RBG’s death exposed the Republicans’ evil election playbook

LEVEL Editors
Published in
7 min readSep 22, 2020


Welcome to Minority Report, a weekly newsletter from the LEVEL team that packs an entire week into a single email. From the GOP’s already rampant election fuckery to the week in racism, from pop-culture picks to a must-read LEVEL story, it’s everything you need and nothing you don’t. If you’re loving what you’re reading, tell a friend to tell a friend.

Friday nights have been rough lately. First, at the very end of August, we lost the young king Chadwick Boseman to cancer. Then, just three evenings ago, word emerged that Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had succumbed to pancreatic cancer at age 87. Both were tragedies that elicited shockwaves of emotion online (along with more than a few Bad Tweets). But they felt very different. News of the first hit like a stunning blow from an unseen hand; the latter, a cold creep of grief.

With the man who played T’Challa, we mourned someone whose promise was snuffed out just as he’d emerged as a global icon, and the loss of what might have been. With RBG came the relative comfort of knowing she’d lived a long and full life, but any respect and solemnity we felt was suffused with something far more disturbing: dread. Not because she was infallible — just think back to her description of Colin Kaepernick’s NFL protests as “dumb and disrespectful” — but because it only took moments for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to tell us all exactly how the Republicans would be handling the next few months.

Now, we could do the whole thing where we go back to 2016 and rehash what happened when Justice Antonin Scalia died. President Obama, you might recall, nominated a judge who commanded respect from both sides of the aisle — but then McConnell and whatever you call a flock of conservative Republicans (a hypocrisy? A stupidity?) said you should never confirm a new justice during an election year. Funny how tunes change when you’ve got a majority and tanking economy on your side. But what this really points to is how Republicans are going to play the election: as dirtily as possible.

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With their scant Senate majority, they don’t necessarily have the numbers to do so — two Republicans (both women, unsurprisingly) have said they don’t think a nomination should move forward before the election. But we’re getting a nice early preview of what’s about to play out. The pieces are on the board, but the GOP is going to press for whatever advantage they can, legitimate or not. Expect similar howls about the Constitution and the rule of law when it means upholding voter suppression and questioning mail-in ballots — or any other way policy and payola have sewn inequity into our national fabric — just not when it means things like actual fairness. Because that might lead to a death knell that voters in this country feel good about.

— Peter Rubin, executive editor

This Week in Racism

🗑 New York School Board President Definitely Knows What “White Privilege” Means (Mostly Because He Embodies It)

Welcome to this week’s episode of Local Elected Official Gets Big Racist on Facebook! After last season’s cliffhanger — would local elected officials continue to embarrass themselves by being wild racist? — we’re all relieved to discover that yes. Yes, they will. In fact, they seem genetically unable to stop! This time around, it’s Thomas Corbia, president of the Port Chester School Board in New York’s suburban Westchester County. Seems ol’ Thomas Corbia was tickled by a Facebook post his (also old, White) friend shared. “I’m selling my white privilege card,” read the post. “It’s just over 77 years old and it hasn’t done a damn thing for me. No inheritance, no free college, no free food, no free housing, etc. I may even be willing to do an even trade for a race card. Those seem way more useful and more widely accepted.” See, because White privilege doesn’t exist if you bought a house or paid for college — in fact, it was just as difficult to get those things as if you were Black! Yup, redlining and educational bias are just as mythical as White privilege. Anyway, Corbia commented on his buddy’s post to say “you are the f****** best and whoever doesn’t like that post, well they know what they can do.” He was right, people did know what they can do: put his ass on blast! Now, of course, ol’ Thomas Corbia is saying he got hacked. And he’s doing so in the language of someone who definitely knows what hacking is and is definitely telling the truth: “I was hacked into the internet and then hacked again I guess sometime in late August or early September,” he said during a virtual school board meeting last week. So, y’know, next time your phone’s acting up, call your buddy Thomas “Geek Squad” Corbia. He’s got you covered. (News 12 Westchester)

🗑 Great, Now the Machines Are Racist Too

Oh, Twitter. Like so many other social-media platforms that give us fire memes but have also contributed to the frightening erosion of social norms and even democracy itself, we love you and hate you. And we always assumed you felt the same way about us; now, though, we’re beginning to think it’s a little bit more of the second one. Late last week, Canadian Ph.D. student Colin Madland discovered that Twitter’s algorithm had cropped an image of him and a Black coworker so that only his (White) face showed in the image preview. That began a deluge of people’s self-administered experiments, and time and time again Twitter’s algorithm showed its ass — displaying Mitch McConnell instead of Barack Obama, a golden retriever instead of a Black Lab, and even The Simpsons’ Carl instead of Lenny. This is by no means the first instance of this sort of thing: face-recognition software and algorithms have long been terrible at reading Black folks’ faces, and Madland only stumbled on his find because he was trying to figure out why Zoom kept erasing his coworker’s head. Twitter has since accepted the blame for not doing a stringent enough analysis of its new feature. No word yet on apologizing for the whole downfall-of-society thing, though. (The Guardian)

🗑 Trump Calls Anti-Racism “Child Abuse,” Which Makes Him, What, Santa Claus?

For whatever reason, Donald Trump has decided that the only thing left to endear him to voters is to level attacks at the 1619 Project — and indeed, at anyone who acknowledges that the laws and history of this country might not be as fair and just as [checks notes] the draft-dodging son of a Klan-defending racist slumlord thinks. In his most recent angry tirade, Trump claimed that he’d be issuing an executive order forming something called the 1776 Commission, which like this country itself depends on slave labor exists only because of the genocide committed against its land’s original inhabitants will create a “patriotic curriculum” for schools. Sounds promising! The problem, Trump continued, was that teaching the way race and racism informed our history was “a form of child abuse in the truest sense of those words.” The truest sense, like the way Republican congressmen Jim Jordan allegedly covered up rampant sexual abuse of college athletes when he was a wrestling coach? Or the way Trump wished Ghislaine Maxwell, who for years helped Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse underage women, well? Yes, absolutely. The truest sense of child abuse is in teaching them the truth. Thanks for saving us, DJT. (NBC News)

The LEVEL Up: Culture Picks From the Editors

🎶 Alicia Keys, Alicia

Alicia Keys’ mellow seventh album serves as a perfect reminder that finding yourself is always worth the journey. Two decades deep into her career, the superstar singer and pianist uses R&B as a launchpad to planet-hop from dub to country to funk, and back again. Come for the poignant police brutality address (“Perfect Way to Die”) and Jill Scott impersonation named for (and featuring) the neo-soul queen. Stay for duets with Miguel, Khalid, and Sampha. (Spotify)

📱 RapBooklets

Hip-hop heads: You’ve found your #tbt motherlode. This Instagram account is a time capsule of nostalgic imagery and forgotten gems, curating photography and artwork from albums of yesteryear — from Geto Boys to Tupac Shakur to Del the Funky Homosapien. Get ya repost on. (Instagram)

🎧 Fathers Who Bother

Veteran entertainment journalist Jerry L. Barrow speaks with music-making dads about the experience of raising their own in this weekly paternal podcast. He’s already chopped it up with 40 Over 40 heavies Royce Da 5’9” and Phonte Coleman, while producer Statik Selektah shared some powerful parenting advice from the late, great Sean Price. It’s easy listening for proud pops. (Soundcloud)

LEVEL Read of the Week

Black Thought Is Loved and Feared by Your Favorite Rapper

Tarik Trotter has been a microphone phenom since before The Roots were The Square Roots — and now, at age 47, the father of five has blossomed into the ageless hip-hop titan the faithful always knew he was. In this sprawling, candid conversation, Thought speaks on everything from Malik B to life in the suburbs to how he keeps his Streams of Thought series so damn fresh. Read the story.

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