Politics Thread


Like noted theocrats Bill Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and Ted Kennedy? RFRAs are a fundamentally defensive measure, and I disagree that they push the envelope, 25 years after the federal one was passed. Yes, they provide grounds on which some people can continue to discriminate under certain, fairly constrained circumstances; but they don’t provide the basis for anything resembling a US theocracy, especially in the context of the sweeping, ongoing legal and judicial victories of the LGBT civil rights movement.

(I should note that I have a fair amount of sympathy for RFRAs in general, since they’ve provided a robust basis for minority religions to defend themselves against laws with a discriminatory impact–especially Native American religions, Orthodox Jews, and Muslims).

In the Indiana case, where preserving space to discriminate against LGBT people was the law’s near-explicit intent, there was as you say an immediate and massive backlash. And as you emphasize, it took Pence and his fellow Indiana Republicans about a year to cave in and write anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people into the law. I don’t think that shows bold resolve, or suggests a theocrat-in-waiting.

Indeed, speaking as a pro-LGBT Christian, the US looks rather more like a theocracy favoring my religion these days than Pence’s.

My gut reaction to your first point is that McCarthyism took place in such a different historical context that it’s only slightly more relevant than the Republicans being the party of Lincoln (or the Democrats being the party of Jim Crow). And Watergate was ultimately Nixon v. both parties, with a norm-breaking President going down in shame rather than bequeathing a legacy that others would follow. (Of course Trump is doing a lot of the same shit now, but the Nixon legacy hampers him–it provides the language to resist e.g. the firing of Mueller rather than a precedent Trump can comfortably follow.)

As for the last twenty years, yes, the Republicans have done more than their fair share of democratic norm breaking. I wouldn’t trust Pence to reverse that trend. But then, I wouldn’t trust 90% of Democrats to reverse that trend, either.

Dems have sacrificed plenty of norms to advance our policy priorities. We’re the party that embraced Supreme Court judicial activism to get lots of our agenda locked in legislation-proof at national level. We were the ones who ignited all-stops-pulled-out, highly partisan SCOTUS confirmation battles based on nominees’ political beliefs in order to keep the Court reliably liberal. We resorted to massively stepped-up use of the filibuster against G.W. Bush nominees in 2003-5, and then initiated the “nuclear option” in 2013 to prevent minority parties’ ability to block cabinet and judicial nominees. We passed Obamacare on a technicality and broke plenty of norms around what couldn’t be done by executive order.

These are all symptoms of the erosion of American deliberative democracy, in which both parties are complicit (though not equally so). The US is on the slippery slope towards a politics of winner-take-all (within which presidential democracies are particularly prone to fail) and I don’t trust either side to pull back in time.

But I’d trust anyone more than Trump. Trump’s whole Presidency is both a symptom of our long bout of norm-killing and an acceleration of it. A narcissist like Trump comes into a system already well on its way to a “win at any cost” mentality and goes as far in that direction as the system will let him, unrestrained by other priorities.

Pence isn’t a narcissist. He cares about things other than winning, including respectability. He doesn’t have Trump’s shamelessness (and couldn’t pull it off even if he had the courage to try). A Pence Presidency threatens temporary losses, reversible setbacks. It doesn’t threaten the system.

Man, if the Donald Trump presidency can’t kill this mindset off, nothing ever will.

Look, I’d also like a President who didn’t engage in drone warfare, and a President who seriously takes on the moral-hazard-merchants of Wall Street. (I agree with Bryce that there was no alternative in 2008, and that’s what should have driven us to reinvent a system that privatizes profit while socializing risk.)

But I also like having a President who supports a solution to climate change, who doesn’t dismantle domestic environmental protections, who doesn’t deliberately choose policies that ramp up cruelty along the southern border, and who doesn’t waste time and energy on a host of made-up problems just because it gins up the nationalist vote.

Oh, and I’d like one who recognizes Russian election interference as a problem and seeks to push back on it rather than benefit from it. But that’s because I also think the last couple decades have plainly shown that voting matters, that US elections aren’t just a puppet show. In 2015-6, the Republican establishment for the most part couldn’t stand Trump; he was picked by the people, not the party. And as for the overall results, a few more voters in one key state in 2000 or a few key states in 2016 would have made the difference.

Violent uprisings don’t usually produce systems with more participation by the poor; where they have, they’ve been starting from a point with lot less opportunities than the current US one affords. An uprising in the States would almost certainly fail. If it succeeded, it would almost certainly result in a more oligarchic, exclusionary setup than our current one. I’ll stick to fighting within the system, thanks.

Once the Clinton administration took office and really got their heads round the implications of this, advisor James Carville famously said he’d changed from wishing he was Pope to wishing he was the bond market. “You can intimidate everybody.”

Managing the power imbalance built into the heart of modern economies is one of the great political challenges of this century (the last century’s attempted solutions having largely failed).


Maybe, maybe not. Everyone knew Saddam Hussein was a murderous dictator. And even Hillary Clinton was swayed by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney’s cherry-picked and highly distorted presentation of the evidence for WMD’s as given by the highly respected Secretary of State Colin Powell. First, Cheney and Rumsfeld would not have been part of McCain’s administration. Second, unlike Bush, McCain had a first-hand knowledge of the costs of war and the high likelihood of things not going as initially expected. Third, there is no way McCain would have ordered Powell to use his credibility against his will to pitch the war as a test of loyalty. McCain would have given Powell’s concerns a more serious hearing before sending him out there to sell the war.

As a result, I’m fairly certain that McCain as President would not have put troops in harm’s way without looking at all of the classified raw evidence himself, something he didn’t have access to as a senator who wasn’t a member of the Intelligence committee. As President it is unlikely that Cheney and Rumsfeld would have been able to pull the wool over his eyes with their creative manipulation of the evidence the way they did George W’s. It’s possible he would have went in any way, or maybe he would have started a war somewhere else where in his opinion American intervention might have done more good, but we’ll never know for certain since he lost and never became President.

As a senator McCain gave the President of his party the benefit of the doubt, something he regretted later as many others did. Afterward he became the first and greatest critic of the handling of both occupations on the Republican side and Rumsfeld’s biggest political enemy. He also often traveled to both Iraq and Afghanistan during the occupations to speak with the people there, both important and common, in order to gain a better understanding of the affects of the war on the people in both countries. He strove hard to turn both occupations around and turn them into successes much like Germany and Japan. Nevertheless in his final memoir he was honest enough to grant that the Iraq war was a mistake. It just wasn’t worth the cost to either the US or to the Iraqi people.

Definitely. McCain never waivered in his opposition to torture.

This is true. The pundits who despised McCain wielded outsized influence in the closed primaries in highly conservative South Carolina and most of the Super Tuesday states that followed, giving Bush a huge lead and a great deal of momentum, effectively blocking McCain’s nomination. McCain did far better in open primaries where independents could vote for Republicans too, and in the North and far West, but they mostly voted later, especially the big ones, and the nomination was decided before we got to more than a handful of smaller ones.

Yep. He excoriated Trump for his “naivete, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats”, calling the meeting both “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory” and “a tragic mistake”. McCain went on to condemn Trump for making a “conscious choice to defend a tyrant against fair questions from a free press and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world.” I’ve never seen an attack quite like that from a member of a sitting President’s own party before, and that’s only a piece of it, but I have to say it warmed my heart. For the complete excoriation in all of its brutally honest glory, here is a CNN video:


The very fact that the state is passing an additional measure is exactly why it is both pushing the envelope and bold. Federal laws supersede state laws and unless the federal laws do not cover what the state laws do, federalism should be the final word on legal matters.

As you state, these state laws try to add more scope than the federal laws intended. Which is why eventually these laws will be litigated. Until they are, however, they are the laws of the state and allow more discrimination than is allowed under the federal constitution.

Normally, the precedent is that the federal laws will define and trump the state laws in question but with the new moral majority conservative court being secured, I don’t think precedent will be followed.

The only situation where this is ass-backwards is with emissions and the power that the State of California has over setting standards. The Federal government has been deferring to California for decades on this matter and the Trump administration has decided to challenge this. Whether this stands or not, this too will take about a decade to get through the court system unless appeals and such are expedited.

As far as the Clinton Administration passing such laws in the 1990’s - they passed a lot of different laws that were as wrong as this law. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell being the obvious one that most like to slap around.

The anti-discrimination measures you think protect the LGBT community are not as strong as you think and while the far right decries the obvious disconnect suffered most centerists and those protecting the rights of that community say they are not enough. The CEO of Angie’s List is but one person I can recall off the top of my head that adheres to this claim and still refuses to expand in Indiana.

The states enacting additional RFRA beyond the federal scope, combined with such things administrative rule changes quietly enacted by the Trump organization to support religious based services who fully discriminate with federal funds, despite the 1960’s era civil rights legislation passed - services like adoption agencies that refuse to approve single sex couples and services for the homeless and those in emergency need such as hospitals.

The states are indeed pushing the envelope in hopes that the litigation will happen and in hopes that the new moral majority conservative Supreme Court will overturn old precedent and establish new precedent. It is that simple. The same tactics used to deny abortions are being used here to try to institutionalize legal discrimination - much like the Jim Crow era laws attempted the same deal.

I remember arguing “separate but equal” as a acceptable standard in high school’s Mock Trial and I almost convinced the entire school and if I can do that decades after separate but equal was debunked as legitimate, I’m pretty sure the real legal eagles will be able to do better with the religious freedom to discriminate against the LGBT community argument.


Except when they don’t, under the Constitution – and the Supreme Court has ruled that RFRAs are one of those cases. State RFRAs are motivated not by the desire to add to the federal provisions, but to ensure that those provisions apply to state and local laws as well, post-Boerne.

I’m sure they leave more scope for discrimination than I’d like. That said, a measure of freedom to discriminate is baked into liberal democracy; groups need to be able to choose their members, and people shouldn’t be forced to express beliefs they disagree with (including through the sale of services that are fundamentally about communication of messages). Religion law and jurisprudence needs to hit the right balance when it comes to the scope of acceptable discrimination.

On this one, I’m not arguing that the final state of the Indiana RFRA gets that balance right – just that it’s a long, long way from theocracy. It shows that far from being hardnosed theocrats, Pence & co are ready to water down their preferred policies in response to democratically exerted pressure. The RFRA fiasco is ample reason to not vote for Mike Pence; it’s not sufficient reason to paint him as a threat so great that we should prefer to keep Trump (an actual threat to the functioning of US democracy) in office.


To this list I’d just like to add then Senator Barak Obama’s attempt to prevent President George W Bush’s nominee to the Supreme Court Samuel Alito from getting an up or down vote in violation of the long-standing rule that neither party would attempt to filibuster the other party’s Supreme Court nominees purely for partisan reasons. His Republican colleagues did not forget this when he as President later attempted to appoint Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court his last year in office, and Republicans who likely would have otherwise pushed Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Senate Judiciary Committee Chariman Grassley to give Merrick Garland an up or down vote did not. What goes around comes around.

Justice Elena Kagan, an Obama appointee and one of the 4 progressives on the US Supreme Court, had the following to say recently when asked:

There’s so much tit-for-tat that goes on in these processes. Everybody has their list of times that they’ve been wronged. Republicans have their list, Democrats have their list, and they seem to be, over time, ratcheting up the level of conflict rather than trying to find ways to ratchet it down.

Unfortunately I concur. People used to see the other party and its supporters as “misguided”. That is less and less the case now. More and more I see words like “vile” thrown around. Once you see the other side as demons, pretty much anything becomes allowable to stop them from gaining power, even an end to democracy, as long as the new dictator’s political positions align closely enough with your own.


Pence could very well be president for a decade though and being that high up on the political totem pole changes people and usually not for the better either. It’s an occupational hazard but putting somebody with Pence’s character in it, as opposed to somebody like the late John McCain or somebody more lazy like W. is still asking for problems, imho. Particularly because the US is a presidential system and cannot generally coup the sitting head of government as in Australia or have early/fresh elections like we do if something goes wrong.

I’m not saying it would have gone down exactly the same, believe it or not but we Dutch do have and have had our own military maverick admirals. I imagine that McCain wouldn’t have gone with the WMD lie but instead sought to provoke Saddam’s Iraq into doing something stupid that would have given the US a more plausible casus belli to intervene again on behalf of its allies. Maybe with even more severe sanctions, like Trump and co are foolishly trying with Iran only today both China and Russia are more powerful then they were back then and Trump does not have the goodwill of Europe either anymore. All things that would have very different for a hypothetical president McCain.

Also a possibility. For what it is worth had Hillary won I think she would have found a way to get back into Libya, since Benghazi was her personal humiliation.

This alone would have made everything better at the very least even if he did go into Iraq and Afghanistan both and tried to fight two wars at the same time.

Yep, but then McCain is hardly the only one to fall victim to a highly conservative primary lineup where nearly everybody has to hugely play to and court some of the most conservative people in the US in order to gain the coveted “momentum”.
While still undoubtedly conservative and religious compared to Western Europe I don’t think the US would be nearly as far to the right had the traditional states to go first in the primaries indeed been Maine, Montana and Nevada.

I have seen it, it’s glorious but also something like the mighty old lion’s last roar.

Well Texas still hasn’t repealed its sodomy laws, as have 11 other states more then a decade after Lawrence and five years after Obergefell. :unamused:

No, pressure by moneyed interests they didn’t give a hoot about protests by LGBT Indiana citizens and I’m not sure more power to billionaire class and the megacorps is a good deal. As this places the power to decide what is “good” for us gay people in the sole and exclusive realm of the most moneyed of us, like Peter Thiel to decide.
On a personal level I have always faced a starkly different set of challenges for being gay than Amsterdam’s gay elite party-boys, for example. And today, as throughout history most of the discriminatory policies against gay men are crafted to impact lower class and less wealthy ones far more.


I’ve already covered the argument by the bolded

This will be further litigated and the case you cited isn’t the final decision on this as it applies to state laws. For example:

Not only this but Congress has made its initial intent known that the federal law should apply to all state laws by the following:

Which shows that in the case of RFRAs, federal should prevail over state laws. In theory, this means any state RFRAs that go beyond the federal one should be struck down as overreach - the reality is in doubt because of the new Supreme Court alignment.


As Obama was, or nearly. And the Republicans who hyperventilated through those 8 years about the impending doom of America are finding that most of the losses they suffered during that time were temporary and reversible. (And many more would be if the GOP was currently led by a competent veteran of Congress rather than a ranting man-child. It’s still hard to believe that Obamacare has survived a year and a half of Republican monopoly on the levers of power.)

I’ve got no argument with the claim that Pence’s character is ill-suited to the nation’s highest office. The only thing that recommends “President Pence” to me is that it’s the only immediate alternative to “President Trump.”

No, I don’t think it does. SCOTUS in Boerne v Flores found that Congress had overreached–that it had gone beyond its enumerated powers in the Constitution, and thereby encroached on the rights of the states. That’s why Congress had to follow up with the RLUIPA…and under that, a state law would never be struck down as overreach. A state might lose federal cash, but that’s a different story.


We’ll just agree to disagree.


In Cutter v Wilkinson (the RLUIPA prisons case) the US Supreme Court clearly said:

In City of Boerne , this Court invalidated RFRA as applied to States and their subdivisions, holding that the Act exceeded Congress’ remedial powers under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Those are the US Supreme Court’s words, not mine nor @Havenstone’s. I don’t know how much clearer it can get than that.


This actually has the potential to become Jim Crow levels of bad and frightening, particularly under the worst-case scenario of a decade of President Pence. :fearful:
Besides the new right to marry LGBT protections in the USA are kind of weak, piecemeal and fragmented and this would potentially allow some states (hello Texas and Mississippi) to make gay rights into nothing more then a hollow shell that allows you to get a marriage license and not much more. :unamused:

Thanks for linking the case law tho.


RLUIPA was passed unanimously by the Congress to remedy the deficiencies of the 1993 RFRA and as Justice Ginsburg states in the unanimous court decision’s opinion

and indeed later she writes why your pet case was decided to limit the 1993 RFRA act’s application:

Which is your quote, complete with context… and explains why Congress responded with the passage of RLUIPA, even as acknowledged by Ginsberg.

So, this case supports my contention that the enactment of RLUIPA section 3 remedies the deficiency you misquote above. And Justice Ginsburg confirms this:

Because the Supreme Court reversed the Sixth Circuit, the findings of the lower court were vindicated and found the act applicable and enforceable. You can read the Supreme Court’s reasoning for yourself but the key to understand why I disagree with both you and @Havenstone is the following:

Case law is anything but clear, even at its best. What you cite as the entire basis of your position was purposefully and intentionally addressed by Congress in a unified unanimous and target way legislatively to fix the 1993 Federal RFRA act and the case you cite to support your position clearly and in unanimous terms validates and allows the fix to be applied and upheld as law.

As I said: we can agree to disagree … and it is my humble (and often wrong) opinion that this fight is not over nor settled and it will continue for at least the next decade or so. I do believe that if the federal RFRA is not overturned prior to this being resolved that it will be shown to trump state RFRA acts.


Edit: I found a succinct restatement of the Supreme Court’s findings in Judge Thomas’s concurrent opinion as to why RLUIPA applies to state law and states for the record that

I don’t know if this helps but I hope it does.


No, I’ll do it publicly when I lived in social housing, it was a huge complex in the Bijlmer in Amsterdam (since torn down) we lived next to an Indian family who I later learned were, or more accurately had been Dalit. As they no longer considered themselves Hindu by the time I met them. They managed to escape India in 1976 (before I was born), and eventually, like many people we call “economic fortune seekers” ended up in Europe and eventually the Netherlands, where they thus ended up living next to me (during the late 1980’s when I was a little kid) for a time.

It is striking though that you think one would only be able to meet (former) Dalit refugees in a refugee camp. Full disclosure I have never even been close to one of those, unless you count the Calais “jungle” in France as one.

Fortunately for you I do know a little about India, not as much as I probably should and I’m not a trained historian, like some on this forum. But I know enough to see that Modi’s India is not heading in the right direction right now when it comes to caste based discrimination.

Mr. Modi does not need me to “malign” his reputation and while I understand calling everything negative “fake news” is de rigeur these days for dodgy politicians something is definitely rotten in mr. Modi’s India.

Then it is fortunate we have off-topic categories for that, eh?
But, yes, if you think all media critical of Modi and the BJP, particularly with regard to handling caste abominations are “fake news” then I do not think we have all that much to discuss.


@P_Tigras have you been holding out on me, or were you hoping to surprise us all in 2020 with the grand unveiling? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Starting new parties in the US isn’t easy though and it is usually easier to take over one of the established ones. The Republican Party itself is the youngest major US Party after they took over from the Whigs.
But of course I would like to see less toxic Republican Party that isn’t solely defined by opposition to homosexuality and abortion (or at least they shouldn’t stop caring at birth if they do as it really undermines any halfway decent arguments they might have on that front) combined with an all-out war on the poor.

In theory in a pluralistic system Conservative parties play a vital by preserving those parts of the old order and traditions that are worth preserving and can still coexist with the new or in some cases are necessary to support it and keep “radicals” and reformers, like me, from throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. It can be argued that the modern Republican Party in the US has lost sight of the greater goals of political conservatism.

I won’t deny the Republican Party in the US has become frighteningly reactionary over the last couple of decades.

Edit, it seems that Larson is running as an independent, not a Republican. But, yes, Moore is bad, so is Joe Arpaio. But as for the other thing that article touches on restoring voting and civil rights to former felons who have served their sentence is something natural. There is a term for when rights are not restored on completion of a criminal sentence: it is called a life sentence. Unless you want every criminal conviction to be a life sentence and never offer people another chance upon completion of a sentence…
But like everything in human society it will, inevitably produce a rotten apple from time to time, it seems like Lason is one and, fortunately it seems like he hasn’t got a remote chance of actually winning.

The “official” conservative Republican to challenge Comstock seems to be this fellow, Shak Hill. I’d have to actually read up on him to offer a more informed comment, but at least he doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as bad as Larson.


I can’t hear Republican without thinking about scumbags like Roy Moore and

The racist homophobic religious intolerant scumbags slapping Trump stickers on their Confederate flag and swastika covered pick-up truck. I hate my own countrh because of this administration. I wake up thinking "what if America no the world are a bunch of xenophobic, abusive, monsters and good people are the mutants? "

I will be on my death bed a couple years from now or a few decades and Republican will be the most disgusting word I can think of.


Nathan Larson is not a Republican. He threatened to kill two US Presidents, one being Republican George W Bush. As a convicted felon he wouldn’t even have been able to run for office had not Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe restored his right to do so. The man is clearly mentally insane. I have no idea why you attached this link to a diatribe against Republicans, as if this abhorrent nutcase were somehow a Republican.


Again, if somebody has served the sentence the justice system has imposed on them after a free and fair trial then it is only natural to restore their full rights as a citizen not too long after release. If the justice system feels that somebody has committed a heinous enough act that warrants stripping them of those rights indefinitely there already is a remedy for that, it’s called a life sentence. Or, since you still have it, the death penalty.

Sadly Joe Arpaio is actually a Republican and he shouldn’t have been able to run either, but for Trump’s damnable pardon. :unamused:

Actually please do tell me that you have an alternative conservative-esque party in the works?


Just emphasizing this because it doesn’t get said enough.

Maybe people would be more on board with the idea if the US prison system was more interested in rehebilitation than being for-profit labor camps that encourage behavior that makes it harder for inmates to readjust to the outside world, leading to them going back to jail and more profit for the prison owners.


So the primaries finished, Andrew Gillum won the Democratic primary, and immediately after, Ron Desantis made incredibly dog-whistle remarks about him on public television, with phrases lkke “articulate” and “monkeying around” being used to describe a black candidate.

And then his communications advisor was like, “He wasn’t being racist, now this statement would be racist,” and proceeded to craft a similarly coded statement that managed to top Desantis’s own words.

And then immediately afterwards called the candidate she worked for insensitive and inarticulate.

And people say politics isn’t entertaining.


When I saw articles about this Ron Desantis character calling his political opponent a monkey, I had to look into it. It’s a habit I have, whenever I see something downright stupid/politically suicidal. I always get skeptical when I hear something fantastically good or bad in the news. Here are the lines from DeSantis about Gillum:

“This is a guy who, although he’s much too liberal for Florida — I think he’s got huge problems with how he’s governed Tallahassee — you know, he is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views, and he’s a charismatic candidate,” DeSantis said.

He continued: “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state. That is not gonna work. That’s not gonna be good for Florida.”

On it’s face and in my interpretation, this statement doesn’t appear racist. DeSantis isn’t calling Gillum a monkey, but the argument (some are making) is that DeSantis is implying it. I don’t pretend to know what’s in the hearts and minds of men, but I don’t think it’s wise to fill in the blanks here. What does DeSantis have to gain from making such a crude remark?

The reality is, we’re in the thick of the political season. These midterms are huge, and there are bound to be lots of fireworks and mudslinging between now and November. Whether you call it Fake News or something else, there is big money to be made in shaping voter opinion. My only advice on how to survive it is that when you hear something outrageous, take a step back and look at it critically.

And yes, we are definitely in for a wild ride!