Archives for category: Politics

Writing in Commonweal, David Bentley Hart debunks the myths about socialism.

I graduated high school in 1956 and was politically aware during high school and college. I remember McCarthy-style Republicans denouncing every government program as “socialism,” which was the surepath to Communism and Stalinism. I grew up in Texas, where that overheated rhetoric was common. These days, I wonder if we have regressed to the toxic 1950s, as Republicans decry every social welfare program, every effort to reverse climate damage, every proposal to tax billionaires, as “socialism.” Thus I read and enjoyed this article.

Hart writes:

Not long ago, in an op-ed column for the New York Times, I observed that it is foolish to equate (as certain American political commentators frequently do) the sort of “democratic socialism” currently becoming fashionable in some quarters of this country with the totalitarian state ideologies of the twentieth century, whose chief accomplishments were ruined societies and mountains of corpses. For one thing, “socialism” is far from a univocal term, and much further from a uniform philosophy. I, for instance, have a deep affection for the tradition of British Christian socialism, which was shaped by such figures as F. D. Maurice (1805–1872), John Ruskin (1819–1900), Charles Kingsley (1819–1875), Thomas Hughes (1822–1896), F. J. Furnivall (1825–1910), William Morris (1834–1896), and R. H. Tawney (1880–1962), though I have also been influenced by such non-British social thinkers as Sergei Bulgakov (1871–1944), Dorothy Day (1897–1980), and E. F. Schumacher (1911–1977). None of these espoused any kind of statist, technocratic, secular, authoritarian version of socialist economics, and none of them was what we today think of as “liberal.” And yet their “socialist” leanings were unmistakable.

Moreover, just because a totalitarian regime happens to call itself socialist—or, for that matter, a republic, or a union of republics, or a people’s republic, or a people’s democratic republic—we are under no obligation to take it at its word. What we call “democratic socialism” in the United States is difficult to distinguish from the social-democratic traditions of post-war Western Europe, and there we find little evidence that a democracy becomes a dictatorship simply by providing such staples of basic social welfare as universal health care. At least, it is hard not to notice that the social-democratic governments of Europe have always gained power only by being voted into office, and have always relinquished it peacefully when voted out again. None of them has ever made war on free markets, even in attempting (often all too hesitantly) to impose prudent and ethically salutary regulations on business. Rather than gulags, death camps, secret police, arrests without warrant, summary executions, enormous propaganda machines, killing fields, and the like, their political achievements have been more in the line of the milk-allowances given to British children in the post-war years, various national health services, free eyeglasses and orthodonture for children, school lunches, public pensions for the elderly and the disabled, humane public housing, adequate unemployment insurance, sane labor protections, and so forth, all of which have been accomplished without irreparable harm to economies or treasuries.

Joe Scarborough, the host of “Morning Joe” and a former Republican Congressman, wrote this provocative article for The Washington Post, where he is a columnist.

Deep suspicion surrounded the new president and his plans for the Supreme Court. He had been attacking the high court’s rulings for years and even groused publicly nine months after being sworn in that “the country generally has outgrown our present judicial system.” His future secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, bitterly complained to his predecessor that the new president was certain to “affect the future doctrines of the Court.” 

Abraham Lincoln confirmed his opponents’ worst suspicions when he moved against the Supreme Court by signing the Judiciary Act of 1862, adding a 10th justice to the court. Following his assassination, Republicans in Congress reduced that number to seven in an effort to thwart Lincoln’s Democratic successor. Republicans then added two justices after winning back the White House in 1869.

Thanks in part to these maneuvers, the party of Lincoln would control the highest court in the land for the remainder of the 19th century and for the first 40 years of the next century. By 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt had had enough, but his effort to expand the court was rebuffed by members of his own party. Still, a president working with Congress to change the Supreme Court’s size has a rich historical tradition that is both constitutionally protected and backed by 231 years of precedent. If Joe Biden were to propose such a change, constitutional originalists would surely be his most aggressive supporters.

As Amy Coney Barrett said in Senate testimony this week, the Constitution has “the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it.” Even before every state ratified America’s founding charter, George Washington signed a bill that placed just six justices on the Supreme Court. The second president, John Adams, reduced that number to five. Thomas Jefferson increased that number to seven. And the man who inspired the term “Jacksonian Democracy” added two more justices in 1837.

Given such a powerful legacy, originalists, Republican politicians and right-wing bloggers would never dare suggest that adjusting the Supreme Court’s size was anything other than constitutional and consistent with the republic’s oldest traditions. To do so would condemn as un-American the Father of our Country, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the first president to live in the White House.

How would Barrett respond to such slander? These men were, after all, present at the creation of our constitutional republic. The founding document “doesn’t change over time,” Barrett exclaimed, “and it isn’t up to me to update or infuse my own policy views into it.” By that standard and the actions of the Founding Fathers, there is no good-faith constitutional argument against the future addition of Supreme Court justices.

Those in the party of Trump will thus be forced to present themselves as the protectors of America’s political norms in opposing such an act. This approach would be laughable. After all, Republicans continue supporting a president who has said Article II gives him “the right to do whatever I want as president”; questioned the legitimacy of federal judges; used the Stalinist smear “enemy of the people” against the free press; refused to condemn white supremacists; told “Second Amendment people” they could stop Hillary Clinton from appointing judges; sided with an ex-KGB agent over America’s intelligence community; attacked military leaders as “losers”; undermined America’s democratic process by proclaiming it to be “rigged”; and refused to guarantee the peaceful transfer of power. Beyond Trump’s multitude of sins against democracy, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would then have to account for his own trashing of Senate traditions before positing himself as the protector of political norms.

The American people will never buy it. By their own actions, these radical Republicans have no standing to protest future changes to the court’s makeup. They have made their own bed. Now it is time for them to sleep in it.

Senator Collins is wishy washy. She equivocates.

The Boston Globe wrote this:

Republican Senator Susan Collins, who is facing a tough reelection fight in Maine this fall, suggested Saturday that the Senate should not vote to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg until after the November election.

But, she said that the Senate could begin the process of considering a nominee from President Trump, and she did not unequivocally rule out voting for that nominee.

If the vote occurs after the election, during the lame duck session, Collins and others with doubts can vote for Trump’s choice without fear of voters.

Senator Lisa Murkowski flatly opposes a vote on a nominee. She says whoever is elected in November should make that choice. She is consistent with her position in 2016, when she oppose President Obama’s choice ten months before the election.

Dana Milbank is a regular contributor to the Washington Post.

He says we should not be afraid of Trump’s efforts to sabotage the election. Yes, we can vote!


President Trump has done everything in his power — and some things outside his power — to sabotage the election.

He has suggested postponing the election and holding a re-vote, warned baselessly about rampant fraud and pushed his supporters to vote twice. The big-time Trump donor now running the post office has impaired mail delivery and sent misinformation to voters about mail-in ballots.
But here’s the good news: It’s not going to work.

Trump has succeeded in sowing confusion about the ability of the United States to hold a free and fair election. His allies in Congress have abetted the sabotage by refusing to give states the funds they need to hold an election during a pandemic while defending against foreign adversaries’ interference. But despite the attempts to incapacitate elections, the United States is on course to give Americans more ways to cast ballots than ever — and more certainty than ever that their ballots will be accurately counted.

“While it’s critical we be clear-eyed about the problems and keep up the pressure to do better, there’s been too much alarmism,” Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice. “People have the impression that the election is not going to work and they’re going to have problems, which is absolutely not the case for the vast majority of Americans.”

The Brennan Center exists in part to sound the alarm about flaws in the voting system, so it’s worth noting that Weiser says “we’ve watched the election system improve before our eyes” — especially after a pandemic primary season characterized by closed polling places, long lines and chaos.

Among the encouraging signs:

Somewhere between 96 percent and 97 percent of votes cast in this election will have paper backup — assurance against fraud and interference — compared with only about 80 percent in 2016. If there’s a challenge to election results, there will be a paper trail to verify the outcome.

Trump’s attempt to cause chaos by telling his supporters to vote twice? All states have protections against that, and all battleground states (including North Carolina, where Trump has focused his vote-twice effort) have ballot-tracking bar codes on their mail ballots — so voters and election officials will know whether someone has already voted. Their attempts to vote twice may cause delays (particularly in Republican precincts) as people submit provisional ballots, and slow the counting, but there’s a near-zero chance they will succeed in voting twice, Weiser says.

Trump’s attempt to sabotage the post office to prevent mail-in balloting? Almost all states that have vote-by-mail also have multiple options for returning ballots. With a couple of exceptions, battleground states have some combination of drop boxes, early voting locations and election offices that will accept dropped-off ballots.

As for mail-in voting in general, elections officials and lawmakers in Democratic and Republican states alike have vastly expanded the availability, despite Trump’s attempts to discredit this long-standing and reliable method. Thanks to recent changes, all but six states — Indiana, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee — now either send ballots automatically or allow voters to request them without needing a special excuse for doing so.

Likewise, all but six states (Connecticut, Delaware, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire and parts of North Dakota) now offer some form of early voting (many with expanded locations and hours) so voters can avoid Election Day crowds.

Finally, after primaries plagued by precinct closures and a shortage of poll workers, the Brennan Center now expects the number of Election Day polling places to be close to 2016’s level, even if there’s a resurgence of the coronavirus.

Election officials, nonprofits, corporations and civic-minded volunteers are offsetting the shortage of poll workers and polling places caused by the pandemic. These range from LeBron James’s “More Than a Vote” movement to recruit poll workers to professional sports teams’ contributions of arenas as polling locations to hand-sanitizer donations from Anheuser-Busch.
Want to help? Sign up to be a poll worker at powerthepolls.org, or contact your local election office.

Certainly, there are still hurdles. The biggest problem may be voting misinformation, much of it amplified by the Trump administration. On Saturday, a federal judge temporarily blocked the U.S. Postal Service from sending out a mailer that gave incorrect voting information. There’s still some hope Congress will provide states with funds to send out correct information to voters — but Senate Republicans may block even that.

The best thing the rest of us can do is counter misinformation with accurate information, such as The Post’s interactive guide to voting in each state.

Above all, don’t inadvertently reinforce Trump’s vandalism with hand-wringing about voting problems. Yes, Trump is trying to sabotage voting. But the world’s greatest democracy knows how to hold an election.

The Green Party will not be on the ballot in Pennsylvania. The state’s Supreme Court removed the party because of deficiencies in its application. This follows a similar decision a few days ago in Wisconsin. This is good news for Democrats, bad news for Republicans. In 2016, Jill Stein received over one million votes, which tipped key states to Trump.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Green Party presidential ticket from state ballots, allowing state and local election officials to resume preparations for Nov. 3 and begin mailing ballots to voters.
The court ruled that presidential contender Howie Hawkins and his running mate, Angela Walker, did not qualify for the ballot because the party did not submit signed filing papers in person, as required by state rules.


It’s the second such ruling in a week. On Monday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found deficiencies in the Green Party’s ballot petition in that state, excluding the party from the ballot.
The decision is a blow to the third-party ticket and a win for Democrats, who worried that the Green Party could siphon votes from presidential nominee Joe Biden in the key battleground state.


In Wisconsin, the Green Party effort to get on the ballot was boosted by help from some Republicans and a prominent law firm that does work for the GOP.


In 2016, President Trump won both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by fewer votes than the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, collected in each state.

I am very excited because the Democratic nominee for Congress is Nancy Goroff, a chemistry professor at Stony Brook University on Long Island. Dr. Goroff bested three opponents to win the nomination and will face Lee Zeldin, the incumbent member of Congress who is one of Trump’s most faithful lap dogs.

Here is an interview with Dr. Goroff. She is articulate and well informed and will be a powerful advocate for an evidence-based approach to the critical issues of our day, like climate change and pollution.

I have lived on the North Fork of Long Island for more than 20 years, and I am very excited by the possibility that a brilliant scientist might represent this ecologically-challenged area of bays and waterfront in Congress.

I will do whatever I can to help her win election to Congress. Her knowledge, experience, and wisdom are needed.

The Economist Magazine has a feature that calculates the likely outcome of the American presidential election. After a week of theTrump Convention, studded with lies and boasts, this was a quick picker-upper.

Harold Meyerson, editor of The American Prospect and a prominent spokesman for the American left, explains here what he liked and did not like about the second day of the Democratic National (virtual) Convention.

I loved Bernie Sanders’ speech on the first night. I loved the roll call on the second night. In a usual convention, the roll call is a succession of politicians making political statements and announcing their state’s votes in a huge hall where people are milling around and no one is listening. This year, almost every state represented itself in an iconic setting, and the speakers were mostly regular people, not big-name politicians. The speaker in Kansas was a farmer in his fields, worried about the future. The speaker in Arizona was a teacher wearing a Red for Ed T-shirt, talking about the need to fund our schools. You really got a sense of the wonderful breadth and diversity of our country by watching the roll call. It was actually thrilling.

Meyerson wrote:

Unconventional: The Democrats, Day Two

If the first night of this year’s Democratic National Sort-Of Convention was all about Donald Trump’s disgraceful and aberrant presidency, night two was all about Joe Biden’s rooted normality.

Those roots were white working class—now a term almost interchangeable with Trump’s base, and tinged with assumptions of white tribalism and racism. Not so the Biden version of white working class-ness, however, and this more benign identity was a theme that was artfully woven through the night’s session.

The theme also expanded to include Biden’s embrace of the universal working class, with Joe talking with and sharing the concerns of a cross section of Americans fearful of losing their health insurance, which yet may prove his most potent point of contrast with Trump and the Republicans come November (as it was for Democrats in 2018). But looking at Hillary Clinton’s devastating and decisive failure to carry Bidenland in 2016—Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, home of a multiracial working class, of which the white section largely voted for Trump—Biden’s advisers made the obvious but still smart decision to plunk him down where he came from. On Tuesday night, he was the kid from Scranton who’s suffered more than his share of tragedy but always kept on punching (or as Jill Biden said, squaring his shoulders and going out to meet the world).

And it wasn’t just Biden. The roll call of the states, which was far better than its convention-hall predecessors, not only because of the visuals but because it wasn’t dominated by bloviating mid-level pols, featured more than a smattering of working-class Americans. There was the woman who worked in a Nebraska meatpacking plant who noted that she and her co-workers weren’t afforded paid sick leave, and asserted, “We’re human beings; we’re not robots; we’re not disposable.” There was the Missouri bricklayer and the Ohio worker wearing his IBEW union T-shirt who flatly declared, “Under Trump, working people end up getting screwed.”

The roll-call participants were anything but monochromatic; those from Maryland positioned themselves by an oversized bust of Frederick Douglass. But the contrast with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 convention couldn’t have been clearer. I remember noting it at the time but failed to realize how it portended her coming defeat, but that convention lacked any speakers who were working-class whites. Clinton’s convention showcased Democratic social liberalism; Biden’s, so far, has showcased a more class-based economic liberalism.

Yes, Monday’s session affirmed its support for Black Lives Matter, but both nights have highlighted the economic contrasts with contemporary Republicanism, of which Trump is merely the reductio ad absurdum. And it emphasized the access-to-health-care contrast, which runs along the race and class lines, and in a time of pandemic is the kind of contrast that can decide an election.

The foreign-policy section, with notables rightly pointing out that Trump’s policy, to the limited extent he has one, basically amounts to his expressions of admiration for leaders even more thuggish than he, was obligatory, but isn’t going to change many votes. What will change or solidify some votes is the image of Biden as a normal, decent, hard-working guy—three qualities no one has ever invoked to describe Donald Trump. What will change or solidify some votes is the knowledge that Biden respects and works within established democratic norms, as Trump does not. And these are all among the reasons that not only Republicans but also Bernie leftists are going to vote for Biden, because the left knows its vision depends on a functioning, and flourishing, democracy…

I’m fine with the airtime given to Republicans; I just wish there were more given to the left pole of the front. The millennials and Gen Zers who are transforming the Democratic Party into a more social democratic party have been underrepresented at this convention, and the 17 youngish keynoters who whizzed through the speed-dating version of a keynote address on Tuesday night lacked the time to establish their own generation’s politics, or, in fact, whether they actually identified with it. (As none of the keynoters had endorsed Bernie Sanders for president, there’s some question as to just how representative they are.) So the task of representing the new left fell to AOC and a dying Ady Barkan, but there are lots more where those two stalwarts come from, if the Biden folks just go looking. (The ever remarkable Barkan managed to endorse Medicare for All without actually saying the words.)

That said, the thematic emphasis the convention has put on matters of race and class is not only smart positioning but lays down markers that the young left and their elders should endeavor to hold Biden to, should he be elected. Biden’s long career has been marked by draconian crime legislation, solicitude to banks, and other normal political stances of the Reagan years, but Biden understands that those days are done, and the party’s ascendant left must ensure that they’re dead and buried. The Normal Joe persona is a valuable asset in this doctrinal transformation; it recasts the party’s newfound (or newly re-found) progressivism as Normal Joe’s concern for the average guy and gal.

I must close with my favorite moment of the night, a combination of convention hokum, the roll call’s remote locations, and, yes, average folks’ normality. It came when the roll call reached Rhode Island, and we were transported to a shot of two guys standing by the seashore, one of them holding a plate or dish of something tan with something red on top of it. The speaker, as is the custom, extolled the state and its Democratic governor and its favorite products, among which he mentioned calamari. At which point it became clear that what the other guy was holding was a platter of fried calamari topped with dip.

How better to symbolize a convention yearning for normality, marketing its nominee as Mr. Normal, than to promise us a bright future filled with fried calamari?

~ HAROLD MEYERSON

The American Prospect, Inc., 1225 I Street NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005, United States

I watched the Democratic virtual convention from start to finish. While all the commentary afterwards focused on Michelle Obama and her gracious remarks, the speech that wowed me was that of Bernie Sanders. He was focused, powerful, and passionate.

He spoke for less than 9 minutes. Please watch.

Trump tweeted yesterday afternoon about divisions between the Sanders and Biden camps. That’s not what you will hear from Bernie. Trump is lying and trying to sow division, which is what we have come to expect. Listen to Bernie.

A friend sharedthis article about Kamala Harris that shows her at ease. The first video is hilarious. She is at the 92nd Street Y, an institution of Jewish culture in Manhattan, which has a great lecture series. She tells a story about her first meeting with her Jewish mother-in-law that is priceless.

Another video in the article shows her cooking at home with her husband. She has a great laugh. She is interesting. She will bring dynamism to the campaign and fresh ideas.

And here is Kamala cooking Indian food. Watch her deftly cut an onion.

I’m struck by how comfortable she is in front of a camera, how heartily she laughs. She is charismatic. Trump has already attacked her as “radical left,” which is funny since he twice donated to her campaigns. Overnight he attacked the Biden-Harris ticket as racist. I wish I could have seen her laugh when she heard that.

I’m thrilled that Joe Biden picked Senator Harris as his running mate. She is a great addition to the ticket.

Can’t wait to see her debate Mike Pence, that is, if Mother (Pence’s wife) allows him to share the stage with a woman. Harris was a member of the debate team when she was a student at Howard University.