Conservatives Want To Wage Abortion War, Majority Of Americans Will Have Ballot Response

I enjoy a great legal thriller.  If a book jacket were to frame the plot as starting with a dead-of-the-night ruling by the Supreme Court over an issue that did not have any oral arguments, resulting in a decision that was unsigned by the Justices, and which upended decades of settled law, I would be most intrigued.  I would surely add the book to my cart.

That is, after all, how a great legal drama should leave a reader feeling.  Wanting more.

But when that plot instead is the lead paragraphs in the morning newspaper it makes for a very different feeling for the reader.  There is only dread and concern, with a desire to hurl the newspaper back to the front stoop.

By now we all are again aware that the Supreme Court is morphing towards a most dangerous conservative bent, and precedence is recklessly being tossed aside like last year’s calendar.

Last Thursday night the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision, with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joining the three liberal justices in dissent regarding the ruling which upheld the now infamous Texas abortion law.  (Roberts made a move that underscores the fact he cares about the Court, and his legacy. A topic often noted on this blog.)

We have all become very aware that Senate Bill 8, signed by Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott in May is now law.  It bars abortions once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, which is often before many women even know they are pregnant.  This is the most draconian and bizarre abortion law in the nation.  Not only because it is estimated to prevent an estimated 85% of abortions there, but also because of how the law is framed to work.

What has been created in Texas is more akin to the way those in places like the former USSR used snitches and tattlers to bring down their neighbors and enemies.

Most laws in the land are enforced by government officials. But the outrageous Texas law says that private citizens can step in by suing abortion providers and anyone who “aids and abets” a patient obtaining an abortion after six weeks.

Overnight a chill traveled up the collective spine of the nation.

Think about this.

Family members of a woman getting an abortion, or the taxi cab driver who transported the woman, or any counselor who spoke to the woman about the abortion could all face legal effects from violating the law. If the Gladys Kravitz types in Texas, who will now sneak around communities and poke, pry, and try to gather information on women, should prevail this law says they are entitled to damages of at least $10,000 plus legal fees.

Listening to the nation’s leading legal experts this past week has been one way to sort through the atrocious nature of the law.

The Constitution, including Roe v. Wade, only applies against the government, it doesn’t apply against private individuals,” says Laurence Tribe, a leading constitutional law expert at Harvard. “That’s what makes this really dangerous. It’s a kind of vigilante justice, circumventing all of the mechanisms we have for making sure that the law is enforced fairly, and that it’s not enforced in a way that violates people’s rights.”

While many correctly state the disastrous outcome this is for women and their rightful control of their health decisions it is also equally clear this law is a blow to our understanding of democracy.

I actually enjoy, each time a nominee for the Supreme Court is asked questions by the Judiciary Committee, to hear how that person feels about the meaning of the law and concepts that the court deals with continually.  

Without fail, there was always a deep conversation about the importance of judicial precedent. As one who respects Alexander Hamilton, he being my favorite Founding Father, I let his views make the case. From “The Federalist No. 78” where he stated a robust respect for precedent is indispensable to preventing judges from exercising arbitrary discretion. 

“To avoid an arbitrary discretion in the courts it is indispensable that they should be bound down by strict rules and precedents, which serve to define and point out their duty in every particular case that comes before them; and it will readily be conceived from the variety of controversies which grow out of the folly and wickedness of mankind, that the records of those precedents must unavoidably swell to a very considerable bulk, and must demand long and laborious study to acquire a competent knowledge of them.”

Additionally, I add a fact we need to be mindful of when considering the tossing aside of precedence. This week it was noted on NPR that in cases over the past half-century where a constitutional precedent was overturned, the court was either unanimous or nearly unanimous in that decision, with two or fewer justices in dissent. Hence the call from Hamilton about preventing judges from exercising arbitrary discretion.  Democracy runs the best when the law is stable and society has a level understanding of, and expectations about the issues at the heart of the laws.

So this past week there was, for me, this great chasm between those Senate hearings and the Court’s calamity that allowed for a state legislature to empower individual citizens to harass and intimidate women seeking a decades-long constitutionally protected medical procedure.

So where does the nation go from here with this issue?

Clearly, other state legislatures in the hands of conservative will try to entertain such kindred scenarios and pass legislation that mimics Texas.   After all, these types of zealots have been working to strike down Roe v. Wade for decades.  But what these Republicans have not taken into account is the reaction from the people.

We live in a very politically split nation, but there are a few issues where the people are united.  When it comes to the 1973 Roe decision there is a strong majority–most polls show it at roughly 70%–in support. Therefore, the brunt of negative reaction will be placed, correctly, upon the party who undermines that ruling for women’s health.

What the GOP has done, with the aid of Mitch McConnell and other such luminaries in their party, is place truly culturally backward nominees on the bench. What those throwbacks on the bench are doing is sowing the seeds of anger that will then create well-deserved blowback on the Republican Party in future elections.

Consider the mid-term elections in 2022.  Republicans nationwide are going to need to answer, again and again how they feel about the Texas law.  A law that will only become more unpopular as more stories of actual impacted women in that state make for headlines.  More trouble for the GOP candidates as more court cases result from the Texas law.  And more angst for the GOP over the very idea of a draconian and stupefying ban on abortions after 6-weeks! 

Is it any wonder that President Biden and Democrats grasp the fact that the Republicans have leaned way too far over their skis? Abortion can be a potent and energizing issue in just an average election cycle.  Given what the Republicans have offered as a blazing trash can of disgust we are left to feel genuine shock at their level of amateurish behavior in Texas.

So, Mr. 2022 GOP candidate: “Do you agree that your uncle should be sued by his nosy neighbor concerning his driving a daughter to a medical facility so to allow her to make a personal health decision?”

If conservatives want to wage a political war against women, I know a majority of Americans who will have a response.

And so it goes.

Texas Abortion Editorial Cartoons

The absurdity from Texas has been demonstrated on the editorial pages of newspapers around the nation.

Getting Up And Out For Voting Rights!

All at once, the entire Texas Statehouse Democratic Caucus is the focal point for protecting election rights in the nation. I must say, the spirit and spine they show remind all of us what we need to do in upping our game in the fight to save our democracy.

In the midst of an onslaught of legislative moves by Republicans from coast-to-coast to restrict voting following the 2020 historic voter turnout and the unprecedented use of vote-by-mail, it goes without saying it is essential strong-willed Democrats and independents wage a battle to stop the undermining of the right to cast a ballot.

Some of my Republican readers would argue that the bills under consideration, or the ones already passed, only strengthens ballot integrity and free and fair elections. The rest of us would contend that no matter what coat of paint is applied to the bills they are still voter repression efforts.

One part of the Texas proposal under consideration, that is not in any way defendable, is the removal of drive-through voting. As an example, Harris County first tested drive-thru voting in a summer 2020 primary runoff election with little controversy, but its use of 10 drive-thru polling places for the November general election created Republican outrage. Voters remained in their cars and showed a photo ID and verified their registration before casting ballots on portable voting machines. There was nothing different about the voting other than they might have been listening to the radio as they made their balloting choices.

As a person on the national news last night quipped, ‘We allow drive-through pick up for alcohol sales, but not for voting!”

Another regressive move by Republicans would prohibit local election officials from sending unsolicited applications to request a mail-in ballot. Harris County’s attempt to proactively send applications to all 2.4 million registered voters last year was blocked by the Texas Supreme Court. Under the bill mailing unrequested applications to voters in the future would also be blocked. After all, why encourage voters to exercise their rights!

As of June 21, 17 states enacted 28 new laws that restrict access to the vote. With some state legislatures still in session, more laws will certainly follow. But if the Democrats in the Texas Legislature have anything to say about it their state will not be adding constrictive laws to the statutes.

I honestly can say the willpower and steadfastness of the Texas Democrats are inspiring. For the second time this year, they have staged a walkout in an effort to block Republicans from passing new voting restrictions. You might recall they walked out of the Capitol building in May.

Now they have left the state!

That bold move reminded me of the days in February 2011 when religious leaders in Illinois and Wisconsin offered their congregations and homes as a sanctuary for Wisconsin Democratic senators who walked out of the legislature to block a vote on then-Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to roll back collective bargaining rights for public employees.

The goal of the Texas Democrats is, of course, to deny the legislative special session the quorum of members it needs to pass massive changes based on lies about the 2020 presidential election. Texas Republicans are pandering to the base that supports Donald Trump, but in so doing are eroding at the foundations of the republic.

Those Democrats who have left the state will continue to work. At least 50 of the 67 Democratic lawmakers flew to Washington, where they will meet with other legislators to push for federal voting protections. It is my hope that the gutsy move they are making will, in contrast, showcase the lack of resolve and backbone among several Democratic senators who have not been agile enough in protecting our democratic (small d) values.

Republicans can’t win elections unless they cheat by suppressing votes. (Or rig district boundaries with gerrymandering.) Democrats in Texas are calling the GOP out with a national headline-making move.

We need to now press our calls and emails to members of Congress to be as mindful of the right to ballot access as the Texas Democrats are doing.

And so it goes.

Free-Dumb In Texas And Mississippi

President Biden said in relation to relaxing across-the-board state mandates during the pandemic in places like Texas and Mississippi, it was just too early.

“Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now these masks make a difference,” Biden, who was wearing a mask, told reporters at the White House.

He said the United States was “on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change” the course of the pandemic, with vaccinations currently underway across the nation.

But, he said, “The last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that, in the meantime, everything’s fine, take off your mask.”

I totally agree with Biden in his assessment of the situation about the medical data regarding COVID. But I do differ with him about using the term Neanderthal. Considering the brainpower of some of these GOP ‘leaders’ makes the comparison rather insulting to Neanderthals.

I was outside assisting Mother Nature with spring melting and talked with some neighbors today. One of them had family in Texas and there was a clear-out denunciation of the short-sighted action of Governor Greg Abbott.

It comes as no surprise that medical professionals are very concerned about a stronger variant wave that is coming. They are mindful of the transit points–such as in places like Texas–where there is a weakness in accepting public responsibility for the actions so to stem the spread of the virus. The political culture of places like Texas is skewed towards Free-Dumb, but the nation pays the price for their lack of understanding of science and data about COVID.

For the rest of the nation who find science to be a good thing, I urge getting vaccinated and continue to prevent infection–especially the coronavirus variants by sticking to the fundamentals that we know work. Wear a mask and social distance. Wash your hands often and be good to other people.

Capital Times’ State Debate Started Off My Day!

This is what I first saw in my news feed this morning. Who does not enjoy a headline? The Capital Times’ State Debate continues to be a lively and topical location for readers to get an array of views and opinions.

Texans Need Civics Books Following Winter Storm

A minister, who is a friend, wrote on Facebook today her desire to assist Texans with something more than prayers. We responded that perhaps sending civics books with chapters highlighted about the way revenues from locals are used to pay for infrastructure might be appropriate. It was not meant to be flippant but rather a truism that ranks with teaching a person to fish being better than just supplying seafood for free.

Watching the news from Texas over the past few days has been most educational for the nation as it plainly and directly underscores what happens when people will not pay taxes for needed programs aimed at their own long-term well-being. When it comes to their electrical grid and its lack of weatherization–a problem that was highlighted following the 2011 ‘storm of a lifetime’ it proves that the allure of lower taxes and less regulation prevailed over reasoned thinking. Now another ‘storm of a lifetime’ has struck, which first, further proves the science of climate change.

But secondly, that Texans are needing all sorts of federal ‘socialism’.

Let me state that it is absolutely the duty of the federal government to aid the state and to alleviate the plight of our fellow citizens. I do not subscribe to the conservative’s Darwinian view that we first need to cut programs to find the dollars for doing what is the social compact we have with one another in the nation. I am a liberal Democrat, and even though Texans have not demonstrated intelligence with their infrastructure needs, does not mean my party loses our sense of national priorities when it comes to natural disasters.

Having said that, however, does not require me to lessen my point about the lack of civics-education among too many Texans. What we are reading in the papers and watching unfold on television showcases what can only be termed their flagrant disregard and disdain for reason and logic. The regulations that are required for weatherization, and the tax dollars that are then required for the projects make sense so that when Mother Nature comes a’-howling a crisis can be averted. While not each weather event can be totally prepared for, this winter storm in Texas could have been managed had political leadership been undertaken many years ago.

It is frustrating to see so many Texans seriously impacted because Republican officials have turned every attempt at needed regulations into some red-tape politically-inspired nightmare. If the knuckle-draggers in Texas thought prevention was costly…let this Northerner alert them they are to be stunned at the costs associated with fixing broken pipes. Think how much more cost-efficient it would have been to have insulated when the sun was shining and it was warm. And everything was not sopping wet!

I was the Administrative Assistant for the Joint Committee for Review Of Administrative Rules in the Wisconsin statehouse for two years. We undertook a number of code reviews for homes and businesses. While I can attest to the dialogue about ‘red-tape’, I can also speak to the logic of mandated standards and construction guidelines. They offer the best long-term protection for the dollars spent. I was proud to be a small part of making our state government work for the needs of the citizens.

So when I say civics books need to be sent to Texans following this winter storm I am not being smug or snarky. I am being frank about the real problem at hand. The problem is plain to see. You have to want to make the government work for the people for it to then, well, actually work.

Conservatives just need to be educated to that fact.

And so it goes.

Ann Richards’ Life On PBS Is Spectacular!

Ann Richards is an iconic personality not only in Texas, but nationwide.

PBS’ Great Performances Presents Emmy Award-winner Holland Taylor’s “Ann”.  It is something you will not want to miss. A one-woman show with punch and spit-fire lines that tell a story and convey larger themes about politics and America.  We watched it late last night and loved it as we howled with laughter and delight all along the way.

The play is a compelling look at the impassioned, inspiring woman who enriched the lives of her followers, friends, and family. Beginning with a commencement address, the play bursts into a blistering day in the life of the governor, with a cascade of task-wrangling and conversations with everyone from Richards’ friend Bill Clinton to her grandbaby Lily. We see the grit, warmth, and depth in her colorful, captivating character, bigger than the state from which she hails.

Check your local listings and be prepared for a great entertaining broadway-type performance!

Jack Craver Still Going Strong–From Austin, Texas

When I first entered the blogging world one of the nicest guys I met was Jack Craver, then living and writing in Madison.  He was always upbeat, filled with political insight, and fun conversation.

Now Craver is front and center in another educated, liberal, and vibrant city.  Austin, Texas.

It from there that Craver gives a shout-out along with a report on how he is following his path in life.  This blogging desk sends him all the best.

I’ve been a freelance reporter in Austin since July of 2015.  I cover City Council for the Austin Monitor and regularly contribute articles to other local and national publications.

This blog is what I do in my spare time. My focus is on city of Austin politics and policy, with a particular focus on transportation and city-building. I try to update it every weekday, so please visit every day, leave comments and send me tips at jackcraver88@gmail.com.

Once upon a time, I was a full-time political reporter in Madison, Wis., but my goal is to never have a real job again. To that end, in addition to reporting, I also provide copywriting services. So if you’re reading my blog and you think that my writing style would work well for you or your organization, feel free to drop me a line. As long as the work does not present a conflict with my reporting and you don’t make me use words like “utilize,” I’m your guy.