A minority in the Senate is refusing to allow anyone to be confirmed to the D.C. Circuit. Because, of course, it would be bad to dilute the wingnut flavor of the current D.C. Circuit, which also has several members for whom the government not working is a feature, not a bug. If the Senate ever becomes functional enough for a non-wingnut is confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, it will be a little harder for the D.C. Circuit to make it impossible for government to function, so you can see the dilemma here.
Author Page for Scott Lemieux
Great point about the how the tragic death of Len Bias turned into a disastrous policy legacy:
Bias’s death loosed all kinds of terrible ideas on the nation, foremost among them our famously destructive mandatory-minimum sentencing regime, which was enshrined into law in October 1986. It began the process of militarizing the sports world according to the hysterical exigencies of an unwinnable drug war, a process that accelerated when Ben Johnson tested positive for stanozolol at the 1988 summer Olympics in Seoul and turned performance-enhancing drugs into the war’s newest rhetorical front.
Len Bias’s legacy is all around us even still. It’s the cup you have to pee in before starting a new job. It’s the demographic nightmare of crack sentencing. It’s the monthly freakout over recreational drug use among athletes. It’s Barry Bonds on the federal docket, being prosecuted by morons. It’s the ongoing attenuation of our Fourth Amendment rights, helped along by the work of sports league- and media-enabled drug warriors like Jeff Novitzky.
The New Deal—which Katznelson argues should be seen as encompassing the period between the election of FDR in 1932 and the election of Eisenhower 20 years later—was, according to Fear Itself, conducted in the shadow of three major fears. First, there was the fear about whether democracy could survive the Great Depression as countries such as Germany, Italy, and Japan turned to authoritarian responses. Second, there was the fear protecting national security respresented, first by World War II and then by the Cold War and the atomic age. And third, and crucially, was the Southern fear that its system of white supremacy would not survive. The first two fears created an impetus for unprecedented federal action, but this federal action was, throughout the New Deal, shaped and constrained by the third fear.
One of the many virtues of this masterful book is that it rescues the tragedies and ironies of the New Deal from the facile “liberal fascism” taunts from the likes of Jonah Goldberg. American political institutions may have demanded a Faustian bargain in return for comprehensive Great Depression policies, but that does not discredit the progressive accomplishments of the New Deal. White supremacy constrained and shaped the New Deal because in the early 20th century American polity, white supremacy and the tolerance of white supremacy were nearly ubiquitous among political elites of all ideological stripes. From William Howard Taft’s disavowal of any interest in civil rights to the overwhelming Senate Republican opposition to allowing an anti-lynching bill to come up a vote to the conservative coalition that dominated Congress between 1938 and 1964, racism was hardly something that only affected the Democratic coalition. And it was economic progressives, not conservatives, who ultimately embraced civil rights under Lyndon Johnson.
Another of its virtues, as you have seen, is that it counteracts the Drew Westen view of the presidency that remains so common. FDR had a greater influence on the trajectory of American politics than it’s possible for any contemporary president to have, and yet his legislative initiatives succeeded when Southern Democrats in Congress supported the policy goals a priori and otherwise failed.
This is a very rich book, and I suspect I’ll be returning to it in a couple of follow up points. One point worth making right away that I didn’t have space for in my review is Katznelson’s very useful analysis of the role of labor politics in explaining the transformation of the Democratic coalition after 1938. One reason that Southern Democrats voted like liberal Democrats on economic policy at the beginning of the New Deal once the policies were pre-cleared to ensure that they didn’t threaten Jim Crow is the concentration of union strength in the North. Southern Democrats strongly supported the Wagner Act in large measure because most national unions were racially exclusionary and the Wagner Act excluded the agricultural and domestic work that still dominated the Southern political economy. Once the more racially egalitarian CIO became more powerful and wartime mobilization increased industrialization in the South, however, Southern Democrats became about as anti-union as conservative Republicans. I understand why Katznelson declares the New Deal over with the inauguration of Eisenhower, but one could also make a good case for seeing the end of the New Deal at the point at which Congress overrode Truman’s veto of Taft-Hartley.
What if I asked you if a once inexplicably prominent liberal blogger was also on the receiving end of the same blood money as Josh Trevino, who would you guess? If you’ve been around this thing of ours for a while, your guess was probably right!
David All, a Republican online operative whose David All Group originally contacted conservative writer Joshua Trevino, Trevino said, to conduct a PR operation on behalf of the Malaysian government, is not listed in the records. Nor is Jerome Armstrong, a pioneering liberal blogger whose MyDD was for a time a key site, and who took a leading role alongside Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas in Matt Bai’s 2007 book on how bloggers and billionares were remaking the Democratic Party, who Trevino says was engaged by All at the same time as him to run the website MalaysiaMatters.com as part of a paid media push that backed the country’s ruling party and attacked its critics.
Maybe he had some useful information for the Malaysian state about how because the second moon of Venus was in Uranus we can know that Vice-President Palin will be a major boon to the forces that want to crush Malaysian democracy.
…just to clarify — from Rosie Gray’s original report, it’s not just Trevino’s word:
Two of the main players in the campaign funded by the Malaysian government that placed undisclosed propaganda in the American press did not file with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), an omission that lawyers say could place them in legal jeopardy.
David All, a Republican online operative whose David All Group originally contacted conservative writer Joshua Trevino, Trevino said, to conduct a PR operation on behalf of the Malaysian government, is not listed in the records. Nor is Jerome Armstrong, a pioneering liberal blogger whose MyDD was for a time a key site; Armstrong also took a leading role alongside Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas in Matt Bai’s 2007 book on how bloggers and billionaires were remaking the Democratic Party, who Trevino says was engaged by All at the same time as him to run the website MalaysiaMatters.com as part of a paid media push that backed the country’s ruling party and attacked its critics.
A defunct “about” page for MalaysiaMatters listed Armstrong among the founders: “Those working on this project include David All, Jerome Armstrong and Joshua Treviño,” the page said.
Shorter A. Scott Berg: As Woodrow Wilson shows, all Obama needs to do is sit down with Republicans and tell them to cut the bullshit. The fact that Wilson failed the one time I discuss when his agenda differed from the a priori preferences of Congress is central to my point.
I’m not sure how many times the NYT Sunday Review plans to publish the same argument, although in fairness at least it wasn’t Drew Westen this time.
…and, as a commenter notes, related.
Calling Jeff Sessions a “wonk McCarthyite” is indeed far too charitable; the former term implies that he knows something about anything.
I believe this event calls for a link to Sarah Wildman’s classic piece about Sessions, now available in readable format:
Sessions was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. The year before his nomination to federal court, he had unsuccessfully prosecuted three civil rights workers–including Albert Turner, a former aide to Martin Luther King Jr.–on a tenuous case of voter fraud. The three had been working in the “Black Belt” counties of Alabama, which, after years of voting white, had begun to swing toward black candidates as voter registration drives brought in more black voters. Sessions’s focus on these counties to the exclusion of others caused an uproar among civil rights leaders, especially after hours of interrogating black absentee voters produced only 14 allegedly tampered ballots out of more than 1.7 million cast in the state in the 1984 election. The activists, known as the Marion Three, were acquitted in four hours and became a cause celebre. Civil rights groups charged that Sessions had been looking for voter fraud in the black community and overlooking the same violations among whites, at least partly to help reelect his friend Senator Denton.
On its own, the case might not have been enough to stain Sessions with the taint of racism, but there was more. Senate Democrats tracked down a career Justice Department employee named J. Gerald Hebert, who testified, albeit reluctantly, that in a conversation between the two men Sessions had labeled the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) “un-American” and “Communist-inspired.” Hebert said Sessions had claimed these groups “forced civil rights down the throats of people.” In his confirmation hearings, Sessions sealed his own fate by saying such groups could be construed as “un-American” when “they involve themselves in promoting un-American positions” in foreign policy. Hebert testified that the young lawyer tended to “pop off” on such topics regularly, noting that Sessions had called a white civil rights lawyer a “disgrace to his race” for litigating voting rights cases. Sessions acknowledged making many of the statements attributed to him but claimed that most of the time he had been joking, saying he was sometimes “loose with [his] tongue.” He further admitted to calling the Voting Rights Act of 1965 a “piece of intrusive legislation,” a phrase he stood behind even in his confirmation hearings.
Alas, between his use of specious “vote fraud” accusations to suppress voting and his crusade against the Voting Rights Act, Sessions was a real Republican visionary.
A terrific article by Haley Sweetland Edwards about how the passage of progressive legislation is always the beginning, rather than the end, of policy struggles. Particularly when it comes to the federal judiciary, this is something that too many Democrats have been slow to grasp. Contemporary liberals are right to have leaned the lesson that there are only very limited circumstances in which litigation can produce progressive social change, but it doesn’t follow from this that staffing the federal judiciary should be a low priority. Courts can do a great deal of damage to progressive legislative victories.
It’s pretty depressing to see Keith Gessen resort to one of the hoariest lines in the male chauvinist playbook. I mean, really, “how can I hate women — I enjoy having sex with them?” In 2013? Not in the American Spectator, but made by a nominal progressive associated with a (deservedly) prominent literary magazine?
As Amanda says, it’s possible (and, indeed, depressingly common) for great artists to have objectionable views about women. I don’t believe that this eliminates artistic accomplishment. But Gessen’s bad faith is just the aesthetic Stalinist flipside — the idea that if someone is a great artist he therefore can’t really be misogynist is really silly.
I’d have to say that Krugman puts it perfectly:
It seems that some years ago Malaysia’s ruling party took a good look at leading pundits and policy intellectuals in the conservative movement, reached a judgment about their personal and intellectual integrity or lack thereof, and acted in accordance with that judgment.
Funny how Malaysia gets who these people are and what motivates them — while our own press corps doesn’t.
Which isn’t to say that the Malaysian government was being entirely rational; as Ailes says, “Given that nobody takes Trevino seriously, it seems the Malaysian government overpaid by roughly $389,724.40.”
Relatedly, a view from Mississippi, that racially egalitarian paradise:
“I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I think McComb would be all right,” he said, contemplating the prospect of Section 5’s demise. But the law is still essential, he said, saying, “There are other places around here,” before deciding to remain discreet about where those places may be.
“I’ll tell you if he won’t,” said Johnny McCray, 37, overhearing the conversation from his haircutting station. “Amite County and Tylertown.”
Amite County, which is spoken of in similar chilled tones by black residents in McComb, sits next door.
Redistricting and poll watchers have such a history in Amite County that the older white men sitting around at the drugstore in the county seat, Liberty, can swap their favorite election stories, many of which tend to have punch lines showing federal involvement as misguided and ineffectual.
The Justice Department is not amused. As recently as 2011, it struck down the county’s redistricting map, charging that county leaders had decreased the number of black voters in one district in favor of another, while fully knowing that black turnout in the latter district had historically been very low.
The district belongs to Max Lawson, a 60-year-old rancher. Sitting in his sun-filled kitchen, Mr. Lawson, who voted against the proposed map along with the one black county supervisor, began to detail his objections to federal intervention, which mostly involved the fact that roads he arranged to have paved were now in another district. On the question of race and the need for voting controls, he seemed puzzled.
“That was generations ago,” said Mr. Lawson, adding that many of his supporters are black. “It wasn’t us.”
Percy Pittman, who as a teenager spent nights keeping an armed vigil at his church to guard against firebombers, differed in his recollection of just how far away the bad times were. But he expressed similar sentiments.
“I don’t want stay angry because of something that happened a long time ago,” said Mr. Pittman, for nearly two decades the Pike County coroner and for now the sole black countywide elected official. “I don’t even allow my children to watch ‘Roots.’ ”
Now 65, Mr. Pittman, believes that people in McComb, the largest city in Pike County, think in terms of personality rather than skin color. That is, he clarified, most of them do.
Asked what he thought about people’s claims that racially motivated politics were completely a thing of the past in the South, Mr. Pittman hesitated for a moment.
“I think they’re full of it,” he said.
And don’t kid yourself, without the federal government and its meddling “racial entitlements,” Mississippi wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.
In fairness, the Scalia/Roberts states’ rights reading of the 15th Amendment does have precedent. White supremacist 19th century precedent, but precedent.
…I also can’t resist quoting this, from bmaz’s follow-up to his argument that arguing that sexual orientation should be subject to heightened scrutiny is — unlike a decision striking down the PPACA that would effectively overrule McCullouch v. Maryland — a “states’ rights” argument: “Honestly, with the tide of momentum headed in the direction it is, I am less and less convinced John Roberts wants to be on the wrong side of civil rights history either.” Sure, that’s plausible, if you missed Wednesday’s oral arguments, Parents Involved, etc. etc. Hell, maybe Sam Alito doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of history either — Stuart Taylor swears that he’s a moderate!
The Obama administration filed a brief arguing that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. Bmaz is very upset, calling it “cowardly,” “timid,” and a “states rights” argument. (I find the latter charge particularly amusing; say what you will about Obama, at least unlike bmaz he was never sympathetic to neoconfederate arguments against the constitutionality of the PPACA.) Anyway, this is really overwrought:
- It’s not accurate to say that the Obama administration is merely making a Romer-style argument. As you can see if you read the brief, the government explicitly calls for classifications based on sexual orientation to be subject to heightened scrutiny. This goes beyond what Romer (explicitly) held, and to call that a cowardly or “states’ rights” argument is really absurd. Bans on same-sex marriage would have virtually no chance of surviving heightened scrutiny, and hence would almost certainly lead to a national right to same-sex marriage whether or not the decision was immediately limited to the California case.
- It is true that, having made a case that sexual orientation should be subject to heightened scrutiny, it then limits the application of this principle to the case at hand. This is just intelligent, responsible lawyering. It is far from obvious that the court’s median vote is ready to declare a national right to same-sex marriage. The most crucial goal for this litigation is to ensure that the Court doesn’t uphold Prop 8 and create a disastrous Bowers like-precedent. The brief reflects this perfectly; the heightened scrutiny standard would allow Kennedy to create a national right to same-sex marriage if he wants to, but it’s important to emphasize that he can write a narrow opinion that would strike down Prop 8 while leaving the question of other state bans open. Portraying this as an all-or-nothing proposition would be foolish, since there’s a reasonable probability that Kennedy would choose “nothing.” The Solicitor General’s brief isn’t an act of narcissistic self-expression with liberal bloggers being the audience; the SG’s job is to make arguments that have the best chance of appealing to the median vote on the Supreme Court.