Why Do Evangelicals Oppose Covid Vaccines?

Jarvis DeBerry, MSNBC Opinion Columnist, writes that White evangelicals dying of Covid after denouncing vaccines are wasting martyrdom. He begins,

“This year we’ve seen a number of conservative personalities, including the late evangelical leaders Marcus Lamb and Jimmy DeYoung, who succumbed to Covid-19 after minimizing the risks of the disease or making disparaging remarks about the vaccines. What is such opposition if not an arrogant attempt to put God to the test, no less problematic, say, than stepping off a great height and counting on being caught by angels?”

For those of you who missed Sunday School, that last comment is a reference to Matthew 4:5-7, in which the devil told Jesus to throw himself off the highest point of the temple so that angels would catch him. Jesus replied, ” It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Some translations render this as “You shall not tempt the Lord thy God.” There are many centuries of sermons and commentaries on Matthew 4, but most of them I’ve seen boil down to “Don’t try to manipulate God into performing a miracle to save your ass so you can show everybody what a Big Shot Holy Person you are.”

DeBerry points to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) that shows white evangelicals are the only “religious” group in the U.S. in which a majority believe people should be able to get a religious exemption from covid vaccine mandates. (I have “religious” in quotation marks because DeBerry apparently thinks that “religion” consists entirely of Christianity and Judaism. PRRI lumps all the world’s other religious traditions under “Other non-Christian religion,” none of which appear to have religious issues with vaccines.) A majority of all the other religious groups surveyed thought there should be no religious exemption for vaccines.

There is no record I could find of evangelical leaders opposing vaccines on religious grounds in the past, before covid. The current objection appears to be some kind of shift in doctrine, even though no one is explaining what that doctrine is.

So the question is, on what basis should a religious exemption from covid vaccine mandates be allowed, from an evangelical perspective?

Although faith healing is not unknown in evangelicalism, I’m not aware of any situation in the Bible in which people were berated for consulting a physician instead of relying on God’s grace for healing. There wasn’t much in the way of medical science in those days, of course, although Greek and Roman physicians had figured out how to treat some things by Jesus’ day. But even the Romans employed prayers and chants as part of medical practice. The point is that there is nothing explicit in the Bible, and no argument from centuries of Christian theology before the 19th century or so, that provides Christians a clear religious exemption from getting covid vaccines or seeking any kind of medical treatment. Yes, this includes abortions.

In the 19th century all kinds of new religions emerged, some ostensibly Christian and some not. These include the Church of Christ, Scientist, which began in the 1870s. Christian Science has a complicated belief system about medical care that I can’t say I entirely understand. They go to medical professionals for some kinds of health care but rely on prayer alone for other kinds. From what I have read these beliefs aren’t based on the Bible or any previous school of theology. However, even the Christian Scientists these days are not rigidly dogmatic about vaccines and encourage practitioners to make up their own minds.

Here’s an article from the Council on Foreign Relations that provides some historical background on religious objections to vaccines in the U.S.. In brief, in the past there really hasn’t been much objection to vaccines based on religious beliefs. One scholar noted that American religious leaders in the 1950s and 1960s praised vaccines as gifts from God.

One of the patriarchs of evangelicalism, John Wesley (1703-1791) not only approved of the medical science of his day, he also opened free clinics and pharmaceutical dispensaries for the poor. He encouraged people to have faith and pray, also, but he encouraged people to take their physical ailments to doctors for treatment.

But evangelicalism itself has changed a lot from its origins. Many 19th century evangelicals were the flaming liberals of their day. Northern evangelicals were leaders of the Abolitionist movement, and later many were active in the Social Gospel movement, which in turn gave birth to the Progressive Era of the early 20th century. There were conservative evangelicals also, of course. But a century and more ago evangelicalism was distinct from fundamentalism, a reactionary religious movement of the late 19th century that formed as a backlash to the Social Gospel and Darwin and modernism generally.

These days evangelicallism and fundamentalism have become synonyms. The reasons for that are complicated, but very briefly over several decades fundamentalism evolved and fused with Christian nationalism, and these movements merged with conservative evangelicalism and took over one congregation after another, driving out the liberals. And this mashup makes up most of today’s “Christian Right.”

It hasn’t been that long since the liberal Jimmy Carter was not shy about calling himself an evangelical. I’m not sure he still does. There are denominations that used to be considered evangelical — the United Methodists, for example — that don’t seem to use the word “evangelical” to describe themselves any more. Likewise the liberal United Church of Christ originally grew out of the evangelical movement but has nothing to do with evangelicalism these days.

The PRRI survey made an interesting distinction between personal religious beliefs and the religious teachings of Christian denominations. “White evangelical Protestants are the only religious group among whom there is a difference between the two statements on religious prohibitions: 21% agree that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 goes against their personal religious beliefs, compared to 13% who say it goes against the teachings of their religion,” it says.

But I wonder if the refusers who say getting a covid vaccine somehow violates their religious beliefs, whether personal or institutional, could articulate how that violation occurs, if you put them on the spot to explain it. I strongly suspect what we’re seeing is a lazy assumption that if one feels getting a covid vaccine is wrong, somehow, then the Bible must agree. Somehow.

Maggie Siddiqi, senior director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress, writes that Covid vaccine and mask mandates expose alt-right Christian hypocrisy: “For many on the religious right, religious freedom only matters if it supports a right-wing political agenda.”

… for many on the religious right, religious freedom only matters if it supports a right-wing political agenda. Indeed for years, extreme-right Christian groups have been misusing religious freedom to do everything from discriminating against LGBTQ people to denying access to reproductive health care. Far from a legitimate effort to protect the right to worship freely, religious freedom has been manipulated into another tool in the Christian nationalist playbook to circumvent any law or regulation they see fit.

At the start of the pandemic, when states were compelled to issue emergency public health orders to shut down in-person gatherings, including at houses of worship, the same groups who cried “religious freedom” at any law they disliked did so once again. It quickly became clear that if they could win exemptions from emergency public health orders on religious freedom grounds — even in the face of a deadly, highly contagious disease — they could win any claim by exploiting religious freedom.

If it were not apparent enough that these supposed claims of religious freedom ring hollow, an entire industry of anti-vaccine activists have now combined forces with Christian nationalists. Some clergy are even offering to provide religious exemptions — if you pay them. Liberty Counsel, the law firm that represented Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, is a major player in providing legal guidance and representation to those seeking to use religious exemptions to circumvent Covid-related requirements.

But religious freedom does not matter, it seems, when Jewish groups state that life begins at birth, not at conception, and that denying the right to prioritize the life of a mother violates Jewish religious beliefs. Religious freedom does not matter when faith-based health care providers say they are morally, religiously obligated to provide care for all, without discrimination.

I am not expert in all of the world’s religions. There may be a sect somewhere that has a genuine doctrinal objection to mandates I don’t know about. But it seems to me there are no legitimate religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate.

This is not really answering the question of why so many white evangelicals are hostile to covid vaccines. I think the answer to that has nothing to do with religion. The problem is that what passes for religious doctrine among many evangelicals is nothing but consuming tribal loyalty to hard-right political views and Donald Trump. John Wesley wouldn’t recognize any of it.

New Yorkers line up for smallpox vaccines, undated illustration

DOJ Prefers States to Not Nullify Federal Law

The U.S. Justice Department has filed a brief against the state of Missouri’s stupid “Second Amendment Preservation” law. The brief says the law “poses a clear and substantial threat to public safety” and has “seriously impaired the federal government’s ability to combat violent crime in Missouri.”

I wrote awhile back about the state of Missouri’s Second Amendment Preservation Act that went into effect in June. Very basically, the act is an attempt to nullify federal gun control laws. Missouri has close to the weakest gun control laws in the nation. See When Missouri repealed a key gun law, few protested. The result: More deaths than ever, in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 8, 2021.

The brief was filed in regard to a suit brought by St. Louis city and county against the law last June, which I wrote about at the time — St. Louis Sues Missouri Over New Gun Law. According to the Kansas City Star, “A Cole County court this year upheld the law, a decision being appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court.”

The Kansas City Star also reports today,

“After an Independence police officer was killed in a shootout in September, Missouri state law enforcement initially refused routine federal assistance in tracing the murder weapon. The same month, a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper released a federal fugitive after a traffic stop.”

I’ll pause for a moment’s reflection. I’m still looking for details about the released federal fugitive.

“The incidents are described in a blistering court brief filed Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Justice outlining the consequences of the Second Amendment Preservation Act, a new state law that prohibits Missouri police officers from helping enforce certain federal gun laws. The document paints a stark portrait of how SAPA, also known as House Bill 85, has disrupted cooperation between federal, state and local law enforcement.”

This is insane. The DOJ has been sending letters to the governor and making lots of other noise about how blatantly unconstitutional the Missouri law is. A brief is a baby step beyond “noise,” I believe. Andrew Jackson would have sent troops by now. But the Missouri Supreme Court is famous for nonsensical rulings, so I have little hope the court will overturn the law.

Earlier this year, St. Louis Mayor Tish Jones was giving a news conference on gun violence prevention when gunshots could be heard in the distance. This is life in St. Louis, folks. It’s a shooting gallery.

In other newsTrump suddenly is taking credit for creating the vaccines and telling people to get vaccinated. Most are assuming this is a signal he’s planning to run again in 2024. The vaccines are the only positive thing his administration managed to do, that I can think of. This might give the MAGA-heads whiplash. Denial of covid and the vaccines is so much part of their tribal culture I’m not sure they can let it go, even on Trump’s say-so.

Former police officer Kim Potter has been convicted of first degree manslaughter for fatally shooting Black motorist Daunte Wright.

What We Know, and Don’t Know, About Omicron

“Omicron” would be a good name for a Marvel Comics villain, and “The Omicron Variant” might be the title of a future Frederick Forsyth spy novel. But it’s a virus, and we have to deal with it.

I’ve been reading what researchers and not-researchers are saying about Omicron. The only thing everyone agrees is certain about Omicron is that it really is much more transmissible than earlier versions of the covid virus. Beyond that, we’re still in speculation mode. Preliminary data from around the world suggest that Omicron is less deadly than earlier versions, but the data collection people warn us that there are other factors impacting the data. What is true of one population group might not be true of another one.

This may be why CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky refused to be pressured into calling Omicron “mild” in a Fox News interview. “Mild” suggests it’s no worse than a head cold. But deaths from Omicron are being recorded around the world. There may be a lower rate of deaths than from earlier variants — so far — but the thing can still kill you. This is no time for complacency.

We keep hearing that vaccinated and boosted people are getting infected. But this is not a reason to panic. Derek Thompson of The Atlantic writes,

The easy question is whether a typical vaccinated (or recently infected) adult faces the same individual risk of severe disease from Omicron that she faced from the original coronavirus in March 2020. The answer is, almost certainly, no. The U.S. has banked a lot of immunity through infection and vaccinations, and the Omicron variant doesn’t seem to evade all of that built-up protection. In the past month, we’ve learned that Omicron excels at breaking through the first layer of immunity, which is our neutralizing antibodies. But our next layer of protection, our T-cell response, seems to hold up much better against the variant. If you think of the vaccines as a castle-defense system, Omicron is like an invading army that can scale walls (i.e., bypass neutralizing-antibody protection) but not fight the knights within them (i.e., overcome T-cell protection). Boosted Americans are particularly well equipped against the Omicron variant, because the third shot increases the number and quality of our neutralizing antibodies, which effectively builds up our immunity wall.

I like the castle analogy. Our T-cells are the guys up on the turrets dropping big rocks.

Thompson goes on to say that preliminary data point to a lower rate of severe infection among the unvaccinated as well, maybe. Data collected by the Imperial College of London showed Omicron is as dangerous as Delta, but this was based on a small sample.

Thompson writes that the best way to think about severity is to imagine four concentric circles. In the inner circle are younger, healthy people who have been vaccinated and boosted. They are probably safe from severe illness from Omicron, even if they catch it.

The next group out contains people under age 65 who are vaccinated and boosted, but who have some health issues that make them immunocompromised. They need to be more careful.

Those of us over 65 who have been vaccinated and even boosted are in the third ring out from the center. The older you are, the more vulnerable you are. Don’t take chances.

The unvaccinated are in the outer ring, and in that group some are more at risk than others. There’s a big concern that even if this group has a lower rate of severe illness, they are bound to have a higher rate of infection. It’s likely hospitals will be slammed again this winter.

At this point, we’re all hoping that Omicron is not as deadly as earlier variants, and many headline writers have jumped the gun and declared it to be so. But at the moment it would be wise to procede as if it’s just as bad as the other variants.  Fingers crossed, wear your masks and get your boosters.

What follows is speculation: MSNBC reports that some virologists think the Omicron variant could burn through populations rapidly, causing considerable sickness and death. But then just about everybody will have had covid or the vaccines, meaning everybody’s got some immunity, and finally the pandemic could end.

“As all the public health folks have been saying, it’s going to rip right through the population,” says Dr. David Ho, a world-renowned virologist and Columbia University professor. “Sometimes a rapid-fire could burn through very quickly but then put itself out.”

Nobody expects covid to go away completely, but perhaps it will stop upending lives. Yascha Mounk writes at the Atlantic that whatever happens with Omicron, sooner or later covid will cease to be a social phenomenon. We’ll learn to cope and adapt. Eventually there will be enough immunity in populations that covid will stop being a big deal. However, new variations could still throw that hopeful notion out the window.

And while variants may come and go, we will always have stupid.

A group of unvaccinated people who attended a huge conspiracy conference in Dallas earlier this month all became sick in the days after the event with symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, and fever. Instead of blaming the global COVID pandemic, however, the conspiracy theorists think they were attacked with anthrax.

This far-right conspiracy claim began after a dozen people spent time together in a confined space at the ReAwaken America tour event in Dallas over the weekend of Dec. 10. And the fact that this was likely a COVID outbreak and superspreader event has been almost entirely ignored.

It’s a wonder our species has made it this far, frankly.

Elitist Joe Manchin Disses West Virginians

I’ve been reading a lot of snarking about West Virginia voters, and why Joe Manchin has to be a right-wing hardass because that’s what his constituents want. From a social media contact: “HE knows his voter. They believe as he does, everybody but me is undeserving free loaders. They are not insulted by his words. They all know he is talking about everybody else. Not me! Only I am deserving.”

Another perspective, from a tweet that Bette Midler caught flack for tweeting: “What #JoeManchin, who represents a population smaller than Brooklyn, has done to the rest of America, who wants to move forward, not backward, like his state, is horrible. He sold us out. He wants us all to be just like his state, West Virginia. Poor, illiterate and strung out.” If she’d stopped after “He sold us out” she would have been all right, but instead she’s being roasted as an “elitist.”

I do not live in West Virginia, but demograpically it’s pretty similar to the Ozarks, I suspect. The reasons rural white people vote as they do are complicated. As I have said many times, one big reason is that they are saturated with right-wing media and rarely if ever hear progressive perspectives. At this point, they’ve been so well taught that “government is the problem” that many have given up looking to the government — local, state, and federal — for solutions to their very real problems. It’s also the case that neither party really listens to them. It’s also the case that the people who represent very poor rural areas often are not the rural poor.

There is an excellent article in the New Yorker by Evan Osnos, “West Virginians Ask Joe Manchin: Which Side Are You On?” If you want to read it and run into a subscription firewall, just open it in a private/incognito window. Osnos writes that to some West Virginians, “Manchin has become an icon of Washington oligarchy and estrangement, a politician with a personal fortune, whose blockade against programs that have helped his constituents escape poverty represents a sneering disregard for the gap between their actual struggles and his televised bromides.”

This part sounded familiar to me:

To anyone who knows the details, Manchin’s self-narrative—of a coal-country football star from the tiny town of Farmington—has always passed over his wealth and status. The Manchins are machers; Joe’s grandfather ran Farmington’s grocery store and served, over the years, as its fire chief, constable, justice of the peace, and mayor. His father had a similar stature in local politics, while also expanding the family business from groceries into furniture and carpets. Joe’s uncle, A. James Manchin, ascended to the positions of West Virginia’s secretary of state and treasurer. Joe’s daughter, Heather Bresch, went to work at a pharmaceutical plant in the state run by Mylan, eventually becoming its C.E.O. and collecting an estimated $37.6-million exit package when she retired, in 2020. Joe, for his part, has prospered as a coal broker, building a net worth of between four and thirteen million dollars, according to his Senate disclosures. In West Virginia terms, Manchin has been a member of the gentry—corporate, political, and personal—for decades.

As the child of a small mining community in the Ozarks, I relate to this. It’s common for rural communities to have their own version of the “1 percent,” a small number of families that seem to have plenty of money and manage to run everything. They don’t experience poverty even when living next door to it. I say Manchin probably suffers from what might be called J.D. Vance syndrome. He is utterly obvlivious to the historic and systemic reasons why rural people, white and black, remain locked into poverty. He was born into an affluent family with many advantages and doesn’t understand why those who weren’t can’t be just as successful as he is. And people like Manchin are the ones who end up deciding what problems government will address.

And so the rural poor are voiceless and unheard, which is a big reason a lot of rural whites are angry and have attached themselves to Trump. He hasn’t done bleep for them, but it feels to them that he is some kind of champion. Because of the saturation of right-wing media many don’t actually understand how the government works or what policies do, so they can be easily misled by somebody who communicates in their emotional frequency. This is especially true if the frequency includes some racist dog whistling. Note that 93.5 percent of the population of West Virginia is white.

So, they are not always faultless people. But that doesn’t make them all lazy drug addicts. Rural farming and mining areas have been left behind economically over the past several decades. There is much less opportunity than there was 50 years ago. But moving and starting over somewhere else may be too much of a hurdle, for a lot of reasons both financial and sociological. Helping these people really will take something like a New Deal. It’s not going to happen otherwise.

Eric Levitz writes at New York:

Joe Manchin is a conservative Democrat. As such, he fears deficits, distrusts the poor, champions fossil fuels, and reveres the Pentagon. Manchin believes that the national debt is a threat to our grandchildren; that giving cash aid to the idle poor only encourages lassitude; that an excessively rapid green transition is a bigger threat than climate change; that the United States cannot afford to cut its military spending; and that there is a limit to how much the nation can increase taxes while keeping its business environment “competitive.” …

… Much of Manchin’s worldview is deluded, classist, and wholly incompatible with meeting the challenges that the United States faces in the present moment. Manchin’s deficit-phobia is premised on basic misunderstandings about the nature of sovereign debt. His fear that providing cash aid to indigent families would only trap them in dependence is rooted in hateful folk wisdom, not actual social science (studies have demonstrated that giving unconditional cash benefits to low-income parents does not significantly depress their labor-force participation, but does improve their kids’ later-life outcomes, in part by increasing their labor-force participation). His stalwart support for ever-higher military budgets is born of a delusional faith in both the wisdom and plausibility of America’s absolute global dominance. His skepticism of green-energy subsidies proceeds from some admixture of his family’s financial interests and his region’s understandable yet destructive nostalgia for a long-dead coal economy.

The argument that Bette Midler is an “elitist” but Joe Manchin is not doesn’t sit well with me. Midler probably knows nothing about life in Appalachia, but that’s not her job. It is Joe Manchin’s job, and he’s failing. He looks down his nose at his impoverished constituents and declares they’d just blow the child tax credit on drugs. He thinks givng people money discourages them from taking jobs but doesn’t want to fund day care so that women with children can take jobs.

And while the coal industry isn’t dead yet, it is dying. It is not helping anybody to pretend otherwise. I know what it’s like when mines close. Once there were a steady supply of jobs in a community. Often these are union jobs. Years ago, the boys could graduate from high school and get hired by the mining company the following week, and if they consistently showed up sober and on time to do the work, they were probably set for life. They could buy houses and pickup trucks and vacations in the summer. They had health benefits and a retirement plan. Those salaries also supported construction companies and car dealerships and a lot of retail businesses. When the mines closed, it wasn’t just the miners who lost income, but the entire community. Mining towns are often one-industry towns. And if the community is rural and isolated, good luck finding other industries to take the place of the mines.

And this is not unlike the problem of the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S., which remains unsolved even though everybody knows about it. It remains unsolved because some people are making too much money the way things are.

Greg Sargent writes,

The precise nature of Manchin’s stance on BBB’s climate provisions is difficult to pin down, but two new developments help illuminate it.

First, the United Mine Workers of America just called on Manchin to reconsider his opposition to BBB. Second, the New York Times just published an expose of the coal industry’s apparent success in shaping Manchin’s stances.

Yep; the United Mine Workers begged Manchin to support Build Back Better. The Union members aren’t stupid; they know the old coal mining industry is fading away. They are keenly interested in how the transition to new energy sources will be managed. The BBB bill provided incentives for alternative energy industries to build manufacturing plants in coal-producing areas. This would be great for West Virginia.

Manchin’s objections to the BBB energy investments are nonsensical. He thinks a fast transition will create chaos. He thinks somehow this transition will lead to more fiascos like last winter’s power outages in Texas (which had nothing to do with windmills, remember). And coal industry executives and lobbyists have persuaded Manchin that investing in solar power somehow will benefit China.

Of course, there’s also the half million dollars Manchin gets every year from coal industry dividends. That’s a strong argument for the status quo, right there.

At the New Yorker, Evan Osnos points out that Manchin has a long habit of not meeting with constituents. Especially people who want to talk to him about West Virginia poverty or West Virginia jobs scarcity talk to his office staff, not the Senator. This inspired some of his constituents to surround his yacht — which he calls his “houseboat” — in a little flotilla of kayaks. It’s the only way they could talk to him.

Not exactly a man of the people, are you, Senator?

The Squad Was Right All Along

Jennifer Rubin thinks the reaction to Joe Manchin’s announcement yesterday caught the West Virginia senator by surprise.

Virtually no Democrat came to Manchin’s defense on Sunday after the White House accused him of double-crossing President Biden. (As White House press secretary Jen Psaki put it, Manchin’s announcement was “a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate.”) Maybe Manchin, who has been treated with kid gloves by his former Senate colleague in the Oval Office, did not imagine the White House would release a blow-by-blow account of the negotiations, going so far as to mention Manchin had put his recent proposal in writing.

And perhaps Manchin expected moderates in the House and Senate to ride to his defense. Instead, prominent moderates, including Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), expressed shock and dismay. After all, Democratic moderates had gone out on a limb to accommodate Manchin’s demands, allowing him to practically write the energy provisions of the bill. He then made them look like fools, offering up Republican talking points to criticize them as fiscally irresponsible.

Democrats have been treating Manchin very carefully these past several months. They didn’t badmouth him even on MSNBC. Even the progressive Democrats (excluding Bernie Sanders, an independent) have been saying that talks with Manchin were productive and everyone espected to come to some kind of agreement somehow.

Well, that’s off. And so are the kid gloves. TPM says that even the New Democrat Coalition is pissed at Manchin.

The Hill is reporting that Manchin decided to stop negotiating because President Biden was uncivil to him, somehow, but in reading the article I’m just not seeing any incivility that justified Manchin’s blowup of his party’s hopes and agenda. Josh Marshall comments:

The level of pettiness on display here may be difficult to comprehend or believe. But as far as it goes I do believe it.

But the big picture is the important one to understand. For almost a year Manchin has strung his caucus and President Biden along, changing his positions, changing his rationales, being cagey about what he supported or what he would do. He’s strung them along and forced them to play the fool, repeatedly, while being entirely indifferent to the impact of his own actions on the political standing of his colleagues or their deeply held views.

Manchin doesn’t owe anyone his vote. But someone in his position owes the members of his caucus and a President of his own party a strong good faith effort to get to yes, to be candid, not to embarrass or humiliate his colleagues. He failed to do any of those things. And in his mind it was basically fine to put everyone through the wringer. But the first time the White House gave even the most delicate push back Manchin went berserk and blew everything up. That’s petulant and petty and just pathetic. And yet he has the vote. It’s in his power to do.

Manchin has been stringing this out intentionally for months. The deadlines and urgency were meaningless to him. As the President’s popularity dimmed he became more recalcitrant, throwing up a parade of contradictory and often nonsensical objections. The alternative to this was perpetual and indefinite coddling with no end in sight.

I can’t say I’ve paid a great deal of attention to Manchin before this year. I suspect that’s true of a lot of Democrats around the country. Now that I’ve had a better look at him, I want him gone. How in the world did this hothouse flower stay in poilitics so long?

I have to say, though, that the only explanation for Manchin’s behavior is that he’s being paid to blow up the Democrats’ agenda. Maybe he really is that much of a narcissist, but I have a hard time believing he’s screwing his party just out of pettiness. He’s getting paid.

The Washington Post is reporting that Manchin’s final offer included “universal prekindergarten for 10 years, an expansion of Obamacare and hundreds of billions of dollars to combat climate change.” However, it excluded the child tax credit, and this was a non-starter for the White House. There are reports that Manchin has been saying privately that parents just waste the child tax credit buying drugs.

Manchin’s announcement caused Goldman Sachs to tell clients the failure of the bill would slow economic growth in 2022. Today, the Dow fell more than 430 points, or 1.2%, on Monday. The S&P 500 was down 1.1%, and Nasdaq dropped 1.2%.

“We told you so,” congressional progressives are hollering. They wanted to keep the infrastructure and BBB bill to remain in tandem. Last month they reluctantly allowed the vote on the infrastructure bill to go forward on President Biden’s say so that Manchin had agreed to a “framework” on the BBB. And now their leverage is gone. Li Zhou writes at Vox:

The bills were coupled for weeks but were eventually separated due to pressure from House moderates and an assurance from President Joe Biden that he’d secure a yes vote from Manchin on the Build Back Better Act. Most House progressives voted in favor of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework; in the end, the six House members in “the Squad” were the only ones within the Congressional Progressive Caucus who voted against it. At the time, they reiterated fears that passing the infrastructure bill first would give up any leverage they had to pressure moderate lawmakers like Manchin to consider the Build Back Better Act. …

… “We have been saying this for weeks that this would happen,” Squad member Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) said in an MSNBC interview on Sunday. “Having [the infrastructure bill and Build Back Better] coupled together was the only leverage we had. And what did the caucus do? We tossed it.”

The Squad was right. Let that be rememered.

Stabbed in the Back by Joe Manchin

I was going to not write about Joe Manchin again today, but then Joe Manchin got on Fox News Sunday today and announced he could not vote for the Build Back Better bill. Just couldn’t do it. He tried and tried to get himself to a place where he could vote for it, but he never arrived. So that’s that.

Politico is reporting that less than 30 minutes before his television appearance, Manchin sent an aide to inform the White House of what he was about to announce. WH staff tried to get him on the phone before the interview, but he wouldn’t take the call.

Jen Psaki then delivered a statement on Manchin that called Manchin a liar and a traitor without using those exact words. She did call Manchin’s announcement “a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate.” She laid out all the ways that Manchin’s excuses for not supporting the bill were total bullshit. Do read it.

In June we learned that Manchin more or less takes orders from No Labels, a “third way” sort of organization whose members include many billionaires — capital management, equity firms, hedge funds, etc. Even though he got “caught on tape,” so to speak, no one in mainstream media has been willing to call him out on this, I have noticed.

Steve M:

I thought there might still be hope for Build Back Better, in some greatly reduced form, but Joe Manchin just stabbed the president and every swing-district Democrat in the back, as well as every person who would have benefited from the bill, because the people who own him want to keep ordinary people’s grubby hands off what they consider their money and want Democrats to lose every election, and Manchin wants whatever they want.

It’s well known that Manchin makes money from fossil fuel investments, which puts him off any provisions in the bill meant to develop new energy sources. But if that were all that bothered him he wouldn’t be against all the rest of it. Which he is. I’m guessing his donors ordered him to pull the plug this weekend. Maybe right before Christmas fewer people would notice.

Up until now I have suspected there has been an agreement among congressional Democrats to not speak ill of Joe Manchin in public no matter how much he was pissing people off. I suspect that agreement just got nullified.

“Today, Senator Manchin has betrayed his commitment not only to the President and Democrats in Congress but most importantly, to the American people,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, whose left-leaning bloc, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, advocated fiercely for the bill.

“He routinely touts that he is a man of his word, but he can no longer say that,” she said. “West Virginians, and the country, see clearly who he is.”

Independent Bernie Sanders tweeted:

Bernie hadn’t really been holding back on criticizing Manchin in public before today, of course. Bernie caucuses with the Democrats but isn’t exactly one of them.

At Slate, Jim Newell writes that maybe something can be salvaged if Democrats just hand Manchin a pen and tell him to write the bill he would vote for. But this is a disaster, for President Biden, for the Democratic Party, for the nation, and for a world facing climate change.

The Trumps: Too Much Corruption to Count

Because writing about how much I want Joe Manchin to go away would be too exhausting, I want to call your attention to a report just issued by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. I’m not sure that I knew this committee existed, but it appears they’ve been toiling away for awhile. The report is not long and worth a look.

Much of the report looks at all the many ways the Trump Administration screwed up last year. CNN provides a summary, mostly focusing on the way the administration gagged scientists from telling the truth about the pandemic. Other sections look at the administration’s incompetent response and the way doors were left open for fraud and profiteering.

Remember the test fail?

Remember back when supplies purchased by states and hospitals were being seized by federal agents and hauled off to parts unknown? There’s never been a reckoning of where all that stuff went. Remember Jared Kushner’s “The federal stockpile is ours, not the states'”? See Are the Trumps Engaged in Profiteering? from April 2020. Remember when Jared decided to let “the markets” respond to the virus, and if New York wasn’t getting the ventilators it needed, “that’s their problem”?

We’ve been focused on Trump’s attempt to steal the 2020 election; the corruption and self-dealing of his administration have yet to be reckoned with.

Now the government is sounding the alarm about Omicron. This is being ignored wholesale here in Trump Country. I fear we’re in for a rough winter. Get your boosters, people. Data so far shows that people who have been boosted may get a mild case, but they don’t need to be hospitalized. I recommend this clip from Maddow’s show a couple of nights ago —

Republicans Hate American History

Do y’all remember ALEC? The American Legislative Exchange Council is a right-wing organization with a lot of wealthy supporters that creates model bills for state legislatures to copy and pass into law. It’s been around since the 1970s, but in 2012 it came to everyone’s attention. Political pressure caused a lot of their corporate donors to drop out.

But it didn’t die. Now ALEC is one of the forces — not the only one — pushing parents into a frenzy to ban Critical Race Theory from schools, even though it’s unlikely CRT really makes an appearance in elementary and secondary education. The people screaming about it mostly don’t know what it is.

In academia,  a “critical theory” in the social sciences is a focus on society, culture, law, etc. in order to reveal and challenge embedded power structures. And CRT, which has been around for decades, says that race is a social construct and that racism is not just a matter of individual bigotry but is baked into the legal and criminal justice systems and other widespread policies and practices. It’s a means to assess where racism is systemic, in other words. This isn’t something that would be introduced to third graders, I don’t believe.

ALEC’s web page speaks of CRT as if it were a disease. Here’s a screen shot

Note that they’ve been at this for over a year, at least. In June, NPR reported on how ALEC and other groups have been fueling the fight against CRT. ALEC has been hosting webinars and making YouTube videos that get widely circulated among righties on social media. By June there were at least 165 local and national groups “trying to disrupt or block lessons on race and gender.”

Few of those lessons had anything to do with CRT.  The parents and local activists inspired to show up at school board meetings and scream about CRT and making their little white children feel bad wouldn’t know CRT from a toaster. Opponents of CRT “are using critical race theory as really more of a catchall to include anything teaching students about systemic racism, any mention of white privilege, and, really, the definition that they’re using has expanded to include anything related to equity, diversity and inclusion,” the NPR report said.

Behind this is a bigger goal, which is to re-ignite something like the old Tea Party movement going in to the 2022 midterms. Instead of getting the rubes worked up about taxes and death panels, now they are worked up about confronting racism and everything else they don’t like about modernity in public schools. This appears to have worked pretty well in the recent Virginia gubernatorial election.

The banning of CRT has left teachers in the dark about how to teach race, since they weren’t teaching CRT to begin with, and it appears that any mention of race in any context brings out the zombies. A Tennessee high school teacher was fired for discussing race in a “contemporary issues” class. Those still teaching are probably doing a lot of self-censorship.

South Dakota recently passed a bill that explicitly bans CRT. No SD public school, from kindergarten to 12th grade, may teach CRT, which the bill defines as “the theory that racism is not merely the product of learned individual bias or prejudice, but that racism is systemically embedded in American society and the American legal system to facilitate racial inequality.”

Of course, the fact that South Dakota passed this law is pretty solid proof that CRT is needed.

Note also that while I was looking up the South Dakota law I found an innocuous-looking site labeled “Critical Race Training in Education.” The site is nothing but anti-CRT propaganda.

Oklahoma passed a law banning CRT as well as anything about gender and sexual diversity in classrooms last spring. Now a lawmaker wants to pass a more detailed bill that would pretty much stop Oklahoma teachers from teaching much of anything about American history. This bill bans the following

  1. Any teaching that America has more culpability, in general, than other nations for the institution of slavery;
  2. That one race is the unique oppressor in the institution of slavery;
  3. That another race is the unique victim in the institution of slavery;
  4. That America, in general, had slavery more extensively and for a later period of time than other nations; or
  5. The primary and overarching purpose for the founding of America was the initiation and perpetuation of slavery.

Basically, this guy wants to be sure U.S. schoolchildren aren’t taught the history of slavery.

First off, let’s be clear what we’re talking about when we are talking about slavery. Slavery in the U.S. was “chattel” slavery, in which one person entirely owns another.  It was also hereditary, meaning that an enslaved person’s children also were automatically enslaved. Through world history all kinds of people bound all kinds of other people into arrangements that get labeled “slavery,” but these arrangements weren’t always this extreme.

It’s also the case that slavery existed in most parts of the world at one time or another, and all kinds of people have enslaved all kinds of other people. But the United States came into existence in the latter part of the 18th century. That, for example, Spartans enslaved captured Athenians in the 5th century BCE is not an excuse.

To take these one at a time —

#1. It’s true that much of western Europe still permitted chattel slavery at the beginning of the 19th century, especially in those nations with colonies in Africa and the Western Hemisphere. Most if not all elminated slavery before the U.S. did, but not by a great many years.

In the Western Hemisphere, the last nation to eliminate slavery was Brazil, in 1888. Note that after the U.S. Civil War some plantation owners relocated to Brazil to continue their “way of life.” See The Confederacy Made Its Last Stand in Brazil.

Still, this is a “Spanky did it too” kind of defense. Just because other nations were doing it doesn’t make it right.

Chattel slavery actually became more entrenched in the Americas during the 18th and 19th centuries than it had been earlier. Plantation cash crops like cotton and tobacco required a lot of labor, and Africans were imported and enslaved to provide that labor.

#2 and #3. As I have already said, if you look at world history going back to its beginnings, you can find many forms of slavery among people of all races. However, if we’re looking at the formative years of the United States, it really was mostly white people enslaving mostly black people. The only exceptions I know of were that the Cherokee and some other indigenous tribes owned African slaves for a time. A very small number of free black slave owners have been documented.

Native Americans also were sold into chattel slavery, especially in the 18th century. As much as white supremacists claim otherwise, however, whites did not become chattel slaves in the American colonies. Slavery in North America was a permanent and inherited condition passed on to subsequent generations. Some whites who came here were indentured servants, which could be harsh, but once they had worked off their contracts they were free. Their children were born free. Families were not broken up and sold away from each other. That happened only to nonwhites.

Further, it was the big plantation owners of the Southern states who were determined to maintain the institution of slavery and spread it into the western territories. And the big plantations owners were white. Further, by the 18th and 19th centuries slavery was being justified by claims that black people were either not entirely human or were not capable of being civilized, so it was a kindness to enslave them.

To pretend that slavery in the United States was not an institution that allowed white people to own black people is to hallucinate.  Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, explained this in his infamous “cornerstone” speech:

“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

By the 19th century, and really long before that, the institution of slavery in the U.S. was all about enslaving people of African ancestry to labor for white people.  By the 19th century, in most slave states, black people found without papers proving their status as free could be seized and forced into slavery. Just because they were black. To pretend there was no racial component to slavery in the U.S. is beyond lunacy.

#4 — In 1850, 3,204,313 people were enslaved in the United States. This was out of a population of 23,191,876. I believe this means that more than 13 percent of the population of the U.S. was enslaved (you are cordially invited to check my math). I don’t have data on other countries in 1850 to know how that measures up, but I suspect that 13 percent of the population is on the high side.

#5 — I believe this statement is a distortion of a conclusion from the 1619 Project. Basically, the Project argues that “Enslavement is not marginal to the history of the United States; it is inextricable. So many of our traditions and institutions were shaped by slavery, and so many of our persistent racial inequalities stem from its enduring legacy.” That’s absolutely true. It’s also true, the Project says, that protecting the institution of slavery was one of the reasons colonists supported separation from Britain. Slavery was not illegal in Britain, but an abolitionist movement was gaining steam there by 1776. I think that’s what is being distorted into “The primary and overarching purpose for the founding of America was the initiation and perpetuation of slavery.”

Anyway — basically, the Oklahoma law, if passed, would outlaw the teaching of American history in Oklahoma. Teachers could only present a distorted and highly cherry picked version of it.

Along with banning the teaching of American history, Republicans are going whole hog into book banning and book burning these days. Books dealing with race and gender equality, or LBGTQ issues, or anything Republicans want to pretend isn’t there, are being yanked from school shelves. Some Republican politicians want these books burned.

Yep, we’re living in interesting times.