“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov
But the Court’s resolution of Morrissey-Berru is also a fairly maximalist decision. The upshot of Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion for a 7-2 Court is that thousands of teachers at religious schools are no longer protected by anti-discrimination laws. If one of them is fired for being Black, or gay, or a woman, the law may do nothing to intervene.
The case involves the “ministerial exception” to civil rights laws. As a general rule, religious institutions have total control over whom they employ as “ministers.” That means that if a church wants to fire its preacher because of that preacher’s race or gender, it may do so, even though such discrimination ordinarily is illegal.
As Alito explains, the Constitution protects “the right of churches and other religious institutions to decide matters ‘of faith and doctrine’ without government intrusion.” Implicit in this right is a certain “autonomy with respect to internal management decisions that are essential to the institution’s central mission. And a component of this autonomy is the selection of the individuals who play certain key roles.”
Yet while the Supreme Court held in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC (2012) that “ministers” are beyond the reach of civil rights laws, it provided only the vaguest guidelines on who qualifies as a “minister.” Alito’s opinion in Morrissey-Berru adds some meat to those dry bones. Under his opinion, “when a school with a religious mission entrusts a teacher with the responsibility of educating and forming students in the faith, judicial intervention into disputes between the school and the teacher threatens the school’s independence in a way that the First Amendment does not allow.”
Thus, a teacher at a religious school whose duties include religious instruction qualifies as a “minister,” and is therefore unprotected by anti-discrimination law.
The plaintiffs in Morrissey-Berru had fairly minimal religious duties
One upshot of Morrissey-Berru is that the ministerial exception attaches even to teachers who spend the bulk of their time engaged in secular instruction. The case concerns two Catholic school teachers, Agnes Morrissey-Berru and Kristen Biel, who claim they were fired for illegitimate reasons.
Morrissey-Berru alleges age discrimination, while Biel’s estate claims that she illegally lost her job after she “requested a leave of absence to obtain treatment for breast cancer” — she eventually died of the disease. The schools, meanwhile, claim that both women’s contracts were not renewed due to legitimate concerns about their job performance.
But these factual disputes will never be resolved, because the ministerial exception places both women beyond the reach of civil rights laws such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Both women were elementary school teachers at Catholic schools. Like most elementary school teachers, they taught a broad range of subjects rather than specializing in any one area. Most of their time was spent on secular topics such as arithmetic or grammar, but both women also spent some time instructing their students in the Catholic faith. Biel, for example, was “required to teach religion for 200 minutes each week” and administer a weekly test on religious subjects.
Under Alito’s decision, this fairly small amount of religious instruction — a little more than three hours a week — was enough to trigger the ministerial exception. “Implicit in our decision in Hosanna-Tabor,” Alito writes, “was a recognition that educating young people in their faith, inculcating its teachings, and training them to live their faith are responsibilities that lie at the very core of the mission of a private religious school.”
As the world grapples with the devastation of thecoronavirus, one thing is clear: The United States simply wasn’t prepared. Despite repeated warnings from infectious disease experts over the years, we lacked essential beds, equipment, and medication; public health advice was confusing, and our leadership offered no clear direction while sidelining credible health professionals and institutions. Infectious disease experts agree that it’s only a matter of time before the next pandemic hits, and that could be even more deadly. So how do we fix what COVID has shown was broken? In this Mother Jones series, we’re asking experts from a wide range of disciplines one question: What are the most important steps we can take to make sure we’re better prepared next time around?
David R. Williams has dedicated his career to studying how racial and economic inequality makes societies sicker. The chair of the department of social and behavioral sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, he was among the first to study how the stress that Black people experience from racial discrimination makes them more vulnerable to chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure—all of which are thought to be part of the reason that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color.In addition to his academic work, Williams has served as a director for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthier America, which aims to eliminate racial and socioeconomic gaps in health.
On why COVID-19 is ravaging Black communities: COVID-19 has not created racial disparities in health. It has just been a magnifying glass, highlighting racial disparities that have existed for 100 years. The pattern we observe for COVID-19 exists for most of the leading causes of death in the United States. The same pattern is true for heart disease, for cancer, for stroke, for diabetes, for obesity. So for those of us who work in the field, we don’t see anything surprising about COVID-19. The question becomes why: Why has COVID-19 hurt African American communities so badly?
The first point I will make is that the African American community is being hurt badly because the African American community is markedly disadvantaged economically. Most Americans think that we have achieved greater equality in economic status in the United States by race than we actually have. If I look at a 2019 report from the US Census Bureau, which provides median household income by race in the United States for the year 2018, for every dollar of household income white households receive, Black households received 59 cents. What says a ton about that 59 cents figure is that is identical to the Black-white gap in income in 1978, which was the peak year of the narrowing of the Black-white gap in income as a result of the civil rights movement and policies against the war and poverty of the 60s and 70s. I’m saying in 2018, we are exactly where we were in 1978. Most of my students think we have made much more economic progress in the United States than that.
But the income gap understates the real gap in economic circumstances and economic resources for the African American community. The latest Federal Reserve Board data on race and wealth says that for every dollar of wealth that white households have, Black households have 10 pennies and Latino households have 12 pennies. That means that many people of color are one paycheck away from being homeless. When you have no wealth, you have no economic reserves, and you cannot cushion shortfalls of income.
Because many people of color are working low-income, non-salaried jobs with unpredictable, unstable hours, they have higher levels of exposure. Many communities of color are overrepresented in what we’re calling the essential workers—transit workers, building maintenance staff, grocery store employees—they have to keep working. They can’t take the preventive actions that have been recommended to us by the state and others.
On how segregated neighborhoods make people sicker: So where do these large racial, ethnic gaps in income and wealth come from? Is it that African Americans are just lazy? Is it that they they’re not working hard enough? Is it that they’re not saving hard enough? That’s where residential segregation comes in. If you stop and think about it for a second, for the average American, the way you live determines where you go to school. It determines the quality of education you receive and your preparation for higher education. It determines your access to employment opportunities. It determines the quality of housing and neighborhood environments. It determines whether it’s easy or difficult to exercise in your neighborhood, and whether it’s safe to exercise in your neighborhood. It determines whether you have access to affordable, high quality, nutritious food. It determines the quality of city services. It determines access to medical care. So across the board, place is a powerful predictor of health and a powerful predictor of economic status.
Harvard economist Raj Chetty looked at the intergenerational transfer of socioeconomic mobility in the United States. In different cities across the United States, he’s compared Blacks and whites who start out at the same level of family income, and looks at what happens to those children who start out with their families at the same level of income. He finds that in 99% of census tracts in the United States, Black boys who start out at the same level of income as their white counterparts are doing worse, with markedly lower incomes in the next generation.
Dolores Acevedo-Garcia is a public health colleague at Brandeis who has created a child neighborhood opportunity index for the United States. She’s looking at the degree of opportunity, the quality of schools, the quality of early childhood centers, the percent of residents with high skilled jobs or high school education, the level of homeownership level, of public assistance, air quality, water quality, hazardous waste sites. Then she looks at other resources like green space, healthy food outlets, and walkability. She found that two-thirds of all Black kids and about 60 percent of all Latino kids are growing up in low-opportunity neighborhoods, compared to about one in five white and Asian kids. If you look at the flip side, two-thirds of white and Asian kids reside in high opportunity neighborhoods. The stark economic differences we see are not acts of God are not random events that didn’t just happen. They reflect the successful implementation of social policy.
On why Black people need herd immunity against chronic conditions: The most vulnerable are people who have what we call co-morbidities. People who have high blood pressure. People who are obese. People who have diabetes. For all of these conditions, African Americans get them at markedly younger ages. And the question is why? My colleague Lisa Cooper and I published an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association where we talked about creating a new kind of herd immunity. We have to look at disadvantaged populations and change the social and economic conditions that put them at high risk for disease—so when the next infectious disease comes, they are stronger because they are no longer exposed to the conditions that drive illness in the first place.
We know that people who live under bad economic conditions in highly segregated areas and in poor neighborhoods in the United States experience higher levels of stress. They experience higher levels of economic stress—difficulty making ends meet at the end of the month—but they also experience higher levels of psychosocial stressors, like the death of a loved one or unemployment.
They also experience higher levels of physiochemical stressors. It hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, but at least one study by colleagues at Harvard found that people who live in areas have high air pollution in the United States at higher risk of getting COVID-19. And if they get COVID-19, it’s more severe.
Then, there is the added layer of stress from discrimination. Over the years, I have developed something called the everyday discrimination scale. It doesn’t capture the big things, like being stopped, physically threatened, and abused by the police—I have another measure that captures that—but the everyday discrimination scale just captures little indignities. You receive poor service at restaurants and stores. People act as if they think you are not smart. They are afraid of you, or they think you are dishonest. Little indignities. People who score high on that scale have higher rates of heart disease, early onset of diabetes, higher blood pressure. They have higher rates of mental disorders, early onset of breast cancer, higher levels of obesity.
Some researchers argue because of all of this cumulative level of stress, African Americans are literally aging physiologically, biologically, more rapidly than whites. So you can look at a Black and white person, both age 50. Physiologically, the African American in some studies is seven and a half to 10 years older than his white counterpart. Why? Because your age not only captures how long you have lived. When you live in bad environmental conditions, your age is also capturing how long you’ve been exposed to those conditions, and how physiologically compromised and dysregulated the biological systems of your body have become as a result of those exposures. And that’s why Blacks have high blood pressure and heart disease and diabetes and kidney disease at younger ages. You go across the major chronic conditions, they have them all at younger ages.
These are younger adults — who Newsom called “the young invincibles” — who are testing positive for the disease, a trend that has become apparent as the economy has reopened and working-aged adults return to work and had resumed social gatherings.
“So a lot of these younger folks may be coming into hospitals, but with not as acute needs as what we were seeing in the past,” Newsom said. In L.A. County, working-age adults are making up an increasing share of the percentage of those who are hospitalized, while seniors are making up a declining share.
Some young people think “they are invincible but don’t feel it’s going to impact them and if it does, it’s not a big burden.”
But Newsom and other experts have warned that increasing infection in younger adults may serve as a way the disease can spread to those with underlying health conditions and older adults.
That’s why, Newsom said, he has made moves to strengthen public health orders, such as ordering many of California’s most populous counties to shut down bars and indoor restaurant dining rooms as hospitalizations have increased.
While a higher percentage of coronavirus tests is confirming infections, “we’re not seeing a commensurate increase yet in mortality,” Newsom said. For the last six weeks, California has reported an average coronavirus death toll of about 436 a week since Memorial Day; for the preceding six weeks, the average weekly death toll was 510, a Times analysis found.
“Those are lagging indicators: hospitalizations, ICUs and deaths,” Newsom said.
It can take weeks for newly infected people to get sick enough to be hospitalized, and even more time before they die from the disease.
Experts say it can take three to four weeks after exposure to the virus for infected people to become sick enough to be hospitalized, and four to five weeks after exposure for some of the most vulnerable patients to die from the disease.
The same trends of younger adults being increasingly infected with the coronavirus is being seen in L.A. County.
By the Fourth of July, “almost 50% of new cases occur among younger people,” which are adults 40 and younger, said Barbara Ferrer, the L.A. County director of public health, on Monday. In early April, that age group made up only about 30% of new confirmed cases.
Adults 18 to 39 make up about one-third of L.A. County’s population.
The decline in deaths in L.A. County is partly due to a significant decline in new deaths among nursing home residents. In May, L.A. County was reporting an average of 25 daily coronavirus deaths among nursing home residents. By late June, the average daily death toll from nursing homes was about 10, Ferrer said last week.
Officials have said better use of personal protective equipment, such as masks, gowns and gloves, and increased testing, has helped reduce the effect of the pandemic on nursing homes.
The age makeup of those being hospitalized in L.A. County has also changed. In late April, seniors 65 and older made up 50% of those hospitalized with COVID-19; middle-aged people between 41 to 64 made up more than 35%; and the youngest adults made up less than 15% of cases.
Now, it’s working-aged adults who are seeing their share of hospitalizations rise, while the elderly’s rate falls. By the Fourth of July, middle-aged adults made up roughly 45% of hospitalizations; seniors made up less than 30%; and the youngest adults made up more than 25% of hospitalizations.
There are several reasons why younger adults are increasingly becoming infected, Ferrer said, citing survey results compiled by the USC Dornsife Center of Economic and Social Research.
More L.A. County residents are leaving their home. In mid-April, 86% of L.A. County residents said they stayed home at all times except for essential activities or exercise; by the last week of June, only 58% said they were doing so.
More L.A. County residents are also having close contact with people outside of their household. In mid-April, only 31% of L.A. County residents had such close contact with people outside of their household; by the last week of June, 55% were doing so.
As the reopening has accelerated, however, fewer L.A. County residents are reporting a fear of running out of food because of a lack of money or other resources. In early April, 30% of L.A. County residents surveyed were worried about running out of food; that figure has fallen to 11% for the last week of June.
Additionally, fewer L.A. County residents are now reporting psychological distress as the reopening accelerated. In early April, 47% of surveyed county residents reported mild, moderate or severe symptoms of psychological distress; as the reopening accelerated, 36% reporting feeling such symptoms.
The coronavirus brought much of the world to a standstill, dropping carbon emissions by five percent. Al Gore says keeping those rates down is now up to us. In this illuminating interview, he discusses how the steadily declining cost of wind and solar energy will transform manufacturing, transportation and agriculture, offer a cheaper alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear energy and create millions of new jobs. Stay tuned for a lively debate about geoengineering and hear Gore’s thoughts about how humanity can create a clean, prosperous future through a focused global effort and a generation of young people committed to change. (This virtual conversation, hosted by head of TED Chris Anderson, was recorded June 23, 2020.)
After a good deal of legal wrangling, an incendiary book by President Trump’s niece is beginning to come to light. A slew of excerpts surfaced publicly Tuesday, ahead of the expected release of Mary Trump’s book next week.
“Honest work was never demanded of him, and no matter how badly he failed, he was rewarded in ways that are almost unfathomable. He continues to be protected from his own disasters in the White House,” Mary Trump writes in Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.
“But now the stakes are far higher than they’ve ever been before; they are literally life and death. Unlike any previous time in his life, Donald’s failings cannot be hidden or ignored because they threaten us all.”
NPR obtained a copy of the book, which Simon & Schuster bumped up from its original July 28 release date “due to high demand and extraordinary interest,” according to the publisher. Release is now set for July 14.
The book offers a scathing portrait of the president — one that nearly did not survive the courts.
Article continues after sponsor message
Initially, a temporary restraining order requested by the president’s younger brother, Robert, blocked the book’s release. But that order later was narrowed considerably in appeals court.
Justice Alan Scheinkman found that the restraining order should apply only to Mary Trump — daughter of the president’s other brother, Fred Jr. — because of a years-old nondisclosure agreement that she signed with the Trump family following a financial settlement after her grandfather’s death.
Scheinkman’s decision continued to block Mary Trump, a trained psychologist living in New York, from publishing her book on her own or from giving interviews. But at the same time, it effectively freed up her publisher to move forward with the book.
“This is unprecedented that a publisher can proceed with a publication of a book but the author cannot,” Simon & Schuster observed in a statement shared with NPR.
The niece’s account details what the publisher describes as “the dark history of their family in order to explain how her uncle became the man who now threatens the world’s health, economic security, and social fabric.”
“No one knows how Donald came to be who he is better than his own family. Unfortunately, almost all of them remain silent out of loyalty or fear. I’m not hindered by either of these,” Mary Trump writes in the prologue to the book.
“I hope this book will end the practice of referring to Donald’s ‘strategies’ or ‘agendas,’ as if he operates according to any organizing principles. He doesn’t.”
Among the accusations Mary Trump levels at the president: She alleges he cheated on the SAT by paying someone to take the test for him, but offers no corroborating evidence.
The White House dismissed the book, which spokeswoman Sarah Matthews said “is clearly in the author’s own financial self-interest.”
“The President describes the relationship he had with his father as warm and said his father was very good to him,” Matthews said. “He said his father was loving and not at all hard on him as a child. Also, the absurd SAT allegation is completely false.”
It’s far from the first time Donald Trump has found himself the subject of a highly anticipated tell-all. Just last month, John Bolton, his former national security adviser, overcame the Trump administration’s legal objections and published his own blistering memoir of his time working with the president.
Protesters demanded justice for George Floyd in Washington, D.C. on May 31. Photo: Samuel Corum/AFP via Getty Images
Through deceptive editing, two recent campaign ads for President Donald Trump falsely portray law-abiding Black Lives Matter protesters who acted to prevent violence as dangerous thugs plotting to “unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.”
The Trump campaign ads mislead viewers by distorting the meaning of video recorded during a protest in Washington, D.C. on May 31 by Safvan Allahverdi, a reporter for Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency.
As Allahverdi explained in a Twitter caption for his 92-second clip, the incident he caught on camera that day showed black protesters taking it upon themselves to head off trouble, by tackling and disarming a white man clad in black who was using a hammer to break up pieces of the sidewalk into potential projectiles.
After they subdued the man, the group of mainly black protesters dragged him to a line of police officers and insisted that he be arrested.
Ten days later, however, the Trump campaign released an ad that used images from the news footage — of the man hammering the pavement and part of the scuffle after he was tackled — to offer voters a glimpse of the “chaos in the streets” former Vice President Joe Biden would supposedly permit by failing “to stand up to the radical leftists fighting to defund and abolish the police.”
Allahverdi, who said later that the demonstration that afternoon had “started as one of the most peaceful protests I’ve ever seen,” told me in a direct message that the Trump campaign had not asked him for permission to use his footage.
Apparently emboldened by getting away with this gross distortion of the truth once, the Trump campaign misused the same video a second time in another ad released last week. In the second ad, which offers a vision of a future world in which the police have been abolished — and calling 911 only gets you the recording: “Due to defunding of the police department, we’re sorry, but no one is here to take your call” — the footage of the man breaking up the pavement and being tackled appears as a caller to the police emergency line hears the automated instruction, “to report a murder, press 2.”
Dave Weigel of The Washington Post was the first to report the misleading use of Allahverdi’s footage in the most recent ad, which suggests, absurdly, that wait times for emergency response to incidents of murder or rape would be 5 days “in Joe Biden’s America.”
The new ad, which places the incident in Washington alongside video of arson in Minneapolis, and images of looting and vandalism, also distorts the meaning of another clip recorded during the recent protests.
In a section of the ad where the 911 caller hears, “If you’re calling to report a rape, please press 1,” the images that appear on-screen show two New York police officers running through a crowd of protesters. That footage appears to have been recorded just above East 14th Street in New York’s Union Square, where, on May 28, the police, including those wearing the distinctive NYPD bike outfit seen in the ad, were caught on camera from multiple angles behaving aggressively and using excessive force to arrest dozens of protestersfor civil disobedience as they demanded justice for George Floyd.
The Trump campaign’s choice of footage that appears to have been shot that day is baffling because it shows officers charging into the crowd of demonstrators, offering an image of the overly aggressive policing that had led to calls to reduce police funding rather than a vision of an America on the brink of descending into anarchy without the police.
“I’m a believer in divine intervention. … I was made Black on purpose and as a person of conservative construct.”
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Black Republican serving in the US Senate, has an additional, unenviable task beyond his usual legislative portfolio: talking to his colleagues, and Republicans in general, about the issues of race and policing with which he has an intimate familiarity.
“I, like many other Black Americans, have found myself choking on my own fears and disbelief when faced with the realities of an encounter with law enforcement,” he wrote in an op-ed in USA Today earlier this year, detailing experiences that began when he was 21 and have continued into his time in Congress.
Amid the protests over the police killing of George Floyd, he delivered a similar message on the Senate floor, describing a year in which he was stopped by the police seven times. “Just because you do not feel the pain, the anguish of another, does not mean it does not exist,” he told his colleagues.
Scott also led the Republican legislative response to Floyd’s death: the JUSTICE Act, the Senate Republican bill meant to address the crisis. The bill, which focused on data collection and called for examining what at-risk communities need most, was blocked by Senate Democrats, who argued it didn’t go far enough.
Scott is one of the most interesting people in politics: the first Black senator elected from a Southern state since 1881, the only Black American to have served in both chambers of Congress. There are only two Black Republicans in Congress — Scott and Rep. Will Hurd — and only three Black senators of either party.
Sen. Scott and I talked about police reform, qualified immunity for officers and why eliminating it is a “poison pill” for Republicans, race and racism, and our own family experiences of bad policing. He told me Floyd’s death had launched a “tectonic shift on the underlying issue” of police brutality.
“I hope that we don’t miss this opportunity” to address it, he said.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
I want to talk about the JUSTICE Act and some of the criminal justice reform efforts that you’ve been helping to spearhead. But I wanted to start out with a more general question, because I’ve been focused on this issue for a long time and focused on how conservatives have talked about criminal justice reformfor a long time. As a senator, as a person involved in this discussion, what do you see as the biggest issue in policing in America?
Sen. Tim Scott
I would say the biggest issue in policing in America is probably integrity and/or character, from my perspective. Character in law enforcement produces excellent results. The lack of it produces situations that we all come to regret.
Why is data collection — like requiring state and local agencies to provide data on use of force and no-knock warrants — so central to the JUSTICE Act?
Sen. Tim Scott
I think the more information you have, the better your results, because then you’re sending your resources in the best direction possible. If you look at our bill versus the House bill, what you’ll find is on data collection. We want [data] from serious bodily injury to death, so as to be able to move in directed grants to the places where we need it the most.
Ultimately, what both bills recognize is that you cannot change local law enforcement by executive fiat. One of the reasons why in our bill, as well as in the House bill, [they] ban the chokehold on the federal level and not a local level is because we can’t. And so you want to have the data that gets the best [information] for the citizens that the law enforcement agencies on the local level patrol.
So as you mentioned, policing is a local concern, which makes it challenging to take federal action. But what actions do you think such data collection leads to in the future?
Sen. Tim Scott
I think that proper data collection leads to the best practices that other agencies around the country will be able to adopt. One of the things I would love to have is the best practices from around the country on the variations of the use of force boards. And then you come to the conclusion that here is a force review board that can bring about the best results.
When that happens, I think you change the culture of law enforcement, as opposed to almost like a knee-jerk reaction on so many topics. I would rather start collecting enough information so that we are directing resources. My example is that probably more than two-thirds of departments today have already banned the chokehold, so the truth is the more complete the data becomes, the easier it is for us to cite for local departments to end things like the chokehold. And I think that’s one of the reasons why we’re having success now without even passing legislation.
I have been advocating on behalf of [body cameras] for five years. And the truth is if we had five years of video stored and accessible, there might be more attention on a number of issues that without that those videos we just don’t know about. So a part of data collection is collecting the videos of these instances and having them made available so that we can do something about it.
Part of the bill is for the establishment of a commission on the social status of Black men and boys. And I have a couple of questions on that. First, why do you think it was important to focus on a community that is arguably overpoliced in many ways and underpoliced in many ways, and not on the people doing the policing? Police brutality and police violence is a cross-racial experience. There have been numerous white and Latino people who have been, in my view, unjustifiably killed by police. So why the focus on this particular community and not on the police doing the policing, so to speak?
Sen. Tim Scott
We actually do both. So we have the commission on the social status of Black men and Black boys, because we look at the groups in our nation — Native Americans and Blacks have the highest poverty rate of any racial group in the country. So we’re not just studying it for the outcomes of law enforcement. We’re trying to break the pipeline from a criminal justice perspective, the pipeline from a poverty perspective. We established, with the support of the NAACP and other civil rights organizations and police organizations, the National Criminal Justice Commission, and that will study police behavior.
And frankly, in South Carolina in 2015, there was a white teenager, I think he was 19 years old, that was shot by police. And so you’re right, the issues are not simply issues with minority communities, this is an issue that really does cross all racial boundaries, but that’s one of the reasons why we have the National Criminal Justice Commission.
Writers like Chris Arnade and others have argued that what many communities experience is simultaneous underpolicing and overpolicing. So what we learned from the Department of Justice after Ferguson was that you had people who committed small offenses, like a broken taillight or turning without signaling, and received big penalties because those require big fines. But then if you call 911, no one responds. Do you think that there’s a way for Republicans to lead on this issue and talk about this kind of simultaneous challenge?
Sen. Tim Scott
I think this is a way for people of good conscience to lead on the issue, not just Republicans. I say that because all of the issues that you’re describing are issues that are literally local issues and most local governments are nonpartisan. And so your local city council, your mayor, can confront that issue faster than we can from the federal level. But I do think that it’s important for us on the federal level to study the policies and the practices. We can do that through our commission. I would say that no doubt about it, when you look at the tickets written, sometimes you see a disproportionate share [of Black people being ticketed]. All you have to do is go to traffic court around the country and see what you see. So I get your points there.
But the bottom line is it’s an issue that Republicans can address, but it’s not actually a Republican or Democrat issue. These are happening in communities around the nation. And most often, those communities are not run by Republicans; they are either run by Democrats or they’re nonpartisan. We should tackle the issue at which level with the government that’s closest to the people. And that would be your municipal and county governments.
But we certainly will continue to keep a focus on that, because that’s certainly my personal experiences, part of the reason why I’ve been [working on this] for quite a while.
You’ve talked about being pulled over numerous times with your Senate pin. And I know that’s something my dad’s dealt with it, you know, getting pulled over because he was driving a Miata and that didn’t seem like the right car for him to own.
Sen. Tim Scott
Exactly, your dad’s experience is my experience. I remember I had my Infiniti G35 sports coupe, all black, tinted windows, four cops surrounding it because the car was “too nice for the neighborhood.” But frankly, when your grandfather loves his neighbors, doesn’t want to move, you go see him wherever he lives, no matter what kind of car you drive.
I wanted to ask one more question about the JUSTICE Act, which is that it contains a provision focused on asking the Department of Justice to create a deescalation training curriculum. Now, Baltimore has seen success with such a program, but because most states leave trainings up to individual police departments, deescalation isn’t commonly taught, which I think puts a lot of people at risk. Because we’ve seen time and time again, these incidents happen so quickly and an incident that wasn’t threatening can quickly become threatening. Why do you think these trainings haven’t been more widely utilized before?
Sen. Tim Scott
Out of the several hundred law enforcement departments in South Carolina, 118 of those departments have less than 10 people. So when you have fewer than 10 people in a local department, your training, I would imagine, is going to be quite limited. It’s one of the reasons why I focus on providing more grant dollars so that we can induce or compel the behavior that I think is in the best interest of the citizens within those jurisdictions. So in South Carolina, we have one [police] academy. And so some of those departments that are too small to train their officers themselves would then be able to access grants and resources.
I think it’s a smart approach realizing that most departments are not like Chicago, Detroit, Charleston, North Charleston, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Cincinnati; most offices are much smaller, and their training budgets are infinitely smaller. And so what I hope to do is take the intelligent approach: figure out the problems, work back to the solution, because that’s the fastest way for me to actually help the departments that are willing.
I want to step back a little bit. How do you think that your peers have shifted on the issues of policing since you joined the Senate in 2013?
Sen. Tim Scott
When I went to the floor to talk about Walter Scott and then, of course, the shooting in June of 2015, [there was] a lot of sympathy on the floor from Republicans and Democrats but no action from my friends on the other side or my side.
What I saw instantly after [George Floyd’s death] was a nation’s response to it, as almost like a tectonic shift on the underlying issue that some of us had been advocating for the last number of years came into focus.
I hope that we don’t miss this opportunity that is right in front of them because we’re playing for the ability to write the bill you want after the election.
You’ve been a leading steward for the GOP on issues of race, whether it’s on judicial nominations or even on just talking about your own experiences. Do you feel in some ways responsible for shepherding your colleagues on some of these issues? I know that’s something I’ve had, even at Vox, of just feeling like I need to walk people through ideas that they may not have had the chance to experience personally.
Sen. Tim Scott
I’m a believer in divine intervention. I believe that the Good Lord himself designed every one of us, and I was made Black on purpose and factually as a person of conservative construct, which I think is, by the way, [similar to] the vast majority of Black people in America. I would say that the ability for me to communicate my personal experience to a broader audience is helpful.
When you look at the Senate, I am the only Black Republican, but there are only two Black Democrats in the United States Senate.
You noted that many African Americans hold, I would say, small-c conservative views. They might be more socially conservative or actually more economically conservative. Why do you think that has not translated to support for the Republican Party?
Sen. Tim Scott
That’s a good question. I think there are several reasons. Number one was the Southern Strategy from the 1970s and early ’80s where you saw the Republican Party use race, at least to me, in a divisive manner. But I would say that when you look at the actual history, we all know about Abraham Lincoln, but frankly during the civil rights era, more Republicans voted for the civil rights-era legislation than Democrats. So we lost a marketing war in the 1970s and ’80s, and we never regained any prominence.
I think that’s why the history of who we are and how we vote is critically important as it relates to where we go from here. Black people are very diverse. There’s no monolithic group of thinkers in the Black community. It doesn’t exist.
The bottom line is everybody has a core constituency and our core constituency includes law enforcement officers. That’s typical for Republicans, and frankly, from a moral hazard perspective, most of us as conservatives are very supportive of law enforcement. So not wanting to be stereotyped as a Black man, I don’t knock on the stereotype of officers as being evil and or racist by default.
One of the things that I saw in qualified immunity, and one of the reasons why [ending it] could be seen easily as a poison pill, is if you are going to go after character-driven, highly competent law enforcement officers, with the goal of making them more civil, giving them a higher level of responsibility from a civil perspective, you’re actually going to end up in situations where fewer officers are patrolling, as you noted earlier, some of the more challenging communities.
And so if you want to have a conversation about restitution and recourse under the umbrella of qualified immunity, I’ve actually said several times, count me in to that conversation, because that’s not about an officer; that’s about a culture, and the way that you make a culture more responsible is making the threshold for suing cities and departments easier because of the egregious acts of individuals. When you make it all about the individual officer, you run good cops out, you make it far more difficult to get anything accomplished, but if the actual conversation is around restitution and recourse, you can change the behavior of all officers, not simply one.
If that’s not enough, then I don’t think we’ll get anything done. But if you need 99 percent of what you want in order to make a deal, I guess we’ll just leave the community that’s most vulnerable, vulnerable, because 99 percent is too high of a price to pay.
Qualified immunity is really the result of judicial rulings, not the law. So we’ve seen Justice Clarence Thomas and others speaking out about the nature of qualified immunity as we see it. I think you’ll have lots of rumblings for many years. We learned in 2016 that elections have consequences. So in 2020, those consequences might be a majority of people in a position to usher in a brand new approach to police reform that we can’t get done. Now, I would certainly hate to wait seven months to get something done, or you can get 80 percent of what you want now. And if you do win, you can get the other 20 percent, but let’s take baby steps for the communities that desperately need it now and not worry about who gets the victory. The victory goes to the community, not to Democrats or Republicans, but that’s just not how the game is played right now.
We’re in the midst of a very strange moment in which this issue that’s so important, it has been so important to folks like you and other people who’ve been working on this for nearly a decade. We’re also dealing with a pandemic and we’re also in the midst of an election year. So on the subject of criminal justice reform, what comes next in this conversation?
Sen. Tim Scott
The impetus for change in the criminal justice conversation should start with how do we break the pipeline to incarceration. And to me that starts with education, that starts with poverty, that starts with an awareness and a recognition that we have to get this right 10 years earlier than we are now and not dealing with the outcomes when the cell opens and the inmate leaves.
Getting those conversations going is the primary objective, from my perspective, in the next wave of criminal justice conversations. And then the private sector, and I am encouraged by the number of private sector companies that have gone toward “ban the box”, which I think is better done in the private sector. So I would once again like to champion causes [where] we can produce meaningful change in reasonable time.
As vice president, he looked for big policy answers to hard global problems. Now he says all our crises are speeding us toward real solutions.
PHOTOGRAPH: MATT WRITTLE/EVENING STANDARD/REDUX`
Before he was the guy with the climate change PowerPoint presentation, before he lost the US presidency by a nose (and a Supreme Court decision), Al Gore had a reputation for pitching ambitious policy solutions to the knottiest societal problems. From the Senate to the vice presidency, while most politicians were yelling about oil prices, Gore was talking about connecting information superhighways to public schools and taxing British Thermal Unitsto fight global warming.
For the past decade and a half, Gore, a self-described “recovering politician,” has been a capitalist. He’s chair of Generation Investment Management, a $20 billion equity firm focusing on environmentally sustainable companies. It might seem like a tough time to put on that specific happy face—a pandemic and resurgent fights over racial and economic inequality might take cuts in the queue ahead of a global economic meltdown and planetary ecosystem collapse. Even Generation’s annual sustainability report shows that public attention toward climate change has taken a backseat to concerns about the novel coronavirus. Yet somehow now, as the firm releases this fourth annual Sustainability Trends Report, Gore seems almost … optimistic. Which—well, how could that be?
It turns out that the trend lines Gore has spent a lifetime either warning people about (carbon!) or trying to goose upward (green energy! Access to health care!) are finally headed in the directions he was hoping for. The Covid-19 pandemic, he says, has accelerated the kinds of systemic changes he pushed for, first with legislation and then with investments. And while Gore declined to offer specific advice for how leaders in the public sector should be handling the pandemic, he seems supremely confident that pressure from the private sector will steer governments in the right direction. He also believes the world will be “pleasantly surprised” by sooner-than-expected, safe vaccines, and that the public will somehow overcome the misinformation atrocities on that thing called the internet.
As a presidential candidate in what turns out to have been a far simpler time, Gore had a reputation for prickliness—for not being the kind of person you’d want to have a beer with, as if that were a valid criterion for choosing a president. But nothing softens a person’s attitude than a book’s worth of evidence that maybe he was right all along. Gore talked to WIRED reporters Adam Rogers and Lauren Goode about the business and political trends that Covid-19 has turbocharged in what he hopes are the right directions. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Adam Rogers: Implicit in Generation’s strategy of investing in growth-stage companies is some basic confidence you must have that a venture capital investment model is a way to push innovation. When three-quarters of venture capital investments are in software, not things like biotech or big engineering, why does venture capital seem to you to be a way to address big problems like climate and public health? Is investment the way to get the innovation that you need?
Al Gore: Well, first of all, let me just note for the record that we don’t do venture capital investing. We do growth stage investing, and the larger part of our business is in global equity. What we found in our fourth annual Sustainability Trends Report is that—well, a lot of things—but first of all, in responding to the pandemic there has been a growing recognition around the world of the new political and social realities that give us a generational obligation to shift to a more sustainable world. Governments have to play a role, investors have to play a role, and businesses have to play a role, all to ensure that the short-term emergency and recovery measures lead to a better and more resilient future.
Let me just say a couple of other things, Adam. We find that there is an unmistakable, rising awareness of the need for change. The pandemic accelerated fundamental changes in consumer and social behavior, and this is matched by an acceleration and innovation by governments and businesses. Secondly, we have found a growing awareness that the world’s collective social and economic faith is inextricably linked to that of the natural world. There is now a widespread, shared understanding of what an existential threat might look like. The consequences of ignoring scientific advice from epidemiologists and virologists has been brought home to us. And it is not much of a leap to realize that the dire advice from a climate scientist must be taken into account as well.
In order to limit global temperature rise to no more than 1 degree Celsius, greenhouse gas emissions need to fall by roughly 7.5 percent per year for the next decade. That’s more than the drop expected this year due to Covid-19. And that sounds daunting, but we are finding fundamental changes in the global economy pushing us toward sustainability. And the report highlights the many ways in which the burden of this crisis has fallen unequally. Addressing these historical injustices reflected in the Black Lives Matter movement has to be at the center of a transition to a sustainable future.
Sorry to go on too long. I wanted to get the basics out there.
AR: You’ve been known for ambitious policy solutions to really hairy problems. You’re saying that our three current crises—Covid-19, climate, and inequality—are intertwined. So I just want to ask you to make the connection between an investment fund and the policy and structural changes that seem likely to be necessary. If the real answers are, you have to rip up the way health care gets handled in the United States and the way fossil fuel gets subsidized, then how do you get there with an investment fund?
AG: Well, those are some of the things that need to happen, for sure. First of all, there has been a fundamental shift in thinking in the business world and in the investor world. Just in the last six months, both the Business Roundtableand the British Academy have made a fundamental change to their definition of the purpose of a corporation. They have dethroned shareholder primacy and emphasized multi-stakeholder analysis and a long-term view.
That’s reflected in the new awareness of the sustainability revolution. We believe that we’re in the early stages of a sustainability revolution, one that will be larger than the Industrial Revolution with the speed of the digital revolution. We believe it’s the biggest investing opportunity in the history of the world, and the biggest business opportunity in the history of the world.
But to get a little more granular, on the subject of health, we are right at a tipping point in the adoption of personalized health care. Interest in direct-to-consumer health care has quadrupled over the last five years. And in April of this year Covid-19 became one of the top five drivers of telehealth. Now weaknesses and preparedness and the capacity to respond to this crisis have relevance beyond health care, because it is triggering a new awareness of the need for change and improvements in social safety nets in the role of essential workers. And to address the unequal access to health care that I mentioned earlier, it has a huge impact on life expectancy for different groups. Also in some countries, like the US, administrative costs now account for nearly 10 percent of total health spending. That is unacceptable.
AR: You just said that was a huge opportunity for investing and a business opportunity. Do you not see a tension between so-called Environment, Social and Governance investing and the fiduciary responsibility that institutional investors and executives have to maximize returns? Or do you think that responsibility now actually includes ESG investing?
AG: Yes, I believe that is the case. First of all, there is now voluminous research showing that businesses that fully integrate ESG factors into their business plans are more profitable in almost every sector of the global economy. And the research also shows very clearly that investors that fully integrate ESG factors into their investment models perform better. So as this reality becomes more widely known and understood, asset managers who do not integrate ESG factors are definitely at high risk of violating their fiduciary responsibility to their clients. And there’s some irony in that, because during an earlier period those who ignored ESG—including some that diminished the importance of ESG factors that used to often claim, “Well, you can’t use those factors because you might violate your fiduciary responsibility”—that’s been turned on its head now.
Lauren Goode: In going through your portfolio companies, it struck me how some of them appear to be rather prescient and some less so. I’m sure that’s something that a lot of investors are going through right now, since the world has dramatically changed in a short amount of time. You’ve invested in Toast, which is restaurant management technology; ProTerra, for electric buses; Convoy was another—so a couple there in the transit and transportation sector. So, we’re living in a connected world in the time of Covid-19, but also at the same time things like the point-of-sale experience has changed in the pandemic, and public transit is being cut or even questioned in terms of public safety. I’m wondering how Covid-19 has changed your investment thinking and what may be some areas or companies you’re eyeing right now that you weren’t looking at just four to six months ago.
AG: OK, if you have your pencil, I’ll give you the top 10 companies that we’re just about to invest in.
LG: Please. Just pull back the curtain!
AG: No, I’m probably not going to do that, but it’s a very thoughtful question.
We were founded 16 years ago, and we’ve been managing assets for 15 years. And our goal throughout our existence has been to get the best return for our clients, and to do it in a way that proves the business case for sustainable investing. We only invest in businesses that we believe produce goods and services that are consistent with the emergence of a clean, prosperous, healthy, fair world. And we have had, for all of that time, a conviction that the world was moving in this direction. That’s kind of been driven by the laws of physics. We’re putting 150 million tons of global warming pollution into the sky every day, and the cumulative amount is trapping enough heat to equal the energy release by 500,000 Hiroshima-class atomic explosions every day.
I won’t go through the rest of the bill of particulars, but it’s been obvious for quite a while that the world is changing because human activities are changing the world. And as those changes mount up, we’re going to have to to deal with them. We’re going to have to mitigate the climate crisis and the broader ecological crisis, the collision between the way we’ve organized the global economy and the natural world.
I will say that the pandemic has actually accelerated those changes, and I think that the pandemic is also driving people to take these sustainability factors into account in the planning for a post-pandemic world. So that the emergency response, the recovery plans, will drive us toward a better world. That’s what people want, and our findings show very clearly that these attitudes have changed dramatically all around the world.
LG: So what I’m hearing you say, I think, is that you’re really thinking about this long term. That even if some of these investments and the companies themselves are maybe weakened in the short-term because of the pandemic, you’re willing to make that investment toward sustainability for that timeline in the future when we actually are post-Covid-19. And if I’m hearing that correctly, when you look at that, what is that timeline for you? Are you looking five to seven years from now? When do you think that we reemerge from this?
AG: Yeah, well, first of all, we don’t know and no one knows. My guess is that the maturation and strength of the global biotech community has advanced so much that there’s a real chance there—that we will be pleasantly surprised with the arrival of efficacious and safe vaccines sooner than the experts have told us to expect. I’m not an expert on that, but we listen to those who have been following it and it’s very impressive what these groups have done. Of course, it will take as much time as it’ll take, because you have to do the large safety studies and they take some time. But in any case, whenever we emerge, I think that these trends are producing a new world. And we think that it’s the biggest business and investing opportunity in history.
LG: You’ve been clamoring for the public to pay attention to climate change for decades now. But as your own report highlights, people are more concerned about the coronavirus than they are about climate change. The younger groups care a little bit more about climate change, but everyone else, right now the attention has totally shifted. How do you propose that people essentially care about these dual crises right now? And it’s not just a dual crisis, of course—we’re experiencing a new Civil Rights Movement. We’ve talked about inequality. I guess I wonder if climate change is destined to always take a backseat even as all of these events are intertwined. How do you propose to keep climate change in the center of attention?
AG: Well, first of all, I would be surprised if the Covid-19 pandemic was not the principal concern occupying most people’s thoughts right now, because of the obvious consequences and the fact that in some countries—including the US—the case numbers are still rising. We had a botched reopening, and the predictable consequences are unfolding now.
But I don’t see it as a competition for attention and awareness. I see it as a natural relationship, and I do think that there’s some real evidence of a broader general awakening. I don’t want to sound Pollyannaish on this point, but if you think back a few years, the awakening to the incredible injustice that was suffered for so long by the LGBTQ community led to a startling change in the demand for marriage equality and for an end to discrimination in employment, recently codified in a Supreme Court decision. And the gains of the LGBTQ community are being consolidated. They’re not going away.
Similarly, the gender equity demands of the last few years are being consolidated. One magazine referred to our present time as the “Great Awokening,” and I won’t necessarily endorse that glib phrase, but I think that it does carry some meaning. No kidding.
I think that the general lesson is that when scientists are setting their hair on fire, so to speak, to try to warn us of something, it’s best to pay attention. When both the pandemic and the climate crisis reveal for all to see the incredible injustices suffered by communities of color. I mean, how in God’s name could the majority in our country—and I include myself in this indictment—how could we have tolerated for so long a situation where the earnings gap between Black workers and white workers is the same now as it was 50 years ago? How could we tolerate the fact that the net worth of the so-called typical Black family, compared to the net worth of a typical white family, it takes 11.5 Black families to make up the net worth of one white family? How could we have looked the other way and not been more focused on changing that?
Now, the general awakening to these factors, driven home by George Floyd’s murder and by the horrible excess death rate from Covid-19, has driven a more general awareness—not only of the need to put the fighting of these injustices at the center of our country, but it has also sensitized people to the fact that the climate scientists are growing ever more dire in their warnings. And the business community is seeing that the opportunity for more sustainable profits and more job creation, by going in a green recovery direction, is the way we should go.
LG: As one of a few people living who have served in the Senate and at the highest levels of the country’s government, and also at incredibly high executive levels, how would you propose that US leaders fix the problem we’re in right now? How would you be addressing the coronavirus pandemic?
AG: Well, as luck would have it, we have elections on a regular basis and they often present an opportunity for fundamental change. I’m a recovering politician now and don’t want to get into the politics of the situation. But when there is a need for significant change that people are broadly aware of, it can sometimes lead to results in elections that lead to a change in policies. But these changes need to take place around the world. And ultimately when business is on board, when business makes a fundamental change, when investors make a fundamental change, when people generally are demanding that fundamental change, then it becomes much more likely that governments will change the policies to facilitate the emergence of this new, more sustainable, more prosperous, fair, healthy, just world. I see it coming.
LG: It sounds to me like you’re saying you see this change being led by the private sector.
AG: It requires both. It requires policy changes. We need to stop subsidizing fossil fuels. We need to incorporate sustainability values in the ways in which we measure and compensate for value in our economy. Investors need to respond to the new realities. And businesses already are beginning to respond to this new reality.
AR: It struck me as you were talking about that—as you called it—glib phrase the “Great Awokening” that while people are more and more aware of these things that need to get changed, at the same time, there’s more resistance. Some of that is even driven by overt disinformation via the internet, some by the politics that you say you’re recovering from. Can the change you’re talking about overcome that kind of resistance?
AG: No worthwhile change comes without a struggle. It’s true that the resistance is often ferocious, but those resisting have the burden of the reality against them. Where social media is concerned, we’re even beginning to see some changes there. Look at the changes on Twitter and even Reddit. Just recently, look at the pressure that Facebook is under to change its atrocious practices. On the positive side, look at the leadership that many tech companies have provided. Look at the demands from employees, at some other tech companies that haven’t yet changed enough, where their employees are demanding that they change. People want to work for a place where they make a good income, but they also want to work for a firm that is helping to make the world a better place. They want to tell their friends and peers and family that it’s not just about money; they’re helping in a more general way to move the world in the right direction.
Two-thirds of Americans now support the Black Lives Matter movement. That is a dramatic change in just a few weeks. When you match that with the technology drivers, with cost reduction curves and sustainability technologies that are so impressive—whether solar batteries or EVs or hundreds of sustainability technologies that are not as well known—that is putting the wind at our backs. When you match that with this research, that those investors who fully integrate ESG factors are getting better results, then, yeah, I think it supports our pretty strong belief that the world is moving into a sustainability revolution.
47% say abortion issue is one of many important factors to their vote
24% say candidate must share abortion views; 25% say not a major issue
30% of pro-life, 19% of pro-choice adults say abortion is threshold issue
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Just as Americans’ general views of abortion remain mostly steady, so too are their opinions of whether it is a key voting issue for them. Nearly half of U.S. adults (47%) polled in May, before the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion, say the issue will be just one of many important factors in their vote for a candidate for a major office; 25% do not consider it a major issue. At the same time, the 24% of U.S. adults who say they will vote only for a candidate who shares their views on the issue is, along with last year, significantly higher than most other years in the trend.
Line chart. Americans’ views since 1996 of the importance of abortion in their vote choice. Currently, 47% say abortion is one of many important issues, 25% say it is not a major issue and 24% say they will not vote for a candidate who does not share their view on abortion.
Gallup has periodically tracked Americans’ views of the importance of abortion in their vote choice since 1996. Last year’s 29% reading for those who say a candidate must share their views on abortion to win their support was the highest on record. Before that, from 1996 to 2016, the annual average was 18%.
The latest findings, from Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll conducted May 1-13, show the continuation of a trend seen since 2001 whereby Americans who consider themselves to be pro-life are more likely than those who identify as pro-choice to say abortion is a threshold issue.
While these groups have placed varying degrees of importance on the abortion issue in the past, the gap in their views has widened. Currently, 30% of those in the pro-life camp and 19% in the pro-choice camp say they are single-issue voters when it comes to abortion.
Line chart. Percentages of Americans since 2001 who identify as pro-life and pro-choice and say they would vote only for a candidate who shares their views on abortion. Currently, 30% of pro-life Americans and 19% of pro-choice Americans say it is a threshold issue for them. This is the widest gap Gallup has recorded in views on this measure.
Although there is a sizable gap in views of abortion as a key election issue based on overall opinions of it, there is notably little difference between Republicans and Democrats on the same measure. Roughly half of each group say abortion is one of many important factors to their vote, about one-quarter say a candidate must share their views and more than one in five say it is not a major issue. Independents, however, are more likely than both Republicans and Democrats not to consider abortion a major issue.`
Americans currently consider race relations, the coronavirus, the government and the economy to be the most important problems facing the U.S. Abortion is not near the top of that list; still, a core one-quarter of U.S. adults consider it to be a threshold vote issue.
Americans’ overall attitudes about abortion have been mostly stable in the past decade, with roughly equal percentages considering themselves pro-choice and pro-life. Those who consider themselves pro-life are significantly more likely than their pro-choice counterparts to say they will vote only for a candidate who shares their views on abortion.
The latest Supreme Court decision, which dealt a blow to the pro-life movement, has the potential to galvanize voters. The abortion issue potentially works more to the advantage of Republicans than Democrats, given the parties’ respective platforms and the greater proportion of pro-life than pro-choice voters who will vote only for candidates who share their views on the issue. However, abortion may serve to mobilize voters to turn out more than it does to influence their candidate choice, given the increasingly greater alignment of Republican and Democratic candidates with their party’s position on abortion.