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Fri May 6, 2022, 09:19 PM

Friday Talking Points -- Time To Get Angry, Democrats

We're going to write our introductory weekly wrap-up in reverse this week (since it was a week for reversals). Then after we get the lesser political stories out of the way (in accelerated fashion), we'll get to the big bombshell scoop that drove the rest of the political world all week -- and will continue to do so for months to come.

So, as quickly as possible, let's run through the minor stories from the week:

The White House Correspondents' Dinner was held, and just as host Trevor Noah predicted in his speech, it was indeed a COVID superspreader event.

The White House announced that Karine Jean-Pierre will be replacing Jen Psaki as press secretary. She will be the first Black gay woman to ever hold the job.

A special grand jury was selected and seated in Georgia this Monday, whose sole focus will be to examine Donald Trump's attempt to interfere with the 2020 election results (that whole "I just want to find 11,780 votes" phone call).

The Trump campaign agreed to pay $750,000 to Washington D.C. to settle a case against it for financial shenanigans surrounding its use of Trump's hotel.

Madison Cawthorn is still wheeling wildly out of control, and this week's video link is truly N.S.F.W. It's really not safe for anywhere, so be warned before you watch it -- you'll never be able to unsee a naked Cawthorn forcibly face-humping another guy in a bed.

Primary season is underway, and Trump's big pick in the Ohio Senate race won -- even though Trump can't even remember the guy's name.

In a rematch, liberal House candidate Nina Turner lost again (and by a much worse margin) to the establishment Democrat, Shontel Brown.

Norm Mineta passed away -- Requiescat In Pace.

President Joe Biden and the Democrats are doing better in the polls of late, and Biden's handling of the pandemic in particular is ticking up.

Biden got the good news that over 400,000 jobs were added last month, making it a full 12 months in a row of 400K-plus months -- the best record since World War II. The unemployment rate is only 0.2 percent higher than its lowest point ever, as a result.

And a state GOP committee member in Michigan resigned his party seat in disgust this week, saying "feckless, cowardly [Republican] party 'leaders' have made the election here in Michigan a test of who is the most cravenly loyal to Donald Trump and re-litigating the results of the 2020 cycle." And he was just getting started. Here's a few other choice excerpts from his resignation letter (where he also called Trump a "deranged narcissist" ):

Incredibly, rather than distancing themselves from this undisciplined loser, far too many Republican 'leaders' have decided that encouraging his delusional lies -- and, even worse -- cynically appeasing him despite knowing they are lies, is the easiest path to ensuring their continued hold on power, general election consequences be damned.

Rather than assembling the courage to do the right thing, at the right time, and guide the activist base towards the truth, they've repeatedly backed down and dissembled, hoping that just one more act of cowardice will be what does the trick.

Intraparty, Republican-on-Republican violence aside, however, this was really a one-story week in Washington.

That story was the immense scoop of Politico publishing an almost-100-page draft opinion from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. This is virtually unheard of -- such a major leak from the Supreme Court. But it's easy to see why someone decided it was time to tell the public what was about to happen.

The draft opinion would completely overturn Roe v. Wade and leave what has been a fundamental constitutional right for American women for almost 50 years up to each individual state. Call it Alito's response to Barack Obama's declaration that: "There are no red states or blue states; just the United States." In Alito's brave new world, we will indeed be two nations, red and blue, at least as far as basic human rights for half the population are concerned.

The draft opinion is stunning. But savvy court-watchers weren't exactly surprised by it. The really stunning thing is that it appeared roughly two months before it normally would have. But the court was going to rule this way even if the leak had never happened, whether they used Alito's first draft or not. Roe was either going to be overturned or completely gutted to the point where it was legally meaningless to women in states led by Republicans -- that was really the only question, whether they'd do so blatantly or in a more sneaky fashion.

This is the end of a very long fight, of course. Since the 1980s, at least, the anti-abortion movement has slowly taken over the Republican Party and then whatever seats they could get in the federal judiciary. With Donald Trump's election (and Mitch McConnell's unprecedented refusal to even consider a Supreme Court nomination from Barack Obama), this was the inevitable end of the road.

The anti-abortion activists see this as the day they've been dreaming about for decades. The pro-choice activists see this as the day they've all been warning us was going to happen for roughly the same period.

Alito tries to do two things in his draft that need pointing out. The first is to somehow excuse his radicalism by pointing to a bunch of Supreme Court decisions which overturned earlier decisions. "See? It's not like this is unprecedented or anything!" he is essentially saying. Here's David Cole, who used to be the national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, ripping that argument to shreds:

In his leaked draft opinion for the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. points to Brown v. Board of Education, one of the Court's most celebrated decisions, as support for his reasoning. Brown, after all, overturned Plessy v. Ferguson's "separate but equal" doctrine, and marked the beginning of the end of the Jim Crow era.

But the difference between Brown and what the court appears poised to do in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization could not be more basic. In Brown, the court extended fundamental rights, as it has done in virtually all its decisions overturning constitutional precedents. A decision overturning Roe, by contrast, would eliminate the constitutional right to abortion altogether. The proper analogy is not Brown overruling Plessy, but a decision reviving Plessy, reversing Brown, and relegating Black people to enforced segregation after nearly 70 years of equal protection.

The second thing Alito tries to disavow is that this decision could ever possibly be cited by future decisions on other subjects. Alito specifically states that it shouldn't, but that would in no way tie the hands of any future Supreme Court -- or the current one, for that matter -- on all sorts of issues grounded in the right to privacy. Paul Waldman of the Washington Post destroys this argument, as he warns that liberals are not panicking enough [Links preserved in this excerpt, because there are so many important ones presented]:

As we grapple with the Supreme Court's apparent and imminent decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade, Democrats are warning that this portends an attack on many other rights guaranteed in prior decisions. The right to use birth control could go next, because the 1965 case that guaranteed it, Griswold v. Connecticut, was the foundation on which Roe was built. The conservatives could reverse Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case that guaranteed marriage equality.

Heck, under the rationale Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. used in his decision, even Loving v. Virginia, which struck down state laws outlawing interracial marriage, would be vulnerable.

To these warnings, many conservatives have replied: "Oh, come on. You liberals are exaggerating. The Supreme Court isn't going to do that, and Republican state legislatures aren't going to go nuts and outlaw contraception. Just calm down."

But the truth is that, if anything, liberals aren't panicking enough. The future of any particular right might be hard to predict, but we can say for sure that both the Supreme Court's conservative supermajority and Republican politicians are feeling unrestrained, unlimited in their ambitions, with the kind of freedom only a complete lack of accountability can provide.

Do you doubt? Let's take a look around:

  • There is a push within the antiabortion movement -- which will need a new focus once Roe is overturned -- to go after contraception. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) recently denounced the ruling in Griswold, and she's not alone. Republican states are already moving to limit access to birth control in various ways, and this is a clear target of many in the movement. They will likely begin by targeting Plan B, then IUDs and the pill.

  • A Louisiana House committee approved a bill this week that defines a fetus as "a human being from the moment of fertilization," making both a woman who has an abortion and her doctor guilty of participating in homicide. Some GOP states have already outlawed receiving medication for abortions through the mail; more will follow, and do you think they won't be arresting women who get them? Even under existing law, prosecutors in red states have often investigated and arrested women who have had miscarriages; under the new abortion regime such arrests are almost certain to accelerate.

  • Republican legislators are exploring ways to stop women from having abortions not only in their own states but in other states, as well.

  • Though Alito's draft ruling included a passage denying it is a prelude to nullifying other rights, many legal experts read it to suggest that Obergefell could be the next precedent to be reversed; it was a 5-to-4 decision of a court far less conservative than this one, which believes that stare decisis is for losers. Alito, Clarence Thomas, and John G. Roberts Jr. all dissented angrily from that decision; they now have three more conservatives who could join in reversing it on a nearly identical rationale to the one they will use to overturn Roe.

  • . . .

There is simply no doubt that conservatives -- both on the Supreme Court and in elected offices -- are feeling unleashed in a way they have not been in modern history. To any suggestion of "They'd never go that far," you have to ask, why not?

. . .

The conservative movement has many more ambitions -- and a Supreme Court eager to fulfill them. So, no, liberals are not being hyperbolic when they warn about the retrograde right-wing revolution that could follow the end of Roe. The right is not hiding its plans. All you have to do is believe them.

This is really an all-hands-on-deck moment for the Democratic Party. Both parties started (back in the 1970s and 1980s) with a mix of positions along the abortion spectrum (Joe Biden was first sworn in as a senator 17 days before the Roe v. Wade decision was announced, and used to be fairly anti-abortion, for instance), but slowly the anti-abortionist Democrats and the pro-choice Republicans have all but disappeared (or changed their position on the issue, as Biden did). It is now a partisan issue. And if the Democrats don't treat it as an existential crisis for their party, then they deserve everything that is coming.

Republicans, in victory, are actually weak and on their back foot. They are vulnerable because their extremism on abortion is not popular with the public at large. They really liked having Roe around as a political issue, because it worked so well in firing up certain segments of their base. With Roe gone, they will have to actually defend not only their unpopular position, but the actions that red states have already taken or soon will be to criminalize abortion.

Their initial responses have been to flat-out lie about everything, and to make as big a stink as they can about the leak itself.

First, the lies. From a Republican talking points memo circulated this week comes this jaw-dropping instruction to Republican politicians: "Be the compassionate, consensus-builder on abortion policy." Consensus-builder? You must be kidding. Later in this document comes the lie that Republicans somehow aren't going to throw doctors and women in jail. This, while Republican state legislatures are busily enacting laws to do precisely that.

As a segue, here is Mitch McConnell apparently trying standup comedy:

Last night's stunning breach was an attack on the independence of the Supreme Court. By every indication, this was yet another escalation in the radical left's ongoing campaign to bully and intimidate federal judges and substitute mob rule for the rule of law.

"Substitute mob rule for the rule of law"? You mean, like what happened on January 6th, Mitch? You know, when an actual mob tried to halt the peaceful transfer of power? You think that was "the radical left"? I don't. To equate a leaked document with an insurrection is just laughable. Also heavily ironic is the fact that Republicans from Chief Justice John Roberts on down are bemoaning the Supreme Court's loss of privacy. To which we reply: "Boo freakin' hoo."

So Republicans have nothing but lies, as time goes on it will become painfully apparent precisely how far they are willing to go in state-level legislation, and they don't want to talk about it in the campaign. In other words, it is time for Democrats to launch a relentless attack on the subject. Which we'll be doing ourselves, in lieu of this week's talking points.

We have to give an Honorable Mention to Senator Elizabeth Warren, for showing some righteous anger about Alito's draft opinion this week. Warren has not been timid, and she's right not to be. Democrats need to show anger right now, especially Democratic women in office.

But by that metric, we have to award the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week to Vice President Kamala Harris. Fortuitously, this week she was scheduled to address the annual gathering of Emily's List. It was a pretty friendly crowd, obviously. Harris gave a great speech, leaning heavily into the fact that Democrats need to express some anger right now.

From her speech (which is well worth watching in full):

Let's talk about what a world without Roe looks like. Women in almost half the country could see their access to abortion severely limited. In 13 of those states, women would lose access to abortion immediately and outright. Those Republican leaders who are trying to weaponize the use of the law against women -- well, we say: How dare they? How dare they tell a woman what she can do and cannot do with her own body? How dare they? How dare they try to stop her from determining her own future? How dare they try to deny women their rights and their freedoms?...

They want to ban abortion in every state. They want to bully anyone who seeks or provides reproductive health care. And they want to criminalize and punish women for making these decisions.... When the right to privacy is attacked, anyone in our country may face a future where the government can interfere with their personal decisions -- not just women; anyone. And it has never been more clear which party wants to expand our rights and which party wants to restrict them.... It has never been more clear which party wants to lead us forward and which party wants to push us back....

Friends, we must link arms in this fight. I invite all people to join us. If you stand for freedom, for self-determination, for the right to privacy -- if you stand for these principles, stand with us. Because women's issues are America's issues. And democracies -- democracies cannot be strong if the rights of women are under attack.

It is a time for Democratic righteous anger. Kamala Harris showed exactly what that looks like: "How dare they?!?" For immediately getting out in front of this issue and showing some real leadership, Vice President Kamala Harris was the obvious choice this week for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Congratulate Vice President Kamala Harris on the White House contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

This one's pretty easy, too. Round up the usual suspects, in other words.

Oh, and a footnote: since we don't give awards to Republicans, we will leave it to others to scathingly heap all the derision and scorn on Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski that they so richly deserve. Instead, we look to our side of the aisle.

Our two winners of the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week are (once again) Senators Kirsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.

Now, Manchin has always been anti-abortion, so we can't get too upset that he's not on board in the vote Chuck Schumer has called next week -- a repeat performance where a bill to codify Roe v. Wade will be voted on, and fail. And we can't even get too upset that he won't vote to amend the filibuster rules to allow bills which deal with basic constitutional rights to pass on a majority vote, since he's done so previously on the subject of voting rights. So instead, we're going to give Manchin the MDDOTW award for endorsing a Republican in a West Virginia House race. Seriously? Is this guy still even a Democrat? Maybe someone should check....

As for Sinema, well she gets her MDDOTW award for saying she's pro-choice, but then choosing not to do anything about it. Which means she could vote for the bill codifying Roe next week, but she's already announced that she still won't vote to reform the filibuster to give the bill an actual chance of passing.

This will adversely affect her own constituents, mind you. Arizona is one of those states with laws already on the books criminalizing abortion -- which would put doctors in jail for years -- meaning that the instant the Supreme Court does issue its final opinion, all the women in Arizona will lose this right. You know, the women Sinema is supposed to be representing in the Senate.

We would be interested in seeing a poll of Arizona women which asked: "Do you support Senator Sinema's strong stand to uphold the Senate filibuster, even though you will lose your right to an abortion as a direct result of her stance?" Because that is the reality of the situation.

So for "standing up" for the right to choose, by choosing to do absolutely nothing, Senator Sinema also wins another Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week. Women of Arizona, take note -- and remember, when you next vote in a Democratic Senate primary.

[Contact Senator Joe Manchin on his Senate contact page, and Senator Kyrsten Sinema on her Senate contact page, to let them know what you think of their actions.]

Volume 661 (5/6/22)

We've already written one rant this week on this subject, but we truly felt it was a two-rant kind of week. We don't know about anyone else, but we feel one overpowering emotion about the Alito draft leak. So what follows (instead of our usual discrete talking points) is the speech we would strongly urge Democratic politicians to start using or adapting, because now is the time for an emotional appeal to voters.

It Is Time To Get Angry

I don't know about you, but when I heard the Supreme Court is on the brink of jettisoning Roe v. Wade, my immediate reaction was to get angry. Five unelected activist judges -- some of whom blatantly lied under oath during their confirmation hearings -- have decided it is now up to state-level politicians what constitutional rights people will have.

That is not America -- at least not the America I believe in. I believe the Constitution protects all Americans, equally.

This is an "all hands on deck" moment, folks. This is not some hypothetical fear of what "could happen" in the future, this is going to happen or indeed already has happened in something like half the states. It is happening now. It will continue to happen all summer long. And the only way to stop is if you get angry about it and vote in November to give Democrats a chance of forcefully fighting back against the only Supreme Court in history to take fundamental rights away rather than expand them to all people. This isn't just extreme -- this is a radical change in the way this country is governed. And we've only really got one chance to right this horrible wrong -- by voting in federal legislation that codifies into law the rights that Roe gave to every American woman. But before we can successfully pass such a law, we need your vote, to make it possible.

Republicans will not stop at this. Don't anyone believe that they will, because you are deluding yourselves if you do. They are, as Joe Biden said, the most extreme political organization in modern American history. The next thing they'll come after is the right to contraception. This is obvious -- the Republicans have already attacked this right as forcefully as they can elsewhere, and once Roe is gone the anti-abortion activists are going to train their sights on birth control methods they consider -- wrongly -- to be "abortifacients." Got that? They will make this medical decision -- wrongly -- for all women.

The exact same reasoning Justice Alito used in his draft opinion could be applied to any right of privacy any citizen now thinks he or she enjoys. Which definitely means they'll try to get their zealots on the court to overturn the decision which made contraception a right for all women.

Next up will be gay marriage, since that decision was also based on the fundamental right of privacy too. I mean, just look at how cruelly they are going after L.G.B.T.Q. kids right now! This shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone, really. They could even successfully argue -- using exactly the same reasoning Alito used -- that interracial marriage should properly be each state's business to decide upon.

That is the new world we are entering into, folks. Those are the stakes of this fight. What will stop Republicans from pushing the most extreme and anti-freedom policies on their agenda? Nothing. Except a strong majority of Democrats in Congress. That's the only thing that would stop them.

In this new dystopia, parents in blue states will have to think long and hard about paying for their sons and daughters to attend universities in states which deny basic rights. Corporations will have to think long and hard about the quality of employees that will work for them in such states, when they consider where to build factories or headquarters. Crossing a state line will mean travelling from a modern democratic state to a repressive and theocratic one, where doctors and women can be sent to jail even on the suspicion that a miscarriage was actually an abortion. These states will be scrutinizing the mail to try to prevent abortion medication from entering, and they will try to throw women in jail who travel to blue states to get an abortion.

How un-American is that? What sort of insane logic leads to one state trying to make it illegal for any of its residents to travel to another American state and do anything under the sun that is legal in that state? Republicans used to say they were for "freedom," but that sounds like the farthest thing from freedom imaginable. What state would try to ban people from going to Las Vegas to gamble, even if gambling wasn't allowed in that state? Will New Jersey make it illegal for its residents to cross state lines and actually pump their own gas? Where does it end?

I don't know about you, but that is not the kind of country I want to live in. That is not what America means to me. That is the farthest thing from freedom imaginable. No state owns me or can tell me what to do when I'm not physically present within it, but that is exactly what they are trying to do.

To every Republican who is against abortion and wants to outlaw it, I ask: "Would you force a 12-year-old rape victim to bear the child of her rapist? Really? What would you say to her, to explain this? What would you say to an 11-year-old girl -- not a woman, mind you, a little girl for god's sake -- who was raped by her father and is now pregnant?"

These are not some hypothetical stories, either. Anyone who doesn't believe that this is sometimes the hard, cold reality of the situation should talk to some doctors or nurses who have to deal with these heinous crimes on a regular basis. Because this is exactly what Republicans want, when they remove any exemption for rape and incest from their Draconian new abortion bans. This is the new reality of what they want for America, folks.

Or maybe ask these Republicans why they are so strongly in favor of a fetal rights but after the baby is born they refuse to allow the government to do much of anything to make the mother's or the child's life easier and better.

Republicans are now using the same old "state's rights" argument that they used for so long to deny Black people their rights as American citizens to essentially say to women in blue states: "Don't worry, we'll just do this sort of thing in our states." Well, that will last about as long as Democrats hold the House and Senate. Cecile Richards, who used to run Planned Parenthood, called this one exactly right: "I fully expect that if the Republicans gain control of Congress as early as this November, that House Bill 1 will be some form of abortion ban." Yeah, so do I. This is not just an issue for red states -- sooner or later, they're going to try this nationwide. And the only way to stop them is to elect more Democrats to Congress so they never get the chance.

Some people thought it was just partisan rhetoric when Democrats started talking about the Republicans waging a "war on women." Think that's still just rhetorical? In Colorado, the Republicans are running a candidate for governor who was previously arrested for violently assaulting his pregnant wife. Need more? Here's a headline I read this week: "GOP Candidate Accused Of Murdering His Wife Wins Primary Election From Jail." That is today's Republican Party, folks. That is what they now support. That is precisely what you are voting for when you vote Republican -- a party that has so lost its moral compass that it allows such odious creatures to run for office using its brand.

So this November, I hope you all remember all of this. I hope you think about it when you go vote. For Congress, and for your own state's legislature and governor too. I hope you are just as angry then as I am now. We only have one chance to push back on this destruction of constitutional rights in this country, and that is to vote blue! Your daughters' rights are in danger -- so vote blue! Your own rights are either in danger or will be soon -- so vote blue! Don't let them get away with taking rights and freedoms away, vote instead for the party which will restore and protect those rights, in the name of American freedom.

Thank you. Vote blue!

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com

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