A Clear, Crisp Day in the Bay Area

Going through today’s links, and earlier backlogged links, and today focusing on political matters. Are there better things to do with an hour or two of my life, a couple times a week, than to pay attention to the crazies? Maybe. Except that the crazies might take over and destroy the world. And I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that I’ve noticed it happening.

  • Tom Nichols on being adults in a time of juvenile politics; and on Trump’s crossing a crucial line (with the “vermin” speech);
  • E.J. Dionne Jr. on Republicans’ allergy to actual ideas;
  • Salon’s Amanda Marcotte on Republicans’ abandonment of “small government” in preference to fighting culture wars;
  • WaPo’s Dana Milbank on the competence of congressional Republicans;
  • AlterNet and The Economist on Trump as the #1 “biggest danger” in the world;
  • And how even some Republicans, like Chip Roy, are aware of how his party hasn’t accomplished anything he can campaign on.


Tom Nichols, The Atlantic, 17 Nov 2023: The Daily Responsibility of Democracy, subtitled “Being adults in a time of juvenile politics is hard but necessary.”

He returns to a topic he discussed two years ago — “In a time of clownish, adolescent, and highly dangerous politics, those of us defending American democracy must be the adults in the room. We must be measured, determined, and even a bit stoic.”

Let us recall what prodemocracy citizens are up against. Donald Trump and many of his supporters in Republican politics are, in effect, a reality show, an ongoing comedy-drama full of Main Characters and plot twists and silly caricatures of heels and heroes.

Examples: Kari Lake, Markwayne Mullin, Tim Burchett, Nancy Mace. And especially Trump. So he suggests ditching juvenile nicknames like “Rethuglicans” and “Orange Menace” and becoming instead deadly serious.

This advice does not mean being quiet or avoiding conflict or engaging in false compromise for the sake of peace during dinner. Rather, it is advice to be steadfast and calm. When Uncle Ned (he regularly appears in my hypothetical family dinners) goes on about Obummer or the Biden Crime Family, nothing is gained by railing back about Cheeto Jesus or Mango Mussolini. Such language just convinces others that your arguments are no less childish than theirs.

Instead, be direct and uncompromising: “You’re wrong. I think you know that you’re wrong, and I think, in your heart, you know you’re making a terrible mistake.” That’s the best you can do in a family setting. Among friends, the approach might be different: “You know that these conspiracy theories are not true. And Donald Trump is a fascist. You’re not. But that’s what you’re supporting.”

And then invokes Marcus Aurelius.


The Atlantic: Nichols had this piece on the 16th: Trump Crosses a Crucial Line, subtitled “But Americans can still choose a better path.”

Both pieces are installments of The Atlantic Daily, generally written by different contributors from day to day. The crucial line Trump crossed was with his “vermin” speech.


As I’ve been saying.

E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post, 19 Nov 2023: Opinion | The GOP’s hollow presidential primary is allergic to ideas

The GOP is now testing a radically new proposition: Are there consequences for having no ideas?

Okay, I guess that depends in part on how you define “ideas.”

Donald Trump has proposed shooting shoplifters, as NBC News noted in a report on GOP “bloodlust.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has pledged to kill drug smugglers who cross the Mexican border. Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, in more organized fashion, proposed sending Special Forces into Mexico to go after drug cartels. Oh, and DeSantis said last August that he wanted to “slit the throats” of federal bureaucrats on Day 1 of his administration. But don’t be alarmed, civil servants. He explained later that he was “being colorful.”

If killing various kinds of people is a legitimate solution for various problems, then sure, the party’s presidential candidates have plenty of policies to offer.

Dionne recalls that “it was not long ago that Republicans used campaigns to float serious proposals” such as as George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” law and others. And he notes several newer center-right think tanks, which Republican candidates are not taking advantage of. Instead, Republicans do petty stunts.

Seeing the GOP this way helps explain the ongoing chaos in the House and its focus on petty proposals, such as reducing the annual salaries of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to $1. (Fortunately, there’s little chance these and comparable pay cuts will make it into law.)


Again, they’re not addressing actual problems that need to be solved; they’re focusing on “problems” that matter to only to a zealous minority.

Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 17 Nov 2023: So much for “small government”: Budget fight reveals GOP main issue is culture war, subtitled “Speaker Mike Johnson ushers in a new GOP era where ‘spending cuts’ have given way to far-right obsessions”

She reflects how Mike Johnson got away with a budget compromise of the same kind that led to Kevin McCarthy (the previous speaker)’s ouster. I’ll jump to her summary.

It’s not that Republicans have entirely given up on slashing taxes and spending. If they regain control over the Senate and the White House next year, we can certainly expect more tax cuts for the rich and further slashing of social programs ordinary people rely on. But by electing a House speaker who is a culture warrior first and a “small government” ideologue second (if at all), Republicans have signaled an important shift in priorities. They’re not much interested in investing political capital in widely unpopular government shutdowns. Their energies are shifting towards the cultural preoccupations of the MAGA base: Banning abortion, gutting LGBTQ rights, undermining racial equality, and generally seeking revenge against disadvantaged groups, liberals and people who went to college. The switch from McCarthy to Johnson was never about the budget fight. It was about MAGA’s final conquest of the Republican Party.


Washington Post, Dana Milbank, 17 Nov 2023: Opinion | I will fight anyone who says congressional Republicans are competent

Again, recent events involved Kevin McCarthy, Markwayne “wanna fight?” Mullin, James Comer, MTG, George Santos.

There is one thing about which there can be no debate: This is what Republican governance looks like in the year 2023. It has been one kidney punch after another to competent leadership.

Long piece. Same point about McCarthy vs Johnson. “It’s the same clown car with a different driver.” Same example of Chip Roy (see below). Threats to impeach. Insurrection conspiracy theories. And on and on.


The world is paying attention. Fortunately for Trump, his supporters don’t care about the the world, beyond their immediate circumstances.

AlterNet, 17 Nov 2023: The Economist names Trump #1 ‘biggest danger’ in the world: ‘Will wage war on any institution’

The Economist, 16 Nov 2023: Donald Trump poses the biggest danger to the world in 2024, subtitled “What his victory in America’s election would mean”


Even some Republicans are aware of this. One thing? There doesn’t seem to be one.

The New Republic, 15 Nov 2023: Republican Congressman Melts Down Asking What His Party’s Even Doing, subtitled “Representative Chip Roy began yelling at members of his own party during a House hearing.”

Representative Chip Roy went scorched earth on his Republican colleagues on Wednesday, haranguing them for years wasted on inaction and chaos as opposed to doing their jobs.

The Texas Republican and Freedom Caucus member spent his time on the House floor on Wednesday shouting and wildly gesticulating at his caucus, condemning them for capitulating on promises by working with Democrats and lamenting the party’s transparently vacuous approach to building a border wall.

“One thing. I want my Republican colleagues to give me one thing. One. That I can go campaign on and say we did,” Roy said. “One!”

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