I’d hoped not to write about the Mr. Rogers film, but because I watched the blasted thing last night and the weather today has made it decided not a beautiful day in the neighborhood I felt a duty. I hasten to point out that the Mr. Rogers film is not about Mr. Rogers: Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), based on Esquire reporter Tom Junod, is. And Lloyd Vogel is not as interesting as Mr. Rogers. Lloyd Vogel is probably not as interesting to Tom Junot. Watching A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, I remembered one of the ideas that Alan Alda’s charming dickweed preserved on his tape recorder in Crimes and Misdemeanors: “Idea for farce: a poor loser agrees to do the story of a great man’s life and in the process comes to learn Deep Values.” Continue reading
Impeachment will show the extent to which Donald Trump committed crimes for personal benefit, but the administration’s posture toward transgender people is garden variety GOP loathing that Presidents Rubio, Jeb!, and Graham would have approved:
The administration’s policy changes keep coming. Beyond withdrawing bathroom protections, the Education Department also scrapped Obama-era guidance that told schools to interpret federal civil rights protections as covering gender identity.
The judicial setbacks for the Health and Human Services Department rule to help health care workers who refuse to help transgender patients did not stop the department from proposing last month to scrap regulations that currently prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in programs that receive grants from the department. The public comment period is still open.
Before announcing its plan to weaken protections for transgender people who are homeless, the Department of Housing and Urban Development removed links to documents that listed best practices for emergency shelters serving transgender people. Ben Carson, the housing secretary, repeated concerns from advocates who expressed worry in September that “big, hairy men” pretending to be women would try to get into women’s shelters, The Washington Post reported.
These policy shifts have had an effect. Crimes against LGBT people have increased almost six percent, according to FBI data. It’s worse for transgender people of color:
Crimes against transgender people leapt 34 percent, to 142 in 2018 from 106 in 2017, and those are only the crimes reported to the police or recorded as an attack on a transgender victim.
At least 22 transgender people have been fatally shot or killed in 2019, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Nearly all of them were black women. Some fear that the Trump administration’s policies could be interpreted by some as a signal that such attacks are acceptable.
As our brothers and sisters in the black community know, many of whom are LGBT, the fight doesn’t stop because of major if not historic victories. We’ll deal with “religious freedom” bills for some time.
The collapse of the American media’s political coverage is yet another phenomenon of the Trump era. Sixteen years after the Iraq War started, seventeen years since reporters parroted Condoleeza Rice’s smoking crater nonsense about WMD, the press is no better at covering people who lie to their faces. Most reporters, I assume, have never interviewed a sniveling, humor-immune racist like Stephen Miller. We remain wedded to the norms of journalism school: we still teach variants on “While some people say this sofa is soft, others say the cushions are harder and denser than the surface of the moon.” I teach my students to trust their senses; they don’t need three source to confirm that chocolate is sweet. Continue reading
Inspired by Brenda Wineapple’s fine recent study of President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, Alex Pareene intertwines the similarities between Johnson and Trump’s voting bases, the political establishment’s fetish for moderation, and having the moral clarity to recognize what is at stake by leaving Trump in office for the sake of keeping his attention long enough to sign legislation.
I’ve written often about the snow job that teachers did on us high schoolers when we got to Reconstruction. Presented as a well-intentioned mangling that ushered in the so-called Gilded Age, Reconstruction was taught as if textbook writers had toiled at the bottom of the ocean to avoid dealing with the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts passed a century after the Civil War ended; if they endorsed those attempts to redress a hundred years of spilled blood, then a good faith argument required them to credit the Radical Republicans of 1866 and 1867 for wrenching leadership away from the racist demagogue in the White House whom Abraham Lincoln, in an attempt to woo War Democrats, had placed on the ticket a few years earlier.
The Radicals were right about nearly everything, and the moderates—who made a big show of caution and deference to the Constitution and generous accommodation to the office of the president—were plainly wrong. The ones who didn’t even have skin in the game but who wanted representation for those who did were correct to be fanatical in their pursuit of a more perfect country—and, more important, they were right about the baleful and regressive consequences of moderation in the face of extremist and reactionary unreason.
And any actually reasonable observer of American politics over the last several decades would have to conclude that it isn’t the diversity of one party that has led to gridlock. Rather, it’s been the brittle, homogeneous outlook of a conservative party that increasingly counts on a base that is overwhelmingly white and male—but, of course, anyone posing as a moderate interlocutor of good faith can blame their extremism on the diversity of the other side. “Radical liberals made me more racist” is, alas, not a remotely novel claim in American politics. Wineapple writes how, after Johnson angrily declared that “this is a country for white men, and, by God, as long as I am president it shall be a government for white men,” The Chicago Times—a reasonable Republican paper of the time—wrote: “If he used the language attributed to him, it was undoubtedly in reply to fanaticism and impudence.” In other words: The Radical Republicans made him do it.
We’ve heard variations on the last sentence from our Trump-loving relatives: if liberals didn’t push bathroom bills, paper straws, panic over rising seas, and an equitable health care system, I wouldn’t have voted for the racist!
In the last week we’ve heard testimony from career diplomats that in another era would have flipped a couple of querulous Republicans and instead will remind Americans which party cares about the Constitution. I waffled too on the political merits of impeachment; I’m no legislator. If Pareene is chiding Democratic leadership for abjuring its constitutional duties until early October, he’s not wrong, which makes the timing of this essay unusual.
One of the leitmotifs of this blog is reminding people that a political world existed before Donald J. Trump’s election in which conservatives were nabobs manipulated by the mountebanks they elected. “Personal freedom” meant “helping the wealthy avoid taxes.” Before they coined “religious liberty” in 2016, I dealt with “family values,” which meant “Abortions for the rich, sodomy if you can get away with it.” Continue reading
My little corner of the political junkie world went kerplooey twenty-four ago when The NYT published Nate Cohn’s story about Donald Trump beating every Dem candidate except Biden in battleground states. On the other hand a FOX News poll shows the top three candidates beating Trump in a range between five and twelve points. Continue reading
The hiring of Jamelle Bouie almost compensates for the continued presence of Brett Stephens. Continue reading