Opinion | Stacey Abrams and Lauren Groh-Wargo: How to Turn Your Red State Blue – The New York Times

Stacey Abrams and 

Ms. Abrams was the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia in 2018. Ms. Groh-Wargo was her campaign manager. They opened Fair Fight Action in late 2018.

“We met and became political partners a decade ago, uniting in a bid to stave off Democratic obsolescence and rebuild a party that would increase the clout of regular, struggling Georgians. Our mission was clear: organize people, help realize gains in their lives, win local races to build statewide competitiveness and hold power accountable.

But the challenge was how to do that in a state where many allies had retreated into glum predictions of defeat, where our opponents reveled in shellacking Democrats at the polls and in the Statehouse.

That’s not all we had to contend with. There was also a 2010 census undercount of people of color, a looming Republican gerrymander of legislative maps and a new Democratic president midway into his first term confronting a holdover crisis from the previous Republican administration. Though little in modern American history compares with the malice and ineptitude of the botched pandemic response or the attempted insurrection at the Capitol, the dynamic of a potentially inaccurate census and imminent partisan redistricting is the same story facing Democrats in 2021 as it was in 2011. State leaders and activists we know across the country who face total or partial Republican control are wondering which path they should take in their own states now — and deep into the next decade.

Georgians deserved better, so we devised and began executing a 10-year plan to transform Georgia into a battleground state. As the world knows, President Biden won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in November, and the January runoff elections for two Senate seats secured full congressional control for the Democratic Party. Yet the result wasn’t a miracle or truly a surprise, at least not to us. Years of planning, testing, innovating, sustained investment and organizing yielded the record-breaking results we knew they could and should. The lessons we learned can help other states looking to chart a more competitive future for Democrats and progressives, particularly those in the Sun Belt, where demographic change will precede electoral opportunity.” . . . .

Michelle Cottle | Marjorie Taylor Greene Apologized and Got a Standing Ovation. Seriously. – The New York Times

“The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, issued a plaintive plea to his troops on Wednesday: Can’t we all just get along?

Congressional Republicans had two delicate items on their midweek to-do list involving the possible punishment of their own members:

1. Vote on whether to oust from leadership Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the chamber’s No. 3 Republican, over her vote to impeach Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol siege. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Ms. Cheney had asserted on the eve of impeachment, provoking wrath among Trump loyalists.

2. Decide whether to strip committee assignments from Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the conspiracy theory-embracing, race-baiting freshman from Georgia, who, pre-Congress, spent her time on social media indulging right-wing rants about killing prominent Democratic officials and agents of the so-called deep state.

In the matter of Ms. Cheney, Republicans declined to bow to their Trumpian cultists. During a conference meeting in the bowels of the Capitol Wednesday, Ms. Cheney refused to apologize for backing impeachment, even when members of the Freedom Caucus accused her of “aiding the enemy.” After some four hours of debate, the conference voted decisively, 145 to 61, to keep her as its chairwoman. That the balloting was secret enabled some of the more spinally challenged members to vote their conscience.

Credit…J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

With Ms. Greene, the party’s fringe carried the day. Mr. McCarthy issued a statement assuring the public that the poison conspiracy theories she had peddled “do not represent the values or beliefs of the House Republican Conference.” And Ms. Greene apologized to colleagues for some of her battier statements and for putting the conference in a tough political spot. For this, she received a standing ovation.

In the end, Republicans refused to take any concrete action against her. They instead left it to the full House to vote Thursday on a resolution put forward by Democrats to remove Ms. Greene from two committees. The House voted 230 to 199 to do so, with 11 Republicans voting with Democrats.

This dodge allowed Mr. McCarthy to denounce the move as a “partisan power grab” by Democrats, while he and others hawk the usual slippery-slope gibberish. If they come for Ms. Greene today, they warn, what’s to stop them for coming for other Republicans tomorrow?

On the surface, these moves — or lack thereof — appear to pull in different directions. But they have the shared aim of preserving the fraying ties between the party’s angry, Trumpist base and its more traditional wing. “We need to unite for us to take the majority and govern,” Mr. McCarthy reportedly urged in defending Ms. Cheney.” . . .

“Deliberation is a wonderful thing. But among the pile of already established facts are videos of Ms. Greene holding forth on some of the most unhinged fictions percolating on the internet. In her social media postings, she has even endorsed the “frazzledrip” conspiracy theory. Warning: Do not Google that one if you have a weak stomach.”

I dared to google, What is the frazzledrip conspiracy, and I wish I hadn’t. It is real story about an insidious lie, that investigators found a video on Anthony Weiner’s laptop of a girl being mutilated. From the U.S. Sun, a British tabloid?:

“The fake report claimed that the video allegedly shows Hillary Clinton and her former aide Huma Abedin, Weiner’s ex-wife, raping and mutilating a young girl.

At the end of the so-called video, the girl bleeds out before Clinton and Abedin drink the blood during a Satanic ritual sacrifice.

Hundreds of YouTube videos, each with thousands of views, are dedicated to the violent and untrue conspiracy theory, according to Vox.”

To repeat, there is no such video, and the people who pass on such stories, like Marjory Taylor Green, now in congress, are sick and dangerous. She apologized profusely, and her GOP colleagues gave her a standing ovation?

Famous cartoonist made donkey and elephant the symbols of political parties – The Washington Post

A political cartoonist associated the donkey and the elephant with the two major political parties.

Why is the elephant the symbol of the Republican Party and a donkey the symbol of the Democrats?

“A very famous political cartoonist named Thomas Nast is credited with making these animals the symbols of their parties during the 1870s. (The donkey was first associated with the Democrats during the election of 1828, but it wasn’t until Nast used it in 1870 that many people began to link the Democrats with the donkey.)

In 1874, Nast drew the cartoon shown above with a donkey wearing a lion’s skin and scaring all the other animals in the forest. One of the animals was an elephant, and it was labeled “The Republican Vote.” And the rest, as they say, is history.”

Source: Famous cartoonist made donkey and elephant the symbols of political parties – The Washington Post

Opinion | How to Reform the Senate Filibuster – The New York Times

“For President Biden to succeed, the Democrats must find a way to limit the Republicans’ use of the filibuster, the procedural weapon in the Senate that requires 60 votes to advance legislation to a vote and threatens to leave the new president’s agenda in purgatory.

On Monday, the newly demoted Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, relented on his demand that Senate Democrats preserve the filibuster, and he agreed to move ahead with discussions on a power-sharing agreement. But the filibuster still lives: At least two Democrats have said they oppose ending it, enough to frustrate any effort by Democrats to do so by a majority vote in the 50-50 Senate.

So long as Mr. McConnell holds those two cards, any Democratic threat to end the filibuster altogether — the so-called nuclear option — is doomed. This leaves Mr. McConnell with a potential veto over most of the Biden legislative agenda.

But what if a genuine compromise were possible that preserved the Senate filibuster as a protection of individual conscience while giving President Biden a fair shot at enacting a desperately needed Covid-19 relief package? Such a compromise exists, we believe, by restoring the original “speaking filibuster,” made famous by Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” in place of the modern version.

In the beginning, from 1789 to 1806, debate in the Senate could be ended at any time by majority vote. In 1806, the Senate abolished that rule, leaving no way to cut off debate. This decision gave birth to the filibuster to delay or block legislative action. This involved a senator holding the floor continuously, as Mr. Smith did (not easy), or to act in carefully choreographed relays with like-minded colleagues (also not easy) and prevent a vote on the merits.

Still, a few successful filibusters were maintained, most notoriously to block anti-lynching and other civil rights legislation, but only when opposition was so passionate that senators were willing to endure the physical and logistical rigors of seizing the Senate floor and refusing to let go. In 1917, opponents of the United States’ entry into World War I were able to sustain such a speaking filibuster, blocking widely supported legislation that would have enabled merchant vessels to arm themselves. An angry Senate reacted by adopting formal rules that allowed an end to debate by a vote by two-thirds of the senators present on the floor.

From 1917 to 1975, with tweaks in 1949 and 1959, the Senate operated under the two-thirds rule, but the real constraints on filibustering were three self-limiting aspects of the 1917 rule. First, a motion to end debate (known as cloture) froze the Senate, forcing the body to vote on the motion before proceeding with any other business. Second, maintaining a speaking filibuster required a senator to hold the floor, individually or in relays. Third, supporters of the filibuster needed more than one-third of the Senate as allies to be present on the Senate floor to head off a surprise cloture vote. Once again, if opposition was passionate enough, successful filibusters were maintained, especially of civil rights legislation, but the difficulties of mounting a filibuster placed a lid on the number of times one could be successfully sustained.

Beginning in 1975, though, the original speaking filibuster was transformed into the modern version. First, Southern senators agreed to confine the filibuster to a short period in the morning session, allowing the Senate to move on to other business in the afternoon. Then they agreed to a reduction of the cloture number to a fixed 60 votes, from two-thirds present and voting, or 67 votes if the entire Senate was present.

All of a sudden, the self-limiting factors that had kept the filibuster in check since 1806 disappeared. There was no longer an institutional cost since the Senate could conduct business as usual during most of the day. A filibustering senator no longer had to hold the floor speaking for long periods of time. And most important, supporters of the filibuster no longer had to worry about being in the Senate chamber because it was the job of opponents to marshal the fixed 60 votes to end debate. Supporters of the filibuster could stay home in bed.”

Stuart A. Thompson | Three Weeks Inside a  – The New York Times

“As President Biden’s inauguration ticked closer, some of Donald Trump’s supporters were feeling gleeful. Mr. Trump was on the cusp of declaring martial law, they believed. Military tribunals would follow, then televised executions, then Democrats and other deep state operatives would finally be brought to justice.

These were honestly held beliefs. Dozens of Trump supporters spoke regularly over the past three weeks on a public audio chat room app, where they uploaded short recordings instead of typing. In these candid digital confessionals, participants would crack jokes, share hopes and make predictions.

“Look at the last four years. They haven’t listened to a thing we’ve said. Um … there’s going to have to be some serious anarchy that goes on. Otherwise, nothing is going to change.”

I spent the past three weeks listening to the channel — from before the Jan. 6 Washington protest to after Mr. Biden’s inauguration. It became an obsession, something I’d check first thing every morning and listen to as I fell asleep at night. Participants tend to revere Mr. Trump and believe he’ll end the crisis outlined by Q: that the world is run by a cabal of pedophiles who operate a sex-trafficking ring, among other crimes. While the chat room group is relatively small, with only about 900 subscribers, it offers a glimpse into a worrying sect of Trump supporters. Some conspiracists like them have turned to violent language in the wake of Mr. Trump’s electoral loss.

“If the Biden inauguration wants to come in and take your weapons and force vaccination, you have due process to blow them the [expletive] away. Do it.”

How Alvin the Beagle Helped Usher In a Democratic Senate – Shane Goldmacher – The New York Times

“The dog had a lot of work to do.

He was co-starring in a political ad that had to showcase the candidate’s good-natured warmth. But the ad also needed to deflect an onslaught of racialized attacks without engaging them directly, and to convey to white voters in Georgia that the Black pastor who led Ebenezer Baptist Church could represent them, too.

Of course, Alvin the beagle couldn’t have known any of that when he went for a walk with the Rev. Raphael Warnock last fall as a film crew captured their time together in a neighborhood outside Atlanta.

Tugging a puffer-vest-clad Mr. Warnock for an idealized suburban stroll — bright sunshine, picket fencing, an American flag — Alvin would appear in several of Mr. Warnock’s commercials pushing back against his Republican opponent in the recent Georgia Senate runoffs.”

Read the full text of Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem – U.S. News – Haaretz.com

Here is a full transcript of Gorman’s inaugural poem:

When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We’ve braved the belly of the beast
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another
We seek harm to none and harmony for all
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division
Scripture tells us to envision
that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid
If we’re to live up to our own time
Then victory won’t lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we’ve made
That is the promised glade
The hill we climb
If only we dare
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy
And this effort very nearly succeeded
But while democracy can be periodically delayed
it can never be permanently defeated
In this truth
in this faith we trust
For while we have our eyes on the future
history has its eyes on us
This is the era of just redemption
We feared at its inception
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
of such a terrifying hour
but within it we found the power
to author a new chapter
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves
So while once we asked,
how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?
Now we assert
How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be
A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free
We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation
Our blunders become their burdens
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright
So let us leave behind a country
better than the one we were left with
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one
We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
we will rise from the sunbaked south
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it

Source: Read the full text of Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem – U.S. News – Haaretz.com

How Gerrymandering Will Protect Republicans Who Challenged the Election – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio comes from a duck-shaped district that stretches across parts of 14 counties and five media markets and would take nearly three hours to drive end to end.

Designed after the 2010 census by Ohio Republicans intent on keeping Mr. Jordan, then a three-term congressman, safely in office, the district has produced the desired result. He has won each of his last five elections by at least 22 percentage points.

The outlines of Ohio’s Fourth Congressional District have left Mr. Jordan, like scores of other congressional and state lawmakers, accountable only to his party’s electorate in Republican primaries. That phenomenon encouraged the Republican Party’s fealty to President Trump as he pushed his baseless claims of election fraud.

That unwavering loyalty was evident on Jan. 6, when Mr. Jordan and 138 other House Republicans voted against certifying Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the winner of the presidential election. Their decision, just hours after a violent mob had stormed the Capitol, has repelled many of the party’s corporate benefactors, exposed a fissure with the Senate Republican leadership and tarred an element of the party as insurrectionists.”

Jennifer Senior | Good Riddance, Leader McConnell – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“So tell me, Mitch, in these, your final hours as Senate majority leader: Were the judges and the tax cuts worth it?

Were they worth the sacking of the Capitol? The annexation of the Republican Party by the paranoiacs and the delusional? The degradation, possibly irremediable, of democracy itself?

Those close to him say that Mitch McConnell has his eye on his legacy, now more than ever. But I wonder whether he already understands, in some back bay of his brain where the gears haven’t been ground to nubs, that history will not treat him well.

McConnell may think that the speech he gave on the Senate floor on Jan. 6, objecting to the election deniers, will spare him history’s judgment. It will not. It did not make him a hero. It simply made him a responsible citizen.”