Tag Archives: Todd Rokita

I Rest My Case

Okay-I probably won’t really “rest my case” so long as Indiana lawmakers continue to prove my point–but I thought I’d give readers a smattering of information about the government produced by Indiana’s gerrymandering. 

First up: we’ve recently learned that Indiana State Rep. Jim Lucas will offer an amendment to the state budget bill–and it’s a doozy. Lucas wants to provide a $2000 tax credit for any Hoosier citizen who purchases an automatic or semi-automatic gun in the next two years.

You read that right. At a time when the proliferation of weapons more suited to war is facilitating daily mass shootings, Lucas wants to encourage people to add to their arsenals. 

Our daughter occasionally looks at Lucas’ Facebook page, and reports that it’s a fetid swamp of racism, anti-Semitism, pro-Trump conspiracies and–of course–“Second Amendment” devotion. Lucas was quoted defending his proposal by saying

“I am very concerned about the safety of our Hoosier families during this next national election period”, said Rep Lucas. “In a circular logic that makes perfect sense to me, our system of elections is breaking down and every citizen needs to be prepared to defend themself from the angry, armed mobs I anticipate we will see”, Rep Lucas said.

Indiana doesn’t keep all of its wacko extremists in the General Assembly; we send more than our share of theocrats and culture warriors to Washington. I’ve mentioned Jim Banks before; currently representing Hoosiers in the House, Banks now intends to run for the Senate seat being vacated by yet another culture warrior, Mike Braun, who wants to be Governor. 

Banks recently emphasized his anti-choice credentials in a radio interview.

Hoosier congressman seeking to represent Indiana in the U.S. Senate is expressing support for reducing abortion options in other states.

During an interview on Fort Wayne’s WOWO-AM radio, U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, responded favorably Thursday to a suggestion by host Pat Miller that more needs to be done to restrict abortion in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24, 2022, Dobbs decision repealing the right to abortion established in 1973 by Roe v. Wade.

“Our work as a pro-life movement is far from over,” Miller said. “If a young lady can hop in a car in Fort Wayne and in an hour and a half she can be in a place in Michigan, or in just under three hours she can cross the line into Illinois, and achieve what she was (un)able to do with abortion clinics here in Indiana, the fight is far from over.”

Banks subsequently denied that he wants to impose travel restrictions on Indiana citizens (someone who had actually read the Constitution evidently pointed out that such a restriction would likely be struck down), but re-affirmed his support for a national ban modeled on the one passed by Indiana’s legislature, currently embroiled in a challenge pending  before Indiana’s Supreme Court.

Banks has been busy in the House of Representatives.  According to State Affairs,  Banks recently formed the “anti-woke” caucus.

Earlier this month, he formed the “anti-woke caucus,” explaining at the Claremont Institute, “This utterly un-American doctrine would be comical were it not so powerful and it is powerful because it is enforced not only by every major national institution. It is promoted and funded by the federal government itself.”

Shades of Ron DeSantis…

Then of course, there’s the ongoing saga of Todd Rokita, Indiana’s current Attorney General, who is positively frantic to prove that no one can outdo him when it comes to pandering to the deplorables. I’ve previously posted about Rokita’s tenuous connection to ethics, conclusions that have recently been corroborated by a court decision confirming that his constant PR efforts violate Indiana law.

Rokita has been in the news most recently for his vendetta against the Indiana doctor who performed an abortion on the ten-year-old rape victim from Ohio.  He also made news by defending Kanye West,after West’s anti-Semitic comments hit the news, tweeting

“The constant hypocrisy from the media is at an all-time high. They have now gone after Kanye for his new fashion line, his independent thinking, & for having opposing thoughts from the norm of Hollywood.”

I could probably devote several other posts to Rokita, but he is so widely despised (even by members of his own party) that it hardly seems worth the trouble.

I don’t for a minute think these extremists represent the average Hoosier, but thanks to the GOP’s chokehold on Indiana elections, they’re what we get.

I’ll just end with a great quote from comic Jim Gaffigan.  

“I’m from Indiana… In Indiana it’s not like New York where everyone’s like, ‘We’re from New York and we’re the best’ or ‘We’re from Texas and we like things big’ it’s more like ‘We’re from Indiana and we’re gonna move.’”  

 

How To Rig A Vote

You really have to admire the chutzpah of so many Republican candidates, who are saying– presumably with straight faces–that if they win their contests, the election was free and fair, but if they lose, it was rigged.

I guess that’s how you tell whether an election was fair: if you win. Somehow, I find that less than persuasive…..

The GOP has been working to undermine public confidence in election results for years–in Indiana, when loathsome Todd Rokita was Secretary of State, he ushered in the nation’s first voter ID law. Whatever you think of these laws–and I’ve not been shy about my own analysis–they send a message to voters: some people are casting fraudulent votes, so maybe the election results shouldn’t be trusted. Doubts persist despite the fact that numerous studies have determined that in-person vote fraud is vanishingly rare.

Trump’s “big lie” magnified accusations of impropriety, and in a perfect demonstration of projection (accusing the other guy of your own misdeeds),  GOP candidates running for state offices with responsibilities for vote administration have all but trumpeted (sorry!) their intent to show Americans what rigging an election really looks like.

A report from the Washington Post focused on the threat, but the Post is far from the only media outlet sounding the warning.

In many states, the secretary of state is the chief elections official. It’s a crucial job, but not one that many Americans have heard of, much less paid attention to.

But secretary of state races are starting to get a lot more national attention and money. Former president Donald Trump and his allies have succeeded in boosting 2020 election deniers as candidates this primary season, and in many states, they’ve won the Republican nomination. That means, by next year, election deniers could be in charge of their states’ elections, including in key swing states for the 2024 presidential race.

Actually, as the article properly notes, it’s really hard to rig a national election in America because our election oversight is so decentralized. (That may be one of the very few virtues of state-level authority over the election process.) That said, there are “ways rogue secretaries of state could use their powers to throw a wrench in elections.”

They can follow Rokita’s example, and make it harder for people to cast ballots. Or they can change the procedures governing how votes are counted — like tightening restrictions on when mail-in ballots can arrive or what signatures are accepted.

They can also authorize endless audits and recounts.

There’s nothing wrong with checking results if there’s a dispute, said Trey Grayson, a former Republican secretary of state in Kentucky. But he and other election experts stress that endless audits don’t instill confidence in the democratic process; instead they allow bad actors to try to raise endless questions.

Rogue Secretaries of State can refuse to sign off on election results they don’t like, as a couple of officials did recently in New Mexico. At the very least, election-denying secretaries of state could publicly question election results, further eroding voter confidence and giving election deniers an air of legitimacy.

If enough election deniers get into office in time for the 2024 presidential election, experts worry they could together create enough chaos and confusion that they would weaken Americans’ faith in their government’s ability to hold free and fair elections.

The article identifies the states in which election deniers are currently running for positions that oversee elections. Indiana is one of them. Nevada, Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, Minnesota, Michigan, Vermont, Maine and Connecticut are others. Obviously, in some of those states the denialist is unlikely to win–but in deep red states like Indiana, where few voters are even aware of who’s running in down ballot races, and where majorities routinely vote for anyone with an “R” by their name, there is a real likelihood that these conspiracy theorists will win.

A columnist for the Indianapolis Star called Diego Morales–the Republican candidate for Secretary of State–“broadly unacceptable” for a number of reasons. I absolutely agree–but I wonder how many Hoosier voters know what a Secretary of State does, let alone who is running for the office.

A few weeks ago, I urged readers to support Destiny Wells, the truly impressive Democrat running for Secretary of State. I’ll just repeat how I ended that post: It’s bad enough to live in a state governed by people who want to arm the entire population (okay, to be fair, just the White part), make LGBTQ+ folks second-class citizens, control women’s bodies, and make it easier for a pandemic to kill you. The last thing we need is a nutcase “Big Lie” proponent overseeing our elections.

Just Vote Blue No Matter Who……up and down the ballot.

 

 

 

 

Deplorable Rokita

Hillary Clinton’s characterization of Trump supporters as “deplorable” wasn’t a politically savvy move, but in the aftermath of the 2016 election, Republican officeholders have done their best to illustrate its accuracy.

Here in Indiana, where our last Attorney General was sanctioned by the Disciplinary Commission for groping female legislative staffers, the current occupant of that office is evidently campaigning for the title of most disgusting officeholder–and that’s the only campaign he should actually win.

I’ve previously posted about Rokita–several times, in fact. In 2013, when he was in Congress, I explained why he was more embarrassing than then-Governor Mike Pence. In 2014, I explained why he was dangerous and anti-American. (Also in 2014, I highlighted his comparison of himself to Earl Landgrebe, whose most famous quote, “Don’t confuse me with the facts. I’ve got a closed mind” was perhaps more telling than he had intended.) When he was elected AG, I posted a compendium of Rokita’s positions and suggested that Indiana had once again elected a guaranteed embarrassment to the position of Attorney General.

You can find links to those posts in “Speaking of Blowhards and Scoundrels”

I also commented on disclosures that Rokita had retained his position with the health benefits firm he’d worked for prior to the  election, even after he assumed his current, presumably full-time “day job”  as Indiana’s Attorney General. A day job that coincidentally gave him investigative jurisdiction over that “other” job…(The publicity led to a resignation–but not to any evident recognition of why it was a problem…)

Most recently, I posted about Rokita’s despicable and unprofessional attacks on the Ob-Gyn who performed an abortion on the ten-year-old rape victim who traveled to Indiana because–after Dobbs— she could not legally obtain an abortion in Ohio.

I was gratified when the doctor’s lawyer served Rokita with a “cease and desist” letter, and followed it with a tort claim notice–a legal precursor to a defamation lawsuit. But I was especially pleased when Lauren Robel (a former dean of IU’s law school, former Bloomington provost and former Executive Vice President of Indiana University) filed a complaint with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission against Rokita, accusing him of “recklessly” making claims that weren’t backed by fact.

Unlike Rokita, Robel is widely respected and admired. She readily admits that this is the only time in her 40 years as a lawyer and law professor that she has ever lodged a disciplinary complaint.

In Robel’s complaint, she argued Rokita failed to perform due diligence before making accusations about Bernard.

“What General Rokita did, in essence, was identify a private citizen whose political views he disagrees with and suggest repeatedly, on national television, and on the Attorney General’s official website, that she had broken the law, with no evidence to support those claims,” Robel wrote. “If he can throw the entire weight of his office without consequence to attack Dr. Bernard, he can do so to target any private citizen with whom he disagrees. This is the opposite of the rule of law.”

“It was also about as clear as it could be that he went after this doctor who was performing a legal medical procedure in Indiana because he opposes abortion, not because he had evidence against her of any sort,” Robel said. “The deputy for Stalin was reported to have said, ‘Show me the man and I’ll find the crime.’ That’s just not the way we do things in the United States.”

Robel’s request for an investigation came on the same day fourteen Indiana law professors sent a letter to Rokita, demanding he walk back his previous statements and issue a public apology to the doctor.

“You maintain the false statements, uncorrected even today, on your Webpage and on Twitter,” the law professors from Indiana University and University of Notre Dame wrote. “Your actions are inconsistent with your responsibilities as a lawyer and a prosecutor.”

Rokita’s office has responded that it has no plans to back down or correct the AG’s previous statements.

This isn’t about abortion. It is about attorney ethics–a subject that Rokita rather obviously has never encountered (and probably can’t spell). It is about respect for evidence and truth. It is about the abuse of power, and contempt for the most basic rules of legal practice that we expect an Attorney General to uphold.

Deplorable is the nicest description of Todd Rokita available. My own description would involve more profanity than is appropriate to include on this platform. He has zero redeeming characteristics.

He’s a disservice to the profession–and a blot on humanity.

 

Rokita Again

I really try to ignore Indiana’s Attorney General, Todd Rokita, and his pathetically obvious ploys for attention–part of his persistent effort to position himself for a gubernatorial run. But it’s hard.

I have previously posted about his (mis)behavior as a Congressperson, about his improper private employment while holding elective office, and about episodes in his constant pandering to the GOP’s right wing. I’ve ignored his anti-vaccine rants, since I really thought  my previous posts would be enough to give readers an accurate picture of this sorry little man.

But he continues to bait me….

Rokita has evidently watched the recent governor’s race in Virginia, and is trying to adopt a strategy that worked for Glenn Youngkin, the Republican who won that contest. Youngkin, as you may recall, made Critical Race Theory and “inappropriate books” (i.e., written by Black people) a centerpiece of his successful campaign. Rokita–who never met a dog-whistle he didn’t like–immediately latched on.

As an article in the Northwest Indiana Times reported:

Attorney General Todd Rokita is taking his unprovoked battle with Indiana’s local school boards and the state education establishment to the next level.

The Republican, originally from Munster, recently issued a second, expanded edition of his “Parents’ Bill of Rights” that in 54 pages goes well beyond his initial 16-page screed over Critical Race Theory (CRT) and other “Marxist ideologies” that he originally claimed are “consistently being backdoored into Indiana classrooms.”

Rokita’s new handbook practically is a call to arms for Hoosier parents to swarm school board meetings, school administrator offices, teacher classrooms and the Indiana Statehouse demanding answers about everything their child may potentially encounter in a school building on any given day.

You may wonder–as I do–why the Attorney General is sticking his nose in an arena that is very clearly under the jurisdiction of Indiana’s Department of Education, especially since Indiana citizens no longer choose the head of that department. (When a prior, elected Secretary of Education proved unwilling to follow the party line down various rabbit-holes, the post was made appointive; presumably, occupants of the position are now more obedient.) But then, as my previous posts have demonstrated, Rokita consistently shows little or no interest in the enumerated duties of the Attorney General’s office unless those duties offer him a PR opportunity.

In this latest screed, he writes

“Having your child’s school and its employees work against you as you raise your family according to your Hoosier values shouldn’t be allowed.”

And what are those “Hoosier values”? Whatever they are, they are evidently under attack. Rokita enumerates a series of GOP wedge issues that parents should be particularly be concerned about because–or so he tells them– they have a “polarizing effect on education instruction.”

Those “polarizing” topics include: Critical Race Theory, Critical Theory, Critical Gender Theory, “Teaching for Tolerance,” “Learning for Justice” and gender fluidity.

Rokita also observes that, unlike other states, Hoosier lawmakers have not taken steps to prohibit instruction on these topics in Indiana classrooms, and he reminds parents they have a right to petition the Republican-controlled General Assembly to take such action….

Rokita’s guide also delves into the rights of parents to make health care decisions on behalf of their minor children, advises parents how to complain about school face mask requirements amid the COVID-19 pandemic and discusses the abstinence-only foundation of Indiana’s human sexuality instruction.

“It should be noted that schools are prohibited from asking students about their gender identity or sexual behaviors or attitudes in sex education classes, or any other classes,” Rokita said.

The entire “Parents Bill of Rights” is a “look at me–I’m with you” message to the angry and misinformed parents who have descended on school board meetings to demand a curriculum with which they can feel comfortable. I will refrain from characterizing their desired curriculum, except to note that historical accuracy and civics education–especially study of the First and Fourteenth Amendments (Separation of Church and State and the Equal Protection clause)– are not what they are demanding.

If we’re looking for the causes of “polarization,” we need look no farther than Rokita, the lawmakers who agree with him, and the parents that they and the other Republican culture warriors are gleefully manipulating.

I would love to believe that the transparency of Rokita’s pandering, along with his other off-putting behaviors, will repel Indiana voters and dash his gubernatorial ambitions. He is, after all, held in considerable disdain among Hoosier politicos– very much including Republican ones.

But this is Indiana.

 

 

Critical Race Theory

I was really hoping I could avoid ever posting about the asinine debate over Critical Race Theory–but the other day, I saw that our bootlicker-to-the-Right Attorney General had entered the fray, a clear sign that the racists and their enablers think they’ve found a winning formula for 2022.

So I guess I do need to weigh in, in a (probably useless) effort to clarify what all the noise is about.

I didn’t encounter Critical Legal Studies and its cousin, Critical Race Theory until I was a college professor. Both approaches were–and are–relatively arcane, primarily the preoccupation of a subset of legal scholars. As Heather Cox Richardson recently explained it,  Critical Race Theory was a theory conceived in the 1970s by legal scholars trying to understand why the civil rights legislation of the past twenty years had not eliminated racial inequality in America.

They argued that general racial biases were baked into American law so that efforts to protect individuals from discrimination did not really get at the heart of the issue. While this theory focused on the law, it echoed the arguments historians have made—and proved—since the 1940s: our economy, education, housing, medical care, and so on, have developed with racial biases. This is not actually controversial among scholars.

While CRT explicitly focuses on systems, not individuals, and while it is largely limited to legal theory classes rather than public schools, Republicans have turned this theory into the idea that it attacks white Americans and that history teachers are indoctrinating schoolchildren to hate America. In the past three and half months, the Fox News Channel has talked about CRT nearly 1300 times.

I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked to discover that people who couldn’t define either “socialism” or “capitalism” if their lives depended on it are having trouble distinguishing between their fear of being “replaced” by Jews and scary Black people and a graduate-level study of how and where racial stereotypes are reflected in the country’s legal system. (I guess they never heard of redlining…)

Assertions that CRT is being taught in America’s elementary and high schools is ludicrous–as I have been complaining pretty much forever, schools aren’t even teaching the most basic concepts required for civic literacy, let alone a theory that requires a familiarity not just with the Constitution and Bill of Rights, but with significant elements of America’s legal structures.

The GOP-hyped hysteria over Critical Race Theory is just another effort to mask garden-variety racism  by pretending that the fight is really about something else. It takes its place beside the party’s rejection of “political correctness” (i.e., I refuse to abide by your social expectation of basic civility) and “cancel culture” (i.e., I should be free to spew my venom but you shouldn’t be free to respond by signaling your disapproval).

 One of the biggest disappointments of my adult life has been my reluctant recognition of the extent and depth of American racism, and the degree to which it infects our politics. That said, despite the evidence of the past few years–the hysterical reaction to Obama’s election, the subsequent election of an ignorant blowhard willing to demonize the “other”– I  still refuse to believe that the majority of Americans are in thrall to hate and fear.

The problem is, the rabid racist minority–thanks to gerrymandering,  vote suppression (and let’s be honest, voter apathy) and the Electoral College– has seized outsized control of America’s government. And when it comes to turnout, rage is a great motivator. If dishonest and dishonorable politicians can drum up fear and anger by emphasizing culture-war issues like the “threat” of a mischaracterized CRT, they may yet overwhelm the majority.

We live in an incredibly dangerous time.