Where Do Sen. McMorrow and I Fit on the Alt-Right Compass?

On April 19, 2022, MI State Sen. Mallory McMorrow, describing herself as a “straight, white, Christian, married, suburban Mom,” having been attacked by a Republican adversary for “grooming and sexualizing children,” took to the floor of the Michigan State Senate and delivered a blistering response to the attack that proceeded to go viral.  You may well have already seen it.  A link to a YouTube video of her speech is set forth below.

On April 30, 2022, The New York Times published a detailed article on the manner and messages of Fox News Channel Commentator Tucker Carlson.  Mr. Carlson is apparently the highest-rated host on cable news channels.  (It appears from the report that Mr. Carlson’s audience is almost exclusively white and “overwhelmingly” older.)  I have neither the strength of stomach nor sufficient remaining life space to devote attention to Mr. Carlson’s broadcasts, and thus, cannot independently vouch for the veracity of the Times’ account; with that disclaimer, the gist of the Times article seems to align with numerous other reports I have seen of Mr. Carlson’s program over the last several years.  (Mr. Carlson has reportedly relished rather than disputed the Times report.)  A link to the online version of the Times piece is also set forth below; hopefully, you can access it.

The Times indicates (and demonstrates through video) that Mr. Carlson frequently makes use of a “You – They” dichotomy in his monologues:  You for his viewers, and They for those he calls the “Ruling Class” that he claims seeks to denigrate, among others, whites and men:  the Ruling Class that hates You, that wants to control You, that wants to replace You with malleable (colored) immigrants.  Feeding fear and dissatisfaction has made his ratings go higher and higher (arguably akin to setting up a salt lick for deer hunting).  (I did find it particularly cruelly hypocritical for Mr. Carlson to call the Mainstream Media a “Propaganda Machine” for describing the January 6 Capitol uprising as an “insurrection,” when it is patently obvious to anybody with at least one eye that the riot was, indeed, a Trumplican insurrection.)

Sen. McMorrow’s remarks and the Times’ report of Mr. Carlson’s premises have caused me to revisit reflections I’ve had since the political rise of former President Donald Trump upon the contradictions implicit in the way that the political alt-right views some of those who do not adhere to its views.

Sen. McMorrow clearly thinks enough of public service to have placed herself in the political arena.  TLOML and I have been voting and paying taxes for longer than Ms. McMorrow has been alive, have held down jobs, attended town halls, church socials, and parent-teacher meetings, coached Little League and led Brownie Troops.  We shovel our snow and mow our lawn (sometimes, we even fertilize).  Like Ms. McMorrow, we are straight, white, Christian, married, and parents.  (We are also grandparents.)  [I do fit in the “overwhelming older” segment of the Fox audience 😉 ].  By these measures, all three of us are presumably upstanding Fox Nation Real Americans.

That said, while I feel no guilt about being white, I certainly don’t feel under attack because of it; it’s pretty obvious that at least in America, it’s easier to be white than not.  Although white birth rates are declining, I have yet to hear of any white couples who say that they have had fewer children than they wished because immigrants of other colors invaded their homes and forcibly kept them apart.  I feel no threat from those of other races and ethnicities attempting to get ahead; this is America.  (I favor equal treatment, not favoritism – in either direction.)  I don’t feel under attack because I’m straight; again, in America, and I suspect in just about everywhere else in the world, it’s easier to be straight than not.  If those of other gender and sexual orientations find solace in expressions that seem unusual to me, I don’t see how such harms me.  (I find the notion that “unconventional” gender and sexual orientations are not inherent, but rather, can be “taught,” to be – stated tactfully – misguided.)  I don’t feel that my Christian faith is succumbing to non-Christian elements; even aside from my personal belief that Christianity is but one of many paths to the Almighty, of one thing I’m absolutely certain:  He (please excuse the male pronoun) can take care of Himself.  On top of that, I’m male.  Again, I feel no guilt about it, but certainly don’t feel threatened because of it.  I don’t think that any foreigner has stolen any of my testosterone.  If any of Mr. Carlson’s male viewers feel so endangered by the advance of women in our society that they would prefer to be female – and assume the burdens of dealing with oblivious males, conflicting societal expectations, etc., etc. — the line forms to the right. While Mr. Carlson is absolutely correct that those in our country with greater opportunities have frequently exploited those with fewer advantages, I would also suggest that some who focus on their disadvantages refuse to recognize that they didn’t always see or seize the opportunities available to them to better their situations. 

Sen. McMorrow is one state legislator in one state’s legislature.  I have been rereading approvingly – ever more so as the alt-right intensity has seemingly increased since the 2020 election — The Federalist articles of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay and the discourses of John Locke and Winston Churchill – odes to the “Western Civilization” that Mr. Carlson claims to be under siege.  Even so, neither Ms. McMorrow nor I look like the “Ruling Class” to me.  Despite Mr. Carlson’s rants, I don’t hate – and sincerely doubt she hates — the ordinary Carlson viewer.  I don’t wish – and sincerely doubt she wishes — to control the ordinary Carlson viewer.  I don’t want – and sincerely doubt she wants — to replace the ordinary Carlson viewer.  We simply believe that the promise of America embraces more than a single race, a single gender preference, a single faith.

So where do she and I fit within the Alt-Right Compass, given our Whiteness, our Straightness, our Christianity, our Good Citizenship, and the fact that we obviously don’t rule anybody?

Sen. McMorrow called it in her speech, either deliberately or inadvertently invoking Mr. Carlson’s framework:  “[Because I have a different view than my Republican adversary] … you dehumanize and marginalize me … I am one of them.”

In his book, Anti-Pluralism, William Galston quotes Mr. Trump as saying at a May, 2016, rally:  “The only important thing is the unification of the people … the other people don’t mean anything.  [Emphasis Added]”  In Foxconned – a book given me by a close friend detailing the Republican-fostered Wisconsin debacle that merits more extensive treatment in these pages before the 2022 elections — Lawrence Tabak quotes former WI Gov. Scott Walker as saying that it was a “flawed argument” that “a vote in [progressive] Madison [where TLOML and I reside] counts the same as a vote in a very rural community or in a suburban community.”

So it’s not enough even if one is, demographically, what the alt-right claims to appreciate.  Those that don’t think like they do can’t “mean anything,” their votes can’t “count,” elections lost by alt-right candidates must be “stolen” … because good people wrapping themselves in rhetoric such as Mr. Carlson’s would otherwise have to admit, even to themselves, that they no longer believe in democracy.

On Politico’s Report of SCOTUS’ Impending Reversal of Roe v. Wade

As all are aware, on May 2 Politico published a February draft U.S. Supreme Court decision, apparently having the support of five conservative Supreme Court Justices, which would overrule previous Court rulings, the most famous being Roe v. Wade, that have opined that women have a constitutional right to abortion during certain stages within a pregnancy. On May 3, Chief Justice John Roberts issued a statement that confirmed the draft’s authenticity but indicated that it did not constitute a final and definitive ruling by the Court.

While there is talk both that the leaker is liberal, seeking by the leak to galvanize public opinion against the decision, and that the leaker is conservative, seeking by the leak to solidify any potentially wavering conservative Justice(s), such is obviously pure speculation.  The leaker must recognize that it is almost inevitable that his/her identity will ultimately become known.  While not a compromise of a classified document, this was a breach of such a sacrosanct confidentiality obligation within the Court that the leaker, if a lawyer, must have felt that the act was worth risking his/her career. (Of course, if the leaker is conservative, s/he may have a more profitable future as a Fox News pundit.)

I have previously noted in these pages that notwithstanding my legal background, I have no knowledge of the relative merits of the legal Constitutional arguments surrounding abortion rights beyond that of any layperson who tries to stay informed regarding public affairs.  I have also noted that while I am personally opposed to abortion, I consider that belief to be literally a matter of faith.  I understand that my Roman Catholic creed is not shared by all faiths, nor by many Americans who do not have any religious belief, nor by a significant segment of the scientific community.  I accordingly support a woman’s right to abortion because we are not supposed to be running a theocracy here; it is not mine to impose my religious beliefs on another where there is a rational basis for dispute.  It is up to the Almighty to ultimately judge, not me.  [I have plenty enough to worry about how He (please excuse the male pronoun for a spirit without gender) will judge my transgressions.]

That said, and in addition to the direct effect on women’s abortion rights, several potential consequences seem to me likely to result from the Politico report and/or from any Supreme Court decision with the effect of that in the Politico report.

The first is terribly corrosive but not original.  Any outright reversal of Roe and its progeny will eviscerate any vestige of confidence remaining in our citizenry that the Court decides cases on the law and precedent and not on personal political philosophy and preference.  If a member of the Court, even if I felt that Roe and its progeny were truly wrongly decided, I would, given the potential impact on the Court’s credibility, find it difficult to overturn them outright.  (That said, the balancing of such considerations necessarily retains a significant element of subjectivity; the Court was obviously both legally and morally correct to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 precedent that had upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation under the “separate but equal” doctrine.) 

The second is tragically negative.  The hyper-partisan paroxysm that will now grip our polity for the foreseeable future will undoubtedly distract us from all other issues – most notably, our support for Ukraine’s ongoing fight for freedom.  Virtually all I’ve seen anybody talk about since the Politico story broke is The Draft and The Leak.  Overnight, they’ve seemingly done what neither Russian President Vladimir Putin nor vaccines could do – eradicate Ukraine and COVID. I fear that the political conflagration surrounding abortion will taint what has been, up to now, a generally amicable and bipartisan support of American’s assistance to Ukraine.  Citizens of democracies cannot afford that.

The third is purely surmise.  While the draft fosters the notion that states are free to deal with abortion rights differently, its author, Justice Samuel Alito, also declared, “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives [Emphasis Added].”  I had this thought before I saw it mentioned, so feel free to add it here:  it doesn’t take much prescience to suggest that if Republicans gain control of both houses of Congress this fall – more on this below — they will immediately abandon their professed allegiance to states’ rights and seek to construct and pass a federal law banning abortion nationwide.  For 2023 and 2024, our federal regime will resemble what we Wisconsinites have had throughout WI Gov. Tony Evers’ term:  a Democratic executive (President Joe Biden) needing to regularly veto Republican partisan pandering legislative spasms. It is not hard to envision what might occur if Republicans control both Congress and the White House.

The last is perhaps counterintuitive.  I would preliminarily venture that the Politico publication has shifted the emotional goal posts for the Court’s upcoming abortion decision.  Until the Politico report, a Supreme Court ruling upholding Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks was viewed as a likely incremental win by conservatives and a lamentable defeat by liberals, but given the Court’s conservative complexion, such a result was – to borrow a phrase frequently used to describe Wall Street’s assessments of the effects of the Federal Reserve Board’s prospective interest rate moves on stock market valuations – already “baked into” the parties’ November electoral prospects.  I ventured in these pages in January that if the Supreme Court declared that there was no Constitutional right to abortion:  most or all states with Republican governors and legislatures would outlaw abortion within their jurisdictions, either de jure or de facto; and that such a decision would provoke such liberal and progressive backlash and generate sufficient unease among Independents and Republican moderates that Democrats, despite all historical trends and the way 2022 political winds have appeared to be blowing, would retain their majorities in Congress.  In reading that post now, I think I may have been a little strong; the House of Representatives may now be so populated by gerrymandered Republicans that even the most frenetic Democratic reaction may well not be enough to stave off a GOP takeover of the House.  However, although I’ve heard analysts express doubt about this contention, I continue to believe that if the Supreme Court overrules Roe during this term, the inevitable state-by-state aftermath will so arouse liberals and progressives and disturb Independents that swing state Democratic Senatorial and Gubernatorial candidates will largely prevail.  Taking an example from close to (my) home:  I would submit that in Wisconsin, such a decision will ironically hurt Republican Senator Ron Johnson’s re-election prospects and aid Mr. Evers’.  On the other hand, if conservatives, now anticipating total victory in the abortion dispute, end up with what they perceive as only half a loaf – i.e., the Supreme Court upholds a woman’s Constitutional right to abort for some specified period of time – they will be infuriated and liberals, relieved; but such reactions will help Republicans at the polls in November. 

“… I offer the Krauthammer Conjecture:  In sports, the pleasure of winning is less than the pain of losing. … For every moment of triumph, there is an unequal and opposite feeling of despair.”

  • Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post, June 30, 2017

If Mr. Krauthammer were still alive – and I unfortunately only came to appreciate his sagacity after reading The Point of It All, a compilation of his columns published after he had passed away – I’m pretty sure that he would agree that it is not inapt for me to apply the Krauthammer Conjecture to our political maelstrom, which has, regrettably, degenerated into another sports maxim he quoted in his column, well known to us in the land of St. Vincent Lombardi:  “Winning isn’t everything.  It’s the only thing.”

Ten Years of “Unique” Stupidity in American Life

I continue [not surprisingly 😉 ] to have plenty of notions about the Ukrainian conflict and various domestic issues we face, and hope to return to publishing fairly regularly in the not-too-distant future.  That said, MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning included an interview of Dr. Jonathan Haidt (pronounced, “Height”), author of The Righteous Mind, the book that I suspect that I have cited in these pages more than any other.  Dr. Haidt discussed his recent article in The Atlantic, “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid,” an essay describing how social media has affected our polity and our children and how it has been exploited (on the edges of both sides of the political spectrum).  Apparently, Billionaire Jeff Bezos tweeted recently that he considered the essay well worth reading, albeit long.  I wholeheartedly agree (on both counts; although as all are well aware, I’m in no position to criticize lengthy pieces  🙂 ]. 

A link to Dr. Haidt’s article is below.

Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid – The Atlantic

On Selecting a Supreme Court Nominee: Part II

In Part I of this post, I noted President Joe Biden’s pledge to nominate an African American woman jurist to replace retiring liberal-leaning Associate Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer; what follows is what I would suggest if advising Mr. Biden.  I believe that this is the first time that I have substantively modified a post’s Part II after publishing Part I.

I would start here:  although the nominee will certainly be an extremely able lawyer and jurist with an established record of quality, since no liberal nominee put forth by Mr. Biden and ultimately confirmed by the Senate, whether conciliatory or provocative by nature or philosophy, is going to meaningfully affect the Court’s conservative tilt, divining shades of ability among a distinguished group is not the most important consideration.

I would venture that the top objective in this process is assessing how to best leverage the nomination to Democrats’ advantage in the midterm elections.  Stanching midterm Democratic losses is vital; although there are exceptions, such as U.S. WY Rep. Liz Cheney and U.S. UT Sen. Mitt Romney, I would submit that in our current political environment, any victory by any generic Republican is a threat to our democracy.  I would suggest that there are seemingly two aspects of how this pick, if pursued adroitly, can assist Democrats’ prospects in the midterms:

 Mr. Biden needs to win.  A win in this most visible and controversial of arenas will shore up his image of competence, and redound to the benefit of the Democrats running in swing areas in 2022.  A loss would be devastating for his presidency and Congressional Democrats.  Thus, Mr. Biden’s team will need to clear whomever he picks beforehand with all 50 Democratic Senators.

Mr. Biden should want a fight.  This is a strategy used expertly by former President Trump during his term:  galvanizing your base and antagonizing your opponents through a decision that draws fire (as long as you win in the end).  Drawing right wing attacks on a black nominee seems an effective way to inspire what is currently a dispirited Democratic base for the upcoming midterm elections.  There are reports that the African American community is disgruntled because it doesn’t believe that D.C. Democrats have done enough for them.  Disgruntled voters don’t turn out.  This selection, although it will do little for the average black voter, will present that and all Democratic constituencies a rallying point.  Mr. Biden should want the Republicans to take the bait, and there are already clear indications that at least some of them will.  I have seen video snippets of right-wing commentators decrying the fact that Mr. Biden has narrowed his candidate field to black women.  Republican U.S. MS Sen. Roger Wicker reportedly recently stated, “The irony is that the Supreme Court is … hearing cases about … affirmative racial discrimination, while adding someone who is the beneficiary of this sort of quota.”  Republican U.S. TX Sen. Ted Cruz has reportedly called Mr. Biden’s promise to appoint a black woman “offensive.”  These types of comments have racial overtones, and play into the President’s hands.

In the previous draft of Part II, I suggested that assuming that from a wholistic standpoint, the finalists had substantially similarly impressive legal qualifications without disqualifiers, to provoke a fight Mr. Biden should name one of the more legally progressive finalists, but not the most progressive finalist, provided that the nominee clearly possessed the ability to maintain poise and project a pleasant demeanor in the face of attack during the televised Senate confirmation hearings.  The theory was that as long as the nominee was ultimately confirmed, a Republican attack would galvanize a somewhat dispirited Democratic base and reflect badly on Republicans, provided that the nominee didn’t look like a wild-eyed progressive on TV.  This strategy seemingly cut against nominating U.S. SC District Judge J. Michelle Childs, one of the jurists listed as a candidate in initial reports, who while liberal is reportedly more moderate than some of the other potential candidates and, since she already has the expressed support of Republican U.S. SC Sens. Lindsay Graham and Tim Scott, is perhaps the least likely candidate to raise Republican hackles.  Nevertheless – while I have no real knowledge of the talents, records, or relative progressive inclinations of any of the other potential finalists – I’m warming to Judge Childs.  What shifted my opinion was an ABC News/Ipsos poll out this week indicating that 76% of Americans – and 54% of Democrats — believe that Mr. Biden should consider “all potential nominees” in making his selection rather than limiting his candidate field to black women jurists.  (I certainly understand these sentiments; I observed in Part I that although I understood Mr. Biden’s need to fulfill a campaign pledge, I philosophically disagree with “diversity” picks.)  This marked majority view obviously puts Mr. Biden and his team in a bit of a box.  If he doesn’t nominate a black woman, it will be perceived as a betrayal to at least some segments of the Democratic African American community; if he does, it will, however unfairly, lend grist for Republican claims that he has kowtowed to progressives.  Judge Childs seems to enable him to thread the needle.  She seems, from a brief review of what I could find of her record, eminently qualified with notable legal education and judicial experience, and has the endorsement of U.S. SC Rep. James Clyburn, an extremely influential supporter of Mr. Biden.  While the President cannot count on the support of Sen. Graham – the ultimate feather blowing in the political wind – Sen. Scott, the only African American Republican in the Senate, is made of sterner stuff, and it seems unlikely that a number of Mr. Scott’s Republican colleagues will want to be on the wrong side of him in a vote with racial overtones.  Things have been a little rocky for Mr. Biden lately, and a bipartisan confirmation will burnish his image for sensible bipartisanship with the target audience — Independents and moderate Republicans in swing areas — and limit the perception of tokenism that might otherwise attach, however unfairly, to any nominee confirmed strictly along party lines.  At the same time, while I don’t doubt that Senate Republican leadership, knowing that a liberal jurist is ultimately going to be placed on the Court, will want to avoid aggressive attacks against a black woman that will inevitably have a tinge of racism and will inspire the Democratic base, I just don’t think that a lot of Republicans will be able to help themselves.  Their and right-wing media outlets’ excesses are likely to offend Independents, make moderate Republicans uneasy, and inflame Democrats.  By selecting Judge Childs, Mr. Biden may be able to have his cake and eat it, too – as long as she is confirmed

On Selecting a Supreme Court Nominee: Part I

As all who care are aware, liberal-leaning Associate Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer recently announced that he is retiring from the Court at the end of its term in June.  President Joe Biden has already indicated that he intends to nominate an African-American woman to Justice Breyer’s seat, fulfilling a campaign pledge.  I have seen electronic and print media accounts listing U.S. Court of Appeals Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, 45, U.S. SC District Judge Julianna Michelle Childs, 55, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge for the Seventh Circuit (Chicago) Candace Rae Jackson-Akiwumi, 43, and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge for the Second Circuit (New York) Eunice Cheryl Lee, 51, as potential nominees.  The names of other black women jurists will undoubtedly surface.  I have no knowledge of any of these candidates, but have seen brief reports that Justice Kruger and Judge Childs are relatively more moderate (i.e., less progressive) in their judicial philosophies.  U.S. SC Rep. James Clyburn, an extremely influential supporter of Mr. Biden, has already stated his support for Judge Childs.  U.S. SC Republican Sens. Lindsay Graham and Tim Scott have also already announced their support for Judge Childs, seemingly all but ensuring that absent now-unforeseen factors, she would have a straightforward and relatively uncontentious Senate confirmation process.

In past notes addressing other Presidential nominations, I have set forth an admittedly simple – and some would suggest, in these partisan days, archaic  😉 — two-factor framework that I submit that each Senator should apply when determining whether to vote to confirm a nominee:   Is the nominee objectively qualified for the position?  If so, is there any other objective factor that should nonetheless disqualify him/her from the position for which s/he has been nominated (e.g., established current drug abuse problem)?  Since the Constitution provides our President the power to nominate whom s/he considers appropriate, I don’t believe that a nominee’s substantive philosophies or policy positions (if within the bounds of law) should be part of the equation.  I would now add a third factor, addressed further in Part II of this note, which shouldn’t be necessary but is, given the mindlessly-contentious environment in which we exist today:  a candidate’s ability to maintain poise in the face of attack, at least during the televised Senate confirmation hearings.

As I indicated ad nauseam in these pages in years past, I consider then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s scuttling of former President Barack Obama’s nomination of then-Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court to have been a despicable dereliction of duty.  At the same time, while there are a thousand things for which I fault former President Donald Trump, his Supreme Court nominations are not among them.  During his term he was presented with three Supreme Court vacancies; it was his role under the Constitution to present the Senate with nominees; in accord with his political preferences, his choices were extremely judicially conservative, but no one questions their judicial competence. 

An aside:  I philosophically disagree with “diversity” picks.  I believe that a President should nominate the candidate, without regard to factors of gender, race, ethnicity, creed, sexual persuasion, or such like, that s/he thinks is most able and suited (albeit liberal or conservative, aligned with the inclinations of the given President) for each of our respective most sophisticated governmental posts.  That said, my sentiments on this issue and their underlying rationales are much broader than Presidential nominations and are better left to another note.  Having pledged during the campaign to nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court if he was elected, it is both the appropriate and politically expedient course for Mr. Biden, although his having so explicitly narrowed the candidate field will inevitably make race a focal point of this nomination exercise.

As in all these processes, the Administration will ultimately narrow the field to a few liberal-leaning jurist finalists. The vetting process will undoubtedly involve grilling each candidate about embarrassing incidents that might not appear on a background check.  Any candidate able enough to warrant nomination has to know that if there are any such incidents in her past, the Republicans will find them.  Even if she is ultimately confirmed, any foreseeable possibility that a stigma would be attached to her during the confirmation process akin to those borne by Associate Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh would make any sensible person doubt that the game is worth the candle.  Less important but notable:  determining that she has no peccadillos, such as a past college romance with her school’s campus Republican president, that will inflame progressives always looking for a reason to be offended and more than willing to bite their own.

The yammering has clearly already begun from the right and the left regarding the qualities each expects in the nominee.  In order to keep these posts to manageable length, I’ll defer what I would recommend if advising Mr. Biden to Part II.

Early ’22 Political Musings

Posts on politics are like candy:  easy to write, mostly instinct [and thus, if such is possible, perhaps even more rife with Noise than other notes entered here  ;)].  What follows are reactions on three events we can or might anticipate in 2022, and what might result from them.

The almost certain:  that the House of Representatives’ Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol will issue a report setting forth damning evidence showing that in an attempt to retain power, former President Donald Trump and his traitorous cohort sought to overturn the results of a free and fair election and instigated the Capitol insurrection.  I believe that the political ramifications of such a report will be … nil.  While I absolutely support the vital work that the Committee is doing, those citizens with – to paraphrase the Lord – eyes to see and ears to hear already know that Mr. Trump and his acolytes are guilty of sedition.  Those who willfully and steadfastly reject this fundamental and blatantly obvious truth will be unmoved by whatever the Committee brings forth. 

The seemingly probable:  that at some point before June, 2022, the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade and declare that regulation of women’s reproductive rights are best left to the several states.  If such a decision is handed down, it takes no prescience to opine that within the sixty days thereafter, most or all states with Republican governors and legislatures will outlaw abortion within their jurisdictions, either de jure or de facto.  On a purely political handicapping basis, I will venture that if such a holding obtains, it will provoke such a paroxysm of liberal and progressive outrage and generate sufficient unease among Independents and Republican moderates that Democrats, despite all historical trends and the way 2022 political winds now appear to be blowing, will retain their majorities in Congress.  It would be a fitting and final irony to the career of U.S. KY Sen. Mitch McConnell if the hyper-partisan manner in which he wielded his U.S. Senate leadership to place an arch conservative majority on the Supreme Court prevented him from ever regaining what he most desires:  majority leadership in the U.S. Senate.

The perhaps possible:  repeating reflections that I’ve already entered in these pages, that U.S. WY Rep. Liz Cheney, whether or not she retains her seat in the House of Representatives in the 2022 elections, declares her candidacy for the presidency of the United States in 2024.  She has been vilified in and ostracized by her own party – for having the guts to speak the truth – but she remains a Republican.  (I admire U.S. IL Rep. Adam Kinzinger, but he doesn’t have enough political gravitas to mount a credible presidential campaign.)  Since 1950, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump each won the Republican nomination and the presidency while not holding any elective office.  Ms. Cheney’s presence in the Republican nomination race, whether or not Mr. Trump chooses to run again, would create a sufficient schism in the Republican ranks that I would suggest – if the Democrats put up anybody reasonable [who might be “reasonable” to be left to a post on a later date ;)] — it will be difficult for Republicans to sufficiently repair their rupture in enough swing states to claim the presidency.  (Although Ms. Cheney would seemingly have no realistic prospect of securing the 2024 Republican nomination if Mr. Trump runs, her prospects against a field of Trump Wannabes, who would split the pro-Trump vote in the early primaries, are actually a bit intriguing – a reverse of the strategy Mr. Trump himself used to win the Republican nomination in 2016.)  If Mr. Trump runs, debates between him and Ms. Cheney would literally be the most arresting television of all time.  If he doesn’t, Ms. Cheney’s presence on a debate stage would at a minimum require each Trump Wannabe seeking Mr. Trump’s mantle to declare whether s/he believed that the 2020 election was stolen from Mr. Trump and whether the Capitol events of January 6 were an insurrection or a tourist excursion.  In this scenario, if a Trump Wannabe ultimately prevails, it’s hard for me to believe that a sufficient number of Independents and Republican moderates in enough swing states will countenance voting for a candidate that they know is either a liar or a fool for the Republican to win the White House – assuming, again, that Democrats give them a reasonable alternative (and assuming, of course, that swing state Republican governors and legislatures don’t use their newly-minted election laws to award their Electoral College votes to the Republican notwithstanding their states’ actual vote totals).

‘Nuff said.  Omicron – although by virtually all accounts, not mortally dangerous to those vaxxed and boosted – lurks.  Although maintaining protections is now moving from exasperating to aggravating, stay safe.

On Conservatism with a Small “C”

I consider one American commentator to stand above all others, who articulates what I wish I was bright and erudite enough to think:  David Brooks, Columnist for the New York Times, contributor to The Atlantic, participant on Friday’s PBS NewsHour.  Below is a link to an article Mr. Brooks published in The Atlantic earlier this month, “What Happened to American Conservatism?”.  An ode to what American conservatism used to be and making stark distinctions between that philosophy and what passes for Conservativism in the Trump Era, it is not the lightest of reading, but I would submit that it is well worth the investment of your time. 

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/01/brooks-true-conservatism-dead-fox-news-voter-suppression/620853/

“What are you doing here?”

[Hopefully, all reading this note will excuse my adaptation of a well-known fable.]

“Look, we did something that was historic, we saved tens of millions of lives worldwide when we, together, all of us, we got a vaccine done.  This was going to ravage the country far beyond what it is right now, take credit for it… it’s great, what we’ve done is historic. … [I am both vaccinated and boosted.]”

  • Former President Donald Trump, December 20, 2021

So, the man died and arrived at the Pearly Gates.  The Lord looked out, saw him, and said, “What are you doing here?”

“I died, Lord,” he replied.

“What did you die from?”

“I died from the Coronavirus, Lord.”

“How did that happen?  Did you get vaccinated?  Did you get boosted?”

“No, Lord!  It was my freedom!  It was my faith!”

“So … First, I sent you Dr. Fauci, an eminent doctor, who told you vaccinations were safe.  Then, I sent you Pope Francis, who told you that getting vaccinated was an ‘Act of Love.’  Finally, I even sent you … Donald Trump, who told you that vaccinations protected America. 

What are you doing here?” 

The Pew Research Center’s Political Typology

For those not aware, Pew Research Center (“Pew”) has recently published a “political typology” that it says “… sorts Americans into cohesive, like-minded groups based on their values, beliefs, and views about politics and the political system.”  A link to its conclusions is set forth below.  Pew lists nine groups, four leaning or avidly Democratic, four leaning or avidly Republican, with one unaffiliated “Stressed Sideliners” (the group that Pew nonetheless observes still “… tend[s] to fall close to the average American on many issues”).  Pew notes in its piece that there is actually a fairly wide divergence in views between the different groups that respectively consider themselves – either tightly or loosely – affiliated with the same political party.  What I found as interesting was the finding that there was at least some convergence in the views of groups that for the most part wildly differed.  In Pew’s descriptions of the beliefs of each of the nine groups, and no matter how troubling I might have found the majority of a group’s views, there was at least one position held by each segment with which I agreed.  At the same time, no one fits neatly into one mold; despite being placed in the “Democratic Mainstay” group after taking Pew quiz, I, apparently unlike the typical Democratic Mainstay, don’t “feel particularly warm toward Democrats.”

Pew’s results did underscore for me an impression that I’ve had for some time:  while the chasm of cultural issues will always separate them, Progressives and Trumplicans think very similarly in some areas; I would venture that both favor higher taxes on the wealthy and restrictive trade policies, and have relatively lesser interest in America’s maintenance of its interests across the world. Each of these positions is a marked deviation from the views held by their respective “mainstream” party mates.     

The second link is to Pew quiz that enables one to determine within which of its nine political groupings one belongs.  Enjoy.

A Summer Town Hall: A Postscript

Back in August, I posted a note about a town hall meeting conducted earlier in that month in a central Wisconsin park by a Republican Congressman.  I observed in the piece:

“There was appreciable attendee support for the bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill, particularly as regards expanded broadband access.  The Congressman indicated that he generally supported the bill (since then, Mr. Trump has expressed his opposition to the bill; it would be instructive to learn whether the Congressman has changed his position).”

Devoting greater space to broadband wasn’t warranted in the context of the post, but there was actually a meaningful discussion during the town hall about the area’s need for broadband.  One constituent identifying herself as a realtor specifically told the Congressman that she was having trouble selling certain homes in the area because they did not yet have access to broadband.

As all who care are aware, on November 5, the House of Representatives at long last passed the bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill discussed during the town hall.  President Joe Biden will sign it into law today.  The measure addresses national infrastructure needs which both parties acknowledge are necessary – such as assistance for roads, bridges, rail, water quality, and broadband.  This was a bill that even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell supports and voted for.  13 Republican members of the House of Representatives broke ranks with Republican House Leadership and voted for the measure — support that was required for passage given six Democratic defections (we’ll get to them in a minute).

Wisconsin has five Republican members of Congress.  At least three of them represent rural districts that probably all desire broadband expansion.  Not one – including the Congressman whom we witnessed being told by his constituents in that summer session that they needed broadband and supported the bill, and indicating to them that he supported it – voted for it.  They were clearly afraid of former President Donald Trump, who issued a statement after the bill passed, declaring in part, “Very sad that the RINOs in the House and Senate gave Biden and Democrats a victory on the “Non-Infrastructure” Bill.  All Republicans who voted for Democrat longevity should be ashamed of themselves … [Emphasis Added].”

This is a package that the American people overwhelmingly support and need.  One could not ask for a more naked indication from the former President that his focus is all about winning, not about serving – which is the basis upon which we supposedly elect our representatives.  While there may well be a handful of Republicans that opposed the measure due to concerns that it will increase the deficit, perhaps spur inflation, or the like – valid policy positions, even if one does not agree with them – it is manifest that the vast majority of Republicans that voted against the measure did so, although they know it’s a good bill, because they cower before Mr. Trump.  In a characterization that is gentler than it could be, they lack the fortitude we have a right to expect in our representatives.

The six Democratic House members who voted against the measure containing provisions that they clearly supported – the four members elected in 2018 who have gained significant notoriety as the self-styled “Squad,” and two representatives elected in 2020 whom I understand have publicly associated themselves with the “Squad” — exhibited the same tribal intransigence and disregard for what is in the interest of the American people as did the goose-stepping Republicans who opposed the bill.  Their vote amounted to stamping their feet because they couldn’t have their way on the Democrats’ “human infrastructure” package.  In this context, it doesn’t matter whether the programs within “human infrastructure” measure that they seek are good or bad; President Biden — whose “whole agenda” these six Democrats claim to support — wanted them to vote for the infrastructure package now.  They refused.  The American people need adults representing them, not children throwing hissy fits.  These six Democrats are at the very least immature, arguably wantonly selfish. 

It is sometimes difficult to see a way forward in a political atmosphere so saturated with tribalism, fear, distrust, and antipathy. I consider the votes against the infrastructure bill by those Republicans and Democrats who actually supported the substance of the measure and understood that it would help their constituents – whether the votes arose from political subservience or stubborn unwillingness to accept that ours is a system of compromise – to be disheartening betrayals of – in the Constitution’s phrase – Offices of Trust.