooooring and everybody keeps going on about them all the time and it makes channel surfing sooooo tedious. Thank you again, New York Times, for exposing us to the very important views of that class of Americans that tries very hard to know nothing about politics and gets bitter and resentful when you shove it onto their television channels anyway.
Because, you know, the Jan. 6 hearings were a farce to begin with. How the hell would the United States Congress know more things than Andrea of New Jersey does? How would anyone in the White House know more about Trump’s actions than Andrea does, or Barney does? They wouldn't, so that means this was all a set up.
(Andrea, 49, white, N.J., executive assistant) I 100 percent agree with what Barney said. I think they testified because they weren’t part of the cool kids anymore or bribes. I’m not really sure what it is, but to make up blatant stories like that, there’s got to be some kind of underlying “What’s in it for me?” kind of thing, I think.
Well, we've rediscovered a core Republican voter tenet so we can't say this was a total waste of time. Ask pretty much anyone in the Republican Party, from the common voter to your average sex-crime-covering-up Republican lawmaker, and they'll tell you that there's no possible reason anyone would want to offer evidence about a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol unless there was something in it for them. The idea that anyone would be sincerely shaken by, say, a mob of pole-wielding cop-beating weirdlings hunting down Trump's political enemies in the halls of the Capitol is utterly foreign to Every Single Republican. The notion eludes them. It is not a concept that can wiggle into their smooth and proud brains.
If people are going to jump in to "testify" every single time an armed mob beats police officers inside the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to hunt down the vice president then where will it end? It's all very suspicious. They probably just want to make the coup guy look bad.
I really wish I hadn't died. Well, I suppose it's more accurate to say I really wish The New York Times hadn't gone out of its way to write an interactive fancy-pants feature specifically intended to kill me, because it seems like a jerk move every time they've tried it and yet they just keep pushing.
Bring us home, Timesy. Show us that any of these people have opinions even an onion-skin thickness above the buzzword generic. Show us that you have gathered up a small crowd who, while admirably anonymous and no doubt chosen according to best dice-throwing the editorial staff of the Times can provide, is worthy of national attention because these dozen people have at least thought about any of this stuff long enough to have any opinion that could not be more efficiently produced by an artificial intelligence exposed only to the opening monologues of weekday Fox News opinion hosts.
Show us, please show us, that you have not just gathered a collection of cranks who are angry that government keeps feeding children and trying to prevent polio and keeps blocking very profitable companies from pumping skin-dissolving toxic soup directly into your home's plumbing. That these are people who have put thought into this, and are not simply reactionary faux-libertarian crackpots spooning the wisdom of gum wrappers and fortune cookies into everyone else's tired, tired brains.
Q: Sandy, what would be a sign that our democracy is healthy?
(Sandy, 48, white, Calif., property manager) I would say getting back to the basics, sticking with the Constitution. There’s just too much government interference in everything. We’ve got so many regulations, taxes and controls and spending and everything. Get back to the fundamentals. Less government involvement. We should have an army, a military. That’s about it. Otherwise, just stay out of the way.
(Michael, 65, white, Utah, retired) I tend to agree with Sandy, just hoping that we could start letting the Constitution be the Constitution and let us have our rights with freedom of speech and just start living the way that they did hundreds of years ago, when they believed in our country.
There you go. How wonderful. I am so, so glad I didn't live to see that.
Happy New Year! Daily Kos’ Joan McCarter is on the show today to talk about the wild garbage fire that was the Republican speaker of the House vote. Kerry and Markos also break down what this onionskin-thin conservative majority can and cannot do in the coming year, as well as what the Democratic representatives can do to make Kevin McCarthy’s life just that much tougher.