First Dem-controlled gov't in a decade means fights over filibuster, court packing, socialist agenda
Victory in Georgia has guaranteed Democratic control of the White House and Congress, giving President-elect Joe Biden expanded options but also denying him cover from the demands of his party’s radical left wing.
Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff’s surprise double triumph on Tuesday makes possible many of Biden’s more expansive legislative priorities, such as his promised revisions to Obamacare or his $2 trillion climate plan. But it also means that he has lost the convenient excuse of a Republican-controlled Senate, which would have allowed him to refuse the more revolutionary changes endorsed by members of his party.
Instead, progressive groups are already agitating for proposals such as ending the Senate’s filibuster. Eli Zupnick, spokesman for the left-leaning Fix Our Senate, responded to the news of Warnock and Ossoff’s victory with bluntness: “What does this election mean? The filibuster is dead.”
Similar calls will soon emerge from other corners, pushing for court packing, the addition of new states, radical appointees, and the agenda of the House’s socialist “squad” caucus. Paradoxically, Biden’s victory in the Senate may have set up an even greater battle: not against Republicans, but across the ever-growing fault lines which divide his party.
As much is particularly true due to the razor-thin margin by which Democrats control government. They will hold the Senate only through the grace of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, while Republicans chipped away at their already narrow control of the House in the November election.
That margin will come into play over a likely contentious debate over the filibuster. Democrats’ sub-60-vote position means that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) can still stall much of Biden’s agenda, as he did in the latter days of the Obama administration. Recognizing this, soon-to-be majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has repeatedly signaled an openness to ending the practice.
In this, Schumer has been joined by progressive members of his caucus such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), as well as former president Barack Obama. But blue dog senators have been hostile: Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.), and Jon Tester (D., Mont.) are all opposed, while Sen. Mark Kelly (D., Ariz.) has dodged the question. So too has Warnock, while Ossoff offered only a “maybe” when asked.
Abolishing the filibuster would be a prerequisite for another major change Schumer has been eyeing—granting statehood to the District of Columbia and possibly Puerto Rico, guaranteeing two to four more Democrats in the upper chamber. But it would not be necessary to add further justices to the Supreme Court, a move many Democrats agitated for in the wake of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment. Biden has remained conspicuously silent on the issue of court packing, which would require his involvement but would see the ostensible moderate yielding to progressives over the majority of Americans.
Such major changes are not the only place Democratic control could be a headache for Biden. McConnell’s control of the Senate was expected to moderate Biden’s selection for top posts, and the president-elect has leaned toward the center in many of his taps.
But a Democrat-controlled Senate will allow more controversial choices, like the inflammatory OMB pick Neera Tanden, a serious hearing Biden may not have expected. And it could give new life to appointment priorities from the left, like the list of 100 foreign policy progressives that until Tuesday appeared dead on arrival.
A similar headache may await House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), as a smaller caucus gives more power to the growing “squad” of Democratic socialists in her chamber. A cadre of online progressives spent the days leading up to the vote for speaker agitating for Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), and others to withhold their votes unless Pelosi agreed to allow a vote on Medicare for All. Ocasio-Cortez shot down the idea but acknowledged it—indicating future pressure efforts may be more fruitful.
Pelosi, in other words, could experience a redux of the standoffs that defined the relationship between former speaker John Boehner and the House Freedom Caucus, which ended with Boehner’s resignation. Biden, similarly, risks his agenda being hijacked—not by obstreperous Republicans, as expected, but by members of his own party eager to seize power.
With safe and effective vaccines starting to be distributed, the public can see light at the end of the very long and dark COVID-19 tunnel. Not so fast, our moral betters are starting to say.
In recent days, as people start to benefit from the modern medical miracle of a vaccine developed within a year, so-called experts are lining up to warn people against thinking that they can begin to resume normal activity soon.
“Just because you get vaccinated with that second dose does not mean you should be participating in things like traveling in the middle of an out-of-control pandemic or that you’re liberated from masks,” Vin Gupta, an assistant professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said on MSNBC. “Everything still applies until all of us hit the two-dose regimen, and we don’t think that’s going to happen until June/July.”
Similar warnings are starting to proliferate in the scaremongering news media.
Even now, many of the restrictions on activity are arbitrary, and often, the most sanctimonious leaders are the ones caught abusing their own draconian measures. Schools remain closed in much of the country despite a mountain of evidence showing that children have low odds of getting seriously ill or widely spreading the virus, and that remote learning is having a devastating impact on educational and emotional development, particularly among the least privileged.
To be clear, there is no doubt that we are now in a difficult stage of the pandemic, with outbreaks throughout the nation and a daily death toll of around 3,000 people. It is conceivable that we’ll end up with a half-million COVID-19 deaths by the time vaccination has become widespread.
But we will be in a much different place a few months from now. Based on the commitments already made and the expected speed of distribution, it is anticipated that roughly 100 million members of the public will be able to be vaccinated in this country by the end of March. That should be more than enough to offer protection to the populations most vulnerable to COVID-19.
There are about 50 million people aged 65 years and older, and that group has accounted for about 80% of coronavirus deaths. So, not only should there be enough doses to vaccinate everybody in this group as well as medical workers in the coming months, but there will still be tens of millions of more doses available to administer to those under 65 who have some sort of health condition that leaves them more vulnerable to the disease.
On top of that, there are tens of millions of people who have already had COVID-19, and over a million a week are getting it. That means in addition to the 100 million vaccinated by spring, there will be millions of others who have developed antibodies from having survived the virus.
By the end of March, the worst of winter will be over, and most parts of the country will start to see warmer weather.
None of this means COVID-19 will be eradicated or that we will have achieved herd immunity. But it does mean that, barring any setbacks in vaccination, the virus should cease by April to be the danger it was when the whole country was shut down.
If we flashback to March, the original justification for draconian lockdown orders was that it was necessary to flatten the infection curve so there wasn’t a huge spike at any given time sufficient to overwhelm the medical system. Severe restrictions persisted well beyond that, and the justification was that the disease still posed too much risk to older and vulnerable populations.
If the older and vulnerable are vaccinated by the spring, however, there is absolutely zero reason to justify maintaining public restrictions until everybody gets vaccinated, a process that could spill into the fall or later.
If you take 100 million of the most vulnerable people out of the equation, the fatality rate will plunge, and the virus will start to resemble the seasonal flu in its effects, which we endure without shutdowns.
Political leaders keep shifting the goal posts on COVID-19. It was about flattening the curve. It was about slowing the spread. It was about protecting the most vulnerable. Now that we have a vaccine that carries the promise of protecting the most vulnerable within months, the goal post must not be allowed to shift again to universal vaccination.
Ever since being declared president-elect, Joe Biden has been playing it cool. He’s refused to engage with President Donald J. Trump’s allegation that the outcome of the election turned on voter fraud. He’s left that job to surrogates while he focuses on building his White House staff, making key appointments and projecting the image that his approach to the office will be a calm and moderate one.
Now we know why. Thanks to leaks coming out of an online meeting held Tuesday with leaders of left-wing African-American groups, he’s afraid that a premature announcement of his progressive intentions would cost the Democrats any chance they have of winning the January 5 Georgia runoff elections that will determine which party controls the United States Senate for the next two years.
Biden warned, according to The Intercept, that “civil rights leaders that [put] pressure on the incoming administration around police reform could hurt the party’s chances in the Georgia Senate runoffs, claiming that the Republicans’ ability to define that party as in favor of defunding the police is ‘how they beat the living hell out of us across the country.'”
The former vice president told those on the call he’d prefer to wait, urging that no one be inclined to “get too far ahead of ourselves,” an observation he later tempered by reminding those he was addressing that, wrote The Intercept, “his commitment to police reform was unwavering.
So he’s got a plan, he just doesn’t want anyone outside his immediate circle to know just yet what it is—least of all voters in Georgia who, one presumes, might be inclined to vote against candidates who favor federal interference in local policing that leaves them less safe.
If that’s how things are inside Camp Biden, then the Democrats should be grateful the media and the public are still focused on Trump’s campaign to win in the courts and in the state legislatures what he was apparently denied by the voters. It’s a distraction that’s keeping anyone from asking what Biden might have up his sleeve that he can’t get through Congress unless Mitch McConnell is no longer the Senate majority leader.
Does Biden plan to offer a tax on carbon emissions that would drive up the price of gas at the pump and double or perhaps triple what Americans pay to heat and cool their homes? His national security team is committed to getting the U.S. back into the Paris climate accord—even though the United States has met, even exceeded the targets it set—while Janet Yellen, whom Biden wants as treasury secretary, is on record as favoring such levies.
What does Biden have planned that will satisfy the pro-abortion-rights activists and anti-gun people in his party’s coalition? He hasn’t said much, even about the things he’ll do on day one of his presidency. Is that because residents of Georgia, which is generally a conservative state, might react badly to his promised program, or because he doesn’t yet know—after almost 40 years in the Senate and eight years as vice president—what he’d like to do?
And more importantly, why is no one asking?
The stakes are clear. As Saul Anuzis, the former Michigan Republican Party chairman who now runs the conservative 60 Plus Association, told me, “Without Georgia, conservatives are at risk of losing everything they gained under Trump.” The list of things Biden has his eye on, as the former vice president said in Tuesday’s meeting, is long. He also faces the policies put in place over the last four years by executive orders which, he says, he’ll repeal.
That means a lot. “Conservatives shouldn’t underestimate the damage a politically motivated progressive left wing could do when the country is this polarized,” Anuzis said. “The outcome of the Georgia Senate races could determine the direction of this country for a generation to come.”
Team Biden knows this. It’s why it’s keeping quiet about so many things. But that strategy is dishonest. Biden has an agenda in mind, and he should be telling the American people what it is. Except he doesn’t want to be on the ballot on January 5 any more than he wanted to be on the ballot on November 3. He wanted the voters thinking only about whether they wanted four more years of Donald Trump.
One can argue he got his wish, that the presidential election was a referendum on the past four years rather than the next four. Biden wants voters thinking the same thing as they go to the polls in Georgia next month. But he can’t hide in his basement forever.
The 45th President of the United States is opposed by several identifiable groups of people.
There are those who believe unquestionably the portrait of an evil man whose character encompasses nearly every sin imaginable, from a “pathological liar” to a greed-driven, narcissistic buffoon, to a Russian spy, and so on. This is the description put forth by the large corporate press, which has its own reasons for what many know is often completely without any factual basis.
This “alternative universe” is inhabited by many true believers, and led by the Democrat Party which provides the organization, funding, and candidates to continually feed the narrative they have created with the help of the “Deep State” bureaucrats by leaks of both true and false information to the willing Press. The most visible supporters of this view of Mr. Trump are the leaders of the Democrat Party, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and most of their followers in the Congress.
These leaders vary in their personal acceptance of the received Party dogma, with Nancy Pelosi, the most radical true believer, and others more likely to realize the extent of their deception – Nancy being too gullible to make such distinctions.
The deliberate and thoroughly conscious liars of this narrative are the professionals who have justified their truly immoral behavior on the basis of the ends justifying any means. The end in this case is their retention (or regaining) of the ultimate power of government, which for them means maintaining their personal future and fortune. They see Trump as the major threat to their own future which they hope will include their total power over the USA. They began to taste this power in the Obama administration. Even a taste is addictive and these people are addicted to victory at all costs, even turning their backs on the Ten Commandments (Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”).
There also exists, however, another opposing group, namely, Republican and conservative voters who oppose Trump for personal reasons. The most prominent of these “Never Trumpers” are former Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, now senator from Utah, and former Republican Governor of Ohio, John Kasich, and the Bush family with two former Presidents and former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush. All have chosen different ways of expressing their anger at Mr. Trump, but all were deeply offended by his criticism during the 2016 campaign.
The Bushes have maintained a dignified silence regarding Mr. Trump, although they have been rumored to quietly support opposition to Trump initiatives. Romney ran for the Senate after Trump’s election and has consistently opposed most Trump-supported legislation. Kasich, in the most direct “bad loser” manner, has publicly and loudly endorsed Joe Biden for president.
The man with the most direct Never Trump attitude was Republican Arizona Senator John McCain, who defeated repeal of Obamacare by casting the final, deciding vote against it. Senator McCain died with a deep and permanent grudge against Donald Trump. However, his family has decided according to son-in-law Ben Domenech to let bygones be bygones with respect to President Trump and make their political judgements for the good of the country. In their case, they have decided to support the President because they believe that a victory of the Left in this election would be disastrous for the American people.
The 2020 election
I have agreed with this judgment as I watched carefully the rapid growth of confidence and anti-American activity over the years of the Obama administration, starting with foreign policy and spreading to the weaponization of whole segments of the bureaucracy into instruments of silencing opponents of the administration, especially the IRS, and eventually the Department of Justice (although we did not realize the extent of that corruption until later), and other agencies with direct contact with the American people.
The ultimate act of defiance was the nomination of Hillary Clinton for president, one of the most corrupt people ever to stand for public office. She and her husband sold American interests to foreign countries for a fortune – at the same time she was in charge of America’s foreign policy. But her platform was nearly pure socialism, the next step up from Obama’s efforts to pull America toward that goal.
Now we have an even more brazen attack on American institutions and free market capitalism in the form of a very weak (and probably corrupt) f candidate for president and a strong socialist for vice resident.
Never-Trumpers: Now is the time
For the good of the nation, it behooves the Never Trumpers to put aside their private objections and bruised egos and vote for the greater good of the United States. They know better than to believe all the rubbish about Trump but especially the doubts about his patriotism and dedication to American values. They are neither dupes nor cynics. They should have enough patriotism to follow the example of John McCain’s family and support America’s last defense against the sinister forces we have been witnessing in America’s cities all summer and in the halls of Congress and the nations’ courtrooms for the past generation.
This is the last half of the ninth inning, the two-minute warning is blasting. If the socialists win this election, we may never get another chance.
Twitter, the social media giant that dominates online chatter, suspended Friday the account of the pro-ballot integrity group “True the Vote,” after alleging the group’s tweets about military ballots and voting deadlines violated the platform’s rules.
True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht responded angrily to the move, the latest in a series of actions by the media platform that have some accusing it of trying to stifle debate and the free flow of information during the election season to the detriment of conservative candidates and activists.
Twitter temporarily suspended the group’s account, according to a statement from Engelbrecht, after a Sept. 15 post that encouraged citizens and potential voters to confirm their counties were following the rules for mailing out ballots to members of the military serving in other states and overseas.
Twitter and other social media sites have in recent months announced new policies to protect against tampering by foreign nationals and security agencies seeking to affect the 2020 election. The increased supervision of posts began after congressional investigating committees and an inquiry overseen by former FBI Director Robert Mueller all concluded the Russians had penetrated U.S. social media platforms with misleading messages during the 2016 campaign. No evidence was ever produced, however, that demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow in these activities as many Democrats charged then and still maintain was the case.
Advocates for the military have for some time complained that ballots for local, state, and federal elections are often not mailed out early enough for soldiers, sailors, and Marines serving overseas to receive them, fill them out, and return them in time for them to be counted. Effectively, they say, this leaves America’s troops in the field – many of whom are presumed to vote Republican – disenfranchised.
“True the Vote, an election integrity advocacy organization, was sending out information of public interest regarding deadlines for our military voters, pursuant to the ‘Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment’ Act, federal law, which requires states to send absentee ballots to UOCAVA voters at least 45 days before federal elections,” Englebrecht said, adding that information “in no way” violated Twitter’s terms of service.
The now-controversial tweet was “retweeted” by President Donald J. Trump two days after it was initially posted, an act Engelbrecht suggested in a statement might have provoked the ire of Trump opponents inside Twitter supervising what goes up on the platform while searching for electoral disinformation.
True the Vote is appealing the sanction and said it fully expects to have its access to the site restored in short order. Officials at Twitter could not be reached for comment.
The journalism school at Arizona State University caves to student activists.
Walter Cronkite said on receiving a global-governance award in 1999: “I am in a position to speak my mind. And that is what I propose to do.”
Today, those who attend the journalism school named after the famed broadcaster are not so lucky.
The spread of “cancel culture” in newsrooms — declaring people henceforth “canceled” from society owing to ideological disagreements — is nothing new. Look no further than the hysterical reaction to Senator Tom Cotton’s New York Times op-ed urging government to use its authorities under the Insurrection Act to “restore order to our streets” amid riots and looting. Newsroom activists flooded Twitter, objecting to its publication. The opinion editor was forced out. And the Times attached a note at the top of the op-ed (nearly 40 percent as long as the piece itself) apologizing for daring to publish the opinion of a sitting U.S. senator.
It was entertaining that Cotton’s tame commentary provoked such a disproportionate meltdown from those who consider themselves serious journalists. But that this scourge is seeping into local campus newsrooms is deeply worrisome — and seep it has.
The first sign of cancel culture bubbling up at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication involved Sonya Duhé, whom the university named dean this spring. Her tenure was cut short almost instantly after she published a tweet praying for “the good police officers who keep us safe.”
The protest-allied campus revolted against the incoming dean’s “racist” tweet and provoked a former student to accuse Duhé of committing “four years of microaggressions” against her. Other students would come forward to allege that she had made similar “microaggressive comments” to them.
It wasn’t one week before the Cronkite School revoked its offer and pledged to be more “inclusive” moving forward.
Things have only gotten worse — and, now that administrators have gotten used to the sweet taste of cancel culture, it appears that student journalists themselves are on the dinner plate.
When Cronkite News, the news division of Arizona PBS, published a poll following a May looting spree in Scottsdale, progressive students complained that the poll’s language was too friendly toward police officers — so Cronkite News folded to the pressure. It deleted the poll and apologized for causing “divisiveness”: “It was not our intention to downplay the actions of law enforcement.”
When a second young journalist published a Q&A with a former police officer in June, students complained that this exchange also was too friendly. Once again, Cronkite News folded to the pressure. It wiped the Q&A offline and replaced it with an apologetic note pledging to “better serve and represent our communities, especially the black community and other communities of color.”
The list goes on.
The most recent “cancel” target is Rae’Lee Klein, a young journalist at the Cronkite School’s Blaze Radio. After the police-involved shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., Klein, on her personal Twitter account, linked to a New York Post investigation and wrote: “Please read this article to get the background of Jacob Blake’s warrant. You’ll be quite disgusted.”
Progressive students were apoplectic. The board voted to remove her as station manager, threatened to resign if she did not, and released a statement from “Blaze Radio alumni” condemning her for trying to “dehumanize and insinuate blame on the victims of police violence.”
Luckily, Klein has refused to resign or succumb to this cancel culture flare-up, explaining on-air her decision to push back against “a situation where our opinions and our beliefs are held against us or [are] characteristic of our ability to lead.”
While she plants her feet, other young journalists at ASU understandably are reaching for the escape hatch. In August, two such undergraduates founded The Western Tribune, an “independent student journalism” website, as a home to “the oft unheard voices of our generation.” They won’t be the last.
These campus newsrooms are a means for tomorrow’s leaders to write down, or say out loud, the opinions they’ve been keeping in their minds and to see if those ideas stand up to the scrutiny of the real world. These young ideas rarely do — and the invaluable lesson that students glean from that realization will be lost forever if administrators cut them off at the knees by continuing to appease oversensitive cry-bullies whose antics threaten these vital sandboxes.
If things continue as they do, soon there will be no conservatives left to cancel, and progressive journalists will only be left to cancel themselves like a scorpion stinging itself to death.
And that’s the way it will be.
The pressure to reopen schools is on everywhere now that New York is doing it. This means something else big: Their hard opposition to school reopenings is politically devastating for Democrats.
Prominent Democrat politicians have started making huge concessions on reopening schools. Back in May, Democrats pounced after President Trump supported reopening. Despite the data finding precisely the opposite, it quickly became the Democrat-media complex line that opening schools this fall would be preposterously dangerous to children and teachers.
In July, when New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a plan to put the city’s 1.1 million school kids back in schools half the week and “online learning” the rest of the week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo picked a public fight with him, saying, “If anybody sat here today and told you that they could reopen the school in September, that would be reckless and negligent of that person.”
Then on Friday, Cuomo cleared schools to open this fall, just a few weeks after making uncertain noises about the prospect as teachers unions breathed down his neck. That same day, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s minority leader, joined the Democrat messaging reversal:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tucked the posture shift into a Saturday response to Trump’s latest executive orders, saying “these announcements do…nothing to reopen schools,” as if Democrats have been all along supporting school reopenings instead of the opposite. Just a few weeks ago, Pelosi was on TV bashing Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for encouraging school reopenings, saying, falsely, “Going back to school presents the biggest risk for the spread of the coronavirus. They ignore science and they ignore governance in order to make this happen.”
What gives? For one thing, New York’s richest people have fled during the lockdowns. If their kids’ tony public schools don’t offer personal instruction or look likely to maintain the chaos of rolling lockdown brownouts, those wealthy people have better choices. They can stay in their vacation houses or newly bought mansions in states that aren’t locked down. They can hire pod teachers or private schools.
And the longer they stay outside New York City and start to make friends and get used to a new place, the less likely they are to ever return. Cuomo is well aware of this.
“I literally talk to people all day long who are now in their Hamptons house who also lived here, or in their Hudson Valley house, or in their Connecticut weekend house, and I say, ‘You got to come back! We’ll go to dinner! I’ll buy you a drink! Come over, I’ll cook!’” Cuomo revealed in a recent news conference. “They’re not coming back right now. And you know what else they’re thinking? ‘If I stay there, I’ll pay a lower income tax,’ because they don’t pay the New York City surcharge.”
Reopening means swimming against their anti-Trump base and teachers union donors’ full-court press to amp school funding and slash teacher duties. That means the below-surface financial and political pressure Cuomo, Pelosi, and Schumer are under to make this kind of a reversal must be huge. It’s likely coming from not only internal polling but also early information about just how many people have left New York and New York City, as well as interpersonal intelligence from their influential social circles.
This means three things. First, the pressure to reopen schools is on everywhere now that New York is doing it. Second, Democrats’ hard opposition to school reopenings has been politically devastating. Third, all the push polls and media scaremongering promoting the idea that most parents shouldn’t and wouldn’t send their kids back to school have failed.
One of the most significant reasons it failed is that parents’ experience with online pandemic schooling was a horror show. Another is that private schools have clearly outpaced public schools’ response to coronavirus. That’s both in offering quality online instruction when forced to close, and in seeking to remain open as much and as safely as possible, all while teachers unions have been staging embarrassing tantrums over people on public payroll actually having to do their jobs to get paid, even though epidemiologists have noted “there is no recorded case worldwide of a teacher catching the coronavirus from a pupil.”
Public schools have been so clearly shown up by private schools during the coronavirus panic that state and local officials have begun to target them specifically, and have carefully included them in all onerous government burdens on school reopenings, to reduce their embarrassment and bring private schools down to the public school level as much as possible.
The most prominent recent example is in Maryland, where a local bureaucrat in one of the nation’s richest counties specifically banned private schools from safely teaching children in person, and is now battling with the state’s Republican governor over the edict. In North Carolina, many private schools are offering safe, face-to-face, five-day instruction, while most public schools are not.
Part of this is just that government bureaucrats hate individuals making their own decisions based on their own circumstances (a major reason for mask mandates, by the way). But also they’re scared because the coronavirus panic is expanding the massive fault lines inside public schooling. And public schools are a feeder system for Democrat support.
Before coronavirus hit, a near-majority of parents already thought a private school would be better for their kids than public school. People really are not happy with public education. Mostly they do it because they think it’s cheap.
But politicians’ handling of coronavirus has shown that public education is actually very expensive. The instability, the mismanagement, the lying, the public manipulation, all of it has tipped many people’s latent dissatisfaction with public schooling into open dissatisfaction. It’s a catalyst. Now many more people have decided to get their kids out of there, either by homeschooling, moving school districts, forming “pandemic pods,” or finally trying a private school.
Like all the rich people leaving locked-down locales, parents removing kids from locked-down public schools have scared public officials. If just 10 percent of public-school kids homeschool or join a private school for two years, that is a watershed moment for the social undercurrent of animosity towards public schools. That is especially true in the government funding era we’re entering, in which government debt and health and pension promises are set to gobble up education dollars faster than ever, a dynamic that was already ruinous before it was accelerated further by the coronavirus.
This is dangerous to Democrats’ political dominance because the education system tilts voters their way through cultural Marxism, and because public education is a huge source of Democrat campaign volunteers and funds. Now Democrats have detached people from their conveyor belt. The consequences will be huge.
Reopening public schools the way Democrats are doing is not going to stave off this tsunami, either. New York City’s “reopening,” for example, includes several days per week of distasteful online instruction, as well as a rule that a school will close for two weeks any time two inmates test positive for COVID. That’s a recipe for endless school brownouts that will drive parents and kids nuts. Humans simply can’t live under this manufactured instability, by the pen and phone of whatever self-appointed petty little dictators feel like changing today.
Democrats are trying to have it both ways. They’ve learned that parents are not going to put up with putting school indefinitely on hold when everything from swimming to climbing stairs is more dangerous to children. But they also want to maintain the fiction that coronavirus is an emergency situation that requires tossing trillions of dollars in deficit funding out of helicopters, keeping people cooped up and restive as an election nears, and purposefully choking the nation’s best economy since before Barack Obama got his hands on it.
Democrats are their own worst enemy. The problem is, the rest of us are so often their collateral damage.
It seems critical theorists won't stop until they've denied, rewritten, and scrubbed every semblance of Western Civilization from the education system.
It started on July 5 when Nikole Hannah-Jones, who penned the lead essay for The New York Times’ 1619 Project, was trolled with a meme. The meme came from philosopher James Lindsay, whose upcoming “Cynical Theories” book on identity politics co-written with Helen Pluckrose is already an Amazon bestseller. Lindsay summarized the exchange:
[I]t appears someone put this Woke Mini into the employ of satirically replying to Nikole Hannah-Jones on the fifth of July in response to her tweeting, ‘I wonder if folks always talking about ‘standards’ ever stop to consider that it’s their so-called standards that are the actual problem.’ Hannah-Jones decided to make fun of me by quote-retweeting this delightful troll, including the image of the ‘2+2=4’ Woke Mini, and adding the comment, ‘Using Arabic numerals to try to make a point about white, Western superiority is just so damn classic.’
Referring to George Orwell’s 1984, and poking fun of wokesterism, Lindsay quipped: “2+2=4: A perspective in white, Western mathematics that marginalizes other possible values.”
Hannah-Jones’s response energized Twitterati who mostly appear to be employed in education bureaucracies. They attempted to prove that in certain instances two and two equal five.
One of these was Kareem Carr who, according to his profile, is a Ph.D. statistics student at Harvard University He offered several examples of situations in which he claimed 2+2=5, including: “Imagine a system where we can only measure things to 1 decimal place. So 2 could mean 1.5 to 2.4 … 2.4 + 2.4 is 4.8 … in our theoretical system, this would look like 2+2=5. Again pretty normal to have an error in measurements in normal life.”
“Second example. Imagine computing distances between airports on cost. Is it possible that flying from airport A to B is $200 and B to C is $200 but flight from A to C is $500 … happens all the time. Again pretty typical everyday example.”
In the first instance, Carr proves that 2+2=5 when one makes a measuring error, then rounds up. Yet mathematical notations have the language to express errors and approximations, and it’s not “equal to.”
The second example confuses prices with distances. Carr might as well say that an airline offered a discounted $500 ticket for $400, thereby confirming that 200+200=500.
Carr should know better. A theorem is proven wrong if we find a set of values for which it doesn’t hold. Truly showing that 2+2=5 means that 2+2 is not 4. Yet this is not the point Carr and the rest of the woke math team want to advance. Rather, they are saying that 2+2 can sometimes be construed as equaling four, so who is to judge?
As one observer noted, they are deconstructing math here or using the methods of post-modernism developed for humanities. But these methods simply don’t apply to other fields of inquiry (indeed, whether they apply in the humanities is still an open debate). The humanities rely on gathering then interpreting information, whereas mathematicians derive knowledge through deduction, or discovering universal laws under which systems operate.
That 2+2=4 is a simple truth, just like the fact that there are two easily recognizable sexes, male and female, is indisputable common sense. To get people to agree that it’s not is disorienting. Lindsay says this is intentional:
…the activists are seeking a radical rewriting of the entire rational project, and any reason that doesn’t forward their favored actors as the sole arbiters of what is true and correct needs to be deconstructed by rhetorical tricks and marginalized by moral and, perhaps, physical force and intimidation. They’re seeking a revolution.
The wokies are not interested in truth, Lindsay goes on to explain. Their objectives are purely political: to identify “systems of oppression,” and transfer political power to preferred groups. To this, Lindsay adds:
This is … a breakdown of the fundamental logic of civilization, which depends entirely on the ability for each citizen to generally understand something of how that civilization operates. It is also a replacement of that fundamental logic of civilization with the fundamental logic of something more basic and less able to meet the needs of the people who will still be forced to live within it: self-interest, cronyism, corruption, and an unstable form of uncivilized might-makes-right that will surely eventually collapse into the more brutal and familiar stable sort in which whomever can kill enough people gets to make the rules.
While I agree that people incapable of clear thought are a threat to democracy and civilization, to call the 2+2=5 crowd revolutionaries gives them too much credit. They are long marchers, grifters, and cowards with an insatiable quest for power. There is no point in having a revolution when they can simply issue a ukase mandating everyone acknowledges that 2+2 is not necessarily 4.
Because it relies on logic and is independent of fact-gathering, mathematics is the single most liberating field of knowledge. It stands free from ideological contamination and depends solely on an individual’s ability to reason. Because identity politics is the ideology of bondage, it cannot easily coexist with math.
The hard left may never convince Americans that their fake math is right, but they don’t need to win by persuasion when they have pawns strategically positioned in the nation’s school districts and education schools. Seattle Unified School District made the news last school year with their ethnic mathcurriculum, which twisted knowledge into identity.
SUSD is at the forefront, but not alone in their fight against reason. Consider, for instance, Rochelle Gutiérrez, a math education professor at the Illinois School of Education who champions something called “living mathematx” and “rehumanizing” math for non-Caucasians.
Gutiérrez was involved in a mutually affirming Twitter conversation with Angela Knotts, a co-director of the Silicon Valley Mathematics Initiative, an educational consultancy that advises school districts around the country. Here is a snippet: “A5 – I think there is an implicit question here which is, Why do we teach math as a ‘core’ subject in the first place? What is the historical legacy of school math? Also, who was/is intended to benefit & how? #cmcmath #mathequity”
It seems a bit self-defeating for an education bureaucrat specializing in math to call for the eradication of her field, but Gutiérrez enthusiastically picked it up: “Yes! This is a part of what I’ve been referring to as defunding maths: literally defunding it from K-12 curriculum (requirements, testing) & society (STEM funding and salaries) but also figuratively from our minds (giving the current version more value than other subjects/gifts).”
The remarks almost make it seem like these gals are not so much in favor of eliminating math as they are for eliminating clear thinking on public school properties, and redistributing wealth from high-achieving people to politically preferred ethnic groups.
Next, Mathematical Association of America, a professional organization to which 25,000 educators belong, ran interference for the 2+2=5 bunch. MAA published an essay by Dr. Keith Devlin, who, without linking to the actual debate, assured readers that the Woke Math proponents never said two and two is five.
He further stated that of course arithmetic is cultural because we belong to the culture that understands what two and two add up to. If other cultures don’t have this knowledge, they are well-advised to appropriate it from us, and we shouldn’t shy away from teaching it.
There might not be very many people subscribing to such bizarre opinions, and they might not have many followers, but every last one of them has institutional power to destroy mathematics and with it the future of our children. If there ever a cause for conservative canceling, we should cancel these specialists. They do not belong in education.
The left calls for racial quotas in the name of progress
The American dream is that any citizen, regardless of sex, race, creed, or color, can rise on his determination and merit. History is littered with examples of the reformers who worked to realize that dream, pushing the most influential institutions in the country to prize talent and hard work over wealth and connections.
The introduction of standardized testing, accessible to all American teens, was part of that push. Harvard University began administering a standardized test to all applicants in 1905. Its effect was profound and immediate: historically a landing spot for the Protestant upper crust, the school began admitting far more public school kids, Catholics, and Jews.
The increasing number of Jewish students was a major concern for Harvard president and committed progressive A. Lawrence Lowell. He tried to implement a quota on Jews, then pivoted to an admissions process that used intangible factors such as “character” and “manliness.” It worked: Jewish applicants consistently fell short.
These sorts of hazy, intangible assessments are now championed by the left. In the name of racial equality, the woke now seek to dismantle meritocratic norms and return to the quota systems that practices like standardized testing were designed to relegate to the trash heap of history.
In a lawsuit likely headed for the Supreme Court, hundreds of would-be Asian admittees allege that Harvard caps their numbers with quotas based on “personality”—an eerie echo of Lowell’s method for keeping out Jews.
The New York Times’s classical music critic, Anthony Tommasini, is calling for the end of the blind symphony audition, which drove a tripling of women’s representation in the field, so that conductors can make race-based selections. The University of Connecticut School of Medicine, where merit is literally a matter of life or death, recently suspended admissions to its honor society because the GPA-based admissions criterion did not produce an honor society that, as Bill Clinton said, “looked like America.”
The SAT—which measures intellect better and more fairly than do intangible heuristics—is under fire. University of California president and former Obama official Janet Napolitano has joined the chorus of administrators at elite universities who complain that race-blind admissions aren’t producing the desired results.
Those calling for “progress” usually want to forfeit someone else’s job. Tommasini is a white man, as are all his listed colleagues at the Times‘s “music” section. So is the L.A. Times’s Mark Swed, and Washington Post music critic Michael Brodeur, who recently penned a news report about classical music’s “long overdue reckoning with racism.”
All are curiously quiet on the “racism” of their clique. None seem ready to give up their own position for indigenous or trans critics, who surely exist! Surely they are waiting somewhere for the call from the New York Times that their turn has come, merit be damned!
As the Times‘s own Ross Douthat noted, those who stand to benefit most from this new attitude are the rich and powerful, who will be free to clear the way for their underachieving kids—the Varsity Blues scandal, legitimated by wokeness.
The new war on merit is the same as the old, and it marks regression rather than progress. It’s straight out of Lowell’s playbook: In the name of “equality,” tear down the only system we have that gives the talented a shot over the powerful.
Sixteen Thirty Fund acts as network for liberal donors to anonymously give to Democratic committees
Deep-pocketed liberal donors are using a massive dark money network to conceal the source of nearly $20 million in donations to pro-Biden PACs.
At least $19.8 million has made its way through the Sixteen Thirty Fund to liberal PACs for the 2020 cycle. The fund, which normally works with advocacy organizations, has switched its focus to the election in recent months, sending large amounts to groups supporting Joe Biden in the presidential race. Wealthy donors push cash into the Sixteen Thirty Fund—an entity housed at the D.C.-based dark money network Arabella Advisors—which then disburses the money to prominent Democratic committees.
Arabella Advisors operates as an important funding avenue for wealthy liberal donors, allowing them to contribute to political groups anonymously. Each of several funds within Arabella, including the Sixteen Thirty Fund, acts as a “fiscal sponsor,” providing its legal and tax-exempt status to dozens of liberal groups that fall under its auspices. That status absolves the groups from having to disclose their donors. Donors’ use of the Sixteen Thirty Fund as a vehicle for election PAC donations marks a departure from the group’s normal operations. It normally serves as a pass-through entity to bankroll shadowy nonprofit groups behind left-wing initiatives. This year, however, Democratic candidates including Joe Biden will benefit from the fund’s disbursements despite railing against secret money in politics.
The fund’s relationship to liberal nonprofits has raised eyebrows among money-in-politics watchdogs. Anna Massoglia, a dark money researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics, said the Sixteen Thirty Fund “has taken dark money in politics to a new level of opacity by channeling money from secret donors to political groups while steering funds into its own fiscally sponsored operations.”
“Sixteen Thirty Fund’s fiscal sponsorship scheme not only enables seemingly independent groups to operate under its umbrella with little or no paper trail but also enables them to engage in a level of political activity that might not be possible if they operated as separate tax-exempt nonprofits,” Massoglia said.
Several election-focused PACs received large sums from Sixteen Thirty, according to FEC filings. The pro-Biden Unite the Country PAC, liberal operative David Brock’s American Bridge PAC, and a joint fundraising venture between the two groups hauled in a combined $11.4 million from the fund last month. Priorities USA Action, the largest Democratic super PAC, received $3.5 million. The Black PAC, a progressive group focused on black voter turnout, received $2.25 million from the dark money entity—nearly all of the $2.5 million the committee raised in June.
The Sixteen Thirty Fund pushed more than $2.5 million to other Democratic PACs earlier this cycle, including six-figure sums to the Nancy Pelosi-linked House Majority PAC, Shaun King’s Real Justice PAC, and Forward Majority Action. It also sent seven-figure sums to Future Forward USA PAC.
“Liberal dark money groups outspent their conservative counterparts in 2018 for the first election cycle since Citizens United,” Massoglia said. “But direct spending by groups like 501(c)(4) nonprofits is only a fraction of the secret donor money seeping into U.S. elections since dark money groups also steer donations to groups like super PACs.”ADVERTISING
Arabella’s massive network has facilitated the transfer of more than $1 billion from Democratic donors to powerful liberal groups and initiatives in 2017 and 2018 alone.
“The Sixteen Thirty Fund provides support to advocates and social welfare organizations around the country, and we will continue to grow our program,” Amy Kurtz, the fund’s executive director, told the Washington Free Beacon. She added that the fund would continue to support groups that work on causes such as “economic equity, the climate crisis, racial justice, and participation in our democracy.”
The brand of all cultural revolutions is untruth about the past and present in order to control the future. Why we have this happening to our country is the only mystery left.
The current revolution is based on a series of lies, misrepresentations, and distortions, whose weight will soon sink it.
Unfortunately few in authority have been more wrong, and yet more self-righteously wrong, than the esteemed Dr. Anthony Fauci. Given his long service as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and his stature during the AIDS crisis, he has rightly been held up by the media as the gold standard of coronavirus information. The media has constructed Fauci as a constant corrective of Trump’s supposed “lies” about the utility of travel bans, analogies with a bad flu year, and logical endorsement of hydroxychloroquine as a “what do you have to lose” possible therapy.
But the omnipresent Fauci himself unfortunately has now lost credibility. The reason is that he has offered authoritative advice about facts, which either were not known or could not have been known at the time of his declarations.
Since January, Fauci has variously advised the nation both that the coronavirus probably was unlikely to cause a major health crisis in the United States and later that it might yet kill 240,000 Americans. In January, he praised China for its transparent handling of the coronavirus epidemic, not much later he conceded that perhaps they’d done a poor job of that. He has cautioned that the virus both poses low risks and, later, high risks, for Americans. Wearing masks, Fauci warned, was both of little utility and yet, later, essential. Hydroxychloroquine, he huffed, had little utility; when studies showed that it did, he still has kept mostly silent.
At various times, he emphasized that social distancing and avoiding optional activities were mandatory, but earlier that blind dating and going on cruise ships were permissible. Fauci weighed in on the inadvisability of restarting businesses prematurely, but he has displayed less certainty about the millions of demonstrators and rioters in the streets for a month violating quarantines. The point is not that he is human like all of us, but that in each of these cases he asserted such contradictions with near-divine certainty—and further confused the public in extremis.
In terms of how the United States “fared,” it is simply untrue that Europe embraced superior social policies in containing the virus. The only somewhat reliable assessments of viral lethality are population numbers and deaths by COVID-19, although the latter is often in dispute.
By such rubrics, the United States, so far, has fared better than most of the major European countries—France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, and Belgium—in terms of deaths per million. Germany is the one major exception. But if blame is to be allotted to public officials for the United States having a higher fatality rate than Germany, then the cause is most likely governors of high-death, Eastern Seaboard states—New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in particular. They either sent the infected into rest homes, or did not early on ensure that their mass transit systems were sanitized daily as well as practicing social distancing.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, more than any other regional or national leader, is culpable for decisions that doomed thousands of elderly patients. He did not just suggest long-term-care facilities receive active COVID-19 patients, but ordered them to take them—knowing at the time that the disease in its lethal manifestations targeted the elderly, infirm, and bedridden.
Then in shameful fashion, after thousands died, Cuomo claimed that either the facilities themselves or Donald Trump were responsible for the deaths. In truth, in the United States, the coronavirus is largely a fatal disease in two senses: the vulnerable in just four states on the Eastern Seaboard that account for about 12 percent of the nation’s population but close to half of its total COVID-19 fatalities, and/or patients in rest homes or those over 65 years old with comorbidities.
Why are there currently spikes in cases among young people in warmer states and those of less population density in late June? No one is certain. But one likely reason is that millions of protestors for nearly a month crammed the nation’s cities, suburbs, and towns, shouting and screaming without masks, violating social distancing, and often without observant hand washing and sanitizing—most often with official exemption or media and political approval.
The period of exposure and incubation is over, and the resulting new cases—for the most part asymptomatic and clustered among the young—are thus no surprise. Still, what is inconvenient is the rise in these cases—given that the Left either had claimed its mass demonstrations would not spread the disease, or, if they would, the resulting contagion was an affordable price to pay for the cry of the heart protests.
Perhaps, but the real cost of four weeks of protesting, rioting, and looting was to undermine the authority of state officials to enforce blatant violations of the quarantine. Obviously, if some can march with impunity in phalanxes of screaming, shoulder-to-shoulder protestors, while others are jailed as individuals trying to restart a business, then the state has lost its credibility with people and they will simply ignore further edicts as they see fit. Now what adjudicates quarantines are the people’s own calibrations of their own safety.
Mismanagement of the virus? There have been four disastrous official policy decisions: sending patients into rest homes; allowing millions en masse for political reasons to violate state mandates on masks and social distancing; retroactively attempting to reissue quarantine standards that their advocates and authors had themselves earlier de facto destroyed; and consistently issuing pandemic alerts solely on the flawed basis of new positive cases, without distinguishing those who were asymptomatic, or who were infected and recovered without ever being tested, or who were asymptomatic and tested positive for antibodies, or who were only briefly ill, recovered, and by no means still a case-patient.
Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and other revolutionary groups hijacked the tragic death of George Floyd. Within hours they created a mythology of rampant white police lethal attacks on innocent black victims. But that trope, too, was without a factual basis.
The wrongful deaths of unarmed African-Americans in custody have been on the decline, is far less than the number of police murdered per year, less than the number of white suspects killed, and proportionally fewer, in terms of percentages of those arrested by police, than other racial groups.
In rare interracial violence, blacks are five times more likely to attack whites than vice versa. There is a tragic war against young, black males—over 7,000 murdered per year—but it is an urban genocide of sort perpetrated in liberal cities, governed by liberal mayors and governors, and overseen by liberal police chiefs. The shooters are overwhelmingly other black males.
Somehow those facts were distorted by the Left into a trope that George Floyd was typical of an epidemic of white-generated lethal racial hatred. One can certainly argue about systematic racism as being a factor in all these asymmetries, but that is not what the rioting and their apologists have done in trafficking in accusations that have no data to support them.
There is no logic to statue toppling, name changing, or culture canceling other than the quest to assert power, humiliate authorities, and create crises where they do not exist in order to manufacture a faux state of emergency—in service of a political agenda. In some sense, whether any statues fall is contingent entirely on the lack of resistance.
We know this because the ignorant rioters and protestors cannot explain why monuments to Ulysses S. Grant, Cervantes, black Civil War veterans, or Abraham Lincoln need to be toppled and destroyed as much as a statue of Robert E. Lee. We are not told why the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton is canceled out, but not the Wilson Center in Washington, or why a memorial to President Washington is targeted for defacement but not the hit play, “Hamilton,” another founder who at one time owned slaves. And what or who, if any, exactly is to replace our fallen luminaries? Name the most iconic—Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, or Che Guevarra and the current rules of perfection would disqualify them all.
The abettors of the madness—corporations, the Democratic National Committee, universities, and the media—are not so mad. Yale, named for a slave owner, is now mostly a brand name, not a certification of a first-class, disinterested, and classically liberal education.
Take the elite stamp away, and what replaces it might as well be an online degree mill—given that it is no longer so demonstrable that a Yale graduate learned more than in his four years than did a graduate of Cal State Stanislaus.
So university presidents at Princeton, Yale, Stanford, and Columbia, know that by the standards of BLM their brand names must be changed. But to do so is synonymous with multi-billion-dollar losses and the destruction of centuries-old brands. Perhaps that is why they pander to the mob the way a Roman would-be emperor outbid rivals seeking to win over the Praetorian Guard.
The truth is that the COVID-19 epidemic, the lockdown, and the rioting were seen by the Left, the media, and now the Democratic Party as a renewed effort in this election year to do what Robert Mueller, Ukraine, and impeachment had not—abort the presidency of Donald Trump, or make it impossible for him to be reelected.
So Trump was to be reconfigured as a racist responsible for the death of George Floyd. Then he was smeared as a Herbert Hoover who supposedly crashed the economy all on his own. And then he became a Typhoid Mary purveyor of death who sickened and killed tens of thousands of Americans at his rallies in a way millions at left-wing protests did not.
To that end, almost daily, entire fantasies were birthed, floated, crashed, and then were replaced by new hoaxes. The strategy was that while one lie might be refuted, the bigger and more numerous the lies, the more a continuous narrative could be fabricated.
Consequently, the last two weeks, in succession we were told by the media that a noose was left in a NASCAR garage as a racist threat to NASCAR’s only major African-American driver, typical of Trump’s racist America; that Donald Trump, in dejection and self-incrimination, was soon to quit rather than face the humiliation of a landslide defeat in November; that the president knowingly rejected intelligence that the Russians were paying bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan, as part of his obeisance to Vladimir Putin; and that Trump went to Mount Rushmore to honor racist presidents and dishonor sacred Native American land.
All were not just lies, but respectively unimaginative and banal successors to similarly long ago discredited lies—the Jussie Smollett hoax, the “Trump never wished to be president in the first place” hoax, the Russian “collusion” hoax, and the hoax that Trump’s presence turns once esteemed monuments that prior presidents, most recently Barack Obama, visited into racist dog whistles.
Then there was the monstrous lie that Joe Biden has no cognitive disabilities. That he does was the consensus of one in five polled Democratic voters, of many of his own primary rivals in numerous Democratic debates, of handlers who bragged that his basement quarantine need not end because it resulted in him outpolling Trump, of a scramble to turn the vice-presidential nomination into a veritable presidential bid, and in a litany of gaffes, blank outs, and tragic memory lapses of familiar names, places, and common referents.
Biden finally came out of his bunker to do some tele-fundraising and talk to a few preselected reporters. He almost immediately blasted a reporter as a “lying dog face.” In one of his next appearances, his opening statement started with “I am Joe Biden’s husband, even as the liberal media insisted “Joe” was “Jill.” There is now a Biden-inspired cottage industry of arguing that what Biden is recorded as saying is not what he was saying—on the theory that he so poorly pronounces words that they can become almost anything you wish.
What is cruel is cynically using a cognitively challenged candidate for the purpose of winning an election and then replacing him with a far-left vice president who otherwise likely would never have been elected.
FDR and the Democratic Party did something similar in his successful fourth-term bid in 1944 because of FDR’s anticipated early death in office—but in matters of hiding physical rather than cognitive impairment. Moreover, at least that dishonest gambit was undertaken in order to prevent a socialist takeover of the United States by jettisoning the hard leftist, Vice President Henry Wallace.
In 2020, the effort is not to ensure that a socialist not be appointed president who otherwise would not have been elected, but rather to ensure that she will be.
The brand of all cultural revolutions is untruth about the past and present in order to control the future. Why we have let this happen to our country is the only mystery left.
Two recent pieces in Vox and the New York Times say outright what many of us have long understood is an implicit belief among our elite media: that the media are motivated — and should be motivated — by ideology, not objectivity.
Of course, the ethics guidelines and mission statements of leading outlets have yet to acknowledge this reality, and many still read like paeans to the old gods.
“Our fundamental purpose,” the New York Times cautions its reporters, “is to protect the impartiality and neutrality [of our] reporting.” The Washington Post insists on strict “fairness” and that it “shall not be the ally of any special interest.” We are “unbiased, impartial, and balanced,” declares the Associated Press. “Non-ideological objectivity” is what the Los Angeles Times assures readers it maintains. “Professional impartiality . . . without our opinions,” is the standard declared by National Public Radio.
But if you look at what journalists actually say about each other and their racket behind closed doors, at the champagne-soaked galas where they hand each other prizes, you’re hard-pressed to find an acknowledgment that impartiality or balance are even virtues at all.
The most insider-y of these onanistic lovefests is the annual Mirror Awards, hosted by the prestigious Newhouse School of Public Communications and focused on reporters who cover the journalism industry itself.
One of this year’s nominees for “Best Story on the Future of Journalism,” the Pacific Standard’s Brent Cunningham, perhaps captures the new media zeitgeist most starkly in an article spotlighting reporters who hold the “belief that journalism’s highest calling [is] not some feckless notion of ‘objectivity,’ but rather to . . . expose the many ways the powerful exploit the powerless” and “f*** ’em . . . with the facts.” Indeed.
Reporter Jon Marcus was nominated for a piece in Harvard’s Nieman Reports about reporters who withhold certain facts — say, the name of a mass shooter — in a move that’s come to be called “strategic silence.” While Marcus says it’s a “fraught and complex debate” that “media organizations are struggling with,” he rehearses an Olympian leap of logic from a left-wing activist at Media Matters, who argues that reporters should apply this strategic silence to the leader of the free world, too: The idea is that they should refrain from reporting statements by President Trump that they determine are not “inherently newsworthy” or that they classify as “misinformation.” Say what you will about the man — he probably shouldn’t be covered like a gunman.
Forget about laying out the facts, or airing competing viewpoints, or writing “the first draft of history.” Americans are far too thickheaded for that. Marcus cites another sage who observes that “assuming media literacy . . . may be optimistic.” Yet another one of his sources bemoans journalists who assume that if you merely “throw facts at someone . . . that’s going to change their minds.”
The other nominees for the 2020 Mirrors (19 in all, across six categories) hardly need the encouragement to selectively slant their reportage. The list includes a host of liberal media darlings singing straight from the progressive hymnbook. In the eyes of the Newhouse School, apparently no conservative writers came up with any worthy media criticism in the last year.
Elsewhere The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, a writer whose leftism is more knee-jerk than a can-can dancer’s, was nominated for an essay called “Trump TV,” which explains that, gee whiz, Fox News tends to support the president. Move over, Bob Woodward.
The Mayer love gets meta, too. Nominated for “Best Profile” is a piece by Molly Langmuir that appeared in the glossy magazine Elle, titled “What’s Next for New Yorker Reporter Jane Mayer?” Here is what the awards committee regards as an exemplar of “hold[ing] a mirror to their own industry for the public’s benefit”: “In person, Mayer, who is petite with brown shoulder-length hair she usually wears down, the tips slightly flipped up, displays a confidence that has no visible fault lines. She also has a tendency toward self-deprecation. And while her mind often seems to whir with seamless elegance, this appears to fuel in her not impatience but curiosity.”
And here’s a detail that didn’t make it in alongside the flipped tips: Mayer was recently excoriated by critics across the ideological spectrum for a baseless and uncorroborated hit piece she co-wrote, the central claims of which were later disavowed by “several dozen” sources contacted by the New York Times.
In an Orwellian flourish, Langmuir explains that to Mayer, the “furor from both the left and right” over the piece was a consequence of her and co-author Ronan Farrow’s own “attempts at carefulness.” Mayer told Langmuir that she had focused on the “‘accountability portion, trying to be fair,’” you see. Plus, Mayer’s certainty on the unsubstantiated accusation she did get into print was “informed by [another] incident Mayer learned about, the one she didn’t get into print.” Got that? The reporting rejected by every other mainstream outlet except The New Yorker was backed up by reporting rejected by every mainstream outlet — including The New Yorker.
If Mayer was at all chastened by the denunciation of her work by her peers, it’s hard to tell. In her most recent piece, “Ivanka Trump and Charles Koch Fuel a Cancel-Culture Clash at Wichita State,” she returned to one of her pet obsessions. Riffing on original reporting in the Wichita Eagle, Mayer deceptively claimed that Koch Industries “threatened to withdraw its financial support for the university” after Ivanka Trump was disinvited from giving a commencement speech. But the source article makes clear that neither Koch Industries nor Charles Koch threatened any such thing. A company spokesperson said explicitly that the company was not pulling funding and in fact stressed its commitment to “academic freedom.”
Maybe Elle ought to hold off on the puff profiles, and Mirror on the awards, until Mayer can master faithfully representing all the facts she finds reported in regional newspapers?
And that isn’t even the biggest coffee-spitter Mirror Awards nominee. That honor would go to David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun, saluted for his opinion piece applauding MSNBC host and serial prevaricator Brian Williams. “At this moment when journalism and a free flow of reliable information are under continual attack from the Trump administration and its many media allies,” Zurawik proclaimed, “our democracy is made stronger by having Williams . . . at the end of each weeknight to offer perspective on the political and cultural warfare” in our “nation’s civic life.”
But that’s tame stuff compared to the outright agitprop of the nomination for a multipart series jointly published by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation, “The Media Are Complacent While the World Burns,” which argued that the press doesn’t spend enough time talking about climate change. Right, and the New York Post ought to devote more ink to a plucky ballclub from the South Bronx called the Yankees. A recent report found that in 2019 the top five U.S. newspapers combined ran between 400 and 800 articles per month that mentioned climate issues. The top seven TV news outlets (ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NBC, PBS) combined covered climate issues between 200 and 400 times a month.
For the authors of that series, Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope, the sheer volume of this reporting isn’t good enough if it doesn’t send readers to the ramparts. “Instead of sleepwalking us toward disaster,” they insist, “the US news media need to remember their Paul Revere responsibilities — to awaken, inform, and rouse the people to action.”
Let me suggest a different historical analog for Hertsgaard and Pope. It was a former newspaper editor, Vladimir Lenin, who once wrote, “A newspaper is what we most of all need . . . [in] the pressing task of the moment. . . . Never has the need been felt so acutely as today for reinforcing dispersed agitation . . . that can only be conducted with the aid of a periodical press. . . . A newspaper is not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, it is also a collective organizer.” That’s why, to turn the sleepwalkers into the fully woke, Lenin created the infamous Department of Agitation and Propaganda, or “agitprop” for short.
For all that they say the quiet parts out loud, most journalists still want to have it both ways. They want the satisfaction of slanting coverage to suit their ideological commitments but without giving up the authoritative veneer of neutral objectivity. This duplicity helps explain why surveys from leading media groups like Pew Research show a fast-growing majority of Americans no longer trust the news.
The Mirror Awards, at least, seem to have sensed which way the winds are blowing and are sailing in that direction. They’ve moved away from their promise that the prizes should “recognize reliable reporters who criticize the media and put their own views aside [to] be transparent and objective” and toward the consensus that the problem is “the media’s reliance on objectivity and what some see as false equivalency,” as Newhouse professor Joel Kaplan puts it.
Objectivity is for suckers. A reporter’s own subjective assessment is what counts, and the public is depending on the media to tell them what to think and how to vote.14
Fine. But treat readers like grownups. Polemic masquerading as unbiased reporting demeans everyone involved, making liars out of the press and treating the public like idiots. So why not end every article with a shirttail stating plainly the reporter’s point of view? The author of this piece is a committed progressive and would like [insert desired political result] to come from the issues raised here.
The Newhouse School could even give the first New York Times or Washington Post reporter to adopt the practice an award for bravery.
The New York Times continues to shake up its editorial page after the resignation of James Bennet, the opinion editor who angered many of his former colleagues by publishing an op-ed written by a Republican.
In addition to hiring Charlotte Greensit, former managing editor at the Intercept, the Times announced the promotion of Talmon Smith to the position of staff editor. Smith, who has previously written for Salon, the New Republic, and HuffPost, has a history of what some would describe as blatant partisan bias on social media.
“All I want for Christmas is impeachment,” Smith wrote in November 2017. That was before he started working for the Times, which maintains a strict social media policy under which its journalists “must not express partisan opinions [or] promote political views.” The Times demoted a deputy editor for suggesting on Twitter that big cities (Minneapolis, Atlanta) are not representative of the broader regions (Midwest, Deep South) in which they reside.
Smith even criticized the Times in 2017 for a headline suggesting Trump had a chance to “unify” the country in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. He has also dabbled in failed punditry, asserting in 2018 that former vice president Joe Biden “has an approximate zero percent chance of winning a 2020 primary.”
Smith’s promotion comes as professional newsrooms, and the ornately educated liberal youths who populate them, debate the merits of objectivity in journalism. Restrictive social media policies such as those at the Times have come under fire for limiting the ability of journalists to express their feelings about politically charged issues.
Some outlets, such as Axios, have responded by allowing their employees to take part in public protests. “We trust our colleagues to do the right thing, and stand firmly behind them should they decide to exercise their constitutional right to free speech,” Axios founder Jim VandeHei said in a statement.
That statement, and the willingness to allow journalists to take part in protests, appeared to conflict with the opinion VandeHei expressed in a 2018 column advising media outlets to “ban their reporters from doing anything on social media—especially Twitter—beyond sharing stories.” VandeHei argued that “snark, jokes and blatant opinion are showing your hand, and it always seems to be the left one. This makes it impossible to win back the skeptics.”
This view may be prevalent among media bosses, but it is increasingly under attack by younger journalists who consider their profession a form of political activism.
“What if we built a journalism where instead of judging a reporter’s ability to be fair and accurate based on their tweets, we instead judged them based on their journalism?” tweeted Pulitzer Prize-winning race journalist Wesley Lowery while promoting his widely disseminated (among elite journalists) piece on the media’s “Reckoning Over Objectivity, Led by Black Journalists.”
Smith’s tweets have become more subdued since joining the Times but continue to address controversial topics. For example, he retweeted more than one positive assessment of disgraced editor James Bennet’s humanity and suggested that liberals should stop shaming people for not social distancing following the mass protests in response to the police killing of George Floyd. Smith also tweeted in praise of Dave Chappelle, who some have criticized as anti-transgender, and said he “will happily take a memorial day [part] 2 based on white guilt,” in reference to the recent observance of Juneteenth.
The entire media industry is in the midst of a revolution of sorts. At the very least, it’s a hasty attempt on behalf of white industry leaders to express their opposition to racism and support for left-wing activism. It’s the new normal, for now.
So, naturally, Democrats are pushing to have them sent to every voter — or ‘voter.’
Enormous pressure is being mounted to use our current crisis as an excuse to transform how we vote in elections.
“Coronavirus gives us an opportunity to revamp our electoral system,” Obama’s former attorney general, Eric Holder, recently told Time magazine. “These are changes that we should make permanent because it will enhance our democracy.”
The ideas Holder and others are proposing include requiring that a mail-in ballot be automatically sent to every voter, which would allow people to both register and vote on Election Day. It would also permit “ballot harvesting,” whereby political operatives go door-to-door collecting ballots that they then deliver to election officials. All of these would dramatically reduce safeguards protecting election integrity.
But liberals see a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sweep away the current system. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted that a mandatory national vote-by-mail option be forced on states in the first Coronavirus aid bill. She retreated only when she was ridiculed for shamelessly using the bill to push a political agenda. But Pelosi has promised her Democratic caucus that she will press again to overhaul election laws in the next aid bill.
If liberals can’t mandate vote-by-mail nationally, they will demand that states take the lead. Last Friday, California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, signed an executive order requiring that every registered voter — including those listed as “inactive” — be mailed a ballot this November.
This could be a disaster waiting to happen. Los Angeles County (population 10 million) has a registration rate of 112 percent of its adult citizen population. More than one out of every five L.A. County registrations probably belongs to a voter who has moved, or who is deceased or otherwise ineligible.
Just last January, the public-interest law firm Judicial Watch reached a settlement agreement with the State of California and L.A. County officials to begin removing as many as 1.5 million inactive voters whose registrations may be invalid. Neither state nor county officials in California have been removing inactive voters from the rolls for 20 years, even though the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed last year, in Husted v. Randolph Institute, a case about Ohio’s voter-registration laws, that federal law “makes this removal mandatory.”
Experts have long cautioned against wholesale use of mail ballots, which are cast outside the scrutiny of election officials. “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud,” was the conclusion of the bipartisan 2005 Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by former president Jimmy Carter and former secretary of state James Baker.
That remains true today. In 2012, a Miami–Dade County Grand Jury issued a public report recommending that Florida change its law to prohibit “ballot harvesting” unless the ballots are “those of the voter and members of the voter’s immediate family.” “Once that ballot is out of the hands of the elector, we have no idea what happens to it,” they pointed out. “The possibilities are numerous and scary.”
Indeed. In 2018, a political consultant named Leslie McCrae Dowless and seven others were indicted on charges of “scheming to illegally collect, fill in, forge and submit mail-in ballots” to benefit Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris, the Washington Post reported. The fraud was extensive enough that Harris’s 900-vote victory was invalidated by the courts and the race was rerun.
Texas has a long history of intimidation and coercion involving absentee ballots. The abuse of elderly voters is so pervasive that Omar Escobar, the Democratic district attorney of Starr County, Texas, says, “The time has come to consider an alternative to mail-in voting.” Escobar says it needs to be replaced with “something that can’t be hijacked.”
Even assuming that the coronavirus remains a serious health issue in November, there is no reason to abandon in-person voting. A new Heritage Foundation report by Hans von Spakovsky and Christian Adams notes that in 2014, the African nation of Liberia successfully held an election in the middle of the Ebola epidemic. International observers worked with local officials to identify 40 points in the election process that constituted an Ebola transmission risk. Turnout was high, and the United Nations congratulated Liberia on organizing a successful election “under challenging circumstances, particularly in the midst of difficulties posed by the Ebola crisis.”
In Wisconsin recently, officials held that state’s April primary election in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. Voters who did not want to vote in-person, including the elderly, could vote by absentee ballot. But hundreds of thousands of people cast ballots at in-person locations, and overall turnout was high. Officials speculated that a few virus cases “may” have been related to Election Day, but, as AP reported, they couldn’t confirm that the patients “definitely got [COVID-19] at the polls.”
In California, the previous loosening of absentee ballot laws have sent disturbing signals. In 2016, a San Pedro couple found more than 80 unused ballots on top of their apartment-building mailbox. All had different names but were addressed to an 89-year-old neighbor who lives alone in their building. The couple suspected that someone was planning to pick up the ballots, but the couple had intercepted them first. In the same election, a Gardena woman told the Torrance Daily Breeze that her husband, an illegal alien, had gotten a mail-in ballot even though he had never registered.
“I think it’s a huge deal,” she said. “Something is definitely wrong with the system.”
The Los Angeles Times agrees. In a 2018 editorial it blasted the state’s “overly-permissive ballot collection law” as being “written without sufficient safeguards.” The Times concluded that “the law passed in 2106 does open the door to coercion and fraud and should be fixed or repealed.” It hasn’t been.
John Lieberman, a Democrat living in East Los Angeles, wrote in the Los Angeles Daily News that he was troubled by how much pressure a door-to-door canvasser put on him to fill out a ballot for candidate Wendy Carrillo. “What I experienced from her campaign sends chills down my spine,” he said.
What should also spook voters who want an honest election is a report from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. It found that, in 2016, more mail ballots were misdirected to wrong addresses or unaccounted for than the number of votes separating Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. She led by 2.9 million votes, yet 6.5 million ballots were misdirected or unaccounted for by the states.147
It would be the height of folly for other states to follow California’s lead. In the Golden State, it already takes over a month to resolve close elections as mail-in ballots trickle in days and weeks after Election Day. Putting what may be a supremely close presidential election into the hands of a U.S. Postal Service known for making mistakes sounds like a recipe for endless litigation and greatly increased distrust in our democracy.
This is not an emergency virus bill. It is a Democratic election wish list, at a time hundreds are dying, thousands are losing their businesses, and millions are out of work in the United States.
The weekend began with a bipartisan plan. People were hopeful. Outside of Washington, business owners told The Federalist they finally saw light in all the darkness. They thought they’d be able to hire their employees back again. These are employees who have families, mortgages, and lives; people who have never once asked for public assistance and never thought they’d have to.
The mood in Washington was optimistic as well. “We’re having good bipartisan agreements,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told CNN Saturday, predicting a Monday passage of their plan. “The initial bill Leader [Mitch] McConnell put in didn’t have any Democratic input and we were worried that we just try to put it on the floor and not consult Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi because the House still has to pass this, but actually, to my delight and surprise, there has been a great deal of bipartisan cooperation thus far.”
On Sunday, Schumer met four times with Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin to continue negotiations.
And then Pelosi came back to town from her week-long vacation and announced the rare, rare bipartisan cooperation the country had seen in the Senate would end with her — and election politics would begin.
“Oh, I don’t know about Monday but we are still talking,” she said Sunday evening. “It’s on the Senate side now because that’s their deadline for a vote but we’ll be introducing our own bill and hopefully it’ll be compatible with that they discussed on the Senate.”
It was difficult to guess how she’d do this with the House in recess, but on Monday her office miraculously introduced a 1,400-page bill. Miraculous, until it became clear she’d simply unloaded the Democratic Party’s election platform into a bill intended to save Americans from bankruptcy and death in the face of a global pandemic.
The list of unrelated provisions is truly incredible. Pelosi’s emergency virus bill includes “collective bargaining… for federal workers,” a federal “study on climate mitigation efforts,” tax credits for wind and solar energy, and demands that the airlinesinvolved buy carbon credits “to fully offset [their] annual carbon emissions.” It includes “same day [voter] registration,” national early voting and “grants for conducting” election audits.
Pelosi’s emergency virus bill legislates “funding standards for community newspaper” retirement plans, cancels $10,000 off peoples’ college debts, and forces a $15 minimum wage and permanent paid leave on aid recipients. It awards more than $33 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “for necessary expenses to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus,” and $35 million to Washington’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Pelosi’s emergency virus bill cancels the Post Office’s considerable debt to taxpayers and grants it “additional borrowing authority.” It gives Washington oversight of the “corporate board diversity” for the companies involved, mandates “a comparison of pay amongst racial and ethnic minorities… as compared to their white counterparts and comparison of pay between men and women,” orders the companies to start “diversity and inclusion offices” and give those offices “officials and budget dedicated to diversity,” and it establishes a program “to expand the use of minority banks and minority credit unions.”
This, it is clear, is not an emergency virus bill. It is a Democratic election wish list, politically poisoned at a time when hundreds are dying, thousands are losing their businesses, and millions are out of work in the United States.
“This,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn told Democrats Thursday, “is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.”
It’s truly an incredible political act by the speaker, and the entire Democratic Senate fell in step behind her. By Monday afternoon, while Republican after Republican took the floor to speak on the bill, most Democrats were not even in the chamber.
“I thought we were doing great work,” Sen. Jim Inhofe lamented to a half-empty chamber. “Everything was great until last night.”
Everything had been great for Pelosi and the Democrats’ political fortunes as well. Early in the crisis, the speaker took a lead role, passing a Democratic wish list with the first round of emergency aid. Republicans in the House and Senate passed her bill despite its severe problems and near-complete lack of compromise.
McConnell was absent from early negotiations, providing zero cover while Mnuchin, a former Democrat with a bipartisan reputation as a terrible negotiator, surrendered on the president’s asks. The president himself fluctuated between defensive and tired, giving an Oval Office address that was so poorly received he rebooted his communication strategy. Today, McConnell and Republicans are at the forefront, the president’s handling of the crisis is popular across the country, and even Pelosi’s allies in the corporate media are struggling to explain her actions.
The New York Times changed their Sunday headline three times, starting correctly with “Democrats Block Action On $1.8 Trillion Stimulus,” then shifting the truth to “Democrats Block Action On Stimulus Plan, Seeking Worker Protections,” and finally editing the headline to pure farce with “Partisan Divide Threatens Deal On Rescue Bill.”
“Take us inside the politics here,” MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle asked after the speaker’s Monday speech quoting the pope to justify her actions. “How about this: What was the point of that?”
“Well,” correspondent Garrett Haake replied, “this is an opportunity for Democrats to show what their priorities are in this crisis.”
Indeed. And Americans are unlikely to be thrilled with those priorities while our economy careens toward devastation.
“Today, 102 Americans died while the Democrats blocked consideration of this bill,” Sen. Ted Cruz yelled from the floor of the Senate in a fiery response. “One Texan died while this chamber decided not to show up for work and do their job!”
“What the hell do the emissions standards on airplanes have to do with thousands of people dying and millions of people out of work in the coronavirus epidemic!?”
“What in the hell does a windmill have to do with this crisis, other than there are some Democratic lobbyists getting fat and rich and they’re willing to extort a crisis for a political agenda!?”
“One of the reasons the Democrats think they will get away with this,” Cruz closed, “is they expect the media to be utterly complict.” The corporate media is doing its best.
“For the moment,” Schumer had told CNN just 36 hours earlier, “we’re just trying to work together for the good of the country.”
The moment was brief, their miscalculation tremendous, and the political impact could — and should — be lasting.