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
“Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)”: Why Would It Be Offensive For Hillary Clinton To Woo Republican Voters?
Clinton’s reported effort to attract support from Republicans terrified of Donald Trump is a logically sound decision: heck, it’s Political Strategy 101. It is rational for Clinton to try to reach Republicans when one takes into account the two main obstacles she faces in a general election:
1) The likely suppression of large numbers of Democratic votes, thanks to the Supreme Court’s atrocious 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling, which effectively struck down the 1965 Voting Rights Act. As a result of that ruling, numerous states instituted restrictive voter ID laws, with the obvious purpose of blocking access to the polls for those who might find the Democratic Party’s message more palatable. No matter what the polls currently say about Trump’s popularity, Shelby County v. Holder gives Trump an advantage heading into November 8.
2) The bombastic “Bernie or Bust” movement, comprised of self-righteous snobs and egomaniacal elitists who regard Clinton as corporate America’s official escort service, and who turn up their noses in disgust at the thought of supporting a member of the so-called “Democratic establishment.” Many of these folks were the same ones who thought Al Gore was morally inferior to Ralph Nader sixteen years ago; they hate the former Secretary of State just as much as they hated the former Vice President.
In light of these political realities, it’s hard to argue against the logic of Clinton attempting to secure Republican support in the general election. If Clinton can siphon away a significant number of Republican votes to offset the number of Democratic votes she will not receive due to voter suppression and the “Bernie or Bust” movement, wouldn’t it be politically irresponsible for her not to do so?
Of course, some of the Republicans Clinton will try to attract will have to set aside 25 years of anti-Clinton propaganda in order to consider her candidacy. Some will find themselves unable to do so, their minds permanently poisoned by the lies of Limbaugh, the falsehoods of Fox and the BS of Breitbart News. However, if significant numbers of Republicans can come to the realization that human-caused climate change is not a hoax, why can’t significant numbers of Republicans come to the realization that Clinton is not, and never has been, corrupt?
I recognize the main argument against Clinton’s reported strategy, i.e., that it’s ridiculous to ask Republicans to put “country first,” so to speak, when they largely failed to do so in every post-Southern Strategy presidential election prior to 2016. However, the counterargument is that Trump is so uniquely ugly–far more loathsome than Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush Sr., Dole, Bush Jr., McCain and Romney combined–that a potentially large percentage of Republicans are now, at long last, open to seeking alternate political routes.
Some of these Republicans willing to cross the aisle will do so gritting their teeth. Consider this snark-filled endorsement of Clinton by former Maryland GOP official Michael Esteve:
I disagree with Hillary on a whole host of issues. She, too, may likely continue to abuse executive authority to circumvent an uncooperative Congress. She may try to curb Second Amendment rights (not without opposition from the likes of me). She may have repulsive political and personal ties and a dubious relationship with the truth.
But, honest to goodness (and I can’t believe I’m saying this), she’s at least surpassed the emotionality of a child. She doesn’t launch into personal tirades over minor slights, or worse yet, press criticism. She doesn’t shift her foreign policy at the drop of a dime, and form policy based on whatever stream of consciousness she’s in at any given moment. She doesn’t share tabloid stories as fact. She doesn’t scapegoat religious minorities for the nation’s woes. She doesn’t praise foreign dictators for strong leadership. She isn’t, in short, emotionally and politically unbalanced.
It’s also worth pointing out that for a Democrat, Hillary isn’t all wrong on the issues. She believes in a balanced approach to disincentivizing short-term thinking on Wall Street. She’s proposing keeping taxes flat for middle income families. Her foreign policy is neither as cavalier as George Bush’s nor as passive as Barack Obama’s.
For all of his sarcasm, Esteve at least understands that Clinton vs. Trump is rationality vs. radicalism, sagacity vs. savagery, analysis vs. anarchy. He at least understands that America under a Trump presidency will quickly move from democracy to dystopia, a vast wasteland of rampant prejudice and economic decline.
If enough Republicans share Esteve’s views–if enough Republicans recognize that the choice between Clinton and Trump is, in essence, a choice between decency and devastation–then Trump’s concession speech on November 8 will be shorter than Romney’s speech was four years ago.
By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 16, 2016
In my travels and conversations this year, I’ve been encouraged that grassroots people of all progressive stripes (populist, labor, liberal, environmental, women, civil libertarian, et al.) are well aware of the slipperiness of “victory” and want Washington to get it right this time. So over and over, Question No. 1 that I encounter is some variation of this: What should we do!?! How do we make Washington govern for all the people? What specific things can my group or I do now?
Thanks for asking. The first thing you can do to bring about change is show up. Think of showing up as a sort of civic action, where you get to choose something that fits your temperament, personal level of activism, available time and energy, etc. The point here is that every one of us can do something — and every bit helps.
Simply being there matters. While progressives have shown up for elections in winning numbers, our movement then tends to fade politely into the shadows, leaving public officials (even those we put in office) free to ignore us and capitulate to ever-present, ever-insistent corporate interests. No more. Grassroots progressives — as individuals and through our groups — must get in the face of power and stay there.
This doesn’t require a trip to Washington, though it can. It can be done right where you live — in personal meetings, on the phone, via email and letters, through social media (tweet at the twits!), on petitions, and any additional ways of communication that you and other creative people can invent. Hey, we’re citizens, voters, constituents — so we should not hesitate to request in-person appointments to chat with officials back home (these need not be confrontational), attend forums where they’ll be (local hearings, town hall sessions, speeches, meet & greets, parades, ribbon-cuttings, receptions, etc). They generally post their public schedules on their websites. Go to their meetings, ask questions, or at least say hello, introduce yourself, and try to achieve this: MAKE THEM LEARN YOUR NAME.
OK, you’re too busy to show up at all this stuff, but try one, then think of going to one every month or two. And you don’t have to go alone — get a family member, a couple of friends, a few members of the groups you’re in to join you. Make it an excursion, rewarding yourselves with a nice glass of wine or a beer and some laughs afterward.
Then there are times (“in the course of human events,” as Jefferson put it) when citizens have to come together in big numbers to protest, to insist on being heard. Lobbyists are able to meet with officials in quiet rooms, but when we’re shut out, a higher form of patriotism demands that ordinary folks surround a public official’s district office or a high-dollar fundraising event to deliver a noisy message about the people’s needs.
This is especially necessary for officials who get a substantial or even majority vote from progressive constituencies… but still stiff us on such major needs as increasing the minimum wage, overturning Citizens United, endorsing a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street speculators, and prohibiting the outrage of voter suppression. We have a right to expect them to respect our vote, and stand with us on the big issues. We’ve been too quiet, too indulgent with such office holders, and they won’t change until we start confronting them publicly.
Both in terms of having your own say and in demonstrating the strength of the grassroots numbers behind the policy changes we want, you and I are going to have to get noisier, more demonstrative, more out-front in demanding that elected officials really pay heed to those who elected them. Let’s make 2016 the year of reintroducing ourselves and our expectations to policymakers. At their every turn, we should be there, becoming a personal human presence (even an irritant) they cannot ignore.
By: Jim Hightower, Featured Post, The National Memo, April 13, 2016
“Sanders And The Snapchat Liberals”: Why Progressive America Routinely Punches Below Its Weight On The National Stage
If the polls hold, scoring tickets to “Hamilton” will be as good as it’s going to get for Bernie Sanders in New York. But let us first linger in Wisconsin, where Democrats and independents gave Sanders what looked like a decisive win.
It seems that 15 percent of Sanders’ Wisconsin supporters voted only for Bernie, leaving the rest of the ballot blank. By contrast, only 4 percent of Hillary Clinton voters skipped the down-ballot races.
It happens that one of the down-ballot races was for Wisconsin Supreme Court justice. The progressive, JoAnne Kloppenburg, had a good chance of toppling Rebecca Bradley, a right-wing appointee of Gov. Scott Walker’s. But Kloppenburg lost, in part because of the laziness of Snapchat liberals.
Snapchat is a messaging app that makes photos and videos disappear after they are viewed. Its logo is a ghost. Snapshot liberals are similarly ephemeral. They regard their job as exulting in the hero of the moment. Once the job is done, they vanish.
(An interesting wrinkle is that 10 percent of Sanders’ voters checked the box for Bradley. This suggests that a good chunk of his win came not from fans but from conservatives seeking to frustrate the Clinton candidacy.)
Anyhow, three days later, a Wisconsin circuit court judge struck down an anti-union law backed by Walker. The law ended unions’ right to require that private-sector workers benefiting from their negotiations pay dues or an equivalent sum.
The ruling was hailed as a “victory for unions,” but that victory will almost certainly be short-lived because the matter now heads to a divided state Supreme Court. As a Supreme Court justice, Kloppenburg could have helped save it.
Sanders can’t directly take the rap for this. He, in fact, had endorsed Kloppenburg.
But the Sanders campaign rests on contempt for a Democratic establishment that backs people like Kloppenburg. It sees even the normal give-and-take of governing as thinly veiled corruption. Liberals involved in the necessary horse trading are dismissed as sullied beyond repair.
TV comedy news reinforces this cartoonish view of what governing entails. The entertainers deliver earnest but simple-minded sermons on how all but a chosen few folks in Washington are corrupt hypocrites. (I find their bleeped-out F-words so funny. Don’t you?)
Snapchat liberals tend to buy into the “great man” theory of history. So if change comes from electing a white knight on a white horse, why bother with the down-ballot races?
Hence the irritating pro-Sanders poster: “Finally a reason to vote.”
Oh? Weren’t there reasons to vote all these years as tea party activists stocked Congress with crazy people? Wasn’t giving President Obama a Congress he could work with a reason to vote? (The liberal savior in 2008, Obama saw his own Snapchat fan base evaporate come the midterms.)
When asked whether he’d raise money for other Democrats if he were to win the nomination, Sanders replied, “We’ll see.”
Bernie doesn’t do windows and toilets. That’s for establishment Democrats.
The difference between the pitchfork right and the Snapchat left is this: The right marches to the polls to vote the other side out. The left waits for saintly inspiration. If the rallies are euphoric and the Packers aren’t playing the Bears, they will deign to participate. Then they’re gone in a poof of righteous smoke.
It is a crashing irony that many liberals who condemn voter suppression by the right practice voter suppression on themselves. The liberal version doesn’t involve onerous ID requirements at the polls. It comes in the deadening message that few candidates are good enough to merit a vote.
And that’s why progressive America routinely punches below its weight on the national stage.
By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, April 12, 2016
“Republicans’ Coup de Grace On Voting Rights?”: Putting The Interests Of The Republican Party Over The Interests Of Voters
Last week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case called Evenwel v. Abbott. The case involves an issue of increasing importance to American politics: congressional districting. It got to the Supreme Court because conservative litigators with a successful track record of fighting against the right to vote are trying to turn the logic of pro-voter rights decisions on their head. And it’s very possible that they may succeed again.
This most recent battle in the voting rights war involves two of the Warren Court’s most important decisions. One of the tactics that state legislatures used to disenfranchise African-Americans was to draw district lines (or refuse to revise them) in ways that left minority voters massively underrepresented. In Alabama in 1964, for example, some counties included 40 times more people than others. In Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims, the Supreme Court held that such schemes were illegal. States were required to adhere to a “one person, one vote” standard when apportioning their legislatures. Combined with robust enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, these landmark cases helped to end Jim Crow disenfranchisement schemes.
Perversely, this lawsuit hopes to use these decisions to turn back the clock and dilute the representation of minority voters. The theory of the lawsuit is that Texas violated the Equal Protection Clause when it drew its district lines based on total population rather than on the population of voters. The state, according to the theory, should only be able to conduct apportionment according to the number of eligible voters.
If adopted, the theory presents an obvious practical problem. Total population is measured with reasonable reliability by the Census. Eligible voters are much harder to measure, not least because the numbers change every election. (What should be counted — presidential election years? Off years? State elections? Some combination?) The discretion the measure would leave to legislators leaves the process open to more of the kind of manipulation that Reynolds v. Sims tried to minimize. Plus, it just seems illogical for a state’s representation in Congress to be based on total population, but its districts drawn by eligible voters.
Which brings us to the even bigger problem with the theory: In most cases, the effect of the rule change would be to overrepresent white voters and underrepresent minority voters. As Slate‘s Dahlia Lithwick puts it, “if the plaintiffs win this appeal, power will shift markedly from urban voters to rural voters and to white and Republican districts over minority and Democratic ones.” To read the Equal Protection Clause to not merely permit but require the under representation of minority voters is, to say the least, perverse.
That the argument should be indefensible doesn’t mean that it can’t win. The group bringing this lawsuit scored a major anti-voting rights victory with the 2013 case Shelby County v. Holder. In that case, a bare majority of the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Even worse, it did so by arguing that the explicit powers given to Congress to enforce the 15th Amendment were trumped by an alleged “equal state sovereignty” principle, an idea without support in the text of the Constitution or Supreme Court precedents not written by John Roberts, save for the infamous Dred Scott v. Sanford. If the Roberts Court is willing to cut the heart out of the most important civil rights statute since Reconstruction based on arguments that feeble, it’s hard to imagine why they wouldn’t put the interests of the Republican Party over the interests of voters in Evenwel v. Abbott.
That said, oral argument did not clearly indicate how the case will come out. The Court’s Democratic nominees were predictably hostile. Anthony Kennedy, the likely swing vote, appeared curious but non-committal to the plaintiff’s novel theory. Even if the Court doesn’t buy the argument that the Constitution requires the states to use voters rather than total population, if it signals that this kind of districting is permitted the consequences could be dire.
This case has to be seen as part of a larger political struggle. The Republican Party faces a problem: Demographic changes are making its overwhelmingly white voter base a smaller part of the population. This year, their presidential primary, in which the major candidates try to out-xenophobe one another, will make this problem worse rather than better. To combat this, Republican states have adopted various measures to suppress minority voters — if you can’t attract their votes, keep ‘em from the ballot box or try to make their votes count less through gerrymandering. Their allies in the Supreme Court might well use this case to assist in this vote-suppression effort once again.
By: Scott Lemieux, The Week, December 15, 2015