Saturday, December 04, 2021
The consensus of Supreme Court watchers after Wednesday’s oral argument in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is that the demise of Roe v. Wade, or at least its dilution to a point that virtually any government-imposed “burden” on abortion would be constitutionally acceptable, is coming.
Many of the dangers of overruling Roe have been long discussed. If women lose the right to an abortion, pregnancy-related deaths are estimated to rise substantially and suddenly. (Currently, 26 states have so-called trigger laws on the books that would outlaw most abortions the moment the Court reverses Roe.) The impact of Roe’s fall would hit low-income women especially hard, as they’re five times as likely as affluent women to experience unplanned childbearing and twice as likely to face sexual violence.
Those are the dangers of restricting access to abortion. The thing is, the dangers of dispensing with Roe go far beyond abortion, because the legal logic that threatens this particular right could quite easily extend to others, inviting states to try out new laws that regulate choices about whom to marry, whom to be intimate with, what contraception to use, and how to rear one’s own children.
The contention that Roe is uniquely built on a foundation of sand ignores the inconvenient fact that lots of other rights are not expressly articulated in the Constitution. The question that a reversal of Roe accordingly poses is whether the “textualists” and “originalists” on this conservative-heavy Court would allow those implied rights to go by the wayside as well.
Most people tether Roe’s legal foundations to the right to privacy identified in Griswold v. Connecticut, a 1965 decision striking down state laws rendering illegal the use of contraceptives by married couples. The Court ultimately identified a constitutional “right to privacy” within protective “penumbras” that emanate from the Bill of Rights—in particular the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments—and reasoned that these penumbras operate to shield “an intimate relation of husband and wife and their physician’s role in one aspect of that relation” from government intrusion. Picking up on Griswold in 1973, the Court in Roe acknowledged that “the Constitution does not explicitly mention any right to privacy,” but seized on the earlier case’s recognition of “a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy” to strike down a Texas law criminalizing abortion.
In a series of cases beginning in the early 1920s, the Court carved out a protected space for family, marriage, and children that the government is constrained from regulating. A rollback of Roe could split this sphere open if the conservative theory that implied rights are constitutionally invalid takes hold, and states begin passing draconian laws that creep into other areas of intimate personal life.
The Court has construed liberty to safeguard numerous other personal safe spaces: the right to marry regardless of race (1967’s Loving v. Virginia) and sex (2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges). The right to use contraception (Griswold). The right to be free from compulsory sterilization by the state (1942’s Skinner v. Oklahoma). The right to be free of government-mandated surgery involving “a virtually total divestment of respondent’s ordinary control over surgical probing beneath his skin” (1985’s Winston v. Lee). And the right to engage in intimate sexual conduct with a partner of one’s choice without fear of criminal prosecution (2003’s Lawrence v. Texas).
In Dobbs, the state of Mississippi’s answer to this line of cases is to suggest that the life of an unborn fetus is especially sacred under the Constitution: “Nowhere else in the law does a right of privacy or right to make personal decisions provide a right to destroy a human life,” it claims. But saying so does not mean that critics of other privacy-based rights could not find their own reasons why those rights, too, must be balanced against some other competing interest.
Thus, to say that Roe is a one-off constitutional blunder, built on a flimsy foundation, while other rights are grounded in concrete, is a myth—and a dangerous one. Nothing in the Constitution says anything to specifically protect couples’ ability to choose to have sex, use contraception, get married, decide how to educate their children, refuse bodily inspection or medical treatments, and, yes, terminate a pregnancy. From a legal perspective, if Roe falls, it’s hard to see what else will still stand.
Be very afraid.
Friday, December 03, 2021
[A]nother crisis will follow in a couple of weeks: The government is expected to hit its debt ceiling in the middle of this month, and failure to raise the ceiling would wreak havoc not just with governance but with America’s financial reputation.
The thing is, the federal government isn’t having any problem raising money — in fact, it can borrow at interest rates well below the inflation rate, so that the real cost of servicing additional federal debt is actually negative. Instead, this is all about politics. Both continuing government funding and raising the debt limit are subject to the filibuster, and many Republican senators won’t support doing either unless Democrats meet their demands.
And what has Republicans so exercised that they’re willing to endanger both the functioning of our government and the nation’s financial stability? Whatever they may say, they aren’t taking a stand on principle — or at least, not on any principle other than the proposition that even duly elected Democrats have no legitimate right to govern.
In some ways we’ve seen this movie before. Republicans led by Newt Gingrich partly shut down the government in 1995-96 . . . . Creating budget crises whenever a Democrat sits in the White House has become standard Republican operating procedure.
Yet current G.O.P. attempts at extortion are both more naked and less rational than what happened during the Obama years. . . . . Some of us argued even at the time that self-proclaimed deficit hawks were phonies, that they didn’t actually care about government debt — a view validated by their silence when the Trump administration blew up the deficit — and that they actually wanted to see the economy suffer on Obama’s watch. But they maintained enough of a veneer of responsibility to fool many commentators.
This time, Republican obstructionists aren’t even pretending to care about red ink. Instead, they’re threatening to shut everything down unless the Biden administration abandons its efforts to fight the coronavirus with vaccine mandates.
What’s that about? As many observers have pointed out, claims that opposition to vaccine mandates (and similar opposition to mask mandates) is about maintaining personal freedom don’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny. No reasonable definition of freedom includes the right to endanger other people’s health and lives because you don’t feel like taking basic precautions.
Furthermore, actions by Republican-controlled state governments, for example in Florida and Texas, show a party that isn’t so much pro-freedom as it is pro-Covid. How else can you explain attempts to prevent private businesses — whose freedom to choose was supposed to be sacrosanct — from requiring that their workers be vaccinated . . . . the G.O.P. doesn’t look like a party trying to defend liberty; it looks like a party trying to block any effective response to a deadly disease. Why is it doing this?
To some extent it surely reflects a coldly cynical political calculation. Voters tend to blame whichever party holds the White House for anything bad that happens on its watch, which creates an incentive for a sufficiently ruthless party to engage in outright sabotage. Sure enough, Republicans who fought all efforts to contain the coronavirus are now attacking the Biden administration for failing to end the pandemic.
But trying to shut down the government to block vaccinations seems like overreach, even for hardened cynics. It’s notable that Mitch McConnell, whom nobody could accuse of being a do-gooder, isn’t part of the anti-vaccine caucus.
As I’ve pointed out in the past, Republican politicians now act like apparatchiks in an authoritarian regime, competing to take ever more extreme positions as a way to demonstrate their loyalty to the cause — and to The Leader. Catering to anti-vaccine hysteria, doing all they can to keep the pandemic going, has become something Republicans do to remain in good standing within the party.
The result is that one of America’s two major political parties isn’t just refusing to help the nation deal with its problems; it’s actively working to make the country ungovernable.
And I hope the rest of us haven’t lost the ability to be properly horrified at this spectacle.
Thursday, December 02, 2021
Below a Democratic donkey, the Fox News graphic read ANTI-WHITE MANIA. It flanked Tucker Carlson’s face and overtook it in size. It was unmistakable. Which was the point.
The segment aired on June 25—the height of the manic attack on, and redefinition of, critical race theory, which Carlson has repeatedly cast as “anti-white.” It was one of his most incendiary segments of the year. “The question is, and this is the question we should be meditating on, day in and day out, is how do we get out of this vortex, the cycle, before it’s too late?” Carlson asked. “How do we save this country before we become Rwanda?”
Some white Americans have been led to fear that they could be massacred like the Tutsis of Rwanda. CRT=Marxism, Marxism→Genocide Every time, read a sign at a June 23 Proud Boys demonstration in Miami. Other white Americans have been led to fear America’s teachers—79 percent of whom are white—instructing “kids to identify in racial terms,” as Blake Masters, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Arizona, said in May.
Even when GOP politicians and operatives don’t openly “call it what it is,” they end up echoing Masters nonetheless, saying without saying that “critical race theory is explicitly anti-white,” to use the words of Christopher F. Rufo, a travel-documentary filmmaker turned leading critic of CRT.
At his final campaign rally, in Loudoun County, Virginia, Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin said, “What we won’t do is teach our children to view everything through a lens of race where we divide them into buckets and one group is an oppressor and the other is a victim and we pit them against each other and we steal their dreams.”
Republicans provoked a backlash against CRT, which they also call anti-racism or wokism. Their backlash won 2021 elections. “But it wasn’t a backlash of parents,” William Saletan found in his close study of polling data. “It was a backlash of white people.”
How many Americans know that the claim that anti-racism is harmful to white people is one of the basic mantras of white-supremacist ideology? Americans are familiar with white-supremacist movements like the Klan, skinheads, neo-Nazis, and the Proud Boys. But they don’t seem to recognize white-supremacist ideology—the most venomous form of racist ideology. . . . “Anti-racism is anti-white” is the old and explosive mantra of avowed white supremacists. It has been their organizing vehicle, fueling their rage, fueling their backlashes, fueling their delusions.
All year long, this white-supremacist mantra has been fueling what Martin Luther King Jr. once called the “white backlash” against last year’s racial reckoning. It is inciting voter-suppression policies and insurrections (to protect white political supremacy). It is inciting swarms of lies, insults, threats, and simulated killings of anti-racist Americans (who are branded as anti-white). It is inciting the false claim that anti-racist books and education are harmful to white children. It is inciting bans of those books and lessons.
As Nikole Hannah-Jones, the creator of the 1619 Project, recently told the Los Angeles Times, “This idea that racial reckoning has gone too far and now white people are the ones suffering is the most predictable thing in the world if you understand American history.”
There are numerous variations on this mantra. “Wokeism” or anti-racism or critical race theory or the 1619 Project or “cancel culture” or Black Lives Matter or anyone challenging racial inequity is said to be anti-white or racist or an anti-white racist. And variations on this mantra have become so ubiquitous in the American political discourse that people can easily dismiss or deny its origin in white-supremacist thought.
When Robert Whitaker, 76, died in June 2017, white supremacists reflected on his legacy online. “Perhaps his most important, and most lasting, legacy is that his incessant promotion of the term ‘anti-white’ is now slowly but surely going mainstream,” someone named “Bellatrix” said on Stormfront, the prominent white-supremacist website. “A very important corner to turn indeed, as it is the rebuttal of the accusation of racist.” . . . . Whitaker’s fame among the most extreme white supremacists came toward the end of his life, when he wrote a screed called “The Mantra.”
“The Mantra” ends with what has become the new mantra in American politics: “They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white. Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.” . . . . Whitaker’s mantra has been linked to some of the deadliest acts of white-supremacist terror over the past decade.
Dylann Roof, who in 2015 murdered nine Bible-studying African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, posted his manifesto on a website named The Last Rhodesian. He included photographs of himself wearing a jacket patched with an old flag of Rhodesia, a former white-supremacist colony in southern Africa. Whitaker lived in Roof’s hometown of Columbia, South Carolina, but there’s no evidence Roof and Whitaker had any direct contact. But Roof might have had contact with Whitaker’s ideas.
Many Americans have had contact with Whitaker’s ideas, likely without knowing it. . . . “It proclaims ‘Diversity = White Genocide’ and ‘Diversity Means Chasing Down the Last White Person,’ blaming multiculturalism for undermining the ‘white race.’”
White supremacists were quietly organizing elements of what’s now Donald Trump’s base. From the earliest days of Trump’s presidential campaign in 2015, his support has been most concentrated among white Americans who think anti-whiteness is ascendant. Trump voters typically considered racism against white people to be a bigger problem than racism against people of color. Among white Americans who don’t think there’s much anti-white racism, support for Republican presidential candidates has actually fallen over the past decade.
Whitaker did not create the mantra. He reproduced it. Since the very first Civil Rights Act, white supremacists have cast anti-racist bills as racist toward white people. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 defined citizenship, granted it to African Americans, and affirmed that all citizens are equally protected by the law.
For five decades since the civil-rights movement, Republicans (and many non-Republicans) have expressed two conflicting racial mantras: (1) racism no longer exists, and (2) racism is spreading against white people. Since Joe Biden’s election, this second mantra has overtaken the first.
White-supremacist ideology lives on what Heather McGhee calls the “zero-sum myth,” the idea that progress for people of color necessarily comes at white folks’ expense. This zero-sum myth erases the past and present of abolitionist and anti-racist movements, which have aided ordinary white people. It fearmongers about the future: If white people are not worshipped in schools, then they will be demonized; if white people don’t reign supreme, then they will be subjugated; if white people don’t hoard resources and opportunities, then they will be starved; if white people cannot kill at will, then they will be killed at will. White violence is presumed to be self-defense.
White supremacists are mobilizing against an anti-white army that isn’t mobilizing, that isn’t coming, that isn’t there. Then again, if there is an army that is mobilizing, that is coming, that is here—it is made up of white supremacists. Their carnage is here. Their ideology, too.
History reproduces itself. But when people don’t know history—or are barred from learning it—how can they ever recognize its reproduction?
We desperately need a full and accurate teaching of history in our schools whether it makes some "uncomfortable" or guilty about the privileges they enjoy.
Wednesday, December 01, 2021
Ten months after a group of Senate Democrats lodged ethics complaints into the conduct of Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas regarding their roles in sparking the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the Senate Ethics Committee has shown no sign of movement. Both senators tell Politico they haven’t even been contacted by the committee.
The House recently moved with appropriate speed to censure Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, for promoting a cartoon fantasy in which his character kills a fellow member of Congress.
Jan. 6 wasn’t a fantasy; it was real, and the culpability of these two senators must be determined.
Hawley and Cruz were the first two senators to object to certification of Joe Biden’s clear victory in the 2020 election results, citing (with zero evidence) supposed concerns about the election’s integrity. That was the same baseless, toxic nonsense then-President Donald Trump had been spewing since before the election. Such talk whipped up the mob of Trump loyalists to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Hawley was the first senator to object to certification, which is the only reason there had to be a floor vote on the issue. That vote provided the rallying point for the mob. Without that, the attack might not have even happened.
More than a dozen Republican senators initially said they would join Hawley in voting against certification. But after the mob attacked, most of them realized the damage the charade had done to the country and backed off, voting to certify an election in which — again — there wasn’t a single valid indication of significant irregularities. But not Hawley. Even after the violence, he persisted in voting with a few other senators to continue promoting Trump’s big lie that Biden’s win was illegitimate.
Hawley even had the nerve to give a glowering Senate floor speech later that night condemning the violence — an arsonist standing among the ashes. If he had an ounce of honor, he’d have heeded our Jan. 7 call for his resignation (we certainly weren’t alone on that). But at this point, why even talk about honor?
Hawley, of course, now claims victimhood, alleging the ethics complaint would punish him for exercising his official power to object to election results. But the complaint, filed in late January, specifically cites the Code of Ethics for Government Service, which requires that elected officials put “loyalty to the highest moral principles and to country above loyalty to persons, party, or Government department.” Just because there’s a mechanism in place allowing senators to object to election results doesn’t mean it’s OK for Hawley to abuse that process for crass political gain.
The Ethics Committee should stop sitting on this.
Tuesday, November 30, 2021
I’m old enough to remember when Republican leaders still had souls.
Twenty years ago, I was on the White House beat for The Post when President George W. Bush, six days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, set aside his war planning efforts long enough to visit the mosque at the Islamic Center of Washington to admonish Americans not to take out their anger on innocent Muslims. I went to the mosque, on Massachusetts Avenue overlooking Rock Creek Park, and reported on the presidential visit:
“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam,” said the president, escorted by Islamic clerics into the ornate mosque full of Turkish tile, Persian rugs and Egyptian paintings. “Islam is peace.”
Quoting from the Koran’s prohibitions against evil, Bush said women who cover their heads should not fear leaving their homes. “That’s not the America I know,” he said. “That should not and that will not stand in America.”
Some conservatives objected at the time to Bush’s pro-Islam appeals, and pointed out, correctly, that he gained nothing politically from this message. But he gained much morally.
Contrast that with Republican officials’ latest actions over the holiday weekend, while the rest of the country paused to express gratitude for our many blessings. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, a QAnon-admiring Republican, referred to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who is Muslim, as part of a “Jihad Squad” and told an audience a false story of a worried Capitol Police officer chasing down Omar. Boebert claimed she said: “Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine.”
Boebert at first apologized “to anyone in the Muslim community I offended” with her Muslims-are-terrorists message. Nominal House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) issued a statement that avoided criticism of Boebert’s words. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), whose support McCarthy needs to remain GOP leader, criticized Boebert — for apologizing. “Never apologize to Islamic terrorist sympathizers,” she wrote, repeating the “Jihad Squad” phrase.
After rejecting Omar’s request for a public apology on Monday, Boebert released a video expanding the original slander. “I will continue to fearlessly put America first, never sympathizing with terrorists,” Boebert said. “Unfortunately, Ilhan can’t say the same thing.”
House Democrats are going through the now-routine deliberations about whether to censure Boebert, or remove her from committees. Why bother? It would give Boebert the martyrdom she desires, just as previous punishments did for Greene (who posted a threatening image of her holding an assault rifle next to Omar and other Democrats). . .
There have always been clowns like Greene, Gosar and Boebert. Over the past two decades, the Rev. Jerry Falwell referred to the prophet Mohammed as a “terrorist,” the Rev. Franklin Graham called Islam “evil,” Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson likened Muslims to Hitler, and conservative activist Paul Weyrich condemned Bush’s “constant promotion of Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance” because “it is neither.”
But Bush overruled the haters. Repeatedly during the months after the 9/11 attacks, he appealed to Americans . . .“This great nation of many religions understands our war is not against Islam. … Our war is a war against evil.” “The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.”
There’s plenty to fault in the Bush presidency and its wars, but his defense of Muslim Americans was the essence of moral leadership. “Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger,” he said at the Washington mosque that day in 2001, “represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior.” America “is a great country,” he said, “because we share the same values of respect and dignity and human worth.”
Twenty years later, Boebert, Gosar, Greene and too many of their colleagues have abandoned those shared values. And Republican leaders, divesting themselves of shame, now tolerate the worst of humankind.
Never during Bush's presidency did I ever believe I'd view him as an example of morality, but today's GOP has shown Bush to be a better leader than many of us would ever have anticipated on matters of basic morality. The man may have been an idiot in many ways, but he wasn't deliberately evil unlike today's Republican leaders..
Monday, November 29, 2021
I'd also like to thank my readers, especially those who have been with me for the long haul - you mean a great deal to me.
Sunday, November 28, 2021
The conservative movement believes men are in trouble, and they know who to blame. “The left want to define traditional masculinity as toxic. They want to define the traditional masculine virtues — things like courage and independence and assertiveness — as a danger to society,” the Republican senator Josh Hawley said during a recent speech. Thus besieged, men are retreating into pornography and video games, abandoning their traditional responsibilities, he added. And who can blame them? “In America, you ought to be able to raise a family on one single income,” asserted Senate candidate Blake Masters in an ad. That feat was once possible, he claimed, but globalization made it all too rare. This is a “huge problem,” he said, but “the left, they want to attack me, and say, ‘Blake, that’s sexist.’” The breadwinner, as always, is male.
Elsewhere, Republican men show masculinity at its worst. Sean Parnell was Donald Trump’s pick to represent Pennsylvania in the Senate until he lost a custody battle following his ex-wife’s accusations of violent domestic abuse, claims that he denies. Trump, who once bragged of grabbing women by the pussy, might find much to admire in Parnell. “I feel like the whole ‘happy wife, happy life’ nonsense has done nothing but raise one generation of women tyrants after the next,” Parnell said on Fox Nation. “The idea that a woman doesn’t need a man to be successful, the idea that a woman doesn’t need a man to have a baby, the idea that a woman can live a happy and fulfilling life without a man, I think it’s all nonsense.” In Missouri, Eric Greitens is running for the Senate on a MAGA platform despite sexual-assault allegations that ended his tenure as governor.
They are putting a brash new spin on an old culture war. Hawley’s anti-feminism isn’t novel, but he is responding to a new moment in modern American politics. Conservatives have always argued that by muddying gender roles, feminism harms men and women alike. Yet in recent years, this rhetoric has acquired an even sharper edge, pitting men and women against each other as if greater freedom for women comes directly at the expense of men. For Republican politicians and their supporters, Trump’s unapologetic misogyny further expanded the borders of the possible.
The GOP has been an anti-feminist institution for decades, with conservative women making use of a loose language of empowerment in its stead.
Society is changing in ways that directly challenge the norms that are so precious to Hawley and his ilk. Americans are more likely than ever to identify as LGBT, a trend at odds with the traditional rigidity around men’s and women’s roles. Forty-two percent of American adults say they personally know a trans person, according to a recent Pew poll. Though the Pew poll also found that 56 percent believe that a person’s sex as assigned at birth determines their gender, it also found “that younger people tended to be more likely to know a trans person and comfortable with gender-neutral pronouns,” the 19th reported. That prospect will disturb conservatives like Hawley, who opposes basic equality for trans people, most notably in the guise of protecting cis women.
The rising cost of living further threatens the male breadwinner and renders him impotent before forces he cannot control. Hawley believes men will turn to pornography — another old conservative foe — and neglect his responsibilities to his family, if indeed he marries at all.
None of this amounts to a war on men. Me Too was an attempt to correct a long-standing social problem: that of violence against women. . . . .The growing acceptance of trans people may threaten traditional gender binaries, but it is not a substantive assault on the male sex; trans people remain a vulnerable minority facing pervasive discrimination.
Hawley “may have couched things slightly differently,” said Dr. Schreiber, but “without a doubt” the senator was thinking of traditional gender roles. “It’s not new, right?” she said. “There’s all sorts of literature, all sorts of activism, particularly from the Christian right, that men’s and women’s roles are being devalued and men are being emasculated by policies that promote feminism.”
Hawley isn’t just owning the libs. He’s owning women: more specifically, the wrong kind of woman, trans women and women who get abortions and women who reject traditional constraints. She is the real threat to Hawley’s masculinity. The desire to punish her explains why candidates like Greitens and Parnell haven’t yet been shamed out of public life.
Faced with such enemies, women need comrades, true friends in the struggle. By default, they’re left with the Democratic Party, the inconsistent counterbalance to the GOP’s increasingly authoritarian turn.
Masculinity, additionally, is not as threatened as Hawley claims. As long as Brett Kavanaugh can ascend to the Supreme Court despite a credible allegation of sexual assault, as long as Donald Trump remains a popular figure with conservative voters, as long as domestic violence doesn’t automatically end political careers, masculinity is hardly under attack. Rights for women, however, look fragile, with abortion at the precipice. American women need a party that won’t sacrifice them for fear of sounding too woke.
The average voter does not want to end Roe. Social conservatives often claim they speak for some silent majority of the American electorate when the subject is outlawing abortion; that claim is a pernicious lie, and Democrats should stare it down. The fight for abortion is part of a fight for liberation, and it’s possible for the liberal left to make that case without sounding like grad students on the campaign trail. Include the unapologetic right to abortion in a platform premised on economic justice for all — living wages, Medicare for All, paid leave — and Democrats have a message that directly undercuts the divisive language of the right. The conservative vision, as expressed by Hawley and lived out by candidates like Parnell and Greitens, pits men against women. Yet freedom for the latter does not have to come at the expense of the former. It’s on Democrats to say so.
Republicans are playing an old game — and they’re good at it. Their opponents should try a novel strategy. Let Hawley posture about the decline of masculinity if he chooses. The answer lies in a more dignified future for all.