Doing What He Said He Would Do -- By Mark Bocchetti
I keep hearing that Trump is doing exactly what he said he was going to do. Really? Did Trump say that he was going have everyone pay more for healthcare while receiving fewer benefits in order to pay for tax cuts for the top 2%? Gut the EPA and enable deregulated industries to freely pollute our air and water? Reduce workplace safety? Reduce food safety standards? Abandon renewable energy investment, thereby potentially ceding that industry to China, Japan and Germany? Deregulate Wall Street thereby putting them in a position to repeat the mistakes that caused the Great Recession of 2008? Abandon consumer protections?
How could anyone ever believe that Trump was a populist? Like Putin and his oligarchs in Russia, Trump and his billionaire advisors stand ready to loot the US. Trump said he was going make America great again, whatever that means. Instead, he is attempting remake America in Russia's image.
Democracy Ends -- By Mark Bocchetti
Republicans have control of the House, Senate, White House and Supreme Court despite the fact that nationally they are the minority party.
Mitch McConnell lead the Republican majority in the Senate in the "nuclear option" to install Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and any pretext that our country will continue to resemble a democracy is about to end. Since 1917 a Senate rule has required a vote of at least 3/5 of the Senate to confirm a nominee to the Supreme Court. This was a very good thing because it required at least a modicum of compromise. Now, with the use of the "nuclear option" a simple majority of US Senators can confirm the appointment of a Supreme Court nominee. Understand that most red states tend to be sparsely populated but they still have two Senators. The result of the rule change is that 51 senators can confirm an appointee when, in fact, those Senators may have been elected by a disproportionately small fraction of the national electorate.
It is much more than a seat on the Supreme Court that is at stake here. It is the fate of democracy itself that hangs perilously in the balance.
Despite Trump's absurd claims that there were 3,000,000 illegal votes cast for Hillary in the last election, there is not one state election official that supports the notion that there was any significant voter fraud. Republicans know this but they support the narrative as a means to enact, state-by-state, voter registration laws as a way of suppressing minority voting.
Some states have put in place a voter-ID laws that requires voters to bring a government-issued photo ID to the polls. The rationale is that these laws are necessary to stop voter fraud. There is a basic fallacy at work here. A photo ID can only prevent in-person fraud and that type of fraud is substantially non-existent.
Alabama's voter ID law can be satisfied with a driver's license. But, apparently, there was concern that the voter ID law by itself was not enough to effectively suppress minority voting. After enacting the law Alabama closed many DMV offices around the state including every DMV office in the 8 counties in which African-Americans make up more than 75 percent of registered voters. Unwarranted voter ID laws have proliferated around the country, almost universally enacted by Republican-controlled legislatures with a true purpose of making it more difficult for minorities, the poor and other groups who tend to vote Democratic to actually vote.
Republicans also use gerrymandering as a means to effectively disenfranchise minority voters while ensuring re-election of Republicans in the House. Gerrymandering has already been judged by Federal District Courts to be racially motivated in at least three states. A panel of federal judges has ruled that Texas’s Republican-led legislature gerrymandered some of the state’s congressional districts to stunt the growing influence of minority voters. A federal district court struck down Wisconsin’s state legislative districts, saying they were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Republicans. In NC, the Federal Court concluded that “the overriding priority of the redistricting plan was to draw a predetermined, race-based number of districts,” and further stated that the defendants “have not shown that their use of race to draw any of these districts was narrowly tailored to further a compelling state interest.” Cases of extreme gerrymandering can also be found Illinois, Maryland, Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania.
All courts, the US Supreme Court included, are charged with applying the law to the facts of a particular case to arrive at a logical judgment. But in 2000, in Bush v. Gore, it is clear that the Supreme Court first determined a desired outcome and then forced an application of the law to achieve that outcome. In that moment, the US Supreme Court became a political body. By a 5 to 4 decision, they stopped the Florida recount thereby assuring that George W. Bush would win the presidency. They relied on the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The political bias of the decision becomes very clear once you understand that Justices Scalia and Thomas (2 of the 5) had stated in their earlier decisions that the Equal Protection clause had very limited applicability and was intended only for the protection of freed slaves. How then was it suddenly applicable to the recount in Florida? This is America and in an election it is axiomatic that the first thing we do is count the votes but here we had the Supreme Court saying in essence, "Stop counting." They wanted to maintain the apparent Bush victory and a recount might jeopardize that result.
In 2010, the Supreme Court, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, again demonstrated political bias by declaring that corporations have the same basic rights as people and that money is a form of protected speech. Billionaires and corporation were flooding Republican coffers to buy influence and set legislative agendas for the benefit of their bottom lines at the expense of main street. Then the Court went even further in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. The majority opinion raised the overall contribution ceiling to as Justice Stephen G. Breyer stated in his dissent “the number infinity.” The Court, by 5 to 4 decision, has made one thing perfectly clear: For those who can afford it, government is for sale.
Why is McConnell's "nuclear" option so disturbing? Ultimately, the voter registration legislation and gerrymandering aimed respectively at voter suppression and disenfranchisement will wind up before the Supreme Court, and this Court with its latest Justice placed there through the "nuclear" option will likely continue to act with political bias and support all efforts to suppress minority voting in order to allow Republicans to maintain control of Congress. Further, if Justice Ginsburg should retire and Trump gets to make a second Supreme Court appointment there is little doubt that voter suppression will become an approved political means for retaining power in the minority party. As a result, Republicans have become the enemy of democracy.