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Do more, worry less.
January 3, 2022
[Audio version of newsletter here.]
In 2022, we should all do more and worry less. No amount of worry will alter the outcome of events in 2022—but our actions will. Worry is inevitable (and healthy), so my new year’s resolution is not that we should stop worrying. Rather, it is that we should shift the balance in favor of a bias to action and away from an impulse to worry. The coming year will present significant opportunities and challenges. We will win some battles and lose others. No matter the outcome of those battles, they will neither be an end to democracy nor the ultimate realization of its promises. One year from now, we will be having this same conversation about the battles in the coming year. It will always be so—because each generation is called upon to defend democracy anew. It is the steady state. And as long as it is, we should settle in, get comfortable, and go about the hard work of proving that we are worthy of the legacy bequeathed to us by the sacrifice of prior generations. Do more, worry less.
Commemorating January 6th.
The first anniversary of the victory of democracy over autocracy (or worse) on January 6th will take place on Thursday of this week. If you have not already made plans to commemorate January 6th, check out Defend Democracy’s website, which lists hundreds of in-person and virtual events. Speaker Pelosi has arranged for a series of events in Washington D.C., including a moment of silence in the House, remarks by President Biden and Vice President Harris. CNN will host a two-hour special at 8:00 PM Eastern / 5:00 PM Pacific that will include live interviews with members of the House and the Capitol Police about their experiences on January 6th.
As I wrote last week, “we must claim January 6th for ourselves” in the name of democracy. If we fail to do so,
others will fill the void with conspiracies and disinformation and false grievances. Do not let them do so . . . and do not let them forget that they are traitors to the Constitution.
Sure enough, as the House is observing a moment of silence in the Capitol, Trump and MAGA supporters will be hosting “counter-narrative” events at Mar-a-Lago and in Washington, D.C. One conservative group will hold a vigil
in honor of the hundreds of Americans who have been targeted for political persecution as a result of exercising their First Amendment rights at the US Capitol on January 6th.
Trump plans to repeat his false claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” as the result of fraud. See Politico, “At the time of the Capitol prayer service on Jan. 6, Trump will deliver remarks doubling down on the ‘Big Lie’.” In announcing his Mar-a-Lago press conference on January 6th, Trump made clear that there is no room in the Republican Party for anyone who does not repeat the Big Lie. Trump said,
In many ways a RINO is worse than a Radical Left Democrat . . . The good news is there are fewer and fewer RINOs as we elect strong Patriots who love America.
In other words, Trump is purging the GOP of anyone who does not support the grand delusion that is designed to protect his fragile ego. As one Republican strategist said in the Politico article (above), “He will torture everyone” to force them to support the Big Lie. While that is a worrisome development in some respects, it is a self-limiting strategy that will help defeat Republican candidates in 2022 and 2024. Rational and informed Independents and former Republicans know the truth about the 2020 election and will be put to the choice of voting for candidates who campaign on a lie or candidates who are focused on governing. At the margins in close races, the advantage will go to Democrats. Good.
On Thursday, voices will be competing to establish the historical narrative of what happened a year ago at the Capitol. If we do not proclaim the true lesson of January 6th, others will fill the void with conspiracies and disinformation and false grievances. Do not let them do so. Make your voice heard on January 6th so that the truth overwhelms the voices of those who seek to undermine the Constitution.
Speaking of doing more . . . .
Over the weekend, we interviewed the founder (Lisa Herrick) and political strategist (Jim Shelton) of the highly effective grass roots organization 31st Street Swing Left. The interview is here, Today’s Edition Podcast, “Interview with 31st Street Swing Left.” The most frequent question I receive from readers is “What can I do now to help elect Democrats?” Lisa Herrick asked herself that question in 2017. She reached out to Swing Left and offered to host a fundraiser in her living room (on 31st Street). Five years later, 31st Street Swing Left is a large (and growing) organization that is making a real difference in swing states—at the state, local, and federal level. 31st Street Swing Left has a singular focus on helping to build the year-round infrastructure necessary to mount successful campaigns. If you can help host a virtual fundraiser, 31st Street Swing Left will help you every step of the way. Listen to the podcast to hear how two citizen activists are making a huge difference by reaching out to their community of like-minded Americans.
To whet your appetites and curiosity, I have excerpted the inspiring and comforting comments of Lisa and Jim in the final two minutes of the podcast. The excerpt is here: “Lisa Herrick and Jim Shelton closing comments.”
Why Republicans are having a difficult time gerrymandering.
As I noted last week, GOP efforts to gerrymander their way to a majority in the House have not been as successful as they hoped, or Democrats feared. Another article on that same subject notes that experts are debating the likely outcome of GOP gerrymandering. See Talking Points Memo, “Is Redistricting Actually Going Better For Democrats Than Expected? A Debate Ensues. The fact that experts are debating the outcome is an improvement over the gloom-and-doom foregone-conclusions that pundits were peddling last month. We will need to wait and see for the final outcome of redistricting.
The above article described the difficulty that the GOP is experiencing in a way that rang true to me. In addition to having aggressively gerrymandered in 2010, Republicans must now thread the needle to avoid a new group that has turned against them: white suburban voters. Michael Li, a senior analyst at the Brennan Center for Justice, told TPM:
“The reality is, if you’re a Republican map drawer, you’re scared both of people of color — especially as they become a bigger part of the electorate in the suburbs — and suburban white voters. Your best play is a defensive gerrymander.”
In other words, Republicans have now offended so many constituencies that they are hunkering down in districts they already control rather than trying to expand into new districts—i.e., “defensive gerrymandering.” The fact that Republicans are crouching into a defensive position is another sign that the GOP is headed for extinction. True, another party will emerge to represent the grievance-based politics that has overtaken the Republican Party, but it will be smaller, less effective, and less attractive to new voters who still see America as a land of opportunity—rather than as threat to their perceived birthright.
Supreme Court to hear vaccine mandate cases this week.
The Supreme Court will consider on January 7th whether to enjoin two vaccine mandates issued by federal agencies. See The National Law Review, Supreme Court Grants Rare Hearing on Vaccine Mandate Cases .” The Supreme Court has long held that states (and their subdivisions) have the “police power” to regulate the health and safety of their citizens and can therefore require vaccine mandates. Congress probably has that power as well, although that question has not been decided by the Supreme Court. The question before the Court this coming Friday will involve neither a state nor congressional vaccine mandate, but one issued by a federal agency. The reactionary majority sees the federal government as a threat to individual liberties, so expect the Court to give a hostile reception to OSHA and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the upcoming hearing.
Twitter bars Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Twitter has permanently banned GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for spreading misinformation about vaccines and Covid-19. See The Hill, “Twitter permanently suspends Greene's account over COVID-19 misinformation.” Good. Twitter’s ban on Trump has reduced his media presence significantly. The ban on Greene should have the same effect.
Sigh. We are only two days into the new year and the Washington Post is leading with a headline about one-in-three Americans supporting violence against the government. I won’t cite to this story because it doesn’t deserve to be read. The real headline should have been, “As usual, a strong majority of Americans oppose violence against the government.” Other news organizations have been asking the same question about support for violence against the government for a decade. The Post notes that in its survey, the percentage of Americans who say they support violence took a steep jump after the assault on the Capitol on January 6th. While that may explain the increase in those who say they support violence, another equally plausible explanation is that the Post changed the methodology for its survey compared to earlier surveys. In 2010 and 2015, the surveys were taken by telephone, while in 2021 the Post’s survey was conducted “largely” online in a self-administered and anonymous setting.
The willingness of people to espouse “socially undesirable” opinions in an anonymous setting is well-documented. (See, e.g., 99% of the replies to every tweet on Twitter.) If the presence of a live-human being on the other end of a phone is enough social pressure to dissuade someone from endorsing violence against the government, then how seriously should we take the newbies who support violence in an anonymous poll? Of course, some of the respondents are dangerous and should be taken seriously. But the Post would have us believe that one-third of Americans support violence against the government. That doesn’t pass the smell test. The Post’s methodology essentially gives voice to grievance-based fantasies. If you want to know how many of Trump’s 74 million followers support violence, look at how many of those 74 million showed up to the protest on January 6th. Maybe 10,000—of which 2,000 entered the Capitol. That is a real-world test of how many Americans support violence against the government.
I have gone on too long in explaining my objections to the Post’s survey to make a simple point: The Post and other media outlets have wasted no time in selling doomsday scenarios in the new year. While we should take seriously the threat to democracy posed by a small minority of Americans inclined to violence, we shouldn’t take seriously every dire headline designed to pull you into a vicious cycle of doom scrolling. As I said in the opening of this newsletter, we need to do more and worry less.
Talk to you tomorrow!