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Category Archives: Dirty side of Politics


NOV 22

Two big stories landed over the weekend. 

The first harks back to the furor last May when the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health—the decision overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized abortion rights as a constitutional right—was leaked to Politico before it was released. At the time, Chief Justice John Roberts called the leak a “singular and egregious breach of…trust” and ordered an investigation to find the leaker. In late October, Justice Samuel Alito told the Heritage Foundation that the leak was a “grave betrayal of trust by somebody, and it was a shock” that had made the court’s right-wing majority “targets for assassination.”  

On Saturday, Jodi Kantor and Jo Becker of the New York Times reported that the Reverend Rob Schenck, formerly an antiabortion activist, wrote to Roberts in July (although the letter was dated June 7, 2022) to say that in 2014 he had received advance notice of the court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby—the decision allowing corporations to deny their employees contraceptive health care coverage—from a woman who had just had dinner with Justice and Mrs. Alito. The dinner guest told Schenck that she had learned that Alito was writing the decision and that it would favor evangelical Christians. Schenck, who has become an advocate of choice as he is trying to mark himself as a progressive evangelical leader, signed the letter to Roberts, “Yours in the interest of truth and fairness.” 

Schenck provided the reporters with contemporary emails suggesting he knew the outcome of the Hobby Lobby case ahead of time, and they talked to four people who confirmed that he had confidential information about it before the court handed it down. He used that information to prepare a public relations push ready to go the minute the decision was public.

The leak of a Supreme Court decision is shocking and potentially illegal, but even more shocking than the revelation that there have been two major leaks from the court—both of right-wing opinions authored by Alito—was the story the reporters unraveled of the degree to which evangelical activists worked to become close to the justices, especially through participation in the court’s historical society, as well as religious events, a plan Schenck called “Operation Higher Court.” Their goal was to influence the justices quietly, and it appears to have been at least somewhat successful: in July, Peggy Nienaber, the executive director of Liberty Counsel’s D.C. ministry, who worked with Schenck, was caught on a hot mic saying she prayed with certain Supreme Court justices.

On Sunday, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA) wrote to Chief Justice John Roberts to say that if the court is not going to investigate the breaches, lawmakers will. 

New York Times reporters were evidently busy this weekend, because Eric Lipton and Maggie Haberman reported Sunday that the Trump family has begun to work not just with foreign nationals, but with foreign governments themselves. The Trumps have recently signed a $4 billion deal with a Saudi Arabian real estate company that is backed by the government of Oman. 

The Trumps are deeply tangled with the Saudis already, of course, hosting the LIV Golf tournaments backed by the Saudi government and—in Jared Kushner’s case—investing $2 billion of Saudi government funds, a deal that Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, personally approved after the panel that screens investments advised against the deal. 

Meanwhile, prosecutors today called their last witness in the criminal trial of the Trump Organization for fraud and tax evasion. Key witness Allen Weisselberg, former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, has painted a picture of an organization that avoided taxes by paying officers with private school tuition, cars, and rent money. The company denies all charges and says the fraudulent movement of money can be tied to Weisselberg alone. 

Finally tonight, on a lighter note, this morning President Joe Biden pardoned turkeys Chocolate and Chip, lucky turkeys indeed in this season where supply chain choke points and the late season, virulent avian flu meant the culling of 7.3 million birds earlier this year, at least 3.6% of the nation’s turkeys. Chocolate and Chip will live out their lives on the campus of North Carolina State University.

Later, the president and First Lady Jill Biden had a “Friendsgiving” dinner this afternoon at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, with service members and military families, greeting them table by table and then thanking both the “best fighting force in the history of the world” and those at home who, in the words of poet John Milton, “stand and wait.” 


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.

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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.


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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.”


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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.


Aaron Rupar @atrupar

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


1:34 PM ∙ Oct 16, 20225,196Likes1,294Retweets final-weeks-before-midterms/

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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.”


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Heather Cox RichardsonOct 13

Today, a jury in a civil trial in Connecticut determined that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and Free Speech Systems, the parent company of his “InfoWars” network, must pay $965 million to the families of eight of those murdered at Sandy Hook and an FBI agent who responded to the shooting. A previous decision in a similar case left Jones with an order to pay almost $50 million to the parents of one of the other Sandy Hook victims, and a third Sandy Hook damages trial is pending.

Twenty first-graders and six educators died in the 2012 attack, but Jones insisted the massacre was a hoax and the victims’ families actors, all part of a plot to create an excuse for confiscating guns.

Jones’s followers have harassed the families ever since. Jones has admitted his theories were wrong and the massacre happened, but he says that he is not to blame for the actions of his followers and that the harassment was not as bad as the plaintiffs claim.

A judge earlier ruled that Jones is liable for defamation, invasion of privacy, inflicting emotional distress, and violating Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act by lying about the massacre to sell his products on InfoWars. A representative from Free Speech Systems testified that Jones and the company made at least $100 million in the last ten years.

Jones was not at the court today. He was broadcasting, making fun of the proceedings, and begging his followers for money, promising it would not go to pay the damages because he had declared bankruptcy and, in any case, he intended to appeal.

What we are seeing is what happens when the MAGA narrative meets a legal system that requires sworn testimony and recognizes perjury as a crime.

Jones and InfoWars pushed the lies that fueled the rise of today’s Republican extremists, and Jones is a prominent Trump supporter who was part of the events in Washington on January 5 and 6, 2021. Tonight, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) defended him, saying that “all he did was speak words,” and suggesting the case against him was “political persecution.” Like others on the right, Greene suggests this case is about free speech, when in fact, the First Amendment to the Constitution protects us only from the government silencing us. It does not stop legal responsibility for damage our words cause, for which Jones has been found liable. A jury—not the government—has assigned the $965 million award to those whose lives Jones harmed.

This legal reckoning is a significant blow to Jones’s ability to continue spreading lies.

Meanwhile, the $1.6 billion lawsuit in which Dominion Voting Systems is suing the Fox News Corporation for its lies about Dominion’s voting machines in the 2020 election is moving forward. The FNC is apparently planning to argue that FNC personalities were simply expressing opinions when they said the machines were rigged, much as FNC has argued to defend host Tucker Carlson from lawsuits, saying that he was not reporting facts and that no “reasonable viewer” would take him seriously.

Dominion’s $1.3 billion lawsuit against Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, who was a leading figure in pushing the lies that the voting machines were rigged, is also moving forward, although in March she asked a federal judge to dismiss the case against her, saying that “no reasonable person would conclude that [her] statements were truly statements of fact.” On September 28, a federal judge dismissed her countersuit, in which Powell claimed Dominion was suing her “to punish and make an example of her.”

The clash between reality and image was in the news again tonight when Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post reported that a Mar-a-Lago employee has placed Trump directly at the center of the retention of government documents in defiance of a subpoena. The employee told federal agents that Trump himself supervised the moving of boxes of documents, and that the shift happened after Trump’s team received a subpoena to return any documents bearing classified markings that were still at Mar-a-Lago.

Security camera footage backed up the employee’s story.

Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich tried to spin the news by telling Barrett and Dawsey: “The Biden administration has weaponized law enforcement and fabricated a Document Hoax in a desperate attempt to retain political power,” but that narrative is running up against the rush of Trump’s lawyers to get away from this case.

Trump lawyer Christina Bobb, a former commentator on the right-wing One America News Network, signed a letter on June 3 certifying that Trump had returned all the records marked “classified,” “based upon the information that has been provided to me.” But the August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago turned up more than 100 more.

Bobb has hired a criminal defense attorney and is cooperating with the Department of Justice. She told investigators that Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran had drafted the letter and told her to sign it; she insisted on the disclaimer. Now Corcoran, too, has an incentive to work with the Department of Justice and to tell the truth, rather than doubling down on a lie.

Trump has ridden a false narrative in the past by managing to delay legal reckonings.

But today, New York federal judge Lewis A. Kaplan denied former president Donald Trump’s attempt to delay his deposition, set for October 19, in the defamation case brought against him by writer E. Jean Carroll.

Carroll has sued Trump for defaming her by claiming she lied when she said Trump raped her in the mid-1990s. Trump has appealed to substitute the United States for himself as the defendant in the case, since he was president when he said he had not committed the assault. A previous attempt on the part of Trump’s attorney general Bill Barr to substitute the U.S. for Trump failed, so, the judge pointed out, “this is a second bite at that apple.” Still, Trump wanted to pause the case while that appeal is pending.

“As this Court previously has observed,” Judge Kaplan wrote, “Mr. Trump has litigated this case since it began in 2019 with the effect and probably the purpose of delaying it.” He denied the attempt to stop Trump’s deposition, saying Trump “should not be permitted to run the clock out.”

The judge also pointed out that New York has recently passed the Adult Survivors Act, providing a one-year window for civil lawsuits based on sex crimes that are otherwise outside the statute of limitations, and that Carroll might want to sue Trump for damages under that law.

After Kaplan’s decision, Trump called the U.S. legal system a “broken disgrace,” claimed he had no idea who Carroll is, and called her story “a Hoax and a lie, just like all the other Hoaxes that have been played on me for the past seven years.” But he will have to testify.

Tomorrow, in yet another example of the power of reality, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol will hold another public hearing at 1:00 Eastern time.


Zoe Tillman @ZoeTillman

Now: A NY federal judge denied Donald Trump’s bid to delay discovery in writer E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case — incl. his scheduled deposition — while his appeal is pending. Trump “should not be permitted to run the clock out…” More to come.…


3:53 PM ∙ Oct 12, 2022


Ron Filipkowski 🇺🇦 @RonFilipkowski

Let’s let all the Alex defenders come out publicly tonight for the whole country to see. Keep them coming.


8:43 PM ∙ Oct 12, 202228,293Likes4,477Retweets

Renato Mariotti @renato_mariotti

Christina Bobb spoke to the Feds and told them that another Trump lawyer, Evan Corcoran, was the source of the false info in the certification she made regarding the Mar-a-Lago documents. If true, she is likely right that she has no liability. But now *he* is in the hot seat.

Ken Dilanian @KenDilanianNBC

Exclusive: Trump lawyer Christina Bobb speaks to federal investigators in Mar-a-Lago case via ⁦@MarcACaputo⁩ PM ∙ Oct 10, 20221,293Likes352Retweets

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Heather Cox RichardsonOct 3

There’s a moment in Representative Adam Schiff’s 2021 book Midnight in Washington that jumps out. The book centers around the first impeachment of former president Trump for withholding congressionally approved funds for Ukraine to fight off Russian incursions. In managing the impeachment trial before the Senate, Schiff (D-CA) and his team had prepared thoroughly and carefully to demonstrate that Trump had, in fact, withheld the money in order to force Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to help Trump rig the 2020 election. 

Trump’s team wanted Zelensky to announce that he was launching an investigation into Hunter Biden, whose father, Joe Biden, was the opponent Trump most feared for the 2020 presidential election. The media would jump at such an announcement and chew it over until by the time the election came around, voters would associate Biden with criminality, just as they had condemned Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, over her use of a private email server. 

As Schiff prepared to summarize the powerful testimony that supported the case for impeachment, a member of his staff stopped him. Schiff recalled the staffer telling him: “They think we’ve proven him guilty. They need to know why he should be removed.” 

Schiff interpreted that question to mean that senators wanted to know why they should remove him. After all, he was giving them the judges they wanted and permitting them to run the country as they wished. 

Schiff’s masterful summary of the case both at the trial and in his book answered that question, explaining that senators should have taken on themselves the responsibility for removing Trump from office because he threatened the country’s national security and, if not checked, would continue to abuse his power. 

In the end, only Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted to convict Trump of abuse of power (but not obstruction of Congress), but that one vote from “one brave man,” Schiff recalled, “had validated my belief and that of the Founders, that the people possessed sufficient virtue to be self-governing.”

But there is another interpretation of the reason senators wanted to know why Trump should be removed even though they admitted he was guilty of trying to rig an election with machinations that hurt the country’s national security: The leaders of the Republican Party had abandoned the rule of law.

After World War II, political philosopher Hannah Arendt explained that lies are central to the rise of authoritarianism. In place of reality, authoritarians lie to create a “fictitious world through consistent lying.” Ordinary people embraced such lies because they believed everyone lied anyhow, and if caught trusting a lie, they would “take refuge in cynicism,” saying they had known all along they were being lied to and admiring their leaders “for their superior tactical cleverness.” But leaders embraced the lies because they reinforced those leaders’ superiority, and gave them power, over those who did believe them. 

That pattern, in which lies undermine the rule of law, seems to be going around these days. It is in the news internationally as Russian president Vladimir Putin is directly challenging international law both by taking Ukrainian territory by force and by committing war crimes. He justifies that destruction of the rule of law by claiming that sham referenda in four regions of Ukraine have made those regions Russian, and that any attempt of Ukrainians to reclaim their territory will be an attack on Russia that may require a nuclear response. 

The rejection of the rule of law is also in the news at home, as Republican leaders appear to be following Trump’s lead. Tonight, New York Times reporters Edgar Sandoval, Miriam Jordan, Patricia Mazzei, and J. David Goodman explained the lies behind Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s dumping of migrants at Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts last month. 

Since Biden took office, Republicans have tried to make unauthorized immigration a key election issue. In June 2021, Texas governor Greg Abbott and Arizona governor Doug Ducey invoked the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, an agreement that lets states send aid to each other after a governor has declared a disaster or an emergency. Abbott has declared a disaster and Ducey an emergency over the influx of migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border, saying that the Biden administration is “unwilling or unable” to secure the border. They called for governors of other states to send “additional law enforcement personnel and equipment” to “arrest migrants who illegally cross the border into our territory.” 

Iowa governor Kim Reynolds, Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts, and Florida governor Ron DeSantis all pledged to send law enforcement to Texas and Arizona; South Dakota governor Kristi Noem one-upped them by announcing that she would send 50 South Dakota National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and that billionaires Willis and Reba Johnson from Franklin, Tennessee, would pay for the troops.

Florida’s budget this year—signed in June—continued this trend with a $12 million fund “to facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens out of Florida.” According to Douglas Soule of the Tallahassee Democrat, that money came from interest on the $8.8 billion Florida got from the American Rescue Plan to address the coronavirus pandemic. Because it was interest, rather than principal, it was not covered by the federal requirement to address Covid-19, as the federal money itself was. 

The idea was to highlight federal transportation of “unauthorized” migrants into Florida, but by August the money was untouched because there actually weren’t large groups of migrants coming to the state. So DeSantis focused instead on Texas, where a woman the New York Times reporters identified as Perla Huerta, a U.S. Army veteran who was a combat medic and a counterintelligence agent for two decades before being discharged last month, recruited destitute migrants to go north with the promise of work. Vertol Systems, which charters airplanes and is well connected with Florida Republican politicians, was paid more than $1.5 million, but how they were hired and by whom is not clear.

The people the operation targeted were legal asylum seekers, who were provided with fake maps and misled about where they were going. 

Putin has to reckon with reality, in the form of Russian men fleeing the country, protests in Dagestan and elsewhere, the international community standing firm on the law, and Ukrainian forces continuing to gain ground. Less than a day after Putin announced he had taken the Ukrainian regions, Russian troops fled from the key transport city of Lyman.

Whether DeSantis and the Republican Party will have to reckon with reality in 2022 remains unclear. But it seems unlikely that any reality check will come from Republican leaders. Just this weekend, they have refused to comment on Trump’s inflammatory statement about Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), which seemed to encourage violence against him and included a racist smear against McConnell’s wife, Trump transportation secretary Elaine Chao. 

In the Washington Post, columnist Karen Tumulty concluded that while Trump was outrageous, “there is plenty of fault to go around. The Republican Party’s refusal to denounce him makes them complicit.” 



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Heather Cox RichardsonSep 25

In Arizona, Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson has restored a law put into effect by Arizona’s Territorial legislature in 1864 and then reworked in 1901 that has been widely interpreted as a ban on all abortions except to save a woman’s life. Oddly, I know quite a bit about the 1864 Arizona Territorial legislature, and its story matters as we think about the attempt to impose its will in modern America.

In fact, the Civil War era law seems not particularly concerned with women handling their own reproductive care—it actually seems to ignore that practice entirely. The laws for this territory, chaotic and still at war in 1864, appear to reflect the need to rein in a lawless population of men.

The criminal code talks about “miscarriage” in the context of other male misbehavior. It focuses at great length on dueling, for example— making illegal not only the act of dueling (punishable by three years in jail) but also having anything to do with a duel. And then, in the section that became the law now resurrected in Arizona, the law takes on the issue of poisoning.

In that context, the context of punishing those who secretly administer poison to kill someone, it says that anyone who uses poison or instruments “with the intention to procure the miscarriage of any woman then being with child” would face two to five years in jail, “Provided, that no physician shall be affected by the last clause of this section, who in the discharge of his professional duties deems it necessary to produce the miscarriage of any woman in order to save her life.”

The next section warns against cutting out tongues or eyes, slitting noses or lips, or “rendering…useless” someone’s arm or leg.

The law that is currently interpreted to outlaw abortion care seemed designed to keep men in the chaos of the Civil War from inflicting damage on others—including pregnant women—rather than to police women’s reproductive care, which women largely handled on their own or through the help of doctors who used drugs and instruments to remove what they called dangerous blockages of women’s natural cycles in the four to five months before fetal movement became obvious.

Written to police the behavior of men, the code tells a larger story about power and control.

The Arizona Territorial legislature in 1864 had 18 men in the lower House of Representatives and 9 men in the upper house, the Council, for a total of 27 men. They met on September 26, 1864, in Prescott. The session ended about six weeks later, on November 10.

The very first thing the legislators did was to authorize the governor to appoint a commissioner to prepare a code of laws for the territory. But William T. Howell, a judge who had arrived in the territory the previous December, had already written one, which the legislature promptly accepted as a blueprint.

Although they did discuss his laws, the members later thanked Judge Howell for “preparing his excellent and able Code of Laws” and, as a mark of their appreciation, provided that the laws would officially be called “The Howell Code.” (They also paid him a handsome $2500, which was equivalent to at least 5 years’ salary for a workingman in that era.) Judge Howell wrote the territory’s criminal code essentially single-handedly.

The second thing the legislature did was to give a member of the House of Representatives a divorce from his wife.

Then they established a county road near Prescott.

Then they gave a local army surgeon a divorce from his wife.

In a total of 40 laws, the legislature incorporated a number of road companies, railway companies, ferry companies, and mining companies. They appropriated money for schools and incorporated the Arizona Historical Society.

These 27 men constructed a body of laws to bring order to the territory and to jump-start development. But their vision for the territory was a very particular one.

The legislature provided that “No black or mulatto, or Indian, Mongolian, or Asiatic, shall be permitted to [testify in court] against any white person,” thus making it impossible for them to protect their property, their families, or themselves from their white neighbors. It declared that “all marriages between a white person and a [Black person], shall…be absolutely void.”

And it defined the age of consent for sexual intercourse to be just ten years old (even if a younger child had “consented”).

So, in 1864, a legislature of 27 white men created a body of laws that discriminated against Black people and people of color and considered girls as young as 10 able to consent to sex, and they adopted a body of criminal laws written by one single man.

And in 2022, one of those laws is back in force in Arizona.


John S. Goff, “William T. Howell and the Howell Code of Arizona,” American Journal of Legal History 11 (July 1967): 221–233.

Acts, Resolutions and Memorials, Adopted by the First Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Arizona (Prescott: Office of the Arizona Miner, 1865). 

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September 23, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson
Sep 24
 Today, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who took over as the chair of the House Republican Conference after the party rejected Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) for her refusal to back the January 6 insurrection, released the House Republicans’ plan for the country.

Covering just a single page, it presents vague aspirations—many of which Biden has already put in place—but focuses on the radical extremes of the MAGA party while trying to make those extremes sound mild.

The so-called “Commitment to America” calls for a strong economy, a safe nation, a free future, and an accountable government. So far, so good.

But the first topic—making the economy strong—is a paraphrase of what the Biden administration has been doing. The Republicans call for fighting inflation and lowering the cost of living, making America energy independent, bringing down gas prices, strengthening the supply chain, and ending the country’s dependence on China.

This is quite literally the platform of the Democrats, but while the Republicans offer no actual proposals to contribute to these goals, Biden has taken concrete steps to address inflation by taking on the shipping monopolies that hiked transportation costs, for example, while Democrats in Congress have passed legislation capping the cost of certain prescription medications. Biden has released reserves to help combat high gas prices, which have now fallen close to their cost last March—a barrel of oil is now under $80—while expanding our nation’s pool of truck drivers and just last week averting a train strike that would have endangered supply chains. The incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act are designed specifically to make America energy independent while addressing climate change, and Biden’s extraordinary efforts to support economic development in the Indo-Pacific region, along with the CHIPS and Science Act, were explicitly designed to reduce U.S. dependence on China.

It feels rather as if the Republicans recognize that Biden’s policies are popular, and are hoping that voters haven’t noticed that he is actually putting them in place.

Then the document gets to the heart of its argument, recycling MAGA talking points in language that makes it very attractive. Who doesn’t want national safety, for example?

But national safety is described here as securing the border and combatting illegal immigration (something already in place), adding 200,000 police officers through recruiting bonuses, cracking down on prosecutors and district attorneys who refuse to prosecute crimes (this is likely directed at those who say they will not prosecute women for obtaining abortions), criminalizing all fentanyl, and supporting our troops and exercising peace through strength (which likely means reversing Biden’s emphasis on multilateral diplomacy to return to using the U.S. military as a global enforcer)— all MAGA demands.

“A Future That’s Built on Freedom” is a similar sleight of hand, meaning something far from the freedom of the recent past. Here it means giving parents control over their childrens’ education (more book banning and laws that prohibit teaching subjects that make students “uncomfortable”), “defend[ing] fairness by ensuring that only women can compete in women’s sports” (there’s the anti-trans statement), achieving “longer, healthier lives for Americans” by what appears to be getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, and what appears to be a defense of the use of ivermectin and other quack cures popular on the right (“lower prices through transparency, choice, and competition,” “invest in lifesaving cures,” and “improve access to telemedicine”). It also demands confronting “Big Tech” to make it fair, which is likely a reference to the right wing’s conviction that social media discriminates against it by banning hate speech.

The section about accountable government calls for preserving constitutional freedoms, which they interpret as an apparent national ban on abortion—a constitutional right until this past June—saying they will “protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers.” They defend “religious freedom,” which the right wing, including the Supreme Court, has interpreted as freedom for Christian schools to receive public tax money and for Christian coaches to pray with students. The document also calls for safeguarding the Second Amendment, which the right wing has increasingly interpreted since the 1970s to mean that the government cannot regulate gun ownership.

This section of the document calls for rigorous oversight of the government “to rein in government abuse of power and corruption,” providing “real transparency,” and requiring the White House “to answer for its incompetence at home and abroad.” It also says Republicans will “save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare.”

While the part of this section that calls for stopping government abuse and incompetence seems rich coming from the MAGA Republicans, the statement that they intend to protect Social Security and Medicare strikes me as I felt when hearing Trump tell voters in 2020 that he would protect Obamacare at the very time his lawyers were in court trying to overturn the law. Now, in this moment, leading Republicans have vowed to get rid of Social Security and Medicare, which is an interesting way to “save and strengthen” them.

Similarly, the section promising to “restore the people’s voice” calls for voting restrictions.

In short, the document feels like the doublespeak from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. To defend the indefensible, Orwell wrote in an essay titled “Politics and the English Language,” “political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness…. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), who focused on the power of language to alter reality and who helped to write the 1994 Contract with America that enabled the Republicans to take control of the House for the first time since 1954, worked on this document. The Contract with America, which party leaders called a contract as a promise that it would be binding, led the Republicans to shut down the government for 28 days between November 1995 and January 1996 to get their way before they entirely abandoned the “contract.”

To sell today’s document to voters, Republicans used a slick video, but Jennifer Bendery of HuffPost noted that the film uses stock videos from Russia and Ukraine in its “Commitment to America.” When Bendery reached out to McCarthy for comment, his spokesperson Mark Bednar responded: “Interesting how you guys aren’t remotely interested in the issues facing the American people in the video.”

But will it work? The document tries to win Trump voters without actually mentioning Trump, who now alienates all but his fervent supporters. But he continues to dominate the Republican Party and to grab the headlines. Tonight, 60 Minutes teased a story that will broadcast on Sunday and is already raising eyebrows. In it, Denver Riggleman, former senior tech advisor for the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, said that the White House switchboard connected a call to a rioter’s phone while the Capitol was under siege on January 6, 2021.—Notes: Minutes @60MinutesThe White House switchboard connected a call to a rioter while the Capitol was under siege on January 6, 2021, according to former January 6 committee staffer Denver Riggleman. “I only know one end of that call,” Riggleman said. 23rd 202213,260 Retweets32,088 Likes Klain @WHCOSOil has fallen below $80/barrel today. This makes this @POTUS message from yesterday even more compelling. President Biden @POTUSGas prices fell by $1.30 this summer, that’s good news for families. But energy companies are making record profits and retailer margins are 30% above normal. That’s money that should be in folks’ pockets. Industry must pass savings on to consumers by lowering prices. Now.September 23rd 2022593 Retweets2,240 LikesShareLikeCommentShare


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