Equal Rights Amendment

Virginia Ratify ERA Party4Parity in Richmond.

Virginia’s General Assembly opened last Wednesday, and Virginia Ratify ERAactivists spent the day lobbying legislators in support of ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).  Late in the day they gathered to thank supporters, including legislators and Attorney General Mark Herring.  Elected officials took the stage, but grassroots activists owned the room.

Congress sent the ERA to the States in March 1972 with a seven-year deadline.  If approved by 38 of 50 States by 22 March 1979, this language would become part of the Constitution:

“Section 1.Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2.The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3.This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.”

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Transportation

A week before Christmas, John Massoud wrote about a Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance (VTCA) poll at The Bull Elephant.  The poll shows strong public support for levying tolls on freight trucks or spending taxpayer funds to improve Interstate 81 in the western part of Virginia.  Massoud rightly points out that the VTCA is a lobbying group with an interest in highway construction funding and we should take the poll with a grain of salt (I have not looked into the methodology).  Still, he offers no solution to the mess I-81 has become and instead rejects the idea that government can be trusted with “my money.” We need infrastructure that helps Virginians efficiently move themselves and the products we make and sell, so I thought this would be a good hook to share some thoughts on transportation issues in the Commonwealth.

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Federal Judge Rules ACA Unconstitutional

A Federal District Court judge for the Northern District of Texasruled the Affordable Care Act(ACA) unconstitutional on Friday night.  Judge Reed O’Connor, a George W. Bushappointee, wrote that “[the] Individual Mandate can no longer be fairly read as an exercise of Congress’s Tax Power and is still impermissible under the Interstate Commerce Clause—meaning the Individual Mandate is unconstitutional.”   

Because the Supreme Court in 2010 allowed the individual coverage mandate to stand as a tax, and Congress reduced the tax to zero in 2017, Reed argues, the entire law violates the Constitution since Congress has no power to require coverage except as a tax.  Democrats will of course appeal this decision and may have the stronger argument.  The ruling ignores the fact that Congress simply changed the tax rate – the tax itself remains in place.  Until outright repeal, the law still rests on exercise on the power to tax even as Congress exercises its discretion by applying a zero rate.  It’s also not clear that the entire law fails without the mandate.  The US Supreme Court will of course adjudicate this question – and when it does all eyes will turn to Gorsuchand Kavanaugh.

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Predictions from The Bull Elephant – and a Few of My Own

Contributors and staff at The Bull Elephant have predicted the outcome of today’s elections and they deliver about what you’d expect from true believers.  Most think the GOP will hold the House and some think Republicans will pick up 3 or more seats in the Senate, with one suggesting a 60-seat majority.  Many argue that Corey Stewart will outperform polls and one thinks he could have won with more help from the Republican national and state parties.  Almost all think Barbara Comstock will lose, but few think any other Democrats will win Virginia House seats they aren’t heavily favored to win (e.g., Don McEachin [D-4]).  Continue reading

Comment at Virginia Right

A few weeks ago Bob Shannon, former President of the Mechanicsville Tea Party, wrote an essay at Virginia Right criticizing Congressman Rob Wittman for continuing to “duck and dodge the King William T. E. A. Party.” Mr. Shannon notes in his post that Wittman met with three different King William County groups, calling them “‘soft audiences,’ friendly groups inclined to give the Congressman a warm welcome with softball questions.”  This implies that the King William Tea Party might not greet the Congressman so warmly.

I attend Mechanicsville Tea Party meetings because I’m curious about the movement generally and how my more conservative neighbors think about politics.  I’ve learned from these interactions that conservatives in my region have two chief complaints about Republican politicians: they vote too often for government spending and they meet too rarely with constituents.  Your mileage may vary with respect to the validity of these criticisms.  But I wanted to engage with the Virginia Right readership in the hope of learning more about the way they think.  So I posted a comment to Shannon’s post.  Though no readers responded, I thought I would post it here, if only to get it into the Foggy Bottom Line archive.

I’m a Democrat considering a run for the Virginia Senate in the 4th District next year. I’d be very happy to engage with the King William or any other Tea Party group. I have in fact attended several Mechanicsville Tea Party meetings, though not as a candidate.

Generally speaking, I understand you think liberty cannot survive a powerful government. But I wonder just what role you think it should have. National defense, of course, and presumably regulation of immigration. Some hierarchical authority must legislate at least minimal regulations to govern capitalism, protect core values such as “thou shall not steal,” and provide courts to adjudicate disputes. Some collective action is necessary to create the infrastructure required for a modern economy to function.

I also wonder whether you think government action can sometimes protect liberty. Lack of access to health care, for example, or connectivity with others in an economy that depends on integration of businesses with consumers and each other, can have the effect of limiting my choices. The corporations that provide these services, after all, care more about profit than anyone’s personal freedom.

Government needs revenue to pay for all this of course. What is the appropriate level? And should those who benefit most from our system pay a bit more? If you don’t think so, then why not?

In any event, government should of course not spend more than it takes in, but It’s obvious that under some circumstances government must borrow money. No budget can allow for every emergency, and every organization sometimes borrows to invest where managers believe that investment will bring returns that exceed interest costs. Government should not go into debt without good reason – and I’m wondering how you would define “good reason.” Does “give wealthy people more money in hopes that they’ll pay if forward” qualify?

Forgive me if I sound like I’m brainstorming – but I’m sort of doing just that. I’m genuinely interested in how I, as a Democrat, might secure your vote. I do have core principles that I won’t compromise to get your support. But I wonder where, if at all, we might find common ground.

Kavanaugh, Politics, and the Conservative Project

I think Susan Collins had no good choice here.  Her vote to confirm buys her a credible and well-funded challenger, but a vote the other way would likely have created a primary challenge from the right.  It seems to me that while Collins has rarely deviated from conservative orthodoxy with respect to her actual votes, she has carefully cultivated a reputation as a moderate (chiefly by claiming to respect reproductive choice for women).  This and incumbency has so far protected her politically, but Democrats (especially women) in Maine will now do everything they can to replace her.  This challenge comes in 2020, when Democrats will also show up in force to vote against Donald Trump if he runs again.  I think she had a better chance to win a challenge from the right and keep the seat by voting no on Kavanaugh but supporting his just-as-conservative replacement.

Joe Manchin faced a similar problem except that he depends on some level of support from conservatives to keep his seat where Collins depends on marginal liberals for hers.  I would suggest to Senator Manchin that (like in Maine) a “right thing to do” vote against Kavanaugh would have kept enough conservatives in his corner as long as he votes to confirm Trump’s next choice.  And as in Maine voting to confirm Kavanaugh will alienate Democrats he needs to win.  It’s too late for a primary challenge from the left, but to win he needs every vote he can get, and many women will now stay home. Continue reading

Brett Kavanaugh

We’re learning a lot about Republicans and Conservatism watching them push through the Kavanaugh confirmation.  The Federalist Society could give them the names of a hundred other judges with the necessary background to join the US Supreme Courtand vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, protect corporations from regulation, and permit expansive voter suppression laws.  Most of these could at least maintain the appearance of impartiality and show more judicial temperament than Kavanaugh showed.

Yet they not only press forward, they feel a need do so in the most mean-spirited way possible. We’ve come to expect that from Donald Trump, and he hasn’t disappointed the last few days.  But until now we could at least try to tell ourselves that senior GOP leaders like Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham would not sink to such a base level.  Continue reading

Ileana Johnson is not a Serious Person

Writing at The Bull Elephant (and Freedom Outpost), Ileana Johnson complains that:

“What is good has become bad, evil has become good, and moral values have been replaced by moral relativism, decadence, and filth. America continues to be fundamentally transformed from the shadows.”

Johnson is a conservative, so she’s not talking about Donald Trump paying porn stars not to talk about his (lack of) skills as a lover. She’s talking about Barack Obama promising to “’fundamentally transform’ America into a socialist paradise of his anti-American and racist ideology.”  I must admit to having a bit of trouble wrapping my mind around this, and Johnson does not elaborate in a way that clears up her meaning.  Continue reading

Saturday Morning Coffee

Going through a few of the open tabs on my iPad with a cup of coffee this morning:

At Talking Points Memo: I saw this Associated Press report: DOJ Lawyer: Steele Said Russian Intelligence Believed it Had Trump Over a Barrel. Looks like Bruce Ohr met with Christopher Steele, who shared some information that did not make it into the dossier Steele wrote for Fusion GPS.  This is one reason why Trump wants to discredit Ohr – he likely knows things the White House would rather keep under wraps.

On a related note, William Saletan lays it all out at Slate:: We Already Know Trump is Betraying His Country.  This is a pretty good rundown of how Donald Trump has put Russia and his wallet before America, including some thoughts on why, all in one place.

At The Atlantic, Yuval Noah Harari lays out his thoughts on Why Technology Favors Tyranny.  He touches on something I’ve given a lot of thought to: how will social norms change as technology replaces workers in the last remaining jobs that don’t require complex education or training (e.g., long-haul truck drivers). If dying industry led to right-wing populism in rust-belt states, what happens when artificial intelligence replaces every worker who drives something for a living?

Fred Clark, a progressive Christian, writes about the intersection between religion and politics, among other things, at Slactivist.  In a series he calls “The MAGA Commission”, Clark discusses the Great Commission Christ gave his followers to spread his word and how the purpose and identity of evangelical Christianity has shifted from this missionary work to politics.  Part One linked above; Parts Two and Three are also up.  Clark is an excellent writer, and I urge all of you to check out his work.  His exegesis of the truly awful (both as writing and theology) Left Behind books and films is especially interesting – and funny as…hell (sorry).

Another Progressive Christian and former megachurch pastor fired for his “provocative” (read: “progressive”) writing, John Pavlovitz asks Christians to Stop Blaming God for your LGBTQ Hatred. He thinks Christians should stop applying the Bible to other people’s lives. Like Clark, Pavlovitz is a great writer, and like Clark has a blog name I wish I’d thought of myself: Stuff That Needs to be Said.  Go check him out.

Some good reading this morning that could take you on a nice stroll through the internet. Enjoy the holiday weekend.