Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: GOP Candidates Offer a Collective ‘No’ on Merrick Garland

Ally Boguhn

Ohio Gov. John Kasich noted that while he thought the president shouldn’t have made a Supreme Court nomination, Republicans were also to blame for the chaos the matter has caused.

Republican presidential candidates this week reacted to President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee exactly how you might expect, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) released a plan to create an “AIDS and HIV-free generation.”

Republican Presidential Candidates React to Obama’s Supreme Court Nomination

Republican senators weren’t the only party members vowing to oppose Obama’s Supreme Court nomination this week. GOP presidential candidates also doubled down on their charges that the next president should be the one to appoint the replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. 

Republican presidential candidates moved swiftly to denounce the president’s decision after Obama nominated D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacant seat.

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“I think the next president should make the pick. And I think they shouldn’t go forward. And I believe I’m pretty much in line with what the Republicans are saying,” Donald Trump said on CNN’s New Day ahead of Obama’s decision.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took the opportunity to again attack Trump. “A so-called ‘moderate’ Democrat nominee is precisely the kind of deal that Donald Trump has told us he would make—someone who would rule along with other liberals on the bench like Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor,” Cruz said in a statement on the nomination. “Make no mistake, if Garland were confirmed, he would side predictably with President Obama on critical issues such as undermining the Second Amendment, legalizing partial-birth abortion, and propping up overreaching bureaucratic agencies like the EPA and the IRS.”

Cruz reiterated that the Senate “should not vote on any nominee until the next president is sworn into office.”

Speaking in Pennsylvania Wednesday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) noted that while he thought the president shouldn’t have made a nomination, Republicans were also to blame for the chaos the matter has caused.

“What I felt should have happened—I don’t think the president should have sent anybody up now,” Kasich said, according to CBS News. “Because it’s not going to happen. It’s just more division. Now we have more fighting, more fighting, more fighting.”

“I think this is not good for our country. It’s a roving debate. Both sides, you know, hands are guilty. That’s where we are,” Kasich concluded.

Across the aisle, Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Sanders called on Republicans to consider Garland. 

“He has chosen a nominee with considerable experience on the bench and in public service, a brilliant legal mind, and a long history of bipartisan support and admiration,” Clinton said in a statement on the decision. “Now, it’s up to members of the Senate to meet their own, and perform the Constitutional duty they swore to undertake.”

“Judge Garland is a strong nominee with decades of experience on the bench,” Sanders said in a statement. “Refusing to hold hearings on the president’s nominee would be unprecedented. President Obama has done his job. It’s time for Republicans to do theirs.”

However, speaking on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show Thursday night, Sanders noted that while he will support Garland, “there are some more progressive judges out there” who could have been picked, and if elected, he would ask Obama to withdraw Garland’s name so he could pick a nominee of his own.

Sanders Releases Plan to “Create an AIDS and HIV-Free Generation”

Sanders on Monday released his plan to combat HIV and AIDS, promising to expand treatment and help lower drug prices.

“Today, one of the biggest problems in caring for the 1.2 million Americans living with HIV is the crisis of access to affordable drugs,” reads the plan’s introduction. “One of the great moral issues of our day is that people with HIV and AIDS are suffering and, in some cases, dying in America because they can’t afford to pay the outrageous prices being charged for the medicine they need to live.”

Among the ideas in Sanders’ plan is the establishment of a “a multibillion-dollar prize fund to incentivize drug development,” which would award $3 billion annually to innovations in HIV and AIDS therapy. Sanders promised that his universal health-care plan would include efforts to ensure insurance companies could not discriminate against those with HIV or AIDS, that he would expand mental health and addiction treatment services, and to stop trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that would increase the price of medication.

Sanders’ plan notes that there should be “prevention and treatment beyond health care,” which would include civil rights protections for LGBTQ people and those living with HIV or AIDS, as well as ensuring that schools provide “age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education and all Americans should have access to scientifically-accurate information regarding HIV infection.”

This isn’t the first time Sanders has addressed HIV and AIDS, as the Hill reported. In May 2012, Sanders called for the elimination of HIV and AIDS drug monopolies, which he suggested keep prices for treatment so high that many are forced to go without.

“The simple fact is that the prices of patent medicines are a significant barrier to access to health for millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans and people die because of it,” Sanders said at the time, before the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security.

Sanders’ proposal came just days after rival Democratic presidential candidate Clinton faced harsh criticism for praising the late President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan for having started a “a national conversation” on HIV and AIDS. Clinton later apologized for her remarks, noting a post on Medium that her assertion had been a “mistake.”

“To be clear, the Reagans did not start a national conversation about HIV and AIDS,” Clinton wrote. “That distinction belongs to generations of brave lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, along with straight allies, who started not just a conversation but a movement that continues to this day.”

What Else We’re Reading

Comedian and television host Samantha Bee had the “perfect response” to MSNBC host Joe Scarborough telling Clinton she should “smile.”

A new report from the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget found that Donald Trump’s health-care plan would leave 21 million Americans without health insurance “as the replacement health-care policies would only cover 5 percent of the 22 million individuals who would lose coverage upon the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The study found that Trump’s plan would cost between $270 billion and $500 billion over the next ten years.

In an exclusive for Fusion, Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy reports on NARAL’s new campaign to hold Trump accountable for “the way he and his campaign have targeted and victimized women,” and contrast the Republican presidential candidate with Clinton.

Cecily Hilleary outlines for Voice of America the many ways voting restrictions and barriers impact Native Americans, many of whom are unable to get proof of citizenship or residency, face language barriers, and have to make hours-long trips to get to a polling location.

“I feel empty inside. I feel like I don’t have a say in the political process. This is taxation without representation all over again. If we already paid our debt, we should be released without the bondage. But we’re being punished for a lifetime,” Harold Pendas told ThinkProgress about losing his right to vote due to a felony conviction. Florida, which had a critical primary battle on Tuesday, blocked more than 1.5 million state residents from voting this week due to the state’s felon disenfranchisement laws.

International Business Times’ Ned Resnikoff explains how a Republican brokered convention could allow mega-donors a “second chance” to push through their favorite candidate to the nomination.

Commentary Sexuality

Black Trans Liberation Tuesday Must Become an Annual Observance

Raquel Willis

As long as trans people—many of them Black trans women—continue to be murdered, there will be a need to commemorate their lives, work to prevent more deaths, and uplift Black trans activism.

This piece is published in collaboration with Echoing Ida, a Forward Together project.

This week marks one year since Black transgender activists in the United States organized Black Trans Liberation Tuesday. Held on Tuesday, August 25, the national day of action publicized Black trans experiences and memorialized 18 trans women, predominantly trans women of color, who had been murdered by this time last year.

In conjunction with the Black Lives Matter network, the effort built upon an earlier Trans Liberation Tuesday observance created by Bay Area organizations TGI Justice Project and Taja’s Coalition to recognize the fatal stabbing of 36-year-old trans Latina woman Taja DeJesus in February 2015.

Black Trans Liberation Tuesday should become an annual observance because transphobic violence and discrimination aren’t going to dissipate with one-off occurrences. I propose that Black Trans Liberation Tuesday fall on the fourth Tuesday of August to coincide with the first observance and also the August 24 birthday of the late Black trans activist Marsha P. Johnson.

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There is a continuing need to pay specific attention to Black transgender issues, and the larger Black community must be pushed to stand in solidarity with us. Last year, Black trans activists, the Black Lives Matter network, and GetEQUAL collaborated on a blueprint of what collective support looks like, discussions that led to Black Trans Liberation Tuesday.

“Patrisse Cullors [a co-founder of Black Lives Matter] had been in talks on ways to support Black trans women who had been organizing around various murders,” said Black Lives Matter Organizing Coordinator Elle Hearns of Washington, D.C. “At that time, Black trans folks had been experiencing erasure from the movement and a lack of support from cis people that we’d been in solidarity with who hadn’t reciprocated that support.”

This erasure speaks to a long history of Black LGBTQ activism going underrecognized in both the civil rights and early LGBTQ liberation movements. Many civil rights leaders bought into the idea that influential Black gay activist Bayard Rustin was unfit to be a leader simply because he had relationships with men, though he organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Johnson, who is often credited with kicking off the 1969 Stonewall riots with other trans and gender-nonconforming people of color, fought tirelessly for LGBTQ rights. She and other trans activists of color lived in poverty and danger (Johnson was found dead under suspicious circumstances in July 1992), while the white mainstream gay elite were able to demand acceptance from society. Just last year, Stonewall, a movie chronicling the riots, was released with a whitewashed retelling that centered a white, cisgender gay male protagonist.

The Black Lives Matter network has made an intentional effort to avoid the pitfalls of those earlier movements.

“Our movement has been intersectional in ways that help all people gain liberation whether they see it or not. It became a major element of the network vision and how it was seeing itself in the Black liberation movement,” Hearns said. “There was no way to discuss police brutality without discussing structural violence affecting Black lives, in general”—and that includes Black trans lives.

Despite a greater mainstream visibility for LGBTQ issues in general, Black LGBTQ issues have not taken the forefront in Black freedom struggles. When a Black cisgender heterosexual man is killed, his name trends on social media feeds and is in the headlines, but Black trans women don’t see the same importance placed on their lives.

According to a 2015 report by the Anti-Violence Project, a group dedicated to ending anti-LGBTQ and HIV-affected community violence, trans women of color account for 54 percent of all anti-LGBTQ homicides. Despite increased awareness, with at least 20 transgender people murdered since the beginning of this year, it seems things haven’t really changed at all since Black Trans Liberation Tuesday.

“There are many issues at hand when talking about Black trans issues, particularly in the South. There’s a lack of infrastructure and support in the nonprofit sector, but also within health care and other systems. Staffs at LGBTQ organizations are underfunded when it comes to explicitly reaching the trans community,” said Micky Bradford, the Atlanta-based regional organizer for TLC@SONG. “The space between towns can harbor isolation from each other, making it more difficult to build up community organizing, coalitions, and culture.”

The marginalization that Black trans people face comes from both the broader society and the Black community. Fighting white supremacy is a full-time job, and some activists within the Black Lives Matter movement see homophobia and transphobia as muddying the fight for Black liberation.

“I think we have a very special relationship with gender and gender violence to all Black people,” said Aaryn Lang, a New York City-based Black trans activist. “There’s a special type of trauma that Black people inflict on Black trans people because of how strict the box of gender and space of gender expression has been to move in for Black people. In the future of the movement, I see more people trusting that trans folks have a vision that’s as diverse as blackness is.”

But even within that diversity, Black trans people are often overlooked in movement spaces due to anti-Blackness in mainstream LGBTQ circles and transphobia in Black circles. Further, many Black trans people aren’t in the position to put energy into movement work because they are simply trying to survive and find basic resources. This can create a disconnect between various sections of the Black trans community.

Janetta Johnson, executive director of TGI Justice Project in San Francisco, thinks the solution is twofold: increased Black trans involvement and leadership in activism spaces, and more facilitated conversations between Black cis and trans people.

“I think a certain part of the transgender community kind of blocks all of this stuff out. We are saying we need you to come through this process and see how we can create strength in numbers. We need to bring in other trans people not involved in the movement,” she said. “We need to create a space where we can share views and strategies and experiences.”

Those conversations must be an ongoing process until the killings of Black trans women like Rae’Lynn Thomas, Dee Whigham, and Skye Mockabee stop.

“As we commemorate this year, we remember who and why we organized Black Trans Liberation Tuesday last year. It’s important we realize that Black trans lives are still being affected in ways that everyday people don’t realize,” Hearns said. “We must understand why movements exist and why people take extreme action to continuously interrupt the system that will gladly forget them.”

Analysis Politics

Timeline: Donald Trump’s Shifting Position on Abortion Rights

Ally Boguhn

Trump’s murky position on abortion has caused an uproar this election season as conservatives grapple with a Republican nominee whose stance on the issue has varied over time. Join Rewire for a look back at the business mogul's changing views on abortion.

For much of the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump’s seemingly ever-changing position on reproductive health care and abortion rights has continued to draw scrutiny.

Trump was “totally pro-choice” in 1999, but “pro-life” by 2011. He wanted to shut down the government to defund Planned Parenthood in August 2015, but claimed “you can’t go around and say that” about such measures two months later. He thinks Planned Parenthood does “very good work” but wants to see it lose all of its funding as long as it offers abortion care. And, perhaps most notoriously, in late March of this year Trump took multiple stances over the course of just a few hours on whether those who have abortions should be punished if it became illegal.

With the hesitancy of anti-choice groups to fully embrace Trump—and with pro-choice organizations like Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and EMILY’s List all backing his opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—it is likely his stance on abortion will remain a key election issue moving into November.

Join Rewire for a look back at the business mogul’s changing views on abortion.

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