Resilience in the Face of the Onslaught

By Charles M. Blow – July 11, 2024

A blurry photo shows President Biden speaking at a podium in front of the American flag.
Credit…Jamie Kelter Davis for The New York Times

Joe Biden is still standing, refusing to bow out — he reiterated that once again in a lengthy and mostly successful news conference on Thursday night. Some may view it as selfish and irresponsible. Some may even see it as dangerous. But I see it as remarkable.

Despite sending a clear message — in his recent flurry of interviews and rallies, in his stalwart address this week to members of the NATO alliance and in his letter on Monday to congressional Democrats, in which he assured them that “I wouldn’t be running again if I did not absolutely believe I was the best person to beat Donald Trump in 2024” — there’s still a slow drumbeat from luminaries, donors and elected officials trying to write Biden’s political obituary.

The talent agency mogul Ari Emanuel (a brother of Rahm Emanuel, Biden’s ambassador to Japan), recently said Biden “is not the candidate anymore.” In a post on X, the best-selling author Stephen King said that it’s time for Biden “to announce he will not run for re-election.” Abigail Disney, an heiress to the Walt Disney fortune, said, “I intend to stop any contributions to the party unless and until they replace Biden at the top of the ticket.”

They seem to believe that they can kill his candidacy, by a thousand cuts or by starving it to death.

But none of this sits well with me.

First, because Biden is, in fact, his party’s presumptive nominee. He won the primaries. He has the delegates. He got there via an open, organized and democratic process.

Forcing him out, against his will, seems to me an invalidation of that process. And the apparent justification for this, that polls, which are highly fluctuant, now indicate that some voters want him replaced, is insufficient; responses to polls are not votes.

Yes, two weeks ago, Biden had a bad debate, and may well be diminished. Yes, there’s a chance he could lose this election. That chance exists for any candidate. But allowing elites to muscle him out of the race would be playing a dangerous game that is not without its own very real risk. It won’t guarantee victory and may produce chaos. The logic that says you have to dump Biden in order to defeat Trump is at best a gamble, the product of panicked people in well-furnished parlors.

Furthermore, no one has really made the case that whatever decline Biden may be experiencing has significantly impacted his policy decision-making or eroded America’s standing in the world. The arguments center on the visual evidence of somewhat worrisome comportment but mostly speculation about cognition.

That is just not enough.

I am not a Biden acolyte. I’ve never met the man. And I’m not arguing against the sense among those who have seen him up close and express worry. I’m not pro-Biden as much as I am pro-stay the course.

Like Biden’s Democratic doubters, I want above all to prevent Trump from being re-elected and to ensure the preservation of democracy. It’s just that I believe allowing Biden to remain at the top of the Democratic ticket is the best way to achieve that.

And since that’s the goal, perhaps the best argument in Biden’s favor is that his mettle has been revealed by the onslaught of criticism he has endured since the debate, much of it from other liberals.

Biden’s support hasn’t cratered, as one might have expected. Which suggests that the idea that Biden can’t win — or that another Democrat would have an easier run — is speculative at best.

Indeed, when I saw one headline that read, “Poll finds Biden damaged by debate; with Harris and Clinton best positioned to win,” I thought: Hillary Clinton? Now we’re truly in fantasy baseball territory.

And in the national poll on which that article was premised, Biden trailed Trump by just one percentage point while Vice President Kamala Harris led Trump by just one percentage point; in both cases, well within the margin of error.

A new Washington Post-ABC News-Ipsos poll found that Biden and Trump are tied nationally.

As for hypothetical candidates like Harris — who I do believe would acquit herself well at the top of the ticket — that same poll shows her performing slightly better against Trump than Biden does. But that is in the abstract, before the chaos of a candidate change, and before she received the full-frontal assault that being the actual nominee would surely bring. And in an era of opposition to “wokeness” and the values of diversity, equity and inclusion, that frontal assault, directed at the first Black, Asian American and female vice president, would be savage.

The potential drag on down-ballot races is a legitimate concern for some Democrats, but it appears to be the panic of some down-ballot candidates that has exacerbated the problem, as more than a dozen House Democrats and one Senate Democrat have called for Biden to leave the race.

There’s no guarantee that swapping out candidates would leave Democrats in a better position, but I believe the case is building that the continued dithering among Democrats about Biden’s candidacy is doing further damage to their chances.

Biden’s candidacy may not survive. But forcing him out of it may hurt Democrats more than it helps them, even with voters who say they want a different choice.

More on President Biden:

David French: Biden Has an Inner Circle Problem. He’s Not the Only One. – July 11, 2024

Ezra Klein: Democrats Are Drifting Toward the Worst of All Possible Worlds – July 11, 2024

Charles M. Blow is an Opinion columnist for The New York Times, writing about national politics, public opinion and social justice, with a focus on racial equality and L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

Omnipotent SCOTUS bows to the Court of King Donald

Omnipotent SCOTUS bows to the Court of King Donald

John Hanno – July 4, 2024

I’m astonished, on this Independence Day 2024, the near 250th anniversary, of America’s Founding Father delegates of the Second Continental Congress declaring the original Thirteen Colonies emancipated from the Monarch of Great Britain, King George III., at having to rationalize SCOTUS’s irrational political proclamation, returning subordination of America’s Democratic experiment back to a now unfettered, kleptocratic, facist minded, autocratic King.

The Mighty Oz has spoken. Six extreme right justices of the highest court in the land have shown their true colors. They clearly believe 250 years of American jurisprudence is suspect, and that our elected legislative branch’s of government can’t be trusted to fashion unbiased laws, that large segments of our judicial branch’s of government can’t be trusted to rule fairly and without favor, that the Democratic Institutions which have served us dependably for many decades, can’t be trusted to dispense scientific and reasoned judgments, that the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees Freedom of the Press, is just more proof of a deep state conspiracy, that disaffected members of the Rockefeller, Eisenhower, Regan conservative Grand Old Party can’t be trusted to engage in bipartisan governance, and that pro choice women, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ folks, environmentalists, gun rights and labor advocates, teachers and librarians, the secular and non christians, all can’t be trusted on anything, and that large majorities of We The People, who are at loggerheads on dozens of critical issues, with this new trump conscripted MAGA cult, with the rich and powerful, and with SCOTUS itself, can’t be trusted.

The uncompromising SCOTUS answer to litigants who seek justice and reasoned deliberation from the Court, and who sometimes kneel in prayer on the steps of the Supreme Court building, begging for help, is:

“You’ve no power here! Begone, before someone drops a house on you too!” Wizard of Oz

This Court’s rulings; sometimes applying originalist or textualist interpretations, sometimes not, sometimes narrow, sometimes expansive, sometimes quick, sometimes slow, sometimes follow The Doctrine of Stare Decisis, but only if it suits them. These consequential decisions, more often than not, render unprecedented and confusing views of the U.S. Constitution, and are befuddling to common folks and legal scholars of every stripe alike.

They might advocate for Fundamental Rights, for corporations yes, but seldom for the less powerful. It’s almost as if they’re taking directives from wealthy, fawning benefactors expecting quid pro quo from justices, or from powerful political party leaders and operatives bent on undermining both the Constitution and our Democracy. Pandering to the rich and powerful, no matter how convoluted in reasoning and no matter how demented or suspect the litigant, is not beyond the courts ability to excuse the un-American and un-Democratic conduct of a demented citizen suffering a boggled mind. One would think that judges who aren’t accountable to anyone, or to any set of rules, who have lifetime jobs, would not be intimidated by the person who hired them.

“As for you, my fine friend, you’re a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate delusion that simply because you run away from danger, you have no courage. You’re confusing courage with wisdom.” — The Wizard of Oz

The 6 far right Supreme Court Jesters (SCJOTUS) have now putinized the Presidency of the United States. trump was always envious of putin and Kim Jong’s luxury of ruling as Kingly monarchs unconstrained by rules, laws, precedent, integrity, equity, honesty, human decency, and above all, the truth. Toss in the express ability to break any of our mortal laws, including retribution and exacting revenge on any perceived member of one’s enemy’s list, and having been granted the capability of disappearing a political rival, and America’s Democracy is no longer the model for the world to aspire to.

“Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Dorothy

Justice Sotomayor Dissented:

“Looking beyond the fate of this particular prosecution, the long-term consequences of today’s decision are stark. The court effectively creates a law-free zone around the president, upsetting the status quo that has existed since the founding. This new official-acts immunity now ‘lies about like a loaded weapon’ for any president that wishes to place his own interests, his own political survival, or his own financial gain, above the interests of the nation.

“Sotomayor said that the majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, invents “an atextual, ahistorical, and unjustifiable immunity that puts the President above the law.””

“Their ruling, she went on, makes three moves that she said “completely insulate Presidents from criminal liability.” Sotomayor said the court creates absolute immunity for the president’s exercise of “core constitutional powers,” creates “expansive immunity for all ‘official acts,'” and “declares that evidence concerning acts for which the President is immune can play no role in any criminal prosecution against him.””

“Orders are nobody can see the Great Oz! Not nobody, not nohow!”— Doorman

Sotomayor warned that the ruling “will have disastrous consequences for the Presidency and for our democracy” and that it sends the message: “Let the President violate the law, let him exploit the trappings of his office for personal gain, let him use his official power for evil ends.”

She added, “Even if these nightmare scenarios never play out, and I pray they never do, the damage has been done. The relationship between the President and the people he serves has shifted irrevocably. In every use of official power, the President is now a king above the law.”

In her own written dissent, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said that the majority’s ruling “breaks new and dangerous ground.

“Departing from the traditional model of individual accountability, the majority has concocted something entirely different: a Presidential accountability model that creates immunity—an exemption from criminal law — applicable only to the most powerful official in our Government,” she wrote.

“These things must be done delicately, or you hurt the spell.” Wicked Witch of the West

Jackson warned that under the majority’s “new Presidential accountability mode,” a hypothetical president “who admits to having ordered the assassinations of his political rivals or critics…or one who indisputably instigates an unsuccessful coup…has a fair shot at getting immunity.”

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” — The Wizard of Oz

Chief Justice Roberts rebukes the 3 liberals on the court, suggesting that his three liberal colleagues had misinterpreted the majority’s opinion and were engaging in “fear mongering.” Roberts argued that they “strike a tone of chilling doom that is wholly disproportionate to what the Court actually does today.” He wrote that “like everyone else, the President is subject to prosecution in his unofficial capacity.”

“My goodness, what a fuss you’re making! Well naturally, when you go around picking on things weaker than you are. Why, you’re nothing but a great big coward!” Dorothy

A Biden campaign adviser, on the other hand, said that the ruling doesn’t change what happened on Jan. 6, 2021.

“Donald Trump snapped after he lost the 2020 election and encouraged a mob to overthrow the results of a free and fair election,” the adviser said. “Trump is already running for president as a convicted felon for the very same reason he sat idly by while the mob violently attacked the Capitol: he thinks he’s above the law and is willing to do anything to gain and hold onto power for himself.”

The twice impeached ex president trump, four times indicted by grand juries, convicted on 34 felony counts, awaiting 3 additional trials on scores more felonies for attempting to overturn the 2020 election and overthrow our government, and for stealing top secret confidential documents, was found guilty of rampant fraud personally and in his business, was also found guilty of sexual assault and libel, has so far escaped being held accountable for his 6 years long crime spree. Because he’s been able to spend more than $100 million dollars of other people’s money on legal fees, in order to delay all of his pending cases, that accounting probably won’t happen before the 2024 presidential election.

“Lions, and tigers and bears! Oh my!” “Lions, and tigers and bears! Oh my!” “Lions, and tigers and bears! Oh my!” Dorothy, Tim Man and Scarecrow.

Soon after the court issued the ruling, Trump celebrated the decision on his Truth Social account, writing in all caps: “Big win for our Constitution and democracy. Proud to be an American!”

“Some people without brains do an *awful* lot of talking, don’t they?” The Scarecrow

trump’s conspirators are numerous, starting with the republi-cons in the U.S. Senate, who could have stopped him long ago. Minority Leader McConnell said the former president was “practically and morally responsible” for the attack on the Capitol on January 6. But after voting to acquit, McConnell argued that he believed it was unconstitutional to convict a president who was no longer in office.

“For 23 years, I’ve been dying to tell you what I thought of you, and now… well, being a Christian woman (Senator), I can’t say it!” — Auntie Em

All of the members of the MAGA republi-con congress could have held trump accountable by not condoning or endorsing every hair-brained scheme, criminal conduct, grift and assault on our Democratic institutions, our courts, the independent press and the American voters.

“Back where I come from there are men who do nothing all day but good deeds. They are called phila… er, phila… er, yes, er, Good Deed Doers.” — The Wizard of Oz

The embarrassing and comical parade of U.S. Congress men and women, dressed in their cult leader’s blue suit and red tie costume, who pontificated outside the New York court about the injustice of the American system of justice’s attempts to hold trump accountable for his one man crime wave, will be remembered in history for their un-American and treasonous butt kissing of an angry, demented megalomaniac bent on retribution and revenge.

“You’re right, I am a coward! I haven’t any courage at all. I even scare myself.” The Cowardly Lion

The U.S. Constitution establishes 3 equal branches of government. The partisan deadlocked legislative branch has proved powerless to hold trump and many of his cowardly conspirators accountable. The many courts who have ruled against and prosecuted trump for his crimes, in spite of scores of trump lawyers filing hundreds of frivolous, obfuscating briefings aimed primarily at delaying accountability until after the election, have been mostly neutered by this unjustifiable Supreme Court ruling on immunity. This rogue court has attempted to not only usurp and strip legislatures, the lower courts and our Democratic institutions of their Constitutional powers, they have empowered the executive branch and the president with a broad immunity contrary to the founding fathers intensions.

There are some hero’s in this American tragedy. Although the U.S. Senate voted 57-43 to acquit trump at his impeachment trial, for his role in inciting the horrific attack on the U.S. Capitol, the largest number of senators in history, voted to find a president of their own party guilty of an impeachment charge. Voting to find Trump guilty were GOP Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.

The Republicans in the House censured and forced out Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of my home state of Illinois, for their courageous role in the January 6th Committee hearings and for referring trump’s conduct to the Justice Department. Liz Cheney has more balls than all the MAGA republi-con men in congress combined.

On September 17, 1787: Benjamin Franklin presided over the first day of the Constitutional Convention, in his home town of Philadelphia.

The day began with a prepared speech from Ben Franklin (PA) who, eighty-one years old and painfully afflicted with gout and kidney stone, was unable to read the speech himself and delegated that task to Wilson (PA).

On September 18, 1787, the final day of the Convention, this now famous quote of Benjamin Franklin was recorded in a journal kept by James McHenry, a Maryland delegate to the Constitutional Convention. 

Elizabeth Willing Powel of Philadelphia, asked Dr. Franklin: “Well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy – A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it.”

Oblique view of Powel house, looking southwest
Elizabeth and Samuel Powel’s house at 244 South Third Street, Philadelphia, where the conversation between Elizabeth Powel and Benjamin Franklin might have taken place. Historic American Buildings Survey. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

It appears we must rely on another 81 year old patriot to help preserve our Democratic Republic. Although not as eloquent as Benjamin Franklin, and in spite of his word fumbles and stutters, President Joseph Biden believes he’s up to the task. I also believe he is. One very important advantage, is Joe Biden’s ability to bring people together to solve America’s and the world’s monumental problems. With the highly qualified and diverse people he’s brought into his administration (none of them indicted, resigned, fired or in prison), to the 50 countries he’s help assembled to defend Ukraine against trump’s brother from another mother, the Biden administration has more than risen to the task over the last 3 1/2 years. But Uncle Joe can’t do it himself, everyone in his administration must step up. And the voters must award the President with a big D Democratic House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. Joe Biden is remarkably adept at overcoming trying times.

Frightened? Child, you’re talking to a man who’s laughed in the face of death, sneered at doom, and chuckled at catastrophe. I was petrified.” — The Wizard of Oz

trump, on the other hand, hires people not for their expertise at governing or solving problems, but for their ability to dismantle the critical Democratic institutions they’re tasked with running, for their talent at ignoring laws and regulations, for engaging in self-serving financial enrichment, and for turning a blind eye to trump’s chaotic reign of terror. During his administration, the media had flow charts of the dozens of trump appointees who were fired, resigned, indicted, tried, convicted and sent to prison. And all of them had to hire lawyers, and their lawyers had to hire lawyers, and their lawyers, lawyers had to hire lawyers.

And a Final Word From the Library of Congress Blog:

“Another source of Elizabeth Willing Powel’s influence was her own social and political dexterity, which she deployed to make her home a gathering place for the city’s political elite from the revolutionary period through George Washington’s presidency. Among the regulars at Powel’s dinners and parties were George and Martha Washington, with whom the Powel’s became close friends. Letters exchanged between the couples are in the George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress. One of these, from Elizabeth Powel to George Washington, dates from the third year of Washington’s first term as president, a time when he was hoping he would be able to resign the presidency and go home.

Detail of letter from Elizabeth Willing Powel to George Washington
“May you, till the extremest old age, enjoy the pure Felicity of having employed your whole Faculties for the Prosperity of the People for whose Happiness you are responsible, for to you their Happiness is intrusted.” Elizabeth Willing Powel to George Washington, November 17, 1792, George Washington Papers, Manuscript Division.

In his 1789 inaugural address, and in many private letters as well, Washington made clear that he was longing to return to his retirement at Mount Vernon. Less than a week after his inauguration, he wrote to former military officer and South Carolina legislator Edward Rutledge that when he accepted his “duty to embark” on the presidency, which he described as “the tempestuous and uncertain Ocean of public life,” he “gave up all expectations of private happiness in this world.” In the fall of 1792, seeing the end of his first term in sight, Washington began planning his exit. Elizabeth Willing Powel was among the friends who convinced him to stay. In her letter she warned him that his political opponents would see his resignation as a sign that he believed the republican experiment had failed and, fearing for his own reputation, had “withdrawn from it that you might not be crushed under its Ruins.” She pleaded with him: “For Gods sake do not yield . . . to a Love of Ease, Retirement, rural Pursuits.”

Please don’t retire Joe !

Trump plans to Dismantle American Democracy: What is Project 2025? The conservative road map is raising a lot of eyebrows, on both sides of the aisle.

Business Insider

What is Project 2025? The conservative road map is raising a lot of eyebrows, on both sides of the aisle.

Katie Balevic – July 6, 2024

  • Project 2025 is a road map for the next Republican president.
  • The Heritage Foundation, a prominent conservative think tank, authored the plan.
  • It calls for eliminating the Education Department, among some other surprising things.

Well before the disastrous presidential debate during which President Joe Biden may have handed the keys to the White House back to former President Donald Trump, conservative thinkers were assembling a game plan.

In January 2023, The Heritage Foundation began promoting Project 2025, a 922-page “playbook” assembled with input from dozens of other conservative organizations to guide the next Republican administration.

“The time is short, and conservatives need a plan,” reads the website for the right-wing presidential transition plan. “The project will create a playbook of actions to be taken in the first 180 days of the new Administration to bring quick relief to Americans suffering from the Left’s devastating policies.”

Some of Project 2025’s priorities include:

  • Slashing employment in the federal government and muzzling “woke propaganda at every level of government”
  • Eliminating the Department of Education and its “woke-dominated system of public schools”
  • Prohibiting the FBI from fighting misinformation and disinformation
  • Ending the “war on fossil fuels” and allowing further development on Native American lands
  • Ending active FBI investigations that are “contrary to the national interest”

The plan is so extreme that even Trump has distanced himself from it, writing on Truth Social this week that he knows “nothing about Project 2025.”

“I have no idea who is behind it. I disagree with some of the things they’re saying and some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them,” Trump wrote.

A spokesperson from Project 2025 told Business Insider that the playbook “does not speak for any candidate or campaign.”

“We are a coalition of more than 110 conservative groups advocating policy and personnel recommendations for the next conservative president. But it is ultimately up to that president, who we believe will be President Trump, to decide which recommendations to implement,” the spokesperson said.

MAGA Plans to Destroy American Democracy: Heritage faces blowback after ‘bloodless’ revolution comment

The Hill

Heritage faces blowback after ‘bloodless’ revolution comment

Emily Brooks – July 6, 2024

The Heritage Foundation and its president, Kevin Roberts, are facing blowback in the wake of his comment about an ongoing second American revolution that will “remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.”

President Biden’s campaign jumped on the comment, with a spokesperson saying it shows that former President Trump’s allies are “dreaming of a violent revolution to destroy the very idea of America.” Commentators ranging from former GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) to MSNBC hosts and guests reacted with alarm.

And in the wake of the comment, though without mentioning it, Trump distanced himself from Project 2025 — an initiative led by the conservative think tank that aims to provide a conservative policy blueprint for the next Republican administration and that has also ignited political firestorms.

Heritage and Roberts, though, are standing by the comment, dismissing the criticism as being in bad faith.

“Americans in 2024 are in the process of carrying out the Second American Revolution to take power back from the elites and despotic bureaucrats. These patriots are committed to peaceful revolution at the ballot box,” Robers said Wednesday in a post on the social platform X, continuing to describe the threat he sees and warning that “the Left may not allow a peaceful transfer of power.”

Heritage itself repeated the “bloodless” comment in a separate post on X alongside a compilation video of Democrats, commentators and public figures making controversial comments about unrest and protests.

“The Second American Revolution will remain bloodless if the Left allows it to be,” the Heritage post said. “Unfortunately, they have a well established record of instigating the opposite.”

Roberts made his original comment Tuesday on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast — hosted that day by former Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), since Bannon reported to prison for his contempt of Congress sentence the day before — when discussing the Supreme Court’s ruling that presidents have presumptive immunity for official actions. The decision handed a win to Trump as he fights indictments over his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.

“The left has taken over our institutions. The reason that they are apoplectic right now, the reason so many anchors on MSNBC, for example, are losing their minds daily, is because our side is winning,” Roberts said. “And so I come full circle on this response, and just want to encourage you with some substance. That we are in the process of the second American revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.”

For the Biden campaign, the comments were an opportunity to advance one of its core messages: that Trump is a threat to democracy.

“248 years ago tomorrow America declared independence from a tyrannical king, and now Donald Trump and his allies want to make him one at our expense,” Biden campaign spokesperson James Singer said in a statement. “On January 6, they proudly stormed our Capitol to overturn an election Donald Trump lost fair and square – something not even the Confederacy was able to accomplish – now they are dreaming of a violent revolution to destroy the very idea of America.”

Kinzinger, the former Republican congressman who is critical of Trump and has endorsed Biden, wondered about the implications of if the left did not “allow” a “bloodless” revolution.

“And if they dont? What if Americans decide they prefer to hash out differences as the constitution calls for, vis a vis politics, then what? Spell it out. If you can win politically then what?” Kinzinger said in a post on X.

And MSNBC host Joe Scarborough responded directly to Roberts’s quip about anchors on the network.

“First of all, Kev, I’m not losing my mind,” Scarborough began, later saying, “You’re the one talking about revolution. Why are you so angry, Kevin? Why are you losing your mind? America’s great. We’re strong militarily, we’re strong economically, we’re strong culturally … This whole idea that we need a new revolution — I mean, I know it is great fundraising, but it’s just B.S.”

The outrage about the comment builds on heightened attention on the leading conservative think tank and its advocacy group as it leads dozens of conservative organizations in Project 2025, which aims to compile policy proposals for the next right-wing administration.

Democrats and Biden’s campaign have repeatedly pointed to Project 2025 when warning about policies a Trump administration would enact if he wins in November, noting that former Trump administration officials have ties to it.

But in a signal that the project could have too many political liabilities for Trump’s electoral prospects, the former president said in a post on his Truth Social website Friday that he “know[s] nothing about Project 2025″ and has “no idea who is behind it.”

“I disagree with some of the things they’re saying and some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them,” Trump said.

Neither Trump nor his campaign said the “bloodless” comment from Roberts impacted his statement, but Trump’s move to distance himself from the Heritage-led project further highlights the ideological controversies that the conservative think tank has embraced under Roberts’s leadership.

A spokesperson for Project 2025 posted on X that the coalition “does not speak for any candidate or campaign.”

A conservative leading the pro-Trump Project 2025 suggests there will be a new American Revolution

Associated Press

A conservative leading the pro-Trump Project 2025 suggests there will be a new American Revolution

Ali Swenson – July 3, 2024

FILE – Kevin Roberts, president of The Heritage Foundation, speaks at the National Religious Broadcasters convention at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Feb. 22, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. Roberts, the leader of a conservative think tank planning for a massive overhaul of the federal government says we are in the midst of “a second American Revolution” that will be bloodless “if the left allows it to be.” (AP Photo/George Walker IV, File)More

NEW YORK (AP) — The leader of a conservative think tank orchestrating plans for a massive overhaul of the federal government in the event of a Republican presidential win said that the country is in the midst of a “second American Revolution” that will be bloodless “if the left allows it to be.”

Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts made the comments Tuesday on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast, adding that Republicans are “in the process of taking this country back.”

Democrats are “apoplectic right now” because the right is winning, Roberts told former U.S. Rep. Dave Brat, one of the podcast’s guest hosts as Bannon is serving a four-month prison term. “And so I come full circle on this response and just want to encourage you with some substance that we are in the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.”

Roberts’ remarks shed light on how a group that promises to have significant influence over a possible second term for former President Donald Trump is thinking about this moment in American politics. The Heritage Foundation is spearheading Project 2025, a sweeping road map for a new GOP administration that includes plans for dismantling aspects of the federal government and ousting thousands of civil servants in favor of Trump loyalists who will carry out a hard-right agenda without complaint.

His call for revolution and vague reference to violence also unnerved some Democrats who interpreted it as threatening.

“This is chilling,” former Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson wrote on the social platform X. “Their idea of a second American Revolution is to undo the first one.”

James Singer, a spokesperson for President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign, pointed to this week’s Fourth of July holiday in an emailed statement.

“248 years ago tomorrow America declared independence from a tyrannical king, and now Donald Trump and his allies want to make him one at our expense,” Singer said, adding that Trump and his allies are ”dreaming of a violent revolution to destroy the very idea of America.”

Roberts, whose name Bannon recently floated to The New York Times as a potential chief of staff option for Trump, also said on the podcast that Republicans should be encouraged by the Supreme Court’s recent immunity ruling.

He said Monday’s decision — which gives presidents broad immunity from prosecution — is “vital” to ensure a president won’t have to “second guess, triple guess every decision they’re making in their official capacity.”

In an emailed statement on Wednesday, Roberts reiterated his comments from the podcast, saying Americans “are in the process of carrying out the Second American Revolution to take power back from the elites and despotic bureaucrats.”

“These patriots are committed to peaceful revolution at the ballot box,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s the Left that has a long history of violence, so it’s up to them to allow a peaceful transfer of power.”

Roberts pointed to the protests after the killing of George Floyd by police in 2020, some of which erupted into crime, vandalism and violence. Democrats, in turn, have accused their Republican counterparts of violence, using the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot in which Trump supporters tried to forcibly overturn his loss to President Joe Biden.

Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said Roberts’ comments about a “second American Revolution” are “a bit terrifying but also elucidating.” The 1,000-page Project 2025 playbook calls for far-reaching changes in government, including rolling back protections for the LGBTQ community and infusing Christianity more deeply into society.

“Roberts, the Heritage Foundation, and its allies in Project 2025 want to reorder American society and fundamentally change it,” Beirich said. “He’s said the quiet part out loud.”

Trump seeks to disavow ‘Project 2025’ despite ties to conservative group

Reuters

Trump seeks to disavow ‘Project 2025’ despite ties to conservative group

Nathan Layne – July 5, 2024

Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a campaign event in Chesapeake
House Freedom Caucus and others hold a press conference regarding federal government spending, in Washington

(Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump tried to distance himself on Friday from a conservative group’s sweeping plans for the next Republican presidency, days after its leader claimed a second American Revolution was underway that would “remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.”

The Republican presidential candidate renounced any connection with Project 2025, a plan Democrats have been attacking to highlight what they say is Trump’s extreme policy agenda for a second term should he beat President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 election.

Many people involved in the project lead by the Heritage Foundation, America’s top conservative think tank, worked in the Trump White House and would likely help fill out his administration if he wins in November.

But Trump said on his Truth Social platform he had nothing to do with the plan.

“I know nothing about Project 2025. I have no idea who is behind it,” he wrote.

“I disagree with some of the things they’re saying,” he continued, adding some of their assertions were “absolutely ridiculous and abysmal.”

Trump’s post came three days after Heritage Foundation president Kevin Roberts’ comments on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast about a second American Revolution. Democrats and others criticized what they viewed as a veiled threat of violence.

In a statement provided by a Project 2025 spokesperson on Friday, Roberts repeated his claim that Americans were carrying out a revolution “to take power back from the elites and despotic bureaucrats” and said it was the political left that had a history of political violence.

The spokesperson said that while Project 2025 provided recommendations for the next Republican president, it would be up to Trump, should he win, to decide whether to implement them.

Trump’s move to create distance with Project 2025 could in part reflect an effort to moderate his message in the final months of the race, especially with Biden’s campaign faltering after the Democratic candidate’s June 27 debate, said James Wallner, a political science professor at Clemson University.

“Trump is basically now seeking to appeal to a broader audience,” Wallner said.

The Biden campaign has stepped up its efforts to tie Trump’s campaign to Project 2025.

“Project 2025 is the extreme policy and personnel playbook for Trump’s second term that should scare the hell out of the American people,” campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa said in a statement.

The 900-page blueprint calls for drastic reform of the federal government, including a gutting of some federal agencies and a vast expansion of presidential power. Trump’s statements and policy positions suggest he is aligned with some but not all of the project’s agenda.

The plans have been drawn up by the Heritage Foundation in coordination with a collection of other like-minded groups.

A number of people who worked on Project 2025 have close ties to the former president. Russ Vought, who was Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget and is heading up a key committee at the Republican National Convention, authored one of the project’s chapters.

Stephen Miller, a former senior adviser to Trump who is widely expected to be tapped for a top job in a second Trump administration, heads up a legal group on Project 2025’s advisory board.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Chris Reese)

Your Religious Values Are Not American Values

By Pamala Paul, Opinion Columnist – July 4, 2024

A photo illustration of a religious icon wearing a U.S. flag as a shirt.
Credit…Illustration by Carl Godfrey

Whenever a politician cites “Judeo-Christian values,” I find it’s generally followed by something unsettling.

Last month brought two flagrant instances. In both cases, Republican officials introduced state laws that formalize precepts of the Christian nationalist movement — in the words of the National Association of Christian Lawmakers (A.D. 2019), “doing everything we can to restore the Judeo-Christian foundation of our nation.”

On June 19, Gov. Jeff Landry of Louisiana signed legislation requiring public classrooms to display the Ten Commandments, a practice struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1980. A rich endorsement came via Donald Trump, who crowed, “I LOVE THE TEN COMMANDMENTS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, PRIVATE SCHOOLS, AND MANY OTHER PLACES, FOR THAT MATTER. READ IT — HOW CAN WE, AS A NATION, GO WRONG???”

One week later, Landry’s fellow Christian soldier Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s superintendent of public instruction, announced plans to mandate teaching the Bible in public schools. Walters said learning the Bible is necessary to having “an understanding of the basis of our legal system.”

Forgive me for wondering: Is he referring to “an eye for an eye” or the stoning of disobedient children?

Either way, for both Trump and true believers, it hardly matters that the First Amendment was intended to protect religion from the state, not to have the state impose a religion. (So much for originalism.) Their goal is to impose one form of religion, Christianity, and the underlying message is that those who do not share it will have to submit.

Not only have such moves been declared unconstitutional (“I can’t wait to be sued,” Landry said), but they are also exclusionary and offensive to many.

Despite what the Christian nationalist movement would have you believe, America was not founded as a Christian nation. Nor is it one today. In a pluralistic country, neither the Bible nor Judeo-Christian values are universal, including in the two heavily Christian Southern states in which these laws were passed.

In Louisiana, for example, 2 percent of residents are adherents of other faiths — including Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and Hinduism. Thirteen percent are religious nones, including 4 percent who are atheist or agnostic. In Oklahoma, a similar percentage follow non-Christian religions, and an even larger portion — 18 percent — adhere to no religion.

In a suit challenging the Louisiana law, Americans United for Separation of Church and State noted that among the state’s approximately 680,000 students, many do not practice any religion at all. In response, Landry called on his followers to “stand up for Judeo-Christian values.”

While most of the Ten Commandments involve universal principles, and moral precepts can be found in the Bible, not everyone draws ethical guidelines from religion. And when the Ten Commandments say, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” the implication is that there is one true god. That is decidedly not true for all Americans. Some atheists and secular humanists embrace the ideal put forth by Felix Adler, the founder of the Society for Ethical Culture, of deed before creed — that how we act is far more important than what we profess to believe.

Politicians, many of whom regularly flout Adler’s ideal, rarely bother to include nonbelievers — those of us who are not what politicians refer to as people of faith — in their supposedly inclusive rhetoric. This is where leaders of both parties, with their public prayers and displays of religiosity, typically alienate people like me whose principles do not stem from belief in a god. Barack Obama was an exception in including people “with no faith at all,” though I would have preferred a more elegant phrasing. Many of us rationalists do have faith, but it’s in science or humanity, as disappointing as humanity can be.

When it comes to the Ten Commandments, four of the 10 (three if you’re Catholic) concern a specific form of worship with a specific god. I’m on board with a rule against killing, for instance, but somehow this god has given a lot of killing a pass in his name.

And there’s a lot to explain in the Bible itself if you believe it’s a holy book — like its acceptance of slavery.

For me, the Bible’s primary interest is in its historical and literary influence, a work whose stories and metaphors have permeated literature. But it’s also one that, throughout history, has inspired and abetted many of the world’s most violent and deadly wars.

In their drive to foist their religious beliefs on others or to prove their conservative Christian bona fides, Republicans are leaning harder into exclusionary territory. Prominent and mainstream Republicans increasingly support the tenets of the Christian nationalist movement, which often embeds antisemitism and anti-Muslim views into its creed. And it is probably no coincidence that this is occurring as many Christians are fleeing their religion — many, no doubt, because of the hypocrisy and intolerance they’ve witnessed.

In ordinary times, all this would be quickly swatted away by the courts. Unfortunately, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court has demonstrated that, like many Republican politicians, when it comes to freedom of religion — and yes, that must include freedom from religion — those justices are willing to put their own faith above all else.

This Fourth of July, let’s bear in mind that what many Americans value in this country is its inclusion and protection of all, regardless of their beliefs.

More on Christian nationalism:

Ross Douthat: Four Ways of Looking at Christian Nationalism – March 1, 2024

David French: What Is Christian Nationalism, Exactly? – Feb. 25, 2024

Michelle Goldberg: Whose Version of Christian Nationalism Will Win in 2024? – May 15, 2023.

Pamela Paul is an Opinion columnist at The Times, writing about culture, politics, ideas and the way we live now. 

The Supreme Court Made a ‘Monumentally Awful’ Decision

The New York Times – Opinion

The Supreme Court Made a ‘Monumentally Awful’ Decision

Presidential immunity never existed in America. Until now.

By Jesse Wegman – Produced by Derek Arthur 

On Monday morning the Supreme Court ruled that Donald Trump and future presidents of the United States have immunity for official acts. “The entire idea of the American system of government and the Constitution was that the rule of law was king, the rule of law applies to everyone equally, including the president of the United States,” Jesse Wegman, a member of the editorial board, says. “The court blew all of that up.”

In this audio essay, Jesse explains what the ruling means for Trump and for the presidency in decades to come.

(A full transcript of this audio essay will be available within 24 hours of publication in the audio player above.)

A photo illustration of the Supreme Court Building, shaded blue.
Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; photograph by Walter Bibikow

This episode of “The Opinions” was produced by Derek Arthur. It was edited by Alison Bruzek and Kaari Pitkin. Mixing by Pat McCusker. Original music by Carole Sabouraud and Pat McCusker. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris and Kate Sinclair. Audience strategy by Kristina Samulewski. Our executive producer is Annie-Rose Strasser.

Jesse Wegman is a member of The Times editorial board, where he writes about the Supreme Court, law and politics.

More from Jesse Wegman:

The Editorial Board: The Supreme Court Gives a Free Pass to Trump and Future Presidents – July 1, 2024

Jesse Wegman: Trump’s Immunity Case Was Settled More Than 200 Years Ago – April 26, 2024

Jesse Wegman: The Supreme Court Gives a Hand to Hundreds of Jan. 6 Rioters – June 28, 2024

Transcript:

This transcript was created using speech recognition software. While it has been reviewed by human transcribers, it may contain errors. Please review the episode audio before quoting from this transcript and email transcripts@nytimes.com with any questions.Jesse Wegman

I’m Jesse Wegman. I’m a member of “The Times” editorial board, where I write about law and politics.

So on the last day of its term, the Court ruled — I think shocking many of us — that presidents are basically above the law, much to the shock of those of us who thought they weren’t. They have, essentially, absolute immunity for most of their official acts, regardless of how egregiously they violate the law in carrying them out. And they may even have immunity for some acts that are on the edge of officialness. So it’s a decision that flies in the face of more than 200 years of American history, the text of the Constitution, and, I think, everybody’s settled understanding of presidents’ liability for criminal activity.

In the immediate term, what this means is that Donald Trump will almost certainly not face prosecution for inciting a violent insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 to try to overturn an election that he had lost fair and square. I think the concern that the dissenters brought up was that this is not just Donald Trump but presidents going forward who will now feel, essentially, free to do whatever they want, knowing that it is going to be extraordinarily hard to hold them to account after their presidencies.

When this case first got to the court system, I think a lot of people laughed it off. It was Donald Trump bringing up yet another one of his off-the-wall, absurd legal arguments. In this case, he was saying everything that happened on January 6 and around January 6 I’m immune from prosecution for because I was the president, and I was doing my job as the president.

Just to be clear, there has never been any criminal immunity for any president in American history. This was, I thought, broadly understood. Everyone understood this. Richard Nixon understood it back in the Watergate era.

That’s why he accepted a pardon because he knew that, without the pardon, he could be criminally prosecuted. It’s why Donald Trump’s lawyers, during the second impeachment of Trump in early 2021, said, even if you vote to acquit him, don’t worry. You can still go after him in a court of law. That was the general understanding.

The court blew all of that up with its decision on Monday. And I don’t think we can overstate what a monumental, and monumentally awful, decision this was.

Look, the justices in the majority, which was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who styles himself as an institutionalist — and I would say this opinion is about as anti-institutional as you can get — they argued that to expose presidents to criminal prosecution would interfere with their ability to do their job with the kind of energy and boldness that we require of presidents.

This is just laughable. First of all, no president in history before Donald Trump was brought up on criminal charges. The reason for that isn’t that presidents were tiptoeing around, terrified about being brought up on criminal charges. The reason is that presidents understood their role, and they didn’t break the law the way that Donald Trump did.

For a court that loves to talk about the importance of the text of the Constitution and the history and the tradition of this country, this is about as untethered from any of those things as you could imagine. If you could characterize this court in any way, it is a court that is entirely outcome-driven.

It has no principles. It does not rule on the grounds of any principle other than what it wants to do in a given case. And what it wants to do in a given case is, suspiciously, often correlated quite closely with the interests of the conservative movement and the Republican Party.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote one of the two dissents from Monday’s ruling, she called it “atextual, ahistorical, and utterly indefensible.” And Sotomayor says in her dissent, “The court effectively creates a law-free zone around the president, upsetting the status quo that has existed since the founding.”

That’s what’s so shocking about this decision, right? The American Revolution was fought specifically to get out from under the power of a king who was unaccountable, a king who literally existed above the law.

The other way to think about the stakes of this ruling and of the impact it’s going to have is on Donald Trump himself. Look at what he did in his first term. Look at how much he disregarded the courts, Congress, all of the institutions of American government, when they didn’t go his way. He delegitimized them all.

So now think about Trump basically being unleashed by a Supreme Court that has said, it is going to be almost impossible to hold you criminally to account for anything that you’ve done. This is a man who does not see the law or the rule of law as something he respects or will follow. So now consider what it will be like if and when he retakes office and knows that nothing he does is going to come back to haunt him.

He will basically be immune in every sense for his actions. It is going to be very hard to say that almost anything a president does is not done in his official capacity. And I think, because of that, you’re going to see presidents feeling emboldened to take all kinds of steps that we didn’t think that they could ever take before.

Why Republicans Are Talking About Biden’s ‘Dictatorship’

Jamelle Bouie – June 25, 2024

The dome of the Capitol at night, shrouded in clouds.
Credit…Will Matsuda for The New York Times

The United States under President Biden is a “dictatorship,” according to Doug Burgum, governor of North Dakota.

“Under Joe Biden,“ Burgum told Fox News, “we’re actually living under a dictatorship today where he’s, you know, bypassing Congress on immigration policy; he’s bypassing Congress on protecting our border; he’s bypassing Congress on student loan forgiveness; he’s defying the Supreme Court.”

Asked on Sunday to defend his claim, Burgum, who is apparently on the short list of potential running mates for Donald Trump, stood his ground, telling CNN that Biden is “bypassing the other two branches of government to push an ideological view of — whether it’s on economics or whether it’s on climate extremism — he’s doing that without using the other branches.”

It is an odd sort of dictatorship in which the head of state is bound by the rule of law as well as by the authority of other constitutional actors, one in which the dictator’s critics can organize to defeat him in an election without intimidation, penalty or threat of legal sanction — and in which he will leave office if he loses. If nothing else, it is hard to imagine a world in which Biden is both a dictator and someone who would allow Burgum, a regime opponent, to speak freely on national television as he works to defeat Biden at the ballot box.

In fairness to the North Dakota governor, he was trying to make a point about a perceived double standard, in which Trump and not Biden is blasted as an authoritarian for his use of executive orders. But even this is misleading, because the issue with Trump is not the use of executive orders per se. Instead, it is his demonstrated contempt for democratic accountability — he does not accept the right of an electorate to remove him from office — his desire to use the instruments of state to inflict punishment and suffering on his political enemies and his efforts to transform the office of the presidency and the broader executive branch into instruments of his personalist rule.

(That said, there is a conversation for another day about the overreliance on executive orders by presidents of both parties as a symptom of congressional weakness and a product of long-running structural transformations in the nature of the presidency, tied specifically to the growth and pre-eminence of the national security state.)

Governor Burgum is obviously wrong about the idea that Biden is a dictator. But he is not the only Trump ally to speak in such dire terms about the United States. As Politico’s Ian Ward noted, Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio — another Republican hoping to stand with Trump as his second — believes that “the United States is on the verge of going up in smoke” and that “electing Trump represents the only hope that Americans have for getting off the path to literal civilization collapse.”

And Russ Vought, former budget chief in the Trump administration and one of the architects of the former president’s second-term agenda, believes that Americans are living in a “post-constitutional” moment that justifies the radical use of executive power to quash protesters with the military, the gutting of the federal civil service in favor of a spoils system for Trump loyalists and the seizing of the power of the purse from Congress. He urges his comrades in arms to “cast ourselves as dissidents of the current regime and to put on our shoulders the full weight of envisioning, articulating, and defending what a Radical Constitutionalism requires in the late hour that our country finds itself in, and then to do it.”

Just as Americans are not living under a Biden dictatorship — in which the watchful eye of Dark Brandon prowls the nation in search of malarkey — the United States is also not on the verge of collapse. Our economy is the envy of the world, we remain the pre-eminent military power, and for all of its serious problems of representation and inclusion, our political system is still capable of handling at least a few of the major issues that face the nation. It does not downplay the challenges we confront to say that we have the capacity and the resources to meet them head on. That, if anything, makes it all the more frustrating that we have not yet secured decent housing, health care, child care and education for everyone in this country. None of these things are beyond our material ability to accomplish — far from it.

Of course, even mentioning the reality of conditions in the United States is a bit beside the point, because the breathless catastrophizing by Trump and his allies is not an expression of ignorance as much as it is a statement of intent. Rhetorically, the MAGA political project of personalist rule in support of social hierarchy, unrestrained capital and the destruction of public goods depends on the conceit that the nation exists in a state of exception that demands extraordinary — and extreme — measures to resolve.

The cultivation of this notion of a state of exception, of a sense of emergency, is the overriding aim of MAGA political messaging. The targets change — in 2020 it was leftists and protesters, this year it is migrants and refugees again, as it was in 2016 — but the goal is always the same: to designate an enemy, to label that enemy an urgent threat to society and to try to win power on a promise to destroy that enemy by any means necessary.

Embedded in this maneuver is a radical claim of sovereignty. The so-called enemy is whoever Trump says it is, and once designated, the entire political system must bend to his will on the notion that he, alone, can fix it.

Sovereign power of the sort that Trump and his allies gesture toward does not exist in the American system as traditionally understood, and there is no provision in our Constitution by which the executive can set aside the rule of law to deal with threats and emergencies. But the point of this rhetoric of exception is to set the conditions for doing just that — for creating an actual state of exception in American politics.

Put another way, if we are on the verge of civilizational collapse, if we are in a post-constitutional moment, if we are already in a dictatorship, then anything is permitted in defense of the old order. And if democracy should stand in the way of recovery and restoration, then democracy should, perhaps, be set aside.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln did not present himself as a bulwark of liberty who could resolve the crisis alone. He tried, as much as possible, to embody and act on his deep belief in the rule of law. For example, after taking unilateral steps to confront the rebellion and defend the Union at the outset of the conflict, he went to Congress to ask for its blessing and support. In his message, issued on July 4, 1861, Lincoln did not make demands or assert extraordinary powers.

Instead, the political scientist Nomi Claire Lazar wrote, Lincoln invited “Congress to share the burden of both reflection and action, to consider and judge the reasons he has given.” What guided his deliberations, she continued, is “precisely a commitment to the rule of law as a collective and collaborative project. What is the best we can do, given the constraints and imperatives, he asks, and how can we do our best together?”

If there is anything to know about either Trump or his closest allies, it is that they do not share this commitment to collaboration or deliberation or public reason. They know only force and dominance. And they want everything to be a crisis, not for an opportunity to affirm democracy, but for a chance to undermine it.

More on the rise of “post-constitutionalism”

David French: MAGA Turns Against the Constitution – June 6, 2024

Peter Wehner: Christian Doomsayers Have Lost It – Dec. 6, 2019

Jamelle Bouie became a New York Times Opinion columnist in 2019. Before that he was the chief political correspondent for Slate magazine. He is based in Charlottesville, Va., and Washington.

Texas Strives to Be # 1 at Infant and Maternal Deaths: Texas’ anti-abortion heartbeat law aimed to save babies, but more infants died.

USA Today

Texas’ anti-abortion heartbeat law aimed to save babies, but more infants died.

Eduardo Cuevas, USA TODAY – June 24, 2024

Texas lawmakers touted their heartbeat law as a crusade to save lives, but the reality of the state’s near-total ban on abortion has been deadly.

Hundreds of babies died after the law went into effect, according to a new study published Monday.

The findings in JAMA Pediatrics show that infant deaths rose after Texas’ Senate Bill 8, which banned all abortion after about six weeks from conception. SB 8 became Texas law in September 2021 and U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion just over nine months later, on June 24, 2022. The high court ruling in the Dobbs case prompted more than a dozen states to issue near-total bans on abortion. Observers speculate that evidence will also show increases in infant deaths in those states, akin to what Texas has seen, the study said.

“It just points to some of the devastating consequences of abortion bans that maybe people weren’t thinking about when they passed these laws,” Alison Gemmill, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health who authored the study, told USA TODAY. She called the deaths following the Texas heartbeat law its “spillover effects on moms and babies.”

Abortion bans: More than 171K patients traveled out-of-state for abortions in 2023, new data shows

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, right, speaks at a pro-life leaders press conference on Feb. 28, 2022, outside the state capitol. The event was held to celebrate the six month anniversary of the Texas Heartbeat Act. Briana Sanchez, Austin American-Statesman
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, right, speaks at a pro-life leaders press conference on Feb. 28, 2022, outside the state capitol. The event was held to celebrate the six month anniversary of the Texas Heartbeat Act. Briana Sanchez, Austin American-Statesman

In the wake of the law’s passage in Texas, more babies died before their first birthday, likely due to birth defects or genetic problems that wouldn’t have allowed them to live, the study found. These pregnancies would typically have been terminated by abortion, according to researchers. The Texas heartbeat law does not provide exceptions for pregnancies involving such conditions. Mothers are legally obligated to carry these babies to birth under state law.

In the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association, Gemmill and researchers from Johns Hopkins and Michigan State University wrote that the Texas law was linked to “unexpected increases in infant and neonatal deaths” between 2021 and 2022. Prior research drew a correlation between the uptick in infant deaths and anti-abortion laws taking effect, however, no studies until now have attributed the fatalities directly to the laws prohibiting the termination of these pregnancies.

“Abortion care is an essential component of comprehensive healthcare, and when it is restricted, the human impacts are devastating,” Wendy Davis, a senior adviser for Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, said in a statement. Davis, who filibustered for abortion rights when she was a Democratic state senator, noted that the study only covered 2022, not the results in 2023 and 2024 in the wake of a more restrictive abortion ban that came with the Dobbs decision. This “likely means the situation on the ground today is even more dire,” Davis said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office did not dispute the study’s findings but defended the Republican-controlled state’s anti-abortion record. This effort included the 2021 heartbeat law “to save the innocent unborn, and now thousands of children have been given a chance at life,” Andrew Mahaleris, a spokesperson for Abbott, said in a statement to USA TODAY. He said the governor has taken “significant action to protect the sanctity of life” and offered resources to expectant mothers “so they can choose life for their child.”

Anti-abortion advocates also didn’t contest the uptick in infant deaths cited in the study. Advocates for the heartbeat law and other legislation to restrict abortions say such bans protect life. They say terminating a fetus with a terminal illness is “choosing to kill that child intentionally.”

The overwhelming majority of such abortions happen before the fetus is viable. In Texas, legislation has dramatically reduced the number of abortions performed in the state.

Amy O’Donnell, a spokesperson for Texas Alliance for Life, said the study’s findings didn’t come as a surprise. She said babies born with disabilities and even fatal anomalies deserve a chance at life, even if that means a newborn dies after birth from a condition doctors anticipated would be lethal. The death of a child is not easy, she acknowledged. She noted that her nonprofit offers resources for families grieving from such losses.

“In Texas, we celebrate every unborn child’s life saved. We treasure the fact that our laws are protecting women’s lives,” she said. “We don’t apologize for the fact that we don’t support discrimination against children facing disabilities or fatal diagnoses in or out of the womb. And that’s the line that we just believe should not be crossed.”

Gemmill, of Johns Hopkins, said babies that died shortly after being born with birth defects “probably caused a lot of unnecessary trauma to families.”

Maternal health: Chronic hypertension has soared among pregnant women. Treatment is not keeping pace

Abortion rights (in orange) and anti-abortion advocates (in blue) rally in the rotunda of the State Capitol, as the state Senate meets to consider legislation restricting abortion rights in Austin, Texas on July 12, 2013. Mike Stone, Reuters.
Abortion rights (in orange) and anti-abortion advocates (in blue) rally in the rotunda of the State Capitol, as the state Senate meets to consider legislation restricting abortion rights in Austin, Texas on July 12, 2013. Mike Stone, Reuters.

The researchers examined death records beginning after the heartbeat law went into effect. The study created a “synthetic Texas” that simulated outcomes that would have happened had the law not been in effect and compared the numbers to national trends during that period. In 2021, 1,985 Texas infants died before their first birthday. The next year, with S.B. 8 in effect, the fatalities jumped to 2,240, a 12.9% increase that came as the U.S. experienced an overall increase of less than 2%. Deaths attributable to congenital anomalies or birth defects spiked nearly 23% in Texas compared to a 3% decrease nationally.

“It suggests that, really, this policy was responsible for this increase in infant deaths in Texas,” Gemmill said.

The study is significant because of Texas’ role as a conservative state with urban and rural areas that may reflect what happens in the rest of the U.S., according to Dr. Tracey Wilkinson, an associate professor of pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Texas has been living under restrictions longer than other states that enacted abortion bans after the Dobbs ruling.

“When people ask me why this is happening, it’s really simple,” said Wilkinson, who was not involved with the new study. “When you take away people’s ability to make decisions (about) if and when they have pregnancies, you’re going to see outcomes like increasing infant and maternal mortality.”

In this file photo, anti-abortion activists stand in the Texas State Capitol to protest an International Women's Day sit-in for abortion rights on March 8, 2023. Sara Diggins, Austin American-Statesman.
In this file photo, anti-abortion activists stand in the Texas State Capitol to protest an International Women’s Day sit-in for abortion rights on March 8, 2023. Sara Diggins, Austin American-Statesman.

The study did not examine the effects of infant deaths on the health of mothers who were legally required to deliver dead babies to term, nor did it look at the mental health effects of carrying infants and delivering them, only to see them die. The study also raises but does not tackle questions about the financial cost to families of carrying and delivering terminally ill newborns.

Gemmill is now working to understand the impact of abortion restrictions on parents of different races and ethnicities. Prior research has shown that Black mothers and babies face higher death rates than other groups.

The study reflects what Molly Duane, a senior staff attorney at the abortion rights advocacy nonprofit Center for Reproductive Rights, has seen in the courtroom arguing against Texas’ laws. She recently represented women who sued the state after they were denied medical abortions. One of her clients, Samatha Casiano, was required by law to carry a child that developed without a brain. In late May, the Texas Supreme Court ruled pregnant patients must have a “life-threatening condition” in order to terminate a pregnancy.

Duane questioned the claim by anti-abortion activists that Texas is a “pro-life” state, given the study’s findings. “Women are hurting, families are hurting, babies are dying, and no one in the state is taking responsibility for any of that real human suffering,” she said.

In late 2023, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found increases in infant deaths for the first time in more than 20 years. The states identified in the report with increased fatalities were states that restricted abortion access, however, experts cautioned at the time that they could not say what had caused the spike in fatalities.

The Texas study went one step further, finding one state where abortion restrictions resulted in more deaths.