In an effort to improve social distancing measures amid the coronaviruspandemic, Walmart announced Friday more changes to its store’s policies.Beginning Saturday, the company will limit the number of customerswho can be in a store at once, Walmart Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dacona Smith said in a blog post.“Stores will now allow no more than five customers for each 1,000 square feet at a given time, roughly 20% of a store’s capacity,” Smith said.Store associates will mark a queue at a single-entry door, direct new shoppers there, and admit them one-by-one and count th...
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While Republicans in state legislatures are proposing voter suppression bills all around the U.S., Democrats are pushing the For the People Act at the federal level — a comprehensive voting rights bill that has passed in the U.S. House of Representatives but now faces a steep uphill climb in the U.S. Senate. Democrats have a narrow majority and must contend with the filibuster for most legislation. Far-right pundits have been railing against the act, known as HR1, on conservative media outlets like Fox News, Fox Business and Newsmax, and observers warn Republicans will take extreme efforts to fight any such reforms.
Beutler contemplates various scenarios and how they could affect voting rights if they come to pass. Some scenarios to consider, Beutler writes, include 82-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court becoming available, Democrats losing their narrow Senate majority, and the court attacking voting reforms if Democrats somehow manage to get them passed in the Senate.
"Here's a nightmare scenario I encourage everyone — but particularly, Breyer and Senate Democrats — to imagine having to endure," Beutler writes. "Through illness or untimely death, Democrats' 50-50 Senate 'majority' becomes a 49-50 Senate minority. They don't retain the seat. Joe Biden loses reelection. We're all left hoping Breyer can survive into his 90s so that the Supreme Court doesn't swing from 6-3 to 7-2. Mitch McConnell gets Charlie Kirk fitted for a robe."
He continues: "Now consider this less speculative nightmare scenario. Democrats let bygones be bygones, leave court reform out of their larger democracy-reform project, change the filibuster rules, pass both HR 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act — and the existing Supreme Court takes a hatchet to it. We should know to expect this, because Republicans declared the For the People Act 'unconstitutional' sight unseen, as a kind of bat signal to their allies on the courts to make sure democracy reform can't take effect."
Beutler adds, "We can't know in advance which provisions of these bills the Supreme Court would invalidate, but it's trivially easy to step into the shoes of conservative justices and extend the same pseudo-constitutional arguments they've used to degrade American election law over the last decade to new reforms. Campaign-finance regulations? Well, those obviously violate the 1st Amendment. Non-partisan gerrymandering? The federal government can't dictate that kind of thing to the states!"
Nightmare scenario from @brianbeutler: Dems pass pro-democracy reforms, and Supreme Court guts them:… https://t.co/i1Z1GBpPHt— Greg Sargent (@Greg Sargent)1618588659.0
But Democrats don't just face dangers from the right-wing Supreme Court. Republicans controlling key state legislatures, oftened heavily gerrymandered to protect their majorities from swings in public opinion, are actively considering how to thwart efforts to make elections fairer.
Democracy Docket, in a "legislation alert" published this week, describes Texas House Bill 4507 — which has been proposed by Republicans in the Texas House of Representatives and would "essentially create a two-tiered voter registration system, in an effort to evade federal voting rights protections that could pass into law this year."
Democracy Docket explains, "HB 4507 establishes two different registration processes: one for federal elections, which would be required to comply with national legislation such as the For the People Act — and one for state elections, which Texas Republicans claim could ignore these federal requirements. Any voter registering to vote in a federal election would not be automatically registered for local and state elections, unless they meet the much stricter and more exclusionary requirements of Texas' election code. Instead, they would have to apply and register again separately for their local elections."
On Twitter, attorney Marc E. Elias, founder of Democracy Docket, described HB 4507 as an example of "how desperate Republicans are to prevent all voters from participating in elections":
As HR1/S1 moved closer to passage, this is a tactic to watch for in a number of red states. It shows how desperate… https://t.co/hPOlkZhUGA— Marc E. Elias (@Marc E. Elias)1618514787.0
After liberal Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent tweeted Beutler's Crooked Media column, law professor and election law expert Rick Hasan noted:
There's lots that can be done in the careful drafting of these election reform measures that can bolster their cons… https://t.co/YBWBCWuHDN— Rick Hasen (@Rick Hasen)1618592016.0
This Friday, the Kremlin announced that it will be expelling 10 U.S. diplomats while blacklisting eight current and former U.S. officials including Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, Susan Rice and John Bolton, The Washington Post reports. The move comes as a response to increased sanctions leveled at Russia by the Biden administration over its attacks on the 2020 U.S. election.
While Russia's response will likely escalate tensions between Putin and the U.S., the Kremlin also signaled willingness to consider a summit between President Vladimir Putin and President Biden, according to the Post.
"The Foreign Ministry released the list of people banned from entry into Russia including Rice, a former ambassador the United Nations and now head of the Domestic Policy Council, and Bolton, who was dismissed as national security adviser by then president Donald Trump in 2019," the Post's Robyn Dixon writes. "Others included Attorney General Merrick Garland, director of U.S. National Intelligence, the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the Homeland Security chief after earlier U.S. sanctions on Russian officials in similar posts. R. James Woolsey, former CIA director, was also named."
Read the full report over at The Washington Post.
Friday morning, Americans awoke yet again to another round of headlines about a senseless mass shooting, this time with 8 people dead at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis. After a year of an unimaginable amount of death from COVID-19, it appears Americans are returning to our regular pre-pandemic cycle of trauma, which is the random mass murder of people interspersed between an unending stream of street violence stemming from a country steeped in guns. We had barely started to embrace hope of the pandemic ending when these high profile shootings began again: Atlanta. Boulder. Southern California. South Carolina. Now Indianapolis.
The frustrating thing is the majority of Americans know what needs to be done to curtail these murders, and they support doing it.
Polling from Morning Consult released just the day before the Indianapolis shooting shows that 2 out of 3 Americans want stricter gun control. This follows polling showing that 84% of Americans want background checks for gun buyers. Arguments in favor of gun control are winning the public debate. About 40,000 Americans die a year from gun violence. Voters want Congress to do something about it.
But Republicans barely bother to offer more than perfunctory arguments against gun control anymore. They know they don't need to, because no matter what happens at the ballot box, no matter how many Americans reject them and their views, they are the ones who will control the country, especially on matters such as gun control. Adam Jentleson, the former deputy chief of staff to Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who served as Senate Majority Leader for some time while Barack Obama was president, has dubbed it the "minority rule doom loop." As Jentleson describes it, the "doom loop" is one "by which predominantly white conservatives gain more and more power, even as they represent fewer Americans."
The doom loop consists of four interlocking components. Candidates who represent white conservatives—Republicans, in our ideologically sorted era—begin every election cycle buoyed by a sluice of voter suppression and gerrymandering (what I call electoral welfare), which makes it easier for them to win. Then antidemocratic features of the American system that have always existed but never benefited one party over the other in any systematic way help those same candidates take control of institutions such as the White House and the Senate, despite winning fewer votes and representing fewer people than their opponents. Once in control of these institutions, these newly elected officials use them to entrench their power beyond the reach of voters. If they are eventually voted out of power, they retain a veto over the agenda of the majority, which they use to block change and feed the conservative case that the government is "broken." This hastens their return to power—along the very path they greased with voter suppression.
Right now, we're in stage three, where Democrats were able to marshal enough forces to overcome the significant structural barriers to majority rule to win technical control of the government. But Democratic helplessness to pass gun control legislation is a cold reminder that Republicans, despite being walloped at the ballot box, retain most of the power in this country.
Yes, President Joe Biden was able to get an important coronavirus relief package passed through Congress on a party-line vote. But on the vast majority of legislative priorities for Democrats — gun control, climate change, voting rights, health care — Republicans have the final word, due to the filibuster. That word is consistently "nope," with a side dose of "f*ck you" to the majority of Americans who voted against the GOP. And with Republican-controlled state legislatures rapidly introducing a bunch of bills to disenfranchise voters further, it may very well be tha we're entering a new era when Democrats can't even technically win elections, despite having the majority support among Americans.
And it's even worse than that passage from Jentleson indicates, because Republicans also have captured the courts through sleazy means, holding judicial seats open during Barack Obama's presidency, only to rapidly fill them when Donald Trump got elected. As Ian Millhiser of Vox argued in a recent Salon interview, the result is Republicans can go around the legislative process entirely to force their agenda on Americans who keep haplessly voting against them.
The minority rule doom loop isn't just unfair and anti-democratic. It's also deadly.
Nearly 20% of people who died in the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic have been Americans, even though we have less than 4% of the world's population. Hundreds of thousands of Americans would be alive today, but for Donald Trump's reckless mismanagement. What adds insult to injury is that Americans didn't even choose Trump as their president. Hillary Clinton won nearly 3 million more votes and, in a truly democratic nation, would have been president when the pandemic hit. Even her fiercest critics on the left had to admit that hundreds of thousands more people would be with us today if the competent woman — the person who got the most votes — had been allowed to actually have her win, instead of letting the electoral college install a sociopathic buffoon.
Truthfully, the death toll we're looking at from our continued insistence on letting Republicans win even when they lose is going to be unfathomable, because we can add "lack of health care" and "climate change" to the growing pile of deadly problems that Americans keep voting to fix, to no avail. The situation is only getting worse, as Republicans dig deeper into the idea they have an absolute right to rule, no matter what the voters say about it.
There is still, for the moment anyway, a solution.
Democrats could strip the minority party of their nearly-absolute veto power but abolishing — or at least reforming — the filibuster, a pointless anachornism in the Senate that was mainly used in the past to defend white supremacy. When they were in power, Republicans didn't think twice about nuking the filibuster when it got in the way of their main priority, which was controlling the Supreme Court. Without Republicans being able to stop any bill before it even got to debate on the Senate floor, Democrats could strengthen gun control, improve health care, fight climate change, and, perhaps most importantly, bar state legislatures from passing laws to deny Americans the legal right to vote.
Unfortunately, this common sense move is being blocked by two Democratic senators who are weighed down by an ignorance that is only surpassed by the size of their egos: Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Both of these senators keep foolishly insisting that filibuster is somehow a tool encouraging bipartisan engagement and debate, even though the reality is that it's being used by Republicans to unilaterally end all Senate debate before it even happens. Whatever the real motivations of these two — likely an outdated belief that "doing nothing" is the safest possible political position — their actions are stunningly immoral. People keep dying pointlessly in this country. They have the power to do something about it, but they flat out refuse to use that power.
It's farcical, in an existentialist-novel sort of way. American voters have been cast in the role of Sisyphus, where we keep pushing that rock labeled "Democratic victory" up that ever steeper hill, only to see all the hard work and sacrifice tumble to the ground right on the precipice of actually getting anything done. Our once great nation is being brought to its knees because a couple of scatterbrained Democratic senators can't bring themselves to admit they are playing handmaiden to Republican plots to destroy the tattered remains of our democracy. Americans keep voting and voting and voting for the right not to be senselessly killed. That we can't even get that shows that this thing we call a "democracy" is anything but.
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