THURSDAY: Senate Democrats lose again!

THURSDAY, MAY 12, 2022

What the vice president said:  We continue to apologize for our lack of focus in the past few weeks. Medical issues involving our entire staff have dragged our attention away.

 (We hope to be back on track soon.)

Even as we apologize, the anthropology lessons continue in the wider discourse. Rather, those lessons emerge from the general absence—the general lack—of a functioning national discourse. 

The impending reversal of Roe v. Wade will involve a major upheaval in American life. Will we, the American people (such as we are) be able to conduct a serious discourse and negotiation as this episode unfolds? 

Will members of our embattled red and blue tribes be able to speak to each other?

The evidence suggests that the answer those questions is no. Indeed, experts say that our attempts at conducting a national discourse broke down long ago.

At this site, we favor abortion rights. We also favor respect for Others. This brings us to the most striking piece of videotape we saw on cable last night.

Democrats had just engineered a 49-51 loss in the Senate. The proposal which was voted down would have written a version of Roe into federal law.

Vice President Harris had presided over that Senate vote. When she emerged, she took one question from the press. 

Early in last evening's Last Word, Lawrence O'Donnell played the full videotape of what the vice president said. To see the official White House transcript, you can just click here:

QUESTION (5/11/22): Madam Vice President, what does this vote mean? And what is your message to women and childbearing people in America about what’s next?

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Yeah, so, I just presided over the Women’s Health Protective Act vote. And sadly, the Senate failed to stand in defense of a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body.

And let’s be clear, the majority of the American people believe in defending a woman’s right, her choice to decide what happens to her own body. And this vote clearly suggests that the Senate is not where the majority of Americans are on this issue.

It also makes clear that a priority for all who care about this issue—a priority should be to elect pro-choice leaders at the local, the state, and the federal level, because what we are seeing around this country are extremist Republican leaders who are seeking to criminalize and punish women for making decisions about their own body.

That presentation is hardly unique to Vice President Harris. The messaging involved in that statement isn't something Harris dreamed up.

That said, we were struck by the unyielding tribal repetition involved in the vice president's statement. At the beginning, middle and end of her statement, she repeated the verbal framework with which our blue tribe addresses this matter:

Within the framework of our tribe, we want to give each woman the right to "decide what happens to her own body."  That's the way we frame this matter—and we leave the matter right there.

In the course of speaking that way, we disappear the fundamental beliefs of the Others—of the rival red tribe. For better or worse, The Others believe that another body and another life are involved in this matter—the life of an "unborn child."

That isn't our own fundamental view, but it's the view of the Others. And the Others have the same ownership stake in the society that we do.

That doesn't mean that the Others are right—but it's hard to prove that the Others are "wrong." Routinely, though, our tribe proceeds as Harris did, acting as if the Others, and their views, aren't even there.

Citizens, can we talk?

As a general matter, very few people would want to interfere with a woman's "right to decide what happens to her own body." When our tribe frames the matter that way, we make it sound like we are supporting the most obvious right in the world.

Elsewhere, though, in the other tribe, a different view of the matter prevails. Our neighbors and friends in the other tribe believe that a second body and life are involved—and as the Alito draft opinion has shown, the Others haven't abandoned that belief in the course of the past forty-nine years.

Here's what the experts have told us:

At times of tribal war, we human beings divide into membership / identity groups. We begin to otherize those in the rival tribe.

We come to believe that our views, and only our views, are worth considering or mentioning. We may even start to act as if the Others are less than human. 

They may start to seem like cockroaches. Their views aren't worthy of mention.

Our American nation, such as it is, has been dividing into tribal groups for a great many years at this point. A great deal of The Crazy is now involved—and just for the record, a great deal of that Crazy, down through the years, has come from the people our tribe admires in the mainstream press.

"Now we're involved in a great civil war," as President Lincoln once said. The way our own blue tribe discusses this matter tends to leave no way out.

As the Court prepares to overturn Roe, we're facing a very difficult challenge. At present, The Crazy is widespread in the red tribe. If we want to be honest for once, our blue tribe, such as it is, isn't necessarily a whole lot better.

That said, we the people have fundamentally different ways of understanding the topic at hand. "We must not be enemies," Lincoln once advised. "We are not enemies, but friends."

"We must not be enemies," Lincoln said. Disconsolate experts, trailing tears, describe that as a type of  response for which we aren't hard-wired.

We recommend respect for Others. We'd favor a "pro-choice" codification, but the Others are our fellow citizens. By the basic rules of the game, their views will have to be considered too.

Yesterday afternoon, our tribe achieved its latest win, by a 49-51 count. We're skilled at producing such victories, less impressive at everything else.

What President Lincoln said: Lincoln closed his first inaugural address in the manner shown:

LINCOLN (3/4/61): I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

It didn't turn out the way he hoped. Our bonds of affection, such as they are, are under a great strain again.


  1. "Democrats had just engineered a 49-51 loss in the Senate."

    The wording of this sentence is problematic. The Democrats didn't "engineer" a loss. Joe Manchin voted with the Republicans.

    1. Pff. But of course they engineered a loss.

      At the moment, keeping the Roe v. Wade bullshit alive is their only play to minimize their anticipated defeat in November. If they don't blow up the world before November, that is.

    2. Mao,
      I miss the good old days, when you would come to TDH to cosplay as someone who hated the Establishment.
      Now all you provide is sick shit from some Russian bot farm,as if we couldn't get that from Republicans in Congress.

    3. 12:56 congrats!

      You get the Daily On The Nose award!

  2. "Routinely, though, our tribe proceeds as Harris did, acting as if the Others, and their views, aren't even there."

    Meanwhile, Somerby ignores the entire history of this controversy. He ignores that the issue was initially bipartisan, that the Republican party created the anti-abortion movement for political purposes. Somerby assumes that all of The Others believe that a fetus is a human being with rights, while all Democrats are pro-choice, something that is not true in either party. He further ignores that the so-called pro-lifers are a minority in our country.

    We govern by majority rule with respect for the righrs of the minority. The pro-life minority has the right to refrain from abortion for themselves. No one is forcing them to have one if they don't believe in it. Conversely, with the elimination of Roe v Wade, women who become pregnant in the wrong part of the US will be compelled to have that baby, regardless of health consequences (and all pregnancies brought to completion are more dangerous to the mother healthwise, than abortion is, as a medical procedures). Should The Other prevail, they will be enacting laws that have no respect whatsoever for the majority that believes in abortion under certain circumstances.

    Somerby says he supports abortion-rights and yet he argues in favor of The Other. How does that support his supposed position, to urge Democrats to be less strong against pro-lifers?

    And how does watering down the statement about a woman's right to control what happens to her own body, which is important to women (who are 50% of the population) help Democrats if it is to be traded off against the minority of voters who are pro-life? Sacrificing a clear statement of women's rights doesn't seem like an honest or equitable approach to this issue. Further, the statement is the more accurate version of what Democrats are supporting -- opposition to many other forms of interference in women's right to control their bodies, from banning of contraception to looking the other way on practices that mutilate a woman's body in the name of religion, to any other interference is women's autonomy (the same autonomy men already have).

    Somerby may say he supports abortion rights, but he is writing nothing to suggest he means it.

    1. There is essentially no other way to frame the pro-choice issue. Staunch pro-lifers will never see it as anything but murder. Note that Somerby does not himself attempt to argue the pro-choice position in a way that satisfies the “Others.” It is because he cannot.

  3. I'm pro-choice, but I can understand why people are pro-life, How many of your named your fetus? A close relative named her fetus Javier, because the sperm donor was Hispanic. She became so used to the name that she named the baby Javier. The point is, a lot of people think of the fetus as a separate entity with a name.

    1. "but I can understand why people are pro-life"

      I'm all ears, unless it's some nonsense, like religion.

    2. You are pro choice, but vote for people who are anti choice, not pro life.

    3. I can understand why right wingers are fascists - it comes mostly from unresolved childhood trauma.

      Ok, so what. I can say this all day, my personal understanding of this is of no broader consequence.

      Thanks for sharing, but to be frank, nobody is going to care about your personal understanding of people who are anti abortion.

      People also name pet rocks, stuffed animals, cars, etc., and feel emotional connections to those items.

      People have pets (personally I am opposed to owning pets, but I understand why people do) yet nobody has an issue euthanizing their pets when the need arises.

      It is illegal to abort a developing baby after around 23 weeks of gestation, with some exceptions, that is around when a baby becomes sentient and viable (the sentience is debatable, it may not come until later).

    4. We watched in anger and frustration as McConnel and the republican mob stole a SC seat from president Obama, and David in Cal said nothing.
      Then Trump waddled down the escalator and pledged during his campaign that he would only nominate to the SC persons who would overturn Roe and David in Cal enthusiastically stuck his head up trump's ass.
      In a now notorious interview with Chris Matthews Trump said the mothers who had an abortion should be subject to criminal prosecution. Mr. law and order, you know. Can't let those mothers get away with murder. And David in Cal never blinked.
      And then we were told Trump had an approved list, vetted by the Federalist Society, all of whom were guaranteed to oppose Roe, and David in Cal said nothing.
      Then we watched as one by one, Trump selected from that list 3 appointments to the SC, and we watched them lie their asses off in confirmation hearings, and David in Cal backed each and every one of them to the hilt, and attacked Democrats for being rude as they committed perjury.
      Now, David in Cal comes to say, "hey guys, I am very strongly pro-choice, see me, I am very reasonable."
      He says,
      "but I can understand why people are pro-life,"

      We all can, David, you dumb fuck. That don't make you special.

    5. So why are people pro-life?

    6. 1:43 because right wingers found out they could weaponize the issue to gain power.

      It's a way to take attention off of right wing racism, which was their real issue (racism is just a manifestation of their real core issues, but that's a whole other topic).

      Why did that matter? Because calling out racism is an extremely effective tool for Dems and the Left; hues and cries about abortion is a way to neutralize one of Dem's most powerful tool.

    7. Do you think anyone is pro-life because that is their actual stance that they believe in for their own reasons, not because right wingers found out they could weaponize the issue?

    8. Do you think anyone is pro-life because that is their actual stance
      Yes, based on what they believe to be their religious mandate. The Catholic church still opposes the use of contraceptives on religious grounds. Do you know how many good Catholic girls use birth control?

    9. No, I don't.

    10. David, in Hispanic culture, it is common not to name the baby before actual birth. You do not buy baby clothes or give gifts of children's gear to the mother, or decorate a baby's room, or make any other plans for the baby before it is born -- because it is tempting God to assume that the baby will be born alive. The woman who named her baby Javier may not be traditional in the same way as the Mexican American mothers and their families who I know. They did not hold showers or do anything to jeopardize the baby's life before birth, by showing that you are counting on that happening. This may be superstitious, or perhaps religious, but I know that this was the practice in the Los Angeles area.

    11. Once I sat in a parking lot with a sign that asked passers by to sign our pro-choice petition. We were also registering voters. We got some harrassment from men (always) in cars. We also got some women who came up and signed the petition. The interesting ones to me were the Hispanic women who came by with their mothers, went into the nearby market, then rushed back alone to sign the petition, explaining that they didn't want their moms to know they were signing it. Catholics are not as monolithic on this issue as you would think.

    12. 2:40

      A fraction of people oppose abortion on religious grounds, less than those that believe in alien UFOs.

      Now how many policies do we base on alien UFOs belief?

      Right wingers flopped on abortion solely for political power.

      A majority of Catholics support abortion rights.

    13. I named my Subaru and my boys argued whether it was a boy, a girl, or non-binary. People name lots of things. Your point, David?

    14. most popular name for a car: pos

  4. If "the Others" have something that can be backed up by science/ facts, I say go ahead and make your case..
    If it's there "feelings" or that "God" told them, then I ignore them because they aren't worth listening to.

    1. "The Others believe that another body and another life are involved in this matter—the life of an 'unborn child.'"

      Yes, they need to back this up with science / facts otherwise let's ignore them.

    2. That seems harsh.

    3. The Others have tried to use science to justify their religious views, but the science doesn't support them.

    4. We should at least try to correct them.

  5. Somerby presents as a very confused person.

    Much of it may be just performing.

    Abortion has broad support, it had near universal support (Roe was decided on by Republican justices) until Republicans realized they could weaponize the issue to gain power.

    So the breakdown Somerby talks about only happened on the right wing side.

    There's not much call for debate or discourse since most people already support abortion rights. Even "abortion legal in all cases" has near double the support of "abortion illegal in all cases".

    The only issues with the current abortion kerfuffle is right wing hypocrisy, their lack of integrity, their win at all costs values.

    Bernie Sanders is one of the most popular politicians in US history, yet Somerby ignores his response to the WHPA vote. Somerby constantly puts his thumb on the scale to support his opposition of Dems. (Notice Somerby is criticizing Harris, not a journalist, he does this all the time - the "musing on the press corp" is just a con.)

    Somerby says it is hard to face the issue of "killing an unborn child", but this is false. It is easy to bring up notions like sentience and viability that expose "killing an unborn child" as nonsense. (And of course, over 90% of abortions are done at the zygote/embryo stage which is just a clump of cells.) It is easy to bring up the historical context of how even right wingers supported abortion, and why they flipped (unsurprisingly, racial oppression was involved).

    Somerby says "We also favor respect for Others." But this is utter nonsense. Somerby does not respect slavers, nazis, fascists, etc. He draws a line somewhere, we all do, and that is appropriate.

    Jews: Hitler is a monster, he should rot in hell
    Somerby: Hey now, let's show some respect. Criticizing Hitler is just going to gain him more support.

    This is the world Somerby suggests. Brother, please.

    With Somerby, coin fought integrity, and coin won.

    Somerby quotes Lincoln but misinterprets what was said. Rhetoric aside, Lincoln was absolutely brutal to the Confederacy in action. Also note what Lincoln says, although Somerby stops short of highlighting it: "will yet swell the chorus of the Union". Lincoln is actually, disrespectfully, you could say, calling Southerners a bunch of heathens, but that they will eventually bow down to the Union.

  6. "Yesterday afternoon, our tribe achieved its latest win, by a 49-51 count."

    Obviously this is not a win for the Democrats, but is this perhaps a Freudian slip on Somerby's part when he accurately refers to "out tribe" winning, as the Republicans did?

  7. Gail Collins understands the others (NY Times, 5/12):

    "All this is basically about punishing women who want to have sex for pleasure. It’s a concept with a long tradition in American history. Back in 1873, Congress began to pass a series of laws prohibiting dissemination through the mail of birth control literature, drugs or devices. Later, when a journalist asked Anthony Comstock, founder of the New York Commission on the Suppression of Vice, whether it would be all right for a woman to use contraceptives if pregnancy would endanger her life, Comstock snapped: “Can they not use self-control? Or must they sink to the level of beasts?”

  8. As Bob well knows, the Dems set the bill to the Senate
    knowing they would lose. This was for two reasons: The wanted to put everyone taking the right to have an abortion
    done away with on the record, and because they think
    it will help them politically.
    The first reason involves taking a moral stand on
    behalf of pregnant women who don't want to have a
    baby. This is utterly baffling to Bob.
    The second reason, that is WILL it help them politically,
    is questionable. Were the Dems savvy political players
    the majority of the time we would not be in this sorry
    My own feeling is Bob is probably correct at least
    in that the Dems have handled this issue poorly at least
    in the framing it PURELY as a woman's rights issue.
    If most people are asked if they want a woman who
    has had an abortion put in jail they will say "no."
    Indeed, the hard righties arguing this now, given
    the rare chance they get to speak in the left outlets,
    quickly give up the game.
    They claim women who have an abortion will be
    left alone, only the providers and doctors will be
    punished. This obviously impractical bullshit is never
    put to the test because they left never lets them say
    it so they they can't challenge it.
    Will the Dems attempt to answer this as a matter
    of women's controlling their own bodies fail? While it
    is hardly the silly argument Bob seems to think it is,
    it is hard to say.
    In the meantime, Bob can gloat about the Dems
    losing again, just the way he likes it. The
    Right being asked to respect those on the other
    side of the issue? In your dreams.

    1. Somerby does gloat when Dems lose, but that puts him in a spot; when Dems win, it will prove Somerby wrong.

  9. Am I the only one here who actually read Alito's full decision? It's worth reading. Among other things, it gives some history of people's attitude toward abortion. When Roe was decided, legalized abortion was not popular. In fact, it was illegal in many or most states.

    Very late abortion has never been popular. Early abortion in, say, the first trimester, would command a big majority. Abortion in the last trimester -- not so much.

    1. David, what do you think Roe v Wade said? Have you read it? It said that abortions could be outlawed in the third trimester. For God’s sake! No one is demanding late term abortions.

    2. I do not think you read Alito's full draft, it is a mess.

      Roe was decided, by Republican justices, because some states legally prohibited abortions all the while abortions were immensely common (popular, in your parlance). Even Southern Baptists supported some abortion rights at the time of Roe. Republicans only turned against abortion rights in the late 70's when they found they could use it to help maintain segregated religious schools.

      Late term abortions are not unpopular, they are illegal except in cases that involve risks to the health of the mother or the baby. "Legal in all cases" abortion (that includes late term) is wildly more popular than "illegal in all cases".

      Abortion has been popular for thousands of years, there is a long history and tradition of women having abortions.

      Roe has a 50 year history and tradition of support. Prior to Roe, America had a history of ignoring women's rights, so it hardly serves Alito's argument to dredge up technically accurate (somewhat accurate, his history has been widely disputed) but misleading history.

      Using Alito's logic, you could overturn laws that freed the slaves. More apt is you could overturn laws that gave us various rights like contraception, interracial marriage, gay marriage, etc.

      I would not be too quick to be smug about something in which you are woefully under-informed, and is disastrous for society.

    3. @7:01, I did read the entire decision, but I suspect that you didn't. Otherwise, you would know the answer to why Alito's logic would not lead to overturning decisions regarding voting rights, contraception, interracial and gay marriage, etc.

    4. David, you are engaging in sophistry. The same reasoning Alito used to overturn Roe can 100% be used against the other things. Contraception? How long has that been widely accepted? It’s certainly not mentioned in the constitution. The Catholic Church officially opposes contraceptives. Are you paying attention to what red state legislatures are doing? They are absolutely trying to pass laws to undo Griswold and Obergefell. And those new state laws will end up in front of Alito, a radical Catholic.

    5. And did you get, David, that Roe does exactly what you say would be so popular: it absolutely allows abortion in the first trimester, and allows it to be outlawed in the third trimester, except under certain circumstances (save the life of the mother, for example). You seem to be laboring under the impression that Roe allows unrestricted abortion up till conception. Do all right wingers misunderstand Roe as badly as you seem to? Besides, the radical pro life community doesn’t want any abortions, period.

    6. "It’s certainly not mentioned in the constitution."

      Jeez. So, leave it to the legislatures.

      What's your problem, dembot? Do you even hear yourself?

      You sound like you really-really hate 'democracy', any democratic element of the government (there aren't many). You really hate the people.

      You desire a liberal theocracy, with all liberal dogmas mandated by liberal god enforced by liberal priesthood.

    7. That's what we did in 2020, when Biden crushed Trump in a landslide election, and only those who hate democracy made a fuss

    8. 10:37,
      Like you and Mao, I.too, noticed those who questioned the 2020 Presidential election had a strong fascist vibe.

    9. Mao,
      Remember way back (yesterday) when you were pretending you supported the results of elections?
      Good times!

    10. Oh dear. Mao is contrasting Republicans with things that brings people pleasure, again.

    11. Mao can't go to the bathroom unless congress passes a law specifying that right.

      Who you trying to con, kid?

  10. “At this site, we favor abortion rights. We also favor respect for Others.”

    How is this different than someone in 1960 saying “we favor civil rights and voting rights for blacks, but we also respect the Others who don’t want that.”? What is the upshot of such an attitude? “Well, blacks, out of deference and respect for The Others, you’ll just have to wait another generation or two, or three,…to get your rights. Hope you’re OK with that.”

    At least LBJ understood that it was important to do the right thing, even at the cost of losing votes.

    1. mh -- From a moral POV abortion involves another life. That's why the abortion decision is different from gay sex or access to birth control. You can say that this other life is not a human being until its born, but another person can say that the fetus is a human being at some earlier point of development. Neither you can prove scientifically when human life really begins.

      From a legal POV, the Constitution specifies that blacks have voting rights, but the Constitution says nothing about abortion or when human life begins.

    2. David, I am countering Somerby’s post. He says he is in favor of abortion rights, not privileges. If he believes it is a right, then he can’t have it both ways by dithering with those who don’t believe that.

    3. "From a legal POV, the Constitution specifies that blacks have voting rights..."

      Holy Stacey Abrams, David. Why do you support the Republican party again?

    4. David, aside from you not understanding the Constitution and the various amendments (the 9th for example), where to draw the line for abortion is not that difficult. Two concepts cover that ground: sentience and viability.

      On a more spiritual level, abortion is humane, just like euthanasia is. Opposition to these vital tools of humanity is sick and cruel.