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“Longer And Deeper Than Just A Few Checks”: The 2 Degrees of Separation Between Dylann Roof And The Republican Party

News that Earl Holt, president of the white-supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, has donated $65,000 to Republicans, including Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum, has ricocheted around the media since The Guardian broke it last night. No wonder: It reveals a mere two degrees of separation between the racist murderer Dylann Roof, who says the CCC helped inspire him, and the GOP. It might be unfair to make this link if the support only went one way—after all, politicians can’t be held responsible for the views of everyone who gives them money. But the entanglement between the Council of Conservative Citizens and the Republican Party is longer and deeper than just a few checks, and for many years, it was mutual.

“The public sees the CCC and wants to think of it as an extremist group, which it is, but it’s also a group that’s had a foothold historically in mainstream politics,” says Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Before his killing spree, Roof published a half-literate manifesto crediting the CCC for his radicalization. He describes typing “black on White crime” into Google following the Trayvon Martin killing: “The first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens. There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders. I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong.” After Roof’s screed came to light, the CCC didn’t bother to distance itself from the views of its sociopathic admirer. “[W]e utterly condemn Roof’s despicable killings, but they do not detract in the slightest from the legitimacy of some of the positions he has expressed,” it says in a statement.

In a phone interview, CCC spokesman Jared Taylor elaborated on this legitimacy. “Let’s say Dylann Roof has a talent for programming. If he goes out to Silicon Valley, he will find that Apple and Intel have set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to hire people who look like anybody but him,” he says. Another “legitimate grievance,” Taylor says, is the “overwhelming amount of black-on-white rather than white-on-black violence,” particularly rape.

Taylor sympathizes with the needs of Republicans like Cruz, who has returned the CCC’s donation, to distance themselves from the group. The presidential candidate, he says, “will come under tremendous pressure if he doesn’t give the money back. It’s not an easy situation.” That pressure has made it harder for Republicans to openly align with the CCC. “From time to time we have Republicans who are interested in our events, but it’s not as common as it has been in the past,” he says.

Indeed, in the past, Southern Republicans regularly patronized CCC gatherings; the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that 38 elected officials appeared between 2000 and 2004 alone, including Roger Wicker, now a Mississippi senator, and former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a major figure in the Christian right, spoke there in 2001. “Southern politicians going to CCC events is just a reflection of the GOP’s traditional Southern strategy,” says Cohen.

In the last decade, Republican politicians have realized that, in the age of social media, association with the CCC can be dangerous. An inflection point was the 2002 resignation of Senate majority leader Trent Lott—who spoke to the CCC at least five times—after a firestorm caused by his praise of Strom Thurmond’s segregationist 1948 third-party presidential campaign, remarks that were amplified by the blogosphere.

But the overlap between the CCC and the GOP has never entirely disappeared, particularly in South Carolina. Two years ago, for example, Roan Garcia-Quintana, a CCC board member and self-described “Confederate Cuban,” resigned his place on Governor Nikki Haley’s campaign steering committee after his links to the group made news. CCC webmaster Kyle Rogers—whose online store, Patriotic-Flags.com, sells the same Rhodesian flag patch worn by Roof in one of his photos—was a member of the Dorchester County Republican Executive Committee. (It’s also worth noting that high-profile conservative pundit Ann Coulter was defending the CCC as recently as 2009.)

This is part of why Republican candidates have been so hesitant to acknowledge that Roof was actually motivated by racism, despite his own unambiguous words. On some level, they realize that if they admit the truth, they will be held politically accountable. And it’s in that context that Holt’s donations are notable. “You can’t help it in this world sometimes who admires you,” says Cohen. “The much more damning thing for the Republican Party historically has been the legitimacy that it has conferred on the CCC.”

 

By: Michelle Goldberg, The Nation, June 22, 2015

June 29, 2015 Posted by | Council of Conservative Citizens, Republicans, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“John Roberts To America; I’m In Charge Here”: A Blunt Message To Politicians To Stop Abusing The Judiciary

When, just over two years ago, right-wing superlawyer Michael Carvin filed his first lawsuit seeking to deny Affordable Care Act tax credits to millions of individuals in states with federally operated exchanges, die-hard ACA opponents saw one reason why the Supreme Court might use an isolated four-word phrase to sabotage the ACA—that all five conservative justices would vote their political gut. As decision day approached, many ACA supporters (including me) suspected that the challengers’ political appeal might only be overcome if one or two of the conservative justices—Anthony Kennedy and/or Chief Justice John Roberts—would embrace states rights–based constitutional arguments to save the law.

Last Thursday, when the Court issued its decision in the case, King v. Burwell, all these hopes and fears about the political and ideological vectors at play, specifically, with Roberts, turned out to be dead wrong. The chief justice had bigger fish to fry—personal, institutional, and policy priorities—that led him to uphold the Obama administration’s decision to make tax credits available nationwide:

  • Asserting his personal leadership of the Court, by mobilizing a 6-3 bipartisan majority, and taking the heat for writing a no-holds-barred, decisive opinion in the most politically divisive case on this year’s docket;
  • Continuing an ever more evident drive to advance the Court’s power vis-à-vis the two elected branches, as the final decider and major direction-setter on the nation’s most fought-over policy issues;
  • Sending a blunt message to conservative activists, lawyers, and politicians to stop abusing the judiciary as a handy back-door gimmick to reverse political defeats they have been unable to reverse in political arenas—in particular, to stop bringing cases designed to “undo” the ACA;
  • Sending a subtle, gratuitous, but nevertheless quite discernible piece of policy advice to Republican politicians and policy-makers, in the form of a reminder of the ACA’s Republican ancestry in Massachusetts’ 2006 Romneycare reform law, referencing that model’s conservative credentials as a way to “expand coverage” while relying on private health insurance markets.

As the litigation made its way toward the high court, ACA opponents had been upfront about their bet that conservatives on the bench shared, and would act on their animus to the president’s signature legislative accomplishment. In September 2014, after the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals had voted to vacate and rehear a 2-1 decision in his favor, Carvin candidly opined that raw partisan politics would drive the Supreme Court to preempt the appellate court’s consideration of the case: “I don’t know that four justices, who are needed to [grant review of the case] here . . . are going to give much of a damn about what a bunch of Obama appointees on the D.C. Circuit think.” Asked if he believed he would lose the votes of any of the five conservative justices, he smiled and said, “Oh, I don’t think so.” Carvin’s cynical take was hardly unique; some of his allies openly forecast that Roberts would feel a need to appease conservatives who excoriated him for his 2012 vote to save the ACA.

Last Thursday, Roberts dashed conservative hopes and liberal fears of a partisan political decision. To the contrary, as conservative blogger Josh Blackman ruefully explained on a Federalist Society post-mortem conference call, the decision effectively seemed to elevate the ACA into a kind of “untouchable super-statute that is beyond reach.” Blackman characterized Roberts’s message as, “This is over . . . We’re through”—meaning, we’re through hearing cases ginned up by our clever lawyer friends to precipitate judicial de facto repeal of the law. Roberts’s brush-off of these core allies was foreshadowed by remarks he made at the University of Nebraska a few days before Carvin bared his cynical partisan take on the conservative justices. Then the chief justice said he was “worried about people having [the] perception” that the Court is no less a political body than Congress or the presidency. He attributed this trend to polarization in the elected branches, saying that he did not “want that to spill over and affect us.” Though widely disregarded at the time as standard civics class pap, it now appears clear that Roberts was serious and motivated by clear-eyed concern about the Court’s stature. As he observed in his 2005 confirmation hearings, “It is a very serious threat to the independence and integrity of the courts to politicize them.” King v. Burwell posed just such an institutional threat, and it was his job as chief justice to dispel it.

But to Roberts, protecting the Court’s reputation does not mean staying above the fray, much less retreating to the sidelines. On the contrary, the decision showed how focused he is on enhancing the Court’s power, well understanding that its non-political image is, ironically, essential to its clout. His opinion reasoned that, read in the context of the overall statute and Congress’ “plan,” the four-word phrase “established by the state” on which the challengers relied was “ambiguous.” When statutes are ambiguous, long-standing black-letter law requires courts to defer to an agency’s reasonable interpretation, rather than impose an interpretation that the court considers correct. But Roberts did not take that route. Instead, he said, the Court must decide for itself what the law means, on the ground—never before asserted so categorically—that the availability of ACA tax credits is “a question of deep economic and political significance that is central to this statutory scheme.” Of course, he then held that the administration’s interpretation was the right call. Administrative law experts were quick to note that, in the words of Ohio State law professor Chris Walker, “King v. Burwell—while a critical win for the Obama Administration—is a judicial power grab over the Executive in the modern administrative state.”

Roberts’s yen to project the Court as a player on the policy question of “deep economic and political significance” posed by the case was also manifest in another theme of his opinion, understated but audacious. Not only did he note the ACA’s roots in Romneycare, but he underscored that law’s record of effectiveness in reducing the “uninsured rate in Massachusetts to 2.6%, by far the lowest in the Nation,” and then went on to observe that the ACA “adopts a version of the three key reforms that made the Massachusetts system successful” (emphasis added), including the affordablity tax credits at issue in King, as well as the “individual mandate” that Roberts upheld as a pay-or-play tax incentive in 2012 in NFIB v. Sebelius. This and other notably favorable descriptions of the ACA in Thursday’s opinion seem aimed at Republican policy-makers and politicians. His message recalls his 2012 approval of the law’s individual mandate as an optional tax incentive—preferable, he wrote, because the “taxing power does not give Congress the same degree of control over individual behavior” as a Commerce Clause–based absolute mandate.

As I wrote after the NFIB decision, Roberts took this policy argument from a 2011 D.C. Circuit opinion by fellow George W. Bush appointee Judge Brett Kavanaugh; that opinion favorably portrayed the ACA as potentially “the leading edge of a shift” to “privatize the social safety net and government assistance programs.” In these opinions, Kavanaugh and Roberts seem to be pitching a line favored in conservative policy circles prior to the recent rise of tea party-style anti-government absolutism—keep and expand the national safety net, but privatize and regulate it through incentives rather than commands. With his decisions in NFIB v. Sebelius and King v. Burwell, however, John Roberts has gone further than merely touting that big-government conservative model for safety net governance, casting the ACA as a product of that model. He has used his power to entrench it—against demands from the left for a command-and-control version of the ACA individual mandate, and against conservatives’ strategy of killing the ACA in court. This, Roberts concluded, is “the type of calamitous result that Congress plainly meant to avoid”—and which, the chief justice made crystal clear, he will be loath to permit, in this case and any other challenge the law’s opponents might cook up.

 

By: Simon Lazarus, Senior Counsel to the Constitutional Accountability Center; The New Republic, June 27, 2015

June 29, 2015 Posted by | John Roberts, King v Burwell, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Radical Racist Socialism Of The Deep South”: Denials That The Civil War Was About Slavery Are Revisionist And False

With the American South so radically conservative and politically divergent from most of the rest of the country, it’s easy to forget that it was not always so. The American South used to be much more politically nuanced and politically complicated.

Obviously, the legacy of racism and slavery dominates everything. Southern denials that the Civil War was about slavery are revisionist and false, as Ta-Nehisi Coates conclusively demonstrated at The Atlantic.

But if we compartmentalize and set aside the grotesque and horrific injustice of race-based slavery, we can see that the 19th century South was also a hotbed of anti-capitalist economic egalitarian sentiment–with the caveat that only whites were allowed to receive its benefits. Consider these snippets excerpted by Coates: first, the Muscogee Herald in 1856:

Free Society! we sicken at the name. What is it but a conglomeration of greasy mechanics, filthy operatives, small-fisted farmers, and moon-struck theorists? All the Northern men and especially the New England States are devoid of society fitted for well-bred gentlemen. The prevailing class one meet with is that of mechanics struggling to be genteel, and small farmers who do their own drudgery, and yet are hardly fit for association with a Southern gentleman’s body servant. This is your free society which Northern hordes are trying to extend into Kansas.

Talk about a hatred of freedom and small business. Or consider this bit of socialism-for-whites-only from traitor-in-chief Jefferson Davis himself:

You too know, that among us, white men have an equality resulting from a presence of a lower caste, which cannot exist where white men fill the position here occupied by the servile race. The mechanic who comes among us, employing the less intellectual labor of the African, takes the position which only a master-workman occupies where all the mechanics are white, and therefore it is that our mechanics hold their position of absolute equality among us.

And finally, this remarkable indictment of Yankee capitalism from Hammond’s legendary “Cotton Is King” speech:

The difference between us is, that our slaves are hired for life and well compensated; there is no starvation, no begging, no want of employment among our people, and not too much employment either. Yours are hired by the day, not cared for, and scantily compensated, which may be proved in the most painful manner, at any hour in any street of your large towns. Why, you meet more beggars in one day, in any single street of the city of New York, than you would meet in a lifetime in the whole South…Your [slaves] are white, of your own race; you are brothers of one blood. They are your equals in natural endowment of intellect, and they feel galled by their degradation.

There are many more examples of this sort of thing in Coates’ piece as well.

It’s easy to focus on the abhorrent racism here. But it’s also instructive to see the anti-capitalist critique of the North, whose laissez-faire robber baronism was admittedly Dickensian in its brutality–not remotely comparable to the evils of slavery, obviously, but it’s easy to see how a twisted racist mind that didn’t see black people as human would see itself as comparatively morally superior to the North by virtue of its white egalitarianism.

This is why the Confederate South was ultimately such a strong base of support for FDR. As long as FDR didn’t prevent lynching and the other modes of de facto enslavement of African-Americans in the post-Reconstruction South–and he shamefully and deliberately avoided doing so–most Southern whites were more than happy to take the benefits of Social Security, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the New Deal in general. The benefits of these programs were generally not shared with blacks, so Southern whites found an easy continuation of their economic ideology in sticking it to the Northern capitalists with economic redistribution.

The transformation that occurred in the 1960s was much greater than a simple political realignment in which the vast majority of Southern whites switched from Democrats to Republicans after LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act. They also experienced a far more profound shift in their economic politics.

Forced to choose between their virulent racism and their embrace of progressive economic politics, most former Confederate whites chose to keep their racism. Redistributed benefits were all well and good when that egalitarianism extended only to themselves–but extend those same benefits to the hated underclass, and taxation becomes theft and tyranny. FDR socialists became Ayn Rand libertarians essentially overnight.

It’s important to remember that fact when we talk about the legacy of institutional racism in the United States. We’re talking about a hatred so profound that an entire demographic didn’t just switch political parties on a dime: it switched generations of populist economic ideology as well.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 27, 2015

June 28, 2015 Posted by | Civil War, Conservatives, Deep South, Slavery | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Antonin Scalia Defeated — By Antonin Scalia”: He Had His Own Previous Arguments Turned Against Him

Justice Antonin Scalia did not simply lose today’s key ruling on the federal health insurance subsidies for the Affordable Care Act — he had his own previous arguments turned against him.

The majority opinion issued today, written principally by Chief Justice John Roberts — whose crucial vote previously upheld Obamacare back in 2012 — illustrated the idea of the insurance subsidies being an integral part of health care reform itself.

And the absurdity of just striking out subsidies for people living in states with federally run exchanges — as Scalia and his fellow dissenters insisted had to be done under the law — was illustrated by citing… Antonin Scalia, from his earlier efforts to stamp out health care reform.

It is implausible that Congress meant the Act to operate in this manner. See National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, 567 […] (SCALIA, KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., dissenting) […] (“Without the federal subsidies . . . the exchanges would not operate as Congress intended and may not operate at all.”).

That is, Roberts and company cited the dissent in the first major Obamacare case, from 2012, when the dissenters — Scalia being one of them — tried to say that pretty much each every single facet of the Affordable Care Act was not only wrong but unconstitutional, and that they interlocked so completely that by striking down even one of them, the entire Act would have to fall.

As a political staffer friend, who is a trained lawyer (though not currently practicing), tells me: “The problem with results-oriented jurisprudence is it makes hypocrisy easy to spot.”

The full paragraph in that original dissent is as follows:

In the absence of federal subsidies to purchasers, insurance companies will have little incentive to sell insurance on the exchanges. Under the ACA’s scheme, few, if any, individuals would want to buy individual insurance policies outside of an exchange, because federal subsidies would be unavailable outside of an exchange. Difficulty in attracting individuals outside of the exchange would in turn motivate insurers to enter exchanges, despite the exchanges’ onerous regulations. […] That system of incentives collapses if the federal subsidies are invalidated. Without the federal subsidies, individuals would lose the main incentive to purchase insurance inside the exchanges, and some insurers may be unwilling to offer insurance inside of exchanges. With fewer buyers and even fewer sellers, the exchanges would not operate as Congress intended and may not operate at all.

 

By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, June 25, 2015

June 28, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Antonin Scalia, King v Burwell | , , , , | Leave a comment

“This Flag Comes Down Today!”: Reciting Prayers, Woman Takes Down Confederate Flag At South Carolina Capitol

A woman publicly took down the Confederate flag at the South Carolina state Capitol grounds early Saturday morning, climbing the pole at the Confederate memorial and removing that flag before she then submitted herself to be arrested. A new Confederate flag was then put back in its place.

The woman has been identified as Brittany “Bree” Newsome, an African-American resident of Charlotte, North Carolina, Columbia’s newspaper The State reports. Newsome has been detained on a vandalism offense — and in the hours since, a popular hashtag has emerged on Twitter, called “#FreeBree.”

Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) called this week for the Confederate flag to come down, in the wake of the massacre at a historic black church in Charleston by a confessed white supremacist. Haley’s statement has in turn kicked off a process of debates and votes in the state legislature, which is still ongoing. That flag has been located at a Confederate war memorial on the Capitol grounds since 2000 — a compromise measure after it had previously flown from the state Capitol Dome itself, placed there in 1962 as a gesture of state defiance against desegregation and the civil rights movement.

In a video posted on YouTube, showing Newsome clad in climbing gear, she grabbed the Confederate flag and cried out: “You come against me with hatred, and oppression and violence — I come against you in the name of God! This flag comes down today!”(http://youtu.be/gr-mt1P94cQ)

Newsome also recited Christian prayers as she descended the pole: “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Who shall I fear?”

As she descended, the pole was surrounded by three police officers. She assured them in a calm and friendly tone of voice: “I’m gonna come, sir. I’m gonna comply. I promise you, I’m coming down. I’m prepared to be arrested.”

Of the three arresting officers, two were black and one white. The arrest appears to have gone smoothly, with Newsome and the officers cooperating to help her over the waist-high iron fence surrounding the flagpole before placing both her and a white male accomplice in handcuffs.

The State also reports:

At about 7:45 a.m., a maintenance worker and a state security officer, neither of whom would give their names or comment, raised a new banner after removing it from a plastic sheet. The two state employees who arrived on the State House grounds to put the flag back up were African-Americans.

A member of a group associated with Newsome express disappointment to the paper that the Confederate flag was put back up again: “All they had to do was keep it down.”

 

By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, June 27, 2015

June 28, 2015 Posted by | Confederate Flag, South Carolina Legislature, White Supremacy | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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