Category Archives: Politics

The Problem with Congress

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has been in the news a lot this last week as more and more evidence of her support for terror and extremism mounts. CNN reported that Greene “liked” a social media post that suggested “a bullet to the head” for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and seemed to approve of a suggestion that other prominent Democrats should be hanged, not to mention similar calls for the death of President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Greene has supported QAnon conspiracy theories about a global pedophilia cabal, approved of suggestions that mass shootings were staged, and made various racist comments. Furthermore, a video emerged of Greene harassing David Hogg, who survived the mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day 2018. The video shows Greene following Hogg down the street in Washington, D.C., in March 2019, and badgering him, calling him a crisis actor paid by George Soros, telling him she was armed, demanding he talk to her, and calling him a coward. Hogg walked on without engaging her.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said yesterday in a press conference that, “Assigning her to the Education Committee when she has mocked the killing of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School when she has mocked the killing of teenagers in high school at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school — what could they be thinking? Or is thinking too generous a word for what they might be doing? It’s absolutely appalling, and I think the focus has to be on the Republican leadership of this House of Representatives for the disregard they have for the death of those children.” Pelosi knows that Republicans have known for a while that they had trouble brewing with Marjorie Taylor Greene back in the summer of 2020 when she was running for Congress. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) called the QAnon supporter’s comments about Black people and Muslims “disgusting,” while a spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called them “appalling.” Scalise backed her primary opponent.

So, I am sure a lot of people have questions about how this woman could be elected. I have some thoughts on that because I have always lived in rural congressional districts. In most congressional races in rural districts, especially in the South, candidates often don’t get many campaign contributions. Many don’t even have websites, and if they do, they are sparse with their information. If multiple people are in a primary, I believe most people just pick the name they like best. Voters don’t really care who they are voting for in these primaries. When the general election comes around, they either vote for the one with the R after their name or the D after their name. As a general rule, I do vote for Democrats almost exclusively. Still, I’ve known a few Democrats I won’t vote for, and on rare occasions, I find someone in the Republican Party or a third party that I want to vote for, but I do my research on candidates. Most voters don’t research candidates. Ignorance by the voting public is especially problematic in rural areas where school systems are often the poorest. People are often uneducated or undereducated. Internet access is difficult to come by without paying exorbitant prices, making it difficult to research candidates. If they have a smartphone, they probably get most of their information from Facebook, which is misleading at best but is most often completely inaccurate.

While Greene was covered in the news as a QAnon candidate, Green and other Republicans tried to distance her from her QAnon conspiracy theories during the general election. Now the crazy is coming out in full force. She should have never been elected, but our previous president and his followers pushed for her election. To top that off, northwest Georgia, which Greene represents, is extremely conservative and backwoods and is over 84 percent white and nearly 57 percent blue-collar. The district leans heavily Republican. Donald Trump carried the district with over 75 percent of the vote in 2016, his eighth-best showing in the nation. Among Georgia’s congressional districts, only the neighboring 9th district is more Republican. Since its creation, no Democrat has managed as much as 30 percent of the vote. 

When I lived in Alabama, I lived at times in the 2nd Congressional and the 7th Congressional districts. The 7th Congressional district is the “Black Belt” district. The shape of the current district was largely established in 1992 when it was reconstituted as a majority-minority district under provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended in 1982 to encourage greater representation for minorities in Congress. Since its creation in 1843, a Republican has only represented the district once and for just one term from 1965-1967. In contrast, Alabama’s 2nd congressional district is majority white, and only one Democrat has represented the district since 1965. That one Democrat, former Montgomery mayor Bobby Bright, only served one term, and most recently switched parties and ran again and lost as a Republican candidate. The current representative from the 2nd congressional district is Barry Moore, who was elected for the first time in 2020. Moore is crooked to the core and has been under near-constant investigation for using his office as a legislator to get preferential contracts and for committing perjury in another corruption case. Moore’s opponent, a black woman named Phyllis Harvey-Hall, worked as an elementary school teacher for 25 years before her retirement. Her credentials and clean history of no criminal charges made no difference. She only received 34.7 percent of the vote (the minority population of the district is just 37 percent).

The House of Representatives tends to be more radical than the Senate because of the smaller and more localized districts. While there are moderates in the House, there are more members who are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. There are also more members who are highly unqualified to be in Congress. The Senate has its bad eggs too. Alabama’s new Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville could very well make history as the most unqualified and incompetent, at least in recent memory. There are some awful people in the Senate, such as McConnell, Graham, Hawley, Cruz, etc., but they at least have some brains, even if they continuously make stupid, hateful, and often contradictory statements. Tuberville, however, takes the cake. He was a football coach known for being extremely lazy. Every time it appeared that his job would become challenging, he left the coaching position.

Furthermore, he’s a crook who defrauded investors of millions during his ownership of an investment company. His partner in the venture was convicted of fraud and was sentenced to ten years in prison. Tuberville turned on him during the trial and escaped being indicted. The Tommy Tuberville Foundation has also been found to mismanage the funds and lining the pockets of Tuberville. He was only elected because he somehow gained our previous president’s support, probably because he sucked up to the former president the most. Voters did not care that he had zero experience that showed he would make a good politician. They cared nothing about his inability to understand the most basic of civic lessons. They cared that he ran as a Republican, was hateful, and had the support of a Republican president. One of his first acts as a Senator was to cast a treasonous vote to overturn a legitimate election.

The point I want to make is that the American electorate is composed of millions of uneducated individuals who are easily swayed by propaganda and hate. Politicians feed on their fears when they actually do tell constituents what their policies are. When NBC News asked Greene’s constituents about the awful things she has said and supported, they simply did not care. One woman talked about how Greene was bold and spoke her mind; we heard Trump supporters say the same thing. Another woman said she didn’t care what Greene had said or done; she still supported the congresswoman. These attitudes and the radicalization and encouragement of extremists led to the January 6 attack on the Capitol. A lack of education is a dangerous thing because it makes people too impressionable and gullible.


The Filibuster: An Accidental and Archaic Rule

Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., speaks to reporters outside the Senate chamber just after being sworn-in by Vice President Kamala Harris, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.

One of the most misunderstood aspects of the federal government is the arcane Senate rule known as the filibuster. Both Democrats and Republicans have argued against the filibuster, according to whether it is useful to them or not. Considering how little the contemporary version of the U.S. Senate accomplishes, that may be reason enough to kill the filibuster — a tool used by the minority party to keep the Senate in a state of near-perpetual obstruction. There’s another reason. Despite an enormous amount of work to be done now at the start of a new Congress, the Senate can’t accomplish tasks as basic as picking committee chairs because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is using the threat of a filibuster to hold up the rules organizing the new Senate, which is split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote giving Democrats a razor-thin majority. Why? Because McConnell wants a guarantee that Democrats won’t bend the rules to eliminate the filibuster. 

At this point in this post, I am going to give all of you a choice. You can watch a 20-minute video of John Oliver explaining in an irreverent but often humorous way the history and structure of the filibuster, or you can read my more detailed and analysis of the filibuster. If you choose the video, then you can skip to the section below the dividing line.

For a little history, the filibuster, contrary to popular belief, is not in the Constitution and the founding fathers never even mentioned it at the Constitutional Convention or in The Federalist Papers, which argued against supermajority required votes in Federalist No. 58 written by James Madison and Federalist No. 22 by Alexander Hamilton. While the Constitution does not mandate it, the framers clearly envisioned that simple majority voting would be used to conduct business. It took seventeen years for the simple majority rule to be changed. In 1789, the first U.S. Senate adopted rules allowing senators to move forward to vote on a bill by a simple majority vote. However, Vice President Aaron Burr argued that voting on whether or not to vote on a bill was redundant, and the Senate had only exercised the procedure once in the preceding four years. He believed the rule should be eliminated, which was done in 1806 after he left office. The Senate agreed and modified its rules; however, filibusters became theoretically possible because it created no means for ending debate. Just an aside, Burr, who accidentally created the filibuster, was later tried multiple times for treason for attempting to establish an independent country in the Southwestern United States and parts of Mexico. This was after he killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel, and Burr ended up fleeing to Europe to get away from the charges of treason. Treason, by the way, is very difficult to prove by the standards set by the Constitution.

Though the option of the filibuster had been created, it remained only theoretical until the 1830s. The first Senate filibuster occurred in 1837. In 1841, a defining moment came at the hands of Alabama senator and future vice president William Rufus King (who I wrote about several weeks ago as being the possible lover of James Buchanan). During debate on a bill to charter a new national bank, Senator Henry Clay tried to end the debate through a majority vote. King threatened a filibuster, saying that Clay “may make his arrangements at his boarding house for the winter.” Other senators sided with King, and Clay backed down. At the time, both the Senate and the House of Representatives allowed filibusters as a way to prevent a vote from taking place. Subsequent revisions to House rules limited filibuster privileges in that chamber, but the Senate continued to allow the tactic. 

Eight decades passed before a rule was created to end a filibuster. In 1917, during World War I, a rule allowing cloture (a motion to end debate through a vote) was adopted by the Senate on a 76–3 roll call vote at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson, after a group of 12 anti-war senators managed to kill a bill that would have allowed Wilson to arm merchant vessels in the face of unrestricted German submarine warfare. From 1917 to 1949, the requirement for cloture was two-thirds of senators voting. During the 1930s, Senator Huey Long of Louisiana used the filibuster to promote his populist policies and ushered in the politics of strange speeches that mocked the dignity of the Senate. Long recited Shakespeare and read out recipes for “pot-likkers” during his filibusters, which occupied 15 hours of debate. Senator Ted Cruz more recently read Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess, even though the need to continually speak is no longer necessary. The threat of filibuster suffices these days. In 1949, the Senate made invoking cloture more difficult by requiring two-thirds of the entire Senate membership had to vote in favor of a cloture motion. However, that lasted a mere ten years. In 1959, then-Majority Leader and future president Lyndon Johnson anticipated a flurry of civil rights legislation and restored the cloture threshold to two-thirds of those voting to keep Southern Democrats from hijacking the Senate. As presiding officer, Vice President Richard Nixon supported the move and stated his opinion that the Senate “has a constitutional right at the beginning of each new Congress to determine rules it desires to follow,” which is the reason the Senate is currently debating the rules governing the Democratic majority in the Senate.

After a series of filibusters in the 1960s over civil rights legislation, the Senate put a “two-track system” into place in 1970. Before this system was introduced, a filibuster would stop the Senate from moving on to any other legislative activity. Tracking allows the majority leader—with unanimous consent or the agreement of the minority leader—to have more than one main motion pending on the floor as unfinished business. Under the two-track system, the Senate can have two or more pieces of legislation or nominations pending on the floor simultaneously by designating specific periods during the day when each one will be considered. (This might be a possible way for the Senate to move ahead with the current impeachment trial that is expected to come forward sometime today.) This change’s side effect was that by no longer bringing Senate business to a complete halt, filibusters on particular motions became politically easier for the minority to sustain, leading to the number of filibusters increasing rapidly. In 1975, the Senate revised its cloture rule so that three-fifths of sworn senators (60 votes out of 100) could limit debate, with only a few exceptions to the rule.

Whoever was the minority party at the time began to use the filibuster as a way to hold up judicial appointments. In 2005, a group of Republican senators proposed having the presiding officer, Vice President Dick Cheney, rule that a filibuster on judicial nominees was unconstitutional, as it was inconsistent with the President’s power to name judges with the advice and consent of a simple majority of senators. On November 21, 2013, Senate Democrats used the so-called “nuclear option,” voting 52–48 — with all Republicans and three Democrats opposed — to eliminate the filibuster’s use on executive branch nominees and judicial nominees, except to the Supreme Court. In 2015, Republicans took control of the Senate and kept the 2013 rules in place. On April 6, 2017, Senate Republicans eliminated the sole remaining exception to the 2013 change by invoking the “nuclear option” for Supreme Court nominees. This was done to allow a simple majority to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The vote to change the rules was 52 to 48 along party lines.

The supermajority rule has made it very difficult, often impossible, for Congress to pass any but the most non-controversial legislation in recent decades. During times of unified party control, majorities have attempted (with varying levels of success) to enact their major policy priorities through the budget reconciliation process, resulting in legislation constrained by budget rules. Meanwhile, public approval for Congress as an institution has fallen to its lowest levels ever, with large segments of the public seeing the institution as ineffective, which brings us to the current situation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer cannot organize the Senate under his majority rule because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insists that the Democrats commit to leaving the filibuster intact. The Democrats have no plans at this time to kill the filibuster altogether. Quite frankly, they do not have the votes, since Democratic Senator Joe Manchin openly opposes the idea and others are cautious; however, they want to keep the threat of killing the filibuster to prevent McConnell and the Republicans from abusing it and stopping all Democratic legislation.

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The stakes here are interesting because the issues are deeper than just the filibuster. While the new Senate is split evenly, the 50 Democrats in the Senate represent over 41.5 million more people than the 50 Republicans represent. The filibuster means that no legislation can pass Congress without the support of 10 Republicans. What that means is that the fight over the filibuster is a fight not just about the ability of the Democrats to get laws passed, but about whether McConnell and the Republicans, who represent a minority of the American people, can kill legislation endorsed by lawmakers who represent quite a large majority. We are in an uncomfortable period in our history in which the mechanics of our democracy are functionally anti-democratic. The fight over the filibuster might seem dull, but it’s a pretty significant struggle as our lawmakers try to make the rules of our system fit our changing nation.

One of the biggest problems with the filibuster is that it’s held as a hallowed tradition of the Senate, when it was not originally part of the rules of the Senate. Furthermore, it allows for just forty-one people out of the 328.2 million Americans to stop legislation from even being considered. The other major problem is that the Senate, contrary to popular belief, is filled with racists, homophobes, misogynists, and/or stupid people. The stupidity may be the worst of them all because they cause the other three. I will not give the obvious example of the election of a football coach who doesn’t even know the three branches of the government or who the Allies fought in World War II because no one is claiming Tommy Tuberville is a genius. Instead, I want to bring to your attention the stupidity of a man many in the Senate often claim to be a genius, Ted Cruz. The Senator tweeted the following statement on Tuesday:

Many senators, including Democrats and Republicans, have stated that Cruz is a very intelligent man. Yet, he is too stupid to understand that the Paris Climate Accord is named as such because it was signed in Paris, not because it represents the views of Parisians. While he probably does realize this, he is more likely playing to his constituents’ stupidity and the supporters of the previous administration. This kind of stupidity is the reason Chuck Schumer and the Democrats must end the filibuster. If they don’t, they might as well just go back to letting Mitch McConnell be Majority Leader and allow the Senate to continue to prevent any legislation from moving on through the Senate.

In other news: President Biden is expected to sign an executive order today that will lift the Pentagon’s ban on transgender people serving in the military. The controversial ban was announced by the previous president in 2017 and reversed the Obama administration’s policy to allow open service by transgender people.


Fighting for LGBTQ+ on Day One

In June 2020, the United States Supreme Court in Bostock v. Clayton County held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The previous administration refused to enforce the ruling. Whether the last president was smart enough to know this little fact, he emulated his “hero,” Andrew Jackson. In 1832, the Supreme Court issued a decision on Worcester v. Georgia in which Chief Justice John Marshall laid out in the opinion that the relationship between the Indian Nations and the United States is that of nations and built the foundations of the doctrine of tribal sovereignty in the United States. Jackson disagreed with the decision and backed Georgia’s attempts to discriminate against and encroach on the Cherokee Nation’s lands. In what was probably a bit of apocryphal history, Jackson reportedly responded: “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!” While our 45th president neither praised nor criticized the ruling, he stated in response to the decision that “some people were surprised” and said that the court had “ruled and we live with their decision.” Yet, he did nothing to enforce it. In fact, his administration actively interpreted the decision very narrowly to decrease its effectiveness.

The inaction of the previous administration changed on Wednesday. On his first day, newly inaugurated President Joe Biden issued an executive order implementing the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County and repealing guidance from the previous administration related to nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people. The Human Rights Campaign issued the following statement emphasizing the importance of Biden’s Executive Order:

Biden’s Executive Order is the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president. Today, millions of Americans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their President and their government believe discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not only intolerable but illegal.

By fully implementing the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Bostock, the federal government will enforce federal law to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, health care, housing, and education, and other key areas of life. While detailed implementation across the federal government will take time, this Executive Order will begin to immediately change the lives of the millions of LGBTQ people seeking to be treated equally under the law.

When I was a teacher at a private school in Alabama, I feared for my job every day of those five years. If my sexuality had become public while I was teaching there, I would have lost my job on the spot. I will always believe that suspicion about my sexuality was why after five years, my contract was suddenly not renewed. At the time, the headmaster was trying to decide between not renewing my contract or another teacher’s contract. (The other teacher was a married heterosexual woman.) The school had hired a new coach, and he needed to be assigned classes to teach. While I had overt problems with the headmaster, it became more and more apparent to me that he did not like me for some reason. He refused to support our drama club, which I served as advisor and was generating money for the school. He refused to attend any of the productions, though he was at every sporting event. I can only assume that he had a problem with my closeted sexuality though he could not prove it. I know it wasn’t my teaching that he had a problem with. Parents (and most of my students) praised my teaching and constantly remarked on how much their children learned in my class. I was told numerous times when I was teaching that students were often excited to come to my class. Many parents contacted me after discovering that I would no longer be teaching there that I would be greatly missed. In the years since, I have heard many lament that the coach they replaced me with never taught anything and only gave worksheets. He also never won a football game. He last only a year or so. With that being said, I know that some students and parents, and apparently the headmaster, were not comfortable with my unspoken sexuality.

Had Bostock been decided while I was there, they may have thought more about the repercussions of not renewing my contract. Luckily, I found my current job in a state whose political climate could not be more different from that of Alabama. The university I work for has a stringent nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual and gender identity. We even had a major donor and transgender woman on the Board of Trustees. However, before Bostock, this could have easily changed as a new college administration took over and new board members took their seats. It was unlikely, but without Bostock, I had no clear protections. The millions of other LGBQ+ Americans also had the same fear of losing their job because of their sexuality, especially teachers in more conservative areas of the country. Yes, some organizations and businesses had protections for LGBTQ+ individuals written in their nondiscrimination policy, but as I said, that could have easily been changed. Now, we have the Supreme Court’s protections and the full protection of the federal government to enforce nondiscrimination for LGBTQ+ individuals in the workplace.

Biden’s executive order is significant as it extends nondiscrimination protections to millions of LGBTQ+ people concerning housing, education, immigration, credit, health care, military service, Peace Corps service, family and medical leave, welfare, criminal justice, law enforcement, transportation, federal grants, and so much more. While a president’s executive orders are always vulnerable to court challenges, this one is essentially bulletproof. It merely implements the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock, something the previous administration refused to do. Technically, Bostock involved only one statute, Title VII, but, as Justice Samuel Alito pointed out in his dissent, more than 100 other federal statutes also forbid “sex discrimination” in language nearly identical to Title VII. He was attempting to point out that those were not included in Bostock. However, under the court’s reasoning in Bostock, each of these statutes should now be read to protect LGBTQ+ people.

I don’t think I can stress enough how important and groundbreaking this executive order is. Biden’s order directs agencies across the federal government to bring their rules and regulations in line with Bostock. It instructs agency heads to “review all existing orders, regulations, guidance documents, policies, programs, or other agency actions” that involve statutes prohibiting sex discrimination. And it compels these officials to revise each rule and regulation in light of Bostockby extending existing protections to LGBTQ+ individuals. In some instances, this process will simply entail updating language to note that anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination is unlawful. In others, it will require the agency to write a new rule expressly disallowing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. One landmark law does not forbid sex discrimination: Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlaws discrimination in public accommodations—but only on the basis of “race, color, religion, or national origin.” So businesses will not be compelled to serve LGBTQ+ people. However, states and municipalities retain the authority to fill in this gap. Furthermore, Democrats are expected to pass the Equality Act, which would not only preserve Bostock in federal statute but amend Title II to bar anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in public accommodations.

Biden showed us on day one of his administration that he will fight for LGBTQ+ individuals. It is a vital step in the right direction.


A New Era

Joe Biden officiating the wedding of White House staffers Brian Mosteller and Joe Mahshie.

We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts, if we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes — as my mom would say, ‘Just for a moment, stand in their shoes.’

—Joseph R. Biden, Jr. 

Full of emotion and with tears of joy in my eyes, I watched the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States, Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and Vice President Kamala Harris. I was emotional because of the social distancing necessary because of the previous administration’s inaction. Even more so, I was emotional because of the massive number of troops needed to keep our government safe from domestic terrorists because the former president gave them sanctuary and support. The last four years have been long and horrifying as an aspiring dictator tried to destroy American democracy. That horror ended at noon yesterday, and a new era of hope began. I have never been so proud of a person being inaugurated as President of the United States. He is a truly deserving person who overcame so much to get to this point in history. It took Biden 50 years of public service (he took office as a member of the New Castle County Council on January 5, 1971) to reach the pinnacle of his career, President of the United States, and we will be better for it.

More than just believing in the potential of Biden’s presidency, I think we’re entering a period of the most LGBTQ+ friendly administration in the history of the United States. Biden and Harris have been supporters of LGBTQ+ rights for many years. They did not support our rights because poll numbers told them it was okay to do so. They did it because it was and is the right thing to do. Biden has promised to pass the Equality Act within his first 100 days as president, launching landmark legislation that will prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education, federal funding, credit, and the jury system. Describing his support for equality, Biden harks back to a story from his youth when as a teen, he saw two men kissing. “Joey, it’s simple. They love each other,” he says his father told him.

For LGBTQ+ people, visibility has always been the cornerstone of our fight for equality and acceptance, and it was growing by leaps and bounds before the 2016 election. President Obama famously lit the White House in rainbow colors after the historic passage of marriage equality in 2015. LGBTQ+ advocates were invited to White House policy roundtables. Obama regularly congratulated LGBTQ+ notables when they came out and included LGBTQ+ Americans in Pride month and World AIDS Day proclamations. Those leaps forward began being eroded before the last president’s inauguration ceremony ended. From day one, the highest office in our country began a rollback of LGBTQ+ visibility that would soon be paired with rollbacks of LGBTQ+ policies and an increase in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. During that weird inauguration four years ago, the LGBTQ+ page on the official White House website was removed. The previous administration proceeded to ban transgender military service and appointed many anti-LGBTQ+ judges at every level of the judicial system. While some of the previous administration’s attacks were front and center, many of the attacks on the LGBTQ+ community were silent and sinister. The new administration has a lot of work to do to correct the wrongs committed over the past four years and put LGBTQ+ rights back on track for the future. As the Biden administration begins, we must start our healing and vigilance for equality both as a nation and the LGBTQ+ community itself. Yesterday, we inaugurated the most LGBTQ-inclusive administration in American history; we must clean up the mess left behind by the previous administration.

Biden has led the way for national politicians to support LGBTQ+ equality. In 2012, during Obama’s reelection campaign, Biden surprised the political world during an appearance on Meet the Press by becoming the first national leader to support same-sex marriage publicly. At the time, the country was split on whether it should be legalized, and many privately supportive politicians were publicly avoiding the issue. Back then, Biden’s strong statement was seen as another of his political gaffes, primarily because of President Barack Obama’s reluctance to tackle the issue.  Biden made history at that moment but faced criticism in some quarters for supposedly putting other Democrats in a tough position. Instead, his remark — that he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriage — seemed to galvanize progressives and made a case for marriage equality an accessible one for many skeptical moderates. And now, nearly 70 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, including half of Republicans. Yet, far more telling is Joe Biden’s history of support for transgender and non-binary people. A week before the election in 2012, Biden told the mother of a transgender child that discrimination against trans people is “the civil rights issue of our time,” at that moment the most assertive public statement of support by any national leader specifically addressing trans rights. Biden is not a politician who publicly supports LGBTQ+ people then betray us in private. His commitment to equality runs deep. For Biden, what matters is that all people can live and work in their full authenticity and provide for their families without threat to their safety and dignity. To him, we are not LGBTQ+ people in need of enhanced cultural framing but people who happen to be LGBTQ+ and deserve to have an equal stake in society just like everyone else, no better or worse.

Like our new president, Vice President Kamala Harris, a devoted LGBTQ+ rights advocate, fought for same-sex marriage and has promised to end the epidemic of violence against trans people. As California’s Attorney General, Harris led the opposition to California’s gay marriage ban in 2008. The Human Rights Campaign has given Harris a perfect lifetime rating. She has turned words into actions and will hopefully continue doing so. Harris publicly backed several decisive moments that benefited the LGBTQ+ community. After marriage equality was restored to California in 2013, Harris officiated the first marriage as a bold statement. As a senator, Harris introduced legislation to protect LGBTQ+ Americans from discrimination. In 2018, she introduced the Do No Harm Act to prevent the use of religious beliefs to be used to discriminate against the community. Harris has often been vocal against the former administration, condemning the president’s removal of LGBTQ+ health-related information across federal websites. Harris also vocalized her support for allowing transgender people to have equal access to public restrooms.

Biden and Harris have been clear about their goals for LGBTQ+ equality. On his first day as president, Biden issued an executive order reinforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids the federal government from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity, a policy that reverses action by the previous administration. The new White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Wednesday that Biden will soon reverse the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military. Biden and Harris support ensuring the Equality Act is passed and signed into law, making the act a priority of their administration. Despite marriage equality and employment protections being affirmed by the Supreme Court, LGBTQ+ people still face outright discrimination in housing, credit, education, public accommodations, federally-funded programs, and jury service in most of the United States. Trans and non-binary people — particularly Black women — are experiencing an ongoing epidemic of fatal violence, with 2020 being the deadliest year on record. There is much work to be done.

Biden and Harris have not been perfect on LGBTQ+ rights throughout their political careers, but they have evolved on the issue, and they have evolved much quicker than many of their counterparts. There are many issues that the previous administration and many Republicans have used to fuel what Biden referred to in his inaugural address as an “uncivil war.” LGBTQ+ rights are often at the top of conservatives lists, along with abortion rights, to incite their hate-filled audiences. Conservatives, especially the religious right, see us as undeserving of equality because they see us as sinners while ignoring their own sins. They oppose equality for all those who don’t look like them. Biden will be a leader for all Americans, and he is off to a good start in restoring the setbacks of the previous administration. I believe he will expand those rights in his time in office. There is a lot of hope for the future of LGBTQ+ rights.


Goodbye to Hatred and Hello to Hope

“So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodnight” or better yet…just get the fuck out. Donald Trump will be leaving the White House for hopefully the last time this morning, and his reign of terror will be over. He has done everything he could to destroy this country, to take away hard-fought civil rights and civil liberties from American minorities. He has destroyed our relationships with our allies and made the United States the laughingstock of the world. He ignored the pandemic, which has led to the death of 400,000 Americans, more than anywhere else in the world, with his ineptitude and inaction. Now, the disastrous and deadly four years of his presidency are over. For the most part, Donald Trump quit being president after the election. He focused not on the final days of his presidency but conspiracy theories about a stolen election, inciting the destruction of democracy, and probably most important for him, playing golf.

On November 3, 2020, the election of Joe Biden with more votes than any other president in history was a victory for “We the People.” Biden pledges to be a President who seeks not to divide but to unify. The restoration of the soul of the United States begins today at noon. Democrats have won the presidency, they have retained control of the House of Representatives, and they have taken control of the Senate, even if it’s by the slimmest of margins. 

Biden brought together the broadest and most diverse coalition in history. He was elected with the support of Democrats, Republicans, Independents, progressives, moderates, conservatives, people young and old, urban, suburban, and rural Americans, gay, straight, transgender individuals, and people of all races: white, black, Latino, Asian, and Native American. Biden will be a president for all Americans, not just those who supported him. He has pledged to be blind to red and blue partisanship. Biden will work to make the promise of the country real for everybody — no matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity, or their disability.

Biden is unlike any politician I have ever studied. Many politicians are very self-centered and ambitious. Too many are like Trump and have an emotional void that needs to be filled with the praise and the devotion of others. With Biden, his drive and ambition come from his empathy. Americans often choose the opposite of the previous leader, and no one could be more of the opposite of Donald Trump than Joe Biden. I am not claiming that Biden has been unambitious in his career; he has wanted to be president since he was a kid. However, Biden is a man known for his humility and realism that resulted from his upbringing and the lessons learned from a series of devastating personal tragedies. I firmly believe that Biden is right for this moment in our history. He is a politician driven not by a cause but by his desire to ensure a fair shot, stability, and the two most intimate of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms: freedom from want and from fear.

With Biden comes some extraordinary people. Kamala Harris will make history today as the first woman, first Black woman, first woman of South Asian descent, and first daughter of immigrants ever elected as Vice President. As Biden’s website says, “It’s long overdue, and we’re reminded [today] of all those who fought so hard for so many years to make this happen. But once again, America has bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice.”

Though we do not elect the First Lady and Second Gentleman, we are getting the service of two people who could not be more opposite of the counterparts they are replacing. As an educator myself, today is a great day for America’s educators. We will have one of our own in the White House, and Jill will make a great First Lady. Articulate and elegant, Jill Biden replaces a nude fashion model who could barely speak English. Melania Trump hated and made a mockery of the role of the First Lady. Jill Biden will restore respectability to the role of First Lady. Doug Emhoff will become the first Second Gentleman and the first Jewish spouse of a U.S. Vice President. He is a distinguished visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center, meaning our First Lady and Second Gentleman will both be educators. In his role as Second Gentleman, Emhoff plans to focus on equal access to justice and legal representation.

Furthermore, for the first time, a president’s administration will be the most diverse in history. Biden pledged to create a Cabinet that looked like America. He stated, “I’m going to keep my commitment that the administration, both in the White House and outside in the Cabinet, is going to look like the country.” Biden’s nominations are historic will set records in diversity. If confirmed, his nominees will make history as the most diverse group ever to lead America’s federal agencies. The twenty-four-person Cabinet includes thirteen men and eleven women, and, according to Biden, “more than a dozen history-making appointments, including the first woman secretary of treasury, the first African American defense secretary, the first openly gay Cabinet member, and the first Native American Cabinet secretary.” 

The United States is at one of its most critical moments in history. As Biden said in his victory speech on November 7, 2020:

America has always been shaped by inflection points — by moments in time where we’ve made hard decisions about who we are and what we want to be. 

Lincoln in 1860 — coming to save the Union. 

FDR in 1932 — promising a beleaguered country a New Deal.

JFK in 1960 — pledging a New Frontier. 

And twelve years ago — when Barack Obama made history — and told us, “Yes, we can.”

We stand again at an inflection point.

We have the opportunity to defeat despair and to build a nation of prosperity and purpose.

We can do it. I know we can.

I’ve long talked about the battle for the soul of America. 

We must restore the soul of America. 

Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses.

It is time for our better angels to prevail.

With four years of disaster and deteriorating diplomatic relations, the whole world will be watching what Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and the United States do in this moment. They will watch to see if we will get past this “inflection point.” They will watch to see whether Biden will be able to heal the “soul of the nation” and deal with a bitterly divided country.  The world will also be watching to see if Trump will continue to be a thorn in the side of American democracy or if he will receive the punishment he deserves for his crimes. Time will tell, but I believe that we are at a point “Of History and Hope.”


Millennialism, Evangelicals, and Being Lost in the Wilderness

They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.

—Psalm 107:4-6

White evangelicals believe they see truths that you and I cannot. This is one of the most dangerous aspects of evangelicalism. As law enforcement tracks down and identifies the insurrectionist terrorists of January 6, it has become more clear who they are and what they wanted. Amid the QAnon adherents, anti-Semites, neo-Confederates, and revolutionary cosplayers were the evangelical faithful: those who see themselves as the vanguard of God’s end-times army. Their proud participation in the riot represented some of the most extreme political actions that any group of evangelicals has taken in recent history. These evangelical participants in that mob believed they were part of a holy war. Insurgents carried signs that read “Jesus Saves,” “In God We Trust,” “Jesus 2020,” and “Jesus Is My Savior, Trump Is My President.” One man marched through the halls of Congress carrying a Christian flag, another a Bible. They chanted, “The blood of Jesus covering this place.”

These “Christians” apparently believe that they had no choice but to try to overthrow Congress. For months, various evangelicals have claimed in sermons, on social media, and during protests that malicious forces stole the election, conspired to suppress Christian liberties, and aimed to suppress on their freedom to worship and spread the Christian gospel. This message is not something new. It has been a message of the Trump era to the Christian faithful warning them that only Trump could save Christianity. Evangelical leader Franklin Graham threw his support behind Donald Trump throughout his 2016 campaign and continued to do so during Trump’s presidency. Most of the evangelical community followed suit. Now, Graham is still firmly behind Trump, even though the president incited an insurrection and repeated baseless lies that the election was stolen from him. In fact, Graham championed those conspiracy theories, and now, he’s comparing the Republicans who voted in favor of impeachment with the Christian disciple Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus for thrity pieces of silver. Like many in the far-right Christian conservative movement, Graham believes that Donald Trump is Christianity’s new savior.

Liberty University’s think tank, the Falkirk Center for Faith and Liberty, which was launched in 2019 and named after its co-founders: Jerry Falwell Jr., the now disgraced and former Liberty University president and Charlie Kirk, the political activist and founder of Turning Point USA, has gone so far as to try to take Christ out of Christianity because they perceive Him as too weak. The Falkirk website states: “Bemoaning the rise of leftism is no longer enough. Although we do, as Jesus taught, turn the other cheek in our personal relationships, we cannot abdicate our responsibilities on the cultural battlefield. There is too much at stake in the clash for the soul of our nation. Bold, unapologetic engagement and initiative is needed on the part of every conservative American.” Falkirk churns out a steady stream of propaganda to convince Christian conservatives they are oppressed victims in society, church, politics, culture, child-rearing, and every other dimension of life. Commentators at the center do not believe “a real Christian can vote Democratic” because of the “blasphemous accouterments” of the party. People who disagree with Falkirk’s politics are treated as part of the shadowy, undefined cabal of “they” and “them” that persecutes and hates conservative Christians. The Falkirk Center doesn’t like it when other groups—racial minorities, for example—describe reality in terms of oppression and power, because this is a central part of Falkirk’s propaganda. They believe that if Christian patriots have power, they must use it to reshape culture and push out the leftists. If Christians have lost power, they must regain it before they are crushed by the elites. On January 6, the day of the storming of the U.S. Capitol and the certification of Joe Biden’s election, Falkirk perfunctorily denounced the violence at the Capitol. But just one day later, the center was still peddling fears of massive voter fraud, saying that the fraud “debate” will be an open question for years to come. The Falkirk team seems utterly oblivious to the fact that it was precisely their brand of rhetoric—besieged, terrified, Christian nationalist, and masculinity-obsessed—that stirred up the anti-democratic rioters of last week.

The photograph above is from a 2017 Oval Office meeting of religious right leaders "laying hands" on and praying for Trump. The picture has been featured in advertising by the Falkirk Center. The ad features text above the picture that reads, "Pray for Our President."
The photograph above is from a 2017 Oval Office meeting of religious right leaders “laying hands” on and praying for Trump. The picture has been featured in advertising by the Falkirk Center. The ad features text above the picture that reads, “Pray for Our President.”

The “Christian” insurrectionists believed that the final days of history were at hand and that the Capitol was the site of a battle so important and significant it would have the power to usher in a new era of Christian dominance. As one evangelical from Texas told The New York Times, “We are fighting good versus evil, dark versus light.” This belief comes from a movement in Christianity (and a few other religions) called Millennialism. Christianity and Judaism have both produced messianic movements that featured millennialist teachings—a belief that an earthly kingdom of God is at hand. These millennialist movements often led to considerable social unrest. Many if not most millennialist groups claim that the current society and its rulers are corrupt, unjust, or otherwise wrong and will soon be destroyed by a powerful force. The harmful nature of the status quo is considered intractable without the anticipated dramatic change. The French sociologist and Dominican priest Henri Desroche observed that millennialist movements often envisioned three periods in which change might occur. First, the movement’s elected members will be increasingly oppressed, leading to the second period in which the movement resists the oppression. The third period brings about a new utopian age, liberating the members of the movement. The current millennialist movement believes that Donald Trump is their messiah and will deliver them from the oppressive nature of liberals, i.e., the Democratic Party and especially its progressive wing. Trump and his followers love to invoke the word “socialism” as the greatest evil that exists. I have heard many times, “I don’t want to live in a socialist country.”

Much has been made about the evangelical community’s relationship with Donald Trump. Typically, observers tend to view this alliance as purely transactional, with evangelicals holding their noses and pledging their support to the least Christian of men to get something in return—most notably, a trio of religiously conservative Supreme Court justices. The misguided and short-sighted belief that evangelicals are overlooking the unchristian behavior of Trump is dangerous. I have talked to some of these people, and they honestly believe that Trump is the most Christian president in history, though they can never articulate why they think this other than the misguided belief that he is pro-life. If you think that evangelicals are just overlooking his behavior, they are not. They are blinded to it, and they are so caught up in a religious fervor that they cannot see what is staring them in the face. They have lost their way, and they are not just wandering in the wilderness. They don’t even realize that they are lost or even in the wilderness. The Capitol attack revealed in all its gruesome detail the extent to which Trump channels the apocalyptic fervor that has long animated many white evangelical Christians in this country. They believe the end times are near and their flawed but “King David-like” leader Donald Trump will save them.

From the moment that Christian separatists landed on North America’s shores, they have espoused end-times conspiracies. Their messages have been relatively innocuous most of the time, part of the broader millennialist outlook shared among most major religious traditions. But these conspiracies can have dangerous consequences—and sometimes they lead to violence. Take, for example, the results of Jonestown. On November 18, 1978, 909 individuals died in Jonestown, from apparent cyanide poisoning, in an event termed “revolutionary suicide” by the cult leader Jim Jones. Jones led a left-wing oriented cult, but current evangelical millennialists have taken up the same religious zeal. Throughout American history, every evangelical generation has seen some of its believers driven to extreme conspiracies that blend with other strains of militant political faith. In the Trump era, with the destabilizing impact of a global pandemic and a devastated economy, white evangelical Christianity has become entangled with a broader revolution against the government to keep Donald Trump in office, culminating (so far) in an insurrection in the name of Jesus Christ breaking out in tandem with the Trump voter fraud coup. What might be the most fighting aspect of this is that the violence of January 6 is, in all likelihood, a foretelling of where this group might go once Trump is finally out of office and their desperation reaches a fever pitch.

Evangelical apocalypticism is grounded in a complicated and convoluted reading of the biblical books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation, some of the most violent books in the Bible. Because of a confluence of factors such as the death and destruction caused by the Civil War, massive immigration, growing religious diversity in the United States that threatened Protestant power, and new secularizing forces, such as Darwin’s theory of evolution, a small group of evangelical preachers, businessmen, college professors, publishers, and laypeople began reading their Bibles with new eyes. This group became increasingly influential and took hold as a reaction to the Roaring Twenties and later to the spread of communism in the 1950s. Factor in the civil rights movements of minorities and evangelicals are downright apoplectic. Four years ago, this apocalyptic zeal has found a national leader in the most unlikely of men, Donald Trump.

According to evangelicals, the current age will climax with the restoration of Jews to Palestine and the emergence of powerful empires in Rome, Russia, and Asia. Seeking to unite the world’s nations and end chaos and war, a new leader will appear promising peace and security. Unwilling or unable to recognize that he is the prophesied Antichrist, most political and religious leaders worldwide will cede their sovereignty and independence to him through an international agency. Just before the Antichrist is revealed for the threat that he is, all true Christians will vanish from the earth in “the rapture,” joining the resurrected Jesus in heaven. Shortly after that, the imposter will lead the world through seven years of tribulation, at the end of which Jesus and the saints will return to earth and battle the forces of evil at Armageddon (a literal place they believe is in Israel). Christ will defeat the Antichrist and establish a millennial kingdom of peace and prosperity on earth. Such convictions made evangelicals astute students of world events, and it is probably also the reason they are so accepting of Trump’s lies. They are dangerously gullible. They were and are continually lining up global changes with their reading of their apocalyptic prophecy. I remember the syndicated program Jack Van Impe Presentshosted by the late Jack Van Impe and his wife, Rexella. Week after week, Van Impe predicted a date for the end-times becoming more desperate as the day drew near until it eventually passed, after which he chose a new date. His program consisted of a commentary on the news of the week through an interpretation of the Bible. Many evangelicals hung on his and the words of other “prophets.”

Most of these evangelical millennialists do not believe that the U.S. is described in the Bible’s end-times history. They hope through their perseverance that the U.S. might be one of the few faithful nations, an end-times stronghold where true Christianity is practiced, the gospel is preached, and the power of the Antichrist is challenged continuously and subverted until Christ returns to save them. While evangelicals hope for this, they fear that, unless they act decisively, the U.S. might relinquish its independence and align with the Antichrist. They have merged Christian universalism with American nationalism, remaking evangelicalism as a Christian nationalist movement through this belief. This apocalyptic thinking has defined the evangelical movement for the last century and a half. It was central to the ministry of almost every prominent American evangelical megachurch pastor, radio preacher, or television pioneer, from Aimee Semple McPherson to Billy Graham to Jerry Falwell. Evangelist Billy Sunday said, “Christianity and Patriotism are synonymous terms, and hell and traitors are synonymous.”

Evangelicals’ apocalyptic beliefs foster a sense of urgency and certainty and a vision of the world defined in absolute terms. Many evangelicals believe that they are engaged in the ultimate game of good versus evil. They have no time or regard for incremental change or for reasoning with those who disagree with them. They call for drastic and immediate solutions to the problems they see around them. For evangelicals, apocalypticism fills the in blanks, rationalizes their choices, and connects the dots, culminating in their unceasing devotion to Donald Trump, while making their actions more urgent and compromise unlikely.

Evangelicals have eagerly embraced Trump’s conspiratorial lies. They believe that Barack Obama was born in Africa and is a Muslim. They partner with QAnon activists in accusing Democrats and Hollywood stars of secretly committing atrocious immoral acts that include cannibalism and pedophilia. They argue that George Soros is using his vast wealth to build a one-world government. They see lies as truth and truth as lies. In their world, Joe Biden stole the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump. A fake election pushing Trump out of the way means Satan can bring his plans for globalization and world domination, through the Antichrist, to fruition.

The apocalypse that evangelicals have been predicting for generations seems for some to have finally begun. A Biden administration, they are confident, is not only illegitimate but will also align with the forces of evil, from the U.N. to a cabal of international Jews, to persecute all true Christians. This white evangelical segment sees itself as a besieged minority, surrounded on all sides by the forces of darkness, sin, and secularism. This makes them just as dangerous as a wild animal that is cornered and scared. They believe that, in the last days, governments will turn against them, and their religious liberty will be suppressed. From COVID-19 shutdowns to alleged election fraud, their reading of current events tells them that the end times have begun. They believe that the Bible demands that they go to war against the Antichrist and all of his minions. Suppose Joe Biden and the other leaders of the U.S. government—now including even staunch Christian conservatives like Mike Pence—represent the forces of the Antichrist. In that case, the faithful have no choice but to organize against them. They need to stop the Antichrist by any means necessary. God demands no less than insurrection.

Evangelicals do not understand that they are following evil and excusing it by claiming to follow God. They misinterpret the false prophets and teachers described in 2 Peter to mean that those opposed to their beliefs are these false prophets. Second Peter 2:1-3 says,

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

They continually pervert the Bible to be interpreted to fit their apocalyptic and fanatical beliefs. They use to oppress others and impose their brand of government that would allow no dissent to their beliefs.

Matthew 4:1 says, “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” The devil has tempted evangelicals, but instead of resisting temptation, they have allowed Satan to control them. The Devil thrives on lies, sedition, and hubris. I won’t go so far as to say that Donald Trump is doing the Devil’s bidding, but I will say that Donald Trump is not following the will of God. Evangelicals in America have gotten lost because they chose the temptation of power over the command of brotherhood and faith. Paul’s teaching on the Christian’s relationship to civil government is outlined in Romans 13. Romans 13:1-2 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” 

At the heart of Christianity is selflessness and love. The heart of American conservatism is personal freedom and individualism at the expense of oppressing those who do not fall under their white evangelical personification. Sadly, far-right Christians such as Liberty University have chosen the latter while calling it the former. Brad Littlejohn, a fellow at the conservative think-tank the Edmund Burke Foundation, championed selfishness and wrote in 2019 that in an unselfish world, “parents couldn’t really give each of their children a Christmas gift—something perfectly chosen for that child’s interests and developmental needs. As soon as they gave the gift, the child would look for another sibling to give it to. Pretty soon, the children would be passing all of their gifts around in a confusion of constant sharing, rather than going off to their rooms to practice for an hour on their new ukulele. By the next day, they would probably have given all their gifts away to the neighbor kids. Indeed, in this world, parents wouldn’t have given their kids gifts in the first place—come Christmas, they would’ve scanned the world for the neediest person they could find and given everything they could to that person instead. Or rather, they would have long since given away all their earthly possessions in a frenzy of selflessness (even as other equally selfless people tried to load them with new possessions).” This statement, though hyperbolic, is a clear rejection of the selfless teachings of Christ and one that attempt to portray selfishness and greed as a Christian virtue.

For years we have seen people try to convince themselves that America is a “Christian” nation. But when their ideals of America collide with their ideals of Christianity, such as selflessness and charity, evangelicals believe that we must remake Christianity into their perverted capitalist, white supremacist beliefs. Sadly, evangelical conservatives in the Republican Party have chosen their brand of American patriotism over Jesus. They have lost their way, and we must pray that they can find truth and repentance before they destroy us all by continuing to back power-hungry, egomaniacal politicians like Donald Trump. Politicians of this ilk will continue to use apocalyptic fear to have influence over and support from delusional evangelicals. Trump may be losing his grip as many turn against him after he incited a terrorist attack against Congress, but another will replace him. Already, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are jockeying for that position. We have to be diligent and stop their brand of apocalyptic extremism.


Can I Use Your Bathroom?

Neighbors of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are saying that the president’s daughter and her husband instructed their Secret Service detail not to use any of the six bathrooms in their home. Seriously, they have six bathrooms in their home, and they couldn’t set aside just one for the men and women there to protect them. Does this sound familiar to anyone? It reminded me of a particular movie I saw a few years ago: The Help.

In the movie The Help, the character Hilly, an elitist white supremacist woman, tries to get a law passed to forbid white families from letting their domestic servants use the bathroom inside the house. Hilly insists that everyone install separate bathrooms for their “help.” Minny, Hilly’s black maid, is fired for using the guest bathroom and is rendered unemployable due to Hilly’s lies. Minny gets her revenge for the injustice. Minny committed what she calls a “terrible awful.” After her termination, Minny brought Hilly her famous chocolate pie, but after Hilly had finished two slices, Minny revealed that she baked her own shit into the pie. If you haven’t seen the movie, I am sorry that I gave this part away, but I wanted to make a point. Maybe someone will serve the Kushners one of Minny’s famous “chocolate” pies.

The fact that there are people who are as elitist as the Kushners is so infuriating. The Kushners have six bathrooms in their home, yet they wouldn’t allow the men and women who are sworn to give their lives to protect them to use just one of those bathrooms. Furthermore, this elitism came at a cost to the U.S. taxpayers. Since September 2017, the federal government has spent $3,000 a month — more than $100,000 to date — to rent a basement studio, with a bathroom, from a Kushner family neighbor for the Secret Service to use.

I despise elitism. I especially hate academic elitism, something I have been the victim of many times. I don’t care what college or university you graduated from. It is what a person makes of their education that means more. Just because someone went to Harvard, Princeton, Yale, or Penn doesn’t make them intelligent, especially when you are too stupid to understand that your candidate lost the election. These same idiots continued their false claims when no fraud was found even after every judge and election official in the country declared the election free and fair. You are either stupid or a liar if you can’t see what has been proven over and over again. In recent days, I have heard numerous times that Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are “very smart men” because they went to an Ivy League school. George W. Bush went to an Ivy League school. I never heard even his most ardent supporters, hell I never even heard his family, say that Bush was a “very smart man” because he attended an Ivy League school, let alone any other reason.

I think the whole college admission scandal that Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin got caught up in showed us that just because someone went to an elite school, it does not mean they had the smarts to attend. It just proved that they had the money to get admitted and enough money to make sure they made the right grades. When I graduated high school, I got accepted to every college to which I applied. Some were the most elite colleges of the South, but my family did not have the money to pay for those colleges. I could have applied to other colleges. I have no doubt I would have been admitted to any college I applied to, but I did not have the money for the application fees for many of these colleges, and because of my parents’ very modest middle-class incomes, I did not qualify for assistance. The only scholarship at a major university I received was because a family friend called in a favor, but I did not take that scholarship because the person who was convinced to give me the scholarship could only guarantee it for one year, and he was retiring. There was no guarantee I’d get the scholarship the next year, and there would be no one to turn to for help (back then, this university only gave scholarships through their alumni association, so you were at their mercy). I chose to attend a smaller college that gave full scholarships to all high school valedictorians in Alabama, and I was my small high school’s valedictorian. 

I learned a very valuable lesson from attending that small college. After undergrad, I went to a graduate school with one of the top three military history programs in the country. It also had an excellent and well-respected civil rights history program. We had students from some of the most prestigious colleges in the country in our program. What I realized was that I had gotten a far better education at my small state college that always seemed to be fighting for every penny of funding they could than elite schools with multimillion-dollar endowments. I had made the most of the opportunities I had. I took advantage of every opportunity to increase my attractiveness on the job market. Yet, I struggled financially for years, trying to find a decent job. Eventually, I had to move back in with my parents in Alabama and take whatever job I could get. Being a 7th-12th grade social studies and English teacher took up all of my free time, and eventually, the funding for my Ph.D. ran out before I could finish my dissertation.

Through a series of unfortunate events, I found myself jobless after I had basically sacrificed everything for my job as a teacher. I had always dreamed of being a teacher. I loved teaching, but teaching the children of white supremacists at a small private school in Alabama took its toll on me. My health suffered, and I lost my job. The school hired a football coach to replace me and did not renew my contract. They gave me absolutely no notice. They never even hinted that my job was in jeopardy. I found myself jobless and penniless. Thankfully, the people who read this blog helped me out and sustained me until I found my current job thanks to those marketable skills I had worked so hard to add to my resume. Ten years ago, I would have never believed that I would now be a museum curator and a professor at one of America’s oldest colleges.

I know I have gotten off on a tangent and onto my soapbox about my own struggles against elitism, but the point I am trying to make is that I worked my ass off to get where I am. People in the outgoing presidential administration got everything handed to them, and they have given nothing back to society. The Kushners took their entitled and elitist attitudes and refused to allow the people who were there to save their lives the right to use just one of their six bathrooms. Thankfully, not all wealthy people are like this. There are plenty of wealthy people out there who either believe in Andrew Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth, or they just believe in helping those in need because it is the human thing to do. For those people, I am grateful. I am thankful that there are good people out there who are not selfish and elitist. I know that I will never be counted as one of the wealthy, but I believe in helping those around me whenever I can and in whatever way I can.


A Clear and Present Danger…Impeached Again

FYI: Ben & Jerry’s never really made this ice cream.

How do you compare a protest over the systemic problem of police brutality that too often leads to death with a terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol? It is purely racist bullshit! If Democrats had stormed the Capitol, Republicans would have called for the death penalty. Yet, Democrats are only calling for the impeachment of the President and bar him from holding office ever again. All those who supported, incited, or stormed the Capitol need to be prosecuted and imprisoned for insurrection and domestic terrorism. 

Many of the Republicans opposed to impeachment claimed that there have been no hearings and that this “rush” to impeachment is unprecedented. First, let me address the issue of precedence. When Congress impeached Andrew Johnson, Congress did so before they even drew up the articles of impeachment. Furthermore, why do you need to have hearings when every member of the House witnessed firsthand the events of January 6? The members of Congress were the victims, along with democracy itself, of the terrorist attack. Yet, one Congressman even called for bringing back one of those terrorists to testify to Congress. The Republican Party’s stupidity was on full display before the world yesterday as they gave their weak reasons for defending Donald Trump.

The U.S. House of Representatives impeached Donald J. Trump yesterday in a bipartisan vote. All two-hundred twenty-two House Democrats and ten House Republicans proclaimed that country came before party and that they believe Trump is a danger to the United States, if not the world. One hundred ninety-seven House Republicans opposed impeachment and chose party over country. Listed below are those Republicans who violated their oath of office and cared so little about Americans that they voted against the impeachment of a man who incited a terrorist attack on the country he swore to protect. Four Republicans did not vote, for what reasons, I do not know. Here are the cowards who refused to do what was right for their country.


How Do You Solve a Problem Like Trump?

In my opinion, the most frightening aspect of the Trump presidency is not his corruption or blatant disregard for the Constitution. It is that over 74 million Americans voted to keep him in office. Those who voted for him did not care about his abuses of power, nor did the members of Congress who supported the overturning of the election. Even after the assault on the U.S. Capitol, eight Senate Republicans and 138 Republican House members still voted to overturn a free and fair presidential election.  It is just the latest example of a party that is far to the right of most conservative parties in the democratic world.

In the days since the terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol last week, Republicans have shrugged off the idea of removing Trump from office in the final days of his presidency. Few of them are outright defending Trump’s conduct, but many of them have suggested it would only add fuel to the fire and further divide America. The other main argument is that it’s unnecessary — that Trump will have learned his lesson from what happened and quietly go away. Many of the most wishy-washy Republicans are claiming that Trump has learned his lesson, this time. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is what plenty of Republicans who voted against removing Trump said about a year ago, assuring the impeachment process had sufficiently chastened Trump. If they really believe Trump has “learned his lesson” then I have some oceanfront property in Arizona that I’d like to sell them, because their stupidity/gullibility knows no bounds. Trump has never shown any signs of remorse for anything he has done, and he’s not showing remorse now, nor will he.

The ideology of Trumpism is a vicious beast. We now have to come to terms with the reality that this beast will ravage American society long after January 20, 2021. The incoming Biden administration will have to confront millions of enraged Trumpists among the 74 million-plus who voted for Trump. Their dark cloud of conspiracy, their refusal to reason with truth, and their rejection of a legitimately elected President will threaten to suffocate the new administration. We have a long road ahead of us to heal this country. Trump undoubtedly needs to be removed from office as soon as possible. However, the Senate is unlikely to remove Trump through impeachment before his term ends, and Vice President Pence is unlikely to invoke the Twenty-Fifth Amendment if Trump does not commit more outrageous acts. If inciting an insurrectionist terrorist attack was not outrageous enough, would anything ever be too much for Republicans to excuse?

If the House does impeach Trump this week, which could happen today, it will still have almost no effect on how long he remains in office. His term expires seven days from now, and even the most rapid conceivable Senate trial would cover much of that time. But any impeachment debate is still highly consequential. The Senate has the power both to remove Trump from office and to prevent him from holding office in the future. Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution says: “Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.” Many constitutional scholars believe that the ability to bar him from holding further office will not expire when his term ends. Therefore, a Senate trial could happen after January 20. Then comes the questions of who should preside over the trial. The Constitution states, “When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside,” but Trump would no longer be president, so most scholars believe that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would preside over the trial and not Chief Justice John Roberts.

Whereas the Constitution does not specify whether disqualification requires a two-thirds Senate vote, a conviction in an impeachment trial does. Still, the Constitution does not specify if only a majority vote would be needed to bar someone from holding further office, so we could see this disputed in court. The Senate has previously used a majority vote. To be clear, such a simple majority vote can only take place after the Senate has already voted to convict an impeached official. The Senate has barred three people, all federal judges, from holding future office: West Humphreys (in 1862, for waging war against the U.S.), Robert Archbald (in 1913, for corruption), and Thomas Porteous (in 2010, for bribery and perjury). Two of the three times still had a two-thirds majority vote. Two-thirds of the Senate must first agree to convict a federal official in an impeachment trial before the Senate can disqualify that official — a simple majority cannot, acting on its own, disqualify an official from holding future office. Democrats would still need to convince at least 17 Republicans to convict Trump.

There is precedent for a trial to be held after someone has left office. The Senate tried a former War Department secretary — William Belknap, in 1876 — after he resigned, which is not the same as leaving office at the end of his term. The majority of the House and Senate decided that Belknap could be tried after he had left office. Starting on April 5, 1876, Belknap was tried by the Senate. For several weeks Senators argued over whether the Senate had jurisdiction to put Belknap on trial since he had already resigned office in March. Belknap’s defense managers argued that the Senate had no jurisdiction; the Senate ruled by a vote of 37–29 that it did. Belknap was charged with five articles of impeachment, and the Senate listened to over forty witnesses. With forty votes needed for conviction, the Senate voted 35 to 25 to convict Belknap, with one Senator not voting, thus acquitting Belknap of all charges by failing to reach the required two-thirds majority. All Senators agreed that Belknap took the money, kickbacks, from Caleb P. Marsh, who was central to the trader post-scandal (Marsh had the written receipts for the payments), but the twenty-three Senators who voted for acquittal believed that the Senate did not have jurisdiction to try Belknap after he had resigned. *

I think it is doubtful that Trump will be convicted in the Senate, though news broke yesterday afternoon that Mitch McConnell favors impeachment as a way to kick Trump out of the Republican Party. If McConnell publicly backs impeachment, then other Senate Republicans could follow suit. If Trump does something even more heinous in the next week or after he leaves office, then it may also make it easier to secure an impeachment conviction. I suspect, no matter what happens, there will be long court battles over the results. Disqualifying a president from future office would probably come before the Supreme Court because of the stakes and lack of precedent. History suggests that the court would be more likely to uphold a bipartisan congressional vote than a largely partisan one. If an impeachment begins while Trump is still in office, the process should be able to continue after they have left office, but I have no doubt this will be a nasty, drawn-out fight. The other question is when the Senate would allow for the trial of Trump. If a trial is held as soon as Schumer assumes the position of Majority Leader, which will be no earlier than January 20 after Kamala Harris is sworn in as Vice President and likely to be after January 22, when Georgia officials are required to certify their Senate runoff elections.

If the trial is held in the Senate at the earlier possible moment, then it could draw attention away from Biden’s first hundred days in office. Biden said Monday his “hope and expectation” is that the Senate would split days between the trial and other business. In addition to passing another stimulus bill, Biden will have a full slate of Cabinet nominees that will need Senate confirmation hearings, which could be difficult to hold when all senators are required to attend an impeachment trial. If the House chooses to wait to send the Articles of Impeachment, then the momentum may be lost. House Majority Whip James Clyburn said figuring out the best way to balance impeachment with the beginning of Biden’s term will ultimately fall to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but said he would suggest, “Let’s give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running, and maybe we will send the articles sometime after that.” 

Even if the Senate does not convict Donald Trump for “incitement of insurrection,” there is another avenue to bar Trump from holding office again. Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment states:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellionagainst the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Anyone complicit in inciting the riot bent on stopping the electoral vote counting process, including the members of Congress who encouraged it with their lies and dangerous rhetoric, could reasonably be considered to have violated the above section of the Fourteenth Amendment. The provisions of the amendment could also be applied against Trump, should he seek office in the future, to exclude him from the ballot. If a state decided Trump had violated the Fourteenth Amendment, he might have to sue to get on the ballot. Trump could also be barred from seeking office again by a simple majority vote of both houses, in contrast to the requirement in impeachment proceedings that the Senate vote to convict by a two-thirds majority. Congress would simply need to declare that Trump engaged in an act of “insurrection or rebellion” by encouraging the attack on the Capitol. Furthermore, when the amendment was first passed, Congress passed a law, which is still on the books, to give the Department of Justice power to remove ineligible people from office. If it is declared that Trump violated the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment, he would be barred from holding office again without “a vote of two-thirds of each House, [to] remove such disability.” There are numerous avenues for using Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment to bar Trump and his supporters in Congress from holding office in the future. Using the Fourteenth Amendment is needed to demonstrating to all Americans that their representatives in Washington take the Constitution seriously.

Time will tell what will happen next, but one thing is for sure, Trump, his congressional supporters, the members of his administration, and the terrorists who attacked the Capitol must pay for what they have done. If that occurs using the Fourteenth Amendment, then I’m okay with those complacent in inciting the insurrection being barred from future office. All of those who tried to circumvent the Constitution and invalidate a free and fair election must not be allowed to get away with it. All those who stormed the Capitol, must be tried, convicted, and imprisoned for their crimes. Even if the Twenty-fifth Amendment is invoked, an impeachment trial is held after Trump leaves office, or the Fourteenth Amendment is used to bar Trump from further office, the United States government must make it clear that incitement of an insurrection by federal elected officials is a line that must never be crossed again.

* This is a short summary of Belknap’s impeachment because the corruption and the subsequent impeachment and trial are complicated. I have a feeling, though, that we may all know the story when Trump’s impeachment reaches the Senate, as pundits will likely go into great detail about the events surrounding the only impeachment trial to take place after the person left office.


Is the Worst Over?

For the first year of Trump’s presidency, many Americans thought he could not go lower, but as each of the last four years has passed, we saw that there are no depths to his depravity. His depravity was on display to its greatest extent on Wednesday when he incited an insurrection by his followers to attack the Capitol. The most significant problem America now faces is not Donald Trump. Too many in Congress and a growing number of people in his administration have had enough. Yet there are still people like Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley and most House Republicans who continue to support him. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and reported by Fox News and other pro-Trump news outlets tried to claim Antifa, not Trump loyalists, were behind the attack on the Capitol. A friend and coworker of mine, who is a fellow Alabamian, texted me in response to the claims that the insurrectionists were Antifa in disguise and said, “They were just showing some footage on the news, and I was like, these people LOOK LIKE TRUMP SUPPORTERS. Antifa kids don’t have that Southern redneck look. It’s just like if you know rednecks, you know these people are true blue rednecks!” She is right. I grew up surrounded by rednecks. I recognize them when I see them. The people who led the terrorist attack were, without a doubt, Trump supporters.

Honestly, I have to wonder how people can watch and read Fox News, Newsmax, and other pre-Trump news outlets. While many of these people are weak-minded and, let’s just say it, stupid, not all of them are. My mother is an intelligent woman. She spent 30 years as a public health official and ten more years as an expert on pandemic response. She knows better than anyone I know the realities of a pandemic. Her sister, my aunt, died of the H1N1 flu. Yet, even with Donald Trump’s criminally negligent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, she continues to support him. Not only that, but she believes all the stupidity she hears on Fox News and Newsmax. I can’t even believe she watches Newsmax. So, I have to wonder, do these media outlets have some type of subliminal messaging or hidden hypnotic device in their media? Hitler studied mesmerism and mysticism to understand how to maximize his control over people. I do not doubt that if we were in Germany at any time between 1933 and 1945, Fox News and these same Trump supporters would be behind and openly supporting Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

Luckily, the U.S. Constitution does not have the weaknesses of the Weimar Constitution. There is no Article 48, the so-called Notverordnung (emergency decree) provision, which gave Germany’s president broad powers to suspend civil liberties with a flawed system of checks and balances. Trump has often claimed that such special powers exist, but there are no such provisions in the U.S. Constitution. When Presidents have overstepped the bounds of their office, they have been stopped by Congress and the courts. It was not always done quickly, but democracy eventually prevailed every time. Donald Trump has twelve days left as president. While I do not believe Congress will be successful in removing him from office through impeachment, and with Cabinet members already resigning over the Capitol insurrection, it is doubtful that the Vice President and the Cabinet will invoke the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. I also believe that Trump will never resign on his own. There are twelve days of fear ahead of us. 

If the Republican Party does not distance itself from Donald Trump and punish those who are continuing to support him, then the Republican Party will cease to exist. There is a civil war within the Republican Party, and the party is in its final death throes. Can it survive this insurrection and, until Wednesday, the unwavering loyalty to Trump? I hope that Wednesday’s terrorist attack by Trumpists will force the Republican Party to reassess itself. As long as hate groups continue to exist in the United States, then Trumpism will continue. Like a cancerous tumor, Trump and his hate-filled supports need to be removed from having any influence in the United States government. If that takes revoking the FCC licenses from Trumpist media outlets and banning them from social media, then I am all for it. I do not believe that would be censorship because these outlets have become a public danger and are openly fomenting insurrection. Everyone who had a role in Wednesday’s insurrection and terrorist attack needs to be rooted out to ensure that democracy is restored and will continue.

If there is any doubt that Donald Trump believes he is the Republican Party should have been put to rest Wednesday when Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, explicitly said as much at his father’s “Save America” protest, where Trump incited the insurrection at the Capitol. “This isn’t their Republican Party anymore. This is Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” Trump Jr. said, and then warned Republicans who did not support his father’s efforts to overturn democracy: “We’re coming for you, and we’re going to have a good time doing it.”

The events of the past four years culminated in an open insurrection and an attack on the U.S. Capitol. I am profoundly saddened, incredibly angry, and terrified of what will happen over the next twelve days. I do not fool myself that the worst is over. Sadly, I think the worst has just begun unless swift action is taken to end Trumpism.