Politically Speaking – June 1, 2021

June 1, 2021

Monday was Memorial Day, and I couldn’t help but reflect on what it stands for. It makes me think about the sacrifices that have been and are still being made. For some it’s just a three day weekend, the last fling of spring.

Memorial Day was a response to the unprecedented carnage of the civil war that cost 630,00 to 750,000 soldiers their lives in a country divided, brother against brother, a very sad time in our history. I pray this never happens again.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.”

General Douglas MacArthur said, “No man is entitled to the blessing of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation.”

And now on to Rich Lowry and Bob Franken.

The GOP Future Is Bright

By Rich Lowry, Editor of the National Review

Republicans have had a brutal news cycle over the past month, between the ouster of Liz Cheney from leadership and the intraparty jousting over a January 6 commission.
The overwhelming sense of the coverage is that the party is descending into madness and civil war and is a husk of its former self.

There’s no denying that much of the party has been too willing to indulge or look away from wild theories about the 2020 election and the Capitol riot, but this shouldn’t obscure the fact that the Republicans are well-positioned to take the House next year.

All indications are that GOP voters are united and energized and the party is doing what’s necessary to make Kevin McCarthy the next speaker, which would instantly squash the never-very-plausible talk of Joe Biden being the next FDR.

The foundation of the GOP’s unity, of course, is that Donald Trump effortlessly maintained his control of the GOP. The anticipated civil war came and went with barely a shot fired. Cheney is certainly a casualty, although she is now less a leader of a significant faction of the party and more a voice crying in the wilderness. That is an honorable role, and she may well be vindicated in the fullness of time.

But the party will pay no electoral price for the drama over her leadership role or, likely, for its continued loyalty to Trump.

Despite Trump’s grip, he’s not front and center for average voters. He isn’t president and he isn’t on the ballot. The focus inevitably will be on Biden and his agenda, which will loom larger than anything the former president can do from Mar-a-Lago.

The Democratic polling outfit Democracy Corps just did a battleground survey that confirmed this picture. As Stanley Greenberg writes in a memo about the poll, among Republicans: “the percent scoring 10, the highest level of interest in the election, has fallen from 84-68%. But Democrats’ engagement fell from 85- 57%.”

Greenberg calls the GOP base “uniquely unified and engaged.”

More evidence is the boffo fundraising by the National Republican Campaign Committee so far. Meanwhile, GOP candidate recruitment is ahead of the pace of prior midterm cycles, whereas Democrats are seeing worrisome retirements.

It’s not as though there’s a high bar for the GOP. Republicans will need to flip about half-a-dozen seats in the House, when in the post-World War II era the president’s party has lost on average 27 seats in midterms.

On top of this, the playing field is tilting the GOP’s way. Reapportionment gave more seats to Republican states and based on its strength in state legislatures, the GOP also has the upper hand in redistricting.

The Biden theory is that $6 trillion in spending will deliver a roaring economy that diminishes any midterm losses. But the latest jobs and inflation numbers show that it might not be so simple, and there is considerable doubt whether Biden can get his spending.

Greenberg derives some comfort from his belief that, in contrast to 2020, “this time, Democrats cannot fail to see how early Trump’s party is fully engaged with its ongoing culture war, focused on crime, open borders, and defunding the police.”

Yet, there is no indication of any effort to seriously defuse these issues. Biden’s policies have needlessly created a crisis at the border, and murder rates continue to climb in major cities, even as much of the left still talks of the police as if it’s a racist occupying force.

There are miles to go before November 2022. Biden might find a way to thread the needle of cooperating with Republicans on infrastructure and police reform without alienating his own base, and unforeseen events always take a hand.

But the story of 2021 is not a Republican meltdown. Despite what you read, the party stands a good chance to end its bout in the wilderness after two short years.

© 2021 King Features Synd., Inc.

Human Cicadas

By Bob Franken

Think of us as cicadas, the insects you’ve heard about ad nauseam, that live underground for 17 years and then surface to get it on. Well, we humans in the U.S. have sheltered in place for 17 months, give or take, tucked away from the ravages of COVID. And now we are about to find out how bawdy our bodies have become.

Now millions of hibernating Americans will emerge, courtesy of the vaccine, to discover how the world has changed. The absence of masks — prima facie evidence of a return to “normal” — might reveal a metamorphosed society.

True, the millions of workers who got used to upper-half masquerades during Zoom meetings, or those who were forced into babysitting the kiddies at home as the family urchins struggled with school, will now come trickling back to the office — if they have an office to which they can return. Many desperate employers discovered the financial advantages of having less real estate, and some have turned to machines to make their employees flat out obsolete. Fewer jobs mean fewer restaurants or food trucks, fewer hotel rooms, fewer shopping opportunities, fewer entertainment venues and, most importantly, fewer workers downtown to staff those facilities.

And what about those precious little delicate flower kiddies, who are going back to in-person school, or will return this fall? Will they be like the cicadas and have forgotten all they had learned, or will at least some of the virtual instruction have actually taken? Probably a bit of both. Chances are they will have some catching up to do. Will colleges and universities have to lower their admission standards, or will higher education change now that we’ve discovered that you don’t have to go to a boring lecture from a pompous junior instructor in a decrepit building at exorbitant tuition prices when you can get that same pomposity from your Zoom room at home?

How will the politicians respond to all these changes? The easy answer is poorly or not at all. They’re dinosaurs anyway, mired in extinct issues, ready for some meteor to obliterate them before they even deal with reality — as opposed to the cliched issues of yesteryear. They are most preoccupied with keeping their jobs, which makes them vulnerable to the demagogues and influence peddlers who will pay good — or should I say bad? — money to keep things the way they were. That is to say unfairly distributed. We never learn or, if we do learn, it’s the wrong lesson.

The pandemic provided proof. Since the beginning of the United States, we have been stained as a nation by our oppressive treatment of people of color. Even today, as we undeservedly gloat about each tidbit of progress we’ve made, we are faced with statistics that minorities have been disproportionately felled by the coronavirus. Why? Because of crippling discrimination, that’s why. We are still badly burdened by inequality. The poor are stuck in menial jobs that require face-to-face contact with the infectious general public, forced to live far from health care as well as nutrition.

It’s not hard to understand that. The reaction has been divided. Liberals talk a good game. They pretend they want to take meaningful steps to force police to stop killing minorities, going through the motions of making schools better for all, giving lip service to the ways they’ll achieve equal opportunity. Conservatives challenge what they call a “critical race” curriculum, attacking the way the history of prejudice in the United States is taught. All that frustration and futility begs the question that cicadas ask even if they succeed in making the big score after 17 years of anticipation: Was it really worth it?

Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.
© 2021 King Features Synd., Inc.

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