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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  SCOTUS Takes Center Stage
      •  McConnell Promptly Shuts Manchin Down
      •  American Racism, Past and Present
      •  Keeping Trumpism Alive, Part I: Immigration
      •  Keeping Trumpism Alive, Part II: Trump for Speaker

SCOTUS Takes Center Stage

As we noted earlier this week, the Supreme Court was overdue to issue some rather significant, and politically charged, decisions. Well, on Thursday, arguably the two biggest were announced. In Texas v. California, the Court once again upheld Obamacare. And in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, the Court said that a Catholic adoption agency is allowed to discriminate against would-be LGBTQ+ parents. So, that's one win for the blue team and one win for the red team, right? Actually, not so much...

Let's start with the Obamacare ruling. As a reminder, the case was brought after the Republican-controlled Congress, as part of the 2017 tax bill, reduced the ACA's penalty for not having insurance to $0. A group of 18 state AGs, all of them from Republican-controlled states, cobbled together a case based on that fact. Their argument was that (1) the penalty was a central pillar of the bill, as SCOTUS had already found the penalty to be a tax imposed as part of Congress's authority to levy taxes; (2) if the penalty is $0, then that central pillar no longer exists and the legal justification for Congress' exercise of its authority is nullified; and (3) ipso facto, the whole law is no longer valid.

This argument has more holes than a dozen golf courses, and the one that the Court focused on in Thursday's ruling is that the AGs don't have standing to sue. That is to say, for a person or entity to sue, they have to prove that they have been harmed by whatever or whomever it is they are suing. And the Court found nothing in the plaintiffs' arguments that persuaded the justices that the states were somehow harmed by a penalty that is now zero. So, the case was dismissed for lack of standing.

At a glance, it may appear that this decision was fairly narrow, and on technical grounds, and that the state AGs might be back again with a different version of the case that endeavors to fix this particular problem. That is not the case, however. In his majority opinion, which was 7-2 with only Associate Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissenting, Stephen Breyer actually eviscerated the AGs' whole argument. He pointed out that the mandate to have insurance, now that the penalty is $0, is merely a suggestion with no legal repercussions if it is ignored. And he wondered how, if it's just a suggestion, it could either be unconstitutional or an illegal exercise of Congress' power. In short, if the penalty is more than $0, then it's a legal exercise of Congress' power, and if it's $0, then it's a unicorn or a leprechaun, a non-existent thing that cannot be the basis of a lawsuit.

It is certainly possible that the AGs take another shot, trying a variant of the suit that was shot down yesterday, but if they do, that would almost certainly be tilting at windmills, given Breyer's decision, and might not be granted certiorari. Or they might be back with some other legal theory. However, the Supreme Court has already turned aside challenges to Obamacare three times. If the three strongest and most obvious arguments didn't get it done, is there really any reason to think that argument #4 is going to be successful? So, it looks like this particular drama is probably over, and that a seemingly "narrow" decision is actually a big win for the Democrats.

At the same time, one could also argue the ruling was a win for the Republicans—not legally, but politically. They have fought tooth and nail against Obamacare because their base (at least, much of it) hates Obamacare. However, as with other issues (most obviously outlawing abortion), this one is a pretty big loser for them overall. Americans who are not part of the base overwhelmingly approve of Obamacare, and about 30 million people are insured because the ACA exists. The mere act of opposing the law caused the GOP to take a pasting at the polls in 2018. If it had actually been struck down yesterday, tens of millions of people would have lost insurance, countless millions more would have lost other benefits like there being no lifetime cap on benefits, and American healthcare would have been thrown into chaos. The Republican Party would have gotten the blame, and at a time when they control no part of the federal government, and would be unable to do anything to respond to the problem (not that they have an alternative plan). Further, that chaos might have given the Democrats cover to pursue a more radical single-payer system, which Republicans really hate. With Thursday's defeat, the GOP can tell the base it fought the good fight, while avoiding the consequences of actually winning that fight.

And then there was Fulton which, again, might seem to be a win for the Republicans, since it sanctioned the right of the Catholic Church to discriminate against would-be LGBTQ+ parents. Well, sort of. The agency did say that while it would not deal with same-sex applicants, it would refer them to another agency that would. In other words, the applicants can get the service they request, just not from a Church-related organization. That is somewhat different from saying: "NO. PERIOD."

There are two important facts that, when you read them, should immediately complicate that interpretation of things. The first is that the decision was 9-0, with the three liberals signing on to the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts. The second is that Alito, though his side "won," wrote a scorching 77-page "concurrence," also signed by Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Gorsuch, complaining about the ruling.

So what is going on here? Well, the Obamacare ruling was a case of a "narrow" ruling that is actually pretty broad. By contrast, the Fulton ruling was a case of a "narrow" ruling that is actually really narrow. Recall that the facts of the case are that the foster care agency Catholic Social Services (CSS), which had a contract with the City of Philadelphia to screen prospective adoptive parents, refused to work with same-sex couples. Philadelphia canceled the contract, and CSS sued. In his ruling, Roberts stood on his head a bit, and observed that since the city's laws allow it to grant exceptions to its non-discrimination rules (which is true), they must make a case for why they are denying an exception to CSS, and how that denial serves a compelling public interest. Since Philadelphia did not make that case, the contract cancellation was unlawful. This ruling is actually quite similar to the Court's ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, where discriminatory behavior by the cake makers was upheld, not on its inherent legality, but because the government (in this case, the state government) did not apply its own rules properly.

It is clear, then, why Alito, Thomas, and Gorsuch were so angry. They wanted a much broader ruling allowing for various forms of discrimination in the name of religion, and they did not get it. It's also not hard to figure out what the three liberals—Associate Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Breyer—were thinking: Better to give a clear majority to an extremely narrow ruling that sets virtually no precedent, rather than allowing a situation where Roberts' opinion and Alito's non-concurrence concurrence have the same number of votes.

Perhaps the most interesting player in the Fulton decision is Roberts himself. Recall that for the Court to take a case, four justices must vote in the affirmative. That means that if the three most conservative members of the Court (again, Alito, Thomas, and Gorsuch) can get just one other justice to agree with them (presumably Associate Justices Brett Kavanaugh or Amy Coney Barrett), then they can get these sorts of ultra-right, culture-wars issues before the Court, and Roberts can't stop them. What he can do, however, is shape the ultimate decision. And if he can cobble together an alliance of himself, the three liberals, and at least one other conservative, he can also assign the writing of the opinion to himself, allowing him to shape it even more. That is clearly what happened here.

There is one more politically charged ruling that is likely to come down in the next week or so: Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, which deals with restrictive voting laws in Arizona. It would be a pretty big surprise if that doesn't result in a ruling that makes Republicans very happy. But yesterday's rulings were both wins for the Democrats, such that the scorecard more properly reads 2-0 rather than 1-1. Further, the Fulton decision strongly suggests that Roberts is going to bend over backwards to avoid certain kinds of decisions that would politicize the Court and potentially weaken its authority, while both of Thursday's decisions suggest that there is an emerging divide among the six conservative members of the Court, such that we might soon be speaking of an arch-conservative wing of three, a moderately conservative "swing" wing of three, and a liberal wing of three. (Z)

McConnell Promptly Shuts Manchin Down

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is trying, as he sees it, to be the adult in the room (where "the room" is the U.S. Senate chamber). And so, as he tries to wend a middle course between the For the People Act, something supported by his 49 Democratic and independent colleagues, and doing little or nothing, something supported by his 50 Republican colleagues, he came up with a compromise that he deems reasonable. We summarized the elements of his proposal yesterday, but as a reminder, they are:

  • Making Election Day a public holiday
  • Mandating at least 15 consecutive days of early voting in federal elections
  • Automatic voter registration through the DMV
  • Allowing states to require ID but including utility bills as valid ID
  • Disclosure of all donors giving more than $10,000 to political advocacy groups
  • Banning the use of computer models for partisan gerrymandering

If you read the original item yesterday, you might have speculated as to the response to this from folks on both sides of the aisle. The main election "concern" of the Republican Party, at least according to their public pronouncements, is voter fraud, which means that none of Manchin's proposals should be particularly objectionable. However, we all know that the Party's real concern is maintaining their hold on power despite commanding the support of a minority of the electorate. So, there was every chance that some of them would object to the Senator's plan, thinking it goes too far (since nearly anything is "too far"). Meanwhile, Democrats—particularly progressives—believe that this historical moment is the time to "go big," which is why the For the People Act is an "everything but the kitchen sink" bill, implementing multiple dozens of reforms. So, there was every chance that some of them would object to Manchin's plan, thinking it does not go far enough.

As it turns out, we did not have to wait long to find out how the cards would fall. We think it's fair to say that, when it comes to this issue, the Democrats' most important spokesperson is Stacey Abrams. She's been the nation's foremost activist in the past couple of years when it comes to protecting voting rights and, based on her accomplishments, as well as the fact that she is a Black Southern woman, it is improbable that any member of her Party is going to loudly disagree with her on this subject. And her view, which she shared during an interview with CNN yesterday, was that the Manchin plan is a "first and important step to preserving our democracy" and that she would "absolutely" support it.

Again, it is possible that some Democrats might have kvetched about Manchin's proposal. However, it is not too much of a surprise that they waited for Abrams to take the lead. And, in turn, Abrams' response is not really surprising. While she is certainly "progressive" in some of her end goals, what she really is, to be more precise, is an activist following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr. (and in the same home state as King, no less). Someone who spends 10 years staging sit-ins, demonstrations, and other non-violent forms of protest, as King did, is playing the long game. Someone who spends 3 years (and counting) registering voters, one by one, in hopes of changing their state's political calculus, is also playing the long game. Abrams clearly grasps that some progress is better than none, and that if the Democrats can do whatever is politically feasible to make the 2022 elections fair, that increases their odds of holding Congress and thus being in a position to push things even more in 2023 or 2024.

And then there is the Republican response to Manchin, which was almost as predictable. The pixels and ink weren't even dry on the "here's the West Virginia Senator's counter-proposal" stories before Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) issued a statement lambasting the plan. It's very short, so we'll just give it to you in its entirety:

Senate Democrats seem to have reached a so-called "compromise" election takeover among themselves. In reality, the plan endorsed by Stacey Abrams is no compromise. It still subverts the First Amendment to supercharge cancel culture and the left's name-and-shame campaign model. It takes redistricting away from state legislatures and hands it over to computers. And it still retains S. 1's rotten core: an assault on the fundamental idea that states, not the federal government, should decide how to run their own elections.

To start, putting "compromise" in quotes is a giant poke in Manchin's eye. It strongly implies that he is acting in bad faith when he says he's trying to plot a middle course. Also interesting is the claim that all of this is an attempt to "supercharge cancel culture." At best, it suggests that the Minority Leader is just throwing out whatever buzzwords he can to get the base's blood boiling and to give Tucker Carlson something to whine about. At worst, however, he's making an argument that laws that would significantly protect minorities' right to vote (and that are supported by a prominent minority Democrat in Abrams) are problematic because they would allow minorities to overrule the wishes of white voters. If that was his meaning, and we think it probably was, then it's a pretty big dog whistle. Not quite a Trumpian dog bullhorn, since McConnell isn't quite so ham-fisted, but close.

Manchin, who is known for being both mercurial and temperamental, was not too happy about being attacked like this, even if it was not by name. "McConnell has a right to do whatever he thinks he can do," he said, notably using the Minority Leader's last name rather than his title. "I would hope that there's enough good Republicans who understand the bedrock of our society is having an accessible, fair open, election."

Actually, that hope has also been dashed, as it turns out. McConnell quickly organized a press conference where, flanked by 15 of his GOP colleagues, he made very clear how much they despise the Manchin plan. The clear point was that there is broad support in the Republican conference for the Minority Leader's position. Meanwhile, the two Republicans most likely to break ranks and vote with the Democrats—Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mitt Romney (R-UT)—have already said they don't care for the new proposal, and are likely to vote against allowing it to even come up for debate.

So, if Manchin was waiting to be convinced that Republicans will not work with him on this, or if he was searching for political cover so that he might support something more radical, like limiting or killing the filibuster, Senate Republicans could scarcely have done more to deliver the goods. Not only are they unwilling to consider any element of the Senator's proposal, but they came out against it almost instantly, and apparently unanimously. In the process, they made a point of denigrating Manchin, and also tossing in some inflammatory rhetoric that might be construed as racist. The guy in the silent films, who twirled his mustache and tied the damsel to the railroad tracks, was less obvious than this.

And now we get to see what Manchin does with this information. Many times, including the most recent Q&A, we have noted that his words and his actions are hard for us to understand. This weekend, The Intercept published an item that was sent to us by many readers (thanks, all!) and that is about a leaked audio recording of Manchin speaking with a group of big-time Democratic donors who are part of the group No Labels (founded by former senator Joe Lieberman). The folks in No Labels give lots of money to moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans because they like the status quo, and they don't want to see far-right legislation (like, say, abortion bans) or far-left legislation (like, say, the Green New Deal) to become law. As you might imagine, No Labels is quite supportive of the Senate filibuster.

You might consider reading the whole piece, since it has a lot of good detail about where Manchin stands vis-a-vis the various major issues that are before the Senate right now (the 1/6 commission, voting rights, infrastructure, and the filibuster). But there are two particularly important takeaways. The first is that the Senator is definitely playing 3-D chess, and that there's much more to his maneuvering than meets the eye. For example, operating very carefully within the lines of federal ethics rules, he hinted that firms that might employ Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) when he retires should strongly suggest to the Missourian that he flip his vote on the 1/6 commission.

The second takeaway is that Manchin is somewhat more open to revising the filibuster than his public pronouncements would suggest. In particular, he argued to these strongly-pro-filibuster folks that if the filibuster is to be saved, it is imperative that something important be accomplished (most obviously the establishment of the 1/6 commission) with it in place. If not, that will suggest that a Senate with a filibuster is unworkable, and Manchin may conclude he has no choice but to support some sort of change, possibly to a "talking" filibuster. Especially if the phone book the Republicans have to read day and night is the Charleston, WV, phone book.

Only Manchin knows how much of that talk was serious, and how much was a pressure-inducing bluff. At very least, it is clear that (1) a change of position on the filibuster from Manchin cannot be ruled out, and (2) his resistance to change seems to have less to do with the folks back home and more to do with the folks writing checks (something that might also be true of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-AZ). If the Democrats are smart—and we think they are, at least in this way—they will find a way to make sure that whatever money Manchin (and Sinema?) might lose from aggravating No Labels is replaced by even more cash from some other source. In any event, the next week or two figure to be instructive when it comes to exactly what is going to happen on the filibuster front. (Z)

American Racism, Past and Present

And now we are going to discuss two policy issues, one primarily federal and one primarily state, that are clearly connected to each other. Can we properly explain how and why they are connected? We shall see.

First up is Juneteenth—which, as of yesterday, is a federal holiday, with Joe Biden having signed the bill into law. It is likely that most readers are familiar with the basics of Juneteenth, but just in case: It often took some time for news to travel across nineteenth century America, particularly when it came to rural/far-flung parts of the nation not served by telegraphy, and particularly when people in power did not want to have that information propagated. And so, it took until June 19, 1865—more than two months after the Civil War ended—for enslaved people in Galveston, TX, to learn that the Union was victorious and that slavery was, de facto, dead (something that became official in December of that year with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment). Black folks in Galveston had a big celebration on that day, and on June 19ths thereafter, and eventually the custom spread across the South and into some portions of the North, the West, and the Midwest.

The bill to make Juneteenth a holiday came together surprisingly quickly, with the result that federal agencies are hustling to accommodate a day of closures that were, at most, theoretical until hours before the close of business on Thursday (today is June 18, of course, but by federal law, holidays that take place over the weekend are observed on the nearest weekday). The bill passed unanimously in the Senate, but got fourteen "nay" votes in the House. All fourteen were from white, Republican men. Knowing that, you can probably guess the names of many of those 14, but just in case, they are: Mo Brooks (AL; 73%), Andy Biggs (AZ; 72%), Andrew Clyde (GA; 78%), Scott DesJarlais (TN; 85%), Paul Gosar (AZ; 75%), Ronny Jackson (TX; 65%), Doug LaMalfa (CA; 78%), Thomas Massie (KY; 92%), Tom McClintock (CA; 77%), Ralph Norman (SC; 67%), Mike Rogers (AL; 68%), and Matt Rosendale (MT; 89%), Chip Roy (TX; 62%), and Tom Tiffany (WI; 91%). The numbers show what percentage of each representative's district is white; as you can see, only two of these representatives (Jackson and Roy) have a constituency that is less than two-thirds white, and both of those men are very close to that cutoff.

The New York Times tried to get comments from each of the 14 explaining why they opposed the Juneteenth bill. A couple didn't respond, and a couple said they opposed it because they don't like giving employees more paid days off. Most, however, talked about how "divisive" the holiday is, and will be. For example, here is the statement from Gosar, who can always be relied upon to spread the rhetoric on extra-thick:

Our country is divided, and the cultural and political Marxists are continuing their relentless efforts to divide this country further.

Juneteenth is more debunked Critical Race Theory in action. I reject racism. I reject the racial division people are promoting. I voted no because this proposed holiday does not bring us together, it tears us apart.

I cannot support efforts that furthers [sic] racial divisions in this country. We have one Independence Day, and it applies equally to all people of all races.

You can tell how committed Gosar is to healing the divisions in the country, because he starts by savaging his opponents as cultural and political Marxists.

In any event, the Representative has kindly set up a transition into the second issue we wanted to touch on here, which is critical race theory (CRT). As readers presumably know, many Republicans hate CRT, and are actively trying to purge it from American culture. Several states have passed laws banning the use or the teaching of CRT in schools, with the state of Florida the most recent to pass such a bill.

We have gotten a fair number of requests to explain CRT in the Saturday Q&A, and we intended to do so fairly soon. However, events have conspired to move up that timeline to "today." It's a little harder to explain than Juneteenth because, as with something like "postmodernism" or "fascism" or "allegory," it's somewhat amorphous, and pretty much every scholar seems to have a slightly different way of defining it. That said, CRT emerged after the Civil Rights Movement, when a number of scholars noted that the nation's overtly racist laws had been overturned by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other legislation, and yet racism still continued, including in the realm of law. And so, the conclusion of these scholars was that you have to look more deeply at the underlying structure of the laws and of the legal system, to understand and root out disparate and racist outcomes.

If you would like a bit more detail, University of Alabama law professors Richard Delgado (one of the founders of CRT) and Jean Stefancic wrote a book entitled Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, which was first published in 2001, and is now in its third edition (released 2017). In the introduction, they make the same observation that we make above, namely that different scholars have different ideas of what CRT is. Nonetheless, Delgado and Stefancic assert that most CRT-embracing academics would agree on these six basic tenets:

  1. Race is socially constructed, not biologically natural.

  2. Racism in the United States is normal, not aberrational: it is the common, ordinary experience of most people of color.

  3. Owing to what CRT scholars call "interest convergence" or "material determinism," legal advances (or setbacks) for people of color tend to serve the interests of dominant white groups. Thus, the racial hierarchy that characterizes American society may be unaffected or even reinforced by ostensible improvements in the legal status of oppressed or exploited people.

  4. Members of minority groups periodically undergo "differential racialization," or the attribution to them of varying sets of negative stereotypes, again depending on the needs or interests of whites.

  5. According to the thesis of "intersectionality" or "antiessentialism," no individual can be adequately identified by membership in a single group. A person of color, for example, may also identify as a woman, a lesbian, a feminist, a Christian, and so on.

  6. People of color are uniquely qualified to speak on behalf of other members of their group (or groups) regarding the forms and effects of racism.

One can detect the influence of the Black Power movement here, particularly in items #3 and #6. Another major influence is critical legal theory, which is much the same thing as critical race theory, except replace "white people" and "people of color" with "rich people" and "poor people." Anyhow, some of this is basically uncontroversial. For example, we imagine most people would agree that, say, Asian-American people are better able to speak to the effects of anti-Asian-American racism than, say, white Jewish lesbians are. And some of it is, at very least, uncontroversial in the halls of the academy. For example, the notion that race is socially constructed. Finally, some of it is pretty provocative, even by Ivory Tower standards. The obvious one, which would even leave many professional scholars howling, is the assertion that seemingly pro-people-of-color legal advancements are really pro-white legal advancements.

All of this said, it is not remotely plausible that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and his GOP colleagues there, or Republicans in the other states that have banned CRT (Arkansas, Idaho, and Oklahoma), or Republicans in the states that are considering a ban (Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, Arizona, Kentucky, Utah and New Hampshire) have actually taken a careful look at the theory and decided that the pros and cons just don't add up. Few of them, if any, actually understand what CRT is, as indicated by the fact that none of them are able to explain it when asked by reporters. Further, recall that the central focus of CRT is in-depth legal analysis. This is why it was developed (and is taught) primarily by law professors. In-depth legal analysis does not happen in elementary schools, or high schools, or really even in most undergraduate classrooms (and the latter aren't covered by the CRT bans anyhow). In short, as a practical matter, banning CRT is no more necessary than banning the teaching of alchemy or phrenology or underwater basket weaving—it's already not being taught.

And this is where we bring Juneteenth and critical race theory together. Their commonality is racism, namely that they are both reminders of that less-than-savory aspect of American culture. As you can see above, opposition to the Juneteenth holiday was limited to a small-but-militant cadre of Republican officeholders. Opposition to CRT, on the other hand, is much more widespread and much more aggressive. It's easy enough to understand why. Juneteenth is about the racism of the past, and how it was overcome, while CRT is primarily about the racism of the present, and how it hasn't been overcome. That's a much harder pill to swallow. Further, Juneteenth is easy enough to explain/understand, making it harder to distort into a boogeyman. CRT, by contrast, is complex, and so is easily transformed, via politicians' rhetoric, into, well, just about anything—Marxism, bigotry, arrogance, subversion, propaganda, etc. Finally, all three words in "critical race theory" are the sort of words used by those pointy-headed elitist academics, which makes them aggravating to many people, and also makes them easy to convert into a nasty sound bite, just like "cancel culture" or "cultural Marxism."

This, then, raises a significant question: Why is so much of the GOP base incensed by the mere suggestion that America did, or does, have a problem with racism? Here are some answers, though this is surely not a comprehensive list:

  • The Wages of Whiteness, Part I: That's actually the title of the very well-known book by the historian David Roediger, in which he makes the case that, in the absence of traditional measures of success (e.g., wealth), poor white people came to regard their white skin as an important badge of honor. There are certainly vestiges of that in American society today, and anything that challenges a core part of someone's identity is not likely to generate a positive response.

  • The Wages of Whiteness, Part II: There are also many white folks who, while they might not overtly celebrate their skin color, really dislike the idea that it gave them some sort of advantage. White people who feel "successful," however they might define that, prefer to believe that their success is all their own. White people who feel "unsuccessful," however they might define that, dislike the idea that they came up short despite having a built-in advantage, and are really aggravated by the notion that their struggles are unworthy of support and sympathy while the struggles of people of color are worthy.

  • American Exceptionalism: Many people want very much to believe that their family, their community, their state and/or their country have always played the role of "hero," and have always been on the side of truth and justice. This sentiment is particularly common among Americans, who have been thinking of themselves as a model and an inspiration for the rest of the world since at least 1630. It's also particularly common among people who do not have a college education, since elementary and high schools—in both blue and red states—are often legally required to teach only "positive" history. Texas is among the most notorious states in this regard; people there really don't like to be told (or reminded), for example, that the Texas Revolution (and with it Davy Crockett, and the Alamo, etc.) was fought primarily to preserve slavery, which Mexico had outlawed.

    When students first learn, usually in college, that no community, or state, or country is always the good guy, and that two or three centuries is plenty of time to make big mistakes, it can be a rough awakening. Some Americans, particularly those who have been able to avoid direct confrontation with the unpleasant parts of American culture by virtue of their wealth or their race or where they live, work very hard to cling to an exceptionalist version of U.S. history. Juneteenth, CRT, etc. directly challenge that.

  • Theology: There are some evangelical denominations that argue that the only path to problem-solving is the one that is laid out in scripture (e.g., prayer and faith in the LORD). Any other path, like, say, CRT, is unnecessary at best, and heretical at worst. Perhaps it seems like we're guessing, or making this up, but it's true; at this week's Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), for example, CRT was a major topic of discussion. The SBC already banned any discussion of CRT in church, back in 2019, and they did not back off that position at this year's meeting. However, with moderates currently ascendant in the SBC, they did concede racism is a problem, and that it's ok to talk about approaches (both Biblical and non-Biblical) to addressing that. They also agreed that individual churches that encourage racist thinking can be booted out of the Southern Baptists.

In any event, it is now clear that—as the parties re-align and the GOP becomes the party of non-college white men—this dynamic (which is often called anti-anti-racism) has become an important element of American politics. It is also one that—like many elements of Trumpism—is more about riling up the base with angry rhetoric than it is about achieving any clear and concrete policy goals. (Z)

Keeping Trumpism Alive, Part I: Immigration

Speaking of Trump, he may or may not be fading away—who knows, at this point? However, it is very clear that many of the nation's most prominent Republicans, particularly those who happen to run big, red states, think that the former president's political program (if you can call it that) is still a winner. And so, they are taking steps to make sure anyone and everyone knows they are mini-Trumps.

The most prominent example here is Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX), who has the good fortune to lead a state that went for Trump. As a consequence, the Governor has not had to deal with fallout from his "failure" to swing the election into the GOP column. Abbott is up for reelection next year, and would really like to deflect any and all attention from some of his failures, most obviously the electrical meltdown earlier this year. And so, Abbott has decided to build his reelection case around an aggressive anti-undocumented-immigrant platform. He announced last week that he's going to resume work on Trump's border wall, redirecting $250 million of Texas' money for that purpose. One wonders how much electrical infrastructure and backup $250 million would buy. This week, Abbott announced that the wall would be a team effort, and that additional money beyond the $250 million would be raised through crowdfunding.

In contrast to Abbott, Govs. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) and Ron DeSantis are not so lucky. In Ducey's case, he does have a border to use as a political wedge issue, but his state went for Biden, so the Governor is somewhat in the Trump doghouse. In DeSantis' case, his state went for Trump, but he's got no border to use for political grandstanding. Fortunately for them, the pair, plus Abbott, were able to put their minds together and to come up with a plan that is "beneficial" for all. Abbott and Ducey co-signed a letter sent to the governors of the other 48 states asking them for assistance in battling the "illegal immigration crisis" at the borders of Texas and Arizona. And yesterday, DeSantis rode to the rescue, promising that he would deploy members of the Florida Highway Patrol, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, as well as officers from several local agencies. It's not clear how many officers he will send, or what he will instruct them to do, since he did not say. However, quite clearly those immigrants better not be trying to transport any endangered species of fish, or there is going to be hell to pay.

All of this is surely for theatrical purposes. It is not clear that states have the legal authority to enforce the border (particularly if the officers are from a different state), nor to be building border walls. And even if they do have the authority, the resources they appear to be devoting are a relative drop in the bucket. Clearly the point here is to announce to voters that "We're still fighting for the Dear Leader" even if he's no longer in office. A secondary goal could be to force the Biden administration to step in, so that they can say "See! Biden is suppressing our efforts!" One wonders how independent/swing voters in Texas, Arizona, and Florida will feel about the money being spent, and the risks being assumed, in service of a stunt. (Z)

Keeping Trumpism Alive, Part II: Trump for Speaker

This idea started to circulate a few weeks ago, and now Republicans are bringing it up more frequently during their hits with Newsmax, OAN, and Fox: Donald Trump for Speaker of the House. The idea is that he could run for the House in a Trump-friendly district, and then be elevated to the Speakership when and if the Republicans retake the House. Alternatively, he could skip the running for office, and just be chosen as Speaker, something that—as readers of this site know—is legal under the Constitution.

Thus far, the notion is only being advanced by a small group of Trump fanatics, so there's nothing substantive at this point. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that Republican pooh-bahs hate the idea. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) wants that job for himself, while Mitch McConnell prefers never to deal with Trump again. Further, having someone in that job who has no knowledge of, or interest in, how the legislative process actually works would be a disaster. The Republicans could barely get anything passed with a competent Speaker and Trump in the White House. They're surely not going to get anything done with an incompetent Speaker and Democrats in control of the White House and, more likely than not, the Senate.

Exactly how much momentum builds for this notion remains to be seen, and presumably depends on whether Trump embraces it or not. That said, whether or not Republicans have any intention of following through, just the possibility could add a very interesting dimension to the 2022 elections. If such talk became anything more than idle speculation then the former president would, de facto, be on the 2022 ballot. Would that serve to get admirers, who might otherwise stay home, to the polls? Or would it serve more to get Trump haters, who might otherwise stay home, to the polls? The elections of 2016 and 2020 suggest that Trump has long coattails, and that even the rumor of Trump as Speaker could help the GOP up- and down-ticket. On the other hand, "on the ballot" and "kinda on the ballot" are different things, and The Donald now has some significant black marks on his résumé that he did not have before, like the insurrection. We just don't know how this would shake out. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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