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Daily Archives: September 29th, 2022

August 29, 2022

Heather Cox RichardsonAug 30

Lots of news swirling around about the boxes of classified information Trump took from the United States and held at Mar-a-Lago, but the most telling window into all those stories is that the former president took to his Truth Social network this morning to demand that he be declared the winner of the 2020 election, or that the election be redone again “immediately!”

This is distraction at its purest—no one is going to redo the 2020 election—but it no longer works. As Trump has lost the power to command attention, his demands have gotten more and more outrageous. Gone are the days when he could make the media jump with a tweet. Not only is he banned from Twitter, but also his own Twitter clone, Truth Social, is in financial trouble. The stock of Digital World Acquisition, the company that planned to take Truth Social public, has dropped nearly 75% since its high in March, and last week the company reported that it had lost $6.5 million in the first six months of 2022. It has announced that it might be forced to liquidate, cutting off billions of dollars from the Trump Organization, which appears to be short of funds. The web service that hosts Truth Social claims that the company had not paid its bills since March.

Trump supporters are trying to turn the theft of secret documents into a political question. Today, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) seemed to be trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy when he warned that if Trump is prosecuted for his theft of classified information—a theft that would have any other American in terrible trouble—“there will be riots in the streets.” Graham, who is himself fighting a subpoena requiring him to testify in the Fulton County, Georgia, investigation into Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election, tried to argue that law enforcement was out to get Trump, holding him to a standard it did not enforce for anyone else. 

Graham referred to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, implying that law officers had somehow gone easy on her over her use of a private email server. But, in fact, both the State Department and the FBI investigated her several times over that issue and concluded there was “no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information.” She cooperated with the investigations and turned over her devices and emails. No prosecutors charged her. 

The question of the stolen documents is not about politics, but rather about the rule of law. When Graham threatens that gangs will take to the streets, he is saying that violence can overrule laws, a key sign of authoritarian rule. That sort of violence is not new to America. It dominated the Reconstruction South, of course, when white gangs terrorized their Black neighbors and the white men who voted as they did, suppressed labor organization at the turn of the last century, and fed rising fascism in the 1930s. 

It has been a growing threat in the U.S. since the 1990s, as right-wing activists egged on by talk radio armed themselves against the federal government, but that violent organization took off under the former president, first as he condoned the violence at the August 2017 riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, and then as he urged on the “American Patriots” who demanded their state governments reopen their states during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic.

Those gangs were Trump’s troops on January 6, 2021, and on that day they quite literally illustrated the attempt to use violence to overturn the rule of law at the heart of our democracy. 

Such gangs have always operated in the U.S., and they gain power and momentum when they engage in violence and are unchecked. After several years in which they have seemed invulnerable, we are now in a period when, as we learned on Saturday, an armed man in a truck chased Independent Utah senatorial candidate Evan McMullin with a gun after an event in April and forced the vehicle carrying McMullin and his wife into oncoming traffic. That incident echoes one from October 2020, when a bus carrying Biden staffers and volunteers through Texas was harassed by Trump supporters, some of whom appeared to be trying to force it off the road. When the terrified Biden workers called the police, officers allegedly refused to help. 

Part of restoring democracy is imposing the rule of law, which means treating everyone equally. 

The Department of Justice, which under the former president weakened the rule of law for Trump’s political ends, appears to be working to restore that rule. Just today, a judge sentenced a Proud Boy who participated in the January 6 insurrection to 55 months in jail. Joshua Pruitt had an extensive criminal record and was on probation in two states at the time of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, when he came face to face with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). His attorney wrote that “[o]n January 6, 2021 Mr. Pruitt, along with nearly 40,000 other participants, at the direction of President Donald J. Trump went to the Capitol,” and that now—after facing legal consequences—he “regrets his actions.”   

Today the White House announced that on Thursday, President Joe Biden will give a prime-time address from Philadelphia on “the continued battle for the Soul of the Nation.” Outside Independence Hall, where the Founders wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Framers wrote the United States Constitution, Biden will tell Americans “how the core values of this nation—our standing in the world, our democracy—are at stake.” He will talk about “the progress we have made as a nation to protect our democracy, but how our rights and freedoms are still under attack. And he will make clear who is fighting for those rights, fighting for those freedoms, and fighting for our democracy.”

Biden’s use of the physical symbols of our democracy to defend its values is itself a statement about the return of the rule of law. The former president used our symbols not to reinforce the nation’s principles, but to shore up his own leadership. In August 2020, almost exactly two years ago, he held an extravaganza at the White House to accept his renomination for president. He used the backdrop of the White House; Vice President Mike Pence spoke at Fort McHenry, where Francis Scott Key wrote the Star-Spangled Banner; and First Lady Melania Trump spoke from the newly renovated Rose Garden—all in service to Trump.

Today, Tony Ornato, the Secret Service agent who crossed over to become a top aide in Trump’s White House and who was involved in the events of January 6, announced that he is retiring as of tomorrow.



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Heather Cox RichardsonAug 28

In a speech Thursday night, President Joe Biden called out today’s MAGA Republicans for threatening “our personal rights and economic security…. They’re a threat to our very democracy.” When he referred to them as “semi-fascists,” he drew headlines, some of them disapproving.

A spokesperson for the Republican National Committee called the comment “despicable,” although Republicans have called Democrats “socialists” now for so long it passes as normal discourse. Just this week, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) called Democrats “radical left-wing lunatics, laptop liberals, and Marxist misfits.”

Biden’s calling out of today’s radical Republicans mirrors the moment on June 21, 1856, when Representative Anson Burlingame of Massachusetts, a member of the newly formed Republican Party, stood up in Congress to announce that northerners were willing to take to the battlefield to defend their way of life against the southerners who were trying to destroy it. Less than a month before, Burlingame’s Massachusetts colleague Senator Charles Sumner had been brutally beaten by a southern representative for disparaging slavery, and Burlingame was sick and tired of buying sectional peace by letting southerners abuse the North. Enough, he said, was enough. The North was superior to the South in its morality, loyalty to the government, fidelity to the Constitution, and economy, and northerners were willing to defend their system, if necessary, with guns.

Burlingame’s “Defense of Massachusetts” speech marked the first time a prominent northerner had offered to fight to defend the northern way of life. Previously, southerners had been the ones threatening war and demanding concessions from the North to preserve the peace. He was willing to accept a battle, Burlingame explained, because what was at stake was the future of the nation. His speech invited a challenge to a duel.

Southerners championed their region as the one that had correctly developed the society envisioned by the Founders. In the South, a few very wealthy men controlled government and society, enslaving their neighbors. This system, its apologists asserted, was the highest form of human civilization. They opposed any attempt to restrict its spread. The South was superior to the North, enslavers insisted; it alone was patriotic, honored the Constitution, and understood economic growth. In the interests of union, northerners repeatedly ceded ground to enslavers and left their claim to superiority unchallenged.

At long last, the attack on Sumner inspired Burlingame to speak up for the North. The southern system was not superior, he thundered; it had dragged the nation backward. Slavery kept workers ignorant and godless while the northern system of freedom lifted workers up with schools and churches. Slavery feared innovation; freedom encouraged workers to try new ideas. Slavery kept the South mired in the past; freedom welcomed the modern world and pushed Americans into a new, thriving economy. And finally, when Sumner had spoken up against the tyranny of slavery, a southerner had clubbed him almost to death on the floor of the Senate.

Was ignorance, economic stagnation, and violence the true American system?

For his part, Burlingame preferred to throw his lot with education, morality, economic growth, and respect for government.

Burlingame had deliberately provoked the lawmaker who had beaten Sumner, Preston Brooks of South Carolina, and unable to resist any provocation, Brooks had challenged Burlingame to a duel. Brooks assumed all Yankees were cowards and figured that Burlingame would decline in embarrassment. But instead, Burlingame accepted with enthusiasm, choosing rifles as the dueling weapons. Burlingame, it turned out, was an expert marksman.

Burlingame also chose to duel in Canada, giving Brooks the opportunity to back out on the grounds that he felt unsafe traveling through the North after his beating of Sumner made him a hated man. The negotiations for the duel went on for months, but the duel never took place. Instead, Brooks, known as “Bully” Brooks, lost face as a man who was unwilling to risk his safety to avenge his honor, while Burlingame showed that northerners were eager to fight.

Forgotten now, Burlingame’s speech was once widely considered one of the most important speeches in American history. It marked the moment when northerners shocked southerners by calling them out for what they were, and northerners rallied to Burlingame’s call.

President Biden’s Twitter account has recently been taken over by new White House’s Deputy Director of Platforms Megan Coyne, who garnered attention when she ran the official New Jersey Twitter account with attitude, and it seems as if the administration is taking the new saltiness out for a spin. “All the talk about the deficit from the same folks that gave an unpaid-for $2 trillion tax cut to the wealthy and big corporations. It makes you laugh,” the account said tonight. “Under my Administration, the deficit is on track to come down by more than $1 trillion this year.”


The Recount @therecountSen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), lacking any party introspection, slams Democrats as “radical left-wing lunatics, laptop liberals, and Marxist misfits”: “I wish this country had two normal political parties … We debate crazy things, insanity.” August 24th 202265 Retweets255 Likes

President Biden @POTUSAll the talk about the deficit from the same folks that gave an unpaid-for $2 trillion tax cut to the wealthy and big corporations. It makes you laugh. Under my Administration, the deficit is on track to come down by more than $1 trillion this year.August 27th 202211,144 Retweets51,394 Likes;rgn=subject;size=100;view=image;q1=Slavery

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