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“Just The Way They Do Business”: The Conservative Go-For-Broke Legal Strategy Suffers A Blow

These days, conservatives don’t suffer too many unanimous defeats at the Supreme Court, even in its currently unsettled status. But that’s what happened today, when the Court handed down an 8-0 ruling in a case called Evenwel v. Abbott, which had the potential to upend an understanding of democratic representation that has existed for two centuries, and give Republicans a way to tilt elections significantly in their favor before anyone even casts a vote.

The conservatives lost. But losing cases like this one is part of the way they do business. With a (usually) friendly Supreme Court, in recent years they’ve employed a strategy of maximal legal audacity, one that has yielded tremendous benefits to their cause.

This case was a relatively low-profile part of a comprehensive conservative assault on voting rights — or perhaps it’s more accurate to call it an assault on the ease with which people who are more likely to vote Democratic can obtain representation at the ballot box. The question was about how state legislative districts are drawn, and the principle of “one person, one vote.” We’ve long had a legal consensus that all districts in a state have to be approximately the same size, to give everyone equal representation; a state legislature can’t draw one district to include a million people and another district to include only a thousand (although you might point out that we do have a legislative body that violates this principle; it’s called the United States Senate, where Wyoming gets one senator for every 300,000 residents and California gets one senator for every 20 million residents).

The plaintiffs in Evenwell argued that instead of using population to draw district lines, states should use the number of eligible voters. Apart from the fact that we know population numbers fairly precisely because of the census, and we have no such precision regarding eligible voters, that would exclude huge swaths of the public. You might immediately think of undocumented immigrants, but counting only eligible voters would also mean excluding people with green cards on their way to citizenship, children, and those who have had their voting rights taken away because of a criminal conviction. In practice, drawing districts this way would almost inevitably mean taking power away from urban areas more likely to vote Democratic and sending power to rural areas more likely to vote Republican. Which was of course the whole point.

This case was a real long shot from the beginning, as you might gather from the fact that the conservative activists who filed it were suing the state of Texas, which is controlled by Republicans and is not exactly enthusiastic about ensuring everyone’s voting rights (the state’s incredibly restrictive voter ID law is still working its way through the courts). The problem they ran into came from the fact that the lawsuit alleged not that a state may draw districts based on the number of eligible voters and not the population, but that it must draw districts that way. That was the only way for them to file the suit, since they were trying to force Texas to change how it was drawing districts.

Since Texas had chosen to use population, just as every other state does and always has, in order to force a change the plaintiffs wanted that method declared unconstitutional. If they had prevailed, that could have meant that every state legislative district in the country would have had to be redrawn. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the ruling, “As the Framers of the Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment comprehended, representatives serve all residents, not just those eligible or registered to vote.”

About the legal audacity I mentioned before: As unlikely as this case may have been to succeed, it’s another reminder of how legally aggressive the right has been lately. Again and again, whether it’s about voting rights or the Affordable Care Act or some other issue, they’ve come up with some novel legal theory that at first gets dismissed as completely absurd, then begins to sound mainstream as conservatives see an opportunity to gain a victory and rally around it. Even if they ultimately lose in court, the controversy can open up new legal and political avenues that hadn’t been evident before.

They lost today, and if you get Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas to agree with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor that your claim is bogus, you know you’ve gone pretty far. But this case leaves an open question, which is whether a state can switch to an eligible-voter count in order to draw its districts if it chooses. No state has chosen to do that, but don’t be surprised if now that the issue has gotten some attention, conservative Republican legislators in deep-red states — particularly those with large numbers of Latino immigrants — start proposing it. I’d keep my eye on Texas.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, April 4, 2016

April 5, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Republicans, SCOTUS, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The GOP’s Dirty Little ‘Post Truth’ Secrets”: Trump Forces Questions Republicans Don’t Want To Answer

During the 2012 GOP presidential primary, Newt Gingrich got in a lot of trouble with Republican base voters for saying that we should allow some undocumented immigrants to stay in this country and go through a process of legalization. Mitt Romney’s position was ridiculous – proposing actions that would lead to “self deportation.” All of that was a cover for a messy reality among Republicans: their position on immigration was to “seal the border” (which is not a reality) and avoid talking about the 11 million undocumented people who are currently in the country.

If you want to know just how uncomfortable they were talking about that question, take a look at the lengths to which Rep. Tim Huelskamp went to dodge it. Then along came Donald Trump with his “deport ‘em all” position and all of the 2016 candidates had to take it on. For example, here is Ted Cruz being asked the question directly because of Trump’s proposal.

Last week in an interview with Chris Matthews, Donald Trump unearthed another dirty little secret the GOP has been trying to keep under wraps for a long time. We all know that they want to make abortion illegal and that the case they make is that it kills an unborn child. If, as they believe, it is such a serious crime, who gets punished for it if it is banned? That is the very real outcome of their policy that they wanted to avoid.

Along comes Donald Trump with the response initially to Chris Matthews that women should be punished and then a later correction saying that it should be the doctor who performs the abortion. That blew the lid off the GOP’s cover. And this weekend, John Kasich was put on the spot (very uncomfortably) about it.

Obviously Kasich didn’t want to answer the question. We’re left to wonder what kind of process governors like him would work out with state legislatures on this one if Roe v Wade was ever overturned. That has traditionally been the Republican response to questions like this…keep people in the dark about the consequences of their position because it leads to places that most people don’t want to go. It’s what David Roberts called “post-truth politics.”

One way to understand what is happening with these issues is to see it as the result of Donald Trump’s rejection of political correctness. He often uses that word to describe the position of Democrats. But a post-truth party is filled with questions they don’t want to talk about. Trump is doing a good job of exposing all of them.

But lest we get tempted to give Trump credit for that, it is important to keep in mind that on most of these issues, he embraces the retrograde policies. The difference is that he just comes right out and says so. That is an improvement in honesty but not so much when it comes to decency.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 4, 2016

April 5, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Undocumented Immigrants | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just A Clownish Governor”: Paul LePage’s Latest Tantrum Is A Doozy, Even For Him

Susan Deschambault, a Maine Democrat, recently won a state Senate special election, and as part of the process, she was invited to Gov. Paul LePage’s (R) office for an official swearing-in ceremony. So, Deschambault and her family drove 72 miles, arriving at the governor’s office bright and early on Friday morning for her 9 a.m. appointment.

What she did not know, however, is that LePage preferred to throw a tantrum, refusing to swear Deschambault in because the far-right governor is mad at Democratic legislators. The Portland Press Herald reported:

Gov. Paul LePage abruptly canceled a swearing-in ceremony Friday morning for a newly elected senator in response to Democratic lawmakers’ votes against one of his nominees.

Senator-elect Susan Deschambault, a Democrat who won a special election Tuesday for the Senate District 32 seat representing the Biddeford area, showed up with her family at LePage’s office for her scheduled swearing-in at 8:50 a.m. only to be told the event had been canceled.

According to LePage’s spokesperson, the governor – a grown adult – was looking for payback. Apparently, the Republican nominated a conservative talk radio figure to serve on the Maine Unemployment Insurance Commission, but Democrats defeated the nomination last week.

The unhappy governor, in an “I’ll show you…” frame of mind, took out his frustrations on Deschambault, turning her and her family away when they showed up for the ceremonial event.

The newly elected Democrat reportedly thought this was some kind of April Fool’s joke, before realizing that LePage wasn’t kidding. He simply wouldn’t swear her in.

The Bangor Daily News ran a piece over the weekend, wondering what in the world LePage hoped to gain from this: “What was gained by refusing to swear in Susan Deschambault? Nothing. Literally nothing…. Now the story is about how a woman who won an election had her family travel to the capital to celebrate her accomplishment, only to have made the trip for nothing because of a partisan disagreement. How is this a win?”

The NBC affiliate in Portland reported yesterday that the governor’s office announced that the newly elected lawmaker will eventually be sworn in – when LePage feels like it.

Two days after the ceremony was postponed, Gov. LePage attended the opening of a store in Swanville. When asked whether or not the oath would happen, he answered, “Yeah, she’s going to be sworn in. But it’s not on her schedule. My schedule is a little busier than hers.”

When pressed further if he would be the person to administer the oath, he said, “Of course I am. You know, they kick you and beat you and slap you over the head. And then the very next morning at 8 o’clock, they’re there before you put your briefcase down, your cup of coffee on the desk, they want to be sworn in. She will be sworn in according to the laws of the Constitution of the State of Maine.”

In case you were wondering, Deschambault’s special-election victory did nothing to change the makeup of the chamber – the 35-member Maine Senate will still have a Republican majority, 20 to 15, even after she’s sworn in. In other words, there’s no legislative or policy reason to delay the process.

Rather, this is just a clownish governor throwing the latest in a series of tantrums, simply because he can.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 4, 2016

April 5, 2016 Posted by | Maine, Maine Legislature, Paul LePage | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Donald Trump And The Tyranny Of The Minority”: A Brand Of Populism Rooted In Anger Overtaking Rational Thought

The rise of Donald Trump has been both fascinating and frightening. Fascinating in that no one could have predicted the boorish billionaire would be such a political tour de force as a presidential candidate. Frightening in that the ferocity of his supporters has blurred the lines of logic and lunacy. We’re all familiar with how powerful a cult of personality can be, but the sheer fanaticism of many Trump followers is cause for alarm.

We all get it. Voters are mad as hell and they are looking for someone to channel their frustration through. In swoops Trump with his simple yet effective brand of Making America Great Again. It can mean different things to different people, but the common denominator is Trump’s uncanny ability to convince the masses he is uniquely their voice, their avenger, their change agent. But is he really?

For months, Trump has co-opted the fears and anxieties of a fed-up electorate to ignite a brand of populism so rooted in anger that it’s overtaking rational thought and common decency. In the beginning, the idea of a Trump candidacy was just a temporary novelty. A political side show—until he actually started winning votes.

Alex de Tocqueville famously warned against the “tyranny of the majority.” Trump’s candidacy is turning into the tyranny of the minority as he continues to rack up primary victories without ever amassing 50 percent of the vote. As a matter of fact, he’s only received an average of 37 percent of the GOP primary vote to date. Even with a winnowing field, Trump is doing more to alienate voters than to unify them. After Trump won Florida, knocking Marco Rubio out of the race, the conventional wisdom was he would make the presidential pivot. Based on Trump’s antics since then, it’s clear he has not.

Trump’s continued petulant behavior and willful ignorance on a host of critically important issues is scaring the bejesus out of more than just the political establishment. His latest spat with Ted Cruz over their wives, his bizarre obsession with discrediting a female reporter who was manhandled by his campaign manager even after he was charged with simple battery, and his most recent comments on punishing women who have illegal abortions are just the latest examples of why 73 percent of women have an unfavorable opinion of Trump.

Even with his litany of disqualifying remarks, Trump’s loyal followers are unwilling to hold him accountable for anything he says or does, no matter how outrageous or untrue. They are sending a message that they are sick of politics as usual and Trump is their populist conduit. But in that populist quest for retribution, Republican primary voters are investing in someone who represents everything they claim to despise—big-government intervention, fiscal irresponsibility, authoritarian tendencies, political hypocrisy, duplicitous tactics, and flat out disregard for constitutional constraints. The contradiction is breathtaking.

But so is the intensity of Trump’s support.

Many Trump supporters are quick to lash out, condemn, even threaten the rest of us who find Trump objectionable. Yes, threaten. All it takes is a cursory examination of the social media of outspoken critics of Trump to get a sense of the intense vitriol and attempts at intimidating non-Trump supporters into silence. Myself included.

The freedom to dissent has always been a hallmark of American values. After living under the authoritarian rule of the British monarchy, the Founding Fathers understood the importance of protecting individuals’ right to express dissatisfaction with their government, have a free press unimpeded by the influence of the government, and enjoy the freedom to assemble. Trump’s campaign has challenged every one of those sacred rights, but his acolytes continue to make excuses for him. It makes you wonder what attracts so many people to someone who exhibits the characteristics of an authoritarian in a country that was founded on opposing such tyranny?

Thankfully, our Founding Fathers had the foresight to create the framework of a constitutional republic instead of a pure democracy to protect us from ourselves. Pure majority rule can accelerate the destruction of an entire society if left unchecked. Look no further than ancient Rome.

At the time, John Adams’s suspicions of democracy were evident in his spirited exchanges with Thomas Jefferson. Adams warned that democracies had a tendency to ultimately destroy themselves because the passions that fueled monarchies could be similarly found in “all men, under all forms of simple government and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence and cruelty.” Our republic has many constitutional checks and balances for a reason, including the Electoral College. Time to brush up on American Civics 101.

This may be news to many Trump supporters, or even Trump himself, as they try to push the narrative that Trump should be the GOP nominee even if he has only a plurality of delegates and not the majority, despite the fact that every GOP nominee for president has been required to obtain a majority of delegates since the party’s first convention in 1856. It’s terribly disingenuous for Trump and his surrogates to peddle the false idea that the game is somehow rigged against him when this is the game he signed up to play. Whining about the rules and threatening litigation is juvenile but befitting of the vexatious litigant that Trump is. Then again, it’s much easier to take advantage of angry populists than it is to do the work of marshaling patriots who respect and understand the responsibility of protecting the republic for the good of all Americans.

Whether Trump’s candidacy is sincere or a massive ego-trip reality-show episode remains to be seen. But the American people ultimately determine the ending. Choose wisely.

 

By: Tara Setmayer, The Daily Beast, April 4, 2016

April 5, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Founding Fathers, Populism, Trump Supporters | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sanders Polls Well With Independents”: But He Might Lose His Appeal If He Were The Democratic Nominee

Anyone who stares at polls for a good while probably knows that Bernie Sanders is significantly more popular with both independents than Republicans than is Hillary Clinton. Indeed, this is probably at the heart of Sanders’ fairly regular advantage over HRC in general election trial heats.

There are two common interpretations of Sanders’ regularly higher ratings among non-Democrats. The first, popular among Clinton supporters, is that he simply isn’t well-known enough to draw the ire of conservatives and moderates. The second, which you hear some Bernie fans articulate, is that he represents a subterranean majority of voters that transcends party labels. The first take undermines Sanders’ electability claims; the latter reinforces it.

But there’s a third interpretation that should arise every time one hears Sanders described as an “independent running for the Democratic nomination” or even as a “democratic socialist.” What he’s not being described as is a Democrat.

At The Upshot this weekend, political scientist Lynn Vavreck reminded us that pure, simple partisanship is largely what is driving the anger in American politics at the moment:

That Democrats and Republicans have different views on issues — even issues about race and rights — is not surprising. But recent work by Stanford University’s Shanto Iyengar and his co-authors shows something else has been brewing in the electorate: a growing hostility toward members of the opposite party. This enmity, they argue, percolates into opinions about everyday life.

Partisans, for example, are now more concerned that their son or daughter might marry someone of the opposite party (compared with Britain today and the United States in 1960). They also found that partisans are surprisingly willing to discriminate against people who are not members of their political party.

We’ve entered an age of party-ism.

So being less marked with the sign of the Democratic beast, it’s unsurprising that Sanders is less despised by those who dislike that party (Republicans) or both parties (true independents).

Would that survive a Democratic national convention in which Sanders (assuming he somehow wins the nomination) is kissing every Democratic icon in sight? And is then embraced in the final emotional moments of the convention by Hillary and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama?

I don’t think so. Whatever vehicle Sanders rides into Philadelphia, he would ride out of Philadelphia on a donkey. That could lose him some points among non-Democrats.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 4, 2016

April 5, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, Independents | , , , , | 1 Comment

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