March 23, 2022, stands out somewhat from the standard of this ongoing nightmare, for various reasons which I will go through in a moment. There have been worse single days, and really, when the standard is as bad as it has become, it feels somewhat meaningless to measure one day against another. But an important theme connects a number of notes from Wednesday.

The theme is organized extremism with absolutely fanatical intolerance for anything independent of it even existing—and a larger community which just remains unable to process such fanaticism.

One of my first reads, Wednesday morning, was a fascinating letter to the editor, in which a retired British defense attaché denounces the flabbiness and corruption which led his country to ignore and even enable the monster of Putin’s government for so long. While this has broader applicability than just Britain, the inclusion of a quote from Sherlock Holmes naturally caught my eye as well. From “His Last Bow,” it’s just about the last thing, chronologically, which Holmes says in the entire canon, spoken just before the start of the carnage and devastation of World War I.

Overnight, Politico Europe published an essay on “The failed world order” which makes a very effective bookend, essentially surveying more broadly the failings of the “Western” alliance and its institutions, which resulted in them ignoring and even enabling the monster of Putin’s government for so long. Mentioned within the essay, Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.N., likened Russia to a poisonous mold, spreading rot through the structures of the international body.

In between, the day delivered now essentially standard news and analysis from Ukraine, where there seems less and less to be any credible purpose to Russian attacks besides injuring and, to the greatest extent possible, simply destroying Ukraine. The day also delivered multiple demonstrations of the similar fanaticism within the United States, and the failure and flab within America’s own liberal order.

At least two (and probably far more than two) Republican legislators advocated moving the Overton Window toward atrocities. An Ohio state legislator bothsides-ed the Holocaust. A US senator argued very plainly that states should be able to recognize or prohibit interracial marriage. While both tried afterward to deny what they said, the fact is that reality is already way beyond “catching them saying the quiet part out loud” anyway.

It’s especially worth noting that when Republicans say that they want policy “left up to the states,” what they mean is “left up unaccountable state legislatures rigged through gerrymandering,” or really just “left up to Republicans.” Yesterday featured negative news in this regard, also, although I have written about the topic already, repeatedly.

I will emphasize again, however, the fanaticism which Republicans demonstrate with actions, not just “hot mic” comments. In Ohio redistricting, e.g., they have proved willing to go as far as it takes to draw themselves more gerrymandered districts even though all of the critics concede that fair maps would still leave Republicans with secure majorities. Meanwhile—closely related because rigged maps and rigged courts are mutually reinforcing—Republican senators are practically foaming at the mouth in their rage against another Democratic appointee to the US Supreme Court even though she would make no difference to Republicans’ current 2/3 supermajority. They aren’t just acting for the cameras, either. Even if some still think of themselves as “not really meaning it,” and simply caught up in things, they aren’t going to get un-caught and so in practice they aren’t play-acting, they aren’t kidding. No more than was the Trumpist judge who gave a walkout to a Capitol putsch participant, who embraced Civil War and reneged on her cooperation agreement. Those things are obviously not going too far, from the Republican perspective.

There is no point of satiety or “enough,” here, so long as anything independent of their own faction exists. The idea that Republicans will at any point “be reasonable,” that there is a basic line which they won’t cross, is no more credible than the claim that “security concerns” motivated Putin’s campaign to destroy the existence of Ukraine.

Yesterday also featured plenty of examples that American liberalism is no readier to deter or even recognize that fanaticism than its larger international counterpart is. Journalism is, as usual, incurably unable/unwilling to recognize and report actual fanaticism instead of just repeating obsolete forms and customs. Even the local alt-weekly’s young and very sharp Sam Allard won’t stop trying to build up the Republican candidate for Cuyahoga County executive rather than hold him accountable for his choice to file as the candidate of a fanatical fascist party (in a county where that is not even a political advantage let alone a “necessity”).

The most remarkable example of all, however, might be the statement which Ohio’s ACLU and League of Women Voters published Wednesday evening. It is hard to summarize because there’s so much going on, here.

Basically, these two partners within the “Ohio Fair Districts Coalition” decided to throw in the towel on fighting Congressional gerrymandering in Ohio this cycle. The stated reasoning comes down to “because of some technicality, continuing to fight in court at this point would require starting over, and we’re afraid that Republicans would get partisan federal judges to intervene on their side, because of an artificial time crunch which those Republicans have intentionally created, so rather than risk that outcome we’re just going to surrender in order to play nice, and hopefully preserve the state supreme court precedent which we won this year” [even though there is less than zero reason anywhere in all this to think that’s a viable hope]. I should add that this is the same coalition which already circulated petitions for a much stronger redistricting reform, then bargained them away in return for (obviously bad faith) Republican approval of the fiasco now playing out.

In the second sentence of their statement, they say so much in claiming that “In early 2021 … no one could have predicted the lengths to which partisan actors would go…”

Are you fucking kidding me?

I for one could have predicted it, and largely did, and even sent warnings to people within their organizations. Beyond that for fuck’s sake, Republicans tried to stage a violent coup on January 6, 2021, and absolutely did not undergo any kind of Road to Damascus repentance of their evil!

In the Ohio Fair Districts Coalition, made up of multiple pillars of traditional American liberal-order institutions, we have just about the acme of loser liberalism, arrayed against fanatical fascism and just not even processing that. Alas, if they are an acme, these particular pillars don’t really stand out by that much.* For what it’s worth, other plaintiffs have decided against saying it’s okay for a Republican scheme to circumvent the law to succeed, but they are ultimately exceptions not the rule.

The best I can say is that—while there’s just no excuse for the blinders when we are this far into the history of an organized, fanatical faction with no credible end short of exterminating independence from the faction—it’s still difficult to know what to do about it.

I have observed before that one reason inadequate systems persist is that it’s difficult to declare their alleged fair authority to be null, because that leaves us, to some greater or lesser extent, outside the realm of the rational and in the realm of chaos and brute force. Ukraine demonstrates that this is very very awful, as well as demonstrating that “muddling along within existing institutions and hoping for the best” can eventually run out as an option, regardless of intent.

Meanwhile the US demonstrates that it’s also scary when, little by little, your own leaders who are supposed to be on your side and protecting you, instead just give ground and give ground, little by little.

* FWIW there is some speculation that at least one of the organizations which signed the statement is also compromised by conflicts of interest. Certainly there is plenty of this throughout the liberal order, in general. More narrowly, in this case it may wander into questions of where the meaningful division is between “good-faith” weakness, and bad-faith subversion.

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