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

@monacharenEPPC

Don't Blame Immigrants -- It's Our Laws That Are Criminal

America needs more immigrants, but we seem determined to shoot ourselves in the foot. Before addressing that self-sabotage, permit a small digression.

In the 1980s, Venezuela was the wealthiest country in Latin America. Sitting on about 18 percent of the world's proven oil reserves, Venezuelans enjoyed higher living standards than their neighbors and seemed to have a stable democracy. Looks were deceiving. When the price of oil plummeted in the 1990s, the country was plunged into instability. In 1999, they elected a charismatic military officer, Hugo Chavez, who promised to redistribute the nation's wealth and proceeded to befriend Fidel Castro and destroy the nation's economy. He nationalized companies and farms, crushed labor unions, put opponents in prison and seized the assets of foreign oil contractors.

Chavez succumbed to cancer in 2013, but by then Venezuela was a basket case. Today, one in three Venezuelans doesn't get enough to eat, malnutrition among poor children is rife, and more than 75 percent of Venezuelans live in extreme poverty. It is the most abrupt collapse of a thriving nation not at war on record, and a cautionary tale about what can happen when people make bad political choices.

Most of the 50 immigrants Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped on Martha's Vineyard were Venezuelans who had made an arduous 2,000-mile journey. "No one leaves home," wrote poet Warsan Shire, "unless home is the mouth of a shark."

Many on the right portray illegal immigrants as criminals who are "breaking into our house" and deserve to be treated as such. Under U.S. statutes, if a migrant comes into this country, turns himself in to a border guard or other authority and asks for political asylum, he is entitled to a hearing. Asylum seekers are not "illegal" immigrants.

DeSantis didn't see suffering human beings. He saw props. He saw Fox News coverage. (Fox, unlike the governor of Massachusetts, was tipped off in advance.) And he saw the chance to show the GOP base what a jerk he could be.

The DeSantis justifiers object that border states are being flooded with illegals and that it's unjust that red states are bearing all of the burden. But the border states are not handling it alone. The federal government has spent roughly $333 billion on border security and immigration enforcement in the past 19 years, with much of it targeted on the southern border.

As for the burden of immigration, it's debatable that immigrants represent a burden at all. Many studies show that they pay more in taxes than they cost in social services and they are more likely to work, start business and seek patents than the native-born (and less likely to commit crimes).

Those who believe the propaganda that immigration is destroying America should ponder our neighbor to the north. Is Canada a hellscape? The proportion of foreign-born there is 21 percent compared to the American average of 13.7 percent.

In truth, the vast majority of would-be immigrants have done absolutely nothing wrong. It is our own laws that are the problem. We desperately need workers, yet the wait for legal immigration options is years long. People ask, "Why can't illegal immigrants wait in line?"

But there is no line. We resolutely decline to accept guest workers in large numbers, who could fill jobs and return home (without affecting voting patterns, by the way). And so the only way to gain entry is to put feet on American soil and ask for asylum.

Clearly, not all of those pleading for asylum meet the criteria (a well-founded fear of persecution), but the system is short of courts and judges and wait times for hearings are very long. Some never show up for their hearings. And so the word has gone out around the world that if you can manage to get to the United States and present yourself to a border guard, you have at least a shot of remaining in the country either because your asylum claim will be granted or you will melt into the country and avoid deportation.

We are fortunate that so many hardworking people want to come here. If we had our act together, we would reform our laws to take many more legal immigrants (who would begin the application process in their home countries) and hire more immigration judges to hear asylum claims while clarifying that only severe cases will be eligible for that status (not economic migrants). We are an aging population with a declining birth rate. Our national spirit needs the infusion of energy and dynamism that immigrants provide. And we will be thanked and strengthened by people whose lives we save.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Right-Wing Propagandists For Putin Bring Disgrace On 'Conservatism'

At the moment when freedom-loving people around the world are elated (if on tenterhooks) at the progress of Ukrainian forces in pushing back the Russian invaders, Heritage Action, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, has joined with other self-styled conservative groups to oppose helping Ukraine fight for its life. I know, I know, the Trumpification of the GOP has been a fact for six years, and yet this heel turn is remarkable. It's as if People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced that they support puppy mills for medical research.

The pro-Putin, pro-authoritarian voices in the GOP are not yet a majority — about a quarter of House Republicans and 11 of 50 Senators voted against the $40 billion aid package for Ukraine in May — but they're not a small minority either, and the wind is at their backs. The Conservative Political Action Conference has all but canonized Hungary's strongman Viktor Orban, and in the first hours after Putin rolled into Ukraine, Trump reveled in the murderer's "savvy" and "genius." The 2022 election could bring more authoritarian-friendly Republicans to Congress, and meanwhile, hatcheries of conservative orthodoxy like Fox News and The Federalist are doing the spade work of persuading the base that Kremlin propaganda is more trustworthy — pravda, if you will — than The New York Times.

Just two weeks ago, Tucker Carlson, Putin's favorite American broadcaster (clips from his show are routinely featured on Russian state TV), told viewers that Biden's steadfast support of Ukraine was absurd: "Biden is calling for an unconditional surrender from Vladimir Putin. Here's the weird thing: By any actual reality-based measure, Vladimir Putin is not losing the war in Ukraine."

Poor timing. But that's the least of it. It was bad enough to excuse Putin before February 24 on the risible grounds that he represented some sort of Christian champion and scourge of wokeness. But after? That a spokesman for a so-called conservative TV network can cheer the rape of a free country (Carlson has said he "roots" for Russia to win) is not just morally depraved, it violates the basic tenets of what used to be conservatism. American conservatives once believed that freedom was our most precious inheritance. We were friends to all freedom-loving people and foes of all tyrants. Speaking on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, Ronald Reagan said this to the aging soldiers who had scaled the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc:

"You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt. You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man."

Now it's goodbye to all that apparently. J.D. Vance, Trump's hand-picked candidate for an Ohio Senate seat has said he doesn't care one way or the other what happens to Ukraine. The Federalist denounces Mitch McConnell (who traveled to Ukraine to show support) and other "swamp creatures" for putting Ukraine's security needs ahead of America's. The vapidity of this new "conservatism" is bottomless. They haven't bothered to consider that brutal aggression by a larger against a smaller state invites a Hobbesian international disorder in which no one is safe.

A number of Republicans have seized on the talking point that Biden is more concerned with Ukraine's border than with our southern border. Blake Masters, the Peter Thiel-conjured Republican nominee for US Senate in Arizona, sneered that America's leaders are "buffoons who hate you so ... they'll keep defending Ukraine's borders while turning their backs on ours." Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL) and her ilk found this irresistibly witty and repeated it.

As if thousands of would-be immigrants attempting to cross the Rio Grande for work represent a comparable threat to tanks and missiles destroying cities, murdering men, women, and children, creating millions of refugees, and cutting off food and electricity. This talk of "invasion" of our southern border was always hyperbolic, but to cling to it at a time when our screens are full of images of a true invasion becomes vile.

These supposed conservatives are strangers to the most important themes of traditional conservatism. They dishonor the name. Conservatism was a worldview intimately bound up with opposition to tyranny. Of course we fell short of our aspirations from time to time, but love of freedom was in our DNA — or so it seemed. Our hearts were with oppressed peoples from Lithuania to Tibet to Tehran. We cheered the fall of the Berlin Wall because the USSR was a comprehensive, seven-decade assault on human dignity. We hated it for its repression of speech, thought, religion, movement, and enterprise. We hated it for its torrent of lies.

Putin's Russia differs from the USSR in ideology, but in repression and rapacity, it is comparable. And it's scarcely believable that the "useful idiots" who make excuses for it today — who actually root for its success — are "conservatives."

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Rooting For Civil War, 'Patriotic' Republicans Are Poisoning America

Executing a valid search warrant, FBI agents arrived in the morning to search the office. The word "unprecedented" was on everyone's lips. They seized business records, computers and other documents related to possible crimes. An enraged Donald Trump denounced the FBI and the Justice Department, saying not that they had abided by the warrant issued by a federal judge, but rather that agents had "broken into" the office.

The year was 2018, and Trump was livid about the FBI's investigation into his longtime attorney/fixer, Michael Cohen.

At the time, many observers, including me, assumed that the investigation would yield bushels of incriminating documents about Trump. Cohen was his personal lawyer, after all, the guy who wrote the hush-money checks to porn stars and presumably had access to many of Trump's dodgy or downright illegal acts. It didn't turn out that way.

But what is not open to doubt is that the Republican Party, which seemed to be flirting with post-Trumpism just a few weeks ago, has now come roaring back as an authoritarian cult. Trump has not changed. But he has changed Republicans.

Consider 2018 again. When the FBI searched Cohen's office, Trump was Trump. He raged like a banshee. He declared that it was "an attack on our country" and a "disgraceful situation."


Some Fox News bobbleheads treated the story as more evidence of a conspiracy to hurt the Dear Leader, but most Republicans were subdued. The prevailing tone in Republican ranks was that the investigations, including Robert Mueller's, must be permitted to proceed according to the rules. Sens. Thom Tillis and Lindsey Graham, for example, teamed up with their Democratic colleagues, Sens. Chris Coons and Cory Booker, to propose the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act.

Four years later, the FBI has executed another warrant, this time to Trump's office, and the Trump forces have gone berserk. Rep. Paul Gosar tweeted, "I will support a complete dismantling and elimination of the democrat brown shirts known as the FBI. This is too much for our republic to withstand ... "

Anthony Sabatini, a Florida state representative and candidate for Congress, was prepared to dismantle the whole federalist structure: "It's time for us in the Florida Legislature to ... sever all ties with DOJ immediately. Any FBI agent conducting law enforcement functions outside the purview of our State should be arrested upon sight." That would go well.

Sen. Josh Hawley tweeted that "At a minimum, Garland must resign or be impeached. The search warrant must be published. (FBI Director) Christoper Wray must be removed. And the FBI reformed top to bottom."

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene chants, "Defund the FBI."

Newt Gingrich suggests that the feds might have planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago.

The party that backed the blue and disdained the defund-the-police crowd now flips. Gingrich is channeling Johnnie Cochran. Trump may be an ignoramus and a clod, but he has the capacity to turn people inside out.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the likely next speaker of the House, tweeted a threat to the attorney general, telling Garland to "preserve your documents and clear your calendar" because when/if Republicans take the majority, they're coming for him.

Now, as a substantive matter, McCarthy's tweet is meaningless. The House of Representatives, along with the Senate, already exercises oversight authority over the Justice Department. But the importance of the tweet is not its substance but its tone — the call for vengeance. McCarthy displays zero interest in whether Trump actually committed a crime. The clear message is, "You've gone after our leader, so we're coming for you." The merits of Garland's actions are irrelevant. The facts are irrelevant. It's war.

For some in the wooly precincts of the MAGA right, the call to arms was literal. As Vice reported, some Trumpists were explicit: "'Civil War 2.0 just kicked off,' one user wrote on Twitter, with another adding, 'One step closer to a kinetic civil war.' Others said they were ready to take part: 'I already bought my ammo.'" Steve Bannon, who was pardoned for bilking Trump supporters who thought they were building a wall, declared that "we're at war" and called the FBI the "Gestapo."

Trump is a sick soul who cannot imagine a world in which people act on principle or think about the welfare of others. While in power, Trump wanted to use the FBI to punish his political opponents ("Lock her up") and reward his friends ("Go easy on Michael Flynn"). He projects his own corrupt motives onto others and assumes that the FBI investigation is nothing but a Democratic power grab. It would be pathetic if he had not dragged an entire political party into the fever swamps with him.

This experiment in self-government requires a minimum amount of social trust to succeed. With every tweet that spreads cynicism and lies; with every call to arms that welcomes civil conflict; Trumpist Republicans are poisoning the nation they claim so ostentatiously to love.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

We Need An Immigration Policy That Builds Our Future

Postcards from the great American labor shortage: A couple arrives at the Seattle airport after a five-hour flight and stands in line at the car rental desk. People are angry. At the desk sits a harassed employee explaining that he simply has no cars of any kind to rent. Nothing. Why? There aren't enough employees on hand to vacuum, wash, fuel and process the cars.

Another snapshot. A couple has been driving for several hours and requires a bathroom stop. They pull into a Burger King. The doors are locked. The only service is at the drive-thru. Why? Lack of employees.

Perhaps you've stayed in a hotel recently? Maid service and room service are scarce. If hotels offer these services at all, they are available only upon request. About 25% of restaurant and hotel employees are immigrants. What could be going on here?

Politico reports that hospitals in 40 states have reported critical staffing shortages — orderlies and janitors, yes, but also nurses, doctors and medical technicians. One in five nurses and one in four health aides are foreign-born. Twenty-eight percent of physicians are immigrants.


That dining room set you've been waiting to have delivered? A shortage of port workers and truck drivers is slowing everything down. More airline delays. Fewer varieties of foods in supermarkets. Shortages of lumber, cars and consumer electronics.

And, as you may have noticed, everything is much more expensive.

The reasons for this are multifactorial. Plunging demand for cars during the pandemic, for example, induced the industry to slow down its production. It takes time to ramp back up. The inflation we're experiencing is partially a result of the government flooding too much cash into people's accounts, compounded by COVID-induced supply chain shocks and the disruptions caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

But the one factor we discuss too little is immigration — or rather, we emphasize the wrong aspect. Republicans are obsessed with the southern border and the dreaded waves of people (or sometimes "caravans") attempting entry. But we've long had people thronging the Mexican border. What we haven't seen in many decades is a serious decline in the number of legal immigrants-a decline that is a big factor in all the things Americans dislike about how things are going right now. If an immigration advocate had wanted to concoct a scenario to demonstrate to Americans just how diminished their lives would be with fewer immigrants, they couldn't have devised a better scheme than the combination of the Trump administration and the pandemic.

Trump began his squeeze on immigrants in 2017 with a ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and followed up with drastic reductions in the number of green cards issued, the number of refugees admitted (a shameful policy choice) and the number of legal immigrants processed. A Government Accountability Office review found that the Citizenship and Immigration Service increased its processing time for immigration applications sixfold between 2015 and 2020. Trump officials threw sand into the gears. They raised fees for naturalization applications from $620 to $1,160 and added burdensome, niggling requirements. A 2019 rule, for example, forced immigrants to refile forms if they left a space blank, even if the question did not pertain to them. Interviews were stalled, and they starved the relevant agencies of funding.

Where is the outrage that we are turning away highly skilled immigrants who could make the difference in our competition with China? Wouldn't an "America first" policy capitalize on our desirability as a destination for the talented instead of slamming our doors? Wouldn't we be welcoming those who will create the key technologies for the future, like artificial intelligence?

Before Trump, Republicans used to stress that they were all for legal immigration but only opposed the illegal variety, but that's all changed now. In fact, as Alex Nowrasteh at the CATO Institute argues, Trump failed to budge the number of illegal immigrants in the United States but radically diminished the number of legal immigrants. Sen. Tom Cotton and other Republicans are now on the record as favoring less legal immigration. According to some estimates, if the immigration rate had remained unchanged during Trump's term, we would now have nearly 2 million more prime-age workers.

Those workers would be driving trucks, administering IVs at hospitals, cleaning hotel rooms, picking vegetables and designing software. They'd be starting businesses (immigrants are 80% more likely to do this than native-borns), paying taxes and caring for the elderly. And, by the way, they would be helping to bring down the overall price level.

But Trump distorted the Republican party into a xenophobic, blinkered cult that wrongly sees immigrants as a drain instead of a boon.

So the question Republicans must answer today is: How do you like this immigrant-starved America? How do you like the shortages, the inflation and the poor service? Because this is what comes of nativism.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Pious Mike Pence Sold His Soul -- For Nothing

Mike Pence thinks he has a shot at the presidency.

You can imagine how the conversation went with his political advisors: People are tired of Trump. They want to move on. And you're the perfect person to fill the void. You served him faithfully, but when it came to violating the Constitution, you stood your ground. And you are the true conservative!

Marc Short, Pence's vice-presidential chief of staff, offered that, "If he were to run, he may not be the biggest celebrity. But if we're going to go back to a principled conservative who represents the things we stand for, then there's no one better than Mike."

"If we're going to go back." Not likely. But Pence seems to think there's a yearning for that. He's blown the dust off yellowing copies of his Before Time speeches and sprinkled his text with the sort of Christian-y talk that got him a House seat and the Indiana governor's chair: "Pray for our opponents," he told a (small) audience at a South Carolina church.

Isn't that nice? But there are a few flies in the ointment.


First problem. Now? Now is the moment that Pence rolls out the prayer? As Pence is well-situated to know, big chunks of the GOP base have become hungry for a very different tone. Christian charity is out. Vulgar insults, shameless lies and secessionist hatred are in. It sure is ugly, but Pence is in no position to complain. It's a revolution that Pence did so much to encourage, and it's bizarre that he seems to think he can carry on as if nothing has changed.

Pence prostituted his reputation for Christian piety to the most vile figure in the history of American presidential politics, a man who modeled the opposite of every virtue taught in Sunday school. Pence's pious conscience was remarkably quiescent when Trump encouraged his followers to rough up hecklers; when he bore false witness against Muslim Americans (falsely claiming that he saw them celebrating after 9/11); when he attempted to extort the president of Ukraine to lie about Joe Biden; when he separated asylum-seeking parents from their children; when he refused to condemn the tiki-torch Nazi wannabees in Charlottesville; when he elevated a series of kooks and conspiracists to high office; and when he insisted that the election had been stolen.

Pence was fine with all of it.

Second problem: Worse than simply remaining silent, he played the toady with seemingly endless reserves of self-mortification, uttering cringeworthy encomia to Trump's "broad-shouldered leadership" (a phrase he repeated at least 17 times) and audacious lies about matters big and small.

Pence helped transform the GOP from a conservative party into a cult, and as he is discovering to his sorrow, cults don't behave the way normal political parties do. That's why Pence's gamble that he will get credit from the base for his loyal service to the leader is foolhardy. He is at the mercy of the leader. If the leader disowns him, no history of loyalty to Trump himself, far less service to conservative goals, will save him. Ask Jeff Sessions. Ask Mo Brooks.

Third problem: It's impossible to say how large a contingent of Republican primary voters are in the "Pence is a Traitor" camp, but consider that a recent New York Times/Siena poll found that only six percent of Republicans would vote for Pence in a 2024 primary. At their dueling campaign appearances in Arizona, Trump assembled a rally attended by thousands while Pence spoke to a crowd estimated at 300.

There may indeed be an audience in the GOP for someone other than Trump. A softening in his support is now just barely discernible in polling and lack of donor enthusiasm. But the Trump base will not forgive Pence. Better to turn to someone like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who hasn't been guilty of abiding by the Constitution.

And if the GOP were, by some miracle, to seek an honest, non-authoritarian, traditionally conservative candidate, there are other choices including Rep. Liz Cheney, Gov. Larry Hogan and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who have reminded Republicans of what conservatism can look like.

Pence's tragedy is that he has managed to earn the contempt of the MAGA world and the anti-MAGA world. He deserves full credit for not obeying Trump's command to refuse to count the Electoral College votes on January 6, 2021. But considering the stakes, he should have followed it up with total honesty about how we reached that frightening moment in American democracy. If he had attempted to invoke the 25th Amendment, or encouraged senators to convict Trump at the second impeachment, or testified in public to the House Select Committee, it might have gone some way to compensate for the infamy of the past several years.

Pence chose another path — trying to have it both ways. It will end, perhaps appropriately, with a whimper.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the Beg to Differ podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

A Pro-Lifer And A Pro-Choicer Do Lunch

The day Dobbs was handed down, I happened to be lunching with a new friend who was upset and angry over the decision. She's a libertarian and strongly pro-choice. I said "Sorry," and meant it. Not that I agreed it was a bad decision (I was in the mushy middle with Justice John Roberts), but I understood her feelings and sympathized. She, in turn, has lately come to see that pro-lifers have many good arguments, even if, at the end of the day, she didn't find them compelling enough to change her mind.

As someone who spent decades in the pro-life world but who has many new pro-choice allies, perhaps I can shed some light on our predicament by highlighting what I think are some possible areas of agreement.

Pro-choicers err if they think that the other side is not truly concerned about unborn life but merely seizes upon this issue to keep women subservient. Only 38 percent of women say they believe abortion should be legal in all circumstances.

On the other hand, pro-lifers who focus exclusively on saving the lives of unborn babies overlook the insurmountable reality that pregnant mothers and babies cannot be unlinked. There is no analog to pregnancy; no other situation in which one person's right to life depends upon another being a physical host for nine months and undergoing the rigors of labor and birth. A baby's welfare depends completely on the mother's desire to protect and nurture that life. If, to cite just one of many possible examples, she is negligent by drinking to excess while pregnant, she is likely to give birth to a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome. Forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy she doesn't want carries risks for both mother and child.


Another thing the pro-life movement could expend some energy considering is the kind of women who were having abortions in the past couple of decades. While abortions in aggregate fell dramatically since 1990, the percentage of poor or near-poor women obtaining abortions increased just as sharply. According to the Alan B. Guttmacher Institute, the share of poor women obtaining abortions rose from 27 percent in 2000 to 49 percent in 2014, and 75 percent of women terminating pregnancies were poor or low-income in 2014. Among the most common reasons women give for seeking abortions is financial inability to raise a(nother) child. An enhanced safety net for poor parents seems a necessary response to a post-Dobbs world. It won't prevent every sad outcome, but pro-lifers thinking of the babies who will now not be aborted as well as pro-choicers thinking of the women who will bear them should be able to agree on quickly relieving the financial stress on poor mothers (and, in some cases, poor fathers).

Another possible area of agreement is contraception. Whatever their religious beliefs, age, sex or party, 92 percent of Americans approve of contraception. Yet about half of women who seek abortions say they didn't use birth control in the month before they conceived.

Cost is a factor. Forty percent of poor women would switch to a different form of birth control if price were not a factor. We can easily do better. As the R Street Institute has urged, all 50 states can make birth control pills available over the counter (18 states currently permit pharmacists to dispense them). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Family Physicians have endorsed over-the-counter sale of hormonal contraceptives including pills, vaginal rings, patches and long-acting injections. ACOG confirms that they are safe for all age groups and do not require a physical exam. Women with health insurance (including Medicaid) can obtain them free of charge. Here's something to raise an eyebrow: Both Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have expressed support for making contraceptives available over the counter.

Finally, men have a role in every pregnancy and must be required to take responsibility. DNA testing makes denying paternity impossible, and men should be legally required to support their children, with their full-time presence and marriage to the child's mother where possible, but in any case with their money and time. The era of the shotgun wedding is gone, and maybe we're all better off. But in our stigma-free age, we still have women carrying the burdens of unwed pregnancy and single motherhood and men often skipping off with no consequences at all.

Is it remotely likely that we'll find some common ground in our response to Dobbs? Probably not. But consider that members of Congress were recently able to craft gun control legislation after decades of political rigor mortis. We must keep looking for paths to compromise or we will have a bleak future.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Treat Mass Shootings As Terrorism — And Respond Accordingly

In a sense, the mass murder at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, was a symbol of how badly off-track our country has gotten. Amid the bunting and marching bands and families on lawn chairs, a disturbed idiot with a powerful rifle fired randomly at grandfathers, children and couples holding hands. Blood, bones, eyeballs and guts spilled onto the pavement alongside dropped thermoses and American flags. A 2-year-old was found, covered in blood, wandering alone. Both of his parents were dead. When his grandfather picked Aiden up at the hospital, the boy asked, "Are Mommy and Daddy coming soon?"

Mass shootings in public places are different from ordinary violence. I wish I had a dime for every time some Republican has complained that "the media" don't pay enough attention to shootings in Chicago and Detroit that happen on a regular basis. All murders are horrific of course, but the right is making a mistake if it tries to say that these mass shootings are a drop in the bucket when compared with the overall levels of violence that plague this country, or when they object that suicides actually account for 54% of gun deaths. Those deaths are indeed horrific, which is all the more reason to bring a sense of urgency to reducing them. It's sophistry to simply cite those statistics to wave away the epidemic of mass shootings.

Massacres at supermarkets, churches, classrooms, shopping malls and, good God, July Fourth parades are not like other violence. They shatter our sense of safety. They destroy our sense of normal life. Who among us has not wondered whether we might fall victim to this madness at a ballgame or a concert? This epidemic of mass random shootings is not like gang killings in cities. It's like terrorism. It invades the normal, peaceful world — the places in which we must feel secure.


After 9/11, we went to war and spent trillions of dollars on security. Arguably, we overreacted, but the sense of an overarching menace was powerful. It may have been true that an American was more likely to die in his bathtub than as the result of a terror attack, but people have some control over their bathtubs. They have control over their cars (another big source of annual deaths). And they use their cars and tubs every day without incident, whereas any encounter with a violent jihadist is bound to end badly. Terrorism by those attempting to destroy your way of life has a way of activating every primitive us-versus-them/fight-or-flight impulse in our brains. So even if the chance of any particular American becoming a victim of a gun-wielding jihadist shouting "Allahu Akbar!" was minimal, the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were imprinted on our minds and shouted "Defense!"

One of the least savvy things Barack Obama ever did was to downplay the threat of terrorism. He called ISIS the "JV team" and urged Americans not to respond with fear to attacks in San Bernardino, California, and elsewhere. Attempting to talk people out of their fear of terrorism was futile, and arguably played into the hands of Donald Trump, who used the San Bernardino attacks as the springboard for his vicious call for a ban on all Muslims entering the country.

Now it is Republicans who are attempting to talk people out of their fear. They're saying there's nothing we can do and that, actually, your kids are safer in school than in your living room and what about Newark? If Democrats were smart, they would seize upon this and be the party that takes your safety seriously.

And it's not dishonest. These mass shootings are a greater threat to our security than Islamic terrorism was. If a Fourth of July parade is not safe, nowhere is safe. America is a free-fire zone.

It is too damn easy to get powerful weapons. We don't need to repeal the Second Amendment (impossible anyway) to restrict the easy availability of powerful weapons. In the Highland Park case, just as in dozens of recent mass shootings, the young killer purchased his weapon legally. In the vast majority of these recent mass shootings, the killers just waltzed into gun stores and bought them. As my Bulwark colleagues have argued, we could raise the age to purchase a weapon to 25. We could require extensive training on gun safety. We could limit magazine sizes. We could restrict the sale of body armor. We could improve the background-check system (the Illinois creep passed his). In short, we could respond to the demoralizing fear that our country is so sick on the subject of guns and so divided that we cannot be safe in public. Not even on the Fourth of July.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.


Yes, Cassidy Hutchinson Is A Hero

The House Select Committee reportedly decided to rush Cassidy Hutchinson's public testimony out of concern for her personal safety. They have good reason to worry. Consider what Brad Raffensperger, Rusty Bowers, Shaye Moss, Ruby Freeman and too many others to list have been subjected to. Rusty Bowers became a virtual prisoner in his home as his daughter lay dying.

Among the last things Bowers' daughter saw in this life was Trump crowds accusing her father of pedophilia — because he would not betray his oath by lying. Brad Raffensperger's family received specific threats like, "You and your family will be killed very slowly."

Ruby Freeman used to delight in wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with her nickname, "Lady Ruby," but she doesn't dare to wear it now. "I won't even introduce myself by my name anymore." She is afraid every day. "Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?" Freeman asked. Those words must have been reverberating in Hutchinson's ears as she contemplated her own path.

When Trump first crashed into American politics in 2015, it required only political courage to oppose him. Yet one after another, the leading figures of the GOP, from Chris Christie to Jeff Sessions to Ted Cruz, snapped like dry twigs under his boots.By 2020, it required more than political courage to stand up to Trump; it required physical courage. Rep. Adam Kinzinger has received death threats not just against himself, but against his wife and five month-old baby. Rep. Tom Rice, who voted in favor of Trump's second impeachment, received so many death threats that his chief of staff took to sending some directly to the police and reserving others for the congressman's perusal. (Rice recently lost his primary to a Trump loyalist). So many election workers have been threatened by Trump goons (850, according to Reuters) that three states are considering legislation to protect them.

This is the world that every Republican and conservative brought us by failing to show the minimal amount of integrity. Now they are shamed by the shining example of a 26-year-old woman with her life ahead of her, with no motive but love of country and no power except that which comes from a clear conscience.

There has been some tussling over a couple of details of Hutchinson's testimony. Two Secret Service officers reportedly claim that they want to contradict her SUV story under oath. We'll see. Anyone who viewed the presidential debate in 2020 cannot be shocked that Trump can be unhinged. Eric Herschmann says that a note Hutchinson testified to writing was actually written by him. Those are trivial matters compared with what is unrebutted.

It was clear before June 28 that Trump lifted not a finger to end the violence at the Capitol for many hours. Any normal, nonevil person, confronted with the fact that a mob of his supporters was committing violence at the Capitol, would have called them off. Trump did the opposite. He poured gasoline on the fire, tweeting that "Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution."

Now we learn from Hutchinson that when some of the non-zombified staff at the White House attempted to get Trump to do the most elementally decent act imaginable — to protect another human being, his own vice president — Trump said, "Mike Pence deserves it." Is it conceivable that Trump could have been so depraved? Yes. Months later, speaking to ABC's Jonathan Karl, Trump was asked about his supporters' chants of "Hang Mike Pence." He defended them. "Well, the people were very angry. Because ... it's common sense, that you're supposed to protect — How can you, if you know a vote is fraudulent, right — how can you pass on a fraudulent vote to Congress?"

And that, in turn, is consistent with Trump's comment on January 6 when a panicked Kevin McCarthy phoned to beg the president to call off his mob: "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are." Even in the past few months, Trump has been promising to pardon the rioters, should he be reelected. "We love you," he said on Jan. 6. He still does.

So it sure looks like Cassidy Hutchinson is describing the guy we know — the man who was fine with seeing his vice president murdered.

The most frightening thing we've learned over the past six years is just how indifferent the vast majority of the Republican Party is to the rule of law, the Constitution, basic decency and truth. But there have also been ordinary men and women who met the moment with grace and integrity. Their examples prove that the flame of liberty has not been extinguished. If this republic survives, Rep. Liz Cheney will be remembered as a heroine who ensured that it could. And Cassidy Hutchinson will deserve a place of honor for showing a party of cowards what courage looks like.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Why Trump Can’t Pretend He Believed His Own Lies About 2020

Watergate, whose 50th anniversary is upon us, is remembered for the question: "What did the president know and when did he know it?" But in our age of post-truth politics, the question loses its punch. The Jan. 6 committee devoted the second of its public hearings to demonstrating beyond doubt that Donald Trump knew he had lost the 2020 election. The unstated assumption here is that Trump did not sincerely believe the election was stolen. He was told over and over again that it wasn't and yet persisted in propagating a dangerous lie to the world. And therefore, he is responsible.

With all due respect to the committee (and I wish them resounding success), that's the wrong way to look at it. In the first place, the tangle of loose wires, celebrity gossip, Putin-worship, grade school taunts and world-class vapidity that forms Trump's mind is impossible to penetrate. We are, to our sorrow, quite familiar with his indifference to truth. When it comes to a person who has lied about American Muslims celebrating the fall of the Twin Towers; told the country that COVID-19 was like the common cold and was "disappearing"; lied about why he fired James Comey; and lied even about the paths of hurricanes, we are dealing with someone whose lies are a constitutive part of his psychology. And everyone knows this.


Consider just one contrast from the Watergate era. Part of why the tapes were Nixon's undoing is that they proved that Nixon had lied to his friends and allies as well as to his enemies. The same cannot be said in Trump's case because absolutely everyone in his circle and everyone in the Republican Party who made their peace with him as leader had been lied to repeatedly. Trump had so warped the people around him that there was no expectation of honesty or integrity. What is sincerity in the mind of a man who lies with every exhale? Asking whether Trump knew the election was free and fair is like asking whether a komodo dragon prefers smooth jazz or hip hop. It's a category error.

This emphatically does not let Trump off the hook for his lies. On the contrary. Think of tort law. If you are the owner of a dye factory and an employee sues when he's blinded by a malfunctioning machine, you can't escape responsibility by saying that you didn't know the machinery was faulty. If the negligence is bad enough, it can be criminal.

Criminal negligence is a decent shorthand for the indifference to truth and/or eager embrace of lies that has come to characterize our historical moment. Are the people who get all of their news from Fox or The Federalist responsible for what they believe? They are. Every person in a democratic republic has a duty to ascertain the truth as best they can, and that means questioning the pap that they are fed nightly. It means letting the light of skepticism peek under the blanket of certainty every now and then. A Fox viewer is lied to, yes, but he or she can ask: "Why did Tucker Carlson do an entire show on the first night of televised hearings, Thursday, June 9, without commercial interruptions? What was he afraid viewers would learn if they switched channels to any other outlet even for a minute?"

Yes, viewers are lied to, and the liars deserve particular opprobrium, but at some point, citizens have to use the sense God gave them. If the Dominion Voting machines were rigged, why did Republican House and Senate candidates do so much better than Trump? If there was a vast conspiracy to flip votes from Trump to Joe Biden, why did Trump perform better with Hispanics in 2020 than he had in 2016? And if the problem was the "rigged" voting machines, why did two hand recounts in Georgia show no discrepancies?

If the riot at the Capitol was the work of antifa and the deep state, why was Ashli Babbit a martyr? And for that matter, if it was antifa, why were Republican members asking Trump for pardons in the final days of his presidency? Alternatively, if it was an "normal tourist visit," why blame it on antifa?

Finally, why would people like Brad Raffensperger, Chris Krebs, Bill Barr, Brian Kemp, Doug Ducey and Liz Cheney, who had nothing to gain and a great deal to lose by telling the truth, be doing what they are doing? If any discordant reality can be dismissed with "explanations" like "RINO" or "woke," we have left the realm of reality altogether.

So, yes, Trump is responsible for his lies however fervently he may tell himself and others that he believes in them, because what he believes is irrelevant. His mind is a black hole of truth. It's not what he knows but what he has a responsibility to know. And the same goes for all of us.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Liz Cheney Takes Her Star Turn In Select Committee Hearings

The House Select Committee on January 6 began a series of prime-time hearings on June 9. For the past 11 months, Rep. Liz Cheney has been the face and the voice of the committee. Like the Greek goddess of retribution, Nemesis, she has brought down her hammer on former President Donald Trump and the Trumpified GOP, delivering blows in the form of truth. As the committee accumulated information, it was she who divulged selected segments to the public. She was the face and voice of accountability.

Last December, Cheney was the one who read out those damning text messages exchanged between Fox News hosts and Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

She quoted Sean Hannity: "Can he make a statement? ... Ask people to leave the Capitol?" She quoted Brian Kilmeade: "Please get him on tv. Destroying everything you guys have accomplished." She cited texts from Laura Ingraham fretting that Trump was "destroying his legacy." She quoted from Donald Trump Jr., too. Apparently lacking a direct channel to his father, Jr. was furiously texting Meadows, "He's got to condemn this s—-. ASAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough."

Cheney read these aloud during a committee meeting, and then intoned, "Still, President Trump did not immediately act." There followed more frantic text exchanges with members of Congress afraid for their lives and more urgent pleas from Trump Jr. "It has gone too far and gotten out of hand." Cheney paused again and noted, "But hours passed without the necessary action by the president."

It was Cheney, accompanied only by her father, who showed up for the House commemoration of the one-year anniversary of January 6. With the exception of the exceptional Cheneys, the entire Republican side of the House was empty on the morning of January 6, 2022. The others were presumably content to pretend that marking the anniversary amounted to using it as "a partisan political weapon," as Kevin McCarthy put it.

It was Cheney who, after the racist atrocity in Buffalo, New York, spoke the truth about the GOP's coddling of the Great Replacement Theory. As recently as 2017, the Great Replacement Theory was the province of neo-Nazis and kooks. When the Charlottesville marchers chanted, "The Jews will not replace us," most people had no idea what they were talking about. By 2022, Tucker Carlson touts the Great Replacement explicitly on his cable show, and Rep. Elise Stefanik, who replaced Cheney as the chair of the House Republican Conference last May, has run Facebook ads incorporating the idea.

Over a reflection of migrants crossing the border in President Joe Biden's sunglasses, one ad reads: "Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive move yet: a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION. Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington."

Note the shameless use of the term "insurrection." Always go on offense. Stefanik, like 99% of Republicans, has learned to love aggression, revel in trolling and despise honor.

Cheney responded with unadorned reality: "The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism. History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse."

The Wyoming state GOP chairman, Cheney told Bob Costa, is a member of the Oath Keepers. It's a nightmare from which we never seem to wake. Retiring Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who also agreed to serve on the House Select 6 Committee over McCarthy's objections, has been similarly honest about the GOP's dalliance with white supremacy and racism.

Kinzinger is not seeking reelection against a Trump-backed challenger, but Cheney is soldiering on. Unseating her is a top Trump priority, and a recent poll found her lagging her challenger by 30 points. Unimaginative people ask, "What's her endgame? She's going to lose, so what was this all about?"

Well, for those who couldn't see it, she has explained what this is about. It's about her love for this "incredible jewel, this incredible blessing of a country." It's about the "danger of this moment." It's about her reverence for the Constitution that several generations of Cheneys have fought to defend. Here is how she explained it in February:

"Republicans used to advocate fidelity to the rule of law and the plain text of the Constitution. In 2020, Mr. Trump convinced many to abandon those principles. ... The Jan. 6 investigation isn't only about the inexcusable violence of that day: It is also about fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law, and whether elected representatives believe in those things or not."

Those words will ring hollow to the Trumpified GOP who have lost the capacity to love their country more than their party. But for many of us, they rekindle a spark of hope that some leaders will serve as a saving remnant.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is "Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense." To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

How Democrats (And Honest Republicans) Can Defeat The Next Coup Attempt

In 1980, because I was an idealistic conservative eager to do my bit for democracy, I volunteered for my local Republican Party as a poll watcher. When polls closed, election officials asked us to gather around as they opened the backs of the machines one by one and tallied the votes. We could all see what was happening, and we all gave our assent that the totals were correct.

It was a glimpse into the ordinary yet extraordinary system we've devised over decades and centuries to ensure that elections are performed honestly and securely. Each state has developed its own procedures, but they're all broadly similar. The results of each polling location are delivered to the precinct and then on to the canvassing board. Election administrators are observed by partisans of both parties, and the results are often counted more than once.

Our voting systems in America have not always been perfect — the most glaring flaw being the disenfranchisement of many African Americans until the mid-20th century — but we corrected that, and over time and in most places, we've conducted free and fair elections every two years.

Today, that stability is at risk.

Across the country, candidates who deny the legitimacy of the 2020 election are seeking office in order to prepare the ground for the next election contest. Pardoned Trump ally Steve Bannon is encouraging MAGAites to run for local posts with authority to count votes. Bannon uses his popular podcast to tout "taking over the Republican party through the precinct committee strategy ... It's about winning elections with the right people — MAGA people. We will have our people in at every level."


At least 23 candidates who deny the outcome of the 2020 election are running for secretary of state in 19 states. Among those are battleground states that Joe Biden won narrowly: Michigan, Nevada, Georgia and Arizona. Trump has endorsed candidates in Georgia, Arizona and Michigan, the only time in history that a former president has bestirred himself over races so far down the ballot. "We're seeing a dangerous trend of election deniers lining up to fill election administration positions across the country," Joanna Lydgate, chief executive of the States United Democracy Center, told The Guardian. States United also tallies 53 election deniers seeking governorships in 25 states, and 13 election deniers running for attorney general in 13 states.

Additionally, death threats and intimidation from MAGA extremists have caused one in five election administrators to say they will leave their posts before 2024. The most common explanation is that too many politicians were attacking "a system that they know is fair and honest" and that the job was too stressful. A February survey of 596 local election officials found that they spanned the political spectrum pretty evenly — 26% identified as Democrats, 30% as Republicans and 44% as independents. A majority said they were worried about attempts to interfere with their work in future elections.

While MAGA types are beavering away, attempting to stack election boards and other posts with election-denying zealots, what are other Americans doing? The clock is ticking.

Democrats are likely to have a tough election in November — not that widespread Republican victories will cause election deniers to reconsider their belief that the 2020 race was stolen. But while Democrats are likely to lose seats in the House and Senate, local elections may not be so lopsided, particularly if the craziness of some of these candidates is highlighted. Kristina Karamo, for example, the Trump-endorsed secretary of state candidate in Michigan, claims that she personally witnessed fraudulent vote-counting in 2020, that Trump won her state (Biden won it by 154,000 votes) and that left-wing anarchists attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Some Republicans, it should not be forgotten, continue to uphold the integrity of elections; a handful of honest Republicans saved the country from a potentially disastrous constitutional crisis in 2020.

If past is prologue, Democrats will probably pour money into unwinnable races over the next few months. Remember Amy McGrath? She was supposed to dethrone Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. Democratic donors gave her $88 million. Remember Jaime Harrison? He was going to defeat Lindsey Graham in South Carolina. Donors shoveled $130 million his way. Harrison lost by a 10-point margin. McGrath lost by nearly 20 points. The list goes on. Beto O'Rourke, anyone? (Republicans do this, too. Just look at the money wasted in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's district.)

This year, donors are spending millions in an attempt to unseat the execrable Marjorie Taylor Greene. Sigh. Trump won Greene's district with 75% of the vote. This. Won't. Work.

Democrats, independents and sane Republicans should focus instead on the critical local contests that will determine who counts the votes in 2024. Those unsexy races for local positions and administrative posts like secretaries of state could make the difference in 2024 between an election and a coup.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is "Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense." To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Why Saving Democracy May Mean Supporting A Conservative

Fighting Republican authoritarianism means sometimes delaying political gratification.

The Utah Democratic Party did something extraordinary last week: They threw their support behind a Republican. Well, a former Republican, anyway. Evan McMullin, who ran for president as an independent in 2016, is now seeking to unseat Sen. Mike Lee.

At the Democratic Party convention, held at Cottonwood High School in Murray (don't you love democracy?), some delegates were uncomfortable. One told the Deseret News that he "never imagined my fellow Democrats would disenfranchise me," adding that "Democrats need to be on the ballot." But most delegates were swayed by the arguments of former Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams, who vouched for McMullin's integrity and urged that he would help "heal the divide" in Washington. Besides, he said, McMullin has a real path to victory. The Democrats agreed and, with 57 percent voting in favor, elected to join a coalition that also includes the United Utah Party to endorse McMullin.

Now, cards on the table, it isn't as if any Democratic nominee would stand a ghost of a chance. Utah hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate in more than 50 years, and Republicans outnumber Democrats in the state 5-to-1. But McMullin is a political unicorn — a former Republican, CIA veteran and conservative who garnered 21% of the vote in Utah when he made his quixotic presidential bid in 2016.

Lee was swept into office by the Tea Party wave of 2010. He defeated incumbent Republican Bob Bennett in the primary by arguing that Bennett had lost his edge after years in Washington. Lee claimed that he, by contrast, was a "constitutional conservative." His website boasts that he has "spent his career defending the fundamental liberties of all Americans and advocating for America's founding constitutional principles."

Unless those principles conflict with his personal ambitions. Maybe that's in the small print.

Lee was among the last holdouts at the GOP convention in 2016, hoping to deploy procedural rules to deny Trump the nomination. In July of that year, adverting to Trump's "authoritarian" tendencies, he shot back at a MAGA radio host, "Don't sit here and tell me that I have no reason to be concerned about Donald Trump. ... I mean we can get into the fact that he accused my best friend's father of conspiring to kill JFK."

Over the following years, like every other leading Republican except those you can list on two hands, Lee immolated his constitutional principles on a pyre. As Amanda Carpenter itemized, the recently revealed text messages to Donald Trump's White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows reveal a senator not only willing to overlook a little authoritarianism now and again but also an active participant in a behind-the-scenes effort to overturn a free and fair election. On Dec. 8, 2020, for example, Lee texted to Meadows that "If a very small handful of states were to have their legislatures appoint alternative slates of delegates, there could be a path."

Lee, you see, wanted the coup to be by the book. If the states (only the ones Trump lost, of course) submitted alternate slates of electors, why, then, according to the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act (which Democrats should have repealed and replaced by now), the MAGA forces could stall and possibly prevent the certification of Biden's victory. Lee later texted to Meadows that he was on the phone "14 hours a day" discussing whether state legislators were going to submit "clean" slates for Trump. After the texts leaked, he told the Deseret News, "At no point in any of those was I engaging in advocacy. I wasn't in any way encouraging them to do that. I just asked them a yes or no question."

It didn't occur to Mr. Constitutional Conservative that phone calls from a United States senator to state legislators asking questions might be interpreted as signals or even possibly as threats? He certainly knew that Trump was engaging in every possible ploy to overturn the election. What business did a Utah senator have even calling legislators from Pennsylvania or Michigan? And he wasn't troubled by the utter fallaciousness of the election fraud claims, rejected by something like 63 courts, that would be the foundation of any effort to submit alternative slates? That's the nub of it. It was a lie — a blatant, stinking lie.

In October 2020, Lee famously tweeted "We're not a democracy." It's a familiar conservative talking point. We are a republic. True. A democratic republic. Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution that Lee claims to revere guarantees to each state a "republican form of government." A republican form of government depends utterly on votes being counted legally and properly. Otherwise, the Constitution's guarantee becomes a dead letter, rather like the sham elections in Russia or Cuba. It seems that Lee wanted to use the Constitution as a fig leaf for a naked power grab. Yes, he ultimately voted to certify Biden's victory, but only after granting the coup plot legitimacy with his backroom maneuvering.

The Utah Democratic Party has demonstrated flexibility, too rare a trait in today's politics. Utahans now have a rare opportunity to strike a blow for democracy and the Constitution. A McMullin victory would signal that there are consequences for betraying your oath and making a mockery of appeals to the Constitution.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.


Tucker Carlson And The Crisis Of Masculinity

Tucker Carlson's foray into testicle toasting is only the latest (and possibly most amusing) example of the right wing's masculinity obsession. The manliness theme keeps reappearing. Trump's strutting tough talk was imbibed greedily by fans eager for affirmation of the manly virtues.

Trump and his acolytes didn't invent this; insecure masculinity is an old phenomenon.

In the early years of the 20th century, Europe experienced something of a masculinity crisis. Popular writers, physicians and journalists began to fret that young Englishmen, Frenchmen and Germans had become soft after so many uninterrupted years of peace. In her magisterial history of the period, The War That Ended Peace, Margaret MacMillan traced the currents that coursed through European society in the years before the Great War. Francois Coppee, a French nationalist, worried that "Frenchmen are degenerating ... too absorbed in the race for enjoyment and luxury to retain that grand subordination of self to great causes which has been the historic glory of the French character." In Great Britain, Gen. Robert Baden-Powell founded the Boy Scouts in part because he feared the emasculation of England's youth.

In America, too, many feared that urbanization and industrialization had feminized men. Theodore Roosevelt glorified and personified the "strenuous life."

It's a universal worry. Russian President Vladimir Putin has portrayed himself shirtless on horseback, defeating opponents in hand-to-hand judo combat and shooting tigers (staged, of course). In 2021, the Chinese government banned "effeminate men" from TV and instructed broadcasters to "resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal aesthetics." They were to depict only "revolutionary culture."

It's tempting to dismiss all of this as the pathetic bleats of hollow men who merit only derision. But as anthropologists, psychologists and historians alike can testify, the male need for validation is universal, and when societies fail to offer constructive paths for masculine expression, they court backlash. The negative aspects of masculinity are always lurking just beneath the surface.

In the past 60 years, America and the rest of the developed world have witnessed dramatic and precedent-shattering changes in women's status and in relations between men and women. Not all have been positive. Boys and men have felt neglected in the march toward "girl power" and "woman power." Cutting back on recess denies children not just an outlet for restless limbs but crucial social and emotional learning.

Girls are now outperforming boys at nearly every level of education. They earn 60 percent of bachelor's and master's degrees, and comprise 70 percent of high school valedictorians. Women are also dominating many workplaces. Women today hold a majority of the nation's jobs, including 51.4 percent of managerial and professional jobs — up from 26.1 percent in 1980.

The sexual and feminist revolutions of the 1960s delivered mixed signals to men. At first, the message was: "Women were just as randy as men, and sex was a romp and a frolic." Then it was: "No, wait, failing to get consent for every caress and kiss was assault." Masculinity itself was not a constitutive part of humanity; it was "toxic."

The other great upheaval of the past half-century is the decline of the two-parent family. The great dividing line in American life is not progressive versus conservative, urban versus rural, or black versus white. It's married versus not. For example, African American husbands have higher labor force participation rates than white bachelors. The upper third of the income distribution, who tend to marry and stay together, also tend to raise thriving children. By contrast, the lowest third, who mostly have revolving-door relationships without marriage, tend to have kids who don't. The middle third is more like the bottom than the top. Children in homes with a non-relative adult are 11 times more likely to be the victims of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse than those living with their biological or adoptive parents.

Boys are more disadvantaged than girls when they are raised by single mothers. Two MIT economists studied pairs of siblings in Florida between 1992 and 2002. They found that "Fatherless boys are less ambitious, less hopeful and more likely to get into trouble at school than fatherless girls." Being raised by a single mother significantly decreased the likelihood that a boy would attend college but had no similar effect on girls.

A significant percentage of American men are growing up without models of manliness in the form of fathers. They don't see a man shouldering responsibilities for his wife and children, helping with expenses (or covering them), joking with Mom, taking out the trash, tossing a ball with his kids, helping with homework or preparing a meal. Without a balanced picture of masculinity based upon their life experience, they search for masculinity elsewhere and often find a tawdry version offered up by the Carlsons and Putins of this world.

So, in a sense, we do have a masculinity crisis. We have large numbers of men who never marry, never support their kids and are loosely attached to the community. They are insecure about their masculinity for good reason — and that presents a problem for us all.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Printed with permission from Creators.

Is There Any Way To Isolate Political Extremists? Yes

There is probably no easy cure for the Marjorie Taylor Greene phenomenon. She's a repellent clown whose presence on the national stage has yielded nothing but degradation — except for the guffaw she afforded us when denouncing Nancy Pelosi's "Gazpacho police."

And she has lots of company. Her colleagues in the House include Paul Gosar and Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert and Louie Gohmert and, sigh, many more. And even among the members who probably do know the difference between the Nazi secret police and a summer soup, there are alarming numbers who are extremist-adjacent. There are, for example, more sitting GOP congressmen who voted not to certify the 2020 election than there are Republicans who voted for a resolution to support NATO.

Democrats are not immune to the extremism virus either. While the Democratic Party hasn't lost its bearings in the way the Republican Party has, it is skewed by its own zealots. In the 2020 presidential primaries, for example, progressive activists pushed candidates to impose a moratorium on deportations, to abolish private health insurance and to ban fracking, among other demands. Those issues weren't top of mind for average Democrats, let alone for average voters.

In the pre-Internet era, our political parties seemed to be bulwarks of stability. But that has long since ceased to be the case. Rather than forming, directing and discipling their members, these institutions have become hollow shells. Unable to control fundraising due to the rise of small-dollar, internet contributions, and stripped even of the formerly coveted power of attaching earmarks to legislation, the parties, as Yuval Levin has argued, are mere soapboxes that permit members to flaunt their personal brands.

The party duopoly empowers the most extreme voters and leaves the vast middle unrepresented and feeling that in general elections they must choose the lesser of two evils. As Katherine Gehl, founder of the Institute for Political Innovation, notes, about 10 percent of voters (those who vote in primaries) determine the outcome of 83 percent of congressional races. And because primary voters tend to be more ideological and extreme than others, candidates pander to them to get elected and then to remain in office. The term "primary" became a verb only in the last decade or so, as the power of the party zealots became a cudgel to use against any member who even considered compromising with the other party.

There's one more factor aggravating the lurch to extremism, at least among Republicans (Democrats have different rules), and that's the winner-take-all system in presidential primaries. In 2016, Donald Trump lost Iowa and then won New Hampshire with 35 percent of the vote. A solid majority, 57 percent, was divided among five other candidates.

So, are we doomed to be at the mercy of the mad and bad? It's possible, but then again, one reform that seems to be getting traction is ranked-choice voting (also known as instant runoff elections).

It's already the law in Alaska and Maine for state, congressional, and presidential contests and has been adopted by more than 20 cities. In Virginia, the Republican Party used a ranked-choice system to choose its gubernatorial candidate in 2021, with the result that Glenn Youngkin rather than Amanda Chase ("Trump in heels") secured the nomination. In New York City, predictions that the city's 5.6 million voters would find the ranked-choice system confusing were not borne out. Turnout was up compared with the last contested mayoral primary, and 95 percent of voters said the system was easy. There were no differences among ethnic groups in understanding the system, and the winner was a moderate former cop.

There are many different approaches to ranked-choice voting, and experimentation will determine which is best. But even with the small sample we have, we can judge that the incentives seem better. Among the three GOP senators who voted to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, only one is up for reelection in 2022 — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Murkowski could uphold the norm of confirming the other party's qualified nominee and not fear a Trumpist primary challenger because Alaska now holds an open primary in which anyone from any party can participate. The four candidates who win the most votes go on to the general election. Voters rank their choices. If one candidate gets over 50 percent, he or she is the winner. If not, the bottom polling candidate is dropped, and the second choices on ballots are distributed, and so on until someone has a majority.

Not only does the ranked-choice system disempower party extremists; it also discourages candidates from savage personal attacks, the persistence of which arguably keeps some fine people out of politics altogether.

The two-party system has not proven to be a solid foundation for democracy. Time to disarm the crazies.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the Beg to Differ podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Democrats Need To Get Better At Politics, And Fast

When voters are dissatisfied with the state of things, they punish the party in power, and Democrats seem poised for a thumping. This may be bad news for the health of democracy, but it is understandable as a matter of electoral politics because Democrats have forgotten what they grasped in 2020 when they united behind Joe Biden: the overriding obligation to win. That's right — not to pass generational reforms, not to save the planet, but just to govern in a fashion that prevents the QAnon-indulging, Putin-friendly, truth-optional, insurrectionist party from returning to power.

It isn't that Democrats have done nothing popular. They just haven't advertised it. In fact, they've buried it. Included in the American Rescue Plan was one policy that really was life-changing for many Americans — the child allowance. Parents of 60 million of America's 73 million children began receiving a check from the IRS of $300 a month for young children and $250 a month for older ones. Under Biden, child poverty reached its lowest rate in American history.

Have you heard about this dramatic accomplishment? Biden mentions it from time to time, but it should have been shouted, broadcast, trumpeted and crowed over. Sadly, the program has now lapsed, a victim of Democratic infighting.

Nor have Democrats talked up the good economic numbers. With the exception of the inflation rate, the economic story is remarkably good. The unemployment rate dropped from 6.2 percent when Biden took office to 3.9 percent today. Skeptics might attribute that mostly to the waning of COVID-19, but that shouldn't stop politicians from bragging. They get blamed for things they aren't responsible for, so they might as well take credit for things they didn't really affect. Hiring is robust, wages are rising, unemployment is low, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average is at 35,000.

How about that bipartisan infrastructure bill? All of the lead pipes in America are going to be replaced, saving God knows how many kids from brain damage. The legislation will begin the important process of mitigating the effects of climate change by building dikes, dams and other infrastructure. It will repair roads, bridges and airports, and do much more. Have you heard about it?

Yet the dominating story of Biden's first year-and-a-half was that Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema were traitors who stood in the way of a different bill that was never described in any way except as a price tag. A bunch of progressives wanted to spend another $2 trillion. Ninety percent of the attention has gone to what Democrats were (unrealistically) shooting for rather than what they achieved. So they drowned their own accomplishments in a miasma of recriminations.

Nor have Democrats competently pushed back on "defund the police" and "abolish ICE" and other left-wing slogans that Republicans have employed to great effect to tar their whole party. Yes, Biden had a good one-liner in his State of the Union address. "Don't defund the police. Fund the police." But it should have been said 3,000 times, and not just by Biden but by Vice President Kamala Harris and his cabinet members and leaders in Congress and surrogates of every kind.

They used to be better at this.

As someone who was on the other side for decades, I well recall that when Paul Ryan supported a plan that would permit Americans to funnel up to 40 percent of their Social Security taxes into private retirement accounts, interest group ads depicted him as a ghoul who was willing to wheel Granny off a cliff. I also recall the Obama campaign commercial that falsely pinned responsibility for a woman's cancer death on Mitt Romney's firm.

All of that was scurrilous, and I would never — truly never — suggest that Democrats lie about Republicans. But why can they not tell the truth?

Sen. Rick Scott, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is out with a plan that explicitly calls for raising taxes on 57% of American households. Could Democrats make something of that? And if not, what are they doing in politics?

Finally, at least one reason that Democrats are perceived to be out of the mainstream is that the right-wing information ecosystem relentlessly "nut picks" the most outlandish things any Democrat says or does and magnifies it out of all proportion.

By contrast, Democrats have utterly failed to elevate the profiles of sinister figures like Reps. Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Madison Cawthorn or Lauren Boebert. Where are the Democratic ads pointing out that the way you get in trouble in today's GOP is by standing up for the rule of law and the Constitution (see Cheney, Liz and Kinzinger, Adam), but not for attending a conference organized by a Holocaust-mocking white supremacist? We used to say "the ads write themselves," yet the Democrats can't seem to manage it.

Get better Democrats. The stakes couldn't be higher.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Is It Really Racist To Help Ukraine — And Ukrainians?

"Many in Mideast See Hypocrisy in Western Embrace of Ukraine," read an Associated Press headline this week. Salon asked: "Whose Lives Really Matter?" and answered its own question in the next breath — "How Racism Colors Coverage of the Crisis in Ukraine."

On social media, a tweet by Ayo Sogunro, a Nigerian human rights lawyer, has been shared tens of thousands of times: "Can't get it out of my head that Europe cried about a 'migrant crisis' in 2015 against 1.4 million refugees fleeing war in Syria and yet quickly absorbed some two million Ukrainians within days, complete with flags and piano music. Europe never had a migrant crisis. It has a racism crisis."

I beg to differ. In fact, Americans and Europeans have expended quite a lot of blood and treasure over the past several decades to defend or help non-whites and non-Christians. The most directly analogous case to Russia's invasion of Ukraine was Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The coverage of Kuwait's suffering at the time was heartrending, including stories about hospitals being plundered and civilians imprisoned, raped and tortured. Far from countenancing this assault on a non-white nation, the U.S. assembled an international coalition of 35 nations to drive Iraq out of Kuwait in what became the First Gulf War.

In 1992 and 1993, a civil war had devastated Somalia. A U.N. relief operation had run aground. President George H.W. Bush offered to send 25,000 U.S. troops to keep order so that the humanitarian aid could be distributed. What followed under the Clinton administration was the infamous "Black Hawk Down" episode in which 19 Americans were killed and 70 injured by al-Qaida-trained militants.

The U.S. took military action on behalf of Muslims six times in the past 30 years — in Kuwait, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, and participated (if only from behind) in the military operation that removed Moammar Gadhafi from power when he seemed poised to destroy the city of Benghazi. So call it seven. Say what you will about the wisdom of the Iraq invasion (or the other interventions), there is no doubt that they were undertaken with the goal of freeing people from a dictator, not imposing one. Those who make facile comparisons between our wars and the Russian invasion might want to reflect that no Ukrainians are mobbing the Russian embassy in hopes of visas and no Ukrainians are hanging onto Russian jets. You don't have to agree that the Iraq war was good policy or the long occupation of Afghanistan a wise use of resources to concede that we tried awfully hard to help both countries.

As for the different treatment of Ukrainian versus Mideast refugees, let's remember that Europe accepted more than 1 million refugees from Syria and the U.S. accepted several thousand, despite non-trivial fears that ISIS and al-Qaida elements might be among those asking for asylum. Arguably, the strain those immigrants placed on European societies — because they did include some terrorists — led directly to the rise of far-right parties. And while we're thinking of Syria, let's not forget that Russia also intervened in the conflict — on the side of Bashar al-Assad, helping to reduce Aleppo and other cities to rubble and further immiserating that nation.

"Whose Lives Really Matter?" asks Salon. Well, African lives do. That's why the United States launched PEPFAR under George W. Bush's presidency, the largest commitment by any nation to fight a disease in history. The fund has already spent $100 billion and saved an estimated 20 million lives that would have been lost to HIV/AIDS.

So what has triggered this rash of commentary about Ukraine proving the racism of the West? On the BBC, a former Ukrainian official confessed that "It's very emotional for me because I see European people with blue eyes and blond hair ... being killed every day." An Al Jazeera anchor said, "These are not obviously refugees trying to get away from areas in the Middle East."

Those comments were stupid, but the reason I recited the history above is that you can't write whole nations off for the stray remarks of a few. In fact, identification with those most like us — in appearance, culture, religion, nation, whatever — is part of human nature, and no one of any color is completely immune. Arabs are more concerned about Palestinians than about the Rohingya or Sudanese. That's not racism, it's just fellow feeling.

Europeans and Americans have responded to Ukraine's plight with empathy and anger and admiration and love. And so have Kenyans and Japanese and Mexicans and Egyptians and billions more. We all have our tribal tendencies and must strive to recognize that all God's children are of equal moral worth. But looking at our recent history, we've done pretty well on that score. So let's not tar this moment of moral clarity with the racism brush.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Slow Down Trans Policy -- And Let Trans Science Catch Up

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas recently used his executive authority to declare that puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgeries for those under 18 meet the legal standard for child abuse in Texas, a ruling that authorized the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents who had sought such treatment for their children. This is malice masquerading as policymaking.

Progressives, for their part, anathematize anyone who questions the new orthodoxy about gender. Not to go all kumbaya, but it just might be the case that both sides in these controversies have valid perspectives.

Progressives are right that transgender people used to be treated with some contempt. It's important to correct that. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity. But conservatives are right that we've rushed into radical approaches to medicating children with gender dysphoria because the medical establishment and large parts of the opinion-shaping commentariat have treated this as a social justice matter rather than as a question of what's best for kids.

Over the past couple of decades, the percentage of kids identifying as transgender has skyrocketed. A recent survey found that 1.8 percent of children under the age of 18 identify as trans, which is twice the number from 10 years earlier. Brown University public health researcher Lisa Littman published a study speculating that peer contagion was part of the reason groups of teenage girls were coming out as trans, and Abigail Shrier's book followed up with insights into the social media influencers on YouTube and Tik Tok who encourage unhappy kids to consider that path.

LBGTQ advocates vigorously oppose the group contagion theory, but it's obvious that behavior and mental health are affected by social cues. Emile Durkheim showed that suicide was contagious more than 100 years ago, and other mental health issues like eating disorders and cutting are associated with particular groups (white, middle-class females). Positive behaviors like volunteering and charitable giving are also influenced by group dynamics.

While we can't rule out the possibility that trans people are coming out of the closet for the same reasons that gay people did in previous decades — declining stigma — there are reasons to be more cautious about the trans trend.

First, there is the complicated matter of why people seek to transition. Studies have shown that the majority of youth with gender dysphoria who go through natural puberty become lesbian, gay or bisexual nontransgender adults. Surely clinicians have a duty to help young people explore their sexuality before prescribing hormones and other body- and brain-altering treatments.

Second, recognizing one's sexual orientation doesn't entail the risks of surgery or infertility, while gender therapy does. The "gender affirmation" model of treatment, the nearly universal approach of American gender clinics, requires that children who express gender dysphoria be recognized by family, friends and teachers as the other sex. They are encouraged to dress, style their hair, change their names and pronouns, and conduct themselves in every way as the other sex. They are given puberty-blocker drugs to retard the onset of puberty until they are "ready" to decide what they really want to be. And thereafter, they are prescribed cross-hormone treatments (lifelong) along with surgery, if desired.

Advocates say puberty blockers and other early treatments are fully reversible, but that's debatable. As The New York Times noted, few studies have followed adolescents receiving these drugs into adulthood. Puberty blockers impede bone development and, if administered early in puberty, cause permanent infertility.

Besides, children go through stages, and it seems ill-advised to make decisions about treatment that will have irreversible effects.

Studies of patients who have de-transitioned after hormone or surgical treatment or both reveal that most feel they received inadequate counseling before being prescribed hormones. A quarter said they realized as adults that their discomfort with being gay drove them to transition, and 38% said that trauma, abuse or other mental health issues caused them to transition.

Clearly, children who have true gender dysphoria need sensitive and compassionate care and full respect. In some cases, it may be best to adopt aspects of the gender affirming approach. But interfering with their bodies and brains before they reach maturity seems drastic, particularly when surgeries are performed on teens younger than 18.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.