I know the maxim is that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, but how do you explain this? It appears to be an example of a total fool leading the slightly less foolish.
What’s going on here?
The short answer is Representative Andrew Clyde of Georgia, an evident dimwit. The first I heard of him was when he compared the Capitol riot to a “normal tourist visit.” He voted against a resolution to give the Congressional Gold Medal to the police officers who responded that day. He is also apparently determined to assist the media and Democratic effort to tar the Republican party as racist, opposing the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act that made lynching a federal hate crime (yes, the law was absurd virtue-signaling and grandstanding, but what does voting against it accomplish?) and also against recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
In this episode, Clyde began circulating an Associated Press article from 1999 about an appeals court decision that Judge Hatchett wrote striking down a public school policy allowing student-approved prayers at graduation ceremonies in Florida. The decision overruled a lower court and held that the policy violated constitutional protections of freedom of religion. “He voted against student-led school prayer,” Clyde, a deacon at his Baptist church in Bogart, Georgia, said in an interview. “I don’t agree with that. That’s it. I just let the Republicans know that information on the House floor.”
Well, so the hell what? A responsible legislator doesn’t set out to cancel a universally respected judge with a long career based on a single decision, unless the decision is Dred Scott v. Sanford, or of similar significance. The question of school prayer and religion in public schools was rendered an official mess decades ago by the Supreme Court. However, based on that precedent, Engel v. Vitale, as well as others, Judge Hatchett’s decision in Adler v. Duval County School Board seem well-reasoned and correct. I read it. Do you think Clyde did? I doubt it, and I doubt he could understand it if he tried. All of his comments about the decision match the typical legally-illiterate public reaction to SCOTUS rulings: He “disagrees” with the result. If he didn’t read the briefs, hear the arguments, check the cases cited and review the opinion, then his opinion is worth nothing. He has a bias: he’s a religious man, so he doesn’t like a court ruling that blocked prayers at high school graduation.
I think the decision in question was an easy call for an objective judge: Duvall allowed students to vote , and the majority could could force the whole class to have a denominational prayer included in their graduation ceremony. “This policy does not disassociate student-initiated sectarian and proselytizing prayer at a school-controlled graduation ceremony from the imprint of the state,” the appellate-panel majority said, through Hatchett. (The dissent is contrived and unpersuasive.)
But never mind. Seeking to grandstand for the Religious Right—what other possible reason could there be?—enough GOP House members reacted to Clyde’s kneejerk objection by voting against Hatchett based on a single decision that they hadn’t read either. This is dumb enough , but it’s also hypocritical. The Republican Party has opposed progressive statue-toppling and its like, as when San Francisco proposed stripping the names of Presidents of the United States and others from local schools based on, in many cases, a single statement or decision that didn’t seem woke enough in the light in the light of centuries of hindsight. If only public servants who never had a controversial moment or a moment of poor judgment are deemed worthy of public honors, nobody will ever receive an official honor again.
And why did so many Republican join the herd to block Hatchett’s posthumous honor? Asked what made him vote against the measure that he had co-sponsored, Representative Vern Buchanan, Republican of Florida’s dazzling reply was “I don’t know.” His colleagues were similarly impressive. “During the vote series, a colleague shared some of the judge’s rulings with me I had not previously read,” Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, said in a statement. “This caused me to withdraw my support for the measure.” But Clyde sent just one article, and it didn’t include the judge’s opinion. Other supporters of the bill who ultimately voted against it said they were confused. Among the House members who turned on the bill based on Clyde’s last minute push was Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader. He declined to comment on why he opposed the measure.
Mrs. Peachum in “The Three-Penny Opera” knew the answer, as she exclaimed following her “Ballad of Sexual Dependency,” “Idiots! All of them.”
Guess what the Democratic reaction to the GOP suddenly pulling the metaphorical rug out from under a genuinely deserving black judge’s honor. Come on, guess.
“What else could we conclude but that they are not willing to name a courthouse after a Black person,” said Florida Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former (and disgraced) leader of the Democratic National Committee. “It seems pretty suspect.”
Clyde’s predictably cretinous response? “We’re one race — the human race,” he said. “It has everything to do with the decision he made.”
What color is the sky on your planet, Congressman?*
*Pop culture quiz: Source of that quote?