Melinda Fakuade/Vox:

The best face mask is one that fits

Cloth masks are fine for many people — as long as they cover your nose and mouth.

Tons of celebrities have been seen out with their masks underneath their noses. Notably, members of Congress who promote masking up have been seen pulling up their sliding masks in public.

Cloth masks sometimes lend themselves to poor etiquette: Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) slipped his down to sneeze into his hand on C-SPAN, which is, to put it plainly, horrifying. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is known to have masks that match her outfits but was once photographed in a conversation with George Floyd’s brother, mask hanging down below her mouth. And soon after his inauguration, President Joe Biden’s mask slipped down his face in the midst of signing an executive action related to Covid-19. It happens to the best of us. Walk around anywhere in pandemic America, and you’ll surely encounter people fiddling with their masks.

Note which issue is +56 in GA.


John Harwood/CNN:

Why Biden has a rare opportunity for early success

Over five decades in Washington, President Joe Biden has watched seven newly-elected presidents get started. Improbably, he has the chance for a stronger opening act than any of them.

Just 12 days into Biden’s presidency, the emerging alignment of forces holds the promise of two giant early legislative breakthroughs. The potential for rapid payoffs in public health and economic recovery exceeds anything recent predecessors managed to find.

That’s not because Biden swept into office on a landslide. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all won larger electoral majorities with wider popular vote margins.

It’s not because of superior numerical muscle in Congress. Jimmy Carter and Donald Trump, as well as Clinton and Obama, enjoyed bigger partisan majorities in the House and Senate.

And it’s not because Biden’s grandfatherly persona bests Reagan’s charisma, Clinton’s persuasiveness or Obama’s star quality. At 78, the oldest president in American history has made understated calm his early signature.

Instead, the size of Biden’s opportunity reflects the unique circumstances of early 2021: a deadly pandemic that could subside with an effective vaccination push, a battered economy poised to rebound when it does, the unfinished business of a disgraced predecessor, and the determination of fellow Democrats to overcome obstruction by increasingly-radicalized Republican adversaries.


Jamelle Bouie/NY Times:

I’m Not Actually Interested in Mitch McConnell’s Hypocrisy

To make his case for the filibuster, he has essentially rewritten the history of the Senate.

“When it comes to lawmaking, the framers’ vision and our history are clear. The Senate exists to require deliberation and cooperation,” McConnell declared. “James Madison said the Senate’s job was to provide a ‘complicated check’ against ‘improper acts of legislation.’ We ensure that laws earn enough buy-in to receive the lasting consent of the governed. We stop bad ideas, improve good ideas and keep laws from swinging wildly with every election.”

He went on: “More than any other feature, it is the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to end debate on legislation that achieves this.”

It’s hard to take any of this seriously. None of McConnell’s stated concern for the “lasting consent of the governed” was on display when Senate Republicans, under his leadership, tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act by majority vote. Nor was there any interest in “deliberation and cooperation” when Republicans wanted a new round of corporate and upper-income tax cuts.


Sarah Posner/Reveal:

How the Christian right helped foment insurrection

Christian-right activists inside and outside of government promoted the election fraud lie and claimed God told them to “let the church roar.”

White evangelicals have been Trump’s most dedicated, unwavering base, standing by him through the cavalcade of abuses, failures and scandals that engulfed his campaigns and his presidency – from the “Access Hollywood” tape to his first impeachment to his efforts to overturn the election and incite the Capitol insurrection. This fervent relationship, which has survived the events of Jan. 6, is based on far more than a transactional handshake over judicial appointments and a crackdown on abortion and LGBTQ rights. Trump’s White evangelical base has come to believe that God anointed him and that Trump’s placement of Christian-right ideologues in critical positions at federal agencies and in federal courts was the fulfillment of a long-sought goal of restoring the United States as a Christian nation. Throughout Trump’s presidency, his political appointees implemented policies that stripped away reproductive and LGBTQ rights and tore down the separation of church and state in the name of protecting unfettered religious freedom for conservative Christians. After Joe Biden won the presidency, Trump administration loyalists launched their own Christian organization to “stop the steal,” in the ultimate act of loyalty to their divine leader.


Jack Shafer/Politico:

Expelling Marjorie Taylor Greene Is Just Crazy Talk

The most effective solution to incorrigible members of Congress is censure. And then let the voters take it from there.

What treatment does Greene deserve? Congress has avoided the nuclear option of expulsion over the years, preferring instead to coax misbehaving members into resigning or not running again. By avoiding expulsion, Congress seems to have endorsed the idea that feral congresscritters like Greene are not their problem but one that belongs to the voters. It’s up to them, not other legislators, to swing the disciplinary rod by voting them out of office, as they ultimately did Steve King. (The Constitution does not allow for the recall of senators and representatives by voters.) In a case like Greene’s, where she appears to have broken no laws—notice the craft in her statement where she avoided directly saying that somebody should be murdered—and so far has not violated any congressional rules, it seems likely that Congress will bow to tradition and let the voters police her speech. This means we’ll have to wait until 2022 for resolution, when voters get their opportunity to hit the ejection button.

But will Georgia voters can Greene? Probably not.


Niall Stanage/The Hill:

Center-right Republicans fear party headed for disaster

“A lot of us miss the old days of battling over ideas,” said Brendan Steinhauser, a Texas-based GOP consultant. “Now it is something completely different — trying to convince people that these QAnon people are crazy and illegitimate and all the other things.”

“It’s bleak, and it is going to take some leadership, from people who are running for president [in 2024] to people in Congress, to step up and say this,” Steinhauser added.

There is not much sign of that right now, however. McCarthy has said he “plans to have a conversation” with Greene. The perceived weakness of that response has disgruntled some in his own conference.

Ian Millhiser/Vox:

Supreme Court considers if churchgoers have a right to sing indoors in a pandemic

Singing is an especially dangerous activity during this pandemic because it is unusually likely to spread Covid-19.

Less than five months ago, the plaintiffs in South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom would have had little chance of prevailing. They seek exemptions from a California public health order requiring many institutions — including houses of worship — to gather outside to avoid spreading Covid-19. They also seek an exemption from a statewide ban on singing or chanting indoors.

But a lot has happened in the last five months which suggests that the South Bay plaintiffs are now likely to prevail. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, and was replaced by the hardline conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Then, on the night before Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court handed down a revolutionary decision that upended decades of precedent distinguishing between laws that discriminate against people of faith (which are typically not allowed) and laws that apply to religious and secular institutions alike (which were typically permitted).



Checked by reality, some QAnon supporters seek a way out

It’s not clear exactly how many people believe some or all of the narrative, but backers of the movement were vocal in their support for Trump and helped fuel the insurrectionists who overran the U.S. Capitol this month. QAnon is also growing in popularity overseas.

Former believers interviewed by The Associated Press liken the process of leaving QAnon to kicking a drug addiction. QAnon, they say, offers simple explanations for a complicated world and creates an online community that provides escape and even friendship.


Rachel S Mikva/USA Today:

Christian nationalism is a threat, and not just from Capitol attackers invoking Jesus

Christian nationalists inside our government are working quietly to take America for Jesus. They are the more resilient danger to religious pluralism.

It is easy to protest when white Christian nationalism turns violent. Within the chorus of critics, however, are a substantial number of Christians who plan to take the country for Jesus another way. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, a leader of the misinformation campaign that led people to believe (falsely) that the presidential election was stolen, is among them.

Speaking in his official capacity as attorney general of Missouri in 2017, he proclaimed at a “Pastors and Pews” meeting that their charge is to “take the lordship of Christ, that message, into the public realm and to seek the obedience of the nations — of our nation… to influence our society, and even more than that, to transform our society to reflect the gospel truth and lordship of Jesus Christ.”

Hawley is aware that not everyone will become Christian, but believes we should all live by his interpretation of Christian values. The lieutenant governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, asserts that elected officials should look to Scripture when making policy, “because every problem we have in America has a solution in the Bible.”  

Tom Edsall/NY times:

The Capitol Insurrection Was as Christian Nationalist as It Gets.’

Religious resentment has become a potent recruiting tool for the hard right.

n her recent book, “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism,” Katherine Stewart, a frequent contributor to these pages, does not mince words:

It is a political movement, and its ultimate goal is power. It does not seek to add another voice to America’s pluralistic democracy, but to replace our foundational democratic principles and institutions with a state grounded on a particular version of Christianity, answering to what some adherents call a ‘biblical worldview’ that also happens to serve the interests of its plutocratic funders and allied political leaders.

This, Stewart writes, “is not a ‘culture war.’ It is a political war over the future of democracy.”