Florida Latinos and Trump; Religion, SCOTUS and Amy Coney Barrett

Commentary

Around the Block’s take on two Washington Post Op-eds

I intended to take a little break from Around the Block for a while in order to focus on some of my other writing projects. I did not, however, take a break from reading my many news and information sources. And when I read, I tend to comment. So, here goes…commentary from two Op-ed columns in today’s The Washington Post.

(Links and PDFs to the Op-ed’s at the end of the post)

Why did the Florida Latino community swing to Trump? It’s complicated.
By Debbie Mucarsel-Powell

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democrat, represents Florida’s 26th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. She lost her bid for reelection in November.

As Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell writes, “My district, Florida’s 26th, is 68 percent Latino and stretches from southern Miami-Dade all the way to Key West. It’s a competitive seat: I won by almost two points in 2018 and lost by more than three points in 2020. In 2016, Donald Trump lost this vibrant, diverse community by 16 points. This year, he won by six — a stunning 22-point swing.”

The question is why?

Representative Mucarsel-Powell lists many reasons why – from the fear of socialism to not sufficiently addressing the needs of working-class Latinos. But in my mind, the answer is as simple as the one that she addresses in her Op-ed:

“As we learn these lessons, we have to remember that Republicans aren’t playing by the same rules: Latinos from South Florida to the Rio Grande Valley were targeted by a surge of disinformation against Democrats on social media that seeped into traditional outlets such as El Nuevo Herald and Spanish talk radio.”

What does this suggest? That Latinos from South Florida are no different than whites from the rest of the country; non-stop lying to them informs their decisions. The result: almost 74 million Americans voted for Trump.  Which leads to the obvious question: If in these GOP “disinformation campaigns” Republicans “aren’t playing by the same rules,” what rules should Democrats be employing to counteract the lies? That answer can’t wait for the 2022 mid-terms, it has to be addressed immediately in the two Georgia senatorial run-offs. If Georgia doesn’t come through, and the Senate isn’t flipped, any hope for a successful Biden administration over the next two years will be a pipe dream. As for 2022, if Democrats don’t find some new rules, as they say in New York, fuhgeddaboudit. I, for one, don’t have the answer. Do you? Anyone? Anyone?

The Supreme Court finally has a majority that will protect religious freedom.
By Henry Olson

Henry Olson is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Henry Olson wrote in his column today, “Amy Coney Barrett’s accession to the Supreme Court excited religious liberty advocates. They believed her originalist jurisprudence, combined with her evident devout faith, would make her a firm advocate of interpreting the Constitution’s free exercise clause to defend religious liberty. Her decisive role in the court’s opinion this week enjoining the overly strict regulations from New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) on how many people can gather in a house of worship shows how right they were.”

As I read Olson’s piece I could almost feel his fingers quivering in excitement as he tapped out both his praise for the Court’s reversal of the previous decision on this case and Amy Coney Barrett’s ascension to the Court.

“This reversal was possible only because of Barrett. Without the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there were only three liberals to join the chief justice in support of the governor’s order. Barrett joined the four conservatives who had dissented in this summer’s cases to form the majority in this one. Liberals have often marveled at how religious conservatives could so fervently back a decidedly imperfect man in President Trump. This case, in which all three of Trump’s appointees formed the majority’s backbone, shows why they did.”

While I’ve decided that I wouldn’t take Olson to task for his “charitable” characterization of Donald Trump as “imperfect,” except for an incredulous “really, that’s it?”, I do take exception to the Court’s decision.

I respect the First Amendment freedom of religion. But, I also respect the power and the ease of the transmission of the coronavirus. The “Cuomo regulation” capped attendance at houses of worship to 10-25 people, depending on a region’s Covid severity. The question in my mind is, how does this cap really affect religious activities?

In most cases, Jewish devotion can be done privately. In some cases, however, devotion needs a “minyan,” 10 men for the Orthodox; 10 Jewish adults for the rest of us. Clearly, this fits into Cuomo’s rule. Catholics, as I understand it, receive holy communion at Mass. I may be wrong, but I do not believe there are any minimums on the number of participants at a Mass.

Given this, and given that we are in the throes of a pandemic, a pandemic that is getting worse, not better, wouldn’t it be appropriate for religious organizations to reflect on the dangers of these times, the dangers that large gatherings can exacerbate, by exercising a bit of flexibility. Flexibility like conducting their religious rites while simultaneously respecting the rights of the rest of us who might come into contact with participants of those large religious gatherings. And, with that contact, possibly get sick. Or die. I mean, isn’t religion all about reflection?

And, after that reflection, how might these religious organizations adjust their practices so that their flocks continue to be served, while the rest of us are shielded from the consequences of mass religious gatherings?

How about this? Perhaps conducting more services with fewer attendees might work? Or would that simple adjustment put too much burden on our religious leaders? Would that mean they’d have to work harder? Work harder to meet the demands of our fraught times? Or am I simply being sacrilegious?

Wait, how about this? Where does “Love your neighbor as yourself” kick in? Can you simultaneously love and infect your neighbor with disease? Where in scripture is that written?

Bottom line: SCOTUS made a grievous error in the name of religious freedom; an error that can, according to science, cause harm to the community. In times of crisis, even religion needs to make some adjustments for the common good. Doesn’t it?

Here are the links/PDFs to the referenced columns:

Why did the Florida Latino community swing to Trump? It’s complicated. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/11/27/debbie-mucarsel-powell-florida-latinos-trump/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_opinions&utm_campaign=wp_opinion

The Supreme Court finally has a majority that will protect religious freedom. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/11/27/supreme-court-finally-has-majority-that-will-protect-religious-freedom/

Published by Ted Block

Ted Block is a veteran “Mad Man,” having spent 45+ years in the advertising industry. During his career, he was media director of several advertising agencies, including Benton & Bowles in New York and Foote, Cone and Belding in San Francisco; account management director on clients as varied as Clorox, Levi’s and the California Raisin Advisory Board (yes, Ted was responsible for the California Dancing Raisins campaign); and regional director for Asia based in Tokyo for Foote, Cone where he was also the founding president of FCB’s Japanese operations. Ted holds a Bachelor’s degree in communications from Queens College and, before starting in advertising, served on active duty as an officer on USS McCloy (DE-1038) in the U.S. Navy.

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