Archives for category: Politics

Dean Obeidallah, a regular contributor to CNN, describes the Texas GOP’s defiant rejection of democracy. In an earlier post, I pointed out that the state convention booed Senator Jon Cornyn for daring to negotiate a bipartisan gun control deal (which did not include any of President Biden’s demands). That was the mildest of their actions.

He writes:

CNN) – Disturbing video from the Texas Republican Convention this weekend shows convention-goers mocking GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw — a Navy SEAL veteran who lost his right eye to a bomb in Afghanistan — with the term “eye patch McCain.”

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson coined the derisive nickname after the Texas lawmaker dared to express support for beleaguered Ukraine following Russia’s barbaric attack on it.

But apparently even more heinous in the eyes of some attendees is that Crenshaw rejected former President Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen. One man wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat can be seen yelling in an online video, “Dan Crenshaw is a traitor!” and “He needs to be hung for treason!”

As despicable as the behavior toward Crenshaw was, even more alarming were the actions taken by the Texas GOP and the convention’s 5,000-plus delegates.

The gathering rejected the outcome of a democratic election, supported bigotry toward the LGBTQ community and imposed far-right religious beliefs on others by seeking to have them enshrined into law. And that wasn’t half of it.

In fact, the convention showed us one thing: Texas Republicans are no longer hiding their extremism. Instead, they are openly embracing it.

Even before the opening gavel, they gave us a glimpse of the party’s extremism in the Lone Star State by banning the Log Cabin Republicans from setting up a booth at the convention.

Texas Republican Party Chairman Matt Rinaldi cast the deciding vote on the move to bar the group that has advocated for LGBTQ Republicans for decades. “I think it’s inappropriate given the state of our nation right now for us to play sexual identity politics,” Rinaldi told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Once it formally got underway, the convention took a number of appalling and un-American actions. First, delegates approved a measure declaring that President Joe Biden “was not legitimately elected.” In short, the Texas GOP — like Trump himself — is embracing a lie because it’s unhappy with the election results. Put more bluntly, the Texas GOP voted to reject American democracy.

Republican delegates also booed John Cornyn, the senior US senator from Texas, at the convention Friday because of the Republican lawmaker’s role leading negotiations to reach a Senate deal on a bill to stem gun violence. Those legislative efforts follow last month’s horrific shooting that claimed the lives of 19 schoolchildren and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas.

The platform approved at the convention called for repealing or nullifying gun laws already in place, such as the Gun Control Act of 1968, which prevents felons and other dangerous people from being able to purchase a gun legally. Apparently, the Texas GOP believes that even dangerous people should have a constitutionally protected right to buy a gun.

The Texas GOP platform also embraced ramping up anti-abortion rhetoric in public schools. For example, the platform states that “Texas students should learn about the Humanity of the Preborn Child, including … that life begins at fertilization.” It even seeks to force students to watch “a live ultrasound” and for high-schoolers to read an anti-abortion booklet that critics say “includes scientifically unsupported claims and shames women seeking abortion care,” according to The Texas Tribune.

It sounds like the curriculum that you might find in a theocratic government such as the Taliban — not one in the United States funded by taxpayer dollars. But the GOP in large swaths of this country is no longer hesitant to support laws to impose its religious beliefs — as we see with measures some Republicans champion that would totally ban abortion. The GOP convention’s document additionally urges officials “not to infringe on Texas school students’ and staffs’ rights to pray and engage in religious speech.”

The Texas GOP platform also does its best to demonize those in the transgender community. It describes transgender people as suffering from “a genuine and extremely rare mental health condition.” And it sees sexual reassignment surgery as a form of medical malpractice.

The platform takes aim at gay Americans as well with the statement that homosexuality is “an abnormal lifestyle choice.” Instructively, the Texas GOP platform did not include such language in 2018 and 2020.

This platform gives us a glimpse into the views of the Republican base on key issues that in turn will pressure GOP elected officials in Texas — and possibly beyond the state — to adopt similarly extreme positions or run the risk of a primary challenge from an even more extreme Republican.

What caused this move to the far right? Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston, told The Texas Tribune about the state GOP’s new extreme platform, “Donald Trump radicalized the party and accelerated the demands from the base.” He added alarmingly, “There simply aren’t limits now on what the base might ask for.”

I agree — in part. I don’t think Trump radicalized the base — rather he simply gave people permission to be who they always wanted to be.

But I agree with Rottinghaus that there are now no limits for what the GOP base might seek — be it rejecting election results it doesn’t agree with to enacting more laws based on extreme religious beliefs. And that should deeply alarm every American who wants to live in a democratic republic.

The convention also issued a call to repeal the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which guaranteed the right to vote for every citizen of voting age.

The only thing the Texas GOP neglected to do was pass a resolution congratulating the shooter at Uvalde for exercising his “God-given right” to use his AR15 as he saw fit.

Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect is one of my favorite thinkers, and I am glad to share his latest with you. Republicans like to say, as Texas Governor Greg Abbott did, that this is not the time to “politicize” the issue of gun control, in the midst of a massacre of students and their teachers. But, if this is not the right time, when is? This horrific event was not an accident, it was the result of Republican policies that put the rights of gun owners over the right to life. Republicans have used politics to put the lives of children, teachers, grocery shoppers, and other citizens at risk. Now is the time to say so.

Republicans on the Wrong Side of Public Outrage
Their opposition to gun laws and assault on women’s health should be center-stage issues. 
Here’s the bizarre thing about mass gun violence that takes the lives of schoolchildren and the likely reversal of Roe v. Wade: Public opinion is not with the right. It is overwhelmingly in favor of banning civilian purchase of assault weapons. It is overwhelmingly in favor of keeping Roe. And yet a party that espouses these and other extreme views is on the verge of taking over the country. If we let it.

What can prevent this grim fate is resolute leadership that stands with most Americans—and also hangs this lunacy around the necks of Republicans and makes them squirm. In his first statement on the mass murder, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott noted that the shooter was dead. You can imagine how much comfort that offers parents.

Other Republicans have offered reassurance by pointing out that the killer acted alone. No, he did not. He had multiple Republican accomplices who keep blocking gun control and valorizing guns with open-carry laws.

They also like to term the Texas shooting a “tragedy.” No, it was not. It was preventable homicide of children. Political allies of abortion zealots who worry about the alleged rights of the unborn need to look to the rights of living children.

President Biden was at his best in his statement on the Texas school shooting. He called out both the gun lobby and the gun manufacturers. He ridiculed gun nuts who conflate hunting rifles with assault weapons.

When we passed the assault weapons ban, mass shootings went down. When the law expired, mass shootings tripled. The idea that an 18-year-old kid can walk into a gun store and buy two assault weapons is just wrong. What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill someone? Deer aren’t running through the forest with Kevlar vests on, for God’s sake. It’s just sick.
Biden’s expression of appalled sympathy was from the heart. “To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away,” he said. Biden has been there.

Maybe the president’s first statement on the shooting was not the time to call out the Republicans who resist even the mildest gun legislation. But this is no time to temporize for fear of rural voters or pro-gun Democrats. The vast majority of citizens are sick of this carnage.

Biden needs to follow up by sending Congress legislation that goes beyond poll-tested “commonsense” measures like background checks and the extension of existing regulations to gun shows. We need to ban all military weapons, and to identify the wall-to-wall opposition with Republicans, and dare them to block it.

Biden is facing political headwinds on inflation and supply shortages. But on gun control and women’s health, public opinion is with him, and Republicans look like fools. There is nothing shameful about maximizing the partisan advantage. In a democracy, that’s what leadership is all about.
~ ROBERT KUTTNER

Steven Rosenfeld runs a project for the Independent Media Institute called “Voting Booth.” His posts are informative. This one reviews the Republican primary for Governor in Pennsylvania, where all the candidates swear fealty to Trump and the Big Lie.

He writes:

Another extreme wing of the Republican Party is emerging, and it’s not all Trump.

J.D. Vance, the Ohioan who grew up poor, joined the Marines, got a Yale law degree, wrote a bestseller about his hardscrabble upbringing, became a venture capitalist, and panned Donald Trump before becoming a convert to Trumpism and winning Ohio’s GOP primary for U.S. Senate, is one brand of 2022’s Republican candidates—a shapeshifter, as the New York Times’ conservative columnist Bret Stephens noted.

“He’s just another example of an increasingly common type: the opportunistic, self-abasing, intellectually dishonest, morally situational former NeverTrumper who saw Trump for exactly what he was until he won and then traded principles and clarity for a shot at gaining power,” Stephens said in a conversation with New York Times liberal columnist Gail Collins that was published on May 9.

But the GOP’s frontrunner for governor in Pennsylvania’s crowded May 17 primary field, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, is an entirely different Republican: a man of deep religious and political convictions who, if he wins the nomination and the general election, could be problematic for Americans who do not want elected officials to impose their personal beliefs on the wider public, whether the topic is abortion, vaccines, denying election results, or calling on God’s help to seize political power.

Mastriano’s current lead among nine candidates, with nearly 28 percent, could be taken two ways. He could be an extremist, like Trump in 2016, who won because too many contenders split the mainstream vote in a low-turnout primary. (In 2018, less than one-fifth of Pennsylvania’s voters turned out—suggesting that 2022’s winner may be nominated by as little as 5 percent of its state electorate.) Or, if Pennsylvania’s GOP were more firmly in control of its nomination process, Mastriano’s support might pale next to the establishment’s pick.

It remains to be seen if voters’ allegiances will shift as May 17approaches, especially as the Democrats’ likely nominee, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, has signaled that Mastriano is the Republican he would most like to run against in the general election by launching TV attack ads. Centrist Republicans also are attacking Mastriano, but the Philadelphia Inquirer reports it’s not working.

Mastriano’s prospects, and his chances in the upcoming general election in the fall as another breed of 2022’s GOP mavericks, suggest that wider currents are roiling American politics, including, in this national battleground state, a mainstreaming of white Christian nativism.

Mastriano is a retired Army military intelligence officer and Army War College historian (whose error-filled 2014 biography of a World War I heroic Christian soldier embarrassedits university press). In uniform, he served overseas in Eastern Europe, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan. His career in elected office started in a predictable rightward fashion: proposing a bill to ban abortion. But after 2020’s election, he emerged from local ranks as an early and fervent member of Trump’s “Stop the Steal” cavalry who sought to subvert the certification of its winner, Pennsylvania native Joe Biden, who officially beat Trump by 80,000 votes.

Mastriano invited Big Lie propagandist Rudy Giuliani and others to legislative hearings. On January 6, 2021, he bussed Trump supporters to the U.S. Capitol, and newly surfaced videosshow that he followed them past police barriers. He opposed COVID-19 mandates, and in mid-2021 started calling for an Arizona-style “audit” of the state’s 2020 presidential election results. But unlike Arizona’s effort, led by the Cyber Ninjas’ Doug Logan, another deeply observant but more private Christian, Mastriano is vocal about how much his religion influences his politics.

A New Yorker profile by Eliza Griswold on May 9 characterizes Mastriano as a white Christian nationalist—a term he rejects—who, before the January 6 Capitol riot, “exhorted his followers to ‘do what George Washington asked us to do in 1775. Appeal to Heaven. Pray to God. We need an intervention.’”

On the 2020 election denial front, Mastriano is not alone. Although he was leading in a crowded field, there are other candidates for governor who have been falsely proclaiming that Democrats stole their state’s 2020 election and the presidency, and even forged Electoral College documents sent to Washington, D.C.

“If you thought Donald Trump’s endorsement of Dr. Mehmet Oz for Senate was the worst development in Pennsylvania’s 2022 GOP primaries, wait until you hear about the Republicans running for governor,” wrote Amanda Carpenter, a political columnist for the Bulwark, an anti-Trump Republican news and opinion website.

“They’re all election conspiracists.” she continued. “The only thing differentiating them is how far down the rabbit hole they go. And, there’s an excellent chance the nuttiest bunny of them all, Doug Mastriano, is going to win the primary.”

But Mastriano is not a mere Trump imitator. He is cut from an older, more gothic American political cloth: mixing a nativist piety, conspiratorial mindset, and authoritarian reflexes. The Philadelphia Inquirer characterized his unbending religiosity as belonging to the “charismatic strand of Christianity.” The New Yorker’s Griswold concluded that “Mastriano’s rise embodies the spread of a movement centered on the belief that God intended America to be a Christian nation.”

This political type is not new, wrote Kevin Phillips, a former Republican strategist and historian, in 2006 in American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, which detailed how George W. Bush’s evangelism tainted his presidency. However, Mastriano’s ascension, coupled with a Trump-fortified U.S. Supreme Court that’s poised to void a woman’s right to abortion, affirms today’s reemergence of a radical right.

“Christianity in the United States, especially Protestantism, has always had an evangelical—which is to say, missionary—and frequently a radical or combative streak,” wrote Phillips. “Some message has always had to be preached, punched, or proselytized.”

Add in Mastriano’s embrace of Trumpian authoritarianism, and the Keystone State’s leading GOP candidate for governor is proudly part of this pantheon. As the Inquirer wroteon May 4, he “often invokes Esther, the biblical Jewish queen who saved her people from slaughter by Persians, casting himself and his followers as God’s chosen people who have arrived at a crossroads—and who must now defend their country, their very lives.”

“It is the season of Purim,” Mastriano said, according to the paper’s report of a “March [campaign] event in Lancaster, referring to the Jewish holiday celebrated in the Book of Esther.” The gubernatorial candidate continued, “And God has turned the tables on the Democrats and those who stand against what is good in America. It’s true.”

A Heavy Hand?

It’s hardly new for Republicans to demonize Democrats. But under Trump, the enemies list has grown to include not just the media (Mastriano has barred reporters from rallies and abruptly ended interviews), but America’s “secular democracy” (as Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a professor of history at Calvin University and the author of Jesus and John Wayne, put it in Griswold’s piece for the New Yorker). This targeting includes the government civil servants who administer elections and the technology used to cast and count votes.

When it comes to election administration, if elected governor, Mastriano gets to appoint the secretary of state, the state’s top election regulator. He also has pledged to sign legislation to curtail voting with mailed-out ballots, which was how 2.6 million Pennsylvanians—about 38 percent of voters, including nearly 600,000 Trump voters—cast 2020’s presidential ballots. (As of May 10, nearly 900,000 voters had applied for a mailed-out ballot for 2022’s primary.) Such a policy shift, if enacted, would deeply inconvenience, if not discourage, voter turnout.

Mastriano, if elected, could also play an outsized role should the presidency in 2024 hinge on Pennsylvania’s 19 presidential electors. In the wake of the 2020 election, as Trump and his allies filed and lost more than 60 election challenge suits, one of their arguments was the U.S. Constitution decrees that state legislatures set the “time, place and manner” of elections. That authority could include rejecting the popular vote in presidential elections and appointing an Electoral College slate favoring the candidate backed by a legislative majority, which, in Pennsylvania, has been Republican since 2011’s extreme gerrymander.

Pennsylvania has been at the forefront of recent litigation over this power grab, the so-called “independent state legislature doctrine.” If elected governor, Mastriano could hasten a constitutional crisis, because under the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which was designed to say how competing slates of presidential electors are to be resolved, the governor—not the state legislature—has the final say, according to Edward B. Foley, a widely respected election law scholar.

“A key provision of the act says that if the [U.S.] House and Senate are split [on ratifying a state’s Electoral College slate], the governor of the state in dispute becomes the tiebreaker,” Foley wrote in 2016, when scholars were gaming post-Election Day scenarios in Trump’s race against Hillary Clinton. While speculating about 2024 is premature, there’s some precedent to heed.

After the 2020 election, 84 people in seven battleground states that Biden won, including Pennsylvania, sent listsof unauthorized Trump electors to the National Archives in Washington. Two of Mastriano’s primary opponents, ex-congressman Lou Barletta and Charlie Gerow, signed the fake Electoral College slates. Mastriano, however, did not.

With days to go before the primary, Josh Shapiro, the Democrats’ likely nominee for governor (he is running unopposed in the party primary) is already running anti-Mastriano TV ads seeking to tie the Republican candidate to Trump. (Incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, faces term limits and cannot seek reelection.) Shapiro’s strategy to elevate Mastriano is “dangerous,” according to Inquirer columnist Will Bunch, as it affirms Mastriano’s credentials to voters and could backfire in the fall—in a replay of Trump’s 2016 victory in the state.

“A Gov. Mastriano, Shapiro’s new TV spot says, would effectively ban abortion in the Keystone State and, the narrator continues, ‘he led the fight to audit the 2020 election,’” Bunch wroteon May 8. “‘If Mastriano wins, it’s a win for what Donald Trump stands for.’ Cue the Satanic music, maybe the only clue that the Shapiro campaign thinks these are bad things. The commercial’s closing pitch: ‘Is that what we want in Pennsylvania?’”

“The answer, for far too many people in a state where the wife-cheating, private-part-grabbing xenophobe won by 44,292 votes in 2016, would, unfortunately, be ‘yes.’”

But a Mastriano primary victory would be more than the latest affirmation of the ex-president’s sway over swaths of today’s GOP. It heralds the rise of “radicalized religion,” as Phillips wrote in American Theocracyabout fundamentalists and George W. Bush’s presidency, merged with more recent Trumpian authoritarianism.

“Few questions will be more important to the 21st-century United States than whether renascent religion and its accompanying political hubris will be carried on the nation’s books as an asset or as a liability,” Phillips wrote. “While sermons and rhetoric propounding American exceptionalism proclaim religiosity an asset, a sober array of historical precedents—the pitfalls of imperial Christian overreach from Rome to Britain—tip the scales toward liability.”

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a projectof the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, the American Prospect, and many others.

Voting Booth is a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Historian Heather Cox Richardson wrote a fascinating column about Steve Schmidt’s recent revelations about important political figures. Like the good historian she is, she connects the dots.

At home, a big story broke over the weekend, reminding us that the ties of the Republican Party to Russians and the effect of those ties on Ukraine reach back not just to former president Trump, but at least to the 2008 presidential campaign of Arizona senator John McCain.

Late Saturday night, political strategist Steve Schmidt, who worked on a number of Republican political campaigns including McCain’s when he ran for president in 2008, began to spill what he knows about that 2008 campaign. Initially, this accounting took the form of Twitter threads, but on Sunday, Schmidt put the highlights into a post on a Substack publication called The Warning. The post’s title distinguished the author from those journalists and members of the Trump administration who held back key information about the dangerous behavior in Trump’s White House in order to include it in their books. The post was titled: “No Books. No Money. Just the Truth.”

Schmidt left the Republican Party in 2018, tweeting that by then it was “fully the party of Trump. It is corrupt, indecent and immoral. With the exception of a few governors…it is filled with feckless cowards who disgrace and dishonor the legacies of the party’s greatest leaders…. Today the GOP has become a danger to our democracy and our values.” Schmidt helped to start The Lincoln Project, designed to sink Trump Republicans through attack ads and fundraising, in late 2019.

The apparent trigger for Schmidt’s accounting was goading from McCain’s daughter Meghan McCain, a sometime media personality who, after years of slighting Schmidt, recently called him a pedophile, which seems to have been a reference to the fact that a colleague with whom Schmidt started The Lincoln Project was accused of online sexual harassment of men and boys. Schmidt resigned over the scandal.

Schmidt was fiercely loyal to Senator McCain and had stayed silent for years over accusations that he was the person who had chosen then–Alaska governor Sarah Palin as McCain’s vice presidential candidate, lending legitimacy to her brand of uninformed fire-breathing radicalism, and about his knowledge of McCain’s alleged affair with a lobbyist.

In his tweetstorm, Schmidt set the record straight, attributing the choice of Palin to McCain’s campaign director and McCain himself, and acknowledging that the New York Times had been correct in the reporting of McCain’s relationship with the lobbyist, despite the campaign’s angry denial.

More, though, Schmidt’s point was to warn Americans that the mythmaking that turns ordinary people into political heroes makes us unwilling to face reality about their behavior and, crucially, makes the media unwilling to tell us the truth about it. As journalist Sarah Jones wrote in PoliticusUSA, Schmidt’s “broader point is how we, as Americans, don’t like to be told the truth and how our media so loves mythology that they work to deliver lies to us instead of holding the powerful accountable.”

Schmidt’s biggest reminder, though, was that the director of the 2008 McCain campaign was Richard (Rick) Davis, a founding partner of Davis Manafort, the political consulting firm formed in 1996. By 2003, the men were representing pro-Russia Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Yanukovych; in July 2004, U.S. journalist Paul Klebnikov was murdered in Moscow for exposing Russian government corruption; and in June 2005, Manafort proposed that he would work for Putin’s government in former Soviet republics, Europe, and the United States by influencing politics, business dealings, and news coverage.

From 2004 to 2014, Manafort worked for Yanukovych and his party, trying to make what the U.S. State Department called a party of “mobsters and oligarchs” look legitimate. In 2016, Manafort went on to lead Donald Trump’s campaign, and the ties between him, the campaign, and Russia are well known. Less well known is that in 2008, Manafort’s partner Rick Davis ran Republican candidate John McCain’s presidential campaign.

Schmidt writes that McCain turned a blind eye to the dealings of Davis and Manafort, apparently because he was distracted by the fallout when the story of his personal life hit the newspapers. Davis and Manafort were making millions by advancing Putin’s interests in Ukraine and eastern Europe, working for Yanukovych and Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Schmidt notes that “McCain spent his 70th birthday with Oleg Deripaska and Rick Davis on a Russian yacht at anchor in Montenegro.”

“There were two factions in the campaign,” Schmidt tweeted, “a pro-democracy faction and…a pro Russia faction,” led by Davis, who—like Manafort—had a residence in Trump Tower. It was Davis who was in charge of vetting Palin.

McCain was well known for promising to stand up to Putin, and Palin’s claim that she could counter the growing power of Russia in part because “[t]hey’re our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska” became a long-running joke (the comment about seeing Russia from her house came from a Saturday Night Live skit).

But a terrific piece in The Nation by Mark Ames and Ari Berman in October 2008 noted: “He may talk tough about Russia, but John McCain’s political advisors have advanced Putin’s imperial ambitions.” The authors detailed Davis’s work to bring the Balkan country of Montenegro under Putin’s control and concluded that either McCain “was utterly clueless while his top advisers and political allies ran around the former Soviet domain promoting the Kremlin’s interests for cash, or he was aware of it and didn’t care.”

Trump’s campaign and presidency, along with Putin’s deadly assault on Ukraine, puts into a new light the fact that McCain’s campaign manager was Paul Manafort’s business partner all the way back in 2008.

Note: Richardson has a list of sources at the end of her post. For some unknown reason, WordPress did not permit me to copy her notes. I inserted some but not all. Open the post to check the links.

Myah Ward of Politico Nightly interviewed Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine about the depressing fact that one million Americans have died due to COVID. It’s fair to say that he was outraged by the many thousands of unnecessary deaths, encouraged by Republican politicians and by hostility to science. One man, not mentioned here, could have persuaded his followers to get vaccinated and boosted, as he did. Donald Trump. But while he rightly took credit for the rapid development of vaccines, but did nothing to discourage the anti-vaxxers.

1 million deaths. Did you ever think we’d get here?

For me, the big reckoning was the fact that we’ve not really come to a real national dialogue about what happened after May 1, 2021. That was the day the White House announced that there are so many Covid vaccines that any American who wants to get vaccinated can get vaccinated. Yet we lost another 200,000-300,000 Americans after that date. Those who were defiant to vaccines were overwhelmingly in red states, and the redder the county as measured by Trump voters in the 2020 election, the higher the vaccine refusal and the greater the loss of life.

It wasn’t by accident. It was a deliberate effort by members of the House Freedom Caucus, in the House, some U.S. senators, amplified nightly on Fox News.

I don’t even call it misinformation or disinformation anymore. I call it anti-science aggression, to convince millions of Americans not to take a Covid vaccine. And at least 200,000 Americans between May 1 and the end of 2021 died needlessly from Covid because of it. And everyone’s afraid to talk about it because it’s very unpleasant to have to point out that these deaths occurred along such a strict partisan divide. Even the White House won’t talk about it in that way.

So, with an exhausted public, how would you re-engage Americans at this point? Is it by having these “unpleasant” conversations?

You can understand the first wave of deaths in New York in the spring of 2020. You can even start to understand the second wave of deaths in the summer of 2020, in Texas, in the southern U.S. when we’re just trying to understand it. But then as you move forward, you have to start to come to terms with the fact that a majority of the deaths were probably preventable. And certainly just about all of the deaths after May 1 were preventable. And I think that needs to be front and center. That these are not accidental deaths. The people who lost their lives and died after May 1 were themselves victims of anti-science aggression. If you look at the big-picture threats to the U.S. that we spend billions of dollars every year to combat, like global terrorism, nuclear proliferation, or cyberattacks. Anti-science aggression kills more Americans than all those things combined by far. And yet we don’t recognize it as such. That’s critically important to point that out.

Alongside Americans being “done” with the pandemic, there’s also the concern about Covid funding running out if Congress doesn’t act. How important is this money in your view?

We have to recognize that the mRNA boosters are not holding up as well as we’d like. We’re going to have to probably go — unless we come up with a better technology, which I think we should, but that’s a different matter — we’re gonna need to ask the American people to get boosted yet again. And we’re gonna have to provide those vaccines.

And we’re going to need an ongoing amount of Paxlovid, for instance. I mean, why am I talking to you right now? I’m talking to you right now because I’m the beneficiary of Paxlovid, which I’m on right now, and I’m the beneficiary of having my second booster. And even though it’s not ideal to ask Americans to continue to boost, it’s still going to be essential.

The White House is warning we could see 100 million infections this fall. How do you see this fall and winter unfolding?

I know that’s what the White House is doing, but I don’t quite understand the logic of jumping to fall and winter. We still have two big peaks that are hitting us before fall and winter. We have this current BA.2.12.1, which is now about to become the dominant variant. It’s so transmissible, all you need to do is give a dirty look to that subvariant and you become infected. It’s up there with measles. So that’s issue No. 1. And issue No. 2 is we’ve had a terrible wave of Covid-19 both for the last two summers in Texas in the southern United States. I’m expecting that again. Even before the fall, we’re going to have another wave over the summer from variant TBD, to be determined.

Conservatives used to be known as people resistant to radical change. In decades past, conservatives sought to conserve traditional institutions and make them better. That stance appealed to many Americans who were unsettled by radical ideas, opposed to big-box stores that would wipe out small-town America’s Main Street. Conservatives were also known for opposing government intrusion into personal decisions; what you did in your bedroom was your business, not the state’s. What you and your doctor decided was best for you was your decision, not the state’s.

Chris Rufo is the face of the New Conservatism, who wants to frighten the parents of America into tearing down traditional institutions, especially the public school that they and their family attended.

Rufo became well-known for creating a national panic about “critical race theory,” which he can’t define and doesn’t understand. But he seems to think that schools are controlled by racist pedagogues and sexual perverts. In his facile presentation at Hillsdale College, one of the most conservative institutions of higher education in the nation, he makes clear that America has fallen from its position as a great and holy nation to a slimepit of moral corruption.

He has two great Satans in his story: public schools and the Disney Corporation. The Disney Corporation, in his simple mind, is a haven for perverts and pedophiles, bent on corrupting the youth of the nation.

Rufo asserts, based on no discernible evidence, that the decline and fall of America can be traced to the failed revolution of 1968. The radicals lost, as Nixon was elected that year, but burrowed into the pedagogical and cultural institutions, quietly insinuating their sinister ideas about race and sex into the mainstream, as the nation slept. Rufo’s writings about “critical race theory,” which he claims is embedded in schools, diversity training in corporations, and everywhere else he looked, made him a star on Tucker Carlson’s show, an advisor to the Trump White House, and a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute. Benjamin Wallace-Wells wrote a profile of Rufo in The New Yorker and identified him as the man who invented the conflict over critical race theory, which before Rufo was a topic for discussion in law schools.

Before Rufo’s demonization of CRT, it was known among legal scholars as a debate about whether racism was fading away or whether it was systemic because it was structured into law and public policy. I had the personal pleasure of discussing these ideas in the mid-1980s with Derrick Bell, who is generally recognized as the founder of CRT. Bell was then at the Harvard Law School, after working as a lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He reached the conclusion that the Brown Decision of 1954 was inadequate to root out systematic racism.

At the time, I was a centrist in my politics and believed that racism was on its way out. Derrick disagreed. We spoke for hours, he invited me to present a paper at a conference he was organizing, which I did. Contrary to Rufo, I can attest that Derrick Bell was not a Marxist. He was not a radical. He wanted an America where people of different races and backgrounds had decent lives, unmarred by racial barriers. He was thoughtful, gentle, one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. He wanted America to be the land it professed to be. He was a great American.

Was 1968 the turning point, after which the radicals took over our culture and destroyed our founding ideals, as Rufo claims? No, it was not. I was there. He was born in 1984. He’s blowing smoke, making up a fairy-tale that he has spun into a narrative.

In 1968, I turned 30. I had very young children. I was not sympathetic to the hippies or the Weather Underground or the SDS. I hated the Vietnam War, but I was not part of any organized anti-war group. I believed in America and its institutions, and I was firmly opposed to those who wanted to tear them down, as the Left did then and as the Right does now. I worked in the Humphrey campaign in 1968 and organized an event in Manhattan—featuring John Kenneth Galbraith, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and a long lineup of “liberals for Humphrey”— that was disrupted and ruined by pro-Vietnam Cong activists. That event, on the eve of the 1968 election, convinced me that Nixon would win. (While my event was disrupted, Nixon held a campaign rally a block away, at Madison Square Garden, that was not disrupted.)

1968 was the year that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. It was a horrible, depressing year. America seemed to be falling apart.

Did the Weathermen and other radicals begin a long march through the institutions and eventually capture them? That’s ridiculous. Some became professors, but none became college presidents, to my knowledge. Many were ostracized. Some went to prison for violent crimes. Those who played an active political role in 1968 are in their 80s now, if they are alive.

Rufo’s solution to what he sees as the capture of our institutions by racists and pedophiles is surpringly simple: school choice. He hopes everyone will get public money to send their children to private and religious schools, to charter schools, or to home school them. If only we can destroy public schools, he suggests, we can restore America to the values of 1776.

Good old 1776, when most black people were slaves, women had no rights, and the aristocracy made all the decisions. They even enjoyed conjugal rights to use their young female slaves. Those were the good old days, in the very simple mind of Christopher Rufo.

Turning the clock back almost 250 years! Now that’s a radical idea.

Paul Waldman is an opinion columnist for The Washington Post. In this article, he criticizes Democrats for failing to stand up to Republican slanders and lies about public schools. He raises an important point: Why aren’t Democrats fighting Republican lies about the schools? Why aren’t the billionaires who claim to be liberal speaking out against this vicious campaign to destroy our public schools? One reason for the silence of the Democrats: Arne Duncan derided and insulted public schools and their teachers as often as Republicans.

Waldman wrote recently:

For the last year or so, Republicans have used the “issue” of education as a cudgel against Democrats, whipping up fear and anger to motivate their voters and seize power at all levels of government.

Isn’t it about time Democrats fought back?
Republicans have moved from hyping the boogeyman of critical race theory to taking practical steps to criminalize honest classroom discussions and ban books, turning their manufactured race and sex panic into profound political and educational change. Meanwhile, Democrats have done almost nothing about it, watching it all with a kind of paralyzed confusion.

Look no further than Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is pushing legislation with the colorful name of the Stop Woke Act. As the Republican governor told Fox News this weekend, we need to allow people to sue schools over their curriculums, not only because of CRT but also because “there’s a lot of other inappropriate content that can be smuggled in by public schools.”

If you liked the Texas bill that effectively banned abortion in the state, you’re in luck. Republicans apparently want to use a version of that bill’s tactic — putting enforcement in the hands of private vigilantes — to make teachers and school administrators live under the same fear as abortion providers.

It’s happening elsewhere, too. A bill in Indiana allows the same kind of lawsuits. And last week, during a hearing on the bill, a GOP state senator got in trouble for saying that “I believe that we’ve gone too far when we take a position” on things like Nazism, because in the classroom, “we need to be impartial.” The state senator, Scott Baldwin, previously attracted attention when it was revealed that he made a contribution to the far-right Oath Keepers (though he claims he has no real connection to the extremist group).

Everywhere you look, Republicans are trying to outdo one another with state laws forcing teachers to parrot far-right propaganda to students. A Republican bill in Oklahoma would ban teachers from saying that “one race is the unique oppressor” or “victim” when teaching the history of slavery in America; its sponsor says that would bring the appropriate “balance” to the subject.

So ask yourself: What are Democrats telling the public about schools? If you vote for Democrats, what are you supposed to be achieving on this issue? If any voters know, it would be a surprise.
We’re seeing another iteration of a common Republican strategy: Wait for some liberal somewhere to voice an idea that will sound too extreme to many voters if presented without context and in the most inflammatory way possible, inflate that idea way beyond its actual importance, claim it constitutes the entirety of the Democratic agenda and play on people’s fears to gin up a backlash.

That was the model on “defund the police.” Now it’s being used on schools, which Republicans have decided is the issue that can generate sufficient rage to bring victory at the polls.
Devoted as they are to facts and rational argumentation, liberals can’t help themselves from responding to Republican attacks first and foremost with refutation, which allows Republicans to set the terms of debate. So their response to the charge that critical race theory is infecting our schools is something like this: “No, no, that has nothing to do with public education. It’s a scholarly theory taught mostly to graduate students.”

But that doesn’t allow for this response: “Republicans want to subject our kids to fascist indoctrination. Why do they want to teach our kids that slavery wasn’t bad? Why are they trying to ban books? Who’s writing their education policy, David Duke? Don’t let them destroy your schools!”


That, of course, would be an unfair exaggeration of what most Republicans actually want. Is a state senator who worries that public school teachers might be biased against Nazism really representative of the whole Republican Party? Let’s try to be reasonable here.

Or maybe being reasonable isn’t the best place to start when you’re being overrun. Maybe Democrats need to begin not with a response to Republican lies about what happens in the classroom, but an attack on what Republicans are trying to do to American education.

After Glenn Youngkin won the Virginia governorship with a campaign largely focused on schools, Republicans everywhere decided that nurturing a CRT-based White backlash is the path to victory. That is their plan, whether Democrats like it or not.

This isn’t just coming from national Republicans. At the state and local level, far-right extremists are taking over education policy, leaving teachers terrified that if they communicate the wrong idea to students — like, apparently, being too critical of Nazis — they might get sued.

The implications of the GOP war on schools and teachers are horrifying, and with some exceptions, Democrats are watching it happen without anything resembling a plan to do anything about it. It might be time for all the party’s clever strategists to give it some thought.

Most of us are familiar with left wing sectarianism, the tendency to organize into a circular firing squad. In the 1930s, the U.S left splintered into Democrats, Socialists, Democratic Socialists, Communists, Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Trotskyites, Cannonites, Schachtmanites, Lovestoneites, and many other factions. Most of their infighting was over ideological and doctrinal differences.

Now, as the Washington Post reports, our zany rightwingers are splitting into warring factions, not so much over ideology (which in their case is either nonexistent or incoherent), but over power and greed.

The far-right firebrands and conspiracy theorists of the pro-Trump Internet have a new enemy: each other.

QAnon devotees are livid at their former hero Michael Flynn for accurately calling their jumbled credo “total nonsense.” Donald Trump superfans have voiced a sense of betrayal because the former president, booed for getting a coronavirus immunization booster, has become a “vaccine salesman.” And attorney Lin Wood seems mad at pretty much everyone, including former allies on the scattered “elite strike-force team” investigating nonexistent mass voter fraud.

After months of failing to disprove the reality of Trump’s 2020 presidential election loss, some of the Internet’s most popular right-wing provocateurs are grappling with the pressures of restless audiences, saturated markets, ongoing investigations and millions of dollars in legal bills.
The result is a chaotic melodrama, playing out via secretly recorded phone calls, personal attacks in podcasts, and a seemingly endless stream of posts on Twitter, Gab and Telegram calling their rivals Satanists, communists, pedophiles or “pay-triots” — money-grubbing grifters exploiting the cause.
The infighting reflects the diminishing financial rewards for the merchants of right-wing disinformation, whose battles center not on policy or doctrine but on the treasures of online fame: viewer donations and subscriptions; paid appearances at rallies and conferences; and crowds of followers to buy their books and merchandise.

But it also reflects a broader confusion in the year since QAnon’s faceless nonsense-peddler, Q, went mysteriously silent….

The cage match kicked off late in November when Kyle Rittenhouse, acquitted of all charges after fatally shooting two men at a protest last year in Kenosha, Wis., told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that his former attorneys, including Wood, had exploited his jail time to boost their fundraising “for their own benefit, not trying to set me free.”

Wood has since snapped back at his 18-year-old former client, wondering aloud in recent messages on the chat service Telegram: Could his life be “literally under the supervision and control of a ‘director?’ Whoever ‘Kyle’ is, pray for him.”

The feud carved a major rift between Wood and his former compatriots in the pro-Trump “stop the steal” campaign, with an embattled Wood attacking Rittenhouse supporters including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.); Flynn, a former national security adviser to Trump; Sidney Powell, Flynn’s attorney; and Patrick Byrne, the Overstock founder who became a major “stop the steal” financier….

Each faction has accused the opposing side of betraying the pro-Trump cause or misusing the millions of dollars in funds that have gone to groups such as Powell’s Defending the Republic.
Wood has posted recordings of his phone calls with Byrne, who can be heard saying that Wood is “a little kooky,” and Flynn, a QAnon icon who can be heard telling Wood that QAnon’s mix of extremist conspiracy theories was actually bogus “nonsense” or a “CIA operation.”

Beyond the infighting, both sides are also staring down the potential for major financial damage in court. A federal judge last month ordered Wood and Powell to pay roughly $175,000 in legal fees for their “historic and profound abuse of the judicial process” in suing to overturn the 2020 presidential election. And Powell and others face potentially billions of dollars in damages as a result of defamation lawsuits filed by Dominion Voting Systems, which they falsely accused of helping to rig the 2020 race.

To help cover their legal bills, the factions have set up online merchandise shops targeting their most loyal followers. Fans of Powell’s bogus conspiracy theory can, for instance, buy a four-pack set of “Release the Kraken: Defending the Republic” drink tumblers from her website for $80. On Flynn’s newly launched website, fans can buy “General Flynn: #FightLikeAFlynn” women’s racerback tank tops for $30. And Wood’s online store sells $64.99 “#FightBack” unisex hoodies; the fleece, a listing says, feels like “wearing a soft, fluffy cloud.”

It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. The Trump minions are showing their true colors as a clown car.

Dana Milbank writes about politics for the Washington Post. Whenever I read his column, I find myself vigorously agreeing. This one is right on. Milbank says that Gosar made a murderous video, showing him killing AOC. McCarthy, he says, is murdering democracy. The Democratic members of the House, aided by two Republican colleagues (Cheney and Kinzinger), voted to censure Gosar. McCarthy shrugged. He saw no reason to punish a member of Congress for threatening to murder another member of Congress. McCarthy is a man with no principles. Threatening violence against one’s political adversaries is dangerous, not only for Congress, but for society at large, where far too many people have guns and are ready to use them. They don’t need incitement from Gosar, McCarthy, and Trump.

Rep. Paul Gosar, the Arizona Republican who used congressional resources to produce and release a cartoon video of him murdering Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), deservedly became the 24th person in history to be censured by his House peers.

But Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) is the one who truly has earned the censure of posterity. In his craven attempt to maintain himself as the House Republican leader, McCarthy showed once again that there is no level of violent, hateful or authoritarian speech that goes too far. By condoning threats and intimidation in the people’s House, he is inviting actual violence — and signing democracy’s death warrant.

Ten days ago, as the world now knows, Gosar, a dentist/insurrectionist, tweeted from his official congressional Twitter account a manipulated anime in which the Gosar figure flies through the air and slashes the Ocasio-Cortez figure across the back of the neck. Blood sprays profusely from the neck wound. Ocasio-Cortez’s lifeless head snaps back. Gosar moves on in the video, swords drawn, to confront President Biden.
Gosar didn’t apologize for the video. He mocked the “faux outrage” and labeled as “laughable” the “shrill accusations that this cartoon is dangerous.”

On the House floor Wednesday afternoon, a defiant Gosar, noting that he took down the video (after about two days and 3 million views), portrayed himself as the victim. “No matter how much the left tries to quiet me, I will continue to speak out,” he vowed.

Only two of 213 House Republicans voted with Democrats to censure Gosar.

McCarthy was outraged — not by the unrepentant Gosar’s homicidal cinematography but by Democrats’ move to reprimand him. Instead of condemning the video, McCarthy said Democrats would “break another precedent” of the House.

So Gosar depicts himself murdering a Democratic colleague, but Democrats are the ones breaking precedent for reprimanding him?
McCarthy, on the House floor, mentioned the matter only in passing (“I do not condone violence, and Rep. Gosar had echoed that sentiment”), instead reciting a meandering list of grievances: Proxy voting! The Steele dossier! Afghanistan! He threatened that when speaker he would retaliate by stripping committee assignments from five Democrats over various perceived offenses.

The victim of Gosar’s anime sword, speaking immediately after McCarthy, noted McCarthy’s strained search for equivalent wrongs. “When the Republican leader rose to talk about how there are all of these double standards … not once did he list an example of a member of Congress threatening the life of another,” Ocasio-Cortez pointed out.
“It is a sad day,” she said, “in which a member who leads a political party in the United States of America cannot bring themselves to say that issuing a depiction of murdering a member of Congress is wrong.”

Sad, but to be expected from McCarthy.

Gosar claimed that Ashli Babbitt, the insurrectionist shot dead by Capitol Police on Jan. 6 as she breached the final barrier protecting lawmakers, was “executed in cold blood” by a police officer “lying in wait” for her. Gosar attended a conference run by a White nationalist banned from YouTube because of hate speech and was listed as the beneficiary of a fundraiser by the same White nationalist. Gosar alleged that the FBI planned and carried out the Jan. 6 insurrection, and he was named by an organizer of Jan. 6 as one of the lawmakers who “schemed up” the atrocity. Gosar joined 20 Republican colleagues in voting against awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6.

And McCarthy pretty much let it all slide.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) earlier this year posted an image of herself with an AR-15 next to photos of Democratic Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.) with the caption “Squad’s Worst Nightmare.”

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) warned that “if our election systems continue to be rigged and continued to be stolen then it’s going to lead to one place and that’s bloodshed.”

Former president Donald Trump said Babbitt “was murdered at the hands of someone who should never have pulled the trigger …. The Radical Left haters cannot be allowed to get away with this.”
Several House Republican lawmakers have been tied (or tied themselves to) violent or anti-government groups such as the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters.

And McCarthy pretty much let it all slide.

Instead, he threatened to strip Republican lawmakers of their committee assignments — if they joined the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. McCarthy also had a laugh when noting that, if he wins the speakership, “it will be hard not to hit” Pelosi with an oversized gavel.
There was once a case to be made that McCarthy was simply a weak leader. But now it’s clear he is blessing the provocations to violence.
Gosar made a murderous video. McCarthy is murdering democracy.

Harold Meyerson, one of my favorite commentators on current events, says that we should stop calling Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema “moderates.” How can one man and one woman block every proposal that would help improve the lives of millions of Americans, including their constituents? Nor should we use that term to describe the handful of Democrats in the House who are blocking reasonable and popular programs, like lowering drug prices. I note that I allow Meyerson to use a word that is not permitted on this blog…but he wrote it.

He writes:

Memo to Media: Stop Calling Manchin et al. ‘Moderates’
Being more swayed by big-money contributions and an anti-mother bias are far better descriptors. 
“Moderates Hinder Efforts to Negotiate Drug Prices,” says a front-page headline in today’s Washington Post. Certain Democrats are indeed blocking those efforts, but is the media right to characterize them as moderates? How much of the fight between the overwhelming majority of both the House and Senate Democratic caucuses and the Manchin-Sinema-Gottheimer-Peters gang can accurately be described as left-vs.-center or liberal-vs.-moderate, which are the autopilot descriptions that the media applies to them?

Consider, for instance, that a number of these battles are being waged over policies that would win over swing voters and, indeed, are popular across the political spectrum. In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, fully 83 percent of Americans, including 76 percent of Republicans, favored allowing the federal government to negotiate with drug companies to bring down the prescription drug prices for Medicare recipients and people with private insurance. Which is why, on Sunday, 15 House Democrats in frontline districts—genuine moderates—signed a letter to the congressional leaders saying that bringing down drug prices was key to their survival in next year’s midterm elections (and, by extension, to the Democrats’ ability to hold a majority in the next Congress).

There are similar majorities in support of other initiatives that the so-called moderates have blocked, like paid sick leave (73 percent in a recent CBS News poll) and extending Medicare coverage to vision and dental care (84 percent in the same poll).

So, is “moderate” an accurate characterization of the Manchin Gang? Is it moderation that dictates their stances?

Even a cursory look at the campaign contributions to those gang members suggests other factors besides “moderation” are in play. In the House, two of the three Democrats who blocked the relatively comprehensive drug price negotiation provision—California’s Scott Peters and Oregon’s Kurt Schrader—are among the largest recipients of drug company campaign contributions. The nay-saying duo of Schrader and Peters have received a combined $1.5 million in pharma contributions in the course of their congressional careers. The one Democrat who blocked that provision in the Senate, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, raised a record $1.1 million from July through September, as her opposition to reducing drug prices became clear. A good chunk came directly from Big Pharma executives, even as a paltry 10 percent came from actual Arizonans. With ratios like that, it would not be a stretch to conclude that Sinema, who’s not up for re-election until 2024, may be more motivated by a high-paying job in a high-paying industry than she is by winning the votes of her constituents, moderate and otherwise, should she seek re-election.

We should note that the other Democratic senator from Arizona—former astronaut Mark Kelly—met with fellow moderate Amy Klobuchar and genuine leftists Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren last Thursday to discuss how to get a drug price reduction into the reconciliation bill. Does that make Kelly a liberal and Sinema a moderate? I think not.

So, what do we call these non-moderate moderates who for reasons of their own have broken ranks with their fellow Democrats and President Biden? How about OMT Democrats—Only Money Talks Democrats?

That works for most of them; I’m not sure it does justice, though, to Joe Manchin, who increasingly seems a character of Dostoevskian perversity. With each passing (or blocking) day, Manchin comes across as a creature of steadily mounting rage against fellow legislators who don’t pay him sufficient obeisance, who fail to recognize that this is really all about him. On one issue—paid family leave—he has positioned himself as the sole but sufficient bulwark against making sure that Americans in need, most particularly mothers of newborns and sick children, must choose between work and parenting.

There’s a term for this that is far more accurate than “moderate.” The mot juste for Manchin is “motherfucker.”