NOTE: My absence the past couple of weeks is, as is often the case, due to a convergence of two or more situations. First, today I am posting entry #800 and wanted to make sure the content matched the milestone. Second, I am finally recovering from a bout with the flu which has made it hard to concentrate when both researching an issue and then writing coherently about it. Third, the fire hose of news the past month has made it difficult to focus on any single event. Therefore, I have chosen this occasion to put a number of observations in a broader context.
75 years of life is a milestone birthday, often referred to as the platinum celebration. (sage.com)
Carl Jung would suggest it is no coincidence that someone like myself, who is so steeped in the study and practice of politics, was born on January 20th, the date established under the 20th Amendment (a mnemonic which makes it easy to remember), adopted in 1933, on which a newly elected or re-elected candidate for president of the United States takes the oath of office. Even though January 20, 1950 was not an inauguration day, but the mid-point of Harry Truman’s full term as president, the die was cast. And assuming you can do the math, you already realize the milestone referenced in the title of this post is still more than 14 months away. Most people have no idea what they want for their next birthday, much less one that is more than a year in the future.
Why, then, would I have an obsession with this far off event? Simple. While it may be a personal milestone for me, what happens at noon on January 20, 2025 may be the defining moment for what is often referred to as the “American Experiment.” The next president and commander-in-chief could be someone who:
- Refused to accept the outcome of what his own chief of election security called the “most secure election in the nation’s history.”
- Incited followers, whom he knew were armed, to march on the U.S. Capitol to disrupt certification of the electoral college votes.
- Illegally retained and shared classified information with donors and journalists.
- Said he would terminate provisions of the U.S. Constitution if they got in his way.
- Called Americans who gave their lives in defense of the United States “suckers” and “losers.”
- Was embarrassed to be seen in the presence of wounded warriors because “…it doesn’t look good for me.”
- Called for the execution of the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.
Any one of these offenses would have disqualified an individual as unfit to serve in a pre-MAGA world. Which raises the question, “What changed?” This morning, I got my answer watching Morning Joe. Host Joe Scarborough interviewed Representative Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) who is co-chair of a bipartisan caucus of House members referred to as the “Problem Solvers.” To their credit, this group was instrumental in assembling the bi-partisan votes to avoid a national default earlier this year and a government shutdown last weekend.
The conversation then turned to Scarborough’s suggestion that Democrats had put party loyalty above institutional well-being when they voted in mass to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy. If you had just turned into the program, this might seem like a reasonable question. However, in previous segments, Scarborough proclaimed McCarthy’s downfall was just the latest example that appeasement never works. Furthermore, he and guest panelists made reference to the multiple times McCarthy violated institutional norms to win and then hold on to the speaker’s gavel. Gutting a bi-partisan agreement which governed when and how members could file a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair. Giving a disproportionate share of key committee assignments and chairmanships to extreme Freedom Caucus members. Promising an impeachment inquiry even though GOP leaders have yet to identify a single instance in which Joe Biden committed a high crime or misdemeanor. Giving exclusive access to Capitol security tapes to Tucker Carlson. Unilaterally initiating the impeachment inquiry without the promised floor vote.
Although Gottheimer did not make the analogy, he implied that for Democrats to keep giving McCarthy cover based on empty and broken promises was equivalent to Neville Chamberlain’s pact with Adolph Hitler which would guarantee “peace for our time.” After peppering Gottheimer, Scarborough admitted he probably would have done the same thing if the circumstances were reversed.
The exchange between Gottheimer and Scarborough is just the latest example of projection and disinformation which unfortunately has corrupted civil discourse in the U.S. Democrats are accused of being anti-institutionalists when, for the last nine months, the GOP majority has pounded House norms harder than Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry banged the gavel to declare the House in recess Tuesday afternoon. Violent rhetoric is said to be protected under the First Amendment (which it is not). At the top of the list is the sadly successful GOP campaign to convince voters there is no difference between the parties.
Then how do you explain this. Donald Trump who was declared liable for defamation and sexual assault in the case of E. Jean Carroll, was found liable of persistent business fraud and faces 91 criminal counts has the support of 57.9 percent of GOP primary voters according to the latest Real Clear Politics average of polls. In contrast, the first poll following the indictment of Democratic New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez shows the incumbent has the support of just five percent of likely primary voters. For Democrats, character still matters. And none have called for defunding the Department of Justice or FBI or firing any prosecutor following indictments of members of their tribe including the president’s son.
One more thing. Given the chance to start fresh with a new speaker, the two front-runners to replace McCarthy, majority leader Steve Scalise and judiciary chairman Jim Jordan both voted to decertify Joe Biden’s 2020 victory just hours after they were seen running to save themselves from the violent mob that invade the Capitol building on January 6. In an early morning post on Truth Social, Trump endorsed Jordan, a man who cannot remember when and how many times he talked directly to Trump on January 6th and later inquired about the prospect of pardons, according to Cassidy Hutchinson, although he never specifically requested one as did six other members of the Freedom Caucus.
Yes, January 20, 2025 will be my personal platinum jubilee. All I wish for on that occasion is Americans hopefully made the right choice to ensure the United States remains a nation governed by the Constitution, the rule of law and people of character. If they choose otherwise, we will need to coin a new phrase to describe something that dies on its 236th anniversary.
For what it’s worth.