I’m struggling to get going with this post. There is so much negative and even crazy coverage out there. If only there could be a week or two of boring news! But the media is still beating up on Biden for ending a 20-year war, Republicans are still claiming 2020 was a “rigged election,” and the pandemic is still worsening because wacko right wingers insist on taking a horse de-wormer instead of just getting vaccinated and wearing masks. And we can’t forget the powerful hurricanes and wildfires that are linked to our refusal to deal with climate change. So here’s a sampling of what’s out there in the media today.
At the Washington Post, Matt Viser has a piece on angry families who recently lost sons and daughters in Afghanistan: ‘Don’t you ever forget that name’: Biden’s tough meeting with grieving relatives.
In Florida, where Covid-19 is running rampant, Governor DeSantis has decided to ignore a court decision that his anti-mask orders are unconstitutional. The New York Times: Florida withholds money from school districts over mask mandates.
The Florida Department of Education has withheld funds from two school districts that made masks mandatory in classrooms this fall, state officials announced on Monday, making good on a threat that local school boards that required students to wear masks would be punished financially….
Richard Corcoran, the state education commissioner, said in a statement that the department would fight to protect parents’ rights to make health care decisions for their children, adding: “They know what is best for their children.”
The penalty applies to two school districts — Alachua County and Broward County — that went ahead with mask mandates in defiance of the governor’s order.
The department had indicated that it would withhold a monthly amount equivalent to school board members’ salaries. In Alachua County, members make about $40,000 a year, and in Broward County about $46,000, according to the State Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research.
However, because the state does not pay the salaries of local officials, it cannot withhold the salaries directly. Mr. Corcoran had previously said that he might recommend withholding funds “in an amount equal to the salaries of the superintendent and all the members of the school board.”
Also at The New York Times, Jamelle Bouie asks: Do Republicans Actually Want the Pandemic to End?
Joe Biden, in his 2020 campaign for president, promised to get the coronavirus pandemic under control. With additional aid to working families and free distribution of multiple effective vaccines, he would lead the United States out of its ongoing public health crisis….
Rather than work with him to vaccinate the country, Biden’s Republican opposition has, with only a few exceptions, done everything in its power to politicize the vaccine and make refusal to cooperate a test of partisan loyalty. The party is, for all practical purposes, pro-Covid. If it’s sincere, it is monstrous. And if it’s not, it is an unbelievably cynical and nihilistic strategy. Unfortunately for both Biden and the country, it appears to be working.
Naturally, some of the loudest vaccine-skeptical Republicans are in Congress. “Think about what those mechanisms could be used for,” Representative Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina said of the Biden administration’s plan for door-to-door vaccine ambassadors. “They could then go door-to-door to take your guns. They could go door-to-door to take your Bibles.”
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has similarly criticized the president’s effort to reach the unvaccinated. “People have a choice, they don’t need your medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations,” she tweeted. “You can’t force people to be part of the human experiment.”
Cawthorn and Greene are obviously fringe figures. But these days, the fringe is not far from the center of the Republican Party (if it ever was to begin with). Their rhetoric is not too different, in other words, from that of their more mainstream colleagues in the Senate.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has attacked vaccine mandates — “There should be no mandates, zero, concerning Covid,” he said in a recent interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity — while Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has urged Americans to “resist” efforts to stop the spread of the virus. “It’s time for us to resist,” Paul said in a video posted to Twitter. “They can’t arrest all of us. They can’t keep all of your kids home from school. They can’t keep every government building closed, although I’ve got a long list of ones they might keep closed or ought to keep closed.”
Republican rhetoric in Washington, however, is a sideshow to the real fight over Covid, in states like Florida and Texas.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Hurricane Ida has moved on, but Louisiana with be dealing with the aftereffects for a long time. Read about it and see photos at NPR: These Images Show Just How Bad Hurricane Ida Hit Louisiana’s Coastline.
Hurricane Ida’s fierce Category 4 winds and torrential rain left the Louisiana coastline badly beaten.
Images of the effected areasdays after the storm show crushed homes, debris scattered across streets, and flooded neighborhoods.
As cleanup is underway, officials are warning residents who evacuated not to return to their homes just yet due to the severe damage.
Out West, the devastating drought and resulting wildfires continue. The New York Times: Evacuations Ordered Near Lake Tahoe as the Caldor Fire Chokes Region.
A wildfire that had burned through remote areas in the Sierra Nevada for two weeks crested a ridge on Monday and began descending toward the major population centers along Lake Tahoe.
As the Caldor fire intensified amid dry and windy conditions, thousands of people along the lake’s southern and western shores were ordered to evacuate. Crews of firefighters sped to put out spot fires only miles from South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
Tourists normally swarm the lake on the California-Nevada border in the summer months for boating, fishing, hiking, eating and drinking. But by sunset on Monday, the community seemed to stand still.
On streets that were clogged only hours earlier, shops and businesses — motels, restaurants, supermarkets — were deserted. Roads were empty except for fire engines and television reporters documenting the eerie calm.
It was impossible to know when, if at all, the fire would reach the town. But people did not stay to test the fury of a blaze that fire officials estimate could threaten more than 20,000 structures.
Public safety officials warned that the Caldor fire, the latest to grip California during a particularly unforgiving summer for fire crews in the West, showed no signs of relenting. It had scorched more than 186,000 acres and was 15 percent contained on Monday.
The mandatory evacuation zone extended from Tahoma, Calif., on the western shore of the lake, to the Nevada border.
So those are the highlights of today’s news from my point of view. What stories are you following?
Good Day Sky Dancers!
It was perhaps wishful thinking that made us think that just electing someone other than Trump would ever give us a semblance of a “normal” America. I’m not even sure I know what our normal is these days. I’m sitting here in a 4th surge plague-ridden New Orleans and realize that just like you can lead that horse to water, you can’t make him drink, that you can also give folks vaccines and the promises of better schools and roads, but you can make them embrace it.
BB has me very interested in artists doing”magical realism.” I realized many of the artists I’ve enjoyed recently actually fall into that category without knowing it. So, between what I hinted at above and my search for a sense of “magical realism” in things, I found that the Weimar Republic was a hotbed of the artform. I daily harken back to that period of a hapless democracy driven by a crazy few into a fascist world-destroying war. So, let me give you some sense of why this rainy morning has brought me back to the Weimar Republic and history repeating.
Many today’s journalists are joined in the sense of cult outrage at the idea that Former President Obama might actually want a 60th birthday bash and believe it has to be a super-spreader event of Trump Rally proportion. This side-car circus may distract from some fascinating journalism in other places. Let’s go to those other places.
First up, Jane Mayer of The New Yorker follows the “Big Lie” money. No surprises here, but this is essentially the funding of continued insurrection. Here’s the headline: “The Big Money Behind the Big Lie. Donald Trump’s attacks on democracy are being promoted by rich and powerful conservative groups that are determined to win at all costs.” Go read the entire article and read the narrative about the Republican crusade to ensure that only old white guys vote.
Although the Arizona audit may appear to be the product of local extremists, it has been fed by sophisticated, well-funded national organizations whose boards of directors include some of the country’s wealthiest and highest-profile conservatives. Dark-money organizations, sustained by undisclosed donors, have relentlessly promoted the myth that American elections are rife with fraud, and, according to leaked records of their internal deliberations, they have drafted, supported, and in some cases taken credit for state laws that make it harder to vote.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island who has tracked the flow of dark money in American politics, told me that a “flotilla of front groups” once focussed on advancing such conservative causes as capturing the courts and opposing abortion have now “more or less shifted to work on the voter-suppression thing.” These groups have cast their campaigns as high-minded attempts to maintain “election integrity,” but Whitehouse believes that they are in fact tampering with the guardrails of democracy.
One of the movement’s leaders is the Heritage Foundation, the prominent conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. It has been working with the American Legislative Exchange Council (alec)—a corporate-funded nonprofit that generates model laws for state legislators—on ways to impose new voting restrictions. Among those deep in the fight is Leonard Leo, a chairman of the Federalist Society, the legal organization known for its decades-long campaign to fill the courts with conservative judges. In February, 2020, the Judicial Education Project, a group tied to Leo, quietly rebranded itself as the Honest Elections Project, which subsequently filed briefs at the Supreme Court, and in numerous states, opposing mail-in ballots and other reforms that have made it easier for people to vote.
Another newcomer to the cause is the Election Integrity Project California. And a group called FreedomWorks, which once concentrated on opposing government regulation, is now demanding expanded government regulation of voters, with a project called the National Election Protection Initiative.
These disparate nonprofits have one thing in common: they have all received funding from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Based in Milwaukee, the private, tax-exempt organization has become an extraordinary force in persuading mainstream Republicans to support radical challenges to election rules—a tactic once relegated to the far right. With an endowment of some eight hundred and fifty million dollars, the foundation funds a network of groups that have been stoking fear about election fraud, in some cases for years. Public records show that, since 2012, the foundation has spent some eighteen million dollars supporting eleven conservative groups involved in election issues.
This is well-funded and quite coordinated. We saw a lot of this as state after state magically rolled out the same voter suppression laws. This is the true threat to our current Biden Republic.
Alexander Vindman writes for The Atlantic today on that little matter of Trump’s Ukraine shakedown. Here’s the headline for that: “What I Heard in the White House Basement. I knew the president had clear and straightforward talking points—I’d written them.” Again, this is a long, worthwhile read. This happened in the same room where Obama and Clinton watched the raid on Osama Bin Laden. (This is a preview from his upcoming book.)
By the time I sat down at the table in the basement conference room on July 25, preparing to listen to Trump’s call with President Zelensky, my workdays had become consumed by the Oval Office hold on funds. On July 18, I’d convened what we call a Sub-Policy Coordinating Committee, a get-together of senior policy makers for the whole community of interest on Ukraine, from every agency and department, to work up a recommendation for reversing the hold on the funds. By July 21, that meeting had been upgraded to a Policy Coordination Committee, requiring even more administrative and intellectual effort, which convened again two days later. We even scheduled a higher-level Deputies Committee meeting for the day after the Zelensky call. Chaired by the deputy national security adviser, these meetings bring together all of the president’s Cabinet deputies and require an enormous amount of advance research and coordination.
Many of us were operating on little sleep, working more than the usual NSC 14-hour days. I’d barely seen my wife, Rachel, or my 8-year-old daughter, Eleanor, in weeks.
In the week leading up to the call, I’d discerned a potentially dangerous wrinkle in the Ukraine situation. Actions by the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani suggested a hidden motive for the White House’s sudden interest in Ukraine. Operating far outside normal policy circles, Giuliani had been on a mysterious errand that also seemed to involve the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, and the White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney. Just a few weeks earlier, I’d participated in a meeting at the White House at which Sondland made a suggestion to some visiting top Ukrainian officials: If President Zelensky pursued certain investigations, he might be rewarded with a visit to the White House. These proposed investigations would be of former Vice President and current Democratic candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Sondland’s proposal was clearly improper. Little could have been more valuable to the new, young, untested leader of Ukraine—the country most vulnerable to Russia—than a one-on-one meeting with the president of the United States. A bilateral visit would signal to Russia and the rest of the world a staunch U.S. commitment to having Ukraine’s back as well as U.S. support for Zelensky’s reform and anti-corruption agenda, which was crucial to Ukraine’s prosperity and to closer integration with the European Union. That’s what all of us in the policy community wanted, of course. But making such a supremely valuable piece of U.S. diplomacy dependent on an ally’s carrying out investigations into U.S. citizens—not to mention the president’s political adversary—was unheard of. Before I’d fully picked up on what was going on, that meeting with the Ukrainians had been abruptly broken up by Bolton. But in a subsequent meeting among U.S. officials, at which Sondland reiterated the idea, I told him point-blank that I thought his proposition was wrong and that the NSC would not be party to such an enterprise.
I wanted to believe Sondland was a loose cannon, floating wild ideas of his own, with support from a few misguided colleagues. But he wasn’t a freelancing outlier like Giuliani. He was an appointed government official. His maneuverings had me worried.
So, let’s try something from The Guardian. Sidney Blumenthal writes: “Want to make Jim Jordan sing about the Capitol attack? Ask Jefferson Davis’. This throws us way back to John Brown’s Raid, believe it or not.
After a bloody insurrection was quelled, a congressional committee was created to investigate the organization of the insurrection, sources of funding, and the connections of the insurrectionists to members of Congress who were indeed called to testify. And did.
Within hours of the assault Brown and his band were cornered in the engine room of the armory, surrounded by local militia. Then the marines arrived under the command of Col Robert E Lee and Lt Jeb Stuart. At Brown’s public trial, his eloquent statements against slavery and hanging turned him into a martyr. John Wilkes Booth, wearing the uniform of the Richmond Grays and standing in the front ranks of troops before the scaffold on which Brown was hanged on 2 December, admired Brown’s zealotry and composure.
Nearly two weeks later, on 14 December, the Senate created the Select Committee to Inquire into the Late Invasion and Seizure of the Public Property at Harpers Ferry. Senator James M Mason of Virginia, the sponsor of the Fugitive Slave Act, was chairman. He appointed as chief prosecutor Jefferson Davis of Mississippi.
Davis was particularly intent on questioning Senator William H Seward of New York, the likely Republican candidate for president.
“I will show before I am done,” Davis said, “that Seward, by his own declaration, knew of the Harpers Ferry affair. If I succeed in showing that, then he, like John Brown deserves, I think, the gallows, for his participation in it.”
In early May 1858, Hugh Forbes, a down-at-heel soldier of fortune, a Scotsman who fought with Garibaldi in the failed Italian revolution of 1848, a fencing coach and a translator for the New York Tribune, knocked on Seward’s door with a peculiar tale of woe. He had been hired by Brown to be the “general in the revolution against slavery”, had written a manual for guerrilla warfare, but had not been paid. Seward sent him away and forgot about him.
Forbes wandered to the Senate, where he told his story to Henry Wilson, a Republican from Massachusetts. Wilson, who later became Ulysses S Grant’s vice president, was alarmed enough to write to Dr Samuel Gridley Howe, a distinguished Boston physician and reformer, founder of the first institution for the blind, and Massachusetts chairman of the Kansas committee. Wilson relayed that he had heard a “rumor” about John Brown and “that very foolish movement” and that Howe and other donors to the Kansas cause should “get the arms out of his control”.
But Howe, a member of the Secret Six, continued to send Brown money.
The investigating committee called Seward and Wilson. On 2 May 1860, Seward testified that Forbes came to him, was “very incoherent” and told him Brown was “very reckless”. Seward said he offered Forbes no advice or money, and that Forbes “went away”.
Davis pointedly asked Seward if he had any knowledge of Brown’s plan to attack Harpers Ferry.
Seward replied: “I had no more idea of an invasion by John Brown at that place, than I had of one by you or myself.”
Again, this is a long read but fascinating. I took many trips as a Girl Scout and Elementary school kid to John Brown’s cave in Nebraska City. I never actually read this account of the senate investigation with the soon-to-be insurrectionists to our Republic in charge.
If you want some real clickbait on places not to hold your next Birthday Bash, check out this from The Hill and Albert Hunt: “‘Freedom-loving’ conservatives stoked the latest round of infection and death.”
I write columns about politics and government, occasionally indulging as a frustrated sports writer; I don’t write about business or leisure activities except:
- I would avoid any cruise ships embarking from Florida. The state barred these ships from requiring passengers and staff to be vaccinated. That was upheld by a conservative appeals court.
- I’d think twice about locating or expanding a business in Texas. The state prohibits most private concerns from requiring customers to be vaccinated. There are severe punishments for avoidance.
- I’d skip any August vacation plans to Branson, Mo., or Nashville, Tenn. In Taney County, where Branson is located, the Ozark destination spot for country music and other entertainment, fewer than 40 percent of residents are vaccinated following state resistance efforts. Tennessee fired its top public health officials — apparently for encouraging teenagers to get vaccinated; a Nashville area evangelical pastor threatened to evict any parishioners who wear masks.
Hopes that the misery of the pandemic is over are diminishing. There are more than 75,000 new infections daily, six times greater than a month earlier, overwhelmingly from the Delta variant and almost all among the unvaccinated.
Hospital intensive care units face overcrowding, again. If the spread isn’t stopped, new variants — perhaps more lethal — will emerge.
There are a few unvaccinated for religious reasons, and people of color who have historical reasons to distrust public health workers and the CDC.
But chiefly, the vaccination failure is because Coronavirus has been politicized among conservatives, with right-wing politicians, judges, think tanks and activists charging it’s all about personal liberty. This ignores the fact that exercising those personal liberties risks the liberties — and lives — of others.
Accordingly, there is a pressing need for a more forceful public and private response to a looming crisis brought about largely through conservative hypocrisy.
Conservative Republicans used to argue that government should only sparingly dictate practices to private companies; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are ignoring that philosophy. Republicans also used to argue that the government closest to the people governs best; their updated version adds the caveat: ‘unless local governments are run by liberals or minorities and the state government by Republicans.’
There’s the politicized judiciary. in a speech to the Federalist Society late last year — after the election — Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito lashed out at the social distancing, mask wearing and other COVID measures: “We have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020.” Of course, we actually have: rationing for food, gas and other resources during World War II; pervasive wage and price controls from 1971 to 1973.
Ah, America, confuzzled and misinformed.
Former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Newsmax that the former president has been holding meetings with his “cabinet” despite not being president.
There’s a video interview with Maggie Haberman if you want to go there.
This is way longer than I assumed it would be but hope you can find some time to read some of these.
What’s on your reading and bloggling list today?
Just as I suspected, Trump has financial motives for pushing an unproven drug with dangerous side effects during a global pandemic.
The New York Times reported yesterday:
If hydroxychloroquine becomes an accepted treatment, several pharmaceutical companies stand to profit, including shareholders and senior executives with connections to the president. Mr. Trump himself has a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine….
Some associates of Mr. Trump’s have financial interests in the issue. Sanofi’s largest shareholders include Fisher Asset Management, the investment company run by Ken Fisher, a major donor to Republicans, including Mr. Trump. A spokesman for Mr. Fisher declined to comment.
Another investor in both Sanofi and Mylan, another pharmaceutical firm, is Invesco, the fund previously run by Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary. Mr. Ross said in a statement Monday that he “was not aware that Invesco has any investments in companies producing” the drug, “nor do I have any involvement in the decision to explore this as a treatment.”
As of last year, Mr. Trump reported that his three family trusts each had investments in a Dodge & Cox mutual fund, whose largest holding was in Sanofi.
Ashleigh Koss, a Sanofi spokeswoman, said the company no longer sells or distributes Plaquenil in the United States, although it does sell it internationally.
And of course Jared is involved. I wonder if he stands to gain financial from this drug pushing?
Several generic drugmakers are gearing up to produce hydroxychloroquine pills, including Amneal Pharmaceuticals, whose co-founder Chirag Patel is a member of Trump National Golf Course Bedminster in New Jersey and has golfed with Mr. Trump at least twice since he became president, according to a person who saw them.
Mr. Patel, whose company is based in Bridgewater, N.J., did not respond to a request for comment. Amneal announced last month that it would increase production of the drug and donate millions of pills to New York and other states. Other generic drugmakers are ramping up production, including Mylan and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.
Roberto Mignone, a Teva board member, reached out to the team of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, through Nitin Saigal, who used to work for Mr. Mignone and is a friend of Mr. Kushner’s, according to people informed about the discussions.
Mr. Kushner’s team referred him to the White House task force and Mr. Mignone asked for help getting India to ease export restrictions, which have since been relaxed, allowing Teva to bring more pills into the United States. Mr. Mignone, who is also a vice chairman of NYU Langone Health, which is running a clinical study of hydroxychloroquine, confirmed on Monday that he has spoken with the administration about getting more medicine into the country.
Yesterday we also learned that Peter Navarro, Trump’s wacky trade adviser was warning about a pandemic back in January. Axios: Navarro memos warning of mass coronavirus death circulated in January.
In late January, President Trump’s economic adviser Peter Navarro warned his White House colleagues the novel coronavirus could take more than half a million American lives and cost close to $6 trillion, according to memos obtained by Axios.
The state of play: By late February, Navarro was even more alarmed, and he warned his colleagues, in another memo, that up to two million Americans could die of the virus.
Navarro’s grim estimates are set out in two memos — one dated Jan. 29 and addressed to the National Security Council, the other dated Feb. 23 and addressed to the president. The NSC circulated both memos around the White House and multiple agencies.
In the first memo, which the New York Times was first to report on, Navarro makes his case for “an immediate travel ban on China.”
The second lays the groundwork for supplemental requests from Congress, with the warning: “This is NOT a time for penny-pinching or horse trading on the Hill.”
Why it matters: The president quickly restricted travel from China, moved to delay re-entry of American travelers who could be infected, and dispatched his team to work with Congress on stimulus funds.
But Trump was far slower to publicly acknowledge the sort of scenarios Navarro had put in writing.
A couple of interesting psychological analyses of Trump catastrophic performance:
At the New York Times, Jennifer Senior writes: This Is What Happens When a Narcissist Runs a Crisis.
Since the early days of the Trump administration, an impassioned group of mental health professionals have warned the public about the president’s cramped and disordered mind, a darkened attic of fluttering bats. Their assessments have been controversial. The American Psychiatric Association’s code of ethics expressly forbids its members from diagnosing a public figure from afar.
Enough is enough. As I’ve argued before, an in-person analysis of Donald J. Trump would not reveal any hidden depths — his internal sonar could barely fathom the bottom of a sink — and these are exceptional, urgent times. Back in October, George T. Conway III, the conservative lawyer and husband of Kellyanne, wrote a long, devastating essay for The Atlantic, noting that Trump has all the hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder. That disorder was dangerous enough during times of prosperity, jeopardizing the moral and institutional foundations of our country.
But now we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. The president’s pathology is endangering not just institutions, but lives.
Head over to the NYT to read the rest.
In practicing the art of lying while retaining a hold on the allegiance of his base, Trump utilizes a propaganda principle—the Big Lie—best explained by Hitler. Now, please note that we are not equating Trump and Hitler; they are very different people. However, like Hitler, Trump is involved in the business of selling himself as an angry, righteous savior to the masses, resulting in a growing number of cultic devotees. So, it may behoove us to consider Hitler’s explanation of why the Big Lie is more successful than mere untruths. Here’s his explanation of the principle in Mein Kampf:
[I]n the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.
Consider just two of many possible examples of the Big Lie: Trump’s bizarre claim that the military was out of ammunition when he took office and his equally bizarre claim that the father of Ted Cruz was involved with the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald, adding, “It’s horrible.” It is the outrageousness of the Big Lie that a listener normally expects would create self-conscious awkwardness in the liar. In turn, this results in a need for a great liar to hide any nervousness that might give away the fact that he is attempting to deceive his audience. In poker, the failure to hide completely the lie inherent in a bluff is called a “tell,” the subtle behavior unwittingly exhibited when bluffing.
Click the link to read the rest. It’s a really interesting piece.
Republicans in Wisconsin have been working overtime to undermine democracy, and yesterday the Supreme Court gave them a big assist.
On Monday, by a 5–4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court approved one of the most brazen acts of voter suppression in modern history. The court will nullify the votes of citizens who mailed in their ballots late—not because they forgot, but because they did not receive ballots until after Election Day due to the coronavirus pandemic. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in dissent, the court’s order “will result in massive disenfranchisement.” The conservative majority claimed that its decision would help protect “the integrity of the election process.” In reality, it calls into question the legitimacy of the election itself.
Wisconsin has long been scheduled to hold an election on April 7. There are more than 3,800 seats on the ballot, and a crucial state Supreme Court race. But the state’s ability to conduct in-person voting is imperiled by COVID-19. Thousands of poll workers have dropped out for fear of contracting the virus, forcing cities to shutter dozens of polling places. Milwaukee, for example, consolidated its polling locations from 182 to five, while Green Bay consolidated its polling locations from 31 to two. Gov. Tony Evers asked the Republican-controlled legislature to postpone the election, but it refused. So he tried to delay it himself in an executive order on Monday. But the Republican-dominated state Supreme Court reinstated the election, thereby forcing voters to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote.
Because voters are rightfully afraid of COVID-19, Wisconsin has been caught off guard by a surge in requests for absentee ballots. Election officials simply do not have time, resources, or staff to process all those requests. As a result, a large number of voters—at least tens of thousands—won’t get their ballot until after Election Day. And Wisconsin law disqualifies ballots received after that date. In response, last Thursday, a federal district court ordered the state to extend the absentee ballot deadline. It directed officials to count votes mailed after Election Day so long as they were returned by April 13. A conservative appeals court upheld his decision.
Now the Supreme Court has reversed that order. It allowed Wisconsin to throw out ballots postmarked and received after Election Day, even if voters were entirely blameless for the delay. (Thankfully, ballots postmarked by Election Day but received by April 13 still count, because the legislature didn’t challenge that extension.) In an unsigned opinion, the majority cited the Purcell principle, which cautions courts against altering voting laws shortly before an election. It criticized the district court for “fundamentally alter[ing] the nature of the election by permitting voting for six additional days after the election.” And it insisted that the plaintiffs did not actually request that relief—which, as Ginsburg notes in her dissent, is simply false.
According to the Roberts court, voters should have to choose between voting and possibly dying and protecting their health. And of course the Republican primary is meaningless, so only Democrats have to worry about that.
That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?