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GOP will do fine — with or without Donald Trump

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GOP will do fine — with or without Donald Trump

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.

This was widely predicted after the Barry Goldwater defeat in 1964, after Watergate in the 1970s, after the elections of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in 1992 and 2008, respectively, with considerably larger Democratic congressional majorities (a 57-43 Senate majority and 259-176 House majority for Clinton, and 58-41 and 257-178 majorities for Obama) than President Joe Biden now enjoys (51-50 and 222-213).

Those predictions didn’t pan out then, and I suspect they won’t pan out now.

The Republicans do face some difficulties. Donald Trump gave them a presidential victory they didn’t expect, and some policy victories and new support from modest-income constituencies such as those in Appalachia and Hispanics.

But nothing is free in politics; there is only some question about when you pay the price. Trump’s idiosyncratic approach to COVID-19 and his refusal to propitiate hostile constituencies produced defeat by an even narrower margin (42,918 votes in three states) than his victory in 2016 (77,736 votes in three states).

His delusional insistence that he had won by a “landslide” and his recklessness in urging supporters to march to the Capitol on Jan. 6, plus the subsequent disruption of the constitutional process of reporting the Electoral College results, produced his second impeachment by the House, this one on nonfrivolous grounds.

Democrats hope impeachment will split Republicans and provoke continuing fights between pro- and anti-Trump factions that will undercut Republican nominees and discourage Republican turnout, as in the two Georgia Senate races on Jan. 5.

Maybe, maybe not. Only 10 House Republicans voted for impeachment. But attempts to oust one of them, Rep. Liz Cheney, from her leadership position was rejected by a 145-61 vote. And freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was persuaded to renounce her bizarre conspiracy-minded tweets in the process.

The Senate trial looks likely to be desultory. Trump can’t be removed from office, because he’s not in office, and the votes aren’t there to disqualify him from office in the future. The Constitution is ambiguous on whether former officeholders can be impeached, and there are good arguments on both sides. That gives Democrats a reasonable basis to vote for conviction and Republicans a reasonable basis to vote against, as apparently all but five or six will do.

Similarly, there were plausible arguments for convicting Bill Clinton (he lied in federal court and thus didn’t faithfully execute the laws) and against (the lie was about personal, not professional, misconduct). Then all but a few members voted with their party and impeachment had no perceptible electoral effect in 1998 or 2000. I don’t expect it to have much effect in 2022 or 2024.

But heavy majorities of Republican members against impeachment and conviction as he was leaving or had just left office don’t mean that Republican politicians and voters will remain as unanimously supportive of him as they were when he was in office.

There are signs already that that support is diminishing. Polls conducted for the Republican consulting firm Echelon Insights in October, during the campaign, showed 59 percent of Republican voters supporting Trump primarily and only 30 percent supporting the Republican Party. After the election, November and December polls showed them evenly split. In January, after the assault on the Capitol, only 38 percent primarily supported Trump, and 48 percent primarily supported the party.

That polling showed the share voting for Trump in 2024 falling from 65 percent in December to 45 percent in January, with 21 percent of Republicans saying the Senate should vote for conviction and 30 percent saying he should be barred from federal office. Those findings are corroborated by a January Pew poll showing Trump job approval declining significantly among Republicans.

Perhaps they had noticed that Trump’s delusional claims that his “landslide” was “stolen” by crooked voting machinery cost the party the two Georgia Senate elections and its Senate majority.

That’s in line with historic perspective. Democrats, perhaps because their party has always been a coalition of out-groups, have tended to celebrate their presidents as philosopher-kings. Republicans, confident that their party is centered on a core constituency of people regarded by themselves and others as typical Americans, have tended to be less starry-eyed. They have regarded their presidents as utilitarian appliances, to be disposed of or upgraded as necessary. Or, as columnist Joseph Alsop said during the Watergate years, “Politicians are like toilet fixtures: they need only serve the intended purpose; they need not be beautiful.”

In that spirit, 2020s Republicans may decide that Donald Trump has served his purpose and focus on emerging issues and new leaders, as they did with considerable success after 1964, 1976, 1992 and 2008. 

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Opinion

NYC needs a fighter for mayor, not a technocrat

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NYC needs a fighter for mayor, not a technocrat

Former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia touts her career in city government and technocratic skills as reasons she should be your pick for mayor. Problem is, what New York needs right now is not just impressive-sounding plans, but the ability to fight for what the city needs.

Frankly, being a good-government star of the de Blasio city administration is a pretty minor achievement: The competition wasn’t exactly fierce. Nor did Garcia’s much-touted talent for logistics always prove true.

Back in November 2018, a mere six inches of snow paralyzed the city and left thousands of schoolkids trapped on school buses for hours. The response was so poor that Council Speaker Corey Johnson called for hearings into Garcia’s handling of the storm. She also ran into trouble as interim city Housing Authority chief, letting the insiders lead her to deliver false testimony about lead-paint remediation.

During the lockdowns, the mayor put her in charge of delivering emergency food to needy seniors. But her system demanded seniors use unfamiliar technology to sign up, and as The Post reported, the “beneficiaries” also had issues with food quality and delivery.

But the bigger issue isn’t dealing with the bureaucracy, but with the politicians. It’s not enough to reject “Defund the Police” nonsense: The city’s next mayor will need to muscle the City Council and Legislature into amending the anti-anti-crime laws they’ve passed in recent years, from the city’s “chokehold” mistake to the disastrous “no bail” legislation.

Brooklyn’s Eric Adams has the contacts from his time in the state Senate to move Albany, and the cred from a lifetime of fighting for police reform to argue persuasively against bad police reforms.

Garcia just hasn’t been in the political trenches. Indeed, two veteran Democratic operatives told The Post’s Julia Marsh that her lack of such seasoning would harm her ability to handle pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the council and the feds.

Coming out of the pandemic, New York City faces multiple crises: public safety, fiscal, economic. The next mayor can hire wonks, planners and managers; the talent he or she must have is a proven ability to make the right calls, as Adams did in centering his campaign on public safety from the start, and to beat the other politicians into going along. That’s why Eric Adams remains our choice.

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The old Cold War models can’t help us meet today’s Russian threat

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The old Cold War models can’t help us meet today’s Russian threat

President Joe Biden and Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet Wednesday for the first time since Biden was elected president.

For many in the foreign-policy establishment, this is an exciting opportunity to conjure some Cold War drama. Historically, such summits were major happenings. They were premised on the idea that tensions between the two nuclear powers were so great and grave, merely talking was an accomplishment in its own right.

Conservatives contend that the summit is a mistake primarily because it gives Putin the prestige he craves while giving Biden nothing in return. I tend to agree. But this argument also draws on the same Cold War nostalgia.

Conservatives often opposed US-Soviet summits, because they were seen as part of a process of “normalization” and détente that not only lent the Soviets undeserved legitimacy but often ended with concessions that strengthened our enemy.

Worse, such summits were often used to buy cover or time for Soviet expansionism. Forty-two years ago this week, Jimmy Carter met with Leonid Brezhnev in Vienna to sign the SALT II treaty. Brezhnev personally promised his peaceful intentions to Carter, and six months later, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.

You can see how those arguments could be applied today, but I think we’d all be better served to ditch the Cold War stuff, because circumstances have changed.

First, Russia is a basket case. Rife with corruption, entirely dependent on oil and gas revenues and starving for foreign investment, Russia’s entire GDP ($1.7 trillion) is smaller than Biden’s first COVID relief package.

Second, as morally bankrupt as Soviet Communism was, it nonetheless appealed to the hearts and minds of millions around the globe. No one, save would-be despots, looks at the Russian “model” as something they want to emulate. We’re not competing with Russia for moral leadership.

That’s because Putin is better understood as a cross between a conventional mob boss, a James Bond villain and a Latin-American strongman. Estimates of his personal wealth range from $40 billion to $200 billion. Whatever the right number, he didn’t get that rich from wisely investing his $300,000 salary.

Putin holds onto power in part through crushing domestic opposition, intimidating or killing dissidents, blackmail, censorship and other tactics of ruthless tyrants. But he also maintains control by keeping Russian society in a constant state of crisis by relentlessly fueling paranoia that the West is at war with Russia and he’s the only leader strong enough to hold her enemies at bay. A true Cold War nostalgic, he believes that relations with the West are zero-sum: Whatever is bad for the West is good for Russia.

That’s why Russia is constantly meddling in Western elections, including our own in 2016. It’s also why Russia’s propaganda machine loves to amplify America’s domestic shortcomings.

The idea that Biden (or anyone) can talk Putin out of his perceived self-interest is ludicrous. Someone who has clung to power through murder and oppression can’t be made to see the light with finger-wagging bromides.

Biden would be well-served to tell Putin simply and bluntly that there will be concrete consequences to his actions — assuming Biden is willing to follow through. Beyond that, Biden should take a page from Putin himself. The Russian dictator sees these summits as a propaganda opportunity, domestically and internationally. Biden should, too.

Propaganda has taken on a negative connotation, suggesting pernicious state misinformation. But propaganda was originally about propagating the faith, specifically Catholicism. To his credit, Biden seems to be sincerely interested in propagating the faith of democracy, the rule of law and Western resolve. He won’t be able to persuade Putin of any of that. But that’s not the audience that matters. There are people throughout Russia who need to hear it — and in America, too.

Twitter: @JonahDispatch

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Step up for the cops, says ex-NYPD brass Joanne Jaffe

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Step up for the cops, says ex-NYPD brass Joanne Jaffe

Three-star chief commander, highest-ranking female ever in the NYPD, Joanne Jaffe was let go. Despite her pending lawsuit relative to discriminating employment practices, she has workable ideas about handling our crime problem.

“My first day as a cop, 1979, a 4 to 12 tour along totally decimated, blown out Pitkin Avenue’s boarded up buildings, my first thought? ‘How to go to the bathroom?’

“As for now, this city’s thousands of religious leaders with influence over communities they serve must step up to preserve the sanctity of life. Our priority is their priority. They should be out in the streets saying, ‘Stop the violence.’ Also our grandmothers. They’re influential over grandchildren. Let them be involved in what their kids and great-grandchildren are doing.

“Plus, a block watch program that really works. There’s 77 precincts. Plus, 12 transit districts. But we need the community. Disagree with the police, OK, but be part of discussions. Understand the anger.

“There’s a supervision of homeless shelters, so why are police the repository of all society’s social ills? More things get shoved onto the police when other agencies haven’t training or ability to cope.

“There’s city agencies. Pick the top hundred families that can help with medical, economic, education problems. You only hear about keeping kids out of jail. How about before they go to jail? Instead of watching TV all day, we’ve got to build school relationships in a different way.

“Politicians knowing nothing sit at tables making decisions. They don’t invite police officials. Don’t know what it’s like struggling in the middle of a crowd, things thrown at you, fighting you. Not clean. Nothing’s pretty. These pols have rallies. They march. They don’t even know what they’re talking about.

“Our cops know who it is. They know their people. Others tell them. They know who, what. They know how to calm things down. We need people to come out, like when a child gets shot. When these tragedies happen they shout out for two days and then slink back. We need them to stay out. Our elected officials are busy with rallies. We need them, our religious leaders, our grandparents, our top families to come out!

“Cops aren’t engaging now because they feel unsupported. Disillusioned. Morale is low. They’re no longer willing to risk. It’s not defund the police or support the police. It’s come to the middle.”

Unlucky with Leo?

DiCaprioJulianne Hough’s niece, being a yenta, has claimed her aunt told her Leo is not “King of the World” between the sheets. Then on Howard Stern’s show recently a caller said he stood next to Leo at the urinal in Sunset Beach on Shelter Island and assessed DiCaprio’s various parts. Not king-sized burbled this one. Stern, skeptical, admitted, “I know that bathroom and never use it. Rather pee in my pants if I have to.”


THE good news. Finally, we’re dragging out last year’s stylish clothes. The bad news? Thanks to our pandemic’s stay-home/eat-home year — nothing fits.

Not only in New York, kids, not only in New York.

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