They Aren’t Even Pretending Any More

Jim Banks and J.D. Vance–two MAGA Republicans–have introduced a new bill, “The College Admissions Accountability Act.” It would create “a dedicated office for investigating race discrimination in college admissions.” A rightwing publication calls it  “the most dramatic effort yet to enforce the Supreme Court’s ban on affirmative action.”

Wow…just wow.

As described in glowing terms by the Washington Free Beacon (the rightwing publication), the Act

would establish a special inspector general within the Education Department—separate from the Office of Civil Rights—to probe potential violations of the colorblind standard set forth in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, which ruled that race-conscious admissions programs violate the 14th Amendment. The bill would also bar schools that flout the decision from receiving any form of federal aid…

The bill would create a new mechanism for applicants and university employees to file discrimination claims against admissions departments. Those claims would be investigated by the special inspector general—nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate—who could then recommend enforcement actions, including the revocation of federal funds, to the secretary of education and attorney general.

The office would also submit quarterly reports to Congress on the allegations it has received and what corrective steps have been taken. That means the secretary of education and attorney general, while theoretically free to ignore the office’s recommendations, would face public pressure to lay down the law.

Universities, meanwhile, would be at constant risk of humiliation if they adopt the sort of race-based policies that have become de rigueur throughout higher education. Though focused on admissions, the bill also covers “financial aid determinations” and “academic programs,” empowering the inspector general to go after scholarships, fellowships, and research programs that exclude non-minorities.

“The federal government has given the universities free rein to discriminate against white and Asian students,” Christopher Rufo, the conservative activist behind numerous state laws banning critical race theory, said of the bill. “Senator Vance’s proposed legislation will put a stop to this.”

Rufo, you will recall, is Ron DeSantis’ go-to guy on education…

The questions just ask themselves…like, where were these proud opponents of racial discrimination when it was Black kids who were being discriminated against? (Answer: Nowhere to be found.) And what happened to those intrepid conservative warriors  who were battling big government and regulatory over-reach? (Answer: It doesn’t count as over-reach if government is imposing policies that benefit White Christian guys.)

I note from the above description of the bill that these Paladins of Non-discrimination are also working hard to ensure that those greedy Black kids who somehow manage to get admitted don’t get any “extra” consideration when it comes to financial assistance. 

Given Banks hostility to LGBTQ Americans, I’m only surprised that he didn’t manage to work some homophobia into his new appreciation for having government oversight and “accountability.” (Of course, I haven’t read the entire bill…)

When the Supreme Court  handed down its decision on affirmative action, the Congressional Black Caucus warned that ending the consideration of race in admissions policies in higher education would have far-reaching, negative consequences. Even that Caucus, however, could not have foreseen the way White Supremicists have rushed to bully and threaten universities in order to ensure that Black applicants receive absolutely no “special” consideration. (And clearly, from the language of Banks’ bill, White guys hostile to Black kids will be the ones who get to decide what “special” consideration looks like.)

When I read the language of this bill, it prompted a twinge of nostalgia for the dear departed days of the “dog whistle.” MAGA Republicans like Banks have substituted a bugle for that whistle. 

Ohio is responsible for J.D. Vance (about whom Mitt Romney recently wrote, “I don’t know that I can disrespect someone more than JD Vance”), but voters in a Hoosier Congressional district are the ones who inflicted Jim Banks on the country. Now Banks wants to take his fetid brand of MAGA fundamentalism to the U.S. Senate. WE CANNOT ALLOW THAT TO HAPPEN.

As Brian Howey wrote when Banks was supporting Jim Jordan for speaker, “Indiana has a history of Senate lions; Banks is a House hyena.”

We have a chance to get rid of Banks in 2024. Democrat Marc Carmichael is the antithesis of Jim Banks; he would be a Senator Hoosiers could be proud of. He actually wants to be a Senator for ALL Indiana citizens.

Go to his website. Volunteer. Send him money. Tell your friends. 

Help him defeat the hyena.


That Ambitious ‘Hillbilly’

When Hillbilly Elegy was first published, critics were generally positive. I wasn’t.

Granted, I read only excerpts, which probably made my negative reaction unfair, but the impression I got was of a self-congratulatory “escapee” who’d decided that he’d “made it” largely by reason of his personal virtues, albeit with the help of some immediate family members.

As a few negative reviewers at the time noted,  Vance gave no credit to any of the government programs and/or services– public schools, the GI bill, the public university where he earned his B.A – that facilitated his move out of poverty and into the upper class, and he expressly blamed laziness for the failures of those left behind.  

It was clear that–in his mind– working-class folks were to blame for their own struggles.  

Vance’s focus on personal responsibility was just what opponents of a strong social safety net were looking for, and they hyped the book (and later, the movie.) See–you too can overcome adversity and whatever barriers you face if you just get off your rear end and work hard…

Now, Vance is running for the Senate as a Republican from Ohio. He has already modified his earlier criticism of the former guy, and scrubbed evidence of that criticism from social media, and he has doubled down on his support of what he calls “family values.” Most recently, he criticized prominent Democratic politicians–including Kamala Harris, Corey Booker and Pete Buttigieg– for their childlessness, calling them the “childless left.

He also praised the policies of Viktor Orban, the leader of Hungary, whose government is subsidizing couples who have children, and asked, “Why can’t we do that here?”

The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel, who was there, pointed out it was odd that Vance didn’t mention Joe Biden’s newly instituted child tax credit, which will make an enormous difference to many poorer families with children.
It was also interesting that he praised Hungary rather than other European nations with strong pronatalist policies. France, in particular, offers large financial incentives to families with children and has one of the highest fertility rates in the advanced world. So why did Vance single out for praise a repressive, autocratic government with a strong white nationalist bent?

It gets worse. As reported by CityBeat, Vance proposes giving parents additional votes on behalf of their children. He also claims that people without children shouldn’t serve in legislative positions, since–in his weird worldview–they won’t be good at legislating. Especially if they’re Democrats.

“The ‘childless left have no physical commitment to the future of this country,” The Guardian reports Vance as saying during his July 23 address. “Why is this just a normal fact of … life for the leaders of our country to be people who don’t have a personal and direct stake in it via their own offspring?”

It’s hard to assess how much of this is just pandering to the increasingly insane GOP base and how much is authentic Vance, who has clearly imbibed both rightwing beliefs about what Paul Krugman has dubbed “Zombie Family Values” and embraced the GOP’s willingness to substitute child-friendly rhetoric for  even minimal support of policies that would actually help families with children.

Vance reminds me of an extremely libertarian acquaintance of mine who attributes his own success entirely to his own ambition and hard work. He’s a 6’3″ healthy, athletic, straight White male whose parents both graduated from prestigious universities and were able to provide him with a similar, debt-free education. He’s convinced that anyone in America can prosper as he has, without “sucking at the public tit.” He finds the notion that some folks  face barriers that weren’t there for him–and that government might have a role to play in removing those barriers and leveling the playing field a bit–  simply incomprehensible.

“Look at me–I did it all by myself…” was understandable when my three-year-old managed to use a spoon without spilling his soup.

 It’s not an attractive– nor intellectually defensible– attitude in an adult.