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The true meaning of James Comer’s Fox News backpedaling

Trump told Republicans they’d get “tired of winning,” but the party of fear wins elections by insisting they’re always on the edge of starting to lose.?

Last Monday, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer boasted that his committee’s relentless pursuit of something to hang on President Joe Biden (influence peddling on behalf of China? what about Ukraine? maybe Hunter Biden cheated on his taxes?) had done its job, even if it hadn’t actually turned up any evidence. The investigation, Comer assured a Fox News host, “absolutely” had the intended effect: “You look at the polling, and right now Donald Trump is seven points ahead of Joe Biden and trending upward, Joe Biden’s trending downward.” Regular Americans, Comer assured the Fox host, were absolutely?“keeping up with our investigation.”

The idea that the committee might be in pursuit of a political victory, and not a legal one, is not surprising.

The idea that the committee might be in pursuit of a political victory, and not a legal one, is not surprising. Comer’s bald acknowledgment of that reality? Well, that might be showing a little too much leg, as suggested by Comer’s backpedaling 24 hours later. “Look, when I was referencing poll numbers, it had nothing to do with Donald Trump,” he told a different Fox News host.

You can tell a lot about people from what they’re embarrassed by. But for years, one of the defining characteristics of the Republican Party has been a complete lack of shame. Leaders barely seemed to bother with damage control. From pundit Michael Knowles calling for the “eradication” of “transgenderism” to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s endorsement of a “national divorce,” to the widespread promulgation of the “Great Replacement Theory,” conservatives were no longer just saying the quiet part out loud — they were turning up the volume. What quiet part? This ideology goes up to 11.?

The difference is that conducting a partisan witch hunt is an expression of power, and today’s Republican base has to be flattered into the illusion of a righteous revanchist minority. Trump told them they’d get “tired of winning,” but the party of fear wins elections by insisting they’re always on the edge of starting to lose.?

Today’s Republican base has to be flattered into the illusion of a righteous revanchist minority.

It’s just hard to maintain that attitude if you do, in fact, have power. Indeed, lately there’s been a small explosion of unstudied, extremely privileged casualness among the conservative elite. Call Ron DeSantis’ presidential launch an embarrassment if you want — and it was. What fascinates me is that no one thought to do a practice run. The Republican caucus auctioning off the House speaker’s used ChapStick is a weird flex! Outside of the Beltway,?Elon Musk’s deranged approach to “leadership” at Twitter makes a lot more sense when you realize he believes he literally can’t fail.???

Comer’s initial admission is an example of what happens when conservatives buy so hard into the myth of their marginalization they confuse going on Fox — still a national television channel — with a private chat among friends. No doubt the vibe is friendly, but for all the talk of cancellations and censoring, conservatives have access to as loud a megaphone as anyone. They keep forgetting that; I’m not sure I mind.

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