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Opinion: Trump is throwing a tantrum. Where are the Republican adults?

President Trump arrives to speak in the White House's Rose Garden on Nov. 13.
President Trump arrives to speak in the Rose Garden of the White House on Nov. 13.
(Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Whatever doomsday scenarios election watchers gamed out before Nov. 3, few foresaw that a lame-duck decapitation of the Defense Department’s civilian leadership combined with a refusal to acknowledge Joe Biden’s victory would leave us wondering if President Trump were planning a coup or if the world’s most powerful human was just throwing another tantrum. But here we are! (And 2020 is only about seven-eighths finished, so buckle up.)

It’s easy to be lighthearted about Trump’s behavior as a way to cope with it, but his actions must be taken seriously until the moment he’s out of office in January. In that spirit, op-ed columnist Nicholas Goldberg asks an important question: What is the president’s endgame? He hasn’t conceded to Biden yet, even though the election’s over; he is alleging widespread fraud in multiple states, even though in court his lawyers are arguing over a mere handful of ballots; and he’s speaking as if he’ll never leave the White House, even though the Constitution defines the precise end of his term in office.

Goldberg looks at the mismatch between the bombastic rhetoric and the substance and offers the assessment of any father who has experience with young children: This president is indeed throwing a tantrum, but by virtue of his position, he is also doing irreparable harm to this country.

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That may allow to us to all but write off the president’s behavior, but what about his fellow Republicans? Many of them will be around after Jan. 20, but they’re inexcusably putting off the incoming Biden administration’s transition by indulging Trump’s delusions. The editorial board gives them some advice: Stop this, now.

If you voted for Trump, then Saturday’s L.A. Times letters section is for you. I’ve had my say in this newsletter; the editorial board had its say when it published two editorial series highly critical of this president and called for his removal from office; and our mostly anti-Trump columnists have had their say since this presidency began in 2017. Now, we’re handing over our entire letters section, for one day, to readers who are among the 1.5 million people in Orange and Los Angeles counties who voted for Donald Trump. L.A. Times

It isn’t easy being a progressive in California. One of the storylines obscured by Trump’s defeat this election has been California voters’ rejection of key parts of a progressive agenda. Proposition 22 passed (more on that later), nixing for some “gig” workers the employment protections that a new state law would have afforded them. Proposition 16 failed (more on that later too), dooming affirmative action for now. Perhaps most consequentially, Proposition 15 failed; it sought to split the property tax roll in California in a way that protects homeowners. The rejection of Proposition 15 shouldn’t discourage state legislators from fixing the state’s dysfunctional property tax scheme, says the editorial board. L.A. Times

Imagine the scene: inauguration day, 2021. Will Trump and Biden actually share the stage? One of the iciest handoffs of the presidency ever was when Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt shared a ride for a few minutes from the White House to the U.S. Capitol in 1933. The Trump-Biden show may outdo that. Editorial writer Scott Martelle wonders if it would be better for the outgoing president to skip the festivities (if COVID-19 even allows any) altogether on Jan. 20, 2021. L.A. Times

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Gig companies bought a law in California, and the implications for the nation are profound. Businesses like Uber, Lyft and Instacart together spent more than $200 million in an effort to mislead California voters about the effects of applying basic worker protections to their employees. “California has always been a bellwether,” says Harvard Law School labor attorney Terri Gerstein. “This time, let’s not follow its lead.” New York Times

Here’s another defeat for progressives in California: Proposition 16 failed, meaning race-conscious affirmative action will remain illegal in state programs, most notably higher education. I voted yes on the proposition, so there’s almost nothing I agree with in what has to be the most risible, white-hued take on the racial harmony that supposedly exists in California and would have been imperiled by Proposition 16. But the Atlantic’s Connor Friedersdorf makes one point that ought to concern anyone who supports efforts to address racial inequality: In 2020, Californians voted against affirmative action by a larger margin than they did in 1996, when they passed Proposition 209. The Atlantic

Stay in touch.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re the kind of reader who’d benefit from subscribing to our other newsletters and to the Times.

As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at paul.thornton@latimes.com.


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