Taken Too Soon: Memorializing the Nurses Lost to Covid-19

What has been the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic? For many, it’s meant a loss of a routine, the loss of a livelihood, the loss of a world where we could gather in community without fear of hurting the ones we love. But for far too many of us, it’s meant the loss of the most important people in our lives. People have many reasons for choosing to become a nurse. It’s a stable job, your work has significant meaning, and the accompanying salary will almost always earn you a place in the middle class. But to the vast majority of us who become nurses, what supersedes all is the desire to heal injury and ease suffering. The challenges our profession has faced in the wake of the pandemic have been staggering, and will leave a lasting and negative impact in terms of staff burnout, vaccine skepticism and the anticipated drop in nursing school enrollment that will disproportionately affect nurse educators. But most significant are the nurses who gave their lives in the fight against this deadly disease. In the wake of these deaths there were many who insisted that we “knew what we signed up for” or that death by a deadly pandemic was “part of our job.” We must not ignore this callous disregard for human wellbeing — nurses stepped up to a fight we were not prepared for, one we were not protected from. Our hospitals have been overrun because people failed to heed social distancing and masking requirements, ICUs like the one I work in are reaching or have reached capacity. The resulting overtime for nurses, volunteered or in some cases mandated, lead to even greater exposure to the virus. Additionally, we did not have the PPE we needed to stay safe, to the point where nurses in New York were wearing trash bags. At any point the President of the United States could have invoked the Defense Production Act to secure the PPE that was necessary to protect nurses, but he never did. I did not become a nurse so that I could die in an unexpected pandemic, made worse by the outgoing administration’s incompetence and public disregard for the wellbeing of others. It is important that we acknowledge nurses have given their lives, but that each was given unwillingly and unexpectedly.  Today at 5:30p ET, we will join together in remembering the many who’ve died on the frontlines of fighting the pandemic. By lighting a candle, ringing a bell, or turning on your lights, we give a physical reminder of all we’ve lost. From nurses to housekeepers, physicians to food service workers, all have been and still are essential to getting us to the end of this dark and unfortunate chapter in world history.  Below are the names of the many nurses lost to the pandemic. This list is not exhaustive, and tragically it will only expand as more die. But in this great suffering, may we join together in solidarity: to stay home, to wear a mask, to get the vaccine when it becomes available. It’s healthcare workers who are on the front lines, but this is everyone’s fight. Together, we will end the pandemic.Marybeth Papetti, NJKious Kelly, NJTheresa Lococo, NYAraceli Buendia Ilagan, FLNoel Sinkiat, DCMark Bryson DeLong, GABarbara Finch, VARosary Celaya Castro, CAHazel Mijares, NYDebbie Accard, MIJames House, MIJeff Baumbach, CANicanor Baltazar, NYLisa Ewald, MIJohn Abruzzo, NYDorothy Boles, MSPatrick Cain, MIElizabeth Bartolome Del Mundo, NJMarilyn Howard, NYAngeline Bernadel, CTSusan Cicala, NJDaisy Doronila, NJEdwin Montanano, NJAleyamma John, NYRose Harrison, ALDolores Woodford, MAAli Dennis Guillermo, NYVianna Thompson, NVSusan Sisgundo, NYFrancisca Amponsah, NJFelicisimo Luna, NJQuen Agbor Ako, MDRose Taldon, MAPaul Moise, NJLinda Bonaventura, INAnjanette Miller, ILJennifer Anderson-Davis, MOChristopher Dean, NYBarbara Birchenough, NJMichael Marceaux, LAKaren Carmello, NYPamela Orlando, NJJoshua Bush, SCCelia Lardizabal Marcos, CAJenni Claire Bartolome, NJDavid Joel Perea, NVHelen Gbodi, DCSheila Faye Christian, PACharles Arrington, NJKarla Dominguez, TXFelicia Ailende, ILBrittany Bruner Ringo, CACristino Evangelista Fabro, NYEmmanuel J. Carrillo, NJLydia Corazon Tandoc Macuja, MICelia Yap Banago, MOJerry Alford, ALPaulette Thomas Mickle, ILRomeo Agtarap, NYGabriel Chinwendu, DCNina Forbes, VAKiara Anderson McDade, ILTina Reeves, OHSheena Miles, MSShenetta White Ballard, LAMarsha Bantle, INKrist Angielen Castro Guzman, ILMaria E. Lopez, ILAnn Hinkhouse, IARose Liberto, NCRobert V. Piemonte, NYBarbara Stewart, NCDenny Gilliam, NYKelly Mazzarella, NYIrene Burgonio, NYDeborah Eubanks Stevers, GAMilagros Abellera, TXJudy Heimann, ILBernard Atta, OHKaron Hoffman, ILCandace Allen, ALMarie Armitstead, MAJ. Aleksandr Vollmann, WASandra Oldfield, CAKurt Julian, WAValerina Singer, AZMarcia Barga, OHVictoria Greco, GA Kathy Sims, SCDeborah Sheridan, MAJoshua Obra, CAJessica Cavazos, TXMelinda Spears, MSDonna DeHart, SCSonia Brown, FLCristina Baldado, CAPenny Scarangella Smith, FLYolanda Coar, GAVincent DeJesus, NVJames White, FLRodolfo Solano, TXJason Garcia, TXOliver Isleta, CACheryl Morrow, ARFrancisco de Leon Dadis, CAJack Brewer, ALSaludacion Fontanilla, CADonna Holloway, TXVenezia Monroe, FLJohn Vereb, KYElaine McRae, MSWilliam Ricketts, MSKevin Graiani, NYIrena Hartell, NYRosemary Sell, NYSamantha Hickey, IDNueva Parazo Singian, CAPammela Baker, NCShelley Smith, MSKindra Irons, INJoan Neudecker, NYSpecial thanks to Dr. Claire Rezba, @CTZebra for her extensive efforts to memorialize HCWs lost to the pandemic.

Some Hopeful News: Miguel Cardona’s Nomination and Vision

It has been a challenging year for education in the United States. There has been much debate about how to balance the needs of students, teachers, and families during the pandemic. Federal mismanagement of  the health crisis has amplified health risks and inequities in educational outcomes for all Americans. It certainly was not reassuring when Betsy DeVos, the former Education Secretary who resigned amidst the aftermath of the Capitol riots, ignored both of these concerns in her response to the pandemic. However, even after experiencing what has to be the most unusual moment in time to enter this career, I still remain hopeful about what can be possible in this field. I am an educator, currently teaching while I am in graduate school, and I could not be prouder of the time I dedicated to help volunteer to elect Joe Biden as President.As a graduate student training for a career in education, I am more than happy with the choice that President-elect Biden has made by nominating Miguel Cardona as Education Secretary for both professional and personal reasons. Not only is he a public school graduate with teaching experience, he also provides representation for the Latino community. This is the community I call my own and also the fastest growing population in our public schools. Cardona was much like the students I work with as a graduate student in English as a Second Language education. He entered the public school system speaking only Spanish and used that experience to inform his work as a fourth grade teacher and a principal. He completed a master’s in bilingual and bicultural education and earned a doctorate in education at the University of Connecticut, dedicating his training to serving our community. President-elect Biden kept his promise to have a more representative cabinet and nominate an Education Secretary with tangible experience to call upon as he administers our public schools.The National Association of Educators has welcomed Cardona’s nomination because people in education know he respects the institution of public education. He will serve to further its mission, from helping make free community college a possibility to helping students in and out of the classroom by working to address food and housing insecurity. Conditions outside of the classroom are a major determinant of academic success, so working to improve students’ environments ultimately further the mission of public education. He will help oversee a well overdue expansion and simplification of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Loan Forgiveness programs, which will be crucial to the financial stability of teachers like me. President-elect Biden has also proposed a tripling of Title I spending, which would require leadership from someone with significant experience in education like Cardona. He would ensure that our most underserved students and the teachers that work with them will receive these expanded benefits. These measures would help reduce the gaps in spending created by our system of education funding fueled by state tax revenue and local property taxes.Miguel Cardona not only has the knowledge set crucial to running the Department of Education, he also has the passion formed from his own experiences to be an effective and compassionate Secretary of Education. My whole life, I have understood that my academic success was seen as unusual by others because of my background, even though I was not an ESL student myself. I’ve been the target of backhanded compliments about my own achievements that only serve to put down others that look like me, but did not have the same opportunities as me. I do not want my own students to experience that. I want them to feel secure that they will have the same opportunities as others. Cardona understands the need to reduce the achievement gaps that create stereotypes of what certain students are capable of doing and works passionately to do so. Stories like his give me hope on what I can do to serve my own community through my career and where my students can go after they move on from K-12 education.

Words Matter: The Dangers of Extremism

I want to start by briefly describing my background. For much of my professional career, I have worked as a political researcher, conducting analysis on concepts like political legitimacy and institutions. My work has mostly revolved around foreign affairs, and one of my most important experiences was a stint as a research intern for the organization Hedayah, a group that specializes in countering violent extremism (CVE). There, I conducted work on CVE deradicalization programs, with particular focus on understanding why individuals became radicalized in the first place. This experience was vitally important for me and it helped me understand just a bit about what transpired on January 6, 2021, and I’d like to share these considerations with you.Within the realm of international relations, there is a concept known as constructivism. When broken down and given a basic definition, it essentially means that ideas are socially constructed and that these ideas matter. Different concepts and things we hear get weaved together and we individually form our own narratives and their meanings. On January 6, we witnessed a group of individuals inflamed by years of blatant lies and weeks of conspiracy spurred to consequential action. We saw the weaponization of caustic rhetoric and acidic optics. As violent individuals stormed the nation’s capital, one fact became clear: this was radicalism and extremism in action. That, however, is not the end of the story. In fact, these recent events are simply a facet of a larger problem within America writ large. A poll conducted by YouGov noted that over 45% of polled Republicans supported these acts, while a vast majority didn’t believe these actions to constitute a threat to our democracy. These statistics should be alarming. Many of those that marched and vandalized Washington D.C. did so for a multitude of factors, but one unifying element was a distrust in our institutions. This physical act was a metaphoric gesture signifying the distrust some Republicans had in democracy and the will of the people. This sentiment played out in the House and Senate chambers just mere hours after the insurrection had been quelled. 147 Republicans, 8 in the Senate and 139 in the House of Representatives, continued to contest the November 2020 election. Many in the House spewed conspiracy theories and blatant lies while claiming to defend the values set forth in the Constitution. A few others claimed that Antifa had instigated the attempted coup, deflecting falsely, probably because they understood that their actions were anti-democratic and possibly criminal.What these “leaders” have done is obfuscated truth and undermined the political institutions that have been foundational to America’s history. They have broken trust in the voting system, in electoralism, and in democracy at large. When Donald Trump told these individuals that Democrats had “rigged [the election] like they’ve never rigged an election before” or that “Democrats have gotten away with election fraud,” there really was going to be only one outcome. They would destroy these systems with their hands if they could.In the realm of CVE, it is clear that many extremists emerge out of an existential fear, that the world systems around them are collapsing and action must be taken. When individuals believe themselves to have limited options in instigating political change, some may resort to radical action. When political institutions and long-upheld systems are tarnished and dismantled, then it was only a matter of time before radicals emerged. And, instead of doing anything to prevent this backslide, to halt the spread of dangerous ideas, many Republican leaders chose to embrace and accelerate them. Worst of all, these actions have occurred openly and in plain view. Senator Schumer’s words given on January 6 around 8 PM ET ring clear. Ideas matter. Ideas are powerful. Ideas built on lies and with the purpose of undermining legitimate systems will only result in severe consequences. Even as we move forward to a new presidency, with Democratic control in both the House and Senate, it is important to keep this in mind. Thousands of individuals will continue to be influenced by the blatant falsehoods of the Trump era. Conspiracies and accelerationist prophecies will continue to flow. This means that the horrors we recently witnessed will not go away so easily. No, the lies brought forth by Republican leadership cannot be forgiven or forgotten. Radicalism and extremism are problems we must contend with. We must understand the power of ideas and how they influence individual actors. Instead of promoting alarmist fallacies, the next administration must focus on restoring public faith in each branch of government. To avoid the tragedy of January 6 and to move onward as a nation, we must consciously strive for a future where truth prevails and where trust in public institutions is restored. 

I’m A Republican, But I’m Not a Fool

I am a registered Republican. I consider myself a moderate Republican, though I guess many would rather use the pejorative “RINO” acronym. My political views can best be described as “fiscally conservative, socially liberal.” I disagree with many Republicans that the government is inherently bad; to be frank, I believe that the government is actually a great tool for good.Naturally, I was less than optimistic when Donald Trump won the Republican nomination and the general election in 2016. Like many though, I had hoped that maybe the Presidency would change Trump, or “mature” him in some way. It’s safe to say that isn’t what happened - not even close. The President managed to get himself impeached not only for abuse of power after trying to solicit dirt on Joe Biden in exchange for military aid, but also for obstructing the investigations into his abuse of power. After all that it becomes simple arithmetic. Abuse of power + the ballooning of our deficit + the destruction of free trade agreements + the antagonization of our allies = a Republican member of the Biden War Room.  This isn’t to say that the Trump administration was an absolute failure by every possible measure. I believe that the government needs to do everything in its power to help businesses and the middle class. In many cases this translates to being in favor of tax cuts. While I didn’t agree with everything in the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, I did agree with lowering the corporate tax rate and the (albeit small) tax cut for the middle class. But that isn’t really the point, it fails to even partially make up for all of the bad.Being a leader is about much more than steering economic policy for moderates like me or appointing judges for conservatives. America is more divided now than at any point since the Civil War. A complete lack of integrity and empathy has left our country weak. Rather than be a graceful loser, President Trump has (rather predictably) decided he would rather try and crush faith in the institutions he has sworn an oath to protect. This involves promoting insane conspiracy theories about election fraud that have been disproved by his own Department of Homeland Security and Attorney General, as well as election officials around the country. Most recently, he was caught on tape asking the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the votes needed to let him win the state of Georgia. Much like the Ukraine call that got him impeached, Donald Trump was once again trying to intimidate an elected official into helping him cheat. We have to remember two things though, one good and one bad. The good thing is Donald Trump did lose. He lost the popular vote by over 7 million votes and the electoral college 306-232. There are multiple reasons to be happy about this. Joe Biden will be a competent administrator who will help lead this country not only out of the COVID-19 pandemic but also help us “build back better.” The bad thing is that a lot of his enablers will remain in office. That brings us to Georgia. After rejecting Donald Trump and bringing the two Senate races to a runoff, Georgia has a chance to help put a nail in the coffin of Trumpism. Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, despite their ads, are not some sort of moderate, compromise candidates. Before the general election, they themselves worshiped President Trump. Kelly Loeffler went as far as bragging that she backed everything Trump wanted, saying she was with him “100% of the time.” And David Perdue, who sends non-stop ads about his fears of a Congress with “no compromise” did the same. That’s not even mentioning the corruption. It takes little more than a Google search to find dozens of stories that show how corrupt Perdue and Loeffler really are. For a good summary I recommend this article from The Week, which I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with. It should come at no surprise then that I hope Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock win on January 5th. I have two (admittedly very selfish) reasons for hoping they succeed.The 1st reason is out of concern for the future of the Republican Party. As I’ve already mentioned, Loeffler and Perdue are not moderates. For the Republican Party to move forward, or to cleanse itself of Donald Trump, we need to move past him and his enablers. More extreme politicians like Loeffler and Perdue keep moderate, sensible choices from taking the stage. To me it is quite obvious that the Republican Party needs a shakeup. According to a poll published the other day just 1 in 10 African American voters and 3 in 10 Hispanic voters will be voting for Loeffler and Perdue. These numbers aren’t unique to them though, these numbers are right around where the Republican Party performs nationally. That’s just plain embarrassing, and as Republicans we ought to be ashamed that minority voters can’t find a home in our party. It’s hard to see how that is going to change though when we have candidates like Loeffler and Perdue. A rejection of them will be a good step in the right direction towards creating an inclusive, truly diverse moderate Republican Party. The 2nd reason is, oddly enough, out of concern for the future of the Democratic Party. I, like many others, am concerned about the rise of more extreme candidates on the Democratic Party’s left. This fear is something that is being used heavily against Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The channeling of this fear results in things like Kelly Loeffler repeating the phrase “My opponent Radical Liberal Raphael Warnock,” and Perdue’s shallow accusations that Jon Ossoff is somehow a Chinese Communist or a socialist or whatever other buzzword manages to grab headlines at Fox News. Debunking these myths isn’t hard, but the easiest way to do so is to actually read their websites. The site for Jon Ossoff and the site for Reverend Warnock both have big, easy to understand rundowns of basically any political issue you could think of. They aren’t radicals, and I encourage you to see that for yourself. They are, in my view, actually incredibly moderate centrists, the perfect type of candidates needed to act as a check on the Democratic parties left wing. The Georgia Senate runoffs present an amazing opportunity for moderate Republicans. It gives us a chance to reject the fringes on both the left and the right, and in doing so gives us a path towards less extreme politics and a more inclusive Republican Party. But the reality is that it won’t happen without the election of Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The reelection of Perdue and Loeffler would be a rubber stamp on the worst aspects of American politics. It would be signaling support for the divisiveness, the gridlock, the hatred. I support Ossoff and Warnock. I may be a Republican, but I’m not a fool.

Why Leaders Must Watch Their Words

The other day, the outgoing administration made a most unusual statement. It  was titled, “Proclamation on 850th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket.” Becket, for the uninitiated, was a Catholic saint who was murdered by followers of King Henry II in the year 1170. The statement heralded Becket as a “martyr” who died making a “courageous stand for religious liberty” before veering off into tangents that railed against “global bureaucrats” and abortion rights. Were that all that there were to the story, we might dismiss it as simply another odd occurrence of the Trump White House. But there is more. There is a moral to the tale of St. Becket that the President, and his GOP underlings, would do well to heed.  Becket and King Henry, the man ultimately responsible for his death, did not start out as enemies. In fact, they were close companions. The archbishop tutored the younger ruler, giving Henry valuable tutelage in the affairs of statecraft. But relations between the two soured when Henry attempted to bend the English church to his will. Becket, a devout Catholic, pushed back against Henry’s predations, and a power struggle ensued between the men. Henry, in a moment of blind rage, shouted “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest!” forgetting, for a moment, that as the head of state, he had the power to order death with a simple word. Several of Henry’s knights, however, did not forget this. They took his words as a command, rode for Becket’s church, and slew him in the abbey. The news of the archbishop’s murder spread throughout England, and soon reached the ears of King Henry himself. The monarch, upon hearing of the death of his beloved mentor, locked himself in his room and mourned, realizing, too late, the awesome and terrible power he commanded. Trump has certainly never heeded the lesson of this story. He lies with reckless abandon, uses vulgar insults for anyone he deems his enemy, and calls for the prosecution of his political opponents. At times, his relentless raging has nearly reaped disastrous consequences. Many of us can probably recall, for example, how his insults of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un brought us perilously close to war. And during the Black Lives Matter protests, Trump, unable and unwilling to console or heal a broken nation, instead openly fantasized about unleashing “vicious dogs” on peaceful protesters. During the Presidential debates, he told the white supremacist Proud Boys organization to “stand by” - which they took as an instruction to wait to unleash their violence on behalf of the President after the election. Sometimes the President’s words have nearly had tragic consequences. After repeatedly hearing Trump refer to reporters as “the enemy of the people,” a supporter named Cesar Sayoc took it upon himself to mail pipe bombs to prominent journalists and Democrats. After hearing Trump’s racist fearmongering about looters and rioters, a young supporter went to Kenosha, Michigan, and murdered two people. And there is no reason to think that the violence spurred by Trump’s words will abate. Over the past two months, the President has repeatedly insisted (without evidence) that the election was stolen from him due to nonexistent mass voter fraud. Because the President promulgated these lies, some of his supporters have decided to act on them. In Philadelphia, two Trump supporters, at least one of whom was a supporter of the right-wing QAnon conspiracy, drove to a vote-counting center armed with two handguns, an AR-15, and 160 rounds of ammunition, where they were immediately arrested by police. In Texas, a former Dallas police captain decided to conduct an “investigation” with several of his friends. Soon, they identified a man they believed to be involved in voter fraud, who was, in reality, an innocent air-conditioning repairman. The Captain tracked him down, ran him off the road, pulled him from his vehicle, and pointed a gun at his head. When the actual police arrived some time later, he demanded that they arrest the repairman and search his truck for fraudulent ballots.When the police searched the truck, all they found were assorted parts for air conditioners.Trump’s election conspiracies haven’t resulted in serious injuries - yet. But given enough time, they will. Yet the President is not solely responsible for spreading these lies; also responsible are the feckless GOP officials who have stood by him and repeated his nonsense. And perhaps none have embraced his insane theories more than the GOP Senators from Georgia, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Perdue and Loeffler have gone out of their way to demonstrate their unflinching loyalty to the President. They have howled that the elections in Georgia were rigged, that the President actually won the state, and disparaged any Georgia politician (like Brad Raffensberger) who dares acknowledge reality. They have backed his conspiracies, not because they believe any of what he says, but because they think it will help them win reelection on January 5th. They have applied this logic to every single stance that they take. Perdue, for example, was against giving any stimulus checks to everyday Americans. But when Trump came out in favor of those checks, he had a sudden change of heart (his opponent, Jon Ossoff, has supported $2000 checks all along). Loeffler, who initially called herself a moderate, has linked arms with the radical  right, and become the one of the most pro-Trump senators in Congress. She even went as far to deploy baseless allegations of child abuse against her oppoent, Revernd Raphael Warnock. They do this because they do not believe that what they say matters. They do not think that what they say has any power.So this January, remind them. Remind them that the truth still matters. Remind them that their words still matter. Remind them that leaders must always watch what they say. Make sure that, after January 5th, Loeffler and Perdue begin collecting those unemployment benefits that they fought so hard against. Henry only learned that words have consequences after it was already too late.So make sure that the GOP learns it right now.

Republicans, Making Hypocrisy Grate Again

During the past four years, perhaps the one slogan Republicans have embraced more than “Make America Great Again”, “America First”, “Build that wall”, “Drain the swamp”, or other Trump rally background noise, is “Do as I say, not as I do.” This mantra came to define them time and time again throughout Trump’s presidency. But this was not something that Trump started, nor is it something that will end on January 20th. After Biden takes office, Republicans will conveniently change their position and rhetoric on key issues and forget the logical twists and turns they took to cheerlead for his predecessor. This is already happening with COVID relief negotiations and the Georgia runoffs that will determine control of the Senate tomorrow, two important events that will shape the new year for the better or worse.During Obama’s presidency, Republicans frequently brought up the deficit and debt to explain their opposition to his policies, but after Trump’s election, like a miracle, their concerns disappeared. They certainly did not mind passing a massive tax cut for the wealthy and corporations that the Congressional Budget Office projected would add $2.3 trillion in debt over the next decade. But when COVID-19 hit and Americans needed economic relief, the deficit and debt magically became talking points again. As several programs in the CARES Act expired over the summer, the House passed the HEROES Act to continue them as cases began to rise again. But in the Senate, self-proclaimed “Grim Reaper” Mitch McConnell refused to even hold a vote on it, instead offering a much smaller bill that drastically reduced unemployment insurance while protecting corporations from liability for putting employees at risk. Then in October, as Trump himself was hospitalized with COVID-19, he announced via Twitter that he would abruptly end all negotiations until after the election. Apparently 38 days is enough time to confirm a Supreme Court justice, but not to help parents feed their families. Fast forward to December, when the country was now experiencing the worst wave yet. On December 18, Senator Ron Johnson, who is up for re-election in 2022 in Wisconsin, a state Biden won, objected to giving Americans another round of $1200 checks, using the debt as an excuse, despite voting for the 2017 tax cuts projected to add trillions to it. The deal that was eventually reached was far from enough, as it was much smaller than the original HEROES Act or even what Democrats wanted when negotiations started. It still reduced unemployment insurance, gave Americans only $600 rather than $1200, far from what was needed, and left out immigrants, college students, and adult dependents. However, with Republicans refusing to do even the bare minimum, it was a stopgap until President Biden might be able to pass a better deal for the American people. Then suddenly, Trump announced that he would not sign the bill unless the checks were raised to $2000, finally coming around to what Democrats said all along: $600 simply was not enough. But his change of heart came far too late. He had multiple chances during the past nine months to support $2000 checks, but made his announcement after a deal was already made, and congressional Republicans still opposed the checks. On Christmas Eve, they objected to including them in the bill. When a full vote was held, only a quarter voted for them. As the week ended, unemployment insurance for millions expired, and a government shutdown nearly happened. Trump finally signed the bill, but without the $2000 checks, once again breaking a promise he made to the American people. The ultimately pointless delay cost millions of Americans a week of unemployment insurance. Why did Republicans suddenly become so desperate to pass anything before the year ended? Because with the Georgia runoffs quickly approaching, they had to show that they were doing something, anything, to help anyone besides their wealthy donors during this pandemic. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler tried endlessly to take credit for the CARES Act while their party delayed and diluted additional relief, but did not endorse continuing the $600 weekly unemployment insurance, which Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock support, and only changed their mind on stimulus checks when Trump did. Since they know McConnell would refuse to hold a vote anyways, they could safely pretend to support them until January 5th, after which they could turn around and squeeze the middle class again to pay back their rich friends.Indeed, “do as I say, not as I do” seems to be the slogan of their campaigns as well. One of their arguments for a Republican Senate is that with a divided government, the two parties will have to compromise. But the last time the country had a divided government with a Democratic president, Republicans refused to compromise on anything. McConnell said that, rather than work with him for the good of the country, “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” and during the past two years, he refused to even hold a vote on many of the bills that the House passed. It would be great if both sides actually could negotiate in good faith for the entire country’s benefit, but it is difficult when one refuses. Even if Ossoff and Warnock both won, the Senate would be split 50-50 with Harris breaking ties, meaning that a bill would need the support of every Democratic senator or a few Republicans in order to pass. Furthermore, the Democratic caucus is very diverse. It is home to members from 27 states (28 if Ossoff and/or Warnock win), progressives such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, moderates such as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, and everyone in between. Getting them all to support a bill will already require significant compromise, even if Democrats have control.In their ads, Perdue and Loeffler cast Ossoff and Warnock as “radicals”, which is ironic coming from someone who brags about being “more conservative than Attila the Hun”. In truth, Ossoff and Warnock’s policies are popular among Georgians. Giving Americans COVID relief, expanding access to healthcare, reforming our criminal justice system, and responding to the threat of climate change are hardly radical. Biden won Georgia in November campaigning on these very policies, yet Perdue and Loeffler continue to oppose them. Instead of giving Americans COVID relief, they traded stock after learning about the severity of the virus in a closed hearing, profiting while over 330,000 Americans died. Instead of expanding access to healthcare, they supported plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Instead of proposing their own climate plan, their websites do not mention it at all, even as Georgia experiences worse extreme weather every year and rising sea levels threaten its coast. In fact, Perdue called for the EPA’s elimination and urged Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement in 2017, while his exclusive beachfront community builds walls to keep out rising sea levels. It is clear from all of this that they are trying to distract voters from the fact that their platform is the one that is really “radical” and unpopular.During Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation, Republicans accused Democrats of attacking her Catholic faith, despite the fact that the Democratic president-elect, who Republicans claimed wanted to “hurt God”, and Speaker of the House are both Catholic. But now Loeffler’s campaign is doing exactly that with Warnock’s faith, taking clips of his sermons, often wildly out of context, and using them in attack ads, even though she did not mind attending his church herself for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Her ads use clips of him criticizing the Israeli government’s policies to portray him as anti-Semitic, but she remained silent when Perdue’s campaign digitally enlarged Ossoff’s nose in an ad, a common anti-Semitic trope (Ossoff himself erseis Jewish). She also proudly touts her endorsements from supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which itself has anti-Semitic roots and is classified as a domestic terror threat by the FBI, and took a picture with a KKK member convicted of assaulting a black man in 1993, later claiming she “had no idea” who she was taking a picture with. Her ads also play a clip of Warnock quoting a Bible passage saying that a person cannot serve two masters, which they twist to portray him as anti-military. In reality, Warnock’s father was a veteran, and he talks extensively on the campaign trail about his plans to help veterans and those currently serving, while the Republican president vetoed the annual defense appropriations bill that, among other things, raises troop salaries and provides suicide prevention programs for veterans. It is clear that when Republicans talk about freedom of religion, what they really mean is freedom to use religion to advance their agenda. They view Muslims as a threat who should be kept out of the country and Jews who do not vote for them as “disloyal”. Even Christian leaders like Warnock find their faith questioned. To Republicans, religion is great when they can use it to justify their beliefs, such as anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, but not when their opponent can.One word that Republicans will be saying often during the next four years is “civility.” After four years of showing deference to a President who constantly attacked and belittled his opponents, they were outraged when incoming Deputy Chief of Staff Jen O’Malley Dillon dropped an expletive in an offhand remark during an interview. The party of Trump thinks that tweeting too much disqualifies Biden’s choice to head the Office of Management and Budget. This might lead one to ask what their idea of civility is. It would be too easy to use Trump as an example for this exercise, so let us look instead at the man they support in the Georgia runoffs, Senator Perdue. Is it praying for Obama’s death? Is it grabbing a student’s phone after being asked a question? Is it blocking a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide at the President’s request? Is it, as mentioned earlier, enlarging his Jewish opponent’s nose in a campaign ad? Is it mocking his colleague and the first female vice president-elect’s name at a rally? “Physician, heal thyself” seems appropriate here, but if this year is any indication, they do not listen to physicians either.Ossoff and Warnock winning tomorrow would be a victory for Americans and a defeat for Republican hypocrisy. If he remains Senate Majority Leader, McConnell will continue to be the “Grim Reaper”, blocking Biden’s entire agenda to try and sabotage his presidency, but with a Senate majority, Biden and congressional Democrats can pass real economic relief for the American people, or as the President-elect puts it, “build our country back better than it was before”. They can build on the Affordable Care Act to make sure more Americans have access to healthcare. They can make our criminal justice system fairer for all Americans regardless of race. They can create a climate plan investing in clean energy and creating millions of good-paying jobs. They can make sure that Biden’s cabinet, a diverse group of qualified individuals committed to serving the American people, will be confirmed. All of this and much more is possible if Ossoff and Warnock win. Tomorrow, Georgia has a chance to lead the country out of the past four years, ushering in a bright future for America out of this year's shadow. They can shock the world once again, voting not just for Biden, but for two Democratic senators. The race is close, and every single vote could be the difference between victory and defeat. After all, Biden won Georgia by just 11,779 votes in November. If you or someone you know can vote in the runoffs, make sure to vote or tell them to vote tomorrow. Even if you cannot vote, you can still donate or volunteer for the two campaigns. Together, Georgia can send a message to the “do as I say, not as I do” Republicans and start Biden’s presidency off on a high note. The whole country is watching.

Grand Obstructionist Party

On November 24th, exactly three weeks after election day, President Trump was still holed up in the White House, refusing to accept that he had lost and launching conspiracy-laden tirades on Twitter. President-elect Biden, meanwhile, was forging ahead, preparing for the long and difficult task of healing a divided nation. Instead of tweeting lies or launching frivolous lawsuits, he was beginning the long process of building his cabinet — selecting the men and women who would help him build the country back better. Just the other day, he had announced that Antony Blinken, a State Department veteran, would serve as his Secretary of State. However, not everyone reacted to this announcement well. One man in particular — Senator Marco Rubio of Florida — took to Twitter to vent his disdain. “Biden’s cabinet picks went to Ivy League schools, have strong resumes, attend all the right conferences & will be polite & orderly caretakers of America’s decline,” he wrote. Rubio, who never once had a problem with Donald Trump’s Ivy League studded cabinet, followed this up with a threat: “I have no interest in returning to the ‘normal’ that left us dependent on China.” It was a shocking moment; before Biden had even set foot in the Oval Office, a Republican senator was already saying that he would refuse to confirm his nominees. If it were only Rubio, this threat could be safely ignored. But the Republican Senator was far from alone in his endeavour to sabotage the Biden Presidency. Scarcely minutes later, Senator Josh Hawley sent out a tweet branding Biden’s team of professional diplomats as “corporatists and war enthusiasts — and #BigTech sellouts.” Soon after, Senator Tom Cotton, best known for calling on the US military to violently crush the Black Lives Matter movement, also took issue with Biden’s picks. Ted Cruz, one of the more powerful Republicans on Capitol Hill, took it a step further. “As long as . . . the election result is disputed, I do not think you will see the Senate act to confirm any nominee,” he told Axios. These are not the isolated grumblings of a few disgruntled Republicans, but the GOP as a whole announcing that they will refuse to let the duly-elected President of the United States govern.This is, of course, far from the first time that Republicans have trafficked in obstructionism. It was the modus operandi of the party throughout the Obama Administration — sabotage the President’s agenda at any cost. Mitch McConnell, for example, famously refused to even hold a confirmation hearing for Obama’s SCOTUS pick Merrick Garland. The GOP became so attached to obstructionism that it became the party’s sole reason for existence. In August of 2020, the Republican party failed to agree on a new platform and simply reused their platform from 2016 — which was to oppose the policies of the “current president,” Barack Obama. Someone had apparently forgotten to tell the GOP leadership that POTUS 44 had already left office.Most of Biden’s first year in office will be spent mopping up the many messes that Trump made while in office — including the pandemic that has claimed well over three hundred thousand American lives. But Biden’s goal is not to return us to the status quo — it’s, in his own words, to Build Back Better, and make sure that this country emerges from this epidemic stronger than when it began. One of the bigger problems facing this country today is climate change. But Biden won’t be tackling it alone. To help carry out his agenda, he’s selected Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico to run the Department of Interior, and Michael Regan of South Carolina to run the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA. Regan, if confirmed, would be the first black man to run the EPA, and Haaland would be the first Native American to run the Interior — an agency that also exercises vast sway over life on reservations throughout the country. “If confirmed,” however, is an important caveat.Both Haaland and Regan have earned the ire of numerous GOP Senators, and their confirmations are far from certain. This is to say nothing of Biden’s ambitious legislative plans, which a GOP Senate will certainly refuse to pass. And those plans aren’t limited to climate change. Biden’s bold proposals will include expanding health care, fixing our education system, criminal justice reform, and repealing the disastrous GOP tax cuts. Lindsey Graham, a former friend of Joe Biden, called those plans “dead on arrival.” Fortunately, we have an opportunity to flip the Senate this January.Right now, the Senate is split 52-48. But during the 2020 election, neither of the Republican candidates running for the two open Senate seats in Georgia were able to get more than the required 50% of the vote. As such, the elections are currently proceeding to a runoff, with Democrat Jon Ossoff facing Republican David Perdue, and Reverend Raphael Warnock facing Republican billionaire Kelly Loeffler. Perdue, who has been embroiled by repeated insider trading scandals, was against giving any stimulus payment to working and unemployed Americans. Loeffler, who has faced insider trading allegations of her own, bills herself as “more conservative than Attila the Hun.” Both have pledged to oppose Biden with all their hearts if reelected this January. So we need to make sure that doesn’t happen.If you can spare a minute to phonebank, do it. If you can spare a dollar to donate, give it. And, most importantly, if you live in Georgia, find a few minutes to vote. Because who knows? Maybe Perdue and Loeffler will finally see the need for enhanced unemployment benefits if they wind up having to use them this winter. 

Let's Get This Party Started

Historically, pollsters could ask voters about their views about issues and predict with some success how they would vote. Now, voters right, left, and center have somehow found their way into a centrifuge. It’s easy to pinpoint the cause, because like everything else in this era, the reason for the chaos is … Donald Trump.The votersOut from one side of the centrifuge pours a mixture of conservatives and progressives, moderates and many who don’t pay much attention to politics at all.This mix of the informed and the clueless (on both left and right) is the familiar American electorate. Many voted for President-elect Biden because of his policies or personal qualities. This mix contains some who decided against Trump because he is vile. There are some informed voters who chose Trump because they overlook his loathsomeness but like his policies.Members of Biden’s blended family of progressives and conservatives have been in awe of where they’ve landed. It’s as if they’ve suddenly found themselves vacationing on Sesame Street happily cavorting with colorful new monsters. Political Twitter is filled with, “I can’t believe I agree with…” naming someone from the far opposite end of the political spectrum. The President-elect has promised that he’ll be a President for all Americans, whether they voted for him or not.The sticky matter that remains inside the sealed centrifuge compartment encompasses a subset of Trump acolytes of all types: cult worshipers, crooks, racists, bigots, misogynists. And some, we assume, “are good people.” That voter group will henceforth be described as “residue” and ignored. This is the GOP’s base.GOP, acquiredBy 2020, Trump and the GOP had fused, and ownership of the party of Lincoln was officially transferred to Trump at the Republican National Convention. The Republican platform committee meeting was abandoned (likely the only GOP gathering all year that was actually canceled, under the pretext of safety). The actual adopted platform was that the committee “would have undoubtedly unanimously agreed to reassert the Party’s strong support for President Donald Trump and his Administration.” Translated: “Our platform is anything Trump wants.” The rest of the platform yelled at Democrats and the press.During the rest of Trump’s term, with the virus raging, the GOP kept firmly to its plans of supporting Donald Trump against all reason, and working hard at its other action items, trashing Democrats and the press, and accomplishing almost nothing else.Lindsey Graham famously suggested that Trump’s 2016 nomination would end the GOP. As we approach 2021, this prediction hasn’t materialized. There have been several high-profile defections from Trump in the form of the never-Trump movement, which began as soon as Trump rode that escalator in 2015.Later defections have come from former politicians (who spoke up after their careers ended, or whose careers ended because Trump ended them with a well-aimed tweet). Others came from party insiders and some mid-career GOP strategists. Whether these departures are simply a referendum on one man or on the entire party won’t be clear for a while.This does raise the question:What is a political party for?Political parties are valuable in our democracy, for organizing, and for putting out a worldview for debate. Those disagreements used to focus primarily on scale: how much to spend to address the climate crisis, the appropriate level for a minimum wage, how stringent the gun laws should be, the extent of needed subsidies for health care, farmers, or entrepreneurs.Until the Trump era, all parties agreed that our voting mechanisms are delegated to the states and that elections are sacrosanct. Those earning fewer votes accept their defeats, concede, and rebuild.That’s true now only among those of us who departed the centrifuge, including rational Trump voters. The sticky residue demurs.These differences loom larger than the ordinary disagreements about scale. We knew this was coming from Trump. Then the GOP dove into the pool.For the rest of us, many deep in both the left and right had already joined forces at the Lincoln Project, the Bulwark, and many grassroots organizations in the runup to the election. Those who joined hands (virtually, of course, in the age of COVID) affiliated based on existential issues, and were not a bit concerned about party identity. We can continue to work with all those who looked at the 2020 election and knew right away that it was fair and definitive. It’s easy to decide who is on which team. Some of them even have hats.The never-Trump movement was generally relieved to see Joe Biden nominated. Emotional reactions to Biden’s victory speech and his subsequent press conferences have emanated from both sides of the left-right continuum.What does it mean to be affiliated with a political party, or to leave it? Tim Miller, once in communications roles in the Jeb Bush campaign and the Republican National Committee, came very close to suggesting that a significant chunk of those who left the GOP should unite behind Joe Biden’s center-left agenda. Miller points out that most of Biden’s wish list is already embraced by conservatives looking for “unyielding commitment to the equality and liberty of all, and then to facts, reason and knowledge” and “recognize immigration as a vital national asset and universal access to quality health care, public and private, a national obligation”.Disaffected Republican voters swung densely-populated suburbs to Biden. That landslide of popular votes? Wins in Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania? Without those commanding swings in formerly-reliable red districts, frivolous lawsuits might have oozed Trump into a second term. In the end, there were just too many states to overturn. Governing happens in the center. So does winning.Parties aren’t teams. They aren’t gangs. They don’t deserve loyalty or reverence against our consciences or our democracies. They’re a vessel for achieving goals that can’t be achieved by individuals. Parties should work for democracy, not for candidates. While we’re at it, candidates and political figures aren’t deities or rock stars, and we should stop dressing up dolls to look like them. Our political representatives are our employees. When they fail, it’s because we’ve been remiss at hiring or supervising them.What people can doWe can begin where we agree on goals. Then we can discuss means. To prepare for that, some New Year’s resolutions might help.Let’s discern the difference between news and political talk. News describes events that happen, without editing to create a narrative. Political talk comprises valuable analysis, unfounded predictions, gossip, and snark. Most of the content on all-news channels is not actual news. Healthy adults know how to allocate nutrition versus dessert. Figure it out.Let’s stop assuming we know the motivations of good-faith political opponents. That crosses the line between news and snark. When we agree about America, the rest is negotiation.We can work together with people with whom we disagree and make progress on some cooler policies before we delve into the hot wedge issues. Let’s support that and focus less on whatever we’re not getting.Let’s try to move the center a few degrees leftward of where it is now.Good-faith left and right voters are not as far apart as news-channel provocateurs contend. They are also not identical, as fringe voters contend. Left and right elected a center-left President. This means that we can find common ground.What parties can doIn a better political environment, the party should act as a sponsor, not a servant. Parties shouldn’t decide among nominees, but they could create some rules before candidates are printed on their primary ballots. Like home buyers who can walk away from their offers after inspections, political parties should not be forced to accept all candidates. Time will tell if the GOP wonders whether it should have created a rule or two in 2015.An obvious potential rule: require personal tax returns for release to primary voters and the press. Virtually all candidates do this voluntarily now. It’s not an undue burden to prove that your priority will be the people you represent. If parties won’t do this, states could take up the slack within legal bounds.Another possibility: limit the number of candidates on the party primary ballot. Parties already limit the candidates who qualify for debates. It’s possible that the large number of conventional Republican primary candidates in 2016 — senators and governors — split the mainstream vote, leaving only a few fringe candidates to consolidate the rest.What voters can doBlue advocates should be happy to offer our hospitality to principled conservatives until a constructive opposition party is built or repaired. Democrats and Republicans can be grateful that the guardrails of our democracy withstood the tsunami this time, because we were lucky. It couldn’t be clearer that we need better guardrails.In the long term, mandating transparency in election funding would be a good place to start. The former head of the Republican Party has endorsed many of the structural reforms initiated by Democrats and non-partisan groups.Democrats have allies among the never-Trump voters, a group that still wants to help Democrats remove all of Trumpism and Trump enablers currently in office. These are temporary workers in the Democratic camp, and progressives would be wise to embrace their support. It will be too soon that they use their well-honed campaigning tactics against Democrats when the odor of the Trump era dissipates.The most important action is for voters to become knowledgeable enough to vote in every single race. This might mean an occasional vote for the opposition party’s candidate. It will almost never mean a vote for a third-party nominee.What to do right awaySo, Georgia, it’s time for you to speak up. The legendary Georgia bark is healing. We need your bark and your bite. Vote by January 5 for Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock. If you’re not a Georgia voter, you can donate or help the two campaigns in other ways. Permanent change comes from down the ballotPresidential elections get a lot of deserved attention, but other contests create fundamental, long-lasting changes. The House of Representatives and Senate write the laws, and they don’t even need a president to sign a good one. The Senate confirms federal judges, including Supreme Court justices. These judges decide whether the congressional laws are constitutional, so their appointments matter nearly as much as the legislators who write the bills.A president without a Senate majority needs to select more moderate court nominees to get a confirmation, but a one-term president with an obliging Senate can remake the entire federal judiciary lasting a long time.In the 2020 election, local lawmakers limited voting as far as their local courts would allow. They intentionally created delays in vote counting, knowing that this would simmer on right-wing media to build a false fraud narrative. They nearly succeeded in getting their legislatures to override valid election results. The culprits were always Republicans in 2020, but the pendulum could swing back and put dangerous Democrats in office.We voters delegate our democracy to others that we hire through elections. Our future depends on the choices we make today. Get informed. Get out and vote. We can make a government that makes us all proud. Let’s get this party started.

The Battles in the War for the Soul of the Nation

The Grim Reaper, Moscow Mitch, Massacre Mitch. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has earned and self-appointed many nicknames going into what will be his seventh term in the U.S. Senate. Of the ones listed, the last two were given to him by his rivals and opponents. The first, however, McConnell gave himself last year, promising to be the executioner of any progressive policies Democrats dared to introduce while he serves as Senate majority leader. Credit where credit is due, he has more than earned that title, although I'm not sure that should be a point of pride for any responsible elected official.“If I’m still the majority leader in the Senate, think of me as the Grim Reaper," McConnell told a group of community leaders in Owensboro, Kentucky. "None of that stuff is going to pass," he bragged, referring to many policies that would benefit his own constituents. To be specific, he confirmed to Fox News anchor Bret Baier earlier this year that he was sitting on 395 pieces of legislation.What are some of those bills? Firstly, common sense gun reform. Last summer, two mass shootings in two days killed 32 people in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, less than a week after three were killed in a shooting in Gilroy, California. It was a horrific period, even by American standards. All three shooters purchased their guns legally, and had records of alarming behavior that should have disqualified them from buying firearms. Social media and message board posts of violent racism as well as lists of people to rape and kill could have been discovered if the perpetrators underwent strict background checks, as two bills passed by the House of Representatives earlier in 2019 would have mandated. While the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 and the Enhanced Background Checks Act collect dust on Massacre Mitch's desk, with McConnell not even dignifying the bills by bringing them to the Senate floor for a vote, Americans die every day due to avoidable and senseless gun violence.An iconic and popular bipartisan bill, reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act has been indefinitely put on hold by McConnell. Introduced by President-elect of the United States Joe Biden as a senator, the multi-pronged approach to addressing domestic violence became law in 1994. It has been hailed by the ACLU as “one of the most effective pieces of legislation enacted to end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.” Providing for shelters for victims, support to law enforcement and preventative measures, the bill was reauthorized in 2013, when Joe Biden was vice president. After expiring on February 15, 2019, the reauthorization passed the House on April 4 with the support of every House Democrat and 33 House Republicans. Since then, despite pressure from activists, politicians, law enforcement and more, Mitch McConnell has refused to take action. In December of 2019, Houston Police Chief Art Acevado called out McConnell for refusing to allow a vote on the bill after a Houston police officer was killed in the line of duty by an abusive boyfriend with a firearm, a death that could have been prevented by the VAWA, which would have closed the “boyfriend loophole,” which allows abusing domestic partners to legally purchase firearms.Lastly, and perhaps most importantly at the moment, the HEROES Act lays in McConnell's office as America is in the throes of one of the worst public health emergencies and economic crises in American history. Passed by the House of Representatives on May 15 of this year, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act would provide desperately needed relief to the millions of Americans suffering mentally, physically and economically from the coronavirus pandemic. The bill is a comprehensive measure to alleviate some of the burdens faced by families, businesses, communities and healthcare providers. Amongst many other things, the bill would provide a $1,200 check for every American, enhanced unemployment benefits for the millions who have lost or are struggling to find a job, increased funding for food stamps, reimbursements to health care providers for lost revenue, additional funding for effective testing and tracing measures, assistance for businesses to keep employees on their payrolls, expanded funding for housing and utility assistance and extended eviction and foreclosure moratoriums. These are all measures that, directly or indirectly, can be matters of life and death, but the Grim Reaper has made it clear that he has no intention of helping. He called the bill “unserious,” but just like the problems facing Americans, the HEROES Act is as serious as a heart attack, which would have been a reason to deny health care coverage if McConnell could've forced through the GOP's pathetic Obamacare replacement.Why bring attention to these bills? Why point out Mitch McConnell's inaction on crucial legislation? Because we have the power to right his wrongs. We can take the gavel out of McConnell's hands, by electing Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock to the Senate in January. If Democrats can win both of those seats, the Senate would be evenly split, and all tie-breaking votes would be cast by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.We know that this has been a long and grueling campaign. We feel the fatigue that we thought would end in November, but common sense gun reform, the Violence Against Women Act, and serious coronavirus relief can be passed with a new Democratic majority in the Senate to partner the existing majority in the House, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the White House. Now, more than ever, the American people need serious and honorable leadership that places their needs above partisan gridlock, corporate sycophancy and special interest kowtowing. It is time we deliver for America.

We're All in Recovery Now

The glimmer of leadership has begun to emerge in America, like the sun poking up from the horizon. We did it. We excised the tumor that is Donald Trump, but there’s a lot of scar tissue.That scar tissue unfortunately still pervades the body politic. Many Biden voters are surprised and horrified that 70 million of their fellow citizens wanted to rehire Trump. Many Trump voters are speechless that any of us would have voted for Biden. After all, there weren’t any Biden boat parades.Incumbents normally have a re-election advantage, but nothing is normal now. Trump lost, in the middle of this pandemic, where his incompetence and indifference were there for all to see. This all took place in a sheltered environment that made it unusually difficult to vote. Yet voters for both candidates were very motivated, as is apparent from overall turnout. Or mail-in voting and extended (and safe) early voting simply made it easier to cast a ballot.Very little changed in voting patterns from 2016. Trump lost support in a few demographic groups and gained support in others, but nothing spectacular. Joe Biden recovered several midwestern states lost by Clinton in 2016, but that might simply have been the absence of a strong third party candidate. Georgia’s win might have come down to successful registration efforts that finally aligned the voter rolls with the state’s true demographics.Democrats need to adjust to the reality that 70 million voters, virtually half of America, chose to retain Donald Trump for president. Just like last time.Joe Biden’s electoral college win came down to 70,000 votes in Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin and the Omaha area of Nebraska, not very much different than the 2016 vote difference that put Trump in office. We Biden voters think Trump voters are misinformed. The Trump voters think we’re misinformed. We have Stockholm syndrome, because there isn’t enough outrage on Earth to cover the last four years of misdeeds, and we have let many abominations slide. And some in America are still sure that Trump is about to pivot. Any moment now.Sure, a large part of our broken culture is that we’ve self-selected our sources for information and we suck at making these choices. Those who monetize information know this better than we do. The implications of social media’s role in weaponizing our politics, and whether these activities will be punished is under discussion. But we need to heal now. And “we” means all of us.Let’s face it, many of the Trump supporters appear to be in a cult. In a cult, only the leader matters. Only whatever the leader says can be considered the truth. Not only can Trump shoot someone on Fifth Avenue with impunity, he can inspire his supporters to plan or actually commit murder on his behalf, whether it’s against protesters, or against a governor. Or they might recruit for a call to war from a state GOP or in the swan song of a radio personality.It’s hard to show empathy right now, but we have to, for the country that we love. America isn’t just an idea, and it isn’t just a nation; we’re a family. Families try to reconcile for the good of the future. And temperatures will cool by January, literally and figuratively. The silly performance art of frivolous lawsuits and political grandstanding will go nowhere. Joe Biden will lay his hand on a Bible he’s actually read, and we will have our new President.There’s reason to be hopeful that our sharp division isn’t permanent.Oxygen starvationWithout the presidential podium, Trump is less newsworthy. Trump is planning rallies and a possible 2024 run. But he’ll have to pay for the venues with funds he has to raise, get to them without Air Force One, and maybe he’ll have to convince people to pay for tickets that won’t include a red hat. He runs the risk that the gatherings are poorly attended, and he’d have to hold them in places like Erie, Pennsylvania, a place he doesn’t want to visit, in a state that he lost Supremely. His rallies would draw people he doesn’t really like, when temperatures are literally and figuratively cooler. Every potential rally would be in a town without a Trump Hotel in which to stay, and likely without TV coverage. This is Trump’s nightmare.Channel surfingTrump is already burning bridges with some familiar media supporters that don’t show enough fealty to him. Fox News has already inspired Trump to recommend other outlets for an environment of more fantasy, less news, and added comfort. A brief Newsmax win in evening viewership simply demonstrates that these close contests between small viewer numbers (each around 200k watching) don’t represent an important part of television viewership, even during the pandemic, when nobody has anything else to do.A New TargetAfter Joe Biden is inaugurated, especially if the Senate is tied, actual news outlets will have a cornucopia of grievances to air without even acknowledging the private citizen Trump will be. There will be real and manufactured grievances against the White House, attributed (even if inherited) responsibility for economic stumbles, and a whole lot of hypocrisy, such as not confirming a Cabinet nominee because of a history of “mean tweets”. That sounds like a new rule. Prepare yourself for a lot of those.Branded with the Scarlet LTrump himself might not look as invincible after he is unable to reverse the election results. Some portion of his voters will always believe that the election was rigged. Some will realize that the surprisingly good Republican performance means that the election was not rigged, or they might figure out that voters just didn’t like Trump. Whatever rationale wins out, Trump’s brand as a winner is taking a beating.It’s official. Trump is a loser, in public opinion, in the media, and in many courtrooms. And we don’t know what more we will learn after Trump leaves office, either from those who have honored meaningless non-disclosure agreements until now, or those who have feared the power of the presidency.Furthermore, without the protection of DOJ guidance, it’s possible that federal, state or local charges might distract Trump from playing offense to playing defense. And he just might lose all over again.It’s hard to imagine, but days will go by without hearing from Donald Trump. There’s a lot to look forward to in 2021.So what should we do now?Recognize that we’re all in recovery. Maybe you remember how you felt in 2016, or in 2020 during the “red mirage” of November 3. That feeling that you don’t know your country? You don’t. And neither do Trump voters. Have some empathy. Be gracious. We won.While the new executive branch is coming into view, and in the future, don’t use Trump as a benchmark, ever. If you thought it was wrong for Trump to withhold his taxes, it’s wrong for your favorite candidate, too. Let’s hold our own politicians to a high standard, not just the low bar Trump couldn’t clear.One silver lining has been that Trump (along with GOP elected officials) revealed the slippery slope that can skid our democracy into oblivion. Never take your own vote for granted. Don’t use this valuable tool just to make a statement; it makes our government. Recognize how important you are.Emulate the Never-Trump Republicans. The “yellow-dog Democrat” was so named because they’d vote for any Democrat, “even a Catholic”, in 1928. That nickname isn’t a compliment. Democrats shouldn’t condescend; they hold a longevity record for being the party of bigotry. Blind obedience to a political party, or a government, or even a family, in the face of misconduct, is wrong, no matter who does it. Let’s hope that democracy always trumps party, even Trump’s party.Appreciate the federal and state career employees who do their jobs so professionally. They are both politically opinionated and fiercely non-partisan in their work. They are remarkably competent, and they endure largely unwarranted criticism. Some criticism comes from those who don’t like their decisions. Even more comes from those who don’t like our government at all. Now it’s coming from those who don’t like the guardrails protecting our democracy from those who don’t like our government. No matter how hard the losers always look for the election fraud that’s originated by voters, they’re nearly always unable to find it.Yes, the Trump cult is engaging in fantasy right now, and some of it is dangerous. But even the worst of this type of person has always been with us, and they are often caught before they do actual damage. And as long as they burrow back into the bushes, we can generally ignore them, because career government employees have our backs. When the darkest of us are invisible and inactive, they’re hardly more threatening than the moon-landing deniers or those that believe that the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover was really a funeral procession.Sure, some conspiracy theories are more dangerous than others. Conspiracy theories are tantalizing, not only to the fringes, and not limited to one side of the aisle. Admit it; at some point in your life, you probably believed something with all your heart, only to learn that it wasn’t true (Santa excluded, of course). It’s hard to give up a false belief.You probably don’t worry about Holocaust deniers and 9/11 “truthers” every day, and it’s likely that you won’t need to worry daily about election truthers for all that long. The term “truther” isn’t an accident; it’s a framing technique for a lie. It’s wise to notice that sort of thing in the news you’re reading today. Framing is the way conspiracy theories gain traction.You probably have friends and family pull you aside to whisper about aliens, about pharma, about an ethnic group that’s pulling our strings. You smile and move on. It’s good advice, even among voter groups. Try to find common ground when someone you meet is disappointed, but sane. Ignore the insane, with compassion.For ourselves, it’s not enough to be a little better than what we see around us. We have to be principled, and criticize our own side when they don’t meet the standards we hold for the other side — in character, not policy. Let’s all keep disagreeing about policy. It makes for a better country.The cult groupthink that has undermined the GOP could happen to any of us, or all of us. We were lucky this time. Trump wasn’t disciplined or informed enough to take us all with him, only half of us. We’re too diverse to buy his bigotry.We dodged the bullet this time. Let’s learn from that.Albert Brooks plays a journalist in the movie Broadcast News. He makes a haunting speech comparing a charming colleague (played by the engaging William Hurt) to the devil. Brooks’ character predicts that when the devil shows up, he will sneak in without the long, red, pointy tail that would give his identity away. Funny thing, in this movie’s prophecy, even the actual devil is much kinder than Donald Trump:He will be attractive! He'll be nice and helpful. He'll get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation. He'll never do an evil thing! He'll never deliberately hurt a living thing... he will just bit by little bit lower our standards where they are important. Just a tiny little bit. Just coax along flash over substance. Just a tiny little bit. And he'll talk about all of us really being salesmen. And he'll get all the great women.Someday that person will show up. We’d better be ready. 

Sorry, GOP Senate. The Party's Over

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham famously mused on May 3, 2016, “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed.......and we will deserve it.”Surprisingly, this tweet is still live on Graham’s Twitter feed, the only remnant of an earlier version of the man who once appealed to late Senator and war hero John McCain.Some of us are grateful that the existential threat to our centuries-old democracy came from the buffoon Donald Trump, rather than a more capable authoritarian villain. Trump’s the one in the spy movies who handcuffs the hero ineptly, and then faces the camera to regale us all with his evil plan. Then he’s foiled by the hero’s swift wrist shake to the handcuffs and a karate chop, and the world is saved.It isn’t hard to understand Donald Trump’s behavior. Simply put, he has certain appetites, on behalf of only himself, and they need to be met right now. When Trump’s needs have coincided with those of Senate Republicans, they have been happy to support whatever he asks, and they have been rewarded with small and large gifts. Small gifts might include glowing tweets and campaign visits sparkling with television coverage, like a diamond bracelet on the wrist of a mistress.There were large gifts, too, such as controversial executive policy orders on immigration and the removal of environmental protections for short-term personal or corporate gains. These initiatives play well with the rightmost edges of the voter base and the donor class. They also starve our future and enable politicians — who hope to have lifetime careers — to keep their legislative fingerprints off of the less-desirable outcomes in the long run. “I never would have supported a Muslim ban! I’m shocked that you would accuse me of that!” says everyone still in office in 2028.Controlling both the Senate and the White House offered the GOP a large helping of tax cuts and more wealth inequality. Control of the Senate bestowed court-packing with regressive judges to fulfill promises made over decades to the party fringe. Put a pin in that, Democrats. A President needs the Senate to effect the kind of change that outlasts one’s term.But when you make a deal with the devil, sometimes the devil expects you to pay up with your soul.The year 2020 presented a slippery slope for the majority-Republican Senate, because this was the moment that the needs of Donald Trump went to war with the oath to the Constitution they all swore when they took office.The slide accelerated in January, with impeachment. To summarize, Donald Trump wanted the president of Ukraine, as a condition of the aid we taxpayers would fund, to announce an investigation into possible Joe Biden corruption. It wouldn’t be necessary to do the investigation (indeed, that would be self-defeating, as there was no corruption to find.) The announcement itself would achieve the goal. Foreign election interference had helped Trump in 2016, and there were few consequences to any of the actors. Why change strategies?The divide between Trump’s personal need (to be re-elected) and our democracy (fair elections without bribed foreign interference) was apparent in a phone call witnessed by many people who testified under oath. This is a textbook-level impeachable offense. Poor Lindsey Graham agreed. “We put conditions on aid all the time," he told reporters. "But if you said I’m not going to give you money unless you investigate my political opponent to help me politically, that would be completely out of bounds.” Oops.When the House sent the articles of impeachment along their path to removing Donald Trump from office, every Senate Republican (except Mitt Romney-UT and Susan Collins-ME) voted not to call witnesses. To his credit, Lamar Alexander (TN) said, "If you've got eight witnesses saying that you left the scene of an accident, you don't need nine."In the end, though, Alexander paid no attention to the testimony of the twelve witnesses he had in hand. Lindsey Graham certainly didn’t want to be held to his clear statement about wrongdoing. Only Mitt Romney voted for impeachment, and only for one count. One count would have been enough. Susan Collins, who would have preferred to have witnesses, voted against the impeachment itself, believing that Donald Trump had learned his lesson. Indeed he had.Enter the coronavirus. Avoiding the likely mocking by Trump and his followers, Senate Republicans appeared frequently at indoor events without masks. They hosted and attended high-profile outdoor events without requiring or even encouraging mask-wearing or distancing. For example, the vaguely-gloating celebration to announce the Amy Coney Barrett nomination was one of several Republican-endorsed superspreader events. Yet Senate Republicans occasionally recognized aloud that mask-wearing made America safer, with the hope that Trump might set a decent example. He didn’t.The GOP Senators followed Trump down the path of ignoring the coronavirus (because of its possible effect on Trump’s dreams of a second term, and maybe more terms than that). But the stakes became higher when it became obvious that Trump’s re-election wasn’t a sure thing.GOP Senators had been tested once, having been asked to pick sides during the February 5 impeachment vote: free and fair elections with a chance to win or lose, or guaranteed winning through whatever was necessary.Trash absentee ballots? Fine. Disparage American city voters with barely-disguised racism? No problem. Interfere with state ballot counting timelines to create chaos? Sounds like a plan. In the 2020 general election, they chose whatever Trump’s playbook would be. Few spoke up.For the record, the plan worked for nearly everyone but Trump. Vulnerable Senate seats in Maine and South Carolina were saved. The Senate majority was still Republican, but threatened by two inconclusive results in Georgia.On Election Day 2020, GOP leaders were silent and sometimes fretful in the face of Trump’s election threats. Since Election Day, they’ve been worse. Many won’t refer to Joe Biden as President-elect, though they will use the word “transition” and admit that the election is over.Some have created a cocoon around themselves. Some won’t talk to reporters. Some have been admirable. Lisa Murkowski (AK) has asked Trump to concede. Others (thank you again, Mitt Romney) have recognized the danger to our democracy.Rand Paul (KY) floated the possibility of wrongdoing, using ominous and empty terms like “Interesting…” and “Fraud?” based on the (very common) compilation of paper ballots during the night. His evidence? A blogger’s review and a suspicion that “Big Tech” is a malicious actor. Fox Business, not a lefty site, disputed these claims in a scare-quote-peppered article..Senator Rob Portman (OH) tried to discourage President-elect Joe Biden from nominating Neera Tanden to lead the Office of Management and Budget. Referring to critical tweets about Republicans on Tanden’s Twitter account, Portman said, “Of all the jobs, that’s one where I think you would need to be careful not to have someone who’s overtly partisan.”Surely he would have objected when George W. Bush nominated a partisan sitting congressman to head that office, especially a nominee without budget experience. No, that nomination sailed through and Rob Portman himself became OMB Director in 2006. The Senate once understood that Presidents should be able to pick their own teams if the candidates are qualified.Similarly, of former Fed Chairman Janet Yellen’s nomination to lead the Treasury Department, Senator Chuck Grassley (IA) said, “I believe that she would get a favorable view.” But he noted that he’d need to review her tax returns before making a decision. He must have waived that requirement when he made his decisions about supporting Donald Trump. He did have concerns about Trump’s recently-released tax documents, but only about how they got reported and apparently not what they revealed.Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, after most contested states had already certified their results, danced around Trump’s ability to “present his case”, knowing that Trump’s legal team has never suggested (because of the threat of perjury) that there is any fraud to find. He ends with, “And I think we are going to have to look at the effect of mail-in balloting." Asked if the election is rigged, he replied, “I mean, we’ll see.”We saw. It isn’t. Even after Trump’s landslide of a loss, the magnet that is Trump is still pulling away at the remnants of the GOP’s conscience.The other senator from Missouri, Roy Blunt, when asked if he considers Joe Biden to be the President-elect, “We are certainly moving forward as if that’s what’s going to happen on Jan. 20.” He added that the “president-elect will be president-elect when” the electors vote. Compare that to the day after Election Day four years ago, when he congratulated “President-elect Trump”. New winner, new rules.On the topic of new winners, the two Republican senators trying to keep their Georgia seats issued a joint statement calling for the resignation of their own state’s Republican Secretary of State. “The Secretary of State has failed to deliver honest and transparent elections,” they said in a joint statement. “He has failed the people of Georgia, and he should step down immediately.” They offered no evidence of fraud.Perhaps they were simply trying to demonstrate by example how to fail the people of Georgia, in which case they were doing a bang-up job. There’s a real multi-dimensional quality to disenfranchising your own voters while you are interviewing with them for a return gig.At the moment, Senator Lindsey Graham isn’t willing to discuss the President-elect, or transitions, or democratically-elected leaders, only unspecified “suspicious” systems and possible “shenanigans”. But four years and a 180 degree swerve after his warnings to the GOP, he told the truth about the party one more time. "If Republicans don’t challenge and change the U.S. election system, there’ll never be another Republican president elected again," he said. Another way to go might be to broaden the party’s appeal beyond bigots and cultists, but maybe that’s just too hard now. It’s spineless, and shameless.That’s the final lesson that Republicans have absorbed from the Trump era. According to Trump, the world needs what is good for me, and anything else doesn’t matter. When democracy doesn’t deliver a win for me, we must change from our democracy to something else that does.There’s a motto for investors who want to understand their own risk tolerance: Would you like to eat well or sleep well? This expression means that risky investments often provide better returns, but they come with enough worry to disrupt your nights. Trump was always a risky investment. Senators, how’s your sleep right now?The Senate was once an august deliberative body, where hot issues were sent from the raucous House of Representatives to cool off. The GOP was once the Grand Old Party. Now they have to avert their eyes, away from the Proud Boys who are neither proud nor boys, away from supporting the impassioned Trump supporter who crossed state lines to murder peaceful protestors, away from assassination threats to lawmakers and civil servants who obstruct Donald Trump, and away from parades festooned with Trump flags embracing Confederate flags. Could they have expected that they’d have to do this when they signed on to ride along with Trump in 2016? Probably.Having a robust opposing party in the Senate is valuable, even to Democrats. But that party needs to have at least one of two characteristics. Either it needs to operate in good faith, or it needs to be in the minority. Right now we have neither, and governance is suffering for it. The good faith problem can't be fixed in the short term, because Senators have six-year terms and Trump still has coattails. But the majority-party problem can be fixed in about a month, by electing Democrats to both Senate seats in Georgia.The Republican party has figured out how to get people to vote in down-ballot elections. It's time for Democrats to step up and ballot down. And funny thing, a down-ballot election is coming up on January 5.The GOP, the party of Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln, has instead become the party of misguided businessman Herbert Hoover and bigot Barry Goldwater. It’s been reconfigured into the bloated, racist, authoritarian image of Donald Trump. Not grand. Not old. And with any luck, the party’s over. Don’t say you weren’t warned.Get a mail-in ballot.Vote early now or drop off the ballot and stay safe.Vote for Democrats Reverend Raphael Warnock AND Jon Ossoff .OR..do even more by donating or volunteering, even if you aren’t from Georgia.

Georgia, It's Up to You

“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” This expression is associated most with the celebrity artist Andy Warhol, and the attribution feels right even though he probably didn't originate the quote. If you have never heard of Andy Warhol, well, then, he was probably right.If you currently live in Georgia, your fifteen minutes has begun and it will last about two months. You’re probably drowning in campaign ads, mailers, and phone calls. Much of the attention will calm down after the Senate races take place on January 5 (unless they go to a runoff again, which is simultaneously terrifying and hilarious). Now you know how lottery winners feel.Right now, Republicans control the Senate. The situation is this: if both Democrats Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock win their Senate races, the Senate is a 50/50 split. This would change Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from a dictator to a team player, or at least move him in the right direction along that continuum.Georgia, your fame gives you power, and it’s important that you wield this power by voting. You’re hearing a lot about the candidates right now. They’re all making accusations about each other, and you’re on your own to sort out the truth about whatever they’re saying. That’s not what we’re discussing here.You might also be hearing about the strategic importance of this election and of those two Senate seats. This is very true, and we’d like to make our case strategically.Georgia is famous at the moment partly because you all shocked the rest of the country by voting for Joe Biden. Only the nerdiest of pollsters colored your state as a pinkish possible Biden win. You did this. You registered yourselves and your friends. You stood in line at polling stations or sealed the envelopes to perfection.This presidential outcome matters partly because it will help others understand the state’s politics in the future. For one thing, Georgia is a bit of a mystery to outside observers when it comes to party affiliation. Unlike most other states, Georgia voters don’t have to declare a political party. You only have to specify a preferred ballot to cast a vote in a primary election if there are multiple parties selecting nominees. All those pundits and pollsters have no idea whether there are more Democrats, Republicans, or independents in Georgia.This means that it’s really difficult to measure party loyalty (that is, the voters that are likely to vote for a particular party’s nominee). So it’s harder to predict outcomes, there’s no “base” that’s easily measured, and there are few turnout models to project. This means that right now, your vote matters as much as it possibly can matter.Typically, midterm elections, local elections, primaries, and runoffs like this don’t get the turnout of a presidential election. And with Donald Trump on his way out the door, even the momentum that Joe Biden got from people who loathe Trump might not be the motivator it was on November 3rd.It’s often mentioned that nationally, Democrats tend to vote in larger numbers in presidential elections (that is, only every four years), and they’re outnumbered disproportionately by Republicans in elections that take place at other times (that is, most elections). Maybe that’s why there are so many Republicans in down-ballot positions. When you don’t vote, you’re giving your unused vote to the other side.This January 5 runoff election is as important as the one we just finished. Without these two Senate seats, Joe Biden will be unable to accomplish the job we just elected him to do.To be clear, getting only one of the seats is only marginally better than losing them both. To get to a tie, both Democrats need to win.The present roadblocks in the Senate include both the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate rules themselves. Mitch McConnell sat on bills passed by the House, including a needed second stimulus to help people through this economic disaster and another bill to restore certain voter protections. They weren’t even brought up for discussion. Because the Vice President is the Senate tie-breaker, if a bill comes to a stalemate in 2021, Vice President Harris will be able to cast the vote that makes it a law. A tied Senate makes it so much easier.The Majority Leader refuses to confirm Supreme Court Justices (and for that matter, many lower court justices), unless there’s a Republican in the White House. He hijacked a Justice from President Obama, and hijacked another Justice from President-elect Joe Biden. The Republican Senate starved the courts during Barack Obama’s presidency, and has packed the empty chairs with arch conservatives since 2017.The Senate majority party chairs each committee, and has launched investigations intended to harm political opponents. They’ve promised to continue to do so during the Biden presidency. The same Senate was unwilling to bring in witnesses or review the testimony from the House impeachment inquiry and cleared Donald Trump without viewing any evidence. In a 50/50 Senate, decisions about matters like this are handled jointly by both parties. Elections have consequences.Mitch McConnell also threatened to prevent President-elect Biden’s Cabinet nominees from confirmation if they are not sufficiently “moderate” along a McConnell-defined scale. This is a largely unprecedented act of defiance in the previously-collegial body that was the Senate. It was once assumed that a President’s Cabinet nominees should be judged only on merit.Maybe you’d just as soon have a split government. That’s understandable. You’ll have that even in a tied Senate. The filibuster prevents bills that are too extreme from getting a hearing. Once they reach the floor, moderate Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) will keep bills that are far from center from getting passed. This is good news for moderates, though it frustrates progressives. The Senate, when it functions, is a deliberative body.A 50/50 Senate will give you a split government. A Republican Senate will give you no government.If you live in Georgia, and you want to get Mitch McConnell out of power, you can do that by voting in this election and getting everyone you know to go the distance with you. Here are the details:Register now (the deadline is December 7) if you aren’t registered already OR if you will turn 18 by January 5, 2021.Request an absentee ballot now. You can track your vote after you cast it. You can return your ballot by mail or leave it in a drop box. If you’d like to vote in person, Georgia will hold 16 days of early in-person voting, including early voting in Fulton County at State Farm Arena and Mercedes-Benz Stadium. There’s a lot of information for you on Georgia’s My Voter Page.It isn’t often that the votes of a single state change everything. Right now, that single state can be Georgia, and that voter can be you.Famously kind Georgian Jimmy Carter once said, “All I want is the same thing you want. To have a nation with a government that is as good and honest and decent and competent and compassionate and as filled with love as are the American people.”We’re working on it, Jimmy.