Talking to Charlie, 11/4/2021

Conversation 2:

Let’s talk about the Thursday podcast, with Charlie talking with Rep. Adam Kinzinger after the announcement of his plans not to run for re-election in 2022 (Nov. 4, 2021).

Before discussing what Charlie and Adam discussed and responding to some it, I want to say something about Rep. Adam Kinzinger and men like him. We are very much politically opposed to each other. When it comes to pure politics and ideas and policy, we DO NOT agree on the majority of things. That being said, we align on believing in America and in access to voting. 

More importantly I look at him and see a man of integrity and principles. I see a man willing to do and say what he believes and not to act out of malice towards those who oppose him but to be able to disagree and see that at the end of the day we are ALL Americans. 

He genuinely wants to make America a better country for all – which is why it is a shame that his ability to make an impact in Congress and his practical exile from the GOP caucus in the House right now for standing on his principles – and I respect him for that. He is honest, forthright, and has courage…more than many of his colleagues serving on Congress right now. Kinzinger is not considered a Republican in good standing but somehow Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, Rep. Madison Cawthorne, and Rep. Matt Gaetz are? What the heck?

Kinzinger is, along with Liz Cheney, the only Republicans sitting on the Jan. 6 Committee that Republican House Leadership (not really leaders) generally opposed and prevented the creation on a bipartisan committee to begin with. Adam Kinzinger believes, as many Democrats do, that our democracy was attacked, However, I agree with Charlie and Adam that if the Democrats really believe democracy really is under threat, they need to be making more common cause of the Republicans who are willing to stand with them. 

I agree 100%. Ideological purity and purity tests are DUMB. Reality and politics require one to engage with different sides and different agendas. Being rigid and inflexible is bad for everyone and politics. It is entrenchment. If democracy is under threat, and I believe it is, then ideological positions are pointless and should be put aside to fight for the greater good.

Adam Kinzinger said it like this: “There are deeper issues out there that we need to get to the bottom of in order to save this country.” Again, I agree. The problem Adam sees, and I agree is that this boils down to leadership. This is not leadership in the form of a strongman but leader or leaders who work with each other to move things forward and persuade people along the way. That is how you win.

Adam and Charlie discussed a lot of things but there are TWO I would like to speak on further:

1. Leadership vs. Followership

Kinzinger basically said what I iterated yesterday in Conversation 1 that it’s not really Trump that’s the problem, it’s Trumpism. This is the consequence of bad models, following bad models, and lifting up people who are bad models to positions of power. This is the consequence. I am currently waiting on peer review feedback on a book I wrote that touched on leadership specifically discussed as it relates to the rhetorical impact of models on human behavior. 

The book is based on my dissertation on Superman as a model for American arete, or virtue. The book included Trump as an anti-model, as someone one should use, look, and say: “don’t be like that.” However, his takeover the Republican party flipped the script and though they futility tried to control him instead, it didn’t work. Trump and Trumpism took over the GOP. The result of this bad model only served to accelerate the worst aspects of the Republican party itself. Trump taught the Republicans how to embrace their worst selves and now they see it as a winning formula and they are now moving forward with it. In turn, Trump is simply becoming more and more a figurehead, with no actual power, just someone to pay a little homage to in order to sooth his ego, get an endorsement from, and then move on. He’s just a lame duck for them, a useful idiot who they trot out entertain and rile up the base, a clown.

Trump’s retention as a figurehead is because, as Charlie and Adam discussed, the Republican party lacks real leadership. More importantly, the real problem is less the leadership problem than it is a problem of followership. Trump helped make this possible by going to the base, the followers, and stoking them and their fears and grievances. I agree with Charlie on this and in particular his and Adam’s admission, realization, that it was a problem the Republican party made for itself. They created the base, the kindling, that Trump lit on fire.

This admission is important because it demonstrates something I admire in both Charlie and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (something I think more Republicans should be doing): calling out those who’ve been silent about Donald Trump. 

Calling out their own terrible mistakes. Their base voters are creations of their poor decisions and those reinforced by conservative media going back to at least the 1980s. It has bread, in reaction, figures in the Republican party who’ve stuck their heads in the sand. The crime is that their leadership is what is needed to change the Republicans party, to pull it back from the brink, and they are to this point incapable of finding the courage to do the right thing.

Adam notes that him and others, like Liz Cheney cannot do this alone, a majority is needed. They can speak out, but if more do not join them, they are just voices in the wilderness.. 

He’s 100% right about that, a minority is never going to drag the Republican party into sanity again. It is going to be those who cower and hide and keep their mouths shut who are the real failures.

Charlie and Adam, while talking of leadership, ponder the existential question that has floated around since Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat: Is the soul of the Republican party lost? 

Both of them seem to think it is and that the fight for it’s already over. The soul is lost. 

Unfortunately, I agree because there has been nothing, no incentive for national Republican members of Congress to stand up and be anything better. On state and local levels, the party is being consumed with candidates who are leaning into the crazy and madness brought on by Trumpism.

I’ve sadly seen it in people I grew up around. My hometown and many in it were always “conservative” but still good people. An undercurrent has emerged, a lot of it on social media, where I have witnessed these same people appear to have descended or be descending into a dark place filled with fear, bile, and hate. 

I honestly feel that there are two major elements at work here. One major element driving it is conservative media. The media they consume encapsulates them in a silo, a bubble, an ecosystem that feeds them things they want to hear, mainly bad things, to scare them. It is a poison. It produces constituents and voters who are inundated with lies and falsehoods that cling to them. This comes through on the second major element, where they project this poison, social media. In particular, Facebook. It is here too that such ideas and lies and misinformation, led by the algorithm, leads them to even worse lies and misinformation. It twists and deforms their souls, like the One Ring did to Smeagol to use a Lord of the Rings reference.

The greatest tragedy of all, because there are only two major national political parties in this country, is that the absence of responsible Republicans and descent of the Republican party is a potential genuine hazard for this nation. 

Obviously, more needs to be said and done on addressing this issue. Third Party? Who knows…perhaps.?

The crystal-clear bullet point of all of it is this: Trump brought nothing new to the Republican party as Charlie points out and Adam agrees, he just simply emphasized things that were already there.

There is a Point 1.2 in this, something that will continue to play out and discussed that Adam makes note: Culture war tactics are running on hyperdrive these days. 

Thanks to social media perhaps, but Adam Kinzinger made it clear that this approach is dangerous and that culture war tactics will eventually destroy the Republican party and the nation itself if they are not willing to back off.

2. What’s the matter with Evangelicals?

A big bombshell in the conversation for me came when Adam Kinzinger stated that he considers himself a protestant Christian but no longer called himself an evangelical. 


Because the evangelical church has become, and this refers back to the guest on Tuesday’s episode when Charlie spoke to Peter Wehner who had just posted an article in The Atlantic about the decline of the evangelical church, a shell of itself. 

Adam Kinzinger’s distancing of himself from that phrase is telling because what Wehner wrote about in the ways that, and this has a connection to their near blind allegiance to Donald Trump who is very much not a “Christian”, the evangelical movement has gone astray. 

It has really lost its way from being a Church centered on Jesus. It has become instead, in my own view and loosely barrowing from Wehner, a social club for reinforcing one’s world views and joining with other like-minded thinkers instead of devotion to following the teaching of Christ. 

Evangelicals seem to be more into trying to reinvent away from Christ from a pacifist who died for our sins into some strange symbol of uber-masculinity where he is a stereotype for pop culture figures like Rambo and others who have no problem is violence (the opposite of who he is and what he taught). In this recasting, Trump can fit right in. 

There is much more here to unpack, but Charlie, Adam, and Peter Wehner all recognize that something has be done. In comic book parlance, it is like an attempt to retcon Jesus from his core essence to his very physical appearance. The worst part of it is the warping of his essence into something awful. 

I feel like there is more to say here and I will later but I think everyone should take a look at his Atlantic article, “The Evangelical Church is Breaking Apart: Christians Must Reclaim Jesus from His Church,” again.

I have linked  it HERE. 

I plan to reread it myself some more, perhaps do a write up on it as well.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. I plan to post again on Sunday where I will comment on Charlie’s Friday podcast.

All for now.

J C Evans


The Bulwark Podcast: “Adam Kinzinger: What Comes Next?”

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