"I don't like paying higher gas taxes either but it's incredible that people will buy GOP outrage on gas that's $5 instead of $3.50--but then excuse GOP for keeping minimum wage at $7.25 instead of $15, insulin at $1200 instead of $35, & paid leave at 0 weeks instead of 12 weeks." ~ Qasim Rashid
First, some surveys of differences between the two parties. Note: GOP stands for Republicans ("Grand Old Party")
• Democrat vs. Republican (Diffen) Examines the differences between the policies and political positions of the Democratic and Republican parties on major issues such as taxes, the role of government, entitlements (Social Security, Medicare), gun control, immigration, healthcare, abortion, environmental policy and regulation.
Dems: liberal ideology, minimum wages, higher tax for the rich.
Repubs: Conservative, free market, flat tax.
---Dems advocate for stricter gun laws, do not want greater spending on the military; Reps not in favor of stricter gun laws, prefer to increase spending on defence.
---Democrats believe that the threat of climate change is real and therefore actions need to be taken to mitigate the negative impact of climate change. Republicans have cast doubts on the negative impact of climate change. They had rejected the findings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
---Chart shows many further differences--not just between Democrats and Republicans.
---Dems strongly believe that governments can support and provide universal healthcare (e.g., Obamacare). Repubs think private companies can run healthcare services more efficiently than the Government.
• Both Republicans and Democrats prioritize family, but they differ over other sources of meaning in life (Laura Silver and Patrick van Kessel, Pew Research Center, 11-22-21)
• The political positions of the Republican Party (Wikipedia) A super Wikipedia page, with an excellent chart.
"The positions of the Republican Party have evolved over time. Currently, the party's fiscal conservatism includes support for lower taxes, free market capitalism, deregulation of corporations, and restrictions on labor unions.''
"The platform of the Republican Party of the United States is generally based on American conservatism, contrasting with the modern liberalism of the Democratic Party. The positions of the Republican Party have evolved over time. Currently, the party's fiscal conservatism includes support for lower taxes, free market capitalism, deregulation of corporations, and restrictions on labor unions. The party's social conservatism includes support for gun rights outlined in the Second Amendment, and other traditional values, often with a Christian foundation, including restrictions on abortion.
"In foreign policy, Republicans usually favor increased military spending and unilateral action. Other Republican positions include restrictions on immigration, more specifically opposition to illegal immigration, opposition to drug legalization, and support for school choice." Wikipedia provides footnote references for these generalizations.
• The political positions of the Democratic Party (Wikipedia) "Democratic platforms seek to promote social programs, labor unions, consumer protection, workplace safety regulation, equal opportunity, disability rights, racial equity, regulations against environmental pollution, and criminal justice reform.
"The platform of the Democratic Party of the United States is generally based on American liberalism, contrasting with the conservatism of the Republican Party. The party has large centrist and progressive wings, as well as smaller fiscal conservative and democratic socialist elements. Democratic platforms seek to promote social programs, labor unions, consumer protection, workplace safety regulation, equal opportunity, disability rights, racial equity, regulations against environmental pollution,and criminal justice reform. Democrats tend to support abortion rights and the LGBT community, as well as a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Democrats typically agree with the scientific consensus on climate change and favor a multilateral approach in foreign policy." Wikipedia provides footnote references for these generalizations.
'Everything that gets labeled "far-left" in the US is common sense policy in the rest of the industrialized world.
"Guaranteed health care. Paid family leave. Government drug price negotiation. Gun control.
"It isn't radical. We're talking about the basics of a functioning society."
~ Public Citizen @Public_Citizen
• Trump Is Excited About These Three Things (Thomas B. Edsall, NY Times, 10-4-23) "To advance his relentless political ambition, Donald Trump has ridden a promise, a commitment and a pledge.
"A promise to end the illegal flow of migrants, drugs, cash and guns “across our border.”
"A commitment to stop other countries seeking “to suck more blood out of the United States.”
"A pledge to impose law-and-order solutions on cities “where there is a true breakdown in the rule of law,” describing a majority-Black city like Baltimore as “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” and warning gangs of shoplifters just last week that if he is elected again, “We will immediately stop all of the pillaging and theft. If you rob a store, you can fully expect to be shot as you are leaving that store.”
A "rise in visible criminal activity and social unrest leaves Democrats where they essentially either give up their values in terms of crime and punishment and keep voters in the middle or hold the line in terms of crime and punishment (continuing to argue for more progressive policies) and risk losing some votes. It’s not a great spot."
While “Trump is successfully branding Democrats as weak on crime and immigration,” Westwood continued, it remains uncertain whether he can persuade voters that he is the better choice: “It is hard for Trump to convince Americans that he is the tough-on-crime candidate while simultaneously demanding the destruction of the Department of Justice and railing against the integrity of the judicial system.”
• American Democracy Requires a Conservative Party (Tom Nichols, The Atlantic, 9-26-23) "Slightly more than a year ago, I tried to think through what being a conservative means in the current era of American politics. I have not been a Republican for several years, but I still describe myself as a conservative: I believe in public order as a prerequisite for politics; I respect tradition, and I am reluctant to acquiesce to change too precipitously; I think human nature is fixed rather than malleable; I am suspicious of centralized government power; I distrust mass movements. To contrast these with progressivism, I think most folks on the left, for example, would weigh social justice over abstract commitments to order, be more inclined to see traditions as obstacles to progress, and regard mass protests as generally positive forces."
"The current GOP is not so much conservative as it is reactionary... much of the current GOP has become an anti-constitutional leader cult built around Trump—perhaps one of the weakest and unlikeliest men ever in history to have such a following—and could become a genuinely fascist threat soon.)...America cannot sustain itself without a functional and sane center-right party. So far, the apathy of the public, the fecklessness of the media, and the cynicism of Republican leaders mean that no such party is on the horizon."
• U.S. Political Party Preferences Shifted Greatly During 2021 (Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup Poll, 1-17-22) Shifting party preferences in 2021 are likely tied to changes in popularity of the two men who served as president during the year....The GOP advantage may be starting to ease, however, as Gallup's latest monthly estimate, from December, showed the two parties about even -- 46% Republican/Republican leaning and 44% Democratic/Democratic leaning.
• Qasim Rashid, Esq. @QasimRashid tweeted(4-29-22):
Just so we're clear
• Living wage
• Universal healthcare
• 4-year public college
• Police demilitarization
• Big Lie
• Pro Putin
• Billionaire tax cuts
• Speak at Nazi/white nationalist events
• Ban all immigration, books on racism, & LGBT
And then there's Viktor Orbán’s “Christian democracy” vs. “democracy,” as explained by Heather Cox Richardson (6-4-23) 'Orbán has dismantled Hungary’s liberal democratic government in favor of what he calls “illiberal” or “Christian” democracy that rejects LGBTQ and women’s rights, claiming that the equality valued by liberal democracies undermines traditional virtue....The common thread among these groups is a rejection of democracy, with its emphasis on equality before the law, and the embrace of a hierarchical world in which some people are better than others and have the right to rule.
DeSantis has imitated 'Orbán’s politics, striking at the principles of liberal democracy with attacks on LGBTQ Americans, abortion rights, academic freedom, and the ability of businesses to react to market forces rather than religious imperatives. Last week he told an audience that “the woke mind virus represents a war on the truth so we will wage a war on the woke. We will fight the woke in education, we will fight the woke in the corporations, we will fight the woke in the halls of congress. We will never, ever surrender to the woke mob. We will make woke ideology leave it to the dustbin of history; it’s gone.”
• The Party of False Equivalence (The Weekly Sift, 7-24-23) The No Labels target voter is a moderate Democrat who watches too much Fox News. False equivalence: "We have two very unpopular potential nominees, and both of them potentially face very serious legal troubles."
• What If Colleges Lose at Supreme Court? (Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 2-6-23) Some colleges are starting to plan for what is widely expected to happen: the end of affirmative action. They just aren’t saying so. The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers "filed briefs in the cases involving Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that endorse the universities’ position that their use of affirmative action is legal. But AACRAO also remembers what happened when the University of California Board of Regents banned affirmative action in 1995, and the state followed a year later: Black and Latino enrollment fell by half in the first year of the new policy at the Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses."
• Americans not only divided, but baffled by what motivates their opponents (Eric Plutzer and Michael Berkman, The McCourtney Institute for Democracy) A report on a poll taken by the Institute. Many Republicans told us that Democratic voters were “brainwashed by the propaganda of the mainstream media,” or voting solely in their self-interest to preserve undeserved welfare and food stamp benefits.A 64-year-old strong Republican man from Illinois: “Democrats want to help the poor, save Social Security, and tax the rich.” Roughly one in six Republican voters answered in the persona of a Democratic voter who is motivated “free college,” “free health care,” “free welfare,” and so on. They see Democrats as voting in order to get “free stuff” “without having to work for it.” “Democrats welcome all people into the country whether they are here legally or not.”
More than four in ten Democratic voters (42%) felt that most Republican voters had the country’s best interests at heart, but Democrats quoted as seeing Republican taking a “harsh stance on immigration; standing up for the 2nd Amendment; promised tax cuts,” with desires to “stop abortion… stop gay marriage from ruining our country… and give us our coal jobs back.” Plus the GOP’s “opposition to Obamacare."
• Ketanji Brown Jackson Torches Clarence Thomas for Bulls--t Take on Affirmative Action (Bess Levin, Levin Report, Vanity Fair, 6-29-23) The Supreme Court’s conservative majority effectively ended affirmative action, and dissenting Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson chided her "conservative colleagues, one of whom has a well documented history of being anti-affirmative action—of straight up being racist." She accused them of "not having an earthly clue—or having one and just not giving a f--k—about the history and impact of racism in this country, which persists today, and which Thursday’s decision will only make worse."
See also The Decision That Upends the Equal-Protection Clause (Adam Harris, The Atlantic, 6-29-23) 'Legally, the decision is a landmark, taking a tool—the Fourteenth Amendment—meant to prevent discrimination against Black Americans in a post–Civil War landscape and turning it on its head, into a guarantor of a “race neutral” approach.'...In this case, the Court took Justice John Marshall Harlan’s dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, that “our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens,” to upend that historical purpose, a result that Justice Thurgood Marshall had in some ways predicted four decades ago. “It would be the cruelest irony for this Court to adopt the dissent in Plessy now and hold that the University must use color-blind admissions,” Marshall wrote.'
And ‘Race Neutral’ Is the New ‘Separate but Equal’ (Uma Mazyck Jayakumar and Ibram X. Kendi, The Atlantic, ) Race, by definition, has never been neutral.
• The Underlying Differences Between Liberals and Conservatives (Doug Muder,The Daily Sift, 8-24-20), Doug Muder's analysis of the differences between the two party positions is interesting and persuasive. Do take a look at it.
• The Long Afterlife of Libertarianism (Benjamin Wallace-Wells, New Yorker, 6-5-23) As a movement, it has imploded. As a credo, it’s here to stay. This "is a weird time for elegies, as the laissez-faire credo still suffuses much of the political spectrum. On the center-left, there is barely a whisper of the old enthusiasm for central planning that so spooked Hayek, and Democratic politicians routinely praise government programs for giving citizens the freedom to do as they please. On the right, a colloquial libertarianism is everywhere. The fights against masks and vaccines, against teaching about gender and race in schools, and against “cancel culture” and programs promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion typically strike as a defense of individual rights—Don’t Tread on Me. The radical zero-government doctrine of Rothbard and Norquist turned out to be mismatched, in ways that took a few decades to become apparent, with the everyday American allergy to authority. But even with their policy program in temporary retreat libertarians have left the contemporary right with its defining characteristic: an instinct for absolutism."
• The Republicans’ sexual obsession (Robert Reich, Office Hours, 3-8-23) Bills to ban same-sex marriage, drag performances; more than 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills nationwide; anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes on the rise, with the past two years being the deadliest on record for transgender Americans. Ron DeSantis is purging Florida public schools of any mention of gender identity or sexual orientation.
• Letters from an American (Heather Cox Richardson,5-8-23, at first about right-wing shooter at mall in Texas) Beginning in the 1980s, Republican leaders found voters to support their “supply-side” economics... by turning their base against “liberals.” They "emphasized culture wars primarily to turn out voters." Trump "offered its members the anti-Black, anti-immigrant, and antiabortion measures it craved," and his drive for authoritarism was well-expressed by "Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, is that the secular principles of liberal democracy—equality before the law, free speech, freedom to go to church or not, academic inquiry, a free press, immigration, companies that can make decisions based on markets rather than morality—destroy virtue by tearing down the sexual and religious guardrails of traditional society. In order to bring that virtue back, right-wing thinkers argue, the government must defend religion and self-sacrifice (although it’s hard to miss that they’re looking for other people to make those sacrifices, not themselves)."
“Come back, Mr President,” Orbán said of Trump’s 2024 presidential bid. “Make America great again and bring us peace.” Orbán claimed his suppression of LGBTQ+ rights, academic freedom, and the media is a model for the world."
• Letters from an American (Heather Cox Richardson, 3-7-23) "In 2010, Obama established the Affordable Care Act, more popularly known as Obamacare, extending medical coverage to many for whom it was out of reach. That law significantly slowed the growth of healthcare spending. [Republicans often disparage Obamacare.]
MAGA Republicans want to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, getting rid of drug negotiations and price caps. "Biden proposes to build on [The Affordable Care Act and the Inflation Reduction Act], increasing the scope of Medicare’s negotiations over drug prices, a process he claims would yield $200 billion in savings that he would put directly into Medicare’s trust fund."...Biden proposes to raise the Medicare tax rate on earned and unearned income above $400,000 from its current rate of 3.8% to 5%....“When Medicare was passed, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans didn’t have more than five times the wealth of the bottom 50 percent combined,” Biden commented, “and it only makes sense that some adjustments be made to reflect that reality today."
"Republican leadership has vowed to cut the U.S. budget significantly but has also said publicly that it would not touch Social Security or Medicare. (However, former vice president Mike Pence promptly negated that promise when he said, "While I respect the speaker's commitment to take Social Security and Medicare off the table for the debt ceiling negotiations, we've got to put them on the table in the long term.”) Few Republicans will agree to cuts in the defense budget, either.
• My Week Inside a Right-Wing “Constitutional Defense” Training Camp (Laura Jedeed, TNR, 1-3-23) Patriot Academy is engaged in a life-and-death struggle to rewrite America’s Constitution—and teaching its supporters how to defend themselves with a handgun, just in case, at a firing range in Texas, where contributor (and Army veteran) Laura Jedeed gets “far and away the best training” that she “ever received.” The training was part of Patriot Academy’s “Constitutional Defense” course. “The handgun course is a loss leader,” she writes. “The ideology is the product.” After a whirlwind exploration of America’s foundational document, we arrived at the Second Amendment, which Green, like many conservatives, views as the lynchpin of the entire Constitution. “It’s not about hunting,” Green told us emphatically. “It is literally about defending your life and about keeping a tyrannical government at bay.”
• A Georgia Republican Brags That Voter Suppression Helped Them in 2022 (Joan Walsh, The Nation, 1-17-23) This is a perfect example of how even comparative GOP “moderates” are promoting the Big Lie—and have participated in deranging their own party and eroding American democracy. A 'Wisconsin Republican election commissioner boasted of the party’s success in dampening Black turnout, especially in Milwaukee, last November. Thanks to the state GOP’s “well thought out multi-faceted plan,” commissioner Robert Spindell e-mailed colleagues, 37,000 fewer voters cast ballots there than in 2018, “with the major reduction happening in the overwhelming Black and Hispanic areas.” It could have cost Democrat Mandela Barnes a Senate seat...
'After the bill imposed restrictions on voting by mail, mail-in ballots plunged by 81 percent from 2020, and Black voter turnout dropped from 2018 midterm levels...'Loeffler says the law did something equally important: it reassured conservative voters “disenfranchised” by the myth of Democratic voter fraud that their votes would count, and thus boosted white GOP turnout.
'That’s confirmation of what we knew all along: At its best, SB 202 was a solution to problems that never existed and a cynical, dishonest “confirmation” to its base that Donald Trump’s Big Lie about election fraud was true.'
• How ‘Stop the Steal’ Captured the American Right (Charles Homans, NY Times, 7-19-22) The movement to reinstate President Trump has gone far beyond him — and now threatens the future of American elections. An excellent overview of party trends in the 21st century. The Tea Party idea "that a substantial part of the American public were not legitimate actors in American politics" reached its purest expression in the conspiracy theories about Obama, whose presidency was so unsquarable with what the Tea Partyers believed to be the true nature of America that to some it seemed, ipso facto, to represent a crime. The nation was imperiled by "the cult of multiculturalism, aided by leftist liberals all over, who don't have the same ideas about America as we do," Tom Tancredo, a former Republican congressman from Colorado and a star of the new movement, declared at the first Tea Party convention in Nashville in early 2010.
"Trump's 2016 campaign marked the moment that the Tea Party's intimations of illegitimacy were converted into a leading presidential candidate's political strategy. Trump rode into politics during the Obama years on the birth-certificate conspiracy theory and the uproar over the Islamic cultural center in Manhattan..."
• The state of Joe Biden’s union: The return to democratic capitalism (Robert Reich, 2-6-23)
The Great Crash of 1929 followed by the Great Depression taught the nation a crucial lesson that we forgot after Ronald Reagan’s presidency: that the so-called “free market” does not exist. The economy that collapsed in 1929 was the consequence of decisions that had organized the market for a monied elite...
"Franklin D. Roosevelt and his administration...reorganized the market to serve public purposes — stopping the excessive borrowing and Wall Street gambling, encouraging labor unions, establishing Social Security, and creating unemployment insurance, disability insurance, and a 40-hour workweek. They used government spending to create more jobs....Subsequent Democratic and Republican administrations enlarged and extended democratic capitalism. Wall Street was regulated, as were television networks, airlines, railroads, and other common carriers.
"Then came a giant U-turn. The OPEC oil embargo of the 1970s brought double-digit inflation followed by Fed Chair Paul Volcker’s effort to “break the back” of inflation by raising interest rates so high that the economy fell into deep recession....From 1981 onward, a new bipartisan orthodoxy emerged that the so-called “free market” functioned well only if the government got out of the way... And the means shifted from public oversight of the market to deregulation, free trade, privatization, “trickle-down” tax cuts, and deficit reduction — all of which helped the monied interests make more money.
All of which prepared the ground for Ronald Reagan’s war on democratic capitalism.
"What happened next? For 40 years, the economy grew, but median wages stagnated. Inequalities of income and wealth ballooned. Wall Street reverted to the betting parlor it had been in the 1920s. Finance once again ruled the economy. Spurred by hostile takeovers, corporations began focusing solely on maximizing shareholder returns — which led them to fight unions, suppress wages, abandon their communities, and outsource abroad.
"Democratic capitalism, organized to serve public purposes, all but disappeared. It was replaced by corporate capitalism, organized to serve the monied interests. Joe Biden is reviving democratic capitalism. He learned from the Obama administration’s mistake of spending too little to pull the economy out of the Great Recession that the pandemic required substantially greater spending, which would also give working families a cushion against adversity. So he pushed for and got the giant $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan....
"He has also embarked on altering the balance of power between capital and labor, as did FDR. Biden has put trustbusters at the head of the Federal Trade Commission and the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department. And he has remade the National Labor Relations Board into a strong advocate of labor unions.
"Biden’s larger achievement has been to change the economic paradigm that has reigned since Reagan. He is teaching America a lesson we once knew but have since forgotten: that the “free market” does not exist. It is designed. It either advances public purposes or it serves the monied interests.Biden’s democratic capitalism is neither socialism nor “big government.” It is, rather, a return to an era when government organized the market for the greater good.
• A historian details how a secretive, extremist group radicalized the American right (Terry Gross, Fresh Air, 5-17-23) The John Birch Society, which was active from the late '50s through the early '70s, propelled today's extremist takeover of the American right, says Matthew Dallek, author of Birchers: How The John Birch Society Radicalized The American Right...."The society was known for its opposition to the civil rights movement, its antisemitism, its willingness to harass and intimidate its political enemies and for spreading conspiracy theories."
"Communist plots were alleged to be behind many things the Birchers opposed, from the U.N., to teaching sex education in schools and putting fluoride in the water supply. The group was founded in secret in 1958 by the wealthy, retired candy manufacturer Robert Welch, whose candies included Sugar Babies, Junior Mints and Pom Poms. The people Welch first invited to join the society were also wealthy, white businessmen, including the Koch brothers' father Fred Koch."
"I argue that the Birchers helped forge an alternative political tradition on the far right and that the core ideas were an anti-establishment, apocalyptic, more violent mode of politics, conspiracy theories, anti-interventionism and a more explicit racism and that - and then on top of that, as well, they were some of the first people on the right to take up questions of public morality, of Christian evangelical politics - banning sex education in schools, trying to insert what they called patriotic texts into libraries and into the classroom. And so they were quite early to - even the issue of abortion. They were quite early to a set of issues that would become known as the culture wars."
"They were deeply opposed to labor unions. They wanted a free enterprise system that was unencumbered by government regulations, where the New Deal, essentially, did not exist. And they viewed these rules and regulations as part of a creeping communist plot, essentially, that was slowly moving the United States toward where the Soviet Union was."
• Letters from an American, June 14, 2023 (Heather Cox Richardson, 6-15-23) Snippets from throughout this excellent brief history of U.S. child labor law: "On Monday, the World Day Against Child Labor, Democrats introduced into Congress the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety, or CARE Act. It seeks to raise the minimum age for farm work from 12 to 14, repairing a carveout from the era of the Jim Crow 1930s that permitted children to work on farms at two years younger than in other sectors. This bill...Raul Ruiz notes, has exemptions for family farms. It is intended not to stop the passing of farming knowledge from parents to kids, but to protect Latinx children “who are working in the fields because they’re living in extreme poverty.” In February 2023 the Department of Labor reported that it had seen a 69% increase—note that these were only cases that were caught—in “children being employed illegally by companies.”
"Those calling for rollbacks of child labor protections say they are protecting parents’ rights from an intrusive state. They portray child labor as family oriented and good work experience. But the measures are backed—and sometimes written—by the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), a right-wing Florida think tank founded in 2011 whose goal is to cut the social safety net and antipoverty programs. Far-right donors who want to dismantle the federal government provide the financial support for the FGA.
"The federal government has vowed to crack down on violations of child labor laws, but the Economic Policy Institute, which examines the economic impact of government policies, reports that in the last two years, at least fourteen states have either passed or introduced measures to weaken the laws protecting children from dangerous working conditions. They permit longer work hours and more dangerous work, lower the ages for work around alcohol, or introduce new subminimum wages for children.
"In the years after World War II, when people in the United States were determined to stand strong against both fascism and communism, the nation embraced the idea that children should be in school rather than in factories.... Until recently, that idea seemed permanent."
• Why Republicans are obsessed with pedophilia, gender identity, gay people, and abortion (Robert Reich, 5-7-22) "Voters, don't be deflected by “culture war” messages intended to deflect the public’s attention from how badly big corporations and the super wealthy are shafting them. Americans won’t understand how these economic abuses all relate to record amounts of income and wealth at the top, and what must be done to reverse this imbalance (break up monopolies, enact a windfall profits tax, raise taxes on large corporations and the super wealthy, strengthen labor unions, reform campaign finance, stop corporate welfare, and so on).
"Oh, and by focusing on pedophilia, gender identity, gay people, and abortion, Republicans don’t have to talk about Trump and January 6."
• The Conspiracies Powering the GOP-Controlled House (Kara Vought, Rolling Stone, 1-17-23) Speaker McCarthy said that the new Select Committee on the Weaponization of Government will be tasked, in part, with interrogating how the Justice Department treated conservative protesters at school board meeting because of a “disturbing spike” when conservative parents had inundated school board meetings across the country under the banner of “parents’ rights,” a catchall for the anti-mask mandate, anti-critical race theory, anti-LBGTQ sentiment that emerged during the pandemic. Also, “Our very first bill will repeal the funding for 87,000 new IRS agents,” McCarthy promised after he finally ascended to the speakership. GOP lawmakers began pushing the talking point that nearly 90,000 “mostly armed” new agents would “hunt down and kill middle class taxpayers that don’t pay enough.” The conspiratorial claim took hold after Democrats added funding to the IRS last year to hire some new IRS agents to scrutinize the wealthy and businesses, not the middle class, for underpaying on taxes.
• Robert Reich (1-7-23): For years now, a major goal of the extreme right has been to undermine Social Security and Medicare, the most popular programs in the federal government. The extremists will not succeed. But the coming fight over raising the debt ceiling seems likely to become the defining battle over the next six to nine months.
[In return for voting in Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House the right-wing Freedom Caucus got a promise from McCarthy that he would not approve a simple increase in the debt ceiling unless spending was held back at 2022 levels — which, with more than 7 percent inflation, would require huge cuts in everything from defense spending to Social Security and Medicare.]
• Political and Religious Identities and Views on Abortion (Diana Orcés, PRRI,* 4-8-22) PRRI (the Public Religion Research Institute) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy. I discovered it when researching how Republican and Democratic opinions vary. It turned up as conducting interesting polls.
"In 2021, PRRI asked a series of questions related to how important personal identities are to Americans. About one-third of Americans (35%) said that their religious identity is the most important thing or a very important thing in their lives, compared to about one in five who mentioned their political identity (19%).
"About six in ten Americans who identify strongly with their political identity (61%) agree that “Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed a constitutional right to abortion, was the right decision and should be upheld,” compared to 43% of Americans who identify strongly with their religious identity. Democrats who identify strongly with their political identity are substantially more likely than Republicans to agree with this statement (80% vs. 36%). By contrast, the majority who identify with their religious identity (55%) disagree that “Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed a constitutional right to abortion, was the right decision and should be upheld.” This percentage is particularly high among white evangelical Protestants (78% disagree vs. 20% agree) and white Catholics (60% disagree vs. 38% agree), but white mainline Protestants tend to agree more than disagree on this question (44% disagree vs. 55% agree)."
• 50-State Survey: More Americans Than Ever (Eight in Ten) Support LGBTQ Discrimination Protection Laws, Even as Legislative Efforts Opposing Them Proliferate (PPRI press release, 3-17-22) Eight in Ten Support Nondiscrimination Laws to Protect LGBTQ People More Than Two-Thirds Support Marriage Equality Two-Thirds Oppose Religiously Based Refusals to Serve Gay and Lesbian People See the full report, Americans’ Support for Key LGBTQ Rights Continues to Tick Upward (3-17-22)
• Republicans are right about E.S.G., but for the wrong reason (Robert Reich, 3-3-23) "For nearly two decades, major corporations have touted principles known as E.S.G. (short for environmental, social and governance factors), ostensibly by focusing their businesses on these concerns as well as on profits. But now Republicans are taking aim at this approach, calling it “woke capitalism,” and are using it to demonstrate that Democrats and progressives are trying to impose their views on the rest of society. In other words, the fight over E.S.G. is extending America’s culture war into the C-suites of big American corporations.
"The most telling trends over the last three decades have been the growing share of the economy going into corporate profits — generating ever-greater compensation packages for top executives and ever-higher payouts for investors — and the declining share going to most Americans as wages and salaries.
"Much of the reason is the vast increases in corporate and Wall Street money flowing into the campaigns of lawmakers who cut corporate taxes, enact corporate subsidies, and block or dilute regulations. The divisive blather over E.S.G. is simply masking these trends."
This includes reducing regulation of train safety.
• Right-Wing Think Tank Family Research Council Is Now a Church in Eyes of the IRS (Andrea Suozzo, ProPublica, 7-11-22) The Family Research Council, a staunch opponent of abortion and LGBTQ rights, joins a growing list of activist groups seeking church status, which allows organizations to shield themselves from financial scrutiny. The FRC has pushed for legislation banning gender-affirming surgery; filed amicus briefs supporting the overturning of Roe v. Wade; and advocated for religious exemptions to civil rights laws. Its longtime head, a former state lawmaker and ordained minister named Tony Perkins, claims credit for pushing the Republican platform rightward over the past two decades.
Warren Cole Smith, president of the Christian transparency watchdog MinistryWatch, said he believes groups like these are seeking church status with the IRS for the protections it confers. “I don’t believe that a lot of the organizations that have filed for the church exemption are in fact churches,” he said. “And I don’t think that they think that they are in fact churches.”The IRS uses a list of 14 characteristics to determine if an organization is a church or an association of churches, though it notes that organizations need not meet all the specifications.
• Party Division in the U.S. Senate Over Time (U.S. Senate)
• It’s time for Biden to strongly attack the White-grievance industry (Jennifer Rubin, WaPo, 5-30-22) 'It’s not the plague of “polarization” or “distrust,” some sort of floating miasma, that has darkened our society. Bluntly put, we are in deep trouble because a major party rationalizes both intense selfishness — the refusal to undertake even minor inconveniences such as mask-wearing or gun background checks for others’ protection — and deprivation of others’ rights (to vote, to make intimate decisions about reproduction, to be treated with respect).
'The White-grievance industry (right-wing media, politicians, pundits, think tanks) keeps its voters in a constant state of rage over the loss of a society in which far fewer women competed with men in the workplace, White power was largely unchallenged, and diversity was less pronounced. And it has persuaded millions of White Americans that they are victims of “elites” or the media or globalism or attacks on masculinity or … something.' [Do read the whole article, including the paragraph about MAGA voters' complaints.]
Some differences on hot topics:
• Letters from an American (Heather Cox Richardson, 5-18-23) "Disney is locked in a battle with Florida governor Ron DeSantis that began when, under pressure from employees, then–Disney chief executive officer Bob Chapek spoke out against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act. This law, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law because its vague language prohibiting instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation seems designed to silence any acknowledgement of LGBTQ Americans in grades K–3, was DeSantis’s pet project.
"The fight between DeSantis and Disney illustrates No longer committed to keeping the government weak to stay out of the way of business development, the party is now committed to creating a strong government that enforces Christian nationalism.
"This is a major and crucially important political shift.
"From the earliest days of the Reagan Revolution, those leaders who wanted to slash the federal government to end business regulation and cut the social safety net recognized that they did not have the votes to put their program in place. To find those votes, they courted racists and traditionalists who hated the federal government’s protection of civil rights. Over time, that base became more and more powerful until Trump openly embraced it in August 2017, when he said there were “very fine people on both sides.”
• White Christian Nationalism Found Fertile Soil in Post-9/11 America (Robert P. Jones, Interfaith America, 9-23-21) "Since the Bush era, the attitudes of Republicans, including white evangelicals who comprise its base, have increasingly aligned with a worldview rooted in centuries of white supremacist theology that conjures visions of light-skinned Christians engaged in a holy war against brown-skinned Muslims both at home and abroad. They have succumbed to the temptation Bush named: the conflation of acts of terrorism by a few with a faith followed by about 2 billion people worldwide.
"According to Pew, just one year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, less than half of both Republicans and Democrats reported that they believe significant numbers of U.S. Muslims were anti-American. By 2016, attitudes among Democrats were unchanged. By contrast, the percentage of Republicans and white evangelicals who held this view jumped to nearly two-thirds (63% and 64% respectively).
"Similarly, PRRI finds negative attitudes toward Muslims have continued to increase across the last decade among Republicans and white evangelical Protestants. In 2011, 63% of Republicans agreed "the values of Islam are at odds with American values and way of life," and that proportion crept up to 67% by 2020. By contrast, the percentage of Democrats who agreed with this statement dropped 14 percentage points, from 40% to 26%. In other words, over the last decade, the partisan gap on this question nearly doubled, from 23 points to 41 points.
"Republicans are more than three times less likely to say they would prefer the U.S. to be a religiously pluralistic nation than a Christian nation (13% vs. 43%). By contrast, Democrats are more than three times as likely to prefer a religiously pluralistic nation (53% vs. 16%)."
• Older people and Republicans, threatening free speech (Catherine Rampell, WaPo, 11-2-17) Various free speech surveys reveal that "lefty undergrads hold no monopoly on illiberalism." Depending on the survey source and the question, any group can appear to be illiberal. "For example, a [Cato Institute survey's] series of questions asked about whether executives and employees should be fired for holding various beliefs or participating in various kinds of political dissent. Liberals were more likely to support firing for racist beliefs and so on; but conservatives were more likely to support firing for political dissent such as flag-burning...a majority of Republicans says that Americans who burn the American flag — a constitutionally protected act — should have their citizenship revoked....
"Speaking of flagrant violations of the First Amendment, nearly half of Republicans would favor a law banning the building of mosques in their community...All of which is to reiterate that democratic values are under threat from many more sources than just socialist 19-year-olds."
• The Right-Wing Mothers Fuelling the School-Board Wars (Paige Williams, New Yorker, 11-7-22) Moms for Liberty claims that teachers are indoctrinating students with dangerous ideologies. But is the group’s aim protecting kids—or scaring parents? Christopher Rufo, a conservative activist, argued that liberal educators, under the bland banner of “diversity,” were manipulating students into thinking of America not as a vibrant champion of democracy but as a shameful embodiment of white supremacy. (As he framed things, there were no in-between positions.) Rufo later called [Critical Race Theory] “the perfect villain”—a term that “connotes hostile, academic, divisive, race-obsessed, poisonous, elitist, anti-American views.”
On gun control:
In a somber address to the nation hours after an 18-year-old took the lives of nineteen children in a Texas elementary school, President Joe Biden pleaded for new gun restrictions: “As a nation we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name are we going to do what has to be done?” he asked. “Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” "But the prospects for any reform of the nation’s gun regulations appeared dim. Repeated attempts over the years to expand background checks and enact other curbs have run into Republican resistance in Congress." ~ AP, Washington Post, 5-25-22)
On improving state facilities for the mentally ill:
"The advent of psychopharmacology in the 1950s facilitated, but did not cause, the emptying of state psychiatric hospitals. The deinstitutionalization of people with major mental illness resulted from an unusual convergence of left-wing and right-wing political critiques, as Mr. Scull emphasizes. Critics on the left were appalled by the decrepit, overcrowded and understaffed hospitals. Critics on the right objected to taxpayers picking up the tab for the enormous expense incurred by maintaining these institutions. Some states were spending as much as one-third of their annual budget housing psychiatric patients. State hospitals once housed 500,000 patients; today the total population is less than 55,000, even though the American population increased by 33% since the 1950s."
~ From a review of Desperate Remedies: Psychiatry's Turbulent Quest to Cure Mental Illness by Andrew Scull: 'Desperate Remedies' Review: Mental Health, From Asylums to Zoloft (Richard J. McNally, Wall Street Journal, 5-13-22) Psychiatry's goal was to transform the treatment of mental illness via science—but the results have been anything but conclusive. H/T Lynne Lamberg.
• Megan Phelps-Roper's story of losing faith in the Westboro Baptist Church (Tom Stafford, Reasonable People blog #28, 4-4-22 ) "Westboro Baptist Church is a small faith-based community from Topeka, Kansas. Their white church building is surrounded by the homes of families who are part of the Church. They are a SPLC designated hate group, who you may know from their inflammatorily named website - godhatesfags.com - or from their devoted picketing of the funerals of US soldiers killed abroad....
"Megan-Phelps Roper is the granddaughter of the founder of the church, and spent 26 years with the church. She was, as she self-describes, "all in": picketing, proselytising, giving interviews and leading the charge of the Church's flamboyant social media presence.
"In November 2012 she left the church, her family, and the absolute certainty of their doctrine.
Stafford: 'Thought-provoking account of Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving Extremism, Megan Phelps-Roper's memoir of growing up in her family's fanatically conservative Westboro Baptist Church. "They were so confident in their rightness that they didn’t see any need to ban Hollywood movies or pop music. Elton John’s Candle In The Wind was rewritten as Harlot Full Of Sin so they could celebrate the death of Princess Diana."'
• Trump is wrong about war. Russia’s failure in Ukraine shows why. (Max Boot, Washington Post, 4-11-22) "Right-wingers have long claimed that the U.S. military should not be hobbled by humanitarian considerations or even the laws of war. During the Vietnam War, when U.S. aircraft dropped more bombs than during World War II, many conservatives fumed that we were fighting with one hand tied behind our backs. “Bomb them back into the Stone Age,” Gen. Curtis LeMay demanded.
Most of the public supported 2nd Lt. William L. Calley, the only perpetrator of the infamous My Lai massacre (when U.S. troops killed more than 500 civilians) to be convicted by a court-martial. He served only three years of house arrest. More recently, former president Donald Trump has been an enthusiastic advocate for war crimes: He endorsed torture, vowed to “bomb the s--- out” of terrorists, suggested killing terrorists’ families and said that the United States should steal Iraq’s oil. Trump did not order the U.S. military to carry out war crimes — the military would never have done so — but he did pardon members of the military accused of war crimes. Since Trump left office, Republicans have been loudly complaining that the U.S. military has become so “woke” that it can’t win wars.
• The Reason Some Republicans Mistrust Science: Their Leaders Tell Them To (Naomi Oreskes, Scientific American,6-1-21) GOP officials have been denigrating the government, including government scientists, for 40 years, from the early days of acid rain to our ongoing debates about climate change. Mostly Republican governors resisted mask mandates, even when science showed they slowed the spread of COVID-19.
• Climate Science as Culture War (Andrew J. Hoffman, Stanford Social Innovation Review, SSIR, Fall 2012) The public debate around climate change is no longer about science—it’s about values, culture, and ideology. 'Climate change has become enmeshed in the so-called culture wars. Acceptance of the scientific consensus is now seen as an alignment with liberal views consistent with other “cultural” issues that divide the country (abortion, gun control, health care, and evolution). This partisan divide on climate change was not the case in the 1990s. It is a recent phenomenon, following in the wake of the 1997 Kyoto Treaty that threatened the material interests of powerful economic and political interests, particularly members of the fossil fuel industry.'
• White House shifts pandemic money to vaccines, cutting other programs (Tony Romm, WaPo, 6-8-22) Republicans on Capitol Hill have repeatedly blocked the sort of robust aid package that the Biden administration has sought for months. The Biden administration is shifting dwindling federal coronavirus funds toward securing another round of vaccines and treatments — rationing money and cutting back on other critical public health programs as Congress remains at odds over whether to spend more to battle the pandemic.
• Division within the Republican party (Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, 10-11-21) Both the New York Times and the Washington Post today ran op-eds from Republicans or former Republicans urging members of their party who still value democracy to vote Democratic until the authoritarian faction that has taken over their party is bled out of it....Boot writes, “It is mind-boggling that a defeated president won’t accept the election outcome…. What is even more alarming is that more than 60 percent of Republicans agree with his preposterous assertion that the election was stolen and want him to remain as the party’s leader.”
• Conservatives Are Defending a Sanitized Version of ‘The Great Replacement’ (Adam Serwer, The Atlantic, 5-19-22) 'Large sections of the manifesto attributed to the Buffalo shooter were plagiarized from the writings of the perpetrator of another racist massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand. Both share the premise that violence against nonwhite people is justified to prevent “white genocide” or the “replacement” of white Americans by nonwhite immigrants.
'In recent years, Fox News has consciously amplified the same line of argument, with popular hosts such as Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham echoing its logic. Carlson, for example, has said that “the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World,” while Ingraham has maintained that Democrats “want to replace you, the American voters, with newly amnestied citizens and an ever increasing number of chain migrants.” Having promoted the conspiracy theory for years, Carlson told his audience recently that “we’re still not sure what it is,” before reaffirming its veracity.'
'There are two versions of the “replacement” conspiracy theory, but both of them share the same basic premise. The first version is the idea that a secret cabal (typically one that is composed of Jews) is fostering demographic change in the United States through immigration in order to replace its white population—the motive of mass murderers in Pittsburgh, El Paso, and now Buffalo. The second is that liberals are fostering demographic change in the United States through immigration in order to replace its white population. Both conceive of America as fundamentally white and Christian, and in so doing posit not only a racial conception of citizenship but a racial hierarchy, one that must be maintained if America’s true nature is to endure.
• How Biden Thinks (David Leonhardt, The Morning, NY Times newsletter, 2-19-23) "Biden was first elected to the Senate in a very bad year for the Democratic presidential nominee. It was 1972, and that nominee was George McGovern. Richard Nixon, the incumbent, portrayed McGovern as an effete liberal who was focused on the three A’s — amnesty (for draft dodgers), abortion and acid. Despite McGovern’s own humble background and World War II heroism, he played into the caricature, allowing Hollywood stars and college activists to become symbols of his campaign.
"Biden, a 29-year-old long-shot Senate candidate in Delaware, took a different approach. On economic issues, he ran as a populist. He complained about “millionaires who don’t pay any taxes at all” and “billion-dollar corporations who want a ride on the public’s back.”
"On other issues, Biden signaled that he was more moderate. He called for an end to the Vietnam War while also opposing amnesty for draft dodgers. He said the police should focus less on marijuana busts while also opposing legalization. He distanced himself from McGovern’s student volunteers. “I’m not as liberal as most people think,” Biden told a Delaware newspaper.
"On Election Day, McGovern lost every state except Massachusetts and received less than 40 percent of the vote in Delaware. Biden won a shocking upset that launched his long Senate career.
"Today, when Biden reminisces about the McGovern campaign, he uses the phrase “limousine liberals,” which was coined in 1969. “They forgot about the neighborhood I grew up in,” he has said. The key lesson was that the rest of America looked more like Biden’s old neighborhood in Scranton, Pa., than like Hollywood or the Ivy League."
• The Candidate of the 'Tucker-Rogan-Elon-Bannon-Combo-Platter-Right’ (John Hendrickson, The Atlantic, 6-23) Robert F. Kennedy Jr., MAGA world’s favorite Democrat, is feeding Americans’ appetite for conspiracies. He's one of America’s foremost anti-vaxxers.
"On the campaign trail, he paints a conspiratorial picture of collusion among state, corporate, media, and pharmaceutical powers. If elected, he has said he would gut the Food and Drug Administration and order the Justice Department to investigate medical journals for “lying to the public.” His most ominous message is also his simplest: He feels his country is being taken away from him. It’s a familiar theme, similar to former President Donald Trump’s. But whereas Trump relies heavily on white identity politics, Kennedy is spinning up a more diverse web of supporters: anti-vaxxers, anti-government individuals, Silicon Valley magnates, “freethinking” celebrities, libertarians, Trump-weary Republicans, and Democrats who believe Biden is too old and feeble for a second term."
• Kevin McCarthy’s Deal With Tucker Carlson Is No Act of Transparency (Caleb Ecarma, Vanity Fair 2-23-23) After promising GOP hard-liners that he’d release unseen footage from the Capitol riot, the House Speaker gifted it to a Fox News host known for pushing January 6 conspiracy theories.
• Ron DeSantis, Notoriously Petty Man-Child, Swears His Anti-Media Crusade Has Nothing to Do With His Own Bad Press (Bess Levin, Levin Report, Vanity Fair, 2-23-23) The Florida governor insists that proposed legislation to make it easier to sue journalists is all about the “little guy”—not his own bad press.
• Murdoch Acknowledges Fox News Hosts Endorsed Election Fraud Falsehoods (Jeremy W. Peters and Katie Robertson, NY Times, 2-27-23) “I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight,” Rupert Murdoch said of the election fraud narrative. Murdoch, chairman of the conservative media empire that owns Fox News, acknowledged in a deposition that several hosts for his networks promoted the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald J. Trump, and that he could have stopped them but didn’t, court documents released on Monday showed. His remarks, which he made=as part of Dominion’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox, "added to the evidence that Dominion has accumulated as it tries to prove its central allegation: The people running the country’s most popular news network knew Mr. Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election were false but broadcast them anyway in a reckless pursuit of ratings and profit."
• Letters from an American (Heather Cox Richardson, 7-13-23) "The upcoming election is in the news not only because of the role of disinformation in our elections, but also because of voting challenges. Today, Sam Levine and Andrew Witherspoon of The Guardian reported that Florida Republicans are cracking down on voter registration groups that focus on people of color, levying more than $100,000 in fines since September 2022 on 26 groups for errors like submitting an application to the wrong county.
"In Reliable Sources, CNN journalist Oliver Darcy reported today that three men associated with Rupert Murdoch in the early days of creating the Fox Corporation expressed their “deep disappointment for helping to give birth to Fox Broadcasting Company.” Preston Padden, Ken Solomon, and Bill Reyner wrote that they “never envisioned, and would not knowingly have enabled, the disinformation machine that, in our opinion, Fox has become.”
"A study by Doug Bock Clark today in ProPublica showed that about 89,000 of close to 100,000 challenges to voter registrations in Georgia were filed by just six right-wing activists. Most of the rest of the challenges came from just twelve more people. Those making the challenges were helped by right-wing organizations, and they appeared to target those believed to vote for Democrats.
"Washington Post legal columnist Ruth Marcus sees McConnell’s attempt to minimize his own transformation of a center-right Supreme Court into a hard-right body as a sign that he recognizes the extremism of the court might well cost him the chance to regain the position of Senate majority leader...."Two seats that should have gone to Democratic presidents were instead handed to Trump,” Marcus notes. “Thank you, Senator McConnell.” She continued: “And the new justices delivered. Abortion rights, gone. Affirmative action, gone. Gun rights, dramatically expanded. The administrative state, deconstruction underway. Religious liberties, triumphant; separation of church and state, not so much. Does this sound ‘ideologically unpredictable’ to you?”
• Defamation Suit About Election Falsehoods Puts Fox on Its Heels (Jeremy W. Peters, NY Times, 8-13-11) 'In the weeks after President Donald J. Trump lost the 2020 election, the Fox Business host Lou Dobbs claimed to have “tremendous evidence” that voter fraud was to blame. That evidence never emerged but a new culprit in a supposed scheme to rig the election did: Dominion Voting Systems, a maker of election technology whose algorithms, Mr. Dobbs said, “were designed to be inaccurate.” The suit filed by Dominion Voting Systems could be one of the most consequential First Amendment cases in a generation.
'Those unfounded accusations are now among the dozens cited in Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against the Fox Corporation, which alleges that Fox repeatedly aired false, far-fetched and exaggerated allegations about Dominion and its purported role in a plot to steal votes from Mr. Trump....Defamation claims typically involve a single disputed statement. But Dominion's complaint is replete with example after example of false statements, many of them made after the facts were widely known.'
• Fox, Dominion reach $787M settlement over election claims (AP News, 4-18-23) Fox News agreed Tuesday to pay Dominion Voting Systems nearly $800 million to avert a trial in the voting machine company’s lawsuit that would have exposed how the network promoted lies about the 2020 presidential election. Fox acknowledged in a statement “the court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false,” but no apology was offered. See How election lies, libel law were key to Fox defamation suit (AP News, 4-18-23) The settlement avoids a trial that could have shed additional light on former President Donald Trump’s election lies, revealed more about how the right-leaning network operates and even redefined libel law in the U.S. Fox founder Rupert Murdoch, questioned under oath, agreed that the 2020 election, won by Democrat Joe Biden, was free and fair: “The election was not stolen,” he said.