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Letters from an American by Heather Cox Richardson

Ahavati
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January 21, 2021

Today’s big news was not entirely unexpected: There was never any plan for a federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. "What we're inheriting is so much worse than we could have imagined," said President Biden's coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients in a call with reporters. Another official said: “There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch."

Biden says he is approaching the coronavirus with a “wartime” strategy, moving the power of the federal government behind the effort to get everyone vaccinated. He warned today that the death toll, which is at 407,000 Americans today, will likely rise to 500,000 by the end of February. Today, he invoked the Defense Production Act, which enables the government to direct private companies to produce goods for national needs at the same time that it provides a market for the goods the companies produce. He wants more testing, faster vaccinations, and more funding for state and local governments to enable them to provide more vaccination sites. He has announced he hopes to vaccinate 100 million Americans by April 20.

The new president is also facing bad economic news as almost a million more people filed for unemployment benefits this week. This is the worst jobs market any modern president has ever inherited.

Biden is trying to get a handle on our national intelligence. This morning, Avril Haines, former Deputy National Security Adviser and Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Obama administration, became the Director of National Intelligence, overseeing the nation’s intelligence community. The Senate confirmed her appointment yesterday evening by a vote of 84 to 10.


Today, Biden asked the U.S. intelligence community to assess the recent hack of United States businesses and government agencies, the poisoning of Putin opponent Alexei Navalny in August, and the story that Russia offered to Taliban-linked militias bounties on U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan. These events are all linked to Russia and Vladimir Putin, whom the former president refused to criticize or investigate.

If that is what is happening specifically in Washington today, there are more general stories in the news, too, as Americans take stock of where we are and how we got here.

The January 6 attack on the Capitol made Americans acutely aware of the danger that disinformation poses to our democracy. Evidence indicates that the people who stormed the Capitol were radicalized by online QAnon conspiracy theories and by Republicans who pushed the lie that the 2020 election had been stolen. In the face of this disinformation, many different voices are now talking about the 1987 lapse of the Fairness Doctrine, which required companies that held broadcast licenses to present issues honestly, giving equal time to opposing opinions. People are talking about how its principles might be restored even in an era when modern technology means that we no longer need broadcast licenses to share news.

On Tuesday, Shepard Smith, a reporter who worked at the Fox News Channel until 2019 and who now has a show at CNBC, explained to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour why he left his job at the FNC. " I believe that when people begin with a false premise and lead people astray, that's injurious to society," Smith continued, "and it's the antithesis of what we should be doing."

"I don't know how some people sleep at night,” Smith said, “because I know there are a lot of people who have propagated the lies and have pushed them forward over and over again, who are smart enough and educated enough to know better. And I hope that at some point, those who have done us harm as a nation — and I might even add as a world — will look around and realize what they've done. But I'm not holding my breath."

Over the years, people fed up with the Fox News Channel have organized boycotts of businesses advertising on one show or another, but a big source of FNC’s income is not advertising, but rather cable fees. FNC is bundled with other channels, so many people who do not want it pay for it. Today on Twitter, lawyer Pam Keith noted that a simple regulatory change ending this sort of bundling would force FNC and similar channels to compete on a level playing field rather than being able to survive on fees from people who might not want to support them.

[ Continued below ]

Ahavati
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The other story from today with a long history behind it is that the Senate is currently unable to organize itself because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is insisting that the Democrats commit to leaving the filibuster intact. The filibuster is peculiar to the Senate, and is a procedure designed to draw out the session to prevent a vote on a measure. It is an old system, but it is not exactly hallowed: it was a bit of a mistake.

The Constitution provides for the Senate to pass most measures by a simple majority. It also permits each house of Congress to write its own rules. According to historian Brian Bixby, the House discovered early on that it needed a procedure to stop debate and get on with a vote. The Senate, a much smaller body, did not.

In the 1830s, senators in the minority discovered they could prevent votes on issues they disliked simply by talking the issue to death. In 1917, when both President Woodrow Wilson and the American people turned against the filibuster after senators used it to stop Wilson from preparing for war, the Senate reluctantly adopted a procedure to end a filibuster using a process called “cloture,” but that process is slow and it takes a majority of three-fifths of all members. Today, that is 60 votes.

From 1917 to 1964, senators filibustered primarily to stop civil rights legislation. The process was grueling: a senator had to talk for hours, as South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond did in 1957, when he spoke for 24 hours straight to stand against a civil rights act. But the need to speed up Senate business meant that in the 1960s and 1970s, senators settled on procedural filibusters that enabled an individual senator to kill a measure simply by declaring opposition, rather than through the old-fashioned system of all-night speeches. The Senate also declared some measures, such as budget resolutions, immune to filibusters. Effectively, this means that it takes 60 votes, rather than a simple majority, to get anything--other than absolutely imperative financial measures-- done.

In 2013, frustrated by the Republicans’ filibustering of President Obama’s judicial nominees and picks for a number of officials in the Executive Branch, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) prohibited filibusters on certain Executive Branch and judicial nominees. In 2017, when Democrats tried to filibuster the nomination of Supreme Court Judge Neil Gorsuch, then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell killed the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, as well.

The filibuster remains in place for legislation.

The Democrats currently have no plans to try to kill the filibuster altogether—they do not have the votes, as Joe Manchin (D-WV) has openly opposed the idea and others are leery—but they want to keep the threat of killing it to prevent McConnell and the Republicans from abusing it and stopping all Democratic legislation.

This impasse means that senators are not organizing the Senate. New senators have not been added to existing committees, which leaves Republicans in the majority in key committees. This is slowing down Biden’s ability to get his nominees confirmed.

What’s at stake here is actually quite an interesting question. While the new Senate is split evenly—50 Democrats, 50 Republicans—the 50 Democrats in the Senate represent over 41.5 million more people than the 50 Republicans represent. The filibuster means that no legislation can pass Congress without the support of 10 Republicans. Essentially, then, the fight over the filibuster is a fight not just about the ability of the Democrats to get laws passed, but about whether McConnell and the Republicans, who represent a minority of the American people, can kill legislation endorsed by lawmakers who represent quite a large majority.

We are in an uncomfortable period in our history in which the mechanics of our democracy are functionally anti-democratic. The fight over the filibuster might seem dull, but it’s actually a pretty significant struggle as our lawmakers try to make the rules of our system fit our changing nation.

—-

Submitted January 22, 2021

Notes:

https://twitter.com/PamKeithFL/status/1352365354211823619

https://twitter.com/joshscampbell/status/1352369766707695623

https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/534527-senate-democrats-leery-of-nixing-filibuster

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/what-are-the-ground-rules

https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/20/politics/avril-haines-confirmation-vote/index.html

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jan/21/joe-biden-national-covid-strategy-pete-buttigieg

https://www.vox.com/2021/1/6/22215728/senate-anti-democratic-one-number-raphael-warnock-jon-ossoff-georgia-runoffs

https://abcnews.go.com/US/qanon-emerges-recurring-theme-criminal-cases-tied-us/story

https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/535219-biden-covid-czar-calls-trump-vaccine-planning-so-much-worse-than-we-could

https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/21/politics/biden-covid-vaccination-trump/index.html

https://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/535295-judge-denies-order-for-amazon-to-immediately-restore-parler

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/21/biden-to-sign-10-executive-orders-to-combat-covid-pandemic-invoke-defense-production-act.html

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/01/21/democrats-mcconnell-filibuster-460967

https://hbr.org/2021/01/how-to-hold-social-media-accountable-for-undermining-democracy

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/report-biden-admin-discovers-trump-had-zero-plans-for-covid-vaccine-distribution

https://www.businessinsider.com/shepard-smith-unloads-on-fox-news-in-new-interview-2021-1

https://money.cnn.com/2015/01/16/media/fox-news-fee-increase/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/10/01/fact-check-gop-ended-senate-filibuster-supreme-court-nominees/3573369001/

Brian Bixby, “What on Earth is a Filibuster,” at http://werehistory.org/filibuster/

JohnnyBlaze
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^ I am very grateful there are other people in the United States that have the intestinal fortitude to put up with some of the nonsense inherent in our system of government. Personally I wouldn't last a year.

Ahavati
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JohnnyBlaze said:^ I am very grateful there are other people in the United States that have the intestinal fortitude to put up with some of the nonsense inherent in our system of government. Personally I wouldn't last a year.

The measures some take to prevent progress is undoubtedly disheartening. Hopefully, over the next four years, issues such as philibusters can be addressed. Getting Democratic control of the senate from Republicans is like scraping gum off the bottom of your shoe. It takes a while, but when it's done, it's done.

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January 22, 2021

For all that the news has gotten much calmer and more straightforward since Wednesday, we did indeed get an old-fashioned (or at least a past-administration typical) news dump tonight.

It turns out that, in the last, desperate days of his attempt to keep his grip on the presidency, Trump plotted with a lawyer in the Department of Justice, Jeffrey Clark, to oust the acting attorney general. The plan was to replace Jeffrey A. Rosen, who replaced Attorney General William Barr when he left on December 23, with Clark himself. Clark would then press Trump’s attacks on the election results.

A story by Katie Benner in the New York Times explains that as soon as Rosen replaced Barr, Trump began to pressure Rosen to challenge the election results, appoint special counsels to investigate disproven voter fraud, and look into irregularities in the Dominion voting machines (Dominion is now suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation). Rosen refused. He told Trump the Justice Department had found no evidence of anything that would have changed the election results.

Trump complained about Rosen and moved to replace him with Clark, who promised to stop Congress from counting the certified Electoral College votes on January 6. This struggle came to a crisis on Sunday, January 3, 2021, when the news broke that Trump had called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to pressure him to “find” the votes Trump needed to win the state. That evening, the senior officials at the Department of Justice agreed to resign as a group if Trump put Clark in as the new acting attorney general.

The vow that the leaders of the Department of Justice would quit if Trump tried to demote Rosen and put Clark in his place made Trump back off from his plan to pervert the Department of Justice. Three days later, rioters stormed the Capitol.

In addition to this bombshell story, there is more news about the Capitol attack. Court documents filed on Tuesday reveal that some of the rioters had made plans ahead of time to attack the Capitol, and had planned to “arrest” lawmakers on charges of “treason” and “election fraud.”

An investigation by NPR reveals that nearly 1 in 5 of the rioters charged so far have a history of serving in the military (only about 7% of Americans in general are military veterans). Prosecutors have indicated they are planning to bring charges of seditious conspiracy against some of the suspects, charges that, if proven, bring up to 20-year jail terms.

President Biden has asked new Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to assess the dangers of domestic violent extremism. Press Secretary Jen Psaki today said of the effort: "We are committed to developing policies and strategies based on facts, on objective and rigorous analysis and on our respect for constitutionally protected free speech and political activities."

Congress today set the calendar for the impeachment trial of the former president for incitement of insurrection. The House will formally deliver the article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday evening. The senators will be sworn in as jurors on Tuesday, and then the Senate will turn to confirming Biden’s nominees and considering the coronavirus stimulus package Biden wants while Trump’s lawyers and the House impeachment managers prepare their briefs and arguments. The trial will begin February 9, and is expected to be shorter than Trump’s first impeachment trial, since the charges are simpler and the evidence clearer.

At stake in this impeachment trial is more than the fate of Donald Trump, who is, after all, no longer president. At stake is, in part, the fate of the Republican Party. A number of Republicans who themselves egged on the rioters by claiming to distrust the election results are trying to discredit the trial and say it is pointless.

This wing of the party is led by former chair of the Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham, who is especially eager to have the issue go away since one of its charges reflects on him. The article of impeachment notes that Trump had tried “to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 Presidential election” with, among other things, “a phone call on January 2, 2021, during which President Trump urged the secretary of state of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, to ‘find’ enough votes to overturn the Georgia Presidential election results and threatened Secretary Raffensperger if he failed to do so.”

We know about that phone call because Raffensperger recorded it, and Raffensperger said he did so because Lindsey Graham had made a similar call. Raffensperger said he wanted some insurance in case Trump misrepresented his call as Graham had.

As pro-Trump Republicans are defending the former president and downplaying the attempted coup, along with their own role in the discrediting of Biden’s victory, other party members would very much like to see the party purged of the Trump element. With his speech condemning Trump for feeding lies to the rioters and provoking them, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) seems to be trying to lead his party away from the Trump personality cult.

[Continued Below ]

Ahavati
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Meanwhile, the Senate still has not begun to organize since McConnell is insisting on a promise from Democrats that they will not end the filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says that proposal is unacceptable.

Press Secretary Psaki reiterated today that Biden’s position on the filibuster hasn’t changed; he does not want to end it. But she tied that declaration to his desire to get a coronavirus relief package through Congress on a bipartisan basis. There is a carrot and a stick in that statement: the carrot is that Biden is offering to share the credit for such a package with Republicans; the stick is that if they block such a measure entirely, Biden will likely back whatever Schumer does to get a bill through.

There are two places where lawmakers have agreed lately, though. Last night, the leadership of the Capitol Police abruptly moved National Guard soldiers to a garage for their break time. These troops are deployed to protect Washington, D.C., against domestic insurrectionists and have worked grueling hours. When news of the soldiers lying down in parking spaces reached lawmakers of both parties, they rushed to get the service members back indoors.

This morning, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden visited the troops bearing chocolate chip cookies. This move was reminiscent of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s 1933 visit to the Bonus Marchers after the Herbert Hoover administration had tried to destroy their encampment with troops. Dr. Biden thanked the soldiers and recalled her son Beau’s time with the Delaware Army National Guard in Iraq. “The National Guard always holds a special place in the hearts of all the Bidens,” she told them. Dr. Biden’s visit was an important indicator of the tenor of this White House.

In another bipartisan move, lawmakers of both parties have introduced measures in both houses of Congress to award Officer Eugene Goodman a Congressional Gold Medal. Goodman is the Capitol Police officer who led rioters away from the Senate chamber on January 6 and thus bought enough time for the senators there to escape to safety. The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the two highest civilian awards in the United States. In our history, only 163 of them have been cast.

The Senate bill reads: “By putting his own life on the line and successfully, singlehandedly leading insurrectionists away from the floor of the Senate Chamber, Officer Eugene Goodman performed his duty to protect the Congress with distinction, and by his actions Officer Goodman left an indelible mark on American history.”

—-

Submitted Janauary 23, 2021

Notes:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/22/us/politics/jeffrey-clark-trump-justice-department-election.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/legal-issues/conspiracy-oath-keeper-arrest-capitol-riot/2021/01/19/fb84877a-5a4f-11eb-8bcf-3877871c819d_story.html

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/jill-biden-today-national-guard-capitol-b1791492.html

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/01/21/national-guard-troops-vacate-capitol-461220

https://www.npr.org/2021/01/21/958915267/nearly-one-in-five-defendants-in-capitol-riot-cases-served-in-the-military

https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/22/politics/us-capitol-riot-investigation/index.html

https://www.npr.org/sections/president-biden-takes-office/2021/01/22/959681427/biden-administration-announces-plans-to-assess-domestic-violent-extremism

https://www.npr.org/sections/trump-impeachment-effort-live-updates/2021/01/11/955631105/impeachment-resolution-cites-trumps-incitement-of-capitol-insurrection

https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/22/politics/mcconnell-trump-impeachment-conviction-republicans/index.html

NEW: Senators introduce bill to award Officer Goodman the  Congressional Gold Medal.

Version of the bill was previously introduced in the US House.


https://twitter.com/NBCPolitics/status/1352723100194975746


Ahavati
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January 23, 2021   


Three days into the Biden administration and lots of commenters are noting the return of calm in the media, and the return of a sense of stability in the government. People are sleeping so much better that the word “slept” trended on Twitter the day after the inauguration.

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris appear to be eager to reestablish expertise as the foundation for public service. Biden is appointing what the Washington Post calls “technocrats” and what others have called “nerds” to public service. The former president tried to “burrow” his loyalists into office, politicizing positions that were supposed to be nonpartisan. Biden asked for the resignations of those political appointees and, when they refused to resign, fired them.  

While some right-wing Republicans have howled that Biden’s firing of burrowing Trump loyalists betrays his promise of “unity,” in fact the new administration’s quick restoration of a qualified, nonpartisan bureaucracy is an attempt to stabilize our democracy.

Democracy depends on a nonpartisan group of functionaries who are loyal not to a single strongman but to the state itself. Loyalty to the country, rather than to a single leader, means those bureaucrats follow the law and have an interest in protecting the government. It is the weight of that loyalty that managed to stop Trump from becoming a dictator—he was thwarted by what he called the “Deep State,” people who were loyal not to him but to America and our laws. That loyalty was bipartisan. For all that Trump railed that anyone who stood up to him was a Democrat, in fact many—Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, for example—are Republicans.

Authoritarian figures expect loyalty to themselves alone, rather than to a nonpartisan government. To get that loyalty, they turn to underlings who are loyal because they are not qualified or talented enough to rise to power in a nonpartisan system. They are loyal to their boss because they could not make it in a true meritocracy, and at some level they know that (even if they insist they are disliked for their politics).

In the previous administration, the president tried to purge the government of career officials, complaining they were not loyal enough to him. In their place, he installed people like acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, who had been a lobbyist before his meteoric elevation to a Cabinet-level position and whose appointment a court ruled illegal. Wolf was never confirmed in his position by the Senate. He was dependent on the goodwill of the president and, deeply loyal, was a key player in the deployment of law enforcement personnel against the Black Lives Matter protesters last summer.

Another example of a functionary loyal to a person, rather than to the government, is Jeffrey Clark, identified last night as the relatively unknown lawyer in the Department of Justice who aspired to replace the acting attorney general by helping Trump overturn the results of the 2020 election. We have another example of such a character tonight: Pennsylvania Representative Scott Perry, who brought Clark to Trump’s attention. Perry is a conspiracy theorist who suggested that ISIS was behind the mass shooting in Las Vegas, and who joined the chorus falsely claiming the election had been fraudulent. These are not people who would be serious players in a nonpartisan, merit-based bureaucracy, but they came within a hair’s breadth of enabling Trump to overturn the election. What stopped them was bureaucrats loyal not to Trump, but to our laws.

Trump’s politicization of the government during his term is a problem for the success of the Biden administration as well as for American democracy. Trump supporters in the government remain loyal to the man himself, rather than to the country. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has suggested that the Senate will not confirm Biden’s Cabinet appointments if the Democrats proceed with the Senate trial to decide whether Trump is guilty of inciting the deadly riot on the Capitol on January 6. Johnson is explicitly threatening to prevent the confirmation of “the Biden admin’s national security team” if the trial proceeds. “What will it be” he tweeted. “[R]evenge or security?”

That lawmakers tried to keep Trump in office by discrediting our electoral system was a terribly dangerous attack on our democracy. That they are threatening to leave the country vulnerable to foreign and domestic threats in order to try to stop the Senate impeachment trial--the constitutional process for evaluating the president’s role in overturning our election-- is alarming.

The attempt of Trump and his supporters to overturn our democracy has created a split in the Republican Party. Strongmen demand loyalty from their followers, who give it because their leader is their only hope of advancement. But loyalty to an individual, rather than to laws, means that supporters’ jobs, finances, and possibly lives all depend on the leader’s good graces. This is no environment for legitimate businesses, whose operators certainly want laws that benefit them as a group but cannot operate in a world in which the leader can tank their stock with a tweet, or destroy their businesses on a whim.

The business wing of today’s Republican Party has preserved its power with the votes of Trump supporters but appears to be eager to get back to a system based in the law rather than on a single temperamental leader. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is under enormous pressure from business leaders who were appalled not only by Trump’s attack on the election but also by the Republican lawmakers who objected to the count of the certified electoral votes. Those business leaders want to purge the party of the Trump faction.

But there is one more complicating factor in this volatile mix. While Biden is trying to restore the merit-based bureaucracy that stabilizes our democracy, he is also honoring the original Democratic philosophy that a truly democratic government ought to look like the people it governs. His appointments are exceedingly well qualified institutionalists… and they are also the most diverse in history.

[ Continued Below ]

Ahavati
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It is reasonable to think that, along with Biden and Harris, Biden’s Cabinet and administration officers will try to change the direction of the government, defending the idea that it has a role to play regulating business, providing a basic social safety net, and promoting infrastructure. Certainly, they have promised to do so.

The trick for business Republicans will be to see whether they can get rid of the authoritarian Trump supporters without enabling Democrats to rebuild the New Deal state the Republicans have just spent decades gutting. Hence McConnell’s desperate ploy to get the Democrats to promise not to touch the filibuster, which enables the Republicans to block virtually all Democratic legislation.

Reporters for the Washington Post called it “obfuscation” when Press Secretary Jen Psaki refused to say what Biden’s position was on whether Trump should be convicted of inciting the Capitol riot. “Well, he’s no longer in the Senate, and he believes that it’s up to the Senate and Congress to determine how they will hold the former president accountable and what the mechanics and timeline of that process will be,” Psaki said.

In fact, Biden, a long-time institutionalist, seems to be trying scrupulously to restore the precise functions of different branches of government, as well as the nonpartisan civil bureaucracy that, so far, has protected our democracy from falling to a dictator.



Submitted January 24, 2021

Notes:

https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/better-sleep-post-biden-inauguration-021925449.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/23/us/politics/scott-perry-trump-justice-department-election.html

Burrowing:

https://twitter.com/Susan_Hennessey/status/1353063165911654406

https://www.witf.org/2018/10/24/scott-perry-stands-by-unsubstantiated-claims-of-isis-connection-in-las-vegas-massacre/

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/ron-johnson-trump-biden-impeachment-b1791495.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-technocrats-normal/2021/01/23/168bb0ba-5cd6-11eb-a976-bad6431e03e2_story.html


Ahavati
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This is almost two years old but worth the read to see how far she's come.

Facebook’s Historian: Professor Heather Cox Richardson

Like Ulysses S. Grant Jr., Daniel Webster, and so many more historical figures she has spent her life studying, Heather Cox Richardson got her start in the hallowed halls of Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH, where she was a member of one of the first coed classes in the early 1970s.

Perhaps it was spending her formative years in the same classrooms as such giants that has afforded Richardson the ability to discuss history with a distinct air of familiarity. In her column at Salon and her articles in The Guardian, Richardson analyzes the news through the lens of an academic, blending Ph.D.-level knowledge with everyday vernacular, presenting it on Facebook and Twitter to be read by professors and plumbers alike.

The classrooms at Exeter have never had neat rows of individual desks typical of the average American high school. Instead, students sit around what’s called the Harkness Table—a large oval table across which ideas flow freely and naturally. Without raising their hands, students discuss what in the text they find most intriguing, curious, and allusive to larger, transcendent ideas.

Richardson’s experience in high school, which she says is still the most intellectually impressive setting in which she’s studied, continues to inform her teaching style today.

[ . . . ]

https://www.bcheights.com/2018/03/18/heather-cox-richardson/

Ahavati
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From the above article:

[ . . . ]

On Nov. 21, 2016, two years after publishing her most recent book, a conservative group by the name of Turning Point USA launched a new website called Professor Watchlist, on which it listed close to 200 college professors who it claimed had, “…records of targeting students for their viewpoints, forcing students to adopt a certain perspective, and/or abuse or harm students in any way for standing up for their beliefs.”

Richardson, who was briefly included on the list, was more annoyed than upset—that her hard work was dismissed as leftist propaganda, that her credibility was in-question, and, most of all, that the forum of academic debate was shamed and discouraged from its pursuit of truth.

“I am a historian. When I write, I write as a historian. And I do have political beliefs, but I’m using a different skill set when I do history,” Richardson said.

The day after being added to the list, Richardson posted a response on her Facebook page, which she uses as a blog for personal writings.

“It is even more ironic that the list would label me ‘anti-American.’ In fact, I do what I do—all the teaching, writing, speeches, and media—because I love America,” she wrote. “I am staunchly committed to the principle of human self-determination, and have come to believe that American democracy is the form of government that comes closest to bring that principle to reality.”

The next day, she was removed from the list, and since then, Richardson has been a beacon for objective, historical observations of the ongoings of American politics. She’s launched Werehistory.org, a history blog that publishes 1000-word articles relating current affairs to past ones and then infusing often unknown history to suggest a different perspective.

[ . . . ]

http://werehistory.org/

JohnnyBlaze
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^ Essentially what she is doing is journaling without making it me-centric like a diary. It is American-centric. And until Trump and his congressional support is no longer a daily fixture in history, she's going to have detractors projecting a position of bias onto her.

Ahavati
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JohnnyBlaze said:^ Essentially what she is doing is journaling without making it me-centric like a diary. It is American-centric. And until Trump and his congressional support is no longer a daily fixture in history, she's going to have detractors projecting a position of bias onto her.

Exactly.

I posted the above yesterday due to a member here inferring she was *biased*. I wanted to set the record straight. She is not biased; she is a historian.

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January 25, 2021

My guess is that the story of today that will stand the test of time is that President Biden is governing according to our traditional practices while he pushes the country into the future.

Biden hit the ground running. In the first three days of his presidency, he has taken 30 executive actions (these are orders, memoranda, and directives). Most of these are directed toward fighting the coronavirus pandemic, but he has also overturned some of Trump’s policies: he has stopped construction of the border wall, ended the Muslim travel ban, cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline, rejoined the Paris climate accord, and rejoined the World Health Organization. He also ended the ban on transgender soldiers in the military. These measures fulfill campaign promises and are widely popular.

Today, Biden also launched out in a new direction. He signed an executive order requiring the federal government to buy more of the things it needs here in the United States, rather than buying cheaper products overseas. The directive is a middle ground between protectionism and free trade. The plan is to protect the supply chains for goods the federal government sees as vital, thus bolstering manufacturing in crucial areas.

Recently, the United States has been more willing than other nations to buy foreign goods for government contracts in the interests of keeping federal costs down. This measure will increase costs, but will give that money to Americans. The president of the labor organization the AFL-CIO called the measure “a good first step in revitalizing U.S. manufacturing,” but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it would increase the costs of government procurement and was unlikely to create jobs.

Today the new administration also swore in the first Black secretary of defense, retired general Lloyd Austin, and the Senate confirmed Janet Yellen as the first woman to hold the position of treasury secretary.

But what is taking oxygen today is the war between the two factions of the Republican Party: the Trump faction and the business faction. Republican leaders embraced Trump—unwillingly—in 2016 because he promised to bring energized voters to a party whose pro-business policies were increasingly unpopular.

During his presidency, Trump delivered to business Republicans their wish list: tax cuts and appointments of right-wing judges who are generally opposed to federal government power, which will benefit the businesses who oppose regulation. Trump played to his base and did his best to politicize the U.S. government and make it loyal to him. He seemed eager to turn the government into an oligarchy overseen by him and his children. Business Republicans looked the other way, refusing to convict him in his first impeachment trial.

But when Trump botched the coronavirus response, tanking the economy and turning the U.S. into an international laughingstock, business Republicans began to slide away from the Trump administration. His increasingly unhinged behavior over the course of the past year increased their discomfort. And then, his refusal to accept the outcome of the 2020 election sparked their alarm.

In contrast, Republicans who were hoping to pick up Trump’s supporters in future elections signed on to his challenge of the election outcome. For some of them, pushing the idea that there were questions about the election was a safe way to signal support for Trump and his supporters, knowing that argument would fail. Others, though, apparently intended to take that idea forward to attack our government.

The January 6 attack on the Capitol split the party. It was a profound attack on our government, in which a group of the president’s supporters overpowered police, broke into the Capitol while Congress was counting the electoral votes, and threatened the lives of the elected representatives who refused to throw out the results of the election and name Trump president.

The attack implicated a number of Republicans: the president, of course, and also Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO), who was the first senator to agree to challenge the counting of the certified electoral votes for Biden, and Ted Cruz (R-TX), who jumped on board the challenge, along with about ten other senators. More than 100 Republican representatives also signed onto the challenge.

Arizona Republican representatives Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs reportedly asked Trump for pardons before he left office because of their participation in the events leading up to the attack on the Capitol. Seven Democratic senators filed a complaint with the Senate Committee on Ethics asking for an investigation of how Hawley and Cruz might have contributed to the January 6 attack. Hawley is trying to brazen it out: today he filed a counter-complaint continuing his objection to the election results and attacking the seven senators who asked for the investigation.

The actions of the insurgents spurred corporate donors to flee, refusing to donate money either to them or to the Republican Party, at least in the short term. Today, Dominion Voting Systems, the company Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other supporters accused of falsifying the election results, announced it was suing Giuliani for defamation, seeking damages of more than $1.3 billion.

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Ahavati
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In contrast, Republicans who care about the survival of our democracy joined Democrats to impeach Trump for inciting an insurrection. Some Republicans are taking a principled stand. Others are aware that Trump’s attack on our government destabilizes the country and hurts business. Further, they are aware that, if Trump or his supporters do manage to put a dictator in charge, the end to the rule of law would make it impossible to do business in this country. Finally, some business Republicans—like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—are furious with Trump for working against Republican Senate candidates in Georgia in his attempt to pressure party members to overturn the election results for him. Trump now has nothing to offer that they want.

The two Republican factions are struggling for control over the party. The Trump faction is organizing around the former president, who is launching broadsides at business Republicans he fears will vote to convict him in his upcoming impeachment trial. Over the weekend, he threatened to start a new political party—the Patriot Party— with the idea of backing Trump challengers to Republican politicians in upcoming Republican primaries. He took in a lot of money after the election on the promise to fight for his reelection; he may or may not have significant money to spend on new candidates. Determined to continue to pressure Republicans, today he launched an unprecedented “Office of the Former President.”

His supporters—including the Republicans implicated in the January 6 insurrection—are downplaying the attack on our government and suggesting that impeaching the president or holding accountable the lawmakers who helped the attack is “cancel culture.” They are insisting that questioning the election is simply free speech. “Give the man a break… move on,” former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said in opposition to Trump’s conviction in the Senate.

With Trump blocked from most major social media channels, state Republican parties are acting on his behalf. This weekend the Arizona Republican Party voted to censure Republicans Jeff Flake, the former Senator; Cindy McCain, Senator John McCain’s widow; and current Governor Doug Ducey, who got swept up in their dislike of Trump opponents because he didn’t try to switch the state’s electoral votes to Trump. The Oregon Republican Party did them one better, suggesting that the January 6 insurrection was a “false flag” operation by Democrats to discredit Trump. The Texas Republican Party is now openly supporting the QAnon conspiracy theorists.

Other Republicans are running away from the party as it becomes a personality cult. More than 2000 Florida Republicans switched parties after January 6, and today former Representative David Jolly of Florida, a Republican who has criticized Trump, floated the idea of running for Congress as an independent. About 7500 Republicans switched parties in Arizona. In North Carolina, 6000 Republicans switched out. An ABC News/Washington Post poll from January 10-13 discovered that almost 70% of Americans said the Republican Party should move away from Trump.

But business Republicans still need Trump voters, and the Wall Street Journal today urged them back into the fold. It will not be an easy sell: they are now wedded to Trump, not the party, and his interests are in pressuring Republican senators not to convict him in his upcoming impeachment trial and in keeping his supporters loyal to whatever he decides to do next.

Republicans have a problem. As an aide to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Alayna Treene of Axios, “We’re eating sh*t for breakfast, lunch, and dinner right now.”

Lawmakers will soon have to make a choice about where they stand. The House managers took the article of impeachment to the Senate this evening.

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Submitted January 26, 2021

Notes:

https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/22/politics/joe-biden-executive-orders-first-week/index.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2021/01/25/biden-buy-american-rules/

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/biden-sign-buy-american-executive-order-monday-n1255487

https://www.salon.com/2021/01/20/two-gop-congressmen-sought-pardons-for-their-connection-to-capitol-attack-report/

https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/535771-trump-establishes-office-of-the-former-president-in-florida

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/25/us/politics/rudy-giuliani-dominion-trump.html

https://www.democracydocket.com/2021/01/hawley-counter-complaint/

https://oig.justice.gov/news/department-justice-office-inspector-general-announces-initiation-investigation

https://www.wsj.com/articles/arizona-republican-meltdown-11611526063

https://www.axios.com/david-jolly-florida-governor-independent-67e10aba-476d-467e-9dc7-222ddec50ee0.html

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/republicans-battlegrounds-left-gop-capitol-riot/story

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/here-s-full-list-biden-s-executive-actions-so-far-n1255564

https://www.axios.com/kevin-mccarthy-criticism-trump-impeachment-295d5309-8f5a-40ce-a97b-5aee436db191.html

Ahavati
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January 26, 2021

We are now a week into the Biden administration, and President Biden has set some clear and surprisingly dominant markers at the beginning of his presidency.

He has kept firmly to his constitutional responsibilities in what appears to be an attempt to remind Americans of the official roles in our democracy. He has deliberately refused to intrude on the Department of Justice, saying he would leave up to it which cases to pursue. When a reporter asked Press Secretary Jen Psaki whether Biden believes the Senate should convict the former president of incitement of insurrection in his upcoming Senate trial, Psaki answered: “Well, he’s no longer in the Senate, and he believes that it’s up to the Senate and Congress to determine how they will hold the former president accountable and what the mechanics and timeline of that process will be.”

Within his sphere in the executive branch, though, Biden is carving out a distinctive presidency. He is restoring the norms and guardrails of the office. We have had daily press briefings all week, which is the way things used to be done. The press secretary either answers questions respectfully or dodges them, as is her job, but there are no insults or accusations of “fake news.” We also get the traditional “readouts” when the president speaks to a foreign leader, giving us a sense of where the country stands with regard to its allies and rivals.

But Biden is also striking out in a surprisingly authoritative way. He has hit the ground running. He began work on the very afternoon of his inauguration and has not let up since. He has signed a pile of executive measures, seemingly adapting the policy of the Trump administration to change the direction of the nation quickly through executive actions.

But while Trump introduced measures that were applauded by his base but widely opposed, Biden’s measures are genuinely popular. Many of them rescind policies of the previous administration, but others move the country in a new direction, resurrecting the idea that the government has a role to play in regulating our economy and protecting individuals in our society. He has rejoined the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accords, scrapped the transgender ban in the military, expanded food assistance programs, and created new mechanisms to fight Covid-19. Today, he directed the Department of Justice not to renew contracts with private prisons, which prospered under the previous administration.

Biden has also made a mark already in foreign affairs. Exactly four years ago today, the entire senior administrative team of the State Department resigned, unwilling or unable to stay in office under the Trump administration and its original secretary of state Rex Tillerson, the former chief executive officer of ExxonMobil. In foreign affairs, Trump tried to reassert American power unilaterally, much as the nation had been able to do during the Cold War, but weakened traditional alliances in Europe and instead turned the nation toward Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Today, the Senate confirmed Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, a deeply experienced diplomat who was first the deputy national security advisor and then the deputy secretary of state under President Barack Obama. “This is the man for the job,” the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jim Risch (R-ID), told Lara Jakes of the New York Times. Blinken set out immediately to rebuild alliances that were weakened over the past four years, recognizing that the world is now a multilateral one.

Notably, the Biden administration immediately parted from its predecessor with its approach to Russia. While Trump refused to question Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden has taken a much more traditional position, one that reflects the position of both the Democrats and the Republicans of four years ago. Just three days before Biden took office, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny returned to his homeland after a near fatal poisoning in August by Putin’s operatives. Navalny’s return forced the hands of both Putin and, within days, Biden. Putin had Navalny arrested, sparking nationwide protests by Russians who are tired of the nation’s poor economy and like Navalny’s skewering of Russian government corruption.

The collision of Putin and Navalny just as Biden took office permitted Biden to use the moment to indicate the direction of his own foreign policy. Just three days after Biden took office, the State Department released a statement condemning the Russian government’s suppression of its people and its media and calling both for Navalny’s release and for an explanation of his poisoning. It concluded, “The United States will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and partners in defense of human rights – whether in Russia or wherever they come under threat,” a statement that indicates America is resuming its traditional stance.

Today, Biden and Putin spoke for the first time, and the readout indicates that the equation of the last four years has changed. The leaders talked of extending nuclear and arms control treaties. Then Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for Ukraine and called out the recent Russian hack on U.S. businesses and government departments, the reports of Russian bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, Navalny’s poisoning, and interference in the 2020 U.S. election. According to the readout, “President Biden made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies.”

Biden has refused to get drawn into the drama taking place in Congress, simply forging ahead with his own agenda. Congress, meanwhile, is also adjusting to having a new game in town. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tried to gum up the works, refusing to permit the Democrats to organize the Senate unless they promised not to end the filibuster, the Senate rule that enables a minority to stop any measure that can’t command 60 votes. New Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he had no plans to end the old rule (for legislation—it is already gone for judicial appointments) but refused to make any such promise. The filibuster would permit McConnell to stop any Democratic legislation, and Schumer needs at least the threat of it to prevent McConnell from abusing the rule. Last night, McConnell backed down.

Interestingly, though, tonight McConnell tweeted, “Today, I made clear that if Democrats ever attack the key Senate rules, it would drain the consent and comity out of the institution. A scorched-earth Senate would hardly be able to function. It wouldn’t be a progressive’s dream. It would be a nightmare. I guarantee it.McConnell is, of course, the person primarily responsible for the current scorched-earth Senate, so his comment was a bit rich, but it was nonetheless an interesting statement. It is a truism that threats are a sign of weakness.

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