“. . . But since prediction is often just an expression of desire, I’ll tell you what I want to happen. Even though the party richly deserved some sort of punishment, I didn’t want the G.O.P. to be destroyed by its affiliation with Trump, because I’m one of those Americans who don’t want to be ruled by liberalism in its current incarnation, let alone whatever form is slowly being born. But now that the party has survived four years of Trumpism without handing the Democrats a congressional supermajority, and now that Amy Coney Barrett is on the Supreme Court and Joe Manchin, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney will hold real power in the Senate, whatever happens in Georgia — well, now I do want Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to lose these races, mostly because I don’t want the Republican Party to be permanently ruled by Donald J. Trump.” . . . .
“In many ways Joe Biden will enter the presidency in a politically enviable position. The arrival of the coronavirus vaccine means that, after running as the candidate of normalcy, he is poised to preside over its literal return, which could include not just economic recovery but also a period of personal exuberance — at last, restaurants! amusement parks! vacations! — that will feel much more euphoric than the post-financial-crisis grind did under Barack Obama 12 years ago.
At the same time, the fact that Biden did not lead his party to a landslide will also give him certain political advantages. He will not be permitted to re-enact the New Deal or the Great Society, but neither will he be tempted into ideologically driven debacles like Bill Clinton’s failed health care push or even Donald Trump’s failed attempt to repeal Obamacare. Having Joe Manchin and Susan Collins as the most powerful figures in the Senate will not be good for progressivism’s policy objectives, but it could be very good for Biden’s popularity, enabling him to chart a moderate course while telling the left, sorry, but my hands are tied.
In the best-case scenario for Biden, the Trumpian voter-fraud narrative could set in motion a Tea Party redux on the right, with fringe characters and Trump loyalists successfully primarying established G.O.P. figures — but without the high-unemployment economy and the Obamacare fight that enabled the Tea Party Republicans to take the House in 2010. Instead, a radicalized Republican Party campaigning on a supposedly stolen election while the Democrats campaign on prosperity and normalcy could set up the rare midterm scenario in which an incumbent president’s party actually picks up seats.
If you want to know how the Biden administration could blow this opportunity, though, look no further than his just-announced choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra.”
“Three weeks from now, we will reach an end to speculation about what Donald Trump will do if he faces political defeat, whether he will leave power like a normal president or attempt some wild resistance. Reality will intrude, substantially if not definitively, into the argument over whether the president is a corrupt incompetent who postures as a strongman on Twitter or a threat to the Republic to whom words like “authoritarian” and even “autocrat” can be reasonably applied.
I’ve been on the first side of that argument since early in his presidency, and since we’re nearing either an ending or some poll-defying reset, let me make the case just one more time.
Across the last four years, the Trump administration has indeed displayed hallmarks of authoritarianism. It features egregious internal sycophancy and hacks in high positions, abusive presidential rhetoric and mendacity on an unusual scale. The president’s attempts to delegitimize the 2020 vote aren’t novel; they’re an extension of the way he’s talked since his birther days, paranoid and demagogic.
These are all very bad things, and good reasons to favor his defeat. But it’s also important to recognize all the elements of authoritarianism he lacks. He lacks popularity and political skill, unlike most of the global strongmen who are supposed to be his peers. He lacks power over the media: Outside of Fox’s prime time, he faces an unremittingly hostile press whose major outlets have thrived throughout his presidency. He is plainly despised by his own military leadership, and notwithstanding his courtship of Mark Zuckerberg, Silicon Valley is more likely to censor him than to support him in a constitutional crisis.”
“It is quite extraordinary that a pandemic originating in a Chinese province, a disease whose initial cover-up briefly seemed likely to deal a grave blow to the Communist regime, has instead given China a geopolitical opportunity unlike any enjoyed by an American rival since at least the Vietnam War.
This opportunity has been a long time building. Across the 2000s and early 2010s, China’s ruling party reaped the benefits of globalization without paying the cost, in political liberalization, that confident Westerners expected the economic opening to impose. This richer-but-not-freer China proved that it was possible for an authoritarian power to tame the internet, to make its citizens hardworking capitalists without granting them substantial political freedoms, to buy allies across the developing world, and to establish beachheads of influence — in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, American academia, the NBA, Washington, D.C. — in the power centers of its superpower rival.
Eventually, America responded to all this as you would expect a superpower to react: It elected a China hawk who promised to get tough on Beijing, to bring back jobs lost to the China shock, and to shift foreign policy priorities from the Middle East to the Pacific. But there was one small difficulty: This hawk was no Truman or Reagan, but rather a reality-television mountebank whose real attitude toward China policy was, basically, whatever gets me re-elected works. A mountebank, and also a world-historical incompetent, who was presented with exactly the challenge that his nationalism was supposed to answer — a dangerous disease carried by global trade routes from our leading rival — and managed to turn it into an American calamity instead.”
“American policing is going to emerge changed from this June of protest. The question is whether it will be altered for the better. So let’s consider three possible scenarios for change — one building on the current system, another more ambitious but also riskier, and a third to be avoided at all costs.
The grand bargain
At this point, almost everyone except their union reps agrees that American police officers are too well defended from accountability. Collective bargaining makes police misconduct more common; the terms of union contracts often obstruct disciplinary action. It’s too hard to fire bad cops, too easy to rehire them, too difficult to sue them, too challenging to win a guilty verdict when they’re charged with an offense. All of which means it’s too easy for cops to get away with abuse, violence, murder.
On the other hand, as Charles Fain Lehman of The Washington Free Beacon points out, police departments aren’t as awash in funding as the rhetoric of “defund the cops” — even in its milder or nonliteral interpretations — would suggest. As a share of budgets, state and local spending on the police increased in the 1990s but has been flat or falling for the last two decades. (Indeed, cities may be offering sweeping union protections to their cops as a way to avoid paying them more money.) Despite frequent suggestions that the United States overspends on policing, as a share of gross domestic product, the European Union spends 33 percent more on cops than the United States does — while spending far less than us on prisons.
There are good reasons to think that the Europeans know what they’re doing. A substantial body of research suggests that putting more cops on the beat meaningfully reduces crime. And even the American neighborhoods that suffer most from police misconduct and brutality are often still under-policed when it comes to actually solving murder cases.”
David Lindsay, comment in the NYT:
Thank you Ross Douthat. You wrote: “At this point, almost everyone except their union reps agrees that American police officers are too well defended from accountability. Collective bargaining makes police misconduct more common; the terms of union contracts often obstruct disciplinary action. It’s too hard to fire bad cops, too easy to rehire them, too difficult to sue them, too challenging to win a guilty verdict when they’re charged with an offense. All of which means it’s too easy for cops to get away with abuse, violence, murder.” With such a clear opening statement, you could only add value to a most complicated debate. I would love to hear more about how the Europeans do better than us. I also, as a trained martial artist, would like to see all police officers required to work towards a black belt in Aikido, the modern Japanese martial art about controlling an opponent, while also knowing how not to hurt them, as well as how to hurt them if necessary.
“There will be three stages to the coronavirus era. The stage we’re in now is the period of emergency, when stores are shuttered, church services suspended, even playgrounds closed. The stage we aspire to reach, the stage with reliable treatments and ready vaccination, is the period of normalcy — or the period when we get to discover what normal after the coronavirus means.
But in between is the phase we may inhabit into 2021: The time of semi-normalcy, when strictures are partially lifted, the economy partially reopened, social and cultural life partially resumed. And since it’s the goal of all our efforts now, it’s worth offering some speculation about what that “semi” will entail.
Balkanized normality. In their “Road Map to Reopening,” Scott Gottlieb of the American Enterprise Institute and his co-authors offer several criteria for making the shift out of emergency: A “sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days,” a hospital system capable of treating coronavirus cases “without resorting to crisis standards of care,” and the capacity to test and monitor every suspected viral case.”
“. . . . . . In his novel “Foucault’s Pendulum,” a sendup of crackpot esotericism that anticipated “The Da Vinci Code” years before its publication, Umberto Eco captured this spirit by describing the way that self-conscious seekers after hermetic wisdom and gnostic mysteries approached the rise of Christianity:
… someone had just arrived and declared himself the Son of God, the Son of God made flesh, to redeem the sins of the world. Was that a run-of-the-mill mystery? And he promised salvation to all: you only had to love your neighbor. Was that a trivial secret? And he bequeathed the idea that whoever uttered the right words at the right time could turn a chunk of bread and a half-glass of wine into the body and blood of the Son of God, and be nourished by it. Was that a paltry riddle?
… And yet they, who now had salvation within their grasp — do-it-yourself salvation — turned deaf ears. Is that all there is to it? How trite. And they kept on scouring the Mediterranean in their boats, looking for a lost knowledge of which those thirty-denarii dogmas were but the superficial veil, the parable for the poor in spirit, the allusive hieroglyph, the wink of the eye at the pneumatics. The mystery of the Trinity? Too simple: there had to be more to it.
This is where the pandemic-minimizing sort of conservative has ended up. They are confronted with a world crisis tailor-made for an anti-globalization, anti-deep-state worldview — a crisis in which China lit the fuse, the World Health Organization ran interference for Beijing, the American public health bureaucracy botched its one essential job, pious anti-racism inhibited an early public-health response, and outsourcing and offshoring left our economy exposed.
And their response? Too simple: Just a feint, a false flag, another deep state plot or power grab, another hoax to take down Trump. It can’t be real unless Hillary Clinton is somehow at the bottom of it.”
“When it comes to determining when it makes sense to impeach a president, congressional Democrats are working with 200 words in the Constitution, three significant historical precedents, the fervor of impeachment advocates, the anxieties of swing-state members of Congress and all the polling data that a modern political party can buy.
None of this, unfortunately, tells them what to do when the president in question actually wants them to impeach him.
That Donald Trump actually wants to be impeached is an argument that Ben Domenech, the publisher of The Federalist, has been making for some time — that the president isn’t stumbling backward toward impeachment, but is actually eager for the fight.
In his email newsletter Monday morning, Domenech cited the last few days of Ukraine-related agitation as vindication, arguing that the circus atmosphere of congressional hearings, scenes of Joe Biden talking about corruption instead of health care or the economy, and wavering House Democrats getting forced into an impeachment vote by their angry colleagues and constituents are all exactly what Trump wants.”
David Lindsay: Tough piece, amazingly cogent. Trump needs and wants an impeachment attempt, to take the narration off his bad work, and the good ideas of the Democrats. He is losing the debate right now, and wants to change the topic. When the Senate finds him innocent, he declares total exoneration!
Here is are several comments I suported:
Trump’s support is locked in at 42% and nothing is going to change it. The Senate is not voting to convict. The election is less than 14 months away. An impeachment trial at this point would serve no purpose except to make the Democrats look foolish. If you haven’t been outraged by Trump by now to the point you won’t vote for him next November, impeachment isn’t going to change that. The Democrats should instead find a candidate who can inspire enough Americans to vote for them. Someone who doesn’t have the type of baggage as Trump when it comes to foreign money and influence. Someone who can speak to climate change and the environment, income inequality, immigration, foreign interference in our elections, deficit and debt and our fiscal solvency. And do it without going over the edge by pandering to every special interest group thereby turning off most level headed people. Impeachment would be a distraction from the issues that Americans need addressed during this campaign.
“Have the vote or don’t have it, we’ll be arguing about something completely different by the time Americans are going to the polls.” This is the crux of the matter, and the thing that Trump grasps, or at least embodies, better than anyone: politics is pure entertainment now, a day by day, moment by moment competition for attention between politicians, pundits & other influencers. From the president’s point of view, his obligation is not to the country but to his visibility. Like a pro-wrestler, he doesn’t care whether the audience boos him or cheers him, so long as they keep buying tickets to the show. Policy, whether pushing manufacturers to pollute or making it easier for psychopaths to arm themselves, only aspires to thrill his fans with his opponents’ anger. The enemies aren’t insecurity or injustice or foreign aggressors, but “liberals” and journalists. This isn’t a democracy, it’s a reality TV show, staged by the powerful to keep the people from meddling in self-government.
Speaker Pelosi is right to delay impeachment until it can be most effectively deployed. Starting impeachment at this moment means that it would be effectively over by the end of the year. If the Senate allows Trump to remain in power, it would give Trump all of the tools described by Mr. Douthat to be wielded during the run up to the 2020 election, making them highly potent. In the unlikely event that the Senate removed Trump, then Pence would be in power with the entire Trump apparatus, along with the Senate, at his disposal, and would confer a false sense of sanity and stability. (It should be remembered that Pence wants a Protestant Evangelical theocracy as fervently as Trump wants an autocracy.) Pelosi should delay impeachment proceedings until January, then use the media frenzy in service of the election. I would advise her to use the cliff-hanger device of leading the impeachment right up to election day and promising a vote immediately after the election. Hopefully this will sufficiently inspire opposition to Trump such that he and the Republican leadership will be voted out of office, giving her a mandate and making the impeachment an historical pronouncement. Further action by the Senate would be immaterial.
“Like many non-Democrats with an interest in both public policy and supernatural religion, I have two favorite 2020 Democratic candidates: Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.
Williamson is interesting because she helps reveal the spiritual shape of political ideas. Yang is interesting because he’s eager to think well outside the existing policy consensus and propose ideas that don’t fit naturally into either party’s current box.
But just as I don’t actually share Williamson’s specific theological perspective, I have a core disagreement with Yang: His biggest policy proposal, a guaranteed basic income for every American, is a response to a disruption that I’m not persuaded is actually happening.
Yang argues that we need this guarantee because robots and automation are already destroying, and will increasingly destroy, the employment prospects of millions of Americans. His argument assumes that we’re living through an age of accelerating technological transformation — which seems intuitively correct to many people — and that we need a government that’s ready to compensate the losers even as the winners keep on generating breakthroughs.
But intuition might be deceiving. The best reason to doubt Yang’s story is contained in productivity statistics, which measure the output of the gainfully employed and which traditionally rise rapidly during periods of technological change — because even if workers are losing their jobs to the spinning jenny or the automobile, other workers should be increasing their productivity with the new technology’s assistance.”
By Ross Douthat
April 27, 2019, 601
Pete Buttigieg spoke to a group of high school students from Massachusetts and New Hampshire this month in Nashua, N.H.
Credit Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times
“One of the central problems in Western politics is the impasse between a governing class that lacks legitimacy, and populist alternatives that are poorly led and unready to govern. This impasse reflects a deep trend of the last few decades — the working-out of meritocracy’s iron logic, in which the most talented young people (or at least the most talented résumé-builders) self-segregate in a small group of metropoles while the hinterland declines.
For a clinical rather than impressionistic assessment of this trend, you can turn to the new report from Senator Mike Lee’s Joint Economic Committee, which tracks “brain drain” trends across American states and finds a pattern, both longstanding and accelerating, in which the highly-educated cluster in “dynamic states” and “major metropolitan areas,” leaving less-educated Americans in “rural and post-industrial states” behind. The report describes this “geographic sorting” as one factor behind economic stagnation and social breakdown; it’s also clearly a factor driving the class-based polarization that’s given us Donald Trump, and in European politics the Brexiteers and gilets jaunes and more.
This background is part of what makes Pete Buttigieg, the bright young man of the Democratic field, such an interesting figure. In many ways Buttigieg is a kind of uber-meritocrat, a child of academic parents who made a swift climb up the meritocracy’s cursus honorum: a Harvard degree and then a Rhodes scholarship, a brief stint in D.C. followed by three years at McKinsey. And beyond the résumé, an obvious part of his appeal depends on his performative intelligence, his college-interview style of “humble” showing off.”
David Lindsay: Ross Douthat, there you go again. I had a busy weekend, and didn’t get to the Sunday NYT till Sunday night after dinner at 9 pm. By 10 pm, I was struggling to stay awake as I practiced my intellectual “flossing” by trying to follow the gymnastics of right wing, ultra religious conservative Catholic, Ross Douthat, as he cut up Pete Buttigieg, and accused him of going back to South Bend Indiana after a spectacular early career, because he was plotting for the presidency. Reading Douthat, I kept closing my eyes to sleep, and this morning, I drank in the most recommended Times comments, 2 or 3 dozen, which shredded Douthat for the narrow, intolerant, fascistic but brilliant Catholic that he is. These comments were so much more focused and clear headed than I was capable of last night. If you want a clear delineation of what is evil in conservative right wing evangelical or Catholic meddling in politics, I recommend these comments. They also are a powerful recognition, that in Pete Buttigieg, people hear the intelligence and calming clear voice of another Lincoln, FDR or Obama.
About my fabulous, bitter-sweet weekend. Kathleen was busy all day Saturday at the Hamden Earth Day Fair at the Hamden Middle School, where she was manning the table for her Sustainable CT initiative, where she is working relentlessly to get Hamden certified by the Sustainable CT organization, a massive two year effort. In the morning, I was reading in the Times that Obama loved having Biden as his running mate, twice, because Biden could speak and win over white working class males from the rust belt. I reworked the old song, “I’m Ready When You Call me Lord, But Give me Just a little More Time.” When I got to the Earth Day Fair, I found Kathleen in front of her table, free style dancing to rock and roll with a 10 year old boy and his mother, because, “the young man really wanted to dance, but was too shy to do it by himself.” I found many vendors who could guide me in making my house and life more sustainable.
On Sunday, one of my music partners Gail Pells came over and we three rehearsed our three songs, before singing with many others at the Memorial Service of my long-time friend and former singing partner David Green of Branford, at the Evergreen Woods Life Care Community. It was great to see his widow, my friend Ginny Shaw, and hear her articulate, teary-eyed daughters and family. Kathleen and I went in the afternoon to Bill and Gina Dunlap’s house Concert to hear Hughie Jones of England and the two Bobs of Staten Island, Bob Conroy and Bob ? in concert that was extended by songs led by some of CT’s finest traditional singers, who were in the audience. In the kitchen pub sing after the concert, Kathleen and I performed, the half traditional, half David Green version of “I’m Ready When You Call Me Lord, But Give me just a little more Time,” for the second time in the same day.
And now, here is Ross Douthat, see if you can see any faults in his crafty, articulate logic.