While Republicans in state legislatures are proposing voter suppression bills all around the U.S., Democrats are pushing the For the People Act at the federal level — a comprehensive voting rights bill that has passed in the U.S. House of Representatives but now faces a steep uphill climb in the U.S. Senate. Democrats have a narrow majority and must contend with the filibuster for most legislation. Far-right pundits have been railing against the act, known as HR1, on conservative media outlets like Fox News, Fox Business and Newsmax, and observers warn Republicans will take extreme efforts to fight any such reforms.
Beutler contemplates various scenarios and how they could affect voting rights if they come to pass. Some scenarios to consider, Beutler writes, include 82-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court becoming available, Democrats losing their narrow Senate majority, and the court attacking voting reforms if Democrats somehow manage to get them passed in the Senate.
“Here’s a nightmare scenario I encourage everyone — but particularly, Breyer and Senate Democrats — to imagine having to endure,” Beutler writes. “Through illness or untimely death, Democrats’ 50-50 Senate ‘majority’ becomes a 49-50 Senate minority. They don’t retain the seat. Joe Biden loses reelection. We’re all left hoping Breyer can survive into his 90s so that the Supreme Court doesn’t swing from 6-3 to 7-2. Mitch McConnell gets Charlie Kirk fitted for a robe.”
He continues: “Now consider this less speculative nightmare scenario. Democrats let bygones be bygones, leave court reform out of their larger democracy-reform project, change the filibuster rules, pass both HR 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act — and the existing Supreme Court takes a hatchet to it. We should know to expect this, because Republicans declared the For the People Act ‘unconstitutional’ sight unseen, as a kind of bat signal to their allies on the courts to make sure democracy reform can’t take effect.”
Beutler adds, “We can’t know in advance which provisions of these bills the Supreme Court would invalidate, but it’s trivially easy to step into the shoes of conservative justices and extend the same pseudo-constitutional arguments they’ve used to degrade American election law over the last decade to new reforms. Campaign-finance regulations? Well, those obviously violate the 1st Amendment. Non-partisan gerrymandering? The federal government can’t dictate that kind of thing to the states!”
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) April 16, 2021
But Democrats don’t just face dangers from the right-wing Supreme Court. Republicans controlling key state legislatures, oftened heavily gerrymandered to protect their majorities from swings in public opinion, are actively considering how to thwart efforts to make elections fairer.
Democracy Docket, in a “legislation alert” published this week, describes Texas House Bill 4507 — which has been proposed by Republicans in the Texas House of Representatives and would “essentially create a two-tiered voter registration system, in an effort to evade federal voting rights protections that could pass into law this year.”
Democracy Docket explains, “HB 4507 establishes two different registration processes: one for federal elections, which would be required to comply with national legislation such as the For the People Act — and one for state elections, which Texas Republicans claim could ignore these federal requirements. Any voter registering to vote in a federal election would not be automatically registered for local and state elections, unless they meet the much stricter and more exclusionary requirements of Texas’ election code. Instead, they would have to apply and register again separately for their local elections.”
On Twitter, attorney Marc E. Elias, founder of Democracy Docket, described HB 4507 as an example of “how desperate Republicans are to prevent all voters from participating in elections”:
As HR1/S1 moved closer to passage, this is a tactic to watch for in a number of red states. It shows how desperate Republicans are to prevent all voters from participating in elections.https://t.co/yTZ94oUuZH
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) April 15, 2021
After liberal Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent tweeted Beutler’s Crooked Media column, law professor and election law expert Rick Hasan noted:
There's lots that can be done in the careful drafting of these election reform measures that can bolster their constitutionality. Hopefully when there is a proposal with a serious chance of passing, election law scholars will be consulted.
— Rick Hasen (@rickhasen) April 16, 2021
Image via Shutterstock
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Trump, Wanting to Change News Cycle, Appears to Confess to ‘Openly and Transparently’ Taking Classified Docs
It’s been a tough month for Donald Trump.
After Republicans failed to produce the red wave he claimed he would have been responsible for if it happened, but could not be held responsible if it did not, then refused to take any responsibility, Trump has been held responsible by left and right wing pundits, and even some GOP politicians.
Trump then moved forward with his 2024 presidential campaign announcement, which was widely panned as “low energy” – so low that several guests trying to leave early appeared to be refused access to the exits.
Days later Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that because Trump announced he is running for President, a Special Counsel has been appointed to two of the DOJ’s investigations into Trump. (Some say that’s good news for Trump, some say bad.)
And then a three-judge panel basically destroyed Trump’s attorney who was arguing the former president’s appeal in his case against the U.S. Government. Trump is arguing both that he declassified all the documents but also they are all his property.
That was all before last week.
Six days ago Donald Trump sat down with his invited guest, the antisemite and racist Kanye West, embattled after losing hundreds of millions in endorsements over his antisemitic remarks. That would have been bad enough, but West brought infamous white supremacist and antisemite Nick Fuentes, along with (reportedly) Milo Yiannopoulos and Trump 2016 aide Karen Giorno, who was reportedly involved in a pay-for-pardon scheme.
Since Wednesday the media has exploded with calls for Trump to denounce white supremacism and white supremacists. He has refused.
Multiple advisers have urged Trump to denounce Fuentes, who has a long history of promoting white supremacism, but he has been “rejecting” their advice, The Guardian reports, “over fears he might alienate a section of his base, two people familiar with the situation said.”
Desperate to change the media narrative, late Monday afternoon Trump appeared to confess to stealing thousands of items (some counts say 13,000) including 300 documents with “Classified” and “Top Secret” headers.
“This fully weaponized monster, Jack Smith,” Trump said of the special counsel investigating him, “shouldn’t be let anywhere near the political persecution of ‘President Donald J. Trump.’ I did nothing wrong on January 6th, and nothing wrong with the Democrats’ fix on the Document Hoax, that is, unless the six previous Presidents did something wrong also,” Trump claimed on his Truth Social platform.
That’s when – in a departure from his previous suggestions that the classified documents, which he also claims to have declassified, may have been planted – Trump appeared to confess to the crime.
“When will you invade Bill and Hillary’s home in search of the 33,000 emails she deleted AFTER receiving a subpoena from the U.S. Congress? When will you invade the other Presidents’ homes in search of documents, which are voluminous, which they took with them, but not nearly so openly and transparently as I did?”
It’s the, “not nearly so openly and transparently as I did?” that has set off many.
The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, one of the first to notice Trump’s statement, wrote: “Imagine Trump’s lawyers may not love the final line of his latest Truth Social post. ‘When will you invade the other Presidents’ homes in search of documents, which are voluminous, which they took with them, but not nearly so openly and transparently as I did?'”
Some are suggesting the part, “not nearly so openly and transparently as I did?” appears akin to a confession.
Top national security attorney Brad Moss responded to Dawsey’s tweet, writing, “He has the right to remain silent. Anything he says can and will be used against him. He has the right to an attorney. If he can’t afford one, one will be appointed for him by the courts.”
Journalist Touré commented: “In which Trump admits to taking documents, charges other former POTUSs with also taking documents (without evidence), and says he took the documents in a way that’s somehow better than the way that those other stealing POTUSs did. Same ol Trump.”
Image: Shirley Preston / Shutterstock
Critics Blast Hypocrisy of Attacking Fetterman’s Debate Performance While Supporting Herschel Walker
Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman‘s performance in Tuesday night’s U.S. Senate debate against Dr. Mehmet Oz was quickly praised by many supporters on social media, and quickly criticized by GOP voters and especially the mainstream media – the very same people, as some pointed out, who praise and embrace Herschel Walker despite his acknowledged mental illness and clear struggle with basic policy.
Fetterman, who suffered a stroke just days before winning the Democratic nomination for that U.S. Senate seat for Pennsylvania, has been open about his challenges and the use of what is basically a speech-to-text, or closed-captioning instrument that allows him to read what others are saying in real-time. There is no indication he has cognitive impairment, and he and says the situation is temporary.
Fetterman’s physician, Dr. Clifford Chen, “said Fetterman exhibited no effects on his ‘cognitive ability’ or his ability to think and reason after the stroke,” the Associated Press reported last week. He is “recovering well from his stroke and his health has continued to improve.”
The Nation’s Elie Mystal, who is also a popular guest on MSNBC, framed the debate.
“Sounds like Fetterman cleared the Herschel Walker bar. Don’t know why everybody else is complaining,” he wrote.
But as some pointed out, the lack of basic compassion for Fetterman has been striking.
“My God,” tweeted Pulitzer Prize winning USA Today columnist and New York Times best-selling author Connie Schultz Tuesday night after the debate, “the blue-check [high-profile] people here mocking John Fetterman during this debate, as if they are immune from the randomness of illness and infirmity. Time catches up with everyone, no exceptions. Few would have his courage to recover so publicly.”
Veteran “Saturday Night Live” co-head writer Bryan Tucker summed up some of the hypocrisy, just after the debate ended.
“There’s gonna be a lot of people criticizing John Fetterman tonight for occasional incoherence who also fully support Herschel Walker,” he wrote.
Walker has acknowledged he suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder, which was once known as multiple personality disorder. Walker claims that thanks to God he has “overcome” it, a claim experts disagree with.
“You can get better,” Stanford University psychiatry professor Dr. David Spiegel told The New York Times. “But it doesn’t just evaporate.”
Steve Morris, a political journalist at John Heilemann’s The Recount, says, “Fetterman’s performance was objectively very bad but it’s a pretty big indictment of political media that it’s treated as worse than Herschel Walker revealing disconnection from basic reality – not knowing a federal minimum wage exists or that senators have government healthcare.”
He also posted video supporting his claim.
A reminder of Herschel Walker, sans stroke:
“If you have an able-bodied job, you’re gonna have healthcare. But everyone else have healthcare is the type of healthcare you’re gonna get. And I think that is the problem.”https://t.co/wubymzEZ2N
— Steve Morris (@stevemorris__) October 26, 2022
Herschel Walker is not known to have been diagnosed with CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. But conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan earlier this month wrote, “it’s amazing that the possibility of CTE has barely been raised, even though he has shown classic symptoms — no impulse control, murderous rage, incoherent speech, and even multiple personalities — for decades.”
Last week Tufts University Professor of Psychiatry Nassir Ghaemi, M.D., M.P.H., wrote in Psychology Today about Walker’s Dissociative Identity Disorder diagnosis and about the possibility of CTE.
“The most salient feature of Walker’s biography is that he is a famous football player. As is well known, American football is associated with repeated concussions and very high rates of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE),” Ghaemi writes. “Typical symptoms of CTE are depression, marked impulsivity, violence, suicidality, and, eventually, cognitive decline. Walker, as he has noted, has described some of his psychiatric symptoms, and they mostly represent impulsivity, violence, and suicidality.”
“CTE does not go away,” he adds. “It gets worse over time. So if it is present, it would be concerning.”
Meanwhile, what, exactly, is the “political media” saying about Fetterman’s debate performance?
Immediately after the debate, Axios posted an alert: “Fetterman’s painful debate.”
“Multiple sources wondered why Fetterman agreed to debate when he clearly wasn’t ready,” wrote Axios’ Josh Kraushaar and Alayna Treene – a claim that many disagree with. “Fetterman struggled at times to respond to the moderators’ questions, even with the assistance of a closed captioning device.”
Axios cited an unnamed “Democratic lawmaker and Fetterman backer” who told them, “Why the hell did Fetterman agree to this?”
“This will obviously raise more questions than answers about John’s health,” they wrote.
Compare Axios’ treatment of Fetterman’s likely temporary challenge to how it treated Herschel Walker’s debate against Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock.
Not a single word about Herschel Walker’s acknowledged mental illness, or, as Morris (above) wrote, his “disconnection from basic reality – not knowing a federal minimum wage exists or that senators have government healthcare.”
Axios’ Emma Hurt reported that “The two Georgians answered a range of questions about abortion, inflation, Vladimir Putin and student debt relief. But they also faced questions about various controversies in their personal lives.”
As if both candidates – one who suffers mental health challenges that have reportedly led to violent threats and was “alleged to have preyed upon veterans and service members while defrauding the government,” and one a sitting U.S. Senator and pastor – were pretty much the same in ability and cognition.
“So John Fetterman, who will recover his mental acuity, shouldn’t be a Senator, But Herschel Walker, who has no mental acuity and never will, should. Is that the Republican line today?” asked Joe Conason, Editor-in-chief of The National Memo.
Politico’s Ryan Lizza and Eugene Daniels took a similar tack as Axios.
“Let’s state the obvious,” they claimed. “John Fetterman struggled to effectively communicate during his one and only Senate debate with Mehmet Oz Tuesday in Harrisburg.”
“Fetterman failed to meet even the low expectations his own campaign set for him Monday,” they continued.
“Voters are not doctors. Many are myopic, distracted, and quick to make judgments with limited information. If there’s one thing everyone knows about campaign debates, it’s how superficial they are,” the Politico pair wrote. “The median voter in Pennsylvania is a middle-aged white person with a mid-five-figure salary who did not attend college. That demographic is perhaps the least likely to be following the Fetterman ableism debate on Twitter and MSNBC.”
Policy researcher Will Stancil responded to Politico’s take.
“Herschel Walker and Donald Trump are both a lot less coherent than Fetterman, who understands policy but jumbles his words. Somehow you don’t get long rationalizations in POLITICO about how voters could be surprised by their incoherence, though.”
“Meanwhile Fetterman just wasn’t very slick. But he wasn’t out there talking about invisible planes or injecting sunlight, like Trump, or saying ‘If you have a job you have healthcare’ like Herschel Walker said, incomprehensibly, on a debate stage last week,” Stancil added.
The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, also pointing to the same Politico piece, says, “This seems like a strangely insular way to read the politics of Fetterman’s condition. It doesn’t account for even the *possibility* that some swing voters might see it thorough the lens of their own struggles with adversity. Yet this very demographic does face such struggles.”
“The ‘median voter in PA’ doesn’t need to follow the ‘ableist’ debate to see Fetterman’s struggles through the lens of their own. Even if you think the debate cuts against him on net — which is unclear at best — this possibility needs to be at least part of the discussion,” Sargent adds.
Conservative attorney and Principles First Founder Heath Mayo objectively summed up the apparent hypocrisy.
“If you thought Fetterman’s debate performance suggests he should not be a US Senator… you can’t support Herschel Walker either. Period.”
Who Are The 33 House Republicans Sponsoring the Vigilante Federal ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill?
Thirty-three of the most extreme House Republicans are sponsoring blatantly anti-LGBTQ “vigilante” legislation that is so broad and so poorly written it could effectively ban any and all mention of gender to children under 10 in any federally-funded facility or program. LGBTQ activists and others are calling it a federal “Don’t Say Gay” bill, but it’s actually far more encompassing.
Similar to anti-abortion legislation out of Texas and now other states, the bill could reward anyone who files a complaint.
The text of Johnson’s bill says it is is designed to “prohibit the use of Federal funds to develop, implement, facilitate, or fund any sexually-oriented program, event, or literature for children under the age of 10, and for other purposes.”
Under “findings,” the bill laments, “Certain school districts that receive Federal grants have implemented sexual education for children under 10 years of age,” and “Many newly implemented sexual education curriculums encourage discussions of sexuality, sexual orientation, transgenderism, and gender ideology as early as kindergarten.”
The bill does not put any numbers or specifics to these “findings,” but it does appear to equate sexual orientation solely with homosexuality, and gender identity only with being transgender.
Congressman Johnson’s bill also attacks libraries that have “sexually-oriented literature and materials that target preadolescent children and teach them about concepts like masturbation, pornography, sexual acts, and gender transition,” while calling drag queen story hours “sexually-oriented events.”
The legislation bans any federal funds from being used for “any sexually-oriented program, event, or literature for children under the age of 10, including hosting or promoting any program, event, or literature involving sexually-oriented material, or any program, event, or literature that exposes children under the age of 10 to nude adults, individuals who are stripping, or lewd or lascivious dancing.”
It provides definitions that appear to be intentionally broad.
For example: “The term ‘sexually-oriented material’ means any depiction, description, or simulation of sexual activity, any lewd or lascivious depiction or description of human genitals, or any topic involving gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual orientation, or related subjects.”
In other words, a man and a woman kissing in a play hosted by a federally-funded theater or college could by definition be banned – or children under 10 would have to be.
New York City’s Public Theater “Shakespeare in the Park” would have to ban any child under 10 from attending most productions. (Similar “Shakespeare in the Park” events are held each year in over two dozen cities across the country, any may or may not receive federal funds.)
The legislation specifically mentions federally-funded museums. Johnson’s legislation would force many museums to either ban children under 10 or place some works of art out of sight of children, say, in a back room or behind a curtain.
Harvard Law’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society clinical instructor Alejandra Caraballo, an attorney, this week blasted Johnson’s bill, exposing several disturbing aspects.
“Universities, public schools, hospitals, medical clinics, etc. could all be defunded if they host any event discussing LGBTQ people and children could be present. The way they define ‘sexually oriented material’ simply includes anything about LGBTQ people,” she writes.
Pointing to the vigilante aspect of the bill, Caraballo says it “includes a private right of action against any government official AND private entity for a violation. This is [Texas] SB8 style bounty lawsuits against anyone accepting federal funds. This will be a ban on all discussion of LGBTQ people in any entity that received federal funds.”
Caraballo goes on to liken the legislation to Vladimir Putin’s anti-LGBTQ law, which led to horrific violence.
“This is the American version of Russia’s gay propaganda law passed in 2013. This is their end game. To censor and ban LGBTQ from all public life and force them back into the closet,” she says.
And while right wing news outlets are focusing on the drag queen aspect of the bill, as Caraballo notes, “In reality, the way the law is defined, it could apply to a school that has a screening of Buzz Lightyear.”
On a more personal note, Caraballo writes: “It is so incredibly dehumanizing and hateful for congressmembers to draft a bill that would define under federal law who I am as a queer trans woman as being “sexually oriented.” As if my very existence is harmful to children. It’s disgusting, heinous, and monstruous.”
Blogger Melissa Hillman, PhD, issues a similar warning.
“Republicans are planning to force LGBTQ Americans out of public life. They’re pretending any mention of LGBTQ people is ‘sexual content.’ It comes w a bounty hunter provision like Texas’ abortion ban. We could lose every American freedom in one election.”
So which Republicans re sponsoring this bill?
There are currently 33 original co-sponsors, including Congressman Johnson, who falsely claims that Democrats “are on a crusade to immerse young children in sexual imagery and radical gender ideology at school and in public.”
Freshman U.S. Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL), who last year positively invoked Adolf Hitler, is one of the original sponsors. This week lauding Johnson’s bill she appeared to threaten anyone who opposes the legislation, tweeting: “Don’t mess with our kids!“
“We will not allow radical elites to use taxpayer dollars on perverted sex-ed curriculum and dangerous transgender policies that harm our children,” Miller said, adding she is “proud to join” Rep. Johnson “in signing onto the Stop the Sexualization of Children Act!”
The original cosponsors include: GOP Representatives Bob Good (VA), Brian Babin (TX), Jeff Duncan (SC), Vicky Hartzler (MO), Doug Lamborn (CO), Markwayne Mullin (OK), Lauren Boebert (CO), Greg Steube (FL), Debbie Lesko (AZ), Daniel Webster (FL), Ralph Norman (SC), Randy Weber (TX), Van Taylor (TX), Mary Miller (IL), Lance Gooden (TX), Louie Gohmert (TX), Glenn Grothman (WI), Bill Timmons (SC), Clay Higgins (LA), Steve Womack (AR), Tracey Mann (KS), John Joyce (PA), Scott Franklin (FL), Burgess Owens (UT), Matt Rosendale (MT), Russ Fulcher (ID), Tom Tiffany (WI), Nicole Malliotakis (NY), Doug LaMalfa (CA), Andrew Clyde (GA), Michael Guest (MS), and Dan Bishop (NC).
(Links in bold above lead to NCRM’s coverage of those specific lawmakers.)
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