Don’t Look Up
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This week in Kevin McCarthy’s House of Representatives, we’re seeing the people who tried to overthrow the government now running it. Early talk of using the 14th Amendment to disqualify them didn’t pan out. Now there seems to be tacit acceptance that they are here to stay.
We’re in full-on “don’t look up” mode. But ignoring the hyper-partisanship, which is perhaps just a nice way of saying hunger for power, of representatives who were willing to override the will of American voters to keep their guy in the White House, is unlikely to lead to happy outcomes. There’s already evidence of that.
Today we hit the debt ceiling. If you’ve watched TV or read the news today, you’ve likely been reminded that this has nothing to do with authorizing new spending. It’s the periodic approval necessary to continue paying debts we’ve already incurred. But Republicans, who were happy to vote, three times, to increase the debt ceiling when Trump was in the White House (to say nothing of passing measures like tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and ultimately increasing the national debt by more than $7 trillion) are suddenly feigning horror at the notion of increasing the debt limit.
By a clean bill, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene seems to mean one that fails to tie Joe Biden’s hands in as many ways as possible. She and other Republicans want to extract concessions from the White House before they sign off on increasing the debt limit. The White House, meanwhile, has signaled it’s not going to negotiate over a measure that should be bipartisan. And to be sure, Democrats cooperatively have passed these measures no matter who is in the White House.
House Republicans are willing to gamble with the nation’s credit rating and all of our financial well-being to try and score political points. And it was entirely predictable. We don’t know precisely what McCarthy’s reported “secret deals” to get the votes he needed to become House Speaker included on the debt ceiling, but there is reporting from the Washington Post that MAGA-wing Republicans tried to extract promises in this regard. The potential crisis here is only just beginning, but it’s one that’s entirely manufactured by officials who had already shown they’d put themselves ahead of the people who elected them to serve.
Although new stories suggesting that New York freshman Congressman George Santos is both a fabulist and a fraudster continue to emerge, Santos remains in the House, in good standing with the Speaker. Republicans have accepted him as a full, participating member, despite the lies (reporting today confirmed his mother was not in the United States on 9/11, where he once said she died) and the increasingly likelihood he will be charged with any one of a number of crimes at some point.
The continued tolerance for Santos is more evidence of a party that cares more about staying in power—McCarthy is palpably anxious about hanging onto his slim majority—than about ethics, integrity, and good government. Democrats should not be giving Republicans a pass on this one. Santos is, in some ways, a one-off problem. But Democrats would do well to focus on his continued presence as a marker for what has gone so badly wrong in the Republican Party, which continues to tolerate all sorts of behavior that should buy you an immediate ticket out of politics.
The most recent Santos debacle involves denying he ever performed as a drag queen—there are photos and testimony from a roommate. Perhaps we’ll see a future campaign ad from him modeled on Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell’s 2010 “I am not a witch” ad.
But the sad truth is that Santos is not the worst of it, and now that we’ve seen Republican committee assignments in the House, there is plenty of reason for concern.
Attorney General Eric Holder’s former spokesperson Matt Miller, referencing Nixon and Watergate, aptly tweeted that this list would become the Committee to Re-elect the President.
In a statement on her appointment to the House Committee on Homeland Security, Marjorie Taylor Greene expressed her view that the most important threat our country faces is “millions of illegal aliens, criminals, and potential terrorists” coming across our southern border.
I don’t know what makes one a potential terrorist. And why would potential terrorists come across the southern border when access via the northern one is so much easier? Greene resorts to nonsense and parrots Trump’s tired tropes about immigration. We’re used to hearing them, but they aren’t any more palatable just because they’ve been socialized. It’s time to hear this kind of thing with fresh outrage every time it’s dragged out, because it ignores some real problems around the pressure on the Mexican border. Some illegal immigration was exacerbated by the Trump administration’s decision to cut funding used to help stabilize conditions in Central American nations. The result is people who are so desperate to protect their lives and those of their children that the risk of an incredibly dangerous and expensive journey to the United States seems like their best option.
I don’t mean to oversimplify a complex problem, but that’s one example of why Greene won’t be a force to improve things. It’s hard to imagine her working in a bipartisan fashion to achieve much-needed immigration reform. She’ll be another jingoistic voice trying to rile up the base for 2024 instead of making an honest effort to accomplish anything on behalf of the American people.
These are just three outtakes of the many broken things in Washington right now. The good old days where we bemoaned gridlock in Congress seem quaint in comparison. But too many people seem willing to accept it all. Don’t look up.
We are on a trajectory that poses a real threat to the future of our country. Some folks will shake their heads, but, feeling helpless and hopeless about it, will keep their heads down rather than working towards solutions. That’s how creeping authoritarianism takes hold, by making people feel like there is nothing they can do. It’s why we can’t just let it ride.
Professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat had this to say:
It’s a good assessment of what we are watching happen in real time.
And it’s easy to feel helpless.
It’s important to remember that ultimately, voters do have the power to stop this. In many parts of the country, conservative Republicans gave their stamp of approval to candidates like Greene. Gerrymandering has resulted in many districts that are engineered as Republican or Democratic districts, where one part is assured of victory, leading the primary to become the real race and pushing candidates towards the fringes. That has lopsidedly dangerous results on the Republican side of the spectrum. And it makes it all the more important for us to continue to focus on the importance of educating voter-citizens, registering to vote, and committing to good candidates. Voting truly is the answer, possibly the only one. That means we’ve got to work hard to protect the process.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. After I wrote about Republican claims of victory via voter suppression in Georgia and Wisconsin, several Civil Discourse subscribers wrote to make sure I’d seen the news about Ohio’s new law. Ohio has adopted one of the country’s strictest voter identification laws. Before it was passed, voters could use a wide variety of items to establish their identity at the polls, including bank statements and utility bills. Under the new measure, they have to have a driver’s license, state ID, passport, or military ID to cast a vote. Notably, college and university IDs didn’t make the cut. An Ohio County election official expressed his concern that the free veteran ID cards issued by Ohio counties would no longer count as a valid form of ID for voting.
There are roughly 8 million voters in Ohio. There are concerns, based on a report by the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, that the ability to vote for as many as 1 million Ohioans could be impacted by the new law because they have suspended driver’s licenses due to a lack of insurance or unpaid fines and court costs. The report concluded that suspensions disproportionately impact impoverished urban communities of color. A lot has been written about the criminalization of poverty. Here, it may determine whether Ohioans can exercise their right to vote.
The rationale for the bill was to improve public confidence in elections because of voter fraud. But even Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State, Frank LaRose, who supported the measure, has repeatedly said the state’s elections are fair and untarnished by fraud. He acknowledged that the possible fraud in the 2020 Ohio General Election was 0.0005%. So sure, pass a law that keeps a million people from voting.
In early January, Democratic voting rights lawyer Marc Elias filed a lawsuit challenging the statute. If you’re interested in understanding better the mechanics of how this type of voter ID act suppresses the right to vote, start reading at page 18. Elias has had good success in litigating these cases, but the Supreme Court has made challenges increasingly difficult.
The Ohio situation is an eye-opener, and one that’s complicated in ways that mean it hasn’t received a lot of media coverage. But most Americans want everyone to be able to vote, and they want elections to be fair even though they want their party or their candidates to win. Understanding the outrageous measures like the Ohio law that create a fundamentally unfair playing field is enough to offend the sensibilities of most Americans. But they may not be aware of them. That, of course, is where you come in. Ohio is now an abject lesson in the strategy of winning by keeping the other side from voting. Let’s use it to motivate voters everywhere to vigorously protect and exercise their rights.
We’re in this together,
This is off topic, Joyce, but I want to say it. The right leaning SCOTUS wanted so much to frame the Liberal Justices with the "leak" of Alito's brief on Roe v Wade. You and I both know this is true. So, today they had everyone answer sworn affidavits to include the law clerks who work for the Justices. Apparently, they were reminded that they could be charged if they were not truthful, so some amended to say that they did talk to their spouses about Alito's brief. Here is my firm belief: The leaker was NOT from the Liberal side. Why? Because if it was, they'd have had Alito screaming about it on Fox News tonight. So, it was Ginni Thomas and some others on the Conservative side, and of course they weren't about to toss them under the bus. Someone NEEDS to point this out and hold them to task! I nominate you with my blessing. Boom! Yes, we are all in this together, but some of us have more to lose than others. Carry on.
I'm so glad I get to read, on a regular basis, that we're all in this together because with all the crazy things going on I'd think it was me that was going nuts if I had no validation! And living in Louisiana, that's pretty hard to find! The GQTP is going crazy but with people like Santos , MTG, Gosar, Bobart and so many others I think they're shedding voters! They managed to make some of my trump relatives, just a few so far, tune TFG out and start questioning others -- no easy feat! And if the GQTP concentrate on ending SSI & Medicare/Medicaid, 23% tax and investigations Bengazi (sp?) style etc., I think they're handing us another win in 2024!!! Cathy