The 2020 issue that matters is democracy itself
The future of U.S. democracy will be on the ballot next year. No one should pretend otherwise. ...
And the Supreme Court’s partisan, antidemocratic decision on gerrymandering, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., showed how dangerous it would be to expand a right-wing majority hellbent on making our system less inclusive, less fair and less equal.
For these reasons, Democratic primary voters should not be knocked for making “electability” their highest criterion in picking a presidential candidate.
Of course, judging who is most likely to win is a difficult and rather subjective enterprise. And this calculation must not be a cover for sexism. But Democrats have no room for error. They need to avoid the sectarian infighting for which their party is famous and find a candidate who can excite turnout while also demonstrating broad reach and political savvy. ...
Aren’t you sick of those who call themselves “constitutional conservatives” letting Trump off the hook for his cavalier attitude toward liberty by suggesting he’s just being, well, Trump?
And speaking of the Constitution, the five members of the Supreme Court’s Republican Machine (two of them named by Trump) shoved aside mounds of evidence, threw up their hands and declared themselves powerless to contain the radical gerrymandering of legislative seats. They did so even while effectively conceding the obvious, well-described in Justice Elena Kagan’s history-will-remember dissent: that gerrymanders “enabled politicians to entrench themselves . . . against voters’ preferences” and “promoted partisanship above respect for the popular will.”
Here’s the maddening thing about the majority’s opinion: Conservatives who were happy to override decades of precedent to throw out laws limiting money’s influence in politics and to gut the Voting Rights Act suddenly discovered judicial modesty on gerrymanders. I was reminded of former congressman Barney Frank’s quip skewering the GOP’s “Reverse Houdinis” who tie themselves up in knots and then say they cannot act — because they are all tied up in knots.
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WaPo - E.J. Dionne Jr.
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I agree, but still have the concern that on some fundamental level, Democratic voters don't seem to care about SCOTUS nearly as much as Republican voters do. I will never understand the people who did not show up in 2016 knowing full well there was an open seat going to whoever won that election. And now a lot of those same people are the ones complaining the loudest at the opinions being written with the help of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.
"There's no play here. There's no angle. There's no champagne room. I'm not a miracle worker, I'm a janitor. The math on this is simple; the smaller the mess, the easier it is for me to clean up." -Michael Clayton
USA Today OpEd - Chris Edelson
Donald Trump and Congress are showing us what constitutional failure looks like
Trump's aspiring authoritarianism is an existential threat to America. We must update our laws and Constitution to fix the massive gaps he's exposed.
Americans have lived with the symptoms for so long that, by now, many of us hardly pay more than a moment’s attention when they flare-up. We may observe, in passing, the numbness we feel when President Donald Trump threatens a political opponent with criminal prosecution. There may be a tingling sensation in our moral compass when Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner engage in diplomatic relations at the highest levels or when foreign governments line the president’s pockets.
We shrug with resignation as we acknowledge that the Republican leadership in Congress will do nothing to respond after Trump has openly invited foreign countries to, once again, try to help him win an election. When yet another woman steps forward to accuse Trump of sexual assault or rape, we understand that there will be no congressional hearings to sort out what happened.
We understand that Trump will face no consequences for a chilling racist attack against four non-white congresswomen. We know that it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to conceive of anything Trump could do that would move his Republican allies in Congress to support his removal from office, and we see that many Democrats appear unwilling to even consider an impeachment inquiry.
What we are experiencing is nothing less than constitutional failure. A fully functioning system would effectively respond to direct threats to constitutional democracy by a president who is a would-be authoritarian. In a functioning system, impeachment proceedings would have already begun, and Trump would face the prospect of being removed from office.
In wake of 'send her back' Trump rally chants, Democrats reframe 2020 race as fight for the identity of the country
In the middle of one of the most rancorous weeks in the race for the White House, fueled by President Donald Trump's own racist rhetoric telling four Democratic congresswomen of color to "go back " to where they came from, the field of 2020 Democratic presidential contenders are drawing battle lines for the general election election to come, focusing on a message of morality. ...
Booker, in an interview with The Washington Post Live on Thursday, said the 2020 election is about more than Trump.
"The referendum in this election is not on one guy in one office," he said. "The referendum in this election is a referendum on who we are, and who we are going to be to each other, and if we can get back to seeing each other with a more courageous empathy, we can have a revival of civic grace and create a new American majority." ...
The undercurrent of the brawl tees up an election fight that is, as Booker said, not only a referendum on Trump's presidency but on the identity of the country. ...
While this most recent campaign rally provided Trump with a platform to energize his base, ahead of a tough re-election fight, it also presented an opportunity for the Democrats, who have tried to cast 2020 as a battle for the "soul" of the country, to fill what they see as a moral void in leadership under the current administration.
"It is not what you want our president to be," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said on Capitol Hill Thursday. "He is doing this to distract people. He's doing it to invigorate a band of people that support him... This is not leadership. This is using people as political pawns."
GQ - Jay Willis
Is America Actually Heading Towards Fascism?
We asked experts to break down the elements of this resurgent form of right-wing extremism and the parallels in modern America. ...
Historically, “fascism” referred primarily to regimes in post-World War I European nations—especially in Germany and Italy—helmed by authoritarian leaders who preached an ultranationalist gospel, consolidated government power, and did not tolerate dissent. But today, “fascist” is bandied about as common political insult with little tethering to the ideology itself, muddying the word’s meaning among the general public. To find out if America could actually slide into bona fide fascism, I asked a couple political science professors—Indiana University's Jeffrey Isaac, and Amherst College's Thomas Dumm—to identify the philosophy's historical hallmarks. The parallels between then and now, it turns out, aren’t hard to identify.
1. An Era of Social Upheaval
Fascism tends to arise out of a very specific set of circumstances: when a group of people that once felt politically and economically secure suddenly finds themselves feeling marginalized. After World War I, devastating hyperinflation and unemployment exacerbated the humiliation of Germany’s defeat, fomenting widespread disillusionment among its citizens. In his review of historian Hannah Arendt’s classic work The Origins of Totalitarianism, Isaac describes a “generalized crisis of legitimacy” throughout post-war Europe in which “large numbers of people felt dispossessed, disenfranchised, and disconnected from dominant social institutions,” unsure how they fit into the emerging world order—if at all anymore.
The phenomena that can give rise to fascism—political instability, economic uncertainty, simmering resentment—are “endemic to modernity,” Isaac says. Today, they could include conditions like extreme socioeconomic inequality, the automation of manufacturing processes, the student debt explosion, skyrocketing housing costs, the disappearing social safety net, and the ever-dwindling supply of well-paying jobs capable of sustaining a comfortable middle-class life.
2. A Nostalgia for a Lost, Glorious Past
A critical ingredient of fascism, says Dumm, is the ref-framing of a nation's current struggles as a departure from some glorious, long-lost past. German dictator Adolf Hitler cast his Third Reich as the successor to the pre-war German Empire, and to the Holy Roman Empire before that. His counterpart in Italy, Benito Mussolini, envisioned his reign as a “Third Rome,” heir to similar bygone eras of Roman greatness. During periods of uncertainty, a story about a strong national identity can foster a sense of belonging and comfort. ...
The narrative needn’t be specific, either; in some cases, vague ones might work best. “When Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan came out, the puzzle was, ‘What are you talking about? What’s the baseline for when we were great versus now?” says Dumm. “It becomes sort a cloudy and vague period.” The precise meaning of MAGA is a modern Rorschach test for those vulnerable to fascism’s message, because the era of to-be-restored American greatness exists in the eye of the beholder.
Headed? I guess. To me we're well over the line. There is no sector of government that has not been poisoned or turned into a way to funnel money toward the oligarchs and away from everyone else.
No matter where you go, there you are!
Independent - Robert Fisk: Hitler, tweets and Trump: What do they have in common?
The internet and social media would have fascinated the dictator, who was a fool for technology. So is the president. But it’s the anonymity of hatred that make online trolls and Nazis so comparable
CNN - Chris Cillizza
1 quote that perfectly explains the 2020 Democratic primary
(CNN) There are all sorts of ways to think about the 2020 Democratic primary. Liberal vs. moderate! Old vs. young! Establishment vs. outsider!
All of those have merit. But none explains what is going on in the current fight for the Democratic nomination like Dan Pfeiffer, former Obama White House communications director, did in The New York Times this weekend:
"The biggest divide in the party is not between left and center. It's between those who believe once Trump is gone, things will go back to normal, and those that believe that our democracy is under a threat that goes beyond Trump."
Yes, yes, 100% this.
For all the ink spilled about whether Joe Biden (76 years old) or Bernie Sanders (77) is too old to be the nominee or whether Elizabeth Warren is too liberal to be the nominee or whether Pete Buttigieg has enough experience to be president, the only truly consequential difference in this field is how they view Trump and the broader Republican Party amid the sweep of history.
Vox - Zack Beauchamp
The anti-liberal moment
Critics on the left and right are waging war on liberalism. And liberals don’t seem to have a good defense.
Shortly after its post-World War I creation, the foundations of Germany’s Weimar Republic began to quake. In 1923, Hitler staged an abortive coup attempt in Bavaria, the so-called Beer Hall Putsch — a failure that nonetheless turned Hitler into a reactionary celebrity, a sign of German discontent with the post-war political order.
One contemporary observer, a legal theorist in his mid-30s named Carl Schmitt, found the seeds of the crisis within the idea of liberalism itself. Liberal institutions like representative democracy, and the liberal ideal that all a nation’s citizens can be treated as political equals, were in his view a sham. Politics at its core is not about compromise between equal individuals but instead conflict between groups.
“Even if Bolshevism is suppressed and Fascism held at bay, the crisis of contemporary parliamentarism would not be overcome in the least,” he wrote in 1926. ”It is, in its depths, the inescapable contradiction of liberal individualism and democratic homogeneity.”
Schmitt’s critique of liberalism proved terrifyingly accurate. The struggle between the Nazis and their opponents could not be resolved through parliamentary compromise; the Weimar Republic fell to fascism and took the rest of the continent down with it. ...
Schmitt haunts our political moment because we are seeing a flowering of criticism of American liberalism. In recent years, serious thinkers on both the left and right have launched a sustained assault on the United States’ founding intellectual credo.
These criticisms do not arise in a vacuum. They stem from real-world crises, most notably the 2008 Great Recession and the rise of far-right populists like Donald Trump to power. These shocks to the system show, in the eyes of liberalism’s contemporary critics, that something is profoundly wrong with the fundamental ideas that define our politics. It is a belief that “the liberal idea has become obsolete,” as Russian President Vladimir Putin recently declared.
Salon - Charles Derber, Yale R. Magrass
In extreme crises, conservatism can turn to fascism. Here's how that might play out
When liberal capitalist societies fail, nations turn to glory, honor, nobility and war to legitimate the system
In the 1980s, Trump was already famous as a billionaire who articulated the philosophy of look out for your own profit and don’t care how much you hurt anyone else in the process. However, no one would imagine he would eventually become president. Long before he entered politics, Trump called anyone who challenged him a loser. With that vocabulary, he perpetuated the idea that victims are weak and lazy and don't have the stuff to prevail. They deserve their fate and must submit to the triumphant. As a landlord, Trump brutally intimidated his tenants — cutting heat and hot water, refusing to maintain and repair his buildings, which sometimes became rat infested — in the hope of driving them out of rent-controlled apartments that he planned to convert into condominiums. ...
Trump’s presidency has been treated as a fluke, but it actually represents a very old ideology of capitalism. When Trump became president, the media and liberals became nostalgic for Reagan, saying that Reagan would never do what Trump was doing. In reality, Trump was Reagan’s heir. Reagan appointed Alan Greenspan as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Greenspan’s five terms as Chairman included two reappointments by Bill Clinton, which suggests his paradigm was accepted by some Democrats.
Greenspan regularly published with Ayn Rand, the self-proclaimed philosopher and novelist of capitalism. Her economics underlie Reaganism and Trumpism and have a long lineage, going back at least to the British workhouses of the early 1800s and the American gilded age of the late 1800s and early 1900s. She divided the world into two distinct orders of being: creatives and moochers. ...
The Capitalist class itself is divided over the cut-throat ideology of Rand-Reagan-Trumpism (also called neoclassicism and neo-liberalism), with some embracing it as a license to do whatever they want, but others fearing it is too blatant in telling the 99% they are on their own and the elite owes them nothing. Under neoclassicism, wealth did not trickle down; rather from 1980 to 2016, the ratio of pay for the average Standard & Poor’s 500 American corporate CEO to the average worker grew from 42 to 1 to 347 to 1 as the percentage of national income held by the richest 1% doubled. Capitalism strives to win the support of the 99% through a utilitarian pledge of a higher standard of living for everyone willing to work hard. It will be shared, but not equally. The gap between the 1% and the 99% shows this is not a promise kept. Accordingly, if capitalism is going to win the acquiesce of the vast majority, it must find another way of legitimating itself — a kind of glorious cause. This become urgent when inequality zooms up and workers are forgotten. In the first year of Trump’s presidency, the stock market as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial average grew 27%, but the wages of working people were stagnant, growing at 0%. Wages, in fact, had been stagnant since the beginning of the Reagan presidency.
Just Security - Rebecca Ingber: Bureaucratic Resistance and the Deep State Myth
The last three years have been a time of great crisis for the U.S. executive branch bureaucracy, and for the U.S. presidency. Career officials have fled their agencies in record numbers, taking their lifetime of expertise and institutional memory with them. Political positions are hard to fill with qualified candidates, and even the highest levels of the President’s own political appointees have seen unusually high turnover, including those advisors — like the President’s first Secretary of Defense — who have resigned in protest. Fanning the flames further, leaking has been rampant in this administration, often from within the President’s own inner circle itself. And what of the President? For his part, the President has alternatively sought to weaponize, to delegitimize, or to dismiss the work of the public servants who keep the many offices and agencies of the modern-day administrative state running. The President’s abuse of the human beings populating the executive branch bureaucracy has become inextricably linked with his abuse of the power of his office and, furthermore, his defense to it. His response to charges of malfeasance is an approach he has honed through crisis after crisis and will continue to use again, one that threatens the continued functions of good government: the claim that any threat to or constraint on his power is the working of a “deep state” seeking to undermine the will of the people.
New Republic: - Ed Burmila
State Under Siege
The American right's unyielding ardor for federal power
It is an article of faith among many strategists and activists within the Democratic Party that shifting demographics will be its salvation. The Republican electorate gets older and whiter with every election. Greatest Generation and boomer Fox News addicts can’t live forever, and Big Data shows that it’s merely a matter of time until the modal Republican voter is firmly in the minority.
When I come across this talismanic bit of folk wisdom, I counter with an example that has little relevance to anyone under 40: apartheid-era South Africa. A white minority that made up around 15 percent of the population in that ostensibly “democratic” country kept a death grip on power for decades. Power in a democracy is not about the force of numbers; it is about control of the levers of the law and state power.
The South Africa case may seem extreme, akin to Trump-Hitler analogies. Yet both in spirit and in practice, the modern GOP is embracing a similar strategy of maintaining power in a nation where it has managed to win the popular vote in a presidential election exactly one time since 1992. The politics of blood-and-soil white nationalism, once restricted to the Pat Buchanan fringes and twitchy men distributing homemade pamphlets about the Zionist Occupied Government outside gun shows, are the new mainstream of the right.
A key tenet of the Trump-led version of these politics is the dismantling of the administrative state—namely, the “deep state” of unelected bureaucrats whose machinations (the argument goes) thwart our conquering-hero president at every turn. Former Trump guru-strategist Steve Bannon built the modern alt-right around, in part, the idea of dismantling the entire administrative state.
In truth, however, breaking the government has been part of the right’s modus operandi since at least Reagan. The impulse to take power in order to hobble, misdirect, and destroy is one of the uniting threads of modern American conservatism. Yet out of the other side of its mouth, the Republican Party is admitting, by action if not by word, that the hated administrative capacity of the state is all that is keeping its power intact long past the point when the conservative movement was advancing an agenda that appealed to a majority of American citizens.
Raw Story - Thom Hartmann
Raw Story - Thom Hartmann
How the Supreme Court and the morbidly rich are ruining democracy in America
People being killed by wildfires in California and people dying because they can’t afford their insulin are the same thing. Both represent the capture of government by corporations—in other words, both are symptoms of democracy in the United States being replaced by a corporate state with little regard for morality, life or the law.
In 1976, for the first time in America’s history, five conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that rich people owning their own personal politicians was constitutionally protected because the money they were using to buy legislators and legislation was “free speech.” The case was Buckley v. Valeo. In 1978, SCOTUS extended that logic to corporations in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti.
The result was predictable. Rich people and corporations rose up and took over the government, as money poured into Reagan’s coffers and the corporate-funded GOP began to dominate the American political scene. And, also predictably, the most predatory and least scrupulous among those billionaires and corporations ended up with the most influence.
This Supreme Court-written law, reaffirmed in 2010’s Citizens United decision, was never proposed by any legislature, governor, or president, and, in fact, struck down a series of “good government” laws restricting money in politics that went all the way back to 1907.
And it has largely reduced democracy in the United States to its trappings. The public is engaged in a series of rather empty rituals, at least for the moment.
A representative democracy, of course, is generally agreed to mean that the majority of the people vote for what they want from government and most often then get it via the people they elected. When the majority wanted, for example, the right to unionize, a minimum wage, unemployment insurance, Social Security, civil rights laws, and Medicare, our government brought those things into existence.
All that was, of course, before the Supreme Court eradicated what democracy we had in 1976 and 1978.
For more of Thom Hartmann, you can listen at 12 PM EST, 9 AM PST, at thomhartmann.com or on his app, or several other ways. Although I don’t always agree with him, I count myself as a fan. You are likely to hear this on a near-daily basis.