Queens Man Impeached Again

A Queens-born real estate developer made history Wednesday when he became the first U.S. president ever impeached twice by the House of Representatives.

Donald Trump, a 74-year-old lame duck Republican, is accused of inciting a lethal mob of far-right supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol in order to prevent Congress from certifying the results of his resounding loss in the November 2020 election. President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, recorded 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. . . .

In December 2019, Trump became the third president impeached by Congress — and the first from Queens.

-- David Brand, "Queens Man Impeached -- Again," Queens Daily Eagle, January 13, 2021.

Caitlin Flanagan on the Insurrectionists

Fired up by the Great Orator, they charged their way into the Capitol building, which turned out to be as heavily fortified as a slice of angel food cake. The proximate aim of the action was to get inside and stop the certification of the Electoral College vote so that Trump could win, the way Marty McFly went back in time to make sure his future parents fell in love so that he could be born. In one widely circulated video, police with riot shields tried to block the entry of one group of rioters, who yelled at them, “Pussies! Pussies!” And that was the first sign of some possible incoherence at the heart of the revolution. What was the cops’ manly option? Shooting the rioters? And more important: Isn’t this the pro-cop group, the party of law and order?

Once inside, they were bent on proving themselves fierce and intimidating—and they were those things. But when they got to the National Statuary Hall, on the second floor, where velvet ropes indicate the path that tourists must take, they immediately sorted themselves into a line and walked through it. In other words, they were biddable. They were men (and, yes, some women) lost in a modern world that no longer assumed they come first. They were looking for someone to tell them what to do. Trump told them what to do. So did the velvet ropes.

-- Caitlyn Flanagan, "Worst Revolution Ever," The Atlantic, January 10, 2021

Historians on the Insurrection

Megan Kate Nelson compiles historians' reactions to the Capitol Insurrection:

On January 6, 2021, a white-supremacist mob, incited by the President of the United States, attacked the U.S. Capitol building. . . . Historians immediately went to work, writing newsletters, columns, and OpEds to contextualize this event in the history of politics, white supremacy, law enforcement, and racist violence.

A list of their publications is below, in alphabetical order by author’s last name. These pieces use extended historical analysis to understand the events of January 6. This is a dynamic document, and will change as historians publish more pieces.

Mike Davis on the Insurrection

[S]omething unexpectedly profound happened: a deus ex machina that lifted the curse of Trump from the careers of conservative war hawks and right-wing young lions, whose ambitions until yesterday had been fettered by the presidential cult. Today was the signal for a long-awaited prison break. . . . the Republican Party has just undergone an irreparable split. By the White House’s Fuhrerprinzip standards, Pence, Tom Cotton, Chuck Grassley, Mike Lee, Ben Sasse, Jim Lankford even Kelly Loeffler are now traitors beyond the pale. This ironically enables them to become viable presidential contenders in a still far-right but post-Trump party. . . . the True Trumpists have become a de facto third party, bunkered down heavily in the House of Representatives. As Trump embalms himself in bitter revenge fantasies, reconciliation between the two camps will probably become impossible, although individual defections may occur. Mar-a-Lago will become base camp for the Trump death cult which will continue to mobilize his hardcore followers to terrorize Republican primaries and ensure the preservation of a large die-hard contingent in the House as well as in red-state legislatures. (Republicans in the Senate, accessing huge corporation donations, are far less vulnerable to such challenges.)

Tomorrow liberal pundits may reassure us that the Republicans have committed suicide, that the age of Trump is over, and that Democrats are on the verge of reclaiming hegemony. Similar declarations, of course, were made during vicious Republican primaries in 2015. They seemed very convincing at the time. But an open civil war amongst Republicans may only provide short-term advantages to Democrats, whose own divisions have been rubbed raw by Biden’s refusal to share power with progressives. Freed from Trump’s electronic fatwas, moreover, some of the younger Republican senators may prove to be much more formidable competitors for the white college-educated suburban vote than centrist Democrats realize. In any event, the only future that we can reliably foresee – a continuation of extreme socio-economic turbulence – renders political crystal balls useless.

-- Mike Davis in the New Left Review's new Sidecar blog, January 7, 2021

Trump/Raffensperger Election Call

There are but 16 days left in President Trump’s term, but there is no doubt that he will use all of his remaining time in office to inflict as much damage as he can on democracy — with members of a now-divided Republican Party acting as enablers.

That there are no limits to the lengths to which he will go in this ruinous effort was made clear from a phone call he made Saturday to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. In the call, Trump repeatedly urged Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to allow the secretary to recalculate the election results to show that the president, rather than President-elect Joe Biden, won the state.

The call, an audio of which was obtained by The Washington Post’s Amy Gardner, was as outrageous as it was chilling. Legal experts can debate how close to the line Trump was with the telephone call. Others can speculate about the president’s current state of mind. The content of the call speaks for itself, and the audio excerpts should be heard by anyone who cares about the integrity of elections in America.

Here was a desperate president alternately begging, pleading, cajoling and, yes, seeming to threaten a state official — and fellow Republican — by asking for a change in the outcome of an election that already had been recounted and then certified.

-- Dan Balz in The Washington Post, January 3, 2021

American Electoral Institutions Explained

Eric Levitz in New York Magazine on how political institutions keep American politics polarized between a median Democratic position and a right-of-median Republican position now that the urban/rural split between the two parties is entrenched:

By itself, the conservative movement’s apocalyptic paranoia might not constitute an existential threat to American democracy. The depths of the American right’s radicalism are formidable, but its breadth of popular support is not. The donors, activists, and primary voters who set the GOP’s agenda are more ideologically extreme than the Republican Party’s median general-election supporter. And so long as the GOP caters to the former, its national coalition is likely to be a minority one. Thus, if the United States were a majoritarian democracy — in which the Republican Party had to win a majority of the nation’s votes to have a hand in federal governance — then the party might soon find itself with sufficient incentive to marginalize its most extreme elements. But the U.S. is a very different kind of polity.

Every elected branch of the U.S. government structurally overrepresents low-density areas. And since America’s two parties are now polarized along urban-rural lines, the GOP has ballots to burn. Losing the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections hasn’t stopped Republicans from holding the White House for a majority of this millennium. Republican senators have represented a majority of America’s population for only two years in the last four decades — but Republicans have boasted Senate majorities for more than half of that period anyway. And many election forecasters expect the pro-Republican biases of the Senate and Electoral College to grow more pronounced in the years to come.

Those biases, combined with midterm elections that inherently favor the sitting president’s opposition — and a two-party system that ensures Republicans will always be the only option for “change” voters when a Democrat is in office — set a high floor beneath how far the GOP can realistically fall. One testament to this reality lies in the mounting evidence that Republicans have actually increased their support among nonwhite voters during the Trump era, even as the party has catered to white racial animus. With only two parties to choose from, socially conservative and/or disaffected nonwhite voters have proved willing to rally to the GOP banner even as Republicans have replaced their dog-whistle appeals to white grievance with foghorns. For these reasons, it is unlikely that Republicans will be consigned to the political wilderness long enough to make a break with the conservative movement thinkable.

-- Eric Levitz, "The RNC Has Made a Compelling Case for America’s Imminent Collapse," New York Magazine, August 25, 2020.

The Hellscape That Is Facebook

Scott Galloway: Rick, over the last decade, I was fascinated when you were talking about media mix. If you had a hundred bucks to spend on media, how has that mix changed in terms of where you spend that money? And if you could only go with one platform or channel to spend money, what would that be?

[Rick] Wilson: Twenty years ago, obviously the mix was 99 to 1. Or 99.5 to …

Galloway: TV?

Wilson: For TV.

Galloway: Even direct mail?

Wilson: Direct mail as a persuasion tool has been dead for decades. Direct mail is good for raising money. And even that is dying off.

Galloway: So, it was all TV. What is it now? You got a hundred bucks. Where do you spend it?

Wilson: If I have a hundred bucks right now, I spend 30 bucks on cable, I spend 35 bucks on digital, I spend 15 on broadcast. And then I do a mix of other stuff out there, depending on the market and the audience. There are still markets in this country that are great for radio. It’s insane.

Galloway: What platform has the best tools? I think I know what the answer is going to be.

Wilson: The hellscape that is Facebook is the most meaningful tool of political manipulation ever devised in the history of all mankind.

-- "How the Lincoln Project Gets Into Trump’s Head," New York Magazine, July 21, 2020