Saturday, August 20, 2022

DeSantis Is "All Hat, No Cattle"

Ron DeSantis has garnered a few headlines lately. Just in case you had any doubts as to whether the Florida governor was part of the radical right, he's traveling with Turning Point Action to stump on behalf of candidates like Ohio Republican candidate for Senate JD Vance, Pennsylvania's GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, Arizona Republican candidate for Senate Blake Masters and GOP nominee for governor Kari Lake. Other than Hershel Walker and Dr. Oz, that amounts to a "hall of shame" when it comes to Republican nut jobs that are running in the 2022 midterms.

The question of the day has become whether DeSantis is maneuvering to be the heir apparent to the MAGA crowd and challenge Trump for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. Conservatives as disparate as Andrew Sullivan and Alex Jones are abandoning the former guy to become the standard-bearers for this country's next round of Republican authoritarianism. 

In this contest of Trump vs. DeSantis, the assumption has been that the latter is the more intelligent and competent choice - even if he is lacking in the personality department. The Florida governor is branding himself as the culture warrior who is capable of winning the fight against his domestic enemies. But does his record bear that out?

Other than denying science during a global pandemic, DeSantis is best known for punishing DisneyWorld by convincing Florida's Republican-controlled state legislature to overturn the Reedy Creek special district status the theme park has maintained since it's founding in the 70's. But the revocation of that status was delayed until next summer. In the meantime, Disney made sure the governor and his pals knew that the district has about $1 billion of municipal bonds outstanding. That debt would fall on Florida taxpayers if the special district was eliminated. So here's what is happening:

Florida’s head of bond finance said lawmakers will likely re-establish the embattled Walt Disney Co.’s special district after the state passed a law that would dissolve the governing body next year. 

Ben Watkins, director of the state’s division of bond finance, said legislators are likely to create a successor district, one that will assume many of the powers that Reedy Creek Improvement District, the agency that allows Disney to preform certain municipal functions at its resort properties...

“I’m confident that Reedy Creek will get addressed in a more meaningful way,” he said Thursday. Lawmakers will likely restore a limited version of the special district in the next legislative session, Watkins said. He added that Governor Ron DeSantis’s office has been “supportive” of the successor district approach.

So the whole "special district status" will be restored next year AFTER DeSantis runs for re-election. The only remaining question is whether the governor rushed into all of this in ignorance or if he planned the whole thing as a show that he knew would never actually amount to anything. 

But that isn't the only nothingburger in DeSantis's bag o' tricks. Back in February, he was successful in getting the Florida legislature to pass the "Stop WOKE Act," which bars public schools and businesses from making people feel “guilt” or “discomfort” about their race during lessons and trainings about discrimination. This week, a federal judge halted implementation of the part of the act that applies to businesses. But it was the way U.S. District Judge Mark Walker introduced his ruling that was the real story.
In the popular television series Stranger Things, the “upside down” describes a parallel dimension containing a distorted version of our world. Recently, Florida has seemed like a First Amendment upside down. Normally, the First Amendment bars the state from burdening speech, while private actors may burden speech freely. But in Florida, the First Amendment apparently bars private actors from burdening speech, while the state may burden speech freely. 
“Now, like the heroine in Stranger Things, this Court is once again asked to pull Florida back from the upside down,” Walker wrote.

It's also worth noting that DeSantis's abortion ban met the same fate. Texans have a saying that applies to men with records like that: "All hat and no cattle."

It remains to be seen whether or not DeSantis will be able to tear the MAGA crowd away from their cult leader. He doesn't seem to have the kind of personality that inflames their passions. But let there be no doubt about his intentions. Here's a taste from one of his fundraising emails.

Our country is currently facing a great threat. A new enemy has emerged from the shadows that seeks to destroy and intimidate their way to a transformed state, and country, that you and I would hardly recognize.

This enemy is the radical vigilante woke mob that will steamroll anything and anyone in their way. Their blatant attacks on the American way of life are clear and intensifying: stifling dissent, public shaming, rampant violence, and a perverted version of history...

I am choosing to counter this enemy with faith, with reason, and with freedom. As Governor of the Free State of Florida, I have chosen to lead with a vision that builds America up rather than tears it down.

Of course, it is people like DeSantis who are stifling dissent while peddling lies based on a perverted version of history. But projection has become the name of the game for Republicans these days. 

If you want to know where DeSantis stands, there you have it. He's fanning the flames of fear and hate in order to create chaos and gain power. Being competent has never been the point.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

The Coming Tyranny of Six Supreme Court Justices

Our democracy is hanging on by a thread and nothing captures that better than the fact that the party that lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections now has a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court.

More than anyone else, the two people most responsible for that reality are Mitch McConnell and Leonard Leo. I've written about the latter in the past, including how he used dark money to capture the majority on the Court. Going all the way back to the nomination of Clarence Thomas, Leo (former head of the Federalist Society) has selected and shepherded every one of the six extremist judges through the process of confirmation. During that time, the only Republican nominee Leo didn't select and support was Harriet Miers, and perhaps you remember what happened to her. Instead we got Alito.

But Leo couldn't have done it alone. During his last tenure as Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell adopted what he called his "judiciary project." It wasn't just his outlandish strategy of blocking an Obama nominee - handing an open seat to Trump. What we've seen from McConnell is a complete neutering of Congress. When Republicans were in the majority, their leader wasn't interested in passing any legislation other than tax cuts for his wealthy donors. And when in the minority, he used the filibuster to stop Democrats from accomplishing anything. 

Ultimately, minorities and majorities are meaningless to McConnell if he can stack the courts with extremist judges and use them to bypass both congress and the president. That is precisely why he had that little smirk on his face when responding to a question in 2019 about whether he would demonstrate his hypocrisy by confirming a Trump nominee in 2020.

After that smirk, McConnell laid out his plan for undermining democracy. He explained that, when it comes to congress and the president, nothing is permanent. But "what can't be undone is a lifetime appointment of a young man or woman" to the court. That is why he has repeatedly referred to the blocking of Obama's nominee as his "most consequential political accomplishment."

With congress effectively neutered via the Senate filibuster, the remaining task has been to effectively neuter the executive branch as well. Back in 2013, the court ruled that the Justice Department could no longer enforce the Voting Rights Act by demanding "pre-clearance" for changes to voting laws in former Confederate states. Then it took another step in that direction with their more recent ruling in West Virginia vs EPA. The conservative majority said that the EPA lacked the authority to enforce the Obama administration’s 2015 Clean Power Plan. I expect we'll see more of those kinds of rulings from this court in the coming years.

With the legislative and executive branches of government basically neutered, that will leave the extremist majority on the Supreme Court as the one branch that maintains power - with lifetime appointments. As such, they will decide what laws states can/can't pass (ie, abortion, guns, elections) or simply decide issues for themselves.

It is important for all of us to recognize that these actions are designed to undermine the separation of powers that was built into our Constitution. The threat is very real and underway as we speak.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Our Democracy Is Under Siege. What Can We Do?

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court overruling Roe vs. Wade, it is important for all of us to acknowledge our anger, frustration, and fear. But then we have to engage our brains and come up with a plan that gives meaning to all of the calls to "fight back." The first step is to accurately diagnose the problem, which Sherrilynn Ifill did so expertly on Twitter.

That's the big picture: the rules that govern each branch of government have been weaponized to herd us toward minority rule.  Zachary Roth made the same point in his book, "The Great Suppression."

Beginning in the 1970’s, Richard Nixon referred to the “silent majority.” Through the Reagan years we heard a lot about the “permanent Republican majority.” As Roth says, “Today’s conservatives have no such confidence that the people are on their side. In fact, they are beginning to perceive that they’re in the minority – perhaps more glaringly than ever before. And yet this realization has brought with it another more hopeful one: being outnumbered doesn’t have to mean losing.”

That's the tie that binds Republican efforts to suppress the vote, gerrymander congressional districts, require a supermajority to pass anything in the Senate, stack the courts, and engage in judicial activism. The goal is to ensure that they can hold onto power, even in the minority - which is antithetical to democracy. 

Rick Tetree made a similar point on Twitter.

So the task before us is daunting. It is to reset the rules of government so that they serve democracy. As Ifill points out, that begins with power. 

Gaining and wielding power is something liberals have typically had trouble talking about. That is because, in our culture, it is assumed that power is achieved via dominance. But as I've been talking about for years now, we need to recognize the power of partnership. 

Back in 2007 Marshall Ganz - who teaches community organizing at Harvard - wrote an article titled: Organizing for Democratic Renewal. He began with this quote from Sidney Verba.
Democracy is based on the promise that equality of voice can balance inequality of resources.
Ganz went on to review some of the observations of Alexis de Tocqueville about American democracy. He summarized those observations as follows:
In other words, he saw that we had learned that choices a few people make about how to use their money could be balanced by choices many people make about how to use their time.

But only by joining with others could we come to appreciate the extent to which our fates are linked, gain an understanding of our common interests, and make claims on the political power we needed to act on those interests.

In the 70's and 80's, the direct marketing techniques adopted by advocates and politicians led to citizens being viewed as “customers” and/or “clients.” According to Ganz, that stripped us of our power and turned us into objects that are acted upon rather than the drivers of action.

A mindset that views citizens as customers or clients of government is an invitation to tyranny and the antithesis of democracy. That is what John F. Kennedy meant when he uttered his most famous words: "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." 

Barack Obama devoted his speech at the 2012 Democratic Convention to the idea of citizenship - with words that become more prescient every day.

We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk- takers, the entrepreneurs who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system, the greatest engine of growth and prosperity that the world's ever known.

But we also believe in something called citizenship — citizenship, a word at the very heart of our founding, a word at the very essence of our democracy, the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations...

We, the people — recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which asks only, what's in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.

As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It's about what can be done by us, together through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. That's what we believe.

It is important to recognize that the "necessary work of self-government" is "hard and frustrating." When it comes to things like the Supreme Court's recent ruling, there is no quick fix in a democracy. So what can citizens do? Here's just a few ideas from Ifill. 

That last  one is critical. On that score, there is a lot we can learn from those who fought before us. 

Assuming that it is the job of someone else (ie, the president, congressional leaders, Supreme Court justices, etc.) to save our democracy is part of the problem - not the solution. The essence of democracy is captured in the words "we, the people."

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Republicans Know That Democrat Cheri Beasley Could Win the NC Senate Seat

Back in January, I wrote that Democrat Cheri Beasley could be the next senator from North Carolina. That race isn't getting the kind of attention we see going to other potentially "flippable" seats, but it does usually show up when pundits name the top ten senate races to watch. 

Last month, Natalie Allison wrote that the National Republican Senatorial Committee (the one chaired by Sen. Rick Scott), had reserved $53 million in ads in top battleground states. It's interesting to note where they took their opening shots - Arizona and North Carolina. We're now learning how they plan to attack Beasley. 

Television stations in North Carolina made the unusual decision on Friday to take down an attack ad against Cheri Beasley, a Democratic Senate candidate, after complaints that the ad falsely accused Ms. Beasley of freeing a man convicted on charges of possessing lewd images of children when she served as chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

The ad, made by the Republican Senate campaign arm, highlighted the case of “a child porn offender,” and it accused Ms. Beasley of having “voted to set him free.” A female narrator spoke ominously over images of a young girl and jail bars sliding open.

Here's the fact-check:

The case that led to removal of the North Carolina ad involved a man named James Howard Terrell Jr., who was convicted in 2016 of possessing lewd images of minors on a computer thumb drive.

An appeals court ruled that a detective had conducted an illegal search of the thumb drive, in violation of Mr. Terrell’s Fourth Amendment rights, and it sent the case back down to the trial court.

In 2019, the State Supreme Court, with Ms. Beasley in the majority, upheld that ruling. As of May 2020, Mr. Terrell was still in prison, according to court records.

Sound familiar? They're telling the same lies about Beasley that they told about Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation hearings - with a touch of "Willie Horton" thrown in for good measure. Kudos to the television stations in North Carolina for refusing to air the lies. 

But it's also interesting to note that the NRSC is going after Beasley with this kind of attack right out of the gate. I doubt they'd be wasting their money if they didn't think she had a chance of flipping this seat. I previously noted that North Carolina is one of those southern states that is beginning to swing. 

In 2008, Barack Obama won North Carolina. He went on to lose to Mitt Romney by a narrow margin in 2012. Donald Trump won the state in both 2016 and 2020, just as the same voters chose a Democrat, Roy Cooper, to be their governor. Democrat Cal Cunningham lost the 2020 Senate election to Republican incumbent Thom Tillis by less than 2% after news broke that Cunningham had an extramarital affair.

According to the 2020 census, North Carolina is the fourth fastest growing state in the country, behind only Texas, Arizona, and Florida. While more than half of the state's (mostly rural) counties lost population, 78% of the growth occurred in the two largest metro areas (Raleigh and Wilmington). Virtually all of that growth was in the adult (voting age) population.

Pundits usually dismiss Beasley's chances by simply noting that North Carolina went for Trump in both 2016 and 2020. But take a look at the recent history of presidential races in the state:

2000 - Bush won by 12.8%

2004 - Bush won by 12.4%

2008 - Obama won by 0.3%

2012 - Romney won by 2.04%

2016 - Trump won by 3.7%

2020 - Trump won by 1.3%

By comparison, Trump won Ohio (where the senate race is between J.D. Vance and Tim Ryan) by about 8 points in both 2016 and 2020.

So a state where the Republican advantage was previously in double digits is now down to a 1-2 point margin. That makes the North Carolina senate race competitive, and Republicans know it - which is why they're wallowing in the gutter with their lies about Beasley.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Barr Got Exactly What He Wanted From Durham

Back in February, I wrote that John Durham - who was appointed by William Barr to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe - wasn't conducting a legal investigation, but had mounted a propaganda campaign. 

[Durham] is in the business of mounting a propaganda campaign in an attempt to not only discredit the Mueller investigation, but to shift the focus from Trump and Putin to a nefarious conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton.

This week a jury acquitted the one person Durham has charged - Michael Sussmann - in a case that no legal experts thought should have been brought in the first place. If his goal was to uncover criminal activity, the three-year investigation has been a complete and abject failure. So perhaps it would be helpful to go back to the beginning when Barr issued the memo making Durham a special prosecutor. Here's how Charlie Savage summarized it:

Mr. Barr’s memo was broadly written and vague. It did not identify any suspected crime that could serve as a predicate for a continuing criminal investigation, or any particular person whom Mr. Durham was to focus on. Nor did it claim a foreign threat that would constitute any separate counterintelligence basis for an inquiry, as with the Trump-Russia investigation.

Mr. Barr also directed Mr. Durham to write a report detailing his findings that would be intended for public consumption...The special counsel regulations do not envision such a report.

Just before he resigned as attorney general, Barr indicated that the investigation he had tagged as "criminal," shouldn't be judged based on crimes that were uncovered. Here is how Kimberly Stassel summarized what he told her:

The attorney general also hopes people remember that orange jumpsuits aren’t the only measure of misconduct. It frustrates him that the political class these days frequently plays “the criminal card,” obsessively focused on “who is going to jail, who is getting indicted.”…One danger of the focus on criminal charges is that it ends up excusing a vast range of contemptible or abusive behavior that doesn’t reach the bar.

Now that Durham's case against Sussmann has been tossed out by a jury, Barr insists that he's proud of the work the special prosecutor is doing. 

Barr says that Durham accomplished something far more important than a conviction in that "he crystalized the central role played by the Hillary campaign in launching, as a dirty trick, the whole Russiagate collusion narrative." Just as he blatantly lied about the Mueller report, Barr is now lying about what Durham has actually uncovered. 

Similarly, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal proclaimed in a headline that "Hillary Clinton Did It." The opening statement mirrors Barr's lie: "The Russia-Trump collusion narrative of 2016 and beyond was a dirty trick for the ages, and now we know it came from the top—candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton." At The Federalist, Margot Cleveland wrote that Durham has provided "proof that the Clinton campaign held near-total responsibility for launching the Russia-collusion hoax."

So Barr - and by extension, Donald Trump - have already gotten exactly what they were looking for from Durham. 

One thing I can say for Barr is that he definitely knows how to play the media. By lying about the Mueller report and Durham's investigation, he has convinced the MAGA crowd that the whole Trump-Russia investigation was a hoax perpetrated by the Clinton campaign. And now writers like Charlie Savage at the New York Times can "both sides" the whole story about how a presidential campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election and then obstructed justice when their activities were investigated..

Some liberal commentators once seemed to routinely suggest that developments in Mr. Mueller’s investigation meant the walls were closing in on Mr. Trump. But while Mr. Mueller’s March 2019 reportdetailed “numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign,” he charged no Trump associate with conspiring with Russia.

Similarly, pro-Trump commentators have repeatedly stoked expectations that Mr. Durham would soon charge some of Mr. Trump’s perceived enemies with a conspiracy to do him wrong. But after more than three years, he has offered only insinuations.

In case you need a little grounding in the truth after all of that lying and prevaricating, I'll simply offer this: 

Monday, May 30, 2022

"My Hope Has Had Its Ass Kicked"

The stakes couldn't be any higher.

  • The former Republican president attempted a coup to overturn the last election and continues to claim that it was rigged.
  • Followers of that president stormed the Capitol in an attempt to violently disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.
  • The racist great replacement theory has become a GOP talking point.
  • Conservatives are openly patterning themselves after the fascism implemented by Viktor Orban in Hungary.
  • Republican-appointed  Supreme Court justices are about to overturn Roe v. Wade.
  • Twenty-six red states are certain or likely to institute abortion bans once Roe is overturned.
  • Republicans are openly talking about overturning Supreme Court rulings on access to contraception and marriage equality.
  • Red states continue to pass laws to suppress the vote, while Republicans in Congress refuse to fix the Voting Rights Act.
  • Even as guns have become the number one cause of death for children, Republicans continue to reject any kind of common sense gun safety reform. 
  • Republicans have no plan to address climate change, with many of them calling the science a hoax.
That is what the Republican Party stands for as we head into the midterm elections this November. Frankly, I am shocked that the projected outcome is even close. Regardless of what you think about Democratic proposals, at least they're not in the business of trying to destroy our democracy.

I've read (and written) articles that attempt to explain what is happening. But to be honest, I don't think that any of us have really grappled with what is going on with voters these days. No matter how radical the Republican Party gets, their supporters don't just remain loyal, but seem to be salivating for even more extremism. 

I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about the idea of collective insanity. Back in 2017, renowned psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton told Bill Moyers that Donald Trump was spreading a kind of "malignant normality."
What we put forward as self-evident and normal may be deeply dangerous and destructive...For example, Donald Trump lies repeatedly. We may come to see a president as liar as normal. He also makes bombastic statements about nuclear weapons, for instance, which can then be seen as somehow normal. In other words, his behavior as president, with all those who defend his behavior in the administration, becomes a norm. We have to contest it, because it is malignant normality.

That interview took place years before the bulleted events above. Do you want to see how much worse malignancy normality has become? Here's a sitting member of Congress who is all but guaranteed to win re-election in November. 

Or how about the guy who has been endorsed for the Georgia Senate seat by both the establishment and insurgent wings of the Republican Party?

That's what passes for "normal" in Republican politics these days. And yet, according to the generic ballot polling aggregate at FiveThirtyEight, Republicans lead Democrats by almost two points. 

Something is seriously wrong with our country right now. Unlike malignant cancer, this disease doesn't seem to be spreading, which is what counts for good news. But it has a grip on a large portion of the electorate and is burrowing deeper as it gets even more deadly. Forgive me if I sound cynical, but as Cory Booker said recently, "My hope has had its ass kicked." 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

How the Radical Right's Embrace of the Great Replacement Theory Is Tied to Overturning Roe v. Wade

There is a lot of important news coming at us pretty fast these days. But David Roberts nailed it!

The CPAC conference in Hungary comes on the heels of the two biggest stories of the last month: (1) the leak of Alito's draft demonstrating that the Supreme Court is about to overturn Roe v. Wade, and (2) the shooting in Buffalo, NY by an adherent of the great replacement theory. Speaking from Hungary, Matt Schlapp (head of CPAC) tied the two stories together.

The GOP has come up with a solution for the “great replacement” it fears is threatening to replace traditional white Republican voters with immigrants: an abortion ban...

“Roe v. Wade is being adjudicated at the Supreme Court right now, for people that believe that we somehow need to replace populations or bring in new workers, I think it is an appropriate first step to give the…enshrinement in law the right to life for our own unborn children,” [Schlapp] said...

“If you say there is a population problem in a country, but you’re killing millions of your own people through legalized abortion every year, if that were to be reduced, some of that problem is solved,” Schlapp said. 

Hungary is the European country where "the great replacement theory reigns supreme." Viktor Orban's response has been to promote "procreation not immigration." So he's been tying the two together for years now. That is the basic idea behind "The Handmaid's Tale" taking root in the 21st Century.

A lot of the stories I've seen lately tie this fascination with Orban's policies in Hungary to the fact that Tucker Carlson took his talk show on the road there last fall. Sometimes those stories acknowledge that it was one of the thought leaders of the new right - Rod Dreher - who talked Carlson into the idea. But this melding of the radical right with Orban's great replacement policies started long before that.

In March 2019, the Hungarian Embassy hosted a "Make Families Great Again" conference at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Attendees at this invitation-only even included White House special assistant Katy Talento, White House strategic communications director Mercedes Schlapp (Matt Schlapp's wife) and several members of Congress.

The Trump Administration sent representatives to the International Conference on Family Policy that was held in Budapest in September 2019. There, Trump officials lauded Hungary’s “procreation, not immigration” policies.

But the Trump administration didn't just participate in conferences. HHS provided $5.1 million Title X family-planning funds to an organization called Obria, which aims to be a pro-life alternative to Planned Parenthood.

In 2015, Obria’s founder and current chief executive explained, “When [Europe’s] 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.” She warned that America is “on the same track as Europe” and that “[i]n only two of the past 40 years have we replaced our population.”

After leaving office, former Vice President Pence got in on the action by attending the Budapest Demographic Summit last September.

Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that he is hopeful the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court created during his and President Donald Trump's administration will soon overturn abortion rights in the United States.

Pence spoke at a forum devoted to demographics and family values in Budapest, Hungary, where conservative leaders from central Europe expressed their anxieties about falling birthrates in the Western world and discussed ways to reverse the trend.

“We see a crisis that brings us here today, a crisis that strikes at the very heart of civilization itself. The erosion of the nuclear family marked by declining marriage rates, rising divorce, widespread abortion and plummeting birth rates,” Pence said.
As I've written before, this is the tie that binds the radical right's Christian nationalism, racism, and misogyny. They are making it very clear by saying it out loud and demonstrating that they're willing to destroy democracy (and, at minimum, justify violence) in their quest to implement their goals. Anyone who ignores the threat simply isn't paying attention. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Lie Embedded in Carlson's Great Replacement Theory

Following the terrorist shooting in Buffalo on Saturday, Tucker Carlson initially distanced himself from the great replacement theory that obviously motivated the shooter. But then on Tuesday night, he actually tried to turn the tables and suggest that it was Democrats who embraced the theme of replacement - I kid you not!

Here's Carlson's opening:
You've heard a lot about the great replacement theory recently. It is everywhere in the last two days and we are still not sure exactly what it is. Here's what we do know for a fact. There is a strong political component to the Democratic Party's immigration policy. We are not guessing this. We know this. And we know it because they have said so. They have said it again and again and again. 

It's almost amusing to hear him say that he's not sure exactly what the great replacement theory is all about - especially since he's talked about it over 400 times on his show. But then he claimed that the Democratic Party's immigration policy is all about replacement. Carlson goes on to provide video clips and references to articles, claiming that they make his point. 

One example will suffice to demonstrate the lie that is embedded in Carlson's claim. He points to an article by Ana Navarro from back in 2013 titled "Old, White, Straight, Male Voters Ain't What They Used to Be." Here's what she wrote:

The evidence is everywhere and starkly undeniable after the 2012 presidential race: old, white, straight, male voters just aren’t enough to win elections anymore. Mitt Romney got the highest ever percentage of these voters, and the lowest ever percentage of the minority vote. He lost. The demographic trends show that the minority vote in the United States will continue to grow in numbers and influence. Unless you are under the influence of hallucinogens, it is hard to imagine future scenarios were the Republican Party can win national elections if we do not succeed in attracting more than just the “usual suspects” to the Republican tent.

Of course, Navarro is a Republican political consultant and her take was echoed by Senator Lindsey Graham who said, "The demographics race we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.” But it was Jeb Bush who was the first one to sound the alarm during a 2012 interview with Joe Hagan.

Sitting down across from me, he assumes his role as party Cassandra, warning of the day when the Republicans’ failure to tap an exploding Hispanic population will cripple its chances at reclaiming power—starting in Texas, the family seat of the House of Bush.

“It’s a math question,” he tells me. “Four years from now, Texas is going to be a so-called blue state. Imagine Texas as a blue state, how hard it would be to carry the presidency or gain control of the Senate.”

Following Romney's loss to Obama in 2012, that was the prevailing "wisdom" among Republicans, as was outlined in their autopsy

In the last election, Governor Romney received just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote. Other minority communities, including Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, also view the Party as unwelcoming...As one conservative, Tea-Party leader, Dick Armey, told us, "You can't call someone ugly and expect them to go to the prom with you. We've chased the Hispanic voter out of his natural home."

In other words, almost a decade ago it was Republicans who were noticing that, unless they did a better job of reaching out to Hispanics and other "minority groups," their party was doomed. 

Contrary to what Carlson suggested, the math on that is not dependent on Democrats bringing in illegal foreigners to replace white people, as the Washington Post reported back in 2018 (emphasis mine).

Experts say the main driver of diversification in the United States is the native-born Hispanic population, which grew by about 5 million from 2010 to 2016, just as the native-born white population shrank by about 400,000 over the same period, according to Census Bureau data...

“You can shut the door to everyone in the world and that won’t change,” said Roberto Suro, an immigration and demography expert at the University of Southern California...“If your primary concern is that the American population is becoming less white, it’s already too late.”

According to Pew Research, the Asian-American population is growing even faster.

Asian Americans recorded the fastest population growth rate among all racial and ethnic groups in the United States between 2000 and 2019. The Asian population in the U.S. grew 81% during that span, from roughly 10.5 million to a record 18.9 million, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau population estimates, the last before 2020 census figures are released. Furthermore, by 2060, the number of U.S. Asians is projected to rise to 35.8 million, more than triple their 2000 population.

Most demographers predict that non-Hispanic white people will no longer be a majority in the U.S. in about 20 years. That cake has already been baked - regardless of what happens with immigration reform. 

Those are the facts. And short of deporting U.S. citizens (or suppressing their votes) there's nothing Tucker Carlson and his white supremacist allies can do about it. So they conjured up a lie about hordes of brown immigrants invading our country from across the southern border as a way to gin up the kind of fear that leads to violence.

On a somewhat related note, Simon Rosenberg does an excellent job of debunking the idea that Democrats are losing the Hispanic vote. He points to the fact that the Hispanic vote went from 6 million in 2000 to 16.5 million in 2020. With that, the Democratic margin went from 1.6 million more votes in 2000 to 4.6 million in 2020. As Simon suggests, "A slightly smaller slice of a bigger pie means you still have more pie. In this case lots more pie." Results in the four heavily Hispanic states of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico tell the tale.

In 16 years (2004-2020) Dems have picked up 31 Electoral College votes, 6 Senate seats, 8 House seats and 3 governorships in these 4 southwestern states. These Congressional gains are the reason Dems have majorities today in the Senate and House.

With so much political commentary focused on white working class voters in the Rust Belt, that story has been almost completely overlooked, but it speaks volumes about why Republicans are so afraid of "the browning of America." 

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Can Democrats Work With the "New Right" on Anti-Trust Issues?

During the 2020 presidential primary, Sen. Elizabeth Warren focused on the need to break up big tech companies. During a CNN town hall, she provided a helpful explanation for how a move like that would benefit people who shopped online at Amazon. 

As Warren talked about the need to break up Amazon, Google and Facebook, another presidential candidate, Sen. Cory Booker, provided an important qualification.

“I don’t care if it’s Facebook, the pharma industry, even the agricultural industry. We’ve had a problem in America with corporate consolidation that is having really ill effects,” Booker said on ABC News’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos.

But, Booker added, “I don’t think that a president should be running around pointing at companies and saying breaking them up without any kind of process here. It’s not me and my own personal opinion about going after folks."

That distinction is gaining even more importance as the so-called "New Right" are in the process of using government power to attack specific companies as part of their culture wars. 

For example, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis specifically targeted DisneyWorld because they spoke out against his "don't say gay" bill. He did so by passing legislation that attempts to remove their special district status. While some liberals might applaud the end result, the democratic (as opposed to fascist) approach would have been to decouple the move from the culture wars and eliminate all of Florida's 1,844 special districts - like the one covering The Villages in central Florida. 

Two of my former colleagues at the Washington Monthly recently approached the possibility of Democrats being able to work with the New Right on issues like anti-trust.

The group includes many younger conservatives who combine contempt for the usual targets of conservative bile (the media, Hollywood, universities) with a brief against the great monopolies of surveillance capitalism (Facebook, Google, Twitter), all while embracing, in many instances, a kind of white Christian identity politics. After hearing presentations from Rachel Bovard, Amanda Milius, Christopher Rufo, and other Millennials at the National Conservatism Conference in Orlando, David Brooks wrote about witnessing, in the new conservative movement, a “fusing of the culture war and the class war into one epic Marxist Götterdämmerung,” and pronounced himself terrified.

Should we also be terrified? Emphatically, yes! But there are still startling points of actual and potential overlap emerging between today’s New Right and New Left.

One of those areas of potential overlap is, indeed, anti-trust legislation. But the authors failed to mention the important distinction made by Booker. To the extent that the "New Right" wants to use government to target specific institutions/corporations that don't comply with their racist, sexist, homophobic agenda, that is nothing short of fascism and must be condemned in no uncertain terms.

Senator Josh Hawley is an odious example of the threat posed by the "New Right." In an attempt to keep pace with DeSantis, the senator from Missouri has introduced a bill to strip Disney of its copyrights in a move that has been called "blatantly unconstitutional." While Hawley tried to avoid language that made it obvious he was targeting Disney, "the retroactive provision of the bill applies to any entertainment company with a market capitalization above $150 billion. Disney’s market cap is $196 billion." Hawley's public statements also make his intentions perfectly clear.

“Thanks to special copyright protections from Congress, woke corporations like Disney have earned billions while increasingly pandering to woke activists,” said Hawley, who once clerked for Chief Justice John Roberts. “It’s time to take away Disney’s special privileges and open up a new era of creativity and innovation.”

On the other hand, Hawley signed on as a co-sponsor to a bill authored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (yes, you read that right). The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would address the issue identified by Warren in the video above.

The bill prohibits dominant platforms, defined by criteria including how many users they have and their market cap, from discriminating against other businesses that rely on its services, in what’s sometimes referred to as self-preferencing.

That means, for example, Amazon could not simply decide to list its own private label products higher in its search ranking than third-party rivals’ listings. And, similarly, Apple and Google could not unfairly rank their own apps higher than rivals in their own mobile app stores. The same principle would apply to results from Google’s general search engine.

Twelve senators have signed on to co-sponsor the legislation - including six Democrats and six Republicans. It passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 16-6, with five Republicans (Grassley, Graham, Cruz, Hawley and Kennedy) voting in favor of the bill. The committee’s House counterpart has advanced a similar bill, while the Biden administration has offered support from both the Commerce and Justice Departments. With mainstream media practically salivating over the need for bipartisanship, it is unfathomable to me why this piece of legislation is being almost completely ignored. It's a pretty BFD (as POTUS might say).

What Klobuchar's bill demonstrates is that there are places where the so-called "New Right and New Left" can work together. As odious as some of those Republican senators might be, if they want to sign on to legislation drafted by Democrats to address anti-trust issues...fine by me. 

But make no mistake - we'll fight them every step of the way on their attempts to manipulate this issue in order to "Orbanize" our democracy.  

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Alito's Embrace of Junk Science Will Make Several Forms of Contraception Illegal

The potential that Roe vs Wade will be overturned by the Supreme Court in a few weeks has led to a lot of speculation about what comes next. All of the possibilities need to be taken seriously, but when it comes to the radical right going after contraceptives, that move is actually already underway - and the path was laid by Justice Samuel Alito's embrace of junk science in the Hobby Lobby case. 

If you remember, Hobby Lobby claimed a religious exemption to the Obamacare mandate that companies provide coverage of birth control in their health care plans. But it wasn't all forms of birth control they objected to.

The Affordable Care Act says that employer-provided insurance must include essential health benefits, including all medically authorized forms of contraception. The owners of Hobby Lobby objected to this requirement, because they believe that four common forms of birth control—two versions of the “morning-after pill” and two kinds of intrauterine devices (IUDs)—are “abortifacients.” In other words, the owners of Hobby Lobby think these contraceptives end pregnancies rather than prevent them. And they believe that is tantamount to ending a life.

To understand what's going on with that it is important to know that, for many on the radical right, "life" begins at the moment an egg is fertilized. It takes about a week for the fertilized egg to implant in the uterus, which is when the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) says that pregnancy begins. That is because most fertilized eggs naturally fail to implant in the uterus on their own.

The owners of Hobby Lobby claimed that the four forms of birth control they didn't want to cover (Plan B, Ella, hormonal IUDs, and copper IUDs) are abortifacients because they prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. That is a perfect example of junk science

[B]oth Plan B and ella work primarily by preventing ovulation; they can work for up to five days after sex, because sperm can survive in a woman’s body for that long. Both the hormonal and copper IUDs work primarily by preventing sperm from reaching and fertilizing an egg. Of all these methods, only the copper IUD, when used as an emergency contraceptive, appears capable of preventing implantation of a fertilized egg. However, even then it would not be considered an abortion under standard medical and legal definitions.
Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion in the Hobby Lobby case, which included this statement:
[W]e must decide whether the challenged…regulations substantially burden the exercise of religion, and we hold that they do. The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients.
Alito went on to write that these four contraceptive methods “may have the effect of preventing an already fertilized egg from developing any further by inhibiting its attachment to the uterus." Alito didn't reach that conclusion out of ignorance of the science because, in a footnote, he acknowledged that Hobby Lobby’s religious-based assertions are contradicted by science-based findings. Nevertheless, in a conflict between religion and science, Alito went with religion.

Since Alito's draft overturning Roe was leaked, red states all over the country are resurrecting or passing legislation to outlaw abortions. It is important to note that many of them claim that life begins at fertilization - after which abortion will be illegal. And since Alito embraced junk science, he set a Supreme Court precedent that these four forms of birth control are abortifacients. So in many states, they will be illegal too. 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Biden: "This Is No Longer Your Father's Republican Party"

For quite a while now, one of my takes on what's been happening with the Republican Party over the last few years is that things reached an inflection point for the GOP when Barack Obama was elected president. That is because, by the end of George W. Bush's two terms, their entire agenda - both foreign and domestic - was in shambles as a result of things like the Great Recession, two wars in the Middle East, and the debacle of the response to Hurricane Katrina. 

As a result, when Bush left office, his approval rating was historically low at 27.8. Of the previous 12 presidents, the only one who even came close was Richard Nixon, whose approval rating was 24.8 when he resigned over the whole Watergate scandal. In other words, by 2008, the Republican brand was toast.

At that point, it would have made sense for Republicans to step back and re-examine their policy priorities, just as Democrats had done after the 1972 election. But it probably wouldn't have surprised anyone if the GOP had simply doubled-down on their policy priorities with new messaging (ie, continue to be the post-truth party). They did neither. Michael Grunwald explained what they DID do:
[They held] secret meetings led by House GOP whip Eric Cantor (in December 2008) and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (in early January 2009) in which they laid out their daring (though cynical and political) no-honeymoon strategy of all-out resistance to a popular President-elect during an economic emergency. “If he was for it,” former Ohio Senator George Voinovich explained, “we had to be against it.”

The calculation GOP leaders made was that they didn't need an agenda. They would simply obstruct and fan the flames of xenophobia to discredit the country's first African American president. That's what led to Trump and the whole MAGA era. 

It's been clear for a while now that Mitch McConnell still wants to avoid adopting an actual Republican agenda. But there are two sides that are rising up in protest to put one forward. 

One the one hand, there is Senator Rick Scott's agenda that - for the most part - reasserts the failed Republican policies of trickle-down economics, destruction of the social safety net, and dog-whistle racism. Scott probably thinks that enough time has passed that voters will have forgotten what a disaster that agenda turned out to be. 

But the other Republican agenda is even worse. It is being put forward by people like Senator Josh Hawley, J.D. Vance, Tucker Carlson, and Governor Ron DeSantis. While they won't say so openly, their approach is to completely abandon the Ronald Reagan mantra about government being the problem. As I've pointed out before, they want to use government to fight the culture wars. 

Over at The Federalist, Christopher Bedford has written that J.D. Vance's victory in the Ohio Republican senate primary is a sign that what he calls "the new right" is winning against "the establishment" in the battle for control of the Republican agenda. 

[T]here are signs that together, we’re beginning to earn wins: that the rock of the permanent, institutional left-wing-revolution is showing cracks. In the past month alone, we’ve seen a bellwether American state choose an outspent New Right candidate [Vance] to run for Senate, adding a young face and new voice to conservative leadership.

We’ve seen elected politicians in Florida stand up and say, no, you won’t get corporate carve-outs and perks, and use those to attack the parents and children of our state without consequence...

And we’ve seen Senate leaders sit silently, or chuckle along with reporters, as they anticipate the New Right’s failings. We’ve seen columnists like Stephens complain that curtailing one of the world’s most barbarous abortion regimes “would be a radical, not conservative, choice.”

That’s not surprising, though. These men aren’t actually conservatives: they’re simple institutionalists. And in an age where America’s institutions — her colleges and universities, corporate media, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, hospitals and medical associations, Pentagon, Hollywood, children’s entertainment — are dominated by the left, their acquiescing makes them what M. Stanton Evans derisively called “silent partners in the work of destruction”; “silent partners” in the left’s permanent revolution.

I suspect that Bedford is right - the "new right" is winning this battle. And while, as a Democrat I don't have a dog in this fight, it is important to keep in mind that our democracy is threatened by the side that is openly embracing the tactics used by Viktor Orban in Hungary.

When President Biden said that this is no longer your father's Republican Party, he was absolutely right. So was David Frum when he wrote that "If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy." That is the path the GOP is choosing we speak.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

The Only Way to Fight Back Against a Radicalized Supreme Court

My head is swirling with reactions to the leaked draft of Justice Samuel Alito's ruling that, if legitimate, with overturn Roe vs. Wade. While it's likely that some of the wording might get changed before a final version is released by the court, I don't think there's much doubt that four justices are prepared to join Alito's draft. 

One of my reactions is to note that a lot of people are suggesting that those of us who are pro-choice must organize to protect women's reproductive freedom. But if Alito's draft - which specifically sends this issue back to the states - is legitimate, it's too late for that, as the Guttmacher Institute previously pointed out.

If Roe were overturned or fundamentally weakened, 22 states have laws or constitutional amendments already in place that would make them certain to attempt to ban abortion as quickly as possible...

By the time the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the Mississippi case, there will be nine states in this group with an abortion ban still on the books from before Roe v. Wade, 13 states with a trigger ban tied to Roe being overturned, five states with a near-total abortion ban enacted after Roe, 11 states with a six-week ban that is not in effect and one state (Texas) with a six-week ban that is in effect, one state with an eight-week ban that is not in effect and four states whose constitutions specifically bar a right to abortion. Some states have multiple types of bans in place.

In those 22 states, it would take affirmative legislation to strike down those bans in order to protect a woman's right to chose. Given that they are all either red or swing states, that isn't going to happen. So if you live in one of them, women's reproductive rights will be gone once Alito's opinion is released. There are an additional four states that, given their political composition and history, are likely to ban abortion as soon as possible.

So to be completely clear, we will NOT be in a position to "protect" women's reproductive rights, but to fight to get them back. That is a monumental shift that we all have to grapple with. 

Given the current make-up of the Supreme Court with its lifetime appointments, the place to fight back won't be in the courts. That is why this part of President Biden's reaction to the leaked draft is so important:
[I]f the Court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation’s elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman’s right to choose. And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November. At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law.

To bolster that argument, it is important to remember how we got here. Ever since Barack Obama was elected president, Mitch McConnell's plan has been to abuse the filibuster to obstruct the passage of legislation. Even when Republicans were in the majority and Trump was president, McConnell was content to neuter congress on pretty much everything other than tax cuts for his wealthy donors.

Meanwhile, the Republican leader of the senate set out to stack the courts. We all watched as he cynically refused to even hold hearings (much less a vote) on Obama's nominee. That wasn't because of some issue with Merrick Garland. Republicans like the late Senator Orrin Hatch had previously claimed that Garland would be a consensus nominee before Obama chose him. Instead, it was a blatant attempt to stack the court with extremist conservatives, which McConnell went on to claim as his "most consequential political accomplishment."

What we're now faced with is a neutered congress and an empowered Supreme Court. That is exactly what McConnell's plan was all about and we're now experiencing the disastrous consequences of that strategy.

Given that it will takes years (and possibly even decades) to rebalance the court, the one way to fight back is to ensure that pro-choice Democrats keep their majority in the House and make significant gains in the Senate. Since gaining a 67-seat majority is unlikely, the goal should be to elect Democrats who are willing to overturn the filibuster and pass legislation that restores women's reproductive freedom. 

The fact is that every election in every state will be critical, including those for governor and state legislators. That is because Alito's draft makes it clear that overturning Roe is just the beginning of what this Supreme Court will attempt to do. He claims that, while the Due Process Clause in the 14th Amendment (on which the Roe decision was based) might guarantee some rights that aren't mentioned explicitly in Constitution, such rights have to be "deeply rooted in this nation's history and tradition." That is a terrifying position.

In other words, all of the blood, sweat, and tears that have been spilled over the years in order to build "a more perfect union" could be sent down the drain by this group of extremists on the Supreme Court. That is the gauntlet that has been thrown down by the radical right at this moment in time. It is what will be on the ballot in every election going forward - starting with this November - as long as they hold a solid majority on the Supreme Court.

The Republican reaction to this news provides a slight glimmer of hope. Rather than celebrating the seeming demise of Roe, they are entirely focused on ginning up outrage over the leak of Alito's draft. In other words, they're signaling that, coming six months prior to the midterms, this ruling is very likely to upset the dynamics that had them counting the days until they won majorities. It is now incumbent on us to ensure that their newly-found concern is justified.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

The Orbanization of the Republican Party

I was glad to see that Zack Beauchamp made the same connection between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Hungarian President Viktor Orban that I made a few days ago. This is a story that should be front and center in our political discussion today. 

DeSantis, who has built a profile as a pugilistic culture warrior with eyes on the presidency, has steadily put together a policy agenda with strong echoes of Orbán’s governing ethos — one in which an allegedly existential cultural threat from the left justifies aggressive uses of state power against the right’s enemies.

Most recently, there was DeSantis’s crackdown on Disney’s special tax exemption; using regulatory powers to punish opposing political speech is one of Orbán’s signature moves. On issues ranging from higher education to social media to gerrymandering, DeSantis has followed a trail blazed by Orbán, turning policy into a tool for targeting outgroups while entrenching his party’s hold on power...
Orbán’s political model has frequently employed a demagogic two-step: Stand up a feared or marginalized group as an enemy then use the supposed need to combat this group’s influence to justify punitive policies that also happen to expand his regime’s power.

Beauchamp does a good job of making a direct connection between the moves by DeSantis on LGBTQ issues, higher education, social media, and gerrymandering to policies implemented by Orban in Hungary. But he left out Orban's "procreation, not immigration" policies." 

Hungary’s “procreation, not immigration” policies have their roots in “replacement theory.” This doctrine holds that white women are not producing enough babies and Christian, western civilizations will be “replaced” through the twin forces of falling birth rates and increasing immigration. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, for example, has argued that “there are political forces in Europe who want a replacement of population” and has vowed to fight those who want “an exchange of populations, to replace the population of Europeans with others.”

In case you're wondering where that one is headed in this country, take a look at this Ohio state legislator talk about the "opportunity" presented by forcing a woman to give birth when the pregnancy is a result of rape. 

While Beauchamp does suggest that this "Orbanization" of American politics isn't limited to DeSantis, he doesn't really address the depth of the way it has been embraced on the right. However, almost a year ago Ben Rhodes outlined the steps Orban took in Hungary to consolidate his power. A lot of this is going to sound very familiar.

In his first term, [Orban] systematically worked to remold Hungary’s democratic institutions. Parliamentary districts were redrawn to benefit Fidesz [Orban's party]. Ethnic Hungarians outside the country were given the right to vote. The courts were methodically packed with right-wing judges. Fidesz’s cronies were enriched and, in turn, members of the business elite funded Orbán’s politics. The government constructed a massive propaganda machine, as independent media were bullied and bought out and right-wing media were transformed into quasi state-media. Whereas Fidesz once had a foreign policy formed in opposition to Russian dominance, Orbán embraced Vladimir Putin and courted Russian investment and the corruption that went along with it...

[T]o justify his efforts, Orbán has skillfully and relentlessly deployed a right-wing populism focused on the failings of liberal democracy and the allure of an older national story: Christian identity, national sovereignty, distrust of international institutions, opposition to immigration, and contempt for politically correct liberal elites. Smash the status quo. Make the masses feel powerful by responding to their grievances...

After his first reelection, Orbán’s focus on the persecution of his enemies intensified. Political opponents, civil society, and independent media have learned to live with various forms of harassment, including ceaseless disinformation and legal threats. Hungary completed a fence to keep migrants out. Conspiracy theories about Soros evolved into a campaign used to justify everything, including onerous restrictions on civil society and sham investigations. Corruption mushroomed and became a backdrop of Hungary’s government spending. Hungary’s historical sins—including complicity in the Holocaust—were whitewashed, as prominent statues and revised curricula rooted Hungary’s future in right-wing aspects of its past.
The structural changes to Hungary’s democracy enabled this: Orbán was elected to a third term in 2018 with less than half the popular vote, yet he presides over all of Hungary’s levers of power like a colossus.

While DeSantis might want to quietly implement Orbanism in Florida as a stepping stone to the White House, National Conservatives are openly touting it as a way to ramp up the so-called "culture wars." Nine months ago Tucker Carlson traveled to Hungary and paid homage to Orban. In less than a month CPAC - America’s most prominent conservative gathering - will hold a conference in Budapest with Orban as the keynote speaker. In other words, the Orbanization of the right is not a secret. It is precisely where the Republican Party in this country is headed. The threat could not be more clear.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

For Those Who Are Tired, Frustrated, and Discouraged

Molly Jong-Fast has done us all a favor by identifying what made the speech by Michigan State Senator Mallory McMarrow so powerful. Unfortunately the title - "Democrats Need to Stand Up for Themselves" - didn't do her piece justice because her analysis went much deeper than it implies.

McMorrow proved that rebuttal can be done effectively—and she succeeded because her rebuke rested on a personal narrative.
Here's the advice Jong-Fast got from McMarrow:
Whatever your personal story is, tell it. Don’t lead with a long policy paper. People vote for people that they trust, and you have to build that trust first, and you don’t do that with a policy paper. You do that with a story about who you are and who they are and what you have in common.

I'm going to drop the speech in here so that you can listen to it again to see how McMorrow did that. 

In writing this piece, Jong-Fast took her own advice and told the story about why McMorrow's words resonated with her personally.
I learned it myself in 1997, in the Lily unit of Hazelden Rehab, in Center City, Minnesota. I was a 19-year-old drug addict trying to kick cocaine and alcohol and everything else. I showed up at Hazelden wearing heavy, dark eye makeup, my bag filled with controlled substances, convinced that no one had ever felt the way I felt. The next four weeks in Minnesota taught me the power of narrative, because the stories I heard from the other people there saved my life. Again and again, people told me their stories, and again and again, I related to their loss, their hardship, their loneliness...It was these stories that convinced me that I could get sober too. And I did. I’m not sure I could have without the power of the first-person narrative.

The first time I remember thinking about the power of stories was back in the 1970's when I read a couple of novels by the Catholic priest, Andrew Greeley. I was just beginning to think through some of the questions I had about religion and the stories he told resonated with me at an incredibly deep, powerful level. When criticized for his writing, Greeley responded by saying that there is a reason why, in the New Testament Gospels, Jesus rarely engaged in discussions about theology with the Pharisees. Instead, he told them parables. 

In 2008, when I became fascinated by Barack Obama's presidential campaign, I began reading about Marshall Ganz, who had been hired to develop "Camp Obama." Ganz, who teaches community organizing at Harvard, learned his craft by being involved in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi and then with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers in California. He writes and lectures on the topic of why stories matter.


To summarize, I'm going to start where Ganz ends.
Paul Tillich taught us that the work of justice requires power, and for power to become justice requires love. All three are intimately related. We cannot turn our love into justice without engaging power. Justice is not achieved without struggle. It’s not achieved without mobilizing power. Organizing is about mobilizing power.
In a world of inertia and cynicism, how do we mobilize power in the fight for justice? 
The difference in how individuals respond to urgency or anxiety (detected by the brain’s surveillance system) depends on the brain’s dispositional system, the second system in the brain, which runs from enthusiasm to depression, from hope to despair. When anxiety hits and you’re down in despair, then fear hits. You withdraw or strike out, neither of which helps to deal with the problem. But if you’re up in hope or enthusiasm, you’re more likely to ask questions and learn what you need to learn to deal with the unexpected.

But you can't just go around telling people to be hopeful. We do that by telling stories. 

A story communicates fear, hope, and anxiety, and because we can feel it, we get the moral not just as a concept, but as a teaching of our hearts.
Interestingly enough, Ganz says that storytelling is natural for all of us, but we go to school to learn how to NOT tell stories. So sometimes we have to get back to the basics of how we've been motivating each other for centuries. He also says that when we start conversations by talking about issues, that is what divides us. Our stories are what unite us and lay the groundwork for discussions about issues. 

It was Ganz who first explained to me why the speech Barack Obama gave at the 2004 Democratic Convention resonated so profoundly with the people of this country. As another example, I'd point to an exchange between Joe Biden and Rev. Anthony Thompson that took place at a town hall in Charleston, South Carolina right before the 2020 primary in that state. Conventional wisdom is that Biden's overwhelming victory two days later can be attributed to an endorsement from Rep. Jim Clyburn. I would suggest that this response played a major role.


Senator McMorrow is part of a long tradition of people who have used their own personal story as a way to mobilize power in the fight for justice. She's still at it.

Personally, I'd like to thank her for reminding me of the power of story and for sending out a dose of hope to those of us who've been feeling tired, frustrated, and discouraged. If you need a little more, here's a story that might be just what the doctor ordered.

DeSantis Is "All Hat, No Cattle"

Ron DeSantis has garnered a few headlines lately. Just in case you had any doubts as to whether the Florida governor was part of the radical...