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Memo to 2020: How Can We Miss You if You Won't Go Away? Plus - Previewing California Politics 2021

Updated: Jan 6


On Wednesday, Donald Trump's servile, deadender stooges in Congress will seek to overturn the November presidential election.


Republican factions in both houses of Congress prepared a performative effort backing Trump's autocratic, if inept, electoral coup attempt, as vote counting proceeded in Georgia, where two Democrats appeared on the brink of ousting two pro-Trump GOP incumbent Senators to win a bare working majority for President-elect Joe Biden's agenda.


The week's extraordinary confluence of political events represent the most stressful days for democracy, at least since the end of Reconstruction.


Two months after Biden's clear and decisive Nov. 3 victory -- and weeks after every state has certified its vote while Trump's endless and frivolous legal claims about alleged voter fraud were dismissed by his own Department of Justice and laughed out of court by judges appointed by presidents of both parties -- polling shows that a majority of Republican voters nonetheless accept his increasingly apoplectic and delusional claims, as loudly and constantly echoed by right-wing and wing-nut media.


Anti-Trump conservative political writer Jonathan V. Last summed up the state of play for The Bulwark:


"Because here is where we stand, two days before Congress meets to count the Electoral College votes:

  • Trump pressured the Pennsylvania state legislature to object to the certification of the state’s election. When this failed, PA Republicans asked Congressto throw out their state’s votes.

  • Trump came within a single vote in the Wisconsin Supreme Court of getting his argument to overturn the state’s results into the judiciary’s hands.

  • The Arizona Republican party is openly calling for violence.

  • Trump requested that Georgia state officials “find” enough votes to give him the state. And threatened them with criminal charges if they did not.

  • Trump’s former National Security Adviser is calling for martial law, an election re-run, and military tribunals.

  • More than half the Republican caucus in the House will object to the counting of the Electoral College votes and at least a third of the Republican caucus in the Senate will join them.

…And these are only the actions we know about. God knows what’s been happening behind the scenes."


And oh yeah: the mayor of Washington D.C. has requested a mobilization of the National Guard to handle street demonstrations this week, as the Proud Boys and other white supremacist and extremist groups, egged on by Trump, plan to descend on the city.


In Congress meanwhile, after much sturm und drang by their anti-democracy colleagues, members who are reality-based and loyal to the Constitution finally are expected to affirm Biden's Electoral College win, normally a procedural formality.


The poison Trump and his minions already have injected into the nation's culture by refusing to accept the legitimacy of Biden's election, however, will likely fester and putrefy our politics for generations.



In other news... With mainstream media focused on Washington and Georgia, considerably less attention has been paid to the considerable turmoil and uncertainty now roiling politics in California. Six key questions for 2021:


How broken is state government? In the early days of the pandemic, Governor Gavin Newsom won widespread praise for his swift and firm attention to the Covid crisis, but as the disease now rampages throughout California and the death toll steadily mounts, he has ceded moral authority and political influence with an endless series of tortuous, bewildering and half-baked orders to businesses and local governments, which verge on self-parody, not to mention his own self-entitled behavior. Not only have public health officials lost control of the virus, but state administrators have bungled the distribution of unemployment and federal relief programs, leaving tens of thousands of out-of-work Californians entangled in bureaucracy even as imprisoned felons successfully scam millions, raising concerns about how efficiently the vaccine will be distributed in the state.


Who decides when kids go back to school? As a political matter, Newsom's most urgent problem is finding a pathway for California's six million public school students to return to classrooms, amid growing pressures from disheartened and exasperated parents throughout the state. Last week he set forth a $2 billion plan of incentives for K-2 students to return in February, but the California Teachers Union is demanding stringent standards for school re-openings, setting up a potential clash between the preeminent special interest in Sacramento, and the Capitol's dominant Democrats, who are usually on the same side.


Will Gavin join the Gray Davis Club? Widespread death, economic disruption and government disarray has fueled a Republican-led bid to qualify by March a 2021 ballot measure to recall Newsom. The recall started as a fringe effort, but recently has gained momentum, money and establishment GOP backing, and seasoned political voices are warning Newsom to take the statewide campaign seriously, or risk the fate of recalled Governor Gray Davis in 2003.


Mr. Speaker Kevin McCarthy? Joe Biden thumped Trump in California, but the 2020 election overall was good news for state Republicans, as voters backed conservative policies in conflicts over a host of ballot measures on taxes, affirmative action and criminal justice reforms, while the GOP reclaimed four of seven suburban House seats in the state which they'd lost in 2018. Although newly re-elected as House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi now holds only a tiny majority in the House, and pro-Trump Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield aggressively is positioning his caucus with an eye to 2022 and the congressional mid-terms, when the president's party historically loses seats.


Whither DiFi? A recent devastating New Yorker article portrayed 87-year old Senator Dianne Feinstein as suffering mental decline, provoking calls for her to resign by Democratic lefties who long have opposed her and her bipartisan politics. Those who know her best say DiFi remains quite capable, but her memory lapses apparently are real and her lifelong commitment to compromise and civility is way out of fashion amid today's unrelenting political warfare, raising speculation about Feinstein finishing her term, which doesn't end until 2024.


Who's left without a chair when the music ends? If Feinstein resigned early, or accepted an appointment from close ally Biden, Newsom would gain the extraordinary power to appoint a second U.S. Senator for the state, after naming former California secretary of state and political crony Alex Padilla to replace ex-Senator and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris. Newsom then promptly nominated Assemblymember Shirley Weber to the secretary of state post, a gesture to Black leaders who lobbied hard for another African-American to succeed Harris; if state Attorney General Xavier Becerra is confirmed as Biden's Secretary of Health and Human Services, Prince Gavin also would get to pick his successor, giving him historically unprecedented authority to remake state government in a single year.


And we've barely even mentioned the Santa Barbara mayor's race yet...


PET OF THE DAY: HENRY


Shortly before Christmas, Newsmakers’ Department of Global Editorial Content and Local Zoonosis Research was blessed by the arrival of new office mascot Henry, an 18-month old, bantam-weight, protracted chiweenie rescue, who’s enjoying life in the wildland-urban interface, growls whenever Ted Cruz comes on the TV and is looking forward to serious couch time during this weekend’s lineup of six NFL wild card games.


If you’re an email subscriber, send us a picture and short description of your pet and we’ll feature them in a future edition of the newsletter.


JR


Images: Banana Republican (Daily Kos); Recall Newsom petition booth near Modesto (Ceres Courier); Henry Aaron Roberts.


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