Updated 10:45 a.m. ET
In an unusually divisive speech for a president on the Fourth of July holiday weekend, President Trump on Friday decried a “growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought so hard for.”
What is it? Terrorism? Polarization? A lack of trust in institutions?
No, Trump said at Mount Rushmore, it’s an attempt to erase American history and values. And one part of that, Trump said, is “cancel culture,” which he described as “driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees. This is the very definition of totalitarianism … .”
Cancel culture is a form of group shaming — excluding someone who has done something objectionable or offensive, or withdrawing support from corporations or public leaders for the same reason. It’s often pushed from the left of the political spectrum, and there are certainly those who think it’s gone too far in some instances.
Apart from the merits of the argument, it’s ironic that Trump is arguing for inclusivity. The fact is, there are few quicker than Trump to “cancel” people for not believing the same as he does — or supporting him faithfully. He just doesn’t call it that.
On Monday morning, Trump went further, launching a baseless attack on NASCAR and driver Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver on the circuit. It was reported that a noose was found in Wallace’s garage. The FBI determined it was a pull cord. Wallace isn’t the one who found it or reported it — and yet Trump is calling it a “hoax” and claiming that incident and banning the Confederate flag “has caused lowest ratings EVER!” — as if that’s what really matters.
Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2020
Driver Tyler Reddick responded to Trump, saying, “We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support.”
Trump’s emphasis on cancel culture — another element of his broader culture war — can be seen as a distraction, a shiny metal object that Trump wants to use to switch the narrative and see if it sticks because he is struggling in his reelection bid.
But there are things in all likelihood that will shape this presidential election far more than “cancel culture.” Here are six, from public opinion surveys:
58% — Trump’s record disapproval: The latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that Trump’s disapproval rating was 58%, the highest of his presidency. What’s more, 49% “strongly” disapprove of the job he’s doing. That kind of intense opposition to a president has never been seen before, since polling began.
87% — Dissatisfaction is the highest of Trump’s presidency: Amid this coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic freefall, the Pew Research Center recently found that 87% of Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country. And 71% say they are angry, 66% say they’re fearful and just 17% are proud of the way things are going.
56% — Trump’s (mis)handling of the coronavirus: About 130,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus. That’s about a quarter of all the deaths worldwide.
And an average of 56% of people disapprove of his response to the pandemic, the highest level so far. That’s taken its toll on Trump politically, especially as states in more politically conservative places are seeing spikes in cases and hospitalizations. Pew found Democrat Joe Biden has an 11-point advantage on who’s best to handle the public health impact of the coronavirus pandemic, 52% to 41%. Fifty-two also happens to be the percentage of voters saying they would vote for Biden over Trump in the general election, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
67% — Making racial tensions worse: A separate NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, conducted in early June, found two-thirds of Americans thought Trump mostly made racial tensions worse. That was after a week of protests and right after law enforcement forcibly removed peaceful protesters outside the White House so he could walk to a partially burned church across the street and pose with a Bible.
Yet Trump has only doubled down since then. He’s not only pushed a “law and order” message but amped it up, saying, for instance, if “Black Lives Matter” were painted on New York City’s Fifth Avenue, it would be a “symbol of hate.”
Another eyebrow-raising number is the 52% who now say they are in favor of removing Confederate statues from public spaces around the country, according to a Quinnipiac poll. Three years ago, 39% said so.
47% — An economic handling decline: Gallup found that from January to June, the percentage of Americans approving of the job Trump’s doing on the economy declined 16 points, from 63% to 47%. The strong economy was undoubtedly buoying Trump to some extent, and now it’s not. Trump’s lead over Biden on handling of the economy has shrunk, though he’s still up on the question in most polls.
35% — Trump’s suburban cratering: One set of numbers that will make you rub your eyes is about suburban voters. In 2016, Trump won suburban voters, 49% to 45%, according to exit polls. The latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, though, has Trump losing them by a whopping 60% to 35%. That’s not a typo. That’s a 29-point swing, from +4 to -25. That kind of cratering in the suburbs is part of why Democrats won the House in 2018, are favored to keep it in 2020, and have made inroads with an unfavorable Senate map. It’s tough to see Trump winning reelection without turning things around in the suburbs.
Overall, these numbers aren’t great for Trump. One saving grace is that his supporters love him — and intensely so. His base is more enthusiastic about voting for him than potential Biden voters are for voting for the former vice president, and that’s a wildcard to watch. But while enthusiasm is important, it doesn’t always translate into more votes. Reelections, after all, are always about the sitting president. Trump may wind up driving his base out to vote, but also Democrats in opposition to him.
5 things to watch this week:
1. Woke up this morning … and there were more elections on Tuesday: There are primaries in two states, New Jersey and Delaware.
The race to watch is in New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District. Democratic candidates are vying to take on Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who switched parties from Democrat to Republican during Trump’s impeachment. Five Democrats are on the ballot, and the race is largely between Amy Kennedy and Brigid Callahan Harrison. Kennedy, a former educator, is a member of the politically elite Kennedy family. (She’s married to former Rep. Patrick Kennedy.) She also has the endorsement of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. But Harrison has the endorsement of South Jersey power broker George Norcross and state Senate President Steve Sweeney.
2. Trump to Florida, New Hampshire: Want another sign of what the battleground states are? Look at Trump’s travel this week. He’s set to hold a high-dollar — in-person — fundraiser in Florida this week and then head to New Hampshire, where he will hold an outdoor rally Saturday. It’s his first attempt at a rally since his underwhelming (indoor) event in Tulsa, Okla. Trump’s Florida fundraiser is reportedly for $580,600 per couple. Trump and the Republican National Committee trailed Biden and the Democratic National Committee in fundraising, $141 million to $131 million, in June.
3. Awaiting more key Supreme Court decisions: There are more decisions coming from the Supreme Court — as early as Monday — including on whether Trump can block disclosure of his financial records and whether lay teachers at parochial schools are protected by the civil rights laws.
4. The Pentagon and protests: The hearing to watch this week on Capitol Hill involves the Department of Defense’s role in civilian law enforcement. Slated to testify Thursday before the House Armed Services Committee are Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Milley last month said he regretted his role in Trump’s walk to the partially burned church across the street from the White House. And Esper broke with the president and said, “The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now.”
5. Mexico’s president will visit the White House: In his first U.S. trip, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador will visit Washington Wednesday to commemorate the signing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada, or USMCA, trade agreement. López Obrador is seen as friendlier to Trump than past Mexican presidents, and they also share another thing in common — a dislike of the media. He wondered aloud this weekend of what he calls the “corrupt media”: “How much are they paid to attack me?”
Quote of the weekend:
“We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future.”
— Kanye West announces his 2020 run for president on Twitter on July Fourth
Maryland GOP governor releasing book on his tenure, politics – EverythingGP
Hogan, wrote that he will begin hosting a number of virtual events and conversations with some prominent Republicans later this month. They include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and former Govs. Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
As NGA chairman, Hogan has led the group of governors amid tensions with the Trump administration in response to the pandemic. In March, for example, he criticized the administration for confusing messaging. Hogan said at the time that the president’s timeframe for a national reopening appeared to be running on a schedule made of some “imaginary clock,” as states struggled to manage hot spots of the outbreak.
Hogan also clashed with the White House in April when the governor announced a $9 million purchase of 500,000 virus test kits from South Korea. Hogan said the Trump administration had made it clear that states had to “take the lead” on testing and “do it ourselves.” Trump criticized Hogan at a White House press briefing, saying Hogan didn’t need to go to South Korea and “needed to get a little knowledge.”
In 2018, Hogan, who is term-limited, became only the second GOP governor in Maryland to be re-elected in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1.
Hogan’s book will include material about his challenging first year in office, which included riots in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man who suffered a spinal injury in a police van.
Later that year, Hogan was diagnosed with B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in June 2015 and underwent chemotherapy. Last month, the 64-year-old governor announced he had his final, five-year anniversary PET scan, which confirmed he was still 100% cancer free.
Brian Witte, The Associated Press
When American Politics Turned Toxic – The New York Times
BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE
Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party
By Julian E. Zelizer
When did American politics take the wrong turn that led to our present era of endless partisan warfare and hyperpolarization? According to the Princeton University history professor Julian E. Zelizer, politics went pear-shaped in the period from January 1987 to March 1989, when the maverick Republican representative Newt Gingrich rose to power, which culminated in the forced resignation of Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright. Zelizer makes a convincing case that Gingrich not only “legitimated ruthless and destructive practices that had once been relegated to the margins,” he also helped to degrade Congress’s institutional legitimacy and paved the way for the anti-establishment presidency of Donald Trump.
Although “Burning Down the House” is not the first history to cast Gingrich as lead assassin in the murder of bipartisanship and effective governance, it is an insightful if deeply unflattering portrait of Gingrich himself, highlighting his signature traits of arrogance, ferocity, amorality and shoulder-shrugging indifference to truth. It’s not surprising that Gingrich declined the author’s interview request. And the book’s narrow time frame, which stops well short of Gingrich’s leading the House Republicans to their 1994 electoral triumph and his subsequent elevation as speaker, supplies a detailed and nuanced historical context that makes Gingrich’s actions more understandable if not excusable.
Gingrich first won election to Congress in 1978, representing a district based mainly in the northern Atlanta suburbs. It was a transitional moment when an older generation of Southern Democrats was being displaced in Congress both by reform Democratic “Watergate babies” and a rising wave of conservative Republicans like Gingrich. Zelizer’s masterly 1998 work, “Taxing America,” focused on one of those old Southern Democrats, Wilbur Mills, who chaired the powerful House Ways and Means Committee from the 1950s through the 1970s.
[ Read an excerpt from ”Burning Down the House.” ]
Gingrich’s adversary, Jim Wright, was a Texan born in 1922, from a political generation between Mills (born in 1909) and Gingrich (born in 1943). A protégé of Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson, he was sufficiently a part of the old Southern Democratic tradition that he voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But he soon regretted that vote and supported the Voting Rights Act the next year.
Zelizer’s portrait of Mills made clear that many of the old Southern Democratic committee chairmen were inclusive dealmakers concerned to reach bipartisan agreements and move legislation forward — with the glaring exception of any issue involving race. Zelizer doesn’t quite spell this out, but while Wright clearly was not a racist of the old stripe, neither was he a dealmaker of the same caliber as they were. That was partly because the post-Watergate reforms prevented the kingpins from negotiating behind closed doors, and partly because of ideological sorting within the parties. But it was also because House Democrats by the 1980s, convinced that Republicans would be permanently in the minority, regularly abused their majority power.
Democrats denied minority legislators adequate staff, excluded them from committee deliberations, gerrymandered their districts and even, Republicans were convinced, stole elections. Wright piously recorded in his diary that Republicans were making it impossible to “rely upon the gentlemen’s rules which have prevailed for all of my 30 years in Congress,” but the speaker broke plenty of norms himself with his parliamentary rule-bending. And despite the Watergate babies’ desire to remove money from politics, the Democrats did little to halt the stream of funds from lobbyists, private money and special interests that flowed principally to the majority party.
Those to whom evil is done do evil in return. Democratic bullying made moderate Republicans willing to empower Gingrich — their support was critical to his election as minority whip in 1989 over a more conciliatory candidate — and to tolerate his scorched-earth tactics. Gingrich insisted that the only way to end the Democrats’ four-decades-long majority was for Republicans to destroy Congress in order to save it. They would have to “put aside their concern for governance until they regained power,” according to Zelizer. They would seek to persuade the public that Congress had become “morally, intellectually and spiritually corrupt,” in Gingrich’s words, and to overthrow Speaker Wright as the embodiment of that illegitimate establishment. In pursuit of these ends all means were permissible, including the shattering of traditional customs, the destruction of opponents’ reputations and the embrace of maneuvers long held to be off-limits, like shutting down the government.
Zelizer argues that Gingrich made the media unwitting accomplices to his partisan crusade, just as the unscrupulous anti-Communist demagogue Joseph McCarthy had done in the 1950s. “The number-one fact about the news media,” Gingrich observed, “is they love fights.” By provoking confrontations with the Democrats, Gingrich would gain media attention — even more so when he succeeded in goading the Democrats into retaliation, which he portrayed as further evidence of their tyranny. The Woodward-and-Bernstein-inspired influx of young investigative reporters into Washington, most of them educated and well intentioned but ignorant of the practical operation of politics, offered a decisive opportunity for Gingrich, who “instinctively grasped the possibilities for taking advantage of their idealism.”
Zelizer sees Gingrich’s “masterstroke” as the co-option of reform-oriented institutions that, in Watergate’s wake, were supposed to make government more accountable and progressive. The ethics charges that Gingrich brought against Wright were, in Zelizer’s view, mostly spurious. But scandal-seeking journalists served Gingrich’s cause by churning out so many thinly sourced stories about Wright’s supposedly shady involvement with Texas oil executives and bankers that the leading good-government organization, Common Cause, felt compelled to call upon the House Ethics Committee to investigate him. This instantly transformed what otherwise would have seemed “a shabby partisan coup” into a respectable campaign, giving cover to Republicans who previously were reluctant to enlist in Gingrich’s vendetta and undercutting Wright’s Democratic defenders. From then it was just a matter of time until Wright was forced out.
Zelizer provides a moving description of Wright’s farewell address, in which the resigning speaker decried the “mindless cannibalism” that had overtaken politics, and he delivers an eloquent indictment of all those responsible for Wright’s downfall. These include Gingrich, of course, along with the journalists and good-government organizations he made his patsies. But they also include the Democrats who failed to stand by Wright, thus incentivizing Republicans “to ramp up their efforts and engage in even more brutal fights,” and Wright himself, who couldn’t adapt to a new era of partisan warfare.
Zelizer reserves some of his harshest verdicts for the Republican Party leaders who naïvely believed they could harness Gingrich’s insurgency. He acidly observes that while Republican gatekeepers of the early 1950s used McCarthy to attack their opponents, they never made the renegade senator their leader. Many, perhaps most of the Republicans of the Gingrich era deplored what the minority leader Bob Michel called “trashing the institution.” But Republicans who upheld reasoned opposition, bipartisan compromise, civil discourse and mutual respect deceived themselves about their ability to control the revolution and ended up being devoured by it. To quote the Talking Heads song that shares the title of this book, “Watch out — you might get what you’re after.”
Many social scientists believe that the partisan polarization that now afflicts us was all but inevitable, a byproduct of geographic and ideological sorting that led to more consistently ideological parties. If Newt Gingrich hadn’t pursued no-holds-barred partisan warfare, according to this line of thinking, someone else would have. But Zelizer forcefully counters that this view “denies agency to the politicians and leaders who pushed partisan combat into a deeper abyss at very specific moments.” The battle to overthrow Wright, he concludes, was one of those critical turning points “from which Washington never recovered.”
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