Friday, October 29, 2021

Another October 28

In the October 28, 2021 edition of Letters from An American Heather Cox Richardson pens this recollection of what government can and should do.


In 1929, October 28 was a Monday, the opening night for New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

Four thousand glittering attendees thronged to the elegant building on foot or in one of a thousand limousines to see Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, the melodramatic story of an innocent French girl seduced by wealth, whose reluctance to leave her riches for true love leads to her arrest, deportation to the wilds of America, and tragic death. Flash bulbs blinded the crowd, gathered to see famous faces and expensive gowns, as photographers recorded the arrivals of the era’s social celebrities.

No one toasting the beginning of the opera season that night knew they were toasting the end of an era.

At ten o’clock the next morning, when the opening gong sounded in the great hall of the New York Stock Exchange, men began to unload their stocks. So fast did trading go that by the end of the day, the ticker recording transactions ran two and a half hours late. When the final tally could be read, it showed that an extraordinary 16,410,030 shares had traded hands, and the market had lost $14 billion. The market had been uneasy for weeks before the twenty-ninth, but Black Tuesday began a slide that seemingly would not end. By mid-November, the industrial average was half of what it had been in September. The economic boom that had fueled the Roaring Twenties was over.

Once the bottom fell out of the stock market, the economy ground down. Manufacturing output dropped to levels lower than those of 1913. The production of pig iron fell to what it had been in the 1890s. Foreign trade dropped by $7 billion, down to just $3 billion. The price of wheat fell from $1.05 a bushel to 39 cents; corn dropped from 81 to 33 cents; cotton fell from 17 to 6 cents a pound. Prices dropped so low that selling crops meant taking a loss, so struggling farmers simply let them rot in the fields. By 1932, over one million people in New York City were unemployed. By 1933, the number of unemployed across the nation rose to 13 million people—one out of every four American workers. Unable to afford rent or pay mortgages, people lived in shelters made of packing boxes.

No one knew how to combat the Great Depression, but wealthy Americans were sure they knew what had caused it. The problem, they said, was that poor Americans refused to work hard enough and were draining the economy. They must be forced to take less. “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate,” Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon told President Herbert Hoover. “It will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people.”

Slash government spending, agreed the Chicago Tribune: lay off teachers and government workers, and demand that those who remain accept lower wages. Richard Whitney, a former president of the Stock Exchange, told the Senate that the only way to restart the economy was to cut government salaries and veterans’ benefits (although he told them that his own salary—which at sixty thousand dollars was six times higher than theirs—was “very little” and couldn’t be reduced).

President Hoover knew little about finances, let alone how to fix an economic crisis of global proportions. He tried to reverse the economic slide by cutting taxes and reassuring Americans that “the fundamental business of the country, that is, production and distribution of commodities, is on a sound and prosperous basis.” But taxes were already so low that most folks would see only a few extra dollars a year from the cuts, and the fundamental business of the country was not, in fact, sound. When suffering Americans begged for public works programs to provide jobs, Hoover insisted that such programs were a “soak the rich” program that would “enslave” taxpayers, and called instead for private charity.

By the time Hoover’s first term limped to a close, Americans were ready to try a new approach to economic recovery. They refused to reelect Hoover and turned instead to New York Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who promised to use the federal government to provide jobs and a safety net to enable Americans to weather hard times. He promised a “New Deal” for the American people.

FDR’s New Deal employed more than 8.5 million people, built more than 650,000 miles of highways, built or repaired more than 120,000 bridges, and put up more than 125,000 public buildings. It provided a social safety net for ordinary Americans, providing unemployment and disability insurance, as well as aid to widows, orphans, and the elderly. It supported labor and regulated business, banking, and the stock market. It invested in infrastructure, rebuilding roads and bridges, providing electricity to rural areas, and building schools, post offices, airports, and hospitals around the country. When World War II broke out, the new system enabled the United States to defend democracy successfully against fascists.

The new system undercut fascism at home, too, where its adherents had been growing strong, and reminded Americans that when the government supported ordinary people, they could build a strong new future.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Open letter in defense of Democracy.

Charlie Sykes writes in The Bulwark this morning, Oct. 27.

You rarely see all these folks on the same page or united about about… anything. But I’m delighted to be able to add my name to this remarkable declaration, which is being released today,

An Open Letter in Defense of Democracy. Diverse coalition sounds the alarm.

[This open letter is being published simultaneously by The Bulwark and The New Republic.]


We are writers, academics, and political activists who have long disagreed about many things.

Some of us are Democrats and others Republicans. Some identify with the left, some with the right, and some with neither. We have disagreed in the past, and we hope to be able to disagree, productively, for years to come. Because we believe in the pluralism that is at the heart of democracy.

But right now we agree on a fundamental point: We need to join together to defend liberal democracy.

Because liberal democracy itself is in serious danger. Liberal democracy depends on free and fair elections, respect for the rights of others, the rule of law, a commitment to truth and tolerance in our public discourse. All of these are now in serious danger.

The primary source of this danger is one of our two major national parties, the Republican Party, which remains under the sway of Donald Trump and Trumpist authoritarianism. Unimpeded by Trump’s defeat in 2020 and unfazed by the January 6 insurrection, Trump and his supporters actively work to exploit anxieties and prejudices, to promote reckless hostility to the truth and to Americans who disagree with them, and to discredit the very practice of free and fair elections in which winners and losers respect the peaceful transfer of power.

So we, who have differed on so much in the past—and who continue to differ on much today—have come together to say:

We vigorously oppose ongoing Republican efforts to change state election laws to limit voter participation.

We vigorously oppose ongoing Republican efforts to empower state legislatures to override duly appointed election officials and interfere with the proper certification of election results, thereby substituting their own political preferences for those expressed by citizens at the polls.

We vigorously oppose the relentless and unending promotion of unprofessional and phony “election audits” that waste public money, jeopardize public electoral data and voting machines, and generate paranoia about the legitimacy of elections.

We urge the Democratic-controlled Congress to pass effective, national legislation to protect the vote and our elections, and if necessary to override the Senate filibuster rule.

And we urge all responsible citizens who care about democracy—public officials, journalists, educators, activists, ordinary citizens—to make the defense of democracy an urgent priority now.

Now is the time for leaders in all walks of life—for citizens of all political backgrounds and persuasions—to come to the aid of the Republic.


For a list of cosigners, see the letter.

Friday, October 22, 2021

The latest Trump business failure - steaks, mattresses, phony degrees, and now a tech company

Will Trump’s latest venture, a media company, be any more successful than any of his earlier fiascos? Trump University comes to mind. (With thanks to Charlie Sykes.)

Jack Shafer at Politico offers this Opinion | Trump’s New Media Outlet Will Go the Way of His Steaks and Mattresses. The former president promises to take on the biggest competitors in the business. But he has no clue how to run a media company, and it’s not clear he can attract an audience. Lightly edited excerpts follow.

Nobody can doubt the power of former President Donald Trump to draw and keep an audience. Before Twitter permanently suspended him in January, he could boast 88.7 million followers. At least 35.4 million subscribed to his Facebook account prior to his defenestration there. His many books clotted the New York Times bestseller list, and even after his November defeat, he can still reliably fill basketball arenas and state fairground exhibition halls. Wherever Trump has gone, his supporters have flocked to partake of his strange charisma.

But is their allegiance so pure and enduring that they’ll follow him to a new company, announced Wednesday night — a business that promises a social media outlet to take on Twitter (called Truth Social), “non-woke” streaming video news and entertainment to compete with CNN and Disney, podcasts, and cloud software and services to go up against Microsoft, Google and Amazon? A public statement announcing the merger of the newly formed Trump Media & Technology Group, of which Trump is chair, and a speculative “blank-check” company named Digital World Acquisition Corp. promises that TMTG will enter all these media spaces to “fight back against the ‘Big Tech’ companies of Silicon Valley, which have used their unilateral power to silence opposing voices in America.”

At least that’s Trump’s pipe dream. There’s nothing new about the comic grandiosity of TMTG’s ambitions, revealed in its corporate slide deck. It only conforms with Trump’s long-held belief that “truthful hyperbole” is the key to selling real estate — or any of the crap products (steaks, mattresses, water, men’s wear, vodka, perfume, eyeglasses, coffee) (and did I, your Scriber, mention faux degrees from Trump U?) Trump has hawked to resistant customers. Trump is a moderately successful businessman when he sticks to his specialties — real estate and hotels. But all those overpriced, shoddy namesake products failed in the marketplace because Trump didn’t know how to compete with people who really understood those businesses. We can expect Truth Social and the other world-beater enterprises TMTG proposes to likewise be sucked into the void because Trump 1) has no clue about how to run media or tech properties and 2) lacks sufficient appeal.


As an example of the kind of thing Trump is now trying out: “Then came the disaster of the Trump blog, which died earlier this year after just 29 days, finding a permanent resting place in the Trump cemetery interred alongside his steaks, coffee pods, neckwear and vodka bottles.” And could I again lobby for Trump U?

"… are we really expected to believe a media and tech start-up with the pocket-change of $293 million in the kitty and overseen by a 75-year-old man can outduel Fox, CNN, Disney and Microsoft?

For the better part of his career, Trump has been frequently characterized in the press as a grifter, somebody who preys on people for a living. That’s a tad unfair. Trump’s reputation for milking consumers with slapdash goods and bamboozling investors has been so well established for so long that anybody who buys from or invests with him must first ignore the ample evidence arguing against dealing with him. It’s too early in TMTG’s story to call the company a grift, even if, as the Washington Post puts it, TMTG appears to be little more than “a vaguely defined company headquartered at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s club in Palm Beach.” Based on TMTG’s public statement, there’s no clue the company has a product ready to sell, unique technology or even name recognition to trade on. (You can, however, download the Truth Social app, but the beta site doesn’t go live until November.) That Trump can only start something so small to take on businesses that are so large indicates that his reputation for business failure has finally caught up to him. Billionaires and other truly moneyed folk must not have returned Trump’s calls. It’s an old story: Eventually, every grifter runs out of people to grift.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

We need a voting rights law ...

… like right NOW!

Here is an excerpt from Heather Cox Richardson’s October 15, 2021 Letters from An American.

… here we are. Republicans are trying to regain control of the government by making sure their opponents can’t vote, while Democrats are trying to level a badly tilted playing field. If the Democrats do not succeed in passing a voting rights law, we can expect America to become a one-party state that, at best, will look much like the American South did between 1876 and 1964.

Our nation will no longer be a democracy.

There are currently three voting measures before Congress. The For the People Act is a sweeping measure that cuts back on voter suppression, ends partisan gerrymandering, curbs dark money in politics, and combats corruption. The House of Representatives passed this measure in early March 2021 and sent it to the Senate, where Republicans blocked it using a filibuster.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore the protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court gutted in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision. The House of Representatives passed this measure in late August 2021 and sent it to the Senate, where it sits under threat of a filibuster.

In the Senate, Joe Manchin (D-WV) expressed misgivings about the voting measures and vowed to hammer out a voting rights bill that could attract the votes of ten Republicans and thus break a filibuster. He and a number of Democratic colleagues announced the Freedom to Vote Act in mid-September 2021. If there are ten Republicans to support the measure, we have not yet seen them.

The Senate will vote on the Freedom to Vote Act on Wednesday.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

The curious record of Senator Sinematic - Updated

The curious record of Senator Sinematic.

You might recall, from years past, that I (your Scriber) have flipped and flopped when it comes to U. S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema. I’ve complained about her voting record in the House. But then I’ve published data showing that she voted mostly progressively and against Trump. If you want to sample her voting use the search feature on this blog for “Sinematic”. Most recently she dramatically, Sinematically we could say, nixed the $15 minimum wage and then joined Sen. Joe Manchin in rejecting filibuster reform.

Chris Hayes To Kyrsten Sinema: What Are You Doing Here? asks the AZ Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona. Following is an excerpt from that post.

Tom Danehy, at the Tucson Weekly, thinks that: It Is Time For Kyrsten Sinema To Go.


Here are 10 reasons why Kyrsten Sinema must go away. In fact, the very concept of Kyrsten Sinema must go away. And she must go away now. Not next year or, God help us, in 2024, when we Arizonans who actually give a damn about our state and country find a primary candidate to knock the multi-colored crap out of her.

We can’t recall her. The Republicans in the Senate certainly won’t do anything to her. She’s their staunchest (and strangest) ally. We’re going to have to trick her. We should get President Biden to appoint her as Ambassador to Cotton Candy Land, where everything is pink and sweet and there are no mean people trying to figure out what is bouncing around in that hollow head of hers.

(1) She’s freakin’ nuts! Now, I know that it’s crazy for a layperson such as myself to try to psychoanalyze somebody, but this one’s easy. Maybe she’s one of those high-functioning sociopaths that we see in the movies. Those things never end well.

(2) Her absurd fascination with the filibuster is allowing Senate Republicans to run out the clock on this vital legislative session (nothing will get done next year because it’s a midterm election year) while their counterparts in various state governments do all they can to make future elections for whites only, thus ensuring that America’s clear majority will be disenfranchised, ignored, and maybe even subjugated by tyrants who will do anything to cling to minority power for the next few years.

She’s like the basketball player standing in the lane on defense who watches somebody drive straight to the basket for a layup. When asked later why she didn’t help, she will say, “I had my man; she didn’t score.” When America turns into something that’s not America, how hollow will her words sound when she says, “I stood up for the filibuster, an outdated and horribly misused anachronism.”

(3) She and her partner in gross incompetence, West Virgina Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, are content to fiddle while democracy burns. And it’s burning.

(4) She’s the most embarrassing member of Congress from Arizona and that’s really saying something. You might figure that it’s Andy Biggs, who got up in front of God and everybody and put in the official Congressional record that he doesn’t know who won the presidential vote in Arizona in 2020. He does. They all do. It’s just that, between them, they don’t have the combined capacity of one testicle and therefore can’t bring themselves to utter the truth. Biggs’ justification for repeating the Big Lie: He claims that someone who worked at a polling station “had some concerns.”

Paul Gosar, who is openly racist and anti-Semitic, is worse than Andy Biggs. But at least we know where both of those talking rectums stand. They don’t pretend to care about democracy or fairness or skin that’s darker than Dolly Parton’s. They’re just really bad people doing really bad things for really bad reasons. But at least they don’t pretend to be something else.

Sinema pretends to be serious, but she’s a buffoon.

(5) Her backstory keeps changing. That’s a major red flag.

(6) Forget about being the most embarrassing Arizona politician right now. She’s the most embarrassing EVER. Evan Mecham can now rest in peace, having passed on the mantle.

(7) She’s like the idiot who has a bumper sticker that reads “I’m a maverick.” True mavericks would never feel the need to publicly self-identify. And neither do they ostentatiously attempt to prove it on a daily basis.

(8)* I know that it’s a matter of personal style (or complete lack thereof) and Lord knows no one will ever accuse me of being a slave to fashion, but I’m not a United States Senator, for goodness sake! How does she expect anybody to take her seriously when she shows up to work dressed like she spent the night on a park bench after being thrown out of the monster truck rally for being too obnoxious?

I completely understand that no man should EVER tell a woman how to dress, but she is in Washington doing a job for her constituents. She’s got to know that many of the knuckleheads with whom she must deal (at least partially) judge her by her appearance. If she wants to be taken seriously, maybe she can start by taking herself seriously.

(9) We have no idea where she stands on anything. She doesn’t make statements, she doesn’t give interviews, she doesn’t do her damn job. It’s painfully obvious that what Kyrsten Sinema wants is for people to be obsessed with trying to figure out what Kyrsten Sinema wants. I’m firmly convinced that there’s no there, there.

(10) She was elected under false pretenses. She caught the luckiest of breaks, running in a midterm year against a horribly flawed Republican candidate (Martha McSally) who had doomed her chances by tying herself to the worst president in United States history. (McSally would stupidly repeat that mistake in 2020, all the while being humiliated by Trump.)

I HATE that I voted for Sinema. She’s a fraud and a danger. Her political career is over. She can’t win in 2024. Republicans won’t vote for her because she’s not a Republican and Democrats won’t vote for her because she’s not a Democrat.

She should leave now before she can do any more harm.


Thursday, October 14, 2021

Jim Jordan wants to 'ban all vaccine mandates'

What the heck. If the GOPlins are going to ban vaccination why stop with Covid? Indeed, that piece of Republican stupidity is in the works!

Why it matters that Jim Jordan wants to ‘ban all vaccine mandates’. Steve Benen, writing at the MSNBC MaddowBlog, explains the danger preented by Jim Jordan who wants a ban on “all vaccine mandates,” not just those related to Covid–19. It’s an inevitable endpoint to a ridiculous political position.

For months, opponents of Covid–19 vaccine requirements have faced an awkward question for which there is no obvious answer: If vaccine mandates are so outrageous, why have they been common in the United States for generations?

Indeed, The New York Times recently explained that vaccination mandates “are an American tradition,” with roots that predate the United States itself. These policies are especially common in schools nationwide, where children are required to receive all kinds of vaccinations before they can attend classes.

The result is an unresolved inconsistency for those fighting tooth and nail against Covid–19 vaccine requirements: If modern society already has plenty of vaccine mandates, and they’re widely seen as uncontroversial, what’s wrong with defeating a deadly pandemic with one more?

To resolve the incongruity, opponents of Covid–19 vaccine requirements have two choices: They can accept the effective policies, or they can start pushing back against mandates that predate the current crisis. As The Washington Post noted, one far-right congressman prefers the latter.

The clash over mandates is playing out far beyond Texas…. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), an outspoken conservative, tweeted that “Ohio should ban all vaccine mandates.”

After seeing the Republican’s tweet, I checked the Ohio Department of Health’s website, which features an “immunization summary for school attendance.” It’s not an especially short list: Before children can attend schools in Ohio, they must be fully immunized against, among other things, polio, measles, hepatitis B, chickenpox, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.

This is not a new policy. It’s existed for years and it’s proven effective. But according to Jordan, the state of Ohio should nevertheless “ban all vaccine mandates” — because whether these requirements work well in preventing the spread of serious illnesses is less important than whether these requirements are ideologically satisfying.

The GOP congressman offers an unsettling example, but he may not be altogether alone. It was just a few weeks ago when Republican state Sen. Manny Diaz, who leads a health care committee in Florida’s legislature, said the state may “review” mandate policies for other vaccines.

Diaz later walked back his comment, but we were nevertheless reminded of where these arguments can end up. The editorial board of The Miami Herald recently published a good piece along these lines:

[I]n the GOP playbook, vaccine mandates are a new concoction by the freedom-hating far-left and government bureaucrats. Could long-standing vaccine mandates be the next target in Republican-led states like Florida? We once thought that would be a far-fetched possibility. Not so much today…. [T]oday we cannot so easily dismiss the idea that lunacy might prevail against established — and effective — public-health measures.

NBC News’ Benjy Sarlin added this week that it seems likely that the United States will “end up with fewer vaccine requirements in some places than we started with before the pandemic” that killed over 700,000 people. That may sound like madness, but it’s also painfully realistic.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

AZ AG caught between reality and Republicans

LAURIE ROBERTS (Arizona Republic) opines: The Arizona audit may bring down a politician after all. As pressure builds on Attorney General Mark Brnovich to start jailing people for non-existent election crimes, audit fanatics seem determined to ensure that Sen. Mark Kelly wins re-election.

It’s a rough time to be the Republicans’ best hope of knocking off Sen. Mark Kelly.

Brnovich soon may have to make a choice:

  • Do I abandon my oath and my ability to look in the mirror in order to win next year’s Senate Republican primary?
  • Or do I abide by the rules of evidence that require actual evidence before accusing people of crimes?

The fact that there is even a question shows just how far the far right wing of the Republican Party has descended in its freefall from reality.


Brnovich wants to overcome Trump’s criticism

Brnovich, these days, must be watching his political life flash before his eyes. He is the best known Republican in the Senate race, the candidate best positioned to win back the seat his party held for 52 years, until Kelly’s defeat of Sen. Martha McSally in 2020.

But Brnovich was put on notice in May by ex-President Donald Trump, who called him out for the cardinal sin of refusing to buy into the delusion that Trump really won Arizona.

“The lackluster Attorney General of Arizona, Mark Brnovich, has to get on the ball and catch up with the great Republican Patriots in the Arizona State Senate,” Trump said at the time. “As massive crime in the 2020 Election is becoming more and more evident and obvious, Brnovich is nowhere to be found.”

Brnovich’s sin? He hadn’t thrown in with the conspiracy crowd and the grifters who convinced a shockingly high number of Republicans that Arizona’s election was stolen. The AG even acknowledged in November that Joe Biden won, a statement that is a sacrilege in some GOP circles.

Since getting hit with the “lackluster” tag, Brnovich has been working overtime to out-Republican the competition in the crowded Senate GOP primary. He’s turned the Attorney General’s Office into a campaign annex.

The man’s a daily fixture on Fox as he rails against mask mandates and vaccine mandates and “Biden’s Border Crisis” and whatever he else he can use to rally the ranks and perhaps put the Senate once again in Republican hands.

Will he investigate (non-existent) fraud?

But ahead lies one massive pothole in his path to the Republican nomination:

Brnovich is expected to buy into the delusion that Senate President Karen Fann’s audit of Maricopa County’s election turned up evidence of massive voter fraud and he must act upon it.

Never mind that even the auditors acknowledge they found no evidence of fraud, only “anomalies” for which there may be logical explanations. (There are.)

Despite that inconvenient fact, far-right fanatics – hoping to ride the audit into higher office or greater fame or fatter wallets – are putting pressure on Brnovich to start arresting people.

“With all of the evidence of incompetence and criminality that’s been presented to the Arizona Senate, to Congress and now to the Arizona Attorney General, the Maricopa County election should not be allowed to stand,” state Rep. Mark Finchem, the Trump-endorsed candidate for secretary of state, said on Saturday during Trump’s Iowa rally.

Others in the GOP are pushing him to do it

Kari Lake, the Republican frontrunner in the governor’s race, wants Brnovich to file criminal charges against Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.

“She’s basically the mastermind of the 2020 election … ,” Lake said during an appearance on Steve Bannon’s podcast in late September, shortly after the audit results were released in late September. “We have proof and evidence and he (Brnovich) needs to, right now, make it a crime scene.”

“Frankly, I think she should be locked up,” Lake said during an Oct. 2 rally in Cave Creek.

State Sen. Wendy Rogers wants to arrest the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

“I am about to go scorched earth if I don’t see progress from the Arizona AG soon,” state Sen. Wendy Rogers tweeted on Friday.

“Start calling and emailing the Arizona Attorney General,” Rogers tweeted on Tuesday. “Tell him to do his job and make arrests of the people the Arizona Senate caught deleting election files.”

Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward’s on board with that.

“They admit they hid evidence! #Crime,” Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward tweeted on Monday.

Either way, Brnovich will likely lose

Here in the real world, the supervisors have admitted that they moved election data to the archives, clearing space in the county’s election management system in February as they prepared for the spring elections. So not deleted, merely archived – meaning available for anyone to see who presents a subpoena.

But alas for Brnovich, the real world is not the space that he must occupy if he’s going to have a shot at Mark Kelly. Every day, the calls grow louder for him to start arresting people.

Brnovich is in a tough spot.

He’s sworn to follow the law and besides that, he’s saavy enough to know he can’t repeat the mistakes of McSally, who lost – twice – because she tied herself too tightly to Trump.

But he also needs to survive the primary, which means he must cater to the conspiracy crowd.

And the arrest-‘em-all fanatics don’t seem content with mere appetizers thrown their way in the form of a promise to investigate. They are demanding generous, juicy slabs of red meat – the bloodier the better.

Unfortunately for Brnovich, the blood left on the floor may, in the end, be his own.


Reach Roberts at Follow her on Twitter at @LaurieRoberts.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Rational Republicans must ally with Democrats to save our democracy

WATCH: "We have a Republican Party that is now an autocratic cult around Donald Trump,” California Democrat @RepAdamSchiff tells @margbrennan on Face the Nation. “It is not interested in governing. It’s not interested in even maintaining the solvency in the credit worthiness of the country.”

Heather Cox Richardson, in her Oct 12 Letters from an American, expands on a theme by former (and some present) Republicans arguing for an alliance of “rational Republicans” and moderate Democrats. Here is her essay.


Both the New York Times and the Washington Post today ran op-eds from Republicans or former Republicans urging members of their party who still value democracy to vote Democratic until the authoritarian faction that has taken over their party is bled out of it.

In the New York Times, Miles Taylor and Christine Todd Whitman wrote, “We are Republicans. There’s only one way to save our party from pro-Trump extremists.” Taylor served in the Department of Homeland Security and was the author of the 2018 New York Times piece by “Anonymous” criticizing former president Trump. Whitman was governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001, after which she headed the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush.

Taylor and Whitman note that “rational Republicans” had hoped after Trump’s defeat that they might take back the party, but it is clear now, they write, that they are losing the party’s “civil war.” But while they originally hoped to form a new party, they now agree that the only way to stop Trumpism “is for us to form an alliance with Democrats to defend American institutions, defeat far-right candidates, and elect honorable representatives next year—including a strong contingent of moderate Democrats.” To defend democracy, they write, “concerned conservatives must join forces with Democrats on the most essential near-term imperative: blocking Republican leaders from regaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives” and the Senate.

They call for Republicans to put country over party and back moderate Democrats, while also asking Democrats to concede that “there are certain races where progressives simply cannot win and acknowledg[e] that it makes more sense to throw their lot in with a center-right candidate who can take out a more radical conservative.”

At the Washington Post, Max Boot takes an even stronger stand: “I’m no Democrat—but I’m voting exclusively for Democrats to save our democracy.” Boot is a Russian-American specialist in foreign affairs who identifies as a conservative but no longer supports the Republican Party. He writes: “I’m a single-issue voter. My issue is the fate of democracy in the United States. Simply put, I have no faith that we will remain a democracy if Republicans win power. Thus, although I’m not a Democrat, I will continue to vote exclusively for Democrats—as I have done in every election since 2016—until the GOP ceases to pose an existential threat to our freedom.”

Boot singles out the dueling reports from the Senate Judiciary Committee about the nine ways in which Trump tried to pressure then–acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen to back his claims of election fraud. The Democrats on the committee established these efforts with an evidence-based report, only to have the Republicans on the committee, led by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), respond that the president was simply trying to promote confidence in the election results and that since he did not ultimately replace Rosen with another lawyer who promised to use the Justice Department to challenge the election—after the other leaders of the Justice Department threatened to resign in a mass protest—he did not actually abuse his office.

Boot writes, “It is mind-boggling that a defeated president won’t accept the election outcome…. What is even more alarming is that more than 60 percent of Republicans agree with his preposterous assertion that the election was stolen and want him to remain as the party’s leader.”

Taylor, Whitman, and Boot are hardly the first to be calling out the anti-democratic consolidation of the Republican Party. Yesterday, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, managed Trump’s first impeachment trial, and sits on the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, gave an interview to CBS’s Face the Nation in which he called the Republican Party “an autocratic cult around Donald Trump” that is “not interested in governing” or “maintaining the solvency of the country.”

But what makes today’s op-eds stand out is that they are from former Republicans, that they are calling not for a separate party but for Republicans to shift their votes to the Democrats, and that their identification of the Republicans as an existential threat to our democracy is being published in major newspapers.

Mainstream television and newspapers have been slow to identify the radicalization of the Republican Party as a threat to democracy. The Eastman memo, uncovered by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa at the end of September in their new book Peril, flew largely under the radar screen, explained away as more of Trump being Trump even as it laid out, in writing, the steps to overturn the 2020 election and even as we knew that the former president tried to put that plan into place. A study by Media Matters showed that ABC, NBC, and CBS all chose not even to mention the memo; they reach more than 20 million Americans.

On Saturday, a monologue by comedian Bill Maher about the Eastman memo titled “Slow Moving Coup” laid out in 8 minutes how Trump tried to steal the 2020 election and how, when officials resisted him, he set out to solidify his power for 2024. Maher woke people up to the ongoing crisis in our democracy.

Maher’s monologue, along with the draft Senate Judiciary Committee report, which sets out in detail the efforts the former president made to bend the Department of Justice to his will, seems to have driven home to members of the press the fact that they cannot present today’s news as business as usual, especially after their presentation of the debt ceiling crisis as a political horse race when one side was trying to save the country and the other to destroy it. In the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday, journalist Will Bunch wrote: “The future of American democracy depends, frankly, on whether journalists stop burying their head in ‘the work’ of balanced-but-misleading reporting and admit that, yes, actually, we are at war.”

Bunch pointed out that on Friday, the Nobel Peace Prize went to two journalists, Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia. Both have braved political persecution and threats to hold the autocratic leaders of their countries—Rodrigo Duterte and Vladimir Putin—to account, battling against the online disinformation and attacks on the press that shore up their support.

“In a battle for facts, in a battle for truth, journalism is activism,” Ressa said in 2020. Disinformation, she said, “is how you transform a democracy. This is death by a thousand cuts. The same thing is happening in the United States. I think the goal of influence operations or information operations is to seed it, repeat it, incite hate and…change the way real people think, and that impacts the real world. This is happening all around the world. That’s what the research has shown us, that’s what the data shows us.”

In 1854, the elite slaveholders who controlled the Democratic Party at the time pressured Congress to bow to their will and overturn the Missouri Compromise that had kept enslavement out of the western territories. Northern men, who disagreed among themselves on party allegiance, and immigration, and economic policies, and women’s rights, and Black rights, recognized that the acquisition of new western slave states would mean it was only a question of time until the enslavers took over the federal government and made their oligarchical system national.

Northern men recognized they must put their political differences aside until they saved democracy. Abraham Lincoln later remembered that men were “thunderstruck and stunned” by the passage of the law that overturned the Missouri Compromise, “and we reeled and fell in utter confusion. But we rose each fighting, grasping whatever he could first reach—a scythe—a pitchfork—a chopping axe, or a butcher’s cleaver…. “‘[O]ur drill, our dress, and our weapons, are not entirely perfect and uniform,” Lincoln said, but “[w]hen the storm shall be past, [men] shall find us still Americans; no less devoted to the continued Union and prosperity of the country than heretofore.”


Sunday, October 10, 2021

America is getting dumb ... and dumber by the minute

Opinion: How dumb can a nation get and still survive?

That’s the question posed by Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson.

T.S. Eliot wrote that the world ends "not with a bang but a whimper,” but I fear our great nation is careening toward a third manner of demise: descent into lip-blubbering, self-destructive idiocy.

How did we become, in such alarming measure, so dumb? Why is the news dominated by ridiculous controversies that should not be controversial at all? When did so many of our fellow citizens become full-blown nihilists who deny even the concept of objective reality? And how must this look to the rest of the world?

Read the headlines and try not to weep:


Our elected representatives in the U.S. Senate, which laughably calls itself “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” agreed Thursday not to wreck our economy and trigger a global recession — at least for a few weeks. Republicans had refused to raise the federal debt ceiling, or even to let Democrats do so quickly by simple majority vote. They relented only after needlessly unsettling an international financial system based on the U.S. dollar.

The frequent games of chicken that Congress plays over the debt ceiling are — to use a term of art I recall from Economics 101 — droolingly stupid. In the end, yes, we always agree to pay our obligations. But the credit rating of the planet’s greatest economic superpower has already been lowered because of this every-few-years ritual, and each time we stage the absurd melodrama, we risk a miscalculation that sends us over the fiscal cliff.

Today’s trench-warfare political tribalism makes that peril greater than ever. An intelligent and reasonable Congress would eliminate the debt ceiling once and for all. Our Congress is neither.

In other news, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) was speaking to a crowd of Republicans at a country club in his home state Saturday when he tried, gently, to boost South Carolina’s relatively low rate of vaccination against the coronavirus. He began, “If you haven’t had the vaccine, you ought to think about getting it because if you’re my age — ”

"No!” yelled many in the crowd.

Graham retreated — “I didn’t tell you to get it; you ought to think about it” — and then defended his own decision to get vaccinated. But still the crowd shouted him down. Seriously, people?

Covid–19 is a highly infectious disease that has killed more than 700,000 Americans over the past 20 months. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines all but guarantee that recipients will not die from covid. I have, or had, an acquaintance who refused to get vaccinated, despite pleas from his adult children to protect himself. He got covid–19, and it killed him. Most of the deaths the nation has suffered during the current delta-variant wave of the disease — deaths of the unvaccinated — have been similarly needless and senseless.

Covid–19 is a bipartisan killer. In the tribal-political sense, the safe and effective vaccines are a bipartisan miracle, developed under the Republican Trump administration and largely distributed under the Democratic Biden administration. People in most of the rest of the world realize, however, that vaccination is not political at all; it is a matter of life and death, and also a matter of how soon — if ever — we get to resume our normal lives.

Why would people not protect their own health and save their own lives? How is this anything but just plain stupid?

We are having other fights that are, unlike vaccination, partisan and political — but equally divorced from demonstrable fact.

Conservatives in state legislatures across the country are pushing legislation to halt the teaching of “critical race theory” in public schools. I put the term in quotes because genuine critical race theory, a dry and esoteric set of ideas debated in obscure academic journals, is not actually being taught in those schools at all. What’s being taught instead — and squelched — is American history, which happens to include slavery, Jim Crow repression and structural racism.

I get it. The GOP has become the party of White racial grievance, and this battle against an imaginary enemy stirs the base. But the whole charade involves Republican officials — many of them educated at the nation’s top schools — betting that their constituents are too dumb to know they’re being lied to. So far, the bet is paying off.

And then, of course, there’s the whole “stolen election” farce, which led to the tragedy of Jan. 6. Every recount, every court case, every verifiable fact proves that Joe Biden fairly defeated Donald Trump. Yet a sizeable portion of the American electorate either can’t do basic arithmetic or doesn’t believe that one plus one always equals two.

How dumb can a nation get and still survive? Idiotically, we seem determined to find out.


A dark prediction for 2024

Bill Maher makes a very “ dark prediction for the 2024 U.S. presidential election.”

Charlie Sykes (Bulwark) advises: “When you have time, you should watch this. You might not be a Maher fan, but he’s not wrong.”