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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Bryce Covert: Biden Should Go Big, and Then Brag About It
Voters in both red and blue states have revealed what they want from government.
Florida once again offered an electoral conundrum this year. Even as the state’s voters filled in the bubble for Donald Trump, they did the same for one of the policies that his opponent, Joe Biden, consistently championed on the campaign trail. They voted by more than 20 percentage points to add an amendment to the Florida Constitution raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
A higher wage, in other words, actually got more votes than either presidential candidate.
If you only listened to Republicans or cable news it would seem impossible, but it’s true: Americans, including many conservatives, agree on a number of fundamental progressive economic policies, even if they vehemently disagree on which party should carry them out. This isn’t just obvious in the polling; when these policies are put to voters directly, as many were on Election Day, voters consistently approve them.
Charles M. Blow: Obama’s Curious Cautiousness
He is a great politician, but he is not an activist.
Barack Obama continues his rather strange mission to confront and correct young liberal activists. It is an odd post-presidential note: A man who is beloved and admired on the left is using his cultural currency as a corrective against those who are on a quest for change.
Wednesday morning on Peter Hamby’s Snapchat show, “Good Luck America,” Obama said this:
“If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan like ‘Defund the police,’ but, you know, you lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done.” [..]
These chastisements by Obama delineate the difference between the politician and the activist.
The politician may be popular, but the activist will rarely be. The politician can unify, but the activist often divides. The politician seeks to unify people around a set of beliefs. The activist seeks to right a wrong that has been held up by a set of beliefs. In short, the politician navigates the system, while the activist defies it.
Trump is the same BS artist as always, but with no power to enforce his lies, he’s becoming a shabby punchline
Donald Trump was at it again Wednesday, releasing a 46-minute video full of ridiculous lies, claiming that his loss to Joe Biden in November’s presidential election was due to “corrupt forces” operating “on a scale never seen before.” He called on the Supreme Court to throw out enough votes so that “I very easily win in all states.”
It’s the sort of thing that used to be both riveting and terrifying. Indeed, two days after the election, Trump went on national television to give a similar, if blessedly shorter, speech making essentially the same claims: That he’s the victim of a widespread conspiracy, that he’s the real winner, that votes from certain cities — strangely enough, cities with large Black populations — are inherently suspect and illegitimate.
At the time, most experts felt confident that Trump’s coup attempt would fail. Still, watching the president of the United States blatantly attempt to steal an election by telling vicious and racist lies was chilling. For weeks, there was an undercurrent of panic that he might somehow pull it off, as he has managed, in the past, to pull off all manner of illegal and unethical acts without facing consequences.
Even Stephen Colbert was rattled. And Stephen Colbert never gets rattled.
But as often happens with sequels, Trump’s latest conspiracy theory tirade was bigger and bolder, yet somehow much less impressive. Trump’s self-pitying rant registered as pitiful instead of frightening. The speech barely touched the top headlines at most major news sites. It was driven down in coverage not just by the rapidly worsening COVID-19 pandemic, but also by other political stories, such as the U.S. Senate runoff election in Georgia and even other Trump-related stories, like the fate of Attorney General Bill Barr or the impact of Michael Flynn’s pardon. The tone of most media coverage was more condescending than fearful. Outrage is quickly being eclipsed by annoyance at Trump for being a pest who doesn’t know when to pack it up and go home.
Many expect the president will issue a flurry of pardons in the coming weeks, even as he lets others be executed
Given that Donald Trump treats the office of the presidency like a personal branding tool, and deals with adversity like a two-bit mafioso, this moment was perhaps predictable: the president is reportedly considering pre-emptively pardoning three of his children, his son-in-law, and associates including Rudy Giuliani. He has already pardoned or commuted the sentences of several of his friends and associates, which should raise some eyebrows – why do so many people who surround this president wind up charged with a crime, in jail, or bracing themselves for criminal charges? And why is the supposedly law-and-order “pro-life” Republican party shrugging as this president excuses the criminality of his kin and his cronies while he refuses to intervene to save anyone from execution – and in fact, is using what little time he has left in office to reinstate barbaric practices like death by firing squad?
We all know Trump didn’t drain the swamp. But in his last two months in office, he is sending a clear message about who and what he and his party value. It’s not Christian mercy, or hard-nosed law and order, or even the sanctity of life. It’s power, dominance and a thick line between two Americas: one connected, white, power-hungry and lawless, and the other at its mercy.
If you thought things would calm down after Trump lost, I have some bad news.
While President-elect Joe Biden is working on his transition to the presidency, the Republican Party is in its own transition. Soon it will be out of power, perhaps retaining control of the Senate but still being the secondary player in Washington. So how is its transition going?
It’s madness. [..]
From the beginning, the tea party was unruly and potentially threatening to Republican officeholders, since it produced primary challenges from the right that ousted some established members of Congress. The reaction of just about every Republican was to try to ride the tea party tiger without getting eaten. It sometimes forced them into politically problematic places — like the government shutdown of 2013 — but it also kept the base’s energy high and helped them win the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014.
How will that process play out this time? Every force on the right will push it in the direction of being crazier.
As extreme as the tea party was, it was nothing compared to the QAnon-inflected hysteria that now grips the GOP. Tea partyers believed that Obama was born in Kenya; significant parts of today’s Republican Party believe that Obama and other Democrats are Satan-worshiping, child-sex-trafficking pedophile cannibals.