Oath Keeper convicted. Better mayor elected. Are things OK?


Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. Welcome to the final month of the year, which of course means there are only 73 shopping days left until Valentine’s Day. Let’s look back at the week in Opinion.

I’m reluctant to write this for fear of sabotaging progress, but since a fair number of you are keen to call out my alarmism on everything from climate change (guilty as charged) to Donald Trump, I owe it to the universe to forthrightly acknowledge equilibrium when I start seeing it. So here goes.

Rep. Karen Bass will be sworn in this month as the new mayor of Los Angeles. Leaving aside the historical achievement of the first woman and second Black Angeleno serving as mayor, the sight of a mainstream liberal leading this city would be unremarkable. What is remarkable is this: Bass ran a grassroots campaign that stitched together a traditionally progressive, racially diverse coalition to fend off the most expensive mayoral campaign ever waged in an American city, at a time when billionaires wield more political power than ever. Bass’ campaign was smart, grounded deeply in this city and relied heavily on her simply being more qualified than her impossibly wealthy opponent.

Merit beat money, which is (and let me check my notes on this) how it’s supposed to work in a democracy.

Next up is the grindingly slow, methodical Department of Justice investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. As I’ve written here before, there’s a tension between wanting to see a swift, almost cinematic resolution — where the assailants are scooped into custody and the coup is definitively, dramatically put down — and allowing the very institution under attack to work as it would against any criminal activity, thereby showing that our government can defend itself using the machinery that makes this a democracy. The latter option, favored by Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland, is yet again paying dividends and setting us up for a final resolution. As op-ed columnist and former U.S. Atty. Harry Litman wrote about Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes’ conviction for seditious conspiracy:

“A jury trial represents our system’s ideal of authoritative fact finding, a process enshrined in the Constitution for getting as close as a society can to the truth of a matter that is in dispute. And the jury in this trial plainly took its duty seriously and exercised its power with meticulous attention to detail….

“The effect of these guilty verdicts, in a trial conducted with thoroughness and care, will be to marginalize the apologists for Jan. 6. They can’t help but look more and more like wingnuts or monsters now, inveighing against what a critical mass of society has accepted and denying a jury’s account that squares with what the whole country saw in real time.

“That goes for history as well. The Oath Keepers convictions (and the other sedition prosecutions) will be among the rare trials — perhaps one or two a generation — to appear in high school history books. And what future students will learn is that the trials mattered deeply because they vindicated the truth about Jan. 6, 2021.”

Are things almost starting to feel … normal? Check back after the new Justice Department special counsel has had more time to dig into the Trump investigation and Bass gets her hands on the some of the additional affordable housing money courtesy of Measure ULA.

This won’t look very normal: With the Republicans set to take over the House, get ready for the kind of “angertainment” that will make those incessant Benghazi hearings look sober in comparison. Columnist Robin Abcarian previews the spectacle: “MAGA Republicans are particularly licking their chops over potential investigations of Hunter Biden and whatever information is contained on the laptop he seems to have abandoned in a Delaware computer repair shop in April 2019. The former president’s henchmen are seeking — but unlikely to find — proof that Joe Biden was involved in son Hunter’s shady business dealings…. Will hearings that ransack computer data belonging to the president’s son fix inflation, high gas prices and illegal immigration, the issues Republicans claimed to be laser-focused on during the midterm campaigns? Of course not.” L.A. Times

L.A. Metro shows how transit investment can build a stronger middle class. The federal government will spend almost $2 trillion in the coming years on infrastructure, and L.A. County’s transit agency is slated to adopt a policy requiring disadvantaged workers to be given a shot at all those jobs building the buses and trains. The editorial board believes Metro is setting an example for the rest of the country: “Metro’s manufacturing careers policy will be the most comprehensive program of its kind in the country, advocates say. And it’s a model for how public agencies can prod private industry to create higher-quality jobs.” L.A. Times

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We’re not the only ones drying up. This one goes out to those clamoring for “simple” solutions to California’s water crisis that don’t involve conserving, such as a continent-spanning pipeline from the humid eastern U.S. to our aridifying environs. And if the following excerpt sounds familiar, understand that it’s not about the over-allocated Colorado River to our near-east, but the mighty Mississippi, often suggested as a source for us to siphon: “This critical river and its tributaries … has been stricken by drought since September, amid a time of global grain shortage and soaring food prices. While water levels will recover modestly this week, thanks to some upstream rain and snow, the long-term forecast remains dry.” New York Times

With Republican autopsy investigators like these, who needs election deniers? If this sounds familiar, it should: The GOP was in a good position to take total control of Congress, with a favorable election map and a public agitating for accountability. Then the candidates started talking, and voters understandably rejected far-right ideologues who wanted to take away women’s right to choose. The Republican Party sobered up, evaluated itself and promised to nominate better national candidates. That was in 2012, and the party would go on to give us President Trump and MAGA fanaticism. Kurt Bardella, a former GOP operative turned Democratic advisor, explains why another Republican autopsy of an election failure 10 years later won’t produce better results. L.A. Times

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