Tuesday ReadsPosted: October 12, 2021
For once I have something to smile about. The Red Sox, after a fairly lackluster end to their season, are now on the way to the American League Championship series. They beat the Tampa Bay Rays, supposedly the best team in baseball this year. I doubt if anyone else here cares, but I’m glad I finally have something to celebrate in this depressing time.
Now back to the discouraging topic of U.S. politics. If anyone can come up with something good about it, I would love to know about it.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott is still doing his best to kill Texans–by banning mask and vaccine mandates. At the same time he is trying to force women to bear children against their will, which will lead women to die from back alley abortions like they did in the bad old days before Roe v. Wade. Freedumb!
But bullying a woman into bearing her rapist’s child is A-OK with Abbot. Make it make sense. Also, Abbott hasn’t explained how he will enforce his ban at U.S. military bases in Texas. Will he send the Texas Rangers in to battle the feds?
This is from Ryan Cooper at The Week: It’s time for bold action to save Republicans’ lives, whether they like it or not.
President Biden is in trouble. As my colleague Damon Linker writes, his approval numbers have been steadily declining for months, now hovering in the low 40s in some surveys. Without some upward movement, that will spell disaster for the Democrats in the upcoming midterms.
There is one straightforward policy Biden can undertake, completely on his own initiative, to turn this around: vaccine mandates. Strict policies to force vaccine-resistant populations to get their shots would do more than anything else under Biden’s direct control to improve the condition of the country — and his own polling numbers.
Now, there are no doubt many reasons Biden’s approval is down. The shrieking tantrum from the mainstream media over the American empire being humiliated in Afghanistan plays a part, as does the general tendency for presidential approval to decline following inauguration. The relentless drumbeat of conservative propaganda takes its toll as well.
But the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is surely the largest part. Political science has shown for years that the incumbent party in the White House tends to be blamed for bad things that happen on its watch — even if that assignment of blame makes little sense. That’s what’s happening here.
As long as the pandemic continues, it will play hell with the economic recovery. Unemployment is relatively low, but recent jobs numbers have been weak, and supply chains are badly snarled up across the globe. That, coupled with the worst mass casualty event in a century — more people have died of COVID-19 this year than in 2020 — is surely sandbagging presidential popularity.
Republican resistance to measures to control the pandemic is the reason for Biden’s slipping poll numbers as well as the horrible case and death rates in red states and counties.
Right-wing media and leaders have constantly spewed anti-vaccine propaganda for months, while Republican politicians have bitterly fought any kind of forcible pandemic controls. Even as Florida suffered by far its worst surge of the virus since the pandemic started, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) continued to punish schools that required masks. He’s currently in a legal fight trying to ban private cruise ship companies — perhaps the most notoriously disease-prone businesses in the world — from implementing vaccine requirements.
Sure enough, if you plot former President Donald Trump’s vote share by county in 2020 versus vaccination rate, you find a large and consistent negative correlation. That is, the more Trump voters, the fewer shots in arms. A recent study in The Lancet found that if Texas and Florida alone had matched the vaccination rates of the most-vaccinated states, more than 22,000 Texans and Floridians who died of COVID-19 would still be alive today.
As I have previously argued, Republicans like DeSantis (who is vaccinated, by the way) are functionally conducting human wave attacks against Joe Biden’s approval rating, sacrificing their own loyal base for cheap political wins. The extent to which this is a conscious calculation may vary, but the practical effect is that the pandemic continues; Biden is blamed for it; and that (probably) does more damage to Democrats’ vote totals than the GOP loses in dead voters.
This ruthlessness must be met with bold, uncompromising action to save life rather than end it. A minority of Republicans insist they absolutely will not choose to get the vaccine? Fine. Force them to do it.
On the abortion issue, this is from the AP, via NBC News: Justice Department again presses to halt Texas abortion law.
AUSTIN, Texas — The Biden administration urged the courts again to step in and suspend a new Texas law that has banned most abortions since early September, as clinics hundreds of miles away remain busy with Texas patients making long journeys to get care.
The latest attempt Monday night comes three days after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the nation’s most restrictive abortion law after a brief 48-hour window last week in which Texas abortion providers — following a blistering ruling by a lower court — had rushed to bring in patients again.
The days ahead could now be key in determining the immediate future of the law known as Senate Bill 8, including whether there is another attempt to have the U.S. Supreme Court weigh in.
The law bans abortions in Texas once cardiac activity is detected, which is usually at six weeks and before some women even know they are pregnant. Although other GOP-controlled states have had similar early bans on abortions blocked by courts, the Texas law has proved durable because the state offloads enforcement solely onto private citizens, who can collect at least $10,000 in damages if they successfully sue abortion providers.
“If Texas’s scheme is permissible, no constitutional right is safe from state-sanctioned sabotage of this kind,” the Justice Department told the appeals court.
In wording that seemed to be a message to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department raised the specter that if allowed to stand, the legal structure created in enacting the law could be used to circumvent even the Supreme Court’s rulings in 2008 and 2010 on gun rights and campaign financing.
Former Republicans seem to be doing a better job of defending the Biden agenda and elucidating the threat to democracy posed by the former guy than Democrats are. Of course the mainstream media plays a role in this too; they simply refuse to explain what’s in the Democrat’s infrastructure bills.
Former Republican Tim Miller at The Bulwark: Dear Democrats: Only 10% of People Even Know What You Are Fighting For.
Quick: What is in the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better,” “Human Infrastructure,” “Reconciliation,” “Unicorn Boner,” “Bed Bath & Beyond” legislation?
Can you tell me?
I’m guessing that you can. Well maybe you don’t know everything that’s in it. But I bet you can name a couple things. Because you, dear reader, are an engaged citizen. You participate in our rollicking national civic dialogue. You subscribe to a few substacks.
But do you understand just how rare you are, person who knows what is in the BBB plan? You are like the recherché and retired Batty the Bat beanie baby or the sweet Nikola Jokic double behind the back dribble TopShot NFT.
Because when CBS News asked the American public how much they know about the “Build Back Better” plan only 10 percent replied “a lot of the specifics.”
And let me tell you a secret: Even that number is wrong, because a bunch of those people were lying.
There is copious political science research which demonstrates when people are asked whether or not they voted, those who didn’t will often report that they had. It’s human nature. You don’t want to sound like a laggard to the stranger on the phone!
So we have 1-in-10 as our absolute ceiling when it comes to the share of Americans who know what is in the bill that is cock-blocking the done-and-ready infrastructure bill.
This seems like a problem!
Read the rest at the link.
From former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson: Opinion: The Trump nightmare looms again.