The big lie works -- until it doesn't.
Commentary by Michael Barone
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"This is not politics," President Joe Biden said last week. "Reinstate the mandate if you let it down." Give him credit for consistency: When Gov. Greg Abbott ended Texas' mask mandate last month, Biden called it "Neanderthal thinking."
The acrid atmosphere last week at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska, with its vivid murals of the 18th-century British seafarer James Cook's discoveries throughout the Pacific, sounds very much like the acrid atmosphere almost exactly 60 years ago in the Beaux-Arts American and Soviet embassies in Vienna: grim, at least for the United States.
How to explain Joe Biden's ideological transformation over the years? Perhaps it's the same as the explanation of why the chameleon's complexion changes when he moves from desert to forest: adaptation to local terrain.
"BIDEN," say the young demonstrators' T-shirts, imitating his campaign logo, "PLEASE LET US IN!" The picture ran in The New York Times, but one wonders whether whoever paid for the tees got his money's worth, for President Joe Biden's administration seems determined to let in as many immigrants as want to come.
When public policies have produced disastrous results, and when alternative policies have resulted in immediate, seemingly miraculous improvement, why would anyone want to go back to the earlier policies? Is there any reason to suppose that this time will be different?
The last decade has seen a boom in voter turnout -- for both parties. Between the 2012 and 2020 presidential elections, total voter turnout rose 23%, with Democratic turnout up 23% and Republican turnout up 22%.
You expect a certain number of stumbles from a new administration. President Joe Biden's incoming team professed dismay at having to create a coronavirus vaccine distribution program "from scratch," due to its predecessor's handling of the situation, and this week, Biden complained that "we didn't have" a vaccine when he "came into office." He promised to deliver over 1 million a day.
When you've been consuming and producing political commentary for many years, you get used to certain recurring themes. One is the imminent disappearance or relegation to permanent minority status of the Republican Party.
Pictures matter. Images convey truths -- and falsehoods -- with an emotional impact that can amplify and sometimes completely overwhelm the messages imparted by words.
On Tuesday, six days into Joe Biden's administration, it became clear why Susan Rice, hitherto a foreign policy specialist, was named director of the Domestic Policy Council. Rice -- unconfirmable for a Cabinet post after her unembarrassed Sunday show lying about the Benghazi terrorist attack -- ventured into the White House press room to preview Biden's "equity" initiative.
"We must end this uncivil war," Joe Biden proclaimed shortly after he became the 46th president on Wednesday. Hours earlier, in his last moments as the 45th president, Donald Trump extended "best wishes" to the "new administration." Graceful words, but accompanied by sharp and, in some cases, deserved attacks. Our presidents since George Washington have come to office through an inevitably adversary process, and while they may inspire "unity" on occasion, that's more the exception than the rule.
It wasn't just Donald Trump's detractors who felt a sudden sense of relief when they heard that Twitter was blocking his feed after the storming of the Capitol and the disruption of the reading of the Electoral College results on Jan. 6. While President Trump's exact words to the crowd on the Ellipse didn't constitute a criminal incitement, they were uttered with a reckless disregard for the possibility that they'd provoke violence, which any reasonable person could find impeachable.
The policies of defeated one-term presidents are not as easily reversed as their victorious successors, suffused with campaign rhetoric, sometimes suppose they will be. Even when, as now, the winning party has majorities in both houses of Congress.
Did America go crazy in 2020? I suspect observers years hence will think so because of the responses, of both elite officials and ordinary Americans, to the COVID-19 pandemic starting last February and to the shocking video from Minneapolis police officers released over Memorial Day weekend.
Like Sherlock Holmes' dog that didn't bark in the night, so goes in politics: Uncharacteristic behavior can turn out to be crucially significant -- uncharacteristic behavior in politics being defined as one demographic group unexpectedly trending one way when most of the electorate trends the other.
Identity politics seems to be sticking around. Important election results seemed to refute the notion that Americans vote for their ethnic or racial identity. Hispanic voters trended significantly toward the supposedly anti-Hispanic Donald Trump, and Californians, while voting 63% for Joe Biden, rejected racial quotas and preferences in a referendum by an even larger margin than in the 1990s.
Eighty-five percent of counties with a Whole Foods store voted for Joe Biden. That factoid, relayed by The Cook Political Report's David Wasserman, tells you something important about the election -- and about today's Democratic Party.
"My sense is that if Trump wins, Hillary supporters will be sad," left-wing writer Sally Kohn tweeted the day of the 2016 election. "If Hillary wins, Trump supporters will be angry. Important difference." Kohn turned out to be wrong about her own side that year, which angrily set about delegitimizing Donald Trump's victory. She was wrong, too, in her apparent assumption -- shared by shop owners who boarded up their windows -- that Trump supporters would react as violently to his defeat as the Black Lives Matter movement reacted to a death in Minneapolis.
One of the many big surprises in this month's surprising election was the Democrats' failure to overturn Republican majorities in state legislatures. Various Democratic committees budgeted $88 million to flip majorities in big states such as Texas, Florida and North Carolina. Total gains: zero.