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RBG Was Denied Top Funeral Honors By Mitch McConnell, New Book Reports

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

After Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on September 18, 2020, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to honor the liberal hero by allowing her to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

The story is included in Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power, a forthcoming book by USA Today journalist Susan Page.

Page writes that Speaker Pelosi sought to make Ginsburg the first woman to lie in state in the Rotunda.

The website of the Architect of the Capitol says of use of the premises to honor those who have died: "No law, written rule, or regulation specifies who may lie in state; use of the U.S. Capitol Rotunda is controlled by concurrent action of the House and Senate. Any person who has rendered distinguished service to the nation may lie in state if the family so wishes and Congress approves."

But according to Page, "McConnell rejected the idea on the grounds that there was no precedent for such treatment of a justice."

Instead, Pelosi allowed Ginsburg's coffin to lie in state in Statuary Hall, located on the House side of the Capitol.

McConnell did not attend the service honoring Ginsburg, and later ignored her dying wish that her replacement be nominated by the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

McConnell rushed through Donald Trump's nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court days before the election, despite having refused even to hold a hearing for Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's nominee to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016, on the grounds that it was too close to an election to confirm the sitting president's choice.

"Mitch McConnell is not a force for good in our country," Page reports that Pelosi said. "He is an enabler of some of the worst stuff, and an instigator of some of it on his own."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

McConnell’s Political Threat To Corporations Is Backfiring

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Apparently Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's threat to corporations to "stay out of politics" didn't have the result he intended. Big business seems to be getting more serious about pushing back as Republicans continue to push voter suppression measures in states across the country. More than 100 top corporate executives joined a Zoom call Saturday to discuss how to apply pressure against such legislation, The Washington Post reports.

Companies represented included Delta, American, United, Starbucks, Target, LinkedIn, Levi Strauss, and Boston Consulting Group, as well as Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, the Post reports, and the discussion included "potential ways to show they opposed the legislation, including by halting donations to politicians who support the bills and even delaying investments in states that pass the restrictive measures."

The call, which lasted over an hour, "shows they are not intimidated by the flak. They are not going to be cowed," according to one of its organizers, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale management professor. "They felt very strongly that these voting restrictions are based on a flawed premise and are dangerous."

That "flawed premise" is in fact Donald Trump's big lie, which even Georgia Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan has made clear, saying on CNN, "This is really the fallout from the 10 weeks of misinformation that flew in from former President Donald Trump."

Before Georgia passed the instantly notorious voter suppression law that started the blowback from corporations, some top Georgia businesses worked behind the scenes to try to blunt the bill's worst provisions. But once the law passed, they saw that that wasn't going to cut it, prompting the more public corporate opposition to attacks on voting rights.

Republicans in Georgia responded to that corporate opposition with threats of retaliation, including a failed (for now) attempt to strip Delta Air Lines of a major tax break. In Texas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick claimed: "Texans are fed up with corporations that don't share our values trying to dictate public policy." And, of course, there was that "warning" from McConnell, though he quickly tried to walk it back a little when he saw how badly it played.

All this—the voter suppression measures that prompt blowback, the sudden turn against their usual corporate allies—comes because, first, Donald Trump lost and couldn't admit it and made it an article of faith for his base that elections are being stolen, and second, because Republicans know that their electoral future depends on making it harder to vote, especially for Black and brown people, low-income people, and young people.

Democrats, meanwhile, are trying to protect the right to vote and expand access to voting, from Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms trying to mitigate the impact of the new Georgia anti-voting law to House Democrats passing historic voting reforms—which, of course, Senate Republicans are blocking. But this can't be framed as a partisan fight. It's about whether the United States really values its democracy. Whether voting is a right that all eligible people can equally access, or a privilege easily extended to some while others are forced to overcome barrier after barrier to use it. Whether our voting laws are made in the name of justice or in the name of Trump's big lie. If you're on the wrong side of that, it's not a routine partisan issue. It's a stain on your name and on your soul.

Is America Still Big Enough To Go Big?

It's time for America to go back to the future — a future of true greatness created by a people united to build a strong nation for the Common Good.

From the start of our United States, rather than shrinking at the right-wing bugaboo of "Big Government," Americans have backed leaders who dared to do big public projects: Abraham Lincoln's fight for a transcontinental railroad and a land-grant college network to serve small farmers; Teddy Roosevelt's establishment of our national park system; Franklin D. Roosevelt's electrification of rural America, creation of social safety nets, and conservation initiatives; Dwight Eisenhower's interstate highway system; Harry Truman's GI Bill; John F. Kennedy's moonshot; and Lyndon Johnson's anti-poverty and civil rights achievements.

It's only during the last 40 years, since Ronald Reagan's "government is evil" demagoguery, that our presidents and lawmakers — Democrats as well as Republicans — shriveled to no-can-do mediocrities, unwilling to even try tackling America's big needs or invest in our people's unlimited possibilities. This meek failure of leadership is why our nation's infrastructure — once world-class — has deteriorated to an embarrassing 16th in the world, as ranked by the Global Competitiveness Report, putting us beneath such smaller and poorer nations as Iceland and Portugal. It's hard to muster any national pride in chanting, "We're No. 16!"

But — surprise! — here comes Joe, a lifelong go-slow Democrat, unexpectedly rising to the challenge by proposing a get-serious, roll-up-our-sleeves, $2 trillion package of investments to modernize and extend America's collapsing infrastructure. While President Biden's plan is not as big as it needs to be, neither is it merely more tinkering around the edges, meekly trying once again to "incentivize" the corporate plutocracy to put another coat of pain on our country's structural inadequacies.

Biden's proposal would not only repair roads, bridges and dams but also give a long-overdue boost to such needs as rural high-speed broadband, replacing the country's deadly networks of lead water pipes, building clean energy systems, constructing affordable housing, upgrading public transit systems, increasing home health care for the elderly, and providing affordable child care facilities — all geared toward creating good union jobs and lifting local economies.

Even more transformative than the particular components is Biden's back-to-the-future method of paying for the Rebuild America agenda: returning to highly progressive taxation. Instead of the same old no-tax, laissez-fairyland extremism that Washington has practiced for 40 years (leading to the deep infrastructure hole we're now in), Biden will at long last demand that multinational corporate behemoths and their greed-fueled, uber-rich chieftains stop dodging their tax obligations to America. It's the same fair-taxation policy that funded our interstate highway system and the Space Race — a period of unmatched USA productivity and rising living standards for millions of working families.

An old political truism expresses that often-frustrating challenge of making big change: "Where there's a will, there are 1,000 won'ts."

And, oh, what a hurricane of won'ts swirled out of Washington's power centers in March to pummel Joe Biden! Corporate lobbyists and their congressional hirelings howled and blustered at him for declaring that he would seek a tax increase on corporations to pay for the essential, overdue job of repairing and expanding our nation's antiquated, dilapidated and wholly inadequate infrastructure. Biden wants to raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from its present 21 percent. Blowhard Mitch McConnell, the GOP's Senate leader, practically blew a gasket, wailing that poor corporate America should not be singled out to bear this "burden."

But wait — didn't Mitch single out the corporate giants in 2017 to receive a windfall in their tax rate, lowering it from 35 percent? Yes, and they pocketed hundreds of billions of dollars from that giveaway. So, nudging them up to 28 percent is hardly punishment, for they still come out way ahead of the rates that regular people pay.

And the corporate tax rate is a sham, for the giants have wormed loopholes in the law to give them exemptions so they can avoid paying what they owe. A new study reports that at least 55 of the biggest corporations paid a goose egg in U.S. income taxes last year — zero, nada — despite hauling in billions in profits. As Sen. Bernie Sanders points out: "If you paid $120 for a pair of Nike Air Force 1 shoes, you paid more to Nike than it paid in federal income taxes over the past 3 years, while it made $4.1 billion in profits." In those three years, Nike honcho Phil Knight worked the system to increase his personal wealth by $23 billion.

That's the corrupt wealth system that McConnell, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the corporate plutocracy are defending. Oh, they exclaim, we think it's essential to repair and update America's crucial public systems — BUT, as McConnell so gingerly put it, "As much as we would like to address infrastructure," asking our corporate political funders to pay more "is not going to get support from our side."

So, who do they want to pay for it? You. Working people and the poor. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican and GOP leader, points to putting more user fees on drivers and adding taxes on consumers as the way to go.

To see a list of other major corporate scofflaws who've been pocketing billions in profits yet paying zilch to the upkeep of America, visit the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy website at ITEP.org.

To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Risking Everything, Republicans Bet On Angry Trumpist 'Lifestyle Brand'

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The Republican Party, this year more than any other since I've been covering politics, has become a fascination for me. While some readers here say it's all business as usual, it seems anything but to me. Sure, the underlying motivators of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, anti-LGBTQ hate, and amassing wealth and power have been and continue to be driving forces for the party and are simply more transparent than ever.

But on the other hand, Republicans' roadmap to obtaining power is perhaps more murky than at any point in my lifetime. When Mitch McConnell comes out and starts threatening American corporations, a sea change is at hand.

In fact, what seems to have happened since Donald Trump receded from the national stage is that congressional Republicans and some state officials have had to effectively become him in order to keep his base voters engaged—or should we say, enraged. So now, just like Trump threatened companies that angered him, McConnell is doing the same. And just like Trump swindled his base voters into donating gobs of money to him, House Republicans are now running the same scam. Perhaps even more telling, House Republicans are essentially presenting those donor solicitations as if they are coming from Trump himself. (Of course, Trump also relaunched his own fundraising operation this week complete with "Don't Blame Me — I Voted for Trump" swag. Not a joke. So now Trump's base will be getting fleeced from multiple directions.)

But it's a stunning turn of events—the party that once kowtowed to corporate America is now publicly jeering at them. That schism will only deepen as Republicans grow increasingly and more glaringly out of step with the culture of young, diverse, upwardly mobile consumers American businesses hope to cultivate. Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers are only getting more brazen and dug into their anti-culture politics. As I noted yesterday, Georgia's Republican House Speaker, David Ralston, defended the punitive measures they were targeting at their corporate detractors like this, "You don't feed a dog that bites your hand."

Ralph Reed, evangelical fire-breather and perennial GOP strategist, said the performative bellicosity had become the single most animating feature for Republican voters, describing it as a "virtue."

"It has become the overarching virtue Republicans look for in their leaders," Reed told the New York Times.

But the description of the GOP and its base that really brought it home for me this week came from Jonathan V. Last at The Bulwark. "Republican voters—a group distinct from Conservatism Inc.—no longer have any concrete outcomes that they want from government," he wrote. "What they have, instead, is a lifestyle brand."

That to me, is the best summation possible of the hollowed out, defunct, and unmoored Republican Party—it's no longer a political party, it's a lifestyle brand.

The questions I'm left with are: just how enticing will that newfangled lifestyle brand be to Trumpers; and can it appeal to the voters who still harbor a fondness for the political party they formerly belonged to? Because for all sorts of reasons, it's hard to imagine that Trump voters alone—even if they turn out readily in 2022, and it's a big if—will be enough to bring home big wins for Republibrand in the midterms.

There's already been signs of dissatisfaction within the GOP ranks since last November, though it's impossible to know exactly what to make of them. Identification with the Republican Party appears to have taken at least somewhat of a hit since last November and the Capitol attack, in particular, though it's not clear how significant or meaningful that hit is.

Bottom line—somebody's unhappy but it's hard to tell exactly who, how unhappy they are, and what that will mean for GOP turnout in the midterms. That said, there's nothing ideal about having a base that's a moving target and having almost zero data other than November 2020 to guide your turnout calculations.

Perhaps the biggest problem for Republibrand lawmakers is that they are courting two groups of voters that seem to be stylistically at odds with each other: angry Trumpers and suburbanites. I continue to be skeptical of the notion that the brass-knuckle tactics that have become a "virtue" for much of the GOP base hold nearly as much appeal in the more mild-mannered American suburbs, where people seem generally more inclined to want to work their jobs, spend time with family, and carve out a "comfortable" existence. Those folks typically want a growth economy that grows with their family, not a war on Major League Baseball at all costs or attacks on American businesses that interferes with their bottom lines. What suburbanites want is a measure of predictability so they can plan for the future with some measure of confidence that the world as they know it today won't be radically and fundamentally different from the world tomorrow. And nothing about the new Republibrand inspires confidence and stability.

Probably the best case study to date in how the new Republibrand will play in the suburbs during the midterms comes from the suburban vote in Georgia both last fall and in the January Senate runoffs.

In one instance, Trump is on that ticket and, in the next instance, Trump isn't. So we get to measure that difference. As an added bonus, both Republican candidates doubled down on Trumpism as they fought to win their runoffs. Sen. Kelly Loeffler went all in on racism, and Sen. David Perdue became the Trump mini-me of grift, notching a new stock-trading scandal almost weekly. Perdue also just decided to skip out on his debates with Democratic rival Jon Ossoff and he did so with impunity. In other words, both GOP candidates behaved about about as we can imagine many Republican candidates will in 2022.

Meanwhile, the Democrats ran like they were part of a political party, promising policy solutions aimed at meeting the needs of their constituents. One of their biggest promises, in fact, was passing a new coronavirus relief package that would include $2,000 direct payments.

In the runoffs, Ossoff ultimately defeated Perdue by just over a percentage point, 50.6 percent – 49.4 percent; while Democrat Raphael Warnock triumphed over Loeffler beat Loeffler by 2 points, 51 percent – 49 percent. But let's use Ossoff as an example since he was the squeaker.

In the general election, Joe Biden's win was powered by the shift among voters in the suburbs, college graduates, and high-income earners, according to turnout data from the New York Times. Here's how they shifted from 2016 to 2020:

  • High-income earners: +7 points more Democratic
  • Majority college graduates: +6 points more Democratic
  • Suburban: +6 points more Democratic

Biden won the state 49.5 percent - 49.2 percent. Ossoff ran a touch behind Biden, losing to Perdue 47.9 percent– 49.7 perent. It was good enough to force the runoff, but also left Perdue with a reasonable opening to win reelection.

But the two Democratic Senate candidates prevailed in January based mostly on two factors: increased Black turnout in both suburban and rural counties, and depressed Trump turnout. Suburban voters of all races, particularly those surrounding Atlanta, helped contribute to those wins, though the biggest demographic shift in turnout was among Black voters specifically.

But for our purposes, the Republican Senators didn't fare much better among suburban voters in January without Trump on the ticket and, in fact, mostly fared worse. In suburban Cobb County, for instance, Ossoff ran +10.54 ahead of Perdue (53.96-43.42) in the general election but did even better in the January runoffs, running +12.08 (56.04-43.96) ahead of Perdue. The same was true for the largely suburban counties of Gwinnett, DeKalb, and Henry—Ossoff won with a bigger margin than in November.

So if the Georgia Senate runoffs are any gauge, Republibrand didn't pan out so well for the GOP in suburban America, even as voter turnout among Trumpers sank.

In truth, it's nearly impossible to know how all this will play out in the 2022 midterms. But the GOP brand is evolving and its base will necessarily evolve too. There's just no way Republicans can continue down this path of radical transformation without it having electoral consequences for their base. It's a fascinating turn of events given that just several months ago GOP lawmakers in Washington had a chance to abandon Trump. Now they are doing their level best to embody him and recreate the electoral magic that cost them the House, the Senate, and the White House. It seems nothing short of desperate, but they have also concluded it's their last best option.