Opinion | Time for Republicans to Grow a Spine – The New York Times

“Let’s start easy, with a handful of “Non-Lickspittle” moves, some of which have already been called for by Senate Democrats:

1. Fully implement the broad Russia sanctions bill passed last year, with a special focus on Mr. Putin and the oligarchs in his inner circle. Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee put some fresh ones on the table months ago. Now seems like a good time to revisit.

2. Hold hearings and compel testimony from the national security team that accompanied Mr. Trump to Helsinki, Finland. Demand details of any pledges made in the Trump-Putin private session.

3. Stop parroting the president’s line that the federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies are politically motivated, inept and generally corrupt. At the very least, House Speaker Paul Ryan should publicly call out his rowdier troops for pushing to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

4. Call on Mr. Trump to demand the extradition of the Russians whom the Justice Department gained indictments for last week.

5. Take additional steps to protect the integrity of the coming elections from further Russian meddling. Significantly more money is needed, along with incentives for state and local election agencies to identify weak spots, erect firewalls and pursue other precautions. From what we already know about Russia’s invading voter databases, it is eager to make mischief.”

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Opinion | We Are All Supreme Court Skeptics Now – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“Democracy is in peril. The majority no longer rules; a determined minority has the whip hand. The least accountable branch of government, the Supreme Court, has fallen into the hands of an aggressively counter-majoritarian faction, which intends to traduce self-government for ideological ends. The time has come to consider drastic countermeasures against our robed masters and their nascent tyranny.

These arguments are on the lips of many liberals lately. With the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, general Trump-era anxieties have found a focal point in the fear of right-wing judicial activism, of a high court that pushes policy rightward and allows Republicans to lock in anti-democratic advantages.

But any liberal with an ounce of self-awareness should recognize the resemblance between their sudden fear of juristocracy and the longstanding conservative critique of exactly the same thing. Indeed it’s quite striking, and ironically amusing, to have Trump-era liberals striking the same anti-Supreme Court notes as the talk-show populists and religious-conservative intellectuals of my own not-so-distant youth.

Partisanship being what it is, I don’t really expect either side to learn anything from these echoes and convergences. But for liberals newly awakened to the dangers of judicial power, let me offer two suggestions for thinking seriously about democratic accountability in Congress and the courts.

First, it would be wise for liberals to recognize that neither a judiciary out of step with democratic majorities nor an electoral advantage for one political apparatus are new things in American history — because when the Democratic Party dominated American politics both were important aspects of liberalism’s rule.

The politics of the 1940s and ’50s and ’60s would have still been generally liberal without judicial activism; Democrats would have still held congressional majorities, mostly, without the baked-in advantages that gave them more House seats than their share of the popular vote.

But the countermajoritarian sweep of liberal jurisprudence in that era was still dramatic, extending beyond race and segregation to encompass the entirety of the culture war, where majorities were consistently overriden, legislative debates consistently short-circuited, and longstanding features of American life — ecumenical school prayer, Christian-influenced morals legislation — overruled or uprooted by fiat.”

David Lindsay:  Well done Ross Douthat, for awhile you had me confused. This is an attractive set of arguments. Here are the two top comments, which I endorsed, which help put the analysis above into some perspective.

Martin
New York

May I mention, as an example, that Roe v Wade, the decision most often cited by Republicans as demonstrating judicial liberal overreach, was a decision in which 5 Republican judges joined 2 Democrats in the majority, with the 2 dissenters came 1 from each party? It seemed to many of us that the positions of the post war era that we now call “liberal” became dominant not by gerrymandering, voter suppression & partisan propaganda, but by reasoned argument. And it has always struck me that the “conservative” reaction against those positions over the last 40 years has used identity politics, partisan media, and political power not to engage a debate on the issues, but to obtain a pre-determined result by exercising economic & political power.

Barking Doggerel commented July 14

Barking Doggerel
Barking Doggerel
America

Although not alone in doing so, Douthat takes false equivalence to historic highs.

Equating the surges of liberalism and conservatism over time is either cluelessness or disingenuousness on steroids.

Liberals actual press to advance the values and promises of democracy.

Equality under the law for women, people of color and LGBTQ citizens is not “activism.” it is justice – albeit delayed and incomplete.

Fighting for voting rights is not a partisan game. It is fighting for the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Attempting to protect the rights to reproductive health autonomy against an onslaught of religious objections is not a “liberal” position. It is an effort to honor the founding of our pluralistic republic by keeping the hands of theology off the bodies of women.

It is dangerous to see this nomination or the broader issues as just equally valid points of view.

From Hollywood to Public Office: Cynthia Nixon Tests a Role Played by Men – The New York Times

By Shane Goldmacher June 19, 2018

“Arnold Schwarzenegger. Al Franken. Ronald Reagan. Sonny Bono. Fred Thompson. Jesse Ventura. Donald J. Trump.All were celebrities of a sort. All won high office. All were men.As Cynthia Nixon, the actress made famous from her turn on “Sex and the City,” runs for governor of New York, she is not just bidding to become the first woman and first openly gay governor in the state’s history. She would be one of the first female celebrities elected to a prominent political office anywhere in the United States.Every celebrity seeking office, especially those with show-business backgrounds, has confronted the question of qualifications.

But will a famous woman be treated differently from all the famous men who have come before her?The crosscurrents of Ms. Nixon’s challenge to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo — celebrity and dynasty (Mr. Cuomo’s father also served as governor); incumbency and insurgency; gender and ideology — have made their Democratic primary among the most closely watched in the nation.”

Does Nancy Pelosi Deserve to Keep her Job? – By David Leonhardt – NYT

“The Pelosi question. A few years ago, Steve Cohen — a Democratic congressman from Memphis — had some buttons made. Each button said, “PelosiCare,” underneath a photo of Nancy Pelosi. At the bottom of the button, in smaller type, were the words “I was there.”

The point was clear enough. Everyone else may refer to the huge expansion of health insurance as Obamacare. But the Democratic members of Congress who voted for it know that it would not have happened without Pelosi. When Obama administration officials wavered over whether to keep pushing for such an ambitious bill, Pelosi bucked them up. Then she delivered the votes to pass the bill.

That’s been the pattern since Pelosi became the Democrats’ House leader in 2003. She pushes hard for liberal policies, but also has a keen understanding of what legislation can’t get through Congress, no matter how much she may personally favor it. She has probably done a better job of keeping her caucus unified, in the majority and minority, than any other recent congressional leader. “She has been an extraordinarily effective caucus leader,” as Jonathan Chait writes in New York magazine.”

David Lindsay:

I like the piece above, and I like Nancy Pelsosi a lot. I think Pelosi should step down for two reasons. 1.She shut down the government a month ago to force DACA reform, which was suicidal for winning the next election. Says who? Wrote David Leonhardt just weeks ago. He wrote, most white Americans don’t care much about DACA reform, and 69% of voters  who actually vote are white Americans.

2. Her big win was the Affordable Health Care Act. Unfortunetly, Obama passed that, and then lost the house, so he couldn’t pass his infrastructure bills, or any thing else. If they had focused on the ecomy, jobs and infrastructure first, and health care later, we would probably have environmentalists in charge of the EPA, and progressives in charge of the Consumer Protection Agency.  et cetera.

The G.O.P.’s Doomsday-Machine Politics – by Paul Krugman – NYT

Krugman has a great piece until the end when he writes,
“Yet G.O.P. leaders seem to believe that they can bully Democrats by threatening to hurt millions of children — because Democrats care more about those children than they do. They also believe that if this tactic fails they can frame it as an exhibition of callousness by Democrats.

Democrats should just say no. These tactics cannot be allowed to succeed.

For once doomsday-machine politics becomes the norm, anything is fair game. Give us what we want, or we’ll cut off Medicare. Give us what we want, or we’ll destroy Social Security.

This has to stop. And now is the time to draw the line.”

David Lindsay: Paul Krugman, my favorite economist, has made an error. In his piece “The G.O.P.’s Doomsday-Machine Politics,” 1/19/18 NYT, he is suggesting that the Dems should have continuted to shut down the government, over DACA, and not accepted CHIP instead. How can Paul Krugman not see that that switches roles. Now it is the Democrates using Doomsday Machine politics, not the Republicans.

Deep Breath: The Democrats Did Just Fine – David Leonhardt – NYT

“A lot of progressives are angry or disappointed this morning. They’re upset that “spineless” Democrats in Congress didn’t take a stand — by keeping the federal government closed until Republicans agreed to protect the young immigrants known as Dreamers.

I fully understand their anxiety on behalf of those immigrants, the Dreamers. The future of the Dreamers remains unclear. But it’s worth taking a minute to understand the very large assumption that unhappy progressives are making. When you examine that assumption — and recent congressional history — I think you end up seeing that Democrats made a smart move to reopen the government. Unfortunately, their choice wasn’t, as the critics claim, between protecting or abandoning the Dreamers.The critics’ big assumption is that the Republicans would have eventually folded if the government had remained shut down.”

The Democrats Are Right — and Should Settle – by David Leonhardt – NYT

“So far during Trump’s time in office, principled policy and savvy politics have generally aligned for Democrats. They stymied Republican attempts to take health insurance from millions of people. Democrats tried to block a huge, permanent tax cut for the wealthy that came with small, disappearing tax cuts for everyone else. Democrats have opposed Trump’s efforts to let big corporations operate without much oversight. In each case, it has been both good policy and good politics.The shutdown is different, and more complicated. It’s more complicated because it has turned into a mini-culture war over immigration.”

David Lindsay Jr. Comment to the NYT.com:
Thank you David Leonhardt! He wrote:”A culture war over immigration replays the racialized debate that dominated the 2016 presidential campaign. As much as it saddens me to say it, the evidence is pretty clear that a racialized debate helps Trump. It’s the kind of debate that will make it harder for Democrats to retake the Senate and House this year.

Multiple studies have found that the political views of white Americans drift to the right when they are reminded that the country’s population is slowly becoming less white. And many of these voters are winnable for Democrats. A good number, remember, voted for Barack Obama. They may have some racist views — many people do — but they’re neither deplorable nor irredeemable human beings. Steve Bannon, the guru of white nationalism, understood this dynamic, once saying, “The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em.” ”
None of the NYT comments so far are nearly as articulate as this column. If you want to understand why many of us think this move by Democrats to shut down the government over DACA are are virtuous but short-sighted, I recommend you reread this op-ed. It explains why the Democrats are on the wrong topic again, if they want to win elections.

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at The TaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com

Showdown Vote in Senate on Friday With Government Shutdown at Stake – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — The Senate is heading toward a showdown vote on Friday on legislation to keep the government open past midnight, and Democrats appear ready to block it, gambling that a weakened President Trump will have to offer concessions in the face of a looming government crisis.

After the House cleared stopgap spending legislation on Thursday that would keep the government funded through Feb. 16, Senate Republicans are set to test whether Democrats will make good on their promise to move the government toward a shutdown. But Democrats appear intent on securing concessions that would, among other things, protect from deportation young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, increase domestic spending, aid Puerto Rico and bolster the government’s response to the opioid epidemic.

And they hope that Mr. Trump, scorched by the firestorm prompted by his vulgar, racially tinged comments on Africa last week, will be forced back to the negotiating table.”

David Lindsay Jr. Hamden, CT Pending Approval
Democrats should not participate in shutting down the govenment. The GOP will never let the public forget about it. Shutting down the govetnment over DACA, which is playing a major identity politics card, is political madness, even if it is morally and economically correct. Democrats, don’t pander to your base, when you want to own the center. In that sin, you mimic the Republicans, who have dishonored themselves and the country, by ignoring or obfuscating the meddling by Russia in our elections, and by turning the EPA against its own mission of protecting the environment, and of protecting Americans and all people and species from life-threatening pollution.
x
David Lindsay Jr. blogs at The TaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com

The Health Care Cul-de-Sac – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“This goes for both parties: not only the stepping-on-rakes Republicans, but the suddenly single-payer-dreaming Democrats. If Obamacare repeal is really dead for the year 2017, both left and right have a chance to shake their minds free of the health care debate and ask themselves: What are the biggest threats to the American Dream right now, to our unity and prosperity, our happiness and civic health?

I would suggest that there are two big answers, both of which played crucial roles in getting a carnival showman who promised to Make America Great Again elected president. First, an economic stagnation that we are only just now, eight years into an economic recovery, beginning to escape — a stagnation that has left median incomes roughly flat for almost a generation, encouraged populism on the left and right, and made every kind of polarization that much worse.

Second, a social crisis that the opioid epidemic has thrown into horrifying relief, but that was apparent in other indicators for a while — in the decline of marriage, rising suicide rates, an upward lurch in mortality for poorer whites, a historically low birthrate, a large-scale male abandonment of the work force, a dissolving trend in religious and civic life, a crisis of patriotism, belonging, trust.”

Ross is mostly right. There are bigger issues to address. It is time to moveon.org.

Republicans Can’t Pass Bills – by David Brooks – NYT

“Over the past few decades Republicans cast off the freedom-as-capacity tendency. They became, exclusively, the party of freedom as detachment. They became the Get Government Off My Back Party, the Leave Us Alone Coalition, the Drain the Swamp Party, the Don’t Tread on Me Party.

Philosophically you can embrace or detest this shift, but one thing is indisputable: It has been a legislative disaster. The Republican Party has not been able to pass a single important piece of domestic legislation under this philosophic rubric. Despite all the screaming and campaigns, all the government shutdown fiascos, the G.O.P. hasn’t been able to eliminate a single important program or reform a single important entitlement or agency.”

Great column David Brooks, thank you.

Here is a comment I fully endorse.

Cara.

New England 3 hours ago

I often disagree with Brooks, but this … this is a great column.

There is nothing “freeing” about living in terror that you will lose your house, savings and everything else if you get sick and/or that you will lose access to healthcare if you are unemployed. Brooks gets that, while the Ryans and McConnells of the Congress do not (or don’t care).

The GOP’s frantic efforts to pass a health care bill that alarms most Americans (and a CBO currently run by a Republican appointee) and that they are not even willing to debate in an honest and organized manner exposes the immorality at the heart of today’s GOP leadership. At this point, McConnell seems to be trying to confuse his caucus into voting for something that will be terrible for Americans, and he refuses to work with nearly half the Senate simply because they are not in his party. It is always politics with him, never actually governing in the interest of the people – history will not judge this man kindly.”