Friday, September 25, 2020

Editorial: Call the Republicans’ Bluff

It took less than 90 minutes after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18 for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to affirm that he planned to push Donald Trump’s nominee onto the court as soon as possible.

Trump says Republicans need to rush a new justice onto the Supreme Court before the election because he expects the court, with another right-wing vote to reinforce the conservative bloc, will help him steal the election despite his trailing in polls that portend defeat if mailed-in ballots are allowed to be counted. 

“Now we’re counting on the federal court system to make it so that we can actually have an evening where we know who wins. Not where the votes are going to be counted a week later or two weeks later,” Trump said at a rally in North Carolina Sept. 19.

Trump and Republicans have accused Democrats of planning election fraud by voting by mail during a pandemic, when many jurisdictions have cut polling places. There is little evidence that voting by mail contributes to fraud. In fact, Trump has voted by mail and is expected to do so in this election. But Republicans don’t want to make it easier for Democrats to vote in these pandemic days, particularly when Republicans appear headed for a thrashing. So Republicans set about to sabotage the US Postal Service to reduce confidence that mailed ballots will make it to election officials in time.

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a blow, because it opened the possibility that Trump would get to replace her with a third right-wing justice on the Supreme Court. Republicans have abandoned the pretense that they should leave the filling of a Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election to the next president, as they solemnly claimed in 2016. 

After Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, McConnell said President Barack Obama shouldn’t even bother to nominate a replacement in an election year. After Obama went ahead and nominated Merrick Garland, the respected chief judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in March 2016, eight months before the election, Republicans denied a hearing, agreeing with McConnell that it was too close to the election.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2016, defended the rebuff then and reiterated his position this past July, “If I were chairman of the committee and this vacancy occurred, I would not have a hearing on it because that’s what I promised the people in 2016.” But on Sept. 21, he buckled, and said he would support McConnell’s decision to move forward to fill the vacancy before the election. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the current Judiciary Committee chair, said in 2016, in defending the rejection of Garland, the rule against seating new Supreme Court judges in election years should apply to Republican presidents, too. “I want you to use my words against me,” Graham said in 2016. “If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said ‘Let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.’”

Trump explained the new rule on Fox “News”: “When you have the Senate, when you have the votes, you can sort of do what you want as long as you have it.” Pretty much the same as the old rule.

If Democratic Leader Charles Schumer can keep all 47 of the senators in his caucus in line, he would need four Republican senators to join the Dems in stopping a Supreme Court promotion this year, but only Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have come out against filling the seat until after the election and, if Biden wins, they would let him name the new justice. 

Democrats should play hardball in the showdown over the replacement of RBG.

McConnell might be able to marshal the votes to confirm the sixth conservative for the high court, and form a bloc on the high court that Republicans hope will impede progressive legislation for a generation, but Democrats must play their own strong hand, redoubling efforts to not only beat Trump, but also regain a Senate majority. 

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) called for Senate Democrats to eliminate the filibuster if Republicans move to expand conservative majority on the Supreme Court by filling the vacancy.

“Mitch McConnell set the precedent,” Markey said. “No Supreme Court vacancies filled in an election year. If he violates it, when Democrats control the Senate in the next Congress, we must abolish the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court.”

Joe Biden is not promoting that alternative, but Josh Marshall, editor of Talking Points Memo, noted, “It is probably politically best that he not do so. Clearly the very idea of it cuts against every bit of his experience. But he also mustn’t rule it out. The optimal position for him is to focus on the wrongness of another corrupt nomination and say he hopes the President doesn’t force a future Democratic Senate to do so.”

Schumer said Democrats should keep all possibilities “on the table.”

Some Democrats are wary that threatening to expand the court will make the final month of the election a battle over abortion rights, but you can bet abortion opponents already are planning to vote for Trump. But Democrats should raise the alarm that a 6-3 conservative court is likely to overturn the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, including the requirement that insurance covers pre-existing conditions. The conservative bloc might be emboldened to overturn Medicare, Medicaid and even the 85-year-old Social Security Act, which Trump already is trying to defund through his own executive orders suspending the payroll tax that fund the retirement plans. 

If Republicans achieve their dream of overturning Obamacare during the lame duck session, Democrats should get the gumption to expand the court in February with four more liberal justices who will go along if Congress decides to expand Medicare to cover everybody. A new Democratic Congress could remove the ceiling on payroll tax collections (which now stop after $137,700 in earnings). That will prevent the Social Security fund from becoming insolvent in 2035 and also allows expansion of benefits. With a liberal court majority, Congress also can restore the Voting Rights Act and reverse the Census-rigging that the Trump administration has been attempting to enable another decade of Republican gerrymandering.

Republicans will screech that Democrats are trying to pack the court, but Congress has changed the size of the Supreme Court seven times, from the original six justices to as many as 10 in 1863. After the Civil War, Congress in 1866 reduced the number of justices to seven to prevent President Andrew Johnson from appointing new members to the court. In 1869, after Johnson left office, Congress raised the number of justices back to nine, which the court has numbered ever since. 

During the Great Depression, conservatives on the court struck down several New Deal programs during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term. After his sweeping re-election in 1936, Roosevelt proposed in 1937 that Congress increase the number of judges to as many as 15 members. FDR relented when one of the justices moderated to allow the laws to take effect, and another conservative judge retired, prompting a humorist to quip, “A switch in time saved nine.”

Maybe it’s time for another switch. — JMC

By the way, press critic Eric Boehlert has noted, in his Press Run newsletter, that more than 100 of the nation’s newspapers called for Bill Clinton to resign because he lied about an extramarital affair, but none have called for the resignation of the Great Misleader, Donald Trump. For the record, Trump should quit, or be fired.

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2020

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Selections from the October 15, 2020 issue

 COVER/Bob Cesca

Trump wants to be President of just the Republican states: But they’re a total mess

Call the Republicans’ bluff

SATIRE/Frank Lingo 
Your vote: Democracy or dictatorship


Changing the trajectory of race

Drought, plague, fire: The apocalypse feels nigh. Yet we have tools to stop it.

A.G. Barr threatens to cut off federal funding to three Democratic cities. 
Democrats have a clear shot at Senate majority. 
Postmaster General has rough day in court, in multiple wins for democracy. 
Federal government didn’t try to stop COVID-19.
Trump applauds fed task force for killing Portland killing suspect ...

The party formerly known as Republican

Nuclear arms will have to be addressed

I’m still mad about COVID-19. We all should be. 

More damning than Nixon’s tapes

A dire shortage of poll workers imperils American democracy

Ten potential game changers

Killing someone is not like missing a golf putt

The end times, Walter Mercado and the orange madman

Watching religion die

HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas  
To the pharmaceutical industry: Thank you

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

Cancelling Wilson

In praise of public debt 

Federal pandemic aid oversight adequate?

How were 46 million people trapped by student debt?

BOOK REVIEW/Heather Seggel  
Keep it on the square

Homeland and heartland

How big money controls the stories the media tells

Unlocking the trauma shall set ye free

SATIRE/Rosie Sorenson  
The commander in chief knows best

What the Flint wanter crisis meant for my family

and more ...

Sunday, September 13, 2020

It is what it is


Art by Kevin Kreneck

Editorial: Make Trump the 'Loser'

 Can anything budge the 40% to 43% of Americans who think Donald Trump is doing a good job, despite all the evidence to the contrary?

Trump hasn’t resorted to trying to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York City to see if he could shake his supporters’ loyalty — at least not yet — but the latest test was a report by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic magazine Sept. 3 that accused the president of calling fallen American soldiers “suckers” and “losers,” and ducking out of a trip to a cemetery to honor US marines who died in World War I, during a 2018 trip to Paris, because it was raining and he didn’t want to muss his hair. Trump also reportedly questioned the sacrifice of retired Gen. John Kelly’s son, Marine 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly, and others who died in Afghanistan, when Trump accompanied Gen. Kelly to the son’s gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2017. Trump reportedly said of the fallen service members, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?”

Trump also asked his staff not to include wounded veterans in military parades, on grounds that spectators would feel uncomfortable in the presence of amputees. “Nobody wants to see that,” he said.

Trump denied making the statements, despite the Associated Press, the New York Times, the Washington Post and even Fox News confirming the story. The Post also found a “former senior administration official” who said Trump had “told senior advisers that he didn’t understand why the US government placed such value on finding soldiers missing in action because they had performed poorly and gotten caught and deserved what they got.” 

Significantly, Kelly declined to speak on the record. When Pentagon officials in a position to know declined to back up Trump, he called military brass “war profiteers.” He claimed enlisted personnel support him, but a survey by Military Times of active-duty military in late July and early August found 49.9% have an unfavorable view of Trump and only 38% have a favorable view. Soldiers support Joe Biden over Trump by four points, which would be an extraordinary turnaround from 2016, when a poll using the same methodology showed Trump led Hillary Clinton by nearly 2 to 1. Sixty percent of veterans voted for Trump in 2016.

As Amanda Marcotte noted at Salon, we know Trump was lying in his denial of The Atlantic’s story because it follows his pathological pattern of telling lies. In his tweeted denials, Trump even claimed he never called the late Sen. John McCain a “loser” for being captured during the Vietnam War, even though there’s a recording of him doing so in July 2015, in the same rant during which he declared, “I like people who weren’t captured.” Trump was so proud of this smear of McCain that he tweeted it out at the time. 

Trump’s other “tell,” Marcotte noted, is that he falsely accuses others of doing what he himself has done. In this case, Trump has spent years bashing athletes who kneel during the national anthem, falsely accusing them of dishonoring veterans and war dead. In truth, the tradition — started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick — was formed with input from a former Green Beret as a way to speak out against racism and police brutality while still honoring the troops.

Trump’s contempt for the sacrifices of soldiers and their families was shown in 2016 when he smeared the family of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2004, when Khan’s parents spoke at the Democratic National Convention, and in October 2017, when he told a grieving widow of US Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was killed in in action in Niger, that “he knew what he signed up for.” Trump then accused Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., who was with widow Myesia Johnson when she spoke with Trump, of lying when she spoke out about it. 

We can add these lies to the 20,055 falsehoods Trump already had claimed as president, by the Washington Post’s tally as of July 9, when Trump was telling an average of 23 false claims a day. They are reflected in polls that show Trump with 43.2% approval, in an average compiled by, while 52.6% said they disapproved of Trump, as of Sept. 8. Some 43.1% said they would vote to re-elect Trump, but 50.6% said they would elect Joe Biden. Trump has never had more than 47.8% approval in the poll averages since he’s been president. Disapproval only dipped below 50% briefly in April before Trump’s inability to control the corona virus became apparent. Biden has never trailed Trump since March, and Biden also leads by amounts greater than the margin of error in key swing states Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, along with a narrow lead of 2-3 points in Florida. 

Democrats are justifiably nervous after the disastrous results in 2016, but this time Trump will not be sneaking up on his opponent. Voters have had a good look at Trump, and a majority of them don’t like what they’ve seen. In the 2018 election, Democrats made inroads into the suburbs, which Republicans have counted on to offset Democratic majorities in cities, and Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives. 

As polls this year have shown Biden leading among suburban voters, and Republican control of the Senate is at risk, an increasingly desperate Trump has tried to scare suburbanites with warnings that if Biden is elected, Blacks will start moving into their neighborhoods. But racism doesn’t appear to be moving the needle for Trump. 

If anything, the share of Americans who say racism is a “big problem” in society has increased eight percentage points in the past two years, and has roughly doubled since 2011, Samantha Neal reported for Pew Research Center Aug. 29. 

Overall, 58% of Americans say racism is a “big problem in our society,” while 29% say it is “somewhat of a problem.” Just 12% say racism in the US is a small problem or not a problem, according to a Pew survey, conducted Aug. 15-21. And despite Trump administration attempts to link the Black Lives Matter movement to riots, arson and looting, some of which has been traced to right-wing provocateurs and other opportunists, the Pew poll found 55% of Americans say they support BLM, while 34% oppose the movement. Biden traveled to Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug. 31 to underline that he supports peaceful protests that call for police reform and equal rights, but said those who engage in violent activities or looting should be prosecuted. He also accused Trump of stoking violence in American cities. Biden noted America was unsafe under Trump, with COVID-19 killing thousands of people a week and an economy in tatters.

Biden also traveled to Kenosha, Wis., Sept. 3 to meet with the family of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was gravely wounded after a white policeman shot him seven times in the back. Biden spoke with Blake by phone before meeting with community leaders and again opposed violence and looting, but pledged to “go down fighting for racial equality, equity across the board.”

With Trump’s approval stuck in the low-to-mid 40s, and Dems targeting Senate Republicans in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas, along with an open seat in Kansas, Republicans are trying to prevent opponents from voting, reducing the number of pollling places and casting doubts on voting by mail. Many states allow early voting for several weeks in October. Check your early or absentee voting options at or call your local election official (usually the county clerk) for details. Don’t wait for Nov. 3. — JMC 

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2020

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Saturday, September 12, 2020

Selections from the October 1, 2020 issue

COVER/Bill Blum 

How Donald Trump has constructed a legal infrastructure of fascism

Make Trump the “loser”

We need more than disaster recovery — we need green jobs


Neocons on the outside looking in

RURAL ROUTES/Margot McMillen  
The urban-rural divide

Set the record straight on unions. 
Six months into recession, economy is still down 11.5 million jobs. 
US debt will overtake GDP next year.
Social Security’s future hangs in the balance. 
Trump administration plans $250 million ad buy to persuade you not to worry about the pandemic. 
Dems urge probe of fundraising fraud allegations against postmaster general.
Trump campaign, GOP have spent nearly $60M on lawyers for Trump
US goes it alone on COVID vaccine ...

Anxiety is a hard sell in a catastrophic run-up to the election

Donald Trump and Republicans, in their own words

Where have I heard these Trump lines before?

Trump spread his lies on my lawn

Kenosha reveals ongoing police violence, growing menance of white militia forces

Organizing labor in the pandemic south

Conservatives lose — and lose

Memory, COVID-19 and sequelae violence

Heartland tenants who beat the odds

HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas
Trump’s virus strategy: Blinders

Trump seeks immunity from COVID repercussions

Within healthcare USA, risk and reward have never been more out of kilter

Donkey Kong

Who is calling the tunes at CDC and why care? 

Trump’s Postmaster General should be returned to sender

How to fire the Postmaster General

Four years ago, we warned that Trump could win. Now, we’re warning again. 

BOOK REVIEW/Heather Seggel
See you at the movies

Don’t feel bad about ‘Guilty Pleasures’

Report: COVID-19’s impacts on Hispanic workers

What is happening in Trump’s brain?

SATIRE/Rosie Sorenson  
Battle Hymn of the Trumpublic

SATIRE/Frank Lingo 
America’s marriage on the rocks

and more ...