The GOP — It Ain’t What It Used To Be

One of the columnists I most respect is Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post.  I bookmarked his column from Thursday to further peruse and upon doing so, I thought it well worth sharing with you.  We the People can still salvage the democratic foundations from under the ashes of conservative cultism, but … we don’t have many chances left, which is why it is so imperative that we make sure everyone votes this November and in November 2024 … it may be the last best hope for the survival of the United States.


State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin), the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, gestures to the crowd during his primary night election party in Chambersburg, Pa., on May 17. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Cult or a conspiracy? The GOP sure isn’t a normal political party.

By Eugene Robinson

May 19, 2022

Is today’s Republican Party primarily a cult of personality or a seditious conspiracy? I can argue either side of that question. But it is clear that the GOP is no longer a political organization or movement in the traditional sense. And if Republican cultists and conspirators win power in November, voters have only ourselves to blame.

It’s not as if we can’t see the dangers that lie ahead. As Bob Dylan once sang, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

The object of the GOP’s cultish devotion is, of course, former president Donald Trump. I have my doubts whether Trump will actually run for the White House again in 2024 (and risk losing twice, whether he acknowledges either loss publicly), but for now he is the unchallenged egomaniacal leader of the party he seized in 2016.

Tuesday’s primary results in Pennsylvania prove Trump’s primacy. As the party’s nominee for governor, GOP voters chose Trump’s preferred pick, a state senator named Doug Mastriano who trumpets the “big lie” about the 2020 election being stolen; was present at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (though he says he left before the insurrectionary portion of the events); and appeared at an event associated with the hallucinatory QAnon conspiracy theory about the nation somehow being run by a cabal of pedophiles.

His Democratic opponent, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, should be able to win that race handily by simply keeping his rhetoric and positions within the bounds of reality as we know it — if, and only if, enough Democrats, independents and still-sane Republicans bother to vote in November.

The race for the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania’s contested U.S. Senate seat is, as of this writing, a virtual tie between Trump’s choice, television celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, and hedge fund titan David McCormick. Far-right political commentator Kathy Barnette faded to third after Trump declared her too extreme even for his liking.

But look again at that lineup of candidates. None has any of the experience in elective office that used to be expected of a candidate for the Senate. And the campaign consisted mostly of all three professing their undying fealty to Trump and their faith in his infallibility.

The Democratic candidate in that November contest — Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who won his primary easily, despite suffering a stroke Friday, and is on the mend — has a good chance of winning, which could increase the Democrats’ tenuous Senate majority if they can hold other seats.

In North Carolina, GOP Rep. Ted Budd, another Trump endorsee, won the primary for that state’s open Senate seat; Budd is another “big lie” espouser who voted against certifying the 2020 electoral vote, even after the Jan. 6 rioters had sacked the Capitol. One Trump-endorsed N.C. Republican, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, did lose his primary. But Cawthorn’s antics and transgressions were such that not even Trump’s lukewarm pitch for “a second chance” for the troubled young politician could save him.

The dominant pattern of the Republican primaries thus far is clear: It is very, very hard to win a statewide nomination without Trump’s support, or at least his amity; and it is impossible to win Trump’s backing if you reject his lie about the supposedly “stolen” election. How is that anything but cultlike?

This is the most dangerous aspect of the GOP’s devolution from party to personality cult: Devotion to Trump requires a willingness to betray democracy. Much of Trump’s attention is focused on states, such as Pennsylvania, where he falsely claims he was victimized by voter fraud. If Mastriano were to win the governor’s race, his handpicked secretary of state could refuse to certify 2024 election results that Trump did not like.

Vote-counting in the Pennsylvania Senate primary is not yet finished, but Trump has already called on Oz — who has a tiny, tentative lead over McCormick — to preemptively “declare victory.”

This is where the question of seditious conspiracy comes in. The Republican Party is shaping itself in Trump’s image, and Trump has shown nothing but contempt for the traditions of fair play and good will that allow our democracy to function. Refusing to accept the will of the voters is authoritarianism. Today’s GOP, increasingly, is just fine with that.

All is not lost, however. Turnout in midterm elections is traditionally much lower than in presidential years. Voters who are appalled at what the GOP has become can send a powerful and definitive message by abandoning their traditional nonchalance and voting in huge numbers. We can reject Trumpism, both for its cultishness and for its proto-fascism. We can take a stand.

It’s up to us what kind of country we want to live in. We had better speak our minds with our votes — while we still can.

The Bright Star Of The Confirmation Hearing

On Wednesday, after all the Republicans had finished their infantile attempts to tie Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to anything and everything that they could think of to tear down her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Senator Cory Booker, a Black senator from New Jersey, gave the speech that brought tears to Judge Jackson, to onlookers, and to me as I watched the video clip from his impassioned speech.  Here’s what one of my favourite columnists, Eugene Robinson, had to say about it in his column in The Washington Post, followed by a short clip from Booker’s speech.


Cory Booker cut through the GOP’s ugliness to celebrate Judge Jackson

By Eugene Robinson

Columnist

24 March 2022

The confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson have been rife with racism, sexism, feigned outrage and general ugliness. But Wednesday’s proceedings brought one moment of such powerful eloquence that it brought Jackson, and me, to tears. Thank you, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), for speaking truth and for celebrating this historic moment as it deserves to be marked.

Booker’s turn to question Jackson came toward the end of the session. She had been badgered all day by Republicans who pretended to be outraged by the sentences she imposed in several child pornography cases when she was a U.S. district court judge. Republican Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Ted Cruz (Tex.) had been particularly obnoxious, interrupting Jackson repeatedly and trying their best not to let her defend herself.

Booker greeted Jackson with a broad smile. “Your family and you speak to service, service, service,” he began. “And I’m telling you right now, I’m not letting anybody in the Senate steal my joy. … I just look at you, and I start getting full of emotion.”

The senator said he had been jogging that morning when an African American woman, a stranger, “practically tackled” him to explain how much it meant to her to see Jackson sitting in the witness chair.

“And you did not get there because of some left-wing agenda,” Booker said. “You didn’t get here because of some ‘dark money’ groups. You got here how every Black woman in America who’s gotten anywhere has done. By being, like Ginger Rogers said, ‘I did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards, in heels.’ And so I’m just sitting here saying nobody’s stealing my joy. Nobody is going to make me angry.”

Booker noted that he was just the fourth African American to be popularly elected to the Senate, rather than appointed to his post or elected by a state legislature. He said that during his first week at the Capitol, an older Black man who worked on the cleaning crew came up to him and began crying. “And I just hugged him, and he just kept telling me, ‘It’s so good to see you here.’”

He said Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who also is African American, understood what he meant. Booker and Scott are at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum — Booker a progressive Democrat, Scott a far-right Republican — but he credited Scott with having given “the best speech on race — I wish I could have given as good of a speech. … Talking of the challenges and indignities that are still faced. And you’re here.”

Booker recalled that during a meeting at the White House when President Biden was trying to decide whom to nominate, he and Vice President Harris exchanged the same “knowing glance” that they used to share when Harris was a senator and she sat next to Booker at Judiciary Committee hearings.

It is a glance that every successful African American is familiar with. It says: I know what you went through to get here. I know the hoops you had to jump through, the hurdles you had to surmount, the obstacles thrown into your path. I know you saw less talented White colleagues rise smoothly and steadily to the top while you had to prove your excellence time and again. I know that you could never let your bosses and colleagues see you get angry, never let them see you sweat.

Booker told Jackson that he knew she was “so much more than your race and gender” but could not look at her without seeing his mother or his cousins, “one of them who had to come here to sit behind you … to have your back.” He told Jackson that when he looked at her “I see my ancestors, and yours … Nobody’s going to steal that joy.”

The senator noted that Jackson’s parents, despite the oppressive racial discrimination of their times, “didn’t stop loving this country, even though this country didn’t love them back.” He quoted from the Langston Hughes poem, “Let America Be America Again.” He spoke of the struggles of Irish and Chinese immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community, who also loved this country and had to demand that it love them in return. He recounted the life story of Harriet Tubman and told of how she looked up at the North Star as a harbinger of hope. “Today you’re my star,” he told Jackson. “You are my harbinger of hope.”

The attacks from Republicans would continue, Booker said. “But don’t worry, my sister. Don’t worry. God has got you. And how do I know that?” Booker’s voice cracked with emotion. “Because you’re here. And I know what it’s taken for you to sit in that seat.”

Thank you, Mr. Robinson … and now a short clip from Senator Booker’s speech …

Accomplishments After 206 Days …

Today, I would like to thank Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson for reminding us of the positive things that have happened since January 20th.  Yes, we have much to worry about, such as the For the People Act, gerrymandering, voter suppression, the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, racism in both police and populace, the end of the eviction moratorium, but … to have been in office only 206 days, President Biden and the U.S. Congress have actually accomplished a lot!  There’s still a lot of work to be done, but let’s take heart in what has already been done.


Maybe it’s time for doubting Democrats to press pause on the angst

Opinion by 

Eugene Robinson

Columnist

Yesterday at 4:01 p.m. EDT

It’s time to entertain the possibility that President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi actually know what they’re doing and are really good at their jobs.

Their fellow Democrats seem to have doubts, because, well, Democrats always have doubts. Dwelling on worst-case scenarios is somehow wired into the party’s DNA. Every victory must have some downside; every step forward must lead toward some potential pitfall. If worrying had been an Olympic sport in Tokyo, Democrats would have swept gold, silver and bronze.

This angst is richly nourished by voluminous news media analysis and commentary adhering to the convention of anticipating what might go wrong. What if progressives in the House won’t swallow hard and vote for the “hard infrastructure” bill passed by the Senate? What if House moderates insist on a quick vote on the Senate measure and threaten to withhold their votes on the budget with its huge “human infrastructure” spending? What if an asteroid strikes before Biden can sign these transformational pieces of legislation into law?

Let me suggest that Democrats squelch their inner Eeyore for just a moment to appreciate, and celebrate, what their party has accomplished.

There was no way, said the conventional wisdom, that Schumer (D-N.Y.) was going to get Republicans to support any kind of meaningful infrastructure bill. There was no way the bipartisan gang of senators trying to craft a compromise measure would succeed. There was no way Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would allow anything on infrastructure to pass, thus giving Biden a win. There was no way more than a handful of Republican senators would defy all the threats streaming from Mar-a-Lago and collaborate with Democrats on anything.

Yet here we are. Nineteen Republicans — including McConnell — joined every Senate Democrat in approving $1 trillion worth of desperately needed infrastructure spending. Included are not just funds to fix roads and bridges, but also big money to provide broadband Internet to Americans who can’t afford it; upgrade the power grid in ways that facilitate the switch to renewable energy; and create a coast-to-coast network of electric-vehicle charging stations.

Okay, but there was no way (according to the conventionally wise) that the whole Senate Democratic caucus, from Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on the left to Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) on the right, would agree on a budget framework. Yet they did, and the massive $3.5 trillion resolution — which Democrats can pass through the reconciliation process, without GOP votes — addresses all the party’s major spending priorities, including the urgent need to address climate change.

Well, said worrywarts, there was absolutely, positively no way that the creaking, dysfunctional Senate could possibly do both those things — infrastructure and the budget — at the same time, as Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats were demanding. Yet, again, that is precisely what Schumer accomplished. Done and done.

So now we’re hearing that the hard part actually lies ahead, because Pelosi will inevitably face an uprising by her progressives, her moderates or both. Indeed, this could happen. But I would submit that Pelosi’s record demonstrates she knows a lot more about how to get the House to do what she needs than any of the Cassandras predicting her certain failure.

I would also submit that Democrats in both chambers are acting quite pragmatically, regardless of what they might be saying. Sanders’s first hope was for $6 trillion; he settled for $3.5 trillion. Manchin now says even that smaller amount is too much — but he voted for it anyway. Progressives in the House are vocal in their demands — they pushed Biden into extending the eviction moratorium — but thus far, at least, they have given Pelosi their votes when it counted.

Democrats should realize that if you add in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which gives unprecedented support to low- and middle-income families with children, Biden is steering the most progressive sea change in U.S. governance in half a century. And he, Schumer and Pelosi are doing this with a 50-50 Senate and just a single-digit majority in the House. I, for one, am impressed.

All right, if you must worry about something, worry about voting rights. Schumer is now working with Manchin, Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.) and a few other senators to draw up a voting rights bill the whole Senate Democratic caucus will support. There may come a point when Manchin has to decide whether to let the Republican minority filibuster — and kill — a measure he himself wrote. He could make the wrong choice.

But for now, Democrats, give yourself at least a few days to admire all that is being accomplished. For a change, take yes for an answer.

Note to readers:  I was unable to respond to your comments yesterday, for I was very much under the weather.  After 12 hours of sleep, I’m about 50% better today, and I will try to get to all your comments, but if I am not able to, I apologize.

A Conundrum … No Easy Answers

Yesterday, I wrote with some annoyance about the Department of Justice continuing to support the previous administrations claims that … basically, the former guy could do no wrong and was above the law, no matter how many women he raped and then denigrated publicly.  Today, one of my favourite columnists, Eugene Robinson, has given me pause, caused me to perhaps look at it from a slightly different perspective.  One sentence says it all … “The meaning of the law does not change depending on who is in power.”  While I still do not support We the Taxpayers having to pay to defend a rapist madman, I now have a somewhat better understanding of why the Justice Department is doing what they are doing.  Like Mr. Robinson, I hope Trump, and by extension the U.S. Justice Department, lose the suit to Ms. Carroll, for she is deserving of retribution, but I now understand it better.  And I think it only fair that any restitution to Ms. Carroll come out of the former guy’s pocket, not mine and not yours.


Merrick Garland is right to be cautious about breaking with Trump’s Justice Department

Opinion by 

Eugene Robinson

Columnist

June 10, 2021 at 4:05 p.m. EDT

As frustrating and galling as it may be to see President Biden’s administration make anything less than a clean break with its predecessors, Attorney General Merrick Garland is right not to peremptorily reverse positions taken by the Justice Department during the Trump era. And his caution is appropriate even if those positions, such as continuing to represent a certain Mar-a-Lago resident in a defamation case, are clearly wrong.

The Justice Department never should have tried to defend Donald Trump in a civil lawsuit filed by advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, who says that Trump, back in his real estate mogul days, raped her in a department store dressing room. When Carroll made her rape allegation public, then-President Trump called her a liar. Carroll responded by suing Trump for defamation, seeking damages.

Trump was initially represented by private counsel. But his Justice Department intervened to have the case moved to U.S. District Court and argued that it should have been dismissed, saying that Trump was a government “employee” acting within “the scope of his employment” when he verbally attacked Carroll, and thus enjoyed immunity for his defamatory words.

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan ruled against those claims in October and ordered that Carroll’s lawsuit be allowed to proceed. But Garland’s Justice Department is continuing to defend Trump, even though Kaplan determined that the case should be seen as a private matter between two individuals.

I hope the Justice Department ultimately loses the case and Carroll gets her day in court. But Garland, by staying the course, is sending a powerful message: The Justice Department doesn’t “belong” to Trump or Joe Biden or any one president. The meaning of the law does not change depending on who is in power. We should all swallow hard and accept Garland’s general commitment to some measure of continuity, because the alternative can be much worse.

I know that from personal observation. I was The Post’s South America correspondent three decades ago, at a time when most nations on the continent were emerging from long, dark years of military rule and trying to rebuild their democratic institutions. They all found that once faith in those institutions is lost, it is not easy to regain.

I was based in Buenos Aires, and Argentina’s civilian leadership was still finding its bearings. After years of being lied to by the murderous ruling junta, citizens had little faith in what their elected leaders said. And they had even less faith in the ability of the court system to honestly ascertain truth and deliver justice.

One instructive case study was a brutal rape and murder in Catamarca, a province in the Andean foothills. On a Friday night in September 1990, a 17-year-old girl named Maria Soledad Morales went with some friends to a local dance and never came home. Her tortured and mutilated body was found the following Monday in a roadside ditch. The Catamarca police chief initially said only that she had died from cardiac arrest, but it was later found that she had been brutalized and possibly forced to ingest a lethal dose of cocaine.

Suspicion fell on a group of young men with ties to the Saadi family, a powerful dynasty that had been in control of the province since the days of strongman Juan Perón. But none of these men was arrested by local police, whose statements about the case no one trusted.

The Carmelite nun who ran the school Morales had attended began organizing marches calling for justice, and the demonstrations grew so large that the national government had to respond by sending in a strike force of supposedly “untouchable” investigators. But no one trusted anything they said about the case, either.

The problem was that the Saadis had been political allies of then-President Carlos Menem. The universal assumption was that with Menem in power, there would be no honest and thorough investigation that might hold the Saadis or other powerful people accountable.

Finally, eight years later, two men — one of them a well-connected scion — were convicted of involvement in the murder; they each served time in prison and were released. Many Argentines are convinced — as am I — that the justice system never got anywhere near the full truth of the murder. Ramón Eduardo Saadi, who at the time was the provincial governor, was removed from office in 1991 — but only because of how loud the outcry about the case became.

My point is not that Argentina is uniquely flawed, but that we do not want the United States to become a nation where the default assumption is that justice is always political. We don’t want to be a place where culpability and liability depend on who happens to be president.

So if Garland believes there are plausible reasons for the government to keep defending Trump in Carroll’s defamation suit, I’m glad he’s doing so. His job is to follow the law as he sees it — even when I think he’s dead wrong.

Is Bipartisanship Dead Or Merely Asleep?

Many of us have often spoken of ‘bipartisanship’, especially as it relates to the business of the United States Congress.  It’s a no-brainer, for no one party has all the best ideas and a collaboration between both parties is likely to lead to laws that are fair to all.  In theory, at least.  Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson gives us his views on bipartisanship and how impossible it has become in the reality of today’s political climate …


Bipartisanship is overrated, especially with these Republicans

Opinion by 

Eugene Robinson

Columnist

May 27, 2021 at 4:07 p.m. EDT

Bipartisanship is overrated. President Biden and Democrats in Congress should stop fetishizing it and get on with the work they know must be done.

Of course, it would be nice if a serious, responsible Republican Party willing to stand up for its principles, make substantive policy proposals and negotiate in good faith existed. As is becoming obvious, though — even to the high priest of the hands-across-the-aisle cult, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) — no such Republican Party exists. Today’s GOP is so unserious and unprincipled that it will not even support a blue-ribbon commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

“There is no excuse for any Republican to vote against this commission since Democrats have agreed to everything they asked for,” Manchin said Thursday on Twitter. “[Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell has made this his political position, thinking it will help his 2022 elections. They do not believe the truth will set you free, so they continue to live in fear.”

His continued fealty to the filibuster notwithstanding, Manchin’s statement seemed intended to draw a line in the sand beyond which he’s not willing to give McConnell an effective veto over almost all legislation in the name of process.

If so, it’s about time. Voters snatched control of the Senate away from the Republicans and handed it to the Democrats. It’s reasonable to assume that those voters wanted forthright leadership, not hapless surrender.

McConnell’s decision to oppose the Jan. 6 commission is the perfect test case for the starry-eyed view — held by Manchin, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and a few others who are less vocal about it — that the Senate can still be made to function the way it did in the past.

Even though McConnell declared earlier this month that “one hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration,” surely the GOP would agree that there should be a comprehensive, nonpartisan investigation of the violent invasion of the Capitol, which left scores of police officers injured and endangered members of Congress as well as then-vice president Mike Pence. Surely, as Manchin said Thursday, there must be at least 10 Republicans willing to vote to advance legislation that has already been shaped and reshaped to accommodate the GOP’s demands. Right?

Wrong. Given McConnell’s opposition, only a few GOP senators seem prepared to support the commission bill. The Capitol had not been breached since British troops sacked and burned it in 1814. But McConnell and the Republicans are taking the position that there is nothing worthwhile to be learned by a wide-angle investigation, conducted in a setting less rancorous than congressional committees, and that it is already time to move on.

McConnell’s reasons are purely political. He does not want to anger former president Donald Trump, whose support he and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) believe they need to regain control of Congress in 2022. He does not want GOP senators and House members to have to answer inconvenient questions about their own possible roles in the Jan. 6 insurrection. He does not want Republican candidates having to answer questions about Trump’s “stolen election” lies as they campaign for the midterm elections. And he does not want to give Biden and the Democrats anything they can tout as a “win.”

The question that Biden, Manchin and others obsessed with bipartisanship must ask themselves is this: If Republicans will filibuster and block a thorough investigation into a shocking, violent, unprecedented attack on our democracy, why would they hesitate to obstruct everything else the Democrats might propose, no matter how worthy or necessary?

The White House described the Republican counteroffer on the infrastructure bill as “encouraging.” Given that the proposal nominally spends only about half of what Biden has proposed — and actually allocates even less new funding overall and none for initiatives Biden describes as vital, such as moving to a clean-energy economy — it’s more of an insult.

The GOP appears to see political benefit in coming to an agreement on police reform. But it is unclear whether those negotiations will actually reach the finish line.

And federal legislation to guarantee voting rights — an urgent priority for the Democratic Party — is a total nonstarter for Republicans. Their strategy for regaining power in 2022 appears to consist of putting as many obstacles as possible between the Democratic-leaning electorate and the ballot box.

None of this looks encouraging to me. None of it is good-faith engagement. The only glimmer of light is Manchin’s growing frustration with McConnell’s obstructionism.

Bipartisan consensus on these issues would be ideal. A sincere effort to improve Democratic bills would at least be something. But the alternative cannot be to let Republicans control the Biden administration’s agenda. Choosing powerlessness in the name of an abstract principle isn’t just weak. It’s an unseemly sacrifice of everything else Democrats say matters.

Republican Party … The Party Of Bigots

I have said for several years now that the Republican Party has become the party of bigotry:  they despise the LGBT community, treat Blacks like second-class citizens, and would, given half a chance, impose the will of the narrow-minded Christian evangelicals on us all.  You just can’t get much more bigoted than all that.  I am not alone in my assessment, for Eugene Robinson’s most recent column in The Washington Post concurs with my thoughts …


The Republican Party is making Jim Crow segregationists proud

Eugene-RobinsonOpinion by 

Eugene Robinson

Columnist

March 1, 2021 at 5:18 p.m. EST

The Republican Party’s biggest problem is that too many people of color are exercising their right to vote. The party’s solution is a massive push for voter suppression that would make old-time Jim Crow segregationists proud.

The Conservative Political Action Conference circus last week in Orlando showed how bankrupt the GOP is — at least when it comes to ideas, principles and integrity. Some might argue that the party, in buying into the lie that last year’s election was somehow stolen, is simply delusional. I disagree. I think Republican leaders know exactly what they’re doing.

The GOP may have lost the White House and the Senate, but it remains strong in most state capitols. So far this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, Republicans in 33 states “have introduced, prefiled, or carried over 165 bills to restrict voting access.” The thrust of virtually all these measures is to make it more difficult for African Americans and other minorities to vote.

These efforts at disenfranchisement are more numerous, and more discriminatory, in several of the swing states President Biden carried narrowly: Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia. That should come as no surprise. GOP officials who had the temerity to follow the law and count the November vote honestly, such as Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, have been all but excommunicated by their state Republican Party organizations.

In Georgia — where not only did Donald Trump lose to Biden by 11,779 votes, but also two incumbent GOP senators were defeated by Democratic challengers — Republicans are using their control of the statehouse to try to eliminate all early voting on Sundays. That would put an end to “Souls to the Polls,” a popular Sunday get-out-the-vote initiative in which Black churches help parishioners get to polling places and cast their ballots.

“Souls to the Polls” eliminates barriers to voting that thousands of Black Georgians otherwise might face, such as transportation for the elderly or finding time during the workweek for others. Georgia Republicans want to put those barriers back up — and raise them even higher.

Other proposals being pushed by Georgia GOP state legislators include getting rid of no-excuse absentee voting, which has been allowed for decades; eliminating the use of convenient drop boxes for casting absentee votes; and abolishing automatic voter registration at the Department of Driver Services offices where Georgians go to renew their driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations.

Trump’s wild and false claims of election fraud aren’t the only things driving these efforts; Republican efforts to restrict voting are hardly new. Republican officials in Georgia know the state’s electorate at a granular level and are capable of performing basic addition and subtraction. They see how the populous suburbs around Atlanta, once GOP strongholds, have been steadily trending Democratic. They may not be able to halt that process. But perhaps they can compensate by suppressing the African American vote in economically disadvantaged areas of Atlanta proper; in the wide “Black Belt” stretching southwest across the state, roughly from Augusta to Columbus; and in the heavily African American area around Savannah.

In strongly Hispanic Arizona, which Biden won by 10,457 votes and where the Brennan Center tallies 19 voter-suppression bills filed since the election, the state Senate has rejected — for now — a Republican measure that would have stricken roughly 200,000 names from a list of voters who automatically receive mail-in ballots. That courtesy is considered the primary reason most Arizonans cast their votes by mail.

But another still-pending measure would require early ballots to be hand-delivered to a polling place rather than returned by mail, negating the benefits of mail voting. And another proposed bill would simply disregard the will of the voters altogether, allowing the GOP-controlled state legislature to appoint its own slate of presidential electors. Democracy, after all, can be so inconvenient.

Elsewhere across the country, Republican legislators are trying to tighten voter-identification laws that are already too restrictive. And they are trying to find ways to disqualify more mail-in ballots — perhaps for future occasions when GOP candidates need to “find” enough favorable votes, or lose enough adverse ones, to deny victory to a Democrat.

It amounts to an outrageous and shameful attempt to establish and perpetuate minority rule in a nation in which the Republican candidate for president has won the popular vote only once in the past eight elections.

At the state level, Democrats must fight these efforts relentlessly. And at the federal level, they should use any means necessary — including eliminating or suspending the Senate filibuster — to pass H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” which would invalidate much of the most anti-democratic legislation the GOP is trying to enact.

And voters of color must resolve not to be deterred. This is not a “Whites only” democracy. Not anymore.

Burn It Down

I first came across an opinion piece by one of my favourite columnists, Eugene Robinson, two weeks ago.  At that time, I considered posting it here, but decided against it, thinking it was a bit … much.  Today, however, in light of the destruction that was wrought yesterday by 43 men and women who shredded both their oaths of office and the U.S. Constitution, Robinson’s piece seems apropos of the moment.

This nation’s government can only function as it was intended if we have two distinct and separate political parties, but what we cannot have is one of those parties lacking a conscience, lacking honesty, lacking integrity.  The Republican party now has none of those attributes and can no longer be considered a legitimate party, can no longer be taken seriously by any who care about the fate of this nation and the 330 million people living here.


If the GOP is to rise from the ashes, it has to burn first

Eugene-RobinsonOpinion by 

Eugene Robinson

Columnist

Feb. 1, 2021 at 4:26 p.m. EST

Before a sane, responsible political party can rise like a phoenix from the ashes of today’s dangerously unhinged GOP, there must be ashes to rise from. The nation is going to have to destroy the Republican Party to save it.

Parties reform and rebuild themselves after suffering massive, scorched-earth defeats. Since Republicans decided to follow Donald Trump and Fox News into the dystopian hellscape of white supremacy, paranoid conspiracy theory and know-nothing rejection of science, they have lost control of both chambers of Congress and the White House. Yet it has become obvious that those defeats are not nearly enough.

You might think the violent and deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol — an unprecedented attack on our democracy, incited by Trump’s election-fraud Big Lie — would snap the GOP back into reality. Unbelievably, though, you would be wrong. 

If anything, the party is heading deeper into the wilderness. Look at how the two most powerful Republicans left in Washington behaved last week. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to bend the knee to Trump. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) voted to question whether Trump’s coming impeachment trial is even constitutional. 

What had looked like a flicker of sanity earlier, when McCarthy said Trump, among others, had some “responsibility” for the Capitol riot and McConnell said Trump “provoked” it, was nothing but a mirage. And anyone who expects there to be 17 Republican votes in the Senate to convict Trump, no matter how damning the evidence may be, will almost surely be disappointed. 

No one should have any doubt: The GOP bears no resemblance to the party of Abraham Lincoln. It is now the party of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who believes in the hallucinatory QAnon conspiracy theorywho has suggested that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is a child murderer and who thinks 2018’s California wildfires may have been ignited by a giant space-based laser somehow controlled by Jews. Also, high-speed rail is involved somehow.

Do mainstream Republicans such as McCarthy and McConnell believe such nonsense? No, but down by only 10 votes in the House and with a tied Senate, they do believe they are within striking range of regaining control of both the House and the Senate in next year’s midterm election, and they are choosing power — or its prospect — over principle.

For the sake of their party and the nation, those hopes must be utterly dashed. 

The 2022 midterms have to be more like 2002, during President George W. Bush’s first term, when his party gained seats in both the Senate and the House. That uncommon result was generally attributed to a groundswell of solidarity following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But the nation, right now, should be equally traumatized. In January, the United States lost more than 95,000 people to covid-19 — the equivalent of a 9/11’s worth of death every single day. Just weeks ago, we saw the Capitol sacked for the first time since 1814. And a majority of the Republican rank-and-file clings to the lie that the election was somehow stolen from Trump. 

GOP House members who had the integrity to vote for impeachment, such as Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Tom Rice of South Carolina, are under withering attack from their fellow Republicans. The warning to Republican senators is explicit: Vote to convict Trump — and, effectively, purge him from the party — at your own peril. 

The GOP won’t or can’t reform itself. So we must help the party by crushing it.

The fact that dozens of major corporations such as Walmart, Google and AT&T have announced they will not give campaign donations to Republicans who voted to decertify the elections results is a start. But we consumers need to demand that corporate America go further by insisting that trade associations follow suit — and that companies at least ask their executives to refrain from giving to GOP Super PACs, the dark-money realm where donations are not statutorily bound by tight limits. 

We saw how Georgia voters recoiled from Trumpism by ousting two Republican senators and electing two Democrats, one Black and one Jewish, in their place — and that was before the Capitol riot. The necessary ruin of the GOP is far from an impossible quest.

It was GOP voters in Georgia who gave us Greene, most accurately identified as (R-QAnon), and she should be made the face of the GOP. The choice is binary and stark: If you don’t believe in Jewish space lasers, you can’t vote for Republicans. And if you loved the old Republican Party, you can’t have it back until you smash today’s GOP to smithereens.

Trump vs Pandemic — No Winners

I shouldn’t be surprised, I guess, that Donald Trump has not so much as mentioned the pandemic, despite the fact that we are at an all-time high for new cases and deaths.  It shouldn’t come as a shock that he is more interested in perpetuating his own brand of fraud to attempt to stay in power in a dictatorial fashion, rather than focusing on the people in this country dying, in part because of his neglect.  It is only further proof that Trump does not care one whit about any of us … republican or democrat, male or female, Christian or atheist … he doesn’t hate us, he just simply doesn’t care about us.  Eugene Robinson said it best in his column in The Washington Post yesterday …


Amid the worst of the pandemic, our mad king rages only about himself

Eugene-RobinsonOpinion by 

Eugene Robinson

Columnist

This is becoming like Greek tragedy. The nation is on fire with covid-19, cases and hospitalizations are soaring to unthinkable new highs, and our leader does nothing but rage and moan about his own punishment at the hands of cruel fate.

If it is true that “those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad,” then President Trump is finishing his shambolic term in office as Mad King Donald. Cumulative U.S. covid infections leaped from 10 million to 11 million in just six days, signifying uncontrolled spread. Hospitals are crowded with nearly 70,000 covid-19 patients — more than ever before — and medical systems, especially in the Great Plains and the Mountain West, are wavering under unbearable strain. The morgue in El Paso is so overwhelmed with bodies that inmates at the county jail there are being pressed into service as helpers, pending arrival of the National Guard. Yet Trump spent Monday morning on Twitter, pitifully howling “I won the Election!” about a contest he clearly and decisively lost.

We have reached the point in the pandemic that epidemiologists warned about months ago. They begged Trump to do everything he could to push infection rates as low as possible before autumn arrived and cooler temperatures forced people indoors, where the virus is transmitted much more easily.

Rather than heed the scientists, Trump listened only to the sirens of his own vanity and ambition. He marginalized the experts of his coronavirus task force, declining even to meet with them for the past several months. Instead, he found faux experts whose advice was more to his liking, chief among them Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist — not trained or experienced in fighting epidemics — who on Sunday called on the people of Michigan to “rise up” against a three-week curb on social gatherings announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D).

Trump wanted the economy up and running, with everything back to the way it was, in time for the election. His insistent pushing toward this unrealistic goal disastrously turned the adoption of sensible public health measures into a political wedge issue. Republican governors who wanted to remain in Trump’s favor had to accept his framing of the issue: Restrictions were bad, “freedom” was good. Those governors’ constituents are now paying a terrible price.

A responsible president would have used his megaphone to urge all Americans to wear masks and practice social distancing; would have understood and explained how full cooperation with burdensome shutdowns earlier in the year could allow some institutions, including schools, to return to more normal functioning in the fall; and would have valued patience and resolve over instant gratification.

And a president who was compos mentis never would have made the nonsensical claim that the United States had more covid-19 cases than other countries only because we did more testing. Rather, a president grounded in reality would have insisted on a vastly expanded, nationwide testing program as a way to hasten our safe return to offices, stores and restaurants.

The Trump administration did one thing right by pushing hard for rapid development of vaccines. Two drug companies — Pfizer and Moderna — have announced highly encouraging results from formal trials, and the federal government’s commitment to purchase millions of doses means these vaccines, assuming they are proved to be safe, will be available in record time.

But Moncef Slaoui, co-chair of Trump’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine effort, said Monday that, under a best-case scenario, roughly 20 million doses of the two vaccines will be available per month, beginning in December. And initially they will go only to high-risk groups. There are 330 million Americans, meaning that most of us may remain vulnerable to covid-19 for some time.

The United States is once again averaging more than 1,000 deaths a day. A smaller percentage of covid-19 sufferers perish now than did back in the spring — doctors and nurses know much more about how to treat severely ill patients — but this remains a deadly disease. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who works at your local hospital. They’ll tell you.

President-elect Joe Biden has no magic wand to make covid-19 go away. But he does understand that no attempt to return to normal life can succeed unless we first get the virus under control, and that controlling covid requires following the advice of public health professionals.

At the moment, however, there is nothing Biden can do. The Mad King, clinging to the fiction that he has not been deposed, will not even allow federal officials to begin sharing data with Biden’s incoming coronavirus team. The theme of his failed reelection campaign should have been “Make America Sick Again.”

Don’t Deny That Trump Is A Racist!

I have shared Eugene Robinson’s column before here, and today I do so once again as his words ring true … words that we need to hear and understand.


Trump’s only campaign promise is to make bigotry safe again

Eugene-RobinsonOpinion by

Eugene Robinson

Columnist

June 29, 2020 at 5:41 p.m. EDT

“White power!” shouted the elderly man, raising his fist as he drove his golf cart past a group of demonstrators advocating racial justice. On Sunday, President Trump offered an “amen.”

A white couple stood outside their St. Louis mansion aiming deadly firearms — the man wielding a semiautomatic rifle, the woman waving a handgun — at Black Lives Matter protesters who were peacefully marching past. On Monday, Trump joined that hallelujah chorus, too.

In both cases, Trump offered his encouragement to white tribal fear and anger in the form of retweets on his Twitter feed. There’s plenty of bad news the president might want to overshadow: the explosion in covid-19 cases in Sun Belt states he pushed to reopen prematurely, for example, or the reports that Russia offered bounties for killing U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan. But why choose “white power” as the bright, shiny object he wants everyone to focus on? Why not some other, less incendiary bit of nonsense?

The logical conclusion is that, in his desperate campaign to win reelection, Trump has decided to position himself even more explicitly as the defender of whiteness and all its privileges. Certainly, in his ideologically flexible career, maintaining the primacy of whiteness is a rare constant.

The “white power” incident took place earlier this month at The Villages, a sprawling retirement community near Orlando. Some residents were participating in the nationwide protests over police violence toward African Americans, and many were chanting slogans against Trump. Others came past the demonstration in their golf carts, and some defended Trump, including the man who called forthrightly for white racial solidarity.

Trump retweeted a video of the incident, appending the comment, “Thank you to the great people of The Villages.” The tweet was deleted a couple of hours later, with the White House claiming that Trump hadn’t heard the “white power” rallying cry. That is likely a lie, since the shouted slogan comes right at the beginning of the two-minute video clip. You can’t miss it — unless you’re just retweeting things you haven’t bothered to watch. Which if you’re the most powerful person in the world, behaving carelessly on an enormous platform, is a whole other problem.

And if Trump didn’t mean to amplify the “white power” message, then why — one day later — would he retweet a video of the St. Louis incident? You don’t have to be a semiotician to understand the message of that video, which reinforces a message Trump has repeated over and over again: White people, when you see a diverse crowd of protesters coming down your street, be afraid. Go get your guns. Be ready to shoot.

With Trump’s hope of reelection fading, I fear this is the gambit he has chosen: using this moment to exacerbate racial animus — rather than lessen it, as any responsible leader would try to do — by heightening white fear and loathing of the nation’s growing diversity.

“Black lives matter” does not imply some sort of zero-sum game. The whole nation will benefit if we can curb the kind of police violence that led to the deaths of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Elijah McClain and so many others. The whole nation will benefit if we finally acknowledge and then address systemic racism. What makes this moment of upheaval and protest different is that so many white Americans see how racism is a ball and chain that holds all of us back — and see what a braver, fairer, stronger nation we can be if we confront our original sin with honesty and determination.

Trump encourages whites to see any reckoning with race as a threat: They’re coming for you and your family. Don’t listen or try to understand; assert your supremacy. Prepare to fight for your lives.

As a political strategy, this can work only if Trump motivates enough older, white, non-college-educated voters in the Sun Belt and rural Midwest to see the coming election as a matter of us vs. them — while the Republican Party simultaneously uses various techniques of voter suppression to limit Democratic turnout. Polls suggest that all of this is unlikely to work, and that Trump may be dragging the GOP’s Senate majority down with him.

As presidential leadership, Trump’s “white power” strategy is tragically irresponsible. His narcissism leads him unerringly to adopt any course of action he sees as beneficial to himself, no matter what the potential impact on the nation might be.

Look at the nation today — beset by the covid-19 pandemic, battered by economic crisis, roiled by widespread protests. Trump makes no sustained effort to solve any of these problems. His focus is on a despicable effort to make white people angry and frightened enough to give him a second term. If he sincerely wants anything beyond his own glorification, it is to make America safe again for bigotry.

It’s Time To End The Civil War …

Among my favourite columnists is Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post … he always seems able to cut through the detritus and get to the heart of the matter, to make sense out of chaos.  His column yesterday is no exception and I thought very worthy of being shared here.  I also highly recommend you check out his link to the 1619 Project, an ongoing project developed by The New York Times Magazine in 2019 with the goal of re-examining the legacy of slavery in the United States and timed for the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia.


Trump might go down in history as the last president of the Confederacy

Eugene-RobinsonBy Eugene Robinson 

Columnist

June 11, 2020 at 4:27 p.m. EDT

It should have happened 155 years ago, when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, but maybe — just maybe — the Civil War is finally coming to an end. And perhaps Donald Trump, not Jefferson Davis, will go down in history as the last president of the Confederacy.

Symbols like flags and monuments matter, because what they symbolize is our vision of ourselves as a nation: the heroes, battles, movements, sacrifices and ideals we honor. So when I see multiracial crowds toppling the statues of Confederate soldiers and politicians, when I see respected military leaders arguing that Army posts should no longer bear the names of Confederate generals, when I see NASCAR banning displays of the Confederate battle flag at its races — witnessing all of this, I let hope triumph over experience and allow myself to imagine that this may indeed be a transformational moment.

Like the Civil War itself, “Lost Cause” symbology is simply and entirely about white supremacy. It has nothing to do with “heritage” or “tradition” or any such gauzy nonsense. The heavily armed “liberate Michigan” mob that invaded the statehouse in Lansing, egged on by President Trump, had no historical reason to be waving the Confederate flag. That banner represents the knee that has been kept on the necks of African Americans not just for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the time Derek Chauvin spent crushing the life out of George Floyd, but for 401 years

Lee’s surrender ended nothing, because the nation did not even begin to grapple with white supremacy. Reconstruction was strangled in its infancy; true racial reconciliation was never even attempted. The statue of Davis in Richmond, brought down by protesters Wednesday night, was not erected until 1907. Like almost all of the Lost Cause monuments, it was built during the revanchist era, when Southern whites were celebrating their reestablished dominance over African Americans via repressive Jim Crow laws and the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan.

Many recall that the Confederate flag at the South Carolina statehouse was taken down in 2015 following the massacre of nine African American worshipers by a white supremacist at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston. Few realize that the racist flag had been installed at the statehouse not in 1861 but a century later, in 1961, when black South Carolinians like my parents were agitating for the right to vote.

The killing of Floyd has provoked a national moment of reckoning with police violence and white supremacy. But the position of the Trump administration is that systemic racism does not even exist — that our unexamined and unaddressed racial problems all come down to a few “bad apples” here and there.

Perhaps in an attempt to gain political advantage — and perhaps, as much evidence suggests, because it’s what he truly believes — Trump has used this moment to side with Lost Cause white supremacy. His all-caps tweets for “LAW & ORDER” sound like George Wallace when he was governor of Alabama; his demand for a militarized response to the protests reminds me of Bull Connor, the Birmingham commissioner of public safety who attacked nonviolent civil rights protesters with water hoses and vicious dogs.

When it was reported that high-ranking Army officials are open to stripping the names of Confederate generals from military posts such as Fort Bragg, Fort Benning and Fort Hood, Trump reacted instantly. He tweeted Wednesday that he “will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”

Trump claimed, ridiculously, that the names are somehow part of the nation’s “history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom.” He may be historically ignorant enough not to know that the generals in question were traitors as famous for the battles they lost as for any of their triumphs; that ultimate victory went to the Union, not the Confederacy; and that the whole point of the rebellion was to deny freedom to African Americans. Or he may know these facts but believe his political base doesn’t.

Just hours later, however, NASCAR banned the Confederate flag. If there is one sporting venue that Trump might think of as a safe space, it would be a NASCAR race — until now. Heck, I might even go watch a race when the pandemic ends.

Trump must be bewildered. Unsubtle appeals to racial animus (remember his “birther” lies) have always worked for him in the past, but now he seems to be flailing. If it turns out that the Lost Cause is finally, truly lost, then so is the president who made himself its champion.