Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: October 2022


HISTORY DEPT.

Where Will This Political Violence Lead? Look to the 1850s.

In the mid-19th century, a pro-slavery minority — encouraged by lawmakers — used violence to stifle a growing anti-slavery majority. It wasn’t long before the other side embraced force as a necessary response.

The destruction of the city of Lawrence, Kansas, and the massacre of its inhabitants by the Rebel guerrillas, August 21, 1863. Quantrill’s Raid. | Wikimedia Commons

By JOSHUA ZEITZ

10/29/2022 01:10 PM EDT

Early Friday morning, an intruder broke into the San Francisco home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and bludgeoned her husband, Paul Pelosi, 82, on the head with a hammer.

Details are still scant, but early indications suggest that the suspect, David Depape, is an avid purveyor of anti-Semitic, QAnon and MAGA conspiracy theories. Before the attack, the assailant reportedly shouted, “Where is Nancy? Where is Nancy?”

This is the United States of America in 2022. A country where political violence — including the threat of political violence — has become a feature, not a bug.

Armed men wearing tactical gear and face coverings outside ballot drop boxes in Arizona. Members of Congress threatening to bring guns onto the House floor — or actually trying to do it. Prominent Republican members of Congress, and their supporters on Fox News, stoking violence against their political opponents by accusing them of being pedophilesterrorists and groomers — of conspiring with “globalists” (read: Jews) to “replace” white people with immigrants.

And of course, January 6, and subsequent efforts by Republicans and conservative media personalities to whitewash or even celebrate it.

Pundits like to take refuge in the saccharine refrain, “this is not who we are,” but historically, this is exactly who we are. Political violence is an endemic feature of American political history. It was foundational to the overthrow of Reconstruction in the 1870s and the maintenance of Jim Crow for decades after.

But today’s events bear uncanny resemblance to an earlier decade — the 1850s, when Southern Democrats, the conservatives of their day, unleashed a torrent of violence against their opponents. It was a decade when an angry and entrenched minority used force to thwart the will of a growing majority, often with the knowing support and even participation of prominent elected officials.

That’s the familiar part of the story. The less appreciated angle is how that growing majority eventually came to accept the proposition that force was a necessary part of politics.


The 1850s were a singularly violent era in American politics. Though politicians both North and South, Whig and Democrat, tried to contain sectional differences over slavery, Southern Democrats and their Northern sympathizers increasingly pushed the envelope, employing coercion and violence to protect and spread the institution of slavery.

It began with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which stripped accused runaways of their right to trial by jury and allowed individual cases to be bumped up from state courts to special federal courts. As an extra incentive to federal commissioners adjudicating such cases, it provided a $10 fee when a defendant was remanded to slavery but only $5 for a finding rendered against the slave owner. Most obnoxious to many Northerners, the law stipulated harsh fines and prison sentences for any citizen who refused to cooperate with or aid federal authorities in the capture of accused fugitives. Southern Democrats enforced the law with brute force, to the horror of Northerners, including many who did not identify as anti-slavery.

The next provocation was the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854, which effectively abrogated the Missouri Compromise and opened the western territories to slavery. It wasn’t enough that Democrats rammed through legislation allowing the citizens of the Kansas and Nebraska territories to institutionalize slavery if they voted to do so in what had long been considered free territory. They then employed coercion and violence to rig the territorial elections that followed.

Though anti-slavery residents far outnumbered pro-slavery residents in Kansas, heavily armed “Border ruffians,” led by Missouri’s Democratic senator David Atchison, stormed the Kansas territory by force, stuffing ballot boxes, assaulting and even killing Free State settlers, in a naked attempt to tilt the scales in favor of slavery. “You know how to protect your own interests,” Atchison cried. “Your rifles will free you from such neighbors. … You will go there, if necessary, with the bayonet and with blood.” He promised, “If we win, we can carry slavery to the Pacific Ocean.”

The violence made it into Congress. When backlash against the Kansas Nebraska Act upended the political balance, driving anti-slavery Democrats and Whigs into the new, anti-slavery Republican party, pro-slavery Democrats responded with rage. In 1856, Charles Sumner, a staunch anti-slavery Republican, delivered a speech entitled “The Crime Against Kansas.” In response, a Democratic congressman from South Carolina beat him nearly to death on the Senate floor with a steel-tipped cane — not entirely dissimilar from the hammer-wielding conspiracy theorist who attempted to murder Paul Pelosi Friday.

“Bleeding Sumner,” as the outrage came to be known, was not a one-off. Pro-slavery congressmen began showing up armed on the House floor. They threatened their Northern colleagues with whippings and beatings. They talked openly of civil war and rebellion.


In some ways, none of this was new. Pro-slavery forces had long been violent and anti-democratic. When abolitionists in the 1830s began sending anti-slavery literature to Southern slaveholders, the pro-slavery forces tried to ban them from using the postal service. They destroyed the printing presses of abolitionist publishers and, in 1837, famously lynched Elijah P. Lovejoy, an abolitionist clergyman — after dumping his press in the river.

But the 1850s were different — not just in the intensification of pro-slavery violence, but in the reaction it elicited.

Southerners had long assumed that their Northern antagonists would buckle and fold. Anti-slavery men and women tended to draw their faith from evangelical Protestantism, which favored moral suasion over coercion. They were pacifists by nature. They seemed unlikely, when faced with threat and violence, to fight back.

That was probably true in 1850. But by mid-decade, something changed.

It probably began with the Fugitive Slave Act, which inspired resistance — increasingly, violent resistance — on the part of Northerners. When in 1852 President Franklin Pierce sent a battery of Army and Navy servicemen to seize Anthony Burns, a fugitive who had escaped to Boston, many former moderates found became angry, and radicalized. Amos Lawrence, a conservative businessman and politician, later attested, “We went to bed one night old fashioned, conservative, Compromise Union Whigs & waked up stark mad Abolitionists.”

Armed anti-slavery mobs increasingly proved willing to engage in standoffs with federal officials. Outside Christiana, Pennsylvania, a Maryland slaveowner and his son, accompanied by armed marshals, showed up at a farmhouse and imperiously demanded the return of a Black man whom they claimed was their runaway slave. Local residents, Black and white alike, engaged in a gun fight with the “man stealers,” leaving one of them dead and two others wounded.

Something changed in the tenor of anti-slavery rhetoric as well. Frederick Douglass, a former enslaved person and lay preacher, declared that he was a “peace man,” but white men who willingly acted as “bloodhounds,” hunting down human beings to return them to slavery, had “no right to live.” “I do believe that two or three dead slaveholders will make this law a dead letter.” In a speech entitled “Is It Right and Wise to Kill a Kidnapper?” Douglass conceded that perhaps it was not strategically smart, given the disbalance of power, but he affirmed that it “is in all cases, a crime to deprive a human being of life” and not a sin to kill those who would. “For a white man to defend his friend unto blood is praiseworthy,” Douglass wrote in 1854, “but for a Black man to do the same thing is crime. It was glorious for Patrick Henry to say, ‘Give me liberty or give me death!’ It was glorious for Americans to drench the soil, and crimson the sea with blood, to escape the payment of three-penny tax upon tea; but it is a crime to shoot down a monster in defense of the liberty of a Black man and to save him from bondage.”

His was a minority opinion in the mid-1850s, but it was catching steam.

A new generation of leaders welcomed an eye-for-an-eye approach to keeping the western territories free. Subsidized by a group of Massachusetts businessmen and religious abolitionists, the New England Emigrant Aid Company offered material assistance to Northern homesteaders willing to relocate to Kansas to populate the state with an anti-slavery majority. It also furnished them with rifles (known popularly as “Beecher’s Bibles,” an homage to Henry Ward Beecher, the prominent anti-slavery clergyman) and ammunition to help settlers stave off attacks by border ruffians who pillaged Free State property and rigged territorial elections. By 1857 the normalization of political violence advanced so far that when a prominent abolitionist urged the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society to furnish material support for armed insurrections by enslaved people, even Wendell Phillips, a leading abolitionist and heretofore a pacifist, rose to agree. “I want to accustom Massachusetts to the idea of insurrection,” he said, “to the idea that every slave has the right to seize his freedom on the spot.”

It was this embrace of retributive justice and support for violent liberation that led figures like Thomas Wentworth Higginson (a Unitarian minister), Gerrit Smith (a wealthy reformer and founder of a nonsectarian church in upstate New York), Theodore Parker (also a Unitarian clergyman), and Frederick Douglass to furnish John Brown with funds for his failed attempt to organize an uprising of enslaved people. Brown, a religious zealot who came to believe that he was God’s instrument in the service of emancipation, was widely scorned as a fanatic when in 1859 he was hanged for murder, incitement of an enslaved people’s rebellion, and “treason” against the state of Virginia. Within a few short years, many Union soldiers would come to memorialize him in song as they marched through the South.

Members of Congress, too, tired of being under the Southern Democrats’ boot. When Galusha Grow, a Republican from Pennsylvania, wandered over to the Democratic side of the House floor in 1858, Lawrence Keitt of South Carolina snarled, “Go back to your side of the House, you Black Republican puppy.” Grow, a future House speaker, clocked Keitt with a right hook and sent him spinning.

In 1860 Rep. Owen Lovejoy, a Republican from Illinois and brother of the slain editor, rose to deliver a blistering anti-slavery harangue. In response, Rep. Roger Pryor of Virginia physically assaulted him, prompting Rep. John Potter of Wisconsin to intercede. Potter so thoroughly walloped Pryor that the Virginian felt compelled to challenge him to a duel — a common ploy, as Northerners tended to view dueling as barbaric, and normally declined. Potter astonished his Southern colleague by accepting the challenge and stipulating (as was the right of the challenged party) bowie knives as his weapon of choice. Pryor, recognizing that he’d likely be hacked to death, backed out, claiming that knives were beneath the dignity of a gentleman’s duel. (Potter might well have taken his cue from Benjamin Wade, a radical Republican senator from Ohio who, when challenged to a duel by a Southern colleague, stipulated squirrel riffles at 20 paces.)

Within a year, full-blown war had broken out.


Today, political violence is on the rise. It doesn’t always emanate from the right. Several years ago, a left-wing radical attempted to gun down several Republican congressmen and nearly succeeded in killing GOP Whip Steve Scalise. But in the main, the coercion and bellicosity reside on the right. We see it in the rise of far-right, white power militias like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, who in some cases enjoy semiformal relationships with local Republican Party organizations and leaders. We see it in MAGA rallies, where former President Donald Trump regularly incites violence against journalists and political opponents, oftentimes with GOP officeholders and candidates standing silently beside him. We see it in the growing number of political ads in which Republican candidates brandish assault weapons and even shoot things up.

On some level, none of this is new. The United States has seen more than its share of political violence — from Redemption (the process by which white Southerners violently ended Reconstruction in the South) and Jim Crow, to presidential assassinations in 1865, 1881, 1901 and 1963. As recently as the early 1970s, bombings and sabotage were a common tool of far-left domestic terrorists. All told, between January 1969 and April 1970 there were over 5,000 terrorist bombings in the United States and 37,000 bomb threats, many emanating from the radical left, not including the attempted bombings of over two dozen high schools.

But here is the difference this time: In 1970, liberal members of the Senate didn’t march alongside members of the Weather Underground, pump their fists in the air and egg them on. They didn’t align themselves with violent extremists — court their votes, grant interviews to their underground newspapers, appear at their conferences. That’s the stuff of the 1850s, when mainstream Democrats turned away from democracy and openly embraced violence, vigilantism and treason to protect a world they saw at risk of disappearing.

The decision of so many American conservatives to embrace political violence, or the language and symbolism of political violence, is a troubling reality. We can’t have a functioning democracy if one side refuses to accept its norms and rules.

But history suggests we might have more to worry about.

Democratic violence in the 1850s ultimately led a majority of Republicans, who represented the political majority, to draw a line in the sand and enforce it by violence when necessary. If history is a guidepost, we are on the precipice of dangerous future in which politics devolves into a contest of force rather than ideas. That’s a future everyone should want to avoid.

  • POLITICO
  •  
  •  
  •  

Please Donate

Research

$1.00


HEATHER COX RICHARDSON
OCT 30
 
 

This week, news broke that as a guest on the right-wing Real America’s Voice media network in 2020, Republican candidate for Michigan governor Tudor Dixon said that the Democrats have planned for decades to topple the United States because they have not gotten over losing the Civil War. According to Dixon, Democrats don’t want anyone to know that white Republicans freed the slaves, and are deliberately strangling “true history.”

Dixon’s was a pure white power rant, but she was amplifying a theme we hear a lot these days: that Democrats were the party of enslavement, Republicans pushed emancipation, and thus the whole idea that Republican policies today are bad for Black Americans is disinformation.

In reality, the parties have switched sides since the 1850s. The shift happened in the 1960s, and it happened over the issue of race. Rather than focusing on party names, it makes more sense to follow two opposed strands of thought, equality and hierarchy, as the constants.

By the 1850s it was indeed primarily Democrats who backed slavery. Elite southern enslavers gradually took over first the Democratic Party, then the southern states, and finally the U.S. government. When it looked in 1854 as if they would take over the entire nation by spreading slavery to the West—thus overwhelming the free states with new slave states—northerners organized to stand against what they called the “Slave Power.”

In the mid-1850s, northerners gradually came together as a new political party. They called themselves “Republicans,” in part to recall Jefferson’s political party, which was also called the Republican party, even though Jefferson by then was claimed by the Democrats.

The meaning of political names changes.

The new Republican Party first stood only for opposing the Slave Power, but by 1859, Lincoln had given it a new ideology: it would stand behind ordinary Americans, rather than the wealthy enslavers, using the government to provide access to resources, rather than simply protecting the wealthy. And that would mean keeping slavery limited to the American South.

Prevented from imposing their will on the U.S. majority, southern Democrats split from their northern Democratic compatriots and tried to start a new nation based on racial slavery. They launched the Civil War.

At first, most Republicans didn’t care much about enslaved Americans, but by 1863 the war had made them come around to the idea that the freedom of Black Americans was crucial to the success of the United States. At Gettysburg in 1863, Lincoln reinforced the principles of the Declaration of Independence and dedicated the nation to a “new birth of freedom.” In 1865 the Republican Congress passed and sent off to the states for ratification the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ending enslavement except as punishment for crime (we really need to fix that, by the way).

After the war, as southern Democrats organized to reinstate white supremacy in their states, Republicans in 1868 added the Fourteenth Amendment, giving the federal government power to guarantee that states could not deny equal rights to American citizens, and then in 1870 the Fifteenth Amendment, guaranteeing Black men the right to vote. They also established the Department of Justice to defend those rights. But by 1871, white Republicans were backing away from federal protection of Black Americans.

Democrats continued to push white supremacy until 1879, when former Confederates took over Congress and threatened to destroy the government unless the federal government got out of southern affairs altogether (it’s a myth that the army left the South in 1877). Voters turned so vehemently against the former Confederates trying to impose their will on the nation’s majority that national Democrats began to shift away from their southern base, which dominated the southern states. In 1884 they ran New Yorker Grover Cleveland for office and won.

For the next fifty years, both national parties would waffle on race, trying mostly to ignore it.

But World War II changed the equation.

Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt had begun to offer some economic protections to Black Americans with the 1930s New Deal, but Black soldiers coming home from the war demanded true equality. The blinding of Black veteran Isaac Woodard in 1946 by South Carolina law enforcement officers woke Democratic president Harry S. Truman up to the need for equal protection of the laws.

Unable to get civil rights laws through Congress, Truman worked to desegregate federal contracting and military installations. Immediately, racist southern Democrats, led by South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond, broke away from their own president to form their own short-lived “Dixiecrat” party backing racial segregation.

Then, in 1954, Republican Dwight Eisenhower put Earl Warren, the former Republican governor of California, at the head of the Supreme Court. It promptly used the Fourteenth Amendment to declare the segregation of public schools unconstitutional in the Brown v. Board of Education decision. It seemed both parties had come around to supporting racial equality.

But white supremacists in the South responded to desegregation by attacking their Black neighbors. So in 1957, with a bipartisan vote, Congress passed a civil rights act to protect Black voting. Thurmond launched the longest filibuster in U.S. history to try to stop it.

Republicans who hated the government’s postwar regulation of business saw an opening to get the Dixiecrat contingent on their side. In 1960, The Conscience of a Conservative, published under the name of Arizona senator Barry Goldwater, called for getting rid of the business regulation and social safety laws passed since 1933, and claimed that the Supreme Court’s protection of civil rights was unconstitutional.

When Democrat John F. Kennedy took office in 1961, he gave a rousing inaugural address promising to bring freedom to the world but, afraid of alienating southern Democrats, didn’t mention race at home. World War II veteran James Meredith promptly decided to test just how committed to human rights Kennedy actually was. Meredith sued for admission to the University of Mississippi, and when the courts ruled the state had to admit him in 1962, Kennedy had to choose between the northern wing of his party that supported civil rights, and the southern racists. Pushed by his brother and attorney general Robert, Kennedy backed Meredith’s registration with federal troops.

Republicans already mad at business regulation now worked to pick up the white supremacists who had backed the Dixiecrats and who, by 1964, were attacking Black Americans and their white allies as they tried to enroll Black voters. In 1964, Republicans ran Goldwater for president on a platform calling for slashing federal power and empowering the states to run their affairs as they wished. Goldwater lost the election, but Strom Thurmond publicly switched parties, and Republicans picked up the five states of the Deep South (as well as Arizona) for the first time since Reconstruction.

Democrats, meanwhile, went all in on racial equality. Kennedy had come around to calling for civil rights legislation, and after his assassination, his successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, pushed hard first for the Civil Rights Act of 1964—which Congress passed while FBI agents were searching for three murdered civil rights workers in Mississippi—and then, after law enforcement officers in Selma, Alabama, attacked voting rights advocates as they crossed a bridge named for a grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Democrats had become the party of equality. But the votes for the civil rights laws had been bipartisan, and it was not at all clear that the Republicans wouldn’t also back civil rights. After all, Goldwater had gotten shellacked when he made common cause with white supremacists.

But in 1968, Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon knew he had a hard fight ahead of him. He figured he needed to pick up the old Dixiecrats, who were now politically homeless. He went to Thurmond with a quiet promise not to use the federal government to protect Black rights in the South in exchange for his support. This “Southern strategy” worked. Thurmond publicly backed Nixon.

From then on, white supremacists made up a key part of the Republicans’ base, and the party increasingly pushed on old racial themes—Ronald Reagan’s welfare queen, for example, or George H.W. Bush’s “Willie Horton” ad, or the trope of “makers” and “takers”—to keep them on board.

The parties had switched positions over equality and hierarchy. Since 1964, Republicans have always won the majority of the nation’s white vote, while Democrats rely on Black voters, especially Black women.

And that is the actual true history of how it happened that a Republican candidate for office, representing a party that once defended civil rights, made white power rants on public media.

Please Donate

Research

$1.00


Heather Cox RichardsonOct 24
 
 

Over the weekend, the Maricopa County Elections Department announced that two people, both armed and dressed in tactical gear, stationed themselves near a ballot drop box in Mesa, Arizona. They left when law enforcement officers arrived. At least two voters later filed complaints of voter intimidation, both complaining that they were filmed dropping off ballots. One complained of being accused of “being a mule,” a reference to people who are allegedly paid to gather ballots and stuff drop boxes for Democratic candidates.

Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates and Recorder Stephen Richer issued a statement: “We are deeply concerned about the safety of individuals who are exercising their constitutional right to vote and who are lawfully taking their early ballot to a drop box…. [V]igilantes outside Maricopa County’s drop boxes are not increasing election integrity. Instead they are leading to voter intimidation complaints.”

The presence of armed vigilantes outside of voting places is a scene directly out of the 1876 “redemption” of the South.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln and the fledgling Republican Party used the federal government to defend equality before the law and to expand opportunity for ordinary Americans. After the war, they included the newly emancipated southern Black population in their vision of an economy based on legal equality and free labor. When white southerners tried to force their Black neighbors back into submission, Congress passed the 1867 Military Reconstruction Act, establishing the right of Black men to vote for delegates to write new state constitutions.

White southerners who hated the idea that Black men could use the vote to protect themselves terrorized their Black neighbors to keep them from voting. Pretending to be the ghosts of dead Confederate soldiers and calling themselves the Ku Klux Klan, they dressed in white robes with hoods to cover their faces and warned formerly enslaved people not to show up at the polls.

Members of the Ku Klux Klan tried to stop southern Republicans—both Black and white—from voting in favor of the new state constitutions. They killed nearly a thousand Unionists before the 1868 elections, terrorizing their neighbors and undercutting democracy in the South.

Even more effective than Ku Klux Klan ropes and clubs and bullets in the long run, though, were the new tactics to which white Democrats turned when they realized that the violence of the Ku Klux Klan simply hardened Republican resolve. They insisted that government policies promoting black equality were simply a redistribution of wealth as poor men—especially poor Black men—voted for lawmakers who would agree to fund roads and schools and hospitals with tax money. In the postwar South, the people most likely to own taxable property were white men.

Black voting, they insisted, was “Socialism in South Carolina.”

In 1876, “Redeemers” set out to put an end to the southern governments that were elected in systems that allowed Black men to vote. “Rifle clubs” held contests outside Republican political rallies, “Red Shirts” marched with their guns in parades.

Their intimidation worked. Democrats took over the South and created a one-party system that lasted virtually unbroken until 1965. Without the oversight that a healthy multiparty system provides, southern governments became the corrupt tools of a few wealthy men, and the rest of the population fell into a poverty from which it could not escape until the federal government began to invest in the region in the 1930s.

The great triumph of Movement Conservatives in the 1980s was to convince Republican voters to ditch the ideology of their founding and instead embrace the ideology of the old Confederacy.

After World War II, the vast majority of Americans in both parties agreed that the government should protect equality before the law and promote equal access to resources. That system gave us highways, business regulation, world-class universities, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, clean air and water, labor protections, and a narrowing gap between rich and poor.

But the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision opened the way for those opposed to the so-called liberal consensus to claim that white tax dollars were paying for Black benefits. After the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the subsequent shift of Black voters to the Democratic Party, Republicans increasingly accused Black voters of looking for handouts. By 1980, Ronald Reagan made it to the White House with stories of a Black “welfare queen,” promising to put money back in the pockets of taxpayers. After the Democrats passed the 1993 National Voter Registration (Motor Voter) Act, Republicans began to insist that Democrats won only by cheating. They began to rewrite election laws to make it harder for Democratic-leaning populations to vote.

And now, we are in the next stage of that pattern: Republicans are using intimidation to keep Democrats from voting. In addition to the direct intimidation in Arizona, Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s new Office of Election Crimes and Security in August arrested 19 people who had been assured by state officials that they could vote; Georgia Republicans are launching mass challenges to Democratic voters, overwhelming election offices; and in several states, pro-Trump activists have hounded election officials out of office.

If we continue in this direction, we already know how it turns out: with a corrupt one-party government that favors an elite few and mires the rest of us in a world without recourse to legal equality or economic security.

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. At our most successful moments, Americans have backed not the vision of the Confederates but that of Lincoln, working to create a government of laws, not of men, and of equal access to opportunity for all.

Notes:

https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/AZMARIC/bulletins/333cdba

https://www.npr.org/2022/09/08/1121648290/a-publisher-abruptly-recalled-the-2-000-mules-election-denial-book-npr-got-a-cop

https://www.tampabay.com/news/florida-politics/2022/10/18/body-camera-video-police-voter-fraud-desantis-arrests/

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/oct/05/georgia-voter-suppression-registration-challenges

https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-election-nevada-washoe/

Please Donate

Research

$1.00


Heather Cox RichardsonOct 21
 
 

British prime minister Liz Truss resigned today after just 44 days in office. Modeling herself on Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who pushed the same sorts of supply-side economic policies U.S. president Ronald Reagan did, Truss had taken office on September 6 promising to fix the country’s rising cost of living by slashing taxes on the country’s corporations and highest earners and thereby, she argued, spurring growth.

Queen Elizabeth II died just two days later, putting the country into a period of mourning, but on  September 23, Kwasi Kwarteng, Truss’s chancellor of the exchequer—Britain’s finance minister—announced the promised tax cuts without suggesting any way to pay for them. The value of the British pound plummeted, and on October 14, Truss forced Kwarteng to resign and walked back the tax cuts. 

Truss’s own power became so precarious that on October 14, the Daily Star tabloid set up a live feed featuring a head of iceberg lettuce next to a portrait of Truss, asking, “Which wet lettuce will last longer?” 

Resignations from the government continued, and then  a badly botched vote in Parliament yesterday created such chaos and anger that it appeared Truss could not recover. She resigned today. The Conservative Party will pick a new leader by October 28.

The lettuce celebrated its victory with disco lights. “After an unbeleafable campaign I am thrilled to have been crowned victorious in these chard times,” it said tonight on a voice-over. “However we must romaine cautious. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Although the sentiment came from a leafy green vegetable, it’s not wrong that Truss’s resignation is the tip of the iceberg. On September 23, Larry Kudlow of Fox Business on the Fox News Channel said: “The new British prime minister, Liz Truss, has laid out a terrific supply-side economic growth plan which looks a lot like the basic thrust of Kevin McCarthy’s Commitment to America plan.” 

Today’s MAGA Republicans are indeed doubling down on dramatic tax cuts, and we now have an illustration of just how that might pan out.

Moreover, many observers see in the Truss debacle a condemnation of the isolationist nationalism of the past decade. This crisis, they say, has been sparked by the 2016 decision of voters in the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union, to which it had belonged since 1973, a move dubbed “Brexit,” for “Britain” and “exit.” That decision reflected, in part, the economic doldrums in the country after the 2008 crash, and the emphasis of politicians on anti-immigrant sentiment and promises to return England to a past greatness by cutting it off from the bureaucrats of Europe. 

But the reality of Brexit, accomplished only in January 2020, was an economic hit worse than that from the coronavirus pandemic. Britain’s instability has also weakened the European Union, making it harder for Europe and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to stand against Russian president Vladimir Putin. 

Today, foreign observers blamed Brexit for the instability in the U.K., although many recognized that economic issues after 2008—and, some argued, even before then—had been behind the Brexit vote itself. Writing in France’s newspaper Le Monde, Sylvain Kahn said, “Since the referendum, British governments have demonstrated, with ever greater talent, that Brexit only takes the UK further away from the promised land of recovered sovereignty and untrammelled freedom. ‘Take back control!’ they all said. But the British are a very long way from doing that. No other EU member is in such a state…. Since Brexit, Britain’s Conservative leaders have worked tirelessly to prove that EU membership was very far from the problem.” 

This same anti-immigrant, nationalist isolationism fed the rise of the MAGA Republicans. They joined with the supply-siders to create today’s Republican Party, and today’s illustration that their ideology cannot survive contact with reality sparked an astonishing leap to the right.

In The Federalist, senior editor John Daniel Davidson announced, “We Need To Stop Calling Ourselves Conservatives.” “The conservative project has failed,” he wrote, “and conservatives need to forge a new political identity that reflects our revolutionary moment.” Western civilization is dying, he wrote, and to revive it, those on the right should “start thinking of themselves as radicals, restorationists, and counterrevolutionaries. Indeed, that is what they are, whether they embrace those labels or not.”

They should, he said, stop focusing on the free-market economics and supply-side principles of the Reagan years and instead embrace the idea of wielding government power as “an instrument of renewal in American life… a blunt instrument indeed.” 

Davidson embraces using the power of the government to enforce the principles of the right wing, bending corporations to their will, starving universities that spread “poisonous ideologies,” getting rid of no-fault divorce, and subsidizing families with children. “Wielding government power,” he writes, “will mean a dramatic expansion of the criminal code.” Abortion is murder and should be treated as such, parents who take their children to drag shows “should be arrested and charged with child abuse,” doctors who engage in gender-affirming interventions “should be thrown in prison and have their medical licenses revoked,” “teachers who expose their students to sexually explicit material should not just be fired but be criminally prosecuted.”

“The necessary task is nothing less than radical and revolutionary,” he writes. And for those worrying that the assumption of such power might be dangerous, “we should attend to it with care after we have won the war.”

What Davidson is suggesting, of course, is indeed radical: it has most of the hallmarks of fascism. Other Republican lawmakers are also embracing that ideology lately: today, Florida state representative Anthony Sabatini approvingly quoted Spanish fascist dictator Francisco Franco, saying, “I answer only to God and to History.”

But more and more, Americans seem to be moving back toward the principles of Abraham Lincoln, who stood firm on the idea that true conservatism was defending the idea, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, that all people are created equal and have a right to consent to the government under which they live.

Today, in Oklahoma, for the first time in decades, the Tulsa World endorsed a Democrat, U.S. Representative Kendra Horn, rather than extremist Republican Markwayne Mullin, for the U.S. Senate. The paper applauded Horn’s bipartisanship and willingness to meet with her constituents. “Her congressional stint gives Oklahomans a glimpse of what Oklahoma lawmakers of the past looked like,” the paper wrote. “They were pragmatic legislators who looked after their state and found ways to get things done rather than cater to the fringes of their own parties…. In this moment, this is the type of senator we need.”

Notes:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/09/27/british-pound-drop-dollar-us-impact/

https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/our-lettuce-outlasted-liz-truss-british-paper-declares-pm-quits-2022-10-20/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/10/20/uk-liz-truss-why-how-resignation/

Brian Klaas @brianklaas

The lettuce now has disco lights on the live stream and is celebrating.

Image

12:44 PM ∙ Oct 20, 202218,495Likes2,429Retweets

The Independent @Independent

‘Tip of the iceberg’: Lettuce that outlived Truss premiership makes victory speech independent.co.uk‘Tip of the iceberg’: Lettuce that outlived Truss premiership makes victory speechThe Liz Truss lettuce, set up in a viral YouTube stream by the Daily Star, “delivered” a victory speech after officially outlasting the…10:20 PM ∙ Oct 20, 2022566Likes138Retweets

MeidasTouch @MeidasTouch

Larry Kudlow on Fox Business 9/23/22: “The new British prime minister, Liz Truss, has laid out a terrific supply-side economic growth plan which looks a lot like the basic thrust of Kevin McCarthy’s Commitment to America plan.”

Image

5:59 PM ∙ Oct 20, 202227,414Likes10,198Retweets

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/oct/20/european-press-pin-blame-on-brexit-for-uk-political-insanity

John Daniel Davidson, “We Need To Stop Calling Ourselves Conservatives,” The Federalist, October 20, 2022.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/10/20/inflation-tax-cuts-republicans-economy/

https://tulsaworld.com/opinion/editorials/endorsement-kendra-horn-the-right-choice-to-succeed-jim-inhofe-in-the-u-s-senate/article_57b644ee-4f3f-11ed-a530-2f514375b5f7.html

Please Donate

Research

$1.00


EXPLAINER

The 2010 Supreme Court decision further tilted political influence toward wealthy donors and corporations.

PUBLISHED: December 12, 2019

January 21, 2020 will mark a decade since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a controversial decision that reversed century-old campaign finance restrictions and enabled corporations and other outside groups to spend unlimited funds on elections.

While wealthy donors, corporations, and special interest groups have long had an outsized influence in elections, that sway has dramatically expanded since the Citizens United decision, with negative repercussions for American democracy and the fight against political corruption.

What was Citizens United about?

A conservative nonprofit group called Citizens United challenged campaign finance rules after the FEC stopped it from promoting and airing a film criticizing presidential candidate Hillary Clinton too close to the presidential primaries.

A 5–4 majority of the Supreme Court sided with Citizens United, ruling that corporations and other outside groups can spend unlimited money on elections.

What was the rationale for the ruling?

In the court’s opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that limiting “independent political spending” from corporations and other groups violates the First Amendment right to free speech. The justices who voted with the majority assumed that independent spending cannot be corrupt and that the spending would be transparent, but both assumptions have proven to be incorrect.

With its decision, the Supreme Court overturned election spending restrictions that date back more than 100 years. Previously, the court had upheld certain spending restrictions, arguing that the government had a role in preventing corruption. But in Citizens United, a bare majority of the justices held that “independent political spending” did not present a substantive threat of corruption, provided it was not coordinated with a candidate’s campaign. 

As a result, corporations can now spend unlimited funds on campaign advertising if they are not formally “coordinating” with a candidate or political party. 

How has Citizens United changed elections in the United States?

The ruling has ushered in massive increases in political spending from outside groups, dramatically expanding the already outsized political influence of wealthy donors, corporations, and special interest groups.

In the immediate aftermath of the Citizens United decision, analysts focused much of their attention on how the Supreme Court designated corporate spending on elections as free speech. But perhaps the most significant outcomes of Citizens United have been the creation of super PACs, which empower the wealthiest donors, and the expansion of dark money through shadowy nonprofits that don’t disclose their donors.

A Brennan Center report by Daniel I. Weiner pointed out that a very small group of Americans now wield “more power than at any time since Watergate, while many of the rest seem to be disengaging from politics.“

“This is perhaps the most troubling result of Citizens United: in a time of historic wealth inequality,” wrote Weiner, “the decision has helped reinforce the growing sense that our democracy primarily serves the interests of the wealthy few, and that democratic participation for the vast majority of citizens is of relatively little value.”

An election system that is skewed heavily toward wealthy donors also sustains racial bias and reinforces the racial wealth gap. Citizens United also unleashed political spending from special interest groups.

What are PACs and super PACs?

Political action committees, or “PACs,” are organizations that raise and spend money for campaigns that support or oppose political candidates, legislation, or ballot initiatives. Traditional PACs are permitted to donate directly to a candidate’s official campaign, but they are also subject to contribution limits, both in terms of what they can receive from individuals and what they can give to candidates. For example, PACs are only permitted to contribute up to $5,000 per year to a candidate per election. 

In the 2010 case Speechnow.org v. FEC, however, a federal appeals court ruled — applying logic from Citizens United — that outside groups could accept unlimited contributions from both individual donors and corporations as long as they don’t give directly to candidates. Labeled “super PACs,” these outside groups were still permitted to spend money on independently produced ads and on other communications that promote or attack specific candidates.

In other words, super PACs are not bound by spending limits on what they can collect or spend. Additionally, super PACs are required to disclose their donors, but those donors can include dark money groups, which make the original source of the donations unclear. And while super PACs are technically prohibited from coordinating directly with candidates, weak coordination rules have often proven ineffective.

Super PAC money started influencing elections almost immediately after Citizens United. From 2010 to 2018, super PACs spent approximately $2.9 billion on federal elections. Notably, the bulk of that money comes from just a few wealthy individual donors. In the 2018 election cycle, for example, the top 100 donors to super PACs contributed nearly 78 percent of all super PAC spending.

What is dark money?

Dark money is election-related spending where the source is secret. Citizens United contributed to a major jump in this type of spending, which often comes from nonprofits that are not required to disclose their donors.

In its decision, the Supreme Court reasoned that unlimited spending by wealthy donors and corporations would not distort the political process, because the public would be able to see who was paying for ads and “give proper weight to different speakers and messages.” But in reality, the voters often cannot know who is actually behind campaign spending.

That’s because leading up to Citizens United, transparency in U.S. elections had started to erode, thanks to a disclosure loophole opened by the Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling in FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, along with inaction by the IRS and controversial rulemaking by the FEC.

Citizens United allowed big political spenders to exploit the growing lack of transparency in political spending. This has contributed to a surge in secret spending from outside groups in federal elections. Dark money expenditures increased from less than $5 million in 2006 to more than $300 million in the 2012 election cycle and more than $174 million in the 2014 midterms. In the top 10 most competitive 2014 Senate races, more than 71 percent of the outside spending on the winning candidates was dark money. These numbers actually underestimate the impact of dark money on recent elections, because they do not include super PAC spending that may have originated with dark money sources, or spending that happens outside the “electioneering communications window” 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election.

Finally, because they can hide the identities of their donors, dark money groups also provide a way for foreign countries to hide their activity from U.S. voters and law enforcement agencies. This increases the vulnerability of U.S. elections to international interference.

How can reformers address the consequences of Citizens United?

In the short term, a Supreme Court reversal or constitutional amendment to undo Citizens United is extremely unlikely, and regardless, it would leave many of the problems of big money in politics unsolved. But even without a full reversal of Citizens United in the near future, there are policy solutions to help combat the dominance of big money in politics and the lack of transparency in the U.S. campaign finance system.

First, publicly funded elections would help counter the influence of the extremely wealthy by empowering small donors. Specifically, a system that matches small-dollar donations with public funds would expand the role of small donors and help candidates rely less on big checks and special interests. In recent years, public financing has gained support across the United States. As of 2018, 24 municipalities and 14 states have enacted some form of public financing, and at least 124 winning congressional candidates voiced support for public financing during the 2018 midterm election cycle.

Lawmakers on the national, state, and local level can also push to increase transparency in election spending. For example, the DISCLOSE Act, which has been introduced several times in Congress, would strengthen disclosure and disclaimer requirements, enabling voters to know who is trying to influence their votes. Congress could also pass stricter rules to prevent super PACs and other outside groups from coordinating directly with campaigns and political parties. 

Fixing the U.S. elections system will also require fixing the FEC.

Long dysfunctional thanks to partisan gridlock, the FEC is out of touch with today’s election landscape and has failed to update campaign finance safeguards to reflect current challenges. For example, FEC rules do not even include the term “super PAC,” and it has declined to find violations or even open an investigation in high-profile allegations of coordination. The agency’s failure to enforce federal disclosure laws helped allow dark money to pour into U.S. federal elections since 2010.

In an April 2019 report, the Brennan Center outlined a number of structural reforms that Congress can pursue to help tackle dysfunction in the FEC. 

Finally, addressing the impacts of Citizens United requires building a movement in favor of campaign finance reform. There’s public support for such reforms. In recent polls, 94 percent of Americans blamed wealthy political donors for political dysfunction, and 77 percent of registered voters said that “reducing the influence of special interests and corruption in Washington” was either the “single most” or a “very important” factor in deciding their vote for Congress.

Citizens United was a blow to democracy — but it doesn’t have to be the final word. Politicians can listen to what the vast majority of the public wants, even if big donors don’t like it.

Note: Our Congress has been lax in doing their job of representing their constituents as shown by the past resistance to standing up to big money. MA

Please Donate

Research

$1.00


Heather Cox RichardsonOct 18
 
 

Today the Biden administration opened the website to apply for relief from student debt, a policy that is expected to benefit 43 million Americans directly and others tangentially as debt relief frees up family resources. The administration also announced that the Food and Drug Administration’s final rule concerning Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy went into effect today, making hearing aids available over the counter and thereby lowering costs for the devices by as much as $3,000 a pair. 

The administration has also recently achieved a historic diplomatic victory by brokering an agreement between Israel and Lebanon, two countries that have been formally at war since 1948, to establish a maritime boundary. 

But all that news got drowned out by the continuing drama coming from the Republican Party. As Republican political strategist Sarah Longwell wrote in The Bulwark today, the Republican Party is facing an “extinction event,” having been taken over by former president Trump to become the right-wing MAGA Party. As Longwell wrote, “In the Republican party as it is currently constituted, political power emanates completely and totally from Donald Trump.” 

Longwell explains that Republicans have been stuck in a “Triangle of Doom,” in which Republican base voters want their media to confirm their biases. Fringe media outlets confirming those biases gain traction. In order to reach voters, Republican politicians have to go on those fringe outlets, and that, in turn, normalizes fringe media. Over time, this triangle radicalized the party until 70% of Republicans now believe the lie that Democratic president Joe Biden didn’t win the 2020 election. 

“Say goodnight,” she writes. “The party’s over.” All but the MAGA Republicans have left. “The Good Republicans are gone,” Longwell writes. “Probably for good.”

Today, Fox Nation began a mock trial of Hunter Biden, with reality TV personality Judge Joe Brown saying that “something’s way wrong here, way wrong,” and suggesting that the legal investigations into Trump and the lack of them into the Bidens give the appearance that Trump and Biden “don’t live in the same country.” 

Hunter Biden is not in the government, of course, and is not under indictment; Trump and the Trump Organization are embroiled in a number of lawsuits that suggest the former president and his associates saw government service not as a way to improve American lives but as a way to make money. Ginning up a show trial for Hunter Biden seems an attempt to rile up the base and undercut the many legal issues in the news concerning the former president. But such a show trial is also a fundamental rejection of the rule of law, suggesting that the law is simply a political tool to use against enemies rather than a body of laws before which we are all treated equally.

There is a reason Trump supporters are trying to undermine the rule of law. In New York, Trump’s wealthy friend and financial backer Thomas Barrack is on trial for selling his access to Trump to the leaders of the United Arab Emirates in exchange for investment money. The U.S. government says that Barrack fed confidential information to UAE leaders while permitting them to shape Trump’s speeches and policies. In the first three years of Trump’s term, Saudi Arabia and the UAE invested about $1.5 billion in Barrack’s real estate company. 

In Northern Virginia the trial of Igor Danchenko for making false statements to the FBI, led by John Durham and other holdovers from the Trump Justice Department, suggests the Trump administration played fast and loose with national security in an attempt to undermine the Russia investigation. Witnesses in the trial have testified that the “highly unusual” decision by Trump attorney general Bill Barr to declassify an interview with Danchenko and share it with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) hurt national security. Graham promptly made a summary of the interview public to bolster the argument that the Russia investigation was “corrupt.” But that release meant that internet hobbyists quickly figured out who Danchenko was, exposing a key FBI informant as well as his friends and family in Russia. 

This exposure for political reasons not only burned a key source, it weakened the ability of the U.S. to cultivate informants. 

Last week, Drew Harwell of the Washington Post broke the story that Will Wilkerson, an executive who had been in on the ground floor of Trump’s “Truth Social,” filed a whistleblower complaint against the company with the Securities and Exchange Commission last August 28. Wilkerson alleges that Truth Social and the special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) enlisted to finance the media company behind Truth Social violated federal securities laws. The Trump Media and Technology Group and one of those SPACs, Digital World Acquisition Corporation (DWAC), have been under criminal investigation since the summer; Wilkerson’s cooperation should advance that case.

Without laws, governmental office can be used simply as a way to amass money and power. Today the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis issued the third installment of its report. This one detailed how the Trump administration “engaged in an unprecedented campaign of political interference in the federal government’s pandemic response, which undermined public health to benefit the former president’s political goals.” 

Angry that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for masks and lockdowns, Trump and his aides attacked CDC scientists and suppressed reports. Political operatives downplayed the risks of the novel coronavirus and used the power of the CDC to achieve Trump’s political goal of shutting down legal immigration across the southern border. The administration also used “hundreds of millions” of dollars of CDC funds to “what amounted to a celebrity vanity campaign to ‘defeat despair and inspire hope’” before the 2020 election.

Today, Carol D. Leonnig at the Washington Post wrote that records obtained by the chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), show that when Trump was in office, his company charged Secret Service agents as much as five times the government rate to stay in his hotels while providing protection for Trump and his family. Secret Service supervisors frequently asked for special waivers to enable them to pay rates higher than approved government guidelines. 

Leonnig noted that billing documents representing “a fraction” of those expenses show that U.S. taxpayers paid at least $1.4 million to the Trump Organization for rooms at Trump properties, which he visited more than 500 times during his presidency and continued to visit with security after he left office. 

Eric Trump took issue with the story, saying that the Trump Organization provided services to the Secret Service at the agents’ request, and that services were provided “at cost, heavily discounted, or for free.” “The company would have been substantially better off if hospitality services were sold to full-paying guests, however, the company did whatever it took to accommodate the agencies to ensure they were able to do their jobs at the highest levels.”

Notes:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/10/17/biden-lebanon-israel-diplomatic-victory/

https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/17/politics/biden-student-loan-forgiveness-launch/index.html

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/oct/10/trump-ally-tom-barrack-trial

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/07/01/trump-media-company-subpoenaed-in-federal-criminal-probe-of-spac-deal.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/10/15/truth-social-trump-animosity-whistleblower/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/10/17/trump-secret-service-hotel-rates-records/

https://coronavirus.house.gov/news/press-releases/clyburn-trump-cdc-redfield-caputo-report

Please Donate

Research

$1.00


Heather Cox RichardsonOct 17
 
 

In an interview this morning with CNN’s Dana Bash, Arizona Republican nominee for governor Kari Lake refused to say that she would accept the results of the upcoming election– unless she wins. Former president Trump said the same in 2020, and now more than half of the Republican nominees in the midterm elections have refused to say that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election because, they allege, there was voter fraud. This position is an astonishing rejection of the whole premise on which this nation was founded: that voters have the right to choose their leaders.

That right was established in the Declaration of Independence separating the 13 British colonies on the North American continent from allegiance to King George III. That Declaration rejected the idea of social hierarchies in which some men were better than others and should rule their inferiors. Instead, it set out a new principle of government, establishing that “all men are created equal” and that governments derive “their just power from the consent of the governed.”

Republicans’ rejection of the idea that voters have the right to choose their leaders is not a new phenomenon. It is part and parcel of Republican governance since the 1980s, when it became clear to Republican leaders that their “supply-side economics,” a program designed to put more money into the hands of those at the top of the economy, was not actually popular with voters, who recognized that cutting taxes and services did not, in fact, result in more tax revenue and rising standards of living. They threatened to throw the Republicans out of office and put back in place the Democrats’ policies of using the government to build the economy from the bottom up.

So, to protect President Ronald Reagan’s second round of tax cuts in 1986, Republicans began to talk of cutting down Democratic voting through a “ballot integrity” initiative, estimating that their plans could “eliminate at least 60–80,000 folks from the rolls” in Louisiana. “If it’s a close race…, this could keep the Black vote down considerably,” a regional director of the Republican National Committee wrote.

When Democrats countered by expanding voting through the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, more commonly known as the Motor Voter Act, a New York Times writer said Republicans saw the law “as special efforts to enroll core Democratic constituencies in welfare and jobless-benefits offices.” While Democrats thought it was important to enfranchise “poor people…people who can’t afford cars, people who can’t afford nice houses,” Republicans, led by then–House minority whip Newt Gingrich of Georgia, predicted “a wave of fraudulent voting by illegal immigrants.”

From there it was a short step to insisting that Republicans lost elections not because their ideas were unpopular, but because Democrats cheated. In 1994, losing candidates charged, without evidence, that Democrats won elections with “voter fraud.” In California, for example, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s opponent, who had spent $28 million of his own money on the race but lost by about 160,000 votes, said on “Larry King Live” that “frankly, the fraud is overwhelming” and that once he found evidence, he would share it to demand “a new election.” That evidence never materialized, but in February 1995 the losing candidate finally made a statement saying he would stop litigating despite “massive deficiencies in the California election system,” in the interest of “a thorough bipartisan investigation and solutions to those problems.”

In 1996, House and Senate Republicans each launched yearlong investigations into what they insisted were problematic elections, with Gingrich, by then House speaker, telling reporters: ‘“We now have proof of a sufficient number of noncitizens voting that it may well have affected at least one election for Congress,” although the House Oversight Committee said the evidence did not support his allegations.

In the Senate, after a 10-month investigation, the Republican-dominated Rules Committee voted 16 to 0 to dismiss accusations of voter fraud in the election of Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu that cost her $500,000 in legal fees and the committee $250,000. Her opponent, whose supporters wore small socks on their lapels with the words “Don’t Get Cold Feet. Sock It To Voter Fraud,” still refused to concede, saying that “the Senate has become so partisan it has become difficult to get to the truth.”

There was nothing to the cases, but keeping them in front of the media for a year helped to convince Americans that voter fraud was a serious issue and that Democrats were winning elections thanks to illegal, usually immigrant, voters. Amplified by the new talk radio hosts and, by the mid-1990s, the Fox News Channel, Republicans increasingly argued that Democrats were owned by “special interests” who were corrupting the system, pushing what they called “socialism”—that is, legislation that provided a basic social safety net and regulated business—on “real” Americans who, they insisted, wanted rugged individualism. If Democrats really were un-American, it only made sense to keep such dangerous voters from the polls.

In 1998, the Florida legislature passed a law to “maintain” the state’s voter lists, using a private company to purge the voter files of names believed to belong to convicted felons, dead people, duplicates, and so on. The law placed the burden of staying on the voter lists on individuals, who had to justify their right to be on them. The law purged up to 100,000 legitimate Florida voters, most of them Black voters presumed to vote Democratic, before the 2000 election, in which Republican candidate George W. Bush won the state by 537 votes, giving him the Electoral College although he lost the popular vote.

Voting restrictions had begun, but they really took off after the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted the provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act requiring preclearance from the federal government before states with a history of racial discrimination changed their election laws. Now, less than a decade later, Republican Florida governor Ron DeSantis has been open about suppressing Democratic votes, easing voting restrictions for three reliably Republican counties devastated by Hurricane Ian but refusing to adjust the restrictions in hard-hit, Democratic-leaning Orange County.

Open attacks on Democrats in the lead-up to this year’s midterms justify that voter suppression. Last week, Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) suggested that Black Americans are criminals who “want to take over what you got,” and Republican candidates are running ads showing mug shots of Black men. Today, Trump chided American Jews for not sufficiently appreciating him; he warned them to “get their act together…[b]efore it’s too late.” Republican lawmakers have left those racist and antisemitic statements unchallenged.

Those attacks also justify ignoring Democratic election victories, for if Democratic voters are undermining the country, it only makes sense that their choices should be ignored. This argument was exactly how reactionary white Democrats justified the 1898 coup in Wilmington, North Carolina, when they overthrew a legitimately elected government of white Populists and Black Republicans. Issuing a “White Declaration of Independence,” they claimed “the intelligent citizens of this community owning 95 percent of the property” were taking over because those elected were not fit to run a government. Like the Wilmington plotters, Trump supporters insisted they were defending the nation from a “stolen” election when they attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021, to cancel the results of the 2020 Democratic victory.

It was not so very long ago that historians taught the Wilmington coup as a shocking anomaly in our democratic system, but now, 124 years after it happened, it is current again. Modern-day Republicans appear to reject not only the idea they could lose an election fairly, but also the fundamental principle, established in the Declaration of Independence, that all Americans have a right to consent to their government.

Notes:

Aaron Rupar @atrupar

Kari Lake refuses to commit to accepting the result of the Arizona gubernatorial election

Image

1:34 PM ∙ Oct 16, 20225,196Likes1,294Retweets

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/oct/14/ron-desantis-florida-hurricane-ian-voting-rules

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/10/15/racist-appeals-heat-up- final-weeks-before-midterms/

Please Donate

Research

$1.00


Heather Cox RichardsonOct 16
 
 
The highlighted area shows the deliberate attempt of the former guy to sabotage America. MA

At Thursday’s meeting of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, as Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) showed that former president Trump both recognized that he had lost the election and intended to leave the White House, he noted that on November 11, just four days after Democrat Joe Biden had been declared the winner of the 2020 election, Trump had abruptly ordered U.S. troops to leave Somalia and Afghanistan by January 15. 

Indeed, according to an Axios investigation by Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu last May, two days before that order, on November 9, 2020, John McEntee, Trump’s hand-picked director of the Presidential Personnel Office, told retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor that Trump wanted him to “Get us out of Afghanistan. Get us out of Iraq and Syria. Complete the withdrawal from Germany. Get us out of Africa.” When Macgregor, who was brought on to the administration on November 11, said he didn’t think that was possible, McEntee told him to “do as much as you can.” 

Kinzinger’s point was that Trump clearly knew he was leaving office because he was deliberately trying to create chaos for his successor. When he abruptly pulled the U.S. out of northern Syria in October 2019, he abandoned our Kurdish allies, forcing more than 160,000 Syrians from their homes and making them victims of extraordinary violence. The Pentagon considered Trump’s November 11 instructions “a rogue order,” since they had not gone through any of the appropriate channels, and disregarded them.

The release of the Biden administration’s annual National Security Strategy (NSS) on Wednesday, October 12, 2022, highlights just how big a catastrophe we dodged. 

Just as Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from Syria left a vacuum for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian president Vladimir Putin, and as Trump’s planned but not executed withdrawal of troops from Germany would have hamstrung the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) so it could not have countered Putin’s Russia, so would the abrupt disengagement of the U.S. around the world have created a giant vacuum for authoritarian countries to fill.

Biden’s National Security Strategy reiterates his belief that we are in a global struggle between democracy and rising autocracy and that the world is at an inflection point that will determine “the security and prosperity of the American people for generations to come.”

The document makes a strong call for American leadership to defend democracy and to reinforce the rules-based international system on which the world has depended since World War II. This system is now under attack as Russia has claimed the right to invade a neighboring country and redraw its boundaries by force, and as authoritarian governments seek to control global trade and power by withholding key resources—like energy—from other nations.  

The NSS promises that the U.S. will work to strengthen democracy around the world “because democratic governance consistently outperforms authoritarianism in protecting human dignity, leads to more prosperous and resilient societies, creates stronger and more reliable economic and security partners for the United States, and encourages a peaceful world order.” It also calls for the domestic development of key resources, especially energy, to reduce the ability of other nations to pressure us. 

Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have made rebuilding NATO, reinforcing our traditional partnerships like those with the “Quad”—which, in addition to the U.S., includes Australia, Japan, and India—and advancing our alliances in the Indo-Pacific a top priority. On Thursday, Biden said his staff had calculated that he had spent about 220 hours talking directly with the heads of state at NATO and the European Union, “just holding it together” after Putin counted on NATO splitting up. Biden and Blinken have emphasized security, trade, and technology to knit the world together. 

The NSS notes that “we are creating a latticework of strong, resilient, and mutually reinforcing relationships that prove democracies can deliver for their people and the world.” Unified international support for Ukraine illustrates just how successful they have been. The NSS also emphasizes the importance of working with countries in Latin America to improve conditions in the western hemisphere in general and to weaken corruption, improve security, and strengthen democracy there. It calls for closer relations with African nations and African regional institutions, and it calls for a peaceful Arctic. 

The NSS notes that Iran interferes in the internal affairs of its neighbors and is advancing a nuclear program and that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) is also expanding its illicit nuclear weapons. But above all, the NSS calls out Russia and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as key destabilizers of the international order. It notes that they are increasingly aligned with each other but present very different challenges to the U.S.

China is the only power able to reshape the international order, the NSS states, and is using technology to gain sway over international institutions to advance its authoritarian model, which in the past has provided a rising standard of living in exchange for a loss of freedom. The PRC has been able to use that economic power to pressure other countries to become dependent on it.

The NSS calls for strengthening the U.S. at home to compete with the PRC, working with allies and partners, and competing with the PRC in the Indo-Pacific region to strengthen the autonomy of countries there. (The recent U.S. demonstration of support for Taiwan was part of this demonstration, and it had the effect of prompting the PRC to overreact, demonstrating an instability that weakened ties to regional neighbors.)

And yet the NSS emphasizes that while the U.S. has “profound differences” with the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Government, those differences are not “between our people.” “Ties of family and friendship continue to connect the American and the Chinese people. We deeply respect their achievements, their history, and their culture. Racism and hate have no place in a nation built by generations of immigrants to fulfill the promise of opportunity for all. And we intend to work together to solve issues that matter most to the people of both countries.”

Turning to Russia, the NSS condemns “its longstanding efforts to destabilize its neighbors using intelligence and cyber capabilities, and its blatant attempts to undermine internal democratic processes in countries across Europe, Central Asia, and around the world,” and notes that “Russia has also interfered brazenly in U.S. politics and worked to sow divisions among the American people.” The U.S. will continue to lead “a united, principled, and resolute response to Russia’s invasion” of Ukraine.

But the last several months have indicated that autocracies have their own problems. The PRC has doubled down on a zero-Covid policy that has hurt its economy and sparked internal protest. Tomorrow, the Communist Party will begin its 20th National Congress (congresses are held every five years). It is expected that President Xi Jinping will win a third term to consolidate his grip on power just as the U.S has unveiled strict controls on selling semiconductors and chip-making equipment to China, restrictions that appear to be an attempt to kneecap Chinese advances in artificial intelligence and military capabilities.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has proved disastrous for Putin. As supplies and soldiers have drained into Ukraine, Russia’s control of the lands around it has faltered, while his recent mobilization of the Russian population to fight in Ukraine has created extraordinary unrest at home. Putin is pressing Belarus’s president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, to join the war, but Lukashenko appears hesitant, likely suspecting that joining the disastrous war will mean his own political end.

For its part, Iran is facing internal protests sparked by the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, known to her family by her Kurdish name Zhina, in the custody of “morality police” for violating the country’s dress code. Saudi Arabia is not necessarily as strong as it has appeared lately, either. When its leaders recently sided with Russia by pushing OPEC+ to cut oil production and thus support gas prices, other OPEC+ countries told the U.S. that the Saudis had pressured them to do so. Saudi Arabia has suddenly offered Ukraine $400 million in humanitarian aid, evidently trying to regain the goodwill of Europe and the U.S., since it imports almost all of its weapons from that bloc.   

“The post-Cold War era is definitively over and a competition is underway between the major powers to shape what comes next,” the NSS says. “No nation is better positioned to succeed in this competition than the United States, as long as we work in common cause with those who share our vision of a world that is free, open, secure, and prosperous. This means that the foundational principles of self-determination, territorial integrity, and political independence must be respected, international institutions must be strengthened, countries must be free to determine their own foreign policy choices, information must be allowed to flow freely, universal human rights must be upheld, and the global economy must operate on a level playing field and provide opportunity for all.”

Notes:

https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/12/politics/joe-biden-nuclear-message-putin-cnntv-analysis/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/14/politics/woodward-costa-book-trump-afghanistan-memo/index.html

https://www.axios.com/2021/05/16/off-the-rails-trump-military-withdraw-afghanistan

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/why-trump-decision-abandon-kurds-syria-disaster-898493/

https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-donald-trump-military-facilities-europe-lloyd-austin-ff57f288a1bb3e5a38e3253ea0b94d80

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2022/10/14/remarks-by-president-biden-at-a-democratic-congressional-campaign-committee-reception/

https://www.reuters.com/world/china/xi-set-open-party-congress-challenging-time-china-2022-10-14/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/10/15/xi-china-party-congress/

https://www.reuters.com/world/china/xi-set-open-party-congress-challenging-time-china-2022-10-14/

https://www.wired.com/story/us-chip-sanctions-kneecap-chinas-tech-industry/

https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/14/politics/joe-biden-iran-protests/index.html

https://oec.world/en/profile/bilateral-product/weapons/reporter/sau

https://www.reuters.com/technology/us-aims-hobble-chinas-chip-industry-with-sweeping-new-export-rules-2022-10-07/

Please Donate

Research

$1.00


ngaudiano@insider.com (Nicole Gaudiano,Dave Levinthal) – Yesterday 1:58 PM

Gingrich’s latest 2012 presidential campaign filing shows a debt of $4.63 million.

No presidential campaign from any election cycle owes creditors more money, per federal records.

Gingrich has been calling for a balanced federal budget, writing “open-ended spending encourages waste.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is a self-styled fiscal conservative who calls for a balanced federal budget. He’s also actively helping Republicans win back the US House in 2022. He’s fundraising for former President Donald Trump’s political network.

But Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign committee, almost a decade past its expiration date, is still swimming in a sea of red.

The “Newt 2012” campaign committee remains technically active and more than $4.63 million in debt, according to financial filing submitted October 14 to the Federal Election Commission. No presidential campaign from any election cycle owes creditors more money.

The campaign had $242.56 in the bank as of September 30, the filing indicates.

A financial filing from Newt 2012, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential committee, which remains deep in debt to dozens of creditors. Federal Election Commission

A financial filing from Newt 2012, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential committee, which remains deep in debt to dozens of creditors. Federal Election Commission

© Federal Election Commission

Among those creditors are a host of political consultants, as well as Comcast, Twitter, FedEx and an organization run by the late Herman Cain, who also ran in the 2012 Republican presidential primary and died from COVID-19 in 2020.

Newt 2012’s outstanding debt to Herman Cain Solutions, which has dissolved, is $16,525 for strategic consulting and travel.

Newt 2012 even owes Gingrich himself $649,117 for travel expenses.

Although Gingrich has made little effort to raise money to pay down his 2012 presidential campaign’s debts, he’s a frequent fundraising pitchman for other Republican committees. They include the Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, congressional candidate Sarah Palin in Alaska, and Trump’s post-presidential political fundraising network.

“As a Trump Gold Cardholder, you will play a crucial role in President Trump’s efforts to save our Nation. You will be someone President Trump will turn to when he needs help most. I know he trusts you,” Gingrich wrote July 11 on behalf of Save America JFC, a joint fundraising committee led by Trump. “Please contribute $45 or more by 11:59 PM TONIGHT to activate your membership and we’ll send you your PERSONALIZED Trump Gold Card.”

Gingrich could not be reached for comment on his campaign committee’s debt, which has remained effectively the same for almost a decade.

In 2012, a Gingrich spokesperson told Politico: “Our preference is obviously not to have gone into debt. If we could eliminate the debt overnight, we would. But realistically, this will take years.”

Gingrich, the leader of the 1994 “Republican Revolution” who then delivered a House majority for the GOP for the first time in 40 years, has been advising House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California as Republicans craft a 2022 midterm re-election strategy.

Earlier this year, Gingrich detailed in a blog post what he considered to be the country’s “real threats.” Among them: “The current system of open-ended spending encourages waste.”

Gingrich called for balancing the federal budget, saying it’s a “requirement for our long-term health as a country.”

“It will lower inflation, lower interest rates, lower the burden on our children and grandchildren, and rebuild our capacity to renew the world’s reserve currency with leverage over China, Russia, and others,” he wrote.

This article was originally published on January 29, 2022, and updated to include new campaign finance data and fundraising developments.

Please Donate

Research

$1.00


Heather Cox RichardsonOct 14
 
 

Today began with news that New York attorney general Letitia James is seeking a preliminary injunction to stop former president Trump from continuing with the fraudulent practices she filed a $250 million lawsuit in September to end. Apparently, the day James filed the lawsuit, the Trump Organization registered the “Trump Organization II,” which James claims is acting in some of the same ways the old organization does. Investigators warn that Trump might shift his assets from the old entity to the new one to avoid liability. Trump lawyer Alina Habba said in a statement: “We have repeatedly provided assurance, in writing, that the Trump Organization has no intention of doing anything improper.”  

Just an hour or so later, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol held what was widely perceived to be its ninth public hearing but, as chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) made clear at the start, was in fact a meeting to conduct business.

Each member of the committee spoke today, reiterating for those who have not been paying close attention the themes of the previous eight hearings. As Thompson pointed out, the committee has gathered an unusually large amount of evidence and has built its case almost entirely from the testimony of Republicans, not Democrats, undercutting the accusations of Trump loyalists that the committee has been partisan. Their evidence has come from Trump aides and Republican lawmakers, lawyers, political professionals, appointees, staff, and advisors and even from Trump’s family members. 

The evidence the committee has presented to the American people establishes without doubt that Trump was the central cause of the events of January 6. As Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), vice-chair of the committee, said: “None of this would have happened without him.”

The committee established that Trump knew that he had lost the election. His campaign advisors and his lawyers repeatedly told him that any suggestion that the election had been stolen was a lie. He even admitted that he had lost and, crucially, just days after he lost the election, abruptly ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Somalia and Afghanistan by January 15, clearly intending to set up his successor, Democrat Joe Biden, for a global crisis the minute he took office. (Defense Department officials successfully stopped the order.)

Even though he knew he had lost, Trump had no intention of actually leaving office. He and his team decided as early as July 2020 that he wouldn’t leave: he would simply declare that he had won the election, even if he lost. By October 31, 2020—before the election took place—Tom Fitton of the right-wing organization Judicial Watch drafted a memo for Trump to read on November 3, saying, “We had an election today—and I won.” On that same day, Trump ally Stephen Bannon told a private group that Trump was just going to “declare victory…, but that doesn’t mean he is the winner. He’s just going to say he is the winner.” 

Everyone knew that in the early hours of November 3, it might look as if Trump was winning, but that would change as later votes came in because after Trump had spent months attacking mail-in voting, the mail-in votes that did come in would favor Democrats. Those votes would be counted after the votes cast in person on Election Day. That “red mirage” was precisely what happened. But, as planned, as soon as the mail-in ballots began to be counted and numbers started to swing toward Biden, Trump went on television to announce that he had won and that the counting of votes should end. 

Trump’s advisors all told the January 6th committee either that it was too early to declare victory when Trump did, or that there was no way he could win at that point. And yet, Trump told his supporters he had won and that the election was being stolen from him.

In the weeks that followed, the Trump campaign launched 62 lawsuits over the outcome and lost 61, winning only a technical victory that had no effect on the vote count. The committee established that when the Supreme Court refused to turn over the electoral counts of four states to state legislatures, rather than the states’ voters, Trump was livid. Cassidy Hutchinson, who was the top aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified that Trump was “raging.” He said: “I don’t want people to know that we lost. This is embarrassing….” 

So Trump launched a pressure campaign against state officials to get them to assign their states’ electoral votes to him rather than to Biden. He pressured Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, telling him “I just want to find 11,780 votes” to put him over the top to take the state’s electoral votes. Trump pressured officials in other states. He also pressured Department of Justice officials: “Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and to the Republican congressmen.” When that effort failed, Trump tried to replace acting attorney general Jeff Rosen with loyalist Jeff Clark, stopping only when the leadership of the Department of Justice threatened a mass resignation.

Thwarted, Trump turned to the idea of false electoral slates from the states, working with loyalists in the states to send to Washington a fake set of electoral votes in favor of him rather than the Biden electors voters had chosen. Even lawyer John Eastman, who pushed the plan, admitted it was illegal, violating the 1887 Electoral Count Act. 

When that plan, too, failed, Trump fell back on his last resort: a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers were counting the electoral votes. Trump had primed a mob by repeating the lie that the election had been stolen, and today the committee revealed that Jason Miller, senior advisor to the Trump campaign, forwarded a link from a pro-Trump website to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows less than a week before January 6, saying, “I GOT THE BASE FIRED UP.” The linked web page was about the upcoming session of Congress to count electoral votes, and it had comments like “Gallows don’t require electricity.” “If the filthy commie maggots try to push their fraud through, there will be hell to pay.” “Our lawmakers in Congress can leave one of two ways; one, in a body bag, two, after rightfully certifying Trump the winner.”

The committee today released new information gleaned from Secret Service communications, showing that the service had extensive information that there was an attack on the Capitol planned for January 6 and that testimony suggesting otherwise was “not credible.” The committee said its investigation of the Secret Service is ongoing.

On January 6, members of the crowd at the Ellipse rally were armed, and Trump knew it. Nonetheless, he urged them to march on the Capitol. When his handlers refused to let him join them, he retreated to the private dining room in the White House and watched the violence unfold on television, ignoring pleas from congressional leaders, advisors, staff, and family to call off the rioters. Instead, at the very moment Vice President Mike Pence’s life was most in danger from the mob, Trump tweeted that Pence had let him down, energizing the rioters.

Meanwhile, other lawmakers stepped into the breach left by Trump’s refusal to act. Today’s hearing had previously unseen footage captured by Alexandra Pelosi, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) daughter, of congressional leaders working the phones to get law enforcement officers to clear the Capitol. The footage is chilling, as our elected leaders beg for help that is not coming. Pelosi took over the functions of the president, calm in the chaos as she worked to restore order and demonstrate that our government could still function.

Finally, proving that he could have called them off at any time, the rioters left when Trump told them to, after which he doubled down on the lie that he had been cheated of the presidency.

The recounting of Trump’s behavior established his assault on our democracy. The committee noted that although such an assault must not be allowed to stand unchallenged, its role is not to bring criminal charges—that is the role of the Justice Department—but to recommend changes to our laws to make sure such an assault never happens again. 

And, Cheney made it crystal clear, Trump’s coup attempt failed in 2021 only because of those who stood against him, but there is no reason to believe that such people will always stand in the breach. Indeed, more than half the Republicans running for office in 2022 have signed on to Trump’s lies about the election. Urging all Americans to come together to hold Trump accountable, Cheney noted that if he is not held to account, we will lose our democracy, if not to him, then to some other wannabe dictator who sees our laws don’t matter. “Some principles must be beyond politics,” she said. 

At the end of the committee’s presentation, it became clear why Thompson had specified that today’s meeting was not a hearing. The committee voted on a resolution, presented by Representative Cheney, to subpoena Trump for documents and testimony under oath. Cheney pointed out that more than 30 witnesses had invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, many in response to questions about their dealings with Trump, and said that “we are obligated to seek answers directly from the man who set this all in motion.” 

The committee then voted unanimously in favor of the resolution. Tonight the Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote, “The Jan[uary] 6 committee probably won’t get Mr. Trump under oath, but the evidence of his bad behavior is now so convincing that political accountability hardly requires it.”

The bad news for Trump was not over. Just before the committee’s vote, in what New York Times Supreme Court correspondent Adam Liptak called “a stinging rebuke,” the U.S. Supreme Court refused to step into the case of Trump’s theft of classified documents to give him access to the classified documents taken from Mar-a-Lago by FBI agents on August 8. The decision was a single sentence.

Still, after all today’s news, the final word belonged to Pelosi. On a video from January 6 released tonight, she is seen reacting to the news that Trump was intending to go to the Capitol, the seat of our elected government, where presidents traditionally must not go without an invitation. Told he might arrive, she responded to her chief of staff: 

“I hope he comes, I’m gonna punch him out… I’ve been waiting for this. For trespassing on the Capitol grounds. I’m gonna punch him out, I’m gonna go to jail, and I’m gonna be happy.”

Notes:

https://abcnews.go.com/US/york-ag-letitia-james-files-250m-lawsuit-trump/story?id=90240332

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/york-ag-files-injunction-trump-part-fraud-lawsuit/story?id=91389421

https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-10-13/jan-6-hearing-trump-premeditated-victory

https://rollcall.com/2020/12/11/supreme-court-denies-trump-election-challenge/

https://www.npr.org/2022/06/23/1107217243/former-doj-officials-detail-threatening-resign-en-masse-trump-meeting

https://www.wxxinews.org/2022-10-13/heres-every-word-from-the-9th-jan-6-committee-hearing-on-its-investigation

Acyn @Acyn

Pelosi’s response to hearing Trump might march to the Capitol is definitely worth watching

Image

12:10 AM ∙ Oct 14, 202282,794Likes14,583Retweets

https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-the-jan-6-inquiry-accomplished-donald-trump-liz-cheney-subpoena-congress-11665699321

Please Donate

Research

$1.00

%d bloggers like this: