Pelosi Should Ride off into the Sunset

In martial arts, there is a philosophy of using your opponents’ strength against them. Remember candidate Jon Ossoff (GA-6), candidate now-Congressman Conor Lamb (PA-18) and candidate Danny O’Connor (OH-12) for example. Think of all the PAC money and campaign funds that have been spent this year tying Democratic candidates to Nancy Pelosi (CA-12). In politics, pollsters and pundits talk about unfavorable numbers. I think its probably safe to say that the three politicians with the highest unfavorable are, in alphabetical order, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Donald Trump. Try as Trump may, Hillary Clinton is not on the ballot in the 2018 midterm elections. On November 6, 2018, however, it is easy to make the argument that every vote cast for Congress is a proxy vote for either Pelosi or Trump.

Here are two lists: The first list is, in alphabetical order, Kobe Bryant, Brett Favre, George Foreman, Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry Rice, and Tiger Woods. All five are incredible athletes. The second list, also successful athletes, is Tiki Barber, Jim Brown, Rocky Marciano, Barry Sanders, Robert Smith, and Annika Sorenstam. Given a choice, which list would you want to be on? What do the people on each list have in common? The first list includes athletes that are considered by many to have played too long. Conversely, the second list of athletes are often said to have retired too early in their career.

So, which is Nancy Pelosi? Nancy Patricia D’Alesandro Pelosi (born March 26, 1940) has represented California’s 12th Congressional district since 1987; Pelosi is currently the 14th most senior member of the House of Representatives and the 7th senior Democrat. Pelosi has been the Democratic Leader of the House since 2003. Her tenure is not only longer than any other Democratic House Leader but also longer than the longest-serving Republican House leaders as well; Robert Mitchel (IL-18) served 14 years as Republican Leader of the House of Representatives from 1981–1995. (For comparison, the longest serving party leaders in the U.S. Senate are Mike Mansfield (D-MT) 16 years as Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate from 1961 to 1977 and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who served 11 years as the Republican Leader of the U.S. Senate from 2007 to 2018.)

In the NFL, Bill Belichick’s successful defensive strategy has been described as “taking away the opponents’ best option.” Nancy Pelosi has already made history as the longest serving Democratic Leader in the House and as the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives. If Pelosi wants to help her party win control of the House, she should announce in September that she will not run for House leadership in the 116th Congress. Such an announcement would give political cover to nascent Democratic House candidates as well as vulnerable Democratic incumbents. It takes away the go-to talking points of Republican candidates, pundits, and sympathetic media. At the same time, Trump’s high unfavorable poll numbers would still be available as talking points with independent voters. Like Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos, Nancy Pelosi could go out on top. On January 3, 2019, Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) may well pass the Speaker’s Gavel ceremonially to Nancy Pelosi who would do well to pass the gavel to the next generation of House Democratic leaders.

 

~~~

The Counter Argument:

https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/15/politics/pelosi-doesnt-matter-in-midterms/index.html

 

2023 Too Late for 20-20 Hind Sight

On January 3, 2023, the U.S. Congress will convene for the first time after redistricting from the 2020 Census, and Rhode Island will likely have an at-large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. It will be the first time since the 2nd Congress (March 4, 1791 – March 4, 1793) that RI will only have only a single seat, joining consistent at-largers like Alaska, Delaware, Vermont, Wyoming, and the two Dakotas.

But who will the solitary U.S. Congressman from Rhode Island be? Will it be David Cicilline? In 2023, Cicilline will be 61 years old and possibly have represented RI-1st for 12 years. On the other hand, Jim Langevin will be 58 and have possibly represented RI–2nd for 22 years. Will these two mainstays of RI politics be forced to run against each other? 20-20 hindsight won’t help determine the RI Congressional delegation in 2023.

A lot may depend on the two United States Senators: In 2020, Jack Reed will be 73 years old and will have served in the U.S. Senate for 26 years, while Sheldon Whitehouse will be 67 years old and have served in the U.S. Senate for 16 years. However, as the U.S. Senate Election of 2020 is a Class 3 election, it is not an election year for either Senate seat.

It’s unlikely that any of the four legislators will lose their seat; the last sitting members of the RI delegation to lose an election were Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) 2006, Freddie St. Germain (RI-1) in 1988, and Eddie Beard (RI-2) in 1980. Retirement is also unlikely as John Chafee (R-RI) died in office after 23 years at the age of 77, and Claiborne Pell (D-RI) served 36 years before retiring age the age of 78.

Pell’s successor, Jack Reed, however, is a perennially mentioned as a Secretary of Defense nominee or as a Democratic candidate for Vice President. Perhaps if the Democratic nominee for president needs a seasoned partner to balance the ticket as Barrack Obama chose Joe Biden, the bottleneck of RI politics will be lessened. Otherwise, a fraternal fight is brewing among RI Democrats in 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

Political Parties and the Future of the GOP

When Political Parties are Born

Even before the Constitution, there were Federalist and anti-Federalist factions. In George Washington’s administration, the government was divided between Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians. In his Farewell Address, Washington warned Americans about the danger of factions, but early Americans ignored the administration and rushed to form political parties.

The history of political parties in American history is referred to as political alignments. There are generally four recognized periods of alignment and realignment. The first alignment was a polarization between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, ending with the Era of Good Feelings. The second alignment was between the Democrats and Whigs; in 1852, Lewis Campbell of Ohio declared the end of the Whig Party: “The party is dead—dead—dead!” Out of the vacuum left by the collapse of the Whig Party, in 1854 John C. Fremont created the Grand Old Party dedicated to Federalism and the end of slavery. The party of the third alignment quickly became better known as the Republican Party. By 1932, however, the progressive Republican Party had become the party of laisse fair and small government. Almost incredulously, the fourth alignment occurred when President Franklin D. Roosevelt transformed the Democratic into the party of Federalism and Presidents Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson transformed the old party of the Confederacy into the party of Civil Rights.

He Did! So Can We!

The two enduring questions in the study of political parties in the United States are will there ever be a viable third party, and when will the next realignment occur? The Know Nothings, the Greenbacks, the Populists, and the Progressives have all failed to become permanent fixtures in American political history. One reason is that the two dominant parties have absorbed the issues of successful smaller parties.

Two of the most successful third parties in history, however, were not issued-based as much as personality-based. In 1912, the Cool Moose Party of former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt split enough of the Republican vote that the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, was elected President of the United States. The other significant third-party candidate, Ross Perot, won a significant portion of the popular vote in 1992, but it has never been completely clear whether he took more votes from President George H.W. Bush (R) or Governor Bill Clinton (D).

Popularism versus the Establishment

Both the Republican and Democratic Parties have internal divisions as well as their external struggles with each other. Most often, this is manifested as a battle for the soul of the party between populists and the establishment. The party that becomes more populist is usually the party that is out of power. The populist energy is often then harnessed into an electoral victory, wherein the populist party becomes the establishment and fuels the populist frustrations in the opposition party. Since the end of the Cold War, this dynamic has also been represented in the debate over internationalism as well.

The Fifth Alignment

There are those who believe that the fifth alignment has already occurred, whether it was the Reagan Democrats and the movement of Catholic voters toward the Republican Party or the Clinton electoral victory in 1992 and the Democratic embracing of Wall Street. However, in both of these situations, there was a movement from one pre-existing political party to another. While that is similar to the fourth alignment, the other three alignments occurred with the creation of a new political party ex nihilo.

In 2016, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina said that Donald Trump should have dropped out of the presidential race and let (then) Governor Mike Pence lead the ticket. Another Republican presidential primary candidate, John Kasich, never endorsed his party’s nominee. In fact, Kasich reportedly voted for John McCain in the presidential election. Both former Republican Presidents Bush reportedly voted for the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. Conservative journalists like George Will and Max Boot have left the Republican Party. Less famous Republicans like Susan Bevan and Susan Cullman have also publicly announced their departure from the Republican Party too.

The Libertarian Party has often thought to be the beneficiary of this fraternal division in the Republican Party. And, yes, Gary Johnson received 4,489,233 total votes (3.27%) of the national vote, coming in third in the election, and set a record for the Libertarian Party’s best performance. The other touted third-party candidate in 2016 was Evan McMullin. McMullin did receive 21.54% of the popular vote in Utah and 6.7% in Idaho. Yet neither candidate received a single vote out the 538 possible in the Electoral College or the necessary 270 votes to become President of the United States.

So, Who and When?

While the Freedom Caucus, Rand Paul (KY), and many so-called conservatives actually espouse a more libertarian philosophy than a traditional Republican platform, these politician and pundits are still affiliated with the Republican Party, not the Libertarian Party. Senator Paul is acutely aware that when his father ran for president as a Libertarian, there was not enough traction for a plausible victory. These Libertarian-Republicans are thus staying within the Republican Party to remake it in their image. With the victory of a populist Republican as President of the United States and the Freedom Caucus hold on the House Republicans, the question still remains: what will John Kasich, George Will, and traditional conservatives do in 2020 and beyond?

If Donald Trump, in fact, runs for president in 2020, there is little doubt that John Kasich will mount a Republican primary challenge. But could Kasich upset a sitting president? The evangelical wing of the Republican Party will support Trump because, among other motivations, the presence of Mike Pence on the party ticket. This is, of course, mere political conjecture. The potential Republican primary battle will be shaped by the outcome of the midterm elections in 2018 as well as the eventual Mueller report. If Trump wins another presidential election, however, many conservatives will likely just wait out the end of Trumpism and hope for a return to conservatism in 2024. After all, Trump neutered the Congressional Republicans by signing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and nominating Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

So, the fifth alignment will likely not appear anytime soon. There are no term limits on Congress; traditional Republicans will wait out the Trump Presidency, whether Trump is a one-term president or a two-term president. The loudest critics Kasich and Will are still employed, and others like Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Bob Corker (R-TN) are merely shooting backward while riding off into the subset. Perhaps the soon-to-be U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) will battle on the floor of the Senate Chambers for the heart and soul of the Republican Party, but there is not a viable third party on the horizon. Americans may have ignored Washington’s aversion to political parties, but Americans are loath to allow more than two parties or abandon the parties that have governed the United States since 1854.

Identity Partisanship

Without succumbing to the temptation of Google Search, who is the fourth-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate? How about the sixth-ranking Democrat? Many of us are well aware who Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are and we’ve probably heard all the ad hominin jokes about “Turtle Head” and “Crying Chuck” as well. On cable television, Sean Hannity will remind you how horrible liberals truly are; in print media, Dan Gainor will validate what we already know that the Left is disrespectful and encourages violence. Change the channel to the left and you can hear Chris Matthews call Donald Trump ‘Hitlerian’ while you read Roger Cohen describe our President as a “raging buffoon.”

But there is another way. There is a path through political vitriol and blinding media selectivity. There is a difference between political difference and political partisanship, between media bias and media blindness.

First and for the record, the fourth-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate is Richard Shelby (R-AL). You may not even recognize him. He’s a little different than Chuck Grassley who, after Orrin Hatch leaves office in January 2019, will become the senior Republican senator. In November 2017, Grassley said about allegations against Alabama Judge Roy Moore that it was too bad that the Clinton-Lewinski scandal “didn’t turn out to be a big deal.” Oh, and, in December 2017, Grassley lamented people who spend their money on “on booze or women or movies.” Conversely, Shelby unequivocally stated that the State of Alabama could do better than Moore and steadfastly refused to endorse his fellow Republican to serve alongside him in the U.S. Senate.

Across the aisle, Jack Reed (D-RI) is the sixth-ranked Democrat in the U.S. Senate. Reed is a bit more low-key and reserved in his comments than his presidentially aspiring colleagues Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (CA-D), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Not coincidentally, the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee invited Reed to be the only non-member to ask questions during the Comey hearing on June 8, 2017.

And civility still exists in journalism too. Look at Fox News’ Jon Roberts and Shepherd Smith. Take the time to listen to Friday Round Table on NPR between liberal E.J. Dionne and conservative David Brooks; the duo almost trip over themselves in an attempt to be understanding and respectful to each other. Yes, we can choose to read Jonah Goldberg of the National Review and Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal, instead of Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopolous (formerly) of Breitbart.

But, unfortunately, it seems Americans are attracted to the increasingly erratic and mocking attitudes of the liberals like Keith Olbermann and conservatives like Carlson Tucker. We seem to be unable to distinguish television personalities like Michael Smerconish and Lou Dobbs, from journalists like Don Lemon and Chris Wallace.

But congeniality does not score television ratings or political contributions as easily as condescension and condemnation. If only conservatives paid as much attention to media liberals like Eugene Robinson and John Harwood instead of obsessing about David Palumbo-Liu Yvonne Felarca. And perhaps the liberal media ought to have less Paul Begala, and more Paul Krugman? More Andrea Mitchells who are genuine reporters and fair commentators at the same time.

Perhaps Fox should spend less time booking Gregg Jarrett and Sebastian Gorka, and more time booking Ari Fleischer and Britt Hume? More Judge Andrew Napolitano and less Laura Ingraham? Sadly, the conservative base is more interested in the attempted resurrection of Bill O’Reilly than the attempted redemption of Glenn Beck.

Too few of us pay attention to the people and media sources that we supposedly follow. For example, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier are journalists, whereas the aforementioned Hannity and Dobbs are host/commentators like Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper. And among elite host/commentators, not all are equal: Rachel Maddow had a Rhodes Scholarship and has a doctorate in politics from the University of Oxford, while Anderson Cooper has a B.A. in Political Science. Sean Hannity has no college degree.

There is also a difference between traditional hosting (David Muir, Jeff Glor, and Lester Holt) and journalistic reporting (Jon Roberts, Jim Acosta, Major Garrett, Jonathan Karl, Kristen Welker, Kelly O’Donnell, Peter Alexander, etc.). Similarly, but more subtly, I think there is a difference between commentary and analysis. Perhaps is as superficial as commentary is on television and analysis is written? Adding to the confusion, commentators and analysts may come from political, academic, or journalistic backgrounds as well.

In terms of the medium of media, there is a significant difference between written journalism and television (though maybe Fareed Zakaria successfully bridges that gap). Of course, almost everyone who follows politics knows the names Hannity, Maddow, and Cooper, but we need to read Jonah Goldberg, Ezra Klein, and Hendrik Hertzberg to be true political junkies.

Yes, CNN’s Chris Cuomo is well known, but I would suggest CNN’s Chris Cillizza is far more important to follow. Instead of being distracted by gimmicks and soundbites by Chris Cuomo, Steve Docy, and Sean Hannity, we should be asking questions like what is the education level and corporate sponsorship of these television personalities? Is the program intended to entertain and distract, or educate? It is important to wonder what questions the television personalities are not asking as much as it is interesting to ponder what questions are being asked.

Similarly, what politicians do not say, can be as revealing as what is said. We can listen to McConnell and Schumer spin; we can listen to Sherrod Brown (OH-D) and Rand Paul (R-KY) entertain. We can even watch Tom Cotton (AR-R) makeup facts and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) avoid jail.

Regardless of what the sensationalizing media may suggest, the world is not divided between the armies of George Soros and the Koch Brothers, nor the manipulative powers of a liberal media conspiracy and the most watched cable news network, Fox News. And not all politicians of each political party are equal either.

No, Richard Shelby and Jack Reed are not perfect, but I would rest easier with more Shelby and Reed, Jon Roberts and Fareed Zakaria, as well as more Chris Cillizza and Jonah Greenberg. Perhaps, if we don’t recognize the name of a Senator or journalist right away… perhaps it is because, regardless of political party or media bias, that those U.S. Senators and media representatives are doing their job, not promoting themselves. Yes, Op-Eds and newspaper commentaries ought to make a focused argument, but it is not necessary to publish Op-Eds that generalize an entire party into a homogenous entity or make ad hominin attacks on parties or politicians. When politicians, cable news, and print media criticize partisanship, self-reflection not recrimination might narrow the gap that increasingly divides America.

Brett Kavanagh

Brett Kavanagh: The sky is falling! It’s the end of the world!

Yup, if you read moderate to left-leaning publications and blogs, you’ve probably heard that it’s the end of times for the US Supreme Court. Oh, the other hand, conservative-leaning sources warn of and are already complaining about Democratic lawmakers pulling out all kinds of tricks… really? Because McConnell and the Republican-led Senate treated Merrick Garland and Barrack Obama fairly?

Please… I’m not sure how many so-called “tricks” there are anyway. This confirmation has always, since the moment Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, been about John McCain, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Donnelly… it has never been about fair play or judicial qualifications. If it were, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Brett Kavanagh is a qualified as any member of the Supreme Court has been.

Kavanagh graduated from Yale Law School, served three clerkships, and been a Federal judge for 12 years. And those clerkships? One of them was with the very same Justice Anthony Kennedy that Democrats are bemoaning for retiring.

In fact, on June 1, 2006, Kavanagh was sworn in as a member of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals by Justice Anthony Kennedy. It seems to me that Kavanagh has the blessing of the very man celebrated for his decisions in gay rights cases and other 5-4 decisions.

Kennedy

But, at the same time, I think it’s also important to put Anthony Kennedy into historical perspective as we evaluate his potential successor. Yes, Kennedy voted with the majority in two cases quite dear to Democrats: Boumediene v. Bush and Obergefell v. Hodges. I dare say that Kennedy voted to maintain abortion rights in Planned Parenthood v. Casey too, though with increased limits. But Kennedy is no darling of causes liberal after all: Kennedy voted with the conservative on the Court in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, District of Columbia v. Heller, and Kansas v. Marsh.

Judge Kavanagh

In terms of Kavanagh’s own judicial decisions, supporters and critics alike point to Garza v Hargan and have declared – Kavanagh’s going to ban abortion! Personally, however, I know that I would not have wanted to make that decision; it’s not the open and shut case that many seem to think.

Breaking new: Kavanagh has been pro-business, critical of environmental regulation, and a supporter of Christian religious rights… wow… its almost like he’s a conservative appointee? And yet, judges are not susceptible to demands of lobbyists and the whims of voters; twice Kavanagh sided with the government in cases involving the Affordable Care Act. In another case, he errored on religious latitude in Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Religion

Which brings us to Kavanagh’s religious affiliation and its role in judicial decision-making. Yes, it is worth discussing Kavanagh’s religion to a limited degree. Kavanagh is Roman Catholic and, as such, will maintain the Catholic majority of the US Supreme Court. Having said that, however, what does that even mean? The Catholic majority has not voted en bloc: the conservative Catholics have voted to support the death penalty, and the liberal Catholics have supported abortion-rights, so it seems to me that Kavanagh’s political ideology is more influential than his religion. If you do want to discuss his Catholicity more, it is worth noting that he is a volunteer tutor at Washington Jesuit Academy; the fact that Kavanagh volunteers his time, and with Jesuits, speaks more to me that his Mass attendance.

Mitch McConnell, Merrick Garland, Justin Kennedy, and Donald Trump

Politically, there is a lot that sticks about recent nominations to the US Supreme Court. From the refusal to call for a vote on Merrick Garland, to the elimination of the filibuster rule to favor Neil Gorsuch, McConnell personifies the hypocrisy and ‘Swamp’ of Washington, DC. But that’s not Kavanagh’s fault; he played the game and worked his way up to be in consideration for a nomination, just as liberal lawyers and judges have done as well.

Should we mention the end of the apolitical court and Bush v. Gore? Kennedy voted with the supposed States’ Rights conservatives to assert Federal authority over the Florida ballot counting at the same time that the pro-Federal Democrats on the Court voted to support States’ Rights. The veil of judicial independence had finally been lifted.

Even worse, the recent revelations about family connections between Anthony Kennedy and Donald Trump are disappointing, nauseating, and potentially unethical. But that has nothing to do with Brett Kavanagh.

I think we owe it to Brett Kavanagh, and more importantly to ourselves, to judge Kavanagh with the Golden Rule, not by McConnell’s Rules.

Which brings me to my second to last points: the art of predicting SCOTUS voting.

Nominations to the US Supreme Court

When I think about the history of Supreme Court nominations, I think of Harriet Myers; I think we can all agree Kavanagh is more qualified and his nomination (Kennedy-Trump connections aside) less nepotistic than a president nominating a member of his staff.

If you want qualified, has there ever been a more qualified nominee than Judge Robert Bork? Yet being qualified wasn’t the issue, it was his well-documented history of judicial decisions. As a result, presidents of both parties have nominated younger, less documented judges ever since; so, it would be hypocritical to criticize Kavanagh for his judicially-speaking nascent age of 53.

But most of all, when I think about nominations to the US Supreme Court, I think of Earl Warren. Nominated by Republican US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Warren, when lifted from the confinement of political accountability, Warren became the most liberal Chief Justice in history. I also think of Sandra Day O’Connor and how disappointed Reagan and the conservatives were with her voting record… but more recently, I think of the make-up nomination to Judge Bork, Douglas Ginsburg. Can you believe we almost had a member of the Supreme Court who smoked marijuana?!!?! Thank goodness, Ginsburg withdrew his nomination… after all, could you imagine two Ginsburgs on the same Court? So, President Ronald Reagan settled on a Circuit Judge with exactly 12 years of experience to be his reliable conservative. That Associate Justice, of course, was Anthony Kennedy.

Chief Justice John Roberts

Finally, there is the nature of the Court and the leadership style of Chief Justice John Roberts. Supreme Court Justices do not make isolated decisions in a vacuum. The Nine meet privately and reflect upon each case, circulating draft decisions for discussion. Roberts, in particular even among other Chief Justices, is acutely aware of the partisan poison in American and has worked hard to build 7+, 8+, and even unanimous decisions. Look no further than Masterpiece Cake v CCRC. In the room of consensus, Kavanagh is just one voice. Yes, he is a conservative voice, but the deliberative and congenial nature of the Court lends itself to being caretakers of the Constitution, not Lone Ranger Constitutional cowboys.

Conclusion

Brett Kavanagh has said the right things. In 2006, Kavanagh told the US Senate, “I firmly disagree with the notion that there are Republican judges and [Democratic] judges,” he said. “There is one kind of judge. There is an independent judge under our Constitution.”

Like Roberts, Kavanaugh seems to give broad consideration to executive authority and unitary executive theory; yet Kavanagh has also worked for the Independent Council’s Office and wrote sections of the Starr Report that criticized President Bill Clinton and, ultimately, was used as an instrument to impeach Clinton.

So, who is the real Brett Kavanagh? I think we’ll have to wait until he’s actually been confirmed and begins to make his mark. Ultimately, we won’t really know until he’s been on the court for 30 years like his old boss, Anthony Kennedy.

Persistance, Conviction, Bravery, and Compassion

You know, looking back at history can contextualize our current events, and it can also restore hope.We can look at those who have gone before, those who had endured the struggle, and persevered. I look, personally, to heroes like Judy Shepherd. The mother of Matthew Shepherd who has never given up.

  • The Matthew Shepherd and James Byrd Hate Crimes Act, introduced on April 3, 2001, by Rep. John Conyers and was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime.
  • The bill died when it failed to advance in the committee.
  • It was reintroduced by Rep. Conyers in the 108th and 109th congresses (on April 22, 2004, and May 26, 2005, respectively). It failed to advance out of committee.
  • In the Senate, similar legislation was introduced by Sen. Gordon H. Smith (R–OR) as an amendment to the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005 (S. 2400) on June 14, 2004. Though the amendment passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 65–33, it was later removed by conference committee.
  • The bill was introduced for the fourth time into the House on March 30, 2007, again by Conyers.
  • The bill passed the subcommittee by voice vote and the full House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 20–14. The bill then proceeded to the full House, where it was passed on May 3, 2007, with a vote of 237–180 with Representative Barney Frank, one of two openly gay members of the House at the time, presiding.
  • The bill then proceeded to the U.S. Senate, where it was introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy and Senator Gordon Smith on April 12, 2007, and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • The bill died when it failed to advance out of committee.
  • On July 11, 2007, Kennedy attempted to introduce the bill again as an amendment to the Senate Defense Reauthorization bill (H.R. 1585). The Senate hate crime amendment had 44 cosponsors, including four Republicans. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ultimately dropped the amendment because of opposition from antiwar Democrats, conservative groups, and Bush.
  • For the 5th time, Conyers introduced the bill into the House on April 2, 2009.
  • The bill was immediately referred to the full Judiciary Committee, where it passed by a vote of 15–12 on April 23, 2009.
  • The bill passed the House on April 29, 2009, by a vote of 249–175, with 231 Democrats and 18 Republicans supporting. And on October 8, 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was rolled into the conference report on Defense Authorization for fiscal year 2010. The vote was 281–146, with support from 237 Democrats and 44 Republicans.
  • Back in the Senate, the bill had again introduced by Kennedy on April 28, 2009. The Senate version of the bill had 45 cosponsors as of July 8, 2009. The Matthew Shepard Act was adopted as an amendment to S. 1390 by a 63–28 cloture vote on July 15, 2009.

READY FOR THIS:

  • At the request of Senator Jeff Sessions (an opponent of the Matthew Shepard Act), an amendment was added to the Senate version of the hate crimes legislation that would have allowed prosecutors to seek the death penalty for hate crime murders, though the amendment was later removed in conference with the House.
  • The bill passed the Senate when the Defense bill passed on July 23, 2009. As originally passed, the House version of the defense bill did not include the hate crimes legislation, requiring the difference to be worked out in a Conference committee. On October 7, 2009, the Conference committee published the final version of the bill, which included the hate crimes amendment; the conference report was then passed by the House on October 8, 2009. On October 22, 2009, following a 64–35 cloture vote, the conference report was passed by the Senate by a vote of 68–29.
  • The bill was signed into law on the afternoon of October 28, 2009, by President Barack Obama.

Persistence. Judy Shepherd, John Conyers, Ted Kennedy, Gordon Smith. Persistence.~~~And how about, bravery and conviction too? We never know how strong we are to our convictions until those convictions are tested, right? Like Judy Shepherd an opponent to the death penalty, who stuck by that conviction, and demanded life sentences for her son’s murderers.And conscience objectors, like Desmond Doss, now immortalized in (2016) Hacksaw Ridge. And Guy LaPointe too…

~~~On this day, July 2, 1948, Joseph Guy LaPointe Jr. was born in Dayton, Ohio. LaPointe (July 2, 1948 – June 2, 1969) was a medic in the United States Army. Patrolling Hill 376 in Quảng Tín Province, his unit came under heavy fire from entrenched enemy forces and took several casualties. LaPointe, a conscientious objector, ran through heavy fire to reach two wounded men. He treated the soldiers and shielded them with his body, even after being twice wounded, until an enemy grenade killed all three men. LaPointe was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War.~~~And then, there are the feel-good stories of compassion: On this day, July 2, 2016, Bono invited Adam Bevell onto the stage to jam with U2 during their U2 360 tour concert in Nashville, Tennessee. Adam Bevell’s brother-in-law had sketched out the small sign for him right there in the stadium and Adam held it over his head for the entire concert “BLIND GUITAR PLAYER. Bring me up.” at the end of the concert Adam’s wish was granted. The crowd hoisted him up on stage at the band’s request and Bono took his hand to lead him over to a guitar.” The guitar was strapped onto him and Adam chose to play his and his wife’s wedding song, “All I Want Is You,” while Bono sang along. Bono’s compassion for Adam brought out by Adam’s brother-n-law’s compassion for Adam as well.

~~~Persistence, bravery, conviction, and compassion…On this day, July 2, 2016, a man died who exemplified all those attributes and more.On July 2, 2016, Elie Wiesel אליעזר ויזל‎ died in New York, New York. Wiesel was a writer, professor, and political activist. He was the author of 57 books, including Night, a work based on his experiences as a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. Wiesel was involved with Jewish causes, and helped establish the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. In his political activities, he also campaigned for victims of oppression in places like South Africa, Nicaragua, and Sudan. He was outspoken against the Darfur Genocide and silence surrounding the silence surrounding the Armenian and Darfur genocides.

Weisel once said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Yes, we must take sides. Sides for the Medicare recipients who lost dental and vision today because KY Gov Matt Bevin didn’t get his way….

We must take sides, when innocent children are separated from their parents, and caged in the name of law enforcement.We must take sides when our Muslim sisters and brothers are banned from entry to the United States because of their nation-of-origin.

Yes, yes, we must take sides again White Supremacists who stage rallies in Portland and Charlottesville, and tie men to the back of trucks and drag them through Jasper, Texas.

We must take sides when a 21-year-old college student is beaten and left to die, simply because he loved differently from Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson.

Yes, The L.A. Times called Elie Wiesel “the most important Jew in America” and, in 1986, the Norwegian Nobel Committee called Wiesel a “messenger to mankind” when it awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize.Guy Lapointe was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

~~~The rest of us? Who knows whether we’ll ever get any awards, accolades, or recognition. Heck, we might actually get arrested instead of getting awards. But what would we lose if we didn’t try? We might lose a bit of ourselves…Yes, looking back at history can contextualize our current events, and it can also restore hope. And perhaps reinvigorate our persistence, bravery, conviction, and compassion.

Leon Mugesera and Donald Trump

On this day, July 1, 1962, the Belgian-administered region of German East Africa was granted independence. From the Belgian support of the racist “Hamitic” origin theory of Tutsi superiority to the creation of two states with Hutu majorities (rather than more homogenous nation-states), sadly the seeds of the Rwandan and Burundi Genocides were already sown.

Belgians defined “Tutsi” as anyone owning more than ten cows (a sign of wealth) or with the physical feature of a longer nose, or longer neck, commonly associated with the Tutsi; the physical distinctions were explained by postulating a partial descent from Hamitic peoples of the Horn of Africa or even European Caucasians.

Thirty years later, in 1992, Leon Mugesera gave the most famous speech in Rwandan history. Mugesera was an official in President Habyarimana’s MRND Party (Movement Révolutionnaire National pour le Développement). In his speech at a party conference in Gisenyi, Mugesera called on Hutus to kill Tutsis and to dump their bodies in the rivers of Rwanda…  To send them back to Ethiopia where they came from….

~~~

Shereen Marisol Meraji recently had a new episode on her podcast Code Switch and interviewed a neuroscientist, a sociolinguist, a philosophy professor, and a historian about the use of term animal and animal metaphors to describe people.

Now, there is this Godwin’s Law; it says that the longer a conversation goes on, the more likely someone will be compared to Hitler or Stalin. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. The fact is that Hitler used derisive language to describe people. Does that make Hitler unique? No. Does that make anyone who uses derisive metaphors of animals, am I calling that person Hitler? No. But the fact of the matter is that language matters. Skilled orators can inspire people, but it is much easier to use code language to galvanize a mob.

In the podcast, Meraji and historian Ibram X. Kendi discuss the history of referring to enslaved West Africans as animals and beasts….

And David Livingstone Smith, a philosophy professor, who wrote “Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, And Exterminate Others,” he continued the discussion and reminded listeners of that famous “nits make lice” by John Chivington (a Methodist minister on top of everything else!).

The podcast also mentioned how, in WWII, the Japanese were referred to as devils, when the genocide-committing Germans were not? I wonder why?

~~~

There is a history of interconnection between White Privilege and the language of dehumanization

On March 21, 1861, Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens spoke in Savannah, Georgia, and referred to the new Confederate government whose “foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Another example that just saying something is a philosophical or moral truth doesn’t make it truth. But, perhaps more to the point, repetition will convince many people of a truth, even if it’s not…

Like on April 20, 1968, when British MP Enoch Powell delivered his infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech in which he recounted the belief that, within “15 or 20 years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.” Incidentally, Powell’s district in Parliament is now represented by Eleanor Smith, a daughter of Barbadian immigrants who, as a young girl, was taunted after Powell’s speech.

And then, there’s John Blake’s recent piece on the “M-Word.” US Senator George Allen, cruising to a re-election victory in Virginia in the summer of 2006” as Blake writes, and the 18 words that ended his political life: “So welcome, let’s give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America, and the real world of Virginia,” Allen said to an Indian-American in the mostly European-American crowd.

Blake continues:

“Jimmy the Greek,” lost his job when he said that blacks were superior athletes because of breeding from slavery

Trent Lott resigned as Senate majority leader in 2002 after he seemed to suggest that the United States could have avoided “all these problems” if it had remained segregated.

Blake argues that overt racist speech went underground in 1968, the year that MLK, Jr. was gunned down and the year that George Wallace shouted Segregation Forever.

But now overt racist speech, dehumanizing language, and the language of violence is all back. Yes, there are pundits and politicians from both parties using violent language now, but it is clear who brought the language mainstream again. Arguing otherwise is simply the diversionary tactic of the Godwin Law Inverse.

The inverse of Godwin’s Law is a false declaration of victimization designed to immune our selves from responsibility. It goes like this, “Can you believe it? THEY’RE calling me/us/Trump Nazis! Nazis killed millions of people, I can’t believe THEY’RE insulting the memory of the Holocaust victims.”

It’s a logical conceit to protect the speaker and anything he or she might say, from criticism. The conversation then becomes about the accusation (inferred or otherwise) and not about the content of the offensive language in the first place.

~~~

Just last week, on June 24, 2018, Ed Henry of Fox News’ had a segment on TV with the onscreen banner which read “PUNDITS CALL TRUMP SUPPORTERS RACIST, NAZIS.” During the segment, Trump’s deputy campaign manager told Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who is African-American, that Payne was “out of your cotton-picking mind.” Yup, he said that. While, as I said already, the onscreen banner said, “PUNDITS CALL TRUMP SUPPORTERS RACIST, NAZIS.”

~~~

David Bossie, the Trump surrogate did apologize. I even have the feeling he didn’t realize the loaded-language which he had used. Rosanne Barr was held accountable, the Netflix Exec. But….

 

Ronald Reagan has been called the Teflon President, but I think its time to pass that baton to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Donald Trump has mainstreamed insensitive language, conspiracy theories, and replaced fact-based journalism with self-serving opinions of perceived reality.

The Donald’s Art of the Deal is the art of making destructive language fashionable while remaining beloved by his base, perhaps even beloved because of the dehumanizing discourse. After all, it wouldn’t resonate if it wasn’t already in so many of us already, right?

Blake concludes his piece by suggesting that the increase of dehumanizing language could be a new norm. Let us hope it is not, let us hope we will not become desensitized to it like violence and inappropriate language in music, movies, and TV.

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In my book, This Day in Donald: The 140 Character President, I wrote, “Words matter.  Language is a neutral reality; it can be used to hurt or to mend, to shame or to love, to tear down or to raise up.” The book is a collage of tweets, speeches, and statements by the 45th President of the United States and weaves together an overview of the how the 45th President of the United States chooses to communicate, represent himself, and represent the Office of the President.  Each entry catches his choice (and indeed the current American capacity) to tear down others and his propensity to equivocate moral and personal condemnation of persons with whom he disagrees with on policy.

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Yes, Leon Mugesera called for Tutsi’s to be killed and sent up river. Other Hutu extremists called Tutsis “cockroaches” that needed to be stamped out. Presumed racial superiority and hate, whether it be Hutu, Nazi, or White American must be relegated to history. Otherwise, if we embrace the language of dehumanization, we are replacing US President Abraham Lincoln with Confederate VP Alexander Stephens, replacing Bobby Kennedy with George Wallace, and replacing US Representative Tom Lantos, who survived the Holocaust, with the former White House strategist, Steve Bannon, who said to wear the label of “racist” as “a badge of honor.”

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On March 15, 2016, I posted the following parody of Martin Niemoller’s famous poem on Facebook and submitted it to the Providence Journal. I received back an email from Ed Achorn, the editor of the Journal, arguing that the parody if invalid since no one has yet ‘come for the Mexicans.’

The New America?

In America, they came first for the Mexicans,

And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Mexican;

And then they came for the Muslims,

And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Muslim;

And then they came for the African-Americans,

And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t an African-American;

And then they came for me . . .

And there was no one left to speak for me….

~~~

We have lost the understanding that at the other end of each sound bite, text, tweet, email, and phone call, at the other end there is a person. It is not about “The” Blacks, “The” Jews, “The” Gays, “The” Muslims, “The” Liberals, “The” Democrats, “The” Republicans, or “The” Conservatives. It is about, and always should be about our fellow Americans and, indeed, our fellow humans.

There is still time to reject racist rhetoric and return to respectful discourse.

And the time is now.

 

https://www.npr.org/2018/06/28/624416635/what-happens-when-groups-of-people-are-described-as-animals

https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2018/04/20/603884872/an-anti-immigration-speech-divided-britain-50-years-ago-it-still-echoes-today

https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/29/us/racial-rhetoric/index.html