Reince Priebus, Trump’s former chief of staff, lasted only six months before he was fired. But the man who bragged about taking down Priebus got a mere ten days as the most profane White House spokesman in the history of the Republic. “The Mooch” only got about forty-eight hours to gloat about “cock-blocking” his rival, before he too bit the dust.
Washington politicos are pumping out high-minded analysis about the clash between “establishment” Republicans, represented by Priebus, and the visigoths who swept into office with Trump.
But the poisonous political atmosphere emanating from the Trump presidency won’t clear up any time soon. Don’t count on new chief of staff John Kelly—who made his name treating immigrant workers like criminals and deploying thugs in ICE uniforms to terrify Latina grandmothers—to fix the Trump mess.
The chaos goes all the way to the top. And it will undoubtedly continue.
Certainly, the arrival of “the Mooch” and his foul-mouthed rants was a fascinating chapter in the disastrous Trump regime. It caused Washington political analysts to express disbelief, as they have been doing since Trump won his party’s nomination, became President, and then continued to be Trump. The Mooch caused them to wonder afresh: What is going on? How can this be happening?
“The simplest explanation is a there are a lot of drugs being used,” says former Democratic Party of Wisconsin communication director Graeme Zielinski. “I think there is probably a pile of cocaine and big bottle of scotch back there. There is no coherent pattern.”
“The simplest explanation is a there are a lot of drugs being used.”
Zielinski, who was pushed out of his job after making impolitic comments comparing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to noted Wisconsin cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, was always popular with reporters. He gave great quotes, he knew a lot, but his impolitic remarks seem positively quaint in the Trump era.
Zielinski also emphasizes the deliberate destruction of civility and civil society by Republicans—not just by the colorful characters, Trump and the Mooch—but also by low-key money man Reince Priebus.
Priebus played a key role in the rise of Wisconsin’s “divide and conquer” politics, based on nurturing deep racial antagonisms and making explicit attacks on teachers and other public employees the norm.
“Wisconsin was Trump before Trump,” Zielinski notes.
Back in the era of country-club Republican governors Tommy Thompson and Lee Dreyfus, the Wisconsin Republicans did not devote itself to targeting labor unions, slashing public school funding, stirring up racial resentment, or preventing poor people, black people, and students from voting, the way it did after Reince Priebus became state party chair.
Priebus nurtured that style of politics as practiced by divisive governor Scott Walker, and ushered Wisconsin into a new, mean Walker era. When he went on to become chairman of the Republican National Committee, Priebus and his close friend House Speaker Paul Ryan, took “Wisconsin mean” to the national level.
Priebus served as a conduit for the massive influx of cash from the Koch brothers, the rightwing Bradley Foundation, and various far-flung billionaires into statewide elections.
Priebus ushered Wisconsin into a new, mean Walker era. He was, as Zielinski puts it, “one of the early trustees of the post-Citizens United hellscape.”
He was, as Zielinski puts it, “one of the early trustees of the post-Citizens United hellscape.”
That experience served him well when he moved to the helm of the national Republican Party, where he deployed his wrecking ball in the service of President Trump.
Zielinski remembers when Priebus first bragged about dumping $300,000—a previously outlandish sum—into the race to defeat Wisconsin’s Democratic senate majority leader Russ Decker. It was the beginning of the flood-of-cash approach to politics that helped remake the state and the country.
“He killed the whole Democratic bench,” Zielinski recalls. “He surgically beheaded every viable Democrat. He is totally cynical and evil. And he is really good at it.
One of Priebus’s key qualifications was the role he played in voter suppression in Wisconsin.
The group One Wisconsin Now put out a press release shortly after Trump was elected, pointing out that, while white nationalistTrump advisor Stephen Bannon caused an uproard when he moved into the White House, Trump’s selection of Reince Priebus as his chief of staff was also a red flag.
“Throughout his tenure as a top Republican Party insider, Reince Priebus has been intimately involved in despicable efforts to silence the voices of legal voters,” One Wisconsin Now research director Jenni Dye commented.
As Republican National Committee chair, Priebus worked to secretly fund the legal defense of Wisconsin’s voter ID law. And back in 2010 he was linked to a “voter caging” plot that was used to suppress minority votes in Milwaukee precincts.
In 2008, Priebus headed up a scheme to intimidate minority voters using Republican poll-watchers.
It’s not just the crudeness and bigotry of loudmouth-in-chief Donald Trump, or his late, unlamented spokesman Anthony Scaramucci, or scary racist Steve Bannon that is destabilizing the country. The current political moment is the result of a long-term effort by Republican strategists and money men, including Reince Priebus, to destroy the foundations of our democracy for their own short-term gain.
May their careers, like their vision for life in America, be nasty, brutish, and short.