It’s Already Happened Here

Quoting Adam Serwer in The Atlantic:

The process by which a democracy becomes an authoritarian regime is what social scientists call [“authoritarian-ization”]. The process does not need to be sudden and dramatic. Often, democratic mechanisms are eroded over a period of months or years, slowly degrading the ability of the public to choose its leaders or hold them to account.

Legislators in functioning democracies need not agree on substantive policy matters…, but no matter the party or ideology they support, they must hold the right of the people to choose their own leaders sacred. The entire Senate Republican Conference retains only one legislator willing to act on that principle….

Modern authoritarian institutions diligently seek to preserve the appearance of democratic accountability. Perhaps for this reason, [Attorney General] Barr has insisted publicly that he is protecting the independence of the Justice Department. “I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody,” he told reporters last week…. This is a lawyerly dodge masquerading as bluster—Barr does not need to be bullied into shielding T—- and his friends or pursuing his enemies. Indeed, Barr’s task is to do so while maintaining a veneer of legitimacy over the process, which is impossible to do when T—- makes such demands publicly….

Although in nearly every other context, Barr has been an advocate for the harshest possible punishments, [but] members of the ruling clique are entitled to criticize law enforcement without sanction, and entitled to leniency when they commit crimes on the boss’s behalf. Everyone else is entitled to kneel….

With the exception of [Senator Romney], who voted against acquittal on the first of the two charges, the [Republican Party] now makes no distinction between fealty to T—- and loyalty to the country. The Founders devised the impeachment clause as a remedy for a chief executive who abuses his power to stay in office. But as there were no parties at the time of the founding, they did not foresee that such a chief executive would be shielded by toadies who envision their civic obligations as beginning and ending with devotion to the leader.

Much has been made of T—-’s unfitness for office. But if T—- were the only one who were unfit, his authoritarian impulses would have been easier to contain. Instead, the Republican Party is slowly transforming into a regime party, one whose primary duty is to maintain its control of the government at all costs. The benefits here are mutual: By keeping T—- in power, the party retains power. Individuals who want to rise in the Republican Party and its associated organizations today must be unwavering in their devotion to the leader—that is the only way to have a career in the [party], let alone reap the associated political and financial benefits…

But keeping T—- in office is not the ultimate goal, despite party members’ obsequious public performances….. Rather, the purpose is to preserve the authoritarian structure T—- and Barr are building, so that it can be inherited by the next Republican president. To be more specific, the T—- administration is not fighting a “deep state”; it is seeking to build one that will outlast him….

Let us pause for a moment to take stock of this vision of government. It is a state in which the legislature can neither oversee the executive branch nor pass laws that constrain it. A state in which legal requests for government records on those associated with the political opposition are satisfied immediately, and such requests related to the sitting executive are denied wholesale. It is a system in which the executive can be neither investigated for criminal activity nor removed by the legislature for breaking the law. It is a government in which only the regime party may make enforceable demands, and where the opposition party may compete in elections, but only against the efforts of federal law enforcement to marginalize them for their opposition to the president. It is a vision of government in which members of the civil service may break the law on the leader’s behalf, but commit an unforgivable crime should they reveal such malfeasance to the public.

Were it in any other nation, how would you describe a government that functions this way?

… People may think of authoritarian nations in Cold War terms, as states with bombastic leaders who grant themselves extravagant titles and weigh their chests down with meaningless medals. These are nations without legislatures, without courts, with populations cowed by armies of secret police.

This is not how many authoritarian nations work today. Most have elections, legislatures, courts; they possess all the trappings of democracy. In fact, most deny they are authoritarian at all. “Few contemporary dictatorships admit that they are just that,” writes the scholar Milan Svolik in The Politics of Authoritarian Rule. “If we were to trust dictators’ declarations about their regimes, most of them would be democracies.”

But the democratic institutions that authoritarian nations retain are largely vestigial or have little power to check the executive, either because they are under regime control, or because they are cowed or co-opted into submission.

Similarly, the typical image of an authoritarian nation involves violently suppressing dissent and assassinating or imprisoning political opponents and journalists. But violent suppression has tremendous risks and costs, and so authoritarians have developed more subtle methods of repression.

“Rather than using brute force to maintain control, today’s authoritarian regimes use strategies that are subtler and more ambiguous in nature to silence, deter, and demobilize opponents,” the scholar Erica Frantz writes. “Doing so serves a number of purposes. It attracts less attention, enables them to plausibly deny a role in what occurred, makes it difficult for opponents to launch a decisive response, and helps the regime feign compliance with democratic norms of behavior”…

The frequent worries that it can happen here are arrogant in one respect: It already has happened here. American democracy has always been most vulnerable to an ideology that reserves democratic rights to one specific demographic group, raising that faction as the only one that possesses a fundamentally heritable claim to self-government. Those who are not members of this faction are rendered, by definition, an existential threat.

In the aftermath of the Compromise of 1877, the Republican Party abandoned black voters in the South to authoritarian rule for nearly a century. But the Southern Democrats who destroyed the Reconstruction governments and imposed one-party despotism imagined themselves to be not effacing democracy, but rescuing it from the tyranny of the unworthy and ignorant. “Genuine democracy,” declared the terrorist turned South Carolina governor and senator Ben Tillman, was “the rule of the people—of all the white people, rich and poor alike.”

Similarly, many members of the Republican elite have transitioned seamlessly from attempting to restrain Trump’s authoritarian impulses to enabling them, all the while telling themselves they are acting in the best interests of democracy. This delusion is necessary, a version of the apocalyptic fantasy that conservative pundits have fed their audiences. In this self-justifying myth, only T—- stands between conservative Americans and a left-wing armageddon in which effete white liberals and the black and brown masses they control shut the right out of power forever….

To save “democracy” then, they must, at any cost, preserve a system in which only those who are worthy—that is, those who vote Republican—may select leaders and make policy. If that means disenfranchising nonwhite voters, so be it. If it means imposing a nationwide racial gerrymander to enhance the power of white voters at the expense of everyone else, then that is what must be done. And if it means allowing the president to use his authority to prevent the opposition from competing in free and fair elections, then that is but a small price to pay….

The insistence [by T—- defenders] that “the Democrats have never accepted that Donald Trump won the 2016 election, and they will never forgive him, either” has it exactly backwards. Democrats impeached T—- to preserve a democratic system in which they have a chance of winning, in which the president cannot blithely frame his rivals for invented crimes. Republicans acquitted him because they fear that a system not rigged in their favor is one in which they will never win again.

On Thursday, February 6, millions of Americans went about their lives as they would have any other day….Yet the nation they live in may have been fundamentally changed the day before.

Democratic backsliding can be arrested. But that is an arduous task, and a T—- defeat in November is a necessary but not sufficient step. Many Americans have doubtless failed to recognize what has occurred, or how quickly the nation is hurtling toward a state of unfreedom that may prove impossible to reverse. How long the T—- administration lasts should be up to the American people to decide. But this president would never risk allowing them to freely make such a choice. The Republican Party has shown that nothing would cause it to restrain the president, and so he has no reason to restrain himself.

Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the American imagination of catastrophe has been limited to sudden, shocking events, the kind that shatter a sunny day in a storm of blood. That has left Americans unprepared for a different kind of catastrophe, the kind that spreads slowly and does not abruptly announce itself. For that reason, for most Americans, that Thursday morning felt like any other. But it was not—the Senate acquittal marked the beginning of a fundamental transition of the United States from a democracy, however flawed, toward [authoritarianism]. It was, in short, the end of the T—- administration, and the first day of the would-be T—- Regime.

Unquote.

Meanwhile, Congressional Democrats have decided to shut up about T—-‘s abuses and talk about healthcare and jobs. It’s an excellent time to contact Speaker Nancy Pelosi and your congressional representative to remind them there is a more urgent issue to deal with.

This Happened Tonight

This was posted before tonight’s Democratic “debate”:

Here’s a few comments from people who watched tonight:

We need someone on our side in the White House, someone exactly like Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Donald the Terrible

Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584) was a very bad person. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise when a review (behind a paywall) of a new biography reminded me of another cruel, mentally ill ruler whose behavior is often rationalized by people who should know better (such as reporters for The New York Times):

Ivan complains that as a boy he was treated as a sovereign only on ceremonial occasions, but that otherwise there was no “element of servility to be found” in those looking after him. “How can I enumerate such countless sore sufferings as I put up with in my youth?” he asks….. “Many a time did I eat late, not in accordance with my will.” Even when he was old enough to understand, others presumed to instruct him. “And so neither in external [state] affairs, nor in internal [personal] affairs, nor in the smallest and pettiest things (and [I refer to such things as] footwear and sleeping)—was anything according to my will…while we remained, as it were, a child.” Ivan also complains that [Prince Andrei Kurbsky] once hurt his feelings by giving presents to a nobleman’s daughters while forgetting to give any to Ivan’s. The childhood hurt, and the child’s whining response, can still be heard in the thirty-four-year-old ruler….

Around 1560 he began seizing property and ordering executions….[He demanded] that he receive a free hand to punish anyone in any way he chose without delay, legal process, the traditional consent of the boyars [aristocrats], or the clergy’s right of intercession on behalf of the accused. As he later explained … although he had always felt he should be “free to reward and punish,” he had to follow judicial procedures and endure the clergy’s interference. That was all very well for lesser rulers, like Elizabeth I, whose power was limited, or the Holy Roman Emperor, who was elected, but Ivan found it infuriating that his power, while absolute in theory, was not unlimited in practice. He insisted not on the power to do anything specific but on the absolute freedom to exert his untrammeled will….

Ivan’s oprichniki—a terrifying army … —dressed in black and wore a uniform featuring a dog’s head and a broom, to show they would sniff out treason and sweep it away…. noble ladies were forced to give birth in the snow, and “any peasant who attempted to assist them on the way was promptly executed.” The dead were left unburied, a special horror at a time when Christian burial was supremely important.

…. there followed “a veritable orgy of arrests and killings, in which it is difficult to detect a specific policy.” Historians have struggled to find a rationale for Ivan’s [behavior]. If his goal was to plunder in order to finance his war on Livonia, as some have suggested, then why the wanton destruction of taxable assets? Why the indiscriminate killing of servitors when soldiers were needed? Some have argued that Ivan’s actions resemble those taken by contemporaneous Western rulers consolidating central power, and that his repression of the boyars was “progressive.” But no Western ruler ever thought of dividing his realm in half so that one part could prey on the other….

…. historians seem to have combed the evidence for support for their belief that Ivan must have acted in a rational way: “Hence theories had to be devised, according to the intellectual fashions current at the time, which made it possible to interpret events as having been planned with a view to well defined and positive outcomes.” In the twentieth century, that meant describing a struggle with the tsar and lower-ranking gentry on one side and the “reactionary” upper nobility on the other. When explanatory fashion shifts, some other narrative will doubtless be found to explain what happened.

Russians were especially shocked that along with massacring the elite, Ivan executed their families and followers. For the first time in Russia, it became common to kill a condemned man’s wife and small children—as well as his peasants—and to devise imaginative forms of torture…. Entire families were summarily killed, some by Ivan himself. “Even the wives of the peasants were stripped naked and driven ‘like beasts’ into the forests, where they were cut to pieces…

The oprichniki were free to do anything they liked. Courts were instructed to find them not guilty of any charges. Pillage, rape, and seizure of property were the obvious consequences….

Heinrich von Staden, a repulsive foreign adventurer who joined the oprichniki, describes in his memoir one of his plundering expeditions. Staden explains matter-of-factly that “if a prisoner did not want to respond nicely” by revealing the location of his wealth, men “held him and tortured him until he told.” Running up some stairs during a raid, Staden was “met by a princess who wanted to throw herself at my feet. Seeing my angry face, she turned to go back into the room. I struck her in the back with the axe and she fell through the doorway.” He boasts that he set off on Ivan’s expedition against Novgorod in 1570 sharing a horse with two other men but returned with forty-nine horses and twenty-two wagonloads of goods.

The attack on Novgorod began by devastating towns on the way. Ivan’s men sacked Tver for five days. Arriving in Novgorod, Ivan piously attended the Epiphany service before resuming the mayhem. Humiliation was a crucial part of his repertoire: he married Archbishop Pimen to a mare and drove him out of town seated backward on the animal. Then Ivan conducted treason hearings. The population of Novgorod, the realm’s second-largest city, was about 30,000; Ivan’s hearings led to the executions of some 2,200 people, but that number includes neither the oprichniki’s own victims nor deaths from starvation and freezing occasioned by the destruction.

Worse soon followed. On July 25, 1570, Ivan began his executions on Moscow’s Pagan Square. He appeared, armed and dressed in black, as the public looked on at huge stakes in the ground and cauldrons of cold and boiling water that had been set up in the plaza. Three hundred people crawled forward on broken limbs to hear their fate. Ivan pardoned 184. The rest suffered the tortures of the damned…. Nothing of this kind had ever happened in Russia. As a display of Ivan’s arbitrary will and his ability to do anything imaginable, nothing better could have been devised.

Much as Stalin concluded the Terror of 1936–1938 by purging the purgers, Ivan next turned on the leading oprichniki. Then, in 1572, he abolished the oprichnina—indeed, he forbade anyone ever to use the word. Again, no one knows why. He sprang his next surprise three years later by pretending to abdicate in favor of a baptized Tatar, Semyon Bekbulatovich. Needless to say, Ivan kept the treasury and all real power in his hands, but his humble, self-denigrating, and obviously insincere petitions to the ostensible new ruler have come down to us. Even historians ingenious enough to discover a rationale for the oprichnina have admitted defeat in accounting for this episode….

Perhaps historians have failed to understand Ivan’s purposes because they look for a certain kind of purpose, like creating a centralized state, building a modern economy, or some other recognizable political objective. Any other purpose, even if Ivan stated it explicitly, would not look like a purpose at all…. Ivan writes [to Kurbsky], “You began still more to revolt against me…and I therefore began to stand up against you still more harshly. I wanted to subdue you to my will”—volya, a word that … can denote “total freedom to pursue one’s arbitrary will …” Could it be that Ivan’s main purpose was simply the ability to exercise his will without restraint? That would explain why he demanded not specific reforms but the right to act outside all law and tradition. If his actions seem arbitrary, it may be because arbitrariness was his primary goal.

Stalin, too, used arbitrary terror, with people arrested by quota, and achieved the ability to do anything he liked. But, unlike Ivan, he did so to accomplish ideologically driven goals. Ivan wanted unlimited power for its own sake, perhaps, so that he would never again experience anything like his childhood frustration of will—regardless of whether the object of his will was a pair of shoes or the suffering of another person. If so, the best preparation for understanding him may be Crime and PunishmentThe Brothers Karamazov, and Dostoevsky’s other great explorations of the state of mind in which “all is permitted.” Several Dostoevsky characters strive to become what Ivan Karamazov calls “the man-god,” a being whose will encounters absolutely no restraint: “There is no law for God. Where God stands the place is holy.” That was the condition to which Ivan the Terrible aspired, not to realize any specific goal but as the supreme goal in itself.

Loving Elizabeth Warren Means Having a Plan If America Breaks Your Heart

That’s not exactly the title of Monica Hesse’s article in The Washington Post. The Post’s title is “Loving Elizabeth Warren Means Having a Plan For When America Breaks Your Heart”. I’m not ready for the “when” yet.

Quote:

Within three minutes of getting in line for an Elizabeth Warren rally, I’ve been handed a business card for a woman-empowerment organization called Brass Ovaries, and the founder, my linemate, has drawn me into a conversation about Warren that has begun to feel like the only conversation to have about Warren: the kind that’s about hope, and despair, and how it’s possible to love America and also want to throw it out the window.

“I went to one of her events before and I gave her one of my Brass Ovaries pins,” Michelle Johnson says. “And I started to explain how it’s about fed-up women — but she said, ‘Oh, I get it,’ and I said, ‘I knew you would,’ because Elizabeth always gets it, doesn’t she?”

This is the first part of the Warren conversation. It involves dreaming of a version of the country where leaders are excellent at explaining certain things, like the current shortcomings of health care and child care; and where they don’t need other things explained to them at all, like what it feels like to be an exasperated woman.

But Michelle, who plans to vote for Warren in her state’s Tuesday primary, also finds herself having a second, more maddening part of the Warren conversation. When she told her mother that she thought Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) would be a good running mate, her mother blanched. “America isn’t ready for two women on the ticket,” she said, then added that America might not even be ready for one.

That part is about fear. It’s about fearing a version of America that was certified as the real version four Novembers ago, when Hillary Clinton lost to D—- T—-. Or so people keep saying.

It’s a conversation that isn’t really about Elizabeth Warren at all; it’s about the rest of us.

There we were in New Hampshire, in the exhaust fumes of Iowa’s caucuses, which had been such a spectacular fiasco that Warren’s supporters in Keene now believed it was up to them to sort things out and, ideally, to sort things out for Warren. For all the chaos in Des Moines, one thing was clear: Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg wrestling through a tie with a quarter of the votes apiece.

And Warren, who had topped polls in October, had finished a distant third.

This alone didn’t faze her New Hampshire supporters. She’d outpaced the erstwhile front-runner Joe Biden, after all, who took his fourth-place finish as a “gut punch.” Plus, while Iowa was “a bunch of people running around in a gymnasium,” as one voter here put it, their state’s election was a civilized primary, and was also in the Massachusetts senator’s backyard.

But then a Boston Globe New Hampshire prediction came out. It had Warren polling at 13 percent in the Granite State. Behind Sanders. Behind a rising Buttigieg. In the loam with Biden.

Then Warren’s campaign announced that it was pulling ad dollars in Nevada and South Carolina.

Then it was time to really think about Elizabeth Warren. Which really means sorting through what version of America you believe in — the one where we are ready to vote a woman into the Oval Office, or the one where we aren’t — and whether it’s the believing, one way or another, that makes your version true.

“The thing is, I can picture her up there on the debate stage with T—-, and she’s debating him to pieces,” says Deb Wilson, a retired New Hampshire educator. “To pieces.”

“We need her,” says Wendy Keith, a social worker. “We need her so badly. We need someone that strong and that smart.”

“I think having a woman in the White House — I think she’ll care for us,” adds Esther Scheidel, standing next to Wendy.

“Of course, I’m not voting for her because she’s a woman …” another supporter chimes in a few minutes later, having overheard the earlier conversation…“Of course, I’m not voting for her because she’s a woman; I don’t even think of her as a woman,” another supporter chimes in a few minutes later, having overheard the earlier conversation…

It’s a preposterous, relatable, vexing statement. It’s impossible not to see Warren as a woman. Many of her policies were explicitly shaped by that identity, as she readily acknowledges. Is “not thinking of Warren as a woman” supposed to be a compliment?

What I think this man means is that ever since 2016, we have been trapped in a vague debate about electability, and whether it’s only men have who have it. In the fog of uncertainty over Hillary Clinton’s complicated defeat (she neglected Wisconsin, she used a private email server, she was a “nasty woman” slain by weaponized misogyny, she still won the popular vote), the debate has mutated into an abstract panic about whether any woman can get elected in 2020.

Trying to ignore Elizabeth Warren’s femaleness is an attempt to neatly sidestep the whole problem. To pretend that we have the capacity to vote entirely on merits. To behave as if each election can happen in a vacuum, uninformed by the elections and the hundreds of years of history that came before it.

Can you ignore that while Pete Buttigieg might be a millennial wunderkind, a female 38-year-old mayor of a midsize town would have a hard time being taken as seriously if she up and ran for president? Can you ignore that Bernie Sanders’s shouting is seen as righteous but if Kamala Harris ever raised her voice, it was seen as anger? How did Joe Biden automatically get to wear the cloak of electability for nearly a full year before Iowa tore it off?

…. These days, of course, people don’t say, “I won’t vote for a woman”; they say, “I’m scared my moderate father-in-law needs a man on the ballot to motivate him to the polls.”

This isn’t progress. This is treating the election as a psychic reading.

“I’m leaning toward Warren,” says Frank Brownell, a retired editor who relocated to Keene from Upstate New York. “I’m not a big Buttigieg fan. But I want to pick someone to win.” He sighed, deeply troubled. “Women have such a burden. I actually wish women ran the world.”

If he wished women ran things, I asked him, was there a reason he was still merely leaning toward Warren? Here was a woman he liked who was offering to run the country, and he literally had the chance to give her the job.

“I’m going to vote for her,” he decided, then waffled. “I don’t know, I don’t know.”

His qualms weren’t with Warren. He loved Warren. His qualms were about everyone else, everyone else who might not be ready to vote for a woman. “I’m hopeful but I’m not hopeful. I don’t think America is what I always hoped it was.”

Here are some things that happen at Elizabeth Warren events: Warren sprints onstage, much tinier and slighter than she appears on television, to Dolly Parton singing “9 to 5.” She shares that she was her parents’ late-in-life baby, and her mother never stopped referring to her as “the surprise.” She talks about her first marriage, and then she jokes that it’s never good when you have to number your marriages. She tells a story about a toaster, and the toaster becomes a metaphor for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which she helped create, and the CFBP becomes a metaphor for how things can change, but only if you are willing to believe they can change.

You have to believe; that’s the key. You have to jump into the void of possibility. Ready or not.

She is optimistic and upbeat, almost comically so, as if she is Elizabeth Warren playing SNL’s Kate McKinnon playing Elizabeth Warren. She is empathetic in a way that could feel phony if you’re not accustomed to that sort of thing in a politician.

At one event in New Hampshire, a little girl approaches the microphone, accompanied by her mother.

“My name is Elizabeth,” she says.

“Your name is Elizabeth?” Warren reels back. “Oh wow! Double Elizabeths! I feel the power.”

“I’m seven years old.”

Warren pauses, deadpan. “I’m . . . not.”

“I want to know if you will close the camps,” the 7-year-old Elizabeth asks.

Here, Warren’s response grows impossibly soft and intimate, so soft that it feels almost indecent to listen to, like this has become a private conversation. The camps in Texas where they are holding children? Warren asks. The 7-year-old nods. Those camps.

“Yes,” Warren says. “Yes.”

And then people in the audience tear up because in that moment they did seem to believe things could change, that Warren was the best candidate, that others thought so too and just needed to be convinced that it’s safe to vote for her. That there’s nothing to fear in nominating this woman but fear itself.

“If everyone is trying to play that [electability] game,” offers Nancy Loschiavo, a Warren supporter, “then what has our country come to?”

But, Loschiavo hastens to add, she’ll absolutely vote for whoever the nominee is.

Everyone at the Warren events hastens to add that.

A survey had come out a few days before, asking each candidate’s supporters whether, assuming their own first choice dropped out, they would vote for whoever was the Democratic nominee. Some supporters professed a my-guy-or-bust attitude… But Warren’s supporters, more than anyone else, said they’d vote for whomever they needed to vote for.

One way to read this is that Warren doesn’t have crossover appeal: She appeals only to the folks who would have voted Democratic no matter what. Another way to read this is that her supporters are as practical as they are passionate: There’s an outcome they’d prefer, but if it doesn’t happen, they’ll move on to the next best thing. They’ve got a plan for that.

After talking to enough of her fans, I think it’s the second explanation. The second explanation, mixed with something deeper:

Loving Elizabeth Warren means planning for America to break your heart.

It means watching her tweet out an optimistic message after Iowa, and then watching how all of the early replies instruct her to defer to Sanders and drop out…

It means listening to people complain about her schoolmarmishness and quietly wondering what was so wrong, exactly, with sounding like a schoolmarm. What’s so wrong with sounding like a grandmother? What’s so wrong with her animated hand gestures, her cardigans, her preparedness, her laugh, her husband, her brain, her work, her femaleness, her voice?

It means hoping things will break your way, but accepting that they probably wouldn’t, because America never quite seems to work that way, does it?

America doesn’t just render a verdict on the acceptability of women and their clothes and laughs every four years; America does that every day, in a lot of different ways. That’s the reason Michelle Johnson feels moved to make “brass ovaries” pins, and the reason Elizabeth Warren doesn’t have to ask her to explain why.

“The biggest reluctance I hear is ‘Can a woman win?’ ” says Ron Jones, who … has been canvassing for Warren and had come to see her speak in a Nashua community college gym. “I point out that a woman has already won,” he said, referring to Clinton’s popular-vote victory.

“I tell them, look at other countries with successful female leaders,” says Harris. “I tell them, look at successful female CEOs.” … Or just look around you….

Inside the gym, attendees filled the folding plastic chairs, and when those were full, leaned against the walls, parkas draped over their forearms. Seatmates introduced themselves to each other and talked about why they liked Warren, and why there were still reasons to be hopeful, maybe.

“I just want someone to bring energy back,” M.K. Hayes tells the fellow New Hampshirites sitting next to her. “And with her, there’s no cynicism, but there’s urgency. With her, you can say, ‘I’m liberal and I’m proud.’ ”

Her husband likes Warren, too, but he’s not here today. He likes her, she explains, but he might not vote for her; he’s not sure it’s the practical thing to do.

“I am trying to get him to vote with his heart,” Hayes says. “I am trying to get him to have the courage to risk.”

The music in the gym gets a little louder. When “9 to 5” comes on, Warren sprints onstage. She talks about her family. She talks about her toaster. She says she is running a campaign from the heart, because she believes 2020 is “our moment.”

“I believe in that America,” Elizabeth Warren says, and then she tries to convince the audience that they believe in that America, too.

Unquote.

What He Does and Doesn’t Have Going For Him

People who write headlines often do a crappy job. Here’s an example from The New York Times:

Even if presidents have less sway over the economy than is widely assumed, perception can be important.

The headline implies that the economy is just about perfect. It’s not. As Steven Rattner points out:

T—- promised growth of “4, 5, 6 percent”, a tax cut that would raise workers’ wages significantly [and pay for itself!] and new trade policies that would again make the United States a manufacturing powerhouse. None of those things has happened….

Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut explains the situation:

One of T—-‘s favorite tactics is taking credit for Obama’s economy. Democrats need to stop letting him get away with it. A quick thread debunking some of his favorite lies:

Job Creation:

Obama created 227K jobs a month in his last three years in office. In T—-‘s first three years, it’s only been 191K per month.

Job creation numbers were 20% higher under Obama during that three-year span.

Deficits:

T—- DOUBLED the budget deficit, creating over $3 trillion in new debt.

Where did all this money go? Mostly to tax cuts for corporations and rich people. But instead of boosting the economy, business investment has actually fallen since the tax law passed.

Wages

Real wages aka what you can buy for the amount of money you take home, are actually doing worse under T—-.

They increased just 0.8% since T—- took office, compared with 1.3 percent over a similar period under Obama.

Trade War

Trump’s self-inflicted trade war contributed to outright job declines last year in states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Indiana and New York.

Overall, the trade war with China cost America 450,000 jobs in 2019.

Obama inherited the worst financial crisis since the great depression and pulled America out of it.

T—- was handed a healthy economy and has made things harder for working families while juicing corporate profits.

Don’t let his lies try to tell you otherwise.

Paul Krugman provides needed context:

[It’s] worth talking about why the economy is growing. The answer is, it’s the deficit, stupid.

T—-‘s deficitpalooza is giving the economy as much stimulus now as it was getting in 2012, when the unemployment rate was 8%. Imagine what Obama’s economy would have looked like if [Republicans] and Very Serious People had let him run deficits that big.

And of course imagine if we were using that money to build infrastructure and help children, not give corporations more money to buy back their own stock.

[In 2009] some of us were tearing our hair out over the fact that the stimulus was obviously too small. But Obama and his inner circle insisted that it was inconceivable to [get around the filibuster by using] reconciliation to enact something bigger, because norms or something.

In the end Obama [and other Democrats] paid a heavy political price because recovery was too slow, thanks to inadequate stimulus; T—- is getting a dividend because nobody, including the bond market, actually cares about budget deficits. So many bad things have followed from Obama’s caution back then. The course of history could have been very different.

… Republicans hobbled the Obama economy in the name of fiscal responsibility, which they abandoned as soon as T—- came in. But how big a deal was that?

Absent [Republican] sabotage, we would have been down to 4% unemployment in 2014. Think how different everything would look if we’d done that.

Finally, a few words from Nancy Pelosi:

Under Obama…

  • Unemployment dropped from 10% to 5%
  • Stock market went from 6,000 to 18,000
  • Deficit was reduced by a trillion dollars
  • The US gained more than 14 million private sector jobs.

[T—-] did not inherit “a mess”, he inherited a momentum.

Colbert on Taking One’s Oath Seriously

Stephen Colbert is America’s most thoughtful supplier of late-night comedy. Last night, he gave a heartfelt thank you to Sen. Mitt Romney for voting to remove the “monstrous child in the White House”; excoriated Romney’s Republican colleagues for ignoring their solemn oaths to do “impartial justice”; and said some funny stuff too.

Note: The Romney family once took a trip with their dog in a crate on the roof of their car. More famously, Mr. Romney was defeated in the 2012 presidential election by Barack Obama, who Mr. Colbert definitely voted for.