A Picture of American Power

It’s Also American Power. How is this line of Russian tanks that have been destroyed a picture of “American” power? Certainly the counter-offensive in Southern Ukraine that allowed the Ukrainians to retake Kherson puts an exclamation point on the courage, effectiveness, and brilliance of the Ukrainians in combatting the Russian invasion.

And that’s certainly the case.

At the same time, Ukrainian prowess also serves as a real time demonstration of American global pre-eminence. Russia remains a threat because of its nuclear stockpile, but it’s now clear that Russia isn’t strong enough to count as a primary or even a secondary rival to the U.S. The Ukraine invasion bogged down within a couple weeks as it became apparent that the Russians had a bad plan, bad tanks, and a poor command and control set up as well as unmotivated, untrained conscript troops. After 9 months, the Russian air wing still doesn’t have control of Ukrainian air space and the Russian navy has not been able to impose itself from the Black Sea. To the contrary, U.S. weapons, communications and political leadership have all been demonstrated to be top notch and are far superior to anything Russia has to offer. Before the Ukraine invasion, American military superiority was questioned after more than 30 years of being essentially unchallenged. But it’s been proven yet again that the U.S. military far outstrips its rivals in almost every way.

The Troubles. But if American military pre-eminence is more striking than ever, the U.S. is also an troubled, unstable, and potentially very dangerous country. America is a nation of unrivalled wealth and power with severe problems and the 45,000 annual gun deaths, raging opioid epidemic, decreasing life spans among the majority white population, and increasing wealth disparities have been getting worse. The military may be superior, but investment has fallen behind in almost all non-military sectors of American society and U.S. transportation, education, and health care do not compare well to other advanced industrial countries. Perhaps worse, the refusal to invest in these areas is now baked into the American political cake and there’s very little in the way of proposals for solutions or political will to change the situation.

Chronic Instability. American government and society have also become unstable during the seven years since Donald Trump announced his candidacy in 2015. On Jan. 6, 2021, the United States came very close to having its government and constitutional system overthrown as a result of the MAGA assault on the Capitol. If MAGA insurrectionaries had caught Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi, and other Representatives and Senators, they would have carried out a massacre and kept Donald Trump in office as an authoritarian dictator. Insurrectionary pressure kept up throughout 2021 and early 2022 as Republicans placed more voting restrictions on Democratic constituencies, overturned the abortion rights guaranteed by the Roe v Wade decision and ran candidates eager to overturn future elections while also developing a new language of “groomers” and “pedos” to accuse LGBT’s, teachers, doctors, and Democrats more generally of conspiracy to sexualize and seduce young children. However, the most insurrectionary initiative of post-Jan. 6 Republicans was to refuse vaccinations against Covid. By refusing vaccination, rural Republicans in particular showed that they are willing to sacrifice their lives to refuse cooperation with a Democratic administration AND the large multicultural, socially liberal majority in American society.

The United States has become chronically unstable because of the relations between the three layers of the right-wing ecosystem. For the sprawling sphere of conservative/fascist activism, the main question is whether they’re willing to violently overthrow American government and society to bring American society back to the patriarchy and white supremacy of the White American Republic, i.e., “take back our country.” For the insurrectionaries who assaulted the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the answer to that question is an obvious “yes” and the same is the case for Christian dominionists, election conspiracists, gun absolutists, and the wide variety of anti-black, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, and anti-feminist fascists who are active in Republican politics and right-wing activism. For other activist conservative groups like CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) and Tucker Carlson of Fox News, the U.S.does not need a violent takeover and the right can establish a Hungarian style authoritarian regime if MAGAs could win couple more national elections. Whether it’s through violence or Hungarian style authoritarianism, most GOP activists seem committed to overthrowing the democratic political system in the U.S.

The larger layer of Republican voters and top layer of GOP elites and officeholders are much more attached to American political institutions and much more ambivalent about the idea of overthrowing democracy or returning to 1950’s style segregation and patriarchy. At present, that bottom and top attachment to traditional political institutions keeps GOP activists somewhat in check. However, it’s easy to imagine insurrectionist fervor boiling over again and the United States will be an unstable country as long as conservative activists are itching for new opportunities to overthrow the Constitutional system.

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Schumer Shows Some Spine: The Senate Vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act 

Yesterday, head Democrat in the Senate and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called up the Women’s Health Protective Act for a vote and the vote failed by a margin of 49-51 with Joe Manchin and the two pro-choice Republicans voting against the measure.

But I see the vote as a step forward for the Democrats.

The Women’s Health Protective Act was originally passed by the House in 2021 and contains the following items according to Congress.Gov:

This bill prohibits governmental restrictions on the provision of, and access to, abortion services. Specifically, governments may not limit a provider’s ability to

  • prescribe certain drugs,
  • offer abortion services via telemedicine, or
  • immediately provide abortion services when the provider determines a delay risks the patient’s health.
  • perform unnecessary medical procedures,
  • provide medically inaccurate information,
  • comply with credentialing or other conditions that do not apply to providers whose services are medically comparable to abortions, or
  • carry out all services connected to an abortion.

In addition, governments may not (1) require patients to make medically unnecessary in-person visits before receiving abortion services or disclose their reasons for obtaining such services, or (2) prohibit abortion services before fetal viability or after fetal viability when a provider determines the pregnancy risks the patient’s life or health.

In other words, the Women’s Health Protective Act reaffirms the fundamental right to terminate pregnancies before a fetus is viable, identifies a woman and her doctor as the primary agents of decision making in relation to abortion health care, and bans all the impediments conservative states like Texas and Kentucky have been putting in place to make abortions more difficult and costly.

In addition, the Women’s Health Protective Act did not provide for any religious-based exceptions to its provisions.

Thus, the Women’s Health Protective Act affirmed women’s rights to abortion procedures as normal medical practice and provided no exceptions for state’s rights, Catholic hospitals, or the tender sensitivities of the religious right.

It’s an excellent bill and that’s why GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell was outraged.

Leader Schumer wants the Senate to vote again on a Democrat bill that would effectively legalize abortion on demand through all nine months. Their bill is written to protect abortionists rather than mothers. It would roll back health regulations. It would attack Americans’ conscience rights and religious freedoms. It would overturn modest and overwhelmingly popular safeguards like waiting periods, informed consent laws, and possibly even parental notification. And it is written so that in practice, it would allow elective abortion until birth. Democrats’ extreme position is radical on a global scale and it is wildly unpopular with the American people.”

A lot of what McConnell says is laughable regurgitation of things that the forced birth movement has been making up about abortion for decades.

However, one of the main points about the Women’s Health Protective Act is that the House authors did not care about anti-abortion opinion.

And neither did Chuck Schumer in bringing up the bill for a vote.

Failing to understand Roe v Wade, Sen. Joe Manchin called the Women’s Health Protective Act an “expansion” of Roe v Wade and voted “no.”

Make no mistake, it is not Roe v. Wade codification,” he said of the Women’s Health Protection Act. “It is an expansion. It wipes 500 state laws off the books, it expands abortion, and with that, that’s not where we are today.

I’m sure Manchin’s Republican friends provided him with that number but the bill would have codified Roe v Wade rather than all the slices Republicans have taken out of abortion rights since 1973

But Chuck Schumer didn’t care what Manchin said and neither should I.

“Pro-life” Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski also voted against the bill because it didn’t provide any religious exemptions.

However, given that Collins jerked the Democrats around on Obamacare and voted attempted rapist Brett Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court, the Democrats have stopped viewing her as an honest person with whom they could negotiate.

So Chuck Schumer didn’t care what Collins and Murkowski had to say either.

The Never Trumper journal The Bulwark accuses Schumer of “once again playing to the activist base rather than to his gettable colleagues.” That’s exactly right. Schumer and Congressional Democrats needed to stop listening to Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell, moderate conservatives like Susan Collins, and GOP leaning Democrats like Joe Manchin.

And they have.

Schumer still needs to get better at legislative strategy and all Democratic leaders in Congress and the Biden administration desperately need to improve their partisan messaging, find ways to get their message amplified, and stick their rhetorical landings.

But the mainstream Democratic leadership has crossed the Rubicon of giving up on the Republicans and the fact that Chuck Schumer now has a spine is a big step forward.