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Saturday, January 30, 2021


These days I am suffering the effects of political whiplash. The new Biden administration seems to me to be proceeding in a much more favorable manner that I had any reason to hope for. It is handling the pandemic quite as well as one could ask, despite troubling news about new variants of the virus. The flood of executive actions not only reversed a number of appalling actions by Trump but also staked out new ground economically (mandating a rising minimum wage in jobs controlled by the federal government), as well as in such areas as gender rights. All of us lost sleep over the prospect of Biden pursuing the mirage of bipartisan legislation, only to see him make clear moves toward enactment through reconciliation procedures after only 10 days in office. Commentators reading tea leaves suggest that the opposition of Manchin and Sinema to the ditching of the filibuster is soft enough perhaps to permit even statehood for DC. In short, the early signs are far more promising than I could have dreamed.


At the same time, the Republican Party is coming apart at the seams. Since the election of Biden, I have not seen a single coherent statement by any prominent Republican of what legislative alternatives they would prefer to Biden’s huge recovery bill. Instead, the news is filled with the craziness of Marjorie Greene, the attacks by Matt Gaetz on Liz Cheney, speculation about which foot McCarthy kissed when he went to see Trump, and reports of the belief in Republican circles that the California fires were caused by space lasers controlled by George Soros. Since a large enough section of the faithful Republican electorate is completely in thrall to Trump, there is no coherent political resolution of this civil war.


If I were Joe Biden (how is that for a counterfactual conditional, you logic buffs!), I would send out very delicate feelers to several Republican senators inviting them to leave the party and declare themselves Independents, consulting with Schumer about plum committee assignments and some hand in drafting bits of legislation near and dear to their hearts. The quid pro quo would be their willingness once and for all to kill the filibuster. This would make radicals like me scream bloody murder but it might very well consign the Republicans to permanent minority status and turn the United States into one great big California.


All of this assumes that we do not experience a series of political assassinations like those that made the 1960s so horrific.


As I say, I find this head spinning.


David said...

When one reads about Jewish laser beams--it wasn't just Soros but also the Rothschilds--setting the California wildfires, it's difficult to keep the news in perspective. One data point that has cheered me is Biden's approval rating. According to 538's average, Biden is up 54.3% to 34.6% after about a week. Biden's message of unity has already been rebranded as meaning "popular among the voters" instead of "Congressional bipartisanship." Yes, the Republican Party is chock-full of crazies, and we will be dealing with them as a political force for decades. But we also have other forces at work: just look at all the young people who came out during the BLM protests.

One small piece of news that cheered me was that the Biden administration has decided to revamp the CCC as part of its climate initiatives. This is an idea that, of course, came directly out of the Bernie Sanders' campaign. The idea is to turn the CCC into the Civilian Climate Corps. My hope is that the Biden administration will do the same for the YCC--the Youth Conversation Corps.

When I was in college, I worked for the Forest Service, and one of my best friends was a YCC (pronounced "Yak"). The YCCs gained summer work experience, and in the case of my friend, he went on to adult seasonal work for the Forest Service fire crew. A revamped Youth Climate Corps could provide seasonal work for thousands of young people who want to get involved in fighting climate change. My wife and I spend a fair amount of time in the woods and mountains, and we can tell you that there is plenty of work to be done. Habitat restoration is good for the climate, and it's good work experience.

A revamped CCC and YCC might not be a world-changing event, but such initiatives could show young people that the Biden administration wants to deal with climate change in a tangible way--that it's not just more empty rhetoric. It strikes me as politically astute to feed the idealism that young people already have around climate change.

PhilosophicalWaiter said...

I am pleased, but not surprised, by the decisiveness of Biden's initial days. Both the crisis of the moment and his experience with Republican intransigence while vice president compel the understanding that he cannot wait for compromise and that, in any case, waiting for compromise will bring no benefit. Under less dramatic circumstances, a Biden would probably be far more moderate, but there's just no room for moderation between Democratic positions and the likes of Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene. I am convinced that neither President Biden nor the people around him are fools, and the experiences we have all had in the past four years (let alone the past four months) have fired their determination to compel their agenda forward.

I don't think the Republican party is coming apart, much as I would welcome its demise. Instead they seem to be folding in upon themselves, perhaps shrinking slightly, but the vast majority in congress appear to be hostages to the Republican terror. Trump remains a unifying force, holding tens of millions of supports in his malign gravitational pull. It seems likely that Trump will remain both an electoral drag and a source of funding and support for most of the GOP caucus.

The only way forward for the Republican Party, at this point, is to so corrupt the electoral system that they can seize permanent control of the government through anti-democratic means. So the next several years, perhaps even the next several decades, will be a struggle between the Democratic rule of law and the perhaps 50 or 60 million Republicans who believe that anything other than white Christian Republican rule is illegitimate.

The 2020 presidential election is looking like a warm-up to a concerted effort by the GOP to steal the next election. What saved us this time was widespread integrity, even by Republican state officials, among those who were tasked with executing the election laws. It's not clear that we can trust that the officials who will be in place in 2024 will show similar integrity and courage.

The ‘civil war’ for the soul of the GOP is over before it began. Trump won — again.

PhilosophicalWaiter said...

Oh, I need to add a detail to my previous post. The link is to a Washington Post opinion piece by Dana Millbank.

-- Tim Badonsky, AKA Philosophical Waiter

Mungojerrie said...

Oscar Wiled penned the now common adage that life imitates art, opining in his 1889 essay The Decay of Lying that, “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life". In the essay, written as a Platonic dialogue, Wilde holds that anti-mimesis "results not merely from Life's imitative instinct, but from the fact that the self-conscious aim of Life is to find expression, and that Art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realise that energy.”

During the 1960’s and 1970’s, TV was awash with shows portraying interactions between humans and animals/aliens/witches. We had Mr. Ed., about a man who communicated with a talking horse; and Alf, about an alien living with a wholesome American family; and My Favorite Martian, about two best friends, a human and a Martian; and Bewitched, about a human married to a good-hearted witch; and Mork and Mindy, about an alien who cracked funny jokes and made funny sounds, and had a romantic relationship with a female Earthling.

And today, the voters of Georgia have proved that Oscar Wilde was right – life does imitate art, for now we have a woman in Congress representing a district in Georgia who believes in some entity named Q, who has come to Earth to warn us of cannibalistic and pedophile government officials, and whose patron saint is our former President, who is dedicated to ridding our country of these vile humans. After the election of Marjorie Greene, can there be more following in her footsteps, turning our country into a highly rated sit-com named “QAnon Comes To America”?

s. wallerstein said...

The Republicans self-destructing will not turn the U.S. into "one great big California".

California is California because of the people who live and vote there. Silicon Valley is "liberal" and well-educated, San Francisco has a huge out of the closet gay population, Berkeley, in the days I was there, was known as "the people's republic of Berkeley", Oakland is the home of the Black Panther Party. L.A. is a mixed bag, but it has pockets of very progressive voters, not to mention a huge Latino/a population which tends to vote for the Democrats.

The people in Georgia who elected Marjorie Greene are not going to be transformed into New York Times reading liberals or Jacobin reading radicals because the Republican Party divides itself. In fact, it might be even better to have people like Greene in Congress than in the streets. As LBJ said about a political rival (maybe it was Bobby Kennedy, I don't remember), I'd rather have him pissing out of the tent than pissing in.

s. wallerstein said...

I just googled the above LBJ quote and LBJ said it about J. Edgar Hoover.

Mungojerrie said...

s. wallerstein,

LBJ said that about Rafael Trujillo, the dictator of the Dominican Republic, meaning that even though he was a ruthless dictator, he would rather have him on his side, than against him.

s. wallerstein said...

According to google, he was talking about J. Edgar Hoover.

Mungojerrie said...

s. wallerstein,

You are right, Google does attribute the remark to having been said about Hoover. I believe I read (I think in one of the Making of the President books) that he said it about Trujillo. So, possibly my memory is in error (quite possible), or LBJ liked the comment so much he said it about more than one person.

Mungojerrie said...


The comment does not work quite as well when referring to a woman. Moreover, she will be micturating inside the Congress, not aiming outside, making a foul mess of things and inspiring more nut cases like herself to run for office. I would rather have her outside. employed as a hair stylist, charming all her customers with stories about QAnon.

Dave Powell said...

Re Philosophical Waiter's reference to the Dana Milbank story: McCarthy and McConnell were out on a limb when they admitted Trump was responsible for the attack on the Capitol. Has Biden or any Democrat done anything that shows a willingness to negotiate with them since then? With a third of the country ready for rebellion, signing executive orders that secure the rights of various identity groups should not have been the priority of the first eleven days. That's cat nip to the crazies, and weakens the hand of any Republican who would have been willing to stand up to them. It is no wonder that McCarthy and McConnell folded.

jeffrey g kessen said...

Oh, please. McConnell, I admit, might have a principle or two left, but Kevin McCarthy wouldn't recognize a principle if one bit him in the ass. As much as Pelosi is the stammering, stuttering avatar of Democratic cluelessness, McCarthy is the tossed-about vessel of whatever transient wave he feels himself currently sensible.

Dave Powell said...

You are being too kind to McConnell, but the point is if the Democrats act as though they don't need to talk to anyone they will just drive any lingering rational Republicans into the insurrectionists' arms. The Democrats no longer have an excuse for not knowing what country they are living in.

aaall said...

There are no rational Republicans in the Congress and haven't been for a long time. Democrats endlessly talking to Republicans in 2009 is why we are here now. The Republican strategy is to prolong the recession and pandemic in order to blame the Dems and win in '22 & '24. Fortunately the Dems seem to have caught on and seem inclined to blow off the Gang of Collins.

Dave Powell said...

If Biden confirms their worst expectations, 2022 will be a slaughter. The 2020 house election was almost tied as it was. whites voted for Democrats in the hope that Biden would win and the temperature in the country would cool down. In his first week Biden has done as good a job of driving them to the dark side as Trump ever did. I certainly would have said that Obama tried to work with the Republicans but now we know they had no stake in anything he was offering. Biden's job was to get at what they care about and start the negotiations there. But Nativism feasts on fear and Biden's feeding the Id. Fear of losing Tocqueville's 1830s America is making this the Forbidden Planet.

Mungojerrie said...

A night’s sleep has cleared my head and I have had an epiphany. I believe I confused the pissing out/pissing in quotation with the quotation, “He may be a son-of-bitch, but he’s our son-of -bitch.” The quote is attributed to FDR, not LBJ, but there is uncertainty about whom he was referring to. He was referring either to Anastasio Somoza, the dictator of Nicaragua; or Franco; or Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic.

Given how long it takes me to remember things these days, I have contemplated pitching a version of Jeopardy to NBC, called “Jeopardy For Seniors,” where all the contestants are age 70 or older, and are given one hour to answer each question. No contestant may (can?) answer until the hour has expired, and while they are thinking, the network shows the latest weather, sports and political news, or better yet, scenes from the Honeymooners.

Mungojerrie said...

Further embellishments for Jeopardy for Seniors. The first host will be Bob Barker. To increase the likelihood that there will be at least one contestant who knows the answer after one hour (it sometimes takes me days to remember something which 30 years ago would only have taken seconds), the number of contestants will be increased from 3 to 10. The first contestant to ring in with the correct answer after one hour gets the points. Given that the Jeopardy board currently has 30 questions (5 down, 6 across), the board will be reduced to a total of 9 questions, 3 by 3. Each show will last 9 hours, with a ½ hour break at the 5 hour mark so that the contestants can get a snooze. Any money that is won goes into a trust fund for the grand (or great grand) kids, if they exist, or to the contestant’s rest home or favorite charity.

aaall said...

David, check the polling on the various items in the Covid package. Every item Biden has proposed polls high. Today the gov. of WV was on MSNBC. He is a Trumpster. He was emphatic that DC need to turn on the tap and he didn't care about the deficit. Given that the Republican governor of his state wants to go big, Manchin is sort of pinned in.The Gang of Collins is yet another Republican trap. The Dems didn't get punished in 2010 because they did too much.

Mid-terms are base elections. The last thing you want to do is turn off your base by trimming. No one cares about process and unity especially if one is facing eviction, hunger, and a loss of their unemployment insurance. Most voters are low information types who stop at the headlines and don't get the fine points. The best solution to cure an upset electorate is to screw the process and get them good things.

Biden and the Dem leadership need to make a short show of trying to work with the Republicans and then go to Reconciliation or other options.

Dave Powell said...

I don't disagree that that Biden has a lot of lee way on COVID relief. In fact on economics in general I agree he has a pretty free hand. It is just the culture war items that I think will kill us.

L.F. Cooper said...

Re "fear of losing Tocqueville's 1830s America is making this the Forbidden Planet."

1830s America vanished in many or most respects long ago. As for T. himself, he was quite attuned to the oppression of Native Americans and African Americans.

Dave Powell said...

In most respects, yes but we are talking about the dreams and nightmares of Republicans. Here's Tocqueville (132 Great Books): "I am not asserting that at the present time in America there are frequent acts of tyranny. I do say that one can find no guarantee against it there and that the reasons for the government's gentleness must be sought in the circumstances and in mores rather than in the laws." The Republicans think they have the mores requisite for republican government, and the Democrats don't. Democrats need to show they do (and that the last administration didn't!).