How many Republican senators will vote to convict our former president and bar him from running for president again? Paul Waldman of The Washington Post says there won’t be enough of them:
The transition to a new president and a new Congress is always a significant moment, but it’s especially significant this year, there being such a stark difference between the old and the new. Paul Krugman discusses the current state of our politics and a piece of legislation that would make an important difference in the lives of millions of Americans:
. . . Biden will take office in a political environment polluted by lies.
Most important, of course, is the Big Lie: the claim, based on nothing whatsoever, that the election was stolen. Has there been anything in U.S. history like the demand from leading Republicans that Biden pursue “unity” when they won’t even say publicly that he won fairly? And polls showing that a large majority of rank-and-file Republicans believe that there was major election fraud are deeply scary.
But not far behind in importance is what I think of as the Slightly Smaller Lie — the almost universal insistence on the right that the mildly center-left leaders of the incoming administration and Congress are, or at least are controlled by, radical socialists. This allegation was almost the entire substance of Republican campaigning during the Georgia Senate runoffs.
One response to this bizarre claim — and it’s not a bad response — would be a Bidenesque “C’mon, man. Get real!” But I’d like to do a somewhat deeper dive by focusing on one particular issue: Biden’s call, as part of his economic recovery plan, for an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Republicans raising objections to Biden’s plan have singled out the minimum wage hike as a prime reason for their opposition, although we all know that they would have found some excuse for objecting no matter what he proposed. What’s striking about this fight — let’s not dignify it by calling it a debate, as if both sides were making real arguments — is that it shows us who the real radicals are.
For what counts as a radical economic proposal? One possible answer would be a proposal that flies in the face of public opinion.
By that criterion, however, Republican politicians are definitely the radicals here. Raising the minimum wage is immensely popular; it’s supported by around 70 percent of voters, including a substantial majority of self-identified Republicans. Or if you don’t believe polls, look at what happened in Florida back in November: even as Trump carried the state, a referendum on raising the minimum wage to $15 won in a landslide.
So the G.O.P. is very much out of step with the public on this issue — it’s espousing what is almost a fringe position. Oh, and it’s a position that is completely at odds with the claim by many Republicans that they’re the true party of the working class.
What if we define radicalism not by opposition to public opinion but by a refusal to accept the conclusions of mainstream economics? Here, too, Democrats are the moderates and Republicans the radicals.
It’s true that once upon a time there was a near-consensus among economists that minimum wages substantially reduced employment. But that was long ago. These days only a minority of economists think raising the minimum to $15 would have large employment costs, and a strong plurality believe that a significant rise — although maybe not all the way to $15 — would be a good idea.
Why did economists change their minds? No, the profession wasn’t infiltrated by antifa; it was moved by evidence, specifically the results of “natural experiments” that take place when an individual state raises its minimum wage while neighboring states don’t. The lesson from this evidence is that unless minimum wages are raised to levels higher than anything currently being proposed, hiking the minimum won’t have major negative effects on employment — but it will have significant benefits in terms of higher earnings and a reduction in poverty.
But evidence has a well-known liberal bias. Did I mention that on Friday, just days before their eviction, Trump officials released a report claiming that the 2017 tax cut paid for itself?
Voodoo economics may be the most thoroughly debunked doctrine in the history of economic thought, refuted by decades of experience — and voters consistently say that corporations and the wealthy pay too little, not too much, in taxes. Yet tax cuts for the already privileged are central to the Republican agenda, even under a supposedly populist president.
On economic policy, then, Democrats — even though they have moved somewhat to the left in recent years — are moderates by any standard, while Republicans are wild-eyed radicals. So why does the G.O.P. think that it can get away with claiming the opposite?
Part of the answer is the power of the right-wing disinformation machine, which relentlessly portrays anyone left of center as the second coming of Pol Pot. . . .
In any case, let’s be clear: There is indeed a radical party in America, one that, aside from hating democracy, has crazy ideas about how the world works and is at odds with the views of most voters. And it’s not the Democrats.
In case we were thinking that a violent insurrection encouraged by the president to overturn the results of an election he lost might serve as a wakeup call for our Republican friends, here are the opening paragraphs of “How Republicans Are Warping Reality Around the Capitol Attack” (New York Times):
Immediately after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, all corners of the political spectrum repudiated the mob of President Txxxx’s supporters. Yet within days, prominent Republicans, party officials, conservative media voices and rank-and-file voters began making a rhetorical shift to try to downplay the group’s violent actions.
In one of the ultimate don’t-believe-your-eyes moments of the Txxxx era, these Republicans have retreated to the ranks of misinformation, claiming it was Black Lives Matter protesters and far-left groups like Antifa who stormed the Capitol — in spite of the pro-Trump flags and QAnon symbology in the crowd. Others have argued that the attack was no worse than the rioting and looting in cities during the Black Lives Matter movement, often exaggerating the unrest last summer while minimizing a mob’s attempt to overturn an election.
The shift is revealing about how conspiracy theories, deflection and political incentives play off one another in Mr. Txxxx’s G.O.P. For a brief time, Republican officials seemed perhaps open to grappling with what their party’s leader had wrought — violence in the name of their Electoral College fight. But any window of reflection now seems to be closing as Republicans try to pass blame and to compare last summer’s lawlessness, which was condemned by Democrats, to an attack on Congress, which was inspired by Mr. Txxxx.
The Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955) had an idea about what a nation is that’s relevant to our current predicaments. This is from Philosophy Now:
Published posthumously in 1960, Ortega’s resultant book Meditación de Europa (Meditation on Europe) discusses the nation-state, its role, and its future. After being forced from his own country by a fascist regime and witnessing two World Wars, it’s hardly surprising that the nation-state was an important topic to Ortega. He believed the issue lay partly in the fact that, whilst the nation-state generates a great deal of fanaticism, we are often incapable of providing an exact definition of one – which however Ortega had already done long ago in The Revolt of the Masses. As he said at a conference in 1951:
“I will repeat it once again: the reality which we call the State is not the spontaneous coming together of those united by ties of blood. The State begins when groups naturally divided find themselves obliged to live in common. This obligation is not violently forced upon them, but implies an impelling purpose, a common task which is set before the divided groups. Above all, the State is a plan of action and a program of collaboration. The men are called upon so that together they may do something. The State is neither consanguinity, nor linguistic unity, nor territorial unity, nor proximity of habitation. It is nothing material, inert, fixed, limited. It is pure dynamism – the will to do something in common – and thanks to this the concept of the State is bounded by no physical limits.”
Just like any enterprise, the nation-state has a set of values, insignia through which it is recognized (a flag), and a general set of customs that unite its members, creating cultural coherence amongst them. The nation-state, however, is built upon diversity, and belonging to it does not mean that sub-groups lose their individuality. Be it Catalonia in Spain or Scotland in the UK, belonging to a nation doesn’t remove their spirit as separate entities. And in the same way, all other groups which make up the members of a state do not lose their identity simply by becoming part of the nation: being Spanish doesn’t imply that you are of any particular faith, age, gender, race, and whilst it may be assumed that you speak Spanish, it is not necessarily your mother tongue. Even borders – which might seem like pretty stable definers of a nation – are the present result of centuries of conflict and negotiations. They have constantly changed throughout history, and there’s no reason to think that they won’t do so again in the future.
So instead of understanding a nation as something static, bound fast together by metaphysical connections, it should be viewed as a dynamic – something we do instead of something we are. Thanks to historical records, we have a documented account of Rome from its beginning until its fall – its lifespan, you might say. We Europeans have also witnessed the birth of our modern nation-states from the ruins of the Roman Empire, including their growth and incorporation of surrounding communities. But nation-states are also prone to shrink, fall apart, maybe even die. As a work in progress, nations are by no means eternal features that exist naturally on the face of the earth, leaving them open to whatever fate we bestow. As dynamic, ever-changing projects, nations must be open to change and to the incorporation of new groups, whose ideas could contribute to solving their problems and reaching their goals.
From Eugene Robinson for The Washington Post:
The biggest problem facing the nation now is not what to do with Txxxx, who will soon become yesterday’s news. The crisis is that more than 70 percent of Republican voters believe — falsely — that there was some kind of widespread fraud in the election. The essence of democracy is accepting both victory and loss as legitimate outcomes.
A GOP that internalizes and retains Txxxx’s conspiratorial worldview is not a political party. It is a dangerous cult. Elected officials who have cynically — or cravenly — gone along with that cult’s lies will not find it easy to reverse course.
Much more important than whether Txxxx is convicted in his coming trial is whether Republicans level with their constituents and tell them that Txxxx is lying.
If Republicans won’t — or can’t — tell the truth about the November election, they are no longer participants in our [nation-state’s] democracy. They are its enemies.
A personal note:
I can’t bring myself to watch the proceedings. I wanted to hear what the good guys had to say a year ago, because the issues were relatively murky. There was a timeline to understand. I wanted to see the argument laid out one step at a time. The case for impeachment this time is simple.
On top of that, I’ve gotten the gist of the opposition’s argument. Somebody on Twitter summed up my reaction:
Just in awe of the shamelessness of GOP reps who voted to decertify the election results one week ago today standing up and kvetching that a quick impeachment is a reckless application of the House’s procedural powers.
“You’re using this as a weapon, and you’re destroying this little experiment in self-government.” –Rep. Gohmert, referring not to his own attempt to get Pence to unilaterally throw out the 2020 election but to Pelosi not routing impeachment through the proper committees.
I wonder how many of them will actually vote for the impeachment. So far only five have said they will. More of them would except they’re afraid for their lives. They fear their own voters. They’ve said that in private (of course). They fear their own voters, the ones who could have lynched Pence and Pelosi, and blown up the Capitol if they’d been more competent. An enormous insane bloodthirsty fascist chicken has come home to roost.
Other tweets I’ve been saving. One from Prof. Timothy Snyder:
The claim that Txxxx won the election is a Big Lie. A Big Lie changes reality. To believe it, people must disbelieve their senses, distrust their fellow citizens, and live in a world of faith.
A Big Lie demands conspiracy thinking, since all who doubt it are seen as traitors.
A Big Lie undoes a society, since it divides citizens into believers and unbelievers.
A Big Lie destroys democracy, since people who are convinced that nothing is true but the utterances of their leader ignore voting and its results.
A Big Lie must bring violence, as it has.
A Big Lie can never be told just by one person. Txxxx is the originator of this Big Lie, but it could never have flourished without his allies on Capitol Hill.
There is a cure for the Big Lie. Our elected representatives should tell the truth, without dissimulation, about the results of the 2020 election. Politicians who do not tell the simple truth perpetuate the Big Lie, further an alternative reality, support conspiracy theories, weaken democracy, and foment violence far worse than that of January 6, 2021.
One from Prof. Paul Krugman:
The basic story of the [Republican Party] is that it was taken over by plutocrats, who invited racists and conspiracy theorists into the tent because they thought it would help them cut taxes. Then they woke up one day and realized that the crazies were in charge.
And one in response to the president’s latest statement on the matter:
If the man had any interest at all in easing tensions and calming tempers, he’d hold a televised press conference conceding the election, communicating that there was no evidence of fraud, that Biden will legitimately take office on the 20th, and there’s no reason to protest it.