Sunday, December 8, 2019

Sunday Reading

Already A Win — John Cassidy in The New Yorker.

There appears to be an emerging consensus that the impeachment of Donald Trump won’t matter very much in November, 2020. “Impeachment will eclipse all for the next seven weeks. And then it will recede, and other events will supersede it as the election year moves on,” David Axelrod, the CNN commentator and former adviser to Barack Obama, commented in a Twitter thread on Thursday. In a Times Op-Ed, Michael Tomasky, the editor of Democracy, wrote, “I will bet you dollars to doughnuts that when we pore over the exit polls next Nov. 4, impeachment itself will have been a minor factor in people’s voting, let alone the question of how many articles the House passed.”

Axelrod and Tomasky are shrewd and experienced observers. Their opinions reflect several truths: the news agenda moves rapidly these days; voters say issues such as health care and the economy are their primary concerns; and polling data indicates that, at least thus far, the impeachment process has largely confirmed existing political divisions. Exactly three months ago, shortly before the news of an intelligence whistle-blower’s complaint blew open the Ukraine story, Trump’s approval rating in the Real Clear Politics poll average was 43.3 per cent. On Friday morning, it was 43.7 per cent, virtually the same.

With the polls also showing that Democratic voters are overwhelmingly supportive of impeachment, independents are more narrowly in favor, and Republicans are overwhelmingly opposed, it is tempting to conclude that the over-all impact will be a wash. But focussing too much on polling data can be dangerous. Presidential elections aren’t merely bloodless exercises in eliciting public opinion on a given day; they are titanic, coast-to-coast struggles, in which turnout, activism, and civic engagement also matter enormously.

Trump’s election, in 2016, prompted countless Americans who hadn’t previously taken an active role in politics, particularly women, to get involved. Through locally based groups such as Indivisible and Americans Against Trump, they turned out to protest against the President and his Republican allies and to prod Democrats in Congress to stand up to them. During the 2018 midterms, these novice activists held voter-registration drives, organized phone banks, raised money, and canvassed neighborhoods—all with the aim of getting more anti-Trump voters to the polls. The result was the highest turnout in a century for a midterm election and a blue wave in the House.

If Trump is to be defeated next year, his opponents will have to maintain that energy and build upon it. To do so, Ezra Levin, the co-founder and co-executive director of the Indivisible movement, which now has more than five thousand affiliated local groups, insists, it was utterly necessary for the Democrats to react to the shocking Ukraine revelations by issuing the ultimate congressional rebuke to Trump. Speaking hours after Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed that the House Democrats would go ahead and file articles of impeachment, Levin said, “I see only positive sides to this. I see a system that is working. For all the millions of people who got involved with politics after 2016, it shows that all the hard work they did mattered. That is going to get them involved again in 2020.”

From this perspective, the key thing isn’t whether the Senate actually removes Trump from office. Levin, who is also the co-author of a new book, “We Are Indivisible: A Blueprint for Democracy After Trump,” said that he wasn’t making any predictions about the outcome. But he added, “It was vital to demonstrate that elections do have consequences and that the Democrats will use their power to stand up to Trump.” If Pelosi and her colleagues had refused to launch an impeachment process, Levin went on, “it would have been enormously demoralizing for all these people who were newly engaged after 2016.”

This argument seems incontrovertible. I suspect it is why Pelosi ultimately came around to supporting impeachment, despite the reservations of some House Democrats who represent purple districts. (That and the fact that Trump’s abuse of Presidential power in pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on his domestic political opponents was so egregious.) Now the local activists who have spent three years opposing Trump can watch the House Judiciary Committee file articles of impeachment against him. When the process moves to the Senate, in January, they will be the ones demonstrating outside the offices of Republican, and, if necessary, Democratic senators and pressing them to convict the President.

To that point, Levin noted, participating in an impeachment trial may well create problems for a number of Republicans who are up for reëlection in purple and red states where Trump’s disapproval ratings are underwater. Pointing to Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Montana, and North Carolina as examples, Levin said, “These are all places where you are going to have a Republican senator forced to take a hard vote. It will be very helpful to Democrats that Senator Gardner, in Colorado, or Senator Ernst, in Iowa, or Senator McSally, in Arizona, cannot just hide behind nicely written tweets. They are actually going to have to register a historic vote and stand by it.”

Of course, none of this means that the impeachment process couldn’t end up alienating some independent voters who believe Trump’s misdeeds don’t rise to the level of impeachable offenses, or who think Congress should let voters determine his fate next November. That may happen. And an impeachment trial will certainly fire up pro-Trump activists as well.

But these threats have to be balanced against the imperative of maintaining an energized front against Trump going into an election year. As a disruptive insurgent who eagerly fans social and racial resentments, he has always had an enthusiastic base—that isn’t going to change. One of the big challenges for Democrats—or anybody else opposed to Trump—is to nurture and sustain a nationwide countermovement that is at least equally passionate and engaged. From that perspective, as Levin pointed out, impeachment is already a win.

State of the Art — From the Miami Herald, and proof stupidity is infinite.

Someone ate a really expensive snack at Art Basel Saturday afternoon — to the tune of $120,000.

For one banana.

By now you have probably heard of the now world-famous banana duct-taped to Emmanuel Perrotin’s outer gallery wall at Art Basel Miami Beach. The piece that sold to an art collector for $120,000.

The $120,000 banana — a real, rather ripe and edible one — is the work of Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and titled “Comedian.” The work comes with a Certificate of Authenticity, and owners are told that they can replace the banana, as needed.

Instructions on how to replace the banana are not included.

But New York-based performance artist David Datuna ate the banana at around 1:45 p.m. in front of a convention center full of art lovers, according to gallery representatives.

While the banana was indeed consumed, apparently that doesn’t diminish the integrity of the six-figure art work, said Lucien Terras, director of museum relations for Galerie Perrotin.

“He did not destroy the art work. The banana is the idea,” Terras said.

Confused?

We were, too, but that’s where the Certificate of Authenticity comes in. Collectors are buying the certificate. The banana is not made to last.

“This has brought a lot of tension and attention to the booth and we’re not into spectacles,” Terras added. “But the response has been great. It brings a smile to a lot of people’s faces.”

Gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin was about to head to the airport when he heard that the banana was eaten. He darted to the space, clearly upset. A fair goer tried to cheer him up and handed him his own banana.

Perrotin and a gallery assistant re-adhered the borrowed banana to the wall just after 2 p.m.

According to Peggy Leboeuf, a partner at Perrotin Gallery, a startled, and bemused, a woman in the crowd thought the original artist — Cattelan — was eating his own banana off the wall. But that wasn’t the case. When she saw Datuna eating the banana, which still had some duct tape on it, she asked him what he was doing.

Datuna allegedly responded he was a performance artist. “But you’re not supposed to touch the art!” Leboeuf told Datuna.

The London-based White Cube gallery in the booth next door to Perrotin removed a floor installation because the crowd to see the banana was just overwhelming.

Perrotin installed a silver rope line in an attempt to keep the crowd in check Saturday afternoon. Four Miami Beach police officers also gathered outside the gallery to keep order.

“That banana has been more photographed than the Mona Lisa,” remarked Terras.

“This has been interesting,” said Miami Beach police Capt. Steven Feldman. When asked if he had ever heard of someone deliberately destroying artwork at the fair, he said, “Not that I can remember.”

He noted it was a balancing act to accommodate the crowd.

“The gallery is OK with people taking pictures of the banana. It is a delicate balancing act. We just want to make sure the area is secure,” said Feldman.

For what Cattelan’s banana fetches, Datuna could have bought 631,579 bananas at Trader Joe’s, which sells bananas for .19 cents each.

The gallery reported the incident to security, but Datuna was not arrested.

Doonesbury — It’s snowing somewhere.

2 barks and woofs on “Sunday Reading

  1. What is old is new again – the banana “sculpture” came right out of Dadaism. Trump’s toilet might also belong there.

Comments are closed.