Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

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Paul Krugman: How Will Biden Deal With Republican Sabotage?

He needs to make the G.O.P. pay a price for obstruction.

When Joe Biden is inaugurated, he will immediately be confronted with an unprecedented challenge — and I don’t mean the pandemic, although Covid-19 will almost surely be killing thousands of Americans every day. I mean, instead, that he’ll be the first modern U.S. president trying to govern in the face of an opposition that refuses to accept his legitimacy. And no, Democrats never said Donald Trump was illegitimate, just that he was incompetent and dangerous.

It goes without saying that Donald Trump, whose conspiracy theories are getting wilder and wilder, will never concede, and that millions of his followers will always believe — or at least say they believe — that the election was stolen.

Most Republicans in Congress certainly know this is a lie, although even on Capitol Hill there are a lot more crazy than we’d like to imagine. But it doesn’t matter; they still won’t accept that Biden has any legitimacy, even though he won the popular vote by a large margin.

And this won’t simply be because they fear a backlash from the base if they admit that Trump lost fair and square. At a fundamental level — and completely separate from the Trump factor — today’s G.O.P. doesn’t believe that Democrats ever have the right to govern, no matter how many votes they receive.

After all, in recent years we’ve seen what happens when a state with a Republican legislature elects a Democratic governor: Legislators quickly try to strip away the governor’s powers. So does anyone doubt that Republicans will do all they can to hobble and sabotage Biden’s presidency?

The only real questions are how much harm the G.O.P. can do, and how Biden will respond.

Michelle Goldberg: On Pandemic Schooling, de Blasio Is Actually Leading

The mayor so many love to hate is doing more than most to get kids back in class.

Sometimes it seems like the single point of consensus in America’s fractured politics is contempt for New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio.

Even before Covid, animus against him was a widely recognized phenomenon. (“Why Bill de Blasio is so hated, explained,” said a Vox headline from last year.) During the protests set off by the killing of George Floyd, the left — including many of the mayor’s current and former staff members — excoriated him for refusing to stand up to the New York Police Department. In a failed bid to save his House seat in a pro-Trump district, the Democrat Max Rose ran an ad in which he simply faced the camera and said, “Bill de Blasio is the worst mayor in the history of New York City.”

But if de Blasio has often been a bad mayor, when it comes to educating kids during the pandemic, he’s been one of the best big city leaders in the country. That’s both to his credit and to others’ disgrace.

Eugene Robinson: Trump is an ego monster. Republicans, don’t let him consume you.

Maybe Trump is having a genuine existential crisis. That’s his problem.

The weeks until Inauguration Day will be dangerous for our democracy, and there’s nothing we can do about that fact. It would be reasonable to expect even the most disgruntled loser to accept reality after the electoral college makes it official, but why should anyone expect Trump to suddenly listen to reason? He will of course vacate the White House; he could never abide the indignity of being forcibly escorted from the grounds. But if he truly sees the world as divided between “killers” and “losers,” he will likely continue to loudly maintain that he “won” an election he clearly lost.

The GOP officials who enabled and abetted Trump will ultimately have to ask what they’re willing to put up with if they can’t bring themselves to marginalize him. Do they want him controlling the party for another four years? Do they want him keeping potential 2024 presidential contenders from gaining any traction? Most urgently, do they want him discouraging Georgia Republicans from voting in the Jan. 5 runoff elections that will determine control of the Senate?

That’s the problem with indulging an ego monster. You might get eaten.

Amanda Marcotte: Trump and his allies won’t drop claims of stolen election — because they’re cashing in

Trump will leave office on Jan. 20 — but in the meantime, right-wing grifters make bank by pretending otherwise

On Sunday morning, Donald Trump let loose with what may be his most unhinged performance yet — which is really saying something — of his extended effort to pretend the election was stolen from him by President-elect Joe Biden. In a 45-minute interview on Fox News with host Maria Bartiromo, which was more like an uninterrupted dramatic monologue, Trump unloaded an absolute truckload of lies. He lied about ballots and voting machines, claiming that millions of fake votes were recorded. He suggested the FBI was “involved” in the imaginary conspiracy against him. He even said he “came up” with the coronavirus vaccines, a claim that is utterly ludicrous but will be swallowed without complaint by all the people who still mock Al Gore for claiming to have “invented” the internet — which Gore never actually said.

What’s especially weird about this whole situation is that Trump is doubling down on these false claims in the face of an epic failure to get his attempted coup off the ground. The recount that Trump demanded in Wisconsin — although his campaign only paid for a recount in two overwhelmingly Democratic counties — not only affirmed Biden’s win in that state, but increased the president-elect’s total by 87 votes. Meanwhile, Trump’s losing streak in the courts only got worse over the weekend, with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissing one Trump lawsuit with prejudice (meaning he can’t sue again regarding this matter) and another suit failing in the Third Circuit federal appeals court. [..]

There are multiple reasons for this. Trump’s black hole of an ego makes it impossible for him to admit he lost the election, first of all. Most right-wing pundits are increasingly consumed by an authoritarian ideology that’s opposed to democracy, and they view these lies as a good way to undermine public trust. Republican politicians are eager to delegitimize Biden’s presidency, and also to lay the groundwork for more voter suppression tactics. By falsely accusing Democrats of cheating, in other words, Republicans create cover for their real-life cheating.

Catherine Rampell: Trump lays the groundwork for a massive government purge on his way out the door

The president is trying to transform the professional civil service back into the spoils system of the 1800s.

Again and again, outgoing Trump officials have demonstrated their intention to salt the earth.

They’ve tried to jam through Senate confirmations of partisan cranks while planting regulatory time-bombs scheduled to detonate after President Trump leaves office. They’ve clawed back funding for emergency lending programs and then placed that money out of reach of the next treasury secretary. After years of swelling federal deficits, they’ve suddenly remembered their aversion to debt. And they’ve sown mistrust in the integrity of U.S. elections.

The latest sign of sabotage, though, has flown largely under the radar: Trump has been quietly dismantling the entire federal civil service — and possibly laying the groundwork for a massive, government-wide purge on his way out the door.

Trump signed a technical-sounding executive order in October that invented a new category of government employees, called “Schedule F.” Career civil servants whose jobs include “policymaking,” the order said, should be newly reclassified under Schedule F — a designation that would strip them of long-held civil service protections and allow them to be fired with little demonstrated cause or recourse.

Including, presumably, for showing insufficient loyalty to Trump.