Kosher Legislation

Eventually is not OK. Tell someone with cancer that’s been fighting this for years that eventually they’ll get the help that they’ve earned. That is not an acceptable answer. It is despicable to continue to use America’s men and women who are fighting for this country as political pawns for anger you have about separate issues. This bill is utterly and completely focused on veterans’ issues. There is no pork in it. It is a kosher bill.

Jon Stewart, responding to the claim that the PACT Act will pass eventually

This week’s featured post is “A Week When Congress Mattered“.

This week everybody was talking about important legislation

The featured post covers the CHIPS Act, which passed last week; the Honor Our PACT Act, which Republicans blocked in the Senate; and the Inflation Reduction Act, which came back from the dead last week and now just needs Senator Sinema to sign on.

and a third party

Some moderate, Trump-rejecting Republicans and Democrat Andrew Yang announced a new political party this week, calling it Forward.

I think this effort is doomed, for reasons spelled out by NYT columnist Jamelle Bouie. A winner-take-all method of election, like the one that prevails in most the US, favors a two-party system. There’s no way to form a coalition after the election, as parties do in proportional-representation parliamentary systems, so there’s a strong incentive to form a majority coalition before the election. Typically that results in two coalitions battling to see which can command a majority.

Third parties, then, are temporary phenomena in America. They arise primarily when both of the existing parties have agreed to ignore some contentious issue. In the 1840s, for example, Democrats and Whigs both tried to downplay the slavery issue, which split both of them regionally. The Republican Party arose because there was effectively no way to vote against slavery. The Whigs then broke apart, the Civil War was fought, and Republicans took the Whigs’ place in the two-party system. (If you’re wondering how we got from there to here, where Republicans are the white-supremacy party, I explained that in 2012.)

Most third parties never even make a splash. The few that do usually get co-opted by one of the major parties. For example, when the Democrats in 1948 embraced the previously Republican issue of civil rights, the Dixiecrats gave worried Whites an anti-civil-rights option. That led to George Wallace’s American Independent Party in 1968, whose issues eventually got co-opted into the Republican Party by Nixon’s “southern strategy”.

The typical thought pattern of a third-party voter is “Neither major party offers any hope on my issue, so I don’t care which one of them wins.” That’s why third parties usually emerge on the extremes. If Donald Trump had lost the Republican nomination in 2016 to another John-McCain-style neo-conservative who would probably support the same foreign interventions as Hillary Clinton, an America First Party could have made a significant run. If Democrats continue to spin their wheels on climate change, a Green Party is a possibility. Either of those movements would probably fail at first, while simultaneously wrecking the chances of the major party closest to it, so the faction that spins off really needs to have hit that I-don’t-care-any-more point.

Like Bouie, I don’t see how to make that work in the center. Picture it: “I am so committed to my sensible middle-of-the-road agenda that it makes no difference to me whether America gets ‘woke’ or goes fascist.” Who thinks like like that?

The only way a centrist third party can succeed in our current system is with some non-partisan national hero at the top, like a Dwight Eisenhower fresh off of winning World War II. But Andrew Yang and Christine Todd Whitman can’t fill those shoes.

The other way a third party works is if we change the system first, say by instituting ranked-choice voting, as Alaska and Maine have. Why shouldn’t John Kasich have offered a centrist-Republican third option in 2016, if his Hillary-fearing voters could have listed Trump as their second choice?

The Forward platform resembles what Matt Yglesias promotes as “popularism”: focusing on the popular parts of your party’s message rather than the unpopular parts. David Roberts explains why that’s not likely to work:

Every proposal for a third party in the US ends up amounting to the same thing: a dream of center-left policy without all the nasty politics. It’s just a bunch of [very serious people] thinking, “hey, *we* won’t talk about defunding the police or pronouns, so the right will leave us alone.”

In other words, it takes the right’s bad-faith characterization of the left as its starting point. Of course, if such a party ever became a threat, the right could just as easily smear it! Then I guess the VSPs would start pining for a fourth.

The right’s entire raison d’être is to make being on the side fighting for fairness & justice *unpleasant*, to associate it with marxism or pedophilia or whatever. Third party wankers think they can escape this dynamic by being theatrically Reasonable, but they are deluded.

and tomorrow’s votes

According the Kansas Supreme Court, that state’s constitution currently contains a right to privacy that prevents the legislature from banning abortion. There’s a provision on tomorrow’s ballot that would change that, setting up a possible abortion ban (which the very Republican legislature would almost certainly pass).

This is the first time actual voters have gotten to weigh in on abortion since the Supreme Court junked a federal right to abortion in June. You’d expect a conservative state like Kansas to pass it, but the polling is unclear.

Also, it’s a confusing situation: The legislature scheduled this vote to coincide with a primary, when turnout is low. Initially that was assumed to favor anti-abortion voters, but abortion-rights voters may be more motivated than the legislature expected.

Plus, a Yes vote is a vote against abortion rights, while a No vote is a vote for abortion rights. Some number of voters are going to get that backwards.

The other state to watch is Missouri, where the GOP Senate primary tests just how much scandal the MAGA electorate is willing to write off. Former Governor Eric Greitens resigned in 2018 to avoid impeachment, assailed by charges of sexual assault on his mistress as well as various campaign finance violations.

Charges were eventually dropped and he escaped going to trial, but the claims are still out there. In addition, his ex-wife has accused him of domestic violence.

But Mr. Greitens has adopted the Trump guide to making vileness and suspected criminality work for you: Brace up, double down and bray that any and all allegations are just part of — all together now! — a political witch hunt.

Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Greitens is a political grievance peddler. Also like Mr. Trump, he saves his most concentrated bile for fellow Republicans. One of the most puerile ads of the midterms thus far has been Mr. Greitens’s “RINO hunting” spot, in which he leads a group of armed men in tactical gear as they storm a lovely little suburban home in search of G.O.P. heretics.

Greitens was the front-runner until big money got behind an ad campaign highlighting the ex-wife’s claims. That seems to have brought him down, but he’s still close enough that it’s not a foregone conclusion that he’ll lose.

Multiple polls show the former governor’s support slipping, dropping him behind a couple of his opponents. The state’s attorney general, Eric Schmitt, appears to have taken the lead. He, too, is an election-denying Trump suck-up. But at this point the G.O.P. is operating on a curve; simply weeding out those alleged to be abusers and other possible criminals can feel like a major achievement.

We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

and the DoJ’s 1-6 investigation

With Congress’ 1-6 hearings on hiatus, attention shifts to the Department of Justice. From the beginning, pundits have been skeptical of Attorney General Merrick Garland’s stomach for indicting the political actors behind the insurrection. Sure, DoJ might prosecute rioters by the hundreds and get convictions for trespassing and so forth, but would investigators ever start to climb the pyramid?

It looks like they are. The federal grand jury has been interviewing aides to Mike Pence, and asking them questions about conversations with Trump. DoJ also seems to be looking into Trump’s fake-elector scheme.

DoJ investigations are supposed to make as few waves as possible until indictments come down, and to vanish without a trace if there is no crime to indict. So you need experienced tea-leaf-readers to interpret the signs. My favorites are the folks at Lawfare.

you also might be interested in …

The Biden administration has been trying to get Russia to accept a prisoner swap for WNBA star Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, but so far it’s not working.

She’s black and female and in trouble with Russia, so course we know what side Trump will come down on: Biden shouldn’t try to get her out at all, because she’s “spoiled” and “loaded up with drugs”. (To me, that sounds like a good description of Don Jr.)

[The Russians] don’t like drugs. And she got caught. And now, we’re supposed to get her out — and she makes, you know, a lot of money.

Griner makes the WNBA max salary of $227K, less than what Bill Russell was making in the 1960s. That’s not a lot of money for somebody who is (1) at the top of her profession and (2) expecting the short career of a professional athlete. The reason she (and other WNBA stars) go overseas during the off-season is to supplement their income.

The Celebrity Net Worth web site estimates her entire fortune at $5 million. It takes Steph Curry about ten games to earn that much.

The Juice Media has a project it calls “honest government ads”. Here’s one for the Supreme Court.

Amanda Marcotte points out the similarities between Republican reactions to mass shootings and to horror stories from their abortion bans: Blame the victims, claim liberals have manufactured the story, and blatantly gaslight about what their laws actually say.

This is all in line with what I was pointing out two weeks ago: It’s an article of faith that conservative policies have no victims. If some obvious victim begins to get attention, that story has to be knocked down by any means necessary.

Michelle Goldberg makes a similar point:

Members of the anti-abortion movement, including [Alexandra] DeSanctis, often claim that abortion is never medically necessary. If they can’t bear to look clearly at the world they’ve made, maybe it’s because then they’d have to admit that what they’ve been saying has never been true.

Welcome to the world, George Jetson, who (according to a Warner Brothers wiki was born yesterday. Other sources have his birthday as August 27, but there’s general agreement he’s born in 2022.

Bill Russell died at age 88. He was arguably the greatest winner in sports history. In his 13-year NBA career, his Boston Celtics won 11 championships. He also won two NCAA championships at the University of San Francisco, and an Olympic gold medal with the US national team in 1956.

Also dead at 89 is Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura on the original Star Trek series. Her character wasn’t as central to the show as the Kirk/Spock/McCoy triad, so her importance is easy to overlook these days, when we’re used to seeing black actors in all sorts of roles. In 2016, a 50th anniversary retrospective noted:

Those of us who weren’t alive at the time probably can’t grasp how groundbreaking the character of Lieutenant Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols, was for audiences of the day. She was one of the first black women on TV not portrayed as a servant. … Nichols played her part in Star Trek’s most famous milestone – what is widely considered the first inter-racial kiss on American television. It wasn’t, in fact – Nancy Sinatra smooched Sammy Davis Jr on TV the year before, to name but one instance – but the moment was so iconic and definitive that it deserves credit.

and let’s close with a science-meets-horror moment

The researchers are calling it “necrobiotics“, which sounds like it ought to be the study of the living dead. Talk about high concept: the movie just seems to write itself. They’re manipulating dead spiders to grab things. What could possibly go wrong?

It turns out that after spiders die, their corpses are basically hydraulic devices. If you can suppress your urge to run out of the room, it’s actually pretty cool.

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  • DanB  On August 1, 2022 at 2:33 pm

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention that Bill Russell was also a civil rights activist.

  • Anonymous  On August 1, 2022 at 10:29 pm

    Two thumbs up on Ranked Choice Voting!

  • Thomas Paine  On August 3, 2022 at 11:18 pm

    The 2016 Presidential election was the perfect storm for Bernie Sanders to run as a third-party/independent candidate. A fair % of Trump supporters actually supported him, so Trump’s % would have shrunk to ~25%. Then there were all those voters who didn’t like Trump, but absolutely refused to vote for HRC. Take those two groups and add them to all the Sanders supporters to begin with, and he starts taking down states that Trump took as well as some close HRC ones. He never needed a majority, just the most votes among the three.

    Usually, the two major party choices aren’t so odious. But in that election, they were the two worst candidates available, and that’s what it takes for a third-party/independent to have a puncher’s chance under our system.

    • Anonymous  On August 5, 2022 at 9:21 pm

      Ranked Choice voting can give a third-party/independent candidate a puncher’s chance without the major parties running the two worst candidates available.

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