America’s Disturbing Anti-Democratic Tendencies Were Lead by the Supreme Court

Not anything new here for people who have been paying attention, but Ezra Klein lays it out concisely – It’s the Supreme Court vs. Democracy.  Of course the Supreme Court is political, it always has been.  If the 5 conservative justices that have been taking us further down a road to a minority running roughshod over our supposed democracy are really following the “strict construction” of the Constitution,  then the Constitution is an ass.

Spoiler alert, they’re not “strict constructionists” or “originalists”.  Two total bullshit terms created by conservative think tanks to paper over their partisan hackery.  Everyone in the media should push back on those conservative conceits.

Even more frustrating is the press coverage of the naming of justices.  When interviewing conservatives who are applauding these ultra-right justices, ask them exactly what they’re applauding.  What rulings are you giddy over?  Taking limits off money in politics?  Creating limits on voting rights?  How does any perspective on the Constitution or American history guide that more money and fewer voters is a good thing?  Bush v. Gore was a bullshit, one time, unabashedly pure Red v. Blue ruling.  With Citizen’s United, Janus, the rulings allowing racial gerrymandering, etc., are you admitting it’s ALL Red v. Blue.

Do conservatives really want Roe gone?  Or Griswald, which granted a right to privacy and struck down laws prohibiting birth control (duh)?  Are they saying they really want Gilead?  What’s next after that, mandatory Church participation?  There’s nothing here defensible on any Constitutional grounds.  You would have to have completely ignored the writings of the Founding Father’s to promulgate a pro-religious construction.  This fight isn’t even Red v. Blue, it’s pure antedeluvian theocratic conservatism.  The GOP does not want this because Roe  gave them an issue and a rallying cry for 40 years.  You strike down the precedent of Roe and you further empower a women-led Democratic base that is already spitting mad.  So you go right ahead and be my guest.

The Court is a problem.  But it’s only exacerbating a growing anti-democratic trend that is natural to our growth patterns and the design of the Constitution.  The last two cycles it’s become pretty obvious that the Senate, like the Electoral College, has become an anti-democratic anachronism.

Demographers project American politics will become even less democratic in the coming years. By 2040, 70 percent of Americans are expected to be represented by a mere 30 senators, which means 30 percent of the population will control a 70-vote supermajority in the Senate.

The Supreme Court is meant to be insulated from democracy. It’s not meant to be a partisan tool for undermining democracy. What’s emerging now is a dangerous loop, in which Republicans barely holding onto power manage to keep control of the Supreme Court by any means necessary, and in return, the Supreme Court’s Republican appointees issue rulings to help their party cling to political power.

Wyoming has the same two votes in the Senate that California does.  And no matter how much you think about the more balanced representation in the House, that ludicrous Senate balance decides Supreme Court seats, the House does not.

The Founder’s were so focused on protecting minorities that they set up a system that could be exploited by unscrupulous partisans to create minority rule, clearly given the numbers today this scenario has taken place.  So you hear about different plans if Democrats can get control of the WH, House and Senate in order to level things.

  • Court packing plans sound pretty reasonable these days to overcome the 5-4 conservative majority.
  • Or plans to make D.C. or Puerto Rico states (with supposedly 2 more Dem Senators, each).  Lord knows those two paces have suffered without real representation for too long.
  • Or splitting California into 2 or more states (more Dems. likely, depending of course on the split).

It may seem fanciful, but the situation of a Democratic majority being stymied by the ideological rulings of a Republican minority will force hands to either modernize the Constitution or use the anachronisms and loop holes in their favor to avoid the tyranny of the minority.

We are reminded that we have precedent on democratic government taking action to reverse disastrously out of touch court decisions.

How Conservatives Weaponized The First Amendment

Adam Liptak in The NY Times noticed the funny trend the Supreme Court and the conservative legal establishment  has taken in recent years, using the First Amendment to comfort the powerful and afflict the afflicted.

They took the extreme nonsensical views of the libertarian wing and cynically, mercinarilly used them to help their pals in commerce or allies in the culture wars.

The court’s five conservative members, citing the First Amendment, had just dealt public unions a devastating blow. The day before, the same majority had used the First Amendment to reject a California lawrequiring religiously oriented “crisis pregnancy centers” to provide women with information about abortion.

So if you set up a phony abortion advice storefront in order to deceive women with misinformation about abortion, deliberately keeping them from legitimate women’s health centers you are allowed to keep deceiving. It’s your right under the First Amendment. Madison would have challenged the 5 conservative justices to a duel to defend his honor.

If fire had a big bucks lobbyist these people would argue that yelling “fire” in a crowded theater was protected speech.

 

Republicans Have Been Chasing FDRs Ghost Since 1944. So Much For New Ideas.

The New Deal sure changed things. Between the Progressive Era (roughly 1890-1920) and The New Deal (1932-1944) so much of what made the 1800s brutal and downright unAmerican, for anybody who didn’t own a railroad, was elevated to civilized standards. Poverty alleviated, sickness treated, playing fields leveled, fairness lauded as a virtue to be aspired to by government, not just Boy Scouts. A radical idea that saved capitalism in America.

But did capitalists appreciate that? Do they ever? From the start there were corporate Republicans who hated it and vowed a multi-generational jihad to take out the improvements and erase The New Deal. They countered The Wagner Act with Taft-Hartley as soon as they could.

Since the 1930s, when then president Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised to break the hold of moneyed men on the government and broker “a new deal for the American people”, a cabal of reactionaries resolved to destroy the new government Democrats created.

Last week’s Janus Decision was just another in a series of conservative Supreme Court decisions taking a sledge hammer to the crumbling foundation of The New Deal. Read Professor Cox Richardson from The Guardian.

 

Maybe if Dems had Been a Little Less Civil About a Stolen Supreme Court Seat We Wouldn’t be in Such a Sorry State

We’re debating civility in the media because a few people who are deliberately malfeasant in their taxpayer funded jobs each day got some push back from pissed off people.  Children have been kidnapped in our names, by our government, but it’s poor form to disrupt a Trumper’s meal or call them out for their lies in public.  It’s just politics.

No it’s not.  I said that we were in a cold civil war years ago.  Now I’m seeing those words in print on the intertubes on a regular basis.  People were being way too civil then, really doing nothing in the face of the wrecking of the Constitution, the more than unsportsmanlike accretion of advantage.

In a corollary debate on civility I heard two Republicans, who are anti-Trump, deride Democrats for calling George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and John McCain “Nazis” and “indecent”.  Well, I’m not sure I recall Romney and McCain being called ‘Nazis”.  I do recall some people being angry about the very indecent actions of George W. Bush in Florida in 2000, Iraq in 2002 and Louisiana in 2005, politicizing the U.S. Attorneys Office, etc.  These Republicans were blaming the actions of the deplorables in part on that purported (and supposedly inappropriate) name calling.  Well, that’s some bullshit there.

George W. Bush was not a decent person.  Or if he was, he let the rampantly indecent around him like Karl Rove and Dick Cheney have too much say in how his decency would be exploited for indecent purposes.  At the very least.

The indecent and thuggish actions of Republicans to ignore norms did not actually start with Trump.  They didn’t even start with McConnell’s theft of a Supreme Court seat that is paying off for them in diamond encrusted spades now.  It didn’t even start in 2000 with the unleashing of every rat fucking dirty trickster in the GOP Rolodex to ensure a Bush presidency, voting notwithstanding. The Tea Party was not decent.  The toxic gerrymandering that ensued was not decent.  The rolling over of norms all over the country in order to disenfranchise votes was not decent.

But I digress.  In a series of 5-4 votes our esteemed Supreme Court has approved toxic gerrymandering, Trump’s travel ban, and supported phony anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers”.  One doesn’t need a fevered imagination to know that Justice Merrick Garland would have flipped that tally to 5-4 against those and other historically ridiculous decisions.  We know the Supreme Court is not really a court and the justices are not judges and the body is intensely political.  Which is why making sure those robes only go to people who truly do read and respect the Constitution and precedent, rather than rationalize ideological or party first rulings, is kind of an important thing.

We could have used some people screaming outside Mitch McConnell’s house in 2016.  Maybe a restaurant owner or two denying him a meal.  Some civil disobedience in his offices and marches in front of the Capitol, along with some uncivil language from elected Democrats might have been appropriate then.

We can’t turn back the clock to undo the injustices of a supine Democratic Party bringing a proverbial butter knife to a nuclear war, but we can sure toughen up now and make the correct argument that civility, like respect is earned.

If you shit on people, shit on norms, shit on democracy, you might get some push back from angry people.  And no one should apologize for that.

Another Thing the Koch Brothers Hate, So We Can’t Have It

How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects Around the Country

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It makes sense though that they’d hate mass transit – mass transit is a democratizing tool that makes society work better and is difficult to be privately held – everything they despise.  Even before you get to the fact that they own holdings in gasoline and asphalt (natch!) as radical libertarians they almost certainly fetishize the automobile as a symbol of freedom, yada yada yada, so mass transit must die.

Public transit, Americans for Prosperity says, goes against the liberties that Americans hold dear. “If someone has the freedom to go where they want, do what they want,” Ms. Venable said, “they’re not going to choose public transit.”

The Kochs’ opposition to transit spending stems from their longstanding free-market, libertarian philosophy. It also dovetails with their financial interests, which benefit from automobiles and highways.

The lesson is that, like many other situations, bad actors like the Koch Brothers put out astroturf money to pay for deluded volunteers (poor people working for “Americans for Prosperity”) spreading lies that support the agendas of the richest people in the world, against themselves and their neighbors in order to kill local projects.  In a country with low, low, low turnout it’s easy to defeat even the best intended transport modernizing project.  Just scream “they’re going to raise your taxes” and old people and cranks will vote against anything.

These Americans for Prosperity fucks are trying to sell the idea that the future of mass transit isn’t mass transit at all but driverless cars.  How the fuck does that help people who can’t afford a car?  Even assuming all these cars are electric, which the Kochs are not assuming, how do more cars, driverless or not, help pollution, traffic, overcrowding?  They don’t.  As usual it makes no sense for anybody who lives in a region bedeviled by a lack of mass transit, or aging infrastructure to support.

But one of the major malfunctions of democracy is that it’s always easier to get people to vote against something than for it.  And when you spread out a bunch of dark money to willing whores who will sell out their neighbors, it’s shooting fish in a Koch Brothers Barrel Co. owned barrel.

 

Amazing What Arrogant Know-Nothing Racists Will Do

I can’t help thinking about the last worst president in American history who was surrounded by creepy, arrogant people with their own nefarious agenda that blinds them to the horrendous consequences of their apocalyptically stupid actions.

Trump, Miller, Sessions, Kelly, Neilsen and the rest of the alt-right blood and soil gang push forward an agenda to slow the browning of America by making immigration nearly impossible and sending  a message around the world that America does not want you if you’re black or brown.  They’re proud of a cruel, inhumane policy that they describe as “tough” because toughness is so needed to deal with a difficult situation.  Thoughtfulness and care are not needed, according to them, in much the same way that a plumber will use a c-wrench awkwardly to hammer a nail because a hammer is just not in their tool box.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Libby, Perle, Wolfowitz, Bolton and a previous generation of arrogant war hawks had such a hard-on for war in the Middle East they looked at Iraq and saw easy pickins.  Not one of them gave the slightest thought to the people of Iraq and the consequences of removing a long standing strong man leader.  They were completely taken by surprise by the enmity between Sunnis and Shiites, but how could they have known that when they thought all Muslims were the same?

In both cases people were given power that should never, ever be trusted with any more responsibility than holding the remote control when something unimportant is on the TV.  But the American people in both cases, with warning, chose to put them in powerful positions.  The establishment political parties to some extent or another looked the other way and allowed provably irresponsible people to run cabinet level agencies.  The beltway media acted as if the individuals in question, and their actions, were unexceptional choices imbuing them with levels of  credibility that they had not come anywhere close to earning.

Until things broke bad.  And then all of a sudden a massive fuck up that was completely avoidable came to light followed by denials of reality and then self-serving deflection.

Republicans do not change.  The media does not change.  So lives will be destroyed callously on schedule every few years or so as we keep letting morally repugnant people have the remote.

Is There Any Question That Trump and Gang are Authoritarian Thugs?

That want to align us with Russia, China, Syria, North Korea… the new axis of evil… and we’d be in it!  Bush and Frum could not have imagined that twist when they trotted out that manipulative trope back in those halcyon days for democracy in 2002.

The only bad actor they don’t identify with is Iran but that’s because they’re adverse to Israel and Saudi Arabia.  I’m sure Pence appreciates the Mullah’s religiously based authority on the populace.  If you watch this administration horror show concurrently with The Handmaid’s Tale it’s even more terrifying because you can see it.  Trump would bring the authoritarian nightmare and Pence would make it a Bible twisting theocracy.

The grotesque denouncements of the press and anybody that crosses them as enemies of the state.

The concentration camps and separation of families.

The constant lying and use of anybody or anything as a prop to exalt themselves.

The nods to strongmen and the not even veiled wishes that Trump could do what they do.  Trump Really Wishes He Were a Dictator.

In March, Trump praised China’s President Xi Jinping for consolidating his power, saying, “He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.”

“He’s the head of a country. And I mean, he is the strong head,” Trump said of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Friday morning.

“He speaks, and people sit up at attention,” he added. “I want my people to do the same.”

Hard to imagine that there’s anybody alive today that doesn’t see what’s wrong with all of this, other than the 20% or so who have always thought authoritarianism was a good idea, which, disturbingly, may be growing.

Which makes it all the more galling when the tsk-tsk crowd like the wholly execrable Frank Bruni clutch their pearls and shame Robert DeNiro and Sam Bee for using untoward language towards the wannabe dictator and his family.  Really?  Like there are people who would like to save democracy but a movie star cursed so let’s give Trump a lifetime presidency with Ivanka as his heir!

Seriously?  Everyone is held to a higher standard than the Trumps and their spokespeople?  Well, yes, almost everyone does hold themselves to higher standards than the Trump crime family, most of us have not sloughed off laws, norms and democratic traditions, and that’s the real standard Mr. Bruni.  If you call law enforcement “scum” because they’re not arresting your enemies and insulting the press because they’re pushing back against your bullshit you are not fit to lead.  All else is irrelevant.

But there’s a reason our entire political class and media fear Republicans and laugh at Democrats.  Until that equation gets some balance our democracy is in question.  Some cursing is not only appropriate, it may be required.  Dems have to stop letting the media and the small cadre of so-called “sane” Republicans carry all the water.  They have to be as forceful and angry as Nicole Wallace and Rick Wilson.  Kick, scream, yell and curse at these awful people!  Make the case for better policy as you denounce their goddawful policies based on dishonest metrics, racism, xenophobia and illiberal nonsense.

Like Maddow said yesterday, Republicans work the refs and win.  That’s why Comey killed Clinton and said zilch about the Trump investigations.  Democrats have to stop being so timid that no one cares whether they’re outraged.  We have all the outraged pussy hat wearing women.  We have the Black Lives Matter people.  We have the LGBTQ community.  All groups fighting back against histories of abuse.  How is it that the party, the political faction that has so many aggrieved factions is so flaccid in its politics in the macro?

Legit question.