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    Your Monday Briefing: Omicron Evades Many Vaccines

    And elections in Hong Kong.Good morning. We’re covering the latest Omicron news, the Hong Kong elections and a Times investigation into civilian casualties from U.S. airstrikes.People waiting in line for AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines in Dhaka, Bangladesh.Mohammad Ponir Hossain/ReutersOmicron outstrips many vaccinesA growing body of preliminary research suggests most Covid vaccines offer almost no defense against infection from the highly contagious Omicron variant. The only vaccines that appear to be effective against infections are those made by Pfizer and Moderna, reinforced by a booster, which are not widely available around the world.Other vaccines — including those from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and vaccines manufactured in China and Russia — do little to nothing to stop the spread of Omicron, early research shows. Because most countries have built their inoculation programs around these vaccines, the gap could have a profound impact on the course of the pandemic.Still, most vaccines used worldwide do seem to offer significant protection against severe illness. And early Omicron data suggests South Africa’s hospitalizations are significantly lower in this wave.U.S.: A fourth wave has arrived, just days before Christmas. More than 125,000 Americans are testing positive every day, and hospitalizations have increased nearly 20 percent in two weeks. Only one in six Americans has received a booster shot.Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.In other developments:Some Southeast Asian tourism spots have reopened, but few foreigners are making the trip.Two lawyers and a civil rights activist are on trial in Iran after trying to sue the country’s leaders over their disastrous handling of the pandemic.The U.K. is considering a lockdown as cases skyrocket.National security organizations vetted candidates running in Sunday’s legislative elections. Billy H.C. Kwok for The New York TimesBeijing steers Hong Kong’s voteHong Kong held legislative elections this weekend, the first since Beijing imposed a drastic “patriots only” overhaul of the political system, leaving many opposition leaders in jail or in exile.Understand the Hong Kong ElectionsHong Kong’s legislative election on Dec. 19 will be the first since Beijing imposed a drastic overhaul of the island’s political system.What to Know: New electoral rules and the crackdown on the opposition have eliminated even the slightest uncertainty of previous elections.An Unpopular Leader: Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, appears to relish the new state of affairs.Seeking Legitimacy: The outcome is already determined, but the government is pressuring opposition parties to participate. A Waning Opposition: Fearing retaliation, pro-democracy politicians who had triumphed in the 2019 local elections have quit in droves.Under the overhaul, only 20 seats were directly elected by residents; the rest were chosen by industry groups or Beijing loyalists. The establishment’s near-total control of the legislature is now guaranteed, reports my colleague Austin Ramzy.Analysis: Even though the government has effectively determined the outcome of the elections, it is pressuring voters and opposition parties to participate in order to lend the vote legitimacy.Profile: Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, is the territory’s most unpopular leader ever, polls show. But Lam appears reinvigorated and is poised to seek a second term — if Beijing allows it.A 2016 airstrike aimed at an Islamic State recruiter in Iraq hit Hassan Aleiwi Muhammad Sultan, now 16 and in a wheelchair.Ivor Prickett for The New York TimesA pattern of failures A five-year Times investigation found that the American air wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan have been plagued by deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting, thousands of civilian deaths — with scant accountability.The military’s own confidential assessments, obtained by The Times, document more than 1,300 reports of civilian casualties since 2014, many of them children. The findings are a sharp contrast to the American government’s image of war waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs.The documents show, too, that despite the Pentagon’s highly codified system for examining civilian casualties, pledges of transparency and accountability have given way to opacity and impunity.Details: Here are key takeaways from the first part of the investigation. The second installment will be published in the coming days.Records: The Times obtained the records through Freedom of Information requests and lawsuits filed against the Defense Department and the U.S. Central Command. Click here to access the full trove.THE LATEST NEWSAsiaA child recovered belongings from his home, which was severely damaged by Super Typhoon Rai.Jay Labra/Associated PressOfficials now believe that more than 140 people died after a powerful typhoon struck the Philippines last week.Police in Japan identified a suspect in the Friday arson fire that killed 24 people in an office building in Osaka.U.S. Olympic leaders criticized China’s response to allegations of sexual assault from one of its star athletes, while trying not to jeopardize American athletes headed to Beijing.Marja, a district in Afghanistan, was once the center of the U.S. campaign against the Taliban. Now residents there are increasingly desperate for foreign humanitarian aid.“In my mind, I was dead,” said Ko Aung Kyaw, a journalist in Myanmar who said he was tortured by the military junta, adding: “I didn’t look like a human.”World NewsRussian troops participated in drills at a firing range last week.Associated PressRussia laid out demands for a Cold War-like security arrangement in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which were immediately rejected by NATO.Chileans began voting for president on Sunday after one of the most polarizing and acrimonious election campaigns in the country’s history.Israel is threatening to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, but experts and officials say that is beyond the capabilities of its military.The Baghdad International Book Fair drew readers from across Iraq eager to connect with the outside world through literature.What Else Is HappeningLegal and military experts are considering whether to seek a ban on killer robots, which are technically called “lethal autonomous weapons systems.”Senator Joe Manchin said he would not support President Biden’s expansive social spending bill, all but dooming the Democrats’ drive to pass it as written.Asian and Black activists in the U.S. are struggling to find common ground over policing and safety.Lawyers for Britney Spears are questioning whether her manager improperly enriched herself during the conservatorship.A Morning Read“I wanted to perform rakugo the exact same way that men do,” Niyo Katsura, right, said after winning a top award.Shiho Fukada for The New York TimesRakugo, one of Japan’s oldest and raunchiest comedic arts, has long been dominated by men. But a woman artist, Niyo Katsura, is now winning acclaim for her uncanny ability to portray a range of drunks and fools — male and female alike.ARTS AND IDEAS Clockwise from top left: Reuters, The New York Times, AFP, The New York Times, AFP, ReutersThe faces of 2021The New York Times Faces Quiz offers a chance to see how well you know some of the defining personalities of 2021. We have chosen 52. When we show you each face, you need to tell us the name. (And yes, we’re lenient on spelling.)Play it here, and see how well you do compared with other Times readers.PLAY, WATCH, EATWhat to CookChristopher Simpson for The New York TimesPernil, a pork shoulder roast from Puerto Rico that is often made for holidays or special occasions, is slow-roasted on high heat to achieve a crisp skin known as chicharrón.What to ReadHere are nine new books to peruse, which include a cultural history of seven immigrant cooks, reflections on suicide and a biography of H.G. Wells.What to WatchAn experimental Canadian drama, an Egyptian weight lifting documentary and a Chilean buddy comedy are three of five international movies available to stream this month.Now Time to PlayHere’s today’s Mini Crossword.And here is today’s Spelling Bee.You can find all our puzzles here.That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — AmeliaP.S. Carlos Tejada, The Times’s deputy Asia editor and a fierce advocate for our journalism, died on Friday of a heart attack. We will miss him.The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the next phase of the pandemic.You can reach Amelia and the team at briefing@nytimes.com. More

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    After Iraqi Election, a Shiite Leader Emerges as an Unlikely U.S. Ally

    The U.S. once threatened to kill Muqtada al-Sadr as his militia battled occupying forces. Now, the powerful cleric is helping Washington by keeping Iran at bay.BAGHDAD — Standing at a podium with an Iraqi flag by his side, the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr looked the part of a statesman as he read a postelection address.In the 18 years since he formed the Mahdi Army militia to battle occupying U.S. forces, the onetime firebrand has refined his delivery. His formal Arabic is more proficient, and his voice more assured. Looking up to address the camera, he raised a finger in emphasis in remarks carefully crafted to send messages to both the United States and Iran after his party picked up seats in last week’s parliamentary election.In 2004, as Mr. al-Sadr’s fighters took on U.S. forces with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades in Baghdad and across the southern provinces, the United States pledged to kill or capture the Shiite cleric.Next to Al Qaeda, he posed the biggest threat to the American occupation in Iraq, miring U.S. troops in fighting in the streets and alleys of Iraqi cities as the military fought both Sunni and Shiite-based insurgencies.A member of Mr. al-Sadr’s militia, the Mahdi Army,  firing a rocket-propelled grenade toward American tanks in Sadr City in 2004.Joao Silva for The New York TimesAlthough still unpredictable, the cleric is consistently an Iraqi nationalist and now seems to be emerging as an arm’s-length American ally, helping the United States by preventing Iraq from tilting further into Iran’s axis.“All embassies are welcome, as long as they do not interfere in Iraqi affairs and government formation,” Mr. al-Sadr said in a reference aimed at the United States, whose embassy was stormed two years ago by what were believed to be members of Kitaib Hezbollah, one of the biggest Iranian-backed Iraqi militias. “Iraq is for Iraqis only.”In preliminary results from last Sunday’s elections, the Sadrist Movement gained roughly 20 seats, giving it up to 73 seats in the 329-member parliament. That leaves Mr. al-Sadr with the biggest single bloc in Parliament and a decisive voice in choosing the next Iraqi prime minister.In his remarks, the cleric made a pointed reference to Iranian-backed militias, some of which have grown more powerful than Iraq’s official security forces and pose a threat to the United States in Iraq.“From now on, arms must be restricted in the hands of the state,” he said in the address, broadcast on Iraqi state television. “The use of weapons shall be prevented outside of the state’s framework.” Even for those claiming to be the “resistance” to the U.S. presence, he said, “it is time for the people to live in peace, without occupation, terrorism, militias, kidnapping and fear.”The self-styled resistance groups are the same Iranian-backed militias that launched drone and rocket attacks on the American Embassy and U.S. military bases after the U.S. killing of a leading Iranian commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, and a senior Iraqi security official in Baghdad last year.An aide to the Shiite cleric said disarming groups that are not under government control would also apply to Mr. al-Sadr’s own militia forces.“No country wants forces that are stronger than its army,” said Dhia al-Assadi, a former top official in the cleric’s political movement. He said Mr. al-Sadr would leave it to the incoming government to decide whether U.S. forces should remain in Iraq.The United States has agreed to withdraw all combat troops from the country by Dec. 31, although Washington does not consider its troops there currently to be on a combat mission. Under that agreement, the number of U.S. forces — about 2,000 in Iraq at Baghdad’s invitation — is expected to remain the same.American troops fought the Mahdi Army in Najaf in 2004 on a mission to capture or kill the cleric. Then U.S. officials changed their minds. Tyler Hicks/The New York Times“That is labeling or classifying the troops as trainers and not fighters,” said Mr. al-Assadi, who served as the head of Mr. al-Sadr’s former Ahrar political bloc. “The decision should be revisited again and decided by Parliament and the government.”Mr. al-Assadi said he does not foresee any change in an existing ban on senior officials of the Sadrist Movement from meeting with U.S. or British officials.Once a fierce sectarian defender of Iraq’s Shiite majority, Mr. al-Sadr has expanded his reach in recent years, reaching out to Sunnis, Christians and other minorities. After telling his followers to protect Christians, young men from Mr. Sadr’s stronghold in the mostly Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad’s Sadr City began wearing large crosses around their necks in a sign of solidarity. In a previous election, the Sadrists formed an alliance with the Communist Party, which is officially atheist.Externally, he has fostered relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates at a time when those countries’ Sunni Arab rulers were hostile to Iraq’s Shiite-led government. Domestically, one of his main demands is to clean up Iraq’s dysfunctional and deeply corrupt political system, which appoints people to senior government posts on the basis of party loyalty rather than competence.“He has grown and evolved,” said Nabeel Khoury, a former U.S. State Department official who served in Iraq in 2003. “But I think to some extent we underestimated him in the very beginning.”Mr. Khoury said that he was approached in 2003 by Mr. al-Sadr’s aides as Iraq’s first governing council was being decided.“We had coffee, we talked and they said Sadr was interested in playing a political role,” said Mr. Khoury, a fellow at the Atlantic Council. But Iraqi political figures who had returned from exile did not want Mr. al-Sadr involved, Mr. Khoury said, and the United States followed their counsel.A few months later, the cleric formed his Mahdi Army militia to fight occupying troops.When U.S. forces had an opportunity to kill Mr. al-Sadr during a battle in Najaf, Washington told them to stand down, also on the advice of the Iraqi expatriate politicians, said Mr. Khoury, adding: “They knew if Sadr was killed it would become a big problem for them.”Mr. al-Sadr, 47, is the youngest son of a revered cleric, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, who was assassinated by Saddam Hussein in 1999 after demanding religious freedom for Iraq’s Shiites. The Sadr family commands the loyalty of millions, many of them poor and disposed, most of whom believe his election win was ordained by God.Mr. al-Sadr at the podium. Once a firebrand enemy of the U.S., he has adopted a more conciliatory stance, emerging as an arm’s-length ally of Washington and one of the country’s major political players.Alaa Al-Marjani/ReutersIn Sadr City, the Sadrist organization provides food, support for orphans and widows and many other services the Iraqi government fails to deliver.“He would like to achieve certain objectives, and the main objective is social justice,” said Mr. al-Assadi of the cleric’s aims. He likened Mr. al-Sadr’s goals to those of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Ghandi.But unlike the Black civil rights leader or India’s pacifist icon, Mr. al-Sadr has overseen an armed militia that has waxed and waned but never entirely gone away.The Mahdi Army has been blamed for fueling Iraq’s past sectarian violence. As it battled with Sunni fighters of Al Qaeda for supremacy in Iraq between 2006 and 2008, Mr. al-Sadr’s fighters were accused of running death squads and conducting sectarian cleansings of Baghdad neighborhoods.Mr. al-Sadr has said that not all the fighters were under his control.In 2008, after losing a fight with Iraqi government forces for control of Basra, Mr. al-Sadr — who lacks the religious credentials of his father — abruptly left for Iran to pursue his theological studies.Yet he has long had an uneasy relationship with Tehran, and while he cannot afford to antagonize its leaders, he advocates an Iraq free of both Iranian and American influence.“I think he has his own space in which he walks, and his base is not dictated by any country, especially not the Iranians,” said Elie Abouaoun, a director at the United States Institute of Peace, a U.S. government-funded think tank. “I think that he is much less sectarian than many, many others because he has a nationalist vision of Iraq.” More

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    To Save His Presidency, Biden Must Tell the Truth About Afghanistan

    For days now, the news media has likened the chaotic end of our misadventure in Afghanistan, and the awful images of terrified people scrambling onto planes at the Kabul airport, to the final exit from South Vietnam. The comparison is overdrawn; the last American combat troops left Indochina two years before the collapse of the Saigon government.But there is at least one potential parallel between the two conflicts that should have President Biden worried: The last time a war blew up in the face of a Democratic president, it derailed his domestic agenda and stalled the most ambitious social reforms of a generation.To be sure, domestic political concerns should not overshadow the immediate urgency of getting all Americans and the Afghans who worked for them out of Afghanistan. But history shows how adversity abroad has often led to trouble for the governing party back home. Mr. Biden may not be able to save his ambitious legislative agenda unless he understands that lesson from the past.In 1964, Lyndon Johnson and his fellow Democrats secured crushing majorities that enabled them to enact a flurry of landmark legislation: the Voting Rights Act, the bill establishing Medicare and Medicaid, an overhaul of immigration law. It is a feat Mr. Biden and progressive Democrats in Congress today would dearly like to emulate.But Johnson’s decision early in 1965 to send thousands of troops to combat the Vietcong soon halted the momentum of his Great Society agenda and put Democrats on the defensive. A year later, as the war dragged on and protests mounted, Johnson’s approval rating dipped below 50 percent. In the midterm contests of 1966, the Republican Party picked up 47 seats in the House, and Democratic governors in eight states were replaced by Republicans — one of them a former actor in California named Ronald Reagan. By 1968, Republicans had taken back the White House, and Democrats never achieved a progressive policy agenda as far-reaching again.Joe Biden bears far less responsibility for the defeat in Afghanistan than Lyndon Johnson did for the debacle in Indochina. As Mr. Biden mentioned in his address to the nation on Monday, as vice president, he opposed the troop surge ordered by Barack Obama in 2009. He can also claim that he was merely carrying out an agreement Donald Trump signed last year.Furthermore, unlike the Vietnam War, which provoked a long, scorching debate that divided the country far more bitterly and profoundly than the more limited, if longer, battle with the Taliban ever did, this conflict could soon be forgotten. As the public’s attention shifts away from Afghanistan, Mr. Biden’s decision may seem less like a failure and more like a sober, even necessary end to a policy that was doomed from the start.Yet the president and his fellow Democrats face a political environment so daunting that even the slightest disruption could derail their domestic agenda. Even before the Afghan crisis, they needed the vote of every senator from their party to enact their budget blueprint, and Mr. Biden has never had the sky-high approval ratings that allowed Johnson to rule Congress with an iron fist. This week, for the first time, his rating dipped into the 40s. Whatever they manage to accomplish in Congress, Democrats could easily lose their narrow control of both houses in the next midterm elections, especially if Republicans effectively inflame fears about Afghan refugees being resettled in this country.The United States has not had a true majority party for 50 years, and that stalemate, with the enduringly fierce partisanship it engenders, is unlikely to end soon. To pass the big reforms he wants, Mr. Biden will need to describe what he did to end this war better than Johnson explained why he dispatched troops to meddle in another civil conflict in a nation thousands of miles from their homeland.President Lyndon Johnson with Gen. William Westmoreland in South Vietnam in 1967. The Vietnam War derailed Johnson’s domestic agenda.Yoichi Okamoto/LBJ LibraryTwo lessons from Johnson’s downfall are paramount. First, tell the truth, even if it makes you look bad, temporarily. The 1971 release of the Pentagon Papers demonstrated that Johnson lied continually when he lauded the progress the United States and its South Vietnamese allies were supposedly making. By 1966, the press was accusing the administration of creating a credibility gap that only yawned wider as the conflict escalated.All presidents lie at times, but those who admit mistakes, particularly obvious ones, can retain their popularity. This happened to John F. Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961 and to Bill Clinton when he acknowledged his affair with Monica Lewinsky in 1998 (although he benefited more from the Republicans’ failed attempt to throw him out of office).Mr. Biden made a decent start at such truth-telling during his speech this week. But he should give a fuller explanation of why his administration failed to prepare for a Taliban victory that, according to years of intelligence reports, was quite likely.Second, keep the coalition that elected you united in its response to the crisis. Though Johnson had a reputation as a masterful politician, he became despised by millions of his fellow Democrats because of his Vietnam policy. If Democrats in Congress follow through on their vows to carry out extensive hearings into the collapse of the Afghan government, they could provoke a similar intraparty battle.But the president may be able to stave off that kind of public bickering. If he chooses to declassify whatever vital documents exist, in an attempt to convince his Democratic critics that he is serious about revealing why his exit strategy went wrong, it may dissuade them from engaging in their own lengthy investigation.The defeat in Afghanistan, like the one in Vietnam, was a long time coming. Democrats can take steps to prevent such interventions. But if they repeat the errors of their predecessors in the 1960s, they may secure the triumph of an opposition party whose leaders have not stopped lying about the election that drove them from power.Michael Kazin (@mkazin), a professor of history at Georgetown University, is the author of the forthcoming book “What It Took to Win: A History of the Democratic Party.”The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

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    Can the Black Rifle Coffee Company Become the Starbucks of the Right?

    Listen to This ArticleAudio Recording by AudmTo hear more audio stories from publications like The New York Times, download Audm for iPhone or Android.Like most Americans, Evan Hafer experienced the Jan. 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol from a distance, watching it unfold on his television and his iPhone from Salt Lake City. What he saw did not surprise him. Hafer, who is 44, voted for Donald Trump. He was even open at first to the possibility that Trump’s claims of sweeping voter fraud were legitimate, until William Barr, Trump’s attorney general, declared in early December that he could find no evidence that such fraud occurred. Still, Hafer told me recently, “you’re told by the commander in chief for months that the election was stolen, so you’re going to have a group of people that are really pissed.” While he disapproved of those who stormed the Capitol, he didn’t believe that they or their actions constituted a real threat to the republic. “I’ve seen an insurrection,” said Hafer, a former Green Beret and C.I.A. contractor who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. “I know what that looks like.”But Hafer’s distance from the incident collapsed that same afternoon, when he was alerted to a picture taken by a Getty photographer in the Senate chamber that immediately went viral. The photo showed a masked man vaulting over a banister holding several sets of plastic restraints, an apparent sign that the insurrectionists planned to take lawmakers hostage. The unidentified man, soon dubbed “zip-tie guy,” was dressed in a tactical vest, carried a Taser and wore a baseball hat with an image of an assault rifle silhouetted against an American flag — a design sold by the Black Rifle Coffee Company, of which Hafer is the chief executive. “I was like, Oh, [expletive],” he recalled. “Here we go again.”Hafer in the gym and archery area at the company’s Salt Lake City offices.Eli Durst for The New York TimesBlack Rifle was founded in 2014 by Hafer and two fellow veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and who were enthusiastic enlistees in America’s culture wars too. The company billed itself as pro-military, pro-law enforcement and “anti-hipster.” Early customers could download a shooting target from the company’s Facebook page that featured a bowtied man with a handlebar mustache. Its early coffees included the Silencer Smooth roast and the AK-47 Espresso blend. During Trump’s presidency, Black Rifle’s gleeful provocations grew more directly political. It endorsed Trump’s Muslim ban and bought Google ads based on searches for “Covfefe.” (“They should be running Trump’s comms shop,” the alt-right conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec wrote in a tweet praising the Google maneuver.) Before long, Black Rifle became the unofficial coffee of the MAGA universe, winning public endorsements from Sean Hannity and Donald Trump Jr.J.J. MacNab, a fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, noted that Black Rifle apparel was a recurring feature in footage of last summer’s anti-lockdown and anti-Black Lives Matter demonstrations in various states. When Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager who is charged in the fatal shootings of two people at a B.L.M. protest last August in Kenosha, Wis., was released on $2 million bail in November, his first post-jail photo showed him wearing a Black Rifle T-shirt. (Rittenhouse used a black Smith & Wesson AR-15-style rifle in the shootings.) Elijah Schaffer, a reporter and host for Glenn Beck’s Blaze Media, whose “Slightly Offensive” podcast was sponsored at the time by Black Rifle, tweeted the picture with the message “Kyle Rittenhouse drinks the best coffee in America” and a promotional code for Black Rifle’s website.In this context, the appearance of Black Rifle merchandise at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was not exactly shocking. Nevertheless, Mat Best, the company’s 34-year-old executive vice president, insists that Black Rifle was singled out unfairly. “Every brand, name the brand, it was probably there: Walmart jeans, Nike shoes,” he said. “And then it’s like one patch from our company. There’s certain terrorist organizations that wear American brands when they go behead Americans. Do you think they want to be a part of that? And I’m not drawing a parallel between the two. I’m just simply saying there are things in business, when you grow, that are completely outside your control.”It was several months after Jan. 6, and Best and Hafer were revisiting the episode in Black Rifle’s offices in Salt Lake City — a converted warehouse with a lot of black metal and reclaimed wood, as well as concrete floors stained in a swirly light-brown pattern that Hafer calls “spilt latte.” Best, a former Army Ranger who stands over six feet and has the physique of an Ultimate Fighting Championship contender, recalled the initial internet rumors that he himself was “zip-tie guy,” who was later identified as a considerably smaller man named Eric Munchel, a 30-year-old Tennessean recently employed by a Kid Rock-themed bar and restaurant in Nashville. “I was like, ‘That guy’s a buck forty and five-seven!’” Best said in mock umbrage.Eric Munchel, Kyle Rittenhouse and Eddie Gallagher have all worn Black Rifle apparel.Win McNamee/Getty Images; screen grab from Twitter; screen grab from YouTube.Hafer, who is of far more relatable stature (Best likened him to Rocket, the genetically enhanced raccoon in the Marvel cinematic universe), was more offended by the continued identification of Munchel with Black Rifle. This link was advanced not just by headlines — “Man at Capitol Riots Seen With Coffee Company Hat On” — but also by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In identifying “zip-tie guy” as Munchel, agents used his affection for Black Rifle as a crucial clue. Security-camera footage from a Washington hotel on Jan. 6 showed Munchel wearing the Black Rifle hat. A photograph on Facebook from September showed Munchel at a political rally in Nashville, draped in an American flag and again wearing the hat. And there was another Facebook photo of him holding a shotgun in front of a television tuned to a Fox News broadcast of a Trump appearance, with a Black Rifle hat visible on a nearby desk. In the 13-page affidavit the bureau filed in support of Munchel’s arrest, the words “handgun” and “shotgun” appear once, “Trump” twice, “Taser” three times and “Black Rifle Coffee Company” four times.“I would never want my brand to be represented in that way, shape or form,” Hafer said, “because that’s not me.” And yet Black Rifle has made conspicuously little public effort to separate itself from Munchel. This is a sharp departure from its handling of the Rittenhouse incident: Following pressure from the company, Schaffer deleted his tweets, and Hafer released a video statement in which he clarified that while Black Rifle believed “in the Constitution, the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms,” and “that a person is innocent until proven guilty,” the company didn’t sponsor Rittenhouse; “we’re not in the business of profiting from tragedy.”The limited disavowal triggered fury on the right. “The people that run Black Rifle Coffee are no different than most scammers involved in the conservative grift,” Nick Fuentes, a prominent white-nationalist activist, wrote on Twitter. “They’re giant douche bag posers in flip flops and baseball caps. When push comes to shove they are [expletive] liberals.” Hafer, who is Jewish, was bombarded on social media with anti-Semitic attacks. He estimates that the Rittenhouse episode cost the company between 3,000 and 6,000 subscribers to its various online coffee clubs. Black Rifle was caught off-guard by the backlash, and when the F.B.I. identified Munchel, the company said nothing at all.The coffee company “is much bigger,” Hafer insisted, than “a hat in the [expletive] Capitol.” But the uncomfortable truth remained: that someone like Munchel would have thought to wear the company’s hat to the Capitol was a large part of how Black Rifle had gotten so big in the first place. This was the dilemma in which Black Rifle now found itself. “How do you build a cool, kind of irreverent, pro-Second Amendment, pro-America brand in the MAGA era,” Hafer wondered aloud, “without doubling down on the MAGA movement and also not being called a [expletive] RINO by the MAGA guys?”The original Black Rifle coffee roaster is still in operation in Salt Lake City.Eli Durst for The New York TimesAn employee tending to embroidery machines producing Black Rifle hats.Eli Durst for The New York TimesUntil very recently, most companies did everything they could to keep their brands free of political associations. This is not to say they avoided politics, of course: Corporations and business associations hired lobbyists and made political contributions in order to guarantee favorable treatment from public officials. But this was typically done behind a scrim of private meetings and campaign-finance reports, and while the business community’s own politics might have tended toward chamber-of-commerce conservatism, the lobbying and giving were usually calculatedly bipartisan. There have always been firms — oil companies, defense contractors — whose work inevitably placed them in the political conversation, but for most, trying to stay neutral made economic sense.A sign that this conventional wisdom was changing came five years ago, after North Carolina’s Republican-led Legislature passed a law prohibiting transgender individuals from using public restrooms that match their gender identity. Social conservatives blithely assumed the state’s business community would have no objections to “the bathroom bill.” But by the turn of this century, North Carolina’s big money had shifted from textiles in Greensboro and tobacco in Winston-Salem to the financial center of Charlotte and the pharmaceutical and technology hub of Raleigh. The gravitational pull of those inherently more liberal industries and cities was profound. Bank of America (based in Charlotte), Pfizer (which has a manufacturing facility in Rocky Mount), Facebook and Apple (both of which have large data centers in the state), as well as some 200 other major corporations, publicly called on Gov. Pat McCrory to repeal the law. When he didn’t, the business community contributed fulsomely to the campaign of his Democratic rival, Roy Cooper, who defeated him in 2016.Trump’s election that same year and the broader transformation of Republican politics that accompanied it seemed to further divide corporate America and the Republican Party. Although corporations didn’t necessarily reduce their political contributions to the G.O.P., they sought greater public distance. In 2017, the chief executives of J.P. Morgan Chase, Johnson & Johnson, General Electric and other major firms resigned from the White House’s business advisory councils to protest Trump’s remarks blaming “both sides” for violence at a deadly white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. This year, after Georgia’s Republican-led Legislature and Republican governor enacted a restrictive new voting law, the chief executives of the Georgia-headquartered Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines publicly denounced the law and Major League Baseball moved its 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver. The Texas-based American Airlines and Dell have announced their opposition to new restrictive voting laws enacted by that state’s Republican-led Legislature and governor as well.These corporations often made these political stands defensively, in the face of pressure from activist groups threatening protests and boycotts or from their employees. But other major companies have recently wagered that taking political stances of their own volition is good business. In 2018, Nike built an advertising campaign around Colin Kaepernick, who was driven out of the National Football League the previous year for taking a knee in solidarity with Black Lives Matter during the playing of the pregame national anthem. During last summer’s nationwide protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd, YouTube, Procter & Gamble and even NASCAR produced racial-justice TV ads. “There’s an imperfect line between what’s political and what’s cultural these days,” says Steve Callander, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “Companies definitely want to tap into cultural trends, because that’s how you connect with your customers.” In a 2019 survey of more than 1,500 U.S. consumers by the social-media management firm Sprout Social, 70 percent of them said they found it important for brands to take a public stand on sociopolitical issues.More often than not, companies are aligning themselves with liberal causes — not necessarily for ideological reasons but for business ones. “The marketplace skews younger,” Callander notes, “and that’s a big difference with the electorate, which skews older.” But the rise of “woke capitalism,” as the New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has called it, has also created a business opportunity for companies that explicitly cast themselves in opposition to the new liberal corporate consensus. American consumers who are alienated by pro-immigration and anti-gun-control messages from the likes of Walmart and Hertz — call these consumers woke capitalism’s discontents — need to shop somewhere. And they also need to get their caffeine fix.In the art department at the Black Rifle offices in Salt Lake City.Eli Durst for The New York TimesEli Durst for The New York TimesEli Durst for The New York TimesIn retrospect, the market opportunity that Black Rifle sought to exploit when it started in 2014 seems blindingly obvious. Over the preceding two decades, Starbucks had made espresso drinks and specialty roasts as ubiquitous in America as McDonald’s, in part by wrapping them up inside an aspirational lifestyle brand: a deracinated, mass-market version of the Seattle cultural aesthetic of the 1990s. This aesthetic was implicitly liberal, urban, cosmopolitan and mildly pretentious — the grist for thousands of talk-radio rants about “latte liberals.” Now that Starbucks is a mass-market behemoth, with over 15,000 stores in the U.S., it has lost some of these associations, but not all of them. And Starbucks has been so successful at creating a multibillion-dollar market for specialty coffee in the United States that there are now most likely millions of latte drinkers who are not latte liberals.Black Rifle, too, presents itself as a lifestyle brand, with its hats, T-shirts and other flag-and-firearm-bedecked merchandise accounting for more than 15 percent of the company’s 2020 sales. At times, Black Rifle has explicitly presented itself as a troll-y, Trump-y alternative to the Seattle giant. When Starbucks pledged to hire 10,000 refugees to protest Trump’s 2017 executive order banning visas to applicants from seven countries, most of whose populations were majority Muslim, Black Rifle created a social-media meme with Starbucks cups Photoshopped alongside ISIS fighters. In 2019, after an Oklahoma police officer posted a photo on Facebook of a Starbucks cup that a barista had labeled “pig,” Best appeared on “Fox & Friends,” the Trump-beloved talk show, to announce that Black Rifle was giving the officer and his department “enough coffee so they’ll never have to go to a Starbucks again,” as the host Ainsley Earhardt told viewers. “I want people who voted for Trump to know that there is another option for you,” Hafer said in the midst of the feud he orchestrated. “Howard Schultz doesn’t want your business. I do.” (Black Rifle similarly secured Sean Hannity’s endorsement in 2017 shortly after the coffee company Keurig pulled its ads from his show to protest his defense of Roy Moore, a Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, in the face of sexual misconduct allegations against Moore involving teenage girls.)Black Rifle’s executives intend for this sort of provocation to be the basis for the expansion of a brand that, while not the size of Starbucks, could achieve its own kind of red-state ubiquity. In 2015, the company’s revenue was $1 million. By 2019, that figure had grown to $82 million. Last year, the company did $163 million in sales. For most of its existence, Black Rifle has been a “direct to consumer” operation, selling its coffee and merchandise primarily through its website. The company opened its first brick-and-mortar store in San Antonio last fall; others are open or under construction in Montana, Oklahoma and Tennessee, with plans to have 15 in operation by the end of this year and 35 by the end of 2022. Black Rifle has also struck a deal with Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s — which already sell Black Rifle coffee beans and merchandise — to operate Black Rifle cafes in some of their stores. (“Their brand is very popular with our customers,” a Bass Pro Shops spokeswoman said.)Tom Davin, a former executive at Taco Bell and Panda Express who two years ago became Black Rifle’s co-chief executive, says: “Our customer is driving a tricked-out Ford F-150. It’s blue-collar, above-average income, some college-educated, some self-made-type people. It’s people who shop at Walmart rather than Target.” Hafer put it more bluntly in a 2017 interview with Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business: “Progressives hate me, and conservatives love me.”Merchandise at a Black Rifle coffee shop.Eli Durst for The New York TimesLucas O’Hara runs his blacksmithing business out of Black Rifle’s offices in Salt Lake City.Eli Durst for The New York TimesEli Durst for The New York TimesIn April, Hafer traveled to Clarksville, Tenn., where Black Rifle’s second store was scheduled to open the next week on Wilma Rudolph Boulevard, a road just outside Fort Campbell clogged with fast-food restaurants and car dealerships. Baristas in training huddled behind the bar learning how to make drinks, while a giant TV played a slow-motion video of a bullet ripping through a coffee bag and flashed the message “PREMIUM ROASTED COFFEE FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE AMERICA.”Hafer was conducting a final pre-opening inspection. As he marched around the store, snapping occasional pictures with a Leica that hung from a strap around his neck, he drew up a punch list that his assistant typed into an iPad. The display of coffee mugs designed to look like grenades in the merchandise section was too cluttered. The big empty space above the faux fireplace rankled him. “I’ll send an elk head out,” he said. The bottles of Torani flavored syrup needed to be hidden from view, or the syrup needed to be decanted into Black Rifle-branded bottles. “It should be Black Rifle with Black Rifle all the way through,” Hafer instructed. “There should be zero other exterior branding for anything else.”Hafer grew up in Idaho in a family of loggers. He joined the National Guard before attending the University of Idaho and left school in 1999, just shy of graduation, to join the Army. In 2000, he became a Green Beret. For the next 14 years, first as a Special Forces soldier and then as a C.I.A. contractor, he went on more than 40 deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, the Philippines and elsewhere. By 2013, he was running a C.I.A. program in Kabul, divorced from his first wife and disgruntled with American foreign policy. He concluded that the war there wasn’t being waged to defend the United States or promote democracy; rather, it was about enriching “the military industrial complex with the largest transfer of taxpayer wealth in American history.” The C.I.A. did not renew his contract the following year.Back in the United States, newly remarried and with a baby on the way, Hafer searched for a place in civilian life. He connected with Best, whom he knew from the C.I.A.-contractor world. While still a contractor, Best started making bro-ish videos poking fun at military life — blowing up a giant pink teddy bear with Tannerite, for instance — and posting them to Facebook and YouTube. They caught the eye of Jarred Taylor, an Air Force staff sergeant stationed in El Paso who had a video-production company. Taylor helped Best put out a more polished product, with more guns and more women in bikinis. Before long, Best was an internet celebrity in military circles, with over a million subscribers to his YouTube channel. He and Taylor started a military-themed T-shirt company called Article 15, after the provision in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that governs minor disciplinary matters. Their shirts featured designs like a machine-gun-toting Smokey Bear (“Only You Can Prevent Terrorism”). It did more than $1 million in sales its first year.Although Article 15 ended up grossing nearly $4 million by its third year, Best and Taylor realized that it could make only so much money. “People don’t need to buy a T-shirt every week,” Taylor says. Partnering with Hafer, they set about trying to better tap the market they had found.That market included not just military veterans but, perhaps more important, nonveterans who wanted to emulate them. Before the Sept. 11 attacks, Americans who viewed the military as an aspirational lifestyle, as opposed to a professional career or a patriotic duty, were a distinctly marginal subculture, relegated to an olive-drab world of surplus stores and Soldier of Fortune subscriptions. But that changed as veterans began cycling back from Afghanistan and Iraq to a country that — while mostly removed from (and oftentimes painfully oblivious to) the realities of their service — generally admired them and, in some cases, wanted to live vicariously through their experiences. This was especially true of the elite Special Operations personnel who have assumed an outsize role in the post-Sept. 11 wars.‘I hate racist, Proud Boy-ish people. Like, I’ll pay them to leave my customer base.’The fascination with, and romanticization of, Special Operations gave us video games like the later installments in the Call of Duty franchise, movies like “Lone Survivor” and a sagging shelf of Navy SEAL memoirs. It also gave rise to an entire industry retrofitting “operator culture” as a lifestyle. There’s Grunt Style, a popular clothing brand founded by a former Army drill sergeant that sells camouflage polyester shorts (“Ranger Panties”) and T-shirts with a variety of skull- and ammunition-centric designs. The apparel company 5.11, which manufactured specialty pants for rock climbers, started going by the name 5.11 Tactical in 2003 and soon began selling T-shirts with twin underarm pockets (“a quick, comfortable and covert solution for concealed-carry wear”) and “active-shooter response” bags specially designed to carry assault-rifle magazines. It now has 85 retail stores in 27 states. (Before becoming Black Rifle’s co-chief executive, Tom Davin ran 5.11.) And of course, there are the gun manufacturers, firing ranges and shooting instructors that cater to people who don’t fancy themselves hunters, target shooters or conventional home defenders, as most gun owners once did, but as commandos preparing for theoretical war.Aspirational brands like Stetson and Breitling sell inclusivity as exclusivity: They are nominally pitched to a romanticized elite — the rugged frontiersman, the dashing yachtsman — but the real money is in peddling the promise of access to that elite to everyone else. The target market for high-end carbon-steel survival knives includes the 7 percent of American adults who served in the military. But it also includes the broader population of web developers and program managers who are unlikely to encounter physical danger in their daily lives but who sport Ranger beards or sleeve tattoos and talk about their “everyday carry.” As a Grunt Style motto puts it, “You don’t have to be a veteran to wear Grunt Style, but you do have to love freedom, bacon and whiskey.”Best had made fun of this market in his videos: “Now that we’ve got the superfitted Under Armour shirt and a little operator hat, we need to put on a beard and some body armor,” he said in a 2013 video called “How to Be an Operator.” Still, he, Hafer and Taylor tried to come up with products that would appeal to it. There was ReadyMan, a survivalist outfit that hawked custom tools (tomahawks, tourniquets, AR-15 cleaning cards) and training in “time-tested man skills,” but sales were modest. A crowdfunding website called TwistRate, which was targeted at military and law-enforcement members with entrepreneurial ideas for tactical firearms that Kickstarter wouldn’t host, eventually went out of business. Their whiskey, Leadslingers, seemed as though it would be a lot of fun, until they realized all the regulatory headaches that come with alcohol distribution. (The podcast they used to promote it, “Drinkin’ Bros,” was more successful.) They even made a feature film, partnering with the military-apparel company Ranger Up on a zombie comedy titled “Range 15.” They cast themselves but paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for appearances from the likes of Sean Astin, William Shatner and Danny Trejo — spending about $1.5 million (much of it raised through crowdfunding) to make a movie that brought in just over $600,000 at the box office.It was Hafer who stumbled into the gold mine. Best and Taylor didn’t know Folgers instant from Blue Bottle espresso, but Hafer was a genuine coffee nerd; when he deployed overseas, he brought along his own pour-over apparatus and beans he had roasted himself. For a Black Friday promotion for Article 15 in 2014, he roasted 500 pounds — on a one-pound roaster in his garage — of a blend that he and his business partners called Dark Roasted Freedom. Taylor made an ad for the coffee titled “Grinch vs. Operators” in which he, Best, Hafer and some of their friends, on orders from Santa, hunt down and execute a keffiyeh-clad Grinch. They sold 300 bags in the first five days.The seeds of Black Rifle’s success — good coffee and superior memecraft — were planted. Soon Black Rifle was its own stand-alone company, and Best, Hafer and Taylor shuttered or pulled back from their other business ventures. Sure, they rolled their eyes about the commodification of operator culture. But they knew a business opportunity when they saw one. If the people wanted a “tactical caffeine delivery system,” as a Military.com writer later referred to Black Rifle, they would give it to them.Best (center) and the comedian Caleb Francis recording a video for social media.Eli Durst for The New York TimesIsaac Aleman Jr. (center) instructing Black Rifle employees in archery.Eli Durst for The New York TimesAppearing on “Fox & Friends” in 2017 to respond to Starbucks’s pledge to hire 10,000 refugees, Hafer announced that Black Rifle intended to hire 10,000 veterans. Coming from the chief executive of a company that, at the time, had about 50 employees, this was a transparent publicity stunt. Nonetheless, as Black Rifle has grown, it has stayed true to the spirit of Hafer’s promise. Black Rifle says that more than half of its 550 current employees are veterans, reservists or military spouses; they work in roles from forklift operators to baristas to senior executives.Sometimes it seems as if Hafer and his partners invent jobs at Black Rifle for veterans to do. A former Green Beret medic helps Black Rifle with events and outreach and was recently made the director of its newly formed charity organization. Four years ago, Black Rifle received a Facebook message from an Afghan Army veteran with whom Hafer once served; he wrote that he was now working at a gas station and living with his family in public housing in Charlottesville. “We honestly assumed he was dead,” Hafer says. Black Rifle found a home for the man and his family in Utah, and he now does building and grounds maintenance at the company’s Salt Lake City offices. At those offices, I met a quiet, haunted-seeming man who had been a C.I.A.-contractor colleague of Hafer’s and who, for a time, lived in a trailer he parked on the office grounds. Later, I asked Hafer what, exactly, the man did for Black Rifle. “He just gets better,” Hafer replied. “He gets better.”This spring, Black Rifle hosted an archery competition for a few dozen disabled veterans and a few dozen of its employees (some one and the same) on a 1,200-acre ranch it leases north of San Antonio, where the company now has a second office. Archery has become the unofficial sport of Black Rifle; the company buys $600 compound bows and $250 releases for employees who want to learn to shoot and employs two bow technicians to teach them. Hafer believes that archery — the mental and physical process of nocking the arrow, drawing the bow, aiming and then releasing the string — is therapeutic. “It’s active meditation, basically,” he says.At the “adaptive athlete” archery competition in Texas, participants who had lost their legs navigated around the cactus, live oaks and cow patties in all-terrain wheelchairs; those missing an arm held their bows with robotic prosthetics. Wearing T-shirts and wristbands bearing slogans like “Eat the Weak” and “Kill Bad Dudes,” they shot at foam targets in the shapes of various prey — a jaguar, a crocodile, a sasquatch — that had been placed around the ranch and trash-talked one another after every hit and miss.One of those competing was Lucas O’Hara, a giant, bearded man who is Black Rifle’s in-house blacksmith. O’Hara spent eight years in the Army and then settled down in Georgia, where he worked as a bodyguard before falling on hard times. He was a devoted listener to the “Drinkin’ Bros” podcast and sent Instagram messages to Best, Hafer and Taylor asking if they could help. Taylor gave him a job in Article 15’s T-shirt warehouse. Later, O’Hara took up blacksmithing and began making custom knives. He called his company Grizzly Forge.“I was struggling to get this business going,” O’Hara recalled. “We were two months behind on my mortgage. We had our power shut off. I had two little girls.” He was on the verge of selling his shop equipment on Facebook when Hafer called him with an order for 50 custom blades that Black Rifle could give away as coffee-bag openers. “That turned my power back on,” O’Hara said. Hafer ordered 300 more. This year, Black Rifle moved O’Hara, his family and Grizzly Forge from exurban Atlanta to Salt Lake City and gave him his own blacksmith shop in a hangar-like structure behind the company parking lot.O’Hara had been practicing archery for just a couple of weeks but had gotten better by watching online tutorials given by the professional archer John Dudley, who attended Black Rifle’s competition. So did the former professional wrestler Goldberg and Keldon Johnson, a forward for the San Antonio Spurs. O’Hara got his picture taken with some of them, and he won the long-range shooting competition. “This whole thing is like a dream,” he said.‘Instead of worrying about microaggressions and which bathroom I’m going to use, I believe it’s important to support the people that actually serve our country.’For Hafer, Black Rifle’s physical stores represent not just another revenue stream for his business but another business opportunity for his subculture. In his vision, Army staff sergeants and Navy petty officers will leave the military and move back to their hometowns, where, instead of joining the local police department, they’ll take a job at a Black Rifle coffee shop and, eventually, operate a Black Rifle franchise of their own. “I would never take anything away from people that want to be police officers, but the guy that’s on the fence who needs a job but still wants to be part of the team and still likes the culture and the community, I’m going to get him,” Hafer told me. “I want him to be thinking: Man, I’m going to work as a barista. I’m going to work the window. I’m going to move up to manager. And then after three years, I’m going to get a franchise opportunity.” He went on: “People that are coming out of the military might be looking at going to work at UPS or FedEx or something like that. I’ve got to be competitive with those guys.”The community that Black Rifle’s founders are building within the company resembles a concentrated version of the community they hope to build among its customers. The funny videos, the online magazine Coffee or Die, the podcast, the T-shirts and hats are about this as much as they are about selling coffee. “When Joe Schmo is getting out of the military and moves back to his hometown, and he’s alone and depressed and turns on one of our podcasts, and then gets in one of our local group forums, he starts networking, and now he’s got five buddies to hang out with,” Best says. “That [expletive] is life-changing.” As Best put it in his 2019 memoir, “Thank You for My Service,” an account of his combat and sexual exploits that relied on a ghostwriter once used by Tucker Max, his goal with veterans is “to speak to people like me. People who appreciated the gratitude but had no use for the pity.”“You have an entire generation of guys over the last 20 years that were trained to deploy and kill people,” Hafer told me. “It’s the most politically incorrect profession. Let’s just say what it is: You’re going to take life. And then you have this evolutionary circumstance in society, which says that everything has to be politically correct. And now what they want a generation of guys to do is to come home and be nice. They want us to be all politically correct. They want us to be watered-down versions of ourselves, because I think they just want to forget and move on with their lives.”Best (right) resting after a day of shooting social-media content.Eli Durst for The New York TimesIn Black Rifle’s early days, the company’s avowed “political incorrectness” resembled a militarized Barstool Sports; some of its early ads ran on “Girls for Gunslingers,” a self-explanatory Facebook page that Taylor operated, and were of a piece with the rest of the page’s content. But over time its political incorrectness became more overtly political. “Instead of worrying about microaggressions and which bathroom I’m going to use, I believe it’s important to support the people that actually serve our country,” Best says in a 2017 Black Rifle ad, name-checking a couple of conservative cultural grievances. “I’ve heard people say patriotism is racism. Well, as a veteran-owned company, we give zero [expletive] about your opinion.”It’s not too difficult to detect the influence of a certain political figure in this evolution — and not just because Best wears a red “Make Coffee Great Again” T-shirt in the ad. Indeed, Black Rifle’s founders not only adapted to but in many instances also adopted the Trump-era Republican Party’s approach to politics. On the eve of the Georgia Senate runoffs in January, Taylor directed an ad supporting the two Republican candidates called “Georgia Reloaded.” In it, Representative Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican and former Navy SEAL, parachutes out of a plane into Georgia to fight the “far-left activists” there who “are attempting to gain full and total control of the U.S. government.” The ad ends with Crenshaw landing on the hood of a car with antifa members inside and punching in the windshield.Last month, Black Rifle donated $32,000 to the sheriff of Bexar County, Texas, home to the company’s San Antonio office, so his department could buy a rescue boat. On Instagram, Taylor posted a picture of him and Best presenting the sheriff with a giant check, along with a caption that attacked a female Republican county commissioner who had questioned the boat purchase; Taylor ended it with the hashtag #APAC, which stands for “all politicians are [expletive].” The county commissioner was subsequently the subject of vicious and sexist harassment on social media.Trump’s taboo-breaking extended beyond political culture to the military culture that Black Rifle celebrates. That active-duty military and veterans are predominantly Republican was well known before Trump; the norms of civilian politics, however, demanded that Republican politicians talk about supporting the troops, not the other way around. But Trump, like an American caudillo, treated the military as a political constituency. “I’m not saying the military’s in love with me,” Trump said during the 2020 campaign. “The soldiers are.”Trump took his courtship of the military to unseemly extremes. As a candidate, he complained that American forces were not permitted to “fight fire with fire” when dealing with terrorists and regaled campaign-trail crowds with the apocryphal story of Gen. John Pershing executing Muslim prisoners in the Philippines with bullets dipped in pig blood. As president, he vociferously supported Eddie Gallagher — a Navy SEAL who was court-martialed on charges that he attempted to murder civilians and stabbed a teenage ISIS prisoner to death while serving with a platoon in Iraq in 2017 — and other service members accused of war crimes. “We’re going to take care of our warriors, and I will always stick up for our great fighters,” Trump said in 2019 after pardoning one Army officer found guilty of war crimes and a Special Forces soldier charged with committing them. “People can sit there in air-conditioned offices and complain, but you know what? It doesn’t matter to me whatsoever.”Gallagher was acquitted of the most serious charges, over the testimony of some of the SEALs in his squad, who had made the initial accusations. Afterward, Black Rifle’s leadership hosted him twice on the company’s “Free Range American” podcast and collaborated with him on his own line of T-shirts and drinkware called Salty Frog Gear. Gallagher, for his part, wears Black Rifle’s gear so frequently that, he has said, some people have mistaken him to be the coffee company’s chief executive. Once, Gallagher’s case might have been an intramural dispute between “team guys.” But thanks in large part to Trump, Gallagher is now a combatant in a larger cultural conflagration — a frequent guest on Fox News and an author of a new book attacking his accusers as “weak-kneed,” “weak-bodied” “soft beta” males.Black Rifle has been right there with him. “It’s progressive politics that are trying to fry and paint this picture of moral and ethic problems within the Special Operations community,” Best complained on a 2019 Fox Nation segment devoted to Gallagher and the two Army servicemen Trump pardoned. Rather than condemning those accused of war crimes, Hafer added, “the country should be asking themselves, What can we do to help these guys?”Black Rifle does not and cannot expect to ever again double its revenue, as it did last year, but it projects annual sales of $240 million in 2021 — 50 percent higher than 2020. Considering how much of Black Rifle’s previous success was built on Trump-fueled divisiveness and polarization, the question is whether its ambitious projections for future growth could possibly be met without more of the same.Although Hafer remains a conservative, on more than one occasion he told me, “I’m a man without a party now.” He is loath to say anything negative about Trump on the record, but he now also seems reluctant to say much positive about him either. Nevertheless, the Black Rifle executives were unwilling to get too introspective about what their company might have done to lead people on the far right, people they personally revile, to identify with the Black Rifle brand.When I asked Hafer and Best if they had given any thought as to why the first public thing Kyle Rittenhouse did after getting bailed out of jail was put on a Black Rifle T-shirt and pose for a picture, their answer was procedural. An ex-Special Forces member who helped collect Rittenhouse from jail stopped by a Bass Pro Shop to get some new clothes for the teenager, including the Black Rifle T-shirt, Hafer said. As for why Eric Munchel chose a Black Rifle hat — in addition to a tactical vest and a Taser — as part of his get-up for his “flexing of muscles” on Jan. 6, as he described his actions to a British newspaper, they had no interest in digging too deeply. “He’s just some guy that bought the hat,” Hafer said. “Just like 10,000 other people who bought the hat in the previous 60 days before that, or whatever it was.”“The Black Rifle guys are not the evil that everybody makes them out to be,” says J.J. MacNab, the extremism researcher, “but they’ve closed their eyes to some of the evil that takes their humor seriously.” Still, Black Rifle professes to be eager to put some of its fiercest and trolliest culture-war fights behind it. “What I figured out the last couple of years is that being really political, in the sense of backing an individual politician or any individual party, is really [expletive] detrimental,” Hafer told me. “And it’s detrimental to the company. And it’s detrimental, ultimately, to my mission.”Hafer and Best were talking in a glorified supply closet in the Salt Lake City offices, where potential designs for new coffee bags were hanging on the wall. One of them featured a Renaissance-style rendering of St. Michael the Archangel, a patron saint of military personnel, shooting a short-barreled rifle. In Afghanistan and Iraq, Hafer knew a number of squad mates who had a St. Michael tattoo; for a time, he wore into battle a St. Michael pendant that a Catholic friend gave him. But while the St. Michael design was being mocked up, Hafer said he learned from a friend at the Pentagon that an image of St. Michael trampling on Satan had been embraced by white supremacists because it was reminiscent of the murder of George Floyd. Now any plans for the coffee bag had been scrapped. “This won’t see the light of day,” Hafer said.“You can’t let sections of your customers hijack your brand and say, ‘This is who you are,’” Best told me. “It’s like, no, no, we define that.” The Rittenhouse episode may have cost the company thousands of customers, but, Hafer believed, it also allowed Black Rifle to draw a line in the sand. “It’s such a repugnant group of people,” Hafer said. “It’s like the worst of American society, and I got to flush the toilet of some of those people that kind of hijacked portions of the brand.” Then again, what Hafer insisted was a “superclear delineation” was not to clear to everyone, as Munchel’s choice of headgear vividly demonstrated.“The racism [expletive] really pisses me off,” Hafer said. “I hate racist, Proud Boy-ish people. Like, I’ll pay them to leave my customer base. I would gladly chop all of those people out of my [expletive] customer database and pay them to get the [expletive] out.” If that was the case, I asked, had Black Rifle — which sells a Thin Blue Line coffee — considered changing the name of its Beyond Black coffee, a dark roast it has sold for years, to Beyond Black Lives Matter? Surely that would alienate the racists polluting its customer base.Hafer began to laugh. “You wouldn’t do that,” I ventured.“I would never do that,” Hafer replied. “We’re trying to be us.”Jason Zengerle is a writer at large for the magazine. He last wrote an article about public performance in sports and politics. Eli Durst is a photographer based in Austin, Texas, who teaches at the University of Texas. His first monograph, ‘‘The Community,’’ was published last year. More

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    What Happens if the Military Starts Doubting Our Elections?

    The first presidential election I witnessed as a member of the military was George W. Bush vs. Al Gore in 2000. I was in college, as a naval R.O.T.C. midshipman, and on Election Day I remember asking a Marine lieutenant colonel who was a visiting fellow at my university whether he’d made it to the polls. In much the same way one might say “I don’t smoke” when offered a cigarette, he said, “Oh, I don’t vote.” His answer confused me at the time. He was a third-generation military officer, someone imbued with a strong sense of duty. He then explained that as a military officer he felt it was his obligation to remain apolitical. In his estimation, this included not casting a vote on who his commander in chief might be.Although I don’t agree that one’s commitment to remain apolitical while in uniform extends to not voting, I would over the years come across others who abstained from voting on similar grounds. That interaction served as an early lesson on the lengths some in the military would go to steer clear of politics. It also illustrated that those in uniform have by definition a different relationship to the president than civilians do. As that lieutenant colonel saw it in 2000, he wouldn’t be voting for his president but rather for his commander in chief, and he didn’t feel it was appropriate to vote for anyone in his chain of command.As it turned out, the result of that election was contested. Gore challenged the result after Florida was called for Bush, taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court between the election and the inauguration, by which point he’d conceded.There are many ways to contest an election, some of which are far more reckless and unseemly than others, but our last two presidential elections certainly qualify. In 2016, Democrats contested Donald Trump’s legitimacy based on collusion between his campaign and Russia. In 2020, Republicans significantly escalated the level of contestation around the election with widespread and unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, which ultimately erupted in riots on Jan. 6.Little progress has been made to understand this cycle of contested elections we are trapped in, with the most recent attempt — the Jan. 6 commission — failing to pass in Congress. Today, dysfunction runs deep in our politics. While the images from Jan. 6 remain indelible, the images of entire cities in red and blue states boarded up in the days before last Nov. 3 should also concern us. If contested elections become the norm, then mass protests around elections become the norm; and if mass protests become the norm, then police and military responses to those protests will surely follow. This is a new normal we can ill afford.This takes us back to that lieutenant colonel I knew in college and his conviction to stay out of politics. Increasingly, this view has seemed to fall out of favor, particularly among retired officers. In 2016, we saw large speaking roles doled out to prominent retired military leaders at both parties’ national conventions. This trend has accelerated in recent years, and in the 2020 elections we saw some retired flag officers (including the former heads of several high commands) writing and speaking out against Trump in prominent media outlets, and others organizing against Joe Biden’s agenda in groups like Flag Officers for America.The United States military is one of the most trusted institutions in our society, and so support from its leaders has become an increasingly valuable political commodity. That trust exists partly because it is one of the few institutions that resists overt political bias. If this trend of increased military politicization seeps into the active-duty ranks, it could lead to dangerous outcomes, particularly around a contested presidential election.Many commentators have already pointed out that it’s likely that in 2024 (or even 2022) the losing party will cry foul, and it is also likely that their supporters will fill the streets, with law enforcement, or even military, called in to manage those protests. It is not hard to imagine, then, with half of the country claiming an elected leader is illegitimate, that certain military members who hold their own biases might begin to second guess their orders.This might sound alarmist, but as long as political leaders continue to question the legitimacy of our president, some in our military might do the same.After I served in Afghanistan and Iraq, I covered the war in Syria as a journalist. It’s often forgotten that the refusal of Sunnis in the military to follow the orders of Bashar al-Assad was a key factor in pushing that political crisis into a civil war. That’s because when the military splinters, the defecting elements take their tanks, their guns and their jets with them. Obviously, we are very far from that sort of instability. But cautious speculation has its uses; it can be critical in heading off conflict. My experience in the military and my understanding of past conflicts have convinced me that the forces our politicians are playing with when they contest elections are dangerous ones.Last week, Senator Joe Manchin expressed his hopes of reviving the Jan. 6 commission with a second vote in Congress. Understandably, lawmakers crave answers and accountability, and perhaps he’ll find success in that effort. But the solution to our troubles isn’t in looking backward, it’s in looking forward: by passing bipartisan voting rights legislation like the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which could create at least some consensus on the terms under which the next election takes place. Consensus on anything in Washington is hard to come by these days, but there is a common interest here: Both parties will certainly agree that if they win the next election, they won’t want the other side to contest it.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

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    John Warner, Genteel Senator from Virginia, Dies at 94

    In his 30 years in the Senate, the former Navy secretary was a leading Republican voice on military policy. He was once married to Elizabeth Taylor.WASHINGTON — Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, the genteel former Navy secretary who shed the image of a dilettante to become a leading Republican voice on military policy during 30 years in the Senate, died on Tuesday night at his home in Alexandria, Va. He was 94. Susan Magill, his former chief of staff, said the cause was heart failure.For a time Mr. Warner may have been best known nationally as the dashing sixth husband of the actress Elizabeth Taylor. Her celebrity was a draw on the campaign trail during his difficult first race for the Senate in 1978, an election he won narrowly to start his political career. The couple divorced in 1982.Mr. Warner in 1981 with Elizabeth Taylor, his wife at the time. They divorced the following year. Richard Drew/Associated PressIn the latter stages of his congressional service, Mr. Warner was recognized as a protector of the Senate’s traditions and credited with trying to forge bipartisan consensus on knotty issues like the Iraq war, judicial nominations and the treatment of terror detainees.Though a popular figure in his state, Mr. Warner was often at odds with Virginia conservatives. He became the Republican nominee in his first campaign only after the man who had defeated him at a state party convention was killed in a plane crash.He angered the National Rifle Association with his backing of an assault weapons ban. He infuriated some state Republicans in 1994 when he refused to support Oliver L. North, the former White House aide at the center of the Iran-contra scandal during the Reagan administration, in Mr. North’s bid for the Senate. And he opposed Reagan’s ultimately unsuccessful Supreme Court nomination of Judge Robert H. Bork.In his retirement years, the rightward shift of the Republican Party further alienated Mr. Warner, prompting him to endorse select Democrats, including both his former Senate colleagues Hillary Clinton and Joseph R. Biden Jr. in their presidential runs against Donald J. Trump.But his support within the party mainstream during his Senate years, coupled with backing from independents who were attracted by his moderate views on social issues like abortion and gay rights, allowed him to fend off challenges from both the right and left. He won election to his fifth and final term in 2002 against only token opposition.Mr. Warner announced in August 2007 that he would not run in 2008, noting that he would be 88 if he finished his term and telling friends that he questioned whether he could continue to have the energy for the job. The peak of his power in the Senate began in 1999, when he became chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Though his chairmanship was interrupted briefly when Democrats took back control, he evolved into a Republican force on military issues, his credibility enhanced by his reputation for solid contacts in the Pentagon, his previous work there and his own service in both the Navy and Marines.Mr. Warner was ahead of others on the terrorism issue and created a subcommittee to focus on the threat. He was among Republicans who expressed reservations about the Iraq war, and he convened hearings on the abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad when many of his fellow Republicans were hoping that the issue would disappear.Mr. Warner also was skeptical about President George W. Bush’s 2007 troop buildup in Iraq. But he never broke with the administration to back a fixed deadline for troop withdrawals. That position frustrated Democrats, who had hoped that Mr. Warner would lend his influence to their opposition to the war, and they accused him of not following through on strong talk against the conflict.Joining with Senator John McCain, who had been a prisoner of war in Vietnam, Mr. Warner thwarted Bush administration efforts to reinterpret the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners in wartime, an approach that the senators said would open captured American military personnel to abuse.Mr. Warner was not averse to stepping into difficult political situations in the Senate. In 2002, he was among the first to come out against Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, after Mr. Lott had made a racially charged comment; Mr. Warner’s stand contributed to Mr. Lott’s decision to step aside as majority leader. He was also a leading member of the so-called Gang of 14, a bipartisan group of senators who struck an independent agreement on judicial nominations in 2005 and averted a fight over the future of the Senate filibuster.A debonair Virginian, Mr. Warner was sometimes called the senator from central casting; his ramrod military posture, distinguished gray hair and occasionally overblown speaking style fit the Hollywood model.John William Warner III was born on Feb. 18, 1927, in Washington to John Jr. and Martha (Budd) Warner and attended schools in Washington and Virginia. He left high school at age 17 to join the Navy and serve in the final months of World War II. He graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1949 and enrolled at the University of Virginia Law School before leaving to join the Marines during the Korean War. He returned to law school to obtain his degree in 1953.Mr. Warner was afterward a law clerk with the United States Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit and then an assistant U.S. attorney in the district from 1956 to 1960. After working in private law practice for most of the 1960s, he was appointed Navy under secretary by President Richard M. Nixon. He became secretary in 1972, serving for two years. In 1976, he was the federal coordinator of the national bicentennial celebration.Mr. Warner endured a reputation as something of a playboy after his first divorce from a member of the wealthy Mellon family, his marriage to Ms. Taylor and a public relationship with the newscaster Barbara Walters. But his long service in the Senate and a record marked by an independent streak ultimately overshadowed much of that image.He had three children from his first marriage, to Catherine Mellon. His survivors include his wife, Jeanne (Vander Myde) Warner. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.Both of Virginia’s current Democratic senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, praised Mr. Warner on Wednesday as a friend, ally and informal adviser and described him as a model of what a politician should be. Mark Warner, who is no relation, had once tried to unseat him.“John Warner and I ran against each other back in 1996,” Mr. Warner said in a statement. “I’ve often said since that the right Warner won that race.” More

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    Why Is Space Command Moving Into Mo Brooks’s Backyard?

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storyOpinionSupported byContinue reading the main storyWhy Is Space Command Moving Into Mo Brooks’s Backyard?The congressman from Huntsville, Ala., was quick to claim that the 2020 election was stolen. His district continues to get special treatment.Ms. McWhorter, who grew up in Birmingham, Ala., is writing a book about Huntsville, Ala., and the Cold War space race.March 10, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETAs uncommon as it is for the White House to worry about where the Pentagon puts its people and hardware, President Biden may need to follow the example of his predecessor and take a hard look at the site selection for U.S. Space Command. It tells a tale of two cities, Colorado Springs and Huntsville, Ala., and reveals a lot about our modern-day season of stunt guillotines and Trumpist revolutionaries.The Trump administration’s decision to move Space Command — the Defense Department’s coordinating body for space-related military operations — from Colorado Springs to Huntsville came one week after the congressman from Huntsville, Mo Brooks, took the stage at President Donald Trump’s last-stand rally on Jan. 6, invoked the patriotic ancestors who “sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes and sometimes their lives,” and rasped at the crowd, “Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?”Rumors of Trumpian quid pro quo ensued, especially from Aerospace Alley in Colorado, which seemed to have the advantage of incumbency over five other contenders. (Space Command was based in Colorado Springs from 1985 to 2002 and was deactivated for 17 years before being revived. It is not to be confused with Mr. Trump’s military legacy, Space Force, the littlest branch of the armed services.)Was the Huntsville pick Mr. Trump’s thank-you to Mr. Brooks, the very first member of Congress to declare, in December, that he would challenge Mr. Biden’s victory on Jan. 6? Or perhaps bug off to Colorado for repudiating Mr. Trump along with Republican senator Cory Gardner last November?The Defense Department’s inspector general has agreed to review the transfer, which won’t occur until 2026 at the earliest. But even if the study finds that Huntsville beat out Colorado Springs on the merits, would the Biden administration have cause to rescind the move? Or put another way, should law-abiding taxpayers be asked to send their government’s treasure to a district whose chosen representative was at the fore of the government’s attempted overthrow (or whatever that was)?Roughly half of Huntsville’s economy already comes from federal spending, and most of that money is dedicated to the defense and security of the United States. Yet for 10 years, the city has been represented in Congress by an anti-government nihilist whose crusade has ultimately endangered democracy itself. The riot fueled by Mr. Brooks’s big lie of a stolen election also contributed to the death of one of his constituents and resulted in the arrest of another North Alabama man, a military veteran whose truckload of weaponry included machetes and a crossbow with bolts.Reasonable Americans might ask whether our national security should be entrusted to a community in which a significant portion of the work force may not believe that Mr. Biden is the legitimate commander in chief. (When I asked Mr. Brooks by email whether he considered Mr. Biden the legitimate president, he did not answer the question.)History advises that collective punishment is rarely a good teacher. That is why Huntsville should try to live up to its reputation as the forward-looking, high-tech standout in an underdeveloped Heart of Dixie and redeem itself through a little enlightened self-interest. As the 2020 election deniers found their precedent in the Compromise of 1877, which anointed President Rutherford B. Hayes and not coincidentally ended Reconstruction, Huntsville could begin a reverse process of self-Reconstruction by rejecting Confederate politics and bringing them in line with its Union purpose.Huntsville has long had an exceptionalist attitude toward the rest of the state. Even Mr. Brooks plays into the local “most Ph.D.s per capita” urban legend as the nerd-demagogue with a degree in politics and economics from Duke.There’s no question that Huntsville is competent to host Space Command. It has called itself the Rocket City since the 1950s, when Wernher von Braun and the German engineers who built Hitler’s V-2 rocket — the first long-range ballistic missile — were imported to make missiles for the U.S. Army. The group had switched over to NASA by 1961, when John F. Kennedy decided the United States should send a man to the moon, which happened in 1969, courtesy of the German-American team’s Saturn V rocket.Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center was the biggest of the Apollo-boom NASA installations in the so-called Space Crescent of federal money leveraged to the Southland — scything from Cape Canaveral, Fla., to the Manned Spacecraft Center in East Texas. The reason Houston gets to hear about the problem is undoubtedly related to its being in the home state of Lyndon B. Johnson. Especially as a senator and as vice president, he helped shape the space program as an agent of economic reconstruction; he expected social progress to flow from it throughout the South. His presidency’s civil rights program, after all, was also framed in economic terms, as a War on Poverty.Among the grinding obstacles to Johnson’s aspirations was George C. Wallace, Alabama’s “Segregation forever!” governor and Mr. Trump’s John the Baptist. In the fall of 1964, it was impossible in Alabama to vote to re-elect the sitting president. (Its Democratic electors were unpledged, meaning, basically, that they would vote in the Electoral College for whomever Wallace told them to.)And so after a visit with Alabama business leaders that October, NASA’s head, James Webb, threatened to pull high-level Marshall personnel — and their portion of the multimillion-dollar payroll — out of the state. The practical reason was that von Braun could not recruit talent to a place so egregious on civil rights. And on a personal note, Webb was not crazy about how unappreciative Alabama was toward the government that fed it.NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center stayed intact, thanks in good part to Huntsville’s impressive advocates in Congress. Its former representative John Sparkman was the junior senator to the still powerful Franklin Roosevelt point man Lister Hill and had been Adlai E. Stevenson’s running mate on the 1952 Democratic ticket. Representative Robert Jones was a stoic Johnson ally — and later a key sponsor of the 1972 Clean Water Act (undermined by Mr. Trump).The reason you probably haven’t heard of them is that their more positive legacies were eclipsed by their racist votes. Still, when Johnson gave him permission to expediently oppose his poverty bill, Jones replied, “My conscience won’t let me.” Decades later, his successor Mr. Brooks consulted his conscience after the sacking of the Capitol and found that “fascist ANTIFA” was likely to blame.Not surprisingly, the local committee of business leaders and state officials that wooed Space Command to Huntsville “did not coordinate our efforts with Congressman Brooks,” as a Chamber of Commerce spokesman told me by email. But historically, the educated, white-collar Alabamians that are Huntsville’s proud base have tended to regard their more deplorable politicians as harmless if not useful.Consider one of Mr. Brooks’s largest donors, the law firm of McDaniel & McDaniel. One of its co-founders, Mark McDaniel, is a Democrat turned self-described “very moderate Republican” who currently recognizes the legitimacy of Mr. Biden’s election — “Oh, absolutely I do,” he told me, adding, “I don’t think it was a hoax, and Covid is real.”Even so, he said he does not intend to “bail out on” his friend. “Mo Brooks is just a decent human being,” he said, plus the two guarded each other on rival basketball teams in high school. Shortly before Mr. Trump left office, Mr. Brooks announced the president’s appointment of Mr. McDaniel to a U.S. Agency for International Development advisory board.And what of Mr. Brooks’s top corporate donors, including the household names of the military-industrial complex? Asked if they would follow the lead of the other brand-name companies that have pledged to withhold cash from Congress’s election-rejection caucus, Lockheed Martin and Boeing would not commit to anything beyond a pause in political contributions. Northrop Grumman did not respond to several inquiries.As for the homegrown defense contractors behind Mr. Brooks — Radiance Technologies, Torch Technologies and Davidson Technologies — it may require some bottom-line blowback from the congressman’s free-enterprise extremism to make them appreciate the democracy that has so enriched them.Perhaps they would take their representative more seriously if the Biden administration decided to take his anti-government rhetoric literally and withdrew — along with the 1,400-job prospect of Space Command — the Army Materiel Command, the FBI’s so-called second headquarters and NASA, which is overseeing the launch vehicle for the coming Artemis lunar missions (and employs Mr. Brooks’s son).The stakes of enabling Mr. Brooks increase as the unbowed congressman — facing a censure resolution from House colleagues and a lawsuit filed by Representative Eric Swalwell against him, Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani — eyes the Senate seat that Alabama’s quasi-independent senior senator, Democrat turned Republican Richard Shelby, is vacating in 2023. A win would make Mr. Brooks the junior senator to his election-defying confederate Tommy Tuberville, the civically illiterate former football coach who also carried Huntsville’s Madison County in November.While the inspector general is evaluating the Space Command decision, Colorado Springs may want to order up some blue #usspaceCOm T-shirts to replace the MAGA red ones the local Chamber of Commerce distributed for Mr. Trump’s visit there last year. Colorado is hardly Alabama, what with two Democratic senators and an openly gay governor.But Doug Lamborn, the congressman from Colorado Springs, is his state’s answer to Mo Brooks: anti-gay, anti-PBS, anti-“war on Christmas.” He voted against certifying Mr. Biden’s election on Jan. 6, after the Capitol was stormed by his constituents Klete Keller, who was an Olympic swimmer, and Robert Gieswein, who is suspected of being a Three Percenter.Given the long reach of Trumpism and the reluctance of multinational defense industries to take a stand against even a hypothetical Senator Mo Brooks, Alabama is beginning to look like a state of mind without borders.Diane McWhorter, who is writing a book about Huntsville and the Cold War space race, is the author of “Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution.”The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More