It's another day, so that means a fresh new set of battles over “wokeness” from conservatives, who just can't seem to stop whining no matter how many wins they rack up. They will turn on each other at the slightest hint of a moral red line when it comes to racism and bigotry.
Today's story starts in St. George, Utah, the seat of Washington County, where Utah's famed Zion National Park is located. The population is 92% white, 61% Mormon and went for Donald Trump 74-23 in the 2020 election. It is as conservative as they come. So conservative, in fact, that it wasn't until 2019 that the city got its first-ever stand-alone bar approved.
It’s no wonder this deep red electorate has an all-Republican city council. But even with total control, local MAGA conservatives, like their national brethren, are perpetually aggrieved. Here, they’re taking it out on their fellow Republicans on the city council.
I went through the entire city council’s campaign pages and some of their Facebook ones, and they look to be … local politicians. They’re worried about water supplies in this desert region, affordable housing, smart city growth, supporting their police and fire departments, parks for their kids, etc. Some of them are even for—gasp!—”common sense.” Given that this is what city councils control, this all makes sense. Except conservatism doesn’t care about governance or accomplishments or delivering services. It is a grievance-based movement that is unable and unwilling to surrender its hate and anger for anything remotely constructive.
St. George is big MAGA country, and because of this the Republicans on the city council have grown tired of hearing the same culture war complaints over and over again in public comments.
“Faced with what she believes is growing divisiveness from residents who are more interested in stoking culture wars than in commenting on city issues, St. George Mayor Michele Randall has decided to do away with the public comment portion of City Council meetings,” reported the Salt Lake City Tribune (behind a paywall). “‘Public comment has turned into the same people saying the same things, mostly regarding social issues,’ Randall said Thursday. She announced the decision at the May 4 City Council meeting. ‘It was starting to get very divisive and in no way reflected the Dixie Spirit.’”
The region was called “Utah’s Dixie” because, as noted in a local travel guide, Brigham Young sent 309 families there at the start of the Civil War to establish a settlement and start growing cotton. That reference to “Dixie Spirit” is an old-school racist dog whistle. It was the slogan of the local Dixie University, which was renamed last year to Utah Tech University for all the obvious reasons. One 2021 story in the Tribune prior to the name change had the following headline and subhead:
Dixie State University has a deeply racist past. Will a name change help it heal?
Even in recent decades, students celebrated the name with blackface and slave auctions.
Locals are still so irate about the Dixie State University name change to Utah Tech University that more than a year later they are planning to rename the school again, this time to Brigham Young University—St. George.
This digression has a point: The city’s mayor was perfectly happy to pay homage to this history of racism and bigotry by talking about the Dixie Spirit. She may not overtly express her bigotry on social media or campaign websites, but she knows how to properly dogwhistle her true values to her constituents … except the rabid MAGA supporters are no longer satisfied with mere dogwhistles. Their hero Trump has taught them to demand proud, open, and overt bigotry.
Randall and others say comments at recent meetings have gone south, with unruly residents calling some members of the all-Republican City Council “communists” and other names, sounding off about cancel culture, liberal woke politics in city government and the evils of drag shows being staged at city parks and other public places — often to the detriment of more substantive municipal matters.
Councilwoman Dannielle Larkin said she supports allowing the public to comment on municipal issues.
“But if people are coming to talk about things that are just culture war igniters and have nothing to do with city business, it doesn’t help us productively run the city,” Larkin said. “Members of the public have the right to speak their mind, even if what they have to say is discriminatory, but that doesn’t mean they have the right to disrupt a public meeting.”
Republicans are in a true bind. No matter how conservative they might be in their governance, they are losing control over their “unruly” mob obsessed with whatever nonsense “cultural war igniter” bullshit is being spewed by AM radio hosts or their favorite Fox News talking heads. Republicans have been happy to feed that kindling to win voter allegiance, but there are consequences and now these conspiracy-loving, racist roosters are coming home to roost.
National Republicans have already been feeling that heat. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been distressingly effective at stymying the agendas of a succession of Democratic presidents as well as orchestrating that disastrous 6-3 conservative Supreme Court majority despite Democrats holding the White House 18 of the past 32 years—and only losing the national popular vote once in that time. And yet what do Republican voters think of McConnell? They loathe him, with a dismal 15-67 approve-disapprove rating.
Imagine if in a string of Republican presidencies, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had stolen a Supreme Court seat from a Republican president and rammed another one through in the waning days of a losing one-term Democratic presidential term. Imagine us having a dominant 6-3 majority courtesy of Schumer. He’d be a national hero! We’d be erecting statues in his honor! Yet Republicans look at the most effective Senate leader in generations and they sneer. No matter what he delivers, he’ll be too woke for them.
Brands aren’t immune either, as Bud Light recently found out. Anheuser-Busch spent years donating money to Republican coffers, leading the famed Stonewall Inn to ban their beers from its bar during Pride Week back in 2021: “Co-owners Stacy Lentz and Kurt Kelly said they would be instituting the ban on Friday in support of the ‘Keep Your Pride’ campaign, a recently launched effort highlighting five companies the campaign says advertise support during Pride but have also made contributions to lawmakers the campaign says promote anti-LGBTQ policies.” The company has never shied away from glomming on to military culture to sell its wares, either. In the 2022 election cycle, Anheuser-Busch donated nearly $2 million to Republican committees, PACs, and organizations while donating roughly $75,000 to just two Democratic organizations during that same period.
But Bud Light featured trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney appeared one single time in an Instagram story, not even on TV, and the conservative movement–spurred on by their TV outrage machine–is now in its second month of nonstop hysteria. It might be good for ratings, but Republican legislative priorities (remember those?) are all but history. If it’s not banning a book, picking a fight with Elmo, losing their shit over a possibly sexy M&M, kicking immigrants, or whatever the latest manufactured outrage is, they’re simply not interested. They certainly aren’t going to be satisfied with local Republicans considering new zoning guidelines for the latest housing development.
And now this wave of lunacy is coming for their new hero, Elon Musk. He had the audacity to appoint Linda Yaccarino as Twitter’s new CEO, although many believe she’ll largely be a figurehead marching toward that glass cliff many female CEO’s face when they take over struggling companies. Musk’s fanboys on Twitter have reacted viciously, though it’s hard to tell whether they’re angrier at her being a woman or her being affiliated with Davos and the World Economic Forum (with all the antisemitic tropes that come along with their WEF conspiracy theories).
Yaccarino is Trumpy through and through, having been appointed by Trump to a Sports and Fitness board in 2018 while following, recommending, and interacting with the worst of the worst.
None of that matters to MAGA grievance conservatives. And despite all of Musk’s overt antisemitism and allegiance to their conspiracies, the announcement was still seen as a betrayal. They can never be happy. It’s a movement addicted to outrage, even a manufactured one.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy serves at the pleasure of his caucus’ crazy wing with the acquiescence of the rest of the caucus, including so-called “moderate” Republicans who lucked into Biden-majority seats in the 2022 midterm cycle. They all think they can tame this monster they’ve created, but it’s eating them alive. This is a party that chased out Liz Cheney, of all people, because even she couldn’t ride this wave of lunacy.
It doesn’t matter how many election cycles they lose, or how much of their agenda gets sidelined by the rabid extremists in the party. For whatever reason, the Republican Party remains held in thrall to a movement that does little to help them win.
Jennifer Fernandez Ancona from Way to Win joins Markos and Kerry to talk about the new messaging the Democratic Party’s national candidates are employing going into 2024. Ancona was right about the messaging needed to win the midterms, and we think she’s right about 2024.