Election day is one week away. I haven’t slept normally since the pandemic began, and–along with millions of other Americans–I’ve been stressed out since Trump was elected. It’s exhausting. I honestly don’t think I can survive another four years of this insanity. The polls are looking good for Biden; but as of yesterday we now have to worry about the possibility that the Supreme Court could overturn the election results if Trump loses.
Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: Amy Coney Barrett’s First Votes Could Throw the Election to Trump.
Although George W. Bush prevailed in the Bush v. Gore decision, it’s often forgotten that the Supreme Court declined to affirm his chief legal argument. This claim was so radical, so contrary to basic principles of democracy and federalism, that two conservative justices stepped back from the brink. Instead, the majority fabricated a novel theory to hand Bush the election—then instructed lower courts never to rely on it again.
But the court has changed. Republican lawmakers revived the original Bush v. Gore argument in fraught election cases this year, and, following Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, four sitting justices appeared to endorse it. Barrett’s confirmation on Monday will almost certainly tip the balance to make that argument the law of the land on the eve of an election. The result would be an immediate invalidation of thousands of disproportionately Democratic ballots in Pennsylvania and North Carolina—two swing states that could decide the outcome of the election. Put simply, Barrett’s first actions on the court could hand Donald Trump an unearned second term, and dramatically curtail states’ ability to protect the right to vote….
In an unsigned opinion that allegedly spoke for the five conservative justices, the court held that Florida’s recount used procedures that violated “the equal dignity owed to each voter.” Because the standards used to recount ballots varied between counties, the court concluded, the process violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause. Then, in an unprecedented move, the court declared that this analysis was a ticket good for one ride only, and that lower courts should never invoke its made-up principle again.
The reason the Court said this argument shouldn’t be used again is that is took away a state’s ability to control it’s own elections. If repeated, the argument would turn the SCOTUS into a national arbiter of election laws.
It is black letter law that state courts hold ultimate authority to determine the meaning of their own state’s statutes and constitution. And the Florida Supreme Court had simply provided its best interpretation of a “legal vote” under Florida law. Secretary of State Katherine Harris rejected ballots with “hanging chads” on which voters had indicated their preference but failed to punch through the hole all the way. The Florida Supreme Court disagreed, citing a state statute that required the counting of defective ballots “if there is a clear indication of the intent of the voter.” Federal judges had a constitutional obligation to accept that (eminently plausible) reading of the law. By refusing to do so, Rehnquist, along with Scalia and Thomas, impermissibly substituted the Florida Supreme Court’s judgment with their own.
But now Republicans are again trying to get the Court to rule on individual states’ election policies, and yesterday they intervened in Wisconsin’s election decisions. The New York Times: Supreme Court Won’t Extend Wisconsin’s Deadline for Mailed Ballots.
The vote was 5 to 3, with the court’s more conservative justices in the majority. As is typical, the court’s brief, unsigned order gave no reasons. But several justices filed concurring and dissenting opinions that spanned 35 pages and revealed a stark divide in their understanding of the role of the courts in protecting the right to vote during a pandemic.
The ruling was considered a victory for Republicans in a crucial swing state, which polls have shown Mr. Trump trailing in after winning by about 23,000 votes in 2016.
Returning to the Slate article:
By confirming Barrett on Monday, Senate Republicans may well create a five-justice majority that is ready, willing, and able to make Rehnquist’s position the law of the land. There are currently two cases pending before SCOTUS that ask the justices to nullify thousands of mail ballots in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Both rest on Rehnquist’s Bush v. Gore concurrence. Both give the far-right majority a chance to stomp on states’ ability to protect voting rights.
I urge you to go read the whole piece at Slate. Right now, Massachusetts rules allow votes to be counted if they arrive 6 days after the election and are postmarked by November 3. Will the SCOTUS decision in Wisconsin also force Massachusetts and other states to throw out ballots received after election day?
Ian Millhiser at Vox: The radical implications of the Supreme Court’s new ruling on Wisconsin mail-in ballots.
The Supreme Court just handed down an order in Democratic National Committee v. Wisconsin State Legislaturedetermining that a lower federal court should not have extended the deadline for Wisconsin voters to cast ballots by mail.
The ruling, which was decided by a 5-3 vote along party lines, is not especially surprising. The lower court determined that an extension was necessary to ensure that voters could cast their ballot during a pandemic, but the Court has repeatedly emphasized that federal courts should defer to state officials’ decisions about how to adapt to the pandemic. Monday night’s order in Democratic National Committee is consistent with those prior decisions urging deference.
What is surprising, however, is two concurring opinions by Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, each of which takes aim at one of the most foundational principles of American constitutional law: the rule that the Supreme Court of the United States has the final word on questions of federal law but the highest court in each state has the final word on questions of state law.
This division of power is implicit in our very system of government. As the Supreme Court has explained, the states and the federal government coexist in a system of “dual sovereignty.” Both the federal government and the states have an independent power to make their own law, to enforce it, and to decide how their own law shall apply to individual cases.
If the Supreme Court of the United States had the power to overrule a state supreme court on a question of state law, this entire system of dual sovereignty would break down. It would mean that all state law would ultimately be subservient to the will of nine federal judges.
With Barrett on the Court,
last week’s decision allowing a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision to stand could be very short-lived. That decision, after all, was 4-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts voting with the Court’s three liberals. With Barrett, the Court’s right flank may well be getting a fifth vote to toss out the state supreme court’s decision — and to order an unknown number of ballots tossed out in the process.
In her first few weeks at SCOTUS, Barrett will also have the opportunity to vote on cases involving the Affordable Care Act, Trump’s taxes, abortion, and a case about whether a Catholic agency can refuse to place foster children with LGBT couples.
The only recourse for Democrats in the future may be to increase the size of the Supreme Court–if they can take the Senate, that is.
At The Los Angeles Times, Nicholas Goldberg sees a possible silver lining in the Barrett confirmation:
So now it is official: The same Republican senators who in 2016 refused to consider Merrick Garland’s appointment to the Supreme Court because, with eight months to go, it was supposedly too close to the presidential election, have now confirmed Amy Coney Barrett with just eight days left before the election.
This is so unprincipled, so inconsistent and so cynical that it defies the imagination. It is the flip-flop of the century, undertaken by the Republicans for one reason: Barrett’s confirmation ensures a conservative majority on the high court for the foreseeable future.
But here is one good thing that could come of this shameful episode. With millions of people still casting their votes before Nov. 3, perhaps the Barrett confirmation will open Americans’ eyes, once and for all, and show them who they’re dealing with. Perhaps it will persuade them to reject the radical and hypocritical Senate Republicans at the polls.
Barrett’s confirmation, after all, is only one of many irresponsible moves by the Senate majority, led by the craven Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who long ago threw his lot in with President Trump. In recent years, he and his caucus have grown not just more extreme in their ideology but more unscrupulous in their tactics.
Not only did they refuse a hearing to Garland (giving that seat instead to Trump appointee Neil M. Gorsuch), but not long after, McConnell and his colleagues rammed Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination through without a comprehensive investigation of the sexual assault allegations against him.
Maybe. It seems unlikely that many votes are going to change at this late date, but I hope Goldberg is right. On the other hand, it’s possible the evidence that the pandemic is getting worse might influence some voters to reject Trump and other Republicans.
One more from The New York Times Editorial Board: The Republican Party’s Supreme Court. The quest to entrench political conservatism in the country’s highest court comes with a steep cost.
What happened in the Senate chamber on Monday evening was, on its face, the playing out of a normal, well-established process of the American constitutional order: the confirmation of a president’s nominee to the Supreme Court.
But Senate Republicans, who represent a minority of the American people, are straining the legitimacy of the court by installing a deeply conservative jurist, Amy Coney Barrett, to a lifetime seat just days before an election that polls suggest could deal their party a major defeat.
As with President Trump’s two earlier nominees to the court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the details of Judge Barrett’s jurisprudence were less important than the fact that she had been anointed by the conservative activists at the Federalist Society. Along with hundreds of new lower-court judges installed in vacancies that Republicans refused to fill when Barack Obama was president, these three Supreme Court choices were part of the project to turn the courts from a counter-majoritarian shield that protects the rights of minorities to an anti-democratic sword to wield against popular progressive legislation like the Affordable Care Act.
The process also smacked of unseemly hypocrisy. Republicans raced to install Judge Barrett barely one week before a national election, in defiance of a principle they loudly insisted upon four years ago.
I hope you’ll read the whole thing, but here’s a bit more:
Of all the threats posed by the Roberts Court, its open scorn for voting rights may be the biggest. In 2013, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the lead opinion in the most destructive anti-voter case in decades, Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted the central provision of the Voting Rights Act and opened the door to rampant voter suppression, most of it targeted at Democratic voters. Yet this month, Chief Justice Roberts sided with the court’s remaining three liberals to allow a fuller count of absentee ballots in Pennsylvania. The four other conservatives voted against that count. In other words, with Justice Barrett’s confirmation the court now has five justices who are more conservative on voting rights than the man who nearly obliterated the Voting Rights Act less than a decade ago.
I hope I haven’t ruined your day with this post, but the Barrett confirmation is clearly the most important issue of the day. I can only hope that the outcome of next week’s election will be a landslide that prevents SCOTUS from overturning the results.
Please take care today and protect your health and sanity over the next week. I hope you’ll stop by and leave a comment or two.
Get Angry and Stay Angry!!
The worst (so far) has happened with the heartbreaking loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Trump and McConnell are determined to replace her with a right wing ideologue before the election. Democrats must fight tooth and nail to keep them from succeeding, because that was Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish.
Nina Totenberg at NPR: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Champion Of Gender Equality, Dies At 87.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the demure firebrand who in her 80s became a legal, cultural and feminist icon, died Friday. The Supreme Court announced her death, saying the cause was complications from metastatic cancer of the pancreas.
The court, in a statement, said Ginsburg died at her home in Washington, D.C., surrounded by family. She was 87.
“Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature,” Chief Justice John Roberts said. “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her, a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”
Architect of the legal fight for women’s rights in the 1970s, Ginsburg subsequently served 27 years on the nation’s highest court, becoming its most prominent member. Her death will inevitably set in motion what promises to be a nasty and tumultuous political battle over who will succeed her, and it thrusts the Supreme Court vacancy into the spotlight of the presidential campaign.
Just days before her death, as her strength waned, Ginsburg dictated this statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
She knew what was to come. Ginsburg’s death will have profound consequences for the court and the country. Inside the court, not only is the leader of the liberal wing gone, but with the court about to open a new term, the chief justice no longer holds the controlling vote in closely contested cases.
This morning, Totenberg discussed her long friendship with Justice Ginsburg: A Five-Decade-Long Friendship That Began With A Phone Call.
In 1971, newly assigned to cover the Supreme Court, I was reading a brief in what would ultimately be the landmark case of Reed v. Reed. It argued that the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause applied to women. I didn’t understand some of the brief, so I flipped to the front to see who the author was, and I placed a call to Rutgers law professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
By the time I hung up an hour later, I was so full of information that I was like a goose whose innards were ready for fois-gras. I soon began calling professor Ginsburg regularly, and eventually I met her in person at a conference in New York. We never did agree what the subject of that conference was, but take my word for it, it was boring. So boring that we…well, we went shopping.
We would become professional friends, and later, close friends after she moved to Washington to serve on the federal appeals court here and later, on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Some of the stories that follow have little to do with her brilliance, hard work, or devotion to the law, or even her pioneering role as the architect of the legal fight for women’s rights in this country. Rather, they are examples of her extraordinary character, decency, and commitment to friends, colleagues, law clerks — just about everyone whose lives she touched. I was lucky enough to be one of those people.
Read Totenberg’s reminiscences at the NPR link.
Linda Greenhouse at The New York Times: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court’s Feminist Icon, Is Dead at 87.
.Barely five feet tall and weighing 100 pounds, Justice Ginsburg drew comments for years on her fragile appearance. But she was tough, working out regularly with a trainer, who published a book about his famous client’s challenging exercise regime.
As Justice Ginsburg passed her 80th birthday and 20th anniversary on the Supreme Court bench during President Barack Obama’s second term, she shrugged off a chorus of calls for her to retire in order to give a Democratic president the chance to name her replacement. She planned to stay “as long as I can do the job full steam,” she would say, sometimes adding, “There will be a president after this one, and I’m hopeful that that president will be a fine president.”
When Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired in January 2006, Justice Ginsburg was for a time the only woman on the Supreme Court — hardly a testament to the revolution in the legal status of women that she had helped bring about in her career as a litigator and strategist.
Her years as the solitary female justice were “the worst times,” she recalled in a 2014 interview. “The image to the public entering the courtroom was eight men, of a certain size, and then this little woman sitting to the side. That was not a good image for the public to see.” Eventually she was joined by two other women, both named by Mr. Obama: Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Elena Kagan in 2010.
After the 2010 retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens, whom Justice Kagan succeeded, Justice Ginsburg became the senior member and de facto leader of a four-justice liberal bloc, consisting of the three female justices and Justice Stephen G. Breyer. Unless they could attract a fifth vote, which Justice Anthony M. Kennedy provided on increasingly rare occasions before his retirement in 2018, the four were often in dissent on the ideologically polarized court.
Justice Ginsburg’s pointed and powerful dissenting opinions, usually speaking for all four, attracted growing attention as the court turned further to the right. A law student, Shana Knizhnik, anointed her the Notorious R.B.G., a play on the name of the Notorious B.I.G., a famous rapper who was Brooklyn-born, like the justice. Soon the name, and Justice Ginsburg’s image — her expression serene yet severe, a frilly lace collar adorning her black judicial robe, her eyes framed by oversize glasses and a gold crown perched at a rakish angle on her head — became an internet sensation.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Ginsburg biographer Irin Carmon at New York Magazine: The Glorious RBG: I learned, while writing about her, that her precision disguised her warmth.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg used to instruct her clerks to get it right and keep it tight, so I’ll try to do the same. Only someone so stubborn and single-minded, someone so in love with the work, could have accomplished what she did — as a woman, survived discrimination and loss; as a lawyer, compelled the Constitution to recognize that women were people; as a justice, inspired millions of people in dissent. (I asked her once in an interview what she had changed her mind about and she refused to answer. “I don’t dwell on that kind of question,” she said. “I really concentrate on what’s on my plate at the moment and do the very best I can.”) What made her RBG would also enact the most tragic and sickening ironies of today.
The feminist with a fundamentally optimistic vision, who believed that people, especially men, could be better, might be soon replaced by the rankest misogynist. The litigator and jurist who long subordinated her own immediate desires to the good and legitimacy of institutions, who had preached that slow change would stave off backlash, lived long enough to see Trump and the Federalist Society tear off the Court’s thin veneer of legitimacy anyway. In the 2013 voting-rights dissent that earned her the Notorious RBG nickname, Ginsburg offered an addendum to Martin Luther King Jr.’s suggestion that the arc of history eventually bent toward justice: “if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.” She was thus committed. Still, today she leaves the work not only unfinished but at risk of being undone.
Ginsburg was born in 1933 in Flatbush, and her stoicism was forged in a childhood spent in a house that, she said, bore “the smell of death.” When she was 2, her only sister died of meningitis; one day short of her high-school graduation, her mother died of cervical cancer. Celia Bader, who had once broken her nose reading while walking down the street but whose sweatshop wages had gone to her brother’s education, left behind secret college savings for her daughter and a will to accomplish what Celia had been denied.
Click the link to read more about Ginsburg’s life.
What can Democrats do to honor Ginsburg’s dying wish? Some possibilities:
David Corn at Mother Jones: To Honor Ginsburg, Democrats Have One Choice: Go Nuclear.
What is coming, at least as the Republicans see it, is a grand political clash. They have been hellbent on reshaping the entire federal judiciary and especially drool over the prospect of locking the highest court into a right-wing course that will last decades and counter demographic trends that favor Democrats. This is their Holy Grail….So Ginsburg’s departure is a gift for Trump. If there has been any erosion occurring on the edges of his conservative and evangelical base, his effort to shove another anti-choice, pro-corporate conservative on to the highest court could certainly shore up that ground for him….
Ginsburg, a hero of female empowerment and of the Supreme Court, deserves much mourning. But Democrats and progressives can waste no time prepping for the battle royal that lies ahead. After all, it took Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell mere minutes after the news of RBG’s passing to declare that the GOP-controlled Senate will vote on whoever Donald Trump sends its way to fill the Supreme Court vacancy—a direct eff-you to the Democrats after McConnell in 2016 refused to consider President Barack Obama’s SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland with the phony-baloney argument that the Senate should not consider new justices during an election year. So yes, Dems will have to organize, but they must do more: They have to get ready to rumble….
It will be bare-knuckles politics from the right. Do or die. By any means necessary. To replace Ginsburg with a young right-wing extremist. And for the Democrats to have a chance of thwarting them, they must realize that this fight is not only a matter of persuasion….
The win-over-reasonable-Republicans-with-reason strategy is weak sauce. That leaves the Democrats with one other choice: total political warfare. The Senate’s Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer—with the backing of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi—needs to threaten massive retaliation. Should McConnell try to ram a Trump nominee through, Schumer ought to vow that the Democrats, if they win back the Senate and Biden is elected president, will demolish the filibuster, which will allow the Senate to proceed to make Washington, DC, a state (two more senators, who are likely to be Democrats!) and that they will move to add two or four more seats to the Supreme Court. (There is nothing in the Constitution that limits the court’s size to the current nine justices.) In other words: They will implement a Republican nightmare (which, as it happens, can be justified on arguments of equity and fairness).
Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast agrees with Corn: Here Are the Ways to Stop Mitch and Trump From Replacing RBG.
Trump and McConnell will move to put a hard right-winger on the court before the election. Don’t be naive. Don’t think: “They wouldn’t possibly try that.” Of course they would. And if (I hate to be macabre here, but I’m just making a point) Stephen J. Breyer were to perish tomorrow, they’d move to put two right-wingers on the bench before Election Day. It is who they are.
What power can stop them? There are only three that potentially could. Let’s look at them.
One, the Democrats. Some Democratic senators who might have Mitch’s ear, say Joe Manchin, will go to him. And Mitch will say: Fuck off. However, the Democrats have a card to play here, if Joe Biden will play it. The number nine (of Supreme Court justices) is neither in the Constitution nor law. Biden, and Chuck Schumer, can say: If you fill this seat now, if Biden wins, we’re expanding the Court to 11 or 13, and your majority is dead. And they should be ready to do it.
Two, public opinion. I expect polls will appear in the coming days showing majorities agreeing that no appointment should come until after we have a new president. As I’ve often written, our democracy is corrupted and screwed, but it’s still enough of a democracy that public opinion actually matters. Sometimes. And I think this is probably one of these times.
Three, kind of an ancillary point to public opinion: the fate of Republican senators up for re-election in tough states. Already, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, not up for re-election, has apparently said she will not confirm a justice until the next president is sworn in. That’s one. Democrats would need three more to say that they’ll follow Murkowski’s lead. Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, and Martha McSally seem the obvious choices. There are others. It all depends on the degree of progressive mobilizing in those states, to make those GOP senators know that if they acquiesce to McConnell’s games, they will lose. And of course there’s Mitt Romney, who does not face re-election but who might cast another conscience vote.
So all is not lost yet. But gear up for a fight. And as you do, always leave time in your mind for this remarkable, towering American. Everything we do in this corrupt period should be to honor all that she stood for.
We are already far down the road to autocracy, as Dakinikat wrote yesterday. We have to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life by fighting as hard as we can. As David Corn wrote, we have to bring a bazooka to the GOP’s gunfight.
Anger is an energy.
Even as we worry about Trump and Bolton starting a war with Iran and about the Democrats refusing to follow the Impeachment road map provided by Robert Mueller, American women must face the fact that our very personhood is being attacked.
Personally, I have decided that I will not vote for any man for president. The right of women to make decisions about our own bodies is too important.
Here’s the latest on the War on Women:
Missouri’s Senate has passed what its authors call one of the nation’s most stringent anti-abortion bills, which would outlaw nearly all abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy.
The Republican-led Senate passed the bill, dubbed Missouri Stands With The Unborn, by a margin of 24 to 10 early Thursday morning….
Missouri’s move comes hours after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill that would introduce a near-total abortion ban in that state. Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy.
Louisiana is following suit with its own “heartbeat” abortion ban, which was approved unopposed by the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday.
Abortion right activists are mobilizing in Alabama. The Washington Post: Governor signs Alabama abortion ban, which has galvanized support on both sides, setting up a lengthy fight.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — As a crop duster with a banner saying “Abortion is okay” hummed above the capitol, circling back and forth around the governor’s mansion, a group of women below let out a cheer.
“Just another day in Alabama,” said Mia Raven, director of People Organizing for Women’s Empowerment and Rights (POWER) House. “We knew this would pass and we got ready.”
Amanda Reyes, who works with an abortion fund, was wearing an “I’m on the pill” T-shirt, complete with instructions printed on the back detailing how to get a medical abortion. She also looked skyward: “Here it comes again! That’s just the coolest thing.”
Hours after the Alabama Senate voted late Tuesday to ban abortions in almost all circumstances — including in cases of rape and incest — women’s rights activists and abortion rights advocates said the decision to approve the nation’s strictest abortion measure has energized them. Knowing that the bill was designed to challenge Roe v. Wade, they are gearing up for the fight.
The Washington Post: Louisiana ‘heartbeat’ abortion ban nearing final passage.
BATON ROUGE, La. — A proposal to ban abortions in Louisiana as early as the sixth week of pregnancy continued to speed through the state legislature Wednesday, the same day Alabama’s governor signed the nation’s most restrictive law against the procedure.
Without objection, the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee backed legislation to prohibit abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected, similar to laws passed in several conservative states that are aimed at challenging the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion. Louisiana’s ban, however, only would take effect if a federal appeals court upholds a similar law in Mississippi.
Louisiana’s so-called fetal “heartbeat bill” is sponsored by state Sen. John Milkovich, one of several measures that lawmakers are advancing to add new restrictions on abortion. Senators already have supported the bill, which will next receive full House consideration, one step from final passage. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has indicated he will sign the measure if it reaches his desk.
The New York Times sums up the current abortion landscape: ‘The Time Is Now’: States Are Rushing to Restrict Abortion, or to Protect It.
States across the country are passing some of the most restrictive abortion legislation in decades, deepening the growing divide between liberal and conservative states and setting up momentous court battles that could profoundly reshape abortion access in America….
The national race to pass new legislation began last fall, after President Trump chose Brett M. Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court, adding what some predicted would be a fifth vote to uphold new limits on abortion. Red states rushed to pass more restrictions and blue states to pass protections.
Now, as state legislative sessions draw to a close in many places, experts count about 30 abortion laws that have passed so far.
That is not necessarily more than in past years, said Elizabeth Nash, a legal expert at the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights.
What’s different is the laws themselves, which have gone further than ever to frontally challenge Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling that established federal protections for abortion.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Interestingly, these extreme laws could be interfering with right wing plans to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Even Pat Robertson thinks the Alabama law is too “extreme.” The Washington Post: Televangelist Pat Robertson: Alabama’s abortion ban is ‘extreme’ and has ‘gone too far.’
Longtime televangelist Pat Robertson decried Alabama’s new abortion ban as “extreme,” saying on his show on Wednesday that the state legislature has “gone too far.”
Alabama’s law, which has been passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, includes a penalty of up to 99 years in prison for doctors who perform abortions and has no exceptions for rape or incest, Robertson noted on his show.
“They want to challenge Roe vs. Wade, but my humble view is I don’t think that’s the case I’d want to bring to the Supreme Court because I think this one will lose,” Robertson told viewers of CBN’s “The 700 Club” on Wednesday.
David G. Savage at The Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court is not eager to overturn Roe vs. Wade — at least not soon.
The Supreme Court justices will meet behind closed doors Thursday morning and are expected to debate and discuss — for the 14th time — Indiana’s appeal of court rulings that have blocked a law to prohibit certain abortions.
The high court’s action — or so far, nonaction — in Indiana’s case gives one clue as to how the court’s conservative majority will decide the fate of abortion bans recently passed by lawmakers in Alabama and Georgia. Republican Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama signed her state’s ban into law on Wednesday.
Lawmakers in those states have said they approved the bans in an effort to force the high court to reconsider Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
The justices have many ways to avoid such a sweeping ruling, however. And Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in his 14 years on the high court, has typically resisted moving quickly to decide major controversies or to announce abrupt, far-reaching changes in the law.
Roberts’ history, along with the court’s handling of abortion cases in recent years, suggests he will not move to overturn the right to abortion soon, or all at once, and is particularly unlikely to do so in the next year or two with a presidential election pending.
At Slate, Dahlia Lithwick makes a similar argument: Alabama’s Extremist Abortion Bill Ruins John Roberts’ Roe Plan.
One could feel sorry for Chief Justice John Roberts. He is, after all, caught in an unsightly squeeze play between anti-abortion zealots in Alabama, and slightly less wild-eyed anti-abortion zealots in Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and Indiana (the court seems unable to make a decision on whether to grant the Indiana petition it has been sitting on for months now). There’s finally a five-justice majority within striking distance of a decades-long dream to overturn Roe v. Wade, and the anti-choice activists are getting ahead of themselves like slurring drunks at a frat party and making everything more transparently nasty than it need be.
There are easy and near invisible ways for the high court to end Roe. That has always been, and remains, the logical trajectory. As Mark Joseph Stern has shown, when Brett Kavanaugh came onto the court, with his dog whistles and signaling around reproductive rights, it became clear that he would guide the court to simply allow states to erect more and more barriers to abortion access (dolphin-skin window coverings on every clinic!). The five justices in the majority would do it all while finding ways to say that such regulations were not an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose. The courts and state legislatures could continue their lilting love songs to the need for the states to protect maternal health and to help confused mommies make good choices, and nobody need dirty their hands by acknowledging that the real goal of three decades’ worth of cumbersome clinic regulations and admitting privileges laws were just pretexts for closing clinics and ending abortion altogether.
Read the rest at Slate.
(Mostly) male legislators are ignoring the realities of actual women’s lives.
When Senator Clyde Chambliss, a Republican, for example, was asked if the law would allow for incest victims to obtain abortions, he responded: “Yes, until she knows she’s pregnant.”
He did not elaborate on how someone would have an abortion before she knows she’s pregnant, outside of claiming, “It takes time for all the chromosomes to come together.”
Women’s bodies, lives, and futures are quite literally in the hands of men who seemingly couldn’t pass a high school health class. That’s part of what’s so hard about watching these debates: It’s not just that women’s rights and autonomy are being legislated away, but that it’s being done by complete morons.
This lack of remedial understanding of women’s bodies is not limited to Alabama. Representative John Becker of Ohio, a Republican, for example, sponsored a bill to limit insurance coverage for abortions, but claimed that it would have an exception for ectopic pregnancies, when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus. “That treatment would be removing the embryo from the fallopian tube and reinserting it in the uterus,” he said, explaining a procedure that doesn’t exist and isn’t medically possible.
There is also Texas state Representative Dan Flynn, a Republican, who believes abortion requires cutting into a woman’s uterus, or Vito Barbieri, the Idaho state Representative, a Republican, who thought you could give a woman a remote gynecological exam by having her swallow a tiny camera.
Shannon Dingle at USA Today: I was 12 years old and pregnant. Alabama’s abortion ban bill would punish girls like me.
I was that 11-year-old pregnant by rape in Ohio, except I had just turned 12 and lived in Florida….She is 11. She has experienced and is experiencing violating trauma. Maybe someday she will tell her story, but today is not that day.
I can tell my story, though. I was newly 12. I lived in a suburb of Tampa. I had gotten my period a couple years before, and it came regularly once it started. I knew to expect it every 32 days.
It was July, the summer between sixth and seventh grade, when days 33, 34, 35 and more passed with no period. I had read in one of my sister’s Seventeen magazines that periods aren’t always regular, so I figured this was my first one of those.
It wasn’t….I never chose to have sex at such a young age, but abusers in my family chose to rape me. I had lost count of the number of times by then. With a dad high ranking in the county sheriff’s office, I didn’t trust going to the police. I had tried to tell teachers and church volunteers, but that never went anywhere, either.
Please go read the rest if you haven’t already.
Women and girls in the U.S. are in real danger. For me this is the number one issue for women in the upcoming presidential election.
As always, this is an open thread.
Honestly, I’m not capable of writing much of anything this morning. The Republicans are now directly attacking Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers, Mitch McConnell is going to steamroller any objections to the fake FBI background check, and it looks like Susan Collins along with endangered Democrats Heidi Heitcamp and Joe Manchin will probably vote yes.
Trump has been “president” for less than two years and he has managed to destroy the presidency, the House and Senate, and now he may destroy any remaining credibility for the Supreme Court for decades to come. And he’s making me sick–physically, mentally, and spiritually. I promise I’m going to fight my way back from my current depressed state, but it’s going to take awhile.
Republicans are aggressively challenging the credibility of Brett M. Kavanaugh’s initial accuser, a turnabout from days of treating Christine Blasey Ford gingerly after her emotional testimony alleging sexual assault decades ago.
Spearheaded by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the blistering campaign to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court includes personal attacks on the women who have leveled claims against the judge, including the release Tuesday of a salacious statement that purports to describe the sex life of another accuser, Julie Swetnick.
The effort is shattering Senate norms at a critical moment for Kavanaugh, and it signals that the GOP is embracing the tactics of President Trump, who mocked Ford at a political rally Tuesday night days after calling her credible.
The strategy has drawn condemnation, and it has even raised questions about whether Republicans have violated a provision of the Violence Against Women Act by disclosing Swetnick’s purported sexual preferences.
But party leaders are undaunted, concluding that a scorched-earth strategy is the most effective way to defend Kavanaugh and rally enough support to confirm him to the nation’s highest court.
Greg Sargent at the WaPo seems to be asking if Republican Senators who where shocked shocked! at Trump’s attacks on Christine Blasey Ford will rush ahead to vote for Kavanaugh anyway: Trump’s disgusting attack on Christine Ford cannot be wished away.
When President Trump attacked Ford at a rally on Tuesday night, he did more than merely showcase his typically depraved and hateful nature. What Trump really did was inform the country in no uncertain terms that he will do all he can to ensure that the country does not — and cannot — heal its searing divisions over the Kavanaugh matter, after it is resolved.
Trump ridiculed the gaps in Ford’s memory: “How did you get home? I don’t remember. How did you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember.” Trump contrasted this mockery with an outpouring of sympathy, if he is capable of such a feeling, for Kavanaugh: “A man’s life is in tatters,” he said, adding: “Think of your husbands. Think of your sons.”
In this, Trump broke from the carefully crafted GOP strategy of refraining from questioning that the attack happened while suggesting it might have been carried out by someone else. Instead, Trump ridiculed the claim itself and insisted that the only true victim in this situation is Kavanaugh.
What Trump is really signaling here is that, if Kavanaugh is confirmed, he will continue to rub the faces of millions of women in excrement over it. Trump was doing precisely what that woman accused Flake of doing — telling women that their sexual assault claims “don’t matter” — and he was undertaking this provocation deliberately, using the bully pulpit of the presidency to do so.
Will Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Heidi Heitcamp, and Joe Manchin vote to ratify Trump’s cruel and repulsive attacks? If they do, women must rise up in anger and punish them.
Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow at The New Yorker: The F.B.I. Probe Ignored Testimonies from Former Classmates of Kavanaugh.
Frustrated potential witnesses who have been unable to speak with the F.B.I agents conducting the investigation into sexual-assault allegations against Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, have been resorting to sending statements, unsolicited, to the Bureau and to senators, in hopes that they would be seen before the inquiry concluded. On Monday, President Trump said that the Bureau should be able to interview “anybody they want within reason,” but the extent of the constraints placed on the investigating agents by the White House remained unclear. Late Wednesday night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the F.B.I. probe was over and cleared the way for an important procedural vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination to take place on Friday. NBC News reported that dozens of people who said that they had information about Kavanaugh had contacted F.B.I. field offices, but agents had not been permitted to talk to many of them. Several people interested in speaking to the F.B.I. expressed exasperation in interviews with The New Yorker at what they perceived to be a lack of interest in their accounts.
Deborah Ramirez, one of two women who have accused Kavanaugh of sexual abuse, said in an interview that she had been hopeful that her story would be investigated when two agents drove from Denver to Boulder, Colorado, last weekend to interview her at her lawyer’s office. But Ramirez said that she was troubled by what she perceived as a lack of willingness on the part of the Bureau to take steps to substantiate her claims. “I am very alarmed, first, that I was denied an F.B.I. investigation for five days, and then, when one was granted, that it was given on a short timeline and that the people who were key to corroborating my story have not been contacted,” Ramirez said. “I feel like I’m being silenced.”
Mayer and Farrow talked to a former classmate of Ramirez and Kavanaugh who corroborated her story.
Several former Yale students who claim to have information regarding the alleged incident with Ramirez or about Kavanaugh’s behavior at Yale said that they had not been contacted by the F.B.I. Kenneth G. Appold was a suitemate of Kavanaugh’s at the time of the alleged incident. He had previously spoken to The New Yorker about Ramirez on condition of anonymity, but he said that he is now willing to be identified because he believes that the F.B.I. must thoroughly investigate her allegation. Appold, who is the James Hastings Nichols Professor of Reformation History at Princeton Theological Seminary, said that he first heard about the alleged incident involving Kavanaugh and Ramirez either the night it occurred or a day or two later. Appold said that he was “one-hundred-per-cent certain” that he was told that Kavanaugh was the male student who exposed himself to Ramirez. He said that he never discussed the allegation with Ramirez, whom he said he barely knew in college. But he recalled details—which, he said, an eyewitness described to him at the time—that match Ramirez’s memory of what happened. “I can corroborate Debbie’s account,” he said in an interview. “I believe her, because it matches the same story I heard thirty-five years ago, although the two of us have never talked.”
Appold, who won two Fulbright Fellowships, and earned his Ph.D. in religious studies from Yale in 1994, also recalled telling his graduate-school roommate about the incident in 1989 or 1990. That roommate, Michael Wetstone, who is now an architect, confirmed Appold’s account and said, “it stood out in our minds because it was a shocking story of transgression.” Appold said that he initially asked to remain anonymous because he hoped to make contact first with the classmate who, to the best of his recollection, told him about the party and was an eyewitness to the incident. He said that he had not been able to get any response from that person, despite multiple attempts to do so. The New Yorker reached the classmate, but he said that he had no memory of the incident.
Please read the whole thing at the New Yorker.
The Washington Post: FBI background check of Kavanaugh appears to have been highly curtailed.
Slate: I Was Brett Kavanaugh’s College Roommate. He lied under oath about his drinking and terms in his yearbook, by James Roche.
In 1983, I was one of Brett Kavanaugh’s freshman roommates at Yale University. About two weeks ago I came forward to lend my support to my friend Deborah Ramirez, who says Brett sexually assaulted her at a party in a dorm suite. I did this because I believe Debbie.
Now the FBI is investigating this incident. I am willing to speak with them about my experiences at Yale with both Debbie and Brett. I would tell them this: Brett Kavanaugh stood up under oath and lied about his drinking and about the meaning of words in his yearbook. He did so baldly, without hesitation or reservation. In his words and his behavior, Judge Kavanaugh has shown contempt for the truth, for the process, for the rule of law, and for accountability. His willingness to lie to avoid embarrassment throws doubt on his denials about the larger questions of sexual assault. In contrast, I cannot remember ever having a reason to distrust anything, large or small, that I have heard from Debbie.
I did not want to come forward. When the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow contacted me while researching a story about Debbie and Brett, I told him that I didn’t see the point. There is no way that Brett will face legal consequences after this much time. Either he will be confirmed or another conservative judge will be. There would be a high cost. I was raised in a Republican family. My mother, who has since passed away, was a Republican state representative in Connecticut. My father owns a MAGA hat. I have close friends who are very conservative. In recent years I have had disagreements over politics with some of these friends and family, but I care deeply about them. My involvement has and will come with personal, professional, and reputational damage.
Read Roche’s story at Slate.
More reads, links only:
Electric Privacy Information Center (EPIC): National Archives Confirms Existence of Numerous Kavanaugh Records on Surveillance Programs
Jonathan Chait: Republicans Have Decided to Ignore All of Brett Kavanaugh’s Lies.
That’s all I’ve got. What stories are you following?
Today beginning at 10AM, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a brief hearing in which one of the women who has accused SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, Christine Blasey Ford, will tell her story and Kavanaugh will respond by lying and obfuscating.
I can’t imagine anything useful could come out of the hearing, since each questioner will have only 5 minutes to address complex issues. At best, the spectacle of 11 white men hiding behind a woman prosecutor might lead to more public outrage against the GOP and their deeply flawed nominee. It’s not clear what how Democrats will handle the questioning; they’ve kept their plans close to the vest.
I wanted to get this post up early so we can follow the hearing and aftermath together. I hope people will join in. Here are some reads to check out today.
The Daily Beast: ‘Disaster’: Trumpworld Starting to Sweat Over Brett Kavanaugh’s Mounting Sexual Assault Allegations. Excerpt:
Going into this past weekend, the Trump White House was sounding self-assured about Kavanaugh’s prospects, with senior aides saying they felt he could weather the allegations and horrifically bad press. Since then, two other female accusers have come forward, and the swagger from Team Trump has been replaced with, at best, a shaken confidence.
Officials inside the White House, as well as outside advisers, told the The Daily Beast that mood has become less bullish. Senior aides fear delivering Trump a major failure and humiliation that he can—and likely will—pin on those around him and squeamish Republican lawmakers. There is palpable fear that the party’s base will turn on Republicans should the Kavanaugh nomination fail.
Top donors, meanwhile, have said that they will continue writing checks out of a growing fear that the party could lose the Senate in addition to the House this coming fall. But one major contributor warned that lawmakers had to show them that they had put up a sufficient fight to get Kavanaugh on to the Court or else the checks wouldn’t come….
At this point, Trump’s team and Kavanaugh’s camp are publicly maintaining calm and privately encouraging allies to do the same. On a Monday conference call with White House surrogates, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, had insisted that the “president and this White House continue to stand strongly behind Judge Kavanaugh,” according to a person on the line. By Wednesday, a senior West Wing official said that the president’s posture remained unchanged.
But aides also acknowledge that Kavanaugh’s prospects were growing more endangered. “Thursday could be a disaster or it could be…a victory, we don’t know,” one aide said, referencing the planned testimony Kavanaugh and his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford plan to give to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Yesterday during his deranged press conference, Trump seemed to suggest that he could decide to dump Kavanaugh. But he was all over the map in his embarrassing, manic performance. Todd Purdum summarizes Trump’s 81-minute rant at The Atlantic: President Trump’s Surreal News Conference Didn’t Do Kavanaugh Any Favors.
In more than 80 surreal minutes of what seemed less like a news conference than a public free-association session on a therapist’s couch, the president of the United States dismissed accusations of sexual misconduct against Judge Brett Kavanaugh as “all false to me,” then insisted he wanted to hear Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony because “I can be convinced of anything. Maybe she will say something.”
He portrayed Kavanaugh’s Democratic Senate opponents as the organizers of a “big, fat con job,” then acknowledged without missing a beat that he would withdraw Kavanaugh’s nomination “if I thought he was guilty of something like this, sure.” He praised Kavanaugh as “one of the highest-quality people that I have ever met,” then suggested that the judge’s life was not so spotless, allowing that even George Washington may have had “a couple of things in his past.” [….]
Who can say whether Trump’s apparently unbridled, even unhinged, display of id amounted to just that? Or to a free-form, last-ditch effort to defend the nomination on the eve of crucial testimony from Ford and Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday? Or to a calculated trial balloon for withdrawing it (“I could pick a woman, and she could have charges made from many years ago also,” he said at one point)? Or to some combination of all of the above? The assessment of Nicolle Wallace, the former George W. Bush and John McCain aide, was succinct, and indisputable.
“I suspect,” she tweeted, “that the 25th Amendment might be discussed more widely if there were daily press conferences.”
Yesterday, Morning Consult released a news poll on the Kavanaugh nomination: Republican Women Lose Faith in Kavanaugh — and Trump — After Week of Accusations.
Public support for Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat has dropped to its lowest point since President Donald Trump nominated him in July, driven in large part by a sector of the president’s base: Republican women.
A new Morning Consult/Politico poll, conducted Sept. 20-23, found support for Kavanaugh’s confirmation is underwater among registered voters for the first time since his nomination, with 37 percent opposing the Senate confirming him and 34 percent supporting it.
The new finding marks a 5-percentage-point drop in net support since a poll conducted last week, after Christine Blasey Ford detailed her allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while the two were in high school, a charge he has repeatedly denied.
Read more at the link above.
Important reads from women writers:
Lili Loofbourow at Slate: Brett Kavanaugh and the Cruelty of Male Bonding.
For what it’s worth, and absent evidence or allegations to the contrary, I believe Brett Kavanaugh’s claim that he was a virgin through his teens. I believe it in part because it squares with some of the oddities I’ve had a hard time understanding about his alleged behavior: namely, that both allegations are strikingly different from other high-profile stories the past year, most of which feature a man and a woman alone. And yet both the Kavanaugh accusations share certain features: There is no penetrative sex, there are always male onlookers, and, most importantly, there’s laughter. In each case the other men—not the woman—seem to be Kavanaugh’s true intended audience. In each story, the cruel and bizarre act the woman describes—restraining Christine Blasey Ford and attempting to remove her clothes in her allegation, and in Deborah Ramirez’s, putting his penis in front of her face—seems to have been done in the clumsy and even manic pursuit of male approval. Even Kavanaugh’s now-notorious yearbook page, with its references to the “100 kegs or bust” and the like, seems less like an honest reflection of a fun guy than a representation of a try-hard willing to say or do anything as long as his bros think he’s cool. In other words: The awful things Kavanaugh allegedly did only imperfectly correlate to the familiar frame of sexual desire run amok; they appear to more easily fit into a different category—a toxic homosociality—that involves males wooing other males over the comedy of being cruel to women.
In both these accounts, Kavanaugh is laughing as he does something to a woman that disturbs or traumatizes her. Ford wrote in her letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, “Kavanaugh was on top of me while laughing with [Mark] Judge, who periodically jumped onto Kavanaugh. They both laughed as Kavanaugh tried to disrobe me in their highly inebriated state. With Kavanaugh’s hand over my mouth, I feared he may inadvertently kill me.”
“Brett was laughing,” Ramirez says in her account to the New Yorker. “I can still see his face, and his hips coming forward, like when you pull up your pants.” She recalled another male student shouting about the incident. “Somebody yelled down the hall, ‘Brett Kavanaugh just put his penis in Debbie’s face,’ ” she said.
If these allegations are true, one of the more shocking things about them is the extent to which the woman being mistreated exists in a room where the men are performing for each other—using the woman to firm up their own bond.
Please read the whole thing if you haven’t already.
Alexandra Lescaze, also at Slate: We Didn’t Call It Rape. Lescase writes that the allegations against Kavanaugh are very familiar to her as a graduate of a DC-area private school.
I wish I were surprised. A week ago Sunday when Ford first shed her anonymity, detailing her sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh to the Washington Post, I wrote a note in the Facebook alumni group of my high school, National Cathedral School. I told my 1988 classmates that Ford’s story was bringing back disturbing high school memories. Apparently, I was not alone. A lot of women now in their 40s and 50s, who went to these single-sex D.C. prep schools in the 1980s, have been reaching out to each other in fraught emails and chats over the past week. Not only did the Holton-Arms alumnae start a petition in support of Ford, their fellow alum; there’s also one for anyone to sign who survived that toxic time and place.
I don’t personally know Ford now, and I didn’t know her in high school. But as the Holton women wrote, what Ford is alleging is “all too consistent with what we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves.” And what Elizabeth Rasor alleges Mark Judge told her is not foreign to me, either. Whether and how the nation comes to hear more about these specific stories, they have evoked a collective scream.
A large part of my high school experience were the parties at cavernous houses with multiple bedrooms, huge dark basements with enormous sofas and yards, and lots and lots of beer. No parents—thinking back on it now, as a parent myself—were ever around. We traveled in groups and knew never to leave a friend alone at a party, but there was so much drinking that we sometimes lost track of each other. It could be difficult to know where your friends were and—if they were in a room with a boy—what was going on in there.
Every June, we had Beach Week—a tradition also described in a Washington Post piece about Ford—in which teenagers actually rent houses to party at the beach, something I still don’t quite comprehend. I distinctly remember being at a Beach Week party with my then-boyfriend when it dawned on us that there was a drunk girl in a room down the hall, and boys were “lining up” to go in there and, presumably, have their way with her. We didn’t know for sure, but my boyfriend and my friend’s boyfriend went to interrupt it and sent her on her way down the stairs. All I remember about her is that she was in the class above us and had dark hair. My friend has told me she remembers boys saying, “I’m next,” which was why our boyfriends went to stop it.
More to check out, links only:
Emily Jane Fox at The Atlantic: “I Was Ashamed”: After Ford’s Accusation, Holton-Arms Alumnae Wrestle With Their Own Truths—Together.
Jessica Valenti: How Very Bad Men Get Away With Rape. “It takes one person to commit a rape, but a village to let them get away with it over and over.”
Kate Manne at The New York Times: Brett Kavanaugh and America’s ‘Himpathy’ Reckoning.
If you watch the hearing, I hope you’ll share your reactions in the comment thread below.