Sunday, November 12, 2023

On Our Virtual Route 66 This Week: On the Week That Was

Our team pulled together the latest on our "Virtual Route 66" With thoughts on the United States, Ukraine, and Gaza courtesy of the Economist, Financial Times, The Bulwark, France24, Heather Cox Richardson, the Coop Scoop, and others as we look forward to the continued privilege to serve: 

The long war

Is Ukraine’s counter-offensive over?

The Economist’s war tracker suggests it is drawing to a close

🔴 Live: Arab and Muslim leaders reject Israeli ‘self-defence’ claims, fighting intensifies near Gaza hospitals
Arab and Muslim leaders at an emergency summit in Riyadh on Saturday slammed Israel’s "barbaric" actions and rejected Israeli claims that it is acting in "self-defence" in Gaza. Their call for an immediate…
Israel-Gaza war, Europe and antisemitism, Sanchez's deal with Spain separatists, Meloni's break-up

One month after the massacre of some fourteen-hundred civilians in Israel, it is Palestinians bearing the brunt of a response that has killed more than...

November 6, 2023

By Marc Cooper

The revolving door to the bottom levels of Middle East Hell has once again been flung wide open. This time by the barbaric murder of 1400 Israeli civilians and the taking of 300 others as hostages by the Islamic fundamentalist terror outfit known as Hamas. The murderous religious zealots immediately retreated after their acts of butchery and did not stand to fight the powerful IDF. 

But once that door was flung open it is the Israelis who came barreling back with enough fire power to light up a continent and who now have the momentum against a much weaker enemy and who are now doubling and tripling down on atrocities. War crimes met with war crimes.

The closest analogy to the current and escalating Israeli invasion of Gaza would be the Russian assault on the city of Mariupol in Ukraine. Mass destruction. Inhuman carnage. The flattening of apartment houses full of civilians.  A hail of bombs and bullets.  Parades of tanks firing at will. One ton bombs dropped in densely packed Palestinian refugee camps killing and wounding hundreds – including scores of children…a de facto war crime.  Ten thousand dead Palestinians so far including 4000 children.  More than 1.4 million Palestinians forcibly displaced.  The unbelievably crass and heartless statement by Israeli authorities that the southern edge of Gaza where Israel is ordering people to take refuge is NOT a safe area but just a “safer” one.   A hospital in the south has already been hit by Israeli air strikes.

And like the Russians, even a little nuclear saber rattling.  Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu suspended until “further notice” Sunday one of his cabinet members who had publicly floated the idea of using nuclear weapons to wipe out Gaza (a curious statement from a government that never confirms it is, indeed, nuclear-armed).

Meanwhile, the Israelis on Sunday blacked out all telecom and web communications in Gaza making it that more difficult for an already impoverished and rootless population to blindly stumble out of the way of bombs, rockets and artillery shelling.  Israel has also occasionally bombed the one road that leads from Gaza City in the north to the “safer” south.  And Israel has periodically cut the road blocking any hope of safe passage.

To date about 450 relief trucks have made it through the narrow and usually closed crossing from Egypt.  That’s an average of about 15 a day when prior to the war, Gaza required 500 trucks a day to keep it supplied against the border and sea blockade that Israel has clamped down for the last 17 years.   While some food and medicine is getting through, Israel continues to prohibit the delivery of any fuel, rendering hospital incubators and desalinization plants useless.

As I write on Sunday afternoon, on the eve of the first complete month of war, Israeli forces have surrounded the northern Gaza City, the only real urban center in the strip whose population normally runs at about 700,000.  It’s not clear how many civilians are still in the city but some estimates put the figure at over 150,000.   Within a few days or a few hours, Israeli forces will penetrate the city and open up a new round of brutal urban warfare, including fighting in the underground tunnels.  While the Palestinians are wildly outgunned, the battle of Gaza could become another meat grinder Stalingrad subject to a prolonged siege and house to house fighting.  That’s if the Israeli Air Force doesn’t just erase the city and its inhabitants first.

Let’s be clear and extremely precise in our analysis and language as this conflict takes center stage and has all the elements to widen, rage and erupt into a global world war.  There’s no room here for flip and glib and unsupported disinformation.  It’s hardly about who has the right to do anything.  It’s more about understanding that any country, subject to the heinous and monstrous October 7 attack by the ultra-reactionaries of Hamas, would be obligated to respond in some form or another…if for no other reason than to mollify an enraged domestic population.  Hamas has made itself a totally legitimate target for liquidation.

But how do you achieve that goal?  Personally, I don’t think Netanyahu has a clue.  I don’t think he has a strategy and is making it up as he goes.  No accident that Israel has not announced what it plans to do with Gaza and the 2.5 million Gazans once this conflict is over and once, as Natanyahu puts it, Hamas has been destroyed and its infrastructure dismantled.  Well, if I am not incorrect, the forces the US tried to destroy in Vietnam are still in power even though we did succeed in killing three million Vietnamese as Robert McNamara wrote in his final book.  I also believe the Taliban are still in power some two decades after we said we would crush them.

Hamas has somewhere around 10,000 fighters (though some estimates run as high as 30,000).  That’s in a sea of more than two million civilians in Gaza and nobody has a manual on how you can distinguish a fighter from a baker if you are trying to kill the former.  It’s just easier to kill them all and let God sort them out.  That seems to be the Israeli position as the body count of civilians grows exponentially.

The official U.S. bleating over the war is almost pathetic. The Frankenstein monster we created and funded in the person of Netanyahu has gotten up off the table and is paying little heed to his American and European benefactors.  The best that Secretary of State Blinken can do is to keep demanding a “humanitarian pause.”  You know, like sending your battered and woozy boxer to the corner for 2 minutes to get some cuts sealed and to sip some water before being pushed back into the ring to get battered some more.  Perhaps a “humanitarian pause” by the US in arming Israel might have more positive outcomes.

While this is the third or fourth major intervention in Gaza by Israel since 2006, this one is very different. The extreme right wing Netanyahu administration is weak and wildly unpopular.  Before Hamas did him the favor of attacking and bolstering his regime, Bibi was on the ropes with half the country wanting to push him out and push him into jail as he, like Trump, is facing some rather serious felony corruption charges and in Israel a PM can very easily be jailed. It’s happened before.  The anti-Bibi forces have predictably rallied around the flag but they are still blaming Netanyahu for letting this tragedy take place at all, alleging he was too busy trying to undermine Israeli democracy to pay attention to a worsening security threat.  Chances are Bibi will be pushed out once the war concludes.

That is just one more incentive for Netanyahu to produce one final and spectacular “victory” in the off chance he might survive. Hence, this time Israel is now not just “mowing the lawn” in Gaza, they are vowing to uproot it forever.  So, just exactly who will be running Gaza and what will Gaza be a year from now?  Nobody knows.  Nobody’s saying.  What’s clear is that Israel wants to move the entire population southward away from the Israeli border.  This will require either the flattening or an ongoing occupation of Gaza City by Israel.  Some sort of Palestinian Bantustan will be created in southern Gaza governed by whom?  Hamas’ “infrastructure” in Gaza is the actual government and its social services.  If Hamas is torn apart who takes over and runs the place? 

Blinken today is talking about the secular Palestinian Authority, based on the West Bank, as being brought in.  But the PA is weak and corrupt and was driven out of of Gaza when Hamas won the 2006 elections and constructed a one party semi-theocratic dictatorship there.   There’s also the nagging question of with half of Gaza’s residents being unemployed youth, how many more Hamas recruits does Israel generate with each barrage?  Already there are visible signs of Hamas gaining new sympathy on the West Bank where the PA dominated. You gotta figure this massive incursion and mass death wrought by Israel will guarantee prolonging this 75 year old conflict for several more decades.

I don’t think it’s glib to say Israel has been suckered into a quagmire by Hamas, one that is a lot harder to get out of than to wade into. So, was that Hamas’ goal? I don’t know.  I do know this: Hamas better than anybody could easily anticipate how ferocious and bloody the Israeli reprisal would be.  They knew very well that by chopping up a thousand or so Israeli civilians many thousands more Palestinians would be killed in response.  I can only conclude that Hamas carried out its attack precisely to run up a staggering Palestinian death toll that would block the imminent deal that Israel and Saudi Arabia were working out.  The Israeli dreams of a commercial rail line between Tel Aviv and Jeddah have been drowned out in blood. The Saudis, of course, don’t give one lick about the Palestinians in private. Publicly, they shed crocodile tears and know the political cost of pacting with Israel while it is incinerating Arab children in Gaza might not go over that well on the Arab Street.

Collateral damage from this war has also peppered what’s left of the American Left with a whole lot of shrapnel.  I am beginning to think that the US and perhaps the entire Western left is now in a twilight stage nearing death.  The inability of so many self-proclaimed leftists to see Russia as the aggressor in Ukraine and the tacit to effusive support of Hamas by too many on the left is helping to discredit the very notion of a left alternative.  A healthy left subscribes to, fights for and defends an identifiable set of universal values that include: peace instead of war, democracy not dictatorship, no religion in politics, tolerance for dissent, respect for gender non conformity, solidarity, compassion, civility and decency.  Hamas meets none of those standards.

Yes, the war crimes of Israel must be denounced as such.  But they lack any credibility and any impact if those doing the denouncing posture as allies of Hamas or if they remain cowardly silent on it. And it is an insult and a disservice to the Palestinian people to suggest that Hamas speaks for them.  Hamas was originally supported and even in part funded by Israel in the mid to late 80’s in order to undermine the power of the secular PLO (that became the PA).  Israel hoped that Hamas would pacify  and distract the Palestinians from politics by marinating them in their Islamic fundamentalist mumbo jumbo.  Well, that didn’t quite work out. And the Palestinian tragedy has an even more dramatic, less-discussed aspect to it.  Though Palestinians in general are often portrayed as wild-eyed crazies, the truth is quite different.  Myriad regional experts  traditionally described the Pals as “the Jews of the Arab world.” They were the least Islamic, most secular (some are even Christians), they were the best educated, they were disproportionately professionals, they were the progressives wherever they lived, and they were the most persecuted (that is, once the Jews were driven out).  That such a noble people have been sullied by a criminal group like Hamas to purportedly represent them, is indescribably sad.

Today, Hamas remains an organization that not only does not recognize Israel, it refuses to call it by name and instead refers to it as “the Zionist entity.” And while Hamas has developed a military wing it is still fundamentally an anti-democratic, theocratic religious movement that is dedicated to killing Jews.  Experts figure it has the support of maybe 25% of Palestinians. So I give no quarter to college kids, and have even less time for older folks who in any way support, justify or glorify Hamas. War crimes are war crimes no matter who commits them. This type of clarity is fundamental if you want to build any sort of political movement, like one for a just settlement of Palestine.  And this is a good time to start. The monolithic uncritical US support for Israel is crumbling. So many young Americans oppose what Israel is doing and what the US does to support it could even cost Biden his re-election.  That would be bad.  But we should take heart and encouragement from the domestic resistance that US policy on Israel is now facing for the first time.  I’s a great opportunity if our fellow leftists don’t fuck it up.

After 72 years on earth I have concluded there are two types of activists on the American Left.  Probably a majority on the left are there are as a form of personal therapy, what is now called performative. They are activists not because they are genuinely interested in building a movement, or recruiting others, or persuading others to change their minds, but rather are active as a form of personal identity and self-therapy. It feels good to think oneself morally superior to the hoi polloi. 

They have no organic connection to any significant number of Americans so they really have no concern about meeting others where they are at and moving them. Instead, they are free to wave any placard no matter how offensive, chant any slogan no matter how stupid and take whatever errant position as nobody really cares about them.  The second type of activists, a minority, actually want to reach others not yet mobilized and get them to join up and their work is made harder by the idiot “comrades” who are out of control.

To accomplish that movement building you must not only operate in good faith, but you must also shed any hypocrisy, any double standard and anything else that gets in the way of clear discourse and dialog. So let me be crystal clear.  Supporting Hamas is not only a moral failure but also a political one.  Accusing Israel of genocide is also morally corrupt, and politically deadly.  It’s especially off putting in a conflict where the relatives of one side were indeed victims of the greatest genocide in modern history.   So, let’s be clear. Genocide means the systematic killing off of a targeted race, ethnic or national group.  Let’s also be clear that at least half of Israeli Jews are Mizrahi, meaning they are not from Europe.  They are middle eastern and Arab Jews whose families were forced out from and expelled from nearby Arab countries including Egypt, Iraq, Morocco and others in the 1940’s.  Maybe to some Harvard-enrolled trust funders these folks are Zionist Colonial Settlers exercising White Privilege when in fact many of them are dark skinned and are basically refugees from anti-Semitic Arab dictatorships.  The Mizrahi are also among the murdered and missing at the hands of Hamas.

In WWII an estimated 3 million German and Japanese civilians were cooked alive by allied terror bombings.  But neither country was subsumed by genocide.  The Nazi occupiers  burned French civilians alive while locked up in a church. But genocide was not committed by the Germans against the French (except for the Jews swept up by Vichy).  The US killed another three million in the senseless war in Vietnam but that was not genocide.  The Soviets mass executed thousands of Polish army officers but Poland was not subject to genocide. Even the unspeakable and unnecessary nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that together took 300,000 civilian lives still does not meet the standard of genocide.

Israel’s current military campaign should be correctly criticized and characterized as an unjustifiable, inhuman, barbaric over-reaction, collective punishment of the sort used precisely by the Nazis and punctuated by a wild disregard for civilian life…and certainly one charged with racial hatred of Arabs.  I think this truth is bad enough as it is and does not need to be muddied up by exaggerated calls of genocide.

A couple of other semantic points stuck in my craw.  I gag on them not because they personally offend me but because they are SO politically counter-productive.  There are few human species more spineless than college administrators and they are sure making a mess of things.  Banning and punishing pro-Palestinian groups and rallies on campus no matter what their content is an offensive outrage.  People have a right to be partisan and even a right to be wrong.  Equally noxious are the verbal and occasional physical attacks on Jewish students.  They also have a right to free expression and the same right to be wrong. 

I am particularly concerned about the growing use of “Zionist” as an epithet. I am personally not a Zionist. I am anti-Zionist if asked. The ADL tried to get me canned as a journalist claiming I was antisemitic because of what I wrote about Zionism 40 years ago. But given the history of the Jewish people, I fully understand (but fully disagree) with the lure of Zionism.  But let’s get real.  Most Americans who support Israel can’t tell you two sentences about Zionism.  Most non Jews never heard of it and don’t know what it is.  And while “liberal Zionist” has now become a label open to public derision by the left, the truth is that liberal Zionists are often strategic allies and in the leadership of myriad progressive social and political movements that include anti-Zionists, generic liberals, progressives, radicals, feminists and socialists.   I have often worked with them on other issues knowing we disagree on Israel. So what?  Back in he 80’s while kicking around Old Havana I stumbled upon a rag tag synagogue up a second floor walk up.  The place of worship was one of the few authorized back then by the Cuban regime and it supported itself by selling beer from a bar inside the makeshift temple. What got my attention were two huge portraits hung over the rabbi’s podium. One was of Fidel Castro, The other was Zionist founder Theodore Herzl.  Show that to the usual Knee-Jerk Anti-Imperialists and they would probably melt like the wicked witch of the north,

I am concerned because when you start labeling groups of people you can do so benignly or you can do it to de-humanize them (the pre-cursor to aggression and, yes, genocide).  Blanket labeling Jewish students or Jews sympathetic to Israel as Zionist today falls into that second category. We know the danger of labelling ethnic, national and racial groups as slopes, chinks, spicks, ni**ers, dinks, reds, spear-chuckers, towel heads and sand ni**ers.  The word Zionist is not as sharp edged but the intention in such labeling is to create a de humanized enemy worthy of your hatred and scorn.   It’s not a good path to follow.

Finally, this is a country in which 95% of the people are sympathetic to Israel.  If you want to be effective in that environment then please be aware who is watching you and listening to you. The rising popularity of the slogan in marches against Israel “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is also not the best idea.  There’s plenty of dispute about the origin of the slogan dating back several decades. However, it has been the primary slogan for those extreme elements like Hamas that do not even recognize Israel’s existence and it was intended to mean simply push the Israelis into the sea.  In any case, it means little to nothing to the uninitiated so perhaps extracting rather obscure and anti-Semitic slogans from your demo might be a healthy step.

Do you think maybe we can reel all this in a bit and get more serious about finding an international consensus for an eventual settlement of the Palestinian conflict rather than acting as cheer leaders or apologists for the barbaric war crimes that have been committed by either Hamas or the Israeli Defense Forces?  ++++

Pro-Palestine protests are becoming a mass movement.
On October 20, thousands of protesters marched through the streets of New York City to call for an immediate cease-fire and an end to hostilities in Gaza. Jeremy Cohan, cochair of New York City Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and a Jewish organizer, told reporters that “we have to do what we have to do for justice and for peace.” Sumaya Awad, a prominent Palestinian member of DSA and author, said much the same that night: “We’re out here, it’s pouring rain, we’re wet, but they have blood on their hands.”

These are the sentiments of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have mobilized for a cease-fire in recent weeks, as Israel carries out its indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza following the brutal October 7 Hamas attacks. Just one month into the ongoing crisis, with well over nine thousand Palestinians in Gaza killed (the vast majority of them civilians, including some four thousand children), and with international pressure heightening, the United States is witnessing perhaps its largest and most coordinated antiwar movement since the demonstrations against America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.

A week ago, Palestinians in New York marched across the Brooklyn Bridge in droves, while demonstrations in Los Angeles and San Francisco drew thousands the last two weeks of October. Hundreds rallied in Austin, Texas, last weekend. Students have walked out at universities in New York and California, defying the on-campus repression that organizations like the Anti-Defamation League are trying to stoke. Tens of thousands showed strength in the Palestinian stronghold of Chicago through a series of marches last month, demanding an immediate cease-fire and the end of Israel’s decades-long occupation. Thousands of young Jewish Americans staged dazzling actions over the last two weeks, including a sit-in on Capitol Hill and an occupation of Grand Central station in New York and the 30th St Station in Philadelphia.

All of this culminated in Saturday’s National March on Washington for a Free Palestine, which is being hailed as the largest demonstration for Palestine in US history. Tens of thousands strong, the march brought together labor organizers, black civil rights activists, Jewish anti-Zionists, antiwar veterans, and relative newcomers invigorated by events like the George Floyd protests of 2020. Prominent Palestinians such as Noura Erakat and Dr. Omar Suleiman condemned the failings of the international order to prevent the atrocities in Gaza and called on supporters of Palestine to use their voice to demand change. Elsewhere in the United States, tens of thousands conducted concurrent marches in cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and Provo, Utah.
Read more

Dichotomy of Oppression and Liberation: Why Colonizers Do Not Prevail - KANJ

Gaza is Hiroshima: The West is Collectively Responsible for Israel’s Genocide - BAROUD

Olive Season in Gaza Ended before It Began

‘The Heart of the Neighborhood’: Israeli Airstrikes Kill Elderly Residents of Nuseirat

Economics & Finance

The Economic Consequences of the Gaza War

Nouriel Roubini outlines four scenarios for how the conflict could play out and affect markets and the global economy.

Economics & Finance

America’s Real China Problem

Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson shine a light on the institutions underpinning US rivals’ apparent strengths and comparative advantages

Global Economy

Moody’s lowers outlook on US debt to ‘negative’

November 7, 2023

Today was Election Day across the country. In a number of key state elections, voters rejected the extremism of MAGA Republicans and backed Democrats and Democratic policies. 

Four of the most closely watched races were in Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.

In Ohio, voters enshrined the right of individuals to make their own healthcare decisions, including the right to abortion, into the state constitution. Opponents of abortion rights have worked hard since the summer to stop the measure from passing, trying first to make it more difficult to amend the constitution—voters overwhelmingly rejected that measure in an August special election—then by blanketing the state with disinformation about the measure, including through official state websites and with ads by former Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson, and finally by dropping 26,000 voters from the rolls. 

None of it worked. Voters protected the right to abortion. Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision recognizing the constitutional right to abortion in June 2022, voters in all seven state elections where the issue was on the ballot have fought back to protect abortion rights. 

Today’s vote in Ohio, where the end of Roe v. Wade resurrected an extreme antiabortion bill, makes it eight.

Abortion was also on the ballot In Virginia, where the entire state legislature was up for grabs today. Republican governor Glenn Youngkin made it clear he wanted control of the legislature in order to push through a measure banning abortion after 15 weeks. This ploy was one Republicans were using to seem to soften their antiabortion stance, which has proven terribly unpopular. Youngkin was taking the idea out for a spin to see how it might play in a presidential election, perhaps with a hope of entering the Republican race for the presidential nomination as someone who could claim to have turned a blue state red. 

It didn’t work. Voters recognized that it was disingenuous to call a 15-week limit a compromise on the abortion issue, since most serious birth defects are not detected until 20 weeks into a pregnancy.

Going into the election, Democrats held the state senate. But rather than giving Youngkin control over both houses of the state legislature, voters left Democrats in charge of the Senate and flipped the House of Delegates over to the Democrats. The Democrats are expected to elevate House minority leader Don Scott of Portsmouth to the speakership, making him the first Black House speaker in Virginia history.  

Virginia voters also elevated Delegate Danica Roem, the first known transgender delegate, to the state senate. At the same time, voters in Loudoun County, which had become a hot spot in the culture wars with attacks on LGBTQ+ individuals and with activists insisting the schools must not teach critical race theory, rejected that extremism and turned control of the school board over to those who championed diversity and equity.

In Kentucky, voters reelected Democratic governor Andy Beshear, who was running against Republican state attorney general Daniel Cameron. A defender of Kentucky’s abortion ban, Cameron was also the attorney general who declined to bring charges against the law enforcement officers who killed Breonna Taylor in her bed in 2020 after breaking into her apartment in a mistaken search for drugs. 

In Pennsylvania, Democrat Daniel McCaffery won a supreme court seat, enabling the Democrats to increase their majority there. McCaffery positioned himself as a defender of abortion rights. 

There will be more news about election results and what they tell us in the coming days. Tonight, though, political analyst Tom Bonier wrote: “My biggest takeaway from tonight: in '22 abortion rights had the biggest impact where it was literally on the ballot, less so when trying to draw the connection in candidate races. That has changed. Voters clearly made the connection that voting for GOP candidates=abortion bans.”

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

But don't panic.

(Photo by Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images)

Let’s start with this morning’s agita:

Happy Monday.

There’s no way to gloss over this. The polls are packed with ominous news for Team Biden:

Discontent pulsates throughout the Times/Siena poll, with a majority of voters saying Mr. Biden’s policies have personally hurt them. The survey also reveals the extent to which the multiracial and multigenerational coalition that elected Mr. Biden is fraying. Demographic groups that backed Mr. Biden by landslide margins in 2020 are now far more closely contested, as two-thirds of the electorate sees the country moving in the wrong direction.

Voters under 30 favor Mr. Biden by only a single percentage point, his lead among Hispanic voters is down to single digits and his advantage in urban areas is half of Mr. Trump’s edge in rural regions. And while women still favored Mr. Biden, men preferred Mr. Trump by twice as large a margin, reversing the gender advantage that had fueled so many Democratic gains in recent years.

Black voters — long a bulwark for Democrats and for Mr. Biden — are now registering 22 percent support in these states for Mr. Trump, a level unseen in presidential politics for a Republican in modern times.

Alarming. But perhaps the alarm should be mixed with some skepticism and a dollop of hope.

  • Do you really think that Biden only leads Trump by 1 point among young voters? Maybe. maybe not. (And what happens if younger voters come home?)

  • Do you really think that Hispanic voters will flock to Trump, and put him within a single digits? Maybe. Maybe not. (And what happens if those numbers revert to the norm?)

  • Do you think that next year Trump will draw nearly a quarter of the Black vote. Maybe. Maybe not. (And what do the numbers look like if he drops back into single digits?)

Another sliver of good news: “Trump Indictments Haven’t Sunk His Campaign, but a Conviction Might.”

If the former president is convicted and sentenced — as many of his allies expect him to be in the Jan. 6-related trial held next year in Washington, D.C. — around 6 percent of voters across Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin say they would switch their votes to Mr. Biden. That would be enough, potentially, to decide the election.

(FYI: Donald Trump to testify in New York fraud case that threatens his business —Reuters.)


Perhaps there is a pony buried in there. But I regret to the tell you this (because I know you are tired of hearing that Biden is old), but his age really does seem to be an issue. So, there was a good deal of angst in the ranks yesterday.

Obama guru and Democratic savant David Axelrod hinted that it was perhaps time for Joe to go.

It's very late to change horses; a lot will happen in the next year that no one can predict & Biden's team says his resolve to run is firm. He's defied CW before but this will send tremors of doubt thru the party--not "bed-wetting," but legitimate concern.

The greatest concern is that his biggest liability is the one thing he can't change. Among all the unpredictables there is one thing that is sure: the age arrow only points in one direction.

[Biden] is justly proud of his accomplishments. Trump is a dangerous, unhinged demagogue whose brazen disdain for the rules, norms, laws and institutions or democracy should be disqualifying. But the stakes of miscalculation here are too dramatic to ignore.

Only @JoeBiden can make this decision. If he continues to run, he will be the nominee of the Democratic Party. What he needs to decide is whether that is wise; whether it's in HIS best interest or the country's?

My colleague, Bill Kristol had a similar reaction.

The Atlantic’s David Frum, on the other hand, argued that we should put the numbers in perspective. As he notes, this sort of thing has happened before. Who, after all, can forget this from November 2011:

Frum argues that the pre-election polling for both Obama and Biden “tells us less about the world” and “more about the inherent problems of managing the Democratic coalition, which is always more fractious and fissile that the (smaller) Republican coalition.”

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What really matters in 2024

This seems like a good moment to be clear about the priorities of 2024.

Ultimately, 2024 is not about re-electing Joe Biden. It is about the urgent necessity of stopping the return of Donald J. Trump to the presidency.

The question is how.

There shouldn’t be any doubt what a second term would mean for the rule of law of liberal constitutional democracy.

Donald Trump and his allies have begun mapping out specific plans for using the federal government to punish critics and opponents should he win a second term, with the former president naming individuals he wants to investigate or prosecute and his associates drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office to allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrations. [Emphasis added.]

Nota bene: The plans have already been drafted. They are specific. They name names.

You have been warned.


Heart attack vs. cancer

Stopping Trump requires an anti-Trump coalition of the center-right and center-left. But that fragile alliance is under tremendous strain these days. And the threat to democracy extends far beyond the Orange Man to the wider fetish of Trumpism and the rise of illiberalism on both edges of the political spectrum.

Liberal democracy faces a two-front assault. At the same time that the MAGA right revels in its illiberalism, the progressive movement, Jonathan Rauch and Peter Wehner wrote last year, “is increasingly under the sway of a totalistic, unfalsifiable and revolutionary ideology that rejects fundamental liberal values like pluralism and free inquiry. And conservatives aren’t hallucinating about its influence.”

But this is where we have to distinguish the heart attack from the cancer.

And right now, the threat of a MAGA restoration is the heart attack. It is the immediate, red-light-flashing, firebell-in-the-night crisis of the moment.

So, this would be a good time to put away the wish-casting and the indulgence in denial, contempt, and partisan myopia, because the stakes are simply too high. I suspect you know what I’m talking about.


Let’s put this bluntly. Donald Trump could win next year. Don’t expect the trials to save us.

The GOP will rally around him, even if he is a convicted felon. You can be shocked. But don’t be surprised.

This also means that Joe Biden could lose.

Despite his vulnerabilities, though, many Democrats (and the pundits who love them) have decided that they absolutely don’t want to hear about Biden’s age/inflation/Hunter’s sleaze/crime/the border. And they are betting the future of liberal constitutional democracy that none of this will matter.

But voters in the real world apparently do care. And that seems to be a problem, especially when Joe Biden is all that stands between us and a revanchist Trump 2.0 presidency.

So, Biden’s cheerleaders and fluffers — the ones who bitterly denounce any Democrat who even suggests that the party might possibly want to think about considering an alternative to the incumbent — miss the point, because the actual point is defeating Trump and defending democracy.

Maybe Biden is the best man to do that. Maybe the Democrats have no one else who could. Maybe he is the reincarnation of Harry Truman. But maybe he’s not; and it’s counterproductive to prop him up if it turns out that he is not, in fact, a bulwark against authoritarianism.

The polls also suggest that Democrats no longer have the luxury of ignoring critics like Ruy Teixeira, who has been trying to explain to Democrats why they are losing ground with working class and minority voters. So maybe listen to Ruy?


It’s tempting to look at the poll numbers and conclude that America has simply lost its mind. And perhaps it has. But there is also a danger in embracing the politics of disdain.

If you regard your fellow Americans as too stupid, racist, or befuddled to be trusted with self-governance, are you really defending democracy? Or have you drifted toward becoming what you oppose?

Partisan myopia:

If you are expecting Republicans to suddenly become Democrats — or conservative swing voters to embrace the progressive agenda — then you are stalking unicorns.

Centrist swing voters are unlikely to jump from one tribalism to another. Any campaign to defeat Trump will have to include voters who are willing to cross the lines to vote for the alternative, but don’t expect them to swallow the whole enchilada.

This brings us back to the fragile anti-Trump coalition.

Even though the last few years have tended to paper over the incongruities and conflicts in a group that ranges from AOC to Liz Cheney (!), recent events remind us that it is not held together by ideological agreement. The splits over Israel and Hamas have exposed deep fissures in the coalition, and those may widen.

So, this is a critical time to refocus on what matters.

This coalition needs to be held together by a shared alarm over the danger of a Trumpian restoration. Nothing else matters.

We are not the crazy ones. We are the ragged, thin line that is the last best hope of holding back the insanity.

So be afraid. But don’t despair.

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 Will America pull the plug on Israel’s invasion of Gaza?

 The Gaza war has deepened Joe Biden’s Iran nightmare

 All parties are blaming each other for the dire situation in Gaza

 Read all our coverage of the conflict

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We close out with the following: