Richard H. Pildes | How to Keep Extremists Out of Power – The New York Times

Mr. Pildes has spent his career as a legal scholar analyzing the intersection of politics and law and how that impacts our elections.

Credit…Shay Horse/NurPhoto, via Getty Images

American democracy faces alarming risks from extremist forces that have rapidly gained ground in our politics. The most urgent focus of political reform must be to marginalize, to the extent possible, these destabilizing forces.

Every reform proposal must be judged through this lens: Is it likely to fuel or to weaken the power of extremist politics and candidates?

In healthy democracies, they are rewarded for appealing to the broadest forces in politics, not the narrowest. This is precisely why American elections take place in a “first past the post” system rather than the proportional representation system many other democracies use.

What structural changes would reward politicians whose appeal is broadest? We should start with a focus on four areas.

Until the 1970s, presidential nominees were selected through a convention-based system, which means that a candidate had to obtain a broad consensus among the various interests and factions in the party. “Brokered conventions” — which required several rounds of balloting to choose a nominee — offered a vivid demonstration of how the sausage of consensus was made. In 1952, for example, the Republican Party convention selected the more moderate Dwight D. Eisenhower over Robert A. Taft, the popular leader of the more extreme wing of the party, who opposed the creation of NATO.

Our current primary system shifted control from party insiders to voters. Now, in a primary with several credible contenders, a candidate can “win” with 35 percent of the vote. This allows polarizing candidates to win the nomination even if many party members find them objectionable. (In 2016, Donald Trump won many primaries with less than 40 percent of the vote.)

How can we restore some of the party-wide consensus the convention system required? The parties can use ranked-choice voting, which allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. This rewards candidates with broad appeal to a party’s voters, even if they have fewer passionate supporters. In this system, a candidate intensely popular with 35 percent of the party’s voters but intensely disliked by much of the rest would not prevail. A candidate who is the first choice of only 35 percent but the second choice of another 50 percent would do better. Ranked-choice voting reduces the prospects of factional party candidates. Presidents with a broad base of support can institute major reforms, as Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan demonstrated.” . . .

Michelle Goldberg | Impeachment’s Over. Bring On the Criminal Investigations. – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

“A few hours after the Senate voted in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Saturday, I spoke to the lead impeachment manager, Jamie Raskin. He was crushingly disappointed. Despite Republicans’ indulgence of Trump over the last five years, despite the fact that three Republican senators met with Trump’s lawyers before they presented their defense, Raskin had so much faith in the overwhelming case he and his colleagues brought that, until the end, he held out hope of conviction.

“I’ve always been seen as a rose-colored-glasses guy,” he said. Raskin’s openhearted belief that Senate Republicans maintained a remnant of patriotic solidarity with their fellow citizens is part of what made his presentation so effective; he threw himself into it without fatalism or cynicism.

The House managers forced the Senate to reckon with the scale of the terror Trump unleashed on Congress. “I did see a bunch of the Republicans who voted against us, including Mitch McConnell, crying at different points,” said Raskin. The case was strong enough to win over even two Republican senators, Richard Burr and Bill Cassidy, who’d initially voted against holding the trial at all.

But when it comes to McConnell and his caucus, cynicism always prevails.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Michelle Goldberg. This piece is flawless and sensational. It feels to like the best of your many good pieces, and probably the best. Your opening, about the big uncynical Jamie Raskin, believing he could turn the stone hearted Republicans to do their duty, had me close to tears. The top commenters loved this too. You took my breath away with your indictment and praise of Mitch McConnell: “The senator’s excoriation could have doubled as the House managers’ closing summation. To Raskin and the eight other managers, McConnell’s speech was at once a vindication and an insult, showing that they’d proved their case, and that it didn’t matter. McConnell voted to acquit on a manufactured technicality, arguing that a former president is “constitutionally not eligible for conviction.” His bad faith is awe-inspiring; it was he who refused to move forward with a trial while Trump was still in office. With his split-the-baby solution to Trump’s manifest guilt, McConnell seemed to be trying to stay on the right side of his caucus while calming corporate donors who’ve cut off politicians who supported the insurrectionists. But — and here’s the imprtant part — McConnell signaled openness to Trump’s prosecution in other forums. “He didn’t get away with anything yet — yet,” said McConnell. “We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one.”
Let the courts go after the con & bully.

Maureen Dowd | Trump’s Taste for Blood – The New York Times

“. . . .  CNN reported Friday night that Kevin McCarthy called Trump during the riot, telling him the mob was breaking his windows to get in. The then-president told him: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” The conversation ended in a shouting match. Yet McCarthy still voted against impeaching the president.

These dreadful Republicans are all Falstaffs, trampling the concept of honor, blowing it off as a mere airy-fairy word, not worth sacrificing anything for, not worth defending your country for. “Honor is a mere scutcheon,” Falstaff scoffed.

McConnell and the other craven Republicans realize now that they should not have played along with Trump as long as they did, while he undermined the election. But they still refuse to hold him accountable because he controls their voters.

The Democrats put on an excellent case, and they were right to impeach Trump. But if the Republicans won’t convict him, then bring on the criminal charges. Republicans say that’s how it should be done when someone is out of office, so let’s hope someone follows through on their suggestion.

A few days ago, prosecutors in Georgia opened an investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn the election there. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance could drag Trump into court on tax and fraud charges. Karl Racine, the attorney general for D.C., has said that Trump could be charged for his role in inciting the riot.

Maybe a man who gloated as his crowds screamed “Lock her up!” will find that jurors reach a similar conclusion about him.”   -30-

Thomas Edsall | How Long Can Democracy Survive QAnon and Its Allies? – The New York Times

“. . .  Several political scholars and strategists argue that the fault lies in our political system, that the unique way America has combined its government structure with the mechanics of its elections serves to exacerbate conflict in a deeply polarized country. These scholars have produced a variety of proposals, many involving the creation of multi-member congressional districts and the encouragement of proportional representation to replace the current single district, winner-take-all system.

Lee Drutman, author of “The Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multi-Party Democracy in America” and a senior fellow at New America, is a leading proponent of proportional representation.

In an email, Drutman contended that “a big consequence” of the reforms he and others are calling for

is that the MAGA wing would be cut loose from the rest of the G.O.P. coalition and left to operate on its own. It’s certainly conceivable that there could be even a few more Marjorie Taylor Greenes and Lauren Boeberts elected, but proportional representation (PR) would also mean more Adam Kinzingers (a House Republican who is a critic of Trump) and Romney-type Republicans elected as well.

Drutman wrote that he has “come to realize how much of an existential threat the current Republican Party is to the continuation of America democracy.” A two-party democracy cannot survive “for very long if one of two dominant parties gives up on the foundational institution of democracy: free and fair elections, in which all votes count equally.”

In addition, Drutman wrote,

I’ve also come to appreciate how much democracy depends on a conservative party that believes in democracy, and thus how important it is to create electoral institutions in this moment that will allow the currently-marginalized small “l” liberal Republicans to separate from the MAGA wing of the party and still win some representation in the Congress.

Proportional representation, he argued “is the only way to break up the current Republican coalition and free the pro-democracy forces within the Republican Party to compete on their own.” “

Michelle Goldberg | You May Want to Forget Him, but Trump’s Trial Must Be Thorough – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

“Here’s a confession: I’m dreading the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump, which begins on Tuesday. There are some nihilists who miss the former president’s presence in the news cycle, or who think others do, but I hated the last five years and am relieved that it’s over and he’s gone.

The Senate trial will almost certainly not bring justice, because Republican senators make up half the jury, and even if many of them privately disapprove of Trump’s insurrectionary attempts to cling to office, their base does not. If this process drags on, it will slow the urgent work of passing an economic rescue package, increasing human suffering and possibly the chance that the party of Marjorie Taylor Greene will retake the House in the midterms.

Yet it is still crucial that when the Senate trial commences this week, the House impeachment managers take all the time they need to make their case.

According to Politico, there’s tension between several managers, who reportedly want to call witnesses, and senior Democrats who just want to get the trial over with. The desire to rush is understandable, because Democrats are sacrificing valuable legislative time. But if they miss the opportunity to give the country the fullest possible picture of Trump’s treachery, that sacrifice will be in vain.

Perhaps it goes without saying that the real jury for this trial is not the Senate but the public. Most Americans have decided on Trump’s guilt: according to a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll, 56 percent say Trump should be convicted and barred from holding office again. But it’s still important for Democrats to tell the comprehensive story of how Trump tried to steal the election, and how that attempt ended in death and desecration.

This is necessary not just to cement Trump’s disgrace, but because his election lies are being used to justify new restrictions on voting. Trump’s attack on democracy didn’t begin on Jan. 6, and even though he’s out of office, it hasn’t ended.” . . .

Thank you Michelle Goldberg for this excellent and inspiring piece. It reminds me of my own fickle convictions. I was moved by the following comment, to remember a position I had months ago, that now seems timely, serious, and potent.

Richard Blaine
Not NYCFeb. 8
Times Pick

Over 100 Police were sent to hospital. 5 people died. . The Republicans effectively sought to impeach Bill Clinton for receiving oral sex in the Oval Office. . But inciting an insurrection isn’t enough? . Pressuring electoral officials to steal an election isn’t enough? . If that doesn’t merit conviction, then what does? . The GOP ran endless sessions on Sec. Clinton’s e-mails and “Benghazi”. Now they want this trial to end immediately. The Democrats should not do them that favor. . They should conduct a methodical, thorough investigation. Subpoena the man, and force him to obey the rules. For once. . They should take evidence from every witness. review every document, e-mail, text, and video. . If it takes two years, it takes two years. It took Watergate a long time to build momentum. . The Democrats should keep at it. Until the man’s support evaporates. Until Republican Senators are no longer afraid. Until the Republicans can no longer face the daily water torture of another disclosure, each worse than the last. Until the Republicans stop their bad-faith posturing and denial. Until they learn the meaning of shame. . Until the Republicans are so desperate to end the trial that they admit the truth, and vote unanimously to convict. . Get to the bottom of this, no matter how long it takes. It is about the Rule of Law and the survival of Democracy. . Nothing is more important.

13 Replies769 Recommended

What We Learned from Trump’s Effort to Overturn the 2020 Election Results – The New York Times

“For 77 days between the election and the inauguration, President Donald J. Trump attempted to subvert American democracy with a lie about election fraud that he had been grooming for years.

New York Times examination of the events that unfolded after the election shows how the president — enabled by Republican leaders, advised by conspiracy-minded lawyers and bankrolled by a new class of Trump-era donors — waged an extralegal campaign that convinced tens of millions of Americans the election had been stolen and made the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol almost inevitable.

Interviews with central players, along with documents, videos and previously unreported emails, tell the story of a campaign that was more coordinated than previously understood, even as it strayed farther from reality with each passing day.

Here are some key takeaways:

77 Days: Trump’s Campaign to Subvert the Election – The New York Times

“By Thursday the 12th of November, President Donald J. Trump’s election lawyers were concluding that the reality he faced was the inverse of the narrative he was promoting in his comments and on Twitter. There was no substantial evidence of election fraud, and there were nowhere near enough “irregularities” to reverse the outcome in the courts.

Mr. Trump did not, could not, win the election, not by “a lot” or even a little. His presidency would soon be over.

Allegations of Democratic malfeasance had disintegrated in embarrassing fashion. A supposed suitcase of illegal ballots in Detroit proved to be a box of camera equipment. “Dead voters” were turning up alive in television and newspaper interviews.

The week was coming to a particularly demoralizing close: In Arizona, the Trump lawyers were preparing to withdraw their main lawsuit as the state tally showed Joseph R. Biden Jr. leading by more than 10,000 votes, against the 191 ballots they had identified for challenge.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you all for this superb accounting. So much to do, to try and clean up this disaster. I hope it becomes a priority of the Biden administration to bring back the Fairness Doctrine for all journalism and social media, that was abolished by Ronald Reagan. I keep forgetting what exactly this docrtrine is, so here is a brief reminder:
“FCC fairness doctrine From Wikipedia,
The fairness doctrine of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, was a policy that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was honest, equitable, and balanced. The FCC eliminated the policy in 1987 and removed the rule that implemented the policy from the Federal Register in August 2011.[1] The fairness doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented. The demise of this FCC rule has been considered by some to be a contributing factor for the rising level of party polarization in the United States.[2][3]

Thomas B. Edsall | ‘The Capitol Insurrection Was as Christian Nationalist as It Gets.’ – The New York Times

“Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality. He has written extensively about the rise of the political right and the religious right.

Credit…Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

“It’s impossible to understand the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol without addressing the movement that has come to be known as Christian nationalism.

Andrew L. Whitehead and Samuel L. Perry, professors of sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the University of Oklahoma, describe Christian Nationalism in their book “Taking America Back for God”:

It includes assumptions of nativism, white supremacy, patriarchy and heteronormativity, along with divine sanction for authoritarian control and militarism. It is as ethnic and political as it is religious. Understood in this light, Christian nationalism contends that America has been and should always be distinctively ‘Christian’ from top to bottom — in its self-identity, interpretations of its own history, sacred symbols, cherished values and public policies — and it aims to keep it this way.

In her recent book, “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism,” Katherine Stewart, a frequent contributor to these pages, does not mince words:

It is a political movement, and its ultimate goal is power. It does not seek to add another voice to America’s pluralistic democracy, but to replace our foundational democratic principles and institutions with a state grounded on a particular version of Christianity, answering to what some adherents call a ‘biblical worldview’ that also happens to serve the interests of its plutocratic funders and allied political leaders.

This, Stewart writes, “is not a ‘culture war.’ It is a political war over the future of democracy.”

From Navy SEAL to Part of the Angry Mob Outside the Capitol – The New York Times

“In the weeks since Adam Newbold, a former member of the Navy SEALs, was identified as part of the enraged crowd that descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6, he has been interviewed by the F.B.I. and has resigned under pressure from jobs as a mentor and as a volunteer wrestling coach. He expects his business to lose major customers over his actions.

But none of it has shaken his belief, against all evidence, that the presidential election was stolen and that people like him were right to rise up.

It is surprising because Mr. Newbold’s background would seem to armor him better than most against the lure of baseless conspiracy theories. In the Navy, he was trained as an expert in sorting information from disinformation, a clandestine commando who spent years working in intelligence paired with the C.I.A., and he once mocked the idea of shadowy antidemocratic plots as “tinfoil hat” thinking.

Even so, like thousands of others who surged to Washington this month to support President Donald J. Trump, Mr. Newbold bought into the fabricated theory that the election was rigged by a shadowy cabal of liberal power brokers who had pushed the nation to the precipice of civil war. No one could persuade him otherwise.”

Deeply disturbing story. It actually left me with virtigo.  Here are the two most popular comments, which helped me grow more calm and centered.

RickNYC
Brooklyn3h ago
Times Pick

There is a real tendency in this country to automatically apply hero status to anyone in uniform. Here in New York, post 9/11 cops were afforded hugely outsized reverence, regardless of who the individual was behind the badge. This aura only grows when describing somebody as well trained and disciplined as a Navy Seal. That rare position has mythical status, automatically exalting the person. It is dangerous to forget that, regardless of rank or title, these are just people. People can be susceptible. People can be prone to fantasy, or delusions. I secretly reject the automatic hero status & credibility these titles impart, because it lets bad apples off the hook. Maybe this guy is a Seal, but to me he’s a dangerously well trained conspiracy theorist who should be regarded as such, full stop.

14 Replies1107 Recommended
 
 
ChristineMcM commented 3 hours ago

 

ChristineMcM
Massachusetts3h ago
Times Pick

““I tried to reason with him, show him facts, and he just went nuclear.”” Almost one third of the country thinks like this. There’s a fine line between patriotism in the original sense of the word, and fascism. All it takes is a desire to believe. The Trump phenomen is nothing new, as Eric Hoffer wrote seventy years ago in “The True Believer.” The question is, in a fractured society like ours, what are we going to do about all the Adam Newbolds out there? We’re moving from isolated malcontents like the perpetrator of the Oklahoma bombing to a true mass movement dominated by one party so cutlike and outrageous that it’s chilling it’s growing so fast. A free democratic society can’t exist when there’s no common ground on what constitutes reality.

4 Replies698 Recommended

Opinion | Parler and the Far Right’s Ever-Evolving Digital Ecosystem – The New York Times

Candace Rondeaux and 

Ms. Rondeaux is a senior fellow with the Center on the Future of War. Ms. Hurlburt directs New Models of Policy Change at New America.

Credit…Kevin Van Aelst

“Since the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol in Washington, right-wing extremists on social media continue to glorify violence, draw new adherents and forge fresh plans for mayhem. This ominous activity presents an urgent threat to the security and social cohesion of the United States.

But there is another, less obvious takeaway: Experts know — or can know — an enormous amount about the nature and evolution of the threat.

Data sleuths have combed through a 70 terabyte cache of data from Parler, the now-defunct social media platform popular among the far right. Researchers have archived and mapped millions of these ethically hacked posts, wrangled by an anonymous, purportedly Austria-based hacker. The haul — potentially bigger than the WikiLeaks data dump of the Afghan War logs and the Democratic National Committee leak, combined — includes valuable evidence and planning of further attacks, mixed in with the private data of individuals who committed no crimes (along with quite a bit of pornography). The early takeaways are terrifying: According to at least one preliminary analysis, the frequency of hashtags on Parler referencing hanging or killing duly elected members of Congress more than doubled after the November elections.

Until the nation reckons with the self-inflicted wounds stemming from an under-regulated, unreformed social media information architecture, President Biden’s calls for healing and national unity won’t produce substantial, lasting results. The new administration needs a long-term plan to confront the escalating threat, as far-right insurgents migrate from one platform to the next.”