Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

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Jamelle Bouie: Trump and His Allies Think They Know Who Counts

But history has a way of confounding those who think they can control it.

Over the last few years, the Trump administration has fought to shape the 2020 census to its political benefit and the benefit of the Republican Party. In 2018, it sought to introduce a citizenship question on the census itself, to reduce response rates among immigrant communities. Then, after that was rebuffed by the Supreme Court, it tried to exclude unauthorized immigrants altogether, in direct conflict with the Constitution, which calls on Congress to count “the whole number of persons in each State.” Now it wants to cut the census short and deliver it uncompleted — a last-ditch effort to rig the nation’s politics for the sake of its exclusionary political vision.

The goal is to freeze political representation in place as much as possible; to keep demographic change — the growing share of Americans who are Black, Hispanic and Asian-American — from swamping the Republican Party’s ability to win national elections with a white, heavily rural minority.

The census, as Trump and his allies correctly understand, is a critical source of dynamism within the American political system. A political majority (or in Trump’s case, a minority) can try to insulate itself from demographic shifts and transformations, but the fact of mandatory reapportionment makes that difficult. New people — whether immigrants or Americans moving from place to place — will always mean new politics.

It is ironic, then, that the origin of the census lies less in principles of democratic representation, and more in the interests of slaveholders, who wanted political recognition of their slave wealth, with constitutional assurance that this peculiar interest would always weigh on future apportionment. But in a perfect example of unintended consequences, the slaveholders’ push for a census would help lay the groundwork for the end of the institution itself.

Catherine Rampell: The July jobs report sounds pretty good — until you look at this recession chart

Two cheers for the July jobs report.

Last month the U.S. economy added 1.8 million jobs. On the one hand, this number — at least in isolation — sounds pretty big! Until quite recently, we’d never even had a monthly job growth number in the seven figures. On the other hand, it’s a big slowdown from the 4.8 million jobs added in June. More important, you also have to consider how many more jobs were lost in the spring, which was an eight-digit figure (nearly 21 million positions were axed in April alone).

Then you realize that even with the recent growth, the country is still very much in the red.

Total non-farm payrolls are down by a net of 8.4 percent, the equivalent of nearly 13 million jobs, since the recession officially began in February. The U.S. unemployment rate is 10.2 percent, still higher than it ever was during the Great Recession. If you also include workers who are involuntary part-timers, people who have given up looking for work, and those who are still being accidentally misclassified as employed despite being temporarily laid off, the underemployment rate would be closer to 17.5 percent.

Amanda Marcotte: N.Y. attorney general is doing conservatives a favor by going after NRA: They’re its victims

NRA executives ran an apparent con game on conservatives for years — but the right can never admit it’s been had

On Thursday, New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the National Rifle Association, on the grounds that it’s functioning as a massive grift and not, as it bills itself, a “civil rights” organization for gun owners. There’s no way to know how this will play out — the NRA still wields political power, largely because it’s been so useful to Republicans — but the evidence marshaled by James and independent journalists is overwhelming.

As James said in her statement, the NRA “went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets,” and the degree of corruption was so broad and deep that the scheme has “basically destroyed all the assets of the NRA.” [..]

Unsurprisingly, conservatives reacted to the announcement by James with outrage. The most typical talking point was misdirection, with conservatives whining “what about Planned Parenthood?” in such numbers that “Planned Parenthood” started to trend on Twitter.

The answer to this “what about,” of course, is simple: Planned Parenthood is not a fraudulent organization run by grifters who redirect millions in donor contributions into their own pockets. It’s a legitimate medical organization and reproductive rights advocacy group. Comparing the two is a little like saying that if Jeffrey Dahmer had to go to prison as a serial killer, George R.R. Martin should go to prison for being a serial storyteller. It’s not the same thing!

Heather Digby Parton: Will Trump face real consequences for his crimes? The answer will haunt America’s future

What will we tell future generations — and future Republican presidents — if Trump gets away with everything?

If the nation manages to oust Donald Trump from the presidency in November — and he actually agrees to leave in January — the new administration and the Congress will have its hands full just trying to keep the country from falling even deeper into a depression and halting the death toll from the pandemic. Foreign policy will have to be dealt with immediately, as will the assessment of the damage to the administrative state. Our failed public health response to the coronavirus is a deadly wakeup call: The federal government has atrophied under the insane fiscal and political priorities inflicted upon it over the past couple of decades by nihilist Republicans and impotent Democrats. And that’s just for starters.

But one of the most important priorities must be to re-establish democratic and ethical norms in the wake of Trump’s brazen corruption. Congress can make new laws and the president can create executive orders, but if they want to get the job done there must be some accountability for this crime spree.

It’s hard to know where to start, but as you may recall there’s a report that lays out in great detail Donald Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation. It even makes a very strong case that he can be prosecuted after he leaves office for committing these crimes.

Greg Sargent: The Trump fiasco just got worse. That gives Biden a hidden opening.

As our public health and economic crises grow more dire, due in part to President Trump’s depraved incompetence, this deterioration has increased pressure on Joe Biden to rise to this distressing national moment. He has responded by projecting his intention to function as an ambitious president in the mould of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

But what does it mean to speak to the nation about these challenges in an FDR-like fashion? What should that entail for the presumptive Democratic nominee in concrete and rhetorical terms?

Two new developments — the release of a comprehensive blueprint on our economic future from the Roosevelt Institute, and the increasing odds that Congress’ economic rescue package will fall far short — provide an occasion to look at those questions. [..]

But in the current context, it gives rise to the report’s other core idea — that our crises have exposed deeper systemic problems and injustices in our political economy, ones that predated the virus and are baked into our market rules, ones that we created and that we can change.

Paul Waldman: Another impasse on the rescue package. Imagine if the president were a dealmaker.

The country faces an economic crisis on top of a public health crisis, and Congress is at an impasse in negotiations over a rescue package. Democratic leaders said on Friday that in the latest round, they offered to reduce their proposal by $1 trillion if Republicans would add $1 trillion to their far smaller proposal, but Republicans rejected it.

Meanwhile, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Republicans the biggest sticking point is the money Democrats want to give to state and local governments to help deal with their budget crises, which are already causing mass layoffs and service cuts.

What this deadlock needs is a master negotiator, someone whose extraordinary skills can break through the parties’ differences and craft a deal both sides can live with, giving Americans the help they need.

Someone like President Trump, the man who wrote “The Art of the Deal”!

You’re laughing, I know. But think about how extraordinary that is: During a difficult and complex negotiation, with incredibly high stakes for the country, we take it as a given that not only would the president of the United States much rather be off playing golf; it’s also probably best for everyone if he isn’t involved at all, because he’d only make things worse.