David Brock | Donald Trump Shouldn’t Be Underestimated – The New York Times

“. . . Having underestimated Mr. Trump in the first place, Democrats shouldn’t underestimate what it will take to counter his malign influence now. They need a bigger, bolder campaign blueprint to save democracy that doesn’t hinge on the whims of Congress.

We should hear more directly from the White House bully pulpit about these dire threats. The Jan. 6 investigators should mount a full-court press to get the truth out. Funding voting rights litigation should be a top priority.

Where possible, Democrats should sponsor plebiscites to overturn anti-democratic laws passed by Republicans in states. They should underwrite super PACs to protect incumbent election officials being challenged by Trump loyalists, even if it means supporting reasonable Republicans. Donations should flow into key governors and secretary of state races, positions critical to election certification.”

Bryan Garsten | How to Protect America From the Next Donald Trump – The New York Times

Dr. Garsten is a political scientist.

“Voting Donald Trump out of office was crucial, but it will not be enough to save the American experiment.

Many critics have used the words “authoritarian” or “fascist” to describe the president’s mode of politics, as if he were an invader from outside our democratic way of life. In fact, Mr. Trump is a creature native to our own style of government and therefore much more difficult to protect ourselves against: He is a demagogue, a popular leader who feeds on the hatred of elites that grows naturally in democratic soil. We have almost forgotten how common such creatures are in democracies because we have relied on a technology designed to restrain them: the Constitution. It has worked by setting up rules for us to follow, but also on a deeper level by shaping our sense of what we are proud of and what we are ashamed of in our common life. Today this constitutional culture has all but collapsed, and with it, our protection against demagogues”

Jamelle Bouie | We Underestimated Trump Before. It Didn’t Go Well. – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Sometimes, and much to our detriment, we find real events are simply too outlandish to take seriously.

Many professional Republicans, for example, initially dismissed the movement to “Stop the Steal” as a ridiculous stunt.

“What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time? No one seriously thinks the results will change,” an anonymous senior Republican official told The Washington Post a few days after Joe Biden claimed victory:

He went golfing this weekend. It’s not like he’s plotting how to prevent Joe Biden from taking power on Jan. 20. He’s tweeting about filing some lawsuits, those lawsuits will fail, then he’ll tweet some more about how the election was stolen, and then he’ll leave.

Republicans went ahead and humored the president, who then urged his followers to assault the Capitol and try to void the election results in his favor.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Jamelle Bouie, for an extraordinary essay– a prize winner. Let me explore. You pointed out that the northern Republicans completely underestimated the willingness of the new confederacy to fight. They thought it was a bluff, and the civil war ensued. What if Lincoln and the GOP just allowed the succession? How would history have changed? Might make a good mini series. In my own study of history, I have read several writers claim that slavery was dying out relatively quickly, without civil wars, because it didn’t have the right economic model for the new industrial societies that were developing in the western world. If the United States was allowed to break in two, would the Nazi party of Germany and the Japanese militarists be in power over most of the world today? One can easily make the dots go in that direction.
Could the Northern and the Southern States come together and fight fascism in the WW II, and if they did, would they be ready to become the industrial engine of the Allies in a relative short period of time? This thought makes me even more grateful for Lincoln and the soldiers who sacrificed for the Union. Now, who will stop this new menace, and would be dictator Donald Trump, who threatens us from within. In reading, “Inside the Third Reich,” by Albert Speer, one can see many similarities. They both designed their platforms, by what enraged their audiences. Neither had scruples.
Author of The Tayson Rebellion, and blogs at InconvenientNews.net

Spencer Ackerman | The Jan. 6 Riot Proves the Sept. 11 Era Isn’t Over – The New York Times

“Days after the insurrection, the interim U.S. attorney for Washington at the time, Michael Sherwin, suggested that “sedition and conspiracy” charges might await the ringleaders of Jan. 6. Most people who breached the Capitol did so because Mr. Trump told them to. Few would have mobilized to steal an election had not a phalanx of elected Republicans told them the election was already stolen. But prosecutors stopped short of calling Mr. Trump even an unindicted co-conspirator. They preferred to indict those who answered the call, not those who sounded it. Elite impunity, a feature of not only the war on terror but also of American history, trumped commitments to democratic preservation.

Congress opted against using the 14th Amendment’s powers to unseat those members who fomented and cheered the insurrection, such as Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, who saluted the mob as it advanced toward the Capitol. Eight months later, there is no political response to the insurrection at all, only a security response aimed at its foot soldiers. The war on terror should have taught America the lesson that security-based responses to political problems are futile.”

Paul Krugman | Republicans Have Their Own Private Autocracy – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“I’m a huge believer in the usefulness of social science, especially studies that use comparisons across time and space to shed light on our current situation. So when the political scientist Henry Farrell suggested that I look at his field’s literature on cults of personality, I followed his advice. He recommended one paper in particular, by the New Zealand-based researcher Xavier Márquez; I found it revelatory.

The Mechanisms of Cult Production” compares the behavior of political elites across a wide range of dictatorial regimes, from Caligula’s Rome to the Kim family’s North Korea, and finds striking similarities. Despite vast differences in culture and material circumstances, elites in all such regimes engage in pretty much the same behavior, especially what the paper dubs “loyalty signaling” and “flattery inflation.”

Signaling is a concept originally drawn from economics; it says that people sometimes engage in costly, seemingly pointless behavior as a way to prove that they have attributes others value. For example, new hires at investment banks may work insanely long hours, not because the extra hours are actually productive, but to demonstrate their commitment to feeding the money machine.”

In the context of dictatorial regimes, signaling typically involves making absurd claims on behalf of the Leader and his agenda, often including “nauseating displays of loyalty.” If the claims are obvious nonsense and destructive in their effects, if making those claims humiliates the person who makes them, these are features, not bugs. I mean, how does the Leader know if you’re truly loyal unless you’re willing to demonstrate your loyalty by inflicting harm both on others and on your own reputation?”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Paul Krugman for another superlative essay. This writer worries greatly about the prospects of the future. Regarding the new covid 19 pandemic, I harbor dark thoughts of using sticks, not carrots. Deny anyone who refused a vaccine, the right to hospital care if they get covid. I think Bret Stephens is the only writer I’ve read who has dared say this before I said it in public now. One or two other commenters are bringing us similar ideas. To continue my line of dark thinking, Protect our front line medial personnel. Let the new covid patients who refused vaccination go to a quarantine ward in a prison in the hospital to die as quickly as possible. Require proof of vaccination for everything under the sun or society has to offer. The only exemption, would be a medical one, in writing from a medical doctor, corroborated by a government agency, such as the CDC.
David is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews

Their Lawsuit Prevented 400,000 Deportations. Now It’s Biden’s Call. – The New York Times

 
 

“Cristina Morales got the news that she was going to lose her legal right to live and work in the United States via text. The news devastated Morales. But the texts from her friends arrived while Morales, who was then 37, was at the Catholic school where she ran the after-school program. She believed that part of her job was to create a safe place for children, so she said nothing about her despair at work. “You need to have a happy face,” she told me. “No matter how bad you feel.”

Morales kept up the pretense in the car with her family on the way home. As her 11-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter sang in the back seat, she swallowed her tears and tried not to look at her husband. Their children had no idea that Morales was not an American citizen. She and her husband didn’t talk about her status because they didn’t want to taint the kids’ lives with fear. Only a handful of people knew that Morales was a beneficiary of a program called Temporary Protected Status (T.P.S.), which allows some immigrants to reside in the United States while their home countries are in crisis. About 411,000 immigrants had T.P.S. in 2020. More than half of them came from El Salvador, like Morales. The rest emigrated from Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria or Yemen.

Less than a year after President Donald Trump took office, his administration began to dismantle the program. Over the course of eight months in 2017 and 2018, the Department of Homeland Security ordered the departure of 98 percent of T.P.S. recipients by canceling the designation for every country except Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In a January 2018 news release, the Department of Homeland Security announced Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s decision to terminate T.P.S. for El Salvador, stating that “the original conditions” that prompted the designation in 2001 “no longer exist.” That’s when Morales received the life-changing texts.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:

Thank you Marcela Valdes for a complicated and depressing but well reported story. Just yesterday, I called for closing the US border to all illegal immigration, and yet, in this article, you reminded me of all the damage we did in Central America in the last 50 years in the name of anti-communism. There is plenty of blood on our hands, and in many ways, we contributed mightily to the failed states that now push thousands of their people to seek safety here. This story, much of which I once knew, as a young resister to the war in Vietnam and and critic of our support of fascists in Central and South America. The extraordinary problem, is how do you fix such broken countries, when our money and support was often part of the problem, not the solution. We need, perhaps, to set some limit to how many refugees from the south we will accommodate, while making generous, our commitment to restoring order and democracy in these states whose failure we were partly responsible for.

David Lindsay Jr is the author of the Tay Son Rebellion about 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.

Opinion | For Democracy to Stay, the Filibuster Must Go – The New York Times

“It is hard to imagine a more fitting job for Congress than for members to join together to pass a broadly popular law that makes democracy safer, stronger and more accessible to all Americans.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1. The bill, a similar version of which the House passed in 2019, is a comprehensive and desperately needed set of reforms that would strengthen voting rights and election security, ban partisan gerrymandering, reduce big money in politics and establish ethics codes for Supreme Court justices, the president and other executive branch officials.

The legislation has the support of at least 50 senators, plus the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. President Biden is on board and ready to sign it. So what’s the problem? Majority support in the Senate isn’t enough. In the upper chamber, a supermajority of 60 votes is required to pass even the most middling piece of legislation. That requirement is not found in the Constitution; it’s because of the filibuster, a centuries-old parliamentary tool that has been transformed into a weapon for strangling functional government.

This is a singular moment for American democracy, if Democrats are willing to seize it. Whatever grand principles have been used to sustain the filibuster over the years, it is clear as a matter of history, theory and practice that it vindicates none of them. If America is to be governed competently and fairly — if it is to be governed at all — the filibuster must go.” . . .

The most compelling reason to keep the filibuster is its proponents’ argument that the rule prevents a tyranny of the majority in the Senate. That’s the rationale of the two Democrats currently standing in the way of ending it, Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. They have been steadfast in defending the modern filibuster as part of what they assert is a longstanding Senate custom.” . . .

“. . . The filibuster arose only decades later. John C. Calhoun, a senator from South Carolina used it as a means to protect the interests of slavers like himself from a majority. From its beginnings through the middle of the 20th century, when segregationists like Senator Strom Thurmond, also of South Carolina, used the filibuster to try to kill multiple civil-rights bills, the pattern has been clear: It has been used regularly by those who reject inclusive democracy.” . . .

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-