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Saturday, January 9, 2021

THE LAST FOUR DAYS

I assume that all of you, at least here in the United States, have spent a good deal of time watching the televised reports of the attack on the US Congress. Fairly quickly a number of the more notable participants have been identified, charged, and taken into custody. In my bighearted generous way, I hope that each of them will be found guilty of multiple offenses and required to serve the maximum penalty for each offense consecutively, not concurrently.

 

Two things have struck me about all of this, one of which I think I have already commented on. The first is that it is now part of the received wisdom of the mainstream media that the treatment of the insurrectionists was gentle because they are white and would have been brutal had they been black. This is not exactly news but it is nice to have it repeated endlessly and without question on CNN and MSNBC.

 

The second is that the participants in this failed insurrection were clearly not, by and large, working-class Americans suffering hard times and attracted to Trump because they thought he would champion the needs and interests of the working class against those of the privileged. I would be willing to bet, on the basis of what I saw these past few days, that the average household income of the participants is above the national average. I rather like the fact that one of the more striking figures identified and charged is a retired U.S. Army Lieut. Col., not exactly somebody suffering from hard times.

 

The situation is changing so rapidly that it would be foolhardy to make a series of predictions that might well be contradicted by the facts before I could get them up on my blog but nonetheless, let me sketch out as a possibility something that it seems to me is developing in the Republican Party.

 

As everybody has observed, there is a struggle underway for control of the Republican Party and for what I will call, for want of a better term, its soul. Most of the congressional Republicans in the House and Senate at this point are sticking with Trump out of fear that they will lose the votes of his supporters, but a small number of Senators and Representatives are distancing themselves from him. This is the perfect moment for Biden to do what he desperately wants to do and is probably best able to do, namely reach “across the aisle” and forge what old line communists used to call a United Front. One could even imagine Lisa Murkowski and perhaps one or two other senators transferring their allegiance to the Democratic Party or at least declaring themselves Independents while voting with the Democrats. This would have the effect of moving Biden’s agenda somewhat to the right while simultaneously making it much more likely that the agenda would become law.

 

Such a marginal realignment, combined with the steady shift in the composition of the electorate, could make the Republican Party more or less permanently a regional minority party.

 

I wish I could stick around long enough to see how this will all play out over the next 20 years.

15 comments:

John Rapko said...

There are also recent interesting pieces on this topic from Mike Davis (in Sidecar, the New Left Review's blog) and Corey Robins (on his blog). Both start from the current splits in the two wings of the property party: Trumpistas vis-a-vis 'moderate' Republicans on the right; the neoliberal Democrats vis-à-vis the 'progressives' on the center-left. They both then proceed to ponder possible alignments and dis-alignments among these fractions, with hints of the further imponderabilia of right- and left-populist pressures. Who knows? Davis concludes: "In any event, the only future that we can reliably foresee – a continuation of extreme socio-economic turbulence – renders political crystal balls useless." (Both pieces are accessible and easy to find).

PhilosophicalWaiter said...

One not minor point: you write "Most of the congressional Republicans in the House and Senate at this point are sticking with Trump out of fear that they will lose the votes of his supporters..." Lindsey Graham and Mitt Romney's and even Mike Pence's recent experiences have shown that it is not merely fear of losing voters that may motivate many to stick with Trump, but potentially genuine fear for their own safety. I don't particularly feel sorry for any of them, (dogs, fleas, etc.) but as more Trump supporters work their way up from threatening violence to enacting it, it is not unimaginable that we will see one or more plans like those drawn up for Gov. Whitmer come to fruition.

Jerry Brown said...

I expect that the events at the Capitol will serve to 'cement' the very narrow victories of the Democratic candidates for Senate from Georgia. Which is a very good thing. I wonder if once they are seated in the Senate if the Democrats will entertain some of the ideas that were floating around during the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation. Things like possibly recognizing the District of Columbia as a state, or Puerto Rico. Or adding justices to the Supreme Court.

I hope they do the first two at least. After they get the whole Inauguration thing over with. It might make it less necessary to beg help from the likes of Murkowski or Romney that would pull an already fairly conservative Democratic party further to the right.





David Palmeter said...

Jerry Brown,

I doubt if the Democrats will be able to enact much of anything that is progressive. Joe Manchin is now one of the most powerful people in Washington, as is Lisa Murkowski. They are at best centrists, not progressives. The Blue Tsunami many of us thought was coming, didn't occur and that pretty much put an end to most, if not all, progressive legislation.

Moreover, unless something can be attached to a budget bill, it is subject to filibuster and would require 60 votes. Even when there were 60 Democrats in the Senate, Obama could'nt get a public option adopted. Manchin, for one, has said he is opposed to abolishing the filibuster. As for DC statehood, forget it.

Jerry Brown said...

Hi David. Why is DC statehood so unlikely? I'm not familiar with the process but why wouldn't it be something Democrats considered doing?

Anonymous said...

We should just be thankful that we have the remnants of a democracy left, which is more than Rome had after Caesar’s assassination. Seeing how gullible many people are, how easily manipulated, how prone to delusion, the fact that we have a government intact at all – regardless that it is “only” moderate, or centrist – is reason to feel fortunate, when one considers the alternative had, for example, the rabble invading the Senate had succeeded in absconding with the envelopes holding the States’ electoral certifications, which would have delayed the electoral college vote for weeks, as each state was required to re-certify their electors, as Trump continued to incite his base to revolt.

PhilosophicalWaiter said...

Jerry Brown,

(Effectively echoing David) I don't think the question is really if any of these initiatives are things that the Democrats would consider doing, but instead whether it is possible to get votes from all 50 senators that caucus with the Democrats. With a perfectly balanced knife-edge of a majority, most progressive plans will struggle even to gain unified support that would make they even potentially possible.

David Palmeter said...

Jerry Brown,

Statehood requires the OK of Congress (Art. IV, section 3 of the Constitution). Perhaps the Democrats could get enough votes in the House, but the Senate is all but impossible because of the filibuster rule. Moreover, while I don't recall the details, I do recall that when statehood has been in the past, it was seriously opposed by many small states regardless of whether they were predominantly Democrat or Republican. All that, of course, was before Trump and the sharp Blue/Red divide we now have. Maybe some states would see it differently now. (I don't know why small states would be more prone to oppose than large, but that apparently is what has happened.)

Jerry Brown said...

Thanks. Philosophical Waiter, it seems to me that a knife edge majority is actually a good reason to act. David Palmeter, you bring another issue to mind- the Senate filibuster rules for the upcoming session. Maybe it is too much to hope- but why the heck would the Democrats in the Senate support those rules. They cannot be implemented without Democratic support? They don't have to be implemented- they are not in the Constitution as far as I know.

David Palmeter said...

Jerry Brown,

You're right, they aren't in the Constituion. It's simply a Senate rule dating way, way back; it's been eliminated for some things like judicial nominations and the budget, but still applies to just about everything else. What keeps it in place is the fear Senators on both sides have about what the other side could do in a majority.

Jerry Brown said...

Well maybe the Democrats in the Senate would be smart to exclude questions of 'statehood' from the filibuster at the very least. We saw the utter hypocrisy of the Republicans in the switch of positions between the Scalia replacement and the Ginsburg replacement. They got rid of some of the filibuster rules and capitalized on it. I'd like to think that Democrats can be just as intelligent.

Anonymous said...

(Brecht)
"Zu sagen, daß die Guten nicht besiegt wurden, weil sie gut, sondern weil sie schwach waren, dazu ist Mut nötig".

"To admit that good was defeated, not because it was good, but because it was weak: that takes pluck!"

David Palmeter said...

There's a piece in the Outlook section of this morning's Washington Post by Kathy Kiely on the difficulties Biden is likely to have with the Senate:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/senate-biden-democrats-control/2021/01/08/ab573e1c-5137-11eb-bda4-615aaefd0555_story.html

Anonymous said...

A lesser, but still contributing, factor is the perceived politics of the crowd.
Right-wingers are treated better by police.
See https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-polices-tepid-response-to-the-capitol-breach-wasnt-an-aberration

henry sholar said...

Timothy Snyder's essay in the NY Times covers the current political crisis quite comprehensively:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/09/magazine/trump-coup.html