The Briefing, Vol. VI, Issue 29

The Briefing, Vol. VI, Issue 29

This week:

  • #AbolishICE is causing headaches for Dems
  • How a post-Kennedy court could change America, part two
  • Republicans still favored to keep the Senate

#AbolishICE: The nomination of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has Americans wondering whether the Democratic Party is succumbing to socialism. That’s a question that probably won’t be squared away for another decade at least. But the more immediate question is whether they’ve moved too far to the left to win right now.

Historically speaking, harsh immigration policy has not usually been a winner for Republicans in midterm elections. In 2006, it generally served as the mark of a losing campaign for Republican candidates in winnable races.

But Democrats may have found a way in 2018 to make it a winner for their opponents: Just call for the abolition of all immigration enforcement.

That question lines up pretty well with the now-trendy Democratic push to abolish the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division. The far left supports it, but other Democrats feel the pressure to do so as well, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., one of the more moderate candidates putatively jockeying for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

It’s a problem for Democrats, because the available polling suggests that a two-to-one majority opposes any such thing. Not everyone is Trump on immigration, but most people are closer to him than they are to a philosophy of abolishing all enforcement.

Left-wing House Democrats proposed a bill last week to abolish ICE. The move backfired mightily when House Republicans promised to bring it to the floor for a vote. In response, the very drafters and sponsors promised to vote against their own bill.

Granted, Republicans are at odds over holding such a vote — it would give many Democrats a chance to distance themselves from the “abolish ICE” idea. But it gives some idea of how toxic the issue is — even someone as radical as Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., who represents Madison, sees that his bill will sink Democrats who vote for it, and understands that it’s better to come out against his own bill than to push for a clean up-or-down vote.

Supreme Court: Fifty years ago, a liberal activist Supreme Court began a dramatic transformation of America that aimed not only at its law but also at its values. Conservatives have long looked forward to the day when they could change the court fundamentally, appointing the justices who would stop if not reverse that process.

Last week, President Trump selected Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a former Bush administration aide, to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. It was an apparent vindication of the conservatives who voted for Trump, overcoming their reservations about his philosophy and his character, on the grounds that his judicial appointments could well save America. This was, in shorthand, the “But Judges” argument for Trump.

Kavanaugh’s appointment may be just the opportunity conservatives have long waited for. This week, we take an ongoing look at key rulings and precedents that could now change after Kennedy, and how America could change as a result.

Affirmative Action: Justice Kennedy ruled along with the Supreme Court’s liberal bloc in 2016 to uphold the continued use of affirmative action in college admissions by state schools. That ruling will be very much in danger once he has been replaced.

A related (though not identical) case goes to trial this fall over private university admissions. Asian students are suing Harvard, claiming the elite school systematically discriminates against them with affirmative action programs. The programs are used in part to avoid admitting too many Asians because of their superior grades and test scores.

It’s not immediately obvious what sort of effect an end to affirmative action might have on the nation’s politics. It could conceivably generate and angry opposite reaction, but it could also help counteract the increasingly popular left-wing argument that all decisions and choices in life and society should and must be viewed through the prism of race.

A less racialized politics — like that of the 1990s or early 2000s, let’s say — remains a true possibility for the U.S., in spite of all efforts at both political extremes to shift things toward hyper-racialism.

This is especially true as the last Americans with any firsthand memory of life under Jim Crow are dying. A new generation is coming up that was mostly properly taught to ignore race. And as bad as unjustified police shootings are, they don’t really stack up to the harsh, systemic discrimination that once characterized American life, and which  in much of the U.S. 60 years ago.

Roe and funding the Left: Brett Kavanaugh, as Justice Kennedy’s replacement, is considered likely to be part of a majority that overturns the Roe v. Wade abortion decision and its progeny — especially Casey v. Planned Parenthood, which Kennedy wrote. It’s not inevitable, but it is quite possible. What will it mean? It won’t mean an end to abortion — that’s a battle that will have to be fought at the state level — but it will cut a lot of left-wing groups off from government funding that they have come to depend on.

It’s obviously not the job of the judiciary to spend money. But for a long time, federal judges have stood in the way of state legislatures that wanted to defund the Left.

If Roe is overturned, abortion will still be legal in most places. Some states will ban it, and some will regulate it more strictly without fear of a court override. As with most issues in democratic societies, majorities will be able to regulate abortion the same way they regulate smoking or the use of plastic grocery bags or the minimum wage or whatever else you like.

But here’s the kicker: Although some Red states will not ban abortion, nearly all of them will at least defund abortion by pulling various funding streams from practitioners and organizations that perform abortions. Again, the courts have largely prevented this until now, but that’s probably a thing of the past if Roe vanishes. And that will have big political implications that go way beyond just the abortion issue itself.

Consider how this year, the Trump administration moved to cut off a stream of family planning aid that had been going to abortionists since the Clinton era. This caused quite a hue and cry, and lawsuits have been filed in response. But once the constitutional issues around abortion disappear, this sort of thing will become a lot more common. States will be able to cut abortionists out of bigger pies than that one, if their legislatures choose to do so.

States will set requirements for Medicaid that exclude abortionists without fear — something Arkansas has tried to do and has been forced to defend in court repeatedly. In a post-Roe world, Title X and a variety of other programs will no longer funnel money to abortion groups in many states. The financial loss, to put it bluntly, will be more than a shrinking abortion industry is ready for. The effect will be to force the social-issues Left to fund its own abortionists, and that will affect how other money is used in politics.

Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortionist, receives about half a billion dollars a year from various levels of government for various purposes. This cannot directly be used in politics, but it puts them in a position to be very active in politics. If it disappears, someone else will have to make up the lost funding.

At the expense of what other cause or candidacy will it be diverted? For example, will this come at the expense of the money that currently goes into direct or PAC contributions to bail out the likes of Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. in her Missouri Senate race? Will that or SuperPAC money have to be used to prop up Planned Parenthood’s daily operations instead? Will new, big donors have to get involved to help Big Abortion? Will the politicians see their funding reduced? It’s all an open question, and one that has to make conservatives of all stripes smile.

Senate 2018

Florida: Despite not having put any of his own money into the race yet, Gov. Rick Scott outraised his incumbent opponent, Sen. Bill Nelson, D, more than two-to-one in the second quarter. Scott raised $10.7 million, all from other people or PACs, compared to Nelson’s $4.4 million.

Scott’s small but significant lead in the polls is a true testament to Nelson’s lackadaisical campaign effort so far, and vindicates President Trump’s call for Scott to run for the seat. Republicans’ greatest accomplishment so far in this election cycle has been to put this previously impetrenetrable seat not only into play, but into serious doubt for Democrats.

Indiana: A new Axios poll has Mike Braun narrowly leading Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., 49 to 47 percent. The finding is consistent with earlier findings from before the GOP primary, that some unnamed Republican would beat Donnelly, 51 to 45 percent.

That’s a very bad sign for Donnelly, and also a very bad sign for Democrats’ chances at taking over the Senate this fall.

Indiana is a state where Trump outperformed the typical Republican. So far, it looks like any Democratic wave will fall far short of the Hoosier State even if it drowns other states. And that’s bad news for Democrats, who need to flip two seats on net in order to take over the Senate. If they’re already underdogs in Florida, Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri, that’s a lot to overcome.