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May 25 2021

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.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

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Paul Krugman: The Banality of Democratic Collapse

Why are we on the edge? Blame the careerists, not the crazies.

America’s democratic experiment may well be nearing its end. That’s not hyperbole; it’s obvious to anyone following the political scene. Republicans might take power legitimately; they might win through pervasive voter suppression; G.O.P. legislators might simply refuse to certify Democratic electoral votes and declare Donald Trump or his political heir the winner. However it plays out, the G.O.P. will try to ensure a permanent lock on power and do all it can to suppress dissent. [..]

I’d argue, however, that focusing on the insanity can hinder our understanding of how all of this became possible. Conspiracy theorizing is hardly a new thing in our national life; Richard Hofstadter wrote “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” back in 1964. White rage has been a powerful force at least since the civil rights movement.

What’s different this time is the acquiescence of Republican elites. The Big Lie about the election didn’t well up from the grass roots — it was promoted from above, initially by Trump himself, but what’s crucial is that almost no prominent Republican politicians have been willing to contradict his claims and many have rushed to back them up.

Or to put it another way, the fundamental problem lies less with the crazies than with the careerists; not with the madness of Marjorie Taylor Greene, but with the spinelessness of Kevin McCarthy.

And this spinelessness has deep institutional roots.

Michelle Goldberg: The Crisis of Anti-Semitic Violence

A disaster for Jews and a gift to the right.

Violence between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East is often accompanied by spikes in anti-Semitic activity in the United States, but what’s happened over the last week or so has been different.

As Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, put it to me, Jewish organizations are somewhat inured to, say, pro-Palestinian graffiti on a synagogue following a protest. What’s new, and more reminiscent of the sort of anti-Semitic aggression common in Europe, is flagrant public assaults on Jews — sometimes in broad daylight — motivated by anti-Zionism. [..]

But this violence also threatens to undermine progress that’s been made in getting American politicians to take Palestinian rights more seriously. Right-wing Zionists and anti-Semitic anti-Zionists have something fundamental in common: Both conflate the Jewish people with the Israeli state. Israel’s government and its American allies benefit when they can shut down criticism of the country as anti-Semitic.

Many progressives, particularly progressive Jews, have worked hard to break this automatic identification and to open up space in the Democratic Party to denounce Israel’s entrenched occupation and human rights abuses. This wave of anti-Semitic violence will increase the difficulty of that work. The Zionist right claims that to assail Israel is to assail all Jews. Those who terrorize Jews out of rage at Israel seem to make their point for them.

Eugene Robinson: The great work of art that followed George Floyd’s death

Black Lives Matter Plaza transformed Washington’s geography of power and sent an unmistakable message about who owned the city’s streets.

In the year since George Floyd was murdered, we have seen uproar, protest, conflict and change. And we have seen the creation of one surpassingly great work of public art: Black Lives Matter Plaza, a brilliant and searing exercise in speaking truth to power.

Art cannot change the world on its own. But masterworks can bear witness to atrocities. Think of Francisco Goya’s “The Third of May 1808,” which depicts French soldiers executing Spanish independence fighters, or Pablo Picasso’s wrenching “Guernica,” which captures the agonies caused by the 1937 Axis bombing of the Spanish town of that same name. And art can serve as a galvanizing focus to rally those fighting for justice. [.]

The plaza’s importance owes not just to what it says and how boldly it expresses that sentiment, but where it is. With its complex symmetries laid out by Pierre L’Enfant, and with its monuments and memorials placed along majestic lines of sight, Washington can be thought of as a vast open-air museum of public art. While 16th Street does not mark the geographic center of the city, it is the key north-south axis in the geography of power, leading from the city’s northern apex down through the White House, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial.

From one side of his residence, the president looks out on massive tributes in stone to great men who owned Black men and women as slaves. From the other, the president now cannot avoid being reminded of the truth that Washington and Jefferson willfully ignored: Black lives do, in fact, have just as much value and meaning as White ones.

Amanda Marcotte:Joe Biden and the theater of bipartisanship: Democrats know GOP will never negotiate in good faith

Are moderate Democrats delusional? Or is this a pretend show of “bipartisanship” for voters who don’t even care?

As part of their apparent mission to cause progressives to die from “I told you so” strokes, Politico ran this headline Monday evening: “‘Time to move on’: Infrastructure talks near collapse: Republicans have soured on negotiations while progressives push to move forward without the GOP.”

The piece, yet another without a whiff of irony, portrayed the negotiations over the American Jobs Plan — Biden’s $1.7 trillion bill to reinvest in the nation’s infrastructure and build a more sustainable economy — as a real thing that Republicans were totally engaged in for real. It described Republicans as “mulling whether to even make a counteroffer” with bipartisan negotiations portrayed as taking “a nosedive on Friday.” The general picture is one of two parties coming together in good faith to reach a deal, yet simply unable to do so.

This is all, of course, honking nonsense.

From day one, Republicans never had even the slightest inclination to strike a deal and were never going to find their way to a “compromise” that would result in any Republican votes to satisfy the seemingly endless need on the part of both Democrats and the mainstream media for “bipartisanship”. [..]

Are moderate Democrats really this dumb? Do they really not see, after all this time, that Republicans view yearnings for “bipartisanship” as nothing more than a vulnerability to exploit? Is it humanly possible for people to not understand that they’re being played, even in the face of so many of their allies telling them they’re being played and a long history where every “negotiation” ends in exactly the same way? How many times do these toddlers have to touch the hot stove before they believe that it’s actually hot?

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Can Democrats beat the odds in 2022?

To break through, Democrats need to follow through on Biden’s working assumption: act big and boldly.

Would you put big money on Democrats winning big in 2022? Recently, a wealthy progressive donor stated on a Listserv for political junkies that he expected Democrats to sweep the House and Senate by large margins. Conventional wisdom, of course, holds that Democrats are likely to lose control of the House and quite possibly the Senate, putting an abrupt end to the progressive reforms that President Biden is advancing. But can Democrats beat the odds next year? [..]

Speculating about the prospects of future elections is a parlor sport that will be pervasive as the election approaches. With the odds against Democrats, a strong economic recovery is necessary but not sufficient. Republican division may end up more sound than fury.

To break through, Democrats need to follow through on Biden’s working assumption: act big and boldly. That means reforms that make a material difference in people’s lives, counter the efforts to suppress the votes, and limit the effect of big money on our elections.

The House has passed or will pass the For the People Act, and versions of Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan. Their fate will lie in the Senate. With McConnell demonstrating that he has enough Republicans to obstruct any action on these issues, Democrats will inevitably have to reform or suspend the filibuster. The sooner, the better: Time spent wooing fainthearted, so-called moderate Republicans is time wasted. It’s smarter to spend that time corralling wayward Democratic senators such as Joe Manchin III and Kyrsten Sinema.

If Democrats are to buck the historical trends, it isn’t a question of changing rhetoric or dodging Republican insults, it is about getting big things done. If that happens, the odds of Democratic victory will improve dramatically — as will the odds for our democracy.

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