Revisionist History is a problem for everyone.
Image courtesy the Washington Post
As a former History teacher, I take a conservative approach to revisionist history. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe in calling out the Holocaust Deniers, the Sandy Hook Truthers, and other such idiots. It’s the statements of lower impact that are thorny. Came across one of those yesterday, when a commenter said, “Democrats could have passed single-payer [health insurance] in 2008.”
A number of issues here. I’ll come back to the “2008” reference last.
Revisionist History – the ignorance of the Bern-it-downers
We hear this foolishness from #nonpartisanprogressives. They declare a pox on both parties. It’s possible the OP is just an uneducated/unaware individual, who heard someone else make this statement, and now they’re parroting it. This is more than possible, given the extent to which Berners of all striped parroted the lies of the Republicans about Clinton last year. It would not surprise me to learn that someone like Sarandon or Stein said this, and now the parrots go off. Angry people get angry, and there’s often no dealing with them. We see this regularly with Catholics, on the abortion issue. Close-mindedness is certainly not limited to any particular ideology.
ACA before Stimulus
Could the Democrats have passed single-payer in 2009? Doubtful, for a number of reasons:
- The economy was a hot mess. President Obama and his team decided that passing his very-successful economic stimulus package was a greater need, out of the gate. Keeping Congress focused to accomplish something is tough on a good day. Throwing two huge agenda items at them at the same time risks the failure of both. Obama went for the economy first. Given that one of the biggest raps against the Clinton campaign last year was a lack of a clear.focused, economic message, this decision made a lot of sense.
- Healthcare took time. One of the biggest arguments against TrumpCare was how quickly “repeal and replace” happened. Paul Ryan handled it badly for Team Trump. President Obama took the time to put ACA together. Teams were working on healthcare in the White House while the public face of the administration worked on the stimulus. It takes time to put a big package like healthcare reform together. They listened, kicked around ideas, and considered what would and would not pass muster, even in a Democratic-controlled Congress. This sort of thing doesn’t get done overnight. Adults know this, but #nonpartisanprogressives think there’s a magic wand that makes things happen.
- The ACA required compromise. Ironically, the Affordable Care Act was initially a compromise proposal. It was created by the Heritage Foundation. Newt the Gingrich offered it in 1993. It was a counter to President Clinton’s single-payer proposal that year. The dynamics had changed significantly by 2009. The ability of Gingrich to defeat “Hillarycare” outright in 1993 emboldened the Republicans. They believed they could beat back any future attempts to take down the industry. President Obama recognized that. His team put forward a variant of the Heritage Foundation’s plan. ACA kept the insurance industry intact, giving it a better chance to pass. That’s how compromise works. It’s what adults do. Still, #nonpartisanprogressives wrap themselves in purity.
The Public Option
- Obama’s proposal had a “public option” component. Many believe (as do I) that the public option was a bargaining chip. When the Dem leadership in both houses began to whip votes, it was clear that both caucuses didn’t have the fortitude to vote for the public option. You take what you can get. Adults don’t run home crying; they make the best out of the situation. They don’t try to Bern down the house.
- Final passage of ACA was a still a near-run thing. The Dem caucuses had the votes to pass in both the House and Senate. The Senate filibuster was the main problem. Obama’s team knew 60 Senators was a problem. No way the public option was going to survive that process. Dems liked the private insurance framework. Those holding out for local pork got things thrown at them. Had Obama taken the all-or-nothing stance of #nonpartisanprogressives, the whip count was more like 56-58 votes.
So, I’m simplifying a lot here, and I welcome comments elaborating on specific points. I stand by the notion that the public option was dead on arrival when ACA was pitched.
Yet, we’re almost eight years on and the left’s purity police are making claims that are patently wrong. They don’t rise to the level of Sandy Hook Truthers, and that’s the problem. A crazy spouting such incredibly stupid things is easily dismissed. Revisionist history with respect to policy wonkery just doesn’t stand out in the same way. The #nonpartisanprogessves in the lead or in the punditocracy know this. Their followers most likely don’t.
This is is why there’s no compelling reason to try to bring #nonpartisanprogressives into a coalition. We’d love it if they stopped throwing rocks and grew up, but it’s not necessary to push the Republicans out. Their penchant for revisionist history makes things worse.
Anyway, I said I’d come back to the “2008” thing. This is a common mistake. Of course, the president starts his term on January 20th of the year after the November election. In a serious discussion, however, most folks care when it comes to dates. Of course, #nonpartisanprogressives aren’t serious. That’s why many of them voted for Stein. She said the many things she said that were factually inaccurate. The “2008” sort of error indicates someone who doesn’t take any of this seriously. So-called leaders engage in revisionist history because their people won’t call them on it.
Jerome Smith was a young civil rights activist and Freedom Rider in 1963. Arthur Schlesinger, in his book on RFK, recalls that CORE described Smith as a young man beaten more than any other CORE worker at the time.
Jerome Smith stood up to RFK
It was no surprise to anyone that Smith had no kind words for Bobby or his brother:
“Mr. Attorney General, you make me want to puke. I don’t care what you think, and I don’t care what your brother thinks either.”
Smith was a man of the streets, not academia, or the entertainment world. He’d been in the streets, on the buses, working to register voters and advocate the cause. In the 1963 meeting Jarvis DeBerry mentions in his article about the film, “I Am Not Your Negro”, he was arguably the wokest person in the room.
I haven’t seen the movie yet, but having seen “Hidden Lines” last weekend, it’s time I did. The movie is about Baldwin, so it’s not surprising that some things get left on the cutting room floor. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to Jerome Smith (assuming they shot his remarks at all. Jarvis explains it:
Because that section of the documentary focuses on Baldwin’s friendship with the playwright Lorraine Hansberry and her premature death at 34, it is Hansberry’s disgusted response to Kennedy’s hemming and hawing that is given attention. But Hansberry’s decision to snub Kennedy by standing up, bidding him goodbye and exiting the room wasn’t the most demonstrable display of disgust. The most disgusted response, which isn’t in the documentary, came from New Orleans’ own Jerome Smith.
So, it’s no deep conspiracy that the woke young man got left out of the documentary. He just got overshadowed. I learned something new today, that Smith was from New Orleans. I’d not read Schlesinger’s book (it came out in 1978) when I was teaching American History in the early 1980s. I certainly would have highlighted this encounter, if for no other reason, because Smith was a local guy.
Now I want to go back to the classroom. Gotta win dat powerball.
(cross-posted to NOLA History Guy)
Senator Schumer hits home
Senator Schumer takes the lead, and that’s a good thing.
Michelle Goldberg’s piece in Slate last Monday, “How Chuck Schumer Found His Spine” is more about the overall #resistance to #Trannon, but it’s still encouraging to see that the efforts of Democrats are being felt in the DC Senate offices.
The main focal point of #resistance at this point is the “Indivisible” document. It’s full title is, “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda”. “Indivisible” was written by Democratic Congressional staffers to organize Democratic resistance. This is important for those of us who want the party to take the lead and grow into a force that will once again lead the country from the White House and Capitol Hill. As Goldberg points out, one of the authors of “Indivisible”, Ezra Levin, nails it:
“The idea that we can treat this administration as if it is normal, as if it is not actively undermining democracy, is really inappropriate to the moment. And I think the base feels that.”
Leading the Minority
And there it is. But let’s come back to Senator Schumer. With “Indivisible” groups springing up across the country, as well as other efforts to resist #Trannon, Democrats like Leader Schumer recognize just how upset we are:
We need to keep it up.
Judge James Robart
#Trannon’s Muslim Ban was blocked nationwide by a sweeping order issued by Judge James Robart in Washington State. This prompted Senator Schumer to speak out once again:
Another big takeaway here is the CNN article that Schumer cites. Since Kellyanne Conway, AKA “Patriot Barbie” announced that #Trannon surrogates would no longer appear on CNN, the network is, for now, telling the truth about 45* and his people. When POTUS* took to Da Twittah to attack Judge Robart, CNN did this excellent short profile on the man.
A CNN that tells the truth and a leader in the Senate spreading that message is an excellent boost to our opposition.
The Faith Based Left must stand up. Religious conservatives did this, we can do so as well.
Here’s how pros do things. You lose, you take a shower, have a drink, and get ready for the next game.
The Faith Based Left
So, as Jed would say, “What’s next?”
The left must accept that, for the next few years, we’re not getting anything out of government. SCOTUS goes back to 5-4, most likely with a replacement for Scalia that’s worse than Scalia himself. For the next two years, government is in total control of the Republican Party. We have to accept that fact and do what we can to mitigate its impact.
How do we do that? We need to become a faith-based community. What is our faith? That the United States of America is better than the vision the Republicans have for the country. There are a number of things we now cannot rely upon the government to support/nurture/fix:
- Health Care
- Criminal Justice
- LGBT Rights
These are just five areas right off the top of my head. Traditionally, we Democrats would use government to improve the position of all in these and so many other areas. That’s not happening now. We won’t have the federal government to help. We’re going to have to do them ourselves.
Fleshing out an agenda
Education. While liberals have always supported public education. We need to accept that funding for public education isn’t going to improve. Time to adopt the initiatives of the right, such as homeschooling.
Health Care. ACA is gone, count on it. So, maybe they’ll work something out on pre-existing conditions, but even that may go. We need to look to private solutions, community clinics, and other non-governmental solutions. We do it in the third world, we need to apply what we do well in our own country now.
Criminal Justice. The for-profit prison industry has been a disaster, and that’s not going to change with even greater Republican dominance of government. Public/Indigent defenders are barely funded as it is now. That’s not going to improve. Liberals are going to have to take the right to an attorney into the community. We need to nurture and support legal assistance clinics and private indigent defense practices.
LGBT Rights. Liberals need to do what religious conservatives did in the 1980s, infiltrate and reclaim local government. We know most gains in this area will get rolled back at the federal level, so we have to work from the bottom up. Elect school boards The Left must become a faith-based communitywhose members encourage diversity and tolerance. It starts now.
Poverty. We have to feed our communities. The government just isn’t going to do it.
These are thoughts off the top of my head after a very rude awakening this morning. We need to make it all happen.
Gideon’s Trumpet by Anthony Lewis
Right to counsel
These days, the right to counsel, and the right against self-incrimination are things we pretty much take for granted. it wasn’t always so. Gideon’s Trumpet is a book about a major legal case that was decided by the US Supreme Court in 1963. The case involved a man in Florida, Clarence Earl Gideon. A court in Florida refused to appoint legal counsel for Gideon, because Florida law at the time only allowed for court-appointed defense lawyers in capital cases. Gideon was convicted of burglary, and sentenced to five years. After submitting a hand-written petition to the US Supreme Court, that body took up his case. That resulted in a 9-0 SCOTUS decision in Gideon’s favor. He was retried and, with the help of counsel, was acquitted by a jury after an hour of deliberation.
In 1965, Author Anthony Lewis wrote a book about Gideon v. Wainwright, the case. The book became a TV-movie in 1980.
There was a time, right around when my younger sister was born, that we were “between houses.” My parents wanted to buy a lot and build a house, so they decided to sell our house, and we lived in an apartment complex for a while. One of the things that I liked about apartment living was the bookmobile. The library came to me rather than the other way around, so that was a fun thing.
One of my dad’s friends was a librarian and drove the bookmobile. While I picked stuff to read, Mr. Jim would regularly choose a book for me. He checked it out in my name, and put it in my hands, on top of anything else I’d picked. Gideon’s Trumpet was one of those books.
The book fascinated me. The legal principles weren’t all that hard for a fifth-grader to comprehend. Lewis presented the background of the story, offered an interesting portrait of Abe Fortas, the attorney appointed to represent Gideon before SCOTUS. (Fortas went on to become a Justice himself.) I love pomp and circumstance. Lewis’s descriptions of oral arguments before the court were fascinating. The decision was landmark.
All defendants have the right to counsel. It’s a Big Deal, and it resonated with ten-year old me. I watched all the cop and lawyer shows on the teevee. I went on to join the debate team in high school. The notion of going to law school crossed my mind.
I didn’t forget that concept. It’s one of those things that stuck with me, through the years, just like the times when a friend who is an attorney would point out that bail is not punishment. Bail backs up a promise to appear for trial.
Other than traffic tickets, I’ve been fortunate to have never needed defense counsel in a criminal proceeding. I’ve had friends, colleagues, and others in my life who have been in that position. When I taught high school, one of my students was accused of murder in Jefferson Parish. I was 23 at the time. The case sent me reeling. There wasn’t much I could do, as I wasn’t directly involved, yet it still tore at me. He had representation. Still, the case was very upsetting for me.
There have been other cases, other people, who weren’t so fortunate. The idea that capital cases happened where lawyers slept through trial, and their clients ended up executed was incredibly disturbing.
Every defendant should have competent defense, even if, no, especially if their crimes will put them on death row or they will face life imprisonment. I knew this when I was ten. Clarence Earl Gideon made that much of an impression on me.
Inmates exercising at Orleans Parish Prison (Bart Everson photo)
Suicide at Orleans Parish Prison
Seventeen-year old Dexter Allen is in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Facility in Gretna. In the city, the incredible mess that is Orleans Justice Center took another life. What makes this particularly sad is that this latest jail suicide was a juvenile.
Jaquin Thomas was pronounced dead at University Medical Center at 10:11 p.m., OPSO spokesman Philip Stelly said, after using a mattress cover to asphyxiate himself in his cell. The teenager had been jailed inside the Orleans Justice Center since his July 28 arrest on suspicion of second-degree murder and aggravated burglary, records show.
No Place for teenagers
Any suicide or attempt is a sad affair. Worse yet, locking up a teen in this prison is a terrible thing. Yes, he was charged with second-degree murder as an adult. That’s a serious situation. Jarvis DeBerry nails it, though, in his article on the suicide:
Jaquin was suspected of committing a crime more serious than Jerde’s, but if jail was considered inappropriate for the 21-year-old, it should have been considered the wrong place for the teenager. Charging a child as an adult does not magically transform him into an adult. It does not make that child any less vulnerable when thrown into a facility with people who are bigger, older and more hardened criminals.
Jailing teens in an adult prison is wrong. Still, it’s not a good idea to toss an alleged murderer into a juvenile facility. Teens accused of much more minor crimes are totally different. There has to be a way to balance this. Perhaps isolating serious juvenile offenders in one type of facility or the other.
Read the full article–Jarvis compares the situation Jaquin Thomas was in to that of a twenty-one-year old Tulane student. He demonstrates what #whiteprivilege gets you these days in New Orleans.