Friday Reads: We need a Democracy Booster

Frida Kahlo, Niña tehuacana, Lucha María (Sol y luna) ( Girl from Tehuacán, Lucha María [ Sun and Moon ]), 1942. © 2019 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of Di Donna Galleries.

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

Just got back from a very long wait for my Covid-19 Pfizer booster. I’d plan to get a flu shot too but they’d been out for over a week at my closest Walgreen’s.  So, I’m way late and needed a reminder from BB. There are a lot of stories out there with one basic theme.  Donald Trump and the throwback Republican Party are actively trying to dismantle our democratic republic.

Chauncey DeVega writes this for Salon: “Steve Bannon’s second act: He’s back, and he wants to bring down the curtain on democracy. Maybe you thought “Trump’s brain” was off the political stage forever. But he’s back — and now he smells revenge”

Bannon has been in the news this week: He may be charged with criminal contempt by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol assault, and he hosted an event in Virginia on Wednesday night where attendees reportedly recited the Pledge of Allegiance before a flag used in that insurrection.

It does indeed seem likely that Bannon appears to have played a key role in the events of Jan. 6 and perhaps also in Trump’s overarching coup attempt. On a recent episode of his podcast, Bannon admitted to telling Trump, prior to that date,  “You need to kill this [Biden] administration in its crib.”

Bannon has also made repeated use of the technique known as stochastic terrorism to encourage right-wing violence, while disclaiming personal responsibility. As HuffPost reports, he recently told his listeners of his “War Room” podcast: “We need to get ready now. We control the country. We’ve got to start acting like it. And one way we’re going to act like it, we’re not going to have 4,000 [shock troops] ready to go, we’re going to have 20,000 ready to go.”

Bannon has said these “shock troops” would be used to destroy the federal government from within in a second Trump administration, as a way of tearing down what he calls “the administrative state,” an anti-government euphemism that also includes multiracial democracy.

Political scientists, historians and others have shown that such rhetoric is used by Republicans and their allies (and by too many “moderate” or corporate-sponsored Democrats) to justify attacks on the very idea of government itself, in large part because they perceive it as serving the interests of Black and brown people and others deemed to be “undeserving.”

Bannon’s use of violent language about “shock troops” — in a military context, this means heavily armed, fast-moving elite soldiers used to break through enemy defenses — is not necessarily hyperbole or metaphor. Rather, it should be seen as part of a larger embrace of political violence and other terrorism by the Republican fascist movement.

Alice Rahon : Gato Nocturno : Night Cat, 1942

BB wrote a lot about Bannon’s refusal to submit to a congressional subpoena and a possible criminal complaint will be voted on in the full House of Representatives shortly. This is from Molly Jung-fast writing for The AtlanticDemocrats Are Ready to Send Steve Bannon to Jail. If Democrats want answers, they’ll need to enforce their subpoenas in the face of Trump allies’ defiance. They say that’s just what they plan to do.”

Democrats want to uphold norms of interparty civility while also preventing Trump and his buddies from completely undermining democracy. But time is running out. The January 6 committee is one of Congress’s last chances to narrate the Capitol riots and the Trump administration’s efforts to subvert the peaceful transfer of power. The only way to fight fascism is with narrative, Masha Gessen, the writer and activist, once told me. The select-committee probe presents a real opportunity to do just that.

Enforcing the committee’s subpoenas isn’t a controversial idea, Representative Eric Swalwell of California told me. “We must enforce congressional subpoenas not just for holding insurrectionists accountable but to show everyone in America that we all follow the same rules,” he said. “If Bannon and company are above the law, why wouldn’t nonpublic figures toss their lawful subpoenas in the trash?”

Perhaps Bannon thinks that the committee won’t follow through, or that jail time might martyr him. He’s dodged consequences for alleged misconduct before. Last year, he faced prison for his role in the “We Build the Wall” scheme, which prosecutors said was fraudulent, but Trump granted him an 11th-hour pardon. At least he’s had some time to think about what he might have to pack.

Susan Glasser calls the Trump Presidency an “active crime scene”.

A book from the former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, “The Chief’s Chief,” is due out in December; Trump promoted it the other day as “an incredible Christmas present” that will explain how his Administration “did things that no other administration even thought they could do.”

Trump, of course, meant this as a bragging point, not as an ironic commentary on all the norm-busting and lawbreaking that occurred during his four years in office. “Remember,” he said in the statement, “there has never been an administration like ours.” In that, he’s right. The rapidly accumulating pile of books on the history of the Trump Administration is different in a crucial respect: they are not helping to explain the past so much as they are attempting to explain a present and very much ongoing crisis. Meadows, for example, is a crucial witness in the investigation by the House select committee into the events of January 6th. The panel subpoenaed him and several other Trump advisers to give testimony and hand over documents, with a deadline of Thursday. Not one has done so, setting the stage for a new and potentially protracted series of court battles. The panel announced on Thursday that it will seek to hold Steve Bannon, Trump’s fired White House strategist (the two later reconciled), in criminal contempt; it said that it is still negotiating with Meadows and the former Pentagon official Kash Patel. How many months or years will we have to wait to find out what they and others knew, and did, as a pro-Trump mob tried to stop Congress from certifying Trump’s defeat?

The bottom line is that the story of the Trump Presidency still has important unanswered questions that the forthcoming pile of books cannot answer. And they have an urgency about them that unanswered questions about past Administrations usually don’t, given the ongoing threat to our democracy: Trump is not only preparing to run again but is determined to mold the G.O.P. into a single-issue Party, the ideology of which consists solely of disputing the legitimacy of the election that turned him out of office. The Trump Presidency is not yet, alas, simply a matter for booksellers and book writers; it’s an active crime scene.

Hayv Kahraman, T25 and T26, 2017. © Hayv Kahraman. Courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery, and White Cube.

Republican states are happily destroying the civil rights of women and minorities expecting no retribution when their actions get to the supreme court.  This headline out of Oklahoma is beyond disturbing.  It’s a horrific injustice and downright mean-spirited. “Native American Woman In Oklahoma Convicted Of Manslaughter Over Miscarriage. Brittney Poolaw faces four years in prison for a miscarriage she suffered less than halfway through her pregnancy.”  The headline comes via Oxygen.

Prosecutors in Oklahoma successfully argued to a jury this month that a woman who had a miscarriage was guilty of the manslaughter of her non-viable fetus.

Brittney Poolaw, 21, was convicted of second-degree manslaughter by a Comanche County jury on Oct. 5 for the death of her fetus that had a gestational age of 15 to 17 weeks, reported ABC affiliate KSWO in Lawton, Oklahoma. She was charged with in the case on Mar. 16, 2020 after a miscarriage that occurred on Jan. 4, 2020.

Obstetricians determine gestational ages based on the date of the woman’s last period prior to getting pregnant — i.e., before the date of conception. The U.S. Supreme Court determined with Roe v. Wade in 1973 that legal viability is after the 28th gestational week, when fetal survival is generally above 90 percent, but medical viability is pegged at 25-26 weeks, when the fetus has more than a 50 percent chance of surviving outside the womb, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only defines a fetus as “stillborn” if it is delivered after 20 weeks gestational age; before that, it’s medically considered a miscarriage.

The Lawton Constitution reported last year that, according to police, the then-19 year-old Poolaw miscarried at home in early 2020 and was brought to the Comanche County Memorial Hospital with the umbilical cord still attached to the fetus. She told the medical staff that she had used both methamphetamines and marijuana while she’d been pregnant.

Later, in interviews with police, Poolaw allegedly confirmed that she’d smoked marijuana but used methamphetamines intravenously, including as recently as two days prior to her miscarriage. She also allegedly told them, according to the Lawton paper, “that when she first became pregnant, she didn’t know if she wanted to keep the baby or not.”

It is unclear from those reports whether she had actively decided to continue the pregnancy, given that she had been 15 to 17 weeks along, simply hadn’t made a decision or had few other options but to continue it. The nonprofit Guttmacher Institute notes that 53 percent of women in Oklahoma live in the 96 percent of counties with no facilities that offer abortion services — Comanche County among them — and the state requires a woman go to a provider twice, 72 hours apart, in order to obtain an abortion. Abortion is, by law, not covered by most private insurance plans in the state without an extra rider, and it isn’t covered by Medicaid except in extremely limited circumstances.

(In April 2021, Oklahoma’s governor signed three bills that will effectively eliminate all abortion access in the state — including a ban on any abortions after six weeks gestational age. The new laws are scheduled to take effect in November. They would not, however, have applied in Poolaw’s case.)

Technically speaking, Oklahoma state law did not criminalize women for miscarriages, stillbirths or other fetal harm for which prosecutors felt the woman was at fault until September 2020, when the state Supreme Court ruled that, despite the state’s child neglect and homicide laws making no reference to fetuses, the laws nonetheless encompassed a viable fetus whose mother used drugs.

Dorothea Tanning, Fatala, 1947. © Dorothea Tanning Foundation. Image courtesy of Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco.

The Washington Post reports that the “Justice Department will ask Supreme Court to block Texas abortion law while legal fights play out .”

The Department of Justice said Friday that it will ask the Supreme Court for an emergency halt to the Texas law that has restricted access to abortion in the nation’s second largest state to an extent not seen in 50 years.

The announcement followed a decision by a federal appeals court Thursday night that allowed the law to remain in effect. A lower court judge last week said the law was unconstitutional.

The department’s announcement meant the high court for the second time will be asked to put the law on hold while legal challenges to it continue. In a divisive 5 to 4 decision last month, the court allowed the law to take effect as the case goes forward, even though the majority said it raised constitutional concerns.

Abortion has emerged as the most dominant issue at the Supreme Court this term, as those opposed to it see a new opportunity for victory in the court’s changed membership, with three members nominated by President Donald Trump.

The court on Dec. 1 will hear a challenge to a Mississippi law that conservatives have urged the court to use to overturn the constitutional right to abortion established nearly a half-century ago in Roe v. Wade.

Mississippi’s law would ban most abortions after 15 weeks. Roe and subsequent decisions say a state may not impose undue burdens on the right to choose abortion before fetal viability, normally gauged to be between 22 and 24 weeks. The Mississippi law was put on hold by lower courts.

Texas’s law is more restrictive than that. It bars abortion as early as six weeks into the pregnancy, when many do not realize they are pregnant, and makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

And lastly, in the category of they walk among us:

All this has made me quite distrustful of a whole lot of White Americans.

A U.S. Capitol Police officer has been indicted on obstruction of justice charges after prosecutors say he helped to hide evidence of a rioter’s involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The officer, Michael A. Riley, is accused of tipping off someone who participated in the riot by telling them to remove posts from Facebook that had showed the person inside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack, according to court documents.

Riley, 50, appeared virtually in federal court in Washington and was released with several conditions, including that he surrender any firearms and not travel outside the U.S. without permission from a judge. He was ordered to return to court later this month.

Riley, who responded to a report of a pipe bomb on Jan. 6 and has been a Capitol Police officer for about 25 years, had sent the person a message telling them that he was an officer with the police force who “agrees with your political stance,” an indictment against him says.

The indictment spells out how Riley sent dozens of messages to the unidentified person, encouraging them to remove incriminating photos and videos and telling them how the FBI was investigating to identify rioters.

I hope you have a good weekend.  I seem to have no soreness or anything on my arm.  I’m hoping this holds.  Meanwhile, Blow up your TV, Throw away your paper …

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Monday Reads: Gaslighting Lousyana Style

L’Apéritif (1908) Raoul Dufy

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I missed the days when Louisiana was a purple state.  That was back before Dubya’s Turd Blossom decided it would be a great idea if we could just find a way of stopping Black New Orleanians from returning home after Katrina. Of course, they mainly were bussed off to Georgia and Texas, where they’ve helped turned those states purple, which is a good thing. However, we’ve been saddled with the craziest pathetic group of KKK-loving, christianist nitwits ever assembled in one place.

One of them popped up on a Sunday show and proved he was still a Trumpy goose-stepping sleazeball.

Well, that makes about as much sense as what he actually said/didn’t say.  Liz Cheney just lit right into him. This is from Newsweek: “Liz Cheney Accuses Scalise of ‘Attack’ on the U.S. After He Refuses to Say Election Wasn’t Stolen.”

“Do you think the 2020 election was ‘stolen’ from Donald Trump? And in continuing to make that charge…do you think that that hurts, undermines American democracy?” Wallace asked Scalise on Fox News Sunday.

Scalise didn’t directly answer the question. “I’ve been very clear from the beginning. If you look at a number of states, they didn’t follow their state-passed laws that govern the election for president. That is what the United States Constitution says,” he responded.

Wallace went on to ask the direct question two more times, but Scalise responded with his concerns about state’s allegedly not following their local election laws. He also criticized Democrats for opposing controversial election changes pushed through by Republican legislatures in conservative states.

Cat With Red Fish by Henri Matisse

New Jersey never sends its very best to Sunday Talk Shows, either. Chris Christie said this: “‘It depends’: Chris Christie says there are times teachers should be ‘threatened’ via Raw Story.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) asserted on Sunday that there are times that public school teachers deserve to be the target of verbal threats.

During a panel discussion on ABC’s This Week, Christie falsely suggested that Attorney General Merrick Garland was trying to silence parents who disagree with critical race theory being taught in schools.

“It makes him look partisan,” Christie said of the attorney general. “I think he needs to get back to what the Justice Department is supposed to do, which is dispassionately look at the facts like they did after 9/11.”

Democratic strategist Donna Brazile had a different point of view.

“Chris, no teacher should be threatened simply because he or she is trying to do their job,” Brazile explained.

“It depends on what you call a threat, Donna!” Christie interrupted forcefully. “Parents standing up for what they want is not a threat.”

“A threat is when you verbally assault someone and threaten their lives,” Brazile noted, “which has happened across this country. And that’s why the Justice Department decided to take a position on that.”

André Derain, Hyde Park,1906

This comes after a string of attacks on teachers as part of a Tik Tok challenge and those staged by Covidiots. This is also from the great state of Lousyana, as reported in WaPo. “A student punched her disabled 64-year-old Teacher. The attack might have been inspired by TikTok.”  Oh, this is Sleazy Steve’s district btw.

A Louisiana teenager could face up to five years behind bars for assaulting a teacher, an attack that authorities say could have been inspired by a TikTok challenge.Larrianna Jackson, 18, was charged with felony battery of a schoolteacher after a video shared across social media showed her attacking a Covington High School teacher on Oct. 6, police said.

A spokesman for the Covington Police Department, Sgt. Edwin Masters, told The Washington Post that some students and teachers have suggested that the attack was inspired by the “slap a teacher” trend found on social media site TikTok.

“We’re still trying to figure out if it’s isolated or related to TikTok,” he said, noting that soap dispensers have been stolen and urinals have gone missing across St. Tammany Parish in recent weeks. Such antics reportedly have been part of a September challenge known as “devious licks.”

The Teacher is wheelchair-bound and was taken to the hospital. Watch the video if you can but it’s a rough thing to see and hear.  This is from our local Fox affiliate.

.Police say that Larrianna Jackson, 18, was arrested after video captured her physically assaulting the teacher after the dismissal bell rang. Video obtained from another student’s cell phone shows Jackson striking the teacher four times as she’s hurled to the ground.

“I was just devastated to know what our teachers go through on a day-to-day basis just to educate students,” said St. Tammany Schools Superintendent Frank Jabbia. “For this teacher to be having a conversation with a student and then to be assaulted in this manner was very disturbing.”

Jabbia says anyone involved will be disciplined.

The teacher was badly bruised and rushed to a hospital for treatment. She was released but Jabbia says her condition will be monitored over the next couple of days.

“She is hurting,” he said. Jabbia says it’s unknown if the teacher will return to the classroom following the attack.

Jackson was arrested and accused of a felony count of battery of a school teacher. Jackson was transported to the St. Tammany Parish Jail where she will await prosecution.

Still Life, 1906 par André DERAIN

I’m not exactly sure what is happening to civility these days. Still, I believe that politicians and social media standards are setting the bar pretty low for acceptable behavior these days.  There is a high level of burnout for Health Care Workers who have also come under attack recently for just doing their jobs.  The same is true of Teachers. The Capitol Police Force has more  PSTD  than most of their officers experienced while on active duty military service in the Middle East.  Why has this country turned on its Helpers; the people there to help, as Mister Rogers used to call them when speaking to children in need.

Everyone has been tired and burnt out from living in the U.S. for the last five years.  Again, we were treated to the torment of a Donald Trump Rally in Iowa.  The worst of the worst was on display yet again.  CNN’s Dean Obeidallah describes it this way “The most alarming Trump rally yet.  Highlights from the rally are also available at the link.

Saturday’s rally in Iowa, though, was different. This one was attended by longtime Iowa US Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Ashley Hinson, and other mainstream Republican officials. Some of these very same people, who just nine months ago were slamming Trump for his role in the Capitol riots, were now only too happy to be seen supporting him. This is politics at its worst — and at its most dangerous for our democracy.

The most hypocritical of the bunch is Sen. Grassley, who on January 6 was escorted by his security detail to a secure location to protect him from the pro-Trump mob that had laid siege on the Capitol. Grassley, who voted to certify the 2020 election, made a veiled reference to Trump in his statement, noting that the lawsuits filed after the election had failed and that “politicians in Washington should not second guess the courts once they have ruled.”

In February, however, after Trump’s impeachment trial for allegedly inciting the January 6 insurrection (allegations which Trump has denied), Grassley was even more direct with his criticism. He said in a statement that “President Trump continued to argue that the election had been stolen even though the courts didn’t back up his claims,” and “belittled and harassed elected officials across the country to get his way.” Grassley added that Trump “encouraged his own, loyal vice president, Mike Pence, to take extraordinary and unconstitutional actions during the Electoral College count.”

Grassley continued bluntly: “There’s no doubt in my mind that President Trump’s language was extreme, aggressive, and irresponsible,” sharing his view that all involved in the attack — including Trump — “must take responsibility for their destructive actions that day.”

Flash forward to Saturday, and there was Grassley beaming as Trump offered a “complete and total endorsement for re-election” for the 88-year-old Senator. Grassley responded, “If I didn’t accept the endorsement of a person that’s got 91 percent of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn’t be too smart.”

To Grassley, it was “smart” to accept the endorsement of the man who spent Saturday’s rally spouting the same falsehoods that led to the January 6 violence that caused Grassley to hide in fear. Trump’s litany of dangerous election lies at his Iowa rally ranged from irresponsible claims he won Wisconsin “by a lot” in 2020, to lying that the results of the recently released Arizona audit support his false claim that he had actually won that state. He even declared that “First of all, [Biden] didn’t get elected, OK?”

The crowd responded to Trump’s buffet of lies by chanting, “Trump won! Trump won!”

It would be sad to think that Trump and Trump’s behavior–like gaslighting, lying, and promoting angry violent responses to everything–is the rubicon we’ve crossed for our social interactions.  It seems, however, cruelty and gaslighting are about all you see on both social media and the regular press with very few folks calling it out for what it is.

It is burning out the empathetic among us.  These are the very people we rely on to care for us at all stages of our lives.  I see this in my own family and in myself. It’s those of us that that do people work that are taking the brunt of it. Every one of us has studied, gone to school, and worked to become society’s public servants.  If only the Republican politicians approached their duties the same way.  At the very least, they could uphold their oath to the Constitution and most seem incapable of that even.  It would behoove them to think of this medical commandment “First, do no harm”.

Meanwhile, I’m basically feral and staying home. I haven’t had the T.V. on all day or last weekend, and watch less of it all the time. I read. I play silly video games. I’m just glad my parents haven’t lived to see all this and I fear for our children and grandchildren. Several major Republicans spoke this weekend.. One basically okayed abusing teachers. The others just gaslit the nation on lies about our elections.

I’m bereft. I miss simple kindness.

I am working on a spontaneous gift for my daughter and granddaughters. A friend is downsizing her collectibles and offered up a cookie jar that’s a beautiful spotted little bear.  I am picking it up on Wednesday.  I have a recipe box that I started in 8th grade.  It contains handwritten instructions for my favorite cookie recipes in bright peacock blue and pink ink with hearts where dots should be.  I’m giving her my originals.

My daughter is thrilled and said she did not have my mother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe. That recipe came from a neighbor in Ponca City and it is forever Mrs. Daniels’ chocolate chip cookies. I’m also giving her the one that came from our Cleaning lady of 30 years.  Dr. Daugter said she had become interested in decorated cookies so I am also sending three generations of cookie cutters and my mother’s decorating kit that came from Italy.  She learned how to decorate cakes when I was little. I have all her tips and a book. The Italian lady across the street from us in Council Bluffs taught her.  Both my mother and I gave our daughters designer cakes So, it’s the little things like these that make me smile.  Generations of women helping each other and passing things forward.  At least we can still share those small things on a most local level.

You take care and embrace all the small pleasures that you may find!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: We need a Voting Rights Act!

Good Day Sky Dancers!

The Democratic Congress Critters have abandoned hope for any sort of Voting Rights Act just as we continue to see the Republicans chip away at voting access and the Roberts Court continue to ensure that.  I keep wondering what exactly Chief Justice Roberts has against ensuring all citizens have access to their constitutional right to vote.

The editorial board at WAPO explores this writing: “The Roberts court systematically dismantles the Voting Rights Act.”

At times, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has labored to maintain the Supreme Court’s legitimacy against the gale-force pressures of partisan acrimony and social division. When it comes to voting rights, he has pushed in the opposite direction, presiding over the court’s systematic dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, overriding Congress’s clear intentions and gravely injuring U.S. democracy.

The first major blow came in 2013, when the court eviscerated the act’s Section 5, which required states with a history of racial discrimination to preclear changes to voting rules with the Justice Department. The decision left in place a backstop, Section 2, which allows legal challenges to discriminatory election rules after they have been enacted. On Thursday, the Roberts court sharply limited that provision as well.

The court upheld two Arizona election rules the Democratic National Committee claimed discourage minority voting. The legitimacy of Arizona’s policies could be debated, and the court could have struck them down without indulging in dangerous overreach. But in its reasoning and guidance for future cases, the six justices in the majority, including the chief, flashed a green light to state lawmakers eager to erect new barriers to voting.

The majority imposed stipulations on applying Section 2 that “all cut in one direction — toward limiting liability for race-based voting inequalities,” Justice Elena Kagan pointed out in a dissent. This new list of restrictions, Justice Kagan continued, “stacks the deck against minority citizens’ voting rights. Never mind that Congress drafted a statute to protect those rights.”

The majority invites states to argue that unnecessarily strict voting rules impose no more than mild burdens on casting ballots, despite the fact that the Voting Rights Act was meant to eliminate obvious as well as subtle forms of voting discrimination. What may appear to be mere inconveniences or seemingly race-neutral rules can in practice reduce minority voting. Some of that is fine, the court said. While admitting that one of the Arizona laws in question disproportionately affects Black, Latino and Native American voters, the majority declared that the difference was too small to matter. Yet elections are often decided by fractions of percentage points, and every vote should be seen as precious.

This reminds me of how the’ve been chipping away at Abortion and other privacy-related rights.  It also reminds me of how they keep enabling dark money in elections. What’s with Justice Roberts any way?  I mean we know that Republican politicians know they’re increasingly a rump party.  They also know that gerrymandering and voting restrictions are the only way to slow down the tsunami of voters not in their narrow demographics. Joan Biskupic, CNN Legal Analyst, put it this way: “John Roberts takes aim at the Voting Rights Act and political money disclosures, again.”

The Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has hollowed out the historic Voting Rights Act, curtailed regulation of big political donors and limited challenges to partisan gerrymandering.

The final two decisions of the court session on Thursday continued this trend of Roberts’ stewardship that cuts to the heart of democracy and generally benefits conservatives over liberals, Republican voters over Democratic voters.

The pattern on voting rights traces to Roberts’ early years serving in the Ronald Reagan administration when the young GOP lawyer opposed racial remedies and argued for a constricted interpretation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has hollowed out the historic Voting Rights Act, curtailed regulation of big political donors and limited challenges to partisan gerrymandering.

The final two decisions of the court session on Thursday continued this trend of Roberts’ stewardship that cuts to the heart of democracy and generally benefits conservatives over liberals, Republican voters over Democratic voters.

The pattern on voting rights traces to Roberts’ early years serving in the Ronald Reagan administration when the young GOP lawyer opposed racial remedies and argued for a constricted interpretation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

That emphasis reemerged again Thursday, just as Attorney General Merrick Garland has pointed to a “dramatic rise in state legislative actions that will make it harder for millions of citizens to cast a vote that counts.” Dissenting liberal justices on Thursday observed that “efforts to suppress the minority vote continue” yet “no one would know this from reading the majority opinion.”

Voting rights advocate Lucy Nicolar Poolaw of the Penobscot Nation casts the first Native American vote allowed on a reservation in Maine, 1955.

WAPO’s E.J. Dionne puts it even more succinctly: “Oligarchy Day at the Supreme Court”. 

Thanks to the six right-wing justices on the Supreme Court, our country has just become less democratic. In twin rulings issued Thursday, they said that states can make it harder for people to vote and they made it easier for big donors to sway elections in secrecy

You wonder if July 1, 2021, might come to be known as Oligarchy Day.

It should certainly be the day when advocates of democracy and equal rights rip off their blinders and stop pretending that the court’s conservative majority is in any way impartial or nonpartisan. The decisions in both cases could have been written by the Republican National Committee, attorneys for the Koch brothers and advocates of voter suppression.

In a much-anticipated case on voting rights, the court let stand Arizona laws requiring election officials to discard ballots cast in the wrong precincts and prohibiting campaign workers, community activists and others from collecting ballots.

The larger implication: The ruling in Brnovich, Attorney General of Arizona v. Democratic National Committee will weaken Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the most important part of the law left standing after the court’s 2013 decision gutting Section 5 of the law. That part had required Justice Department pre-clearance of voting rules changes in places that had a history of racial discrimination.

In an eloquent dissent rooted in fact, history and a respect for Congress’s right to legislate under the 15th Amendment, Justice Elena Kagan demolished the majority’s crabbed view of democracy. She noted that the Voting Rights Act “confronted one of this country’s most enduring wrongs” and “pledged to give every American, of every race, an equal chance to participate in our democracy.”

She concluded: “That law, of all laws, deserves the sweep and power Congress gave it. That law, of all laws, should not be diminished by this Court.”

But it was.

Three African American women at a polling place, one looking at a book of registered voters on November 5, 1957, in New York City or Newark, New Jersey] / TOH, Library of Congress

Last fall, I attended a series of round table discussions on the “The Long 19th Amendment”  provided by the Radcliffe Institute.  I learned that the amendment not only extended the franchise to women but was also key to extending voting rights of our Indigenous Peoples. Here’s an ariticle from Indianz on the Native American Suffragette, Jenni Monet, and her fight to ensure all Americans can vote. 

It took the better part of a century to pass a law saying American women had the right to vote. It took even longer to deliver this right to Indigenous women — which really short-changed all Native Americans.

For the longest time, the word “suffrage” has been aligned with the historic passage of the 19th Amendment, a decree ratified a century ago, this week, outlawing discrimination of voters on the basis of their sex. But in reality, such shorthand, couched in twentieth-century white feminism, was exclusionary. The right to vote in Indian Country tells another side of this struggle in which Indigenous women were on the frontlines from the start.

While the 19th Amendment represents a cornerstone of gender equality in America, few know about the way the vote was won or the limitations it imposed on people of color. Public school curriculum often portrays this history of the suffrage movement through the important advocacy of notable white women, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

But there were so many more who helped make female suffrage possible; a few of them were Indigenous women: lawyers such as Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe, Yankton-Sioux writer, Gertrude Simmons Bonnin also known as Zitkala-Sa, and Omaha lecturer Susette La Flesche Tibbles.

Leading up to the ratification of the 19th Amendment on Aug. 18, 1920, these Native women participated in suffrage parades, made compelling speeches, and wrote commentary that would likely have gone viral, today. But more intriguing, Indigenous women were the source of inspiration for the movement’s lead organizers, Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage.

The women, two New Yorkers who lived on the colonized homelands of the Iroquois Confederacy, wrote how they grew motivated to make lasting voting rights change after recognizing the roles women played in the tribes. Then as now, the Confederacy’s six nations of the Onondaga, Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, and Tuscarora functioned as a government based on female authority in which Haudenosaunee women maintained authority over their subsistence economy.

They also had final authority over land transfers and decisions about engaging in war. And they practiced a structure of political power shared equally among all clan families and their members — a pure democracy — what also inspired the birth of the United States.

Poster from 1909

NPR has more on this: “Not All Women Gained the Vote in 1920. For many women, the 19th Amendment was only the beginning of a much longer fight.”

When the 19th Amendment became law on August 26, 1920, 26 million adult female Americans were nominally eligible to vote. But full electoral equality was still decades away for many women of color who counted among that number. The federal suffrage amendment prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, but it did not address other kinds of discrimination that many American women faced: women from marginalized communities were excluded on the basis of gender and race. Native American, Asian American, Latinx and African American suffragists had to fight for their own enfranchisement long after the 19th Amendment was ratified. Only over successive years did each of those groups gain access to the ballot.

In 1920, Native Americans weren’t allowed to be United States citizens, so the federal amendment did not give them the right to vote. The first generation of white suffragists had studied Native communities to learn from a model of government that included women as equal democratic actors. But the suffragists did not advocate for indigenous women. Nonetheless, Native American activists like Zitkála-Šá continued to organize and advocate with white mainstream suffragists. With the passage of the Snyder Act in 1924, American-born Native women gained citizenship. But until as late as 1962, individual states still prevented them from voting on contrived grounds, such as literacy tests, poll taxes and claims that residence on a reservation meant one wasn’t also a resident of that state.

Native-born Asian Americans already had U.S. citizenship in 1920, but first generation Asian Americans did not. Asian American immigrant women were therefore excluded from voting until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 allowed them to gain citizenship more than three decades after the 19th Amendment. Despite being barred from citizenship and from voting, Asian American suffragists such as Dr. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee worked alongside white Native-born women in the years leading up to 1920; Ping-Hua Lee and others advocated within their communities and even marched in suffrage parades.

Latinx women contributed to the success of the suffrage movement at both the state and federal levels, particularly with their efforts to reach out to Spanish-speaking women. And in Puerto Rico, suffragists like Luisa Capetillo worked to attain women’s voting rights, which were first given to literate women in 1929 and all Puerto Rican women in 1935. Yet literacy tests remained an effective means of keeping some Hispanic and other women of color from voting long after the federal amendment was passed. It took a 1975 extension of the Voting Rights Act, prohibitingdiscrimination against language minority citizens, to expand voting access to women who rely heavily on languages other than English.

Some African American suffragists in the north were able, with the 19th Amendment, to realize the rewards of their activism, but throughout much of the country the same voter suppression tactics that kept black men from the polls kept black women from voting, too. Literacy tests, poll taxes, voter ID requirements and intimidation and threats and acts of violence were all obstacles. The struggle for suffrage, which began for black women in the early 1800s, continued until activists such as Fannie Lou Hamer and Diane Nash won the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 200 years later.

Nixon signs the 26th amendment lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 on July 5, 1971.

There is an interactive display at the link along with some photos of suffragettes of color.

Access to voting is a signficant right for a functional democracy.  U.S. News & World Report provides the status of current Republican-held states and their voting restriction laws. “ Report: Republican-Led State Legislatures Pass Dozens of Restrictive Voting Laws in 2021. States with Republican legislatures have passed waves of new laws making it harder for constituents to vote in response to the 2020 election, experts say.”

The court’s ruling follows a report finding that as of mid-June, 17 states had passed 28 laws making it harder for constituents to vote in 2021, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law. The report notes that the last year a similar number of laws passed restricting access to the ballot was 2011 – when 14 states had enacted 19 such measures by October.

Eliza Sweren-Becker, a voting rights and elections counsel at the Brennan Center, called the new wave of voting laws “an unprecedented assault on voting rights” as well as “a voter suppression effort we haven’t seen since the likes of Jim Crow.”

The nation’s high court previously gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, when Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a majority opinion arguing that jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting should no longer be subject to oversight from the Department of Justice before effecting changes to their voting laws.

The Brennan Center report attributes this year’s batch of restrictive voting laws to “racist voter fraud allegations behind the Big Lie (a reference to former President Donald Trump’s repeated false claims of a rigged election) and a desire to prevent future elections from achieving the historic turnout seen in 2020.”

Commenting on the former president’s claims of mass voter fraud, Sweren-Becker says, “We know that’s false, but we have officials at the state level passing these laws making it harder for people to vote.”

Some of the specific provisions in these laws that can have a negative impact on voter turnout according to the Brennan Center include restrictions on voting by mail – some 63.9 million ballots had been sent as of Election Day 2020, data from the U.S. Elections Project indicated – challenges to in-person voting, and limitations on the number of mail ballot drop boxes in precincts.

As of now, The John Lewis Voting Rights Act is stalled. The GOP is resisting all forms presented.

Republicans during a U.S. House Judiciary panel hearing on Tuesday argued that a bill that would reinstate a preclearance section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is unnecessary because there is no discrimination in voting.

The top Republican on the panel, Rep. Mike Johnson, (R-La.), said that the legislation is not needed and that the federal government should not be telling states how to run their electoral processes.

He added that recently voting bills passed by Republicans in Georgia and Florida are meant to “enhance election integrity and increase the public’s waning confidence in our election process.”

“It is outrageous to see the federal government fighting back against these common sense reforms, such as the latest lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice against Georgia over its election law,” Johnson said. The Justice Department announced last week that the agency is suing Georgia in an attempt to overturn the state’s sweeping elections law passed in March.

The comments from the GOP came as Democrats again attempt some type of federal action on elections laws, after a massive legislative package by Democrats known as H.R. 1 was blocked in the U.S. Senate by Republicans. Democrats say the GOP state laws broadly disenfranchise many voters, including those of color, rural residents and people with disabilities.

Rep. Steve Cohen, the Tennessee Democrat who held the House hearing as the chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, contended it is necessary for Congress to pass H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

Republicans seem intent on chipping away the rights of ordinary Americans.  It is time to stand up against their continued attempts to maintain and expand all vestiges of white nationalism, white male patriarchy, and a dominist christianist oligarchy.  The song below sustained me through our fight for the ERA.  I got to see and sing this with her in our first Women’s Festival in 1982. I tried desperately to create a festival in 1983 with participation and leadership of black women in the Urban League.  We had a successful Festival that follwed Maya Angelou speaking at Equality.  Our main speakers were Betty Friedan and Kate Millet. Equal rights and voting rights is important to all our rights in all the various way we participate in American Communities.

Whats on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Whitelash

This attempted coup is disgusting…here are a few thoughts on the violence this past week.

I think it all stems from the fact that a black man was elected President some years ago….tRump supporters have something in common. They are white supremacist, bigoted assholes.

This thread:

Just waiting for…

This is an open thread.


Wednesday Reads: We can do it!

https://twitter.com/reverendwarnock/status/1346690996839464961?s=21

Meanwhile:

I don’t know what today holds:

Please take care and avoid the tRump assholes in the streets…

This is an open thread.