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The man who warned us about Donald Trump, Fox News and the rise of the idiocracy

The man who warned us about Donald Trump, Fox News and the rise of the idiocracy

(Credit: AP/Charlie Neibergall/Fox News/Salon)



With a new biography out and a recent documentary still making waves, it’s time to consider Gore Vidal’s legacy

Gore Vidal, one of America’s greatest literary renaissance men and the master of the acerbic witticism, once said to an interviewer near the end of his life, “Anyone stupid enough to worry about how he will be remembered, deserves to be forgotten.” With Jay Parini’s new biography of Vidal earning high praise, and the recent documentary on Vidal’s bitter feud with right wing dean of letters, William F. Buckley, Jr., still attracting attention, many critics and commentators are considering the question of Gore Vidal’s legacy. Those who take the fate of American democracy seriously should use the abundant and abrasive opportunity of Vidal’s literature to inspect the danger of the country falling into every steel claw trap Vidal warned of existing on the ruinous road to empire.

An examination of Vidal’s art and politics is insufficient if it does not acknowledge the secular prophecy pulsating throughout the best of his novels and essays. It is not enough to merely enumerate the ideas Vidal helped introduce to American culture, or telegraph the time jumping bravery and brilliance of Vidal’s innovative artistry, but that is a good place to begin.

In 1948, Vidal wrote the first American novel to depict a same-sex love affair without any pathology or condemnation. “The City and The Pillar,” inspired by his own early affair with a classmate at his boarding school, ages well as a romantic story of youthful affection, simultaneously full of ecstasy and terror. For his trouble, shortly after the book’s publication, the New York Times announced on the pages of its books section that it would no longer lower itself to mention, much less review, another Vidal novel. Given that the New York Times set the standards for American journalism and cultural commentary during that decade, nearly every other major newspaper and magazine marched along with the boycott. Until the Times lifted the ban, Vidal wrote a series of mystery novels under a nom de plum, and moved to Hollywood, where he authored several screenplays for film and television, including “Ben-Hur.”

The American author soon became a public intellectual of such gravitas and grace that a Canadian academic would eventually devote an entire book to analyzing how he engineers a connection between entertainment and erudition in a televisual era of superficiality. “How To Be an Intellectual in the Age of TV: The Lessons of Gore Vidal” by Marcie Frank delineates a subtle style of engagement with the camera that seems alien to contemporary cable news, but helped propel Vidal to triumphant heights. He would risk it all again with the publication of “Myra Breckinridge,” a 1968 novel about a beautiful woman of bewitching power who slowly reveals herself as transgender.

The forward thinking and openness of Vidal’s early embrace and expression of sexuality stands in stark contrast to the dueling Puritanisms of the present age, where right wing moralists castigate sex in religious language, and left wing moralists prefer to warn of the dangers of sex in therapeutic terminology. Vidal considered himself a man not so much of the left, but of antiquity. Claiming inspiration from Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, and writing one of his best novels, “Julian,” about the apostate emperor who tried to remove Christianity from Rome and restore paganism, Vidal personified the hedonism in existence before the influence of monotheism, and an unwavering loyalty to the early Athenian conception of representative democracy.

The cosmopolitan classicism of Vidal injected his contribution to political and literary culture with wisdom. The wisdom creates an unbreachable divide between Vidal, and for example, William F. Buckley. “Best of Enemies,” the recent documentary on their feud, treats them as equals. In reality, the record shows that unlike Vidal’s fine wine political positioning, Buckley’s retrograde views suffer decay and infirmity with each passing year. He opposed the civil rights movement, the women’s liberation movement, and the gay rights movement, and he celebrated Joseph McCarthy, supply side economics, and the war in Vietnam.

The connection pundits continue to trace between Vidal and Buckley, which precedes even the release of the documentary, is a small but significant illustration that America is either incapable or unwilling to learn from history (including its own), its past sins and errors or perspectives alternative to American exceptionalism.

One of the lessons Vidal would use his rhetorical ability and agility to amplify was the historical warning of Ancient Rome: “A nation cannot be a republic and an empire at the same time.” The respect Vidal showcased for America’s founding fathers emanates from the same point of caution. George Washington advised the nation against “foreign entanglements,” and John Adams considered “unnecessary war” society’s “greatest guilt.”


H/t: DB

Let’s call them all lunatics: Fearful “balanced” “journalists” let wingnuts run wild

Let's call them all lunatics: Fearful "balanced" "journalists" let wingnuts run wild

(Credit: Reuters/Chris Keane/CNN/AP/Carolyn Kaster/MSNBC/Salon)


In their 2012 book, “It’s Even Worse Than it Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism,” Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein argued that America’s political dysfunction had two causes: First, the mismatch between our constitutional system, requiring compromise, and our increasingly polarized, parliamentary-style politics. Second, the fact that polarization has been asymmetric, turning the GOP into an insurrectionary anti-government party, even when in power. They wrote:

The Republican Party has become an insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

Despite overwhelming historical data showing asymmetrical polarization in Congress (more recent additions here), their argument did not convince the anecdote-obsessed Beltway pundit class, with its deep belief that “both sides do it,” no matter what “it” may be. It’s true there are “extremists on both sides,” but as this Wonk Blog post showed, the percentage of non-centrist Republicans skyrocketed from under 10 percent in the Ford years (less than Democrats) to almost 90 percent today, while the Democratic percentage has stayed basically flat [chart]. What’s more, in the last session (2013-2014), the data shows that 147 House Republicans — more than half the caucus — were more ideologically extreme than the most extreme Democrat in the House. There is simply no comparison between the two parties. Asymmetric polarization is not only real, it’s one of the most dominant facts of American politics today.

But it’s a fact that “balanced” journalism has to ignore. To admit that the political world isn’t balanced would shake their whole belief system to its core. And yet, the shaking seems to have begun. As dysfunction in the GOP has reached new heights, not just threatening America and the global economy, but the party itself (both in Congress and the presidential race), the power of that denial may have begun breaking down, as Republican politicians are now criticizing their own party for what it has become, with conservative pundits like David Brooks castigating the GOP for its “right-wing radicalism.”

So it was only natural for Bloomberg View to engage in an email Q&A with Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, “Republicans Gone Wild,” bringing their perspective to bear on where things stand today.

Ornstein first pointed out that the current state of crisis — both in Congress and in the presidential primary — had predictable roots in past strategic moves, heedlessly initiated by party leaders who were now reaping the whirlwind. This basically reverses the order of causation proposed by critics, like Chris Cillizza, who argued that GOP congressmembers were simply following the spontaneous rightward movement of the folks back home:

The fact is that the “Young Guns” — Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan, as we wrote early on in the book — actively incited anger and raised expectations among populist Tea Party adherents when they went out in 2009-2010 and recruited candidates to run in the midterms. They told them to use the debt ceiling as an issue and to promise to bludgeon Obama with it to force him to his knees, to repeal Obamacare and cut government dramatically. They promised that if they took the majority they would immediately cut spending by $100 billion.

Of course, the American political system doesn’t work like that. Parliamentary systems do. But not presidential ones. For folks calling themselves “constitutional conservatives” this was a pretty fundamental moment of “Oops!” Continuing:

That led to the debt limit debacle in 2011, when they finally backed down at the brink — after Jason Chaffetz, whom we quote in the book, led the charge to take the country over. And the promise of $100 billion in spending cuts went unfulfilled. The combination of empty threats and unfulfilled promise, amplified by tribal media and social media, has created both a broad public anger at Republican establishment leaders among more radical Tea Party voters, and a seething anger among the 40 to 50 most radical House members at their own leaders for their fecklessness.

The wild promises that the “Young Guns” made played a key role (along with outside groups and money) in winning GOP House control in 2010, but they were alwaysutterly unrealistic — a minor detail that no one inside GOP leadership seemed to notice or care about at the time. One could argue that after 30 years of supply-side, trickle-down mumbo-jumbo they’d become completely adapted to living in fantasyland. How were they to know that this time they’d be getting their fair share of the resulting pain? (An early 2014 report concluded that “lurching from government breakdown to breakdown” had already significantly damaged the U.S. economy, resulting in an additional 750,000 unemployed.)

After that, Mann added:

Norm’s response underscores the reality of asymmetric polarization, which the mainstream media and most good government groups have avoided discussing — at great costs to the country. [Emphasis added.] As we wrote, Republicans have become more an insurgency than a major political party capable of governing. Their actions in Congress in recent weeks and on the presidential campaign trail underscore this reality.

But I would go even farther than Mann regarding the media. Their stubborn adherence to a false balance narrative has, ironically, become an integral part of the GOP’s relentless rightward push. By talking about “government dysfunction” instead of “Republican obstruction,” the media actively helps the most extreme anti-government Republicans thwart any efforts at competent governance and it helps promote their “government is horrible” worldview. It normalizes the abnormal, even the bizarre.

There was once a penalty for becoming too politically extreme: one’s actions would be characterized as unrealistic, destructive, heedless of past experience, etc. Sometimes this was justified, sometimes not (as with the Civil Rights movement). But right or wrong, this media practice inhibited radical movements in either direction. For quite some time now, however, conservative Republicans have realized that by moving right and attacking the media for any criticism, they can turn the media into a tacit ally, forcing them to treat preposterous claims as serious ideas, or even proven facts. Thus, when they were planning to force a government shutdown, a key part of their strategy was spinning the media with a preposterous argument that it was the Democrats who were shutting down the government, even though, as the New York Times reported, the shutdown plan traced back to a meeting early in President Obama’s second term, led by former Attorney General Edwin R. Meese.

In fact, at the time of the shutdown, in October 2013, I wrote a piece, “‘Balanced’ coverage ignores nine reasons why the shutdown is a GOP Idea” in which I argued:

[P]erhaps the single greatest asset the GOP has on its side is the so-called “liberal media,” with its ideological bias toward “balance” that prevents it from honestly reporting that the shutdown is a entirely Republican creation — which would dramatically intensify the pressure on Republicans to fold.

Far from producing accurate, objective reporting, the media’s adherence to “balanced” reporting blotted out almost all relevant history. The nine reasons I cited were:

1. The longstanding GOP fixation on shutting down the government.

2. The GOP’s creation of the shutdown crisis by blocking the budget reconciliation process.

3. The emergence and evolution of the incoherent Ted Cruz/Tea Party plan to force a shutdown over “Obamacare.”

4. The record of prominent Republican politicians and others who repeatedly warned against forcing a government shutdown — including many who are now trying to blame the Democrats.

5. The contrary historical record of some Republicans downplaying the severity of the shutdown.

6. The record of drastic Democratic budget concessions embodied in the “clean CR” [which Republicans rejected].

7. The polling evidence that only GOP base voters are opposed to political compromise — and are indifferent to crisis.

8. Evidence that GOP base intransigence drives policy.

9. The framework of American legislative history.

This was just one example, but the point is true in general: “Balance” does not ensure a clearer, more honest, more complete, more objective picture of the relevant facts — especially in current circumstances.

The GOP’s strategic logic is simple and straightforward: If the media is going to split the difference between what Democrats and Republicans say, then if Republicans simply double their demands, suddenly the media, embracing the “sensible center,” will now articulate the old GOP position as the “sensible center,” the “common sense” place to be. It will also adjust its reporting of “facts” accordingly, screening out all the facts that would once have made the Democratic position seem reasonable or plausible, and bringing in new “facts” — such as the GOP canard that it was really the Democrats who wanted to shut the government down. What’s more, once the media plays along, it’s a trick that can be used over and over again. One can keep moving farther and farther right indefinitely, pulling the “objective” media along for the ride, every step of the way. (Conservatives even developed an operational model to describe the process, known as the “Overton Window,” explained by a conservative activist here.)

The basis for all this is a cultural illusion that the “nonpartisan” media is somehow objective, philosophically in tune with science. But historically, this is far from true. Up until the late 19th century, American journalism was quite partisan, serving substantial “niche” audiences, sustained by subscriptions. When advertising exploded as a revenue source in the early 20th century, a new journalistic model emerged, trying to appeal across parties, while taking care not to anger large advertisers. The broader story is well told by Paul Starr in “The Creation of the Media,” while Jeremy Iggers incorporates this history into his account of how journalism ethics confuses the purposes of journalism in “Good News, Bad News: Journalism Ethics and the Public Interest.”

One of the most persistent critics of the “balanced journalism” that results is James Fallows of the Atlantic magazine, in his ongoing “false equivalence” blog posts, begun in 2012. One such post, quoting from correspondent Shreeharsh Kelkar at MIT, references Starr’s work, along with the concept of “boundary work,” which Kelkar describes as “a kind of rhetorical work that is performed in public argument: something is asserted to be science by stressing what it is not.” He goes on to say:

I think this kind of boundary work exists in journalism too… it’s what you call false equivalence (and Yglesias calls bipartisan think). Here the newspaper is seen as above politics, which is what grubby politicians do.

Such is the basis for the media’s claims of “objectivity.” Starr’s history explains the forces leading to why this happened. And Kelkar goes on to note that these forces are changing once again, corresponding with another change in outlook:

Interestingly enough, we’re now back in more partisan times, thanks to the Web. And it’s interesting to me that you, Matt and others who call the editorials on their false equivalence operate in a completely different new media ecosystem.

The one thing missing from this account is that partisan, ideological and other niche journalism (black newspapers, for example) never went away, although they were pushed toward the margins. But they continued to play important cultural and political roles, especially for movements locked out of power, struggling to find their way in. In this very real historical sense, the blogosphere’s origins were not just Usenet, email lists and the like, they were also the underground press tracing back toIF Stone’s Weekly and George Seldes’ In Fact; the black press, both commercial and movement-based; political journals of the left and right; and so on. These underappreciated traditions provide largely untapped examples of how to do quality political journalism outside of the artificial construct in which false balance is rooted. They point the way forward for us, beyond our current state of asymmetrical dysfunction.

H/t: DB

Rich, white & in total control: The clearest evidence yet that our democracy is broken

Rich, white & in total control: The clearest evidence yet that our democracy is broken

Scott Walker (Credit: Reuters/David Becker)


GOP politicians like Scott Walker work hard to suppress the vote. New data gives us a good idea why

This week the Census Bureau released their data on voter turnout in the 2014 election, and the numbers are abysmal. In 2014, only 41.9 percent of the voting age citizen population turned out, the lowest number census has recorded since they began collecting data in 1978. But these broad numbers obscure an even more important reality: that the decline in turnout between the 2012 Presidential election and the 2014 midterm was strongest among low-income people (see chart) andpeople of color.

As it happens this is also the first election since the Supreme Court struck down a key provision in the Voting Rights Act and conservatives rushed to pass discriminatorylaws aimed at suppressing voter turnout. There is a large body of evidence suggesting that when voting is easier, more people vote, and that voter suppression laws disproportionately impact the poor and people of color. The turnout numbers from 2014 are dramatic: At the lowest income bracket, less than 1 in 4 citizens of voting age turned out, and only half were registered to vote, a drop of 48 percent from the presidential election. At the highest bracket the Census records data for ($150,000 and above), 80 percent were registered and 57 percent voted, a drop-off of 29 percent from the presidential election. However, another data source that surveysthe wealthiest 1 percent found that in 2008, 99 percent voted, suggesting bias at the very top might be even higher.

In a previous Demos explainer, I argued that lower class bias in voter turnout would lead to more economically progressive policies and benefit the poor. In an upcoming piece, I expand on that argument with new data. One thing I examine is how policies that reduce turnout among people of color effect policy. To do so I used the American National Election Studies 2012 survey to examine differences in public opinion between white voters and non-white nonvoters. I focus on four questions about fundamental disputes about the role of government: whether government should increase service, boost spending on the poor, guarantee jobs and reduce inequality. I examine net support, meaning I subtracted the percentage of people in support of the law from the percent in favor.

As the chart above shows, the preferences of white voters are dramatically different than non-white nonvoters. While on net white voters want government to decrease services (52 percent say cut services and 24 percent say more, with 24 percent saying keep them at the same), nonwhite nonvoters overwhelmingly favor expanding services (16.8 percent, 47.1 percent and 36 percent, respectively). While a modest majority of white voters want more spending on the poor (26 percent to 24 percent with 49 percent saying keep spending the same), support among non-white nonvoters is dramatic (57.2 percent, 7.9 percent and 35 percent respectively). All told, nonvoters of color have vastly different preferences about the size and scope of government than white voters.

The divergent preferences of nonvoters mean that boosting turnout would change government policy to be more beneficial to the poor. The implications of universal voter turnout would be dramatic, as a brief examination of the international, historical and state level data suggest. Examining data from 19 countries over 22 years, Peter Lindert writes, “A stronger voter turnout seems to have raised spending on every kind of social program.” A study of Latin American countries from 1970 and 2008 finds that increasing democracy boosted spending on education, health, social security and welfare. Economists Dennis Mueller and Thomas Stratmann estimatethat if voter turnout in increase from 40 percent to 80 percent, it would reduce the Gini Coefficient (which measures inequality on a scale from 0 to 1) by .04, which isequal to the entire effect of taxes and transfers in the United States. New studies examining differences in class bias (differences in turnout between the rich and poor) at the state level suggest that boosting turnout would reduce inequality by pushing policy in a more progressive direction.

Obviously, voter turnout can’t remedy all the gaps in participation in the American political system. As the chart below shows, the richest Americans engage with the political system far more across the board. But this only increases the importance for reducing the bias in voting, which is the simplest to remedy. One archaic barrier thatpolitical scientists agree reduces turnout is registration. By passing automatic voter registration, which places the responsibility for registering on governments, rather than individuals, we could easily boost turnout. Other reforms to make voting easier, such as making Election Day a holiday, non-partisan voter registration drives, and early voting periods, should also be implemented.

In addition, we must fervently fight voter suppression. As Naila Awan has noted, conservatives in North Carolina used the gutting of the VRA to ram through a bill to eliminate same day registration, early voting and pre-registration while also passing a strict voter ID law. In Wisconsin, Scott Walker has pushed for a voter ID laws thatwould disenfranchise as many as 300,000 eligible voters. Such bald attempts to suppress voting deserve to be universally condemned.

In addition, we should increase the voices of average Americans through a robust public financing system. The donor class is 90 percent white and 70 percent male.  Awhopping 42 percent of campaign contributions come from a tiny portion of donors, the 0.01 percent. Rather than 25,000 hyper-wealthy Americans dictating policy, a public financing system could increase the representation of people of color and working class people as well as women, in the donor pool. Research on the New York City public financing program suggests that it boosted diversity in the donor pool. Creating fair districts should also be a priority, because it would make every vote matter, encouraging voter turnout. Voting matters. The best evidence for why it does is how damn hard oligarchs fight to make sure you can’t.

America’s war on Black girls: Why McKinney police violence isn’t about “one bad apple”

America's war on Black girls: Why McKinney police violence isn't about "one bad apple"

(Credit: MSNBC)


Many have been quick to dismiss or make excuses for the shocking video out of Texas. Here’s the truth of the matter

In just over two months, we will commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a natural disaster that ravaged communities along the Gulf Coast. This tragedy was made infinitely worse not only by decades of governmental neglect and far-ranging poverty, but also by the fact that so many Black people could not swim.

That nearly 60 percent of Black people cannot swim is directly attributable to decades of segregated pool facilities in this country. While that problem ostensibly went away with the desegregation efforts of the mid-20th century, de facto segregation of pool facilities persists to this day, because community pools are now largely private amenities in suburban neighborhoods that many Black youth don’t have access to.

This is the backdrop of the troubling and traumatizing incident that occurred in McKinney, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, over the weekend, when 19-year-old Tatiana Rose threw a pool party and invited several friends to use the community pool in her neighborhood. Many of those friends were Black, and many of those Black friends also live in the neighborhood. At some point, as Tatiana says in a video interview, two white adult women began yelling at her and her friends to “go back where they came from,” “back to section 8 housing,” and calling them “black fuckers.” When a 14-year-old girl responded, the women further ridiculed her, prompting Tatiana to tell the adults that the girl was 14 and their comments were inappropriate. According to Tatiana’s account, the white women then approached her; one “hit her in the face” and the other began participating in the attack.

According to reports, multiple calls came into police. At least one call came from either Tatiana, her mother (who was present) or her friends, reporting that these white women had attacked the partygoers. Other calls came in from residents who reported that many Black children who were unauthorized to be there were there and fighting. Apparently, the party got larger and some children jumped over the fence to get to the party.

Continue reading here

Segregationists never went away: We just call them “small-government conservatives” now

Segregationists never went away: We just call them "small-government conservatives" now

Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly (Credit: Reuters/Micah Walter/AP/Douglas C. Pizac)


Black freedom & opportunity in America has always required the very federal intervention the right wants to destroy

The continuing decline of public sector jobs at local, state, and federal levels is having an abysmal economic impact on African Americans, for whom steady, stable government employment opportunities have provided a sure path into the middle class. The New York Times reported yesterday that “roughly one in five black adults works for the government, teaching school, delivering mail, driving buses, processing criminal justice and managing large staffs.” Because Black people hold a disproportionate number of government jobs, cutbacks that affect everyone hit Black communities even harder.

In many ways that goes without saying. When America sneezes, Black America gets the flu. But I want to suggest that something even more sinister animates this swift pivot in the country away from an investment in public goods and services. It is not simply that Black people are victims of a numbers game. Rather, there has been a wholesale P.R. campaign on the part of those on the right to associate all public goods and services, from public schools to public assistance, with the bodies of undeserving people of color, particularly Blacks and Latinos.

Any discussion of welfare or public assistance in this country is rife with dog whistles from the right toward the lower elements of their base, who in Pavlovian fashion, respond to code words about welfare and public assistance by conjuring images of the undeserving Black and Brown poor. In his new book “How Propaganda Works,” Yale philosopher Jason Stanley argues that while a “liberal democratic culture… does not tolerate explicit degradation of its citizens,” there are “apparently innocent words that have the feature of slurs, namely that whenever the words occur in a sentence, they convey the problematic content. The word welfare …conveys a problematic social meaning.” I am suggesting that the word “public” in our political discourse is becoming just such a tool of political propaganda as well.

While we don’t explicitly degrade public institutions, those institutions are, in practice, seen as less valuable, worthy, rigorous, and prestigious. In places as disparate as New York City and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the problem of severe segregation in public schools has been well-documented. When economic means permit, white families tend not to educate their children in racially diverse schools. Public schools are viewed as cauldrons of poor learning and social dysfunction; and white people, whenever possible, exercise the prerogative to keep their children out of these environments. That seems reasonable, but it is unreasonable to except that other people’s children should have to learn in these kinds of environments either. The current circus that is the education reform debate in this country demonstrates a point that Stanley makes: “The usurpation of liberal democratic language to disguise an antidemocratic managerial society is at the basis of the American public school system as it was restructured between 1910 and 1920.” In other words, we have a publicly stated belief in the importance of good public education to our democracy, but this masks a variety of ways in which public schools become tools of social control; and, in this moment in particular, that perpetuates the creation of a Black and Brown underclass.

The tough reality about integration is white bodies are tethered to economic resources. Schools that have large populations of white children are not failing schools. When white gentrifiers move into urban areas, they seemingly bring nice restaurants, better policing, and better schools with them. The narrative attached to Black bodies is the opposite. The presence of Black bodies are seen as a drain on resources, particularly since the presence of Black people in neighborhoods tends to make those neighborhoods less desirable, driving down property values. One recent expose about racist housing practices in Brooklyn demonstrated that white people routinely ask not to live in places with too many Black people.

To the extent that our Civil Rights-era narrations of the racial divide persist, it seems that neither Black people nor white people ever invested fully in the idea of integration. Black communities in some respects fared better under segregation, because there were Black-owned business, students taught by Black teachers who believed in their inherent capability to learn, and more class integration within Black neighborhoods. Still, this was an inherently limited universe for many Black people. Thus, they aspired to white institutions and to racial integration in some ways as a means of access to a fairer redistribution of resources. Separate, Civil Rights era activists concluded, was inherently unequal.

Meanwhile, white people both then and now never fully bought into the idea of racial integration either. Beyond sentiment and rhetoric, we have only to look at the idea of racial integration in practice.  If schooling, housing, and worship practices in the 21st century are any indicator, we are as segregated as ever, and that has everything to do with a continuing practice among white Americans to segregate where they live, raise families and send their children to school. While many young white gentrifiers tell themselves they are chasing culture and diversity, in many ways, they are simply re-segregating neighborhoods, by shifting the color of who lives there from Brown to white. What gentrifiers seem not to have figured out is that they are being eaten alive by their own system, because their white bodies drive up property values and then price them out of the very neighborhoods they want to live in.

Moreover, white people continue to suggest that it is Black people who are self-segregating. They ask, “Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?” Or as one severely misguided senior professor at Duke University recently suggested, Black people’s choice of ethnic names is evidence of a lack of desire to fully integrate or assimilate into the mainstream of American society.

I am pointing to these practices in this larger argument about the way the notion of “public” has become a tool of propaganda in order to suggest a couple of things: One, racialized practices and racism still occur even when there is no identifiable racial discourse being deployed. And, two, these examples suggests that racialized bodies are tethered to material resources. So when the right argues that we privatize each and every facet of American life, this is at base about an attempt to segregate resources. But it is not accounted for by a purely Marxist analysis, which would suggest that this was about class and not race. In this country, our class structure is tethered to a racialized hierarchy, in which Black people in particular exist as a perpetual underclass.

A hallmark of American democracy has been an investment in a robust form of public life, good public schools, sufficient public services, active participation in our democracy. But we are a country where a significant segment of our citizenry has always been perfectly willing to erode long-held democratic principles in service of maintaining a racial hierarchy. The Civil War is only the most extreme example.

As those on the right bellyache about the cultures of poverty that cause Black folks to rely too heavily on government, no one ever seems to admit that there has never been any possibility of Black freedom or equal opportunity in this country without strong federal government intervention. Black people have a long history of working in government because the federal government was the first place to call for mass desegregation of employment opportunities.  In fact, the first March on Washington Movement, begun in 1941 by Pullman Porter A. Philip Randolph, was designed to force Franklin D. Roosevelt to desegregate federal employment in all federal agencies and among those who had federal contracts. In 1942, FDR obliged Randolph rather than risk a march on Washington, by creating the Fair Employment Practice Committee (FEPC).

Combatting racial segregation, and the racialized segregation of resources, has only happened in this country with strong federal intervention. So when the right continues to weaken federal government on all matters related to the social safety net, they deliberately rollback the pathways by which African Americans have procured access to middle class.

In 2013, the median net wealth for a white family was $142,000. The median net wealth for a Black family was $11,000. Black families have lost more than half their collective net wealth since 2008. As we are continually confronted with the stark and continuing reality of a rapidly disappearing Black middle class, while politicians continue to speak in “efficient” terms about the need to shrink government, it’s hard not to conclude that this was the goal all along.

Supreme Court’s grand ruse ends: Finally, Americans see the justices for the political hacks they are

Supreme Court's grand ruse ends: Finally, Americans see the justices for the political hacks they are

John Roberts at his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill, Sept. 13, 2005 (Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)


It’s great that we’re no longer pretending the Supreme Court is immune to politics

Cue up the sad David Brooks violin playing softly in the corner of a dark alley at 3 a.m., because Americans have no faith in powerful institutions anymore. One of those institutions would be the marbled shrine atop our third branch of American government, the Supreme Court. A new Associated Press poll shows that “only 1 person in 10 is highly confident that the justices will rely on objective interpretations of the [Affordable Care Act] rather than their personal opinions” in the Court’s impending King v. Burwell decision.

To us, that 10 percent figure seems way too high. As far as we can tell, it’s not 1 in 10 Americans who view our Supreme Court as a neutral collection of jurists who just want to call “balls and strikes,” but 1 American total: Chief Justice John Roberts. And maybe even not him?

The American people, the always trusty American people, have the Supreme Court’s number here. As with so many cases about why the American people have lost trust in a powerful institution, we can look to some of the powerful institution’s recent actions, going back at least to Bush v. Gore through Citizens United and Hobby Lobby and whatever primetime hit job comes next.

That next hit job may come soon in King v. Burwell, which, if ruled for the plaintiffs, would invalidate premium subsidies for those who’ve purchased individual health insurance plans on federally facilitated exchanges. The expected decision based on tea-leaf readings coming out of oral arguments was 5-4 or 6-3 in favor of upholding the subsidies, which tells you a lot about how weak the case is. But there is another possible outcome: 5-4 to strike down the subsidies, because the Supreme Court is ruled by a five-member majority of conservative justices who think that the Affordable Care Act is dumb.

The last time a legal challenge to Obamacare of this breadth made it to the Supreme Court, four justices voted not just to strike down the individual mandate but the entire law as well, because they believed that the law was dumb. They didn’t like it! Get rid of it! John Roberts originally sided with them but then, to the consternation of his conservative colleagues, switched his vote because such a hackish decision would have made the Supreme Court look too hackish. Roberts contented himself merely to gut the hell out of the Medicaid expansion and force the Obama administration to acknowledge that the individual mandate is a tax.

Very few Court watchers are basing their predictions of the King decision on the merits of the case, and rightly so. If it was being decided on the merits of the case, everyone would be betting that it would be upheld 9-0. Does anyone think that’s going to happen? No. It will all come down to how John Roberts, and perhaps Anthony Kennedy, feel about managing the politics. They want to screw over Obamacare but yeeeesh, would that backfire on the Court and conservatives? Would that make life more difficult for the Republican party heading into 2016? On the other hand: Would John Roberts ever eat lunch in Conservative This Town again if he sided with The Libruls to uphold a core component of Obamacare? It’s all about finding the right balance of these competing political considerations. The Democratic and Republican parties rightly recognize the nature of the situation here and have spent months trying to get inside John Roberts’ head. It is what it is.

Let’s consider a more generous version of what’s happened to the Supreme Court of late: that it’s merely followed the broader trend in American politics towards polarization. Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg might be looking at the same piece of legislation before them but seeing something completely different, so divergent have the liberal and conservative worldviews become. And these are justices who were appointed a generation ago. The next round of justices will have made their careers during this time of high-stakes judicial polarization.

That next round of justices may come very soon, since several Supreme Court justices are approximately one million years old. As Ian Millhiser writes at Think Progress, Rick Perry correctly emphasized the importance of the next presidential election in a speech this weekend:

“Something I want you all to think about is that the next president of the United States, whoever that individual may be, could choose up to three, maybe even four members of the Supreme Court,” Perry told the South Carolina audience. So this election “isn’t about who’s going to be the president of the United States for just the next four years. This could be about individuals who have an impact on you, your children, and even our grandchildren. That’s the weight of what this election is really about.”

I hate the “you have to vote in the next election because of the Supreme Court!” argument. I hate it because it lets the candidates off the hook: they can offer nothing whatsoever to voters and then rely on SCOTUS fearmongering to get out the vote. I also hate it because it’s a very credible argument. There is never going to be another David Souter, or a justice who gets confirmed and then has an ideological shift on the bench. This next presidential election will also be an election for the next generation of the Supreme Court, and it’s no tragedy that most Americans understand this cynical reality.


MSNBC Screen Capture


Morning Joe’s namesake is a very busy and important man who can’t be bothered to get things right the first time

Last week, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough went on TV and said something false. Reacting to the inflammatory (and often dubious) allegations in Peter Schweizer’s new book, Clinton Cash, Scarborough posited that the government of Algeria made donations to the Clinton Foundation as a way to buy its way off the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. “The Clinton Foundation takes the check, and then just, out of nowhere the State Department then decides, well, they are going to take Algeria off the list,” Scarborough said. As Politifact and (my former employer) Media Matters pointed out, such an arrangement would have been impossible, given that Algeria has never been on the State Department’s list of terrorism sponsors.

So Scarborough was wrong. And today on Morning Joe, he offered a sneering, sarcastic “apology” to Politifact for having the temerity to point out how wrong he was.

I’m struggling to recall an instance in which a pundit has so self-indulgently wallowed in his own arrogance and sense of entitlement. Everyone gets something wrong every now and then, and the proper thing to do when those things happen is to correct the record, apologize, and move on. For Scarborough, though, the act of correction is an assault on the misbegotten pride he feels in hosting a low-rated and unwatchable morning news program.

First things first: Joe Scarborough seems to believe that because he puts on an “ad-libbed” show that lasts many hours, he enjoys some leeway when it comes to just making shit up. “Last week, in the course of this three-hour, ad-libbed show, I suggested Algeria may have been giving unreported donations to the Clinton Foundation in an effort to change their status on the State Department’s terror list.” Here’s a thought: maybe put a little more planning into what you say on cable news every day. “I do a long show that I put little to no forethought into” is not a justification for getting things wrong: it’s an admission that your show’s format is bad and should be changed to minimize these sorts of errors.

Scarborough also faulted Politifact for not noting that before he launched into this made-up nonsense about Algeria, he offered a disclaimer that he didn’t know what he was talking about. “Now, never mind that I prefaced my statement by saying that all the specifics may not be perfectly lined up. These are the realities, after all, of all of us doing a three-hour rolling conversation without teleprompters or scripts, the very things that every other news show in America is chained to but we aren’t. But still I prefaced my remark, but that prefaced remark mattered little to the Clinton arm of Politifact.” Yes, how dare Politifact not do Joe Scarborough the courtesy of highlighting his admission that he was talking out his ass.

Having begged off any sort of responsibility for the things he says on his own program, Scarborough then lashed out at Politifact, claiming that they were just picking nits (which, of course, absolves Scarborough from any blame).


SCARBOROUGH: So Politifact, let me get this straight. The Clinton Foundation was taking the money, hold on, not to get off the terror list. They were throwing them money at the same time they wanted to the State Department to get them off a list for their gross human rights abuses towards women. I hope I’ve cleared that up. Because I’ve got more. Have I cleared that part up? Because I don’t want to get it wrong! And any time Politifact calls me out on a footnote, I promise I’m going to come out here and let you know that instead of talking about the Clinton Foundation getting money to possibly get Algeria off the terror list, it would possibly be to whitewash gross human rights violations against women. I’m glad I got that off my chest.

Politifact actually noted all of that in their correction of Scarborough – they had a whole section of the fact-check headlined “Human rights violations hamper relations.” But this isn’t a dispute over a “footnote,” as Scarborough’s weaselly, sarcastic rebuttal put it. Inclusion on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror is not a small thing. Once the U.S. government identifies a country as a sponsor of terrorism, they’re immediately subject to a whole host of economic sanctions. If, as Scarborough had posited, the Clinton Foundation had been part of a quid pro quo scheme to let Algeria buy its way off that list and out of those sanctions, that would have been a massive scandal.

But whatever, Scarborough was just “ad-libbing,” so it’s no big deal. It’s not Joe Scarborough’s responsibility to be right the first time; it’s Politifact’s responsibility to cut him as much slack as he needs because “Morning Joe” isn’t about facts, it’s about “conversation.”

And that leads to the most important question: why does “Morning Joe” still exist? Scarborough is clearly very proud of the ad-libbed, thrown-together format that permits him and his pundit pals to make stuff up in a consequence-free environment, but nobody actually watches the show. Its ratings are abysmal, and yet it soldiers on as a monument to Joe Scarborough’s insufferable arrogance.


It’s Elizabeth Warren’s party now! How to remake it in the liberal heroine’s image

Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama | (Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque/Yuri Gripas/photo montage by Salon)

I’ll just say, I hope she runs in 2016…


If they’re smart, liberals could use Warren’s new power to make the changes to the party that are so badly needed

Despite being so notoriously difficult to get right, predictions are part of the pundit’s stock-in-trade. So once you’ve got some grains of salt ready to toss into the mix, please indulge me for a moment as I make one of my own.

Here it goes: Twenty years from now, assuming climate change has not yet ended the world as we know it, most American liberals won’t think of this fall as the time when Republicans finally retook control of the U.S. Senate. And they won’t think of it as the brief pause that separated the era of Barack Obama from that of Hillary Clinton. Instead, when the liberals of our near future look back on the current moment, they’ll remember it as the hour when the Democratic Party began to move decisively to the left, thanks in no small part to the continued ascendance of Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Pessimist that I am, I’ll readily grant that this is very optimistic. In fits and starts, the party’s been moving leftward for a number of years now, and I’ve little doubt that the midterm blowout will be cited by some as proof that Democrats must become even more centrist. Yet unlike the talk surrounding a historically ignored election, which will dissipate quickly (especially if I’m right about the return of government-by-crisis), the opportunity raised by the Democratic Party’s recent decision to make Warren part of its Senate leadership has the potential to be far more enduring. But only if liberal activists know what to do with it.

At this point, it’s not entirely clear what the folks nominally in charge of this infamously disorganized party are trying to do by elevating Warren. Because the former Harvard Law professor has been prominent in liberal circles since the launch of her brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it can be easy to forget that she’s only been in Congress for a couple of years. And coming as it does after a truly disastrous midterm showing, this seeming vote of confidence from Democratic bigwigs has the risk of being a “glass cliff” situation. My former colleague Brian Beutler, for example, has guessed that Senate Dem leadership may have opted to bring Warren into the fold because they’ll need a popular spokeswoman to deliver the next two years’ worth of bad news to the “professional left.”

Still, even if Warren’s promotion isn’t motivated entirely or primarily by idealism and generosity, it could nevertheless be a major turning point for activists looking to push the Democratic Party in a more left-wing direction. After many years of kvetching about their paltry influence — and following decade after decade of enviously watching the conservative movement refashion the GOP in its own image — lefty ideologues and organizers now have the chance to turn Warren into a kind of trojan horse for a resurgent politics of economic populism (or, as it used to be called, liberalism). And if they adapt and adhere to the script used many years ago by visionary right-wingers, who famously responded to an electoral drubbing in 1964 by staying the course and propelling a true believer to the White House less than 20 years later, it just might work.

It’s not a perfect analogy, I admit. There are fundamental, irresolvable differences between liberals and conservatives, and they extend well beyond ideology and into the realms of psychology and sociology. (Liberals are less hierarchically minded, more demographically diverse.) Further, in spite of all the mythology about conservative movement turning the GOP into the “party of ideas,” the fact is that the men (and women, but mostly men) who transformed the party of Lincoln into the chief vehicle of the Reagan Revolution spent much more time talking about and organizing around what they were against — taxes, the welfare state, the civil rights movement, feminism, LGBT equality, the separation of church and state, etc. — than what they were for. And while there are certainly some recent Supreme Court decisions they’d like to see reversed, a politics centered around a return to the glorious past is, for liberals, not really an option.

But notwithstanding all of that, I still think the conservative example offers activist liberals unhappy with the Obama record –which is most of them — some valuable lessons.

For one, if left-wing troublemakers want to make Sen. Warren a Goldwater of their own, they’ll have to ignore the 2016 presidential race as much as possible. That doesn’t simply mean giving up on the lost cause of forcing Wall Street favorite Hillary Clinton to reinvent herself as a true progressive. And it certainly doesn’t mean wasting resources on a quixotic primary challenge, which in the present circumstances will do little more than help Clinton get back in the swing of triangulation. Instead, it means building institutional support from the bottom up by creating funding networks and community spaces outside of the Democratic Party’s reach, so lefties can feel personally invested in their cause without having D.C. grandees step in and tell them to be “serious.” That’s what right-wing activists did through churches, think tanks and mailing lists; and the often successful Internet-based organizing from people at Daily Kos and the Blue America PAC has already offered a hint of how those on the left can do it again.

For another, the conservative precedent suggests that even if policy is overrated when it comes to deciding the outcome of elections, it’s extremely important to be in control of the policymaking apparatus for the time that comes next. Our political culture may pay an inordinate amount of lip service to the idea that policy is a translated version of the people’s will, but the reality is that most partisans and politicians choose their policy views by following where their party leads them, not the other way around. Conservative dominance over the grants, scholarships and think tanks that comprised the GOP’s policymaking infrastructure was integral to the dramatic lurch to the right the party platform experienced between 1960 and 1976 (before Reagan’s coronation, you’ll note). And as the Tea Party’s recent takeover of influential right-wing policy shops like Cato and Heritage shows, the value of this approach has not over time been diminished. As Grover Norquist, one of the leading right-wing activists of his generation, noted in 2012, controlling the GOP policymaking machine made it so all conservatives needed in a Republican president was the ability to use a pen.

Last but not least, the success of right-wing activists from the past and present indicates that there can be long-term benefits in a short-term stint as the minority. To be clear, it’d be taking things too far to say that it’s a good thing Democrats now only control the White House. As the last four years have taught us, the powers of the imperial presidency don’t seem to extend very far into the realm of the domestic (at least not yet). So having a majority in Congress is vital, still. At the same time, there’s value, to a degree, in having a party with ideological coherence — increasingly so, I’d argue, in an era of institutional failure and partisan polarization. Most of the Democrats dissolved in the red tides of ’10 and ’14 were “blue dog” conservatives, and while their absence has stripped Democrats of control over Congress, it’s offered lefties within their ranks the chance to redecorate, as it were, now that the majority times have ended.

Perhaps more than anything else, though, what lefty activists should learn from their right-wing counterparts is this: In a dysfunctional two-party system such as ours, in which voters are perpetually unhappy and ready for any excuse to throw the bums out and start all over, it’s only a matter of time until the losers of yesterday are once again ascendant. And as the GOP has shown in the years since its back-to-back wipeouts in ’06 and ’08, responding to electoral defeat by moderating is no longer necessary, while moving further away from the center is no longer a death sentence. Now that they have a political superstar and ideological true believer as their behind-the-scenes agent, lefty activists with an eye on the long term have a chance to, in the words of Warren, “frame the issues for the next few elections” and ultimately make the Democratic Party truly progressive.

10 insane, fear-mongering GOP lies this election cycle

No attribution


Whether they’re attacking Obama or Michelle Nunn, Republicans are resorting to some of their dirtiest tactics

Halloween has come and gone, but the Republican Party is offering up its own scares, pulling out its worst scaremongering tactics to try to use fear to get voters to the polls for their candidates. AlterNet has rounded up 10 of the worst fear-mongering lies.

Halloween has come and gone, but the Republican Party is offering up its own scares, pulling out its worst scaremongering tactics to try to use fear to get voters to the polls for their candidates. AlterNet has rounded up 10 of the worst fear-mongering lies.


1. Michelle Nunn Is Pro-Terrorist Because She Worked With A Muslim Charity: In Georgia’s remarkably close Senate race, GOP nominee David Perdue ran a smear commercial claiming her charity was linked to terrorists because of its work with the Islamic Relief USA. Poltifact found the claim so outlandish it gave it one of its coveted “Pants on Fire” ratings.

2. Obama Cut A Secret Deal To Bring Ebola To The United States: Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) had this revelation on Sean Hannity’s radio show: “I can’t help but believe, just based on the way we’ve got all these nebulous excuses why not to have a travel ban, this president, I guarantee you, we’re going to find out, he has cut a deal with African leaders. They’re going to bring people in.”

3. ISIS Is Coming Over The Border Due To Discovered Prayer Rugs That Are Actually Adidas Jerseys: Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst claimed that ISIS prayer rugs were recently found at the border, signaling a possible invasion. The prayer rugs turned out to be Adidas jerseys.

4. Sexual Assault Is A Result Of Taking The Bible Out Of Schools: Jody Hice, the GOP nominee for Georgia’s 10th congressional district, which is currently represented by extremistRep. Paul Broun (R-GA), warned that if we don’t stop taking prayer out of public school, we’ll see more of the kind of sexual assault that took place at Penn State.


5. ISIS Will Send Ebola-Infected Fighters To The U.S.: Topping Gohmert and Dewhurst, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) went as far as to say that ISIS will weaponize Ebola suicide bombs. “Think about the job they could do, the harm they could inflict on the American people by bringing this deadly disease into our cities, into schools, into our towns, and into our homes. Horrible, horrible,” he said.

6. Arm Yourself, Just In case The Government Tries To Take Away Your Guns: Iowa Senate GOP candidate Joni Ernst warned that she carries her pistol just in case the government tries to confiscate it: “I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere. But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”

7. If You Vote For Democrats, They’ll Let Loose Violent African-American Inmates: In Nebraska’s second congressional district, Republicans are running a Willie Horton-esque ad that implies Democrats were responsible for a mentally ill violent inmate being released and then going on a murder spree. The ad juxtaposes the Democratic candidate with the African American inmate.


8. Obama Is Going To Import Terrorists Into Our Neighborhoods: The RNC cut an adwarning of Obama’s “plans to bring terrorists from Guantanamo to our country,” implying that under any successful executive action somehow terrorist suspects will be walking American neighborhoods rather than be sitting in maximum-security prisons.

9. Equal Pay Laws Would Scare Employers And Put Women Out Of Work:Monica Wehby, running for Oregon’s Senate seat, said that she opposed equal pay laws for women because it would “make it more difficult to hire women, because of the fear of lawsuits. They would tend to steer away.”

10. Social Programs Are Leading To Suicide: Rep. Don Young (R-AK) said that government social programs are leading to a rise in suicides due to corresponding decline in support from family and friends. He eventually apologized.

What’s scarier, these lies or the fact the GOP thinks Americans will fall for them?

The right’s sham Christianity: How an attack on John Kasich exposes the fraud

The right's sham Christianity: How an attack on John Kasich exposes the fraud

Gov. John Kasich (OH-R) | (Credit: AP/Tony Dejak)


Ohio’s GOP governor was the darling of the right — until he sought to help poor people, in the name of Christ

Could Republican Gov. John Kasich run for president? According to the Washington Post, he’s poised to, and he certainly seems to be among the better options out there, with the other obvious choices either clearly deranged (Ted Cruz) or totally uninterested (Mitt Romney). But conservatives have not been roundly pleased with Kasich, in part because he is evidently something of a committed Christian.

Last year, Kasich fought doggedly to expand Medicaid coverage in Ohio, extending healthcare to some 275,000 poor people. When queried as to why a conservative would push for expanded coverage, Kasich explained his reasoning thus:

“I had a conversation with one of the members of the legislature the other day. I said, ‘I respect the fact that you believe in small government. I do, too. I also know that you’re a person of faith.  Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.’  ”

Conservative critics did not have a good answer. If Kasich’s challenge required a faith-based, well-reasoned critique of Medicaid to defend Republican animus, that wasn’t what it received. Instead, Kasich’s right-wing opponents produced a series of attacks that seemed straight out of the Richard Dawkins school of rhetoric. At RedState, for instance, Jason Hart complained that “Kasich leaned heavily on his Christian faith to push the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” and glossed over Kasich’s explanation of his Christian reasoning as: “anyone who opposes Medicaid expansion will have to answer for their opposition when they die.”

Of course, Kasich didn’t suggest that anyone who opposes Medicaid expansion will have to answer for such at the pearly gates; he merely pointed out that, at this point in time, Medicaid expansion is the only option for extending healthcare coverage to poor people in Ohio, making it the most sensible Christian option. Were there other options – that is, if Republicans had some small-government program that resulted in equal or better coverage – Kasich’s argument would fall out in favor of that. But as it stands no such substitute exists. It’s notable that misrepresenting Kasich’s Christian defense of Medicaid expansion remains a popular smear. Consider the National Review’s Avik Roy:

Roy’s lie is as glib as it is lazy, suggesting two simultaneous pathologies: first, that conservatives have mostly given up on an actual faith-based critique of extending healthcare coverage to poor people; second, that unless Christianity is acting as a helpful crutch to prop up libertarian fiscal policies, it’s more or less a joke.

True to form, the Wall Street Journal had an absolute field day making fun of Kasich’s Christian reasoning. “Believe it or not, there are still a few disciples with faith in an ObamaCare higher power,” the article titled “Medicaid and the Apostle Kasich” opens, and the faith-themed snark just rolls on from there. Both theologically tone-deaf and redolent with Hitchensian disdain of Christian thought, the piece sneers that Kasich “really must feel like he’s guided by the Holy Spirit” (perish the thought!), and sniffs that Kasich’s “government-as-thy-brother’s-keeper riff needs some moral fine-tuning.” But the most damning line is the last: “Republicans get a vote before St. Peter does.”

It seems this is where Kasich and his critics depart: For the governor, and for any faithful Christian, Christian ethics precede party politics. For some time the line from Christian politicians like Paul Ryan has been that their faith inspires their political affiliation, not vice versa. But the response of various conservative venues to a Christian argument that, while theologically orthodox and sensible, nonetheless reverses a cherished partisan position, suggests another situation of priorities.

Kasich’s sin is to present a vision of fiscal conservatism that is limited rather than necessitated by Christian ethics. His argument, despite what Roy, Hart and the Wall Street Journal would present, is actually sophisticated: He points out that Christian doctrine directly requires the consideration of the poor ahead of the interests of profit. It is not that Christian doctrine has traditionally held that any profit from business is wrong (though more radical strands have moved in that direction), but that excess wealth has generally been viewed by Christian authorities as acceptable only insofar as the needs of the most vulnerable have been met. This is foundational, ancient Christian teaching, ranging from the earliest church fathers to the medieval scholars and into the modern day.

Naturally, Kasich’s critics don’t bother to attempt a reversal on theological grounds. Instead they suggest, pace Hart, that there is some small-government solution directly at hand that Kasich has ignored. Yet they have roundly failed to produce it. If you could link to a policy proposal that better accomplishes the goal of ensuring the poor healthcare coverage, why sneer about “hating Jesus” instead?

Because, it seems, the comedy of Christian sentiment opposed to conservative dogma is rote among right-wingers. Conservatives are smart to saturate airwaves with turf wars over social issues, wherein they’re more than happy to prop up Christian views; but Christian voters should be wary of the swiftness and viciousness with which conservatives seem prepared to dismiss even perfectly solid Christian reasoning altogether when it no longer suits them. If party policy is that the interests of the GOP precede the interests of the Prince of Peace, there’s not much room for negotiation.