Paul Broun is a Tea Party Republican who was a state representative in Georgia until 2015; he lost in the Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate in 2014. He also lost in a 2016 Republican primary race for a seat in Congress.
He’s now running for Congress again this year, and here’s one of his campaign videos. Lest those of you who aren’t blessed enough to live in America think this is a fake, it isn’t. And in case you wonder what his gun is, an AR-15 is a semiautomatic weapon, classified as an “assault weapon.” These illegal in 7 states, though a few states allow ownership if you’re grandfathered in. Georgia, like all states south of Maryland, allows them.
Note the coded racism (“looting hordes from Atlanta”, a largely black city), the characterization of socialism as satanic, and the reference to this gun as a “Liberty Machine.” He even offers to give one of those Liberty Machines to one “lucky person” who signs up for email updates from his campaign site.
This video could have been made by The Onion. But again—it’s real!
Wikipedia has a bit more on this ad:
A campaign video where Paul Broun offered to give away an AR-15 rifle to “to one lucky person who signs up for email updates” from his campaign website. The video showed him walking through grass and shooting a rifle. The video says that during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic that Americans might need an AR-15 to shoot “looting hordes from Atlanta”. Broun lives in Gainesville, a white majority city about an hour outside the state capital Atlanta, which is a majority African American city.
In a phone interview Broun said that the phrase “looting hordes from Atlanta” was “not racial”, saying “Only the liberal press would take that kind of position” and “There are a lot of white people in Atlanta as well.” Broun was dismissive of the idea that his rhetoric might concern Georgian African-Americans or that it might increase the risk of innocent African-Americans being shot in majority-white neighborhods, and claimed “it’s about black people having the means of protecting themselves just as much as white people or Hispanic people or Asian people”.
I’ve pretty much written off Republicans, but among us Democrats there’s one annoying snake in the grass, a snake who goes by the monicker of AOC. Truly, I am amazed at the number of people who admire her, and even suggest she’d make a good president. I see her as having some good positions. and is generally on the right side of issues (even though her solutions are often ludicrous), but someone who’s not that bright, and is following a script laid out by the Justice Democrats, who recruited her to run for Congress. I also believe she’s an anti-Semite and somewhat of a narcissist—as well as a social-media “influencer” along the lines of Trump. And now she (along with a Republican in the House) is threatening passage of the stimulus bill (see also here).
Passage of largest ever American relief bill could be delayed.
With many lawmakers scattered around the country, House leaders will attempt on Friday to pass the $2 trillion economic stabilization plan by voice vote, but the plan could be delayed a day if any lawmaker insists on a recorded vote.
At least one Democrat and one Republican have suggested they might do so.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plan for a voice vote is highly unusual for a measure of such consequence. Leaders settled on it so that lawmakers who wanted to speak could make their views known and others would not be required to be physically present.
But there is a risk: Technically, the House cannot legislate without the presence of a quorum, defined by the Constitution as a simple majority. (The House currently has 430 members; 216 are required for a quorum.) If even one member asserted that the House lacked a quorum and called for a recorded vote, the House would have to cease its business until 216 lawmakers arrived.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, warned on Wednesday that she might do so. Representative Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, has also hinted that he might try to slow the bill’s passage, stoking anger among fellow lawmakers.
“If you intend to delay passage of the #coronavirus relief bill tomorrow morning, please advise your 428 colleagues RIGHT NOW so we can book flights and expend ~$200,000 in taxpayer money to counter your principled but terribly misguided stunt,” Representative Dean Phillips, Democrat of Minnesota, wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
This will not endear Ocasio-Cortez to Nancy Pelosi or AOC’s home-state Senator Chuck Schumer, both of whom are supporting a voice vote that won’t require the Congress to be physically present at the Capitol. AOC’s opposition to the bill, and desire to delay its passage, comes from her view that it gives too much to corporations. But the bill will pass, and AOC is making trouble as a kind of juvenile tantrum, something she’s quite adept at.
I wish I’d thought of this, but I didn’t think hard enough. While the Supreme Court can overturn state laws banning abortion because they’re unconstitutional (Roe v. Wade was decided on the grounds that abortion violated the right to privacy embodied in the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause), I don’t think the Supreme Court can overturn federal laws legalizing abortion. What bit of the Constitution could they use to do that? Well, I’m not a lawyer, but Elizabeth Warren, as recounted in Andrew Sullivan’s column this week, has proposed putting the specifications of Roe v. Wade (conventionally legal abortions during the first trimester) into a law, and a federal law can’t be overturned by the states. Click on the screenshot to read (the other two items are the mendacious pardons handed out by Donald Trump and Game of Thrones, a show I’ve never watched and in which I have no interest.
Sullivan argues that on many issues, like interracial and gay marriage, the Court has led public opinion, with liberal approbation growing after the court legalized these once-controversial practices. But public approval for abortion rights hasn’t budged since Roe v. Wade; the good news is that public sentiment is pro-choice and, if anything, that is growing:
Roe was decided in 1973. Unlike many other progressive Court decisions, this one didn’t budge public opinion. In 1975, two years after Roe, some 22 percent favored a total ban on abortion in a Gallup poll; today that number is … 18 percent. Back then, 54 percent favored a middle ground: keeping the procedure legal under restricted circumstances. Now it’s 50 percent. Twenty-one percent believed in 1975 that abortion should be legal in every circumstance; today that number is 29 percent.
So yes, there has been some change, with a small shift toward public support for abortion rights.
Sullivan recounts his own conflict about abortions, one shared by Christopher Hitchens. He’s personally opposed to it (he calls it a “grave evil”, drawing on his Catholicism), but sees it as a public good: that is, society is better off letting women make the choice. And he argues, as I have, that it’s a losing proposition to argue for “choice” by saying “women have a right to an abortion because it’s their own body”. Talk of rights won’t budge those who see abortion as murder, and so we have, and will always have, an impasse, especially with believers. When you assert that something is a “right”, you have to defend that right, and I’d prefer the pro-choice people to lay out their arguments for their views rather than declare abortion a “right.”
I happen to think that abortion should be allowed by a woman’s choice up to birth, as any line drawn will necessarily be arbitrary, and my own feeling is that fetuses don’t even begin to be sentient until they’re born,—at which time they can be adopted. Others will draw lines at other places, as most of them have. Sullivan mentions the laws in Europe—both Germany and Denmark don’t allow abortion after 12 weeks—and those seem even more arbitrary to me.
Sulivan on the impasse:
I can see why the court acted, although I think it made a big mistake. Abortion involves two fundamental and, in this case, directly conflicting American commitments: to life and liberty. We hold this truth to be self-evident: that life matters. We should affirm it always. And I have yet to read a single argument that clearly delineates with any objective authority when a human life, once initiated, becomes a human person. It’s an invisible line that is devilishly hard to draw. So although I have no doubt that a fertilized zygote is human life, I just can’t see that life the way I see a toddler or someone in their 80s. But I can grasp its basic humanness. To deny this reality seems to me to miss one key aspect of the debate.
At the same time, this is about the mother’s body. And in our ownership of our physical body lies our inviolability under the Constitution. We all have a natural right to our own bodies — and if we do not, then we have no natural right to anything, and America’s promise is a lie. The integrity of women’s bodies is therefore a core principle, inferentially buried in the Constitution. The right to life, in this case, is literally, physically, inside the bounds of liberty, i.e. within a woman’s body.
That’s my belief, after a lifetime of trying to think about this subject. And this is a particularly agonizing conclusion because the bodies involved are those of only half of humanity, women. This is not dispositive, but it behooves men to defer at least in part to the convictions of women who are in this predicament, or could be. For a gay man like me, this is doubly true. A certain humility is due.
I’m all for federal law saying something like “no state can restrict abortions before X weeks of pregnancy is over”, and yes, the American public does support Roe v. Wade in general. But would Congress support such a bill? I don’t think it could get through a Republican Senate, and surely Trump‚ or any Republican President, would veto it. But we can always hope for change a year from November.
This is sensible (is Sullivan still a conservative?):
. . . there was a reason that public opinion was moving in a pro-choice direction before Roe. The abstraction of ending abortion as a cause is far easier to support than the grim reality of enforcing an actual, tangible ban. And national legislation — or even a federalist outcome, where different states choose different options — would, in my view, highlight the government’s overreach in policing women’s bodies in the red states that would impose a restrictive regime, compared with the freedom in neighboring states. I think such a reality would move public opinion more firmly in a pro-choice position. It would certainly make the extremism of some of the anti-abortion laws crystal clear to voters. It’s astonishing to me, for example, that the Alabama law actually exempts fetuses used in IVF procedures. They don’t need to be protected, it appears. “The egg in the lab doesn’t apply. It’s not in a woman. She’s not pregnant,” explained a state senator in the debate. This is an enormous gift to pro-choicers. It really does prove that for some, this is not about human life. It’s about controlling women’s bodies. If that is revealed in a post-Roe era, the momentum will be with legal abortion.
I say this as someone deeply committed to the view that abortion is always a grave evil. I could not personally have anything to do with one. But I live in a pluralist society, I will never have to be involved in such a deeply personal decision, and I am equally dedicated to respecting the sincere convictions of my fellow citizens, and their unalienable right to sovereignty over their own bodies.
The bit about exempting IVF eggs from the law really is telling, isn’t it?
In his weekly column in New York Magazine, Andrew Sullivan, inexorably moving leftwards, still chastises Democrats for failing to deal with immigration—something that Trump is making hay out of as the caravan from Central American inevitably heads northwards. Sullivan notes that the Democratic failure is promoting authoritarianism in the U.S. and putting a strain on liberal democracy, but not because of the burden of immigrants. It’s because the electorate sees illegal immigration as a problem, and until the Democrats address it one way or the other, and do so explicitly, the public, thinking Dems are in favor of open borders, are going to support Trump. Here’s his piece (click on screenshot). Read the whole thing, and you’ll see that Sullivan favors humane immigration laws, despises Trump’s policies, and abhors separating children from their families.
His analysis takes national sentiment about immigration as a given, but for the time being that’s something we simply must deal with. I’ll leave you with Andrew’s words, with which I agree, especially the bit in bold:
All of it is putting unprecedented strain on liberal democracy in the West itself. The connection between mass migration and the surge in far-right parties in Europe is now indisputable. Without this issue, Donald Trump would not be president. As we can see right now in front of our eyes, elections can turn on this. Which is why Trump is hyping this caravan story to the heavens — and why, perhaps, the last few weeks have seemed less promising for a “blue wave.” David Frum is right: “If liberals insist that only fascists will defend borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals will not do.” And unless the Democrats get a grip on this question, and win back the trust of the voters on it, their chance of regaining the presidency is minimal. Until one Democratic candidate declares that he or she will end illegal immigration, period, shift legal immigration toward those with skills, invest in the immigration bureaucracy, and enforce the borders strongly but humanely, Trump will continue to own this defining policy issue in 2020.
This is not a passing crisis. It is the new normal, and its optics do nothing but intensify the cultural panic that is turning much of the West to authoritarianism as a response. The porousness of the West’s borders are, in other words, becoming a guarantee of the West’s liberal democratic demise. This particular caravan will take a while to make it to the U.S. border, if it ever does. It will surely lose some followers on the way. It may peter out altogether.
But the caravan as a symbol? Its days are just beginning.
Tom Nichols is (or was) a “never Trumper” Republican who is a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and teaches at the Harvard Extension School. (Wikipedia also informs us that he’s “a five-time undefeated Jeopardy champion.”) He writes a lot for The Atlantic, and in its pages this week he tells us why he’s leaving the GOP (he left once before in 2012, but now is leaving for good). He’s not becoming a Democrat, but an Independent; still, this shows that some Republicans can change their minds.
And the article has a lot to say about both parties, with Nichols not leaving the Democrats unscathed. Click on the screenshot to see what he said:
His reasons are multifarious, but center on the Kavanaugh affair, which made Nichols realize that the GOP has no substantive goal beyond power itself.
It was Collins, however, who made me realize that there would be no moderates to lead conservatives out of the rubble of the Trump era. Senator Jeff Flake is retiring and took a pass, and with all due respect to Senator Lisa Murkowski—who at least admitted that her “no” vote on cloture meant “no” rather than drag out the drama—she will not be the focus of a rejuvenated party.
. . . Politics is about the exercise of power. But the new Trumpist GOP is not exercising power in the pursuit of anything resembling principles, and certainly not for conservative or Republican principles.
Free trade? Republicans are suddenly in love with tariffs, and now sound like bad imitations of early-1980s protectionist Democrats. A robust foreign policy? Not only have Republicans abandoned their claim to being the national-security party, they have managed to convince the party faithful that Russia—an avowed enemy that directly attacked our political institutions—is less of a threat than their neighbors who might be voting for Democrats. Respect for law enforcement? The GOP is backing Trump in attacks on the FBI and the entire intelligence community as Special Counsel Robert Mueller closes in on the web of lies, financial arrangements, and Russian entanglements known collectively as the Trump campaign.
And most important, on the rule of law, congressional Republicans have utterly collapsed. They have sold their souls, purely at Trump’s behest, living in fear of the dreaded primary challenges that would take them away from the Forbidden City and send them back home to the provinces. Yes, an anti-constitutional senator like Hirono is unnerving, but she’s a piker next to her Republican colleagues, who have completely reversed themselves on everything from the limits of executive power to the independence of the judiciary, all to serve their leader in a way that would make the most devoted cult follower of Kim Jong Un blush.
. . . But whatever my concerns about liberals, the true authoritarian muscle is now being flexed by the GOP, in a kind of buzzy, steroidal McCarthyism that lacks even anti-communism as a central organizing principle. The Republican Party, which controls all three branches of government and yet is addicted to whining about its own victimhood, is now the party of situational ethics and moral relativism in the name of winning at all costs.
These are truefacts, but, as I said, Nichols doesn’t spare the Democrats. And I have to admit that, as a registered Democrat, I was embarrassed at my own party’s behavior at the hearings, especially that of Dianne Feinstein, who seems to be in her dotage. For my party, too, it seemed to be more about getting revenge for their own failed Supreme Court nomination than about getting at the truth. It was grandstanding. Here’s Nichols, and I agree with him here on the Democrats’ behavior during the hearing.
As an aside, let me say that I have no love for the Democratic Party, which is torn between totalitarian instincts on one side and complete political malpractice on the other. As a newly minted independent, I will vote for Democrats and Republicans whom I think are decent and well-meaning people; if I move back home to Massachusetts, I could cast a ballot for Republican Governor Charlie Baker and Democratic Representative Joe Kennedy and not think twice about it.
But during the Kavanaugh dumpster fire, the performance of the Democratic Party—with some honorable exceptions such as Senators Chris Coons, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Amy Klobuchar—was execrable. From the moment they leaked the Ford letter, they were a Keystone Cops operation, with Hawaii’s Senator Mazie Hirono willing to wave away the Constitution and get right to a presumption of guilt, and Senator Dianne Feinstein looking incompetent and outflanked instead of like the ranking member of one of the most important committees in America.
Well, I won’t dwell on the Democrats’ missteps, as at least they were on the right side. And I’ll still keep voting for them. But if they ever want to regain power in at least one branch of the government, they have to clean up their act. Who’s running that railroad?
Lesson: there are some Republicans capable of reason and adhering to principle. They’re just very few.
Last night, just hours after Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Saturday Night Live broadcast a spoof of the Republican celebration. Appropriately, it takes place in a Senate “locker room.” (Clearly much of this was written in advance, as Kavanaugh’s confirmation wasn’t in much doubt.) It’s pretty good, though not as good as the skit with Matt Damon as Kavanaugh. Two Democrats show up at the end.
All the GOP principals (and principles) are there.
This is depressing, but even if one vote had changed, Kavanaugh would still have been advanced. And now he’ll be confirmed. You go America: the law will be enforced by a bunch of regressives for decades to come:
I’ve watched with approbation as Andrew Sullivan, with whom I’ve often disagreed, seems to have mellowed, becoming at least a centrist instead of a conservative, and remaining mum about his mystifying Catholicism. Sullivan’s nice new column in New York Magazine, on tribalism, starts with Jon Haidt and Greg Lukianoff’s new book, The Coddling of the American Mind, and then goes into the bitter and acerbic polarization of the American electorate, as exemplified by the fracas around Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination (I still am unable to automatically equate accusations with fact) and the firing of the New York Review of Books editor Ian Buruma simply because he published a piece by an accused sexual assailant (Jian Ghomeshi) who was acquitted. Sometimes I feel the world has gone mad, and I no longer know where I fit in. I can’t align with the extreme Left, whose actions often seem fascistic, but I despise the ideology of the Right. I consider myself on the Left but am constantly accused of being an alt-righter.
Sullivan feels the same way:
And it’s this reflexive, reptilian sorting of in-group and out-group that has now been supercharged by social media, by Trump’s hideous identity politics, and by campus and corporate culture. There seem to be just two inalterable categories: the oppressors or the oppressed; elite globalists or decent “normal” people. You are in one camp or the other, and, as time passes, those of us who don’t fit into this rubric will become irrelevant to the discourse, if we haven’t already got there.
And one more excerpt:
Haidt and Lukianoff are particularly acute about how the generational shift has intensified the trend. Their hypothesis is that the members of the iGen generation (those born in the mid- to late 1990s) have been raised (unwittingly and with good intentions) in such a way to maximize tribal identities rather than dilute them.
They have been told, in Haidt’s and Lukianoff’s view, that safety is far more important than exposure to the unknown, that they should always trust their feelings, and that life is a struggle between good people and evil people. This infantilizes them, emotionalizes them, and tribalizes them. These kids have been denied freedom, have little experience of confronting danger and overcoming it themselves, have been kept monitored to all times. They tend to have older parents and fewer siblings. There is a reason the safest generation in history is also the most anxious, the most depressed, and the most suicidal. It is not that it’s all in their heads — prejudice and discrimination exist — but that they do not have the skills to put any of this in perspective. And so rather than rebel against their authorities, as students used to do, they cling to them like safety blankets, begging them to protect them just as their parents did.
This is what a cultural revolution feels like. It is given legitimacy by the top, but it is enforced horizontally from below. You are encouraged to denounce and expose your friends, your co-workers, and your bosses for the harm they inflict. Colleagues vie to signal that they are not guilty of being an oppressor, partly because they are not, and partly to avoid being the next scalp. Soon, silence is not enough — in fact, it’s suspicious. And so it becomes necessary to endorse the revolution, celebrate it, and enforce it, prove that you are in good standing. Examples are made of slackers — the more arbitrary the better — to keep fear alive in the minds of everyone. If you so much as quibble, you’ll be the next head on the chopping block. When the very existence of people is at stake — and it always is for the catastrophists — there is no limiting principle.
We live then in a paradox. Our society has less crime and less danger than ever, and yet we see threats everywhere. It has become more racially and culturally diverse than any society in the history of humankind, but it is plagued by “white supremacists” or “hordes of illegals.” And you cannot question these feelings because subjectivity is more important than objectivity, and sensitivity trumps reality. Gay, lesbian, and transgender people live in a world unimaginable to the overwhelming majority of humankind, and to our predecessors of only five years ago, and yet we are told by our leaders that we are “under siege.” As women kick ass in our economy and culture, as they achieve success that previous generations would have thought extraordinary, what is the response? Rage, of course! Furious rage!
This is a mind-set that Haidt and Lukianoff see as very similar to a clinically depressed one, catastrophizing, paranoid, leaning into ever-escalating feelings of victimhood rather than pushing against them with reason. . .
. . . I was struck in Haidt and Lukianoff’s book by a quote that is almost a perfect inversion of today’s political conversation. “When my brothers try to draw a circle to exclude me, I shall draw a larger circle to include them,” Martin Luther King said, which is why today’s cultural revolutionaries have so little time for him. But he made a huge practical difference in moving everyone forward a little. He made things better by including more. That was also how we won marriage equality, the biggest civil rights victory of my generation. We did it by drawing larger and larger circles, by treating the other side as arguing in good faith, and appealing to a shared humanity, to what we have in common as citizens, rather than what divides us as members of a tribe. Today’s well-intentioned activists — the ones driving much of the conversation around Kavanaugh and, on a much smaller scale, Buruma — in contrast, are drawing an ever smaller, purer, more tightly policed circle, in order to wage a scorched earth war against another, ever-purer, tightly policed circle. And God help anyone who gets in their way.
Politico has just revealed that Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), espoused some pretty bizarre and goddy views on an Oklahoma radio show in 2005. Granted, that’s 13 years ago, but have his views changed? Given his faith, probably not, and they were posted on his campaign website when he ran for Oklahoma attorney general in 2010. Nobody’s talking now, but Christian Congresspeople defend his craziness and even his right to infuse his policies with extremist Christian mores:
EPA would not say this week whether any of Pruitt’s positions have changed since 2005. Asked whether the administrator’s skepticism about a major foundation of modern science such as evolution could conflict with the agency’s mandate to make science-based decisions, spokesman Jahan Wilcox told POLITICO that “if you’re insinuating that a Christian should not serve in capacity as EPA administrator, that is offensive and a question that does not warrant any further attention.”
. . . Republicans in Congress defended Pruitt, saying his religious beliefs should factor into how he does his job.
“All of us are people of faith and obviously influenced by our faith and the role it played in our life … and continue[s] to play in our life on a daily basis,” said Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees EPA. “It’s a part of who we are.”
Sen. Jim Inhofe, a fellow Oklahoman, said Pruitt’s faith does and should play a role in his work.
“He’s a believer. He is a Jesus guy. He believes in the principles,” Inhofe said. “I think it does [have an impact], and I think it has to. Anyone who denies that that has an impact isn’t being totally honest.”
He’s of course a Republican. Two of the radio show’s statements tweeted out by Politico:
“There aren’t sufficient scientific facts to establish the theory of evolution, and it deals with the origins of man, which is more from a philosophical standpoint than a scientific standpoint,” Pruitt said on an Oklahoma radio program in 2005. https://t.co/20oZv5lOG8pic.twitter.com/i8QpcYvfkQ
That’s scary for someone running a science-based department! Politico adds this:
Two years earlier [than the show], Pruitt had supported an unsuccessful bill that would have required textbooks in Oklahoma to carry a disclaimer that evolution is a theory. The show hosts joked that Pruitt had been compared to Adolf Hitler and the Taliban for backing the measure.
“I’m a bit better-looking than them,” Pruitt quipped. “My wife tells me so anyway.”
Should I send this joker my book?
But wait! There’s more! He thinks a judicial monarchy consistently misinterprets the First Amendment and is out to get religion:
But wait! There’s still more! His views on global warming (remember, he’s the EPA administrator):
Even some issues that aren’t explicitly faith-based, such as global warming and fossil fuel production, have often split different groups of religious believers. Some polls show that less than 30 percent of white evangelical Protestants believe that human activity is the driving factor behind climate change.
And Pruitt has echoed that sentiment, telling CNBC last year that he did not believe carbon dioxide was a primary contributor to climate change. Last week, he told the Christian broadcaster CBN News that he supports developing the nation’s energy resources, a stance that he believes aligns with Scripture’s teachings.
But wait! With all of that, and the steak knives, and the potato peeler, you get this, too!:
In the 2005 recordings, Pruitt also backed a broad interpretation of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, saying it derives from a divine mandate and thus cannot be limited.
“If you can tell me what gun, type of gun, I can possess, then I didn’t really get that right to keep and bear arms from God,” he said. “It was not bequeathed to me, it was not unalienable, right?”
Yes, of course Pruitt has the right to be religious, and espouse his views in public. He just doesn’t have the right to impose them on others. And that’s the problem with evangelical Christian lawmakers like him.
Has Trump appointed one qualified person to any high post in government? Reader/cartoonist Pliny the in Between has the answer:
Moore is still contesting the election and demanding a recount, but I think the Senate Republicans are actually breathing a sigh of relief. They may have lost a seat, but avoided some nasty hearings, and they’ll probably reclaim that seat in a few years.