It’s not just the man at the top. Self-preservation by any means is now the organizing principle of the entire Republican Party. It’s not limited government. It’s not personal responsibility. It’s certainly not the projection of strength abroad. It’s not even conservative values. No, today’s Republican Party is solely devoted to saying and doing anything to sustain itself and those within its narrow band of protection. If nothing else, the past few months of dizzying contortions by congressional Republicans and conservative media have shown us that. Because the arguments the GOP uses to attack Democrats and defend Donald Trump are now routinely made with the thinnest veneer of truth and in explicit bad faith.
It was a jarring last week of the Supreme Court’s 2017 term. On Monday, the Court reversed lower court findings that Texas’s legislature had racially gerrymandered its state legislative districts. On Tuesday, the Court struck down California regulations intended to regulate the disinformation that so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” give to women seeking an abortion and upheld President Trump’s travel ban as a facially neutral immigration regulation rather than the blatant religious discrimination it plainly was. And on Wednesday, Justice Alito finally found five votes for his six-year-long campaign against public sector unions, as the Court effectively enshrined “right to work” legislation into the constitution, applicable to all fifty states. Each of these decisions was by a 5-4 vote, with Justice Gorsuch in the majority, contentedly in the background supporting decisions of his longer-tenured colleagues. Each decision, in its own way, ignored settled precedent, exposed blatant contradictions with the majority’s prior views, and set back democracy and civil rights decades.
But it was Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement later that Wednesday that proved to be the gut punch that underscored just how deeply damaging the 2014 and 2016 elections were. In 2014, the GOP essentially ran a campaign against Ebola-infected ISIS terrorists crossing into Texas through the southern border, and then used the Senate majority they built from that disingenuous messaging to block President Obama from placing a reasonable, consensus jurist on the Supreme Court. And in 2016, a minority of voters, elevated through the electoral college, allowed an authoritarian demagogue to fill that seat and any others that might arise. For all his unorthodoxies, President Trump surely knows that fidelity to the Federalist Society is his most important political consideration. As a result, Justice Kennedy’s withdrawal from public life surely means the medium-term end of a Supreme Court able to project the best ideals of our founding fathers. Continue reading
Not to go all Marco Rubio on you, but let’s dispel this fiction that Trump supporters don’t know what they’re doing. They know exactly what they’re doing. To support this president, to support this man, you must support, or at least be comfortable with, state sanctioned violence against people of color. Not off-hand political incorrectness, not a person simply free to speak his mind and stand up to liberal bullying, but directed, purposeful, and continuous harm meted out based on race, religion, and national origin. It has been the driving force of Donald Trump’s political life and the only principle he has been unwilling to betray.
The persistent myth that Trump was elected due to some ethereal connection to America’s forgotten man rather than successfully activating racial animus must be buried. Trump said it with his opening words— “they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists”—and he has not relented. This simple fact has been obfuscated by the unpleasantness of the conclusion: “Are you saying that 63 million people are racists?” But that’s the wrong question.
It has been clear for some time now that Donald Trump is mentally unfit to be president of the United States. This observation has little to do with recognizing his profound lack of knowledge, expertise, or interest in the job, to say nothing of his gusto for dousing America’s smoldering racial and religious divisions with kerosene, or his penchant for looting the government’s coffers for his own private gain. All of that is true, and supports the years-long insistence from Democrats and half-hearted, anonymous leaks from timid Republicans that Trump is fundamentally unable to perform even the most minimal functions of the job. What has become increasingly clear since he took the oath of office, however, is something even more serious—Trump is exhibiting significant mental deterioration and instability. Continue reading
On July 11, 2012, Mitt Romney, then the Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United States, addressed the NAACP at its annual convention, defending the rich while promising to repeal Obamacare. He was loudly booed. Later that day, before a crowd of supporters in Montana, Romney indicated that perhaps earning the derision of the civil rights organization was entirely planned. After mentioning his earlier speech to the NAACP, Romney proudly stated that, “When I mentioned I am going to get rid of Obamacare they weren’t happy, I didn’t get the same response. That’s ok…but I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy – more free stuff. But don’t forget nothing is really free.” Continue reading
Today was the final day that the Republican-led Senate could pass a health care bill with only fifty-one votes. Under Senate procedure, budget measures can pass through the end of the fiscal year under the reconciliation process with mere majority support; once that window closes, a free-standing health care bill would lay vulnerable to the filibuster’s sixty-vote threshold applicable to all other legislation. As became clear a few days ago when Maine Senator Susan Collins joined Senators John McCain and Rand Paul (and their forty-eight Democratic colleagues) in opposing the latest iteration of this zombie bill, Republicans do not yet have the votes to accomplish their seven-year promise of radically reshaping the American health care system.
The entire multi-part Republican effort to dismantle the current health care regime has been rather surreal. Continue reading
Politicians and pundits have tried their best for the last ten months to unlearn the faulty logic and mistaken axioms that led to one of the biggest election day surprises in American history. These efforts have been earnest and sincere in certain quarters. Professional pollsters have taken up the unpleasant task of meaningful self-criticism with admirable gusto. A sharp dose of humility has appeared to take hold of the pundit class, at least for now. Overall, the media has covered President Trump more fairly than candidate Trump (that is, it has been more willing to honestly label dishonesty). Yet, there is one important area of political analysis that remains unchanged from the campaign to the resistance: a conviction that politically damaging, morally abhorrent behavior from Donald Trump will lead to his exit from the public scene. Continue reading
We keep waiting for the dust to settle, but Donald Trump refuses to stop kicking it up. Although his ceaseless motion reveals more with every whirl, it’s hard to see exactly what’s going on right in front of us through all the grime. No doubt the effort is worth it. Determining what’s accurate with high precision is a worthwhile endeavor. Determining the reasons for his policies and pronouncements, the people most influential in his thinking, and the costs of his actions is critical to a righteous, small “d” democratic opposition. Provable, specific facts are the component parts of any indictments or articles of impeachment, and Trump’s totalitarian truthiness must be met with honest, ethical reporting. But in striving for the perfect truth, let’s not lose sight of the obvious. This lesson keeps popping up in a few critical, and often overlooked, ways. For even before we know the whole truth, we often know enough to distinguish right from wrong from immoral. Here are three obvious truths that appear to be getting lost in the distracting thrashing of the Trump administration. Continue reading
Everyone is talking taxes these days, and not just because the deadline for filing individual tax returns came and went this past week. Last Saturday, administration opponents marched in Washington and other cities to protest President Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns. Last month’s battle over the American Health Care Act turned in part on the budget consequences of repealing the Affordable Care Act’s redistributive taxes on high-income individuals. New polling suggests that Americans of both political parties are increasingly concerned about how few taxes corporations and the wealthy pay. And now, congressional Republicans have promised to pass a comprehensive tax reform bill for President Trump’s signature that will both simplify the tax code and reduce taxes on most Americans.
It’s unclear whether Republicans will make another go at trying to pass health care reform before taking on taxes. The intricacies of the budget reconciliation procedure required to get around a senate filibuster will play a part in the decision, though the President, with typical off-the-cuff bluster, announced a tax bill would be forthcoming this week. But regardless of the order, the whole agenda is doomed. While the contradictory Republican politics on healthcare has attracted most of the attention, the difficulty of harmonizing GOP dogma with the practicalities of tax reform are just as stark. What Republicans talk about when they talk about “tax reform” (perhaps the title of Paul Ryan’s frighteningly bad Raymond Carver adaptation) is quite different, and far more unpopular, than what the rest of us understand it to be. Continue reading
The most under-covered story of this endless election is the battle for the House of Representatives. While it’s true that based on what we know right now Democrats are unlikely to take back the House, that statistical likelihood is being covered as a near certainty. Yet a shift of a few points in the national mood in the Democrats’ direction could completely reshape the post-election political scene. Considering that control of Congress is the difference between whether a President Clinton could enact her far reaching agenda or become further entangled in the legislative morass of the last six years, the possibility of such a shift is of major importance. If Democratic turnout is higher and Republican enthusiasm is tepid—and there is real reason to think it will be—the greatest drama as election night turns into the small hours of the early morning might be over control of the House.
The national polling data and the current state of play in races around the country suggest that Democrats will gain seats in the lower chamber, but fall short of the 30 pickups needed to regain control. Yet, the amount of coverage national media outlets and respected nonpartisan congressional analysts have given to the simple possibility that Democrats could take the House is far too low. Even though the national polling averages have remained steady in this election, the amount of uncertainty in the polls is far higher than four or eight years ago. A landslide victory at the presidential level would likely push Democratic House gains into the 25-35 seat range. That scenario is very much in play. Continue reading