The Economy Grows Stronger While Republicans Go Insane

Heather Cox Richardson

Today the S&P 500, which tracks the stock performance of 500 of the biggest companies on U.S. stock exchanges, closed at a new record high of 5,354. The Nasdaq Composite, which is weighted toward the information technology sector, also closed at a record high of 17,187. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was also up, but not to a new record. It closed at 38,807.

That notable economic news got very little attention, likely in part because there is so much else going on.

Most dramatically, House speaker Mike Johnson elevated Ronny Jackson (R-TX) and Scott Perry (R-PA) to the House Intelligence Committee, giving them oversight of the entire U.S. intelligence community and access to the nation’s most sensitive foreign intelligence. The Intelligence community includes intelligence from the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Space Force, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Department, the State Department, the Department of Energy (which oversees information about nuclear weapons), the Treasury Department, and the Department of Homeland Security.

It also oversees the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and that oversight is likely a key reason Johnson put Jackson and Perry on the committee. 

A former Navy admiral, Jackson was Trump’s White House physician. Trump liked him enough to try unsuccessfully to promote him into the cabinet and within the U.S. Navy, and then to back him successfully for Congress after he retired from the Navy in 2019. In 2022 the U.S. Navy demoted him from admiral to captain after a 2021 report by the inspector general of the Defense Department showed he had “disparaged, belittled, bullied, and humiliated” his staff and abused alcohol on at least two occasions when he was supposed to be providing medical care to government officials.   

Perry is more problematic than Jackson. Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, told the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol that Perry played an important role in the plan to keep Trump in office after he lost the 2020 presidential election. She told podcast host Scott Lamar in October 2023 that Perry was “central to the planning of January 6,” and she has said repeatedly that Perry asked Trump for a pardon before he left office.

Federal authorities from the FBI seized Perry’s cell phone in 2022 as part of their investigation into the effort to seize the presidency; he is the only member of Congress whose cell phone was seized. Like Trump, who has attacked the FBI since then-director James Comey refused to drop the investigation into the connections between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian operatives, Perry has complained bitterly about the FBI’s investigation of him.

Now, Perry will be on the committee that oversees the FBI. In a statement, he said: “I look forward to providing not only a fresh perspective, but conducting actual oversight—not blind obedience to some facets of our Intel Community that all too often abuse their powers, resources, and authority to spy on the American People.”

Former director of the CIA General Michael Hayden wrote: “That’s unbelievable. Both of them. Intelligence Committee? God help us.” 

There is other news about the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election: yesterday Wisconsin attorney general Josh Kaul filed felony forgery charges against attorney Kenneth Chesebro, who planned the use of fake electors; former judge James Troupis, who managed Trump’s 2020 campaign in Wisconsin; and Michael Roman, a political operative who allegedly delivered the paperwork for Wisconsin’s fake electors to a congressional staffer to try to get them to Vice President Mike Pence. 

On January 6, 2021, after the document was delivered, Troupis texted to Chesebro: “Excellent. Tomorrow let’s talk about SCOTUS strategy going forward. Enjoy the history you have made possible today.” 

In Georgia, a court of appeals paused the case against Trump and his co-conspirators from proceeding until it rules on Trump’s appeal to disqualify Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis. It has tentatively set a hearing date for October 4, meaning that voters will not get to learn the outcome of the trial until after the election. If Trump is reelected, the trial will almost certainly not go forward. 

The federal criminal case against Trump for retaining classified documents is also stalled. Judge Aileen Cannon not only has put off hearings, she has added a hearing on June 21 to consider whether Special Counsel Jack Smith was properly appointed in the first place. She is revisiting a decision already decided in the affirmative in 2019 by the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals. She has also taken the highly unusual step of inviting three people not involved in the case to argue in that hearing: two will argue that the appointment is invalid, one will argue that it was done properly. 

Meanwhile, there were signs over the past few days of the deeply different party principles at the heart of the 2024 election. At an event to reach Black voters in what Julia Terruso and Sean Collins Walsh of the Philadelphia Inquirer described as “one of the whitest and most conservative parts of Philly,” Representative Byron Donalds (R-FL), who is Black, illustrated the grip of a fantasy idyllic past on MAGA Republicans. 

Donalds praised the Jim Crow era of American history—which was literally named for a vicious caricature of African Americans that helped to justify the lynching that characterized the period—because “during Jim Crow the Black family was together.” He blamed the Great Society programs of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, including civil rights and social welfare programs, for eroding family values. 

On the House floor, Minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) urged Donalds to “check yourself before you wreck yourself.” Democratic National Committee chair Jamie Harrison was less poetic but more succinct. He wrote: “These fools have lost their damn minds….”

In the Senate, Democrats forced Republicans to vote on advancing a bill to protect access to contraception. Republicans threatened a filibuster, meaning it would take 60 votes to bring the bill forward. And so the measure failed by a vote of 51 in favor to 39 against (Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer of New York voted no so he could bring the measure up again). Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted in favor of the measure. All the other Republicans either voted no or did not vote. 

All the Republicans running for reelection this year voted no: John Barrasso (R-WY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Roger Wicker (R-MS). 

Some of them said they voted no because there was no danger that Republicans would attack contraception, claiming that Democrats were just “fear-mongering.” But in 2022, House Republicans overwhelmingly voted against protecting contraceptive rights, and in an interview last month, Trump said he was looking at restrictions on contraceptives before his campaign walked the statement back. Yesterday, in a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on “How Abortion Bans Have Created a Health Care Nightmare Across America,” a Republican witness, Dr. Christina Francis, chief executive officer of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) took the position that IUDs and Plan B emergency contraception constitute abortion and should be banned. In the Senate itself, Jodi Ernst (R-IA) has already proposed getting rid of Plan B.

A February 2024 poll showed that 80% of American voters said that protecting access to birth control was “deeply important” to them.  

For all their rhetoric about “America First,” MAGA Republicans are out of step with actual Americans. The Trump loyalists now in charge of the Republican National Committee also appear to be remarkably ill-informed about the country itself. Sam Brody, political reporter for the Boston Globe, noted yesterday that on their website promoting the Republican National Convention to be held in July in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Republicans used a photograph not of Milwaukee, but of Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.

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