Saturday, January 23, 2021

Final Saturday Male Beauty


Look at the GOP's Newly Elected Extremists

I write often about the Republican Party for several reasons, not the least of which are the reality that (i) today's GOP is a horrific betrayal of much of what the party once stood for and what I and my Republican ancestors supported, and (ii) for America to regain a stable democracy, the GOP must a reject the grifters, extremists and just plain lunatics who now hold office and who animate the party base.  Donald Trump may be out of office, but many undesirables continue to hold office or were just voted into office,  One piece in the Washington Post looks at some of the nutcases who were just elected to Congress and the sickness within the GOP.  A second piece by a former Republican member of Congress argues that the GOP must look in the mirror and do some serious soul-searching if it wants a long term future. First a look at the newly elected GOP undesirables in Congress:

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the breakout stars of the newly elected freshman class of Republicans in the House of Representatives:

    • Rep. Madison Cawthorn (N.C), just 25 years old, earned a coveted speaking slot at the 2020 Republican convention. But parts of his history have been exaggerated or falsified. His campaign ads suggested he was on his way to the Naval Academy before the car accident that left him paralyzed (he had already been rejected by the Academy before his accident). And now the Nation reports that while Cawthorn has repeatedly claimed he was “training” for the Paralympics, he appears never to have competed in paralympic competition at all. When Cawthorn won his seat, his response was “Cry more, lib.”
    • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) was already well known as a onetime QAnon supporter (she says she no longer endorses the deranged conspiracy theory) who has claimed that there’s no evidence a plane crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. The liberal Media Matters has located Facebook exchanges in which Greene endorses the idea that the Parkland school shooting was staged by actors. On Thursday, Greene filed articles of impeachment against President Biden.
    • Rep. Lauren Boebert (Colo.), who has ties to right-wing militia members and owns a restaurant called Shooters Grill — where waitstaff visibly pack heat — has gotten into confrontations with Capitol Police over recently installed metal detectors members must pass through to enter the House floor. She also came under scrutiny when other members noted that the day before the assault on the Capitol, she was seen leading a tour of the building, leading some to suspect that she may have provided help to insurrectionists, knowingly or otherwise.

One way to look at these characters is that they’re nothing more than walking clickbait for liberal websites. Some politicians become famous because they’re beloved on their own side, and others become famous because the other side loves to hate them.

But if you were a serious-minded Republican who really did want to spend your time carefully studying issues and meticulously crafting legislation to address them, what would you think your party actually values right now?

The answer is pretty clear: What sells in today’s GOP is performative lib-owning. If you can find issues that activate grievance and tribal identification on the right, then put on a show of angrily channeling what the base is feeling, no matter how misinformed or absurd those beliefs, that’s how you draw attention to yourself.

The most ambitious Republicans, even those who are themselves quite smart and well-educated, see their path to success as pandering to the dumbest and most deluded people in their party. Witness Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas (Princeton, Harvard Law) and Josh Hawley of Missouri (Stanford, Yale Law), who made themselves leaders of the effort to overturn the presidential election, promoting what they absolutely, positively know are lies about widespread fraud.

But wait, you may say, aren’t there equivalents on the Democratic side? Don’t they have their own extremists? There’s a profound difference, which is that the people in Congress who are far to the left — especially those who get the most attention — spend more time thinking about policy in a given week than the likes of Cawthorn and Boebert have in their entire lives.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y), for instance, is a social media star, but she also has a lengthy policy agenda, including workers’ rights and the Green New Deal. Rep. Katie Porter (Calif.) has gone viral with videos in which she wields her whiteboard against hapless corporate executives in hearings, but those are confrontations in which she uses her deep understanding of economics and finance to show — with math! — how profiteering hurts consumers and workers.

Think back to the 2020 presidential primaries, where Democrats had a long discussion about whether their policy agenda should expand the welfare state or restructure government and its relationship to business. They spent months arguing vociferously about the merits of single-payer health care versus the public option. Can you even fathom something like that happening in the 2024 Republican primaries?

There are some Republican members of Congress who care a great deal about policy and would love to become media stars by showing off their creative ideas for trade agreements or tax reform. But that’s not going to get you on Fox News, because their voters don’t really care.

Which means that every Republican, no matter their true inclinations, winds up acting like the grifters and nutbars who keep winning seats in deeply red districts. Whatever happens to a party currently grappling with the legacy of Donald Trump, there isn’t much reason to think it will get any more sane or serious.

The second piece in the Post by the former Republican member of Congress looks at the need for the GOP to take a long look in the mirror and jettison the liars, kooks, and grifters.  Here are excerpts:

Joe Biden is president in large part because Republicans have been incapable of growing the GOP to better reflect the changing demographics in the United States. We won’t be able to change that without addressing the epidemic of misinformation that has infected the party and realigning our party’s actions based on our values.

Republicans have lost seven of the last eight national popular votes, and it only took four years for us to lose the House, Senate and the White House. Republicans aren’t going to achieve electoral success by being seen as the party that defends QAnon extremists who advocate the murder of the former vice president. Nor will we see success by supporting white supremacists who call a Black police officer the n-word while that police officer puts his life on the line to protect democracy. Every Republican on the ballot in 2022 will face campaign attack ads that affiliate them with the domestic terrorists who charged the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

If the party wants a future, the elected officials, pundits and activists who claim to be its members must stop peddling conspiracy theories and drive out those who continue to do so. Republicans must be honest and do the right thing based on conservative values, not the thing that leads to more clicks, comments or shares on social media.

Those of us who were old enough on 9/11 will always remember the image of the second plane slamming into the World Trade Center, just like all of us will remember the images of thousands of people at the Capitol attempting an insurrection on Jan. 6. Both were acts of terrorism conducted by fanatics. If Islamist terrorism was the existential challenge of the early 2000s, then the environment of disinformation, misinformation and lies fueling domestic terrorism is the challenge of our current generation.

“Big Tech” enforcing their terms of service isn’t the problem either. . . . . in the absence of political action to define the appropriate role of technology in our society, these platforms have become the only ones taking real steps to prevent content that further incites violence.

I accept that many of the people who stormed the Capitol believed the lies they were fed. They were lied to not only about the validity of the election, which was the most secure in our history, but also on a host of issues for years. They were radicalized through multiple platforms that sought to advance elected officials’ ambitions or the goals of foreign adversaries. Every person who went from peacefully protesting to joining the insurrection should be found and fully prosecuted, but conservatives need to wake up to a few realities.

The truth is, President Donald Trump lost big time.  . . . . If you believe that there was widespread fraud in the election, then you haven’t reviewed the right data, or you are listening to manipulative voices who wish to make money off you or to hawk merchandise.

Furthermore, if you elevate a flag that has someone’s name on it to the same level that you elevate your national flag, then you are not a patriot; you are part of a cult.

If Republicans want to change their persistent popular vote losses at the national level, then we must realign our actions with our values. . . . . A new GOP starts with us looking in the mirror and being honest with ourselves about what we believe.

More Saturday Male Beauty


Far Right Catholics Must Confess Their Complicity in Trump's Coup Attempt

An earlier post today looked at why Donald Trump needs to face an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate and, hopefully, numerous criminal prosecutions for his actions both during his occupancy of the White House and years prior to that.  If democracy is to be truly preserved, Trump needs to be indicted, tried and convicted.  But Trump had many accomplices outside on spineless congressional Republicans. ALL who were complicit must be held accountable if American society is to be purged of would be insurrectionists and enemies of the U.S. Constitution.  Obviously, the vast majority of evangelicals were complicit in Trump's attacks on democratic norms and basic morality and should be shunned by decent, moral citizens..  But Trump had numerous Catholic accomplices, particularly within the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops and "pro-life" Catholics who put fetus idolatry above all else, even the caging of children who had been ripped from their parents' arms. An editorial in the National Catholic Reporter from January 7th (a site not controlled by the Vatican) looks at the complicity of some right wing Catholics in Trump's assault on democracy.  Here are excerpts:

There is plenty of blame to go around after yesterday's shameful storming of the U.S. Capitol by a right-wing mob trying to stop the formal counting of the Electoral College vote for the legally elected next president of the United States.

Clearly, the current resident of the White House who for months has repeatedly and deliberately lied about nonexistent election fraud, and who, even as Confederate-flag wielding thugs strolled throughout the Capitol, is guilty of inciting violence in his morning speech on the Ellipse. Later in the day, he would express "love" for what can only be described as domestic terrorists.

And of course the more than 100 House Republicans and more than a dozen GOP senators who had planned to object to the Electoral College results yesterday — including those who later changed their minds, and, let's be honest, pretty much every Republican except Sen. Mitt Romney — will be remembered for laying the fire that eventually burst in flames.

Even Vice President Mike Pence and almost-ex-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who tried to do the right thing by giving reasonable speeches in the morning, cannot erase the past four years of propping up Trump and contributing to the climate that fanned the frenzy.

But also among those with some culpability for yesterday's failed insurrection are more than a few leaders in our church. Catholic apologists for Trump have blood on their hands.

Many Americans expressed shock as they watched the violent mob smash glass and scale the walls while members of Congress cowered under desks or rushed to secure bunkers.

We were not surprised.

This is the culmination of what this presidency has been about from the beginning — and some Catholics have remained silent, or worse, cheered it along, including some bishops, priests, a few sisters, right-wing Catholic media and too many people in the pro-life movement.

We're talking to you, Attorney General William Barr and other Catholics in the Trump administration, Amy Coney Barrett, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, rogue prolifer Abby Johnson. Sadly, the list goes on.

And what about the everyday Catholics — some 50% of them — who voted for Trump this year, after four years of incompetence, racist dog whistles and assaults on democratic norms? Not all were at the "protest" in Washington, but many have supported organizations that fanned the flames. Too many Catholic voters were content to cozy up to Trump in exchange for tax breaks, or Supreme Court judges, or subsidies for Catholic schools.

Many of these folks have been shaped by right-wing Catholic media, whether rogue priests on Twitter, websites such as Church Militant or LifeSiteNews, or the Catholic media conglomerate the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). The latter, with its veneer of respectability, has misinformed millions of Catholics worldwide with its biased news and opinion shows. EWTN anchor Raymond Arroyo, who moonlights on Laura Ingraham's show "The Ingraham Angle" on Fox News, where he is freed from the EWTN's alleged respectability, deserves singling out.

It must stop. If the church is to live up to the teachings of its founder, and if it is ever to be a witness to the culture, it cannot, must not, be a part of what happened at our nation's Capitol. There must be no white Catholic nationalism. And a pro-life movement that embraces white nationalism is not a true pro-life movement. Period.

While some prelates have spoken out all along, the bishops' conference, as a body, must publicly confess and atone for its complicity in empowering the president and the Republican Party in this violence and in denigrating the Democratic Party. The U.S. bishops could start by disbanding that ad hoc, adversarial committee on President-elect Joe Biden, and use its various resources to re-shift how we discuss what it means to be pro-life Catholics. A pro-life movement unwilling to exclaim “Black lives matter” is not a pro-life movement.

Sackcloth and ashes should not be out of the question, but it will take more than a confession.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Donald Trump’s New Reality and the Future of the GOP

Donald Trump may now be out of office, yet he remains a huge cloud over the Republican Party which needs to jettison him overboard if any semblance of sanity is to ever return to that party.  True, the problem of the hideous base of white supremacists and Christofascists (the two groups are largely one and the same) will remain, but as long as Trump foments batshit craziness and possible retribution against sane Republicans - a rare breed - any possible reformation of the GOP will be far more difficult.  Thus it is critical that Trump be utterly discredited either through (i) a conviction of impeachment in the Senate and a subsequent ban from federal office or (ii) by criminal convictions which could likewise bar him from ever holding federal office again. One can hope the former becomes more likely as new information comes out about the Trump campaign's funding of the pre-Capitol assault rally and the plans for murder and mayhem on the part of some of the insurrection participants. If not, then criminal prosecutions and conviction will be essential.  Trump nemesis George Conway has a very lengthy column in the Washington Post that looks at where Trump finds himself and how he may finally be brought to justice.  Here are column highlights:

From the earliest days of his administration, it became painfully apparent that in all matters — including affairs of state — Trump’s personal well-being took top priority. Four years and two impeachments later, he has managed to avoid the full consequences of his conduct.

But now that run of legal good fortune may end. Trump departed the White House a possible — many would say probable, provable — criminal, one who has left a sordid trail of potential and actual misconduct that remains to be fully investigated.

As Trump himself well understands. Long-standing Justice Department opinions hold that presidents can’t be prosecuted while they are in office. Given that any such protection was temporary, some of Trump’s advisers believed that one reason he decided to seek reelection was to avoid criminal exposure. Indeed, in the weeks leading up to November’s election, Trump reportedly confessed to advisers that he was worried about being prosecuted.

Fear of indictment also seemed to animate Trump’s frenzied efforts to overturn the results of the election he so clearly lost. During a 46-minute Facebook video rant in December, Trump complained that “these same people that failed to get me in Washington have sent every piece of information to New York so that they can try to get me there” — a reference to state prosecutors who apparently have ramped up their investigation of his personal and corporate affairs.

A desperate fear of criminal indictment may even explain Trump’s willingness to break any number of laws to stay in office despite losing his reelection bid, democracy and the Constitution be damned. He considered unfathomable measures such as declaring martial law and having the military somehow “rerun” the election. He risked further potential criminal exposure with his appalling — and, unbeknown to him, taped — conversation with Georgia’s secretary of state, during which he threateningly demanded that the official “find” enough votes for him to win the state, and by pressuring a Georgia elections investigator to “find the fraud” that didn’t exist.

And then, as the clock wound down on his time in office, he committed the ultimate impeachable offense for a president: fomenting a violent attempted putsch at the Capitol to stop Congress from confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Prosecutors and jurors may have to decide whether it’s also a crime.

Private citizen Trump stands stripped of the legal and practical protections against prosecution that he enjoyed during his tenure: constitutional immunity; a protective attorney general; a special counsel operating under self-imposed and external constraints; and the ability to invoke the presidency in litigation, even meritless litigation, to delay state prosecutors’ investigations. No longer will he be able to claim interference with his public duties, or to remove those who might allow damaging investigations to proceed.

But Trump’s problem is ours as well: How the Biden administration addresses these issues will have long-lasting implications for the rule of law in America — along with potentially enormous political consequences.

President Biden himself should stay out of it, and rightly seems intent on doing so. His Justice Department, however, can’t and shouldn’t. Previous presidents and previous prosecutors gave former presidents a break for their misdeeds . . . Trump deserves no such grace. His wrongs are far too many to ignore. His demonstrated contempt for the constitutional and legal order is simply too great. That was clear enough before Trump’s repellent and possibly criminal efforts to overturn the election results, for which he was duly impeached. Now, an effort to hold Trump to account in the criminal justice system is essential and unavoidable.

To deal with Trump, and to do so fairly, Attorney General-designate Merrick Garland, once confirmed, will need to use the mechanism of a special counsel. Indeed, given the astonishing breadth of Trump’s wrongdoing, Garland may need to appoint more than one to get the job done swiftly and thoroughly. What follows is a guide to how and why the case or cases, United States v. Donald John Trump, must be pursued.

Even before he incited the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, Trump had amassed an impressive slate of potential criminal acts — from before his presidency and during. His life amounts to a virtual issue-spotting exercise for any student studying criminal law.


Let’s begin with the investigation into potential Russian collusion with the Trump campaign and Trump’s efforts to obstruct the probe. As much as Trump loved to claim that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III found “No Obstruction,” and provided Trump with “Total EXONERATION,” that was just another Trump lie.

Mueller’s investigation did no such thing. His report expressly “does not exonerate” Trump. In particular, it offers extensive evidence that Trump obstructed justice — a road map for any prosecutor willing to embark on the journey. . . . . Mueller clearly understood he was creating an evidentiary record that Congress could use for impeachment — or that another prosecutor could use down the road.

That record supports bringing multiple criminal counts of obstruction of justice against Trump. Mueller’s report described roughly a dozen episodes of potential obstruction and made clear that Trump’s conduct met each of these elements of the crime in at least four of the episodes


Next comes the Ukraine scandal, for which Trump was impeached and then acquitted by the Senate in a party-line vote joined by all but one Republican. The evidence collected by the House of Representatives showed that Trump pressured the government of Ukraine to announce a (nonexistent) investigation of Biden, and illegally ordered the withholding of $391 million in congressionally authorized security assistance to Ukraine. Trump made this proposed bogus announcement by Ukraine a quid pro quo for the American aid, as attested to by Trump’s own acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, at a news briefing; by his ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, under oath; and by his former national security adviser, John Bolton, in a memoir.

Pre-presidential conduct: Campaign finance laws

In any event, the list of Trump’s possible offenses doesn’t end with the Russia and Ukraine matters. There’s the conduct that preceded his presidency — including a crime the Justice Department has, in effect, already determined that Trump committed: violations of federal campaign-finance laws through payments of hush money to two women who allegedly had affairs with Trump. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to arranging for the payments, one made by the parent company of the National Enquirer, the other made by Cohen himself and reimbursed by Trump. The U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York represented to Cohen’s sentencing judge that “with respect to both payments,” Cohen “acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1.” Prosecutors identified “Individual-1” as someone “for whom Cohen worked” and who waged “an ultimately successful campaign for president of the United States” — in other words, Trump.

Pre-presidential conduct: Bank, insurance and tax fraud

Which brings up another significant issue raising possible criminal exposure for Trump — his personal and business finances, generally. Vance has stated in court that he’s looking into “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization” — in particular, whether Trump or his company have committed bank, insurance or tax fraud, or falsified business records by overstating asset values and income to lenders and understating them to tax authorities. Trump has relentlessly and unsuccessfully fought Vance’s subpoenas for Trump’s tax and financial information all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Trump lost. Vance’s probe is intensifying, with The Post reporting that prosecutors have hired outside forensic accounting experts to assist them.

Vance is running a state investigation, but if Trump has committed bank or insurance fraud, that would be chargeable as federal offenses as well, including mail or wire fraud. So, too, with state tax offenses, given how Trump’s federal and state returns would no doubt track one another.

Trump apparently had good reason to be concerned about who would fill Bharara’s old job.

The inclination to give a former president a pass is understandable. We don’t normally charge former presidents with crimes — indeed, it has never happened — though it’s because they normally aren’t criminals.

But conferring on ex-presidents blanket immunity from prosecution would also undermine the rule of law, because it would effectively place them above the law. That should be a particularly weighty concern these days, given how Trump, among other things, claimed that Article II of the Constitution gave him “the right to do whatever I want as president,” and how he promised pardons to underlings if they had to violate laws to build his vaunted border wall. Indeed, the Justice Department’s most recent opinion holding presidents temporarily immune from prosecution during their terms implicitly recognized that the rule of law requires that the immunity end once the presidents leave office.

When it comes to the misconduct of public officials, including presidents, my instincts have always landed more along the lines of the Latin phrase Fiat justitia, ruat caelum — “Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall.” But one needn’t subscribe to so unforgiving a view to justify a post-presidential investigation and potential prosecution of Trump, given where we are today. Because Trump is the extreme case. He has proved that over and over again. Bringing him to whatever justice he may deserve is, now more than ever, essential to vindicating the rule of law, which, now more than ever, must be a critical governing policy of the new administration. Vindication of the rule of law is precisely why many Americans, including myself, voted for Biden. When you consider the through line of Trump’s misconduct, and where it has led us, it’s clear that the cost of giving the former president a pass is simply too great for the nation to bear. If Trump escapes unscathed, what future president would have to fear criminal consequences for wrongdoing?

Clinton and Nixon were relieved of criminal liability, but at least they paid a price — and admitted some fault. Trump has done neither. In exchange for the independent counsel’s agreement not to prosecute, Clinton admitted that he had given false testimony, agreed to pay $25,000 in legal costs, and accepted a five-year suspension of his license to practice law. Nixon, of course, resigned in the face of imminent impeachment and removal. And he at least expressed some contrition, admitting in his resignation speech that some of what he did was “wrong.”

But if there could be any doubt about whether Trump can be given a pass without the rule of law paying too high a price, that ended in the ugly final weeks of Trump’s presidency. His attempts to reverse a free and fair election — by any means he saw necessary, including by fomenting violence — have not only undermined the rule of law but also threatened to destroy it altogether. No other president has ever done that, or attempted to do that, or probably even thought of doing that.

Ford pardoned Nixon partly because he feared the “degrading spectacle” of having a former commander in chief in the dock. But we already have the degrading spectacle. We endured it for four years, ever escalating, and it culminated in the tragic and appalling events of Jan. 6. Restoring dignity to our political system requires some attempt to do justice, beyond preventing Trump from holding federal offices he never deserved to occupy. The stark lesson of the past four years is that the failure to hold a president to account only leads to more conduct for which the president should be held to account.

So, too, with the potential for perpetuating division and potential violence. It already exists. Giving Trump a pass won’t make it disappear. Trump’s supporters, despite the evidence, will continue to insist that the election was stolen from him; they will continue nursing, and acting upon, their grievances. The fear that they may engage in further disorder shouldn’t, and won’t, prevent prosecutors from bringing hundreds of cases against the insurrectionists. To the contrary, it’s precisely the reason those prosecutions should proceed. For much the same reason, the operation of the criminal law shouldn’t be suspended against the man who gave those people the permission structure to commit their violent acts.

Biden’s instinct to the contrary is understandable. . . . . But Biden clearly realizes that he can’t just let things go, and that the proper course for him is to stay above the fray and let the Justice Department exercise its professional judgment.

But here’s the rub: With Trump, there’s so much to investigate criminally that one special counsel can’t do it all. Could you imagine one prosecutor in charge of addressing Trump’s finances and taxes, his hush-money payments, obstruction of the Mueller investigation, the Ukraine scandal, and post-election misconduct, for starters? It would be an impossible task for one team. One special counsel’s office couldn’t do it all, not in any reasonable amount of time, and it’s important for prosecutors to finish their work as quickly as possible. Three or four special counsels are needed. Under the regulations, each would be accountable to the attorney general.

If that feels like overkill, hark back to the reason it’s required. The laundry list of potential crimes is the product of the brazenness of Trump’s behavior over decades. Trump’s modus operandi has been to do whatever he considers necessary in the moment and thinks he can get away with. It worked for far too long. Trump has managed to avoid serious legal repercussions — not just during his four years as president, but throughout his life.

Trump’s presidency has ended. So, too, must his ability to dodge the consequences.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Trump's Parting Gift to Joe Biden

In my view, the best thing that could happen to the Republican Party long term would be to have Trump convicted in the Senate impeachment trial followed by a vote to bar him from ever holding federal public office in the future. This would (i) essentially ban him from the GOP and (ii) defang his threats of forming a new misnamed "Patriot Party." True, some of the party base - namely the white supremacists and Christofascists - would be furious, but realistically, they have no where to go other than to continue to vote Republican.  Meanwhile, the 20%-25% of Republicans for whom Trump's incitement of the sacking of the Capitol was a step too far (and forced them to see the ugliness of much of the party base) might be convinced to remain allied to the GOP. Only time will tell how this all shakes out, but this disillusioned 20%-25% of Republicans offer Joe Biden a chance to gain support and a chance to pressure otherwise obstructionist Republicans to perhaps cooperate so as to avoid further alienating this chunk of Republican voters.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at this possible opening for Biden.  Here are highlights:

Donald Trump’s chaotic final days in the White House could present President Joe Biden with a historic opportunity to broaden his base of public support and splinter Republican opposition to his agenda.

Recent polls have repeatedly found that about three-fourths or more of GOP voters accept Trump’s disproven charges that Biden stole the 2020 election, a number that has understandably alarmed domestic-terrorism experts. But in the same surveys, between one-fifth and one-fourth of Republican partisans have rejected that perspective. Instead, they’ve expressed unease about their party’s efforts to overturn the results—a campaign that culminated in the January 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of Trump’s supporters.

Those anxieties about the GOP’s actions, and about Trump’s future role in the party, may create an opening for Biden to dislodge even more Republican-leaning voters, many of whom have drifted away from the party since Trump’s emergence as its leader. If Biden could lastingly attract even a significant fraction of the Republican voters dismayed over the riot, it would constitute a seismic change in the political balance of power.

“There is a universe of Republicans looking to divorce Trump,” John Anzalone, Biden’s chief pollster during the campaign, told me. “They don’t necessarily know how to do it … [but] January 6 was kind of the reckoning.”

In his inaugural address yesterday, Biden made clear that he will pursue those voters. He centered the speech on a promise to unify the country and made an explicit appeal to voters skeptical of him. But he also unambiguously condemned the threat to democracy that Trump unleashed. In doing so, he defined a new dividing line in American politics, between those who uphold the country’s democratic system and those who would subvert it. “We must end this uncivil war,” Biden insisted.

Beyond providing electoral possibilities for Democrats, the GOP coalition’s widening fissures could provide Biden with leverage to win greater support for his legislative agenda from congressional Republicans, especially in the Senate. Mainstream Republicans’ desire to separate themselves from violent extremists could make some of them more eager to find areas of cooperation with Biden, analysts in both parties have told me. If GOP voters disillusioned with Trump express relatively more approval of Biden, that could also make Republican legislators more comfortable voting with him on some issues. And the bloody backdrop of the Capitol assault could make it more difficult for the GOP to engage in the virtually lockstep resistance that the party employed against Barack Obama during his first months in office.

“If the Republicans play a hard obstructionist role, there is a good chance that they will turn off some of the more moderate Republicans, who will see it as an effort to delegitimize Biden by other means,” the Democratic pollster Geoff Garin told me. “A lot of this will depend not only on how Biden plays his hand, but how Republican leaders play their hand.”

One measure of Biden’s challenge came when he declared in his speech, “Disagreement must not lead to disunion.” With that warning, Biden became the first president in more than 150 years to use the word disunion in his inaugural address, according to a comprehensive database kept by UC Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project. No president since Abraham Lincoln in 1861—who spoke when the South had already seceded but the Civil War’s shooting had not yet begun—had thought that the threat of the nation coming apart was material enough to deploy the word in an inaugural address.

To raise the possibility of disunion, even while cautioning against it, shows how far the nation’s partisan and social chasms have widened after four years of Trump’s relentless division.

Still, the continuing shock waves from the Capitol assault and the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic may create crosscutting pressures on at least some Republicans to find ways to work with Biden.

The $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package that Biden announced last week will offer a crucial early test of each party’s strategy in this fluid environment. The Biden White House’s initial preference is to advance the package through the conventional bill-making process, rather than using a special legislative procedure, known as reconciliation, . . . . William Hoagland, a former Republican staff director for the Senate Budget Committee, predicts that Biden can ultimately attract 10 Republican senators for his rescue package. Although Hoagland says Biden will likely need to narrow the plan to its core relief elements—for instance, by dropping a proposal to raise the minimum wage—he believes that GOP lawmakers will feel pressure to act. “In the crisis we’re facing, I think [enough] Republicans will come around, and there’s going to be a desire to have some form of showing that, with Trump out of here, we can work together,” Hoagland, now a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank, told me.

Until the January 6 riot, many Republicans assumed that their party would remain captive to Trump and his base. But Trump’s unending efforts to subvert the election, capped by the attack, scrambled those calculations and weakened his position inside the party. The loss of his Twitter platform—his most fearsome political weapon—further defanged him.

An array of national polls conducted since the attack show that Trump remains extremely popular within the GOP base. But he’s lost voters too. “What you’ve seen over the past two months is this interesting tension, where he’s simultaneously consolidated the core chunk of people who support him while pushing away the marginal people who would put up with [his] antics because they like the policies,” the Republican communications consultant Liam Donovan told me.

[N]early one-fifth of Republicans and Republican-leaners said they disapprove of Trump’s performance—a much higher share than through most of his presidency—and about one-fourth said they do consider Biden the legitimate winner. Two other telling stats: More than one in four said Trump bears at least some responsibility for the Capitol attack. And roughly the same number also partially blame the congressional Republicans who objected to the Electoral College vote.

Other surveys have similarly captured erosion in Trump’s internal position. About one-fourth of Republicans who approved of Trump in an August survey disapprove of him now, the Pew Research Center found when it recently reinterviewed the poll’s subjects. And a surprisingly large share of Republicans in surveys conducted after the riot by both Pew (40 percent) and ABC/The Washington Post (35 percent) said the GOP should set a different direction or reduce Trump’s influence in the party.

The key dynamic for the next two years: Biden, a politician with an instinct for outreach, is arriving precisely as Trump’s presidency has left many traditionally Republican-leaning voters unmoored and uncertain. Those disaffected Republicans, Donovan noted, “demographically and otherwise match the sorts of people who have been fleeing the party to begin with. That paints the opportunity [for Biden] there. I think it’s real, and it’s only going to continue absent some other shift [in the GOP] we’ve not seen yet.”

The GOP faces the alternative prospect of a bitter fissure between its Trumpist wing and its more traditional faction, which will play out through every legislative choice the party faces, starting immediately with the former president’s Senate impeachment trial. All of that tension and turmoil leaves an opening for Biden big enough to drive an Amtrak train through.

I hope the author's view proves correct.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Final Thursday Male Beauty


Republicans Whine Over Biden's Targeting of Racist Extremism

One day into the Biden/Harris administration and some Republicans, the usual talking heads at Fox News, a/k/a Faux News, and scamvangelist grifters like Franklin Graham and hate group leader Tony Perkins are whining that Joe Biden's inaugural address unjustly targeted them as racists.  The hypocrisy of these whiners is shocking.  Since Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" the GOP has used dog whistle messaging to win the support of racists and segregationists. Under the Trump/Pence regime, dog whistle messaging was discarded and openly racist messaging became the norm.  While this occurred, congressional Republicans remained silent and became complicit in the racist messaging.  In the case of Perkins, he has documented links to white supremacy groups - a common trait of many self-styled evangelical leaders.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at this disingenuous whining.  Here are highlights:

President Biden’s words during his inaugural address were straightforward in their targets.

“The cry for survival comes from the planet itself, a cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear,” he said. “And now a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat. To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity.”

National unity would be required to address climate change and the scourge of extremism, particularly racist extremism. Not anything terribly controversial on its face.

Yet some nonetheless managed to wring out some controversy.

“If you read his speech and listen to it carefully, much of it is thinly veiled innuendo,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said during an interview on Fox News, “calling us white supremacists, calling us racists, calling us every name in the book.”

Paul also apparently objected to Biden’s saying that “there is truth and there are lies, lies told for power and for profit.”

“Calling us people who don’t tell the truth,” Paul continued. “ ‘And going forward we’re not going to have manufactured or manipulated truth.’ That’s another way of saying ‘All of my opponents manufacture or manipulate the truth and are liars.’ ”

In that last sentence, Paul does explicitly what he did implicitly on the issue of race: conflate Biden’s constrained criticism with a broad attack on Republicans generally. Biden never specifically mentioned who was telling those lies, although the focus was obvious. He never even called out the extremism he was targeting as being right-wing. But for Paul, the implication was clear: Biden thinks Republicans are racist liars.

He’s not alone. Ever since coverage of the storming of the Capitol earlier this month noted that some participants were overt supporters of far-right or white nationalist groups, there has been an effort to suggest that this meant that all supporters of former president Donald Trump fall within that category — and will be targeted as a result.

One of the champions of this idea has been Fox News’s Tucker Carlson. For days, he has been claiming that criticism of the Capitol rioters amounted to criticism of the right broadly, and that the military presence at the inauguration was meant not to protect against stated threats from the far right but, instead, to maintain compliance.

On Wednesday night, Carlson, too, derided Biden’s call for combating extremism.

It’s all overwrought, particularly given what Biden actually said. Biden wasn’t looping Republicans generally in with white supremacists and extremists. Carlson is doing that. Paul is doing that.

But that, too, is part of an established tradition.

Remember in the 2016 campaign when Hillary Clinton described Trump supporters as “deplorable?” You certainly do; it was adopted with relish by Trump supporters. What most people don’t remember, though, is that Clinton wasn’t describing Trump supporters as deplorable in general, just a subset of them.

It’s clear that there is an element to much of the political right and Trump’s support that derives from specific concerns about race. Trump supporters and Republicans have repeatedly indicated that they are more concerned than most Americans about being the targets of “reverse racism”; that is, racism targeting White people. One of the predictors of Trump support before the 2016 election was a sense that Whites are losing out. White Republicans see Whites, Blacks and Hispanics as facing about the same levels of discrimination. The Trump administration overtly sought to address the idea that White Americans were being disadvantaged by immigration from largely non-White countries even as it often cast non-White people as dangerous.

It’s important to note that this is clearly not what Biden was talking about. He was talking about the rise of white nationalist extremism and violence of the sort that has been manifested occasionally in recent years and which the Department of Homeland Security (under Trump) identified as the most significant terrorism threat in the country. He was talking about the sort of extremism that contributed to what happened at the Capitol.

The part of Biden’s speech most directly targeting Carlson wasn’t the part about the white nationalists. It was the part about lies being told for power and profit. Carlson appears not to have heeded the message.

Even with Trump now gone from office - and hopefully about to face major legal issues - expect the usual suspects to continue to lie and pander to white supremacists who along with Christofascists are the twin pillars of the Republican Party base.

Biden Signs Sweeping Executive Order for LGBT Rights

The Trump/Pence regime waged a relentless war against LGBT Americas throughout its four years of misrule and efforts to grant special licenses to discriminate to Christofascists. Through policies, revised regulations, and arguments against LGBT rights in the courts, including the Supreme Court, the goal was to make LGBT Americans' lives as miserable as possible all to maintain favor with evangelicals and scamvangelist grifters. On the first day of his presidency, Joe Biden signed an executive order (the order can be found here) rescinding Trump's efforts and implementing the Supreme Court's ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County which held that laws and regulations that ban discrimination based on sex extended to members of the LBGT community.  A piece in the Washington Blade looks at this welcomed development which hopefully will be a precursor to enactment of the Equality Act which would implement a national ban on anti-LGBT discrimination.  Here are article excerpts:

President-elect Joe Biden, on his first day in office Wednesday after taking the Oath of Office,  signed an executive order directing federal agencies across the board to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling against anti-LGBTQ discrimination under federal law.

The Biden transition team listed the executive order in a fact sheet Wednesday detailing each of the 17 administrative actions Biden was set to take on Inauguration Day. Among them are orders that end the travel ban on Muslim countries, launch the “100-day mask challenge” and re-engage with the World Health Organization after the U.S. withdrew during the Trump administration.

The executive order implementing the decision in Bostock v. Clayton County comes nearly six months after the Supreme Court issued the ruling, which found anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, thus illegal in the workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The ruling has wide-ranging implications and affects all laws against sex discrimination, including those in education, housing, credit and jury service.

“All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation,” the fact sheet says. “The Biden-Harris Administration will prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.”

The fact sheet says the Biden executive order “will also direct agencies to take all lawful steps to make sure that federal anti-discrimination statutes that cover sex discrimination prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ persons.”

After Biden’s election, LGBTQ rights advocates had begun calling for the executive order to implement the Bostock decision, which had gone by the wayside under the Trump administration. Instead of implementing the ruling, the Trump administration ignored it and sought to engage in legal maneuverings to limit its scope.

LGBTQ advocates have also been calling for passage of the Equality Act to expand the prohibition on anti-LGBTQ discrimination in federal law and round out LGBTQ protections the Bostock ruling won’t reach. Biden had pledged during his campaign to sign the law within 100 days.

It remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to make that commitment with a shrunken Democratic majority in the House and a 50-50 party split in the U.S. Senate. A Biden campaign spokesperson indicated Biden would unveil his legislative priorities in the coming days in response to a Blade inquiry about the Equality Act.

Sources had told the Washington Blade the transition team told LGBTQ leaders Biden would direct the Defense Department on Day One to reverse the transgender military ban, which was implemented by President Trump. A directive that would reverse the policy wasn’t listed on the fact sheet of administrative actions.

More Thursday Male Beauty


Democrats File Ethics Complaint Against Hawley and Cruz

One day after Joe Biden's inauguration, some Senate Democrats want an investigation into the actions of GOP Senators Cruz and Hawley (Hawley is shown above raising a fist in solidarity with the insurrectionists) leading up to the Trump insurrectionists' sacking of the U.S. Capitol.  They grandstanding and repeating of the big lie that Trump had actually won the election but for voter fraud certainly helped fuel the domestic terrorists' rage and likely emboldened their attack on the Capitol after incitement by Trump. But there are bigger questions that include whether or not they coordinated with organizers of the pro-Trump rally immediately before the riot and/or whether they received donations from any organizations or donors that also funded the rally.  Both were actively fundraising off of their false claims against Biden's victory and it is a legitimate question of what else they might have done.  Hypocritically, both Cruz and Hawley are whining that the calls for an investigation go against President Biden's call for national unity.  A piece in Politico looks at the issue:

A group of Senate Democrats filed an ethics complaint Thursday against GOP Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, over their Jan. 6 efforts to object to the 2020 presidential election results.

“By proceeding with their objections to the electors after the violent attack, Senators Cruz and Hawley lent legitimacy to the mob’s cause and made future violence more likely,” the senators wrote in a letter to incoming Senate Ethics panel Chair Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Vice Chair James Lankford (R-Okla.).

The letter, led by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), requests that the panel investigate several issues, including whether Cruz (R-Texas) and Hawley (R-Mo) encouraged the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol; whether they coordinated with organizers of the pro-Trump rally immediately before the riot; whether they received donations from any organizations or donors that also funded the rally; and whether the senators “engaged in criminal conduct or unethical or improper behavior.” 

Both senators have denied allegations that they incited the Jan. 6 insurrection, which led to the death of five people, and condemned the violence.

But in Thursday’s letter, the Democratic senators argue that by announcing they would challenge the election results, Hawley and Cruz gave credibility to former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.

In addition, the letter also notes that Cruz and Hawley still voted against certifying the presidential election results in Pennsylvania and Arizona, hours after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“By continuing to object to the electors after the insurrection, Senators Cruz and Hawley lent legitimacy to the mob’s cause,” the senators wrote.

In addition to Whitehouse, Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio.) signed the letter.

Cruz and Hawley have faced bipartisan backlash over their election challenge since the Jan. 6 attacks. Several Democratic senators, including Coons, have said that they should step down.

Hawley, meanwhile, lost a book deal with Simon & Schuster. His mentor, former Sen. John Danforth, said his support for the Missouri Republican “was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life.” And Cruz's communications director resigned.

One can only hope the investigation goes forward.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


QAnon Believers Are in Disarray, Feel Betrayed

My personal view is that one always had to have a few screws loose mentally - actually, many screws loose - to believe even a fraction of what QAnon followers believe in their delusions, which made them a prime target for crooks and grifters like Donald Trump and many of his acolytes on the far right.  Now, with Donald Trump having quietly left Washington, D.C., to hopefully face endless legal problems, and Joe Biden sworn in as president, much of the delusional beliefs the QAnon cultists have hit a brick wall. Some are perhaps finally waking up to reality and realizing they were played for fools while others continue to drift in lunacy fabricating other story lines rather than return to objective reality.  It's difficult to feel my sympathy for those who who have chosen to embrace insane conspiracy theories that have never had any basis for belief in the first place.  A piece at CNN looks these seriously disturbed people - some of whom continue to pose a danger to society - in the immediate aftermath of the end of Trump's misrule and endless lies.  Here are highlights: 

For years, believers of the QAnon conspiracy theory had been waiting for the moment when a grand plan would be put into action and secret members of a supposed Satanic pedophilia ring at the highest ranks of government and Hollywood would suddenly be exposed, rounded up and possibly even publicly executed. They were nearly always sure it was right around the corner, but "The Storm" never came — and the moment of Joe Biden's inauguration was the last possible opportunity for President Donald Trump to put the plan in motion. 

But as Biden raised his hand and swore an oath to defend the Constitution, becoming the nation's 46th president — nothing happened. 

The anti-climax sent QAnon adherents into a frenzy of confusion and disbelief, almost instantly shattering a collective delusion that had been nurtured and amplified by many on the far right. Now, in addition to being scattered to various smaller websites after Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR) cracked down on QAnon-related content, believers risked having their own topsy-turvy world turned upside down, or perhaps right-side up. 

Members of a QAnon-focused Telegram channel, and some users of the image board 4chan, vowed to keep the faith. Others proclaimed they were renouncing their beliefs. Still others devised new theories that purported to push the ultimate showdown further into the future. One of the ideology's most visible icons, Ron Watkins — who goes by the online moniker CodeMonkeyZ — told supporters to "go back to our lives." 

"The most hardcore QAnon followers are in disarray," said Daniel J. Jones, president of Advance Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit that tracks extremist groups and misinformation online. "After years of waiting for the 'Great Awakening,' QAnon adherents seemed genuinely shocked to see President Biden successfully inaugurated. A significant percentage online are writing that they are now done with the QAnon, while others are doubling down and promoting new conspiracies." 

The smattering of reactions underscores the uncertain future now facing the QAnon movement, which tech companies had allowed to metastasize on their platforms for years but didn't start taking action against in earnest until 2020. 

The baseless conspiracy theory has been circulating since 2017. In addition to alleging a vast child-trafficking conspiracy, those who were drawn in claim that government bureaucrats comprising a "deep state" were quietly working to undermine President Donald Trump's agenda. Trump himself fueled the claims by refusing to publicly denounce them on national television. 

And people identifying as part of the QAnon movement were part of the mob of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol earlier this month. 

Following the riots, QAnon supporters eagerly anticipated the moment of Biden's inauguration. 

"As the noose tightens around the deep state, some people are becoming more and more desperate to discredit Q," one 4chan user posted on Wednesday morning. "I guess what they say is true. The flack is heaviest over the target." 

But after Biden's swearing-in came and went, panic set in.  Some began acknowledging the truth. 

"Biden is our president," a fourth user in the Telegram channel said. "It's time to get off our devices and get back to reality. If something happens then something happens, but for now I'm logging out of all social media. It's been fun guys but it's unfortunately over." 

Other believers insisted that the lack of a climax was itself a part of the plan, theorizing that Trump merely "allowed" Biden to become president "for appearances" while the former reality show host would be the one pulling the strings. "Anything that happens in the next 4 years is actually President Trumps doing," wrote one 4chan user. 

"It's a hot mess, frankly," said Carla Hill, research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism, of the various reactions of QAnon believers. "Frustration started seeping in. There is some embarrassment, some anger ... A range of [new] conspiracies are spinning out of this and they are arguing among themselves." 

The apparent ease with which some QAnon believers have been able to adjust the theory to suit new events underscores how slippery the conspiracy theory can be. But the proliferation of new theories and beliefs could also lead to a splintering of the movement — and, some extremism experts warn, a potentially new crisis in mental health. 

As QAnon believers got pulled deeper into the conspiracy theory, they built a comforting belief system around themselves, said Marc Ambinder, a senior fellow who studies mis- and disinformation at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. 

"The 'plan' was so much more powerful in the abstract than anything you could offer in the real world to counter it," he said. 

But now, as many QAnon supporters are increasingly confronted by reality, the resulting cognitive dissonance could break them, Ambinder said — with potentially devastating consequences. 

"This type of event is the kind of thing that can set somebody who is already incredibly anxious, in the time of a horrible global pandemic, feeling like they're completely pushed to the edge," Ambinder said, saying he fears more of the type of violence that the country witnessed at the US Capitol two weeks ago. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

More Wednesday Male Beauty


Joe Biden's Inaugural Address: A Call for Unity and Return to Our Better Angels

Since I had to work today, I was only able to catch portions of the inauguration before having to go into client meetings. I saw Lady Gaga's performance and the swearing in of Vice President Harris and President Biden. Only later was I able to watch more of the proceedings, including Biden's inaugural address. The contrast between Donald Trump's dark inaugural address which referenced "American carnage" which Trump the went on to inflict on the nation could not be more stark. Instead of grievance and a sort of declaration of war against all but Trump's ugly base, Biden called for national unity and reminded all Americans that united, America can and will do great things.  A column in the Washington Post sums up my thoughts and feeling on this new day in America.  Here are column highlights:

At a moment of historic firsts — the first female, Black and South Asian vice president, the first inaugural address given at a recent crime scene, the first passing of presidential power from a classless, unhinged narcissist who tried to destroy the constitutional order — the most compelling attribute of President Biden’s inaugural address was its moral normalcy. I had a cascading sense of relief at hearing a president take the “pro” side of empathy, compassion and inclusion.

After Donald Trump’s “American carnageinaugural address — essentially declaring war on the whole congressional “establishment” that sat in uncomfortable attendance — former president George W. Bush reportedly commented, “That was some weird s--t.” Biden’s speech was neither. Behind the new president’s words you could almost hear the work crews rebuilding America’s moral and political guardrails. That infrastructure project is a precondition for the return of a politics that is normal and noble.

The address was more authentic to Biden than rhetorically ambitious, objectives that typically diverge. It was clearly intended to give a sense of the president as a man — upbeat, forthright, practical, welcoming. The speech was a rhetorical X-ray. It showed that Biden’s heart is in the right place — something that could not be assumed in Trump’s alien anatomy. It is usually not high praise to say that an inaugural address puts you to sleep. But I will sleep better at night knowing that a man of admirable character holds the presidency.

Biden gave one answer that is tougher than it first sounds. Americans can unite “to fight the foes we face: anger, resentment, hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness and hopelessness.” He was careful to say, “We can treat each other with dignity and respect” rather than “We will treat each other with dignity and respect” — an appropriate humility. But this is not really an invitation to unity, defined as unanimity. His speech declared an intention to build a social consensus against the destructive political habits of a significant portion of the population — anger, hatred, extremism, lawlessness. This will involve drawing some hard lines, such as: “There is truth, and there are lies.” And Biden held political leaders particularly responsible for confusing those categories. The president, to his credit, is making outreach for a specific purpose: the vindication of reality.

Here is Biden's inaugural address in full: 

Chief Justice Roberts, Vice President Harris. Speaker Pelosi, Leaders Schumer, McConnell, Vice President Pence, my distinguished guests and my fellow Americans, this is America’s day.

This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope of renewal and resolve through a crucible for the ages. America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge. Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy. The people, the will of the people, has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded.

We’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.

From now, on this hallowed ground, where just a few days ago, violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power, as we have for more than two centuries.

As we look ahead in our uniquely American way: restless, bold, optimistic, and set our sights on the nation we can be and we must be.

I thank my predecessors of both parties for their presence here today. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. And I know, I know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength, the strength of our nation. As does President Carter, who I spoke with last night, who cannot be with us today, but whom we salute for his lifetime of service.

I’ve just taken the sacred oath each of those patriots have taken. The oath, first sworn by George Washington. But the American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us, on we the people who seek a more perfect union.

This is a great nation. We are good people. And over the centuries, through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we've come so far. But we still have far to go. We'll press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities, much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain.

Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now. A once-in-a-century virus that silently stalks the country. It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II. Millions of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed. A cry for racial justice, some 400 years in the making, moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.

The cry for survival comes from the planet itself, a cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear. And now a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.

To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: Unity. Unity.

In another January, on New Year’s Day in 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. When he put pen to paper, the president said, and I quote: “If my name ever goes down into history, it’ll be for this act. And my whole soul is in it.”

My whole soul was in it today. On this January day, my whole soul is in this: Bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause.

Uniting to fight the foes we face: anger, resentment, hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness and hopelessness. With unity, we can do great things, important things. We can right wrongs. We can put people to work in good jobs. We can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome the deadly virus. We can reward, reward work, and rebuild the middle class and make health care secure for all. We can deliver racial justice and we can make America once again the leading force for good in the world.

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. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we're all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonization have long torn us apart. The battle is perennial and victory is never assured.

Through civil war, the Great Depression, world war, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice and setbacks, our better angels have always prevailed. In each of these moments, enough of us have come together to carry all of us forward. And we can do that now. History, faith and reason show the way, the way of unity. We can see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace — only bitterness and fury. No progress — only exhausting outrage. No nation — only a state of chaos.

This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge. And unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America. If we do that, I guarantee you we will not fail. We have never, ever, ever, ever failed in America when we’ve acted together.

And so today at this time in this place, let’s start afresh, all of us. Let’s begin to listen to one another again. Hear one another, see one another, show respect to one another. Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war. And we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.

My fellow Americans, we have to be different than this. America has to be better than this. And I believe America is so much better than this. Just look around. Here we stand in the shadow of the Capitol dome, as was mentioned earlier, completed amid the Civil War, when the Union itself was literally hanging in the balance. Yet we endured, we prevailed.

Here we stand looking out on the great Mall where Dr. King spoke of his dream. Here we stand, where 108 years ago, at another inaugural, thousands of protesters tried to block brave women marching for the right to vote. And today we marked the swearing-in of the first woman in American history elected to national office: Vice President Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can’t change.

Here we stand across the Potomac from Arlington Cemetery, where heroes who gave the last full measure of devotion rest in eternal peace. And here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground.

It did not happen. It will never happen. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.

To all those who supported our campaign, I’m humbled by the faith you’ve placed in us. To all those who did not support us, let me say this: Hear me out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart. If you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent, peaceably, the guardrails of our republic, is perhaps this nation’s greatest strength.

Yet hear me clearly: Disagreement must not lead to disunion. And I pledge this to you: I will be a president for all Americans. All Americans. And I promise you I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.

Many centuries ago, St. Augustine, a saint in my church, wrote to the people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love. Defined by the common objects of their love. What are the common objects we as Americans love, that define us as Americans? I think we know. Opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor and, yes, the truth.

Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies, lies told for power and for profit. And each of us has a duty and responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders, leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation, to defend the truth and defeat the lies.

Look — I understand that many of my fellow Americans view the future with fear and trepidation. I understand they worry about their jobs. I understand, like my dad, they lay in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, wondering: Can I keep my health care? Can I pay my mortgage? Thinking about their families, about what comes next. I promise you, I get it.

But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like you or worship the way you do, or don’t get their news from the same sources you do. We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural vs. urban, conservative vs. liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts. If we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes, as my mom would say, just for a moment, stand in their shoes. Because here’s the thing about life: There’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days when you need a hand. There are other days when we’re called to lend a hand. That’s how it has to be. That’s what we do for one another. And if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future. And we can still disagree.

My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us, we’re going to need each other. We need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter. We’re entering what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus. We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation. One nation.

And I promise you this, as the Bible says: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” We will get through this together. Together.

Look, folks. All my colleagues I served with in the House and the Senate up there, we all understand the world is watching, watching all of us today. So here’s my message to those beyond our borders: America has been tested and we’ve come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. And we’ll lead, not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.

We’ll be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress and security. Look — you all know we’ve been through so much in this nation. And my first act as president, I’d like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer to remember all those who we lost this past year to the pandemic. Those 400,000 fellow Americans. Moms, dads, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends, neighbors and co-workers. We will honor them by becoming the people and the nation we know we can and should be. So I ask you, let’s say a silent prayer for those who’ve lost their lives, those left behind, and for our country. Amen.

Folks, this is a time of testing. We face an attack on our democracy and on truth, a raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis, America’s role in the world. Any one of these will be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is, we face them all at once, presenting this nation with one of the gravest responsibilities we’ve had. Now we’re going to be tested. Are we going to step up? All of us? It’s time for boldness, for there is so much to do. And this is certain, I promise you: We will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era.

Will we rise to the occasion is the question. Will we master this rare and difficult hour? Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world to our children? I believe we must. I’m sure you do as well. I believe we will. And when we do, we’ll write the next great chapter in the history of the United States of America. The American story. A story that might sound something like a song that means a lot to me. It’s called “American Anthem.” There’s one verse that stands out, at least for me, and it goes like this:

The work and prayers of a century have brought us to this day.

What shall be our legacy? What will our children say?

Let me know in my heart when my days are through.

America, America, I gave my best to you.

Let's add. Let us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our great nation. If we do this, then when our days are through, our children and our children's children will say of us: They gave their best, they did their duty, they healed a broken land.

My fellow Americans, I close the day where I began, with a sacred oath before God and all of you. I give you my word, I will always level with you. I will defend the Constitution. I’ll defend our democracy. I’ll defend America and I will give all, all of you. Keep everything I do in your service, thinking not of power, but of possibilities, not of personal interest, but the public good. And together we shall write an American story of hope, not fear. Of unity, not division. Of light, not darkness. A story of decency and dignity, love and healing, greatness and goodness. May this be the story that guides us. The story that inspires us and the story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history. We met the moment. Democracy and hope, truth and justice did not die on our watch, but thrived. That America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world. That is what we owe our forebears, one another and generations to follow.

So, with purpose and resolve, we turn to those tasks of our time. Sustained by faith, driven by conviction, devoted to one another and the country we love with all our hearts. May God bless America and may God protect our troops. Thank you, America.