Tired

I’m tired, my friends, and I imagine you are too.

  • I’m tired of being told that more than 3,200 deaths by guns, including 44 mass shootings in less than 28 days is simply the ‘price of freedom’. Freedom to … WHAT?  Get shot to death at the grocery store?  To have our children killed in school?  If that’s the price of freedom, you can keep the damned freedom!
  • I’m tired of the altogether too frequent killing of people by the police … the very people we are supposed to be able to trust to protect life. The relatively few police who take the lives of primarily Black people who have done little or no wrong, have given police officers everywhere a bad name and frankly, if I see a cop in a store, I turn the other way, hoping he doesn’t even notice me.  If I see one behind me at a traffic light, my heart stops and I try so hard to look innocent that I probably look guilty!
  • I’m tired of being called a ‘Marxist’ because I believe in human rights, believe that nobody should amass huge amounts of wealth while others go to bed hungry at night, or live on the streets in cardboard boxes.
  • I’m tired of spending more than half of my monthly Social Security stipend on medications that are essential to keep me from dying, while seeing the profits of the pharma companies that manufacture those drugs skyrocket.
  • I’m tired of listening to Republican politicians threatening to cut that very same Social Security that a) I paid into all my life, and b) is not enough to support me if I lived on my own! This is a threat against the very survival of those of us over a certain age, so apparently those politicians have decided that our lives no longer add value to the world.
  • I’m tired of conspiracy theories, especially those lies told by politicians who know the truth, but find it more expeditious to their own ends to push the lies.  And I’m tired of the ignorance in the general public that allows so many everyday people to believe those lies.
  • I’m tired of companies that raise their prices for one of a variety of excuses – supply chain issues, staffing shortages, increased production costs – and then at the end of the year show a huge increase in their profits.
  • I’m tired of the bigotry that is on the rise in this country. Anti-LGBTQ sentiment, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny … all are increasing at significant levels, thanks in part to religious ‘leaders’ who have zero tolerance for any that don’t fit their pat little images, and in part due to politicians like Ron DeSantis and others who promote the idea that ‘other’ is bad, ‘other’ is to be shunned.
  • I’m tired of a free press that keeps shoving the former guy down our throats. By now, he should have faded into obscurity to the point that if we saw a picture of him, we’d say, “Oh yeah … I remember that fat slob … what was his name again?”  But no, we have to see his picture and read every word that comes out of his lying mouth on a daily basis.
  • I’m tired, most of all, of Republican politicians in Congress who are bastards. Sorry, Keith, but that fits them to a ‘T’.  They take our hard-earned tax dollars to the tune of $174,000 and more every year, and then fail miserably to do the job for which we paid them.  They don’t legislate, they retaliate.  They don’t build, they destroy.  They don’t govern, they campaign.  Before the current 118th Congress was even seated, they were already plotting their next election campaigns.  I’m tired of our government being so divided by party that ‘party’ is the only thing that matters, not people.
  • I’m tired of feeling helpless to change any of the things I’m tired of. I’m tired of being ashamed of this country I’ve lived in for almost 72 years now, tired of wishing I were almost anywhere but here.  My vote is my voice, but it is a very small voice, made even smaller with such tactics as gerrymandering that dilute my voice.

I could probably think of more, but … I’m tired of writing for tonight, so I think I’ll go read for a while now.

MAINLY FOR AMERICANS, AND THOSE AFFECTED BY THEM — The Debt Ceiling Debate

On Tuesday, I read, saved and bookmarked Robert Reich’s newsletter about the debt ceiling, planning to share it sometime soon, but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Meanwhile, our friend rawgod beat me to the draw, so in the interest of not re-inventing the wheel, I shall re-blog rg’s post! Please take a few moments to read this piece, for it clears up some miscomprehensions about what the debt ceiling is and how critical it is to the very survival of this nation. Thanks, rg!

Ideas From Outside the Boxes

Following are the words of Professor Robert Reich, once upon a time the Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. He is now, and has long been, an American professor, author, lawyer, and political commentator. He also worked in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. I believe he knows the truth about what he is saying.

**********************

Friends,

Few things make me as furious as the mainstream media’s reluctance to tell the public what the Republican Party is doing — and instead hide the truth behind “both sides” rubbish. How the hell can democracy work ifTheNew York Times,CNN, and even National Public Radio obscure what’s really going on?

Let me state five central truths about the pending fight over the debt ceiling and show you how the mainstream media is distorting each of them.

Truth #1: The fight is being waged solely by the…

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My Imagination Runs Amok …

It is early June, the crisis point on the debt ceiling has been reached, and word has come down from on high that “Nobody leaves the Capitol until there is agreement on raising the debt ceiling NOW!!!”  And so, the 435 representatives of the 50 states, tired and grumpy, are once again trying to hammer out a compromise that will at least appease both sides.  For the purpose of this conversation, there are only two voices – Republican and Democrat, shortened to Rep & Dem – representing all members of each party’s interest.

Dem:  Well, the problem is actually quite simple … putting it in layman’s terms for you, consider the family whose bills exceed their monthly income.  Now, they have a few choices:  take another or get a better-paying job to earn more money; reduce some expenses, cut back on non-essentials; or sell something for additional funds.  This is where the U.S. government is at.  Now, let’s talk about those three choices.

Rep:  I’ve been saying all along that we need to reduce expenses!  Those retired people are getting around $1,600 every month for sitting on their porch swings throwing peanuts out for the birds!  Cut that in half … they should have been smarter and saved while they were working!

Dem:  I’m not even gonna dignify that with a response!  Those old folks paid into Social Security all their lives on the promise by the U.S. government – US – that they would have a cushion for their old age.  You want to jerk that right out from under them?  I know you probably don’t pay the bills in your house or do the shopping, but let me tell you, $1,600 a month is nothing!

Rep:  Okay, okay, you bleeding heart liberal!  So, what’s your better idea, or do you just want to rebut mine?

Dem:  We increase revenue by … guess what … taxing your rich buddies!  Percentage-wise, they are paying less than your average working Joe, especially since the tax cuts your lying little buddy gave them in 2017!  Cut their loopholes, institute a fully gradient taxation schedule, and no exceptions!

Rep:  Oh no!!!  You start doing that, and our donor contributions will shrivel to nothing!  Absolutely NOT!  That idea is not even on the table!

Dem:  Alright, then … that leaves the third option:  we sell something.

Rep:  Like what … maybe the White House, complete with the president in it?  (laughs at his own joke)

Dem:  No, I’m thinking maybe … well look, we’ve got 50 states, right?  Personally, since it’s likely going to be underwater in ten years anyway, I’d opt for selling Florida.

Rep:  I knew you’d pick a red state to sell … just knew it!  Okay, let’s take a different approach and look at which state is smallest?  I’m thinking that would be Rhode Island, right?  Only about … let me look this up right quick … only 1,544 square miles!  We’d hardly even miss it!

Dem:  No way, Josè!  First, it may be the smallest in terms of land mass, but not of population.  Second, it is in the heart of the New England states … nobody is going to buy a state that’s surrounded on all sides by other states.  But, that brings to mind another possibility, one that you might even agree to.  Alaska!  Alaska has the fourth smallest population, only 724,357 people, and it isn’t even physically attached to the U.S., but rather to Canada!  Why, I bet we could make Justin Trudeau an offer he couldn’t refuse and he’d snap it up in a heartbeat!

Rep:  Well … I dunno.  That would increase your majority in the Senate by two.

Dem:  And it would increase your majority here in the House by one.  And what, really, does Alaska contribute to the national good?

Rep:  Hey, there’s oil under all that snow and ice!  OIL!!!

Dem:  And you know as well as I do that the future of oil is doomed.  You can deny it ‘til the cows come home, but climate science is real and oil is soon going to be a thing of the past as we move on toward more renewable, environmentally-friendly energy sources.  WAKE UP!

Rep:  Yeah, yeah … I know it and you know it, but I can’t tell my constituents that, for I’ve spent years convincing them that climate change is a Democratic hoax!  Why, I’d never get re-elected!  Not to mention I’d lose all those lovely donations from the fossil fuel industry.

Dem:  Okay, fine, whatever.  It’s after 2:00 a.m., we’re all tired, and we have a mandate to come to an agreement before we can go home and crawl into our beds, so … do we have an agreement?  We raise the debt ceiling, pay the bills and let the old folks keep on keeping on, and to make up the difference, we sell Alaska to the Canadians?

Rep:  I don’t much like it, but I sense it’s the best we’re going to manage, so … okay, deal.

They shake hands, and the deal is done. 

To Laugh? Or To Cry?

I can honestly say I don’t know whether to laugh or cry over some of the latest news stories.  At first, I chuckle, maybe even let out a guffaw.  And then, I ponder … and soon the corners of my mouth turn downward as I growl.  A few examples …


In Iowa, the House Republicans have proposed new ‘restrictions’ on food stamps and what a person can purchase with them.  Mind you, food stamps are intended to help lower income people feed their families healthy meals so that they can survive, maybe even grow up healthy.  Among the restrictions are:

  • No white grains — people can only purchase 100% whole wheat bread, brown rice and 100% whole wheat pasta.
  • No baked, refried or chili beans — people can purchase black, red and pinto beans.
  • No fresh meats — people can purchase only canned products like canned tuna or canned salmon.
  • No sliced, cubed or crumbled cheese. No American cheese.

I fail to see the method to the madness here.  They cannot buy sliced cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches, but can buy unlimited amounts of unhealthy soft drinks?  I seriously doubt this proposal will get past first base, but then again … it’s Iowa … who knows?  The very fact that they want to place those in need under their thumbs is, in my book, unconscionable!


It appears that the U.S. Department of State, led by Antony Blinken, has its priorities lined up, and one of them is … wait for it … what font to use in its communications!  OH YES, be still my heart!  I’ve always hoped that someone would dedicate their life (and our tax dollars) to deciding on a universal font for public communications!  What, after all, could be more important than that???  (Sarcasm intended)  From an article in Politico

Earlier this week, a memo from Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN directed all department personnel in the agency’s Foggy Bottom headquarters and posts around the world to use Calibri, a large sans-serif font, for all official documents. His deadline: Feb. 6.

“The Times (New Roman) are a-Changing,” the cable was titled.

The change, a spokesperson for the State Department said, was recommended by the secretary’s office of diversity and inclusion as a way to make the print easier to read for people who use screen readers or other assistive technologies. It grew out of the agency’s iCount campaign last year, an effort to create a more inclusive workplace for employees with disabilities.

It happens that my Word program is set for Calibri, for I do find Times Roman and other ‘serif’ fonts more difficult to read, but … does it really require a federal directive???


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is a racist.  Full stop.  He neither respects nor likes the Black people who comprise some 16% of the people in his state.  He has banned the teaching of Advanced Placement (AP) African-American history, a program that has been approved at the federal level by the U.S. Department of Education, and that will be taught in all other 49 states of the union.  Names like Harriet Tubman, Medgar Evers, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks and others may never be taught in Florida schools if DeSantis has his way. Their contributions to this nation were as important as those of any white people!  Maybe more so!  Floridians will be stupid in regards to the history … the factual history … of this nation because their parents kept voting for a racist.

WAKE UP, RON!!!

DeSantis likes to throw around the word ‘woke’ as if it were some horrible thing to be.  Let me tell you something, Ronnie … I am ‘woke’ and because I am woke, I go to bed every damned night with a clear conscience.  Because I care more about living beings – both human and otherwise – than I care about money and ‘things’, I am ‘woke’ and damned proud to be so!  I don’t know how DeSantis and his ilk can even look at their own face in the mirror without cringing.


Okay … enough of my grousing … go enjoy the rest of your weekend!

A Letter, A Letter! I Wrote A Letter!

Mr. Kevin McCarthy

2468 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, D.C.  20515

Dear Mr. McCarthy,

I am writing to you today to make a few suggestions, since you and your party seem a bit lost at the moment.  You have appointed people to committees they know nothing about and have set up investigations into … nothing that that should be considered to be any business of the U.S. House of Representatives.  So, I have a few suggestions for things you guys can investigate or do, so at the end of your short two-year tenure, at least you’ll have something to show for your time in office.

  • In 2021, Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of the former guy, received a check from Saudi Arabia in the amount of $2 billion. We the People would like to know what under-the-table deal led to this mega payment.
  • We the People would also like to see you continue the excellent work that was done by the House January 6th They did a great job, but their work was cut short when a new House of Representatives took over, and there is still much to be learned about who, precisely, played a role in the multiple efforts to rob We the People of our voices, our votes.
  • While I realize you have a very slim majority and need every vote you can score, I think you would earn a bit of respect if you did the right thing and removed George Santos from your number. Yes, he will likely be replaced by a Democrat, but you will know that you did the right thing.  You will have a clear conscience, at least on this one issue.  I fully believe that Mr. Santos has a serious mental health problem, and while I empathise with that, the United States Congress is no place for a pathological liar.
  • We the People would like to see you and your ‘team’ extend an olive branch across the aisle. In theory, at least, you all work for the same employer … WE THE PEOPLE!  All this idle chatter about shutting down the Internal Revenue Service and replacing the income tax with a “consumption tax” of 30% on every single thing we purchase is bullshit, and you know that all too well.  You’re supposed to be looking out for our interests, not stabbing us in the back!
  • The debt ceiling is not a weapon for you to use to get publicity … it is important that we stay on top of our financial obligations, both foreign and domestic.  Fully half of your party do not even understand the difference between the debt ceiling, the budget, the national debt, and the deficit.  I sometime wonder if you understand the difference?  At any rate, if you cannot work together with your Democratic partners to avoid a catastrophe, then … you really aren’t any sort of a leader at all, are you?
  • I really think you need to re-think some of the committee appointments you have made. For example … Marge Greene on the Homeland Security Committee???  What were you thinking?  She is a supporter of domestic terrorism!!!  15 of the 21 Republicans you placed on the Oversight Committee voted to overturn the election results and 14 of 18 Republicans you placed on the Judiciary Committee, including Jim Jordan himself, also voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election.  These people voted to put duct tape across the mouths of more than 81 million people, including myself!  They voted, basically, to replace democracy with autocracy, to take away our Constitutional right to have a voice in our government!  And YOU put them on some of the most important committees in the House?
  • And last, but not least, forget about Hunter Biden’s laptop … A) It isn’t a matter for Congress. Hunter Biden is a private citizen.  B) Nobody cares.  And speaking of such things … I understand you’re planning to ‘investigate’ the leak in the Supreme Court of the Dobbs decision.  Don’t bother.  A) It was likely Justice Samuel Alito, B) Nobody cares, and C) We the People had every right to know how the Court would be voting on Dobbs, for it was a decision that took away the rights of fully 50% of the population of this nation, including mine!

Overall, Mr. McCarthy, I really think you need to go off on your own this weekend, to a cabin somewhere in the woods, no television, no cell phone, no laptop, and take a long hard look inside yourself, have a nice long chat with your conscience, if you still have one.  You are not working in the best interests of this nation and its people, and I honestly believe you are smart enough to know that.  I hope you can find your conscience and listen to the voices telling you, reminding you, that you work for the people of this nation, that you owe US, not the Republican Party, not the extremists, not the racists, but the 330 million people who live in this country.

Sincerely,

Jill Dennison, citizen, taxpayer, voter

No delusions – poor governance in action

The U.S. House of Representatives is supposed to be “the people’s” branch of Congress, but today it is anything but. The goals of about half the members of the House do not align with the goal of a government that is “… of the people, by the people, for the people.” Check out what our friend Keith has to say about the House and responsible governance.

musingsofanoldfart

In case you had any delusions that the new majority in the US House would offer up good governance, please note:

– Returning Congress representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar have been seated on Committees by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, after being removed in the last Congress for their inflammatory and inane remarks. When I think of Greene and Gosar, the words reasonable and collaborative are not top of mind.

– New Congressman George Santos, the one with the highly fabricated resume, will be seated on two Committees by Speaker McCarthy. Instead of advocating for his being censured or even removed, Santos gets two Committee assignments. I guess the Speaker holds lying in higher regard than most people. Either that or he needed his vote to remain Speaker and will put up with anything.

– Numerous bills have been proposed to restrict voting. As an independent voter, the greater problem…

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Conservative??? I Think NOT

The debt ceiling will soon become a crisis by any definition.  Too many people are under the misconception that raising the debt ceiling gives way to new spending – it does not.  Raising the debt ceiling simply allows the U.S. government to continue to function, to pay the debts and obligations it has already incurred.  Full stop.  The ‘House Freedom Caucus’, a group of some of the most radical Republicans, claims to be ‘conservative’ in nature, but they are not.  The definition of ‘conservative’ is averse to change or innovation and holding traditional values.”  Seems to me that paying your debts is a traditional value.  As Taegan Goddard of Political Wire tells us, the intention to stall the process of raising the debt ceiling, thereby throwing the U.S. government into chaos and destroying our alliances, is anything but conservative.


There’s Nothing ‘Conservative’ About the Freedom Caucus

Taegan Goddard

17 January 2023

If you pay strict attention to what House Freedom Caucus members say they want, you might see why they’re so angry.

Over the last 40 years, the Republican Party has completely failed in its promise to make government smaller.

David Hopkins explains:

“There is a simple reason why there aren’t large-scale spending reductions or the permanent closure of multiple federal departments and agencies when Republicans take power: The votes to do it are never there. The public’s fondness for small government in the abstract seldom translates into support for eliminating specific benefits or programs.

Incumbents in competitive seats are understandably reluctant to cut popular services. Moreover, the fact that appropriations legislation is subject to the Senate filibuster ensures that yearly spending bills are always the product of bipartisan compromise in at least one chamber of Congress.”

To overcome this political reality, the Freedom Caucus is now setting up a dangerous showdown over the nation’s debt ceiling in an effort to force spending cuts.

The problem with this argument is that the debt limit doesn’t authorize any new spending. Congress does that with its annual appropriations bills.

What the debt ceiling does is allow the federal government to pay off existing obligations that past Congresses have already passed and funded.

So in the name of “conservatism,” the Freedom Caucus is suggesting the government renege on those promises. That’s hardly conservative.

Of course, these same “conservatives” voted for massive tax cuts during the Trump administration — when the Republicans controlled both the House and Senate — without offsetting them with spending cuts. That’s not conservative either.

As Charlie Sykes writes:

“Indeed, it’s hard to imagine anything less conservative than defaulting on the debt you are obligated to pay and shutting down the government you are entrusted to run.”

There must be a better word to describe them.


I can think of a few better words to describe them, but I’ll just bite my tongue … for now.

Just A Coupl’a Thoughts …

I’ve said before that these next two years are going to be chaotic and annoying, and already my angst levels are high, though not as high as they were at this point six years ago!  So, I have just a couple of thoughts at the moment to share with you.


The keepers of the purse …

Y’know … the people on the right-hand side of the aisle, also known as Republicans, sure do make a big fuss over saying that Democrats are not fiscally responsible, that they just spend, spend, spend, with no thought to a balanced budget or debt reduction.  Funny though … last year the U.S. deficit (the difference between assets and liabilities) fell … from $2.6 trillion to $1.4 trillion.  Now, as I recall, the Democrats were a majority in both chambers of Congress, and we had a Democratic president as well.  So, it seems to me that the Democrats do just fine with managing finances!  I guess those Republicans just need something to say to make themselves feel superior, eh?  Oh, and in case you’re wondering … the last time the deficit was erased and the budget fully balanced was under another Democrat – President Bill Clinton.


And speaking of those pesky Republicans …

In the days following the January 6th violent insurrection, additional security measures were taken in the Capitol, one of which was to install metal detectors, known as magnetometers.  Threats against members of Congress are at an all-time high, with 9,625 such threats in 2022 alone, so the safety of our lawmakers should be of primary concern.  But once the Republicans won a very slim majority in the House of Representatives, they had the magnetometers removed from outside the House chamber.  Why?  Who knows?  I do seem to recall that pistol-totin’ Lauren Boebert complained about having to pass through the detectors, ‘cause you know she can’t go anywhere without her gun, so maybe she whined long and loud enough.  Or maybe they’re already working with the likes of the Proud Boys to plot the next attempted coup and want to make sure they can get in with their guns.

But in an additional move to risk the safety of the members of the House, they lifted the smoking ban on their side of the Capitol building.  A number of representatives lit up stinky stogies (cigars) just because they could.  An interesting tidbit … former House Speaker John Boehner smoked so many cigarettes that new carpets, a fresh coat of paint and an ozone machine were required when Paul Ryan took over his office.  Guess who paid for all that?  I wonder if some of the non-smokers will file a lawsuit against their colleagues?


And that’s all the serious stuff I have the stomach for this morning, so how ‘bout some ‘toons?

An Insightful Conversation

There are a few conservative journalists that I follow and respect, for they are not in sync with today’s Republican Party, but are of a generation of conservatives that still believe in such things as integrity and responsibility.  Two of those are David Brooks and Bret Stephens, opinion columnists for the New York Times.  What follows is a conversation between the two, and while by no means do they agree on every point, I think both are in full agreement that the Republican Party no longer represents their views and values.  This is a lengthy article and normally I would have posted the first few paragraphs and provided a link to the original article.  However, since the NYT has a paywall and many of you would not be able to read it, and because I think it is a worthy read, I am posting it in its entirety here.


The Party’s Over for Us. Where Do We Go Now?

By Bret Stephens and David Brooks

11 January 2023

For decades, conservative values have been central to Bret Stephens’s and David Brooks’s political beliefs, and the Republican Party was the vehicle to extend those beliefs into policy. But in recent years, both the party and a radicalized conservative movement have left them feeling alienated in various ways. Now, with an extremist fringe seemingly in control of the House, the G.O.P. bears little resemblance to the party that was once their home. Bret and David got together to suss out what happened and where the party can go.

Bret Stephens: Lately I’ve been thinking about that classic Will Rogers line: “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” A century or so later, it looks like the shoe is on the other foot. Is it even possible to call the Republican Party a “party” anymore?

David Brooks: My thinking about the G.O.P. goes back to a brunch I had with Laura Ingraham and Dinesh D’Souza in the ’80s that helps me see, in retrospect, that people in my circle were pro-conservative, while Ingraham and D’Souza and people in their circle were anti-left. We wanted to champion Edmund Burke and Adam Smith and a Reaganite foreign policy. They wanted to rock the establishment. That turned out to be a consequential difference because almost all the people in my circle back then — like David Frum and Robert Kagan — ended up, decades later, NeverTrumpers, and almost all the people in their circle became Trumpers or went bonkers.

Bret: Right, they weren’t conservatives. They were just illiberal.

David: Then in 1995 some friends and I created a magazine called The Weekly Standard. The goal was to help the G.O.P. become a mature governing party. Clearly we did an awesome job! I have a zillion thoughts about where the Republican Party went astray, but do you have a core theory?

Bret: I have multiple theories, but let me start with one: The mid-1990s was also the time that Newt Gingrich became speaker of the House and Fox News got started. Back then, those who were on the more intelligent end of the conservative spectrum thought a magazine such as The Weekly Standard, a channel such as Fox and a guy like Gingrich would be complementary: The Standard would provide innovative ideas for Republican leaders like Gingrich, and Fox would popularize those ideas for right-of-center voters. It didn’t work out as planned. The supposed popularizers turned into angry populists. And the populists turned on the intellectuals.

To borrow Warren Buffett’s take about investing, the conservative movement went from innovation to imitation to idiocy. It’s how the movement embraced Donald Trump as a standard-bearer and role model. All the rest, as they say, is Commentary.

Your theory?

David: I think I’d tell a similar story, but maybe less flattering to my circle. The people who led the Republican Party, either as president (Ronald Reagan through the Bushes), members of Congress (Jack Kemp, John McCain, Paul Ryan) or as administration officials and intellectuals (Richard Darman, Condi Rice) believed in promoting change through the institutions of established power. They generally wanted to shrink and reform the government but they venerated the Senate, the institution of the presidency, and they worked comfortably with people from the think tanks, the press and the universities. They were liberal internationalists, cosmopolitan, believers in the value of immigration.

Bret: I’d add that they also believed in the core values of old-fashioned liberalism: faith in the goodness of democracy, human rights, the rule of law, free speech, political compromise, the political process itself. They believed in building things up, not just tearing them down. I would count myself among them.

David: Then the establishment got discredited (Iraq War, financial crisis, the ossifying of the meritocracy, the widening values gap between metro elites and everybody else), and suddenly all the people I regarded as fringe and wackadoodle (Pat Buchanan, Donald Trump, anybody who ran CPAC) rose up on the wave of populist fury.

Everybody likes a story in which the little guy rises up to take on the establishment, but in this case the little guys rode in on a wave of know-nothingism, mendacity, an apocalyptic mind-set, and authoritarianism. Within a few short years, a somewhat Hamiltonian party became a Jacksonian one, with a truly nihilistic wing.

Bret: Slightly unfair to Jackson, who at least opposed nullification, but I take your overall point.

David: After many years of the G.O.P. decaying, the party’s institutional and moral collapse happened quickly, between 2013 and 2016. In the 2000 Republican primaries I enthusiastically supported John McCain. I believed in his approach to governance and I admired him enormously. But by 2008, when he got the nomination, the party had shifted and McCain had shifted along with it. I walked into the polling booth that November genuinely not knowing if I would vote for McCain or Barack Obama. Then an optical illusion flashed across my brain. McCain and Obama’s names appeared to be written on the ballot in 12-point type. But Sarah Palin’s name looked like it was written in red in 24-point type. I don’t think I’ve ever said this publicly before, but I voted for Obama.

Bret: I voted for McCain. If I were basing my presidential votes on the vice-presidential candidate, I’d have thought twice about voting for Biden.

On your point about populism: There have been previous Republican presidents who rode to office on waves of populist discontent, particularly Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. But as presidents they channeled the discontent into serious programs and also turned their backs on the ugly fringes of the right. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and expanded the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Reagan established a working relationship with Democratic House leaders to pass tax reform and gave amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. What’s different this time is that populist feelings were never harnessed to pragmatic policies. As you say, it’s just populism in the service of nihilism.

David: So where does the G.O.P. go from here and where does the old core of the conservative movement go? Do they (we) become Democrats or a quiet left-wing fringe of what’s become Matt Gaetz’s clown show?

Bret: When people get on a bad path, whether it’s drinking or gambling or political or religious fanaticism, they tend to follow it all the way to the bottom, at which point they either die or have that proverbial moment of clarity. I’ve been waiting for Republicans to have a moment of clarity for a while now — after Joe Biden’s victory, or Jan. 6, the midterms, Trump’s dinner with Kanye West. I had a flicker of hope that the Kevin McCarthy debacle last week would open some eyes, but probably not. Part of the problem is that so many Republicans no longer get into politics to pass legislation. They do it to become celebrities. The more feverish they are, the better it sells.

On the other hand, some Republicans who conspicuously did well in the midterms were the “normies” — people like Gov. Brian Kemp in Georgia and Gov. Mike DeWine in Ohio. It gives me hope that the fever will eventually burn itself out, maybe after a few well-earned defeats. The solution here is some kind of Republican version of the old Democratic Leadership Council, which yanked left-wing Democrats back to the center after three consecutive presidential wipeouts and paved the way for the election of Bill Clinton.

Which raises another question for me, David: Where are the old brains and money trusts of the G.O.P., to give life and energy to that kind of effort?

David: Well, it’s not going to be me! Even in my red-hot youth, when I worked for Bill Buckley at National Review, I didn’t see myself as a Republican, just a conservative. I maintain a distance from political parties because I think it’s always wrong for a writer to align too closely to a party. That’s the path to predictability and propagandism. Furthermore, I belong in the American tradition that begins with Alexander Hamilton, runs through the Whig Party and Lincoln, and then modernized with Theodore Roosevelt, parts of Reagan and McCain. I wasted years writing essays on how Republicans could maintain this tradition. The party went the other way. Now I think the Democrats are a better Hamiltonian home.

Bret: I’m part of the same conservative tradition, though maybe with a heavier dose of Milton Friedman.

David: Our trajectories with the G.O.P. are fairly similar, and so are our lives. I’m older than you, but our lives have a number of parallels. We both grew up in secular Jewish families, went to the University of Chicago, worked at The Wall Street Journal, served in Brussels for The Journal, and wound up at The Times.

Bret: We also probably had many of the same professors at Chicago — wonderful teachers like Nathan Tarcov, Ralph Lerner, François Furet, and Leon and Amy Kass — who taught me that Lesson No. 1 was to not succumb to the idea that justice is the advantage of the stronger, and to always keep an open mind to a powerful counterargument. That’s not a mind-set I see with the current Republican leaders.

David: When people ask me whether they should end a relationship they’re in, I answer them with a question: Are the embers dead? Presumably when the relationship started there was a flame of love. Is some of that warmth still there, waiting to be revived, or is it just stone-cold ash? In my relationship with the G.O.P., the embers are dead. I look at the recent madness in the House with astonishment but detachment. Isaiah Berlin once declared he belonged to “the extreme right-wing edge of the left-wing movement,” and if that location is good enough for old Ike Berlin, it’s good enough for me.

Bret: I wouldn’t have had trouble calling myself a Republican till 2012, when I started to write pretty critically about the direction the party was taking on social issues, immigration and foreign policy. In 2016 I voted for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in my life, did it again in 2020, and I think of myself as a conservative-minded independent. If I haven’t finalized my divorce from the G.O.P., we’re definitely separated and living apart.

David: I suppose I went through stages of alienation. By the early 2000s, I came to believe that the free market policies that were right to combat stagnation and sclerosis a few decades earlier were not right for an age of inequality and social breakdown. Then the congressional Republicans began to oppose almost every positive federal good, even George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism. Trump brought the three horsemen of the apocalypse — immorality, dishonesty and bigotry. The party, complicit in all that, is dead to me, even though, I have to say, a good chunk of my friends are Republicans.

Bret: I’m loath to give up completely on Republicans only because I believe a successful democracy needs a morally healthy conservative party — one that channels conservative psychological tendencies into policies to check heedless progressivism while engaging productively with an evolving world. I see no other plausible vehicle to advance those policies. Still, the party’s road to recovery is going to be long and hard. And it’s going to require some courageous and credible conservatives to speak up and denounce the current direction of the party.

David: As for who is going to lead a Republican revival, I guess I’d start in the states. One of Al From’s insights in leading the Democratic Leadership Council was that change was going to come from the young and ambitious state legislators and governors, like Bill Clinton — a new generation of politicians from moderate parts of the country. But the Democrats had a strong incentive to change because they lost a lot of elections between 1968 and 1992. The country is now so evenly divided, it takes only a slight shift to produce victory, and nobody has an incentive to rethink his or her party.

Bret: And, of course, when Republicans lose, they console themselves with the thought that it’s because the other side cheated.

David: If the Republican Party is to thrive, intellectually and politically, it will have to become a multiracial working-class party. A lot of people are already thinking along these lines. Oren Cass at American Compass has been pushing a working-class agenda. The Trumpish writers and activists who call themselves national conservatives are not my cup of tea, but they do speak in the tone of anti-coastal-elite protest that is going to be the melody of this party for a long time to come. To my mind, Yuval Levin is one of the brightest conservatives in America today. He runs a division at the American Enterprise Institute where the debates over the future of the right are already being held.

The party will either revive or crack up, the way the Whig Party did. But it’s going to take decades. If I’m still around to see it, I’ll be eating mush and listening to Led Zeppelin Muzak with the other fogeys at the Rockefeller Republican Home for the Aged.

Bret: You may well be right about how long it takes. But I don’t think it’s going to do so as a party of the working class. The natural place for the G.O.P. is as the party of economic freedom, social aspiration and moral responsibility — a party of risers, if not always of winners. Its archetypal constituent is the small-business owner. It wants less regulation because it understands from experience how well-intended ideas from above translate into onerous and stupid rules at the ground level. It doesn’t mind big business per se but objects to moralizing C.E.O.s who try to use their size and incumbency to impose left-coast ideology. And it thinks there should be consequences, not excuses, for unlawful behavior, which means it looks askance at policies like bail reform and lax law enforcement at borders.

The problem is that Trump turned the party into a single-purpose vehicle for cultural resentments. It doesn’t help that coastal elites do so much on their own to feed those resentments.

David: We’ve reached a rare moment of disagreement! Your configuration for Republicans was a product of long debates in the 20th century. Size-of-government arguments are going to be less salient. Values, identity and social status issues will be more salient. I think the core driver of politics across the Western democracies is this: In society after society, highly educated professionals have formed a Brahmin class. The top of the ladder go to competitive colleges, marry each other, send their kids to elite schools and live in the same neighborhoods. This class dominates the media, the academy, Hollywood, tech and the corporate sector.

Many people on the middle and bottom have risen up to say, we don’t want to be ruled by those guys. To hell with their economic, cultural and political power. We’ll vote for anybody who can smash their machine. The Republican Party is the party of this protest movement.

Bret: Another way of thinking about the class/partisan divide you are describing is between people whose business is the production and distribution of words — academics, journalists, civil servants, lawyers, intellectuals — and people whose business is the production and distribution of things — manufacturers, drivers, contractors, distributors, and so on. The first group makes the rules for the administrative state. The latter lives under the weight of those rules, and will continue to be the base of the G.O.P.

By the way, since you mentioned earlier the need for new leaders to come from the states, is there anyone who particularly impresses you? And how do you feel about the quasi-nominee-in-waiting, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida?

David: I’m slightly bearish about DeSantis. He does a good job of being Trumpy without Trump, but I wonder if a man who apparently has net negative social skills and empathy can really thrive during an intimately covered national campaign that will last two years. Trump was at least funny, and to his voters, charismatic. Do you have any other candidates on your radar screen?

Bret: Well, I don’t think it’ll be either of the Mikes — Pious Pence or Pompous Pompeo. I like Nikki Haley personally and think she has a good mind and a terrific personal story. But I don’t get the sense of much public enthusiasm for her beyond high-level donors.

Which brings me back to DeSantis. He seems to have figured out that the G.O.P. sits on a three-legged stool consisting of Trumpists, evangelicals and the business community. He’s earned the respect of the first with his pugilistic jabs at the media, of the second with his attacks on Disney and his parental rights legislation, and of the third with an open-for-business approach to governance that has brought hundreds of thousands of people to Florida. Next to all that, the personality defects seem pretty surmountable.

David: Sigh. I can’t rebut your logic here. Save us, Glenn Youngkin!

Bret: Final question, David: If you could rewind the tape to 1995, is there anything you or anyone in our circle could have done differently to save the Republican Party from the direction it ultimately took?

David: In 1996 Pat Buchanan’s sister, Kathleen, worked at The Standard as an executive assistant. A truly wonderful woman. We virulently opposed Pat in his presidential run that year. The day after he won the New Hampshire primary she smiled kindly at us and said something to the effect of: Don’t worry. I’ll protect you guys when the pitchforks come.

Bret: Given what happened to The Standard, it didn’t work out as promised.

David: I wish we had taken that Buchanan victory more seriously, since it was a precursor of what was to come. I wish we had pivoted our conservatism even faster away from (sorry) Wall Street Journal editorial page ideas and come up with conservative approaches to inequality, to deindustrialization, to racial disparities, etc. I wish, in other words, that our mentalities had shifted faster.

But in truth, I don’t believe it would have made any difference. Authoritarian populism is a global phenomenon. The Republicans were destined to turn more populist. The big question is, do they continue on the path to authoritarianism?

Bret: I look back at the world of conservative ideas I grew up in, professionally speaking, and I see a lot worth holding on to: George Kelling and James Q. Wilson on crime, Nicholas Eberstadt on social breakdown, Linda Chavez on immigration, Shelby Steele on racial issues, Garry Kasparov on the threat of Vladimir Putin, and so on. I don’t think the ideas were the core problem, even if not every one of them stands the test of time. The problem was that, when the illiberal barbarians were at the conservative gates, the gatekeepers had a catastrophic loss of nerve. Whether it’s too late to regain that nerve is, to me, the ultimate question.

Good People Doing Good Things — Jaylen Smith

My good people post this morning is taking a little deviation from the standard, but this young man crossed my radar last night and frankly I liked what I saw.  Last May, Jaylen Smith graduated from high school.  On January 1st, he was sworn in as mayor of Earle, Arkansas!  Jaylen is 18 years old!

The city of Earle, population 1,831, has undergone much change since the 1990s when the population was nearly double what it is today.  The shoe factory closed, and the supermarket pulled out. So did neighbors whose old homes were now falling apart, overtaken by weeds and trees. Likewise, the best students at Earle High School often left for college and decided their hometown did not have enough to lure them back.

Mr. Smith won over voters by talking about patching up streets, tearing down dilapidated buildings and lifting up the community’s morale.Credit…Houston Cofield for The New York Times

Jaylen Smith could have left, too. Instead, when he graduated from high school last spring he resolved to stay put in Earle, a small city surrounded by farmland in the Arkansas Delta, where his family has lived for generations.  He decided to stay and try to make a difference, so he threw his hat into the ring for the mayor’s race … and won!

“I didn’t run to make a name for myself. I ran because I wanted to help my community and move my community in the direction that it needed to be moved in.”

Coming from some, that would sound like political rhetoric, but … I believe he means every word of it.

Mr. Smith’s platform reflected the steep price that those who remained in Earle have had to pay. Among other things, they have contended with a faulty drainage system that leaves neighborhoods swamped after rain.Credit…Houston Cofield for The New York Times

Smith described Earle as a town driven by high school sports and growing soybeans and cotton. He ran on a platform of bringing a grocery store to town, beautifying the city and improving transportation and public safety.  Now, lest you think Smith has no relevant experience, he served three years as president of Earle High School’s student government, during which he negotiated a deal with a new cafeteria vendor.

During his days of campaigning, he knocked on the door of nearly every home in Earle. He spent days shadowing mayors in other Arkansas cities, including Little Rock and West Memphis, and scheduled video calls with mayors outside the state, eager to learn what the job actually entailed.

“I’m kind of a go-getter. When I was in high school, I was always told no, but I always kept pushing it because I knew there was someone that was waiting to tell me yes.”

Just a few days into his term, his calendar was filling with meetings, and he had already dispatched crews to work on storm drains. He also has college to think about, as he balances the job with online classes at Arkansas State University Mid-South.

Over the years, Earle, whose population has dwindled to about 1,700, has been defined in large measure by all it has lost.Credit…Houston Cofield for The New York Times

The city of Earle has been infused with a sense of optimism since Mr. Smith won the mayor’s race in early December and especially since he took charge on January 1st. His victory made him one of the youngest African American mayors ever elected in the country — a point of enormous pride to his family and supporters. And many residents hope that his youthful energy and sense of mission can boost the city’s fortunes — or, at the very least, attract a supermarket back to Earle.

“You have to have the knowledge. You have to have the character. You have to be disciplined.”

According to City Council member Angela Jones …

“Sometimes, when the City Council members didn’t show up, Jaylen was there. He attends the school board meetings, the water commission meetings. He was young and he was doing this — who does that? At a young age, he had purpose.”

And another City Council member, Tyneshia Bohanon, who came to know Jaylen while substitute teaching in Earle’s public schools, also has positive words …

“It’s an asset because he’s motivated and he has fresh ideas. He’s thinking of others, as he always has. He chose to stay and get his city where he knows it can be.”

Jaylen is young and inexperienced in many ways.  He faces extraordinary problems trying to revive a town that has largely become a ghost town.  But his heart is in the right place and he is so obviously an intelligent young man, so maybe … just maybe he can do it!  I have long said that we need more young people involved in government, and I think Jaylen may prove my point. When I first read his story in the New York Times last night, I was impressed, so I checked it out in other venues such as CNN, The Washington Post, BBC and others, and all presented a very positive image of a bright young man who just might be able to make a big difference in the lives of the people of Earle, Arkansas.  The more I read, the more I felt that here was another good people who deserves mentioning.