Yeah, the only way that might fit is if there’s solid evidence of ongoing cooperation with or leverage by Putin to the detriment of the US. But if we can find the receipts for that, there’s a whole lot of deaths to hang on it.
November 20, 2020 (Friday)
The news today remains Trump’s unprecedented attempt to steal an election in which voters chose his opponents, Democratic candidate Joe Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, by close to 6 million votes, so far. A close second to that news is that the leadership of the Republican Party is not standing up to the president, but is instead seemingly willing to let him burn down the country to stay in office.
Never before in our history has a president who has lost by such a convincing amount tried to claw out a win by gaming the system. Biden has not only won the popular vote by more than any challenger of an incumbent since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s win in 1932, but also has won crucial states by large margins. He is ahead by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania, almost 160,000 votes in Michigan, and between 11,000 and 34,000 each in Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Nevada.
And yet, only two Senate Republicans—Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Ben Sasse (R-NE)-- have called Trump out for refusing to accept the results of the election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has simply said he is willing to let the process play out. In the House, only two Republicans have said they oppose Trump’s attempt to steal the election. Kay Granger (R-TX) and Fred Upton (R-MI) said there is no evidence of fraud and it is time to move on.
State leaders, though, have refused to do Trump’s bidding. Today, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, certified Georgia’s vote for Biden. Also today, two top Republicans in the Michigan legislature, whom Trump had invited to the White House apparently to enlist their help in overturning the vote in their state, issued a statement about what happened in their meeting with the president.
Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Michigan Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield said they used their time with the president to press him for more money to help Michigan fight the coronavirus, which continues to rage across the country.
As for the election, they said “We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors…. Michigan’s certification process should be a deliberate process free from threats and intimidation. Allegations of fraudulent behavior should be taken seriously, thoroughly investigated, and if proven, prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And the candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan’s electoral votes.”
Central to Trump’s argument is that Democrats have cheated, even though his own former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Christopher Krebs, said the election was “the most secure in American history,” and “there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” Krebs was the first director of CISA, an independent agency established within the Department of Homeland Security in 2018, and he worked hard to protect the election from foreign intervention despite the fact the president appeared to be angling for just such intervention.
Krebs’s defense of the security of our elections led to Trump firing him—by tweet—with Trump falsely asserting: “[t]he recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud - including dead people voting, Poll Watchers not allowed into polling locations, ‘glitches’ in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more.”
Trump’s attempt to throw out Democratic votes and lay claim to victory in an election that he lost by quite a lot is the culmination of a generation of Republican rhetoric claiming that Democratic votes are illegitimate.
Beginning in 1986, Republican operatives began to talk about cutting down Black voting under a “ballot integrity” initiative in hopes that would depress Democratic votes. They bitterly opposed the Democrats’ expansion of voter registration in 1993 under the “Motor Voter” law, which permitted voter registration at certain state offices. By 1994, losing Republican candidates insisted that their Democratic opponents had won only through “voter fraud,” although voter fraud remains so exceedingly rare as to be virtually non-existent. They fought for voter ID laws that tended to disfranchise Democrats, and immediately after the landmark 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision in which the Supreme Court gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Republican state officials introduced voter ID laws and bills restricting voter registration.
In addition to suppressing Democratic votes, recent Republican leaders also took the manipulative system of gerrymandering to new extremes in order to make sure Democrats could not win power. In 2010, party operatives raised money from corporate donors to make sure that state legislatures would be controlled by Republicans that year, as states redistricted for the following decade. After 2010, Republican controlled the key states of Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Ohio, and Michigan, as well as other, smaller states, and they redrew congressional maps using precise computer models. In the 2012 election, Democrats won the White House decisively, the Senate easily, and won a majority of 1.4 million votes for House candidates. But Republicans came away with a 33-seat majority in the House of Representatives.
Gerrymandering meant that Republicans did not have to attract moderate voters. Instead, Republican candidates had to worry about challenges from further right. Over time, they became more and more extreme. At the same time, without competition, they fielded increasingly weak candidates, who doubled down on inflammatory rhetoric rather than advancing viable policies.
Increasingly, Republicans insisted that Democrats were anti-American “socialists,” a theme Trump picked up and ran with in his 2020 construction of his opponents as “radical left” extremists who would destroy the country. Trump said “I’m not just running against Biden — Sleepy Joe — I’m running against the corrupt media, the big tech giants, the Washington swamp. And the Democrat Party is a part of all of them — every single one of them. They flood your communities with criminal aliens, drugs and crime, while they live behind beautiful gated compounds.” When the Democrats won, Trump promptly insisted that Democrats had cheated.
Aside from the outcome of this particular election, this attempt of Republican leaders to delegitimize the Democratic Party is an assault on our democracy. Here’s why:
Democracy requires at least two healthy political parties, so there is always an organized opposition to the party in power. Having a party that stands in opposition to those in power does two things: it enables people to disagree with current leadership while staying loyal to the nation, and it provides a means for oversight of the people running the government.
Until the early 1700s, in Europe, the monarch was the state. Either you were loyal to the king, or you were a traitor. Gradually, though, the British political thinkers from whom Americans drew their inspiration began to object to the policies of the British monarchy while remaining loyal to the government. They developed the idea of a loyal opposition. This was an important development in political thought, because it meant that a person could be loyal to the country (and keep his head firmly on his shoulders) while criticizing government policies.
It also meant that the people in power would have oversight to keep them on the straight and narrow. There’s nothing like opponents watching you for any potential scandal to keep corruption to a minimum.
During the establishment of the early American republic, the Framers of the Constitution briefly imagined that since the colonists had thrown off the king they would no longer need an opposition. But almost immediately—as early as President George Washington’s administration—men who disagreed with Washington’s policies organized their own party under Thomas Jefferson to oppose those in power. Jeffersonians offered to voters an alternative set of policies, and a way to put them into practice without overthrowing the government itself. This recognition of a loyal opposition was key to more than 200 years of peaceful transfers of power.…
Trump is rejecting the idea that Democrats can legally win an election. As this crisis drags on, more and more of his followers are echoing his insistence that the Democrats could not possibly win except by cheating. There is no evidence to support this claim. Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly admitted as much in court. It is rather a rejection of the possibility that Democrats can legitimately govern.
Our democracy depends on our ability both to criticize our government and to believe that we can legitimately elect a different set of leaders to advance different policies. If we lose the concept of a loyal opposition, we must all declare allegiance to the king.
November 21, 2020 (Saturday)
We are faced with the odd prospect of a president fighting desperately to keep a job he evidently doesn’t want. Trump has continued to insist he did not lose the 2020 election, and yet seems to have given up on governing. He has not taken any questions from reporters since Election Day and has spent a great deal of time golfing. Today the G20, the “Group of Twenty,” consisting of the leaders of developed or developing countries from around the world, met virtually. After speaking briefly, Trump turned his attention back to tweeting false information about the 2020 election. Then, while members of the G20 began to talk about responses to the global pandemic, Trump went golfing. This was his 298th golf trip during his presidency. Today America surpassed 12 million coronavirus infections.
While the president golfs, President-Elect Joe Biden is trying to pressure Congress to pass another coronavirus bill as the economy lurches toward another drop. Incoming presidents usually want to hold their influence in reserve to take credit for new policies, but Biden is pushing forward because he is so concerned about the economy. Unless Congress passes a new bill, about 12 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits at the end of the year. Hunger and homelessness will follow.
The image of a political leader insisting he deserves a crucial leadership role he has little interest in filling echoes South Carolina Senator James Henry Hammond in 1858. Hammond stood up on the floor of the Senate in the midst of the sectional crisis and told his colleagues he had not studied the issue that was tearing the nation apart, but felt able to vote on it anyway. He would simply vote as his southern friends did, he said, because they were leaders and he trusted them to have done the work he hadn’t. In any case, it didn’t matter much what anyone said, according to Hammond, because the Constitution had limited the government so it could do nothing but protect property. Even if an overwhelming majority of Americans wanted the government to do something more expansive, it could not.
Hammond went on to explain that men like him and the other white slave holders who directed the Democratic Party in his era belonged at the top of society. They were naturally supported by the masses, whom he called “mudsills” after the timbers driven into the ground to support the plantation homes above. “In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life,” he explained. Those people were dumb and unskilled, but they were strong and loyal. So long as their betters directed them, the mudsills would labor effectively, producing capital which moved upward and permitted “that other class which leads progress, civilization, and refinement,” to move the country forward.
Elsewhere, Hammond made his principles clear: “I repudiate, as ridiculously absurd, that much-lauded but nowhere accredited dogma of Mr. Jefferson, that “all men are born equal.” In his mind, Hammond belonged in the Senate because he was a member of the ruling class.
The following year, aspiring politician Abraham Lincoln answered Hammond with the vision that would become the intellectual underpinning of the newly formed Republican Party. Lincoln rejected the idea that society moved forward thanks to the efforts of a few rich men. He denied that most people belonged to a lower, menial class into which they were, as he said, “fatally fixed” for life.
Instead, Lincoln argued that, if properly organized, society progressed thanks to the hard work and innovation of ordinary men. While rich men had no incentive to think up new ideas, he said, ordinary Americans worked and innovated so they could provide for themselves. As they did, they made more money than they and their families needed, so they would use the surplus to buy goods that would support merchants, shoemakers, and so on. In turn, those people would work hard and accumulate capital, which in turn would support a few financiers and industrialists, who would use their own accumulated capital to hire men just starting out, and the cycle would begin again. The heart of the system was not wealthy men, but hardworking ordinary ones.
Central to this system was government’s guarantee that all men were equal before the law and that all men had equal access to resources. This meant that the government must not protect the very wealthy. It would require a government that did more than protect property; it must keep the economic playing field between wealthy men and ordinary men level.
These two versions of America appear, once again, to be on the table.
November 22, 2020 (Sunday)
I had gotten half-way through a post tonight about what seems to me a looming split in the Republican Party, when this jumped out from my Facebook timeline. Four years ago today I responded to my inclusion on the brand-new “Professor Watchlist.”
I will never forget standing in my dark kitchen in my pajamas, at the counter, reading my laptop in shock as I found out that some young grifter named Charlie Kirk had found my name online and put it onto his new website as a danger to students (send money to resist left-wing professors like Richardson!). As I stood there, watching in horror, messages came in from all over the country telling me people had my back. And then I wrote a post to reassure my friends that I was used to this sort of harassment and it would be okay, and then that post went viral, and I came off the list within days.
We have lived a lifetime in the last four years, and god knows far, far worse things have happened to others than happened to me, but I am still angry about this. And yet, my inclusion on the Professor Watchlist did its job, although perhaps not the job Kirk intended. I had been a fairly quiet academic, but once I knew I was a marked woman, I resolved to fight these vile, unAmerican grifters to the end.
Four years ago, I knew how bad things could get over the course of Trump’s term. What I could not have imagined was how many wonderful people would join forces to restore America. It’s a movement I’m proud to be part of.
I’ll see you tomorrow.
Nov 22, 2016 [below]
So, yes, I have the dubious honor of being on the “Professor Watchlist,” a list published recently by a young alt-right provocateur who knew that such a list would get media traction because of Senator McCarthy’s attacks on academics during the Red Scare. I made the list not because of complaints about my teaching, but because of my public writing about politics.
It is ironic that this list would label me “leftist.” In fact, in my public life, I do not identify with a political party, and I work with politicians on both sides of the aisle. I also teach the history of American conservative beliefs, as well as those of liberalism. I believe that the nation needs both the Democratic and the Republican parties to be strong and healthy.
It is even more ironic that the list would label me “anti-American.” In fact, I do what I do-- all the teaching, writing, speeches, and media-- because I love America. I am staunchly committed to the principle of human self-determination, and have come to believe that American democracy is the form of government that comes closest to bringing that principle to reality. This nation is not perfect-- far from it-- but when it is at its best, it has more potential for people of all genders, races, and ethnicities to create their own destinies than any other governmental system. I work to teach people about that system, its great triumphs… and also its hideous failures. We must learn from the past because the miracle of America is that it is always reinventing itself, giving us the potential to remake it, better, every day.
I am dangerous not to America but to the people soon to be in charge of it, people like the youngster who wrote this list. I teach that the American government only works when it is based on the principle that every single American is equal before the law. Since 1997, I have argued in print and in public that, throughout history, ideologically-driven politicians have undermined that fundamental principle in order to shift the economy and the power structures of this country in their own favor. For the last several years, as I took on a more and more public role, I have focused on the present, hammering on the idea that the ideologically-driven Movement Conservatives who have taken over the nation through the Republican Party are not real Republicans; they are a cabal concentrating wealth and power into a ruling class that is crushing the rest of us. I truly believe that most Americans want not this extraordinary upward redistribution of wealth and power, but rather the same sort of government known in the 1950s as the “liberal consensus,” established by FDR and Eisenhower, that regulates business, maintains national infrastructure, and provides a basic social safety net, while still leaving ample room for private enterprise and the innovation it sparks.
That the only way Movement Conservatives have managed to stay in power is to game the system through gerrymandering and voter suppression, hatred, and now the intimidation of people like me says to me that even they know they are in danger of losing control of the country. As a friend of mine says, a dying mule kicks the hardest.
People have asked what they can do in this moment. Across the political spectrum, I would urge everyone who believes in this nation to focus on the mechanics of government and constantly to call out official actions that you would find unacceptable if they happened to “your” side, especially if it’s “your” side doing them. Call attention to law-breaking that is actionable at a state or national level, rather than focusing on individual outrages (that Russia interfered in the 2016 election is important; a keyed car is not). Do not believe or share any sensationalist stories until you have confirmed them through a site like Snopes.com, and call out those who make assertions without factual evidence. Do not mistake legal practices like peaceful protests or government petitions for wrongdoing. If you see something illegal, document it with photos and witnesses and take it to police even if you suspect they will ignore it: continue to demand that the system operate properly. Call your representatives constantly to register your opinions (it matters-- most get fewer than a dozen calls about issues at hand).
And try to stop demonizing political opponents who fall within the normal political spectrum so we can all stand together against those who are trashing our institutions and our legal system. There are both Republicans and Democrats in my FB feed and you have far more in common than you are different, I promise you. What no one on my FB feeds wants, though, is for this nation to commit suicide, and if those of us who believe in America turn against each other, we will permit precisely that.
I have been touched and overwhelmed by all of your messages of concern and support over my inclusion on the Professor Watchlist. And for those of you who worried: no, I will not shut up. America is still worth fighting for.
November 23, 2020 (Monday)
At about 6:00 tonight, Emily Murphy, the Trump appointee at the head of General Services Administration who has been holding up the transition to a Biden administration, notified President-Elect Joe Biden that she recognizes his status and will release the money set aside for the transition. This should launch the formal transition process between administrations, as Biden’s people meet with Trump’s people to learn about the issues over which they will be assuming control on January 20, 2021.
Murphy’s decision appears to have been prompted by Michigan’s certification of its election results. Biden won the state by 150,000 votes, fourteen times Trump’s margin there in 2016, and now can officially claim the state’s 16 electoral votes. This makes it almost impossible for Trump somehow to eke out a win. The Trump campaign vowed to fight on.
Murphy went out of her way to say that she was not pressured by the White House, but Trump promptly contradicted her, saying that the call to release the funds had been his. For all his bluster, the Trump campaign has bowed to reality, and this might indicate a new era in politics.
Trump is unique, but he is also the product of a distinctive era of Republican history. Beginning in 1968, the party began to win power through the Southern Strategy, picking up racist southern Democrats who opposed the Democratic Party’s embrace of Black rights. After Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, those voters supported Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater for president thanks to his insistence that federal protection of racial equality was unconstitutional. The 1965 Voting Rights Act, signed by Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, put their loyalty up for grabs. Richard Nixon claimed it by promising he would not use the federal government to enforce racial justice.
This strategy worked, but it changed the trajectory of the post-WWII Republican Party. It had been Republican Supreme Court justices nominated by President Dwight Eisenhower who advanced civil rights by insisting that states were bound by the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, but the Republican Party now needed to court voters motivated by white supremacy. That ideology promoted an image of white men as the hardworking producers in the country, taking care of their wives and children, while people of color and independent women who wanted equal rights were demanding government program that sucked tax dollars.
That formula became the driving narrative of the modern party, embraced by business leaders who needed to marshal voters behind policies that increasingly benefited not ordinary Americans but those at the very top of the economic ladder. Over time, this new breed of Republicans bled out of the party traditional Republicans who objected to the extremist turn the party was taking. And extremist it was: aided by talk radio and the Fox News Channel, party leaders increasingly demonized their opponents, until by 2016, the leader of the party opened his presidential campaign by alleging that immigrants were criminals, boasting of sexual assault, and welcoming the support of white supremacists.
And yet, despite a clear pattern of voter suppression, a majority of voters rejected Trump in 2020, suggesting that demographics and reality have finally caught up with the Southern Strategy.
In the wake of the election, Trump’s followers have embraced his distrust of our electoral system and are flocking to the conspiracy theories put forward by QAnon. They are joining Parler, a social media website that permits conspiracy theories to spread unchecked, although, interestingly, their leaders remain on more mainstream platforms like Twitter.
While defeated incumbents tend to lose power in their party, Trump has tried to assert his continued control. He has attacked loyal Republicans like Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine who have refused to support his attempt to steal the election; is hoping to keep his handpicked Republican National Committee chair, Ronna McDaniel, in office; has packed state level party positions with loyalists; and is trying to keep control over the voter data he has compiled over the past four years. Trump is primed to control the direction of the party for 2024. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) have signaled their support for this plan by endorsing McDaniel for another term in office.
But while followers marinate in fantasies about secret servers and hidden ballots, and congressional leaders endorse Trump, other Republican Party leaders recognize that his refusal to accept the results of the election is unprecedented and dangerous.
On Sunday, leaders began to pressure Trump to concede. Trump’s former National Security Advisers John Bolton and H. R. McMaster agreed that Trump’s disdain for the election was eroding democracy, which plays into the hands of our adversaries. The Republican former governor of New Jersey, Thomas H. Kean, and a former Democratic lawmaker from New Jersey, Tim Roemer, both of whom were on the 9/11 Commission, were more explicit. They warned that the transition delay from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush contributed to the 9/11 terrorist attack.
At about 6:00 last night, the Trump campaign abruptly jettisoned the attorney who has been making even more crazy claims than Trump’s longtime lawyer Rudy Giuliani. A statement from the Trump campaign, signed by Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, a senior legal adviser to the Trump team, said “Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own. She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity.” Powell, who is openly a QAnon believer, has been out in front of the Trump recount effort, making simply outrageous claims. It seems her craziness finally went too far.
Today more than 100 former national security officials from the Republican Party issued a statement saying that Trump’s refusal to concede “constitutes a serious threat to America’s democratic process and to our national security.” They called “on Republican leaders—especially those in Congress—to publicly demand that President Trump cease his anti-democratic assault on the integrity of the presidential election…. By encouraging President Trump’s delaying tactics or remaining silent, Republican leaders put American democracy and national security at risk.”
Tonight, Emily Murphy finally admitted that Joe Biden won the 2020 election.
It’s hard to imagine this admission will bring the extremist Trump supporters back into the fold. At the same time it’s hard to see how establishment Republicans horrified by the excesses of Trump’s regime will be willing to move toward the extremists. If this is indeed a split, establishment Republicans will have to move back toward the center to pick up the voters the party has lost at the fringes. Its extremist adherents will regroup outside the mainstream, and the power of the Southern Strategy to win elections will be broken.
While Republican leaders have struggled, Biden has stayed above the Trumpian fray, emphasizing the need for coordination to distribute the coronavirus vaccinations but focusing on jump-starting his administration rather than challenging Trump in the public forum. Last night, word began to leak of the president-elect’s Cabinet picks. They are a very clear sign of his determination to rebuild the nation by putting experts back into power.
Biden’s nominees are people who have spent long careers inside the government, making them good candidates to rebuild what Trump gutted, beginning with the State Department, which manages our foreign policy. Biden began by naming a secretary of state, a sign to the world that America is back and wants again to be a reliable partner. His pick is Antony Blinken, who served as Deputy Secretary of State and Deputy National Security Advisor under President Barack Obama. Blinken also worked with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden chaired it, and served as Biden’s National Security advisor when he was vice president. He will be an informed, strong voice at State.
The rest of Biden’s candidates show similarly impressive credentials. They also reflect the longstanding Democratic principle that the government should reflect the American people. Biden is proposing Cuban-born Alejandro Mayorkas, a former deputy secretary, to head the Department of Homeland Security. He proposes Avril Haines, former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, for Director of National Intelligence, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a 35-year veteran of the foreign service, who is Black, for ambassador the United Nations.
Thomas-Greenfield went to college with David Duke, who would go on to become the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and who endorsed Trump for president in both 2016 and 2020. In at least some very important ways, it is a new era in politics, indeed.
November 24, 2020 (Tuesday)
The stock market, which has been strong thanks to the good news about coronavirus vaccines, jumped to a record high today on news that President-Elect Joe Biden is planning to nominate Janet Yellen to head the Treasury Department. She will be the first woman to lead the department, and is considered an especially strong pick, particularly at this moment. Yellen is a labor economist and monetary policy expert who cares deeply about issues of inequality, and is respected by members of both parties. She served as the Chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018, and headed the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton.
Yellen’s strong piloting of the Federal Reserve won her support on Wall Street, while she is also popular with labor interests: many analysts credit her with the strong labor market of the Obama years that continued until the pandemic. Former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn, who advised Trump on economic policy, tweeted that Yellen “is an excellent choice…. [S]he will be the steady hand we need to promote an economy that works for everyone, especially during these difficult times.” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), known as a progressive, tweeted that the choice of Yellen is “outstanding…. She is smart, tough, and principled…. [S]he has stood up to Wall Street banks….”
Yellen’s expected nomination is yet another Biden pick that emphasizes stability and a return to a government to which Americans had become accustomed before Trump’s election. The Biden-Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris administration appears ready to use the government to help ordinary Americans.
That return to our traditional position appears popular among financial markets as well as with ordinary voters. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped with the Yellen news, but it had topped 30,000 earlier, shortly after Pennsylvania certified its votes for Biden. Investors like political stability. Trump’s erratic behavior threatened to make business success depend not on ability but on political favoritism, which business leaders actually don’t like because it enables a political leader to pick winners and losers. Recently, the president’s attacks on our democratic system have undermined confidence so that Biden’s certified win was a relief (although later in the day Trump tried to take credit for the stock market high).
Yesterday, officials at General Motors noted that the Trump years had made the government lag behind popular opinion. They abandoned their former support for Trump’s rollback of emissions standards and sided with California in its quest to modernize our automotive fleet. CEO Mary Barra wrote to leaders of environmental groups, saying: “We believe the ambitious electrification goals of the President-elect, California, and General Motors are aligned to address climate change by drastically reducing automobile emissions,” she wrote. “We are confident that the Biden Administration, California, and the U.S. auto industry, which supports 10.3 million jobs, can collaboratively find the pathway that will deliver an all-electric future.”
The outgoing Trump administration is not taking the rejection of their policies lying down. It appears officials are trying to use their last months in office to undermine Biden and Harris, making sure they enter office with crises at hand and a limited number of options for dealing with them.
As coronavirus roars across the country, the administration remains committed to the idea of simply letting the virus take its toll until vaccines are available. Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, briefed reporters last Thursday for the first time since July, assuring them that while infection rates are rising, “[W]e approach this moment with the confidence of experience. We know the American people know what to do.”
In the last week, the United States has seen 1.2 million new infections, bringing our total to more than 12.5 million. We are approaching an official death count of 260,000, and are losing about 1500 people every day. Doctors in Utah are having to ration care; Minnesota, Kansas, and Missouri are short of beds in intensive care units; Texas had to mobilize 36 National Guard personnel to help clear an overflow of bodies at the El Paso morgue.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warns that fatalities could get worse. “Two to three thousand deaths a day times a couple of months, and you’re approaching a really stunning number of deaths," he told Yahoo News. But, he noted, “It isn’t inevitable…. We can blunt the curve” by wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing until the newly announced coronavirus vaccines are widely available.
And yet, Republicans continue to downplay the dangers of the virus, although 8 of the 53 Senate Republicans have themselves tested positive for it. Last week Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) called a request from Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) that another senator wear a mask to protect nearby staffers “idiotic” and “an ostentatious sign of fake virtue.”
More than 125 economists this week wrote an open letter calling for a new coronavirus relief package to tide the country over until coronavirus vaccines can stem the economic crisis, especially as measures passed back in March will expire with the end of the year. They are simply echoing the many calls for such a measure, including ones from Trump-appointed Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. But while the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a new $3 trillion bill back in May, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declined to take it up, and has not been able to bring Senate Republicans together to back their own version. Now, he has sent senators home for Thanksgiving without taking up a bill.
Today negotiators for the House and Senate hammered out a deal to keep the government funded past the December 11 shutdown date, but while Democrats still remain hopeful they can include coronavirus relief measures in the package, Republicans are pessimistic.
Last week, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin went further to divorce the government from supporting the economy in this perilous time. He announced that he was suspending the Treasury’s lending powers at the end of the year, taking away a crucial backstop for businesses and local governments. He is also clawing back from the Federal Reserve about $250 billion appropriated under the original coronavirus relief bill in an apparent attempt to keep it out of the hands of the Biden team. That money will go back to Congress, which would have to reappropriate it in another bill to make it available again, which the Republican Senate shows no sign of being willing to do. Republicans have expressed concern that the Biden administration could use the appropriated money to bail out states and local governments, which by law cannot borrow to tide them over.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce objected strongly to Mnuchin’s actions. In a public statement, it said: ““American businesses and workers are weary of these political machinations when they are doing everything in their power to keep our economy going. We strongly urge these programs be extended for the foreseeable future and call on Congress to pass additional pandemic relief targeted at the American businesses, workers and industries that continue to suffer. We all need to unite behind the need of a broad-based economic recovery.”
David Wilcox, who holds a PhD in Economics from MIT and is the former chief economist for the Federal Reserve, was blunt. He told journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, “The most obvious interpretation is that the Trump administration is seeking to debilitate the economic recovery as much as possible on the way out of the door.”
This is why Yellen’s nomination is being greeted with such relief. Observers expect her to back government spending to address the devastating effects of the coronavirus on the economy, while her background in monetary policy will help her craft a coordinated response between the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department.
i’m all for it, but really they just want the dollars.
This isn’t funny, and memes cannot replace arguments, but this grichworthy.
We must imagine
Munchkin (ohaiautocorrect…) Mnuchin a shade of vomit green.
HCR’s letter today for Thanksgiving: magical. I’ll let the OP do her thing and not pre-empt the linking. Just wanted to make the comment while I had the thought. It’s a beauty.
November 25, 2020 (Wednesday)
It doesn’t feel like much of a Thanksgiving this year. Lots of chairs are empty, either permanently, as we are now counting our coronavirus dead in the hundreds of thousands, or temporarily, as we are staying away from our loved ones to keep the virus at bay.
Lots of tables are empty, too, as Americans are feeling the weight of an ongoing economic crisis.
Rather than being unprecedented, though, this year of hardship and political strife brings us closer to the first national Thanksgiving than any more normal year.
That first Thanksgiving celebration was not in Plymouth, Massachusetts. While the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags did indeed share a harvest feast in fall 1621, and while early colonial leaders periodically declared days of thanksgiving when settlers were supposed to give their thanks for continued life and-- with luck—prosperity, neither of these gave rise to our national celebration of Thanksgiving.
We celebrate Thanksgiving because of the Civil War.
Southern whites fired on a federal fort, Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor in April 1861 in an attempt to destroy the United States of America and create their own country, based not in the American idea that “all men are created equal,” but rather in the opposite idea: that some men were better than others, and had the right to enslave their neighbors. In the 1850s, convinced that society worked best if a few wealthy men ran it, southern leaders had worked to bend the laws of the United States to their benefit. They used the government to protect slavery at the same time they denied it could do any of the things ordinary Americans wanted it to, like building roads, or funding colleges.
In 1860, northerners elected Abraham Lincoln to the presidency to stop the rich southern slaveholders from taking over the government and using it to cement their own wealth and power. As soon as Lincoln was elected, southern leaders pulled their states out of the Union to set up their own country. For their part, Lincoln and the northerners set out to end the slaveholders’ rebellion and bring the South back into a Union in which the government worked for people at the bottom, not just those at the top.
The early years of the war did not go well for the Union. By the end of 1862, the armies still held, but people on the home front were losing faith. Leaders recognized the need both to acknowledge the suffering and to keep Americans loyal to the cause. In November and December, seventeen state governors declared state thanksgiving holidays.
New York Governor Edwin Morgan’s widely reprinted proclamation about the holiday reflected that the previous year “is numbered among the dark periods of history, and its sorrowful records are graven on many hearthstones.” But this was nonetheless a time for giving thanks, he wrote, because “the precious blood shed in the cause of our country will hallow and strengthen our love and our reverence for it and its institutions…. Our Government and institutions placed in jeopardy have brought us to a more just appreciation of their value.”
The next year Lincoln got ahead of the state proclamations. On July 15, he declared a national day of thanksgiving, and the relief in his proclamation was almost palpable. After two years of disasters, the Union army was finally winning. Bloody, yes; battered, yes; but winning. At Gettysburg in early July, Union troops had sent Confederates reeling back southward. Then, on July 4, Vicksburg had finally fallen to U. S. Grant’s army. The military tide was turning.
President Lincoln set Thursday, August 6, 1863, for the national day of thanksgiving. On that day, ministers across the country listed the signal victories of the U.S. Army and Navy in the past year, and reassured their congregations that it was only a matter of time until the United States government put down the southern rebellion. Their predictions acknowledged the dead and reinforced the idea that their sacrifice had not been in vain, as Lincoln himself did just three months later in the Gettysburg Address.
In October 1863, President Lincoln declared the second national day of thanksgiving. In the past year, he declared, the nation had been blessed.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, he wrote, Americans had maintained their laws and their institutions, and kept foreign countries from meddling with their nation. They had paid for the war as they went, refusing to permit the destruction to cripple the economy. Instead, as they funded the war, they had also advanced farming, industry, mining, and shipping. Immigrants had poured into the country to replace men lost on the battlefield, and the economy was booming. And Lincoln had recently promised that the government would end slavery once and for all. The country, he predicted, “with a large increase of freedom,” would survive, stronger and more prosperous than ever. The President invited Americans “in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands” to observe the last Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving.
The following year, Lincoln proclaimed another day of thanksgiving, this time congratulating Americans that God had favored them not only with immigration but also with the emancipation of formerly enslaved people. “Moreover,” Lincoln wrote, “He has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions.”
Lincoln established our national Thanksgiving to celebrate the survival of our democratic government.
Today, more than 150 years later, President-Elect Joe Biden addressed Americans, noting that we are in our own war, this one against the novel coronavirus, that has already taken the grim toll of at least 260,000 Americans. Like Lincoln before him, he urged us to persevere, promising that vaccines really do appear to be on their way by late December or early January. “There is real hope, tangible hope. So hang on,” he said. “Don’t let yourself surrender to the fatigue…. [W]e can and we will beat this virus. America is not going to lose this war. You will get your lives back. Life is going to return to normal. That will happen. This will not last forever.”
“Think of what we’ve come through,” Biden said, “centuries of human enslavement; a cataclysmic Civil War; the exclusion of women from the ballot box; World Wars; Jim Crow; a long twilight struggle against Soviet tyranny that could have ended not with the fall of the Berlin Wall, but in nuclear Armageddon.” “It’s been in the most difficult of circumstances that the soul of our nation has been forged,” he said. “Faith, courage, sacrifice, service to country, service to each other, and gratitude even in the face of suffering, have long been part of what Thanksgiving means in America.”
“America has never been perfect,” Biden said. “But we’ve always tried to fulfill the aspiration of the Declaration of Independence: that all people are created equal….”
Biden could stand firmly on the Declaration of Independence because in 1861, Americans went to war to keep a cabal of slave owners from taking control of the government and turning it into an oligarchy. The fight against that rebellion seemed at first to be too much for the nation to survive. But Americans rallied and threw their hearts into the cause on the battlefields even as they continued to work on the home front for a government that promoted the common good.
And they won.
I wish you all a peaceful holiday.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, as well as possible this year.
im pretty sure ive never heard thanksgiving with this framing before. that’s mind-blowing.
so basically modern america’s thanksgiving has not only overwritten the history of colonialism, it’s also overwritten the history slavery as well.
that’s a lot of work for one holiday. good job america. /s
i was thinking the other day how wild it is that “godwin’ing” a thread with references to nazism is a thing while we here in the us have plenty of references to homegrown genocide we could be using.
collectively, we’ve done so much to ignore our country’s own genocial actions they don’t even have the shared level of understanding necessary for memeification.
Yes, and partly because (unless I missed it), it never once mentions Trump.
here’s to hoping it becomes like that other 5 letter word.
Ooooh, that’s juicy. I like it and we should ask the admins to do it.
Except now I am thinking it should be five emoji in a row.
November 27, 2020 (Friday)
As he lays out his plans for his first hundred days in office and begins to fill positions, President-Elect Joe Biden is making it clear he intends to rebuild the institutions and alliances Trump has gutted. At the same time, his focus on rebuilding the economy for ordinary Americans as a community, rather than as individual men, is new.
The emphasis on the first hundred days is artificial and simply reflects the flurry of activity that Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt launched to deal with the Great Depression when he took office in March 1933. Pundits now use the hundred-day measure to judge how effective a president is early in his term. Biden is a very good negotiator, but he will be facing Republicans determined to prevent any government action, so just how successful he will be in getting legislation through is unclear. He will at least move a number of pieces around through executive action.
As he explains his plans, Biden is beginning in the obvious place: we simply must get the coronavirus under control in order to stop the devastation it is causing across the country. With that success, the economy can rebound. The United States just suffered a million cases of coronavirus in a week; since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 264,000 of us have died of it. In the entirety of the epidemic, the United Kingdom has suffered 1.6 million cases; Germany, 1.02 million. Our hospitals are stretched, our health care professionals and front-line workers exhausted.
In an interview with journalist Lester Holt on NBC Nightly News on Tuesday, Biden indicated he will also take action on immigration, climate change, and health care in the first 100 days. As always, he maintains that these issues can all be adjusted in ways that build the economy.
He also said he would not interfere with the Justice Department, as his predecessor has done. Traditionally, the Department of Justice is not political, but Trump and his attorney general William Barr have used it to advance Trump’s political interests. Biden vows to return it to its normal independence.
Biden told Holt that he wants to rebuild the economy for ordinary Americans. “I’m focused on getting the American public back at a place where they have some certainty, some surety, some knowledge that they can make it,” he said. “The middle class and working-class people are being crushed. That’s my focus.”
The emphasis of Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris on rebuilding economic security for ordinary Americans is an old promise with a new definition. Since World War Two, politicians have tended to define the primary unit of American society as based in a breadwinning white man who supports a wife and children.
This image has never reflected the majority of households. Biden and Harris are changing the old pattern, visibly reaching out to communities of color and people who do not live in nuclear families. On Thanksgiving, it was a small thing, but a very noticeable one, when Harris urged her followers on Twitter to “check in on your single friends.” The new administration’s focus on ordinary Americans has grown out of our history, but its emphasis on community, rather than male-centered nuclear families, is new.
Biden has also indicated he will reclaim our place at the international table as a strong ally to Europe, rather than trying to force new alliances with autocratic leaders in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and similar countries.
Meanwhile, Trump seems to be trying to tie Biden’s hands and leave him with messes both at home and abroad. In addition to the fences Treasury Secretary has tried to put around coronavirus relief by clawing back congressionally-appropriated money, Trump has tried to burrow loyalists into the government to stop its normal operation.
In October, Trump issued an executive order that created a new category of federal employees who could be appointed without going through normal civil service channels, but could not be removed for political reasons. This will enable him to fill government departments with Trump loyalists. And this is no small deal: Real Clear Politics obtained a memo saying that the Office of Management and Budget, which under Trump has been a vehicle for implementing the president’s plans contrary to law—it was the OMB that held up appropriated money to Ukraine in 2019, for example—is planning to put 88 percent of its employees into this new category.
On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced a purge of longstanding members of the Defense Policy Board, a group of foreign policy experts who advise the Secretary of Defense and his team about specific issues when they want outside opinions. Those removed were former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright, who served under Democratic President Bill Clinton, and Henry Kissinger, who has been a stalwart of Republican foreign policy since the Richard Nixon administration, as well as former leaders of Congress and the Pentagon. They will be replaced by Trump loyalists.
This change comes after the purge of civilian leaders in the Department of Defense shortly after the election. In addition, according to DefenseNews, 24 of the 60 positions at the Department of Defense that require Senate approval are not occupied by confirmed appointees. Increasingly, our foreign policy ranks are filled with people loyal to Trump.
These purges may or may not having something to do with the assassination today of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, whom U.S. and Israeli intelligence services say was behind Iran’s push for nuclear weapons. Fakhrizadeh was killed when gunmen ambushed his vehicle near Tehran, Iran. Iranian officials called the attack terrorism and vowed revenge.
Former CIA Director John O. Brennan was appalled at the attack. “This was a criminal act & highly reckless,” he tweeted. “It risks lethal retaliation & a new round of regional conflict.” American officials have unofficially said that Israel was behind the killing. Although the U.S. has not been associated with the attack, it is well-known that America and Israel are allies that share intelligence about Iran, and just two weeks ago news broke that advisers had to talk Trump out of attacking Iran when inspectors reported that the country had at least 8 times the uranium it would have been permitted had Trump stayed in the 2015 nuclear deal that limited Iran’s acquisition of nuclear material. Both the White House and the CIA have declined to comment on Fakhrizadeh’s death.
If this assassination was indeed an attack by a foreign government, Brennan said, it is “state-sponsored terrorism” “far different than strikes against terrorist leaders & operatives of groups like al-Qaida & Islamic State, which are not sovereign states.” Those groups, considered illegitimate combatants under international law, can be targeted to stop terrorist attacks. Citizens of foreign states cannot.
Recognizing that this attack will likely limit Biden’s ability to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, as he has promised to do, Brennan noted: “Iranian leaders would be wise to wait for the return of responsible American leadership on the global stage & to resist the urge to respond against perceived culprits.”
Trump is also withdrawing U.S. troops from postings around the world. Troop removals from Iraq appear to offer a window for the Taliban to retake key positions there, and as it appears we will withdraw 700 military personnel from Somalia, observers there worry extremists affiliated with al-Qaida will gain the upper hand just in time for elections, which take place in December and February. Suddenly withdrawing troops makes the U.S. look like an unreliable partner, which will further weaken our traditional alliances.
Trump’s withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty of 1992 is another way to hamper Biden’s attempt to strengthen our European ties. The treaty permitted the 34 signatories to it to fly over each other’s territory to observe their military operations. The administration plans to sell the planes it used for its inspections, and rejected plans to build more. Biden has said he will rejoin the treaty, but that would require the approval of the Senate which, dominated by Republicans, is unlikely to agree. It is possible that Biden could sidestep the Senate by Executive Order.
Trump has also indicated he will veto the National Defense Authorization Act, which funds the military, unless a bipartisan provision to rename the ten military bases named for Confederate officers is stripped from it.
Trump is looking out for friends, though. On Wednesday night he pardoned his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contact with then-Russian Ambassador the U.S. Sergey Kislyak during the transition period before Trump took office.
So, while Biden is trying to return the country to something like a pre-Trump government, it seems the administration itself has come full circle. It was then-FBI Director James Comey’s refusal to stop investigating Flynn’s Russia dealings that led Trump to fire Comey in May 2017, which led to the Russia investigation that Trump still blames for undermining his administration. Four years later, Trump is still stuck in the same quagmire.
Flynn, Trump said in a statement defending the pardon, is “an innocent man.”
They’ve found worse people?!?!?!?