The Real Story of the Politics of Juneteenth
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THEODORE R. JOHNSON: The Real Story of the Politics of Juneteenth
[T]he actual reasons for Republicans opposing MLK Day and Election Day as national holidays were not about budgets but about politics. In the case of MLK Day, Republican strategists worried that voters fresh off the Dixiecrat train would reject their new party making an overture to a recently enlarged black electorate. And in the case of Election Day, Republicans seem to buy the flawed argument that easier voting automatically leads to Democratic victories.
And yet, on Juneteenth? The Republican party got onboard, largely because it intuited that there would be no political cost for supporting it. Why is that?
Hyperpartisan politics and voters’ entrenched partisanship have created conditions where there’s little risk of losing supporters to the other side on an issue to which most Americans aren’t paying close attention. And Trump’s panicked, belated embrace of Juneteenth—aided by Texas senator John Cornyn’s introduction of the holiday-creating bill—provided the cover necessary to keep the holiday from becoming a part of the partisan culture war.
Sometimes symbolic legislation, such as the recently passed antilynching law, is worth doing because of the signal it sends to the public about acceptable norms and which narratives hold value in the American story. And, of course, pragmatism doesn’t require purity or convicted hearts to recognize the value in a good legislative action. But the politics of Juneteenth’s ascendance to a national holiday is actually a story about a democratic system that is presently incapable of doing hard things, and choosing instead to take the easiest path available.
Trump is only proving the January 6 committee’s point. And Mike Pence put his own life in danger by not speaking up sooner. Will Saletan joins guest host Amanda Carpenter on today’s podcast.
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Happy Monday! I hope your weekend was enjoyable and that the holidays were meaningful. Just make sure to remember your sunscreen if you’re going to be out in the sun today. I forgot this weekend because it was deceptively cool and paid the price.
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