Opinion | The Republican Party After Trump – The New York Times

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The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

“Of all the things President Trump has destroyed, the Republican Party is among the most dismaying.

“Destroyed” is perhaps too simplistic, though. It would be more precise to say that Mr. Trump accelerated his party’s demise, exposing the rot that has been eating at its core for decades and leaving it a hollowed-out shell devoid of ideas, values or integrity, committed solely to preserving its own power even at the expense of democratic norms, institutions and ideals.

Tomato, tomahto. However you characterize it, the Republican Party’s dissolution under Mr. Trump is bad for American democracy.

A healthy political system needs robust, competing parties to give citizens a choice of ideological, governing and policy visions. More specifically, center-right parties have long been crucial to the health of modern liberal democracies, according to the Harvard political scientist Daniel Ziblatt’s study of the emergence of democracy in Western Europe. Among other benefits, a strong center right can co-opt more palatable aspects of the far right, isolating and draining energy from the more radical elements that threaten to destabilize the system.

Today’s G.O.P. does not come close to serving this function. It has instead allowed itself to be co-opted and radicalized by Trumpism. Its ideology has been reduced to a slurry of paranoia, white grievance and authoritarian populism. Its governing vision is reactionary, a cross between obstructionism and owning the libs. Its policy agenda, as defined by the party platform, is whatever President Trump wants — which might not be so pathetic if Mr. Trump’s interests went beyond “Build a wall!”

“There is no philosophical underpinning for the Republican Party anymore,” the veteran strategist Reed Galen recently lamented to this board. A co-founder of the Lincoln Project, a political action committee run by current and former Republicans dedicated to defeating Mr. Trump and his enablers, Mr. Galen characterized the party as a self-serving, power-hungry gang.

With his dark gospel, the president has enthralled the Republican base, rendering other party leaders too afraid to stand up to him. But to stand with Mr. Trump requires a constant betrayal of one’s own integrity and values. This goes beyond the usual policy flip-flops — what happened to fiscal hawks anyway? — and political hypocrisy, though there have been plenty of both. Witness the scramble to fill a Supreme Court seat just weeks before Election Day by many of the same Senate Republicans who denied President Barack Obama his high court pick in 2016, claiming it would be wrong to fill a vacancy eight months out from that election.

Mr. Trump demands that his interests be placed above those of the nation. His presidency has been an extended exercise in defining deviancy down — and dragging the rest of his party down with him.

Having long preached “character” and “family values,” Republicans have given a pass to Mr. Trump’s personal degeneracy. The affairs, the hush money, the multiple accusations of assault and harassment, the gross boasts of grabbing unsuspecting women — none of it matters. White evangelicals remain especially faithful adherents, in large part because Mr. Trump has appointed around 200 judges to the federal bench.

For all their talk about revering the Constitution, Republicans have stood by, slack-jawed, in the face of the president’s assault on checks and balances. Mr. Trump has spurned the concept of congressional oversight of his office. After losing a budget fight and shutting down the government in 2018-19, he declared a phony national emergency at the southern border so he could siphon money from the Pentagon for his border wall. He put a hold on nearly $400 million in Senate-approved aid to Ukraine — a move that played a central role in his impeachment.

So much for Republicans’ Obama-era nattering about “executive overreach.”

Despite fetishizing “law and order,” Republicans have shrugged as Mr. Trump has maligned and politicized federal law enforcement, occasionally lending a hand. Impeachment offered the most searing example. Parroting the White House line that the entire process was illegitimate, the president’s enablers made clear they had his back no matter what. As Pete Wehner, who served as a speechwriter to the three previous Republican presidents, observed in The Atlantic: “Republicans, from beginning to end, sought not to ensure that justice be done or truth be revealed. Instead, they sought to ensure that Trump not be removed from office under any circumstances, defending him at all costs.”

The debasement goes beyond passive indulgence. Congressional bootlickers, channeling Mr. Trump’s rantings about the Deep State, have used their power to target those who dared to investigate him. Committee chairmen like Representative Devin Nunes and Senator Ron Johnson have conducted hearings aimed at smearing Mr. Trump’s political opponents and delegitimizing the special counsel’s Russia inquiry.

As head of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Mr. Johnson pushed a corruption investigation of Mr. Biden’s son Hunter that he bragged would expose the former vice president’s “unfitness for office.” Instead, he wasted taxpayer money producing an 87-page rehash of unsubstantiated claims reeking of a Russian disinformation campaign. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, another Republican on the committee, criticized the inquiry as “a political exercise,” noting, “It’s not the legitimate role of government or Congress, or for taxpayer expense to be used in an effort to damage political opponents.”

Undeterred, last Sunday Mr. Johnson popped up on Fox News, engaging with the host over baseless rumors that the F.B.I. was investigating child pornography on a computer that allegedly had belonged to Hunter Biden. These vile claims are being peddled online by right-wing conspiracymongers, including QAnon.

Not that congressional toadies are the only offenders. A parade of administration officials — some of whom were well respected before their Trumpian tour — have stood by, or pitched in, as the president has denigrated the F.B.I., federal prosecutors, intelligence agencies and the courts. They have failed to prioritize election security because the topic makes Mr. Trump insecure about his win in 2016. They have pushed the limits of the law and human decency to advance Mr. Trump’s draconian immigration agenda.

Most horrifically, Republican leaders have stood by as the president has lied to the public about a pandemic that has already killed more than 220,000 Americans. They have watched him politicize masks, testing, the distribution of emergency equipment and pretty much everything else. Some echo his incendiary talk, fueling violence in their own communities. In the campaign’s closing weeks, as case numbers and hospitalizations climb and health officials warn of a rough winter, Mr. Trump is stepping up the attacks on his scientific advisers, deriding them as “idiots” and declaring Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top expert in infectious diseases, a “disaster.” Only a smattering of Republican officials has managed even a tepid defense of Dr. Fauci. Whether out of fear, fealty or willful ignorance, these so-called leaders are complicit in this national tragedy.

As Republican lawmakers grow increasingly panicked that Mr. Trump will lose re-election — possibly damaging their fortunes as well — some are scrambling to salvage their reputations by pretending they haven’t spent the past four years letting him run amok. In an Oct. 14 call with constituents, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska gave a blistering assessment of the president’s failures and “deficient” values, from his misogyny to his calamitous handling of the pandemic to “the way he kisses dictators’ butts.” Mr. Sasse was less clear about why, the occasional targeted criticism notwithstanding, he has enabled these deficiencies for so long.

Profiles in courage these are not.

Mr. Trump’s corrosive influence on his party would fill a book. It hasin factfilled several, as well as a slew of articles, social media posts and op-eds, written by conservatives both heartbroken and incensed over what has become of their party.

But many of these disillusioned Republicans also acknowledge that their team has been descending into white grievance, revanchism and know-nothing populism for decades. Mr. Trump just greased the slide. “He is the logical conclusion of what the Republican Party has become in the last 50 or so years,” the longtime party strategist Stuart Stevens asserts in his new book, “It Was All a Lie.”

The scars of Mr. Trump’s presidency will linger long after he leaves office. Some Republicans believe that, if those scars run only four years deep, rather than eight, their party can be nursed back to health. Others question whether there is anything left worth saving. Mr. Stevens’s prescription: “Burn it to the ground, and start over.” “

Opinion | With the Google Lawsuit, the Long Antitrust Winter Is Over – By Tim Wu – The tim New York Times

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Mr. Wu is the author of “The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age.”

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“The true significance of the federal antitrust lawsuit filed against Google on Tuesday cannot be captured by any narrow debate about legal doctrine or what the case will mean for the company. This is a big case, filed during an important time, and it merits a commensurately broad understanding. The complaint marks the return of the U.S. government to a role that many of us long feared it had abandoned: disciplining the country’s largest and most powerful monopolies.

President Theodore Roosevelt best explained the role played by antitrust law after his Justice Department filed suit in 1902 against the Northern Securities Company, formed by J.P. Morgan and others. Roosevelt wrote to a friend that “the absolutely vital question” was whether “the government has the power to control the trusts.” As he had said earlier in a speech, the “immense power” of aggregated wealth “can be met only by the still greater power of the people as a whole.”

Can the power of the people prevail over the power of Google and other business giants? As in the days of Theodore Roosevelt, the power of today’s biggest private companies rivals that of the government, and they arguably have more influence over how we live.

Historically, the reaction to unfettered private power has often taken one of two forms. One is passive acceptance, in the hope that the private sector will do what is best for the public. That is unfettered capitalism. The other form is an aggressive attempt to nationalize (or at least heavily regulate) powerful companies, with the aim of converting them, in effect, into public servants. That is socialism.

Opinion | America and the Coronavirus: ‘A Colossal Failure of Leadership’ – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

“One of the most lethal leadership failures in modern times unfolded in South Africa in the early 2000s as AIDS spread there under President Thabo Mbeki.

Mbeki scorned science, embraced conspiracy theories, dithered as the disease spread and rejected lifesaving treatments. His denialism cost about 330,000 lives, a Harvard study found.

None of us who wrote scathingly about that debacle ever dreamed that something similar might unfold in the United States. But today, health experts regularly cite President Trump as an American Mbeki.

“We’re unfortunately in the same place,” said Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist at U.C.L.A. “Mbeki surrounded himself with sycophants and cost his country hundreds of thousands of lives by ignoring science, and we’re suffering the same fate.”

One role of journalism is to establish accountability, and that’s particularly important before an election. Trump says he deserves an A-plus for his “phenomenal job” handling the coronavirus, but the judgment of history is likely to be far harsher.

“I see it as a colossal failure of leadership,” said Larry Brilliant, a veteran epidemiologist who helped eliminate smallpox in the 1970s. “Of the more than 200,000 people who have died as of today, I don’t think that 50,000 would have died if it hadn’t been for the incompetence.”

America Wrote the Pandemic Playbook, Then Ignored It.  The U.S. spent 15 years preparing for the coronavirus. Why did we handle it so badly?

There’s plenty of blame to go around, involving Democrats as well as Republicans, but Trump in particular “recklessly squandered lives,” in the words of an unusual editorial this month in the New England Journal of Medicine. Death certificates may record the coronavirus as the cause of death, but in a larger sense vast numbers of Americans died because their government was incompetent.

As many Americans are dying every 10 days of Covid-19 as U.S. troops died during 19 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the economists David Cutler and Lawrence Summers estimate that the economic cost of the pandemic in the United States will be $16 trillion, or about $125,000 per American household — far more than the median family’s net worth. Then there’s an immeasurable cost in soft power as the United States is humbled before the world.

“It’s really sad to see the U.S. presidency fall from being the champion of global health to being the laughingstock of the world,” said Devi Sridhar, an American who is a professor of global health at the University of Edinburgh. “It was a tragedy of history that Donald Trump was president when this hit.”

The United States has made other terrible mistakes over the decades, including the Iraq War and the War on Drugs. But in terms of destruction of American lives, treasure and wellbeing, this pandemic may be the greatest failure of governance in the United States since the Vietnam War.

America Was the Leader in Pandemic Preparedness.

The paradox is that a year ago, the United States seemed particularly well positioned to handle this kind of crisis. A 324-page study by Johns Hopkins found last October that the United States was the country best prepared for a pandemic.

Credit for that goes to President George W. Bush, who in the summer of 2005 read an advance copy of “The Great Influenza,” a history of the 1918 flu pandemic. Shaken, Bush pushed aides to develop a strategy to prepare for another great contagion, and the result was an excellent 396-page playbook for managing such a health crisis.

The Obama administration updated this playbook and in the presidential transition in 2016, Obama aides cautioned the Trump administration that one of the big risks to national security was a contagion. Private experts repeated similar warnings. “Of all the things that could kill 10 million people or more, by far the most likely is an epidemic,” Bill Gates warned in 2015.

Trump has accused the Obama administration of depleting stockpiles of medical supplies so that “the cupboard was bare.” It’s true that the Obama administration did not do enough to refill the national stockpile with N95 masks, but Republicans in Congress wouldn’t provide even the modest sums that Obama requested for replenishment. And the Trump administration itself did nothing in its first three years to rebuild stockpiles.

We in the media also blew it: We didn’t do enough to warn about the risks of pandemics.

Trump argues that no one could have anticipated the pandemic, but it’s what Bush warned about, what Obama aides tried to tell their successors about, and what Joe Biden referred to in a blunt tweet in October 2019 lamenting Trump’s cuts to health security programs and adding: “We are not prepared for a pandemic.”

The First Alarm Bells From Wuhan

When the health commission of Wuhan, China, announced on Dec. 31 that it had identified 27 cases of a puzzling pneumonia, Taiwan acted with lightning speed. Concerned that this might be an outbreak of SARS, Taiwan dispatched health inspectors to board flights arriving from Wuhan and screen passengers before allowing them to disembark. Anyone showing signs of ill health was quarantined.

If either China or the rest of the world had shown the same urgency, the pandemic might never have happened.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control issued a notice about the Wuhan outbreak on Jan. 1, but not much else happened for a time. In China, President Xi Jinping issued orders on Jan. 7 for handling the coronavirus, but they were inadequate. If, at that time or soon after, Xi had ordered a more modest version of the Wuhan lockdown that was to come, it is possible that the virus could have been stifled before it spread around the globe.

Instead, Wuhan held a banquet for 40,000 people on Jan. 18, and by the time the lockdown was ordered on Jan. 23, some 5 million people had already left Wuhan for the Chinese New Year. In hindsight, two points seem clear: First, China initially covered up the scale of the outbreak. Second, even so, the United States and other countries had enough information to act as Taiwan did. The first two countries to impose travel restrictions on China were North Korea and the Marshall Islands, neither of which had inside information.

That first half of January represents a huge missed opportunity for the world. If the United States, the World Health Organization and the world media had raised enough questions and pressed China, then perhaps the Chinese central government would have intervened in Wuhan earlier. And if Wuhan had been locked down just two weeks earlier, it’s conceivable that this entire global catastrophe could have been averted.

The Defiance of Science

Perhaps the original sin of America’s response to the coronavirus came with the bungling of testing.

Without testing, health officials fight an opponent while blindfolded. They don’t know where the virus lurks, and they can’t isolate those infected or trace their contacts.

But the C.D.C. devised a faulty test, and turf wars in the federal government prevented the use of other tests. South Korea, Germany and other countries quickly developed tests that did work, and these were distributed around the world. Sierra Leone in West Africa had effective tests before the United States did.

Trump supporters note, correctly, that within the United States, the states with the highest mortality rates have been Democrat-led: New Jersey has had the most deaths per capita, followed by New York. It’s true that local politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, made disastrous decisions, as when Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City urged people in March to “get out on the town despite coronavirus.” But local officials erred in part because of the failure of testing: Without tests, they didn’t know what they faced.

It’s unfair to blame the testing catastrophe entirely on Trump, for the failures unfolded several paygrades below him. Partly that’s because Trump appointees, like Robert Redfield, director of the C.D.C., simply aren’t the A team.

In any case, presidents set priorities for lower officials. If Trump had pushed aides as hard to get accurate tests as he pushed to repel refugees and migrants, then America almost certainly would have had an effective test by the beginning of February and tens of thousands of lives would have been saved.

Still, testing isn’t essential if a country gets backup steps right. Japan is a densely populated country that did not test much and yet has only 2 percent as many deaths per capita as the United States. One reason is that Japanese have long embraced face masks, which Dr. Redfield has noted can be at least as effective as a vaccine in fighting the pandemic. A country doesn’t have to do everything, if it does some things right.

Yet in retrospect, Trump did almost everything wrong. He discouraged mask wearing. The administration never rolled out contact tracing, missed opportunities to isolate the infected and exposed, didn’t adequately protect nursing homes, issued advice that confused the issues more than clarified them, and handed responsibilities to states and localities that were unprepared to act. Trump did do a good job of accelerating a vaccine, but that won’t help significantly until next year.

Trump’s missteps arose in part because he channeled an anti-intellectual current that runs deep in the United States, as he sidelined scientific experts and responded to the virus with a sunny optimism apparently meant to bolster the financial markets.

“It’s going to disappear,” Trump said on Feb. 27. “One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.”

The false reassurances and dithering were deadly. One study found that if the United States had simply imposed the same lockdowns just two weeks earlier, 83 percent of the deaths in the early months could have been prevented.

A basic principle of public health is the primacy of accurate communications based on the best science. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who holds a doctorate in physics, is the global champion of that approach. Trump was the opposite, sowing confusion and conspiracy theories; a Cornell study found that “the President of the United States was likely the largest driver of the Covid-19 misinformation.”

Instead of listening to top government scientists, Trump marginalized and derided them, while elevating charlatans: One senior health department official, Michael Caputo, who had no background in health, was ousted only after he denounced government scientists for “sedition” and advised Trump supporters, “If you carry guns, buy ammunition.”

Trump recruited as a Covid-19 adviser a regular guest on Fox News, Dr. Scott Atlas, who is not a specialist on infectious diseases but a radiologist who is an expert on magnetic resonance imaging. You wouldn’t want an epidemiologist reviewing your MRI scans, and it’s equally odd to have a radiologist managing a pandemic.

A conservative commentariat echoed Trump in downplaying the virus and deriding efforts to stay safe. Brit Hume of Fox News mocked Joe Biden for wearing a large mask, and the right-wing website RedState denounced “the public health Gestapo” and called Dr. Anthony Fauci a “mask Nazi.” A University of Chicago study found that watching the Sean Hannity program correlated to less social distancing, so watching Fox News may well have been lethal to some of its fans.

Echoes of the Soviet Union

Americans have often pointed to the Soviet Union as a place where ideology trumped science, with disastrous results. Stalin backed Trofim Lysenko, an agricultural pseudoscientist who was an ardent Communist but scorned genetics — and whose zealous incompetence helped cause famines in the Soviet Union. Later, in the 1980s, Soviet leaders were troubled by data showing falling life expectancy — so they banned publication of mortality statistics. It was in the same spirit that Trump opposed testing for the coronavirus in the hope of holding down the number of reported cases.

Of course, science sometimes gets it wrong. Many experts opposed closing borders, while Trump’s move to limit travel from China now appears sound — although 45 countries imposed such travel restrictions before the United States. Likewise, Fauci said on March 9: “If you’re a healthy, young person, if you want to go on a cruise ship, go on a cruise ship.”

Inevitably, science errs, then self-corrects. But Trump was not self-correcting.

Most striking, Trump still has never developed a comprehensive plan to fight Covid-19. His “strategy” was to downplay the virus and resist business closures, in an effort to keep the economy roaring — his best argument for re-election.

This failed. The best way to protect the economy was to control the virus, not to ignore it, and the spread of Covid-19 caused economic dislocations that devastated even homes where no one was infected. Eight million Americans have slipped into poverty since May, a Columbia University study found, and about one in seven households with children have reported to the census that they didn’t have enough food to eat in the last seven days. More than 40 percent of adults reported in June that they were struggling with mental health, and 13 percent have begun or increased substance abuse, a C.D.C. study found. More than one-quarter of young adults said they have seriously contemplated suicide. Diane Reynolds, who runs an excellent addiction program called Provoking Hope, estimates that relapses have increased 50 percent during the pandemic.

So in what is arguably the richest country in the history of the world, political malpractice has resulted in a pandemic of infectious disease followed by pandemics of poverty, mental illness, addiction and hunger.

The rejection of science has also exacerbated polarization and tribalism. As I write this I’m on our family farm in rural Oregon. Trump is popular in this area, and his contempt for science has contributed to a dangerous unraveling, even talk of civil war. An old school friend shared this conspiracy theory on Facebook:

Create a VIRUS to scare people. Place them in quarantine. Count the number of dead every second of every day in every news headline. Close all businesses …. Mask people. Dehumanize them. Close temples and churches …. Empty the prisons because of the virus and fill the streets with criminals. Send in Antifa to vandalize property as if they are freedom fighters. Undermine the law. Loot …. And, in an election year, have Democrats blame all of it on the President. If you love America, our Constitution, and the Rule of Law, get ready to fight for them.

Mismanagement of the virus has not only sickened millions of Americans but has also poisoned our body politic.

Taking a Threat Seriously

A pandemic is a huge challenge for any country. Spain and Brazil have both had more deaths per capita than the United States, and Europe now has slightly more new infections per capita than the United States.

Still, it’s not reassuring for the country that a year ago was considered best prepared for a pandemic to hear: We’re not quite as bad as Brazil!

During World War II, American soldiers died at a rate of 9,200 a month, less than one-third the pace of deaths from this pandemic, but the United States responded with a massive mobilization. By 1945, a Ford assembly line was turning out one new B-24 bomber every hour. Yet today we can’t even churn out enough face masks; a poll of nurses in late July and early August found that one-third lacked enough N95 masks.

Trump and his allies have even argued against mobilization. “Don’t be afraid of Covid,” Trump tweeted this month. “Don’t let it dominate your life.” Attorney General William Barr compared stay-at-home orders to slavery.

Instead of leading a war against the virus, Trump organized a surrender. He even held a super-spreader event at the White House, for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, and that’s why the White House recently had more new cases of Covid-19 than New Zealand, Taiwan and Vietnam combined.

It didn’t have to be this way. If the U.S. had worked harder and held the per capita mortality rate down to the level of, say, Germany, we could have saved more than 170,000 lives. And if the U.S. had responded urgently and deftly enough to achieve Taiwan’s death rate, fewer than 100 Americans would have died from the virus.

“It is a slaughter,” Dr. William Foege, a legendary epidemiologist who once ran the C.D.C., wrote to Dr. Redfield. Dr. Foege predicted that public health textbooks would study America’s response to Covid-19 not as a model of A-plus work but as an example of what not to do.”  -30-

Think You Have ‘Normal’ Blood Pressure? Think Again – By Jane E. Brody – The New York Times

“So you think your blood pressure is normal? Think again.

The latest iteration of an “ideal” blood pressure — a level of 120 millimeters of mercury for systolic pressure, the top number — that Americans are urged to achieve and maintain has been called into question by a long-term multiethnic study of otherwise healthy adults.

The study, published in June in JAMA Cardiology, found that as systolic blood pressure rose above 90 mm, the risk of damage to coronary arteries rose along with it. Systolic blood pressure represents the pressure within arteries when the heart pumps (as opposed to diastolic blood pressure, the lower smaller number, when the heart rests).

The new findings suggest a need to look more carefully at why, despite considerable overall improvements in risk factors for heart disease in recent decades, it remains the nation’s leading killer.

Starting in the 1940s, cardiovascular researchers have unveiled evidence that Americans live in a society that all but guarantees a disproportionately high risk of developing and dying of heart disease. Since my first weeks writing for this newspaper in the early 1960s, I’ve publicized their advice urging people to curb preventable risks to their hearts and blood vessels.”

Opinion | What if Beating Trump Is the Easy Part? – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Jeff Swinger/Associated Press

“In the short term, should Joe Biden win the election and move into the White House, he would take office with a Democratic Party unified in its opposition to all things Trump. The question is how long would that last before leaders of every liberal interest group circling the new administration begin to get restless.

In answer to this question, Carter Eskew, a top strategist on Al Gore’s 2000 campaign, wrote by email that

Biden became a unity candidate in response to an overwhelming, almost feral desire to limit Trump’s damage to one term. When Trump leaves, Democratic unity, I fear, may be close behind. Unlike Republicans who have essential agreement around economic and social policy, our Party has fissures on many fundamental issues.

Danger signs for a Biden presidency are already emerging. Different factions within the Democratic coalition will have competing demands: Last week, Black lawmakers — led by Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi — called on Biden, if victorious, to appoint an African-American as secretary of the Treasury, “complicating,” as Axios put it, “prospects for establishment women — like Lael Brainard, Janet Yellen and Sarah Bloom Raskin — to become the first female Treasury secretary.”

Another source of potential division: corporate elites and the donor class versus the reform left: Raúl Grijalva, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Katie Porter, along with organizations like the Communications Workers of America, Our Revolution, Indivisible and the Progressive Change Campaign, called on the Senate on Oct. 16 to reject “any nominee to an executive branch position who is currently or has been a lobbyist for any corporate client or c-suite officer for a private corporation,” putting them in conflict with much of the affluent Democratic establishment.

Biden will take office under immediate pressure to address internal Democratic battles over a broad range of topics, including, to name just a few, mass incarceration, immigration reform, denial of asylum seekers’ rights, constraints on evictions, the politics of utility shut-offs, defunding law enforcement and the logistics of mandatory vaccination.”

DL: Further on, someone points out that getting rid of the filibuster will create new problems for the Democrats.

Opinion | I Spoke to a Scholar of Conspiracy Theories and I’m Scared for Us – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

“Lately, I have been putting an embarrassing amount of thought into notions like jinxes and knocking on wood. The polls for Joe Biden look good, but in 2020, any hint of optimism feels dangerously naïve, and my brain has been working overtime in search of potential doom.

I have become consumed with an alarming possibility: that neither the polls nor the actual outcome of the election really matter, because to a great many Americans, digital communication has already rendered empirical, observable reality beside the point.

If I sound jumpy, it’s because I spent a couple of hours recently chatting with Joan Donovan, the research director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. Donovan is a pioneering scholar of misinformation and media manipulation — the way that activists, extremists and propagandists surf currents in our fragmented, poorly moderated media ecosystem to gain attention and influence society.

Donovan’s research team studies online lies the way crash-scene investigators study aviation disasters. They meticulously take apart specific hoaxes, conspiracy theories, viral political memes, harassment campaigns and other toxic online campaigns in search of the tactics that made each one explode into the public conversation.”

“. . . . Donovan worries about two factors in particular. One is the social isolation caused by the pandemic. Lots of Americans are stuck at home, many economically bereft and cut off from friends and relatives who might temper their passions — a perfect audience for peddlers of conspiracy theories.

Her other major worry is the conspiracy lollapalooza known as QAnon. It’s often short-handed the way Savannah Guthrie did at her town hall takedown of Donald Trump last week — as a nutty conspiracy theory in which a heroic Trump is prosecuting a secret war against a satanic pedophile ring of lefty elites.

But that undersells QAnon’s danger. To people who have been “Q-pilled,” QAnon plays a much deeper role in their lives; it has elements of a support group, a political party, a lifestyle brand, a collective delusion, a religion, a cult, a huge multiplayer game and an extremist network.

Donovan thinks QAnon represents a new, flexible infrastructure for conspiracy. QAnon has origins in a tinfoil-hat story about a D.C.-area pizza shop, but over the years it has adapted to include theories about the “deep state” and the Mueller probe, Jeffrey Epstein, and a wild variety of misinformation about face masks, miracle cures, and other hoaxes regarding the coronavirus. QAnon has been linked to many instances of violence, and law enforcement and terrorism researchers discuss it as a growing security threat.

“We now have a densely networked conspiracy theory that is extendible, adaptable, flexible and resilient to take down,” Donovan said of QAnon. It’s a very internet story, analogous to the way Amazon expanded from an online bookstore into a general-purpose system for selling anything to anyone.”

David Lindsay: Thank you Farhad Manjoo. We need to bring back the Fairness Doctrine as the law of the land.  Here is the most popular comment which I endorse:

Matthew L.,   Chicago1h ago,   Times Pick

“Stopping Coughlin’s hate took a concerted effort, involving new regulations for radio broadcasters…” “Media manipulation” used to be called propaganda. The FCC revoking of the Fairness Doctrine during the Reagan administration opened the door first for conservative talk radio and then for Fox News to flourish as propaganda media for the far right, with no responsibility to truth or objectivity. With the rise of QAnon to political prominence we are now seeing even uglier consequences of the reluctance to regulate either broadcast media or the internet. After 40 years of government-is-the-problem deregulation, does America even remember that yes government can serve the needs of the common good? Do we even believe in a common American good anymore? We had better start. What was once deregulated can be regulated again.

8 Replies408 Recommended

Opinion | She’s Evangelical, ‘Pro-Life’ and Voting for Biden – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Mark Makela for The New York Times

“A granddaughter of the Rev. Billy Graham, Jerushah Duford is a committed evangelical Christian who describes herself as “pro-life.”

For most of her life, she voted Republican. Yet this year, she is voting for Joe Biden and is encouraging fellow Christians to distance themselves from a president who she says is trying “to hijack our faith for votes.”

“The Jesus we serve promotes kindness, dignity, humility, and this president doesn’t represent our faith,” Duford said.

She made clear to me that she is not speaking for her grandfather, the famous evangelist who died in 2018. But she added: “I think he would be sad. I think his greatest desire had nothing to do with policies but to introduce people to a loving Jesus, and the division this administration has caused I believe has hurt this effort.”

In one sense, Duford is an outlier. About 8 of 10 white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and polling suggests that the great majority will vote for him again in 2020. But Duford is part of a broader movement among some evangelical leaders to distance their faith from Trump, which in turn means interpreting “pro-life” in a broader way. In a sign that some evangelical voters are in play this year, the Biden campaign is advertising heavily on Christian radio stations.

“Mr. President, the days of using our faith for your benefit are over,” declares a video from a Christian group called Not Our Faith. “We know you need the support of Christians like us to win this election. But you can’t have it. Not our vote. Not our faith.”

The Rev. John Huffman, who once was President Richard Nixon’s pastor, said he has voted Republican all his life but has now joined a group called Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden. He said he prays for Trump but sees him as “an immoral, amoral sociopathic liar who functions from a core of insecure malignant narcissism.”

Huffman and others say they are speaking up partly because they fear that Christianity is tarnished and losing ground in the United States because of the strong support Trump receives from many evangelical leaders. (One of them is Duford’s uncle, Franklin Graham, who has claimed that Billy Graham voted for Trump in 2016.) Duford told me her message to the public is, “I’m sorry you have witnessed the same greed and hypocrisy in the church that you see in the world, but this is not what Jesus is about.”

Opinion | I Am Watching My Planet, My Home, Die – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“NASHVILLE — I was writing a love letter to autumn and its perfect miracle of timing — the way berries ripen just as songbirds migrate through berry-filled forests — when the songbirds suddenly began to die. With no warning at all, thousands and thousands of birds, possibly millions of birds, were simply falling out of the sky.

It’s not yet clear why the birds were dying — smoke from the wildfires on the West Coast? an unseasonable cold snap? the prolonged drought? — but whatever its immediate reason, the die-off was almost certainly related to climate change or some other human-wrought hazard. Every possible explanation for the birds’ deaths leads back to our own choices.

We think of songbirds as indicator species — so sensitive to environmental disruptions that they serve as an early warning of trouble. But the fact that the environment has become increasingly inhospitable to songbirds — and to human beings — is only one measure of a planet under life-threatening stress.

The earth is getting measurably hotter, each year breaking records set the year before, while Arctic sea ice continues to thinWildfires are growing hotter, more frequent, more widespread and more deadly. Northeastern forests are sick. Our oceans are full of plastic. The world’s largest wetland is on fire, and the Amazon rainforest is on its way to becoming a savanna. The pandemic that has paralyzed global life is itself the manifestation of a disordered relationship between human beings and the natural world.

None of this is new. We’ve seen it all happening, worsening with every passing year, for decades now. Any chance of reversing climate change is long since gone, and the climate will inevitably continue to warm. The question now is only how much it will warm, how terrible we will let it become.

There are days when I lose all hope, when it feels as if the only thing left to do is to sit quietly and bear witness to all that will soon be gone: the rain forests and the tidal estuaries, the redwood forests and the Arctic sea ice, the grasslands and the coral reefs. Every wild place and every living thing that wild places harbor, all gone. I held my father’s hand as he died, and I held my mother’s hand as she died, and now it feels as though I am watching my planet die, too.

But that isn’t how I feel most days. On most days I am still fighting as hard as I can possibly fight, living as lightly on the earth as I can manage. The only other option is surrender.

But personal responsibility isn’t going to save the planet by itself. Saving the earth at this late date will also require us to reform the entire global economy. It will require government regulation. It will require industry innovation. It will require companies to invest in the very planet they have been profiting from.

None of that can happen in a country governed by “leaders” in thrall to the fossil fuel industry. Instead of getting serious about climate change, Republicans have run headfirst into the fire, repealing or weakening nearly 100 existing environmental protections. Those changes alone, if left to stand, will add 1.8 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by 2035.

We cannot let them stand, and I’m heartened by signs that we won’t. Money from philanthropic organizations is finally flowing into planet-saving research. As the costs of failing to address climate change have become increasingly clear, people on both sides of the political aisle are beginning to wake up: Today, 72 percent of Americans recognize that climate change is happening, a marked departure from the position of the climate-denier in the White House. Fewer than 10 percent share his view that climate science is a hoax.

Despite the Democratic Party’s forward-thinking position on conservation and Joe Biden’s own $2 trillion plan to address climate change, Mr. Biden is not an environmentalist’s dream candidate: There is just no responsible way forward that includes fracking, which Mr. Biden would not move to end. Nevertheless, he represents our only hope at the moment, and preserving hope is our only chance to inspire change.

Every single issue that matters to me — education, social justice, women’s rights, affordable health care, criminal justice reform, gun control, immigration policy etc. — won’t mean a single thing if the planet becomes uninhabitable. The same is true for my brothers and sisters across the political aisle: If they care about the right to life, as they say they do, if they care about the economy, about freedom, about national security, as they say they do, then they have no choice in this election but to vote for candidates who are committed to halting the rate at which the planet is heating up.

For now and for the foreseeable future, there is only one issue, and in this election there is only one choice. Because there is only one planet we can call home.”  -30-