Josh Marshall helpfully pointed us all to a Focus on the Family radio interview of Mark Levin (author of Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America, the latest right-wing bestseller) by James Dobson. Talk about a fair and balanced discussion…. it’s like listening to a couple of McCoys covering a Hatfield family reunion.Josh went right to the money quote near the end of the broadcast, when Dobson quotes some nameless minister who compared the white-robed men of the Ku Klux Klan to the black-robed men of the federal bench.And that’s vintage Dobson, who loves phony analogies depicting himself and his fellow extremists as brave souls defending themselves and the human race against totalitarian tyranny. A few years back, in a bout of self-pity about being “persecuted” by gay rights activists, Dobson took to comparing himself to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and other “Confessing Church” victims of Hitler. Now, apparently, he’s a Freedom Rider risking violence from the Klan.Any day now, I expect to see Dobson at some Save Tom DeLay rally leading a horde of lobbyists and cultural warriors, arms linked, in a heart-felt rendition of “We Shall Overcome.” The whole Dobson-Levin conversation is an eye-opener for those, like me, who haven’t quite had the stomach to digest the Latter-Day Right’s view of the U.S. Constitution. Levin is a real piece of work, and it is not good news that his bestselling book may provide hundreds of thousands of readers with their only exposure to constitutional law. Unless I am missing something, he seems to object not only to recent Supreme Court opinions, but to Marbury v. Madison, the landmark case that established the right of judicial review 202 years ago.Levin’s mastered the trick of stringing together every generally acknowledged constitutional abomination since then–Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, Korematsu v. The United States–and breezily identifying them with Roe v. Wade, which creates a nice litany of “black-robed masters” enabling “slavery, segregation, internment and abortion.” His “solutions”–term limits for federal judges and a congressional veto of Supreme Court decisions–would, of course, require either constitutional amendments or armed revolution, but that doesn’t trouble Levin. At one point, he says “we can’t get our hands on the Supreme Court, but we can get our hands on elected officials.” Nice turn of phrase for a legal beagle, eh? But then again, in addition to being a best-selling author, Levin’s now a radio talk show host.The other really striking thing about the Dobson-Levin “interview” is exactly how far the Souderization of Justice Anthony Kennedy has gone. God, they hate this appointee of Ronald Reagan so much more than the “liberals” on the Court. With his usual stance of posing as a victim of those he is attacking, Dobson says: “Anthony Kennedy scares me;” Levin seems to posit Kennedy as at the center of a “cabal of radical leftists” who are literally taking over the country at the behest of “moral relativists” and one-worlders.This duo’s reasoning is something to behold. Dobson slips effortlessly from yammering about “lifetime appointees to the Court” to blasting Florida Circuit Court Judge George Greer, the Devil Figure in the Right’s view of the Schiavo case. I suspect Dobson knows Greer is an elected judge who won a new six-year term just last year, but hey, can’t cut those judicial murderers any slack, can you?After all, when you’re fighting today’s black-robed Klan, you have to fight fiery cross with fiery cross.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
I ran across a story on faulty focus group memories of Trump, and I wrote about the implications at New York.
As an unpopular president facing a sour electorate, Joe Biden really needs to make 2024 a comparative election rather than a straight referendum on his presidency. Luckily for him, his likely general-election opponent, Donald Trump, is equally unpopular for reasons that are quite vivid. He’s as well known as Biden, and he works very hard to reinforce the traits that might make an undecided voter (even one unhappy with Biden) reluctant to put him back in the White House. So half of Biden’s work in drawing contrasts is done for him, and part of the other half is made easy for him by Trump’s strongest supporters, the “deplorables” (to use the Hillary Clinton term that has become a MAGA badge of honor) who enjoy shocking the world by advertising their hero’s most questionable characteristics.
It is becoming apparent, however, that Trump’s potential coalition is being augmented by low-information voters with a hazy understanding of the Trumpier features of the 45th president’s record, character, and agenda. By that I do not mean the non-college-educated voters who make up so large a part of the Trump base. Many if not most of them are pretty educated about their candidate. But there’s evidence that disengaged and/or deeply alienated folks who may nonetheless vote in a presidential election (if not any others) don’t know as much about Trump as you might assume, as the New York Times’ Patrick Healey has observed:
“Our latest Times Opinion focus group discussion with 13 undecided independent voters included a striking result: 11 of the 13 said they would vote for Donald Trump if the election were held now, and only two said they would vote for President Biden. The reason: overwhelming concern about the economy.
“But I was less surprised by the big vote for Trump than by this: The group didn’t blame Trump for things he was responsible or accountable for.
“For instance, several people linked their economic troubles to COVID, but they didn’t put any blame on Trump for that. Some were upset with the end of abortion rights nationally, but they didn’t tie that to Trump’s Supreme Court appointments. Several wanted bipartisanship, but they didn’t blame Trump for his hand in sinking the recent bipartisan border deal. One person, a Latina, blamed Trump for worsening racism in the country and recounted a searing incident that happened to her — but she was among the 11 who would vote for him anyway.”
Healey concludes that “a lot of our focus-group participants — and many voters — see Trump as an acceptable option in November, yet they don’t know or remember a lot about him.” This makes them, of course, highly susceptible to Trump campaign messaging asserting that the economy during his presidency was the greatest ever; that he’s a natural peacemaker who inspired respect for the United States everywhere; and that he’s a decent, law-abiding businessman (and family man!) whose near-constant forced court appearances are uniformly the product of his persecution by the other party.
Democrats, of course, will have opportunities (and increasingly, an obligation) to set the record straight about Trump and his presidency. But the difficult thing is that low-information voters also tend to be low-trust voters, which means they don’t tend to believe traditional arbiters of objective reality like the mainstream news media, and may not grant more truthful politicians superior credibility. Further distorting understanding of the Trump administration (and thus its possible return) is the huge trauma associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, which gives everything that immediately preceded the disaster an undeserved glow, while immolating memories of less powerful traumas associated with the former president’s tenure.
In other words, low-information voters who dislike politics so much that they are not inclined to dig into facts and evidence touching on political topics are highly vulnerable to the kind of disinformation that benefits Donald Trump. And if they are in a bad mood in November, they could help turn the election into a negative referendum on Joe Biden even if they are inviting something — and someone — far worse. Democrats will have to work hard to break through with the truth.