Updated: Apr 10
The unerring sense of decorum, proper conduct, gravitas for which Republicans are known was on display again Thursday in the Senate chambers when the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson for a position on the Supreme Court came up for a vote. The estimable Lindsey Graham exhibited his disdain for the proceedings by showing up without a tie (dress code requires men be attired in suit and tie when on the Senate floor) after reportedly wearing one to a press conference prior to the vote. He shouted his "no" vote from the cloakroom. This is the kind of silly posturing I might have engaged in as a seventeen-year-old firebrand, and from time to time over the years since, memories I prefer to repress. Such episodes were invariably an embarrassment when I reflected on them afterward. It appears that the distinguished solon from SC is not bothered.
After the vote was called and Jackson confirmed, Democrats cheered. Republicans walked out. No one who has been observing national affairs would have expected Republicans to join in the applause. In a better world they might have displayed some semblance of dignity and class in recognition of the historic moment. In the world as it is they did not.
(Geoff Bennett, Brooks and Capehart on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation, restrictive new abortion laws, PBS NewsHour, April 8, 2022)
I regularly lay waste to progressive Democrats whose boundless faith that the country on the whole is far more progressive than it is contributes to the perilous state in which the nation finds itself. Critique of progressive follies remains warranted, but when the stout lady sings, those follies may not be what matters.
At year's end polls showed that voters who received child tax credit payments in 2021 were more likely to support Democratic candidates for Congress in the upcoming elections. That Democratic advantage now appears to have wafted away into the aether. A Morning Consult/Politico poll came up with these findings:
Among parents or guardians with at least one child under 18 in the household who received the expanded child tax credit payments, 46% said they are most likely to vote for a Republican congressional candidate this year while 43% said they’re inclined to back the Democratic candidate.
The narrow GOP advantage among this group stands in contrast with Democrats’ lead of 12 percentage points in late December, before the benefit expired. It also continues a trend first captured in a survey conducted in February.
Among all voters, the latest survey found Democrats and Republicans tied at 43% on the generic congressional ballot. (Eli Yokely, Congressional Republicans Now Lead Generic Ballot Among Child Tax Credit Recipients, April 6, 2022)
Let's begin with the disclaimer that on principle I take poll results with the proverbial pillar of salt. Even so, this is a pretty strong indication that Republicans could reclaim control of Congress in free and fair elections without need for electoral chicanery. Jonathan V. Last lays it out in stark terms:
Behold the supremacy of kitchen-table issues for normal working class voters!
That’s right: Inside the Democrats’ American Rescue Plan was the most substantively pro-family agenda item in a generation: A child tax credit that put real money into the pocket of just about every family. It was weighted so that the younger your kids were and the less income you had, the more money you got back. But the benefits stretched all the way into the middle-middle and even upper-middle classes before phasing out.
The child tax credit was the ultimate kitchen-table issue. Then Republicans killed it. They own—lock, stock, and two smoking barrels—the act of taking this money away from working families. (Democrats Are Screwed No Matter What They Do, The Bulwark, April 7, 2022).
He goes on to summarize each party's efforts over the past fifteen months:
Purging members who say that Biden is the legitimately elected POTUS.
Protecting members who rub elbows with white nationalists.
Re-litigating the 2020 election at all levels of government.
Making culture war issues out of a series of topics progressing from Dr. Seuss, to CRT, to a trans college swimmer, to grooming/pedophilia.
Am I missing something? Do you recall any big Republican initiatives that aren’t on this list? Aside from being, variously, anti-Ukraine, anti-NATO, and anti-anti-Putin? Meanwhile…
Passing the American Rescue Plan.
Fixing the vaccine rollout.
Passing a bi-partisan infrastructure bill.
Pulling out of Afghanistan.
Nominating an overwhelmingly popular and historically important judge to the SCOTUS.
Managing the most successful American response to a foreign policy crisis in (at least) two generations.
Is there negative stuff that happened for Democrats during the last 15 months? Sure. The idea of pulling out of Afghanistan was very popular. The reality of it was deeply unpopular. They have made policy mistakes. The Democrats also spent a great deal of time negotiating an unpopular Build Back Better bill. But—and this point seems important—that unpopular bill did not pass.
You tell me: On balance, which of the two parties has been trying to make inroads with the political center and which has been all about that base for the last 15 months?
For Democrats it may no longer be a question of whether the glass is half empty or half full. The glass has been shattered.
Congressional Republicans are reportedly drooling over the prospect of investigating Hunter Biden next year if they win majorities in November. Says Rep. James Comer (R-KY): "The House Oversight Committee is going to be all over Hunter Biden…We’re going to focus on Hunter Biden not for political reasons…but because we feel he’s a national security threat" (Andrew Desiderio, Olivia Beavers, 'All over Hunter Biden': Republicans lay plans for their own investigation, despite the DOJ probe, Politico, April 6, 2022). Comer is slated to be chair of the oversight committee if Republicans seize, I mean, win power.
Hunter Biden is, perhaps depending on the viewer's perspective, either a troubled soul afflicted with substance abuse and mental health issues or a half-witted little grifter trading on his father's name whose moral compass is sorely in need of recalibration. The alternatives are not mutually exclusive. Joe Biden's inability to recognize this, while somewhat understandable as a parent's blindness to his child's flaws, does him no credit and, moreover, hands the opposition another club with which to gleefully batter his presidency.
As national security threats go, the hapless Hunter Biden is well down the list, well below the ongoing effort to overthrow the government, the Republican Party's scorched earth campaign to establish one-party minority rule for the foreseeable future, and the disturbing possibility that Marine Le Pen could be the next president of France. These are real national security threats. There are others.
Memo from the editorial desk: In the concluding paragraph, "Republican Party's" was inserted between "government, the" and "scorched earth" and the phrase "to establish permanent (for the foreseeable future) Republican one-party rule" was changed to "to establish one-party minority rule for the foreseeable future" for purposes of clarity (April 10, 11:45 AM).