The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Actions must have consequences

Yesterday evening I wrote that the only appropriate response to the Republican Senate putting another Federalist Society pretty boy on the Supreme Court (or, really, anyone other than Merrick Garland) would be to revisit 28 USC §1i.e., passing a simple statute to increase the size of the court and thereby dilute its right-wing majority. This was also Josh Marshall's first thought:

We are here because of the Republican party’s increasing unwillingness to accept limits on political action. To up the ante on that tendency, to meet it, is itself a grave threat to democratic governance. But an even graver threat is to remove any mechanism of consequences or accountability. Then there is truly no limit or disincentive to corruption, law breaking and bad action. That reality is precisely the one in which we currently find ourselves.

In war or in sports or really any kind of contest you never let the other side hold all the initiative. You can say that McConnell and Trump shouldn’t take this step, that the American people should get to decide. Because the reality is they can take this step. So what will you do when they do that? The answer is you take the clearest and most economical step to undo the corrupt act. Adding new Justices is the way to do that.

Make this new corruption a centerpiece of the campaign, hold it over the heads of embattled Republican senators, try in every way to get a just result, which is to put this in the hands of the next President and Congress. But make clear that if it happens Democrats will undo it next year if the people give them to power to do so.

The Washington Post's Jill Filipovic makes the same points:

Democrats have only one play here: If Trump and McConnell jam an appointee through, it is not enough for Democrats to raise hell about the hypocrisy, the duplicity and the Republican refusal to play by McConnell’s own rules. It is not enough to target every Republican senator who goes along. It is not enough to have voters bombard their Republican senator’s office with phone calls and protests. Because those things have been happening for four years, and none of them have persuaded the GOP to put the stability of the country or the obligations of office ahead of that party’s thirst for power.

So Democrats should threaten to pack the court. And, if McConnell pushes through a new justice and then Joe Biden wins, they should follow through.

Our party has to hold the line here. Another ultra-right-wing Associate Justice will cement the power of the right wing for another 30 years, prevent us—the clear majority—from passing any meaningful legislation when we do re-take power in January, and contribute to the loss of faith in the institutions of government. All three of these outcomes are exactly what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has worked his whole career to accomplish. Even if Amy McGrath takes his seat, he will have won.

Except for this one little thing: Article 1 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the Supreme Court's size and jurisdiction. We can counter all these things with simple legislation requiring only a majority in Congress.

The Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader need to get out in front, now, and rhetorically pump that shotgun. Sure, go ahead and put one of Brett Kavanaugh's frat bros on the Court. President Biden will have Merrick Garland and three other liberals in the four new seats Congress will create before the end of March.

I've sent notes to Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) making these points.

(Note: I have contributed money to both Joe Biden's and Amy McGrath's campaigns.)

Happy Monday!

Today is the last day of meteorological summer, and by my math we really have had the warmest summer ever in Chicago. (More on that tomorrow, when it's official.) So I, for one, am happy to see it go.

And yet, so many things of note happened just in the last 24 hours:

Finally, Josh Marshall reminds everyone that Democrats are nervous about the upcoming election because we're Democrats. It's kind of in our blood.

Our nominee

Former vice president Joe Biden accepted the Democratic Party nomination for president last night:

Speaking before a row of flags in his home state of Delaware, Mr. Biden urged Americans to have faith that they could “overcome this season of darkness,” and pledged that he would seek to bridge the country’s political divisions in ways Mr. Trump had not.

“The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long — too much anger, too much fear, too much division,” Mr. Biden said. “Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I will be an ally of the light, not the darkness.”

The task that faced Mr. Biden on Thursday night, and that looms over him for the next 10 weeks, was assuring Americans that he had both the grit and the vision first to topple Mr. Trump and then to deliver on a governing agenda that would materially improve their lives. Mr. Biden has laid out an ambitious suite of plans for next year, should Democrats win power, but in the daily din of public health emergencies and presidential outbursts, it is not clear how many voters are familiar with them.

Joe Scarborough called Biden's speech "Reaganesque." Dana Milbank says "Biden speaks from a place Trump doesn't know—the heart:"

[T]he power of Biden’s acceptance speech — and the power of his candidacy — was in its basic, honest simplicity. The rhetoric wasn’t soaring. The delivery was workmanlike (he botched an Ella Baker quote in his opening line). But it was warm and decent, a soothing, fireside chat for this pandemic era, as we battle twin crises of disease and economic collapse and we only see each other disembodied in boxes on a screen. Biden spoke not to his political base but to those who have lost loved ones to the virus.

Even the National Review admitted the speech did its job:

Biden’s discussion of policy issues tonight was purposely vague, a far cry from detailing his agenda, and he offered very few criticisms of Republican policies or proposals. For a guy who has spent years in the trenches of the judicial-confirmation wars, he was strikingly quiet on the courts and the issues they control — he did not mention the courts once.

This may be enough: Biden is banking that Trump is such a liability, and so detatched from any policy agenda, that you don’t actually need to talk people out of Republican ideas or into Democratic ones. This convention as a whole put more effort than the Democrats did in 2016 to pitching themes sympathetic to swing voters, the 2016 election having shocked Democrats at least temporarily out of their 2012-era smug certainties that running hard to the base would be all they would ever need again to win. Still, it gives Republicans an opportunity (if they are up to the challenge, a big if) to talk at their convention about what a Biden-Harris election really means.

Just a little more than 10 weeks—74 days—until we find out.

Mid-morning news round-up

I'll get to the final head-to-head comparison between my Garmin Venu and Fitbit Ionic later today. Meanwhile:

And finally, because our Covid-19 numbers have started creeping up, indoor bar service will halt on Friday.

John Lewis dead at 80

The civil rights activist and long-time Member of Congress died yesterday of complications from pancreatic cancer:

On the front lines of the bloody campaign to end Jim Crow laws, with blows to his body and a fractured skull to prove it, Mr. Lewis was a valiant stalwart of the civil rights movement and the last surviving speaker at the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

More than a half-century later, after the killing in May of George Floyd, a Black man in police custody in Minneapolis, Mr. Lewis welcomed the resulting global demonstrations against systemic racism and the police killings of Black people. He saw those demonstrations, the largest protest movement in American history, as a continuation of his life’s work, though his illness had left him to watch from the sideline.

Mr. Lewis’s personal history paralleled that of the civil rights movement. He was among the original 13 Freedom Riders, the Black and white activists who challenged segregated interstate travel in the South in 1961. He was a founder and early leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which coordinated lunch-counter sit-ins. He helped organize the March on Washington, where the main speaker on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mr. Lewis led demonstrations against racially segregated restrooms, hotels, restaurants, public parks and swimming pools, and he rose up against other indignities of second-class citizenship. At nearly every turn, he was beaten, spat upon or burned with cigarettes. He was tormented by shrieking white mobs and absorbed body blows from law enforcement.

On March 7, 1965, he led one of the most famous marches in American history. In the vanguard of 600 people demanding the voting rights they had been denied, Mr. Lewis marched partway across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., into a waiting phalanx of state troopers in riot gear.

Lewis represented Georgia's 5th district from 1987 until his death yesterday.

What could possibly go wrong?

We all know President Trump's pathologies pretty well by now. Between the malignant narcissism and his natural distrust for anyone who knows more than he does on a particular subject, plus his well-documented habit of believing things he wants to believe instead of the black-and-white reality right in front of him, it doesn't take an Oliver Sacks to guess how he has reacted to everyone telling him he can't simply restart the economy on May 1st. And, sadly, he does not disappoint:

Over the weekend, the president said he would weigh multiple factors to arrive at the "toughest" decision of his administration to date. Trump signaled that he has consulted his top health professionals, business leaders and others whom he described as "smart people" in recent days. The ultimate call "will be based on a lot of facts and instincts," he said. In a Fox News phone interview Saturday, Trump said he would come to a conclusion "fairly soon."

But Trump seemed to telegraph his eagerness to restart much of the U.S. in a tweet Sunday evening, urging governors to perfect their testing abilities and to "be ready, big things are happening. No excuses!"

Trump has said he would like to reopen the country with a "big bang."

The motivation to restart the economy — even piecemeal — sooner rather than later may be based on a political calculation by the president that he needs to demonstrate that things are "on the upswing."

Naturally, Dr Anthony Fauci, who as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has become the de facto spokesperson for the government on the realities of the pandemic, has drawn the president's ire, given the inevitability he would have to contradict the most prolific liar in US history. Greg Sargent:

As part of this latest exercise in blame-shifting, Trump has taken his first public shot at Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and his own administration’s leading medical expert. Trump angrily retweeted a call for Fauci’s firing, while again hailing his own early restrictions on travel from China and furiously bashing the media for failing to recognize that decision’s foresight and brilliance.

As for reopening the economy, presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden published his plan yesterday:

First, we have to get the number of new cases of the disease down significantly. That means social distancing has to continue and the people on the front lines have to get the supplies and equipment they need. President Trump needs to use his full powers under the Defense Production Act to fight the disease with every tool at our disposal. He needs to get the federal response organized and stop making excuses. For more Americans to go back to their jobs, the president needs to do better at his job.

Second, there needs to be widespread, easily available and prompt testing — and a contact tracing strategy that protects privacy. A recent report from Mr. Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services made clear that we are far from achieving this goal.

Third, we have to make sure that our hospitals and health care system are ready for flare-ups of the disease that may occur when economic activity expands again. Reopening the right way will still not be completely safe. Public health officials will need to conduct effective disease surveillance. Hospitals need to have the staff and equipment necessary to handle any local outbreaks, and we need an improved federal system to get help to these places as needed.

Imagine if the incumbent president had a plan—any plan—other than "May 1st." Because if we simply go back to pre-pandemic norms then, it will indeed be a May Day situation.

Chill, folks

After Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign for president earlier today, New Republic's Walter Shapiro has some simple advice for the Democratic Party: "Stop panicking about Joe Biden."

What the Democrats fretting about Biden’s lackluster TV performances fail to understand is that virtually every presidential candidate spends weeks—sometimes months—wandering in the wilderness after wrapping up the nomination. After the tension of the early primaries, everything comes to a grinding halt once there is a de facto nominee. Suddenly, the only one surefire way to make news is to announce a vice-presidential running mate. And that banner headline is traditionally reserved for the days leading up to the convention or for the convention itself.

Biden has more than four months to fill until the delayed Democratic convention. An out-of-nowhere VP choice might be enough to generate a boomlet of media attention, but there are limited options. By announcing that his running mate will be a woman, Biden is left sorting through an obvious list of worthy contenders, such as Whitmer or Senators Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren.

Biden boasts advantages that some of his predecessors lacked at this point in the calendar. After nearly a half-century in public life in Washington, the former vice president doesn’t have to worry about introducing himself to the American people. And in the midst of a pandemic, voters already know that their lives are on the ballot in November—even without Biden resorting to bitter attacks on Trump.

Biden undoubtedly still remembers that in June 1992, Clinton—that “helluva candidate”—was running a distant third in the polls behind both Ross Perot and George H.W. Bush. Of course, in November, Clinton romped home with 370 electoral votes. Even before the pace of politics accelerated with cable TV news and social media, it was a long, long while from April to November.

Exactly. And many of the next 208 days will generate new images of Donald Trump completely botching the most important job of his lifetime, saying stupid things in general, and honking off 50% or more of the electorate every time he opens his mouth. Could Biden win against Reagan? Probably not. Against any other Republican in my lifetime? Probably so.

I just hope we're out of quarantine by then.

Updates

I spent an hour trying (unsuccessfully) to track down a monitor to replace the one that sparked, popped, and went black on me this morning. That's going to set me back $150 for a replacement, which isn't so bad, considering.

Less personally, the following also happened in the last 24 hours:

I don't have a virus, by the way. I'm just working from home because the rest of my team are also out of the office.

Looking back on Elizabeth Warren's campaign

I read two articles worthy of mention about Warren dropping out. The first, by Megan Garber in The Atlantic, argues that "America punished Elizabeth Warren for her competence:"

Kate Manne, a philosopher at Cornell University, describes misogyny as an ideology that serves, ultimately, to reinforce a patriarchal status quo. “Misogyny is the law-enforcement branch of patriarchy,” Manne argues. It rewards those who uphold the existing order of things; it punishes those who fight against it. It is perhaps the mechanism at play when a woman puts herself forward as a presidential candidate and finds her attributes—her intelligence, her experience, her compassion—understood as threats. It is perhaps that mechanism at play when a woman says, “I believe in us,” and is accused of being “self-righteous.”

But in Mother Jones, Kara Voght says Warren's legacy will outlive her campaign:

On the morning of the South Carolina primary, reporters swarmed Elizabeth Warren in a tiny side room after a canvass kickoff in Columbia....

She’d barely offered morning pleasantries before a television reporter barked a question her way: “When are you going to start winning?”

Warren was silent for a moment. “No one knew what a wealth tax was a year ago,” she finally said. “I’m loving this campaign. This a culmination of a lifetime of work.” Her ideas, she said, had a chance to live beyond “the academic side of things.”

Taken in sum, Warren’s plans offer a progressive vision. Between the lines of them is not just a what, but a how. Throughout the campaign, Warren repeatedly said that she would rather have a guarantee that someone else would enact her agenda than be president herself, and her exit from the race speaks to that desire. The question, of course, is whether the remaining contenders will take up Warren’s blueprint if they ascend to the Oval Office.

But even if that doesn’t happen, “Professor Warren” has changed the way at least some voters view the world. At a Warren rally outside Charleston last fall, I met a middle-aged white woman who told me she’d never heard the term “racial wealth gap” before Warren began using it during her stump speech—to talk about how her plans would level the playing field for people of color. If that’s the understanding of America that Warren leaves behind, that’s not such a bad thing.

I'm sad she's out of the race, and quite put out that the three front-runners for inauguration next January are all so old they really can't attack each other's dotage without provoking snickers. Either Bernie or Biden, though, will bring with him a cadre of competent people who actually care about this country—among them, I've no doubt, Elizabeth Warren. She won't be president, but neither is she out of power.

Four old white dudes (and one un-serious woman)

My preferred candidate for president, Elizabeth Warren, dropped out of the race earlier this morning after depressing results in Tuesday's elections. This leaves three serious candidates for the 2020 presidential election: the 73-year-old white male incumbent, 78-year-old white male US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and 77-year-old white male former US Vice President Joe Biden (D).

(Apparently US Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) is clinging to her one delegate and refuses to go away, and 74-year-old white male former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld (R) also seems determined to stay in the race.)

As the New York Times points out:

Ms. Warren struggled to win over voters beyond college-educated white people, in particular white women. She was above the 15 percent threshold to win delegates, as of Thursday, in only a handful of highly educated liberal strongholds: places like San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Santa Monica and West Hollywood.

Yeah. It's almost as if some people believe competence, intelligence, and humanity should determine who governs us. Weird, right?

This also means that a 70-something white male will almost certainly take the Oath of Office in 321 days.

I really, really wish the Boomers would get out of the way already.