Saturday, January 22, 2022

When Transparency Meets Partisanship, Transparency Dies?

 This tweet touched a nerve apparently.

The tl:dr of this whole thing is that there is a real problem that democracies face--how to have transparency and accountability while keeping bad guys (foreign and domestic enemies) from knowing stuff that they should not know--that Canada is poorly armed to handle this challenge, and that the primary reform that managed to finesse some of this is now being crapped on by the Conservatives because ... it is better to score points than to help the country be both democratic and accountable.  

What is the longer version of this?  When I was interviewing politicians about the mission in Afghanistan in 2007, I was stunned to learn that members of the House of Commons Defence Committee lacked security clearances.  I said "how can you do oversight if you don't have access to the secret stuff?"  The response: "we don't do oversight,* we hold the Minister to account."  How can they do that if the Minister (in this case of Defence) has all the info and the members of parliament (MPs) have none?  "We get leaks," and their primary concern was agenda control of the committee, not info.  Why?  Mostly because they would prefer to talk aloud about stuff that they don't know much about than know more via security clearances but not be able to use that stuff in question period or other public fora.  As I framed it, better to be an ignorant critic than informed overseer.  The editor of the journal where Phil and I published the piece softened the title.  

This was not just a theoretical issue for us social scientists (although it did inspire the current book project and trips to many democracies) but also a major political issue.  During the Afghanistan war, one of the major points of contention (the most debated issue in Parliament--my book has handy figures on this) was the plight of Afghans detained by the Canadian Armed Forces--whether they were beaten after being turned over to the Afghan authorities.  The opposition wanted the info on this, the government said they couldn't, but since it was a minority government, the opposition was able to compel the government to produce documents under a very limited process.  The opposition leaders were able to go to a room where the documents were, sans recorders and notepads, and look through the documents, and then ask a judge or judges to declassify stuff. This effectively buried the issue, but it raised questions about how to provide accountability when there is not a minority government or when the opposition does not have consensus about pushing things.

NSICOP--National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians--is an innovation that is about five years old.  The idea here is that there is a committee of parliamentarians and senators who have security clearances and can get access to the secret stuff so that they can access the strengths and weaknesses of Canada's national security stuff.  The focus is mostly on intel agencies, but defence and other stuff gets reviewed as well.  The trick about this committee that causes much controversy is that it is not a parliamentary committee because it reports to the Prime Minister.  Mostly, this has not be a problem as they have issued unclassified reports that have been extensive and informative reviews (my colleagues who do intel stuff track this more closely than I do).  This process does mean that the committee does not serve at the whim of the Parliament, and the PM can limit what is produced.

This became a hot issue this past year as the Conservatives have wanted all the classified documents relating to a biohazard lab in Winnipegs.  They find NSICOP to be insufficiently focused on this, and have undermined it by not sending MPs to join it in the current session.  What do they want?  Damned if I know.  

Erin O'Toole has been grandstanding on this issue in ways that may undermine NSICOP and pour gas on the conspiracy theories out there.  My basic take, having not seen any of the secret stuff, is that the Winnipeg lab thing is an excuse to accuse the government of conspiring to be soft on China.  There is plenty of other stuff out there that can come in handy that way--this particular axis of effort is destructive to that good governance and order Canadians are supposed to care about.  Because O'Toole is killing the one thing parties could agree to that would provide some oversight* over the intel folks in Canada.  

The funny thing is that my tweet above, I think, was the reason I got a call from Mark Holland, the Liberal who is "Leader of the Government in the House of Commons."  He focused on the problem of redactions--that there had been materials that had been declassified but some stuff had been redacted.  The Conservatives think the redactions are problematic and that Parliament should be able to see everything and decide what can be shared with the public.  Holland's alternative is to take the Afghanistan detainee scandal process and make it more of a lasting thing: that some MPs could see the documents in their entirety subject to the usual security clearance laws, and that if they think some stuff should be released unredacted, then a committee of jurists should decide.  This would take the matter out of the hands of the government, and it would also mean that the opposition could not release stuff willy-nilly.  

Again, I am not the expert on this stuff, but this seems like a good compromise that gets at the heart of this--if the opposition cares about the issue itself.  They get access to the info, and then being able to talk about some of it if a panel of judges consent.  I haven't seen yet what O'Toole would say is wrong with this.  It seems quite reasonable.

What is my preference?  That Canada has committees that have security clearances.  This would not be sufficient, of course, because these committees have little heft--they can't change budgets, they have no influence on promotions, etc [the US Congress and German Bundestag are relevant actors not just because their defence committees can get the info but they also have power to use it--to shape budgets].  So, we'd have to innovate to give them a bit more heft so that their increased knowledge would have some relevance.  

But that ain't happening. The MPs don't have an incentive to know more--their incentives all point towards talking more, scoring points, not really focused at all on improving governance. So, this compromise, like NSICOP, is the best we can do. The alternative that O'Toole seems to want--for Parliament to have the power to release whatever it wants--seems problematic especially when at least one party seems to be more focused on spinning up conspiracy theories.  When people say that Canada's politics are immature and its politicians can't be responsible, this is what they (or I) have in mind.

* Oh, and about oversight, this is something where I get into fights with my colleagues.  For some reason, in Canada, oversight in the intel sphere has a different meaning than I have understood it anywhere else.  To me, oversight is about actors getting more information to know what other actors have been doing.  It can be and is usually retrospective (my friends suggest that it is more directive--that oversight is telling the actors what to do--that it is controlling, I think).  Parliamentarians don't need to know what Special Operators are doing right now in the field, but they should know what they did last summer.  Why is this important?  For many reasons, such as democracy requiring transparency (Colaresi has a great book on the contradictions between democracy and secrecy), but for my principal-agent-informed outlook, oversight is important because those who are delegated responsibility for doing something (spying, breaking codes, running special ops missions, whatever) will know more than those who give them those jobs about what actually happens.  One way to insure that those doing the work do the work as they are supposed to do it is make them feel as if they are being watched.  Oversight best works when those who are overseen anticipate that they will be caught if they behave in undesired ways, which then leads them to behave in the desired ways.  

Why can't we just leave this to the government of the day and civilian servants?  Why does civilian control of the military (or of the intel folks) have to involve other elected officials?  Because those in government may be tempted to hide stuff if revelations might hurt them politically.  Civil servants are not accountable to the public, so if you leave it in their hands, things tend to disappear.  There has been talk, for instance, of having the Privy Council Office supervise the various independent agencies that might get responsibility for overseeing the military (Ombudspeople, Inspector General, whatever), but that would be a black hole, not transparency.  

Anyhow, that's a lot for a Saturday morning post explaining a tweet.  Glad I provided the tl;dr up top.




Sunday, January 16, 2022

Distressed, Depressed, and Down: Where To From Here?

Despite being relentlessly critical of stuff, I have always tended to focus on the arc of progress--that things will get better even amid the bumps of today.  This weekend?  Damn.  An entire country mostly disappears beneath a volcano (any idea of how the Tongans are doing?), the Supreme Court continues to reveal itself to be not just partisan but enthusiastically so, gutting reasonable policies and putting much of the progress of the past fifty years in doubt, a "good" hostage crisis causing us to experience relief or just more anxiety, Trump amping the white supremacy with insufficient outrage aimed against him, stories of African-American voters unlikely to turnout since Sinema/Manchin have blocked any progress on voting rights, the likelihood that the GOP's bet to ally with the pandemic so that Biden would pay for the continued pandemic will pay off, etc.  

I can go on.  This is definitely the winter of my discontent.  I was hoping pre-omicron that we'd have a bit of return to normalcy--return to classes, in-person events, more skiing, actually going to an ISA conference after missing the last two of those.  And now all we have is uncertainty.  I haven't felt like blogging because I didn't want to just whine and complain, but I also wanted to mark, as I indicated in my first quarantine post way back when, my descent into madness.  And I am just so mad these days.  So much so that I am crapping on the joy to my friends that is wordle.

It is definitely getting in the way of my work as I so easily distracted these days.  I tend not to get depressed, but I kind of feel that way now.  I am one of the lucky ones--I haven't lost any immediate relatives to COVID, my relatives have managed through this economically ok, the next generation is mostly in pretty good shape even though most of them have had covid (LA Spew continues to dodge the disease better than I can dodge a wrench).  And damn, not must my younger relatives but all the folks I meet in my classes and I see out in the world are so impressive.  I hate that we are giving them a shitty present and a very uncertain future, but I have more faith in them, in their tolerance, in their creativity, than I do in those that came before us.  I guess that is the reed upon which I am placing my hope these days.  

That and endless tv/movies streamed to my house help keep me from descending too far.  I hope you can find ways to get through this awful time.  As they say, the only way out is through.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Where's Spenser When We Need Him?

 I have long been a fan of mysteries, especially those featuring snarky detectives.  Robert B. Parker's Spenser will always stand out.  I remember discovering Spenser when friends were reading aloud one of his books during a break during my college years, and the dialogue was so much fun.  Anyhow, ever since then, I would tend to find one or two writers and just read all of their stuff: Sue Grafton (I gave up around M or N), Sara Paretsky, Dianne Mott Davidson (one of my wife's editing clients).  I fell into John Sandford when he was writing under a pseudonym--John Camp.  Lee Child's books were less mysteries and more thrillers, but very addictive.  

More recently, I started reading the Bosch books by Michael Connelly.  Bosch started out as a weary, abrasive detective in the LAPD.  The TV show has been something that all of my siblings and mother watch--our tastes usually don't align so well.  So, I got the latest book, where Bosch and a younger female detective, RenĂ©e Ballard, work together after Bosch's retirement from the LAPD.  The book takes place more or less in the present--people are wearing masks (or not) and there is much discussion of the state of LAPD.  A theme that gets repeated several times (and I am not that far into it) is that LAPD is now facing deep budget constraints because the protests have cost so much money that programs are being defunded even if the department is not receiving less money. Oh, and the cops are wary of doing anything because they don't want to face a hostile public. 

Anyhow, mostly because of the way Connelly keeps referring to the position the cops have been put into by the protests, I am offput.  It is distracting and angering because LAPD has behaved awfully before, during, and after the protests.  I would know this even if I didn't have a relative engaged in some of the protests as LAPD and LA Sheriffs have made it abundantly clear that they are above and beyond the law.  I guess in the past I either read books that didn't feature cops or I was able to compartmentalize so that I didn't really think of how bad the cops were in reality when I read about the hero cops in the various books.

Spenser was a fallen cop--he had left because he didn't get along with authority.  Maybe some subtext I might be injecting into the series, he was far more liberal or tolerant or whatever than the cops.  Maybe not.  But now I am thinking that as I give up on Connelly, as I gave up on some other folks whose political leanings got to be too annoying (Tom Clancy is the classic case as his racism completely soured me), I need to find mystery authors whose protagonists are not cops again.  Where is the next Spenser, V.I. Warshawski, Kinsey Millhone, or Goldy Schulz?  The good news is that they are out there.  I just need a detective to help find them for me. 

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Quarantine 2: Electric Bugaloo

JC & me, Lake Louise
The Civ-Mil crew in Copenhagen
I stopped doing quarantine reports last summer after Mrs. Spew and I had two shots plus two weeks.  Shortly afterwards, we drove to Philly to see my mother and the rest of my family.  I went to a movie when we got back, and we would occasionally go to restaurants (almost always outdoors).  I went to Copenhagen for a conference, we held a hybrid event (the Year Ahead 2022), I gave a talk in Calgary and, yes, went skiing afterwards, I had a fun poker game with folks who were in town for another conference, and, then we get super anxious about going to see my in-laws over the holidays.

Great Falls park
It was not the usual winterfest, as we only went to one restaurant and very reluctantly so.  Otherwise, it was take-out.  No metro trip to the Mall.  Instead, my daughter (Hollywood Spew) and I went to see a river and a canal.  We worried much about whether we would get our PCR tests back in time for us--before we were to cross the border back to Canada.  And we got them while we were driving back north.  We also worried much about whether my daughter could get back to LA as her first flight was cancelled, but she persevered and got a flight back.  She went back sooner than planned because she was unable to stay over with her besties from college as they were all exposed to covid and some tested positive. 

And then we returned to old habits with modifications.  I only leave the house now for groceries and to rehab my knee (I mentioned above I went skiing, right?).  No dining out.  I did make one exception--I went to see the new Spidey movie just before provincial regulations changed to close the movie theaters.  I haven't started the winter exercise ritual of last year--snowshoeing and cross-country skiing as we don't have enough snow yet (unlike my pals to the south).  

Instead of shopping for funky looking masks, I focus on the monthly Costco trip, hoping they have KN-95s.  And when I went this week, I bought three boxes, which felt very much like hoarding.  But I did so anyway because I have no idea if there will be any next month.  I haven't put away my cloth masks that Omicron has made obsolete.  Maybe the next variant will be less transmissible?

Which gets to the feelings of the moment--exhaustion and frustration.  It may be the most "mild" of variants, but its greater transmissiblity has had a huge impact.  Carleton has pushed the first three weeks (and probably more) online.  Which is not a huge deal to me as I am teaching a course that has online components from last year--so I checked and the material is quite recyclable.  But damn, when I said that online, the parents of kids were most upset that I was not as angry as they were.  I am angry and frustrated, but my stakes are much smaller than theirs.  There is no good way to deal with this new wave for schools as McSweeney's illustrated quite nicely.  One thing that has remained most consistent has been the Ontario government screwing this up.  The plans for the winter are being upended.  The big anniversary trip to Morocco Spain Hawaii Vancouver next month is now in doubt.  The CDSN Capstone Seminar and Civ-Mil Workshop were going to be in Calgary in the beginning of March, but that is now uncertain.  ISA in Nashville at the end of March?  ¯\(°_o)/¯  

Despite being vaxxed and boosted, we are anxious as we quarantine.  I don't worry about getting seriously sick (although Mrs. Spew does), but I do worry about becoming a vector that endangers someone else.  Once again, we thought we saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and then found out that this thing is going on and on.  I think that, along with the fact that we all know far more people with COVID this time around (we are up to four nieces and one nephew since this thing started, with only two nieces and one daughter still dodging covid successfully), has worn us down, frazzled our nerves, and genearted much fear, which ain't good:

We, alas, are not in this together.  As I keep saying, COVID does to societies and political systems what it does to the human body: reveal and exacerbate pre-existing conditions. The politics of this is making all of this costlier, more stressful, and just worse all the way around.  

I am placing a lot of hope on two things: that mild really means mild and that the bending of the curve is going to be fast, like it has been in South Africa.  I know that rebellions are built on hope.  I am hoping that recoveries are, too. 


Monday, January 3, 2022

There Is Still Magic

The past few years have been very frustrating, angering, saddening times for many Harry Potter fans as JK Rowling has allied herself with the dark forces in the world (including Johnny Depp).  Her anti-trans attitudes seems to me to be a betrayal of what her books tried to convey.  I have been stewing about this for quite some time, and I haven't re-read or re-watched the HP stuff in a few years, breaking my usual winterfest habits.  I finally sought to express my feelings on this as I watched the 20th anniversary special.  Seeing all the folks who made the movies (well, almost as we have lost several along the way) and seeing the scenes of the making of the movies made very sad but also reminded me of the magic in the books and the movies.*

(* Ok, the first 8.5 movies as the first Fantastic Beasts movie had some magic, the second had much less, especially with Depp playing such a big role).  

To be clear, the books and movies are imperfect.  They do not represent well, they tend to rely on stereotypes (JK's borrowing of Tolkein's take on goblins is still anti-semitic, for instance), that Dumbledore is not explicitly gay in the text, but she retconned that later, and so on.  But the larger themes are of love and tolerance and choice are so central. That the bad guys don't get it--they can't exhibit remorse, they don't have friends, they have contempt for those who love, that they don't really have something to fight for, and the good folks win precisely because they are willing to love, to forgive, to trust.  

Early in the special, the words come across the screen that it is not what family you are born into (although, of course, there are contradictions--the discussion of Draco as a product of Lucius) but what you choose to do that matters.  In the books, this is one of the strongest and consistent themes--that is the choices you make that matter.  And this plays in two ways now--that JK is making the worst choices and she is, of course, judging how others live their lives, that she is judging people who identify as their true selves.   

So, how do I see it now?  Watching the actors and directors talk about the stuff, how much it meant to them (and to the fans), the bonds they have with each other, the themes that they tried to convey helped feed my confirmation bias and my compartmentalization.  That there is such good stuff in the books and the movies that I will focus on that--the magic of friendship, of love, and, yes, of tolerance--and only occasionally grapple with the darkness in the books and in JK.  She has chosen to be awful.  The actors (statements by Radcliffe and Watson) do a nice job of distinguishing her stances from what the books and movies were trying to say.  And I will side with them.  

It is, after all, the choices we make that matter. 

Friday, December 31, 2021

Year 2 of Pandemic in Review: the Dizziest Rollercoaster

The first year of the pandemic started well with several cool trips (researching in Germany, chaperoning in Japan, skiing out west) and some great CDSN events (the first Capstone) and then the pandemic hit and everything went south.  The second year of the pandemic was much ... wavier.  The rollout of the vaccines created much anxiety as the eligibility kept changing, and the most widely available one in Canada got pulled ... after I got it.  Things looked bright until Delta came along, but then we reached high levels of vaccinations and things started opening up and then Omicron came along.  On this last day of the year, I look back, mostly so that in later years I can distinguish between years one, two, and three of the this pandemic.

On the bright side, year two had much less death among my immediate friends and family even as the US had far more death in 2021 (Delta was/is so very nasty).  I lost friends the previous year due to heart attacks that were not apparently covid-related.  This year, we lost Bob, our very old cat.  He spent his last year being far more cuddly with me than this previous seventeen or eighteen.  He was an important part of our pandemic routine, especially for Mrs. Spew who got to see the veterinarians on an increasingly regular basis until it was very much time to say goodbye.  We also lost my father's best friend, who became known to us as Uncle Stanley.  He was very influential in my early life, and I am pretty sure I owe much of my sense of humor to him.  I wish I had talked with him more before he declined.  Alas, there was much death among those who taught at UCSD during my time there--John Ruggie, Frances McCall Rosenbluth, Mat McCubbins all passed away in 2021.  I only took one class from John, but interacted with both France and Mat on many occasions.  Of the three, McCubbins has had the greatest impact on my work as I succumbed to principal-agency theory half-way through my career.  Their losses were felt hard by not just their students but by the profession.  Robert Jervis also passed away.  He didn't teach at UCSD, but he helped me get there by sucking me into IR via some of the first stuff I read. 

Professionally, it was a mixed kind of year.  The CDSN did quite well--we had our long-awaited Summer Institute, entirely online, and it went wellThe Year Ahead was a hybrid event that happened in that window in between waves, and it was great to see people and have a great day of insights and varied perspectives.  The Capstone was online but remained a very special event. The podcasts continued to be a biweekly boon to my spirits, and it was fun to get a call from the Chief of the Defence Staff (the highest ranking officer in the Canadian military) who wanted to talk about something I said in the podcast.  This was a few months after we had him and the Deputy Minister on our podcast.  In the last months of the year, I got to consult with the new Minister of National Defence as well as a former Supreme Court justice who is reviewing the Canadian Armed Forces as part of the effort to address the sexual misconduct/abuse of power crisis.  That crisis also led to a couple of op-eds where I called for the firing of the previous Minister of National Defence (not much of an influencer if it happens eight or so months later) and previous Chief of Defence Staff (ditto).  Between stuff in the US and in Canada, it was a busy year for those who do civil-military relations. So, a peak year for engagement with the policy world.  

While the engagement was great, the publications ... were not so great.  I had a record year, I think, in contributions to edited volumes.  But as anyone in my biz will tell you, those don't count as much as refereed articles in top journals, and, well, it was mostly a year of rejection on that front.  My various co-authors and I reached for the top and found the top to be a pretty competitive place.  That and our work needed much reviews.  A good number of the reviews we received were most helpful in telling us how to improve our work.  I expect those pieces to do better in 2022.  Dave, Phil, and I didn't make as much progress on the big book project--the end is in sight, but it didn't get much closer.  I expect us to finish in the first half of the new year.  Frustrating not to get it done, but I hope to get a burst of new energy to do what it takes to push it over the goal line.  On the bright side, 2021 demonstrated both the importance of civilian control of the military, and the variation that exists among the world's democracies in the roles played by legislatures.  Canada proved yet again why it belongs on the weak end of the spectrum.

Teaching was entirely online.  Students continued to adapt, so that the seminars via zoom went pretty well.  I supervised a variety of projects from MA papers to more dissertations.  The dissertation proposal class continued to expose me to a great variety of topics, mostly way outside my expertise, and the course worked--students made progress and many got through their proposal defenses.  My PhD students are making progress through their projects despite the challenges of doing research during a pandemic.

US politics occupied much of my mind.  The insurrection n January 6th was a dismal way to start the year.  Fending off those who thought I didn't think it was serious because I argued it was not a coup attempt was not so much fun.  Biden's inauguration created some joy, which Manchin and Sinema destroyed through their obstinacy.  The anti-vaxxers did their best to undermine the miracles of the vaccines, causing much unnecessary misery.  They started threatening doctors and scientists, which would have been awful even if those folks were not at their limits due tot he pandemic itself.  And, yes, those folks infected Canada, as my friend JC Boucher found in his scraping of social media--that the vectors of anti-vax stuff in Canada originate not in Russia or China but in the US.  It didn't take long for outbidding to develop in the US among GOP and their media--that they had to double and triple down on the big lie about the election.

In Canada, three political processes dominated the year.  The hashtag for the pandemic became #IncompetentMurderClowns as the premiers of the provinces (governors) tended to be slow to close, fast to open up, and opted for the less effective policies.  I will always be struck by a pre-delta press conference where a journalist asked the health officers of Ontario "Am I missing something here, or is this presentation predicting a disaster?" and the doctors, who were discussing the opening up of stuff just as Delta was on its way, said "I don't think you are missing anything."  The year ended with not enough tests, a confusing rollout of the boosters after all of the health authorities had delayed on that, and with no clarity about how the new school year would go.  I have always felt bad for the parents during this crisis, and the past week took that to new heights/depths.  Ontario is pushing back the start of schools by two days.  What will that do?  Damned if I know.

The second process was an election that the Liberals called because they thought they could win a majority even as Delta was spiking and as vax hestitancy in the Prairies (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta) was going to kill any victory parade.  Oh, and Afghanistan's collapse also got the Liberals off message.  So, we have more or less the same government (finally some much needed cabinet shuffling) and more media for anti-vax folks ... and much frustration. 

The third focused on something that gets only episodic attention--the past and continuing plight of Canada's Indigenous peoples.  The finding of 215 graves at a residential school in Kamloops reminded everyone that Canada's government engaged in truly awful policies that have been determined to be genocidal.  The government talked a good game of reconciliation, but a bunch of policies and problems continue that make these seem like pie crust promises--easily made, easily broken.

The big IR event of the year was the collapse of the government the US and NATO had been fighting for in Afghanistan.  I was never an expert on Afghanistan itself, having focused entirely on the dynamics of the countries intervening there.  It was and is a great tragedy for the Afghans who have always been in the middle of this conflict, and it was, of course, also traumatic for those who expended so much there.  I did reflect on my work and how to think about it now that not just the NATO mission ended but so did the target of that mission

The personal highlights for me were the breaks in the quarantine.  Going to Philly for the summer family vacation was more than just a bit restorative--it was so very necessary.  We didn't do that much tourism, but we spent a heap of time with family and even some old friends over steak sandwiches.  I got to go to Copenhagen for a civil-military relations conference where I got to hang with some of my friends in the business and watch civ-mil tensions up close (the Danish military types didn't like to be told that militaries are sometimes unreliable agents that need close oversight).  A conference by our partner networ--RAS--meant a heap of fun people in town for the only in-person poker game of the year--it was a blast!  The online poker games were fun, too, but not the same.  I gave two talks in the last few months--"at" the U of Chicago where I got great feedback on the Steve/Dave/Phil project and actually at Calgary, which then was followed by skiiing with JC.  I survived the skiing with 1.5 knees intact.  The last trip of the year, to see my in-laws, was much needed as I missed them all very much, and they needed to see Mrs. Spew in person.  Also, I got to make the big meal including several pies.

The baking of year one continued into year two of the pandemic with lots of cookies made for distribution before we fled south for the holidays.  The second year was more of a balance of new and old recipes. Will I bake that much in year three of the pandemic? Probably despite a resolution to eat a bit healthier.  I hope I keep up the snowshoeing and cross-country skiing that I did last year, but that depends as much on the weather as it does on my will power.  And, yes, I will continue to enjoy heaps of tv.  I only made it to the movie theaters three times in 2021--for three Marvel movies (Black Widow, Shang-Chi, and  ... Spidey in less than two hours).  

As I kept saying and posting, to get through this, we have to do whatever it takes.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

More Than Bad Faith: A Party of Autocracy, Hate, and Death

 I have taken to calling the Republicans the Party of Bad Faith because so much of what their leaders and members say they don't believe and will flip on a dime if the identities of the relevant actors are switched.  The party of family values elected and supported a serial philanderer who lusted after his daughter while being caught on tape bragging about sexual assault.  The party that says that you can't select a supreme court justice months before an election did so days before one.  Anyhow, a friend said this:

And this is quite fair.  The GOP is not just a party of bad faith.  It is a party of autocracy, hate, and death.  Just a quick bit on each:

  • Democracy requires the acceptance of losing, not gaming the rules to prevent losing.  Long before January 6th of 2021, the GOP had been engaged in a sustained effort not just to suppress the vote but change the powers of governors when they lost those positions.  The entire big lie about Biden's victory may be motivated by cowardice--fear of their most rabid supporters and fear of Trump and fear of Fox and other far right media--but whatever the motivation, their support of the big lie is poison to American democracy.  The tragedy here is that the GOP has proven it can win Latino votes, so there is not really a need to suppress the vote--they can try to win elections the democratic way--by getting more votes.  But that is not the path the party and its members and its media friends have chosen. They have chosen to burn down American democracy.
  • The GOP is also a party of hate.  They have long used racist appeals (the Southern strategy, Willie Horton, etc), but they are now openly the party of white supremacy.  Tucker Carlson spews it all the time.  The discussion of "Real America" and all that crap, the embrace of replacement theory, etc is a toxic brew of hate that has been killing people.  Wherever Trump rallied, hate crimes were sure to follow.  In this pandemic, the GOP were not too fussed when the casualties were urban people of color.  And all this has bred more violence.  Trump won by ethnic outbidding--being the best white supremacist in the GOP in 2016--and he fed that for years.  Remember that his least worst Attorney General was once considered to racist to be a Federal judge.  
  • And now the GOP is the party of death.  That Trump delayed on confronting the pandemic because he didn't want the stock market to tank.  That they gave Kushner the job of figuring out the tests, which was as sure a path to failure as one could possibly imagine.  That they politicized mask wearing and then the vaccines even though the vaccines were developed when Trump was president.  Most recently, Trump has faced much friction from his own party for talking up booster shots.  The policies of governors like Abbott and DeSantis have been so reckless with so little concern for the lives of their constituents.  And as I was typing this, the GOP House Judiciary account tweeted its support for covid.

I could go on, but this covers the essentials.  The GOP is more than the Party of Bad Faith--they are not just without values, not just hyprocrites, but they are allies of a deadly virus, not just friends to autocrats but wannabe dictators, and they are stoking hate.  The problem of our day is not polarization, which suggests that two parties are moving from the middle. The problem is that one of the two major parties does not believe in democracy and does not even care about the health of their own constituents.  

Even if the Democrats can hold the Presidency in two years and maybe a house or two, the erosion of American democracy will continue as democracy requires winners and losers to treat each other as fellow citizens in the non-violent competition for office and governing for all, not just the winners.  In short, the US is truly fucked.