Kevin McCarthy Wins GOP Nomination for House Speaker Amid Party Factions

 Republican leader Kevin McCarthy won the nomination Tuesday for House speaker, clearing a first step with majority support from his colleagues, but he now faces a weeks-long slog to quell right-flank objections before a final vote in the new year.

McCarthy has led House Republicans this far, and with the party now on the cusp of majority control, he has a chance to seize the gavel from Nancy Pelosi if Democrats are defeated.

The GOP leader won a 188-31 vote, with ballots cast by new and returning lawmakers, but the challenges ahead are clear. McCarthy will need to grind out support from no fewer than 218 lawmakers from his slim ranks when the new Congress convenes in January, leaving just a few votes to spare.

“We’re going to have the ability to change America,” McCarthy said, upbeat as he entered the private meeting.

He noted backing from right-flank Republicans Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio as part of his “vast support.”

But Republican leaders are facing an intense backlash on Capitol Hill over their disappointing performance in the midterm elections, when McCarthy’s promises of a GOP sweep that would transform Washington collapsed. Instead, the House could have one of the slimmest majorities in 90 years, leaving McCarthy exposed to challengers.

The fallout is spilling down-ballot into other Republican leadership races and into the Senate, where Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell will face a challenge from GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the party’s campaign chairman, in Wednesday’s elections. Scott announced his bid at a party lunch Tuesday.

The former chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, announced he was challenging McCarthy, saying Americans want a “new direction.”

“The promised red wave turned into a loss of the United States Senate, a razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives, and upset losses of premiere political candidates,” Biggs said in a statement. “McCarthy does not have the votes needed to become the next Speaker of the House and his speakership should not be a foregone conclusion.”

Many in the Republican Party are blaming their losses on Donald Trump, the former president who endorsed hundreds of candidates, many of them far-right contenders rejected by voters. Trump is expected to announce his 2024 bid for the White House from his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida on Tuesday evening.

It’s not just McCarthy whose leadership is in question but his entire team. This includes Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., the campaign chairman who traditionally would be rewarded with a leadership spot but finds himself in a three-way race for GOP whip that was forced into a second-round of voting.

The No. 2 Republican, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, had an easier time, winning the majority leader spot uncontested, by voice vote. He pledged that House Republicans, if they win the majority, will launch “oversight necessary to hold the Biden Administration accountable.”

And one of Trump’s top allies in the House, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York — the third-ranking House Republican and the first lawmaker to back Trump in a 2024 run — is working to fend off rival Rep. Byron Donalds, a Black Republican from Florida seen by many lawmakers as a potential new party leader.

A self-described “Trump-supporting, liberty-loving, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment Black man,” Donalds said after a closed-door forum late Monday he has enough support for the race with Stefanik to be close.

Trump backs McCarthy for speaker, but the two have had a rocky relationship, and even Trump’s support is no guarantee McCarthy will reach the needed 218 votes when the new Congress convenes, particularly if Republicans win the House with just a slim, few-seat majority that would leave him no cushion for detractors.

At least one Trump ally, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, said he’s voting no on McCarthy.

It’s a familiar dynamic for House Republicans, one that befell their most recent Republican speakers — John Boehner and Paul Ryan — who both retired early rather than try to lead a party splintered by its far-right flank.

McCarthy survived those earlier battles between party factions, but he was forced to back out of a bid for the speaker’s job in 2015 when it was clear he did not have support from conservatives.

The weeks ahead promise to be a grueling period of hardball negotiations with the Freedom Caucus and rank-and-file Republicans as McCarthy tries to appease them and rack up the support he will need in the new year.

In a sign of how desperate Republicans are to bolster their ranks, some made overtures to conservative Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas to switch parties and join the GOP.

“They just said, ’name your price,″” Cuellar told reporters. “I’m a Democrat.”

The conservative Freedom Caucus lawmakers, who typically align with Trump, are prepared to extract demanding concessions from McCarthy before giving him their backing. They have a long list of asks — from prime positions on House committees to guarantees they can have a role in shaping legislation.

“I’m willing to support anybody that’s willing to change dramatically how things are done here,” Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., the chairman of the Freedom Caucus and a Trump ally, said after meeting privately with McCarthy.

But even rank-and-file lawmakers are assessing their choices for speaker, a position that is second in line to the president.

“I don’t just automatically assume heir apparent, necessarily,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., who said he is still studying his choice for House speaker.

“We are voting for somebody who is going to be two heartbeats from the presidency,” he said.

Click here to read the full article at FoxNewsLA

An Orange County House race has become an Asian American culture clash

The battle between Democrat Jay Chen and Republican Michelle Steel reveals the nuances of identity

Ngan Nguyen can’t stop, won’t stop dancing. It’s such a joyous Friday night for the 80-year-old retired cosmetologist, a chance to gather with so many friends from so many years of political activism here in a strip mall parking lot in Orange County’s Little Saigon. Tonight’s “Rock and Vote” party,with around three weeks to go before the midterm elections, isa major deal in the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam. Nguyen’s got a jaunty fedoraand two large flags propped on each shoulder, so theyflap behind her like wings. She twirls and twirls, in the glow of signs from a nail salon, two law offices and an acupuncturist.

More than 200 people have shown up to register to vote or meet candidates for local office. There’s a choir singingthe Vietnamese national anthem and “The Star-Spangled Banner”; two crooners who look like Elvis;a troupe of teenagers in colorful silk costumes doing choreographed dances with flags and martial arts sticks; and one heartthrob who belts out a dual-language rendition of “God Bless the U.S.A.” with such passion you’d think he was auditioning for “The Voice.”

In a community of refugees like this, voting is always a celebration. Forty-seven years ago, when Nguyen was 33, she fled the only country she had ever known with her husband and three boys on the last day of the fall of Saigon. She never misses an election. The first ballot she cast as a U.S. citizen was for the president at the time, known for welcoming Vietnamese refugees: Ronald Reagan. Then George H.W. Bush. Then …

“We belong to MAGA group,” she says, proudly. “We vote for Trump and we vote for him again if he runs.”

That yellow-and-red-striped flag she’s carrying, along with an American flag? It’s for the defunctanti-communist country of South Vietnam. It has come to symbolize Vietnamese nationalism, and was spotted at the Capitol during the Jan 6. insurrection.

Nguyen’s also excited to vote again for Rep. Michelle Steel, a Republican whoin 2020 was part of a trio who became the first Korean American women elected to Congress.

What about Steel’s challenger, Jay Chen, the Taiwanese American Democrat and active lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve? “No!” Nguyen says. “He supports the China communists. Anybody who supports communists, we don’t vote for them.”

That’s a falsehood perpetuated by Steel’s campaign against Chen. And it’s apparently sticking.

Never mind that Chen’s paternal grandmother fled from China to Taiwan to escape communism. Or that he’s a U.S. service member who is part of the 7th Fleet, the Naval unit that maintains freedom of navigation in the Taiwan Strait. “So that is part of my job, confronting the threat of communist China,” Chen says the next day when I meet him at his campaign office.

How have charges of communism become a key issue in a House race, 31 years after the fall of the Soviet Union?

The hotly contested race in California’s 45th Congressional District is a microcosm of Asian American identity clashes and how those tie to voting preferences. Here we have two Asian American candidates fighting for one of the only chances Democrats have to flip a seat to blue, in a midterm election cycle where they are predicted to have major losses. And it’s happening in a district where more than a third of the voters are Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) — the largest chunk of whom, by far, are Vietnamese, whose older generationstend to vote conservative, with lingering, traumatic memories of their family’s escape from communism.

Among countless attacks, Steel has distributed a flier showing Chen in front of a group of students, flanked by portraits of communist leaders such as Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh, with a blackboard that reads, in Vietnamese, “Jay Chen invited China into our children’s classes.” There’s also a TV ad in which actors play communist intelligence officials crowing with delight about Chen’s candidacy. “He’s one of us!” says one. “A socialist comrade who even supported Bernie Sanders for supreme leader!”

Steel’s attacks all stem from Chen’s support 12 years ago, on a school board, for a program that would have taught Chinese in public K-12 classes. She accused her 2020 opponent, former congressman Harley Rouda, who is White, of being a communist sympathizer, too — and won, with support from Vietnamese Americans. (She declined The Washington Post’s requests for interviews.)

“If I had told you, without naming any names, that a Korean American was red-baiting a Taiwanese American about being friendly with Chinese communists in order to affect Vietnamese American voters, you’d think I was making it up,” says Tung Nguyen, a doctor and the founder of the Pivot Victory Fund, a SuperPAC that supports liberal AAPI candidates, including Chen. “I think it’s very cynical.”

Back in April, Steel threw the first accusation of racism in a race that has had many on both sides, saying Chen was making fun of her accent. Chen says a comment he said about her needing “an interpreter” was about her policy ideas being incomprehensible, and that she was using the moment as preplanned justification for her communism attacks.

Republicans clearly see Orange County Vietnamese Americans as a constituency worth investing in. Of the 38 “community centers” the Republican National Committee opened this election cycle, the first was in Little Saigon,with prominent party figures attending the launch. It’s in a strip mall office front, not labeled as an RNC hub. “But we all know what it is,” says Katie Nguyen Kalvoda, a board member of the AAPI Victory Fund.

For many Southeast Asian immigrants and their children, labeling someone a pro-China communist can strike incredible fear, especially since Chinese President Xi Jinping recently secured his unprecedented third term, tipping the country as close to one-man rule as it has been since Mao Zedong, analysts say. Several Vietnamese “Rock and Vote” attendees mentioned that China was “trying to take over Vietnam,” referring to ongoing territory and maritime skirmishes, despite Xi’s extravagant welcoming of Vietnam’s Communist Party leader on Tuesday — and that they saw a vote against Chen as a way to stop it.

Like Latinos, AAPI voters are often viewed as a monolith voting bloc, lumped together for both positive reasons (strength in numbers can increase access to attention and funding) and negative ones (i.e., people in power can’t tell us apart). There’s a reason Asian women of different ethnicities often joke that we can swap IDs and no one would notice — and why it almost always works. But anyone who has stared at a demographics survey and been unsure of which box to check knows that AAPI loyalties and divides are more complicated than any poll or census can capture. When your family immigrated, what country they came from and how old you were can all shape political identity. Someone whose family left China before World War II is going to have a different relationship with communism than someone who emigrated from China in the past three years.

CA-45 is a chance to see those dynamics play out in real time.

Steel is 67 and was born in Seoul. According to previous interviews, her parents met in South Korea after leaving communist North Korea during the Korean War. Her father, a diplomat, moved the family to Japan for his job. After his death, Steel came to Los Angeles on her own, followed by her mother, who spoke no English, and Steel’s three siblings. They opened a men’s clothing store and a sandwich shop. She married Shawn Steel, a prominent Republican operative, with whom she has two kids, and has a long history in Orange County government, including the Board of Supervisors.

Chen is 44 and was born and raised in the United States by immigrant parents. His father’s side came to Taiwan in exilefrom China. His mother’s side is indigenous Taiwanese, going back generations on the island. In the United States, his parents ran an import/export business back when bird cages were all the rage; Chen often talks about how he and his brother grew up assembling the cages, because their fingers were so small. He has the dream résumé to impress AAPI voters: Harvard graduate, active-duty military, cute family with his wife, Karen, and their two boys, 6 and 8. He’s on the board of a community college, has a commercial real estate business and spent a year in Kuwait fighting the Islamic State.

Steel’scommunism charge sticks in partbecause many people read Chen’s last name as “Chinese,” which it is, without understanding that Taiwanese Americans generally come from a lineage that has been in constant conflict with communist China.

“Here’s the thing,” he tells me the next day in his campaign office, “I’m Taiwanese, but even if I was Chinese, that is still not a reason to doubt my loyalty.”

It reminds him, he says, of the persecution of Wen Ho Lee, the Taiwanese American scientist who was accused of being a spy for China by the federal government in 1999. Lee spent nine months in solitary confinement, at times shackled, before President Bill Clinton personally apologized and the New York Times printed a 23-paragraph editor’s note about “flaws” in its coverage. “And that’s exactly what [Steel’s] doingwith these scare tactics,” Chen says, “trying to otherize me based on my perceived heritage.”

Drive down the main drag of Little Saigon and you’ll see a shopping-center-long wall of colorful campaign posters, almost all bearing Asian last names. Tri Ta! Nam Quan! Kimberly Ho! Chi Charlie Nguyen! Mark Nguyen! Lan Nguyen! Duy Nguyen! Some have photos of the candidate in a cross-armed, take-charge pose. Some have Vietnamese translations.

Then, way up high on lamp posts, are a flurry of small signs that are not like the others: bright red with yellow lettering and a yellow star, to mimic the Chinese flag. They read, “China’s Choice JAY CHEN.”

The fine print — too small to read from the street — says “Paid for by Michelle Steel for Congress.”

“Good thing is, from afar, all you see is, ‘JAY CHEN,’ so my name ID is getting up there!” says Chen, getting a laugh from a crowd of 30 supporters on a lawn in Fountain Valley,a suburb lined with $1 million ranch homes that in Orange County qualifies as middle class.

The O.C. is an incongruous setting for a race this ugly. The weather’s perfect. Palm trees abound, as does, arguably, the best pho and bubble tea in America. Disneyland (the happiest place on Earth!), Knott’s Berry Farm and any number of TV-famous beaches (Laguna, Newport, Huntington — take your pick) are no more than 40 minutes away, depending on traffic.

It’s the afternoon before that “Rock and Vote” MAGA rally, and the congressional AAPI A-team has arrived: Judy Chu, who represents parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino; Mark Takano, from Southern California’s Riverside/Inland Empire region; and Grace Meng, who flew in all the way from Queens.

One by one, the representatives, who are Chinese, Japanese and Taiwanese American, respectively, step forward to condemn Steel. Chu calls her tactics “offensive” and “unacceptable.” Takano calls them “despicable.” They all call them “racist.” They talk about Chen’s service record and how the government would never give him top-secret security clearance if he was a communist. (“All those documents at Mar-a-Lago, I can read them,” Chen says.) There are plenty of other reasons they’re opposed to Steel, given that she co-sponsored a bill that would create a federal ban on abortion and voted against gun control, protecting same-sex marriage and lowering the price of insulin.

This strangely C-shaped, entirely inland turf that is causing so much intra-Asian fighting was carved out in a redistricting shuffle last year specifically to empower Asian Americans. At about 37 percent AAPI, it’s about double the percentage in California and more than six times the share of the nation. It’s also about 36 percent White, about 23 percent Latino and about 3 percent Black.

Click here to read the full article at the Washington Post

Battle for Congress? Not here. Bay Area Democrats on Average Serve Even Longer Than Supreme Court Justices

The Bay Area has changed radically in the last few decades — new companies, new residents, new energy. But the people we send to Congress? They’ve stayed — remarkably — the same.

As Democrats and Republicans mount a pitched battle across the nation for control of the House and Senate, a Bay Area News Group analysis shows why our political inertia is all but certain to survive election day: Our region is by far the least competitive major metro area in the country for congressional races.

No Bay Area House race outcome is likely to cross the lips of cable news pundits on Tuesday night. Amid nail-biting across the nation, our cluster of the political map will fill in with the deepest blue — once again.

The current slate of 12 Bay Area House members — all Democrats — won their 2020 races by an average of 47 points. In the runner up region of Boston, victors in House races had an average 40-point margin.

And when it comes to job security, our members also come out on top, serving an average of 9 terms, or about 18 years, in office. Lifetime appointment? Well, no. But it’s even two years longer than the average time on the bench for every justice who ever served on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It is extraordinary,” said Dan Schnur, a UC Berkeley politics professor. “If California is a blue state, then the Bay Area is down right indigo.”

Five of the Bay Area’s 12 representatives have each spent more than two decades on Capitol Hill. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, long villainized by Republicans as an enduring symbol of Democratic control, is the longest-serving member of the Bay Area delegation: She won re-election in 2020 by 55 points and is running for her 19th term. Barbara Lee, the Bay Area’s maverick progressive, captured 92.6% of the vote in 2020 and routinely beats her challengers by about 80 points. The Oakland Democrat is running for her 14th term on Tuesday.

No other major metropolitan area in the country comes close to the Bay Area’s longevity. Six terms, or about 12 years in office, is the average for House members in Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Seattle and Southern California’s Inland Empire, the news organization’s analysis found.

But it’s not just our House members who have record-long stays in DC. On Friday, Dianne Feinstein became the longest-serving female senator in U.S. history after crossing the 30-year milestone. At 89, Feinstein has stayed in office so long that even the Bay Area is now wondering whether it’s a good thing, with calls for her to retire over concerns her mental faculties have deteriorated.

Congressman Ro Khanna, D-Santa Clara, who shocked local Democrats by ousting eight-term Bay Area incumbent Mike Honda back in 2016, experienced full force what it’s like to fight against the Bay Area political establishment.

“Every endorsement was against me, from now-President Biden, to Speaker Pelosi, to every member of Congress,” said Khanna, who is facing a perennial Republican candidate — computer engineer Ritesh Tandon — whom he beat by 43 points in 2020.  “A lot of people were saying don’t run, it was disrespectful to run…. there was a sense that this was somehow not being a team player.”

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, stayed out of it at the time. But she pointed out that Khanna would now rely on the very same political establishment that attacked him in 2016 to defend him from a future challenger.

“Frankly, he would do the same thing [as Honda] and ask the party to defend him,” said Eshoo, who with 15 terms under her belt is the second-longest serving Bay Area representative. “When you are challenging an incumbent, you have to expect that, otherwise you are a political novice.”

While the challenge to find viable challengers exists in many parts of the country, the Bay Area has a particular issue: the Republican party poses virtually no threat to Democratic incumbents. Only 14% of voters are registered Republicans in our seven counties. In fact, there is no Republican challenger in three of the 12 Bay Area races this year. Republicans have not held a congressional seat in the Bay Area since Tom Campbell left the House in 2000 to launch an unsuccessful Senate challenge against Feinstein.

Campbell, a law and economics professor at Chapman University in Orange County, says that Republicans began to lose control in the region after the national party pivoted in the 1990s to emphasize conservative positions on social issues, such as abortion, gay rights and immigration, which were anathema to the region’s socially liberal identity.

“Many times, I would begin a [debate] answer by saying ‘Well, that’s the national party, not me,’” he said.

What’s just as rare in the Bay Area as an upstart like Khanna upsetting a same-party incumbent like Honda, is when incumbents say they are ready to retire. This year, incredibly, there are two: San Mateo Rep. Jackie Speier and Stockton Rep. Jerry McNerney are both retiring after eight terms. They are the first vacancies in the Bay Area delegation in six years, when Sam Farr gave up his Central Coast seat after more than 20 years, making way for Jimmy Panetta whose father Leon Panetta held the seat for 18 years before Farr.

So, here, longevity begets even longer tenures.

“All the things that were supposed to cure all this, we did them,” said veteran Democratic consultant Bill Carrick, referring to how the state tasked a panel of citizens, not politicians, with the job of drawing congressional districts and created the state’s open primary system that sends the top two vote-getters regardless of party to the general election.

And yet, the trend persists.

In many parts of the country, politicians complain of having to perpetually run for office. While that can force them to spend more time in their districts, tending to the needs of constituents, in today’s political climate it also can drive candidates to feel beholden to party bosses, especially as the GOP fractures.

So does it matter if our incumbent representatives can sit comfortably in office, sailing to easy 50-point wins year after year without even needing to campaign?

Khanna says it matters a lot — and it needs to change. Young challengers often have a better grounding in issues of particular interest to young voters, he argues, ranging from student loan forgiveness to tech reform to tackling climate change.

“Democracy depends on renewal,” said Khanna, who was co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign.

Eshoo sees it differently. She says that constituents benefit from having long-serving members, who have the experience, expertise, and power to get things done in Congress.

“Someone is half my age, so they’re twice as capable?” she asked rhetorically. “In the Congress, seniority is empowering. The manifestations of that power, together with the experience, really cannot be diminished.”

That experience in crisis was on display in the January 6 hearings with behind-the-scenes footage of Pelosi front and center calling the governor of Virginia to send in the National Guard to quash the rioters overtaking the Capitol. And Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a San Jose Democrat first elected in 1994, has played a key role in some of the U.S. government’s most critical moments of the last half century, from her work as a law student helping the House Judiciary Committee draft impeachment charges of President Richard Nixon to her service as a manager in President Trump’s first impeachment trial and as a member of the House’s Jan. 6 committee.

How exactly the Bay Area has become so immune from competition is a matter of debate.

UC Merced political science professor Jessica Trounstine, whose work focuses on the impact of incumbency in large American cities, said that the lack of competitiveness in the Bay Area is explainable in part by the unparalleled exodus of lower-income people from the region.

Though gentrification has impacted major metros throughout the country, none have been as heavily impacted as the Bay Area.

That means that incumbent House members have an easier time crafting popular economic policies, since they don’t have to appeal to voters across a wide range of incomes, and thus have an easier time winning re-election.

“It’s not just abortion,” she said. “Anytime a politician can create even a small coalition, it amplifies their presence.”

Campbell says that another reason that California House members generally fail to leave office is that there is no room for advancement. California has 52 House members, but, like other states, just 2 senators. That imbalance leaves House members with few options but to seek re-election until retirement or launch long-shot presidential runs, as Dublin Rep. Eric Swalwell attempted in 2020. This year, Khanna has sparked rumors he’s testing the presidential waters by employing consultants in early primary states.

Click here to read the full article in the Mercury News

Facebook, Instagram Posts Flagged as False for Rejecting Biden’s Recession Wordplay

Meta’s third-party fact-checkers have flagged as “false information” posts on Instagram and Facebook accusing the Biden administration of changing the definition of a recession in order to deny that the U.S. economy has entered one. This is yet another reminder that the project of purportedly independent fact-checking on social media is a highly partisan one, in which legitimately debatable opinions are passed off as objective truth.

Last week, the White House published an online article disputing the standard definition of an economic recession: i.e., two consecutive fiscal quarters in which GDP growth was negative.

“Both official determinations of recessions and economists’ assessment of economic activity are based on a holistic look at the data—including the labor market, consumer and business spending, industrial production, and incomes,” wrote the White House. “Based on these data, it is unlikely that the decline in GDP in the first quarter of this year—even if followed by another GDP decline in the second quarter—indicates a recession.”

This post has been widely shared—and in some cases, mocked—on social media. Graham Allen, an Instagram personality, posted a video reacting to the post in which he asked Siri to define the term recession. Siri’s definition: two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth.

But Allen’s video is currently obscured on Instagram; users can still watch it, but they first have to click past a disclaimer that it contains “false information reviewed by independent fact-checkers.” A similar label has appeared on some Facebook posts that also take issue with the Biden administration’s wordplay.

The fact-checker is Politifact, a fact-checking website run by the Poynter Institute. Politifact is an official third-party fact-checking apparatus for Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram. This means that PolitiFact is not like any ordinary website that offers a critique of a political narrative: PolitiFact’s critiques are enforced by social media platforms.

In this instance, PolitiFact has rated as false the claim that “the White House is now trying to protect Joe Biden by changing the definition of the word recession.” PolitiFact acknowledges that the Biden administration’s efforts to spin current economic conditions as something other than a recession are political in nature. Nevertheless, the fact-checkers conclude that since the White House is citing the National Bureau of Economic Research’s official definition, the administration is on solid footing.

Phil Magness, director of research and education at the American Institute for Economic Research, thinks PolitiFact is playing games.

“In this case, PolitiFact’s ‘ruling’ is compounded by the fact that they have previously invoked the very same definition of a recession—2 consecutive quarters of GDP decline— in previous rulings to either provide cover to exaggerated Democratic claims about an impending recession or tear down Republican claims to the same effect,” he tells Reason.

In a recent op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, Magness explained that the NBER is not the “official arbiter of recessions”; on the contrary, the federal government has often used the general definition preferred by most lay people, as well as Siri:

Mr. Biden’s economic advisers are certainly free to make the case for a revised determination. The NBER takes a more holistic approach, in part because some recessionary events are shorter than two quarters or manifest in nonconsecutive quarters. But this rationale works against the White House’s current argument, which seeks to delay acknowledging a recession even if a two-quarter decline is observed this year. The NBER committee has previously acknowledged recessions that fell short of a strict and sustained two-quarter contraction. This last happened during the 2000 dot-com bust, which played out in nonconsecutive quarterly drops.

While recognizing its limitations, the traditional definition of a recession provides a functional rule of thumb to interpret events as they unfold. The NBER determination is a rigorous and reputable historical indicator for dating the beginning and end of business-cycle troughs, but it isn’t suitable for real-time policy determinations.

This is hardly the first time that the social media fact-checking industry has failed to add clarity to a contentious issue. Last year, PolitiFact rated as false the claim that COVID-19 is 99 percent survivable for most age groups.

“Experts say a person cannot determine their own chances at surviving COVID-19 by looking at national statistics, because the data doesn’t take into account the person’s own risks and COVID-19 deaths are believed to be undercounted,” wrote PolitiFact.

Regardless of what “experts say,” it is certainly the case that individual persons can estimate their likelihood of surviving COVD-19 based on national statistics. The disease’s age discrimination is extreme: The overwhelming majority of young, healthy people are not at significant risk, especially when compared with elderly Americans. This was a curious fact-check, and it was hardly the first.

Science Feedback, another of Meta’s fact-checking partners, wrongly labeled as false one of my own articles about the efficacy of mask mandates in schools. Not only was the fact-check incorrect, but it also introduced a new error: The fact-checker suggested that my article had erroneously claimed masks don’t work to stop the spread of COVID-19 in schools. In actuality, my article had only asserted that there wasn’t much compelling evidence that mask mandates had made a difference. (A year later, this distinction is moot, since even COVID-cautious public health officials now admit the cloth masks required in most schools do practically nothing to thwart the variants.) After I pointed out the mistake to Facebook, Science Feedback removed the “false information” label.

Click here to read the full article at Reason.com

The Attorney General’s Taxpayer-Funded Political Advertising

We hate to pick on Attorney General Rob Bonta two weeks in a row, but he’s really given us no choice. Last week we chronicled his hypocrisy on data privacy by posturing as a champion on that issue while negligently allowing his Department of Justice to release sensitive information on Californians who hold carry concealed weapons permits.

What spurred today’s critique was an article in the Sacramento Bee with the headline, “Why is California’s Attorney General spending taxpayer money to send you emails?” First, a hat tip to the Sacramento Bee – typically no friend of conservatives – and its reporter Ryan Sabalow.

The article reports that two months before the June primary election, millions of California voters received an email from Bonta’s Department of Justice with the subject line, “I want to hear from you.” The message was from an official email account and said, “As Attorney General, protecting California and its people is my highest priority” and “your opinion truly matters to me.”

Those receiving the email might have wondered what it was all about. After all, it is unusual to receive an unsolicited email from a state agency unless you’ve opted in to remain informed on a particular topic.

But it’s really no mystery at all. Prior to the primary election, Bonta was serving as the appointed, but unelected, Attorney General. No doubt that his name ID wasn’t very high, and he was willing to do anything possible to elevate his profile. That’s one reason he directed his staff – shortly after his appointment – to include his smiling visage on these email solicitations to as many as 7 million voters.

The Bee article, citing several sources, accurately notes that what Bonta did was technically legal, even if ethically questionable. Indeed, the question of the extent to which elected officials or government agencies expend taxpayer dollars for political advocacy or “self-promotion” is one that the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association gets a lot. In fact, our Public Integrity Project was formed precisely to monitor and to litigate when necessary illegal expenditures of public funds for illegal activity.

Fortunately, HJTA has had a string of successes in the courtroom including an action against the County of Los Angeles for producing a slick television ad advocating the passage of a sales tax to address homelessness. That action resulted in a $1.3 million fine against the county. Other successful legal actions include a suit against California’s then-Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, for spending an unauthorized $35 million contract with a politically connected public relations firm that referred to itself as “Team Biden” on its own website, ostensibly for nonpartisan “voter outreach” and public education.

The bad news is that there is a very high bar to prove illegality when it comes to public expenditures for non-election-related public relations campaigns. Rarely will an elected official or government entity be so foolish to use taxpayer funds for ads that say “Vote for Me” or “Vote for Measure X.”

But just because “outreach” communications, such as those emails sent by Bonta, may be technically legal, that doesn’t mean that they are ethically defensible. The attorney general is responsible for enforcing the law against other Californians. It looks pretty bad for him to skirt the law himself.

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

California Democratic Supremacy Tested by Crime, Inflation

Democrats in many parts of the country are facing a potentially grim political year, but in California no one is talking about the liberal stronghold changing direction.

California’s largely irrelevant Republican Party could field only little-known candidates for governor and U.S. Senate, and the GOP appears to have only isolated chances for upsets even under what should be favorable conditions for the party.

Mail ballots are already going out for the June 7 primary election that will set the stage for November runoffs. The election is taking place within a cauldron of dicey political issues: the possible repeal of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, widespread frustration with a homelessness crisis and with residents suffering pocketbook stress from galloping inflation and soaring home costs — the state’s median price hit a record $849,080 in March.

President Joe Biden’s popularity has sagged — even among some of his fellow Democrats — and the party in the White House typically loses congressional seats in midterm elections. California Democrats showed up in historic numbers in 2020 to defeat then-President Donald Trump in landslide, but turnout next month is expected to tumble with little drama at the top of the ticket: Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, both Democrats, face only token opposition.

But none of that adds up to a threat to the state’s Democratic supremacy. Republicans haven’t won a statewide election in California since 2006, and Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by nearly 2-to-1 statewide. Democrats are expected to maintain their supermajorities in the Legislature.

The GOP picked up four U.S. House seats in 2020 but Democrats still dominate the congressional delegation, holding all but 10 of the 53 House seats, with one vacancy.

At a state Republican Party convention last month, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield said he’d be holding the chamber’s gavel in January, not Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco. He predicted more House upsets in California would tip the balance of power in the chamber, but the GOP faces tough races to hold its ground.

Recent history isn’t encouraging for the GOP. Last year, Newsom appeared vulnerable but then easily defeated a recall effort driven by critics of his handling of the pandemic.

“We don’t have a real race for governor. We don’t have a real race for senator,” said Claremont McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney, who cited the lopsided recall election as evidence of faded GOP prospects, even as Democrats are on the defensive nationally.

“The problem here is the Republican bench is very thin,” Pitney added. “There really aren’t any Republicans in California who have a statewide profile.”

The most closely watched races in the state this year don’t involve Republican challengers. In San Francisco and Los Angeles, local district attorneys are being blamed for reforms that some say fueled rising crime. The recall of San Francisco’s Chesa Boudin is on the ballot next month. Petition signatures needed to qualify a recall are still being gathered in Los Angeles County, where George Gascón could be forced to defend his seat later this year.

Los Angeles also will elect a new mayor from candidates including Democratic Rep. Karen Bass, who was on Biden’s short list of vice presidential picks, and billionaire developer Rick Caruso a longtime Republican who became an independent and then, shortly before entering the race for mayor, registered as a Democrat.

Arguably the most endangered Democrat on the statewide ticket is Attorney General Rob Bonta, a reform-minded Newsom appointee who is facing challenges from two Republicans and an independent candidate — Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert — who fault him for spikes in crime. Schubert recently left the GOP and is gambling that a different identification on the ballot will draw more votes.

A promising new face for Republicans is state controller candidate Lanhee Chen, the son of immigrants from Taiwan, who holds multiple Harvard University degrees, served in President George W. Bush’s administration and won the support of the left-leaning Los Angeles Times editorial board.

Among the top congressional races, Republican Rep. Mike Garcia is defending his seat north of Los Angeles in a Democratic-leaning district. Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, a star of the party’s progressive wing, is looking for another term in a closely divided coastal district in Orange County. And nearby, Republican Rep. Michelle Steel, a Korean immigrant, is looking to win a second term in a district with a slight Democratic edge that includes the nation’s largest Vietnamese American community.

Predictions for a disastrous year for Democrats nationally are undergoing reevaluation after the leak of a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the landmark abortion decision.

Newsom has called it the “defining issue” in the election and is backing a proposal for the November ballot to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution, a move Democrats hope would lure more voters at the polls. It remains to be seen if abortion could trump economic issues and public safety among voters.

A final ruling in the case is not expected until the end of the court’s term in June. If Roe is overturned, the fallout is likely to be concentrated in conservative-leaning or swing states that could see abortion heavily restricted or banned. California is seeking to expand those rights — Newsom wants the state to be a “refuge” for those seeking abortion and among the bills in the Legislature is one that would pay the costs for pregnant women to come from out of state.

Click here to read the full article at AP News

Harris Loses Another Staffer

WASHINGTON — The Congressional Black Caucus said Tuesday that it was naming an aide to Vice President Kamala Harris as its new executive director.

Vincent Evans is returning to Capitol Hill after nearly a year in the vice president’s office as Harris’ deputy director of public engagement and intergovernmental affairs.

Evans is among a string of staff departures from Harris’ office in recent months as she confronts the high expectations and scrutiny that accompany being vice president.

As executive director of the 56-member Congressional Black Caucus, Evans will work closely with the group’s chair, Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio).

“Vincent will help the CBC reach greater heights and make substantive advances in 2022,” Beatty said. “In addition to his experience, he brings great passion for further strengthening the CBC’s top priorities moving forward.”

In a statement, Evans said he was “deeply honored” to be chosen for the post.

“I started my career in Washington working for a member of the CBC, so I know firsthand the tremendous leadership and impact this caucus has in Congress and across the country,” Evans said. “As we write the next chapter of the CBC story, I am excited for the opportunity to lend my experience and passion for supporting the collective vision of this storied caucus.”

Click here to read the full article at LA Times

House Democrats Size Up Next Leaders As Pelosi Rumors Churn, Midterms Loom

With Republicans favored to regain the House in November’s midterm elections, talk on Capitol Hill has turned to the future of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leadership team.

Rumors have swirled for weeks that Pelosi, who turns 82 in March, will leave Congress at the end of this term — especially if Democrats receive the walloping forecast by most polls.

GOP lawmakers and operatives insist that President Biden’s plummeting approval ratings, announcements by at least 24 Democratic lawmakers that they will not seek reelection, and historical precedent that the party controlling the White House often loses congressional seats in midterms augurs that a “red wave” is coming this fall.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has made hay of the whispers, repeatedly referring to Pelosi as a “lame duck Speaker” on social media and during press conferences. 

However, multiple Democratic sources say that a large midterm loss is not inevitable. They note that 11 of the 16 House Democrats who have announced they would rather retire than seek another two-year term are in their 70s and 80s, suggesting they are motivated by other factors than dread of at least two years in the minority. (Four other departing House Democrats are running for the US Senate, while another four are seeking other office.)

One Democratic source also pointed to grudging praise recently offered by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as a indicator that Pelosi’s powers over her caucus have not yet faded.

“She has been amazingly effective for a very long time,” Gingrich told “Fox & Friends” Monday. “She survived losing the Congress [in 2010], came back as the minority leader, got to be Speaker again, and with a tiny majority, she accomplished things I didn’t — as a former Speaker, I didn’t think were possible. So, you at least technically have to have a real respect for her professionalism, her toughness, the degree to which she owns the House Democratic Party. When she leaves, there will be a big vacuum.”

But not every Democrat is so optimistic about the party’s chances.

“I believe if Democrats (miraculously) retain a majority in 2023, she’ll stick around for one more Congress,” one lawmaker told The Post. “If not, I suspect she’ll defer to a new generation of leadership.”

Click here to read the full article at the NY Post

‘Back to the Future’ California Recap and 2022 Political Predictions

‘Dr. Seuss prepared us for this year’

While political pundits predict a red wave across the country in the 2022 midterm elections, many even anticipate a wave of change in the Golden State. How big the California wave is, and what form it will take, will be anyone’s best educated guess.

California’s 2021 Year in Review is more of a scene from “Back to the Future” or “Groundhog Day.” We started a 2021 recap and felt it was exactly like last year’s, but with a failed Recall Election of the Governor.

Case in point: The state ramped up testing again with the COVID Omicron variant making its way to the United States, and is breathlessly screeching about “cases,” while hospitalizations remain low at only 4,747 total in the state of nearly 40 million residents, and 2 deaths on Dec. 29th. Doctors report most “cases” are merely cold symptoms, or are asymptomatic.

CDPH hospitalizations. (Photo: CDPH.ca.gov)
CDPH COVID Dashboard. (Photo: CDPH.ca.gov)

Regardless, the state just issued strict new isolation guidance for those with COVID, despite the most recent CDC recommendations reducing isolation and quarantine to 5 days, down from 10.

The state of California again decided to ignore that new guidance and impose stricter rules – for what purpose, we can only surmise.

California schools and universities have announced school children and college students will need to test for COVID before returning to school following the holiday and New Year break, but still must wear masks indoors.

Colleges and universities are demanding booster shots of the returning students. UCLA and sixother University of California undergraduate campuses announced Tuesday that classes will begin remotely at the start of the new term.

All UC students and UC staff will be required to show proof they received a COVID-19 booster shot.

Los Angeles schools are threatening to impose outdoor mask rules.

Is this 2020, 2021 or 2022?

Ugh. Recap over. Let’s move on to the future.

Democrats have clearly lost their grip on education as a party platform. As the Globe reported in October, only hours after California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement of a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for all schoolchildren in California, homeschooling and tutoring inquiries shot up dramatically, with some homeschooling sites even going down to the sheer volume of users searching for help.

California voters will get the chance to vote on two ballot initiatives in 2022 proposing Education Savings Accounts for California students, which follow the students’ choice of schools: private school or homeschool.

We asked some of California’s political junkies, the politically well-connected, legislative staffers, lobbyists, attorneys, candidates and others to weigh in with their political predictions for 2022. What a wide range of predictions and observations we received!

Not everyone was in a position to self-identify, so when you see “Anonymous,” know that we know the identity of the contributor to our 2022 predictions.

Anthony Watts of Chico, CA predictions for CA 2022:

1. The legislature will pass and Newsom will sign an “exit tax” to be levied on people leaving the state for a better life. They’ll do this by levying a tax on U-Haul, Ryder, moving companies like Bekins and United Van Lines, along with other independent moving companies for any out-of-state move. This will create a black market for clandestine movers, and drive the price of trailers sky-high. It will also create a reverse “Grapes of Wrath” effect with people simply loading up their vehicles and leaving the state to escape the “great depression” of California.2. State sanctioned theft of electricity becomes the new normal. On January 27th 2022, The CPUC will approve the new NEM3 system that will create the highest solar tax in the country and hugely reduce the bill credit solar customers get for selling electricity back to the grid. It will also impose new fees for the “privilege” of connecting to the grid. NEM3 will pay 25 cents on the dollar per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by home and small business solar owners, where under NEM2 it was 95 cents on the dollar. The result will be a huge drop in installed solar on existing homes, as well as creating a new market for electricians to remove solar panels from the grid and create schemes to drive the home electricity directly from the panels during the day. It will also create a rash of fires as some new homeowners, who are mandated to have solar on new homes, angry at this turn of events, will try to rewire their homes themselves.

3. Climate change will be blamed for items 1 and 2. Newsom and/or some idiot lawmaker will say “climate change” is the real reason people are leaving the state, and that “climate change” is the reason we have to steal electricity from your solar panels without fairly compensating homeowners.Mark Meuser, California Constitutional Attorney and U.S. Senate Candidate:

California will pick up 9 Republican Congressional seats minimum. If 2010 was the year of the Tea Party, 2022 is the year of the Parent Party. We saw this in 1993, when then-First Lady Hillary Clinton pushed social medicine. New Jersey and Virginia voted in Republican Governors, and House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Republicans took majority control of the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years after the 1994 elections. Then again in 2009 when President Barack Obama pushed Obamacare, and the Tea Party was formed to fight it. 2021 was an absolute attack on everything decent and normal. We saw Virginia flip to a Republican Governor, and even New Jersey had a huge Republican swing. 2022 is going to be a major swing.

I’ve been speaking to parent groups across the socio-economic spectrum in California, which literally grew out of nothing since September.

Lastly, the Hispanic swing: The Recall Election of Gov. Gavin Newsom showed 54% Hispanic support in that wanted the recall. We are seeing this in Texas, Florida and other parts of the U.S., where it’s clear, Hispanics want change over the same issues: crime, schools, and the madness of essential/non-essential businesses… they were hurt the most.

The demographic which votes the least is the 25-45 age group. But they are parents, they work, and they will vote now. This is the Parent Party.

Lance Christensen:

Dr. Seuss prepared us for this year — unfortunately, Sneetches will be a how-to guide for aspiring autocrats, rather than a warning. Everyone who thought 2021 was going to be an improvement upon 2020 will be really perplexed about 2022. Pick the issue, no matter what it is, 2022 will be the year of reactionary politics and dizzying, brazen political gamesmanship.

The midterm elections will bring divisive legislative races, less-than-stellar campaigns for statewide office and a number of high-profile ballot initiatives. Yet, the most consequential candidates in the state will not be applying for the diminished number of seats in the House of Representatives as a result of people fleeing to other states, or running for Governor against a special interest pawn; it will be thousands of mama bears taking school board races by storm. Education busybodies beware, school district boardrooms, gymnasiums and cafeterias are ground zero for parents as they wake up to the wokeness and forcefully reject the ever-present intimidation, indoctrination and inadequacies plaguing our public schools. And if parents are successful at reclaiming a majority of school boards, asserting rights over their children and refuse to comply with the Governor’s never-ending emergency orders, we’ll see the state legislature exert extraordinary financial pressure over these districts to assuage the teachers unions’ apoplectic rage. The effects will be compounded by a successful school choice initiative and recalls galore.

However, expect established, centralized media platforms to protect the status quo at all costs and accelerate memory-holing the propaganda of fear they’ve been echoing since March 2020. It will be independent thought leaders on a growing array of decentralized social media platforms who drive the debate for California to emerge from our government-induced-COVID-coma, inasmuch as they can avoid being canceled. If there is to be a saving grace in 2022, it will be every courageous red-pilled Californian who comes to a full realization that they are citizens, not subjects; that they don’t need stars upon thars to be happy and prosperous.

Anonymous in Los Angeles (snark alert):

Ironic: A bumbling and not-very-bright state henchman will be put in charge of the Dominion vote-counting machines for the 2022 California gubernatorial election and will accidentally switch the intended vote-rigging outcome, resulting in a landslide victory for Ric Grenell as California’s next Governor.

Anonymous in Sacramento:

I predict another year of grappling with the unhoused issue. No “solving,” just “grappling.”

Anonymous in Sacramento (snark alert):

Knowing what’s on the political horizon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will give Gov. Newsom a congressional Medal of Honor for women’s right’s  – ensuring the highest number of minority abortions (men and women per the official stats) in the country at tax payer expense.But it is Destined to be a failed attempt “to cut ‘em off at the pass.”  The governor cannot read the writing on the wall. Literally.Although he should win an Emmy for his performance in faking his need to cancel his climate summit trip due to family Halloween commitments, and NOT that his wife learned he was taking an assistant he has been allegedly involved with.So while he announces his exploratory committee for President, the tides turn.Because it is not his turn. It is still hillbilly Hillary’s turn to be president. No one makes Baby Hillary sit on the corner.So, six sexual harassment victims, all from Arkansas, will appear to claim the Joker grabbed their non-binary privates at the French Laundry, and the left will eat Gavin in public.Newsom will be Cuomo’d in ‘22.It will be Epoch Times.

Thus ends the predictions.

Meanwhile, lining streets throughout the state are ever-expanding and growing homeless encampments of ratty tents and corrugated boxes, battered old RVs, campers and trailers, vans, and passenger vehicles, which have become homes for the state’s vagrants, drug addicts and homeless street population.

2022 is indeed shaping up to be epoch times in California. Could this be the tipping point?

This article originally appeared on the California Globe

America’s Divisions May Have Passed the Tipping Point

If we can’t learn to leave each other alone, the country may have a violent meltdown.

Have America’s much-discussed political tensions reached a point of no return? Political tribalists who sort their lives along partisan lines and despise opponents have become regular features of national life. But now researchers say polarization can reach a “tipping point” at which external threats, such as pandemics, no longer drive people together but instead become further sources of strife that spiral out of control. Their warning comes as Americans seem poised to further escalate disagreements into open violence.

“We see this very disturbing pattern in which a shock brings people a little bit closer initially, but if polarization is too extreme, eventually the effects of a shared fate are swamped by the existing divisions and people become divided even on the shock issue,” Boleslaw Szymanski of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute told Cornell University interviewers. Szymanski is a co-author of “Polarization and Tipping Points,” published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He added: “If we reach that point, we cannot unite even in the face of war, climate change, pandemics, or other challenges to the survival of our society.”

The authors of the paper wanted to know why the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than pushing Americans to cooperate on a common threat, instead became yet another reason for disagreement. They created a model to study the effects of party identity and political intolerance.

“We found that polarization increases incrementally only up to a point,” according to Cornell’s Michael Macy, who led the study. “Above this point, there is a sudden change in the very fabric of the institution, like the change from water to steam when the temperature exceeds the boiling point.”

The result, according to the study, is “a hard-to-predict critical point beyond which polarization becomes unlikely to reverse.”

Models aren’t real life, of course. But the researchers were inspired by real-life developments—developments so concerning that the issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in which the paper was published was devoted to the dynamics of political polarization. After all, we live in a country in which people sort lifestyles, recreational preferences, and careers by partisan affiliation.

“Consider, also, the growing segregation in our places of work. The academy increasingly skews to the left, especially so in liberal arts departments and among staff. Cattle ranchers, loggers, dentists, and surgeons skew right,” points out the University of Michigan’s Scott Page in the same publication.

Such political sorting applies to the military, too, severely limiting its utility in the country’s domestic disputes, no matter that some officeholders think that B-52s are the solution to political disagreements. Just two weeks ago, three anti-Trump retired Army generals warned that Americans shouldn’t look to troops to suppress escalating political strife.

“The potential for a total breakdown of the chain of command along partisan lines — from the top of the chain to squad level — is significant should another insurrection occur,” Paul Eaton, Antonio Taguba, and Steven Anderson wrote in the Washington Post. “Under such a scenario, it is not outlandish to say a military breakdown could lead to civil war.”

“Civil war” sounds like an unlikely fate for an established democracy where the population’s image of the concept is tied up in images of field armies in blue and gray uniforms. But no country is any more stable than the moment allows, and internal conflicts can be far messier than even the war that marked the mid-19th century.

“We actually know now that the two best predictors of whether violence is likely to happen are, whether a country is an anocracy, and that’s a fancy term for a partial democracy, and whether ethnic entrepreneurs have emerged in a country that are using racial, religious, or ethnic divisions to try to gain political power,” Professor Barbara Walter of the University of California at San Diego told CNN last week. “And the amazing thing about the United States is that both of these factors currently exist, and they have emerged at a surprisingly fast rate.”

Walter serves on the CIA’s Political Instability Task Force, which assesses the health of countries around the world. The task force isn’t allowed to turn its gaze on its home country, but Walter did so on her own (she has a book on the topic coming out in January).

“The United States is pretty close to being at high risk of civil war,” she concluded.

That said, and on a more positive note, just as the stability of a country isn’t written in stone, neither is its descent into chaos. The authors of “Polarization and Tipping Points” emphasize that they “make no claims about the model’s predictive accuracy.” Likewise, retired generals Eaton, Taguba, and Anderson, as well as Walter can’t know what is to come, they can only point to warning signs that have them concerned. We don’t have to live up to the worst expectations.

While America’s dominant political factions seem determined, like two kids in the back of a car, to poke and prod each other until they come to blows, the solution, as in that road trip to hell, might be to separate the parties without allowing either one the upper hand. Both the thuggish nationalism of Republicans and the elitist presumption of Democrats are authoritarian prescriptions best reserved for true believers, with the rest of us left to run our own lives as we please.

The election of Joe Biden to the presidency on promises of normalcy after the Trump years, promises which were promptly broken, indicates that Americans have some appetite for a less extreme and intrusive brand of governance. Unfortunately, 2020 was a lost opportunity to separate the feuding factions, and instead we traded one brand of overreach for another. Pushback against progressive excess in 2021’s off-year elections looked like another attempt by the public to achieve a little balance, or at least to escape the ambitions of a faction that wants to transform society to suit its vision, other people’s preferences be damned. The question is whether that pushback will be enough to avert a collapse into conflict.

“The process resembles a meltdown in a nuclear reactor,” Cornell’s Macy said of his tipping point research. “If the temperature goes critical, there is a runaway reaction that cannot be stopped. Our study shows that something very similar can happen in a ‘political reactor.'”

If we’re smart, the U.S. won’t be the test case for that hypothesis. Assuming that Americans can learn to leave each other alone, we won’t have to discover what it means to pass a national point of no return.

This article was originally published on Reason.com