Hiding The Ball

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Hello, it’s the weekend. This is The Weekender ☕

As Democrats grapple with a crisis atop their ticket of the sort not seen in generations, Republicans seem to be trying to figure out what they want the press and the public to see when it eventually directs its gaze back toward their party. That has, over the course of this week, developed into an effort to hide the ball ahead of the Republican National Convention. 

Donald Trump is reviewing a decades-old plank of the GOP platform that calls for a constitutional amendment to extend personhood protections to the unborn, The Washington Post reports. Such an amendment would amount to a nation-wide ban on abortion, and could also imperil in-vitro fertilization treatments and other medical procedures. 

Meanwhile, Trump claimed on Truth Social Friday that he had no idea what the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 is, an absurd assertion given that the organization’s users manual to a radical second Trump term — gutting the federal government, infusing it with Christian nationalism, and orchestrating mass deportation of immigrants — is written by high-ranking members of his own administration, including Stephen Miller and former OMB Chief Russ Vought.

It suggests that the campaign fears that the public is on to the ways in which a second Trump term could reshape America — especially after the Supreme Court ruled Monday that the insurrection was good and fine and in fact Trump is King, and after the head of Heritage opined on Steve Bannon’s podcast that his organization’s “second American Revolution” will “remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.” Don’t make us hurt you! Haha! The Trump campaign sees a vulnerability in the public knowing the truth — assuming Democrats soon sort out who Trump is running against.

Here’s what else TPM has on tap this weekend:

  • Kate Riga explains how the Court has left the door open to indulging its anti-abortion preferences at a later date.
  • Hunter Walker checks in on Mark Robinson.
  • Khaya Himmelman reminds us of Republicans’ outrageously cartoonish about face on ballot drop boxes in Wisconsin. 
  • Emine Yücel questions Mike Johnson’s memory. 

Let’s dig in.

— John Light

The Court Saves Its Abortion Moves For Another (Post-Election) Day

This Supreme Court term ended in jurisprudential mushroom cloud. The Court took a sledgehammer to the separation of powers, and jacked up the presidency with an injunction of a-constitutional steroids

What it did not do was take a couple of prime opportunities to limit accessibility to mifepristone — medication abortions being by far the most common type — and to allow bans on emergency room abortions. In both of those cases, the Court punted: in the former, finding that the anti-abortion doctors lacked standing to bring the suit (obviously correct), and in the latter, that the Court shouldn’t have intervened before the case finished its journey through the lower courts (ditto).

Both of these decisions have something in common, though — by not coming to a conclusion on the merits (which is what they’re supposed to do), the Court has left the door open to indulging its anti-abortion preferences at a later date. For the mifepristone case, the argument would need to find new plaintiffs; for the Idaho emergency room one, the Court just has to wait until the case reaches it via regular order.

The more cynical (prescient?) among us may note that both of those maneuvers have pushed these big cases until after the 2024 election. Abortion will likely still be a powerful and salient issue, but there weren’t any late-game, screaming headlines from this term to make it more potent. 

The justices unanimously came to the right conclusion on the mifepristone case, and the Idaho one wouldn’t have concluded before the election if they’d just butted out and let it proceed at its normal pace anyway. But we know well by now that the justices are political creatures; these anti-abortion cases are delayed, not denied.

— Kate Riga

‘Some Folks Need Killing,’ Mark Robinson Declares

As hard as this is to believe, Republican Mark Robinson has actually taken his extreme rhetoric up a notch and is now talking about how “some folks need killing!”

Robinson, who has been North Carolina’s lieutenant governor since 2021 and is currently the GOP nominee in that state’s gubernatorial race, has a very long history of making inflammatory comments including wild conspiracy theories and attacks on the LGBT community, Black people, communists, Jews, and much more. TPM has chronicled all of this in depth and Robinson has not toned down his rhetoric for the campaign. Robinson’s prolific body of crazy online comments and speeches has included questioning the Holocaust and arguing Nazism is not a current problem, his latest rant actually began with praise for killing Nazis. 

“We now find ourselves struggling with people who have evil intent. You know, there’s a time when we used to meet evil on the battlefield, and guess what we did to it? We killed it!” Robinson said, adding, “We didn’t argue and capitulate and talk about, well, maybe we shouldn’t fight the Nazis that hard. No, they’re bad. Kill them. Some liberal somewhere is going to say that sounds awful. Too bad. Get mad at me if you want to.”

Robinson went on to seemingly make clear he was just pointing to Nazism as an example and that he believes there are more modern political enemies that “need killing.”

“Some folks need killing! It’s time for somebody to say it. It’s not a matter of vengeance. It’s not a matter of being mean or spiteful. It’s a matter of necessity! When you have wicked people doing wicked things, torturing and murdering and raping. It’s time to call out, uh, those guys in green and go have them handled. Or those boys in blue and have them go handle it,” Robinson said, adding, “We need to start handling our business again.… Don’t you feel it slipping away?”

The New Republic has a detailed breakdown of Robsinon’s remarks, which actually took place at a church’s “God And Country Sunday” event on June 30. He went on to suggest these unspecified people who need to be taken out are “listening to us … tracking us” and somehow responsible for cancel culture. 

This toxic blend of conspiracy and rage is nothing new for Robinson, but more importantly, it’s increasingly a feature of Republican politics at large. Trump and his allies have been openly musing about getting revenge on their political enemies if he wins a second term and, obviously, on Jan. 6 and at multiple points during the last contentious campaign we saw unprecedented levels of modern political violence in this country. The calls for retribution and violence coming from Republicans are getting louder. 

— Hunter Walker

Wisconsin Supreme Court Reinstates Ballot Drop Boxes

On Friday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which holds a liberal majority, reinstated the use of ballot drop boxes for absentee ballots, reversing a 2022 decision that barred their use. 

The court has sided with the left-leaning political action committee Priorities USA, who challenged the 2022 Supreme Court decision that claimed that the Wisconsin Elections Commission had incorrectly told election clerks in 2020 that the use of ballot drop boxes for absentee ballots was allowed.

The decision, according to Friday’s ruling, “does not force or require that any municipal clerks use drop boxes,” but rather notes “that clerks may lawfully utilize secure drop boxes in an exercise of their statutorily-conferred discretion.”

Although ballot drop boxes have been the source of election conspiracy theories about ballot harvesting and election manipulation since the 2020 election, Republicans, as previously reported by TPM, preemptively began to change their tune ahead of this ruling. Despite perpetuating dangerous misinformation about ballot drop boxes, they recently began encouraging voters to use them. 

Jay Heck, executive director of the non-partisan Common Cause Wisconsin, told TPM that Republicans have started to “read the tea leaves,” knowing that today’s decision, with the court’s newly instated liberal majority, would likely reverse the court’s 2022 decision. 

Heck also explained that the Republican strategy will be two-part: both encouraging voters to use drop boxes, but also, as he explained it, to continue to “raise the specter of fraud.”

“You support the voting method until you’re losing,” Barry Burden, political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Director of the Elections Research Center, similarly told TPM. “What we’ve seen is that for some folks who are losing, they’re willing to go to pretty much any ends to try and ensure they can win.”

— Khaya Himmelman

Words Of Wisdom

“The president and the vice president are the only two offices in our constitutional system that are elected by all the people. No one who is elected to that office is going to be prone to this kind of crazy criminal activity.”

That’s House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) during a Fox News interview this week commenting on the Monday Supreme Court immunity ruling.

I’m one of those people who always preaches never say never. But with Trump as the presumptive presidential nominee for the GOP, it’s not even a reach to think “crazy criminal activity” might be the norm if he gets elected.

Perhaps Speaker Johnson needs a reminder of the events that unfolded in January 2020. Or maybe he needs copies of the indictments against the former president. You’d think with his legal background it shouldn’t be too hard for him to imagine what might happen in a second Trump term when there’s almost no fear of accountability.

— Emine Yücel

Latest The Weekender

Notable Replies

  1. From Kate

    the Court has left the door open to indulging its anti-abortion preferences at a later date.

    The thugs on our scotus have chosen to ‘stand back and stand by’ at this time.

    From Hunter

    This toxic blend of conspiracy and rage is nothing new for Robinson, but more importantly, it’s increasingly a feature of Republican politics at large.

    Consumed by hubris they’ve decided to drop their drawers and show us their face.

    Thankfully Khaya gets to report on some good news for us because this last week has been a shitstorm.

    We have so many ways to beat TSF this November but we need to get the question of who our candidate will be settled ASAP. I think we’ll know for certain this week. If not, we’re toast in an election that should be a gift for us.

  2. The way the political press treats Democrats and a Democratic president only makes sense to me if Democrats are the only parties that are allowed to have agency in their narrative, like the “heroes” in a heroic quest. Trump and the MAGA Republicans are simply implacable objects to overcome; visionless “Orcs” or comic book villains that seek only to be in power - “We want to rule the world!” And the political press exists as a sort of disembodied chorus that charts the heroes’ progress and criticizes the protagonists’ choices and actions along the way sometimes throwing other impediments in their path as well, like the gods on Mt. Olympus.

    This is an odd thought on my part, but there it is.

  3. Despite all the evidence to the contrary. Who you going to believe, what I tell you or your lying eyes?

Continue the discussion at forums.talkingpointsmemo.com

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