Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

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Eugene Robinson: Trump is terrified of the far-right echo chamber

The government isn’t shut down because of President Trump’s unbelievable cluelessness as a dealmaker. It’s shut down because of his many fears.

I don’t mean his pretend fears. Surely Trump doesn’t really believe his own racist nonsense about the U.S.-Mexico border being a sieve for homicidal maniacs and walk-to-work terrorists, and he can’t be too worried about a humanitarian crisis that is largely of his own creation. I’m talking about his real fears — the ones that must keep him up at night.

Trump is afraid of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge, Laura Ingraham and the rest of the far-right echo chamber. (He sees Sean Hannity as more of a house pet.) He’s afraid of his shrunken but loyal base, which could abandon him if he doesn’t give them a wall. He’s afraid of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the federal, state and local prosecutors in New York who are investigating various Trump enterprises. And he’s afraid of losing his coercive hold over the Republican senators who one day could sit in judgment of his fate.

Karen Tumulty: Trump is the president of the Republican base — not the country

The Great Shutdown Showdown of 2019 has shown more clearly than anything before the central reality of Donald Trump’s presidency: He does not lead a country; he leads a movement.

Trump is president of the Republican base. He knows how to make his most passionate supporters vibrate like the reed of a clarinet. And they have the same effect on him.

That is why he was willing to go to the wall over The Wall, despite the fact that most Americans think it is a lousy idea. It is why he proudly claimed ownership of what has now become the longest government shutdown ever, and is deservedly getting more of the blame for the pain that it is causing.

Trump used his first televised Oval Office address not to offer a more persuasive argument, or a fresh compromise, or to bring the country together. The only thing he managed to do in that precious nine minutes was to cheapen our most revered national platform with the same histrionic claims about illegal immigration that he made when he came down the Trump Tower escalator in 2015.

All of this stands in contrast with how presidents normally act — or, perhaps, that should be how normal presidents act — when their promises turn out to be implausible or deeply unpopular.

E. J. Dionne Jr.: Trump is the president of the Republican base — not the country

The belief that constitutional democracy is superior to other forms of government rests in part on its capacity to encourage open debate and thus social learning.

Social learning is underrated. Citizens can and do learn together and from one another. They pick up tidbits and cues from the public debate and then argue over back fences or kitchen tables, in their houses of worship, or at their favorite bars and restaurants.

True, this is an idealized view. In the Trump era, many people avoid political talk with neighbors or family members they disagree with for fear of igniting bitter shouting matches.

And social learning is problematic when we only hang around with people who reinforce our own views and prejudices, as Bill Bishop suggested in his revelatory book, “The Big Sort.” Social media pushes us further into ideological silos, something Russian hackers understood in 2016.

It ought to be the job of traditional media to help break this cycle.

Nathan Robinson: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right. A 70% tax on the rich makes sense

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has continued to show her power to steer the national political conversation. In an interview, Ocasio-Cortez suggested offhandedly that income above $10m may need to be taxed up to 70%, especially if we are going to get serious about halting climate change. Her idea instantly sparked indignant replies from the right. Grover Norquist compared it to slavery. National Review’s Brian Riedl called it “completely destructive”. Steve Scalise said she wanted to “take away 70% of your income and give it to leftist fantasy programs”.

Many critics attempt to confuse people over what Ocasio-Cortez said. Just to be clear: she said that when people earn $10m, the 10 millionth dollar and above should be taxed at a high rate. So unless you earn $10m, she’s not talking about “your” income. These are marginal tax rates, though the Republican party loves to trick people by conflating taxes that apply solely to the unfathomably rich with taxes that apply to ordinary workers.

Brandi Miller: WWJD? Oppose An Anti-Lynching Bill, Apparently.

When the Senate passed a long-overdue bill that would outlaw lynching in the United States, it seemed like an obvious step in the right direction. And then evangelical Christians stepped in and tried to take us two steps back.

This week Liberty Counsel, an evangelical legal organization known for its political lobbying on behalf of the most conservative of the religious right, put pressure on House lawmakers to remove language from the bill that explicitly includes protections for people on the basis of sexual and gender identity. Seriously.

On the surface, it may look like another religious extremist group lobbying against policy, but a closer inspection reveals the reality undergirding its ideology.

It would seem that Mat Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, and his supporters are trying to prevent LGBTQ people from being protected from lynching as a means to keep them from being protected from discrimination. An anti-lynching law is, according to Staver in an interview he gave to the Christian news siteOneNewsNow, only a baby step to one day passing employment, housing and health care legislation that would offer protections to LGBTQ people. Thus LGBTQ people’s lives become a small sacrifice for the ideological comfort and control of the religious right. He and Liberty Counsel seem to care more about what people do in their sex lives than the violence and inequity that they experience because of their identities.