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“Undermining Democratic Turnout”: The Totally Legal Campaign To Steal 2016

The most striking facet of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Texas’ abortion law was how directly it confronted the obvious lie at the heart of the case.

Conservative lawmakers have enacted a sweeping flurry of abortion restrictions at the state level, and justified their policies with a supposed concern for women’s health. It’s such an obvious cover that when the court asked Texas’ lawyers to justify their arguments with empirical data, they had precisely bupkis. The point of these laws is to prevent abortion, women’s health be hanged.

An analogous situation is developing with respect to voting rights, where conservative legislators have also enacted a sweeping set of state-level regulations making it harder to vote and justified them with obvious nonsense about voter fraud. And it’s ready to pay off this year, especially in local elections.

The problem with voter ID laws — the signature conservative vote suppression measure — is that it’s aimed at the most idiotic possible method of stealing an election. Even a small local election is usually decided by hundreds if not thousands of votes, so in order to steal one with fraudulent individual votes, you’d have to get hundreds or thousands of people to commit a very serious felony — with no guarantee that it will actually swing the election.

As any tinpot dictator could tell you, the way to steal an election is by manipulating the central election procedure. Instead of wrangling thousands of random schlubs, you fiddle with the registration lists or the assignation of ballots — or you prevent the enemy party from voting in the first place.

Given the GOP’s other vote suppression measures — like shortening early voting, eliminating night and weekend voting, making it harder to register to vote, and so on, all of which have nothing to do with fraud but disproportionately hit liberal constituencies — undermining Democratic turnout is the obvious motivation behind voter ID and similar policies.

It’s always been unclear whether conservatives were being consciously deceptive about their motives, or had merely convinced themselves of tactically convenient nonsense by constant repetition. But at least some of them were outright lying. Ari Berman at The Nation has the goods, in an extensive report about how GOP vote suppression is paying dividends in Wisconsin:

Schultz asked his colleagues to consider not whether the bill would help the GOP, but how it would impact the voting rights of Wisconsinites. Then-State Senator Glenn Grothman cut him off: “What I’m concerned about is winning. We better get this done while we have the opportunity.” (When asked during the state’s April 5 primary why Republicans would carry Wisconsin in 2016, Grothman, who had since been elected to the U.S. Congress, replied: “Now we have photo ID.”) In a federal voting-rights case, Allbaugh named two other GOP senators who were “giddy” and “politically frothing at the mouth” over the bill. [The Nation]

Make no mistake, this is tantamount to election theft. But since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, it is all probably legal, and even fairly above board given the number of Republicans who have been caught letting slip the bleeding obvious.

But legal or illegal, there is little difference between falsifying the results of an election and preventing the enemy party’s supporters from voting. Either way American citizens are deprived of their due right to the franchise. And while there is no general constitutional right to vote, given that African-Americans are the most reliable Democratic Party supporters, many of the vote suppression measures are racist in effect and probably in intention, and therefore arguably violations of the 15th Amendment.

None of this is particularly original. Republicans are the direct heirs to the Dixiecrat political tradition, and this batch of vote suppression is a weak echo of the methods by which African-Americans were prevented from voting in the Jim Crow South.

But until Congress can re-protect the franchise, the key question for the future will be whether the Supreme Court will revisit its previous view that the Voting Rights Act is largely outdated and unnecessary. Chief Justice John Roberts came to that view through a tremendous effort of willful ignorance — but subsequent events could not possibly have proved him wrong more decisively. The next time voting rights comes before the court, the need to defend the franchise will be difficult to ignore.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, July 5, 2016

July 12, 2016 Posted by | Abortion, Conservatives, Voting Rights, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“State Passes Anti-Abortion Bill Described As ‘Insane'”: Don’t Policymakers In Oklahoma Have Real Work To Do?

Republican policymakers in Oklahoma are aware of the fact that they cannot simply ban all abortions. The Supreme Court has already considered flat prohibitions and deemed them unconstitutional.

Oklahoma’s GOP-led legislature has nevertheless concluded that it can ban doctors from performing abortions. Tulsa World reported today:

The Oklahoma Senate on Thursday sent Gov. Mary Fallin a bill that would make it a felony to perform abortions in Oklahoma, despite a federal court case legalizing it.

Senate Bill 1552, by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, would also allow the revocation of medical licenses for physicians who perform abortions. The measure passed by a vote of 33-12 with no debate.

The article added that there’s one physician in the state Senate, Republican Ervin Yen, who characterized the legislation as an “insane” measure that would invariably face a court challenge.

Of course, it will first have to be signed into law by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), who recently received some good advice from the editorial board of the New York Times: “For years, anti-abortion forces have relied on onerous regulations on providers to limit abortion services and lied about their true purpose because they know that a vast majority of Americans support a woman’s right to choose and that the Supreme Court has affirmed that right for more than four decades. Governor Fallin would save everyone the time and expense of litigation by vetoing the bill.”

Keep in mind, by approving a policy that’s obviously unconstitutional, and which is certain to fail in the courts, state lawmakers are asking Oklahoma taxpayers to foot the bill for a political exercise that will serve no practical or policy purpose.

But just below the surface, there’s another nagging question: don’t policymakers in Oklahoma have real work to do? Why invest time and resources in a culture-war bill that will inevitably be struck down?

During a debate in the state House over the anti-abortion proposal, state Rep. David Brumbaugh (R) told his colleagues, “Everybody talks about [Oklahoma’s] $1.3 billion deficit. If we take care of the morality, God will take care of the economy.”

This, evidently, was the prevailing attitude, which is why Oklahoma will soon have an unconstitutional ban on doctors performing a legal medical procedure, but won’t have a balanced budget.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 19, 2016

May 21, 2016 Posted by | Abortion, Mary Fallin, Oklahoma, Reproductive Choice | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Donald Trump’s Ignorant Honesty”: The Donald Never Learned What He Is And Isn’t Supposed To Say

For a guy so eager to tell you about the majestic size and quality of his brain, Donald Trump has a way of displaying his ignorance and getting into trouble whenever he gets asked detailed questions about a policy issue. And something has changed: Now it’s actually doing him some harm. The latest controversy, on abortion, shows us how some of what has served Trump so well in the primaries is coming back to bite him as he moves toward the general election.

For months, we all marvelled at how Trump could say almost anything, no matter how offensive or stupid, without suffering any damage in the polls. But that was possible because of the particular polls that mattered at the time: polls of Republican primary voters. And for Trump voters told for years that “political correctness” was oppressing them and ruining the country, the spectacle of someone so willing to offend and insult the people they never liked was intoxicating.

Today, with the nomination within his grasp, those primary polls don’t matter so much, and everyone is finally realizing that the things that so cheered his supporters were indications not just of how different a candidate he is, but of how the things about ordinary politicians that he rejects—the caution, the care taken not to offend, the carefully crafted talking points—serve an important purpose.

We’ll be seeing this cycle again: Trump gets pressed for details about an issue by an interviewer, he says something outside the expected or acceptable (or sane) range of opinions, without even realizing which norms and beliefs he has violated, and then he tries multiple times to refine and revise his comments after the unsurprising freak-out. In the abortion case, it took Trump a few tries—no doubt after huddled conferences with his advisers—to circle around the issue enough times that he could anger almost everyone. He was asked whether, if abortion becomes illegal as he and most Republicans support, women should be prosecuted for getting abortions. He responded that there should be “some form of punishment” for women, then said there shouldn’t be any punishment for them, then said we should leave the laws the way they are now, then said through a campaign aide that he’ll change the laws to outlaw abortion (here’s a wrap-up).

If Trump had come up through the Republican ranks like other candidates, none of this would be necessary, because he’d have learned what he is and isn’t supposed to say. On longstanding, contentious issues, each party has an entire structure of positions, ideas, and rhetoric that has been refined over years of thinking and arguing. That structure reflects their shared values and the policies they would like to implement. On an issue like abortion, which has moral, legal, and policy components, the structure is rather intricate. If you haven’t spent a long time within the places and among the people who use that structure to guide the way they think and talk about the issue, then you’re bound to make mistakes when you weigh in.

This incident is also a reminder that for all the time we spend on candidates’ “gaffes,” most of the time the people who run for president are executing a complex, demanding, and delicate rhetorical performance. They have to talk every day in public, covering a wide variety of complicated issues, and do it in a way that not only might persuade the undecided, but that won’t alienate large numbers of people at the same time. Except in the most unusual circumstances, you don’t get to the major leagues of a presidential run without spending years developing the knowledge and skill to pull it off.

But of course, there have seldom been more unusual circumstances than the one we’re witnessing right now, in the person of Donald Trump. And the irony in this incident is that Trump, unlike the rest of his party, kicked off the controversy by expressing a logically coherent opinion. If you believe that a day-old zygote is a fully human person and that abortion is murder, then how can you think that the person who planned that person’s murder shouldn’t be held legally culpable once you’ve outlawed abortion completely? After all, if a woman hired a hit man to murder her five-year-old she’d go to jail, and as far as conservatives are concerned there should be no moral or legal difference between a fetus and a child. Their answer to this problem is that “she’s a victim too,” because when it comes to anything involving the operation of their ladyparts, women must themselves be treated like children, or at the very least as though they were so mentally incapacitated that someone else has to make decisions for them.

It’s obvious that Trump was not sufficiently schooled in this intricate rhetorical dance, for the simple reason that he’s not a politician. But these kind of complicated positions aren’t constructed at random. They’re built to serve a set of sometimes contradictory purposes: allow us to pursue the outcome we prefer, give us a way to justify it in public, provide a rationale judges can build rulings on, and do it all while minimizing the number of voters it pisses off.

It doesn’t really work—the “gender gap,” where more women vote Democratic, is no accident. But Republican rhetoric is designed to, at the very least, minimize the damage by assuring women that the GOP really has their best interests at heart. If Donald Trump is the nominee, however, that’s going to be impossible. If nothing else, there’s something more honest about his fumbling around on issues like this. He may have no idea what he’s talking about, but that means he hasn’t learned how to skillfully wield the apparatus of deception Republicans have spent so much time crafting.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, April 4, 2016

April 6, 2016 Posted by | Abortion, Donald Trump, General Election 2016, GOP Voters | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Donald Trump Is Dangerous To Women”: In His Vision Of America, Women Have No Rights

There is perhaps no one in recent American political history who has outdone expectations as drastically as Donald Trump.

I do not mean this as a compliment. What I mean is that even as we have come to expect Donald Trump to say and be the absolute worst—to burrow beneath what previously seemed to be the garbage-strewn bottom—he continues to unashamedly dive to once unthinkable depths, outdistancing even the scavengers and bottom-feeders who preceded him.

An example of this occurred on Wednesday, when Trump stated that as president he would seek not only to ban abortion, but also to ensure that women who illegally obtained them should face “some kind of punishment.” Perhaps because the notion of criminalizing abortion and then exacting some kind of twisted revenge on women goes beyond even the rhetoric of the far-right anti-choice crowd, interviewer Chris Matthews gave Trump a chance to clarify his remarks.

“For the woman?” Matthews asked.

“Yeah. There has to be some form [of punishment],” Trump replied.

This is a man who has built his political—and if we go back even further, his public—brand on sexualizing, degrading, insulting and vocally and enthusiastically hating women. He makes jokes about newswomen being on their periods, about a fellow candidate’s wife being ugly. He has said countless terrible things about many, many prominent women. And in kind, his supporters dedicate time at rallies to violently shoving teenage girls, to allegedly groping and macing them in the face. Even his campaign manager allegedly physically attacked a reporter for doing her job.

And yet, Trump still finds a way to be worse, to keep digging beyond this.

A few days ago, one of Trump’s key advisers—a woman named Stephanie Cegielski—resigned. On her way out, she wrote an open letter that essentially accused Trump of being a know-nothing, power-hungry blowhard (I’m paraphrasing) whose entire persona may be contrived. Maybe that means Trump is not the misogynist (racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, nativist, transphobe) he plays on TV, or on the campaign trail. Maybe it’s all just talk to win hardened, bitter hearts and minds, which he only wants because his lust for power can never be quenched.

Yeah, maybe. I honestly don’t know if Trump hates women, and frankly, at this point, I don’t care. None of us, at this point, should give a shit about Trump’s personal psychology. That’s a problem for his shrink, who can never be paid enough.

What’s more important is the fact that Trump either believes or plays to the most misogynist elements of this country, the consequences of which are very real. When asked about issues of importance, from women’s reproductive rights to whether he’s down with the KKK, he says yes and later sort of says no, a way of cynically playing both sides of the fence to be sure he doesn’t alienate those who see themselves in the mirror of his terribleness. (Case in point: His backpedaling on Wednesday’s remarks.) He stokes anger and hatred toward women and then stands back and watches as his crowd, who were pretty hateful to being with, has their worst ideas of women confirmed and even applauded. He revels in their bile and ignorance, offering a safe space to be a woman-hating asshole whose every problem would be solved if only feminism and Black Lives Matter would go away.

With his latest remarks, Trump is advocating for an America where women have no agency over their bodies; where dangerous back-alley abortions are once again the norm; and where the health of women—especially those who have the gall to have sex—is inconsequential. A United States where women are mostly seen (if they are pretty), but heard only when they’re saying what men want to hear. Poor women, women of color and LGBT women would be even more disenfranchised and invisible. Trump is helping guide us toward being a country where violence against women is okay, in both word and deed. It’s disgusting and frightening. And it’s not that far from being a reality.

Donald Trump stopped being funny a long time ago, but the Woman Hater’s Club he’s built will, I’m certain, find all new ways to be horrible. Be outraged, be angry, make fun of Trump’s supporters, but know that won’t stop him. We’re long past that point. Don’t just stand on the sidelines and ridicule him. Trump’s medieval America is too dangerous and backward just to watch happen.

 

By: Kali Holloway, Senior Writer and Associate Editor of Media and Culture, AlterNet, March 30, 2016

April 1, 2016 Posted by | Abortion, Donald Trump, Violence Against Women, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“New ‘Select Committee’ On Planned Parenthood”: Where Do GOP Investigations Of Planned Parenthood Go Now?

The shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on Friday was a vivid reminder that the organization isn’t just a political lightning rod for conservatives who oppose abortion rights. It’s also under constant threat of harassment and violence from radical anti-abortion advocates, ranging from hate mail and vandalism all the way up to arson, bombings, and in a few cases, the murder of clinic staff or patients.

The Colorado attack comes at a time when the Republican Congress is trying to figure out new ways to go after the group. So where will those efforts go now?

At the moment, we don’t have direct confirmation that Robert Dear, the alleged killer, was motivated by objections to abortion. What we do know is that, according to anonymous law enforcement sources, he said “no more baby parts” to officials, which would be a clear reference to the “sting” videos created by an anti-abortion group showing Planned Parenthood personnel discussing the transfer of fetal tissue to researchers. (Though many have charged that the videos show Planned Parenthood “selling baby parts,” that is not in fact true. The organization only accepts small reimbursements on the order of $50 or so to cover their costs when making these transfers, and the videos don’t show them doing anything different.)

In any case, the important context to understand is that Planned Parenthood has almost never not been under attack, both from violent extremists and from Republicans in Congress who would like to see the organization disappear, or at least deprive it of the Medicaid reimbursements it gets for things like pap smears and cancer screenings (no government money can go to fund abortions). The nature and intensity of that assault ebbs and flows, but a confluence of events has caused the attack in Colorado Springs to get even more attention than it otherwise would have.

After those videos were released, Republican presidential candidates began condemning Planned Parenthood in unusually vituperative terms, accusing the group of murder and all manner of other crimes. Their colleagues in Congress saw an opportunity to renew what had been a sporadic attack on the group, so they mounted multiple investigations in an attempt to find something they could use as a justification for cutting off the group’s Medicaid reimbursements. When the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s lengthy grilling of Planned Parenthood chief Cecile Richards not only didn’t prove any wrongdoing but made the Republicans on the committee look foolish, outgoing Speaker John Boehner announced the creation of a Benghazi-style committee to investigate the organization.

The idea, as it seems to be in most congressional investigations Republicans launch, is that while they don’t really know what they’re looking for, if they look hard enough then they’ll find something that can be used against Planned Parenthood. And it’s possible they will, though there isn’t actually much reason to think so. If they do find something that sounds problematic, it will suddenly become the one aspect of the abortion issue Republicans care about above all others.

Don’t forget that before those videos came out and Republicans decided that “selling baby parts!” was a handy tool that could be used to bludgeon the group, they weren’t crusading to end fetal tissue research. Some of them even supported it; notably, Mitch McConnell voted for the law that allowed such research to take place. They’ve shown no interest in any new law changing the regulations covering how that research is conducted. If any of the presidential candidates who were in such high dudgeon over the videos have a plan to outlaw fetal tissue research, I haven’t heard about it.

The truth is that Republicans don’t despise Planned Parenthood because they genuinely believe the organization is breaking the law. They despise it because they despise abortion rights, and also because Planned Parenthood’s political activities support Democrats. It’s not complicated.

And now we have a situation where the Colorado murders help establish a context in which further “investigations” of Planned Parenthood in Congress will take place. Will the group’s advocates bring up those murders again and again, arguing that clinic violence and congressional harassment are all parts of the same animal? You bet they will. That won’t change Republicans’ desire to go after Planned Parenthood, but it might make them a little hesitant about doing so, at least until memories have a chance to fade.

The Benghazi committee has been going for a year and a half, and shows no sign of ever wrapping up its work so long as there’s some miniscule chance it might find something incriminating on Hillary Clinton. So Republicans might just make their select committee on Planned Parenthood semi-permanent, even if they put it on the back burner for a while.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, November 30, 2015

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Abortion, Conservatives, GOP, Reproductive Choice, Women's Health | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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