Bonus Quote of the Day
DeSantis Offers Election Day Help
Bolton Says Putin Plays Trump ‘Like a Fiddle’
U.S. Stuck with 63 Million Doses of Hydroxychloroquine
Trump Seeks Emergency Order to Block Bolton’s Book
John Bolton Speaks Too Late
• Next Up, Trans Voting Rights
• About that Nobel Prize...
• Trump Fails to Thread the Needle
• Trump Administration Sues to Block Bolton Book
• Georgia Is Looking Pretty Good for the Democrats
• House to Vote on Statehood for D.C.
• Today's Presidential Polls
• Today's Senate Polls
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The gnashing of teeth and the rending of garments has begun. Predictably, after the Supreme Court declared that LGBTQ employees could not be discriminated against in matters of employment, social conservatives and evangelicals (two groups that overlap quite a lot) were up in arms about the decision.
To start, it should be noted that the 6-3 decision penned by conservative justice Neil Gorsuch actually resolved three cases before the court. The first was Bostock v. Clayton County, which involved a man named Gerald Bostock who was fired from his government job in Georgia after his co-workers discovered that he was participating in a gay softball league. The second, Altitude Express v. Zarda, was filed by skydiving instructor Donald Zarda, who was fired from his job after telling two customers that he was gay. And the third, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, was prompted when transgender woman Aimee Stephens was fired after telling her employers that she planned to begin wearing clothing that would reflect her gender identity.
In other words, the court not only explicitly addressed the LGB and Q of LGBTQ, but the T as well. And what they did, in so many words, was make very clear that, when it comes to federal statutes, the word "sex" covers not only biological gender, but also gender identity and sexual orientation. There are hundreds of statutes that use that word, which means that a broad swath of federal law is now permanently altered.
When we wrote about this yesterday, we weren't entirely sure what the political impact would be, but the developments of the last 24 hours suggest some real problems for partisans on the right-hand side of the aisle. Namely:
- Pragmatics: There are many religious and politically conservative organizations that
discriminate against LGBTQ Americans as a matter of course, like Catholic schools that fire any LGBTQ faculty member who
comes out of the closet. These organizations are
about the potential implications of Monday's ruling, as we might expect them to be. And unhappy constituents do not
generally make for reliable donors or voters.
- A Heavy Blow to the Conservative Judicial Project: A core element of Republican strategy
in the last decade or two, particularly as their base has grown smaller and more extreme in its viewpoints, has been to
jam pack the courts with "reliable" conservatives, so as to secure some conservative legislating from the bench,
particularly in the matters of abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, and the Second Amendment. Well, Neil Gorsuch was a signed,
sealed, and delivered judicial pick straight from the Federalist Society, and he just went apostate. This has
the whole strategy into question, with future "wins" on these three core issues looking to be few and far between.
- A Heavy Blow to the Trump Judicial Project: A major reason, and perhaps the major reason,
that evangelicals have been willing to hold their noses and to support an irreligious adulterous pu**y-grabber who tramples on the
Ten Commandments on a daily basis is that he promised to deliver conservative judges. Now, that Faustian bargain has been
thrown into serious doubt. We supposed yesterday that might give Trump a new plank to run on, namely "You have to vote for
me to make sure I'm the one who picks RBG's replacement." And maybe it will. But in the short term, conservatives appear to be
pretty disgusted. Consider
from Rod Dreher of American Conservative:
Gosh, President Trump, thank you. You really came through there. I'm being sarcastic, of course. The last reason, though, why religious conservatives should grit their teeth and vote for Trump anyway has now been blasted to smithereens by this decision written by a Trump justice. And not just a Trump justice, but the paradigmatic Trump justice, the man whose place on the Supreme Court was meant to justify religious conservatives turning a blind eye to Trump's many other failures. This is what "but Gorsuch" means. Those words are like ashes in the mouth today.The Daily Wire, The Federalist, RedState, Breitbart, and most other conservative outlets had similar pieces. Maybe, once there has been a little time for the ruling to sink in, social conservatives will calm down and decide that "Trump judges" still sounds a lot better than "Biden judges." On the other hand, maybe they won't be able to grit their teeth any longer, and some of them will sit this election out. Though when Trump starts running (focused Internet) ads warning conservatives that Biden is going to stock the courts with young black gay trans Muslim immigrant judges and justices because that is what his base demands, that will surely encourage at least some holding of noses and Trump voting from his base. Fortunately holding your nose while voting is easy if you don't believe in wearing a mask in public.
- A Heavy Blow to the Trump Transphobia Project: The Trump administration was busily
laying the groundwork
to use transgender rights as a wedge issue this cycle. The President already banned trans soldiers from the
armed forces, of course, and just a few days ago his administration
sharp rollbacks to trans folks' access to healthcare. Monday's ruling does not automatically kill these two initiatives,
but it's awfully hard for anyone to believe they (or any future anti-trans efforts from the administration) will stand
up when challenged in court. That's particularly the case for the healthcare rollbacks, which were based on the
definition of "sex" that the Court just invalidated.
- Internecine War for the Republicans?: It would appear that most Republican lawmakers
recognize that this particular battle is over. Perhaps they had little enthusiasm for the anti-LGBTQ stuff in the first place.
Maybe they are looking at the public opinion polls, and they know that anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and actions are not winners
anymore, just like opposing the civil rights movement became politically unwise around 1965 or so. Maybe they realize
that, now that SCOTUS has ruled, there's nowhere to go with this. Whatever it is, most of the Republicans who talked to
reporters on Tuesday
they were satisfied with the Court's decision, and that it's time to move on to other things.
Not all of them, though. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who is regarded as a rising star in the party, and who comes from one of the most socially conservative states in the country, was furious on Tuesday. So too was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Both of those men are expected to launch presidential bids in 2024, and so the Republican primaries that year could involve a lot of party-dividing squabbling that will turn off a large portion of the rest of the country.
There is still plenty of time between now and November, of course, for Trump and other Republicans to spin this into something other than a catastrophe for social conservatives and evangelicals. How exactly they might do that, however, is something of a mystery at the moment. (Z)
Lots of attention has been paid, on this site and others, to the discriminatory impact that Voter ID laws have on certain groups, most obviously the poor, people of color, and students. Monday's Supreme Court ruling has served to remind everyone of another group that can have serious voter ID problems, namely trans Americans. It's not too hard to figure out why that might be. Depending on their status when they vote, as opposed to when they got their IDs, the picture might not match, or the name might not match, or the listed gender might not match, or all of the above. Few states have provisions for any of this, and most states force people to choose either "M" or "F," with no other alternatives available.
If that were not enough, the problems of trans voters do not always stop once they've successfully identified themselves. Transphobia is still pretty profound in many parts of the country, and trans voters are considerably more likely than non-trans voters to be harassed or even assaulted when they try to exercise their franchise.
That's not the end of it, either, as we continue with this parade of depressing information. Trans Americans are more than twice as likely to be imprisoned as non-trans Americans. And trans people of color are more than three times as likely. In many states, of course, imprisonment comes with automatic disqualification from the right to vote.
Oh, and speaking of trans people of color, our item yesterday attempted to capture some of the divisions that existed in the early years of the LGBTQ movement. In so doing, however, we gave the impression that trans and lesbian folks played a minor role in events like the Stonewall Rebellion. As many readers wrote in to remind us, this is not the case. In particular, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Storme DeLarverie, and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy were all major players. We regret our clumsy prose.
In any event, the above item hints at some of the legal questions that social conservatives are likely to put to the courts in the next few years. This one hints at some that LGBTQ folks will be asking the courts to address. So, the future dockets of the federal court system just took on a decidedly different hue. Something in a nice lavender, you might say. (Z)
The Kim family has been running the same exact playbook ever since their North Korean dynasty began in the middle of the last century. They make nice to Western powers, gain a few concessions or a PR victory, and then go right back to being the sort of leaders that earned them a spot in George Bush's "Axis of Evil."
When Donald Trump made bringing peace to the peninsula seem like an easy task for someone with his alleged negotiating prowess, anyone and everyone who was not a sycophant warned that: (1) the Kims have played this game before, (2) competing understandings of de-nuclearization mean that there literally is no middle ground for compromise, and (3) if Kim Jong-Un appears to be agreeing to denuclearize, he is certainly lying. Still, the President pressed onward, determined to prove he could succeed where his predecessors—most importantly, Barack Obama—had failed. And so, Trump held a couple of summits and a meet-and-greet with Kim, while also exchanging letters of varying levels of friendliness.
It is now entirely clear that the President got played by the much more wily Kim, who's been at this for much longer than the Donald has. And if that were not bad enough, he's in danger of getting played again. Yesterday, the North Korean military blew up the building that South Korea constructed on the North Korean side of the DMZ for purposes of conducting diplomacy. This is the latest salvo in a series of tension-raising incidents between North and South Korea. It is also being interpreted, with some evidence, as a sign that the North Koreans think they won't have Trump available to be exploited much longer, and so they are saber-rattling to get some more concessions while they can.
Thus far, the administration has not responded to recent developments on the Korean peninsula. They may make a desperate attempt to fix things, playing right into Kim's hands, or they may just leave the South Koreans to their own devices, also playing right into Kim's hands. Some situations are lose-lose, and Team Trump certainly seems to have created one of those here. If, one year ago, you had listed the three things that the President was going to base his reelection campaign on, it surely would have been the economy, stacking the Supreme Court, and his Korean policy. Now, all three have partly or completely blown up in his face. Well, his new campaign slogan could be: "But Kavanaugh," but will that be enough? (Z)
Pop quiz time: When Donald Trump unveiled his executive order on police reform on Tuesday, as it was expected he would, which of these things did he declare?
- Only a tiny percentage of police officers do bad things.
- We must have law and order; without police there will be chaos.
- Many Americans don't even know that what they want is law and order, but that's what they want.
- It's really Barack Obama's fault, because he failed to solve this problem before leaving office.
- Have you noticed how great the economy is doing these days?
The good news is that whatever answer you picked, you're right! He said all of those things on Tuesday. Meanwhile, his executive order, in addition to omitting any mention of how his very modest reform proposals might be paid for, also failed to make use of words like "bias," "discrimination," and "racism." Instead, the order relies on bland assertions like: "Unfortunately, there have been instances in which some officers have misused their authority, challenging the trust of the American people, with tragic consequences for individual victims, their communities, and our Nation."
The story here is not that nothing is going to come of a feeble gesture in the direction of "reform" from a man who has no interest in reform, at least not in this area. We already knew that before Trump made his announcement. No, the story is that we are reminded, yet again, that Trump is utterly terrified of stepping on the toes of his base. A more skilled politician, Democratic or Republican, might be able to connect with some folks on both sides of an issue like this one. Failing that, they would connect with the majority which, in this case, is on the side of meaningful police reform. But Trump, as he tries to walk the fine line between "reform the police" (the majority view) and "the police are heroes" (his base's view), grossly overcompensates in the latter direction, making absolutely sure that Fox News, OANN, Breitbart, and his base know that he's still 100% with them. That means he's not going to reach anyone who is not already with him on this issue. And his base-only tendencies, which he clearly cannot break himself of, are why he's currently on pace to suffer a thrashing in November's election. (Z)
To nobody's surprise, following three days of threats that it would sue former NSA John Bolton, the Trump administration did just that on Tuesday. The suit claims that the White House memoir/tell-all written by Bolton has not been properly vetted, contains classified information, and is a threat to national security. It seeks to have all existing copies of the book recalled and destroyed.
There is roughly a 0.0% chance that the suit is successful. Bolton and his publisher have made clear that they intend to move forward, and then to deal with whatever consequences come from that. That would not be their position unless they were confident that they had the upper ground, legally speaking. And indeed, the former NSA did submit the book for review, and it was approved. Thereafter, the administration decided it wanted to conduct a second review, during which it dragged its feet, presumably deliberately.
Further, even if Bolton (or a court) decided to play along with the administration's demands, there is no way that every single copy of the book could remain secret, unseen by human eyes. As we have already noted, it would be quite easy for Simon & Schuster to make sure that folks at The New York Times and Washington Post get a look at a copy. In fact, the odds are that the papers already have one (or more) copies, for review purposes. On top of that, at such point that the volume becomes a "banned" book, employees at Amazon, or Wal-Mart, or Barnes & Noble would surely pilfer copies, either to sell on eBay to the highest bidder, or to give to the media in order to stick it to Trump.
In fact, reader K.J. in Toronto reports that the book is already on shelves in at least one book store in Canada (undoubtedly an accident by a clerk who misread the embargo date), and sends visual evidence:
Surely, it's just a coincidence that it's being displayed mere inches from Erik Larson's "Devil in the White City," a book about the tensions between a white supremacist real estate developer and a sociopath with violent tendencies.
In any event, AG Bill Barr, who is taking the lead here, may be venal but he's not stupid. So, he surely knows that this Hail Mary pass is going to fail. Why is he doing it, then? Here are the three possibilities that occur to us:
- Barr's kowtowing to the President, who is less likely to recognize futility when he sees it, and who may actually
think a lawsuit could work here.
- It's a "wag the dog" situation, where the administration figures a juicy, high-profile squabble over a book is a
useful distraction from all the other, more serious disasters unfolding right now.
- It's an attempt to muddy the waters. Perhaps the lawsuit isn't really a lawsuit, it's just PR meant to communicate to the base that Bolton's a liar and a scoundrel. This would hardly be the first time Donald Trump used a lawsuit in this way.
Our guess is that it's #3. But whatever is going on, it's now six days and counting until we find out exactly what dirt Bolton has to dish. (Z)
The state of Georgia is still trying to finish counting all the ballots from its primary last week, which set a record for turnout. When the first tallies were announced, the semi-canary-in-a-coal-mine for the Democrats was that their overall vote total, even adding the top three presidential candidates together, was lower than Donald Trump's tally all by himself, despite the lack of any serious competitive races on the Republican side of the ticket. That did not bode well for November.
As it turns out, however, in the end the Democrats actually outpaced the Republicans pretty handily. The latest count has them with a total of 1.06 million votes to the GOP's 950,000. It might be tempting to attribute that to voting-by-mail, which was up substantially this year for obvious reasons. However, post-election analyses show that the mail-in ballots broke evenly among Republicans and Democrats, which means those are not the thing that powered the blue team's total.
So what is going on, then? Since the Republicans had a non-competitive presidential primary and Senate primary this year, whereas the Democrats had a non-competitive presidential primary but a competitive Senate primary, comparing their totals from this year is somewhat apples and oranges. Or, at very least, Red Delicious apples and Granny Smith apples. So, let's compare the Democrats' totals from this year to 2016, when they had a competitive Senate primary (won by Jim Barksdale) and a competitive presidential primary (won by Hillary Clinton). In that year, the Democrats on the ballot collected a combined 765,366 votes. This year, with less at stake, they have improved on that by nearly 40%. That's with ballots still being counted, and despite all the polling place fiascos.
There are at least three explanations for this:
- As polls indicate, Democratic enthusiasm is way up in Georgia this year
- New voter registrations since 2016 favor the Democrats by over 100,000 people
- Georgia Democrats have launched a massive, and apparently effective, get-out-the-vote operation
What this adds up to is that the Peach State, at the moment, only leans Republican, both in the presidential race and the two Senate races. And it could well be headed toward "toss-up" territory.
The most recent polling out of Georgia supports this. As you can see below, in his first poll as the Democrats' official challenger for Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), Jon Ossoff is up one point. Given the margin of error, that means it's a statistical tie. The same is true of the presidential race, where Joe Biden's slight lead means "statistical tie" but also means "he has an actual chance here." Further, the Georgia EVs and the two Senate seats are a luxury for the Democrats; none are a must-have for the blue team to capture the Senate or the White House. On the other hand, if the Republicans lose any of these, they are in deep trouble. So, the red team is going to have to spend time and money playing defense, which will help the Democrats elsewhere, even if they don't score any wins in Georgia.
There's one other piece of news related to this subject: Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) was cleared on Tuesday of wrongdoing by the Senate Ethics Committee as regards her highly convenient pre-COVID-19 stock trades. The Ethics Committee, unlike all other Senate committees, is split evenly between parties, so this is not just GOP whitewashing. Maybe they really believe she's an innocent, or maybe they just couldn't prove guilt beyond all doubt. In any event, voters are not prone to hold to the same evidentiary standards that a court or a congressional committee does. So, our guess is that some Georgians will consider the matter closed, while others will continue to suspect shenanigans, and that will make it nigh-on impossible for either Loeffler or Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) to gain the upper hand in the Nov. 3 jungle-style election. It probably won't clear the path for a Democrat to claim the seat on that day, but it will mean that whichever Republican is left standing will be pretty damaged from a long and ugly fight against their rival. (Z)
The Democrats are getting serious about statehood for Washington, DC. Next week, they will hold a vote on a bill that would make the District the 51st state. Assuming it passes—and you can bet that it will, or Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wouldn't hold the vote—it will be the first time either chamber of Congress gave its assent to DC statehood.
There is zero chance that either the Senate or the President will sign off on the bill; this is just a promissory note for what will happen if the American people give control of the upper chamber and the White House to the blue team. But when it comes to messaging, the Democrats have the overwhelming upper hand here. First, the whole country was founded on the idea that people deserve representation in their own government; the hypocrisy that residents of the capital basically don't have that sticks in the craw of many Americans. On top of that, black people form the single largest ethnic group in the District (about 45%). So, as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer quite appropriately put it, "This is not just an issue of local governance and fairness, it is a major civil rights issue as well." And while he didn't mention it, the city was also built by slave labor. For folks who are looking to atone a tiny bit for the sins of America's past, this would help a little. And if and when D.C. is admitted, that would grease the skids for Puerto Rico to follow soon after. After all, 52 is a nicer number than 51. People could then compare the states to weeks of the year or playing cards in the deck. Texas will probably claim the Queen of Hearts and some golf-loving state might want the Ace of Clubs.
We are, of course, aware that even if Democrats take back the Senate, Republicans would filibuster maneuvers likely to add two or four new Democratic senators. However, our view is that the filibuster is not long for this world anyhow, and if anything could persuade the blue team to give it the heave-ho, it's the possibility of controlling both houses of Congress for two or four or six years. The 2022 Senate map is not great for the Republicans, and 2024 is a presidential election year, which tends to favor the Democrats. So, there is potential to get a heck of a lot of mileage out of this (as yet hypothetical) maneuvering. (Z)
The presidential polls these days are generally made up of two kinds of news for Donald Trump: bad news, and worse news.
As we already discussed above, he's going to have to play defense in Georgia, which is neither cheap nor easy. Arizona is in serious danger, too, as Mark Kelly's coattails could well pull Joe Biden across the finish line. There are some outlets that have New Mexico as being in play, but that notion is wholly unsupported either by polls or by recent election results. It's not in play.
And then there is Michigan, which is close to a must-have for the President, and which just keeps slipping further away. A gap of 16 points is staggering, and well beyond any possible errors that might be introduced by the imprecisions of polling math or by a clunky model of the electorate. It would appear, at least when it comes to the Wolverine State, that Tip O'Neill's admonition that "all politics is local" is on the mark. Trump chose to take sides against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) and with the folks who were actively protesting the Governor's lockdown orders. It turns out that the President's position is very much the minority view, as most Michiganders support both their governor and the (rather successful) actions she's taken to combat COVID-19. So his choices are costing him, big-time. (Z)
There have been eight polls of the Arizona Senate race this year. Mark Kelly has led all of them. His lead was within the margin of error just once, and that one poll was published back in early January. Since then, he's widened the gap a lot, and has had a double-digit lead in three of the last five polls. If Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) can't turn things around soon, the NRSC is going to cut her loose and leave her to her own devices. They really can't afford to lose the seat, but they also can't afford to throw millions down a rabbit hole, particularly when they need those millions in so many other places.
If there's any good news for the GOP today, it's that John James (R) may still be within striking distance of Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI). That may be something of an illusion, though. Note that 34% of voters expressed no preference in this poll. When "no preference" is not an option, Peters' lead generally jumps into the double digits. Also note that this is a different pollster from the one that polled the presidential race in Michigan.
Meanwhile, as with its EVs, New Mexico's Senate seat is clearly not in play. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun16 Trump Prepares Executive Order on Policing
Jun16 Fox News Has a Rough Week
Jun16 Trump's COVID-19 Gaslighting Is Operating at Full Steam
Jun16 Trump Makes a Mountain out of a Molehill
Jun16 Here Come the Books
Jun16 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun15 Police Officer Shoots and Kills Unarmed Black Man Trying to Flee
Jun15 Will the Battle of Lafayette Square Come to Define Trump's Presidency?
Jun15 Tulsa Health Director Would Like to Postpone Trump's Rally
Jun15 Democrats Are Worried about Voter Suppression
Jun15 The Gender Gap Is Larger than Ever
Jun15 Will Trumpism Survive Trump?
Jun15 CNN Has Published Its First Electoral College Map
Jun15 Cooper Signs Bill to Make Voting Easier
Jun15 Kentucky Democratic Primary May Be Heating Up
Jun15 GOP Congressman Dumped in a Parking Lot
Jun15 Fired Florida Data Scientist Builds Her Own Dashboard
Jun15 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun14 COVID-19 Diaries, Sunday Edition
Jun14 Sunday Mailbag
Jun14 Today's Senate Polls
Jun13 Surprise, Surprise!
Jun13 Saturday Q&A
Jun12 A Split Decision
Jun12 This Just Can't End Well
Jun12 While You Weren't Looking
Jun12 Paging Big Brother
Jun12 Military Pushes Back Against Trump...
Jun12 ...and So Does the Judiciary
Jun12 West Virginia in Transition
Jun12 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun11 Polls: There Is Overwhelming Support for the Protests
Jun11 Some White Men Held Counterprotest to Floyd's Killing
Jun11 Why Is There a Military Response to the Protests?
Jun11 Coronavirus Spikes, White House Goes Radio Silent
Jun11 Republican Convention May Move to Jacksonville
Jun11 Trump Won't Rename Army Bases
Jun11 Study Says Democrats Should Stop Running Ads Attacking Trump
Jun11 Iowa Really May Be in Play...
Jun11 ...But Not Texas
Jun11 Jerome Powell: Unemployment Will Be 9% at End of the Year
Jun11 Ossoff Advances
Jun11 Today's Senate Polls
Jun10 Tuesday's Results Are (Partly) In
Jun10 Floyd Laid to Rest; Biden Speaks
Jun10 Trump Gotta Trump, Redux
Jun10 A Really Bad Poll for Trump...
Jun10 ...and the Generic Congressional Ballot Isn't Looking Much Better for the GOP
Jun10 The World of Sports Is Going to Give Trump What He Wants (but Not Really)