Tag Archives: Trump

Women Will Save America

The “chattering classes” are still churning out their reactions to the mysterious non-appearance of a Red wave in the midterms, and several of those analyses echo that of conservative-but-not-crazy Bret Stephens. In his weekly back and forth with liberal Gail Collins in the New York Times, Stephens summed up Democrats’ surprising performance by concluding that– however American voters might feel about inflation or crime or the overall direction of the country — they weren’t ready to give up reproductive rights, endorse election denialism or cast ballots for “Republican candidates who have the intelligence of turnips and the personalities of tapeworms.”

A politically-savvy friend says voters had crazy fatigue…

Whatever else was in play, the enormous importance of reproductive rights to those election results has become increasingly obvious. All five states with abortion measures on the ballot voted for women’s bodily autonomy, including deep-Red Kentucky. More importantly, in virtually every state, turnout by women–many of whom had only recently registered to vote–increased.

That increase was consistent with longer-term trends; as The Center for American Women and Politics reports

Women have registered and voted at higher rates than men in every presidential election since 1980, with the turnout gap between women and men growing slightly larger with each successive presidential election. Women, who constitute more than half the population, have cast almost 10 million more votes than men in recent elections.

Once again, more women voted, and the message they sent was unmistakable: women are not going backward, not handing their reproductive choices to state legislators.

In a VoteCast exit survey, pro-choice voters (those who said abortion should be legal in all or most cases) were far more likely than pro-life voters (those who said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases) to say that the Dobbs decision had a “major impact” on which candidates they voted for. The partisan gap was more than 30 points– 65 percent of Democrats said Dobbs was a major factor, compared to 32 percent of Republicans.

It isn’t just through voting.  Women are protecting America in other forums, too.  A recent column by Jennifer Rubin detailed the current status of the investigation into Trump’s efforts to steal the 2020 election being conducted by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. 

A voluminous new report from the Brookings Institution provides a legal road map for the potential prosecution of Trump. The report debunks defenses that Trump will likely deploy and underscores the real possibility that his closest associates might flip in the case, given how many might face criminal liability.

The Brookings Report to which she cites enumerates the multiple efforts made by Trump and his associates to subvert the election results in Georgia, and concludes that those efforts violated several relevant criminal statutes, including: 1) solicitation to commit election fraud, Ga. Code Ann. § 21-2-604(a); 2) intentional interference with performance of election duties, Ga. Code Ann. § 21-2-597; 3) interference with primaries and elections, Ga. Code Ann. § 21-2-566; and 4) conspiracy to commit election fraud, Ga. Code Ann. § 21-2-603.

Meanwhile, in New York, another female Attorney General, Letitia James, has sued the Trump organization for fraud.

That lawsuit is currently being tried, but James already won an important interim victory: a New York court granted James’ motion for a preliminary injunction, finding that the claims in her lawsuit are likely to succeed at trial. The Court ruled that Trump and the Trump Organization “cannot transfer any material assets to another entity without court approval, are required to include all supporting and relevant material in any new financial disclosures to banks and insurers, and ordered to appoint an independent monitor to oversee compliance with these measures.”

Going into the midterms, there was considerable debate about whether American democracy would prove robust enough to withstand the obvious and significant challenges it is facing from White Christian Nationalists and MAGA Republicans. Democratic governance requires adherence to one of the most important elements of the rule of law: the principle that no one is above the law–not rich people, not celebrities, not elected officials, and not Presidents.

That essential principle–accountability– is one of the (multiple) aspects of American governance that Donald Trump and his corrupt cohorts utterly fail to understand. If there is any one thing Donald Trump clearly believes, it is that rules are for other people–that the rules don’t apply to him.

Thus far, one of the very few Republicans who has had the cojones to tell him otherwise–forcefully and publicly– has been another female: Liz Cheney. 

As Rubin noted in her column, it takes courageous women to do “what hordes of sniveling Republican politicians, donors and insiders cannot: hold Trump accountable.”

Don’t mess with us….



The Power Of Resentment

Every once in a while, as I wade through the onslaught of emails, newsletters, solicitations and media transmissions that clog my daily in-box, I’m brought up short by a sentence that seems profound. (Granted, the degree of profundity often varies with the amount of sleep I had the night before…) The most recent such experience was triggered by an Atlantic newsletter from Tom Nichols, who wrote that “resentment is perhaps the most powerful political force in the modern world.”

The context of that observation was in the newsletter’s lede

On October 7, the Republican House Judiciary Committee cryptically tweeted, “Kanye. Elon. Trump.” The tweet was, predictably, ridiculed—especially after Ye (as Kanye West is now known), just days later, threatened “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE” on Twitter. But, intentionally or not, the committee had hit upon a basic truth: The three are alike.

What unites these successful men—and, yes, Trump is successful—is their seething resentment toward a world that has rewarded them money and influence, but that still refuses to grant them the respect they think is their due. And if we should have learned anything since 2016, it is that resentment is perhaps the most powerful political force in the modern world.

Nichols writes that the movements that historically motivated large numbers of people have dwindled, while today, it is “social and cultural resentment” that is driving millions of people into what he describes as a kind of mass psychosis.

I will leave aside Ye, who has his own unique problems (although I will note that his early career was marked by his anger at being shut out, as he saw it, from hip-hop and then the fashion world). Prominent and wealthy Americans such as Trump and Musk, along with the former White House guru Steve Bannon and the investor Peter Thiel, are at war not so much with the American political system, whose institutions they are trying to capture, but with a dominant culture that they seem to believe is withholding its respect from them. Politics is merely the instrument of revenge.

As Nichols reminds us, Trump has spent his life “with his nose pressed to the windows of midtown Manhattan, wondering why no one wants him there. He claims to hate The New York Times but follows it obsessively and courts its approval.” Elon Musk, who has put people in space and who claims to be a free speech purist, has blocked and suspended twitter users who made fun of him. “As one Twitter wag noted, Musk’s acquisition of Twitter is like Elmer Fudd buying a platform full of Bugs Bunnies.”

The great irony is that Musk’s other achievements might have vaulted him past perceptions that he’s a spoiled, rich doofus, but buying Twitter and making (and then deleting) jokes about self-gratification while telling people to vote Republican has pretty much obliterated that possibility.

Nichols is absolutely correct when he notes that the people who do support Trump are people with whom he would never, ever want to associate.

He is also correct when he notes that the people most likely to act out their resentments aren’t the poor–they are the “comfortably off populist voters” who were “never invited into the” top universities, the biggest firms, the major corporations.”

The January 6 rioters were, by and large, not the dispossessed; they were real-estate agents and chiropractors. These citizens think that the disconnect between material success and their perceived lack of status must be punished, and if that means voting for election deniers and conspiracy theorists, so be it…

And finally, look at the Republican campaigns across the nation. Few are about kitchen-table issues; many are seizing on resentment. Resentment sells. The GOP is running a slew of candidates who are promising that “we” will make sure “they” never steal an election again, that “we” will stop “them” from making your kids pee in litter boxes, that “we” will finally get even with “them.”

Voters in the United States and many other developed countries can lie to themselves and pretend that a one-year hike in the price of eggs is worth handing power to such a movement. Human beings need rationalizations, and we all make them. But voting as responsible citizens requires being honest with ourselves, and I suspect that we will soon learn that more of us are gripped by this kind of sour social irritation than we are by the price of gas.

Nichol’s essay is well worth reading in its entirety, and I encourage you to click through. I think his diagnosis is absolutely correct.

The problem is, he neglects to prescribe a remedy. And I can’t come up with one.


We Can’t Just Pass The Popcorn…

I sat down to begin this post intending to write about what I see as an upcoming fight for the soul of the Republican Party. But then, I realized that the once “Grand Old Party” no longer has anything remotely resembling a soul.

Let’s just say that–following their less-than-stellar performance in the midterms– it looks like Republicans will  be witnessing a no-holds-barred, down and very dirty fight for the status of GOP Big Dog.

Repulsive Ron DeSantis won re-election by a big margin in Florida. The size of that margin was an unsurprising consequence of outrageous gerrymandering, “post-Ian” election regulations that made it easier to vote in overwhelmingly Republican areas but not Democratic ones, and various types of voter intimidation–including show arrests of ex-offenders  who’d been told by election officials that they could vote.

His win sets up a contest with Trump for leadership of a semi-fascist GOP.

DeSantis is evil, but far smarter and smoother than Trump, with a vocabulary that exceeds the 70 or so words Trump knows and the ability to make bigotry sound marginally less despicable. He is thus better able to mine the GOP’s culture war against uppity women, non-Christians, Black and Brown people and LGBTQ folks.

Trump, on the other hand, knows how to fight dirty.

According to press reports, in the wake of DeSantis’ win, Trump announced that he intends to reveal “damaging information about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis should he decide to challenge the former president for the Republican nomination in 2024.”

“I will tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal on his private jet after departing a rally in Dayton, Ohio, on Monday. “I know more about him than anybody other than perhaps his wife, who is really running his campaign.”

“I don’t know that he’s running,” Trump reportedly said on Monday. “I think if he runs he could hurt himself very badly.

In a Fox “News” interview on Election Day, Trump also said that Senate Republicans should oust Sen. Mitch McConnell as their leader, because McConnell was “lousy” at his job, and has been “very bad for our nation.” (Well, there you go–I actually agree with something Donald Trump said! McConnell has indeed been “very bad for our nation.” Unfortunately, that’s because he is very good at what he perceives to be his job…)

A friend reacted to these initial attacks by suggesting that blackmail is, and has been, Trump’s “secret sauce.” As he traced the repeated trajectory, It goes like this: a Republican officeholder speaks out against Trump, subsequently visits him in Florida, and does a sudden U-turn.

My friend’s theory is that Trump has access to Putin’s KGB files on US Leaders. Once he threatens the recalcitrant Republican with the dirt he has, the defector is back in line. (Sure would explain “Miss Lindsay”…)

I don’t know whether there’s any factual basis for my friend’s version of a conspiracy theory, but even if the information doesn’t come from Russia, and even if Trump is simply threatening to turn his mindless troops against an opponent via accusations he invents, the one thing we do know is that he never exhibits any behavior approximating fair play or decency.

For his part, we can expect DeSantis to deploy every bit of ammunition he is able to amass against Trump…and thanks to various state-level investigations and the work of the January 6th Committee,  he’ll have access to plenty.

Watching these two repulsive egomaniacs fight for dominance will be interesting. The sixty-four thousand dollar question is: will their battle be enough to finally, fatally splinter the Republican Party?  “Professional” Republicans–elected officials, strategists, etc.–are likely to prefer DeSantas. He’s evil but not crazy. The QAnon mob is unlikely to desert Trump, who is both.

Of course, if Trump is indicted (which I expect), that will throw a wild card into the battle…

Here’s the thing:

The rest of us can’t just retire to the sidelines and watch the wrestling match while eating popcorn. We’ve just been given a reprieve, but not a decisive victory. We have to work hard between now and the 2024 election. We have to continue the battles against gerrymandering and vote suppression and we have to explain what is at stake to the sizable number of Americans who still fail to cast ballots.

Eventually, if we keep at it and are even moderately successful, today’s semi-fascist GOP will fade into history, and we will once again be able to choose between center-Right Republicans and center-left Democrats (no matter what the GOP claims, American Democrats are anything but “Left” as other countries define”Left”….)

We may be able to choose between two parties with souls.




The Judicial Crisis

Those of us who are, or have been, lawyers have watched the litigation over Trump’s purloined documents with amazement bordering on mystification. Suddenly, the potential consequences of Trump’s appointment of rogue judges are too dire to ignore.

The crises within the federal judiciary aren’t all new. During my years in the academy, I was a subscriber and occasional participant of the Law and Courts listserv–a forum for professors of law and political science. Well before McConnell’s shocking departure from constitutional and democratic norms, or Trump’s nomination of only Federalist Society favorites, scholars had focused on the need to expand the Supreme Court–a need prompted by increased workloads leading to fewer decisions. 

Participants also raised concerns about the increasing politicization of the courts. As an article in Politico recently put it, the widely ridiculed–and clearly political– Cannon ruling

underscores the deep fragility of judicial independence and the extraordinary strains it’s of late experienced. The episode is further a timely reminder that there’s no guarantee that an independent judiciary will survive. Just like other public institutions, American courts can unravel and lose public trust, with no easy way to get it back.

The lifetime appointments of federal judges were intended to shield jurists from political pressure, leaving them free to issue decisions based upon their reading of the law, rather than partisan passions. The Founders seemed not to worry about the possibility of politicized appointments.

As Politico noted,

the drafters of the Constitution assumed that there was little risk of politicized appointments for two reasons. First, they expected the supply of qualified judges to be very limited. Second, they viewed the Senate as a disinterested body, “standing above politics.” Of course, both assumptions quickly foundered with the rise of law schools and national political parties. And the federal judiciary attracted partisan labels as early as 1800. Judicial independence, in short, was compromised early and deeply by the failure of the framers’ guiding assumptions.

Commenters to that Law and Courts listserv also noted the effects of longer lifespans on the federal judiciary, and advocated term limits that would be long enough to shield judges from the immediacy of political repercussions (the preferred term was 18 years) to mitigate concerns over terms stretching into judicial dotage. 

Now, concerns about the state of the judiciary extend well beyond academic discussions.

It is in this context of pervasive skepticism about the quality of American courts that Cannon issued her order. In its details, it confirms and exacerbates skepticism about the idea of an apolitical bench. Even conservative commentators have flagged its sharp swerve from the normal treatment criminal suspects receive based on “irrelevant” considerations about Trump’s “reputation.” Concerns were stoked when Trump’s lawyers “went shopping” for a judge he’d appointed — rather than appear before the magistrate who’d issued the original warrant — and who’s received death threats for his pains from the former president’s supporters. And they flared further when Cannon telegraphed her intention to rule for the president who appointed her even before the Justice Department had filed any papers.

Cannon’s order, then, is troubling not just in isolation as a “deeply flawed” decision on its specific merits. It also should worry because it seems to affirm, and hence accentuate, a larger narrative of fracturing judicial independence.

Jamelle Bouie addressed the issue of a politicized judiciary in a recent New York Times essay. His recommendation echoed that of the scholars on the listserv: expand and reorganize the federal court system.

The practical reason to increase the number of courts and judges is that the country is much larger than it was in 1990, when Congress made its last expansion, adding 11 seats to the circuit court system and 61 seats to the district court system. This was modest compared with a change in 1978, when President Jimmy Carter signed the largest judiciary expansion in history, creating 150 new judgeships and expanding the entire federal bench by more than a third.

In the 32 years since 1990, the United States has grown from a population of roughly 250 million to a population of over 330 million. More people means more legal disputes, more legal disputes means more cases, more cases means more work. And the federal judiciary is swamped. Last year, the Judicial Conference of the United States, a nonpartisan policymaking body for the federal courts, recommended that Congress create 79 new judgeships across existing district and appeals courts.

Congress, and here I mean Democrats, should go further with a court expansion to rival Carter’s. They should create new circuits, new courts and new judgeships. The goal is simple: to account for growth and to deal with the problem of a cohort of hyperpartisan and ideological judges whose loyalty to Trump may outweigh their commitment to the law.

I agree. But it won’t happen if Americans don’t vote Blue No Matter Who this November.


Accounting For MAGA

In a recent newsletter from The Atlantic, Tom Nichols echoed a frustration of my own. He wrote that, in his lifetime, he’d seen” polio defeated and smallpox eradicated. Now hundreds of thousands of Americans are dead—and still dying—because they refused a lifesaving vaccine as a test of their political loyalty to an ignoramus.”

Ever since 2016, a significant percentage of my posts have revolved around the reality (or actually, the unreality) of that political loyalty, and my inability to understand what–other than racial grievance–might account for it.  Study after study, however, has confirmed that it is, indeed, racism that explains support for Trump and the MAGA movement.

The Guardian recently published an article building on that research. The author began by commenting on President Biden’s forceful condemnation of Trump and MAGA, and as he noted, that attribution was correct —so far as it went.

The deeper, more longstanding threat, however, was articulated by historian Taylor Branch in a 2018 conversation with author Isabel Wilkerson recounted in Wilkerson’s book Caste. As they discussed how the rise of white domestic terrorism under Trump was part of the backlash to the country’s growing racial diversity, Branch noted that, “people said they wouldn’t stand for being a minority in their own country”. He went on to add, “the real question would be if people were given the choice between democracy and whiteness, how many would choose whiteness?”

 Whiteness is the deeper threat because championing whiteness is what makes Trump powerful. People forget that Trump was not particularly well-regarded before he started attacking Mexican immigrants and signaling to white people that he would be the defender of their way of life. In the months before he launched his campaign, he was polling at just 4% in the May 2015 ABC/Washington Post poll. After stirring the racial resentment pot, his popularity took off, growing exponentially in a matter of weeks and propelling him to the front of the pack by mid-July 2015 when he commanded support of 24% of voters, far ahead of all the other Republican candidates.

Of course, Trump’s discovery of the power of racism is nothing new. (That’s why the Right doesn’t want accurate history taught in our schools.) The author quoted George Wallace’s epiphany:  “I started off talking about schools and highways and prisons and taxes – and I couldn’t make them listen. Then I began talking about n—–s – and they stomped the floor.”

People who’d dismissed Trump as a loudmouth buffoon “stomped the floor” when he began talking about (brown) Mexicans and Muslims.

The article reminded readers of Wallace, Nixon’s “southern strategy,” and the fact that David Duke–an “out and proud” Klansman–had attracted the support of 44% of Louisiana’s voters when he ran for the U.S. Senate.

The good news is that the proponents of whiteness do not command majority support. The original Confederates themselves were in the minority and represented just 11% of the country’s white population. People who enjoy majority support have no need to unleash fusillades of voter suppression legislation in the states with the largest numbers of people of color. Yet, from the grandfather clauses of the 1800s to the restrictive voting laws passed last year in the south and south-west, we are seeing an unrelenting practice of trying to depress and destroy democracy by engaging in what the writer Ron Brownstein has described as, “stacking sandbags against a rising tide of demographic change”.

It’s one thing to confirm that a majority of Americans aren’t racist. It’s another thing to ensure that the people in that majority turn out to vote. As the author says,

In order to defend democracy and win the fight for the soul of the nation, two things must happen. One is to make massive investments in the people and organizations working to expand voting and civic participation. Coalitions like America Votes Georgia and Arizona Wins played critical roles in bringing hundreds of thousands of people of color into the electorate, helping to transform those former Confederate bastions.

We also need to “name and shame” the numerous political figures who are appealing to racist sentiments in order to turn out their supporters. Too many liberals shrink from calling out those who are trafficking in racism–it seems so uncivil. But racism is also uncivil–and far more dangerous.

To ultimately prevail in this defense of our democracy, we must clearly understand the underlying forces imperiling the nation, name the nature of the opposition, and summon the majority of Americans to unapologetically affirm that this is a multi-racial country.

This is a test, and we cannot afford to fail.