Monday, January 18, 2021

Happy Trails to Kevin Drum

Kevin Drum has announced he's leaving his post at Mother Jones for health reasons (Drum has been battling multiple myeloma for several years now). He isn't hanging up the spikes altogether -- he plans on launching his own blog -- but he felt he could not maintain the pace that justified working for a major magazine like Mother Jones.

Drum was one of the first bloggers I read -- I don't think I caught him during his Calpundit days, but I sure read him at the Washington Monthly -- and was a tremendous influence on my own development as a blogger. I'm certainly not alone in that: Drum was a towering figure during the Golden Age of blogging, whose influence on the mainstream liberal side of the commentariat could not be overstated. And while blogging is fading as an artform, Drum remained decidedly old school and has accordingly stayed as one of my favorites. His work on the lead/crime hypothesis was absolutely fascinating and dare-I-say important, and in general I've always respected him for being thoughtful, considerate, and fair-minded without being mushy or wooly. Those are virtues that are perhaps in rare supply these days, and so I'm especially grateful to Drum for modeling them for so many years.

I'll certainly be following Drum at his new gig, wherever it may be, and so I'm glad this isn't goodbye. But it did strike me as a good time to give a brief tribute to one of my favorite members of the blogosphere.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

La Foule, C'est Moi, Part III

The pattern of Republican politicians just openly identifying with the lawless mob continues with Josh Hawley, who thinks he bravely stood up to the insurrectionists who rampaged through the Capitol by actively encouraging them and endorsing all their demands. Such boldness. Such courage.

Of course, this doesn't even get into the (at least) six Republican elected officials who were actually, literally part of the marauders.

Anyway, a whopping ten House Republicans voted to impeach President Trump for his actions fostering a violent attack on democracy. That's nearly 5%! I'll tell you what, the days of the GOP being in thrall to lawless anti-democratic authoritarianism are certainly coming to a middle.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Where Does Adelson's Wealth Go Now (Politically Speaking)?

Sheldon Adelson, casino magnate and massive backer of conservative and right-wing causes (particularly in the Jewish community), has died at age 87.

I don't feel the need to do any retrospective on Adelson's life. Suffice to say, while he did donate to some good causes, particularly in the medical field, his primary contribution to public life were to bolster regressive and reactionary forces in America and Israel. This influence will not be missed.

Of course, even with his death, his money doesn't simply disappear. The question is whether his heirs are as committed to serving as right-wing kingmakers as he was. To the extent his death dries up a significant source of conservative largesse, it could make a significant difference in the ecosystem of right-wing politics (again, especially in the Jewish community where Adelson was a major benefactor of an array of reactionary institutions).

Adelson's wife, Miriam, is a physician and is probably more responsible for the health-side donations of Adelson fortune. It's possible that she will pivot to focus more on those endeavors, which would be an unadulterated good. That said, while not having as high a profile as her husband, from all appearances Miriam's politics are not materially different from her late partner, and so it is entirely possible that she'll keep up the money flow same as before.

I suppose we'll see. But it will be interesting to see the degree to which the heirs of some of the Republican mega-fortunes share their parents' politics. It's possible that deaths such as these could effectuate significant shifts in the political landscape simply by changing who signs the checks (which is itself not exactly a healthy indicia of democracy, but leave that aside for now).

Friday, January 08, 2021

The Legacy of Trump Appointees Who Resigned Now

Many people are wondering how we should assess the legacy of Trump appointees who now, finally, have resigned from his administration. How much should this stand serve to rehabilitate them in the eyes of history? Is it meaningful, or is it too little too late?

My view is simple: If you resigned today, I agree you are absolved from responsibility for whatever Trump does in his last twelve days in office. Your moral liability for the preceding three years and eleven months (or however long you were in the administration) remains unaffected. If Betsy DeVos wants to start the clock running from the time she tried and failed in the push to invoke the 25th Amendment, I'm fine with that too.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

The Beard and Overalls Putsch

We should be talking about Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff's historic victories today, ensuring that incoming President Joe Biden has a Democratic House and Senate that can implement his priorities.

But we can't. Because a mob of pro-Trump extremists has stormed our seat of government, an attempted insurrection aimed at the violent overthrow of our democratic system.

This is the final fruit of Trumpian authoritarianism, eagerly abetted by the overwhelming majority of the Republican Party. Even now, Trump can barely murmur a peep against the "protesters", limply calling for peace while insisting that their paranoid fantastical grievances are in fact wholly justified and salutary. In this, he has been backed by huge swaths of his own Party, who own this blot on our national heritage almost as much as he does. Figures such as Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz deserve permanent disgrace. They cheered this on. They helped make today happen.

And of course, the limp response of the Capitol Police to these acts of White Supremacist sedition stands in such striking contrast to the heavy hand taken against Black Lives Matter protesters. We can't even fathom a similar display to this emanating from the left, because if it had come from the left the streets would run with blood. Yet even here the right plays victim, comparing a few instances of vandalism against  a violent anti-democratic putsch and suggesting that it's the left which comes out with explaining to do. If you think they've learned anything, they haven't.

The Beard and Overalls Putsch will not succeed. It will not stop our democracy. This will not be the day that the American dream dies. But make no mistake. There has to be accounting, and there has to be reckoning. The men and women responsible for allowing this to happen cannot be permitted to escape without consequence. Yes we need to heal. But part of healing means finally expunging the toxic, authoritarian, anti-democratic poison that has been allowed to course through the body politic for far too long.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Sweet Home Georgia

(It's not a mistake, it's a Dollhouse reference)

Georgia heads back to the polls for two Senate run-off elections today, and I honestly don't know what to expect.

On the side of evil:

  • Perdue barely missed taking an outright majority in the first round, and the combined GOP vote in the special election was I believe ahead of the combined Dem vote.
  • As everyone knows at this point, Dems historically underperform in Georgia run-offs.
  • Polls have shown a deadlock, but it seems as if the polls this cycle have had a slight D slant, so a deadlock may translate to a slight R advantage.
On the side of good:
  • Early vote turnout figures look excellent for the Democratic candidates. And it seems plausible that in a run-off it will be easier to turn out the early vote than the in-person vote.
  • It's also not implausible that Republicans are demoralized after the 2020 election (even if they somehow actually think they won and it was "stolen", they might be less than keen to participate in an election they think will be "stolen" again).
  • Donald Trump being, shall we say, "distracted" might also undermine GOP enthusiasm.
  • The blue shift in highly-educated suburbs is, among other things, a shift in a relatively high-turnout constituency, which may undercut some of the historical "Dems struggle to turnout in run-offs" baggage.
Honestly, I don't know what to think. But here's hoping that these months where we Warnock-ed our Ossoff pay off!

Monday, January 04, 2021

Cursed Words in the Brandeis University Press

The end of 2020 brought on a burgeoning academic controversy involving the reprint of Marc Dollinger's book Black Power, Jewish Politics (which I happen to have on my desk). The gist is this: in preparation for a new edition, Dolligner authored a new preface which included language about how Jews have begun to reckon with the  "elements of white supremacy in their own lived experience." Dollinger's editors at the Brandeis University Press didn't like the linkage of Jews and White Supremacy. So they refused to print his preface, and allegedly sent the book to the presses without consulting him on their decision. This generated an outraged letter by a good number of eminent Jewish Studies scholars in Dollinger's field, and the BUP's newly installed editors wrote a rather vague reply suggesting potentially that they may revisit the decision.

Like others, I recognize that the linkage of Jews with my background and White Supremacy is a fraught endeavor. I wrote a lengthy two-part blog series trying to tease through this very topic. I haven't read Dollinger's preface (since, you know, it was never published), and it's possible I'd disagree with what he had to say about "White supremacy". But discussing the topic is well within the purview of academic inquiry into the relationship of American Jewry and the Black community, and it is not a healthy thing if the very phrase is treated as cursed words. The people who are praising the editors' censorial cowardice regarding a book that already passed muster in peer-review are doing a disservice to the project of open academic inquiry (not that I think they care). Give them 30 minutes, and they'll be back to complaining about "cancel culture" soon enough, but for the time being they're gleeful as all get-out that an academic press was afraid to even allow the phrase "White supremacy" to be uttered in a preface.