Read Part 1.
In the first part of our annual lazy columnist’s end-of-year listicle spectacular, we discussed the end of abortion rights, the nonexistent red wave, the collapse of Donald Trump, the Russia problem and inflation.
Now that you’re all caught up, here’s Part Deux.
6. The Inflation Reduction Act
The remnants of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better program got a Joe Manchin-approved name and squeaked through the Senate in August, giving the president a much-needed positive news cycle.
The IRA invested nearly $400 billion into clean energy through tax incentives, loan guarantees and grants. It also extended enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies for three years and lowered drug costs for Medicare recipients, while trimming $237 billion from the deficit over a decade. (Notice the word “inflation” anywhere in there?)
The IRA is not the Green New Deal. But combined with the CHIPS & Science Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Covid relief law, it made Biden’s first two years among the most productive in modern history.
7. The Jan. 6 Committee
Rep. Liz Cheney lost her job and wrote the first line of her obituary.
Cheney is one of two Republicans on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. Throughout the year, she and her colleagues have laid bare Donald Trump’s plan to interfere in the certification of Biden’s election using absurd legal theories and ultimately incendiary shenanigans.
As of this writing — meaning, before your columnist signed off for the year — the committee was considering criminal referrals not just for Trump, but also for his chief of staff Mark Meadows, attorneys Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, and former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark, who tried to make the DOJ an arm of Trump’s campaign in the administration’s waning months.
For Cheney’s disloyalty to Trump, congressional Republicans removed her from her leadership position, and Wyoming Republicans tossed her in the primary.
8. The woke war
In November, a gunman murdered five people at a drag show in Colorado Springs. Weeks later, some yahoos shot out power transformers the night of a drag show in Southern Pines, North Carolina, that had been the subject of some Bible-thumpers’ protests, casting the entire county into darkness. Doctors who treat transgender youth have faced death threats after being targeted by Libs of TikTok, Tucker Carlson and other right-wing hate-mongers. Republican legislatures have passed laws to prevent one or two trans girls from participating in scholastic sports.
No one rode this horse harder than Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. His administration forbade using Medicaid to pay for gender-affirming health care and banned gender-affirming care for transgender teenagers. At his urging, the Florida Legislature passed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, prohibiting teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity “in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
When Disney belatedly and halfheartedly objected (after the outrage of their heavily LGBTQ+ employee base), DeSantis got his legislative sycophants to eliminate the Mouse’s special tax status, potentially costing neighboring Orange County billions of dollars. (Purely coincidental that Orange County is a blue drop in a red sea.) DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw said that anyone who opposed the bill was “probably a groomer.” She kept her job.
More than a dozen states have considered knock-off legislation.
Of course, the war against the woke went well beyond trans kids. Florida also passed the Individual Freedom Act, previously known as the Stop W.O.K.E. Act, which barred schools and colleges from teaching anything that might hurt white children’s feelings, and prohibited private companies from conducting diversity training. Calling the law “dystopian,” a federal judge has struck down the parts concerning higher education and businesses.
In a recent court hearing, DeSantis’ lawyer was asked to define the governor’s favorite epithet. “Woke,” his general counsel said, is “the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them.” Definitely a threat to be stopped.
Speaking of threats: From January to August, the American Library Association tracked 681 attempts to ban or restrict access to more than 1,600 books and other library materials. Most of them featured characters of color or who were LGBTQ+.
9. Respect for Marriage Act
Moving on to important legislation that shouldn’t be necessary: the Respect for Marriage Act, which formally repealed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and codified same-sex (and interracial) marriage rights in case the Supreme Court jettisons more precedent in service of its far-right agenda.
The impetus wasn’t just the court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, in which five justices found that the 14th Amendment’s Due Process clause did not include the right to abortion, contrary to 49 years of case law. It was, more specifically, Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion.
“In future cases,” Thomas wrote, “we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.”
Griswold established the right to contraception access. Lawrence prohibited states from criminalizing same-sex relations. Obergefell legalized same-sex marriage. You can see why people might be nervous.
More than 190 Republicans voted against the Respect for Marriage Act.
On May 24, an 18-year-old fatally shot 19 students and two teachers, and injured 17 more, at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, while hundreds of cops stood in the parking lot for more than an hour.
As of this writing, it’s one of 15 mass shootings this year that have produced five or more fatalities, not including the gunman: Ten dead in a Buffalo supermarket. Seven dead in an Oklahoma murder-suicide. Six killed in a Walmart shooting. Six people killed in a Fourth of July parade in Illinois. Five dead in a California gang shootout. And so on.
In June, Biden signed the first “major” gun legislation in decades. It provides states with money for crisis intervention programs, including red flag laws, and made modest improvements to background check laws. But it banned no guns — not even assault rifles.
Next week: 10 questions for 2023.