Thoughts on Life, Love, Politics, Hypocrisy and Coming Out in Mid-Life
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Fearing a ‘Blood Bath,’ Republican Senators Begin to Flee Trump
For nearly four years, congressional Republicans have ducked and dodged an unending cascade of offensive statements and norm-shattering behavior from
PresidentTrump, ignoring his caustic and scattershot Twitter feed and penchant for flouting party orthodoxy, and standing quietly by as he abandoned military allies, attacked American institutions and stirred up racist and nativist fears.
But now, facing grim polling numbers and a flood of Democratic money and enthusiasm that has imperiled their majority in the Senate, Republicans on Capitol Hill are beginning to publicly distance themselves from [Trump]
the president. The shift, less than three weeks before the election, indicates that many Republicans have concluded that Mr. Trump is heading for a loss in November. And they are grasping to save themselves and rushing to re-establish their reputations for a coming struggle for their party’s identity.
Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska unleashed on Mr. Trump in a telephone town hall event with constituents on Wednesday, eviscerating the president’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and accusing him of “flirting” with dictators and white supremacists and alienating voters so broadly that he might cause a “Republican blood bath” in the Senate. He was echoing a phrase from Senator Ted Cruz of Texas . . . .
Even the normally taciturn Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has been more outspoken than usual in recent days about his differences with the president, rejecting his calls to “go big” on a stimulus bill. That was a reflection of the fact that Senate Republicans — who have rarely broken with the president on any major legislative initiative in four years — are unwilling to vote for the kind of multitrillion-dollar federal aid plan that Mr. Trump has suddenly decided would be in his interest to embrace.
[T]heir recent behavior has offered an answer to the long-pondered question of if there would ever be a point when Republicans might repudiate a president who so frequently said and did things that undermined their principles and message. The answer appears to be the moment they feared he would threaten their political survival.
If some Senate Republicans have written off Mr. Trump’s chances of victory, the feeling may be mutual. On Friday, the president issued his latest Twitter attack on Senator Susan Collins of Maine, one of the most endangered Republican incumbents, apparently unconcerned that he might be further imperiling her chances, along with the party’s hopes of holding on to the Senate.
In a statement on Friday, Mr. Romney assailed the president for being unwilling to condemn QAnon, the viral pro-Trump conspiracy movement that the F.B.I. has labeled a domestic terrorism threat, saying the president was “eagerly trading” principles “for the hope of electoral victories.”
Yet Mr. Romney and other Republicans who have spoken up to offer dire predictions or expressions of concern about Mr. Trump are all sticking with the president on what is likely his final major act before the election: the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a favorite of conservatives, to the Supreme Court.
The dichotomy reflects the tacit deal congressional Republicans have accepted over the course of Mr. Trump’s presidency, in which they have tolerated his incendiary behavior and statements knowing that he would further many of their priorities, including installing a conservative majority on the nation’s highest court.
Still, the grim political environment has set off a scramble, especially among Republicans with political aspirations stretching beyond Mr. Trump’s presidency, to be on the front lines of any party reset.
“Most congressional Republicans have known that this is unsustainable long term, and they’ve just been — some people may call it pragmatic, some may call it opportunistic — keeping their heads down and doing what they have to do while they waited for this time to come,” he said.
On the campaign trail, Republicans are privately livid with the president for dragging down their Senate candidates, sending his struggles rippling across states that are traditional Republican strongholds.
“His weakness in dealing with coronavirus has put a lot more seats in play than we ever could have imagined a year ago,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster and consultant. “We always knew that there were going to be a number of close Senate races, and we were probably swimming against the tide in places like Arizona, Colorado and Maine. But when you see states that are effectively tied, like Georgia and North Carolina and South Carolina, that tells you something has happened in the broader environment.”
Friday, October 16, 2020
What the Rush to Confirm Amy Coney Barrett Is Really About
Nothing better explains the Republican rush to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court than the record crowds that thronged polling places for the first days of early voting this week in Georgia and Texas.
The historic number of Americans who stood in long lines to cast their ballot in cities from Atlanta to Houston symbolizes the diverse, urbanized Democratic coalition that will make it very difficult for the GOP to win majority support in elections through the 2020s. That hill will get only steeper as Millennials and Generation Z grow through the decade to become the largest generations in the electorate.
Every young conservative judge that the GOP has stacked onto the federal courts amounts to a sandbag against that rising demographic wave. Trump’s nominations to the Supreme Court of Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Barrett—whom a slim majority of Republican senators appears determined to seat by Election Day—represent the capstone of that strategy. As the nation’s growing racial and religious diversity limits the GOP’s prospects, filling the courts with conservatives constitutes what the Princeton University historian Sean Wilentz calls “the right-wing firewall” against a country evolving electorally away from the party.
This dynamic suggests that the 2020s could reprise earlier conflicts in American history, when a Court majority nominated and confirmed by the dominant party of a previous era systematically blocked the agenda of a newly emerging political majority—with explosive consequences. That happened as far back as the first years of the 19th century, when electoral dominance tipped from John Adams and the Federalists to Thomas Jefferson and his Democratic-Republican Party.
But just as in earlier eras, conflict is likely to be on tap for the 2020s once Barrett’s seemingly inevitable confirmation cements a 6–3 conservative majority. Because the oldest Republican-appointed justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, are only 72 and 70, respectively, this majority might hold the last word on the nation’s laws for at least the next decade. The oldest Millennials may be in their 50s before any of these Republican justices step down from the high court.
Republicans have built this Supreme Court majority over the past 30 years even as Democrats have consistently won more votes. If Joe Biden takes the popular vote in November, Democrats will have captured the most votes in seven of the past eight presidential elections. No party has done that since the formation of the modern party system in 1828. Yet Republicans have controlled the White House, and thus the right to nominate Supreme Court justices, for 12 of the past 28 years.
The pattern in the Senate is similar. Boosted by their dominance of smaller states between the coasts, Republicans have controlled the Senate for 22 of the 40 years since 1980. But according to calculations shared with me by Lee Drutman of the centrist New America think tank, if you assign half of each state’s population to each senator, the GOP has represented a majority of the American public for only one two-year period during that span: 1997 to 1998.
The current Democratic senators won about 14 million more votes (69 million) than the Republican incumbents (55 million), according to calculations by Molly Reynolds, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.
The result is a Republican Supreme Court majority that, to an unprecedented extent, embodies minority rule. Assuming Barrett is confirmed, five of the six sitting Republican justices will have been appointed by GOP presidents who initially lost the popular vote. . . . And all three of Trump’s nominees will have been confirmed by senators who represented less than half of the American public.
As the party is now constituted, the GOP’s chances of winning popular majorities in presidential elections—or representing most Americans in the Senate—will probably be even lower in the coming decade than they’ve been in the past few. Trump has relentlessly targeted the GOP on the priorities and resentments of non-college-educated, Christian, and rural white voters—groups whose numbers are either stagnant or shrinking.
Meanwhile, the key groups that favor Democrats—such as college-educated white voters, people of color, and adults who don’t identify with any religious tradition—are growing.
In November, for the first time, the diverse generations born after 1981—Millennials and Gen Zers—will equal the preponderantly white generations born before 1964 as a percentage of eligible voters, Frey calculates. By 2024, those younger generations will almost certainly exceed them as a share of actual voters, with the gap widening quickly after that. . . . . Young people of color make up about 70 percent of those newly eligible voters in California and Nevada, two-thirds in Texas, three-fifths in Arizona, and about 55 percent in Georgia, Florida, New York, and North Carolina.
It’s not hard to see a collision ahead between a conservative Supreme Court majority and the priorities of those younger Americans, including climate change, racial equity, voting rights, gun control, and protections for same-sex couples. “This focus on judgeships that [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell has put in place is really the only way” that conservatives can see of “guaranteeing their ideological priorities,” Alvin Tillery, the director of Northwestern University’s Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy, told me.
Although Barrett did her best to avoid answering direct questions this week, several exchanges with Democratic senators on gay rights, voting rights, immigration, and workplace discrimination offered a kind of flash-forward to the fireworks ahead if and when this Court strikes down legislation passed by a future Democratic president and Congress, such as a new Voting Rights Act. “Those decisions are only going to make the national [electoral] majority larger, fiercer, angrier,” Wilentz, the author of The Rise of American Democracy, told me.
America has been here before.
In the late 1850s, the newly formed Republican Party was emerging as the nation’s majority party, consolidating support in the more populous North behind a platform of opposing the spread of slavery into the nation’s Western territories. But at that point, seven of the nine Supreme Court justices had been appointed by pro-Southern, pro-slavery Democratic presidents . . . . .
A similar collision between a graying Court majority and a new electoral majority erupted in the 1930s. When Franklin Roosevelt won the presidency in 1932, coalescing the New Deal coalition that would dominate American politics through 1968, seven of the nine Supreme Court justices had been appointed by the Republican presidents who controlled the White House for most of the previous three decades. That Court—memorably labeled “the nine old men” by the muckraking columnist Drew Pearson—struck down so many of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s initiatives that the president ultimately proposed to enlarge the Court, with his famous court-packing proposal of 1937.
Events overran Dred Scott: The Civil War, and then the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, banning slavery, rendered it moot. And while Congress shelved FDR’s plan to enlarge the Court, the threat had its desired effect; in “the switch in time that saved nine,” one justice in the conservative block flipped to provide a narrow majority for FDR’s key programs, including Social Security.
Jefferson responded by launching impeachment proceedings against several Federalist judges, including one that failed against a Supreme Court justice who had openly disparaged the new president’s party. Impeachment isn’t likely to be the Democrats’ response if they win the Senate and the White House next month. But Democrats—and the younger generations emerging as the core of their coalition—may be as unlikely as Jefferson to quietly submit if a Supreme Court that embodies an earlier electoral majority impedes the priorities of their own.
Thursday, October 15, 2020
Northam: Trump's Rhetoric Emboldened Foiled Kidnappers
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday said
PresidentDonald Trump's rhetoric is "emboldening" white supremacists such as the individuals involved in an alleged plot to kidnap him and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
A group charged with plotting to kidnap Whitmer discussed plans to take out sitting governors, including Northam, over "coronavirus-related lockdown orders," an FBI agent testified in court on Tuesday. Northam and Whitmer, both Democrats, were among governors who issued coronavirus-related executive orders in the spring that closed down restaurants, bars and gyms.
Northam told CNN's John Berman on "New Day" Wednesday that he has been dealing with multiple threats since January and that he does not "govern under a cloud of intimidation."
"That's not who I am. And this is not about me," he said. "It's not about the governor of Michigan. This is about this country. And it's about a president that is emboldening these individuals, these white supremacists."
The governor pointed to Trump's comments in 2017 after violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, during a white supremacist rally that there were "very fine people on both sides" and his tweets in April to "LIBERATE" Michigan, Virginia and Minnesota for contributing to the plot. Trump, who has repeatedly criticized Northam, tweeted the message after the governor passed a series of gun rights measures.
Northam told Berman "these people take their marching orders from individuals like the President" and said "it's unfortunate and it needs to stop." He also said "mixed messages" from the Trump administration, including regarding the coronavirus pandemic, is also connected to the foiled plot.
"The people that gave him advice asking -- Virginians asking Americans to wear a mask, ask them to social distance and two days later, he says to liberate Virginia. So, you know, it's mixed messages coming out of Washington," he said, mentioning the lack of coordination between governors and the White House at the beginning of the pandemic. "There's a lack of leadership in Washington."
The Democratic governor also said it's "disheartening" to hear "hatred and bigotry" coming from the President, similar to what he heard while serving in the army during Operation Desert Storm.
"In that conflict, we knew that there were folks in other countries, in Iraq, that disliked us. And they were the ones spewing the hatred and the bigotry," he said. "And now it's coming from our own President. And that's what's so disheartening to me as an American, as a governor, as a veteran."
He also said it is "unacceptable" that Trump denigrated US service members as "losers" and "suckers," referring to reporting by The Atlantic magazine.
The Conservative Case For Voting For Biden
The 2020 presidential election is unlike any I recall in my life time (and to date myself, Harry Truman was president when I was born) and moral and honorable conservatives - which excludes most evangelicals, in my view - have a chose before them. If they vote Republican, they may reelect Donald Trump which would set the stage for the further degradation of the Republican Party and the further division of the nation and more sowing of racial hatred and demeaning of America on the international stage. Yet, some may feel reluctant to vote Democrat. A column in the Washington Post by a one time Republican and former member of the George W. Bush administration makes the case for why Republicans and other conservatives should vote for Joe Biden. Pert of the argument is that the GOP must suffer horrific loss in order to force a repudiation of Trumpism and set the stage for a much needed transformation of the party. I hope my Republican "friends" will read the column and vote accordingly. Here are column excerpts:
The reasons for a traditional conservative to oppose President Trump’s reelection grow daily. There is his abdication of leadership in fighting the coronavirus pandemic; his active encouragement of citizens to adopt reckless and unhealthy behavior; his corruption of public institutions for political gain; his cultivation of right-wing extremism; his determined effort to undermine public confidence in an election he seems likely to lose.
All these are excellent reasons for people on the center right not to cast their vote for Trump. They do not, however, constitute a case for supporting Joe Biden.
But are there positive reasons for a moderate conservative to cast his or her vote for Biden?
One reason is merely strategic, but not unimportant. Because of the terrible damage Trump has done to the Republican Party, it is not enough for him to lose. He must lose in a fashion that constitutes repudiation. For the voter, this means that staying home on Election Day, or writing in Mitt Romney’s name, is not enough. She or he needs to vote in a manner that encourages a decisive Biden win. This theory also requires voting against all the elected Republicans who have enabled Trump (which is nearly all elected Republicans). A comprehensive Republican loss is the only way to hasten party reform. Those who love the GOP must (temporarily) leave it and ensure it is thoroughly defeated in its current form.
There is a case to be made, however, that the former vice president is well matched to our historical moment.
First, the restoration of institutions often requires the knowledge and skills of an insider. We have lived through the presidency of a defiant outsider who dismisses qualities such as professionalism and expertise as elitism. Trump assesses agencies within the executive branch by one criterion: Either they can be politically co-opted, or they deserve to be wrecked.
Much of the initial work of a Biden administration would be to de-Trumpify public institutions, restore their independence and integrity, and return competence to governance.
This is true of the Justice Department, which is being politicized by a pathetic factotum.
This is true of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol, which Trump has infected with his biases and brutality.
It is true of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, which need to be restored as trusted sources of advice and information.
It is true of the demoralized intelligence community and State Department. And it is true of the presidency itself, which Trump has turned into a stage for his obscene, playacted authoritarianism.
The second reason that Biden might be a good fit for our times concerns racial justice and criminal justice reform. Next to getting control of covid-19, these matters have the greatest political and social momentum. Racism is an ongoing challenge to America’s self-definition. And if all the marching and activism of the past several months comes to nothing, it will be another cause of social unrest.
He has a history of supporting the police, and a relationship of trust with the African American community. If there is going to be serious criminal justice reform at the federal level, it will require just such a leader. Biden has the background and capacity to become a bridge between law enforcement and those pushing for social justice.
Third, Biden is a reasonable progressive. The initial economic suffering from the pandemic overwhelmingly fell on low-wage and minority workers. Today we are experiencing a recovery that William Galston has called “the most unequal in modern history.” There are now more jobs for the top quarter of earners than before the covid-19 crisis. For the bottom quarter, jobs have dropped by more than 20 percent. Someone needs to be looking out for wage workers during an uneven recovery. Biden has the background and capability to play that role.
This would not be a sufficient case for me to support Biden over a serious Republican candidate. But in our choice between the arsonist and the institutionalist, the institutionalist has virtues of his own.
Will We Choose the Right Side of History?
Amy Coney Barrett has been following recent precedent in her confirmation hearing before the Senate, pretending that she has never had an interesting thought in her life.
Is it illegal to intimidate voters at the polls? She didn’t want to weigh in. A president postponing an election? Hmm. She’d have to think about that.
What about climate change? “I have read things about climate change,” she acknowledged, warily emphasizing that she is not a scientist. “I would not say I have firm views on it.”
If she had been asked about astronomy, she might have explained: “I have read things about the Earth being round. I would not say I have firm views on it.”
We sometimes distinguish between “liberal judges” and “conservative judges.” Perhaps the divide instead is between forward-thinking judges and backward-thinking judges.
Partly because of paralysis by legislators, partly because of racist political systems, forward-thinking judges sometimes had to step up over the last 70 years to tug the United States ahead. Those judges chipped away at Jim Crow and overturned laws against interracial marriage, against contraception, against racial and sexual discrimination.
Just this week, Bernard Cohen, the lawyer who won the interracial marriage case in the Supreme Court in 1967, died — a reminder of how recent such progress is.
Forward-thinking justices struck down such laws — and that wasn’t about “activist judges” but about decency, humanity and the 14th Amendment.
It was as recent as 2003 that enlightened Supreme Court judges struck down state sodomy laws that could be used to prosecute same-sex lovers. Three backward-thinking justices, including Antonin Scalia, Barrett’s mentor, would have allowed Taliban-style prosecutions of gay people for intimacy in the bedroom. (Barrett refused in the hearing Wednesday to say whether the case was rightly decided.)
It is true, as some conservatives argue, that this path toward social progress would ideally have been blazed by legislators, not judges. But it is difficult for people who are denied voting rights to protect their voting rights, and judicial passivism in these cases would have buttressed discrimination, racism, sexism and bigotry.
That brings us to another historical area where conservatives, Barrett included, have also been on the wrong side of history — access to health care.
Over the last hundred years, advanced countries have, one by one, adopted universal health care systems, with one notable exception: the United States. . . . . one political party in America is trying to join the rest of the civilized world and provide universal health care, and the other is doing its best to take away what we have.
The G.O.P. is succeeding. Census data show that even before the Covid-19 pandemic the number of uninsured Americans had risen by 2.3 million under Trump — and another 2.9 million have lost insurance since the pandemic hit. Most troubling of all, about one million children have lost insurance under Trump over all, according to a new Georgetown study.
[T]he Republican argument in the case, to be heard next month, is such a legal stretch that it’s unlikely to succeed fully, even if Barrett is on the court.
But it is possible, and that would be such a cataclysm — perhaps 20 million Americans losing insurance during a pandemic — that it’s worth a shudder. It should also remind us of the importance of renewing the imperfect, on-again-off-again march of civilization in America, away from bigotry and toward empowerment of all citizens.
Barrett is not a horrible person; on the contrary, she seems to be a smart lawyer with an admirable personal story. Yet she’s working with a gang of Republican senators to steal a seat on the Supreme Court. This grand larceny may well succeed. But for voters, this hearing should underscore the larger battle over the direction of the country.
Voters can’t weigh in on the Barrett nomination, but they can correct this country’s course.
Here’s the fundamental question: Will voters reward the party that is working to provide more health care, or the party that has painstakingly robbed one million children of insurance? Will voters help tug the United States forward, or will they support the backward thinkers who have been on the side of discrimination, racism, bigotry and voter suppression?
At the polls, which side of history will you stand on?
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
The 8 States That Will Decide the Election
Donald Trump is cratering among women in the suburbs, losing support among senior citizens and facing a wave of Democratic early voting.
With 20 days left until November 3, Trump faces as daunting a challenge to reelection as any incumbent president in a quarter-century.
Joe Biden is predicted to win in most election forecasts. He also holds a robust lead in the national polls — 10 percentage points, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. And in the 8 states POLITICO has identified as critical battlegrounds — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — Biden has a lead in all but one of them.
The selection of these swing states is based on a variety of factors — polling, demography, past and recent election history, voter registration, interviews with state and local party officials, strategists and pollsters. The individual campaigns have also revealed the places they are prioritizing through staffing, resource allocation, TV and radio advertising and candidate visits.
When POLITICO first chronicled these swing states after Labor Day, the roadmap ahead for Trump and Biden was clear. The president needed to max out his performance with rural voters, halt his erosion in the suburbs, and turn out white working-class voters who didn’t vote in 2016. Biden needed a big turnout in the big cities -- particularly among African-American voters — increase his share among Latino voters and recapture some of the places that flipped to Trump after twice voting for President Barack Obama.
Trump has failed to turn his fortunes around in the suburbs, particularly among women. “Honestly, all the moms I know, we are really nervous about our kids, what kind of future they’re going to have. And Trump is the one making us nervous,” a woman in suburban Livingston County told Tim Alberta.
Swing state Republicans aren’t entirely convinced that Trump’s situation is dire. . . . They report high enthusiasm within the GOP base and deep support for the president in rural America — support that isn’t being captured in the polls, they say.
Here’s a closer look at the eight swing states that will decide the 2020 election:
ARIZONA: In Arizona, Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic is proving costly, leaving him struggling to match his 2016 performance among those over the age of 65. October polling shows Biden is chipping away at Trump’s support among older white voters, especially among the once reliably Republican senior population in populous Maricopa County.
FLORIDA: Republicans typically hold a slight edge in absentee ballot returns in Florida elections. But this year, for the first time ever at this stage of a general election, Democrats here are outvoting Republicans -- and by a huge margin. The unprecedented early voting numbers have electrified Democrats, but campaign veterans warn that a wave of Republican votes is coming on Election Day.
GEORGIA: Most of the attention in Georgia this year is directed toward Atlanta’s populous suburbs, which have turned hard against Republicans in the Trump era, But the outcome might come down to a less scrutinized force in this state: white rural voters. And Donald Trump has room to grow his support there.
MICHIGAN: All three Rust Belt states that Trump improbably won in 2016 – Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- are problematic for the president this year. But Michigan is where things look bleakest. His support has diminished among the white working-class. Black turnout appears certain to rebound after a dismal showing in 2016. New laws that allow for early voting and no-excuse-absentee balloting are expected to push voter participation to historic levels, with Democrats the expected beneficiary of low-propensity Michiganders flooding the ballot box.
MINNESOTA: Donald Trump has fixated on Minnesota since his narrow loss to Hillary Clinton there four years ago. But he’s not running as well with white voters and independents as in 2016. And with less than a month until the election, his prospects are dimming.
NORTH CAROLINA: What happens in fast-growing Mecklenburg and Wake counties will shape the political landscape long past November. The two counties, by far the most populous in the state, are expected to play a decisive role in the presidential race, a closely contested Senate race and the governor’s contest.
PENNSYLVANIA: For a few months this summer, things were moving in the right direction for Donald Trump in Pennsylvania. Between July and September, the president cut Joe Biden’s lead in half. But since then, Trump’s progress has stalled, even backslid: Biden is now up by nearly 7 points, according to polling averages. The president’s unsteady coronavirus leadership is a key reason for the decline.
WISCONSIN: A confluence of events over the past month — all seeming to favor Democrats — has shifted the dynamics in this Rust Belt battleground. Wisconsin plunged into its worst bout with Covid-19 since the onset of the pandemic, reminding voters of the uneven response from the Trump administration as well as the president’s early attempts to dismiss the severity of the virus. A Green Party candidate was not allowed on the ballot — erasing the prospect of a third-party siphoning of votes that contributed to Hillary Clinton’s 2016’s race razor-thin defeat. And there are increasing signs that key constituencies whom Donald Trump needs to defeat Biden, including suburban and swing voters, are moving away from him.
Trump needs to lose decisively and the result needs to be obvious on election night to forestall attempts by Trump to delegitimize his rejection by sane, decent and moral Americans. Please vote, and if possible vote early and in person.
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Barrett Signals Her Anti-LGBT Views as She Dodges Answering Questions
[Senator Dianne] Feinstein, however, wasn’t satisfied with that answer, calling marriage rights for same-sex couples “a fundamental point for large numbers of people, I think, in this country.”
“You identify yourself with a justice that you like him [Antonin Scalia] would be a consistent vote to roll back hard fought freedoms and protections for the LGBT community,” Feinstein said. “And what I was hoping you would say is that this would be a point of difference where those freedoms would be respected and you haven’t said that.”
Barrett responded to Feinstein’s concerns by insisting she “has no agenda,” then went on to disavow discrimination on the basis of “sexual preference.”
“I do want to be clear that I have never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference, and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference,” Barrett said. “Like racism, I think discrimination is abhorrent.”
The term sexual preference is considered inappropriate — and offensive — to describe whether or not a person identifies as LGBTQ because it implies being LGBTQ is choice. Instead, the standard terms are sexual orientation and gender identity (and in some circles, the term sexual identity is emerging as a broader term to encompass all aspects of the LGBTQ community).
Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, criticized Barrett in a statement for using the term “sexual preference,” crediting such terminology with the prevalence of widely discredited conversion therapy.
“When Amy Coney Barrett used the term ’sexual preference’ in her testimony before the Senate today, she perpetuated the dangerous and false stereotype that being LGBTQ is not a fundamental aspect of identity, but a mere ’preference,’” Minter said. “This is why so many people, including many parents who send their children to conversion therapy, think being LGBTQ is a choice. As judges know, language matters.”
Upbraiding Barrett on the committee for use of the term sexual preference was Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who said that was “offensive and outdated” language and “used by anti LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice.”
“It is not,” Hirono continued. “Sexual orientation is a key part of a person’s identity. That sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable was a key part of the majority’s opinion in Obergefell, which by the way Scalia did not agree with. So, if it is your view that sexual orientation is merely a preference, as you noted, then the LGBTQ community should be rightly concerned whether you would uphold their constitutional right to marry.”
The prospect of Barrett’s confirmation leading to the Supreme Court reversing Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 ruling granting full rights marriage rights to same-sex couples, has emerged as a spectre amid concerns she’d move the court further to the right and an unexpected statement from U.S. Associate Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas last week declaring war on the decision.
Leahy also brought up Barrett admitting to having taken a speaking fees to address the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, which is a project of the anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom, asking her if she was familiar with the law firm’s filings in support of keeping same-sex relations criminalized in the United States, and recriminalizing them abroad.
“They celebrated when India restored a law punishing sodomy with 10 years in prison,” Leahy said. “Now I don’t — Whether you believe being gay is right or wrong is irrelevant to me, but my concern is you worked with an organization working to criminalize people for loving a person that they’re in love with. So, that’s what worries me.”
Barrett, however, said her experience with Blackstone “was a wonderful one,” saying it gathers “the best and brightest Christian law students from around — law students from around the country,” making a notable correction to describe the correction in her response.
I'm sorry but she's an extremist despite her attractive appearance. Further galling me is the fact that on the same day Barrett danced around her hostility to my civil rights, the husband and I made a quarterly federal tax payment that was well over ten times what Trump paid in all of 2016 (and that doesn't include any of my significant W-2 withholding). Something is VERY wrong with America's tax code.
Trump's Unpopularity May Hand Senate Control to Democrats
Over the past three decades, U.S. Senate elections have become increasingly nationalized. Presidential coattails have always been a factor in Senate elections, but the connection between presidential and Senate elections is much closer now than in the past. This trend reflects rising partisan polarization and straight-ticket voting. Thus, in 2016, for the first time in modern history, the candidate of the winning presidential candidate in the state won every Senate contest.
There is every reason to expect that the 2020 Senate elections will continue this trend. The overwhelming majority of voters have strong opinions about President Trump, and Republican and Democratic Senate candidates are generally emphasizing their support or opposition to the president and his policies in their campaigns. We expect to find a very close connection between the 2020 presidential and Senate elections, . . . Therefore, it should be possible to use polling data on the presidential contest to predict the outcome of the U.S. Senate election even in states for which little or no polling data is available on the Senate contest.
In order to test the hypothesis that there will be a close connection between the 2020 presidential and Senate election results, we can examine recent polling data from the states with Senate contests and recent Senate polling. . . . The correlation between the average presidential and Senate margins is a remarkable .95, which means that the presidential margin explains 90% of the variance in the Senate margin. In other words, the polling margins for presidential and Senate races are very closely linked.
Incumbents typically are able to gain some support beyond their party’s voter base by providing constituency service and claiming credit for bringing federal projects and dollars into their state. However, this advantage has been shrinking in recent years because of rising partisan polarization and straight ticket voting.
[S]even Senate seats are the most likely to change party control in the 2020 election. Republicans are strongly favored to pick up a Democratic seat in Alabama. Democrats are strongly favored to pick up two Republican seats — one in Maine and one in Colorado. In addition, Democrats are slightly favored to pick up Republican seats in Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, and North Carolina. If all of these predictions hold, Democrats would end up with a net gain of five Senate seats and a 52-48 seat majority.
[T]hree additional Republican seats appear to be potentially vulnerable. Republican candidates are only slightly favored in Alaska, South Carolina, and Texas. If Democrats win all of these contests, along with the ones in which they are favored, they would end up with a net gain of eight seats and a total of 55 seats in the Senate. Thus, the likely seat swing range appears to be somewhere between a net Democratic pickup of one seat and a net Democratic pickup of eight seats, with the number of Democratic seats in the new Senate somewhere between 48 and 55.
My analysis of this polling data indicates that Democrats are likely to achieve a net gain of between one and eight seats with the most likely result a net gain of five seats, which would give them a 52-48 seat majority.
Let's hope the Dems pick up 8 seats.
Monday, October 12, 2020
Why Trump and Senate Republicans Won’t Help Americans in Need
I keep seeing news reports saying that the Trump administration is “pivoting” on economic stimulus. But Donald Trump has been reversing positions so frequently that it looks less like a series of pivots than like a tailspin.
Over the course of just a week he went from demanding big stimulus, to calling off negotiations, to demanding big stimulus again, to calling for a small-scale deal using already allocated funds.
It would be funny if the human consequences weren’t so terrible. At this point the best guess is that for the next three-plus months — that is, until President Joe Biden takes office (highly likely, though not certain) with a Democratic Senate (more likely than not, but definitely not a sure thing) — there will be little or no aid for the millions of families, thousands of businesses and many state and local governments on the brink of disaster.
But why isn’t America getting the pandemic relief it so obviously needs?
It’s easy to blame Trump, who has managed to spend four years in office without learning anything about policy and has surrounded himself with officials chosen for slavish personal loyalty rather than expertise. As a recent article in Politico put it: “Never mind the A Team. At this point, even the B Team would represent a significant upgrade.”
Senate Republicans . . . . They’re willing to cover for Trump’s unprecedented corruption; they’re apparently unbothered by his fondness for foreign dictators. But spending money to help Americans in distress? That’s where they draw the line.
This was obvious even before the coronavirus struck. Remember how Trump promised to spend trillions on infrastructure, then defaulted on that promise? “Infrastructure week” eventually became a running joke. . . . . . the deal went nowhere thanks to opposition from Senate Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, the majority leader.
McConnell and company are also the main reason we don’t have a deal to help Americans survive the economic effects of the pandemic.
We should have had a deal in the summer, when it was already obvious that the rescue package approved in March was going to expire much too soon. But Senate Republicans were adamantly opposed to providing the necessary aid. Lindsey Graham declared that emergency unemployment benefits would be extended “over our dead bodies” (actually 215,000 other people’s dead bodies, but who’s counting?).
And McConnell — whose state benefits from far more federal spending than it pays in taxes — derided proposed aid to states as a “blue state bailout.”
The thing is, Trump’s chances of re-election and McConnell’s chances of holding on to the Senate would almost surely be better if there actually had been an infrastructure bill last year and a relief bill this past summer. Why weren’t Republicans willing to make those deals?
Whatever they may say, they weren’t concerned about the cost. Republicans didn’t worry about budget deficits when they rammed through a $2 trillion tax cut for corporations and the wealthy. They only pose as deficit hawks when trying to block spending that might help ordinary Americans.
No, what this is really about is the modern G.O.P.’s plutocratic agenda. McConnell and, as far as I can tell, every member of his caucus are completely committed to cutting taxes on the rich and aid to the poor and middle class. Other than March’s CARES Act, which Republicans passed only because they were panicking over a plunging stock market, it’s hard to think of any major G.O.P.-approved fiscal legislation in the past two decades that didn’t redistribute income upward.
[A]ll indications are that they believe — probably rightly — that successful government programs make the public more receptive to proposals for additional programs.
That’s why the G.O.P. has tried so frantically to overturn the Affordable Care Act; at this point it’s clear that Obamacare’s success in cutting the number of uninsured Americans has created an appetite for further health care reform.
And that’s why Republicans are unwilling to provide desperately needed aid to economic victims of the pandemic. They aren’t worried that a relief package would fail; they’re worried that it might succeed, showing that sometimes more government spending is a good thing. Indeed, a successful relief package might pave the way for Democratic proposals that would, among other things, drastically reduce child poverty.
So while Trump bears much of the responsibility for the misery facing millions of Americans, McConnell probably bears an equal share. Will they pay the political price? We’ll find out in three weeks.
The Rising Domestic Terrorism Threat
The announcement by federal authorities on Thursday that six men had been arrested and charged with conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) is a stark example of the evolving domestic terrorist threat facing America. Just two days earlier, the Department of Homeland Security had released its first annual Homeland Threat Assessment, which categorized the leading threats facing the homeland and stated that “ideologically motivated lone offenders and small groups” of “Domestic Violent Extremists” now “pose the most likely terrorist threat.”
The arrest of the alleged Michigan conspirators represents one of the most significant incidents highlighting law enforcement concerns that domestic extremists might try to capitalize on heightened social and political tensions around the November election, or conduct attacks in response to perceived infringement of liberties by government pandemic response policies. This is a potent and explosive mix.
Lone actors and more-organized domestic-threat groups are given oxygen and support in metastasizing online communities. The novel nature of this rapid and remote technological reach hampers the effectiveness of traditional investigation and disruption methods, challenging law enforcement’s ability to keep pace with the accelerating velocity of radicalization and action. Given that reality, the work of the FBI, alongside state and local law enforcement agencies in Michigan, to prevent a potential attack is noteworthy.
Exacerbating the problem are hostile foreign actors — led by Russian elements using overt and covert means, such as troll farms and bots — seeking to exploit seams in American society, amplifying social and political divisions. Intelligence professionals have assessed that these actions are designed to promote extreme ideologies from both the left and the right.
Taken together, these emerging trends make clear that terrorist threats to the United States have evolved dramatically since 9/11. Foreign terrorist adversaries remain a severe threat to U.S. interests both at home and abroad, but the predominant terrorist threat at home today is increasingly domestic in nature, conducted by American citizens inspired by multiple extremist ideologies.
[R]acially and ethnically motivated violent extremists, and specifically white-supremacist extremists, represent the “most persistent and lethal threat,” according to the recent DHS threat assessment. But others, including both anti-government and anti-authority extremists, increasingly find cause to mobilize in response to political and social tension.
Consider the white-supremacist-inspired shootings in Charleston, S.C., Poway, Calif., and El Paso that took dozens of innocent lives in recent years, the anti-law-enforcement shooting that killed Protective Security Officer David Patrick Underwood in Oakland, Calif., earlier this year, and the opportunistic acts of violence carried out against law enforcement and counterprotesters at otherwise peaceful and lawful demonstrations over the summer.
This calls for a serious, coordinated whole-of-society effort toward prevention and mitigation. The challenges are daunting, but law enforcement on many levels is responding. Efforts include the FBI’s work to investigate domestic terrorism cases and to counter foreign influence; the U.S. Secret Service’s analysis and guidance on factors leading to mass attacks; and the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency’s support for local communities with training and other resources.
[I]n the Homeland Threat Assessment, DHS intelligence professionals, with insight from the FBI and intelligence community, identified a wide range of critical threats, including foreign and domestic terrorism, attacks on cyber and election security, and the manipulation of lawful protests to commit acts of violence and destruction.
In the final weeks of the presidential campaign, during an already extraordinarily tense year, many Americans are understandably concerned about election security and even the safety of polling places. They should know that law enforcement and homeland security professionals are working hard to address potential threats to the administration of the election.
And Americans should vote. Vigilance is essential, but they can be confident about engaging in civic expression. Cases like the one in Michigan remain at the fringes in American society, and law enforcement at all levels is increasingly informed, focused on and dedicated to addressing these emerging threats. The best antidote to violent extremism is for the American people to exercise the most powerful guarantor of democracy and freedom — by casting their ballots.