The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Hell of a week

In the last seven days, these things have happened:

Meanwhile:

Can't wait to see what the next week will bring...

Long weekend; just catching up

Saturday and Sunday, the Apollo Chorus sang Verdi's "Requiem" three times in its entirety (one dress rehearsal, two performances), not including going back over specific passages before Sunday's performance to clean up some bits. So I'm a little tired.

Here are some of the things I haven't had time to read yet:

Other stuff is going on, which I'll report when I have confirmation.

On the radar today

I'm actually coughing up a lung at home today, which you'd think gives me more time to read, but actually it doesn't. Really I just want a nap.

Now I have to decide whether to debug some notoriously slow code of mine, or...nap.

Anti-liberalism on the left

Andrew Sullivan cautions the American left against turning into the very thing it hates about the far-right:

The idea of individual merit — as opposed to various forms of unearned “privilege” — is increasingly suspect. The Enlightenment principles that formed the bedrock of the American experiment — untrammeled free speech, due process, individual (rather than group) rights — are now routinely understood as mere masks for “white male” power, code words for the oppression of women and nonwhites. Any differences in outcome for various groups must always be a function of “hate,” rather than a function of nature or choice or freedom or individual agency. And anyone who questions these assertions is obviously a white supremacist himself.

Polarization has made this worse — because on the left, moderation now seems like a surrender to white nationalism, and because on the right, white identity politics has overwhelmed moderate conservatism. And Trump plays a critical role. His crude, bigoted version of identity politics seems to require an equal and opposite reaction. And I completely understand this impulse. Living in this period is to experience a daily, even hourly, psychological hazing from the bigot-in-chief. And when this white straight man revels in his torment of those unlike him — and does so with utter impunity among his supporters — there’s a huge temptation to respond in kind. A president who has long treated women, in his words, “like shit,” and bragged about it, is enough to provoke rage in any decent person. But anger is rarely a good frame of mind to pursue the imperatives of reason, let alone to defend the norms of liberal democracy.

Look: I don’t doubt the good intentions of the new identity politics — to expand the opportunities for people previously excluded. I favor a politics that never discriminates against someone for immutable characteristics — and tries to make sure that as many people as possible feel they have access to our liberal democracy. But what we have now is far more than the liberal project of integrating minorities. It comes close to an attack on the liberal project itself. Marxism with a patina of liberalism on top is still Marxism — and it’s as hostile to the idea of a free society as white nationalism is. So if you wonder why our discourse is now so freighted with fear, why so many choose silence as the path of least resistance, or why the core concepts of a liberal society — the individual’s uniqueness, the primacy of reason, the protection of due process, an objective truth — are so besieged, this is one of the reasons.

The goal of our culture now is not the emancipation of the individual from the group, but the permanent definition of the individual by the group. We used to call this bigotry. Now we call it being woke.

I'm not sure I completely agree with him, but I see some signs that he may be more right than wrong.

The answer to the right-wing's ascendance in American politics through obnoxious bigotry and inflaming feelings of identity-based resentment cannot be obnoxious bigotry and inflaming feelings of identity-based resentment. That's insane.

Well, they've done it again

The U.S. government has shut down its nonessential functions (including the President's vacation travel) because the ruling party can't play nicely with others:

The federal government shut down for the first time in more than four years Friday after senators rejected a temporary spending patch and bipartisan efforts to find an alternative fell short as a midnight deadline came and went.

Republican and Democratic leaders both said they would continue to talk, raising the possibility of a solution over the weekend. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Friday that the conflict has a “really good chance” of being resolved before government offices open Monday, suggesting that a shutdown’s impacts could be limited.

But the White House drew a hard line immediately after midnight, saying they would not negotiate over a central issue — immigration — until government funding is restored.

Republicans resolved not to submit to the minority party’s demands to negotiate, while Democrats largely unified to use the shutdown deadline to force concessions on numerous issues — including protections for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants.

So the Republicans control all three branches of government but couldn't avoid a repeat of their mistakes in 1994 and 2014.

As for my current project, we're fully funded, so we can continue working and getting paid. But about a third of our team are civil servants who are now on furlough. Let's hope that the Republican Party shows a little more willingness to make a deal with the minority over the weekend.

Occam's razor

I keep wondering if the Trump administration keeps doing the things its doing to destroy the Republican Party because they're secretly Democrats. Mark Theissen hints at this, but sarcastically:

Stephen K. Bannon and his alt-right movement have helped accomplish something no one in a quarter-century has been able to do: get a Democrat elected in the state of Alabama.

Alabama is one of the most reliably Republican states in the country. The last time a Democrat was elected was in 1992, and no Democrat has won more than 40 percent of the vote in a Senate race there since 1996. The closest election in recent memory was in 2002, when Jeff Sessions won reelection by a razor-thin margin of 19 points. Sen. Richard Shelby has won his last three elections by 35 points, 30 points and 28 points, respectively. So it takes a special kind of stupid to pick a candidate who can lose to a Democrat in Alabama.

Not just any Democrat, but an uncompromising pro-abortion Democrat.

Ah, but you see the last sentence of the second paragraph. And that hits on the logical test wherein you pick the simplest explanation for the facts at hand. In this case, it's what my Wills professor called "the omnibus explanation," or the thing that explains everything when other explanations come up wanting.

Stupidity.

Think about previous intellectual midgets who have served as President and the current occupant shows up impressively. Harding? A giant by comparison. Buchanan? Brilliant. McKinley? Magisterial.

What irony if we avoid Armageddon because Donald Trump is the stupidest person ever elected President of the United States.

The threats to our democracy

New Republic has excerpted How Democracies Die, by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, to be published this January. Salient points:

If constitutional rules alone do not secure democracy, then what does? Much of the answer lies in the development of strong democratic norms. Two norms stand out: mutual toleration, or accepting one’s partisan rivals as legitimate (not treating them as dangerous enemies or traitors); and forbearance, or deploying one’s institutional prerogatives with restraint—in other words, not using the letter of the Constitution to undermine its spirit (what legal scholar Mark Tushnet calls “constitutional hardball”).

Donald Trump is widely and correctly criticized for assaulting democratic norms. But Trump didn’t cause the problem. The erosion of democratic norms began decades ago.

In 1979, newly elected Congressman Newt Gingrich came to Washington with a blunter, more cutthroat vision of politics than Republicans were accustomed to. Backed by a small but growing group of loyalists, Gingrich launched an insurgency aimed at instilling a more “combative” approach in the party.

Though few realized it at the time, Gingrich and his allies were on the cusp of a new wave of polarization rooted in growing public discontent, particularly among the Republican base. Gingrich didn’t create this polarization, but he was one of the first Republicans to sense—and exploit—the shift in popular sentiment. And his leadership helped to establish “politics as warfare” as the GOP’s dominant strategy.

If, 25 years ago, someone had described to you a country where candidates threatened to lock up their rivals, political opponents accused the government of election fraud, and parties used their legislative majorities to impeach presidents and steal Supreme Court seats, you might have thought of Ecuador or Romania. It wouldn’t have been the United States of America.

The rest is history. Let's just hope that it's the history of a successful republic, not a Weimar one.

A bit of good news for our side

Ah, business travel. What could possibly improve upon eating a turkey sandwich in a faux-chic room at an Aloft outside BWI airport while reading all the articles I queued up earlier? Certainly not the need to get up at 5:00 tomorrow morning—Eastern time, an hour ahead of Chicago—to get someplace by 5:30.

But when I got off the plane, I saw this bit of good news:

Democrat Ralph Northam was projected to win Virginia’s race for governor Tuesday over Republican Ed Gillespie, as Democrats appeared headed for a big night across the board in races for lieutenant governor, attorney general and several key seats in the House of Delegates, based on exit polls and early returns.

Virginia’s elections have been closely watched nationwide as a test of President Trump’s status and impact on the tenor of politics in every state.

If the results hold, it could signal a big win for Democrats in Virginia. In another closely watched race, in Prince William County, Democrat Danica Roem became the first openly transgender person to win a seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates. She beat longtime Republican incumbent Robert G. Marshall by a wide margin. At least four other Republicans lost their seats.

It was part of a wave of apparent victories for Democratic candidates, including what looked like a sweep of statewide offices. Democrat Justin Fairfax appeared headed to win as lieutenant governor over Republican Jill Holtzman Vogel, and Attorney General Mark R. Herring was headed for reelection over Republican challenger John Adams.

This is Virginia, former home of the Confederacy, but lately a growing blue bump on the bright-red South.

Also, the turkey sandwich wasn't bad. It just needed some mayo.

Breaking: Chris Christie, chief wart on the pock-marked ass of New Jersey, will be replaced by Democrat Philip D. Murphy.

Travel day; link round-up

I'm heading back to the East Coast tonight to continue research for my current project, so my time today is very constrained. I hope I remember to keep these browser windows open for the plane:

So much to do today...and then a short, relaxing, upgraded flight to BWI.

Limbo lower now

President Trump's approval ratings have fallen to the lowest in his presidency:

Thirty eight percent of Americans say they approve of Trump’s job performance — down five points since September — while 58 percent disapprove.

Trump’s previous low in approval in the national NBC/WSJ poll was 39 percent back in May.

The drop for Trump has come from independents (who shifted from 41 percent approval in September to 34 percent now), whites (who went from 51 percent to 47 percent) and whites without a college degree (from 58 percent to 51 percent).

[A] near-majority of voters, 46 percent, say their vote in November 2018 will be to send a message for more Democrats to serve as a check and balance to Trump and congressional Republicans.

History will remember Trump (assuming anyone is alive after his presidency) as the worst of the 44 men to serve the office. Not that he cares.