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The Week Ahead
Good morning. Here are some of the stories I’m keeping my eye on this week, with the understanding that breaking news could come in all forms.
Silicon Valley Bank. A good example of unexpected news was the sudden collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. Whether and how the government or a buyer might step in to save depositors from calamity remains to be seen, but there are already indications that Trump era deregulation, including dropping requirements for stress testing banks of a certain size, contributed to this disaster. (Disclaimer: My family’s company is an investor in a few companies and start-ups that have uninsured deposits at SVB.)
Budget battles. The Biden administration has released its proposed budget, which calls upon the rich to pay higher taxes to shore up Medicare, and he is now pressing Republicans to release their plans. Some factions already have done so, and the proposed cuts are both eye-popping and possibly politically quite damaging for the GOP. Whether any of this becomes part of threatened hostage-taking on raising the debt ceiling this summer, however, remains to be seen.
Key senate races. Democrats will be seeking to hold their slim majority in the Senate in 2024 and not lose more than one seat, but they are facing a tough map that includes re-electing incumbents in ruby red states such Montana and West Virginia. The announcement by Sen. John Tester (D-MT) that he would run again came as a big relief for Democrats, but the GOP is lining up a self-made millionaire to run against him. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), should he run again, will also face a tough battle as he potentially faces Gov. Jim Justice of the state. Yes, distasteful as it may be, Democrats likely will need to do all they can to see Manchin returned for another term if they want to hold the Senate.
Trump peril. There are more pieces shifting in the Trump indictment puzzle. Disgraced former Trump attorney Michael Cohen will testify before the Manhattan grand jury investigating the hush money cover-up he conducted during the 2016 election, which he claims was at Trump’s direct request. And yesterday, Mike Pence, who is considering a run for president, delivered his most stinging rebuke of his former boss at the annual white-tie Gridiron dinner for politicians and journalists: “President Trump was wrong,” Pence said. “I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable.” We’re still waiting, however, for Pence to grow a spine and voluntarily appear before the federal grand jury instead of trying to quash his subpoena by claiming privilege.
Looking at these stories, it is clear we are already in the early stages of the 2024 battle, with politicians testing the waters to see if they want to jump into the race, and GOP leaders sending up trial balloons to see how far they can push criticism of the former president. At both the state and federal level, the parties will use the next few months to lay out their priorities and policies for the rest of the legislative or Congressional session. In many cases, the most extreme voices in the GOP, who run the show in the House and in the majority of state houses, will shape the messaging. It will be up to Democrats to build their case that Republicans are simply too extreme to be trusted to govern while delivering tangible progress in the blue states they now manage.
Meanwhile, spring to summer is also indictment season, and that has the potential of upending all expectations. We simply don’t know how, for example, the MAGA base will react to their king being charged.
Finally this morning, a personal experience I want to share. I had a conversation with a friend yesterday that got me thinking. He had said to me, in all earnestness, “We need to find a way to talk about all the crazy stuff that’s happening that doesn’t make people feel uncomfortable.”
He’s gay, and understandably scared, and he wants to just check out, maybe give up on the U.S. and move to Canada. I said to him, “Look, I get it. This is all very exhausting and stressful, and we’d all rather be enjoying our lives and not spend our free time worrying about what far-right extremists are planning.
“But history teaches that fascism succeeds not because a majority of people are extremists, but because they are willing to look away, to trade away rights and liberties for material comforts, so long as what’s happening to others doesn’t affect them.”
He nodded. He gets that this isn’t something we can run from.
There isn’t an easy or comfortable path ahead for us. The day may soon come when no one will be able to sit on the political sidelines. And with our democracy under serious attack from within, and the disturbing absence of a shared, factual reality, there is increasing less middle ground. We either stand on the side of freedom, equal rights for all people, the rule of law, and actual facts, or we don’t.
But I truly believe we can prevent—or at least postpone for another generation—such a day from arriving. We will have a historic chance to defeat anti-democratic, religious extremism in the next major election. They could slink away with a whimper, and responsible adults could take back control of conservative values and the party. But I caution, should we somehow fail to rise up to defeat the radical right, the consequences for our country and the world could be devastating.
This year will give us a preview into 2024, and we already know much of what the GOP has planned in Congress and across red state legislatures. The work has already begun in earnest to beat back their assault on our rights and liberties. It already seems clear that we will need to remain all in, all together, to save our country from the extremists.
More on just how we do that to come.