DETROIT — A Detroit emergency physician’s 15-year-old idea — rigging one ventilator to assist two or more patients — is gaining global attention, as the novel coronavirus pandemic causes skyrocketing hospitalization rates and doctors face a critical shortage of the life-saving breathing machines.Dr. Charlene Irvin Babcock, an emergency physician at Ascension St. John Hospital in Detroit, wrote a research paper with Dr. Greg Neyman in 2006, explaining that adaptations including T- or Y-shaped splitters on air flow tubes could allow a single ventilator to serve two people, four or even more.“It ...
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Republicans learned an extremely dangerous lesson from the 2020 election -- according to this conservative
When candidates lose a presidential election, their party typically performs an "autopsy" and tries to figure out exactly where they went wrong. President Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign, for example, was arguably the result of three "autopsies" — as Democrats had lost three presidential elections in a row during the 1980s. But Never Trump conservative Jonathan V. Last, in a column for The Bulwark published this week, argues that the Republican response to former President Donald Trump's loss to now-President Joe Biden in the 2020 election was to double down on Trumpism.
"In the days after Democrats unseated an incumbent president and won unified control of Congress," Last writes, "the victorious party went through a round of self-analysis and recriminations. The Republicans, who managed a trifecta of losing that hadn't been accomplished since Herbert Hoover, doubled down. Then they backed up their bets, split 4s, and doubled down again."
Last adds that with the GOP having doubled down on Trumpism following Trump's loss, one of the talking points of "Conservatism Inc." is "how beside-the-point 'democracy' is, anyhow." And Last points to a recent tweet in which conservative writer David Harsanyi wrote, "I'm not pro-democracy, I am pro-freedom. If democracy erodes freedom, (then) it's not something to celebrate."
The conservative Bulwark columnist argues that the GOP, with its post-election "autopsy," isn't trying to figure out how to appeal to a wider range of voters, but trying to discourage voting.
"When Republicans conducted their autopsy," Last writes, "they skipped 'How to Win: Option 1' and went straight to Options 2 and 3 — leapfrogging the question of how to get more votes and focusing on how to use institutional leverage to take power even while losing popular majorities. Option 2 — the path of least resistance — is for Republicans to change voting rules at the state level in the hopes that they can drive down the number of Democratic votes cast and win the Electoral College despite being a persistent minority. A lot has been written about these various initiatives, some of which are more grotesque than others."
With biting sarcasm, Last adds, "But the real cutting-edge work being done as a result of the GOP autopsy concerns Option 3: figuring out how a Republican can win the presidency even while losing the popular vote and the Electoral College."
After the 2020 presidential election, Last writes, some Republicans in the state governments in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia had enough integrity to resist Trump allies who wanted them to defy the Electoral College results. But with Option 3, according to Last, the GOP could try to purge state governments of Republicans who will accept Electoral College results even if they don't like an election's outcome.
"So, the key parts of the Republican autopsy have been: (1) building the political will to use raw power next time, and (2) removing the Republican officials who were not willing to comply last time," Last explains. "That's why Republican state parties have censured nearly every Republican who did not participate in Trump's attempted coup."
Last continues, "That's why (Secretary of State) Brad Raffensperger is the target of a primary challenge in Georgia…. That's why Nevada Republicans are attacking Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, the only Republican to have won state-wide office in 2018. Even though she is a Republican, Cegavske refused to go along with the attempt to overturn Nevada's result."
As much sarcasm and scathing humor as Last uses in his column, the Never Trumper concludes it by making a disturbing point and stressing that many Republicans have become overtly "authoritarian" and are undermining checks and balances.
Last writes, "This is how authoritarianism starts. A society goes from the rule of law, to rule by law — where the minority gets just enough power to change the laws so that they can amass more power. And here is a serious question: If Republicans managed enough votes to sustain an objection to counting electoral votes, what would our recourse be? Crossing our fingers and hoping that the Supreme Court steps in?.... The time to fight against authoritarianism isn't December 2024. It's now."
Donald Trump is a bored old man whose main entertainment these days is making a fool out of Republican fundraisers with his unhinged rants, but, sadly for the rest of us, his impact will be long-lingering, from the mainstreaming of white nationalist rhetoric to the size of the lies Republican politicians feel emboldened to tell. One of the oddest, most annoying legacies Trump leaves behind has the potential to impact not just Republican politicians, but Democratic ones as well: that all they need to do when faced with a scandal, no matter how serious, is to dig in their heels and refuse to resign. Eventually, as Trump's time in office demonstrated, the press will get bored and move on.
The two current examples of this phenomenon come from different sides of the aisle but have a surprising amount in common with both each other and Trump: New York's Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, and Congress' most "Florida man" member, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz.
Both men are the kinds of politicians that invariably get described as "pugnacious," and have a reputation for running towards any microphone-and-camera set-up that they see. Both had reputations of being bullies, but that seemed not to bother their voters — and even seemed to please a chunk of their base. And both men are currently embroiled in the kind of embarrassing scandals that, in the pre-Trump era, would have almost certainly led to their resignations weeks, if not months, ago.
Gaetz, for his part, is being accused of participating in a sex work ring that involved at least one underage girl. Cuomo has been accused of harassing multiple women, including one woman who says he groped her. But both men are betting, with good reason, that if they just brazen it out, they will be able to survive the current storm and even win their re-election campaigns in 2022.
In his four years in office, Trump was a non-stop hurricane of scandals, many that were far more serious than what Gaetz and Cuomo are accused of doing. Trump weathered a sex scandal that was also a campaign finance scandal, a rape scandal, and various accusations of sexual assault. He was impeached twice, both times for efforts to cheat in or steal the election that could be understood as seditious. He settled out of court for committing fraud. He shamelessly used his businesses as go-throughs to collect bribes, both foreign and domestic. And that's just a taste of all the criminality and corruption Trump indulged in as president.
The key to Trump's success at skirting justice was simple shamelessness. He refused to resign or even admit guilt, instead lashing out endlessly, forever making ridiculous assertions that he was the victim of an endless conspiracy by Democrats, the "deep state" and "fake news." The conspiracy Trump alleges would have required thousands, if not millions, of participants, and so it's unlikely anyone ever really believed his lies. But his strategy worked anyway, not because he hoodwinked anyone, but because he correctly bet that he could outlast the press interest in covering his scandals.
It's unclear whether Trump understood what he was doing or was simply just too narcissistic to ever heed calls for his resignation. Either way, his strategy was effective simply because the media, for better or worse, has a newness bias. Writing the same story over and over only works for a few tenured columnists at legacy news organizations. Everyone else — whether they are reporters, cable news pundits, or opinion writers — needs something new to say: new details, new takes, something even slightly different than what they were saying before. Being repetitive means losing readers and viewers. Sometimes the story can be dragged out, as happened with Trump's first impeachment, by investigations or testimony that unearths new details. But even then, as we all saw, there's a point where there's simply nothing more to be said. By hanging in past the sell-by date of any scandal, Trump demonstrated that the media will eventually move on and you can start the next phase: pretending it never happened.
This strategy is aided by a highly polarized partisan environment. In the past, scandals were more of a threat because there was always a chance that voters might punish a corrupt politician at the polls. Nowadays, however, both Democrats and Republican voters are fierce partisans, often more because they hate the other party more than they like their own. As such, there's almost nothing a politician can do — except be a next-level creep with a penchant for young girls, like Roy Moore — that will cause voters to vote for their opponent. Both Gaetz and Cuomo are taking advantage, knowing their voters would rather slit their own wrists than pull the lever for the other party.
For a brief moment, it did seem like the #MeToo movement would change things. The outpouring of rage and grief coming out of victims from decades of bottled up angst over sexual harassment or abuse was such that multiple politicians — including, most famously, Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota — decided to resign rather than let their political allies suffer the fallout from scandals stemming from sexual misconduct. But that was early in Trump's presidency. It clearly has dawned on multiple politicians — including Franken himself — that even a #MeToo scandal is survivable through stubbornness.
The first major test of this came in Virginia, when that state's Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, was revealed in early 2019 to have either donned blackface or a KKK hood at a college party in his youth. Rather than resign, as nearly everyone expected him to do, Northam stayed put. And eventually, as happened with Trump countless times, the press gave up and moved on.
To be certain, being able to brazen out a scandal still appears to be a privilege exclusive to male politicians.
Former Rep. Kate Hill, a Democrat from California, was forced to resign in early 2019 after a sex scandal — involving a consensual affair with a campaign staffer — that pales in comparison to either the Gaetz or Cuomo accusations. And while what Franken was accused of doing — groping women — was also much worse, he continues to have vocal defenders, even as Hill does not. The sexist double standard, especially around sex scandals, is firmly in place.
Still, this is likely one of Trump's lasting legacies. Scandals are unlikely to bring politicians — at least white, male politicians — down like they used to. Trump found the media's Achilles heel. And he exploited the unwillingness of voters to switch parties, even in the face of serious scandal. Barring actual imprisonment or being legally removed from office — which is still a possibility for Gaetz — there's almost no way anymore to hold a politician accountable for corrupt behavior. And we're all much worse off for it because politicians are going to be increasingly emboldened to violate ethical standards or even commit crimes, knowing there's unlikely to be any penalty for it.
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