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This nation came into being because it won The Revolutionary War fought with Great Britain from 1775 to 1783. The United States of America itself was officially established in 1787 with the signing of the Constitution.
In the decades and centuries since then, citizens have won hard-fought battles for equality in An Evolutionary War to create the “more perfect union” envisioned in the preamble to the Constitution. In 2022, we are in the midst of A Devolutionary War being fought to move the nation backward rather than forward.
The Devolutionary Trajectory
This devolutionary trajectory has been going on for some time. In April and May of 2020, we published a three-part series on the “era of repression and regression” threatening our American democracy.
We thought that changing the president in the national elections of that year might alter our devolutionary trajectory, but it has not. As we noted in June, our democracy continues to fragment.
An article by E. J. Dionne, Jr. and an article by David Ignatius published in the Washington Post on the 4th of July weekend caused us to reflect again on the status of America’s devolution — and what it means for its future. Dionne explores the judicial concepts of “originalism” and “strict construction” and concludes:
Together, “originalism” and “strict construction” reflect an effort to invoke the Constitution to tether the country to the past. Both have been used to roll back democratic advances such as the Voting Rights Act and campaign finance reforms as well as regulatory achievements on the environment and labor rights that in many cases date back a century or more. Now, we are torn asunder about guns, abortion, and saving our planet.
Mazarr’s disturbing conclusion is that America is losing many of the seven attributes he believes are necessary for competitive success: national ambition and will; unified national identity; shared opportunity; an active state; effective institutions; a learning and adaptive society; and competitive diversity and pluralism.
Dionne and Ignatius’ articles indicate the devolutionists have scored a one-two punch and the evolutionists are on the ropes. We concur with their assessments.
The retrograde movement of the Supreme Court is particularly insidious. As we observed in our blog posted earlier this month, the Supreme Court, controlled by a “right wing” conservative majority, has become a principal vehicle for accelerating the degradation of our American democracy.
We labeled this past decade a decade of loss for the U.S. Loss of faith in our political systems, our government, our institutions, and each other. Loss of hope in the American dream and democracy. Loss of charity toward others less fortunate and immigrants to this nation.
To date, this third decade of the 21st century has brought few gains to offset those losses. The Societal Foundations Report provides excellent insights into the current status of the not-so United States of America.
The Report is over 400 pages long, with a chapter devoted to each of the seven societal characteristics identified as fundamental to providing a nation’s competitive advantage. It is the product of extensive research and analysis and took a year to complete. Several experts and scholars assisted Michael Mazarr in doing this work and writing the Report.
The key findings on the seven societal characteristics are listed in the table below:
A review of these findings is definitely concerning. Even more concerning is the following commentary that the Report provides regarding the U.S.’s current overall condition:
Indeed, a worrisome pattern throughout these assessments is that most U.S. strengths that emerge across the characteristics derive from momentum and past dependence, not new energy, ideas, or initiatives. This initial, tentative assessment suggests that the United States may be living off its accumulated social strengths rather than actively nurturing and advancing them.
That is a very broad generalization. It does not apply to every social issue, government agency, or private-sector firm. Yet evidence across many characteristics associated with national dynamism and competitive position does raise this worrisome possibility. This is reflected, in part, in the generalized pattern of stagnation in many of the indexes we examined.
There is quantitative polling and qualitative evidence for the conclusion that the American competitive advantage is weakening, that the U.S. societal condition betrays an overarching sluggishness, lack of dynamism, and inertia. This pattern shows up across many indicators. It has been evident in slowing economic growth and stalled productivity, an economic picture some have described as “secular stagnation.” It shows up in a decline in productive investment, especially in new technologies. It appears to be evident in the level of business entrepreneurialism and new business energy.
The Need for A Renewal Agenda
The Report’s findings and analysis align with and reinforce the data and assessments we have been sharing in our writings for over a decade now. It paints a grim, but not irreversible, portrait of a devolving United States.
The last chapter of the Report ends with a section describing the “Potential for an American Competitive Renaissance.” It suggests that central to realizing that potential would be “…some form of a new national project, an agenda for national renewal based on an assessment of the factors that underwrite an engine of dynamism.”
It states that a national renewal agenda would most likely include:
a renewed commitment to shared opportunity and to unleashing the national creativity and power that resides in underserved and underachieving parts of the population
an unapologetic celebration of an American national community and spirit — a restatement and recommitment to the “energizing myth” of American society
a somewhat stronger and more consistently active role for the state, but one that is precisely targeted based on the best available evidence of what interventions bring the most return on investment
policies to encourage more-productive use of capital and less emphasis on such objectives as short-term boosts in stock price, including avenues to making capital more broadly available to a wider number of people and smaller firms
improved investment in the core elements of a learning and experimenting society, from research and development to research institutes and new models of education
a new war against bureaucratic excess and administrative constraints on creativity in the private and public sectors
a much more urgent program to combat mis- and disinformation in society, better equip citizens to be critical information consumers, and strengthen the sources of sound and accurate versus misleading data.
These recommendations provide the broad framework for a renewal agenda. They do not, however, outline the specific actions or the details that would be necessary to develop and implement one successfully.
Such an agenda would be as relevant and, in the long-run, more important than documenting America’s current problems. Perhaps the Department of Defense can support funding creating this agenda as a follow-up to the Rand study.
If it does, a starting point for reference could be our book Renewing the American Dream. In Renewing, we set out 60 specific recommendations in seven key result areas for restoring the American Dream and this country’s competitive advantage. We provide an additional 19 recommendations in a companion book, Working the Pivot Points: To Make America Work Again.
Even if there is a follow-up study with solid action plans, it would be insufficient by itself to move the United States off the devolutionary path that it is on today. This is due to the fact, as we observed in our first blog of this year, that we are becoming “The Island States of America.”
In these Island States, states rights dominate and the country itself is increasingly balkanized. The U.S. Constitution provided the basis for the elevation and supremacy of states rights. The Trump administration took advantage of this in order to reverse-engineer the nation.
In 2017, at the outset of the Trump presidency, we asserted that the United States was in a nearly “apocalyptic state.” That state was being created, in part, by the subjugation of the role that the federal government played in decision-making and direction-setting to hold the United States together.
Trump’s island states approach to governing for four years, followed by the refusal to accept the results of a legitimate election and allow the peaceful transfer of power, combined with the continued perpetuation of the Big Lie, emboldened by a cult-like following of tens of millions of citizens and strengthened by a divisive Supreme Court, have made the current state of this nation much more apocalyptic than it was nearly five years ago.
If the current course we are on is not changed in the near future, there will most probably continue to be a United States of America, but it will be united in name only.
The Need for A Second Revolutionary War
Is it possible to change this devolutionary downhill slide?
We absolutely thought it was at the outset of this year, and still believe it is today. As we stated earlier, much will be required to accomplish that. Three key ingredients must be:
A national leader with a compelling vision and cross-cutting appeal and support. Barack Obama was such a candidate and president. His message in his initial campaign, “Change you can believe in,” was simple and drew people of various stripes and persuasions to him because of its non-partisan nature. In his 2008 race, Obama received 9% of his vote nationally from Republicans and 52% from independents. Ballotpedia identified 206 counties that Obama carried in 2008 and 2012 that Trump won in 2016.
21st century citizens who are American patriots and community builders. These will be concerned citizens who view America’s division and the anti-democracy trend with alarm and will be ready to come together to build the nation’s social capital and the common good. As American patriots, they will pledge allegiance not to a flag, a religion, or a race but to the call from the founding fathers to work always to craft “a more perfect union.” They will link arms to unite America, not take up arms to divide it. They will commit to building bridges between us and not walls.
A unity agenda around which citizens can rally. That agenda will reinforce faith, confidence, and competence in government at all levels. It will spell out how the federal, state, and local levels of government multiply the capacity of the United States and do not detract from it. It will demonstrate the benefits that have been achieved through unity. At a minimum, it will incorporate the following elements we outlined in a 2020 blog as essential to preserving our American democracy: the American dream; federal government; civic life; civic learning and engagement; and the public health system.
Because of the current political, economic, and social climate of our country, an evolutionary approach to beat the devolutionists will not win. It will require citizens who are willing to participate in a revolutionary war.
The first revolutionary war was fought for independence from another nation. This second revolutionary war must be fought for interdependence with each other.
The first revolutionary war was fought with muskets to confirm the self-evident truths that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. This second war must be fought with mindsets to reaffirm those truths exist for all and not just for those who are white, privileged, or male.
21st century citizens should recognize that many of the devolutionists are cultists who have embraced the past and separatism, and therefore are not persuadable. Time should not be devoted to arguing with them but to talking with those who will listen, hear, learn, and take action.
21st century citizens should not fight this war against the radicals and extremists who would resort to violence in an attempt to achieve their seditious ends. They should let the police and military confront those outliers.
It should be understood that this will not be an easy war, but it is an essential one because it is a battle for the heart and soul of this country. It is a struggle between autocracy and democracy — prevailing in it will require patience and persistence.
On December 23, 1776, during the Revolutionary War, Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from their service, but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
In July of 2022, we are confronting another crisis. As Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham said to Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe on July l before this year’s July 4 holiday, “If we break the United States, we don’t get it back.” Meacham also said preventing the U.S. from being broken “…will require true patriots who understand that patriotism isn’t passive.”
Patriotism in 2022 demands getting engaged in this revolutionary war. There is no place on the battlefield for summer soldiers or sunshine patriots.
Winning this war will ensure that America stays unbroken. This will allow us to return to working together in the evolutionary war to create “a more perfect union.”
One way I’ve been thinking about our current politics lately is as a battle of immune systems.
On the one hand, we have our democratic system that is designed with a strong anti-authoritarian immune system. Rebelling from a king, the founders designed the system to entrust governing power with representatives of the people and to separate that power among different branches of government with different governing functions. They codified citizens’ rights in a written constitution and set up a court system to peacefully resolve disputes.
On the other hand, we have MAGA which is designed to protect and promote the interests of former President Trump. I’m moving away from using the terms “conservative” or “Republican” to describe Trump supporters as it’s not descriptive of the current reality. Genuine conservatives exist, as do members of the Republican party that are faithful to that organization’s founding values and ideological principles. However, the current elected class and most media on the right is a cult of personality, where position in the power hierarchy is determined by one’s relationship to one person— it’s about Trump and Trump alone. They are MAGA.
Daily Beast columnist David Rothkopf’s characterization of MAGA in the wake of Liz Cheney’s loss in the recent GOP Wyoming primary, planted the notion of an immune system in my mind.
While I agree with Rothkopf that the MAGA immune system is effective at isolating and destroying truth-tellers within the GOP, the potential scope of that system is larger, and more dangerous than he suggests.
Liz Cheney’s loss marks the maturation of this immune response within the Republican Party, but it’s still an open question as to whether it will triumph over our democracy’s anti-authoritarian immune system.
The key is attacking accountability institutions
The true danger of the MAGA immune system is that it not only targets dissent within its ranks, it also targets the accountability mechanisms our country has in place against authoritarianism. Like our body’s immune system protects our organs and other systems from disease, our democracy’s laws, and political norms protect our institutions from corruption for personal and political gain. The MAGA immune system is in direct conflict with our democracy’s anti-authoritarian immune system. It’s a zero-sum contest, both cannot co-exist.
Writing about Cheney’s defeat in the Washington Post, Greg Sargent captures it well:
The true reason he (Trump) worked to oust her is to help secure absolute impunity for his crime spree against democracy — to clear the way to do it all again.
For Trump, the targeting of Cheney is very much about debilitating the institutions that are struggling to preserve U.S. democracy against his movement’s assault on it.
…it’s about disabling mechanisms of accountability that threaten to fully expose Trump’s wrongdoing.
Based on the above, the key question in my mind is “How do we ensure democracy’s immune system wins?”
Our body’s immune system is reliant on our “gut health” — the ecosystem of “good” bacteria in our digestive tract that helps us absorb nutrition and water and strengthens our body’s ability to fight disease. Through this lens, the question becomes, “how do we help strengthen our democracy’s ‘gut health’”?
I think it’s very possible, as does the just defeated Cheney in her concession speech from Sargent’s article:
“As we leave here, let us resolve that we will stand together — Republicans, Democrats and independents — against those who would destroy our Republic. They are angry, and they are determined. But they have not seen anything like the power of Americans united in defense of our Constitution and committed to the cause of freedom.”
While I’m optimistic, the threat is formidable. The majority of a major political party has gone authoritarian, while the remainder is cowed into silence. Democracy’s immune system also has a structural weakness that MAGA exploits — its insistence on freedom of speech and due process. Sean Iling, co-author of “The Paradox of Democracy”, notes,
“The history of democratic decline is a history of demagogues and autocrats exploiting the openness of democratic cultures to mobilize people against the very institutions that sustain democracy itself.”
Our democratic and law enforcement organizations can’t clamp down on MAGA arbitrarily and without due process or we become the very thing we oppose.
Supporting democracy’s “gut health” means strengthening our democratic institutions at all levels — national, state, and local — but particularly the latter two. Much of our attention is often focused on the national level because it makes for splashier headlines. However, as we learned in the fight over the 2020 election results, the state and local levels are crucial. This is where election systems are designed and operated, votes counted, and results certified.
Secretaries of state, canvassing boards, and other similar bodies are the institutions that determine democracy’s “gut health.” Each one by itself has an impact limited to its municipalities and states. But in total, they comprise our electoral system and determine the integrity of elections for every level of government. MAGA learned its lesson in 2020 and is now actively targeting these institutions. Election deniers have won nominations to these types of offices in multiple battleground states for the midterm election.
The best way to strengthen our democracy’s “gut health” is to ensure pro-democracy candidates, not election deniers, win these key state and local positions. This means voting all the way down the ballot. There’s a phenomenon in elections called “roll-off.” It is the difference between the number of votes for the “top of the ticket” — high profile races like president or governor — and those “down-ballot” — like secretaries of state, county commissioners, and election boards. The lower the “roll-off” number, the more people filled out the ballot completely. Our goal for the 2022 midterm election must be zero “roll-off.” A vote for the top of the ticket is weakened without a vote for the bottom.
I was talking to a friend recently about how to communicate this idea in a mail piece with limited space. “Fill out the whole frickin thing” came to mind. We’re still working on it.
America is still reeling, of course, with most of us struggling to come to terms with the gravity of the consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. It was just days later, after all, that we heard the story of a ten year old little girl in Ohio who was forced to travel out of state to Indiana in order to get an abortion and not be forced to carry her rapist’s baby to term. Indiana, it’s certainly worth noting, is poised to implement its own draconian anti-choice legislation in the coming weeks, and the story was made even worse when the state’s attorney general announced to a FOX News audience that his office would be launching an investigation into the doctor who helped the girl get an abortion.
All because she helped a little girl, and ensured she would not be forced to go through the trauma of giving birth to her rapists baby.
The right’s endeavor to turn a uterus into the property of the state, and weaponize the state against privacy and women’s reproductive healthcare is — as so many of us have come to realize — only the beginning.
But, we’ve had glimpses of what they’re coming for next.
None other than Texas’ Ted Cruz gave us another insight just recently.
“…On Sunday’s episode of his podcast, Verdict With Ted Cruz, the Republican said the 2015 case that legalized gay marriage in the U.S. “was clearly wrong when it was decided.”
“It was the court overreaching,” Cruz added, USA Today reports.
Elsewhere in the episode, Cruz compared the Obergefell case to Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion until being overturned by the court in June.
The issue, Cruz suggested, is that the legality of same-sex marriage should be left to the states.
“Obergefell, like Roe v. Wade, ignored two centuries of our nation’s history,” Cruz said. “Marriage was always an issue that was left to the states. We saw states before Obergefell, some states were moving to allow gay marriage, other states were moving to allow civil partnerships. There were different standards that the states were adopting.”…”
The court stepping in to ensure the government doesn’t get between you and your doctor when it comes to healthcare, or ensuring that the government doesn’t get to step in and prevent two consenting adults from getting married on the basis of gender or sex…that’s government overreach.
Seizing our bodies as property of the state though, and forcing us to give birth…that’s perfectly acceptable?
Women using coat hangers in desperate attempts to give themselves abortions…that’s fine. By Ted Cruz’s logic, that’s simply American history. Simply the price we pay for having a uterus, and the federal government has no right to step in and ensure safe abortion access in states that don’t want to provide it.
After they came for our bodies, can we really be surprised they’re coming into our homes and bedrooms next?
Can we really be surprised that after they’re dictating what happens inside our bodies, they’re trying to dictate who we can and cannot marry? They’re all about freedom though, right? Freedom to control. Freedom to discriminate. Freedom to dictate the most intimate details of someone else’s life.
In his concurring opinion for the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, Clarence Thomas was practically begging. Begging for cases to come up through the courts where the Supreme Court could overturn rights to contraception, allow for the reimplementation of sodomy laws, and the right for LGBTQ couples to marry.
Ted Cruz, of course, is using the platform of his podcast to essentially do the same.
All they’re looking for is one lawsuit. They just want one lawsuit related to each of these specific issues to make its way to the Supreme Court, and they’re ready and waiting to overturn each one of those past rulings.
This is war, and we better start acting like it. Right wingers like Ted Cruz and Clarence Thomas…they’re nothing but creeps. Sick freaks. Absolutemonsterswho are literally dedicating their careers and their power to attempting to control who you marry, what you can and cannot do in your bedroom, and what grows inside your body.
Of course, hearing stories like these I can’t help thinking about Ted Cruz’s young daughters. One is eleven, the other fourteen. Fourteen. Barely even a teenager, but certainly old enough to understand the weight of her father’s stance on these issues.
What if one of them is gay? What if one of them gets pregnant their senior year, and absolutely does not want to carry a fetus to term and put their body through that, let alone raise a child? Oh, I’m sure Cruz would ensure his daughter got whatever she needed. They’re above these laws, after all. But imagine being in that situation, knowing what their father has done. Knowing that countless other girls have been robbed of the freedom he’s ensuring they will still have, and carrying the weight of that with you.
The Supreme Court on Thursday sharply cut back the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to reduce the carbon output of existing power plants, a blow to the Biden administration’s plans for combating climate change.
The ruling infuriated President Biden and environmentalists, who said it raised formidable obstacles to the United States meeting its climate goals, including the president’s goalof running the U.S. power grid on clean energy by 2035. “Another devastating decision that aims to take our country backwards,” Biden said.
But the Republican-led states that challenged the broad authority the EPA claimed said it was a dutiful examination of the Clean Air Act and a proper acknowledgment that Congress had not given such vast powers to the agency.
The vote was 6 to 3, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writing for the court’s majority. And it reinforced an emerging view from its conservatives that too much power is vested in executive branch agencies that act without clear authority from Congress.
“Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day,’ ” Roberts wrote, referring to a court precedent. “But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme.”
Supreme Court’s historic EPA ruling, explained
1:29Default Mono Sans Mono Serif Sans Serif Comic Fancy Small CapsDefault X-Small Small Medium Large X-Large XX-LargeDefault Outline Dark Outline Light Outline Dark Bold Outline Light Bold Shadow Dark Shadow Light Shadow Dark Bold Shadow Light BoldDefault Black Silver Gray White Maroon Red Purple Fuchsia Green Lime Olive Yellow Navy Blue Teal Aqua OrangeDefault 100% 75% 50% 25% 0%Default Black Silver Gray White Maroon Red Purple Fuchsia Green Lime Olive Yellow Navy Blue Teal Aqua OrangeDefault 100% 75% 50% 25% 0%The decision on June 30 sharply cut back the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to reduce the carbon output of power plants. (Video: Libby Casey/The Washington Post)
Gorsuch wrote separately to elaborate: “When Congress seems slow to solve problems, it may be only natural that those in the Executive Branch might seek to take matters into their own hands. But the Constitution does not authorize agencies to use pen-and-phone regulations as substitutes for laws passed by the people’s representatives.”
Justice Elena Kagan, writing for herself and fellow liberal justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, countered that the majority had empowered the wrong people to pass judgment on an existential dilemma.
“The Court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency — the decisionmaker on climate policy,” Kagan wrote. “I cannot think of many things more frightening.”
Kagan began her dissent with familiar warnings about the calamity ahead. With higher seas, fiercer wildfires and other consequences of climate change apparent, the world is already in unprecedented territory. Global average temperatures have increased more than 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the preindustrial era, largely because of pollution from burning fossil fuels.
If warming exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), scientists warn, sea levels could surge, ecosystems collapse, and millions of additional people would be at risk from heat, hunger, disaster and disease.
Biden hoped to lead by example to convince other countries to cut emissions and help the world keep warming under the 1.5 degrees threshold.Now such diplomacy has become more difficult for Biden, especially as countries scramble for new sources of oil and gas after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The president said he will “continue using lawful executive authority, including the EPA’s legally-upheld authorities,” work with cities and states to pass laws, and “keep pushing for additional Congressional action, so that Americans can fully seize the economic opportunities, cost-saving benefits, and security of a clean energy future.”
The decision rested on what is called the “major questions” doctrine, which says Congress must “speak clearly” when authorizing agency action on significant issues.
In his ruling, Roberts chastised the EPA for finding “newfound power in the vague language” of the Clean Air Act, arguing a law written a half-century ago never allowed the EPA to force electric utilities to switch from coal to solar, wind and other renewable forms of generation.
“It is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme,” Roberts wrote. “A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body.”
In her dissent, Kagan said it made sense for Congress in the Clean Air Act to leave to government experts the best way to solve problems that might have been unforeseeable when the law was written.
“The enacting Congress told EPA to pick the ‘best system of emission reduction’ (taking into account various factors),” Kagan wrote. “In selecting those words, Congress understood — it had to — that the ‘best system’ would change over time. Congress wanted and instructed EPA to keep up. To ensure the statute’s continued effectiveness, the ‘best system’ should evolve as circumstances evolved — in a way Congress knew it couldn’t then know.”
“That new rule will be subject anyway to immediate, pre-enforcement judicial review,” Kagan wrote. “But this Court could not wait — even to see what the new rule says — to constrain EPA’s efforts to address climate change.”
Environmentalists and those who challenged EPA’s authority were divided over what comes next.
Richard Lazarus, a Harvard environmental law professor, said that the Supreme Court was insisting on a clear statement from what it knows is an “effectively dysfunctional” body.
“The Court threatens to upend the national government’s ability to safeguard the public health and welfare at the very moment when the United States, and all nations, are facing our greatest environmental challenge of all: climate change,” Lazarus wrote in an email.
Others noted the decision still allows for the EPA to regulate power plants’ greenhouse gas emission. It just cannot mandate that utilities shift to renewables after Thursday’s ruling.
“There is something of a silver lining here,” said Jody Freeman, also a Harvard Law School professor. “It leaves a pathway for EPA to still set meaningful standards.”
EPA officials, too, say they have other tools to reduce power plants’ pollution. “While I am deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision, we are committed to using the full scope of EPA’s authorities,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.
Others predicted Thursday’s ruling may invite future court challenges to other federal regulations.
“The consequences potentially reach far beyond EPA and the Clean Air Act,” said Lisa Heinzerling, an environmental law professor at Georgetown University. “This is a big statement on how it intends to act moving forward.”
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), who led the lawsuit against the EPA, suggested he may bring more cases based on the “major questions” doctrine. “It could be a very positive tool in the ongoing fight against federal overreach,” he told reporters Thursday.
The ruling comes as Biden struggles to pass a major climate bill through an evenly split Senate, compounding Democrats’ efforts to address rising temperatures.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) accused the court of “pushing the country back to a time when robber barons and corporate elites have complete power and average citizens have no say.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) praised the ruling.
“The Court has undone illegal regulations issued by the EPA without any clear congressional authorization and confirmed that only the people’s representatives in Congress — not unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats — may write our nation’s laws,” McConnell said in a statement.
The United States is the world’s second-biggest annual emitter of greenhouse gases, and is responsible for a greater portion of historical emissions than any other nation.
West Virginia v. EPA is the latest battle pitting the coal industry and Republican-led states against a Democratic administration that proposes sweeping changes to the way the nation’s power sector produces electricity.
The Supreme Court in 2016 stopped the Obama administration’s plan to drastically reduce power plants’ carbon output. The plan never went into effect, but its emission-reduction goals were met ahead of schedule because of economic conditions that made coal-fired plants more expensive.
A more lenient plan was promulgated by the Trump administration, which said its reading of the law limited the EPA’s actions to regulating emissions at a specific site instead of across the system, a restriction that has come to be known as “inside the fence.”
But on the last day of the Trump administration, a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said that was an intentional “misreading” of the law.
“The EPA has ample discretion in carrying out its mandate,” the decision concluded. “But it may not shirk its responsibility by imagining new limitations that the plain language of the statute does not clearly require.”
As a result, the Trump rules were struck, the Obama rules were not reinstated, and the Biden administration has yet to formulate its plan.
For that reason, the administration and environmentalists were stunned when the Supreme Court took the case. The Biden administration advised it to simply vacate the D.C. appeals court decision and wait to make a more intensive review of the EPA’s powers after new regulations were proposed.
The case deeply divided the business community. Mining companies and other firms in the coal sector urged the court to rein in the EPA, arguing coal is necessary for keeping electricity prices low and the grid reliable. Apple, Tesla and other major tech and retail firms investing in renewable energy, meanwhile, told the court that “stable, nationwide rules” are needed to avert climate disaster.
Hence, the US Supreme Court ignores popular opinion. Worse, some Supreme Court Justices seem they have a God-given duty to ignore public opinion. In his Dobbs opinion Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. writes, “the Judicial Branch derives its legitimacy, not from following public opinion, but from deciding by its best lights.”
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton.
Therefore, America has nine would-be dictators sitting in a Temple like building in Washington, DC, who think they can behave like gods on Mount Olympus or the Soviet Politburo. To elaborate, the Supremes think they can do whatever they want and face no consequences.
This situation exists because of our broken Constitution. In particular, I think two provisions to the Constitution Article III and Article I, Section Three create the menace of an all-powerful US Supreme Court.
How the Constitution Creates an All Powerful US Supreme Court
“Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.” William Pitt the Elder, Earl of Chatham, British Prime Minister.
To explain, Article III creates a Supreme Court but sets no rules or guidelines for that Court.
Article III Section 1 states: “The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.”
Article III does not define the Supreme Court, set any qualifications for its members, or define a process for selecting justices. Indeed, it does not even require justices to be attorneys. Nor does Article III define the Justice’s powers or the number of justices.
Thus, we have Supreme Court Justices who serve for life and can only be removed by a two-thirds vote of the US Senate. Hence, Supreme Court justices are unaccountable to the people.
I don’t blame the Constitution’s author James Madison for this mess. Madison could not have known what havoc his vague paragraph could unleash. Notably, there was no such thing as a Supreme Court anywhere on Earth in 1787. America’s Supreme Court was the first.
Instead, I blame Congress for not exercising any authority over the Supreme Court or trying to limit its power. Worse, Congress has made no effort to bring America’s Supreme Court system into line with foreign courts.
America’s Undemocratic US Senate
Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution states “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State.”
I think Article 1, Section 3, is bad because it makes no provision for population differences between the states. Hence, America’s most populous state, California with 39.613 million people and least populous state Wyoming, with 581,075 people each have two Senators.
In detail, a US Senator from California represents 19.81 million people while a Wyoming US Senator represents 290,538 people. Thus, a Wyoming US Senator represents fewer people than the population of Riverside, California, (327,569).
Article 1, Section 3 creates an unrepresentative US Senate that appoints an Unrepresentative US Supreme Court. For example, I estimate there are 14 US states with populations under two million. Yet 28 US Senators represent those stations.
Furthermore, I estimate the combined population of America’s two most populous states, Texas and California, have a combined population of 70.634 million people. Four US Senators represent those 70.634 million people.
I estimate America’s seven least populous states have a combined population of 4.601 million. Yet 14 US Senators represent those states. To elaborate, those states are Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming.
This affects the US Supreme Court because the Senate approves the President’s Supreme Court nominees. Furthermore, Article III gives low-population, mostly white rural, and Conservative Christian states more seats in the Senate.
Consequently, America has a Senate full of people who see nothing wrong with Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Organization and New York State Rifle & Pistol. Even though most Americans disagree with those decisions. In such an environment, it is impossible to hold the Supreme Court justices accountable for their actions.
What We Can Do About the US Supreme Court?
I think there are many reforms we could make to the US Supreme Court to make it more accountable and democratic. Those reforms include:
1. Term Limits
Currently, federal judges, including US Supreme Court Justices, serve for life, which makes them unaccountable. We could change this by restricting Federal Judges (including Supreme Court Justices) to a 10-year term. At the end of the term, Congress will have to approve a second term. I would also restrict Supreme Court Justices to 20 years or two terms. Hence, no more service for life.
2. Increase the Size of the US Supreme Court
The US Supreme Court is too small to litigate for a nation of 334.9 million people. We need a larger US Supreme Court that is more representative of the nation. A larger court will make the US closer to the world standard. For example, India has a Supreme Court with 32 members. I suggest a US Supreme Court of 35 members. One advantage to this arrangement is that Justices will could form committees to handle more cases and delegate authority.
3. Depoliticize the Nomination of US Supreme Court Justices
My suggestion take the nomination of Supreme Court Justices away from the president. Instead, turn it over to a committee of law professors or judges. The US Senate could still approve the nomination, but the beginning of the process will be unpolitical.
4. Have a group of ordinary citizens that reviews the Supreme Court and its decisions
Give this body the power to suspend Supreme Court Justices and refer them to Congress for impeachment.
5. Make it easier to impeach Supreme Court Justices
Currently, you need a two-thirds vote of the US Senate to impeach a Supreme Court Justice. Allow the Senate or both houses of Congress to remove Supreme Court Justices with a 51% vote.
6. Make the US Senate more representative of the American people
My suggestion add one US Senator to each state’s delegation for each five million people in population. This system could give Texas, which has around 30 million people, eight US Senators and California nine US Senators. Hence, we could have the US Senate that reflects the American population.
Late last week, I replied to a social media post without first having either read or paid attention to the news of the day. I had just gotten back from a hiking trip, and still in vacation mode hadn’t yet learned that the Supreme Court officially overturned Roe v Wade. I did, however, know from the document leak this past spring that it was imminent. My reply, to a post about our current government that did not specifically mention the decision, was about how optimistic I was that things in general were in the process of getting fixed.
I got criticized for it, so I replied with regret about having made remarks that seemed to make light of people’s rights being taken away that day. I also said that I think we can at least expand the supreme court and stop these last three illegitimately appointed justices from taking our rights away from us. My reasons for calling them illegitimate might be something you’ve already thought of or heard and are mentioned later.
Sometimes I can come off as callous or unrealistic because a lot of times the first place my mind goes with things that are affected by politics is to possible solutions. Yes, I know we lost a constitutional right this June, but I knew it was going to happen and now the focus is on getting it fixed.
For one thing, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Manchin (R-WVa) need to start trying to do something about having been duped when Gorsuch and Kavanaugh lied under oath about considering Roe v Wade to be settled precedent. That would help in two ways: by bringing awareness to the public about how corrupt and unqualified these Trump-appointed justices are, and by educating people on the fact that the court can easily be expanded to make up for it.
Because it takes a two-thirds majority of the senate, 67 senators, to remove a supreme court justice, this is not likely. Republican Sen. Susan Collins already talked about the perjury on the day of the ruling. We have to emphasize the perjury, because justices who’ve lied under oath delegitimize the supreme court. That helps our case for using constitutionally appointed congressional power to increase the number of justices and dilute the votes of the illegitimate justices.
All we can do is what we can do. And we can do a lot, although whether we will or not is yet to be seen. At this time and with the way things are now, it’s probably not smart to assume the Senate will convict even if the House votes to impeach. No matter how good a chance we have of invalidating Manchin and Sinema, there’s no way to gain 17 Senate seats this year.
At the same time, Democrats need to continue working on catching up to Republicans in local and state legislatures. Republicans have a head-start dating back to 2009 or so, with the tea-party takeover. The Bernie Sanders movement and its subsequent organization Our Revolution has helped propel progressives into local elections, but we still have a long way to go. With this newly revived reconstruction-era conservative “states’ rights” movement taking hold all the way up to the Supreme Court, we have no choice but to ramp up our representation in local and state governments.
Of course, this next election also matters on the federal level. If we can’t get a simple majority this year to expand the court, we need to keep the House and add a couple senators as well.
It’s never good when the winner got less votes, as we learned in Bush-Gore. That’s partly because it’s harder to govern when the majority didn’t want you and partly because of other things in the cases of both Bush Jr and Trump.
The person who replied to my post was outraged that I could be optimistic on a day when we lost a human right. That is valid point, and I will be more mindful of how I come off in the future. It’s hard to convey in a social media post that the fall of Roe v Wade was absolutely going to happen as soon as Trump got his three justices, and that’s part of the reason I can still be cautiously optimistic about the future of our country. Not the present, but the future.
How we got here
It was obvious right when Trump was declared the winner that our democracy would either be destroyed or very damaged. Early that morning after the official election call, I remember saying to the person I was with “Well, I guess everyone will now see the full power of the presidency.”
That’s because I, and a lot of other people, knew that most presidential obligations are unenforceable. The earliest example was Trump and the Republican party’s complete distain for the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which was designed to prevent conflict of interest just like the one we had with our 45th president owning and profiting from his own businesses.
A guy like that being able to appoint three justices, two who lied in their hearings and one who wasn’t even his to nominate, is a travesty that needs to be reversed. Now it’s time to follow the constitution in the way it was intended to fix what was done when it was used in a way that was not intended.
Keeping our heads in the game
It’s important to be aware of what got us here, to a place where five people can give states the right to make essential healthcare illegal. The future will only be worse if we don’t do what the Constitution gives us the power to do, and right a wrong made to the structure of the Supreme Court. The legislature has the power, and they answer to us. They’re just waiting for us to tell them what to do so let’s do it.
I want to first preface this article by saying I am not anti-gun control. In fact, I think it’s a great idea and will allow us to take one step closer to a future where mass shootings are a thing of the past. However, I also believe that the best way to solve a problem is by cutting it off at the root. And the source of mass shootings, or the reason behind them, is American culture.
No, not patties on the grill American culture, I’m talking about American masculinity, homophobia, gun culture, gendered stereotypes, and racism. These things are obviously not unique to the United States, but they are important in understanding why it is that mass shootings happen in the U.S. more than in any other country in the world.
“Since 1982, an astonishing 121 mass shootings have been carried out in the United States by male shooters. In contrast, only three mass shootings have been carried out by women”¹
The connection between masculinity and shootings
The theory of social identity threat is a great place to start in understanding the relationship between men’s gender identity and violence and how it affects mass shootings. Okay, big sentence. Sorry.
Let me rephrase.
Basically, a social identity threat is when a person, or more accurately a man, feels that a part of their identity that they care about is threatened or questioned.² This theory also explains that these persons respond in a patterned way, or in other words, by overcompensating with violence.
You might be thinking I’ve never heard of this theory, who are you to say that this is an accurate representation or explanation of American masculinity?
Two relevant studies support this theory’s claim. Though many others on the topic provide evidence to “prove” this theory, these two do so directly. Christin Munsch and Robb Willer conducted a sexual coercion study. The results showed that men whose masculinity had been threatened at some point were more likely to identify with rape culture ideologies. For example, these men were less likely to identify sexual coercion as sexually coercive and more likely to blame the women.³
I digress. I don’t want to waste valuable word count explaining the depths of social identity threat. Point is, that this threatening, questioning and bullying is a common experience in almost all male shooters.
The second study I mentioned, conducted by Kimmel, discovered in a review of school shootings between 1982 and 2001 that nearly all of the incidents were boys who perceived themselves as being targeted and bullied. And the most common type of bullying they discovered was gay-baiting.⁴
Kimmel even provided a simple basic-level example of this theory in work in the real world.
“I have a standing bet with a friend that I can walk onto any playground in America whee 6-year-old boys are happily playing and by asking one question, I can provoke a fight. That question is simple: ‘Who’s a sissy around here?’”
This deeply rooted homophobia in America is not only affecting the lgbtq+ community but straight men as well. I mean, in a way, I get it. I was a kid once too, I didn’t like to be teased or judged. It’s hard to be surrounded by people who picked on you for being a bit different, for acting a bit different, for being “gay.”
So, what sets these shooters apart?
“I was bullied Natalia, I didn’t shoot up a school.”
Fair point. And to explain this, we have to dive deep into American culture.
As we all know, white men have reaped the benefits of privilege in America for centuries. However, Kimmel from the above study forms an argument that essentially claims that modern America has created a new emotional framework for these privileged men. He calls it aggrieved entitlement.
Essentially, aggrieved entitlement is a “gendered sense of entitlement thwarted by larger economic and political shifts.”⁵
This entitlement leads these men to build racist and sexist mentalities which then steers them down the path to becoming an “angry white man.” This group is more susceptible to turn to violence and when they do so they are able to easily access guns, and thus, are able to kill.
In other studies, a surprising amount of male gun owners spoke of a “nostalgic longing for a particular version of America.”⁶ This could be contributed to the shift in gun culture as well as the shift in society as America began to grow into a more inclusive and diverse country.
Yamane’s study argues that the start of the 21st century was approximately when gun culture turned from recreation to self-defense.⁶ This is important to consider when we look at the demographic of gun ownership applicants. Surprise surprise, it’s mostly white men.
But what is even more interesting is the motivation behind these men. Stroud found that racial anxiety, or this idea of aggrieved entitlement and threatening, was the driving force of these applications.⁷
The actual solution?
There isn’t one straightforward answer. I’ve talked your ear off about social theories, masculinity, and statistics but what you need to take away from this article is an understanding of why mass shootings are predominately conducted by men.
You need to remember the next time you see a gun control ad or watch another report of a school shooting on the news, that the reason behind these actions lies in how we raise our men.
Again, I am not anti-gun control. I’m actually pro-gun control, but something that a lot of gun supporters argue is that criminals will always find a way to access a gun. And they have a point. There will always be guns in the world. There will always be an outlet for violence.
But if we raise our boys differently? If we teach white men that violence is not a solution? If we create a society that limits racial anxiety and homophobia? That is the real sure-fire way to ensure that mass shootings become a thing of the past.
Maybe that isn’t what you wanted to hear. You wanted an easy solution — a law to be passed that will put a stop to mass shootings. But I don’t think it’s that simple. I think the problem is American culture and society.
The United States has problems, but that’s not the whole picture
The United States is in trouble. Like other countries, we have problems. A big one these days is the political divide that prevents us from addressing issues like crime, abortion, and gun violence.
I’ve read a lot of articles lately by people who are ashamed to be an American and want to leave the United States. Other writers blast our capitalist economic system, or believe we are a country that subscribes to white supremacy and racism.
People from other countries say we’re arrogant and rude. Going all the way back to 1958, The Ugly American described the bungling of the U.S. diplomatic corps because of arrogance and failure to understand local culture.
Newsweek even published an article saying the United States was ranked among the world’s worst places to move to.
But are we more arrogant, racist and rude than people from anywhere else?
In my travels to Western Europe, the Nordic countries, Africa, Canada, Russia, and Mexico, people seemed much the same everywhere. Some were kind. Some were rude. Some were racist and some weren’t.
I found this to be true when I worked at a charity, too. We helped people re-locate to the United States from Haiti, Nigeria, Mexico, Portugal, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine, Syria, and many other countries. Some were warm, generous-hearted and kind. Others were dishonest, arrogant and prejudiced. It didn’t matter what country they came from.
When I kept hearing negative opinions about the United States, yet saw so many people leaving everything behind to move here, I thought, “If we’re so bad, why do so many people want to live here?”
“A simple way to take the measure of a country is to look at how many want in… And how many want out.” Tony Blair
I’m realistic about our country’s problems and hope we can do something to solve gun violence, racial unrest, divisiveness and incivility. But there are many positives that people either don’t know about or choose to ignore.
If you tend to view the United States and Americans negatively, maybe this additional information will broaden your perspective and brighten your outlook. Discovering these facts confirmed my feeling that there is still a lot to like about America.
We welcome Immigrants
Did you know that more people immigrate to America than to any other country? According to a report put together by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the United States “far and away” leads the world in total immigrant population, with more than 46 million total immigrants. The country with the second largest number is Germany, with 7 million.
According to the American Immigration Council, “Migrants make up significant shares of the U.S. workforce in a range of industries, accounting for over two-fifths of all farming, fishing, and forestry workers — as well as one quarter of those working in computer and math sciences.”
We Are Diverse
The U.S. Census released its race-ethnic population estimates, with data indicating a more diverse nation than was previously expected. According to new estimates, nearly 4 of 10 Americans identify with a race or ethnic group other than White.
This is especially true of the younger population. In 2019, more than half of the nation’s population under age 16 identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Latino and Black residents together made up nearly 40% of this population. Diversity enriches us, or as Angelina Jolie said, “Our diversity is our strength. What a dull and pointless life it would be if everyone was the same.”
We Are Still a Land of Opportunity
Minorities are still way under-represented when it comes to extreme wealth. But even so, there are about 1.79 million African American millionaires in the country and about 1.57 million Hispanic millionaires.
According to Forbes, There are only 15 Black billionaires in a world of 2,668 billionaires around the globe, but 9 of those 15 are Americans. Since the initial article, Forbes has added one more Black American billionaire, Lebron James, to the list.
There is opportunity here for immigrants. In 2018, more than 2.6 million immigrants, including 314,000 refugees, were employed as health-care workers, with 1.5 million of them working as doctors, registered nurses, and pharmacists.
Food, Foreign Assistance, and Generosity
Did you know the United States exports more food than any other country in the world? And not only do we export a lot of food. Taxpayers in the United States have been generous to foreign countries. According to Forbes, between 2013 and 2018, nearly $300 billion in U.S. taxpayer money flowed as aid to countries outside the United States.
Each year, the U.S. spends about $47 billion in aid, with half of it going to Africa and the Middle East.
Americans give around 3 percent of our collective income to charity — more than the citizens of any other country, according to Giving USA. And its individual Americans, not the government, who are generating the biggest share of contributions.
According to the National Philanthropic Trust, the vast majority of U.S. citizens donate to charity.
Health Care for Low Income Households
There are 8 million Americans without health care, and this isn’t good news. But did you know that Medicaid is a government health care program for our low-income citizens?
When my daughter was pregnant with her first child and didn’t have a job or health insurance, Medicaid covered all her pregnancy and delivery expenses.
I’ve been fortunate to have good health care because of my husband’s job as a schoolteacher. One of my friends, a single mother, likes her job in the school cafeteria because of the health care benefits.
Now that I’m over 65, I have Medicare. Another friend, not old enough for Medicare, says Obamacare finally enabled her to get health insurance. My sister-in-law has been satisfied with Med-Share, a health care sharing ministry.
Progressive Tax Rates
This may or may not be considered a plus, depending on your outlook, but according to the Tax Policy Center, the share of Americans who pay no federal income taxes has been hovering around 44% for most of the last decade.
The top 20% of taxpayers paid 78% of federal income taxes in 2020, up from 68% in 2019. The top 1% of taxpayers paid 28% of taxes in 2020, up from 25% in 2019.
Taxes vary some by state. In South Carolina, where I reside, federal and state taxes shrink a $100,000 a year salary to $69,806. According to an article in USA Today, “Americans will shell out an average of $525,037 each in taxes throughout the course of their lives.”
For 2021, Congress increased the size of the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit, and the child and the dependent care tax credit — all of which erased the federal taxes owed for millions of American families, reported CNBC.
Why am I including tax rates as a positive? Because I’ve seen so many articles about Americans avoiding taxes, and I wanted to correct the assumption that our poorest citizens bear the brunt of our tax burden.
Do we need to improve in all the areas I’ve mentioned? Of course! Is the situation as dire as some people paint it to be? I don’t think so.
Other Things You Might Not Know
Here are some other interesting facts about The United States.
The National Park System encompasses 423 national park sites in the United States. Over 650 million acres, nearly one-third of all land, is federally owned.
We are home to less than 5% of the world’s population but produce 25% of the global economic output.
We are the only country with all of earth’s five climate zones.
The U.S. has the world’s strongest higher education system and draws over a million international students a year, the most of any country.
Much of the music the world listens to comes out of the United States, and the U.S. film industry is the largest and most profitable film industry in the world.
The Clean Air Act of 1970 quickly made an impact on the quality of the air Americans breathed. Today, on average, the pollution that Americans are exposed to is only about one-third what it was in 1970.
One of our greatest exports might not be what you think it is. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 to create more access for people with disabilities. Since then, 181 countries have passed disability civil rights laws inspired by the ADA, according to the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.
Mentioning a few positive aspects of life in the United States doesn’t mean I’m naive about our challenges. I agree with some of the criticisms, and I cry tears of anguish over crime, corruption, and the politicization of every issue. But I love my country and cling to the hope that we can do better.
I believe our young people are hearing so much negative news that they are becoming pessimistic and despondent about the direction of their lives. But they need to know they have the hope and opportunity for a good life.
As Barack Obama said, “In the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it.”
Garnell Whitfield was testifying about his 86-year-old mother, Ruth, shot dead last month along with nine other Black people in a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket, allegedly by a white supremacist motivated by the racist “great replacement” conspiracy theory.
“What are you doing?” Whitfield demanded of the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee at their hearing on Tuesday. “Is there nothing that you personally are willing to do to stop the cancer of white supremacy and the domestic terrorism it inspires?” With breaking voice and sniffles, he added: “My mother’s life mattered. Your actions here today will tell us how much it matters to you.”
Then, Republicans on the panel answered — with accounts of violence committed by Black people and antifa.
“The Brooklyn subway shooter was a known Black supremacist who called for racial violence,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.). “The Waukesha attacker … was a viciously left-wing Black nationalist bigot. Another Black nationalist gunned down five police officers in Dallas.” Cruz went on, about “the violence of the antifa riots and the Black Lives Matter riots.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the top Republican on the panel, spoke of 2016, when “two Black racists killed eight police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge,” and of 2018, when “members of antifa in Philadelphia assaulted two Marines.” Extremism, Grassley said, “includes Black racism and antifa ideology.” And Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) focused on a (Black) man and (Asian American) woman who “had thrown a Molotov cocktail into a police vehicle during the antifa riots.”
Their illustrations served to build a case that the focus on white supremacy is “diminishing” violence against others, as Cruz put it, including “violence directed at White people” — and that, as Grassley asserted, “even though many in the press only focus on far-right attacks, the most deadly ideology often changes year to year.”
But that’s just not true. Since 2015, when the recent upsurge in political violence began, the brutality has been overwhelmingly perpetrated by the far right. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, right-wing extremists (generally either white supremacist or anti-government) were involved in 267 plots or attacks and 91 fatalities from 2015 through 2020. Far-left extremists (anarchists, anti-fascists) were involved in 66 incidents and 19 deaths. The proportion of left-wing attacks and plots increased in 2021 (40 percent of the total, compared to 49 percent by right-wing extremists), but right-wing attacks remained far deadlier, accounting for 28 of 30 political-violence fatalities in 2021.
Senate Republicans used similar arguments a couple of weeks ago to block consideration of the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, which would have created dedicated government offices to track domestic terrorism, including white-supremacist violence. That modest bill, with no added surveillance powers or criminal offenses, had passed the House and originally had Republican support. But at a time when Fox News’s Tucker Carlson and Republican officials including House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) have given voice to the “great replacement” conspiracy, Republicans have apparently lost interest in challenging white supremacy.
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Instead, they brought in their favorite all-purpose witness on Tuesday, law professor Jonathan Turley, who argued against the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act and claimed that the Jan. 6 insurrection was not an act of domestic terrorism. But mostly, Turley testified about himself: “I have received hundreds of threats against myself, my family, and even my dog. … I am generally viewed as something of a free-speech purist. … I come to this subject as someone who has written, litigated and testified in the areas of terrorism, extremist advocacy, and free speech for decades. I have also represented the United States House of Representatives in litigation. … I should confess to a bias as a Madisonian scholar.”
Committee chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), noting that Fox News’s Carlson alone has amplified the “great replacement” theory (in which White people are supposedly targeted for marginalization) on more than 400 episodes of his show, urged his colleagues to “speak in one voice and repudiate this incendiary rhetoric, along with any individual or extremist group that resorts to violence.”
But Republican senators declined that invitation, instead turning repeatedly to Turley and to their other witness, former U.S. attorney Justin Herdman, to support their desire not to focus on white supremacists; they wanted to evaluate the threat of terrorism without “any sort of analysis of the ideology,” as Herdman put it.
In his poignant opening statement, Whitfield spoke of the man who allegedly killed his mother: “He did not act alone. He was radicalized by white supremacists. His anger and hatred were metastasized like a cancer by people with big microphones screaming that Black people were going to take away their jobs and opportunities.”
Repeatedly, Whitfield asked the lawmakers what they would do about his mother’s death. Republicans, in their refusal to acknowledge the unique harm being done by Carlson, party leaders and white supremacists, gave their answer: not a thing.