Finally Friday Reads: E Pluribus Unum

This mural of Lady Justice was painted by W. T. Reed and is located in the courtroom of the Pike County Courthouse in Waverly, Ohio. Captured by Photographer Doris Rapp.

Good Day Sky Dancers!

During the Cold War and Jim Crow periods, pressured by right-wingers and hyper-religionists, our country gravitated from our country’s traditional motto to the theocratic statement “In God (sic) we Trust.”  This happened in 1956.  The symbolism of “out of many, one” was evidently too woke for them back then.  It sounded too much like godless communism.

I think the big assumption was that you could tell a communist by their choice to not drag religion into everything in the tradition of the First Amendment of our Constitution. You may remember the crap the Republicans gave President Obama while visiting Jakarta in 2019 when he spoke of E Pluribus Unum as the motto under which our country was founded.  It was placed on “The Great Seal” of the United States in 1782. 

Moreover, in the 1770s and ’80s Congress opposed a theistic motto for the nation, and many of the founders worked hard to prevent one from being established.

In July 1776, almost immediately after signing the Declaration of Independence, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson were tasked with designing a seal and motto for the new nation. In August John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, that he had proposed the “Choice of Hercules” as the image for the seal. Adams believed that individuals should choose to lead moral personal lives and to devote themselves to civic duty, and he preferred a secular allegory for that moral lesson.

The other two committee members proposed images that drew on Old Testament teachings, but neither shared the beliefs of those today who assert the role of God in our national government. Benjamin Franklin, a deist who did not believe in the divinity of Christ, proposed “Moses lifting up his Wand, and dividing the Red Sea, and Pharaoh, in his Chariot overwhelmed with the Waters.” This motto he believed, captured the principle that “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.”

Thomas Jefferson, who later created his own Bible by cutting out all mentions of the miracles of Jesus Christ (as well as his divine birth and resurrection), envisioned “The Children of Israel in the Wilderness, led by a Cloud by day, and a Pillar of Fire by night, and on the other Side Hengist and Horsa, the Saxon Chiefs, from whom We claim the Honour of being descended and whose Political Principles and Form of Government We have assumed.” Of all of his accomplishments, Jefferson selected just three for his tombstone, one of which was writing the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which established a separation of church and state.

The three men worked in consultation with an artist, Eugène Pierre Du Simitière, who rejected all of the ideas of the three committee members. His own first attempt was also rejected by Congress. It would take years and several more committees before Congress would approve the final design, still in use today, of an American bald eagle clutching thirteen arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other.

Only the motto “E Pluribus Unum” (“from many, one”) survived from the committee on which Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin had served. All had agreed on that motto from the beginning.

The current motto, “In God We Trust,” was developed by a later generation. It was used on some coinage at the height of religious fervor during the upheaval of the Civil War.

It was made the official national motto in 1956, at the height of the Cold War, to signal opposition to the feared secularizing ideology of communism.

In other words, “In God We Trust” is a legacy of founders, but not the founders of the nation. As the official national motto, it is a legacy of the founders of modern American conservatism — a legacy reaffirmed by the current Congress.

The northwest mural, overlooking Main Street, features a Black “Lady Justice” with a scarf covering her eyes, a sword in her right hand, and the scales of justice in her left, ready to deliver “fair and true justice.” Victor Ash. University of Houston-Downtown

It always amazes me when the Tea Party completely misses the history of that event.  Republicans tend to do that. Then, there’s the Second Amendment, where the modern, very recent interpretation written by Justice Scalia (Heller, 2008) was textualized and still is controversial. However, it still stands because, well, that’s why Republicans keep stacking the court. They want to interpret the US Constitution free of all that debate and writings we have to read from historical documents which clearly indicate how absolutely wrong they all are. But that doesn’t matter to them.  They are all convinced that Right-Wing Christian Nationalism is the only interpretation of anything. There are many deep pockets in Right-Wing America to fund the attack on our Constitutional Republic and small d democracy.

Justice Clarence Thompson’s Big Daddy Warbucks is one of the Huge Republican Donors funding the death of all of America’s Better Angels one institution at a time.  It’s not a coincidence that Harlan Crow is in the headlines while we see this headline from Dean Obeidallah. “Tennessee GOP succeeded where MAGA failed on Jan 6: They overturned an election to preserve White Supremacy.”  He adds, “This will only get worse.”  Indeed.

Did you watch any of the Tennesse house’s sham “trial” yesterday?  It belonged more to Wonderland than the United States judicial system.  I was expecting someone to shout “off with their heads” or, more appropriately, “lynch them” to the young black men that dare represent and join their constituents to protest gun violence. Four of five seconds in the legislature well defined their sin.

The event struck me in the same way that watching southern law enforcement turn fire hoses on children during the Civil Rights actions. I was unsurprised to hear that one of them uttered the word uppity. Gerrymandering by such states is the only way they get what they want.  Tennessee and Wisconsin showed us that this week.

The Tennessee GOP’s shocking expulsion of two Black state representatives— Justin Jones and Justin Pearson—from the legislature for simply breaking House rules of decorum was about one thing: Preserving white supremacy.

That is not just my view but also Democratic Tennessee State Senator London Lamar who appeared on my SiriusXM show Thursday night. When I asked how much of the GOP’s expulsion of these two state reps was motivated by white supremacy, the Senator bluntly responded: “All of it.” (The clip is at the bottom of the page.) Senator Lamar also explained how white GOP leaders in the Tennessee legislature have long prevented discussions on racism, even noting that on Thursday a GOP Senator introduced legislation to ban local governments in the state from studying reparations. “This State still very much has issues with racism,” the Senator added.

There is a connection between the Tennessee GOP controlled state legislatures only expelling the two Black state reps—and not the white rep who engaged in the same conduct—and the Jan 6 attack. That terrorist attack incited by Trump was also about preserving white supremacy.

A few facts back that up. First, polls have found that nearly two-thirds of Republicans agree with a core belief of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory that alleges Democrats are encouraging demographic change in the country to replace “more conservative white voters.”  As a 2022 poll found, 68 percent of Republicans responded that they believed that the recent shift in U.S. demographics is “not a natural change but has been motivated by progressive and liberal leaders actively trying to leverage political power by replacing more conservative white voters.”

Fox News Tucker Carlson—who I have long referred to as “Tucker Klansman”— has worked tirelessly to promote that belief in the years before the Jan 6, 2021 attack. Carlson began in 2019 on his top rated show—along with his guests—to fuel the flames of white victimhood by claiming Democrats want to literally replace white Republicans.  Donald Trump also continually played on the white right’s fears with talk of “invasion” of immigrants flooding America and bringing crime.

Jan 6 was a manifestation of that fear of the white right losing power.  Just look at who carried out the attack. While The Proud Boys and members of white right militias got the headlines, a study by the University of Chicago looking at the people arrested tells us more about what truly fueled this: the fear of white people being replaced.  This report found that “the No. 1 belief among insurrectionists—shared by fully 75 percent of respondents—is the “great replacement” of the electorate by the Democratic Party.”

That helps explain why the majority of those arrested did not come from deep Red areas but from places with the greatest demographic change.  As Robert A. Pape, a professor at University of Chicago who led the study noted, the majority of those arrested for the Jan 6 attack came from counties that had lost white population share. The greater the decrease in “non-Hispanic whites,” as the researchers described, the more likely the county was to have spawned an alleged rioter.

More than half of the people arrested for the Jan 6 attack—per Pape’s report—hail from counties where Biden won, adding to the sense that these right wing conservatives were literally losing power.

Justice is Blind. This mural was created by Ronald McDowell, who was commissioned by Jefferson County Court House, Birmingham, Alabama. 2018

Tennessee, the founding location of the KKK, is still dealing with leaving its past.  You may think I was using the term lynching gratuitously earlier. But maybe you didn’t know this. This is from the AP. It’s dated March 2, 2023.  “Tennessee GOP lawmaker apologizes over ‘hanging’ comment.”

A Tennessee Republican lawmaker on Thursday apologized after asking earlier this week if “hanging by a tree” could be added to the state’s execution methods. This comment has shocked Black lawmakers who point to the state’s dark history of lynching.

Rep. Paul Sherrell, who is white, first made the remark Tuesday as a separate lawmaker was introducing legislation to include the firing squad to execute death row inmates.

“I think it’s a very good idea, and I was just wondering about… could I put an amendment on that it would include hanging by a tree, also?” Sherrell asked.

At the time, no one on the legislative committee reprimanded or pushed back against Sherrell’s comments. However, his words gained traction throughout the week, which led to the Republican’s apology on the House floor Thursday.

Joyce Vance reminds us of how recently we had a normal Supreme Court that didn’t encourage making most of the country second-class citizens. “Tennessee  —  In December 1966, the United States Supreme Court unanimously decided a case called Bond v. Floyd.” 

In December 1966, the United States Supreme Court unanimously decided a case called Bond v. Floyd. Julian Bond was a Black man elected to the Georgia legislature.

Several months after his election in June 1965, a civil rights organization that Mr. Bond belonged to issued an anti-war statement about Vietnam, which he subsequently endorsed in statements to the press. White members of the Georgia House challenged Bond’s right to be seated, charging that his statements aided our enemies, violated the Selective Service laws, discredited the House, and were inconsistent with the legislator’s mandatory oath to support the Constitution.

Bond filed a challenge in the House to the petitions against seating him, alleging they were violations of his First Amendment rights and they were racially motivated. The House committee hearing his challenge concluded that Bond should not be seated. He filed a lawsuit, and a three-judge panel in the federal district court in Georgia ruled against him 2-1. Bond filed an appeal under a provision that permitted him to go straight to the United States Supreme Court. While the appeal was pending, he was re-elected to the Georgia House in a special election, and, again, the House refused to seat him. He was elected again in the regular election in 1966, and the Supreme Court decided his case shortly afterwards.

The unanimous Supreme Court decision in Bond’s favor relied upon a famous First Amendment case, New York Times v. Sullivan,holding that although a state may impose a requirement that legislators take an oath of allegiance, it cannot limit their capacity to express views on local or national policy. “[D]ebate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,” the Court wrote, citing the decision in Sullivan.

The Court’s opinion in Bond concluded with these words: “Legislators have an obligation to take positions on controversial political questions so that their constituents can be fully informed by them, and be better able to assess their qualifications for office; also so they may be represented in governmental debates by the person they have elected to represent them. We therefore hold that the disqualification of Bond from membership in the Georgia House because of his statements violated Bond’s right of free expression under the First Amendment.”

Detroit Artist Fel3000ft. ‘The Justice Wall’.2020

No wonder the Republican states want to hide Black History. They’re trying to repeat the worst, hoping we all live in a vacuum or won’t pay attention to what they say and do.  However, the GOP is losing elections. The most recent election in Wisconsin for a position on its Supreme Court illustrates how even a highly gerrymandered state can still deliver a message and progress when voting. Patrick Marley from the  Washington Post writes this: “With liberals in charge, Wisconsin Supreme Court could rule on these issues.”

Democrats made clear to voters that the Wisconsin Supreme Court election this week centered on one key issue: giving liberals a majority on the court so they can overturn the state’s abortion ban.

But the race was also about getting the votes to redraw gerrymandered legislative and congressional districts. And protecting the outcome of the 2024 presidential election. And, potentially, a long list of other issues.

Wisconsin has a Democratic governor and a Republican legislature, so many of its most consequential disputes are resolved by the state Supreme Court. Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz, a liberal, beat former justice Daniel Kelly, a conservative, by 11 points. When she is sworn in on Aug. 1, liberals will obtain a 4-3 majority, ending a 15-year run of conservative control of the court.

All shall be equal before the law – Graffiti in Cape Town, South Africa

The author follows with a list and discussion of issues that will be decidedly different due to the change. Abortion and redistricting sit right at the top. This epic headline comes from Axios.  “The GOP’s epic losing streak.” 

If Republicans step back and look beyond the legal and social-media spectacle of Donald J. Trump, they’ll see screaming political sirens everywhere they gaze.

Why it matters: The GOP’s political trouble has been unfolding slowly but unmistakably, starting even before Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in 2020.

  1. First, the 2018 House elections were a disaster for Republicans: Democrats had a net gain of 40 seats to take over the House — their largest gain since the post-Watergate election of 1974.
  2. Then Trump lost the presidency.
  3. Next, Republicans blew two runoff elections in Georgia and lost control of the U.S. Senate. The runoffs took place a day before Trump backers stormed the Capitol.
  4. Then, Republicans won the legal fight over abortion as Trump-appointed justices helped to ensure the reversal of Roe v. Wade. But the GOP lost a series of political battles over it afterward — a reflection of polls indicating that most Americans support abortion rights. GOP-led state legislatures have shown no signs of slowing their push to enact stricter abortion bans, suggesting continuing political backlash.
  5. Republicans put high-profile election deniers on the 2022 midterm ballot in key state and federal races — only to see several lose winnable elections.
  6. Republicans blew a chance to control the Senate by nominating too many hard-to-elect-in-a-swing-state Trump facsimiles. Their hopes of a big House majority were erased for the same reason, creating constant headaches for new Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
  7. Just this week, progressive Democrats triumphed in two of this year’s most consequential elections. Brandon Johnson, a teachers’ union organizer, was elected Chicago mayor. In swing state Wisconsin, Democrat-backed Janet Protasiewicz flipped the state Supreme Court to liberals in a landslide, after leaning into her support for abortion rights.
  8. Senate Republicans have been gifted a historically favorable 2024 map — but hard-right candidates who appeal to the GOP base again threaten to inject uncertainty into at least five winnable races.
  9. Trump is driving an agenda dominated by vengeance and victimhood, diverting Republicans from the inflation- and crime-centered messages that helped them in the midterms.

Reality check: Trump, if anything, is stronger and more likely to win the GOP nomination than he was after the November midterms.

This brings me to the poster child for Republican corruption.  That would be Uncle Clarence Thomas.  BostonBoomer gave us a thorough examination of his ongoing luxury trips on the way to the gates of hell.  This is written by Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern for Slate. “Clarence Thomas Broke the Law, and It Isn’t Even Close It probably won’t matter. But it should.”

ProPublica’s scrupulously reported new piece on Justice Clarence Thomas’ decadeslong luxury travel on the dime of a single GOP megadonor will probably not shock you at all. Sure, the dollar amounts spent are astronomical, and of course the justice failed to report any of it, and of course the megadonor insists that he and Thomas are dear old friends, so of course the superyacht and the flights on the Bombardier Global 5000 jet and the resorts are all perfectly benign. So while the details are shocking, the pattern here is hardly a new one. This is a longstanding ethics loophole that has been exploited by parties with political interests in cases before the court to curry favor in exchange for astonishing junkets and perks. It is allowed to happen.

We will doubtless spend a few news cycles expressing outrage that Harlan Crow has spent millions of dollars lavishing the Thomases with lux vacations and high-end travel and barely pretended to separate business and pleasure, giving half a million dollars to a Tea Party group founded by Ginni Thomas in 2011 (which funded her own $120,000 salary). But because the justices are left to police themselves and opt not to do so, we will turn to other matters in due time. Before the outrage dries up, however, it is worth zeroing in on two aspects of the ProPublica report that do have lasting legal implications. First, the same people who benefited from the lax status quo continue to fight against any meaningful reforms that might curb the justices’ gravy train. Second, the rules governing Thomas’ conduct over these years, while terribly insufficient, actually did require him to disclose at least some of these extravagant gifts. The fact that he ignored the rules anyway illustrates just how difficult it will be to force the justices to obey the law: Without the strong threat of enforcement, a putative public servant like Thomas will thumb his nose at the law.

If there is a single image that captures this seedy state of affairs, it is a painting of Thomas hanging out with Leonard Leo (Federalist Society co-chair and judicial power broker) and Mark Paoletta (who has served as chief counsel to former Vice President Mike Pence and general counsel of Donald Trump’s Office of Management and Budget). Both are political operatives, though Crow assures us that they would never dare talk about Thomas’ work. This image should be enough to shock anyone into taking action against the spigot of dark money that flows directly from billionaire donors into the court, its justices, and their spouses’ pockets. Continuing to live as though there is nothing to be done about any of this is a choice. We make it every day.

In addition to working in the Trump-Pence administration, Paoletta serves as the Thomases’ longtime fixer, attack dog, and booster. He represented Ginni Thomas when she spoke to the Jan 6. committee about her support for overturning the 2020 election. He also edited a biography of Clarence Thomas based on an almost comically obsequious documentary (in which he was also involved). So it should not be a surprise that Paoletta has also testified against any ethics reform measures for the Supreme Court, dismissing the reform movement as part of “the coordinated campaign by some Democrats and their allies in the corporate media to smear conservative Justices with the goal of delegitimizing the court.”

The lack of a binding ethics code for justices redounds to Paoletta’s benefit: ProPublica reports that he joined the Thomases on a trip through Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands on the Crows’ yacht. At the time, Paoletta was serving in the Trump administration, and was therefore subject to far stricter ethics rules than the justice; he told ProPublica that he reimbursed Crow for the trip, although he would not give a price tag. (It is an extraordinary feat for a public servant to be able to afford a private international yacht adventure; it also proves that even in government posts that actually have enforceable ethics rules, those rules may not be up to the job of policing corruption.)

Go read the rest!  This needs to change.

Anyway, that’s it for me today.  This is a long post.  I hope you can get through it without losing your lunch.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Black Rage is founded on two-thirds a personRapings and beatings and suffering that worsensBlack human packages tied up in stringsBlack rage can come from all these kinds of things
Black rage is founded on blatant denialSqueezed economics, subsistence survivalDeafening silence and social controlBlack rage is founded on wounds in the soul  

25 Comments on “Finally Friday Reads: E Pluribus Unum”

  1. MsMass says:–Conservatives-out-to-destroy-an-institution-that-has-defined-civilization-for-3-000-years

    This was also enlightening, I hadn’t been making the link between eroding public schools and libraries to “dumbing down “ the population for better control.

    • dakinikat says:

      That’s about all I’ve been thinking about. They’ve been trying to undermine public schools to dumb kids down.

  2. MsMass says:

    And lastly, one of the underlying pillars of evangelical support for Drumpf.

  3. NW Luna says:

    Julian Bond was a strong supporter for lesbian and gay rights at a time when support was not common. That took courage, which he had in strength.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Thanks for this powerful post, Dak.

    I have a feeling that the events in Tennessee are going to trigger blowback on Republicans just as the overturning of Roe did. In the end, the courts will seat the two Justins, and the national Republican Party will pay a price for this.

    Kamala Harris is in Nashville now too.

    • Full ruling here:

    • Ronstill4Hills says:


      This spasm of Christo-Fascist over-reach is going to accelerate the backlash that is already under way.

      They guess wrong.

  5. dakinikat says:

    • NW Luna says:

      … starts singing “Washington, my hoooooooome!”, our state’s official song

      Washington my home;
      Where ever I may roam;
      This is my land, my native land, Washington, my home.
      Our verdant forest green,
      Caressed by silv’ry stream.
      From mountain peak to fields of wheat, Washington, my home.
      There’s peace you feel and understand.
      In this, our own beloved land.

      …then a few lines of our state’s official folk song, “Roll on, Columbia” by Woody Guthrie

      Green Douglas firs where the waters cut through
      Down her wild mountains and canyons she flew
      Canadian Northwest to the oceans so blue
      Roll on Columbia, roll on
      Other great rivers add power to you
      Yakima, Snake, and the Klickitat, too
      Sandy Willamette and Hood River too
      So roll on, Columbia, roll on

      …then breaks into a few bars of our state’s unofficial state song, “Louie, Louie.”

  6. NW Luna says:

    • quixote says:

      This. It’s not chaotic. It’s not unrelated. It’s not one thing after another. It’s the same thing all the time:

      Supporting or fighting male white supremacy. All the time.

      You choose your side, you do what you can — and if that’s nothing but voting in every single election, that’s okay — and none of us stop till the darkness is gone. It’s not confusing.

      It is tiring to be fighting the same thing for centuries. No question about that.

  7. dakinikat says:

    I’ve turned into a birth control street preacher. Every time I walk Temple, I tell young women to stock up on plan B and not take birth control for granted. At least I’m not mumbling to myself. I have daughters and granddaughters, and it’s DefConLevel One for The Handmaid’s Tale. White Christofascists will not win this. I got the blood of six signers of the Declaration of Independence and 2 of the Constitution in me, plus all the others who died in wars since the revolution, the war against slavery, and the war against fascists. We will not become a Western version of Iran. You will not throw out duly elected representatives for exercising free speech either because you long for Jim Crow days or to suppress my GLBTQ family. We shall overcome.

  8. dakinikat says:

    All roads lead to Hitler with Republicans these days …