Jim Banks And The GOP War On Education…

In case you think I’ve been exaggerating about the Republicans making war on education…more evidence has emerged.

According to a report from CNBC, House Republicans have a long-term plan to strip so-called “elite” universities of government funding and federal student loan dollars.

The plan was communicated to a group of business leaders during a private Zoom call last Friday with Indiana’s MAGA Republican Congressman, Jim Banks.

“The hearing was the first step,” said Banks. “The second step is the investigation, the subpoenas, gathering all of the documents and the records,” he said. “Third, that’s when we defund these universities.”

A recording of the call was provided to CNBC by an attendee who requested anonymity in order to share a private conversation.

Banks’ frank description of lawmakers’ plans offers a previously unreported window into at least some members of Congress’ long-term goals with regards to at least two Ivy League universities and MIT, another elite college. House Education Committee chair, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said in an interview on NewsNation that the committee is also looking at Columbia and Cornell University.

Banks has also embraced the idea of taxing college endowments; he has endorsed a bill introduced by Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio that would impose a tax of 35% on college endowments worth over $10 billion.

The legislation has little chance of passing the current Democratic majority Senate, or of being signed into law by President Joe Biden. But if there is a Republican in the White House and a GOP-controlled Senate in 2025, the calculus could be very different.

As the article notes, the fallout from a bill like Vance’s wouldn’t be limited to Harvard, Penn and MIT. Yale, the University of Notre Dame, Columbia University, the University of Chicago and Duke University all have endowments worth more than $10 billion, and they use earnings from those endowment dollars to subsidize tuition and fees for students who otherwise could not afford to attend.

Furthermore, all universities–not just the elite ones– rely on significant federal funding,  because so many students pay their tuition via federal financial aid. That aid accounts for the lion’s share of federal dollars that go to colleges and universities.

In 2018, 65% of the $149 billion total in federal funds received by institutions of higher education went toward federal student aid. This covers scholarships, work-study and loans given to students for their educational expenses, according to USAFacts, a nonprofit site that collects government data.

Jim Banks–aka “Focus on the Family’s Man in Washington“–wants to be the next U.S. Senator from Indiana. During his tenure in the House, he has made most of his agenda very, very clear: a federal ban on abortion with no exceptions; no recognition of, or help for, trans children; no restrictions on gun ownership; no affirmative action or other recognition of the effects of racial disparities (he wants to ban DEI programs); no funding for Ukraine, and–as this last bit of news confirms– a constant war on education.

Jim Banks is a theocrat’s wet dream. A Hoosier version of Marjorie Taylor Greene. No wonder Donald Trump has endorsed him.

The voters of Indiana absolutely cannot send this specimen of Christian Nationalism to the Senate.

I have posted before about Marc Carmichael, who will be the Democratic nominee. Marc is the absolute antithesis of Jim Banks–a thoroughly nice person who actually wants to do the job and who supports policies that used to be considered mainstream: a woman’s right to control her own reproduction; sensible gun safety laws; rational immigration reform; support for public education; and many others. (You can check out his twelve priorities on his website.)

Even in Red Indiana, if voters know both candidates–if they know who they both are and what they both stand for, Marc Carmichael will be the next U.S. Senator from Indiana. The only impediment to getting that information out to the voters would be inadequate funding.  So once you’ve confirmed the accuracy of my descriptions of these candidates–please send Marc a contribution! (And tell all your friends and families.)

Progressive voters in Indiana have complained for years that the Democrats haven’t produced strong candidates willing and able to take on the GOP culture warriors. This year, they have nothing to complain about–Jennifer McCormick, running for Governor, is first-rate, and Destiny Wells, running against our embarrassing, ethically-challenged Attorney General Todd Rokita is equally excellent. The candidates they will face–no matter who emerges from the current GOP gubernatorial mudslinging contest–are all MAGA enthusiasts, and worse than substandard.

The time has come to overcome progressive defeatism, and prove that there really is more than corn in Indiana!


Oh Texas….

I know that Florida, under Ron DeSantis, deserves all the shade being thrown at it. But Florida–and that ubiquitous “Florida man”– is facing a strong challenge from Texas.

Most recently, of course, we’ve been treated to the spectacle of Ken Paxton’s willingness to cause the death of a pregnant woman–a mother of two–who obtained a court ruling permitting her to abort her current pregnancy. That decision was based on testimony that her fetus had been found to have a condition that would prevent its survival, and that continuation of the pregnancy would endanger the woman’s life–or at the very least, her ability to have future, healthy pregnancies.

As I noted a couple of days ago, Paxton appealed that court decision and the Texas Supreme court overruled it.

A federal court  has ordered Texas Governor Abbott to remove the lethal barriers he had placed in the Rio Grande, after a lengthy battle during which Abbott defended placement of the impediments, which had caused the deaths of at least two people.

In case there is any confusion, these examples confirm the accuracy of accusations that these Texan staunchly “pro life” Republicans have very selective definitions of “life.”

And then there’s the refusal of the Texas GOP to distance the party from Nazism.

The leadership body for the Republican Party of Texas this week voted down a measure to block members from associating with people and organizations “known to espouse or tolerate antisemitism, pro-Nazi sympathies or Holocaust denial.” This came just weeks after neo-Nazi extremist Nick Fuentes was photographed meeting with a high-profile conservative political operative whose “Defend Texas Liberty” PAC has helped elect Republicans statewide.

The clause, part of a broader resolution in support of Israel, was voted down 32-29 by the Texas GOP’s Executive Committee on Saturday, according to The Texas Tribune. Moreover, “roughly half of the board also tried to prevent a record of their vote from being kept,” in a move that “stunned some members,” the paper reported. Speaking during Saturday’s vote, Texas GOP chair Matt Rinaldi claimed that he didn’t see “any antisemitic, pro-Nazi or Holocaust denial movement on the right that has any significant traction whatsoever.” Rinaldi was also reportedly present in the offices for conservative consulting firm White Horse Strategies, owned by Defend Texas Liberty leader Jonathan Stickland, at the same time as Fuentes last October. He has claimed he was not part of Fuentes’ meeting there, and was unaware of Fuentes’ presence.

If the Texas GOP chair can’t see any “traction” of anti-semitism from the right, I wonder what he can see. From the “very fine people” who chanted “Jews shall not replace us” in Charlottesville to the mounting number of attacks on synagogues and individual Jews, most Americans of good will can see quite a lot of “traction.”

Texas’ current government is dominated by MAGA Republicans determined to keep power by limiting the right of Democratic -leaning constituencies to vote. Scholars at the Brennan Center have described the background of that organization’s current challenge to a measure passed by the Republican-dominated legislature. They allege that Texas has enacted

onerous new rules for voting by mail and curbs voter outreach activities. It also hinders voting assistance for people with language barriers or disabilities and restricts election officials’ and judges’ ability to protect voters from harassment by poll watchers. Like the dozens of restrictive state voting laws that have been enacted nationwide in the last three years, S.B. 1’s proponents claim that it is intended to fight voter fraud. Indeed, its myriad provisions appear to respond directly to baseless claims peddled by Donald Trump and his fellow election deniers about the security of mail-in voting and election administration.

Yet Texas has never found evidence of widespread fraud — and not for lack of trying. Without the pretext of making elections more secure, S.B. 1 is simply an unconstitutional effort to suppress eligible voters in marginalized communities. It seems no coincidence that after people of color surged in turnout in Texas’s 2018 and 2020 elections, the legislature passed a law that restricts methods of voting favored by Black and Latino voters and impairs voter assistance to those with limited English proficiency or limited literacy.

it isn’t only their appalling public behavior. Texas Republicans like Paxton are demonstrably personally corrupt, and that corruption was given a pass by the state’s GOP-dominated legislature. Paxton was acquitted on 16 articles of impeachment, a proceeding triggered by accusations from lawyers on his own staff and buttressed by significant evidence that he had abused the powers of his office to help an Austin real estate investor who was under federal investigation.

The Texas GOP is a cesspool–even more venal and vile than the GOP of DeSantis’ Florida.

I guess everything is bigger in Texas.


Not Pretending Anymore #2

These days, I’m sorry to say, very little surprises me–and I’m especially unsurprised by the increasingly insane and inhumane positions being taken by Republican officeholders. (I live, after all, in a state that has elected culture warrior zealots like Banks and Braun…) But I will admit that Ken Paxton, the slimy AG of Texas, has managed to both shock and appall me.

With, I might add, the assistance of the Texas Supreme Court.

I’ll let Jennifer Rubin explain:

As the Texas Tribune aptly put it, “For the first time in at least 50 years, a judge has intervened to allow an adult woman to terminate her pregnancy.” The woman, Kate Cox, was forced to seek relief because Texas’s six-week ban makes an exception only to save the life of the mother. “At 20 weeks pregnant, Cox learned her fetus had full trisomy 18, a chromosomal abnormality that is almost always fatal before birth or soon after,” the Tribune reported. “Cox and her husband desperately wanted to have this baby, but her doctors said continuing the nonviable pregnancy posed a risk to her health and future fertility, according to a historic lawsuit filed Tuesday.”

The judge, confronted with a real person and a specific medical trauma that defied the ideological straitjacket right-wing lawmakers constructed, sided with Cox on Thursday. “The idea that Ms. Cox wants desperately to be a parent, and this law might actually cause her to lose that ability is shocking and would be a genuine miscarriage of justice,” Travis County District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble held. On Friday night, however, the Texas Supreme Court stepped in to order a stay of Gamble’s ruling, throwing Cox into limbo again.

Yesterday, that Court ruled for Paxton and overruled the lower court. Cox is leaving Texas in order to have the procedure she needs.

Calling Paxton’s position–and the Court’s agreement with it– “pro life” is ridiculous. The fetus has been diagnosed with a condition that is terminal, probably while it is still in the womb and certainly shortly after birth. Preventing this abortion will not “save” an “unborn child.” And Paxton (and the Court) clearly care nothing for the life or health or future fertility of the mother, all of which this pregnancy is threatening.

As Rubin accurately points out, this is what happens when lawmakers presume to overrule medical providers. As she says, there are multiple situations involving “fact-specific medical complications for a pregnant woman” that don’t fall neatly into the either-or construct of these laws.

These cannot, without violating our fundamental sense of justice and decency, be predetermined by a bunch of politicians (mostly White, mostly male and many medically illiterate) without regard to the wishes of the woman involved.

This deeply offensive effort to prevent an abortion that the judge of the lower court found to be required by the interests of “justice and simple humanity” should dispel any confusion about the motives of these so-called “pro life” Republicans. They care not one whit about the lives of women or “unborn babies.” They are interested only in protecting legal and cultural paternalism. They are telling all the women in Texas– and if the GOP regains Congress and/or the White House, all women in the United States–that those White, male, medically illiterate men will continue to control women’s bodies.

Rubin notes that Republicans are still in denial about the overwhelming unpopularity of their position, and the likelihood that it will burden their candidates in 2024 “in virtually every race up and down the ballot.”

Yesterday, I argued that the upcoming elections–unlike most past contests–will not be issue or candidate driven; instead, it will present voters with a choice between fundamentally incompatible world-views. Texas Republicans’ inexplicably cruel–and politically clueless–effort to prevent a medically-necessary abortion is a vivid example.

As Rubin writes:

As abortion rights activists predicted, Republicans remained trapped in a dilemma of their own making. Having catered to extreme antiabortion forces and backed extreme and unworkable abortion bans in a slew of states and nationally, they cannot retreat from their stance without infuriating their base. Seeing the political wreckage in the wake of Dobbs, they are unable to step away from a policy that is wildly out of step with a large majority of Americans. They should prepare to reap the political whirlwind in 2024.

The 2024 elections will be decided by the millions of women and men who oppose not just this cruel effort to control women but the rest of a Christian Nationalist agenda fervently supported by these latter-day, profoundly un-American Puritans. Republicans will be defeated–assuming those men and women turn out to vote. 

On that assumption rests nothing less than a continuation of the American experiment…


Abortion Politics

Analyses of the midterm elections, and the failure of the anticipated “Red wave” have uniformly attributed that result to the potency of the abortion issue.  FiveThirtyEight has reported that in the 38 special elections that followed the midterms, Democrats have over-performed the relevant partisan lean — the relative liberal or conservative history of the area– by an average of 10%. Experts attribute that over-performance to the abortion issue.

A year after Dobbs, a Gallup poll found the issue had lost none of its potency.

A year after U.S. voters attached record-high importance to abortion as an election issue, a new Gallup poll finds it retaining its potency, particularly for the pro-choice side of the debate.

Currently, 28% of registered voters say they will only vote for candidates for major offices who share their position on abortion, one percentage point higher than the previous high of 27% recorded in 2022 and 2019.

A record-low 14% now say abortion is not a major issue in their vote. While similar to last year’s 16%, it is down nine points from the prior low of 23% recorded in 2007.

Results from referenda where voters are faced with a single issue are one thing, but what about the strength of the issue when it is only one element of a candidate’s agenda? Gallup polled that question, too.

Currently, 33% of registered voters who identify as pro-choice versus 23% of pro-life voters say they will only vote for a candidate who agrees with them on abortion. This advantage for the pro-choice side is new since last year.

What accounts for the continued salience of this issue?

For one thing, it’s easy to understand. Republicans and Democrats can argue about the causes and/or levels of inflation, they can debate the effects of “woke-ness,” or the size of the national debt. But debate over who should decide whether a given woman gives birth is straightforward–and it potentially affects every family.

The position of a candidate for public office on the issue is also a recognizable marker for that candidate’s positions on the use or misuse of government power generally.

Back when I was a Republican, the GOP argued for the importance of limiting government interventions to those areas of our common lives that clearly required government action. That position was consistent with the libertarian premise that underlies America’s Bill of Rights: the principle that individuals should be free to make their own life choices, unless and until those choices harm others, and so long as they are willing to accord an equal right to others.

Today’s GOP has utterly abandoned that commitment to individual liberty–it has morphed into a party intent upon using the power of government to impose its views on everyone else. (Actually, if the current ideological battle weren’t so serious, the hypocrisies and inconsistencies would be funny. As a current Facebook meme puts it, today’s Republicans believe a ten-year-old is old enough to give birth, but not old enough to choose a library book.)

As Morton and I wrote in our recent book, the assault on reproductive choice–the belief that government has the right to force women to give birth–is only one element of an overall illiberal, statist and dangerous philosophy. The fundamental right of persons to determine for themselves the course of their own lives and the well-being of their families is the central issue of our time–and it isn’t an issue that affects only women. (According to several reports, even the audience at Republicans’ recent debate failed to show enthusiasm when candidates all supported a federal ban on abortions.)

In the wake of Dobbs, Erwin Chemerinsky wrote:

The central question in the abortion debate is who should decide. Roe v. Wade held that it is for each woman to decide for herself whether to terminate a pregnancy. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization says it is for the legislatures and the political process. The only thing that is certain is that the implications—for women’s lives and for our society—will be enormous and for a long time to come.

We’ve noticed.

Voters may be unaware of the more technical–and worrisome–medical and legal implications of the Dobbs decision, but they clearly understand the difference between candidates who are willing to use the authority of government to impose their own beliefs on those who differ and those who are not. That clarity is the reason the abortion issue has been so powerful a motivator.

Analyses conducted after the midterms and subsequent special elections determined that abortion had been a major driver of turnout in what had historically been low-turnout contests. Whether those increases in turnout will hold in a Presidential election is the question.

The answer will constrain or enhance government power over individuals in areas well beyond reproductive choice.


In Case You Were Wondering…

In case you were wondering whether women will save America, as Morton Marcus and I argued in our recent book, or whether the GOP has radicalized a sufficient number of female voters  to prevent a Blue Wave and block necessary reforms…

A few days ago, I wrote about the misnamed “Moms for Liberty,” and noted that the activism of rightwing women isn’t a new phenomenon. And that’s true–a “quick and dirty” list of reactionary women’s organizations  would include at least the following:

  • The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), which has  historically attracted conservative-leaning women and  supported right-wing values.
  • The National Federation of Republican Women (NFRW), which serves as a grassroots network supporting Republican Party candidates and their increasingly radical policies.
  • Concerned Women for America (CWA) is a (truly scary) conservative Christian women’s organization supporting a fundamentalist list of “traditional family values”– it  opposes  abortion, same-sex marriage, and LGBTQ rights, among other positions.
  • Turning Point USA (TPUSA) isn’t an exclusively female organization, but it has a significant female following. It focuses its efforts on those “liberal” college campuses.

And of course, we now have “Moms for Liberty.”

On the other hand, there is an unmistakable and growing gender gap in American electoral politics: the Pew Research Center’s analysis of nationally validated voter data reported that, in 2020,  57% of women supported Biden, while 42% supported Trump. (I personally find it difficult to understand why any sentient American would support TFG, let alone 42% of women, but facts are facts….)

When it comes to policymakers, the differences between male and female legislators are pretty stark. On the one-year anniversary of the Dobbs decision, the Guardian ran an article–with pictures!–of all state-level legislators who had voted to ban or dramatically restrict abortion, and as the headline pointed out, they were “mostly men.”

To be precise, there were 1292 Republican men, 214 Republican women, 53 Democratic men, 11 Democratic women, and 2 independents.

Those numbers do reflect a considerable gender gap, but one that–I would argue–doesn’t reflect some inherent aspect of gender identity so much as individual experience. If American males had lived under a government that controlled what they could do with their bodies, while allowing women to control theirs, the gap would probably be reversed.

As I have repeatedly argued, Americans aren’t arguing about whether or not an individual woman should be able to abort a fetus. The issue is far more fundamental: What should be the limits of government authority over individual citizens?

“Moms for Liberty” is such a ridiculous title because giving government at any level–school boards or state legislatures or federal agencies–the authority to tell parents what their children can read or learn is the antithesis of liberty.

Giving government the power to force women to give birth, handing over to government the power to overrule the medical judgments of doctors and the considered decisions of parents, allowing government to overrule businesses’ decisions about diversity and  inclusion–handing such broad authority to government is the opposite of liberty.

Our government was founded on the libertarian principle that people should be free to make their own decisions about their lives–their goals, their beliefs, their telos–so long as the individual is not harming the person or property of someone else, and so long as they are respecting the equal rights of others.

We can certainly argue about the nature of the harms that justify government interference, but that principle precludes defining “religious liberty” as the privileging of  (selected) Christian beliefs. It precludes imposing the policy preferences of legislators on businesses that are otherwise behaving lawfully. It precludes empowering some parents to dictate to others what their children may read or what medical interventions are appropriate. It absolutely precludes forcing women to give birth.

Actual liberty demands a lot of people–first and foremost, the ability to live in a society where people who don’t always agree with you have the same right to personal autonomy that you do.

Women and men who understand the fundamental nature of the MAGA assault on liberty will vote Blue in 2024.