Wednesday, June 30, 2021
The charts above are from The Center for American Progress. It shows the cost of child care in each state for various ages of children in licensed child care centers, and for a family home-based child care that meets licensing requirements.
The chart above is from a new Gallup Poll -- done between June 14th and 20th of a national sample of 4,843 adults, with a 2 point margin of error.
It shows that about 29% of Americans believe the pandemic is over. Most of those believing that are Republicans (about 57% of Republicans believe that). It's one more example of the Republican break with reality!
The Republican Party has taken steps recently that show they no longer respect our democracy, and are willing to short-circuit that democracy to seize and retain power for themselves. Now we have a poll showing that is true -- that about 26% of Americans (mostly Republicans) have highly authoritarian tendencies.
Here is some of what Jennifer Rubin has to say about that in The Washington Post:
We want to believe that goodwill can foster a return to less contentious and hyperpartisan times. But what if one side adopts noxious views antithetical to democracy — and, worse, rejects the basic premise of America?
We have witnessed Republicans’ reflexive defense of the disgraced former president’s illegal and corrupt conduct. We have observed that the majority of the party accepts the “big lie” of a stolen election and seeks to use that as a basis for suppressing the votes of minorities.
And we know that, once more, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has committed himself to one objective: the defeat and failure of a Democratic president.
In short, they have taken themselves outside the small-d democratic compact that requires, at the very least, that we respect election results and abide by normative guidelines in defeat or victory.
It would be somewhat reassuring to think this is a problem of Republican officials, donors and activists. Alas, the authoritarian temptation is luring millions of Americans away from the democratic experiment. “A scale measuring propensity toward right-wing authoritarian tendencies found right-leaning Americans scored higher than their counterparts in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom,” a Morning Consult poll finds. “26% of the U.S. population qualified as highly right-wing authoritarian, Morning Consult research found, twice the share of the No. 2 countries, Canada and Australia.”
This means that a large percentage of Republicans — that is, tens of millions of Americans — embrace an authoritarianism defined “as the desire to submit to some authority, aggression that is directed against whomever the authority says should be targeted and a desire to have everybody follow the norms and social conventions that the authority says should be followed.” This inclination to follow a demagogue and to reject democratic values is more pronounced than in other Western democracies.
The most authoritarian-inclined Americans tend to be over age 45, live in rural areas and don’t have a college degree. This is the profile of the GOP base, not coincidentally. It follows that many authoritarian-minded Americans are willing to abide by the cult of former president Donald Trump and reject rational analysis. They burrow within right-wing media, refusing to confront facts and views that contradict their philosophy. . . .
Robert P. Jones, the author of “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity,” explains: “The most striking difference between right-wing politics in the U.S. and other countries such as Australia, Canada, and [Britain] is the dominance and influence of white evangelical Protestants, who have a theological proclivity toward authoritarianism.” He continues, “The evangelical worldview in America has historically been built on a set of hierarchies that have been defended as divinely ordained — Christian over non-Christian, Protestant over Catholic, white over non-white, men over women. In its strongest forms, this worldview is fundamentally anti-democratic and theocratic.” In what sounds like a perfect alignment with political authoritarianism, “It demands deference particularly to white male charismatic leaders (even when they themselves violate communal norms) and builds identity through a politics of aggression to a shifting array of perceived out groups,” Jones observes.
“Most notably,” he adds, “it gives no quarter to critical thought or dissent, defending its own views as divinely ordained and beyond question.”
If a significant faction of the Republican Party adheres to Christian nationalism rather than the democratic civic religion (equality, the rule of law and the aspiration to perfect the American experiment), the rest of us cannot embrace them as good-faith partners in democracy. As disturbing as it may seem, today’s GOP cannot be entrusted with power and cannot play the role of the “loyal opposition” if it continues to operate outside the democratic compact.
Moreover, if millions of Americans maintain an authoritarian fixation, our democracy will founder, and what happened on Jan. 6 may become a post-election pattern.
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
After the election of President Barack Obama, the Tea Party was formed, and basically took over the Republican Party. Party leaders tried to claim that it was an economic thing -- that white workers were upset over their economic situation.
Of course that was ludicrous. If it was an economic thing, why would those white workers go to the party that gave our economy over to the rich instead of supporting the party that helped workers with union support, higher wages, and medical coverage? It was not an economic thing, but a racial one -- a response to the election of the first black president. The economic excuse was just the GOP trying to hide its racism -- just as they did in the past.
But today's Republican Party is not even trying to hide its racism anymore. They have decided to base their electoral hopes on opposing "critical race theory". They would have Americans believe that critical race theory teaches all whites are racists. Of course, that is a lie (something the Republicans are good at these days). They are attacking this to protect white supremacy and privilege, and they oppose the teaching of America's real history (preferring the white version that's been taught in the past).
They evidently think that trying to scare whites into supporting their obviously racist views is the key to electoral success in 2022.
I hope they are wrong. I believe there are more decent people than racists in this country. But the racists will be going to the polls in 2022 to try and restore the party of racists to power. Unless non-racist whites, minorities, and young people turn out in huge numbers, the Republicans will win with their racist appeal.
We cannot allow that to happen!
The charts above are from a new Morning Consult Poll -- done between June 18th and 20th of a national sample of 1,995 registered voters, with a 2 point margin of error.
It's just one more poll (among many) showing how out-of-touch the Republican base is with most American voters.
The following is part of an essay by legendary journalist Dan Rather. It's worth reading for those who love our democratic system.
The Republican Party’s anti-democratic crusade is a bet, a big one, and a risky one. That they are willing to blow up the norms that have governed this country for this bet is a sign of desperation and not of strength. The calculus is rather simple. Rather than winning elections by drawing more voters to their candidates, Republicans are trying to win elections by limiting the number of voters their opponents can get for theirs. This bet is predicated on gerrymandering and a Senate that requires 60 votes to get anything done. It is also dependent on locking in these gains in the short term before the demographics of the electorate further dilute the Republican base.
Republicans fear the will of the majority. And they fear the future. They see this as perhaps their last shot to use their structural advantages to secure the enduring power of their minority position. And they use the fact that they are a political minority as a rallying cry to unite their voters under specious claims of being suppressed by the majority of voters supporting Democrats — which just so happens to be a coalition of many groups who have long been marginalized. This is how white privilege is recast as oppression, raw political power as a return to American “normalcy.”
An honest surveying of this landscape is daunting and demoralizing. But for the first time since the voting rights battles of the 1960s, I see a passionate national movement for enfranchisement. I see energy and activism. I see a unity of purpose. I see a determination that Senate skullduggery be exposed, lies called out, and pressure exerted. This is indeed the biggest struggle of our time, the one upon which all other struggles are predicated. Without free and fair elections, solutions for climate change, income inequality, and all the other urgent needs will be elusive. But I suspect you know this.
And that you know this already, that you and millions of others are aware of this battle, is itself a form of progress and reason for hope. The 2022 elections will be pivotal. History suggests that the Democrats, as the party in power, will face stiff headwinds. But many political observers caution that this may not be the case this time, especially with how partisan the electorate has become and with the question of the future of democracy as a rallying cry. This is what frightens the Republican leadership, although they will never admit it. If enough people come out to overwhelm their election hurdles, this big bet of theirs can implode in spectacular fashion. This is not assured, and it may not even be the likely outcome. But a united Democratic Party around the question of democracy can be a potent force, just ask Stacey Abrams.
Everything is now in the open. The quiet part is no longer quiet. Republican professed concerns about “voter fraud” have always been meant to mask a lust for voter suppression. This is the banner under which the majority of the Republican Party is marching in lockstep. It’s led to dangerous farces like the vote “audit” in Arizona. And it’s led to Senators tying themselves in rhetorical knots trying to explain their positions. But it’s also led to a laser focus on protecting the vote among a wide coalition of interest groups rallying in opposition to this creeping authoritarianism. It’s led to Democratic senators, across the ideological spectrum, coming out in favor of a generational mandate for voting rights. It’s led to the press covering election laws with increased seriousness. It’s even led to a lawsuit from the Justice Department stating that Georgia’s new election law, enacted by Republican lawmakers, denies equal access to the ballot —particularly for Black voters.
It may be trite to say that any one issue is a battle for the soul and future of the nation. But in this case that may be an understatement. The dangers are real, but they are also provoking a backlash that might not only save the nation but strengthen it as a vibrant democracy. A nation that encourages voting — it’s a hopeful vision and one that terrifies the likes of Mitch McConnell.
Monday, June 28, 2021
Truth no longer means much to today's Republicans. When they are confronted with it, they simply respond with a lie -- usually a whopper. The biggest lie being spread by Republicans is Trump's lie that he won the election (but was unseated by massive fraud). But there is another lie being spread right now that is almost as outrageous. It is Mitch McConnell's assertion that Republican legislatures in the states are not trying to suppress the vote.
Here's what Steve Been had to say about this at MSNBC.com:
As Senate Democrats advanced the For the People Act, Republican opponents turned to a series of rather predictable talking points. GOP critics said, for example, that the effort represented a "federal power-grab," which made a degree of sense since the legislation would curtail state-level schemes to undermine democracy. Other Republicans complained that the bill is "partisan," which was really just a lazy way of saying GOP politicians don't like it.
But the most unnerving talking point came, once again, from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
McConnell accused bill proponents of misconstruing election laws in Georgia and other states to justify a federal proposal he described as unnecessary. "The biggest lie being told in American politics in recent weeks has been that the states are involved in a systematic effort to suppress the vote," the Kentucky Republican said Tuesday.
If this sounds at all familiar, it's because McConnell pushed the same line in March, telling reporters, "States are not engaging in trying to suppress voters whatsoever."
All things considered, the word "gaslighting" is probably used a bit too much in our political discourse, but for the Senate GOP leader to justify the Republican Party's voter-suppression initiative by denying its existence is a classic example of the phenomenon.
This isn't a matter of subjectivity. As regular readers may recall, FiveThirtyEight recently published a striking tally, noting that while much of the country learned of Georgia's new voting restrictions, it's just one of 11 states in which Republicans have acted this year to make it harder for Americans to cast ballots.
Relying in part on data from the Brennan Center for Justice, FiveThirtyEight reported that "at least 404 voting-restriction bills have now been introduced in 48 state legislatures." Many of those proposals will go ignored, but plenty will not: FiveThirtyEight's report highlighted 25 voter-suppression bills that have already become law this year -- and there are still several dozen related measures pending in states where Republicans have some power. . . .
It's rare to see a don't-believe-your-lying-eyes moment this brazen.
Sunday, June 27, 2021
The chart above reflects the results of a recent Quinnipiac University Poll -- done between June 15th and 21st of a sample of 1,223 Texas adults, with a 2.8 point margin of error.
In the last legislative session, the GOP-dominated Texas legislature passed a new law allowing Texas adults to carry a handgun without any license or training. But while that law may make some Republicans happy, it is not what most people in the state want. About 74% of Texas adults oppose the new law, while only 24% support it.
And once again, that legislature refused to pass a law requiring background checks for gun buyers in the state. As the chart below shows, that was also not what Texans wanted. About 90% of all state residents want gun buyers to be required to pass a background check.
The sentence has been passed on Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd. The judge gave him a 22.5 year sentence. I understand those who think the sentence was too light. Personally, I thought the prosecution's asking for a 30 year sentence was about right. But 22.5 years in prison is NOT a "slap on the wrist". It's about 10 years above the sentence recommended by law, and is a reasonable sentence for that state.
But Chauvin's sentencing did not solve the problem with policing in America. Much more remains to be done to eliminate the systemic racism that permeates too many police departments in this country.
Here is the editorial published by the editorial board of The Washington Post:
Minneapolis Judge Peter A. Cahill on Friday sentenced former police officer Derek Chauvin to 22.5 years in prison for murdering George Floyd last May. The sentencing cannot bring back Floyd, erase the pain his killing inflicted on countless people or solve the nation’s ongoing problem with racism in policing. But it should bring a measure of satisfaction that justice was served and assure Americans that the system is not hopelessly broken.
Yet that is not the standard to which a country premised on equality before the law should hold its criminal justice system. Policing in the United States could be more effective and less threatening to minority communities. Officers who commit wrongdoings could face more certain punishments. Floyd’s death last spring appeared to spur a reckoning on U.S. policing, but that momentum has slowed in recent months.
A case in point is the effort in Congress to pass a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill. Negotiators had hoped to strike a deal by the May 25 anniversary of Floyd’s murder. Then they aimed to finish by Mr. Chauvin’s sentencing. Both deadlines have now passed. Negotiators said Thursday that they had made substantial progress. But they also admitted that finishing the talks would be difficult, and the Senate has recessed for two weeks. After lawmakers return, their attention will be on major infrastructure bills, and the window to act may close as the 2022 midterm elections approach.
House Democrats passed in March a sweeping policing reform bill that would create a national police misconduct database, impose new police training requirements, make it easier for federal attorneys to prosecute police abuses, and ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants. It would also curb “qualified immunity,” a legal doctrine shielding police officers from civil lawsuits — and thereby discouraging people with legitimate claims against police from seeking redress. But Republicans oppose the plan, dooming its prospects in the Senate.
Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), along with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), have sought compromise on qualified immunity and on how much to enable federal prosecutors to pursue criminal civil rights cases against officers. But they have yet to complete a deal.
They must keep trying, and not by simply giving up on issues such as qualified immunity. The Supreme Court imposed this doctrine with thin grounding in statutory text. It immunizes officers from civil penalties unless they commit a “clearly established” constitutional violation, which may not include even outrageous abuses unless officers have been successfully sued for similar violations in the past. Congress should clarify that federal law is not as permissive as the courts have declared. Mr. Booker has proposed limiting qualified immunity by placing more liability on police departments, rather than individual officers, a fair compromise that would give departments and their political overseers more incentive to restrain police violence.
George Floyd has been dead a year. His killer will be in prison for two decades to come. But his legacy is still up in the air.
Saturday, June 26, 2021
The charts above reflect the results of the new University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll -- done between June 10th and 21st of 1,200 registered voters in Texas, with a 2.83 point margin of error.
The poll shows huge support among Texas voters for the legalization of marijuana (60%) and the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA (67%). Of course, the Republican controlled state legislature ignored both issues in this year's legislative session.
The Texas legislature only meets once every two years, so it would be at least 2023 before either of these issues could be considered,
The agreement only provided about $600 billion in new infrastructure spending -- far from the $2.1 trillion that President Biden had asked for. And it's not even assured that this inadequate bill could be passed in the Senate. Only 5 Republicans were at the news conference, but 10 would be needed to pass the bill in the Senate.
And progressives have said they will not vote for the bill unless a companion reconciliation bill accompanies it that will provide far more than the bipartisan bill. Currently, those progressives have their reconciliation bill up to between $5 and $6 trillion. They are throwing every dream they have into the bill. But that is unrealistic. To pass a reconciliation bill, they will need the votes of all 48 Democrats, both Independents, and the Vice-President. Some moderate Democrats (like Manchin and Sinema) are not going to vote for a $5 to $6 trillion bill.
Speaker Pelosi has said she will not allow a vote in the House on the bipartisan bill unless it is accompanied by a reconciliation bill (and President Biden has said he would not sign it with a reconciliation bill). I think the most that could be hoped for is a reconciliation bill between $1 and $2 trillion -- a bill that would restore what was cut out of President Biden's original proposal to reach bipartisan agreement.
Even that would be very difficult to achieve. Minority Leader McConnell has said he would try to kill the bipartisan bill if it is accompanied by a reconciliation bill -- and he may have enough votes to filibuster it to death.
To be blunt, infrastructure is still a mess. And there's a long way to go to get the problem solved. We would be lucky if two bills on infrastructure could reach Biden's desk by September -- and the odds are still good that no bill will be approved!
Donald Trump was a bully and a narcissist, and he hated it when comedians made fun of him. He actually thought being president gave him the (dictatorial) power to punish them!
The following is part of an excellent article of the wannabe dictator by Dean Obeidallah at MSNBC.com:
Before Donald Trump launched his war on our democracy, there was his very public war on comedy — or at least on those who dared to mock his self-inflated sense of majesty. Now new reporting shows that while in the White House, Trump wanted to use his power as president to shut down “Saturday Night Live.”
I can hear it now: “Live from New York, it’s your show canceled for mocking Donald Trump!” (Cut to the audience in stunned silence — except for a few Trump fans who applaud wildly.) And having seen up close the way authoritarians crack down on comedy and satire, I absolutely believe that Trump would’ve turned off the lights in NBC’s famed Studio 8H forever if given the chance.
The new report fits a pattern from the pathetically thin-skinned Trump, who has spent years publicly lashing out at TV shows and comedians who ridicule him — from calling for "SNL" to be canceledin the closing days of the 2016 campaign to taking time in the middle of a 2018 campaign rally to slam the late night hosts Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmell.
As The Daily Beast reported Tuesday, Trump apparently did more than just whine about comedy shows mocking him — in March 2019, he asked his advisers if the federal government could investigate the comedians and their TV shows in the hopes of silencing them. The then-president was reportedly triggered by a rerun of an "SNL" episode that mocked him. (It says so much about Trump that he publicly claims to hate "SNL" but was watching a rerun of the show.)
When Trump was told by his advisers that nothing could done to punish the show — presumably because of this little thing called the First Amendment — “Trump seemed disappointed to hear that there was no actual legal recourse or anything that” the Federal Communications Commission or Department of Justice “could do to punish late-night, anti-Trump comedy,” the Beast reported. . . .
Trump, like all dictators (or in his case, a wannabe dictator), hates being mocked. This is the same guy who refused to attend the White House Correspondent’s Dinner as president, given the odds that he would’ve been ridiculed on a national stage. “Strongmen” leaders like Trump want and need to be feared to stay in power. The last thing they want is people laughing at them. . . .
I worked on the production staff of "Saturday Night Live" for eight seasons, back when there was a tsunami of jokes made at the expense of then-Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The shows then were filled with comedy about Clinton’s (numerous) sex scandals and Bush’s weakness: speaking English.
Neither Clinton nor Bush ever publicly whined that the jokes were unfair or called for the show to be punished for getting laughs at their expense. Why? They understood that comedically mocking a president is part of what makes our nation a robust democracy. Political comedy — at its best — is about speaking truth to power and bringing the mighty down to earth with a well-crafted joke, opposed to Trump’s idea of comedy, which was typified by his cruelly mocking a disabled reporter for laughs.
But Trump doesn’t believe in any of that.
Trump is cut from the same cloth as despots, dictators and others who despise democracy. Does anyone doubt for a moment that if Trump could shut down comedy shows or even imprison comedians who mock him that he would? And if Trump ever returns to the presidency, he will undoubtedly use the apparatus of government to punish those who challenge his rule. That clearly includes comedians.