Tag Archives: GOP

Meanwhile, Back at the Constitutional Crisis….

Checks and balances. Impartial justice. The rule of law. These are considered to be bedrocks of American government–or at least, they have been. Yet a full-throated attack on those principles has been inexplicably downplayed if not ignored by the media: the inexcusable refusal of Republicans in the Senate to fill vacancies on the federal bench.

This effort to subvert a co-equal branch of the United States government did not begin with Senate Republicans’ unprecedented refusal to “advise and consent” to President Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia. For the past several years, the Senate GOP has stubbornly resisted acting on most of Obama’s judicial nominees.

Note that this refusal is entirely unconnected to the bona fides of the individuals nominated. The Senate has declined to confirm them because they are Obama’s nominees.

According to the Federal Bar Association, vacancies in the district courts, where most federal judicial work gets done, are reaching crisis proportions: 65 seats on the federal district court bench and at least 90 vacancies throughout the Article III courts. That’s more than 10 percent of the federal judiciary.

When court dockets are slowed to a crawl, when there simply aren’t enough judges to move litigation at a reasonable pace, people with legal grievances are the ones who bear the consequences. They face unpalatable choices: they can settle for less than they are entitled to or wait an extra couple of years for their day in court.

When neanderthal Tea Party types throw tantrums and completely shut down government, everyone notices–and the polls reflect widespread disapproval. Refusing to fill positions that are needed if government is to function properly is far less public, so it doesn’t engender the same level of public opprobrium, but the result—while slower—is the same.

Recent vows by Senators Cruz and McCain to block Supreme Court nominees through an entire Clinton Presidency, and reports that Senate Republicans are already meeting to plan how they will block her nominees should remove any doubt about the motivation for the GOP’s behavior.

In North Carolina, Senator Richard Burr was recorded stating that if Clinton is elected, he will do everything possible to “make sure that four years from now, we’re still going to have an opening on the Supreme Court.”  Here in Indiana, GOP Senate candidate Todd Young has enthusiastically thrown his lot in with those promising to block Merrick Garland, or anyone else nominated by Obama–or, presumably, Clinton. His website has featured a prominent “petition” encouraging signatories to “stand with Todd” against filling the vacancy.

This is what it has come to: Candidates for the United States Senate are asking Americans for their votes; in return, they promise to throw sand in the gears of the government they are being elected to manage.

Vote for me, and I’ll work to dismantle our Constitutional system!

Todd Young, a candidate for the United States Senate, is proudly telling voters that when the interests of the nation—their interests—come into conflict with the prospects of his political party, he will ignore his obligations to them and to the Constitution if doing so will benefit his party.

We are getting used to politicians placing partisanship over country, but the predictability of this behavior doesn’t make it any less reprehensible.

Our local sorry excuse for a newspaper reported Todd Young’s position on the courts as  “he will work for judges in the mold of Justice Scalia.” It didn’t reference his “petition” or contain any indication that anyone had bothered to ask him about his pledge to deny confirmation to qualified jurists simply because the other party nominated them.

The lack of media attention to this intentional crippling of the federal court system, an issue that affects all Americans, is frustrating. Why isn’t every candidate for U.S. Senate being asked “If elected, will you do your job? Will you provide your honest advice and consent to nominees for the federal bench? And if not, why not?”

I for one would like to hear Todd Young’s response.

Addendum: If you are as frustrated as I am about what has passed for reporting during this election, the ACLU is hosting a discussion tonight, at 5:30, at Emmis Broadcasting. The title is “Election 2016 & the Media: A Free Press or a Free-for-All?” Details are here.

 

Then What?

In two weeks, Americans will finally go to the polls. The fat lady hasn’t sung, but she’s humming, and unless every reputable pollster in the U.S. is monumentally wrong, Donald Trump will lose by a very substantial margin.

What we don’t yet know is how much damage the Orange Disaster will do to the “down ticket” races. For the sake of the republic, I’d like to see the Democrats take both the Senate (likely) and the House (not so likely), because otherwise, we are likely to continue the partisan gridlock that has prevented the federal government from functioning at anything but a bare minimum.

When the only thing Republicans can agree on is the need to block anything and everything proposed by a Democratic President, it’s no wonder judicial vacancies (at all levels) go unfilled, only stopgap budgets get passed, decaying infrastructure goes unattended and even urgently needed responses to public health crises are months late.

Whatever the contours of the next Congress, however, the GOP will face an immediate quandary. Can the party be stitched back together? Can its three distinct elements–the white nationalists, the Religious Right and the business/”country club”/establishment wing–continue to coexist in the same political organization?

An article by the Brookings organization suggests that the Republicans take a lesson from British Prime Minister Theresa May, who recently laid out what Brookings described as “a bold plan to reform her country—and her party.”

Prime Minister May framed her party’s task as creating what she calls a “Great Meritocracy”—a country “built on the values of fairness and opportunity, where everyone plays by the same rules and where every single person—regardless of their background, or that of their parents—is given the chance to be all they want to be.” It shouldn’t matter, she said, “where you were born, who your parents are, where you went to school, what your accent sounds like, what god you worship, whether you’re a man or a woman, or black or white.” But if we are honest, she concluded, we will admit that this is not the case today.

Back when I was a member of a very different GOP, those sentiments may not have been universally embraced by the party’s rank and file, but the commitment to meritocracy and the rule of law were at least Republican talking points.

Working-class conservatism can be nationalist without being nativist or isolationist, Mrs. May insisted. It can reassert Britain’s control over immigration without endorsing prejudice against immigrations. It can reassert sovereignty over Britain’s laws and regulations without withdrawing from Europe or the world. And it can respect success in the market while insisting that the successful members of society have commensurate responsibilities to their fellow citizens.

I was particularly struck by the following quote from her speech, because it echoed populist themes that tend, in the U.S., to come from the Democrats:

 So if you’re a boss who earns a fortune but doesn’t look after your staff, an international company that treats tax laws as an optional extra . . . a director who takes out massive dividends while knowing the company pension is about to go bust, I’m putting you on notice: This can’t go on anymore. A change has got to come. And . . . the Conservative Party is going to make that change.

As I’ve noted repeatedly, the United States desperately needs two adult, responsible political parties. We don’t have a parliamentary system; there is very little likelihood of a third party–new or existing–emerging to fill the void that is the current GOP.

That said, I don’t see how the Chamber of Commerce members coexist with the David Dukes and the Roy Moores. I don’t see how a party that sneers at the very enterprise of government and views large (and growing) segments of its fellow citizens with disdain and explicit bigotry can expect to win elections.

I guess we just need to stay tuned…

It Isn’t Just the Groping

Women voters need to reject Donald Trump decisively. Not simply because he is a pig who evaluates us solely on the basis of our looks (or because, as an Australian parliament’s motion put it, he is “a revolting slug”). Not simply because he clearly feels entitled to grope those of us he considers to be “tens.” And not even because he advocates “punishing” those of us who have the temerity to believe we should be able to control our own reproduction.

We need to reject him because even if he were a competent and informed candidate, he would never pursue the policies women need to achieve parity in the workplace.

ThinkProgress.org recently revisited the inequities of the workplace–the realities that working women face, and our lack of progress toward genuine equality of treatment and compensation. The gender wage gap hasn’t improved in years–women make 79 cents for every dollar a similarly employed man makes, a number that hasn’t moved since 2007.

As ThinkProgress reported, the wage gap closed at a relatively rapid pace between the late 1960s and 1990s, but that progress has “all but flatlined” since 2000. A slowdown in women’s wage growth–growth that helped narrow the gap in earlier decades, has come to a standstill. (In fact, that standstill has affected all wage earners, not just female ones.)

Not surprisingly, the story is even grimmer for women of color.

Women make less than men, on average, for a number of reasons. About 10 percent of it is thanks to different work experience, often because women are much more likely to take breaks from work to care for family members. The drop of women in the labor force over the last decade can be tied to the country’s lack of paid family leave, child care assistance, and support for flexible schedules.

Some of it is also due to the fact that women end up working in areas that tend to pay less. But that doesn’t mean they can escape the gap by choosing different paths. They make less in virtually every industry and every job. And while getting more education boosts earnings, women make less than men with the same educational credentials at every level and even make less than their former male classmates when they graduate from top-tier universities.

Social attitudes that promote discrimination in the workplace are often not recognized as unfair; employers who have been socialized into older attitudes about gender tend to see differential treatment simply as recognition of “the way things are.”

Studies have found that people of both genders are inclined to give men more money, especially if the woman is a mother. Meanwhile, women’s job performance is continuously underrated compared to men’s.

It’s tempting to believe that 21st Century Americans have moved beyond gender stereotypes, but even the most reasonable efforts to achieve workplace equality continue to encounter substantial resistance. A majority of Republicans–including 2008 Presidential candidate John McCain–opposed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which required equal pay for men and women doing the same job. They resisted re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. And they continue to oppose other measures that other nations have put in place to ease the balance between work and family, like paid family leave and child care assistance.

Donald Trump is far from a typical Republican, but on matters of gender equity, he has proven to be even less progressive than his putative party. The behaviors and attitudes that his son has approvingly called “Alpha male” would reverse the already far too incremental progress toward women’s equality, and take us backward by legitimizing attitudes about gender not seen since the 1950s.

Of course, the effect on women’s equality might not matter, since the election of this narcissistic buffoon would probably signal the end of the world as we know it.

It’s Not Politics: It’s Morality

Jennifer Rubin is a conservative columnist for the Washington Post. Her column on July 31st was a scathing analysis of Donald Trump and the political and moral challenge his candidacy poses to the GOP.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and vice-presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana (R) knew what they were getting into when they climbed aboard the Donald Trump bandwagon. They had watched him insult minorities, POWs, the disabled and women. They had seen for themselves how utterly ignorant he was about basic policy concepts. They knew he lied about big and small things (e.g., falsely saying he opposed the Iraq War, reneging on charity pledges until shamed by The Post). They knew he’d stiffed and swindled Trump U students. They never should have backed him; they were abetting a vile individual attaining the country’s most powerful office, for which he was patently unfit. Pence went a step further in agreeing to be his running mate, and now travels around the country cheerleading for Trump.

Rubin recounted the now-ubiquitous details of Trump’s attack on the Kahns–a Muslim Gold Star family–and notes in passing that it would be political karma if, after smearing all Muslims, his attack on these particular Muslims was the “bridge too far” that ultimately brought him down.

Rubin’s column wasn’t written to add to the mounting recognition of the danger Trump poses for America, however. It was a challenge to the Republicans who continue to support and enable him.

What does Pence, father of  Marine 2nd Lt. Michael J. Pence, do? He directs the press wanting comment to Trump. Really, that’s it? One wonders how 2nd Lt. Pence — and all the other Americans risking their lives — feel about that. Pence’s silence and continued presence on the ticket suggest he considers Trump within the bounds of normal political discourse. If Pence had a modicum of dignity or decency, he would tell the American people, “I made a terrible mistake. Mr Trump is so morally bankrupt and of such shabby character that I could not possibly serve with him.” Failing to do so, the same should be said of Pence….

The offices of Ryan and McConnell wouldn’t comment on Trump’s slur against Ghazala Khan or ludicrous claim he’s “sacrificed” just as the Khans have. Their spokesmen would only repeat the bosses’ prior remarks on Trump’s Muslim stances. That’s not the point. They know this but they are abdicating moral leadership because they cannot possibly justify their support of Trump. In their silence, they condone Trump and stand with him.

Rubin is unimpressed with the excuse that other Republican candidates find themselves in a difficult bind, unwilling to incur the hostility of Trump’s supporters by distancing themselves from his repugnant accusations.

Republicans who fell in line behind Trump cannot escape the moral stench he emits. He disrespects parents of a fallen warrior; they do as well with their silence. He attacks other Americans, lies habitually and embodies none of the qualities we expect of elected leaders; they demonstrate moral and political cowardice in refusing to condemn him.

At the end of the day, Rubin–and the many other Republicans who have publicly refused to support the GOP nominee–is making a moral argument. For moral individuals, love of country, concern for civility and fair play, and simple intellectual honesty should take precedence over partisan loyalty.

Paul Krugman recently made the same point.

The real sinners here are Republican leaders — people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell — who are actively supporting a candidate whom they know poses a danger to the nation. It’s not hard to see why they’re doing this. Opposing their party’s nominee, no matter how awful he is, would probably end up being a career killer.

But there are times when you’re supposed to put such considerations aside. The willingness of some people who know better to support Donald Trump is understandable; it’s also despicable.

And these columns were written before Trump suggested that “2nd Amendment people” could “take care” of Hillary.

Choosing a Future

If there is one clear message that emerged from the just-concluded political party conventions, it is that, in November, Americans will choose not just between two sets of candidates, but between two very different visions of America and our future.

I’ve always been a fan of science fiction–not “space opera,” but explorations of where mankind might be headed, extrapolations of current trends that raise interesting, even profound, questions about the nature of humanity and society. So the opening of the most recent Star Trek movie prompted me to compare Gene Roddenberry’s vision to the portrayals of America and its future on display at the Republican and Democratic conventions.

Roddenberry’s creation has been remarkably durable: there have been several television series and movies, spanning a period of fifty years. There is a reason for that. His portrayal of a positive future and a mature humanity is immensely appealing.

On the starship’s bridge, diverse members of Earth’s population work amicably with a variety of representatives of other planets. There is respect for difference, for the right of crewmates from other cultures to live according to their beliefs, so long as they respect the Federation’s rules in return. That respect is incorporated in the Prime Directive, which forbids interference with other planetary cultures. (The Federation doesn’t engage in “nation building.”)

There is explicit respect for science, education, and intellectual achievement, and for mankind’s quest to learn—to “seek out” and “go where no one has gone before.”

There is recognition of the importance of a legal framework that safeguards the moral foundations of society and confers authority. But authority, in Roddenberry’s world, does not come from legal status. It is earned by demonstrated competence and superior performance, and is expressed with intelligence, maturity and empathy.

There could hardly be a more dramatic contrast to Roddenberry’s “kumbaya” vision and humanitarian values than the overwhelming fear and anger exhibited by Republicans in Cleveland.

At the Democratic convention, we got optimism and uplifting messages about America’s potential.

In Cleveland, we got name-calling and stereotyping; the values displayed by the GOP at its convention were the antithesis of those championed by Roddenberry.

Respect for science? The GOP not only rejected scientific consensus on climate change, a significant percentage want to replace the theory of evolution with creationism in public school science classes.

Respect for the rule of law? Trump has demonstrated a total lack of familiarity with the Constitution, and has championed policies that are patently unconstitutional. Meanwhile, convention delegates clearly supported Senate Republicans’ refusal to follow the Constitution and “advise and consent” to Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination.

In Cleveland, in marked contrast to the multi-ethnic, multi-species bridge of the Enterprise, a crowd of overwhelmingly white, predominantly older delegates tried to mask the extreme divisions in their party by focusing on the one thing that they hope can unify them: fear and hatred of the Other. Hatred of Hillary Clinton, of Democrats, of Muslims, of immigrants, of LGBTQ Americans.

Throughout the GOP convention, Donald Trump displayed an understanding of “leadership”  very different from Roddenberry’s. Trump confuses authoritarianism with earned authority; he’s a “tough guy” who doesn’t bother to display mastery of –or even acquaintance with–the issues at hand, a thug who disdains restraint, nuance and expertise, who proposes to dominate by demanding, rather than earning, respect, and who responds to even the mildest criticism with childish name-calling in lieu of reasoned response.

Jean-Luc Picard he’s not.

At the Democratic convention, speaker after speaker argued for American possibility, and appealed to the “better angels of our nature.” One paragraph of President Obama’s superb speech, in particular, made me think of Roddenberry:

I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, young, old, gay, straight, men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance, under the same proud flag, to this big, bold country that we love.

Speakers at the Republican convention, in stark contrast, painted a picture of a dystopia in which our only option is to hunker down, arm ourselves against our fellow-citizens, and barricade America against the rest of the world.

In November, what we will really decide is which of these visions will shape our future.