Historian: Politicians shackle the truth with efforts to control classroom discussions about U.S. slavery

The “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story” by Nikole Hannah-Jones is displayed at a New York City bookstore on November 17, 2021 in New York City. First published in The New York Times Magazine, “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story” was written to center the effects of slavery and the achievements of Black people in the history of the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Of all the subjects taught in the nation’s public schools, few have generated as much controversy of late as the subjects of racism and slavery in the United States.

The attention has come largely through a flood of legislative bills put forth primarily by Republicans over the past year and a half. Commonly referred to as anti-critical race theory legislation, these bills are meant to restrict how teachers discuss race and racism in their classrooms.

One of the more peculiar byproducts of this legislation came out of Texas, where, in June 2022, an advisory panel made up of nine educators recommended that slavery be referred to as “involuntary relocation.”

The measure ultimately failed.

As an educator who trains teachers on how to educate young students about the history of slavery in the United States, I see the Texas proposal as part of a disturbing trend of politicians seeking to hide the horrific and brutal nature of slavery – and to keep it divorced from the nation’s birth and development.

The Texas proposal, for instance, grew out of work done under a Texas law that says slavery and racism can’t be taught as part of the “true founding” of the United States. Rather, the law states, they must be taught as a “failure to live up to the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality.”

To better understand the nature of slavery and the role it played in America’s development, it helps to have some basic facts about how long slavery lasted in the territory now known as the United States and how many enslaved people it involved. I also believe in using authentic records to show students the reality of slavery.

Before the Mayflower

Slavery in what is now known as the United States is often traced back to the year 1619. That is when – as documented by Colonist John Rolfe – a ship named the White Lion delivered 20 or so enslaved Africans to Virginia.

As for the notion that slavery was not part of the founding of the United States, that is easily refuted by the U.S. Constitution itself. Specifically, Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1 prevented Congress from prohibiting the “importation” of slaves until 1808 – nearly 20 years after the Constitution was ratified – although it didn’t use the word “slaves.” Instead, the Constitution used the phrase “such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit.” Read more

The FBI went to Trump’s house and Nevada Republicans couldn’t be happier

Former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort is seen on November 1, 2019 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Just last month Trump was right here in Las Vegas preaching about how much he loves law enforcement.

But then law enforcement came to his house.

The FBI reportedly went to Trump’s compound or lair or whatever it is in Florida to retrieve classified documents and materials that aren’t his to keep. To which the right is saying classified schmassified, this is just a deep state witch hunt, radical leftists, argle bargle etc.

You can see their point. After all, it’s not like Trump committed an outrageous crime against humanity for which someone should obviously be locked up, like sending emails over a private server.

The details on all this are still pretty scant, but Republicans, the vast majority if not all of whom don’t know any more about what the FBI is doing and why than you do, are now pretty pumped.

They’ve seemed on their back feet lately, which is weird given the fundamentals of midterm elections when the party out of power routinely obliterates the party that controls the White House. They see the FBI’s visit to sunny Florida as a welcome development that will take some sting off Trump’s increasingly battered brand – even within much of the far right – and perhaps mitigate the palpable harm Trump brings to Republicans up and down the ballot in a general election.

Republican politicians in Nevada and the nation may be outraged on the outside. But they’re giddy on the inside. Read more

Former GOP congresswoman: Republicans vote against our children’s future with opposition to climate legislation

Image: AdobeStock

Congratulations to Democrats in the Senate for voting to restore American leadership on the defining threat of our time: climate change. Now, attention shifts to the upcoming House vote on the Inflation Reduction Act, whose provisions will help fight climate change and grow our economy by reducing our reliance on dirty fossil fuels.

As a Republican former member of Congress, I am dismayed at today’s total lack of Republican support for protecting their constituents against this costly and current threat. How many more billion-dollar floods, forest fires, drought-stricken farms and disasters do we need before Republicans speak the truth about climate and take action?

When I introduced the revenue-neutral Global Warming Prevention Act of 1989 with 144 cosponsors of both parties, including Newt Gingrich, Republicans agreed that we needed to protect future generations from this danger. My bipartisan 1989 legislation contained clean-energy and tax provisions similar to today’s Inflation Reduction Act. It would have given America a three-decade head start on climate change leadership at a much lower cost.

But the political climate has changed as rapidly as the Earth’s climate, and Republicans have stuck their heads in the proverbial sand. Republicans must be held accountable today by their voters, their constituents, their children and grandchildren for this negligence.

Explain to them, as well as those ravaged by the flooding in Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, that while you’ve held a position of leadership, you have instead obstructed well-being, jobs and a strong economy for decades. Likewise, Kevin McCarthy, your home state of California has been called “ground zero for climate disasters.” Yet you attempt to block all climate mitigation legislation even while your home state suffers from one costly and dangerous climate disaster after another.

It has taken Democrats in Congress to address this dangerous inaction, and not a moment too soon. Republicans, you have abandoned future generation, and that is your legacy — the legacy of a Republican Party that has cynically chosen to deny reality, truth and justice.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Republicans have lost the principle of “fiscal responsibility” as well.

Sadly, because of Republican obstruction for three decades, we’re now playing catch-up in a costly crisis management mode. I thank Democrats in Congress for their timely leadership. I congratulate President Joe Biden for his persistence in protecting the lives of future generations from the ravages of global warming.

Claudine Schneider is a Republican former United States congresswoman and was the first woman ever elected to a major political office in Rhode Island. She is now a Colorado resident and regular contributor to Colorado Newsline, which first published this essay.

Moore v. Harper, explained: How an NC redistricting case could have potentially disastrous consequences

Image; AdobeStock

This essay is republished from the website of the Brennan Center for Justice. For more information on this topic, check out the recording of last week’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation (which featured another Brennan Center expert) by clicking here.

What is Moore v. Harper about?

In Moore v. Harper, the Supreme Court will decide whether the North Caro­lina Supreme Court has the power to strike down the legis­lature’s illeg­ally gerry­mandered congres­sional map for viol­at­ing the North Caro­lina Consti­tu­tion. The legis­lat­ors have argued that a debunked inter­pret­a­tion of the U.S. Consti­tu­tion — known as the “inde­pend­ent state legis­lature theory” — renders the state courts and state consti­tu­tion power­less in matters relat­ing to federal elec­tions.

Last year, North Caro­lin­a’s Repub­lican-domin­ated state legis­lature passed, on a party-line vote, an extreme partisan gerry­mander to lock in a super­ma­jor­ity of the state’s 14 congres­sional seats. The gerry­mander was so extreme that an evenly divided popu­lar vote would have awar­ded 10 of the 14 seats to the Repub­lic­ans and only four to the Demo­crats. The map was a radical stat­ist­ical outlier more favor­able to Repub­lic­ans than 99.9999% of all possible maps.

Because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that federal courts cannot hear partisan gerry­man­der­ing cases, voters contested the map in state court, contend­ing that the map viol­ated the state consti­tu­tion’s “free elec­tions clause,” among other provi­sions. In Febru­ary 2022, the North Caro­lina Supreme Court agreed with the voters and struck down the map, describ­ing it as an “egre­gious and inten­tional partisan gerry­mander . . . designed to enhance Repub­lican perform­ance, and thereby give a greater voice to those voters than to any others.”

The unre­pent­ant legis­lature proposed a second gerry­mandered map, prompt­ing a state court to order a special master to create a fair map for the 2022 congres­sional elec­tions. Unwill­ing to accept this outcome, two Repub­lican legis­lat­ors asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and rein­state their gerry­mandered map.

What has happened so far in the case?

The Supreme Court hasn’t made any substant­ive rulings yet. In March, the Court rejec­ted the legis­lat­ors’ emer­gency appeal to put the gerry­mander back in place imme­di­ately. At the urging of four justices, however, the legis­lat­ors filed a regu­lar appeal asking the Court to consider whether to rein­state their map for elec­tions after 2022. In June, the Court agreed to take up the case. The parties will file briefs over the summer and fall, with oral argu­ment happen­ing there­after. The Court will likely issue its decision before July 2023.

What are the gerry­man­der­ers arguing before the Supreme Court?

In urging the Supreme Court to rein­state the gerry­mandered congres­sional map, the North Caro­lina legis­lat­ors are rely­ing on an unten­able misread­ing of the Consti­tu­tion’s Elec­tions Clause known as the inde­pend­ent state legis­lature theory.

The Elec­tions Clause deleg­ates to states the power to regu­late federal elec­tions while giving Congress the over­rid­ing author­ity to make or alter such laws. Proponents of the inde­pend­ent state legis­lature theory — like the gerry­man­der­ers — read the Elec­tions Clause to give state legis­lat­ors near-exclus­ive author­ity to regu­late federal elec­tions, prohib­it­ing any other state entity — like state courts or governors — from placing checks and balances on that power. In this case, the gerry­man­der­ers are arguing that the theory licenses them to viol­ate the state consti­tu­tion when draw­ing congres­sional maps and that the state courts do not have the power to stop them.

What’s wrong with the inde­pend­ent state legis­lature theory?

The inde­pend­ent state legis­lature theory runs contrary to the consti­tu­tional text, history, prac­tice, and preced­ent. Read more

Senate GOP takes shameful vote to block cap on insulin costs

U.S. Senate Republicans blocked legislation to cap insurance co-pays for insulin at $35. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, including more than 230,000 Iowans (and more than 880,000 North Carolinians). That means if you don’t have it yourself, someone close to you almost certainly does.

I have loved ones and friends with the disease. One particularly special person in my life was diagnosed with Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes when she was a toddler. Needle sticks and insulin injections, and later an insulin portal, have been part of her life as long as she can remember.

Now a young adult, she just landed her first job that provides health insurance, to the enormous relief of her family. But having health insurance won’t protect her from price-gouging by opportunistic drug companies and drug middlemen. The price of insulin, a drug developed more than a century ago, has grown far faster than the rate of inflation.

“One vial of Humalog (insulin lispro), which used to cost $21 in 1999, cost $332 in 2019, reflecting a price increase of more than 1,000%. In contrast, insulin prices in other developed countries, including neighboring Canada, have stayed the same,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

Out-of-pocket costs depend on health insurance plans. But some high-deductible plans require patients to shell out $7,000 to $8,000 out of pocket before insurance pays a dime toward insulin costs. People die because they can’t afford insulin and try to ration it. It’s unconscionable.

That’s why it’s so disappointing that Republicans in the U.S. Senate — including Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst (and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis and Richard Burr) — succeeded in stripping a provision out of a larger bill on Sunday that would have capped insurance co-pays for insulin at $35 a month. Read more