S1: This episode of The Gabfest contains explicit language. This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. Enjoy.
S2: Hello and welcome to the Slate political gabfest for June 18, 2020, the because of sex addiction. I’m David Plotz of Business Insider from Washington, D.C.. Back in the hidy hole at my house, I’m joined from New Haven again.
S3: Now from a place with with bookshelves and nice prints on the walls. New York Times Magazine and Yale University Law School’s Emily Bazelon. Hello, Emily. Hello. Good morning. And from Manhattan, New York City. Fresh off his triumphant book launch. Make sure you get the hardest job in the world. The American Presidency by John Dickerson. Hello, John Dickerson of CBS 60 Minutes.
S4: Hello, David. A book launch launched on here with all our thousands of really tens of thousands of gabfests fans.
S3: Yes, we did. So it was so good doing our livestream with you listeners last week. It wasn’t the same as a live show, but we had 19000 people stream the show, which is like we sold out Madison Square Garden. Think of it that way. 19000 people.
S5: Yes, that is Springsteen. I always feel like that comparison. They watched him for a time. Could Bruce Springsteen sell out a 19000 seat arena for Zoome call? I don’t think so. Yes. The answer is yes, he could.
S4: I think he could. Did great reading the phone book. But that’s fine.
S3: That would be an interesting test. He definitely could do it reading the phone book. That would definitely happen for sure, yeah, for sure.
S6: Now the question is how long people would stay on because they would assume that he was going to do more than read the phone book or that he would read it in a particular way. And then after time, they might tire of reading the phone books. And then would it be like by the time he got to the bees or would they bail out midway through the.
S3: A lot of would be wanting to wait till you got to hear him say Wendy is he says went well. Good point. On today’s gabfests, John Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened, rattles Washington, rattles the Trump administration, then a historic ruling for gay and trans rights at the Supreme Court. We will talk to Chase Strangio, who represented one of the plaintiffs in those historic cases. Then, President Trump is holding his rally in Tulsa. On Saturday, we will talk about the nature of the campaign in the covert era and we’ll talk about whether this rally should take place at all and and how the Trump administration is handling the covert crisis, which is not a crisis to the Trump administration, apparently. Plus, of course, we will have cocktail chatter. John Bolton is publishing a book, The Room Where It Happened, which is an account of his rather brief tenure, although what kind of tenure in the Trump administration is not brief? His rather brief tenure as national security adviser for Donald Trump. I have not read the book. I don’t think that either of you have read the book. But we have heard lots of vile and pungent details that have been added to the six story of this administration. According to Bolton, Trump seems to have asked the Chinese premier, Xi Jinping, to buy farm products in order that President Trump could wind farm states in the 2020 election. He seems to have intervened or tried to intervene to stop legal inquiries against a Turkish bank and two Chinese companies. He encouraged Xi Jinping in building concentration camps for workers. He very much definitely withheld the aid approved by Congress for Ukraine in order to help compel Ukraine to investigate. Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, which was the subject about which he was impeached. It is a litany of outrages apparently buried in what’s, according to reviewers, quite a terribly written book. But so it goes. So, Emily. We’ll get to that through the legal controversy about the Bolton book. But what is it that we are learning or what might we learn from this book? That was not already evident during impeachment, during all that we’ve seen of the Trump administration. Is this book, in fact, revelatory?
S7: I keep thinking about how many news casts, how much ink was spilled over, whether anyone with firsthand knowledge of Trump trading, you know, investigative material from Ukraine on Biden or Hillary Clinton for money for Ukraine. How much ink was spilled over that question? Here was the person who had firsthand knowledge the entire time. There were just so many Republican talking points that revolved around this notion that no one who was in the room could confirm it. Now we have a book called I Was in the Room, to paraphrase. It turns out this guy with very senior status knew the answer all along. I mean, I just am dumbfounded by that. That’s a B.. Is this line from the book about how obstruction of justice was a way of life for Donald Trump and Bolten’s examples of that? But I would like to spend some time on a for a moment. John, do you feel like that hat would have had the political repercussions that I imagine in that moment?
S6: I don’t know. We have seen a number of tests to the duty of those in the president’s party to speak out, and they haven’t. So and Bolton’s assumption was that whatever he had to say, wouldn’t it wouldn’t have mattered.
S4: However, it’s his duty to come forward at the time and talk and talk to the impeachment proceedings, because the reason it’s his duty, as he claims at the center of the book, that that the president is a national security threat to the country. I mean, he tells ABC Martha Raddatz that the president is not competent to carry out the job. And this isn’t just, you know, whether he’s competent to carry out the turkey pardoning and Thanksgiving. This is in the central most important part of the role, which is to keep everybody safe. And not only that, but he is more concerned with himself and his family than the country and that he is exceedingly pliable to dictators. So that’s something you might want to not wait six months or however long it’s been to get out. But but I want to hone in on your first point, which is that there were senators who could have called Bolton to testify in the moment about the very question that was at issue. And they chose not to. And they knew this was coming. They did not. I mean, one shoe was not going to drop. They knew there was a closet of shoes that was going to drop. And there are the reason they gave was that the house had not followed procedure precisely in the way that they brought the articles of impeachment to the Senate. And so maybe that’s possibly true. But is that more important than what Bolton alleges and getting to the bottom of it? Because remember, what’s at center here is whether the president has used the powers of his office for himself and not for the country, which is the core of the job, the core of impeachment and what it’s about. So I think the senators have a great deal to answer for, because everything Bolton says and I’m shutting up soon is both revelatory in that some of the things you guys have mentioned. But it’s also cumulative, which is that there is nothing that he says that we haven’t heard repeatedly before and that essentially attaches to the way the president behaves in public. I mean, 50000 Elvis fans can’t be wrong. You can’t have this many people giving the precise same description of the president as being incurious, ill informed, impulsive. They all give the same response about what it was like to have the president. And so to ignore that is really is just a willful act of ignorance.
S3: Yeah, it is. It is just a shocking dereliction of duty that we’ve seen from the Republican establishment. And I count Bolton in there. Bolton gets no no points for me, no credit for me for writing this book. And coming out with his book months after it could have mattered. He had a chance as a citizen, as a patriot, as someone who believed the president was a danger to the country to stand up and speak to have a John Dean moment in the way that other members of this administration did. I mean, mostly lower level people like Lieutenant Colonel Venkman or Fiona Hill. And Bolton chose not to do that. He made it very clear he wouldn’t do it. He didn’t cooperate. He was not available. So he deserves no credit. And the Republican senators, their names, you know, should be dumped in the in the ash heap of history. They it is absolutely appalling that they allowed this. They knew this was there. They knew it was there. And yet they decided to look away. They just thought it was more important to look away. And for extremely selfish political means, they looked away or political ends. They looked away. And I hope that what happens is that there is a vast. Know tidal wave of an election that sweeps a whole bunch of them out of office and they realize that they made they made a terrible mistake. I really hope that’s what happens. But probably won’t. Probably they’ll all hold onto their seats and they’ll get to sit there and then they’ll walk off to seven figure lobbying jobs later. But it’s. It is. It is. It’s a shameful episode on the part of all parties.
S6: Can I just underscore that point about Van Minh and the 18 other people or so who risked their careers and risk their public reputation by coming forward in the way Bolton didn’t? But that also, as you say, David, laid the predicate for being interested in the fact that there might be more information to to look at it here and to add on vitamin.
S3: I don’t know if you guys saw the story in the paper today. The vitamin is due for a promotion. He’s been recommended for promotion. He has earned a promotion term lieutenant colonel to full colonel. The Army and the Department of Defense is not forwarding that promotion to the White House. They’re not forwarding any promotion to the White House because they’re afraid that Trump also will wipe out Benjamin’s promotion. We’ll delete Lindemans promotion. I mean, how fucked up is a country that the president is exercising a vendetta against a person who is a public servant? Lieutenant colonel in the army, an immigrant who is serving the country bravely, who stands up and speaks in the present, is so petty and disgusting that he would go through, wipe out his promotion and that the entire circle, the entire armature of the U.S. military, the Department of Defense is kind of focused on do we send this promotions list to the White House or not? And all these other people’s promotions are getting held up for the same reason. It’s just it’s despicable. I’m really worked up this morning. Sorry. Emily, you were gonna say.
S1: I know that’s worth being worked up over. I was going to turn to the Democrats for a moment because I am seeing some idea out there that it’s dent the Democrats in the House fault that Bolton didn’t testify, that he just wanted a subpoena. They failed to provide it.
S7: And that is just not an accurate representation of what happened. What happened was that one of Bolton’s deputies went to court proactively to say, I want a court to rule that I have to abide by this subpoena. That suit ended up being dismissed after the Democrats withdrew the subpoena. And the reason the Democrats did that was that they knew that the administration could just run out the clock on them. So there has been litigation over Congress’s power to subpoena a White House official. It involves Don McGann, the former White House counsel. It is still in court. The D.C. Circuit as a full court, has yet to rule on that suit. And so in this alternative universe in which the Democrats gave John Bolton the subpoena that he wanted, he insisted that he needed final authority from a court in order to speak. He still would not have spoken. His book is out before he would have received permission to give this congressional testimony. And so I just want to make that clear, because I feel like that misunderstanding is kind of lingering.
S3: It is amazing to me that even the worst little lizards and I would count Bolton among the worst lizards who go to work for Trump end up loathing him. Every single person except the ones whose like inheritance depends on him, essentially ends up alienated from him, thinks he’s a horrible person. The idiot that six tells you a lot about that man.
S4: And and given my obsession of the last few years on the on how important it is to hire people and build a team, the number of people that the president I mean, it’s almost the number of people that he that he hired and put in the most senior positions in government, who he then said we’re total losers that he knew all along. It’s just it’s I mean, he was the one who hired them. It’s just. If this is one of the most important parts of the job he has. I mean, he is Brooking’s has looked into this.
S6: He has set records for the mismanagement of management of the job.
S7: Well, you guys make of these stories about prosecutions in of companies and a bank in Turkey and China that appear to have the president appeared to have essentially tried to redirect in order to appease the leader of Turkey and then the leader of China. And this idea that Trump said to Chee, you know, if you just buy a lot of grain and soybeans, that would really help me out with my re-election chances right now, essentially saying that his re-election chances deserve priority over American foreign policy or at least should be shaping it.
S1: I mean, are these like the thing of revelations about Donald Trump is that they all confirm what we already know. And yet I find this kind of shocking, like the foreign government involvement here.
S3: I actually think the two are different kinds of categories. Not neither is excusable. It is slightly more excusable to intervene to stop the prosecution of a Chinese company or Turkish company to meet some perceived national security goal that will help the United States overall. You could imagine a situation which a president would say, you know what? Yes, ZTE has done some scummy things. But it’s really important that we have a warm relationship with China and that we build partnerships across the technology sector. This and this kind of prosecution will hurt it. So I’m going to I’m going to try to get the Justice Department to slow walk that. I think that’s totally different than the president saying you have to do pursue policy and so I can get re-elected. Those are those are different cases.
S6: I think that’s I think I totally agree with that. I guess the only thing I would add is that Bolton in The Wall Street Journal singles out Trump’s policy towards China in general, and then he mentions these specifics. But he there a lot of the what the president’s supporters have excused from him over the years has been based on the idea that he is well, he may be breaking all these norms, but, boy, he’s really got China’s. No. And he’s really going to finally put us on the right footing with China. And this is where even a number of Democrats in the national security around who who like his focus, if not the actual approach. And basically what Biden said it would, Bolton says, is there was nothing there. There was no there there. And we’ve seen subsequent with respect to trusting China on coronavirus that that he was too trusting of the Chinese. So this is important not only because China’s a major adversary, but also because it’s been the excuse for a lot of behavior from the president through his presidency.
S3: Did you guys read the brilliant Anne Applebaum story about complicity in among the what? We talked about it last week. Yes. And so one of the examples and Gibbs, I don’t know if you remember this as she talks about a high up Republican friend of hers who is gone to work for the administration. And this hyper friend, you know, says, yes, he’s terrible, yes, he’s terrible. But, you know, he’s he’s really protecting the workers. And she’s using that as an example of, like, the compromises people made. And now it turns out, of course, he wasn’t protecting the workers at all.
S5: He’s telling he’s telling me he approved of concentration camps to go Dukat concentration camps. Right.
S3: Emily, let’s wrap this just quickly on the legal question here. So the Trump administration has sued after a fashion department justice is suing after fashion to try to stop publication. Obviously, the horse is so far out of the barn. I mean, the horse has given interviews on ABC. The Horses book is in possession of every journalist in Washington except me, apparently. And so what’s what’s going on there? Does that is the legal battle worth looking at at all?
S1: I think it’s for show. John Bolton was under contractual obligation to go through the process that government employees with security clearance go through to publish things after they leave.
S7: So you have to do a big check to make sure that you’re not revealing classified information. He spent months working on this with someone. They vetted various things. He agreed to all of her requests to change things in the book. Then at the end of that, someone was asked to start over again by Bolton’s replacement, a political appointee. And this appeared to be an effort just just slow or, you know, delay forever the publication of the book. So Bolton’s argument is quiet is I fulfilled my contractual obligations. There is no classified information in this book here. I have all this extensive e-mail correspondence showing those things. And the Trump administration is saying, no, no. Like, we never signed off. So even if they win that fight, I think all that’s really at issue right now is like who gets the profits from the book. Right. So, like, when the horse is out of the barn, like this, a court. Would say, well, you broke your contract and so the government is the wrong party and they get your two million dollar book fee like, I mean, I guess that’s the remedy. It just all seems really implausible. And I sort of assume what’s happening here is that the Justice Department is trying to placate President Trump.
S4: I think the goal is to make a value claim about the author, particularly for the Trump base. Who knows Bolton? I mean, Bolton is the reason it’s going to be hard to claim Bolton as a member of the deep state is that he would have had to start his work with the deep state when he was a student under Robert Bork at Yale and then became the Justice Department official tasked with trying to get Bork’s nomination through under Reagan because he was worried about the squishes inside the White House.
S6: I mean, John Bolton has been at the center of the very kind of center of the very hard movement, conservative base, particularly, obviously, on national security. So he’s not like, you know, he’s got some Obama holdover. But anyway, what they’re trying to do and I think, again, the message is to the base, which is this is a dishonorable person because he he tramp trafficked in classified information and therefore you should discount what he says. So it’s a it’s not a it’s not a just claim.
S3: It’s it’s an a claim to two basically water down what he’s saying by making him seem smarmy slate plus members, you get bonus segments on the gab fest and other Slate podcasts. And today we will talk about chads or church or chop the Capitol Hill organized protest or the Capitol Hill autonomous zone and why it is such an object, a place of fascination for so many people. So go to Slocomb slash DFS. Plus, President Trump will hold his first rally of the pandemic era indoors in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday. He moved it back from Friday because, of course, Friday is Juneteenth, although President Trump surely did not know that when he scheduled it, because I doubt he knows what Juneteenth is. There will be 20000 people in the venue. There will also be up to 40000 people outside the venue. It’s sort of a series of fair like events outside and musical performances. I personally think I would rather be indoors in Oklahoma in June than outdoors in Oklahoma. I think to be super hot, but it is going to be potentially a super spreader event, as we’ve learned in the past three months about this disease. It spreads indoors. It spreads when there is a lot of singing and chanting and aerosol aerosolizing whatever is in people’s lungs and being expelled in indoor space enclosed spaces and people be close together. They will not be socially distant and they will probably not be masking because these are people who are fans of President Trump and President Trump is not a fan of masking. So it comes at a time when the United States government, at least the federal government, has essentially given up fighting the pandemic. We have rising rates of disease in 22 states. We have extremely rapid rise in Oklahoma, for example. And the flatness of the epidemic nationally is essentially a function of the decline in the northeast, particularly New York. But that’s masking the fact that it’s rising quickly elsewhere. Have we given up on Koven 19? And why have we given up?
S7: I think the federal government is absent. I mean, it was never effective in marshalling our response, but now it just seems to have receded. I mean, we saw an op ed in The Wall Street Journal from Vice President Mike Pence in which he was essentially declaring victory. Pence claimed that there were 750 Cauvin deaths a day and that this was a kind of victory because it was fewer than predicted. I think the correct figure might be closer to 800 deaths a day, whichever it is. That’s a lot of people as you as that number keeps building. And it seems to me like that is the figure that matters. If we can bring the number of those deaths down a lot, like with this new steroid, that could be maybe something that would really be different. But as long as people are dying at high numbers, like it just is staggering that the federal government isn’t giving more guidance to the states, isn’t making masks, which now proved to be so much more helpful than we knew in the beginning, something that all governors and mayors are feeling like, really righteous and supported in asking citizens to air, asking residents, we’re asking all of us to wear. So I find that refusal to really like help on that front to just be kind of mind blowing. And I think it’s creating all this political division. And then obviously this rally is kind of part of that. If the rally was happening outside, I think it would be much easier to defend, especially given all of the protests of the last month. So which, you know, we’ve talked about how public health authorities kind of gave their blessing to those outdoor events, and I think that does mean that, like outdoor events, for whatever reason, get to go under the same, get to be given the same pass. Like, the virus doesn’t care if you’re outside protesting for Black Lives Matter outside at a Trump rally. But this is not outside. It’s inside. And so I think it’s does present a different level of risk based on what we know. And it’s kind of amazing that President Trump is asking people to sign a liability waiver as they walk inside to do something that he is kind of dangling out there as this treat to people that’s actually like probably dangerous for some of them.
S3: Should they be held liable for. Covered cases among the attendees. I don’t think they should.
S7: You don’t think they should because people can assume their own risk. They know what?
S5: Yes. They should be held liable for all the second degree cases that happen because that’s the problem. Yeah. The problem is not the problem.
S3: All these people are going to the rally. They’re totally informed. They’ve made a decision. That’s the problem with a sense of of these two conflicting ideas about liberty. There’s a idea about liberty, which Republicans embody right now, which is that it’s your freedom to do whatever you want, your your bodily autonomy. You can make decisions and take on risks. And that works in some situations. It doesn’t work in a situation where you pass on, you unknowingly, inadvertently pass on that risk to all the people you come into contact with. And in that case, you like, there has to be a sense of liberty which takes into account the safety of all the people who are one degree of separation from you. Two degrees of separation from you. And people are going to the rally, refuse to acknowledge that or refuse to take that into account. And the end, the sense of liberty isn’t isn’t it so liberal, individual, libertarian, rather than collectively? What do we all do as a society to give us each maximum chance of of stain, free and happy, pursuing our happiness and having liberty and life and not illness, which is the the idea behind the founding.
S6: But the I think one of the the things that are at issue here also is the president has tried to portray any concern about the health of the people attending the indoor rally as groundless nanny ism. You know, he said that that the news media and it is he said, quote, trying to kovik Seamus on our big rallies. So that suggests that this is totally unfounded and malarkey, which is then thoroughly and totally undermined by the fact that they want to have those who are participating indemnify the campaign because they would need to indemnify them if this was just a hoax, a non-event. You know, Nonproblem, it does seem that in the official words that we’re getting out about the status of the pandemic. You know, there is, as you pointed out early, David, that the cases are going down the northeast, but they are picking up in a troubling way in in some of the states that have reopened. And it’s the hospitalizations that are up. And Dr. Foushee says that the increase is not simply attributable to the increase in positive tests is not simply attributable to the increase in the number of tests they’re giving. So the health people are saying one thing and then the vice president puts out information and says the cases are dropping. And so he’s taking the national number. And I think anybody who’s who’s been in this for a while would know that when you when you use national numbers to make the case that that cases are dropping, you are engaging in something to fool people. I mean, you’re not giving a clear picture of things. You can say the national numbers dropping, but it’s worrisome in these places. But if you only say the first half, you’re not in the business of trying to inform people completely. You’re in the business of trying to spin them.
S3: Why, Emily, do you think that? Americans have become. And I think this is not simply Americans and reopen states are Americans and red state Americans in general are impatient with the lockdown and seem really done with with the severe precautions that we were taking a month ago.
S7: I mean, it’s hard. It’s been costly in terms of people’s jobs and people’s businesses and their mental health. And if you don’t have a really strong message of solidarity and we’re all in this together and this is like, you know, a fight we’re engaging in and your leaders are effectively letting you off the hook, then, like, who wants to have the energy for it? Like, it’s not a fun, pleasant thing to be separated from people and worried all the time about getting too close to them. It’s much easier to kind of lull yourself into some feeling like, well, maybe like this new drug will work and maybe people will just stop dying. And some of those things, I desperately hope will end up being true. But it just seems like the lack of solidarity is what I always come back to with this, because if you’re going to ask people to do something hard. The reasons for it need to be really clear. They have to have a sense of purpose.
S3: I mean, I, I certainly agree with that. I certainly think there’s a lot to that. I also do think when we look back this the combination of the anti lockdown protests, the push for federal reopening and the mass protests around George Floyds murder are contributing factors like they they have made it clear, like, well, lots of people are out in the street. The government wants us to be out. And so so that that that message that wasn’t simply like there’s no more solidarity. It was like, well, actually, there are other things to do and we’re just gonna go and do them.
S6: Yeah. As you guys both pointed out, was it last week or two weeks ago the hypocrisy which which undermines that collective by making it seem like it’s just a political choice, whether you participate or not, but just because people are. Behaving in their political self-interest doesn’t mean that the public health officials and the people who are supposed to lead us are get a pass for doing that. And it seems like the president and the administration, in their response to this particular question of whether or not to hold the rally, are replicating two of the problems that have been at the center of this all along. The first is advantaging personal political needs above the public health needs, and then second, not being straight about the numbers. And so that’s one of these ways in which everything we’re witnessing with respect to this rally is is a part of the larger story that has led to mismanagement of this. And then the one final tiny thing I’d like to say is there’s I hate to be the second time conspiracist on this on this podcast, but I mean, one of the reasons it’s very easy.
S4: One of the reasons if I were being truly devilish, I would I would I would create a rally that would stir up my opponents, the media, liberals, the nanny state, and get them as angry as possible about a whole range of issues to elevate the story in the news cycle and get people to, quote unquote, sign up for the rally by email as a value middle finger to all those nanny state people on the other side of this argument so that I could collect their emails, keep them enthusiastic about my numbers. You really want to text them to write their telephone numbers and keep keep them on the boil for an election that we know is going to be all about negative partisanship, which is you may or may not like Donald Trump, but you really don’t like these people on the other side.
S6: And so, as you guys identified two weeks ago, there’s a hypocrisy in those who are saying stay home, but it’s OK to march for my cause. That’s fuel to the kinds of voters they want to turn out. And so, in a way, this could all have been a setup, in a sense, to not actually have the rally inside, but but to create a stir that then has that organizational benefit. And now I’ll take off my tin hat.
S7: Now, I wonder if they’re going to move it outside at the last minute.
S3: Probably not. I think they’re so they’re so excited to have it and thought that they’re so excited to give the middle finger. I think they’ll just do it. My question actually more to you, John, is given what we know of the virus so far, given what we know of President Trump, President Trump, unless this this Tulsa event turns out to be like a major super spreader event, whereas obviously you can trace back thousands of cases and and and Flair’s of Kova 19 to the event, President Trump will continue to hold rallies. He’ll certainly hold them outside. He’s made it clear he’s going to hold a convention that will be a largely traditional convention now in Florida, not in North Carolina. What do you think the Democratic presidential strategy should be in response? Can Joe Biden actually get out and do rallies and do any of this kind of thing without seeming like a hypocrite?
S1: I mean, can’t he go outside and do social distance rallies?
S4: He can. But but and this will be this is going to be one of the tests, No. 957 of 14 billion different tests of whether we change the way we think about politics because we’re in a more serious age. We’re always in a serious age, I argue in my book. But nevertheless, we are really in a serious age right now, because what you could imagine happening is he has a social distancing rally and it rallies are about enthusiasm and about madness and about chaos. And the rational thing to do is not have them right now based on all of the doctors and epidemiologists, including the ones in the town. We got an amusing federalism thing going on here, by the way. On the one hand, the executive branch is saying, let the governors deal with it, let the states deal with it. And then you’ve got the local people saying don’t come, but they’re kind of not listening to them. But anyway, a rally is supposed to look, you know, big and enthusiastic and social distance rally wouldn’t look that way. And the question is, would people resist the temptation to say, oh, that looks lame? Which, of course, it looks lame. You’re having to stay six feet apart. It’s not a rally like recognize the change in circumstances. But I would bet that you would not have that reaction. And then. And then where are you?
S7: Andy Slavitt, a former Obama official, has been vocal and I think often helpful about understanding. Cosied tweeted on four charts yesterday. Dividing the country into regional quadrants, so northeast, south, west, Midwest and showing the covered rates per capita in each part of the country. And it was super instructive. It shows just this huge hit that the Northeast took this like skyrocketing epidemic, which then has come down really, really dramatically. And then it shows far lower levels of infection. And the other three parts of the. Country, but a rise recently. This is the like, alarming rise in the south. And in the West and looking at it. I mean, you could see why it was really hard for people in those parts of the country to feel like all of the shut down was necessary because they just were never hit at the same level. And then you see this sort of worry, this uptick. And I feel like this different regional experience is so important for both the resentment that people have felt about, you know, in particular, I think they’ll like New York centric coverage of the epidemic. Just made people who weren’t having that experience feel like that is really far away and not what is happening here. And like, why am I suffering economically because of this? And then you see this uptick now, which the Northeast is not experiencing. And so part of why people in the place, like in where I live, are feeling more relaxed, are based on the numbers. But again, it’s like if you lived elsewhere and everyone is scolding you for your rising numbers, it just all feels like a kind of setup of resentment and misunderstanding.
S3: That is such a great point. Emily, it’s such a such a smart point. And I I had the same question, which was the whole country kind of went into lockdown around the same time. And following the anxiety about New York in the sense like, well, this is going to this is going to help us all. And then somebody living in Arizona or Oklahoma or Texas to realize like, well, maybe we didn’t help ourselves. And we now we’ve also lost the will. There is no more will to do such strict measures anymore, is it? It’s a real conundrum and a problem for people in Texas and Florida, Arizona and Florida. And that may in turn, you know, bounce back to New York one day or bounce back to California, New Jersey or wherever it is that is that is having a decline. So it’s it’s a very bad dynamic.
S4: And which is why the public information role is so important to say we’ve got to lock down to figure out what the scope of this thing is. We might be able to open in different stages. We’ve got to really lend a hand to the Northeast because they’re taking it hard. But we do that because it might come blow back on us. So that you create a sense of information so that people don’t immediately think, oh, we’re getting screwed to save those New Yorkers, because that, as Emily said, now undermines the position that everybody is in.
S3: There was a huge victory for gay and trans rights and for all Americans at the Supreme Court this week. We are joined by Chase Strangio, who is a deputy who is the deputy director for trans justice at the ACLU. He was also on the Amy Stephens legal defense team. Amy Stephens is one of the plaintiffs in the cases before the Supreme Court. Chase, welcome to the GAB fest. Does this case mean that no employer can now discriminate against gay or transgender employees?
S8: Yeah, you know, so first, thanks for having me. And the Supreme Court was absolutely, unequivocally clear that Title seven, which is Title seven of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination because of sex, includes discrimination against LGBTQ employees, which means that every employer is subject to Title seven, which is every employer with more than 15 employees in the entire United States is now prohibited from discriminating against LGBTQ workers, which is just an absolutely stunning clarification of the law and much needed protections for people, particularly in states that don’t have explicit protections for the LGBTQ community.
S7: So, Chase, I read these opinions with great interest. I’d written a big piece a few months ago about textualism, particularly focusing on Justice Gorsuch, who’s the author of In the Majority Opinion. And this fight between the majority and the dissents is all about textualism rights. We’re talking about basically three words in Title seven because of sacks and then this question of whether those words encompass discrimination against LGBTQ people. Alito has this raging dissent about why Gorsuch is answer yes to that question is a kind of betrayal of what elite everyone’s like competing for the mantle of Justice Scalia here length the sort of first or most important textualist. But Justice Gorsuch is saying essentially that you can’t really think about why employers fire trans people or gay and lesbian people without thinking about their biological sex. So my understanding is Gorsuch isn’t expanding the definition of sex beyond biology. He’s just saying that it’s inherent to people’s reasons for discrimination in these cases. And I imagine that you found that convincing. I wonder what you made of Justice Kavanagh’s sort of secondary dissent, which to me was like it was less apoplectic but more persuasive legally because he was basically accusing Gorsuch of this incredibly literal interpretation, which was not at all what Congress intended or was thinking about in 1964. So you’re the lawyer, the real lawyer in this conversation. I know you’ve thought a ton about this. What did you think of those conceptions of Title seven and this phrase because of sex?
S9: Yeah. So I you know, we briefed this case for Justice Gorsuch. You know, we it was we needed five votes. He was our guy because, you know, from our perspective, it was a very straightforward textual case.
S10: And in actually, the words of the statute are incredibly important beyond just those three, because it’s because of such individuals sex. And so this such individual also plays a really critical role here. And I think just one clarifying point that’s important is that Justice Gorsuch sort of says at the outset, you know, we don’t need to resolve the parties dispute over sort of what are the contours of sex, because the workers, those of us representing the employees, you know, essentially said it doesn’t matter. So even assuming arguendo, so even assuming just for the purposes of argument that that the employers are right, that sex means only sort of one’s biological characteristics at birth, we still win. And Justice Gorsuch, you know, sort of takes that and adopts what I at least like to think of as the precise reasoning of our briefs, which is to say that, you know, you could say the ordinary meaning, you could say the plain meaning, you could say the literal meaning, but whatever meaning of sex you adopt, it is but for an individual sex that you take adverse action against them for being LGBTQ. And the examples are, I think, are really helpful. So if you have, you know, a male employee and a female employee and both of those people have husbands, but you only fire the male employee for having a husband, then it is literally or ordinarily or whatever you want to think of as sex because of the employees sex, because of such individual’s sex that they were fired. And the same would be true for a transgender worker.
S11: So for me, for example, I was assigned female at birth, but I have a male gender identity. If my employer called me and another male and play into the office, let’s say, of H.R. and said, OK, you know, you’re both men at the office. Which of you was assigned female at birth? Which of you is assigned male? And then they said, I’m going to fire you, Chase, because you were assigned female at birth or because, you know, maybe they would say it as because your biological sex is female or because whatever they think of that still because of sex. And I think you have Kaminen trying to draw this distinction between, you know, the literal and the ordinary meaning you have Alito. You know, I essentially just listing off dictionary definitions to to say, you know, it couldn’t possibly mean this. But I think Gorsuch does a really good job of saying those are just other ways of saying that this wasn’t the intended application of the law. And the intended application of the law is antithetical to textualism. It is, you know, really interesting to see the competing Scalia quotes within the majority and the dissents. But at the end of the day, I think the, you know, separate and apart from, you know, the judicial philosophy and the secondary sources cited the case law on Title seven is incredibly clear that the circumstances in which Title seven has been applied to prohibit discrimination because of sex all were not anticipated by Congress in 1964. And so at the end of the day, that’s what controls. And Gorsuch systematically walks through those examples.
S3: Yeah, correct. Just a super small hypothetical that occurred to me when I heard that gauzes example of the two employees, one woman, one man, each of whom is married to a man. And I just watched a high maintenance episode about asexuality. Like is someone who is asexual covered by this in the same way? Well, could you. Could you be discriminated against for being asexual, which wouldn’t necessarily have anything to do with what your object of attraction is?
S9: Yeah, and I think that there is there. There are a few questions that that came up in an argument, too. If you were sort of, you know, an employer had, say, a forum that said, are you bisexual and then fired you if you were bisexual, even though, you know, it may mean that they wouldn’t have to know your sex to fire you as such. I think one of the things that’s also true about this opinion is that it doesn’t undermine any of the sex stereotyping jurisprudence.
S11: So Title seven already prohibits any discrimination because of sex that is based on expectations of how people should perform their sex. And so, you know, and there is language in there just about sexual orientation, per say that Gorsuch includes not just reference to gay employees. And I think that’s important because there’s nothing about the decision that abrogates Pricewaterhouse, which is the sex stereotyping case from the Supreme Court. And so I think it’s incredibly clear that if you fire someone for being a sexual, let’s say, or being bisexual, that’s based on expectations that they’re not performing their sex correctly, correctly performing man would be exclusively and actively attracted only to women.
S4: Thank you. That’s chasing you. So you were you were pitching for Gorsuch. Were you still surprised in the end? Or I mean, did you think this is good argument, but it still might not work? Or was it you thought there was a pretty good chance?
S9: As the months dragged on, I lost a lot of hope and not necessarily because the time was a reflection of anything. Just the more that I thought about the court and the world, I just became more and more despairing. And then the other reason is because, you know, as it gets closer and closer to the end of the term, those of us who are watching the court tend to sort of map out the statistics.
S11: And generally, each justice writes one opinion from each sitting. So you can look at a month and see who has not written an opinion. And so a few weeks ago, Gorsuch had an October opinion and I was devastated. I was like, oh, no, then that was it.
S12: We don’t have a corset edge. And then, you know, then we’re like, well, maybe Garcia was in the majority but didn’t write it. Does this mean we’ve completely lost? It doesn’t necessarily mean that. And I think, you know, when you’re in it, when you’re writing the briefs, you know, Earley’s for me, every sentence was, you know, so painstaking and so strategic in the moment of crafting the legal arguments. Last summer, I was a you know, we’re absolutely going to win. This is we’re so right on the law, you know? And then you got the other side’s brief and then you’re like, oh, gosh, maybe not. And then you reply like, oh, no, no, we’re going to win. And I thought the arguments were really hard to read. So I was actually quite shocked that we won at all. I was especially shocked that we won with such clarity. I thought there was going to be a lot of room for them to possibly, you know, maybe adopt some sex stereotyping. Analysis that you would have that would impose an incredible burden on an employee to have to prove actively stereotyping by the employer. I thought that was one possibility to have this sweeping, unequivocal per say when I was not expecting that. And I will say that no part of me was expecting Chief Justice Roberts to sign on to the majority.
S11: You know, he is not necessarily the textualist among the conservatives.
S12: I wasn’t convinced we really had a shot at him. So to have this six three clear opinion is is is really something that I was not prepared for.
S11: I almost forgot what it felt like to incorporate feelings of joy and happiness into one moment into your legal career.
S1: I mean, I do want to bask in the glow for a moment because it’s just such an important victory. And I also feel like since I was deep into looking at Justice Gorsuch on these questions, like to me, he passed a really important test of intellectual coherence.
S7: Now I’m going to say that it’s possible that on other issues, the country is going to pay for it later in that, as you know, there’s some language in the majority opinion about sticking to the text in this very literal manner. And there are other texts in American law and in the Constitution in which sticking in a very literal or wooden way to the text does not get different kinds of litigants where they want to go. So, you know, that’s going to be one to watch. However, I also feel like in the sort of larger picture of the Supreme Court, like for liberals. Liberals need to take their victories where they can get them right now. And I’m not convinced that, you know, if this opinion had gone in some other way, we would be seeing the conservatives on the court take into account the constitution or a laws purpose in a way that, like, helps other goals. Right. Like, I don’t think that that like, there’s some sort of necessary consistency or one on one tradeoffs there.
S9: Yes. I mean, had we lost on the ground that they didn’t stick to their principles and look to legislative intent, there’s no universe in which that would be applied generally. You know, for the benefit of progressive outcomes. So I think absolutely that’s correct.
S1: I wanted to ask you about the part of Alito’s opinions, where he starts listing implications for other kinds of cases. He’s like done a lot of legal research for future litigants. And I mean, some of it’s kind of obvious. But I wonder what you think about this.
S7: So some of the categories Alito is concerned about have to do with churches or religious schools that are employing people. There has been up to now what’s called the ministerial exception, which is allows effectively a church or a religious institution to discriminate for a minister. But it’s not at all clear whether that, for example, includes like every second grade teacher at a Catholic school. Are those people now protected? And then there are questions about dress codes that specify gender in the workplace, about access to bathrooms for transgender students, which is an issue that you’ve litigated a lot. And and just the other array of kind of cases to come. And I wonder what you think about that picture that Alito is painting.
S9: Yeah, no. You know, I sort of love those dissents that they that they map out all of the ways you’re now going to win your future cases. Scalia definitely did that in Lawrence v. Texas. And, you know, he he got he couldn’t help himself. And and then we would often say to his his dissent and saying, well, lawyers, look at that Pells, this results. And so I think there’s a few buckets of things that lead that Alito points to and that and that Gorsuch sort of explains why they’re they’re left open for future cases. There’s the sort of religious employer religious exemption. Yeah. Title seven already has a religious exemption. And I think the thing that that Gorsuch, you know, does make clear is that there’s no reason why discrimination against LGBTQ people should have a different standard than other forms of discrimination. And that part of the opinion, I think, would apply to, say, the ministerial exception. You know, there’s already, you know, the congressionally created exemption that the courts have interpreted increasingly broadly. And I think that future cases are going to contend with the scope of that exemption.
S11: The other reality is that there are a lot of future cases that are going to contend with the questions about the constitutional limits of generally applicable laws of nondiscrimination. This court has incredible amount of deference for religion and including, you know, religious beliefs that may be used to discriminate against others. And so I think the question about the First Amendment, free exercise aspects of religious protection and non-discrimination. Laws are going to continue to come before the court, but they just weren’t before the court here. And so we’re gonna have to continue to fight those out in future cases when it comes to applications of this decision to other federal statutes that prohibit discrimination because of sex or on the basis of sex. You know, I think that the courts have been incredibly clear over decades that, you know, you apply Supreme Court jurisprudence on Title seven to interpret Title nine, which is the prohibition on sex discrimination in education. The Affordable Care Act’s nondiscrimination provisions incorporate the Title nine standard. So I think as to all federal statutory protections based on sex, that this is going to have largely dispositive implications. I think when it comes to questions of the application to single sex, you know, rules or spaces, you know, dress codes, athletics, locker rooms, restrooms, those are going to be the next set of cases. There’s many of them that are already fully briefed and argued before appellate courts that are going to have supplemental briefing on the impact of Bostock. And then we’re going to see how the courts decide the question. Gorsuch made clear that, you know, this case is not resolving that question, which is exactly what we said in our briefing. But what he does do is he sets up a framework which was the framework we pushed for in our brief, which is that when you have a sex based line, it is inherently because of sex. And then the question is, does it discriminate? Does it differentiate with harm to a protected individual? And I think under that standard, we should win all of the cases on behalf of trans individuals who are, as you know, barred from spaces that align with their gender identity, whether that’s restrooms or sports or dress codes. Those are going to be the future cases. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we win many of those in the lower courts. And then then the question will be, when will the Supreme Court take it up? If I had to guess, I think they’re going to focus on the religious liberty questions first. They already are in the next term. So, you know, I think that’s where we can see efforts to really chip away at the breadth of this decision. But I think overall, you know, the limitations in the majority opinion are exactly the ones that we would want in a case like this, which is we’re deciding the question before us and we will contend with those other questions another day. One quick note about, you know, sex specific dress codes. I think this is an area where there is no universe in which I could ever understand how sex specific dress codes survive. Pricewaterhouse. I mean, Pricewaterhouse essentially says you can’t discriminate based on stereotypes about how men and women should look and act and behave. And yet we still have courts saying that that, you know, employers can enforce skirt. It’s only dress codes for women. That’s just an example of how you can have a very clear Supreme Court decision. And yet the lower courts will reverse engineer an outcome to maintain the norms that they seek to uphold.
S3: Chait’s. I don’t wanna let you go without looking at the broader context of trends. Life in America, because it’s been, I think, just a really contentious and probably terrible period for trans Americans because of what the Trump administration has been doing over the past several years. I just would love your thoughts on what it feels like to have this decision the same week as the March for Black Trans Lives, the same week that the HHS comes out with this this terrible rule which which would discriminate against trans people in terms of healthcare, too. So what does it feel like as a as a trans person to have this swirl of change and and these attacks? And yet this this victory, which is so profound?
S9: I think for me, you know, as a trans person, I you know, it feels like the culmination of so much work that really was started, you know, at Stonewall and before led by black and brown in trans women. And you can see that, you know, over the last 50 plus years, the people who have experienced the brunt of the backlash to progress for the LGBTQ community have been black trans women who experience devastating rates of physical violence, murder, state violence, criminalization. And so the reaction, you know, there is the realities that even under the Obama administration, when we were seeing positive legal changes, we knew that the material conditions for so many people in our community were not improving and that there’s so much work to do that comes through power building and base building.
S11: And so I you know, I think for me, the last three and a half years of the Trump administration have been this relentless assault from the government on top of all of the ways in which people are experiencing.
S12: These concrete material harms that are, you know, were then exacerbated by coalbed and the health disparities and the people’s loss of jobs and and so there was this despair and then the mobilization that started to happen over the past few weeks and the fact that 15000 people or more showed up in Brooklyn for black trans lives was this moment of absolute hope and transformation for me and so many other people. And so when it came to Monday morning waiting for opinions, I was sort of of this view that we we are already moving in the right direction. Fifteen thousand people showed up and I’m ready to take on whatever happens from this court and then to get this incredibly positive ruling, which is completely connected to that mobilization, because you can have a proper textual reading of the law. But they’re going to reverse engineer a decision against you if they aren’t understanding your basic humanity in some way. And so the ways in which people have really put their lives on the line to change the norms, to change the public discourse, to make people see and feel the fact of our existence. You know, I I think really does give me a tremendous amount of hope. And then practically speaking, the decision, you know, essentially, you know, undermines completely the enforceability of the HHS rule. And many of the other anti trans administrative actions of of of the Trump administration.
S11: So you have, you know, this material sort of changes this, you know, normative statement from the Supreme Court. And then the reality that there is this incredible base building, a mobilization that signal that we we have the potential to carry things through coming at, you know, in the coming years in a completely transformative and new way.
S3: Jay Strangio is an attorney with the ACLU. He was also on the team that represented Amy Stevens, one of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court cases decided this week. Thanks for joining us today. Thank you so much.
S13: Let us go to cocktail chatter when you are having a 20000 seat rally in your home. John Dickerson and you want to address the crowd with some cocktail chatter advice. What are you gonna be telling me about to them?
S6: Well, mine is just on a little progress. You know, often when we get distracted by the press of events, we usually find out that some horrible thing is happening that nobody’s paying attention to. But this seems like good news, which is the Senate passed a bill fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund and also appropriating basically steady funds to deal with the backlog of maintenance at public lands. And the reason this is important, as it was explained to me months ago when I was trying to think about doing a part, a piece on it, is that so many national lands are in such disrepair that people can’t go visit them. And national parks are not only a relatively low cost way for people to go have vacations better. Even now when we can’t be inside. But they also employ lots of people associated with keeping up the lands and taking entrance fees and all of that kind of stuff. And what basically happened is the way they were budgeted is the money that went to keeping up the lands always just got picked off in the budgeting process. And so lots and lots of maintenance had to be deferred and places had to close. So this is now passed the Senate. Why is this important? Well, first of all, it passed 73 25, which is, you know, surprising in this day of partisanship. But more important, it’s basically passed. All the Democrats voted for it. But some of the Republicans who voted for it include Cory Gardner of Colorado and Steve Daines of Montana, both of whom are in races this cycle. Greg Gardner in particular, is in a tough race. And you could imagine Chuck Schumer and the Democrats blocking this so that Cory Gardner wouldn’t get something, you know, beneficial to vote on because Chuck Schumer wants to diminish the number of Republicans in the Senate and he’d like John Hickenlooper or whoever ends up, you know, running in the Democratic race in Colorado to win. So anyway, it was a small triumph. It has to go through the house, but at least there was progress while so many other things are full of woe.
S7: A tiny, tiny tendril of bipartisan cooperation.
S3: Emily, what are you gonna chat about?
S1: My child this week is about the firing of an analyst named David Shaw from Civis Analytics, which is, I think, a Democratic polling firm. And this firing troubled me. It’s sort of one of I am usually someone who prefers to think that, like, concern about political correctness is overblown. But this firing really got to me in this moment.
S7: So David Shaw tweeted out some research by an academic named Omar Wasow and was, as research is about the difference. In the political effect of peaceful protests in the 60s versus protests that included some looting and lassos, finding is that the peaceful protests increased support for civil rights among Democratic voters. But that protests that involve some looting or violence had the effect of having white people think like they were more committed to the social order. And so they were not helpful for the civil rights cause. So Shaw tweeted this out. He used the phrase race riots, which is not probably a great phrase to use anymore, but he was basically just sharing the work of this black academic. And there was criticism of his tweets on Twitter, a kind of set of pushback and a lot of accusations against him. And then he was fired for his job for tweeting out this accurate research. And it just feels to me like there is a lot of just like scapegoating going on right now, that there are so many legitimate concerns about systemic racism and the structures we live in and incredibly important attention to all those things. And then there are these moments where someone just like especially on social media, becomes the subject of a mob coming after them. And there isn’t enough just like kind of reasonable, rational sticking up for people in those moments. I mean, David Chass ended up getting attention. I know about this because Jonathan Chait wrote about this firing in New York magazine and Chris Hayes has also tweeted about it. So I’m hardly the first person to express concern, but I just feel like we need to watch this moment to make sure that people aren’t just getting, like, chewed up and spit out in a kind of purity test. Like, we need to make sure there’s a room for expressing lots of points of view and not just being, like, incredibly righteous and dogmatic about what is OK to say and not say. So anyway, I hope David Shaw, it lands on his feet.
S3: What I didn’t understand about that and I a glance at the Chait column and glance at the tweets and so this is from a position of deep ignorance is the trouble it do this. People have the same trouble with Omar Marceau’s research is like he is he a persona non grata, is it? I don’t they did understand. It was whether is the research that was the problem or the the way in which Shaw represented it or the particular threat. I just it was it was all it was very muddy to me.
S1: Yeah. I don’t know. I mean, Omar Wasso does not like fired and I don’t think he’s been, quote, canceled. And I don’t think Shaw necessarily like use the most felicitous phrasing for this. But I think this was really about his tweets. I mean, then there were accusations that Shaw had somehow bullied and harassed people that far. As far as I could tell, that was just like about the fact that the Chait column was criticizing the critics of Shaw and Shaw’s bound by a non-disclosure agreement.
S7: So Chait said he had talked to Shaw. And you just feel like there’s this way in which these things start to mount with these accusations and counteraccusations and that sometimes just defending it, even defending yourself, having someone else defend you can be like used against you. Anyway, I’m I’m not really sure of the answer to your question, but I just feel like we should all just kind of take a deep breath right now and try to be kind of charitable and how we think about other people’s actions.
S3: My chatter is about the great but doomed cause of D.C. statehood. I live in Washington. I’m a native Washingtonian. And House Democrats will vote next week to make the District of Columbia a state. This is the first time they’ve voted on that in about 25 years, that they had a vote on this in the 90s at some point. It’s a righteous cause. It’s a righteous cause. It is super outrageous that seven hundred and five thousand of us Washingtonians live within the national borders of the country. We pay taxes. We serve the government, we serve in the military. And yet we lack representation in Congress. It is also a hopeless cause, because as long as Republicans hold any power and they pulled a lot. There is no chance they will permit D.C. statehood, which would give Democrats to certain Democratic Senate seats and House seats. And I just want to stand up. I do. I think there’s a there’s a perfectly reasonable solution to this and that one that Republicans probably would accept in the right circumstances, which is retrocession. D.C., the diamond that is Washington, D.C., was carved out of Maryland in Virginia back in the late 18th century. And the Virginia part of it was retro ceded back to Virginia in the 19th century. And so that’s now Arlington County. Those of you who know Washington, it’s Arlington County. It’s a very rich county. That is the if you look at what the diamond of Washington, if it were full, would be it’s the Virginia side of the that diamond. And the rest of it was. Maryland retrocession would basically say the city, except for some narrowly drawn federal areas, is now part of Maryland. Maryland’s population grow by seven hundred five thousand. They would gain a congressional district because of it. Washingtonians wouldn’t think that a vote for Congress, they would get to vote for Senate. They’d vote for Maryland senators. They get to vote for governor. They don’t vote for state legislators. The U.S. would still have 50 states. The Senate balance wouldn’t change because Maryland selects Democratic senators and will for the future. And retrocession is not sexy. It’s not a sexy solution. It would weaken the power of d.c.’s, homegrown elected officials who I think the mayor of Washington probably would like to be the governor of Washington. It would be a more fun job. It would dilute D.C. It would a lot of proud Washingtonians would feel they would feel shame at becoming Marylanders, but it would end the basic injustice and would make Washingtonians full American citizens. And it’s a it’s an attainable goal. So I would like us to focus on that rather than statehood, which is a which is a mirage. There are great listener chatters again this week. Please tweet them to us at Slate Gabfest, the one I loved came from D. Holstein at the pop house de Hallstein note something that I heard about for my kids and probably guys I’ve heard about, which is this fact, this phenomenon of Cape Hop fan. So Cape Hop fans are super well organized. These are fans of Korean pop music and they’re global. They’re they’re not all Korean, they’re not all American. And they these they have hugely organized Twitter and and Instagram accounts. And they are organizing to support the protests and they’re organizing support the Black Lives Matter protests to harass people who are doing. And I mean, the harassment is is not always good, but to harass like white lives matter hashtags and just generally cause mischief towards people who are opposing black lives matter and to putting the word out about good causes around Black Lives Matter. And it’s great. There’s a nice story in the Atlantic about it, and it’s a cool way in which something which seems trivial can be turned towards an admirable political end.
S7: I just have to break in here with a newsflash to say that the Supreme Court just ruled five to four today, Chief Justice Roberts and the four liberals that the Trump administration illegally rescinded DACA.
S5: Oh, wow. Big expected deal. Wow. Oh, my God.
S6: Can you imagine what the conservative conversation is going to be like in this election about judges? And we didn’t really talk about that in the show.
S7: Yeah, right. But Gorsuch. But Roberts. But control of the Supreme Court. Except apparently not. Anyway, we don’t have time to fully digest this opinion, but that is pretty momentous event.
S3: Wow. I was talking about Capa.
S2: That’s the show for today. Gabfest is produced by Jeff and Frank. A researcher is Bridgette Dunlap. Gabriel Roth is editorial director June Thomas as managing producer, Alicia Montgomery, executive producer of Sleep podcast for Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson. I’m David Plotz. Thanks for listening. We will talk to you next week.
S3: Hello, Slate, plus, how are you? There’s big news. We’ve just contemplated trying to jam in a docket topic, but we haven’t we haven’t read the decision yet. We’re not ready yet. So we’re going to do the topic we planned, which is to talk about the Capitol Hill. And now you get your choice of how you’re going to end it. Autonomous zone or organized protest? In either case, it is the area of several square blocks in downtown Seattle around an abandoned police precinct station, abandoned or with a precinct station the police have withdrawn from in which a kind of new community, a police free community, has grown up in the past couple of weeks. There’s a Politico writer who described it as by turns like a comune and a narco syndicalist and small l libertarian dream, a 60 style teach in a street, fair and street market, a camp out. And we can party a poetry slam and pilgrimage, a school service day of mass healing circle, a humbler urban version of Burning Man and, of course, a protest rally. So it has just attracted an immense amount of media attention. Every single I check this, every single publication I read regularly, literally every single one has had big stories about Chaz Chope. Fox has covered it like it is and like it’s a civil war in the United States. There was one, Kiran, I saw where they had a reporter who was reporting from the U.S. Chaz border. You know why, Emily, there’s this fascination with this.
S1: I mean, I think there are a bunch of things here. So first of all, these kinds of ongoing rollicking protests, slash happenings are just like fun. Right. There’s a madness to them. I mean, it’s like these questions of like, OK, the police are gone and we’ve taken over the precinct station. Now it happens. And how long does the city let us stay? And can we show that we can peacefully exist here and take care of everyone’s food and medical needs and succeed in our anarchical autonomy? Or inevitably, is human nature going to fail in some way that will then discredit the entire enterprise? And then I think the other kind of maybe interesting political part of this is that at least at moments of this, there have been people with guns who were protecting the borders of this zone. And so then for liberals who might be inclined to say, like, oh, isn’t this sweet and lovely and like good or at least like, who cares? Then you have to ask yourself, like, why do you think these people with guns are fine when you get worried about people whose politics you disagree with, when they have guns in city centers or other places, when they take over federal or state property like the Bundy group did in Oregon. And so there are these like questions of, you know, dissonance in these different settings. What do we make of them? Does it all depend on the identity of the group and whether you agree with their goals and think they’re essentially harmless? Or are there more consistent principles to be applied here? And like, what’s the end result? I mean, Seattle actually has a really interesting history. I read in preparing for this segment of having these cultural centers and like beloved institutions that took place because people took over a government building. And this looks like the next in a series, but it’s a six block radius downtown that seems really big.
S7: And so you imagine that like down the line, the question is going to be basically like, how do we hand over the precinct station to you? So you can turn it into like a learning center and a memorial to Black Lives Matter. But we don’t want to give you six whole blocks so that you, like, live there forever with your ice cream trucks, especially when the weather gets bad.
S6: You know, Emily, it’s funny you brought up the Bundy thing because when when the Bundy’s and their armed supporters were were in their standoff, there were articles at the time that said, what do you think would happen if you had black people with guns, you know, defying, basically defying local officials and they argue. And the answer was they’d all be shot. So, I mean, there were the coverage of the Bundy’s is is not unlike the coverage that Fox has been covering of Chope, although I must say, as soon as I say that I’ve only read about the Fox coverage, I haven’t actually seen it. But there is there is of course, I watched a little bit of it. But in terms of the focus that the David you’re talking about, the Bundy’s got similar kind of focus now. Yeah. And you could argue the chop is a lot more important and and interesting than the Bundy’s. And so I just just in terms of the kind of fascination with this, it seems like Chope has a more is of a moment, whereas the Bundy’s were kind of out of nowhere.
S13: I really wish this would. Continue. I think we could use a real experiment in police free living in this country. I would love to see what happens. What is it like to live in a place where police are not expected to respond to property crime or violent crime or necessarily to to welcome in a commune? I think it would be. I don’t I don’t want that for my own community. I don’t think it is a universe realizable activity universalise of a policy. But I think it would be a great little experiment to run. And I hope that this continues long enough that that life in the area returns to more or less normal. And we see what the result is because it I mean, it could be disastrous. It could be it could be great. It could be like, oh, we well, the cops will come back, but they’ll only do foot patrols or the cops will, you know, come back. But they will only stand on the corner. I mean, you can imagine outcomes which are which would radically change how that area is policed and what might happen would be wonderful to see. And I do think that this will this will end the there’s an obvious end. The end is, as you say, Emily, it will become a police station, become a community center of some sort, and this area will gradually reopen back up to more normal living. It won’t be demarcated in the way it’s demarcated now. And that will not happen by force. It will just happen gently over some period of a month or two, I hope. And but I would I would be very happy if this kind of experiment were able to last a little bit longer than it’s going to last.
S1: The other thing about the politics that interest me is that the police spent about a week, I think, holding the line against the protesters and then the mayor withdrew the police, despite the feelings of the police chief, that this was like a betrayal, that she’d asked her forest to stand out there to get pelted with all kinds of objects to do what the police do in, you know, holding the line, not letting people take over their building. And and yet the city proceeded anyway. And there is just this such an interesting dynamic right now of all of these markers of police political strength, which are just like kind of evaporating before our eyes. And the police are turning out to be much more vulnerable politically than I think anyone ever believed. I mean, it just has always been an article of faith. If you are a big city mayor, you had to have the police feeling fully supported. You had to like if you were a liberal, go maybe further to reassure them. I mean, this is part of the story of Bill de Blasio being the mayor of New York City, that you just like Cosset and Cogdell, I would argue, the police department, as opposed to challenging them. And if it turns out that that is not a necessary political dynamic, that it’s gonna be a really big deal and a fascinating development in American urban dynamics is the precondition that allows that dynamic to continue.
S6: The fact that that the police were doing the job in the first place and crime is low enough that you don’t pay the political price of not being on the police’s side.
S1: Yeah. I mean, whether a crime being lower is simply because the police are doing their job, I would like that’s cop. Sure. Sure. Sure. Sure. Yes, I absolutely. I was talking to someone yesterday who I think is like 15 or 20 years younger than me. And she said, you know, as a millennial, I’ve only heard the stories of high crime from the 80s and 90s. Like, I don’t I never experience that. I don’t really know about that. And I realized that there’s this whole kind of like American hangover, which I have, because I remember the high crime in Philadelphia in the 80s and 90s. And like young people don’t share it. And we sort of, you know, created this whole set of like assumptions and axioms in American politics about violent crime and what a driver it was for political division and political support. And like, it’s just not there anymore to play that role. But, yeah, if it came back, I think we would see a different set of discussions that it’s such a smart point.
S13: Emily, I and I think we you the three of us are kind of in that last generation. I mean, we grew up in the cities. We grew up in four cities where violence was a fact of life. And even even if you were extremely privileged white person growing up in Washington, you thought about it and got, you know, if you were African-American kid growing up in much of D.C., it was incredibly dangerous. And so that is a that’s a real shift. I want to make two points and exiting this one is that I spent last spring some time in Seattle and did a post on a panel at a Seattle the crosscut festival and interviewed the Seattle Socialist councilman.
S1: Didn’t do that. I was there for that. I forgot that.
S3: And that set Seattle just has a real political energy and a. Political vibe and a kind of political willingness to have political experimentation. And radicalism to it. That is unusual that some of the first the the World Bank protests, some of those first ones were out in Seattle. And there’s just a there’s a tremendous ferment and a willingness to try stuff out there, which is not so common, I think, in eastern cities. That’s number one. Number two, totally separate point. In one of the stories we’re reading about this, there was a mention of previous utopian communities in the United States. And there’s one which I had not heard of, which I cannot even believe. No one has made a movie of. I’m just gonna read you about this. In 1866, Benjamin Montgomery, formerly enslaved by Confederate Joseph Davis, purchased Daviss Myth. Mississippi plantations for eighteen thousand dollars and transformed the plantation to utopian community based on associational work and cooperation. After Montgomery’s death, his son adapt and sustain this father’s utopian green and mound, Bayou, Mississippi. And there was a relatively successful community based on a politics of consensus and communal government. And it just became known as a symbol of black achievement, a community of refuge for beleaguered black people. How could no one have made a movie that is like I want to written a book? I mean, I’m like guy. I want to see that right now anyway. Biathlete Plus.