How far are we? Who really knows? Let's just say that we're somewhere significantly down the road to extremity, all-American style. With a hung (and wrung-out) Congress and a lame (and aged) president, our tripartite government is looking ever less "tri" and ever more "part." And it increasingly seems that the part being emphasized is a Supreme Court that should perhaps be renamed the Extreme Court. Only recently, it issued a series of Trumpist rulings that, from green-lighting the carrying of concealed weaponry to suppressing abortion to keeping climate change on track, rivaled in their extremity the 1857 Dred Scott ruling's endorsement of slavery that helped launch the Civil War.
And that may just be the beginning. In their next term, for instance, the six justices of the Extreme Court could turn directly to that "tri" and try to whittle it down further. In particular, they may endorse what's called the independent state legislature doctrine, an extremist theory that, according to the New York Times, "would give state legislatures independent power, not subject to review by state courts, to set election rules at odds with state constitutions, and to draw congressional maps warped by partisan gerrymandering." And since, at this point, a significant majority of state legislatures are controlled by Republicans the possibility of gerrymandering the political map into a forever-winning extremist government seems all too imaginable.
So hold onto your hats (and guns) folks " we've already passed through the diciest post-election season in memory. (Sedition, you bet!) And we could be heading toward an all-American, all-Trumpist Extreme Court and Republican Party version of something akin to fascism.
With that in mind, could there be anything more important than getting out the vote in elections of 2022 and 2024? I doubt it. So, thank you TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon for heading back to Nevada to lend a hand. We should all, whatever our doubts, take her as an example of what has to be done to prevent the Extremes from taking this land from so many of the rest of us. Tom
Returning to Reno
In the Shadow of Roe's Undoing
Recently, I told my friend Mimi that, only weeks from now, I was returning to Reno to help UNITE-HERE, the hospitality industry union, in the potentially nightmarish 2022 election. "Even though," I added, "I hate electoral politics."
She just laughed.
"What's so funny?" I asked.
"You've been saying that as long as I've known you," she replied with a grin.
How right she was. And "as long as I've known you" has been a pretty long time. We met more than a quarter of a century ago when my partner and I hired her as the first organizer in a field campaign to defeat Proposition 209. That ballot initiative was one of a series pandering to the racial anxieties of white Californians that swept through the state in the 1990s. The first of them was Prop 187, outlawing the provision of government services, including health care and education, to undocumented immigrants. In 1994, Californians approved that initiative by a 59% to 41% vote. A federal court, however, found most of its provisions unconstitutional and it never went into effect.
We weren't so lucky with Proposition 209, which, in 1996, outlawed affirmative-action programs statewide at any level of government or public service. Its effects reverberate to this day, not least at the prestigious University of California's many campuses.
A study commissioned 25 years later by its Office of the President revealed that "Prop 209 caused a decline in systemwide URG enrollment by at least twelve percent." URGs are the report's shorthand for "underrepresented groups" " in other words, Latinos, Blacks, and Native Americans. Unfortunately, Proposition 209's impact on the racial makeup of the university system's students has persisted for decades and, as that report observed, "led URG applicants to cascade out of UC into measurably less-advantageous universities." Because of UC's importance in California's labor market, "this caused a decline in the total number of high-earning ($100,000) early-30s African American and Hispanic/Latinx Californians by at least three percent."
Yes, we lost the Prop 209 election, but the organization we helped start back in 1995, Californians for Justice, still flourishes. Led by people of color, it's become a powerful statewide advocate for racial justice in public education with a number of electoral and legislative victories to its name.
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