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The truth about the withdrawal from Afghanistan is hard for partisans to admit

The situation in Afghanistan deteriorated quickly over the weekend. The Taliban took control of its capital city last night. That co-op of regional warlords now has effective control of the country. The swift developments provide partisans here in the states plenty of reasons for being partisan. The Republicans are acting like the fall of Kabul is the same — politically, strategically, morally — as the fall of Saigon at the end of another forever war that had no point but cost us blood and treasure. Naturally, this puts the Democrats on the defensive. I'm no expert on military history. I'm no expert on international affairs. I do know, however, that partisanship often makes people say silly things.

I think it took a degree of courage for Joe Biden to end "the forever war." Decisions like this don't come without cost in every sense of the word. The president surely knew what was going to happen, though he probably could not have known how or how quickly it would. Given that uncertainty, it took courage. But contrary to what some liberals are saying in Biden's defense, I don't think it took that much courage.

I think instead it was a sound political calculation, like everything else. No matter how much money we pour into it, Afghanistan is just not in the mood, and may never be in the mood, to behave like a democratic nation-state. There is no such thing as "the national interest" in that country. (Even calling it a "country" is overstating things). There is no such thing as a moral belief in the fundamental equality between and among members of a political community dedicated to that very same national interest. Not even in theory. And that's not something you can buy. That "the president of Afghanistan" fled the country should be of no surprise after you understand that he was president on paper.

It's not possible for Joe Biden to have been the only president to have recognized that reality. He is the first to act on it, though. It's as if he said to himself one day: "Well, this isn't getting any better." Two decades is a long time. Memories of Sept. 11, 2001, have faded. Domestic politics, including the public-private interests of the military-industrial complex, is pretty much what kept past presidents from making the decision BIden made. It's said he's long been critical of "the forever war." He saw an opportunity. He took it. Does that take courage? Yes, to a degree. But let's not overstate the degree, please.

Democratic partisans will worry that saying such things makes the president vulnerable to partisan attacks, like the preposterous notion that he should be removed from office using the 25th amendment on account of Afghanistan's swift collapse. Democratic partisans need not worry so much. If there's one thing you can count on about politics inside the United States, it's that normal people don't care about politics outside the United States, unless it involves Americans.

That's another part of Biden's calculation, first brought to my attention by Hussein Ibish, who really does know what he's talking about when it comes to these things. If you know all the headlines are going to be bad, and I mean all of them, there's an ideal time of the year for them to influence public opinion. That's the "August doldrums." As Ibish said, August is when most people most of the time are doing something — anything — other than paying attention to politics. By the time we get to Labor Day, Ibish said, the whole political discourse will have reset. The president almost certainly made August the basis for his choice.

This is not to say the Republicans and their allies in the right-wing media apparatus, which is global in scale, won't milk every ounce of manufactured outrage from Biden's decision to pull out of Afghanistan. Some Senate Republicans who value their reputations as reasonable legislators will raise legitimate concerns about national security. Others will try shoehorning Afghanistan into the longer conservative story about liberal weakness in military affairs. Others will, well, they'll do what they always do. Get mad, foam at the mouth, etc. But unless an American dies in the process of evacuating embassy personnel out of Kabul, unless a marine is killed in the line of duty, all that will be more of the same partisan froth. The right-wing media apparatus is global in scale but it's no match for reliable American chauvinism.

Even if an American dies, this won't be a repeat of Benghazi. The Republicans won't be able to do to Biden what they did to Hillary Clinton, though they will try, I have no doubt, especially if they retake control of the House next year. But expecting the Republicans to act like partisans is expecting the sun to rise in the east. Whatever they do in the name of "national security," they will do it after having earned a reputation for being the party of insurrection, treason and domestic terrorism. Though he made a political calculation, the president is still trying to do the right thing with all the consequences of having tried doing the right thing. Partisanship can be silly. It can also be good.

The core problem with American democracy has deep historical roots

The covid pandemic has taught us a couple things I want to talk about. One is that public health policies are not important to lots of people that we share democracy with. If the choice is between being wrong about democracy and dying, we have proof that lots of people we share democracy with will choose dying. Two is that politics does not run on a track separate from public health policy. They are the same track.

New research by political scientists Julie VanDusky-Allen and Olga Shvetsova finds that states with GOP governors saw more cases of the covid and more deaths by the covid, whereas states with Democratic governors saw the opposite. You might think GOP governors would change their minds—about mask mandates, for instance—after seeing so much death, but don't bet on it. "Recent history suggests that in the next public health crisis, governments across the US may once again focus more on politics than on policies grounded in the best available science," VanDusky-Allen and Shvetsova wrote. "Experience also suggests that even when this leads to bad health outcomes, Americans aren't likely to rethink the partisan divide over health care."

The conventional wisdom, at least among liberals, is that we should keep politics out of public health policy. The thinking is we should get people to do what's good for them. That can't hurt, I suppose, but it won't solve the problem given that, you know, lots of people would rather die than give bureaucrats the satisfaction of being right. To get people to do what's good for them, you have to do more than say it's good for them. More important than public health policy are political attitudes toward democracy.

We tend to think of the United States as a place where life changes swiftly, and where we're too busy keeping up with the next new thing to bother thinking about what just happened. But political attitudes toward democracy probably have not changed much since the country was fully settled by white people, since state and local governments were first established. According to journalist Colin Woodard, regional attitudes toward democracy are consistent with the settlement patterns of Europeans. The similarities are so striking Woodard wrote a book about them a decade ago called American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.

I use Woodard's book when I teach undergraduates how to understand American politics.1 It's reductive, but it's knowingly reductive. Woodard understands the weakness of boiling down United States geography and history into 11 neatly defined units. Even so, the scheme is useful, because it gives students, and I think normal people, a means of thinking about the country in ways they had not previously. When it comes to a pandemic that will probably kill before it's over more than a million Americans, Woodard helps us understand the question isn't whether politics should be involved in public health policy. It's whether the politics in question is good or bad.

Of the 11 "nations" in America, Woodard identifies two "superpowers." These are what he calls "Yankeedom" and "Deep South." Each has "the identity, mission and numbers to shape continental debate," Woodard wrote. "For more than 200 years, they've fought for control of the federal government and, in a sense, the nation's soul."

Over the decades, Deep South has become strongly allied with Greater Appalachia and Tidewater, and more tenuously with the Far West. Their combined agenda—to slash taxes, regulations, social services and federal powers—is opposed by a Yankee-led bloc that includes New Netherland and the Left Coast.
Other nations, especially the Midlands and El Norte, often hold the swing vote, whether in a presidential election or a congressional battle over health-care reform. Those swing nations stand to play a decisive role on violence-related issues as well.

Don't worry about all those names. They are his inventions. Focus on "Yankeedom" and "Deep South." Here are the former's political qualities. Since the outset, it has "put great emphasis on perfecting earthly civilization through social engineering, denial of self for the common good and assimilation of outsiders. It has prized education, intellectual achievement, communal empowerment and broad citizen participation in politics and government, the latter seen as the public's shield against the machinations of grasping aristocrats and other would-be tyrants. Since the Puritans, it has been more comfortable with government regulation and public-sector social projects than many of the other nations, who regard the Yankee utopian streak with trepidation."2

Here are the latter's political qualities

Established by English slave lords from Barbados, Deep South was meant as a West Indies–style slave society. This nation offered a version of classical Republicanism modeled on the slave states of the ancient world, where democracy was the privilege of the few and enslavement the natural lot of the many. Its caste systems smashed by outside intervention, it continues to fight against expanded federal powers, taxes on capital and the wealthy, and environmental, labor and consumer regulations.3

You'll notice something important by now. The first map showing more cases of the covid and more deaths by the covid in states run by Republican governors overlaps pretty well with the second map, Woodard's, showing where "Deep South" is and where its attitudes toward democracy prevail around the country. The more people think "democracy is the privilege of the few and enslavement the natural lot of the many," the more people have been getting sick and dying. Importantly, they have been insisting on getting sick and dying because they would rather die than be wrong about what they believe. In order to save American democracy, we should de-southernize it.

That probably won't ever happen fully. The best we can hope for is showing just enough people in regions of the country that have been in alignment with white southern politics that maintaining that alignment is the road to suicide. The best we can hope for is showing them public health policy is not just good for them but "a shield against the machinations of grasping aristocrats and other would-be tyrants"—which is to say, a Republican Party bent on denying the will of the people. Public health policy can take us only so far. We have to meet bad politics with good politics.

I'm hopeful the combo of Donald Trump's presidency and the pandemic has rejiggered the national electorate so that El Norte or the Midlands or Tidewater (again Woodard's inventions) stops siding with white southern attitudes toward democracy and starts siding with attitudes privileging the greatest good for the greatest number. Perhaps then democracy will thrive—if and when we get through this damn pandemic.

Here's the real reason Kevin McCarthy wants to block the Jan. 6 commission

Imagine if, after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the Republicans in the United States House of Representatives said let's move on. The United States Congress need not investigate. Other agencies are already doing that work. There's no sense in duplicating efforts. There's no sense in being counterproductive. Anyway, an inquiry can't do much good unless it examines all forms of political violence. Sure, 3,000 people are dead, but a proposed bipartisan commission would just be more divisive.

That's right. You can't imagine that. It was not possible. So why is Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, coming out this morning against a similar proposal to investigate the January 6 sacking and looting of the United States Capitol? Not as many people died, of course, but the insurrection was worse than 9/11 in that it was an existential threat to the democratic faith, the Constitution and the republic itself. An attack worse than 9/11 deserves a bipartisan commission similar to 9/11's, right?

You'd think so, but McCarthy is shielding from scrutiny the man most responsible for planning, organizing and leading the insurgency. He's doing that because his party is clinging to a losing president like it's given up hope of returning to power through valid democratic means. Most people are paying attention to state-level Republicans squeezing electorates to prejudicial sizes. Less attention is being paid to terrorism as a Republican option. The takeaway to today's news should be the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, might've been tolerable had Osama bin Laden been a Republican.

Make no mistake. McCarthy's reasoning isn't persuasive. The Republicans pushed for and launched dozens of investigations into the Benghazi attack of 2012, during which four Americans were killed, with the goal of undermining trust in Hillary Clinton, who was then secretary of state. They spent millions to conclude she wasn't responsible. It might have been funny had their mission gone nowhere. But from those investigations came revelations that Clinton used a private email server to conduct official business, a scandal the Russians exploited in 2016 to sabotage her presidential candidacy.

I continue to believe, perhaps naively, that most Americans would choose democracy and loyalty without a second's reservation over treason and tyranny if the choice were clear to them. I suspect Kevin McCarthy believes this, too. That's why the GOP leader and (I have no doubt) nearly all the House Republicans will vote soon enough against a proposed commission to investigate the January 6 attack despite the fact that a whole bunch of them, including McCarthy, pushed for and launched dozens of investigations into the Benghazi attack of 2012. Standing in the way muddies the water, as it were. It prevents Americans of good conscience from making a clear and patriotic choice.

It does something else, though. It covers their asses. Kevin McCarthy and the rest of his conference must know any formal investigation into the terrorist attack of January 6 has a high likelihood of finding its way back to them. At the very least, it would remind people that most of the House GOP voted against counting electoral votes after the insurgency, as if indifferent to acts of domestic terrorism. It would remind voters all but 10 voted against impeaching the former president. They are, therefore, doing far more than shielding Donald Trump. They are shielding themselves. In this sense, the Republicans are involved in what can accurately be called a conspiracy of silence.

Again, I suspect Kevin McCarthy probably thinks standing in the way of a bipartisan investigation prevents Americans of good conscience from making a clear and patriotic choice. But it does the opposite. There's just no good reason to stand in the way unless you fear what the investigation is going to find. And if it appears that you fear what it's going to find, Americans of good conscience have good reason to put more of their faith in the party standing against terrorism than in the party seeming to think terrorism is an option in a democracy when all other democratic options have failed.

I said 9/11 might've been tolerable had Bin Laden been a Republican. I'm (mostly) kidding to make an ominous point. I think the Republicans are betting that most (white) Americans are as cynical as they are—that they have lost so much faith in American democracy, and what it's capable of producing for the betterment of all, that they are ready to stop believing in doing the right thing for its own sake. In this sense, terrorism isn't the problem. The problem is who's doing it. If it's Osama bin Laden, or other nonwhite people here and abroad, it's bad. If not, it's good, or at least defensible, because, I mean, let's be honest, those people would murder us all if they could. Instead of asking Americans to choose their values, the GOP is asking them to pick their poison. We have better options. The question is whether we see them clearly.

Mitch McConnell's fake outrage fails to conceal his own betrayal

After voting to acquit former President Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection on Jan. 6, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did something few were expecting.

He took to the Senate floor and explained why Trump was guilty.

"There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day," Mcconnell said. "The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And their having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth."

It was a forceful, clear, and powerful speech, one that would have fit well among the many widely praised performances by the House impeachment managers. But rather than mitigating McConnell's vote to acquit, it only aggravated the wrong he had done by covering, once again, for Trump. In attempting to strike a balance between voting in Trump's favor and verbally condemning him, McConnell only made it crystal clear that he's just as guilty as the former president.

"Former President Trump's actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty," McConnell said. That was true. But on Feb. 13, McConnell — along with many but not all of his Senate Republican colleagues, 43 of whom voted to acquit — were derelict in their own duties to hold Trump accountable.

McConnell's dereliction and betrayal of his office, however, was unique. The excuse he gave for voting to acquit Trump was based on a technicality that he personally engineered.

He claimed the former president is "constitutionally not eligible for conviction," citing the argument made by Trump's lawyers that because the Senate trial occurred after Trump left office, it was improperly held. And he blamed the House of Representatives for this fact: "Donald Trump was the President when the House voted, though not when the House chose to deliver the papers."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking after McConnell's remarks, eagerly rebutted this claim: "When this distinguished group of House managers were gathered on Jan. 15 to deliver the articles of impeachment, we're told it could not be received because Mitch McConnell had shut down the Senate. And was going to keep it shut down until the inauguration."

She added: "It is so pathetic that Senator McConnell kept the Senate shut down so that the Senate could not receive the article of impeachment and has used that as his excuse for not voting to convict Donald Trump."

McConnell even admitted as much in another part of his speech when he said: "The Senate was right not to entertain some light-speed sham process to try to outrun the loss of jurisdiction."

So he essentially acknowledged that it was his choice to force a situation in which he now claims that Trump can no longer be held accountable by Congress. His suggestion that it would've been a "light-speed sham process" to conduct a snap trial after the House passed the article of impeachment doesn't hold up. The House was able to vote quickly to approve the article on a bipartisan basis. McConnell himself said there is "no question" that Trump did what the House accused him of. In another portion of the speech, McConnell called the impeachment power an "intra-governmental safety valve" — an apt phrase. But the point is to use it, and it provides little safety if it can't be used swiftly in an emergency.

An impeachment trial is not a criminal proceeding, so it doesn't need to have the traditional level of due process usually afforded by the courts. Congress can adapt its procedures based on the seriousness of the violation in question and the persuasiveness of the available evidence. And McConnell's remarks make clear: he thinks the evidence was decisive. Trump's behavior was "unconscionable," he said, and it threatened to "either overturn the voters' decision or else torch our institutions on the way out."

So why not hold the trial immediately? McConnell just didn't want to convict, so he delayed instead. He then used the delay as an excuse to acquit.

The constitutional argument on its own is dubious, even if McConnell weren't the source of the technicality that enabled its use as a fig leaf. Most constitutional scholars reject it, including originalists and conservative thinkers McConnell supposedly adores. And though he argued vehemently in favor of his interpretation, McConnell even admitted the Constitution is "legitimately ambiguous" on the question of trying former officials. Given this admission, McConnell should have, by all rights, let the matter remain settled by the Senate's vote on the question, 56-44, finding that it did have jurisdiction to hold Trump's trial. Instead, despite having lost this vote, McConnell used this separate issue as his excuse for voting on another matter entirely: regardless of jurisdiction, was Trump guilty of the charges laid out in the article of impeachment?

McConnell's speech made quite clear he thinks Trump was guilty. But instead — against his own judgment, and arguably in violation of his own oaths — he declared Trump "not guilty" when the roll was called.

Were McConnell really so opposed to the trial that he thought he couldn't in good faith vote to convict, he could have chosen to abstain from the final vote. He could have even boycotted the proceedings, which would have made it easier for the managers to obtain a conviction — a conviction only requires two-thirds of the senators who are present. Instead of choosing these alternatives, McConnell took a dishonest vote.

These choices on McConnell's part show how hollow his devotion to the Constitution and his cries of outrage about the president's conduct really are. But it wasn't just the games he played around impeachment that should draw scrutiny. His actions prior to Jan. 6 showed he's just as derelict in his duty as the president was.

Even though McConnell on Saturday denounced the "growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated President kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth" for inspiring the violent Capitol mob, the Kentucky senator himself had already personally enabled it.

On Nov. 10, 2020, after media outlets correctly projected Joe Biden as the winner of the election, Trump had already declared victory and was launching a wave of frivolous lawsuits attempting to overturn the result. The then-sitting president's refusal to concede despite the clear evidence of his loss disturbed many of his critics, and some of us correctly saw even then that he was plotting a coup. We warned of potential violence.

But McConnell defended Trump's array of legal challenges, despite their clear lack of merit and their role in stoking conspiracy theories and distrust in the election result.

"Until the electoral college votes, anyone who's running for office can exhaust concerns about counting in any court of appropriate jurisdiction," McConnell said on Nov. 10. "That's not unusual. That should not be alarming."

He added: "At some point here we'll find out, finally, who was certified in each of these states. And the electoral college will determine the winner. And that person will be sworn in on January 20. No reason for alarm."

There was reason for alarm, and many of us were correctly alarmed. Not only did McConnell dismiss those legitimate fears, he was defending what he has since called on Saturday the "increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was being stolen in some secret coup."

McConnell did recognize Biden as the president-elect after the Electoral College voted in mid-December. But by then the damage was done. McConnell had enabled Trump to spin his election lies for more than a month, and the train was already on a course for disaster. Had McConnell, as the then-leader of the Senate, joined with Speaker Pelosi in congratulating Biden and assuring the country that his victory was settled as soon as the election result had become clear, Trump's doomed effort to stay in power might never have gotten off the ground.

Just as Trump's riling up of the mob on Jan. 6 foreseeably resulted in the violent attack on the Capitol, McConnell's decision to humor the president in November foreseeably gave rise to an insurrectionist movement.

And indeed, McConnell's dereliction of duty goes back even further. He led the Senate through Trump's first impeachment trial at the beginning of 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic took over our lives. And he was upfront from the start that there was no way he and the Republican caucus he led were going to let Trump be convicted.

During that trial, lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff made a passionate plea that Trump's attempt to induce Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden was a gross abuse of power and an attempt to cheat in the 2020 election. And Schiff warned that if Trump wasn't convicted and removed, he would continue to put democracy at risk

"You can't trust this president to do the right thing," Schiff told the Senate. "Not for one minute, not for one election, not for the sake of our country. You just can't. He will not change and you know it."

But McConnell, along with nearly the rest of his caucus, refused to listen. Even as Democrats said over and over that Trump's crime needed to be punished by impeachment because it was a threat to democracy, McConnell said their objections could be solved at the ballot box.

"If Washington Democrats have a case to make against the President's re-election, they should go out and make it. Let them try to do what they failed to do three years ago and sell the American people on their vision for the country," McConnell said during the first impeachment trial.

It was a disingenuous response, and he knew better. There was a plain warning that Trump was dangerous and didn't care about democracy, but McConnell couldn't be moved. He helped keep Trump in office, only to let Trump attack democracy in a more overt, gruesome, and vicious way. The Capitol was stormed. More than a hundred officers were injured. Five people died during the attack, including one Capitol police officer. Two other cops who responded to the assault died by suicide in the following days.

McConnell correctly said that Trump is "practically and morally responsible" for the events of that day. That's true. But McConnell shares in the blame as well.

Speaking on Saturday, he said: "The Senate's decision does not condone anything that happened on or before that terrible day. It simply shows that Senators did what the former President failed to do: We put our constitutional duty first."

But this isn't correct. Like the former president, McConnell abandoned his duty to protect the Constitution and fulfill his oath of office. By letting Trump off the hook, once again, McConnell's just as negligent and derelict.

McConnell tried to deflect such accusations by saying others can hold Trump responsible: "We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one."

But he also said: "By the strict criminal standard, the president's speech probably was not incitement."

That claim is up for debate, and many legal scholars disagree. But if McConnell is right, Trump isn't subject to be held accountable for the acts he spent the speech condemning. If it is true that Trump's acts, reprehensible as they were in McConnell's view, didn't technically violate the criminal law, it would only emphasize why it's so important that the Constitution provides a specific remedy for high crimes and misdemeanors. Officials can abuse their power and authority in unique and dangerous ways, and that's why impeachment exists. Through McConnell's actions, the remedy has been vacated. And if Trump does end up criminally charged for his Jan. 6 conduct, his party and supporters would have been better prepared for that eventuality if the Senate had properly fulfilled its duty and delivered a resounding bipartisan vote for conviction.

Instead, Republicans want someone else to take responsibility for Trump.

And regardless of the criminal question, the gravity of Trump's violation demands a constitutional response. It would prevent Trump from even credibly threatening to run for office again and help the country move on. And it would close that dark and dangerous chapter, and potentially allow the Republican Party to move in a healthier direction.

But McConnell, like most of the GOP, is refusing to defend American democracy from a would-be tyrant. He let Trump run wild and tramble over American institutions, cheering him on at certain moments, averting his gaze at others, and eventually throwing up his hands in a feigned inability to use his power to respond as needed. And for that, the minority leader shares in the former president's guilt.

Here's how Senate Democrats can pass almost anything — without nuking the filibuster

Astute politics observers well know that the Senate filibuster—the Jim Crow relic that requires supermajority support to pass most legislation—is a major obstacle for any hopes that Democrats have of enacting Joe Biden's agenda and righting the country after four years of wicked misrule. But because a handful of Democratic senators (as well as all Republicans) oppose curtailing the rule—for now, at least—party leaders are pursuing an alternative route that will allow them to bypass the filibuster and pass major bills with just a simple majority.

It's called reconciliation, and it's a complicated beast. If you've heard about it, you may have read that it can only be used in a limited fashion. But that's simply not so. Democrats can actually use the reconciliation process for almost anything, including an increase to the minimum wage, a current topic of contention. What's more, in contrast with filibuster reform, they don't need unanimity from their caucus to proceed. A mere 41 votes will do the trick.

Congressional experts usually say that the person who decides what can and can't be included in a reconciliation package is the Senate parliamentarian, an appointed official who advises the chamber on matters of procedure. The key word there, though, is "advises": The presiding officer—that person who occupies the big chair atop the central dais you've seen on C-SPAN, either the vice president or a sitting senator—is free to reject that advice.

So what happens if Kamala Harris (or, if you like, Jon Ossoff) does exactly that? A Republican could object, but in order to sustain that objection—that is to say, in order to override the presiding officer's decision to rebuff the parliamentarian—it would take 60 votes. In other words, all 50 Republicans would need 10 Democrats to join them. There's little chance that would happen.

And it's been done before, in the service of promoting majority rule in the Senate. The last occasion arose in 1975, when a bipartisan coalition, led by Minnesota Democrat Walter Mondale, sought to reduce the threshold for ending a filibuster from two-thirds to three-fifths. Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, a Republican, paved the way for the proposal to move forward by declining the parliamentarian's advice in order to allow a key vote that would buttress reformers' arguments. While pro-filibuster senators staged a revolt after the vote succeeded, the dispute ultimately ended with the filibuster requirement getting lowered to today's familiar 60-vote benchmark.

The same approach can be deployed when dealing with constraining guidance from the parliamentarian regarding reconciliation, and Democrats have no reason to fear doing so. While Republicans will inevitably complain, voters don't care about procedure—they care about results. That's especially so when we're talking about popular legislation like a $15 minimum wage, which poll after poll has shown Americans support in massive numbers.

Some have in fact already called for the Senate to take this tack. "You don't have to override the parliamentarian or get a new parliamentarian," noted one expert on Senate procedure, a likely reference to the occasion when then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott fired parliamentarian Bob Dove in 2001 after Republicans grew frustrated with him. "Under the statute, it is the vice president who rules. It is the presiding officer who makes the decision. The parliamentarian advises on that question."

That's precisely right, and it's precisely the approach Democrats should take. And when Republicans howl, Democrats need only point out that the expert who advocated for a robust use of reconciliation was none other than Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Josh Hawley blasted for sitting in Senate gallery 'with his feet up' and ignoring impeachment trial

U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, the freshman Missouri Republican who has been accused of effectively being one of the leaders of the January 6 insurrection, is now being blasted for ignoring the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump for inciting that insurrection – a trial in which Senator Hawley has sworn to be an impartial juror.
Sen. Hawley is "sitting up in the gallery with his feet up on the seat in front of him, reviewing paperwork, throughout" the trial, NBC News' Garrett Haake reports.
Other reporters confirmed Haake's account:




CNN's Manu Raju reports Hawley told him, "I can basically see the back of their heads. But I sort of picked a spot where I can look right down on them, I can see the TV, and it's interesting."

Hawley appears to be violating his oath as an impartial juror by ignoring the Senate's conclusion, based on Tuesday's vote, that it does have jurisdiction to try Trump.


Hawley is being blasted.









Dems to show never-before-seen security footage proving 'just how close Trump’s mob came to senators': report

Democratic impeachment managers, fresh off Tuesday's resounding first day win, are expected to show another damning video on Wednesday that should prove Trump's MAGA insurrectionists came dangerously close to members of both houses of Congress on January 6. The new video "evidence being shown by Democratic House Impeachment Managers today is previously unseen security camera footage shot from inside the Capitol," PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports.

Alcindor adds that a Democratic "source says that the video will show 'just how close Trump's mob came to senators, members of Congress and staff.'"

U.S. Senators on Tuesday sat through a damning 13-minute video compilation of the events of January 6, video that went viral on social media and on news outlets across the country. Some Republicans, including Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida, reportedly looked away or were caught doodling rather than paying attention and being impartial jurors, a role they were sworn in to uphold.


America 'should be ashamed': Texas teen forced to use college savings to prevent mom's eviction

After Alondra Carmona, a high school senior in Houston, recently exhausted all of her college savings to prevent her unemployed mother from being evicted, one media outlet on Tuesday tried to portray it as an "act of kindness," but progressives are emphasizing that the all-too-common story is an indictment of a deeply unequal society reliant on private charity as a result of policymakers' failure to guarantee livable incomes, affordable housing and higher education, and more.

"In February of 2020, my mom broke her ankle and was not able to work," Carmona explained in a GoFundMe ad she created to support her family. "Come March, the coronavirus started, which added to the financial problems we already had. Today, I found out that my mom has not had a job for 3 months and hid it from us. She owes two months of rent and will most likely get evicted in March."

"All of my college savings will go to paying the rent that we are behind on," wrote Carmona. "As much as I dream of going to Barnard College, it is not looking promising right now. I am turning to this as a last resort because Barnard will not be able to change my financial aid package."

While the performance of Carmona's online fundraising page suggests there may be a happy ending in this particular instance for the Barnard-bound aspiring scientist, critics slammed ABC News 7 for framing the story as a heartwarming tale of generosity rather than an opportunity to reflect on society's failure to meet people's needs—especially, but not only, during a pandemic.




Critics asserted that Carmona's effort—though undoubtedly selfless—is a devastating expression of how ordinary people, left behind by a government that caters to the wealthy while workers fend for themselves in a market-fundamentalist rat-race, are forced to suffer and beg privately—typically not as successfully—amid worsening inequality made even more intense by the coronavirus crisis.


"This is a heartbreaking story and one our nation should be ashamed of," said Julián Castro. The former Housing and Urban Development secretary also pointed out that if the federal government refuses to deliver adequate rent relief to Americans who "owe $70 billion in back rent that they won't be able to pay... there will be millions of stories like these."


Alan MacLeod, a sociologist and journalist, in 2019 published an article denouncing corporate media outlets for spinning "horrifying stories as... perseverance porn."

"Any of these stories could have been used to explore the pressing social and economic realities of being poor in the United States, and having to work for things considered fundamental rights in other countries," the media critic wrote in Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. "But instead they are presented as uplifting features, something only possible if we unquestionably accept the political and economic system."

MacLeod continued:

What these articles highlight so clearly is not only the grim, inhuman, and unnecessary conditions so many Americans are forced to live under, but the degree to which mainstream corporate journalists have completely internalized them as unremarkable, inevitable facts of life, rather than the consequences of decades of neoliberal policies that have robbed Americans of dignity and basic human rights. Because corporate media wholly accept and promote neoliberal, free-market doctrine, they are unable to see how what they see as "awesome" is actually a manifestation of late-capitalist dystopia.

As philosopher Ben Burgis argued in Jacobin in May 2020, rather than forcing people to convince strangers to help them on crowdfunding sites, the U.S. needs a strong welfare state funded through redistributive taxation to ensure that everyone's basic needs are met.

"The scale of the current crisis casts the absurdity of relying on GoFundMe for these social needs into sharp relief," wrote Burgis. "It's as if we were living on an island about to be wiped out by a volcano and we were relying on a multitude of individual fundraisers, each jostling for attention, to purchase each individual boat or plane to be used in the evacuation."

"But it's even worse," he added. "The fact that anyone has ever needed to use GoFundMe to pay for things like rent or healthcare is a symptom of a social sickness far older than Covid-19."

Watch: Lead impeachment manager lays out how 'inciter-in-chief' Trump 'praised and encouraged and cultivated violence'

The Democrats' lead impeachment manager, Congressman Jaime Raskin of Maryland, opened Wednesday's Senate trial by focusing on the violence caused by the ex-president, Donald Trump, who he called the "Inciter in Chief."

"The evidence will show you that ex-president Trump was no bystander. The evidence will show that he clearly incited the January 6 insurrection. It will show that Donald Trump surrendered his role of commander-in-chief and became the inciter-in-chief," Raskin told the Senate.


"You will see during this trial a man who praised and encouraged and cultivated violence," Raskin said.

"'We have just begun to fight,' he says, more than a month after the election has taken place. And that's before the second million MAGA March, a rally that ended in serious violence and even the burning of a church."

"And as the President forecast it was only the beginning. On December 19, 18 days before January 6, he told his base about where the battle would be that they would fight next. January 6 would be 'wild' he promised, be there, 'will be wild,' said the President of the United States of America. And that too, turned out to be true, you'll see in the days that followed Donald Trump continued to aggressively promote January 6 to his followers."

"The event was scheduled at the protest at the precise time that Congress would be meeting in joint session to count the Electoral College votes, and to finalize the 2020 presidential election. In fact, in the days leading up to the attack you'll learn that there were countless social media posts, news stories, and most importantly credible reports from the FBI in Capitol Police that that 1000's gathering for the president save America March were violent organized with weapons and we're targeting the Capitol. This mob got organized so openly, because as they would later scream in these halls and as they posted on forums before the attack, they were sent here by the President. They were invited here by the President of the United States of America."

Watch:


Swarming of Biden campaign bus in Texas could be a factor in Trump impeachment trial: report

Back in October, just days before the presidential election, a Biden-Harris campaign was forced to cancel an event after one of its buses was swarmed by a caravan of Trump supporters in central Texas. Now, that incident could play a key role in former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

According to KXAN, the Texas incident could be used as an example of the violence Trump incited leading up to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Although the incident happened months prior to the Capitol insurrection, the disturbing incident could be referenced as an example of how Trump's rhetoric has incited violence. The House trial memorandum details the incident and how it correlates with the violence that erupted on Capitol hill.

"October 30, when a caravan of his supporters in Texas attacked a bus full of Biden campaign workers, nearly running it off the road, President Trump tweeted a stylized video of the caravan and captioned it, 'I LOVE TEXAS!' Days later, he declared that 'these patriots'—who could easily have killed a busload of innocent campaign staff—'did nothing wrong,'" the House trial memorandum reads.

During an interview with the publication, Wendy Davis, a Democratic congressional candidate in Austin, Texas, recalled what it was like to be on the bus when that incident occurred.

"It was unnerving for everyone," Davis said on Tuesday. "I would hope that we never get numb enough to that kind of behavior that it's normal and that it's okay and, really, that's what this impeachment trial is about right now."

While some Republican lawmakers are in support of convicting Trump in the Senate, others like Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) argue the trial may be unconstitutional.

"I'm happy to listen to the evidence, but really more than the facts or what happened that night I'm concerned about the precedent that would set," Cornyn said. "If Democrats can do this to a Republican president after he's left office, that means Republicans can do it to a Democratic president after they've left office. That strikes me as a bad outcome."

So what will the impeachment trial mean for Trump's future in politics? If he is convicted, he will be barred from holding public office in the future. Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor in Houston, believes there will be a number of Republicans who will vote in favor of Trump's impeachment. However, many others, like Cornyn and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) likely will not.

"They're both Republicans in a state where Ted Cruz needs to have that success and John Cornyn just had some success so they both need to be able to follow the Trump model, at least a little bit," said the University of Houston professor. "This is a test of the Republican party unity and, by all accounts, they're going to stay together."

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