The American Experiment Has Gone Off The Rails

INSIDE: Donald Trump ... Juan Merchan ... Joe Biden
Postcard shows the aftermath of a head-on collision between two locomotives, Mable, Michigan, July 19, 1910. (Photo by Beebe/Vintage Images/Getty Images)
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo. Sign up for the email version.

The Jumble Of The Current Moment

The collision of the Supreme Court’s radical end-of-term rulings with President Biden’s catastrophic debate performance is one of those quirks of timing that only history can provide. We would find it implausible in fictional treatments, and in reality, it strains the imagination, too.

But of course they’re not entirely unrelated. Biden’s debate-fail resonates precisely because of the incredibly high stakes of the current moment. If your hair was already on fire at the prospect of Trump II, as it should have been, any weakness in the standard bearer for the Trump opposition is cause for concern and can quickly escalate into alarming.

But not everyone had their hair on fire or appreciated the historic moment before last week’s debate. So as I try to make sense of the jumbled political landscape before us, it helps me to set aside the handwringing, misdirected focus, and lack of proportion offered by those folks now. Already obsessed for the past year with Biden’s age? Setting you aside. Eager to reduce politics to petty infighting, personality clashes, and high school popularity contests? Not paying you much attention. It’s a process of elimination to try to refocus on the core things that really matter.

But I’ll admit that only gets you so far. It’s still a jumble for the moment. Here’s my best effort to make sense of where things stand right now.

Cold Civil War Remains The Best Analogy For America Today

Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts, who has hauled the venerable think tank deep into MAGA land, hailed the Supreme Court’s presidential immunity decision using language that is barely veiled authoritarianism: “[W]e are in the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.”

Don’t make us hurt you, remains a recurring theme of Trumpism’s cycle of abuse.

Meanwhile, The Guardian has more on the preparation of the blacklist of government workers the Heritage Foundation is helping to fund.

SCOTUS Deeply Damaged The Trump Prosecutions

Yesterday’s Morning Memo was a long-winded way of saying that our focus should probably shift away from the Trump prosecutions now. They have been been irretrievably pushed past the election, but they have also been severely hamstrung in a way that is unlikely to yield accountability to the law for Trump.

The pathways left by the Supreme Court to prosecute a former president are narrow, contorted, and highly uncertain. Rather the drawing bright lines, articulating clear rules, or setting coherent standards, the court has by its purposeful vagueness retained for itself multiple opportunities to weigh in further on the Trump prosecutions.

That is why viewing the presidential immunity decision only through the prism of executive power misses the aggrandizement of power to the Supreme Court itself. By keeping it vague, the court can write rules in the future that might limit a Democratic president while not committing itself to anything that would limit Trump in a second term.

Trump Sentencing Delayed

It was obvious as soon as the Supreme Court decision came down Monday that not only were the three ongoing prosecutions of Trump now deeply in jeopardy, but so was his conviction in New York state court in the hush-money case. The combination of the court’s expansive view of presidential immunity and its startling evidentiary ruling – that was not an explicit part of the question presented by the court in the Trump case, was never argued before the court, let alone briefed – left the hush-money conviction twisting in the wind.

If nothing else, it gave Trump a new and potentially powerful argument, and Trump seized on it. The same day the ruling came down, he moved to delay his sentencing, which was scheduled for next week. Yesterday, recognizing the changed legal landscape, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg told the court he would not object to a delay. Judge Juan Merchan subsequently postponed sentencing until September to allow time for the two sides to present him with arguments on immunity and the evidentiary issues the Supreme Court suddenly put into play.

Still Grappling With The Presidential Immunity Decision

Some choice reading to get your head around what just happened:

The Historical Perspective

  • Kevin Kruse: The Radical Roberts Court
  • Ankush Khardori: The Supreme Court Gave Trump a Stunning Gift — and Rewrote the Constitution
  • Heather Cox Richardson on what happened on July 2, 1776, to cement the Declaration of Independence’s core notion “that a nation should rest not on the arbitrary rule of a single man and his hand-picked advisors, but on the rule of law.”

Don’t Forget SCOTUS Overturned Chevron

I don’t want to overwhelm you with reading assignments, but a lot has happened in the past week:

  • Kim Wehle: The Future of Federal Regulation After SCOTUS Tossed Out Chevron
  • WSJ: Supreme Court’s Agency Power Rulings Could Change Regulatory Landscape For Years to Come
  • Inside Climate News: What Overturning Chevron Means Means for Climate Change Policy

Tea-Leaf Reading

  • WSJ: “The increasing likelihood of a second Trump administration has helped spark a steep selloff in U.S. government bonds, with investors betting policies including tax cuts could drive up deficits and inflation.”
  • Politico: “Democratic attorneys generals around the country are already gearing up for the possibility of a second Trump administration by beginning to map out an aggressive legal strategy to fight him again in court — this time with a fresh sense of urgency.”

Biden Debate Freakout Reaches Fever Pitch

President Biden heads into the holiday weekend with Democrats still panicking, a few elected Dems abandoning him but many others keeping their options open, and no clear path forward if Biden is not the nominee. The post-debate freakout probably won’t resolve itself one way or the other until public opinion settles in and polling can assess the net effect of his poor debate performance.

Into that volatile mix, the NYT dropped a new story reporting that Biden’s lapses are increasingly common and worrisome. It was a better reported version of a similar story the WSJ did a month ago.

But that wasn’t the only headline that painted a dire picture for the President:

  • WSJ: Inside the Big Money Battle to Salvage the Democratic Ticket.
  • NYT: Big Donors Turn on Biden. Quietly.
  • WSJ: Democratic Unity Cracks in Wake of Biden’s Debate Performance
  • NYT: Biden’s Team Scrambles to Contain First Democratic Defections
  • WaPo: Obama shares concerns after shaky debate, offers Biden his advice

‘The Pundit Class Needs To Get A Grip’

Noah Berlatsky: Politics isn’t fantasy football and there’s no One Weird Trick to beat Trump.

See You Monday

Morning Memo is taking off the next couple of days. By the time I see you next week, the 14-year reign of Britain’s Conservative Party may be over, quite a contrast with the ascension of the far right in France.

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Notable Replies

  1. The Vast Right-Wing Coup’s near complete
    The Court’s recent edicts are replete
    With rules engineered
    To roll back, as we feared
    Our Core Rights, still we’ll NEVER retreat

  2. Avatar for jtx jtx says:

    Turns my stomach!

  3. Very high chance we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the USA as a liberal and constitutional democracy. How fast will it decline? Nov 5th will reveal.

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