A Plague on Both Their Houses

For Joe Biden, the sad sack who is turning into a liability for the Democrats, polls show that 64% of Democrats want him to step aside in 2024. With young voters, the figure is 93%. Top concerns are his age and job performance. If it’s Trump versus Biden again in 2024, I predict hordes of people will be moving to Mexico.

A recent NYTimes poll found that 10% would vote for neither one. I don’t think Trump could win if the Repubs are foolish enough to nominate him. (They have even asked Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to speak at the CPAC conference in August.) DeSantis in many ways will be worse.

Recent Supreme Court decisions on Roe and guns have riled up a lot of people. But the Dems show few signs of real outrage or responding to these issues in a way that relates to voters’ real agendas. As many have said many times, they don’t know how to fight. The White House issues its predictable talking points and shows, once again, that it doesn’t know how to engage persuasively with voters of different stripes. There’s no urgency or fire. And there’s no third-party candidate worth talking about.

The Democrats are like those in-laws that Carolyn Hax wrote about today in the Washington Post: they keep on bringing meat meals, one after the other, to a new mom who happens to be vegetarian. Fundamentally, that is harassment. For the White House, it’s plain pigheadedness and political ineptitude.

After the Highland Park shooting, Biden made a tepid, ill-timed patriotic speech with barely a mention of the disaster that had just unfolded. For me, that was almost unforgiveable.

For you, my readers, there’s no need to repeat the litany of worse-and-worse Republican treachery and folly. What we need now is people who know how to fight a most critical political battle.

Greene’s Gazpacho and Trump’s Toilets

The New Yorker

Yesterday the media reported endlessly on Greene’s continuing and insufferable stupidity and the ex-president’s propensity to flush documents down White House toilets. Hard to wake up to this stuff.

I still read the latest in politics each morning on the internet. This practice had begun to ruin my day so I’ve endeavored to change it. I try to make phone calls and email friends, walk to the bakery, get on my exercise machine. I’m still caught up with our political follies, but no longer to the point of writing about them or hashing them out with friends. It ain’t worth the angst.

Since most people can’t face the enormity of what’s happening in the U.S., the media’s fallback is to divert us with the folly of our political happenings. Politics and the reporting thereof have become a burlesque.

Yet I’ve spent too many years in politics not to take it seriously. It’s very hard to do that now. I mark all the many appeals for funds I get from Democrats as spam. I no longer follow Democrats Abroad. Most of the received opinions about the current crisis—the likely onset of a new civil war, gerrymandering, court packing, and so on—I find repetitious and half-baked. Or they keep telling us about the persistent Congressional standoffs.

So maybe we shouldn’t blame the media for telling us ad nauseum about the crocodile who finally got the tire removed from its neck. Yesterday I was looking for some freaky “good news stories” to write about, like the one about preventing Alzheimer’s with toothpaste. The idea was to lighten up the pervasive gloom about current events. I eventually tossed out that approach after realizing that such stuff was just clickbait. The media thrives on clickbait.

Since I spent quite a few years studying and teaching literature I tried to get back to reading more. That worked for a while but I always gravitated to the current affairs stuff on Kindle and got too absorbed in that. Interesting but invariably gloomy.

So I looked at the shelves of books that I had just unpacked after my recent move. Music, history, fiction, poetry, and culture were there in abundance. Could they be a passage to my recovery from boredom and disgust? The books looked back at me as if through a scrim of non-recognition, even though I had read them all and absorbed much pleasure from many. But I felt little urge to pick them up and explore them again.

Even so, I will do that with a few because they represent old pleasures and insights that were and are valuable to me. Literature is life rendered, after all, and mostly from a simpler and better time. It has always been a refuge for me, and perhaps it will be so again. In times like this, we need our sanctuaries.

How White Is Your Christmas?

I’ve told some of you the story of how my wonderful Jewish mother one year decorated our annual Christmas tree with gold spray-painted bagels. Family friends thought that was a hoot, but as a judgmental college kid I thought it was inappropriate if not ludicrous. Looking back now, I think of it as a lighthearted but determined attempt to assimilate to the white Christian culture that ruled in the 1950s.

My mother loved Christmas and all its trappings. We always had a big tree, sang the carols, and hosted parties of comfort and joy. This was part of the liberal mystique of the time to proclaim brotherhood with Christians, treating the holiday as an occasion for broad secular respect—much as we cherish Santa Claus.

I never went much for the religious side of Judaism, and the white Christian ideals of that time also seemed just foreign to me. We heard pious mouthings from the believers on the one hand, and then the rage of zealots like those who celebrated the grisly murder of Emmett Till. Fierce anger and hostility came from people who at the same time professed to be godly Christians.

The hypocrisy of that time has stuck with me. And it’s part of present-day politics. The religious right has grown mightily in influence, and their behavior is more anti-Christian than ever. Now it is amplified by white fears of a nonwhite takeover. These fears are driving a dominant portion of the far-right to plot the next insurrection and plan the subversion of the 2024 election. We are facing a white Christmas that looks to be a prelude to more political madness.

In his typical mode, NY Times contributor Thomas Edsall interviewed academics on the question of whether the present GOP is a threat to democracy—and whether the Democratic party is able to defend it. Through voting restrictions, gerrymandering and the inequities of state representation in the Senate, the Republicans gained power even while the white evangelicals declined in numbers. But their influence has gained strength as they see their sense of ownership of America slipping away. They react with “rage, resentment and paranoia.”

Edsall’s respondents fear that, for the Democrats, winning elections won’t be enough. Their support from working-class voters continues to erode. And too many structural elements keep “fortifying the Republican minority, its by-any-means-necessary politics and its commitment to white hegemony.”

One of Edsall’s interviewees (Julie Wronski) notes the GOP’s dilemma: they can’t grow the party with a more inclusive strategy because White Christians, a diminishing base of the party, must be defended at all costs to prevent the threat of minority status. Now the religious right is on the verge of another victory in the Supreme Court, blurring the separation of church and state.

How voters perceive these issues is critical, of course. And the Democrats are not doing enough to get the critical message out that the country’s democracy is at stake. They are temporizing over tactics regarding the BBB in Congress when they should be fighting the growth of religious intolerance and racism. They are hanging bagels on the Christmas tree.

Random Thoughts

  • People who write horoscopes are as nitwitty as those who believe in QAnon or the Big Lie. They construct vague statements that are plausible because they are made to please a reader’s ego. Here’s my horoscope for today, provided by Madame Clairevoyant, New York Mag’s resident soothsayer. Those who know me may get a laugh out of this.

Gemini Weekly Horoscope
The idea of being all things to all people is an alluring one to you. There’s a certain kind of appeal in the dream that by observing others carefully enough—their speech and their movements, the shape of their desires—and by reflecting this back to them, you could heal anybody’s sorrows, bring sunshine to even their darkest inner world. But this week, it’s necessary not to forget your own needs, your own interior life. You don’t have to give and give until you’re hollowed out. Your duty isn’t to reshape your whole being to match someone else’s wants, but to strive to become ever more yourself.

  • Mary Trump has a new book out and was interviewed by one of my favorite sources, The Daily Beast. She takes the Democrats to task for their appeasement. Judge them by their reactions to Biden’s refractory speech on Afghanistan.

By playing politics, by being polite, by pretending the bipartisanship still exists, by pretending that there’s a rulebook anymore—they are doing a huge disservice to the American people. . . . I think that we’re literally on the brink of the end of American democracy to the extent that it’s ever existed, but [the Democrats] are the only people who can do anything about it. So if they keep pulling punches by pretending that the filibuster is a good thing, or that the Republicans are interested in governance of any kind, then it’s over.