Opinion: Donald Trump exerts eerie grip on GOP


As House Republicans set the stage for removing Rep. Liz Cheney from her party leadership post this coming week, it became clearer than ever that the defeated former President owns the GOP. And, four months after rioting Trump supporters invaded the Capitol to try to stop certification of Joe Biden’s victory, it’s also clear that the GOP owns the baggage that comes with pledging fealty to Trump.

That includes the Big Lie, the fantastical — and disproved — notion that Trump really won the election but had it stolen from him by fraud. The danger for Republicans looking to regain power in Congress in 2022 is that the vast majority of Americans know that Biden won, fair and square. In a new CNN poll, 97% of Democrats, 69% of independents, and 65% of all registered voters say Biden legitimately won the election. It’s only among Republicans that the Big Lie flourishes — with 70% believing Biden didn’t legitimately win.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a progressive Democrat from Texas, doesn’t ordinarily sing the praises of Republicans, but she wrote in support of Cheney, Sen. Mitt Romney and former President George W. Bush. “All three of them have repeatedly rejected and denounced publicly, unequivocally and fiercely the Republican-driven ‘Big Lie’,” Lee wrote. “Together, Cheney, Romney and Bush are modern-day profiles in courage — embodying former President John F. Kennedy’s dictum that ‘sometimes party loyalty demands too much.'”
In 1950, a courageous freshman senator from Maine, Margaret Chase Smith, spoke out against the fear-mongering and lies of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in a “Declaration of Conscience,” wrote John Avlon. “Her stand would inspire more of her fellow senators to find the courage to speak up. And McCarthy would ultimately become isolated, consumed by lawsuits and scandals, revealed as a petty, paranoid narcissist… Donald Trump will look no better than Joe McCarthy in the eyes of history — and neither will his spineless apologists,” wrote Avlon. He pointed out that Cheney’s likely successor in the House GOP leadership, Elise Stefanik, is far less conservative than Cheney but stands out only for her willingness to knuckle under to Trump.
Romney, who ran as the party’s 2012 presidential candidate and was the only Senate Republican who voted against Trump in his first impeachment trial, was booed last weekend by Republicans in his home state. “The GOP that Romney and his father once had leadership roles in is gone,” wrote Dean Obeidallah. “In its place is a White nationalist movement filled with people who don’t accept the results of an election unless they agree with it and who still worship a man who incited a terrorist attack upon our Capitol.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren released a report in March calling out the social media posts of Republican legislators who backed Trump’s big lie. Now a GOP congressman from Georgia has filed a complaint against Lofgren, accusing her of breaking House rules in revealing what her colleagues were doing on social media, wrote Frida Ghitis.

“Biden is president and Trump is not. But the contest over the November election, the battle over the truth about what Americans chose in last year’s election, is far from over,” wrote Ghitis. “It’s not a contest between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans; it’s one between plain truth and deliberate lies propagated by self-serving politicians at the expense of their country’s democracy.”

For more on politics:

Charlie Dent: Bravo, Liz Cheney
Julian Zelizer: RBG was right

What goes up…

On April 29, a rocket bearing the crew quarters for China’s new space station took off from Hainan Island. This weekend parts of that roughly 40,000-pound projectile fell back to earth.

The rocket is named “Long March 5B,” commemorating a signature moment in the 100-year history of the Chinese Communist Party. In 1934, its troops broke through Chinese nationalist lines and trekked 6,000 miles to a remote province in northwest China. They had to cross “18 mountain ranges and 24 rivers” to make it to Shaanxi, the base from which they would ultimately conquer China.

In just one hour, the plunging Long March rocket traveled three times the distance covered by the actual Long March, which took 12 months. Most of the rocket was consumed as it burned through the atmosphere, and the remains landed in the Indian Ocean, west of the Maldives, according to China’s Manned Space Engineering Office.

As Alice Gorman, an archaeologist who studies “space junk.” notes, “Old satellites, rocket bodies, fragments and particles make up an estimated 9,000 tons of material circling Earth, from a few hundred kilometers to over 35,000 km in altitude. …Space junk reenters the atmosphere on a daily basis, although it mostly goes unnoticed because it burns up long before it can hit the ground.”

The planet’s “atmosphere has become a liminal zone that marks a zombie spacecraft’s transition to true death. It’s now effectively the equivalent of landfill for the space industry. Humans have been discarding junk on Earth for millions of years and the Industrial Revolution brought on a dramatic increase of emissions into the atmosphere.”

Curtains going up

Disneyland has reopened. Broadway theaters are coming back in the fall. Air travel is at its highest level since the pandemic began. One third of Americans are fully vaccinated against the virus. And Goldman Sachs is telling its US workers to get ready to return to the office by mid-June. America is a on a path to reopening as Covid-19 cases fall, but questions remain about how to adapt to the changing reality.

“As things appear to be inching ever more quickly back toward the normal we used to know,” wrote Peggy Drexler, “many vaccinated people are clinging anxiously to their masks anyway. It has been a very long 14 months, and Americans have made countless adjustments to their lives under the ever-changing conditions of Covid-19. Many fully vaccinated people may not feel safe — physically, but also emotionally — taking their masks off. Masks, for many, have become an unquestionable part of safe daily life outside the house, if also an unavoidably political one.”
Most Americans eager to get vaccinated already have gotten their shots, and so keeping up the pace will require persuading the hesitant to step up. Writing an appeal to her generation, 26-year-old Annika Olson noted, “You want to stay healthy, I want to stay healthy, we want our communities safe, and we want to finally get to buy tickets to movies and concerts. To do so, we need to get these vaccinations in our arms. Research shows that they work and side effects are annoying but very minimal.”
The unexpectedly modest gain in Friday’s US jobs report prompted conservatives to argue that enhanced unemployment benefits are reducing incentives for people to return to the labor market. But economist Jeffrey D. Sachs saw the report as evidence for President Biden’s spending and taxing plans: “America’s jobs future still hangs in the balance … Biden’s American Jobs Plan, a first step to address this issue, calls for building infrastructure to modernize the economy — paid for with higher taxes on companies and the rich.”
As travel destinations open up, people are confronted with decisions about when to venture out. Jay Parini and his wife are planning to celebrate their 40th anniversary this summer on the island of Hydra. “Greece is apparently eager to welcome those who’ve been vaccinated, and their economy depends heavily on tourism. So we’ve rented a small house for two weeks in the coming summer on the island of Hydra, hoping to sit in a lazy café at the old harbor there, watching as the sun sets on the Aegean Sea with a glass of local wine in hand … I’m curious to see how, in the wake of this terrible pandemic, our feelings about being abroad will have shifted. I really don’t know how we’ll react. For me, one thing is sure: It won’t be the same. But it might still be wonderful.

Sharing vaccine knowledge

With Covid cases surging in India and other nations, the Biden administration this week “took the unprecedented step of supporting a waiver of intellectual property protections on Covid-19 vaccines to help end the pandemic,” noted Meenakshi Narula Ahamed. “If ever there was a time to ask ourselves whether we as a global community believe in the equitable sharing of the benefits of scientific progress — to break with the past and ensure nothing stands in the way of life-saving innovations reaching even the poorest, most marginalized, and most vulnerable — surely it is now.”
Writing for CNN’s As Equals project, Ruth L. Okediji argued that “governments who have funded vaccine development hold important leverage over private pharmaceutical firms, and they could wield that leverage to bring patentees to the table to issue licenses to qualifying generic firms.”

Facebook’s Trump ban upheld

Donald Trump’s hopes of a swift return to Facebook were dashed Wednesday when the social media platform’s oversight board upheld the ban imposed after the Capitol riot. It recommended that Facebook decide within six months how long the ban will last.

“There’s only one justifiable verdict that Facebook can reach,” wrote Kara Alaimo. “Trump should be banned from Facebook — and Instagram, which the company also owns — forever. Now that he’s not president, there is no defensible reason to allow Trump — a man who misused his power and the platform, as the oversight board ruled, to ‘(create) an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible’– back on Facebook.”
Misinformation spread by Trump and his team during the pandemic proved deadly, wrote Ezekiel Emanuel. The health policy expert calculated that “between May 2020 and when Trump left office in January 2021, the US had over 200,000 more per capita deaths than Israel, 176,000 more deaths than Germany, and 130,000 more deaths than France. These excess deaths are a result, at least in part, of the way the Trump administration handled the virus — and shared misinformation about it.
Facebook and its social media rivals typically are the first to be blamed for dividing Americans, but Christopher A. Bail of Duke University argues that the problem is more complicated than that. “Content moderation by the platforms has an important role to play — but we’ve spent too much of our time focused on rooting out bad behavior on our platforms and far too little thinking about how to incentivize civility and compromise,” Bail wrote. “Social media companies are by no means blameless for our current situation. But the latest research indicates that most people are not stuck inside political echo chambers, misinformation can have surprisingly little impact on our views and algorithms probably only radicalize a tiny fraction of people.”

Gates divorce

After 27 years of marriage, Bill and Melinda Gates announced they are getting divorced but will keep running their foundation, which has spent more than $50 billion on global causes, including health. “Divorce is a sad and stressful time,” wrote Jill Filipovic. “The Gateses are hyper-wealthy, but that doesn’t make them less human — I hope they are able to walk the difficult path forward as amicably and gently as possible. And I hope that one of the greatest outcomes of their partnership — their foundation — not only endures, but continues to move forward with Melinda’s influence … The Gates Foundation has prioritized helping women to plan their families and control their own destinies. And it’s not hard to see Melinda Gates’s influence there.”

Psychologist John Duffy wrote for CNN’s “Life, But Better” section that, “Years ago, the vast majority of my client couples who weren’t happy in their relationship chose to remain married out of convenience or routine, or even a sense of familiarity. Over the past few years, many are deliberately choosing to part ways. My client base mirrors the divorce rate for Americans 50 and over, which has doubled since 1990.”

“Couples aren’t simply ‘drifting apart’ over time anymore,” Duffy pointed out. “One or both people in the marriage are making an overt choice to change course for the time they have left. And recognizing that life is short and precious, one or both partners choose what they feel is the most fulfilling path.”

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AND…

The roots of Mother’s Day

Last Mother’s Day, many family gatherings were canceled due to the pandemic. “If you’re like me,” wrote Tess Taylor, “you spent last Mother’s Day crying, because you missed your own mother and because being a mother had become intensely hard beyond any imagining and there seemed to be no end in sight to the guilt, to the too muchness of everything.” This year, Taylor is planning to reconnect with family at a brunch.

But while returning to more traditional ways of celebrating, she argued, we should also look back at the holiday’s origin. “The pandemic has been a wake-up call that it’s time to take Mother’s Day back to its revolutionary roots. This didn’t start out as a greeting-card holiday. It came into being as a series of grassroots expressions of the need for a better world.”

“In antebellum Appalachia, Ann Reeves Jarvis helped start ‘Mother’s Day Work Clubs’ to help local women (and later organized ‘Mothers’ Friendship Day’ when mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to foster reconciliation). Abolitionist Julia Ward Howe (best known for writing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”) wrote the ‘Mother’s Day Proclamation’ calling on mothers to pursue world peace. Temperance fighters and other activists organized other local Mother’s Day celebrations in the late 19th century, and the official holiday arose in the 1900s as the result of Ann Reeves Jarvis’s daughter Anna’s efforts to honor her mother after she died in 1905.”

“The women of the first Mother’s Day wore a red flower,” Taylor concluded. “I am ready for a new kind of Mother’s Day. Are you, too? I wonder what our new symbol should be.”



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