News & Politics

The Republican onslaught against democracy is upon us — and we must act

This morning at 9:00 am, an "Open Letter in Defense of Democracy" was published, simultaneously, by The New Republic and The Bulwark (see here and here).

The letter was co-signed by around 40 public intellectuals across the political spectrum, from Noam Chomsky and Adolph Reed to prominent former-neoconservatives Max Boot and Mona Charen.

It was drafted by me along with two collaborators: Todd Gitlin and William Kristol.

A few years ago I am pretty sure that neither Todd nor I ever imagined collaborating with Bill, just as I am pretty confident Bill never imagined collaborating with either of us. Indeed, a couple of years ago I locked horns with Bill at a New School conference.

And yet the threat to liberal democracy has never been greater in our lifetime. Each of us has been sounding the alarm in our own way for some time. And as the situation darkened, some e-mail exchanges became a one-off conversation which became a regular Zoom meeting which eventually became a collaboration and a friendship.

The Open Letter is one outcome of this friendly collaboration, an effort for us to reach beyond our normal comfort zones, and to see if we could bring together a range of friends and collaborators from left to right in support of a general statement about the importance of democracy. The statement locates Trumpism and the Republican Party as twin dangers to U.S. democracy, and it calls for serious voting rights legislation and a broader effort to defeat these twin dangers.

From its opening words, the Letter enacts a kind of "common front" among people who disagree about much but who are steadfastly committed to liberal democracy as the best and most legitimate political arrangement for expressing and acting on disagreement. Some of our signatories have long been aligned with the anti-war movement and with the Sanders wing of the Democratic party. Some have been aligned with the more centrist Obama-Clinton-Biden wing. Some were supporters of John McCain or Mitt Romney, and some—most notably Bill Kristol—were supporters of George W. Bush and of Ronald Reagan before him. (It's a pretty diverse list. Check it out.)

And yet we have come together behind the Letter, which has a pretty clear political message. And we have brought together two very different journals, the New Republic and The Bulwark, behind this effort—and it is virtually unprecedented to see such a collaboration between journals such as these. We have not checked our differences at the door. And yet we have come together precisely because we regard these differences as important, and we believe that if the forces of Know Nothingism, racism, and reaction associated with Trumpism prevail, we will all suffer. Our political differences are real. And our joint commitment to democracy is grounded in those very differences.

Many who will read this will be angry about what some of our signatories have said or done in the past. This is understandable. And I hope that it will not get in the way of seeing that the current battle over democracy is very real, the stakes are very high, and some of those with whom you have strongly disagreed in the past are now allies in this struggle.

Many who will read this will believe that it is impossible to talk about democracy without talking about the global climate crisis or the inequalities of global capitalism or the scourge of racism. This is understandable, and I share these concerns. And at the same, I know that there are others to my right—as well as to my left—who think about these things differently than I do, and who are nonetheless fellow citizens who are engaged in their own processes of rethinking, and who wish to join now in defense of democracy. Now is not a time to slap away a handshake—and, to be clear, a handshake is not a marriage vow, it is simply but crucially a form of friendship borne of common experience.

The struggle against the injustices of capitalism remains important to many. So too the struggle against environmental degradation and racism and sexism.

And the best way to further these causes is through education, advocacy, social movement organizing, and participation in electoral politics.

And each of these things—education, advocacy, movement organizing, and participation in at least minimally free and fair elections—is now threatened by the Republican onslaught against democracy.

And so my collaborators and I believe it is important to come together with all of those who are willing to join in defense of democracy.

This does not require us to like all of those with whom we join—though we have made some real friendships through this collaboration—nor does it require us to forget about their pasts or our own pasts.

It simply requires us to acknowledge the ethical and political importance of coming together, across differences, to defend the things that we value in common.

Perhaps Benjamin Franklin said it best, at another moment when some very different people came together to oppose the tyranny of their time: "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."

Jeffrey C. Isaac is James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington. His books include: "Democracy in Dark Times"(1998); "The Poverty of Progressivism: The Future of American Democracy in a Time of Liberal Decline" (2003), and "Arendt, Camus, and Modern Rebellion" (1994).

Ron Wyden's new billionaire income tax plan applauded as a step toward justice

Progressive lawmakers and other advocates of economic justice welcomed new legislative text for the Billionaires Income Tax unveiled Wednesday by Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden as part of Democrats' Build Back Better Package.

"Justice and just plain common sense demand that billionaires pay something closer to their fair share of taxes. The Billionaires Income Tax will see that they do," said Americans for Tax Fairness executive director Frank Clemente in a statement.

The tax would apply to Americans with over $1 billion in assets or more than $100 million in income for three consecutive years. Wyden (D-Ore.) estimates it would affect only about 700 taxpayers but raise hundreds of billions of dollars that policymakers can invest in key priorities such as affordable housing, child care, climate action, and Medicare expansion.

The proposal would impose the capital gains tax on tradable assets like stocks each year, whether or not they are sold. Additionally, when a billionaire who meets Wyden's criteria sells a nontradable asset such as real estate, they would pay not only capital gains tax but also a new charge "akin to interest on tax deferred while the individual held that asset."

"The Billionaires Income Tax will begin to tax income from wealth like income from work," said Clemente. "America's 700-odd billionaires have grown 70%, or $2.1 trillion, wealthier during the pandemic alone, yet many of them have paid zero federal income taxes in recent years."

Stephen Prince, vice chair of the Patriotic Millionaires and owner of National Business Products, also highlighted that the nation's rich have seen their wealth soar during the global health crisis.

"Meanwhile, the regular, hardworking Americans—particularly the essential workers who were lauded as 'heroes'—paid taxes on every dollar that they earned," Prince said, adding that he supports Wyden's plan "because it's only right that we end this injustice and start making wealthy Americans pay their fair share."

Others who expressed support for the proposal include labor leaders like AFL-CIO president Liz Shuler and National Education Association president Becky Pringle, as well as Main Street Alliance co-executive director Chanda Causer and National Women's Law Center president and CEO Fatima Goss Graves.

"For too long, families have been denied basic supports such as paid leave, child care, and an expanded child tax credit, all while billionaires evade taxes on obscene amounts of wealth," Goss Graves said Wednesday. "This dynamic is economically dangerous and morally unsustainable."

Politico highlighted some of the barriers the Billionaires Income Tax faces:

Many House Democrats are already balking at the proposal, preferring a slate of more traditional tax increases approved last month by the Ways and Means Committee.
And the proposal, should it pass, would almost certainly be challenged in court.
The Constitution restricts so-called direct taxes, an antiquated term referring to levies imposed directly on someone that can't be imposed on someone else. There's a big exception for income taxes, thanks to the 16th Amendment, which allows Congress to tax earnings. The question with the billionaires tax will be whether it counts as an income tax.

The new legislative text comes as congressional leaders and President Joe Biden are still negotiating the details of the sweeping budget reconciliation package, which House progressives maintain must advance to secure their support for smaller Senate-approved bipartisan infrastructure legislation.

A few corporate-backed, right-wing Democrats—namely Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—have joined with business lobbyists in trying to water down the broader bill, which has to be backed by the full Senate Democratic Caucus to pass.

While Sinema has challenged Democrats' efforts to hike the corporate tax rate slashed by congressional Republicans and former President Donald Trump, Manchin spoke out against Wyden's plan to reporters on Wednesday morning, according to The New York Times.

"I don't like the connotation that we're targeting different people," specifically those who "contributed to society and create a lot of jobs and a lot of money and give a lot of philanthropic pursuits," he said. "It's time that we all pull together and grow together."

Sharing a Washington Post report that the tax proposal "could raise more than half of its revenue from just 10 people," Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) tweeted that "it is so wrong that there is any hesitation on taxing a handful of the richest Americans."

Wyden, in a statement, argued the proposal is grounded in fairness.

"There are two tax codes in America. The first is mandatory for workers who pay taxes out of every paycheck. The second is voluntary for billionaires who defer paying taxes for years, if not indefinitely," he said. "Two tax codes allow billionaires to use largely untaxed income from wealth to build more wealth, while working families struggle to balance the mortgage against groceries, and utilities against saving for the future."

"That's why it's time" for a policy to "ensure billionaires pay tax every year, just like working Americans," Wyden added. "We have a historic opportunity with the Billionaires Income Tax to restore fairness to our tax code and fund critical investments in American families."

Democrats may cut paid leave from the Build Back Better Act because of Manchin's demands

Progressive U.S. lawmakers and advocates for working families were outraged Wednesday by reporting that congressional leaders are planning to fully cut paid leave from Democrats' Build Back Better package due to opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin.

Sources on Capitol Hill told reporters at several news outlets—including CNN, Politico, The Hill, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal—that Democrats are, as the Times put it, "likely to abandon their plans to create a new federal paid family and medical leave program" because of Manchin (D-W.Va.).

The newspaper noted that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who "personally reached out" to the right-wing West Virginian in an attempt to sell him on a compromise, promised to keep pushing for it.

"Until the bill is printed, I will continue working to include paid leave in the Build Back Better plan," Gillibrand said in a statement Wednesday afternoon—a vow echoed by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) on Twitter.

Politico's Eleanor Mueller also reported that Democrats plan to slash the program, initially proposed as 12 weeks but recently reduced to just four weeks, "from their mammoth social spending package Wednesday after attempts to drastically pare it down were deemed insufficient."

"Already, advocates are fuming over what they see as an unwillingness by the White House to fight hard enough for a policy it won [the 2020] election on," Mueller wrote in a series of tweets, "particularly in the face of a public health crisis and an economic crisis that disproportionately impacted women and low-wage workers."

"Groups launched an eleventh-hour push to keep paid leave in the package, sending mass emails and flooding social media," she added. "The hashtag #SavePaidLeave appeared in posts by Paid Leave for All, National Women's Law Center, and other groups along with advocates like Melinda Gates."

The advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America tweeted: "How can we rebuild without paid leave to keep families working and healthy? We need paid leave."

"It's outrageous and shameful that in the midst of a global pandemic that's forced more than two million women out of the workforce, Congress and the White House have put forward a preliminary legislative deal without paid family and medical leave," Molly Day, executive director of Paid Leave for the U.S. (PL+US), said in a statement Wednesday evening.

Day declared that "paid leave is an essential tool for building back better—for returning millions of women to the workforce after a historic she-cession, addressing the widening racial wealth gap and other socio-economic income disparities, and creating the business resiliency our national economy needs in 2021."

"Paid leave is about ensuring that no working person has to choose between their family and their paycheck, and the American people are not going to allow that essential human need to be ignored and negotiated away behind closed doors," she said. "Congress cannot accept a final Build Back Better deal without paid leave."

Women's March pointed to a Times report from Monday highlighting that the United States is one of just six nations with no national paid leave and it would still be an outlier with the proposed four-week plan, given what other countries offer.

Some critics of the cut took aim at Manchin, who suggested to CNN Wednesday evening that paid family and medical leave doesn't belong in the package, saying Democrats should be "examining all this stuff," but the reconciliation bill "is not the place to do it."

According to the Times, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said that "we are not going to let one man tell millions of women in this country that they can't have paid leave."

Because Democrats are trying to use the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process, they need support from the party's entire Senate caucus—including Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—to pass the package, which has been cut down to roughly $2 trillion in spending over a decade.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday afternoon that President Joe Biden wants a deal on the package—which is holding up a bipartisan infrastructure bill and is supposed to deliver on several of his campaign promises—"before he leaves for Europe" on Thursday.

Trump accuses Bill Barr and Mark Zuckerberg of stealing Pennsylvania election in angry letter to WSJ

Former President Donald Trump accused Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his own former Attorney General William Barr of helping to steal Pennsylvania's election in 2020 in an angry letter written to the Wall Street Journal.

Specifically, Trump took issue with a WSJ editorial published on Monday that accurately claimed Biden defeated Trump by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania.

"Well actually, the election was rigged, which you, unfortunately, still haven't figured out," Trump claimed. "Here are just a few examples of how determinative the voter fraud in Pennsylvania was."

The former president then went through a series of previously debunked claims about "fraud" in Pennsylvania's election, which also included two claims about Barr and Zuckerberg.

"Attorney General Bill Barr ordered U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain to stand down and not investigate election irregularities," Trump complained in one part of the letter. "Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook poured over $17 million to interfere in the Pennsylvania election, including $5.5 million on "ballot processing equipment" in Philadelphia and $552,000 for drop boxes where the voting pattern was not possible."

Trump also cited standard claims about "phantom" voters of the kind that were debunked in the Arizona "audit" of the 2020 race, as well as "numerous reports and sworn affidavits attested to poll watcher intimidation and harassment, many by brute force."

Read the whole letter here.

How the Supreme Court's rules often exclude minority viewpoints

by David Orentlicher, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

In recent decades, much progress has been made in diversifying the Supreme Court. While only white males served as justices for more than 175 years, the court now includes three female justices, one Black and one Latina justice.

Despite the increased diversity, however, the court's voting rules often exclude minority viewpoints.

Like most other courts, the Supreme Court decides its cases by a majority vote. If at least five of the nine justices agree on a resolution, they are able to determine the court's decision and impose their preferred outcome.

If other justices disagree, they cannot ensure that their views are taken into account by the majority. They can only write a dissenting opinion to express their disagreement with the majority's decision.

Two justices who are especially likely to have their views not reflected, and therefore must write dissenting opinions, are Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas.

Consider the court's cases from its 2019-20 term, not including non-controversial 9-0 decisions.

When there were disagreements among the justices, Sotomayor dissented in 44% of cases, according to the news site SCOTUSblog. In those cases, the court's decisions lacked the perspective of its only minority female member.

Similarly, Thomas also dissented in 44% of cases when the court vote was not unanimous. In those cases, the court's decisions lacked the perspective of its only minority male member.

No other justice's voice was excluded as often as were those of Sotomayor and Thomas. And with five white male justices on the court, it's numerically impossible for the court to render a decision that lacks the perspective of a white male justice.

Single opinions the norm

As a constitutional law scholar who has written extensively about the Supreme Court, I believe there is a ready solution to this exclusion of minority viewpoints. Drawing from the example of jurors and the history of the court between 1801 and 1940, the justices could decide their cases by a unanimous vote.

Criminal juries decide their cases unanimously, and studies demonstrate that, as a result, the majority gives greater consideration to minority viewpoints. Those in the minority participate more in the jury's deliberations, and their perspectives play a greater role in shaping the jury's decision.

The Supreme Court also could ensure minority participation by deciding its cases unanimously.

Between 1801 and 1940, the high court generally decided its cases with a single, consensus opinion. As Chief Justice John Marshall recognized in 1801, the court strengthens its authority when it speaks in a unified voice. Hence, he established a norm for the court of consensus decisions.

As Marshall wrote, “The course of every tribunal must necessarily be, that the opinion which is delivered as the opinion of the court, is previously submitted to the judges; and, if any of the reasoning be disapproved, it must be so modified as to receive the approbation of all, before it can be delivered as the opinion of all."

During Marshall's first four years as chief justice, all of the court's opinions were issued for the court as a whole, with just one concurring opinion and no dissenting opinions.

Marshall's successors maintained this norm of consensus for most of the court's history. By 1941, only about 8% of cases included a dissenting opinion.

But when Harlan Fiske Stone became chief justice in 1941, he encouraged the expression of dissenting viewpoints. Stone believed that sound principles would result from “the clash of competing and sometimes conflicting ideas."

Today, one or more justices dissent in more than half of the rulings.

Importantly, when single opinions were the norm, scholars have found that justices on both sides would move toward the other side to reach consensus. Lead justices would shape their drafts to secure broad support from their colleagues. As a result, justices who initially disagreed with the majority were able to join their colleagues in a unanimous decision.

As the legal scholar Robert Post has observed, Chief Justice William Howard Taft “was willing to go to extraordinary lengths to modify his own opinions to reach out to others."

And even after 1940, justices often recognized the importance of consensus. Perhaps the most famous example occurred in 1954, when Chief Justice Earl Warren was able to forge a unanimous decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education that struck down segregated schools.

Consensus opinions

Unanimous decisions are better decisions. No single justice has a monopoly on the perfect legal interpretation – they all have their blind spots. The collective wisdom of the full bench is superior to that of a mere majority of justices.

Empirical research on group decisions confirms this.

As one important study found in 1996, “Heterogeneous groups outperform homogeneous groups on tasks requiring creative problem solving and innovation, because the expression of alternative perspectives can lead to novel insights."

When people with different perspectives make decisions together, they can identify solutions that none of them acting alone would have recognized. Their different ideas can combine to identify new approaches that better serve the public interest.

[Over 115,000 readers rely on The Conversation's newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.]

Majority voting allows for decisions based on a narrower rather than broader range of perspectives. It is incoherent to value a diversity of perspectives and then employ a decision-making rule that frequently disregards an important part of that diversity. This is especially the case when the Supreme Court can decide critical issues by a 5-4 margin.

By restoring a norm of unanimous decisions, the Supreme Court would give voice to all of its justices and the unique perspectives that each of them brings.

As Chief Justice John Roberts has observed, “The rule of law benefits from a broader agreement."The Conversation

David Orentlicher, Professor of Law and Co-Director, Health Law Program, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Watch: Merrick Garland breaks into laughter at a Republican senator's question

Attorney General Merrick Garland laughed at a Republican senator's question during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), like every other GOP senator before him, used his allotted time to pepper Garland with questions about an Oct. 4 memo directing the Department of Justice to investigate threats against local school board members after a national organization asked President Joe Biden for federal intervention.

"The National School Board Association sent the letter to the White House and the White House promptly called you and said, 'Sic the FBI on parents at school board hearings, and that's what I mean," Kennedy said. "The White House is the prophet here and you're just the vessel, correct?"

Garland insisted he did not coordinate with the White House on the memo, which he said reflected his own views on protecting public officials from violence and threats while protecting parents' rights, but Kennedy pressed on.

Garland laughed out loud before continuing.

"I'm not -- I signed on this memorandum on my own," Garland said. "I said from the very beginning, I've taken this job to protect the Department of Justice and make independent determinations with respect to prosecution, and I will do that."

Merrick Garland bursts into laughter at GOP senator's question www.youtube.com

Dr. Birx admits the truth about Trump's crime against humanity

Is playing politics with a deadly pandemic a crime against humanity? The Brazilian Senate thinks so, and has backed a report calling for charges against President Jair Bolsonaro over his handling of COVID-19.

The committee that prepared the report had originally called for Bolsonaro to be charged with genocide and mass homicide against the indigenous people of Brazil as well but those charges were removed by the larger Senate before the vote. Whether the crimes against humanity charges will be sent to the International Criminal Court for investigation and adjudication is unknown. If they are, it will be a first.

The 1,300-page report also calls for eight other charges against Bolsonaro, including misuse of public funds and spreading fake news about the pandemic as well as falsification of documents and incitement to crime, which they referred to Brazil's top prosecutor, an ally of the president who is unlikely to prosecute.

Brazil's death toll is huge — second only to the United States — with over 600,000 deaths and counting. That nation's first wave was monstrous, with mass graves and overwhelming hospital overload. When the second hit, medical facilities were so ill-prepared that they ran out of oxygen. Bolsonaro's response has been to tell people to "stop whining" about "the little flu." He refused necessary lockdown measures from the beginning and relentlessly pushed snake oil cures like hydroxychloroquine. He has disparaged vaccines, masks and other public health measures.

Brazil is a signatory to the International Criminal Court so it could theoretically agree to hear the case should it be forwarded to them. The law seems pretty straightforward, according to this analysis by Jen Kirby at Vox:

A crime against humanity exists "when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack." "other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health."

Kirby spoke with David Scheffer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, who told her that the "catchall nature" of the last part of the statute was deliberate:

It is obvious that other types of assaults on your civilian population are going to emerge in the future, and you have to provide for that in the statute. It's hard to think of a better example than intentional mismanagement of a Covid-19 pandemic or some other pathogen. And so I would argue that, yes, that's fair game.

Bolsonaro defiantly says that he is guilty of "absolutely nothing" despite his decisions to allow the virus to spread through the country in pursuit of "herd immunity" which basically translated to "let 'er rip." And he has continued to spread disinformation. Just this week, Facebook and Youtube removed a video in which the Brazilian president falsely claimed a link between COVID-19 vaccines and AIDS.

You will no doubt recall that Bolsonaro and Donald Trump were great friends and kindred spirits during Trump's term. They saw eye to eye on many things, but perhaps on nothing so much as the proper response to the pandemic.

In March of 2020, as the virus was starting to spread quickly, the Brazilian leader visited Trump's private club, Mar-a-Lago, and that became one of the earliest Trump super-spreading events when Bolsonaro's press secretary tested positive for the virus after meeting with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and others. Bolsonaro came away from the meeting inspired by Trump, telling his health minister "that life was normal at Mar-a-Lago, everything was cured, and that hydroxychloroquine was the medicine that was supposed to be used. From that time on, it was very hard to get him to take the science seriously."

We all saw the similarities between Bolsonaro and Trump's reaction to the pandemic in real-time.

They both downplayed the virus and were obsessively concerned with the economic fallout, leading them to lean on scientists to fudge the numbers. Both of them were constantly out in public exposing themselves and others to the virus and they each recommended unscientific cure-alls while ignoring the public health recommendations that actually mitigated the worst of the virus. Trump really wanted to take credit for the vaccines, but has been forced to downplay that achievement due to skepticism among his followers, while Bolsonaro just comes right out and says they don't work. Their record in the pandemic is astonishingly similar.

Here in the U.S., the task of investigating what happened with the pandemic has fallen to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which has kept a pretty low profile these last few months. But on Tuesday they took the testimony of Dr. Deborah Birx, Trump's COVID-19 coordinator. According to the New York Times, Birx reiterated her earlier shocking claim that at least 130,000 lives were unnecessarily lost because the administration refused to do everything it could to ensure the nation followed the public health recommendations to mitigate the spread of the disease.

But in her testimony this week she also said that as the pandemic wore on into the summer and fall, the administration became distracted by the presidential campaign and pretty much lost interest in the crisis. In other words, a lot of people died so that Donald Trump could get elected.

When asked if she felt Trump did everything he could to save lives, Birx replied, "no."

She also complained about the malign influence of Dr. Scott Atlas, the radiologist who caught Trump's eye on Fox News and was brought in to push the idea that the country should seek "herd immunity," just as Bolsonaro had tried to do in Brazil. Birx testified that Atlas even brought to the White House the three physicians who later authored the "Great Barrington Declaration," which called for deliberately hastening herd immunity. Trump was all in:

Bolsonaro and members of his family are under fire for corruption as well and there is a good chance he may face jail time as well as a tough re-election campaign next year. And then there is the little matter of the crimes against humanity charges that could be before the International Criminal Court.

His good friend and inspiration, Donald Trump, is in a similar situation — although he has three more years to try to make everyone forget his terrible response to the pandemic. Trump needn't worry about the ICC, of course. The U.S. isn't a signatory. The powers that be thought signing on to it might result in U.S. troops being accused of war crimes. I doubt they anticipated that a U.S. president might be accused of facilitating the deaths of hundreds of thousands of his own citizens. Donald Trump has always been a very lucky guy in that way.

Journalist details the surprising 'success' of 'Bidenomics' — despite claims to the contrary

According to Gallup, President Joe Biden's approval rating among independents went from 61% earlier this year to only 37% in September — and late October polls aren't very encouraging either, with the president's overall approval at 42% (Rasmussen), 43% (YouGov) or 46% (Morning Consult). But Biden is hardly the only U.S. president who saw his approval ratings tumble after the "honeymoon phase," as pundits call it. And New York Magazine's Eric Levitz, in an article published this week, stresses that "Bidenomics" is working regardless of Biden's disappointing poll numbers.

"Consumer prices are high and rising, and so is disapproval of Joe Biden," Levitz writes. "In recent days, the president's net-favorability rating has hit new lows in FiveThirtyEight's aggregation of polls. Meanwhile, America's headlines are full of testaments to economic discontent. By all appearances, Biden is suffering blowback from grave failures of economic management. But those appearances are deceiving."

Levitz continues, "The U.S. economy has real problems, and inflation is certainly one of them. At the same time, America is enjoying an exceptionally swift economic recovery, rising household wealth, falling income inequality, a resurgence in labor's economic power, and soaring capital investment. In these respects, Bidenomics has proved to be a smashing success."

Biden's economic "achievements," according to Levitz, "should not be obscured by an inflation problem that derives largely from forces beyond the president's control."

Over the years, Biden has had a reputation for being a centrist. The Scranton, Pennsylvania-born Democrat, during his decades representing Delaware in the U.S. Senate, famously bragged about his ability to get things done with Republicans and his productive relationship with the late conservative Sen. John McCain (a self-described "Goldwater Republican"). Biden, now 78, has long had a liberal streak and a conservative streak, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, his liberal streak has come to the forefront — and Levitz explains what he means by "Bidenomics."

According to Levitz, "Biden's macroeconomic vision inverts the logic of Reaganomics. In the president's conception, America's working class deserves a higher share of income and economic power…. Biden insists that a more equitable economy will also be a larger one since 'trickle-down economics has never worked' and the economy actually grows 'from the bottom and the middle out.'"

The fact that Biden's poll numbers have been weak doesn't necessarily mean that they will stay that way. President Barack Obama, President Ronald Reagan and President Bill Clinton all watched their parties suffer major losses during the midterms only to win a second term two years later. And "Bidenomics," according to Levitz, is a work in progress.

"Bidenomics has yet to deliver the economy it promised," Levitz writes. "And with the president's Build Back Better agenda still tied up in Congress, one might argue that real Bidenomics has never been tried. Nevertheless, if Biden's economic vision hasn't been fully realized, its core theoretical premises have been roundly confirmed."

'Is he embarrassed?': Biden baits Trump in mocking speech for the Virginia governor's race

President Joe Biden on Tuesday called out Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin for trying to distance himself from former President Donald Trump in his bid to win the increasingly blue state.

Youngkin has tried to walk a fine line in his race against Democrat Terry McAuliffe, hoping to avoid alienating both the Trump base that he needs to turn out on Election Day and independent and suburban voters who view the former president far less favorably. The former private equity executive has not campaigned with Trump and at one point even seemingly sought to tie McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor, to the ex-president, prompting Trump to reassert his "complete and total" endorsement for Youngkin's campaign.

"Terry's opponent has made all of his private pledges of loyalty to Donald Trump. But what is really interesting to me is he won't stand next to Donald Trump now that the campaign is on," Biden said during a McAuliffe rally in Arlington. "Think about it. He won't allow Donald Trump to campaign with him in this state… He is willing to pledge his loyalty to Trump in private, why not in public? What is he trying to hide? Is there a problem with Trump being here? Is he embarrassed?"

During the Republican primary campaign, Youngkin refused to acknowledge Biden's election victory and has called for a voting machine "audit," an apparent signal toward Trump's false claims of fraud — especially since Virginia conducts such audits on a regular basis. Biden on Tuesday argued that Youngkin has "embraced" Trump's "big lie."

"I ran against Donald Trump. And Terry is running against an acolyte of Donald Trump," Biden said. "Terry's opponent doesn't like to talk about him very much now, but to win the Republican nomination, he embraced Donald Trump. He started his campaign by saying that the No. 1 issue in the race was… election integrity. Now, why did he do that? Because he wanted to hear Donald Trump? It was a price he'd have to pay for the nomination, and he paid it. But now, he doesn't want to talk about Trump anymore. Well, I do."

Former President Barack Obama also hit the campaign trail for McAuliffe over the weekend, calling out Youngkin's attempt to dance around Trump's false election claims.

"Either [Youngkin] actually believes in the same conspiracy theories that resulted in a mob, or he doesn't believe it but he is willing to go along with it, to say or do anything to get elected," Obama said on Saturday. " And maybe that's worse ... because that says something about character."

Christian Martinez, a spokesperson for Youngkin, told NBC News that Obama's speech promoted "the fantasies of Terry and the left because they can't run on their failed record and radical vision for the future."

The McAuliffe campaign has seized on Youngkin's attempt to distance himself from Trump, who is widely unpopular in Virginia, where Biden won by 10 points last year and Democrats have dominated most recent statewide elections. McAuliffe, who previously served as the state's governor from 2014 to 2018, has offered to pay for Trump's travel expenses so the ex-president can campaign for Youngkin. Democrats have also sent out mailers touting Trump's endorsement of Youngkin.

But despite Biden's popularity in 2020, his approval in Virginia has slipped nine points from earlier this year to 48%, according to a recent Morning Consult poll. McAuliffe won his 2013 race by just two points, and polls currently show him with a very slim 1.5-point lead, according to FiveThirtyEight's polling average. (Virginia governors may not run for re-election, but a former governor is not barred from seeking the office again.)

Youngkin has largely focused the final days of the campaign on education amid widespread conservative panic over "critical race theory," calling for parents to dictate their children's school curriculum. McAuliffe fired back at a recent debate, arguing that parents should not be "telling schools what they should teach." Youngkin this week launched a new ad featuring a mother who tried to get Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1987 novel "Beloved" banned from schools, claiming that her nearly college-aged son suffered from "night terrors" due to the book's graphic depiction of slavery. The state legislature twice passed bills that would allow parents to opt their children out of reading books with explicit content but McAuliffe vetoed both bills.

"Just look how he's closing his campaign," Biden said on Tuesday. "He's gone from banning a woman's right to choose to banning books written by a Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize-winning author, Toni Morrison."

Obama also attacked Youngkin for focusing on manufactured outrage over school curricula.

"We don't have time to be wasting on these phony trumped-up culture wars, this fake outrage that right-wing media peddles to juice their ratings," he said Saturday. "And the fact that he's willing to go along with it, instead of talking about serious problems that actually affect serious people. That's a shame."

Ron DeSantis is openly recruiting anti-vaxxer cops — even though he ‘furiously’ denies it: report

During a recent interview with Fox News/Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo, far-right Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis indicated that he would welcome anti-vaxxer police in the Sunshine State — although he is now denying that he ever said that. Never Trump conservative Charlie Sykes, this week in his column for The Bulwark, examines what DeSantis had to say and shows why his words were damning.

"Over the weekend," Sykes explains, "Florida's Ron DeSantis suggested that his state would offer $5000 signing bonuses to out-of-state cops who left their jobs because they had defied vaccine mandates. Now, DeSantis is furiously insisting that he did no such thing."

After drawing criticism for his comments during the Bartiromo interview, Sykes notes, DeSantis walked them back and insisted, "It's for officers, period. It has nothing to do with their vaccination status."

But Sykes offers, with his column, a transcript of that interview, noting that DeSantis "talks about the bonuses quite clearly in the context of the vaccine mandates."

During the interview on "Sunday Morning Futures," Bartiromo asked DeSantis to weigh in on Chicago police officers who are "off the streets" after "defying the vaccine" in their city. DeSantis clearly believed that the anti-vaxxer police in Chicago were being treated unfairly, telling Bartiromo, "I can tell you, Maria, in Florida, not only are we going to want to protect the law enforcement and all the jobs. We're actually actively working to recruit out-of-state law enforcement, because we do have needs in our police and our sheriff's departments. So, in the next legislative session, I'm going to hopefully sign legislation that gives a $5000 bonus to any out-of-state law enforcement that relocates to Florida. So, NYPD, Minneapolis, Seattle, if you're not being treated well, we will treat you better here. You can fill important needs for us, and we'll compensate you as a result."

Sykes observes that DeSantis has had a "tortured balancing act on the vaccine issue," pandering to anti-vaxxers while insisting that he isn't against vaccines.

"Given the state of the GOP today," Sykes laments, "it may even be enough to propel him to the White House."

Sen. Tom Cotton gets called out for 'blatant effort' to perform for Fox News by attacking Merrick Garland

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) put on a show for the Fox News cameras Wednesday afternoon, repeatedly calling Attorney General Merrick Garland "shameful" and demanding his resignation.

Retweeting video of the Arkansas Republican's performance, CNN's congressional reporter Manu Raju revealed Cotton had told him and Punchbowl News co-founder Jake Sherman to "Get your popcorn ready."

"This is, judge, this is shameful," declared Cotton, referring to Garland as a judge instead of as the nation's top law enforcement officer.

Attorney General Garland tried to defend himself, telling Cotton "that's wrong" but the performative lawmaker refused to allow him to speak, repeatedly calling him "shameful."

Further disparaging Garland, Cotton said: "Thank God you are not on the Supreme Court," reminding him how Sen. Mitch McConnell blocked him from even having a hearing after then-President Barack Obama nominated him to the nation's highest court.

Then, pointing at Garland, Cotton continued his attack, saying, "You should resign in disgrace."

Cotton wasn't apparently interested in anything Garland had to say, departing as soon as he finished his performance:

Public Notice founder Aaron Rupar notes Cotton succeeded in immediately getting on Fox News:

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