Opinion | The GOP’s race problem goes well beyond DeSantis

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At the end of a historic week, this week’s newsletter offers some perspective on the Republicans’ race problem, selects people of the week and shares the rediscovery of movie-watching joy.

What caught my eye

Republicans insist they are misunderstood on race. Sure, they extol Confederate generals, abhor affirmative action, feature neo-Nazis on social media, make excuses for slavery and think White people are the real victims of discrimination but, gosh darn it, stop calling them racists! Well, these days, they hardly bother to disguise their real views on race.

In Alabama, we’re back to the massive resistance, the movement in Southern states post-Brown v. Board of Education to delay or outright defy the Supreme Court’s order to desegregate. The court, you’ll recall, in June ordered Alabama to redo its congressional districts to provide a second majority-Black congressional district. The state defied the court’s plain instruction.

Democracy Docket reported: “The plan, which clearly lacks a second district that would allow Black voters to have the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice, plainly violates the district court’s 2022 order stating that ‘any remedial plan will need to include two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.’” (Even more egregiously: “The passage of this plan comes after Republicans advanced two other plans that similarly lacked a second majority-Black district and voted against alternatives that would have ensured two majority-Black districts.”) The case will wind up back in district court, where the court likely will redraw the map itself. (Frankly, it should also hold the GOPmajority legislature and the governor in contempt.)

Here we have yet another example, contrary to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s assertion in Shelby County v. Holder (striking down the preclearance provision in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act), that voting discrimination is very much alive in states that previously had to get Justice Department approval for voting changes. Now, Republicans openly flaunt their determination to subvert Black voting power. And if you thought this was an isolated event, remember that Republicans across the country have passed and are still dreaming up hundreds of bills to suppress minority turnout.

Meanwhile, many Black Republicans are appalled at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s defense of a state history curriculum that finds a silver lining in slavery. Politico reported that, following the admonishment from African American Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) and DeSantis’s nasty retort, some Black conservatives “fear the issue will play into Democrats’ characterization of Republicans as favoring a whitewashing of American history.” Gosh this “unforced error,” they think, came just when they imagine “they’ve been making significant strides within the party.” Two Black GOP presidential candidates — former Texas congressman Will Hurd and Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) — criticized DeSantis but evidenced no animosity toward a party determined to reduce Black voting strength.

Hurd, Scott and other GOP apologists are in denial: Editing racial history, minimizing the impact of slavery, exaggerating White victimhood, venerating the Confederacy and minimizing Black voting power are central to the current GOP’s identity. DeSantis is not the problem; he’s an example of a party deformed and debased by white nationalism. Perhaps this incident (or the Alabama Republicans’ resistance) will open their eyes to the party’s true character. But don’t count on it.

Distinguished persons of the week

In an era in which truth is under systematic attack from MAGA cultists and rightwing pundits who should know better, we are delighted to see two judges — in separate cases, one state and one federal — engage in some unbridled, untempered truth-telling.

First, kudos to Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who slapped down former president Donald Trump’s ridiculous attempt to quash a Georgia state indictment (not yet delivered) and to disqualify District Attorney Fani T. Willis. As to the latter, McBurney said derisively, “The drumbeat from the District Attorney has been neither partisan (in the political sense) nor personal, in marked and refreshing contrast to the stream of personal invective flowing from one of the movants.” McBurney added: “Put differently, the District Attorney’s Office has been doing a fairly routine — and legally unobjectionable — job of public relations in a case that is anything but routine.” One senses that the state courts are fed up with Trump’s antics.

Then, in a civil case, U.S. District Judge Raag Singhal dismissed Trump’s frivolous defamation case against CNN. Trump took umbrage at the term “big lie” to describe, er, his big lie that the 2020 election was stolen. Singhal, a Trump appointee, recalls that the term was once used by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Singhal declared, “CNN’s use of the phrase ‘the Big Lie’ in connection with Trump’s election challenges does not give rise to a plausible inference that Trump advocates the persecution and genocide of Jews or any other group of people.” CNN might want to consider asking the court for sanctions against Trump for bringing such a ludicrous claim.

If judges up and down the system, in civil and criminal matters, are losing patience with Trump’s antics and his lies — big and small — we might yet see justice done. It’s about time.

Something different

Amid the actors’ and writers’ strikes, the rise and fall of streaming services and the anxiety over artificial intelligence, two blockbuster movies — “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” — sent hundreds of thousands of us back into movie theaters. Actual theaters with other people! During the coronavirus pandemic, many people discovered the joys and cost savings in simply watching movies at home, undisturbed by others and able to pause at one’s pleasure. It was easy for you to convince yourself that this experience was every bit as good if not better than putting on shoes, driving to a theater, plunking down $15 or so, sitting through commercials and putting up with the guy whispering behind you.

But this was an illusion, you realize, when you go back to the real theaters. You realize you cannot duplicate at home the experience of being utterly absorbed in another world, laughing or gasping with others. The enormity of the screen blocks out the world, something you rarely achieve on your living room couch. Moviegoing is an entirely different, wonderful and communal experience made even more wonderful by the utter genius behind these two extraordinary films.

After watching the inventiveness and whimsy, eye candy and the unbridled feminism of “Barbie” viewed from a sea of fellow pink-garbed audience members (because — why not? — it’s Barbie!) or the awe-inspiring, breathtaking visuals and stomach-turning history laid out in “Oppenheimer,” you’re reminded how much we need communal joy and shared enlightenment.

If nothing else, you’ll soon conclude that the creative people who make this art are worth their weight in gold. The bean-counting suits in studio offices should realize who provides the value in their industry.

From my weekly Q&A

Every Wednesday at noon, I host a live Q&A with readers. Read a transcript of this week’s Q&A, or submit a question for the next one.

Guest: Doesn’t Trump’s willful ignorance matter? Some commentators state that prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the ex-president knew there was no outcome-determinative fraud in the 2020 election. Isn’t there such a thing as willful ignorance? Isn’t that equally damning?

Jennifer Rubin: That is absolutely incorrect. Thinking he won doesn’t excuse criminal activity to reclaim what he thought was unfairly taken from him. Could he have broken Mike Pence’s leg to prevent the certification of electoral votes? Bribed congressmen? Of course not.

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