by Daryl Slusher

The Trump Administration/the federal government is finally helping with the coronavirus pandemic in Texas; by sending refrigerated trucks for dead bodies. Wonder if Trump will figure out a way to brag about that?

Speaking of Trump talking, I’m going to make a recommendation that readers probably are not expecting. That is to watch a particular show on Fox News. I’m referring to Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. As you may have seen in national media, this past Sunday, July 19, Wallace interviewed President Donald Trump. The headlines from the interview have mainly been about Trump saying that Dr. Anthony Fauci is “a little bit of an alarmist,” and Trump insisting that he was right the multiple times he said the virus will disappear — “I’ll be right eventually.”

These, however, were just two of many topics on which Wallace challenged Trump. Others included:

  • Why does Trump say the pandemic is just a matter of putting out “embers,” when “This is a forest fire.”
  • a back and forth over the US coronavirus mortality rate in which Trump said “I heard we had the best mortality rate” and Wallace said we are the seventh worst. This resulted in the bizarre spectacle of Trump interrupting the interview and ordering staff to bring him a chart. Guess who turned out to be right?
  • another back and forth over testing including a portion in which Trump maintained that Europe’s case numbers are lower than the US, because “They don’t test. They don’t test,” prompting Wallace to ask, “Is it possible that they don’t have the virus as badly as we do?”
  • Trump’s months-long refusal to wear a mask;
  • Trump’s current insistence that schools open and his threat to withhold federal funding to those who don’t;
  • Trump’s fabrication that Joe Biden supports “defunding” and “abolishing” the police; 
  • the Confederate flag and Trump’s opposition to renaming American military bases named after Confederate Generals;
  • Black Lives Matter;
  • “Why does it make sense to overturn Obamacare” in the middle of a pandemic; 
  • the cognitive test that Trump brags that he aced (a comedy show favorite); 
  • how Trump feels about a new Fox poll, including a question on whether the candidate has the “mental soundness to serve effectively as President.” Fifty-one percent, a majority, said Trump does not. Only 39% said Biden does not. Forty-three percent said Trump does have the mental soundness while 47% said Biden does.
  • whether Trump will accept the results of the election if he loses.

  Yes, I strongly recommend watching this interview. I recommend it for Democrats, Republicans and Independents and in particular for any undecided voters. I also recommend that readers urge any family members, friends or acquaintances who support Trump — or are thinking about voting for him — to watch it. It’s on Fox after all. Another reason to watch it is that Chris Wallace shows how interviews are supposed to be done.

Secret Federal Forces Invade Portland

Readers by now have probably also seen reports of the mysterious, unidentified federal forces — agents, troops, paramilitary, it’s difficult to know what to call them — sent into Portland, Oregon. They have detained protestors for questioning then released them. They have also tear gassed crowds and fired non-lethal rounds at demonstrators, including shooting one person in or near the eye in what sounds very similar to what Austin Police did to a non-violent protestor here.

Media reports say the “agents” are from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Protective Service. (Customs and Border Patrol and the Federal Protective Service are both within the Department of Homeland Security.)

Leaving aside the specifics on the ground for a second, let’s ask a fundamental question for Republicans, “what ever happened to “States’ Rights?”

The origins of States’ Rights had largely to do with preserving the rights of states to allow slavery within their borders, then later the rights of states to enforce Jim Crow segregation and oppression laws. For example, the inscription at the base of the toppled and now removed statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s in Richmond described him as “A Defender of the Rights of States.” In more recent years, States’ Rights has been a pillar of Republican orthodoxy and seen as a bulwark against federal tyranny — applied, especially during the presidency of Barack Obama years, to issues like voter suppression (or protection against voter fraud as Republicans call it) and denying Medicaid expansion. States’ Rights was also a core principle of the Tea Party which rose up almost immediately after Obama took office. Even more recently former Congressman and current White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows explained the ultra conservative House Freedom Caucus like this in 2017, “We’re a states’ rights kind of group, so we all believe from our standpoint the more decisions that can be made at the state level the better.”

Base of now departed Monument to Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Virginia, with middle inscription reading “Defender of the Rights of States.” Photo by Daryl Slusher

Well, numerous state officials in Oregon including the Governor and the Attorney General are demanding that these federal forces leave Oregon. Both US Senators from Oregon have also called for that as have local officials in Portland, including the Mayor. So what happened to States’ Rights?

This is just one more Republican “principle” trampled under foot during the Trump Years. It’s not just on the anonymous federal forces issue though. Trump’s coronavirus “response” seriously contorted, if not outright mocked, the concept of States’ Rights by putting virtually total responsibility on the individual states — even when it means they have to compete for testing supplies and personal protection equipment. I have not heard any Trump-backing Republican raise even a whimper about this selective abandonment of States’ Rights; if anyone knows of any examples please let me know so I can make a correction and give credit where credit is due.

This abandonment of States’ Rights will be something to keep in mind if Democrats are able to win the presidency, and the Senate, and Republicans then start howling about States’ Rights again.

Speaking of the 2020 presidential election, let’s compare these two quotes about the election in Texas, one from over the weekend and one from back in March. See if you can guess who said each.

Quote 1: “There’s 38 electoral votes at stake [in Texas]. There is a U.S. Senate seat. And Texas is the key to national domination for years to come. If the Democrats win Texas, it’s all over.”

Quote 2: “Imagine if Texas went blue: the networks would likely call the race right then. . . people all over the nation, all over the world, would burst into the streets to celebrate.”

The first quote is from Ted Cruz speaking to the virtual state Republican convention speech

The second, which I like to think is better written, is from me in the very first article posted in the Austin Independent back on March 1, titled Can Texas Turn America Blue?

So Ted Cruz and I agree that the Democrats have a chance to win Texas in the presidential election for the first time since 1976. And, we agree that if the Democrats do win Texas then the presidential election is over right then.

The late Congressman and Civil Rights Movement hero John Lewis. Photo from Library of Congress.

When John Lewis and many others were beaten up trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965, they were marching for the right to vote. So the best way to honor him is to vote in the November election.

Let’s close out by noting the passing and the life of Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. Lewis was a critical figure in the historic progress against racism during his life. His incredible moral and physical courage, and his unwavering commitment to non-violence, were central in exposing the horrors of the Jim Crow system to millions of Americans who had too long ignored and accepted it. This led to the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and numerous other Civil Rights advances.

Lewis of course knew that the struggle was far from over. He lived to see another nationwide uprising that hopefully will lead to lasting advances on racial justice, but he also lived to see the police violence that sparked that uprising. There were more reminders of the distance the nation still has to go even as the announcements of Lewis’ death came. For instance directly adjacent to a Washington Post story on Lewis’ passing was a story on anti-mask protestors in Tulsa physically harassing an African American minister peacefully advocating for reparations for the 1921 white riot/massacre in which the successful black business section of Tulsa was burned to the ground and many Black residents of the area murdered.

According to the Post, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Minister Robert Taylor preaches a weekly “sermon” in front of City Hall on why reparations should be made for the 1921 massacre, which, as the Post describes, “left as many as 300 black people dead and leveled a 40-square block area of the all-black community of Greenwood.” As Taylor began to preach, “A group of white people protesting Tulsa’s new mask ordinance swarmed him, poured water on him and grabbed at his bullhorn.” As he talked some also chanted, “USA, USA, USA.”

Turner continued with his sermon, and also directed some remarks at his tormentors, “You care more about a face mask than you do justice, than you do for people whose bodies are still in mass graves.” 

That’s way up there in Oklahoma, but we’re not immune here in Austin either. One searing piece of evidence to back that up is an article in Sunday’s American-Statesman by former Statesman reporter and Editorial Board Member Alberta Phillips. Phillips relates a number of times the N word has been directed at her in Austin, and at her children when they were growing up. Some of the examples are very recent. It is difficult to find the adjectives to express how wrong it is that Phillips, her kids, or anyone else should have to endure that sort of thing. In Austin too, we still have a very long way to go. 

To close, let’s just note than when John Lewis and many others were beaten up trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965, they were marching for the right to vote. So the best way to honor him is to vote in the November election.


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