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-

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.”