Now Is The Moment Democrats

From a Google Image Search – The New York Times

Congress is back in session after Labor Day, and it will be time for holiday recess before we know it. For Democrats this may be a now-or-never moment. This is the moment when we either put some accomplishments on the Congressional Record and implement them in the real world, or possibly lose seats in the 2022 midterms. Democrats’ margins are already so thin in both the House and the Senate that if we lose any seats we will be locked out of action by partisan Republicans and there will be no legislation to take America forward into new opportunities that could replace inequality with some balance. If Democrats lose not only do the American people lose, but the Democrats will lose, and not just in 2022 but in 2024. Republicans are frantically working to fix elections so that Democrats cannot win. If laws passed by Democrats have a chance to show Americans that Democratic initiatives will improve their lives, all the fixes in the world might not help the Republican Party.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (S.4263) is coming up for a vote. It will attempt to stop states from passing laws that suppress the right to vote by forcing any new voting rules to seek preclearance in a federal court before they can become laws. This restores a procedure that was subtracted from the Voting Rights Act of 1965, prematurely, based on the bills we are watching red states pass. 

Since the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is unlikely to pass the Senate, Democrats propose that the “For the People Act” could do the job (although it would be even better if both bills passed). This House Bill is HR-1, showing the priority Democrats place on this bill. It would expand voting rights, change campaign finance law to reduce the influence of money in politics (overturn Citizens United v FEC), ban partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal office holders. 

The Infrastructure and Jobs Act – HR.3684 which passed the Senate on August 10, 2021, and affects highways, rail – both rail safety and freight, public transit, airports, electric vehicles, water infrastructure, energy and Western water infrastructure, broadband infrastructure, resiliency for the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA funding, and cybersecurity, environmental remediation, and ‘pay-fors’. (Holland and Knightlaw.com)

The 3.5 T “Human Infrastructure” Package which focuses on family, climate and health care. This bill is still in committees but includes universal pre-K, free community college tuition, paid family leave, climate priorities, public housing, job training, new Medicare benefits and extends expansion of the Affordable Care Act, and immigration policy.

Only one of these bills has any support from Republicans and there are at least two Democrats who say these bills are too expensive and too progressive. (Kristin Sinema – D-AZ and Joe Manchin – D-WV). America needs all these bills to pass and become law. 

Nancy Pelosi is aware that Republicans will use their barely bipartisan participation in passing the infrastructure bill as a point in their favor in the midterm elections. She knows we need to get the “human infrastructure” bill passed if we expect Americans to understand the advantages of a Democratic administration. She says she will not advance the Infrastructure and Jobs Act until the ‘Human Infrastructure’ Bill is also ready to be signed by the President, either by a bipartisan vote or by using the reconciliation process to pass the bill with only Democrats. Nancy Pelosi understands the legislative process far better than anyone, but the pressure is on. Timeliness is important and timeliness is not something Congress is noted for.

Can we get this all done before the holiday recess? 

Most Democrats are anxious to end the filibuster rules that can be used to block legislation in the Senate. Filibuster rules are not part of our original documents, so it’s odd that the ‘originalist’ Republicans are desperate to hold on to this holdover from Jim Crow days, yet not so odd given the difficulty Republicans are having because their racism is showing. Unless we want to leave American jobs and social opportunities to powerful corporations who do not want to pay taxes because they don’t live in the America the rest of us live in, we need to end the filibuster. Even without the filibuster it will be difficult to pass these important bills into budget priorities. Considering the difficulty states have had distributing COVID funds to renters and landlords, designating money does not necessarily mean that all these programs will be administered properly in every state. We need to show that government can step up and step up quickly.

Everyone throws their hands in the air when someone timidly proposes added four seats to the Supreme Court, but Democrats also need to pursue that path. The current makeup of the Supreme Court is part of the Republican coup (not the Trump coup, although he got to implement that strategy and that’s why they love him so). The Supremes can block every law the Democrats pass and that should not be allowed if Dems intend to block the coup. 

Perhaps we will have to accept that endless cycles of progress are not good for people or for the planet, that growth cannot be a giant spiral, but perhaps a slow and thoughtful process of change and adaptation. Republican policies are far more likely to stall human progress and even make the economy more unequal than it already is. If wealth remains this skewed or gets further out of balance, there really will be a few aristocrats and most of us will be their serfs. We will be cut off from the rest of the world and we will be paranoid, constantly spending our money on military and intelligence priorities. We will have strange new allies who will not be our friends. From now until Thanksgiving is a crucial time for Democrats. We are sending you positive energy, hope it helps.

Closer and Closer to Civil War

Texas Abortion Law – From a Google Image Search-The Economist

Today people assumed that the Supreme Court would say something about the new Abortion law that just passed in Texas. The Supremes said nothing (crickets). This law says that as soon as there is a fetal heart beat an abortion becomes illegal. This happens at around 6 weeks when most women don’t even know they’re pregnant.

This law also says that anyone can report a woman who asks about an abortion, anyone who answers questions of a pregnant woman about abortion, the doctor who anyone suspects may have provided an abortion, or anyone connected with an abortion. Anyone who files such a case will be paid $10,000 (if they win).

Heartbeat laws are not new but until now have been overturned by the courts. Vigilante enforcement of a law is new and very frightening. It sets household against household and person against person. Any person who just wants $10,000 can hunt down even someone who has had a miscarriage and claim their bounty. This could be the end of American democracy. This is a true witch hunt, which turns women into outlaws and even some men, as in the case of doctors. If these laws stand that is the end of Roe v Wade. That is not how a Supreme Court decision is usually overturned.

In addition, Texas joined 19 other states in saying you do not need to show a permit to open carry. Anyone who got a gun legally is allowed to carry it, but since no one will ask to see your permit, I guess it will be fine for anyone to carry a gun openly.

As of today, we will find out whether it matters if America has a president or not. This is the day that we see why Republicans fought so hard for states’ rights and why they wooed and won 30 states as red states. Republicans refused to allow a Democratic president (President Obama) to appoint any more justices to the Supreme Court. We all watched it happen. Ruth Bader Ginsburg tried to live forever, but her death happened at the worst possible moment. Now Republicans have the Supreme Court of their dreams. 

The US Senate can still be held in a state of suspension, especially since Democrats are not voting as a single bloc. Republicans have managed to keep control of Washington politics without having a Republican president in the Oval Office.

People who supposedly believe in unregulated capitalism will not wear masks so that our economy can recover. They may not feel any empathy for their new enemies, those of us who mask and get vaccines, but it would seem they would see the advantages for the economy. Apparently, we are supposed to just let diseases rage and just keep walking that hamster wheel. They don’t even seem to care about protecting their own children. They want to see their faces. What if they lose the faces of the people they love most through their own inability to show some common sense? I don’t wish it for them, I will grieve with them, but I assume they will feel the guilt of knowing they did this. 

It looks like Democrats in blue states might have to live in an America with laws and regulations dictated by red states. If it looks like we are headed in that direction (which it already does) what are Democrats willing to do? Will we go along to get along? Do we wait for the 2020 elections to see if all the new voting laws make it impossible for Democrats to win? That could be too late. I hope someone has some ideas that will allow us to avoid another Civil War. My solution has been to write about it. That barely made a dent in the national dialogue. 

Read my books about 2028. They are meant to be social commentary. They liked the first one in Japan. 

https://www.amazon.com/author/nlbrisson

Supreme Court/Amy Coney Barrett/Winning?

From a Google Image Search – Forbes.com

America has watched this battle for control of the Supreme Court for at least the last decade. Every time someone said that the court was in play for Republicans, that they wanted to own the Supreme Court, people with plenty of chops and oodles of historical political perspective disagreed. The Court is not political they would say. Americas have always revered the Supreme Court, although not always the decisions of the high court. We used to at least want to feel that our Supremes were above politics. 

However, a number of things have happened to disabuse us of that notion. The confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas with the disrespectful treatment of Anita Hill reminded women that men were firmly in charge. Clarence Thomas’s hearing was contentious and a preview of the incivility in store in our politics. After that things evened out a bit with Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan proving that the rabid movement to turn the court to the right was not yet in full swing. The problem the GOP had was that the full pathway designed to keep a minority party in power had not been finalized. Citizens United (2010) gave away the game. Corporations (like those owned by the Koch brothers) could contribute unlimited money to election candidates without revealing the source of the money. Huge win for Republicans. The drumbeat to move the Court to the right got stronger. In 2016 McConnell blocked Obama’s nomination of Merrick Gardner. But Obama was a popular president and he had added two women to the court during his two terms, both leaning left, but not extreme.

Republicans appear to have gotten desperate since Trump was elected. They know that they are a minority party. They have resorted to tactics that are less than savory and that walk all over Constitutional lines. The Court overturned the preclearance section of the voting rights act. This has allowed many creative attempts to suppress Democratic voters, a clear violation of the intent of the voting rights act as many Democratic voters are African American. These actions have echoed the strategies white slaveowners used on freed slaves to prevent them from voting – poll taxes, making polling places scarce for black folks – requiring literacy tests, except now they tried to require voter ID’s and not allow students to vote from college, and vet fewer, harder to reach polling places, thus stirring up racial tensions. Now Republicans have moved on, with the help of Trump, to undermining the US Mail, inviting Trump fans (including militia members) to become ersatz “poll watchers,” and demonizing mail-in voting. 

So, when the Republicans decided to fill the seat on the Supreme Court with a haste that bordered on disrespect for longtime, well-loved Ruth Bader Ginsburg, only 30 days out from an election, they suddenly and brazenly decided to not only nominate a new justice but approve her. They grinned and did this even after telling Obama that they would not put his nominee, Merrick Garland through the system because March was too close to the election in November of 2016. They have held on to the US Senate for way to long. It has given them a ridiculous sense of entitlement and they enjoy flaunting their power. For the most part they have used their power to block everything except stuffing the courts with Conservatives. And they are thrilled with themselves and crowing. They obviously don’t feel that they have had too much winning.

So that brings us to the hearings this week on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. Another woman on the Supreme Court should make women feel like celebrating. But, although she won’t tell us anything about how she will rule on any topic, we can read her body language, we can read the difference between the way she responds when Democrats are interviewing her and when Republicans are apologizing for the way Democrats are interviewing her, and when Republicans are heaping praise on her ability to raise seven children and practice law as a law clerk for Justice Alito and then as a judge (for only 3 years). She makes Republican (and Evangelical) men sigh, so brilliant, so submissive, so much the antithesis of feminism. But, we women who do not wish to move backwards in time, are not convinced that she will be an advocate of the rights of women, which now need to support working women. (She actually seems a bit creepy.)

What led me to say creepy? Barrett refused to answer questions about the Constitution and implied that the entire document was open to interpretation by the Court. To her, nothing counted as settled law except Marbury v Madison and Brown v The Board of Education.

Ever since the pill, and Roe v Wade, women have understood that there was strong opposition and that it was based in religion. We wanted to feel that our hard-won rights, along with that boost from science, were safe, because our nation is supposed to keep religion out of our government, but the opposition has grown more and more powerful. Peaceful protest wouldn’t suffice. Even more violent, terrorizing behaviors did not suffice. Republicans and Evangelicals began to believe that the only way to make America a “moral” nation according to their apprehension of morality, was to organize a coup. And in case they lost the Presidency they would have at least accomplished a coup in the courts where judges have lifetime appointments. 

We saw the proliferation of think tanks, institutes, committees, organized into a web of wealthy Americans who agreed with the Koch brothers. We saw the bonding of Catholics and Evangelicals. We saw the push to put prayer back in schools, to post the 10 Commandments in the halls of government, and to teach Creationism instead of evolution. Trump made promises to Evangelicals and he intends to keep them, not because he is a believer, but because he believes helping fill that seat on the court with a Conservative will keep him in office if the election is close enough to be referred to the courts as we saw in Bush v Gore. He thinks that the fix is in and that even if he loses the popular vote he will win the electoral college. Amy Coney Barrett, at the top of the list from the right-wing Federalist Society, is his backup plan. But after watching her careful responses, which offered little or no verbal information but plenty of nonverbal clues, the practically inevitable confirmation of Amy to the Supreme Court is deeply depressing if you are a woman in America, or indeed, if you use the ACA for your health care. If we don’t win this election in 2020 America disappears from the world stage and becomes something that seemed obsolete. America becomes a theocratic autocracy. Men continue to exercise dominance and the glass ceiling turns into another wall.

In case you think this is based on old information you need to read the article from The Washington Post with video from reporters who were in the room where it happened:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/council-national-policy-video/2020/10/14/367f24c2-f793-11ea-a510-f57d8ce76e11_story.html

Paul Krugman on this subject in NYT 10.16.2020:

Gerrymandering Wins: Why the Supreme Court Decision Has Dangers for America

Most Gerrymandered Districts in America – From a Google Image Search – Washington Post

Gerrymandering Wins: Why This Decision Has Dangers for America

Today, 6/27/19 the Supreme Court passed on making a ruling on gerrymandering which has been practiced in a hyper-partisan extreme way by the GOP in recent years. Two especially egregious test cases had been brought before the court, North Carolina and Maryland. 

Today’s Washington Post gives us pertinent sections of  John Roberts’ argument in basically siding with the Conservatives by deciding not to make a decision about gerrymandering. WaPo says, “The Supreme Court’s conservatives decided Thursday that federal courts do not have a role to play in deciding whether partisan gerrymandering goes too far.” Roberts says, “ We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts. Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between two major political parties…” 

This is a big setback for Democrats who were hoping that someone could decide how much gerrymandering is too much. Gerrymandering is drawing voting districts that favor one party over another in an election. Extreme gerrymandering can guarantee that a minority party will always win. Both parties have used gerrymandering, which is done at the state level, and there have been times when gerrymandered districts were tortuously contorted, almost on a house-by-house basis. However gerrymandering is not considered part of fair governance and it does not honor everyone’s voting rights. For example, since the GOP sees minority voters as Democrats, they can engineer the boundaries of a district to exclude all minority voters. They may claim that this is strictly partisan, but since it robs minorities of voting power it is also racist.

There is a plan among Conservatives to use Article V of the Constitution to trigger a Constitutional Convention to amend the US Constitution so that it will more nearly conform with Conservative views. Two-thirds of the states must apply for such a convention. Through gerrymandering and the actions of the Conservative group ALEC that has actually dictated bills to state legislatures and then lobbied to get these bills voted into law, the Conservatives already have collected applications for a Constitutional Convention from 28 states. They only need 6 more states to make up the required number of 34. There are 6 more GOP states who have not applied for a Constitutional Convention so far. The two strategies, extreme gerrymandering and collecting states so that Conservatives can call a US Constitutional Convention, show a sophisticated kind of long range planning which could almost amount to a bloodless coup in which one party, the GOP gets to take over the US government and move it as far to the right as they wish. 

Since the court will not help overturn the gerrymandering that is most extreme it becomes even more important for the Democrats to win in 2020. If they win in a census year they may have some control over gerrymandering. However, since gerrymandering happens at the state level, and since Conservatives have won over so many states it may be too late to prevent a Constitutional Convention. A Constitutional Convention called by Conservative states could be a disaster for Democrats and for we the people given the partisan divide right now in America. 

Fortunately, the court also decided on this same day to deny the right to put a citizenship question on the census. A citizenship question, as evidence recently discovered proves, is another way the GOP is attempting to discourage minorities from voting. Since minorities often vote for Democrats and since minorities may be leery about answering a citizenship question, this could again suppress Democratic Party votes. President Trump, unhappy with the court’s decision about the citizenship question has asked if the census could be delayed until the court can be provided with better information. Has this ever happened before? Maybe. But the Supreme Court was never intended to do the bidding of a president.   

Citizenship Question on 2020 Census – Supremes Decide

Right now the Supreme Court is considering whether to allow a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, so it may be a bit late to express my deep concerns about the use of such a question during the tenure of this particular administration. Citizenship questions have appeared in the Census before, but not since 1960. Given the rabid attitudes about immigration expressed by Trump and backed up by his people (including the Republican Party) this is an especially fraught time to allow this question on this decade’s census. Undocumented people are basically being hunted down for deportation.

Accurate Count

In a climate like this how can we expect an accurate count of the people living in America right now. Census information becomes part of our nation’s permanent record offering up useful data to citizens simply seeking to know about their ancestors. Often people want to know their family’s history so they can improve their understanding of potential health challenges. Bad records offer bad data. If citizens have family members living with them who are undocumented, which is quite a common thing, they may avoid the census to protect relatives and friends from deportation.

Implications for Voting Rights

Trump has long sought lists of all US voters. I do not think he has the purest of reasons for wanting this information. He believes that suppressing voters who might lean left is a perfectly viable election strategy and he can’t even process the loud cries of “foul”. For any Fox News viewers who might stumble into this article by accident, suppressing votes is not OK for any reason in our democracy/republic.

However, ever since the Voter Rights Act turned 50 and the Supreme Court allowed the preclearance section of the law to be vacated, the Republicans and Trump have weaponized election tools to suppress Dem votes. Trump was not around when districts were so drastically gerrymandered that there are whole districts which will always vote Republican. The new Census can be used to readjust boundaries of voting districts once again. Trump plans to still be in power to help the GOP plunder the vote even more effectively than they did after the last census. Democrats, including Obama, are fighting some boundaries where there was clearly almost house-by-house gerrymandering but it is a long slog through the courts.

In districts that leaned to the left Republicans could play with things like cutting back on voting days, taking away polling places, trying to stop churches from taking people on buses directly to polling places to vote, choosing polling places that were not on stops of public transportation leaving voters off with some distance to walk to get to their polling place. Republicans could conduct purges of voter rolls, removing people who had not voted in a while. Obviously sometimes it is necessary to purge people from voter rolls who have moved or are deceased, but you don’t usually lose your voting rights because you decide not to vote. In North Carolina one Republican candidate had his people go house-to-house collecting absentee ballots and offering to fill them in for the voter. His illegal ‘strategy’ was uncovered and he lost his election bid, but the things that Republicans try to suppress the vote are not just shenanigans, they are serious breaches of the laws of the US, and winking while people attempt to get away with them is damaging to the validity of our elections, already under attack by Russia and China.

So it’s easy to imagine that one reason Republicans favor a citizenship question on the census goes something like this, “most immigrants tend to vote for Democrats, by discouraging an accurate count of immigrants we can hurt the Democrat votes, all is fair in love and elections (except that is not true) and if we do this we the GOP can win in 2020.”

More Nefarious Purposes?

There is another problem with putting a citizenship question on the 2020 Census and the problem is that it is possibly motivated by fascism, not any democratic impulse. That list that Trump wanted of all voters was not forthcoming because it is un-American and invades our freedom. Now he is salivating at the thought of a list of all of the undocumented immigrants in America and not because they are voters. The GOP and Trump like to keep whispering (loudly) in our ears that undocumented people are voting illegally and I suppose a few who have fraudulent ID’s could go vote, but I doubt if the numbers are large as such people tend to hide, to not call attention to themselves by signing public registers, which voters are required to do. He also does this in case he needs to “prove” that an election is rigged, something he seems to worry about a lot, because he needs to win.

But the other reason Trump is gleefully anticipating a positive ruling by the Supremes is because then he would have a sort of ‘gestapo’ list of names and addresses of undocumented people living in America. I’m not sure why he thinks that people in hiding from an aggressive I.C.E. will answer the census accurately, but he wants to try, even at the risk of getting inaccurate census data that will misguide many national decisions over the next ten years. I hope the Supreme Court has not moved this far to the right and will give us a sensible ruling appropriate to these times when white supremacy is being used to whip up divisions in America.

Photo Credits: From a Google Image Search – Democracy Now!

 

 

The Supreme Court Horror Flick

horror flick 2 Freepik big

The day’s events have made many of us disconsolate and distraught all the way back to when Trump won the 2016 election, but for some reason the retirement of Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court tipped the scales towards grief, and a resignation to the reality of these destructive events. Until that point it seemed as if the damage could be easily undone if political attitudes shifted to the center, left, or even further left. Having a court that leans hard right for decades means that right wing extremists will continue to have a decisive edge far into the future. It means that we the people have a lot to lose.

Roe V Wade

Everyone talks as if losing Roe v Wade, losing the right for women to control their own bodies is the only thing we stand to lose. And it is a big loss. Many have no memory of pre-Roe truths in women’s lives. Younger people have always had contraception. Abortion has always been an option. Without control of their own reproductive rights women’s lives will either cycle backwards into more archaic patterns or women may choose to rebel and practice sexual abstinence, at least in situations where pregnancy might result. This would all be life-changing for women and for men too.

Health Care

However Roe v Wade is not the only staple of modern American life that could be curtailed or overturned. Health care is being pared away by this administration. They are joyful at the prospect of ending coverage for people with preexisting conditions and replacing lifetime caps for coverage. They can make these changes without the court, but there will be no Supreme Court to rein them in. As state after state offers health care plans that are just grabs for consumer dollars, plans that offer no protection in the event that the insured actually gets sick, cases that go to the Supremes will uphold the insurance companies right to giant profits over the needs of ailing people every time.

Immigration

There will still be Federal district courts and there are still liberals on those courts. They have been very helpful in stopping the most inhumane practices of an administration intent on racial cleansing through closing America off to asylum seekers. We are told that every one of these people seeking refugee status is telling a “fake” story and that they do not deserve our compassion. These people may actually be gang members coming to kill you in your beds, coming to rape your daughters. Fearmongering.

But, taking children away from parents is just a bridge too far. None of us signed on for this. The entire world, except for a few interested dictators, is aghast. Not saving data that would allow these children to be reunited with their parents is unimaginable. We knew mass deportation would feel Nazi-esque, but we were Trumped. He owns the levers of governance. This feels like we may be worse than that Hitler crew because we swore we would never, ever repeat those atrocities and yet we are well on our way. With a Supreme Court that is partisan and loyal to the President rather than the Constitution we could well uphold even worse behavior.

Economics

Some people, Trump’s people don’t seem concerned about these things. They seem to be happy with the idea of “white” America. However, mostly they seem to think that Trump is some kind of economic genius. They love the tax cuts. Why? They believe in the tariffs. Most economists are very worried about a trade war and think the tariffs will work against American business and trade. Trump and the GOP believe that there should be few to no regulations on businesses and corporations so they are throwing out decades of rules that helped end the worst practices of Capitalism. Unfettered Capitalism can be as brutal as it wishes. Trumpers love to see Trump dishing out restraints against China. But studies prove that endeavors that include only “yes” men (and this includes a one-sided Supreme Court) usually fail. Dissent is essential to the health of a business and, even more so, of a government.

Pollution and Climate Change

Donald Trump just made asbestos legal again. Since when did American laws respond to the whims of one, possibly nutty, man. He says that if we had used asbestos in building the World Trade Center those buildings would still be standing. And what he doesn’t say, because he doesn’t care, is that the workers would all be dead or dying of mesothelioma. He loves coal but people’s lungs don’t. He has a picture in his head of times when smoke was pouring into American skies and industry was booming along. All that matters to Trump and his people is money. There is a lot more to a society that functions well for all than just money. If people lose all their safety, their health, and their rights what will be left to make life worthwhile? The whole world of trade will just be one big company store. If the Supreme Court cannot rule against the administration when concerns are placed before it, or when the Court refuses to take cases so it will not have to buck the system, then there is no democracy, there is only the illusion of democracy.

Mueller Investigation

Perhaps we place too much hope in the possibility that Mr. Mueller will eventually reveal how corrupt our President truly is, perhaps even proving that he has dabbled in treason in order to “win”. But our concerns that the Supreme Court could take the sting out of this investigation in any number of ways adds to the difficulty of getting to the bottom of Russian meddling in American politics, of whether that meddling affected the outcome of the election, and whether or not Donald Trump played a role in the Russian behaviors in 2016. We are not really convinced by assurances that this will not happen from the current nominee

Foreign Affairs

For the most part I don’t think the Supreme Court rules on our role on the foreign stage. I don’t think they can insist that we stay in NATO or on the committees in the UN that we have recently resigned from (having to do with human rights) because that is a duty of Congress. But once again the dissent that exists in Congress is powerless right now to place restraints on a leader intent on running roughshod over our friends and allies and cozying up to authoritarians. It was demoralizing and embarrassing to watch our President’s behavior in Europe and in the UK this week. (He liked it better when they called it England – smack your head.)

As I prepare to watch America’s future unfold with this party and this President in control and swollen with the power of it all, I believe I will have to do it the way I watch a horror flick. I will have to place my hands over my eyes and peak out through my fingers every so often.