It was a dreadful year, obviously, and that applies to U.S. politics, too. Nevertheless, believe it or not, some stuff was worth celebrating. Here are five good developments:
Republicans for democracy: In a year when the Republican Party overall showed an alarming and apparently accelerating lack of support for U.S. democracy, we should recognize those who stepped up when it counted. Begin with Mitt Romney, who was the only senator in his party to risk the consequences when he voted to remove President Donald Trump from office. That was an honest-to-goodness-profile-in-courage moment.
And don’t forget the NeverTrump conservatives who were not only able to see the flaws of the man in the White House (which really wasn’t hard to do), but who were willing to examine how their own party reached the point where Trump could dominate it. And then there were the GOP politicians in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin who, when push came to shove (sometimes literally), chose democracy over blind loyalty to a Republican president.
It’s not that these politicians are always heroes of the republic. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, for example, has gone right back to fighting to make it harder for people to vote, just as he did before the election. But when it really counted, Raffensperger and many others made the correct choice.
Elections and their supporters: A pandemic. Post office troubles. Underfunded governments. Unprecedented nonsense coming from the White House. Even threats of violence. Yet voters, state and local governments, and thousands and thousands of poll workers combined to make the 2020 elections remarkably successful. The turnout was the highest in over a century (or ever, given voter rules), and the process went relatively smoothly and with no hint of irregularities. Indeed, there was so little in the way of fraud that Trump’s lawyers didn’t have much of anything to allege in court, no matter what they alleged on third-rate cable-news shows.
Yes, we shouldn’t ignore significant efforts to make voting harder even while the virus was spreading. But even Republican states (like my own Texas, for example) did quite a bit to make the election go reasonably smoothly.
Diversity, Republican Party edition: After several cycles in which Republicans nominated Anglo men for the overwhelming bulk of winnable open seats and seats held by Democrats, the party finally made progress in fielding candidates that look like 21st-century America. Thanks to a bit of a Republican trend in House voting, their nominations produced new elected officials — and 39% of new House Republicans will be women, with more ethnic diversity as well. Descriptive representation isn’t everything. But it’s not healthy for a party to choose leaders only from a fragment of the population.
Diversity, Democratic Party edition: President-elect Joe Biden is at least the third Democratic president committed to making sure that all party groups are represented in White House and executive-branch personnel. But he has one enormous advantage in fulfilling his promise: Members of previously excluded groups have become key party actors. Biden could choose from multiple female, Black and Latino candidates with conventional qualifications for every post, something that wasn’t the case for Bill Clinton in 1992-1993.
Do-some-things Congress: I’m not sure what overall grade historians will give the exiting 116th Congress. It’s hard to see any progress on the nation’s long-term problems. In terms of deliberation and other procedural questions, there was little to brag about. The rushed impeachment, brief trial and acquittal (without even calling witnesses) of Donald Trump? We’ll be fighting about that one for a long time, but I don’t hear a lot of people calling it one of institution’s finest hours.
But when a genuine emergency came around, Congress acted pretty quickly. Four bills passed in rapid succession, including the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which was signed on March 27. None of these laws were ideal, of course; laws never are. And pushing the follow-up bill from April to December meant that plenty of pain that could have been avoided was not.
Still, we shouldn’t ignore these accomplishments, even as people argue about what could have been better. This was a divided Congress — a Democratic House and Republican Senate — with majorities in both chambers hotly contested in the November elections. And it was a Congress that was getting no help at all from the Disrupter-in-Chief in the Oval Office, who set off random grenades throughout the process while never demonstrating any policy leadership. Congress-bashing is easy, but we should make some room to recognize achievements, too.
Do these five good things represent a low bar — more in the category of “could have been worse”? Sure. But it’s 2020. Let’s take what we can get, and hope for a healthier republic in 2021.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katy Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org
Week In Politics: President Biden's First Days – NPR
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Joe Biden is now president of the United States. He’s called for national unity and knows that will be a test.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days. I know the forces that divide us are deep, and they are real. But I also know they are not new.
SIMON: And with the House sending at the Senate an article of impeachment against President Trump on Monday, it’s one of the more immediate challenges.
With us now is NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: So, Ron, how does President Biden pursue unity while Democratic senators are actively pursuing President Trump’s impeachment over his role in causing the January 6 riot at the Capitol?
ELVING: We’ve got a couple of weeks before the actual impeachment trial begins in the Senate. And President Biden can do those things, but it’s going to take extraordinary skill. The challenge is to move in more than one direction at once, not just multitasking, but multitracking. He’s got to work with one side sometimes and sometimes with the other, keeping the necessary relationships open and operating, reaching out for compromise, but without selling out the people who got you elected. It’s a tall order, to be sure, but it’s what Biden asked for, and it’s what the Democrats asked for. And it’s what the country needs right now.
SIMON: And let me ask you about this extraordinary report from The New York Times last night that President Trump was plotting to get rid of the acting Justice Department attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, and replace him with a loyalist who would pressure Georgia lawmakers into overturning the state’s presidential election results, obviously with no proof. Tell us about this story.
ELVING: It’s an amazing story, Scott. It shows how far Trump was willing to go. It tells us that in the final days of his presidency, he was not only pressing those state officials you mentioned to produce different results, and he was not only pressuring Vice President Pence to reject certified electoral votes from states, but he was trying to install a new attorney general who would contradict his own Justice Department findings and tell the states that there was evidence of fraud when there was not – all this before the day he incited the riot at the Capitol, and all this in an unlawful effort to overturn the results of the election and remain in office. And that matters, especially because in two weeks, the most important question before the Senate is whether to bar Trump from future office.
SIMON: But let’s get to President Biden – a multitude of pens to sign executive orders almost as soon as he was sworn in. President Trump once called – disdained executive orders as the easy way. But, boy, he signed a lot. Are executive orders President Biden’s best options to get things done to both undo what he wants to do that President Trump did – and President Trump, who was largely trying to undo what President Obama did?
ELVING: Yes, and that’s not the best way to run a railroad, I think everyone would agree. But it may be the best that you can do right now, given how little you can expect Congress to do in the usual way, how difficult it is to get the contemporary Congress to do anything other than taxes and budgeting. And you can understand why a president who wants to make a difference or even to just make a mark feels he has to use these quickie policy measures in place of actual laws that are barred by the Senate’s filibuster rules, among other things, especially in a moment of crisis.
And right now, everything has to begin with the pandemic response. That has to be ramped up to wartime levels of effort and focus. That’s the key to restoring the economy, to restoring confidence. But during the campaign, Biden made many statements about what he would do on his first day in office – getting the U.S. back into the Paris climate accords to combat climate change, stopping the wall with Mexico, redefining our response to immigration, especially redefining our policies on asylum, talking about lifting restrictions on people from Muslim countries, ending the deportation threat against the DREAMers. All these were touchstones of Trumpism, and Biden went after them all on Day 1.
SIMON: NPR’s Ron Elving, thanks so much.
ELVING: Thank you, Scott.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.
Mandryk: Keystone XL fight is just sad old politics with a new twist – Regina Leader-Post
Article content continued
Alas, much of this is about both new-style virtue signalling and old-style politics.
Much has been made about how KXL’s cancellation — tied to the U.S. environmental left’s rhetoric about “dirty tarsands” oil — has always been about Biden consolidating the left of the Democratic party/ the coalition that helped oust Trump. Cancelling KXL — a move that doesn’t reduce current greenhouse gas emission levels but creates the need for more offshore oil — may be the ultimate virtue signalling.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of not having this pipeline will be U.S. railways. And one of the biggest American railways investors is billionaire Warren Buffet. What often gets missed isBuffet’s political interest as a big-time Democratic donor and his willingness to use his position to sway policies.
Sadly, we seem to be right back where we were before Trump. Even more sad is that how we react may make things worse.
Kenney’s talk about retaliatory trade action aimed at our biggest trading partner is unhelpful. Moe — presumably understanding our agriculture trade interests — wisely didn’t go quite that far.
But if this is now about the old politics of both sides ginning up their base, it gets us nowhere.
Mandryk is the political columnist for the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix.
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Newfoundland ex-pat makes waves pairing politicians with their cartoon doubles – TheChronicleHerald.ca
An effort to shake off some homesickness led Adam DuBourdieu to mix pop culture and provincial politics — namely, taking politicians involved in this election and matching them with their visual counterparts on “The Simpsons.”
Originally from Kippens on the province’s west coast, DuBourdieu, 30, moved to Edmonton just before the COVID-19 pandemic set in.
As with many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, he experienced homesickness in the months that follow such a move.
A keen follower of local politics, DuBourdieu set about combatting his traveller’s lament by having some fun with the upcoming provincial election.
“Let’s have a laugh with it, It’s a good thing. It’s a bit of good fun.” — Jim Dinn (aka Principal Skinner)
Combining his love for “The Simpsons” and politics, he matched the politicians running in the upcoming election with the Simpsons character he saw as their cartoon counterparts.
“It is something people are familiar with,” DuBourdieu said about why he chose to use “The Simpsons” as a reference point.
Some matchups were tough, while others were easy fits, such as the NDP’s Jim Dinn, a former schoolteacher, and his match with Principal Skinner.
“You can’t take yourself too seriously. Being a teacher, that’s par for the course,” Dinn said of that character match.
Dinn has seen the rather large social media thread containing the pictures.
He said that as a teacher, he learned long ago that you have to have a sense of humour, and it’s a lesson he’s taken with him to politics. Seeing the thread, he took it in good fun.
He said it could be worse. It could turn into a meme like a recent picture of United States Senator Bernie Sanders.
“Let’s have a laugh with it,” said Dinn. “It’s a good thing. It’s a bit of good fun.”
The result was a 47-part thread on Twitter filled with pictures of the politicians placed alongside images of characters from the show. It involves a mixture of retiring MHAs, incumbents and party leaders of all political stripes.
“The Simpsons” and politics have a bit of history. Across its 32 seasons, the show has mixed humour and politics.
The show seemingly predicted the start of the United States presidency of Donald J. Trump, and the Lisa Simpson presidency that followed him.
“I hope people get a good chuckle out of it.” — Adam DuBourdieu
Coincidentally, Torngat Mountains MHA Lela Evans is paired with the presidential Lisa.
The relationship, however, between “The Simpsons” and the political arena doesn’t stop at a coincidental presidential prediction.
The show has often tackled topics of the day, such as same-sex marriage and gun control, and it has often been accused of having a liberal bias. Springfield’s Mayor Quimby is a regularly appearing character, and DuBourdieu saw him as a perfect match for Conception Bay East-Bell Island incumbent David Brazil.
Homer Simpson — coupled with Topsail-Paradise MHA Paul Dinn — once fought former U.S. president George H.W. Bush after the two became neighbours. Former U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford have also made cameo appearances on the show.
DuBourdieu tabbed Ford as the right match with Mount Pearl North MHA Jim Lester.
“Politics has always been in ‘The Simpsons,’ and Newfoundland politics has some characters,” said DuBourdieu, who says he always the show.
“I watched it with my dad.”
Some of his political subjects have a similar appreciation of the show,
Harbour Grace-Port de Grave MHA Pam Parsons knew at once who voiced Bart Simpsons’ former babysitter, Laura Powers.
“That’s the one where Darlene from Roseanne voiced the character. Sara Gilbert,” she said.
Like other children of the ’80s and early ’90s, Parsons grew up in the early years of “The Simpsons.” She saw the show move from animated shorts on “The Tracy Ullman Show” to a pop culture phenomenon on Fox.
“Growing up as a child, I certainly watched ‘The Simpsons.’ I loved Bart Simpson. I think we all did,” said Parsons. “I even had the little toys that McDonald’s was putting out.”
Parsons is one of 10 women featured in the long Twitter thread. Of the 10, nine are incumbent MHAs and their animated doppelgangers. The other is Newfoundland and Labrador Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote.
She was paired with Springfield Elementary second-grade teacher, Mrs. Hoover.
“I like that (Dubourdieu) was non-partisan (in his choices),” said Parsons, who appreciated the comedic break it offered.
“I got a good chuckle out of it.”
The response to the sizeable thread has been favourable online.
It was something that surprised DuBourdieu at first.
“I like that (Dubourdieu) was non-partisan (in his choices). I got a good chuckle out of it.” — Pam Parsons (aka Mrs. Hoover)
Since it went online, there have been dozens of interactions between politicians and the public. People have marvelled at how spot-on some of the comparisons are, such as independent MHA Eddie Joyce being matched with oil tycoon Rich Texan.
Still, there have been alternative suggestions, including by the subjects themselves. Liberal candidate George Murphy tweeted he thought of himself as the lovable barfly Barney Gumble instead of Police Chief Wiggum, his chosen match by Dubourdieu.
Other candidates, such as Progressive Conservative candidate Kristina Ennis and the NDP’s Jenn Deon, have expressed interest in being connected to animated doubles.
Lake Melville NDP candidate Amy Hogan even went ahead and did her own. It was Jerri Mackleberry, the mother of notable twins Sherri and Terri.
“I think I’m probably the twins, Sherri and Terri’s mom, Jerri. It’s is the purple hair and the glasses,” Hogan tweeted.
DuBourdieu pledged to add a third part to the thread if there is enough interest.
In the days since the original post, a link to the thread made its way around the Progressive Conservative email chain.
“We got a good kick out of it,” said Conservative MHA Barry Petten. “You can’t help but laugh.”
“We got a good kick out of it. You can’t help but laugh.” — Barry Petten (aka Superintendent Chalmers)
The Conception Bay South representative readily admitted he wasn’t much of a Simpsons watcher and had little background on Superintendent Chalmers or why he was paired with him.
Still, Petten said he appreciated the work and the humour it brought to the election.
“It’s all good humour,” he said.
Given how dull and uninspiring the rollout of the 2021 election has been I thought #nlpoli could all use some mild entertainment.
So do y’all think any of our current and former-turned-wannabe MHAs look like the Simpsons characters? Because I sure do! 1/n
— Dewbeeedew (@dewbeeedew) January 18, 2021
DuBourdieu has enjoyed the work that’s gone into his humourous entry into the Newfoundland and Labrador political scene,
Some comparisons were easy, while others required a bit more thought, he said, and he learned a little along the way, including how male-dominated this province’s legislature is.
As the province rolls toward the Feb. 13 election, DuBourdieu will watch from his home in Alberta.
In the meantime, he is glad he got to contribute to the run-up in some way.
“I’m glad I did it and I hope people get a good chuckle out of it,” said DuBourdieu.
Nicholas Mercer is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering central Newfoundland for SaltWire Network.
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