An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, January 11, 2021
Table of contents:
Last week, I found myself flashing back to scenes in the 1980 movie Airplane!. It was a very funny spoof of late-1970s disaster movies (especially Airport 1975, but the series of gags I most recall featured the air traffic controller (played by Lloyd Bridges), admitting "this was the wrong week to quit" various vices (cigarettes, booze, cocaine, sniffing glue -- by which point it was smeared all over his face and hair). Well, this was the wrong week to quit Weekend Roundup. My plan was to keep doing it through the Biden inauguration, then free up my weekends. I've collected my posts in four long book files. While I feel obligated to wrap up the Trump term, I'm too old and tired to contemplate doing this for another four years.
Still, last week was one for the book. I grabbed a couple items as early as Friday, but unfortunately I wasn't able to knuckle down and focus on this until mid-afternoon Sunday. So this will probably be shorter (and glibber?) than is deserved. The key events were:
I'm somewhat ambivalent about what to call the storming of the Capitol. In most regards it resembles the general unruliness of a riot, but the fact that the mob was organized and directed not at a mere symbol of state power but at the literal seat of democracy, where representatives were engaged in a process meant to insure the orderly transfer of power, marks it as an insurrection. Its target also underscores that it was not a protest against state power but a direct attack on democracy, and as such on the fundamental belief that the power of the state is rooted in the will of the people.
Whether it was a coup attempt is a somewhat messier question. Coups (from a French word for a sudden strike) are normally conflicts within the power structure, where one faction (usually from the military and/or the state security groups) moves to seize control of the state. That didn't happen, and I have no reason to think that the US military would do such a thing -- not that they, nor especially the CIA, have scruples about organizing and/or supporting coups abroad.
On the other hand, Trump made no secret of his desire that someone intervene to deliver his re-election. In his methods, he most resembles a monarch (or mob boss) who obliquely wonders whether someone will relieve him of some problem person, then feigns surprise when some underling kills the offender. Trump didn't care who would save him, nor did he worry about the means. He would have been happy had state election officials "found" enough votes to overcome the shortfall. He wanted state legislators to approve alternate electors, regardless of state laws. He repeatedly appealed to the courts. He urged his allies in Congress to challenge the counting, and he ordered his VP to throw the election to him. So when his mob stormed the Capitol, he was briefly optimistic. There is no reason to think he wouldn't have been thrilled to have the mob forced Congress at gunpoint to throw the election to him. And when all his efforts failed, he still gets to walk away pretending he never did anything wrong -- and that he is still the aggrieved party.
Ainsley Earhardt, the blonde sandwiched between the two douchebags at Fox & Friends, offered this emotional plea:
Tony Karon cited this quote, then added:
Actually, I'm all for respecting people's hurt feelings, but where is there any acknowledgement that the 82 million Biden voters care at least as much, as intensely, as existentially as those Trump voters? (Actual totals are closer to 81-to-74 million, but the margin is more than 7 million votes.) I shudder to think what the reaction would be if Trump somehow managed to steal this election, especially after all the damage he's done since unfairly, undemocratically seizing the election in 2016. And, like, we're the side that believes in peace, in equality, in civility, in law, in order, in community, and in reality.
I wound up collecting enough of these to merit their own section (although note that I only started collecting them on Friday (and didn't keep it up), and I only follow a tiny number of feeds -- although retweets expand what I see significantly):
On Tuesday, Georgia elected two new US Senators, with Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff defeating incumbents Kelly Loefler and David Perdue. See: Senate live results. Perdue and Loeffler led in the November election (which Trump lost by 11,789 votes), so one can take an extra pleasure in seeing how the runoff system, designed during the Jim Crow era to preserve white supremacy, finally opened the door. From what I can tell, it looks like turnout was more than 90% of the presidential election, which is remarkably high for a runoff election.
As I recall, on the night of the election, the Democrats jumped to an early lead, lost that late in the evening, then came back overnight. Ossoff's win wound up at about 45,000 votes, and Warnock did better (or Loeffler did worse), with a margin of 83,000 votes. There was a lot of speculation that Trump's post-election antics could cost Republicans in this race. I never put much stock in that, but what is unquestionably true is that Democrats stepped up and took the runoff very seriously.
This results in a 50-50 tie in the Senate. As the Vice President can break ties, that should give Democrats the ability to organize and run the processes. Still, as "control" goes that's a pretty tenuous margin, and depends a lot on keeping the most conservative senator(s) happy -- Joe Manchin is the obvious bottleneck here. Not much recent talk about ending the filibuster. If that doesn't happen (and Manchin is on record against changing the filibuster rule), it will be very hard to get any very progressive bills through the Senate. While the tie makes it harder for Republicans to obstruct everything, it relieves them of some of the pressure to cooperate with Biden. Republicans should be in a very good position to regain control of Congress in 2022, if they can avoid blame for whatever goes wrong -- which given the state they've left the nation in is quite a lot.
On Wednesday, Congress met to count and certify the Electoral College votes, with a substantial faction of Republicans trying to steal a win for Trump. Before they got very far, Trump's mob stormed the Capitol, disrupting the proceedings. I cover that in two later sections, but here I'll include stories that relate to the session, both before and after the disruption.
Vox [Dylan Matthews, Ella Nilsen, Zack Beauchamp, Andrew Prokop, Li Zhou, Ian Millhiser]: 5 winner and 2 losers from the Georgia Senate elections. Winners: Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff; Joe Manchin (as the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, he can play hardest-to-please, making him the bottleneck for Democratic votes); Stacey Abrams and Georgia organizers; Ketanji Brown Jackson (or Leondra Kruger); more stimulus. Losers: Mitch McConnell; Trump's election discrediting strategy.
Emily Stewart: David Perdue may follow the Trump playbook on Senate election loss: He ultimately didn't, as the margin of his loss grew throughout Wednesday, eventually hitting 45,000, so he finally conceded. Perdue and Loeffler also backed off from their promise to support Trump's ersatz electors, although Perdue's term had expired before the vote, and Loeffler's ends as soon as Georgia certifies Warnock's win.
One thing I wish I had time to do was to dig up some of the video that exposes the actual and potential violence of the mob's storming of the Capitol Building. It's worth noting that rioters came armed with everything from zip-ties and pepper spray to pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails. Another thing I didn't get to is the threat of further "protests" and more violence around the inauguration.
Dan Barry/Mike McIntire/Matthew Rosenberg: 'Our president wants us here': The mob that stormed the capitol.
Kim Bellware: Police departments across the US open probes into whether their own members took part in the Capitol riot. I'd venture to say that if they purged the ones who did participate, that would help with some of the other problems that plague police departemnts. Normally I'd oppose any sort of politically-defined job restriction, but the people who actually participated in the violence and insurrection (as opposed to people who merely attended the rally) aren't fit to be police.
Sidney Blumenthal: Trump's MAGA insurrectionists were perverse US civil war re-enactors.
Aaron C Davis/Rebecca Tan/Beth Reinhard: Several Capitol police officers suspended, more than a dozen under investigation over actions related to rally, riot.
Josh Dawsey/Ashley Parker: Inside the remarkable rift between Donald Trump and Mike Pence.
Jason Del Rey: Shopify hits President Trump where it hurts: His wallet: "The software firm has taken down President Trump's online stores."
Anthony DiMaggio: Fascism by gaslighting: Trump's coup and the grassroots insurrection strategy. Includes a revealing study of Trump speeches, wherein he "spent radically more time fixating on his partisan political opponents than did Obama or Bush."
Joshua Frank: Fools rush in: Trump, pardons and the tyrant's cult.
Shirin Ghaffary: Why Twitter finally banned Trump: "The company suggested that Trump's tweets risk further violence during a critical time for democracy."
Melissa Gira Grant: This isn't an insurrection. It's an alliance.
Miranda Green: Who dies for Donald Trump? Profile of Ashli Babbitt, the one rioter shot and killed by Capitol Police while trying to take over the Capitol building.
Benjamin Hart: Capitol police officer dies after sustaining injuries in riot.
Rebecca Heilweil/Shirin Ghaffary: How Trump's internet built and broadcast the Capitol insurrection: "Online extremists started planning the chaos of January 6 months ago."
Sean Illing: The fantasy-industrial complex gave us the Capitol Hill insurrection: "This is America's brain on misinformation."
Kellie Carter Jackson: The inaction of Capitol Police was by design.
Sarah Jones: This is what Trumpism without Trump looks like.
Peter Kafka: Fox News wants its viewers angry enough to watch but not angry enough to riot. "Guess what happens when you tell people, over and over, that they're being robbed? They may believe you." I don't think that's quite right: they don't care how angry you get; they just don't want to be held culpable for what you do with that anger. Maybe they should change their motto from "we report/you decide" to "we incite/you do the time"?
Robert Klemko/Kimberly Kindy/Kim Bellware/Derek Hawkins: Kid glove treatment of pro-Trump mob contrasts with strong-arm police tactics against Black Lives Matter, activists say.
Nancy LeTourneau: Why the GOP will remain a threat to democracy, even after Trump is gone: Posted Jan. 5, avant le deluge, but even as Trump surged to the forefront of our fears, a point worth remembering. The only thing that the GOP split over certifying electors proved is that Republicans may differ on tactics, but remain united on their fundamental goal of subverting democracy.
Eric Levitz: Impeach and remove Trump now. "He must be frog-marched out of our civic life in disgrace." Agreed, but impeachment won't do that. What's needed is to teach people to recognize what indulging Trump's vanities and paranoia has cost them, so they learn not to let people like Trump back in the halls of power ever again.
Adam Liptak: Can Twitter legally bar Trump? The first amendment says yes: "There are reasons to question the wisdom of recent actions by Twitter in barring President Trump from its site and Simon & Schuster in canceling the publication of Senator Josh Hawley's book. But the First Amendment is on their side."
Jane Lytvynenko/Molly Hensley-Clancy: The rioters who took over the Capitol have been planning online in the open for weeks.
Andrew G McCabe/David C Williams: Trump's new criminal problem: "The president could face charges for inciting the Capitol riot -- and maybe even for inciting the murder of a Capitol Police officer."
Tina Nguyen: MAGA activists plot revenge on Republican 'traitors': "The swift move to vengeance offers a preview of how Trump and his MAGA community plan to reshape the GOP in the coming months."
Anna North: Police bias explains the Capitol riot.
Anna North/Ella Nilsen: The catastrophic police failure at the US Capitol, explained.
Molly Olmstead: What new details tell us about the Capitol rioters' plans.
Ashley Parker/Josh Dawsey/Philip Rucker: Six hours of paralysis: Inside Trump's failure to act after a mob stormed the Capitol.
Andrew Perez/David Sirota: We should know exactly who funded last week's right-wing riot: "Last week's right-wing riot at the Capitol was egged on by politicians and organizations that have received substantial dark-money funding from corporate interests. It's past time to enact reforms to end the era of dark money -- and find out who exactly is bankrolling the anti-democratic far right."
Andrew Prokop: Republican senator: White House aides say Trump was "delighted" as Capitol was stormed: "Sen. Ben Sasse said that, according to senior White House officials, Trump was 'confused' why others weren't as excited."
Frank Rich: The trashing of the republic: "The only response to the carnage in Washington is to banish Trump and his traitorous collaborators from civil society." And how do you do that, given that you don't have the power, and they feed on contempt?
Alexander Reid Ross: Inside the alt-right meltdown after failed Capitol putsch.
Neil Schoenherr: WashU Expert: Mob at US Capitol building amounts to insurrection: So says Greg Magarian.
Melody Schreiber: The actual death toll from the pro-Trump won't be known for weeks: "Many who stormed the Capitol in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic did not wear masks. Then they went back to D.C.'s hotels and shops." We've already seen two Democratic Representatives test positive after sheltering with Republicans who refused to wear masks -- Pramila Jayapal and Bonnie Watson.
Fran Shor: White chickens, coming home to roost. Her backfile includes the book, Weaponized Whiteness: The Constructions and Deconstructions of White Identity Politics, and The long life of institutional white supremacist terror.
Timothy Snyder: The American abyss: "A historian of fascism and political atrocity on Trump, the mob and what comes next."
Craig Timberg/Drew Harwell: Pro-Trump forums erupt with violent threats ahead of Wednesday's rally against the 2020 election.
Emily VanDerWerff: Is the country falling apart? Depends on where you get your news?
Jennifer Williams: Was the US Capitol attack "domestic terrorism"? Offers definitions by "analysts," "law enforcement," and "politicians/pundits," which vary somewhat. I have reservations, but one thing I'm sure of is that we'll be hearing a lot more about "domestic terrorism" in the near future, and the applicability of the term won't be debatable.
Jennifer Williams/Alex Ward: Trump has the authority to launch nuclear weapons -- whether Pelosi likes it or not: The authors are critical of Pelosi for talking to generals about limiting Trump's ability to launch nuclear weapons, arguing "there is no reason to think Trump plans to randomly nuke anybody." Given how fascinated Trump evidently is with nuclear weapons -- he's championed a budget of more than $1 trillion for new bombs, he threatened North Korea with them, he ended several treaties with Russia limiting them, he wondered whether we could use them on hurricanes -- and how deranged he currently is, I'd say Pelosi has something to worry about. Still, the problem is that no president should have this power -- not just an especially bad one. Unfortunately, that's not a problem Democrats have much power to fix right away. And one they may well forget exists when one of their own gets his itchy fingers on the trigger.
I think we should have learned two things from the impeachment of Clinton: that it's a cheap trick for a House majority to harass an president from the other party, and that it's not an effective way to deal with serious executive malfeasance. Part of the problem is that the constitutional bar is too low in the House and too high in the Senate, but the bigger problem is how both sides (but mostly, and most irrationally, the Republicans) have adopted blinders which allow them to see political opponents as criminals and traitors, and leave them blind to similar faults on their own side. Democrats have been itching to impeach and remove Trump ever since he slipped into office thanks only to the skewed Electoral College vote. And, frankly, he's done much to deserve such condemnation, while making zero effort to ingratiate himself with the majority of the country that voted against him (in 2016, and more emphatically in 2020). Still, I think we have to recognize that impeachment is a political matter, not a moral one. And it is unclear to me that impeaching Trump over the Ukraine scandal did the Democrats any good. So I'm skeptical that a rushed impeachment in the last two weeks of Trump's term is worth the trouble, even given his obvious culpability for the insurrection. Nonetheless, it looks like Democrats will seize on this gesture, as if doing so is the most necessary thing they can do to save democracy. I think they need to focus more on what it takes to win elections.
Erin Banco/Asawin Suebsaeng: Trump officials rush to keep him from sparking another conflict -- at home or abroad.
Charles M Blow: Trump's lackeys must also be punished.
Katelyn Burns: Top Democratic lawmaker says an impeachment vote will come this week: "House Majority Whip James Clyburn said Trump will likely face an impeachment vote by Wednesday."
Paul Campos: Pence should invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office immediately. Pelosi has also argued this, and at this point this seems like the only alternative to her bringing an impeachment vote in the House. One question is whether Pence has the power to win a vote in the Cabinet to do this. I suspect he does, as he was the main person responsible for staffing decisions early on (but figure he lost two votes with the Chao and DeVos resignations). The bigger question is why should he bother. Why isn't it enough just to have his staff bottle Trump up? If Trump can't organize events, speak on camera, tweet, launch a war or a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the inauguration -- why turn him loose (where he can do all but the latter)? Democrats may argue that his behavior was so despicable he needs to be made an example of, but they don't really have the power to do that, and failure could be worse than doing nothing. (Still, how certain can you be that Trump is really bottled up?)
Marjorie Cohn: Trump can be indicted under federal, state and DC laws for his role in Jan. 6. She argues that "Trump must be impeached and removed from office," but I'm more intrigued by the title -- although the specific charges she mentions ("seditious conspiracy" and "inciting insurrection") strike me as a bit on the nebulous side. On the other hand, I don't see a problem with investigating such charges, even if indictment and conviction seem unlikely. Also, if Trump is immune from prosecution due to a self-pardon, wouldn't he lose his 5th Amendment protection to avoid having to answer questions? And wouldn't he still be liable should he perjure himself?
Sean Collins: Americans are divided on wether to remove Trump, according to the polls. The key number here is "69 percent of Republicans saying the president was either not at all or not very much to blame." Even more deranged: "52 percent of Republicans told YouGov that it was actually Biden's fault."
Nicholas Fandos: How to impeach a president in 12 days: Here's what it would take.
Bryan Garsten: Impeach and convict Trump. Congress must defend itself. The problem with this argument is that Congress hasn't defended its constitutional prerogatives for a long time. As they've ceded more and more power to the executive, and adopted the increasing political polarization of the public, members of Congress have reduced themselves to being political team players, subordinate to their party's president, or intractably opposed to an opposition party president. The Judiciary has done a somewhat better job of maintaining its independence, but that's unraveling as well.
John Judis: Democrats: Impeachment is a political trap.
Fred Kaplan: Trup still has the power to blow up the world.
Ian Millhiser: How Congress can permanently disqualify Trump from office after impeachment. OK, can be done, but odds against it are very steep, as it requires a second vote after a Senate conviction, which requires agreement by two-thirds (so at least 17 Republican Senators).
Ella Nilsen/Li Zhou: Why Democrats are moving toward impeachment -- 12 days before Trump leaves office.
Cameron Peters: Mitch McConnell outlines what a second Trump impeachment trial might look like. Basically, he sees it as a good, inconsequential way to kill time while avoiding dealing with appointments and legislation Biden wants to advance.
Nathaniel Rakich: Slightly more Americans are ready to impeach Trump this time around.
Asha Rangappa: If Trump pardons himself now, he'll be walking into a trap: "Self-pardons threaten the rule of law. The Justice Department would have to charge him."
Katherine Stewart: The roots of Josh Hawley's rage: "Why do so many Republicans appear to be at war with both truth and democracy?" From her backfile, Stewart is author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism; also: Trump or no Trump, religious authoritarianism is here to stay, and Why Trump reigns as King Cyrus: "The Christian right doesn't like the president only for his judges. They like his style." More on Hawley:
Mimi Swartz: Never forget what Ted Cruz did: "The senator has been able to use his Ivy League pedigree as a cudgel. After last week, his credentials should condemn him."
JD Tuccille: Sedition charges are almost always a terrible idea.
Some pieces on resignations, regrets, and realignments wound up here, but not enough on the bad jobs report and the need for further economic relief legislation.
Ian Millhiser: America's anti-democratic Senate, in one number: "Once Warnock and Ossoff take their seats, the Democratic half of the Senate will represent 41,549,808 more people than the Republican half."
Emily Stewart: "Buckle up": Democrats signal they're ready to go on stimulus.
Li Zhou: "I want him out": Lisa Murkowski calls for Trump's resignation. Further qualifications:
See Building Biden's Cabinet for a survey of who's been selected for Biden's top administration positions, and who's being considered for still open slots. Another updated scorecard is Intelligencer's All of president-elect Joe Biden's cabinet nominees.
Quint Forgey/Natasha Bertrand: For CIA director, Biden taps veteran diplomat William Burns.
Tyler Pager/Josh Gerstein/Kyle Cheney: Biden to tap Merrick Garland for attorney general.
Latest map and case count: 22.4 million+ cases (14 day change +34%, total up 1.9 million in last week), 374,389 deaths (+43%), 130,781 hospitalized (+11%). January 7 set records with over 4,100 deaths and more than 280,000 new cases. Vaccination first dose is up to 5.9 million. Vaccination is increasing at a slower rate than cases.
German Lopez: America's messy Covid-19 vaccine rollout, explained: "The US was supposed to vaccinate 20 million people in December. It didn't get to 5 million."
John Hudson/Anthony Faiola/Karen DeYoung: On its way out the door, Trump administration names Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism.
Nino Pagliccia: Venezuela: The United States is experiencing what it has generated in other countries with its policies of aggression. The view from another nation Trump has tried to destroy democracy in.
Michael D Swaine: Pompeo makes last hour push to set the US up for confrontation with China.
Ron Charles: Conservatives crying 'Orwell' are downright Orwellian.
Patrick Cockburn: What Assange's victory really means: A judge in the UK ruled not to extradite Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the US, where he would face espionage charges and a possible sentence of up to 175 years. Assange remains in jail in the UK. More:
Jariel Arvin: 2020 ties for the hottest year on record. Only surprise here is "ties." Note the map of "US 2020 Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters" (a record-breaking 22 of them).
Matt Gertz: Fox throws in the towel on its "news" side: Fox is shifting its primetime slots from "news" to "opinion."
Ishmael Reed: The tragedy of Stanley Crouch.
Ben Smith: Heather Cox Richardson offers a break from the media maelstrom. It's working. On the historian's Substack newsletter. Probably worth reading if not for the hassle of the sales pitch.
Jacob Soll: This is the conservative tradition: "A new history traces an anti-democratic politics of hate, repression, paranoia, and revenge to its origins." Review of Edmund Fawcett's book, Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition.
Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: White riot, they wanna riot, they wanna riot of their own.
Matt Taibbi: We need a new media system: "If you sell culture war all day, don't be surprised by the real-world consequences." Conclusion is right, but adding just one channel that meets his definition of balance doesn't seem like much of an answer. Moreover, what makes you think he'd be happy if such a thing existed? He condemns the New York Times ("Criticism of Republicans is as baked into New York Times coverage as the lambasting of Democrats is at Fox"), even though their opinion pages are meticulously balanced between center-right and center-center, and they can be counted on to spread establishmentarian takes on everything.
PS: A right-wing relative posted a meme saying "63 million Trump voters will never leave him! I am one of them. Are you one of us?" I rarely respond to taunts like that, but this time I commented:
I might have added that even the meme already allowed that 11 million Trump voters had already left him. He replied with something snarky, and I didn't pursue it further, but one other commenter said he didn't understand why folks were so hung up on Trump personally.