Thursday, March 31, 2022

It's Not Just a Culture War. Republicans are Escalating Their Politics of Fear and Resentment

In the late 1970's Republicans were able to galvanize the religious right to engage more forcefully in politics by exploiting the issue of abortion. For over 40 years, people have wondered what the GOP will do to keep those voter engaged when/if they are actually successful in overturning Roe v Wade. The prospect of that happening very soon looms as we await the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Several things have happened in the last few weeks that help us answer the question about where Republicans go from here.

  1. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) referred to the Supreme Court ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut - which legalized the right to birth control - as "Constitutionally unsound."
  2. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) used his time during the confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji BrownJackson to make the case that Obergefell v. Hodges - which legalized marriage equality - had been wrongly decided.
  3. Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) said that the Supreme Court decision in Loving v Virginia - which legalized interracial marriage - should have been left up to the states to decide. 
Since none of those senators is the sharpest knife in the drawer, you have to wonder if there is someone behind the scenes organizing this effort, because those particular Supreme Court decisions have some things in common. 

We normally don't hear much about the 9th Amendment to the Constitution - which is short and sweet. It says simply that, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." In other words, Americans retain rights that aren't specifically named in the Constitution, for example: the right to travel, the right to vote, the right to keep personal matters private. Those are referred to as "unenumerated rights."

The 1965 Griswold v Connecticut case was the first time the court recognized the unenumerated right to privacy.
Griswold became the building block for other noteworthy Supreme Court cases that much of the GOP disapproves of, from Roe v. Wade in 1973 to the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that ruled state laws banning “homosexual sodomy” were unconstitutional to the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision recognizing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

What these Republicans are challenging is not only the right to reproductive choice, but the right to privacy in the bedroom and marriage equality. It's also worth noting that red states are also in the midst of passing laws that deny the right to vote and the right to travel

The ruling in Loving v Virginia was actually based on the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. But Jamele Bouie ties all of these together.

They represent a worldview not simply of conservative social values but of the proper organization of America’s political and constitutional order.

The great legal and political advance of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s was the creation of a universal baseline for civil and political rights...With that in mind, one way to understand the agenda of much of the modern Republican that it is an attempt to make rights contingent again.

If successful, Republicans would effectively handcuff the federal government’s ability, either through legislation or through the courts, to establish and maintain that universal baseline for civil and political rights. And it would mean a return to the world as it was when the standard-bearers for hierarchy — whether of race or of gender or of class — had much freer rein to dominate as they saw fit.

So if you want to know where the Republican Party is headed when/if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade, there you have it. They will juice up their base by promising to return to a world where rights are contingent and white heterosexual men have "free rein to dominate as they see fit."

Personally, I have always rejected this kind of "slippery slope" argument, but David Roberts wrote a twitter thread that has me reconsidering that position. He suggested that, for Republicans, reactionary backlash politics is all about escalation.

Once they outlaw abortion they'll go after birth control. Once trans people are driven underground they'll go after gay people. It won't stop.

Look at Trump rally crowds: they are addicted to the thrill of surrendering themselves & their own judgement to mob anger. They will always want & need more -- more blood, more outsiders on which to inflict pain, more enemies. The beast must be continuously fed.

The not-so-secret secret about these people is, they're not happy. They are tossed on a sea of fear & resentment & immersed in a culture that offers them no tools to self-reflect, to identify or deal with these fears. They reject fear as weak, but they can't escape it.

The only thing that quiets that inner voice is the white-noise thrill of being part of a mob. It externalizes all that fear -- locates it in the immigrants, or the libs, or the gays -- & temporarily quells it through group violence...

This is the central thing I hope everyone understands about Trumpism: it is driven by the psychology of fear & resentment. It's not seeking particular policy goals that will satisfy it. It requires escalation, more enemies, more victims, bigger mobs, without end.

As Adam Sewer wrote back in 2018, "the cruelty is the point."

It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds [Trump's] most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright.

This is why I have such disdain for the neo-New Democrats who keep insisting that we should ignore the culture wars Republican attacks on civil/human rights. My message to them would be the same as the warning Rosa Parks gave to Bob Zellner in the movie Son of the South: "There's gonna come a time when something really bad happens and you're gonna have to decide which side you're on. Not choosing is a choice."

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Right Wing Propaganda Sites Are Ignoring Trump's Latest Attempt to Collude With Putin

Just last week Donald Trump filed a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee and 26 other people and entities that he claims conspired to undermine his 2016 campaign by falsely claiming that he colluded with Russia. And then on Tuesday, during an interview with John Solomon, Trump openly attempted to collude with Russia. 

Just for the record, Trump's claims about the former mayor of Moscow's wife giving Hunter Biden - much less "both Bidens" - $3.5 million is a lie that has been repeatedly debunked

It's also worth remembering that John Solomon, who nodded his head as Trump repeated that lie, was part of the team that laid the groundwork for Trump's attempt to extort Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Before losing his job at The Hill, Solomon wrote articles that included smears against Ambassador Marie Yavanovitch, claims that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, and attacks on the Bidens. As I've written previously, he's not a journalist, but a political operative working on Trump's behalf.

Prior to the full interview with Trump being released, Solomon published a teaser titled "Trump calls on Putin to release info on Hunter Biden’s dealings with oligarchs." One can only guess that the assumption was that, as discussion about Hunter Biden's laptop heated up, this reminder from Trump would generate renewed interest in the allegations about ties to a Russian oligarch.

But a review of several right wing propaganda sites shows that, for the most part, they've completely ignored this story. There is no mention of Solomon's interview or Trump's call for Putin to release dirt on the Bidens at RealClearPolitics, The Federalist, or the New York Post. Over at Fox News, the only mention of Trump's request came in an article titled "MSNBC host claims 'Hunter Biden story' in 2020 was ‘fact-checked’ and deemed mostly ‘nonsense.’"

MSNBC host Jonathan Lemire claimed Wednesday that the "Hunter Biden story" was "fact checked" and deemed mostly "nonsense" back when the story first broke in 2020, not acknowledging the laptop or its contents have since been verified.

During an appearance on "Morning Joe," Lemire was asked by anchor Mika Brzezinski about a Tuesday interview in which former President Donald Trump claimed there was information on the laptop indicating that the mayor of Moscow gave the Bidens $3.5 million. Trump subsequently said that Russian President Vladimir Putin should release information related to that claim.

In other words, Fox tried to split hairs by playing up the angle on Hunter Biden and burying the part about Donald Trump openly colluding with Putin once again.

John Solomon thought he was feeding right wingers a story that would continue their smear campaign against a sitting President of the United States. But he didn't take into account the way that Putin's invasion of Ukraine has changed the political dynamics in this country. Back in 2016, when we learned that Russia had interfered in the presidential election to support Trump, Putin's favorable rating among Republicans rose from 16 to 37 percent. But currently, only 14% of Republicans view Putin favorably.

As much as they'd like to smear President Biden, Trump's enablers don't want this story to gain any traction because it points to the fact that, in light of current events, their leader is dancing way too close to the line of treason, as Charlie Sykes suggests.

Even as Trump spoke, Putin was waging a war of unremitting terror that has killed thousands of Ukrainians. The West has rallied to oppose him, and nearly every American political figure — from both parties — has denounced the Russian thug.

And it is at this moment, amidst a brutal war of aggression, that Trump once again reached out for Putin’s help in attacking the sitting American president and, by extension, this country.

Here’s where we come to the treasonous smoking gun: Trump explicitly frames his request to Putin as an act of retaliation not just against Biden, but against the United States itself.

Some accounts leave out the key phrase that Trump uses when he explains why Putin might help him.

"As long as Putin is not exactly a fan of our country... I would think Putin would know the answer to that. I think he should release it... you won't get the answer from Ukraine... I think Putin now would be willing to probably give that answer."

To summarize, Trump not only asked for Putin's help in smearing Biden, he framed it as a way for Putin to retaliate against the U.S. for our support of Ukraine. 

After all of these years of having to endure Trump, it is difficult to register shock at his depravity. But we can't look away. Right wingers want to ignore what their leader just said and pretend it never happened. But it did. 

In the end, Donald Trump is just one narcissistic sociopath. The only reason we have to pay attention to him is that his supporters refuse to abandon him no matter what he says/does. That's what gives him power. Right wing news sites don't want those supporters to know about this story because it just might be the one that finally tips the scale at a moment when Putin has become the most reviled man in the world.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

I Have Never Been More Proud of the Vote I Cast for Joe Biden

During the 2020 presidential primary, Joe Biden was not my first choice. As it became increasingly clear that he would be the nominee, I began to re-think my position.

There were those - especially on the left - who criticized Biden as some kind of war hawk. They threw those accusations around, but I never saw any evidence other than the fact that he had voted for Bush's invasion of Iraq. While that was, indeed, a serious mistake, a further look at Biden's record showed that, even while serving as Obama's vice president, he had consistently counseled against the use of military force.

During some of the most controversial foreign policy decisions of the Obama era, Biden consistently counseled against military intervention. He spoke out against a troop surge in Afghanistan and followed that up with attempts to negotiate a power-sharing agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Biden also counseled against U.S. military involvement in Libya and Syria.

It eventually occurred to me that the former guy had left the entire federal government in shambles and our credibility around the globe in tatters. With Biden's years of experience in both the legislative and executive branches of government, none of the other candidates were as prepared as he was to clean up the mess. 

Many of the challenges faced by presidents come from their struggle to implement the agenda they proposed during the campaign. But over the years I've begun to realize that it is the unexpected challenges that are even more significant. That's why it is important to look beyond a platform to gauge the person's history and character. 

All of that is why I'm now prepared to say that, among other things, Putin's invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated that Joe Biden was the best choice for Democrats in 2020. Allan Katz, who served as Obama's ambassador to Portugal, explained why.

The President has filled his government with other Washington careerists, people he knows and trusts, who told us they were the pros and unlike the amateur hour we had experienced for the previous four years, they knew what they were doing...

The Biden team acted quickly on the Ukraine crisis in a number of important areas and arenas. Perhaps most importantly, even before the invasion, the Biden administration made a bold decision to share intelligence information of Russia's plan to invade Ukraine with the world, which prepared the West for the united front it displayed in sanctioning Russia en masse. Those sanctions were also the result of careful planning by the Biden administration, which developed a group of sanctions and people to be sanctioned that went to the heart of the power structure in Russia.

Next, they assembled a large group of countries to support the effort and were able to galvanize not only NATO countries but the entire EU...Almost singlehandedly and against criticism from every corner, Biden is preserving NATO, regaining America's position as the leader of the West and showing the steely determination needed in this type of crisis...

As we navigate the next couple of incredibly dangerous weeks, it is comforting that we have a leader who knows where he is going and how to get there. In a career of fine moments, this may be President Biden's finest.

That kind of analysis conflicts with the recent media narrative about Biden committing a major "gaffe" during his speech in Warsaw when he said that Putin cannot remain in power. During a briefing on Monday, that is all the White House Press Corp wanted to talk about. 

As a result of that kind of obsession, here are some of the things from Biden's speech in Warsaw that most Americans will never hear about. 

From people who actually know something about the subject matter and listened to the entire speech, the reaction was profound. 

To the naysayers who've been suggesting that the last nine words of Biden's speech would somehow cause Putin to dangerously escalate, Tuesday morning's news points in the opposite direction. 

Nevertheless, the story most Americans will hear is that Biden committed a dangerous gaffe - which gives right wing news more fuel for their claims that he is incompetent. When it comes to the president's low approval rating, there is no need to look any further for an explanation. 

The question this raises is why the majority of the media are focused on "winning a game of gotcha with the leader of the free world at a moment of great crisis when serious issues loom everywhere," as David Rothkoph suggested.

The answer to that question is more complex than most people assume. But lately I've been pondering one contributor. Back in 2015 then-President Obama interviewed the author Marilynne Robinson. Something she said stuck with me. 

I think one of the things that is true is that many Americans on every side of every issue, they think that the worst thing they can say is the truest thing, you know?

As an example, Robinson went on to share that, even though America has a system of universities that are the envy of the world, they are constantly criticized. She summed up with this:

We have a great educational system that is—it’s really a triumph of the civilization. I don’t think there’s anything comparable in history. And it has no defenders. Most of the things we do have no defenders because people tend to feel the worst thing you can say is the truest thing you can say.

Basically what she said is that cynicism (a focus on "the worst thing") has been embraced as the only pathway to the truth. Nowhere is that more evident than in our mainstream media. 

Anyone who doubts that need only look at how Politico attacked Jennifer Rubin for being "one of the most reliable defenders of the Biden administration." To defend the president (or Democrats) makes one a partisan whose opinions can be dismissed.

But I, for one, am willing to stand up and say that I have never been more proud of the vote I cast for Joe Biden.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Who's Paying Attention to Jada?

It was just two days ago that I wrote this about the response to Republican attacks on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson:

When it comes to being "manly" in response to a woman being attacked...Cory Booker and Patrick Jackson just showed us how it's done. It means having enough empathy to center the woman's needs over your own.

Almost immediately came the spectacle of Chris Rock making an insulting joke about Jada Pinkett Smith at the Academy Awards and Will Smith slapping him in the face. It seems the whole world is talking about the two men involved - which is how the story tends to go. No one is paying any attention to Jada. 

Just to be clear, Jada has been open lately about losing her hair as a result of the autoimmune disorder alopecia that affects significantly more Black and Hispanic women. Initially she wore turbans and then last summer went bald. Chris's joke targeted the bald head of a woman who has come to represent thousands of others who are going through the same kind of trauma. 

Watch this clip to get Jada's immediate reaction, which comes at about about the 0.25 mark. 

Obviously Jada was pretty disgusted by the joke. What we don't know is how she felt about her husband's reaction. 

The headlines are all about the behavior of the two men involved. That's what happens when a woman is abused and the men who love them assume that violence is the "manly" thing to do...the woman and her needs become invisible.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

The Suffering and Resilience of the Ukrainian People Brought to the Ice

I have always loved the combination of athleticism, artistry and music in figure skating. Perhaps that is why I found this performance by Ukrainian ice dancers Oleksandra Nazarova and Maksym Nikitin on Friday at the 2022 World Championship so incredibly powerful. 

Here's what Nazarova and Nikitin, who had just recently escaped to Poland, said about their performance:
"For us it is so important to tell the whole world what is happening right now in Ukraine. Of course, it’s a competition, but for us it’s not just a competition. For us it is something bigger, especially for Maksym.”

“It (the performance) was not just for us, it was for all Ukrainian people; for all the people who are still there who are not safe. I hope the support from all the people will help our country,” Nikitin added. “The bigger point is to tell the truth about what is happening in Ukraine, and I hope this will help people in Ukraine who are now not safe, who are in danger and have lost their homes.

“I hope we can help all people in the world to understand what really happens because we saw it. We saw what they (the Russian army) are doing, how they work, and it is disgusting. Just six days ago I was in Kharkiv and our whole families are still in Ukraine.”

The music they chose divides the performance into two parts - representing both the suffering and resilience of the Ukrainian people. Nazarova and Nikitin began with a song titled "1944" by Ukrainian singer/songwriter Jamala. 

The lyrics for "1944" concern the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, in the 1940s, by the Soviet Union at the hands of Joseph Stalin because of their alleged collaboration with the Nazis. Jamala was particularly inspired by the story of her great-grandmother Nazylkhan, who was in her mid-20s when she and her five children were deported to barren Central Asia. One of the daughters did not survive the journey. Jamala's great-grandfather was fighting in World War II in the Red Army at this time and thus could not protect his family. The song was also released amid renewed repression of Crimean Tatars following the Russian annexation of Crimea, since most Crimean Tatars refuse to accept the annexation.

Here is Jamala singing "1944" at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2016.

Halfway through the ice dancing performance the mood changed as Nazarova and Nikitin began skating to a Ukrainian folk song captured by Andriy Khlyvnyuk, the lead singer of the band Boombox - who quit his tour of the U.S. to go back home and join the fight. 

At that moment, Nikitin raised his hand in the air and let out a shout of defiance.

As the announcer said, "It was not a made-up story. It was a real story...brought to the ice" by a couple who, only a week ago were hiding in a shelter as bombs fell on their home. What a moment!

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Cory Booker and Patrick Jackson Just Demonstrated What it Means to be "Manly"

I recently ran across the song by Kenny Rogers, "Coward of the County." In case you don't remember that one, it's about a guy named Tommy whose father was in prison and counseled him with these words:

Promise me, son, not to do the things I've done
Walk away from trouble if you can
Now it won't mean you're weak if you turn the other cheek
I hope you're old enough to understand
Son, you don't have to fight to be a man

The song suggests that, in following his father's advice, Tommy became known as the coward of the county. But one day the love of Tommy's life, Becky, was raped by the Gatlin brothers. 

Twenty years of crawling was bottled up inside him
He wasn't holding nothing back, he let 'em have it all
When Tommy left the bar room, not a Gatlin boy was standing
He said, "This one's for Becky", as he watched the last one fall
And I heard him say

"I promised you, Dad, not to do the things you've done
I walk away from trouble when I can
Now please don't think I'm weak, I didn't turn the other cheek
And Papa, I should hope you understand
Sometimes you gotta fight when you're a man"

So the lesson goes: for Becky, Tommy resorted to violence in order to prove he was a man. But the song never addresses whether that is what Becky wanted. Did Tommy bother to ask her? In a story about gang rape, the need for Tommy to prove his manhood was centered. 

While that is just a song about a fictitious story, it is the kind of framing we hear often when it comes to women being abused. Men who supposedly care about them focus on their own need for vengeance more than on what the woman needs at the time. That is framed as the "manly" thing to do.

Given that as a cultural frame of patriarchy, it makes what Cory Booker did in the confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Jackson Brown even more powerful.


 Russell Berman talked to the senator from New Jersey the next day.

[B]eneath Booker’s beaming smile was a more painful recognition of how Black people, and especially Black women, were processing the particular tone of the Republicans’ treatment of Jackson. “You feel that familiar hurt,” Booker told me. “This is obviously a Supreme Court nomination, but I have yet to meet an African American woman this week who hasn’t come up to me and said she couldn’t relate to her, to what she was experiencing.”...

“I was not trying to center their negative attacks,” he continued. “I was trying to center her positive candidacy, her extraordinary light. I knew that those 20 minutes, those precious 20 minutes, were an opportunity to change the frequency from the negative back to the positive, to refocus the light on her glory.”

Under those circumstances, centering her extraordinary light was the "manly" thing to do - if you really want to be an ally. A woman as strong and capable as Judge Jackson doesn't need to be rescued - she needs to be supported, honored and empowered.

But Booker not only centered Judge Jackson, he centered every Black woman who has experienced something similar. Jonathan Capehart spoke to how that affected her African American brothers and sisters. 

It wasn't just Booker who showed us how to be an ally.

What felt like a corrective to that ugliness, though, was the clear and visible bond between Jackson and her husband, gastrointestinal surgeon Patrick Jackson, who was present for every moment of the hearings...[S]eeing him seated behind Jackson day after day (and occasionally tearing up as she’s knocked question after question out of the park) is an inchoate lesson in the power of true partnership...

Women everywhere—and Black women in particular, who are too often labeled strong without anyone stopping to offer them the support they have systemically been denied—deserve partners who look at them with a mixture of awe and respect while they achieve great things.

When it comes to being "manly" in response to a woman being attacked, forget that Kenny Rogers song. Cory Booker and Patrick Jackson just showed us how it's done. It means having enough empathy to center the woman's needs over your own.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Even in a Party Filled With Deplorables, Tom Cotton Stands Out

Several of the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee plan to run for president in 2024. As such, they used their time during the confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Jackson Brown to broadcast their platforms. I've already mentioned that the so-called "lane" Josh Hawley is carving out for himself is one that makes an appeal not only to the January 6 insurrectionists, but also to the QAnoners. 

It is also clear that Tom Cotton plans to run for president in 2024. It therefore came as no surprise that, on his first day of questioning, the senator from Arkansas zeroed in on one of his favorite topics: that the United States has an "under-incarceration" problem. After going through statistics on the number of violent crimes (murder, rapes, assaults) that are never solved, he asked Judge Jackson, "Do you think we imprison too many violent criminals, or not enough?"

Of course, what Cotton completely ignores is that, when activists talk about this country's over-incarceration problem, they are not referring to violence crimes, but a combination of the so-called "war on drugs" and the disproportionate way that people of color are targeted for imprisonment. 

The way that Cotton treated Judge Jackson with utter contempt is indicative of the racism that underlies his lust for locking up people of color. It was also on display during a recent speech he gave at the Reagan Presidential Library.

In many Democratic-run cities, prosecutors simply refuse to prosecute. These so-called “progressive” or “Soros prosecutors” haven’t just abused prosecutorial discretion, they’ve embraced prosecutorial nullification, ruling entire categories of serious crimes out of bounds for prosecution.

They’ve contributed to the worst increase in murder rates on record and the most drug-overdose deaths ever. There’s only one answer to these radicals: Republicans must work to recall, remove, and replace every last Soros prosecutor in America.

This growing crime wave is also fueled by the single largest exodus of criminals from jail in our history. The U.S. prison population dropped by more than 400,000 inmates in 2020 alone.

Much of this decline was motivated by the faddish claim that our nation has an “over-incarceration problem.” In fact, we have an under-incarceration problem, because nearly half of all murders and the vast majority of other crimes go unsolved... 
It’s time to declare a new war on crime that won’t stop until the carnage stops. We shouldn’t stop until little kids in Chicago and Baltimore are no longer gunned down on their way to school, until fentanyl overdoses are no longer the leading cause of death for our young people, and until law-abiding citizens can walk our city streets without fear of being the next victim on the evening news.

The so-called "Soros prosecutors," like Rachel Rollins from Suffolk County, MA, took note of things like the fact that "Seventeen of the 25 most frequently filed charges in criminal court are nonviolent motor vehicle, drug, and property offenses." They recognized that a "carceral approach" to these crimes is not only ineffective and expensive, but it creates collateral harms. As a result:

In place of traditional criminal justice system outcomes...criminal justice practitioners and policymakers are working in collaboration with community partners to develop and implement innovative, evidence-driven diversionary alternatives that data show are more likely to promote safer and healthier communities.

In other words, they're being smart on crime

It is interesting to note that Cotton specifically mentions the cities of Chicago and Baltimore when fear-mongering about violent crime. A recent study by the Third Way found that the murder rate in his home state of Arkansas is even higher than Illinois and Maryland. As a matter of fact, this is what they reported:

We found that murder rates are, on average, 40% higher in the 25 states Donald Trump won in the last presidential election compared to those that voted for Joe Biden. In addition, murder rates in many of these red states dwarf those in blue states like New York, California, and Massachusetts.

Perhaps Senator Cotton should spend less time railing about Chicago and Baltimore and more time trying to figure out what is happening in his home state of Arkansas. 

It was, however, the kind of solution Cotton pointed to during his speech at the Reagan library that is most disturbing. 
Here we can take inspiration once again from Old Hickory [Andrew Jackson]. In 1818, criminals and marauders used lawless portions of Spanish Florida as bases to attack and kill American citizens. In response, General Jackson invaded Spanish territory, rooted out those responsible, and then conquered the Spanish capital just for good measure. We should show the same resolve in the face of crime and lawlessness today.

This is a perfect example of why Republicans want to take control of re-writing our history. Cotton is referring to the First Seminole War, when Florida was still a Spanish colony. Here's what really happened:

The Seminoles were largely of Creek origin and lived in villages in northern Florida. The area was also home to a number of Africans, free African Americans, and runaway African American slaves, all of whom were known as Black Seminoles. The Seminoles and Black Seminoles were aligned with the British against the Americans before and during the War of 1812 and were the targets of frequent raids by militias from Georgia, who sought runaway slaves as well as land and cattle. In 1816, U.S. soldiers destroyed a garrison that was a refuge for escaped slaves, killing some 270 people. The Seminoles subsequently began raiding American settlements along the Georgia–Florida border. In what many writers identify as the beginning of the First Seminole War, in November 1817, U.S. soldiers attacked the Seminole village of Fowltown (near present-day Bainbridge, Georgia), and a battle ensued. In retaliation, a group of Seminoles laid siege to a boat carrying reinforcements to Fort Scott on the Apalachicola River and killed 43 men, women, and children.

After Jackson's army invaded Florida, Spain went on to cede the territory to the United States and, of course as president, Jackson worked to have the Indian Removal Act passed by Congress - launching the Trail of Tears. Most Seminoles and Black Seminoles were eventually relocated from Florida to reservations in the west. 

Tom Cotton finds inspiration from this country's use of the military to attack Indigenous and Black people. But that shouldn't come as a surprise after he advocated for the use of our military in response to the George Floyd protests. 

It is clear that the current iteration of the Republican Party is home to some seriously deplorable people. Many of them are nothing but incompetent performative trolls. But Cotton is different. He is a calculating, sociopathic bigot - which makes him even more dangerous.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Be An Ally Like Cory Booker

During the confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have accused her of supporting efforts to claim that all infants are racist, being soft on child pornographers and generally being soft on crime. 

Republicans like Cruz, Hawley and Kennedy couched their racist attacks in a thin veneer of respectability, while Cotton was openly aggressive and contemptuous of Jackson. She occasionally showed hints of anger, but handled it all with incredible competence, grace and dignity. This comparison is worth noting: 

I was reminded of this quote from Jonathan Chait about the movie "Twelve Years a Slave."

Notably, the most horrific torture depicted in 12 Years a Slave is set in motion when the protagonist, Solomon Northup, offers up to his master engineering knowledge he acquired as a free man, thereby showing up his enraged white overseer. It was precisely Northup’s calm, dignified competence in the scene that so enraged his oppressor. The social system embedded within slavery as depicted in the film is one that survived long past the Emancipation Proclamation – the one that resulted in the murder of Emmett Till a century after Northup published his autobiography. It’s a system in which the most unforgivable crime was for an African-American to presume [herself] an equal to — or, heaven forbid, better than — a white person.

Beyond the outright racism directed at Judge Jackson, that is the underlying element of the contempt shown to her: "how DARE she presume to be an equal to - or heaven forbid, better than - me."

But then, immediately after Cotton's diatribe and eleven hours into questioning, came the only African American on the Judiciary Committee - Senator Cory Booker. That's when this happened: 

I encourage you to take the time to watch this clip of how Booker used his time. 

Booker began by debunking some of the most egregious attacks on Judge Jackson and then pointed out that she has been endorsed for a seat on the Supreme Court by police officers, victim's advocacy groups, and Republican judges. Then he reminder her: "That's who's in your corner." He followed that up with this:
I've just watched you with dignity and grace field what I can only imagine is behind those questions. This is doubt that is being sown. I just want America to know that when it comes to my family's safety, when it comes to Newark, New Jersey or my state, God, I trust you. I trust you.

At that moment, you can see Judge Jackson sigh in relief. I can't tell if she teared up, but I sure did!

Like me, you've probably seen lots of clips and stories about the awful things Republican Senators said during these hearings. Booker's questioning hasn't gotten that kind of attention - perhaps because we want to feed our anger. 

But the senator from New Jersey just gave us a master class on how to be an ally. He didn't settle for simply debunking the attacks on Judge Jackson. He built her up in the midst of others trying to tear her down. He gave her room to breath again, shoring up her ability to continue to take on those attacks with dignity and grace. Booker focused - at least for a moment - on what Judge Jackson needed rather than use his time to preen for the camera in order to score political points. That's precisely what it means to have empathy. 

Monday, March 21, 2022

Putin's Last Stand

Vladimir Putin has told several lies about why he invaded Ukraine. But recently his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said the quiet part out loud.

That was essentially my take when the invasion began.

The kind of unity Biden has nurtured in response to Russia's aggression is the "new world order" that Putin despises as a threat to his vision of a return to the Great Power politics of the 19th Century. Those are the two world views battling it out over the situation in Ukraine right now.
Andrey Makarychev, professor of regional political studies at the University of Tartu in Estonia, laid it out similarly.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has exposed a clash of two fundamentally different conceptions of power in international relations.

On the side of the invader, power is primarily about military force projection and aims to destroy, kill, and intimidate. On the side of the Euro-Atlantic West, power is inherently normative. It is based on shared principles and rules as well as on multilateral institutions that sustain them. Never before has the contrast between the two philosophies of power been so lucid.

Back in 2014, when Russia first invaded Ukraine, President Obama articulated what was at stake during a speech in Brussels.

So I come here today to insist that we must never take for granted the progress that has been won here in Europe and advanced around the world, because the contest of ideas continues for your generation.

And that’s what’s at stake in Ukraine today. Russia’s leadership is challenging truths that only a few weeks ago seemed self-evident, that in the 21st century, the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force, that international law matters, that people and nations can make their own decisions about their future......our enduring strength is also reflected in our respect for an international system that protects the rights of both nations and people -- a United Nations and a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international law and the means to enforce those laws.

In many ways, this is the conflict Putin has been seeking for decades now. It is absolutely critical that we all understand the stakes because it not only informs our support for Ukraine, but it will guide the strategies we use in response, as Makarychev goes on to explain.

Under these conditions, the gravest mistake on the side of the liberal Europe would be to compromise its core values and give any degree of legitimacy to Putin’s approach to international politics.

Playing an asymmetrical game with the Kremlin brings Europe more strategic benefits than accepting the validity of Putin’s militarized and largely antiquated international imagery.

To effectively counteract Russia, Europe does not need to alter its principled reliance on liberal norms. It just ought to adapt them to the new situation of the war. This should include imposing an unprecedented comprehensive package of sanctions and stepping up weapon deliveries to Ukraine.

That is exactly the path chosen by Biden, which is why Matt Duss, foreign policy advisor for Bernie Sanders, said that what the president is doing right now represents a "responsible progressive position on Ukraine."

It's also important for all of us to understand that Vladimir Putin went into this conflict with a weak hand. Here's something Josh Marshall wrote back in 2016:

With the DNC hacking operation...the on-going crisis in Ukraine, Russia’s role in the Middle East, various possible ways of trying to make mischief in the US election etc etc etc, we shouldn’t lose sight of an essential point: Russia is a weak and vulnerable state with geopolitical pretensions wildly out of sync with its national wealth and power.

President Obama made a similar point in 2014.

Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors not out of strength, but out of weakness. Ukraine has been a country in which Russia had enormous influence for decades, since the breakup of the Soviet Union. And we have considerable influence on our neighbors. We generally don’t need to invade them in order to have a strong, cooperative relationship with them. The fact that Russia felt compelled to go in militarily and lay bare these violations of international law indicates less influence, not more.

None of that is meant to diminish the pain and suffering Putin is inflicting on Ukrainians right now. But it does help us understand why his initial strategy failed completely. The Russian president seems to have been living in a bubble of misinformation, assuming a divided West, a submissive Ukraine, and a potency his own military never attained.

At 70 years of age, this is potentially Putin's last opportunity to impose his 19th Century world view on the globe. Delusional madmen with access to power can inflict terrible damage. But we're beginning to see the superior power of the new world order based on shared principles and rules, ie, partnership.  

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Senator Hawley's Lane for 2024: Insurrectionists and QAnoners

When I first heard that Senator Josh Hawley had accused Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson of "letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes," I despaired that her confirmation hearings (which begin on Monday) would become a nightmare. 

Knowing that there’s been a lot of debate in legal circles about appropriate sentencing for possession of child pornography, what I envisioned was the American public witnessing an endless stream of hair-splitting over punishment for that particular crime. It is understandable that child pornography brings out fear and loathing in a way that nothing else can. But that’s why it could spell the end for one of the most qualified nominees to ever be considered.

But then Press Secretary Jen Psaki landed the first blow - indicating that Hawley might want to think twice before pursuing this line of attack.  

Ben LaBolt, one of Jackson's advisors, managed to take on Hawley's attack without getting into the hair-splitting nightmare I had imagined.

This is toxic and weakly-presented misinformation that relies on taking cherry-picked elements of her record out of context - and it buckles under the lightest scrutiny. It’s based on a report unanimously agreed to by all of the Republicans on the US Sentencing Commission on selectively presenting a short transcript excerpt in which Judge Jackson was quoting a witness’s testimony back to them to ask a question, and failing to note what sentencing practices are across the entire federal judiciary regarding these crimes.

In the overwhelming majority of her cases involving child sex crimes, the sentences Judge Jackson imposed were consistent with or above what the government or U.S. Probation recommended.

And finally, Ruth Marcus dug into the record to demonstrate that Hawley had cherry-picked quotes out of context. Here's just one example:

Count one is her writing as a student editor on the Harvard Law Review, about sex-offender registries, DNA databanks and civil-commitment laws that states were busy enacting. In her article, Jackson grappled with the tension between constitutional limits on permissible punishment and the community’s need for self-protection...

Hawley wrenches a few lines out of context. “As far back as her time in law school, Judge Jackson has questioned making convicts register as sex offenders — saying it leads to ‘stigmatization and ostracism.’ ”

Hello, Senator? That is in a section headlined “The Critics” that outlines the views of the statute’s opponents. Hawley might just have easily quoted from the previous section — “commitment legislation literally immobilizes dangerous sexual deviants and, thus, presumably promotes both immediate and long-term public safety.”

Josh Hawley is an intelligent person who got his law degree at Yale. He knows how to read and analyze documents like the ones he chose to highlight. So its clear that he is lying about Judge Jackson's views intentionally, not out of some misunderstanding about what she's said/done. 

That's why it is important to remember what the senator from Missouri was doing in the photo above. He was cheering on the insurrectionists who would go on to storm the Capital on January 6. Those are the people he wants to appeal to when he runs for president in 2024. With this latest smear of Judge Jackson, he's also telling us who he views as his constituency. Joe Conason explained.

With that foul smear, Hawley joins an undeniably psychotic element of his party — the growing cohort affiliated with the QAnon conspiracy cult, which proclaims constantly that prominent Democrats and Hollywood stars are sexually exploiting and even murdering children. There is no evidence for these sick accusations, but that hasn't stopped the fascist-leaning wing of the GOP...from endorsing them.

While Senator Mike Lee seems to be the only Republican on the Judiciary Committee to echo Hawley's lies (so far), Media Matters has documented that the attacks are reverberating around right wing media, including those that traffic in QAnon conspiracies. So Hawley seems to be revving up exactly the audience he is targeting for his presidential campaign. 

Friday, March 18, 2022

Exposing Putin's Lie About His Plan to "Denazify" Ukraine

When Putin announced his military operation invasion of Ukraine, most of us were surprised to hear him justify it by claiming that his goal was to "denazify" the country. Three weeks later, one of the Russian president's demands for ending the war is that Ukraine must engage in "de-Nazification." 

The reason this makes no sense is that President Zelensky, who was elected with 73% of the vote, is not only Jewish, his grandfather fought against the Nazis during World War II. 

As is often the case, a bit of history helps us understand what's going on. Last year, Timothy Snyder, an author and historian specializing in the history of Central and Eastern Europe and the Holocaust, wrote about something called "memory laws."

Early memory laws were generally designed to protect the truth about victim groups. The most important example, passed in West Germany in 1985, criminalized Holocaust denial. Perhaps unsurprisingly, other countries followed that precedent, and banned the denial of other historical atrocities. The West German law was controversial to some advocates of freedom of speech; succeeding measures were disputed on the grounds that the Holocaust was in a special category. Yet these early laws could be defended as attempts to protect the weaker against the stronger, and an endangered history against propaganda.

But Snyder goes on the point out how Russia turned the whole purpose of memory laws upside down.

During Russia’s [2014] invasion of Ukraine, Putin signed into law the misleadingly named “Law Against Rehabilitation of Nazism.” Its premise was that the tribunals at Nuremberg, where some Nazis were tried, had passed exhaustive judgment on the atrocities of the 1930s and ’40s. The law specifically banned, with criminal penalties, “false information on the activities of the Soviet Union during the Second World War.” In other words, any mention of crimes not judged at Nuremberg could be equated to a denial of Nazi atrocities. No Soviet actions were judged there, of course, because the Soviets were among the victors and the judges.

To justify his previous invasion of Ukraine, Putin passed a "memory law" that protected the powerful by criminalizing any attempt to write critically about Stalin (ie, the Holodomor) or honestly about the Second World War, all under the guise of opposing the rehabilitation of Nazism.

Since 2014, Russia has also regularly proposed a non-binding resolution at the UN on "combating the glorification of Nazisim." They then condemn the U.S. and Ukraine for voting against it. In addition to calling it an attack on free speech, here is how the U.S. Mission to the United Nations justifies their position:

Today, however, the United States must once again express opposition to this resolution, a document most notable for its thinly veiled attempts to legitimize Russian disinformation campaigns denigrating neighboring nations and promoting the distorted Soviet narrative of much of contemporary European history, using the cynical guise of halting Nazi glorification. 

As a result, this is a good example of how the term "Nazi" is used in Russia these day.

All of this talk about neo-Nazism in Ukraine started almost immediately after the Euromaiden movement was successful in ousting Putin's puppet, Viktor Yanukovych, in 2014. On his way to asylum in Russia, Yanukovych recorded a video message in Russian, claiming that he was the victim of a Nazi coup. Timothy Snyder explained how that happened.

The Ukrainian far right did play an important part in the revolution...One of the moral atrocities of the Yanukovych regime was to crush opposition from the center-right, and support opposition from the far right. By imprisoning his major opponents from the legal political parties, most famously Yulia Tymoshenko, Yanukovych was able to make of democracy a game in which he and the far right were the only players.

The far right, a party called Svoboda, grew larger in these conditions, but never remotely large enough to pose a real challenge to the Yanukovych regime in democratic elections. In this arrangement Yanukovych could then tell gullible westerners that he was the alternative to the far right.

While it's important to recognize the neo-Nazi faction in Ukraine, it is also important to put it in some perspective. The Svoboda Party now holds one seat out of 450 in the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's parliament). Here's what Olga Lautman, a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis told NPR:

Russia amped up the Nazi narrative after seizing Crimea from Ukraine in 2014...But Lautman estimates nationalists make up about 2% of Ukraine's population, with the vast majority having very little interest in anything to do with them. She said the U.S. probably has a higher percentage of white supremacist and Nazi groups.

None of that has stopped a meeting of the minds between what we might call the "alt-left" and the "alt-right" to parrot Putin's talking points. From the former, including people like Aaron MatΓ©, we hear that the Euromaidan Revolution was really a coup orchestrated by the United States and Ukrainian neo-Nazis. After completely ignoring the rise of neo-Nazis in this country during Trump's presidency, Glenn Greenwald has been obsessed lately with pointing to their presence in Ukraine. 

When it comes to the alt-right, Marjorie Taylor Green recently went on a Twitter rant about how "Dems have been funding *actual* Nazis since the Obama/Biden administration," including a link to an article at The Nation. She went on to point to the U.S. refusal to vote for Russia's UN resolution on "combating the glorification of Nazisim" and to suggest that NATO funding for Ukraine is going to neo-Nazis (using this hashtag: #NATONazis). It very well could have been a rant written by MatΓ© or Greenwald.

After being caught a little flat-footed by Putin's invasion of Ukraine, his apologists on both the far left and right are back to spouting the Kremlin's line unapologetically. That's why it is important to know the truth. When Putin talks about his goal to "denazify" Ukraine, it isn't just a lie. It is his way of demonizing anyone he deems to be an enemy. As one historian told NPR, "You need to dehumanize the other before you are going to murder them, and this is what's happening now."

So every time I hear about Nazis in Ukraine from Putin or any of his apologists, I'm going to think of the picture up above of President Zelensky, a Jew who was elected with 73% of the vote, visiting Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial in Kyiv. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

I Won't Let Putin's Apologists Destroy This Moment of Moral Clarity

We can now place right winger Candace Owens in the camp of Putin apologists. Here's something she said on Tuesday:

Wow, "genocidal colonization" is interesting. Again, going back to my point about people being stupid, you know – [Putin's] not trying to commit a genocide of the Ukrainians. That obviously makes no sense because there's very – there is no difference, ethnically, between Ukrainians and Russians, obviously. Ukraine wasn't a thing until 1989. Ukraine was created by the Russians. It was, you know, they speak Russian. So, it's absolutely ridiculous. And, again, this entire episode has been exposing to you how ignorant people are about the goals of Vladimir Putin. He has goals. The goal is not just to get rid of Ukrainians. That makes entirely no sense. It would not be helpful for him.

Honestly, my head wants to explode when I hear someone who is this adept at lying call someone else "stupid." But just to be clear on the question of genocide: 

Anyone who knows just a tiny bit about Ukrainian history is aware of the fact that the people of that country are pretty well-versed in the meaning of "genocide."

But of course, Owens is also parroting Putin's propaganda when she says that Ukraine "wasn't a thing" until Russia created it in 1989. As for Ukrainians speaking Russian...that is a lie too.

Candace Owens is a smart woman. So it is unlikely that she is spreading this nonsense out of ignorance. Instead, her lies have more in common with what Peter Pomerantsev wrote about Russian propaganda: "It reinvents reality, creating mass hallucinations...the idea of truth is irrelevant." What is the goal of making truth irrelevant? Here's Pomerantsev's answer:

[I]nsisting on the lie, the Kremlin intimidates others by showing that it is in control of defining ‘reality.’ This is why it’s so important for Moscow to do away with truth. If nothing is true, then anything is possible.

For Putin and his apologists like Owens, it is especially important to do away with truth right now because what we are witnessing in Ukraine is a moment of moral clarity. 

Just this morning, Ukrainian President Zelensky gave an impassioned speech to Congress. It included the sharing of this video: 

Zelensky ended his speech with these words:

I am almost 45 years old. Today my age stopped when the hearts of more than 100 children stopped beating. I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the deaths. This is my mission as a leader of my people, and as a leader of my nation.

Putin gave a speech this morning too. In it, the man who is committing genocide in Ukraine talked about a “natural and necessary cleansing of the nation” (Russia) to “spit out like flies” all representatives of a fifth column and “traitors” who do not back the Kremlin line. Cleansing his nation of flies is a particularly ominous threat.

Life often presents us with difficult moments when moral questions are housed in a complex array of competing claims and interests. This is not one of those moments. In this situation, good and evil are in stark contrast, providing an unmistakeable moment of moral clarity. 

So while I rarely take a position like this, my message to people like Candace Owens, Tucker Carlson, Tulsi Gabbard and the rest of the Putin apologists is simple: STFU! 

Monday, March 14, 2022

GOP Leaders Assume Their Voters Are Racist, Sexist, and Homophobic

Here's just a sampling of the kind of things Republicans are doing in red states:

  • In Florida, they've established a first-in-the-nation election police force.
  • After passing a massive voter suppression law, Texas rejected a history-shattering 18,000 mail-in ballots during their March primary.
  • Florida passed a bill that bans school lessons or workplace training that could make participants feel discomfort or guilt.
  • A Missouri Republican has introduced a bill that would make it a felony to perform an abortion for women experiencing an ectopic pregnancy.
  • Utah passed a bill that would ban puberty-blocking treatment, hormone therapy, and gender confirmation surgery and make it a felony if parents or doctors provide it. It would also make it a felony to take your child out of state to get those treatments.
  • Florida passed a bill that forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
  • In Mississippi, Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee is attempting to deprive the school board of $100,000 in funding because he wants to see a spate of LGBTQ-themed books banned from school libraries.

Keep in mind that's just a sampling. Similar legislation is being considered or has already been passed in other red states. The so-called "party of small government" wants to decide who can't vote, what you can't teach in school, what you can't do with your own body, who you can't love and what you can't read. That is precisely why we are in the midst of what some refer to as a "culture war." Other than trolling, it's what passes for a Republican Party platform these days.

In the midst of all of that, some on the left are actually suggesting that Democrats need to lighten up when it comes to these issues. One can only assume that they want us to just ignore these attacks on our civil rights - just as the Republican Party has made them central to their agenda. 

One such person is neo-New Democrat Ruy Teixeira. See if you can follow his arguments.
  1. Working class Americans are increasingly voting for Republicans.
  2. They aren't doing so because of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.
  3. Nevertheless, in order to win them back, Democrats must stop talking about racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.
Yeah, it doesn't make any sense to me either. 

What we know is that, ever since the so-called "Southern Strategy," Republicans have used these issues to divide us - while they lined their pockets by catering to wealthy donors. The "war on drugs" was code for locking up black and brown people. Paul Wyrich joined with white evangelical leaders to use abortion as a way to mobilize conservatives in the 80s. George Bush, Sr. capitalized on his Willie Horton ad. Karl Rove got marriage equality on as many ballots as possible as a way to ramp up conservatives to vote for George W. Bush's re-election. Then along came Donald Trump, who not only bragged about being able to "grab p***y," but launched his political career by questioning the legitimacy of our first African American president and by calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals.

Is it any wonder that a party that did all of that has now been taken over by racism, sexism, and homophobia? Grievance about those issues is what defines the GOP right now. I am reminded of the infamous words of Andrew Gillum during a gubernatorial debate with Ron DeSantis.

I'm not calling Republican voters racist. I'm simply saying that the (mostly white, male, heterosexual) leaders of the Republican Party think their voters are racist, sexist and homophobic, because that's all they've put on the table for an agenda.  To ignore that is to turn a blind eye to what the opposition is doing.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Another Way That Right Wingers Are Mimicking Putin

Just this week, Florida lawmakers passed a bill that bans school lessons or workplace training that could make participants feel discomfort or guilt. That is going to make it difficult, if not impossible, to teach about events in Florida - like the massacres at Rosewood and Ocoee

How do you avoid making students feel uncomfortable when the subject matter is white people terrorizing black people? You can't - which is why these kinds of laws are all about whitewashing (literally) our history so that white people don't have to contend with feeling any discomfort.

This is yet another way that right wingers are mimicking exactly what Putin did in Russia. Back in 2013, the Russian president ordered the drafting of new history books.

A call by President Vladimir Putin for a new textbook that reconciles differences over Russia’s past has left him facing accusations of copying Soviet leaders by rewriting history for political ends.

The former Soviet spy asked historians in February to come up with guidelines for new school history books that would provide a unified version of the many difficult events in Russian and Soviet history.

You might remember that, in 2018, Putin attempted to re-write the history of the Soviet Union's massive failure in Afghanistan. Here's what Amie Ferris-Rotman wrote about it at the time:

It is part of Moscow’s wider attempt to mold a historical narrative that fits the current ideology under Putin, whose leadership has projected the image of a strong Russia with an unblemished past.

Just this past December, Russian courts shut down the International Memorial Society, which was formed in 1989 to document Soviet-era repression. One of its founding members, Irina Sherbakova, captured why that is so significant.

The Gorbachev era brought about a frenzy of change, and people witnessed incredible events on a weekly basis: they snatched up newspapers, hung on every word broadcast on TV, and with every passing day they felt more alive and free.

Many also understood that to change the rotten Soviet system one had to know the truth about its Stalinist past...

Soon enough, in the grip of severe economic crisis, “democracy” became a dirty word for many Russians. They were disappointed, and felt reforms were never truly accomplished. Russian society succumbed to weariness and indifference. Stalinist crimes, once thought better out in the open, had turned out to be so horrific that people didn’t want to spend time thinking about them.

By the mid-1990s, nostalgia for the Soviet period started to creep in. The greyness of the Brezhnev era, with its endless queues and empty shops, started to be recalled as a peaceful, prosperous time. And gradually something that had seemed impossible during perestroika, became real: Stalin’s shadow loomed large again.

Vladimir Putin’s rise to power came accompanied by a new version of patriotism relying on “heroic” and “bright” aspects of the Soviet past. An image of Stalin as a strong leader who had ensured victory in the second world war and led a Soviet superpower re-emerged. Television propaganda again worked hard to create that image. The millions who perished in waves of political repression were pushed to the margins of collective consciousness...

It’s not that Russians have forgotten about the direct link between Stalin’s name and the political repression that affected almost every family. Rather, they don’t want to reflect on the terror, on who perpetrated it or what the rationale behind it was. They aren’t ready to acknowledge that this was the central pillar of the entire system...

It is difficult today to recall 1989 without a deep feeling of lost opportunity and shattered hope. In the early Putin years, a silent majority traded the possibility of freedom for promises of “stability”, and later for the national pride of “great Russia”, a power that draws borders around itself and feels like a besieged fortress.

I apologize for the long quote. But it struck me that Sherbakova could have been talking about what is happening now in the United States. Barack Obama was elected president on the promise of "hope" and "change." It soon became clear that real change would require a reckoning with our past. 

But before that could happen, a backlash ensued. Nostalgia about a mythical past emerged and thoughts about oppression "were pushed to the margins of collective consciousness." The current attempts to re-write history - as we're seeing in Florida and so many other red states - are a reminder that too many Americans don't want to "reflect on the terror" of our past and certainly don't want to acknowledge that racism has been a "central pillar or our entire system."

Just as the silent majority in Russia traded freedom for the national pride of "great Russia," we now have one party dominated by people who want to "make America great again." Their plan is to draw literal borders around the country and make it a besieged fortress walled off from the rest of the world. 

It is obvious that much of the blame for the attempts to whitewash U.S. history can be laid at the feet of leaders like Ron DeSantis and Republicans in the Florida legislature. But it is the people who cling to a mythological past and refuse to face the truth about our history that give those leaders power.  Unlike Russia, we can remove them from office and pave the way for moving forward. That will require us to find the courage to reckon with our past - especially when it makes us uncomfortable. This would be a good place to start:

"With fear for our democracy, I dissent."

My title is how Justice Sonia Sotomayor concluded her dissenting opinion to the Supreme Court case granting presidents criminal immunity for...