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Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: One year later

The thirty-ninth President of the United States and worldwide observer of democratic elections, Jimmy Carter, writes for The New York Times about why he fears for the future of American democracy and proposes steps to halt that downward trajectory.

After I left the White House and founded the Carter Center, we worked to promote free, fair and orderly elections across the globe. I led dozens of election observation missions in Africa, Latin America and Asia, starting with Panama in 1989, where I put a simple question to administrators: “;Are you honest officials or thieves?”; At each election, my wife, Rosalynn, and I were moved by the courage and commitment of thousands of citizens walking miles and waiting in line from dusk to dawn to cast their first ballots in free elections, renewing hope for themselves and their nations and taking their first steps to self-governance. But I have also seen how new democratic systems –; and sometimes even established ones –; can fall to military juntas or power-hungry despots. Sudan and Myanmar are two recent examples.

For American democracy to endure, we must demand that our leaders and candidates uphold the ideals of freedom and adhere to high standards of conduct.

First, while citizens can disagree on policies, people of all political stripes must agree on fundamental constitutional principles and norms of fairness, civility and respect for the rule of law. Citizens should be able to participate easily in transparent, safe and secure electoral processes. Claims of election irregularities should be submitted in good faith for adjudication by the courts, with all participants agreeing to accept the findings. And the election process should be conducted peacefully, free of intimidation and violence.

Lynn Schmidt of the St. Louis Post Dispatch asserts that the Jan. 6 insurrection was a big eff”;ing deal.

Many on the right suggest that Jan. 6 was no big deal. There were no guns and few lives lost. The U.S. Capitol had been attacked before. Since the building was finished in 1800, there have been several dangerous incidents, including when the British set fire to it in 1814 during the War of 1812.

It is not what physically happened to the Capitol on Jan. 6 or the people working inside it that makes it a big deal in my opinion; it”;s the justifications cited by nefarious actors that motivated the insurrection. The emergency comes from the idea that the express will of the people could be completely disregarded.

If a person voted and then that vote was unjustifiably not counted or thrown out, why would the person ever vote again in the future? A core tenet of our democracy is the belief and trust that our votes will be counted. The Trump administration and many in the GOP have injected doubt and cynicism into our electoral process. By subverting the system by which votes are cast and counted, they ensure there can no longer be accountability to voters. That is a very big deal for the survival of American democracy.

“;The people working inside”; the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 was a big deal to me; after all, as I wrote in the pundit round-up of Jan. 7, 2021, I used to be one of those people.

And I”;m still “;sad and damned angry”; about it.

Wes Moore writes for the Washington Post writes that while American democracy is far from perfect, it”;s worth taking democratic actions to keep it.

On this first anniversary of what was unquestionably a concerted assault on the very principles that have enabled the Great American Experiment during the course of these past 245 years, we must determine who was ultimately responsible, and how it came to be that our system of government and the processes that are supposed to safeguard its continuance nearly failed –; and still might.

Democracy, it”;s been said, is not so much a noun as it is a verb. It”;s what we do each and every day to make representative government possible and truly reflective of the needs and aspirations of citizens. It depends on adhering to the laws that govern our society broadly and interactions individually. And it means holding accountable anyone who would flout those laws in ways that undermine public confidence in offices and officeholders for self-serving purposes. It”;s about safeguarding the pursuit of the common good and the just application of consequences for those who choose not to.

This system of government that we revere has at times failed the very people it promises to protect and defend. As we know and must reckon with, it”;s been slow in granting the full measure of rights and privileges to all it claims to represent. It is, as we have seen, also fragile and subject to the darker agendas of those who would subvert its founding principles for personal aims and partisan ends.

Our painful history of failing to live up to the principles of democracy is not, however, an indictment of the principles themselves.

Renée Graham of the Boston Globe reminds us that there were two insurrections on Jan. 6, 2021.

Never let it be forgotten that there were two insurrections on Jan. 6. The first was the violent breaching of the Capitol that left five people dead and injured about 140 police officers. The second came hours later, also in the same hallowed space, when 147 Republicans voted to overturn the election. That, too, was an attempted breach of democracy and the peaceful transfer of power.

Republicans could have repudiated the Big Lie; instead, it”;s become a GOP version of “;Tomorrow Belongs to Me.”; A recent national University of Massachusetts Amherst poll found 71 percent of Republicans still denounce the legitimacy of Biden”;s victory. They also blame Democrats, Antifa, and the Capitol Police for the insurrection. And, of course, they want investigations into the lead-up to Jan. 6 to stop. In a Washington Post/University of Maryland poll, one third of Americans, including 40 percent of Republicans, said violence against the government is sometimes justifiable.

Meanwhile, the GOP is doing what has happened so often in American history –; burying the truth in unmarked graves. That continues with how this planned anti-democratic assault is being discussed as a riot. It was bad enough last May when Republican Representative Andrew Clyde of Georgia compared the insurrection to a “;normal tourist visit.”; But Mike Pence, the former vice president targeted for assassination by those who built a gallows and chanted “;Hang Mike Pence,”; continues to portray anything about Jan. 6 as some kind of vengeful partisan folly by Democrats.

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian announces the creation of a database, The Insurrection Index, that tracks elected officials involved in attempts to overthrow the 2020 presidential election.

The Insurrection Index seeks to identify all those who supported Trump in his bid to hold on to power despite losing the election, in the hope that they can be held accountable and prevented from inflicting further damage to the democratic infrastructure of the country.

All of the more than 1,000 people recorded on the index have been invested with the public”;s trust, having been entrusted with official positions and funded with taxpayer dollars. Many are current or former government employees at federal, state or local levels.

Among them are 213 incumbents in elected office and 29 who are running as candidates for positions of power in upcoming elections. There are also 59 military veterans, 31 current or former law enforcement officials, and seven who sit on local school boards.

When the index goes live on Thursday, it will contain a total of 1,404 records of those who played a role in trying to overturn the 2020 election. In addition to the 1,011 individuals, it lists 393 organizations deemed to have played a part in subverting democracy.

Matt Fuller of the Daily Beast chronicles his memories of a long day at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

In the aftermath of Jan. 6, most of the media still hasn”;t really figured out how to cover Republicans. I”;d include myself in that statement. We mostly just pretend Jan. 6 didn”;t happen, as if it”;s totally normal to let Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) pontificate about gas prices or inflation while we ignore the lies he continues to spew about who”;s actually responsible for the attack–;or the role he played in undermining our democracy and endangering those of us who were at the Capitol that day.

It”;s difficult to write a story in which you stop in every paragraph to note whether the particular Republican you”;re mentioning returned to their chamber the night of Jan. 6, with blood still drying in the hallways, and voted to overturn the will of the people. But maybe we should.

I certainly look at those Republicans differently. Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma–;the old John Boehner ally who”;d post up in Capitol hallways and deliver colorful quotes about House conservatives–;isn”;t so funny to me anymore. […]

Many of these Republicans would have proudly overruled the voters. They are people who not only downplay the violence and the seriousness of the attack but celebrate rioters, who lionize the insurrectionists who paid the ultimate price for believing their lies.

Jean Guerrero of the Los Angeles Times points out that some antecedents to the actions taken on Jan. 6 and since can be found in the run-up to the passage of California”;s Proposition 187 in 1994.

What force could make a vast swath of Americans want to hurt others and end our hallmark peaceful transitions of power? The answer is predictable: About 75% of pro-insurrection adults, according to the study, have the delusion that Democrats are importing “;Third World”; immigrants to “;replace”; them.

This racist and largely antisemitic conspiracy theory is not relegated to the dark cellars of 8Chan and Telegram. It”;s openly promoted by leading conservatives, such as Fox News host Tucker Carlson. And it”;s a theory that has violence at its core, inspiring white terrorist massacres.

That”;s not a new play for Republican leaders. They opened the Pandora”;s box of “;replacement”; paranoia in California in the 1990s with scaremongering about a decline in the state”;s white population and an imagined Mexican “;reconquista.”; Trump”;s senior advisor Stephen Miller, for one, grew up in California during that time.

That nativist craze took many forms, including border vigilantism and unfounded voter fraud claims –; precursors to Trump”;s Big Lie. During the 1988 elections, uniformed guards were hired by local Republicans to patrol mostly Latino neighborhoods, where some held up signs saying “;Non-citizens can”;t vote.”; In 1990, ousted San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock peddled voter fraud hysteria on his talk show.

I”;m not rushing to Jan. 6th without first acknowledging the significance of Jan. 5th. The determination, organizing & resilience of Black voters in Georgia resulted in the election of the first Black Senator since Reconstruction & the first Jewish statewide elected official ever. pic.twitter.com/583ok1fi4I

–; Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) January 5, 2022

Joan Walsh/The Nation

The anniversary of the landmark January 5 Georgia victories, which elected a Black minister and a Jewish activist to the United States Senate, reminds us that Democrats have the majority of voters on their side, across the whole country–;at least when they”;re able to vote. The anniversary of January 6 reminds us that the minority has most of the racists, the violent people, and those who want to topple not just Democrats but democracy. Also, and maybe most important: It reminds us, or should remind us, of those who insist that they”;re not about any of those things but who defend Trump and his insurrectionists nonetheless. Those people, who include almost all Republican leaders, might be the most culpable of all.

Democratic congressional leaders are planning an array of events to commemorate the January 6 tragedy. But Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is orchestrating the most fitting memorial: He plans to introduce voting rights legislation this week.

“;Let me be clear: January 6th was a symptom of a broader illness–;an effort to delegitimize our election process, and the Senate must advance systemic democracy reforms to repair our republic or else the events of that day will not be an aberration–;they will be the new norm,”; Schumer wrote in a letter to senators on Monday, in which he laid out his plans to move on democracy reforms and voting rights.

Gregory D. Stevens of STATnews notes that one difference between the reactions of the United Kingdom and the United States to the appearance of the Omicron variant is the willingness of citizens of the U.K. to “;protect the NHS.”;

In the U.K., for example, which began seeing the effects of Omicron ahead of the U.S., officials from England”;s prime minister to managers of top soccer clubs have called on the public to “;protect the NHS.”; The NHS, or National Health Service, is the U.K”;s taxpayer-funded, government-run health system. Although it is impossible to attribute success to a single message, England has been vaccinating people at a rate three to four times greater than the U.S since mid-December.

That loyalty is what makes a message like “;protect the NHS”; ring true. The system is nearly universally seen as a public good, and in need of protecting. Most people in the U.K. understand that getting vaccinated benefits the NHS precisely because the public has an equal stake in its success. An unvaccinated person who ends up in the hospital takes resources such as beds, doctors, and nurses away from others.

[…]

In the U.S., we like our doctors but are not loyal to the health care system. Many Americans valorize the doctors and nurses working on the frontlines of Covid-19, but you would be hard pressed to find someone who wants to protect the medical groups, HMOs, and other complex insurance convolutions undergirding our system. In fact, just 19% of the public believes the health care system works at least “;pretty well,”; less than in every other country studied.

I”;m not going to argue the merits or demerits of any health care system like single-payer in this space.

I will say that it would take a long time for any system that”;s adapted anywhere to become a “;national institution”; like the U.K.”;s National Health Service.

John Cassidy of The New Yorker says that the economy should rebound further in 2022 but beware of the “;known unknowns.”;

The first known unknown is the virus. Most economic forecasters are assuming that the Omicron wave, like the Delta wave, will recede before too long, leaving behind little lasting damage to the economy. “;Omicron could slow economic reopening, but we expect only a modest drag on service spending because domestic virus-control policy and economic activity have become significantly less sensitive to virus spread,”; the economic team at Goldman Sachs said, in unveiling its 2022 predictions. That assessment could well turn out to be accurate–;let”;s hope it is–;but it”;s too soon to say. Over the weekend, the seven-day average of new covid cases set a record of more than four hundred thousand. Since Christmas Eve, bad weather and Omicron have caused the cancellation of more than fifteen thousand commercial flights. In the last week of December, the number of people eating at restaurants was about thirty per cent below the same period last year, according to data from OpenTable.

Even if the U.S. economy does get through the Omicron wave relatively unscathed, with few or no lockdowns, the new variant could affect production in the Chinese economy, which supplies many components and finished goods to the U.S. China just recorded the largest number of weekly cases since suppressing the initial wave of the pandemic. The spread of Omicron represents the biggest challenge yet to Beijing”;s “;zero covid”; policy. A decision to lock down large parts of China”;s economy could exacerbate problems in the supply chain. In a globalized economy, no country–;even one as big and powerful as the U.S.–;exists in isolation.

Charles Blow of The New York Times writes that “;critical race theory”; has become the new “;Shariah law”; of conservatives.

The truth is that critical race theory is generally not taught in grade school, but that was never the point, in the same way that in the 2010s conservative lawmakers were never really concerned about what they called the threat of Shariah law in the United States when they introduced bills to ban it in American courts; what they wanted was to advance a racist, Islamophobic agenda.

As a 2019 report born of a partnership between USA Today, The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity pointed out, conservative lawmakers had drawn on the same basic rubric for these bills, a model perfected and touted by a network of far-right activists and organizations like the Center for Security Policy, a think tank founded in the 1980s by Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official “;who pushes conspiracy theories alleging radical Muslims have infiltrated the government.”;

The report detailed how “;at least 10,000 bills almost entirely copied from model legislation were introduced nationwide in the past eight years, and more than 2,100 of those bills were signed into law.”;

Critical race theory is the new Shariah law, a boogeyman the right can use to activate and harness the racist anti-otherness that is endemic to American conservatism.

Finally today, Jeffrey Barg, The Grammarian writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer about a new and controversial addition to the Oxford English Dictionary.

The Oxford English Dictionary has just added cultural Marxism to its records. And that”;s a big victory for a lot of people who fearmonger about cultural Marxism but probably don”;t even understand what it is. Not because they can now look up the term –; rather, the term”;s addition to the dictionary means it has gained enough cultural currency that it warrants a definition. People who are worried about cultural Marxism washing over vulnerable, patriotic capitalists talked about it enough that dictionary editors finally took notice.

What is cultural Marxism, and why now, more than 80 years after the term first appeared in print?

The OED”;s primary definition is worth reading in full: “;Used depreciatively, chiefly among right-wing commentators: a political agenda advocating radical social reform, said to be promoted within western cultural institutions by liberal or left-wing ideologues intent on eroding traditional social values and imposing a dogmatic form of progressivism on society. Later also more generally: a perceived left-wing bias in social or cultural institutions, characterized as doctrinaire and pernicious.”;

Those qualifiers speak volumes: “;Used depreciatively,”; “;said to be promoted,”; “;perceived left-wing bias,”; “;characterized as.”; The OED isn”;t saying that cultural Marxism is all of these things, but rather that it”;s perceived and presented as such. In other words, the people using this term probably have an agenda, so watch out.

Everyone have a great day!

Read more: dailykos.com

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