The Democratic victory lastTuesday was significant not because of its size-there were only a few key races in a handful of states-but because of its scope. Democrats and progressive causes won in the Northeast, where voters in Maine approved medicaid expansion over the wishes of the Trumpist governor and in New Jersey where Democrat Phil Murphy won the race for governor by 12 points. They won in the South where Ralph Northam beat Ed Gillespie by nine points in the race for governor of Virginia. The Democrats also won in the west where a special election flipped the Washington State Senate Democratic, giving the Democrats solid control of the three west coast states.
Yankee fans probably need to accept not only that Don Mattingly is not getting into the Hall of Fame and that despite his four great years in pinstripes, he did not quite earn that honor. However, if Steve Garvey gets in and Mattingly does not, Yankee fans would be very justified in feeling their man was not treated fairly by the voters.
There were, however, an awful lot of other people who were either involved in this untoward relationship between a presidential campaign and a less than friendly foreign power or who, at the very least, were aware of it and chose to say, and do, nothing. This probably includes people who were deeply involved with the campaign like Mike Pence and Jeff Sessions who now hold positions at the highest level of government, as well as many others who are less well known. In addition, people were around the campaign and had access to this knowledge in summer of 2016, like most of the congressional leadership, numerous Republican campaign and policy people and many others. Not all of these people were silent about their knowledge of these activities, but the overwhelming majority were. Many Democrats sought to draw attention to it, but in the heat of the campaign, or its immediate aftermath, only Republicans could have raised a sufficient hue and cry about it. Almost to a person they chose not to. That is a damning indictment of a political party.
Sanchez may hit well enough to provide some real offensive value at DH, but good hitting DHs are much less valuable than equally good hitting catchers. If Sanchez became the full time DH due to his defensive shortcomings behind the plate, this would also limit the Yankees ability to rest other players by using them at DH and limit their overall roster flexibility. This means that for the Yankees one of the major things they need to do before the 2018 season starts is to work with Sanchez to fix this problem in his game so that he can remain their primary catcher. Sanchez needs to work at this throughout the postseason because for him the stakes are very high. A Gary Sanchez who fields his position to well enough be a full time catcher will be on more winning teams, an occasional MVP candidate and be much more highly compensated than Gary Sanchez the DH who will have have a shorter career as a good, but not great, DH.
As the off-season begins the first and perhaps most important decision the Yankees will have to make is who to hire to replace Joe Girardi as manager. So far several names have been bandied about including recently fired managers like Dusty Baker and John Farrell, coaches already with the team like Tony Pena and Rob Thompson, organization men like Al Pedrique and former big league managers like Willie Randolph.
If the Republican Party, in a collective act of cowardice on an historic scale, comes to the support of the not yet embattled President, rather than to our already imperiled democracy, the nature of our politics will continue to change. By doing this the Republican Party will make themselves even more complicit in both the Russia scandal and the erosion of American democracy. The first step in this complicity will be even greater efforts to delegitimize or fire Robert Mueller, something for which that the Wall Street Journal, among others have already begun to advocate. The next steps for this Republican Party will be further efforts either to stop the investigation and to keep mobilizing those Americans who believe that this is all fake news cooked up by Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party and Vladimir Putin.
Many Yankee fans may not be aware or fully understand the significance of Judge being 25 in his rookie season. One way to think about Judge’s age is that he is only eight months younger than Mike Trout and is six months older than Bryce Harper, two of the premier sluggers in the game today. Similarly, Judge’s 8.1 WAR in 2017 ranked him 20th all-time among 25 year olds and tied for 73rd in seasons for players 25 and younger. Those rankings are impressive, but indicate that while he had a good 2017, he did not have a historically good one.
Honest discussions about our military, as distinct from our foreign policy, are difficult because they are so emotionally laden, but when those conversations do not occur, or are deliberately repressed by the government as Ms. Sanders has sought to do, our country is weakened. Democracy requires not just civilian control of the military, something already under stress during the Trump presidency, but a civilian culture that is never intimidated or silenced by military brass. Accordingly, frank discussions about who serves in our military and why, or what the purpose of all of these wars, conflicts and military bases make our country, and our democracy, stronger.
In 2016, 99% of the contributions from the NRA’s PAC went to Republican candidates, while more than 95% of the money they spent on independent expenditures was in support of Republican candidates, including Donald Trump. In 2008, 22% of the NRA PAC’s contributions went to Democrats. In the last eight years, the NRA has transitioned from being a PAC that was more sympathetic to the GOP, to being almost a part of the Republican Party. This is demonstrated not just by where NRA donations are going, but in the organization’s devolution from one that advocated for American gun owners to one that traffics in far right politics and fear mongering. Because of all this, the NRA’s real or perceived power lies in its ability to influence the outcome of Republican primaries. In most districts support for reasonable gun regulations would not cost a Republican member his or her reelection bid against a Democrat, but that position would make them vulnerable in a primary. It is the fear these Republicans have of losing primaries that ensures that Americans can get a semi-automatic weapon more easily than they can rent a car.
Respect between equals must be reciprocal, but we have not seen that from Trump or even the more mature conservative critics of the NFL protesters. Instead, we, and the protesters themselves, have been given pious comments indicating how much has been accomplished on racial equality in America because occasionally a white police officer gets convicted for shooting an unarmed African American youth and because one of our 45 presidents was African American. Meanwhile these same conservative pundits participate in conversations online, in print and on television about whether Donald Trump, who is only half a step away from turning the White House linen into a costume for his next Alabama rally, is indeed a white supremacist.
It is also unfortunate that the Trump Batumi project that was described in The New Yorker may become one of the few things that readers of that venerable and very high quality periodical now know about Georgia. Although, as the article noted, high level corruption remained a problem even as rates of low level corruption plummeted under President Saakashvili, Georgia today is considerably less corrupt than Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan or many other countries in the region.
The Secretary’s statements about the condition of our country are why many opponents of Trump were heartened by the video, but if they paid close attention a minute or so earlier in the video, they would have heard Mattis say, “We’re gonna keep right on fighting until they are sick of us, (and) leave us alone.” That sentence is a good encapsulation of what is wrong with US policy in Afghanistan and elsewhere, particularly Iraq. Continuing to fight until they, presumably our enemies, are sick of us, is an absurd idea. It overlooks the central reality that the terrorists never get sick of us, and in fact rely upon the American military presence to recruit more people to their cause. Mattis’s formulation, in other words, is a recognition that there is no end in sight in Afghanistan and that our efforts there amount to permanent war for permanent peace.
It is, of course, unlikely that chattel slavery will return to the US, or that genocide against Jews and wholesale murder of LGBT people will happen in the US, but history has made it clear that there are never any guarantees about questions like these. Given that, a strong argument can be made not just that occasional violence can be excused in response to these symbols, but that violence is the only rational and morally acceptable response. That may sound extreme, but it was not that long ago that young American men were required to violently oppose Nazis, while those who refused were called traitors.
It is frightening, although not as surprising as we might like, that despite Trump's clearly tenuous mental health, most Republican leaders have been complicit in trying to conceal this for months or longer. The reason for this, is similar to the reason why the likes of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have been reluctant to probe deeply into Trump’s Russia ties-once the issue was ignored initially, Republican leaders became complicit in the cover up. For Ryan, McConnell or any other influential congress member to recognize what is palpably obvious to millions ofAmericans would force them them to confront their previous silence on the issue and lay bare the reality that for the Republican Party lower taxes and partisan victories are more important than to have a president who is sane. Rather than do that, the GOP leadership avoids confronting the reality of Donald Trump’s mental instability.
These are sad days for the United States. A petulant, willfully ignorant, bigoted man-child has encouraged the most bigoted, ugliest, vulgar and intolerant among us to wave their racist flag high, knowing they have support from the White House. It is significant that the violence in Charlottesville originated as citizens gathered to defend a statue celebrating a traitorous regime that sought to destroy the union more than 150 years ago. If the US surveys this current crisis, it is likely that is how historians will view the Trump administration as well.
That Trump wants his most effective cabinet member to resign because he was insufficiently protective of the President himself suggests that Trump is moving the country not towards the authoritarian white nationalist regime that Steve Bannon would like, but towards being a more straightforward kleptocracy. In that model, the role of the government is to enrich the President and those around him, rather than to remake the country based on an ideological vision. This does not mean that Trump is not racist-he is. However, his racism is less central to his governing philosophy than his desire to use government for his personal advantage.
The primary fault line in American society, and therefore its politics, are between those who see the American future of being increasingly less Christian, less white, more tolerant and more integrated with global economics, culture and technology as a source of excitement, pride and happiness and those who see this same future with apprehension, anxiety and frustration. This division cleaves the country into those who embrace change and feel hope and those who resist change and are fearful of it. The reasons why people feel one way or the other about this issue vary, and are often reinforced by age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. However, the division is real and will be extremely difficult to overcome. Neither side can win quickly; and, as the world was shown last November, neither side is going away. This division is not entirely clean. There are many people who feel a pull from some aspects of both views, but in general, this is the major cleavage in the US today.
This scandal is much bigger than the alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, or even than the subsequent efforts to cover that up. A larger problem, one that will have a more enduring impact on our democracy, is that the Republican Party, other than a few individual comments here and there, refuses to recognize that the gravity of this. Our system may be strong enough to limit the damage of a venal, dishonest and possibly treasonous administration, but it cannot do that when the majority party in congress continues to deliberately live in a world of increasingly absurd denial. A Republican Party that continues to see the ties between Trump and Russia as essentially unimportant is the biggest threat to our democracy. This policy of denial has made the Republican leadership in congress complicit in the misdoings of the Trump campaign and demonstrated the extraordinary moral cowardice of the rest of the GOP.
Tragically, although perhaps not irrevocably, the key to accurately analyzing the state of our politics today is to begin with the acceptance that this is no longer a democracy and that the questions, speculation and assumptions that have been central to our analysis and political punditry for decades are less helpful now. That assertion may seem alarmist, but it explains our current politics much better than simply saying a Republican won the election and what we are seeing is to be expected when the White House switches from one party to the other, or that our political institutions continue to work.
The Trump administration has ushered in a period of democratic rollback. It is not clear where it will lead or how it will end, but every day we see our democratic institutions being undermined and attacked by this administration.