If you’re in Florida and a registered voter, today’s the day unless you early-voted.
Here’s a non-partisan voter guide. Follow the directions, find your precinct, and get your butt to the polls.
If you’re in Florida and a registered voter, today’s the day unless you early-voted.
Here’s a non-partisan voter guide. Follow the directions, find your precinct, and get your butt to the polls.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has struck down the state’s congressional redistricting map that was drawn up by the GOP-dominated legislature.
In the Democratic-controlled court’s decision, the majority said the boundaries “clearly, plainly and palpably” violate the state’s constitution and blocked the boundaries from remaining in effect for the 2018 elections with just weeks until dozens of people file paperwork to run for Congress.
The justices gave the Republican-controlled Legislature until Feb. 9 to pass a replacement and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf until Feb. 15 to submit it to the court. Otherwise, the justices said they will adopt a plan in an effort to keep the May 15 primary election on track.
The decision comes amid a national tide of gerrymandering cases, including some that have reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
This is important for a couple of reasons. First, since this was a ruling by the state supreme court, not a federal court, appealing the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court is a lot harder; it wasn’t a federal case to begin with. (That doesn’t mean the Republicans won’t try to make it one, but the odds are against them.) Second, this could mean that the Democrats start reclaiming districts that were weaseled away from them by a rapacious state legislature and what were once safe GOP districts could be up for grabs.
One Year In — Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker.
Living as we do, on what is—as hard as it may be to believe—the first anniversary of Donald Trump in power, we find ourselves caught in a quarrel between Trump optimists and Trump pessimists, and one proof of how right the Trump pessimists have been is that the kind of thing that the Trump optimists are now saying ought to make you optimistic. Basically, their argument amounts to the claim that the stock market remains up, the government isn’t suspended, and the President’s critics aren’t in internment camps. In the pages of The Economist, as in the columns of the Times, one frequently reads some form of this not-very-calming reassurance: Trump may be an enemy of republican government, and a friend to tyrants, while alienating our oldest friends in fellow-democracies, but while he may want to be a tyrant, he isn’t very good at being one. This is the Ralph Kramden account of Trumpism: he blusters and threatens and shakes and rages, but Alice, like the American people, just stands there and shrugs him off sardonically.
Those in the Trump-pessimist camp are inclined to point out not only that the final score is not in yet but that the game has only just started. In real life, as opposed to fifties sitcoms, the Ralph Kramdens tend to act on their instincts. Trump’s Justice Department has already reopened an investigation of his political opponent, after he loudly demanded it—itself a chilling abuse of power. And if, as seems probable, Trump tries to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel on the Russia investigation, we will be in the midst of a crisis of extreme dimensions.
But, even in the absence of overt criminality, Trump pessimists may also point to how degraded our discourse has already become—how the processes variously called “normalization” or “acceptance” or just “silent stunned disbelief” go on. We know that Trump fired James Comey, the F.B.I. director, because he wanted him to stop investigating contacts between members of Trump’s campaign and Russia—and Trump announced this fact in public, despite having had subordinates come up with more plausible-sounding rationales for him to cling to. And surely no one can doubt that, had Hillary Clinton become President and, say, a meeting had then been discovered to have taken place between members of her campaign and a mysterious visitor from an autocratic foreign power offering information designed to subvert democracy, with an accompanying e-mail from Chelsea Clinton saying “Love it!,” we would now be in the midst of Clinton’s impeachment hearings, with the supposedly liberal press defending her faintly, if at all.
Meanwhile, the insults to democratic practice continue. In any previous Administration, reports that the resident of the White House had paid off a porn star to be silent about an alleged affair would be a defining—and, probably, Presidency-ending—scandal. With Trump, Stormy Daniels hardly registers at all as a figure, so dense and thick on the ground are the outrages and the indignities, so already bizarre is the cast of characters. (It’s as if we have been watching some newly discovered season of “The Sopranos,” what with the Mooch and Sloppy Steve. Who now can even quite recall poor Sean Spicer?)
Worse still, in a sense, is the degradation of memory that this circus enforces. Not long ago, Bret Stephens, who left the Wall Street Journal for the Times and has been an admirable mainstay of the anti-Trumpist movement among conservatives, wrote a touching piece about his father, and the decency of the values that he exemplified, especially when it came to the treatment of women, in the workplace and outside it. “Our culture could sorely use a common set of ideas about male decorum and restraint in the 21st century, along with role models for those ideas,” Stephens wrote. “Who, in the age of Trump, is teaching boys why not to grope—even when they can, even when ‘you can do anything’?” But nowhere did Stephens acknowledge that, less than a year ago, America did have, in President Barack Obama, a near-perfect model of male decorum and restraint, who in his own behavior and words taught boys how to be men who honored and respected women.
The point is not that what Obama did was necessarily always admirable, but that amnesia about even the very recent past has become essential to the most decent conservative politics; only by making the national emergency general and cross-party can it be fully shared rather than, as it should be, localized to the crisis of one party and its ideology. In plain English, it becomes necessary to spread the smell around so that everyone gets some of the stink on them. This is why we have to read so much undue hand-wringing about our national crisis in civic values and family piety rather than recognize the abandonment of republican values that began when the mainstays of the conservative party decided to embrace Trump instead of—as their French equivalents had done, when confronted with the same choice between an authoritarian nationalist and a moderate centrist —reject him. It is always appealing rhetorically to insist that all of us are at fault. We’re not. The attempts to pretend that the Trump era is part of some national, or even planetary, crisis, stretching out from one end of the political spectrum to the other, obscures the more potent reality. Had Mitt Romney and the Bushes not merely protested, or grumbled in private, about Trump but openly endorsed Hillary Clinton as the necessary alternative to the unacceptable, we might be living in a different country. For that matter, if, during the past year, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell had summoned patriotism in the face of multiple threats to the norms of democratic conduct, then we might not be in this mess. They didn’t, and we are.
Needless to say, the degradation of public discourse, the acceleration of grotesque lying, the legitimization of hatred and name-calling, are hard to imagine vanishing like the winter snows that Trump thinks climate change is supposed to prevent. The belief that somehow all these things will somehow just go away in a few years’ time does seem not merely unduly optimistic but crazily so. In any case, the trouble isn’t just what the Trumpists may yet do; it is what they are doing now. American history has already been altered by their actions—institutions emptied out, historical continuities destroyed, traditions of decency savaged—in ways that will not be easy to rehabilitate.
And yet there are grounds for optimism. Institutions may crumble, but more might yet be saved. Restoration may be no more than two good elections and a few steady leaders away, as long as the foundational institutions of democracy—really, no more than fair voting and counting, but no less than those, either—remain in place. Political results are far more often contingent than overdetermined, much more to do with accident and personality than with irresistible tides of history. This is what makes them controllable. After all, not long ago a rational woman won the popular vote for President, rather easily, and only a bad electoral system prevented her from taking office. Part of the power of tyrants and would-be tyrants is to paralyze our self-confidence. The famous underground societies of the Eastern European countries, built under Soviet tyranny, were exercises not in heroism but in normalcy: we like this music, this food, these books, and no one can tell us what to think about them. What has happened is worse than we want to pretend. But it happened for highly specific and contingent causes, and the means of remedying them have not yet passed.
Meanwhile, our primary obligation may be simply not to blind ourselves to the facts, or to compromise our values in a desperate desire to embrace our fellow-citizens. Any anti-Trumpist movement must consist of the broadest imaginable coalition, but it cannot pretend that what we are having is a normal national debate. The reason people object, for instance, to the Times running a full page of Trump-defending letters is not that they want to cut off or stifle that debate; it is because the implication that Trumpism is a controversial but acceptable expression of American values within that debate is in itself a betrayal of those values. Liberal democracy is good. Authoritarian nationalism is bad. That’s the premise of the country. It’s the principle that a lot of people died for. Americans never need to apologize for the continuing absolutism of their belief in it.
One Year After the March — Lena Felton in The Atlantic.
More than 100,000 protesters showed up on a warm, sunny day in New York to celebrate the anniversary of the Women’s March protests that followed Donald Trump’s inauguration as president last year. But in contrast with last year’s events, this year’s gathering was optimistic, almost celebratory. The pink pussy cat hats were out; so were the signs (“A Women’s Place Is in the Revolution,” “Grab ‘Em By the Putin,” “Shed Walls, Don’t Build Them”). Couples danced to a brassy tunes floating from somewhere down the block.
Last year, more than 400,000 protesters clogged Fifth Avenue and descended upon Trump Tower, according to the Mayor’s Office. That event was just one of the hundreds that comprised one of the largest single days of protest in U.S. history, with more than 3 million people estimated to have participated, according to crowd-size experts. No matter that the Women’s March on Washington, the original event, was borne from a single Facebook post and organized entirely ad-hoc. People then were coming together for one reason: to protest the election of Donald Trump. This year, more than 300 towns and cities across the U.S. have registered for events.
The president, for his part, needled the protesters with a tweet.
“Beautiful weather all over our great country, a perfect day for all Women to March,” President Trump tweeted. “Get out there now to celebrate the historic milestones and unprecedented economic success and wealth creation that has taken place over the last 12 months. Lowest female unemployment in 18 years!”
But for the protesters, these Women’s Marches aren’t just about opposing the president; for many, they’re about joining in a moment of cultural upheaval around issues of sexual abuse. When I spoke with Winnie Whitted, who attended the march in Austin, Texas, last year, she put it like this: “I think that #MeToo is the reason why women are coming together this year. This is now really a women’s march.”
The #MeToo movement, which was sparked by the revelation of multiple rape and sexual harassment allegations against the powerful Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein in October 2017, continues to be a central part of the national debate over sexual abuse.
Since Weinstein’s downfall, many other prominent figures in media and entertainment have faced allegations of sexual abuse and harassment as women across those industries have spoken up about their experiences. It’s no surprise, then, that #MeToo and #TimesUp signs featured prominently amongst the anti-Trump ones at the march. One protester, Kirsten Herman, was holding a large black one above her head when I spoke with her. She didn’t come to last year’s march, because she “has lots” of crowd anxiety. “But I knew I had to come this year,” she said. Harassment “is such a universal thing that women have to go through all the time, and we’re done with it.”
I asked Sarah Sibilly, who marched last year, what had changed from last year to this year. “Definitely more men,” she said. “They’re probably here in solidarity more than anything.”
Daniel Robinson was one of those men. He didn’t participate last year, but said that #MeToo was the galvanizing factor this time around. “I didn’t necessarily recognize [the issue of sexual harassment] to the same degree,” he told me. “But there’s a lot more understanding of what’s going on, and realizing the importance of it really brings everyone to the forefront.”
Cindy Brummer brought her husband, Bob, along with her to the march, which neither of them attended last year. Trump “brings out the feminist” in her, she told me. She thought she had seen the end of the fight for women’s rights in the seventies, but looking at the younger generation now, she says, makes it clear that the fight is far from over.
Others I spoke with cited the nation’s current sexual-harassment reckoning as an even greater reason to protest the president, whom 19 women have accused of sexual assault. Whitted called it “crazy” that men in Hollywood, the media, and politics were getting fired while “this guy is still in office.”
Where last year’s marches were simply a rejection of Trump, this year’s events were electorally focused. The Women’s March on Washington anniversary event planned for Sunday in Las Vegas, Nevada, is being billed as “Power to the Polls” and aims to get people to register and vote ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Virtually everyone I spoke with said Democratic success in the midterms is their biggest political goal in the coming year, and see the march as a good starting point to start encouraging people to show up to polls.
Following last year’s marches, my colleague Conor Friedersdorf wrote, “The political future depends on where Trump opponents focus their energy and whether they are adept at expanding their coalition.” This year did indeed see more women than ever before sign up to run for office, and a record 28 women were elected to Virginia’s House of Delegates in the November 2017 elections. New public-opinion research conducted by SurveyMonkey also shows that Trump is losing ground amongst women—regardless of race or class—who previously supported him, a trend which will likely be consequential in the 2018 congressional midterms if it holds up.
The crucial work for the marchers still lies ahead; it’s unclear if the momentum will hold. But protesters were still hopeful: “Here we are a year later, doing it again,” one marcher, Emma Saltzberg, said. “It shows we’re here to fight and we’ll push for people to vote. You have to if you want to see change in the future.”
In other political news, the Charleston City Paper informs us that Stormy Daniels is visiting a strip club in Greenville tonight:
The club is promoting the event as part of Daniels’ “Making America Horny Again Tour” days after the Wall Street Journal reported that candidate Donald Trump paid her $130,000 through a shell company one month before the 2016 election to cover up an alleged 2006 affair. Daniels is said to have signed a non-disclosure agreement as part of the alleged payoff, but years earlier she reportedly spilled all the salacious details to InTouch Magazine about having sex with the future president…”He saw her live. You can too,” reads one poster for the event posted on The Trophy Club’s Facebook page, referring to President Donald Trump’s alleged sexual encounter with the porn star. A YouTube video promoted by the club says “The Twitter Storm Sensation” is visiting for a “one-night performance.”
The first day of the government shutdown is also the anniversary of the inauguration of the president*, and if that doesn’t convince you that a Higher Power is running things, and that the Higher Power has a sense of humor best described as perverse, I don’t know what to tell you. A year ago, he stood before an embarrassingly small crowd on the steps of the Capitol and gave the worst inaugural address in American history, even worse than the one that actually killed William Henry Harrison. A year ago Sunday, he sent his press secretary out to lie about the size of the crowd, and we were pretty much off to a year of actual American carnage.
The most striking thing about the extended burlesque in the Senate as Friday night became Saturday morning was the almost complete lack of urgency in the chamber. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, now presiding over his second government shutdown, held the cloture vote on the House’s continuing resolution open for hours after it had clearly failed, and in a resoundingly bipartisan manner.
As minutes became hours, ad hoc bipartisan groups of senators—Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake, Maggie Hassan and Elizabeth Warren?—gathered and dispersed, like small flocks of birds, but there was no real sense that a real emergency was going on around them. There was an endless trail of rumored deals—A two-week CR? Three weeks? Pledges to deal with the Dreamer kids later?—and an equally endless train of broken promises.
“The bottom line is that time only matters if there’s will,” said Lindsey Graham, as he briefly held out hope for a three-week funding compromise that he was pushing. “I may live to eat these words, but the Congress is beginning to realize that the American people expect more of us. Between the soldier in the field and the DACA recipient, we have some real-world reasons to get our act together and grow up, I may be wrong, but I think we’re getting there.”
He was wrong. According to Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, the last real chance went a’glimmering on Friday when he spent a lot of time negotiating with the president*, and even offered a substantial concession regarding the president*’s stupid wall, only to have White House chief-of-staff John Kelly call him to tell him the framework under discussion was too liberal.
What became clear was that a) that there is a serious faction that wants the Dreamer kids out of the country, and that this faction includes Kelly, who apparently has been appointed President For Immigration Matters, xenophobic madman Stephen Miller, and Senator Tom Cotton, the bobble-throated slapdick from Arkansas, and b) that the president* himself has decided to decide by not deciding, and to lead by not leading, and that he believes the essence of being presidential is agreeing to deals that Kelly will talk him into reneging the first time he gets the president*’s ear.
Maybe gushing about a guy just because he once was a general wasn’t the best idea professional pundits ever had. Kelly’s tenure as Secretary of Homeland Security, during which he unleashed ICE to run amuck, should have hipped us all to that. As for the fact that the president* has abdicated his obligation to lead, and that his word in negotiations is not to be trusted, hell, everybody’s used to that by now. Which is probably why nobody seemed to be in any rush to get anything solved.
So, no deal was reached. Nothing happened. McConnell finally closed out the vote. And, as Saturday dawned, both Houses remained in session. The president*, or someone like him, got out the electric Twitter machine.
So the “DACA kids” are now “illegal immigrants,” and the guy who killed at least two deals in the past 10 days is complaining about how nobody wants to negotiate with him. His alleged former inamorata is doing a VIP show at a strip club not far from the godfearing campus of Bob Jones University And we have had a year of this now, a year in which we’ve all been living in what the nuns used to call, “the near occasions of sin.” Things are looking up!
Doonesbury — Worth a shot.
Trump abruptly shut down his signature voter fraud commission on Wednesday and instead kicked the issue to the Department of Homeland Security.
The announcement comes just a week after Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has been running the commission’s day-to-day operations in place of Vice President Mike Pence, its official chairman, said the panel would meet later this month.
Trump formed the commission last May to examine the U.S. electoral system for evidence of large-scale voter fraud. He has claimed, without evidence, that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election.
The commission, formally called the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, has been bedeviled by internal dissension, threats of litigation and the refusal of some states to provide information. Its last known meeting was Sept. 12.
“Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry,” Trump said in a brief statement early Wednesday evening.
“Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today I signed an executive order to dissolve the Commission, and have asked the Department of Homeland Security to review these issues and determine next courses of action.”
Nice try, dork. He can’t pull off a fraud and hasn’t got the balls to admit it.
If there was ever any doubt that your vote counts, take the case of Shelly Simonds, a Virginia Democrat running for the House of Delegates.
According to Virginian Pilot reporter Jordan Pascale, there are no disputed ballots, leaving the final count at 11,608 for Simonds to 11,607 for the Republican. The results are not considered final until a judge certifies them …
Once certified, control of Virginia’s House of Delegates will be shared, due to the 50-50 split between the two parties.
Remember Ms. Simonds next November.
How The Draft Reshaped America — Amy J. Rutenberg in the New York Times.
“Greeting: You are hereby ordered for induction in the Armed Forces of the United States.” In 1967, more than 300,000 American men opened envelopes with this statement inside. Few pieces of mail ever incited the same combination of panic, anticipation and resignation as a draft notice. The words struck terror in the hearts of many recipients. Others found them comforting after years of waiting for the Selective Service System to come calling.
The Vietnam generation came of age with the threat of military service hovering in the background. Although the Selective Service called relatively few men between the end of the Korean War in 1953 and American escalation in Southeast Asia in 1965, the draft had been in almost continuous operation since before the United States joined World War II. During that time Selective Service, under the leadership of Gen. Lewis B. Hershey, faced little public criticism. In fact, Hershey had shaped it into a venerated institution. Although most men may not have wanted to dedicate two years of their life to active military service, draftees generally acquiesced to Uncle Sam’s wishes.
After President Lyndon Johnson mobilized ground troops in 1965, draft calls tripled. With each passing year, more men faced conscription to fight a war with whose goals and methods a significant number disagreed. Stories of privileged men finding ways to beat the draft began to circulate. Newspaper articles with headlines like “Young Men Dream Up Some Ingenious Ways to Avoid the Draft” and “Avoiding the Draft Is Becoming the Favorite Sport Among Youth” horrified Americans who believed military service should be an equal obligation of male citizenship. At least as portrayed by reporters, these men were almost always middle class, with seemingly All-American families.
Critics at the time and since have identified the Selective Service’s system of deferments as the main cause of military inequity during the Vietnam War. Although the Department of Defense did not keep records on the socio-economic status or racial identification of service personnel beyond whether they were African-American or not, there’s no doubt that men with fewer resources were less likely to obtain deferments than those with more. As a result, they were more likely to be drafted, serve in combat and die in Vietnam. Long Island’s war dead, for example, hailed overwhelmingly from working-class backgrounds.
But why? How is it that the Selective Service, which had used deferments during both World Wars and the Korean War, allowed the situation to become so bad that by 1967 fewer than half of Americans polled believed that the draft operated fairly? For this answer, one must look to the goals of Cold War liberals, both Republican and Democrat. The deferment policies that created such havoc during the Vietnam War were the direct outgrowth of Washington’s desire to fight Communism at home as well as abroad.
Deferments are a necessary element of any system of selective military service. If a nation does not require all of its citizens to participate in the armed forces, then someone must decide who goes and who stays. Deferments allow those with skills needed on the home front to exempt themselves from their military obligations because, especially during the upheaval of war, they ensure a viable domestic economy and stable society. Factories, hospitals and schools, for example, can operate only when fully staffed with skilled employees. Farmers and agricultural workers maintain necessary food supplies. In theory, deferments should be limited only to those considered more valuable to war aims as civilians than as soldiers.
But the nature of the Cold War, especially early on, complicated things. Defeating Communism was more than a military endeavor; the home front became a crucial site of defense operations. Americans believed that triumph over the Soviet Union required a prolonged ideological, technological and economic struggle. The circumstances of the Cold War, therefore, granted the Selective Service System license to use deferments as a tool of social engineering.
Hershey believed that all able-bodied American men had the obligation to serve the nation, but he began to advocate a definition of service that included civilian pursuits, particularly in science, mathematics and engineering. Throughout the 1950s, the perception that the United States was in danger of falling behind the Soviets caused national panic, especially after the U.S.S.R. successfully launched its Sputnik satellite in 1957. According to politicians and intellectuals, American superiority rested on outpacing Soviet technological development, both in the domestic realm and in the military sector. The Army’s strategic plans for countering atomic attack depended on the invention of new weapons, while consumer capitalism required new products to buy and sell. The United States needed a steady supply of men in STEM fields to develop the state-of-the-art appliances and futuristic weapons systems that it so desperately wanted.
In Hershey’s view, the Selective Service was the “storekeeper” of America’s manpower supply. He believed that the promise of deferments could be used as a tool to coerce — or bribe — men to go to college and enter occupations defined as in the national interest. In the words of one planning memo, the Selective Service could use the “club of induction” to “drive” individuals into “areas of greater importance.” This policy, known as manpower channeling, specifically defined these pursuits as service to the state on a par with military service.
The availability of deferments for men attending college and in professional fields ballooned. Occupational deferments increased by 650 percent between 1955 and 1963. But men had to qualify for higher education and be able to pay for it. Since part-time students did not receive deferments, men could not take semesters off to earn tuition money or recover from academic probation. Eligible occupations skewed toward those with college degrees. Unlike during World War II, most factory and agricultural workers could not gain occupational deferments by the late 1950s. Such dispensations were reserved for scientists, engineers, doctors and teachers.
Even those deferments theoretically available to anyone really were not. Medical deferments, for example, were harder for poorer men to obtain. The doctors performing the cursory exams at pre-induction physicals often failed to detect health defects that would have guaranteed exemptions from military service. And if men did not have a record of private medical care, they had little recourse when declared available for service.
By 1965, many middle-class men had come to expect deferments. Military service, to them, was for “suckers” who had made poor choices. Working-class men, of course, were not “suckers.” Rather, Great Society policies meant to strengthen the economy by alleviating poverty ended up targeting them for military service.
Policy makers in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations began to focus on America’s poor as the weak link between national strength and the promise of democracy. Secretary of Labor W. Willard Wirtz identified the Selective Service as an “incomparable asset” in locating men who could benefit from government aid. Virtually all American men underwent a pre-induction exam. Approximately one-third failed. Such “rejectees” were overwhelmingly from poor and minority backgrounds. In early January 1964, less than two months after taking office, Johnson ordered the Selective Service, the Department of the Army, the Department of Labor and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to address the problem.
Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara actively wanted the armed forces to be part of the solution. He firmly believed that military service could be used to “rehabilitate” men caught in the cycle of poverty. He, along with Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan, argued that military training freed poor men from the “squalid ghettos of their external environment” and the “internal and more destructive ghetto of personal disillusionment and despair.” McNamara wanted a program that would bolster national security by eliminating a source of social unrest and benefit American combat readiness by boosting the number of men in uniform.
In August 1966, he announced the Defense Department’s intention to bring up to 100,000 previously ineligible men into the military each year to “salvage” them. Project 100,000, as it came to be known, would “rescue” poor and especially minority men from the “poverty-encrusted environments” in which they had been raised. These so-called New Standards men — who were otherwise ineligible for military service — were to be admitted into all branches of the armed forces, both voluntarily through enlistment and involuntarily through the draft.
Over all, all branches of service added a combined total of 354,000 New Standards men to their active-duty rosters between 1966 and 1971, when the program ended. Forty percent of these men were black, at a time when the entire military averaged only 9 percent African- American. McNamara hoped that a stint in the military would make New Standards men better husbands, better fathers and better breadwinners, and thus better citizens. Most ended up as infantrymen in Vietnam.
It was no coincidence that those men who already fit the middle-class mold of domestic masculinity — those men who were college students or teachers or scientists — received deferments. Midcentury liberals believed such men did not need the military to lift them up. Meanwhile, every slot filled by a New Standards man was one a middle-class man avoided.
Ultimately, what made sense during the militarized peace of the Cold War did not during a hot war. Many middle-class men did not consider it their responsibility to serve in the military, especially in a war they often categorized as somewhere on the continuum between unnecessary and immoral. Instead, they learned to work a system designed to encourage them to see military service as a personal choice rather than an obligation. Working-class men simply were not offered the same option.
Diagnosing Trump — Masha Gessen in The New Yorker.
The question is not whether the President is crazy but whether he is crazy like a fox or crazy like crazy. And, if there is someone who can know the difference, should this person, or this group of people, say something—or would that be crazy (or unethical, or undemocratic)?
Jay Rosen, a media scholar at New York University, has been arguing for months that “many things Trump does are best explained by Narcissistic Personality Disorder,” and that journalists should start saying so. In March, the Times published a letter by the psychiatrists Robert Jay Lifton and Judith L. Herman, who stated that Trump’s “repeated failure to distinguish between reality and fantasy, and his outbursts of rage when his fantasies are contradicted” suggest that, “faced with crisis, President Trump will lack the judgment to respond rationally.” Herman, who is a professor at Harvard Medical School, also co-authored an earlier letter to President Obama, in November, urging him to find a way to subject President-elect Trump to a neuropsychiatric evaluation.
Lifton and Herman are possibly the greatest living American thinkers in the field of mental health. Lifton, who trained both as a psychiatrist and a psychoanalyst, is also a psychohistorian; he has written on survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, on Nazi doctors, and on other expressions of what he calls “an extreme century” (the one before this one). Herman, who has done pioneering research on trauma, has written most eloquently on the near-impossibility of speaking about the unimaginable—and now that Donald Trump is, unimaginably, President, she has been speaking out in favor of speaking up. Herman and Lifton have now written introductory articles to a collection called “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.” It is edited by Bandy X. Lee, a psychiatrist at the Yale School of Medicine who, earlier this year, convened a conference called Duty to Warn.
Contributors to the book entertain the possibility of applying a variety of diagnoses and descriptions to the President. Philip Zimbardo, who is best known for his Stanford Prison Experiment, and his co-author, Rosemary Sword, propose that Trump is an “extreme present hedonist.” He may also be a sociopath, a malignant narcissist, borderline, on the bipolar spectrum, a hypomanic, suffering from delusional disorder, or cognitively impaired. None of these conditions is a novelty in the Oval Office. Lyndon Johnson was bipolar, and John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton might have been characterized as “extreme present hedonists,” narcissists, and hypomanics. Richard Nixon was, in addition to his narcissism, a sociopath who suffered from delusions, and Ronald Reagan’s noticeable cognitive decline began no later than his second term. Different authors suggest that America “dodged the bullet” with Reagan, that Nixon’s malignant insanity was exposed in time, and that Clinton’s afflictions might have propelled him to Presidential success, just as similar traits can aid the success of entrepreneurs. (Steve Jobs comes up.)
Behind the obvious political leanings of the authors lurks a conceptual problem. Definitions of mental illness are mutable; they vary from culture to culture and change with time. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is edited every few years to reflect changes in norms: some conditions stop being viewed as pathologies, while others are elevated from mere idiosyncrasies to the status of illness. In a footnote to her introduction, Herman acknowledges the psychiatric profession’s “ignominious history” of misogyny and homophobia, but this is misleading: the problem wasn’t so much that psychiatrists were homophobic but that homosexuality fell so far outside the social norm as to virtually preclude the possibility of a happy, healthy life.
Political leadership is not the norm. I once saw Alexander Esenin-Volpin, one of the founders of the Soviet dissident movement, receive his medical documents, dating back to his hospitalizations decades earlier. His diagnosis of mental illness was based explicitly on his expressed belief that protest could overturn the Soviet regime. Esenin-Volpin laughed with delight when he read the document. It was funny. It was also accurate: the idea that the protest of a few intellectuals could bring down the Soviet regime was insane. Esenin-Volpin, in fact, struggled with mental-health issues throughout his life. He was also a visionary.
No one of sound mind would suspect Trump of being a visionary. But is there an objective, value-free way to draw the very subjective and generally value-laden distinction between vision and insanity? More to the point, is there a way to avert the danger posed by Trump’s craziness that won’t set us on the path of policing the thinking of democratically elected leaders? Zimbardo suggests that there should be a vetting process for Presidential candidates, akin to psychological tests used for “positions ranging from department store sales clerk to high-level executive.” Craig Malkin, a lecturer at Harvard Medical School and the author of “Rethinking Narcissism,” suggests relying on “people already trained to provide functional and risk assessment based entirely on observation—forensic psychiatrists and psychologists as well as ‘profilers’ groomed by the CIA, the FBI, and various law enforcement agencies.” This is a positively terrifying idea. As Mark Joseph Stern wrote in Slate in response to last December’s calls for the Electoral College to un-elect Trump, it “only made sense if you assumed as a starting point that America would never hold another presidential election.”
Psychiatrists who contributed to “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” are moved by the sense that they have a special knowledge they need to communicate to the public. But Trump is not their patient. The phrase “duty to warn,” which refers to a psychiatrist’s obligation to break patient confidentiality in case of danger to a third party, cannot apply to them literally. As professionals, these psychiatrists have a kind of optics that may allow them to pick out signs of danger in Trump’s behavior or statements, but, at the same time, they are analyzing what we all see: the President’s persistent, blatant lies (there is some disagreement among contributors on whether he knows he is lying or is, in fact, delusional); his contradictory statements; his inability to hold a thought; his aggression; his lack of empathy. None of this is secret, special knowledge—it is all known to the people who voted for him. We might ask what’s wrong with them rather than what’s wrong with him.
Thomas Singer, a psychiatrist and Jungian psychoanalyst from San Francisco, suggests that the election reflects “a woundedness at the core of the American group Self,” with Trump offering protection from further injury and even a cure for the wound. The conversation turns, as it must, from diagnosing the President to diagnosing the people who voted for him. That has the effect of making Trump appear normal—in the sense that, psychologically, he is offering his voters what they want and need.
Knowing what we know about Trump and what psychiatrists know about aggression, impulse control, and predictive behavior, we are all in mortal danger. He is the man with his finger on the nuclear button. Contributors to “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” ask whether this creates a “duty to warn.” But the real question is, Should democracy allow a plurality of citizens to place the lives of an entire country in the hands of a madman? Crazy as this idea is, it’s not a question psychiatrists can answer.
Democrats Can Win — Charles P. Pierce on contesting every race.
I’m reluctant to point this out, lest I blow the covert aspects of some good news, but it seems that, almost without anyone’s noticing, very progressive African-American candidates have been getting elected to be mayors in cities in the very deepest parts of the deep South. First, it was Oxford American:, an actual Socialist, who was elected mayor in Jackson in Mississippi Goddamn. From
In Lumumba’s successful campaigns for city council in 2009 and for mayor in 2013, “Free the land” had been a common refrain of his supporters. His platform, too, echoed the vision he and his fellow New Afrikans had harbored for their new society on Land Celebration Day. He pledged that his office would support the establishment of a large network of cooperatively owned businesses in Jackson, often describing Mondragon, a Spanish town where an ecosystem of cooperatives sprouted half a century ago. In debates and interviews, he promised that Jackson, under the leadership of a Lumumba administration, would flourish as the “Mondragon of the South”—the “City of the Future.”
If I may repeat, this is Jackson. The one in Mississippi. Goddamn.
Then, on Tuesday, a man named Randall Woodfin challenged and beat the incumbent mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, William Bell. Woodfin is 36, which will make him the youngest mayor of that city in over a century. More significantly, Woodfin had the active support of Bernie Sanders and the people allied with Sanders’ late campaign for president. Sanders recorded a robo-call on Woodfin’s behalf late in the race and Nina Turner, the head of Our Revolution, the Sanders-affiliated political operation, made two trips to Birmingham on Woodfin’s behalf.
(It should be noted that the Sanders folks also scored victories on Tuesday night in preliminary contests for mayor of Albuquerque and for an open seat in the California Assembly.)
If the Democratic Party weren’t so terminally bumfuzzled, and if many of its activists could get over the wounds their delicate fee-fees suffered during the 2016 presidential primaries, the party could see a great advantage in coordinating efforts between the formal party apparatus and what could be described as the progressive shock troops that carried Woodfin to victory in Birmingham.
Right now, for example, if you can believe it, the Democratic National Committee seems to be slightly baffled about what to do as regards the race for the open U.S. Senate seat in Alabama. The Democratic candidate is Douglas Jones, the former U.S. Attorney who sent to prison the last of the terrorists who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963. The Republican candidate is a lawless theocratic nutball named Roy Moore, who lost his job as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court twice because of flagrant judicial misconduct.
It would seem to the casual observer that people generally should realize it to be their patriotic duty to keep Moore out of the Senate for the good of the country. However, as reported by The Daily Beast, the Democratic Party apparatus can’t even decide if it should go all in for Jones.
A spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said only that the group is closely monitoring the race and providing support if necessary to the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones. The spokesman also said that Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the chairman of the DSCC, had made a personal contribution to the Jones campaign. Democratic super PACs, meanwhile, are evaluating their options when it comes to the Alabama general election, which isn’t until December. Before making any investments in the race, they first want to assess how vulnerable Moore is in the state. The former chief justice has emerged from a primary during which virtually every establishment Republican institution was against him. Democratic operatives said on Wednesday that they’re looking to see if some GOP voters keep their distance from Moore before deciding to come to Jones’ aid.
Good god, how is this even a question? Roy Moore is a howling extremist, if that word has any meaning at all anymore. Why would the Democratic Party worry about whether or not Republicans in Alabama are going to “keep their distance” from their party’s lunatic candidate? (Pro Tip: They almost never do.) Get in there with both feet immediately and don’t get out until the job’s done.
Or, if you insist on overthinking yourselves into paralysis, turn Nina Turner and the people allied with her loose and then come in at the end—cooperatively, mind you—and drown the race with money and ads. And if the Our Revolution people hold back because they don’t want somebody on the Internet to get mad at them for “selling out,” they should tell that person to shut up and dance. This is too important. There are now two mayors who’ve proven that progressive candidates can win just about anywhere. Learn that lesson or you deserve to lose forever.
Doonesbury — Hits keep coming.
Otto Warmbier, sent home by North Korea after lapsing into a coma, dies.
Police identify London mosque attacker.
Russia not happy that U.S. downed Syrian jet.
Largest ever breach of U.S. voter data reported.
Supreme Court to rule on Wisconsin gerrymandering.
Trump appointed a commission to look into allegations of voter fraud. He named one of the most notorious opponents of voting rights to co-chair the commission:
On paper, Kris Kobach is the kind of guy you’d like to marry your daughter. An Eagle Scout who graduated summa cum laude and first in his department at Harvard, went on to get M.A. and Ph.D. in Politics from Oxford and a law degree from Yale, Kobuch also did missionary work in Uganda, clerked for a federal judge, and obtained a White House Fellowship to work for the Attorney General of the United States.
On the other hand, the Minority Leader of the Kansas Senate Anthony Hensley once stated that Kobach is “the most racist politician in America today,” and with plenty of justification. Kobuch is the brains behind both Arizona SB 1070 and Alabama HB56, the two most notorious anti-immigrant bills to be produced in this country in recent decades. He’s the country’s most famous proponent of bogus voter fraud theories and has boasted of successful efforts to suppress the minority vote both during his time as chairman of the Kansas Republican Party and as Kansas’s Secretary of State.
He’s also a classic John Bircher-style nutcase who has referred to both the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters as “communists.”
Well, to look on the bright side, Trump once considered appointing him as Attorney General (but settled on Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, preferring to go with an old-style racist rather than a Gen X’er). So I suppose we can count our blessings that this nutjob isn’t running the Department of Justice.
There is no evidence of “massive voter fraud” in America. The Republicans like to say there is by confusing the public into believing that voter registration, which by its very nature is inherently inaccurate — people die, people move, people change their names when they get married — is the same thing as people actually going into a polling place and pretending to be someone they are not.
This task force is just another thinly-veiled attempt by Trump and the Republicans to suppress voting by minorities who overwhelmingly register as Democrats. This is part of the GOP philosophy that if you can’t win an election based on the merits of your candidates and platform, you have to cheat.
From the New York Times:
President Trump intends to move forward with a major investigation of voter fraud that he says cost him the popular vote, White House officials said Wednesday, despite bipartisan condemnation of his allegations and the conclusion of Mr. Trump’s own lawyers that the election was “not tainted.”
In his first days in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump has renewed his complaint that millions of people voted illegally, depriving him of a popular-vote majority. In two Twitter posts early Wednesday morning, the president vowed to open an inquiry to reveal people who are registered to vote in multiple states or who remain on voting rolls long after they have died.
“We have to understand where the problem exists, how deep it goes, and then suggest some remedies to it,” said Sean Spicer, the president’s press secretary. He said the White House would reveal more details this week.
There’s a difference between fraudulent voter registration and actual voter fraud. The registered election rolls can have lots of mistakes such as dead people still listed, people who moved away, or people who jokingly registered their cat. It requires a lot of work to keep those rolls up-to-date. (Would that they were as good as the development offices at certain schools, colleges, and universities about tracking down alumni who move without telling them…) But when it comes to actually voting, as in showing up at the polls to cast a ballot, that’s what matters. I have voted in every major election since 1972 and I have yet to vote where I wasn’t asked to confirm my name, my address and my signature. So Trump is exploiting the ignorance of the people who think registration is the same as voting.
Not only that, but if “millions of illegals” voted, it would have required a massive secret effort on the part of the fraudsters to pull it off involving thousands of poll workers in every state and in every precinct. They would have to have been either sworn to secrecy under dire threats or bought off on such a massive scale as to boggle the mind.
Finally, you’d think that if there was this vast conspiracy to get millions of “illegals” to vote, they’d at least have done it in states where it would have changed the Electoral College vote. So the conspirators were crafty enough to pull this off without anyone noticing it on Election Day, but too stupid to figure out where to do it? Erm…
In short, claims of voter fraud on a massive scale are bullshit.
Clear and Present Danger — Ari Berman in The Nation on how voter suppression is just the start.
Donald Trump’s tweets yesterday about “the millions of people who voted illegally in 2016” and “serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California” cannot be dismissed as just another Twitter meltdown from the president-elect. (It goes without saying that Trump’s claims are categorically false.)
His conspiracy theories about rigged elections during the presidential race were meant to delegitimize the possibility of Hillary Clinton’s election. But now that he’s won the election we have to take his words far more seriously. He will appoint the next attorney general, at least one Supreme Court justice and thousands of positions in the federal government. His lies about the prevalence of voter fraud are a prelude to the massive voter suppression Trump and his allies in the GOP are about to unleash.
Unlike his Democratic and Republican predecessors, Trump has little respect for the institutions that preserve American democracy, whether it’s freedom of the press or the right to vote. As I wrote in The Nation recently:
Trump undermined the basic tenets of democracy in ways unseen by any previous presidential nominee. He said he might refuse to accept the outcome of the election if things didn’t go his way; his supporters explicitly called for “racial profiling” at the polls; and his campaign openly boasted that “we have three major voter-suppression operations under way” to reduce turnout among African Americans, young women, and liberals.
We can already glimpse how a Trump administration will undermine voting rights, based on the people he nominated to top positions, those he has advising him, and his own statements.
His pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, wrongly prosecuted black civil-rights activists for voter fraud in Alabama in the 1980s, called the Voting Rights Act “a piece of intrusive legislation,” and praised the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, saying that “if you go to Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, people aren’t being denied the vote because of the color of their skin.”
Trump’s Justice Department could limit voting rights in a number of critical ways, as I wrote in The New York Times last week:
It could choose not to vigorously enforce the Voting Rights Act, instead pressing states to take more aggressive action to combat alleged voter fraud. This could include purging voter rolls and starting investigations into voter-registration organizations.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a front-runner to head Trump’s Department of Homeland Security, has called for precisely this. During a meeting with Trump last week, Kobach brought a “strategic plan” for DHS that advocated purging voter rolls and drafting amendments to the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, presumably to require proof of citizenship, like a passport or birth certificate, to register to vote, which prevented tens of thousands of eligible voters from being able to register in Kansas. It’s chilling that a top Trump adviser like Kobach views voting rights as a threat to homeland security.
Trump’s chief adviser, Steve Bannon, has even more radical views. According toThe New York Times, he “once suggested to a colleague that perhaps only property owners should be allowed to vote.” A co-writer of his on a Reagan documentary told the paper:
“I said, ‘That would exclude a lot of African-Americans,’” Ms. Jones recalled. “He said, ‘Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.’ I said, ‘But what about Wendy?’” referring to Mr. Bannon’s executive assistant. “He said, ‘She’s different. She’s family.’”
Trump himself said, after courts struck down voter-ID laws in states like North Carolina, that “the voter-ID situation has turned out to be a very unfair development. We may have people vote 10 times.” Ironically, one of the only documented instances of voter fraud in 2016 was committed by a Trump supporter who voted twice in Iowa—and was caught in a state without a voter-ID law.
If you want a better idea of the lengths a Trump administration might go to suppress voting rights, take a look at what Republicans are doing in North Carolina right now. A month after the Supreme Court ruled that states with a long history of discrimination no longer had to approve their voting changes with the federal government, North Carolina Republicans passed a “monster” voter-suppression law that required strict photo ID, cut early voting, and eliminated same-day registration and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds.
Like in so many-GOP controlled states, Republicans in North Carolina justified the voting restrictions by spreading false claims about voter fraud. (Such fraud was in fact exceedingly rare: There were only two cases of voter impersonation in North Carolina from 2002 to 2012 out of 35 million votes cast.)
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found that North Carolina’s law targeted African Americans “with almost surgical precision.” But even after the court restored a week of early voting, GOP-controlled county election boards limited early voting hours and polling locations. The executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party called on Republicans to make “party line changes to early voting” that included opposing polling sites on college campuses and prohibiting early voting on Sundays, when black churches held “Souls to the Polls” voter-mobilization drives. The North Carolina GOP bragged before Election Day that “African American Early Voting is down 8.5% from this time in 2012. Caucasian voters early voting is up 22.5% from this time in 2012.”
Things got even crazier after the election. After Republican Pat McCrory lost the governor’s race to Democrat Roy Cooper by 9,000 votes, his campaign began filing bogus complaints about voter fraud in an attempt to overturn the election result or have the North Carolina legislature reinstall him as governor. Those challenged by the McCrory campaign include a 101-year-old World War II veteran in Greensboro wrongly accused of double voting.
That wasn’t all. After a black Democrat, Mike Morgan, won a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court, giving Democrats a 4-3 majority, Republicans have proposed expanding the size of the court by two justices, who could be appointed by McCrory in his last weeks in office, allowing Republicans to retain control. This would be an outrageous rebuke to the will of the voters and the rule of law, but you can’t put anything past the North Carolina GOP these days.
North Carolina is a case study for how Republicans have institutionalized voter suppression at every level of government and made it the new normal within the GOP. The same thing could soon happen in Washington when Trump takes power.
Hello, Taiwan — David A. Graham in The Atlantic on the background of our relationship with Taiwan.
It’s hardly remembered now, having been overshadowed a few months later on September 11, but the George W. Bush administration’s first foreign-policy crisis came in the South China Sea. On April 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy surveillance plane collided with a Chinese jet near Hainan Island. The pilot of the Chinese jet was killed, and the American plane was forced to land and its crew was held hostage for 11 days, until a diplomatic agreement was worked out. Sino-American relations remained tense for some time.Unlike Bush, Donald Trump didn’t need to wait to be inaugurated to set off a crisis in the relationship. He managed that on Friday, with a phone call to the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen. It’s a sharp breach with protocol, but it’s also just the sort that underscores how weird and incomprehensible some important protocols are.
Trump’s call was first reported by the Financial Times, but the Trump campaign soon confirmed it and issued a readout of the conversation:
President-elect Trump spoke with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, who offered her congratulations. During the discussion, they noted the close economic, political, and security ties exists between Taiwan and the United States. President-elect Trump also congratulated President Tsai on becoming President of Taiwan earlier this year.
Why would Trump not speak with Tsai? Here’s where the strangeness starts. The U.S. maintains a strong “unofficial” relationship with Taiwan, including providing it with “defensive” weapons, while also refusing to recognize its independence and pressuring Taiwanese leaders not to upset a fragile but functional status quo. It’s the sort of fiction that is obvious to all involved, but on which diplomacy is built: All parties agree to believe in the fiction for the sake of getting along.
The roots of this particular fiction date to 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China was routed by Mao Zedong and the Communists, and Chiang fled to Taiwan. The U.S., in Cold War mode, continued to recognize the ROC in Taiwan as China’s rightful government, and so did the United Nations. But in 1971, the UN changed course, recognizing the People’s Republic of China—or as it was often called then, Red China—as the legitimate government. In 1979, the United States followed suit. Crucially, the communiqué proclaiming that recognition noted, “The Government of the United States of America acknowledges the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.”Officially, this has also been the policy of Taiwan for almost a quarter century. Under the 1992 Consensus, another artful diplomatic fiction, both Taipei and Beijing agreed that there was only one China and agreed to disagree on which was legitimate, as well as maintaining two separate systems. During the Bush years, the U.S. said it would defend Taiwan in an attack, but Bush also pushed back on Taiwanese moves toward independence.
Despite recognizing the PRC, the U.S. has kept close ties with Taiwan since 1979. The State Department notes that “Taiwan is the United States’ ninth largest trading partner, and the United States is Taiwan’s second largest trading partner.” More importantly, the U.S. has sold some $46 billion in arms to Taiwan since 1990, which are intended as defensive. Last December, the Obama administration sold $1.8 billion in anti-tank missiles, warships, and other materiel to Taipei. Of course, the “defensive” purpose to all of this is against China, the most plausible aggressor against Taiwan. Naturally, the arms sales have consistently annoyed the Chinese. (Recently, China has been on a campaign of land-grabbing and saber-rattling across the South China Sea, trying to assert greater control and influence.)
Though the triangle between the U.S., China, and Taiwan sometimes flares up, the general goal of all three has been to maintain the fragile status quo. By speaking to President Tsai, and praising U.S. relations with Taiwan, Trump threatens to upset that delicate balance. Reaction to the call was immediate and, for the most part, aghast.
“The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions,” Evan Medeiros, former Asia director at the White House National Security Council, told the FT. “Regardless if it was deliberate or accidental, this phone call will fundamentally change China’s perceptions of Trump’s strategic intentions for the negative. With this kind of move, Trump is setting a foundation of enduring mistrust and strategic competition for U.S.-China relations.”Ari Fleischer, Bush’s first White House press secretary, noted that he wasn’t even allowed to refer to a Taiwanese government. My colleague James Fallows, not generally a man given to overreaction or caps-lock, was blunter: “WHAT THE HELL????” he tweeted.
As is typically the case with Trump, it’s hard to tell whether this blithe overturning of protocol is intentional or simply a result of not knowing, or caring, better.
There are various reasons Trump might be intentionally poking China. Trump spoke harshly about China throughout his presidential campaign, accusing Beijing of currency manipulation, land-grabbing, and taking advantage of the United States. He also showed a willingness, if not an eagerness, to slaughter nearly every sacred cow of American foreign policy.
Some Trump confidants have suggested existing policy on Taiwan should become one of them. John Bolton, who served as Bush’s ambassador to the UN, has been advising Trump, and Bolton has been a very public advocate of the U.S. cozying up to Taiwan in order to show strength against China.
Even if the provocation is intentional, that doesn’t mean Trump has acted wisely. “I would guess that President-elect Trump does not really comprehend how sensitive Beijing is about this issue,” Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Hill.Some observers suggested that the call fits with the pattern of Trump intertwining his business and political interests, pointing out that he’s currently seeking to open luxury hotels in Taiwan.
But it’s also possible that Trump just stumbled into the matter, Being There-style. Trump tweeted Friday evening that Tsai had called him, presenting himself as just the guy who picked up the handset. It’s unclear how studied the decision to take it was, or whether it was studied at all. Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, assailed Trump for not taking it seriously. “Foreign policy consistency is a means, not an end. It’s not sacred. Thus, it’s Trump’s right to shift policy, alliances, strategy,” Murphy said in a pair of tweets. “What has happened in the last 48 hours is not a shift. These are major pivots in foreign policy w/out any plan. That’s how wars start.”
It’s also hard to know how big a deal Trump’s call is. China did not immediately comment. A White House official told The New York Times that the administration was only informed of the call after the fact, and said the fallout could be significant. There were other questions. Wouldn’t Beijing see that what Trump did was a blunder, but not a major shift in policy? Isn’t the Chinese government sophisticated enough not to take Trump at face value?
Trump’s previous conversations might provide hints on whether foreign governments will take Trump seriously. As Uri Friedman wrote today, Trump’s conversation with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has already had repercussions. The Pakistani government put out a readout that read suspiciously like a near-verbatim transcript of Trump’s words, capturing the tone the president-elect uses. His promise to “play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems” might sound to an American who just observed the election as so much Trumpian space-filling, but it made headlines in Pakistan, where some interpreted it as a nod to Pakistan’s conflict with India in Kashmir. Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, told the Times it appeared Pakistani officials had taken Trump’s words too seriously.China is perhaps a more sophisticated foreign-policy player than Pakistan; it’s certainly a more important one. But as Fallows points out, a China that sees Trump as buffoon probably isn’t good for American interests either.
For the time being, the most important thing to watch is probably for Beijing’s announcement. That will be the first clue as to whether Trump’s phone call will set in motion a huge realignment of American policy and relationships with China and Taiwan—or if it will be another Hainan Island incident, barely remembered 15 years on.
NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—President-elect Donald J. Trump drew a line in the sand on Friday as he warned that U.S. companies planning to ship jobs overseas will be slapped with enormous bribes.
“If you think you’re going to get away with sending jobs out of the U.S., think again,” Trump said. “You are about to be bribed, big league.”
He raised the cautionary example of Carrier Corporation, which this week decided to keep a few hundred jobs in the U.S. in exchange for a seven-million-dollar government incentive. “I warned those boys at Carrier: we can do this the easy way, or the hard way, where you get seven million dollars,” he said. “They backed down so fast—it was terrific.”
The President-elect said that the Carrier story should strike fear into the hearts of all American businesses that might be contemplating shipping jobs overseas. “Do you really want to wind up like Carrier, with seven million dollars in your pockets?” he asked. “I don’t think so.”
In a parting shot, Trump warned companies that he was prepared to back up his tough rhetoric with even tougher action. “I will bribe you so hard, your grandchildren will get paid,” he threatened.
Doonesbury — Colorful language.
I’ve got nothing more to say about the campaign. Now it’s your turn.
There are only two requirements:
I honestly don’t care who you vote for. I mean it. All that really matters is that you vote. If you don’t, then I will expect you to keep your mouth shut for the next four years if things don’t go the way you wanted. You forfeited that right when you stayed home. So go.
And if you already did, either by absentee or early voting, thank you. Sit back, relax and wait with the rest of us.
John Roberts and the Voting Rights Act — Stephanie Mencimer in Mother Jones and the Chief Justice’s antipathy for the law.
In 2013, when Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. issued the most far-reaching Supreme Court decision on voting rights in the 21st century, he finally succeeded in gutting a civil rights law he has been fighting his entire career. For three decades, Roberts has argued that the United States has become colorblind to the point where aggressive federal intervention on behalf of voters of color is no longer necessary—and this case, Shelby County v. Holder, was the pinnacle of that crusade.
Roberts honed his views on race and voting as a clerk for Justice William Rehnquist, a man who as a court clerk himself had written a memo endorsing Plessy v. Ferguson, the “separate but equal” doctrine upholding segregated schools. On the high court, Rehnquist helped redefine opposition to civil rights laws as a commitment to color blindness, and he used this theory to undermine the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Roberts took a similar outlook in the Reagan Justice Department, where he worked after finishing his Rehnquist clerkship. Gerry Hebert, now executive director of the Campaign Legal Center, was also at the DOJ. He recalls that Roberts “had it in for the Voting Rights Act,” which Roberts thought should cover only intentional discrimination, not discriminatory results or effects of state voting regulations. But proving intentional discrimination is virtually impossible—and besides, Hebert says, judges “don’t want to find that somebody was a racist.” They’d rather focus on the discriminatory impact of a law. “I don’t think John Roberts ever got that.”
Echoing Rehnquist, Roberts has long insisted the United States has achieved a postracial, colorblind society, a point he emphasized in his 2013 majority opinion in Shelby County v. Holder. That 5-4 decision eviscerated a critical component of the Voting Rights Act: the requirement that jurisdictions with a long history of voting discrimination submit any changes in voting procedures to the DOJ for “preclearance,” to ensure those changes didn’t have a discriminatory impact. Preclearance blocked more than 700 discriminatory voting changes between 1982 and 2006 alone. But in the Shelby opinion, Roberts asserted that “history did not end in 1965” and such protections were no longer warranted. Federal oversight of the jurisdictions in question, mostly states in the Deep South, along with Texas, Alaska, and Arizona, was outdated and unjustified, he said.“The speed with which formerly covered states passed laws making it harder for people of color to register and vote shows that Roberts was engaged in little more than wishful thinking.”
In a scathing dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg laid out evidence that those states have not grown colorblind—by any stretch. She recounted how federal investigators had secretly recorded Alabama officials referring to African Americans as “Aborigines” and openly plotting to block a ballot initiative they thought would increase African American turnout, as “every black, every illiterate,” would be “bused [to the polls] on HUD financed buses.”
“These conversations occurred not in the 1870’s, or even in the 1960’s, they took place in 2010,” she wrote, indicating why preclearance “remains vital to protect minority voting rights and prevent backsliding.”
Ginsburg proved prescient. After the 5-4 Shelby decision, states passed a torrent of new voting restrictions that overwhelmingly affected minorities. On the day the decision was handed down, Texas announced that the only two forms of state voter identification it would accept were a driver’s license or a gun license—a measure the DOJ had previously blocked. Georgia moved some municipal elections in predominantly minority areas from November to May, depressing turnout by nearly 20 percent in one instance. Alabama implemented a strict voter ID law—and then shut down driver’s license offices in every county where more than 75 percent of voters were African American. Perhaps the most blatant was North Carolina’s omnibus voting law. Passed shortly after the Shelby decision, the law imposed strict ID requirements, limited the registration window, and dramatically cut early voting during times traditionally used by African Americans.
“The speed with which formerly covered states passed laws making it harder for people of color to register and vote shows that Roberts was engaged in little more than wishful thinking,” says Richard Hasen, a University of California-Irvine law professor who specializes in election law.
The undoing of the Voting Rights Act may be one of Roberts’ most lasting legacies. But “there’s a lot of resistance among some lower-court judges to Roberts’ views of the state of race relations and voting…and it is reflected in some of their decisions,” Hasen says. In July the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked enforcement of North Carolina’s voting law, saying its provisions “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” In the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, Roberts no longer had enough votes on the Supreme Court to prevent that ruling from taking effect before the election.
Lower-court decisions rejecting the Roberts orthodoxy haven’t fallen along ideological lines, either. The very conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Texas’ harsh voter ID law. A George W. Bush appointee wrote the majority opinion. “The lower courts are coalescing around a broad view of the Voting Rights Act’s prohibitions on discriminatory results,” says David Gans, a civil rights expert at the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center.
Will any of these developments prompt Roberts to rethink his Shelby opinion? Probably not. In the August order the Supreme Court issued that blocked North Carolina’s draconian voting law, Roberts wrote that he personally would have allowed most of the law to take effect. And despite the lower-court rulings, in November 14 states will have new voting restrictions that didn’t exist in 2012. “He probably still believes he is right, because he likely sees what is going on as simple partisan politics,” says Hasen. “But for many of us, we see a world in which it is once again getting harder, not easier, for people—especially people of color—to cast a ballot which will count.”
Outside the Norm — Jane Mayer in The New Yorker on FBI Director Comey’s decision to drop a dime to Congress.
On Friday, James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, acting independently of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, sent a letter to Congress saying that the F.B.I. had discovered e-mails that were potentially relevant to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private server. Coming less than two weeks before the Presidential election, Comey’s decision to make public new evidence that may raise additional legal questions about Clinton was contrary to the views of the Attorney General, according to a well-informed Administration official. Lynch expressed her preference that Comey follow the department’s longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election, but he said that he felt compelled to do otherwise.
Comey’s decision is a striking break with the policies of the Department of Justice, according to current and former federal legal officials. Comey, who is a Republican appointee of President Obama, has a reputation for integrity and independence, but his latest action is stirring an extraordinary level of concern among legal authorities, who see it as potentially affecting the outcome of the Presidential and congressional elections.
“You don’t do this,” one former senior Justice Department official exclaimed. “It’s aberrational. It violates decades of practice.” The reason, according to the former official, who asked not to be identified because of ongoing cases involving the department, “is because it impugns the integrity and reputation of the candidate, even though there’s no finding by a court, or in this instance even an indictment.”
Traditionally, the Justice Department has advised prosecutors and law enforcement to avoid any appearance of meddling in the outcome of elections, even if it means holding off on pressing cases. One former senior official recalled that Janet Reno, the Attorney General under Bill Clinton, “completely shut down” the prosecution of a politically sensitive criminal target prior to an election. “She was adamant—anything that could influence the election had to go dark,” the former official said.
Four years ago, then Attorney General Eric Holder formalized this practice in a memo to all Justice Department employees. The memo warned that, when handling political cases, officials “must be particularly sensitive to safeguarding the Department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and nonpartisanship.” To guard against unfair conduct, Holder wrote, employees facing questions about “the timing of charges or overt investigative steps near the time of a primary or general election” should consult with the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division.
The F.B.I. director is an employee of the Justice Department, and is covered by its policies. But when asked whether Comey had followed these guidelines and consulted with the Public Integrity Section, or with any other department officials, Kevin Lewis, a deputy director of public affairs for the Justice Department, said, “We have no comment on the matter.”
According to the Administration official, Lynch asked Comey to follow Justice Department policies, but he said that he was obliged to break with them because he had promised to inform members of Congress if there were further developments in the case. He also felt that the impending election created a compelling need to inform the public, despite the tradition of acting with added discretion around elections. The Administration official said that Lynch and Justice Department officials are studying the situation, which he called unprecedented.
Matthew Miller, a Democrat who served as the public-affairs director at the Justice Department under Holder, recalled that, in one case, the department waited until after an election to send out subpoenas. “They didn’t want to influence the election—even though the subpoenas weren’t public,” he said. “People may think that the public needs to have this information before voting, but the thing is the public doesn’t really get the information. What it gets is an impression that may be false, because they have no way to evaluate it. The public always assumes when it hears that the F.B.I. is investigating that there must be something amiss. But there may be nothing here at all. That’s why you don’t do this.”
“Comey is an outstanding law-enforcement officer,” Miller said, “but he mistakenly thinks that the rules don’t apply to him. But there are a host of reasons for these rules.”
As Miller sees it, Comey’s “original sin” was the press conference he held in July regarding the Clinton e-mail investigation. At that press conference, Comey stated that the F.B.I. had found no reason to bring criminal charges against Clinton for using a private e-mail server to handle much of her State Department business, but that Clinton and her staff had been “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, extremely classified information.” Comey made clear that he had decided to make this comment without any sign-off from the Justice Department. Ordinarily, when no charges are brought, such matters are not exposed to public view, let alone addressed at press conferences.
Comey’s supporters argue that he had to act independently, and publicly, because Lynch had compromised herself by having an impromptu visit with Bill Clinton late in the investigation. In the ensuing uproar, Lynch promised to accept Comey’s recommendation on whether to bring charges against Clinton. But, as Miller notes, Comey’s press conference triggered a series of other events, including congressional hearings where Comey was forced to defend his decision not to recommend prosecution. Comey’s letter to Congress on Friday updated his earlier statements that the Clinton e-mail investigation had ended.
In a letter to F.B.I. employees sent soon after the letter to Congress, Comey tried to explain his unusual decisions. In the letter, which was obtained by the Washington Post, he acknowledged, “Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record. At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression. In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season,” he noted, “there is significant risk of being misunderstood.”
“I don’t really blame Comey,” another former Justice Department official said. “But it’s troubling.” This official thought that Comey “didn’t want to look tainted. This new information comes to him, and he’s afraid if he doesn’t make it public until after the election he’ll be impeached. People will say he lied to Congress. But in the end he did the self-protective thing. Was it the right thing? Put it this way: it isn’t what previous Administrations have done.”
What Others Said — James Fallows on how previous candidates dealt with an uphill climb shortly before the election.
Donald Trump was of course “joking” when he said [Thursday] in Toledo, Ohio, that “we should just cancel the election and just give it to Trump, right? What are we even having it for?”
In [this] clip, you can see what we’ve come to recognize as a classic Trump-rally two-track message. It’s a mixture of claims that would be outrageous if taken seriously, with a half-joking affect that lets Trump suggest that he’s not being serious at all. As a result, he can have it both ways. People who want to, can take this as something Trump is really supporting. (This is a variation of, “A lot of people are saying….”) But if anyone gets huffy and calls Trump on it, he can say, “What kind of dummy are you? Of course that was a joke!”
So, it’s a joke. But it’s a joke that connects with other non-joke Trump statements deeply at odds with the very process of democratic transfer of power. For instance, “I alone” can save us (a refrain from the convention onward). Or, “It’s rigged, folks, rigged” (of recent months). Or “I’ll keep you in suspense” (at the final debate, about accepting the vote outcome.)
Why do all of these deserve notice? Because other nominees just do not say things like this. Really, this is new—and different, and dangerous, and worth recording as it happens to remember when this election has passed.
Even when under pressure, even when telling themselves that the deck is unfairly stacked, other American public figures have been careful to pay public homage to the electoral process and the need to accept its outcome. Please consider these two examples:
John McCain, 2008. Trump’s remarks were in Toledo yesterday, October 27. Eight years ago on that same date, on October 27, 2008, McCain was also in western Ohio, in Dayton—swing states are swing states. Like Trump right now, McCain was far enough behind in enough polls in enough states to know that he was likely to lose. But here is the way he talked about the election and its outcome on his October 27: