Saturday, November 6, 2021

 

<b>November 5, 2021</b> 

<u>A misguided defense of the filibuster</u>

I’ve been hoping that prominent Republicans would come forward, denounce Trumpism and McConnell-style obstructionism.  Mitt Romney’s recent opinion piece,[1] devoted to defending the filibuster, is a disappointment, especially as it tends to support the latter practice.  He recites a familiar but erroneous story that the filibuster was somehow part of Senate rules from the beginning, but bases his defense primarily on an argument that its effect is to require bipartisan support for legislation.  There is merit in his claim that the best legislation is that which commands support by both parties, although he overstates the case: “Anytime [sic] legislation is crafted and sponsored exclusively by one party, it is obviously an unserious partisan effort aimed at messaging and energizing that party’s base.”  To the contrary, Democrats are, ineptly but seriously, advocating important legislation for the good of the country.

The Senator points out that Democrats have defended the filibuster when it served their purposes, and might regret abandoning it now.  “There is a reasonable chance that Republicans could win both houses of Congress in the next election cycle and, further, that Donald Trump could be elected president once again in 2024. Have Democrats thought through what it would mean for them for Trump to be entirely unrestrained, with the Democratic minority having no power whatsoever? If Democrats eliminate the filibuster now, they — and the country — may soon regret it very much.”  That observation seems to be an admission that Republicans can’t be trusted with power.

Four other considerations are missing from his analysis.  First, the filibuster once required a Senator to be serious enough in his opposition to a bill to be willing to speak at length; now the phantom filibuster is invoked virtually by saying the word, creating a situation in which much legislation requires sixty votes to pass.  The Senate was not so designed.  The second issue is that the filibuster is overused, used almost routinely: “There have been more than 2,000 filibusters since 1917; about half have been in just the last 12 years.”[2]  This so impedes the work of the Senate that “161 exceptions to the filibuster’s supermajority requirement have been created between 1969 and 2014, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution’s Molly Reynolds.”[3]

The third problem is the unprincipled use of the filibuster by the Republicans, not in search of negotiation or compromise, or in pursuit of principle, but simply to obstruct. An apt description of the minority leader makes the point:  “Of course, this is the same Mitch McConnell who said of Mr. Biden, ‘100 percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration.’ . . . And the same Mr. McConnell who said that he would not confirm a Biden nominee to the Supreme Court if Republicans recaptured the Senate in 2022.”[4]     

Finally, requiring a supermajority in the Senate exacerbates its undemocratic structure.  Each State  has two Senators regardless of population.  The GOP’s ability to win senatorial elections in small states gives it numbers in the Senate far out of proportion to the number of people it represents.  As one study put it, referring to the recent election, “[T]he Senate will be split 50-50, but the Democratic half will represent 41,549,808 more people than the Republican half.”[5]  Another source estimates the current discrepancy at between “nearly 40 million" and 42 million.[6]  This means that legislation can be blocked not only by a minority of Senators but by Senators representing an even smaller minority of the people.

Senator Romney is a good man and is not a blind follower of the GOP agenda, but his essay tends to give that agenda aid and comfort.

<b>____________

<b>1.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/10/31/mitt-romney-filibuster-senate-democratic- institution/

<b>2. https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/filibuster-explained

<b>3. Ibid.

<b>4. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/06/opinion/senate-mcconnell-democrats.html

<b>5. https://www.vox.com/2020/11/6/21550979/senate-malapportionment-20-million-democrats- republicans-supreme-court

<b>6. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/mar/12/us-senate-system-white-conservative-minority

Sunday, October 10, 2021

<b>October 10, 2021</b>

<u>Irrationality rampant</u>

Will Rogers captured the enduring character of our politicians on the left: “I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.”  There may be more potent prescriptions for failure and defeat than disarray and internal squabbling, but those will suffice.  The Democrats have those traits in abundance and, irrational as it would be, if they don’t get their act together, the voters may decide to put the party that hates government in charge of it next year.  Another of Rogers’ quips applies today: “Democrats never agree on anything, that's why they're Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they would be Republicans.”  Voters may prefer unified action, regardless of direction, to dithering accompanied by pompous declarations of high principle.  The return to sanity, responsibility and constructive policies promised by Biden’s election is in danger.

Democrats’ squabbling reveals a lack of clear thinking, but they are a model of intellect compared to the right.  There are many examples of truly idiotic statements by Republican leaders and hangers-on  However, much of the blather is tactical, designed to stir up the base.  Many theories have been advanced to explain how so many people could believe, or at least swallow, the nonsense and patent lies that pass for Republican policy.  None of the various analyses of the behavior of the base, for example reference to authoritarian personalities, seems to me to fully explain it.  However, whatever the mechanism, there is a  striking, and frightening, resemblance to the behavior of followers of dictators, notably Mussolini and Hitler.

I’ve discounted comparisons of the American right to fascism because it seemed to me that the term was being used too loosely.  However, a recent book[1] offers this brief description of politics in Germany and Italy, and the rise of dictators, which applies all too well:  “Out of the crucible of these years,” the early 1920s, “came the cult of victimhood that turned emotions like resentment and humiliation into positive elements of party platforms.”  In this mind set, Germany lost the war not because it was defeated on the battlefield but because it was “stabbed in the back” by leftist elements at home; the Versailles Treaty cheated Italy out of territory it was entitled to for its minimal efforts in the war.  Similarly, white Americans are being displaced, the government has been taken over by liberals who despise ordinary, hardworking people, other countries are stealing our jobs, and Trump lost the election because of massive fraud.  The politics of victimhood redux. 

I’m back to where I always seem to end up.  With a populace as resentful, foolish and gullible as ours, we can be saved only by leadership, and some of it must come from conservatives.

<br>___________________

<br>1. Ruth Ben-Ghiat, <i>Strongmen, Mussolini to the Present</i>, pp. 21-22

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

September 20, 2021
Another factor in our decline

I’ve speculated on the contributions of the people, leaders and institutions to the condition of the nation.[1]  It would be easy to focus on the people, as there are so many examples of irrational behavior, resistance to vaccination being the most recent.  I’ve mentioned the culture in passing, but it occurs to me now that it is a separate, fourth, factor.  In this context, I’m referring to the aspect of culture dealing with standards of behavior and restraints on antisocial actions.  If people are not individually responsible — many Americans today clearly are not — and therefore unable to exercise appropriate self-control, there should be commonly accepted rules which will discourage misconduct and reenforce positive behavior.  Laws and prosecution are blunt instruments, useful only in extreme cases. There must be ethical and moral restraints.  However, those must be accepted, at least in general outline, by a majority of people, or by enough influential people to bring the rest along. (I’ve just invoked the leadership factor).

It could be argued that culture is not separate category, merely another institution. or that it is simply an aspect of the people.  However, I’ve used “institution” to mean something formally organized, such as the Supreme Court,  the electoral system or political parties; culture, as I’m using the concept, is a set of standards and controls, not an organizational structure.  At least functionally it is distinct from the people as well, as it describes principles, not behavior. 

However, culture, in the sense of anything binding all of us, virtually has evaporated; standards have been repudiated and social control has been weakened.  Individualism has triumphed.  True, there are tribal loyalties, and one could posit a tribal culture, but so many of those tribal impulses stem from rejection of controls that the tribes fundamentally are collections of rebellious individuals.  The movement toward individualism began in the Enlightenment and it is to some degree enshrined in the Constitution.  However, in recent decades it has moved to the point that it threatens democratic government. This development is by no means peculiar to the right; liberals have made a major contribution to the abandonment of social standards.  However, the present assault comes from  the right. 

An interesting irony is the reaction, years ago, among conservatives to perceived excesses of behavior by liberals.  The Death of Outrage, William J. Bennett’s 1998 attack on President Clinton, exemplifies that righteous indignation:  “What we need in our president is one who stands against destructive cultural norms, not one who embodies, manipulates, and exploits them.”[2]  Where is the outrage at  Trumpish behavior, which is far more destructive?  He concluded: “Our commitment to long-standing American ideals has been enervated. We desperately need to recover them, and soon.”[3]  We could start by supporting and accepting fair elections.

Another conservative critic, Robert Bork, offered these pronouncements in 1996, in a book subtitled Modern Liberalism and American Decline: “What liberalism has constantly moved away from are the constraints on personal liberty imposed by religion, morality, law, family, and community.  Liberalism moves, therefore, toward radical individualism and the corruption of standards that movement entails.”[4]

Also: “Modern liberals employ the rhetoric of ‘rights’ incessantly not only to deligitimize the idea of restraints on individuals by communities but to prevent discussion of the topic.”[5]  What a perfect appraisal of those who refuse to wear masks or be vaccinated because it interferes with their freedom, who assert their right to carry guns.  “The idea that men are naturally rational, moral creatures without the need for strong external restraints has been exploded by experience,”[6]  Indeed.

I return to the conclusion to which these ramblings has led me: faced by ignorant and irresponsible people, flawed institutions, and a culture in decline, the way out is dependent on leadership, but that is a complicated issue.  Not only must my hypothetical leaders show the right path, they must denounce and destroy the credibility of many of those now in positions of influence: Trump, McCarthy, DeSantis, Abbott, et al.  Leaders, in other words, are both the solution and part of the problem.  Still, it might take only a relatively few prominent Republicans to turn the tide.
<b>_____________________
<b>1. My comments are in these posts: 1/14/19, 3/15/19, 1/17/20, 9/11/20, 9/22/20, 11/1/20, 1/25/21.
<b>2. The Death of Outrage, p. 42 (emphasis in the original)
<b>3. Id., at 129
<b>4. Slouching Towards Gomorrah pp. 61-62
<b>5. Id., at 150-51
<b>6. Id., at 139

Thursday, July 8, 2021

 

July 8, 2021

A limited approach to the gun menace

As noted, the legislature did much to address the issue of the use of force by police.  It took a more cautious approach to the proliferation of guns in part, no doubt, because the state constitution, like the federal, contains unfortunate language regarding weapons.  The state version is worse; it took a misreading of the Second Amendment to convert it into a broad declaration of an individual right to be armed, but the state provision clearly separates the individual right from a collective one:

RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.[56]

Despite that sweeping grant, Senate Bill 5038, recently passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, establishes some limits as to where guns and other weapons may be carried.  Omitting some details and qualifications, it provides as follows:

Section 1, subsection (1) declares that 

It is unlawful for any person to enter the following places when he or she knowingly possesses or knowingly has under his or her control a weapon:

(a) The restricted access areas of a jail  or of a law enforcement facility . . . ;

(b) Those areas in any building which are used in connection with court proceedings . . .;

(c)  The restricted access areas of a public mental health facility . . . and state institutions for the care of the mentally ill . . . ;

(d) That portion of an establishment classified by the state liquor and cannabis board as off-limits to persons under 21 years of age; or

(e) The restricted access areas of a commercial service airport . . . .

Subsection (1) does not apply to:

(a) A person engaged in military activities sponsored by the federal or state governments, while engaged in official duties;

(b) Law enforcement personnel . . .;

       (c) Security personnel while engaged in official duties.

There is appended a definition of “weapon” but, for no obvious reason, it applies only to (b) above, where it means “any firearm, explosive as defined [by a statute], or any weapon of the kind usually known as slungshot, sand club, or metal knuckles, or any knife, dagger, dirk, or other similar weapon that is capable of causing death or bodily injury and is commonly used with the intent to cause death or bodily injury.”

To confuse matters further, the following definition appears later, and is applied to all of Section 1:   “ ‘Weapon’ as used in this section means any firearm, explosive as defined [by the same statute], or instrument or weapon listed in RCW 9.41.250.”  That statute, in one subsection, lists the following: “slungshot, sand club, metal knuckles and spring blade knife,” and in another subsection “any dagger, dirk, pistol or other dangerous weapon.”  Yet another subsection refers to silencers.  RCW 9.41.250 defines “spring blade knife,” but we are left to wonder what  slungshots and sand clubs are.

Section 1, subsection (2) provides that, except for law enforcement or military personnel, “it is unlawful for any person to knowingly open carry a firearm or other weapon while knowingly at any permitted demonstration. . . .”  The ban applies whether the firearm or other weapon is carried on the person or in a vehicle. “Weapon” has the same meaning as in subsection (1)(b) above.

The ban in subsection (2) does not apply “to the lawful concealed carry of a firearm by a person who has a valid concealed pistol license.” The reference to “firearm” is confusing, as the license would authorize only a pistol.  There is a similar, qualified exemption under Section 1, subsection (1)(a) above,  in which “pistol,” “firearm” and “weapon” are mixed. 

Section 1, subsection (3), continuing the baffling application of conditions and restrictions, provides that, cities, towns, counties, and other municipalities may enact laws

(a) Restricting the discharge of firearms in any portion of their respective jurisdictions . . . . Such laws and ordinances shall not abridge the right of the individual guaranteed by Article I, section 24 of the state Constitution . . . ; and

(b) Restricting the possession of firearms in any stadium or convention center, operated by a . . . municipality, except that such restrictions shall not apply to:

(i) Any pistol in the possession of a person licensed under [state law] or exempt from the licensing requirement . . . ; or

(ii) Any showing, demonstration, or lecture involving the exhibition of firearms.

Cities, towns, and counties [why not “other municipalities?”]  “may enact ordinances restricting the areas in their respective jurisdictions in which firearms may be sold, but, except as [to school zones], a business selling firearms may not be treated more restrictively than other businesses located within the same zone.”

Section 2, perhaps exhibiting a degree of self-interest by legislators, makes it “unlawful for any person to knowingly open carry a firearm or other weapon” on the “west state capitol campus grounds; any buildings on the state capitol grounds; any state legislative office; or any location of a public legislative hearing or meeting during the hearing or meeting.”  "Weapon" is, in somewhat confusing fashion, given the same definition as in subsection (1)(b) above.

However, self-protection and protection of others can go only so far: “Nothing in this section applies to the lawful concealed carry of a firearm by a person who has a valid concealed pistol license.” (Again, the odd combination of pistol and firearm). Apparently, it’s acceptable to be a menace if the gun isn’t brandished before use.    

The statute is a drafting mess, but the more serious problem is that we are limited to half-measures by the self-destructive gun culture, which never will be eliminated until we expunge gun-rights provisions, or those interpreted to grant gun rights, from our constitutions or, as to the Second Amendment, until the Supreme Court recognizes the error it made in Heller and McDonald.

 



56. Constitution of the State of Washington, Article I, Section 24.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

<b>July 6, 2021</b> 

<u>Policing the Police</u>

The excessive use of force by police has been a problem here in Washington, as elsewhere.  Two developments provide some hope of progress. 

The first is the filing by the State Attorney General of criminal charges against three police officers involved in the death of Manuel Ellis, an African American, in March, 2020.  According to the charges, he was subjected to various kinds of force, including a “lateral vascular neck restraint” from behind — in other words a choke hold —  repeated  Taser bursts, hogtying (handcuffed and legs trussed behind his back) and an officer kneeling on his back and pushing his face into the pavement.  Ellis was heard to cry out “Can’t breathe, sir, can’t breathe.” We have heard that too often.  Despite that plea, a “spit hood,” in effect a mask, was put over his face. 

He died at the scene. The Medical Examiner concluded that the cause of death was “hypoxia (a lack of oxygen) due to physical restraint,” and that “the manner in which Ellis was restrained by officers and the application of the spit hood prevented Ellis from breathing properly and caused respiratory arrest and death.” He determined Ellis’s death to be a homicide.[53]

After a bungled investigation by the Pierce County Sheriff, the matter was referred by the Governor to the Washington State Patrol for a further investigation, and ultimately the State Attorney General intervened, resulting in the charges. The Tacoma Police Union issued a statement, Trump-like in its inanity and irresponsibility, calling the charges “a politically motivated witch hunt.”[54]

The second development is a package of bills passed by the Legislature, recently signed by the Governor, which address issues surrounding policing.  Briefly — and assuming that I have accurately untangled the unnecessarily opaque way in which bills are presented —they provide as follows:

Senate Bill 5051 amends a statute pertaining to the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, directing  it to “establish and administer standards and processes for certification, suspension, and decertification of peace officers and corrections officers.” It also will ”provide programs and training that enhance the integrity, effectiveness, and professionalism of peace officers and corrections officers while helping to ensure that law enforcement and correctional services are delivered to the people of Washington in a manner that fully complies with the Constitutions and laws of this state and United States.”  The Commission will include seven “community members who are not employed in law enforcement,” up from two; of the seven, three will be “from a historically underrepresented community.”

In a somewhat convoluted section, SB 5051 broadens the list of offenses that can cause officers to lose  certification, the loss of which will prevent their moving to other police departments.

House Bill 1001 provides that the Commission “shall develop and implement a law enforcement professional development outreach grant program for the purpose of encouraging a broader diversity of candidates from under represented groups and communities to seek careers in law enforcement.”

House Bill 1310 deals with the use of force.  Subject to certain limitations, a peace officer may use physical force when necessary to “[p]rotect against criminal conduct where there is probable cause to make an arrest; effect an arrest; prevent an escape . . . ; or protect against an imminent threat of bodily injury to the peace officer, another person, or the person against whom force is being used.”  Deadly force may be used “only when necessary to protect against an imminent threat of serious physical injury or death to the officer or another person.”

In determining whether to use force, a peace officer shall, when possible, “exhaust available and appropriate de-escalation tactics,” some of which are listed.  Also, when using physical force, the officer shall “use the least amount of physical force necessary to overcome resistance under the circumstances.”

One of the aspects of police shootings that I have found puzzling and disturbing is that, so often, someone is fatally shot who could have been controlled by wounding (assuming that any shooting was required).  The foregoing provisions may have been intended to deal with that issue, but it should be addressed directly. 

House Bill 1054 bars police from using choke holds or neck restraints.  It bans the use of tear gas “unless necessary to alleviate a present risk of serious harm” posed by “[r]iot, barricaded subject, or hostage situation.”  It also establishes limits on the use of vehicular pursuit.

Addressing the militarization of police departments, HB 1054 provides that “A law enforcement agency may not acquire or use any military equipment.” Any law enforcement agency possessing military equipment “shall return the equipment to the federal agency from which it was acquired, if applicable, or destroy the equipment by December 31, 2022.“ 

Finally, 1054 provides as follows: “An officer may not seek and a court may not issue a search or arrest warrant granting an express exception to the requirement for the officer to provide notice of his or her office and purpose when executing the warrant.”  In other words, no-knock warrants are out.

Senate Bill 5066 requires officers to intervene when they see other officers using excessive force:

Any identifiable on-duty peace officer who witnesses another peace officer engaging or attempting to engage in the use of excessive force against another person shall intervene when in a position to do so to end the use of excessive force. . . . A peace officer shall also render aid at the earliest safe opportunity. . .  to any person injured as a result of the use of force.

There is a reporting requirement which seems to go beyond the issue of excessive force.           

Any identifiable on-duty peace officer who witnesses any wrongdoing committed by another peace officer, or has a good faith reasonable belief that another peace officer committed wrongdoing, shall report such wrongdoing to the witnessing officer's supervisor or other supervisory peace officer . . . .

It’s odd that the duty to report is limited to on-duty officers.

To protect the reporting officer, the act provides: “A member of a law enforcement agency shall not discipline or retaliate in any way against a peace officer for intervening in good faith or for reporting wrongdoing in good faith as required by this section.”

Senate Bill 5259 provides that a “contractor,” to be named, will “implement a statewide use of force data program as provided in this chapter.” The contractor will be an “institution of higher education.”  The statute is a maze of bureaucratic provisions pertaining to rules to be established and to an advisory body which will help draft them. 

If the program comes into being, it would operate as follows: “Each law enforcement agency in the state is required to report each incident where a law enforcement officer employed by the agency used force” and where a fatality or “great bodily harm” or “substantial bodily harm”occurred; or the officer used a choke hold or vascular neck restraint; or,  “against a person,” the officer pointed or discharged a firearm; used “an electronic control weapon including, but not limited to, a taser;” used “oleoresin capsicum [pepper] spray;” discharged ”a less lethal shotgun or other impact munitions;” struck, “using an impact weapon or instrument including, but not limited to, a club, baton, or flashlight;” kicked, punched or slapped; struck with a vehicle; or released a dog which then bit. 

Accumulation of this information would be useful to the state, and also to the FBI, which has struggled to obtain use-of-force data from police departments.[55]  Although the data collected under SB 5051 could help fill that gap, there is nothing in the bill about sharing the information gathered.  The closest it comes is a provision that the advisory group should “[r]ecommend practices for public, law enforcement, and academic access and use of program data.”

       House Bill 1267 contains this recital:

The legislature finds that there has been an outpouring of frustration, anger, and demand for change from many members of the public over the deaths of people of color resulting from encounters with police. The most recent deaths in the United States and within Washington are a call to lead our state to a new system for investigating deaths and other serious incidents involving law enforcement officers.

The bill creates an Office of Independent Investigations within the Office of the Governor. The new agency will “[c]onduct fair, thorough, transparent, and competent investigations of police use of force and other incidents involving law enforcement. . . .”  Although that refers generally to “force,” the specific provisions focus on deadly force, The Office shall:

(1) Conduct fair, thorough, transparent, and competent investigations of police use of force and other incidents involving law enforcement as authorized in this chapter . . . . The office shall commence investigations as follows:

(1)(a) Beginning no later than July 1, 2022, the office is authorized to conduct investigations of deadly force cases occurring after July 1, 2022, including any incident involving use of deadly force by an involved officer . . . and

(b) Beginning no later than July 1, 2023, the office is authorized to review, and may investigate, prior investigations of deadly force by an involved officer if new evidence is brought forth that was not included in the initial investigation.

Subsection (a) is puzzling; it isn’t clear what the Office would have to do with deadly force cases not pertaining to an involved officer.

The statutes need review, in part because they overlap, but they and the prosecution by the AG should help to put us on the right path.  Neither the reaction of the police union nor calls for defunding the police is a useful response to allegations of police misconduct.

<br>______________________

<br>53.Attorney General’s  press release:

https://www.atg.wa.gov/news/news-releases/ag-ferguson-charges-three-officers-killing-manuel-ellis.

The Declaration for Determination of Probable Cause included in the release is a copy of a document of that title filed in Pierce County Superior Court as part of the prosecution:

https://agportal-s3bucket.s3.amazonaws.com/uploadedfiles/Another/News/Press_Releases/Dec_ProbableCause_Burbank-05272021081756.pdf

<br>54. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/times-watchdog/state-attorney-general-charging-decision- on-manuel-ellis-death/

<br>55. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/06/09/police-use-of-force-data/?utm_campaign=wp_ post_most&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_most&carta-url=https%3A%2F%2Fs2.washingtonpost.com%2Fcar-ln-tr%2F33690b2%2F60c0ec059d2fdae3027672c7%2F5b65de00ade4e 2779564ed94%2 F24%2F72%2 F60c0ec059d2fdae3027672c7



1 Attorney General’s  press release:

https://www.atg.wa.gov/news/news-releases/ag-ferguson-charges-three-officers-killing-manuel-ellis.

The Declaration for Determination of Probable Cause included in the release is a copy of a document of that title filed in Pierce County Superior Court as part of the prosecution:

https://agportal-s3bucket.s3.amazonaws.com/uploadedfiles/Another/News/Press_Releases/Dec_ProbableCause_Burbank-05272021081756.pdf

2 https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/times-watchdog/state-attorney-general-charging-decision-on- manuel-ellis-death/.

3 https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/06/09/police-use-of-force-data/?utm_campaign=wp_ post_most&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_most&carta-url=https%3A%2F%2Fs2.washingtonpost.com%2Fcar-ln-tr%2F33690b2%2F60c0ec059d2fdae3027672c7%2F5b65de00ade4e2779564ed94%2F24%2F72%2F60c0ec059d2fdae3027672c7

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

<b>May 23, 2021</b>

<u>The formerly Grand Old Party,/U.

      In a way, the decline if the Republican Party is not surprising, as there are ample signs of the decline of the nation generally. There is no sense of common purpose; we are unable to work together; the country is descending into tribalism.  As David Brooks put it in a recent column, “Could today’s version of America have been able to win World War II? It hardly seems possible. That victory required national cohesion, voluntary sacrifice for the common good and trust in institutions and each other.”1  That no longer describes us.  Perhaps, then, the collapse of the GOP is part of a more general picture; even so, it is stunning.

      Donald Trump was a failure as President, and is a serial liar.  He is, to use his term, a loser, and is so  desperate to hide that from others and from himself that he concocted his crowning lie, that the 2020 presidential election somehow was stolen.  That story has no foundation in fact, and is not even entirely new; it recycles in more extreme form his excuse for not winning the popular vote in 2016.  Nevertheless, the Party has rallied around.  Its pathetic fealty to Trump was demonstrated by stripping Liz Cheney of her leadership post for speaking the embarrassing truth too often.   

      In following and praising Trump, Republicans have adopted his signature characteristic: lying.  They  no longer make any pretense of consistency or plausibility.  Kevin McCarthy said “I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election” even though his leader and Republicans across the country do just that.  Matching him in ignoring reality, and adding a bit of gallows humor, Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) described the mob storming the Capitol building as making “a normal tourist visit.”

      Another example of the shamelessness and irrationality of those genuflecting before Trump is that many of his ardent supporters trashed him in the past, including Liz Cheney’s replacement Elise Stefanik and even Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President.  A variation is denunciation by a loyalist, followed by return to the fold.  Examples are remarks after the January 6 insurrection by Kevin McCarthy (“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters”) and Mitch McConnell: (“Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty.)”

      Republican strategy assumes that the base have short memories and can’t tell fact from fiction. Republican lesders must hope so, as the truth would defeat them.  When Kellyanne Conway spoke of alternative facts, she was trying to explain away one of Trump’s fantasies but, as it turned out, she was describing the new political reality.  Daniel Patrick Moynihan is said to have declared that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Republicans want both and need the latter.

      The Party has no actual program, other than opposing everything Biden wants to do while screaming “socialism!” It has no message to the people that will win votes on the merits because, to the extent it has a political philosophy, it is helping the rich and powerful.  True, Republicans have a slogan: maximize freedom, but “freedom,” to them, always was something of a con, usually amounting to opposing regulations and taxes, in other words serving selfishness.  Now it often seems to contain a death wish: opposing masks and distancing in the face of a pandemic, opposing climate-control measures in the face of potentially fatal global warming, opposing gun control in the face of a flood of shootings.

      Despite all that, can the Republicans recapture Congress next year?  There are predictions that it is a certainty.2  Redistricting apparently will favor red states, but more will be needed. Lacking a meaningful message, the GOP pins its hope of winning the next election on two ploys.  First, knowing that it must have the votes of Trump’s supposed base — the MAGA crowd, driven by cultural resentments — it will continue to idolize, fawn over, lick the boots of their leader. Second, it will rig the election — there’s irony — by gerrymandering and vote suppression. Even after that, the Party will need independent votes.  Will those appear?   

      An article in The Washington Post suggested that they may not. Without providing any detail, The Post, referring to “a party retreat in April,” reported this:

When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee rose to explain the party’s latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump’s weakness . . . .  Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.3  

That result is generally consistent with national polls, which show Trump’s favorability rating falling.

      In addition, the Party is coming apart at the seams, and many voters may choose to follow the dissenters. Liz Cheney is not alone in criticizing fellow Republicans, nor is Trump her only target. Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene managed to find a parallel between Speaker Pelosi's decision to require members of the House to wear masks on the chamber floor and the Holocaust; Rep. Cheney denounced that as “evil lunacy,” Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) condemned Greene’s comment as “beyond reprehensible.”  Rep. Adam Kinzinger has said “I do think Kevin [McCarthy] has failed to tell the truth to the Republicans and to the American people” about the events of January 6. 

      Reps Cheney and Kinzinger voted in January to impeach Trump, along with eight other Republicans, the most in history to support impeaching a president of the same party.4  At the trial in the Senate, seven Republicans voted to convict Trump, shattering the record for the most votes to convict by a president’s party.  (The previous record was one, set in Trump’s first impeachment trial)5 

      Many prominent Republicans have broken with Trump.  One of the most significant is Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Party, emblem of the establishment. (“I am an American, a conservative and a Republican, in that order. And I am voting for Joe Biden on Nov. 3.”)  Several Republicans spoke at the Democratic Convention, Never Trumpers abound, and many Republican election officials have refused to go along with the big lie.  The Maricopa, Arizona Board of Supervisors — four of the five members are Republicans — has denounced the absurd “audit” of that county’s votes.  All of this not only reveals the weakness of the Party but provides encouragement and cover to Republican voters who may be tempted to desert. If Trump continues to trash prominent Republicans such as Pence and McConnell, there might even be some high-level defections, not from the Party or the anti-Biden agenda, but from the Trump-MAGA-election lies wing.

      None of this guarantees that the Democrats will win next year, and they have problems of their own to solve. They need to hammer on the sins and folly of the opposition, but also must convince ordinary folk, who were once the heart of the Party, that it understands them and that it’s on their side.

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<br>48. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/06/opinion/herd-immunity-us.html?campaign_id=39&emc= edit_ty_20210507&instance_id=30378&nl=opinion-today&regi_id=22748210&segment_id=57460&te= 1&user_id=3c8ad60682fc8ebf910291b2246ab6c0

<br>49.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/cheney-trump-mccarthy-republicans/2021/05/08/12e6c41e- adcf-11eb-acd3-24b44a57093a_story.html

<br>50. https://www.npr.org/2021/01/14/956621191/these-are-the-10-republicans-who-voted-to-impeach- trump

<br>51. https://www.statista.com/chart/20745/senate-votes-impeachment-clinton-trump/



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