Tag Archives: Talking Points Memo

Same-Sex Marriage Is Next

So you don’t have a uterus, and you don’t care about the Supreme Court’s decision striking down Roe v. Wade? Better hope you aren’t a member of the LGBTQ community, either–because gay folks are now in the line of fire, per Talking Points Memo.

After passing the House with the support of 47 Republicans, the Respect for Marriage Act, which would protect marriage rights for same-sex couples if the Supreme Court were to overturn its 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, faces much dimmer prospects in the Senate. There is one reason why: the Christian right still controls the Republican Party. Movement leaders know it took 50 years to reverse Roe, and are committed to a similar strategy to undermine and eventually overturn Obergefell. With abundant clues in the Supreme Court’s June decision overturning Roe that LGBTQ rights could be next on the chopping block, it is unimaginable that movement leaders would sink that goal by allowing this bill to become law.

Republican senators are keenly aware of this. That is why South Dakota’s John Thune and Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy accused Democrats of introducing the bill to distract from inflation. It is why Florida’s Marco Rubio called it “a stupid waste of time,” and claimed gay Floridians are “pissed off” about something else — high gas prices. And it is why Maine’s Susan Collins, who was one of the bill’s four original Republican supporters, came up with the laughing-crying emoji argument that, because Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) had struck a surprise deal on Democratic legislative priorities late last month, she would struggle to win fellow Republicans’ support for the marriage bill. “[I]t was a very unfortunate move that destroys the many bipartisan efforts that are under way,” she told HuffPost.

The article went on to document the “avalanche of opposition” to the bill from the Christian Right that effectively controls today’s GOP.

The Family Research Council Action began calling the bill the “(Dis)Respect for Marriage Act” before it even reached the House floor, and pointed to the provision in the party’s   platform (back when the GOP still bothered with such things) that states, “[t]raditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values.”

FRC Action also ginned up fear among its members by alleging that the bill would be used to persecute them and take away their religious freedom. (I remind readers that–in Christian Nationalist language, “religious freedom” is defined as freedom to impose their fundamentalist  Christianity on everyone else.)

It reminded them that in the 1970s, the IRS revoked the tax exemption of the segregationist, fundamentalist Christian Bob Jones University over its racist policies, suggesting, despite the fact that it hasn’t happened in the seven years since Obergefell, that universities and nonprofits that oppose marriage equality could face a similar fate. The American Family Association called the bill “an Orwellian attempt to pretend that the Court’s very recent discovery of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage is not controversial and offensive to many people around the country.” The Heritage Foundation called it a “publicity stunt” aimed at “tak[ing] the spotlight off progressives’ radical policies and paint conservatives as bigots — and all this conveniently before the midterm elections.”

Ever since Justice Alito’s dishonest framing in Dobbs, I have warned that his attack on the doctrine of substantive due process–the doctrine that certain matters are none of government’s business–threatens numerous rights beyond abortion. If a woman no longer has the right to choose abortion, what about choosing to use birth control? What prevents government from decreeing that same-sex marriage erodes “the foundation for a free society?”

As Talking Points Memo concluded,

It’s crucial not only to understand what Christian nationalism is as an ideology, but to understand how right-wing operatives have attained the power to subvert democratic structures and democratic values in order to make it the core of anti-majoritarian rule. The opposition to the Respect for Marriage Act is an object lesson in how that power works. Christian right operatives and lawyers argue that America is a Christian nation, that Christians’ right to practice their religion must be protected from secular, progressive incursions like constitutional rights for LGBTQ people, and that it is the duty of judges and government officials to ensure that these “biblical” values are secured. With a sympathetic majority on the Supreme Court and a razor-thin Democratic majority in the Senate with filibuster rules favorable to conservatives, the Christian right has every incentive to deploy this power. And because Republicans no longer have an alternative base upon which to build a coalition, they will continue to relent.

Voting Blue has never been more important.

 

 

“God’s Anointed”

Talking Points Memo recently considered the response of the “Christian” Right to the FBI’s execution of a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago.The article described a “smorgasbord of persecution complexes, whataboutism, conspiracy theories, lies, and misinformation about law enforcement and the judicial process.”

The Christian right and its GOP allies are counting on their base consuming a steady diet of these radio shows, podcasts, social media posts, and email blasts, tuning out any coverage that conflicts with their image of Trump as both a virile hero and a victim besieged by radical leftists at the FBI. For them, God anointed Trump, choosing an “unlikely” leader to restore Christian America. It is precisely because Trump is singularly capable of resurrecting the Christian nation, this thinking goes, that the radical leftists of the deep state want to bring him down. 

For those of us who remain residents of the reality-based community, the belief that any God worth worshipping would choose Donald Trump to “resurrect” anything is utterly gobsmacking. Yet the article went on to quote prominent figures of the Christian Right–Tony Perkins, who runs the Family Research Council and Franklin Graham, son of Billy– ranting about the perfidy of the FBI. (Graham invoked the 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge, and the conspiracy theory, evidently pervasive in right-wing circles, that “funding in the Inflation Reduction Act to boost collection of taxes owed by the wealthy was “a step in weaponizing the IRS to act against anyone voicing dissent against the government.)

If the Talking Points Memo report wasn’t sufficiently horrifying, a recent description of Trump supporters in David French’s newsletter certainly was. (French, by the way, is a conservative.)

French begins by differentiating between Republicans who voted for Trump in 2016 and those who currently support him. He says that voters in 2016 were populist (a nicer word than racist…) but that today’s case for Trump is different– and even more harmful for American politics

Here’s the new narrative—and I have no doubt that a number of readers have heard all or much of it from their MAGA friends and family members—goes something like this:

The Trump presidency exposed the true evil of the left. They persecuted Trump more than any other president in history. First, there was the Russia hoax, then the impeachment hoax, then they shut down the economy and schools to destroy Trump; they shut down churches to destroy the Church. They burned cities. They hollowed out our police forces. They were tyrants. They forced us to wear masks that didn’t work and to take an experimental vaccine that has killed tens of thousands of vulnerable Americans.

They hated Trump because Trump was God’s anointed leader to save the nation, and it’s no surprise that the forces of hell came against him.

Even then, they knew they couldn’t beat him. So they changed election rules. Dead people voted. Thousands of “mules” stuffed the ballot boxes, and then they tried to stop Trump from investigating fraud. And if anyone’s to blame for January 6, it’s Nancy Pelosi for leaving the Capitol unguarded. They just let people walk in, and now they’re holding political prisoners in solitary confinement. Second impeachment was a joke, another hoax. But still they can’t keep Trump down. Joe Biden is senile. He can barely walk or talk. Trump is coming back, and they know it, so they’re attacking him again.

The inescapable fact that there are millions of Americans who actually subscribe to this loony-tunes view is nothing short of terrifying. But as French says, once you become aware of this narrative, you see evidence of it is everywhere. He points to wild claims that 44 percent of pregnant women in the Pfizer COVID-vaccine trial miscarried; accusations that a Pennsylvania Senate candidate is “satanic;” and a new book by a right-wing radio host arguing that the COVID lockdowns and other public-health measures were “the worst evil in our history” and the “worst oppression in global history since the Third Reich.”

Meanwhile, well-meaning liberals urge Red and Blue Americans to engage in civil discourse. Really? The likelihood of having a respectful discussion with people who hold such views is somewhere between zero and “are you kidding?”

French says there are tens of millions of Republicans who don’t hold these views  (or at least don’t hold them as intensely), but as he points out, those who do hold them intensely are reliable Republican primary voters.

This changes what it can mean to tack right in the primary and then move to the center for the general. The story above is so dire and so radical that tacking right often precludes moving left. Where do you go after you’ve declared the election stolen or after you’ve declared that your opponents are pure evil?

And where do the rest of us go?

 

If This Is Even Partially True…

Everyone has his or her theory about the roots of Americans’ current political and cultural hostilities. Most of those theories are rooted in history or sociology, but I recently stumbled across a very different analysis, offered in a lengthy letter from a Finnish reader to Talking Points Memo

The writer linked the growth of America’s internal divisions to a very external culprit: Russia. In his view, Russia has used America as a “tool”–a Western backdoor to its goal of weakening Europe and NATO

Since Western Europe and the USA together (in the form of NATO and otherwise) has been too strong for Russia to expand, and since the USA is the greatest military backup fortress of NATO/Europe, they simply circumvented Europe and went to the core of the power using the kitchen door, the internal political structure of the USA.

I understand you would like to see your heroic country as the navel of the world and as the main focus of any operation, but I am sorry to inform that, in this case, you are only cheap tools. You had to be weakened (and Britain manipulated to Brexit etc) in order to facilitate invasions to Ukraine, Belarussia and a list of other neighboring pieces of land in Putin’s future Menu.

So, as a KGB officer would plan, they came exactly from the opposite direction than where they were expected. They professionally built an operation web among the rural redneck cowboys, evangelical christians, the NRA, the most republican of all republicans, your law enforcement, some military people, big business etc etc. They popped up to the surface from within the “core americans”, but their long dive before that was planned and had started from the Kremlin’s operation board.

The writer goes on to say that the Russian plot nearly succeeded on January 6th, one of several efforts to incite and coordinate  seemingly “spontaneous” protests and prop up  “corrupt politicians like a welding flame to the same point and to the same moment.” He then adds, ominously, that “They just barely failed – for the time being!”

Had Trump succeeded to keep in power, the march of Putin to various targets in the Eastern Europe would have been more like an easy summer parade. NATO would be partially paralyzed by his loyal friends in the White House (who likely would have got their personal share of the profits).

It was no coincidence that some crucial (and criminal) incidents of the Trump term had to do with the Ukraine. It was one of Putin’s main targets already then. Trump was because of Ukraine, not vice versa! GOP (short for “Girlfriends Of Putin”??) just blocked any consequences for him.

After laying out this theory of Putin’s/Russia’s strategy, the writer comes to his major concern about what he clearly (and maybe correctly) sees as the fecklessness of the United States. We have yet to hold Trump or any significant member of the GOP accountable–and meanwhile, “the GOP is working in three shifts to make the next election even more rigged than the previous one. And you are just going to let it happen.. Tralala!”

So, if you really want to do something for the Ukraine, for the Europe and to any other decent country or person, please also Do. Your. Own. Homework! Show to both your home audience and to the rest of the world that also the western flank of Putin’s army, the one located in your country, is kept accountable! No special treatment, just f**king enforce your old existing laws to ultra-rich/influential white dudes, as well! You are just tools, but you are very important tools for Putin also in the European front. Don’t let him use you.

The letter ends with a declaration that, by our collective inaction, we Americans are facilitating the bad things that are happening in the whole world.

My reaction to this analysis–this diatribe, actually–is mixed. Geopolitical events are almost never reducible to simple “cause and effect,” after all. But it is impossible to ignore the basic outlines of our Finnish friend’s accusations, because most of the grounds of those accusations have been confirmed by U.S. Intelligence, journalists, and the January 6th Committee. We know that Russian bots influenced the 2016 election; and we know that they have been effective in disseminating conspiracy theories and disinformation on social media.

We also know that it is very unlikely that Russian activities in cyberspace were undertaken independently–i.e., without Putin’s knowledge or direction.

There is one area where I am in total agreement with the gentleman from Finland: the pressing need to hold Trump and his enablers accountable–and soon.

 

 

Abandoning Equivalence

A few days ago, over at Talking Points Memo Josh Marshall shared an important observation.  He was reporting on yet another asinine demand by yet another asinine Republican operative–in this case, the Chairman of the Republican party of Virginia, who wanted the University of Virginia to open an investigation into Professor Larry Sabato. Sabato is a noted and widely cited political observer; however, according to the Chairman of the “anti-cancel” party, Sabato’s “bitter partisanship.” violated  UVA’s ethical code and justified “cancelling” him. (Of course, he didn’t put it quite that way…)

The University responded, according to Marshall, “by telling the Virginia GOP, in so many words, to STFU.”

Another day, another example of hypocrisy and stupidity. It wouldn’t be worth a post, except for Marshall’s further insightful observation, which I am taking the liberty of quoting at some length.

Years ago – and in some case until quite recently – there was a group of commentators who the prestige news shows relied on for non-partisan, “both sides” commentary on the politics of the day. Two of the most visible – especially on shows like The NewsHour were Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann, two think tank political scientists from AEI and Brookings respectively. Another was presidential historian Michael Beschloss. Another was Larry Sabato. Ornstein and Mann tended to focus on the function of Congress; Beschloss, the presidency; Sabato, federal elections. But they each covered the full terrain of contemporary politics. If you go back through 20-plus years of my writing the Editors’ Blog you’ll probably find some criticism of each of them, almost certainly precisely because of this studious effort to see the country’s two political parties in equal terms and treat them as such, even as the evidence for that perspective steadily dwindled….

In the spring of 2012 Mann and Ornstein published an OpEd in The Washington Post: “Let’s Just Say It: The Republicans Are the Problem“. The title speaks for itself but if you wanted more you could read the book that it was adapted from It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism. Ornstein’s twitter feed is now so blistering in its criticism of contemporary conservatism and the GOP that it makes me blush. Beschloss now has a priceless Twitter feed made up largely of historical artifacts, photos, commemorations almost all of which function as subtweets of Trump, Trumpism or some related manifestation of the contemporary GOP.

Sabato was in many ways the final holdout. In an interview with The Richmond Times-Dispatch for an article about the state GOP investigation demand, Sabato chalked the shift up to Trump and the January 6th insurrection. “People had better pay attention because if they don’t, it’s going to happen again.”

These political pundits originally earned reputations as fair-minded, non-partisan political scientists translating research data for the edification of the public. Their whole “schtick” was even-handedness; they were political Joe Fridays confining themselves to “just the facts, ma’am.” They had–and still have– significant professional incentives to be “both-siders” to the greatest extent consistent with scholarly integrity.

So what has changed?

I suggest that what’s changed is political reality. We are at a point in America’s political life when people who actually know what they are talking about can no longer treat today’s GOP as a normal political party. Norman Ornstein was a Republican and to the best of my knowledge, he is still working for a conservative think-tank. Michael Beschloss always struck me as a bit right of center, although careful to maintain objectivity. Ditto Sabato, who never came across as anything but a studied fence-straddler. (Granted, these were my impressions, and may well have differed from the reactions of others.)

There comes a time when knowledgable people who were trained to be dispassionate (and incentivized to bend over backwards to be “balanced”) can no longer ignore the evidence.

We’re at that point.

 

 

So Here’s Where We Are….

I did it again. This should have posted tomorrow morning. Sorry.

 

This week saw the start of the public phase of the House Impeachment process. Media outlets–left, right and center–have reported on testimony, the behavior of various Representatives, the White House and a multitude of partisans. Still other outlets have reported on those reports.

In other words, there has been a lot of noise. Amid the clamor, though, I think Josh Marshall has made the most incisive observations.As he points out, the question commonly asked is whether the Democrats can make their case convincingly to the American public. And as he also points out, that really isn’t the question.

What’s really being asked is whether Democrats will be able to convince not the American people but Republican partisans and more specifically congressional Republicans. And that is by design an all but impossible standard because they are deeply and unshakably committed to not being convinced.

This is not only the obvious verdict of the last three years. It’s even more clear with the questions which have emerged since September. Congressional Republicans have hopped from one argument to another: from no evidence of wrongdoing, to the wrongdoing is actually fine, to a rearguard action against a corrupt process. The chaos of arguments has zero logic or consistency beyond the simple and overriding one: of refusing to accept that the President did anything wrong no matter what evidence emerges and simply use whatever argument is available to justify that end.

Marshall is right. The pundits who are evaluating the Democrats’ “performance” by their success in moving immovable Republicans are applying a ridiculous standard. As he says, no sane person willingly plays a game or has an argument or even wages a war in which the adversary gets to decide who wins or loses.

That not only guarantees failure it breeds a a sense of helplessness and mawkish begging. It demoralizes supporters and puffs up opponents with a sense of unmerited power.

Public opinion surveys show the public is already pretty well convinced even in advance of public hearings. Overwhelming numbers see this kind of extortion and foreign election interference as wrong. Similar numbers believe the President did these things. Even in advance of public hearings roughly 50% of the voting population already supports the extreme step of removing the President from office – something that hasn’t happened in almost a quarter of a millenium of American history.

Marshall points out that the evidence of illegal behavior and abuse of power is already overwhelming. Damning testimony has come from Trump’s own appointees, and to the extent details are still missing, it’s because Trump has kept people who could fill in the blanks from testifying.

Certainly it is important to air the evidence publicly, clear up good faith confusions and nudge as many people who believe the President did something wrong but are hesitant about the upheaval of impeachment in the direction of supporting impeachment and removal. But the basic case simply makes itself. The evidence is overwhelming.

His conclusion–with which I entirely agree–is sobering.

It’s not the Democrats who are on trial here, needing to prove themselves with some magisterial performance. Indeed, it’s not even really the President whose guilt is obvious and not even questioned with serious arguments. Who and what is on trial here is the Republican party, which has made it pretty clear that they are willing to countenance any level of law breaking and abuses of power so long as it is done by a Republican or at least as long as it is Donald Trump.

The Democrats’ job is to lay out the evidence in a public setting and get elected Republicans to sign on the dotted line that this is presidential behavior they accept and applaud. That won’t be difficult. They have one last chance to change their answer. Democrats real job is to clarify and publicize that that is their answer.

This isn’t pollyannish. It is simply recognizing the nature of the crisis in which the country finds itself and avoiding nonsensical, bad-faith exercises that can only end in frustration. The aim for Democrats is to set forth, calmly and clearly, what the Republican party accepts and what it is and consolidate the non-Republican, non-authoritarian nationalist vote which supports the rule of law and the constitution. Since the GOP is self-indicting, President Trump will almost certainly not be removed from office and these questions, properly set forth, will go before the people in one year.

What We The People do then–and the margin by which we do it– will tell us who we really are.