Skip navigation

Category Archives: politricks

January 30, 2023

Heather Cox Richardson

3 hr ago

The news today illustrates a dramatic difference between governing and garnering votes.

President Joe Biden was at the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel in Baltimore, Maryland, today to celebrate the bipartisan infrastructure law, passed in November 2021, that is investing about $1.2 trillion in fixing our highways, bridges, internet access, and so on. In Maryland it will devote about $4 billion to fixing and expanding the 150-year-old Baltimore and Potomac railroad tunnel, which has become a bottleneck for the 9 million commuters who pass through it as they travel the vital link between Philadelphia and Washington.

The law is formally known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and Biden noted that fixing the tunnel is expected to create 20,000 jobs over the next ten years. He also announced that it, along with all the Amtrak developments on the Northeast Corridor, would be built by union labor.

Tomorrow, Biden will speak at the West Side Rail Yard in New York City to talk about how funding for the Hudson Tunnel Project from the bipartisan infrastructure law will improve reliability for the 200,000 passengers a day who travel through it on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.

The passage of the measure in late 2021 took months of careful negotiations even as former president Trump—whose own inability to pass an infrastructure measure became a running joke—tried to scuttle the talks. Biden’s victory lap is not undeserved.

The administration today also called attention to the effects of its new border enforcement measures providing migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela a legal path to obtain a two-year visa so long as they have a U.S. sponsor and a thorough background check. The new system will admit up to 30,000 migrants a month.

New data shows that the number of migrants from those four countries has dropped 97% since the program went into effect. Overall, migrant encounters at the border have dropped by half, although migration from Ecuador and Peru, which are growing unstable, has increased. The administration has asked Congress repeatedly to fix our outdated immigration system, but Republicans derailed the effort in the previous Congress when they objected to a path to citizenship for so-called dreamers: people brought to this country as children. Now almost twenty states led by Republicans say the administration’s new program violates the law, and they are suing to stop it.

In charge of the House, Republicans plan to hold hearings on what they call Biden’s border crisis. Today the White House called out “some elected officials” for “trying to block the Administration’s effective measures because they would rather keep immigration an issue to campaign on than one to solve. If those elected officials succeed,” the press office said, “their actions will lead to more illegal immigration.”

Actually governing is a lot harder than talking about it. On December 30, House majority leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) promised that the House Republicans would “hit the ground running to do what we promised on the border, crime, energy, inflation, Life, taxpayer protection & more.” He outlined eleven bills the party would bring to the floor in the first two weeks of the new Congress. Half have indeed been voted on by now—the fifth week of Congress—but they were only for show. They will never pass the Senate, and no one is trying to negotiate to pass them. The other half aren’t on the calendar.

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin noted today that the Republicans have turned to investigations, abortion, threatening the national debt, and trying to defund the Internal Revenue Service rather than dealing with the issues they insisted were vital in 2022: crime and inflation. She also noted that at the very time the Republicans were hyping those issues, both crime rates and inflation were actually falling.

More demonstrations for the extremist base appear to be coming. As Amy B. Wang noted today in the Washington Post, the Republican National Committee is urging lawmakers to “go on offense in the 2024 election cycle” on antiabortion measures, although since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, voters have made it clear they want abortion rights protected.

Nonetheless, as party leaders have done repeatedly when voters reject their increasingly extremist stands, the RNC suggests that the party did poorly in 2022 not because their stand was too strong but because it was too weak. Candidates were not clear enough about their opposition to abortion. The RNC wants them to demonstrate their conviction by passing strict laws that outlaw abortion at six weeks, before many people know they’re pregnant.

House speaker Kevin McCarthy has, however, backed off on Republican suggestions that they will not agree to raise the debt ceiling without cuts to Social Security and Medicare. On Face the Nation yesterday, he said the party was committed to “strengthening” the programs. In fact, the only proposal on the table right now to strengthen the programs is from the far-right House Republican Study Committee, which calls for strengthening Social Security and Medicare by, among other things, raising the age at which people become eligible for them.

I’d love to hear McCarthy explain how that plan is not a cut in the programs.

Finally, today, former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has applied for a six-month U.S. tourist visa. Bolsonaro entered the United States when he was still president, two days before his successor took office and a little more than a week before his supporters attacked the government and tried to reinstate him. That timing means he came to the U.S. on an A-1 visa restricted to heads of state, which had to be replaced as soon as he was no longer president.

Bolsonaro’s lawyer told Reuters reporter Daphne Psaledakis that Bolsonaro wants “to take some time off, clear his head, and enjoy being a tourist in the United States for a few months before deciding what his next step will be.” In fact, the right-wing leader has made it clear he is afraid of the many investigations underway in Brazil for fraud and now for inciting the attack on the government that might end up putting him behind bars.


Aaron Fritschner @Fritschner

In December incoming House Republican Majority Leader Steve Scalise announced 11 bills the GOP majority would “bring to the House Floor in the first 2 weeks.” Half haven’t gotten votes yet, and none are on the schedule for the current week, which is Week 5 of the 118th Congress

Steve Scalise @SteveScalise

🚨 Sent a letter to my colleagues outlining bills the GOP Majority will bring to the House Floor in the first 2 weeks. We’re ready to hit the ground running to do what we promised on the border, crime, energy, inflation, Life, taxpayer protection & more. PM ∙ Jan 30, 2023345Likes113Retweets

Story by Tommy Christopher • Yesterday 7:47 AM


CNN’s Don Lemon told Daniel Dale he’s “going to be busy” after Dale’s thorough fact-check of Republican Kevin McCarthy’s first 2 weeks as Speaker of the House.

Two weeks ago, McCarthy’s tumultuous bid to become speaker amid a revolt from House conservatives finally culminated in victory on the fifteenth try late on a Friday night into Saturday morning after failing to secure a win in fourteen consecutive votes.

On Tuesday morning’s edition of CNN This Morning, Dale took on McCarthy’s first two weeks since securing the post and found his claims not only false and misleading but in one case, even the opposite of the truth:

DON LEMON: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has had his hands on the gavel for just over two weeks now. And if you’re a person in power, you better believe your expert. Your expert fact checker, Daniel Dale is watching your words. Daniel, good morning. You found some of McCarthy’s claims misleading and some are just plain wrong. So let’s start with the speaker using Nancy Pelosi’s name to defend his position on the debt ceiling. Listen.

KEVIN MCCARTHY: When Trump was president and Nancy Pelosi was speaker, they became a debt ceiling agreement and it was a cap agreement for two years to cap the spending and make those decisions.

DON LEMON: Daniel, what did you find.

DANIEL DALE: Don, this stuff is highly misleading. McCarthy is trying to say, look, why is it crazy for us Republicans to impose a spending cap? Nancy Pelosi, Democrat, did a spending cap in 2019, but that is not actually what happened. What this 2019 Pelosi deal actually did was loosen, soften, raise a pre-existing spending cap that was already in effect because of a 2011 law known as the Budget Control Act. So Pelosi got the government to spend tens of billions of additional dollars over and above the cap that was already in place at the time, and her deal ensured that these discretionary spending caps would expire after 2021. So that Pelosi example is not at all the same as what McCarthy and the conservatives in his caucus are now talking about, which is cut government spending by creating a new spending cap. In fact, Don I think it’s basically the opposite.

DON LEMON: Daniel, we’ve also been hearing Speaker McCarthy repeat the Republican talking point about getting rid of tens of thousands of IRS agents. Listen to this.

KEVIN MCCARTHY: We put out a commitment to America to tell them exactly what we would do if they gave us the power. And in this first week, we continue to keep that commitment. We repealed 87,000 IRS agents.

DON LEMON: Is that accurate?

DANIEL DALE: Don, McCarthy is wrong in two ways here. First of all, House Republicans didn’t actually repeal anything. They did vote to repeal. They passed a bill to repeal more than 70 billion in new IRS funding. But that bill is not going to get through the Senate or President Biden. So they have not changed the law. Second of all, this frequent Republican talking point you hear about how Democrats are hiring 87,000 new IRS agents is just not true. It’s an exaggeration. The Inflation Reduction Act that Biden signed into law last year includes 80 billion in additional funding for the IRS that will very possibly allow the IRS to hire tens of thousands of additional employees, but not even close to all these employees, Don will be agents. The people who conduct audits and investigations sometimes frighten people. Non-agents make up the vast majority of the IRS workforce, and many of the newly hired employees we know will be in things like customer service and operations, in I.T. And experts tell us that many of the new hires will be making up for attrition, filling posts left by tens of thousands of retirements, departures, not taking newly created jobs. So the image McCarthy and other Republicans are trying to conjure, Don, of this army of 87,000 new agents coming to get you is not based on the facts.

DON LEMON: McCarthy also echoing Trump’s claim that federal law enforcement was wrong for executing a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago resort, something the FBI says resulted in the recovery of more than 100 government documents marked as classified and hundreds of other government documents as well. Is this claim true, Daniel?

DANIEL DALE: We know it’s not true, Don, that the government could have just come to Mar-a-Lago at any time, as McCarthy says, without executing a formal search warrant and gotten all the government documents there. The feds, first the National Archives, then DOJ, had been trying for more than a year at the time of the August search to get government records back from Trump without a warrant. It did not work. We know that. The Trump team didn’t even give back all the records marked classified after DOJ went beyond asking and issued a subpoena for them in May. The Trump team hadn’t even given all records back at the time a Trump lawyer signed a certification in June saying they had all been given back. And there was actually a day, June 3rd, where reps from the FBI and DOJ went to Mar-a-Lago without a search warrant. What happened? While, according to a DOJ court filing and I quote, “the former president’s counsel explicitly prohibited government personnel from opening or looking inside any of the boxes that remained in the storage room, giving no opportunity for the government to confirm that no documents with classification markings remained.” So McCarthy claims that they could have just come and gotten these documents in Mar-a-Lago without a warrant. Well, they were there. They weren’t even allowed to look, let alone take anything Don.

DON LEMON: Daniel Dale, you’re going to be busy in the coming weeks and months and years. Thank you very much. Appreciate that.

Watch above via CNN This Morning.


Not sure if you’ve heard, but the U.S. midterm elections are tomorrow.

Just kidding, of course. Not sure anyone can think of much else.

Remember, though, this election is full of wild cards. Traditionally—but not always—the party of the president does poorly in the first midterm election. But we are in uncharted territory: never before in our history have more than half of Americans lost the recognition of a constitutional right, as the Supreme Court took from us with the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision in June, overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized the constitutional right to an abortion.

Never, too, have we had to vote in an election where more than half the candidates of one of the parties deny that the president was fairly elected. Those candidates have suggested that, had they been in power in 2020, they would have put former president Donald Trump in power even though he lost the popular vote by more than 7 million and lost in the Electoral College. Their position is a profound attack on our democracy.

For all the polls showing that Democrats are going to win in huge numbers or Republicans are, no one knows how it will turn out. The polls are deeply problematic this time around, and at least some of them are attempts by Republicans to boost the hopes of their donors and to keep Democrats from voting. Perhaps even more than most elections, this one will come down to turnout.

There are, though, some stories worth following:

There has been a crazy amount of money invested in this year’s contests, much of it by a very few people. Ronald Lauder, for example, the 78-year-old heir to the cosmetics fortune, has dumped at least $11 million into getting a Trump Republican, Representative Lee Zeldin, elected governor of New York. Billionaire Peter Thiel put $30 million into super PACs backing Republican senate candidates J.D. Vance in Ohio and Blake Masters in Arizona.

Today, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch and the leader of the private military company the Wagner Group, who is close to Russian president Vladimir Putin, boasted that Russians had interfered in U.S. elections and continue to do so. “We have interfered, we are interfering and we will continue to interfere. Carefully, accurately, surgically and in our own way, as we know how to do.” He added: “During our pinpoint operations, we will remove both kidneys and the liver at once.”

Prigozhin is apparently behind the Russia-based “troll farms” that try to affect U.S. elections. Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times writes that Russians have indeed targeted the 2022 elections to make right-wing voters angry and undermine trust in U.S. elections. Their hope is to erode support for Ukraine’s struggle to repel Russian invasion by electing Republicans who side with Putin.

Republicans are not acting as if they expect big wins tomorrow. Many of the Republican candidates have refused to say they would accept the election results, and Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson is already saying that Democrats will steal the election.

Others are fighting to get Democratic mail-in ballots thrown out, especially in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Still others are trying to game the vote count already, claiming that results that are not announced by the end of the day on Tuesday are suspicious. But votes postmarked on Election Day can take days to arrive. In addition, a number of Republican-dominated states have made it illegal to count mail-in votes before Election Day, creating backlogs that take time to work through. It sounds as if they, like Trump in 2020, are expecting to lose the actual vote and to fight to steal it.

The Department of Justice will be monitoring the polls in 64 jurisdictions in 24 states to make sure those jurisdictions comply with federal voting rights laws. Officials remind voters that any disruptions at polling places should be reported to officials. Michigan secretary of state Jocelyn Benson expressed thanks to the Department of Justice for “real support for protecting voters,” which she said was missing in 2020 under the former president.

Aside from tomorrow’s election, there is an epic fight brewing in the Republican Party. Former president Donald Trump threatened to announce tonight at a rally in Ohio that he is running for president in 2024, likely because he believes such an announcement will make it harder for the Department of Justice to indict him for his theft of classified documents when he left the White House. He is also concerned that Florida governor Ron DeSantis will steal his thunder and capture the 2024 nomination, but because they are competing for the same voters, an announcement from Trump will undercut DeSantis.

Republican Party leaders urged Trump to hold off on the announcement, worrying it would energize Democratic voters before Election Day. In the end, Trump’s announcement tonight was: “I’m going to be making a very big announcement on Tuesday, November 15, at Mar-a-Lago in Florida…. We want nothing to detract from the importance of tomorrow.”

Finally, for all the uncertainty surrounding tomorrow’s election, there is one thing of which I am 100% certain. Far more Americans today are concerned about our democracy, and determined to reclaim it, than were even paying attention to it in 2016. There are new organizations, new connections, new voters, new efforts to remake the country better than it has ever been, and the frantic efforts of the Republicans to suppress voting, gerrymander the country, and now to take away our right to choose our leaders indicates we are far more powerful than we believe we are. No matter what happens tomorrow, that will continue to be true, and I am ever so proud to be one of you.


Matt Ortega @MattOrtega

This is absolute bullshit. Some states, like Pennsylvania, prohibit counting early votes until election day. No serious person claims votes must be counted by x time or day or be discarded, especially as Republicans demand time consuming hand counts.

Aaron Rupar @atrupar

Trump lawyer Christina Bobb previews that MAGAs will try to declare victory as votes are being counted: “There should absolutely be a result no later than the middle of the night, early Wed. morning. I think those areas that don’t have a result, it’s gonna look very suspicious” AM ∙ Nov 8, 2022708Likes278Retweets

Aaron Rupar @atrupar

Trump lawyer Christina Bobb previews that MAGAs will try to declare victory as votes are being counted: “There should absolutely be a result no later than the middle of the night, early Wed. morning. I think those areas that don’t have a result, it’s gonna look very suspicious”


12:09 AM ∙ Nov 8, 20222,140Likes780Retweets

Brian Tyler Cohen @briantylercohen

Trump: “I’m going to be making a very big announcement on Tuesday, November 15 at Mar-a-Lago in Florida… We want nothing to detract from the importance of tomorrow.”3:08 AM ∙ Nov 8, 20221,541Likes207Retweets

Please Donate

Research & Subscriptions



The Biden White House has tried since President Joe Biden’s inauguration to move past the Trump years and to focus instead on strengthening democracy by rebuilding the American middle class and by renewing our alliances and friendships with democratic allies. As his message has repeatedly been drowned out by the cultural messaging of the Republicans, Biden has begun to criticize their economic plans more directly, especially in the last few weeks. Today the White House released a fact sheet laying out exactly what it would look like to have the Republicans’ economic plans put into effect.

The Republican Party as a whole has not put forward a legislative agenda before this election to attract voters. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told donors, lobbyists, and senators in December 2021 that the party would focus only on attacking Biden and the Democrats. A Republican operative told Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene of Axios, “One of the biggest mistakes challengers often make is thinking campaigns are about them and their ideas…. No one gives a sh*t about that. Elections are referendums on incumbents.”

Other Republicans disagreed with McConnell and have offered plans that cater to their base but run the risk of alienating non-MAGA voters. The White House highlighted some of those points today, focusing on prescription drug costs, Social Security, and Medicare.

The Inflation Reduction Act, which passed in August with Democratic votes alone, allows Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs with pharmaceutical companies, caps the annual cost of medication at $2,000, caps insulin costs for those on Medicare at $35 a month, and lowers health care premiums for those whose coverage comes from the Affordable Care Act. 

The White House said that Republicans want to repeal these measures, and in October, Senate Republicans James Lankford (OK), Mike Lee (UT), Cynthia Lummis (WY), and Marco Rubio (FL) in fact introduced the “Protecting Drug Innovation Act” to remove the negotiation ability, price caps, and health care premium adjustments in the Inflation Reduction Act “as if such parts had never been enacted.” Lee explained that “price controls never work” but instead “exacerbate the problems they seek to resolve. Mandating fixed prescription drug prices will ultimately result in the shortening of American lives.”

Republican leaders have also called for policies that threaten Social Security and Medicare. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which funds senatorial campaigns, issued an eleven-point plan to “Rescue America” that called for—among other things—sunsetting all laws five years after passage and reauthorizing the ones that lawmakers wanted to keep. (Scott later added a twelfth point to the plan: cutting taxes.) 

When challenged that his plan would threaten Medicare, Scott has repeated a talking point that Politifact, the Washington Post Fact Checker, CNN, and have all called false: that Democrats are threatening Medicare because they “cut $280 billion out of Medicare.” In fact, the Inflation Reduction Act saves the government—and therefore taxpayers—somewhere between $237 billion and $288 billion by permitting it to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies; it does not cut services. In other words, Scott is lying that reduced government spending on Medicare thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act—savings the Republicans want to end—is the same thing as calling to sunset the program in five years. 

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) has called for making the funding for Social Security and Medicare discretionary, meaning it would have to be voted on annually, rather than leaving it as mandatory, covered by statute. “We’ve got to turn everything into discretionary spending, so it’s all evaluated, so that we can fix problems or fix programs that are broken, that are going to be going bankrupt,” Johnson told a right-wing radio show. “Because, again, as long as things are on automatic pilot, we just continue to pile up debt.”

Like the plans of other Republicans, those of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), chaired by Representative Jim Banks of Indiana, start from the position that taxes on the wealthy hurt workers by causing “the misallocation of capital, creating a less robust economy, and leading to slower wage growth and job creation.” The RSC released a budget in September that rejected the idea of raising taxes to stabilize Medicare and Social Security and instead called for increasing the age for Medicare eligibility to 67 and that for Social Security eligibility to 70. 

The Republican argument for weakening these popular programs is that they are too big a drain on the federal budget and that it is important to continue cutting taxes on the wealthy in order to free up capital for them to reinvest in the economy. This has been Republicans’ argument since 1980, but it has never produced either the economic growth or the tax revenue its supporters promised. In contrast, Biden and the Democrats maintain that cutting the nation’s social safety net will create hardship that will not be offset by tax cuts for the wealthy.  

Biden and former president Barack Obama, who has been speaking in states with close races, have repeatedly made the point that Americans pay into Social Security throughout their working lives and have earned the payments they eventually receive. Today, in front of an audience in Florida, Biden read directly from Scott’s plan to sunset laws, quoted Johnson’s plan to make Social Security discretionary, and said “Who in the hell do they think they are?”


Sarah Reese Jones @PoliticusSarah

Biden literally reads Rick Scott’s plan to get rid of Social Security and Medicare to the audience in Florida, and after talking about Scott and Sen. Ron Johnson says, “Who in the hell do they think they are?”


7:28 PM ∙ Nov 1, 202213,777Likes5,207Retweets

Please Donate



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.”


Brian Klaas @brianklaas

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


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

The Independent @Independent

‘Tip of the iceberg’: Lettuce that outlived Truss premiership makes victory speech‘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.”


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

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

Please Donate



Heather Cox Richardson
Oct 8/ 2022
The day began with news that during Trump’s first impeachment trial, all the Republican senators believed Trump had broken the law when he tried to force President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to smear Hunter Biden before he would release the money Congress had appropriated to help Ukraine fight off Russia. “Out of one hundred senators, you have zero who believe you that there was no quid pro quo. None. There’s not a single one,” warned Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), according to a forthcoming book by Politico reporter Rachael Bade and Washington Post reporter Karoun Demirjian. But then–Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) kept the Republican senators behind Trump by telling them: “This is not about this president. It’s not about anything he’s been accused of doing…. It has always been about November 3, 2020. It’s about flipping the Senate.”Republicans did not manage to hold the Senate, of course, in part because Trump’s fury at Republican leaders’ refusal to force Georgia to throw out its electoral votes made him depress Republican voting in the special Senate election that ultimately yielded two Democratic senators—Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock—and gave Democrats 50 seats. Because Vice President Kamala Harris, the deciding vote in the tied Senate, is a Democrat, control of the Senate shifted to the Democrats.Democratic control of the House, Senate, and presidency ushered in an economic strategy discredited by Republicans since 1981. Rather than cutting taxes and regulations to move money upward to the “supply side” of the economy in the hope that wealthy investors would expand industries and hire more workers, the Democrats focused on getting money into the hands of ordinary Americans. This investment in the “demand side” was the heart of government economic policy between 1933 and 1981 and brought about what economists know as the “great compression,” in which the wealth gap that had characterized the country in the 1920s shrank considerably. After President Ronald Reagan took office in 1981 and shifted the country toward supply side economics, that compression reversed to become the “great divergence.” Their approach to the economy made Democrats invest in economic recovery from the worst of the pandemic with the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed in March 2021 with no Republican votes. That bill ushered in a dramatic economic recovery—the most rapid of any of the G7 wealthy nations—with the U.S. adding ten million jobs since Biden’s inauguration. No other president in our history has seen this level of job growth in his first two years in office. Today a new jobs report revealed that the U.S. economy added 263,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 3.5%. That was more jobs and a lower unemployment rate than economists expected. That job growth has affected all Americans. The Hispanic jobless rate has fallen from 8.6% in Trump’s last month to 3.8% now; the Black jobless rate went from 9.2% to 5.8%. Notable in the numbers, though, was that K–12 education lost more than 21,000 workers in September, putting the number of teachers and support staff 309,000 people lower than it was before the pandemic.That extraordinary job growth, along with money saved during the pandemic, helped to drive inflation, as people were able to pay higher prices for goods and services jacked up by supply chain tangles, transportation shortages, and price gouging. But so far, it does not seem that we are locked into an inflationary spiral as we were in the 1970s.Seemingly paradoxically, today’s good news about jobs drove the stock market downward. Investors are guessing that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates to slow down the economy. If it costs more to borrow, businesses will likely cut back hiring and wages. Less money in people’s hands should slow the inflation that’s still high. The Democrats have also hammered out legislation to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. Last November, they passed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to rebuild the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges and to extend broadband to rural areas. More than 60% of Americans wanted infrastructure investment, and for that bill, which is often called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Democrats picked up “aye” votes from 19 Republican senators and 13 Republican representatives.But former president Trump attacked those Republicans who voted for the measure, insisting that Republicans’ main goal was to keep Biden from accomplishing anything. “Very sad that the RINOs in the House and Senate gave Biden and Democrats a victory on the ‘Non-Infrastructure’ Bill,” Trump said. “All Republicans who voted for Democrat longevity should be ashamed of themselves, in particular Mitch McConnell, for granting a two month stay which allowed the Democrats time to work things out at our Country’s, and the Republican Party’s, expense!”Trump loyalists threatened to strip committee assignments from Republicans who supported the bill. They complained about what Minnesota representative Tom Emmer called “President Biden’s multi-trillion dollar socialist wish list.” Arizona representative Paul Gosar said: “this bill only serves to advance the America Last’s socialist agenda, while completely lacking fiscal responsibility.” Kentucky representative Andy Barr said the measure was a “big government socialist agenda.” Iowa representative Ashley Hinson said the law was a “socialist spending spree.” Representative Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma said: “I will not support funding for policies that drive our country into socialism.”In the CNN piece today that collected all those quotations, authors Edward-Isaac Dovere and Sarah Fortinsky went on to point out that, despite their insistence that government investment in infrastructure is socialism (it is not, by the way), all these representatives and more have been quietly applying to take that money to their districts, often in the same language Democrats used to justify the bill in the first place. Improving highways would “serve as a social justice measure,” Emmer wrote. “The completion of this project means improved economic opportunities for ethnically underserved communities.” Adding bicycle lanes to a rural area, Mullin wrote, “would greatly improve sustainability by reducing emissions and redeveloping an existing infrastructure plan.”The president has directed his administration not to let politics or votes for the bill influence how project grants are awarded. But for all their talk of socialism and wasteful spending, Republicans clearly understand that the American people want investment in the country and that such investment improves their quality of life. They just don’t want to vote for it after years of rallying voters with a narrative that any Democratic investments in the country are far-left radicalism.Today Biden named the Republicans who voted against the infrastructure law and then asked for money. Biden said, “I was surprised to see so many socialists in the Republican caucus.”—Notes: Reese Jones @PoliticusSarahBiden names names of Republicans who voted against infrastructure and then asked for money. The President said, “I was surprised to see so many socialists in the  Republican caucus.” 6:22 PM ∙ Oct 7, 20228,114Likes2,708RetweetsHeather Long @byHeatherLongBig red flag: K-12 education lost more than 21,000 workers in September. Public education remains one of the least recovered industries from the pandemic. **There are 309,000 fewer teachers and support staff than pre-pandemic** 12:53 PM ∙ Oct 7, 20221,543Likes760RetweetsShareLikeCommentShareYou’re a free subscriber to Letters from an American. For the full experience, become a paid subscriber.Upgrade to paid© 2022 Heather Cox Richardson
548 Market Street PMB 72296, San Francisco, CA 94104

Please Donate



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


Please Donate



Heather Cox RichardsonSep 20

On Saturday, the anniversary of the day in 1787 on which the Framers signed the U.S. Constitution, Attorney General Merrick Garland administered the oath of allegiance to 200 immigrants in the Great Hall at Ellis Island. From 1892 to 1954, nearly 12 million immigrants stopped on the island as part of their journey to the United States, and from 1900 to 1924, the Great Hall was filled with as many as 5000 new arrivals a day, sitting on benches under the high ceiling that had been tiled in the spectacular patterns of Spanish-born architect Rafael Guastavino—who came to the U.S. in 1881—where they awaited health inspections and registration. 

“It is my great honor to welcome you as the newest citizens of the United States of America,” Garland said. “Congratulations!… Just now, each of you took an oath of allegiance to the United States. In so doing, you took your place alongside generations who came before you, many through this very building, seeking protection, freedom, and opportunity. This country—your country—wholeheartedly welcomes you.”

As an introduction to the message he wanted to deliver, both to the new citizens and to old ones, Garland spoke of his own history as the grandson and son-in-law of those fleeing religious persecution, who came to the U.S. for the protection of our laws.  

“The protection of law—the Rule of Law—is the foundation of our system of government,” the attorney general said.

“The Rule of Law means that the same laws apply to all of us, regardless of whether we are this country’s newest citizens or whether our [families] have been here for generations.

“The Rule of Law means that the law treats each of us alike: there is not one rule for friends, another for foes; one rule for the powerful, another for the powerless; a rule for the rich, another for the poor; or different rules, depending upon one’s race or ethnicity or country of origin.

“The Rule of Law means that we are all protected in the exercise of our civil rights; in our freedom to worship and think as we please; and in the peaceful expression of our opinions, our beliefs, and our ideas.

“Of course, we still have work to do to make a more perfect union. Although the Rule of Law has always been our guiding light, we have not always been faithful to it. 

“The Rule of Law is not assured. It is fragile. It demands constant effort and vigilance.

“The responsibility to ensure the Rule of Law is and has been the duty of every generation in our country’s history. It is now your duty as well. And it is one that is especially urgent today at a time of intense polarization in America.”

Garland went on to ask the people in the room to share a promise “that each of us will protect each other and our democracy,” that “we will uphold the Rule of Law and seek to make real the promise of equal justice under law,” and that “we will do what is right, even if that means doing what is difficult.”

It is hard to imagine that his words were not intended to convey that he intends to follow the legal trails left behind by the former administration wherever they lead. 

Certainly, the former president, who is under scrutiny for stealing national secrets, scheming to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and inciting mob violence against the U.S. government, appears to be concerned.

Over the weekend, in a rally on Saturday in Ohio, Trump made it clear that he is no longer playing with a violent, extremist base, but rather cultivating it. In the days before the event, he “retruthed” posts from the conspiracy theory QAnon, whose followers believe that he is leading a secret war against pedophiles and cannibals and that he will soon be placed back into power, arrest his Democratic enemies, try them, and execute some of them. That moment of his return is called “the Storm,” and one of his “retruths” assured his audience that “The Storm is Coming.” The rally played the QAnon theme song—or something so like it as to be indistinguishable from it—and featured other QAnon-adjacent politicians. 

Trump seems to know he is down to his last line of supporters, and he is rallying them to be ready to commit violence on his behalf, much as he did in the weeks before January 6, 2021. But the rally appeared to have attracted only a few thousand people, a far cry from the crowds he commanded when he was in office. His power resides now primarily in his ability to deliver or withhold his supporters, whom the party desperately needs. In exchange for delivering his supporters, Greg Sargent of the Washington Post points out, Trump seems to be demanding that a Republican Congress put an end to his legal troubles. 

Those legal troubles are mounting. 

On September 5, 2022, Judge Aileen Cannon granted Trump’s request for a special master to review the materials FBI agents seized in their search of Mar-a-Lago on August 8. Those  materials included more than 100 that bore classified markings, some at the highest levels. Cannon ordered the Department of Justice to stop its criminal investigation of Trump until the special master reviews the material. The DOJ asked Cannon to reconsider, because its ongoing review of the national security damage is tied to the criminal investigation. She refused and, at Trump’s team’s suggestion, appointed Judge Raymond Dearie special master. 

Legal scholars say Cannon’s rulings are deeply problematic, but they looked as if they would buy Trump time until after the midterms, when Republicans might have control of one or both houses of Congress to help him out. While they are appealing the ruling, the DOJ is also responding to it.

A filing tonight shows that Dearie has ordered all inspection and labeling done by October 7, rather than the November 30 date the Trump team expected. It also shows that Dearie has asked Trump to specify which documents he claims to have declassified before claiming them as his property. Trump’s lawyers say they don’t want to tell the judge anything specific about what Trump might or might not have declassified, suggesting they want to reserve that for a possible criminal case.

Former U.S. attorney and legal commenter Joyce White Vance noted that he is “presumably avoiding the need to acknowledge he lied until after the midterm elections.” 

As Trump faces legal trouble, Florida governor Ron DeSantis appears to be trying to gather Trump’s voters to himself with his stunt of sending migrants to Martha’s Vineyard off Massachusetts with a camera crew that gave video footage to the Fox News Channel but without telling Massachusetts authorities the migrants were coming. It was performative cruelty designed to show “liberals” rejecting immigrants in their backyards, and the fact that the people of Martha’s Vineyard welcomed them and got them back to the mainland and to shelter did not change that narrative in right-wing media: officials have been swamped with angry phone calls about their “hypocrisy,” and today a small plane towed a banner over the island reading, “Vineyard Hypocrites.” 

But Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo noted all along that DeSantis’s story didn’t add up. He is a Florida governor, but he moved people from Texas, and the story is hardly one that looks like a government operation. It appears that a tall, blonde woman going by “Perla” worked with two men and two other women to find migrants to move, promising them work and housing in Massachusetts and putting them up in a hotel until they got 48 people to go. 

Judd Legum of Popular Information added the piece that the migrants were not undocumented, as DeSantis repeatedly claimed, but in fact are here legally after applying for asylum. Someone gave them brochures promising 8 months’ cash assistance, food, housing, clothing, job training, and so on, benefits available only to a specific and small category of refugees, which they are not. 

If they were misled about either their destination or their opportunities, those lying to them might run up against legal charges. For their part, DeSantis and Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez say it is “categorically false” that they were misled.  

Tonight, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office in Texas announced it has opened up a criminal investigation.

There is one man tonight who is not worried about further legal troubles, though. The administration today secured the release of Mark Frerichs, kidnapped in Afghanistan in January 2020 and held for 31 months, by exchanging him for Bashir Noorzai, who was sentenced to life in prison for drug trafficking in 2009. 

[Guastavino ceiling at Ellis Island:]


Kyle Cheney @kyledcheneyJUST IN: Special Master Dearie has asked Trump’s team for declarations about any acftions he’s taken to declassify material. Trump’s team says i n a filing tonight that it is resisting that request — because it could be a defense to any criminal cahrges.…


September 19th 20223,377 Retweets11,201 Likes

Joyce Alene @JoyceWhiteVanceMy favorite part is that Trump doesn’t want to have to provide any information about his supposed declassifications under early November-presumably avoiding the need to acknowledge he lied until after the midterm elections. S. Phang @KatiePhangNEW: Trump’s defense team in panic mode: Special Master demanding Trump “disclose specific information regarding declassification to the Court and to the Government…will force [Trump] to fully and specifically disclose a defense to the merits of any subsequent indictment…”September 20th 20221,314 Retweets5,727 Likes

Judd Legum @JuddLegumUPDATE: The Bexar County Texas Sheriff has launched a criminal investigation into DeSantis’ scheme…

Judd Legum@JuddLegum1. has obtained documentary evidence that migrants from Venezuela were provided with false info to induce them to board flights chartered by @RonDeSantisFL The documents suggest that the flights violated criminal law. 🧵

September 19th 2022277 Retweets1,128 Likes

Popular Information

The smoking gun in Martha’s Vineyard

Popular Information has obtained documentary evidence that migrants from Venezuela were provided with false information to convince them to board flights chartered by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R). The do…

Read more

19 hours ago · 330 likes · 76 comments · Judd Legum

Please Donate



Confederates, socialists, Capitol attackers: A 14th Amendment history lesson


The Washington Post

Gillian Brockell – 32m ago

A New Mexico judge ruled this week that a county commissioner was disqualified from holding office because he participated in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

In ordering Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin removed from office, the judge cited a section of the 14th Amendment disqualifying any elected official “who, having previously taken an oath … to support the Constitution of the United States,” has then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” The advocacy group that filed the lawsuit is also considering attempting to use it to disqualify former president Donald Trump from the 2024 presidential contest, according to the New York Times.

The disqualification clause, as it is sometimes called, was written in the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, in the brief period when Radical Republicans — some of the most progressive lawmakers in American history — held a majority and were determined to stop high-ranking Confederate traitors from returning to public office.

The amendment doesn’t specify who’s supposed to be enforcing it, so the responsibility has fallen to different bodies. Griffin was disqualified in court, but historically, Congress itself has sometimes taken votes to prevent elected members from being seated.

Two of those instances highlight the inconsistency of the clause’s application: the last time it was used successfully, nearly a century ago against antiwar lawmaker Victor Berger (who was not, by any standard definition, an insurrectionist), and when it was applied against former Confederate Zebulon Vance — who, like Berger, was allowed to waltz back into office once the political winds had shifted in his favor.

Sen. Zebulon Vance circa 1875.© Mathew Brady/Library of Congress

Vance grew up in a well-connected family that struggled financially but still enslaved more than a dozen people. After law school, he rose in the political ranks, first in the state senate and eventually as the youngest member of the 36th Congress, representing Asheville and the surrounding areas.

(Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), who currently represents Asheville and was also the youngest member of his Congress, faced a lawsuit trying to disqualify him from Congress under the 14th Amendment. The lawsuit was dismissed as moot after Cawthorn lost his primary in May.)

As the march toward the Civil War escalated, Vance initially opposed secession but eventually served in the Confederate Army. He also served as the Confederate governor of North Carolina.

After the war, in 1870, he was appointed senator from North Carolina, but the Senate refused to seat him, citing the 14th Amendment. After spending two years in Washington trying to get an amnesty, he gave up.

Capitol statue collection gets first Black American, replacing Confederate

But only a few years later, Washington was handing out amnesty like candy, defeating the whole purpose of the clause. Vance got his in 1875 and was elected to the Senate three years later. Not only did he serve until his death in 1894; in a sense, he is still there today: A statue of Vance stands in National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol, a 1916 gift from North Carolina that Congress cannot legally remove unless the state decides to replace it.

Berger had a very different story, though he ended up in the same pickle as Vance. Born into a Jewish family in the Austrian empire, he immigrated to the United States as a young man in 1878. He became a successful publisher in Milwaukee of both English- and German-language newspapers.

Berger was a leading voice of the “Sewer Socialists,” who believed socialist objectives could be achieved through elections and good governance, no violent revolution necessary. Today, we would call this a “roads and bridges” platform; back then, it was working sewers and clean, city-owned water.

Socialists were winning U.S. elections long before Bernie Sanders and AOC

Berger served one term in Congress — the first-ever Socialist Party member — from 1911 to 1913, the high point being when he introduced the first bill for an old-age pension. (Nowadays we call that Social Security.) He didn’t win reelection, but he stayed active in Wisconsin politics and in publishing.

Then World War I began, and with it came the First Red Scare. Berger was against the war and said so in his editorials, and in 1918 that was enough for him to be charged with “disloyal acts” under the Espionage Act. He was running for Congress again while under indictment, and soon after he won the election that November, he was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.

The socialist who ran for president from prison — and won nearly a million votes

While out on appeal, Berger showed up in Washington to be sworn in. The House refused to seat him by a vote of 309-1, saying his words had “given aid or comfort” to enemies of the nation, and he was thus barred under the 14th Amendment.

In December 1919, he ran in the special election to replace himself, and incredibly, he won. The House refused him a second time. In 1921, Berger’s conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court, and he returned unfettered to Congress in 1922, where he served three terms, pushing legislation to crack down on lynching and to end Prohibition.


%d bloggers like this: