BENZONIA – I’ve waited for this one from the Department of Justice. It’s been coming for weeks. Attorney General Merrick Garland sued Georgia on June 25, 2021, asserting that its despicable voter suppression law passed in March is illegal. The law, like others by Republican Legislatures in 13 more states, is designed to make it much harder for people of color to vote. But under the U.S. Voting Rights Act, discriminating against groups of people is against the law.
The Justice Department is certain to seek an injunction to block Georgia from putting its restrictions into effect. Such a court order would have consequences for the other voter suppression legislation. In effect, President Biden is flexing the federal government’s muscles to challenge Red states and assure that the 2022 and 2024 elections are not subject to deviant Republican behavior.
Garland’s lawsuit, and the effects it could have on Red state legislating, is a fresh step by the president and his aides to turn the national narrative in a new direction. That is to 1) depart from the madcap GOP assault on constitutional safeguards and simple decency that is keeping America in a swirl of nerves and confusion and 2) introduce policy and approve legislation that is relevant to contemporary race, justice, economic and ecological conditions. In short, to prove that competent men and women in the White House, Congress, and federal agencies can be effective in responding to the public interest.
What’s Really Going On
Here’s some guidance in sorting it out.
It’s easy to get caught up in all the Republican crazies and the party’s craziness, what New York Times columnist Tim Egan calls the G.O.P. “mash-up of madness.” The national media love the story. Voter suppression. Efforts to promote the incompetent former president and bolster the Big Lie. State GOP leaders pressing for fake recounts. A neurotic attack on how race is taught in schools. A national television propaganda operation that specializes in promoting conspiracy and lies. A cast of beyond the pale lawmakers making all manner of freak-show declarations.
For real. The narrative is bizarre and feels dangerous. It’s not quite the four years of presidential misconduct that kept America on the edge of its collective seat. But it’s close enough. It’s a big old hairy – and scary – political ordeal. It carries a good bit of the norm-breaking, risk-inviting, whacked-out escapades of the Trump years. And it is sufficiently creepy and seemingly frightening enough to help CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and a few other select mainstream newsrooms prevent erosion of the big broadcast and digital audiences that for four years made them the center of national attention.
I have a different take on the political peril of the moment. It’s this. Republicans will not be able to cheat their way into control of the House, the Senate, or the White House. While it is true that tens of millions of Americans support the G.O.P.’s message — insurrection, conspiracy, Big Lie, white supremacy, Trump cult, division, manufactured grievance — more Americans do not. Republicans lost the House, the Senate, and the White House in the last two national elections. Republicans have one majority voter victory — let that sink in, one majority victory — in a national presidential election since 1992. Lesson: There are more sane Americans than insane Americans.
And that fact is reflected in contemporary America. Where is Republican radical ideology dominant? In a select group of institutions – evangelical churches, Fox News, the KKK, the NRA, red state legislatures. But not in local governance. Not in the military. Not in art, music, film, and theater. Not in corporate boardrooms. Not in social or mainstream media. Not in cities and inner ring suburbs. Not on campus. Not in science. Not in commerce and trade.
Biden’s Working His Presidency
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s election, and the way they are mastering their administration, is moving the country to a new era of national resolve to competently manage itself. Evidence of this change in national capacity comes daily now in and outside Washington.
Covid deaths reached 600,000 in the United States this month. That’s an epic number of tragedies. But private companies developed safe and effective vaccines in record time last year. The national government made them available this year to every adult and teen anxious to take them. Infection and mortality rates are steadily declining. The country is much safer than it was six months ago.
Congress accompanied the scientific breakthrough with a brawny economic strategy. It enacted two rescue bills in 2020 and 2021 that injected over $4 trillion into the national economy and performed as they were intended. They prevented America from sinking into a depression.
This month the Supreme Court, for the third time, declared Obamacare legal and constitutional, rejecting the Republican gambit to end a federal program that tens of millions of people rely on for their well-being.
Trump Is Done
On the same day that Garland introduced the suit against Georgia last week, the president and senators of both parties announced they’d reached a compromise on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure proposal. If it passes the Senate – and very well could given how much money Republican-led states need for highway transportation modernization and repairs — the bill also would put hundreds of billions of dollars into systems to recharge electric cars, improve train service, bolster mass transit systems, make water systems safer, and make broadband available in every region of the country. The deal illustrates the president’s negotiating skills and addresses his goal of achieving some measure of bipartisanship.
And then there’s January 6. The violent insurrection is a weight on the G.O.P., the lawmakers who supported it, and on Donald Trump. Senate Republicans are working overtime to head off a Congressional inquiry on the Capitol attack. They are trying just as hard to diminish the trauma of that day and shift the blame for its cause and consequences. The Democrats in the House, though, will undertake the inquiry. The Biden administration is embracing its responsibility to relentlessly pursue the insurrectionists. More than 500 people attackers have been identified and charged so far. The Justice Department has many more suspects.
All of this, and so much more, makes Donald Trump a pariah to most Americans. He will not run again. Repeat – not run again despite what news media speculate and Trump cultists say they want. He knows he’ll lose. Again. Trump won’t subject himself to another national humiliation. In the meantime he is under investigation for a variety of financial crimes. Prosecutors this month said they were preparing criminal indictments.
Outside of Washington, there is more evidence of an era of progress taking shape. Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer convicted in April of murdering George Floyd last year, was just sentenced to 22.5 years in prison, one of the longest sentences ever levied on a police officer.
With a wicked drought taking hold of the West this summer, a deep freeze that disabled Texas last winter, and heavy floods and storms regularly blitzing every region of the country, the United States is embracing a new organizing principle around dealing with climate change.
Electric vehicle sales are accelerating and American manufacturers are prime innovators. Tesla sales are strong. Ford and General Motors have designed and engineered a fleet of electric cars and trucks.
The developers of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported dirty tar sands oil from Canada to Oklahoma, cancelled the project this month after years of public resistance, especially from farmer activists in Nebraska. Another nationally significant pipeline protest is occurring in northern Minnesota to block Line 3, an Enbridge Inc. project to transport tars sands oil from Canada to Superior, Wisc.
Speaking of favorable trends in energy development. Sales of American coal continue to fall as coal-fired plants close. Generating capacity from wind and solar is steadily rising. Major financial institutions are not funding new oil production projects.
And though a federal court turned aside the Biden administration’s bid to block energy exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, there is no certainty at all that oil companies will pursue development. It takes at least a decade and billions of dollars to develop a major oil field. What is missing in this picture? The future of oil as a transportation fuel, and natural gas to generate electricity, weakens every year that passes. Just like the permafrost that would support massive drilling and extraction equipment is rapidly melting. In a decade the global market for both fuels, according to various national and international projections, is almost certain to be considerably smaller.
Too Hopeful? Hardly.
This assessment of current conditions may appear too optimistic to some. The G.O.P. has succeeded in fostering the demented politic and the unhinged actors — Trump, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Tucker Carlson, Rudy Giuliani – that provoke doubts about the stability of American democracy. My thought is that the concern is overwrought.
It’s a long time to November 2022. The majority of Americans reject the radical ideology. The real patriots are those among us that know what’s right, what’s true. They support where the country is going. Not the dark ugliness of where it’s just been.
— Keith Schneider