On Vaccinations

It has been reported that one out of three adult Americans has already had at least one COVID vaccination shot; we seem well on our way toward President Joe Biden’s expressed goal of being able to provide a vaccination to all Americans who want one within, at the latest, the next sixty days.  I hope that the Administration is already setting plans, assuming our domestic rollout remains on track, to make our unneeded vaccinations available to citizens of disadvantaged nations as the summer proceeds.  Although our international image has taken on more than a bit of tarnish over the last four years, I would venture that these nations, if given the option of receiving vaccines from the United States, China, or Russia, will still instinctively prefer the American option:  likely better quality, almost certainly fewer explicit or implied strings attached.

Closer to home, set forth below is a note I received recently from a very close friend of many decades – whose antics our adult children still well recall from their early days — who will only become aware of my intent to enter it here as he reads this post.  I am confident he won’t mind; when you read the note, I suspect you will share my confidence : ).

“When I was waiting for my second shot, a young lady (30 – 35) or so was pacing around.  I asked her if this was her first shot and if she was nervous.  She said yes.  I told her not to worry, this was going to be my second shot and it’s no big deal.  You just pull down your pants, they give you the shot and you are on your way. 

????!!!!!  She said WHAT???   She thought you get the shot in your arm!  I asked her who told her that?   She said she saw it on TV.   I told her that they can’t put people getting butt shots on TV plus if they did a lot of people might not get the shot.  Then they called her name and I said Good luck.   

Do you know she gave me the finger when she got out of the office?   How rude!” 

I suspect that all that read these pages either have received their vaccinations, or intend to do so when given the opportunity … while of course, keeping their pants on  ;).  Hopefully, many of our fellow citizens currently expressing reservations will soon resolve to do the same.  In the meantime, stay safe.

Easter Reflections on the Georgia Election Law

As all who care are aware, the Republican-dominated Georgia legislature recently passed the state’s “Election Integrity Act of 2021,” purportedly to address alleged irregularities in the state’s voting processes that, according to Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger and as established by several state presidential vote recounts, were never there.  The law appears a pretty ham-handed attempt by Georgia Republicans to limit the voting opportunities of Democratic-leaning voters in a state that has, judging by the narrow 2020 victories of Democrats President Joe Biden and U.S. GA Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, the potential to trend increasingly Democratic.

A provision in the statute that has garnered a fair amount of attention is Section 33, which in the guise of preventing voter inducement, prohibits anyone but a poll officer from “… giving … food and drink, to an elector” in the vicinity of a polling place.

Clearly, anyone determined to wait in line to vote despite a notable thirst has already affirmatively decided how s/he will vote; the rationale that evil doers might be able to persuade a malleable voter to change his/her vote by offering the elector a drink of water – when the voter, if s/he cared so little about the substance of his/her ballot, could simply leave the line and slake his/her thirst — is on its face absurd.  The repressive aspect of the measure has been extensively noted; however, what also struck me were the ironies related to the provision.

First, the prohibition on furnishing food or drink to an elector waiting in the vicinity of a polling place evinces such mean-spirited pettiness that it has made me ponder whether such an obvious display of cancerous partisanship might even cause a conscientious conservative jurist to question the statute’s constitutionality.

That said, what seems to me the sharpest irony arising from this provision — perhaps brought to mind by the Easter Season, combined with a high level of confidence that the majority of the Republican Georgia legislators who voted for the Act consider themselves Christians — is embedded in the Gospel:

“Jesus said, ‘I thirst.’  There was a vessel filled with common wine.  So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth.  When Jesus had taken the wine, He said, ‘It is finished.’”

John 19:28-30

Georgia Republican legislators have prohibited the provision of a humane accommodation to fellow Georgians seeking to exercise their constitutional rights that Roman soldiers provided to one they had just crucified as a criminal.

May you have the opportunity to celebrate this time of the year, including as it does holy days sacred to those of multiple Faiths, in the manner you consider most fitting.  Stay safe.

The Process IS the Point

Without checking, I suspect that these pages have been as quiet during the last eight weeks as they have at any time since they were launched in 2017.  Frankly, with President Joe Biden’s assumption of the presidency allaying my fears of our devolution into an autocratic state and my inclination to let the Biden team settle in before making any pronouncements, it has been a pleasure to think about something else [although wrestling with income taxes, one of the last weeks’ preoccupations, can only be considered a “pleasure” in this context  ;)].  I suspect that my reticence will continue for much of the remainder of the President’s first 100 days.  This note is in no way a comprehensive assessment of the steps Mr. Biden has taken in his first weeks, but simply a few reactions:

The President and his team came in with a clearly-expressed, single-minded focus on manufacturing and dispensing COVID vaccines to Americans.  They have effectively set low expectations, and have over-delivered.  I would venture that if we have flare-ups of the Coronavirus in the future, no thinking American will consider such caused by any Administration oversight.  Thus far, an excellent job.

The President’s “luxury” of single-minded focus on COVID has now ended.  The migrant challenge at the border — which I do not think it is unfair to say has been exacerbated by what I believe is the true perception of Mr. Biden’s empathy for the downtrodden — and our two recent mass shootings are reminders that no President is ever truly in control of his/her agenda.  Mr. Biden must address these and other erupting issues without losing focus on his priorities – no small task.

There has been some media comment that Mr. Biden views himself as a “transformational” president, in the mode of Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson.  I hope not.  During their presidencies, Presidents Roosevelt and Johnson enjoyed overwhelming Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.  As a veteran of the Senate, I assume that Mr. Biden realizes that his opportunities are more limited in a Congress almost evenly divided between the parties.  I would venture that his greatest chance of success is not, as we have so frequently heard expressed, in “going big,” but rather, in “going small”:  e.g., pushing a limited bill setting a path to citizenship for DACA recipients rather than comprehensive immigration reform; supporting a bill addressing only an expansion of background checks for gun sales rather than aggressive overall gun regulation.  If he “goes big,” he has a significant chance of achieving nothing. 

I understand that there is bipartisan support for an infrastructure bill, which is reported to be the Administration’s next major priority (although predictably, the parties are apparently not aligned on infrastructure priorities).  I am concerned about accounts that in addition to targeted tax hikes, the Administration intends to fund a significant part of its infrastructure proposal – indicated to be in the $3T range – through further deficit spending.  I fear that yet more massive deficit spending on top of the recent 1.9T COVID relief package will ultimately have significant consequences.  To me, the greatest peril is not the potential impact upon inflation (although bond traders – smart people – clearly generally harbor some doubt about U.S. Treasury Department and Federal Reserve Bank claims that any unhealthy inflation arising from these massive spending measures can be readily controlled), but from the seeming current perception that we can limitlessly borrow.  I’m aware that there is an economic school that preaches that deficits don’t matter; I believe that at some point, they will matter.  Our standing as the world’s foremost super power – a standing we do indeed still enjoy – arises from equally important dual pillars:  we have the most weapons and the best financial condition.  Our military is our defense, but our economic strength is our offense.  Chinese President Xi Jinping clearly appreciates this, given the manner in which his regime is attempting to reinforce the underpinnings of China’s economy and extend China’s influence in the world’s economy.  The world lends to us and will continue to lend to us at low rates – despite our profligate spending – as long as we remain the best credit risk in town.  We endanger our standing if we continue to borrow like a rich kid with his parents’ credit card.  To do so does not threaten us now, but — as the fictional Consigliere Tom Hagen advised Don Vito Corleone in a different context in The Godfather – perhaps ten years from now.  There is nothing inevitable or immutable about American primacy.  When my mother-in-law, still with us, was born, Great Britain was the world’s preeminent power.  If we had any really old Romans still with us, I’m confident that they’d observe that world preeminence cannot be taken for granted.  We can’t continue to fritter away our financial strength through irrationally inadequate tax revenue generation and indiscriminate wish list spending.

Finally, although I concede that the early signals regarding the possibility for constructive bipartisanship aren’t encouraging – few Republicans voted to impeach/remove former President Donald Trump, despite his clear culpability for the Capitol insurrection, on the pretext that their brainwashed constituents didn’t support impeachment, but nonetheless voted against Mr. Biden’s COVID package although the majority of their supporters did favor the bill – if advising Mr. Biden I would encourage him to keep on trying – and try harder.  Although I may change my mind, I do not yet favor complete abandonment of the Senate’s Filibuster Rule. (If I change my mind, what will tip me over is Senate Republicans’ blocking of the voting rights act recently passed in the House of Representatives.) While I share many of the Democrats’ priorities, it seems that in their enthusiasm regarding what they can achieve if they need but 51 votes in the Senate, Democrats somehow remain oblivious that what can be achieved with 51 votes can just as readily be undone with 51 votes.  Presidents traditionally lose Congressional support in mid-term elections.  Does anyone have any illusions as to what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will do if the filibuster is ended and the Republicans gain control of Congress?  I would recommend to Mr. Biden that he get together with Mr. McConnell and literally ask him to come part way for the good of the nation – they’re both old men, who have perhaps waged their last campaigns — lest Mr. Biden, in order to retain the loyalty of the Progressive Caucus, is left with no choice but to lend his support to ending the filibuster.  I would also suggest that Mr. Biden, notwithstanding any expressions of displeasure by progressive Democrats, redouble his efforts to maintain rapport and collaborate with open-minded Republican Senators such as Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney – to exploit the feelings they must have of being outcasts in their own party.  I would seek to gently remind the President of what he already knows:  that from Messrs. Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton through Messrs. Ronald Reagan and Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, progress through reconciliation of sincerely held competing views is the heart of the American legacy.  It’s too early to give up on bipartisanship.  I would submit that with a few exceptions, in our system the policy is not the point.  The process is the point.

Breaking Out

There was extensive focus last week on the anniversary of the day when America officially shut down because of the Coronavirus.  There has been much appropriate coverage of the COVID stresses that have built on our people over the last year:  on those infected by or taken from us by the virus, and on those that have attended or grieve for them; on healthcare and frontline workers; on the health and emotional challenges faced by large families living in cramped quarters; on parents trying to work from home while ensuring that their children maintain their studies; and on the terrified, looking at their four walls after being laid off.  These have borne the brunt of the pandemic and the attendant enforced isolation.

As all who care are aware, President Biden recently declared that during May, there will be sufficient COVID vaccine for all adult Americans who want one.  I can’t believe that someone who has been as adept at setting COVID expectations as the President would make such a statement if he wasn’t very confident that he could meet it.  This presumably means that all adult Americans seeking to be “fully vaccinated” can achieve the condition within July.  Our need for enforced separation is apparently coming to an end.

I tend to agree with those commentators that have suggested that it will be difficult for the Administration to maintain the cautious line it is currently taking – to the effect that in the summer when all Americans desiring a vaccination will have already had one, it will then be appropriate for limited gatherings.  I expect that the sentiment among the majority of those that get vaccinated will be that those who choose not to be vaccinated had best take care of themselves, and that it will be time to break out — to start “getting back to normal.”  That said, I suspect that there may be a wide variance as to how we each individually emerge from our cocoons.  Some of us have appeared to handle seclusion better than others.  While having a reserved disposition has outwardly provided a healthy coping mechanism throughout the crisis, I would suggest – being cognizant that there are learned psychologists that read these pages, and so tread lightly — that while there has been extensive reporting on the deleterious effect that enforced isolation has had on those commonly considered “extroverts,” those commonly thought of as “introverts” may now be facing a different, but perhaps nonetheless trying, virus-caused transition.  Emotional as well as physical muscles need exertion. Too much isolation for too long might have become too cozy, might have arguably bred in some a disinclination to socialize that could, unaddressed, seemingly become detrimental. 

The other night, we watched one of our favorite films, Shawshank Redemption, which, as virtually all are aware, sets forth events involving prisoners in the fictional Maine Shawshank State Prison.  Toward the end of the film, Morgan Freeman’s character, Red Redding, remarks, “These walls are funny.  First you hate ‘em.  Then you get used to ‘em.  Enough time passes, you get so you depend on ‘em.  That’s institutionalized.”

It would seem that merely getting used to COVID-induced walls, at least for the period we have had to abide thus far, wasn’t bad; that said, the fictional Redding’s observation resonates.  I would submit that this summer, it will be beneficial for those of every personality inclination to actively “break out” — while paying appropriate heed to then-current CDC COVID safety protocols, of course  :).

Foxconned

This week, a close friend forwarded me the March 2nd Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) article, linked below, which recounts various initiatives that Foxconn Technology Group has announced over the last several years that it would undertake in the state of Wisconsin.  The title for this post was the title of his email; it was too good not to repeat here.

What came to mind as I read the piece was the picture of the June, 2018, groundbreaking of what was then promised to be a major Foxconn manufacturing facility based in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, that would provide thousands of jobs, depicting Republicans then-President Donald Trump, then-WI Gov. Scott Walker, and then-Speaker of U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan, wielding shovels and grinning broadly.

Mr. Ryan is, of course, gone, now a member of the Board of Directors of Fox Corporation (the owner of Fox News Channel), a guest lecturer at the University of Notre Dame, and otherwise living the life of an undoubtedly well-compensated Republican frat boy.

Mr. Walker, is, of course, gone, now the president of Young America’s Foundation, a conservative youth organization listing Stephen Miller (yes, that Stephen Miller) as an alumnus, which reportedly counts among its donors the Koch Brothers and members of the DeVos family.

Mr. Trump is, of course, gone.  We know where he is.

The homes in Mount Pleasant displaced for the project and their owners, are, of course, also gone.

What remains are vacant buildings and holes in the ground as empty as Foxconn’s promises.

I suggested to a Trump/Walker supporter I know well, at some point before the pandemic hit – probably in the summer of 2019, when the grand designs promised by Foxconn and Republican politicians were already clearly unraveling — that the last we’d see of Foxconn in this state was Election Day, 2020.  He completely disagreed.  We did agree – amicably, now a rarity between citizens of contrary political views – that there was no need to debate; time would bear out which of us was correct.

I could send him a link to this WPR article, but won’t.  He would undoubtedly respond that I have been proven wrong – that Foxconn is still in Wisconsin – but more importantly, since he is a fine man, I don’t want to risk hearing him say how wonderful it will be when our state is the epicenter of the world’s production of electric vehicles.  

https://www.wpr.org/failed-partnerships-and-vacant-buildings-foxconns-wisconsin-commitment-remains-standstill

Acquiescing to Terrorism

I understand that the U.S. House of Representatives has cancelled its session for today, House leaders having moved a vote from today to last night so, the New York Times reports, lawmakers – described elsewhere in the account as “skitterish” – “could leave town.”  The paper further reports that the Capitol Police force is preparing for another assault on the Capitol building today after obtaining intelligence of a plot by a militia group which “appeared to be inspired by the pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon.”

I concede that this appears easy for me to say, sitting safely at home in the middle of the Midwest, but I think House leaders have made the wrong decision.  Given the rumors, surround the Capitol with Capitol Police, the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police, and the District of Columbia National Guard?  Certainly.  Give orders that any individual seeking to forcibly breach any of the Capitol barricades have his/her remains be all that reaches inside the perimeter?  Understandable.  But cancel a session of the legislature of the most powerful nation on earth due to internet chatter?  In my view, extremely unwise.  It appears that our government is acquiescing to terrorism.  Given today’s cancellation, how long will it be before the phantom QAnon designates another day at which Donald Trump is going to be mythically restored to power?  And how long before another day is designated after that?  One might argue that as the months pass and there is no restoration, these unbalanced elements will lose interest.  I would suggest that since it is and always has been obvious to anyone with any level of discernment that Mr. Trump is a charlatan, if these elements had any sense, we wouldn’t be in the situation we find ourselves.

While I consider the decision to cancel today’s session unwise, I refrain from casting any aspersions upon the courage of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team.  I wasn’t there on January 6.  I don’t know the details of the intelligence or advice that the House leadership is receiving.  I do know that it is predicted to be in the 50s and sunny in Washington, D.C. today; balmy weather for a Green Bay Packer game.  If I was a member of the House of Representatives, given today’s session cancellation, I hope that I would put my House pin on my jacket, take a folding chair and a good book – perhaps The Federalist; maybe something by Churchill — and read all day not far from the barricades.

Would I?

I hope I would.  I think I would.

On the Minimum Wage

I got my first job in a book store in Libertyville, Illinois, in April of 1968.  I had no appreciable skills [a condition, TLOML would tell you, that has persisted to the current day 😉 ].  I was started at $1.60 an hour.  My employer – a kindly, and fortunately, also a patient man – had no choice; $1.60 was the federally-mandated minimum wage.

Last week, I saw a CNN spot referring to those very days of yesteryear.  The reporter indicated that adjusted for inflation, the $1.60 I was paid as an awkward teenager equates to $12.27 in today’s dollars.  Such makes patently obvious the gross inadequacy of today’s $7.25 minimum wage.

As all who care are aware, several weeks ago the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a report estimating that the increase to the federal minimum wage currently proposed by Democrats would lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty, but perhaps cost 1.4 million Americans their jobs.  Intuitively, it seems – as some opposing the Democrats’ proposal have claimed – that the job loss projected by the CBO will fall disproportionately upon minorities.  It might also tip some small businesses, that have barely hung on through the COVID crisis, over the cliff.  Although some economists scoff at these potential adverse effects, I would submit that these concerns need to be considered as part of an appropriate policy assessment.  Despite my belief that the minimum wage needs to be raised as soon as possible, I nonetheless understood the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling that the measure can’t be included within the current COVID relief package under the Senate’s rules.  The mandate is clearly not conceptually integral to COVID relief.  It should be addressed individually on its merits. If Republicans – who voted for an unneeded and deficit-enhancing tax cut in 2017 – are truly willing to vote against such an obviously appropriate measure, Democrats should put a bill on the floor and make them go on the record.

I venture the following hesitantly, since – as those that read these pages are well aware — I don’t know as much about economics as your favorite bartender.  That said, it’s a pleasure to address an actual policy issue, rather than Donald Trump and his sordid antics.

In reflecting upon the relative merits and the ramifications of the Democrats’ proposal, I have found surprisingly little focus in the electronic media outlets I follow on a couple of aspects that I consider important:  that under the proposal, the minimum wage increase will be phased in over four years (the newspaper reports I’ve seen indicate $9.50 upon enactment, $11 in 2022, $12.50 in 2023, $14 in 2024, and $15 starting January 1, 2025); and that 25 of our 51 jurisdictions (including Washington, D.C.) already have minimum wage levels at or above $9.50 – so businesses in those jurisdictions would feel no impact upon the law’s effective date.  Sixteen – almost one-third of our jurisdictions — have minimum wage levels at or above $11, so businesses in those jurisdictions would feel no impact until the start of 2023.  This gives firms of all sizes in those states time to plan for later mandated wage increases.

What of the 26 states, including my own state of Wisconsin, that have clung to the $7.25 federal wage that took effect in 2009?  The immediate reaction – at least mine – is that these businesses have ridden on the backs of their employees for too long; they should get over it, and pay up.  Although there is arguably rough justice in such an approach, I fear that the likely result of such an abrupt increase to $9.50 could cause significant job loss and small business closures.  A couple of notions:

Assuming that a bill would be passed in 2021, push its effective date (i.e., the date the $9.50 would take effect) to January 1, 2022, and slide all the subsequent dates back by one calendar year (meaning the $15 rate would take effect on January 1, 2026).  There are two potential advantages to this.  First, it gives businesses with minimum wage workers some additional time to plan.  Second, and arguably more importantly, it appears highly likely that by the end of 2021, American consumers will be better able to afford – and therefore less likely to recoil at – price increases than at any time in decades.  Former Investment Banker Steven Rattner, who advised President Obama in 2009 on the auto industry’s challenges, has pointed out that while the past Congressional COVID relief packages helped many in need, those not financially affected by the pandemic banked their COVID-related relief checks.  Mr. Rattner has further opined that if, as projected, over 90% of Americans receive checks under the current bill, this will result in yet greater banked savings.  When one combines this forced savings – no one has been able to spend much on activities during the pandemic – with pent-up demand arising from COVID quarantining (If you traveled before, are you raring to travel again?  If you went to restaurants before, are you raring to go to restaurants again?), 2022 and 2023 might be the perfect period to enact significant minimum wage increases, when virtually all economists predict a vibrant economy driven by COVID-vaccinated consumers with money to spend and an avid urge to spend it.  If there is any credence to the premise that the economy is about to enter a period of abnormal consumerism, one might even consider increasing the second hike from $11 to 11.50, evening out the remaining annual raises to $15 to the extent practical.

(Despite his Democratic roots, Mr. Rattner clearly believes, given the amount of previous COVID relief that has gone into savings, that the current bill should be smaller and better targeted.  I agree; but that train has seemingly left the station.  Given currently increasing interest rates, there is clearly also bond market worry that despite Federal Reserve assurances to the contrary, the proposed bill could cause unhealthy increases in inflation; I share those concerns as well.)

There may also be merit to implementing phased-out tax breaks: in 2022, for businesses employing workers at less than $9.50 on January 1, 2021; and in 2022 and 2023, for businesses employing workers at less than $11 on January 1, 2021. [This is the kind of idea one thinks of during tax season  ;)].  It would certainly be a complex calculation, and require detailed verifiable reporting by those seeking the relief, but such a deduction might provide the firms most immediately and dramatically affected by the new law with an additional buffer as they set future business plans.

While the Democrats’ proposal already provides for a Cost of Living increase after the minimum wage reaches $15, I would include an addition to the COLA multiplier that would gradually cause the minimum wage to achieve the buying power $15/hr. had in 2021, rather than the purchasing power of $15 in the mid-2020s, since increased inflation over the next several years might leave minimum-wage workers further behind than now anticipated.

I don’t support the recent counter proposals to cap the minimum wage at $10 or $11, since it seems that such leave the least compensated among us no way to catch up.  At bottom, I believe that American businesses – of all sizes – remain the most innovative and adaptable in the world.  Once an American businessperson is confronted with a fact – that the minimum wage is rising to $X over Y time period – s/he will find a way to accommodate reality.

I have read that the 1970’s were the high water mark of American union strength, and the point of the smallest compensation gap between management and line workers.  Not coincidentally, it was also the period of the highest inflation in modern American history:  more of our people had money to spend, and they spent it, driving up prices.  Although those of us able to remember the pernicious inflation of those days have no desire to see its return,  such concerns need to be balanced against the risks we are running with too many of our people left without hope of a sustainable life for themselves and their children.  While the threat of inflation is consequential, the threat of despair is existential.  Many aren’t, in real terms, earning what I was making as a teenager over 50 years ago. We need to address a situation that fertilizes the recruiting ground of demagogues.

Reflections on a Requiem for a Republic

Requiem

2a. A solemn chant (such as a dirge) for the repose of the dead; [2]b.  Something that resembles such a solemn chant …”

  • Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

For someone who fully anticipated the Senate’s Saturday impeachment acquittal of former President Donald J. Trump, I nonetheless found myself unexpectedly despondent. 

My disappointment, at least on Saturday, surprisingly did not relate directly to the damage to our nation that Mr. Trump himself, given the high likelihood that he will soon start loudly proclaiming that he was exonerated by the Senate, may now seek to wreak.  Although one would certainly never count him out, there seems a substantial chance that the former president, reportedly a pariah among serious financiers, will struggle to find lenders willing to help him address the $400 million debt his businesses face in the next few years; he will undoubtedly be dogged by criminal investigations in the State of New York and other parts of the nation, and perhaps in civil venues by those seeking recompense for his part in the Capitol raid or otherwise; and despite his apparent strength among rank-and-file Republicans, his execrable legacy will forever unite quarrelling liberals and progressives and repulse sensible centrists and conservatives.  These factors will arguably make it difficult for him to mount another winning national campaign.

Nor was my ill humor primarily wrought by the knaves and nincompoops that have enabled Mr. Trump:  malignantly ambitious connivers such as U.S. MO Sen. Josh Hawley and U.S. TX Sen. Ted Cruz, or those that can’t find the bathroom (or, if they can find it, are concerned about being exposed to Jewish lasers while within it) such as U.S. WI Sen. Ron Johnson and U.S. GA Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.  We have always had and will always have our share of nitwits and nefarious.

Nor did I feel any regret for the rioters who actually genuinely believed they were saving their country and now face lives forever altered, at least one ended.  They are adults who should have recognized the grotesque nature of their enterprise.  (I do wonder whether it will dawn on the elite-loathing segment of the Trump cult that while many who heeded his call will suffer, the former president himself will almost certainly “walk” – i.e., face no criminal exposure for his part in causing the riot.)

What troubled me was the fact that 135 more Republican House Representatives voted by secret ballot to keep U.S. WY Rep. Liz Cheney, who voted to impeach Mr. Trump and condemned his behavior in the strongest terms, in GOP House leadership than had the courage to vote to impeach him themselves.  What troubled me were credible reports that if the Senate’s impeachment trial vote had been secret, there would have been 80 to 90 votes – i.e., 30 to 40 Republican votes rather than the seven actually cast — to convict Mr. Trump, presumably including Senate Minority Leader U.S. KY Sen. Mitch McConnell, given his dramatic denunciation of Mr. Trump following the Senate trial.

This amounts to approximately 30% of our national representatives who, when facing the most direct internal challenge to our Republic in 150 years, didn’t have the courage to do their duty although they knew better.  Even U.S. AL Sen. Richard Shelby and U.S. OH Sen. Rob Portman, who are retiring from the Senate and are reputed to be serious men – voted to acquit, presumably pulling a Paul Ryan:  finding it safer to abide un-American behavior than risk being exiled from the safe Republican cocoon in which each has dwelt his entire adult life.  It has made me question whether even imposing term limits on Congressional careers will remedy politicians’ urge to prioritize pleasing their supporters above all other values.

I have no illusions that had the demagogue confronting us been a Democrat, that Congressional Democrats would have performed appreciably better than the Republicans have.

I have heard mixed reviews of Sen. McConnell’s comments after the trial even among those that agreed with their substance.  A very close friend noted to me that although – as Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi noted – the blatant hypocrisy existing in the contrast between Mr. McConnell’s vote and his statement were manifest, Mr. McConnell’s remarks were of exactly the nature that I have indicated that I hope will persuade non-cult Trump followers to abandon him.  Perhaps; but what actually came to my mind as I listened to Mr. McConnell was the oft-quoted observation of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg in November, 1863 – words that in their modesty were perhaps the most inaccurate ever publicly uttered by Mr. Lincoln, but ironically apropos to Mr. McConnell’s post-trial protestations and the Republicans’ acquittal votes Saturday:  “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” 

Since Mr. McConnell cannot believe the poppycock he was spouting about the unconstitutionality of the Senate proceeding, it would appear that either he voted in concert with the Trump zealots – after signaling his sentiments in advance — because he feared ever regaining a Republican Senate majority if a substantial number of Republicans voted to convict Mr. Trump, or he feared losing his leadership mantle if he voted contrary to the wishes of his caucus majority.

Sen. McConnell is undoubtedly familiar with the 18th century Irish-Anglo statesman Edmund Burke, one of the founding fathers of modern conservative thought, who embraced the belief that reliance upon traditional institutions, community, and customs is the best way for a society to advance itself.  Addressing his constituents, Mr. Burke once declared, “ [A representative’s] unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living.  Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

As all are aware, I never have any sympathy for Mr. McConnell.  That said, I sensed remorse in his rationalizations.  There is no real justification for what the Republicans have done.  He knew – he knew – that when facing the most perilous internal challenge to our nation in his lifetime, he and his caucus abandoned their duty by failing to convict Mr. Trump.  His remarks seemed akin to a chant; perhaps he felt in his own words a Requiem for a Republic.

An Apology

In the original version of a post published earlier today that appears immediately below, I disparaged in provocative terms the intelligence and savviness of those that might view differently than I do President Trump’s level of culpability for the Capitol riot and the motives of any Republicans that ultimately vote to acquit him at the conclusion of the Senate’s current impeachment trial.  I regretted the tone of the note almost as soon as I published it.  While I have no difficulty condemning in harshest terms the patent malefaction of Mr. Trump, his enablers, the Capitol rioters, and those such as espousers of racism, gender or religious bigotry, one of these pages’ guiding principles is to maintain a level of civility when referring to those of our citizens who, while maintaining the same fundamental values, may simply weigh the same facts differently than I do.  The note as it now appears makes the same substantive points as the original, but in at least a somewhat gentler manner. 

An apology – and an appropriate consequence of Irish Catholic guilt  ;).

Pushing the Big Truth: A Postscript

I haven’t watched all of the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, but have seen much of it.  A few rhetorical questions and observations, although nothing you haven’t thought and heard:

Would the Capitol riot have occurred but for President Donald Trump’s behavior during his presidential term, culminating in his speech before the riot?  I would suggest that no one honestly exerting any level of discernment could think otherwise.

Would those Republican Senators who seem overwhelmingly likely to vote to acquit Mr. Trump – to a person, almost certain to justify their votes behind a cowardly and false rationale of unconstitutionality — be voting for an impeachment conviction of former President Barack Obama if a multi-complexioned mob had sought to overturn the counting of the Electoral College ballots in January, 2017, after Mr. Obama had uttered verbatim the same speech that Mr. Trump rendered on January 6?  I would suggest that only those unfortunate souls who over the years have purchased the Brooklyn Bridge could truly believe otherwise.

Will any Republican Senator that votes to acquit Mr. Trump ever thereafter be able to look a Capitol Police officer in the eye?  I leave that one to you.

What the Senate trial may – may – have done, with the non-cult Trump supporters, is place a political millstone around the neck of Mr. Trump and convicted not only Mr. Trump but Republican Senators of gross dereliction of duty.

Maybe … but it takes no prescience to predict that all references to the particulars of this impeachment trial – save the fact that Mr. Trump was “exonerated” by his acquittal – will disappear from all conservative media outlets as soon as the vote is entered.  Again referring to the words of Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf:

“The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous.” 

Nothing I have seen in the reactions from various quarters to the evidence presented at the impeachment trial has altered my belief that a persistent paid media campaign in conservative outlets against Mr. Trump and his seditious enablers may be vital to prevent the resurrection of his and their political standing with non-cult Trump voters. Hopefully, organizations with the will, creativity and financial means will undertake it.

There is one area in which I agree with Mr. Trump’s Republican defenders:  assuming that we are about to see an acquittal, it will, now, be time to look beyond this shameful exhibition of despicable constitutional malfeasance and manifest display of American political instability, and address COVID and the multitude of domestic and foreign challenges facing us.  We have no choice.