Saturday, September 19, 2020
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has made judicial confirmations a hallmark of his legacy, is now confronting an extremely fraught Supreme Court fight that will challenge his pledge to leave no vacancy behind amid charges of hypocrisy and as his party’s control of the Senate hangs in the balance.
McConnell (R-Ky.), who blocked President Barack Obama’s final nominee to the Supreme Court for the near entirety of 2016, said Friday that President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court will get a vote on the floor of the Senate, although he did not say when that vote would be held.
“Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary,” McConnell said in a statement Friday following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He added: “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
His intent to move ahead came despite Ginsburg’s dying wish. In a posthumous statement released to NPR, Ginsburg said: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
McConnell has rationalized his decision by saying the standards were different because the White House and the Senate were controlled by different parties in 2016, which is not the case this year.
But at least two GOP senators indicated in interviews before Ginsburg’s death that they would not support filling a Supreme Court vacancy so close to Election Day, pledging to uphold the standard crafted by McConnell that most Senate Republicans adhered to in 2016.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a perennial swing vote on contentious confirmation fights, told the New York Times earlier this month that she would not support voting to confirm a new justice in October, saying, “I think that’s too close, I really do.”
And in an interview with Alaska Public Media that occurred Friday ahead of the news of Ginsburg’s death, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — another consistent swing vote — said she would not vote to confirm a justice before the election, either.
Democrats were quick to jump on McConnell’s reversal from four years ago, as they pointed to McConnell’s reasoning in 2016 to hold up Obama’s final nominee to the Supreme Court.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” That was precisely the same statement issued by McConnell on Feb. 13, 2016, shortly after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden also warned the Republican-controlled Senate not to hold an election-year confirmation vote to fill Ginsburg’s seat.
“There is no doubt — let me be clear — that the voter should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider,” Biden told reporters in a hastily arranged appearance late Friday.
Be very afraid of where we are heading if McConnell prevails.
Friday, September 18, 2020
PresidentTrump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic has imperiled both his own re-election and his party’s majority in the Senate, and Republican lawmakers in crucial states like Arizona, North Carolina and Maine have fallen behind their Democratic challengers amid broad disapproval of the president, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times and Siena College.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. led Mr. Trump by wide margins in Arizona, where he was ahead by nine percentage points, and Maine, where he led by 17 points. The race was effectively tied in North Carolina, with Mr. Biden ahead by one point, 45 percent to 44 percent.
In all three states, Democratic Senate candidates were leading Republican incumbents by five percentage points or more. Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican seeking a fifth term, is in a difficult battle against Sara Gideon, trailing by five points as voters there delivered a damning verdict on Mr. Trump’s stewardship: By a 25-point margin, 60 percent to 35 percent, they said they trusted Mr. Biden over Mr. Trump on the issue of the pandemic.
The poll, conducted among likely voters, suggests that the most endangered Republican lawmakers have not managed to convince many voters to view them in more favorable terms than the leader of their party, who remains in political peril with less than 50 days remaining in the campaign. Democrats appear well positioned to gain several Senate seats, and most voters say they would prefer to see the White House and Senate controlled by the same party.
In the swing states, Mr. Trump is still lagging across the board. The Times has polled seven presidential battlegrounds in the last two weeks, and [Trump]
the presidenthas not led in any of them, and in no state did he amass more than 44 percent of the vote. Though he has repeatedly tried to shift the focus away from the virus, he has not established a meaningful advantage over Mr. Biden on any issue of equal urgency: Voters see Mr. Trump as somewhat more credible on issues of the economy and public order than on the pandemic, but not to the point of offsetting their overall disapproval of him.
While Maine exhibited the widest gap over the handling of the virus, voters in North Carolina, the closest presidential swing state polled so far by The Times, also preferred Mr. Biden, by 52 percent to 41 percent. In Arizona, the difference was even more lopsided, with voters favoring Mr. Biden by 16 percentage points.
The underlying dynamics of the race appeared to be stable and consistent with national trends, with Mr. Biden leading among women, voters of color and educated whites, and Mr. Trump’s strongest support coming from men and white voters who did not attend college. There were a few variations among the states, however: In North Carolina, the poll found no substantial gender gap, while in Arizona Mr. Biden was even with Mr. Trump among men and in Maine he had a slight advantage over the president with less-educated whites.
The Democrats’ strong lead in Arizona, a historically Republican state, is owed to a 30-point advantage among Hispanic voters and a break-even performance with whites. And both Mr. Biden and the Democratic Senate candidate, Mark Kelly, are leading with voters over 65, a crucial group in a state rich with retirees. Mr. Kelly was leading Senator Martha McSally among all voters, 50 percent to 42 percent.
Joseph Seoane, 67, of Glendale, Ariz., is among the seniors in the state who plan to vote for Mr. Biden. A political independent who supported Mr. Trump in 2016, Mr. Seoane said he was still “not against” the president but believed it had become clear that Mr. Trump “can’t handle” the job.
Democrats are likely to lose one seat they currently hold in Alabama, where Senator Doug Jones is a long shot for re-election, meaning they probably have to capture four seats currently held by Republicans to reach parity.
The poll indicates that Democrats are within reach of that goal. In addition to the three states polled, Democrats are favored to win a Republican-held seat in Colorado, where Mr. Biden is expected to win easily.
Potentially unsettling for Republicans was the enthusiasm voters expressed for having the same party control the White House and the Senate. Political strategists have long discussed the possibility that if Mr. Trump were to fall irretrievably behind Mr. Biden, Republicans could make the case to voters for electing a G.O.P. Senate as a check on the Democrats’ agenda.
But in all three states, two-thirds of voters or more said it would be better for the country if the White House and Senate were controlled by the same party, including a majority of independent voters.
Half of Maine voters said they approved of Ms. Collins’s vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act, including three in five Democrats and a majority of women. But that gratitude was not translating into enough votes to overcome the Democrats’ overall advantage in the state.
Mr. Trump’s disadvantage in Maine was so severe that it was not clear he would even carry the state’s Republican-leaning Second Congressional District. The state splits its Electoral College votes by district, and four years ago Mr. Trump picked up a single elector from the more conservative of Maine’s two seats. But the poll showed Mr. Biden with a nominal lead of two percentage points in that district.
On the question of which candidate would do a better job of choosing Supreme Court justices, voters in all three states favored Mr. Biden, by varying margins.
Let's hope and pray the poll proves accurate.
Thursday, September 17, 2020
One of the things that drives me crazy is the myth of American exceptionalism - the belief that America is special and different and superior to other nations. One of the results of this myth is America's refusal to learn from the experiences and practices and a mindset of reinventing the wheel rather than admit that other nations might have better approaches and/or be able to teach something to the America and its egocentric and closed minded population (and the science and knowledge denying current occupant of the White House). In the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, the mindset that America is exceptional has carried a deadly price. A piece in the Washington Post looks at the successes of other nations which America has largely, if not completely, ignored. The piece correctly notes that all too often the myth of American exceptionalism translates into “hubris and closed-mindedness, and . . . ignorance." Taiwan with a population of 24 million has had just seven (7) deaths while New York state, with a smaller population, has had 33,000. Americans' misplaced sense of exceptionalism is literally killing people. Here are article highlights:
What explains why some countries have handled the covid-19 pandemic well and others have done poorly? It’s a complicated question, but if we look at the place that has arguably had the greatest success, the answer is failure.
Taiwan gets the gold medal for its coronavirus strategy. It has close ties with mainland China, where the disease originated, receiving almost 3 million visitors from there in a typical year. It is a densely populated land, and Taipei, the capital city, has crowded public transit. And yet, with a population of nearly 24 million, Taiwan has had just seven deaths. New York state, with a smaller population, has had 33,000.
Taiwan’s greatest asset turns out to be its failed response to a pandemic in 2003, SARS, which taught it many important lessons. SARS was a respiratory virus, less contagious than covid-19 but more deadly. SARS also came out of China, where authorities bungled the initial response and withheld information from the outside world. The Taiwanese were caught unprepared and made several mistakes. In the aftermath, they totally overhauled their pandemic preparedness procedures. They ensured they had adequate supplies of equipment on hand. They made plans to act early, smartly and aggressively.
Many Asia-Pacific countries have succeeded against covid-19 — South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia. All were hit by SARS or witnessed its economic damage, and they learned from the experience. The only non-Asian country with a SARS outbreak was Canada, and it, too, changed its procedures after 2003 and took precautions.
Consider, on the other hand, countries that have handled covid-19 badly. Anthropologist Martha Lincoln, writing in Nature, points out that several of these countries tend to think of themselves as exceptional in some way. She notes that the United States, Britain, Brazil and Chile all have strong national narratives that see themselves as separate, distinct and better than others. The United States is notorious for this attitude, but that is, after all, also the motivation behind Britain’s desire to leave the European Union. Brazil, meanwhile, believes it enjoys good fortune because “God is Brazilian,” and Chile is smug about being the region’s economic superstar.
That sense of being special makes a country unlikely to adopt the standard attitude of any business when confronting a challenge — to look for best practices. Bill Gates recently wrote that he has always approached problem-solving by starting with two fundamental questions: “Who has dealt with this problem well? And what can we learn from them?” He suggests that we apply the same philosophy to the pandemic.
And yet the United States is remarkably uninterested in how other countries approach similar challenges. Dozens of advanced countries have health-care systems that deliver better results at half the cost of America’s. Most have a fraction of our homicide rates. Many much poorer countries have better infrastructure, which they build at far lower cost. They ensure that money does not dominate their elections. Not only do we not learn from them, we barely bother to look.
Jeremy Konyndyk argues that “American exceptionalism — the notion that the United States is unique among nations and that the American way is invariably the best — has blinded the country’s leaders (and many of its citizens) to potentially lifesaving lessons from other countries.” He quotes the eminent U.S. historian Eric Foner, who once explained that American exceptionalism translates into “hubris and closed-mindedness, and . . . ignorance about the rest of the world. Since the United States is so exceptional, there is no point in learning about other societies.” Konyndyk concludes: “That mentality is now costing American lives.”
We’re seeing a huge error, and a potential tragedy, unfold in real time.
That’s a sentence that could apply to countless aspects of economic, medical, governmental, and environmental life at the moment. What I have in mind, though, is the almost unbelievable failure of much of the press to respond to the realities of the Trump age.
Many of our most influential editors and reporters are acting as if the rules that prevailed under previous American presidents are still in effect. But this president is different; the rules are different; and if it doesn’t adapt, fast, the press will stand as yet another institution that failed in a moment of crucial pressure.
In some important ways, media outlets are repeating the mistake made by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller. In his book about the Mueller investigation, True Crimes and Misdemeanors (and in a New Yorker article), Jeffrey Toobin argues that Mueller’s tragic flaw was a kind of anachronistic idealism—which had the same effect as naivete. Mueller knew the ethical standards he would maintain for himself and insist on from his team. He didn’t understand that the people he was dealing with thought standards were for chumps. Mueller didn’t imagine that a sitting attorney general would intentionally misrepresent his report, which is of course what Bill Barr did. Mueller wanted to avoid an unseemly showdown, or the appearance of a “fishing expedition” inquiry, that would come from seeking a grand-jury subpoena for Donald Trump’s testimony, so he never spoke with Trump under oath, or at all. Trump, Barr, and their team viewed this decorousness as a sign of weakness, which they could exploit.
Something similar is going on now with many members of the press. They’re behaving like Mueller, wanting to be sure they observe proprieties that would have made sense when dealing with other figures in other eras. But now they’re dealing with Donald Trump, and he sees their behavior as a weakness he can exploit relentlessly.
Much as Mueller didn’t recognize these realities in time, neither did much of our print, broadcast, and cable media four years ago. Networks ran Trump’s rally speeches endlessly from mid-2015 onward, giving him free airtime valued at some $2 billion. Why his speeches, and not Hillary Clinton’s or Bernie Sanders’s? Because they were deemed great TV, and the channels’ own ratings went up when the rallies were on. As the race continued, cable channels demonstrated their supposed balance by stocking political discussion panels not with representatives of conservative viewpoints but rather with tribalists and die-hard team members, people who would defend whatever Trump had done or said.
Also in pursuit of the ritual of balance, the networks offset coverage of Donald Trump’s ethical liabilities and character defects, which would have proved disqualifying in any other candidate for nearly any other job, with intense investigation of what they insisted were Hillary Clinton’s serious email problems. Six weeks before the election, Gallup published a prophetic analysis showing what Americans had heard about each candidate. For Trump, the words people most recognized from all the coverage were speech, immigration, and Mexico. For Clinton, one word dwarfed all others: EMAIL.
Just last week came a fresh reminder of the egregiousness of that coverage, often shorthanded as “But her emails!” On Wednesday, September 9, Bob Woodward’s tapes of Trump saying that when it came to the coronavirus, he “wanted to always play it down” came out, along with a whistleblower’s claim that the Department of Homeland Security was falsifying intelligence to downplay the risk of Russian election interference and violence from white supremacists. On the merits, either of those stories was far more important than Comey’s short-lived inquiry into what was always an overhyped scandal. But in this election season, each got a demure one-column headline on the Times’ front page. The Washington Post, by contrast, gave Woodward’s revelations banner treatment across its front page.
[O]ne important factor was the press’s reluctance to recognize what it was dealing with: a person nakedly using racial resentment as a tool; whose dishonesty and corruption dwarfed that of both Clintons combined, with most previous presidents’ thrown in as well; and whose knowledge about the vast organization he was about to control was inferior to that of any Capitol Hill staffer and most immigrants who had passed the (highly demanding) U.S. citizenship test.
Are these familiar problems? Yes, indeed! As familiar as “I Got You Babe” playing every single morning on the alarm clock in Groundhog Day. Over the past few years, they’ve been the object of careful, continued analyses by the likes of Margaret Sullivan, now of The Washington Post and the last really effective public editor of The New York Times . . .
It’s the same old problems and failures and blind spots and biases, again and again and again.
How are we again seeing these patterns, and what can we do about them?
This is the shorthand term for most journalists’ discomfort with seeming to “take a side” in political disputes, and the contortions that result.
The simplest version of the point is that reporters are most at ease when they can quote first one side and then the other, seeming to be neutral between the two—or when they present a charge, and then the response.
What might the reporter have written instead? Something like “Trump is running on a falsified vision of America, and hoping he can make enough people believe it to win.” A statement like that might have seemed more “intrusive” by the canons of wire-service “objectivity” in another age, but it is far truer to the realities of this moment, and would stand up far better in history’s view.
As Daniel Dale has tirelessly demonstrated, Trump lies in public statements dozens of times a day. So do his representatives: This past Wednesday, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, coolly claimed in the White House briefing room that Trump had “never downplayed” the threat of the virus, just minutes after CNN aired Bob Woodward’s tape of Trump saying he had “wanted to always play it down.
People outside the business may not recognize what a step it is, culturally and professionally, for reporters and editors to act on the implications of this reality—the knowledge that what a president or his senior representatives say has exactly zero factual value. If you are trying to inform the public, you’re better off not reporting what this president says, contends, or does, unless there are external indications that it’s true.
And there is certainly no reason to present Trump’s claims on equal footing with other information. Once again, that is because the track record indicates that if Trump or one of his press representatives says something, it’s probably not true.
Decades ago in Breaking the News, I wrote about the near-irresistible impulse to convert the substance of anything into how it would seem from a political operative’s point of view. Much as football commentators can remain neutral between teams, but express sharp opinions on the three-four defense or whether the blitz pays off, political writers can avoid taking a side by expressing their judgment with tactical commentary.
My suggestion: Follow the advice from an essay by Dan Froomkin, or another by Jay Rosen, about how to drop the pretense of both-sides-ism, and channel the analytical ability that goes into tactical commentary in order to plainly say who is lying and who is not, and what is at stake. Rosen also argues that the media should form a “threat modeling team” to anticipate efforts to undermine the upcoming election. What is at stake is more than just another race.
“History will not judge us kindly,” Margaret Sullivan wrote recently, about this weakness of the media. But there is time to adjust.
Every American institution is now being tested. From the police to the postal service, the judiciary to voting systems, public health to education, and city councils to the U.S. Senate—all of them, all of us, are undergoing stresses we hadn’t anticipated, enduring blows that are falling from all directions, all at once. On our response to them, the country’s future may depend.
The institution I am part of, the media, is also being tested. The press isn’t the only part of America’s institutional crisis. But it’s an important part of the predicament we are in, and of the hope for getting out.
For as long as the press has existed, it has been shambling and imperfect and improvisational. At our best we get things right on average, and incrementally, with a lot of getting things wrong along the way. Most of us in this business do our imperfect best. But any hope of doing better depends on the ability to learn. Soon the clock will show 6:00 a.m. once more; the alarm will start blaring “I Got You Babe” another time. This day, we can do better.
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
For the last four years the message from Donald Trump has been the opposite: To him, we don’t matter at all. In so many ways, he’s made it clear he feels we’d be better off erased.
The messaging began the first week of his administration, when mention of L.G.B.T.Q. rights disappeared from the White House website.
This was just for starters. Later, he rejected plans to add questions about gender identity and sexual orientation to the 2020 census. He banned trans people from the military. On the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, he announced that his administration would roll back Obama-era health care protections for trans people. He prohibited embassies from flying the rainbow flag on flagpoles. For three out of four Junes he has failed to mention Pride Month — although one time he did take time out of his busy schedule to talk up National Homeownership Month.
His Department of Justice filed a brief with the Supreme Court endorsing the idea that employers had the right to fire L.G.B.T.Q. people just for being themselves. In the end, even the conservative-majority Supreme Court ruled against him. But the idea that the president of the United States went out of his way to put me, and people like me, at risk, is harrowing.
This August, at its convention, the Trump Republican Party re-endorsed its 2016 platform. You know, the one that sanctifies “traditional marriage” and condemns the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality. Quoting Justice Antonin Scalia, a dissenter to that ruling, it describes a marriage like mine as a “silly extravagance.”
Last week the administration filed a brief with the Indiana Supreme Court making the case that a Catholic school can fire a gay teacher who marries. It’s a First Amendment case, the administration says. Because persecuting L.G.B.T.Q. people is a form of free expression, I guess. Like cake frosting.
Also in the last week, the president released a shortlist of potential Supreme Court nominees for his second term, a list rife with anti-L.G.B.T.Q. and anti-civil rights individuals. The legal director of Lambda Legal, an organization that fights for the legal rights of L.G.B.T.Q. people, described the nominees as “terrifying.” One of them, Allison Jones Rushing, has ties to a group called the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has espoused the idea that homosexuality should be criminalized. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls it a hate group.
[I]t’s been that kind of summer. Pandemic. Apocalyptic wildfires in the West. Economic collapse. National convulsion over systemic racism. And almost every week, another message from the most powerful man in the world that my family — which includes a same-sex couple and a young transgender woman — is “less than.” Less than what? Less than equal.
[T]he idea that this [appointment of a gay ambassador] outweighs the relentless assault on L.G.B.T.Q. families is absurd. The Log Cabin Republicans, whose members are L.G.B.T.Q., defend the president by saying that tax cuts he promoted “have benefited L.G.B.T.Q. families and helped put food on their tables.” They’re also enthusiastic about “opportunity zones” — areas where investors face a lower tax rate — and the “hard line on foreign policy.”
Listen, Log Cabin Republicans, I’m glad you’re happy about tax cuts. But somehow the prospect of my marriage being considered a “silly extravagance” and giving an employer the right to fire me because of who I am does — I admit it — reduce my glee somewhat.
Maybe some people think that L.G.B.T.Q. equality is a done deal. Maybe there are straight, white, suburban moms and dads who think their queer children are safe, now that the culture wars that once threatened their sons and daughters are a thing of the past.
The good news is that L.G.B.T.Q. people can make a difference in the next election, if we show up. That’s a big “if,” though; an estimated one- fifth of queer adults are not registered to vote. As Sarah Kate Ellis, the president of Glaad, told me in a recent interview, “It’s imperative that we bring our voices from the street to the polls.” The struggle for families like mine is far from over. But if we sit out this fight, it most definitely can still be lost.
The message? Register to vote and vote against Trump/Pence and every Republican who has prostituted them-self to Trump.
On the Covid-19 pandemic there is this:
In early March, Gade denied the impact of coronavirus — even encouraging those who expressed concern about the pandemic as trying to “stir this up into something it’s not.” He even encouraged his followers to put themselves and those around them at risk and “just do normal things.” Later that month, Gade purposefully put the Asian American community at risk by calling the coronavirus pandemic the “Chinese Wuhan virus.” He’s proven he can’t follow the advice of health care professionals. The Centers for Disease Control recommend everyone wear masks outside their homes, whether or not they have symptoms. Gade had this to say: “Every time you put on your mask, I want you to think about the fact that this is what tyranny feels like.”
On the Affordable Health Care Act there is this reality:
Gade opposes the Affordable Care Act, which has expanded access to healthcare for millions of Americans and bans discrimination against Americans with pre-existing medical conditions. In multiple instances, Gade has advocated for weakening or completely dismantling the Department of Education.
On gun control Gade is out of step with Virginia voters:
Gade said school shootings are “not really a gun problem.”
And on LGBT non-discrimination protections, Gade opposes them and wants special rights for far right "Christians":
He opposes anti-discrimination measures for LGBTQ+ Americans, which is a more extreme position than conservative justices on the Supreme Court hold.
Trump nominated Gade to the the EEOC but thankfully he withdrew himself after inability to secure confirmation. Among Gade's endorsers are the lunatic "Bishop" E.W. Jackson, a gay hater of the highest order.
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history. This year we are compelled to do so. We do not do this lightly.
The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September. He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges. That is why we urge you to vote for Joe Biden, who is offering fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and the environment. These and other proposals he has put forth can set the country back on course for a safer, more prosperous and more equitable future.
Trump's rejection of evidence and public health measures have been catastrophic in the U.S. He was warned many times in January and February about the onrushing disease, yet he did not develop a national strategy to provide protective equipment, coronavirus testing or clear health guidelines. Testing people for the virus, and tracing those they may have infected, is how countries in Europe and Asia have gained control over their outbreaks, saved lives, and successfully reopened businesses and schools. But in the U.S., Trump claimed, falsely, that “anybody that wants a test can get a test.” That was untrue in March and remained untrue through the summer.
It wasn't just a testing problem: if almost everyone in the U.S. wore masks in public, it could save about 66,000 lives by the beginning of December, according to projections from the University of Washington School of Medicine. Such a strategy would hurt no one. It would close no business. It would cost next to nothing. But Trump and his vice president flouted local mask rules, making it a point not to wear masks themselves in public appearances. Trump has openly supported people who ignored governors in Michigan and California and elsewhere as they tried to impose social distancing and restrict public activities to control the virus. He encouraged governors in Florida, Arizona and Texas who resisted these public health measures, saying in April—again, falsely—that “the worst days of the pandemic are behind us” and ignoring infectious disease experts who warned at the time of a dangerous rebound if safety measures were loosened.
The states that followed Trump's misguidance posted new daily highs and higher percentages of positive tests than those that did not. By early July several hospitals in Texas were full of COVID-19 patients. States had to close up again, at tremendous economic cost. About 31 percent of workers were laid off a second time, following the giant wave of unemployment—more than 30 million people and countless shuttered businesses—that had already decimated the country. At every stage, Trump has rejected the unmistakable lesson that controlling the disease, not downplaying it, is the path to economic reopening and recovery.
His lies encouraged people to engage in risky behavior, spreading the virus further, and have driven wedges between Americans who take the threat seriously and those who believe Trump's falsehoods. The White House even produced a memo attacking the expertise of the nation's leading infectious disease physician, Anthony Fauci, in a despicable attempt to sow further distrust.
Trump's reaction to America's worst public health crisis in a century has been to say “I don't take responsibility at all.” Instead he blamed other countries and his White House predecessor, who left office three years before the pandemic began.
But Trump's refusal to look at the evidence and act accordingly extends beyond the virus. He has repeatedly tried to get rid of the Affordable Care Act while offering no alternative; comprehensive medical insurance is essential to reduce illness. Trump has proposed billion-dollar cuts to the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, agencies that increase our scientific knowledge and strengthen us for future challenges. Congress has countermanded his reductions. Yet he keeps trying, slashing programs that would ready us for future pandemics and withdrawing from the World Health Organization. These and other actions increase the risk that new diseases will surprise and devastate us again.
Trump also keeps pushing to eliminate health rules from the Environmental Protection Agency, putting people at more risk for heart and lung disease caused by pollution. He has replaced scientists on agency advisory boards with industry representatives. In his ongoing denial of reality, Trump has hobbled U.S. preparations for climate change, falsely claiming that it does not exist and pulling out of international agreements to mitigate it. The changing climate is already causing a rise in heat-related deaths and an increase in severe storms, wildfires and extreme flooding.
Joe Biden, in contrast, comes prepared with plans to control COVID-19, improve health care, reduce carbon emissions and restore the role of legitimate science in policy making. He solicits expertise and has turned that knowledge into solid policy proposals.
On COVID-19, he states correctly that “it is wrong to talk about ‘choosing' between our public health and our economy.... If we don't beat the virus, we will never get back to full economic strength.” Biden plans to ramp up a national testing board, a body that would have the authority to command both public and private resources to supply more tests and get them to all communities.
While Trump threatened to withhold money from school districts that did not reopen, regardless of the danger from the virus, Biden wants to spend $34 billion to help schools conduct safe in-person instruction as well as remote learning.
On the environment and climate change, Biden wants to spend $2 trillion on an emissions-free power sector by 2035, build energy-efficient structures and vehicles, push solar and wind power, establish research agencies to develop safe nuclear power and carbon capture technologies, and more. The investment will produce two million jobs for U.S. workers, his campaign claims, and the climate plan will be partly paid by eliminating Trump's corporate tax cuts. Historically disadvantaged communities in the U.S. will receive 40 percent of these energy and infrastructure benefits.
It is not certain how many of these and his other ambitions Biden will be able to accomplish; much depends on laws to be written and passed by Congress. But he is acutely aware that we must heed the abundant research showing ways to recover from our present crises and successfully cope with future challenges.
Although Trump and his allies have tried to create obstacles that prevent people from casting ballots safely in November, either by mail or in person, it is crucial that we surmount them and vote. It's time to move Trump out and elect Biden, who has a record of following the data and being guided by science.
Two months after a controversial State Department commission elevated religious freedom at the expense of LGBTQ equality and reproductive rights, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is planning to promote its findings at the United Nations, Mother Jones has learned.
During the UN General Assembly, which begins on September 15 in New York, Pompeo is expected to lead an event centered on human rights and, specifically, the report from the Commission on Unalienable Rights, which he formed last year.
Since its formation, the commission has been a Pompeo project through and through, stacked with anti-LGBTQ scholars and headed by his former boss. Its ostensible purpose, which Pompeo outlined in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, was to distinguish between unalienable rights, which “are by nature universal,” and ad hoc rights created by “politicians and bureaucrats.” That argument—and the extremely public, anti-LGBTQ views held by its members—led the human rights advocacy community to disavow the commission and its report, which unsurprisingly turned out to prioritize religious freedom while labeling abortion and same-sex marriage as “divisive social and political controversies.”
“It just shows this is Pompeo’s pet project and he’s not going to let it go,” Mark Bromley, chair of the Council on Global Equality, told me. In an effort to blunt Pompeo’s broad promotion of the report, Bromley’s group and several other advocacy organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Equity Forward, and Human Rights First, have been emailing foreign diplomats urging them to reject the report and not support Pompeo’s UN event.
“We are aware that Secretary Pompeo plans to host a high-level meeting on the Commission during the opening week of this year’s UN General Assembly,” reads one email obtained by Mother Jones that was sent to several European Union officials. “We are therefore calling on you not to support this event to make clear to the US government and the public that you reject the Commission’s dangerous view of selective, nationalized human rights.”
A State Department spokesperson declined to comment for this story, but a different department official confirmed that the event in New York is being planned with Pompeo’s participation. Many world leaders are not traveling in-person for the meeting, but President Trump has said he feels an “obligation” to appear in person.
In addition to fears that the commission could be used to undermine LGBTQ equality and reproductive rights, human rights advocates are also concerned about the way dictators might use the report as a way to devalue universal rights. Pompeo’s endorsement of it at the UN does nothing to allay those fears. “Helpfully, we’ve provided the Chinese a translation so they can quote it back to us in defense of their actions in Hong Kong,” Bromley said.
Monday, September 14, 2020
Jeremiah was as good as it gets in the prophet business, but he could be a bit of a downer. In this respect, the opinion columnist is his natural successor. But it is worth trying now and again to look on the bright side of our political cataclysm. And there are hints — tentative hints — that White evangelicals and Catholics are beginning to open their ears.
An August Fox News poll found support for Joe Biden among White evangelicals at 28 percent — significantly higher than the 16 percent who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 exit polls. A recent Vote Common Good survey indicated an 11 percentage point shift toward Biden among evangelicals and Catholics who supported Donald Trump in 2016. These surveys are not evidence of collapsing approval for Trump among these groups, but they may signal an erosion of support. And Trump can’t afford to lose any ground among the base of his base.
I suspect that some of this shift is coming not because these are religious voters, but because they are voters. Like everyone else, they see the disastrous incompetence of an administration that never gained its footing in the fight against covid-19. They see the economic suffering caused by Trump’s delay, denial and tenacious stupidity. They see the packed Trump rallies that amount to negligent homicide. They see the heartless claims of success while the ill and elderly continue to die.
It is also true that Biden simply does not provoke the same level of partisan fear and loathing that Hillary Clinton did in 2016. The Republican charge of radicalism against Biden did not stick. And the charge that he will be manipulated by radicals lacks both credibility and political urgency. Whatever his limits and faults, Biden exudes decency and normality.
Biden has the opportunity to do some outreach. Even minimal assurances about how his administration would respect institutional religious liberty might go a long way toward confirming the comfort of some evangelicals with the Democratic ticket.
I would like to think that White evangelical and Catholic support for Trump might also be cooling because of the divisive and disturbing moral choices being made by the Trump campaign. In the 2018 midterm election, Republicans lost control of the House largely because they got blasted in the suburbs. A similar performance in 2020 would dramatically weaken Trump’s reelection chances. Any of the pre-Trump, Republican presidential candidates would have responded to this challenge by talking more about education, health care or transportation. For Trump, it is an opportunity to warn against Black people invading suburban neighborhoods.
Trump is conflating protests against racial injustice with criminal activity and warning that angry faces are coming to suburbia if Biden wins.
Elsewhere, Trump has warned that “low income housing and projects” will undermine the “American Dream.” Note Trump’s consistent use of the word “projects,” which evokes images of decaying and dangerous apartment buildings filled with minorities. Trump’s twisted definition of the American Dream is White flight from urban poverty and decay.
Cultivating fear of the coming melanin invasion is now the defining theme of the Trump campaign. It is also the rawest recourse to bigotry on the national stage since Alabama Gov. George Wallace in the 1960s and ’70s.
And it puts White evangelicals and Catholics in a bind. The protection of nascent life remains a deep commitment of most moral conservatives, and Trump has been an antiabortion president. Yet supporting Trump involves the affirmation that blatant racial prejudice is not disqualifying in an American president. Publicly identifying with the Trump campaign scandalously associates the Christian faith itself with brazen bigotry.
This creates soul-rending ethical complexities (which I fully intend to address). But if a racist campaign does not shake Christian support, what possible difference is that faith making?
The summer began on May 25, when the police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in Minneapolis, Minnesota, suffocating his pleas for life. Largely peaceful demonstrations followed, and Trump tweeted: “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen.” He added, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
The summer ended on August 25, when Kyle Rittenhouse borrowed an AR-15-style assault rifle from a friend and
allegedlyfatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony M. Huber and injured Gaige Grosskreutz. These three people had been demonstrating in Kenosha, Wisconsin, against the police shooting of Jacob Blake two days earlier. Trump suggested that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense.
The violence of Chauvin and Rittenhouse bookended the summer of Trumpism. The three long, hot months from May 25 to August 25 compressed 413 years of American history into a cellphone video in which anyone could easily see the history for what it has always been: the violent “self-defense” of white male supremacy. Colonialism, capitalism, slavery and slave trading, Indian removal, manifest destiny, colonization, the Ku Klux Klan, Chinese exclusion, disenfranchisement, Jim Crow, eugenics, massive resistance, “law and order,” Islamophobia, family separation—all were done in the name of defending life or civilization or freedom.
Trumpism is the latest—or last—chapter in the story of this America. Like its antecedents, Trumpism is the violent defense of white male supremacy. Adherents of Trumpism think they are facing a choice between white male supremacy and “anarchy.” And right now, Trump’s federal agents, Trump-supporting paramilitary domestic terrorists, and Trump-supporting police officers from Kenosha to Austin believe they are fighting against anarchy. Which is to say, they are fighting to maintain white male supremacy. . . . . Defending their America—where white men can rule and brutalize without consequence.
Trump’s supporters have been defending their America against this summer of anti-racism. From May 25 to August 25, there were at least 7,750 anti-racist demonstrations in 2,400 locations across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. By Independence Day, when as many as 26 million people had participated in the demonstrations, the anti-racist movement had already been recognized as the largest movement of any kind in American history.
About 93 percent of these demonstrations remained peaceful, according to an analysis by the nonprofit Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project. Only 7 percent of the demonstrations turned violent through clashes with counterprotesters or police—too often sparked by officers—or through property damage on “specific blocks,” the report stated.
But these renegade women, men of color, and white men defying the law and order of inequality and injustice look like “anarchists” to Trump.
All those officers and militiamen protecting the law and order of inequality and injustice are “patriots” to Trump. They are at war. In Trump’s alternative reality, the grand battle is at hand between anarchists who want to destroy America and patriots who want to defend America.
Kyle Rittenhouse lived 20 miles away from Kenosha in Antioch, Illinois, where he was arrested and charged with murder the next day. During his visit to Kenosha on September 1, Trump did not condemn Rittenhouse. But he did condemn anti-racist demonstrators.
White male supremacy has granted the president the power to accost women and “grab ’em by the pussy”; the power to “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” without losing voters; the power to call the first female major-party nominee for president “such a nasty woman” on live television and still win more white women’s votes than she did; the power to say the first Black president was not born in the United States and still have Black men say at his convention that he is “not racist.” White male supremacy has allowed the president to have a foreign power intercede in a presidential election on his behalf, to call neo-Nazis “very fine people,” to urge his supporters to vote twice, to build a monument of lies, to obstruct justice while freeing friends and punishing foes, to describe Americans who died at war as “suckers” and “losers,” and to look away as hundreds of thousands of American COVID-19 victims’ bodies pile up at cemeteries—and not face any consequences.
And Trump does not want his white male supporters facing any consequences either. Like him, they are always innocent. They are always the victims. Even violent strongmen like Vladimir Putin get a pass.
So do heavily armed groups of white male supremacists in the United States. According to a Politico report, the first draft of a recent Department of Homeland Security “State of the Homeland Threat Assessment 2020” named “White supremacist extremists” as “the most persistent and lethal [terrorist] threat” to the American people. But Trump refuses to acknowledge, let alone protect Americans from, the greatest domestic terrorist threat of our time. Instead he incites carnage, and the victims include people of color demonstrating their humanity, and white people demonstrating against racism, like Heather Heyer.
The presumption of innocence is largely reserved for wealthy cisgender heterosexual white men like Trump, and it remains until disproven beyond a shadow of a doubt. The presumption of guilt is for all practical purposes attached to femininity, to Blackness, to queerness, to Indigenousness, to poverty. To be a poor queer woman of color is to embody guilt. The closer one is to whiteness and masculinity and wealth, the closer one is to innocence.
This is about Trump, but it is not only about Trump. White male supremacy is a governing force as old as America, as new as Trumpism. And it is wholly threatened by anti-racism, by feminism.