Category Archives: The Nation

DeMarco: Reconsidering Thomas Jefferson

The Op-Ed Page

nickel

A version of this column appeared in the July 21st edition of the Florence Morning News.

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Reconsidering learned history is difficult. As we are educated, most of us create a world view that portrays the tribe with which we identify in a positive light. For most of America’s existence, schoolchildren have been taught a story favorable to whites. This narrative persists and tends to harden in adulthood.

As I wrote about in a previous post, I continue to learn that my formal and informal education about my country’s and world’s history has been skewed in my favor. This relearning has been particularly difficult with one of my heroes, Thomas Jefferson.

I am a proud class of 1985 graduate of the University of Virginia. More than most universities, UVa reflects the personality of its founder. As I walked the Lawn, I had a window into Jefferson’s expansive mind. I saw him at the drawing board at Monticello, poring over competing designs for his “academical village.”  I was grateful to be one of thousands of students he had inspired. I spent four years at the university in awe of Jefferson’s creativity, intellect, and eloquence.Jefferson

Although I knew he owned enslaved people, I never grappled with the awful reality of what that meant. Despite my four-year sojourn at UVa, I emerged with a child’s understanding of Jefferson. He was an icon, as near to a perfect American as there would ever be. This is partly my own fault; somehow I managed to graduate from UVa without taking any history courses.

One of the things I did learn about Jefferson while at his university was his epitaph. His gravestone is engraved with the following: “Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.” He was so accomplished that his two terms of president of the United States did not make the cut.

After I graduated, when rumors of Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman whom he owned, gradually bubbled into the press, I was skeptical. This information did not fit with the nearly faultless image I had fashioned for him. I was of the same mind as Dumas Malone who wrote an exhaustive six-volume biography, Jefferson and His Time. Malone opined in the fourth volume that the accusations related to Hemings were “distinctly out of character, being virtually unthinkable in a man of Jefferson’s moral standards and habitual conduct,” and I agreed.

However, in 1998 DNA evidence revealed that Jefferson could have been the father of one or more of Hemings’ six children. To be clear, the evidence is not definitive and there remains a group of scholars who argue strongly that it was another Jefferson relative (his younger brother, Randolph, seems the most likely candidate).

What is known is that Sally Hemings (who was 30 years younger than Thomas Jefferson) was herself the child of Jefferson’s father-in-law and an enslaved woman, Elizabeth Hemings. This made Sally Hemings half-sister to Jefferson’s wife, Martha.

I struggled with the fact that the possibility Jefferson could have been like many of the slave masters of his era who fathered children by their enslaved workers had never occurred to me (or was communicated to me) during my years at UVA. Despite seeing statues of Jefferson on the grounds almost every day, multiple visits to Monticello, and hours of reading, I had not fully reckoned with who Jefferson was. I saw what I wanted to see.

Irrespective of whether Jefferson was the father of Hemings’ children, my subsequent reading forced a deeper examination of the sharp contrast between Jefferson’s exalted words and his actions. Although he did make strong statements condemning slavery throughout his life, he was closely involved in the management and disciplining of the enslaved workers at Monticello. He, like many planters, would have been destitute without them. A nailery at Monticello, which ran mainly on the labors of 10- to 16-year-old boys, was critical to the economic stability of the plantation. The overseers occasionally whipped the children to ensure a sufficient output of nails, a practice about which Jefferson was fully aware. He also recognized the investment potential of enslaved people and calculated that “he was making a 4 percent profit every year on the birth of black children.”

It was unsettling to have my comfortable images of Jefferson transformed in such a disfiguring way. It highlighted for me the fact that when Jefferson wrote the words “All men are created equal,” he was writing about people like himself, white male landowners: not women, not people of color, nor even white men who did not own property. Certainly not Hemings.

I’ve been included in Jefferson’s vision since he penned it over two centuries ago. I have had to fight for none of my rights. My freedom, my ability to live where I wanted, to be educated where I chose, to compete for any job, to expect only respectful deference from the police or any other representatives of government has been guaranteed since the founding of the republic. Not so for so many others.

Seeing our nation for what it really is – both great and deeply flawed, like Jefferson himself – will allow us to better understand and support those for whom the American dream remains unrealized.

Dr. DeMarco is a physician who lives in Marion, and a long-time reader of this blog.

I see the GOP just did an amazingly shameful thing. Again.

cheney

This is a screenshot from video of Rep. Cheney speaking after the vote, which you can watch by clicking on the image.

That’s essentially what I said on Twitter this morning about the Liz Cheney thing, and started to move on to other topics.

But perhaps we should pause on that one for a moment, seeing how I may have been a trite too dismissive of the significance of this moment in American political history.

Perhaps we should contemplate what Tom Friedman had to say in his piece, “The Trump G.O.P.’s Plot Against Liz Cheney — and Our Democracy.” He wrote it before what happened this morning, but with full knowledge of what would happen. And as ominous as it sounds, he may have been on the money:

One of America’s two major parties is about to make embracing a huge lie about the integrity of our elections — the core engine of our democracy — a litmus test for leadership in that party, if not future candidacy at the local, state and national levels.

In effect, the Trump G.O.P. has declared that winning the next elections for the House, Senate and presidency is so crucial — and Trump’s ability to energize its base so irreplaceable — that it justifies both accepting his Big Lie about the 2020 election and leveraging that lie to impose new voter-suppression laws and changes in the rules of who can certify elections in order to lock in minority rule for Republicans if need be.

It is hard to accept that this is happening in today’s America, but it is.

If House Republicans follow through on their plan to replace Cheney, it will not constitute the end of American democracy as we’ve known it, but there is a real possibility we’ll look back on May 12, 2021, as the beginning of the end — unless enough principled Republicans can be persuaded to engineer an immediate, radical course correction in their party….

Indeed. Let’s focus on that bit about these twits saying that this action against the one prominent person among them willing to speak the obvious truth is crucial to “winning the next elections for the House, Senate and presidency.”

Not for long, though. I only have this to say about it: If that’s what they believe and assert — which they have done in the last few days, in a Orwellian effort to “justify” what they’re doing to Rep. Cheney — well then none of them should ever be elected to anything, ever again. As you know, I’m willing up to a point to accept certain behaviors by elected officials that are meant purely to get them elected or re-elected, if they are worthy people otherwise. Because if you don’t get elected, you can’t do any good for anyone.

But sometimes, the thing you’re willing to do proves that you are not a worthy candidate. For instance, Lindsey Graham struggled for years to keep the yahoos from tossing him out so that he could stay in office and push hard for sensible immigration policy, or for dialing back the partisan madness that was undermining our method of selecting federal judges. But when you just give up completely, and commit yourself with slavish devotion to the worst person ever to hold high office in the country, you completely abandon any argument that the nation is better off with you than without you. Obviously, you should no longer hold office.

And any Republicans who want Donald Trump to have anything to do with their party, and are willing to embrace his outrageously destructive Big Lie in order to achieve that, are people who should not only lose the next election, but the one after that, and every election to come.

Friedman’s column continues with the ways Republicans are, across the country, trying to undermine our electoral processes so that no one can ever trust them again. In our Identity Politics era, much of the attention has been on the GOP’s efforts to discourage voting by People of a Certain Color. As dastardly as that is, it’s hardly the whole story. Writes Friedman:

There are also the new laws to enable Republican legislatures to legally manipulate the administration and counting of the votes in their states….

We’re talking about new regulations like the Georgia law that removed the secretary of state from decision-making power on the State Election Board, clearly aimed to curb the powers of the current secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, after he rejected Trump’s request that he “find” 11,780 votes to undo Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia….

As Stanford University democracy expert Larry Diamond summed it all up to me, while we’re focusing on Liz Cheney and the 2020 elections, Trump’s minions at the state level “are focused on giving themselves the power to legally get away with in 2024 what the courts would not let them get away with in 2020.”…

I’m probably close to getting in trouble with the copyright attorneys at the NYT, but I assure you I’m not trying to steal anything; I’m trying to help Friedman spread the alarm. I strongly urge you to go read the whole thing (and everything else you can find from honest, knowledgeable sources), and if they want you to pay for it, by all means pay. As I do.

It’s important because Friedman predicts that once Republicans complete the task of rigging the electoral system in their lying, malodorous favor, “both Democrats and principled Republicans will take to the streets, and you can call it whatever you like, but it is going to feel like a new civil war.”

Because what else is there to do, when our civilization is no longer held together by the rule of law, reference for the truth and profound respect for, and confidence in, fair elections?

Friedman, who covered the collapse in Lebanon, doesn’t use the term “civil war” either “lightly or accidentally.” He saw a civilized country fall apart, which is “what happens when democratically elected politicians think that they can endlessly abuse their institutions, cross redlines, weaken their judiciary and buy reporters and television stations — so that there is no truth, only versions, of every story.”

Dismiss it as alarmism if you like. Bask in the warmth of having an honest, decent, qualified president who is doing his best to serve to the betterment of his country, and enjoys high approval ratings as a result.

But keep in mind that the people who ousted Liz Cheney today have something very different in mind. They are eager to pull us all into the darkness…

What Tim Scott said about race in America

Tim Scott

As I told you previously, such is my complacence with regard to the national government now, with Joe Biden as our president, that I forgot to watch his address to Congress last week.

Consequently, I certainly didn’t watch Tim Scott’s Republican “response.” You recall that I take a dim view of this “tradition” that we’ve had since 1966. It’s rather idiotic. First, it’s not a “response,” because it is written before the president’s address is delivered. It’s basically just a recitation of party talking points, with networks providing free air time. (And now, any national news outlet with a website providing live streaming.)

Here’s the thing: The Constitution requires the president to give Congress an update on the state of the union “from time to time.” He can do it with a scribbled note if he chooses to. But modern presidents have been happy to deliver it in person with much pomp. Fine. Let them do that, and I’m glad the networks are willing to broadcast it when they do. But if the other party wants such a platform as well, they should have to win the next presidential election. Democrats should have no expectation of free air time when the president is named Nixon, Ford, Reagan or Bush, and Republicans should have to sit it out when we have a chief executive named Carter, Clinton, Obama or Biden. Issue all the releases, tweets, etc., you want, and you will get some coverage. But expect no more.

Anyway, this wasn’t a State of the Union, technically.

But on to Tim Scott…

I’ve never had much occasion to say much about him. For one thing, I don’t know him — he rose to statewide prominence after I left the paper, and I’ve never met him, much less sat and talked extensively with him. Secondly, and more to the point, he hasn’t done much to attract attention, until quite recently. For years, I had trouble remembering his name, because it didn’t come up much. When people said “Senator Scott,” I tended initially to think they were speaking of John. Him I know.

It always seemed to me that Tim Scott was sort of maintaining as low a profile as possible — which of course set a stark contrast with our senior senator. South Carolina had elected him (after Nikki appointed him) when he hadn’t done much to attract attention, so he was sticking with the formula. All those white voters seemed pleased to have a black Republican senator, so they could tell everyone “See? We’re not racist!” And that was the sum of his effect on state politics. Why rock that boat by doing or saying anything that drew attention?

That has changed recently, starting with his appearance at the GOP convention last year. For me, it was almost an introduction to Tim Scott. Not only had I never met him, I’d never heard him speak for several minutes at a time.

I formed two impressions:

  1. He seemed like a good and decent man, quite sincere.
  2. He was undermining, even canceling out, all that decency by using it to support the reelection of the man who was by far, by light years, the worst person ever to hold the office.

Anyway, as I said, I missed his recent “response” speech (although I’m listening to it as I type this). But I saw some of the responses to it, which seemed to all center on this passage:

When America comes together, we’ve made tremendous progress. But powerful forces want to pull us apart. A hundred years ago, kids in classrooms were taught the color of their skin was their most important characteristic. And if they looked a certain way, they were inferior.

Today, kids again are being taught that the color of their skin defines them, and if they look a certain way, they’re an oppressor. From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven’t made any progress at all, by doubling down on the divisions we’ve worked so hard to heal.

You know this stuff is wrong. Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country. It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination. And it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present….

I read, for instance, two views in The Washington Post.

The first was actually a step removed from Scott and what he had said. It was headlined, “Kamala Harris has to walk a tightrope on race. This time, she slipped.” This was in response to the vice president having agreed with Sen. Scott on the point that seemed to disturb “woke” Democrats the most. She said “No, I don’t think America is a racist country.” The writer of the column — one Karen Attiah, whom I had to look up because I wasn’t familiar with the name — tried to make excuses for the veep, but nevertheless she “slipped,” leading the writer to conclude:

And especially for women of color, it is exhausting to watch Harris have to walk on the all-too-familiar tightrope of race and gender. Perhaps, in time, Harris will get more space to shine as the administration progresses. Until then, we are all holding our breath.

Yeah, OK. The other piece was by South Carolina’s own Kathleen Parker, and it was headlined, “Liberals just cannot handle a Black conservative,” employing the Post‘s unfortunate recent style of capitalizing references to people’s race. OK… Such an assertion seems more like something that you’d hear on Fox than from such a normally sensible woman as Kathleen. But I suppose that is one way of putting it, since people were calling him “Uncle Tim” on social media. An excerpt:

This, my friends, is (also) what racism looks like in America today.

Let a Black man speak for the GOP; let him defend conservative values that were once considered mainstream; let him challenge the current orthodoxy of systemic racism that pegs Whites as oppressors — and he will feel the wrath of those for whom, as Scott said, belief in racism is essential to political power….

There’s that capitalizing-race thing again. I’ll post about that some other day. (“Capitalizing “Black” bugs me, and capitalizing “White” is just plain offensive. It’s like we’re back to separate restrooms, and they want to make sure the labels pop out so nobody goes into the wrong one.)

For the time being, I responded to the Attiah piece with this tweet:

If she hadn’t answered that way, I think we’d need to have a long conversation about it. But she did, as anyone a heartbeat away from the presidency should. And I see that Jim Clyburn also spoke in agreement with what Scott said.

So, nothing to see here, folks.

As for the Parker piece, I just tweeted it out.

What are your thoughts?

Live your life so Google doesn’t remember you this way

crazy

How did I get on this topic? The usual, roundabout way. I was skimming through Twitter this morning and ran across this:

… which got me thinking, what are they doing in California now? I had heard about the recall thing, but I paused to think, So what’s their beef with Newsom? I had no idea. I tried to remember whether I knew anything unsavory about him, and I thought of one thing: There was that bizarre woman with whom he was once connected, bizarre enough that it would certainly cause you to question his judgment.

But of course, I couldn’t remember her name. So I asked Google, using the only other thing I knew about her.

Into the search field, I typed: crazy woman who spoke at gop convention.

And I didn’t mean “crazy” in a pleasing, tuneful Patsy Cline sort of way. But Google understood me perfectly.

And you see what I got. Out of all the women it could have picked — such as, say, this one — Google knew exactly what I was looking for.

Having her name, I then looked her up on Wikipedia to confirm that she had been affiliated with Newsom, and found that they had actually been married. I had been thinking maybe they dated once or twice, but he married her?

Well, that would give any voter pause…

Anyway, there’s a life lesson here. Think about posterity. Try to live in a way that you are not remembered this way by Google — and therefore by the rest of the world. Just stop and think before you act. If invited to have a screaming fit during prime time at a national nominating convention of either major party, think very hard before you accept…

red

How about that Joe Biden, huh? You go, Joe: Do it!

Joe Speaks

How relaxed have I become since Joe Biden became my president? This relaxed: I forgot to watch his speech last night.

I had intended to watch it. But then I had a busy day, getting my stitches out and all, and ended up working pretty late — until well after 9 p.m. Finally I turned on the tube about 10 — intending to stream something, but the TV input happened to be set on broadcast — and there was Joe, in the chamber, shaking hands with people! I had missed it!

I was disappointed, but it was OK. I was sure whatever he had said was fine, and I could read all about it in the morning. Which I did. And if you need to catch up, here’s a transcript.

As you know from last year, I wasn’t all that interested in what Joe would do once in office. As I’ve said so many, many times in the past in many contexts, I don’t like campaign promises, and don’t want to hear grand plans (which kind of eliminated Elizabeth Warren right off). What I want is character. That, and solid experience. You don’t know, can’t know, what the big issues will be during an upcoming term (although in this case, we knew covid had to be dealt with). So I want someone I trust to cope with whatever happens competently, and decently. Someone who I believe will do the right thing both in terms of effectiveness and morality.

And Joe fit that bill perfectly.

Of course in this case, it was also about replacing the malevolent, clueless lunatic who had occupied the office for the past four years. Once that was done and covid was competently dealt with, I’d be happy.

What I didn’t reckon on — in fact, practically no one did — was that once in, Joe would be this ambitious. I didn’t know he would come in and try to accomplish more than any president since LBJ, if not FDR.

But hey, that’s fine with me. Pretty much everything he’s trying to do makes sense, and I’m on board. And pleased. What Joe is doing is saying, “These are the things government ought to do. Let’s get them done.”

One thing I’m seeing people say about him — and they’re right — is that he’s not content to just undo the damage done by Trump. He’s looking to roll back all that Republicans have done — in terms of alienating the American people from their government — since Reagan.

It had never occurred to me that that could be done — returning us to being the kind of confident country, with faith in each other and our way of governing ourselves, that we were before Reagan, before Watergate, before Vietnam. The country of FDR, Truman, Ike (Mr. Interstates!), JFK and LBJ (pre-credibility gap). The country whose leaders said, “Let’s do this!” and we just went out and got it done.

Will it be easy? Not at all. There are 50 people in the Senate determined to stop him from doing anything he tries to do. If the Republicans had a party platform — which they don’t; the sick personality cult of Trump doesn’t need one — Joe could try to accomplish everything on their list, and they’d oppose it because it’s him trying to do it. In a situation like that, you might as try to do the right thing instead. Especially if you’re Joe.

Obviously, Joe is more of a visionary than I am. And I bless him for it. We’ve needed this, for such a long time…

There are things we should do. Let's do them...

There are things we should do. Let’s do them…

What an odd thing to say at this moment in history

The fuss over her tweets seems rather silly.

The fuss over her tweets seems rather silly.

The headline attracted me: “Why should Neera Tanden have to be confirmed by the Senate, anyway?

I’m not particularly interested in the case of Ms. Tanden, or the job she has been nominated to fill (it has to do with money, right?). But I was interested to see what sort of argument would be presented, and whether it had any merit.

After all, a case can be made that this or that office shouldn’t require the Senate’s advice and consent. As this author points out, the president’s chief of staff doesn’t have to be confirmed, so why should a functionary such as this one? And of course, it’s absurd how long it takes a new president to get his team in place. If there are legitimate ways to accelerate the process, let’s discuss them. As this author says, “Posts can go unfilled for months or even years. This keeps a president from doing what he was elected to do.”

(“This author,” by the way, is one Henry Olsen, with whom I was not familiar — even though he is apparently something of a regular in the Post. I guess his past headlines haven’t awakened my curiosity.)

Anyway, he was cooking along fairly well, even though he was edging close to problematic territory in the fourth graf, which begins, “These concerns were justified in 1789.” He’s talking about the reasons why the Framers included advice and consent in the Constitution, and apparently he is attracted to the seductive, modernist (excuse me for using such a harsh, condemnatory term) idea that what was a good idea then isn’t necessary now. But while I harrumphed a bit, I kept going to let the gentleman make his case.

Then I got to this:

It’s ludicrous to think this could happen today. Presidents arise from an extensive democratic process that makes them directly responsible to the people. They build political coalitions from diverse groups that seek to use public power to advance their agendas. These factors constrain the president far more than Senate confirmation. These considerations, along with the 22nd Amendment, which limits presidents to no more than two full terms, means there is little reason to fear that a president can turn the office into a personal fief wielding power without constraint.

Yikes! Trump has only been out of office, what, five minutes? Where has this guy been the last four years? We just lived through a period during which the nightmare foreseen by Hamilton, et al., came to life, to an extent he and the others probably couldn’t imagine in 1789. And everyone knows this! If there is any upside to Trump’s time in office, it’s that he got so many people to go back and read the Federalist Papers, because they realized we had before us such a lurid example of what those guys were on about.

What an extremely odd time to say such a thing!

Look, I don’t care whether this woman becomes head of the OMB or not. Personally, if Joe wants her, I’m inclined to give her the job, and the fuss over her past tweets seems pretty silly, but it’s not an important issue the way, say, Merrick Garland’s nomination as attorney general is.

But dang, if you’re going to argue that people nominated for this position shouldn’t have to undergo confirmation, then do it in a way that doesn’t make us think you spent the last four years in a cave!

I’ve got to go back and read that bit again: “Presidents arise from an extensive democratic process that makes them directly responsible to the people.”

Oh, let’s take a look at what those “people” — 74 million of whom voted for the guy again — are up to now… Have you seen this video from the CPAC gathering? Oh yeah, these people are gonna keep this guy accountable…

Unprecedented, again: The second impeachment

again

It’s after 10 and I haven’t stopped to rest a moment today. But I can’t go sit, watch a bit of telly and hit the sack without saying something about the fact that Trump was impeached today, for the second time.

Which, of course, is as we know the first time that has happened. Yet another way in which Donald J. Trump is unique in our history.

Strange, isn’t it? That someone so dumb, so incapable, so sub-par, so contemptible should be, in so many ways, so extraordinary. Of course, the only reason he is “extraordinary” is that before 2016, not only had no one so very dumb, incapable, sub-par, and contemptible ever come close to being president of the United States, but it had been unthinkable — something we didn’t even have to bother worrying about. It’s not that he’s extraordinary, but that the situation of someone so lamentably low being in such a high office is extraordinary.

Of course, extraordinary sounds vaguely laudatory, so we usually say “unprecedented.” It’s a somewhat more neutral, even soporific, word, compared to “extraordinary.”

Obviously, I’m tired. Why am I sitting here? Oh, yes — because I have to say something about the unprecedented second impeachment.

Or do I? I mean, we knew it was going to happen. The House had to do something. You don’t just sit there passively and wait for his term to end, when the president of the United States has incited a mob and sent it to physically attack a coequal branch in the very seat of our government. Just saying “Oh, he’ll be gone in a few days” seems too much like a dereliction of duty.

And that’s what they did: something. It wasn’t much, in light of the treasonous (and, here it comes again, unprecedented) course of action taken by the POTUS, on that day, and ever since Election Day. If it hadn’t been his constant lies about the election, his actions in court, his bullying of state officials, all that insanity… there would have been no mob to incite that day.

Seldom in human history has anyone taken such a desperate gamble and, having failed, lived to tell the tale. So impeachment — especially to a guy who’s been there and done that and shrugged it off before, because he has zero respect for the principles involved — is only slightly more than water off a particularly greasy duck’s back.

But it was the arrow in the House’s quiver — the only one, really — so they loosed it.

And we know the Senate won’t take it up any time soon. So what’s my hurry? Why do I have to write about it tonight?

I dunno. Maybe I don’t. But I thought I’d give y’all a place to comment on it. If you have things to say.

That’s it. I’m worn out. Good night…

Nice job there, Ah-nold

Just thought I’d share this video Arnold Schwarzenegger put out yesterday.

It’s gotten a lot of positive reactions. Conan O’Brien said, ““This is the most powerful and uniquely personal statement I’ve heard from ANYONE on where we are right now as a country.”

I thought it fitting to quote O’Brien, since in the video, Arnold wields his “Conan” sword…

Conan sword

Remember their names. Remember what they did.

washpost homepage

I just wanted to share with you this “how they voted” from The Washington Post. This list neatly divides Congress between those who may arguably deserve to be there (to widely varying degrees) and those who unquestionably do not.

The ones from South Carolina who unquestionably do not include:

  1. Jeff Duncan
  2. Ralph Norman
  3. Tom Rice
  4. William Timmons
  5. My own congressman, for far too long, Joe Wilson

Lindsey Graham didn’t vote with them, but he tried to have it both ways, saying “I prayed Joe Biden would lose.” How dare he so blaspheme against God, and his country? Yeah, I get it. You’re saying that “even a guy like me” accepts the election result — at long last, after trying to involve yourself in Trump’s efforts to overthrow that result. But this was a day for showing profound remorse for all you’ve done the past four years.

Nancy Mace surprised us a bit — pleasantly, considering that she ran as a Trump ally (to the extent that I paid attention to that district). Tim Scott less so, because I think at heart he’s a pretty decent, although deluded, guy. (I think his speech was the high point of the Republican National Convention. Of course, that’s like being at the top of a molehill at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, but I’m speaking relatively. As in, you know, he wasn’t Kimberly Guilfoyle.)

But the main thing is that you remember the five. And all those from other states who put themselves on the list.

I’ll close with a thought from my Republican state representative:

The day Trump’s mobs stormed the U.S. Capitol

insurrection

There was just so much going on at the same time, even before the barbarians knocked down the gates of our nation’s seat of government and defiled the place where our laws are made.

Even before that, so much history was being made…

I’d been scoffing for weeks at all the people talking about Georgia “turning blue,” just because Joe Biden — who, if we were a nation of rational people, should have swept the vote in every state — managed to squeak by there by 11,000 votes. The “blueness” was something yet to be demonstrated. There were a lot of things going on as the two Senate races ground slowly toward the runoff that seemed to take eons to arrive. Too many to predict what would happen, as the nation focused not only its attention, but ungodly amounts of resources, on the state next door to us. Any one of a number of combinations could have come out of all that. But the one that came was that the Democrats — who, in case you hadn’t noticed, don’t win Senate seats in the Deep South — won BOTH seats, and the slimmest of advantages in the Senate.

So I guess Georgia has indeed “turned blue,” to the extent such phrases have meaning. Or purple, anyway. For my part, I was happy for my man Joe Biden. The restoration I’ve been hoping and praying for will come easier now. Not easy, but easier.

That should have been the whole story — it was big enough to keep the country busy trying to absorb it for some time to come.

But because of our intolerable situation in which we’ve found ourselves the past four years — having Donald J. Trump as our president, and the Republican Party enslaved to him — a boring little bit of processing that none of us have ever paid attention to before, the acceptance of the Electoral College’s verdict on a presidential election, was going to have everyone riveted all day. We would watch as the (Thank God) rational majority dealt with a wretched, nauseating spectacle being perpetrated by my own congressman, Joe Wilson, and a bunch of other despicable loonies such as Ted Cruz. (Remember Lindsey Graham, who used to be a decent human being? He once said nominating either Trump or Cruz would be the death of the Republican Party. “Whether it’s death by being shot or poisoning doesn’t really matter,” he said. He was right. Back then. The gun went off and the poison fully kicked in today.)

It was low, grotesque farce that would accomplish nothing. But until it was over, we’d be riveted nonetheless — while waiting for the final assurance out of Georgia, which still hadn’t come at midday, when Donald J. Trump started shoveling truckloads of steaming bovine excrement to a crowd that loved him.

Lost amid all that was some very good news: Biden plans to nominate Merrick Garland as his attorney general. That was wonderful to read — not just a great move by Joe in filling a key position, but a moment of historic justice. But no one was really noticing. By the way, E.J. Dionne wrote a good piece about why this would be great weeks ago, when we all had time to think about such normal things. I recommend it.

And then, of course, came the determined attack of the home-grown America-haters on our Capitol.

That had so many aspects, and they are so profound in implication, that all I can do tonight is throw out a few bullets that may start conversation. Each is just a thumbnail. Each bullet could be a book. But let me throw them out:

  • When did anything like this ever happen in our history? Well, nothing in my own lifetime, and I’ve been around awhile. Or at least, not in the years when I was aware of such. Many years later, I remember being shocked when I learned about something that happened when I was a baby, back when the country was supposedly so peaceful and quiet and Ike was our president: Wikipedia calls it the “1954 United States Capitol shooting.” It occurred on March 1, 1954, when four Puerto Rican nationalists fired on members of Congress and wounded several. As shocking as it was, though, it was just an act of violence by a small group of extremists. It wasn’t the personification of the Trumpian Id, actual Americans (technically) rising in unison to strike at the very heart of what makes our republic work — the peaceful transfer of power after elections. The Puerto Rican thing was small by comparison. Maybe we have to go back to when the British burned Washington in 1814. But that was just an act of war, a war that would soon be over. And Americans were pretty unified in being appalled by it. If Al Qaeda had succeeded in flying that other plane into the Capitol or the White House, it would have been spectacularly shocking and tragic — but it wouldn’t have been an instance of the country trying to tear itself apart over… a bunch of transparently absurd lies. So I haven’t been able to match it yet.
  • Before the violence broke out and the Capitol shut down, another sadly encouraging thing happened: Mitch McConnell (buh-bye, Mitch!) was actually standing up and saying the kinds of things — reacting to the Joe Wilson insurrectionists rather than the ones outside — he should have been saying for the last four years. As I wrote, “Mitch McConnell is actually giving a pretty good speech right now. We haven’t heard such common sense from him in a long, long time. A good way for him to go out… Oops, never mind, he just shifted into paranoid anti-media rhetoric… OK, now he’s back to saying sensible, responsible stuff meant to preserve our republic. So, good for him again…” No, we shouldn’t have had to wait all this time for the leader of the U.S. Senate, once the world’s greatest deliberative body, to say such things — which is why I said “sadly.” But at least he was saying them. I resolved that if I found time today, I’d write a blog post about one thing he said — the fact, ignored even by many who voted for Joe, that this wasn’t even a particularly close election. I’d meant to write about this many weeks ago when Jennifer Rubin made the same case, more eloquently (“The size of Joe Biden’s victory matters. And it is huge.“) — but hadn’t gotten around to it. Mitch’s point, of course, was to point out how completely absurd it was for anyone to question, even for a moment (as Mitch himself did for weeks), Joe’s victory. But then the troglodytes started crashing through the doors, and I didn’t get around to it.
  • At one point today, I retweeted a particularly brief message: “Impeach and remove. Tonight.” Well, yes, that would happen in any just world. And it would be fully justified. You could say it’s a waste of energy when Trump’s about to be gone anyway, in mere days. But it would be right and just, and it would make sure no one thinks Trump is leaving office with the equivalent of an honorable discharge. But it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen tonight. Hey, I’d settle for Mitch just allowing evidence and holding a real vote on the first impeachment — although Trump’s crime this time is even worse. Arguably. The first one was pretty damned horrible, and unquestionably the sort of thing for which impeachment exists.
  • I mentioned this earlier in a comment, but I’ll repeat it as a bullet here: “The Post and Courier, and my old paper The State, should call for the immediate resignations of my congressman Joe Wilson and everyone who encouraged this insurrection in Washington today — including the Inciter in Chief. For starters…” I’m not holding my breath, but I’m waiting. There was a time when no one would have had to wait. Our editorial in 1998 calling on Bill Clinton to resign was on the page within a very few hours after he admitted he’d been lying to the country when he shook his finger at us about Monica Lewinsky. And he should have resigned. But while that was a firing offense, what Trump has done is astronomically worse.
  • A woman was shot and killed as a result of the attack by these thugs. I don’t know what to add to that. The members of Congress shot by the Puerto Ricans at least survived.
  • I just want to ask, and maybe some of y’all can tell me: Now, I won’t have to hear anyone say, “Despite all your hand-wringing, nothing really BAD happened under Trump, did it?” ever again. Will I? Please say no.
  • Finally, the evil of today has led to some long-overdue good. As I’m typing this, I’m listening to McConnell saying the Senate won’t be deterred from doing its duty by an “unhinged crowd.” Suddenly, people who have cossetted and supported Trump as he trashed our nation’s honor for the past four years are saying things they should have said all along. This doesn’t in any way excuse their utterly inconceivable, inexcusable behavior up to now. Nothing does. Their cowardice in the face of the Trump “base” cannot be justified. But the fact that they’re doing it now is good.

The story continues into the night, and I don’t know what will happen next.

But I expect this: Members of Congress are going on to carry out the routine task for which they assembled today — before being interrupted for four hours. The criminals failed, just as their hero has failed, completely.

Joe Biden will become president. His party will — barely — control the Senate. The job of restoring our country — starting with defeating the coronavirus — won’t be easy. But it will go on, and I believe it will prevail.

But we will never forget this dark day. Or those who made it happen — those who hold offices of trust and have defiled them, and those who did not.

Really feeling good about Tony Blinken

I haven’t really paid all that much attention to the names Joe Biden has put forward for his administration, beyond just a glance as they come out to make sure they’re more or less in keeping with my expectations.

The big thing for me was to elect Joe — to make sure he got the nomination, and won the election. Beyond that, I completely trusted him to appoint good people, people of good character. People with qualifications. People who understood what the country is about, and what would be expected of them in their jobs. People who would not delight the left wing of the Democratic Party, or give the other party anything of substance to whine about.

People who would restore the country.

So I’ve just been going, “Uh-huh” and “Sounds good” as the announcements have come.

Antony Blinken

Antony Blinken

But today, I listened to “The Daily” while walking, and it was a fairly in-depth discussion about Antony Blinken — his background, his understanding of America’s role in the world and what of it needs to be restored, his history with Biden, the ways in which he both agrees and disagrees with the boss. All of it fit perfectly with what Biden will need in a secretary of State. The new president will be pretty tied up with covid and other domestic concerns at first, but the rest of the world can’t wait. They need to know America is back, and willing to join back in with constructive efforts to build a better world. And while the president is busy at home, they need someone who can speak for him and be known to speak for him.

And Blinken seems to fit the need perfectly.

I haven’t felt this good about anyone nominated for a position in government in a long, long time.

I would have been happy and satisfied with it not being Pompeo, and not being Susan Rice.

But Blinken sounds way better than that.

My expectations for the coming administration were high, but having listened to that, they are now just a bit higher. And that’s saying something, really, as much as I like Joe…

Election Day: 2020

Voting in Line

 

Well, it’s Election Day. There have been millions of votes cast early, millions will vote today, and we will likely be counting mailed in votes for days to come as they arrive. Brad is out today due to a death in the family. I asked if he wanted me to put up a post for him on election day, and he indicated he did.

Here’s your chance to make predictions for what happens or generally comment on the election. Today, we are one people, one country. America is a special place. If you go to a polling place, you are likely to see a candidate for office in the parking lot outside asking for your vote. That’s a good thing. It’s still good to see candidates asking for our votes.

No matter what happens, I am hopeful for America.

Should I go ahead and vote? Have you?

A friend who voted today took this picture while waiting in the queue.

A friend who voted today took this picture while waiting in the queue.

I’m starting to feel doubts. They may not affect my behavior, but I’m having them.

Y’all know how strongly I feel about the importance of turning out and voting with one’s neighbors (which is way communitarian), in person, on actual Election Day. It is to me a major, deeply meaningful ritual of life in America.

But… this is an extraordinary situation, is it not?

First, we have the most important election in my lifetime, one in which we will either save our republic by electing a normal, decent human being as our highest elected official, or drag the country — and the rest of the world, which has been holding its breath for four years waiting for us to fix this — down further and deeper into the mire, the utter degradation.

So, you know, I need to vote, and it needs to count.

Second, we’re in the strangest situation of my life, in which so much about normality has gone out the window. For instance, I may never again go to work at an office, or anywhere other than my home — which overthrows thousands of years of human social and economic behavior. And that’s just one piece of it. I mean, 220,000 Americans are dead from this thing, and it’s far, far from over.

So… maybe I should make an exception in this instance.

Up to now, I’ve held to my resolve to wait until Nov. 3. But each day, more friends and family members go out and vote early — or technically, vote “in-person absentee.”

Which on the one hand supports my plan, by taking pressure off and reducing crowds on the day of. But what if that day is still even more insane, and things break down? I’m pretty sure I’ll get to vote anyway, but what sort of societal breakdown will occur while we’re waiting for all the votes to be counted, and a clear winner to emerge and be accepted?

I dunno. What do y’all think?

For that matter, what do y’all do? What have you done already? Some of you have reported in, but what about everybody else? Who’s voted by mail? Who’s done the “in-person absentee” thing? Who’s waiting for Election Day?

And why?

I would find it helpful to know…

Good job, Joe! Now, let’s get on with saving the country

"The choice could not be more clear..."

“The choice could not be more clear…”

I was really puzzled at first by the Kathleen Parker column The State ran this morning, panning the Democratic Convention. She seemed to get it all wrong. She griped about how “the only thing I dislike more than a circus ringmaster running my country is manipulative, emotion-mining propaganda,” and said she could barely watch it.

Which is how I feel about MOST conventions, regardless of party; I have to turn them off or walk out of the room periodically to keep my head from exploding — all that throwing of red meat to snarling partisan mobs.

But as I said on the second night, this convention wasn’t like that — which I finally decided was because the mobs weren’t there! They weren’t feeding off each other in ways calculated to turn off anyone who isn’t one of them. As I said that night, “The thing I hate about conventions is missing!”

Then I saw that this was Kathleen’s impression of the first night — this is what you sometimes get these days from print outlets that go to bed in the early evening. What you read is often days past the sell-by date. (The rather belated post I put up about the second night ran two days ago.) I didn’t watch that first night, so I guess I can’t argue with the column.

Anyway… now that it’s over, I can say this was the best convention I’ve seen in many cycles, maybe the best since the days when the gatherings actually had a purpose, and did work and made decisions.

It had a big finish, with Joe doing a great job in his acceptance speech. I loved it from the start:

And I loved it at the end:

But there was so much more. Like that amazingly brave kid talking about his and Joe’s stutters. This did so much, including shaming the idiots who try to attribute Joe’s occasional flubs to cognitive weakness. I honor that kid. The boy’s story of his interaction with Joe also caused one pundit to say something like (I can’t find the link right now; I read so much this morning), can you imagine Donald Trump making the effort to help a child? (See this update.)

Before that, there was the neat thing with all those former contenders simply talking about what a great guy Joe is. That was really nice. And what they said came across as more sincere, and certainly more relaxed, than the things they had said on the stump. I say that not to denigrate their candidacies, but to emphasize how real they seemed in talking about how and why people love Joe.

That got taken down a notch by Michael Bloomberg’s solo shtick. He didn’t say anything wrong; he’s just so awkward as a speaker.

The previous night had been a little flat, except for Barack Obama’s masterful speech. No, I wasn’t impressed by Kamala’s. Nothing wrong with it; there was just nothing great about it, either. Hillary Clinton was forgettable (which may be a good thing). But Obama lit up that dull night.

The ending, though, was great. There’s no way any rational, fair-minded person in America saw and heard the convention and came away from it wanting to do anything but get out and vote, immediately, for Joe Biden.

It’s a shame we have to wait so long. And endure such wretched stuff between now and then. I expect to be nauseated by this time next week.

Anyway, here’s Joe’s speech if you missed it:

Hey, Joe: ‘People like me’ like Karen Bass…

Joe poll

All year, various Democrats — I think I’ve told you how many lists I got on as a result of working on James and Mandy’s campaign in 2018 — have sent me “polls” that are, as you’d expect, intended to involve me in a task that ends with giving money.

But I occasionally pause in my mass extermination of emails and fill one out — mainly to see what sort of questions are being asked. I then I click away when I get to the donation part.

Today, I stopped on a particularly superfluous one that asked for “confirmation” on the question, “DO YOU APPROVE OF JOE BIDEN?” But I decided to click on it because it mentioned that the Democratic National Convention, such as it is this year, is two weeks off. So I thought it might ask me about the Veep decision.

And the last few days, I’ve been grabbing any choice that presents itself to share the idea that Joe needs to pick Karen Bass — and that he needs to, without any doubt:

  • Say no to Kamala Harris.
  • Say no to Elizabeth Warren.
  • Say no to Susan Rice.

Because all three of those are highly problematic. I’ve been particularly alarmed by the frequent mentions of Susan Rice — my least-favorite member of the Obama team — in recent days.

And it’s not that Karen Bass is the only possible person to choose. But she’d be excellent– something I’ve become even more persuaded of as I see the rather silly efforts to bring her down (not being on board with anti-Castroism when she was in high school? having said polite things to Scientologists in 2010? really? are those the best you’ve got?) — and I want her to get mentioned a lot as a way of countering the never-ending wave of buzz over the three really bad choices.

There are others out there — for instance, I was impressed by this piece headlined “The Case for Competence” that praised both Rep. Bass and Gina Raimondo. But Rep. Bass keeps making the short lists, and Gov. Raimondo does not, so I’m pushing the one with a chance.

It’s been encouraging to see her mentioned so frequently in recent days, even as I’ve cringed to see one or more of the The Problematic Three mentioned as well. I don’t want to jinx this, but… it sort of reminds me of the way voters finally coalesced around Biden himself after all those months of nonsensical pushing of other candidates (such as Harris, and Warren, and of course Bernie). I’m seeing something happen I’ve been waiting and hoping for.

I’ve got this feeling that Rep. Bass is the one Joe himself would pick if he just went with his own judgment. So any tiny thing I can do to increase buzz for her, I’m trying to do. Maybe it will make somebody else mention her positively, too. And then someone else. And maybe somewhere on that chain of reactions, Joe himself will see it and be encouraged, see that he’s not alone on this. If it can just slip through, amid all the nonsense pushing Harris, Warren and Rice.

It’s a long shot, but this year — especially after seeing Joe shut down the competition once South Carolina had its say — I’m being optimistic. Why can’t we have two candidates who inspire confidence? Why not?

Anyway, so I clicked on the “poll,” and started answering the questions. But I almost quit and walked away when I saw the second one, “Do you think Joe Biden cares about people like you?”

ARRRGGGHHH! Think about this: Look at me, and tell me — what is a person like me? What does he look like, or sound like, or act like?

And who cares? What does this similarity to me have to do with anything? What kind of a jerk would I be if I only liked candidates who I thought would be good for “people like me?” Would that mean I was by implication saying, “The hell with everybody else?” And isn’t that the essence of being a Trump voter?

But I calmed myself down, knowing that Joe himself did not write this (and that I firmly believe that Joe cares about people like everybody), and that this offensive nonsense question is standard fare in these kinds of things, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Besides, maybe I’m looking at it wrong. Maybe “people like you” just means people who are like me in good ways, ways that matter. You know, people who have backed Joe from the start, because he is the kind of person who cares about everybody. People who see that he needs to pick somebody who’s a good fit, like Karen Bass.

People who want what’s best for Joe, and best for the whole country. Thoughtful, concerned people

Yeah, that’s the ticket…

I almost quit when I got to the second question,

I almost quit when I got to the second question,

How about if today, we celebrate liberal values?

Mount_Rushmore_National_Memorial

We need to again be a country that can celebrate these guy’s contributions to the American idea, and at the same time be fully outraged at what happened to George Floyd, which grossly violated that idea. In that space where those reactions coexist lies our hope as a nation.

We could celebrate what I have always thought, without question, was the whole idea about America.

It’s not about the majesty of purple mountains or the amber color of grain. And most of all, it’s not about a people — people this color or that color or speaking this or that language.

It’s about the ideas, and their growth toward perfection over time. It’s a majestic story. And it starts not with freedom, not exactly. It starts with liberality. With tolerance, with plurality, with openness to each other, and a fierce sense of fairness toward everyone, particularly those who don’t look or talk or even think the way we do.

And that is in profound trouble in this country.

The most dramatic example of that is embodied by Donald Trump, although he is not the cause of the problem. The problem is that there were enough people who would vote for such a person — a person who deliberately appealed to the very worst, illiberal impulses — for him to win an Electoral College victory.

The problem is, if the left in this country were clearly articulating the liberal alternative, as it has done within living memory, it would have pulled along enough people from the center to utterly repudiate Trumpism in 2016. But that’s not the case. Unfortunately, there is a good deal of illiberality on the left, and that prevents us from having a clear, American liberal alternative.

The news on this front isn’t all bad, of course. The best thing that has happened in our politics in recent years was the Democratic Party’s decision to nominate Joe Biden for president. Joe is the perfect representative — and about the only one who sought the office this year — of the kind of liberal values that have been the glory of this country from the start. If he wins the election — better yet, if he utterly crushes Trumpism in November — it make be the first step in saving this country from recent trends. And that would be wonderful — for America, for the rest of the world, and for the ideas that are the only positive way forward, and the only things worth celebrating on this holiday.

If you read this blog regularly, y’all know that I gravitate toward the opinions of “Never Trump” conservatives. They come closer to expressing what is really wrong with Trumpism, from my point of view. So I was motivated to write this piece when I saw a column today from Bret Stephens at the NYT, headlined “Reading Orwell for the Fourth of July.” After dismissing Trump as an “instinctual fascist” who is fortunately really bad at it, he writes:

The more serious problem today comes from the left: from liberal elites who, when tested, lack the courage of their liberal convictions; from so-called progressives whose core convictions were never liberal to begin with; from administrative types at nonprofits and corporations who, with only vague convictions of their own, don’t want to be on the wrong side of a P.R. headache.

This has been the great cultural story of the last few years. It is typified by incidents such as The New Yorker’s David Remnick thinking it would be a good idea to interview Steve Bannon for the magazine’s annual festival — until a Twitter mob and some members of his own staff decided otherwise. Or by The Washington Post devoting 3,000 words to destroying the life of a private person of no particular note because in 2018 she wore blackface, with ironic intent, at a Halloween party. Or by big corporations pulling ads from Facebook while demanding the company do more to censor forms of speech they deem impermissible.

These stories matter because an idea is at risk. That’s the idea that people who cannot speak freely will not be able to think clearly, and that no society can long flourish when contrarians are treated as heretics.

Frankly, I disagree with Stephens that the illiberal impulse on the left is worse than the one on the right. (Having a wannabe fascist as president of the United States is a national emergency, no matter how incompetent he is.) But I agree that it’s bad, because it distracts the left from the ideas that would save our country.

We are doomed if the largely maskless crowd who applauded Trump’s speech at Mount Rushmore last night have their way. We are also doomed if the people who have tried to pull down, damage or deface statues of all four men depicted on the mountain have their way.

Trump, of course, wants people to think that you have to choose one or the other — his way, or that of the statue-destroyers (the less-discriminating sort, that can’t tell the difference between a statue of Washington and one of Nathan Bedford Forrest).

But we don’t have to choose between those extremes. In fact, if America and the hope it offers to the world are to survive, we must not.

We have to be able to applaud people who find what happened to George Floyd an outrage, a violation of all we believe in, while at the same time condemning people who would attack a statue of Abraham Lincoln dedicated with the help of Frederick Douglass.

If we can’t do that, we’re sunk, and the Fourth of July is nothing more but an opportunity to sell hot dogs.

The problem, of course, is greater than overexcited demonstrators who go off-course. When the NYT itself recasts American history itself as being about nothing but slavery and oppression — as being about 1619 rather than 1776 — we’ve got a problem. When a crowd of indignant people from the newsroom — you know, people who are not supposed to have opinions — can topple the paper’s editorial page editor for running a piece with which they (and the editor) disagree, we are losing one of the great institutions that has stood for liberal values.

Another of those anti-Trump conservatives at the NYT (and when the paper stops running such people, the institution really will be dead) had a piece that offered an examination of similar concerns. With reference to the coronavirus, David Brooks wrote:

I had hopes that the crisis would bring us together, but it’s made everything harder and worse. And now I worry less about populism or radical wokeness than about a pervasive loss of national faith.

What’s lurking, I hope, somewhere deep down inside is our shared ferocious love for our common country and a vision for the role America could play as the great pluralist beacon of the 21st century…

I hope so. And that hope is what I’m embracing on this holiday. We’ve got to stop thinking people have to choose between Trumpian populism or popular “wokeness,” and get behind a way of thinking that respects an honest and open interchange of ideas.

If you live 100 years, you may never again have a chance like this to influence the course of the nation

JRB-about-11

The last few days, I’ve been increasingly conscious of just how momentous this primary is today. I’ve felt the weight of it more and more.

I can’t think of a time when South Carolina played such a dramatic role in the selection of a president. Which is a big deal in and of itself. But the possible effects go far, far beyond that, sending ripples through our national politics that could be felt for a generation and more.

In the short term, one of two things will happen, depending completely on what my fellow South Carolinians do:

  1. Joe Biden will emerge as THE moderate that mainstream Democrats can get behind and stop Bernie Sanders from capturing the nomination. He’d still have a long road to travel to get there, even if his momentum from South Carolina leads to significant rewards nationally on Tuesday. But at least someone — and you know I believe he’s the best someone for this purpose — will be a position to deny the nomination to Sanders.
  2. Sanders will cement his standing as the front-runner, the majority of the Democratic electorate will remain fatally divided still among too many candidates, and Sanders will cruise to nomination on the strength of his passionate support among a minority of the party.

The second option, of course, will almost certainly lead to the re-election of Donald Trump, possibly with the kind of historic win that he lied about having in 2016.

Oh, it would be possible that enough Americans could die of coronavirus, and enough fortunes be wiped out on Wall Street as a result, for anybody, even Bernie, to beat Trump. But I certainly don’t want to see such a disaster. I don’t know about you.

And if something along those lines did happen, it’s extremely unlikely that Bernie will have a Democratic majority in either the House or the Senate. While voters might reject Trump personally over a pandemic, those moderate-to-conservative voters who elected moderate Democrats in 2018, giving that party its majority, will be sufficiently horrified at the prospect of President Sanders that they’ll vote to switch those districts back into the red.

Even if — and this is impossible — Democrats could keep the House while electing Bernie, and miraculously win the Senate, Bernie won’t be able to get his agenda through Congress. With both chambers being Republican, and the Republican base up in arms (in some cases possibly even literally) because of the defeat of Trump, he’ll get nothing but the back of the legislative branch’s hand. He’ll sit there in the Oval Office with his face getting redder and his arms flailing about, fulminating at how the system is rigged against him.

And he will keep his base as stirred up and angry as Trump keeps his. Because he promised them things, and they actually believed he could deliver. Nothing left to do but hate the billionayuhs even more, because obviously, obviously it will be their fault — in the Bernieverse.

But that wouldn’t be the worst news for the Democratic Party. The worst news is that it would be as dead as the GOP, and from basically the same kind of cause — its capture by someone who is not actually a Democrat, and who has crushed real Democrats on his way to nomination.

And in a way, the situation would be more overt than outsider Trump’s capture of the other party. Trump had always been kind of all over the place about his affiliation until just before the 2016 campaign. Bernie Sanders has made no bones about the fact that he is not a Democrat, and has refused to called one. And since calling himself a Social Democrat would be too tame, too mainstream, he has gone with the label “Democratic Socialist.” More in-your-face. More I-dare-you-to-vote-for-me. That’s Bernie.

You might think that after making such a strong run at the nomination in 2016, and obviously intending to try again, he might have softened a bit on his insistence that he was not a Democrat. But he didn’t; quite the contrary. It’s either Bernie’s way or the highway; he doesn’t bend even to appear to be a team player.

After Trump’s election, decent people who care about the country could at least place some hope in the Democratic Party, which had not yet gone off the rails. Surely the Democrats could find a way to beat this guy, and return our nation to the standards of decency and sanity that we were able to expect with our first 44 presidents.

Knowing the stakes, Joe Biden — a guy who had done his duty for his country for longer, and gone higher in public service, than any other member of the party — stepped forward to offer himself as the vehicle for that national return to sanity. He did so when almost anyone else would have sat back and enjoyed his grandchildren full time.

And if South Carolina comes through for him today, he’ll have a shot at accomplishing the mission. Just a shot, mind you. Nothing is guaranteed, but the alternative is to be resisted with all our might.

The stakes just couldn’t be higher. And it’s all in our hands. We will decide the course of the nation.

Inez Tenenbaum speaks up for Joe Biden

Joe Biden swears in Inez Tenenbaum as chair of the Consumer Products Safety Commission. That's Samuel in the middle looking justly proud.

Joe Biden swearing in Inez Tenenbaum as chair of the Consumer Products Safety Commission in 2009. That’s Samuel in the middle looking justly proud.

My good friend Samuel Tenenbaum shared with me a link to the radio ad Inez did for Joe.

It helps drive home my point in my previous post, about the folks Democrats have backed in the past pretty much all being for Joe — something I hope Democratic voters take to heart tomorrow.

Here’s the link, and here’s a transcript I just typed up, so blame any errors on me:

This is Inez Tenenbaum, your former state superintendent of education.

When I was chosen to lead the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, the person who swore me into office was Joe Biden.

In the Obama-Biden administration, we worked together to keep our children safe, and Joe Biden was a champion for families all across our country, and South Carolina.

Joe Biden knows South Carolina. When our economy was in crisis, Joe Biden oversaw the Recovery Act, getting hundreds of millions of dollars for South Carolina schools.

For eight years, Joe Biden was loyal to President Obama. He had President Obama’s back, and stood by his side.

Now we have the opportunity to build on President Obama’s legacy, and beat Donald Trump. But that starts with nominating Joe Biden.

South Carolina, you can vote for Joe Biden on Saturday, February the 29th.

See you there!

[I’m Joe Biden, and I approved this message.”]

[Paid for by Biden for President.]

Thanks for taking the time to share those thoughts with us, Inez!

Clyburn stands up for America, backs Joe Biden

Still from a video posted on Biden's Twitter feed today.

Still from a video posted on Biden’s Twitter feed today.

You think I’m being overly dramatic there? I’m not. This is a dangerous moment for our country, and only thing that will save us from it will be Joe Biden winning on Saturday, and going on to do well on Super Tuesday.

And this is now about much more than me liking Joe Biden. It’s now increasingly about the alternative.

I thought Tom Friedman put it well in his column today (more about that column later; it was a really good piece):

If this election turns out to be just between a self-proclaimed socialist and an undiagnosed sociopath, we will be in a terrible, terrible place as a country. How do we prevent that?

That’s all I am thinking about right now…

Me too, Tom. Me too.

So it matters that Clyburn stepped up at long last today and endorsed Joe. By the way, I’m not complaining when I say “at long last.” I really think his endorsement came at the best possible time. If he had given it months ago when everyone else (and I mean everyone else who’s anyone among S.C. Democrats) was endorsing Joe, it would have been forgotten by now. Now, whatever effect it will have is amplified.

Before we get into a big debate about whether endorsements matter, let me just head that off with this observation: If endorsements matter at all, can you imagine anyone’s mattering more than Clyburn’s at this moment? I can’t.

The AP story today claimed that “It had long been expected that Clyburn, the House majority whip, would support Biden.” Really? Then how come I didn’t know it? If you’d made me bet, sure, I would have said Jim would back Joe. But I also would have said we wouldn’t be calling Bernie Sanders a front-runner at this point, and that Donald Trump wouldn’t have been the GOP nominee in 2016.

So I don’t rest easy with conventional wisdom these days. And as an American and a South Carolinian, I’m very grateful to Jim Clyburn for what he has done this day.

There was some suspense over this, at least for me. Just a couple of days ago, The New York Times had a prominently-played story that suggested Clyburn might have a liking for Tom Steyer. It was another one of those stories about Steyer’s efforts to buy the black vote here (something I remain very concerned about). It quoted Clyburn as telling CNN, “I think Steyer is doing an incredible job.” Which is far short of an endorsement, but it still made me nervous.

Anyway, Jim Clyburn has done a fine thing today — for Joe Biden, for the Democratic Party, for South Carolina, and for America. And I appreciate it.

Et tu, Bernie? The Russian plot sickens

Well, boys, I reckon this is it - electoral combat toe to toe with the Roosskies.

Well, boys, I reckon this is it – electoral combat toe to toe with the Roosskies.

I hadn’t even had a chance to post about the Russians working to help elect Trump again, when we learned they were trying to help Bernie, too.

Which makes sense, of course. It fits their M.O., and their interests, in two ways:

  1. Their priority is helping Trump, because having Trump as president hurts America, sends us on a downward slide as a nation, and keeps us bitterly divided. And they feel quite sure, like many U.S. observers, that Bernie is the best possibly opponent for their boy.
  2. If they can’t have Trump, might as well elect the most divisive figure on the Democratic side as a backup. Because the point is weakening America, and having us all stirred up and angry is a great way to do that. (It’s working for them so far, after their successful efforts in 2016.)

Putin may be evil, but he’s not stupid.

All of that said, I want to give Bernie a big pat on the back for showing how a presidential candidate should react to such news:

“Let’s be clear, the Russians want to undermine American democracy by dividing us up and, unlike the current president, I stand firmly against their efforts and any other foreign power that wants to interfere in our election,” Mr. Sanders said.

He also told reporters that he was briefed about a month ago.

“The intelligence community is telling us Russia is interfering in this campaign right now in 2020,” Mr. Sanders said on Friday in Bakersfield, Calif., where he was to hold a rally ahead of Saturday’s Nevada caucuses. “And what I say to Mr. Putin, ‘If I am elected president, trust me you will not be interfering in American elections.’”…

If only a certain other party would take a hint.

Basically, this is all part of a pattern that began in 2016. Then, workers at a Russian troll factory were told, “Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest except for Sanders and Trump — we support them.”

Which brings me to the point I was going to post about all this before we learned about the Bernie wrinkle…

Remember that we learned several months ago that the key CIA asset who had let us know that the Russians were trying to elect Trump in 2016 had to be exfiltrated to save his life back in 2017? As the NYT reported at the time:

The move brought to an end the career of one of the C.I.A.’s most important sources. It also effectively blinded American intelligence officials to the view from inside Russia as they sought clues about Kremlin interference in the 2018 midterm elections and next year’s presidential contest….

OK, well… if this guy was so golden, so well-placed, so irreplaceable… how do we know they’re doing the same in 2020?

Obviously, we don’t know everything. Which is probably a good thing, if we’re still getting such good intel. Better that the new source not be compromised, too.

Or, is this one of those hyperclever inside-out deals where the idea of our key source being extracted was disinformation, which news media eagerly lapped up, meant to protect the real source?

If so, I hope these news revelations aren’t endangering him. Or her

Did our top asset really come in from the cold? Or is he, or she, still out there?

Did our top asset really come in from the cold? Or is he, or she, still out there?