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The Week Ahead
Good morning! Here are some of the stories I have my eye on for the coming week.
Medical Abortion. The fate of mifepristone, the FDA approved medical abortion drug used in over half of abortions nationwide, leads the stories in the week ahead. Dueling district court opinions, and an ill-conceived 5th Circuit opinion enjoining the FDA in part, emerged last week—only to be halted (temporarily) by Justice Alito, who has asked for full briefing by mid-week. Court watchers wonder whether the extremist majority on SCOTUS will use this case to overturn decades of precedent and insert the Court into matters of scientific expertise, or whether they will find a way to punt on the case, for example, by finding the plaintiffs had no standing to sue.
Fox on trial. The $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox filed by Dominion Voting Systems gets underway on Monday. The network goes in with some serious problems, chief among them 1) a ruling on partial summary judgment that Fox’s public statements about Dominion were false, and 2) a judge who has sanctioned the company for failing to turn over documents in discovery and misleading the court on the question of CEO Rupert Murdoch’s role in company. Dominion will seek to prove to a jury that Fox knew or should have known that its statements about Dominion were false, and then, provided it can demonstrate that, move on to the amount of damages the jury ought to award.
Social media curtailments. In Montana, Arkansas and Utah, state governments are moving broadly against social media, ostensibly to protect society from its harmful effects. The Montana legislature has sent a bill to the governor’s desk banning the popular app TikTok entirely from operating within the state. In Arkansas, Gov. Sarah Hukabee Sanders approved legislation requiring minors to receive parental consent in order to create a new social media account, with third-party age verification services performing age checks. This follows a similar law in Utah which takes effect in March of 2024. Other states are considering similar measures. Observers expect First Amendment challenges to the laws.
Republicans debase themselves before the NRA. The National Rifle Association held its annual conference in Indianapolis on Friday, adopting a strident tone even in the wake of the mass shootings in Kentucky and Tennessee. Republican presidential hopefuls lined up to speak and seemed to fall over themselves to sound more pro-gun and extreme than the rest. It was a troubling and often embarrassing demonstration of how captured the GOP is by the gun lobby.
DeSantis underwater. With his poll numbers dropping and a billionaire donor yanking his support over his extreme social positions, DeSantis was already having a bad week. Then Mother Nature decided to underscore the point by walloping the Ft. Lauderdale area with what some are calling a “1,000 year flood.” DeSantis was out of state campaigning at the time and did not return to assist in flood relief efforts. Not a great look. DeSantis has spoken about climate change adaption and mitigation, but has remained silent when it comes to addressing the source of the problem.
These separate stories contain a common thread. They highlight the many ways in which the GOP is deeply out of touch with voters by adopting positions and policies that have no nuance and brook no compromise or middle ground.
Got a problem with abortion, trans people, books in schools, or videos on devices? Ban them! But when it comes to deadly assault weapons at the heart of every mass shootings? They won’t do a thing.
Have a problem winning elections fair and square? Draw gerrymandered districts and suppress minority voting. Then when you still lose, spread lies about the results and undermine faith in our democracy! But ignore the actual truth, about everything from climate change to vaccines to Russian aggression, all because Fox told you it was fake news.
This is a party in deep crisis. It is one that very likely will nominate a multiple-indicted, twice-impeached con man for president. Its next option is an ambitious fascist who is following the Viktor Orbán playbook. It’s not a party of democracy, it’s so plainly now a party of autocracy.
Here’s the good news: The radical and often deadly stance of the GOP has it locked in a death spiral as its policies, positions and rhetoric pull the party farther than ever from the mainstream. Support for moderate, popular positions—e.g. abortion rights, common sense gun safety laws, equality and dignity for LGBTQs, and a rejection of election denialism—will be a decisive factor in the 2024 election, particularly as women, Gen Z and equality voters mobilize in the key battlegrounds of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona, Georgia and Nevada.
The further the GOP binds itself to radical positions and candidates, the stronger our coalition, resolve and turnout will be. We have the opportunity to use their extremism to fuel a nationwide, resounding rejection of the GOP in 2024.
Have a terrific Sunday, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow.