Monday, July 9, 2018

The last independence day and the vanishing intependents

This last independence day seems to mark the demise of true independents. Or, I should probably say, we just experienced the last independent’s day. Liberal columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. and conservative columnist Max Boot explains how the GOP went off the rails taking conservatism with it. Then author Susan Faludi offers a remedy that could save Roe v. Wade from a certain attack and might thereby save the soul of America.

Leonard Pitts Jr. bemoans the collapse of conservatism in the Miami Herald (and AZ Daily Star) Now I know how the Gipper felt.

… what used to be conservatism no longer is. When’s the last time you heard the right talk about the kinds of things — fatherhood, clear-eyed foreign policy — that once helped define it?

No, these days, being “conservative” means being angry and fearful at the loss of white prerogative. It means to embrace — or at the very least, tolerate — a new and brazen strain of white supremacy. It means to be dismissive of the norms of democratic governance. It means to willingly accept nonstop lies, intellectual vacuity and naked incompetence and pretend they are signs of stable genius. It means to be wholly in thrall to the Cult of Trump.

Small wonder GOP heavyweights like columnists George F. Will and Max Boot and campaign strategist Steve Schmidt have disavowed their party out of devotion to what conservatism used to be.

That said, one wonders if it will not turn out that these worthies are simply holding out on their own lonely island of principle, if conservatism’s headlong march toward fascism will not make them the ones who seem naive 20 years down the line. But that’s their problem.

This column is about my problem, which I guess I’ve solved, though not without some regret for the days when I felt free to walk between political extremes and not declare myself. But in 2018, that’s an unaffordable luxury. In 2018, one of those extremes represents a danger as clear and present as any foreign adversary.

So yes, I am a liberal. Because I have, literally, no alternative.

The above referenced conservative columnist Max Boot has a lot more to say as he asks so-called social conservatives to Consider the cost of your dream court, conservatives.

Conservatives for whom the selection of federal judges is the top issue – and there are many of them – are feeling vindicated by their support for President Trump. He has already appointed one reliable conservative to the Supreme Court (Neil M. Gorsuch). And now, in all likelihood, he’s about to nominate another.

I understand the fervor of social conservatives, in particular, who are desperate to overturn decisions that they view as an affront to their values. The question they have to ask themselves is what price are they willing to pay for the judicial branch? Is it worth turning over the far-more-powerful executive to a narcissistic demagogue who does violence to nearly every value that conservatives claim to revere? To get judges they like, conservatives are backing:

  • A president who benefited from Russian interference in the 2016 election and appears determined to pay back Vladimir Putin by inviting him back to the G–7, possibly recognizing Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, considering the pull-out of U.S. troops from Germany and continually demeaning America’s allies.

  • A president who is an appeaser of dictators, saying that Kim Jong Un has a “great personality” and that Putin is “fine,” while attacking ailing war heroes such as former president George H.W. Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

  • A president who echoes autocrats by calling the free press the “enemy of the people,” and attempts to retaliate against objective publications such as The Washington Post.

  • A president who uses dehumanizing language (“infest,” “animals,” “breed,” “snakes”) to refer to Latino immigrants – and not just gang members.

  • A president who claims that he is above the law by asserting “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself” and the “absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.”

  • A president who demeans women (e.g., tweeting that “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” Brzezinski was “bleeding badly from a face-lift”), brags about grabbing them by their private parts, and has been accused by at least 16 women of sexual misconduct.

That’s just a sample of Boot’s list of dozens of Trump’s offenses against conservatism. He concludes:

Is all this worth a few judges? Not in my book. Trump is doing long-term damage not just to the country in general but to the rule of law in particular – the same rule of law that judges are supposed to uphold. Tolerating his reign of error would not be worth it even if he filled every seat on the Supreme Court with Antonin Scalia clones.

How to save Roe v. Wade - and the soul of our nation

Today Trump is expected to nominate a Supreme Court justice who is predicted to cast the deciding vote on women’s health - a repeal of Roe v. Wade. But there is a way to stop it if the two principled “moderate” female senators take a firm stand and bolt the GOP that has become the party of Trump. AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona explores that option in The Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins gambit – leave the GOP citing a NY Times op-ed by Susan Faludi, Senators Collins and Murkowski, It’s Time to Leave the G.O.P..

Below are excerpts from Faludi’s Times essay.

… To save Roe, Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski might need to wield a bigger stick. Fortunately, there’s one at hand, and wielding it at this pivotal moment might do good beyond the single issue. They could bolt their party and shift the balance of power in the Senate. … Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski have an opportunity for a principled act of national preservation.

By leaving the G.O.P. — either to join the other party or, more plausibly, to become independents and caucus with the Democrats — Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski wouldn’t simply be registering their opposition to a single Supreme Court justice. They’d be taking a powerful stand against their party’s escalating betrayals of the country. The Trump-era Republicans have made screamingly clear what should have been obvious for a long time: The G.O.P. is no longer a comfortable home for anyone who cares about the rights of women — or of minorities, immigrants, L.G.B.T. people, and the poor — or about the Constitution. Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski could drop the pretense that dissenting within the party has made one bit of “moderating” difference.

Defection would come at a cost. Both senators would lose precious seniority and powerful committee appointments. But accommodations can be made, and neither necessarily needs the Republican Party to win re-election. Ms. Murkowski, famously, ran and was elected in 2010 despite her party, which chose as its nominee a hard-line anti-abortion Tea Party zealot. “I am very cognizant of how I was returned to the Senate,” she said. “It was not my party that returned me. It was voters across the spectrum that returned me.”

[In spite of Collin’s votes on other issues] It’s a mistake to doubt the sincerity of Ms. Collins’s and Ms. Murkowski’s dedication to questions of women’s health. Ms. Collins was one of only three Republican senators to vote against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Last year, she and Ms. Murkowski broke ranks to cast the deciding votes against defunding Planned Parenthood. And this year, the two senators again voted with the majority of Senate Democrats to oppose a ban of abortion after 20 weeks. Both have been solid defenders of family planning and birth control. Both have earned high ratings with pro-choice groups — Ms. Collins has been rated higher than 90 percent by groups like NARAL in multiple years. To cave on this particular issue would be a tragic abrogation of personal, as well as political, conviction. Which is why the Supreme Court battle may at last compel both women to abandon the party they should have abandoned already.

There is precedent for such a move in Collins’ own state.

Maine Senator (and Congresswoman) Margaret Chase Smith, Ms. Collins’ political foremother and idol, often broke ranks with her party — to defend, for instance, F.D.R.’s New Deal legislation from conservative attacks. On June 1, 1950, she became one of the first members of Congress to denounce the anti-Communist witch hunt of fellow Republican Senator Joe McCarthy. She began her Declaration of Conscience speech: “I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition. It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear.” She did not want “to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.”

After six moderate Republican senators signed the declaration, Mr. McCarthy labeled them, in Trumpian fashion, “Snow White and the Six Dwarves.” He had Ms. Smith removed from her post on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (replacing her with Richard Nixon) and lavished support on her challenger in the next election (she won anyway).

Ms. Smith could at least appeal to Republican legislators willing to put reason, compassion, and country ahead of party. Trumpist Republicans have no room for such niceties — they care only about winning. Which is why only losing the Senate can get their attention, and slow the party’s extremism.

We are at another watershed moment that could “result in national suicide and the end to everything we Americans hold dear.” As the damage and outrages pile up, it’s important to remember that Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski are enabling them with their affiliation, even when they dissent. They could halt the whole charade, and alter the course of history, with a press release.

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