Today's Republican Party has gone so far from an actual policy-making political entity that one wonders if they see their own self-owns. Right now, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said so many nonsensical things about President Biden's key proposals that I have trouble taking him seriously.
OK, I have more trouble lately.
As Paul Krugman pointed out this week, Republicans oppose Biden's proposals because they don't want him to succeed. But this strategy has run into the reality of 75% of their own voters supporting the recovery plan passed in January and the infrastructure bill proposed late last month.
And now they're all a-twitter about vaccine passports.
It's sad watching the Party of Lincoln implode. They could pull out of their death spiral, the way we did in the late 1980s, but right now I'm not optimistic. In the past, parties that have reinvented themselves have done so through popular policy initiatives: the Democrats with civil rights, the Republicans with anti-trust law. The parties that have died failed to say what they stood for, only what they stood against: the Federalists (against the expansion of civil rights in the 1790s), the Know-Nothings (against the expansion of civil rights in the 1850s), the Whigs (against the Know-Nothings in the 1850s, but apparently against themselves as well).
You can see this most clearly in the Republican Party's anger at corporations who have come out against Republican voting suppression laws. Republicans love corporate involvement in politics most of the time, because corporations love right-wing governments most of the time—but in this case, companies have realized the GOP are on the wrong side of history. Josh Marshall made a good argument (paywalled) that corporations take the future into account, and the future doesn't look like the modern GOP's imagined past. So they're making low-cost efforts to ensure the young people who will buy things for the next 60 years don't hate them. The old people who don't buy things now, let alone for the next 10 or 20 years, don't influence profits quite as much.
I want a real opposition party, one with real ideas, not this clown show of right-wing anti-populism that hasn't had a serious policy proposal in 30 years.
President Biden just signed the largest relief bill in history:
Doug Mills/New York Times
President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package into law Thursday, his first legislative achievement since taking office less than two months ago, a measure to infuse billions into the U.S. economy and bolster funding for vaccines, testing and school reopenings.
The package, which was unanimously opposed by Republicans in Congress, will also provide millions of Americans with $1,400 stimulus checks that are set to go out by the end of the month. The White House is planning a victory lap tomark the achievement with the president, First Lady Jill Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris hitting the road next week.
The signing from the Oval Office comes just hours before Biden is set to mark one year of coronavirus pandemic shutdowns with his first prime-time address since taking office. The remarks are expected to both look back at the scale of loss over that time and peer ahead at a post-pandemic future.
The law provides immediate payments of $1,400 per person, including dependents, for individuals making less than $75,000 per year or families making less than $150,000; a $3,000 tax credit for every child under 18 ($3,600 under 6); subsidies for child-car costs; an expansion of the Affordable Care Act; and money for pensions, among many other provisions.
Remember when we thought Biden would be just, you know, OK? Or that the Democratic Party would once again cower in fear of the other guys yelling about bipartisanship and deficits?
Welcome to 2021.
I get to turn off and put away my work laptop in a little bit in preparation for heading back to the office on Monday morning. I can scarcely wait.
Meanwhile, I've got a few things to read:
OK, one more work task this month, then...I've got some other stuff to do.
As the night follows the day, now that Republicans have lost power they're once again all a-flutter about deficits. This time, Democrats aren't having it:
Twelve years ago, Barack Obama entered the White House amid somewhat similar circumstances: The economy was in a tailspin; stimulus and relief were desperately needed. His administration spent weeks watering down a bill that was more aimed at winning Republican support than adequately filling the yawning hole in the economy: The bill’s bottom-line figure was kept below $1 trillion so as not to spook the deficit hawks, and much of the relief it did include was engineered to flow into the gap with such subtlety that it was destined to be barely felt at all.
For all of Obama’s entreaties to his political opponents, Republicans rejected it anyway. They were rewarded for all that intransigence first with a big opinion swing against the stimulus and then by a wave election that took back control of the House of Representatives in 2010.
Despite all that has happened between January 2009 and February 2021, Republicans are running the same plays: fighting against economic relief in the hopes that they can use the immiseration that would follow for their political benefit.
But this is not 2009. The situation may be vaguely similar—an economic crash following catastrophic Republican governance—but the world has changed a great deal. The Black-Eyed Peas have faded toward irrelevance; most people now acknowledge that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was bad. And the attacks on Democratic spending have lost some of their spicy tang after another deficit-busting GOP administration.
The media also seems to have learned some lessons from the radicalization of the GOP. Once, a lack of opposition votes was a scandal in miniature. In 2009, McConnell was able to weaponize that idea, pushing the Obama administration to downgrade its asks without ever having to give anything up in return. McConnell got cover from media luminaries such as David Broder, who approvingly cited Obama’s bipartisan yearnings: “The president has told visitors that he would rather have 70 votes in the Senate for a bill that gives him 85 percent of what he wants rather than a 100 percent satisfactory bill that passes 52 to 48.” It’s taken a while—and a deadly pandemic—but many in the often fabulously naïve Beltway press have gotten smarter. Now the narrative is increasingly centered on McConnell’s intransigence, rather than some failure on the part of Democrats to persuade Republicans to vote for legislation that would have been bipartisan not that long ago.
Right. It only took a Republican administration's incompetence allowing mass death from a pandemic to finally—finally!—get people understand they have no interest in governing.
Might we soon enter a truly progressive era in American politics? It's about damn time if we do.
The New Republic's Alex Pareene finds the obvious way to cut the Gordian knot tying Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to his post:
If you’ve sent or received any mail over the last few months, you may have noticed that the United States Postal Service is not in great shape. After Louis DeJoy, a Republican fundraiser, took over as postmaster general last June, he quickly implemented a series of “reforms” seemingly designed to slow down service, leading to precipitous declines in the speed with which mail was delivered. Over the holidays, fewer than 40 percent of letters arrived on time.
Unfortunately, though, we’re stuck with this arrangement. It is how it is. Nothing to be done. All because of a law passed in 1970, which created a post office governing body whose rules and terms were last altered by Congress as recently as 2006.
In other words, the only way around this seemingly intractable mess—the only way to be rid of this saboteur DeJoy—would be for Congress, which Democrats control, and which is already working on postal reform, to pass some sort of law tinkering with the makeup of the board, or changing how it is run, or allowing a president once again to appoint the postmaster general directly or, really, almost anything else that would achieve the same result.
It's the same kind of thinking that keeps the District of Columbia in perpetual stasis because apparently people have forgotten that we can create states with simple legislation.
It's exactly 0°C in Chicago this afternoon, which is a bog-standard temperature for February 3rd. And it's sunny, which isn't typical. So, with the forecast for a week of bitter cold starting Friday evening, I'm about to take a 30-minute walk to take advantage of today's weather. First, though:
Early February is also the time of year when we start imagining spring. Tomorrow's sunrise is at 7am for the first time since December 1st, and we had 10 hours of daylight last week for the first time since mid-November. Yes, Chicago typically has an Arctic blast sometime during February. But Spring begins in 25 days. We can make it.
Senate Democrats gave the opposition three whole days to stop dicking around with the latest Covid-19 relief package. Then today, with no more than a shrug, they told the Republicans they're tired of the crap:
Senate Democrats took the first step Tuesday toward passing a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill without Republican support, advancing their efforts to avoid a GOP filibuster.
The vote to kickstart the budget reconciliation process, which passed 50-49, is a sign that leadership expects to have the full Democratic caucus on board for the final package.
The vote comes a day after President Joe Biden met with a group of Senate Republicans, who are offering a $618 billion counterproposal. Although Biden told Senate Democrats Tuesday on a private caucus call that the meeting went well, he also said the Republican proposal is not sufficient, according to sources on the call.
Economist Paul Krugman has already explained the ways the GOP's $618 billion "offer" wasn't serious:
It’s not just that the G.O.P. proposal is grotesquely inadequate for a nation still ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. Beyond that, by their behavior — not just over the past few months but going back a dozen years — Republicans have forfeited any right to play the bipartisanship card, or even to be afforded any presumption of good faith.
But what about bipartisanship? As Biden might say, “C’mon, man.”
First of all, a party doesn’t get to demand bipartisanship when many of its representatives still won’t acknowledge that Biden won legitimately, and even those who eventually acknowledged the Biden victory spent weeks humoring baseless claims of a stolen election.
Complaints that it would be “divisive” for Democrats to pass a relief bill on a party-line vote, using reconciliation to bypass the filibuster, are also pretty rich coming from a party that did exactly that in 2017, when it enacted a large tax cut — legislation that, unlike pandemic relief, wasn’t a response to any obvious crisis, but was simply part of a conservative wish list.
Yes. It only took, what, 12 years? But our party's leadership have finally figured out not to play this game. We're not giving Lucy the football on this one.
Today is the last day of Sprint 28 at my day job, and I've just closed my third one-point story of the day. When we estimate the difficulty of a story (i.e., a single unit of code that can be deployed when complete), we estimate by points on a Fibonacci scale: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21. A 2-point story is about twice as hard as a 1-point story; a 5 point story is about 5 times harder than a 1-point story; etc. If we estimate 8 or more points on my current team, we re-examine the story in order to break it into smaller chunks. Similarly, a 1-point story could turn out to have so little complexity that it takes almost no time, like today's story #304 that required adding one line of code to here and removing 37 lines of code from there. That one took about 15 minutes. The other two took a couple of hours each, as "knowing where to put the bolt" takes longer than actually attaching the bolt.
While all that happened on the west side of my desk, the monitors on the south side lit up a few stories for me to read when I get back from the walk I'm about to take:
- Jennifer Rubin lists 50 things that have improved in the US in the past 5 days, starting with "you can ignore Twitter."
- Though Rubin mentioned replacing Andrew Jackson's portrait in the Oval Office, she didn't mention that the Biden Administration has taken steps to complete replacing his racist mug on the $10 note with a portrait of Harriet Tubman. (The outgoing administration, for obvious reasons, mothballed this plan upon taking office.)
- Charles Blow warns against the Democratic Party should keep advocating and stop "subconsciously modulating responses" in the face of Republican criticism.
- National Geographic describes the Roman road network that spanned over 320,000 km and still remains largely intact today.
- Philippa Snow suggests the French series Call My Agent if you're looking for serious entertainment. For my part I'm about to start Series 2 of Peaky Blinders.
- Loyola University Chicago professor Devon Price has a new book out: Laziness Does Not Exist. I may have to buy a copy. Eventually.
And I will now try to get in a 45-minute fast walk as our first real winter storm bears down on us from Iowa.
Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago/Clearing) will lose his job later today after serving in the role since 1983. Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch (D-Hillside) received 69 votes (of a required 60) in the Democratic Caucus this morning, making his accession to the Speaker's chair all but guaranteed when the whole House votes in a few minutes to elect the Speaker. Welch will become the first Black Speaker in Illinois history.
In other news:
- The Illinois legislature ended its previous legislative session earlier today by passing a 700-page criminal justice overhaul bill that ends cash bail and requires every law-enforcement officer in the state to wear a body camera, among other reforms. Governor Pritzker is expected to sign the bill this week.
- Ross Douthat holds out hope that the "divide between reality and fantasy" in the Republican Party may lead to the party's disintegration.
- Earth's rotation has picked up a tiny bit of extra speed that may require a negative leap second soon.
Too bad those shorter days haven't added up to a quicker end to the current presidential administration. At least we have less than a week to go before the STBXPOTUS is just some guy in a cheap suit.
Democrats moved a major step closer to capturing control of the U.S. Senate on Wednesday morning as Georgia voters elected the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor at the storied Ebenezer Baptist Church, in a hard-fought runoff contest that became roiled by President Trump’s false claims of voter fraud in the state.
Mr. Warnock’s victory over the Republican incumbent, Kelly Loeffler, represented a landmark breakthrough for African-Americans in politics as well as for Georgia: He became the first Black Democrat elected to the Senate from the South.
For voters, the choice between the two pairs of candidates was stark: Mr. Perdue, 71, and Ms. Loeffler, 50, are both white millionaires who leaned into more conservative policy positions like gun rights and opposition to abortion. They also made the case to voters that their business success gave them real-world experience in handling economic matters.
Mr. Ossoff, 33, and Mr. Warnock, 51, were a more diverse team. Mr. Ossoff, who is Jewish, is the head of a video production company and worked as a congressional aide. Mr. Warnock is a prominent pastor at the church in Atlanta where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached.
I've been whistling this all day: