Eclipse Aftermath, and Politics

First of all, our street had a scheduled power outage this morning, from 9-12, so I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to see any of the TV coverage of the total eclipse crossing the eastern US today. There were in fact a whole bunch of PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric) trucks and vans on our street first thing this morning. Our power went off at exactly 9am. But they finished by 10:30am, and our power came back on, and so by then we were able to turn on the TV and see the eclipse coverage in the east: Texas, Arkansas, Ohio. Nice to see, but we saw the 2017 total eclipse in person, in Oregon.

Starting today with a couple substantive essays, then another list of what the crazies are up to.

NY Times, Jonathan Rauch and Peter Wehner, 8 Apr 2024: There Is a Way Out of MAGA Domination

The gist here: principled Republicans should form a sort of party-in-exile, and work to depose the MAGAs. The essay opens by reminding us how many such people there are.

A few weeks ago, Mike Pence did what no other vice president in the modern era has done: He refused to endorse the re-election of the president under whom he served. When it comes to alumni of Donald Trump’s administration, Mr. Pence is hardly alone; the list of high-ranking officials who worked for Mr. Trump and have implied or outright stated that they can’t support their former boss under any circumstances has grown to an astonishing length. [[ That link is to What 17 of Trump’s ‘Best People’ Said About Him ]]

The list of prominent Republican figures who did not serve under Mr. Trump and who regard him as unacceptable is equally impressive. It includes the 2012 Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney, and his running mate, the former speaker of the House Paul Ryan, as well as Liz Cheney, who served in the House Republican leadership, and her father, the former vice president Dick Cheney, who summarized the situation bluntly: “There has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump.”

Despite Mr. Trump’s almost effortless sweep of the Republican nomination contest, there remain deep pockets of resistance to him in the ranks. More than a fifth of voters in the Republican primaries supported Nikki Haley, a former governor of South Carolina; among many of them, there is intense opposition to Mr. Trump’s presidential run. And as The Washington Post points out, nearly one in five Republican primary voters across four contests on April 2 voted for an option other than Mr. Trump — even though he was the only Republican still campaigning at that point.

So two things are happening at once: The Republican Party is thoroughly MAGA and will be for the foreseeable future, and there is a small but influential number of Republicans who are deeply opposed to what their party has become but not prepared to shed their political identity and join the Democrats.

For this group, one viable course remains: create a Republican Party in exile, a counterestablishment dedicated to recapturing the party from the outside.

The essay goes on with how this would play out. And emphasizes,

Fourth and most essential, Free Republicans must set their sights on overthrowing MAGA, not influencing it, partnering with it, bargaining with it, coexisting with it or waiting it out. They must name and explain what Trumpism represents: lawlessness, moral anarchy, conspiratorial thinking and an assault on the Constitution.

Which means,

They must challenge MAGA Republicans in primaries, focusing in particular on state races for governor, attorneys general, state legislators and others. They must be prepared to withstand the hostile machinations of the MAGA Republican Party and the attacks of the Trump movement, which will be relentless. If they do not consistently oppose MAGA, they will be dragged under it.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the MAGA faction is but a relatively small proportion of the Republican party. Again, life is not black and white; it’s not so much about Democrats vs Republicans, as if all the latter are MAGA — though most Republicans seem to support Trump, so what’s the difference? It’s that there’s a gradation of attitudes about the world, of political philosophies, and our political system forces everyone to align with one polarity or the other.

Still, why MAGA? I’m beginning to suspect we’re asking the question at the wrong scale. The question might be broader, i.e., what’s happened over the past century? Could this all be a reaction to technological progress, increasing change and globalization? The trend of the past several centuries that has inspired science fiction, on the one hand (along with true scientific advances), and triggered backlash by the tribal conservatives on the other, the extreme end being the MAGA folk in the US? (And similar groups in other nations.)


Again, step back to a larger perspective….

NY Times, Damon Linker, 8 Apr 2024: Why Is Biden Struggling? Because America Is Broken.

Seven months away from a rematch election pitting President Biden against former President Donald Trump, the incumbent is struggling. Mr. Biden suffers from persistently low approval ratings, he barely manages to tie Mr. Trump in national head-to-head polls and he lags behind the former president in most of the swing states where the election will be decided (despite some recent modestly encouraging movement in his direction).

The question is why.

You can’t convince people with statistics. Linker cites these reasons:

The examples are almost too numerous to list: a disastrous war in Iraq; a ruinous financial crisis followed by a decade of anemic growth when most of the new wealth went to those who were already well off; a shambolic response to the deadliest pandemic in a century; a humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan; rising prices and interest rates; skyrocketing levels of public and private debt; surging rates of homelessness and the spread of tent encampments in American cities; undocumented migrants streaming over the southern border; spiking rates of gun violence, mental illness, depression, addiction, suicide, chronic illness and obesity, coupled with a decline in life expectancy.

And then goes on to give advice to Biden: stop being so upbeat; develop a reform agenda; and so on. Concluding,

Everything is broken — or so it feels to many of our fellow citizens. Denying this reality only empowers populist candidates whose message acquires its potency by pointing to an entrenched political establishment unwilling or unable to learn from (or even admit) its myriad mistakes. That shirking needs to stop. And it should do so with Joe Biden.

My thought here is that people think things are good or bad based not so much on the news (which relatively few people actually absorb), but on what they hear about their neighbors, or experience personally. Few take the big picture.


One more about the eclipse.

The Atlantic, Adrienne LaFrance, 8 Apr 2024: So Much for the Apocalypse, subtitled “The earth shook. The moon temporarily blotted out the sun. The world didn’t end.”

Well, you have to hand it to them. Few constituencies are so ostentatiously and consistently wrong, over so many generations of human history, as the doomsayers who promise that the end is nigh.


Now a round of links; a linkdump; a set of L&C (Links and Comments) as I used to call them. Compiled as evidence. Let me try another, more compact format.


This item is worth a closer look.

Salon, Chauncey DeVega, 4 Apr 2024: A dangerous return to denial: Trump’s threats against Biden met by familiar media shrug, subtitled “One of the many reasons why the mainstream news media has lost credibility with huge swaths of the public”

For all that people complain about MSM, main stream media, being left of center (because they’re better-informed, is my explanation), there are some who accuse them of false balance, trying to cover ‘both sides’, without acknowledging that the one side, Trump’s side, gets away with things that would be inexcusable from any rational, decent political party.

Donald Trump has repeatedly shown himself to be a very dangerous man. As seen on Jan. 6 with his coup attempt and the lethal assault by his MAGA followers on the Capitol, he appears to have an erotic attachment to violence.

Last Friday, Trump shared an image of President Biden bound and gag, hog-tied, in the back of a pickup truck. Michael Tyler, who is the Biden campaign’s communications director, condemned Trump’s most recent threat. “[He] is regularly inciting political violence, and it’s time people take him seriously — just ask the Capitol police officers who were attacked protecting our democracy on January 6. Donald Trump is perfectly comfortable with violence when he thinks it benefits him. In fact, he encourages it. Put simply, his campaign is about itself. It’s about revenge. It’s about retribution….Political violence has been and continues to be central to Donald Trump’s brand of politics.”


From the album Everyone Is Here, by The Finn Brothers.

Every day I reread and copy-edit my post from the evening before. If this comment is still here, I have not yet done so for this post.

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