Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina apparently thinks you have to be a “well-briefed U.S. senator” to understand the nuances of the Ukraine war, and that ordinary voters are simply too ignorant to have an opinion on the matter.
“Our base cannot possibly know what’s at stake at the level that any well-briefed U.S. senator should know about what’s at stake if Putin wins,” Tillis said on Monday, according to Punchbowl News. He then blasted fellow Republicans who “are being driven just by the perceptions of their base” and “need to grow a spine” and get behind sending another $60 billion to Ukraine.
It’s hard to imagine a sentiment more contemptuous of the average voter than these sneering comments from Tillis. Only senators with special knowledge, in his telling, are competent to judge the war in Ukraine and understand the stakes.
What nonsense. It’s an appeal to authority masquerading as an argument — the kind of thing we usually hear from the left, not from Republicans. Think you know what a woman is? What are you, a biologist? Think you know that President Biden has dementia? What are you, a neuroscientist?
It sounds like a joke, but this is actually what we heard over the weekend from a chorus of Biden lackeys in the press tsk-tsking that it doesn’t matter what the special counsel’s report said about Biden’s obvious cognitive decline and failing memory because Special Counsel Robert Hur “is not a neurologist.” Some of these people were shameless enough to go on national news shows and say this out loud.
The New York Times went a step further and actually found a neuroscientist willing to whip up a Monday op-ed on Biden’s memory problems that was entirely an appeal to authority: “As an expert on memory, I can assure you that everyone forgets.” Ah, OK. Then I guess it’s fine Biden thinks Mexico is in the Middle East and that François Mitterrand is still alive. After all, this expert just said everyone forgets! Glad we cleared that up.
We’re now hearing the exact same thing from GOP Senate leadership on Ukraine funding. Why? Because they don’t feel like they should have to explain their policy position on Ukraine to their voters. They just want everyone to shut up and fall in line with their plan. They’re the rulers, you’re the base. Figure it out.
Tillis, for his part, obviously believes that making a case to his constituents for more Ukraine funding is beneath his dignity as a U.S. senator. Who cares what the rabble think? They haven’t been briefed! As for his GOP senate colleagues who have doubts about continuing to fund the war, now in its third year? They’re just cowards who need to grow a spine.
It wasn’t just Tillis. GOP Senate chief Mitch McConnell of Kentucky dismissed skepticism of additional Ukraine funding as “idle work for idle minds” that “has no place in the United States Senate.”
As my colleague Tristan Justice noted yesterday, McConnell and Tillis and other Ukraine hawks in the GOP don’t care what actual Republican voters think about any of this. An NBC News poll in November found just 35 percent of Republican voters support more funding for Ukraine, and a Gallup poll out around the same time found much the same. No matter. Those are just the unwashed, unbriefed hoi polloi. McConnell and Tillis would very much like them to shut up and go away, thanks.
So would Sen. Mitt Romney, who took to the Senate floor Monday night to declare that “the shock jocks and online instigators have riled up many in the far reaches of my party.” Have they? Or are they just reflecting the obvious majority viewpoint of your party, as reflected in actual polls? Romney went on to conflate Ukraine with all of Europe, asserting, “If we fail to help Ukraine, Putin will invade a NATO nation.” This is a favorite tactic of Ukraine war hawks who don’t really want to make an argument for why another round of U.S. funding will change the fundamentals of the conflict or break the stalemate. They just declare, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that stopping the endless flow of cash into Ukraine guarantees Moscow will march on Poland.
This kind of haughtiness and aversion to actual arguments from our elected officials is maddening — and should be enough, on its own, to convince any red-blooded American to oppose whatever it is these senators think you’re too stupid to understand. Have doubts that another $60 billion will end what has become a grinding war of attrition in Ukraine? Not sure Romney is right that if we pressure Ukraine to negotiate with Russia, Putin will march on Poland? Think maybe the invasion underway at our southern border deserves at least as much attention from Congress as the invasion of Ukraine?
Well then, you must not be a well-briefed U.S. senator.
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