We Are Not Enemies

Here we are once again … the closer we get to November’s mid-term election, the greater the threats of violence across the nation.  When violence is incited, directly or indirectly, by people who have a larger-than-life voice, it is particularly harmful, as Dan Rather points out in his latest newsletter …


The Threat of Violence

“The rhetoric is the candidate”

By Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner

4 October 2022

As many of you probably know, Donald Trump recently issued a threat of violence against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, along with a racist attack on his wife, Elaine Chao, who served in Trump’s Cabinet. Of McConnell, Trump said, “He has a DEATH WISH” (emphasis Trump’s), and he referred to Chao as “Coco Chow.” 

If you had expected Republican politicians to rally in disgust around some version of “this finally crosses a line,” you would be disappointed. But I imagine few of you expected anything of the sort. 

The spinelessness of Republican officials should not excuse the fact that Trump is once again wading into very dangerous waters, especially when you consider the fervor (and the arsenals) of many of his supporters. Although “wading” is not the most accurate verb for his behavior. Trump is not a mere passerby, and he is never tentative. He is an expert at roiling, stoking, and destroying the equilibriums of our democracy with his incendiary rhetoric. 

This latest episode had me thinking back a few years to another moment that eerily forbode the present. This was well before the violent insurrection of January 6, before Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” even before “very fine people on both sides.”

The date was August 9, 2016, and Trump was leading a campaign rally in Wilmington, North Carolina. He had the crowd in a frenzy with his usual attack lines against Hillary Clinton. And then he went somewhere so outrageous that it sent out shockwaves — which is notable considering that by this point, much of his daily bile had already been normalized. 

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” he said. The crowd booed. Trump, sensing a moment, then added, “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”

The insinuation was clear, and it is worth remembering what it exposed at that moment, before Trump ascended to the presidency and everything else that followed. So I thought it might be of interest to reshare what I posted on Facebook in the hours after that statement. Sometimes it is important to look back and remember what was said at the time. 

No journalist trying to be objective and fair, no citizen who cares about the country and its future can ignore what Donald Trump said today. When he suggested that “The Second Amendment people” can stop Hillary Clinton, he crossed a line with dangerous potential. By any objective analysis, this is a new low and unprecedented in the history of American presidential politics. This is no longer about policy, civility, decency, or even temperament. This is a direct threat of violence against a political rival. It is not just against the norms of American politics, but it raises a serious question of whether it is against the law. If any other citizen had said this about a presidential candidate, would the Secret Service be investigating?

Candidate Trump will undoubtedly issue an explanation; some of his surrogates are already engaged in trying to gloss over it, but once the words are out there, they cannot be taken back. That is what inciting violence means.  

To anyone who still pretends this is a normal election of Republican against Democrat, history is watching. And I suspect its verdict will be harsh. Many have tried to do a side-shuffle and issue statements saying they strongly disagree with his rhetoric but still support the candidate. That is becoming woefully insufficient. The rhetoric is the candidate.

This cannot be treated as just another outrageous moment in the campaign. We will see whether major newscasts explain how grave and unprecedented this is and whether the headlines in tomorrow’s newspapers do it justice. We will soon know whether anyone who has publicly supported Trump explains how they can continue to do so.

We are a democratic republic governed by the rule of law. We are an honest, fair, and decent people. In trying to come to terms with today’s discouraging development, the best I can do is to summon our greatest political poet, Abraham Lincoln, for perspective:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Lincoln used these stirring words to end his First Inaugural Address. It was the eve of the Civil War, and sadly his call for sanity, cohesion, and peace was met with horrific violence that almost left our precious Union asunder. We cannot, must not let that happen again.

What the Trump presidency would become was apparent long before the election. All the instances like the one above that should have immediately disqualified him from that office were ultimately folded into permissiveness by far too many people. We should strive to always remember and never become inured to this. 

Before Trump, it was unfathomable that a presidential candidate would speak and act with even a fraction of his recklessness and divisive appeal to anger and violence. But now, sadly, we are long past having the ability to imagine this atrociousness. We can see the corrosive effects he and his enablers have wrought on this country.

Threats of violence must be condemned, in no small part because threats can become real. Just look at January 6.

Snarky Snippets Must Be Shared!

A buildup of snark, rather like a buildup of cholestrol, stomach acid, or any other substance, can prove to be very uncomfortable if not taken care of.  And the snark has been building for a few days now, so just in case you guys don’t have any snark of your own, allow me to share my excess with you!


The two faces of Mitch McConnell

It’s difficult to say which of the GOP candidates on the docket this November are the worst of the lot, for the entire lot seems to be infused with incompetence, venom, and an uncanny propensity to lie.  But, there can be no doubt that Mehmet Oz and Herschel Walker, both running for senate seats from Pennsylvania and Georgia respectively, are in the list of the 10 very worst choices.  Fortunately, neither is on a fast track to a win, if the polls can be believed.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attempted to tone down the GOP’s hopes for gaining a majority in the Senate, saying that ‘candidate quality’ was important, and while he didn’t come out and say as much, the implication was that the Republican candidates for Senate this time ‘round aren’t of the highest quality.  So, can anybody explain why on earth McConnell is co-hosting a fund-raiser with Mehmet Oz and Herschel Walker, as well as current Representative Ted Budd of North Carolina who is running for a seat in the Senate?

Walker and Oz are two of the absolute least qualified … one is a former football player, the other a former snake oil salesman with a medical degree.  Neither have government experience, neither have a Civics education, neither have ever taken a course in Constitutional Law … and both are polling below their Democratic opponents, thankfully!  I guess ol’ Mitchie has lowered his standards since he spoke of ‘candidate quality’ earlier this month, eh?


And speaking of really bad candidates …

Blake Masters, who nobody ever heard of until this year, is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate from Arizona.  He’s hoping to beat incumbent Mark Kelly, who filled the seat vacated by Senator John McCain at his death.  Masters has a bigotry problem:  he is one.

Back in June, he blamed Blacks for gun violence in the U.S. …

“We do have a gun violence problem in this country, and it’s gang violence. It’s gangs, it’s people in Chicago, in St. Louis, shooting each other. Very often, you know, Black people, frankly.”

And then last week, the Associated Press put out the following on Twitter:

“Leadership at the Federal Reserve has become its most diverse ever. There are more female, Black and gay officials contributing to the central bank’s interest-rate decisions than at any time in its 109-year history.”

To which Blake Masters sardonically replied …

“Finally a compelling explanation for why our economy is doing so well.”

The list of incidences where Masters put down Blacks, women, and/or LGBTQ people is endless. Fortunately, Masters is also polling behind Senator Kelly.  He is a blatant example of what McConnell meant by his concern over the quality of current GOP candidates … I’m surprised Masters wasn’t invited to join the little fundraiser McConnell, Oz, and Walker are holding!


A threat or a call to action?

Lindsey Graham … back-stabber, two-faced, split-persona Lindsey … made the following statement a couple of days ago …

“If they try to prosecute President Trump for mishandling classified information after Hillary Clinton set up a server in her basement, there literally will be riots in the street. I worry about our country.”

Just for a bit of reference here, Lindsey went from being a hater of the former guy to his present-day status of one of the former guy’s chief bootlickers.  There was a time when Lindsey Graham actually believed in democracy, that no person was above the law, but today … he has drunk too much of the Kool-Aid being offered by those who would gladly destroy this nation and its people.

Lindsey’s comment could be taken merely as an observation, or more darkly, as a threat, as a notice to the same groups that attempted to overturn the government at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021, to “stand by”.  In this day of radically divisive political views, a time when the entire nation feels like a tinderbox just waiting for the right spark, such talk is simply unconscionable coming from a member of the United States Congress.  Unconscionable.

Unfortunately, Lindsey Graham is not up for re-election until 2026, so we cannot simply vote his fat patootie out of office.  Too bad.


A couple of ‘toons to help you find your smile again …

Conservatives??? HAH!!! I Think NOT!

As he so often does, Robert Reich hits the nail spot on the head in his take on the term ‘conservative’ as it is used to describe Republicans.  Read on …


How to handle radical Republicans

Stop calling them conservative. And take steps to genuinely conserve America

Robert Reich

July 11

This morning, I heard a commentator allude to “Mitch McConnell and other conservative senators.” Yesterday, a news report described the upcoming Alaska Republican primary as pitting Trump’s “conservative wing against Murkowski’s more moderate base.” I keep seeing references to the “conservative majority” on the Supreme Court.

Can we get real? There is nothing conservative about these so-called “conservatives.” They don’t want to preserve or protect our governing institutions — the core idea of conservatism extending from Edmund Burke to William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater. They are radicals, intent on wrecking these institutions to impose their ideology on everyone else.

The Supreme Court’s Republican appointees have all but obliterated stare decisis — the conservative principle that the Court must follow its precedents and not change or reverse them unless clearly necessary, and with near unanimity. Recent decisions reversing Roe v. Wade, elevating religious expression over the Constitution’s bar on established religion, questioning Congress’s ability to delegate rule making to the executive branch, and barring states from regulating handguns, all call into question the legitimacy of the Supreme Court as an institution.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, are abusing the filibuster and undermining the legitimacy of the Senate.

Throughout much of the 20th century, filibusters remained rare. But after Barack Obama moved into the Oval Office in 2009, McConnell and his Republican senate minority blocked virtually every significant piece of legislation. Between 2010 and 2020, there were as many cloture motions as during the entire 60-year period from 1947 to 2006. Now McConnell and his Republicans are stopping almost everything in its tracks. Just 41 Senate Republicans, representing only 21 percent of the country, are blocking laws supported by the vast majority of Americans.

At the same time, Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress and in the states have upended the centerpiece of American democracy, the peaceful transition of power, and undermined the legitimacy of our elections.

They continue to assert without any basis in fact that the 2020 election was stolen. Trump encouraged an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and threatened the life of the Vice President. Republican state legislatures are enacting legislation to suppress votes and take over election machinery.

Make no mistake: Republican appointees to the Supreme Court, most Republicans in Congress, and Trump Republican lawmakers across America are not conservative. They are radicals. They have embarked on a radical agenda of repudiating our governing institutions and taking over American democracy.

It is time to stop using the term “conservative” to describe them and their agenda.

And it is time it to fight back: Enlarge the size of the Supreme Court and limit the terms of justices. Abolish the filibuster and then pass laws most Americans want — protecting voting rights and reproductive rights, and controlling guns. Criminally prosecute Trump and his insurgents.

These are conservative measures. They are necessary to conserve and protect our governing institutions from the radicals now bent on destroying them.

Only In ‘America’

Yesterday afternoon, just as I was beginning to work on a good people post for this morning, the breaking news update jumped onto my screen …

Texas school shooting leaves at least 2 dead

I stopped what I was doing and went in search of information … turns out that, as you all know by now, 19 students and one teacher, Eva Mireles, were killed … or let’s call a spade a spade … they were brutally murdered while in school, the one place our children should be able to feel safe!  The death toll may yet rise if some of the students taken to the hospital don’t survive, or if students still missing are later reported to have died.  Plus, the 18-year-old shooter shot his grandmother, who is in critical condition in the hospital, before setting out for Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

This, my friends, is what Texas Governor Greg Abbott proudly said just one year ago …

No license or training is needed. 🙄 YOU, Greg Abbott, have the blood of these children on your hands and you will never be able to wash it off!  Senator Mitch McConnell, who has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA), claims to be “horrified and heartbroken” and yet time and time and time again he has had the opportunity to pass meaningful gun legislation that might have prevented the 18-year-old shooter from getting his hands on a gun.  YOU, Mitch McConnell, and every other Republican legislator who has blocked gun regulations, also have blood on your hands!!!  And U.S. Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, sent thoughts and prayers and said he disdains any discussion on gun legislation.  YOU, Cancún Cruz, also have blood on your hands!!!

Days like today, I am so very thankful for a President who is compassionate and caring.  President Biden gave a speech yesterday evening where he said …

“Another massacre at a Texas elementary school. Beautiful, innocent second, third, fourth graders. As a nation, we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? Why? Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God’s name is our backbone, the courage to do more and then stand up to the lobbies? It’s time to turn this pain into action. I am sick and tired of it. We have to act. And don’t tell me we can’t have an impact on this carnage. For God’s sake, we have to have the courage to stand up to the industry.”

And former President Barack Obama issued a statement …

“Nearly 10 years after Sandy Hook — and 10 days after Buffalo — our country is paralyzed, not by fear, but by a gun lobby and a political party that have shown no willingness to act in any way that might help prevent these tragedies. It’s long past time for action, any kind of action. And it’s another tragedy — a quieter but no less tragic one — for families to wait another day.”

I cannot help but share the pain of the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents and friends of those 19 children tonight.  Picture being a parent at work, getting that phone call …

Eleven days ago, ten people were murdered in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.  Yesterday, 20 people, 19 of them children, were murdered in school, just two days before the end of the school year.  Where are all those ‘pro-life’ people???  Probably out there carrying signs that read “You can’t take my guns!” or some such drivel.  My granddaughter, when I told her about the school shooting, asked what kind of country this has become.  Not a very nice one, I’m afraid.

Just as I was finishing this post, I saw one from John Pavlovitz that I hope you’ll take a moment to read, for he said it far better than I ever could.  I hope you can understand why this post replaced today’s ‘good people’ post.  I will try to get one out later this week, but if not, there’s always next Wednesday.

A Few Good Republicans?

Funny, isn’t it, that ‘freedom of speech’ as defined by some in this country only refers to speech that they agree with.  Take the well-publicized criticism by the Republican Party against Liz Cheney … they censured her and Adam Kinzinger for taking part in a commission established to investigate serious criminal activity on January 6, 2021.  They further censured Cheney for her criticism of Donald Trump, aka the former guy.  So, let me get this straight … freedom of speech means that Republicans can encourage and incite a destructive, death-causing insurrection, but that not a one of them is allowed, even under that First Amendment they cite so often, to criticize a ‘man’ who has earned criticism.  How, exactly, does that compute?  As the robot in the old television show Lost in Space used to say, “That does not compute.”  Even the infamous Mitch McConnell who I have referred to as a GOP lapdog, was aghast at the Republican National Committee’s verbiage, saying …

“We saw what happened. It was a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election from one administration to the next. That’s what it was.”

The one possibly positive thing that may yet come of this mess is that it may ideologically split the Republican Party, thereby costing them seats in Congress this year, and any hope to regain the White House in 2024.

On February 7th, a group of around 150 notable Republicans signed a statement strongly disagreeing with the censure of Cheney & Kinzinger …

Statement of Republican Leaders and Former Officials on the RNC’s Censure of Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger

Last week the Republican National Committee (RNC) made clear that it would rather be the “Big Lie” party than the “Big Tent” party by condemning two principled elected leaders while condoning conspiracies, lies, and violent insurrection. By censuring Congresswoman Liz Cheney and Congressman Adam Kinzinger for their role in investigating the January 6th attacks, they have betrayed the GOP’s founding principles and ceded control of a once-great movement to grifters and extremists. The RNC has also signaled that it no longer welcomes people of conscience.

The RNC’s description of the January 6th insurrection as “legitimate political discourse” is an affront to the rule of law, peaceful self-government, and the constitutional order. There can be no justifying the horrific attack that day, and we condemn the Committee for excusing the actions of men and women who battered police officers, ransacked our nation’s Capitol, called for hanging the Vice President of the United States, and sought to overturn a free and fair election.

History will mark this censure as a turning point for the RNC – a time of choosing between civility and patriotism, on the one hand, and conspiracy and political violence on the other. We stand firmly for the first set of values. We stand proudly next to principled leaders such as Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. And we stand united against efforts to defile our democracy.

And it is signed by former members of Congress, Governors, Administrators, Cabinet Members and more – all Republicans!  Even some who served in the Trump administration signed the statement, such as Alyssa Farah Griffin, who served as former communications director in Trump’s White House before quitting over his stolen election claims and Anthony Scaramucci, also a former communications director under Trump.

Will this be the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back?  Will some in the Republican Party finally realize that the only things the party as a whole stands for are hatred and bigotry?  Will those with a sense of decency finally step forward and work toward re-structuring a badly broken political system?  We can only hope that there are enough in the Republican Party who put country ahead of party and who will work to rebuild a legitimate party with actual goals that will help the people in this country who most need help, not those who already live in the lap of luxury.

The Week’s Best Cartoons 1/29

As she always does, TokyoSand has searched high and low to find the week’s best ‘toons for our viewing pleasure.  And as always of late, there is much to inspire the political cartoonists in much the same way that there is much to inspire us bloggers.  This week’s big news, of course, was the announcement that Justice Stephen Breyer is retiring at the end of this term, but there was other news too … Russia’s ominous presence at the Ukrainian border, the Philadelphia bridge collapse, book banning, and of course the continuous partisan bickering in Congress.  So, read on and be sure to go to TokyoSand’s Political Charge blog (link at end of post) to see the rest of the ‘toons!


This felt like a big news week, didn’t it? But it wasn’t all bad. For the first time in way too long, the Democrats have a Supreme Court Justice from the “liberal” wing announcing his retirement while we have a Democratic president and Senate. A fantastic opportunity. And that was reflected in this week’s cartoons. Enjoy!


See all the ‘toons at TokyoSand’s Political Charge!

Voting Rights — Going … Going … ???

Most states are passing laws that restrict voting rights, especially those of Blacks, Hispanics, the poor, the elderly and the young, and some of those laws are positively draconian!  For example, our friend Suze reports that …

“My own state has a bill under discussion that would make it a felony to provide transport to a voting site to anyone “not within their immediate family.”

So, if your neighbor’s car is in the shop being repaired, and the nearest polling place is ten miles away, you are forbidden to take them to vote???  I think not!  If such a law were passed here, I would double down on my determination to drive my friends and neighbors to the polling station and dare anybody to cross me!  Toss me in jail if you will … I won’t back down!  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr …

Just this morning, Suze informed me that the bill failed in the State Senate … by one vote … ONE LOUSY VOTE!

And then there’s this little tidbit …

Election officials in rural Georgia county to vote on whether to close 6 of county’s 7 polling places

They would close fully 86% of the polling places, meaning every person would have to travel further and wait longer in line just to cast their vote.  WHAT THE SAM HELL is wrong with these damn fools???  Said one resident of Georgia’s Lincoln County …

“I don’t like it at all, because we are such a long county.  Now seven may be too much, but one is definitely not acceptable for especially the elderly coming all the way into town to do that.”

Thanks to many states expanding the options for early voting and postal voting due to the pandemic in 2020, we saw the highest voter turnout numbers in more than a century.  If the states are allowed to continue with their pattern of obstruction without overriding federal legislation or action from the courts, we may well see the lowest voter turnout in the history of the nation this year.

Meanwhile, the Senate Minority Leader, Kentuckian Mitch McConnell, yesterday made this statement:

“African-American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.”

Yep, you read it right … he actually said that.  Obviously, Mr. McConnell doesn’t see Black people as Americans at all, but rather sees them as “other” and doesn’t believe it is his job to give them equal representation!  It is interesting to note that in the current Congress, there are 56 Black Democrats and only two Black Republicans … this in itself should tell you something about the Republican Party and its racist ideology.

And yet, in the face of all these attempts to keep We the People from exercising our right to vote, to have a voice in our government, some 52 members of the United States Senate have refused to enact two bills, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.  WHY???  Because the more people who are able to vote, the less likely Republicans are to win at the polls.  Yes, it’s that simple, folks.  The majority of people 18 years of age and older in this country lean more toward voting for Democrats whose ideology is to put the people … ALL of the people … first, as opposed to the Republicans who pander only to the wealthy and large corporations.  Things like education, the environment, minimum wage laws, and more simply do not matter to today’s Republican Party.

Still, We the People continue working hard to pay our taxes to support these men and women who laugh all the way to the bank as they pat themselves on the back for screwing us over.  The situation is untenable and sooner or later the people of this country will tire of being walked on by those whose salaries we pay.

There are many things that need to be addressed by our federal government but there are two that are critical to our survival:  the environment and voting rights.  Both of these issues are being ignored or opposed by the Republicans in Congress.  Please, my friends, let them know how you feel with a phone call or a letter and above all else, let’s vote the slackers out of office and elect men and women who care enough about our future to do the right thing.

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 View From The Front Lines

Yesterday I came across an article written by journalist Dan Rather … you all remember him, right?  While the piece was written two months ago, in early April, it is as relevant today as it was then.  I ask that you read it and think about it for a minute or two.  This is rather a follow up to this morning’s post where I shared the view of Charles M. Blow on bipartisanship, but it also extends a portion of the blame, rightly I believe, to the press.  Mr. Rather’s words come from experience and they are thought-worthy.


The Press and the Party of No

Dan Rather and Steady Team

The Biden Administration is finding a familiar answer to everything it is trying to do from the Republicans on Capitol Hill. It is the same answer that Biden saw up close when he was Vice President in the last Democratic administration. No matter the issue or the topic, it seems that when it comes to legislating around the challenges that face this country, the Republican answer is simple, unequivocal, cynical, and final: No. 

Many have commented, myself included, on how broken and dangerous this system has become. I believe the American experiment in self government works best when it has two strong, principled political parties who come to the table with well-formed and well-intentioned solutions to the challenges of the nation. This has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout our history, and I have seen good ideas and good candidates come from both parties. I have supported Democrats and Republicans with my vote. And, however it may appear at any given time, as a reporter I try to pull no punches, play no favorites in covering the parties. What is happening now isn’t about policy it’s about whether we can have a functional government. 

There has always been a place for obstruction in politics. Sometimes it’s a matter of principle. Sometimes it’s a negotiating position. Sometimes it’s a seeking of momentum leading into an election cycle. But that an entire political party would stand in lock step trying to undermine an entire presidency just because that president was from a different party? Well not even Newt Gingrich tried that. It has been the scorched-earth political tactics pioneered by Mitch McConnell – power for power’s sake, norms and comity shattered, the needs of the country be damned.

All of this discussion leads to questions over the filibuster, voting patterns, gerrymandering, and all sorts of ugly histories around race, power, and representation in Congress. It is obvious that the Founding Fathers, despite their faults, intended to set up a system of government that had the power to solve problems. That’s why they did away with the Articles of Confederation. But now we have many members of Congress whose entire reason for being there is to gum up a system designed for action. They are showboats promoting a nihilistic brand that threatens the well-being of our nation and makes a mockery of the idea that we have a legislature. 

One sign of how broken this system is: even when Republicans held both houses of Congress and the White House in the first two years of President Trump’s administration, they passed almost no bills that addressed problems even they claimed to care about. The perpetual “Infrastructure Week,” turned onto a joke of inactivity – infrastructure “weak.” It appears that the modern Republican party can’t get to “Yes” on anything other than judges and tax cuts. I think part of the reason for this is that a lot of what the party believes at its elite levels is so unpopular that they dare not actually pass bills that give unfettered power to rapacious business interests. They would rather save that for executive actions and the guise of “de-regulation.” There is a lot more to say on this topic, and I plan to return to it later, but in the meantime, I think an understated component of this “politics of no” dynamic is the way the press covers it. 

When I first went to Washington as a reporter, to cover the White House in the Johnson Administration, it was in the immediate wake of the Kennedy assassination. We had no way of knowing that the new president would usher in one of the most consequential flurries of domestic legislation in American history. Johnson was of course a master of the Senate, and the old (to be candid, often ugly) ways in which power could be leveraged. But he was focused on results, and he got them on everything from civil rights to health care to education to the arts. 

Then, as the Nixon years began, I was there reporting on tides of power that were very different from before. But still, there was positive activity on Capitol Hill. Nixon, as we would come to learn, was driven by such hatred of his political opponents (and those he perceived as hostile in the press) that he would drive his own fortune into ruin. But even with that mindset, he was able to accomplish a great deal by working with Democrats–and principled Republicans– in Congress. And when it was time for him to go, the response was bipartisan as well. 

Now, it is easy to glorify the past. These Congresses that “worked” also worked to perpetuate systems of government and society that were unjust and unequal. Some of the horse-trading that was done back then bartered basic rights and societal provisions that we would recoil at today. And those who served in these Congresses were far less representative of the full diversity of the nation. All that said, if the spirit of action that drove them existed today, I suspect our progress on racial justice, voting, guns, the environment, education, and many other big issues would be far more robust. For starters, it would exist. 

And that brings me back to the press. It is impossible and I would argue irresponsible to try to cover Washington as we did in earlier eras. Every story, every reporting angle, must begin with the understanding that one of the two political parties doesn’t try, at least on the national level, to legislate solutions to our problems. The burden for asking why we don’t have bipartisanship to solve major problems shouldn’t be primarily on those making the legislative proposals. Negotiating doesn’t mean saying “no” and walking away. It means offering counter solutions or ideas. It means acting in the best interests of the nation, not in scoring political advantage often at the expense of those in need. [emphasis added]

I understand it is difficult for reporters to cover politics in this manner. Contrary to the politically-motivated attacks on the press, I do believe most reporters try to be as fair as they can. They are loathe to be seen as tools for particular political ends. But this instinct is being weaponized by those who want to break government, and the American system more generally. We have seen from those who delegitimize a fair election and seek to suppress the vote that they are eager to create scapegoats in the press for reporting on these outrages. And they are poised to do the same if they are called out as the party of no. 

But our hope is that journalists do not bend to the pressure. Rather than take every new issue or bill as a separate case, I would respectfully encourage my peers in the press to do more digging into the general systemic dysfunction. For example, when interviewing members of Congress don’t treat their opposition to the issue of moment as separate to their oppositions in the past – including to recognizing the results of the last presidential election. 

The optimist in me believes that the majority of the American public would like a government that works to solve problems. This does not mean giving up one’s own beliefs. And there are issues on which you will never find compromise. We need different approaches to battle in the marketplace of ideas. None of us has a monopoly on wisdom. Far from it. But for this system to work you need to be able to get to “Yes” on some things. You need to have a system that functions. And when that isn’t happening, when our political process is being crippled by cynical actors who have learned they can keep a grip on power by blowing up the government and then blaming failure on their political foes, we need to report on this reality. It is a story of incredible importance and in many ways the future of our nation is resting on getting it told.

—Dan

The Week’s Best Cartoons 6/5

One thing I love about Saturdays is the collection of the week’s best political/editorial cartoons that our friend TokyoSand publishes weekly.  This week’s topics range from Pride Month to the ignominious senate filibuster to racism to the current state of freedom in the U.S. to the killing of the January 6 commission and more.  Thank you, TS, for this great collection!


Be sure to check out the rest of the ‘toons over at Political Charge!