Commentary

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Trump dynasty? Lord help us.

Hons, I’m as terrified as a clutch of sorority girls hearing about the nationwide shortage of White Claw.

Yes, there is fear deep in my marrow because Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, recently told a group of enthusiastic supporters in California (!) he believes “The Trumps will be a dynasty that lasts for decades.”

Great. The return of measles and now THIS? (shakes fist at heavens, then feels guilty about it because upbringing)

Please say it isn’t so. Tell us you were kidding, Brad; that you made it up just to make us liberals go ape-poo and, if so, mission accomplished.

But what if Brad’s right? There have certainly been political dynasties in the past. Roosevelts, Kennedys, Bushes… Although, to be sure, a Trump dynasty would be less Ming and more Dodge.

It’s certainly possible we could find ourselves saying “President Tiffany Trump” one day.

Just kidding. You know Jared and Ivanka, Eric and what’s her face and Don Jr. and the woman he left his wife and five children for, wouldn’t let Tiffany have a real job in the dynasty.

They’re like Cinderella’s stepsisters: “OMG, Tiffany, stand on the far left of the stage. No, a little farther, just a little more, OK, almost there, keep going…going… (Tiffany is now behind the auditorium curtain), There! Perfect!!”

Assuming it’s true, who would be next in the line of succession? I’m betting on Don Jr., who is rumored to be in a low-key “cold war” with Ivanka, perhaps because she has long been acknowledged to be her father’s favorite. Like, by a country mile.

A deliciously tea-spillin’ story in The Atlantic this month used interviews with Trump campaign aides, former employees, White House officials and friends of the family to trace the roots of the dynasty, back to the days when Don Jr. eschewed his Park Avenue upbringing and became a hunter/gatherer he-man who could, literally, shoot from the hip. With his lumberjack plaid shirt and manly stubble, it was an easy jump over something dead and endangered to alt-right darling. Daddy may not like him best, but Don Jr. is beloved by the MAGA faithful, more than the lifelike Ivanka with her frustrating low-talking.

Eric (“always a bridesmaid”) Trump would seem to run a distant fourth in the possible dynastic hierarchy, being deemed considerably less valuable than Trump-by-marriage Jared Kushner, according to the magazine.

All of which is to say there is reason to be afraid, very afraid, the makings of a dynasty are falling into place. Scandals, exaggerated shoulder pads (Kushner), backbiting as each one tries to make sure the others don’t trash them to the media behind their backs….

If this was a Netflix miniseries, not real life, I’d be “Michael Jackson eating popcorn in a darkened theater” levels of excited. But…since it’s the fate of the free world, not so much.

The notion of generations of Trump spawn mauling democracy on the daily for years to come is as terrifying as a roomful of rattlers. Redundant, I know.

Celia Rivenbark is a New York Times-bestselling author and columnist. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.

 

Commentary, News

The week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. PW exclusive: Experts question business dealings of UNC Board of Governors member

Thom Goolsby, a former North Carolina state Senator now serving on the UNC Board of Governors, is running an “online financial education” company that might run afoul of a state order barring him from the financial services industry, a Policy Watch investigation has found.

Two securities law experts who have examined the business’ offerings at Policy Watch’s request say Goolsby could be violating the spirit – and potentially the letter – of the order, issued in April 2014 by the office of the North Carolina Secretary of State.

“It certainly has the aroma that he’s gone beyond the consent decree in terms of what he’s offering to people who donate to this,” said Tom Hazen, a UNC-Chapel Hill law professor with expertise in corporate, securities and commodities law.[Read more…]

2. NC’s Mark Meadows out as head of Freedom Caucus


Future of once-powerful congressional group in question as “Trump whisperer” takes his leave

Once called the “most powerful man in the House,” North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows is stepping down from his perch atop the conservative U.S. House Freedom Caucus after nearly three years as its chairman.

The move comes as the once-powerful Freedom Caucus has been forced to change its tactics on Capitol Hill. Republicans lost the House majority this year and no longer set the agenda in the lower chamber of Congress. The caucus that spent years pushing GOP leadership to the right is now fighting the Democratic majority and gearing up for 2020. [Read more…]

3. Doing the math on Duke Energy’s “climate strategy” — and its campaign contributions

Duke Energy calls its new net-zero carbon emissions plan a “directional beacon,” but for critics of the utility, the proposal is blind to the drivers of climate change.

Tuesday’s announcement from the energy titan offered no hard-and-fast numbers in which to hold the utility accountable, stating only that by 2050, Duke will have phased out coal. The company will still use natural gas. The utility also said it “hopes to have a new set of generation resources that are low- to no-carbon. These include new nuclear technologies, longer-lasting energy storage and other options we haven’t even considered yet.”

But the utility’s plan ignores an inevitable increase in methane — a potent greenhouse gas even more destructive than carbon dioxide — from an increased use of natural gas. Nor does the plan address how the utility will offset a projected 5.5 million tons in additional carbon emissions each year from just two of its natural gas plants. [Read more…]

4. Private religious school receives state voucher money despite teaching homosexuality is a sin

In the western part of the state, the “Citizen Times” reports that a conservative religious school that receives a third of Buncombe County’s opportunity scholarship money teaches students that homosexuality is a sin.

Temple Baptist School in West Asheville is also dismissive of the theory of evolution, the paper reports. It opts to evangelize about Young Earth creationism, which contends Earth is no more than 10,000 years old.

Here’s how Brian Washburn, the administrator at Temple Baptist, explained the school’s approach to those subjects.

“What we do is based on the Bible as our foundation,” Washburn told the “Citizen Times.” “So that’s going to influence our approach to teaching all of our subject areas. [Read more…]

5. NC’s late summer political turmoil undermines democracy

The confluence of three essentially unprecedented events combined to make last week an extraordinary one in the modern history of North Carolina policy and politics.

On Tuesday, the state conducted a special election to choose 15% of its delegation to the U.S House of Representatives. Under normal circumstances, such an event and its aftermath would have dominated the news cycle all week – especially given that one of the two districts had been the subject of intense national scrutiny ever since rampant ballot fraud tainted the 2018 vote. [Read more…]

Not last week. [Read more…]

6. ‘A perfect synergy:’ Attorneys behind UNC Center for Civil Rights merge with national group

Civil rights litigation isn’t always about securing a win in court – sometimes there is a deeper reclamation that comes from fighting for what’s right alongside others who care about the cause.

That was evident Sept. 12 as racial and social justice advocates from across the state gathered to celebrate the work of Mark Dorosin and Elizabeth Haddix, the former heads of the UNC Center for Civil Rights.

After UNC fired the two attorneys in December 2017 and banned the Center for Civil Rights from taking legal action on behalf of its poor and minority clients, Dorosin and Haddix moved their work to the newly-launched Julius L. Chambers Center for Civil Rights and continued working from Haddix’s home.

After seeking a partnership to expand their resources and advance their work, in July, they united with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a national nonprofit that, since 1963, has worked to address inequities for Black Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities. [Read more…]

7. Does money matter in public education? Let us count the ways.

Powerful new research confirms numerous benefits of substantially increasing public investments

For decades, a debate raged in education policy circles: does money matter? While this question has definitively been answered by academics, it will undoubtedly be the subject of heated debate over the next year in North Carolina.

In June, court-appointed consultants submitted a much-anticipated report detailing how North Carolina can meet its constitutional requirement to provide a “sound, basic education” to all students. For the time being, the report – part of the longstanding Leandro court case – remains confidential. But most observers anticipate the report will recommend that the state substantially boost its investment in public schools. [Read more…]

8. Policy Watch podcasts:

Click here for the latest commentaries and newsmaker interviews with Rob Schofield

9. Weekly Editorial Cartoon

Commentary, News

Hopeful news for 2020? Student voting was way up in 2018.

"Vote" pin

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David Rice of the group Higher Ed Works forwarded along an article from Inside Higher Education this morning that includes some encouraging news about a Tufts University study on student participation in U.S. elections. This is from “Massive Surge in Student Voting”:

Turnout among college student voters more than doubled from the 2014 to 2018 midterm elections, according to a new report suggesting that a traditionally apathetic voting bloc may significantly influence next year’s presidential contest and politics at large.

Political researchers say efforts by colleges and universities to boost student civic engagement are paying off and that nearly 40 percent of students who were eligible to vote cast ballots in the 2018 elections, a significant upswing from 19 percent in the 2014 election. The change reflects a nationwide rise in voting participation in nearly every age demographic, but the spike among students is particularly noticeable.

The report released Thursday by Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy and Higher Education details the surge in college student voting. The National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, which launched in 2013, is now widely considered to be the best gauge of student voting patterns….

The study also found that voting rates were up among students of all races.

As noted, the report attributes the spike to variety of factors — from the rise of Trump to intentional efforts on college campuses to spur student participation. In the latter vein, it highlights a program at UNC Greensboro:

For instance, students at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro are given a checklist when they move out of the dormitories that asks them whether they’ve updated their voter registration with their new address.

Not surprisingly, the growth in participation has alarmed some conservatives.

Lawmakers are taking notice that students — who overwhelmingly tend to vote liberal — may play a role in the upcoming election. Some lawmakers have tried to limit early voting centers on campuses, as a result. For example, the former Maine governor Paul LePage, a Republican, went so far as to disseminate misleading information about the requirements for voting.

Kim Reynolds, the Republican governor of Iowa, recently was accused of disenfranchising college voters by scheduling two special elections on dates when certain students would not be on campus.

The bottom line: One can only hope that the events of the last few years, as well as the growing existential threats posed by the climate crisis and environmental challenges, have spurred young people to awareness and action and that it’s not a temporary phenomenon.

Commentary

Columnist makes case for expanding Supreme Court if Dems sweep in 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

In case you missed it, New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie made a compelling argument this week that, in light of the Trump administration’s aggressive right-wing court packing of recent years, Democrats should consider expanding the Supreme Court if they somehow sweep the presidency and Congress in next year’s election.

As Bouie points out, even if the Democrats do win such a sweep, it’s entirely likely that a coterie of right-wing judges made possible by years of hardball minority government could well stymie the policy agenda that voters will have endorsed. This, Bouie says, would represent a miscarriage of justice to which Democrats should respond with their own brand of hardball by expanding the Supreme Court:

Congress, according to the Judiciary Act of 1789, decides the number of judges. It’s been 150 years since it changed the size of the Supreme Court. I think it’s time to revisit the issue. Should Democrats win that trifecta, they should expand and yes, pack, the Supreme Court. Add two additional seats to account for the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the Gorsuch and Kavanaugh nominations. Likewise, expand and pack the entire federal judiciary to neutralize Trump and McConnell’s attempt to cement Republican ideological preferences into the constitutional order.

The reasoning underpinning this proposal isn’t just about the future; it’s about the past. We have had two rounds of minority government in under two decades — two occasions where executive power went to the popular-vote loser. Rather than moderate their aims and ambitions, both presidents have empowered ideologues and aggressively spread their influence. We are due for a course correction.

The goal isn’t to make the courts a vehicle for progressive policy, but to make sure elected majorities can govern — to keep the United States a democratic republic and not a judge-ocracy. Yes, there are genuine constitutional disputes, questions about individual rights and the scope of federal power. At the same time, there are broad readings of the Constitution — ones that give our elected officials the necessary power to act and to solve problems — and narrow readings, which handcuff and restrict the range of our government.

Bouie goes on to acknowledge that his proposal will be controversial and not without many potential pitfalls — both political and constitutional. But he also notes that when President Franklin Roosevelt tried such a move in the 1930’s, it ultimately produced the desired result.

Roosevelt eventually came to court-packing as the solution to this problem. He was forced to abandon the plan, but it had the desired effect: The Court allowed him — and Congress — to govern. Facing similarly hostile ideologues, as well as an organized effort to entrench minority rule, today’s Democrats should learn from this example.

Bouie’s argument is certainly a provocative one, but one thing he is assuredly correct about is that the Right has been the only side in the national political debate that’s truly been playing hardball politics in recent decades. This needs to change.

Commentary

Editorial: Legislature is unfit for redistricting task

The joint editorial boards of the Charlotte Observer and Raleigh’s News & Observer hit the nail on the head this morning with an editorial summing up the redistricting process that’s been proceeding at the General Assembly the last several days. Their conclusion: the judges who ordered the process should take back control of it because it’s impossible for lawmakers to handle the duty in a proper fashion.

Here’s the conclusion: “NC’s new voting maps have already failed”:

While these maps are certainly an improvement over the gerrymandered maps they might replace, the new maps still face questions about the intentional protection of incumbents, and they appear to rely too much on the unconstitutional maps in place.

Mostly, though, the past two weeks have affirmed a larger truth — that even with looming warnings from the court about partisanship, it’s near impossible to keep politics from bleeding into maps. Lawmakers, regardless of party, will often operate in their self-interest, and voters will support them. It’s what Democrats and Republicans have done for decades. It’s what happened once again this month.

It’s why Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Democrat from Charlotte, said that although he was generally satisfied with the maps his chamber produced, he’ll vote against them. “These are the fairest maps, and this was the fairest process, in North Carolina in my lifetime,” Jackson said. But, he said: “Independent redistricting would look just like the process we just went through, except it wouldn’t be politicians doing it.”

We agree, and we believe the court should wrest the maps from the hands of lawmakers and either give the task to a special master or, if there’s time before 2020, allow lawmakers to pursue an independent commission that would produce N.C. districts not colored by partisanship and self-interest. Lawmakers have had their chance, for decades and again this month. They’ve failed.