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James Carville Says Wokeness ‘Is Over’ and 2024 Will Be ‘Dangerous.’ Bari Weiss

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James Carville says Vivek Ramaswamy is “a frickin’ idiot,” a Trump 2024 win would be “catastrophic,” and he “could not be more excited” about a possible impeachment inquiry of Joe Biden. (G. Gershoff via WireImage for Spotlight Communications)

James Carville, America’s best-known Democratic political consultant, has been on the scene for a very long time—he’s almost 80, though he seems decades younger than the current president. Carville’s most prominent victory was Bill Clinton’s successful run for the presidency in 1992, which was documented in the incredible D. A. Pennebaker documentary War Room. Some people watch Notting Hill as a comfort movie. For me, it’s War Room.

So you can imagine my excitement when I met Carville at The Texas Tribune Festival and noticed that he was wearing the exact same purple, gold, and green striped LSU polo that he wore in the film. It was actually quite fitting: a whole lot has changed in American politics over the last 30 years. Carville’s style—charming, extremely blunt—has not. 

The people closest to Carville have other ways of describing the political icon. His former business partner, Paul Begala, has said that “James lives in a border town between genius and madness. Now that he’s rich and famous, he’s eccentric. I knew him when he was just crazy.” His wife, Mary Matalin, who is a Republican Party consultant, has said: “He really is a nut.”

Our conversation—which was recorded in a room full of three hundred Rachel Maddow die-hards—covered a range of political commentary, criticism, and diagnosis: whether or not he thinks Biden is too old to run again, why he thinks Kamala Harris is treated unfairly by the press, the direction of the Democratic Party, why he thinks wokeness “is over,” and, of course, Trump and the future of America. 

Click here to listen to our full conversation or read an edited excerpt below. And see you in the comments. —BW

BW: I want to read you part of a speech that the president gave in Vietnam. “The Indian looks at John Wayne and points to the Union soldier and says ‘he’s a lying, dog-faced pony soldier. Well, that’s a lot of lying, dog-faced pony soldiers out there about global warming.’” I’ll give you a few more examples. On September 11, the president claimed that he was at the World Trade Center the day of the attacks. He was not. Last month, he claimed to have witnessed the bridge collapse in my hometown of Pittsburgh in 2022. He didn’t. In another speech recently, he falsely claimed that his grandfather had died just days prior to his own birth at the same hospital. A Wall Street Journal poll taken last month found that 73 percent of voters said that Biden is simply too old to run for reelection. Do you agree? 

JC: According to the Census Bureau, there are 333,495,611 people currently living in the United States. I think we could find a few to run for president. There’s a lot of things I like about Biden. He’s tenacious. He’s been in politics. He’s been beat up. He survived. He’s come back. But I wish he wouldn’t do this. I think the country is bursting at the seams to get a new generation in there. I think right now, this country is in a period where sometimes you got to give other people a shot at this. We’ve got talent just screaming all over the Democratic Party. And I’d like to see some of it get showcased.

BW: A lot of us imagined, when we were younger, this idea of smoke-filled rooms, the party machine stepping in and making decisions. One of the things a lot of us have been confronted with is the idea that no such machine exists, that the party is simply voters. People look to you, James, as someone that has inside information. So I’m compelled to ask, are there people trying to get him to step aside?

JC: I don’t know how many actual peers he has. Sometimes people in politics have friends who say, look, you do this, you can’t do that. I think he’s been in politics for a long time and I think he has his place. And the people that have been around him the longest are very close friends of mine. But there is no evidence that he’s thinking about not running. And there’s no evidence that someone is thinking about getting in. But I led most of my political life saying what I think, and I’m probably not going to stop now.

BW: So unless something dramatic changes, we’re looking at Trump v. Biden in a little under 14 months. Let’s indulge, though, in a little bit of parlor games: is there anything that could upset what feels like a fait accompli?

JC: I don’t know. A lot of people say, this is decided; fall in. And I probably will have to. I think if Trump were reelected, it’d be catastrophic. I think it’d be the end of the Constitution. We’re looking at a corrupt, treasonous guy. It would ruin the country. But if we said the election was this November, let me give you a hypothetical: Joe Biden the Democrat, Donald Trump the Republican, Joe Manchin No Labels, and Cornel West Green Party—Biden would be an underdog, and we would have a catastrophic event in American history of the first order. Trump’s already saying, “I’m going to get rid of everybody. I’m going to get rid of civil service. We’re going to get rid of an independent judiciary, everything.” They’re telling you. They’re not hiding it from you. I feel like this would be catastrophic. There’s some chance Trump could win this election if we don’t play this really smart.

BW: So if those are the stakes and you look at people who clearly want to run for president at some point, whether it’s Gavin Newsom, Gretchen Whitmer, Josh Shapiro, the governor in Pennsylvania, why aren’t they doing it?

JC: People really like President Biden. In terms of raw political talent, the modern Democratic Party is full of it. Now, you wouldn’t know it because it’s like watching Secretariat in a barn. You got to get it on the goddamn track to see what it can do. But trust me that there’s real talent—and it’s not Bobby Kennedy, by the way.

BW: Let’s talk about Kennedy for a minute. How do you explain his poll numbers?

JC: Because he’s not Biden. No one pays attention to Bobby Kennedy or the crazy things he says or does. But they say, “Well, in some ways, a Kennedy must be okay. You know, I remember them.” 

BW: But to give him the most generous read: isn’t the reason that Kennedy is resonating, because he is picking up on so many of the themes that, frankly, Democrats don’t talk about anymore? The power of big tech in people’s lives, the dignity of the working class, things that were mainstays of the Democratic Party. 

JC: Well, look, in terms of the tech stuff—what did Trump do about the tech business when he was president? Nothing. I think it’s fair to say that Democrats have sort of lost that connection with working people. Biden is the last thing but a cultural guy. He’s a regular guy. But not who the people that vote in the party are. And that’s why I’d like to see a bunch of these new candidates out there. 

BW: Who are you most excited about?

JC: I’m excited about whoever Democrats pick. I’d like to see seven people running on a stage that had ideas and energy and could string a sentence together. Y’all decide who the hell you like, but give people a choice. When you go talk to people around the country, what do you think about the Democratic Party? They think we’re an urban, old party, that we are there for people in cities and all of our leadership is old. That’s not true. But you have to put people out there and start talking about things where you will change people’s minds because the Republicans will tell you all over again that we just care about people in the cities and that kind of stuff, and we don’t. Good candidates will give you a sharp definition and a concise message.

BW: The name you hear a lot among centrist Democrats and Never Trump Republicans these days is Joe Manchin. 

JC: What is it like to be a moderate Democrat? I have no idea because I’m a liberal Democrat. I’m pretty liberal. Manchin is not. I like Senator Manchin. A Democrat has not carried a county in West Virginia since 2008. And so you have all of these people that don’t have to run in West Virginia criticizing Joe Manchin for trying to stay alive in that state. But he’s not going to be a Democratic nominee or a factor in national Democratic politics. He’s got his own politics and it’s not easy at all.

BW: I mentioned him only because he’s one of the wishcasting fanfiction type stories that are happening right now. Another one of them is about Kamala Harris. There’s a lot of people who are saying we’re stuck with Joe Biden. But what if Biden dumped Kamala Harris and took a vice presidential candidate who was more exciting to the base? Why are people throwing out that idea? Is there anything to it?

JC: It’s a little bit unfair because the president’s approval rating is like 41. Well, the vice president’s can’t go any higher, so she has a ceiling of 41. What I’d like to see is her and about five or six other people start running to acquire delegates and be on TV and be on their own and see what they can do, how good their ideas are. But I think to some extent, she’s being defined by being in this administration. And maybe her approval is 35, and that’s not very good. But she couldn’t be any higher than 41 if she was perfect.

BW: But come on. I mean, when she speaks, it’s like Veep.

JC: To you. I mean, sure, that’s the way to you. I went through this with Hillary. Every time a female gets big in national politics, they get accused of shrieking or being fingernails on a blackboard. Maybe she’s not the greatest public speaker in the world. But a lot of the stuff that’s been heaped on her—some of it is stereotyping. 

BW: I think I might be among the last people that would be turned off by a powerful woman politician.

JC: I’m not saying you were turned off by a powerful woman politician. I’m just saying that political science knows that certain qualities will get attributed to you based on your gender. I never hear about males talking in a shrieking voice.

BW: Do you think she’s a good politician?

JC: She’s not one of the all-time greats. But the only thing I know her is for the presidential campaign. I think she wanted to run for president in the worst possible way, and she succeeded. But a lot of people run for president and don’t do very well. Biden ran for president and didn’t do very well. I mean, failure is to politics what air is to life. But I think she’s not fulfilled her potential.

BW: Well, let’s talk about a happier subject, which is Donald Trump. So Trump is currently polling at 55 percent. The next closest candidate is Florida governor Ron DeSantis at 14 percent. Every indictment seems to make Trump more popular among his base. Is there any scenario in which you see one of these other candidates in the race unseating Trump?

JC: MAGA was there before Trump. The idea that people were under assault from immigrants, from people of color—it was always there and Trump stoked a feeling that already existed. So the whole Republican Party is—I mean, Lauren Boebert? Ken Paxton? Great. So we really want to talk about Kamala Harris as being the problem? I mean, next to Lauren Boebert, she’s Joan of Arc.

BW: But the question—is there anyone in the race that you, as a political strategist, think has a chance of unseating Trump?

JC: Right now, no. The most likely outcome is that the Republicans nominate Trump. DeSantis is the greatest disaster I’ve ever seen in my life. Y’all see the latest story where he kicked Tucker Carlson’s dog? Michael Wolff has a story that DeSantis wanted to go see Tucker and Susie Carlson. Well, they’re dog people, and DeSantis kicked one of the dogs. I guess he ate with his fingers, too. I mean, there’s something wrong with that boy. I don’t think he’s potty-trained, to tell you the truth. 

BW: Let’s talk about the four indictments hanging over Donald Trump. I want to know from you which of those do you think is the most serious? Do you think politically it matters to him?

JC: As of now, it doesn’t matter. He said that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and it wouldn’t matter. Well, he was found in a court of competent jurisdiction to have raped someone on Fifth Avenue. It didn’t matter! So I guess if rape don’t count in this country, I don’t know what does. But if anybody here is a lawyer, the first thing you look for is defenses. I cannot think of a single defense he has on Mar-a-Lago. What’s the defense? If I leave here and I take this chair and I say that it’s mine because I sat in it? Most people would say, that’s not yours. Give it back to us! It’s going to be interesting to see if we ever find out why some people say that he’s a packrat. I have no earthly idea of how he’s going to defend this. And I don’t think they do either, to tell you the truth.

BW: Let’s talk about President Biden’s son. Hunter just received his own indictment after the very public collapse of his plea deal. If the case does end up going to trial, how much of a headache will that be for the president? Could it seriously damage his chances of reelection?

JC: So first of all, the Republicans have opened an impeachment inquiry, and I could not be more excited about it—but only if they call witnesses. Because let me tell you, Jim Comer is not a very smart man. In fact, I think he’s pretty stupid. Jim Jordan, G-Y-M, Jim Jordan. Not very smart. Dan Goldman? Smart. Delegate Plaskett? Smart. Jamie Raskin? Smart. They will eat their ass alive. There’s not been one iota of evidence to say that President Biden got any of this money. Now, if you want to say Biden did some really stupid things. Yes. If you’re going to make $80,000 a month from an energy company while your dad is vice president. . . . But he lied on a gun application. This is the only time that Republicans ever were against a gun. They investigated this guy for how many years? There is not any evidence whatsoever. And I personally want open hearings, call witnesses. Let’s air this thing out.

BW: Let’s talk about the state of the Democratic Party. Democrats used to be perceived as the party of the everyday, ordinary American. There’s a book that’s about to come out from John Judis and Ruy Teixeira called Where Have All the Democrats Gone? And it’s about the defection of working class voters from the party. Reflect a little bit on how that happened. How did it come to be that the Democratic Party is the party of educated, elite, somewhat older voters? 

JC: I wouldn’t say older, but they’ve definitely become much more of an educated party over the course of the century and less of a presence in places in mid-America. Some of it was our own making. Democrats gave off airs that we thought that we were smarter than other people, and Republicans did a good job of exploiting that. Now, having said that, again, I point out we haven’t lost an election since June of last year. But if you’re a Democrat, you’re really in a coalition. I like coalitions. I really do. I don’t want to be in a frickin’ cult. I don’t want my entire life to be defined by my own ideology. But if you’re in a coalition, you have to be a little uncomfortable because the bigger your coalition is, the more things that come up that will make you uncomfortable. And we have lost ground considerably with a significant number of working-class people, more specifically working-class whites. We allowed a small part of our party—people that describe themselves as “progressive liberal,” which is about 10 percent of the entire Democratic Party, compared to 65 percent of the Republican Party that thinks the election was stolen or that the Earth is 5,000 years old or our climate was some hoax out of a PR person in Beijing—I never saw a Democrat ever want to burn a book. But these sons of bitches have banned more books this year than any year in American history. And they fired some teacher from Galveston or somewhere for reading Anne Frank. But I have to worry about somebody talking about Latinx, which is just kind of a goofy thing they came up with? Why do Democrats pay such a price for 10 percent of the eccentric people in our party and the Republicans don’t pay a price to the 65 percent of people in their party that are just out and out nuts?

BW: But couldn’t the reason be that that 10 percent has an unbelievable amount of cultural power in America? They control publishing houses, Hollywood studios, media companies, all of the sense-making institutions of American life. So that’s the difference.

JC: First of all, honestly, it’s over. It’s over. The identity left has lost. They’re sitting there spudding around in some art museum or foundation. No one wants to defund the frickin’ police. No one wants the nonsense of cultural appropriation. If you come to New Orleans and you walk out and you have a sweatshirt that says, “I got Bourbon Faced on Shit Street,” am I going to say, “Oh my God, you appropriated my culture, how dare you say that?” It all became so idiotic. The term woke first came up by a guy named Lead Belly Ledbetter, who was a jazz musician who was born right outside of Shreveport, and the term woke was in a song telling black people in Texas and Louisiana that you should be aware in your interactions with the police, which I think would be sound advice for a black person in Houston in 1925. And then, like everything else, some overeducated white people got ahold of it and made woke into some entirely different word than what it’s supposed to be. And that costs us 20 House seats. I think that everybody knows that this whole thing is not a very good idea, and most people have moved on from it. 

Lightning round:

BW: What is your wife’s worst opinion?

JC: Thinking that the Iraq war was any good.

BW: What is one thing she has changed your mind about?

JC: Always bringing a gift when you go to somebody’s house.

BW: What is the best book you read recently?

JC: The book I’m reading right now is called The Identity Trap by Yascha Mounk. And it really deconstructs this identity politics, which I think was a giant mistake. Your identity will never, to me, trump your philosophy or your quality as a person.

BW: Your favorite American president of all time?

JC: Clinton second, Lincoln first by far.

BW: Okay, one word, for the following people: Donald Trump?

JC: Go to jail.

BW: One word, Joe Biden?

JC: “Think about it.” I guess that’s three.

BW: Vivek Ramaswamy.

JC: Well, I got to tell you. He’s everything that they like. He’s got a name you can’t pronounce. He went to Harvard. He’s a tech bro. He’s a frickin’ idiot.

BW: All right, I’m going to go with idiot. Cornel West?

JC: Dangerous.

BW: Chris Christie?

JC: Dedicated.

BW: Josh Shapiro?

JC: Potentially Clintonesque talent. 

BW: Last question. If you had to vote right now, money on the table: Who’s going to win in 2024? Who’s it going to be? 

JC: Well, I say the Democrats. My rationale is we’re just not losing elections. I mean, the country does not like Dobbs. They don’t like the Republicans’ authoritarianism. But remember, you got Cornel West and you got No Labels. And it’s dangerous. I’ll tell you that, Bari. It’s dangerous. 

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May 24, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson

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On Wednesday, May 22, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who had been the candidate for anti-Trump Republicans, said she will vote for Trump. Haley ran against Trump for the Republican presidential nomination and maintained a steady stream of criticism of him, calling him “unstable,” “unhinged” and “a disaster…for our party.” Since she suspended her campaign in early March, she has continued to poll at around 20% of Republican primary voters. 

There are two ways to look at Haley’s capitulation. It might show that Trump is so strong that he has captured the entire party and is sweeping it before him. In contrast, it might show that Trump is weak, and Haley made this concession to his voters either in hopes of stepping into his place or in a desperate move to cobble the party, whose leaders are keenly aware they are an unpopular minority in the country, together. 

The Republican Party is in the midst of a civil war. The last of the establishment Republican leaders who controlled the party before 2016 are trying to wrest control of it back from Trump’s MAGA Republicans, who have taken control of the key official positions. At the same time, Trump’s MAGA voters, while a key part of the Republican base, have pushed the party so far right they have left the majority of Americans—including Republicans—far behind.

Abortion remains a major political problem for Republicans. Trump appointed the three Supreme Court justices who provided the votes to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized the constitutional right to abortion, and he has boasted repeatedly that he ended Roe. This pleases his white evangelical base but not the majority of the American people.

According to a recent Pew poll, 63% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while only 36% think it should be illegal in most or all cases. But Republicans are continuing to push unpopular antiabortion legislation. On Thursday, Louisiana lawmakers approved a law classifying mifepristone and misoprostol, two drugs commonly used in abortions, as dangerous drugs—a category usually reserved for addictive medications—making it a crime to possess abortion pills without a prescription. 

Louisiana prohibits abortions except to save the life of the mother or in cases in which the fetus has a condition incompatible with life. The law requires doctors to get a special license to prescribe the drugs, one of which is used for routine reproductive care as well as abortions. The state would then keep a record of those prescriptions, effectively a database to monitor women’s pregnancies and the doctors who treat them. Louisiana governor Jeff Landry, a Republican, is expected to sign the measure into law. 

Trump has repeatedly promised to weigh in on the mifepristone question but, likely aware that he cannot please both his base and voters, has not done so. On Tuesday, May 21, though, he stepped into a related problem. Since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned Roe v. Wade, antiabortion activists have begun to talk about contraception as abortion, with some warning that it is “unbiblical.” But in February, 80% of voters polled said that contraception was “deeply important” to them, including 72% of Republican voters. On Tuesday, Trump said he was open to regulating contraception and that his campaign would issue a policy statement on contraception “very shortly.” He later walked back his earlier comments, saying they had been misinterpreted.

On May 19 the same judge who tried to remove mifepristone from the market by rescinding the FDA approval of it, Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, blocked the Biden administration from implementing a new rule that requires sellers at gun shows and online to get licenses and conduct background checks. The rule closes what’s known as the “gun show loophole.” According to the Penn State McCourtney Institute for Democracy, 86% of Americans want mandatory background checks for all gun purchases. 

Trump himself is a problem for the party. His base is absolutely loyal, but he is a deeply problematic candidate for anyone else. As Susan Glasser outlined in the New Yorker yesterday, in the past week he chickened out of testifying in his ongoing criminal trial for paying hush money to an adult film actress to keep damaging information from voters in 2016 after insisting for weeks that he would. He talked about staying in office for a third term, ran a video promising that the United States will become a “unified Reich” when he wins reelection, and accused President Joe Biden of trying to have him assassinated. He will be 78 in a few weeks and is having trouble speaking.

In addition to his ongoing criminal trial, on Tuesday a filing unsealed in the case of Trump’s retention of classified documents showed that a federal judge, Beryl Howell, believed investigators had “strong evidence” that Trump “intended” to hide those documents from the federal government.

Also revealed were new photographs of Trump’s personal aide Walt Nauta moving document boxes before one of Trump’s lawyers arrived to review what Trump had, along with the information that once Trump realized that the men moving the boxes could be captured on Mar-a-Lago’s security cameras, he allegedly made sure they would avoid the cameras. The new details suggest that prosecutors have more evidence than has been made public. 

This might explain why, as Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley of Rolling Stone reported today, Trump is pressuring Republicans to pass a law shielding presidents from prosecution in state or local courts, moving prosecutions to federal courts where a president could stop them.

Yesterday, Marilyn W. Thompson of ProPublica reported on yet another potentially harmful legal story. There were a number of discrimination and harassment complaints made against the Trump campaign in 2016 and 2020 that Trump tried to keep quiet with nondisclosure agreements. A federal magistrate judge has ordered the Trump campaign to produce a list of the complaints by May 31. Those complaints include the charge that the 2016 campaign paid women less than men and that Trump kissed a woman without her consent. 

Trump’s current behavior is not likely to reassure voters. 

Yesterday he wrote on social media that “Evan Gershkovich, the Reporter from The Wall Street Journal, who is being held by Russia, will be released almost immediately after the Election, but definitely before I assume Office. He will be HOME, SAFE, AND WITH HIS FAMILY. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, will do that for me, but not for anyone else, and WE WILL BE PAYING NOTHING!”

There is no good interpretation of this post. If Trump does have that sort of leverage with Putin, why? And why not use it immediately? Is he openly signaling to Putin to ignore the Biden administration’s ongoing negotiations for Gershkovich’s release? Trevor Reed, who was arrested in Russia in 2019 when visiting his girlfriend in Moscow, noted: “As a former wrongful detainee in Russia, I would just like to remind everyone that President Trump had the ability to get myself and Paul Whelan out of Russia for years and chose not to. I would be skeptical of any claims about getting Evan Gershkovich back in a day.”  

Reed was freed in 2022 as part of a prisoner swap arranged by the Biden administration. 

Last night, at a rally in New York, Trump accepted the endorsement of alleged gang members, rappers Michael Williams (Sheff G) and Tegan Chambers (Sleepy Hallow). In 2023 the two men were indicted with 30 other people on 140 counts, including murder, attempted murder, illegal possession of firearms, and at least a dozen shootings. Sheff G was released from jail in April after posting a $1.5 million bond. 

Then, Trump’s people claimed that 25,000 people turned out for the rally, but they requested a permit for only 3,500, and only 3,400 tickets were issued. Aerial shots suggest there were 800–1,500 people there. 

MAGA voters don’t care about any of this, apparently, but non-MAGA Republicans and Independents do. And this might be behind Haley’s promise to vote for Trump. The unpopularity of the MAGA faction might allow Haley to step in if Trump crashes and burns, so long as she kowtows to Trump and his base. Or it might be calculated to try to repair the rift in hopes that the party can cobble together some kind of unity by November. As The Shallow State noted on X, Haley’s announcement showed that “Trump is fragile.”

But Haley’s statement that she will vote for Trump does not necessarily mean her voters will follow her. Deputy political director for the Biden campaign Juan Peñalosa met with Haley supporters in a prescheduled zoom call hours after Haley’s announcement. On Thursday afternoon the campaign issued a press release titled: “To Haley Voters: There’s a Home For You on Team Biden-Harris.”

MAGA Republicans know their agenda is unpopular, and they are working to seize power through voter suppression, violence, gerrymandering, and packing the legal system. But there are signs a bipartisan defense of democracy may be gathering strength.  

Notes:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/nikki-haley-says-she-will-vote-for-trump/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/nikki-haley-announcement-2024-race-donald-trump-south-carolina/

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/haley-shes-dropping-feel-kiss-ring-trump/story?id=107370200

https://meidasnews.com/news/trump-accepts-endorsement-from-indicted-gang-members

https://newrepublic.com/post/181931/maga-spin-trump-bronx-rally-size

https://blog.lime.link/visualizing-crowd-sizes/

https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/fact-sheet/public-opinion-on-abortion/

https://www.politico.com/news/2024/05/23/louisiana-abortion-pill-criminal-penalties-00159735

https://time.com/6977434/birth-control-contraception-access-griswold-threat/

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/26/us/politics/republicans-birth-control-ivf.html

https://apnews.com/article/trump-contraception-birth-control-abortion-2024-8f73bb1b3a5864b24157f15eb272a3e6

https://www.vox.com/scotus/2024/3/26/24112540/supreme-court-mifepristone-fda-alliance-hippocratic-medicine-abortion-pills

https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-judge-blocks-biden-backed-rule-expanding-gun-background-checks-2024-05-20/

https://missouriindependent.com/briefs/new-rule-to-close-gun-show-loophole-finalized-by-biden-administration/

https://www.mprnews.org/story/2023/07/25/poll-majority–support-universal-background-checks-gun-licensing-assault-weapons-ban

https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-bidens-washington/there-is-literally-nothing-trump-can-say-that-will-stop-republicans-from-voting-for-him

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/trump-republicans-pass-law-jail-1235027139/

https://www.politico.com/newsletters/playbook/2024/05/10/maga-mike-vs-speaker-johnson-00157258

https://abcnews.go.com/International/trevor-reed-american-freed-russia-prisoner-swap-hurt/story?id=101641167

https://www.propublica.org/article/trump-campaign-harassment-bullying-lawsuits

https://www.cnn.com/2024/05/21/politics/mar-a-lago-documents-walt-nauta-donald-trump/index.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/05/21/trump-florida-classified-documents-motions/

https://www.cnn.com/2024/05/23/politics/nikki-haley-biden-trump/index.html

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Could Trump Turn the Bronx Red? Olivia Reingold

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Former president Donald Trump greets supporters at his rally in the Bronx’s Crotona Park on Thursday, May 23, 2024. (Jabin Botsford via Getty Images)

In an overgrown field in the Bronx, a borough that has not voted red in a presidential election since 1924, Orthodox Jews, fraternity brothers, George Santos, Dominican immigrants, off-duty firefighters, and thousands of others are craning their necks for a view of Donald J. Trump. 

“Thank you, thank you,” Trump mouths to the crowd over the tune of “God Bless the USA.” 

He strides up to the podium, in a breeze that rattles the American flags behind him but is no match for his frozen blond quiff. Thousands of hands spring into the air, pumping rhythmically to chants of “U! S! A!”

“Hello, New York City, and hello to all the incredible tough, strong, hardworking American patriots right here in the Bronx,” roars the former president. “Who would think—who would think?”

Who would think, indeed. Not Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, who for the past five weeks has been trying to pin a felony conviction on Trump involving hush money he allegedly gave to a porn star. Two days earlier, Trump had shuffled out of the courtroom, quiet except for a quick interview where he told reporters, “Remember. . . I’m not allowed to say what I’d really like to say,” referring to the gag order barring him from publicly commenting on the case. 

“Hello, New York City, and hello to all the incredible tough, strong, hardworking American patriots right here in the Bronx,” roared the former president. “Who would think—who would think?” (Jim Watson via Getty Images)

But now, in front of a sea of at least 8,000 in Crotona Park, the prospect of becoming a convicted felon seems far from Trump’s mind. “We are going to turn New York City around, and we are going to turn it around very, very quickly!” he proclaims to cheers from the crowd.

Though New Yorkers are famously Democratic, more of them seem to be warming to Trump’s America First message. Perhaps it’s the rising crime, or the migrants who are increasingly begging in the streets, or the fact that it now takes a family of four at least $318,000 a year to live here. Whatever it is, according to a Siena College poll this month, Joe Biden has lost 20 points in New York City, compared to his 2020 victory when he won 76 percent of the vote in Trump’s hometown. Meanwhile, Trump is up seven points, with Biden’s lead cut to single digits in the 2024 race for president.

One New Yorker who needed no convincing is John Wang, a 44-year-old acupuncturist born in China who became a U.S. citizen in 2011 and has already voted for Trump twice. He says people like him—Trump voters—are the “silent majority.” He brought along his 7-year-old son, who played in the grass with a fake million-dollar bill bearing the face of the billionaire from Queens.

“I’m from communism, I know how bad it is,” says John Wang, a 44-year-old acupuncturist born in China who became a U.S. citizen in 2011. “Now I feel like here is getting like China.” (Photo by Olivia Reingold for The Free Press)

“He was born in Manhattan,” says Wang of his son, who can name every single American president throughout history, in order. “Then we moved to Queens, and by the time I had my third child, we moved to Long Island ’cause you can’t live in the city anymore—it’s too dangerous.”

Wang says he was sick of worrying about getting pushed onto the subway tracks, which is exactly how one New Yorker died in March, allegedly shoved by a perpetrator with a violent past who was out on bail. Wang, who enlisted in the Marine Corps in order to become a citizen, tells me he was drawn to the U.S. because it would allow him to openly practice his Christian faith. Now, he’s troubled by the media, which “tells people Donald Trump is a dictator,” and by the anti-Israel mobs who cover their faces and “don’t know what they’re screaming for.”

“I’m from communism, I know how bad it is,” says Wang, wearing a bright red MAGA hat and work boots stamped with the Stars and Stripes. “Now I feel like here is getting like China.”

Top Democrats thought this wouldn’t happen on their turf. The morning of the rally, Rep. Ritchie Torres, who represents the portion of the South Bronx that includes Crotona Park, told an MSNBC panel that he’s “confident that the people of the Bronx are not going to buy the snake oil he’s selling.” U.S. House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also told a local affiliate that Trump could not “trick” Bronx residents into supporting him. “It is truly an embarrassment to him, and I am looking forward to the response of everyday Bronxites talking about how they feel about him coming to their backyard,” said the congresswoman, whose district is east of the park.

But the people of the Bronx—and New Jersey, and Queens, and Long Island, and upstate New York, many of whom traveled miles to come see the former president whip the crowd into a frenzy—told me otherwise. 

Adam Solis, a 33-year-old who’s half-Dominican and half–Puerto Rican, says AOC does not represent even “one percent” of the values of the Bronx, where he’s lived his entire life. 

“A lot of the morals and the traditions that come out of the Bronx have always been right-leaning and conservative,” he says, his two diamond earrings glistening in the sun. “We all believe in God here in the Bronx, we believe in tradition, we believe in family values, the nuclear family—these are all pillars of our existence.”

Trump supporters in the Bronx chant “U! S! A!” (Spencer Platt via Getty Images)

I hear members of the crowd murmuring in multiple languages—Spanish, Chinese, Hebrew, and possibly Portuguese. “Ay, dios mío,” gasps one middle-aged woman, her enormous false eyelashes peeking from beneath the brim of a MAGA hat. Deeper into the crowd, a twentysomething woman perches on a man’s shoulders as if at a music festival, calling out in ecstasy: “Weeee love yooooou, Trump.” When Trump mentions New York, a redheaded boy cups his hands around his red cheeks to scream, “Yeah Trump, turn it red!”

While most other rallygoers are screaming at the top of their lungs, Samuel Heath-Quashie is less starstruck. Still, come November, the black 19-year-old student at Bergen Community College in New Jersey tells me he plans to cast his first-ever vote for Trump.

“It’s not like I look up to him like he’s my god,” the teen shrugs. “He’s a man—he does things I don’t agree with. But so does Biden, and at the end of the day, I want someone who’s going to help the American people.” 

One day, he says, he hopes to move out of his parents’ home in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, but inflation has tanked those dreams. When I ask him if he’s found any apartments he’d be able to afford, he says, “Yeah—they’re not good. They have mold and they have bugs.” He pauses, grimacing. “And I don’t like mold or bugs.” 

“A lot of the morals and the traditions that come out of the Bronx have always been right-leaning and conservative,” said Adam Solis, 33. (Selcuk Acar via Getty Images)

Across the lawn, I find Mika Kol wandering around, asking if anyone has a lighter she can borrow. She’s wearing micro jeans shorts and a hat bearing the legend “I <3 Jesus,” and I assume she’s a Fashion Institute of Technology student. Close: she tells me she’s an online seller of vintage designer clothes under the alias “trustfundgoth.”

“I voted for Biden last time because I thought it would make my mom happy, and she pays my bills,” shrugs Kol, 25, who tells me she is a Jew of Iraqi heritage born in Texas. 

She said she started having second thoughts during the summer of 2020, when other fashion sellers pressured her to give ten percent of her profits to Black Lives Matter, which she calls “Fraud, Inc.” “All that social pressure made me feel like, you know what, I can’t stand woke people. They’re just holding the left hostage.”

And then she realized: “I could say whatever I want around conservative people, and they’ll just be happy that I’m there.”

When I exit the park, I happen upon dozens of police officers in riot gear. Young men and women—draped in keffiyehs and many in N95 masks—are standing behind them on a giant rock, shaking a sign that says, “Fuck Trump / Fuck Biden / The people of the Bronx / We run this shit.”

Anti-Trump protesters gather outside the rally. “It’s just wasteful energy,” said Youssef Naim, 24, of the demonstrators. “Trump is going to win, for sure.” (Stephanie Keith via Getty Images)

“They don’t give a fuck about you,” the protesters chant at the Trump crowd, clapping between words. 

I ask a young man, standing next to me, dressed all in black, what he thinks of the scene. 

“It’s just wasteful energy,” says the man, who introduced himself as Youssef Naim, 24. He said no matter how loud the protesters chant, “Trump is going to win, for sure.”

“And that’s not me saying that’s because he’s a better person—that’s because of a multitude of things,” says Naim, an art teacher who adds that he’s nonetheless leaning toward voting for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. 

But he has no trouble explaining Trump’s appeal: “A lot of people had this experience that they did better when Trump was in office, paired with Biden shitting himself and having dementia.” 

I ask him if the protesters, who are now marching toward the subway, see what he sees, that the former president could actually become the sitting president once again. 

“Half of them probably don’t. The other half are here because their friends are here, and then a select few just don’t want to admit it.”

Olivia Reingold is a field reporter at The Free Press. Follow her on X @Olivia_Reingold and read her piece “They’re Black Democrats. And They’re Suing Chicago Over Migrants.” 

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What If Raising Awareness Doesn’t Help? Suzy Weiss

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“I was walking up the terminal in Newark airport early in the morning recently when I walked past a gate that had been festooned with mylar balloons spelling out ‘Autism Awareness.’” (Image via X, illustration by The Free Press)

Mark your calendars, because July is Fibroid Awareness Month. Maybe you already celebrated National Fibroid Awareness Week—yes, there is both a month and a week—which starts in mid-April and, little-known fact, overlaps with National Infertility Awareness Week. In April, we’re also meant to have awareness for foot health, stress, irritable bowel syndrome, congenital diaphragmatic hernias, STIs, Parkinson’s, limb loss, and frogs

It’s easy to dismiss these holidays as marketing ploys, or the purview of bloated HR departments in search of new excuses to send emails. But look closely and you’ll notice that the mission of Raising Awareness, along with its cousin, Ending Stigma—we often Raise Awareness to End Stigma—has carved into our popular culture a huge place for itself. 

Still, there are a lot of emails. 

A search of my inbox surfaces calls to raise awareness for mental health (which gets its own month, May), veterans’ experiences, guns, epilepsy, and antisemitism.

To raise awareness for domestic violence, a building in downtown Pittsburgh was lit with purple lights. A bakery I like encouraged me to buy pink macarons for breast cancer awareness. I was walking up the terminal in Newark airport early in the morning recently when I walked past a gate that had been festooned with Mylar balloons spelling out “Autism Awareness.” It was 6 a.m. The gate was empty. Travelers, autistic and not, had presumably shoved off to their destination. 

“Tourette awareness” is something I’ve learned about thanks to Baylen Dupree, a TikToker I follow along with 9 million other people, who posts videos of her involuntary tics. I’m not picking on Dupree: she’s just one voice in a massive chorus of chronic illness sufferers who display their symptoms—this part is often referred to as a “journey”—to the world on social media. The goal—say it with me now—is to raise awareness for their conditions. 

Awareness is a big tent. Under awareness goes anything wacky, intimate, perverse, or otherwise eye-catching that allows you to accrue followers who you can then sell things to. A running influencer who spreads awareness about chronic illness, specifically Epstein-Barr, swears by Better Nature Tempeh. Brittney Mahomes hawks Auvi-Q, an EpiPen approved for toddlers, while raising awareness about food allergies. “Disabled Eliza” uses a duster made by Flash

It’s not a coincidence that the most shocking conditions get the most eyeballs. Perhaps we tell ourselves it’s “consciousness-raising” or “bringing visibility to an issue” or “using our influence,” but let’s be real: it’s voyeurism with a built-in pardon. Being authentic, finding community, and ending stigmas are, on the surface, good things. The internet is for everyone—no one should be judged, much less punished for, things they can’t control, whether it’s a rare blood disorder or a deformity or a disability. People can and do share whatever they want online, but it’s worth noting when authenticity demands intimate details for twisted incentives.

I am not proud to report that I was recently served up a video on Instagram Reels of a cute girl named Hannah. Hannah is an 8-year-old who suffers from a new-ish eating disorder—it was introduced to the DSM in 2013—called AFRID, or avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder. She is a clinically picky eater whose “safe foods” include Goldfish crackers and string cheese and whose “fear foods” include guacamole, spaghetti, applesauce, and cucumbers. The video showed Hannah trying mashed potatoes for the first time. She said the bowl of food made her “uneasy” before spooning three incredibly tiny bites into her mouth, which made her gag and nearly cry. 

A YouTube video explaining Hannah’s journey to a diagnosis—which includes her mother sharing her height and weight—is festooned with hashtags including #arfidawareness, #eatingdisorderawareness, #autismawareness, #mentalhealthawareness, and, at the end, simply #awareness. 

I watched a few more short videos—she tried a plum, orange Jell-O—before I stopped myself: Why in the world am I watching a child that I don’t know struggle through eating a honeydew? Why is anyone watching this? 

The comments included notes from cheering teens, nosy moms, judgy nutritionists, and perverted men. There are hundreds of comments. Hannah isn’t a niche internet oddity. She has 1.4 million followers. She went on Good Morning America, where she told the host, “Whenever I try food I think about all the people that I’m helping.” She added, “It motivates me.” But becoming well should be its own reward, something judged by parents and doctors and therapists.

ARFID is not well known, so until the proper research can be done and more resources cultivated, the segment laments, “Hannah is doing what she can: raising awareness.”

Awareness hasn’t always been an excuse to gawk, or an eternally open-ended project. 

Growing up, I remember running 5Ks on Sundays for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. There were pale pink wreaths of balloons and pink bagels and many, many ribbons. There was always a woman flanked by other women on a platform announcing that some massive amount of money had been raised to put toward breast cancer research, resources, and earlier detection. They gave out pamphlets for how to self-screen for lumps. I still do examinations in the shower because of it.

But somewhere along the way, that kind of real-world awareness got surreal. 

Awareness these days doesn’t ask for much. It also doesn’t offer much. It invites you to be on your phone and just let the awareness wash over you. There used to be an ask, usually money, tied to awareness, but lately we’ve let things get loose and let awareness drift away from any end. Finding a cure for autism, diagnoses for which are booming, has become passé. The new drugs to combat obesity weren’t the result of awareness, but discovery. It’s unclear how being aware of endometriosis or limb loss or Tourette is going to help any of those people, or ourselves. We’ve let people run roughshod over our consciousness in the name of awareness. 

It’s worth asking: What are we not raising awareness for? Maybe it’s the influence of Big Pharma on our increasingly sick lives and of Big Tech on our increasingly corrupted ways of dealing with it. 

I hope fibroids and frogs and IBS get proper research funding. I hope Hannah—the little girl searching for more foods to add to her safe list—gets better. But I wonder if she is destined to join the fight for children’s internet privacy, or if one day she’ll be declared cured and allowed to retire the Instagram page and fade away into normalcy, or if she’ll keep on trying to find new safe foods, in front of her followers, forever.

Suzy Weiss is a reporter at The Free Press. Read her piece, “Hurkle-Durkle Is the New Way to Self-Care Ourselves to Death,” and follow her on X @SnoozyWeiss.

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