Friday Talking Points -- The GOP's Double Standards

[ Posted Friday, February 26th, 2021 – 18:31 UTC ]

In the past week, two of the biggest political stories have been which way the Senate parliamentarian was going to rule on an arcane rule in the chamber, and how one of President Joe Biden's nominees might be in trouble because in the past she had (gasp!) tweeted such mean things as: "vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz" (a statement that is not provably true only because vampires are mythical creatures while the heartlessness of Ted Cruz is, sadly, all too real).

Not to belabor the obvious, but this is a decided difference from the past four years. To drive the point home: last week there were zero nasty or racist or misogynistic tweets from the president, there were zero instances of the White House press secretary just flat-out lying from the briefing room podium, and zero times when the president was obviously completely and utterly ignorant about either basic facts, reality, how the Constitution works, or federal law in general. None. Zero. Nary a one.

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The Crucial Overlooked Issue In The Minimum Wage Debate

[ Posted Thursday, February 25th, 2021 – 17:39 UTC ]

The increase in the federal minimum wage currently being discussed in Congress will be revolutionary if it passes, but not for the reason you might first suspect. Admittedly, a raise to $15 an hour will be monumental in absolute terms, since it will more than double the paltry current rate. That's pretty notable, but it's not what I mean when I say revolutionary. Because the truly revolutionary thing about this bill is that it will quite likely be the last minimum wage raise Congress ever votes on. And surprisingly, this is actually a good thing.

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Manchin Is The New Lieberman

[ Posted Wednesday, February 24th, 2021 – 17:57 UTC ]

While everyone agrees on the obvious truism that President Joe Biden is now the most powerful Democrat in Washington, the person next in line in this new partisan power structure isn't as obvious. Because it is not actually Kamala Harris, Chuck Schumer, or Nancy Pelosi, despite them being (respectively) vice president, Senate majority leader, and speaker of the House. No, instead the biggest power player in Washington after Biden is now Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. He has now set himself up to be "the next Joe Lieberman." Under President Barack Obama, Lieberman acted as a virtual caucus of one, determining what was allowably "centrist" enough for him to support and vote for. Manchin has now thrust himself into exactly the same position, and by doing so will hold the keys to Biden's ultimate legislative success or failure for at least the next two years.

Democrats, of course, only hold the slimmest margin possible in the Senate, a majority of 51 to Republicans' 50 (counting Harris as the tie-breaker). This means that any one Democrat who crosses the aisle is going to almost guarantee failure for Biden, whether on a piece of legislation (through the budget reconciliation process) or for his presidential nominees (which now only need a simple majority, due to Harry Reid dropping the first "nuke," which eliminated the filibuster for cabinet appointees). With every single vote needed, each and every Democratic senator now really has the power to deny Biden a win. Most will not ever use this power, but Manchin is already signalling his intent to do so whenever he sees fit.

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Democrats Hold The Winning Hand On COVID Relief Bill

[ Posted Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021 – 17:31 UTC ]

Joe Biden's first major legislative initiative is going to be a winning one for Democrats, and (hopefully) a big anchor around the neck of all the Republicans in Congress who vote against it (which, as of this writing, looks like it's going to be "all of them"). It's rare that a bill this popular doesn't have bipartisan support, because most politicians on either side of the aisle know full well that voting for something wildly popular -- even if your party didn't propose it -- is usually good politics. It's something to brag about in the next election campaign, in normal times.

But even with Donald Trump finally relegated to the sidelines, the times are anything but normal in today's Republican Party. They've backed themselves into the corner of "no compromise, no surrender" when it comes to dealing with Democrats, and this could be a serious liability for them -- especially with moderate or independent voters (who generally hate partisan extremism and instead just want to see things get done in Washington).

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Fighting The Ongoing Big Lie

[ Posted Monday, February 22nd, 2021 – 17:49 UTC ]

Since the riot at the Capitol last month, both Democrats and the news media have managed a notable achievement, by slapping a label on what is actually a persistent and ongoing danger to both them and American democracy -- Republicans using made-up "voting fraud" claims to make it harder and harder for citizens to vote. Because this fake and non-existent "voter fraud" was not just what Trump latched on to in order to try and overturn an election result he didn't like, but it is also the root of a decades-long Republican attempt to cling to power even while getting a minority of the votes cast.

Both Democrats and the media quickly began using the old term "the Big Lie" to describe Trump's delusional view that the election was somehow "stolen" from him. But this has now grown to encompass not just all of Trump's complaints (about problems that somehow just could never be proven in any court), but also the entire idea of using "voter fraud" as a political wedge issue.

Democrats are going to need to keep this pressure up, because already Republicans are attempting to rewrite recent history to include the "belief" that "voter fraud" happened on a wide scale. Always missing from these Republican concerns is the fact that they themselves whipped this delusional fantasy up among their own base, meaning it would never have existed without their own participatory fearmongering (in fear of drawing Trump's wrath, since he had long since morphed into the Fearmonger -in-Chief). The problem (according to Republicans) is no longer even "election fraud," but is now just the fear of "election fraud" -- which is all the excuse Republicans need to roll back all those voting reforms that the COVID-19 pandemic made necessary.

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Friday Talking Points -- Ted Fled!

[ Posted Friday, February 19th, 2021 – 18:44 UTC ]

After one short month in office, President Joe Biden has already achieved his biggest goal. The country is united again. We all universally agree on one thing, with true bipartisan spirit. What is this unifying belief which all Americans now share? That Ted Cruz is an awful excuse for a human being.

We seem to have harkened back to a simpler time. A time when political scandals didn't involve cheapening the image of America on the world stage. A time when political scandals usually didn't revolve around a blatant attack on the bedrock institutions of a free democracy -- or a direct attack on democracy itself, for that matter. A time when politicians of all stripes -- even the worst ones -- were still capable of feeling shame and embarrassment. And a time when politicians caught doing something monumentally stupid had to pay a political price.

Of course, you may argue that Ted Cruz was already pretty universally loathed before this week, and that's hard to deny. Here are just some of the things people have said about him previously (and we hasten to point out, these are all real quotes, not satire):

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Biden Brilliantly Redefines Bipartisanship

[ Posted Thursday, February 18th, 2021 – 17:28 UTC ]

[Editorial Note: Already, one month in, I am finding quiet joy in sitting down to write an article and having to think about it. And not in the previous "there are just so many outrageous and scandalous stories from the White House in the past 24 hours that it is hard to choose among them all" sort of way. I mean, glancing casually at the headlines I see that Ted Cruz apparently took a vacation on Mars... although I could easily have mixed that up somehow, I will fully admit. But seriously, I find that I can choose to just not write about Ted Cruz today, because there are other subjects much more worthy of commenting upon. And that's a good feeling, I have to admit.]

President Joe Biden has had his ups and downs in his first month in office. His biggest down to date has been his propensity to telegraph much too early that he knows his bargaining position isn't going to carry the day -- before the bargaining is even really close to being over. He's done this on the push for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and now he's doing it on the immigration bill just proposed, by hinting that it might have to pass in several pieces instead of a comprehensive bill. Signaling what he'll ultimately accept too early undercuts Democrats fighting for the strongest bill possible, so this could be the start of a worrisome trend. However, Biden did hold rock-steady on the size of his COVID-19 relief bill, even in the face of faux bipartisanship, where Republicans offered an opening bid of less than one-third of what Biden wanted (proving it was really nothing more than the old "stall and obstruct" Republican tactics, in "bipartisan" clothing). So we'll have to wait to see which tendency becomes more prevalent in Biden, over the next few months.

But on the up side, Biden has already accomplished one brilliant political bit of jiu-jitsu. He has totally redefined "bipartisanship" in a way that bodes well for many progressive agenda items in the near future. This move was absolutely brilliant, even though few have realized it yet.

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Unvarnished Republican Dogma

[ Posted Wednesday, February 17th, 2021 – 17:44 UTC ]

Donald Trump changed a lot of things in American politics, including one that's likely to be around for some time to come -- normalizing the practice of a politician not using any "code words" or "dog whistles," but instead just boldly telling you what he really feels. The unvarnished truth, as he sees it, in other words. Why pussyfoot around? Just tell it like it is, and anyone who complains is obviously some sort of liberal weenie, so you can ignore all of them and their complaints as being too "woke," or something.

Thankfully, politicians not named "Donald Trump" still occasionally pay the price for such forthright public admissions. Exhibit A, today, is the former mayor of Colorado City, Texas. And I think his words truly need no introduction because they are pretty self-explanatory. In a now-deleted Facebook post, Mayor Tim Boyd wrote (in response to the ongoing winter disaster in his city):

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Returning To Normalcy

[ Posted Tuesday, February 16th, 2021 – 16:58 UTC ]

I had a choice of topics for today's column, one of which was weighing in on the debate over the possibility of earmarks returning to Congress. I say this to make a point -- American politics may not be back to normal by a long shot (since the Republican Party obviously hasn't quite returned from their Looney Tunes vacation yet), but in his four weeks in office, President Joe Biden has moved us all a significant way down the road to normalcy once again.

It is already being said that Sunday was the first day of Biden's presidency, because it was the first time Donald Trump truly does not belong in the news headlines any more. His second impeachment trial is over, so now anything he says or does will be -- at worst -- a secondary distraction. Or it should be, at any rate. Trump is excellent at tossing shiny, shiny objects to the news media just to create a feeding frenzy, so we'll have to see what happens when he (inevitably) breaks his self-imposed silence and starts giving interviews once again.

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From The Archives -- Moving Washington's Birthday

[ Posted Monday, February 15th, 2021 – 17:48 UTC ]

[Program Note: After following the impeachment trial all last week -- including a rare Saturday column -- I am punting for today's holiday and am just going to present a repeat column instead. Happy holiday Monday, everyone, and I'll see you back here tomorrow for a new column.]


Originally published February 17, 2014

Happy Presidents' Day to all!

Well, to all who live in Hawai'i, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Vermont, at the very least. These are the states which officially recognize today as "Presidents' Day." Unlike other federal holidays, however, there is much disagreement and controversy surrounding the holiday. Not so much the holiday itself, but over what to call it (and when to celebrate it). In states such as California and Alaska (and, notably, the state of Washington), the apostrophe moves and it is known as "President's Day." This can be read as either snubbing all the other presidents (since the holiday originally celebrated one president's birthday), or celebrating the presidency itself (or the day of the president, to put it another way). But even without such grammatical gymnastics, the day has plenty of other official titles. Some states such as Michigan and New Jersey dispense with the apostrophe altogether and just call it "Presidents Day." Some states get flowery ("Recognition of the birthday of George Washington" in North Dakota), and some get inclusive ("Lincoln's and Washington's Birthday" in Montana, "Lincoln/Washington/Presidents' Day" in Arizona, and "Washington and Lincoln Day" in Utah), and some even throw in a local personage to the mix ("George Washington's Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day" in Arkansas). Wikipedia lists ten separate official state titles for the holiday, in fact.

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