The year 2020 was a catastrophe on so many levels. There is no point in trying to encapsulate all the craziness in one blog post. It’s already mid-January; 2021 has brought us quite a few mudslides already, but now’s a good time to do my “Top 25” list for the ignominious year that just passed. Between two ludicrous impeachments, economically ruinous lockdowns, a plague, six months of riots, a stolen election, the sacking of the Capitol, and then the nullification of our Constitution by the political parties, courts, legislatures, the media, and government officials, the events are too big for words!
But as for individuals–and in particular, conservative individuals–some commentary could be useful. So here goes. Many people and organizations that once enjoyed solid reputations as “reliable conservatives” turned into our worst nightmare over the course of 2020. I had to hold an omnibus poll on Twitter to come up with a ranking. I posted a poll, and now have a ranking of the 25 biggest “Baby Janes” of the year.
In case you don’t know, a “Baby Jane” award refers to the black and white psychological thriller from 1962, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford (both, at that time, edging toward the ends of their long cinematic careers).
The campy premise of this cult classic comes straight from golden age Hollywood. Baby Jane Hudson is a child star who outshined her frumpy sister Blanche when they were little girls. Baby Jane was such a singing sensation that they molded dolls after her. Later, however, Baby Jane’s career crashed and her sister Blanche ended up surpassing her in professional achievements.
Later, in their middle age, Baby Jane’s sister ends up paralyzed in a freak car accident. Bound to a wheelchair, Blanche is literally captive to an insane and wrinkling Baby Jane, who struts about the house in clownish makeup and little girl frocks as if she is still ten years old as opposed to being in her sixties.
The Baby Jane figure is the person who has had and lost a great reputation and countless fans, but now has become a washed-up and increasingly insane and bitter pest. Baby Janes are not harmlessly self-destructive. No, no, Baby Janes are far more serious. Bitter about losing their star status and deranged enough to believe they are still relevant, Baby Janes lash out at the people closest to them.
And so I asked of people on social media, who were the biggest Baby Janes of 2020? Who were the has-been conservatives who proved themselves insane, self-deluding, and sadistic in this year? There were so many ex-conservative stars (or should I say, conservative ex-stars) who vied for their honors. Voters tried their best to rank them. Here’s how it went.
25. Liz Cheney
Perhaps Rep. Cheney should have had a higher rank but alas, her spectacular backstabbing of Trump supporters came somewhat late in the game. After the inglorious two months of post-election certification battles and a supposed sacking of Capitol Hill, this daughter of the villainous Dick Cheney decided to make a name for herself by voting yes on Donald Trump’s second impeachment. As the third ranking Republican in the House of Representatives and as a well-known daughter of a Vice President, her vote wielded a certain amount of gravitas.
As reported by Joshua Green in Bloomberg:“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” she wrote.
Cheney’s decision split the Republican leadership. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Majority Leader Steve Scalise have both been staunch supporters of Trump throughout his term. Her vote to impeach forced open a wrenching intra-party debate over whether the GOP should remain in thrall to Trump once he leaves office or try to assert its independence and rebuild its electoral appeal after Democrats won full control of Washington in the last election.”
The folly of impeaching a president when there’s obviously no time to try him in the Senate and he’s leaving office in six days can only be explained by sadistic spite.
As a pedigreed member of the hypocritical neocon class, a gaggle remembered best for invading Iraq and passing the Patriot Act, Cheney knows that Donald Trump ran against everything her father symbolized. And so she had to do this, just to be mean. It’s the equivalent of beating up on your sister in a wheelchair because she can’t move. One can only hope Liz Cheney will ride off to some gloomy palace compound with her real sister and be gone.
24. Lindsey Graham
Lindsey Graham was trailing in polls in the weeks before the November 2020 election. How he managed to overcome the enthusiasm gap in his bid for reelection may remain mysterious, but he won yet another term in the Senate seat he has held since 2003. Graham likely benefited from Donald Trump’s support. Safely re-elected, he decided he had no incentive to fix the broken election system. Instead he wanted to ingratiate himself with the Democrats that regularly mocked and belittled him. So he threw his flabby weight around, opposing the movement to challenge the certification of election results with everything he had.
“Enough is enough,” Sen. Graham said, likening the effort to investigate election fraud to the 1876 electoral race between Tilden and Hayes. In a convoluted history lesson, Sen. Graham claimed that the effort to reverse election fraud today resembles the maneuvers used in 1876 insofar as it “ended Reconstruction” and brought on the era of Jim Crow. This is fatuous. The Fourteenth Amendment, passed in 1868, was supposed to provide equal protection of the law. Equal protection has everything to do with states that use illegitimate election processes to deny some populations suffrage. It was the Fourteenth Amendment that the state of Texas had cited in Texas v. Pennsylvania, the case rejected by the Supreme Court; there Texas argued that Pennsylvania’s violation of election standards left the state open to fraud and diluted the suffrage of voters in the whole country. A more pertinent civil rights issue, one could not find.
In the mixed-up and corrupted world in which we now live, liberals loved Lindsey Graham’s mangled understanding of history, because it helped ensure that Joe Biden would ride safely into the White House. As for Lindsey Graham, he remained so fickle that even after betraying Trump he still flew on Air Force One with the president to Trump’s speech in San Antonio a few days later.
23. Rand Paul
Like most libertarians, Kentucky senator Rand Paul has relied upon a loyal following of Ayn Rand fans who don’t understand that objectivism doesn’t work. The son of wildly popular Ron Paul, Senator Paul gained massive sympathy in 2017 when a neighbor, Rene Boucher, physically assaulted him. This martyrdom coupled with Senator Paul’s history of standing up to popular opinion had made him somewhat of a hero.
When the Senate held hearings on election fraud, Sen. Paul inspired many people by stating what few in Congress would state: namely, that there was reason to doubt the authenticity of the 2020 election. But then when the heat grew too much for him, he melted. This is, I would suggest, a congenital defect in libertarians, because most of the successful ones get there based on the lavish support from industries that like deregulation. And while Sen. Paul may have held his own ideals about the right of the people to contest a fraudulent election, certainly most corporate donors were not thrilled to see Donald Trump get four more years as president with his menacing views on trade with China. So Paul tap-danced a bit. He tweeted:
Rand Paul on Twitter, Jan. 6, 2021The vote today is not a protest; the vote today is literally to overturn the election! Voting to overturn state-certified elections would be the opposite of what states’ rights Republicans have always advocated for.
In many ways Paul’s sad surrender speaks to the realities of the libertarian and states-right positions often put forward as Republican talking points. Paul warred here against common sense.
In this case, state legislators who did call for a halt to certifications were overridden by corrupt courts, governors, and media campaigns. Everyday whistleblowers were intimidated into silence and hung out to dry. The vision of liberty for liberty’s sake often runs into these logical paradoxes that libertarians can’t resolve.
As for Paul, he is the first of many Baby Janes this year who have Daddy issues like Baby Jane Hudson:
22. Meghan McCain
Speaking of Baby Jane daddy issues…
For a long time conservatives were cool with Meghan McCain because it was understood that her perch on The View was a dirty job and no self-respecting conservative would put up with it. In the olden days Elisabeth Hasselbeck represented the blonde, conservative contretemps against mega-bullies Rosie O’Donnell and Joy Behar. Thin and diminutive, Hasselbeck really couldn’t weather the constant attacks from the quartet of liberal harpies arrayed against her, so the addition of an obnoxious, grimacing daughter of supervillain and election spoiler John McCain didn’t come with high expectations. Her heavier build and grumpier countenance fit the bill. Basically, as long as Meghan McCain didn’t turn her screeching snark on other conservatives, we were all tolerant or mildly supportive.
But alas, even the seemingly termagant Meghan McCain seemed unequal to the task before her. Meghan has gotten steamrolled and body-slammed by she-wolves like Sonny Hostin and Whoopi Goldberg and whatever other B-list celebrities have to go on the View because they don’t make Hollywood Squares anymore. Sharing her morning table in one of the lower circles of Hell, Meghan still felt the abiding need to be loved by them and feel like one of the gang. This was boosted by the hatred of Trump she inherited from her dad. So she ended up highlighting her socially liberal views, including her adoration of homosexuals and drag queens. She went after poor Denise McAllister, marshaling her entourage of Republican gays to drive her off the Federalist and the Daily Wire.
And of course the moment Donald Trump appeared on the scene, Meghan McCain made it clear she was a chip off her dad’s old block and would gladly denounce Trump supporters from her little corner in kookoo liberal land.
But perhaps this was the last straw:
Meghan McCain said on the View,“I just think we need to treat the domestic terrorists the way we do actual terrorists,” McCain said. “I think we need to consider all the possibilities. I’m not against sending these people to Gitmo, and that may sound extreme. These are domestic terrorists who attacked our own republic. They should be treated the same way we treat Al Qaeda.”
It turns out that everything that normal conservatives warned about John McCain-style neocons was true. And his daughter is one of them. The problem is that John McCain did not, in his so-called maverick years, try to define Republicans opposed to election fraud as “terrorists.” His daughter does think they’re terrorists, and wants to send them to GITMO. She’s scarier than her father, which we never thought possible. And a sadist nonetheless, certainly not the perky little blonde princess that we thought she’d be.
21. Al Mohler
Al Mohler won the #1 slot in the “Top 20 Virtue Signalers of 2019,” so in his case down is up. He didn’t even make the Top 20 this time!
Al Mohler has created an envious power base using technically legal but obviously unethical tactics. Now Al Mohler is trying to run for president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the vast majority of whose congregants supported Donald Trump for president and are furious at the election-rigging and elite corruption that Al Mohler excels at.
Blacklisting, forcing people into non-disclosure agreements, placing clandestine phone calls to pressure authorities and reporters, and of course garden-variety retaliation — all these have kept Mohler in his comfy sinecure in Louisville, Kentucky, for 27 years. Machiavelli mused in The Prince that ecclesiastical princes have the best deals of all, since they rule over a principality they neither must defend nor have to run efficiently. They can roll in money and prestige and, when not Catholic, even get to have a wife and children too.
It’s much safer to be on friendly terms with this ecclesiastical prince. His daughter, Katie Mohler Barnes, works as a scheduler in Mitch McConnell’s office. Mohler and McConnell both have the air of ambitious men who desire the same thing: a perpetually safe seat of power from which affairs can be controlled away from public scrutiny. McConnell, working in the far less safe world of politics, cannot attain that level of power, but Mohler, abusing the vulnerabilities of the Christian faithful, can. So it must burden his pal Mitch to see how Mohler can get away with ruthless self-preservation while people in elected office must always worry for when their scam is revealed and the public revolts.
Al Mohler made his name as a Never Trumper in 2016, but then came out in early 2020 to say he would support Trump. The late conversion to Trumpism was always skin-deep and prompted by his fear of increasing criticism by Southern Baptists over his lame response to COVID infringements on churches’ rights to gather. The clock had barely struck midnight on November 3 before Mohler suddenly leapt to the front to announce that he disapproved of Trump supporters’ questioning of the election’s authenticity. Through all of this one thing comes across loud and clear: Mohler tracks events to see how to affix himself to the winning side and then plays it safe.
All this hedging and prevarication held a certain kind of charm when Mohler was a young and idealistic reformer taking the helm at the flagship seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention in the early 1990s. He got in the habit of recording a “Daily Briefing,” usually a Calvinist version of “chicken soup for the soul,” and often offering vaguely noncommittal reflections on controversies of the day. Now, as the mass of Southern Baptists feel loyal to the Trump revolution and know that the backlash will target them, Mohler’s self-contradicting musings come across as utterly offensive. There’s nothing brave or remotely Christian about his politicking. He is a poster child for the political corruption of Christian denominations.
20. James Lankford
I’ve known about James Lankford’s lackluster convictions for quite some time. He graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1994 and served as director of a youth camp until he won an election to the House of Representatives in 2009. His skinny frame and fiery red hair give him the air of boyishness one would expect from someone who made his name running a Christian youth camp. The downside of this youthfulness is there’s an immaturity about him. I saw that in Lankford’s case when I contacted his office seeking help with religious liberty and academic freedom.
In October 2015, James Lankford jumped into a high-profile religious freedom case unfurling in faraway Washington state. There was a football coach who was fired because he prayed before football games. This was the kind of low-hanging fruit (or red meat, if that metaphor serves better) that Religious Liberty, Inc., organizations love to take on, because they can look like heroic warriors for Christian integrity to their donors and constituents without facing the full wrath of the gay and lesbian community or feminists (groups that will make your life H**l). “Look, I’m fighting for football coaches’ right to pray before high school championship games!” It’s a win-win marketing and donor recruitment campaign, and you don’t even have to talk about sex.
Since Sen. Lankford was not only Southern Baptist but an alumnus of the seminary where I taught, and since he was willing to get involved in a religious liberty case in another state, I contacted his office to see if he could help with the persecution I had endured as a result of my stance on children’s rights to a mother and father.
I contacted Sen. Lankford’s office in 2016 and 2017, and received, as one might expect, a gigantic runaround. His office assistant suggested that we contact the department of education or department of labor, which is equivalent to telling us to jump off a cliff. “We’re not going to get involved,” she told us point-blank. She was fairly clear that Lankford only took up the case of the praying football coach because it was easy and extremely simple. I realized over time that Lankford was also tied up with the antics of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, so he was in the orbit of the Russell Moore acolytes who were busy at work trying to drive me out of the seminary.
Having seen how some of Lankford’s M.O., I scarcely harbored high hopes about his joining a team of senators to challenge the certification of the 2020 election. I assumed his involvement would be lukewarm and he would pull out of the coalition with timing that would leave the effort worse off than if he had never opened his mouth about the issue at all. Sure enough, I was proved right. Not only did Sen. Lankford back away from challenging the election results, leaving Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and the others completely betrayed, he also poured syrup on his diarrhea sandwich with a self-destructive, gratingly saccharine apology to black people in Tulsa for having ever considered the issue. As reported by Tulsa World:
The two-page letter Lankford wrote on Senate letterhead, dated January 14, 2021, was as delusional as it was self-destructive. He frames his apology by saying that he only realized after having joined Ted Cruz’s team that many black people viewed the skepticism about the 2020 election results as distrust aimed at the black neighborhoods of Detroit, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. He cites his work as a Baptist minister, throws out a few scriptures, and then rambles about the importance of remembering a racist attack in Tulsa that took place a hundred years ago.
Lankford represents much of what is wrong both with our pastorate and with our government. Perhaps stuck in the adolescent mode of wanting to be accepted by the cool kids, which often means black people in the mind of those who think in simplistic cultural terms, he accepts at face value a destructive lie about race and voting rights. The fact that election integrity safeguards were most blatantly steamrolled and fraudulent practices most vigorously put into place in Black communities shows that the pseudo-democratic system in the United States is exploiting Black neighborhoods and treating their votes as a commodity to be bought and sold without the individual voters’ consent or engagement.
It’s not surprising then that someone like Lankford would pander in this damaging way to liberal leaders citing Black citizens in bad faith, while caring not at all about the fact that his alma mater, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, fired its Black and Latino professors and replaced them with white men.
19. The Intelligence Community
One of the anniversaries that nobody commented much about was the 75th anniversary since the end of World War II. The postwar period saw a traumatized global community seeking two things in order to avoid any catastrophe like the two world wars:
(1) a de-emphasis on the nation state in favor of transnational organizations and loyalties, and
(2) national security alternatives to the casualties of conventional warfare.
The end of World War II was the beginning of the deep state in its twentieth-century sense.
The move toward internationalism favored multinational corporations and their partners in crime, the humanitarian-industrial complex rooted in the United Nations.
The desire for bloodless alternatives to conventional warfare led to the birth and cancerous expansion of the “intelligence community,” beginning with the wartime OSS but then proliferating into seventeen mammoth agencies that became an unelected, unaccountable, police state within a police state: CIA, FBI, NSA, NRO, NGA, DHS, DEA, Army Intel, Navy Intel, Air Force Intel, Marines Intel, Coast Guard Intel, Dept of State, Treasury, Dept. of Energy, DIA, and the odious ODNI.
The FBI, led by J. Edgar Hoover, predated World War II and enjoyed a certain popularity in the public when its agents were tracking down bootlegging gangsters, the mafia, and serial killers. There was once an innocent time when all the intelligence agencies held a romantic appeal to a naïve population still yearning for the mythical balance between safety and freedom. But by 2020 it became clear that the intelligence community was the sick man of American government.
We watched the FBI’s antics in spying on Trump and trying to get him removed from office. Horrified by the extent of the intelligence community’s surveillance, we then saw that they refused to protect the integrity of the election system and then seemed to use their enforcement powers to sway the outcome toward Joe Biden. When complaints about organized election fraud would have favored Trump, the intel community ignored the complaints. We saw this on full display when the video of overt ballot fraud surfaced in Georgia and none of the guilty parties appeared to have been questioned by the FBI. Then when they did get involved, such as in the example of the postal worker who blew the whistle on ballot fraud in Pennsylvania, the FBI agents were caught on tape using their interrogatory powers to intimidate the whistleblower into backing down.
In the height of the long hot summer of 2020, as hundreds of cities saw protests turn violent and people were dying in urban chaos, FBI director Christopher Wray came forward to say that white supremacists were the greatest threat to national security. Yet on January 6, 2021, they were unable to warn of or stop the storming of the Capitol even though overt planning took place all over social media.
While some would say the Intelligence Community is evil, I prefer to think they’re just a crazy Baby Jane, riding on their bygone reputation as a force for good and now so completely wacko they believe their own insanity. Meanwhile we are like the paralyzed Blanche trapped in a house run by the lunatics who have control over our movements and communications.
18. Tim Keller
Tim Keller, founder of a large Presbyterian church in Manhattan, has presented himself as the soft teddy bear of evangelicalism for years. Defending a faith that defines homosexuality as an abomination before the Lord, and seeking to shepherd a constituency that overwhelmingly considers abortion murder, Keller has often tiptoed and tap-danced around sensitive issues, promising audiences a mild and un-punishing religious middle ground.
The typical Tim Keller fan loves to have the comforts of religion with none of the stress of politics. Trotting alongside the Gospel Coalition and countless other mass-marketed Christian products of a similar tenor, Keller signaled that it was okay to be of any political party or no party at all, because Jesus Christ is above all that. This combined the magic hocus-pocus of belief in a vague sky god with the luxury of never having to be disinvited from Thanksgiving by a pro-LGBT sister and never having to lose your job because some trans atheist at the office caught you posting pro-family memes on Instagram.
But then, lo and behold, the toddler appeal of Tim Keller crashed into the sudden realization that he is political! In fact, he is registered as a Democrat and clearly supports their agenda — all of it, presumably including Planned Parenthood and the Equality Act. As Michael Foust explained on November 4, 2020:
This non-endorsing endorsement holds no value whatsoever given that everyone in the Democratic Party supports the entirety of the LGBT agenda, including recruitment of pre-teens and bans on ex-gay therapy even in church, as well as free and legal abortion without parental consent up to birth. Still singing and dancing like Baby Jane re-enacting her ventriloquism with a blond doll from years gone by, Keller tries to hedge all his bets and claim that he is not abandoning the evangelical causes of life and Biblical sexuality:
This old vaudeville number about there being good Christians on the right and left is as fake as it was when the Democrats first rolled out their army of liberal pseudo-theologians, only nowadays it’s as stale as the makeup on Baby Jane’s cheeks and forehead. Every time they bring these issues of poverty and racism up, they fail to show how Republicans support racism or disregard for the poor in any way that matches the Democrats’ support for abortion, homosexuality, and transgenderism. Everywhere the Republicans have power they support commonsense antiracism programs and fund social programs for the poor. The Democrats point to Republicans’ opposition to things like affirmative action, amnesty for illegal immigrants, and no-ID voter eligibility, as racism, when these are all policies that are legitimately debatable and can be demonstrated to harm people of color as much as help them. But the Democrats actually oppose the Biblical stance on abortion and sexuality, vigorously and aggressively.
No matter. Tim Keller is living in Baby Jane’s nostalgic world now, dreaming that his old sermons and Yoda-like spiritual quotes will still mesmerize evangelical audiences they way they did when these choreographed policy positions were novelties.
17. Republican State Parties
In the days after the election, people held high hopes that conservatives’ longstanding financial and rhetorical support for the Republican Party would pay off. After all, Republicans controlled the state legislatures of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Arizona. The Constitution makes clear that state legislatures have the power to define the process of running and certifying presidential elections (Article II). In these states, it was the state legislatures’ own laws about election procedures that were violated in ways that made the ascendancy of Joe Biden possible.
But alas, it was never meant to be. There were some good, heroic Republicans who called for meetings in the swing states, but no Democrats cooperated and they were never able to get the state Republican Parties to hold the line. Republican governors in Georgia and Arizona worked actively against the cause of investigating the election and blocked citizens from inspecting machines accurately just as much as Democrats blocked these procedures in the places they controlled. Some of the most memorable perfidy in the hearings came from Republican worms like Steve Johnson of Michigan, who had this infamous exchange with Melissa Carone:
Perhaps some of the Republican state parties really believed that nothing went wrong in the election, but this seems doubtful given the lengths they went to, to hide pertinent evidence like voting machines and voting archives from inspectors. They showed us that our support for Republicans at all levels, from local to federal, was based on a delusion. They were never on our side. They were acting all along like the nasty Baby Jane throwing well-intended inspectors off the track and shielding their complicity with corruption from needed scrutiny.
16.Kelly Anne Conway
Kelly Anne Conway was one of the longest-lasting aides to President Trump, in an administration that seemed like a revolving door of short-lived adjutants ranging from Michael Scaramucci to Omarosa Manigault. Liberals mocked and reviled her endlessly, often ridiculing her haphazard maquillage and scraggly anorexic appearance. Conservatives rallied to her as a symbol of fidelity even as her husband railed publicly against Trump and her own teenage daughter went on social media to bash her work in the White House.
Conway resigned from her post in August 2020, claiming she needed to spend more time with the daughter who was on Instagram vilifying her. Then as tensions continued in the wake of the election, she joined the Jack Dorsey train and said it was time to move on and support a Biden presidency.
Whether this statement was a sincere assessment of the election or the natural result of exhaustion from having to defend Donald Trump and herself from attacks all around her, she went out of her way to sever ties with the pro-Trump resistance. Just as Baby Jane’s reenactments of her past glamour can only emphasize the haggard present tense of a once-beloved superstar, Conway’s purposeful attempt to redefine herself is sad and pathetic. The people who hated her for working with Trump will never accept her, but she lost the one audience that had respected her for years.
15. John Cornyn
John Cornyn is a 68-year-old politician from Texas, one of those entrenched power brokers that one could visualize as changing into a cockroach to survive a nuclear war. In Texas, where the Republican Party is currently so stable that it feels like the Renaissance Vatican, you never get to ask why people such as this get ahead or stay on top. It’s assumed that he will be parked in Congress until he dies or chooses to retire. Nonetheless, all one could ask of someone in his position is some modicum of respect for the constituents in whose name he is a lawmaker. Alas, it cannot be so. Like Mitch McConnell’s Mini-Me, Cornyn seemed to amuse himself with the tumultuous events around him as if his best response would be a kind of detached boredom.
When the attorney general of his own state filed Texas v. Pennsylvania with the Supreme Court, Cornyn was unimpressed, in the way a bistro patron might feel unimpressed by vichyssoise. He stated:
Some of us here in Texas expect that lawmakers representing us in Congress might know a thing or two about jurisprudence and also might understand that a presidency resulting from a bunch of crooked electoral counts in other states is a presidency we’ll have to endure in Texas. But this is how everything went in Cornyn during this rocky season. He sat back and alternated between ennui and disappointment, as if he weren’t paid to do anything in the upper chamber of our bicameral Congress.
“There’s no evidence of election fraud,” he said in November, as hundreds of affidavits accumulated and meetings kicked off in various swing states to air evidence. Naturally, he did not vote in support of Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz’s challenges during the certification. But best of all, at a time when the Senate Republicans under McConnell were holding up the $2,000 stimulus for Americans suffering under the COVID lockdowns, Cornyn decided he would get cute on Twitter and show off a succulent $125 steak he was munching on:
It’s clear that Cornyn is as washed up and tired as Baby Jane Hudson, but he didn’t have to jump into any of these controversies. He could have let the Trump constituency, based as heavily as it is in Texas, partake in their cause without opening his yapper and spitting on our parade. He reminded me of the scene in the classic thriller where Baby Jane, not contact to starve her sister Blanche to death, goes out of her way to stop her from watching television and says, “well, you’re an idiot,” and then slams the door.
14. The National Review
For as long as I can remember, college-educated conservatives have been hostage to the publication founded by William F. Buckley in 1955. The National Review traded on Buckley’s reputation as a respected conservative willing to debate with liberals. But alas, the heyday of the magazine, when they were doing something exciting and new, belonged to a generation who knew who Barry Goldwater was.
For those of us who have had to live through the post-Reagan American malaise, the magazine has become a persistent irritant, a shriveled effigy of its former self. It was bad enough that National Review once employed such obnoxious individuals as David French and Jonah Goldberg. The mag chose its hill to die on five years ago with a whole issue called “NEVER TRUMP,” dedicated to saying that conservatives could never support Trump. The dozens of authors of that notorious omerta tried banking on the triangular prestige of the Reagan era with its three-legged stool of free markets, strong defense, and Christian family values. But Trump won the argument with the National Review, and they seem to be wallowing in nostalgia for days when they had a receptive audience.
The Trump revolution showed that the only viable base for Republicans would have to be religious, working class, patriotic Americans who don’t want to go to any more foreign wars and want government to protect workers against the ravages of the corporate global elite.
This is bad news for the Baby Janes of NRO, still wanting to jump out and perform their arabesques and pliés from the good old days when Reagan broke the air traffic controllers strike and invaded Grenada with tourist maps, just as our patriotic dopamine was gushing over the Los Angeles Olympics. The problem the National Review faces isn’t just Trump, although they obviously shot themselves in the foot by so thoroughly defaming the man who gathered the vast majority of Republicans to his cause. The problem is that conservatives in America are today largely social conservatives, evangelicals and Catholics who want family values protected. One thing we learned from Mitt Romney’s soggy 2012 debacle versus Barack Obama was that this constituency does not include enough business owners or corporate managers (or generally rich people) to turn out in droves for a free-market platform consisting of low taxes for hedge fund managers, no guaranteed health insurance, no job security, and total submission to the whims of monopolistic behemoths in fields like Big Tech, insurance, financial leasing, education, and medical care.
John McCain’s even more baleful disaster against Obama in 2008 also told us that this same conservative constituency has no interest in signing their kids up to invade Middle Eastern countries in exchange for lousy Tri-Care, PTSD, and a limp-wristed “Thank you for your service,” from every store attendant uninterested in helping.
The three-legged stool on which National Review stands is gone. The only prong that still attracts the natural conservative is pro-family Christianity, but this is precisely the part that National Review wants to short-sell, pushing lukewarm pro-life platitudes while sidestepping the battle over LGBT and employing writers like Deidre McCloskey.
The song and dance from the Reagan era comes across as corny, canned, and outdated in a Trump age, when the churchgoing working class makes or breaks Republican candidates and anyone who pushes pro-corporate Koch-based libertarianism with a side salad of half-hearted militarism won’t stand a chance. The signs of National Review‘s encroaching decrepitude were already plentiful by the time 2020 came around and the magazine served up even more mothball-smelling shlock.
The National Review has made it known that it will not sit in the cheering section when people sue Big Tech firms like Google citing antitrust concerns. Such lawsuits offend, of course, the magazine’s fanatical claims about free-market liberty:
The National Review also had no interest in supporting American citizens concerned about the election fraud in 2020. The magazine chose rather to revel in the humiliating oppression of Trump supporters who just wanted a court to hear the evidence they had:
As the Trump ship was already sinking the magazine couldn’t resist one last parting blow, blasting Ted Cruz for having stood up against the certification in Congress:
Many of these repulsive and fallacious broadsides were signed off by the entire editorial staff, demonstrating that the magazine is now wholly run by Baby Janes clinging to a bygone time when they were relevant and remotely interesting, and consoling themselves in old age by demonizing the conservative audience that constituted their only possible readership in the future. Hoping to survive with Koch-like finances and grants from the Big Tech firms they shamelessly shill for, they are singing to a cracked mirror from now on.
13. Ann Coulter
In the days after the 2020 election, as reports of alleged fraud rolled in, Ann Coulter jetted to Austin, Texas, one of the most fanatically leftist cities in America, to deliver a speech for the Young Conservatives of Texas. While other conservatives were toiling valiantly to gather affidavits and file court briefs in an effort to save the American electoral process from systemic fraud, she made dumb jokes about Trump, the man she extolled in her now-infamous heap of trash, “In Trump We Trust.” As reported by Breitbart News:
She compared Trump to an eight-year-old and characterized his tenure as embarrassing, even as she expressed her wish that “Trumpism,” a working-class patriotic alternative, might prevail without the eponymous crazy uncle who launched it.
Ann Coulter has been sliding toward an abyss for a long time but this really put her in Baby Jane territory. Many of her criticisms about Trump are absolutely valid, and I’ve made them as well. Trump doesn’t deliver on his promises, has no functional instincts about whom to trust, and destroyed much of his four-year term by entrusting too much to his children and their loopy spouses and partners: Jared Kushner, Kimberly Guilfoyle, and Lara Trump.
But how on earth does Ann end up “very happy” that Biden won? It reveals that she still yearns for her youthful emergence back in the nineties when Clinton was president and she was a reckless contrarian who could pen foul screeds about people without having to deal with any of the difficulties of actual governance. It seems the reason that she refused to lend her support to efforts at contesting the election results — even after she has written for years about the Democrats’ familiar pattern of election fraud — is simply that she likes existing in the dystopian status quo. She likes writing things that piss off readers of the New York Times. You don’t expect her to get out of the house and confront powerful people and demand real change, do you?
Who do you think she is, Michelle Malkin?
As the weeks after the election dragged, Ann tried to roll out her old race-baiting fare, posting articles about Breonna Taylor and Kwanzaa, as if anyone cared to rehash her bestsellers from ten years ago. Failing to find her own footing and apparently interested in maintaining a livable position as someone who can lambaste the left but won’t really lend support to any move that might threaten their power, she resorted to her basic gift of lampoonery and posted Mean Girl columns about Trump on January 6 and 13, 2021.
First she said this on January 6:
Much in this diatribe is absolutely true. But you could almost forget that Ann Coulter (1) wrote many times about the fraudulent boxes of votes being discovered by Democrat election-stealers, and (2) was one of the biggest boosters of Donald Trump when he was running in 2016.
Her frustration with Trump’s inability to execute his promises ought to be balanced with an understanding of the real obstacles posed by obstructionist Republicans like Mitch McConnell (someone Coulter praised often in the past) and Mitt Romney (someone Coulter recommended as “magnificent” in the 2012 election debacle against Barack Obama).
Coulter dreams of an age when Republicans could ignore Black and Latino voters and still win, so she dismisses the hard work Trump did to bring record-numbers of minority voices to his camp.
And then she poured on more layers of nasty the next week with this zinger:
As a crescendo in her Orphic descent from hot nineties babe in little black dresses to over-the-hill Baby Jane, Coulter now takes quotes from New Yorker magazine with no skepticism. The chances that Trump really said his supporters were “low class” are lower than the chances he said that American soldiers were losers. It’s tragic that Coulter stoops that low to extricate herself from the wreckage of the Trump presidency. But one assumes that Ann Coulter is hoping to pay the bills in the future with cameo appearances like this one in future hotspots like Austin, Texas, or Berkeley, California:
12. The Catholic Church
For so long, the Catholic Church has stood its ground in the political arena, venturing into controversies that other denominations avoid out of cowardice. Catholics tend to predominate at the March for Life and at many movements in favor of Biblical sexuality. But this is the age of Pope Francis, and he stayed in character for the election of 2020, issuing encyclicals that made it clear Catholic voters should look upon antipoverty programs and open borders as deal breakers while not putting so much emphasis on abortion or sexual integrity. His leanings were clear, and ever clearer when he came out with strong words against the Trump voters who gathered in Washington DC on January 6 to protest against the election fraud.
We’re waiting for the Catholic Church to issue such top-down denunciations of repressive policies by China and countries in the Middle East, but alas, that’s expecting too much of a Latin American Jesuit schooled in 1970s liberation theology.
11. Mike Pence
Mike Pence was chosen as the vice presential running mate for Donald Trump in 2016 because he had an undeserved reputation of being “strong” on social issues important to Trump’s Christian voters. I knew that was a farce because I had been involved in the struggle over the Religious Freedom Rights Act in Indiana six years ago. I wrote this piece about it in Ethika Politika. Pence was the governor of Indiana and received threats from corporations that they would embargo the whole state if the law should pass. Pence caved and the act did not pass with the protections that its drafters had wanted. Pence’s supporters were heartbroken by the last minute betrayal.
Because of this experience from 2015, I assumed that Mike Pence would be a fly in Trump’s ointment at some point. The faux appeal to religious voters is a cheap Republican gimmick and churchgoing candidates who claim to be devout believers are a dime a dozen. Faith is a lot like sex in one regard: people who talk about it the most are usually the ones who aren’t getting it.
But Mike Pence joined Trump’s team and shuffled around unobtrusively in the shadows. He assumed some importance by taking lead of the coronavirus efforts. But if you’ll notice, he largely stayed out of the public eye and let bloodthirsty media outlets lay all the blame for the disease at Trump’s feet. It was almost as if Pence didn’t care about getting re-elected.
Signs did not look good once the fateful election night passed and battles raged over the ballot counts. Pence demonstrated the same annoying Hamlet complex. On the one hand he went to Georgia to campaign for the underwhelming Loeffler and Perdue, mentioning the fight for accurate counting of votes. On the other hand, Louis Gohmert had to take him to court to acknowledge that as the constitutionally deputed president of the Senate he had the right and duty to exercise some judgment during the certification of votes.
Pence’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss Gohmert’s lawsuit in late December. Things were already becoming more ominous as Pence’s unpraiseworthy character came increasingly to light. If he wanted to reject Trump’s pleas to exercise his procedural discretion in the counting of the votes, he should have said so. Had he been clear with the public that there was no “Pence card” and he was going to behave like a mindless rubberstamp, reading off the contested states and doing nothing, imagine how much pain and grief he would have avoided. Trump’s supporters would have known there was no hope in Pence, and would have placed far less emphasis on the January 6 event. I would suggest that they may not have even organized the massive rally that led to the disastrous storming of the Capitol. Instead, they would have directed their energy at pressuring the courts, pleading with the state legislatures, lobbying the Republicans in Congress, and trying to amass their silo of investigative data in order to push an inaugurated Biden into a Watergate situation.
No person has escaped responsibility for the fatalities in the rush on the Capitol more than Mike Pence. He waited until a million protesters were gathered in Washington to hear Trump’s speech, to state finally that he was not going to exercise any discretion in the reading of the votes. He was well aware that his silence had raised the false hopes of millions of people. His timing created a powder keg and then lit it on fire.
But such is Pence’s personality. He was the worst person to be placed in the harrowing position of having to make a clear decision and stand by his choices in the face of blistering opposition. He has enough education to know that the Constitution does not assign roles to anybody as a rubberstamp. Every role, including the presidency of the Senate, serves to multiply the layers of oversight and checks and balances, to avert disasters precisely like the ones that America just endured. What happens, the founders asked, if corruption touches several states, the courts, and the fourth estate? Who can save the republic from fraud and tyranny? That is why they structured Article II with precisely that dilemma in mind.
But Pence tried to hide behind claims that he had no power, apparently believing that if he had no power he couldn’t be responsible for choosing from a range of difficult options. Pence is like the Baby Jane of the scene below, the famous mediocrity in irreversible decline, infuriated that people who depend on him are actually interrupting his fantasy life and asking him to perform his duties.
10. Rod Dreher
As explained by my friend, John Zmirak, Rod Dreher’s performance during the 2020 election season was almost sublime in its hysteria and bluster. Rod Dreher posts at the American Conservative, where he has been insisting profusely that any number of conservative positions are wrong. Dreher’s formula was Benedict Option, a book that came out four years ago to acclaim from moderates and liberals who relish any self-proclaimed Christian bashing Trump, the Republican Party, and politically active evangelicals. The idea of the Benedict Option was that Christians must grapple with the fact that America is becoming post-Christian; the book counsels retreat into self-sustaining Christian communities where people revive archaic rituals and live on vegetables they grow themselves. The Benedict Option cast political involvement as gauche and passé, less suitable than a righteous retreat and insularity.
When Dreher’s book came out, I had high hopes that this meant he would practice what he preached, stop commenting on politics, and go away. Alas, this did not happen. Instead he became ever more zealous and outspoken about everything conservative Christians were doing wrong. And so he ultimately decided that the grossest, most repulsive thing ever, was a large mass of Christians gathering to pray for a reversal of a fraudulent election. As John Zmirak pointed out, Dreher surpassed the stamina of many Trump supporters who wouldn’t take the time watch six hours of the Jericho March. Dreher actually spent six hours watching the march just to provide a detailed diagnosis of everything wrong with other people’s spirituality. Here is a tidbit of Dreher’s tirade against the march and his friend Eric Metaxas:
One could pounce on any number of puzzling contradictions in Dreher’s take here. He wrote a whole book about the importance of going away and growing turnips on quiet communes with other Christians, yet he won’t go away and grow turnips. He can’t stop himself from snooping around in other people’s political business and voicing his matronly disapproval on a political website.
He is massively opposed to people citing their own faith to dictate politics on people, yet he nitpicks about the theology of cessationism, antinomianism, and Charismatic prophecy, because he thinks that anyone who speaks of their faith must obey his narrowly defined religious doctrines. He accuses people of basing everything on faith rather than evidence when those whom he criticizes want to discuss evidence they have uncovered about the election.
Having received massive criticism for his attack on the Jericho March, then Rod Dreher doubled down by forgetting about divine authority and just telling all of us to submit to the authority of the unbelieving world’s judicial system in this piece:
Dreher blasts other Christians for placing too much emphasis on their faith, for placing too much emphasis on politics, and then for questioning the outcomes of the legal system. He says that Trump is a swindler then proceeds with the assumption that the swindler’s attorneys’ decisions about what evidence to present should serve as the final indicator of how conclusive the evidence was. He loves to imply that sober, skeptical review of facts is a better modality than merely bowing before authority figures, but he (like so many of these Baby Jane anti-Trumpers) refuses to engage in a substantial discussion of actual evidence and rather focuses on what authority figures have said about the evidence.
If Dreher had the power to do so, he’d just fire Eric Metaxas and every other Christian commentator like Baby Jane in this scene:
9. Ben Sasse
Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska was featured in a live interview with Russell Moore at the 2017 conference of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. On the stage in Nashville, Tennessee, seated next to the white dwarf of Christian superstars, Russell Moore, Sen. Sasse discussed “parenting, education, and vocation.”
If you know anything about Russell Moore, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, or its yearly conferences, then you know how this story ends. Ben Sasse, a nominal Republican trafficking in the eternally gullible evangelical demographic, was already being coached in the kind of Eddie Haskell-style duplicity for which Moore and his friends had become famous. He was revving up his Never Trump engine back in 2016 when he campaigned for Trump’s Republican competitors. He played the kind and dutiful Christian during the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings (see #8 on this list). But then by October 15, 2020, news already broke that he was on the phone with constituents in Nebraska essentially telling people Trump was a horrible human being and nobody should vote for him. As reported by Newsweek:
Oh yes, a few constituents here and there might “disagree with his views on the president” alright. But Ben Sasse is the kind of boyish-looking church thaumaturge who has gotten passes for his whole life for being silly and incurious because somebody like Russell Moore is always there to introduce him by saying, “I’ve known this man for a long time and can tell you from the bottom of my heart, he is a man of integrity.” He comes with batteries included as your basic model of do-nothing sanctimonious backslapper.
Listing the greatest hits of out-of-context quotes, urban legends, and made-up garbage about Trump, staying at best six inches above the low-rent fray of common name-calling (sexist! racist! lying fake! man with terrible hair!), Sasse freely defames the leader of his party to voters who went on to vote for him by a margin of 59% to 39%. So it’s not as though we were expecting a lot from Sasse when the election day passed and controversy arose over alleged fraud.
Still, Sasse surpassed even our wildest expectations for wunderkind-turned-Baby-Jane antics. A full month and a half before the elections, Sasse was already bungling presidential history as a pretext to delegitimize any complaints about the election that he prophesied would arise from Trump’s surly nature:
These words never came to haunt Sasse after the election, though they should have. Hilariously, the very example he cited–Thomas Jefferson– did exactly what Trump was asking Mike Pence to do when the electoral college votes were presented before the United States Congress. Jefferson, who was vice president and also running for president at the time, unilaterally decided to count the electoral votes that would make him president rather than his opponent. It was largely because of that election that the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution was passed. That very election was the one cited by Trump supporters who insisted that Pence had the prerogative to exercise judgment while choosing which electors to count before Congress on January 6.
Anyway, the clean-shaven, grinning Ben Sasse, looking always like someone who’d ring your doorbell in a white button-down shirt and narrow tie handing you pamphlets about the New Testament, couldn’t be bothered with historical consistency in the weeks following the November 3 election. He immediately slammed anyone who was questioning the election’s integrity. As Politico reported on November 19, 2020:
The logical pretzel here ought to amuse a discerning observer. “We are a nation of laws, not tweets,” says the man exclaiming tweet-level tidbits of opinion out into the lawless void of public opinion. Like so many people in the Baby Jane set, Sasse likes to have it both ways about the quality of Trump’s lawyers (are they incompetent crooks whose decisions about evidence should be taken as meaningless or are they top-notch legal eagles who would have brought all the best evidence that existed?) so he can keep the public fussing about the decisions by attorneys and judges instead of talking about the actual evidence that U.S. citizens brought to light about alleged improprieties in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania. In so many of these self-righteous Trump-bashing melodies, the Baby Janes of the right have no problem belittling, erasing, and mocking brave American whistleblowers who came forward at great risk to their families in order to provide eyewitness testimony and evidence of widespread fraud. It was as if any people whose lived experience aligned with the Trump campaign’s claims were automatically illegitimate human beings with no right to exist.
Sasse went on in later statements, continuing to pound anyone who questioned the courts’ shady consensus about the evidence of fraud. This came down on December 31, 2020:
For someone who purports to fly above the fray and not be distracted by Trump-style pettiness, Sasse sure doesn’t feel compelled to address evidence as long as he can make the whole controversy about Trump’s lowly character and the decisions made by attorneys and judges about evidence (as opposed, once again, to the actual evidence that everyday American citizens risked their lives to bring to the public). In his infamous Facebook post (it seems we are a nation of laws, not Tweets, but we are also a nation that practices law over Facebook), Sasse rejects all the allegations of voter fraud in various states by handpicking minor accusations and ignoring the large-volume improprieties that citizen activists brought forward. In the end he says that because Trump’s lawyers (who are simultaneously incompetent scam artists just trying to raise money AND thorough practitioners who must have presented all the best evidence in court) have not presented solid evidence yet, citizens have no right to ask for investigations and release of the critical evidence that has been hidden from public scrutiny by election officials.
Multiple articles name Ben Sasse as a 2024 hopeful. I hope that he realizes he’s done for. It’s true his maddeningly smug and dismissive arguments won over the vast majority of Senate Republicans but that’s not a good sign. Whoever can keep that band of misers happy is sure to bomb with voters.
8. Supreme Court of the USA
For innumerable election cycles, Republicans were told that we had to plug our noses and support our side’s scoundrels, scam artists, and snake oil salesmen because we must worry about the Supreme Court. This was why, for instance, I put up with Trump’s creepy kids and spouses-in-laws and entourage of sleazy celebrity commentators, because I wanted someone to appoint judges who could reverse the dangerous jurisprudence of the last fifty years and protect life, free speech, the Constitution, and Christian values in the public square.
And then came Texas v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a seamlessly assembled case presented by the attorneys general in eighteen states to the Supreme Court. The Court declined to hear it, dismissing the request with a curt and non-descript note, indicating that only two of the nine justices would have wanted to have the case brought before them.
All of Trump’s nominees–Barrett, Kavanaugh, and Gorsuch–were part of the ghoulish team that blocked the case, claiming that Texas had no standing to interfere with the election misbehaviors in other states. This abominable decision nullified part of the Constitution, the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause. The Supreme Court precluded outside authorities from intervening in the internal fraud and unconstitutional behavior within a state, leaving citizens everywhere powerless against rank abuses by government officials. The judiciaries in the individual states, tied as they always are to the governors and lieutenant governors and attorneys general of states, were blowing off people’s complaints about corruption at the very top of the food chain.
A court that will refuse to let anyone look into and address election fraud is a useless Article III entity, which cannot be trusted for anything. The Supreme Court’s actions on the issue let us know that they are a dried-up, dusty little institution with no relevance to us anymore, long past the glory days of Brown v. Board of Education or Bush v. Gore. Content to weigh in on petty technicalities and to satisfy their rich Christian benefactors with small victories like saying that megachurches can stay open and collect tithes during COVID lockdowns, the judges will surely do nothing to inconvenience themselves in the future. Which means we can stop dreaming that they will overturn Roe v. Wade, Obergefell v. Hodges, or any of the shameless violations of civil rights that might be coming from from Congress during the Biden era.
The Supreme Court pulled a “hit her with a hammer” move when America’s brave maids came to confront them about their having tied up and starved Lady Liberty in a back attic.
7. Paul Ryan
Once upon a time, there was a Wisconsin representative who followed a strict exercise regimen in order to stay lean and telegenic. With his round blue eyes, raspy Midwestern voice, and brunette widow’s peak, he embodied everything the Republican Party hung its hopes on: wonky fiscal conservatives too young and fit to worry about health insurance, endlessly camera-ready, and delightfully dumb and unprincipled.
The boy from Janesville started on his congressional career early, schmoozed his way to the top quickly, ran on a vice presidential ticket with fellow 1950s matinee cupcake Mitt Romney, and then enjoyed a brief and deliciously useless stint as Speaker of the House. Once people realized he was going to betray social conservatives and could only claim to be conservative because his charm persuaded Republicans to do everything that global corporations wanted, he had to leave the House of Representatives but went on to serve on the board of FOX News.
We are speaking of course about the ultimate child genius turned demon spawn, Paul Ryan. Having duped credulous conservatives into financing his do-nothing, know-nothing career of abdominal crunches and PX 90 workouts, he decided that he might as well enjoy life out of the spotlight by devising evil schemes against people still in the conservative spotlight. And so he received a glow in Vanity Fair, of all places in September 2019:
Well that didn’t take long. Though everyone in town knew Ryan was scheming to flip Fox News against Trump, he couldn’t get the job done in time for impeachment. Lo and behold, Trump wasn’t removed from office. The COVID crisis made for a bad time to turn on Trump, as millions of Fox News viewers were angry about the liberal regime of masks, social distancing, and economically poisonous lockdowns.
Yet Paul Ryan, the formerly cute and cuddly slime weasel, wasn’t going to rest that easily. As Fox News turned on Trump by calling Arizona early on election night, Ryan was setting himself up for the spike. In the midst of the post-election controversy, the true motive came out. Paul Ryan was a guest speaker before “The Bank of America European Credit Conference“. The name of the event alone is enough to give a normal person the chills. But here’s what Ryan had to say:
One can almost imagine Ryan’s wicked laugh as he pulled a classic Baby Jane move, cutting Trump off from anyone who might want to go up into the attic prison to find out what was really going on: “If she wants flowers, we can afford to buy them.”
6. The Southern Baptist Convention
Some time ago there was something called the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention. In the late 1970s, as the mainline Protestant denominations all went liberal, the Southern Baptist Convention followed them down into the abyss. Conservative stalwarts like Paige Patterson, Adrian Rogers, and others staged a reconquista of the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, bringing it back to principles of inerrancy and scriptural sufficiency.
That was then but this is now. The Southern Baptist Convention has spent the last five years beating up conservative evangelicals, telling them to stop being so homophic/sexist/racist and the rest. As captured in this exposé by Capstone Report, the Southern Baptist has been thoroughly invaded by left-wing money for years, and the political statements by their top public policy wonk, Russell Moore, show it:
With so many dirty ties to the corrupt liberal benefactors who also wanted Donald Trump and his populist tariff-happy tough-on-China administration out of office, it was hardly surprising that the boyish looking Russell Moore would go off the deep end with fascist quotations begging for a police state to crush the evangelical Trump supporters (who make up eight tenths of his own denomination). Tweets like this one abounded:
And this one, ecstatically praising a Millennial police officer who said it is his “pleasure” to “crush” the “white nationalists” at the Capitol:
And this one:
All of this is very rich coming from Russell Moore, who has berated Baptists for years for placing too much moral respect on political figures or on government generally. During the Black Lives Matter unrest throughout 2020, Dr. Moore was of course preaching understanding and patience even as protesters destroyed property and caused innocent civilian deaths.
Even before the Capitol protests turned violent, Dr. Moore had already been dismissing any notion of unfairness in the election results. His group, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, posted a story three days after the election explaining to Baptists that fraud on a large scale doesn’t exist and anyone who makes such an accusation must obviously be, by indirect implication, a lying slanderer.
Moore had many fellow travelers in the Southern Baptist Convention, including Beth Moore, Denny Burk, Andrew Walker, J.D. Greear and other luminaries who burst into a not-so-spontaneous chorus of “we must stop Christian nationalism!” in early December and kept repeating the term as conservatives were struggling to find a means of investigating possible election fraud. They were not subtle at all about claiming that Christian nationalists held crazy conspiracy theories about the election because their religious fallacies perverted their thinking.
The collapse of the Southern Baptist Convention has been documented and lamented for quite some time. People have been criticizing the encroachment of Critical Race Theory, LGBT-friendly compromises, and women preachers, in addition to the massive financial graft, nepotism, and widespread use of anti-biblical NDAs or non-disclosure agreements.
But what made the SBC’s pathetic response to political upheaval in 2020 was the extent to which leaders dropped any pretenses of moral consistency. The main thrust of the anti-Trumpian and woke camps within the SBC has always been that Baptists should be above politics and care first and foremost about the gospel. Yet the year 2020 ended with all the people who preached this apolitical lifestyle yapping non-stop about politics and trying to tell their denominational constituents that they had to oppose Trump and support the transition to a Biden presidency.
After having hammered Baptists with Romans 13 (“submit to the existing authorities”) when Christians worried about the state closing down church services over COVID, these same Baptist leaders were later preaching that the existing authority, President Donald Trump, should be brushed aside and rejected in favor of Joe Biden, who was not yet president and whose victory over Trump remains plagued by doubts and evidence of wrongdoing. Lastly, the same Moore-style Baptists who constantly accuse conservatives of name-calling and uncharitable behavior for criticizing Critical Race Theory, liberal theology, or the LGBT movement too harshly, moved seamlessly into calling fellow Americans terrorists, traitors, and vermin to be gloriously “crushed” by the arms of the police state.
We were left, by the end of 2020, with the depressing realization that the Southern Baptist Convention has passed its expiration date and is just a cardboard carton full of rotten milk. Or, in keeping with this post’s allegories, just another Baby Jane like one can see in this scene:
5. FOX News
On election night, Fox News played its hand. While the news channel had a massive conservative audience and its billboard stars like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham held people’s admiration and love, doubts had mounted among many right-wing people. The softcore-porn aesthetic of blonde after blonde in slinky low-cut dresses tipped some people off to the notion that maybe they were not as conservative as they purported. The management changes concerned people. Social conservatives had been given the cold shoulder for quite some time. But the core of the right wing still had faith in the channel going into 2020.
Then on election night for 2020 it became obvious that something was rotten at Fox News. In lockstep with the liberal channels, the news desk started calling states for Trump or Biden using an undeniable double standard. In Virginia, where Trump was leading by ten percentage points with 65% of the votes counted, they called the state for Biden. In Arizona, with so few votes counted it would have been impossible to have any clue who might win, the news desk called the state for Biden. In Texas, Florida, Ohio, and Iowa, where Trump was comfortably leading, Fox held off on calling it until late into the night.
My text message inbox exploded as conservatives suddenly realized that the fix was in and Fox News operatives knew something we didn’t. It was clear they’d been funneled information about who was going to win various states–the first evidence, for many conservatives, of the rigging of the election.
Things deteriorated from there as many of the show hosts tried to finesse around the election fraud issue. We had already seen Chris Wallace at his worst when he was moderating the debates in earlier months. Some on-air personalities like Leland Vittert and Bret Baier started getting testy with guests, mocking their claims about election improprieties. Finally, even the widely beloved Tucker Carlson launched into a tirade against Sidney Powell because they had disputes over whether she would send confidential evidentiary documents in order to substantiate her claims in an upcoming lawsuit. Powell’s hesitation seemed utterly reasonable since the documents she had were going to be presented (she hoped) in court, and a wise legal strategy would be not to give the opposing side lots of extra time to make up a fake counter-story. She had no idea who was working on Carlson’s production team and might get a peek and leak it.
At any rate, the plummeting ratings for Fox confirmed the channel’s Baby Jane status by the time January ratings were available and showed the formerly dominant entity in cable news trailing behind CNN and MSNBC in viewership:
4. Dan Crenshaw
Dan Crenshaw became the darling of the right wing in late 2018, during his election campaign to the U.S. House of Representatives. Showcasing his military service and trademark eye patch, Crenshaw became the object of a tasteless joke on Saturday Night Live. As reported by NBC at the time:
Crenshaw made a point not to play the victim and responded calmly, but millions of conservatives took umbrage on his behalf, prompting an apology Saturday Night Live comedian Pete Davidson. Then came Crenshaw’s fifteen minutes of fame as a conservative celebrity who seemed to pop up everywhere. He was swiftly platformed as a regular on the speaking circuit alongside Ben Shapiro, Matt Walsh, and other college campus regulars.
And within weeks, it became clear that Crenshaw was yet another handsome veteran scamming conservative voters while pushing lame talking points that the base did not want. The Groypers started harassing him with incendiary questions about Israel, which allowed Crenshaw to avoid coming clean about his political issues; his defenders could cast his critics as anti-Semites. Toting his fresh degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Public Policy, Crenshaw started to present himself less as a wounded humble veteran and more as a globalist neocon free-market non-conservative Trojan Horse. Preaching a gospel of copious interventionism abroad, he like to bash socialism–the safe whipping boy for milquetoast conservatives–while steering clear of the social issues that required more courage. Crenshaw wrote a letter to the Texas Republican Party urging them to give a permanent seat on their management committee to the Log Cabin Republicans.
The final event showing that Crenshaw’s meteoric rise had ended in a sputtering fall came with the election of 2020, however. While conservatives were frantically trying to resist the stolen election, Crenshaw went out of his way to make a cringe-inducing cheesy action video starring himself:
While we are accustomed to assuming that most politicians are narcissists and self-aggrandizing, it still comes as a shock when they throw their narcissism in our face, especially at a time when the election resistance effort needed all the help it could get, and this particular video did almost nothing to help Loeffler and Perdue get elected (they lost, of course, giving the Democrats total control of the United States government.)
The begging for attention reached new heights when Crenshaw retweeted the video again, this time trying to get his audience to view the shameless self-promotion as some kind of principled resistance against the left:
Everyone was waiting to see if Crenshaw would stand with the House Representatives and vote to object the certification of electoral votes while the awkwardness of his three-minute wannabe Rambo routine petered out.
The reaction from fellow military leaders was not positive:
Finally, having jumped the shark, Crenshaw gave up entirely on any notion that his gimmicky public persona stood on serious substance. When the pressure mounted and the certification came before before Congress on January 6, Crenshaw backpedaled and gave up. In an opinion-editorial in the Wall Street Journal, Crenshaw tried to sound firm and grounded but really just tried to excuse his own cowardice. He cited Federalist 68 and quoted Article II of the Constitution, saying that Congress’s role in accepting the electoral votes was merely “ceremonial.” This is, of course, not true. The Constitution does not give any party ceremonial roles; the goal of divided government was to have checks and balances. He tried to play both sides, on the one hand refusing to challenge the certification while on the other hand expressing sympathy for the patriots’ grievances. The words fell flat given what a terrible mess the country was in. He concluded this way:
What is he saying about “where our fight is” and “the hard work” and the “priority”? He’s an elected member of Congress. There is a Constitution with an Article II in it that says he participates in the counting of the votes from electors. Seven states sent two slates of electors to Congress because there were so many allegations of fraud. The fight was his. The hard work was his. The priority was his. There will be no way to change the election system if everyone keeps passing the buck. After all not only did allegations surface in the November 3 election; problems also arose with the Georgia Senate run-offs on January 5, two days before he published the column.
But therein lies the end of Dan Crenshaw’s time as a conservative darling. The grinning and tap-dancing, handsome gimmicks and unapologetically campy promotional fare all just crumpled up into a big mess of off-tune melodies. It makes one think of this:
3. Karen Swallow Prior
During her epic adventures in the evangelical world, Karen Swallow Prior has defended every outrageous quote on her part by invoking a glorious 1990s past as an anti-abortion activist. Immersed as she has been in deeply conservative Christian circles–first Liberty University, then the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, then Southeastern Seminary — she has never found a conservative home base that she couldn’t rip apart with her plaintive liberal accusations about something they’re doing wrong. It’s either racism, mistreatment of animals, “Christian nationalism”, too much Trump worship, the neglect of sexually abused women, or something. Always something. She’s never happy in conservative Christian circles. But then she never leaves and lets Christian conservatives carry on. She never pulls up stakes and looks for a job in the secular, liberal world where she could be an antagonistic defender of the gospel. Instead she stays, forever complaining and pouting and whining and accusing and getting people fired, playing the role of antagonistic defender of liberal ideas to gospel-believing and God-fearing conservatives.
This wouldn’t be so bad, if she just decided to be a gadfly and have fun with it. (I have called my podcast the Big Brown Gadfly, after all.) But her contrarian word games are never witty or whimsical. They are always gloomy, morose, and suffocating. There’s never anything one can do to fix what Karen Prior says is broken. The solution is always to fire someone (Patterson, Falwell), to condemn someone (Trump, Roy Moore), to oppose voting for someone (Trump), to sulk, to brood, to shut things down (the Falkirk Institute), or to do something of a similarly pointless and unhelpful nature. Usually she reminds me of the term ressentiment that figured so prominently in the works of Friedrich Nietzsche. He despised the recurring weak personality that is focuses on what other people do wrong as a way to turn weakness and lack of true conviction into a false virtue.
With her signature fashion motifs–bright-red lipstick, jarringly yellow hair, and 1950s genius glasses–she does not hide the fact that her trade is performance. Perhaps she could have been a diva, but it was not meant to be, because she is always claiming that she’s lived a glorious life as a conservative, pro-life activist, staunch defender of traditional Christianity, only not now. Her reliance on some past record of conservative activism serves apparently to bolster her credibility when she nags conservative Christians about what they are doing wrong. The problem with this deployment of fake nostalgia is that it turns her into a Baby Jane, someone constantly claiming an earlier glory while her present state is tattered and depressing.
Take this tweet for instance:
“I am a lifelong conservative, after all.” Then, when challenged, she acts like she is keeping her cards close to the vest, as if she isn’t just another liberal blabbering on about how yucky conservative Christians are.
And then this.
It’s the same threadbare political frock she puts on; she’s one of us, but everything we could possibly do is wrong, so the only thing we should do is sit obediently and listen to one of her scolding lectures.
I was surprised, when I posted this Twitter poll, that Prior ranked so high. On one hand, she doesn’t seem to be quite as bad as outright backstabbers like Paul Ryan or David French. But the voting results came in. People really can’t stand her attitude, particularly among the people I deal with on Twitter.
Prior may lack self-awareness. Perhaps when she makes all these complaints about conservative evangelicals, she believes that her audience sees a caring and gentle woman who paid her dues protesting against abortion twenty-two years ago and now wants to prod our movement to be its best. What her audience sees, unfortunately, is this:
2. David French
If you have made it all the way to #2, you can guess that by now we’re dealing with some of the scarier cases. It would take too long to diagnose the never-ending threats and vitriol of David French in one little snippet, so I’ll keep it brief. David French once served as the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. He has some key conservative bona fides that could have led to a wondrous career. He served in Iraq as an Army lawyer. He wrote for the National Review. He had the respect of people, once upon a time.
Some of his current cantankerousness might not be his fault. He adopted black children and got savagely attacked by racist people online. This seems to have staggered him. Then Trump ran for president and he lost his mind. Or at least, he lost the parts of his mind that had made possible an an earlier, bygone career as a conservative commentary star. I am not sure where he developed the entitlement to tell Christians why they are theologically wrong for supporting Trump, but he does often gear his most biting and gratuitous condemnations at Christians he deems hypocritical for voting the way they do. Most conservative evangelicals are familiar with him because of his scary outbursts usually backing any left-wing fascist countermeasure against Trump or Trumpian figures. Rather than try to reprise the long decline from French’s golden age to his current dismal state, I will post the coverage of French in Capstone Report.
CAPSTONE REPORT, JANUARY 13, 2021
Conservative Baptist Professor explains why Christians must not trust David French; demands French repent for misleading Christians.
Leading conservative theology professor Robert A. J. Gagnon said that David French should not be trusted by Christians until French repents for misleading Christian voters. Dr. Gagnon, a professor of theology at Houston Baptist University, highlighted French’s misleading writings about the threat of the Biden-Harris Administration and French’s deranged attacks on Sen. Ted Cruz, a fellow Southern Baptist, and Sen. Josh Hawley.
“Whatever remaining respect I have had for French is now gone,” Dr. Gagnon said. “Nothing short of repentance on his part will ever make it return. I’m not holding my breath.”
In a lengthy post, Dr. Gagnon said, “David French has really lost it. This vitriolic Never-Trumper who has been calling for Trump’s political death for the past four years predictably calls for Trump’s impeachment in the last week of his Presidency; and, worse, wants Cruz and Hawley expelled from the Senate if they won’t recant”
Dr. Gagnon defended Sen. Cruz and Sen. Hawley. He said, “All Cruz and Hawley were trying to do is to get a commission to carefully study the issue and have a vote audit done in the contested states (simply signature verification) where there is likely to be corruption in the face of nonexistent safeguards against election fraud and incredibly high turnout and lopsided voting for Biden. Signature match is not denying anyone their vote but rather preventing the fraudulent invalidation of legitimate votes.”
Dr. Gagnon warned about the threat to American liberty posed by a Biden-Harris Administration—something insanely denied by Never Trump David French. In fact, Dr. Gagnon warns that French is clouded by his continued Trump Derangement Syndrome.
However, Dr. Gagnon is clear: Biden-Harris is a threat.
He said, “French also has an essay denying that Christians have much to fear from a Biden/Harris administration in terms of loss of civil liberties and persecution. It is necessary for him to convince people of this in order to exempt him from blame in helping to make possible the Biden/Harris victory. This is absurd since a number of these actions have already taken place on local and state levels; and the so-called ‘Equality Act’ mandates this for the nation as a whole. You will literally become the moral equivalent of a member of the Ku Klux Klan because of your refusal to embrace the ‘LGBTQ’ mantra.”
And this will form the cornerstone of the threat to our American liberty.
According to Dr. Gagnon, “In our near future are compulsory-speech transgender laws, the withdrawal of federal student loans and research grants from Christian institutions (then an assault on accreditation, leading to their demise), mandatory radical left-wing indoctrination in our schools and places of employment, a national puberty-blocker program for children, mandatory national access to female restrooms and sports by males (including our schools), removal of ‘LGBTQ’-identified children from the homes of faithful Christian parents who don’t endorse the identity, the severe reduction of conservative speech on social media platforms (witnessed in spades in the past few days), and the restriction of employment in various professions to those who embrace ‘LGBTQ’ ideology.”
- Whatever trauma caused David French to flip around and become so incredibly mean, many conservatives feel like dealing with French is akin to this scene from the Baby Jane movie:
- 1. KELLY LOEFFLER
Once I opened up the polls for voting, Kelly Loeffler pulled into a runaway lead immediately. I do not know if it’s the creepy blonde tresses, which make Loeffler look as though she is trying to remake her middle-aged self into a prepubescent kewpie doll. Maybe it was just the Stepford Wives aesthetic combined with Loeffler’s air of delusional detachment. She’s rich. She came into her Senate seat by way of appointment by hated governor Brian Kemp. Her major qualifications consisted of being married to the man who owns the New York Stock Exchange and her resemblance to Ann Coulter. Her major drawbacks were that she looked poised to do the bidding of corporations above all, while social conservatives called her out as a squish from day one.
Either way, Loeffler’s blonde ambitions lasted only slightly longer than her good standing, which did not last very long. Living up to the stereotype of the Hollywood airhead, she offered little substance and ended up not clearing the bar to win the Senate seat outright on November 3. She went back and forth with Georgians about whether or not she was going to challenge the election results, even as her state mounted some of the most compelling evidence of fraud, including the video of the midnight ballot suitcases caught on CCTV. The flip-flopping indicated that she wanted to go whichever way the wind was blowing, but she didn’t know how to to tell which way that was. Had she taken a firm stance against election fraud it would have benefited her tremendously, because (1) the November 3 election would have to be thrown into doubt, (2) voters would say she meant business and was a fighter, and (3) it would have lit a fire under Georgians to guard against voter fraud in the January 5 runoffs. At the very least she could have gotten the state to throw out the voting machines and set strict limits on what time counting had to stop.
Things looked bad by late December, even with most of the conservative movement talking about how people needed to come out and vote for her to save the Senate. She promised to challenge the presidential election results very late, but by then Mitch McConnell had stonewalled the $2000 stimulus checks and nobody felt particularly excited about keeping him as Senate Majority Leader. In one of the clearly crooked election timelines, she was leading in the runoff at about 11:00 PM and then in the wee hours magical ballot boxes turned up, putting her scary rival, Raphael Warnock of domestic abuse and pulpit madness fame, over the top for the Democratic win.
As a final demonstration of her mental frailty, the day after the Democrats stole her Senate seat in a sketchy runoff, she came before Congress and explained why she just changed her mind and would not challenge the presidential election results. It was the most excruciating self-immolation one could imagine.
Stating that she changed her mind after seeing mobs sack the Capitol building, she accomplished nothing. She had already gone on the record stating that she believed the election results were not certifiable, so all the people who would hate her for objecting will still go on hating. Meanwhile, she looks like a Paris Hilton-style ditz on the floor of Congress. Did the looting of the Capitol change the facts about the election? Or is she basically admitting that she just doesn’t want to be associated with crazy people like the peyote shaman with a Viking hat, and she’d prefer to pretend she didn’t conclude that the election results were potentially fraudulent 24 hours earlier?
The Kelly Loeffler Flip-Flop Waffle tops the list perhaps because she crystallizes the pure madness of the Baby Jane phenomenon. Conservatives feel like abused prisoners trapped in the same party with these people, like Blanche trapped in an Italianate villa with Baby Jane controlling what everybody on the outside sees peering in. I can only picture Kelly as Jane Hudson in the final scene, believing that she has somehow regained some stature through her betrayal of the conservatives who had been working to get her re-elected, and dancing like a madwoman in front of a scoffing crowd that thinks she looks like a complete fool.
Dance, crazy woman, dance! What an incredible year.