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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

When Wendy Davis proclaimed that she is “pro-life” – a description long since appropriated by conservatives opposed to abortion rights – the right-wing media practically exploded with indignation. How could she dare to say that? But having won national fame when she filibustered nearly 12 hours against a law designed to shutter Lone Star State abortion clinics, the Texas state senator with the pink shoes doesn’t hesitate to provoke outrage among the righteous.

Speaking to a crowd at the University of Texas in Brownsville last Tuesday, Davis, now running for governor as a Democrat, made a deceptively simple but profound declaration: “I am pro-life. I care about the life of every child: every child that goes to bed hungry, every child that goes to bed without a proper education, every child that goes to bed without being able to be a part of the Texas dream, every woman and man who worry their children’s future and their ability to provide for that.”

Her argument directly pierced to the contradiction within the right’s “pro-life” sloganeering. So far the feeble answer from the right is that Davis must be “lying” because nobody who supports a woman’s right to choose is pro-life.

But that response is merely a repetition that seeks to evade her deeper philosophical thrust. Whatever anyone may think about abortion, the persistent question for self-styled pro-lifers is why they tend to insist on making life so much more difficult for so many children who have entered the world. The same Republicans – and they are nearly all Republicans – most vocally opposed to reproductive rights are also most likely to cut assistance to poor families, infants and children at every opportunity, from the moment of birth long into adolescence and beyond.

The imperiled Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is only the latest instance of this drearily familiar anti-life syndrome. This week, more than 48 million Americans, including 22 million children, saw their food stamp benefits cut as a temporary enhancement of the program expired. That was worse than bad enough. But next year if the Republicans have their way, the government would cut $40 billion from the program over the next 10 years – immediately depriving four million people of food assistance and then another three million every year.

Supposedly the excuse for this cruel scheme is to encourage able-bodied adults to work, even though jobs continue to be scarce. But what about the children who will go hungry, thanks to the budget advanced by the “pro-life” House leadership?

Incidentally, these are the same “pro-lifers” who will do almost anything to frustrate the long-sought national objective of universal health insurance. On that issue, one of their favorite complaints is that expanding health care to all will increase the availability of family planning, including abortion. But what of the tens of thousands of Americans who die every year because they lack insurance? Saving their lives is evidently not a “pro-life” priority.

Wendy Davis is right, but perhaps she didn’t go far enough. You see, the other self-serving sobriquet appropriated by the right is “pro-family,” a code term for opponents of reproductive rights, marriage equality, and other progressive policies that actually empower families of all kinds. Again, these same politicians tend to disparage not only Obamacare, but extended unemployment insurance, Social Security’s old age and disability assistance, Medicaid, Medicare, student loans, tuition assistance, family leave, the earned income tax credit, and the entire panoply of successful government programs that help to keep real working families from disintegrating under economic, social, and medical stress.

In fact, Davis might reasonably question whether the minions of the religious right and the Tea Party are even truly “anti-abortion,” although they have long since tried to escape that category.  It is true that right-wingers have tried incessantly (and unsuccessfully) to outlaw abortion. But today they often seek to restrict contraception and effective sex education as well, even though preventing unwanted pregnancies is the most obvious way to reduce the number of abortions.

How would conservatives behave if they honestly wanted to save the family – as House Republicans will now claim when they kill the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, banning workplace bias against lesbians and gays? They might begin by reconsidering their ideological project of dismantling federal programs, long supported by Republicans and Democrats alike, that help families maintain stability, care for each other, maintain healthy children, and advance in each generation.

The real enemies of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for American families are those who seek to polarize incomes, destroy the social safety net, and impose misery on women and children in the name of religious morality.

Photo: The Texas Tribune via Flickr

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]