She had been napping in bed with her father, Courtenay Block, late last month when she discovered the 9-millimeter handgun he often kept under his pillow in his Kansas City, Mo., home. It was equipped with a laser sight that lit up like the red lights on her cousins’ sneakers. Mr. Block told the police he woke to see Sha’Quille by his bed, bleeding and crying, the gun at her feet. A bullet had pierced her skull.
In a country with more than 30,000 annual gun deaths, the smallest fingers on the trigger belong to children like Sha’Quille.
During a single week in April, four toddlers — Holston, Kiyan, Za’veon and Sha’Quille — shot and killed themselves, and a mother driving through Milwaukee was killed after her 2-year-old apparently picked up a gun that had slid out from under the driver’s seat. It was a brutal stretch, even by the standards of researchers who track these shootings.
Just weeks before North Carolina Republicans enacted their insta-infamous HB2 transgender discrimination law, I wrote that the M.O. of the extremist Republican Party is this: find the lines, cross them, dare people to push them back. Yesterday the U.S. Department of Justice pushed back:
RALEIGH — U.S. Justice Department officials repudiated North Carolina’s House Bill 2 on Wednesday, telling Gov. Pat McCrory that the law violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act and Title IX – a finding that could jeopardize billions in federal education funding.
The department gave state officials until Monday to respond “by confirming that the State will not comply with or implement HB2.”
This was not unexpected. When Republican legislators placed an anti-marriage equality amendment to the North Carolina state constitution on the 2012 primary ballot, then N.C. House Speaker (now U.S. Senator) Thom Tillis told the NCSU newspaper, “If it passes, I think it will be repealed within 20 years.” That assessment did not stop them. Amendment 1 did pass. A federal court declared it unconstitutional in two.
HB2 has been in place less than two months.
Donald Trump all but officially clinched the 2016 Republican nomination for president when Sen. Ted Cruz bowed out last night after a crushing loss in the Indiana primary. Bernie Sanders upset Hillary Clinton to keep his campaign alive, but because Democrats assign delegates proportionally, he gained little ground in the delegate chase.
Politico reports that Sen. Elizabeth Warren wasted no time in launching an assault on the presumptive Republican nominee, “hitting him with a blistering late-night tweetstorm in which she cast the presumptive Republican nominee as a racist with a dangerous authoritarian streak.” She defined the challenge ahead both for herself and the country:
What happens next will test the character for all of us – Republican, Democrat, and Independent.
— Elizabeth Warren (@elizabethforma) May 4, 2016
Pretty soon Republicans won’t need to insist voters present photo identity cards at the polls. The will have trained “wrong thinking people” not to try. The New York Times reported on studies indicating how that works: people confused about how the ID laws work simply stay home:
“What voters hear is that you need to have an ID,” said Mark P. Jones of the Baker Institute, an author of the study. “But they don’t get the second part that says if you have one of these types of IDs, you’re O.K.”
Representative Pete Gallego, a Texas Democrat, lost his 2014 reelection bid by just 2,422 votes. This year he is asking voters if they have a driver’s license.
After Mr. Gallego’s narrow loss in 2014, researchers from the Baker Institute and the University of Houston’s Hobby Center for Public Policy polled 400 registered voters in the district who sat out the election. All were asked why they did not vote, rating on a scale of 1 to 5 from a list of seven explanations — being ill, having transportation problems, being too busy, being out of town, lacking interest, disliking the candidates and lacking a required photo identification.
Nearly 26 percent said the main reason was that they were too busy. At the other end, 5.8 percent said the main reason was lacking a proper photo ID, with another 7 percent citing it as one reason. Most surprising, however, was what researchers found when they double-checked that response: The vast majority of those who claimed not to have voted because they lacked a proper ID actually possessed one, but did not know it.
This was at the top of my news feed when I got home. Borrowing this wholesale from a Facebook post by Rick Perlstein:
One of the letters Senator Thomas McIntyre got in 1978 after voting for the Panama Canal treaties: “Quisling Traitor Senator McIntyre: Conservative Republicans have added your despicable name to the list of TRAITORS in our stench-producing Senate tainted by those on the Radical Left and representing your ilk. Your refusal to be swayed by either reason or eloquence indicates your leftist orientation…An awesomely large mass of information can be mobilized to invalidate your fuzzy left-wing thinking. Traitors of your gutter orientation abound in our corrupt Senate dominated by the scum and vermin of the Marxist Democrats/ Rest assured, Commissar McIntyre, that you will be classified as insidious and corrupt. Americans who care t stand u in your Marxist behalf are to be sledge-hammered as QUISLINGS and odious incendiaries. We will concentrate on your vicious leftist VOTING RECORD and your excessive loyalty to the liberal pig in the tainted WHITE HOUSE. My qualifications: Washington Unviversity postgraduate and honor student. You are unquestionably one of the most DISHONEST AND VICIOUSLY CORRUPT hucksters and charlatans in our thieving Senate controleld by vermin of your Far Left views. We will work assiduously to damn you in scathing terms. YOU ARE AIDING AND ABETTING your beloved communist cause. conservatives ARE BEING ENLISTED TO STOMP OUR WAY THORUGH OUR COMMUNIZING SENATE WHIHC DARES TO STAND UP TO ITS conservative betters. Rest assured that we deem you to be on THE same plane as the COMMUNISTS. You are vermin.”
Currently seeing similar sentiments (only with better spelling) among local T-party types over this:
What could be simpler and more intuitive than telling people that countries are just like people, that we have to stand up to this bully or we’ll get our lunch money taken again? — Max Fisher at Vox
Remember the “I don’t think anybody could have predicted” defense Condoleeza Rice used to explain why the Bush II administration failed to stop the September 11 attacks? Look again at the quote in italics. Now ask yourself whether it is predictable that we’ll hear the “stand up to this bully” argument deployed to sell America’s next foreign military adventure.
Foreign intervention is another place where facts don’t matter, according to Max Fisher. In a fascinating article at Vox, Fisher argues that American military intervention is often sold on the false belief that American “credibility” will suffer if we fail to intervene in this or that conflict regardless of our objective national interests. Regardless of the fact that this theory of credibility “does not appear to be real. Political scientists have investigated this theory over and over, and have repeatedly disproven it.”
At Political Animal, Nancy LeTourneau comments on Rebecca Solnit’s essay on cynicism in Harpers. She writes that when Barack Obama entered the White House riding on a message of hope and change, that “the Republican strategy of total obstruction was designed to dampen all that with cynicism about the political process.” Cynicism about the political process is not in short supply in 2016. Hope is. But let’s not give Republicans too much credit.
Cynicism is first of all a style of presenting oneself, and it takes pride more than anything in not being fooled and not being foolish. But in the forms in which I encounter it, cynicism is frequently both these things. That the attitude that prides itself on world-weary experience is often so naïve says much about the triumph of style over substance, attitude over analysis.
Anyone who dares venture onto Facebook or Twitter these days knows the posture. Solnit continues:
If you set purity and perfection as your goals, you have an almost foolproof system according to which everything will necessarily fall short. But expecting perfection is naïve; failing to perceive value by using an impossible standard of measure is even more so. Cynics are often disappointed idealists and upholders of unrealistic standards. They are uncomfortable with victories, because victories are almost always temporary, incomplete, and compromised — but also because the openness of hope is dangerous, and in war, self-defense comes first. Naïve cynicism is absolutist; its practitioners assume that anything you don’t deplore you wholeheartedly endorse. But denouncing anything less than perfection as morally compromising means pursuing aggrandizement of the self, not engagement with a place or system or community, as the highest priority.
It will take more than fear of Donald Trump for Democrats to win this fall. They need a message. This article from Harold Meyerson after monumental losses in 2014 summed it up:
What, besides raising the minimum wage, do the Democrats propose to do about the shift in income from wages to profits, from labor to capital, from the 99 percent to the 1 percent? How do they deliver for an embattled middle class in a globalized, de-unionized, far-from-full-employment economy, where workers have lost the power they once wielded to ensure a more equitable distribution of income and wealth? What Democrat, besides Elizabeth Warren, campaigned this year to diminish the sway of the banks? Who proposed policies that would give workers the power to win more stable employment and higher incomes, not just at the level of the minimum wage but across the economic spectrum?
Bernie Sanders has focused on the banks this year, but Democrats as a party have failed so far to send a message to families working without a net that their concerns and anxieties have been both heard and felt, and that Democrats have a plan to address them. They need to forcefully answer the “cares about people like me” question.
Donald Trump is bringing back the American dream that anyone can grow up to be president. You don’t have to know anything.