4 takeaways from the new Republican Party platform — or Trump’s playbook

“The party is leaving abortion up to the states, to decide how to rule on the contentious issue. The platform also takes credit for overturning Roe vs. Wade, the long-standing Supreme Court case that allowed abortions nationwide.”


The Republican Party’s man inside the Supreme Court

“The morning before the Times published its flag scoop, for example, Alito published a dissenting opinion claiming that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the brainchild of Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, was unconstitutional. The opinion was so poorly reasoned that Justice Clarence Thomas, ordinarily an ally of far-right causes, mocked Alito’s opinion for “winding its way through English, Colonial, and early American history” without ever connecting that history to anything that’s actually in the Constitution.”

“Alito has long been the justice most skeptical of free speech arguments — he was the sole dissenter in two Obama-era decisions establishing that even extraordinarily offensive speech is protected by the First Amendment — but this skepticism evaporates the minute a Republican claims that they are being censored. Among other things, Alito voted to let Texas’s Republican legislature seize control over content moderation at sites like Twitter and YouTube, then tried to prohibit the Biden administration from asking those same sites to voluntarily remove content from anti-vaxxers and election deniers.
Alito frequently mocks his colleagues, even fellow Republicans, when they attribute government policies to anti-Black racism. After Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in a 2020 opinion that the states of Louisiana and Oregon allowed non-unanimous juries to convict felony defendants more than a century ago to dilute the influence of Black jurors, Alito was livid, ranting in dissent: “To add insult to injury, the Court tars Louisiana and Oregon with the charge of racism.”

Yet while Alito denies that racism might have motivated Louisiana’s Jim Crow lawmakers in the late 19th century, he brims with empathy for white plaintiffs who claim to be victims of racism. When a white firefighter alleged that he was denied a promotion because of his race, Alito was quick to tie this decision to the local mayor’s fear that he “would incur the wrath of … influential leaders of New Haven’s African-American community” if the city didn’t promote more non-white firefighters.

Empirical data shows that Alito is the most pro-prosecution justice on the Supreme Court, voting in favor of criminal defendants only 20 percent of the time. But he’s tripped over himself to protect one criminal defendant in particular: Donald Trump. An empirical analysis of the Court’s “standing” decisions — cases asking whether the federal courts have jurisdiction over a particular dispute — found that Alito rules in favor of conservative litigants 100 percent of the time, and against liberal litigants in every single case.”

“Today’s headlines are peppered with names like Aileen Cannon, the judge overseeing Trump’s stolen documents trial who has also behaved like a member of Trump’s defense team, or Matthew Kacsmaryk, the former Christian right litigator who’s been willing to rubber stamp virtually any request for a court order filed by a Republican. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the powerful federal court that oversees appeals out of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, is now a bastion of Alito-like partisans who treat laws and precedents that undermine the GOP’s policy goals as mere inconveniences to be struck down or ignored.

These are the sorts of judicial appointees who would likely appeal to a second-term Trump, as the instigator of the January 6 insurrection looks to fill the bench with judges who will not interfere with his ambitions in the same way that many judges did in his first term.

Alito — a judge with no theory of the Constitution, and no insight into how judges should read ambiguous laws, beyond his driving belief that his team should always win — is the perfect fit, in other words, for what the Republican Party has become in the age of Trump.”

“Political scientist Lee Epstein examined how often each current justice votes for a defendant’s position in criminal cases. Her data, which was first reported by NBC News, shows a fairly clear partisan divide. All three of the Court’s Democrats voted with criminal defendants in over half of the cases they heard, with former public defender Ketanji Brown Jackson favoring defendants in nearly 4 out of 5 cases. All six of the Court’s Republicans, meanwhile, vote with criminal defendants less than half the time.

But there is also a great deal of variation among the Republicans. Justice Neil Gorsuch, the most libertarian of the Court’s Republican appointees, voted with criminal defendants in 45 percent of cases. Alito, who once served as the top federal prosecutor in the state of New Jersey, is the most pro-prosecution justice, voting with criminal defendants only 20 percent of the time.

Yet Alito’s distrust for criminal defense lawyers seemed to evaporate the minute the leader of his political party became a criminal defendant. At oral arguments in Trump v. United States, the case asking whether Trump is immune from prosecution for his attempt to steal the 2020 election, Alito offered a dizzying argument for why his Court should give presidents broad immunity from criminal consequences.

If an incumbent president who “loses a very close, hotly contested election” knows that they could face prosecution, Alito claimed, “will that not lead us into a cycle that destabilizes the functioning of our country as a democracy?” Alito’s supposed concern was that a losing candidate will not “leave office peacefully” if they could be prosecuted by the incoming administration.

The problem with this argument, of course, is that Trump is a case about a president who refused to leave office peacefully. Trump even incited an insurrection at the US Capitol after he lost his reelection bid.

Similarly, in Fischer v. United States, a case asking whether January 6 insurrectionists can be charged under a statute making it a crime to obstruct an official proceeding, Alito peppered Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar with concerns that, if the January 6 defendants can be convicted under this law, that could someday lead to overly aggressive prosecutions of political protesters. At one point, Alito even took the side of a hypothetical heckler who starts screaming in the middle of a Supreme Court argument and is later charged with obstructing the proceeding.

Alito can also set aside his pro-prosecution instincts in cases involving right-wing causes such as gun rights. At oral arguments in United States v. Rahimi, for example, Alito was one of the only justices who appeared open to a lower court’s ruling that people subject to domestic violence restraining orders have a Second Amendment right to own a gun. Indeed, many of Alito’s questions echoed so-called men’s rights advocates, who complain that judges unthinkingly issue these restraining orders without investigating the facts of a particular case.”

“In order to bring a federal lawsuit, a plaintiff must show that they were injured in some way by the defendant they wish to sue — a requirement known as “standing.” Unikowsky looked at 10 years’ worth of Supreme Court standing cases, first classifying each case as one where a “conservative” litigant brought a lawsuit, or as one where a “progressive” litigant filed suit. He then looked at how every current justice voted.

Nearly every justice sometimes voted against their political views — Thomas, for example, voted four times that a conservative litigant lacked standing and twice voted in favor of a progressive litigant. Alito, however, was the exception. In all six cases brought by a conservative, Alito voted for the suit to move forward. Meanwhile, in all 10 cases brought by a progressive, Alito voted to deny standing.”

“Some of Alito’s standing opinions are genuinely embarrassing. The worst is his dissent in California v. Texas (2021), one of the four cases where Thomas voted to deny standing to a conservative litigant.

Texas was the third of three Supreme Court cases attempting to destroy the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment. But even many high-profile Republicans found this lawsuit humiliating. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board labeled this case the “Texas Obamacare Blunder.” Conservative policy wonk Yuval Levin wrote in the National Review that Texas “doesn’t even merit being called silly. It’s ridiculous.”

As originally drafted, Obamacare required most Americans to pay higher taxes if they did not obtain health insurance. In 2017, however, Congress eliminated this tax by zeroing it out. The Texas plaintiffs claimed that this zero-dollar tax was unconstitutional, and that the proper remedy was that the Affordable Care Act must be repealed in its entirety.

No one is allowed to bring a federal lawsuit unless they can show that they’ve been injured in some way. A zero-dollar tax obviously injures no one, because it doesn’t require anyone to pay anything. And so seven justices concluded that the Texas lawsuit must be tossed out.

Alito dissented. While it is difficult to summarize his convoluted reasoning concisely, he essentially argued that, even if the zero-dollar tax did not injure these plaintiffs, they were injured by various other provisions of Obamacare and thus had standing.

This is simply not how standing works — a litigant cannot manufacture standing to challenge one provision of federal law by claiming they are injured by another, completely different provision of federal law. As Jonathan Adler, one of the architects of a different Supreme Court suit attacking Obamacare, wrote of Alito’s opinion, “standing simply cannot work the way that Justice Alito wants it to” because, if it did, “it would become child’s play to challenge every provision of every major federal law so long as some constitutional infirmity could be located somewhere within the statute’s text.”

Alito’s Texas opinion, in other words, would allow virtually anyone to challenge any major federal law, eviscerating the requirement that someone must actually be injured by a law before they can file a federal lawsuit against it. Needless to say, Alito does not take such a blasé attitude toward standing when left-leaning litigants appear in his Court. But, when handed a lawsuit that could sabotage Obama’s legacy, Alito was willing to waive one of the most well-established checks on judicial power so that he could invalidate the keystone of that legacy.”


Why Johnson is stuck with threats to end his speakership

“Speaker Mike Johnson will likely escape Marjorie Taylor Greene’s first attempt to fire him. The threat of an ouster vote will still haunt him all year long.
Despite near-universal consensus in the House that allowing any one member to force a snap vote on booting a speaker is a recipe for chaos, lawmakers in both parties are increasingly acknowledging that they have almost no chance of changing that rule before January.

It’s not for a lack of interest — in fact, the idea was brought up in GOP meetings as recently as this week. But Johnson is boxed in from both sides. He can’t change the rules with only Republican votes because of the rebels on his right flank, who insisted that former Speaker Kevin McCarthy empower them by allowing a single lawmaker to force a vote of no confidence.

And Democrats, while they’re ready to save him from Greene’s (R-Ga.) first ejection attempt next week, are clear that their mercy won’t necessarily be permanent if the Georgia firebrand, or someone else, tries again. They also have little political incentive to give Johnson more permanent protection, unless he opens up broader negotiations about potential power sharing in the House. That price is too steep for the speaker to pay.”


The State Superintendent at the Forefront of the GOP’s Education Crusade

“Walters has tried to use his office to back a courtroom battle over the nation’s first public religious charter school — a Catholic institution that would be financed by taxpayers but free to teach, enroll and expel students based on faith-based doctrines just like a private parochial school.”


The Surprising Takeaway From My Survey on How Trump Got a Grip on the GOP Grassroots

“Last February, the county chairs were less supportive of Trump than Republican primary voters as a whole. Yet as time went on, and Trump consolidated support among rank-and-file voters, the chairs fell in line. It’s a reflection of the state of the GOP that has existed since 2016 when Trump first snatched the nomination away from the establishment and took over the Republican Party.
In the pre-Trump era, GOP leaders clearly played more of a role in steering the direction of the party. The 2012 campaign is instructive: Many different candidates were briefly the favorites of rank-and-file Republican voters, from Rick Perry to Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich to Rick Santorum. But throughout the cycle, party elites’ money and endorsements stayed focused on Mitt Romney, and that’s who got the nomination. This year’s ongoing survey of county chairs illustrates how Republican elites are now more responsive to the grassroots rather than the other way around — either because they lack the interest or the ability to do anything else.”


House Republicans had a bad day

“It was the last vote for Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., the conservative hard-liner who was all but banished from the party after he insisted that its leaders stop spreading lies about the 2020 election and accept that former President Donald Trump lost. He resigned from Congress on Friday, leaving his seat empty for now.

Buck voted “no” on the spending bill, and said he’d have voted “hell no” if possible. But despite his unassailable fiscal conservative credentials, he lost his stature on the right for insisting his party reject the stolen-election claims, reflecting a new litmus test.”


Loyalty is a one-way street in Donald Trump’s GOP. Just ask Ronna McDaniel

“Like the party itself, McDaniel made changes and accommodations to aid and ally with Trump. Much has been written about her decision to drop her maiden name, Romney, at Trump’s behest. But the more consequential choice McDaniel made was to help move the party away from its establishment bearing — from which she herself came — into one that echoed Trump’s political fancies. She stood by him even after he threatened to form his own party, spread conspiracies about widespread fraud, lost the 2020 election and then attempted to overturn those results.”


Sen. Lankford says a ‘popular commentator’ threatened to ‘do whatever I can to destroy you’ if he negotiated a border deal during a presidential election year

“Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma spoke on Wednesday about the political challenges he’s encountered while serving as the top GOP negotiator on a bipartisan border security deal.
In a speech shortly before the expected failure of the deal, Lankford bemoaned the fact that some fellow Republicans were objecting to the bill for purely political reasons.

“Some of them have been very clear with me,” Lankford said of his GOP colleagues, “they have political differences with the bill. They say it’s the wrong time to solve the problem. We’ll let the presidential election solve this problem.”

Lankford went on to say that a “popular commentator” — without naming any names — threatened to “destroy” him if he negotiated the deal during a presidential election year, regardless of what was in it.

“I will do whatever I can to destroy you, because I do not want you to solve this during the presidential election,” Lankford recounted the commentator saying.

“By the way, they have been faithful to their promise, and have done everything they can to destroy me,” he added.”