Hypocrite-in-chief McConnell reaches new heights with claim Biden commission will 'politicize' the Supreme Court

William Hazlitt: "The only vice which cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy" That's why hypocrisy cavorts with notorious cousins: fraud and knavery. Rank stupidity (like Trump's) doesn't quite compete because world-class hypocrites thrive only when inventing plausible scenarios – and Trump's fraudulence quickly exposes itself: he is manifestly the same scurrilous person inside and out. No wonder Trump and Mitch McConnell can't stand each other: they honor different devils.

Thus emerges the reigning Hypocrite-in-chief: Senator Mitch McConnell. In April the most visible GOP leader -- and icon of special big business interests -- provided this farce: he was shocked, shocked to discover that wary corporations could not abide wholesale, Republican voter suppression in Georgia. Without missing a beat a week later he coughed up that Biden's modest, 36 member (!) Supreme Court Commission "fits squarely within liberals' years-long campaign to politicize the Court." Squarely? Liberals'? Years-long campaign? Politicize? Is this a new form of self-satire?

Judicial Snub for the Ages

With mastery in politicizing the federal judiciary, McConnell wedged through more rightwing judges in the last four years than anyone in modern history. Two ignoble Supreme justices owe elevation to McConnell. Nothing is sacred for this double-dealer who degraded court justice as just another power play in which the end justifies criminal means. No other American politician dared refuse for eight months even a hearing for Obama's mandated Merrick Garland nomination, thus blocking the most important Constitutional privilege awarded every president: to pick high court judges.

Is there any doubt such manipulation stands among the most corrupt Senate moves in history, a sabotage of procedural justice? Not only did McConnell block Obama's nomination but ended up installing Neil Gorsuch, an unsavory, regressive choice installed for decades. Staining both the country and the Supreme Court, McConnell fabricated a stolen payoff for rightwing ideologues. Prior attempts to "pack the Court" (though legal) pale compared to this outlandish maneuver, all the worse because it succeeded. If "gerrymandering" the high court is not a high crime that invites indictment, what is?

As the Wash Post summarized, "Garland will be remembered as the Supreme Court nominee who dangled in the wind for eight months in 2016, waiting for a Senate hearing that never came. To Democrats, it was an outrage and a raw display of political power. To Republicans, it was an election-year gamble that paid off." Almost as bad is what McConnell had to do to deliver, per NPR, "Senate Pulls 'Nuclear' Trigger To Ease Gorsuch Confirmation.

On top of the atrocious Garland postponement, McConnell sidetracked the 60 vote filibuster rule on top court picks with a "nuclear" Senate change: a simple majority to approve Supreme Court justices. That's a big deal as far short of 60 senators supported Gorsuch, as a judge and a slippery character. McConnell's filibuster ploy is all the more outrageous considering today's ardent GOP defenses of the hallowed 60 vote filibuster. Thus was the Constitution and the Senate degraded, Garland robbed and Gorsuch awarded a lifetime appointment. And now the Great Court Manipulator has the infinite gall to posit that Biden is the culprit politicizing the Supreme Court.

Next chapter verifying McConnell hypocrisy involved the 11th hour (of the Trump presidency) assault on justice and fairness, if not grade-school consistency. That's when McConnell pushed through Amy Coney Barrett after Justice Ginsberg died only weeks before the upcoming 2020 election. So much for the gist of McConnell's earlier hypocrisy with Garland: "eleven months is too close to the next election to pick a new justice. Let the people decide. Why rush?" McConnell pretense was on full display when he saw a tiny opening to anoint Barrett, squeezed through with a rush to fill Ginsberg's empty chair.

Even if he did nothing else for the next three years, Biden could not approach the iniquity of the McConnell rampage against justice, tradition, and democratic interests of a vast majority. McConnell didn't just politicize the selection of justices – he corrupted the entire process, thus empowering suspect, undeserving Supreme Court justices until they die or resign, long after Mitch is gone, even in his grave.

P.S. Biden's proposed Supreme Court commission "may be a dud," or more about appearance than highly justified Supreme Court reform. Per Ian Millhiser in Vox and Jonathan Turley in The Hill, no strong proponents of Supreme Court reform populates this commission. Clearly, the White House "prioritized bipartisanship and star power within the legal academy over choosing people who have actually spent a meaningful amount of time advocating for Supreme Court reforms," Millhiser writes. Notably, members of the rightwing Federalist Society approved commission choices, signaling its paper tiger status.

For 15 years, Robert S. Becker's independent essays on politics and culture have analyzed trends, history, frameworks and messaging. Featured at Nation of Change and Smirking Chimp, Becker has credits from Alternet, Salon, Truthdig, OpEdNews, San Francisco Chronicle, and the Absolute Sound. With a UC Berkeley PhD in English, Becker left university teaching (Northwestern and U. Chicago) for business, founding SOTA Industries, a top American high end audio company prominent from 1980s-1992. From 1992-2002, he was an anti-gravel mining activist while doing marketing, business and writing consulting. He is submitting a manuscript to publishers on the Chinese American Look Tin Eli, responsible for look and feel of most American Chinatowns, having orchestrated the restoration of San Francisco's Chinatown after the 1906 earthquake.

The misguided prophets of a new conservatism: Why right-wing intellectuals struggle to make sense of Trump

If you're like most people, you haven't followed the twists and turns of conservative intellectual efforts to gin up a new account of American conservatism distinguishing it from Trumpism. But if the past is any guide, don't worry. You're not

Conservatism since Reagan has been about interests, not ideas. The Reagan coalition united economic conservatives focused on "smaller government"—i.e., lower taxes and regulations—and religious conservatives intent on preserving traditional morality, which boiled down mostly to sex they don't like. The economic conservatives were the dominant partner. When the Reagan-era conservative movement deployed ideas, it was usually as a fig leaf to cover the nakedness of the dominant partner's interest.

The conservative movement that lasted from the late-1970s until 2016 looks positively egg-headed compared to today's Trumpist party. Trump's intuitive genius was to understand the standard account of the Republican coalition was incomplete. A big slice of the "smaller government" crowd, Trump understood, wasn't motivated by economic interest at all. Rather, for a lot of exurban and rural Republicans, small government was not about reducing taxes but a way of starving the government of resources that benefit people they didn't like—namely, people who aren't white.

No amount of conservative intellectualizing is going to put a fig leaf over that. And so if conservative intellectuals are going to have any relevance, they will have to reshape American conservatism rather than simply providing ideas that cover for it.

So far the effort to do that has yielded very little. Even before Trump, the so-called "Reformicons," a circle of conservative intellectuals centered around National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru and National Affairs's Yuval Levin, argued that conservative economic policies should be reoriented away from the Reagan-era catechism and toward support of the working class—in particular, toward a set of policies aiming to strengthen the economic position of ordinary families and to restore social mobility.

Trump's ascent initially made the Reformicons look prophetic. But "reform conservatism" sputtered out in part because it was, well, still conservative. It was still burdened by the conservative reflex to devolve responsibility for reforms to state and local governments and to private charities—none of which were remotely up to the task. More to the point, the Reformicons weren't meeting the GOP's working-class voters where they were. They were trying to marry traditional conservatism to class-consciousness. But the GOP's working-class voters were far more focused on race.

Next came "Common Good Conservatism," even less likely to appeal to Trump's GOP. The main text is Notre Dame political philosopher Patrick Deneen's Why Liberalism Failed, a 2017 polemic arguing that virtually all of our society's pathologies can be laid at the feet of liberalism's identification of individual autonomy as the principal good.

Deneen's book has had more influence than it deserves. His idée fixe is too simple—he reduces liberalism to a sort of soft libertarianism. Deneen's response is essentially rehashed Reformiconism, but without the engagement with practical politics that made the Reformicons' ideas minimally credible. Deneen argues for more localism, more communitarianism, but he does little to explain practically what kind of political movement would be needed to get us there or how it could be put together.

The surest sign "Common Good Conservatism" is going nowhere is its hijacking by a band of well-credentialed kooks operating under the banner of Catholic "integralism." Advocated most loudly by Harvard Law professor and recent Catholic convert Adrian Vermeule, integralism understands the "common good" as equivalent to (less liberal) pre-Vatican II Catholic doctrine (as Vermeule and his collaborators misunderstand it).

To give you a sense of Vermeule's program, here's his argument for prioritizing immigration for "confirmed Catholics" ("confirmed" meaning Catholics who have completed the sacrament of confirmation in their early teens, thereby signaling to Vermeule that they are "real" Catholics rather than merely baptized non-believers):

The principle is to give lexical priority to confirmed Catholics, all of whom will jump immediately to the head of the queue. Yes, some will convert in order to gain admission; this is a feature, not a bug. This principle will disproportionately favor immigrants from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. (Note here that the priority is for actual Catholics, not for applicants from "historically Catholic countries"; relatively few Western Europeans will pass through the eye of the needle, and the Irish will be almost totally excluded). It will disproportionately favor the poor, and will draw no distinction between those seeking asylum based on a fear of persecution, and those fleeing "mere" economic hardship. It will in effect require opening the southern border of the United States, although immigration from Canada will rightly become a rare and difficult event, at least if we do not count a small subset of Quebecois.1

It's difficult for me, as a Catholic who grew up worshipping in a working- and middle-class parish (unlike Vermeule, who was raised Episcopalian in Cambridge, Mass., by well-off academics) to explain how absurd integralism is as an account of Catholicism as it exists in America. The mass of American Catholics would have no truck with Vermeule's ideas—indeed, they are far more likely to view them as confirming the worst prejudices that non-Catholics hold about Catholics and their supposed authoritarian bent (see, e.g., the speech Senator John Kennedy was forced to give to dispel the fear that as president he would be taking orders from the Pope).

Integralism as a political program, is, if possible, more preposterous. Vermeule said opposition to his immigration proposal "almost necessarily defends some alternative principle of immigration priority that allocates fewer spots to non-whites and to the poor, and is thus a troubling indicator of racism and classism infesting whoever voices that opposition." Um, yeah. And that's exactly the reef on which integralism, if it didn't already have about a thousand other disabling features, would ground. There is no constituency in the GOP for a race-neutral immigration policy. It's the opposite.

So what's the future of conservative ideas? It's hard to count intellectuals out entirely; the movement will continue to maintain the "ideas infrastructure" (which doesn't cost much) if, for nothing else, to support useful apparatchiks. That said, if intellectuals continue to produce ideas that would only work if we replaced the current conservative base with some better set of voters, the auguries aren't good. It may be at some point that it's the conservative intellectuals who get replaced—that is, we may see the current bunch pushed aside by new entrants who attempt to prettify white racial authoritarianism. Those ideas would be terrible. But at least they'd be relevant.

The disturbing re-emergence of 19th-century pseudoscience

The second half of the 19th century left a lot of junk in America's mental attic: that place we let old notions, impressions and delusions pile up rather than taking them to slumber in a faraway landfill. Our dead and outmoded ideas have gathered dust, out of sight and out of mind. Lately, however, shifting demographic realities, rising ethnic anxiety and the mania of the final chapters of the Trump presidency (this one, at least), have brought them tumbling down the attic stairs to be dealt with once again.

This was brought into uncomfortably sharp focus as abortive plans for the new America First congressional caucus whipped around social media. It was 19th-century pseudoscience dressed in modern garb and moving at the speed of light. Merely outmoded and thoroughly discredited ideas about immigration, heritage, essential American traditions, even preferred styles of architecture were again shoved under the nation's nose, and, for once, it didn't go well. In just a few days, elected officials said to be the founding parents of this new caucus (Reps. Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Louie Gohmert et al.) were running for cover, disowning their reputed brainchild.

A congressional caucus sticking up for "aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture," darkly reminding us how certain "economic and financial interest groups" benefit from immigration and asserting a "uniquely Anglo-Saxon" culture is not only wrong about what the US was, is and will be. It's also late. Too late to change the trajectory of American life and bend it toward a pre-Ellis Island fantasy.

The new census numbers (will) show us a preview of the coming America: our country is home to more than 60 million Latinos, more than 40 million Americans of African descent and more than 20 million people of Asian ancestry. Of the more than 200 million Americans of European ancestry, millions upon millions have an old sepia photograph of a forebear from southern Italy, Lithuania, Greece or Portugal.

Lurking between the lines of the America First caucus' white-centered nostalgia is a pernicious gesture of historical erasure, implying that Americans from more recent nonwhite immigrant generations put the essentials of a common culture at "unnecessary risk," while the people whose great grandparents were watched with horror and disgust by "Anglo-Saxon Americans" in the 19th century are now, safely, us.

The movement of tens of millions from Ireland, Germany, Italy and the Czarist Empire to this hemisphere in the roughly 75 years from the Revolutions of 1848 to Congress slamming the door in the 1920s was one of the greatest mass migrations in human history, changing the histories of the US, Canada, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. American elites scorned the new arrivals as illiterate, filthy, diseased, unintelligent, clinging to foreign religions and unfit for the responsibilities of citizenship.

At the same time, scientists from America's greatest universities, in concert and competition with European scholars, were frantically measuring the bridges of noses, cranium sizes and the prominence of jaws, creating new and utterly bogus categories of human origin to back up their coalescing ideas about the differences between an immigrant from the Balkans and one from Birmingham. It may not surprise you to read that northern and western Europeans were found to be superior stock.

As John Crawfurd, in "On the Classification of the Races of Man," published in London by the Royal Anthropological Society in 1861 sagely observes, "The offspring of a Scandinavian and a Negro is inferior to the Scandinavian and superior to the Negro … The Mestizo [white and indigenous American descent] is much inferior to the Spaniard, but superior to the Red Indian." Crawfurd does allow that geographically close "races," like Italians, Greeks and Germans might mate without a loss of quality. He even offers his readers the novel, perhaps radical, notion that the English themselves have not been degraded, alors!, by occasional mixing with the French.

This stuff gets dusted off and buffed into comfortable euphemism in the America First manifesto, invoking history as evidence that "social trust and political unity are threatened" by immigrants "imported en masse into a country," who will also need the support of an "expansive welfare state" to "bail them out should they fail."

Whoever wrote this drivel is hoping you don't know the same rhetoric was used against Europeans of decidedly un-Anglo-Saxon origin during the decades when waves and waves of immigrants from Calabria and Krakow, Budapest and Ballymurphy pulled within sight of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. The editorial pages of the elite press were full of speculation about whether these arrivals and their offspring would be strong enough, smart enough, have fine enough social sentiments to contribute to the country's future. A century and a half later, "Anglo-Saxon" status is being dangled as an upgrade, an association perhaps yearned for by Yiddish-, Italian- and German-speaking greenhorns standing in the arrivals hall at Ellis Island.

The America First caucus figured descendants of the huddled masses, the restless refuse and the tempest tossed wouldn't see themselves, and their family's stories, in the new Americans finding their feet. It's been over 50 years since the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 opened the US to Africans, Asians and Latin Americans "yearning to breathe free." The manifestos writers were so sure misremembered American history could be turned into political gold and a new flag to rally around.

America's demographic cake is baked. At some point in the middle of the current century, the number of Americans who trace their ancestry to Africa, Asia and Latin America will surpass the number of those whose forebears came here from Europe. Americans of European ancestry will cease to be the majority, but will by far be the largest single racial group in the United States for decades after that.

In 2010, for the first time in centuries (but for every year since), a majority of the children born in the United States were not of European ancestry. Today, those kids are in middle school. In a few years, they'll head into military recruitment offices and to college fairs. Not long after that, they will constitute a majority of the workforce, supporting tens of millions of white Americans through their FICA deductions.

The messaging, in the America First declaration of principles, and night after night on Fox News, is loud and clear: these new people aren't like us. They're changing the country you thought you knew in ways you won't like. And, perhaps worst of all, they won't pull their weight. And when that happens, who'll have to support them? You.

The story they want to tell, refuted by decades of national experience, refuted by the people from everywhere who have climbed every ladder—from science to politics to religion to business to sports—is that we're full. We can't take any more striving, struggling, ambitious, hard-working people. Especially if they aren't like us already. And, psssst … if they aren't like us already, they're never going to get the hang of it.

It was wrong in 1871. It was wrong half a century later in 1921, when the nativists were re-writing immigration law. And it's wrong today. Sure, this latest attempt to merge European identity tightly to American nationality was laughed out of the room.

The next one may not be.

My senator uses his image as a Black conservative to cover up the GOP's worst behavior

I would tell you a story about the idiocy of one of my senators, Lindsey Graham, but you probably know it. It's about his rank hypocrisy and lying about what he'd do with a US Supreme Court opening during an election year with a Republican in the White House. Under Democratic President Barack Obama, Graham and other GOP senators held the seat vacant for more than eight months. Graham quickly switched course under President Donald Trump after Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, abandoning his previous "use my words against me" pledge, which paved the way for a 6-3 conservative court. Just recently he talked about the need to be heavily armed in case of a natural disaster and those he represents in the US Senate come to rob and murder him. Or something. I can't express how disgusted many of the moderate voters of South Carolina are, who used to believe he was a statesman. It's grating to even hear his voice or see his face on Fox News. His spiral into indecency has been stunning.

As hideous as Graham has become, we should save a bit for Tim Scott, who became the first Black man to win a Senate seat for a Deep South state since Reconstruction when he beat Democratic challenger Joyce Dickerson in 2014. Scott believes himself to be a kind of conscience of the Republican Party, a man led by his deep-abiding Christian faith who is well aware of his place in history. From time to time, he has acted on that impulse, including when he took to the Senate floor to talk about his experience with racial profiling and stopped a racist Trump nominee from receiving a lifetime appointment to a federal bench. Even in the wake of the George Floyd killing and the protests sparked by it, he led his party in an attempt to secure policing reform. His proposal seemed sincere even though it was far from sufficient the moment he declared qualified immunity for police officers, an egregious abuse of the legal system that likely fuels police misbehavior, off limits. He loves talking about Opportunity Zones (though they aren't as effective as he claims). He helped usher through a criminal justice reform bill begun in Obama's era and signed into law in Trump's.

It's Republicans like Scott who make everything tougher on a national level, because we put next to no pressure on them to do the right thing, no matter the issue. He's under no pressure to break ranks in favor of immigration reform or comprehensive background checks. He did not cross the line to vote for nearly $2 trillion in covid relief and poverty-fighting funding that will make life better for the poorest, most vulnerable residents of his state. And he has not had to answer for the odious voting rights law recently implemented by our neighbors in Georgia and being pushed by his party in nearly every state. He hasn't been pressed hard on whether Graham was wrong to have called election officials in Georgia after the 2020 election cycle. Because he's done a few reasonable things, it's given him cover while he quietly supports various kinds of injustices that are more likely to be attached to Graham and Republicans such as Tom Cotton, Ron Johnson and Marjorie Taylor Greene. Maybe that's why national political reporters seem to not even bother to hold him to account.

We know Graham has no principles. We know he's sold his political soul, even though we don't why or to whom. Maybe he's still in a state of shock because his mentor, the late American statesman John McCain, is gone. We know Graham will say whatever he can to justify whatever action he wants to take, no matter how nakedly political, full of lies or harmful to his own constituents. There's no doubt about Graham any more. He's firmly put party power over country, and he won't be changing any time soon. The next headline he generates by saying something else that's awful won't be the last.

That's why it's that much more important to stop allowing politicians like Scott to continue getting away with being just like Graham, only quieter, more stoic. Scott was just as big of a Trump sycophant as Graham was. It's just that Scott's image as a conscience-filled Black Republican has made it easier for white Republicans. The white evangelical Christians who put Trump in office, and tried to give him a second term, could rest easier at night knowing they were on Scott's side. Now he's providing cover for the GOP's anti-democratic behavior targeting Black voters, a kind of 21st-century attempt to resurrect Jim Crow, which will have an effect far beyond South Carolina.

Scott should be ashamed of that. But he doesn't seem to be.

That doesn't mean we should keep letting him get off so easily. Scott imagines himself to be better than this. We need to remind him that his actions suggest otherwise.

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