Sorry About the Awful Politicians, Folks

Gov. Newsom’s blowout victory in California is what we should have expected, given the state’s voting history. Larry Elder actually did concede, and he also dropped big hints he wasn’t done with politics. Yes, you are, Larry. I suspect even Republicans agree with me on that.

Philip Bump writes at WaPo that the only hopeful sign for Republicans in yesterday’s election is that other states are not California. On the other hand, Jonathan Martin writes at the NY Times that California isn’t all that different, either.

Mr. Newsom found success not because of what makes California different but because of how it’s like everywhere else: He dominated in California’s heavily populated Democratic cities, the key to victory in a state where his party outnumbers Republicans by five million voters. …

… The recall does offer at least one lesson to Democrats in Washington ahead of next year’s midterm elections: The party’s pre-existing blue- and purple-state strategy of portraying Republicans as Trump-loving extremists can still prove effective with the former president out of office, at least when the strategy is executed with unrelenting discipline, an avalanche of money and an opponent who plays to type.

Even in red states, like Missouri, a big turnout in cities can cancel out the right-wing rural votes, as happened when the state passed a referendum to expand Medicaid. I understand the rural areas only hold about a third of Missouri’s population. The key for a Democrat to win here, I wrote then, was not to do what Claire McCaskill did and run as a centrist to get conservative votes. I believe the key for Democratic candidates is to just forget the rural vote and march into the more populated urban(ish) areas — St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia — and let their anti-Trumpism flag fly.

Of course, Donald Trump still won the state by 15 points in 2020, so there are no guarantees.

This brings me to the Senate Primary from Hell. Right now the Republican front-runner is Attorney General Eric Schmitt. Former governor Eric Greitens is not far behind. Mark McCloskey is going nowhere, I understand. A U.S. Representative from the state’s 4th district, Vicky Hartzler, appears to be third. She represents mostly rural counties in the western side of the state.

The declared Democratic candidates do not include anyone I’d ever heard of before. One fellow named Lucas Kunce has been making at least a small splash, and I like what I’ve seen of him so far. And the filing deadline isn’t until March 2022.

Regarding Eric Schmitt, do see Kathy Gilsinan at The Atlantic, Missouri Is the Next Front in the Covid Culture War.

Schmitt has placed himself at the center of the COVID wars in a state where vaccinations fall stubbornly below the national average and where, earlier in the summer, the Delta variant ignited its first major outbreak in the United States. In Missouri as elsewhere, the mask-mandate fight is overshadowing the promotion of vaccines—which, as Schmitt himself has noted in lawsuits, remain the best way to combat the pandemic. He rarely advertises this. And although some of his Republican primary rivals encourage vaccination while emphasizing personal choice, Schmitt has appeared hostile even to admitting being vaccinated himself. (He is.) His story, along with the ways in which his ambition has drawn him into partisan combat in a public-health culture war, is a vivid demonstration of how national politics has poisoned local debates, pitting people against one another instead of against COVID-19, even as state and local governments remain the front line of pandemic response.

St. Louis city is solidly Democratic. St. Louis County isn’t, and there are a lot of unmasked people who show up at school board meetings to scream about their freedoms. The current county council has four Democrats and three Republicans, and the county chief executive is a Democrat, so it’s probably safe to call St. Louis County purple. Mask wars have been pretty much ongoing for over a year.

Anyway, as Attorney General, Schmitt has made a name for himself by suing people.

Thus: lawsuits—a blitz against local mask mandates beginning in late July, hitting St. Louis, Kansas City, and their surrounding counties, and then this latest one aimed at school districts. They’ve gotten Schmitt national media attention, including Fox News airtime, scolding from the White House podium, and many opportunities to get his name in front of Republican primary voters in a Senate race where, so far, he’s about neck and neck at the head of the pack. (His chief rival is former Governor Eric Greitens, who resigned in a sex, blackmail, and dark-money scandal in 2018 but has the virtue of name recognition.)

What they haven’t gotten him—yet—is the reversal of any mandates. St. Louis County’s fell apart on its own, in an intra-Democrat power struggle on the county council, which then backed a symbolic resolution to encourage but not enforce mask wearing. The other mandates remain in place as Schmitt’s lawsuits work their way through the system. Michael Wolff, the former chief justice of Missouri, doesn’t see a high chance of success: “Lawsuits,” he emailed me, “are not effective unless the legislature has passed a bill, signed by the governor, which is law. The courts normally will not enforce some general idea of ‘freedom’—courts need law from the legislature. Courts will not make it up.” …

… Schmitt, from his perch at the AG’s office, is doing his darndest to neutralize Greitens’s name-recognition advantage as lawsuit after lawsuit gets headline after headline. He might just pull it off: A poll from earlier this month has him leading the entire field, beating Greitens by one point. Meanwhile, other polling—not specific to Missouri—suggests that he’s exactly where his target voters are: Republicans overwhelmingly oppose mask mandates and overwhelmingly view the issue as one of personal freedom.

We’ve already got one wingnut disgrace of a senator, Josh Hawley, with whom we are stuck until 2024. See Josh Hawley, Clownish Menace, by Daniel Larison.

Hawley is a hypocrite and an opportunist, and now he has shown himself to be the lowest kind of demagogue. When the president announced his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, the senator endorsed the withdrawal decision but faulted Biden for taking too long to implement it. According to Hawley this spring, Biden erred because he wasn’t withdrawing quickly enough. The moment that he saw that there was a partisan angle in attacking Biden because of problems with the evacuation, he took the exact opposite position, denounced Biden, and demanded his resignation.

Now Hawley is threatening to block all of President Biden’s nominations for the Pentagon and the State Department, because grandstanding is so much more important than national security.

Sorry about that, but I didn’t vote for him.

Josh Hawley, attempting to pass as a human being.

Today’s News: Fashion and Insanity

Today is the California recall election. Note that Gov. Newsom’s chief rival, the seriously demented Larry Elder, has already conceded and is claiming election fraud. Make of that what you will.

The flap du jour is that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore a dress with the words “tax the rich” splashed on it to the Met Gala in NYC. If you aren’t familiar with the Met Gala, understand that it’s a fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute. Some people come in haute couture; some people come in costumes; some people wear haute couture costumes. For example, check out what actor Dan Levy wore. See also Kim Kardashian’s all-black ensemble, by Balenciaga.

Yeah, her face was covered. I doln’t know why. The Met Gala is very trippy. I understand AOC’s dress, which looked great on her, was designed by an African-American designer and was just borrowed for the evening. Here’s AOC, and I believe the lady with her is her designer, Aurora James. By Met Gala standards, this is downright sedate.

I take it that the entire rightie media echo chamber is having a screaming fit about the dress today.

Speaking of screaming fits, Bob Woodward has a new book out, and newspapers are reporting on the juicy bits. After January 6, it says, Trump had a meltdown. Gen. Mark Milley believed Trump wasn’t mentally fit to be trusted with the car keys; Trump was screaming at everyone and constructing his own reality about his election loss. So Milley called a meeting with top officials in the Pentagon and made it clear no one was to carry out orders from Trump without checking with Milley first. And Milley made back channel phone calls to a top general in China to assure him that he wouldn’t let Trump nuke Beijing.

There are also some new questions about Mike Pence’s role in the January 6 insurrection as a result of the new book. Woodward also reveals that on November 11, 2020, Trump issued an order for all troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan and Somalia by January 15. No one on the National Security staff were consulted about this, and apparently the People In Charge of These Things just decided to ignore the order.

In the New News department — Senate Democrats have written up a new voter rights bill with input from Joe Manchin. I take it this is a bill that can get the votes of all 50 Democrats, for what good that will do. According to this guy named Mark Elias, it’s a decent bill that would do some good. However, I have no idea who Mark Elias is or why I should respect his opinion.

The catch, of course, is that there is no way any Republican would vote to close debate on the thing and allow a vote on the bill unless Manchin and Sinema cave on the filibuster rule.

Finally, see Sorry, Everyone, but Congress Is Bringing Back Debt Ceiling Foolishness by Grace Segers at The New Republican. I don’t have the strength to think about another debt ceiling fight now.

Here’s the Senate’s Let America Rot Caucus

Something else I don’t want to write about any more is Joe Manchin. Maybe if we all close our eyes and make a wish he’ll disappear.

He was back on the Sunday talk shows explaining, badly, why he will try to eviscerate the Democrats’ budget reconciliation bill. Do read Joe Downie, Joe Manchin’s Selfishness, about Manchin’s malicious, destructive obstinance. I want to quote just this part:

new report from Type Investigations and the Intercept on the coal companies that made his fortune found that “for decades,” Manchin’s coal firms “have relied on mines and refuse piles cited for dozens of Mine Safety and Health Agency violations, multiple deaths, and wastewater discharging that has poisoned tributaries feeding into the Monongahela River, as hundreds of thousands of tons of carcinogenic coal ash are dumped across Marion County.”

While Manchin doesn’t own the mines and power plants polluting the state, his businesses have benefited handsomely from them. Since he joined the Senate 10 years ago, the investigation found, he has “grossed more than $4.5 million” from his firms, according to financial disclosures. As the article notes, Manchin has said his ownership interest is held in a blind trust.

No doubt Manchin would bristle at the suggestion that his opposition to the reconciliation bill and its climate provisions would have anything to do with their impact on his personal wealth. Even giving him the benefit of the doubt, though, the theme remains the same: Manchin gets his, while everyone else can fend for themselves.

Naturally he doesn’t see any big rush in preparing infrastructure for climate change.

Brigid Kennedy, The Week:

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), who has previously referred to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) as “the new Mitch McConnell,” took aim at the West Virginia lawmaker once again Monday morning, this time for his refusal to back Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending package at its current cost.

“When we talk about a sense of urgency, people are losing their lives and their livelihoods right now because our infrastructure is 100-years-old and climate change is here to stay,” said Bowman on CNN’s New Day, recalling the damage Hurricane Ida wrecked on his district and constituents. “So it’s important for Senator Manchin and others to understand people are dying everyday … and we have to go big right now in this moment. It’s now or never when it comes to infrastructure and climate change, and Hurricane Ida proved that to be true.”

When asked what happens if Manchin holds firm on his price tag concerns, Bowman reminded host John Berman that “we still have a couple of weeks to get this worked out,” adding that “it’s important for the American people to know that this is the Democratic agenda in terms of Democratic leadership.”

That’s a hard message to get across, however, in the absence of any real legislative achievement.

Another charter Democratic member of the Let America Rot caucus, Kyrsten Sinema, has been relatively quiet for about the past three weeks. It may have finally gotten through to her that she was pissing constituents off, although possibly not enough for her to change her position on reconciliation bill or the filibuster. She’s not pissing off Mitch McConnell, however. Mitch recently said of Manchin and Sinema, “I pray for them every night, I wish them well, we give them lots of love.” So sweet.

I don’t know that the Senate Let America Rot caucus has any other firm Democratic members. (All Republicans are in on it, of course.) Sen. Mark Warner recently said he was considering voting against it, but that’s because he wants more money added for housing assistance. I can support that. But that also shows us there will be a lot of work to do to get the thing done.

Progressives are still staying they’ll kill the smaller bipartisan bill if the larger bill fails. I’m also seeing a lot of commentary saying that Manchin just wants some kind of cut out of the bill he can take “credit” for, and then he’ll vote for it. The question is, of course, how much? Conventional wisdom says Sinema will buckle if she’s the only opponent left. We’ll see.

Sinema and Manchin

It’s That Day Again

Jeez, twenty years. I’ve been wrestling with myself to write something about the 20th anniversary, and I didn’t really want to. Just as an experiment I finally did write something and published it on Medium, just to see how it works. No one will read it.

From the Maha archives:

August 1, 2006: Smart War

August 2, 2006: 9/11 Unanswered Questions

June 6, 2007: Little Lulu, People Live Here

September 11, 2009: 9/11: The Story, The Shrines, The Smell, The Scandal, The Meaning

September 11, 2015: Another 9/11

Joe Biden Is Done With Rightie Covid Nonsense

My favorite headline today, so far: Finally, Biden Cracks Down on Unvaccinated Snowflakes. In this article, Matthew Cooper writes,

When you get past all of the enumerated steps outlined in the president’s plan, the bottom line of the Biden approach is cracking down and cracking heads. This was Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino Biden in full “Get off my lawn” angry murmur. “Our patience is running thin,” Biden said to the jab free. There was no more c’mon-in-the-water’s-fine. It was a series of demands. If you work for the feds as an employee or contractor, you have to get a shot—no dodging with frequent testing. If you work for a company with 100 or more employees, you either get a shot or get tested often. We’ll use Medicaid, Medicare, Head Start, and any other program we can to make sure health care workers and educators get shots. He cited Fox News by name for requiring vaccinations—and then attacked Ron DeSantis and Gregg Abbott by name for their war on school districts with mask mandates. “Pandemic politics,” Biden sniffed. He vowed that the feds would reimburse any educators who had their salaries cut for defying the Florida and Texas governors’ anti-mask crusade. Biden also implored where he couldn’t use his power, even asking concert venues to impose vaccination requirements.

The provisions in yesterday’s speech have probably been in the works for a while. I suspect those provisions were written carefully to be sure the administration stayed within precedent and constitutional powers. As I have written in the past, public health emergency powers are generally considered to belong to state and local government. But it seems to me Biden used every loophole he could use.

The Right is going ballistic, as expected. They’re hollering about “civil disobedience” and legal challenges. Amber Philips writes that the Biden provisions are built on solid constitutional law and precedent, and the challenges ought to fail. I say “ought to” because we have too many unqualified Trump judges sitting on too many benches. It’s also the case that it might take a while before we see significant reduction in covid cases.

But let’s be clear what is happening right now. This is from William Saletan, Why the Party of 9/11 Couldn’t Handle Covid-19 at Slate.

Since the beginning of May, the rate of COVID deaths is more than 50 percent higher in red states than in blue states. When you break down the numbers by county, the gap is even worse. Death rates are nearly twice as high in red counties as in blue counties, and there’s a direct correlation between COVID fatalities and support for Trump. In counties where Trump got 60 percent to 80 percent of the vote, the death rate is twice as high as in counties where he got less than 40 percent. In counties where he got more than 80 percent of the vote, the death rate is three times as high.

This catastrophe dwarfs any terror attack. So far, COVID-19 has killed 650,000 Americans. That’s more than 200 times the death toll of 9/11. It’s nearly 100 times the combined number of U.S. military casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past 20 years. In August alone, the virus killed 30,000 Americans. That’s a 9/11 attack every three days.

See also Unvaccinated people were 11 times more likely to die of covid-19, CDC report finds.

And as long as so many people are offering their bodies as petri dishes for the development of new variants, it’s possible some variant will come along that can’t be controlled by any means.

It’s also the case that Republicans seem to be overestimating the political reach of vaccine resistance. About 65 percent of Americans over the age of 18 are fully vaccinated, and over 75 percent have had at least one shot. Older people — a key Republican constituency — are more likely to be vaccinated than younger people.  Suburban voters that Republicans desperately need are more likely to be vaccinated than rural voters. Polls show that a solid majority of Americans support mask and vaccine mandates.

Republicans also don’t seem to realize that most large businesses will gladly use Biden’s directives to force their employees to be vaccinated. Many were already doing so. The bleeping pandemic is costing them bleeping money. A vaccinated workforce is more stable than an unvaccinated one. Employers probably will strongly incentivize employees to take the vaccination option rather than submit to weekly testing, which will cost some administrative overhead, at least.

For that large majority of Americans who already are vaccinated, the hysterical screaming coming from the resisters is just ridiculous. Snowflakes, indeed.

As of now, 5.64 billion doses of covid vaccines have been administered worldside. This has been going on for about ten months, right? We have lots of data showing the vaccines greatly reduce hospitalizations, deaths, and the spread of infection. There have not been widespread, severe side effects. Get the bleeping shots, people.

Josh Marshall writes that this isn’t just good policy, but good politics. So does Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo.

Dan Pfeiffer notes that while Republicans think they can weaponize masks and mandates for the midterms, they may be misreading the room. Vaccine mandates enjoy widespread support in a Politico/Morning Consult from August: about 55% including a third of Trump 2020 voters.

To capitalize on that Democrats need to do three things, Pfeiffer writes. They need to make Republicans wear their opposition to vaccine and mask mandates like an albatross and “hold them accountable for enabling the unvaccinated minority to put our children in danger.”

I absolutely agree that Democrats need to be talking from now until the midterms about the ways so many Republican governors and other office holders put children, and all of us, in continued danger. Vaccines work, and masks do reduce the spread of infection if most people wear them.  Righties can scream that Biden is an authoritarian, but he’s not the one trying to block local governments from mitigating vaccine spread or forcing cruise companies to accept unvaccinated passengers.


Another Trump Candidacy Would Bring Chaos

There is a curious op ed at the Wall Street Journal that you don’t have to read if you don’t want to. But let me describe it. Some guy named Holman Jenkins writes Is Donald Trump Finished? The subhead is, Admit it: You don’t want him to run again yet his absence hasn’t solved any problem.

Holman appears to be a loyal Republican who wants to see the party defeat Joe Biden. Trump could be reelected, he argues. There are all kinds of issues he could exploit to win another term. But Trump is blowing it because he won’t let go of the 2020 election. He needs to find a way to at least put that election is behind him, even if he doesn’t admit he lost. And then Jenkins writes,

My own estimate is that Mr. Trump can’t afford not to run for president between now and 2024—it’s too lucrative. His business life now appears to consist largely of paying himself for services his companies provide to his own campaign, funded by thousands of small donations and sales of Trump merchandise. And yet a hunger for him to serve again as president, even among his fans, is not conspicuous. I also ask myself: Would he be selling his Washington hotel, one of the few ways he successfully synergized his business interests with this political interests during his presidency, if he planned on being president again?

I doubt it. Mr. Trump has likely already decided he will be happy with just picking the next president, which explains the troop of hopefuls outside his door in Mar-a-Lago.

… which is pretty much an admission that Trump was just in it to make money.

Philip Bump mentions Jenkins in his column The looming chaos of Trump 2024

Trump can’t pivot away from his fraud claims no matter how much Jenkins wishes he would. He couldn’t even if he wanted to.

But he clearly doesn’t want to. He was out there making new claims about fraud just this week, part of his effort to convince his supporters and himself that he didn’t actually lose in 2020 at all. If Trump runs for president in 2024, he’s running as the guy who tried to steal the election from Biden as he claimed that Biden had stolen it from him. He’s running not as he did in 2015, as an outsider to the politics game. He’s running, instead, as a representation of an anti-democratic undercurrent in right-wing politics with the support of people who’ve triggered repeated warnings from law enforcement about their willingness to use violence in defense of Trump’s claims.

It’s anyone’s guess if Trump will run in 2024. “If he runs in 2024, even without his approach to politics changing, he’ll again be a candidate unlike any who has come before,” Bump writes. “And again he’ll catch much of the country unprepared.”

David Atkins thinks Trump could still destroy the GOP. Republicans still look to him as the leader of the party, and most of them are terrified to go against him. Which is fine with Democrats, I suspect.

Atkins continues,

It’s hard to deny it: The GOP is now a reinvigorated cult of personality around Trump. He dispatched his opponents in the 2016 primary with ease despite the open hostility of most of the party establishment, marginalized or co-opted his opposition, and remade the party in his image. More importantly, he hastened a realignment that will be structurally advantageous for the GOP in Congress and the Electoral College for decades, even though Republicans are numerically inferior and shrinking across the country. Trump drove turnout among his ardent fans higher than expected and cut into Democratic advantages among people of color.

But Trump didn’t really take over or save the Republican Party. Trump’s greatest gift to Republicans is also his greatest curse: He gave them permission to be their worst selves. By liberating the GOP to embrace its most noxious impulses, he has breathed new life into the staid culture that nominated John McCain and Mitt Romney while destroying basic norms of public decency and weakening the guardrails of democracy. This has come at a devastating cost to the victims of the hatreds Trump fueled. Despite short-term appearances, unmasking the GOP base’s most vicious instincts might also be disastrous for the party in the long term.

Republicans don’t appear to be paying any prices for this, Atkins says, and the structural advantages they have given themselves could put them in a winning position for 2022 and 2024. But their anti-public health campaign, the dismantling of Roe v. Wade, the Big Lie about the election, and stunts like January 6 have shown the nation what they are. Atkins continues,

This might all seem brilliantly, if diabolically, Machiavellian, but there’s a problem with a well-distributed anti-majoritarian coalition that wins elections despite being outnumbered nationally. It doesn’t take big shifts in the population or the turnout model to breach the walls. You can take over government by winning five-point margins in congressional districts and states. But not if those five-point margins suddenly become competitive due to turnout or coalition shifts.

Trump gave Republicans permission to be themselves. It “worked” for a time at the expense of the country, and it couldallow them to dominate politics for decades to come. But the party may face a high price for allowing the cruelest and most vicious elements of American society to run rampant. It might take some time, but the Trump effect could very well backfire on them in surprising ways.

I hope it doesn’t take too much time, or there won’t be a country left to save. Or a planet, for that matter.

Reforms Are Blocked in Every Direction

Well, let’s see how bleeped we are at the moment. Roe v. Wade is about gone, and there’s little Democrats can do about it without (1) getting rid of the filibuster, and (2) adding at least four more judges to the Supreme Court. Neither thing is likely to happen with the current Congress. The same thing applies to voting rights reform. And then there’s the centerpiece of the Biden agenda, the $3.5 trillion infrasctructure reconciliation bill. This is something the Democrats could do, but they are being blocked by a small group of “moderates” within the party. And we’re still dealing with covid. And fires and floods and global warming.

On the plus side, Greg Sargent writes that “Zombie Trumpism” may give Democrats a chance in the midterms. The test for this could be this year’s Virginia governor’s election. Democrat Terry McAuliffe is taking the fight to his Republican opponent.

He is excoriating Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin for opposing vaccine and mask mandates, and casting this as a holdover of Donald Trump’s deranged approach to covid-19.

McAuliffe just launched a new TV ad campaign that hits Youngkin’s opposition to requiring masks in schools and requiring vaccines for teachers and health-care workers. The spot ties this to Youngkin’s declaration that “Trump represents so much of why I’m running.”

As I wrote last week, McAuliffe also is running to defend Roe v. Wade, which Youngkin wants overturned. In other words, he’s giving voters a real choice instead of being the candidates that’s only slightly less right-wing than the other candidate.

On the infrasructure bill, do see David Dayen, Infrastructure Summer: Joe Manchin’s Symphony of Disingenuousness.

Let’s say I didn’t know anything about the big budget reconciliation bill working its way through Congress this month. (Believe me, I’d love to say that; things would be much easier if I didn’t.) If non-aware me read through the entirety of Joe Manchin’s op-ed in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, which said that the bill is too expensive and just not right at this time, I wouldn’t know anything more about it. While Manchin ably demonstrates how a conservative Democrat representing a red state can preen about concepts like inflation and the deficit and spending trillions of dollars, he explains nothing about what the bill he opposes actually does, whom it would help, and what specific parts he disfavors.

Evidently, Manchin doesn’t want you to know too much about the bill he’s trying to kill. Or at least, he doesn’t want you to know why he doesn’t like it.

Go ahead and read the whole thing. Manchin has been making pious noises about deficits and the burdens being placed on the next generations. But the truth is, the cost of not passing this bill is a lot bigger than the bill itself.  And then go to the Intercept and read about the big corporations working to get rid of the bill’s tax increases on big corporations. Manchin and his mini-me Kyrsten Sinema are well-rewarded by various moneyed interest groups for damaging their party, and the nation.

Greg Sargent thinks that Manchin and Sinema can at least be made to feel very uncomfortable.

Two progressive senators are set to unveil a new plan to tax stock buybacks, in which corporations purchase back shares in themselves as a way to channel additional money to shareholders.

The details of the plan are as yet unknown, but the office of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) confirms to me that it will be revealed this week. Brown will champion the plan with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who as chairman of the Finance Committee is assembling the corporate tax increases for the $3.5 trillion bill, which Democrats hope to pass by the simple-majority “reconciliation” process.

The plan to tax stock buybacks is one of numerous proposals Democrats are considering to offset the reconciliation bill’s spending, Bloomberg News reports. These proposals are expected to include an increase in the corporate tax rate, an effort to capture more revenue from multinational corporations that shelter profits abroad, taxing capital gains like regular income, and more.

If and when this proposal gets debated, it will be harder for centrist Democrats to hide behind platitudinous objections to spending. That’s because specific proposals can both generate revenue and have policy value of their own, and centrists will have to say which of these they oppose and why.

Of course, corporate taxes are the real reason Manchin and Sinema are being rewarded for holding up the bill. We’ll see if they blink.

Get Ready for Rule by the Mob

Last week three yahoos stormed into an elementary school in Tucson and confronted the principal. One was livestreaming the event, and one carried “law enforcement grade” zip ties. The third was the father of a boy who had been taken out of class and told he was required to mask and quarantine. The child had been in close contact with someone who tested positive for covid, and the school was following county health requirements.

The three men decided that the school didn’t have legal authority to do such a thing. The fellow in charge of the live stream said he was prepared to “raise hell,” and insisted the school couldn’t take the law “into their own hands” by instructing a student to quarantine. He also wrote on Facebook that a citizen’s arrest was an option. Instead, the principal called the police. One of the three has been charged with tresspassing; whether the other two are also in trouble, I do not know. See also An Anti-Masker Just Tried to Zip-Tie a School Principal Over COVID Rules.

I bring this up because this is the pattern we’re falling into. Instead of the rule of law, we’re facing the rule of self-appointed vigilantes. The hideous Texas abortion law is another example. For that matter, the Texas voting repression law appears to allow partisan poll watchers to harass people who are voting. Wingnuts are assuming the power to make and enforce laws as they see fit. This will not end well.

Of course, this is not really new. Extremists have been bombing abortion clinics and murdering doctors in the U.S. since the early 1990s.

In the “stuff to read” department — I heartily endorse a column by Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Inquirer — We knew America would never be the same after 9/11. We didn’t know how bad. Just read the whole thing.

Worth a clip ‘n’ save — Ed Kilgore’s Trump’s Long Campaign to Steal the Presidency: A Timeline.

Better late than never, but not much — The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League admits that the ADL was wrong to oppose the building of Cordoba House, a.k.a the “Ground Zero Mosque.” “Today one can see how the Cordoba House could have helped to heal our country as we nursed the wounds from the horror of 9/11,” the CEO writes. Some of us saw it at the time, ten years ago.

Roe May Be Dead; Republicans Hope We Don’t Notice

I got tickled at Dave Weigel’s column today. The intro — “The only newsletter that isn’t about Joe Manchin today, this is The Trailer.”

Many people are pissed at Manchin, who is acting up again. He wrote an op ed for the Wall Street Journal saiyng that Democrats should “hit the pause button” on the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. This is especially infuriating at the very moment the nation is suffering from fires in the West and a super storm in the South and East. Climate change, bro. But Manchin doesn’t want to spend money addressing it.

Just see Joe Manchin’s Dirty Empire by Daniel Boguslaw at The Intercept. Manchin is corrupt as hell. See also Joe Manchin’s new threat to destroy Biden’s agenda is worse than it seems by Greg Sargent at WaPo and Joe Manchin Has Put Biden’s Presidency in Mortal Danger by Jonathan Chait at New York.

Dave Weigel goes on, ignoring Joe Manchin:

Donald Trump’s victory five years ago created, and later fulfilled, the possibility of a 6-3 conservative majority on the court. That emboldened conservatives, especially antiabortion activists who favored so-called “heartbeat” legislation — ending legal abortion at six weeks, when they say first flutter can be detected in embryos. And after Ginsburg’s death, while conservative activists had never felt closer to the end of Roe, Republicans in competitive races said Democrats were overhyping the potential effect on abortion rights.

“I think the likelihood of Roe v. Wade being overturned is very minimal,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said in a debate days after the justice’s death and one day after Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to replace her. “I don’t see that happening.” In his first debate with Biden, Trump scoffed at the idea that Roe was “on the ballot,” telling the Democrat that he didn’t know how the potential justice — who yesterday joined the majority in the Texas case — would rule.

And we all remember Sen. Susan Collins assuring us that Kavanaugh believed Roe v. Wade is “settled law.” This is the line Republicans have walked for a long time. They’ve promised their base they would criminallize abortion while reassuring the public at large that they wouldn’t.

Even given the events of this week, the conservatives on the Supreme Court seem to want to maintain the fiction that they are not hardline ideologues.

Mary Ziegler, The Atlantic:

The justices who allowed Texas’s law to go into effect hardly seem to love the thought of that backlash. Their order tried to reassure the public by spelling out what was not being decided—and tried to signal that the Court takes all of this very seriously. And even before this particular question arose, during their confirmation hearings, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett repeated that when it came to Roe, they would keep an open mind. After all, they are neutral arbiters of the law, not pre-committed ideologues.

The justices desperately want the public to believe that is true, even though similar procedural hurdles did not stop the Court from blocking COVID-19 stay-at-home orders that affected in-person worship, and even though the Court’s overnight order made a laughingstock of what is still supposedly a constitutional right. The message was clear: Texas wanted to pass a legal-consequence-free abortion ban, and the Supreme Court wanted to find a political-consequence-free way to uphold one. …

… The Supreme Court may want to reverse Roe, but it is afraid of what will happen when the decision is gone. This fear makes it attractive to hem and haw, to deny and obfuscate. Clarence Thomas may not miss a chance to denounce Roe, but his colleagues are less keen to do so.

They don’t seem to be fooling anyone, however. So Democrats are mostly speaking out and vowing to fight the Texas law. Given their narrow hold on Congress there doesn’t seem to be much they can do, but we can hope it will help inspire a big turnout in the midterms. Republicans, though, are being strangely quiet and pretending that Roe v. Wade isn’t really dead.

Did the Right Just Shoot Itself in the Foot?

The most encouraging thing I’ve seen today is that centrist squish Terry McAuliffe, of all people, is elevating abortion rights in his campaign for governor of Virginia.

“The stakes are huge. … For years, we’ve said, abortion could be outlawed. Well, it happened today,” McAuliffe told ABC News in an interview. “I vetoed every bill that would have stood in the way of women making their own decisions. And, you know, I’ve vetoed bills that would have defunded Planned Parenthood. I stopped all their nonsense. But it’s a battle here in Virginia. We’re not going back.”

There was a time when conventional wisdom said Democratic candidates should just keep their mouths shut about abortion, and not just in southern elections. If they were forced to say something, they said “safe, legal, and rare.” But many on the Left are done with the moral ambivalence of “rare.” No more apologies, no more stigmas.

Indeed, a consensus is quickly forming that the Right may have just shot itself in the foot.  Former Republican David Frum:

Pre-Texas, opposition to abortion offered Republican politicians a lucrative, no-risk political option. They could use pro-life rhetoric to win support from socially conservative voters who disliked Republican economic policy, and pay little price for it with less socially conservative voters who counted on the courts to protect abortion rights for them. …

… Today, accountability has suddenly arrived. Texas Republicans have just elevated abortion rights to perhaps the state’s supreme ballot issue in 2022. Perhaps they have calculated correctly. Perhaps a Texas voting majority really wants to see the reproductive lives of Texas women restrained by random passersby. If that’s the case, that’s an important political fact, and one that will reshape the politics of the country in 2024….

… This is a new reality, and one that opens a way for the prolonged U.S. abortion-rights debate to be resolved. If the Texas Republicans prosper politically, then abortion-rights advocates must accept that the country truly is much more conservative on abortion than they appreciated and adjust their goals accordingly. But if not, and I’m guessing that the answer is not, anti-abortion-rights politicians are about to feel the shock of their political lives. For the first time since the 1970s, they will have to reckon with mobilized opposition that also regards abortion as issue No. 1 in state and local politics.

Although individual minds don’t seem to have changed much since Roe was decided in 1973, Younger voters are more strongly pro-choice than older voters, according to Pew.

The only demographic groups identified by Pew that favor criminalization are Republicans and evangelicals. With everyone else, including Catholics, a majority favor keeping abortion legal.

I take it Democrats were worried that voter enthusiasm on the Left would wane without Donald Trump in the White House. Texas could light some fires, especially when other Republican states pass their own Handmaid’s Tale laws.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi promises the House will pass a bill that codifies the Roe v. Wade provisions into law. “Upon our return, the House will bring up Congresswoman Judy Chu’s Women’s Health Protection Act to enshrine into law reproductive health care for all women across America,” she said in a statement. That could raise some interesting dynamics when it goes to the Senate.

We now have more details about what went on in the Supreme Court regarding the Texas bill. Texas abortion providers made a last-ditch effort to stop the bill from going into effect by seeking emergency relief from the Supreme Court on Monday night. Amy Howe writes at SCOTUSblog about what happened next:

In a one-paragraph, unsigned order issued just before midnight on Wednesday, the court acknowledged that the providers had “raised serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law.” But that was not enough to stop the law from going into effect, the court explained, because of the way the law operates. Specifically, the court observed, it wasn’t clear whether the state officials – a judge and court clerk – and the anti-abortion activist whom the abortion providers had named as defendants “can or will seek to enforce the Texas law” against the providers in a way that would allow the court to get involved in the dispute at this stage.

It was five to four — Alito, Barrett, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Thomas refused to act. Roberts sided with Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor in opposition.

In his dissent, which was joined by Breyer and Kagan, Roberts described the Texas scheme as “unprecedented.” By deputizing private citizens to enforce the law, Roberts stressed, the law “insulate[s] the State from responsibility.” He wrote that because of the novelty and significance of the question, he would stop the law from going into effect to preserve the status quo and allow courts to consider “whether a state can avoid responsibility for its laws in such a manner.”

Breyer wrote his own dissent, which was joined by Kagan and Sotomayor, in which he acknowledged the procedural challenges posed by the Texas law but expressed skepticism as to “why that fact should make a critical legal difference” when “the invasion of a constitutional right” is at issue.

Sotomayor, joined by Breyer and Kagan, described the court’s order as “stunning.” “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny,” she wrote, “a majority of the Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”

Both Breyer and Sotomayor also noted that, within the first day that the Texas was in effect, clinics in the state began turning away most or all abortion patients.

Kagan’s dissent, joined by Breyer and Sotomayor, focused largely on the process by which the court reached its ruling on Wednesday night. She complained that, “[w]ithout full briefing or argument, and after less than 72 hours’ thought, this Court greenlights the operation of Texas’s patently unconstitutional law banning most abortions.” The result, she concluded, “is emblematic of too much of this Court’s shadow-docket decisionmaking — which every day becomes more unreasoned, inconsistent, and impossible to defend.”

The four justices in the minority seem alarmed.

There may be other kinds of fallout in store for Texas. See Lurch to Right May Imperil Texas’s Attraction for Employers at Bloomberg.

Companies including Apple Inc., Toyota Motor Corp. and Tesla Inc. have moved operations and college-educated, creative-class workers to Texas in recent years; enclaves like Austin and Houston’s Montrose neighborhood felt a little like San Francisco with withering humidity. Now, those workers find themselves in a state taking far-right stances in a culture war with national ramifications for women’s autonomy and presidential politics.

“Other states are competing for people,” said Tammi Wallace, chief executive officer of the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce. “If you look at what our state is doing, and then you see another state where they’re not doing some of those things, you might say, ‘Well, the money’s good, but where do I want to raise my family?’”

Texas’s infamously stupid power grid may be a consideration also. What will big business do?

Elon Musk is being a squish. But there are several “Silicon Valley” companies that have moved into Texas in recent years.

I agree with Becca Andrews at Mother Jones that the Texas law is just a beginning. Criminalization fanatics are not going to rest until more states have passed similar laws. We don’t yet know what the fallout will be or how messy the vigilantism will get. Watch this space.