Tag Archives: Susan Brooks

My Endorsement

This post is mostly for readers who live in Indiana’s 5th District–or anyone who has friends and/or families who vote in Indiana’s Fifth. The primary election, which was postponed until June 2d, is approaching. (If you haven’t done so, be sure to apply for your absentee ballot by May 21st!)

As Hoosiers know, the district’s incumbent Representative is Susan Brooks, who (wisely) decided not to run again. To say that Brooks has been a huge disappointment to those of us who thought we knew her and expected her to be at least reasonably moderate would be an understatement. (To be a Republican these days is evidently to be a devoted Trump sycophant…)

Christina Hale is one of five Democrats running for the Fifth District seat, and in my admittedly biased opinion, she should be the slam-dunk choice. (There are fourteen candidates in the GOP primary, and– with the exception of Mark Small, who is valiantly trying to save the party from itself– they all seem to be emphasizing how Trumpy they will be if elected.)

I met Christina when she served in the Indiana legislature, where she was a highly effective advocate for women and girls  and small businesses, among other things. (Of the five Democrats running, Christina is the only one with legislative experience.) She’s a Latina  who put herself through school while she was a single mom, and she brings that same determination and capacity for hard work to her campaigns and legislative work.

When Christina ran for the Indiana State House in 2012, she defeated a 20 year Republican incumbent–flipping the seat from red to blue– and when she got to Indiana’s Republican-dominated statehouse, she got things done: during her legislative career, she had over 60 bills passed with bipartisan support.

I got to see more of Christina when she was John Gregg’s running mate in 2016, and I was further impressed with her campaign skills and her ability to communicate what is very clearly her passion for good government.

Can she win in the fall? Yes.

So far in this campaign, and despite the weirdness of running for office during a pandemic, Christina has outraised all of the other candidates– Democrats and Republicans–in every single quarter.  The reason that matters is because no matter which Republican emerges from that primary, you can be sure that person will be very well funded. But it also matters because those donations reflect donors’ excitement for Christina’s candidacy, and their belief that she can win.

I’m not the only person enthusiastic about Christina; so far, she’s been endorsed by Planned Parenthood, Latino Victory Fund, and a number of unions, including United Steelworkers, Sheet Metal Workers, IBEW, AFSCME and, most recently, the Serve America PAC.

You needn’t take my word for any of this. You can read about Christina at the campaign website.

I’m writing about Christina’s campaign because I can’t help her by voting for her–I live in Indiana’s 7th Congressional District, where I have a Congressperson with whom I am supremely happy, Andre Carson. (Andre is effective, intelligent, and responsive, and in our blue city, he is highly likely to be re-elected. He doesn’t need my help.)

The 5th District used to be solidly red, but it includes a significant number of educated professionals and solid, middle-class voters who have given evidence of re-thinking their allegiance to the GOP under Trump. In 2018, for the first time in forever, three Democrats were elected to municipal offices, and the incumbent Democratic Senator– who lost statewide– carried the district.

If the 5th District is ready to turn light blue–and I think it is–a candidate of Christina’s caliber and demonstrable bipartisan skills has the best shot of keeping it that color.

Anyway, that’s my two cents worth. But no matter who, VOTE. And VOTE BLUE.

Trumping The Constitution

I’m not one of those old people who is always looking back in time through rose-colored glasses–“remembering” that families were closer, people were friendlier, children were seen and not heard, etc. etc. Those memories are highly suspect, if not deliberately dishonest.

That said, I do miss the Republican Party of my younger days. It’s true that it always had a right-wing fringe, but before that fringe took control and ran reasonable people out, the GOP I worked for was filled with admirable, public-spirited men and women.

I thought about those “good old days” when I read that a group of former GOP lawmakers had written a letter to Republicans in Congress, urging them to void Trump’s “Emergency” declaration.

A group of 23 former Republican lawmakers, including former Defense Secretary under the Obama administration Chuck Hagel, signed a letter urging Republicans in Congress to pass a joint resolution that would terminate President Trump’s emergency declaration over the border wall.

In an open letter to GOPers, the former lawmakers argued that Congress should not allow the President to “circumvent congressional authority.” They also questioned how willing lawmakers are to undermine the Constitution.

“How much are you willing to undermine both the Constitution and the Congress in order to advance a policy outcome that by all other legitimate means is not achievable?” they wrote.

One of the signatories to that letter was former Indiana Senator Dick Lugar.

The contrast between the Republican Party of Lugar and Hudnut and the party of McConnell and Trump is devastating. The Republicans who currently “serve” Indiana in the House and Senate (please note quotation marks around the word serve) are a sorry group of wanna-be’s, terrified that they will run afoul of the party’s rabid, racist base if they confront a President they know to be corrupt, ignorant and dangerously incompetent.

The letter from party elders was blunt: support for Trump’s “Emergency” is an attack on the Constitution. Failure to oppose it is failure to serve the national interest. And yet, every single Republican member of Indiana’s House delegation caved. Faced with a choice between serving their country and falling into line for Trump, they chose Trump.

Emergency powers are intended to allow Presidents to act when there is not time for Congress to do so. If the President can overrule Congress when it has acted, simply by declaring an emergency, there is no longer a separation of powers. Congress is neutered.

The lawyers in Indiana’s delegation, especially, fully understood the import of their votes. (And yes, Susan Brooks, we are looking at you.)

In an eloquent essay in the Atlantic, Eliot Cohen described these Republicans.

Talk to them privately, and they will confess that there is no emergency at the southern border—there is a problem, to be sure, but one whose seriousness has actually diminished over time. They know that the congressional leadership had the votes to build walls there for the first two years of the administration but did not manage it. They know, for that matter, that border security involves much more than walls. They know that the president is invoking emergency powers as an electoral ploy, and because he is impatient.

They know, in their timid breasts, that they would have howled with indignation if Barack Obama had declared a national emergency in such a circumstance. As they stare at their coffee cup at breakfast, the thought occurs to them that a future left-wing president could make dangerous use of these same powers—because Speaker Nancy Pelosi rubbed that fact in their face. Some of the brighter ones might even realize that emergency powers are a favored tool of authoritarians everywhere.

 But they are afraid. They are afraid of being primaried. They are afraid of being called out by the bully whom they secretly despise but to whom they pledge public fealty. They are afraid of having to find another occupation than serving in elective office. And the most conceited of the lot—and there are quite a few of those, perhaps more in the Senate than in the House—think that it would be a tragedy if the country no longer had their service at its disposal.

I didn’t always agree with Dick Lugar’s policy preferences. (I didn’t always agree with Bill Hudnut’s, and I worked in his administration.) But I respected them both, and I respected the many, many other persons of integrity and intelligence who called the GOP their political home before it devolved into a cult composed of racists and moral midgets.

I miss them.

Speaking Of Disappointments….

A reader has sent me the following information about a “listening session” that Rep. Susan Brooks, an Indiana Republican, will be holding this coming Monday.

Please get the word out. For those in Susan Brooks area of the 5th Congressional District of Indiana, she will be holding a “listening” session in the Indianapolis area on Monday August 6 at the Lawrence Readiness Training Center, 9920 E 59th Street, Lawrence, Indiana (Indianapolis East-side). She needs an earful as she has been weak on women’s issues and against women’s right to choose. She is rarely available in Indianapolis and this is an opportunity to show up and be heard. This is the closest we will ever get to a Town Hall, which she will not do.

I have known Susan Brooks since the early 1980s. For most of that time, I considered her a friend–not a close friend, but certainly someone simpatico. From what I could tell, she did a good job as U.S. Attorney and as Deputy Mayor, and she practiced criminal defense law with one of the lawyers I most admire, Rick Kammen. (Among his other virtues, Rick has represented Guantanamo detainees, and he is as decent and compassionate as he is skilled.)

Then, of course, she was elected.

The woman I had always assumed was pro-choice trumpeted her antagonism to abortion. The woman I had always considered reasonable was suddenly “all in” to the agenda of a President that she had to know was deranged. A lawyer who had defended the civil liberties of criminal defendants turned into a lawmaker willing to vote for judges opposed to the rights of women, gays and criminal defendants. The woman who attended numerous community meetings as Deputy Mayor became virtually inaccessible to constituents and unwilling to hold Town Halls at which she might be challenged, or forced to defend her increasingly indefensible positions and support for Donald Trump.

Brooks became one of Trump’s most ardent supporters, voting with the President 98.9% of the time, according to Nate Silver. (Based upon Trump’s margin of victory in the 5th district, she would have been predicted to vote with him “only” 85.9 % of the time.)

What were some of those votes? Well, she opposed a carbon tax. She signed onto a resolution supporting ICE and its current immigration tactics. She voted with her party to roll back Dodd-Frank regulations put in place to prevent bankers from engaging in the practices that triggered the 2008 recession, and for the repeal of measures to protect consumers from discriminatory markups on auto loans. She opposed limiting the ability of officials to search and read private messages collected incidentally as part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

She has also been a reliable anti-choice vote, most recently voting to make abortion illegal after 20 weeks. Despite her former experience with criminal activity and gun violence, she voted to make concealed carry permits valid across state lines–a position that most law enforcement professionals view as anathema to reducing gun violence.

And of course, she voted for the execrable tax “reform” bill –  a 1.5 trillion dollar giveaway to the richest Americans at the expense of the middle class, who will have to finance the exploding debt and deficits caused by the tax measure. (Doing so will be made more difficult by the administration’s persistent, successful efforts to increase the costs of healthcare by sabotaging the Affordable Care Act –efforts that Brooks has enthusiastically supported). 

Unlike Indiana embarrassments like Todd Rokita and Jackie Walorski, Brooks is intelligent– she knows how much damage is likely to be caused by these and other measures she has supported. I can only assume that her slavish devotion to this disastrous administration is a cynical effort to foreclose a primary challenge in a district that has been gerrymandered to be reliably Republican.

Staying in office evidently trumps integrity.

Brooks’ Democratic opponent–a businesswoman named Dee Thornton whose positions are far more reflective of those of 5th District voters, according to polls I’ve seen–is an underfunded political novice. Even in a year that promises the possibility of a blue wave, the odds are against her. But if you are one of the many 5th District constituents who thought they were electing a moderate and have subsequently been disappointed, you should register that disappointment, and send Brooks a message, by voting for Dee Thornton.

Meanwhile, Monday’s meeting is a rare opportunity to voice your disapproval in person.

When Ignorance Met Lunacy

Every day, life in America gets more surreal. (Not “When Harry Met Sally” surreal–more “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” surreal.)

Almost every day, there is a departure from the White House. Although no one currently serving there is particularly knowledgable or professional (or, from all appearances, literate) some are reasonably sane–and they’re the ones who have been leaving. Yesterday, it was McMasters–one of the two normal military figures who were supposed to be protecting the nation from Trump’s nuclear fantasies.

If McMasters’ ouster wasn’t worrisome enough, we have learned that he will be replaced by John Bolton, a belligerent chickenhawk who is certifiably loony-tunes.

So here we are. We have a Congress dominated by a Republican Party that is a cross between a cult and a criminal enterprise; a President who hasn’t the foggiest notion what government is, or is supposed to do, and who is uninterested in learning; a looming trade war we can’t win that is likely to devastate the nation’s farmers, among others–and now, a not-insignificant threat that the U.S. will precipitate a nuclear war.

In a column for the Washington Post, Joe Scarborough (formerly a Republican congressman) called Bolton’s appointment a “fitting coda” to the failure of conservatism.

One hundred years ago this week, the founder of modern American conservatism was born into poverty in Plymouth, Mich. Russell Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind,” published in 1953, laid the foundations of a modern conservative movement that dominated the second half of the American Century. But 65 years later, Kirk’s classic work reads instead as a damning indictment against the very movement he helped launch.

The central thesis of Kirk’s philosophy was that “the conservative abhors all forms of ideology” and subscribes to principles “arrived at by convention and compromise” instead of “fanatic ideological dogmata.” Six decades of Republican overreach and corrosive causes have instead led to the rise of Donald Trump and a foreign policy run by John Bolton, an economy guided by Larry Kudlow and a legal team led by conspiracy theorist Joseph DiGenova.

Bolton will be Trump’s third national security adviser in 14 months, but unlike his predecessors, he may last; his history suggests he has a lot in common with our intemperate, reckless and profoundly ignorant President. As Scarborough reminds us, Bolton has called for the preemptive bombing of North Korea and Iran. He has defended his role in taking the U.S. into the Iraq war–a war that was the worst U.S. foreign policy disaster since Vietnam–and had the chutzpah to call Obama’s 2011 decision to bring U.S. troops home “the worst decision” made in that debacle.

This was the predictable outcome of my Republican Party aligning its interests with the most cynical political operators of our time. The Atwaters, Manaforts, Gingriches and Roves leveraged a weaponized media culture that reduced politics to a secularized religion and consolidated political power and material wealth in the hands of its richest donors.

Meanwhile, no matter how bad it gets, no matter how much damage is being done every day by Trump and the most inept and corrupt Cabinet in my lifetime, Congressional Republicans continue to obediently enable this farce of an Administration. According to 538. com, all of Indiana’s GOP Representatives enthusiastically support Trump’s “agenda.” Two of them–Susan Brooks and Larry Bucshon–have voted with the President 98.6% of the time.

There are seven months until the midterm elections. Assuming we make it to November without experiencing a nuclear winter, we absolutely must give control of the House and Senate to the Democrats. Are they perfect? Hell no. But at least they’re mostly sane.

 

 

 

 

Those Republican “Moderates”

I have frequently noted how far today’s GOP has traveled since my days as an active Republican. I’m not alone, of course, in describing the differences between the party of Eisenhower and even Reagan, and today’s radical Rightists–Facebook posts routinely include surprising quotes from former Republican presidents, and one recurring item contrasts the party’s 1955 platform with the party’s more recent–and far more “anti-government” iterations.

One result of this steady move rightward is a change in meaning of the term “Moderate.” Republican elected officials are now considered moderates if they refrain from explicitly racist and sexist rhetoric, occasionally smile, and exhibit social skills.

Before awarding a “moderate” label to today’s politicians, however, it is instructive to visit Nate Silver’s blog, where he tracks how often every member of the House and Senate votes with or against Donald Trump, who–whatever he is–is certainly no moderate.

Demonstrating how utterly meaningless the “moderate” label has become, the blog contains an excellent example from central Indiana’s Fifth District. Representative Susan Brooks is often favorably compared to some of our more outlandish and vocal elected troglodytes; she is certainly more pleasant in public. She is intelligent, and she discharged her prior government service (as a Deputy Mayor and U.S. Attorney) with competence.

Whether her voting record reflects her political philosophy or her desire to avoid being primaried is an open question. What isn’t in question is the utter lack of moderation in that voting record.

Here is the summary from Silver’s blog:

Trump score
How often Brooks votes in line with Trump’s position
Trump margin
Trump’s share of the vote in the 2016 election in Indiana’s 5th District minus Clinton’s
Predicted score
How often Brooks is expected to support Trump based on Trump’s 2016 margin
Trump plus-minus
Difference between Brooks’s actual and predicted Trump-support scores
97.6%
+11.8
88.6%
+9.0

As the scores indicate, her support for Trump exceeds what the demographics of her district would predict. (A list of the specific votes follows the reproduced chart on the  website.)

Lest I be accused of picking on Brooks, let me acknowledge that she is only one example of a supposed “moderate voice” whose actions fail to match their public demeanor. Jeff Flake is an example of someone who has gotten laudatory press for his recent book criticizing Trump, but when it came time to vote on the ACA’s “skinny repeal,” he obediently fell into line. John McCain regularly earns plaudits for being a “maverick,” but McCain has been only slightly more likely than the average senator to vote against his party.

As usual, Paul Krugman cuts to the chase:

When we look at the degeneration of American politics, it’s natural to blame the naked partisans — people like Mitch McConnell, with his principle-free will to power, or Ted Cruz, with his ideological rigidity. And Trump has, of course, done more to degrade his office than any previous occupant of the White House.

But none of what is happening right now would be possible without the acquiescence of politicians who pretend to be open-minded, decry partisanship, tut-tut about incivility and act as enablers for the extremists again and again….

Consider, for example, Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia — whose state has benefited enormously from the Affordable Care Act. “I didn’t come here to hurt people,” she declared not long ago — then voted for a bill that would quadruple the number of uninsured in West Virginia.

Or consider Rob Portman of Ohio, who cultivates an image as a moderate, praises Medicaid and talked big about the defects of Republican health plans — but also voted for that bill. Hey, in Ohio the number of uninsured would only triple.

There are only two Republican Senators one can truly label moderate and principled–Collins and Murkowski. If there are any genuine GOP moderates in the House, they sure don’t come from Indiana.