Biden’s Supreme Court Nominee Will Not Be Mired To Textualism, Will Understand Privacy

And just like that, a new page was turned in Washington. The national narrative took on a new angle.

The news this morning was surprising only that it did not wait to be released at the end of June. The end of this term of the Supreme Court.

Justice Stephen Breyer will retire and in so doing President Joe Biden will have his first opportunity to place a justice on the Court. The ideological balance will not change with this selection, but the placement of a justice who understands the foundation of how the law should be viewed in the larger context is simply vital.

It is strongly assumed that Biden will follow through on his campaign promise to place the first Black woman on the Court. That would be historic, and politically sound. But the larger victory to the nation is the fact that any nominee from the Biden White House will not be a follower of the sterile notion of ‘original intent” or its cousin in intellectual laziness ‘strict constructionist’ thinking.

When we placed a ballot in our hands in the fall of 2020 and cast a vote for president many likely did so with the character of Donald Trump top most in their thoughts. While that was clearly on my mind too, my overriding decision, however, was based on the need for solid fact-based and serious jurists for the federal courts and the Supreme Court. That consideration, along with international affairs drives my voting as it has since my first vote in 1980.

Many in the nation cringe, and correctly so when thinking about ‘original intent” or ‘strict constructionist’ thinking.  The main reason to dismiss this way to view the Constitution is that such concepts are nothing less than a slap to the Framers of that document. There is nothing to suggest they wanted to be the final arbiter on an evolving nation. The second reason to find much dismay with constructionism is the way it undermines the moral authority of the courts.

Republicans and right-wing conservatives talk often about reigning in the courts from ‘liberalism’ and in so doing think that then gives them license to enact harsh rulings about the progress of society regarding a whole raft of issues. Using ‘original intent’ as a partisan weapon places a wedge issue into the judiciary and in so doing undermines one of our republic’s major institutions.

To state, as the ‘originalists’ do, that the words of the Constitution do not evolve with time is a seriously flawed idea.  To pretend that the living America of ideas and events does not necessitate a Constitution that bends and adapts within the framework of guiding principles is one of the most bizarre and dangerous concepts that has ever been suggested.  Those who promote such ideas are the American equivalent of the Taliban, who use the Koran in highly misguided ways.  Pragmatic and logical voters understand past decisions made by the court, along with public needs, and expectations, along with the larger values that were implied in the Constitution, are needed to be used by judges when making rulings.

Trying to do a mind-meld with the Framers about software privacy or looking for guidance in their written texts about transgender rights is simply absurd.

History can be a guide as to the dangers of ‘strict constructionist’ thinking. It can also be a guide as to the wisdom of using guiding principles of the Constitution to expand rights and increase the American Dream. The horrendous Dred Scott decision can be viewed as the work of the former, but most of us better recognize the wisdom of the latter as Chief Justice Earl Warren’s tenure outlawed segregation in public schools.

That is why I firmly believe that when it comes to presidential elections we must always be aware of the need for a working modern judiciary.

One of the central issues in the nation is the right of women to have control over their bodies when it comes to abortion. One of the foundations in the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade, is the core constitutional principle of privacy. Conservatives rail against the idea that ‘privacy’ is even protected in the Constitution. 

Now, while it is true that the Constitution does not mention the right of privacy, over time there has been recognition that privacy is an unenumerated right.  The Griswold Case is one that every high school kid learns about; as it was the first time that the Constitution protects that vital right to privacy.  In that case, it was about the right to contraceptives.  In 1973, the issue of privacy was a central argument and focus, as it was in the famed Lawrence v. Texas, where privacy was used to strike down a law against gay sex.

The nation’s attention is now to focus on one way we judge the legacy of a president. The selection of a justice for the Court. We can be most confident that with President Biden the eventual nominee will have a firm understanding that the Constitution is a living document.

That is after all, why we vote for a Democrat to sit in the Oval Office.

And so it goes.

Low-Brow Moments From Democratic Women Make For This Week’s Cheapest Political Stunts

There are many ways to create a headline and push a message if you are in the political arena.  Most of the first-ranked names on both sides of the aisle have a team of media consultants who drive a theme, craft a message, and then sell it. Only the pols who have some over-driving need to roll over anything in their way take matters onto the unseemly paths.

That happened twice this week.  President Biden was the recipient of both occurrences. It looked bad because it was bad.  Both for the leader of our nation, but also for two politicos that need strong support if they are to prevail in their next elections.

In a publicity stunt of the most rank kind, ‘Democratic’ Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, took to the chamber’s floor before President Biden had the opportunity to address the caucus.  She wanted to make a fast headline of her strong desire to be a major roadblock to the national work required to address voting reforms.

It was truly ‘in your face’ politics. Sinema’s stand was not a surprise, as we knew she was very much opposed to ending the filibuster. But she delivered her ‘nothing new here but this stick in the president’s eye’ less than 45 minutes before Biden arrived at the Democratic luncheon. He wanted to prod all 50 members to support changing Senate rules, allowing for a carve-out to allow voting rights legislation to pass.

Earlier in the week many thought it most low-brow when Stacey Abrams created headlines by being a no-show when Biden traveled to Georgia for a voting-rights speech.  It was an odd spectacle of its own kind since she needs to have all hands-on deck if she is to marshal forward with a race for the statehouse.  She lost her first attempt by about 55,000 votes in 2018.

Needless to say, Abrams has a huge national base of support, a truly first-rate fundraising operation, and a message that is pointed to the needs of Georgia’s residents.  In other words, she has room for being courteous and polite when the president flies in on Air Force One.

Not for the first time do I comment on a politician asking voters to have faith in their leadership abilities but then show weakness by making a less-than-artful political move.   I admonished Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial Mary Burke for skipping the chance to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with President Obama.  I took Senator Russ Feingold to task for not standing alongside Obama at a Labor Day rally in our state. I believe that not being on stage with your president should dismay all about the state of our politics.

I am perplexed with Democrats who cannot stand up and take credit for the good things that have been done or refuse to stand alongside those who brought them to the dance.   One of the main problems for Democrats as the mid-term elections approach is the lack of spine and verve in strutting their accomplishments.  While Democrats limp along without cheering for what was gained, Republicans will be more than happy in the midterms to spin the past two years into a frightful liberal nightmare. 

Such behavior, from Abrams to Sinema, is just not a very classy thing to witness.  Regardless of politics, you should always stand with your friends.  There comes a time when you say, whatever the impact, I will not turn my back on the leader of the free world.   The president is coming to my state, and by God, I will be there with him.  Or the president is coming to my legislative chamber and I will offer all due respect.

That may seem corny and outdated in this era of slash and burn politics, but it is a standard I still think has merit.  It is a value I think many of my fellow citizens share, even in this jaded time in which we live.

Student Loan Cancellation Needs Democratic Energy From Biden White House

This morning my newsfeed reported that now there are 26 House Democrats not seeking reelection to Congress. That is certainly a driving narrative of what the tea leaves are forecasting for the party now in power as the midterm elections approach. I feel the Senate can be held by Democrats, but the House will fall to Republicans.

Already, more Democrats have called it quits this year than in any cycle since 1996, when 29 members newly in the minority decided not to run again. The same number of Democrats, 29, retired in 1994, the year Republicans reclaimed control of Congress for the first time in four decades.

There are many issues that deserve attention in this calendar year as Congress ratchets up campaign efforts while keenly aware there is a shortening window to address national needs. One of the most pressing and also widely popular is the cancellation of a portion of the student loans.

This is not a new issue, but one that did drive much discussion in the 2020 presidential race when Joe Biden campaigned on forgiving $10,000 in federal student loans per person. That was a proper stance to take in the election, and should now be one that is addressed in the form of governing. The reason to put some energy and verve into implementing this idea is that it is smart policymaking and smart politics.

While I have urged for a portion of loans to be canceled, I still hold very much to the realization that incentivizing education by having students pay a share of the burden makes sense. When personal effort is required to gain an education a more strict adherence to the books results.

So why then do I support President Biden making a move to end at least $10,000 of loans per person? At a time when our economy is weakened by an ongoing pandemic, there is a need to find whatever juice is available and inject it so to stimulate job growth and GDP. By freeing up money that would be paid to some student loans it would instead be invested in everything from homes to cars to perhaps even starting a new small business.

The second reason I urge action is due to strongly and continually advocating for education. It is not always possible or easy for young people to take the classes they want or need, but we know the power of skills attained and the revenue it produces in taxes and investments. This underscores why the federal action of loan cancellation would make long-term sense. We need to let young minds constantly know we value their interest in education.

I am confident that the majority of rank-and-file citizens well understand the benefit the country receives from educated young people moving into a wide array of jobs. A December poll released by the Morning Consult/Politico found over 60% of voters surveyed support student debt forgiveness. Polling research up and down the line point to national public approval for assisting people burdened with educational loans.

It has been strongly advocated, so to make this policy happen, that Biden uses his authority under the Higher Education Act of 1964 to enact wide-scale student loan cancellation through an executive order. The other option, of course, is for Congress to act legislatively and do the work. One way, or the other, this policy move needs to take place.

Intellectual strength is not something we talk openly about in this nation. But we should.

When some voters feel a resume is to be snickered at and expertise is not something to be valued we need to be reminded of what took Americans to the moon. It was not just rocket thrust, but the science and technology that allowed our flag to be placed on the moon. That effort was made possible by students first sitting in a classroom and learning.

Late last year a shocking amount of money was spent on our national defense. The House passed an authorization bill costing $768 billion. Certainly then, a person in middle America should feel the federal government can lessen the student loan burden by $10,000.

And it can be correctly argued that a keen mind and skills learned are as valuable to a democracy as a missile.

And so it goes.

Voting Rights MUST Be Senate’s Focus, January 6th Was Dry Run For Insurrectionists

Let us be honest. Our democracy is under attack.

As we near the January 6th anniversary of the violent rioting and deadly outcome on our nation’s Capitol, where over 140 law enforcement officers were injured, we must grasp that event was not a solitary one that is now over and done. Instead, the 6th was akin to the first shots fired at Fort Sumter in 1861. The roadmap for further violence and an even more dire stab at the heart of democracy is outlined by Republicans who have simply made up their minds to steal the 2024 presidential election.

They have created and fostered through FOX News the tortured twisting of facts and data from the November 2020 election, repeating the lies often enough to sway their viewers across the land. Republican state legislators have rammed through in a number of states harsh and unnecessary voting restrictions so to make it harder to cast ballots and fog the outcomes if the final tally does not meet their wishes.

Conservatives have even used as a talking point that state legislatures have the final say in which slate of presidential electors gets to vote in the Electoral College. Republicans have argued, out loud and in the light of day, for a crazy upside-down theory where, for instance, a state legislature could undo the will of the state voter. For example, if more people in a state voted for a Democratic nominee a legislature would still have the power to pick a slate for the Republican nominee to be counted at the Electoral College.

When the Republicans tell the nation their intentions, through words and legislative actions, the citizens need to pay heed. This is not just some fabricated scare tactic Democrats are promoting. Republicans are telling us exactly what they intend to do.

Today Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a strongly worded, and much-needed letter to his colleagues. Simply put the Senate must pull their pants up and do the work that our democracy demands. The new push for legislation dealing with what Republicans did on January 6th and their plans for the future must be dealt with by senators.

As we all are witnessing, the attacks on our democracy have not ceased. In fact, they have only accelerated. Much like the violent insurrectionists who stormed the US Capitol nearly one year ago, Republican officials in states across the country have seized on the former president’s Big Lie about widespread voter fraud to enact anti-democratic legislation and seize control of typically non-partisan election administration functions.

While these actions all proceed under the guise of so-called ‘election integrity’, the true aim couldn’t be more clear. They want to unwind the progress of our Union, restrict access to the ballot, silence the voices of millions of voters, and undermine free and fair elections. They wish to propagate the Big Lie perpetuated by the former president that our elections are not on the level.”

Republicans will, doubtless, respond that they’re just listening to the concerns of their voters. Oh, please! Stop the crap! The only purpose for the newly enacted laws in various states and the proposed bills is to ensure more and more restrictions so as to impinge the ability of voting by Black people, people of color, young people, and lower-income Americans. 

Long-time readers of this blog know I am very much rooted in history and civics. What happened on the 6th, and what has been threatened for the future based on legislative action to curtail voting, must not be seen as a partisan fight. The issue at hand, the survival of our democracy, should not be a partisan contest. What I am writing about here, and what the citizens need to be engaged in, is the struggle for the nation’s ideals. It’s very survival as a functioning democracy.

This is an American fight. It’s a battle between conservative and autocratic forces that want to go backwards to an era of Jim Crow laws and the majority in the nation who value a more inclusive democracy with cultural diversity mirrored by election results. Make no mistake that is the fear of an older and too-white America. Therefore, we must demand the furtherance of a more inclusive democracy. It starts with a push by voters to insist the Senate address the filibuster issue and then pass the voting-rights legislation.

Our democracy requires nothing less.

And so it goes.

As We Honor Robert Dole, A Lesson For America

Compromise In Washington Makes Stronger Bridges, Better Roads, Ports Near You

We know what happens when partisan gridlock ties up the governing process making Washington mostly useful as the tool for nighttime comedy writers.

But what happened when 19 Republican Senators joined the majority, or when 13 House Republicans linked votes with their Democratic colleagues on the same congressional bill?

On Monday President Joe Biden signed a truly impressive legislative measure to address infrastructure concerns in the nation. The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill matters for more than just needed physical improvements. Let me explain.

As a result of Congress earlier this year, and correctly so, pumping over a trillion dollars into the economy due to the pandemic, it might seem massive funding amounts are commonplace in headlines. While that is true, the significance of the new legislation and the dollars pumped into states and communities should not be overlooked. The infrastructure projects will impact each and every American.

There is the essential $110 billion to be spent on roads, bridges, and other major transportation projects. With the President’s signature, $66 billion in freight and passenger rail will be updated. It will direct $39 billion into public transit systems, which will assist local urban centers, such as Madison and Sun Prairie.

This blog has commented on the absolute need for expanding broadband, especially following the educational debacle in some parts of the nation that occurred with long-distance education due to COVID. So I am very pleased with the $65 billion into expanding broadband.

The reason we can applaud these items listed here, and a plethora of others in the measure, is due to the ability of members from both parties to move forward with the primary reason they were sent to Washington. To do the work of the public.

Over the many years when voters were asked what angers them about government, the primary reason can be summed up that the failure to compromise and get bills passed that impacts ‘the folks back home’ is the one that most rankles. 

The all-out ultra-partisanship has been building for decades, and this one glimmer of bipartisanship being sealed into a final package will not allow for everyone to see the light. To feel the art of the possible.

But to not stop and recognize the positive impact of working together on this measure will only allow the continuing rancor that consumes Washington to have won another day.

I can just see some conservative candidates challenge Republican incumbents who stood up and decided that government should act for better roads and bridges. How dare a member of the GOP work with the majority party! We have come to a place in our tribal politics when infrastructure is now viewed, by some, as Red or Blue. It was not so long ago that infrastructure bills were just common-sense measures where every state and congressional district proved to be lifted up and improved.

Every district will win with this funding measure too, but many of the Congressional Republicans will carp for their partisan ends. That is a sad place where our nation has landed.

For the rest of us, therefore, it is important to grasp the value of compromise and bipartisanship. We can see the fruit of such work.

And in the future, we will feel it too as we ride on smoother roads and walk through improved airports.

And so it goes.

Anger Boils Over At Public Meetings, Elected Officials Should Not Be Threatened

It does not take long after opening the newspapers or turning on the news to read or hear another example of overheated rhetoric and even threats coming from the public who attend local board meetings. As of late, it is school board meetings across the country that have stirred outrage from those who attend and wish to make a political statement. In some cases, it would appear that local elected officials need a security team to drive back home.

The anger and threats are most concerning. Not just for the specific people targeted, but for the larger process of having boards and commissions study and work on public issues, and then take the best path forward. To have competing ideas is one thing, but to bluster about and post online the addresses of elected members so to foment danger is simply not acceptable.

I recall former Wisconsin State Representative Lary Swoboda saying as we drove to a special meeting in Southern Door County that it was likely to be a heated and contentious evening. Property tax increases had caused a spike in anger among many, but especially the farmers in the rural communities.

The large room was filled with people, a fair number wearing workboots and less than warm greetings were offered as we found our place to sit near the front. There were loud exchanges at times, but the mood altered considerably when a farmer stood and in response to the news that a local school would have a dumbwaiter installed to help at lunchtime remarked, “Well, for all the taxes we pay could they not put in a smart waiter?”

Everything need not be a nasty drag-out verbal brawl, and that seemed the intent of that attendee. I recall as we left more handshakes and general banter than vitriol was offered. That is how public meetings should end.

The concerns about an array of issues are most worthy of conversations, and yes, they can and will get frothy and energized. That is the nature of our system. But they need not become threatening or violent. What we have witnessed over the past year, however, should alert us we are not moving in a positive direction when it comes to the handling of our differences.

There is no way to countenance what has happened since 13 Congressional Republicans voted with the Democratic majority for the massive, and much-needed infrastructure bill. A number of Republicans who resent that any member of their party had the temerity to break ranks and vote to make the government operate are now creating an environment where personal safety is very much a concern. The members who voted for the funding have found themselves on the receiving end of threats to their workplaces and homes.

One can look at such events from the school board to the halls of Congress and see some patterns. There are some who stir the pot and create the heat knowing that others in the larger community who are easily led will join in and make the waters roil even higher. Stoking passions over matters such as building bridges or providing vaccines, in and of themselves, are not the central concern of the ones behind the curtain.

The intention of outside players from Russia to China is to inflame tensions on topical issues and severely divide this nation. In so doing the country is weakened at home and abroad.

The New York Times spotlighted the issue of threats towards those elected to do a job.

Yet violent talk has tipped over into actual violence in ways big and small. School board members and public health officials have faced a wave of threats, prompting hundreds to leave their posts. A recent investigation by Reuters documented nearly 800 intimidating messages to election officials in 12 states.

And threats against members of Congress have jumped by 107 percent compared with the same period in 2020, according to the Capitol Police. Lawmakers have been harassed at airports, targeted at their homes and had family members threatened. Some have spent tens of thousands on personal security.

This is not just all an organic development, but rather part of a larger power play at work. So it falls to each one of us to take a stand for a mature and reasoned way forward when dealing with contentious matters in the political arena. The alternative is chaos and a further undermining of the democratic process that is essential to our way of life.

And so it goes.

Andrew Cuomo To Be Arrested. What About Donald Trump?

I am never sure why some men, who find themselves the center of attention for being too stupid for words, took actions that clearly were ill-advised.

Do men who force themselves on women not know there are call-girls who (I am told) will do whatever is asked? That there are outlets for almost everything conceivable on the internet? That being a top elected official means having a wide selection of willing women who will enjoy such company?

So what makes men so stupid to force themselves on a woman who wants nothing to do with such advances?

Or to be precisely pointed here what made former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo feel he could forcibly touch a woman? The news today is just the latest chapter in a sordid book.

A criminal complaint against Cuomo has now been filed by Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple. Cuomo was summoned to appear in court next month on a misdemeanor charge.

The alleged crime took place at the governor’s mansion on December 7, 2020 when Cuomo “intentionally and for no legitimate purpose” forcibly placed his hand under the blouse of an unnamed victim and onto an intimate body part.

You can not make this up.

But if we are going to talk about men with power who then abuse women and commit criminal acts let us not forget Donald Trump.

He was accused of many sexual crimes including rape. Add in the financial crimes, and the insurrection against our country, and all of a sudden there is a need for a bevy of lawyers to handle the charges.

Cuomo is in need of some legal pushback and then some intense therapy.

But Trump deserves a very tight jail cell.

No man gets a pass for acting like a cad, or worse for treating a woman like a mere sex object.

And so it goes.