Jan 2, 2021

Axios AM

🏂Happy Saturday! Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,187 words ... 4½ minutes.

✈️ Situational awareness: Delta CEO Ed Bastian says in a New Year's memo to employees worldwide that the start of 2021 "will look a lot like 2020, with travel demand deeply depressed" — with notable improvement "only when we reach a turning point with widely available vaccinations."

1 big thing: Trump, the GOP arsonist
President arrives on Marine One on the South Lawn on New Year's Eve. Photo: Ken Cedano/Polaris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Trump is torching his own party and its leaders on his way out of power — and tossing gas on the fire with a public call for mass protest next week and a vote to overturn his defeat.

  • Why it matters: Trump is demanding Republicans fully and unequivocally embrace him — or face his wrath. This is self-inflicted, self-focused — and dangerous for a Republican Party clinging to waning Washington power.

Look at Trump just this week:

  • He's trying to burn down the party's chances in Tuesday's Georgia runoffs, raising doubts for Republican voters by tweeting yesterday that the state's elections are "both illegal and invalid, and that would include the two current Senatorial Elections."
  • He's trying to burn down Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp — who won on the back of Trump's primary endorsement — because Kemp wouldn't interfere in the state's presidential results. Trump told Fox News' Maria Bartiromo that he's "ashamed" he endorsed Kemp, and tweeted that Kemp should resign because he's "an obstructionist who refuses to admit that we won Georgia, BIG."
  • He's trying to burn down the party's credibility by stoking protests during Wednesday's congressional certification of President-elect Biden's Electoral College victory. Trump retweeted details about "#StopTheSteal" demonstrations, including one with the web address "WILDPROTEST." He tweeted "See you in D.C." — and "Be there, will be wild!"
  • He's trying to burn down Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who congratulated President-elect Biden on his victory. Trump has falsely claimed credit for McConnell's landslide reelection.
  • He's tossing other Republicans into the fire with the futile efforts to obstruct Biden's certification. McConnell, on a conference call with fellow Senate Republicans, called the upcoming vote "the most consequential I have ever cast," Jonathan Swan reported.
  • He's trying to burn down Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), tweeting on New Year's Day that he wants South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem to primary him.
  • He lit the match on the last-ditch effort to raise stimulus checks to $2,000, which threatened to split the party before McConnell killed it.

The big picture: A united Republican Party could have claimed victory for outperforming expectations in House and Senate races, making inroads with Hispanics and delivering stimulus checks. Instead, the GOP is debating an implausible decertification of a presidential election. 

2. Private schools pull students away from public schools

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Private schools are attracting wealthy families frustrated by public schools' flip-flopping on remote and in-person learning, Axios' Erica Pandey reports.

  • Why it matters: The trend is weakening public schools, which will lose funding as they lose students.

In districts across America, public schools had to follow local and state guidelines and stick with online learning, while private schools offered in-person alternatives.

  • Private schools were able to devise and advertise their reopening plans throughout the summer while public schools had to wait for officials, and have the money to build tents for outdoor instruction.

Just 5% of private schools were virtual this fall, according to survey data from the National Association of Independent Schools, cited by CNBC.

  • Compare that with the 62% of public-school kids who started the fall on Zoom, according to a tracker by the digital platform Burbio.

Not only is this trend separating higher and lower income students, it's also widening the divide between urban and rural areas, which have fewer choices.

3. "He/she" could be "they" in new Congress
The Capitol dome. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

House Democrats have proposed a rules change to swap male and female references like "he" and "she" for gender-neutral terms, Axios' Kadia Goba writes.

  • Why it matters: The proposal comes as transgender and non-binary candidates are being elected around the country, progressives are gaining influence in the Democratic politics, and U.S. schools and companies are adjusting policies and language to reflect society's changing views.

Speaker Pelosi and House Rules Chair Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) announced a rules package that proposes to "honor all gender identities by changing pronouns and familial relationships in the House rules to be gender neutral."

  • "He" or "she" would become "Member," "Delegate" or "Resident Commissioner." "Father" and "mother" would become "parent," while "brother" and "sister" would be "sibling."
  • Members will consider the package next week.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted about the proposal: "This is stupid. Signed, - A father, son, and brother."

  • McGovern told Axios: "It is ridiculous that in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, this is what some on the extreme right want to fight about ... only in Congress would it be a scandal to be succinct. We are being inclusive, efficient and accurate."

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4. How French ravers keep it safe

New Year's Eve party in Lieuron, Brittany, France. Photo: Jean-Francois Monier/AFP via Getty Images

A curfew-busting New Year's Eve party at a hangar in western France — complete with a techno-music DJ — drew at least 2,500 people, who torched a police vehicle and threw bottles at the gendarmes who came to shut it down.

  • The maskless, packed-in ravers had tried "to stay safe" by not sharing joints or drinks, AP reports.
5. D.C. becomes hotbed for violent protest
An officer tries to break up a fight between Black Lives Matter protesters and members of the Proud Boys on Nov. 14 in D.C. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

"Extremism experts who study the far-right warn that D.C. is on a path to become the next battleground in increasingly violent confrontations with left-leaning counterdemonstrators," the WashPost's Marissa Lang reports.

  • Why it matters: "[T]he nation’s capital — with its strict gun laws and history of orderly, peaceful protest — has largely avoided these violent conflicts."

What's happening: "In the weeks since the 2020 presidential election, a coalition of loyalists of President Trump, conspiracy theory adherents, white nationalists, self-proclaimed militia members and other fringe figures have flocked to the nation’s capital," The Post adds.

  • "Extremist groups intent on sowing chaos and division have capitalized on these feelings to recruit members and spread disinformation."
6. 1 fun thing: College football reaches its final

Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith keeps his feet in-bounds as he makes a catch for a touchdown, with Notre Dame cornerback Nick McCloud covering. Photo: Gary Cosby/USA Today Sports via Reuters

Capping a season that looked like it might not happen, No. 1 Alabama will face No. 3 The Ohio State University for the championship in Miami on Jan. 11.

  • In semifinals yesterday, the Crimson Tide rolled past Notre Dame 31-14 in the Rose Bowl (played in Texas because of COVID restrictions in California), and the Buckeyes upset No. 2 Clemson, 49-28, at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Best view in the house: In the Rose Bowl pic above, the guy at the far left — armed with two footballs — is my sister Cathie's oldest son, Anders, who just graduated and was a student equipment manager for the Tide all four years.

Photo: Devin Oktar Yalkin for The New York Times (Indiana at Ohio State, Nov. 21)

The cover story of tomorrow's N.Y. Times Magazine goes inside last summer's high-stakes debate within the Big Ten — which includes Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska — over whether to play the season.

  • Bruce Schoenfeld writes about the balance between safety and economics:
This Ohio State team, [athletic director Gene ]Smith was certain, had the potential to win another national title. That would help not just Ohio State but all of the Big Ten athletic programs, which share postseason football revenue. "I remember saying on one of the calls, 'Look, at Ohio State, one of the reasons we’re pushing — it's so hard to put this type of team together,'" he says. "'We have a unique opportunity. Now, at the end of the day, they might not get there. But they deserve a chance, if we can figure out how to do this.' And no one disagreed."

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