Things are always a bit strange in Texas. Those folks don’t give a good God-damned about what any of the rest of us think. And things are big in Texas. Everything is big in Texas. And religion is big in Texas too. They’re all-in down there. There are no half-measures in Christianity. The Washington Post’s Isaac Stanley-Becker reports on the latest full measure for Jesus:
Men and women, young and old, native Texans and immigrants, they rose to ask lawmakers to protect life, describing a “genocide” and foreseeing the arrival of “God’s wrath.”
The act of public atonement they are seeking is passage of a bill that would criminalize abortion without exception, and make it possible to convict women who undergo the procedure of homicide, which can carry the death penalty in Texas. Though it faces steep odds of becoming law, the measure earned a hearing this week amid a larger legislative push in GOP-controlled states to curtail abortion rights, in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.
The legislation is the brainchild of state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, a Republican from Arlington, Tex., who was placed under state protection because of death threats he received when he first introduced the bill in 2017. The Air Force veteran, who has been married five times, argues that the measure is necessary to make women “more personally responsible.” He said Tuesday that his intention is to guarantee “equal protection” for life inside and “outside the womb.”
No one can fault his logic. This is just a series of if-then arguments. If abortion is murder then this is necessary and just. Execute the murderers, the women who chose to murder another person. They made that choice. But that leads to other troublesome if-then arguments. If there is no statute of limitations on murder – there never is, anywhere – this would mean the execution of tens of millions of American women. They committed murder last year, or ten years ago, or decades ago. And there are millions and millions of them. Follow the logic. Should they all be executed? Is it time to do this, for Jesus?
This may be the time:
That the Texas bill is a clear violation of the 1973 landmark Roe decision appears to be precisely the point for those who asked lawmakers to advance it out of committee. The measure directs authorities to enforce its requirements “regardless of any contrary federal law, executive order, or court decision.” In testimony, proponents hailed President Trump as a champion of the “unborn” and beseeched state lawmakers to do their part in giving him a “chance” to help advance their agenda before a Supreme Court whose makeup he has shifted to the right.
And after all, the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people:
“Roe v. Wade is unconstitutional,” said Jim Baxa, president of West Texans for Life. “And the 10th Amendment puts it to you all to stand up to that tyranny and do what’s right.”
Baxa said the bill was his organization’s “number one priority” because it was the first to treat abortion fully as a capital felony, giving those who claim to “believe abortion is murder” a chance to “prove that.”
“A woman who has committed murder should be charged with murder,” he affirmed.
And that’s that, but there are places other than Texas. Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern tells of one:
Niki Quasney was dying of ovarian cancer when she sued Indiana to recognize her marriage. Quasney and her wife, Amy Sandler, had two young children and obtained a Massachusetts marriage license in 2013. If Indiana refused to acknowledge their marriage, Sandler would have a limited ability to make medical decisions for her wife or obtain survivors’ benefits after she died. Quasney’s death certificate would list her as single.
On April 10, 2014, a federal judge ordered Indiana to recognize Quasney and Sandler’s marriage – a decision that Gov. Mike Pence’s administration promptly appealed, with the governor’s enthusiastic support. The state, however, failed to invalidate their Indiana marriage license, and Quasney died less than a year later.
Despite Pence’s best efforts, her death certificate listed her as married.
Pence did his best to be severely and mercilessly Christian, almost Texan, but he lost, and now he’s losing again:
This story and others like it lie in the background of the emerging narrative regarding Pence’s “feud” with South Bend mayor and 2020 Democratic hopeful Pete Buttigieg. On the campaign trail, Buttigieg has denounced the vice president’s anti-gay policies; in response, Pence and his wife, Karen, have expressed surprise given Pence and Buttigieg’s cordial professional relationship.
Pence was always nice to that young man, and that young man was nice right back, but he is gay, with a husband, and now saying things like this:
People talk about things like marriage equality as a moral issue, and it is certainly a moral issue as far as I’m concerned. It’s a moral issue because being married to Chasten has made me a better human being – because it has made me more compassionate, more understanding, more self-aware, and more decent. My marriage to Chasten has made me a better man and yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God. …
If my being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade. And that’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand: that if you’ve got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.
Stern is impressed:
This speech was not merely a defense of marriage equality or an attack on the Mike Pences of the world. It was a defense of Buttigieg’s right to exist – to exist as an equal citizen, with full access to the liberties afforded all other Americans. As the story of Niki Quasney illustrates, this right was under constant threat in Mike Pence’s Indiana.
And that threat was and is real:
Pence vigorously supported and defended the state’s same-sex marriage ban and sought to codify it into the state constitution. He urged his attorney general to appeal the federal court decisions that first protected Quasney and Sandler’s right to wed as well as a follow-up ruling that forced the state to let all same-sex couples marry.
Even after the U.S. Supreme Court mandated nationwide marriage equality, the Pence administration continued to deny equal parenting rights to same-sex couples until a federal judge ordered the state to stop. (The state appealed and is still trying to prevent same-sex couples from placing their names on their children’s birth certificates.) As Pence fought to deny marriage rights to gay couples, he signed a law that could allow businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ people on religious grounds, only backtracking after nationwide outcry.
And then Trump named him as his vice president, because Trump was selling merciless Christianity to those who loved that concept and lived by it, in Texas and elsewhere, and now there’s this guy:
Reflecting on those harrowing months when she fought in court to secure her wife’s rights, Amy Sandler wrote, “Let my family’s painful experience be a window into the soul of Mike Pence.”
Here is a man who did not want to let a woman die with the basic comfort of knowing that her spouse would be recognized as her lawful widow. Why? Simply because she was gay. It hurt, back in 2014, to see politicians strive to undermine our civil rights. It still hurts to think about today.
By pointing out the depth of Pence’s aversion to gay people and our families, Buttigieg isn’t playing petty politics. He is reminding Americans that marriage equality is a very recent and still tenuous right that no one should take for granted. It was, after all, not so long ago that “the Mike Pences of the world” ensured that people like Buttigieg were condemned to die “single” in the eyes of the state.
So, this one man is impressed. So what? Well, the nation isn’t Texas:
Two new polls from the states that will be the first to weigh in on the Democratic field next year show former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders continue to stand ahead of the rest of the field, and provide the best evidence yet that the small group of candidates standing just behind those two includes South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
A Monmouth University poll of likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa, out Thursday, finds Biden at the top of the pack with 27% support, Sanders at 16%, Buttigieg at 9%, Sens. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren at 7%, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke at 6%, Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 4%, Sen. Cory Booker at 3%, and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro at 2%. The rest of the field stood at 1% or less in the poll, with a sizable 12% saying they are undecided among the 24 candidates tested in the poll.
In New Hampshire, site of the nation’s first primary elections, a St. Anselm College poll also out Tuesday shows a similar lineup: Biden at 23%, Sanders at 16%, Buttigieg at 11%, Warren at 9%, Harris at 7%, O’Rourke at 6%, Booker at 4% and Klobuchar at 2%. The rest of the tested field landed at 1% or less. Nearly 1 in 5 said they were undecided or backing someone not named in the list of 14 candidates presented to those who took the poll.
Both surveys show Buttigieg earning broadly positive reviews as voters get to know him, with room still to grow.
On that side of things everyone knows Joe and loves him. And they know and love Bernie. They wonder about all the others, but they don’t wonder about Pete, and another gay man, Andrew Sullivan, sees the possible answer to Trump:
Trump would be the oldest president in history at 74; Buttigieg would be the youngest at 39. Trump landed in politics via his money and celebrity after years in the limelight; Buttigieg is the mayor of a midsize mid-western town, unknown until a few weeks ago. Trump is a pathological, malevolent narcissist from New York, breaking all sorts of norms. Buttigieg is a modest, reasonable pragmatist, and a near parody of normality. Trump thrives on a retro-heterosexual persona; Buttigieg appears to be a rather conservative, married homosexual. Trump is a coward and draft dodger; Buttigieg served his country. Trump does not read; Buttigieg does. Trump’s genius is demonic demagoguery. Buttigieg’s gig is careful reasoning. Trump is a pagan; Buttigieg is a Christian. Trump vandalizes government; Buttigieg nurtures it.
To put it simply, Mayor Pete seems almost designed to expose everything that makes the country tired of Trump.
That assumes the country is tired of Trump, but a third would die for Trump. Still, Mayor Pete is really something else:
He’s Midwestern – the swingy region where the election will likely be decided – and, unlike the vast majority of his fellow elite members, he didn’t stay on the coasts, but returned home to the heartland after he won the glittering prizes, including being named a Rhodes Scholar. That says something about him (either that he’s the real thing, or that his ambition really is sky-high). He’s absurdly brainy, but doesn’t give off an air of condescension or exasperation with the less IQ-ed – like Al Gore did…
There remains something boyish about him, which is something Trump would immediately fasten onto as rendering him a lightweight. But Buttigieg can rebut that in a simple and powerful way: He can say he was man enough to serve his country in uniform, which should be man enough for any president. (The contrast with the aged, spoiled draft-dodger brat could be deadly.)
And then there’s his Christianity:
“When I think about where most of Scripture points me, it is toward defending the poor, and the immigrant, and the stranger, and the prisoner, and the outcast, and those who are left behind by the way society works. And what we have now is this exaltation of wealth and power, almost for its own sake, that in my reading of Scripture couldn’t be more contrary to the message of Christianity. So I think it’s really important to carry a message (to the public), knitting together a lot of groups that have already been on this path for some time, but giving them more visibility in the public sphere.”
This guy is not from merciless Texas – his Christianity isn’t theirs – and that pleases Sullivan:
His candidacy is as historic as Obama’s. His potential presidency even more so. That so many see him as a credible, formidable candidate is a reminder that in America, we can still unite in a more humane consensus. Trump has eclipsed that possibility in a welter of poison. Buttigieg quite simply rescues it again.
Not if Trump can help it, as Greg Sargent notes here:
As you may have heard, President Trump openly fantasized about the prospect of U.S. troops unleashing violence on desperate migrants, many of whom are trying to exercise their legal right to seek refuge in the United States.
At a fundraiser in Texas late Wednesday, Trump seethed that our military is constrained from getting “a little rough” at the border, because “everybody would go crazy,” preventing it from acting the way it would “normally act,” or how “another military from another country would act.”
Every military in the world acts without mercy or compassion or even carefulness, abusing and intimidating everyone in sight, because merciless abuse is power, and that’s winning. So why should our military, alone, have rules of engagement? Sargent finds that telling:
In saying these things, Trump previewed an important component of his reelection strategy.
We know this, because Trump basically has now told us so.
The New York Times reports that at the very same event, Trump declared that the current humanitarian crisis at the border will be a political winner for him against Democrats in the 2020 campaign.
“I think they’re going to pay a very big price in 2020,” Trump said. “I think the border is going to be an incredible issue. And they’re on the wrong side. They want to have open borders.”
No, they don’t, but that’s kind of beside the point. Trump has a plan. Run as the man who will show no mercy to anyone, ever, to win the votes of those Texas folks, who want those tens of millions of women to die, because they’re murderers and deserve a painful death at the hands of the Godly state. But then there really is nothing new here:
You may recall that we heard the same boast in the lead-up to the 2018 elections. Top immigration adviser Stephen Miller crowed that “the fundamental political contrast” would pit Trump’s vision against the “open borders” Democratic Party, which, he said, was “completely marginalizing itself from the American voters.”
The arrival of asylum-seeking migrants was also central in 2018. House GOP incumbents across the country ran ads saturated in ugly and lurid demagoguery about them, and Republicans suffered their biggest House loss since Watergate. Even Republicans admitted Trump’s immigration focus helped cost them the suburbs.
Show no mercy – take those little kids away from their parents forever, and win over that merciless Texas crowd, and lose everyone else, but this is a plan:
It’s worth noting that painting migrants as criminals, and creating the vague impression that military force might be required to repel them, were also key in 2018. Trump lied endlessly to criminalize them, and sent in the military as a prop to dramatize the supposed danger they posed. He even made this explicit by saying things like: “This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!”
Thus, it doesn’t look like an accident that at the Texas event, Trump also said that “I’m gonna have to call up more military,” while claiming that Central American countries are “sending” the “tough ones” and “the gang members.” This telegraphs we’ll likely see more of the very same lies and hate-mongering in 2020.
That does seem to be the general idea:
Trump’s swagger about 2020 is of a piece with an argument Trumpworld has been making: that the enormous spike in asylum-seeking families proves he was right all along – it helps politically because it confirmed his underlying diagnosis of the situation.
But this is utterly ludicrous on just about every level. The centerpiece of that diagnosis has been Trump’s treatment of the situation as a security crisis that required a border wall to manage. But more barriers can’t prevent these arrivals due to basic geographic and legal realities. The very fact that the crisis continues even as Trump’s national emergency to build barriers is in effect reveals the profound folly here.
Then there are Trump’s efforts at deterrence. Trump’s now-canceled family separations did not slow the arrivals. Various efforts to make it harder to apply for asylum have been blocked in court.
It seems that the general idea was a dumb idea, but there is a specific plan:
The core of the administration’s argument is that families keep coming – despite not qualifying for asylum – because they can get past an initial “credible fear” screening and can exploit backlogged courts and legal settlements preventing the detention of children to vanish into the interior while awaiting a hearing.
Thus, Trump and Miller are now plotting new efforts to make it harder to pass that initial screening, by putting tougher-minded border patrol officials in charge of it, and are demanding the right to hold families indefinitely.
But the first of those is probably illegal and unworkable, and the second might be illegal as well and even some inside Trump’s administration are resistant to it.
But at least all of it is mean-spirited and nasty, which gets votes in Texas and other like-minded places, but this will not end well:
Trump cannot go around calling migrants criminals, threatening to shut down the government and the border, and bashing Democrats as “TREASONOUS” while simultaneously demanding serious Democratic engagement on this problem. It’s absurd. That’s another way Trump’s whole approach is proving a disastrous failure. Trump thought he could solve this with maximal “toughness” both toward migrants and Democrats. Nope.
But he has his plan:
Trump obviously believes that the worse this gets, the more easily he’ll persuade swing voters that the migrants are a criminal “infestation” that must be repelled through cruelty or even force. There’s no need for Democrats to fear this argument, and one hopes they will engage it frontally.
Mayor Pete will do that. Cruelty or even force can be useful of course, at times, but they are nothing to be proud of – unless you’re from Texas – or we now live in America the Merciless.