Friday’s entry in our new F*ck Around And Find Out archive comes to us from Michigan.
It seems that over 700,000 Michiganders signed a petition to keep abortion legal in that state. Of course, this is exactly what the Supreme Court suggested should happen when it stripped away that right from American women, which they’d had since 1973. “Leave it to the states,” the anti-choices howled for nearly 50 years.
Of course, once the question was put on the ballot, Republican monkeyshines ensued. From Politico:
The Michigan Supreme Court’s emergency ruling overrides last week’s party-line tie vote by the Board of State Canvassers, which blocked the certification of the proposed constitutional amendment.
The two Republicans on that panel sided with conservative groups that argued spacing and formatting errors on the text canvassers presented to voters rendered the entire effort invalid.
He’s retired now, with a big shelf of trophies, beyond the temptations of ambition. Ricks also seems level-headed, and not in anybody’s ideological pocket.
Of course, he doesn’t know the future, any more than you, me or the rest of us; and Ricks readily admits that. But if his experience, his studies —and his gut — tell him to be guardedly, not-out-of-the-woods-yet — a-hard-slog-is-still-ahead — hopeful, I’m listening. There’s still plenty of tough work to do. But I’m listening.
Thomas E. Ricks’s latest book, “Waging a Good War: A Military History of the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1968,” will be published in October.
Five years ago, I began to worry about a new American civil war breaking out. Despite a recent spate of books and columns that warn such a conflict may be approaching, I am less concerned by that prospect now.
Back then, I wrote in a series of articles and online discussions for Foreign Policy that I expected to see widespread political violence accompanied by efforts in some states to undermine the authority and abilities of the federal government. At an annual lunch of national security experts in Austin, I posed the question of possible civil war and got a consensus of about a one-third chance of such a situation breaking.
Specifically, I worried that there would be a spate of assassination attempts against politicians and judges. I thought we might see courthouses and other federal buildings bombed. I also expected that in some states, right-wing organizations, heavily influenced by white nationalism, would hold conventions to discuss how to defy enforcement of federal laws they disliked, such as those dealing with voting rights.
In March 1947, a Florida court ordered the Ha Ha Club — a nightclub famous for its “female impersonators,” as they were called at the time — to close after declaring it a public nuisance.
The order came just a month after Frank Tuppen, a juvenile probation officer with political ambitions, filed a complaint against the venue. He argued that the club’s performers were “sexual perverts” who had embedded “in the minds of the youngsters” who lived in the area “things immoral” and were “breaking down their character.”
The owner of the club, Charles “Babe” Baker, appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, but in October 1947, it affirmed the lower court’s decision that the club was a public nuisance. “Men impersonating women” in performances that are “nasty, suggestive and indecent” injure the “manners and morals of the people,” the court ruled.
The 2022 complaint, filed by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, threatened to revoke R House’s liquor license, arguing that the establishment violated a state public nuisance law by becoming “manifestly injurious to the morals or manners of the people.”
Historians say the parallels between the R House and the Ha Ha Club complaints, and the fact that DeSantis’ administration cited a 75-year-old court decision, reveal how conservatives are resurfacing a decades-old moral panic about LGBTQ people to target queer spaces.
‘Seeding America with queer consciousness’
Baker first opened the Ha Ha Club in April 1933 in New York City’s Midtown Manhattan neighborhood, where it became “Broadway’s favorite hangout spot,” said Michail Takach, who researched the Ha Ha Club for a book he co-authored, “A History of Milwaukee Drag: Seven Generations of Glamour.”
Later that year, Baker traveled south and opened the club in Hallandale, Florida, about 13 miles north of R House, which is in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. He opened the club toward the end of the so-called Pansy Craze, which was a time period when drag surged in popularity, particularly in cities, Takach said.
Same-sex sexual relations were illegal at the time in most states, and cross-dressing was criminalized in many cities, though Miami never officially had an anti-cross-dressing law on the books. As a result, Takach said clubs like the Ha Ha Club catered primarily to seemingly straight, cisgender audiences, because drag drew attention and could be a liability to club owners.
However, Takach wrote in his book that female impersonator clubs offered gay and gender-nonconforming men that performed at these venues “a safe sanctuary where they could not only embrace their identities but make a name for themselves.”
In Baker’s court testimony, he described how he stood at the club’s door every night and greeted all of the guests. The club held three shows from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., with more than 40 performers who sang, danced and told jokes, according to court documents.
Baker featured some of the most famous female impersonators, including Jackie Maye, whose wardrobe was estimated at the time to have been worth $50,000, Takach said, which would be worth over $1 million in today’s dollars.
His production was also a traveling show, called the Ha Ha Revue, which was inspired by the Jewel Box Revue, a famous touring company of female impersonators — and the first racially integrated drag revue in the country — that operated from 1937 to about 1960, according to Takach’s drag history book.
The traveling version of the Ha Ha Club’s show and the Jewel Box Revue “really did a solid job of seeding America with queer consciousness,” Takach said. “And you have to wonder how much of that played into the gay liberation era — how many children that went to these shows, how many adults that watched these shows, were later part of the gay liberation scene.”
The shows brought queer representation to many cities across the U.S. at a time when gay people were being criminalized and also at a time when drag had fallen “violently out of favor,” Takach said.
“They brought it back in a big way and created a mid-century drag craze in the 1950s that, in some ways, is a parallel and a rival to the RuPaul drag craze of this decade,” he said.
‘A home of perverts, queers, phonies’
On Feb. 2, 1947, after operating his club in Hallandale for 14 years, Baker tried to stop a fight between two customers at the club and called the police. Both he and a customer were arrested for assault and battery, though Baker was never charged, according to court documents.
Just three days later, on Feb. 5, Tuppen — who was running for sheriff of Broward County in an upcoming election — filed his complaint against the club. He claimed multiple men he had arrested for having same-sex sexual relations said they frequented the Ha Ha Club.
James Lathero, the lawyer for the state, asked Tuppen what the general reputation of the Ha Ha Club is, and Tuppen said, “General knowledge, it is nothing but a home of perverts, queers, phonies.” Tuppen’s complaint also alleged that the venue had contributed to “juvenile delinquency” in the county that was “injurious to the manners and morals of the people” residing there.
Baker’s lawyers called more than half a dozen locals who testified that they enjoyed the club’s shows. Baker also testified that his cast had performed for a church and the Kiwanis Club and that it had raised money for the March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization that supports mothers and babies. He also denied that his club was associated with homosexuals and said there was no evidence of “crimes of perversion” at the club.
But the Broward County Circuit Court ultimately declared the Ha Ha Club a public nuisance and ordered it to close in the spring of 1947.
Baker appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, and one of his lawyer’s, Robert Lane, wrote in the appeal that there were no complaints against Baker’s club during its 14 years in business “until an aspirant for a political office decided to complain,” referring to Tuppen and his run for sheriff.
Lane also argued that “there are different views as to what may injure the manners and morals of the public.”
Despite Baker’s efforts, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision in October 1947.
“The lawful evidence presents a dirty picture; the Ha Ha Club looks as if it were a cross between a ‘honky tonk’ and a ‘speak easy,’” wrote Justice William Terrell, who later went on to defend segregation after the Supreme Court struck it down in Brown v. Board of Education. He added that the lower court determined that the Ha Ha Club’s “major connotations were evil, that it was exerting a corrupting influence and that the time had arrived to abate it.”
The case against the Ha Ha Club happened at a time when public support for drag had waned, because law enforcement and media nationwide claimed that gay people were a danger to women and children, Takach said.
“There was a very strong reaction to the liberation that people had felt, and the visibility that gay and lesbian people and gender-nonconforming people had earned during the Pansy Craze,” he said. “It led to many cities creating drag bans, shutting down drag clubs, banning female impersonation completely — silencing the queer nightlife and the queer representation that had really flourished during the Pansy Craze in the early parts of the 1930s.”
‘A cultural panic moment’
Last month, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation alleged in its complaint against R House that a “nearly nude dancer was filmed parading a young girl through the audience” on or about July 3 and that the video ignited public outrage.
Inquired about it during a news conference, DeSantis said the video prompted the department to investigate further, “and what they found was not only were there minors there — and these are sexually explicit drag shows — the bar had a children’s menu. And you think to yourself: ‘Give me a break, what’s going on?’”
The complaint threatened to revoke R House’s liquor license and cited the Ha Ha Club case, noting that the Florida Supreme Court recognized that “men impersonating women” in the context of “suggestive and indecent” performances can constitute a public nuisance.
R House’s ownership said in an emailed statement last month that it is aware of the complaint and that it is working with the department through its attorney to “rectify the situation.”
“We are an inclusive establishment and welcome all people to visit our restaurant,” the email said. “We are hopeful that Governor DeSantis, a vociferous supporter and champion of Florida’s hospitality industry and small businesses, will see this as what it is, a misunderstanding, and that the matter will be resolved positively and promptly.” Ownership has not returned an additional request for comment.
There are multiple parallels between the Ha Ha Club case and DeSantis’ complaint against R House, historians said, revealing a cultural cycle.
Just as there was a public backlash to increasing queer visibility after the Pansy Craze, historians said conservatives are now pushing back against LGBTQ people winning major rights such as same-sex marriage.
But unlike in decades past, those who oppose LGBTQ equality cannot “attack gay people per se, so the people they attack are actually trans people or trans youth or drag queens, and then only in connection with children,” said Michael Bronski, a professor of women and gender studies at Harvard University and author of “A Queer History of the United States for Young People.”
Bronski called the backlash against drag today part of a “cultural panic moment,” and Takach said it’s happened throughout history in the U.S.
“People get drawn in by the glamor, and it’s a novelty,” he said of drag, “and then something happens, and the entire community turns on it.”
Maxx Fenning, the president and founder of Prism, a nonprofit that works to expand access to LGBTQ-inclusive education in South Florida, said the complaint against R House, like the one filed against the Ha Ha Club 75 years ago, shows how laws related to “public morals” can be used to disproportionately censor LGBTQ people and topics.
“This Florida Supreme Court case noted that men impersonating women is not in and of itself a verifiable offense, but it’s doing it in an indecent fashion,” he said. “You see very often this use of vague and subjective language to be able to create laws and rulings that seem common sense, but have just enough vagueness to be applied in ways that unnecessarily silence the queer community.”
As for the Ha Ha Club, Babe Baker didn’t shut down his performance after the club was forced to close. In fact, he moved it to about a mile away, to a club called Leon & Eddie’s, a nightclub first opened in New York City by Leon Enker and Eddie Davis and later moved to Miami.
He also started advertising in a “curious” fashion, Takach said. He placed ads in the Miami Herald that prominently featured the word “gay” in phrases like “gay laughs,” “gay surprises,” “gay faces,” “gay music” and “gay dancing.” Even though gay wasn’t widely used at the time to refer to queer people, Takach said Baker chose the word intentionally.
Prior to opening the Ha Ha Club in New York, Baker worked at the Howdy Club, which Takach described as “an unapologetic lesbian bar” and one of the first places in Manhattan to hire lesbians as entertainers and allow women to gather and drink without male company. Takach said it was raided by police regularly, and that the word “howdy” became synonymous code for queer.
The word “gay” similarly became a code in Baker’s newspaper ads, and the Miami Daily News caught on in 1952, Takach said. The paper criticized the Miami Herald, its competitor, for running ads for clubs like Baker’s on one page and then condemning the clubs in the Herald’s editorials. “The words ‘gay,’ ‘ha ha’ and ‘howdy’ have become beacons pointing to the hands of the perverts,” the Miami Daily News wrote, according to Takach.
Baker’s cast performed four times a night at Leon & Eddie’s, and they also went on tour across the country, selling out weeks of shows in cities including Milwaukee; Detroit; Dayton, Ohio; Minneapolis; and Spokane, Washington, Takach said.
“You could say that Broward County won the battle, but Babe Baker won the war.”
Ahead of the midterm elections, the GOP leads in congressional preference, but Democrats catch up in enthusiasm.
August 21, 2022 — By Mark Murray
WASHINGTON — A clear majority of American voters believe that the various investigations into alleged wrongdoing by former President Donald Trump should continue, according to a national NBC News poll conducted after the FBI searched Trump’s Florida home and recovered documents marked as “top secret” earlier this month.
The poll also shows a dissatisfied public, with three-quarters of voters saying the county is headed in the wrong direction, a record 58% who say that America’s best years are behind it and 61% who say they’re willing to carry a protest sign for a day because they’re so upset.
And it paints a mixed picture of the 2022 midterm landscape, with President Joe Biden’s job rating mired in the low 40s, and with Republicans narrowly leading on congressional preference — but with Democrats nearly tying Republicans on voter enthusiasm — and with “threats to democracy” overtaking the cost of living as the top issue facing the country for voters.
“Politically, for Joe Biden and Democrats, the news is not all bad,” said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies.
“Heading into Labor Day, the political dynamics could be worse [for Democrats], but they also need to get a lot better and fast,” he said.
McInturff, the GOP pollster, agrees that the environment has improved for Democrats since earlier this year. But he argues that the main fundamentals — the president’s job rating, the nation’s direction — are breaking against the party.
“America is singing the blues, and that is bad news for the blue team in November,” McInturff said.
The NBC News poll was conducted Aug. 12-16, during and after a tumultuous period for Donald Trump — when the FBI searched the former president’s Florida home, when Trump attorney and ally Rudy Giuliani revealed he is a “target” in the probe of alleged election interference in Georgia, and as a former Trump business executive pleaded guilty for tax fraud.
According to the survey, 57% of registered voters say that the investigations into alleged wrongdoing by Trump should continue, while 40% say they should stop.
By party, 92% of Democratic voters, 61% of independents but only 21% of Republican voters think the investigations into Trump should continue.
While all voters who prefer the investigations continue rather than stop lead by 17 points, the margin holding Trump responsible for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is much smaller.
A combined 50% of voters say Trump is solely or mainly responsible for Jan. 6 — up 5 points since the May NBC News poll, before the House committee investigating the attack began holding multiple televised hearings.
That’s compared with a combined 49% saying Trump is only somewhat responsible or not responsible at all for Jan. 6, which is down 6 points from May.
Biden’s job rating remains in the low forties
The poll was also conducted after a strong stretch for President Biden, which included Congress passing climate and health care legislation and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that 528,000 jobs had been created last month.
But the survey doesn’t show a significant improvement in the president’s standing, with 42% of registered voters approving of Biden’s job performance and 55% disapproving.
In May, Biden’s job approval stood at 42% among registered voters and 39% among all adults.
The president enjoys his highest approval rating among Democrats (79%), Black voters (68%), urban residents (50%) and women (47%), while he has some of his lowest ratings among Latinos (40%), men (36%), those 18-34 (36%), rural residents (21%) and Republicans (7%).
On the issues, 40% approve of Biden’s handling of the economy (up 7 points among adults in May), and 39% give him a thumbs-up on foreign policy (down 3 points among adults).
Looking ahead to November’s midterm elections, 47% of registered voters prefer Republicans winning control of Congress, while 45% want Democrats in charge.
In May’s poll, the parties were tied on this question: 46%-46%.
Democrats close the enthusiasm gap
Despite Biden’s approval rating and the GOP’s lead in congressional preference (albeit within the poll’s margin of error), the NBC News survey shows an improvement for Democrats since earlier this year.
For one thing, Democrats have closed the enthusiasm gap.
According to the survey, 68% of Republicans express a high level of interest in the upcoming election — registering either a “9” or “10” on a 10-point scale — versus 66% for Democrats.
That 2-point GOP advantage is down from 17 points in March and 8 points in May.
The pollsters who conducted the survey attribute the increased Democratic enthusiasm to the June Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
“The Supreme Court ruling has shaken up the electorate,” said Horwitt, the Democratic pollster.
Indeed, the poll finds that 58% of voters disapprove of the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the constitutional right to an abortion, compared with 38% who approve.
And the poll finds that “threats to democracy” has overtaken the “cost of living” as the most important issue facing the country, and that the climate and health care legislation Biden signed into law last week is more popular than unpopular (42% call it a good idea, while 31% say it is a bad idea).
Upset enough to carry a protest sign for an entire day
But hovering over the entire poll is a deep dissatisfaction from the American public.
Three-quarters of voters — 74% — say the country is headed in the wrong direction, representing the fifth-straight NBC News survey showing this number in the 70s.
Additionally, 58% believe America’s best days are behind it, which is the highest percentage on this question dating back to 1990.
Another 68% of voters think the United States is currently in an economic recession.
And six in 10 — 61% — say they’re so upset by something that they’re willing to carry a protest sign for an entire day.
Asked what their protest sign would say, the top responses among Democratic voters are “Women’s rights,” “Equal rights,” “Prosecute Trump” and “Abortion rights.”
And the top responses among Republican voters are “Impeach Biden,” “Protect our freedom,” “Protect 2nd Amendment,” and “Stop Democrats.”
The NBC News poll was conducted Aug. 12-16 of 1,000 registered voters — including 750 reached by cell phone — and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.
Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, a former director of both the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, has called out the Republican Party as extremist and dangerous, on an unprecedented level.
Hayden was responding Wednesday to an Aug. 11 tweet by the British journalist and author Edward Luce, who had said: “I’ve covered extremism and violent ideologies around the world over my career. Have never come across a political force more nihilistic, dangerous & contemptible than today’s Republicans. Nothing close.”
Luce is the chief U.S. commentator for the Financial Times.
“I agree. And I was the CIA Director,” Hayden responded via quote-tweet.
The tweet sparked immediate debate online, and drew more than 35,000 “likes” in its first three hours.
Hayden, a retired Air Force general who was named director of the NSA during the Clinton administration and was then tapped as CIA director by President George W. Bush, was among five former top military officials who penned a USA Today op-ed last month warning that American democracy “is in real peril” following the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection and by the manner in which the Republican Party has embraced conspiracy theorists, 2020 election deniers and extremist elements.
Also see: Trump lost — 2020 election wasn’t stolen, group of ultraprominent conservatives says
“For those of us focused on domestic security, the forces of autocracy now trump traditional foreign threats, hands down,” the former military officials wrote, citing a study earlier this year that found one in three Americans believe violence against the government could be justified.
A number of prominent Republicans have also gone on record decrying the state of the Republican Party and Donald Trump’s ongoing influence over it. On Wednesday, Rep. Liz Cheney — who lost her Wyoming Republican primary Tuesday after vigorously opposing Trump — vowed to fight to prevent Trump from becoming president again.
“I am absolutely going to continue this battle,” she told NBC News. “It’s the most important thing I’ve ever been involved in, and I think it’s certainly the most important thing, challenge, that our nation has faced in recent history, and maybe since the Civil War. And it’s one that we must win.”
Separately, former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday pleaded with fellow Republicans to tone down their rhetoric against the FBI following last week’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago private club in Palm Beach, Fla.
Law-enforcement officials have warned in recent days that angry words from Trump and his allies are putting agents, officers and federal employees at risk. Violent rhetoric may have contributed to at least two deadly encounters involving law enforcement over the past week.
Rusty Bowers is headed for the exit. After 18 years as an Arizona lawmaker, the past four as speaker of the state’s house of representatives, he has been unceremoniously shown the door by his own Republican party.
Last month he lost his bid to stay in the Arizona legislature in a primary contest in which his opponent was endorsed by Donald Trump. The rival, David Farnsworth, made an unusual pitch to voters: the 2020 presidential election had not only been stolen from Trump, he said, it was satanically snatched by the “devil himself”.
Bowers was ousted as punishment. The Trump acolytes who over the past two years have gained control of the state’s Republican party wanted revenge for the powerful testimony he gave in June to the January 6 hearings in which he revealed the pressure he was put under to overturn Arizona’s election result.
This is a very Arizonan story. But it is also an American story that carries an ominous warning for the entire nation.
Six hours after the Guardian interviewed Bowers, Liz Cheney was similarly ousted in a primary for her congressional seat in Wyoming. The formerly third most powerful Republican leader in the US Congress had been punished too.
The thought that if you don’t do what we like, then we will just get rid of you and march on and do it ourselves – that to me is fascism
In Bowers’s case, his assailants in the Arizona Republican party wanted to punish him because he had steadfastly refused to do their, and Trump’s, bidding.
He had declined to use his power as leader of the house to invoke an “arcane Arizonan law” – whose text has never been found – that would allow the legislature to cast out the will of 3.4 million voters who had handed victory to Joe Biden and switch the outcome unilaterally to Trump.
Fresh off her Kansas victory, Rachel Sweet heads to Kentucky to fight an antiabortion ballot measure
Kansas voters surprised everyone when they overwhelmingly rejected an antiabortion ballot measure earlier this month.
Now Rachel Sweet, the campaign manager behind that abortion rights victory in Kansas, has been hired to lead a similar effort in Kentucky, The Health 202 has learned.
Sweet is fresh off her victory in Kansas, where nearly 59 percent of voters in the conservative state defeated an attempt to strip abortion protections from the state constitution. While several states have abortion measures on the ballot in November, Kentucky is the only one where residents will weigh in on a similar measure to explicitly state that nothing in the state constitution creates a right to an abortion.