Thursday, January 20, 2022

Something to Know - 20 January (PART TWO)

Everyone talks about the "Trump Base".   This article defines what the infrastructure of the base is, plus the larger connecting tissue of support by those who are afraid to voice opposition.   I think this was written before the announcement that the Supreme Court shot down Trump's appeals and that the Office National Archives had electronically dumped all of the material that the House Select Committee had requested in its investigation of the Insurrection of January 6, 2020.   This marks a bold turning point.  Trump has always hidden and escaped all of his previous personal and business legal and ethical violations behind a phalanx of lawyers who were hired to drag out matters, wear out litigants, or kill off matters with the statute of limitations.  Now, with the ruling from the highest court, this is the end of the line, period.  There is nothing in the ruling that indicts, prosecutes, or convicts anyone.   The House Committee now has access to material, previously denied to work out its business.   If it finds anything of interest and anyone has violated the law, the matter will be referred to the Justice Department with a recommendation for criminal prosecution.   In MY opinion, something will be found, and all will know.  This is like what happened in the Watergate investigation, but the stakes are higher.  Watergate was an investigation into a simple breakin of an office of an opposing political party, which morphed into a coverup, and eventual obstruction of justice, and Nixon resigned.  In the case of Trump and January 6, the matter is not a simple burglary gone wrong, it could unroll into dereliction of duty and up to and including sedition.   Sedition, think about that.  Also, there are those actors and players who may have aided and abetted the insurrection, and those who have refused to respond to subpoenas, who may now feel very uncomfortable.   Dismantling Trumpism is not easy, but if one starts off at the top, then the tissue and ligaments of support will follow.   What the White Supremacist (aka GOP) may soon display is a feeding frenzy of those who try and appeal to the base.   They will eat or kill each other off in the process, and perhaps those legislative leaders who survived the era of Trumpism can emerge from their cowardly crouch and return to whatever is left of the GOP.


Why Millions Think It Is Trump Who Cannot Tell a Lie


Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C., on politics, demographics and inequality.Why is Donald Trump's big lie so hard to discredit?

This has been a live question for more than a year, but inside it lies another: Do Republican officials and voters actually believe Trump's claim that Joe Biden stole the 2020 election by corrupting ballots — the same ballots that put so many Republicans in office — and if they do believe it, what are their motives?

A December 2021 University of Massachusetts-Amherst survey found striking links between attitudes on race and immigration and disbelief in the integrity of the 2020 election.
According to the poll, two-thirds of Republicans, 66 percent, agreed that "the growth of the number of immigrants to the U.S. means that America is in danger of losing its culture and identity," and the same percentage of Republicans are convinced that "the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate with voters from poorer countries around the world."
Following up on the UMass survey, four political scientists — Jesse Rhodes, Raymond La Raja, Tatishe Nteta and Alexander Theodoridis — wrote in an essay posted on The Washington Post's Monkey Cage:
Divisions over racial equality were closely related to perceptions of the 2020 presidential election and the Capitol attack. For example, among those who agreed that white people in the United States have advantages based on the color of their skin, 87 percent believed that Joe Biden's victory was legitimate; among neutrals, 44 percent believed it was legitimate; and among those who disagreed, only 21 percent believed it was legitimate. Seventy percent of people who agreed that white people enjoy advantages considered the events of Jan. 6 to be an insurrection; 26 percent of neutrals described it that way; and only 10 percent who disagreed did so, while 80 percent of this last group called it a protest. And while 70 percent of those who agreed that white people enjoy advantages blamed Trump for the events of Jan. 6, only 34 percent of neutrals did, and a mere 9 percent of those who disagreed did.
According to experts I asked, Republican elected officials who either affirm Donald Trump's claim that the 2020 election was corrupt or refuse to call Trump out base their stance on a sequence of rationales.


Mike McCurry, President Bill Clinton's press secretary, sees the origin of one rationale in demographic trends:
I believe much of the polarization and discord in national politics comes from changing demographics. Robert Jones of P.R.R.I. writes about this in "The End of White Christian America," and I think this is a source of many politico-cultural divisions and plays out in electoral politics. There is an America ("American dream") that many whites were privileged to know growing up, and it now seems to be evaporating or at least becoming subservient to other cultural ideals and norms. So that spurs anxiety, and it is translated to the language and posture of politics.
McCurry went on:
I think otherwise well-meaning G.O.P. senators who flinch when it comes to common sense and serving the common good do so because they have no vocabulary or perspective which allows them to deal with the underlying changes in society. They feel the changes, they know constituents whom they otherwise like who feel the changes, but they cannot figure out how to lower the level of angst.
Some maintain that another rationale underpinning submission to the lie is that it signals loyalty to the larger conservative cause.
Musa al-Gharbi, a sociologist at Columbia, pointed out in an email that acceptance of Trump's false claims gives Republican politicians a way of bridging the gap between a powerful network of donors and elites who back free trade capitalism and the crucial bloc of white working-class voters seeking trade protectionism and continued government funding of Social Security and Medicare:
Embracing the big lie is an empty approach to populism for a lot of these politicians. It allows them to cast their rivals, and the system itself, as corrupt — to cash in on that widespread sentiment — and to cast themselves as exceptions to the rule. It allows them to portray themselves as allies of the people but without actually changing anything in terms of the policies they advocate for, in terms of how they do business.
For those Republican leaders, al-Gharbi continued, "who are the swamp, or could be reasonably construed as such, it is important to create an apparent distance from the establishment. Flirting with the big lie is a good way of doing so."
Sarah Binder, a political scientist at George Washington University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, noted in an email that "fear of electoral retribution from Trump — and from Republican voters — drives Senate G.O.P. reluctance to break with Trump."
The former president, she continued,
has succeeded in reshaping the G.O.P. as his party. This electoral dynamic applies in spades to Republicans' unwillingness to challenge Trump over the Jan. 6 insurrection — or, like Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell, to back down from their initial criticisms. It seems as if fealty to Trump's alternative version of the events of Jan. 6 is the litmus test for Republicans.
The underlying policy agreements between Republican incumbents and Trump reinforces these straightforward concerns over re-election, in Binder's view:
For all of Trump's nativist immigration, trade, and America First views, he was lock step with Republicans on cutting taxes and regulations and stacking the courts with young conservatives. In that light, certainly while Trump was in office, Senate Republicans held their noses on any anti-democratic behavior and stuck with Trump to secure the policies they craved.

Along similar lines, Bruce Cain, a political scientist at Stanford, observes that Republican elected officials make their calculations based on the goal of political survival:
What perhaps looks like collective derangement to many outside the party ranks is really just raw political calculation. The best strategy for regaining congressional control is to keep Trump and his supporters inside the party tent, and the only way to do that is to go along with his myths in order to get along with him.
This approach, Cain continued, "is the path of least political resistance. Trump in 2016 demonstrated that he could win the presidency" while rejecting calls to reach out to minorities, by targeting a constituency that is "predominantly white and 80 percent conservative." Because of its homogeneity, Cain continued, "the Republican Party is much more unified than the Democrats at the moment."
While there was considerable agreement among the scholars and strategists whom I contacted that Republican politicians consciously develop strategies to deal with what many privately recognize is a lie, there is less agreement on the thinking of Republican voters.


Lane Cuthbert, along with his UMass colleague Alex Theodoridis, asked in an op-ed in The Washington Post:
How could the "big lie" campaign convince so many Republicans that Trump won an election he so clearly lost? Some observers wonder whether these beliefs are genuine or just an example of "expressive responding," a term social scientists use to mean respondents are using a survey item to register a feeling rather than express a real belief.
In their own analysis of poll data, Cuthbert and Theodoridis concluded that most Republicans are true believers in Trump's lie:
Apparently, Republicans are reporting a genuine belief that Biden's election was illegitimate. If anything, a few Republicans may, for social desirability reasons, be using the "I'm not sure" option to hide their true belief that the election was stolen.
Al-Gharbi sharply disputes this conclusion:
Most Republican voters likely don't believe in the big lie. But many would nonetheless profess to believe it in polls and surveys and would support politicians who make similar professions because these professions serve as a sign of defiance against the prevailing elites. They serve as signs of group solidarity and commitment.
Poll respondents, he continued,
often give the factually wrong answer about empirical matters not because they don't know the empirically correct answer but because they don't want to give political fodder to their opponents with respect to their preferred policies. And when one takes down the temperature on these political stakes, again, often the differences on the facts also disappear.
One way to test how much people actually believe something, al-Gharbi wrote, "is to look out for yawning gaps between rhetoric and behaviors." The fact that roughly 2,500 people participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection suggests that the overwhelming majority of Republicans do not believe the election was stolen, no matter what they tell pollsters, in al-Gharbi's view. He continued:
If huge shares of the country, 68 percent of G.O.P. voters, plus fair numbers of independents and nonvoters, literally believed that we were in a moment of existential crisis and the election had been stolen and the future was at stake, why is it that only a couple thousand could muster the enthusiasm to show up and protest at the Capitol? In a world where 74 million voted for Trump and more than two-thirds of these (i.e., more than 50 million people, roughly one out of every five adults in the U.S.) actually believed that the other party had illegally seized power and plan to use that power to harm people like themselves, the events of Jan. 6 would likely have played out much, much differently.
Whatever the motivation, Isabel V. Sawhill, a Brookings senior fellow, warned that Republican leaders and voters could be caught in a vicious cycle:
There may be a dynamic at work here in which an opportunistic strategy to please the Trump base has solidified that base, making it all the more difficult to take a stance in opposition to "whatever Trump wants." It's a Catch-22. To change the direction of the country requires staying in power, but staying in power requires satisfying a public, a large share of whom has lost faith in our institutions, including the mainstream media and the democratic process.
Jake Grumbach, a political scientist at the University of Washington, noted in an email that the big lie fits into a larger Republican strategy: "In an economically unequal society, it is important for the conservative economic party to use culture war politics to win elections because they are unlikely to win based on their economic agenda."
"There are a number of reasons why some Republican elites who were once anti-Trump became loyal to Trump," Grumbach said. He continued:
First is the threat of being primaried for failing to sufficiently oppose immigration or the Democratic Party, a process that ramped up first in the Gingrich era and then more so during the Tea Party era of the early 2010s. Second is that Republican elites who were once anti-Trump learned that the Republican-aligned network of interest groups and donors — Fox News, titans of extractive and low-wage industry, the N.R.A., evangelical organizations, etc. — would mostly remain intact despite sometimes initially signaling that they would withhold campaign contributions or leave the coalition in opposition to Trump.
Frances Lee, a political scientist at Princeton, took a different tack, arguing that Republican members of Congress, especially those in the Senate, would like nothing better than to have the big lie excised from the contemporary political landscape:
I disagree with the premise that many senators buy into the big lie. Congressional Republicans' stance toward the events of Jan. 6 is to move on beyond them. They do not spend time rebuking activists who question the 2020 outcome, but they also do not endorse such views, either. With rare exception, congressional Republicans do not give floor speeches questioning the 2020 elections. They do not demand hearings to investigate election fraud.
Instead, Lee argued, "Many Republican voters still support and love Donald Trump, and Republican elected officials want to be able to continue to represent these voters in Washington." The bottom line, she continued, is that
Republican elected officials want and need to hold the Republican Party together. In the U.S. two-party system, they see the Republican Party as the only realistic vehicle for contesting Democrats' control of political offices and for opposing the Biden agenda. They see a focus on the 2020 elections as a distraction from the most important issues of the present: fighting Democrats' "tax and spend" initiatives and winning back Republican control of Congress in the 2022 midterms.
Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist, argues that
Trump lives by Machiavelli's famous maxim that fear is a better foundation for loyalty than love. G.O.P. senators don't fear Trump personally; they fear his followers. Republican politicians are so cowed by Trump's supporters, you can almost hear them moo.
Trumpism, Begala wrote in an email, "is more of a cult of personality, which makes fealty to the Dear Leader even more important. How else do you explain 16 G.O.P. senators who voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act in 2006 all refusing to even allow it to be debated in 2022?"
Begala compares Senator Mitch McConnell's views of the Voting Rights Act in 2006 — "America's history is a story of ever-increasing freedom, hope and opportunity for all. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 represents one of this country's greatest steps forward in that story. Today I am pleased the Senate reaffirmed that our country must continue its progress towards becoming a society in which every person, of every background, can realize the American dream" — to McConnell's stance now: "This is not a federal issue; it ought to be left to the states."
Republican politicians, in Begala's assessment,
have deluded themselves into thinking that Trump and the big lie can work for them. The reality is the opposite: Republican politicians work for Trump and the big lie. And they may be powerless to stop it if and when Trump uses it to undermine the 2024 presidential results.
It is at this point, Begala continued, "where leadership matters. Trump stokes bigotry, he sows division, he promotes racism, and when other G.O.P. politicians fail to disavow Trump's divisiveness, they abet it. What a contrast to other Republican leaders in my lifetime."
Like Begala, Charles Stewart III, a political scientist at M.I.T., was blunt in his analysis:
There's generally a lack of nuance in considering why Republican senators fail to abandon Trump. Whereas Reagan spoke of the 11th Commandment, Trump destroyed it, along with many of the first 10. He is mean and vindictive and speaks to a set of supporters who are willing to take their energy and animus to the polling place in the primaries — or at least, that's the worry. They are also motivated by racial animus and by Christian millennialism.
These voters, according to Stewart,
are not a majority of the Republican Party, but they are motivated by fear, and fear is the greatest motivator. Even if a senator doesn't share those views — and I don't think most do — they feel they can't alienate these folks without stoking a fight. Why stoke a fight? Few politicians enter politics looking to be a martyr. Mainstream Republican senators may be overestimating their ability to keep the extremist genie in the bottle, but they have no choice right now if they intend to continue in office.
Philip Bobbitt, a professor of law at Columbia and the University of Texas, argued in an email that Republican acceptance of Trump's falsehoods is a reflection of the power Trump has over members of the party:
It's the very fact that they know Trump's claims are ludicrous — that is the point: Like other bullies, he amuses himself and solidifies his authority by humiliating people, and what can be more humiliating than compelling people to publicly announce their endorsements of something they know and everyone else knows to be false?
Thomas Mann, a Brookings senior fellow, made the case in an email that Trump has transformed the Republican Party so that membership now precludes having "a moral sense: honesty, empathy, respect for one's colleagues, wisdom, institutional loyalty, a willingness to put country ahead of party on existential matters, an openness to changing conditions."
Instead, Mann wrote:
the current, Trump-led Republican Party allows no room for such considerations. Representative Liz Cheney's honest patriotism would be no more welcome among Senate Republicans than House Republicans. Even those current Republican senators whose earlier careers indicated a moral sense — Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Richard Burr, Roy Blunt, Lisa Murkowski, Robert Portman, Ben Sasse, Richard Shelby — have felt obliged to pull their punches in the face of the big lie and attempted coup.
Bart Bonikowski, a sociologist at N.Y.U., describes the danger of this political dynamic:
In capturing the party, Trump perfectly embodied its ethnonationalist and authoritarian tendencies and delivered it concrete results — even if his policy stances were not always perfectly aligned with party orthodoxy. As a result, the Republican Party and Trumpism have become fused into a single entity — one that poses serious threats to the stability of the United States.
The unwillingness of Republican leaders to challenge Trump's relentless lies, for whatever reason — for political survival, for mobilization of whites opposed to minorities, to curry favor, to feign populist sympathies — is as consequential as or more so than actually believing the lie.
If Republican officials and their voters are willing to swallow an enormous and highly consequential untruth for political gain, they have taken a first step toward becoming willing allies in the corrupt manipulation of future elections.




In that sense, the big lie is a precursor to more dangerous threats — threats that are plausible in ways that less than a decade ago seemed inconceivable. The capitulation to and appeasement of Trump by Republican leaders is actually setting up even worse possibilities than what we've lived through so far.
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Juan
Democrats want to fix bridges, provide childcare and lower drug costs. Republicans don't. These are political facts and voters should be aware of them."-
Magdi Semrau

Something to Know - 20 January (PART ONE)

There is a lot to pass on today.  For that reason, it was necessary to divide it up - not because of internet limitations, but because if both parts were to be merged, you may just pass it off as being too long.   So, here is HCR summing up what happened on her watch of the events in Congress yesterday, and The Donald's legal issues in the state of NY.  IN Part TWO, you will find a great article where NY Times contributor Thomas Edsall hits the nail on why people believe in the Big Lie of Trumpism:


Just before midnight last night, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that her office has "uncovered significant evidence indicating that the Trump Organization used fraudulent and misleading asset valuations on multiple properties to obtain economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions for years" and is taking legal action "to force Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump to comply with our investigation." She concluded: "No one is above the law."

James is overseeing a civil case against the Trump organization and is cooperating with a criminal case overseen by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, who recently took over from Cyrus Vance, Jr. When Eric Trump testified in the investigation overseen by James, in 2020, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to more than 500 questions.

This morning, Maggie Haberman of the New York Times reported that the news of James's insistence that he and his family testify has pushed former president Trump to decide to run for president in 2024. CNN's Jim Sciutto pointed out Trump seems to think that so long as he is running for office, he can persuade people that investigations are all political. In addition, since the Department of Justice decided internally in 1973 that sitting presidents cannot be prosecuted, it is reasonable to assume he thinks that the White House would protect him from ongoing civil or criminal lawsuits.

Those lawsuits might well include some related to the events of January 6. Today the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol issued subpoenas to Nicholas J. Fuentes and Patrick Casey. The two men are leaders of the "America First" or "Groyper" movement, extremist white nationalists trying to inject their views into mainstream politics through trolling and provocation. Both spread lies about election fraud and were at the January 6 insurrection.

The committee's letter to Fuentes notes that he urged his followers to "storm every state capitol until January 20, 2021, until President Trump is inaugurated for four more years," and told supporters to show up at the homes of politicians to push their views. Fuentes received more than $250,000 in Bitcoin from a French computer programmer; Casey received $25,000 from the same donor. The FBI is interested in those donations.

This evening, the Supreme Court denied Trump's request to block the National Archives and Records Administration from sending documents from the Trump administration concerning the January 6 insurrection to the January 6 committee. The vote was 8 to 1. Justice Clarence Thomas, whose wife, Ginni, supported the January 6 rallies, was the dissenting vote.

The Big Lie from the former president that he had won the 2020 election and been cheated of victory led to the January 6 insurrection; it has now led to a crisis in voting rights, as Republican-dominated state legislatures have rewritten their laws since the 2020 election to suppress Democratic votes and hand election counting over to partisan Republicans.

That, in turn, led the Democrats to try to establish a fair baseline for voting rights in the United States by passing the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. The new bill would end partisan gerrymandering, stop dark money in elections, establish early and mail-in voting systems, provide for online registration, and make sure votes are counted fairly. It would modernize and limit the protections for minority voting that Congress first established in 1965 and the Senate renewed unanimously as recently as 2006.

The bill became a lightning rod, as it illustrated the gulf today between Democrats, who want to use the federal government to regulate business, protect civil rights, provide a basic social safety net, and promote infrastructure, and Republicans, who want to stop those things and throw the weight of governance back to the states. If Republican-dominated state legislatures are permitted to keep the laws they have passed limiting voting, they will continue to pass discriminatory laws, including ones that limit women's constitutional rights, stop the teaching of any material that legislators see as "divisive," and so on.

Today, the voting rights bill was before the Senate, which is evenly divided between 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats and 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats. While the numbers of senators on each side are equal, the numbers of constituents are not: the Democrats and Independents represent 40.5 million more people in our nation of about 332 million than the Republicans do.

But the changing Senate rules have permitted Republicans to stop any legislation they dislike with a mechanism called the filibuster, which means that it takes 60 votes to bring any measure to a vote. This essentially requires a supermajority for any legislation to pass the Senate. But there is a loophole: financial bills and judicial appointments—the two things Republicans care about—have been exempted from the filibuster. That leaves Democrats fighting to find ways around Republican obstructionism to pass the measures they care about.

Today marked the showdown between these two visions. It was instructive first because it was an actual Senate debate, which we haven't seen for years now as Republicans have simply dialed in filibusters. When debate began this morning, while few Republicans showed up, most Democrats were present.

It was instructive also because Democrats defended the right to vote in a democracy, while Republicans insisted that the Democrats were trying to get a leg up over the Republicans by grabbing power in the states (although the federal government protected voting rights in the states until 2013). Passionate speeches by Georgia Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, Angus King of Maine, Amy Klobuchar of Wisconsin, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and all their Democratic colleagues, sought to bring Republicans around to defending the right to vote.

It didn't work. Tonight, Senate Republicans used the filibuster to block the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act from advancing to a final passage by a vote of 49 to 51, with all Democrats except Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) voting yes (he voted no for procedural reasons). But when Schumer brought up a vote to change the filibuster to a talking filibuster for this bill, meaning that Republicans would actually have to debate it rather than just saying no to it, Democrats Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) joined the Republicans to kill the measure. In addition to stopping this law, they badly undercut Biden and the Democrats who have wasted months negotiating with them.

Voting rights journalist Ari Berman noted that the 48 senators who voted to reform the filibuster represent 182 million Americans, 55% of the United States population, while those 52 senators who upheld the filibuster represent 148 million Americans, 45% of the country.

After the vote, Republicans lined up on the Senate floor to shake Sinema's hand, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) assured reporters that concerns about Black voting were misplaced because: "African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans."

Independent Senator Angus King of Maine, who has struggled mightily for voting rights for many months and who was a reluctant but firm convert to the talking filibuster, fought hard today to rally support for voting rights and filibuster reform. He quoted President Abraham Lincoln's warning to lawmakers during the Civil War that "we cannot escape history. We of this congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves…. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation."

In light of the vote's outcome, though, perhaps more to the point was something King said to David Rohde, published in the New Yorker today. In 1890, the Senate rejected a measure designed to protect the voting rights of Black men in the South, where southern legislatures had forced most of them from the polls. Southern Democrats and their northern allies killed the proposed law.

King told Rohde, "The result was seventy-five years of egregious voter suppression in the South. That was a mistake made by a few senators. I honestly feel that we may be at a similar moment." He added, "I'm afraid we're making a mistake that will harm the country for decades."

Notes:

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/30/nyregion/cy-vance-trump-investigation.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/02/nyregion/alvin-bragg-wins-manhattan-da.html

https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/supplemental-verified-petition-2022-01-18.pdf

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/21a272_9p6b.pdf

https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2022/jan/11/facebook-posts/theres-no-evidence-ginni-thomas-organized-jan-6-ev/

https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-senates-dangerous-inability-to-protect-democracy


 

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Juan
Democrats want to fix bridges, provide childcare and lower drug costs. Republicans don't. These are political facts and voters should be aware of them."-
Magdi Semrau

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Something Else

This is one thing that I was hoping for:

Supreme Court turns down Trump's plea to shield White House records from House probe

The Supreme Court today turned down President Trump's plea to shield his White House records from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6. attack on the Capitol.

With one dissent, the justices agreed with two lower courts that decided the former president's claim of executive privilege could not outweigh the views of President Biden, who supported the release.

https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-01-19/supreme-court-turns-down-trumps-plea-to-shield-his-white-house-records-from-house-probe

More tomorrow.

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****
Juan
Democrats want to fix bridges, provide childcare and lower drug costs. Republicans don't. These are political facts and voters should be aware of them."-
Magdi Semrau

Monday, January 17, 2022

Something to Know - 17 January

This date in January and all Januaries has been set aside to honor Martin Luther King, Jr, a Black man who embodied the non-violent struggle for equality in this country.  Those who opposed racial equality and voting equality, in the past, and as shown today, use the violence of physical action as well as corrupting attempts to attain legal equality.  It is the revered value of voting at the ballot box (or by mail), which is the last refuge of segregationist Jim Crow opponents, who see themselves as losing out in the battle to maintain White Supremacy.   And so it is, that in our midst of elected lawmakers, the struggle to pass the latest version of Voters' Equality is being waged.   It is disgusting , in the eyes of many, and frustrating to others that we, who mistakenly shout out that we are the best and greatest, have not absorbed the significance of the basic meaning of our Constitution.  HCR, in her historical significance of the past, gives clarity to why people have dreams of overcoming it all, and why we have MLK Day.


Republicans say they oppose the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act because it is an attempt on the part of Democrats to win elections in the future by "nationalizing" them, taking away the right of states to arrange their laws as they wish. Voting rights legislation is a "partisan power grab," Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) insists.

In fact, there is no constitutional ground for opposing the idea of Congress weighing in on federal elections. The U.S. Constitution establishes that "[t]he Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations."

There is no historical reason to oppose the idea of voting rights legislation, either. Indeed, Congress weighed in on voting pretty dramatically in 1870, when it amended the Constitution itself for the fifteenth time to guarantee that "[t]he right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." In that same amendment, it provided that "[t]he Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

It did so, in 1965, with "an act to enforce the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution," otherwise known as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a law designed to protect the right of every American adult to have a say in their government, that is, to vote. The Supreme Court gutted that law in 2013; the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act is designed to bring it back to life.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a response to conditions in the American South, conditions caused by the region's descent into a one-party state in which white Democrats acted as the law, regardless of what was written on the statute books.

After World War II, that one-party system looked a great deal like that of the race-based fascist system America had been fighting in Europe, and when Black and Brown veterans, who had just put their lives on the line to fight for democracy, returned to their homes in the South, they called those similarities out.

Democratic president Franklin Delano Roosevelt of New York had been far too progressive on racial issues for most southern Democrats, and when Harry S. Truman took office after FDR's death, they were thrilled that one of their own was taking over. Truman was a white Democrat from Missouri who had been a thorough racist as a younger man, quite in keeping with his era's southern Democrats.

But by late 1946, Truman had come to embrace civil rights. In 1952, Truman told an audience in Harlem, New York, what had changed his mind.

"Right after World War II, religious and racial intolerance began to show up just as it did in 1919," he said. "There were a good many incidents of violence and friction, but two of them in particular made a very deep impression on me. One was when a Negro veteran, still wearing this country's uniform, was arrested, and beaten and blinded. Not long after that, two Negro veterans with their wives lost their lives at the hands of a mob."

Truman was referring to decorated veteran Sergeant Isaac Woodard, who was on a bus on his way home from Georgia in February 1946, when he told a bus driver not to be rude to him because "I'm a man, just like you." In South Carolina, the driver called the police, who pulled Woodard into an alley, beat him, then arrested him and threw him in jail, where that night the police chief plunged a nightstick into Woodard's eyes, permanently blinding him. The next day, a local judge found Woodard guilty of disorderly conduct and fined him $50. The state declined to prosecute the police chief, and when the federal government did—it had jurisdiction because Woodard was in uniform—the people in the courtroom applauded when the jury acquitted him, even though he had admitted he had blinded the sergeant.

Two months after the attack on Woodard, the Supreme Court decided that all-white primaries were unconstitutional, and Black people prepared to vote in Georgia's July primaries. Days before the election, a mob of 15 to 20 white men killed two young Black couples: George and Mae Dorsey, and Roger and Dorothy Malcom. Malcom had been charged with stabbing a white man and was bailed out of jail by Loy Harrison, his white employer, who had with him in his car both Malcom's wife, who was seven months pregnant, and the Dorseys, who also sharecropped on his property.

On the way home, Harrison took a back road. A waiting mob stopped the car, took the men and then their wives out of it, tied them to a tree, and shot them. The murders have never been solved, in large part because no one—white or Black—was willing to talk to the FBI inspectors Truman dispatched to the region. FBI inspectors said the whites were "extremely clannish, not well educated and highly sensitive to 'outside' criticism," while the Blacks were terrified that if they talked, they, too, would be lynched.

The FBI did uncover enough to make the officers think that one of the virulently racist candidates running in the July primary had riled up the assassins in the hopes of winning the election. With all the usual racial slurs, he accused one of his opponents of being soft on racial issues and assured the white men in the district that if they took action against one of the Black men, who had been accused of stabbing a white man, he would make sure they were pardoned. He did win the primary, and the murders took place eight days later.

Songwriters, radio announcers, and news media covered the cases, showing Americans what it meant to live in states in which law enforcement and lawmakers could do as they pleased. When an old friend wrote to Truman to beg him to stop pushing a federal law to protect Black rights, Truman responded: "I know you haven't thought this thing through and that you do not know the facts. I am happy, however, that you wrote me because it gives me a chance to tell you what the facts are."

"When the mob gangs can take four people out and shoot them in the back, and everybody in the country is acquainted with who did the shooting and nothing is done about it, that country is in pretty bad fix from a law enforcement standpoint."

"When a Mayor and City Marshal can take a…Sergeant off a bus in South Carolina, beat him up and put out…his eyes, and nothing is done about it by the State authorities, something is radically wrong with the system."

In his speech in Harlem, Truman explained that "[i]t is the duty of the State and local government to prevent such tragedies." But, as he said in 1947, the federal government must "show the way." We need not only "protection of the people against the Government, but protection of the people by the Government."

Truman's conversion came in the very early years of the Civil Rights Movement, which would soon become an intellectual, social, economic, and political movement conceived of and carried on by Black and Brown people and their allies in ways he could not have imagined in the 1940s.

But Truman laid a foundation for what came later. He recognized that a one-party state is not a democracy, that it enables the worst of us to torture and kill while the rest live in fear, and that "[t]he Constitutional guarantees of individual liberties and of equal protection under the laws clearly place on the Federal Government the duty to act when state or local authorities abridge or fail to protect these Constitutional rights."

That was true in 1946, and it is just as true today.

Notes:

Congress also adopted the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1919 and sent it off to the states for ratification, which it received in 1920. The 19th has the same language as the 15th but covers sex: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex," an article Congress has power to enforce. 

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/john-lewis-voting-rights-bill-republicans-power-grab

https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna19251476#.Xn7nEtJKjIU

https://teachingamericanhistory.org/document/letter-to-ernest-w-roberts/

https://www.trumanlibrary.gov/library/to-secure-these-rights#VII

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2018/07/26/how-harry-s-truman-went-from-being-a-racist-to-desegregating-the-military/

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Juan
Democrats want to fix bridges, provide childcare and lower drug costs. Republicans don't. These are political facts and voters should be aware of them."-
Magdi Semrau

Friday, January 14, 2022

Something to Know - 14 January

The tapestry of history is hitting us from all sides now.   Is there too much to be able to understand, and still feel that we are progressing?   My take is that pessimism preoccupies too much of our time now.   What also concerns me is the occasional dark thoughts that if we are to fail, it is the evaporation of our faith and belief in our system of democracy is losing out.   We are crumbling from within, and nefarious actors in our midst are responsible for our decline.   Antivaxxers for sure, institutional racism, and any medical and social or economic issues are polarized.   The reasons for this are many, and it is not just one that can be held responsible, but all of them combined make it difficult to leave breathing room for any peaceful existence.   David Brooks of the NY Times give us his view.   As always, we have HCR and Robert Reich:






America Is Falling Apart at the Seams

DAVID BROOKS

In June a statistic floated across my desk that startled me. In 2020, the number of miles Americans drove fell 13 percent because of the pandemic, but the number of traffic deaths rose 7 percent.
I couldn't figure it out. Why would Americans be driving so much more recklessly during the pandemic? But then in the first half of 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle deaths were up 18.4 percent even over 2020. Contributing factors, according to the agency, included driving under the influence, speeding and failure to wear a seatbelt.
Why are so many Americans driving irresponsibly?
While gloomy numbers like these were rattling around in my brain, a Substack article from Matthew Yglesias hit my inbox this week. It was titled, "All Kinds of Bad Behavior Is on the Rise." Not only is reckless driving on the rise, Yglesias pointed out, but the number of altercations on airplanes has exploded, the murder rate is surging in cities, drug overdoses are increasing, Americans are drinking more, nurses say patients are getting more abusive, and so on and so on.
Yglesias is right.
Teachers are facing a rising tide of disruptive behavior. The Wall Street Journal reported in December: "Schools have seen an increase in both minor incidents, like students talking in class, and more serious issues, such as fights and gun possession. In Dallas, disruptive classroom incidents have tripled this year compared with prepandemic levels, school officials said."

This month, the Institute for Family Studies published an essay called "The Drug Epidemic Just Keeps Getting Worse." The essay noted that drug deaths had risen almost continuously for more than 20 years, but "overdoses shot up especially during the pandemic." For much of this time the overdose crisis has been heavily concentrated among whites, but in 2020, the essay observed, "the Black rate exceeded the white rate for the first time."
In October, CNN ran a story titled, "Hate Crime Reports in U.S. Surge to the Highest Level in 12 Years, F.B.I. Says." The F.B.I. found that between 2019 and 2020 the number of attacks targeting Black people, for example, rose to 2,871 from 1,972.
The number of gun purchases has soared. In January 2021, more than two million firearms were bought, The Washington Post reported, "an 80 percent year-over-year spike and the third-highest one-month total on record."
As Americans' hostility toward one another seems to be growing, their care for one another seems to be falling. A study from Indiana University's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found that the share of Americans who give to charity is steadily declining. In 2000, 66.2 percent of households made a charitable donation. But by 2018 only 49.6 percent did. The share who gave to religious causes dropped as worship service attendance did. But the share of households who gave to secular causes also hit a new low, 42 percent, in 2018.
This is not even to mention the parts of the deteriorating climate that are hard to quantify — the rise in polarization, hatred, anger and fear. When I went to college, lo these many years ago, I never worried that I might say something in class that would get me ostracized. But now the college students I know fear that one errant sentence could lead to social death. That's a monumental sea change.

It has to be said that not every trend is bad. Substance use among teenagers, for example, seems to be declining. And a lot of these problems are caused by the presumably temporary stress of the pandemic. I doubt as many people would be punching flight attendants or throwing temper tantrums over cheese if there weren't mask rules and a deadly virus to worry about.
But something darker and deeper seems to be happening as well — a long-term loss of solidarity, a long-term rise in estrangement and hostility. This is what it feels like to live in a society that is dissolving from the bottom up as much as from the top down.
What the hell is going on? The short answer: I don't know. I also don't know what's causing the high rates of depression, suicide and loneliness that dogged Americans even before the pandemic and that are the sad flip side of all the hostility and recklessness I've just described.
We can round up the usual suspects: social media, rotten politics. When President Donald Trump signaled it was OK to hate marginalized groups, a lot of people were bound to see that as permission.
Some of our poisons must be sociological — the fraying of the social fabric. Last year, Gallup had a report titled, "U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time." In 2019, the Pew Research Center had a report, "U.S. Has World's Highest Rate of Children Living in Single Parent Households."
And some of the poisons must be cultural. In 2018, The Washington Post had a story headlined, "America Is a Nation of Narcissists, According to Two New Studies."
But there must also be some spiritual or moral problem at the core of this. Over the past several years, and over a wide range of different behaviors, Americans have been acting in fewer pro-social and relational ways and in more antisocial and self-destructive ways. But why?

As a columnist, I'm supposed to have some answers. But I just don't right now. I just know the situation is dire.

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Juan
Democrats want to fix bridges, provide childcare and lower drug costs. Republicans don't. These are political facts and voters should be aware of them."-
Magdi Semrau