Sunday, January 31, 2021
The United States is a multi-cultural and multi-racial country. But you would never know that by looking at the individuals on our currency. They are all white men. That doesn't seem right in a country where whites are going to be a minority of the population around the middle of this century.
The Obama administration realized this, and they planned to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. The person chosen to be pictured on that bill was Harriet Tubman -- a Black woman and a true American hero. The bill was planned to debut on the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote in the United States (August 18, 2020).
But once Donald Trump entered the White House, those plans were put on an indefinite hold. Trump was a racist and misogynist, and couldn't let a Black woman be pictured on our currency. And he knew the racists in his party's base didn't want it either.
But those bad times are over. We have a new president -- one who believes in equal rights. President Biden, in his first week in office, put the Tubman $20 bill back on track. It will be a couple of years before we see it (because the bill has to be designed with modern safeguards in mind), but it is going to happen!
The charts above reflect the results of the latest Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between January 24th and 26th of a national sample of 1,245 registered voters, with a 3.7 point margin of error.
It shows that while the voters are in love with either political party, they have a much higher opinion of Democrats rather than Republicans.
Democrats have a negative 5 point rating (46% favorable to 51% unfavorable). Republicans have a negative 28 point rating (33% favorable to 61% unfavorable).
Those elements have been a part of the Republican Party for quite a while now, but they were kept in check by more moderate party leaders. That is no longer true. Now the extremists have taken control of the party in many states, and the national party is bowing to them (and their bigoted leader -- Donald Trump).
This has resulted in some extremists being elected to serve in Congress, and the party leaders are accepting them. That acceptance is defining the party as a party of extremism.
The following is a small part of an op-ed in The New York Times:
The video’s title was posed as a question, but it left little doubt about where the men who filmed it stood. They called it “The Coming Civil War?” and in its opening seconds, Jim Arroyo, who leads an Arizona chapter of Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia, declared that the conflict had already begun.
To back up his claim, Mr. Arroyo cited Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, one of the most far-right members of Congress. Mr. Gosar had paid a visit to the local Oath Keepers chapter a few years earlier, Mr. Arroyo recounted, and when asked if the United States was headed for a civil war, the congressman’s “response to the group was just flat out: ‘We’re in it. We just haven’t started shooting at each other yet.’”
Less than two months after the video was posted, members of the Oath Keepers were among those with links to extremist groupsfrom around the country who took part in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, prompting new scrutiny of the links between members of Congress and an array of organizations and movements that espouse far-right beliefs.
Nearly 150 House Republicans supported President Donald J. Trump’s baseless claims that the election had been stolen from him. But Mr. Gosar and a handful of other Republican members of the House had deeper ties to extremist groups who pushed violent ideas and conspiracy theories and whose members were prominent among those who stormed the halls of Congress in an effort to stop certification of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.
Their ranks include Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, who like Mr. Gosar was linked to the “Stop the Steal” campaign backing Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the election’s outcome.
Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado has close connections to militia groups including the so-called Three Percenters, an extremist offshoot of the gun rights movement that had at least one member who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory, whose adherents were among the most visible of those who stormed the building, and she appeared at a rally with militia groups.
Before being elected to Congress last year, Ms. Greene used social media in 2019 to endorse executing top Democrats and has suggested that the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., was a staged “false flag” attack. The liberal group Media Matters for America reported on Thursdaythat Ms. Greene also speculated on Facebook in 2018 that California wildfires might have been started by lasers from space, promoting a theory pushed by followers of QAnon.
Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida appeared last year at an event also attended by members of the Proud Boys, another extremist organization whose role in the Jan. 6 assault, like those of the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, is being investigated by the F.B.I.
It is not clear whether any elected officials played a role in directly facilitating the attack on the Capitol, other than helping to incite violence through false statements about the election being stolen from Mr. Trump. Officials have said they are investigating reports from Democrats that a number of House Republicans provided tours of the Capitol and other information to people who might have gone on to be part of the mob on Jan. 6. . . .
In signaling either overt or tacit support, a small but vocal band of Republicans now serving in the House provided legitimacy and publicity to extremist groups and movements as they built toward their role in supporting Mr. Trump’s efforts to subvert the outcome of the 2020 election and the attack on Congress.
Saturday, January 30, 2021
The Labor Department released its weekly statistics last Thursday. It showed that an additional 847,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending on January 23rd. The Trump/Coronavirus recession continues.
Fortunately, we now have a new president. Hopefully, President Biden can get a handle on the pandemic and begin to control it. The economy won't recover until that happens.
Here is the official Labor Department statement:
In the week ending January 23, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 847,000, a decrease of 67,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 14,000 from 900,000 to 914,000. The 4-week moving average was 868,000, an increase of 16,250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 3,750 from 848,000 to 851,750.
Sadly, that is no longer true. The right-wing crazies have taken over the party now -- the white supremacists, the religious bigots, and the conspiracy theory nuts. The GOP invited them in, because it wanted their votes and they thought they could control them. But they couldn't. The now control the party, and it is doubtful whether the party can right itself again, or even survive.
The following is from a New York Times column by Paul Krugman:
Here’s what we know about American politics: The Republican Party is stuck, probably irreversibly, in a doom loop of bizarro. If the Trump-incited Capitol insurrection didn’t snap the party back to sanity — and it didn’t — nothing will.
What isn’t clear yet is who, exactly, will end up facing doom. Will it be the G.O.P. as a significant political force? Or will it be America as we know it? Unfortunately, we don’t know the answer. It depends a lot on how successful Republicans will be in suppressing votes.
About the bizarro: Even I had some lingering hope that the Republican establishment might try to end Trumpism. But such hopes died this week.
On Tuesday Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, who has said that Donald Trump’s role in fomenting the insurrection was impeachable, voted for a measure that would have declared a Trump trial unconstitutional because he’s no longer in office. (Most constitutional scholars disagree.)
On Thursday Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader — who still hasn’t conceded that Joe Biden legitimately won the presidency, but did declare that Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack on Congress — visited Mar-a-Lago, presumably to make amends.
In other words, the G.O.P.’s national leadership, after briefly flirting with sense, has surrendered to the fantasies of the fringe. Cowardice rules. . . .
How did this happen to what was once the party of Dwight Eisenhower? Political scientists argue that traditional forces of moderation have been weakened by factors like the nationalization of politics and the rise of partisan media, notably Fox News.
This opens the door to a process of self-reinforcing extremism (something, by the way, that I’ve seen happen in a minor fashion within some academic subfields). As hard-liners gain power within a group, they drive out moderates; what remains of the group is even more extreme, which drives out even more moderates; and so on. A party starts out complaining that taxes are too high; after a while it begins claiming that climate change is a giant hoax; it ends up believing that all Democrats are Satanist pedophiles.
This process of radicalization began long before Donald Trump; it goes back at least to Newt Gingrich’s takeover of Congress in 1994. But Trump’s reign of corruption and lies, followed by his refusal to concede and his attempt to overturn the election results, brought it to a head. And the cowardice of the Republican establishment has sealed the deal. One of America’s two major political parties has parted ways with facts, logic and democracy, and it’s not coming back. . . .
The bottom line is that we don’t know whether we’ve earned more than a temporary reprieve. A president who tried to retain power despite losing an election has been foiled. But a party that buys into bizarre conspiracy theories and denies the legitimacy of its opposition isn’t getting saner, and still has a good chance of taking complete power in four years.
Friday, January 29, 2021
The charts above reflect the results of a recent Monmouth University Poll -- done between January 21st and 24th of a national sample of 809 adults, with a 3.5 point margin of error.
Is this threat real? Would he actually follow through on it?
A recent Morning Consult Poll showed that if he did, about 30% of current Republican Party members would follow him into the new party.
That has Republican leaders scared. They know that a third party headed by Trump, while unlikely to succeed, would be devastating for them in the 2022 and 2024 elections. Trump also knows this.
I doubt Trump would actually try to start a new party. It would be too much work (and he hates work). But just the threat of it is accomplishing his real goals -- to prevent being convicted in the impeachment trial, and to remain in control of the Republican Party for the next 2-4 years. He likes being thought of as a kingmaker.
Normally, presidents that lose after one term are not considered to be the party's leader. Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush both lost the presidency after their first term, and neither could be considered their party's leader after their loss. The same can be said of Jimmy Carter for the Democrats (even though he has rehabilitated his image in recent years).
Trump wants to change that. He cannot stand being thought of as a loser (even though he is). He wants to remain the most powerful Republican. Sadly, it looks like current leaders in the Republican Party are going to let him do that.
Why? Because they are political cowards. It would be best for their party in the long run to get rid of Trump (who has done so much damage to their party), but they don't have the courage to do it. They are more interested in their own political survival.
They know Trump better than anyone. They know he is crazy and vindictive. They know he sees the world as friends (people loyal to him who obey him) and enemies (all others), and they don't want to be on his enemies list. They are afraid they will have a well-funded primary opponent, and maybe even have to run against a third party candidate if they survive that.
In the political life of an elected official, there comes a time when they have to choose doing what's better for the country (or their party) and doing what's best for themselves. Sadly, too many choose the latter -- and that is what most in today's Republican Party are doing. They have chosen political cowardice over political courage. It's shameless and hypocritical, but then those seem to be values in the current GOP.
Trump knows they are cowards, and that's why he's threatening to start a new party or make sure they have primary opponents. He knows their cowardice will cause them to bend their knee to him -- and that is all he wants.
The chart above shows the initial job approval numbers for each president since World War II. The numbers are from Fivethirtyeight.com. Note that Trump started lower than any other president, and never improved on those numbers. He's the only president to have never reached 50% approval at any time during his presidency. Bush II was the only president besides Trump to start with less than 50%, but his numbers improved drastically after the 9/11 tragedy.
Joe Biden starts with a 54% job approval -- about 9.9 points better than Trump.
The Republican Party used to call themselves the party of "law and order". They're going to have to abandon that label, because they are very weak on controlling terrorism. The biggest terrorist threat for the last few years has been from right-wing groups -- especially racist and white supremacist groups. The Republicans have tried to hide that fact, and even after the insurrection by those groups at the Capitol, they don't want to clamp down on those groups. Why? Because those terrorist elements vote Republican, and the GOP doesn't want to alienate any part of their base.
The following is part of an op-ed by Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post:
The Republican attitude about the attack on the Capitol is entirely at odds with the reality of the threat we face. As the danger of domestic terrorism rises, Senate Republicans are still foot-dragging on the confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas to be homeland security secretary. . . .
This raises the question: Are Republicans comfortable with the moniker “weak on terror”? It seems so, at least when it is white supremacists who are the terrorists. Given the growing threat of domestic terrorists linked to the Jan. 6 action, Republicans’ indifference toward addressing domestic terrorism and punishing the former president for stoking a violent insurrection is as breathtaking as it is predictable. The Republican Party’s notion of “law and order” seems to have evaporated. . . .
Perhaps their excuse for acquitting the former president is not so much based on the argument that the Senate cannot convict a former president (a flimsy rationale easily rebutted by precedent and the text of the Constitution), but instead on their own aversion to tackling white supremacists. After courting the MAGA crowd, doing their bidding in seeking to overturn the election and taking offense at President Biden’s innocuous comments denouncing white supremacists who attacked the Capitol, perhaps Republicans are nervous that the impeachment trial hits a little too close to home. When Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) raises a fist in solidarity with the Confederate flag-waving, noose-carrying crowd, the problem goes well beyond the former president.
By averting their eyes from the former president who instigated an attempted violent coup, they are “putting themselves on the wrong side of the American people and also of history,” (Senator) Blumenthal says. Even if the Senate cannot convict the ex-president, “There is real virtue in a public trial regardless of the outcome.”
Indeed, one could make the case that it is not simply Trump who should be on trial. The Republican Party as a whole needs to be held responsible for feeding anti-immigrant sentiment, coddling armed white supremacists, perpetrating the Big Lie that the election was stolen and, yes, refusing to hold the instigator of a domestic terrorist attack responsible. They are not simply weak on domestic terrorism; their indifference makes us all less safe.
Thursday, January 28, 2021
The chart above reflects the results of a new Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between January 24th and 26th of a national sample of 1,500 U.S. adults, with a 3.4 point margin of error.
The followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory are truly on the right-wing fringe. They believed Trump was the savior of this country, and would arrest leading Democrats (who they believed were cannibalistic pedophiles). They make up a large portion of Trump rally crowds, and of the rioters who broke into the Capitol.
They make a lot of noise, and that could give the impression they are a popular group with the American public. They are NOT! Only 17% have a favorable opinion of them (which I admit is far too many), while 71% have a negative opinion of them. And that is true of all groups -- with the negative opinion being much higher than the favorable one. It is even true among Republicans (where 23% approve and a majority of 53% disapprove).
The charts above reflect the results of a new Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between January 24th and 26th of a national sample of 1,245 registered voters, with a 3.7 point margin of error.
There's been a lot of talk about unity recently.For me, unity is about doing the work that the American people want done.
It's not about ideology. It's not about helping just the richest Americans or some interest group — unity is about doing things that the American people want to see us do.
And you know one thing that unites Americans? Canceling student loan debt.
It's a hugely popular proposal that would immediately put hundreds and thousands of dollars back in the pockets of millions of Americans, start to close the racial wealth gap, and boost our economy.
And the president can get it done without waiting for Congress.
We need to take action because families need relief. Over 40 million Americans are being crushed by over $1.5 trillion in federal student loan debt.
In the middle of an economy that's been badly hit by the pandemic, the student debt crisis acts like an anchor, preventing a swift recovery and restricting opportunity and prosperity for millions of American families.
Canceling student loan debt as soon as possible would mean substantial and immediate relief for tens of millions of Americans, many of whom have suddenly been laid off or are worried that their jobs are next.
And communities of color, which have been hit hardest by the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, disproportionately bear the burden of student debt.
Black students are on average nearly 20 percentage points more likely to take out federal student loans. Half of Black borrowers and a third of Latino borrowers default on their loans within 20 years. Canceling student loan debt would increase wealth for Black and Latino families, help them avoid default, and start to close the racial wealth gap.
Economists agree that canceling student loan debt would also help boost our struggling economy through a consumer-driven economic stimulus, greater home-buying rates and housing stability, expanded access to more affordable financial products including car loans and mortgages, higher college completion rates, and greater small business formation. This is a no brainer for our economy.
Look: we all saw what happened in 2008. After the financial crisis, young people were shoved into a weak job market and plunged even deeper into student debt. And today, as workers face layoffs and frozen wages in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, student loan borrowers who were barely staying afloat are now drowning. When Americans can't fully participate in our economy, we see a ripple effect across our entire economy and a slowdown in economic growth. This affects all of us, including those of us who don't have student loans or have already paid off their student debt.
We can do better than this. And Democrats will.
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
It also means the Senate retains the right of members to filibuster legislation, and 60 votes are still required to end a filibuster.
McConnell had been holding out for a Democratic promise to retain the filibuster regardless of what happens. Majority Leader Schumer rejected that. He said the filibuster will remain for now, but Democrats reserve the right to eliminate it if it is misused -- if the Republicans use it to block all or most Democratic legislation instead of negotiating a compromise on legislation.
Currently, three Democratic senators are against eliminating the filibuster -- Sen. Manchin (West Virginia), Sen. Sinema (Arizona), and Sen. Tester (Wyoming). One of those senators (Tester) has already said he could change his mind if it is used to create gridlock in the Senate, and if that happens, the other two might change also.
If all 48 Democrats and the 2 Independents (who caucus with Democrats) vote to change the rules and eliminate the filibuster, it will happen -- even if all 50 Republicans vote against that. The 51st and deciding vote would come from Vice-President Harris.