Let us count the ways the political right has lied about its plans to limit reproductive freedom

The author lists multiple ways in which conservatives lied about their intentions regarding abortion rights.

For almost five decades, Roe v. Wade has been established American law, guaranteeing the constitutional right of choice to all Americans. Even those Supreme Court justices now ready to toss that precedent aside have previously testified under oath during their Senate confirmation hearings that they believed Roe is established law that ought to be respected.

They lied.

They lied to the Senate, and they lied to us. The fact that most Americans on both sides of the abortion question understood them to be lies at the time they were told does not alter their character as lies. And those lies have been accompanied by multitudes of other lies, as lies tend to be.

For example, we have been told for most of the decades since Roe that the pro-life movement was not seeking an absolute ban on abortion, that of course reasonable exemptions would be allowed in cases of rape, incest, life of the mother or health of the mother. Of course it would not apply to ectopic pregnancies, or to pregnancies in which fetal defects would make it impossible for the baby to survive. To impose a ban in those situations would be barbaric.

Likewise, we have been reassured that a reversal of Roe would not mean a national ban on abortion, but would merely return the decision-making powers to the 50 states, which would each craft its own approach to the issue. We have also been told earnestly that post-Roe, no one would be seeking to prosecute those who sought abortions, out of sympathy for women placed in such a difficult situation.

But now, on the precipice of that change, all such reassurances are being abandoned. Congressional Republicans are preparing legislation to ban abortion nationwide. Laws already on the books in various states in anticipation of Roe’s reversal would outlaw not just abortion but the crossing of state lines to seek an abortion. Think of them as fugitive abortion laws. Bills are also moving in state legislatures to treat abortion as homicide, with pregnant women, doctors, nurses and administrators as murderers or accomplices.

And those three exceptions? Republicans who today dare to support allowing abortion in cases of rape, incest or life of the mother risk excommunication from their party, in yet another example of the party’s increasing radicalism. The only acceptable position now is to insist that human life begins at conception, and all else flows from that. Read more

Veteran U.S. journalist: ‘We the people’ are in dangerous territory

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The state of our union is precarious.

It is precarious not because of some outside threat – outside threats we can still handle. It is precarious because we have forgotten our way, because we find ourselves increasingly seduced by a perverted, stunted and selfish notion of freedom. It is precarious because some of us have lost faith in democracy and have begun to flirt with other means to achieve political goals, other means to obtain and keep power, means based more on brute force and intimidation than on persuasion and compromise.

We are in dangerous territory.

And it’s not just us of course. All around the world, we’re witnessing a rebirth of the notion of letting the strong feed upon the weak, as if it is their natural right and government should not attempt to intercede. What makes it worse is that in many cases that notion is being advanced in the name of what they call “freedom.”

We saw that on January 6, 2021, when insurgents claimed to be defending the Constitution they were actually shredding. We see it today, in the admiration and support for authoritarians like Vladimir Putin in Russia or Viktor Orban in Hungary. In the runup to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine we saw influential voices on the American right – Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham of Fox News, Steve Bannon and former President Donald Trump – suggest that by virtue of the power that Putin wielded in the region, he had the understood right to invade lesser countries, that we had no cause to intervene on behalf of democratic Ukraine because it is the natural order of things for the small to be consumed by the large.

We see it in the rise of militia groups and politically minded street gangs. We see it in the threats directed at election officials, school board members, governors, senators, even lowly bureaucrats, in assaults on flight attendants. In the cesspools of social media, we’re told, platforms have no right to enforce basic norms of decency, rationality, factuality, responsibility, an attitude that has crossed over into what we call real life as well.

We see it in less obvious ways as well. If the wealthy want to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in efforts to influence government in their favor, we are told that laws and government are helpless to prevent it. Let the strong feed upon the weak. If a pandemic breaks out that kills almost a million of our fellow citizens, many of them immune-compromised, we are told that government cannot mandate masks or vaccinations, not even for soldiers and health-care workers, increasingly not even for children. A conservative Supreme Court is also moving to restrict government’s right to protect the environment, to monitor labor conditions, food and drug quality, and financial institutions, all to make the powerful more powerful still.

In the developed Western world, the United States is a uniquely violent country, with a uniquely romanticized relationship with firearms. So at a time when murder rates are rising, when road-rage shootings and mass shootings and school shootings are rampant, we are told that government is helpless to intervene. Instead, here in Georgia and other states, “leaders” respond by passing legislation that would abandon even the small protection of requiring permits to carry concealed weapons in public. By doing so, they remove regulations that attempt to keep weapons out of the hands of those with a history of violent crime.

It is madness.

And down in Florida last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis made a big show of rejecting President Biden’s request for National Guard troops to protect the Capitol during the State of the Union address. Read more

Veteran Georgia journalist: Guilty verdicts in Arbery killing give no pleasure, only relief

Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones his hugged by a supporter after the jury convicted Travis McMichael in the trial of McMichael, his father, Greg McMichael, and neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, in the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga. The three defendants were found guilty Wednesday in the death of Ahmaud Arbery. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, Pool)

There’s no pleasure to be taken from the guilty verdicts returned Wednesday by a Glynn County jury in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery; there is only relief and thanksgiving that in the end justice could be done, at least in a case in which the evidence was so well-documented and seemingly obvious.

Given that they reached their weighty verdicts in just a matter of hours, the jury members – 11 white Georgians, one Black Georgian – must have thought it was obvious as well.

However, it’s crucially important to remember that this just and necessary resolution almost didn’t happen, that if justice was served in the end, it came almost accidentally. For 74 days after Arbery’s murder in February of 2020, no charges had been filed; no arrests were made, no presentment was made to a grand jury. Even though law enforcement possessed the now-famous video as well as much of the testimony that the jury found so convincing, two different district attorneys looked at the case and basically determined that Arbery deserved his fate, that if anything Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan should be lauded rather than prosecuted.

The local district attorney, Jackie Johnson, knew Greg McMichael from his work as an investigator for her office. She allegedly forbid police officers from making an arrest, and then arranged for the case to be transferred to the neighboring Waycross Judicial District, where George Barnhill worked as district attorney. As she was aware, she was referring the case to someone who had already made known that he too had no desire to pursue the case.

According to a memo written by Barnhill at the time, after what he called an “extensive” review, the actions by the McMichaels and Bryan had been “perfectly legal.” It was Arbery “who attacks Travis McMichael” in the video, it was Arbery “who initiated the fight,” it was Arbery’s “apparent aggressive nature” that drove him “to attack an armed man.”

“Given the fact that Arbery initiated the fight, at the moment Arbery grabbed the shotgun, under Georgia law, (Travis) McMichael was allowed to use deadly force to defend himself,” Barnhill advised the Glynn County Police Department.

Johnson was defeated for re-election in November of 2020; two months ago, she was arrested and charged with interfering with a police officer in the case and with violating her oath of office. Barnhill remains in office.

I’ve called this a modern-day lynching, an evocative phrase that should not be employed lightly. However, it meets the two-part test: One, it was a brutal act of vigilante violence; two, the local political elite stepped in afterward to protect the perpetrators. Only when the video was leaked to the public and reached an audience outside the local corridors of power was the coverup thwarted.

And if a case like this, with its obvious evidence of criminality, could come so close to being covered up, think about how many other such cases had been handled over the years, not just in the Waycross and Brunswick districts but all across Georgia, all across the country.

Think about the effect that those cases, the cultural memories of those cases, have had on the mindsets and power relationships in these communities. The McMichaels were not unusual in thinking that they had the right to treat Arbery as they did, that they had the power to tell this Black man what to do and that he had the obligation to obey. The attitudes and the arrogance that they demonstrated that day in the Satilla Shores neighborhood did not come from nowhere, it came from everywhere.

Over their lifetimes, they had been taught that it was their right to act in that fashion, that it was their duty to enforce the unwritten code, that people like themselves had power while others did not, and that they would be protected for defending that system.

They were right.

Until they finally weren’t.

Jay Bookman is a regular contributor to the Georgia Recorder, which first published this essay.

Enforced delusions: Stolen 2020 election myth imposes loyalty test on Republicans

Photo: Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

The narrative about a stolen election is completely fabricated. None of it is true. None of it happened.

None of it, not in Arizona, not in Georgia, not anywhere, none of it. All “evidence” offered to support that narrative is likewise a mirage; it vanishes completely upon closer inspection. It’s just a fiction, a fiction with the same grounding in reality as tales of flying, fire-breathing dragons or little green men invading Earth from Mars.

Unlike those stories, however, this one is functional fiction. Its creation was conscious and intentional; it was designed not to entertain or instruct or titillate, but to further a criminal conspiracy. It was designed as an excuse by people who needed one, concocted out of nothing to try to justify the overthrow of a legal election and thus destroy American democracy, and it was carried out by those frustrated because that democracy would not produce the outcome that they demanded.

If you only support democracy that gives you the outcome that you want, then you never supported democracy in the first place.

Since the failed attempt on Jan. 6 to reinstate the election loser as president, the narrative has also come to serve a secondary but still quite powerful purpose. For this particular purpose, it doesn’t matter that the story is ridiculous, that no facts or evidence or testimony could be found to support it. To the contrary, the lack of supporting evidence has made it more powerful and useful.

Over the past two decades, the Republican Party has defined itself through two dynamics, one internal and one external. Externally, they seek to define themselves through the opposition that they provoke from others, which is how “triggering the libs” became so central to their identity. They don’t want acceptance, they want rejection. They seek to create distance from the cultural and political mainstream, and anything that gives them that distance is good, which explains to some degree their infatuation with Donald Trump.

Internally, they have defined themselves through the loyalty tests they impose on each other, and anyone who expresses doubt or less than total commitment risks expulsion as a RINO. Trump has proved useful in that regard as well, forcing Republicans to demonstrate to themselves and each other just how deep their loyalty to the tribe really goes. Does that tribal loyalty outweigh any concerns they might have about Trump’s extraordinary character, behavior, racism or intellect? For most, unfortunately, their answer has been yes.

The belief that the 2020 election was stolen has now been embraced as the latest such loyalty test. It serves both definitional purposes, external and internal. If the majority of Americans reject that belief as well as those who espouse it, great! It creates the distance that conservatives need to define themselves. And if a small number of supposed Republicans can’t reconcile their loyalty to democracy with their loyalty to the party, great again. If the likes of Liz Cheney choose to defend the Constitution and the republic over Trump and the GOP, then let the purification rites continue; let she and others be cast aside.

Again, the more ridiculous the required belief, the more groundless and absurd it might be, the more effective it becomes as a test of loyalty. Anyone can believe something that is true, or that might be true. Only the true believer can believe the truly unbelievable, and if you can be swayed to the other side by such things as fact and evidence, then you weren’t really one of us anyway.

It’s also critical to note that for many, this is not a passive belief; believing it requires that action be taken.

Once you have been convinced, by yourself or others, that the election was stolen, then the assault on the Capitol was not merely acceptable, it becomes necessary and patriotic.

Once you believe the election was stolen, then you can only support those politicians and leaders and media figures who will overturn it and future elections.

Put another way, this fiction was designed to have consequences, and if it is not fought and defeated, those consequences will be dire.

Veteran journalist Jay Bookman is a columnist for the Georgia Recorder, which first published this essay.

Veteran journalist: The real Donald Trump shows through in attacks on Georgia’s GOP governor

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

In a strange way, Donald Trump is the most honest politician I have ever witnessed.

He’s also the most dishonest, of course. He’ll lie about almost anything, shamelessly, without regard to truth or even plausibility. But it’s funny: He does not lie, almost cannot lie, about his emotions, about his deepest wants and needs. Even when it would do him well to lie about such things, his primal instinct to yell “I want!” pushes him to blurt the truth.

The truth is, he really wanted Brad Raffensperger to find him 11,800 votes, and he told him so. He wanted the Ukrainian president to announce an investigation of Joe Biden. He wanted Mike Pence to subvert the Constitution. And he wants the voters of Georgia to send Brian Kemp packing.

So no, Trump was neither lying or exaggerating last month when he told a rally down in the town of Perry that he hopes Democrat Stacey Abrams defeats incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp next year. “Having her, I think, might be better than having your existing governor, if you want to know what I think,” Trump told the crowd, later adding that if Abrams takes Kemp’s job, “It’s OK with me.”

That was a stupid thing to say. It damaged Trump, it damaged Kemp, it damaged the state Republican Party. But it was also the plain, honest truth: Trump truly doesn’t care about Georgia Republicans losing the governor’s mansion; in fact, he hopes they do. He also doesn’t care about splitting the party or what it does to GOP candidates up and down the ticket. What he cares about is personal vengeance. And on Election Night of 2022, if Kemp is defeated, that sly smirk of satisfaction, of revenge publicly exacted, will spread across Trump’s face and for a moment he will be whatever passes for happy in his disturbed mind.

Not surprisingly, a lot of Republicans were shocked and angered by Trump’s remarks, so shocked and angered that one or two even dared to say so, in public. But they should be prepared for even worse in the months to come. Trump clearly intends to be a major player in Georgia. Of all the states he lost in 2020, he seems to have taken his loss in Georgia most personally. His ego just cannot conceive of the fact that he lost a state supposedly this red, this conservative, and he needs someone else to blame.

In addition, Trump has worked hard to recruit Herschel Walker to run for the U.S. Senate next year against Raphael Warnock. I have my doubts whether Walker will really carry through with the grueling campaign under a harsh media spotlight, and I don’t think those pushing his candidacy have Walker’s health or his best interests at heart. They are using him, not helping him.

However, if Walker really carries through with the campaign, then he becomes Trump’s surrogate, and Trump cannot allow his handpicked candidate to lose. A defeat for Walker, particularly in the GOP primary, would be utterly humiliating for Trump, calling into question his death grip on the GOP electorate not just here but nationwide.

So between now and the May primary, the former president will probably be back in the state multiple times, and after his Perry performance, you have to believe that at every rally and every campaign stop, he will lash out in some way against Kemp and to a lesser degree Raffensperger, the two men who have become Trump’s scapegoats.

In a close race, continued attacks on Kemp would be more than enough to throw the election to Abrams. In a close race, using the 2022 state campaign to relitigate the 2020 presidential outcome would also benefit Democrats, just as it benefitted Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the January runoffs.

But honestly, Trump just doesn’t care.

Veteran journalist Jay Bookman is a regular commentator for the Georgia Recorder which first published this essay.