Thursday, December 31, 2020
Mapping the fault line
Unless you live in Belgium (and not even necessarily if you do), you probably don't know who the prime minister of Belgium currently is and what his politics are. Belgian politics are not only very complicated, they are also largely irrelevant for the rest of the world. Meanwhile the Belgians perfectly know who the president of the United States of America currently is, and what his politics are. However, both seen from afar and how they are presented in US media, US politics often appear to be mostly about partisanship, Republicans vs. Democrats. This is quite often where the political fault line is, but not always.
In a two-party political system, each party has a certain interest in at least appearing to be united against the other party. Maybe you have a preference of this wing or that wing of your party over the other, but usually you'd rather have somebody from the "wrong wing" in power rather than somebody from the "wrong party". Thus a lot of Republicans made an effort to appear standing behind Trump for the last 4 years. Sometimes they needed to use weasel words when Trump did something too outrageous, but at least the Republican politicians in power rarely let any opposition they felt to Trump show.
But since the election, the fault line has shifted. It isn't really Democrats vs. Republicans anymore, but rather something like real world vs. fantasy world. And with no Democrats supporting the fantasy that Trump actually won the election, the rift now goes right through the Republican party. And what is interesting is that the actions of the fantasy wing will probably force the real world wing to stop with the weasel words and go on record with that they really believe on January 6.
Weasel words usually work well for the media. You don't need to say that Trump won the election, you say something like "he has the right to pursue all legal options". That isn't actually a lie, and it won't get you targeted by Trump and his base. Freedom of speech means you can say whatever you want, and be protected at least from legal consequences. However, sometimes you'll find yourself in a situation where your words have legal weight, and you say them under oath or in an official capacity that doesn't leave that much wiggle room. That was pretty funny to watch when looking at the disparity between what the Trump team said in the media about voter fraud, and what they said in legal documents to the courts, where they were under penalty of perjury.
Something very similar applies to votes of members of the U.S. Congress. A vote is binary, yes or no, you can't use fancy weasel words instead, and the vote is on public record. So on January 6, every Democrat in the house and senate will vote to accept Biden's victory in the electoral college, but the Republicans will be split. Each and every one of them will have to decide whether to vote for reality, or whether to vote for Trumpism. And while the outcome of the overall vote is certain, each individual vote will be remembered by the different wings of the Republican party, and will be subject to a lot of insults and attacks. It is pretty certain the the Republicans aren't looking forward to this vote, because it will map the fault line that runs through their party.