Laura Clawson

Kevin McCarthy is totally flailing: He 'doesn't have the backbone to lead'

Kevin McCarthy has "leader" in his title, but the House minority leader is showing what a failure he is on that front. McCarthy has been flailing as Rep. Liz Cheney, currently the third-ranking House Republican, has outraged Trumpists with her insistence that the results of elections should be honored and insurrection is bad. McCarthy has joined the anti-Cheney camp, but clumsily, constantly playing catch-up rather than leading, and members of his own caucus are noticing.

McCarthy first went public with his opposition to Cheney in a probably fake "hot mic" moment on Fox News, then swiftly got behind Rep. Elise Stefanik's leadership bid. Stefanik is less conservative but more loyal to Trump and more opportunistic than Cheney. McCarthy followed that up with a laughably weak letter in which he argued for purging Cheney from leadership while claiming Republicans as "a big tent party" where "unlike the left, we embrace free thought and debate." (And, as a side point, made a hilarious reference to his "first small business," which was a deli counter in the corner of his uncle's frozen yogurt shop, and which he ran for a year before leaving to go to college.)

Getting on the anti-Cheney bandwagon may stave off the rebellion against McCarthy that would have been likely if he'd stuck with Cheney—because House Republicans are all in on Trump—but it's not winning him any loyalty or points for leadership.

A House Republican "long seen as an ally of leadership" vented to Politico that if Republicans take the House in 2022, he might not support McCarthy for speaker. "I'd be worried if I was him … You have people like me—who are here to do the right thing for all the right reasons and have an expectation of leadership—that are, shall we say, disgusted with the internal squabbling that results from having weak leadership. And it is weak leadership. Straight up."

According to a senior aide to a conservative House Republican, McCarthy has "flip-flopped on [Jan. 6 and whether it's] Trump's fault, it's not Trump's fault … It seems like he doesn't have the backbone to lead. He bends to political pressure. It's tough to do when you're speaker. You have to lead."

The fact that McCarthy immediately threw his weight behind Stefanik may turn out to be a problem for him as well, since Stefanik's coronation has angered some Republicans, from the Club for Growth to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. After all, Stefanik didn't get elected as a Trumpist—in fact, she not only didn't embrace him as the 2016 Republican nominee but opposed some of his key priorities in 2017—so the scent of opportunism is extremely strong around her 2019 conversion. She has committed to only serve in leadership through 2022, but the dissatisfaction (and, again, failure of leadership by McCarthy) is clear.

With McCarthy and Stefanik, House Republicans will have the leadership they deserve, combining opportunism and craven sucking up to Donald Trump with … well, not much else. But they've made clear that they find this immensely preferable to Cheney, who is if nothing else a principled (in all the worst ways) conservative in addition to her principled (in an admirable, if inadequate, way) commitment to ensuring that the winners of elections are the people who take office, and avoiding violence along the way. This is how we know the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar are not aberrations within the Republican Party. They are its leading edge.

Mass shootings didn't dominate the weekend's news — but there were at least 9 of them in the US

If a mass shooting is defined as an event where four or more people are shot, not counting the shooter, well, there were at least nine of those in the United States over the past weekend. At least 15 people died and 30 were wounded in those nine events, as Republicans continue to oppose even the most modest gun law reforms.

U! S! A!

Sorry, what else can we possibly say at that news?

The only one of the weekend's minimum of nine mass shootings to make widespread headlines was at a birthday party in Colorado. Six people were killed in that one, and the suspected shooter—believed to be the boyfriend of one of his victims—also killed himself. While it's common for your smaller, home-based mass shootings to involve intimate partner relationships, so much so that many of those shootings don't get a lot of media coverage, the birthday party angle garnered this one some attention.

In other mass shootings, three were killed and one injured in Woodlawn, Maryland, in a bizarre incident that involved a man shooting and stabbing his neighbors, setting fire to his own home, and ultimately being shot and killed by police. Two people were killed and three injured in St. Louis County, Missouri, when a truck pulled up and bullets started flying. In Compton, California, two people were killed and two injured, while one person was killed and five were injured in a Los Angeles shooting. One person was killed and at least seven were wounded in an altercation at a Phoenix hotel. Four people were injured in each of three mass shootings, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Newark, New Jersey; and Citrus Heights, California.

Truly, mass shootings are a complex and varied tapestry in these United States.

Republicans used to allow new gun laws to pass without being filibustered. That's no longer true in an age where Republicans filibuster everything. President Joe Biden has issued executive orders cracking down on "ghost guns" and stabilizing devices that "effectively [turn] a pistol into a short-barreled rifle subject to the requirements of the National Firearms Act." But most action to reduce the number of mass shootings—and other shootings, for that matter—would require Congress, and as long as Republicans have the power to block anything, they will block this.

Employers are outraged that workers won't come crawling to work for peanuts in a pandemic

The big push is on to blame the American Rescue Plan for businesses not being able to find enough workers to fill their jobs. Business owners—restaurant owners in particular—are lining up to tell reporters how those darn lazy workers would rather stay home and collect unemployment than go back to work. Rarely do these stories of employer pain ask questions like, say, how much pay they're offering or how careful they're being with their workers' health in the midst of the pandemic. Stories asking people why they're hesitating to go back to work are mysteriously not so common.

"People felt abused in the beginning stages of opening back up," a Washington, D.C., server and bartender told Washington City Paper in one of the few stories that did consider the workers' side. "It shook people enough to say, 'I don't think I want to get back into this.' If you're not going to follow protocols and you're not going to have my back if guests get out of line, what's the point?"

A woman who bartends as second job in Florida explained to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that she'd seen a lot of people leaving the restaurant industry for other careers "partially due to COVID and the hours changing and not making consistent money." The people she was talking about had gone into fields like nursing and accounting—but business owners looking for applicants aren't talking about the people who went elsewhere, they're talking like everyone is just sitting home.

And about that. People still have kids at home they're responsible for taking care of, as even this series of employer sob stories from The Wall Street Journal acknowledges. They're still afraid of contracting COVID-19, because, again, many have experienced bosses who will put their health at risk.

Some of those bosses are the very same ones who are featured in articles wailing about how difficult it is to hire people, as Anne Helen Petersen found: "In Waterville, Ohio, for instance, there's this sad, sad song about the difficulties finding workers at Dale's Bar & Grill—which somehow fails to mention that the owner is a Covid hoaxer (he believes that doctors have been falsely labeling deaths as covid-related) and has brazenly violated masking rules, and did not require employees to wear masks."

Fox News Business interviewed a California restaurant owner who feels aggrieved that his former employees don't want to come back after "He told them he would only allow them to come back and work full time or the same shift they had before." That restaurateur was previously seen explaining to the Los Angeles Times why he was defying a shutdown order. Now, with his workers, he's all "It's my way or the highway," and when they choose the highway, he whines about it. I dunno, maybe give people a little flexibility and respect to accommodate their changed lives after 13 months of historic pandemic.

And, yes, there's a money issue. "Even for unskilled positions" one of the employers who talked to The Wall Street Journal is "offering several dollars over minimum wage." What largesse! Except he's not getting many takers so, you know, maybe offer more. Even with the current $300 a week federal supplement to unemployment insurance, 58% of people would earn as much or more at their previous jobs, and frankly, that says more about the jobs than about the people.

Florida provides another dispatch from the "struggling employers" genre, and a high-profile politician—Sen. Marco Rubio—tweeting "Florida small business owners are all telling me the same thing, they can't find people to fill available jobs. You can come up with all kinds of reasons & wave around all the Ivy League studies you want, but what does common sense tell you is the reason?"

What does common sense tell me is the reason, Marco? Well, the maximum state unemployment benefit is $275 a week, which means that with the extra $300, people are getting $575 a week at most. That means if unemployment is paying more than work, the work is paying less than $14.50 an hour if they're working full-time—and again, that's the maximum, and in a state that's become notorious for delays in unemployment benefits. Most people are probably getting significantly less, and a living wage for a single person with no children is $14.82 an hour in Florida. So I'm thinking that Florida employers need to offer higher pay.

"If there's one thing I've learned about American capitalism," Anne Helen Petersen writes, "it's the skill and swiftness with which it translates resistance into personal, moral failure—which is precisely what so many of these business owners and politicians have done." Exactly. Workers are saying "enough." If bosses won't pay a living wage and respect their workers' health and safety, people who've gutted it out through a year of terror and watching their loved ones get sick and die may not be so willing to come crawling. That's not a personal failing, and talking like it is shows how bad your values are. Not that it was in any doubt when it came to, say, Marco Rubio.

Experts say Arizona effort to undermine election results is 'reckless' and has made 'bad mistakes'

Donald Trump's Big Lie continues to bear toxic, conspiracy-theorist fruit in Arizona, where the Republican state Senate's effort to "audit" the vote from Maricopa County is an ever-worsening cluster in desperate need of oversight—oversight that was disrupted Sunday night when the judge in a case challenging the count was forced to step down. The situation starts with Arizona Republicans getting enthusiastically on board with a series of conspiracy theories bolstering Trump's sore-loserdom and using the state Senate's subpoena power to seize all 2.1 million ballots from Maricopa County and hand them over to an unqualified company led by a pro-Trump conspiracy theorist. And it goes on from there about like you'd expect from that beginning.

Arizona Senate Republicans retained a company called Cyber Ninjas to conduct the so-called audit. Cyber Ninjas has no elections experience—in contrast to the two professional auditing firms previously retained by the county as part of its series of audits and reviews of the vote—and is headed by Doug Logan, a man who has repeatedly tweeted election conspiracy theories, including sharing posts by lawyer Sidney Powell and Rep. Lauren Boebert, and was an expert witness in a Michigan lawsuit promoting conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems.

That lack of experience—or worse—was immediately on display on Friday, when Cyber Ninjas equipped counters with blue pens. The state Elections Procedure Manual explicitly bans blue pens from hand counting areas because ballot scanners can read blue and black ink, and a blue pen could, during the count, accidentally or intentionally, spoil a legitimately cast ballot.

That's not the only ominous sign about how this is going. In the days leading up to the count, a news team from Arizona Family repeatedly gained access to the areas where ballots and elections equipment were being unloaded and stored—not exactly feeding confidence in the security being employed. Following that, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, called on state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, to investigate potential violations of the law, writing in a letter that reports "suggest that the Senate has failed to secure the election equipment and ballots, resulting in unauthorized and unmonitored access to [ballots and voting equipment]." Brnovich refused to investigate, prompting Hobbs to respond "Apparently, #sharpiegate was more worthy of investigation than actual ballot integrity issues."

Then there's the source of funding for this effort. The state Senate has put up $150,000, but the far-right One America News is also raising money to go directly to Cyber Ninjas and is livestreaming the count. At the same time, access has been very limited for reporters wanting to observe the process.

There are a lot of very serious reasons for concern here, in other words, and experts are saying so in the strongest terms.

"I think the activities that are taking place here are reckless and they in no way, shape or form resemble an audit," Jennifer Morrell, a partner at Elections Group, a consulting firm advising state and local election officials, told the Associated Press. Hobbs, the Arizona secretary of state, used similar language in a CNN interview. "I have been avoiding calling it an audit to be quite honest with you, because that's not what it is. They have been making this up as they go along," she said. "This is just a fishing expedition by people who are determined to find something wrong."

"This is not like any audit I've ever seen," Mark Lindeman, the acting co-director of the nonpartisan organization Verified Voting, said. "If it intends to be perceived as fair-minded and credible, they've made some bad mistakes."

Sunday night, the judge in the Democratic Party's suit to stop the effort stepped down, citing the fact that a lawyer for the firm representing Senate Republicans' lead auditor had been an extern in his office within the past five years. With a Monday afternoon hearing scheduled, a new judge is being assigned to the case. This comes after, on Friday, the judge had ordered a pause in counting over the weekend … but only if the Arizona Democratic Party put up a $1 million bond to cover increased expenses due to the pause. The party refused, so counting continued despite the long list of reasons to question the process.

The count is expected to take weeks if allowed to proceed. Logan has estimated it will be completed in 16 days, but as has been established, he doesn't know what he's talking about in general. The counting is being done in the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, which the state Senate has rented through May 14.

Big banks made bank on overdraft fees during the worst months of the COVID-19 crisis

Last year was a difficult one for millions of people in the U.S.

It was not so difficult for big banks, and one of the ways the banks raked in revenue was by hitting struggling people with overdraft fees.

During the final quarter of 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic was battering the country, JPMorganChase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo each took in more than $300 million in overdraft fees alone. Those fees are slapped on people who are by definition struggling, and banks often use strategies to maximize the number of fees people pay, like ordering transactions so that the biggest amounts go through first, which lets them charge fees on more, smaller transactions. And it's no thanks to the banks that it wasn't much, much worse—COVID-19 relief from the government protected many people from the worst.

Around one in three checking accounts has at least one overdraft a year, and 5% of checking account holders have 20 or more overdrafts a year, accounting for more than 60% of overdraft fees. In 2020, the average overdraft fee was over $33. Many of these fees are triggered by debit card transactions for less than $25 that are repaid within three days.

This is an ongoing story—bank overdraft fee policies have been terrible for years. But it took on new dimensions during the pandemic, with sky-high unemployment creating a financial emergency for so many people.

"Banks could've capped overdraft fees for a certain number of months, or had no fees during the pandemic, but they didn't want to give up a dollar of overdraft revenue in any formal way," Rebecca Borné, senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending, told The American Prospect's Alexander Sammon. "So what we see now is a return to business as usual, where our largest banks each took over a billion dollars out of the checking accounts of people during one of the worst years in our history. It's a gobsmacking amount of money."

It would have been much worse without COVID-19 relief bills, from the CARES Act to the American Rescue Plan. Check out how Google trend data on searches for "overdraft" tracked the passage of those laws:

OverdraftandGoogleSearches1.png

After each round of relief payments, you see searches for "overdraft" drop. Because the banks weren't interested in going easy on people being hammered by a once-in-a-century pandemic and the accompanying economic devastation.

Consider it one more reminder that what we need are regulations and laws to protect consumers. There are two prime ways that could happen on this issue. Early in the pandemic, Sens. Cory Booker and Sherrod Brown proposed legislation to crack down on overdraft fees during the COVID-19 emergency, banning them altogether for the duration of the emergency and preventing banks from reporting overdrafts to credit reporting agencies—but that didn't get passed. Booker and Rep. Carolyn Maloney have other legislation on overdraft abuses more generally, but as always, there's that Senate filibuster problem blocking progress.

Under President Biden, though, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) could do a lot more protecting consumers than the agency did under Donald Trump. Biden's nominee to head the CFPB, Rohit Chopra, hasn't yet been confirmed, but he's known as a strong consumer advocate. He could regulate the practice, which is extraordinarily abusive even in nonpandemic times.

Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar launch 'America First Caucus' -- and it's pretty bad

Do not—Do. Not.—dismiss this as just a handful of Republicans: Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar are starting an "America First Caucus" in the House of Representatives, and they might as well go ahead and call it the You Will Not Replace Us Caucus or get real honest and call it the White Supremacist Caucus, because the introductory description of the group's purpose, as reported by Punchbowl News, is breathtaking.

The group is forming around a "common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions." That string of words comes from the discussion of immigration, and apparently that common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions strengthens the border somehow. Maybe because the Anglo-Saxon political traditions they have in mind are guns and racism? (They may be overselling the uniqueness here.)

While immigration may increase the nation's "aggregate output," they acknowledge, it's still unacceptable because of "the long-term existential future of America as a unique country with a unique culture and a unique identity being put at unnecessary risk."

IT'S UNIQUE, PEOPLE. UNIQUE.

Oh, and they have ideas about infrastructure. Yes, white supremacist ideas about infrastructure. "The America First Caucus will work towards an infrastructure that reflects the architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture, whereby public infrastructure must be utilitarian as well as stunningly, classically beautiful, befitting a world power and source of freedom." (Do they know that stunningly beautiful infrastructure costs money?)

The progeny of European architecture pretty much puts it right out there, just in case you'd missed the Anglo-Saxon bit: We're talking about white people, and nobody but. The United States of America is unique … but in a very European way.

So. Why should you not dismiss this as just a handful of Republicans? Punchbowl reports that Greene and Gosar are being joined by Reps. Louie Gohmert and Barry Moore, but that's still just four. Yeah. Four people elected to the United States Congress creating or signing on to a group intended to bring stunningly, classically white supremacist ideas to Congress. Four is not a lot of people to embrace white supremacy if the four people are random schmoes in a population of millions. Four is a lot of people when you're talking about a pool composed of those elected to the national government in one of two major parties. There are 212 Republicans in the House and it's not hard to think of a few more of them who are probably thinking seriously about joining this caucus.

This is also significant because it's not coming out of nowhere. A "certain intellectual boldness is needed amongst members of the AFC to follow in President Trump's footsteps, and potentially step on some toes and sacrifice cows for the good of the American nation." There are footsteps for them to follow in when they sketch out this white supremacist vision of the U.S.—footsteps that went into the White House.

For years the Republican Party as a whole has gotten the benefit of the doubt about its far-right members. It's just a few, people said. It's the fringe. But the party as a whole keeps moving toward that fringe, making the fringe of a decade ago the center of the party now. It is never safe to assume that Republicans will cleanse themselves of the racists or the conspiracy theorists or the sex pests in their party. We've watched them refuse to do so again and again, and if we don't learn from that, it's a guarantee of disaster.

Washington Post austerity fetishists say Dejoy should be allowed to destroy the US Postal Service

Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor at The Washington Post since 2000, has and an undistinguished career from the beginning. From being an Iraq War cheerleader to a deficit peacock and a climate change denier enabler, his influence on the paper's editorial board has been consistently problematic. Not letting down the troglodyte side, his op-ed page is at it again with this doozie: "Congress should stop attacking DeJoy and consider his plan to fix the Postal Service."

Let's start with the basics of the wrongness of that headline. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's plan is not to "fix" the Postal Service. It's to make the Postal Service provide more expensive and worse service to the customer. That's a given. He wants postage to cost more and delivery to be significantly slower. His motives in doing so are not as transparent, but are right there on the surface. This is going to drive customers away. It's going to cost the USPS money to lose those customers. Many who do business via the USPS will switch to private carriers, some of which DeJoy has had (and still has) a personal financial stake in.

Corruption and corporatism aside, Hiatt's editorial board is ignoring the very real harm DeJoy's cutbacks could bring to millions of people who rely on the post office, particularly communities of color, low-income communities, and postal service workers. The ed board dismisses the issue of harm: "the Postal Service hasn't regularly been meeting its targets since long before Mr. DeJoy's time anyway; business mailers probably should pay more than the effectively subsidized rates they currently enjoy." So it seems the argument is "It's bad already, so what the hell, let's make it worse."

As if the only people harmed are business mailers. The Postal Service is the only entity under a universal service obligation, "broadly outlined in multiple statutes," making it "the only carrier obligated to provide all aspects of universal service at affordable prices." By universal, they mean it—a legal obligation to deliver to every address in the United States. FedEx, UPS, DHL—none of those carriers have that obligation. In fact, most of the time those private carriers will leave packages with the Postal Service and it completes that "last mile" of delivery, generally at an economic loss. That last mile is often many miles in the boondocks, or is in disadvantaged and dangerous areas. And while you can send a first-class letter for 55 cents with the expectation it will reach its destination in two days, it'll cost more like $25 to do that with a private carrier.

So who is harmed? People who can't conduct all their necessary business online because the don't have broadband and they have other technological barriers. People who don't have transportation to do things like pick up their prescriptions at a pharmacy. That means communities of color. Rural America. Senior and disabled citizens. The mail carrier for many of these people isn't just the person who fills their box with junk mail: It's someone looking out for them.

Now we get to the part of that editorial from the Post where the writer(s) state it baldly: "Special interest groups that profit from the postal status quo dominate Congress." The only special interest group they can be talking about is the postal workers' union. Because they're surely not talking about those rural and underserved communities. There isn't another massive lobby trying to save the USPS. Just regular people. And postal workers.

Funny thing about that: The Postal Service work force is more racially and ethnically diverse than the U.S. labor force as a whole. According to a Pew report looking at data from 2018, "23% of Postal Service workers are black, 11% are Hispanic and 7% are Asian." Blacks comprise 13% of the national workforce, Hispanics 17%, and AAPI Americans 6%. White Americans are just 57% of the USPS workforce, compared to 78% of the national workforce. About 40% of USPS workers identify as female.

In 2013, letter carriers made an average annual salary of $51,390 a year, and sorters earned $48,380. Those are solid middle-class jobs that have created generations of a Black middle class, like the family of Josh Dubose in Maryland. His "father, his stepmother, his sister and at least three uncles worked for the U.S. Postal Service."

That created a Black workforce with some power, which is unique in the country. Philip F. Rubio, a history professor who wrote the book There's Always Work at the Post Office: African American Postal Workers and the Fight for Jobs, Justice, and Equality, published in 2010, wrote that the post office has "been vital to Black community development, but Black postal worker activism changed the Post Office and its unions. […] This is a dynamic history, one that involves narratives of migration, militancy, community, and negotiation—and all at a workplace that African Americans saw as being inclusively, not exclusively, theirs."

Dubose feels that pride. Speaking to NBC News prior to the 2020 election, he said "It was supposed to be a temporary job, but I'm still here, and it's a job I do with pride. […] It's not easy. We load our trucks each morning and we work until all the mail is delivered. That's why you sometimes see carriers working at night—sometimes not in the safest neighborhoods. But if people trust us with their bills, birthday cards, packages, I don't see why a ballot would be any different. We will deliver what's on the truck."

That's who is being attacked by DeJoy, and put on Hiatt's austerity chopping block. Because it's this multiracial workforce that's going to be cut if DeJoy's plan goes through. It's the communities of color and the disadvantaged that are going to lose a lifeline—aka the usual casualties of the austerity fetishists. The ones who put the Postal Service in financial jeopardy in the first place.

McConnell's 'stay out of politics' warning to corporations doesn't seem to be working

Apparently Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's threat to corporations to "stay out of politics" didn't have the result he intended. Big business seems to be getting more serious about pushing back as Republicans continue to push voter suppression measures in states across the country. More than 100 top corporate executives joined a Zoom call Saturday to discuss how to apply pressure against such legislation, The Washington Post reports.

Companies represented included Delta, American, United, Starbucks, Target, LinkedIn, Levi Strauss, and Boston Consulting Group, as well as Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, the Post reports, and the discussion included "potential ways to show they opposed the legislation, including by halting donations to politicians who support the bills and even delaying investments in states that pass the restrictive measures."

The call, which lasted over an hour, "shows they are not intimidated by the flak. They are not going to be cowed," according to one of its organizers, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale management professor. "They felt very strongly that these voting restrictions are based on a flawed premise and are dangerous."

That "flawed premise" is in fact Donald Trump's big lie, which even Georgia Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan has made clear, saying on CNN, "This is really the fallout from the 10 weeks of misinformation that flew in from former President Donald Trump."

Before Georgia passed the instantly notorious voter suppression law that started the blowback from corporations, some top Georgia businesses worked behind the scenes to try to blunt the bill's worst provisions. But once the law passed, they saw that that wasn't going to cut it, prompting the more public corporate opposition to attacks on voting rights.

Republicans in Georgia responded to that corporate opposition with threats of retaliation, including a failed (for now) attempt to strip Delta Air Lines of a major tax break. In Texas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick claimed: "Texans are fed up with corporations that don't share our values trying to dictate public policy." And, of course, there was that "warning" from McConnell, though he quickly tried to walk it back a little when he saw how badly it played.

All this—the voter suppression measures that prompt blowback, the sudden turn against their usual corporate allies—comes because, first, Donald Trump lost and couldn't admit it and made it an article of faith for his base that elections are being stolen, and second, because Republicans know that their electoral future depends on making it harder to vote, especially for Black and brown people, low-income people, and young people.

Democrats, meanwhile, are trying to protect the right to vote and expand access to voting, from Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms trying to mitigate the impact of the new Georgia anti-voting law to House Democrats passing historic voting reforms—which, of course, Senate Republicans are blocking. But this can't be framed as a partisan fight. It's about whether the United States really values its democracy. Whether voting is a right that all eligible people can equally access, or a privilege easily extended to some while others are forced to overcome barrier after barrier to use it. Whether our voting laws are made in the name of justice or in the name of Trump's big lie. If you're on the wrong side of that, it's not a routine partisan issue. It's a stain on your name and on your soul.

Minnesota police shoot and kill Daunte Wright, 20, after traffic stop involving air fresheners

Another Black man was shot and killed by police on Sunday during what should have been a minor interaction, or one that shouldn't have happened at all. What makes it especially horrifying, beyond the needless loss of life at the hands of the state, is that 20-year-old Daunte Wright was killed in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, just miles from where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for murder in the killing of George Floyd less than a year ago.

As a picture of the problem of police violence toward Black people in the United States of America, 2021, "Black man shot and killed at questionable traffic stop 10 miles from the trial of a police officer for killing another Black man during an arrest for a minor alleged offense" says a lot.

Daunte Wright was apparently pulled over for an air freshener blocking his rearview window, though his father notes that his car had tinted windows, so it's surprising police could see that much. In either case, as the ACLU of Minnesota tweeted, "We have concerns that police appear to have used dangling air fresheners as an excuse for making a pretextual stop, something police do too often to target Black people."

After Wright was pulled over, police found he had an outstanding warrant and tried to arrest him. Wright tried to get back in his car and police shot him. He then drove for several blocks before the car crashed and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to Aubrey Wright, Daunte Wright's father, this happened three miles from where the family lives as Daunte was going to get his car washed. Katie Wright, Daunte's mother, recounted a phone call from him as he was stopped by police, and the call she got from Daunte's girlfriend—who was in the car with him—afterward.

"He got out of the car, and his girlfriend said they shot him," Katie Wright told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "He got back in the car, and he drove away and crashed and now he's dead on the ground since 1:47. ... Nobody will tell us anything. Nobody will talk to us. ... I said please take my son off the ground."

"I know my son. He was scared. He still [had] the mind of a 17-year-old because we babied him," Aubrey Wright said. "If he was resisting an arrest, you could Tase him. I don't understand it."

Daunte Wright was scared and police showed why he was right to be: Because he was in the hands of armed agents of the state who did not value his life. Because Black people in this country are too often killed for the most minor of alleged offenses, with police defending summary execution as a reasonable response to someone possibly having committed a minor crime.

"I am closely monitoring the situation in Brooklyn Center. Gwen and I are praying for Daunte Wright's family as our state mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement," Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz tweeted.

Following protests, Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott declared a curfew overnight, schools in Brooklyn Center and nearby Brooklyn Park announced remote classes for Monday, and the National Guard—in Minneapolis for the Chauvin trial—was brought in. As always, we must remember to value the human life taken by police over the windows broken in the outpouring of grief and rage in response.

Here's even more proof that Mitch McConnell is a hypocritical historical revisionist

Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made headlines with the ridiculous statement that the filibuster has "no racial history at all. None. There's no dispute among historians." That required immediate cleanup from his communications staff, who had to interpret for McConnell. The origins of the filibuster, they said, were what he was talking about. Which is ridiculous, on all counts.

The origins of the filibuster were ignominious, to be sure, but only because it was Aaron Burr who inadvertently created it. After having killed Alexander Hamilton in that duel, Burr was still vice president and for some reason senators were paying attention to him. Burr, as vice president, thought that the Senate rules were too messy and cluttered. He suggested that the previous question motion could be jettisoned because it wasn't really being used.

The motion is still used in the House. It's how a simple majority ends debate. But the handful of senators who had all known each other forever figured they could work stuff out without that rule, so away it went. For a century or so that was pretty much fine.

Until after the Civil War. Go figure.

This is where the McConnell flack's explanation really does McConnell no favors, because in reality the modern origins of the filibuster and how it's developed since Reconstruction is absolutely racist, and there is no way any objective person can paint that history as anything else.

"You start to see civil rights bills pass the House in the 1920s, and it was consistently used to block them," Adam Jentleson, a former aide to Sen. Harry Reid and the author Kill Switch, a history of the filibuster, told Vox. "If there was any ambiguity in the antebellum era, it certainly shed that during the Jim Crow era—where it was widely taken for granted that the filibuster was directly tied to [blocking] civil rights." Kevin Kruse, a historian of race and American politics at Princeton University, agrees. "It's been a tool used overwhelmingly by racists."

Political scientists Sarah Binder and Steven Smith have also studied the filibuster, particularly how it's been used since 1917 when the Senate adopted a cloture rule—the ability to break a filibuster with 67 votes. Binder writes, "Of the 30 measures we identified between 1917 and 1994, exactly half addressed civil rights—including measures to authorize federal investigation and prosecution of lynching, to ban the imposition of poll taxes and to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race in housing sales and rentals." She adds, "Keep in mind, the 20th century filibuster scorched many civil rights measures beyond those that it killed outright."

The thing is, McConnell knows all this. He knows it very well, and until he declared that Democrats calling it a "Jim Crow relic" is "an effort to use the terrible history of racism to justify a partisan power grab in the present," he admitted the truth publicly. In writing. Saladin Ambar, an associate political science professor at Rutgers, quotes McConnell from just two years ago in McConnell's book, The US Senate and the Commonwealth.

When he wrote that book in 2019, he recalled how as a 22-year-old intern in the Senate, he watched his boss, Sen. John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky, help break a filibuster of the Civil Rights Act. "I saw that those who wrote to Senator Cooper were overwhelmingly opposed to the pending civil rights legislation. But Senator Cooper was undeterred," McConnell wrote. "He actively lobbied his colleagues to oppose the Southern Democratic filibuster being carried out against the civil rights legislation. I was exhilarated as I watched him take this courageous stance."

Exhilarated.

Now the attempt to maintain and expand those civil rights McConnell was so excited about has suddenly become a partisan power grab. As Georgia Republicans were preparing to enact a new and sweeping discriminatory voter suppression law, McConnell stood in front of the nation and declared, "States are not engaging in trying to suppress voters, whatsoever."

His historical revisionism is surpassed only by his histrionics over the likely end to the filibuster as his favorite tool. "These folks are not interested in compromise, they're interested in passing all of their bills to remake America," McConnell said in an interview last week. "It may not be the panacea that they anticipate it would be, it could turn the Senate into sort of a nuclear winter, where the aftermath of the so-called nuclear option is not a sustainable place." He'll go to any lengths, he's promising, to stop Democrats from ending the racist filibuster in order to stop racist voter suppression and restore democracy. All the while declaring that Republicans aren't acting on white supremacy.

McConnell knows better. As Ambar says, "McConnell knows this history well. He wrote about it. He witnessed it. He was there."

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