Saturday, April 17, 2021
Republicans are in a brutal political position right now. They’re struggling to find an attack on President Biden’s jobs plan that will land, and their leading option — that raising taxes will kill jobs — is forcing them to defend their hideously unpopular 2017 corporate tax cuts, which Democrats want to partially undo.
A new data presentation from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) should make this even worse for Republicans. It vividly illustrates why the status quo on corporate taxation is so hard to defend: It shows how little we collect in corporate tax revenues as a percentage of the economy, how bad the future outlook is and how miserably this compares to other countries.
Right now, Politico reports, Republican senators are developing a game plan for the coming battle. A handful are working on an alternate infrastructure plan, which would spend far less than Biden’s and appears designed to entice Democrats into bipartisan negotiations.
NBC reports that even the few Republicans inclined to support such a thing can’t agree on the size of a smaller expenditure. What’s more, the rub is how this would be paid for.
Republicans adamantly oppose raising corporate tax rates to fund even this smaller bill, and instead want to rely on something like raising the gas tax, which Democrats oppose, because it’s regressive, whereas corporate tax hikes are progressive.
This is making Democrats wary that Republicans are laying a trap, Politico reports:
Some Democrats privately argue that they shouldn’t allow Republicans to throw their weight behind a popular infrastructure bill without requiring their engagement on the more divisive debate over how to pay for it.
That’s not something Democrats should let Republicans get away with. Which is where Wyden’s new presentation comes in.
The data from Wyden, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, places the corporate tax status quo in a larger context. This status quo, importantly, was created in part by the 2017 GOP tax cut, so it shows what Republicans want to maintain, and what Democrats want to change.
Relying on information from the Congressional Budget Office, Wyden’s staff calculates the following:
- From 2000 to 2016, corporate tax receipts averaged around 1.7 percent of total gross domestic product (which Wyden’s office calls the “modern average”).
- Immediately after GOP passage of the 2017 tax bill, corporate tax revenues as a percentage of GDP dropped nearly 40 percent below that modern average.
- In 2018, the first year after the GOP tax cuts passed, the United States was last in corporate tax revenues as a share of GDP of all countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
That’s a striking indictment of the status quo, notes Steve Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, who says his own calculations roughly confirm Wyden’s.
“In 2017, Republicans slashed corporate tax rates, which decimated corporate tax receipts,” Rosenthal told me. “U.S. corporations avail themselves of the benefits of the U.S. economy — infrastructure, workforce and the like — but contribute very little to it.”
“Republicans’ red line on corporate revenue is completely unreasonable," Wyden told us in a statement. “Corporations have never contributed less to federal revenues than they do now — thanks to Republicans’ tax giveaway.”
What’s more, the Biden plan wouldn’t just raise corporate tax rates. Such a hike would likely fall to some extent on corporate profits generated by market power, or monopoly rents. Democrats would also try to close loopholes that enable multinational corporations to reduce tax bills with international profit-shifting trickery.
Shouldn’t the new working-class GOP we keep hearing about, particularly those Republicans who preen around on Fox News as populist scourges of woke, elite, globalist corporate domination, support such measures?
As it is, polls show that raising corporate tax rates has broad public support, both generally and in its specifics. If Democrats can press this case about the indefensibility of the status quo, the Republican position should get even harder to sustain.
Friday, April 16, 2021
I was driving around the other day when I realized that the license tabs on my car had expired. I didn’t panic, because I didn’t have to. If the cops pulled me over, I could feel assured as a white male: My life would not be in danger.
It was expired registration tags that led the police to pull over Daunte Wright, the young Black man killed by Officer Kim Potter in suburban Minneapolis this month. (It has been described by local authorities as a deadly accident, although his family finds that implausible.) And it was temporary license plates that prompted a chain of events that ended with police in rural Virginia pepper-spraying Caron Nazario, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, who is Black and Latino.
“I’m actively serving this country, and this is how you’re going to treat me?” Lieutenant Nazario told the officers. Race is the only explanation for this loathsome assault. The blue wall of silence, the code that calls on cops to protect one another against charges of brutality and criminality, compounded the attack: The two officers filed “near identical” misstatements about what happened, according to a lawsuit filed by Lieutenant Nazario.
But even as we condemn another round of horrific and excessive state violence directed at Black Americans, there’s actually a ray of hope on the police reform blotter.
The blue wall may be starting to crack. It was broken in the Derek Chauvin trial.
It’s no small thing that several Minneapolis police officers, including Chief Medaria Arradondo, took the stand against Mr. Chauvin in his trial over the death of George Floyd. Fourteen officers in the same department signed an open letter last year saying Mr. Chauvin “failed as a human and stripped George Floyd of his dignity and life.”
Maybe these acts of courage are isolated — mere dents in a wall that is institutional and pervasive. It will take far more than a few cops in a nation-shattering case of racist murder-by-authority to do structural damage to that edifice.
Cops protecting bad cops is ingrained in the system. Many officers feel that only a brother or sister in blue knows the peril they face — and has their backs. . . . . Too many police officers act as if being the face of the law makes them above the law.
Some years ago, I wrote a book called “Breaking Blue,” about what had been called the oldest actively investigated homicide case in the United States. It involved a killing in 1935, and a powerful cop running a fencing scheme was suspected of the crime. Three generations of police officers protected the accused in uniform. When Anthony Bamonte, a sheriff in eastern Washington State, finally appeared to solve the crime in 1989, he ran into fresh resistance from the inside.
“You never badmouth a brother,” a former police officer wrote him in a threatening letter.
Smashing the blue wall is one thing that has to happen to fix the lethal flaws in modern law enforcement. Another will be just as hard, if not more so: acknowledging that racism, like the code of silence, runs deep in police ranks.
Defunding the police is not the answer. It’s an absurd idea. . . . . “Defund the police” is even worse as a political slogan; the idea is supported by only 18 percent of Americans, according to one poll from last month. Politically, all the slogan will do is hurt the cause of reform, as it appeared to drag down Democrats in last year’s congressional elections.
Reinventing the police, a far better idea, got a start in New Orleans in 2016, with a program that teaches officers to intervene when they see fellow officers doing something bad. It’s about to get another go in Maryland, now that lawmakers just overrode a veto and passed sweeping police reform legislation.
We need every cop to wear a body camera. We need to curb the power of police unions, the biggest protectors of the blue wall. And we need officers of all stripes to back the words of those 14 in Minneapolis. They said, “This is not who we are.” Now prove it.
Thursday, April 15, 2021
When a marriage falls apart, the fights are never really about what they appear to be. Another late night at the office isn’t about the workload; it’s a statement about your priorities. Anger over the takeout order isn’t about the food; it’s about the fact that you don’t understand what your spouse actually likes.
So it is with the crumbling, century-long marriage of the Republican Party and the business community.
The recent spat between leading Republicans and major corporations like Delta, Coca-Cola and Major League Baseball criticizing Georgia’s restrictive new voting law isn’t just about voting rights; it’s the sign of a deeper breakup that has been years in the making. For anyone confused about how Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell could admonish big companies to “stay out of politics,” after building a career on corporate donations and business-friendly policies, this deeper breakup tells the story.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a legendary business professor and associate dean at the Yale School of Management, has watched this split grow in recent years, and has heard it from CEOs he knows and works with. What the GOP cares about and what major businesses care about are, increasingly incompatible, he says.
“The political desire to use wedge issues to divide—which used to be fringe in the GOP—has become mainstream,” Sonnenfeld says. “That is 100 percent at variance with what the business community wants. And that is a million times more important to them than how many dollars of taxes are paid here or there.”
Over the weekend, Sonnenfeld hastily organized a Zoom conference with roughly 100 major corporate executives to talk through the voter restrictions being considered by state legislatures throughout the country, and about the way top Republicans like McConnell and Ted Cruz are responding with attacks on businesses that speak up in opposition.
Most of the CEOs on the call were Republicans; . . . The CEOs “ranged from amused to outraged” in their reaction to the GOP attacks on businesses, says Sonnenfeld. “Their comments ranged from talk about ‘taxation without representation’ to the paradox of ‘cancel culture’: It’s OK if they speak out, but only as long as they stay on script?”
As the GOP tries to position itself as the home of “working-class values,” capturing loyalty with a steady campaign against the perceived excesses of progressive culture, it’s running afoul of a business community that can’t simply silo off “culture war” topics. In the eyes of major corporations, issues like voting rights, immigration and transgender-inclusive restrooms have economic impact, too. The millions of people alienated by those fights aren’t just their future customers, many of whom expect to support brands they believe in, they’re the companies’ employees.
“The bad news for Republicans is that they seem to have a 1920s view of who Big Business’ workforce is,” says Sonnenfeld. “That workforce is, at a minimum, highly diverse—and they get along. Trying to stir that up is misguided.”
“Basically, business leaders believe that it’s in the interest of society to have social harmony. ... Divisiveness in society is not in their interest, short term or long term.”
If the marriage between the Republican Party and the business community is on the rocks, what does that mean for politics? What do we misunderstand about what really matters to CEOs? And why aren’t business executives more afraid of boycott threats from the right?
For answers to all of that and more, POLITICO Magazine spoke with Sonnenfeld this week.
90 actual CEOs and business leaders showed up, and 120 people were on the call, including the various election and legal experts. . . . Georgia was not the focus; that was just the warning shot. The volley over the bow is that we had business leaders from Texas saying, “You don’t know what bad is,” and looking at this spread [of voting rights restrictions] to 47 state legislatures. Michael Waldman, the head of the Brennan Center, gave an analysis of how bad [the proposals are] in these different states.
This November, for the first time in American history, [major business leaders] worked to guarantee millions of workers paid time off to vote. We've never had that before—and that's a bypass around government, with its inability to make Election Day a national holiday. So they created their own workarounds. But on top of that, they were really proud that they managed to have—these particular companies—over a million workers with a full day off not only to vote, but to help fortify elderly voting-site volunteers who were at risk for Covid and [had to handle] the tidal wave of ballots. . . . . And to have [the election] condemned [by Republicans] after the companies put so much into ensuring that, they're pretty upset.
The CEOs were across the political spectrum. But one thing they were unified about was their right to have a voice, and the importance of fortifying each other when they get out in front on an issue.
The business community’s interests are not to be xenophobic. It’s not in their interests to be isolationist. It’s not in their interests to be protectionist. And the GOP, those haven’t been their positions, at least since the 1950s. But now they are.
They’re interested in free markets—whether or not that’s product markets, financial markets or labor markets. It’s about the image and reality of America: “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,” Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty. That’s the spirit of it. But it’s also this: If the U.S. is not seen as a comfortable, attractive magnet for the world’s best talent, we’re in trouble. We don’t want all this technological expertise to be siphoned away to our trading partners, and that’s starting to happen.
[Business leaders] are upset about immigration policies. . . . and say, “You can’t condemn us for outsourcing this work to China or India if we can’t bring these highly skilled workers here. We’re already now leasing space in Vancouver and Toronto, and we’re working on wiring the infrastructure so this will be on U.S. time zones. If we can’t get [these skilled workers] into the U.S., we’re still going to function as a North American company with the talent we need.”
They have different priorities [than the Republican Party seems to think]. They’re upset about the [anti-LGBTQ] “bathroom bills.” They’re upset about gun violence; hundreds of companies severed ties with the NRA or stopped dealing in semiautomatic weapons—from Walmart to Dick’s Sporting Goods. As we talk about “regulatory rollbacks” during the Trump administration, they were almost entirely EPA-directed; nobody was lobbying for that in corporate America. With the automakers, it became the entire industry fighting the [Trump-era] EPA, saying, “We like working with California. We think that in addition to what we’re doing with hybrids and [electric vehicles], we are pretty sure that we can get a 50-mile per gallon efficiency in the old-fashioned internal combustion engine. Don’t stop us.”
With these [anti-transgender] “bathroom bills,” the companies that led the charge against the euphemistic “religious freedom” acts in Arkansas, Indiana, North Carolina and Texas — amazingly — were AT&T, UPS and Doug McMillon [the CEO] of Walmart. They were out front.
There's much more. I don't see the GOP changing and reverting back toward sanity. The death grip of the Christofascists and white supremacists is simply too tight. With luck big business will be further alienated by the GOP and its demise will come about all the sooner.
President Biden and his advisers have begun to engage with lawmakers on his American Jobs Plan. Biden met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Monday, and he and aides have been on the phone with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. The clear message from the administrations is that ideas and negotiations are welcome. The only nonstarter is doing nothing.
Meanwhile, Republicans sound as though they’re all over the map. Despite claims to be the newly populist party of working men and women, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have been predicting economic doom should corporations be forced to pay any more than they presently are in federal taxes (which, in the case of more than 50 companies, amounted to zero last year).
However, that red line is already getting smudged. Appearing on CNN, Sen. Roger Wicker, a staunch conservative from Mississippi, declared, “I’m not ruling out some kind of pay-for, absolutely.” He went on: “If you’re going to spend, say, $600 billion over several years on an infrastructure program that’s much bigger than we’ve had before, absolutely. We have to be grown-ups and say it has to be paid for so we’re not going to be able to come up with that money out of thin air.”
Many Republicans seem wedded to quibbling over the definition of “infrastructure.” . . . In 2018, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was all in favor of a farm bill that included “conservation programs, outdoor recreation, and upgraded watershed and drinking water infrastructure.” He was so gung-ho about the bill that he praised inclusion of provisions that “enhance infrastructure investment in rural communities, on everything from local water projects to broadband internet to helping curb the drug epidemic in rural America.” . . . . If Biden changed his bill’s title to the “American Jobs, Farm and Energy Act,” would McConnell drop his aversion to including water, broadband and energy infrastructure provisions?
McConnell is far from the only Republican who previously favored components of the Biden bill — before Biden entered the Oval Office. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) now objects to spending for items he doesn’t consider “infrastructure.” It was not always so. In the past, he has supported expanding water infrastructure and broadband infrastructure.
If Republicans not so long ago viewed broadband access, job training, pipelines and water projects — to name just a few — as worthwhile “infrastructure” investments, then perhaps they should drop the semantics and start debating over what we need, how much we need and how to pay for it. They might recall how much their own constituents want these items and then try legislating instead of polishing their talking points for right-wing media.
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
From the Norfolk waterfront to the busy streets of Alexandria, Virginia’s Democratic establishment turned out in force this week to anoint their preferred candidate for governor in this fall’s election.
Many of them were female and Black leaders who have risen to power in the past four years and transformed the political landscape of this old Southern state. Social justice and racial equity were the themes of the day. But the candidate they and Gov. Ralph Northam all came out to endorse had a distinctly familiar look: Terry McAuliffe — a 64-year-old White man who already served a term as governor, ending in 2018.
For a state party that has won national acclaim for breaking new ground, the embrace of the tried and true McAuliffe brand seems like a throwback. After all, Virginia Democrats have a diverse set of candidates to choose from in the June 8 primary. Two offer the chance to make history by becoming the first Black woman to govern any state.
Today, about half the members of that caucus [Virginia Legislative Black Caucus] have endorsed McAuliffe — though neither Aird nor the caucus leader, Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico), is endorsing any candidate.
When Northam was politically crippled in early 2019, McAuliffe came to the rescue during crucial elections for every seat in the General Assembly, campaigning and flexing his prodigious fundraising powers, much like a surrogate governor. And Democrats rode an anti-Trump wave to make unexpected gains, seizing majorities in the legislature for the first time in a generation.
It’s those gains that Democrats are eager to protect this year, when all 100 seats in the House of Delegates are on the Nov. 2 ballot, along with governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. Northam, like all Virginia governors, is prohibited by the state constitution from seeking a second consecutive term.
In a normal election year, Fairfax might be seen as the favorite to succeed Northam — the lieutenant governor job being a traditional steppingstone, as it was for Northam. . . . . Instead, it’s McAuliffe who is positioning himself as the de facto successor to Northam in a field that also includes state Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (Richmond), former delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy (Prince William) and Del. Lee J. Carter (Manassas).
Most elected party members are loath to say anything publicly about McAuliffe that might sound negative because of his powerful position. But tensions bubbled to the surface Tuesday in an extraordinary scene at the first televised debate featuring the five Democratic gubernatorial candidates.
Two days later, when Northam threw his weight behind McAuliffe with the House speaker, House majority leader and president pro tempore of the Senate by his side, McClellan called a hasty news conference in Richmond.
McAuliffe has not directly addressed questions about the racial dynamics of the contest, pointing to his record of job creation and expanding access to health care for all Virginians. “His record, ability to deliver results, and vision for the future have earned him the support of hundreds of Virginia leaders, including deep and overwhelming support from Black leaders, and Terry is incredibly proud of this strong and diverse coalition,” campaign manager Chris Bolling said.
Some Black Democrats say skin color has nothing to do with their pick for governor.
“It would make no difference who was in this race. I’ve known Terry for decades, I know he can deliver,” said Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), who as president pro tem of the Senate is arguably the most powerful Black woman in Virginia’s history.
But Democrats nationwide have wrestled with the fact that Black women have long been the stalwart base of the party but have historically been shut out of positions of leadership.
Bob Holsworth, a longtime Richmond political analyst, said he’s struck in particular by how many Black mayors around the state have come out for McAuliffe — including in Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Richmond.
“There is a certain kind of conservative pragmatism that says, he’s won before, he can win again. That you’re better off with a proven candidate,” Holsworth said. Democrats might be particularly cautious this year, which is the first time they’ll have to test their newfound dominance without having Donald Trump in the White House to motivate blue voters.
Northam’s political adviser, Mark Bergman, essentially cast the governor’s endorsement of McAuliffe in pragmatic terms: “The governor feels that . . . progress could be washed away if we don’t win in this November’s election, so having a proven vote-getter, a proven candidate is good for the party and good for our ability to hold the majority in the House,” Bergman said.
He pointed out that Northam also endorsed Del. Jerrauld C. “Jay” Jones (D-Norfolk) for attorney general over Herring, the incumbent.
Jones, who is Black, said earning Northam’s nod was noteworthy.
“He endorsed a young, Black state legislator seeking to be the state’s chief law enforcement officer. I think that is important and symbolic and is lifting up voices that have traditionally been left out,” Jones said.
James E. “JJ” Minor III, head of the Richmond branch of the NAACP, credited McAuliffe with building genuine connections with Black communities — attending Black churches, knocking on doors. “Not just during the campaign — he was doing it for the whole four years he was governor,” Minor said.
And he praised McAuliffe’s efforts as governor to restore voting rights for hundreds of thousands of convicted felons — a disproportionate number of whom were Black.
Even Democrats who privately grumble at McAuliffe’s entry into the race credit him for that effort and worry that his popularity is hard to counter as long as support for any other nominee is divided among multiple qualified alternatives.
“With three candidates that are seeking to get the Black vote against a White previous governor who does well with Black voters and Black elected officials, it is a real challenge,” said a Democratic official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive party matters.
That leaves them wringing hands in private that the others are highly qualified politicians but not ideal candidates — with worries that McClellan doesn’t show enough fire and Carroll Foy, who stepped down from her second term in the legislature to run for governor, doesn’t have enough experience.
“Can these two Black women get elected when competing with the Republicans? I’m not so confident with that,” said a Black Democratic official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to handicap the race.
Republicans have been mired in their own dysfunction, squabbling internally over how to stage a convention on May 8 to choose a nominee from a field of eight candidates.
The next coronavirus surge seems to be underway. Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin are among the states with rising cases, hospitalizations and intensive care occupancy, and hospitalization rates among younger people are increasing nationally. The causes of this pronounced rush of cases — the spread of more infectious B.1.1.7 variant and lockdown fatigue — are not going away.
We need to sharply reduce coronavirus infections to turn the tide and quell the pandemic. The best hope is to maximize the number of people vaccinated, especially among those who interact with many others and are likely to transmit the virus.
How can we increase vaccinations? Mandates.
Vaccines should be required for health care workers and for all students who plan to attend in-person classes this fall — including younger children once the vaccine is authorized for them by the Food and Drug Administration.
Employers should also be prepared to make vaccines mandatory for prison guards, E.M.T.s, police officers, firefighters and teachers if overall vaccinations do not reach the level required for herd immunity.
At over three million shots per day, the United States is a global leader in vaccine distribution. Over 35 percent of the population — over 120 million people — have received at least one shot. But we are already seeing signs that vaccination drives are plateauing in some states, including Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
Evidence from abroad underscores the importance of raising vaccination rates. In Britain, some 47 percent of the population has received at least one dose. This vaccination level in combination with lockdowns led new cases there to fall from nearly 60,000 per day in early January to fewer than 3,000 per day now — a 96 percent decline. In the same period, deaths dropped to fewer than 40 a day from about 1,200
Polling suggests almost 60 percent of all Americans are already vaccinated or want a vaccine as soon as possible. But younger people, white evangelicals and conservatives are among those less likely to feel the urgency. To return to our prepandemic lives, we will need to achieve herd immunity, with 70 percent to 85 percent of the population having some form of immunity. That’s a steep climb.
Mandates are the fastest way to get to herd immunity. Frontline workers should be at the start of the line.
As of March 7 (amazingly, we lack real-time data), just under half of all frontline health care workers had not received a vaccine, according to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Washington Post. In part, that was because many workers had not been offered one by their employers. But even more remarkably, 18 percent said they did not plan to get a shot and 12 percent reported being undecided.
Those who had no plan to get vaccinated included 24 percent of nursing home workers and 23 percent of home care workers. This vaccine hesitancy can have consequences.
None of us likes being told what to do. But getting vaccinated is not just about our personal health, but the health of our communities and country.
Health care workers are professionals whose primary obligation is to their patients’ health and well-being. Except in extreme cases, their personal preferences are secondary.
When they decline to be vaccinated, they put their own preferences above the health and safety of their patients. No patient should worry whether her doctor, nurse or blood draw technician is vaccinated. Health care facilities should require all their workers to be vaccinated for the coronavirus, just as many do for the flu.
Similarly, all colleges and school districts should mandate that students who are authorized to receive Covid-19 vaccines get them. All 50 states already require certain vaccines for children to attend school. A Covid-19 vaccine should be no different. . . . . Religious or philosophical exemptions should not be allowed.
Obviously, though, exceptions should be granted for those with health problems, allergies or disabilities that could put them at risk. But they should engage in additional protective behavior, like wearing tightly fitted N95 masks at all times.
Mandates are the last tool we want to deploy to increase vaccination rates. But all indications are that the United States is going to need a mandate to reduce transmission, achieve herd immunity and get back to normal.
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
What is it about Alabama Republicans?
GOP Senator Richard Shelby’s recently announced retirement created a rare opportunity for ambitious right-wing pols in a very red state, particularly given the likely Republican tilt of the 2022 midterms. But this being Alabama, high jinks are already ensuing as one potential candidate, secretary of State John Merrill, self-destructed this past week, while another, Representative Mo Brooks, let his freak flag fly. It’s the sort of behavior we’ve come to expect from the dominant party in the Heart of Dixie.
This is the state GOP that gave the world “Luv Guv” Robert Bentley, the libidinous old Baptist deacon who held on to office grimly after being caught in a lurid sex scandal involving a top aide before finally resigning in 2017 as part of a plea deal stemming from charges of personal misuse of campaign funds. As Politico explained at the time, Bentley was comically incompetent in his philandering:
Friday’s 112-page report plus exhibits, commissioned by the Judiciary Committee of the state House of Representatives, was so chock full of gems it practically overwhelmed the state’s newspaper sites and political blogs, which brimmed with examples of the technologically inept governor’s forgetting to use his “Rebekah phone” instead of his government-issue device and more than once sending his wife, Dianne, text messages filigreed with rose emojis saying, “I love you, Rebekah.”
One Alabama Republican pol who apparently didn’t learn from Bentley’s experience was Merrill, who on the very day of his planned announcement of a 2022 campaign for the U.S. Senate was caught very publicly lying about an affair. His one-time paramour played to reporters a tape of her lurid phone conversations with the very married and very conservative Christian secretary of State — then backed up her story with some nasty text messages, right after Merrill had denied everything and denounced her as a stalker. He’s not running for the Senate after all.
Now another Republican who is lurid in a different way has snagged the coveted Donald Trump endorsement for the 2022 Senate race: Representative Mo Brooks. The fiery North Alabama pol was the opening speaker at the infamous January 6 insurrectionary rally near the White House, which he keynoted with the words: “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.”
Brooks and Trump are the living links to the equally wild 2017 U.S. Senate special election in Alabama for the open seat created when Jeff Sessions made the major mistake of becoming Trump’s attorney general. Brooks got caught in the crossfire between Trump’s endorsed candidate, Luther Strange (who had been appointed to the seat by Bentley as part of what many suspected was a corrupt deal), and the aging theocrat and twice-suspended Judge Roy Moore, who eventually won the nomination.
After all that madness, Alabama returned to semi-normal in 2020 with Jones losing his Senate seat to former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, who had thwarted a comeback effort by Sessions, as Trump finally got a win.
With Merrill now sorting through the ashes of his career, and several other statewide elected officials waiting to see if Governor Kay Ivey (who ascended to the position when Bentley resigned) is running for reelection, you have to figure Brooks is the current front-runner for Shelby’s Senate seat based on name ID alone. Another announced candidate is self-funder Lynda Blanchard, the former U.S. ambassador to Slovenia in the administration of you-know-who (hint: His wife is from that country) . . .
In Alabama, Republicans are divided between Trump’s favorites and those who want to prove they are far Trumpier than Trump’s favorites.
There is one more likely GOP Senate candidate who has yet to get into the More MAGA Than Thou competition: former Shelby chief of staff and president of the Business Council of Alabama, Katie Boyd Britt. She may be too normal for Alabama Republicans, though. Meanwhile, Republican extremism and the well-established possibility that GOP candidates will suddenly implode in a thunderclap of hormones and hypocrisy could tempt a significant Democratic bid . . . .
Monday, April 12, 2021
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes,” Mark Twain (supposedly) said. If so, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. could be a couplet. With a few breaks and the skillful execution of what seems to be a smart legislative strategy, President Biden is poised to match F.D.R.’s stunning debut in office.
That doesn’t require Mr. Biden to transform the country before May 1, the end of his first 100 days, the handy if arbitrary marker that Mr. Roosevelt (to the irritation of his successors) laid down in 1933. But for America to “own the future,” as the president promised last month, he needs to do amid the pandemic what Mr. Roosevelt did amid the Depression: restore faith that the long-distrusted federal government can deliver rapid, tangible achievements.
With one of biggest and fastest vaccination campaigns in the world and the signing of a $1.9 trillion dollar Covid relief package, the president has made a good start at that. His larger aim is to change the country by changing the terms of the debate.
Just as Mr. Roosevelt understood that the laissez-faire philosophy of the 1920s wasn’t working anymore to build the nation, Mr. Biden sees that Reagan-era market capitalism cannot alone rebuild it.
The New Deal was just that — a “deal,” a new social contract between the government and the people, with a new definition of what the government owes us when we’re in trouble.
Before Mr. Roosevelt, it was largely up to local communities and the private sector to relieve suffering and expand employment. Mr. Roosevelt shifted the onus of responsibility and didn’t worry about overshooting the target. Like Mr. Biden today, he argued that spending too little is riskier than spending too much.
The heart of Mr. Biden’s domestic agenda is the same as Mr. Roosevelt’s: jobs and infrastructure. New Deal programs created more than 20 million jobs and built 39,000 new schools, 2,500 hospitals, 325 airports and tens of thousands of smaller projects that did not end the Depression but eventually helped power the postwar American boom.
Mr. Biden’s New Deal — Build Back Better — aims to upgrade the physical infrastructure that Mr. Roosevelt did so much to create. But it’s also a bold effort to add clauses to Mr. Roosevelt’s social contract that include a “service infrastructure” to boost support for the caring professions — the parts of the American economy that cannot be automated or outsourced overseas.
Of all the bills enacted in Mr. Roosevelt’s first 100 days, the one closest to his heart was the Civilian Conservation Corps, which by the summer of 1933 employed 275,000 young men clearing trails, building parks, and restoring the soil. . . . Mr. Biden aims to revive and update it with a new $10 billion Civilian Climate Corps that would help prepare for worsening heat waves, wildfires and storms and the national service movement that F.D.R. founded.
Mr. Roosevelt knew how to sequence his proposals to build momentum. He split the New Deal into three objectives: “Relief,” “Recovery” and “Reform.” President Biden, who has stressed the importance of “timing,” is essentially doing the same.
“Relief” — through the mammoth American Rescue Plan — has already arrived. In fact, in constant 1933 dollars, the president has provided more relief in his first hundred days than Mr. Roosevelt did in his . . .
“Recovery” will be broken into separate plans. The $2 trillion American Jobs Plan wouldn’t directly employ people — as Mr. Roosevelt did with his programs like the Works Progress Administration; it would instead use government contractors to invest in not just roads and bridges but water pipes and rural broadband (the equivalent to Mr. Roosevelt’s 1936 Rural Electrification Act bringing electricity to the countryside). We’ll see if cleverly placing many of those projects in red states is enough to win the 10 Republican votes in the Senate necessary to avoid a filibuster.
Another more controversial element of Build Back Better — The American Families Plan, focused on human capital — would fund massive investments in education, health care and child care. These and other projects would be paid for, at least in part, with tax increases on those making more than $400,000 a year — far smaller tax hikes, by the way, than Mr. Roosevelt’s.
The rumblings in the Democratic caucus are not likely to matter much. Senator Joe Manchin and a few other Democrats will demand (and win) certain changes, but there is little chance they would sink the centerpiece of the president’s domestic agenda.
The third of Mr. Roosevelt’s “R’s — “Reform” — is tougher. Right now reforming voting, immigration and gun laws requires holding all Democrats and winning 10 Senate Republicans — a tall order without abolishing or at least curtailing the filibuster.
Whatever the fate of specific bills, the broader question contained in Mr. Biden’s agenda is whether the political and psychological break from the past will be as sharp and permanent as the one wrought by Mr. Roosevelt.
To achieve F.D.R.-level permanent structural change, Mr. Biden will have to keep racking up the wins. (Most of Mr. Roosevelt’s enduring accomplishments came after the first year of his presidency). And he will need to connect his program to a spiritual renewal of America’s civic religion.
The X factor then — and now — in moving legislation is the temperament of the president. Does he have the schmooze gene that can help him win those last critical votes?
Whatever the future holds, Mr. Biden and Mr. Roosevelt are now fused in history by the size and breadth of their progressive ambitions. Jimmy Carter took office when liberalism was fatigued; Bill Clinton said “the era of Big Government is over”; Barack Obama was forced to conform to the mantra of deficit hawks. Mr. Biden was lucky enough to have been elected when what the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. called “the cycles of American history” are spinning left. He is the first president since Lyndon Johnson who can rightly be called F.D.R.’s heir. Soon we’ll know if he squanders that legacy — or builds on it.
Sunday, April 11, 2021
If you want a sense of the endgame in the ongoing showdown between aggrieved Republicans and corporate leaders willing to criticize the party’s efforts to roll back voting rights, just flip on your TV and watch the ads.
The outcome in easy to see in the stream of multicultural and often mixed-raced families buying cars, taking vacations, planning their retirements, doing laundry and laughing at the dinner table.
You don’t watch television? Just pay attention to the pop-up ads when you surf the Web. See the smiling faces — the sea of Black, Brown, tan and golden faces — that make it clear that corporate America knows that scenes of White families are no longer the only aspirational groupings that make customers want to open their wallets.
The GOP and corporate America have been engaged in two very interesting but very different branding exercises over the past decade. For years, these two campaigns allowed both sides to maintain their mutually beneficial arrangement. In recent days, however, the two branding campaigns have collided over the most basic question in our democracy: Who gets to vote and how? Which brand will emerge from this collision in better shape is already a foregone conclusion. But the reason may have less to do with right and wrong than profit and loss.
Under the old arrangement, corporate America would reliably deliver huge sums of money to GOP campaigns and causes, and Republicans would deliver lower taxes on income and capital gains in return. If big companies did not endorse everything the party stood for, they remained mostly silent in service of their bottom line.
But after a brief period of experimenting with big-tent politics during the first and second Bush presidencies, the Republican Party has lurched dramatically rightward since the election of Barack Obama. The GOP narrowed its goals to serve a largely White, largely evangelical and largely nonurban base that is hostile to immigration, science, foreign engagement and anything associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.
At the same time, many big corporate firms have come to see themselves as allies of immigration, science and foreign engagement and have worked to signal their virtues through ads and statements of solidarity following the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd.
Part of what is going on here is that corporations are protecting their bottom lines as America steams toward the majority-minority tipping point sometime around 2047. The Census Bureau projects that the U.S. population will increase by about 24 percent by 2060; adults and their children who are not White will likely account for most of that growth. That multiculti future has already arrived for America’s youngest citizens; White children are now a minority of Americans under the age of 17.
Any company interested in cultivating the multihued, multiethnic, cross-marrying, immigrant consumer of the future would have to think hard about continuing to move in lockstep with a Republican Party that is determined to time-travel back to the 1950s, when white supremacy was thought to be permanent.
This much is clear: The demographic reshuffling already underway will alter our culture, our politics and who has the reins of power. Much of the Republican agenda is fueled by a fear of this future. Corporations that want to embrace that future — and the wave of consumers it will bring — cannot continue to partner with a party that is only interested in representing the part of America it finds acceptable.
The racist mantra “You will not replace us,” chanted by white supremacists at the deadly Charlottesville rally in 2017, has essentially made its way onto America’s most popular cable-news program. On Thursday, Fox News star Tucker Carlson hosted Mark Steyn, a right-wing commentator who has previously promoted white nationalist viewpoints on Carlson’s show. The two discussed their misgivings about immigrants from the “third world,” as Carlson described them.
“Now, I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people—more obedient voters from the third world,” the host said. “But they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening, actually. Let’s just say it: That’s true.” At another point he claimed the U.S. government is showing “preference to people who have shown absolute contempt for our customs, our laws, our system itself—and they’re being treated better than American citizens.”
Later on in the segment, Carlson asserted that immigration is part of an effort to “dilute the political power of the people” by changing the country’s makeup.
To this he added what bordered on a call to action. “I have less political power because they’re importing a brand-new electorate,” he said. “Why should I sit back and take that? The power that I have as an American, guaranteed at birth, is one man, one vote, and they’re diluting it. No, they’re not allowed to do that. Why are we putting up with this?”
As noted by historian Kevin Kruse, the great-replacement theory is a foundational part of the modern white supremacy movement, including in the creation of the Second Ku Klux Klan and, more recently, in popular extremist literature such as The Camp of the Saints and The Turner Diaries. Citing several examples of racist fearmongering from the early 20th century, Kruse wrote, “We need to remember that, a century ago, unhinged fear-mongering about ‘demographic changes’ in the American population led not just to drastic immigration restrictions at home, but to disastrous horrors abroad.”
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted that Carlson was spouting a “white supremacist tenet that the white race is in danger by a rising tide of non-whites,” adding, “It is antisemitic, racist and toxic. It has informed the ideology of mass shooters in El Paso, Christchurch and Pittsburgh. Tucker must go.”
The morning after Carlson’s great-replacement tirade, his colleague, Fox Business host Stuart Varney, voiced a similar conspiracy theory on America’s changing racial demographics. . . . After concluding that “Democrats have given us an open border because they believe the people who flow into America are future Democrat voters,” Varney, a U.K. immigrant who moved as an adult to work in California, insisted, “America is being changed without our consent.”
The only consolation to be found is that Carlson is getting fatter and fatter as if he is being punished by a divine force.