Sen. Manchin Should Get Onboard

The Daily Escape:

Frozen waterfall, Westcave Preserve, near Austin TX – taken last week during the Texas cold snap. Photo by BusyRunninErins

Neera Tanden’s nomination to serve as Biden’s director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), appears to be on life support. There is growing concern that she may not be confirmed by the Senate.

It seems that Senators object to her history of mean tweets, many of which have been directed at a few Senators whose support she needs. So far, Joe Manchin (D-WVA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Mitt Romney(R-UT) have announced their opposition to Tanden.

Without Manchin, Tanden will need to not only hold onto all other Democrats, but also pick off one of the two Republicans who haven’t announced how they’ll vote: Lisa Murkowski or Shelley Moore Capito.

According to Politico, Tanden has tweeted over 88,000 times in the decade since she joined Twitter. That’s about 30,000 more than Trump has tweeted over a slightly longer time span. Over the years she has gotten into Twitter fights with many on the political scene. She’s been very anti-Republican. But the question is whether her tweets should be a barrier to public service.

Much, but not all the opposition to Tanden’s nomination is coming from Republicans. it’s certainly hypocritical of any Republican Senator who stood by Trump despite his daily Twitter outrages, to raise these objections to Tanden – the double standard is obvious.

Sens. Susan Collins and Mitt Romney announced Monday they would oppose Tanden. Said Collins:

“Her past actions have demonstrated exactly the kind of animosity that President Biden has pledged to transcend…”

It’s notable that Tanden in the past called Collins “the worst”.

Still, Democrats control the Senate, and there’s no reason why Manchin, for instance, needs to stand up for his Republican colleagues’ honor by rejecting a Democratic cabinet nominee. But he did:

“I believe her overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship between members of Congress and the next director of the Office of Management and Budget….”

This is despite Manchin’s previously voting for polarizing Trump nominees. He voted to confirm Richard Grenell to the post of US ambassador to Germany, despite his toxic partisan tweets. Manchin also voted to confirm Jeff Sessions as AG, when Sessions’ racist past was well-known. He voted to confirm Bill Barr as AG and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

As Wrongo wrote yesterday, Congressional Democrats under-performed in the 2020 elections. Now, in a 50-50 Senate, Manchin is a pivotal vote and has real power. He’s in a position along with other moderate Democrats Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Jon Tester (MT) to set the terms of the Democratic Party’s agenda.

At 73, many think that Manchin won’t run again in 2024. Since he’s in control of West Virginia’s Democratic political establishment, he doesn’t need to bend to pressure from inside or outside West Virginia. So, why won’t he get on board with Biden?

While Democrats can get angry at Republicans, they seem to keep a supply of outrage on hand for their fellow Democrats. They have low expectations for Republicans, but they demand better of Democrats. But after four years of Trump, the double standard over Tanden’s nomination to lead President Joe Biden’s OMB is beyond ridiculous for Manchin, and even more so for Republicans.

The Right-wing won’t let go of Manchin easily, because they think he’s a rollable Senator.

He’s facing heat from Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-backed group. They’re launching a six-figure mail, radio and digital ad campaign to have him oppose President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

Republicans have returned to their old argument from the 2020 election, that Biden is a “radical.”

They say Biden’s foreign policy is “radical.” That his immigration policy is “radical.” That Biden’s climate change policy is “radical.”

They say that Biden’s nominees are “radical.” His Covid relief bill is a “payback to the radical left.” That Biden is the “most radical left wing president in history.”

But most Americans don’t see Biden that way.

They may not particularly like him or his policies, but the “radical” tag just hasn’t stuck. It didn’t work during the campaign; it hasn’t worked during his first month in office. Biden just doesn’t give off a radical vibe.

There may be things to criticize Biden for, but yelling “radical” at every turn isn’t going to work.

And Manchin ought to listen up: Biden should get the cabinet nominees that he wants, even if some of them tweet mean things at Republicans.

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Republicans Were More Successful in 2020 Than We Knew

The Daily Escape:

The Grist Mill, Chelmsford MA – photo by Michael Blanchette. The original mill was established in the 17th century by Captain Samuel Adams, an ancestor of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

We dodged a bullet on Jan. 6, but the gun is still loaded.

Trump says he plans to be the GOP presidential nominee in 2024, and there doesn’t seem to be much standing in his way. After all, the Republican Party’s leader attempted a coup to overthrow our democracy, and they refused to punish him for it.

Most of Republican voters won’t even admit that the GOP was responsible. Trump got 74 million votes despite all that went wrong under his leadership. The Republicans won House seats. They lost 2 Senate seats in Georgia by just 150,000 votes out of 9 million cast.

Had the Republicans only lost 2 seats instead of 3, Mitch McConnell would still be Senate Majority Leader.

Biden’s 43,000 votes in AZ, GA and WI are why Trump isn’t on his second term right now. With a reasoned response to Covid, including encouraging masks/distancing, had he sent more relief to Americans, he would almost certainly be the president today.

And it’s far from certain that Trump would be a two-time loser. Data from an NBC News poll shows that there are signs across racial and ethnic demographic groups that Republicans are fast becoming the party of blue-collar Americans and the change is happening quickly:

The blue-collar voter shift has policy implications for both Parties. Blue-collar voters tend to want different things from the government than those with white-collar jobs, on issues such as trade and even Wall Street regulation. Here’s another way to look at the growing GOP share of White blue-collar voters:

Among white-collar voters, the numbers have remained stable, with Democrats seeing a one percent increase and Republicans seeing a tiny drop. Turning to Hispanic voters, the Republicans are also dramatically improving their share by 57% in ten years:

Looking at these numbers, the big jump in the GOP’s blue-collar growth took place during Trump’s presidency. If the Republicans continue to try and peel these groups away from the Democrats, it means that they will be tied even more closely to Trump.

This is where we’re at as a country. There are two ways to appeal to these groups that are moving away from the Dems. A cultural appeal, and an economic one.

It’s obvious that what spoke to most of those who moved to the Republicans, was a cultural appeal, not economics. Trump signed the biggest tax cuts in US history for wealthy people. He tried awfully hard to repeal health care benefits and never produced anything better. He rolled back safety regulations.

He appealed to this cohort almost exclusively on cultural grounds. If some of these voters were to become motivated by economics, they should vote for Democrats next time, since they offer a far friendlier economic agenda. As a reminder, Democrats must be successful EVERY TIME the Republican Party attempts to steal an election. They only need to be successful once.

Moreover, the Big Lie, the claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump via massive voter fraud, is now a standard Republican talking point. So the national media allow them to say it repeatedly:

This was last Sunday. Even after an insurrection based on a lie, it’s become a Party talking point. The Capitol riot mob has become the Republican Party. And the moderators were ineffective in their efforts to push back.

OTOH, Democrats need to react to this clear Republican strategy to continue to peel off Dem voters based on cultural issues, along with a few conspiracy theories like Trump’s Big Lie that the presidential election was stolen in broad daylight, and that few believe Covid is an existential threat.

Andrew Levinson at the Democratic Strategist says Democrats need some out-of-the-box thinking to win in 2022 and 2024. He says that White working-class people can hold traditional attitudes about cultural and racial issues while supporting a range of progressive economic policies. He thinks that running as economic populists with vaguely Red cultural values, even in solid Red districts, will eventually bring success.

According to a USA Today/Suffolk poll released over the weekend, 46% of Republicans would join him if Trump made an effort to create his own party. That means about half may be still be open to persuasion by Democrats if they come with the right message.

Building a plan that will successfully counter the GOP’s effort to continue peeling away Democrats should be what all of the Democratic Party leadership are working on right now.

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Monday Wake Up Call – Extremists in the Military Edition, February 22, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Lake Willoughby VT – February 2021 photo by John Rowe Photography

For decades, domestic extremists have flaunted their ties to the US military, seeking to attach themselves both to the military’s credibility, and their tactical skills.

The January attack on the US Capitol showed us that the ties between US military members and the extreme right are deeper and more pervasive than we thought. Among the Capitol crowd were many military emblems: Some waved Marine Corps flags, many wore military gear, or specific unit patches signifying their time in service.

The AP found that at least 21 active-duty US Army and law enforcement personnel were present at the riot. We know that about 207 people have been arrested so far. The Military Times reported that 32 of the participants in the US Capitol coup had previously served in the military. If you want to get a current reading on the attitudes of the military to the Capitol coup, read the 640 comments on the article. It’s chilling.

How big is the problem? Last year, the FBI told the Pentagon that it had opened criminal investigations that involved 143 current or former service members. Sixty-eight of those involved domestic extremism and the vast majority involved veterans, not active-duty troops. Importantly, the Defense Department has no central database for tracking the allegations or disciplinary actions related to extremism.

Also, military regulations allow service members to have extremist affiliations and use extremist rhetoric if a service member doesn’t act upon them. In fact, the Pentagon reported in 2020 that only 21 service members had been disciplined or discharged over the previous five years for extremist activities. It’s doubtful that reflects the true scope of the problem.

According to a Pentagon report delivered to Congress last October:

“Despite a low number of cases in absolute terms, individuals with extremist affiliations and military experience are a concern to US national security because of their proven ability to execute high-impact events….Access to service members with combat training and technical weapons expertise can also increase both the probability of success and the potency of planned violent attacks.”

Military leaders say tackling the problem is difficult because the Constitution protects freedom of speech, and the law prohibits criminalizing affiliations that are deemed fundamentally political in nature, rather than a threat to harm the public. New defense secretary, Gen. Lloyd Austin, vowed at his confirmation hearing in January to:

“…rid our ranks of racists and extremists, and to create a climate where everyone fit and willing has the opportunity to serve this country with dignity.”

And Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Feb. 3:

“Extremism has risen to a top priority as the new secretary called in the service secretaries and Joint Chiefs of Staff…directing them to conduct a 60-day stand-down for leaders to speak with troops about the problem….”

Monitoring the potential extremist activities of 1.3 million active-duty service members is challenging. It’s difficult to distinguish between the casual gestures of some troops and the real warning signs of potentially illegal extremist activity by others.

Another concern is that 35 US Capitol Police officers are being investigated for their actions during the Capitol riot, and six have been suspended. In addition, the NYT reports that at least 30 police from around the country took part in the rally before the Capitol riot. Many are being investigated, and three have been arrested on federal charges related to breaching the Capitol.

The military appears to be less politically representative of society, with a long-term downward trend in the number of officers identifying as Democrats. Instead, identification with the Republican Party has become the norm. The junior officer corps, apart from its female and minority members, appears to be overwhelmingly hard-right Republican. And military personnel have for the past decade been voting in greater percentages than the general population.

In many ways, the military and civilian police seem to have, as Samuel Huntington wrote in 1957, “the outlook of an estranged minority.”

Time to wake up America! We can’t bury our heads in the sand, hoping that the linkage between the military, our police, and groups like QAnon and the fringe of the GOP won’t grow stronger. We need to call out the problem whenever and wherever we see it.

To help you wake up, listen to the group Kiwi Jr.’s “Maid Marian’s Toast” from their brand-new album “Cooler Returns”:

Sample Lyric:

now you’ve got something we want

it’s the Twenties and you’ve got something we want

so you’ve made the decision to make the decision

now spare us all from these half-assed revisions

you’ve got something we’ve always wanted

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 21, 2021

Believe it or not, on Monday, Merrick Garland finally gets a hearing in front of a Senate committee! Whether he will be confirmed remains to be seen. John Pavlovitz nails it, and also nails Ted Cruz:

“Ted Cruz represents the heart and soul of the Republican Party: that’s why he left people in pain, that’s why he fled a crisis, that’s why he will be defended by his callous Republican counterparts—and why so many GOP voters will vote for him again, should they survive their cruelty.”

More:

“…Cruz is the defective moral compass of those who’ve spent the past twelve months doing everything they could to be a deadly pandemic’s greatest allies and causing nearly half a million Americans to die;
after four months of stoking fake election fraud conspiracies that incited a murderous assault on our nation’s Capitol….after weeks of being so enamored with defending their disgraced cult leader’s non-existent honor, they’ve been useless in creating a stimulus plan to rescue those millions whose lives have be upended by a historic health crisis he did nothing to combat.”

As Pavlovitz says, there’s no sense of right and wrong with the GOP, only what they believe they will get away with. On to cartoons.

Ted left for Mars:

Ted didn’t forget:

Finally, Mexico is concerned Texas isn’t sending their best:

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Saturday Soother – February 20, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Winter waterfall, Seward County, NE – photo by Roger Richters

Finally, we have some good news. Yesterday, Wrongo wondered if we had become the “can’t do” nation, and right on cue, NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover touched down on Mars.

Since this is 2021, the Rover has a Twitter account, and immediately tweeted:

Those people at NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) threw a dart that had to travel 292.5 million miles and it hit the bullseye. It landed in the Jezero Crater, which is probably an ancient river delta. Perseverance will now look for fossilized pond scum that, if found, may possibly contain evidence of life on Mars.

Wrongo’s question is: What are the chances of applying some of that futuristic science here at home to stop the country from melting down? Maybe handling some “simple” stuff, like keeping the lights on in Texas. Or applying some mojo to getting our kids back in school?

It was also heartening (and affirming) that all the rocket scientists in the JPL control center were wearing masks. We can accomplish amazing things, but in real life, we still need to work on our humanity.

Wrongo is old enough to have been around for the launch of the first Sputnik. That brought with it the sense that the US wasn’t necessarily the best or the brightest of countries. We had many, many launch failures in our efforts to land on the moon. On September 12, 1959, the Russian Luna 2 hit the moon, but it took another five years for the US also to hit the moon with Ranger 4.

In 1966, Surveyor 1 landed and sent data back for two months before going dark.

Gradually NASA’s technology got better. And now, we routinely expect our space missions not only to launch, but also to reach their objective. We’ve tried a lot: Of multiple attempted Mars landings by many countries, ten have now had successful soft landings.

In 1971, the Soviet Union sent probes Mars 2 and Mars 3, each carrying a lander. The Mars 2 lander failed to land and impacted Mars. The Mars 3 lander became the first probe to successfully soft-land on Mars. In 1976, two American Viking probes entered orbit about Mars, and each released a lander module that made successful soft landings on the planet’s surface. You can see a list of all the Mars landings, (both successes and failures) here.

And now, we have landed our most advanced Rover.

it’s wonderful what science can bring us, both here on earth, but also, far away from earth. It’s depressing how science has delivered super-computers into the hands of billions, and yet somehow, it’s only made many of them stupider.

So, back to a normalized Saturday Soother, that time when we step away from Twitter and the comic stylings of Ted Cruz and forget about the DC carousel for a few minutes.

Let’s start by brewing up a mug of Trust the Process Full Natural ($18.99/8oz.) from Red Rooster, a Floyd, VA (pop. 432) roaster. It apparently has a subtle tropical fruit note suggesting lychee.

We still have about 8” of snow cover, so indoor sports are on the table for the weekend. Time to grab a seat by a window, and listen to “Mars”, from Gustav Holst’s Planet Suite, written between 1914 and 1916. Here it is played by The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras:

We should make this Mars’ anthem once we have colonies there.

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Limbaugh and Texas

The Daily Escape:

Observation Deck, Niagara Falls – Feb 9, 2021 photo via Darcy Bowers

A quick thought about the death of Rush Limbaugh, and a few thoughts about the Texas power outage.

Many on the right are angry because others are happy about Limbaugh’s death. But we’re under no obligation to tolerate what we perceive as evil. Make no mistake, Rush Limbaugh promoted evil, and Wrongo celebrates the passing of that evil. As Bette Davis said:

“I was told only to speak good of the dead. Joan Crawford is dead. Good!”

On to Texas, and their electric grid disaster. Texas governor Abbott tried to blame the disaster on the “green new deal” and renewable energy sources. That’s a ludicrous argument. No part of the “green new deal” has been passed in Texas, and while Texas is the Saudi Arabia of wind power, only about 33% of its outage came from offline wind power.

A few facts: America is divided into three grids: one covers the eastern USA, another the western states and the third is the Texas grid, which covers most of the state. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, (ERCOT), manages about 90% of the state’s power for 26 million customers.

The real reason for the sustained outage is that Texas Republicans made sure that Texas had its own electric grid. That was because they wanted to be outside the regulatory reach of the federal government, to set their own rules. So Texas doesn’t follow the maintenance protocols of the other two grids. The other grids have protocols for all power generation equipment in winter weather, including for wind turbines. Of course, Texas doesn’t follow them.

An expert told the Houston Chronicle:

“The ERCOT grid has collapsed in exactly the same manner as the old Soviet Union…It limped along on underinvestment and neglect until it finally broke under predictable circumstances.”

Texas mistakenly thought that by seceding from the power grid, they would provide the benefits of a market solution to delivering power to the state. What really happened is that a lack of capable governing allowed an important and life-sustaining system to rust.

In 2011, Texas faced a similar storm that froze natural gas wells and affected coal plants and wind turbines, leading to power outages across the state. And 10 years later, Texas power companies still have not made the necessary investments to keep plants online during extreme cold. From the Texas Tribune:

“Texas officials knew winter storms could leave the state’s power grid vulnerable, but they left the choice to prepare for harsh weather up to the power companies — many of which opted against the costly upgrades.”

Texas Republicans thought that squeezing more profits out of the power grid for wealthy energy interests was more important than protecting the grid. They were wrong, and Texas consumers are paying the price.

We’ve become the can’t do nation: Can’t stop the plague, even with great vaccines, can’t keep our Capitol safe, can’t keep the heat on in Texas. But once Ted Cruz gets back from his fact-finding mission in Cancun, Texas will fix this in no time.

Wrongo has been to Cancun. It’s good, but not destroy-your-reputation good.

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Study of MAGA Supporters Reveals Dangers

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Mt. Hood, OR – 2021 photo by debuggerfly. The “smile” on Mt. Hood is called the Mississippi head wall.

The MAGA movement isn’t going away. Even if Trump’s political strength fades, the MAGAs are strong enough to remain a toxic element in our politics. Chris Parker at the University of Washington, along with Rachel Blum of the University of Oklahoma, have conducted what may be the first comprehensive national survey of MAGA supporters.

They surveyed about 1,500 self-identified MAGA members in December 2020 to try to better understand them. This wasn’t a poll, but an in-depth survey of MAGA attitudes. The study participants were found based on their MAGA activity on Facebook. Interestingly, the numbers are huge: They found 6,610,370 Facebook users self-identify as MAGA.

They are well-represented throughout the country, and their numbers correlate with population density. Less populous states have fewer members. This shows that MAGA presence is not limited to rural areas. In most states, MAGA respondents were clustered around major cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, LA and New York.

After the Capitol riot, a subset of the group was re-interviewed specifically about that event. That questioning wrapped up around the end of January. It seems that to the MAGAs, there’s an alternate universe where the Trump coup didn’t happen:

  • More than 80% of the MAGA survey respondents say the Capitol riot wasn’t the fault of the GOP, and not Trump’s; Antifa was behind it.
  • 98% said they agree with Trump’s claim that the election was stolen.

In other words, it wasn’t Trump’s fault, so they don’t think Trump deserves any punishment or criticism for what happened.

And a new national poll released on Feb. 11, the American Perspectives survey of 2,016 adults, found that half of GOP voters nationwide agreed with this statement: “Antifa…was mostly responsible for the violence that happened in the riots at the US Capitol.” That’s an astounding level of delusion. It makes crystal clear how and why so many Republican politicians could end up looking the other way at an anti-democratic insurrection that killed five people.

The Parker/Rubin study found that MAGA members are not demographically diverse:

  • 60% are White, Christian, and male.
  • About half are retired, over 65 years of age, and earn at least $50K per year.
  • Roughly 30% have at least a college degree.

Since about half are middle-class by income, and nearly a third are middle-class by education. the data show that economic anxiety isn’t the primary explanation for Trumpism.

Roughly 85% of MAGA supporters are members of gun-rights groups. Approximately 60% are members of pro-police groups. In addition, 50% belong to anti-lockdown and pro-life groups. Significantly, only 38% of the MAGA movement identify with the “Stop the Steal” campaign, and only 23% identify with militia movements of any kind.

So what IS driving the MAGA movement? Parker and Blum ask: if they want to Make America Great Again, what’s wrong with America? They started with questions about racial resentment:

Note that 90% disagreed with whether “slavery and discrimination make it difficult for Blacks to work their way up,” and whether “Blacks have gotten less than they deserve”. A lot of their response seems to boil down to “I don’t want those people doing better than me.” What seems true is that resentment over possibly losing status is the driving force behind Trumpism.

What about views on immigrants and women?

  • 85% of respondents believe that “Immigration is changing the culture for the worse,”. They also believe that “Immigrants refuse to abide by our laws.”
  • On questions used to assess sexism, about 75% agreed that: 1) Women are seeking special favors; 2) Feminists make unreasonable demands of men; and 3) Feminists are seeking more power than men.

Parker and Blum asked a series of questions about political activism. At least 50% have signed a petition, contacted a representative, participated in a boycott, or donated funds to a campaign. Roughly 45% attended a political meeting, 35% have attended a rally, and 30% have volunteered for a campaign.

Approximately 90% of MAGA supporters self-identify as Republicans, or lean GOP, the rest saying that they are independents. Importantly to Trump’s Big Lie, they found that 90% of the MAGA movement disagreed with making it easier for people to vote:

Based on this survey, these MAGA loyalists do not believe in democracy. They are a threat to our country and will be a threat for many years to come. The GOP can’t let Trump go, because doing so would mean losing the MAGA vote, and the GOP needs each one of them in order to hold on to power.

This is why we should disregard the rosy comments that: “Our democracy was tested and survived! The system worked!

Every Republican needs to be asked two simple questions:

  1. Who won the 2020 US presidential election?
  2. Was it a free and fair election?

The answers are one word each: “Biden” and “yes.” If they can’t answer correctly, they are an enemy of democracy.

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Monday Wake Up Call – February 15, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Nauset Light, Cape Cod, MA  – February 2021 photo by Michael Blanchette photography

The impeachment trial is behind us, but the Big Lie of the 2020 election, that there was massive voting fraud, remains with us. That Lie is propelling Republicans in many states to try to minimize, or end entirely, mail-in voting.

Republicans have reason to worry. Mail-in voting alone constituted nearly half the votes cast in the 2020 election, a significant increase from previous years. This chart from 538 shows the remarkable decline in same-day voting in America:

Traditional same day, in-person voting has dropped from more than 90% of ballots cast in the 1990s to 60% in 2016, to just 28% in 2020. Early in-person and vote-by-mail now accounts for 71% of total voting.

Overall, despite the Big Lie, early and by mail voting was a remarkable success. It was less prone to errors than expected, and had almost zero documented fraud. As expected, 538 reports that absentee votes broke blue, Election Day votes, red. They only have data for 15 of the 50 states, but it is consistent:

“Biden won the absentee vote in 14 out of the 15 states (all but Texas), and Trump won the Election Day vote in 14 out of the 15 as well (all but Connecticut).”

Trump used this historic change in voting patterns to claim that Democrats used mail ballots to steal the election. Now, in a backlash to the historic trends in voter turnout, Republicans are again looking to make it more difficult to vote.

A new report by the Brennan Center for Justice shows that legislators in 33 states have introduced 165 bills to restrict voting rights. The proposals primarily seek to: a) limit mail voting access; b) impose stricter voter ID requirements; c) slash voter registration opportunities; and d) enable more aggressive voter roll purges.

Many of these bills parrot the same lies Trump used to claim the election was stolen. And they’re sponsored by the same state officials who backed Trump’s efforts to reverse the results of the election.

Remember how narrow the Biden win was: he won three states by a combined margin of 43,560 votes: Arizona (10,457 votes), Georgia (12,636 votes), and Wisconsin (20,467 votes). These three states have 37 electoral votes, and had Trump won all three, the Electoral College would have been tied, 269 to 269. Then the House would have determined the winner, with each state delegation getting one vote. Since the Republicans hold a majority of state delegations, Trump would have won a second term.

It was worse. The WaPo reports that

“Republicans came, at most, 43,000 votes from winning each of the three levers of power.”

Just 32,000 votes would have flipped control of the House to Republicans, while 14,000 votes would have kept control of the Senate in Republican hands. The Republicans have a built-in structural advantage in all three political levers of power: In the House it’s gerrymandering; in the Senate it’s the population imbalance favoring rural states; and in the White House, it’s the Electoral College.

So, beating back voting restrictions has to be a top priority.

Republicans have been restricting voting for years. We were lucky that state and local election officials acted in the best interests of the people and the country. That may not happen next time, so these anti-democratic pieces of legislation must be highlighted publicly and fought tooth-and-nail.

Think for a minute about last week’s impeachment trial: 34 GOP senators representing just 14.5% of the US population can block the conviction of an impeached president. Said another way, the 57 senators who voted to convict Trump represent 76.7 million more Americans than the 43 senators who voted to acquit him.

We should also remember that every state sets its own rules when it comes to voting and counting the votes. And we’ll soon see the impact of Republican gerrymandering, once the 2020 census is complete. The long-term solution is a Constitutional amendment that finally establishes that all citizens have the right to vote, and describes the approved methods of voting.

Time to wake up America! Voting reform must be a top priority just behind beating the Coronavirus and getting kids back in school. To help you wake up, listen to John Fogerty perform his newest, “Weeping In The Promised Land“, released this January:

Partial Lyrics:

Forked-tongued pharaoh, behold he comes to speak

Weeping in the Promised Land

Hissing and spewing, it’s power that he seeks

Weeping in the Promised Land

With dread in their eyes, all the nurses are crying

So much sorrow, so much dying

Pharaoh keep a-preaching but he never had a plan

Weeping in the Promised Land

Weeping in the Promised Land

This is another very powerful video, a must-watch.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 14, 2021

Happy Valentine’s Day! Of course, you may still be bummed out, reflecting on the Senate voting 57-43 to acquit Trump yesterday. While that wasn’t enough votes to convict, it wasn’t an exoneration. Once again, a group of horribly shitty human beings proudly showed themselves to be horribly shitty human beings.

But we need to give this some time. OJ was a pariah after his acquittal, but soon there were a series of state and civil cases that sent OJ away for a few years, and took most of his money. Also, the FBI has charged only 207 people so far. Most of the militia-types haven’t been charged yet. Those FBI charges will lead to people telling grand juries about who organized them to attack the Capitol. And the Democrats in the Senate now have subpoena power, so expect to see some hearings on what Trump knew, and when he knew it.

Let’s start today with other Republican outrages in Georgia and Tennessee. Legislation proposed by members of the Republican Party. You know, the party that says they want to keep the heavy hand of the state off your back. First, Georgia:

“Genitalia assessment boards” will surely win the 10th grade male vote. This could be enough to get Alabama’s former governor Roy Moore to move to Georgia. Wrongo is pretty sure “assessing” the genitalia of high school freshman girls is his dream job.

Second, in Tennessee, Republican lawmakers have put forward a bill that would grant a man the power to veto a woman’s abortion. Wrongo hasn’t read the bill, but couldn’t they at least make the man show a deed or a receipt to prove that he is in fact the legal owner of the pregnant woman?

On to cartoons: Many are showing love for the shot:

No worries about injection deniers. GOP has them covered:

Finally, all Republicans decide to wear masks:

GOP experiments with CDC guidance on more masks:

 

Trump lawyers present false equivalence about what “fight” means:

Rather than presenting the merits of their case, Trump’s lawyers delivered sound bites that reinforced what the right-wing media have been echoing for months. They insisted that Trump’s language leading to the riot was the same sort of rhetoric all politicians use. They claimed Trump was the victim of years of witch hunts by Democrats who hate him. Some Republican Senators bought it.

When you just can’t see what’s in front of you:

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Saturday Soother, Moral Cowards Edition, February 13, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Winter,  Rocky Mountain NP, CO – 2021 photo  by tompettyhs

House Democrats wrapped up their case against Donald Trump by zeroing in on the central reason why a conviction is so important: If he is given the chance, Trump will do it again. Rep. Jamie Raskin emphasized that point:

“Is there any political leader in this room who believes that if he is ever allowed by the Senate to get back into the Oval Office, Donald Trump would stop inciting violence to get his way?….Would you bet the lives of more police officers on that? Would you bet the safety of your family on that? Would you bet the future of your democracy on that? If he gets back into office and it happens again, we have no one to blame but ourselves.”

It’s clear that Trump will be exonerated by Republican Senators who are proving that they are moral cowards. They took an oath to be impartial, but oaths are obviously for suckers and losers.

Some aren’t even making a pretense of listening to the arguments. Some Senators of the jury have actually met with Trump’s defense team. Sen. Cruz said they were “sharing our thoughts” about their legal strategy. Many Republican Senators are saying they won’t vote to convict because they don’t believe it is Constitutional to try a former president. They are saying this just days after the Senate voted 56-44, saying that the trial was Constitutional. This is the same as saying that majority rule is meaningless in the Senate, that Republicans are exempt from following it.

This is also what many of them said about America’s vote in the November election: that it didn’t count. What kind of American political party places loyalty to an individual above loyalty to the country and its democratic system?

Yesterday, we presented a study that found widespread support among the Republican base for the use of force and even violence:

“A majority (55%) of Republicans support the use of force as a way to arrest the decline of the traditional American way of life.”

Today, they refuse to convict, even though there is no contesting the facts of the case.

What happened at the Capitol wasn’t spontaneous. It was the result of a campaign to delegitimize any result that didn’t include Trump’s winning re-election. He and the others in his movement embarked on a disinformation campaign knowing that sowing chaos was his best weapon. Their looking the other way at an attempted insurrection should serve as a warning that conviction or not, an actual insurrection is alive in America.

Rep. Raskin wrapped up the impeachment managers’ case for conviction by quoting Thomas Paine. Paine published a pamphlet called “The American Crisis,” in December, 1776, in which he said:

“These are the times that try men and women’s souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will shrink at this moment from the service of their cause and their country, but everyone who stands with us now will win the love and favor and affection of every man and every woman for all time. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered, but we have this saving consolation: the more difficult the struggle, the more glorious in the end will be our victory.”

General Washington found the first essay so inspiring, he ordered that it be read to the troops at Valley Forge.

Charlie Pierce links Paine’s comment to the Senators in the Sedition Caucus: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“What he meant was, good luck living with your consciences after you vote to acquit this guy. You’re betraying everything this country has claimed to believe about itself all the way back to its founding. And you’re doing it on behalf of someone who gladly would’ve welcomed a bloodbath if it kept him in office.”

We have video evidence of a Capitol riot. Those on the Right say no one is responsible but the rioters themselves: They operated in a vacuum and Trump isn’t culpable, that we shouldn’t believe our lying eyes.

So, what will the Senators who refuse to convict Trump say to their friends and their kids? Something like: “I was forced into it. If I went against him, I would have lost my job, or possibly my life.”

What lesson does this teach our kids and future generations? That loyalty is everything, truth and principle are nothing.

There can’t be a truly Soothing Saturday when we are witnessing the dismissal of what is before the eyes of Republican Senators. Instead, take a few moments on this cold winter weekend to watch a short movie clip from the 1960 film, “Inherit the Wind”.

It fictionalizes the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial and lays out the chilling effect of the McCarthy era investigations on intellectual discourse. In the scene, two old friends who have drifted apart, played by Frederick March and Spencer Tracy speak about their beliefs:

When you watch, notice that the two men never rock in unison. If you are interested the full movie can be seen on Amazon Prime.

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