Tag Archives: GOP

Wise Words

Two different Facebook friends attended Donald Trump’s rally in Southport, Indiana, an Indianapolis bedroom community, in the week prior to the midterm election. Both were there simply to observe–one was with a group of protesters, but the other was on a sort of “reconnaissance mission.” Who, she wondered, were these Hoosiers who continued to support a man she considered morally repulsive?

Both of these observers were shaken by the experience. Trump’s “adoring crowds” evidently really do adore him. (Those “over the top” comparisons to Hitler may not be so over the top.) His crudeness and vulgarity, his contempt for expertise and elemental humanity, evidently validate them in some fashion that I can’t comprehend.

It may be because he gives them someone to blame for life’s disappointments and failures–someone black or brown or Jewish or Muslim.

We keep hearing that 90% of Republicans still strongly support Trump, and that’s terrifying. But what we don’t hear nearly as often is the corollary: that the number of people who continue to call themselves Republican has dramatically diminished. As the party has metamorphosed into a cult, a large number of good, sane Americans who were previously Republican  have run for the exits.

One of those was “Sully” Sullenberger–a lifelong Republican best known for safely landing a plane in an episode usually referred to as the “miracle on the Hudson.” Right before the election, he wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post, and it’s worth quoting.

He began by referencing that storied landing:

Nearly 10 years ago, I led 154 people to safety as the captain of US Airways Flight 1549, which suffered bird strikes, lost thrust in the engines and was forced to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River. Some called it “the Miracle on the Hudson.” But it was not a miracle. It was, in microcosm, an example of what is needed in emergencies — including the current national crisis — and what is possible when we serve a cause greater than ourselves.

Sullenberger recounted the important contributions of passengers and airline personnel to the effort to avert disaster, and emphasized the importance of good  judgment, experience, skill — and combined efforts of people working together. He then made a crucial point.

To navigate complex challenges, all leaders must take responsibility and have a moral compass grounded in competence, integrity and concern for the greater good.

Concern for the greater good is a concept entirely foreign to Donald Trump (who, incidentally, displays neither competence nor integrity). Sullenberger didn’t identify Trump by name, but it was impossible not to know who he was talking about when he wrote the following:

In every situation, but especially challenging ones, a leader sets the tone and must create an environment in which all can do their best. You get what you project. Whether it is calm and confidence — or fear, anger and hatred — people will respond in kind. Courage can be contagious.

Today, tragically, too many people in power are projecting the worst. Many are cowardly, complicit enablers, acting against the interests of the United States, our allies and democracy; encouraging extremists at home and emboldening our adversaries abroad; and threatening the livability of our planet. Many do not respect the offices they hold; they lack — or disregard — a basic knowledge of history, science and leadership; and they act impulsively, worsening a toxic political environment.

As a result, we are in a struggle for who and what we are as a people. We have lost what in the military we call unit cohesion. The fabric of our nation is under attack, while shame — a timeless beacon of right and wrong — seems dead.

Toward the end of his essay, Sullenberger (unlike the people at Trump rallies or the spineless enablers in Congress) firmly elevates the national interest over partisan loyalties.

For the first 85 percent of my adult life, I was a registered Republican. But I have always voted as an American. And this critical Election Day, I will do so by voting for leaders committed to rebuilding our common values and not pandering to our basest impulses.

We sometimes forget that there are thousands of former Republicans who–like Sullenberger–chose to leave the GOP when it became the party of Trump and the unhappy White Nationalists who drink his Kool-Aid.

 

Poll Taxes Were So Last-Century…

Tis the season–of voter suppression.

Vote suppression, of course, can’t be disentangled from the racism that was the subject of yesterday’s post. Efforts by the GOP to keep folks from the polls, after all, tend to be focused on black folks, and that has been true ever since poll taxes were instituted to keep former slaves from exercising their franchise.

Today’s Republicans are far more inventive–and far more overt. From Voter ID laws that are aimed at solving the  virtually non-existent problem of in-person “voter fraud,” to the chutzpah of Brian Kemp in Georgia, the GOP is pulling out all the stops to keep people of color from the polls. (And thanks to the Supreme Court’s evisceration of the Voting Rights Act, there are lots of stops to pull out.)

The New Yorker has an article titled “Voter-Suppression Tactics in the Age of Trump” that is well worth reading.It begins with a story.

African-Americans used to tell a joke about a black Harvard professor who moves to the Deep South and tries to register to vote. A white clerk tells him that he will first have to read aloud a paragraph from the Constitution. When he easily does so, the clerk says that he will also have to read and translate a section written in Spanish. Again he complies. The clerk then demands that he read sections in French, German, and Russian, all of which he happens to speak fluently. Finally, the clerk shows him a passage in Arabic. The professor looks at it and says, “My Arabic is rusty, but I believe this translates to ‘Negroes cannot vote in this county.’ ”

As the article notes, this old joke has a new saliency. It’s true that–thanks to litigation–literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses meant to disadvantage minority voters have all been declared illegal. But new strategies have replaced them.

One need look no further than the governor’s race in Georgia to see their modern equivalents in action. The race between the Republican, Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, and the Democrat, Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader of the state House of Representatives—who, if she wins, will be the first black female governor in the country—is a virtual tie. But Kemp has invoked the so-called exact-match law to suspend fifty-three thousand voter-registration applications, for infractions as minor as a hyphen missing from a surname. African-Americans make up thirty-two per cent of the state’s population, but they represent nearly seventy per cent of the suspended applications.

This isn’t Kemp’s first effort at disenfranchising minority voters. Historian Carol Anderson has written a book titled “One Person, No Vote,” in which Kemp is prominently profiled.

In 2012, after the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, in Atlanta, discovered that many of its clients who were naturalized citizens were not on the voter rolls, despite having registered, the group raised the issue with Kemp’s office. “In a show of raw intimidation,” Anderson writes, “Kemp ordered an investigation questioning the methods that the organization had used to register new voters.” In 2014, Kemp investigated the New Georgia Project, a voter-registration initiative that Abrams had founded. In a similar vein, officials in Jefferson County last week ordered a group of African-American senior citizens off a bus taking them to an early-voting site, on the ground that the transportation, which had been organized by the nonpartisan group Black Voters Matter, was a “political activity.”

The article characterizes these and similar (if somewhat less blatant) efforts elsewhere as an attempt to place a white thumb on the demographic scale.

Georgia is far from the only state making an effort to curtail–rather than encourage–voting.  The Brennan Center reports that ninety-nine bills designed to diminish voter access were introduced last year in thirty-one state legislatures. And as early voting has started, we are seeing reports of machines that “flip” voters choices from Democratic candidates to their Republican opponents.

If and when Congress is controlled by elected officials willing to put the interests of the country above the partisan interests of their party, reinvigoration of the Voting Rights Act and measures to protect the franchise need to be priority number one.

Meanwhile, massive turnout next Tuesday will be needed in order to overcome gerrymandering and the various voter suppression and misinformation efforts that are being employed by Republican politicians who want to win at all costs–even if one of those costs is the integrity of our democracy.

 

Looking For My Inner Pollyanna–Roe v. Wade Edition

Along with all the other legal mayhem we can now expect from the most reactionary Supreme Court in over a century, most observers predict the demise of Roe v. Wade, despite polling that suggests most Americans would strongly disapprove.

If Roe is overruled, there will certainly be some horrendous consequences. But there may also be some unanticipated positives. Bear with me, here.

We have all recognized the intransigence of the “one issue” anti-choice voter. Without Roe, it’s conceivable (no pun intended) that the wind will go out of that sail. (It will be much more difficult to energize a national movement against birth control, which is actually a target of the most rabid anti-choice activists.) Anti-choice voters have been a mainstay of the GOP–and they will arguably be considerably less motivated.

If Roe is no longer the law of the land, the issue will revert to the states, and a number of states will opt for reproductive choice. Those of us who care about women’s autonomy will need to do some serious fundraising to make it possible for poor women in Red states to travel to states where abortion is legal, and that’s a pain. But even now, with abortion theoretically legal, there are many places in the U.S. where clinics are few and far between; women have to travel long distances, put up with bogus “counseling,” and deal with other barriers to the exercise of the currently constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

What the confirmation of Kavanaugh and the de-nationalization of Roe might do–should do–is redirect liberal and pro-choice energies from national to state-level political action. And that could be a huge game-changer.

The current dominance of the Republican Party doesn’t reflect the desires of the American majority–far from it. GOP numbers have been shrinking steadily; some 24% of voters self-identify as Republican. Their dominance is due primarily to the 2011 gerrymander, and that was made possible because they controlled a large number of state governments. The GOP vote suppression tactics that depressed Democratic turnout and disenfranchised Democratic voters have also been facilitated by state-level control.

The next redistricting will occur in 2021. Between now and then, women, Democrats, liberal-leaning Independents and new voters need to focus their efforts on statehouses around the country. We need to eliminate gerrymandering wherever possible, and we need to put an end to vote suppression tactics.

There will be other strategic decisions necessitated by a rogue Supreme Court. Lawsuits implicating civil rights and civil liberties, for example, may have better prospects in state courts interpreting state constitutions than in the federal system. (When the Supreme Court was less open to arguments from the LGBTQ community, the ACLU and Lambda Legal had some considerable successes in state courts.)

The next few years will be critical. Success will depend upon the “staying power” of those Americans for whom the 2016 election and the travesty of Kavanaugh’s confirmation have been wake-up calls. It’s one thing to post despairing messages to like-minded friends on social media; it’s another thing entirely to continue the day-to-day drudgery of organizing and registering our fellow citizens, and getting out the vote.

If we are going to reclaim the America we thought we had, however, anger and determination are great motivators.

Grassley’s Inadvertent Revelation

In the introduction to her important book The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander admitted that, even as an ACLU lawyer, she had always been skeptical of claims that the war on drugs was intentionally crafted to target blacks. She’d recognized its discriminatory effects, of course, but only when she did her “deep dive” into the research did she recognize the extent to which drug policy was a product of intentional racism.

In much the same way, I have always discounted rhetoric about a “war on women.”Of course I recognize that cultural changes empowering women make a lot of men uncomfortable; I certainly notice (and object to) the arrogance of male legislators who are unwilling to allow women the same autonomy over our lives and bodies that they claim for themselves. And it has always been hard to ignore the prevalence of come-ons from the various boors and outright sexual predators. But I’ve also known and appreciated the large number of “good guys” who welcome culture change, respect women’s autonomy and understand and observe sexual boundaries.

I still think the individual “jerk quotient” of some men shouldn’t be used to label the entire gender. But I no longer dismiss the notion that a number of men are indeed waging a “war on women,” and I no longer underestimate the prevalence of misogyny, especially in the GOP.

This, for example, was infuriating. The Wall Street Journal reported that, during a conversation with its reporters, Senator Grassley was asked why the Republican Party has never put a single woman on the Judiciary committee. His response: women don’t want to  do that much work.

Really, Senator Grassley? How do you explain the fact that Democratic women serve on the committee, and seem to be handling the work? Is it just Republican women who are lazy? Or is it–as Amanda Marcotte suggests in Salon–that misogyny is at the very heart of your right-wing politics?

It’s long been frowned upon to acknowledge this fundamental truth: Misogyny is at the heart of right-wing politics. Pointing out that hatred of women and a desire to keep them under the boot is an animating force of Republican politics is sure to draw pained expressions from many liberal men, certain that the feminists are being hysterical again. Surely feminists don’t think it’s quite as simple as that, right? Surely we understand that anti-abortion views are about a sincere belief that life begins at conception and anyway, Republicans aren’t serious when they say they’re going to ban abortion. That’s just something they say to rile up the rubes, to trick them into voting for the real agenda, which is about economics and taxes. Certainly you women can’t think you are important enough that oppressing you is a major priority for Republicans, right?

Marcotte marshals her evidence: the party’s ongoing support of a President who boasted of grabbing women’s genitals and who has paid several women to keep quiet about his behaviors;  its support for Kavanaugh, despite credible accusations of sexual assault; and especially the tone-deaf, belittling and revealing responses to women’s protests by Grassley and others.

I want to make it clear we’re not going to be intimidated by these people,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said of the protesters“Harassing members at their homes, crowding the halls with people acting horribly, the effort to humiliate us really helped me unify my conference,” McConnell told the New York Times. “So I want to thank these clowns for all the help they provided.”

“When you grow up, I’ll be glad to [speak to you],” Sen. Orrin Hatch snapped at a group of protesters, equating grown women with children who need a scolding.

“You needed to go to the cops,” Sen. Lindsey Graham told another protester when she confronted him about her own history of rape, implying that he —  with no information about her situation — understood her options better than she did.

Sen. Ben Sasse dismissed the protests by women against Kavanaugh as “hysteria” three times during the original confirmation hearing, when the focus was primarily on reproductive rights and before sexual assault became an issue.

Donald Trump, of course, is screeching on Twitter about how the protesters are “paid” and funded by “Soros,” because it is impossible for him imagine that women might actually have minds of their own.

Wonder why there’s a gender gap? I think I can clue you in.

 

The GOP’s Sexist Culture

I need to vent.

I realize I live in a bubble. On my campus and in my neighborhood, I just don’t encounter people like those who are dismissing the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh as “politically motivated,” or even worse, accepting their accuracy but dismissing their importance.

Senate Republicans have deliberately chosen to embrace Kellyanne Conway’s “alternate facts,” and the conspiracy theories so beloved by Donald Trump and to disregard their constitutional obligation to objectively review this nominee.

Speaking of conspiracy theories, the attacks on Dr. Ford have a lot in common with  “birtherism.”  To disbelieve her accusation, you need to believe that Ford knew years ago, when confiding in her therapist and her husband, that Kavanaugh would someday be a nominee to the Supreme Court, and so she carefully planted incriminating evidence. And Obama’s mother knew the day she had him that some day he’d run for President, so she sent his birth announcement from Kenya to the Hawaii newspapers…

Right.

We don’t yet know what similarly bizarre theories will be offered to rebut the additional accusations that have emerged, or to justify Kavanaugh’s clear disinterest in an FBI investigation which–if he isn’t lying through his teeth– would clear his name.

What we do know is that we live in a patriarchal culture that continues to devalue women and denigrate the significance of our experiences.

We also know that Senate Republicans are so frantic to “capture” the Supreme Court and protect their radically right-wing agenda, that they were willing to breach their constitutional duty to “advise and consent” in order to deny President Obama his choice of (a very moderate) Merrick Garland. As Trump’s “slam-dunk” choice has turned out to be not so slam-dunk, their dismay is understandable.

Their misogyny is not.

The Senate GOP found out about the newest allegations two days before they became public. Their response?  An effort to speed up the confirmation vote–Not concern over determining the truth of the matter, nor hesitation about the consequences of elevating a person who might prove to be a liar and  sexual predator to the highest court in the land.

The most striking aspect of GOP Senators’ reaction to each of these revelations has been their utter tone-deafness. Lindsey Graham says he’s willing to listen to Dr. Ford, but then adds “What am I supposed to do? Go ahead and ruin this guy’s life based on an accusation?”

Other (white Christian male) Republican Senators have similarly pre-judged Kavanaugh’s behavior–after all, he was “only” 17. Ford was “confused.” Trump, of course, tweeted that if the incident had really been as bad as she described, she should have reported it then and there. (I may be wrong, but I don’t think any of the 19 women who have accused Trump of sexual assaults made a contemporaneous report…)

The overwhelming message coming from the GOP is: sexually assaulting a woman shouldn’t matter. It’s no big deal.

If it did happen, he was young. And white and privileged.

Of course, if it did happen–and logic and evidence strongly suggest that it did (she told her therapist years ago, has passed a lie detector test and has asked for an FBI investigation)–then Kavanaugh has clearly lied to the Senate.  Surely that should matter.

Despite the Republicans’ ham-handed efforts to avoid the public relations mistakes made during the Anita Hill hearings, the message that America’s women are hearing loud and clear is that our testimony will always be discounted, our motives will always be impugned, and offenses against us will always be considered less important than the continued enjoyment of power and status by our male superiors.

Unfortunately for the GOP, however, and as much as they would clearly like to withdraw the franchise, we can–and will– vote.