Quick Takes: The Space for Nonpartisanship Has Evaporated

A roundup of news that caught my eye today.

* Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes make a powerful and compelling argument.

We have both spent our professional careers strenuously avoiding partisanship in our writing and thinking. We have both done work that is, in different ways, ideologically eclectic, and that has—over a long period of time—cast us as not merely nonpartisans but antipartisans. Temperamentally, we agree with the late Christopher Hitchens: Partisanship makes you stupid. We are the kind of voters who political scientists say barely exist—true independents who scour candidates’ records in order to base our votes on individual merit, not party brand.

This, then, is the article we thought we would never write: a frank statement that a certain form of partisanship is now a moral necessity. The Republican Party, as an institution, has become a danger to the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy. The problem is not just Donald Trump; it’s the larger political apparatus that made a conscious decision to enable him. In a two-party system, nonpartisanship works only if both parties are consistent democratic actors. If one of them is not predictably so, the space for nonpartisans evaporates. We’re thus driven to believe that the best hope of defending the country from Trump’s Republican enablers, and of saving the Republican Party from itself, is to do as Toren Beasley did: vote mindlessly and mechanically against Republicans at every opportunity, until the party either rights itself or implodes (very preferably the former).

* On a potential government shutdown, Trump basically says, “bring it on.”

* Here is the president’s chief of staff talking about Dreamers:

Kelly called Trump’s endorsement of legalizing a larger pool of [Dreamers] “stunning and no one expected it.”

“There are 690,000 official DACA registrants and the president sent over what amounts to be two and a half times that number, to 1.8 million,” he said. “The difference between [690,000] and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn’t sign up.”

I’m going to let Joy Reid handle that one.

* Remember the federal judge that Trump suggested couldn’t be impartial because he was “Mexican?” He’s baaaack.

District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was targeted by the president while he was the judge of a class-action lawsuit against the president’s now-defunct Trump University, will on Friday hear the case brought by the state of California, some environmental groups and Rep. Raúl Grijalva , D-Ariz. It challenges waivers that were given to the federal branch more than 10 years ago to bypass some federal and state laws for border security.

The case, which was initially three separate lawsuits before being consolidated by Curiel, represents a substantial legal challenge to the construction of Trump’s potential border wall.

* The Trump administration seems to be running into some problems when it comes to re-negotiating NAFTA.

Even as the Trump administration continues to try to compel its neighbors to accept a revised trade deal on its own terms, Canada and Mexico are forging ahead with new trade pacts of their own. That’s a sign of how much the global economy has changed since NAFTA was written a quarter-century ago, and of continued global momentum for multilateral free trade agreements despite President Donald Trump’s “America first” trade skepticism.

Canada and Mexico signed on last week to a new Trans-Pacific Partnership with nine other Pacific Rim nations, a massive trade pact that doesn’t include the United States after Trump withdrew soon after taking office. Last fall, Canada’s trade accord with the European Union went into effect — something the United States has yet to achieve. Mexico expects to revise its own trade deal with the European Union this spring.

And Mexico and Canada are both taking part in yet another free trade bloc, the Pacific Alliance, which now encompasses Colombia, Peru, Chile, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand…

The Trump administration “thinks they have more leverage than they do, and they are overplaying their hand,” said Antonio Ortiz-Mena, a former Mexican trade negotiator now at the Albright Stonebridge Group. “Mexico does have other options — they may not be ideal, but they’re options that weren’t available 25 years ago.”

* Garrett Graff has a great rundown of the known knowns about the Mueller investigation. He assesses the five different “buckets” of the probe.

1. Preexisting Business Deals and Money Laundering.
2. Russian Information Operations.
3. Active Cyber Intrusions.
4. Russian Campaign Contacts.
5. Obstruction of Justice.

* Finally, this seems like a good day to end with “Afro Blue” performed by Esperanza Spalding.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.