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 the Republican Party Went Feral

Democracy is now threatened by malevolent tribalism.

There have always been people like Donald Trump: self-centered, self-aggrandizing, believing that the rules apply only to the little people and that what happens to the little people doesn’t matter.

The modern G.O.P., however, isn’t like anything we’ve seen before, at least in American history. If there’s anyone who wasn’t already persuaded that one of our two major political parties has become an enemy, not just of democracy, but of truth, events since the election should have ended their doubts.

It’s not just that a majority of House Republicans and many Republican senators are backing Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss, even though there is no evidence of fraud or widespread irregularities. Look at the way David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are campaigning in the Senate runoffs in Georgia.

They aren’t running on issues, or even on real aspects of their opponents’ personal history. Instead they’re claiming, with no basis in fact, that their opponents are Marxists or “involved in child abuse.” That is, the campaigns to retain Republican control of the Senate are based on lies.

Margaret Sullivan: We must stop calling Trump’s enablers ‘conservative.’ They are the radical right.

By using the mild label, journalists are normalizing the activities of a group attempting to subvert democracy.

You hear the word “radical” a lot these days. It’s usually aimed like a lethal weapon at Democratic office-seekers, especially those who want to unseat a Republican incumbent. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the Georgia Republican, rarely utters her challenger’s name without branding him as “radical liberal Raphael Warnock.”

Such is the upside-down world we’ve come to inhabit. These days, the true radicals are the enablers of President Trump’s ongoing attempted coup: the media bloviators on Fox News, One America and Newsmax who parrot his lies about election fraud; and the members of Congress who plan to object on Wednesday to what should be a pro forma step of approving the electoral college results, so that President-elect Joe Biden can take office peacefully on Jan. 20.

But instead of being called what they are, these media and political figures get a mild label: conservative. [..]

In applying this innocuous-sounding description, the reality-based media does the public a terrible disservice. Instead of calling out the truth, it normalizes; it softens the dangerous edges.

It makes it seem, well, not so bad. Conservative, after all, describes politics devoted to free enterprise and traditional ideas. [..]

My high school Latin comes in handy here: “Radical” derives from the concept of pulling something up by the roots, which seems to be exactly what these political and media types seem bent on doing to democratic norms.

The dictionary definition says radical means “advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs.”


Michelle Goldberg: To Defend Democracy, Investigate Trump

There needs to be a cost to trying to overthrow an election.

According to Title 52, Section 20511 of the United States Code, anyone who “knowingly and willfully deprives, defrauds, or attempts to deprive or defraud the residents of a state of a fair and impartially conducted election process” for federal office can be punished by up to five years in prison.

Donald Trump certainly seems to have violated this law. He is on tape alternately cajoling and threatening Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to “find 11,780 votes,” enough to give him a winning margin in a state that he lost. He may have also broken federal conspiracy law and Georgia election law. [..]

At this point, demanding such accountability feels like smashing one’s head into a brick wall, but our democracy might not be able to stagger along much longer without it. Republicans already often treat victories by Democrats as illegitimate. Their justification for impeaching Bill Clinton was flimsy at the time and looks even more ludicrous in light of their defenses of Trump. Trump’s political career was built on the racist lie that Barack Obama was a foreigner ineligible for the presidency.

Now Trump and his Republican enablers have set a precedent for pressuring state officials to discard the will of their voters, and if that fails, for getting their allies in Congress to reject the results.

Jamelle Bouie: Can Only Republicans Legitimately Win Elections?

Trump and many of the G.O.P.’s leaders seem to think so, with ominous consequences for the future.

Of the many stories to tell about American politics since the end of the Cold War, one of growing significance is how the Republican Party came to believe in its singular legitimacy as a political actor. Whether it’s a hangover from the heady days of the Reagan revolution (when conservatives could claim ideological hegemony) or something downstream of America’s reactionary traditions, it’s a belief that now dominates conservative politics and has placed much of the Republican Party in opposition to republican government itself.

It’s a story of escalation, from the relentless obstruction of the Gingrich era to the effort to impeach Bill Clinton to the attempt to nullify the presidency of Barack Obama and on to the struggle, however doomed, to keep Joe Biden from ever sitting in the White House as president. It also goes beyond national politics. In 2016, after a Democrat, Roy Cooper, defeated the Republican incumbent Pat McCrory for the governorship of North Carolina, the state’s Republican legislature promptly stripped the office of power and authority. Wisconsin Republicans did the same in 2018 after Tony Evers unseated Scott Walker in his bid for a third term. And Michigan Republicans took similar steps against another Democrat, Gretchen Whitmer, after her successful race for the governor’s mansion.

Considered in the context of a 30-year assault on the legitimacy of Democratic leaders and Democratic constituencies (of which Republican-led voter suppression is an important part), the present attempt to disrupt and derail the certification of electoral votes is but the next step, in which Republicans say, outright, that a Democrat has no right to hold power and try to make that reality. The next Democrat to win the White House — whether it’s Biden getting re-elected or someone else winning for the first time — will almost certainly face the same flood of accusations, challenges and lawsuits, on the same false grounds of “fraud.”

Amanda Marcotte: Georgia runoffs reveal the total putrefaction of the GOP: Republicans are now openly anti-democratic

Democrats ran a normal campaign — but Republicans competed with each other to see who could be the most repugnant

In a mildly healthy society, Donald Trump should have been scared to death to set foot in Georgia Monday night. Just the night before, a tape was leaked of Trump calling up the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, and demanding that he “find 11,780 votes” — Trump’s mob speak for cooking the books — in order to steal the state’s election from the true winner, president-elect Joe Biden. It’s literally one of the worst scandals in American history, far worse than Watergate. This is a sitting president demanding that an entire state’s election be illegally thrown out, all because he doesn’t like the outcome. [..]

This display was a suitable cap to the past two months, with Republican politicians competing with each other in a grotesque competition to be the most fascistic and sociopathic, all to honor their fallen leader, Trump. (Not that they’ll admit he’s fallen.) And no where has this been more evident than in Georgia, which is holding a Senate runoff election Tuesday between two incumbent Republicans, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, and their Democratic opponents, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

Whatever the election outcome is after the polls close on Tuesday, this election has demonstrated beyond all shadow of of a doubt that the rot that has infected the Republican Party has completely overtaken the organism. Every tendril of Republican politics, from the White House to the homes of ordinary voters, has putrefied and grown toxic with loathing for their fellow Americans and for democracy itself.

Richard Wolff: Trump is a buffoon – but the next aspiring autocrat won’t be so incompetent

Our concern shouldn’t focus on whether Trump can derail Biden’s inauguration. Instead we should be deeply concerned about whether this cult can derail our democracy

Eleven Christmases ago, a student boarded a Northwest Airlines plane flying from Amsterdam to Detroit with a singular mission.

As the plane crossed the US border, he spent 20 minutes in the bathroom and then returned to his seat. There he tried to detonate his underwear, but only succeeded in burning his leg. The likely reason Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab failed to kill almost 300 people was because he was sweating too much.

The US has often been lucky that its enemies are too incompetent to detonate their own devices. But rather than relying on good fortune, successive presidents have spent trillions of dollars building a post-9/11 military order that is supposed to protect our freedoms. [..]

One of the many challenges of this era is the distortion field that surrounds Donald Trump. Because he only cares for himself, and because he represents such a grotesque distortion of leadership, we focus on the individual. We try to understand his sociopathy and we talk about Trumpism, assuming it will all dissipate after inaugural day.

But at this point, our concern should not focus on whether Trump and his allies can still derail Joe Biden’s inauguration: they can’t. Instead we should be deeply concerned about whether this cult can derail our democracy.

Long after Trump shuffles down the ramp to his post-presidency, there will be another: a Josh Hawley or a Ted Cruz or a Tom Cotton. We won’t call their autocratic politics Trumpism, but they will be Trump-like.