And a great silence fell across the world when Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger went down in a massive digital blackout that forced nearly 3 billion people to make do with their own lives.
For a few hours, was it just possible that we were a kinder, gentler, less stupid nation?
Did the huddled masses emerge from their social media caves into the sunshine, dazzled by the reality of reality? Was eye contact made? Books read? Did people actually have a conversation with another person?
In the silence, did they hear a song in their heads?
Imagine there’s no Facebook
It’s easy if you try
No likes, no comments
No statuses to write
Imagine all the people
But as Robert F. Kennedy once said (cribbing a bit from George Bernard Shaw), “Some men see things as they are, and say why. I dream of things that never were, and say why not.”
Since we are quoting people…
Winston Churchill once famously said that ”Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…after they have exhausted all other possibilities.”
Or maybe he said..
“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”
Or maybe he never said that all, since it’s apparently a bogus attribution. (As far anybody can tell, the quote really belongs to the Israeli politician and diplomat, Abba Eban.)
But whoever said it had obviously never met Mitch McConnell.
As the nation stumbles toward a potentially catastrophic standoff over the nation’s credit, President Biden pointed the finger at the senate minority leader, who has blocked efforts to raise the debt ceiling.
Asked if he could guarantee the debt ceiling would be resolved, Biden said: “No, I can’t. That’s up to Mitch McConnell.”
Biden added: “I can’t believe that will be the end result, because the consequences would be so dire … But can I guarantee it? If I could, I would. But I can’t.”
Biden’s alarming comments came amid an intensifying standoff as Republicans continue to refuse to help Democrats avert the debt ceiling cliff.
What does McConnell want? Why is he risking a train wreck by blocking the rise in the debt ceiling?
The answer is:
But two weeks before a potentially catastrophic default, Mr. McConnell has yet to reveal what he wants, telling President Biden in a letter on Monday, “We have no list of demands.”
Instead, he appears to want to sow political chaos for Democrats while insulating himself and other Republicans from an issue that has the potential to divide them.
This is what the politics of nihilism looks like.
In the end, something will be worked out, right? Because we always manage to do the right thing at the last minute.
Meanwhile, progressives are laser focused on...
Harassing, berating, and insulting the senator whose vote they desperately need. Tom Nichols and I had lots of thoughts about this last night.
Exit take: Look up Jim Jeffords.
How to save democracy…
Sure, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and dark money are all valid concerns. But, over the weekend, the NYT editorial board zeroed in on the one reform that may be the most urgently needed: reforming the dangerously obsolete Electoral Count Act.
We’re still learning more details about Trump’s attempts to overthrow the 2020 election — including the pressure on state officials, the Eastman memo, and Oval Office meetings with VP Mike Pence.
As The Times notes, “The fact that the scheme to overturn the election was highly unlikely to succeed is cold comfort.” Trump is running again “which means the country faces a renewed risk of electoral subversion by Mr. Trump and his supporters — only next time they will have learned from their mistakes.”
That leaves all Americans who care about preserving this Republic with a clear task: Reform the federal election law at the heart of Mr. Eastman’s twisted ploy, and make it as hard as possible for anyone to pull a stunt like that again.
Our colleague Mona Charen has been making this case for months.
There is something Democrats can do at the federal level to respond to the threat: They can amend the Electoral Count Act of 1887. Republicans would be unlikely to filibuster this law, so Democrats can pass it with a simple majority vote. No need to tangle with Manchin and Sen. Krysten Sinema over the filibuster.
This law, blissfully ignored for most of its history with the exception of a couple of law review articles, was passed following the contentious Hayes/Tilden election in 1876—a contest that was so close it threatened to tear the country apart just 11 years after Appomattox. The law is, by many accounts, a “morass of ambiguity.” That’s too kind….
The law directs governors to certify their states’ results and the slate of electors chosen by the voters. But it also specifies that in a case of a “failed election” (not defined), in which the voters have not made a choice, the state legislature can step in to appoint electors….
The Electoral Count Act decrees that if one representative and one senator object, in writing, to the counting of any state’s electoral votes, the bodies must adjourn to their chambers to debate the matter. Here is a video of Vice President Biden, sitting as president of the Senate, rejecting objections to the Electoral College count precisely because the House members did not have a Senate co-signer.
As Ed Kilgore has recommended, congress should amend the Electoral Count Act to clarify that only electoral votes certified by individual states will be counted and that the vice-president’s role is purely ceremonial. Further, the threshold for objections to state electoral vote counts should be much higher than two.
I would add that a supermajority should be required to decertify any state’s electoral votes, not just a simple majority as the law now permits. Additionally, the law should be amended to eliminate the “failed election” section that empowers legislatures to substitute their preference for that of the voters. There are armies of law professors who can provide relevant language and good ideas for other changes.
In August, a pro-democracy coalition, released a new blueprint laying out a way to revise the Electoral Count Act. As Greg Sargent reported in August:
The report recommends numerous ECA reforms. Among them:
Dramatically raise the threshold for objections to electors in Congress, well above one member from each chamber. Reform could also codify what grounds must be met for objections to be heard by the full Congress.
Clarify how congressional disputes over electors are resolved. The statute needs to explain precisely what happens in Congress in every such scenario.
Clarify the “safe harbor” provision so it’s absolutely clear that if a state resolves its own disputes over electors by that deadline, Congress must count them.
Clarify the vice president’s role so it’s clear it does not include resolving congressional disputes over electors.
As Sargent noted: “We cannot say we weren’t warned.”
BONUS: No, Mike Pence is not redeemable.
Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party Update
1. What Is the Debt-Ceiling Showdown Really All About?
R. Marshall Brandt writes in today’s Bulwark:
All 50 Republicans in the Senate voted not to raise the debt ceiling and therefore willfully default on America’s debt. That vote was just as antithetical to a functioning democracy as was the votes to decertify the election results on January 6.
For democracy and capitalism to survive, they need each other. And we need a better class of Republicans. Even the “good Republicans.”
2. How Progressives Undermined a Bipartisan Civics Bill
In today’s Bulwark, Ansley Skipper has an important piece about the ideological bumbling that is undermining a crucial piece of legislation about civics education.
This language seemed to confirm the fears and critiques of right-wingers like Kurtz, that the Biden administration aims to use civics education as a mechanism to indoctrinate American students in progressive ideologies. Lobbyists began to meet resistance from Republicans on Capitol Hill who had up to that point been considering signing on to or otherwise supporting the CSDA.
“It was sloppy,” said the source familiar with lobbying efforts for the bill. “It was an unforced error that fed directly into [right-wing] fear.”
3. The Rise of the Moderate Marine
A conversation with Rep. Conor Lamb—and why so many Republican Marine politicians are crazy.
I think that Donald Trump has made someone like J.D. Vance act much less like the Marine that he was trained to be.
. . . I don’t know [Vance] at all, but who he was before he got on board with Trump, was much more like a Marine to me. Whereas the opposite, I would say, is I think the rise of Donald Trump made people like me, and Jared Golden [a second-term Democratic congressman from Maine, who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq as a Marine infantryman], and others really think about our Marine Corps values and try to live up to them maybe even more than we were before, at least in our civilian lives. So, you could say he [Trump] made J.D. Vance less like a Marine, and Conor Lamb more like one, is how I would look at it.
Idiocracy Update. Arizona Edition
Not creepy or fascist at all.
Yeah, I'm a little tired of the Manchin/Sinema cheerleading. The two of the reasons we are where we are right now is Manchin/Sinema and their refusal to negotiate earlier over the reconciliation bill and their refusal to even consider small modifications to the Senate filibuster in order to pass legislating protecting federal elections.
Rep. Jayapal and her progressive caucus have been begging to negotiate the reconciliation bill and have said repeatedly that the $3.5 trillion (itself a concession to the conservatives) is a starting number for negotiations. There is no $3.5 trillion or bust position among the House progressive caucus leadership. There is only the coyness of the conservative Democrats refusing to publically state any demands other than passing the bipartisan bill now.
On voting rights, which The Bulwark has been extremely strong on, they are the ones letting Mitch McConnell singlehandedly stop any progress on protecting our democracy. And if, as many writers here have written, democracy is in as much danger as we believe it is then you do whatever it takes to protect it up to and including removal of the filibuster even if just for these bills.
Refusal to even threaten the filibuster by Manchin and Sinema may also end up leading to the nation defaulting on its debt for the first time ever since McConnell wants to not only dictate who should pass the debt ceiling bill (Democrats only) but also how the bill should be passed (the tedious and lengthy reconciliation process).
I am open and happy to give them practically whatever they ask for, but they have to start actually asking for something. Enough of them already.
This is still a baffling take. It's not progressives that are the issue here. Progressives are on the same side as the president, and there are more of them. Yesterday you compared them to the Freedom Caucus, but the Freedom Caucus isn't made up of 50+ members. As for Sinema, it's unclear what she actually supports, because all the things that are in the bill that are currently before her are things she ran on! All of them! She was posting tweets about things in the very bill she now says she doesn't support less than six months ago!
As for people harassing her, she was doing the same thing to others before she became a senator, because before she was one, she was an activist who did the same things herself!
I'm also confused by your take on who's fault it is. Because generally, if everyone is on board and one person is like 'actually I don't feel like cooperating' then you don't go 'well the majority needs to change.' You didn't do that when trumpists were a minority in your party. You weren't like 'clearly we should all be like ted cruz' when he shut down the government in 2010.
The facts are this: if you run on something, publicly support something, and then when the time comes to do the thing you ran on and supported, you decide not to support it, you deserve all the scorn you get. Because you're now throwing a wrench in the plans. And for what?
Sinema isn't trying to accomplish anything. She's got no other bill she wants. She's not like 'well here's a bill I would like instead.' She's just being a contrarian. There's no point in supporting her, because she's not FOR anything. She's got no end game that isn't just soaking up donor money. Speaking of, she left friday before the vote to go have dinner with some. because priorities.
She's basically the liberal version of Josh Hawley. Loud, contrarian, and entirely full of themselves while accomplishing nothing.