This week’s Extra, Extra! brings you some reflections on the 2020 US election (not the primary!) from our beloved political writer and 2020 Democratic Debate Recapper Natalie, more disheartening immigration and LGBTQ+ news, conservative organizing, a new progressive campaign arm from AOC, and an update on the Wet’suwet’en land protectors.
Natalie: Last week, Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a scathing dissent in Wolf v. Cook County. The case greenlit the administration’s “wealth test” for immigrants which forces them to prove that they won’t need any kind of public assistance. Writing for herself (not the Court’s other liberal justices), Sotomayor accused the Government of crying fire and the conservative majority of rushing to put it out, in the absence of any smoke. She was right, of course, but acknowledging that truth earned her calls for recusal from the president and scorn from conservatives. Oddly, though when this news dropped — that the wife of Court’s conservative stalwart was creating an organization to carry water for the president — ostensibly proving Sotomayor’s point, those conservative voices didn’t have much to say.
The destruction of our democracy is happening because the American people have lost faith in our institutions and Ginni Thomas’ efforts only hasten that erosion. Chief Justice Roberts, who has long been concerned about the public perception of the Court, cannot allow this rampant politicization to continue.
Himani: I’m just chiming in here to say that I have no faith in John Roberts.
Natalie: I am a great fan of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She is brilliant and has an unparalleled ability to explain the most archaic and convoluted policy in a way that makes sense to ordinary people. Her win over Joe Crowley in the NY-14th will go down in history as one of the greatest political upsets in history. But for all her skills, she does not have a good track record at picking winning candidates. We saw this in 2018: either her preferred candidates lost in the primary (like Brent Welder in the KS-03 or Abdul El-Sayed in Michigan) or they lost in the general (like Jason Thompson in KS-04). As easy as it is to cast aspersions at the Democratic campaign committees, picking viable candidates in unfamiliar districts where the ground is always shifting is difficult… and AOC’s track record reflects that reality. Given that, I approach news of her creating this new PAC with a bit of trepidation.
That said, I’m encouraged by her early picks which, with the possible exception of Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez in Texas, strike me as reasonable picks. Jessica Cisneros (TX-28) and Marie Newman (IL-03) are running against incumbent Democrats but are still garnering support from across the Party. Kara Eastman narrowly lost her race in Nebraska in 2018 and lots of Democratic groups, both “establishment” and not, have lined up beside her in a rematch. I was encouraged to see Georgette Gomez, a member of the San Diego City Council (and lesbian!), among AOC’s first round of endorsements. Gomez trails in the CA-53 polls but with a lot of voters still undecided and given the way her opponent is Bloomberging her way through the primary using her grandparents’ fortune, it’s hard to disagree with the choice. Hopefully these picks reflect a more deliberate AOC as she looks to attract more progressive allies to Congress.
Himani: Last week, Rachel gave us a detailed update on immigration, and this article from The New Yorker is a fascinating account of how one administration official has been the lead of pretty much all the awful immigration-related actions done under Trump.
Immigration news this week continues to be grim. The Department of Justice announced it’s created a section devoted to pursuing denaturalization cases. Denaturalization isn’t unique to this administration, but those cases have been pursued much more aggressively under Trump than they were previously. I’ve been disappointed in most of the articles I’ve read this week about the denaturalization section because they continue to parrot the DOJ’s stance that denaturalization is about bringing criminals to justice. Shirin Jaafari, writing for PRI in 2018, provides a more nuanced look at how denatrualization was handled in the past, and last October, writing for The American Prospect, Amanda Frost provided context on the ridiculousness of denaturalization proceedings in the last few years that, nonetheless, went through.
LGBTQ+ Rights in the US
Kamala: In case you were feeling comfortable in your queer skin today, let us shake you up a little. The latest news on LGBTQ+ rights continues to reflect the unusefulness of the law to let people live their truths and actually provide protection to queer and trans people.
Kamala: We begin with a Supreme Court case, Fulton vs. City of Philadelphia — featuring the enemy of women, Brett Kavanagh — that will decide whether religious freedom entitles organizations who contract with government organizations have the right to discriminate against same sex couples. “[Catholic Social Services] claims it has a First Amendment right to continue to do business with the city even if it refuses to comply with the city’s anti-discrimination rules.” I’m sorry, no, that’s not how rules work?
Kamala: There are stunning and devastating narratives and visuals in this piece on the sexual violence and other hardships experienced by the MANY trans people who are being held in the wrong prisons.
Kamala: This bill in Idaho, not unlike last week’s in South Dakota, is the most extreme version of these bills that’s been introduced at a state level. It aims to make it a felony for medical professionals to help minors access medical care that affirms their genders, like puberty blockers and hormone therapy, and includes a penalty of life in prison. Again, these are treatments which many people have testified saved their lives.
The voice of reason here, that’s apparenlty being ignored: “Parents of transgender children, like most parents, simply want what is best for their children, which includes working with physicians to ensure that their children are provided with the most medically appropriate treatments,” ACLU of Idaho Policy Director Kathy Griesmeyer said in a statement. “It is not the government’s role to be involved in this process.”
BUT! One bright gem to end on a high note, the Transgender Law Center has a recent win to share: Chin One Step Closer to Home
Wet’suwet’en Nation Land Protectors Arrested
Rachel: In an ongoing effort to stop the construction of a natural gas pipeline across unceded land, Wet’suwet’en Nation members have been camped out as a blockade at a site in northern British Columbia; this week saw the RCMP begin to arrest the protectors in an effort to begin pipeline construction. The conflict stems from a disagreement about whether access has been granted by the Wet’suwet’en to build the potentially hazardous and dangerous natural gas project on the land; although the pro-pipeline forces claim that Wet’suwet’en leadership granted them permission, the protectors and their allies say that while some band councils granted their agreement, hereditary chiefs did not, and the nation as a whole hasn’t consented — you can read more about the legal groundwork here at First Peoples Law. From CTV News:
Indigenous advocate Pamela Palmater notes that the occupation of traditional territory is “fully within the legal right of the Wet’suwet’en,” noting that the RCMP’s use of force is concerning. “These shouldn’t be viewed as anti-pipeline protests. These are really demonstrations by Indigenous people all over the country to say we don’t want the government using the RCMP to violently take down people who are living on their own territories,” Palmater said during an interview Monday on CTV’s Your Morning.
Himani: As new oil and gas pipelines continue to degrade the environment and infringe on the sovereignty of indigenous people, the devastation wrought by climate change continues around the world. One recent example is the locusts swarming in East Africa, putting the food security of millions of people at risk.
Updates from the Wars in the Middle East
Islamaphobic Violence in India
Himani: Iran’s election was already on course to be questionable at best (the regime disqualified half of the candidates who were running). But it also coincided with the Coronavirus outbreak in Iran.