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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 1/6/21

The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exists.

-- Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

Good morning,


We won’t know for sure for a while, with recounts through this week, but at least currently it appears likely that we will have a Senate controlled by the Democrats by the thinnest of margins. I hope it holds. This will give President-elect Biden the latitude to pursue an aggressive agenda on COVID relief and economic recovery. The fact that the Senate majority is close and yet controlled by Biden’s party may bode well for a bipartisan agenda. Further, the “all obstruction all the time” agenda of Mitch McConnell won’t control bringing legislation to the floor. Finally, the loss may demonstrate the weakening effect of President Trump’s control of the party. I’m hopeful.

As to the two (likely) defeated Republican incumbents, one ran after extensive stock trades suspiciously tied to confidential COVID news, whose campaign photoshopped a picture of his Jewish opponent with an accentuated long nose and tropes about money. And Loeffler, appointed to her position, was firmly against Black Lives Matter and whose campaign darkened her Black competitor’s skin color in photos. Not sorry to see them go.


Today a Joint Session of Congress will receive the Electoral College vote and finally, definitively, mercifully, officially certify the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, putting this farcical challenge of the election results at an end. It may take hours and may even extend into tomorrow, given the required debate of each disputed state’s electors.

The machinations of the Mad King are nearly spent. He has demeaned the office; he has demonstrated his utter lack of decency time and time again; he failed in responding to COVID; he has besmirched our reputation internationally; he has strengthened the hand of Russia, China, and despots and oligarchs across the political spectrum and around the world; he has weakened our intelligence gathering; he has weaponized the Justice Department to his will; he has tried to bribe foreign leaders to help him in elections; he has threatened election officials to manipulate elections. He will be judged harshly by history on these and so many other counts—known today and that may not be known for years.

But there are others who will be judged harshly by history. Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson and others have made it easy for those of us who care about our democratic institutions and the continued survival of this republic to identify the traitors in our midst. Their behavior is shameful and treasonous. But spectacularly, I doubt any of them (many of them lawyers and many of them the product of Ivy League educations) actually believe the merit of the claims of election fraud they are propounding. The coup that is being attempted will fail, but those who pursue it should always be remembered for the craven political operatives that they are, demonstrating complete disregard for all that is decent in our processes of democracy and fairness. If there is anything left of bipartisanship, its fragile remnants rest in the care of Senators Romney, Sasse, Collins and Murkowski.


I continue to hope the Democrats seize upon the opening created by the Republicans demanding a commission to review the recent election results. They should say yes to the creation of a bipartisan election commission but they should pivot these calls to a more comprehensive analysis of voter suppression. Chadwick Cunningham reminded me of the that absurdity of the Republican claim for a commission that (a) claims to address a disputed presidential election but not the results of the down-ballot Republican candidates who were victorious, and (b) alleges the only contested ballots come from “swing states.” These facts demonstrate the lie that they seek any genuine generalized desire to improve our election processes nationally. A commission should be charged with a broad-based review that would include consideration of voter suppression tactics. It is time we work toward a “Uniform Elections Code” that can provide guidance to states that, when not adopted, will leave states having to explain to their voters why they don’t follow broadly accepted “best practices.”


There are a lot of issues facing the new administration. How one chooses which issues on which to focus and sequencing them to maximize the chances of success, is a study in the science of policy and the art of persuasion.

In earlier days, presidential administrations began with a “honeymoon period,” when the leaders of Congress would provide the President and the administration some latitude in framing the major issues and giving them some leeway in adopting early policy proposals. Because Majority Leader McConnell (who may or may not hold that title if the results of the Georgia runoffs stand) has made it clear that he will stand in the way of all aspects of Mr. Biden’s agenda, and Senator Cruz says he will object to all cabinet appointments of this “illegitimate presidency,” it will be hard going. But if the Georgia results stand, it has gotten a bit easier.

The President-elect will be measured by his success in the most immediate needs. He will need to tame calls for retribution against Mr. Trump (let’s let the State of New York and others take the laboring oar on that) and avoid radical early actions that could use up whatever “honeymoon” he has.

He needs to focus on those things that are most important. Namely, COVID, COVID, COVID. Then the economy and mending fences internationally. All while addressing climate change, policing and justice reform, and infrastructure needs. But first things first—leadership on the pandemic and the delivery and administration of vaccines. Piece of cake, right?!

Have a good day and wear that mask!


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