Sunday, March 12, 2017

Jeff Sessions And Steve Bannon Share A Vision For America-- And For Texas


Americans have gotten a look at Trump's new Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, and they don't like what they see. A new Quinnipiac poll included a question about him for the first time. By a 52-40% margin, voters say Sessions lied under oath during his confirmation hearings and by a 51-42% say he should resign from office. Most American voters-- 66%-- support the establishment of an "independent commission investigating potential links between some of Donald Trump's campaign advisors and the Russian government." Only 30% disagree.

Sessions has no intention of resigning. He has an ugly, reactionary agenda he's been waiting his whole miserable life to implement. His "recusal" on Putin-Gate investigations is hollow and ineffectual. And his recusal on that case doesn't mean he won't be putting his energy into other ways to prove he truly is-- in Trump's own words (as well as Stalin's)-- "an enemy of the people." Take voting rights, for example. Sessions moved quickly to withdraw the government from the Texas case alleging racial discrimination in a Texas voter ID suit.

A bigger worry, was highlighted last week on NPR's Fresh Air when Terry Gross interviewed journalist Emily Bazelon about the longstanding relationship between Sessions and Trump's in-house neo-Nazi, Steve Bannon and how they plan to use the Justice Department to further their goals. Bazelon makes the point that Sessions nd Bannon have been working together even before either of them became part of Team Trump and she contends that "they took a long-shot bet on Trump that just happened to pay off." Now they can deal with a shared "deeper cultural discomfort with the growing population of people who are not white in this country, coming from a kind of traditional white sense of propriety of what America is about. That is what's motivating Sessions and Bannon, and that it's part of what's driving the more extreme elements of this presidency."
[B]efore Trump's candidacy, these were marginal fringe figures, Sessions and Bannon. They did not have anything like a central role in Washington. They didn't have a whole lot of power. But they had really strong ideas. And they had, I think, a very well developed sense about messaging. So then Donald Trump comes along. And he begins his campaign by, you know, in this broad brush way accusing Mexicans of being rapists. He gets a lot of attention. Nobody really takes him that seriously.

But Sessions and Bannon could see a willingness to kind of sign on to this anti-immigrant, divisive, nationalist agenda that they had been pushing for a few years. And so that's what I mean by vessel. In a sense, like, Donald Trump from their point of view was this happy coincidence that came along. What we do know is that, as you said, Sessions endorsed Trump pretty early on. And then Bannon wrote with some excitement to a friend of his to say that while he liked some of the other Republican candidates like Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina, he was ready to sign up for Trump because Trump had endorsed the nationalist anti-immigration plan that Sessions was working on.

So you can see the way in which they really found a kind of common ground here. By signing on to Trump, Sessions gave Bannon a reason to get on board. And then a few months after that, you see Sessions actually crafting or helping to craft an immigration policy for Trump.

...Sessions made it clear early on that [Justice] was the Cabinet position that he was interested in. And it's not a coincidence. First of all the, Justice Department is just one of the most powerful agencies in our country. And also, Sessions had a background as a U.S. attorney in the 1980s. So he had actually worked for the Justice Department in that capacity before. And so I think you see a kind of perfect synergy here. Sessions is exactly the right person for Donald Trump in this attorney general position given his larger agenda, the one that he shares with Sessions and Bannon. And for Sessions, it's a very powerful post that he is well qualified for.

...[B]roadly speaking, there are a couple of different approaches to voting law. You can talk about how to make voting easier for people or you can talk about making it harder. President Obama wanted to make voting easier. And so his Justice Department looked at the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which protects the rights of minority voters, and tried to use that to prevent states from unnecessarily restricting people's voting rights.

So for example, Texas and North Carolina passed laws with strict voter ID and then other kinds of limitations, like taking away same-day voting registration. And the Justice Department sued those states and tried to make sure that the people who were going to be prevented from voting or for whom voting would be more difficult were being protected. And we know that in both states people who tend to lack the required forms of ID are more likely to be black and Latino. So we're talking about hundreds of thousands of minority voters for whom access to the polls becomes more difficult.

The Republican Party has had a different set of priorities. They have really pushed the idea that what's really important is to use the law to prevent voting fraud. Now, they've been doing this without evidence that in-person voter fraud is anything like widespread. But Donald Trump we know has really picked up on this theme. I mean, he made this unproven - wholly unproven allegation that millions of people had voted illegally in the election. And Sessions also has a history from when he was a prosecutor in the '80s of prosecuting African-American civil rights activists for voter fraud.

So there's again a kind of commonality here. And when you push the idea that what the Justice Department should be doing is preventing voter fraud, you've really made a case for using the law in a way that, as I said earlier, makes it harder to vote. And so I think what we're going to see and already seeing is the Justice Department shift from opening up access to the ballot to trying to restrict it. And in the Texas case, the Justice Department under Jeff Sessions has essentially switched sides. So instead of suing Texas, they're now saying they don't think that Texas intentionally discriminated against minority voters.
And there's more happening in Texas where Sessions has an agenda in direct opposition to democracy. First a little background. There has been no gerrymander in history as lethal and toxic to the Tom DeLay mid-decade takeover of the state's districts in 2003, which resulted in the GOP taking over a majority of Texas congressional seats just one year later-- for the first time since Reconstruction. Texas is a pretty red state but there are still millions of Democrats there. In 2012 Romney won the state 4,569,843 (57%) to 3,308,124 (41%). Last year Rump won the state 4,681,590 (52.6%) to 3,867,816 (43.4%). Let's split the difference and say 42% of Texas voters are Democrats. Texas has 36 congressional districts-- the most of any state other than California. All things being equal if there was no gerrymandering, Texas would be sending 21 Republicans and 15 Democrats to Congress. Instead, because of the way DeLay and his successors have drawn the districts, Texas sends 25 Republicans and just 11 Democrats to Congress.

Friday, a panel of 3 federal judges handed down a ruling that the Republicans in the legislature used racial gerrymandering to weaken the growing electoral power of minorities, particularly Hispanics. Texas is likely to appeal the case to the Supreme Court-- with the backing of... you guessed it, Beauregard Jefferson Sessions III.

In their opinion, 2 of the 3 judges wrote that "The record indicates not just a hostility toward Democrat districts, but a hostility to minority districts, and a willingness to use race for partisan advantage. The two Republicans directly impacted are Blake Farenthold (TX-27) and Will Hurd (TX-23), although redrawing their districts-- as well as Democrat Lloyd Doggett's 35th district-- would instantly spill over into bordering districts, threatening gerrymander-protected Republicans Lamar Smith, Pete Olson and Mike McCaul. Even if Sessions is impeached or forced to resign, it's unlikely that whomever Trump picks to replace him would be less... an enemy of the people.

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At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

um... no... neither cares about actual voter fraud. They only care about voter fraud:
1) if the Democraps us it to their advantage
2) as a fake issue to use as leverage to further restrict voting and erode freedoms. Voter ID and suppression like Crosscheck are going to be ubiquitous as a mode to suppress most of the nonwhite and poor voters.

Let us remember kkkarl rove and what he did in FL and OH in 2000 and 2004. Sessions doesn't care about that. Just the kind of stuff the DNC did in the 2016 primary. He doesn't care about whatever shenanigans occurred in WI, MI, MN et al during the last either... because whoever did that helped their puppet dick-tater to win.


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