Jon Stewart, The High Priest Of Cultural Liberalism, Reprimands His Flock

Authored by Michael Tracy via (emphasis ours),

If contemporary American liberalism has any High Priests, foremost among them would have to be Jon Stewart. Arguably, he’s the functional equivalent of a supreme pontiff. So much of contemporary American liberalism hinges on aesthetic presentation — the ever-present need to convey that you and your peers “get it” — and Stewart pioneered the perfect public sensibility tailored to this ambition. For years, cultural liberals’ sense of savviness and ironic detachment, coupled with an underlying pretension to earnestness, was cultivated and affirmed by Stewart. His method of communicating political information on The Daily Show became the dominant style not just of mainstream corporate comedy, but of left-liberal politics as a whole. Everyone from establishment Democrats to cynical online leftists speaks of Stewart with worshipful reverence.

Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage

Stewart is also very smart. Like any good leader of a religious order, he knows on occasion he must chide his fellow clergymen for their doctrinal blindspots, tactical blunders, or personal indiscretions. He knows how to gently but firmly advise parishioners when they’ve gone astray, or gone too far. He also mostly kept his head down throughout the Trump presidency — declining to weigh in on every fleeting micro-scandal — which was a wise decision, so as to not get himself too brain-melted by the endless frenzy of that period. He didn’t even join Twitter until this past January.

Empathizing with the habits and tastes of those who are culturally dissimilar is always healthy, but it’s a major struggle to understand why some people still voluntarily watch late-night network TV. Nonetheless, Stewart appeared this week on the first back-in-studio taping of his protégé Stephen Colbert’s late-night show. There he issued what amounted to a new Papal encyclical. In that signature weary, deadpan delivery everyone knows and loves, he averred that the “lab leak” theory of COVID origins — previously a contemptible heresy — should not just be seriously considered as plausible, but had in fact become trivially obvious. So obvious that you’re now the dummy if you don’t think so. Watch as Colbert awkwardly wrestles with the implications of what his longtime hero Jon Stewart is saying; he looks almost pained. Six months ago, anyone who broached this topic on Colbert’s show would’ve been assumed to be some sort of QAnon crank. But here’s Jon Stewart, repeating Steve Bannon talking points. Colbert, understandably, appears quite disoriented.

Stewart recognizes when to “read the room” and direct a course correction in the prevailing sentiments of popular liberalism when its dogmas have become too untenable to continue. Who else was going to do it, Joe Biden? Nowhere near enough funny-guy sway. It takes the cultural prestige of a leader like Stewart to truly make a difference. And when he decides it’s time for one of those gentle-but-firm course corrections, liberals listen intently — because liberalism is underrated for its ability to adapt and self-correct, at least in the arena of public presentation. This is best accomplished by reframing its past failures as a big joke, and there’s no one better positioned to do so than Stewart. 

Accordingly, the rapid transformation of the lab leak theory from shameful racist trope into cool-kid conventional wisdom need not occasion any recriminations or blame — just more self-deprecating laughter. Never mind that during all the Zoom banter Stewart presumably participated in over the past 15 months, the theory was either scornfully dismissed or ignored. That’s all in the past; Trump is gone. Eventually Stewart got it.

But he wasn’t imparted with this knowledge by some divine revelation. A campaign of Twitter sleuths and Medium posts is what punctured a false consensus. Stewart merely consecrated the shift within a certain strand of the cultural mainstream, thereby granting license to liberals who need permission from their entertainment idols before they form opinions about anything.

This volatility within liberalism is often fodder for mockery. It can make adherents look and sound incoherent. But malleability is part of liberalism’s strength; after all, conservatives are always complaining that liberals control most every institution. To what do they attribute this…? 

It’s why the big “face-off” this week between Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden, desperately hyped by the flagging corporate news industry, could result in Putin lavishing Biden with praise for his statesmanship and sterling moral character, and no Democratic elected official taking issue. Memories of how similar diplomatic niceties were portrayed vis-a-vis the previous President simply vanish. Stephen Colbert didn’t sneer at the “collusive” implications. The last five years of spy-thriller hype can just wash away, with the snap of a finger.

It’s why Ashli Babbitt — an unarmed protester shot dead at point-blank range by an agent of the state — was presumed worthy of summary execution by the nation’s liberal class, even as they make other questionable police killings the guiding impetus of their entire political program. Babbitt had bad ideas, she was deluded by YouTube misinformation, she was a de facto white supremacist, whatever. She might’ve even been trespassing at the time the bullet was pumped into her throat. The public still doesn’t have the name of her assailant — this information has been concealed by the relevant police agency. But Jon Stewart wouldn’t go near that one… yet. Promoting a certain interpretation of January 6 still has a utility for liberals that clinging to lab leak denialism no longer does.

So much of it all is a facade — but facades can overlay the accrual of real power. Stewart just has enough self-awareness to poke his head through the facade every now and then, when the conditions are safe, and help right the ship.

*  *  *

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The McCloskeys Plead Guilty To Minor Misdemeanors In Conclusion Of St. Louis Protest Case

Authored by Jonathan Turley,

A year ago, we discussed the charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey of St. Louis after their armed standoff with protesters.  I was highly skeptical of the charges brought by Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who was later removed from the case due to ethical concerns.

Now, the couple has been allowed to plead to two minor misdemeanors in the conclusion of a highly politicized case.

Mark McCloskey pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault while Patricia McCloskey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment.  The fourth-degree assault includes a violation for putting someone into “reasonable apprehension”:

565.076.  Domestic assault in the fourth degree, penalty.

 1.  A person commits the offense of domestic assault in the fourth degree if the act involves a domestic victim, as the term “domestic victim” is defined under section 565.002, and:

  (1)  The person attempts to cause or recklessly causes physical injury, physical pain, or illness to such domestic victim;

  (2)  With criminal negligence the person causes physical injury to such domestic victim by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument;

  (3)  The person purposely places such domestic victim in apprehension of immediate physical injury by any means;

  (4)  The person recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to such domestic victim;

  (5)  The person knowingly causes physical contact with such domestic victim knowing he or she will regard the contact as offensive; or

  (6)  The person knowingly attempts to cause or causes the isolation of such domestic victim by unreasonably and substantially restricting or limiting his or her access to other persons, telecommunication devices or transportation for the purpose of isolation.

2.  The offense of domestic assault in the fourth degree is a class A misdemeanor, unless the person has previously been found guilty of the offense of domestic assault, of any assault offense under this chapter, or of any offense against a domestic victim committed in violation of any county or municipal ordinance in any state, any state law, any federal law, or any military law which if committed in this state two or more times would be a violation of this section, in which case it is a class E felony.  The offenses described in this subsection may be against the same domestic victim or against different domestic victims.

Notably, they agreed to give up the guns brandished in the confrontation, presumably as instruments of the crime.

However, this would not bar them from buying additional guns including another AR-15.

Gardner spent a huge amount of time and money on this effort in order to secure these misdemeanors. Yet, there appears to be little pushback on the over-charging of the couple and her own questionable conduct as a prosecutor in the case.

In the meantime, the case has made McCloskey popular with many in the state and he is now running for the Senate.

Nolte: Scientists Admit Covering Up Lab Leak Theory to Avoid Being ‘Associated’ with Trump

By way of an unforgivable (but very revealing) act of silence, several scientists now admit to having misled the country for more than a year by covering up their belief that the coronavirus lab leak theory is valid enough to warrant investigation.

In other words, here’s one more reason to never again trust the scientific community.

What we have here is an astonishing admission and one more reason not to believe the so-called scientific consensus about ANYTHING, most especially life-altering issues such as Global Warming or Climate Change or whatever these charlatans call it today.

Think about it…

If a herd of scientists is willing to lie through an act of omission about the lab leak, imagine the other lies they’re telling us — or are allowing to be told — when it comes to everything else.

Far-left NBC News reports:

[Alina] Chan was one of 18 scientists who published a letter in the journal Science last month calling for a more in-depth investigation into the virus’s origin that takes into account theories about both natural occurrence and laboratory spillovers. The letter helped kick-start a new round of calls to investigate the “lab leak hypothesis,” including demands from President Joe Biden and several leading scientists.

Chan said there had been trepidation among some scientists about publicly discussing the lab leak hypothesis for fear that their words could be misconstrued or used to support racist rhetoric about how the coronavirus emerged. Trump fueled accusations that the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a research lab in the city where the first Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] cases were reported, was connected to the outbreak, and on numerous occasions he called the pathogen the “Wuhan virus” or “kung flu.”

“At the time, it was scarier to be associated with Trump and to become a tool for racists, so people didn’t want to publicly call for an investigation into lab origins,” she said.

NOTE: Although she’s named in the NBC report, Alina Chan’s one of the very few who did not remain quiet. She’s maintained the validity of the lab leak theory from the beginning.

If you read between the lines, what happened here is obvious… A herd of quislings with scientific degrees allowed themselves to be so intimidated by the toxicity fabricated around Trump by the political, media, and academic establishment that they covered up something they believe to be true — that the lab leak theory is credible enough to warrant investigation.

So here’s what we now know… When given a choice between telling the public a vital truth or living through the social discomfort of being “associated” with someone the establishment loathes, to retain the establishment’s good opinion, moral cowards who call themselves scientists will cover up the truth.

Worse still, they covered up a truth because telling that truth would align them with the political right, which informs us that any scientific truth that validates a belief held by the right could very well be withheld.

All I have to say is, I TOLD YOU SO…

If you think the pressure to silence so-called scientists about the China flu was extreme, imagine the pressure the scientific community is under to continue to mislead the public about Global Warming or Climate Change or whatever these charlatans call it today.

Every establishment reputation, along with every hope and dream the fascist left holds about centralized government control, rests on the Global Warming Hoax. If a scientist dares to step out of that box, being attacked as a racist will be the least of their problems.

The intimidation to protect the Global Warming narrative is a thousand times hotter than anything around the lab leak. One card gets pulled out of the Global Warming Hoax, and the whole house of cards crumbles into a black hole.

I should also add that this is yet one more “conspiracy theory” that’s been confirmed.

Throughout this pandemic, we all knew the scientific establishment was lying to us. We all knew it because everything that flew out of their mouths (or, in this case, didn’t) lined up a little too perfect with the left’s fascist coronavirus agenda — just like Global Warming does.

Welcome to the 45th reason we can be confident Global Warming is a hoax.

Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.

Joe Down: Poll Shows Biden’s Approval Rating Dives as Democrats Despair at Course of Nation

A national poll shows President Joe Biden’s approval rating has gone backwards since April, plummeting to below 50 percent for the first time since he took office with disillusioned Democrats leading the way down.

The numbers show Biden’s approval rating stands at 48 percent, compared with 54 percent just two months ago. Forty-three percent currently disapprove of the job he’s doing, compared with 41 percent in April.

”Biden’s rating is still in net positive territory, but it seems to have taken a dip with the growing uncertainty that his signature spending plans will be enacted,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, which conducted the poll.

More than seven in 10 Americans have inflation concerns, according to the poll. Forty-seven percent of those questioned said they’re very concerned the Biden plans will lead to spiraling inflation with 24 percent saying they’re somewhat concerned.

Those who said they were at least somewhat worried included 93 percent of Republicans, 70 percent of Independents and even 55 percent of Democrats.

The poll found barely one-thirds of Independents approve of the president’s job performance while less than one-fifth of Republicans approve of Biden’s job performance.

In April, 83 percent of Democrats “said they thought the country was moving in the right direction,” the New York Times reported.

“But in Wednesday’s poll, just 59 percent of Democrats said that. The share of Democrats saying the country was on the wrong track rose by 20 percentage points, to 32 percent.”

The Times said one of the top takeaways from the poll was “Democrats are the ones growing most disillusioned, and fast.”

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from June 9 to 14, 2021, with 810 adults. The results have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

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In Extremely Rare Move, 3 Cops Charged with Murder for Executing Fleeing 16yo Boy on Video

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Honolulu, HI — As the Free Thought Project has reported over the years, it is extremely rare for police officers in America to be charged with murder for killing people on duty. Even when those people are unarmed and innocent, cops in America are rarely charged with murder. It appears that paradigm could be shifting, however, as we’ve seen several recent cases of American cops facing murder charges for killing people while on duty. In Hawaii, many were stunned this week after not one but three Honolulu cops were charged with murder and attempted murder in connection with the fatal on-duty shooting of a 16-year-old boy.

Iremamber Sykap, the 16-year-old victim, was shot 8 times by police — through the rear window of his car — as he attempted to drive away. The teen’s brother, Mark Sykap was also struck by two bullets but survived.

According to police, the incident unfolded on April 5, 2021, after Sykap led officers on chase in a vehicle they suspected was stolen.

Officer Geoffrey Thom, 42, was charged with second-degree murder for allegedly firing the shots that killed Sykap “without provocation.” Officers Zackary Ah Nee, 26, and Christopher Fredeluces, 40, face second-degree attempted murder charges for also shooting into the fleeing car.

Interim HPD Chief Rade Vanic released a statement saying the charges against his officers was “surprising.”

“We are surprised by the Prosecuting Attorney’s announcement to seek charges against the officers after a grand jury comprised of citizens decided not to indict them,” Vanic said in the statement. “This is highly unusual, and we are not aware of a similar action having been taken in the past. While we await the court’s decision, we will continue to protect and serve the community as we have always done.”

The court, however, disagrees.

“The evidence supports the conclusion that the defendants’ use of deadly force in this case was unnecessary, unreasonable, and unjustified under the law,” the criminal complaints state.

According to the original police report, officers claimed Sykap rammed their car and attempted to use the vehicle as a weapon. Police also claimed they saw a gun in Sykap’s lap. However, neither of these things were true.

Prosecutors say body camera video contradicts the officers’ claims that Sykap attempted to use the car to ram them, putting their lives in danger. All sides agree that Sykap was not complying with officers’ demands but but never did he pose a threat, the complaints state.

As Hawaii News Now reports:

Ah Nee said he thought he saw a firearm on the front passenger’s lap, but prosecutors said body camera footage show a thin square object that does not look like a firearm.

Photos included in the criminal complaint showed the direction of the bullets that were fired. Sykap was shot in the back of the head and several times in the shoulder.

Thom’s body camera video shows him standing behind the car when he fired 10 times. The two other officers were on the side of the vehicle.

“There was no one in front of the white Honda, and there were no civilians on the sidewalk or anywhere in front of the white Honda,” the complaints state. “The evidence confirms that Defendant Thom did intentionally or knowingly cause the death of Iremamber Sykap by shooting (him) eight times.”

Naturally, the police union disagrees and blames the public and the press for the prosecution of the “brave men” who executed a child as he fled.

“Our officers have given their lives for these communities that we protect. Tell me what profession does that and gets pounded by the media and keyboard warriors out there for doing our jobs protecting you,” union President Malcom Lutu said in a statement.

Apparently, according to Lutu, citizens are protected when cops kill unarmed fleeing children for running away.

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Who Is Really Killing American Democracy?

By a vote of 30-1 in the House, with unanimous support in the Senate, Juneteenth, June 19, which commemorates the day in 1865 when news of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas, has been declared a federal holiday. It is to be called Juneteenth Independence Day.

Prediction: This will become yet another source of societal division as many black folks celebrate their special Independence Day, and the rest of America continues to celebrate July 4 as Independence Day two weeks later. 

Why the pessimism? Consider. Days before Congress acted, the Randolph, New Jersey, board of education voted to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. A backlash ensued, and the board quickly voted to rescind its decision. Still under fire, the board voted to drop all designated holidays from the school calendar and replace them with the simple notation “Day Off.”

The school board had surrendered, punted, given up on trying to find holidays that the citizens of Randolph might celebrate together. But the “day off” mandate created another firestorm, and the board is now restoring all the previous holidays, including that of Columbus.

The point: If we Americans cannot even agree on which heroes and holidays are to be celebrated together, does that not tell us something about whether we are really, any longer, one country and one people? Do we still meet in any way the designation and description of us as the “one united people” that John Jay rendered in The Federalist Papers:

Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people—a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs.     

Does that depiction remotely resemble America in 2021? Today, we don’t even agree on whether Providence exists.

We hear constant worries these days about a clear and present danger to “our democracy” itself. And if democracy requires, as a precondition, a community, a commonality, of religious, cultural, social, and moral beliefs, we have to ask whether these necessary ingredients of a democracy still exist in 21st-century America.       

Consider what has happened to the holidays that united Americans of the Greatest and Silent Generations. Christmas and Easter, the great Christian Holy Days, and holidays of that era, were expunged a half-century ago from the public schools and the public square—replaced by winter break and spring break.

The Bible, the cross, and the Ten Commandments were all expelled as contradicting the secularist commands of our Constitution. Traditional Christian teachings about homosexuality and abortion, reflected in public law, are now regarded as hallmarks of homophobia, bigotry, sexism, and misogyny—i.e., of moral and mental sickness. 

Not only do Americans’ views on religion and morality collide, but we also seem ever more rancorously divided now on matters of history and race. 

Was Christopher Columbus a heroic navigator and explorer who “discovered” America—or a genocidal racist? Was the colonization of America a great leap forward for civilization and mankind, or the monstrous crime of technically superior European peoples who came to brutally impose their religion, race, and rule upon indigenous peoples?

Three of the six Founding Fathers and most of the presidents of the first 60 years of our republic were slave owners: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, James Polk, and Zachary Taylor, as well as the legendary senators Henry Clay and John Calhoun. A number of Americans now believe that Washington and Jefferson should be dynamited off Mount Rushmore at the same time the visages of the three great Confederates—Gen. Robert E. Lee, Gen. Stonewall Jackson, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis—are dynamited off Stone Mountain, Georgia. 

From all this comes a fundamental question. Is the left itself—as its cultural and racial revolution dethrones the icons of America’s past, who are still cherished by a majority—irreparably fracturing that national community upon which depends the survival of the democracy they profess to cherish? Are they themselves imperiling the political system at whose altar they worship?

The country is not the polity. The nation is not the state. Force Americans to choose between the claims of God, faith, family, tribe, and country—and the demands of democracy—and you may not like the outcome.          

A question needs to be put to the left in America. If your adversaries in politics are indeed fascists, racists, sexists, homophobes, xenophobes, and bigots, as you describe them, why would, or should, such people accept and embrace your rule over them—simply because you managed to rack up a plurality of ballots in an election? Free elections to decide who governs are, it is said, the central sacrament of democracy. But why should people who are described with every synonym for “deplorable” not reject the politics of compromise and instead work constantly to overthrow the rule of people who so detest them?      

Winston Churchill called democracy “the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried.” Are both sides sticking with democracy—for lack of an alternative?      


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1 dead, 12 injured after random drive-by shooting spree: Police

A suspect was taken into custody and a weapon recovered in his car, police said.

One person is dead and a dozen people injured after an apparent drive-by shooting spree near Phoenix, authorities said.

Police are investigating at least eight different shooting incidents that occurred over the course of a 90-minute period Thursday morning throughout the West Valley, according to Sgt. Brandon Sheffert, a spokesperson for the Peoria Police Department, which is leading the investigation.

“This is an extremely complex investigation,” Sheffert said during a press briefing, noting that multiple agencies are involved, including several police departments and the FBI. The number of shooting sites “could obviously grow,” he said.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told ABC News it is working to match ballistic shell casings from the various shooting scenes and tracing the recovered gun to figure out where the shooter bought or obtained the gun. It will also search the suspect’s home for any other weapons.

At around 11:10 a.m. local time, Peoria police received a call of “a vehicle that had been shot by another vehicle” near 103rd and Northern avenues, Sheffert said.

The same suspect vehicle — a white SUV — is believed to be involved in at least eight total shooting incidents, police said. Out of 13 victims accounted for so far, four were shot, one of whom died, Sheffert said. The other injuries may have been from car crashes or broken glass, but no specifics are available at this time, he said.

The deceased victim was found with a gunshot wound in a car on the Loop 101 freeway at Thunderbird Road, Sheffert said. The other injuries are expected to be non-life-threatening.

Three Banner Health hospitals confirmed to ABC News that they received nine patients from what they referred to as Thursday’s “drive-by shooting incident.” Banner Health West Valley facilities were on a since-lifted lockdown.

The Surprise Police Department tracked down the suspect’s car after it was spotted by the Surprise Fire Department, said Sunrise Sgt. Tommy Hale. Police took the male suspect into custody without incident after he pulled over, Hale said.

“Surprise PD did a great job locating this vehicle and getting this guy into custody to stop any more damage that he could do to the community,” Sheffert said.

A weapon was recovered in the suspect’s car, according to Hale, though no additional details were available on the type of gun.

No further details on the suspect were shared. Police are still investigating a motive, Sheffert said, though they don’t believe it was related to road rage.

“We don’t normally see road rage where this much happens,” he said.

No information was available yet on charges, though there will “probably be a litany of charges,” Sheffert said.

Police do not believe there are any additional suspects in the shootings and are asking anyone with information to call 623-773-8311.

“We want more information on this so we can figure out exactly what happened,” Sheffert said.

GOP needs new health care target; ‘Obamacare’ survives again

Along with the public’s gradual but decisive acceptance of the statute, the court rulings and legislative defeats underscore that the law, passed in 2010 despite overwhelming GOP opposition, is probably safe. And it spotlights a remarkable progression of the measure from a political liability that cost Democrats House control just months after enactment to a widely accepted bedrock of the medical system, delivering care to what the government says is more than 30 million people.

“It’s not as sacred or popular as Medicare or Medicaid, but it’s here to stay,” said Drew Altman, president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “And it’s moved from an ideological whipping boy to a set of popular benefits that the public values.”

Highlighting the GOP’s shifting health care focus, in interviews and written statements Thursday, more than a dozen Republican lawmakers called for controlling medical costs and other changes, but none suggested another run at repeal. Congressional Republicans hadn’t even filed a legal brief supporting the latest Supreme Court challenge.

“Just practically speaking, you need 60 votes in a Republican Senate, a Republican president, right? And we’ve tried that and were unable to accomplish it,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., a leading voice on health care in the GOP.

Polling shows the risks in trying to demolish Obama’s law. A Kaiser poll showed Americans about evenly divided on the law in December 2016, just after Trump was elected on a pledge to kill it. By February 2020, 54% had a favorable view while 39% disapproved.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and other top Republicans issued a statement illustrating one line of attack the party is preparing — trying to handcuff all Democrats to “Medicare for All,” a costly plan for government-provided health care backed by progressives that goes beyond what Biden and many in the party have proposed.

Congress should “not double down on a failed health care law or, worse, move towards a one-size-fits-all, socialist system that takes away choice entirely,” the Republicans said.

The GOP should focus on health issues people care about, like personalized care and promoting medical innovation, not repealing the health care law, said David Winston, a pollster and political adviser to congressional GOP leaders.

“Republicans need to lay out a clear direction of where the health care system should go,” Winston said. “Don’t look backward, look forward.”

Most people have gained coverage from either Obama’s expansion of the government-funded Medicaid program for lower-income people or from private health plans, for which federal subsidies help offset costs for many.

The law’s most popular provisions also include its protections for people with preexisting medical conditions from higher insurance rates, allowing people up to age 26 to remain covered under their parents’ plans and requiring insurers to cover services like pregnancy and mental health.

Key requirements like that are “locked in concrete,” said Joseph Antos, a health policy analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. The political opening for Republicans would be if Democrats push hard for things like lowering the eligibility age for Medicare to 60 because for many conservative-leaning voters, he said, “that’s a sign of government pushing too far” into private marketplace decisions.

Yet serious problems remain.

Nearly 29 million Americans remained uninsured in 2019, and millions more likely lost coverage at least temporarily when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, according to Kaiser. In addition, medical costs continue rising and even many covered by the law find their premiums and deductibles difficult to afford.

In response, Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package enacted in March expanded federal subsidies for health insurance premiums for those buying coverage. His infrastructure and jobs proposal being negotiated in Congress includes $200 billion toward making that permanent, instead of expiring in two years.

But his plan includes none of his more controversial campaign trail proposals to expand health care access, like creating a federally funded public health care option or letting Medicare directly negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. While those proposals are popular with Democratic voters, they face tough odds in a closely divided Congress.

Still, Republicans gearing up for 2022 elections that will decide congressional control must decide where their next focus will be.

One GOP strategist involved in House races, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe internal thinking, said the party should focus on issues like the economy and border security that register as higher voter concerns. A Gallup poll showed that in May, 21% of the public ranked the economy as the country’s top problem, with health care registering at just 3%.

Other Republicans say the Supreme Court’s rejection of the latest repeal attempt will clear the political field for them to refocus their health care attacks on Democrats.

“Now it’s Medicare for All that will be a top health care issue playing a role in campaigns,” said Chris Hartline, spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm.


Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe in Washington and Tom Murphy in Indianapolis, Ind., contributed to this report.

‘As Long as the Party Embraces Trump, It’s Going to Have Trouble’

In 1998, when Dave Woodward was elected to the state House at age 22, one of the things that immediately separated him from other young win-it-now political obsessives was his patience. He saw a trend: Bill Clinton had won Oakland County in 1996, the first Democrat to carry it in decades. If they could just convince those people to vote Democratic lower on the ballot, that could change everything.

Having grown up in Oakland during the ’80s and ’90s, Dave knew the county’s reputation as a place for the wealthy and well-connected. He also knew that it bore little resemblance to the lives of many people in the county—himself included. “In Oakland County, particularly, prosperity—in so many ways—is all around you,” he says. “The opulence is all around you.”

Born and raised in Royal Oak, one of the middle-class, inner-ring suburbs in the south end of the county, his family was neither wealthy nor well-connected. His dad worked retail at Sears for 25 years—a working-class living that put food on the table but wasn’t the kind of money that created feather-bed comfort. Woodward’s interest in politics started in high school, but when it came time for college, he needed to be practical: At Wayne State, he set himself up for a career as an actuary. But being an actuary didn’t excite him—not like politics. In 1998, Woodward ran for the open seat being vacated by his hometown state representative, a Democrat. Woodward didn’t have a whole lot of money or connections and Royal Oak was still a battleground with lots of moderate Republicans—and the year was otherwise miserable for Michigan Democrats—but he won anyway, with nearly 55 percent of the vote.

He arrived in Lansing, 22 and impossibly boyish-looking, as the youngest member of the minority party. And though he threw himself into constituent services and bread-and-butter issues like clean water and consumer protection, he quickly found that minority status imposed limits on what you could achieve through hard work alone. Still, he believed the rah-rah attitude of his more experienced fellow legislators who vowed to take back the House in 2000.

“And right after that didn’t happen, I and a group of people sat down to say, ‘All right, we’ve got to map this out,’” remembers Woodward.

On paper, they sketched out a 10-year plan to build the Democratic Party in Oakland County. At the time, the county party was more a loose confederation of local groups and elected officials’ campaigns than anything resembling a coherent organization.

“We had to build everything from scratch,” says Woodward.

He started by identifying local races where they stood a chance of making gains. Initially, the model for this calculation was crude. “It was like, ‘Where was the margin of loss less than 10 percent? Let’s start there,” Woodward laughs.

“I’ll be honest, there were some folks who got mad at me because we didn’t help everybody in the same way,” he says. “But this was about winning! It’s about winning elections and then winning majorities so that we can actually govern. … The goal, for me, is not just to compete in an election for the sake of an election; it’s what you do with the power once you have it.”

To start, that meant finding voters. Woodward knew Democrats existed in Oakland—Bill Clinton won in there 1996 and Al Gore in 2000, which, in retrospect, were early signs of a national shift in the political preferences of college graduates—but he also knew that those voters either tended not to vote in down-ballot races, or split their tickets.

“It’s all so high-tech now, the modeling and all that type of stuff,” says Woodward. “This was old-school: I needed to find us 5,000 more Democrats. So we’re going door-to-door and asking, ‘Are you a Democrat?’ We found them. And we built a database and made certain to put energy and resources into making sure that everyone we identified a year-and-a-half out from the election ended up voting. … It’s not rocket science. It was like, ‘This person should be voting with us, but just hasn’t.’”

In November 2002, Woodward won his third term in the state House—his final one, thanks to term limits. At 26, talk naturally turned to what he wanted to do next. In Oakland, Democrats made gains, but the hole was deep: Republicans had a 19-6 supermajority on the county board.

Woodward had attended one of those 19-6 county board meetings, and remembers speaking afterwards with Dave Coulter, a Ferndale Democrat elected to the board in 2002.

“That was my first elected office, so I was a bit crestfallen to see how little you can really get done in a minority that small,” says Coulter. He had worked to build collegial, productive relationships with the Republicans on the commission—and with Patterson himself, for that matter. But it wasn’t enough to actually manifest the change he wanted to see.

Woodward was offering to help. “I’m like, ‘OK, clearly we need some more Democrats elected,’” Woodward laughs. “He’s like, ‘Ya think?!’”

In the process of recruiting candidates, the tables turned on Woodward: Dave, you’re term-limited. Why don’t you run?

It was not exactly advisable for a rising star to leave the legislature to pursue lower office, running in a seat where he’d face a Republican incumbent whom Patterson was grooming to be the next chairman of the board. Plus, he would still be in the minority. But that was where his work was: turning Oakland blue.

In November 2004, Woodward upset the Republican incumbent. Several of his recruits won, too. The Republican majority shrunk from 19-6 to 15-10. Now it was time to slam on the accelerator. Woodward and Coulter came up with a new plan.

“For the next six years that I was [on the board], we sort of divided up responsibilities,” Coulter says. “He oversaw the ‘political’ side of things [for the Democrats], and I sort of oversaw the ‘caucus management’ and ‘negotiating with [Patterson]’ side of things. And that worked for us. … I would try to raise issues and policies, and then Dave would try to translate those into votes.”

They picked issues designed to contrast with Patterson’s Republicans, like transit, clean water, urban redevelopment and making sure middle-class areas weren’t neglected in favor of wealthier communities.

“It was a combination of raising issues that were emerging … and then getting candidates who were credible,” says Coulter.

“It’s not just a winning formula; these are things that the voters want,” says Woodward.

Patterson saw Democrats making gains and it perturbed him. But he understood the cause of it earlier than most in his party. “I’ve said all along that the far-right wing of the [GOP] has done a very effective job of running moderate women out of the party,” he told the Free Press in 2004.

But what Patterson might not have expected was that Woodward had his eyes on something that Republicans had taken for granted as theirs to control: redistricting.


It was a quirk of Michigan law: The state legislature controlled the once-in-a-decade redistricting process for federal and state legislative maps. New county commission lines, however, were decided by a panel made up of five people: the chairs of the county’s Democratic and Republican Parties, the county clerk, treasurer and prosecutor.

After the 2006 election, the Republican majority on the board was just 13-12. Whoever controlled the district lines after the 2010 census would likely determine the majority. All of the countywide posts would be up in 2008—a presidential year, which meant high turnout for Democrats—and one of those offices, Patterson’s old job of county prosecutor, was an open seat. In November, Barack Obama carried Oakland with 56.5 percent of the vote. Patterson won a fifth term as county executive with 58 percent of the vote. Republicans held the clerk’s office, but Democrats picked up the treasurer and prosecutor posts—which meant they would control redistricting in the county for the first time in generations. Woodward would get his majority. It was all going according to plan.

But there was one thing Woodward hadn’t planned for: Patterson’s sway in the state capital.

At Patterson’s behest, the GOP state legislature rewrote the rules of county redistricting to strip control from the five-member bipartisan panel and hand it to the GOP-controlled county board. And lest there be any doubt about why this was happening, the new law was written in such a manner that it applied only to Oakland County—only to counties with a population of more than 1 million (there are two: Wayne and Oakland) that didn’t operate by their own charter (just Oakland).

“Brooks came [to Lansing] and said, ‘Hey, make this exception for Oakland County,’” one top Michigan Republican strategist who was involved in the episode told me. “He wanted the board. When he was exec, it was more like they weren’t an independently elected board; even though they were, Brooks ran them. He gave them their agenda. … They did what Brooks wanted. He ran that county like a king. He wanted a compliant board. That mattered more to him than [them being] Republicans, quite honestly.”

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed the bill into law in December 2011.

Museum Head: Baseball’s Embrace Of Negro Leagues Is An Atonement, Not A Validation

The Kansas City Monarchs team of 1948. Jackie Robinson played for the storied Negro Leagues franchise before breaking MLB’s color barrier in 1947. Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Inc. hide caption

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Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Inc.

The Kansas City Monarchs team of 1948. Jackie Robinson played for the storied Negro Leagues franchise before breaking MLB’s color barrier in 1947.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Inc.

Numbers drive baseball, a game whose managers, analysts and fans obsess over matchups, tendencies and results. Its box scores, those proto-spreadsheets, instantly turn human accomplishments into history. The quest is for clean, comparable data.

But for decades, the human aspect of the game — specifically, the racism that pro baseball both reflected and perpetuated — clouded that data. While the feats of white players were carefully recorded and celebrated, the accomplishments of Black players in the Negro Leagues were set apart or forgotten entirely.

But that’s been changing: Baseball Reference, a gatekeeper of the game’s statistics, is integrating data from the Negro Leagues era of 1920-1948 into its record books — a move it calls “long overdue.”

“We are not bestowing a new status on these players or their accomplishments,” Baseball Reference said. “The Negro Leagues have always been major leagues. We are changing our site’s presentation to properly recognize this fact.”

The change follows Major League Baseball’s recent move to finally recognize the Negro Leagues, which has 35 players in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, as having “major league” status. In both cases, the shift was framed as the correction of an oversight. And that’s how it should be, says Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo.

“The Negro League players themselves were never seeking validation from anyone,” Kendrick tells NPR. “They knew how good they were; they knew how good their league was.”

Integrating the players’ statistics is no simple task. To get a sense of what the changes mean to baseball’s history, NPR spoke to Kendrick after Baseball Reference announced its revised policy.

Note: This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

For so long, even the statistics from Black ball players were kept separate from the other major leagues. Does this feel like another remnant of segregation is finally falling?

Oh yeah. We look at it from the standpoint that Major League Baseball acknowledged what we already knew, that the Negro Leagues were a major league.

In some ways, we see it as a reckoning. And I think for me, that aspect of it means even more than the integration of the statistics into the annals of Major League Baseball history.

We’re thrilled that Commissioner [Rob] Manfred and Major League Baseball did what could have and should have been a long time ago — and no one did it. He had the wherewithal to right a wrong. And that’s exactly what he did. I tip my cap to him and all involved with pulling this effort together.

What we’re seeing now is the impact of the decision made in December by MLB. It has a ripple effect that is all positive. Baseball Reference is regarded by many fans as the Bible. And it is — for those who want statistical data, that is the go-to source. Needless to say, we were thrilled to see Baseball Reference make their announcement.

The Pittsburgh Crawfords team of 1932 included future Hall of Famers Satchel Paige (back row, second from left), Josh Gibson (to the right of Paige), and Oscar Charleston (far right). The team is seen here at a spring training site in Hot Springs, Ark. Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images hide caption

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Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Crawfords team of 1932 included future Hall of Famers Satchel Paige (back row, second from left), Josh Gibson (to the right of Paige), and Oscar Charleston (far right). The team is seen here at a spring training site in Hot Springs, Ark.

Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images

People are celebrating Negro League statistics being incorporated into the record books. But we’re also seeing that some big stars’ numbers now look very different. Why is that?

You’re going to get a smaller sample size. Because these statistics are going to focus solely on league games, and the Negro Leagues didn’t play as many games in their season as Major League Baseball did. Most of the previous numbers looked at all levels of competition, including barnstorming games. And none of those games will be accounted for [in the new statistics].

I’ve got mixed emotions about that, to be honest. For me, I would have included every game that you could account for — I don’t care who they were against. My position is that they didn’t ask to play in the Negro Leagues; they had to play in the Negro Leagues. They had to play whoever they could play, whenever they could play. That includes even major league competition, where they played countless barnstorming games against each other. Those numbers won’t be accounted for.

What are some examples of that?

Josh Gibson’s home run totals won’t sound as impressive as we all know them to be, because they’re going to be focused strictly on league games. So now you have to delve into, ‘OK, he hit a home run every X number of at-bats,’ that kind of thing, to get a clearer picture of just how magnificent Josh Gibson really was.

But I tell people all the time: You can never reduce the story of the Negro Leagues to just statistics. It won’t account for the circumstances in which they were playing these games. They were performing at such a high level under the most adverse set of circumstances.

Case in point, a pitcher like Satchel Paige. In 1943, J.L. Wilkinson bought an airplane and hired Paige out to pitch for other teams and then fly him back to pitch for the Kansas City Monarchs. The numbers are never going to tell you that — it’s why I say they’re contextual.

Numbers won’t tell you the real story. Hopefully it whets your appetite and you want to learn more about these legends of the game to the point that you come visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and learn the greater story.

What else should happen for these players’ history, and the Negro Leagues’ history, to be preserved and put in their rightful place?

The historians have done a really good job — because none of this would be possible without them. They have done yeoman’s duty to unearth what is now being utilized to quantify these numbers. That being said, do I think that there’s even more out there? My guess is that there is. But we don’t get to that historic day in December without the diligence, the commitment and the passion of those who have dedicated themselves to researching Negro Leagues history.

I’m not saying that it was like finding a needle in a haystack, but it damn near was. And these folks should be commended for the work that they did.

The Washington Homestead Grays, seen here around 1946, split their home games between Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. The team won the Negro World Series in 1948, the championship’s final year. Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Inc. hide caption

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Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Inc.

The Washington Homestead Grays, seen here around 1946, split their home games between Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. The team won the Negro World Series in 1948, the championship’s final year.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Inc.

The exclusion of the Negro Leagues is linked to Major League Baseball’s Special Baseball Records Committee, from the late 1960s. What did that committee do?

Well, they recognized all these other leagues but failed to recognize the Negro Leagues.

There are leagues that were acknowledged as major-league caliber, like the Federal League and others, and the committee blatantly dismissed the Negro Leagues. You know it was racially motivated, because we’re talking about a league that was as good as any, and had more impact on Major League Baseball than any of the leagues that were recognized.

Many of the Negro League teams were renting the major league ballparks, and in most instances, they were filling up the ballpark. Major-league owners were making money off the Negro Leagues, getting a percentage of the gate and likely all of the concessions.

Then, after Jackie Robinson breaks the color barrier, this tremendous influx of talent moves into the major leagues. We’re talking about the greatest influx of talent in any one single time frame in Major League Baseball history — and the majority of that talent came from the Negro Leagues, this league that was deemed somehow or another “less than.”

You know it was racially motivated, and it had been that way since the late ’60s. So that’s why I say I tip my hat to Commissioner Manfred, because he did what others could have done — and they didn’t.

Did the MLB think about forming a new special committee after the 1960s, to fix that?

It’s really interesting. Most of us didn’t even know about this commission until recently, when someone wrote about it. That was the first time I’d heard about it. And by that time, MLB had already started to work with these historians to try and right that wrong. But most of us, unless you were really a hard-core student of this game, didn’t even know about that commission.

It took me by surprise. Honestly, I wondered if I was just me, and maybe I was tuned out.

It wasn’t just you — maybe it was just you and I [laughing]. Maybe everybody else knew.

The recent steps by MLB and Baseball Reference apply to the era from 1920 to 1948, when more than 3,400 players were in the Negro Leagues. What were their careers like? Did they play only during a season, or was this more like a full-time job?

The league structure was mirrored right after Major League Baseball. So they had a dedicated season, they just didn’t play as many games. Again, access to stadiums was always a critical part of why things were so challenging for Negro Leagues to survive before Rube Foster formed the Negro National League.

Very few Negro League teams had their own stadiums. They were dependent on major league teams to get access to their facilities, which means they had to wait until the teams weren’t playing, or on the road, to get access to those stadiums.

The superstar Negro Leaguers would play all year round. They would go to Latin America in the winter, just like many major leaguers did, to supplement their income and play the game. So they could make a pretty decent living, but they had to play the game year-round.

You’ve worked for years to gain fair recognition for Negro Leagues players. Baseball Reference announced their change in policy on your birthday — what was that like for you?

Oh, it’s been amazing. I take great pride, because I do think the work we’ve done over three decades here at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum played a role in helping us get to that historic announcement that took place in December, and then led to Baseball Reference expanding their look at the Negro Leagues.

The fact that people are now taking greater notice of the Negro Leagues and its history is very significant and very meaningful. You know, people are celebrating this. It was long overdue, but it’s happened. And the players that are still with us, the families of players who have been long gone, this meant something to them as well.

The Negro League players themselves were never seeking validation from anyone, they didn’t need to be validated. They knew how good they were, they knew how good their league was. And quite frankly, the major leaguers knew how good they were.

But what Major League Baseball has done, it has paid rightful tribute, and to some degree, it is an atonement.

What about the timing of these changes, especially with where our country is right now?

Timing is everything. As we were celebrating 100 years of the Negro Leagues last year, the social and civil unrest that we saw in our country perhaps sped up this process with baseball. Because I think it was part of an effort to help heal, and baseball has always been at the forefront of social change in this country. It was only fitting that they would be part of the healing process.

I don’t know definitively that that had an impact on the timing of this announcement, but I do think both of those things played a role.

If the winning spirit of the Negro Leagues can help us bridge the racial divide that seemingly was growing wider in our country, then it’s just another example of the profoundness of this history, and how important this museum is as the caretaker of that history.

Thought Crimes

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