Ballbuster Walks Away From Filibuster

The Daily Escape:

Winter, Arches NP, UT – photo by Jack Bell Photography

For a few weeks, Mitch McConnell has continued to control the Senate, even after the Democrats should have taken control. Because of the Senate’s arcane rules, he wasn’t prepared to give up power unless Chuck Schumer and his new majority promised to retain the filibuster.

Yes, you heard that right. Absent a power sharing agreement known as an organizing resolution that Wrongo wrote about here, McConnell stayed in charge. Schumer and McConnell needed to agree on a new set of rules, which are passed at the start of each new Senate term, to govern how the Senate operates.

The organizing resolution determines everything from committee assignments and staff budgets, to who gets the best office space.

McConnell’s calculation was simple. Not only was preserving the filibuster, something that Republicans could use to control the Democrats’ agenda, it was something that they could unify behind. It was also something that divided Democrats, many of whom want to see it discarded immediately in order to advance their legislative agenda.

But on Monday, McConnell said he was ready to move forward, because Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WVA) signaled informally that they wouldn’t vote to end the filibuster. That assures McConnell that it will remain in place, at least for the time being.

Governing in the Senate will take 60 votes to move forward, potentially assuring gridlock on much of the Democrat’s agenda. It’s another example of how the filibuster rules all without even being officially invoked.

The longest filibuster ever held in the US Senate was 60 days in 1964 to prevent the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The House ended the use of a filibuster in 1842. The filibuster was created when there were just 26 states in the Union. It’s a tool of obstruction. It doesn’t encourage debate, it doesn’t allow for more voices to be heard.

Eugene Robinson in the WaPo:

“GOP senators can have a voice in the outcome if they engage in good faith. But they have to realize that “compromise” doesn’t mean “Republicans win and Democrats lose.” Not anymore.”

Both Pelosi and Schumer know damn well who McConnell is at this point. They know that winning votes in the 2022 Congressional races will be directly connected to beating Covid through better public health policy and vaccinations. More from Robinson:

“A better way to seek unity is to vigorously pursue policies that have broad public support — and that begin to clean up the shambles the Biden administration inherits. Democrats may have slim majorities, but they have been given a mandate to lead.”

There is an alternative that the Democrats may choose to use, a Congressional process known as budget reconciliation, which blocks Republicans from filibustering, while allowing Democrats to pass bills with a simple majority. According to Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-VT):

“I think the budget resolution will be up next week,”

Reconciliation starts with passing a budget resolution for the coming fiscal year. In that budget resolution, they need to include special budget directives or instructions:

“To start the reconciliation process, the House and Senate must agree on a budget resolution that includes “reconciliation directives” for specified committees. Under the Congressional Budget Act, the House and Senate are supposed to adopt a budget resolution each year to establish an overall budget plan and set guidelines for action on spending and revenue.”

It can then go directly to the Senate floor without a committee markup under a provision of the 1974 law that created the modern budget process.

Democrats would be following a precedent laid down in early 2017 when Republicans who controlled the Senate, House and White House attempted to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act. At that time, the Senate Budget chairman, Michael B. Enzi, (R-WY), wrote a fiscal 2017 skinny budget resolution including reconciliation instructions with the goal of repealing the law.

Instead of the Senate marking up the budget, it was discharged from the committee and went straight to the floor where the Senate adopted it.

The Biden relief package may be whittled down, possibly broken into a few pieces. But it must pass, even if it takes budget reconciliation to do it.

The Democrats have inherited a broken country. There are huge expectations resting on them, while the 2022 midterms aren’t looking favorable at this point. That means they have to accomplish a lot, while the GOP only has to sit on its hands.

Democrats have to rise to the urgency of the moment by passing legislation no matter what it takes.

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Monday Wake Up Call – Delay The Impeachment Trial Edition, January 25, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Flathead Lake MT – photo by Lori Wilson

It’s a smart idea for the Democrats to take their time getting to the impeachment trial. Despite what America saw on Jan. 6, what we know about actions on that day and any advance planning by the rioters or their enablers remains extremely murky.

It’s seems clearer now that the sedition at the US Capitol was part of the larger attempt to undermine and undo the results of the 2020 presidential election, but was it an organized effort?

If it was, what’s Trump’s part in it? How about others who were and are, working to ensure minority rule in America: Did they also have a role in the riot?

On Jan 19, the WaPo had a story about possible advanced coordination of the riot:

“Self-styled militia members from Virginia, Ohio and other states made plans to storm the U.S. Capitol days in advance of the Jan. 6 attack, and then communicated in real time as they breached the building on opposite sides and talked about hunting for lawmakers, according to court documents filed Tuesday.”

Wrongo was particularly interested in this from the article: (brackets and emphasis by Wrongo)

“In charging papers, the FBI said that during the Capitol riot, Caldwell [Thomas Edward Caldwell, a leader of the Oath Keepers extremist group] received Facebook messages from unspecified senders updating him on the location of lawmakers. When he posted a one-word message, “Inside,” he received exhortations and directions describing tunnels, doors and hallways, the FBI said.”

This is chilling: Some messages said:

“Tom, all legislators are down in the Tunnels 3 floors down,” and “Go through back house chamber doors facing N left down hallway down steps.” Another message read: “All members are in the tunnels under capital seal them in. Turn on gas…”

Not clear to Wrongo what “turn on gas” means in this context. But, it’s hard to imagine “turn on gas” coming from anyone already in the tunnels. OTOH, the other messages to the Oath Keeper leader, detailing where lawmakers were, came either from a member of Congress, or from staff to a member of Congress.

We should also understand that to the FBI, “unspecified” doesn’t mean “unknown”. With all the domestic communication that NSA gathers, we are certain to learn who sent these messages.

It will take further investigating to develop a detailed timeline annotated with the messages from/between members of the administration, members of Congress and the coup plotters. There are two possible outcomes they were likely driving toward:

  1. Hostages held in exchange for the Joint Session voting either to adjourn without a decision on the Electoral Votes, or voting to make Trump president again.
  2. They kill many, enabling Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, which he uses then to remain in power indefinitely.

Would either have worked? Thankfully for our democracy, Trump & Co. were seemingly unable even to plan a one-car funeral.

Time to wake up America! There is nothing to be gained by fast-tracking the impeachment trial. There’s information that still needs to be gathered. We should wait and see what the FBI unearths.

To help you wake up, listen to the Etta James song “I’d Rather Go Blind”. It was first recorded by Etta James in 1967, and it’s played here live by Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart in Amsterdam in 2103:

As you watch this, for a few minutes, there is no pandemic, there was no coup riot. You’re transcending the red/blue divide. You feel happy.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 24, 2021

One of America’s greatest challenges is getting a handle on radicals and white nationalists in the US military. NPR compiled a list of individuals facing charges in connection with the Jan. 6 US Capitol sedition:

“Of more than 140 charged so far, a review of military records, social media accounts, court documents and news reports indicate at least 27 of those charged, or nearly 20%, have served or are currently serving in the U.S. military.”

Putting that number in perspective, only about 7% of American adults are military veterans.

A senior defense official told NPR subsequent to Jan. 6 that last year, there were 68 notifications of investigations by the FBI of former and current military members pertaining to domestic extremism.

According to a 2019 survey conducted by the Military Times and Syracuse University, one third of troops said they personally witnessed examples of white nationalism or ideological-driven racism within the ranks, including:

“…swastikas being drawn on service members’ cars, tattoos affiliated with white supremacist groups, stickers supporting the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi-style salutes between individuals.”

This means the top brass largely tolerates this behavior. And it isn’t new, we’ve known for years that the US military officer corps leans Republican, and its younger, more recent veterans, even more so.

The demographics of the military has changed since we started the all-volunteer military in 1973. It skews southern, western and rural, all conservative-leaning parts of America. One study at the National Interest shows that over the last generation, the percentage of officers that identify themselves as politically independent has gone from a plurality (46%) to a minority (27%). The percentage that identify themselves as Republican has nearly doubled (from 33% to 64%).

This isn’t to equate Republicans with White supremacy, but the trend and recent events are the best reason to end our all-volunteer military. A military draft with NO exceptions would go a long way toward making military service more egalitarian and politically balanced. On to cartoons.

Roberts is right:

We need this:

A different attack:

Eye of the beholder:

Back to the old game:

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Saturday Soother – January 23, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Lenticular clouds over the Presidential Range, Bretton Woods, NH – 2021 photo by Benjamin Williamson Photography. That’s Mt. Washington in the center.

Biden’s inauguration was wonderful TV viewing. Wrongo has watched every inaugural from JFK to Biden, and this one was the most satisfying. Maybe because its virtual nature meant that we were able to see many small moments of joy and artistry. Or maybe, it was just because the VIP seats were at home. Sara Jacobs, (D-CA) is a new member of Congress. She posted on Instagram:

“I’ve been in Congress for three Wednesdays. The first, an insurrection, the second, an impeachment, and the third, an inauguration. Let’s hope next Wednesday is as inspiring as this one.”

Couldn’t agree more. Biden’s speech was a worthy effort, hitting the right tone, and many key points. He pushed back pretty hard on lies and disinformation and assault on our democracy and institutions.

The real stars of the inauguration were others. Amanda Gorman, the young Black poet, gave all of us hope that the kids are alright. Lady Gaga’s voice was/is stunning. Wrongo really enjoyed John Legend singing Nina Simone’s arrangement of “Feeling Good” from 1965’s “Roar of the Grease Paint, Smell of the Crowd”.

The Ant Clemons/Justin Timberlake “Better Days” performance in and outside of the Stax museum in Memphis, TN was uplifting. Demi Lovato, who we’ve featured in the past, did Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” as an upbeat Zoom performance with health care workers. The closing “Firework” by Katy Perry, led to this image of the First Couple:

What moved you on Wednesday?

Nielsen reported that the Biden inaugural had more viewers than Trump’s in 2017. According to Nielsen, 39.87 million people watched the half-hour swearing-in ceremony over the nation’s six major TV-news outlets, compared with 38.35 million viewers for the 2017 event.

But back to reality: It’s going to be game on next Monday, as the House will transmit Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. The Right-wing knives will be back out, as before. They will say that Biden really isn’t interested in unity. Can Schumer get 17 Republican votes to convict Trump? We’ll see.

Convicting Trump will happen if the pro-democracy wing of the Republican Party is larger than we think. The other side is the Sedition Caucus, led by Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO), but it contains many, many others.

Senate Republicans now have to deal with their Florida retiree. This is precisely why so many Republicans have jumped on the bandwagon for “unity”. They’re saying: “Please don’t force us to make impossible choices!” Some Republican Senators are saying that their party cannot convict Trump and survive. They may be correct. If Mitch McConnell (R-KY), votes to convict Trump, there will be an effort to remove McConnell as Leader of the (now) Republican Minority.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said this week that: (brackets by Wrongo)

“…any Republican-leader type who embraces [conviction] is doing a lot of damage to the Party….There’s no way to be a successful Republican Party without having President Trump working with all of us and all of us working with him…”

That says it all: Their arguments have nothing to do with Trump’s guilt, innocence, or suitability for future office. They are solely political. They’re saying that it is impossible for the Republican Party to be a contender for power if they can’t keep most of Trump’s loyal followers inside the Party.

Impeachment or not, there’s a fight coming in the Republican Party. As Jonathan Last says, it’s a fight between the Sedition Caucus, and those Republicans who try to pretend that the last four years never happened. Sadly, in any fight between true believers and those willing to face reality, the true believers usually have the edge.

It is in America’s best interest that the Sedition Caucus lose, whoever their opponents are.

But on this Saturday, we feel that a weight has been lifted from the backs of Americans. We have a window through which we perceive that something good may happen. So take a break. Sit back, and listen to Tim McGraw and Tyler Hubbard perform their song of unity, “Undivided”, that we saw on Celebration America. Here’s the studio version:

Lyrics:

I think it’s time to come together
You and I can make a change
Maybe we can make a difference
Make the world a better place
Look around and love somebody
We’ve been hateful long enough
Let the Good Lord reunite us
‘Til this country that we love’s
Undivided

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Biden’s Inauguration

The Daily Escape:

At the mansion of Wrong, it was champagne and sushi as we tuned in to the Biden inauguration.

The day’s biggest upside was that the world’s hollowest man wasn’t on the stage with Biden. We’re experiencing the most refreshing moment in America in at least four years, and everyone should celebrate.

Watching it was far more emotional than Wrongo expected it to be. We’ve all suddenly realized how much of a weight we have been carrying around for the past four years. It’s a kind of PTSD that every citizen shared. Suddenly, we feel light, thinking that just maybe, all things are possible again.

All of the speakers hit on the theme of unity for the American people. Biden’s words were on point. He didn’t lay out a series of promises, or a legislative agenda. Instead, he spoke of the challenge of figuring out how to work together again in support of common goals, and the need to disavow the recent past: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“This is democracy’s day, a day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve. Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew. And America has risen to the challenge. Today we celebrate the triumph, not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy. The people, the will of the people, has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed. So now, on this hallowed ground, where just a few days ago violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries. As we look ahead in our uniquely American way, restless, bold, optimistic, and set our sights on the nation we know we can be and we must be.”

Biden also made it clear that democracy was attacked:

“We face an attack on our democracy and on truth. A raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis. America’s role in the world. Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is, we face them all at once. Presenting this nation with one of the gravest responsibilities we’ve had. Now we’re going to be tested.”

And more:

“And here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.”

We can’t know what the future holds, but today, one thing is clear: we’re not taking a dark and foreboding look into the future, despite the many daunting challenges ahead of us.

At least momentarily, things feel positive, including that some Republicans may be willing to work WITH Biden instead of only working to stymie him at every opportunity. After the dark nightmare of the past four years, suddenly, it again all feels like it is possible for progress to happen.

The highlight for Wrongo and Ms. Right was the poet Amanda Gorman, a 22 year old from California who has an incredible gift, and immense charisma. The WaPo’s Olivier Knox interviewed Amanda Gorman. He asked her what her first political memory was:

“When I was really young, my mother would read me my Miranda Rights and make sure I knew them. My mom was not playing around.”

We will never truly understand how difficult it must be to grow up in America as a Black woman with a speech impediment. During her reading, Gorman wore a ring with a caged bird, a gift from Oprah for the occasion and tribute to symbolize Maya Angelou, a previous inaugural poet. Here are excerpts from Gorman’s inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb”:

 

“When day comes we ask ourselves,

Where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry,

A sea we must wade

We’ve braved the belly of the beast

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace

And the norms and notions

Of what just is…

Isn’t always just-ice

 

And so we lift our gazes, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.

We close the divide because we know to put our future first

We must first put our differences aside.

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be. 

A country that is bruised, but whole. Benevolent, but bold. Fierce and free. 

We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation, 

Because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation. 

We will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one….For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Today is a day to celebrate. It seems likely that soon, people will look back on today as the beginning of something.

Just what that something will end up being, is up to us.

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Trump’s Mass Radicalization of the Right

The Daily Escape:

Bentonite Hills, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef NP, UT – photo by BonsailLXIV

Donald Trump exits the presidential stage today, and not a minute too soon. In a sense, we’re very lucky that he was limited to one term. His mass radicalization of the far right of the Republican Party took just four years to become the Party’s mainstream, and to start an armed insurrection.

Throughout his term, he behaved as if Democrats, immigrants, Black Lives Matter protesters, Blue state residents, and the press had seized the country from Real Americans, the Trump voters. Since the election in November, he’s blanketed the nation with the Big Lie that the election was stolen.

Trump used mass radicalization to build a huge group of followers. The feedback loop was clear: Trump projects omnipotence, while the followers yearn for someone who has all the answers. Some would call it a “lock and key” relationship.

On January 6th, his followers stormed the US Capitol believing they were supposed to seize it for Trump. What is striking are two characteristics his followers seem to show. First, they display global grievance: They are angry at nearly everything outside of a fixed group of ideas and concepts like “freedom”, the Constitution, gun ownership and hatred of “socialism”.

Second, they have an overwhelming sense of entitlement: They alone are the arbiters of right and wrong. They have the right to be the judge and jury if something needs redress. If they commit a violent act, it’s the other side that’s responsible for inciting them.

Domestic terrorism analysts are concerned about the security implications of millions of right-wing Americans buying into baseless claims. The line between mainstream and fringe is vanishing, with conspiracy-minded Republicans now sitting in Congress and marching alongside armed extremists in their spare time.

These self-proclaimed “real Americans” are cocooned in their own news outlets, their own social media networks and, ultimately, their own “truth.” They support bogus claims like the November election was rigged, the coronavirus is a hoax, and liberals are hatching a socialist takeover.

Jason Dempsey, a military analyst notes that too many people are turning to force as a response to fears about political divisions:

“…they’re carrying guns and wearing body armor…We’ve got to get past that and be wary of the idea of militarism that doesn’t lead to a common conception of service, but leads to the kind of tribalism where we have to protect ourselves and our families by force against those we disagree with.”

Nobody expects this mass radicalization to go away when Trump’s out of office. As Arie Kruglanski, a University of Maryland professor who’s written extensively about radicalization says:

“We don’t trust the government. We don’t trust the Congress. We don’t trust the Supreme Court. We don’t trust now the science. We don’t trust medicine. We don’t trust the media for sure….So who do we trust? Well, we trust our tribe. We trust conspiracy theories that tell us what we want to hear.”

The danger of insurrection is here, and probably, thanks to Trump, will stay here for a long time.

QAnon, proliferated last year. The Q followers insist that Trump was all that stood between us and a “deep state” cabal that was running a global sex trafficking ring and harvesting a chemical from children’s blood.

The cherry on the top was the myth that the presidential election had been stolen: 33% of Republicans say they believe that the QAnon theory about a conspiracy among deep state elites is “mostly true.” And 36% of registered voters think voter fraud has occurred to a large enough extent to affect the election outcome.

The QAnon conversation online pivoted from taking down the global cabal to “Stop the Steal.” So when Trump invited supporters to Washington for mass demonstrations on Jan. 6, pro-Trump agitators and QAnon believers saw it as a demand for action.

Who believes in conspiracy theories? Those who have negative attitudes to authority, who feel alienated from politics, and who see the modern world as unintelligible. Conspiracy theory believers are often suspicious and distrustful, and see others as plotting against them. They struggle with anger, resentment, and other hostile feelings as well as with fear. They have lower self-esteem than nonbelievers, and need external validation to maintain their self-esteem. Belief in conspiracy theories often also goes along with belief in paranormal phenomena, and weaknesses in analytic thinking.

Trump, has created what James Meek calls “a self-contained alternative political thought space.” Loyalty to Trump is now a social identity for many people. So if Trump says that the 2020 election was rigged, why would a Trump loyalist disagree?

At the same time, Trump both sows and leverages a growing mistrust of institutions. Only 35% of Americans feel “a lot of trust” that what scientists say is accurate and reliable. Educators and media who try to tell the truth, aren’t useful weapons against conspiracy theories, because they simply become targets of the conspiracy theorists.

Let’s give the last word to Paul Krugman:

“Unlike the crazy conspiracy theories of the left—which do exist, but are supported only by a tiny fringe—the crazy conspiracy theories of the right are supported by important people: powerful politicians, television personalities with large audiences.”

When Richard Nixon resigned and Al Gore conceded, pundits and politicians smugly reassured us that things were fine because there were no tanks or soldiers in the streets, proving that the system worked.

How’s that working out for us this time?

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Monday Wake Up Call – MLK Jr. Day -January 18, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Third Selma March, 1965 – photo by Charles Fentress Jr  shows Frank Calhoun, 16, of Meridian, MS, his face smeared with white suntan lotion and the word “VOTE” written on his forehead.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. helped lead marchers on March 21 to March 25 from Selma, Alabama to the state capital in Montgomery. It was their third attempt after a brutal crackdown by police on their first try on March 7, that caused the injuries that resulted in calling the first march “Bloody Sunday.”

On Aug. 6, President Lyndon Johnson signed the national Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the VRA, with its decision in Shelby County vs. Holder.

Since Martin Luther King Jr delivered his iconic “I have a dream” speech in August 1963, the number of Black Americans elected to the US Congress has dramatically increased. But it took until 2019, more than 54 years later, for the share of Black members serving in the House of Representatives to equal the percentage of Black Americans in the US population (12%).

To date, only seven states have sent a Black representative to the US Senate, and many states have never elected a Black representative to either House of Congress.

Here’s a look at Black representation in every US Congress since 1963:

A few words on the Voting Rights Act of 1965: Since the Voting Rights Act was gutted in 2013, 1,688 polling places have been shuttered in states previously bound by the Act’s preclearance requirement. Texas officials closed 750 polling places. Arizona and Georgia were almost as bad. Unsurprisingly, these closures were mostly in communities of color.

In December 2019, the House passed HR 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, now named the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, to restore the safeguards of the original VRA. It’s been collecting dust on Mitch McConnell’s desk ever since. He and his GOP colleagues continue to sit idly by as Republican state officials suppress the vote with no accountability.

If your vote didn’t count, they wouldn’t be trying so hard to suppress it. There’s no telling what change we’ll be able to make once we win the battle for voting rights.

So, time to wake up America! Change has to come. The fight didn’t start with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and it didn’t end with John Lewis. The fight continues. To help you wake up, listen again to Sam Cooke’s “A Change Gonna Come”. It was released as a single in December 1964.

Cooke was inspired by hearing Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind”, and was also moved by Dr. King’s August 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. But it was Cooke’s experience in October 1963, when he and his entourage were turned away from a whites-only Holiday Inn in Shreveport, Louisiana, despite having reservations – that directly triggered him to write “A Change is Gonna Come.”

Change” was released as a single two weeks after Cooke’s murder at age 33 on Dec. 11, 1964. It was quickly embraced by civil rights activists.

Still relevant, in so many ways, it’s possible to see it as a comprehensive review of the Trump administration. The linked video is as powerful to watch as the lyrics to Cooke’s song are to hear:

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – End of an Error Edition

How about some good news for a change?

Flint Michigan may finally get some justice: Former governor Rick Snyder was charged with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty in his handling of Flint’s water crisis. Six others were also charged, including the former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the state’s former chief medical executive. They were both charged with involuntary manslaughter related to the deaths of Michiganders.

Wrongo was delighted that Biden named Jaime Harrison as Chair of the DNC. His commitment to retail funds raising and voter turnout should help change the Democrat’s chances of winning in the southern states. Harrison has done what others haven’t — organizing and getting out the vote in marginalized communities, zip code by zip code. If Harrison can keep the Party’s energy high, we may have a chance to keep the majority and win more seats in both Houses in 2022.

Oh, and TRUMP’S PRESIDENCY IS OVER, very soon. On to cartoons.

The empty promises of the past four years:

Members of Vanilla ISIS are being brought to justice:

It shouldn’t be this way:

Even GOP Congresscritters were scared:

The impeachment game:

NOW you’re ready to heal?

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Saturday’s (Not much of a) Soother – January 16, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Foster Bridge, Cabot, VT – photo by Michael Blanchette photography

Predictions for the year ahead are probably pointless, but 2021 could easily include more domestic terror. Biden’s inauguration will look like an armed takeover of the US Capitol, because the new president must be protected from a potential return of the mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan.6.

That group included some very serious, most likely, coordinated people who had temporary restraints and a plan. Reuters reports that US prosecutors said in a court filing that rioters intended:

 “…to capture and assassinate elected officials.”

The Trump Coupists believed that the election had been stolen, and that democracy in the US had been overthrown. It was, therefore, their duty to right the wrong that had been done, including taking captive those most responsible like Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence. The WaPo says the mob got within 100 feet of Pence’s hiding spot:

“If the pro-Trump mob had arrived seconds earlier, the attackers would have been in eyesight of the vice president as he was rushed across a reception hall into the office.”

This is a Republican problem. Here’s polling data from Quinnipiac, who surveyed 1,239 registered voters nationwide, from January 7-11:

  • 73% of Republicans say Trump is protecting, not undermining, democracy.
  • 70% of Republicans say Republicans who voted to block electors were protecting, not undermining, democracy.
  • 73% of Republicans say there was widespread voter fraud in 2020.

So what will these 50+ million Republicans out of the 74 million Trump voters who think they are disenfranchised, do? Their numbers are more than sufficient to sustain a domestic insurgency. They are geographically diverse, many are armed to the teeth. They believe they are part of a Trump movement, and it is their patriotic duty to fight in order to restore US democracy. From David Brooks:

“You can’t argue with people who have their own separate made-up set of facts…It’s a pure power struggle. The weapons in this struggle are intimidation, verbal assault, death threats and violence, real and rhetorical. The fantasyland mobbists have an advantage because they relish using these weapons, while their fellow Christians just want to lead their lives….The problem is, how do you go about reattaching people to reality?”

A distinct possibility for 2021 is a low grade insurrection, led by heavily armed true believers of the Trump movement. The challenge for America is whether these true believers can be deprogrammed and return to reality.

A return to reality requires all of us, but specifically Republicans at the local, state and federal levels to reject the Big Lie fomented by Trump. Republicans need to look in the mirror. The FT’s Janan Ganesh says: (paywalled, emphasis by Wrongo):

 “Whether we date it to the congressional midterm election of 1994, or Barry Goldwater’s White House bid in 1964, or the McCarthyite 1950s, the party has not policed its right flank for a long time. The Republican portrayal of government as inherently malign is hardly new….The impugning of opponents’ legitimacy did not commence with president-elect Joe Biden’s this winter.”

Few of us know insurrectionists. We see them on TV as armed, angry brainwashed people eager for a second Civil War. We’re all unsure if deprogramming will work, because it rarely works for cult members.

We need brave Republicans who will speak out against the tyrant, and the Big Lie, regardless of the threats.

If the Big Lie persists, America could then be faced with mutually exclusive, and terrible choices: One is to become a police state. We could see more cameras, security checkpoints near state capitols, combined with more social media suppression and expanded no-fly lists. But if there are millions of armed true believers, they won’t be easily suppressed. We could face a long term insurrection, one that will not be put down, short of imprisoning many more millions of Americans.

Whether the trained and armed groups of (mostly) white men scattered all over the country, many of whom are currently in police forces or on military active duty, will coalesce sufficiently to conduct periodic quasi-terrorist actions is difficult to say. But even in the very red states where the Trump movement is powerful, there are urban centers. Those cities are much less red. And few in the Trump movement will want their family and friends getting killed for the cause.

Second, we can try peacefully to encourage the insurrectionists into the mainstream by making our politicians cut out the BS. And by creating a better society. A decent, livable America is currently out of reach for many. In that sense, we all could profit by working to make America great again.

Let’s climb down from all of the recent hysteria, and enjoy a brief moment of Saturday Soothing. Here is the Cadenza from “Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto”, with Canadian Chris Coletti on solo trumpet, conducted by Paul Haas with the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas, in October 2017. His playing is remarkable:

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How Will The Senate Operate When It’s 50/50?

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Cranberry Peak, ME – 2021 photo by njhcomposer

The secret to happiness is freedom… And the secret to freedom is courage.” – Thucydides

Why can’t Republicans just say “Biden won”?

Wednesday night’s Trump video didn’t include the only sentence that might matter to the health of our democracy. He should have said: Joe Biden won the presidential election legitimately, and I congratulate him; he will be our president now.

Even Congressional Republicans are having a tough time saying the words.

What has happened to the GOP? Are they so afraid of their voters? The 10 GOP votes to impeach Trump for a second time was the largest bipartisan impeachment vote in history. In 1999, only five House Democrats voted to impeach Clinton, and three of them later became Republicans. No Democrat in the Senate voted to convict Clinton.

Back in the 1860s, all of Andrew Johnson’s fellow Democrats stood by him during his impeachment and kept him from conviction.

So impeachment #2 was a small but significant break with the near-total support Trump enjoyed exactly one year ago at his first impeachment. Back then, only Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted to convict him. What House impeachment manager Adam Schiff (D-CA) did was prophetic. He asked Republicans to look to the future:

“…you know you can’t trust this President to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’ll do it now. He’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months. He’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to.”

Why so few GOP House votes for impeachment? Many Republicans lacked moral courage, while a few actually said they feared for their lives if they voted to impeach. OTOH, no one should harbor the illusion that only Republicans receive death threats.

So think about what Thucydides says above: courage is the secret to preserving freedom.

If America is ever to be free of Trump, if America is ever going to free itself from fearing Trump’s armed and dangerous followers, our lawmakers need to be courageous.

All eyes now turn to the Senate, where Republicans will have the majority until inauguration day. After Jan. 20, Kamala Harris will become president of the Senate, while Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will be Majority Leader with the responsibility of guiding the Democratic agenda through what will be a 50/50 Party division of Senators.

This is a rare event; it’s only the fourth time in history that the Senate has been evenly divided.

That means Schumer and outgoing Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will first have to agree on a set of rules, known as an organizing resolution, which will govern how the Senate will operate. The organizing resolution determines everything from committee assignments and staff budgets, to who gets the best office space.

The last time we had a 50/50 Senate was in 2001, and a lot has changed in the 20 years since then. That 2001 power sharing agreement was between Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi and Democrat Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota. Their power-sharing agreement lasted for about five months, until Sen. Jim Jeffords, (then R-VT) became an independent, and caucused with the Democrats. At that point, the Democrats had a clear majority.

The Lott/Daschle agreement will be the starting point in the negotiations between Schumer and McConnell. The 2001 agreement provided for equal numbers of members on Senate committees, with a process for discharging bills and nominations that were deadlocked. From Trent Lott:

“If there was a tie vote in committee, either one of us could take it to the floor,”

At the time, that gave the Republicans a narrow advantage on setting the agenda.

This time, the same rule could be advantageous for Democrats. The 2001 agreement also provided for equal levels of staffing as well as office space, which may be less complicated in 2021, given the extent of remote work by Senate staff during the Covid pandemic.

The negotiation on an organizing resolution is complicated by the looming Senate impeachment trial.

Biden is rightly concerned about his agenda being stalled or slowed by the trial. He has said that he would like to see a “bifurcated” process on the Senate floor:

“Can we go half-day on dealing with impeachment, and half-day getting my people nominated and confirmed in the Senate…?”

Right now, Senate committees are still controlled by the GOP until the new organizing resolutions are adopted. Those Republican committee chairs are taking their time regarding scheduling hearings for Biden’s Cabinet picks.

We’ll see how far courage takes us in the new 117th Congress.

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