Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Republicans Have Never Understood the Meaning of "We the People"

The title of a piece by Hugo Gurdon, editor in chief of the Washington Examiner, caught my eye. It reads: "The selfishness at the heart of socialism." The reason it grabbed my attention was because I had been contemplating statements by conservatives like this one from Sen. Lindsey Graham.

A public servant just said that, in a moment of disaster in his community, he'd be holed up in his house prepared to shoot anyone who approaches with his AR-15. I have no idea what Graham would actually do in a situation like that. But I take him at his word because what he described really did happen in Louisiana during the aftermath of Katrina. 

Facing an influx of refugees, the residents of Algiers Point could have pulled together food, water and medical supplies for the flood victims. Instead, a group of white residents, convinced that crime would arrive with the human exodus, sought to seal off the area, blocking the roads in and out of the neighborhood by dragging lumber and downed trees into the streets. They stockpiled handguns, assault rifles, shotguns and at least one Uzi and began patrolling the streets in pickup trucks and SUVs. The newly formed militia, a loose band of about 15 to 30 residents, most of them men, all of them white, was looking for thieves, outlaws or, as one member put it, anyone who simply "didn't belong."

There are a lot of words one could use to describe that kind of reaction (ie, racism comes to mind), but selfishness is the least we can say about it. 

The politicization of mask wearing during the coronavirus is another example. A mask doesn't protect the wearer from getting covid, but it helps stop the spread of the virus. Right-wingers, however, are more concerned about their individual "freedom" than they are about stopping the spread of covid to others. That is a classic case of selfishness. 

So perhaps you can understand why I'd be intrigued by a conservative suggesting that socialism is selfish.  

Gurdon does a good job of defining socialism when he writes that it is "a set of arrangements by which central government delivers goods and services (of varying quality) to the public." But then he wonders whether it is "an outgrowth or distortion of the deeper instinct of compassion." To answer that question Gurdon gives away the game by relying on one of the most basic principles of modern conservatism: that government is "them." of the cruelest aspects of socialism is that it delegates compassion to the state. Socialism encourages individuals to think caring for their neighbor is not their responsibility but is, instead, a function of government.

To the extent that government in the United States is involved in things like public education and health care, it does so as a democratic republic - meaning that we the people elect representatives to address the common good. It is a communal effort that redounds to the benefit of all. 

This contrast between seeing the government as "them" versus "us" is perhaps the foundational difference between liberals and conservatives. I'm not sure when it started, but for conservatives, the idea that government is "them" took flight under Ronald Reagan's presidency when he said things like, "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem, government IS the problem." In a democratic republic, that is like saying "we aren't the solution to our problem, we ARE the problem."

Contrast that with what Barack Obama said at the 50th anniversary of the Selma march (emphasis mine).

For we were born of change. We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people. That’s why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction — because we know our efforts matter. We know America is what we make of it...

Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person. Because the single-most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.” “We The People.” “We Shall Overcome.” “Yes We Can.” That word is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone.

That contrast explains why we shouldn't be surprised as we watch Republicans eschew democracy these days via support for everything from voter suppression to gerrymandering to the filibuster. At their core, conservatives have never understood the concept of "we the people" that undergirds our democracy.  

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

There Is No National Bully Pulpit for Democrats

Following passage of the American Rescue Plan, Biden, Vice President Harris, and an array of cabinet secretaries will spend the next several months touring the country touting its provisions. But while that will garner some local press coverage, national media will ignore the whole thing because, as Dan Pfeiffer noted, "With each day, the passage of the American Rescue Plan fades further into the past, and more of the media moves onto the next crisis du jour."

In case you had any doubts about what Pfeiffer wrote, it was made clear during Biden's press conference last week. White House Correspondents were consumed with questions about the so-called "crisis" on our southern border, the filibuster, and whether or not Biden planned to run for re-election in 2024. Susan Glasser was shocked about what didn't come up.

There was not a single question, meanwhile, about the ongoing pandemic that for the past year has convulsed life as we know it and continues to claim an average of a thousand lives a day. How is this even possible during a once-in-a-century public-health crisis, the combating of which was the central theme of Biden’s campaign and remains the central promise of his Presidency? It’s hard not to see it as anything other than an epic and utterly avoidable press fail.

Why was that? Does the White House Press Corp have a right wing bias? Probably not. What they have is a bad news bias. As Pfeiffer wrote, "These outlets will always ignore what is going right in favor of what is going wrong." A savvy news consumer would recognize that Jennifer Palmieri nailed it with this tweet.

This is a perfect example of why the whole notion of a so-called "bully pulpit" for Democratic presidents no longer exists. It hasn't for quite a while. As Pfeiffer explained, that is not true for Republicans, who have spent decades building up a right-wing media network that consistently sells their message to the public. Here's an example of how that worked during Obama's presidency:

When Barack Obama was President, the Right Wing media covered the economy as if it was a disaster. They ignored positive news, trumped-up negative news, and just made a lot of stuff up. The moment Trump was elected, they began describing the economy as the greatest in American history even though the pace of job creation had slowed under Trump.

As we've seen with the issue of immigration, propaganda from right-wing media is oftentimes picked up by mainstream media and develops into a national narrative.

During Obama's presidency, left wing critics often accused him of failing to use the bully pulpit to press his agenda or tout his accomplishments. But the truth is...he did both. It's just that, as Ezra Klein wrote at the time, no one was listening.

To read pundits talking about presidential speeches, you'd think there was a statute requiring every American to watch every presidential address and then score a 75 percent or higher on a quiz testing their listening skills. In fact, pretty much no one watches presidential speeches...

And that's fine. It's good that we're not a dictatorship where everyone feels the need to memorize every word the leader utters. But it puts the lie to the idea that the president can simply orate a narrative directly into the American psyche. A small minority -- many of them political junkies who already know what they think -- will occasionally tune in to a particularly momentous address, and they may or may not stay for the whole thing, and they may or may not actually pay attention while they're watching. Somewhat more people will then get a partial summary through news coverage the next day. A week later, most people won't have heard the speech, and the few who did see or read the whole thing will largely have forgotten it. This is, in part, why presidents are worse at persuasion than people think: They do not have the rapt audience that so many assume.

...since no one is paying attention to the speeches, there's a lot in there that never penetrates into either the public consciousness or the media's thinking, and all White Houses are routinely criticized for not making arguments that they make all the time.

The vast majority of Americans don't listen to what the president actually says. They get their information from how various news outlets report on speeches or press conferences. If that is Fox News, then every Democratic utterance is nefarious. The rest of the media simply ignores any reference to positive achievements.

Pfeiffer's solution to this lopsided situation is for Democratic groups to produce more ads like this:


That could help, but with the diversification in entertainment and social media, it won't be enough. I think he nailed it with this:

The media has an important role to play, but it’s not the role many Democrats believe it to be. Communicating through the press should be part of the strategy, but it can’t be the whole strategy. And it’s not enough for the rest of us to sit on the sidelines. We have a role to play too...Every one of us can be curators and amplifiers.

Individuals playing the role of curators and amplifiers is the way things are accomplished from the ground up rather than the top down. That's what citizenship in a democracy looks like. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Take a Bow David Simon. You Were Right All Along.

In the third season of David Simon's The Wire, Police Major "Bunny" Colvin reaches a breaking point when one of his officers is shot while trying to buy three small vials of cocaine during an undercover operation. He launched what came to be known as "Hamsterdam" with this speech. 

Colvin cordoned off a section of his district where "corner boys" could sell drugs and prostitutes could sell sex without getting arrested. Eventually, they brought in public health specialists to work with the buyers to limit the spread of diseases. 

In that fictional world, the result was that violent crime and robberies were reduced significantly in Colvin's district as his officers focused on "real police work." But he kept his methods a secret. Once word got out about what he was doing, the city shut Hamsterdam down.

The reason I'm recalling those episodes of The Wire is that State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby initiated a city-wide replication of Hamsterdam at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. She announced that the city would no longer prosecute drug possession, prostitution, trespassing and other minor charges, to keep people out of jail and limit the spread of the deadly virus. Much like the fictional account, Mosby brought in behavioral health services as an alternative to law enforcement. The results were astounding.
And then crime went down in Baltimore. A lot. While violent crime and homicides skyrocketed in most other big American cities last year, violent crime in Baltimore dropped 20 percent from last March to this month, property crime decreased 36 percent, and there were 13 fewer homicides compared with the previous year. This happened while 39 percent fewer people entered the city’s criminal justice system in the one-year period, and 20 percent fewer people landed in jail after Mosby’s office dismissed more than 1,400 pending cases and tossed out more than 1,400 warrants for nonviolent crimes.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison was completely on board with Mosby's effort. 

“The officers told me they did not agree with that paradigm shift,” Harrison said. He said he had to “socialize” both officers and citizens to this new approach. Harrison expected crime to rise. “It did not,” the chief said. “It continued to go down through 2020. As a practitioner, as an academic, I can say there’s a correlation between the fact that we stopped making these arrests and crime did not go up.”

What we can say right now is that there is a "correlation" between these efforts and a reduction in crime because there is no proof of causation. But it is still possible that the data can be developed. On Friday, Mosby announced that she would make her temporary initiative permanent. 

“A year ago, we underwent an experiment in Baltimore,” Mosby said in an interview, describing steps she took after consulting with public health and state officials to reduce the public’s exposure to the coronavirus, including not prosecuting nonviolent offenses. “What we learned in that year, and it’s so incredibly exciting, is there’s no public safety value in prosecuting these low-level offenses. These low-level offenses were being, and have been, discriminately enforced against Black and Brown people.

“The era of ‘tough on crime’ prosecutors is over in Baltimore,” Mosby said. “We have to rebuild the community’s trust in the criminal justice system and that’s what we will do, so we can focus on violent crime.” In a city that still struggles with a high homicide rate and gun violence, even with the decline in crime, she said the policy shift will enable more prosecutors to be assigned to homicides and other major cases instead of misdemeanor court.

Take a bow David were right all along. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

"We Are Not Weak. Somebody Fears Our Unity"

While it can sometimes feel more aspirational than practical, Joe Biden has made "unity" a theme of his presidency. But during his press conference, he affirmed once again that his calls for unity aren't focused on winning bipartisan support from elected Republicans, but on garnering support from Republican voters. 

To state the obvious: unity has never been a goal of the Republican Party. Rather than rethink their failed policies and attempt to reach out to a larger pool of voters, they have made it abundantly clear that their plan is to place their bet on anti-democratic initiatives like voter suppression. As Georgia joined the growing list of states attempting to make it harder to vote, I was reminded of a speech Rev. William Barber gave to the United Steelworkers in 2017.

Don’t you understand how afraid they are of our unity? Think about it:
  • if they had to engage in voter suppression just to win 
  • if they had to spend pornographic sums of money to divide and conquer us 
  • if they had to go all the way to Russia and get help just to win… 
We are not weak. Somebody fears our unity.

Because you don’t cheat somebody that you can [beat] in a fair fight.

Speaking to a group of union workers, Barber reminded them what unity looks like, saying "White workers and black workers and health care and voting rights and immigrant rights, all of those things are interconnected. No more separation. Voting rights is a union issue. Wages is a civil rights issue."

Previously, during a speech at the 2016 Democratic Convention, Barber addressed the ties that bind us.

I say to you tonight, there are some issues that are not Left versus Right, Liberal versus Conservative, they are “right versus wrong.” We need to embrace our deepest moral values and push for a revival of the heart of our democracy.

 All of that is a reminder of one of the most profound things Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: 

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

That is the kind of unity Republicans fear today. All of the fervor they are unleashing to suppress the vote is an affirmation of its power.  

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Senator Hyde-Smith Used the Bible to Defend Voter Suppression

White evangelical Christians have a long history in this country of using the Bible to defend their racism and sexism. So it should come as no surprise that during Wednesday's hearing on the For the People Act, which would protect and expand voting rights, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) used the Bible to defend Republican voter suppression in Georgia.  

Nevermind that Hyde-Smith was lecturing a Jewish senator about how to observe the Sabbath as outlined in Hebrew scripture. She pulled up a passage from the Old Testament book of Exodus saying, "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy." What she failed to mention is that the law being considered in Georgia is specifically designed to end the "Souls to the Polls" movement in which African American Christians exercise their right to vote after attending church services on Sunday. Senator Hyde-Smith takes it upon herself to judge that effort as unbiblical. 

If the senator from Mississippi thinks it's appropriate to base U.S. laws on how she interprets the Bible, I would suggest that she take a look at a passage from the New Testament where Jesus clarifies the meaning of the Sabbath. Here's Mark 2:23-27 (emphasis mine). 

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."

In context, what Jesus was saying is that observing the Sabbath was intended to remind people to take a day of rest. The Pharisees had turned it into a whole series of rules based on what one can/cannot do on the Sabbath. 

I grew up mostly in the south and was always a bit confused about the rules that governed what we were not allowed to do on Sunday (the Christian Sabbath). While it was hailed as a day of rest, I noticed that it was the opposite for my mother. Her tasks that day included getting Sunday dinner in the oven while overseeing four children get dressed for church. After services, she got the meal on the table and then cleaned up the kitchen. Her "rest" didn't start until about mid-afternoon. 

The other confusing rule, given that water sports were our family's form of recreation, was that we were not allowed to swim or go water skiing on Sunday. But we could go for a boat ride. Somehow observation of the Sabbath meant that we couldn't be in the water, but we could ride on top of it.

Those are the kinds of things that happen when humans take an ancient guideline and turn it into rules to govern the activities we engage in today. In other words, it's what happens when we believe that man was made for the Sabbath. In the process, we forget that the whole idea was to remind us to rest at least one day a week.

But let's be honest. None of that addresses what Senator Hyde-Smith wants to promote with her twisting of scripture. She had to dig deep to find a justification in the Bible for suppressing the votes of African Americans. If not the Sabbath, she would have found something else. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Ron Johnson's Plan Has Always Been to "Re-educate America" by Promoting Conspiracy Theories

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) has come under fire recently for saying that the insurrectionist mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6th didn't scare him, but he would have been scared if the rioters were Black Lives Matter or antifa protesters. Of course, that is a blatantly racist statement.

That incident led Trip Gabriel and Reid Epstein to review Johnson's past, demonstrating that the senator has a long history of "assaulting the truth." In their exposé, they noted many instances of Johnson engaging in disinformation. But they left out a few. So here's a definitive list of the conspiracy theories promoted by Johnson - starting from the most recent and going back to his first campaign in 2010.

  • Claimed the January 6th rioters  were “agent provocateurs” and “fake Trump protesters”
  • Held a hearing elevating Trump's 2020 claims of election fraud
  • Promoted hydroxychloroquine and refuses to say that the vaccines are safe
  • Spent months as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee seeking evidence that Biden had tried to pressure Ukrainian officials to aid his son Hunter, which an Intelligence Community report released on Monday said was misinformation that was spread by Russia 
  • Turned a joke Lisa Page texted to Peter Strzok into an accusation that FBI agents were having secret off-site meetings to plot the destruction of Trump's presidency
  • Issued a report, wrote an op-ed, and held a hearing to make the unconscionable claim that Medicaid is responsible for fueling the opioid epidemic
  • During a hearing on the Iran nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama administration, lectured MIT physicist Ernest Moniz on electro-magnetic pulse weapons
  • Said that ISIS militants infecting themselves with Ebola and then coming to the U.S. posed a "real and present danger"
  • During a radio interview, said "I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change...It’s far more likely that it’s just sunspot activity or just something in the geologic eons of time"
  • In that same interview, said "There’s a reason Greenland was called Greenland. It was actually green at one point in time”
  • Wrote an op-ed suggesting that his adult daughter, who was born with a heart defect, would have died had the Affordable Care Act been in place at the time
In summary, it's clear that long before Trump was elected president, Senator Johnson never met a right-wing conspiracy theory that he failed to embrace. 

Johnson first ran for his senate seat in 2010 as a businessman who was new to politics. At the time, he was CEO of a plastics company started by his wife's family, funneling $9 million of his own money into a tea party-inspired campaign. But at the time, Jim VandeHei captured the essence of Johnson's political philosophy in reporting that the candidate was aiming to be a "messenger" rather than a "legislator."
If Johnson and others like him win, they seem less interested in plunging into specific legislation and more inclined to wage a philosophical messaging war to change the GOP and the nature of governance. Asked what innovative ideas he might push in office, Johnson didn't talk of tax reform or private Social Security accounts, or of anything a conventional senator might do. Instead, he committed himself to a "re-education of America."

In that way, Johnson was a bit ahead of his time in a party that is now more invested in "owning the libs" than actually governing. 

To “own the libs” does not require victory so much as a commitment to infuriating, flummoxing or otherwise distressing liberals with one’s awesomely uncompromising conservatism. And its pop-cultural roots and clipped snarkiness are perfectly aligned with a party that sees pouring fuel on the culture wars’ fire as its best shot at surviving an era of Democratic control.

As is often the case, GOP claims that "libs" plan to set up "re-education camps" to deprogram Republican Trump supporters is simply another case of projection. Senator Johnson was clear from the get-go that his plan was to "re-educate America" by promoting conspiracy theories. Whether or not he actually believes the nonsense he spouts is open for speculation.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Mainstream Media Once Again Buys Into Republican Fear-Mongering

The wonks at Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog have looked at the numbers and come to the same conclusion I did about what is happening on our southern border: it is not a "crisis" created by the Biden administration's policies. While it's true that there is currently a surge of migrants being apprehended, they found two reasons to explain the situation.

First of all, they note the seasonal nature of migration.

[T]he CBP’s numbers reveal that undocumented immigration is seasonal, shifting upward this time of year. During fiscal year 2019, under the Trump administration, total apprehensions increased 31 percent during the same period, a bigger jump than we’re seeing now...migrants start coming when winter ends and the weather gets a bit warmer...[they] stop coming in the hotter summer months when the desert is deadly. That means we should expect decreases from May to June and June to July.

To demonstrate this seasonal pattern, here is a graph of border apprehensions per month dating back to 2000 from Reuters. 

As you can see, regardless of the level of migration, there are seasonal peaks almost every year. One of the exceptions happened in 2020. 
2020 was the pandemic, when movement dropped dramatically. Countries around the world closed their borders. Here in the United States, the Trump administration invoked Title 42, a provision from the 1944 Public Health Act, to summarily expel migrants attempting to enter the United States without proper documentation.

That led to the second reason we're seeing increased numbers in 2021.

[I]n fiscal year 2021, it appears that migrants are continuing to enter the United States in the same numbers as in fiscal year 2019 — plus the pent-up demand from people who would have come in fiscal year 2020, but for the pandemic...This suggests that Title 42 expulsions delayed prospective migrants rather than deterred them — and they’re arriving now.

That would be consistent with nearly three decades of research in political science...Scholars consistently find that border security policies do not necessarily deter migration; rather, they delay migrants’ decisions to travel, and change the routes they take.

Here's their conclusion:

So have Biden administration policies caused a crisis at the southern border? Evidence suggests not. The Trump administration oversaw a record in apprehensions in fiscal year 2019, before the pandemic shut the border. This year looks like the usual seasonal increase plus migrants who would have come last year, but could not.

Nevertheless, it is not just Republicans who are stirring up a panic about what's happening. Both television networks and cable news gave the "crisis" saturation coverage on Sunday and Monday. Here's Chuck Todd's entry on Meet the Press. 

Todd starts off by suggesting that it's fair to call the "deteriorating situation" on our southern border a "crisis." He then launches into a couple of renditions of bothersiderism before bizarrely referring to an intelligence report about domestic terror groups (read: white nationalists). That is nothing short of abominable reporting. 

As all of this unfolds, I have been reminded of the panic the media induced in 2014 about Ebola in the run-up to the 2014 midterms. They are proving once again that they are still suckers for Republican fear-mongering. Of course, the situation is even worse on Fox News and other right wing media outlets. But too many mainstream outlets are complicit as well.

Monday, March 22, 2021

It's Not Refugees Who Created a Crisis on Our Southern Border, but a Broken Asylum System

According to some people in the media, the problem with what is currently happening on our southern border boils down to whether or not the Biden administration refers to it as a "crisis."  That is an abject failure of reporting and only feeds the ignorance too many of us have about an issue that is extremely complex. I do, however, tend to agree with Rep. Julián Castro.

One of the reasons Republicans have been successful in convincing the media to cover this as a "crisis" is that we've all bought into the idea that immigration is a problem to be solved. That is despite the fact that, as Pedro Gerson notes, "by now we have plenty of evidence that, at least in the U.S., migration is an economic and social boon: Immigrants contribute greatly to many high-value industries and have no negative impacts on labor markets (in fact it’s probably the opposite) or crime rates. I encourage you to click through those links. They report data that has escaped most of the current reporting on the subject. 

The other problem with reporting on this situation—especially among right wing media and commentators—is that the distinction is rarely made between "illegal" immigrants and asylum seekers. The latter are not breaking any laws, but are merely seeking to enter the U.S. as refugees. As one woman living in a tent city in Tijuana told Jack Herrera, "We are waiting patiently; we want to cross the right way and obey all orders." 

The reason why the Biden administration insists that they are doing their best to clean up the mess Trump left is that the previous administration basically shut down the legal process for seeking asylum in this country. In addition, Biden's predecessor implemented a "Remain in Mexico" policy that required all asylum seekers to wait in that country while their claims were adjudicated. Then in March, when the pandemic hit, Trump expelled every asylum seeker to Mexico. As a result, thousands of migrants have been trying to survive in refugee camps on the other side of the border. In terms of changes the Biden administration has made, they ended the "Remain in Mexico" policy, but have continued to expel single adult and family migrants, while accepting unaccompanied children. 

As a result, Herrera reports that families living in the refugee camps in Mexico are facing the excruciating decision of whether to send their children to the border unaccompanied. 

Soraya Vasquez, subdirector of Al Otro Lado, the largest legal aid organization in Tijuana, says that from what she’s seen in the shelters and across the city, the number of children recently arriving to Northern Mexico by themselves has not spiked significantly. As for the increase in minors crossing the border into the U.S., “I don’t think it’s kids arriving by themselves” she says. “Kids are arriving with their families, and then they’re crossing by themselves.”

The process of what to do with families of asylum seekers was heightened with the surge of migrants from the Northern Triangle in 2014. Due to U.S. law, children can't be detained in jail-like facilities, but must be remitted to the custody of DHS, which places children in the care of a family member in the U.S., a foster home or an Office of Refugee Resettlement shelter while they waited for their cases to be adjudicated. That is the loophole the Trump administration exploited to separate children from their families. Parents were criminally prosecuted and remained in jail awaiting the courts, while children were turned over to DHS. 

When the Obama administration faced this issue back in 2014, they basically "paroled" the families and had them return for their court dates. That is what Trump and Republicans derisively referred to as "catch and release." But the Obama administration did something else. They began a pilot program called "Family Case Management." 

Under the program, families who passed a credible fear interview and were determined to be good candidates for a less-secure form of release...were given a caseworker who helped educate them on their rights and responsibilities. The caseworker also helped families settle in, assisting with things like accessing medical care and attorneys, while also making sure their charges made it to court.

From January 2016 until the Trump administration shut it down in April 2017, the program served more than 630 families at a cost of approximately $36 per day per family. Ninety-nine percent (99%) of the program’s participants successfully attended their court appearances and ICE check-ins. That's what is possible when we treat these families as asylum-seekers rather than criminals who create a "crisis."

Of course, the situation the Biden administration faces is more complex due to the coronavirus pandemic. But it is possible to imagine an asylum system that treats families humanely and doesn't simply pile on more trauma than they've already experienced. The Family Case Management program is a perfect example of how we can do that. But it all starts with recognizing that it is not the refugees who pose the problem. It is our system of dealing with them.  

Friday, March 19, 2021

We Must Hold Republicans Accountable for Ignoring the Will of the People

A recent poll from Morning Consult reaffirmed what we've known for quite a while now: over 80 percent of Americans support requiring all gun purchasers to go through a background check. The bipartisan nature of that support is demonstrated by the fact that 77 percent of Republicans support universal background checks. 

Nevertheless, when the House voted last week on legislation to do just that,  Republicans almost universally voted against the measure. Due to the Democratic majority, the bill passed 227-203. But Republican obstruction will probably be strong enough in the Senate that it will fail to overcome a filibuster. 

Similarly, more than 70 percent of Americans support the Dream Act, which would grant citizenship to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. But when the House voted on such a measure this week, the vote broke down primarily on party lines, with the vast majority of Republicans in opposition. Here's what Nicholas Fandos wrote about the bill's prospects in the Senate.

While some Republicans there have pledged support for Dreamers in the past, their party is increasingly uniting behind a hard-line strategy to deny the president the votes he needs to make any new immigration law and use the worsening situation at the border as a political cudgel.

“There is no pathway for anything right now,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a key player in past bipartisan immigration pushes, said this week.
Of course, we saw the same scenario play out with the coronavirus relief bill that was recently passed. While it garnered major support from voters, Republicans opposed it unanimously. 

In the midst of all of this, it is infuriating to watch the conversation be dominated almost entirely by what Democrats plan to do about the filibuster. The only relief from that discussion comes when pundits suggest that Biden and the Democrats are destined to fail in passing their agenda. Almost no one is putting pressure on Republicans, who are consistently voting against the bipartisan will of the people. 

On Wednesday, newly-elected Senator Raphael Warnock gave his first speech on the Senate floor in support of voting rights. Steve Bennen told Rachel Maddow that it was the best he had ever heard. If you have twenty minutes, take a listen

In addressing the fact that Republicans will use the filibuster to block legislation to secure voting rights, Warnock said that, "It is a contradiction to say we must protect minority rights in the Senate while refusing to protect minority rights in our society.” Boom!

Later that day Warnock sat down for an interview with Rachael Maddow. At the 0:43 mark, he responded to a question about how Democrats can move forward on voting rights, given Republican intransigence.

Voting rights is bigger than the filibuster, and whether we get rid of the filibuster or not, we have to pass voting rights. We have to give the people their own voice in their own democracy. So we will see what path that takes. 
It's interesting...folks ask me, "should you get rid of the filibuster or not?" It seems to me that the onus really is on those in the chamber who have not yet decided to support voting rights, because they could vote it up. They could vote for it—because what is at stake is the viability and the health and the credibility of our democracy.

Warnock is exactly right. It is beyond time for people in the media to start asking Republicans why they are opposed to voting rights. What is at stake is the viability of our democracy. That is primarily true when it comes to voter suppression. But it is also true when voters no longer have a voice in congress because Republicans pay no price for ignoring the will of the people on issue after issue.

Whether we're talking about gun safety reform, immigration, economic stimulus, or voting rights...the people are much more united than their representatives in Washington. Until Republicans are held accountable for ignoring their wishes, that will continue.   

Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Tie That Binds Xenophobia and Misogyny: Replacement Theory

Given the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on our economy, it has been all but forgotten that perhaps the biggest challenge we faced prior to 2020 was a shortage of workers. Back in late 2019,  Alexia Fernández Campbell explained what was happening.

The US economy doesn’t have enough workers.

For a record 16 straight months, the number of open jobs has been higher than the number of people looking for work. The US economy had 7.4 million job openings in June, but only 6 million people were looking for work, according to data released by the US Department of Labor.

This is not normal. Ever since Labor began tracking job turnover two decades ago, there have always been more people looking for work than jobs available. That changed for the first time in January 2018...

Nearly every industry now has a labor shortage, but here’s the twist: Employers are having a harder time filling blue-collar positions than professional positions that require a college education.

The hardest-to-find workers are no longer computer engineers. They are home health care aides, restaurant workers, and hotel staff. The shift is happening because more and more Americans are going to college and taking professional jobs, while working-class baby boomers are retiring en masse.

At the time, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan noticed the problem and proposed what might charitably be called "an interesting solution." 

Noting the impact the labor shortage would have on programs like Social Security and Medicare as Baby Boomers retired, Ryan basically told women to fire up their uteruses and have more babies or he'd be forced to take it out on granny. Of course, Ryan ignored the fact that policy proposals like reforms to our immigration and criminal justice systems could help address the labor shortage.

Even after the coronavirus hit, Tucker Carlson was expressing a similar concern. While not tied directly to the economy, he engaged a wild conspiracy theory about how Western civilization is threatened by falling sperm counts. 

One of the reasons I bring this all up is because on Wednesday, Carlson did a complete about-face.

Now...all of the sudden...when we're talking about brown people, this country is too crowded. That segment is, of course, based on an outright lie. The great influx of immigrants amounts to unaccompanied child migrants who are being allowed to stay with sponsors while they await court hearings on their asylum claims. 

The reason we should all be concerned about this kind of rhetoric is that it begins to build a case for "replacement theory," which is a dangerous melding of xenophobia and misogyny. 

An extension of colonialist theory, [replacement theory] is predicated on the notion that white women are not having enough children and that falling birthrates will lead to white people around the world being replaced by nonwhite people.

And like so many fundamentalist ideologies, the foundation of this one requires the subjugation of women.

As an example, Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán launched a "procreation, not immigration" policy, which opposes immigration and instead subsidizes traditional, nuclear Hungarian families to have more children. 

Here in the United States, one of the people who has embraced replacement theory is Kathleen Eaton Bravo, the founder and CEO of Obria, a network of anti-abortion clinics in California, Oregon, Washington, Iowa, Texas, and Georgia. Here's what she said during a 2015 interview with the Catholic World Report:

Few realize that [abortion] has had a devastating impact on our society, and threatens our culture’s survival. Take the example of Europe. When its nations accepted contraception and abortion, they stopped replacing their population. Christianity began to die out. And, with Europeans having no children, immigrant Muslims came in to replace them, and now the culture of Europe is changing.

The US faces a similar future. In only two of the past 40 years have we replaced our population. We’re on the same track as Europe. The church and family are in crisis...In a few decades we’ll be in the same place as where Europe is today. And, economically we’ll be in crisis because we’ll have so few young people working.

In 2019, Trump’s HHS awarded $5.1 million in Title X family-planning funds to Obria. In addition, several White House officials and Republican members of congress attended a conference that year put on by the Hungarian embassy titled, "Make Families Great Again." The event focused on Hungary’s policy response to the decline of its birth rate below replacement level and promoted Orbán’s “Family Protection Action Plan.” Speakers exhorted women to have more babies.

All of this is, of course, tied to the Great Replacement conspiracy theory that inspired white supremacists to chant "we will not be replaced" during their march in Charlottesville and was part of the manifestos written by the mass murderers in El Paso and New Zealand. 

It is important for all of us to recognize the connection between white supremacy and misogyny that binds these hateful ideologies and the danger they pose to our culture. The attack on Asian women in Atlanta this week only underscores that point. Whether we're immigrants, people of color, and/or women...we're all in this together.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

What No One Is Telling You About the So-Called 'Surge' of Immigrants

Republicans, who are struggling to come up with a way to demonize Biden, assume that they've landed on a gold mine in suggesting that the President's immigration policies have led to a surge of undocumented migrants on our southern border. For the most part, major media outlets are playing right along. 

But as I've been suggesting for a while now, in order to understand what's happening, we need to start with the facts. So I decided to share a few of those with you. 

It is always helpful to pay attention to an organization that has specialized in accurate reporting on this topic: Pew Research. A report from John Gramlich published on Monday included this graph of monthly apprehensions on our southern border.

Apprehensions peaked in May 2019, dropped precipitously by April 2020, and have been on the rise ever since. 

One thing to keep in mind about all of this is that there is a seasonal nature to migration. Border apprehensions have typically peaked in the spring – most often in March – before declining during the hot summer months, when migration journeys become more perilous. That pattern changed in 2013, about the same time that new arrivals from the Northern Triangle—predominantly families and unaccompanied children—doubled and migrants from Mexico began to decline.

All of that is important because, according to Pew Research, those patterns are starting to reverse.

  • Mexican migrants are accounting for a greater share of apprehensions than in the recent past, while Central Americans represent a smaller proportion.
  • The number and share of single adults being apprehended at the border has also increased dramatically.
It isn't clear yet how those reversals will play out. But it is very possible that the February spike in apprehensions could also be a return to the seasonal nature of migration. Only time will tell.

Republicans would have you believe that the current state of border apprehensions is entirely a result of changes Biden has made, expecting us to completely ignore everything else that might be impacting the situation. So perhaps it would be helpful to outline what, exactly, Biden has changed. On Tuesday, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas released a statement providing the facts about what the Biden administration has done. Here are the highlights:
  • The majority of those apprehended at the southwest border are single adults who, pursuant to Title 42, are currently being expelled under the CDC’s authority to manage the public health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Families apprehended at the southwest border are also currently being expelled under the CDC’s Title 42 authority. 
  • While the Trump administration also expelled unaccompanied children, the are now being brought to a Border Patrol facility and processed for transfer to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) while they await placement with a sponsor. The children go through immigration proceedings where they are able to present a claim for relief under the law.
  • DHS and HHS terminated a 2018 agreement that basically used child migrants as bait. It required that information about the sponsor of a child migrant, and anyone living with the sponsor, be shared with ICE, which officials said created a “chilling effect” for families who did not have legal status and feared deportation.
As Gramlich documented, single adults made up 71 percent of those apprehended at the border in February, with families making up about 20 percent and unaccompanied children 10 percent. What that means is that when Republicans and the media throw around scary numbers about a surge of more than  100,000 "illegal crossings" in February, what they're not telling you is that approximately 90,000 migrants (single adults and families) were apprehended and expelled. The big change is in how the Biden administration is responding to unaccompanied child migrants—which explains why that is the group that is overwhelming the current shelter capacity. 

As both Biden and Mayorkas have made clear, all of this is still a work in progress as they attempt to rebuild a humane asylum system that had been completely dismantled by the Trump administration. Anyone who critiques what is happening now should be pressed to identify which change Biden has implemented that caused the problem and explain why it should be reversed. But, of course, they won't do that. It is much easier to simply claim that Biden is implementing an "open border" policy...which is complete nonsense.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Who Is the 'Radical Partisan Culture Warrior,' John Cornyn or Vanita Gupta?

Texas Attorney General John Cornyn awards 'Lawman of the Year' to Tom Coleman in 1999

In July 2002, Bob Herbert told the story of what had happened in Tulia, Texas.

Tulia is a hot, dusty town of 5,000 on the Texas Panhandle, about 50 miles south of Amarillo...

On the morning of July 23, 1999, law enforcement officers fanned out and arrested more than 10 percent of Tulia's tiny African-American population. Also arrested were a handful of whites who had relationships with blacks.

The humiliating roundup was intensely covered by the local media, which had been tipped off in advance. Men and women, bewildered and unkempt, were paraded before TV cameras and featured prominently on the evening news. They were drug traffickers, one and all, said the sheriff, a not particularly bright Tulia bulb named Larry Stewart.

Among the 46 so-called traffickers were a pig farmer, a forklift operator and a number of ordinary young women with children.

If these were major cocaine dealers, as alleged, they were among the oddest in the U.S. None of them had any money to speak of. And when they were arrested, they didn't have any cocaine. No drugs, money or weapons were recovered during the surprise roundup...

The entire operation was the work of a single police officer who claimed to have conducted an 18-month undercover operation. The arrests were made solely on the word of this officer, Tom Coleman, a white man with a wretched work history, who routinely referred to black people as ''niggers'' and who frequently found himself in trouble with the law...

Mr. Coleman's alleged undercover operation was ridiculous. There were no other police officers to corroborate his activities. He did not wear a wire or conduct any video surveillance. And he did not keep detailed records of his alleged drug buys. He said he sometimes wrote such important information as the names of suspects and the dates of transactions on his leg.

Nevertheless, Coleman’s testimony produced 38 wrongful convictions — almost all Black residents — by all-white or mostly white juries, and condemned the convicted to a collective 750 years in prison.

The day after the raid in 1999, the Tulia Herald cheered it with the headline, "Tulia's Streets Cleared of Garbage." But here's where this horrific story gains relevance for today. At the time, John Cornyn was serving as the Texas state attorney general. He was obviously aware of what happened in Tulia and named Tom Coleman "Lawman of the Year." 

The decision to do that might have come back to haunt a man of conscience. That's because a young lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund took on the job of appealing the Tulia convictions as her first case after graduating from law school. Here name is Vanita Gupta—the woman Biden has nominated to be associate attorney general. 

As evidence began to mount that the entire operation in Tulia was a sham, Gupta was one of a growing number of people who called on Cornyn to open an investigation into what happened. He dragged his feet until it became politically expedient to do something.

It was not until late August 2002 — more than three years after the initial arrests — that Cornyn opened an investigation into the drug sting. He did so as he faced embattled criticism for inaction on the matter, and as he was mounting a bid for an open U.S. Senate seat against Ron Kirk, the Black Democratic mayor of Dallas.

Other than running against Kirk for an open Senate seat, Cornyn was finally spurred to act because the events in Tulia were gaining national attention due to the fact that Bob Herbert, who was then an opinion columnist for the New York Times, began working with Gupta to write about them. The excerpt above came from the first one he published. After visiting Tulia himself, Herbert went on to write 5 more columns about Tulia—all published in August 2002. 

'Lawman of the Year'

Tulia's Shattered Lives

Railroaded in Texas

Justice Goes Into Hiding

A Confused Inquiry

Herbert's work was successful in finally igniting local media.

All of a sudden, the Texas media that had been asleep at the wheel for three years roared awake-while it had just one or two years before heralded the Tulia drug bust as a big Texas victory, it now covered the story as an injustice that had an entire community of color on lockdown...The story was not anymore about a large number of individual drug dealers being caught by wily law enforcement. Texas reporters swarmed the story and the politicians responsible.
By then, the irony of what was actually happening in Tulia was on full display.
In June 2000...a white teenager in Tulia told authorities that an older man had offered him cocaine in exchange for sex. The accusation became a jaw-dropper when the boy revealed the man’s name: It was Charles Sturgess, one of the owners of the Tulia Livestock Auction. Tulia is built around that cattle auction, and Sturgess was one of the biggest wheels in town. Sheriff Stewart, who went to church with the Sturgess family and bought cows from Charles, asked the local Texas Ranger to conduct the investigation. The Ranger wired the boy and sent him back out to meet with Sturgess, who made the same proposition once again as they cruised slowly through a pasture that night in his truck. The Ranger swept in and arrested Sturgess, but the most important revelation was yet to come: A search of the truck yielded three and a half ounces of powdered cocaine. In one single bust of a prominent white man—and a completely fortuitous one at that—many times more cocaine had been seized than in any single buy during Coleman’s entire eighteen-month undercover operation.

That much cocaine is more than one person can use. How many kids did Sturgess give cocaine to? Tulia will never know the answer to that question. A few months after he bailed himself out of jail, Sturgess drove his truck out to a piece of deserted ranch property and shot himself dead.

The Tulia defendants targeted by Coleman were eventually exonerated, thanks to the work of people like Vanita Gupta (you can read her account of the process here). But as I've noted previously, her nomination to be associate attorney general is coming under attack by dark money groups like the Judicial Crisis Network. When the Judiciary Committee held hearings on Gupta's nomination, the senator who had supported George Wallace's 1968 presidential bid, named Coleman 'Lawman of the Year' and, in the wake of George Floyd's murder, denied the existence of systemic racism, had the nerve to accuse Gupta of being a "radical partisan culture warrior." 

Of course, Senate hearings on presidential nominees are always a one-way street. Cornyn can cherry-pick which events to focus on, while throwing out ridiculous accusations. The nominee must be deferential and isn't allowed to make any accusations in return. I can't help but wonder what Cornyn would say if the positions were reversed and Gupta was allowed to question Cornyn about why he had named an obviously racist corrupt cop "Lawman of the Year." Did he actually review the record, or was he simply celebrating that Coleman had "cleaned up the garbage on Tulia's streets?"  

When it comes to Gupta, she's the one who defended innocent people that had been targeted for abuse by racist law enforcement. That's the kind of thing she's been doing her entire career. It's a record anyone would be proud to defend. 

Friday, March 12, 2021

What Black Voters Saw in Biden That the Rest of Us Missed

On his 50th day in office, President Biden signed the most significant piece of legislation passed in decades  and gave a speech calling for unity to combat the pandemic. As Jamelle Bouie wrote, Biden knew he was onto something long before we did.

Last year, as he steamrolled his way to victory in the Democratic presidential primaries, Joe Biden told CNN that the pandemic was “probably the biggest challenge in modern history, quite frankly.”

“I think it may not dwarf but eclipse what F.D.R faced,” he added.

Biden referred to Franklin Roosevelt again in an interview with Evan Osnos of The New Yorker. “I’m kind of in the position F.D.R was,” he said.

And a week before the election, Biden gave a speech at Roosevelt’s winter White House in Warm Springs, Ga., where he promised to “overcome a devastating virus” and “heal a suffering world.”

In other words, Biden telegraphed his F.D.R.-size ambition throughout the year. And the first major bill of his administration is in fact an F.D.R-size piece of legislation.

While the American Rescue Plan and Biden's speech were significant milestones, they come on the heels of 50 days in which most of us have been pleasantly surprised by what the president has accomplished in such a short time. Not only can we see a glimmer of light at the end of this pandemic's dark tunnel, Biden has set a new course for this country with executive orders and the quality of people he has put forward to lead the federal government. 

I'll admit that, during the 2020 primaries, Joe Biden wasn't my first choice to win the nomination. He was in the middle of the pack of candidates I thought I could live with. But so far, he has vastly exceeded my expectations. Apparently I'm not the only one.

For those of us who watched the 2020 primary closely, it's clear that Biden won the nomination based on the support of African Americans in the south—particularly South Carolina. At the time, there was a lot of chatter about why they would chose an older white man from the most diverse field of candidates in our history. Conventional wisdom was that Rep. Clyburn's endorsement was the critical factor. But I think there was a lot more to it than that. 

Just days before the South Carolina primary, Biden participated in a town hall meeting in Charleston. He fielded a question from Rev. Anthony Thompson, whose wife was one of the victims of the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. 

That is the Joe Biden that African Americans saw—whether it was at that town hall meeting or previously. The reason Biden's words that day were so important had nothing to do with the policies he would promote as president. But what we heard was someone who has faced deep sorrow in his life and was willing to be vulnerable in sharing that with others. It is the root of Joe Biden's empathy. But there's something else we heard. Biden's sense of purpose is also rooted in that sorrow—it explains why he decided to run for president. That moment (and others like it) solidified the trust African Americans felt with Biden. And while a candidate's policy proposals are important, having trust in the person we elect as president is even more important. 

Of course, what Black southerners saw in Biden is the polar opposite of what we had been living with from Donald Trump—a narcissistic sociopath—who was not only cruel, but incapable of doing anything except feed his own ego. In that way, Black voters in the south chose the one candidate who was most likely to offer healing to this country. 

When it began to be clear that Biden would be the Democratic nominee, I made peace with that possibility by recognizing that, of all the candidates, the former vice president was best prepared to start rebuilding the federal government that had been decimated by Trump. In other words, I zeroed in on his experience and competence. That has been on display as he put his team together and is the reason we've seen so may positive achievements in just 50 days. 

But it wasn't until Inauguration Day that I began to see the importance of what Biden displayed during that town hall in South Carolina. I know that hard-core Trump enablers probably can't be reached. But for the rest of us, Biden continually reminds us of what, as Americans, we are capable of being. And after four years of losing hope in those possibilities, we can find healing in that.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Republican 2024 Presidential Hopefuls Search in Vain for a "Populist" Message

To prepare for his bid to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2024, Marco Rubio is apparently trying to sell himself as the "idea man" of the GOP. In many ways, he is affirming that the traditional economic policies of his party have failed, and he's doing his best to lay out some new ones. Here's his starting point: 

[Rubio] thinks the “American carnage” that Donald Trump described is real: Corporations are unbolting and shipping factories overseas at an alarming rate; global competitors such as China are all too happy to gorge on the remains; and the federal government does little to bind up the wounds of the workforce left behind, let alone prepare them with the skills needed to get ahead... 
"So my argument is that we have to have a capitalist economy,” Rubio explains, “but it has to be a capitalist economy guided by the principle that the market exists to serve the people, not the people to serve the market.”...his approach is that “we need to use the power of incentives to drive the market to reach outcomes that are good for America.”

That is what Rubio calls "common good" conservatism. George Will says it's basically "anti-capitalist" conservatism. To my ear, it sounds an awful lot like what some people—including Joe Biden—refer to as "stakeholder capitalism."

During a speech in July, President-elect Joe Biden said that “It’s way past time to put the end to the era of shareholder capitalism. The idea [that] the only responsibility a corporation has is its shareholders—that is simply not true …They have a responsibility to their workers, their community, to their country.”

Whatever Rubio calls his approach, his policy ideas sound downright socialist.

Rubio has also called for an industrial policy to create partnerships between the state and private businesses wherever national security is involved...Rather than let a global market determine which company to support -- lest that corporation go overseas in search of lower labor costs and higher profit margins -- the senator would have the federal government prop up domestic manufacturing in critical sectors. Think steel, semiconductors components and, of particular concern during the pandemic, pharmaceuticals.

Frankly, being an "idea man" in the Republican Party right now is a challenge. Their agenda failed miserably, which is why they are once again resorting to culture wars, voter suppression, and xenophobia. As I've noted previously, the dearth of a policy agenda is why we're seeing things like Sen. Romney proposing a universal child allowance and Sen. Hawley an alternative to raising the minimum wage. Following up on Trump's supposed "populism," the GOP is trying to sell itself as "the party of steel workers and construction workers and taxi drivers and cops and firefighters and waitresses,” as Sen. Cruz suggested.

The problem Republicans face with branding themselves as the party of workers is that they remain mired in an economic agenda that has always focused on redistributing resources upward to the wealthy and pretending that the benefits will trickle down to the working class. It never seems to work out that way, though. 

In oder to capture the difference between the two major parties in this country, all we need to do is reference a chart put together by the Tax Policy Center. They compared the benefits of the 2017 Republican tax cuts to the recently passed coronavirus relief bill. 

The Republicans who are attempting to sell themselves as champions of working class Americans voted for the 2017 tax cuts and against the American Rescue Plan. Now, many of them (including Rubio and Cruz) have signed on to a bill that completely eliminates the estate tax, something that would benefit married couples who inherit over $23 million. 

It's way too early to start talking about the 2024 presidential election. But it is already clear that several potential Republican contenders are going to try to outdo each other with a so-called "populist" message touting their support for working class Americans. But they can't support anything Democrats try to do, which doesn't leave them much to work with. So if you're Marco Rubio, you wind up promoting partnerships between the federal government and private businesses to challenge China's dominance of critical manufacturing sectors...whatever that means. 

Regardless of what these Republican presidential hopefuls propose, if you pull back the curtain and actually look at what they do, you'll find them more concerned about how much wealthy people pay in inheritance taxes than they do with ensuring that every working American is paid a livable wage. In other words, it still looks like the same old Republican Party. 

Senator Collins' Game Has Been Exposed

Nothing captures the politics of Sen. Susan Collins better than the cartoon about Lucy pulling the football as Charlie Brown goes to kick it.  She likes to tout herself as a "moderate" in search of bipartisanship. But after furrowing her brow in concern, she invariably votes the way Republican Minority Leader McConnell wants. 

So it comes as no surprise that a publication like Politico is warning about the danger Democrats risk in refusing to be sucked into her games.

For weeks Collins has questioned Schumer’s handling of coronavirus relief negotiations, and on Tuesday night Schumer fired back to blame Collins’ fiscal conservatism for exacerbating the last financial crisis. The New York Democrat said in a nationally televised interview that his party’s courtship of three GOP votes for its Obama-era stimulus bill shrunk the legislation too much: “We made a big mistake in 2009 and ’10. Susan Collins was part of that mistake.”

Collins was not pleased to be singled out in such a manner. In an interview, she called Schumer’s comments an “extraordinary” backhanding of his most natural ally across the aisle. And she said there’s been zero contact with the Democratic leader since the election: “He has not spoken to me, no.”

“Why Chuck seems to be going out of his way to alienate the most bipartisan member of the Senate is a mystery to me,” Collins said.

In other words, Collins wants us to believe that this time, she wanted to hold the football up for Charlie Brown to kick. Calling her out on that fabrication is "extraordinary backhanding." But before the Senate passed the coronavirus relief package, Collins said something that caught my eye.  

It is the last sentence that gives away her game. In his book The New New Deal, Michael Grunwald documented the 2009 Republican plan for total obstruction. As he reported, the talking point they wanted to use was: "The only thing bipartisan was the opposition." The plan was to obstruct everything Democrats attempted to do and then blame them for failing to be bipartisan. In reviving the 2009 talking point, Collins demonstrated her alignment with the current iteration of total obstruction. 

It is safe to assume that if Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had bothered to consult with Collins, she would have attempted to nullify the impact of the legislation, and/or simply pulled the football once again and voted against it in the end. 

According to a recent poll by Pew Research, that little game doesn't seem to be working as well this time around.

While the partisan results are skewed, a total of 57 percent of Americans believe that Biden made a good faith effort to work with Republicans on the coronavirus relief bill. 

So Senator Collins can cry all of her crocodile tears about Schumer's unwillingness to play her game. But she's the one that pulled the football over and over again. In reviving the 2009 talking point, she made it clear that she's still up to her old tricks.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Two Documentaries That Help Explain What's Happening Today

I recently watched a documentary series on Netflix titled, Amend: The Fight For America. Will Smith narrates the history of the 14th Amendment, specifically Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

If you recall, that is the amendment Trump said he could get rid of with an executive order. But like so many other forms of nonsense that came out of his mouth, that was a lie.

As this series documents, the history of the United States has been a struggle to actualize the ideals set forth in the 14th Amendment. And, as we see today, that struggle continues.

It was in the midst of the episode on the 14th Amendment's impact on immigration that I first learned about the largest lynching in American history. It wasn't what I expected.

While trying to learn more about that incident, I came across a PBS documentary titled, The Chinese Exclusion Act.

I have to admit that, while I knew bits and pieces of this story, the overall look at this country's history with Chinese Americans was not only new to me, but I was astounded at how so much of what is happening today is echoed in this particular story. 

For example, I was reminded of the fact that when Christopher Columbus stumbled onto these shores, he was in search of a trade route across the ocean to Asia—particularly China. While Nixon has been heralded for opening up our relationship to China after the communist revolution, not many of us know the role that Abraham Lincoln played in securing trade with China following the Opium Wars. In other words, trade with China has been a central focus of this country from the beginning

But it was in the demonization of the Chinese that so much of what we're hearing today had its origins. The lynchings discussed in the video above were part of a terror campaign waged against the Chinese in the West that resembles what happened to African Americans in the Jim Crow south. 

The racist rhetoric we're hearing from right wingers these days about immigrants has its roots in these events from our past. That is important to know as conservatives launch an all-out demonization of China, which has led to a significant rise of hate crimes against Asian-Americans over the last year. 

You'll need a Netflix subscription to watch Amend: The Fight For America, but The Chinese Exclusion Act is available on PBS's web site. I highly recommend these documentaries to everyone. I guarantee that watching them will not only make you smarter, they'll put what is happening today into historical context—which is always a good thing. 

Sure, Trump is unfit for office. But his agenda would also be a monumental disaster!

For just a moment, I'd like to back off the fact that Donald Trump is unfit for office, is a serial liar, has been found guilty of rape/...