Expert Analysis for You

Ready for a Deep Dive into these Voting Rights Topics?

 

“Journalists [and voters] could better cover this moment in our history by focusing . . . on the consequences for the country if Trump wins again.
How will American life change?
Who will benefit?
Who will suffer?
The question should be “not the odds, but the stakes” as a principle for better campaign coverage”.

– Jay Rosen, Professor of journalism at New York University

[as reported by Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, May 16, 2023]

 

 

The Latest Analysis for You

 

Combating Misinformation and Building Trust in Elections: Assessing Election Official Communications During the 2022 Election Cycle

New report from Thessalia Merivaki and Mara Suttmann-Lea. Abstract:

In this project, we identify the dominant trust-building campaigns used by state and local election officials, with an emphasis on combating misinformation, during the 2022 election cycle. In partnership with the Algorithmic Transparency Institute (ATI.io), we analyzed 50,000 organic posts from over 118 state election officials’ and 1,000 local election officials’ accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter between September 10 and November 15, 2022. We produced a one-of-a-kind repository of these communications, organized using a comprehensive taxonomy of election-related labels. This database is used to identify best trust-building communication practices, and evaluate the effectiveness of these practices on voter attitudes.

 

“When claims of a stolen election become a political strategy “

New post at the Kofi Annan Foundation website.

 

“Reckoning with Our Rights: The Evolution of Voter Access in California, Part I”

New in the California Supreme Court Historical Society Review.

Supreme Court approves South Carolina congressional map previously found to dilute Black voting power

https://edition.cnn.com/2024/05/23/politics/supreme-court-south-carolina-district-black-voting-power/index.html

THE NEW PROPAGANDA WAR

Autocrats in China, Russia, and elsewhere are now making common cause with MAGA Republicans to discredit liberalism and freedom around the world.

June 2024

 

How Far would Trump G0?

Eric Cortellessa

 

Robert Kagan’s latest plea for sufficient civic virtue to stop Trump’s reelection

In the Washington Post, adapted from his forthcoming book. His essay is eloquent. Here’s some excerpts:

A healthy republic would not be debating whether Trump and his followers seek the overthrow of the Founders’ system of liberal democracy. … As one 56-year-old Michigan woman present at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 explained: “We weren’t there to steal things. We weren’t there to do damage. We were just there to overthrow the government.” …

Trump … has explicitly promised to violate the Constitution when he deems it necessary. That by itself makes him a unique candidate in American history and should be disqualifying.

This kind of open challenge to our democracy was never meant to be addressed by the courts. As the Founders well understood, you don’t serve a subpoena to a would-be tyrant and tell him to lawyer up. Nor was it meant to be addressed by the normal processes of democratic elections. They knew, and feared, that a demagogue could capture the allegiance of enough voters to overthrow the system. That was why they gave Congress, and particularly the Senate, supposedly more immune from popular pressures, the power to impeach and remove presidents and to deny them the opportunity to run again — and not simply because they violated some law but because they posed a clear and present danger to the republic. After Trump’s attempt to overthrow the government in 2020, Congress had a chance to use the method prescribed by the Founders in precisely the circumstances they envisioned. But Senate Republicans, out of a combination of ambition and cowardice, refused to play the vital role the Founders envisioned for them. The result is that the nightmare feared by the Founders is one election away from becoming reality.…

Americans … know he would not respect the results of fair elections if he loses, which is the very definition of a tyrant.

So, why will so many vote for him anyway? For a significant segment of the Republican electorate, the white-hot core of the Trump movement, it is because they want to see the system overthrown. …

Many of Trump’s core supporters insist they are patriots, but whether they realize it or not, their allegiance is not to the Founders’ America but to an ethnoreligious definition of the nation that the Founders explicitly rejected. …

If the American system of government fails this year, it will not be because the institutions established by the Founders failed. It will not be because of new technologies or flaws in the Constitution. No system of government can protect against a determined tyrant. Only the people can. This year we will learn if they will.

 

Why It Matters Legally Whether We Conceive of the Trump Case as One of “Election Interference”

Right-Wing Media Are in Trouble

The flow of traffic to Donald Trump’s most loyal digital-media boosters isn’t just slowing; it’s utterly collapsing.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2024/04/conservative-digital-media-traffic/

[Excerpts:]

The flow of traffic to Donald Trump’s most loyal digital-media boosters isn’t just slowing, as in the rest of the industry; it’s utterly collapsing.

This past February, readership of the 10 largest conservative websites was down 40 percent compared with the same month in 2020, according to The Righting, a newsletter that uses monthly data from Comscore—essentially the Nielsen ratings of the internet—to track right-wing media. (February is the most recent month with available Comscore data.) Some of the bigger names in the field have been pummeled the hardest: The Daily Caller lost 57 percent of its audience; Drudge Report, the granddaddy of conservative aggregation, was down 81 percent; and The Federalist, founded just over a decade ago, lost a staggering 91 percent. (The site’s CEO and co-founder, Sean Davis, called that figure “laughably inaccurate” in an email but offered no further explanation.) FoxNews.com, by far the most popular conservative-news site, has fared better, losing “only” 22 percent of traffic, which translates to 23 million fewer monthly site visitors compared with four years ago.

A simpler explanation is that conservative digital media are disproportionately dependent on social-media referrals in the first place. Many mainstream publications have long-established brand names, large newsrooms to churn out copy, and, in a few cases, large numbers of loyal subscribers. Sites like Breitbart and Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire, however, were essentially Facebook-virality machines, adept at injecting irresistibly outrageous, clickable nuggets into people’s feeds. So the drying-up of referrals hit these publications much harder.

More broadly, the loss of readership can’t be helpful to the ideological cause. Top-drawing sites like the conspiratorial Gateway Pundit and Infowars help keep the MAGA faithful faithful by recirculating, amplifying, and sometimes creating the culture-war memes and talking points that dominate right and far-right opinion. Less traffic means less influence.

The trouble is that there are now alternatives to the alternatives. The Righting’s proprietor, Howard Polskin, pointed out to me that the websites that dominated the field in 2016—Fox News, Breitbart, The Washington Times, and so on—are no longer the only players in MAGA world. The marketplace has expanded and fragmented since then, splintering the audience seeking conservative or even extremist perspectives among podcasts, YouTube videos, Substack newsletters, and boutique platforms like Rumble. “There’s a lot of choice,” Polskin said. “Even if [the big] sites went out of business tomorrow, there are a lot of voices still out there.”

The precipitous decline in traffic to conservative publications raises a larger and possibly unanswerable question: Did these operations ever really hold the political and cultural clout that critics ascribed to them at their peak? Recall the liberal anger in 2020 when Ben Shapiro was routinely dominating Facebook’s most-engaged content list, generating accusations that Facebook’s algorithm was favoring right-wing posts and pushing voters toward Trump. Yet Joe Biden went on to win the election easily, and Democrats overperformed in the 2022 midterms. Now, as conservatives cry that Big Tech has crushed their traffic, Trump is running neck and neck with Biden in the polls, even with a legal cloud hanging over him and shortfalls of campaign cash. Maybe who wins the traffic contest doesn’t matter as much as it once appeared.

Democratic tech group aims to shake up Republican statehouses in 2024

The group composed of tech workers will devote resources to influencing elections in six Republican-dominated states.

[Excerpts:]

Tech for Campaigns, a Democratic organization made up of tech industry workers seeking to influence state elections, is expanding its playing field to include six states where Republicans have commanding majorities in state legislatures.

Jessica Alter, the organization’s co-founder and chair, said in an interview that beginning this year, Tech for Campaigns would commit resources to state legislative candidates in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas, in addition to swing states such as Arizona and Michigan where the organization has previously focused.

The move is part of a new, long-term strategy that the organization is calling “Next Ten”: targeting Republican-dominated state capitals where Democrats might have a chance to flip control of the state legislature in the next 10 years.

Tech for Campaigns consists of 17,000 tech workers who are clustered in coastal cities such as San Francisco and New York but who volunteer remotely to help Democrats in state legislative races. This year, they say they’re using artificial intelligence to help create ads and fundraising emails, allowing them to stretch resources further than before.

The organization is unabashedly pro-Democrat, having formed in 2017, a low point for the party, when progressive tech workers in Democratic states decided to think more strategically about helping down-ballot candidates across the country.

Alter said the organization is filling a void where other Democratic organizations have failed to invest.

“Because these places are a little bit more ignored, it’s even more valuable. No one’s knocking down their door to help,” she said.

In contrast to Tech for Campaigns, many conservative tech personalities have backed away from involvement in the 2024 election compared to previous years, but Republican groups have also specifically said they’re leveraging artificial intelligence technology in their election efforts.

Republicans have majorities in each chamber in the Democratic group’s six “Next Ten” state capitals, and in some states, they have supermajorities. In North Carolina, that has meant Republicans can override any veto by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper if they stick together. But the chamber is split 30-20, and Democrats could take away Republicans’ override power if they pick up one seat and keep the governorship.

“So the plan this year is not to flip the North Carolina Senate, for instance, where we’re working very closely, but to break a supermajority,” Alter said.

Democratic state Sen. Jay Chaudhuri said the party’s long-term plan to make North Carolina competitive involves getting new district maps, which will likely require getting more Democrats on the state’s highest court. Last year, a new Republican majority on the state’s Supreme Court allowed new maps far more favorable to Republicans.

Chaudhuri said Tech for Campaigns may help with about five state Senate campaigns this year, with more help expected in years ahead.

“Too often, progressive and Democratic donors are focused much more on the presidential level than the state legislative level. They’re focused too much on winning the election cycle rather than on winning the decade,” he said.

The stakes are rising given the weighty issues facing state lawmakers, from abortion to election administration to LGBTQ rights. And with more than 7,000 people serving in state legislatures, there’s no shortage of candidates with extreme views.

“You’re seeing folks that have signed on to the pledge to remove Texas from the union. You have people that are supported by groups that want to execute people for having abortions,” said Dylan Doody, executive director of the Texas House Democratic Campaign Committee, referring to two ongoing controversies in the state.

Doody said that as a result, Texas has some pickup opportunities for Democrats, and he thinks help from Tech for Campaigns could put them over the top.

“They’re thinking way ahead of where a lot of establishment, old money is thinking,” he said.

Tech for Campaigns helps state legislative candidates in a variety of ways. It assigns volunteers to work closely with campaigns on specific tasks such as website design. Those volunteers also provide ongoing assistance with email fundraising and digital advertising — often using skills from their day jobs at tech companies large and small. Some are helping candidates in states where they grew up, while others have no specific ties to where they are directing their volunteer hours.

The organization also has a political action committee that it uses for voter turnout efforts, separate from campaign work. In the 2020 campaign cycle, it spent $10.5 million, with $6.1 million going to buy ads with Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, according to the nonpartisan research site OpenSecrets. For 2024, the organization said its budget will be $10 million to $14 million across all its programs. Its donors have included OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Netflix Co-CEO Greg Peters, though its top donors were tech investors Jessica Livingston, who gave $5 million, and Michael Duca, who gave $1.6 million, according to OpenSecrets.

That money and the volunteer help can go a lot further in a state legislative race than in a race for the U.S. Senate, especially in places where state lawmakers aren’t used to outside help.

Texas state Rep. James Talarico said some of his fellow Democrats have bare-bones budgets, but he said it takes $1 million to run in a competitive Texas House district.

“There are groups nationwide that will swoop in and endorse you — provide their name, put you on a website — which is great and any help is appreciated, but there are very few groups that provide tangible help, meaning dollars or volunteers or communications support, and Tech For Campaigns provides all three,” he said.

Talarico said he’s familiar with claims going back many years that Democrats are on the cusp of turning Texas “blue” — claims that have consistently fallen short of reality — and he said what’s been missing is tangible help.

“I’ve come across other organizations that want to see Texas go blue, but not a lot of organizations that have offered tangible help to make that a reality,” he said.

Inside the Election Denial Groups Planning to Disrupt NovemberGroups like True the Vote and Michael Flynn’s America Project want to mobilize thousands of Trump supporters by pushing baseless claims about election fraud – and are rolling out technology to fast track their effortsBy David GilbertApril 8, 2024https://www.wired/com/catergory/politics

“The Supreme Court and Young Voter Turnout”

NYT:

Georgia, with its long history of the suppression of Black voters, has been ground zero for fights about voting rights laws for decades. The state has often seen stark differences in turnout between white and nonwhite communities, with the latter typically voting at a much lower rate.

But not always: In the 2012 election, when Barack Obama won a second term in the White House, the turnout rate for Black voters under 38 in Lowndes County — a Republican-leaning county in southern Georgia — was actually four percentage points higher than the rate for white voters of a similar age.

It proved to be temporary. According to new research by Michael Podhorzer, the former political director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., by 2020, turnout for younger white voters in Lowndes was 14 percentage points higher than for Black voters of the same age.

What happened in between? It is impossible to tell for certain, with many variables, such as Obama no longer being on the ballot.

But a growing body of evidence points to a pivotal 2013 Supreme Court decision, Shelby County v. Holder, that knocked down a core section of the Voting Rights Act. The court effectively ended a provision requiring counties and states with a history of racial discrimination at the polls — including all of Georgia — to obtain permission from the Justice Department before changing voting laws or procedures.

 

Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson

March 22, 2024

https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/

[Excerpt]:

Midnight tonight was the deadline for the continuing resolution that was funding much of the government, and the House finally passed the necessary appropriations bills this morning, just hours before the deadline, by a vote of 286–134. Democrats put the bill over the top, adding 185 yea votes to the 101 Republicans voting in favor of the bill. In a blow to House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), 112 Republicans joined 22 Democrats to vote against the measure.. 

As soon as the bill passed, Johnson recessed the House until April 9.

Because the deadline to prevent a government shutdown was so tight, the Senate needed to take the House measure up immediately. But Senate rules mean that such a quick turnaround needs unanimous consent, and right-wing senators refused to give it. 

Instead, Republican senators Ted Budd (NC), Mike Lee (UT), Ted Cruz (TX), and Rand Paul (KY) demanded votes on extremist amendments to try to jam Democrats into a bind before the upcoming election. If the amendments passed, the government would shut down for the purely mechanical reason that the House can’t consider any amendments until it gets back to work in April. So the Democrats would certainly vote against any amendments to keep the government open. But this would mean they were on record with unpopular votes in an election year. 

The demand for amendments was partisan posturing, but the delay was particularly nasty: Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who was a key negotiator of the bill, needed to get back to Maine for her mother’s funeral. 

In the House, the passage of the appropriations bill and the recess prompted significant changes. Representative Kay Granger (R-TX) announced she is stepping down from chairing the Appropriations Committee. 

Another Republican representative, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, announced he will leave Congress early, stepping down on April 19. Gallagher is chair of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party and has voiced frustration with the current state of his party. His absence will shave the Republican House majority to just one vote, and the timing of his departure means he will not be replaced this session. Wisconsin law leaves any vacancy after the second Tuesday in April until the general election.

Representative Ken Buck (R-CO) announced last week that he, too, was leaving Congress early, complaining that “[t]his place has just evolved into…bickering and nonsense.” Today was his last day in the House. Before he left, he became the first Republican to sign on to the discharge petitions that would bring Ukraine aid to the floor even without House speaker Johnson’s support.

Despite the frustration of their colleagues, extremist Republicans are not backing down. After the appropriations measure passed, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) told reporters she has filed a motion to vacate the chair to punish Johnson for permitting the bill to pass without more extremist demands. Her threat will hang over the two-week break, but it is not clear what the House will do with her motion; they might simply bottle it up in committee. 

Greene might not push a vote on the speaker right now in part because of pressure from her colleagues to cut it out. They understand that the extraordinary dysfunction of the House under Republicans’ control is hurting them before the 2024 election, and another speaker fight would only add to the chaos. There is also the reality that with such a small majority, Johnson would have to rely on Democrats to save his speakership if it were challenged, and a number of them have suggested they would vote to keep him in the chair if he would agree to bring a vote on aid for Ukraine to the floor. 

Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) told CNN that he would “make common cause with anybody who will stand up for the people of Ukraine, anybody who will get desperately needed humanitarian assistance to Gaza, and anybody who will work for a two state solution. I’m up for conversations with anybody.” 

The cost of Johnson’s withholding of assistance for Ukraine is mounting. Last night, Russia launched the largest barrages of missiles and drones since its war began at Ukraine’s power grid, leaving more than a million people without power and degrading Ukraine’s energy sector. The Institute for the Study of War assessed today that “continued delays in Western security assistance…are reportedly expected to significantly constrain Ukraine‘s air defense umbrella,” leaving Ukrainian forces unable to defend against missile attacks. Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky once again begged for aid, saying: “Russian missiles do not suffer delays in the way aid packages to our country do. Shahed drones are not affected by indecision like some politicians are.”

Ukraine has been using drones to attack Russia’s oil refineries, but Russia had a new problem today as a deadly attack on a Moscow concert hall claimed at least 60 lives. The Islamic State’s Afghan branch, known as ISIS-K, which advocates for civilian mass-casualty events to weaken governments, claimed responsibility for the attack. 

White Christian Nationalism

White Christian Nationalism is the dangerous belief that America is – and must remain – a Christian nation founded for its white Christian inhabitants and that our laws and policies must reflect this. Christian Nationalists deny the separation of church and state promised by our Constitution, and they oppose equality for people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people, religious minorities, and the nonreligious.

Increasingly, members of the media, academics and others use the term “Christian Nationalism,” and often “white Christian Nationalism,” to describe a political movement that seeks to topple our democracy by undermining church-state separation and declaring America a “Christian nation.” This resurgent movement is part of the backlash against the changing demographics in America and the struggle to retain traditional white Christian power structures. These extremists are raging against the dying of their privilege.

Since the late 1970s, Americans United has worked to expose and combat White Christian Nationalism. It began with the Religious Right, a religio-political force of extreme Christian fundamentalists who sought to tear down the church-state wall, ‘Christianize’ public schools and other government institutions, roll back women’s rights, strip LGBTQ+ people of basic freedoms, and impose a theocratic state on the country. Backed by a billion-dollar shadow network of powerful organizations and political allies spending millions on litigation, lobbying, and messaging, this movement will stop at nothing to secure their power and privilege.

 

Donald Trump is a national-security risk

Tom Nichols

March 13, 2024

https://www.theatlantic.com/newsletters/archive/2024/03/donald-trump-is-a-national-security-risk/677750

[Excerpts:]

According to reports last week, the U.S. intelligence community is preparing to give Donald Trump classified intelligence briefings, a courtesy every White House extends to major-party candidates to ensure an effective transition. An excellent tradition—but not one that should be observed this year.

. . . .

Government employees who hold clearances have to attend annual refresher courses about a variety of issues, including some pretty obvious stuff about not writing down passwords or taking money from a friendly Chinese businessman wearing an American baseball cap. (No, really, that’s a scenario in some of the course materials.) But one area of annual training is always about “insider threats,” the people in your own organization who may pose risks to classified information. Federal workers are taken through a list of behaviors and characteristics that should trigger their concern enough to report the person involved, or at least initiate a talk with a supervisor.

Trump checks almost every box on those lists. (You can find examples of insider-threat training here and here, but every agency has particular briefs they give to their organizations.)

. . . 

Opposing U.S. policy, for example, is not a problem for people with clearances—I did it myself—but Trump’s hatred of the current administration is wedded to a generic contempt for what he calls the “deep state,” a slam he applies to any American institution that tries to hold him accountable for his behavior. This kind of anti-establishment rage would put any clearance in jeopardy, especially given Trump’s rantings about how the current government (and American society overall) is full of “vermin.”

Meanwhile, a federal worker who had even a fraction of the cache of classified documents Trump took with him after he left Washington would be in a world of trouble—especially if he or she told the Justice Department to go pound sand after being instructed to return them. And by “trouble,” I mean “almost certainly arrested and frog-marched to jail.”

Trump’s knotty and opaque finances—and what we now know to be his lies about his wealth—in New York before he was a candidate would likely also have tanked his access to highly classified information. (Government workers can have a lot of problems of all kinds, but lying about them is almost always deadly for a clearance.) Worse, anyone seeking even a minor clearance who was as entangled as Trump has been over the years with the Russian government and who held a bank account in China would likely be laughed right out of the office.

Trump’s open and continuing affection for men such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and North Korean Maximum-Weirdo Dynasty Boss Kim Jong Un would also be, to say the least, a matter of concern for any security organization. (Or, I should say, for any American security organization. Russia’s FSB, I’m sure, would see no issues here.)

But even if Trump could explain away his creepy dictator crushes and clarify his byzantine finances, he is currently facing more than half a billion dollars in court judgments against him.

That’s a lot of money for anyone, and Trump’s scramble to post a bond for even a small portion of that suggests that the man is in terrible financial condition, which is always a bright-red light in the clearance process. (Debt trips up a lot of people, and I knew folks who had clearances suspended over their money troubles.)

Whether Trump is too erratic or volatile for elected office is a judgment for voters, but his statements and public behavior have long suggested (at least to me and many others) that he is an emotionally unstable person. Emotional problems in themselves are not a disqualification; we all have them. But Trump’s irrational tirades and threats are the kind of thing that can become a clearance issue. The former president’s lack of impulse control—note that he has been unable to stop attacking the writer E. Jean Carroll, despite huge court judgments against him for defaming her—could also lead him to blurt out whatever he learns from his briefings during rallies or public appearances if he thinks it will help him.

As to the other major category considered in granting clearances, I have no idea whether Trump uses or abuses substances or medications of any kind. But what I do know is that Trump encouraged an attack on the U.S. constitutional order and tried to overturn a legal election. He has now vowed to pardon people who were duly convicted in courts of law for their actions in the January 6 insurrection—he calls them “hostages”—and are now serving the sentences they’ve earned.

In sum, Trump is an anti-American, debt-ridden, unstable man who has voiced his open support for violent seditionists. If he were any other citizen asking for the privilege of handling classified material, he would be sent packing.

If he is elected, of course, government employees will have no choice but to give the returning president access to everything, including the files that are among the holiest of holies, such as the identities of our spies overseas and the status of our nuclear forces. Senior civil servants could refuse and publicly resign, and explain why, but in the end, the system (despite Trump’s “deep state” accusations) is designed to support the president, not obstruct him, and a reelected President Trump will get whatever he demands.

If the American people decide to allow Trump back into the White House, President Biden can’t do anything about it. In the meantime, however, he can limit the damage by delaying Trump’s access to classified material for as long as possible.

 

“Thurgood Marshall Institute Releases Brief Examining State Control of Black Political Power in Local Communities”

LDF Release:

Last week, the Legal Defense Fund’s (LDF) Thurgood Marshall Institute released a new research brief, When the State Takes Over: How State Officials Usurping Local Control Threatens Local Black Political Power, authored by Senior Researcher Dr. Sandhya Kajeepeta. The brief, released during Black History Month, outlines the history and growth of local Black political power and the emergence of state takeovers as a strategy for state officials to usurp that power. 

The brief provides an important perspective on how Black communities are targeted throughout the country by state takeovers without appropriate justification across multiple domains, including education, economic justice, the criminal legal system, and voting. The growing trend of state takeovers of Black-led cities, occurring when state governments intervene and take control of local affairs, the brief notes, undermines the autonomy of Black communities and represents an anti-democratic shift. Moreover, this shift is rooted in and further perpetuates a dangerous narrative that majority-Black localities are unfit to govern their own communities….

Newly Released Messages Detail Roots of the ‘Fake Electors’ Scheme

Emails and texts unearthed in a lawsuit show how key figures intended their plan to create a “cloud of confusion” to help keep Donald Trump in office after his 2020 election loss.

By Luke Broadwater and Maggie Haberman

March 4, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/04/us/politics/chesebro-troupis-jan-6-messages.html

[Excerpt:]

Just five days after Election Day in 2020, a conservative lawyer named Kenneth Chesebro emailed a former judge who was working for the Trump campaign in Wisconsin, James R. Troupis, pitching an idea for how to overturn the results.

Through litigation, Mr. Chesebro said, the Trump campaign could allege “various systemic abuses” and, with court proceedings pending, encourage legislatures to appoint “alternative” pro-Trump electors that could be certified instead of the Biden electors chosen by the voters.

“At minimum, with such a cloud of confusion, no votes from WI (and perhaps also MI and PA) should be counted, perhaps enough to throw the election to the House,” Mr. Chesebro wrote to Mr. Troupis, referring to the swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

 

Trump allies prepare to infuse ‘Christian nationalism’ in second administration

Spearheading the effort is Russell Vought, president of The Center for Renewing America, part of a conservative consortium preparing for Trump’s return to power.

An influential think tank close to Donald Trump is developing plans to infuse Christian nationalist ideas in his administration should the former president return to power, according to documents obtained by POLITICO.

Spearheading the effort is Russell Vought, who served as Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget during his first term and has remained close to him.

Vought, who is frequently cited as a potential chief of staff in a second Trump White House, is president of The Center for Renewing America [CRA] think tank, a leading group in a conservative consortium preparing for a second Trump term.

Christian nationalists in America believe that the country was founded as a Christian nation and that Christian values should be prioritized throughout government and public life. As the country has become less religious and more diverse, Vought has embraced the idea that Christians are under assault and has spoken of policies he might pursue in response.

One document drafted by CRA staff and fellows includes a list of top priorities for CRA in a second Trump term. “Christian nationalism” is one of the bullet points. Others include invoking the Insurrection Act on Day One to quash protests and refusing to spend authorized congressional funds on unwanted projects, a practice banned by lawmakers in the Nixon era.

CRA’s work fits into a broader effort by conservative, MAGA-leaning organizations to influence a future Trump White House. Two people familiar with the plans, who were granted anonymity to discuss internal matters, said that Vought hopes his proximity and regular contact with the former president — he and Trump speak at least once a month, according to one of the people — will elevate Christian nationalism as a focal point in a second Trump term.

The documents obtained by POLITICO do not outline specific Christian nationalist policies. But Vought has promoted a restrictionist immigration agenda, saying a person’s background doesn’t define who can enter the U.S., but rather, citing Biblical teachings, whether that person “accept[ed] Israel’s God, laws and understanding of history.”

Vought has a close affiliation with Christian nationalist William Wolfe, a former Trump administration official who has advocated for overturning same-sex marriage, ending abortion and reducing access to contraceptives.

Vought, who declined to comment, is advising Project 2025, a governing agenda that would usher in one of the most conservative executive branches in modern American history. The effort is made up of a constellation of conservative groups run by Trump allies who’ve constructed a detailed plan to dismantle or overhaul key agencies in a second term. Among other principles, the project’s “Mandate for Leadership” states that “freedom is defined by God, not man.”

The Trump campaign has said repeatedly that it alone is responsible for assembling a policy platform and staffing for a future administration. In response to various news articles about how conservatives are preparing for a second Trump term, campaign advisers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita said in a memo late last year: “Despite our being crystal clear, some ‘allies’ haven’t gotten the hint, and the media, in their anti-Trump zeal, has been all-too-willing to continue using anonymous sourcing and speculation about a second Trump administration in an effort to prevent a second Trump administration.”

Trump’s campaign declined to comment for this story.

Rachel Cauley, CRA’s communication director, said “the so-called reporting from POLITICO in this story is false and we told them so on multiple occasions.”

Trump is not a devout man of faith. But Christian Nationalists have been among his most reliable campaign activists and voting blocs. Trump formed a political alliance with evangelicals during his first run for office, delivered them a six to three conservative majority on the Supreme Court and is now espousing the Christian right’s long-running argument that Christians are so severely persecuted that it necessitates a federal response.

In a December campaign speech in Iowa, he said “Marxists and fascists” are “going hard” against Catholics. “Upon taking office, I will create a new federal task force on fighting anti-Christian bias to be led by a fully reformed Department of Justice that’s fair and equitable” and that will “investigate all forms of illegal discrimination.”

On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, Trump promoted on his social media a video that suggests his campaign is, actually, a divine mission from God.

In 2019, Trump’s then-secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, set up a federal commission to define human rights based on the precepts Vought describes, specifically “natural law and natural rights.” Natural law is the belief that there are universal rules derived from God that can’t be superseded by government or judges. While it is a core pillar of Catholicism, in recent decades it’s been used to oppose abortion, LGBTQ+ rights and contraception.

Vought sees his and his organization’s mission as “renew[ing] a consensus of America as a nation under God,” per a statement on CRA’s website, and reshaping the government’s contract with the governed. Freedom of religion would remain a protected right, but Vought and his ideological brethren would not shy from using their administration positions to promote Christian doctrine and imbue public policy with it, according to both people familiar with the matter, granted anonymity to avoid retaliation. He makes clear reference to human rights being defined by God, not man.

America should be recognized as a Christian nation “where our rights and duties are understood to come from God,” Vought wrote two years ago in Newsweek.

“It is a commitment to an institutional separation between church and state, but not the separation of Christianity from its influence on government and society,” he continued, noting such a framework “can lead to beneficial outcomes for our own communities, as well as individuals of all faiths.”

He went on to accuse detractors of Christian nationalism of invoking the term to try to scare people. “’Christian nationalism’ is actually a rather benign and useful description for those who believe in both preserving our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage and making public policy decisions that are best for this country,” he wrote. “The term need not be subjected to such intense scorn due to misunderstanding or slander.”

To ingratiate himself in conservative circles — and Christian conservative ones — Trump has often turned to operatives from them. Among those who helped was Vought.

As OMB director in the Trump administration, Vought became a disciple of the “America First” movement. He has been a steadfast proponent of keeping the U.S. out of foreign wars and slashing federal spending.

CRA is already wielding influence on Trump’s positions. His thinking on withdrawing the U.S. from NATO and using military force against Mexican drug cartels is partly inspired by separate CRA papers, according to reports by Rolling Stone.

“Russell Vought did a fabulous job in my administration, and I have no doubt he will do a great job in continuing our quest to make America great again,” reads a Trump quote prominently placed on CRA’s website.

Trump will have a major platform to convey his vision for Christian policy in a second term when, on Feb. 22, he addresses a National Religious Broadcasters forum in Nashville. The group is the world’s largest association of Christian communicators.

Trump is also talking about bringing his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a vocal proponent of Christian nationalism, back into office. Flynn is currently focused on recruiting what he calls an “Army of God” — as he barnstorms the country promoting his vision of putting Christianity at the center of American life.

Vought’s beliefs over time have been informed by his relationship with Wolfe. The two spent time together at Heritage Action, a conservative policy advocacy group. And Vought has praised their yearslong partnership. “I’m proud to work with @William_E_Wolfe on scoping out a sound Christian Nationalism,” he posted on X, then Twitter, in January 2023.

Vought often echoes Wolfe’s principles, including on immigration. “Jesus Christ wasn’t an open-borders socialist,” Wolfe wrote for The Daily Caller in April while a visiting CRA fellow. “The Bible unapologetically upholds the concept of sovereign nations.”

While speaking in September at American Moment’s “ Theology of American Statecraft: The Christian Case for Immigration Restriction” on Capitol Hill in September, Vought defended the widely-criticized practice of family separation at the border during the Trump years, telling the audience “the decision to defend the rule of law necessitates the separation of families.”

The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 offers more visibility into what policy agenda a future Trump administration might pursue. It says policies that support LGBTQ+ rights, subsidize “single-motherhood” and penalize marriage should be repealed because subjective notions of “gender identity” threaten “Americans’ fundamental liberties.”

It also proposes increasing surveillance of abortion and maternal mortality reporting in the states, compelling the Food and Drug Administration to revoke approval of “chemical abortion drugs” and protecting “religious and moral” objections for employers who decline contraception coverage for employees. One of the groups that partners with Project 2025, Turning Point USA, is among conservative influencers that health professionals have criticized for targeting young women with misleading health concerns about hormonal birth control. Another priority is defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive health care to low-income women.

Wolfe, who has deleted several posts on X that detail his views, has a more extreme outlook of what a government led by Christian nationalists should propose. In a December post, he called for ending sex education in schools, surrogacy and no-fault divorce throughout the country, as well as forcing men “to provide for their children as soon as it’s determined the child is theirs” — a clear incursion by the government into Americans’ private lives.

“Christians should reject a Christ-less ‘conservatism,’” he expanded in another X missive, “and demand the political movement we are most closely associated with make a return to Christ-centered foundations. Because it’s either Christ or chaos, even on the ‘Right.’”

Wolfe declined to comment.

The effort to imbue laws with biblical principles is already underway in some states. In Texas, Christian conservative supporters have pressured the legislature to require public schools to display the Ten Commandments in every classroom; targeted prohibitions on churches against direct policy advocacy and organized campaigns around “culture war” issues, including curbing LGBTQ+ rights, banning books and opposing gun safety laws.

“There’s been a tectonic shift in how the leadership of the religious right operates,” said Matthew Taylor, a scholar at the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies, who grew up evangelical. “These folks aren’t as interested in democracy or working through democratic systems as in the old religious right because their theology is one of Christian warfare.”

 

A federal court declines to revisit a ruling that could weaken the Voting Rights Act

https://www.npr.org/2024/01/30/1222561113/voting-rights-act-arkansas-federal-appeals-court

A federal appeals court has denied a request to revisit a ruling that could undermine a key tool for enforcing the Voting Rights Act’s protections against racial discrimination in the election process.

It’s the latest move in an Arkansas state legislative redistricting case, filed by civil rights groups representing Black voters in the southern state, that could turn into the next U.S. Supreme Court battle that limits the scope of the landmark civil rights law.

The full 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals released its decision Tuesday after attorneys led by the American Civil Liberties Union appealed the ruling by a three-judge panel last year.

That panel found that federal law does not allow private groups and individuals — who have for decades brought the majority of lawsuits under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act — to sue because that law does not explicitly name them. Only the head of the Justice Department, the panel found, can bring these kinds of lawsuits.

In the 8th Circuit’s majority opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge David Stras, an appointee of former President Donald Trump who also wrote the panel’s majority opinion, said that the panel’s opinion “mostly speaks for itself.”

Three judges, however, said they would grant the request for a rehearing, including Chief Circuit Judge Lavenski Smith, an appointee of former President George W. Bush; Judge Steven Colloton, another Bush appointee; and Judge Jane Kelly, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama.

“The panel’s error is evident, but the court regrettably misses an opportunity to reaffirm its role as a dispassionate arbiter of issues that are properly presented by the parties,” Colloton wrote in a dissenting opinion that was joined by Kelly.

According to a statement released by the ACLU, the civil rights groups that brought this Arkansas lawsuit are “exploring next legal steps,” which may include a Supreme Court appeal.

For now, the panel’s ruling, which upheld a lower court ruling by U.S. District Judge Lee Rudofsky, applies only to the seven states in the 8th Circuit, which includes Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Other federal courts — including a 5th Circuit panel that weighed in on a congressional redistricting case in Louisiana last November — have disagreed with the 8th Circuit panel and Rudofsky, finding that there is what’s known in the legal world as a private right of action under Section 2.

Still, conservative Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas have signaled they’re interested in hearing a case that focuses on this issue.

Edited by Benjamin Swasey

 

Why Trump’s control of the Republican Party is bad for democracy

Associate Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University

Distinguished Practitioner in Grand Strategy, Jackson School of Public Affairs, Yale University

Professor of Political Science, Penn State

https://theconversation.com/why-trumps-control-of-the-republican-party-is-bad-for-democracy-221828[Excerpts:]In our forthcoming book, “The Origins of Elected Strongmen: How Personalist Parties Destroy Democracy from Within,” we explain the dangers that arise when leaders come to power backed by political parties that exist primarily to promote the leader’s personal agenda, as opposed to advancing particular policies.In general, typical political parties select new leaders at regular intervals, which gives elites in the party another chance to win a nomination in the future if the party is popular. And typical parties tend to select leaders who rise up the ranks of the party, having worked with other party elites along the way.But so-called personalist parties, as political scientists like us call them, are a threat to democracy because they lack the incentives and ability to resist their leader’s efforts to amass more power.Since 2016, Trump has increasingly sidelined the traditional party establishment to remake the party into an instrument to further his own personal, political and financial interests. As an indicator of this, the party elite have grown fearful of diverging from his agenda, so much so that the 2020 GOP platform essentially amounted to “whatever Trump wants.” Today, the main qualification for a Republican candidate or appointee appears to be loyalty to Trump himself, not fealty to longstanding GOP principles. Traditional parties, including the pre-Trump Republican Party, offer voters a bundle of policy positions hashed out among multiple elite factions of the party.Trump’s supersized control over the Republican Party has transformed other leading party figures into sycophants, always seeking Trump’s favor. Even Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, after experiencing ridicule and abuse from Trumpendorsed the former president’s bid to return to the White House.

“Intimidation of State and Local Officeholders”

New report from the Brennan Center:

Among the report’s findings:

  • 43% of state legislators have experienced threats within the past three years. 18% of local officeholders have experienced threats within the past year and a half. (p. 4)
  • Because of abuse, 39% of local officeholders and 21% of state legislators are less willing to legislate on contentious issues. Officeholders interviewed gave examples like reproductive rights and gun regulation. (p. 16)
  • Among local officeholders, more women and people of color than men or white people have been the subject of abusive language about their children and families. (statistics on p. 8)
  • Local and state officeholders said that abuse has made them reluctant to engage with their constituents online or hold public events. (statistics on p. 19)
  • 39% of local officeholders said at the time of the survey that the abuse lessened their desire to run for reelection. For women in local office, 48% said at the time of the survey that they were less willing to run for reelection compared to 34% of men. 12% of state legislators said at the time of the survey that the abuse lessened their desire to run for higher office. (p. 16)
  • More Republicans than Democrats have experienced an increase in the volume of abuseover the past few years. (p. 8)
  • Many attributed this to backlash within their party and for not supporting extreme policy positions.
  • In interviews, many local and state officeholders pointed to the viral nature of social media as a primary contributor to the high levels of abuse they experience. (p. 15)
  • According to many of the local and state officeholders interviewed, the deregulation of guns has made the abuse they’re experiencing more dangerous for them and their families. (p. 14)

 

The Case for Conservative Internationalism

How to Reverse the Inward Turn of Republican Foreign Policy

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/united-states/case-conservative-internationalism

 

The Authoritarian Playbook for 2025

How an authoritarian president will dismantle our democracy and what we can do to protect it

JANUARY 2024

A REPORT BY UNITED TO PROTECT DEMOCRACY

https://www.authoritarianplaybook2025.org/

Executive Summary
Introduction

What We Can Expect

Pardons to License Lawbreaking
Directing Investigations Against Critics and Rivals
Regulatory Retaliation
Federal Law Enforcement Overreach
Domestic Deployment of the Military
The Autocrat Won’t Leave

What We Can Do

What Worked Last Time
Recommendations

‘This to Him Is the Grand Finale’: Donald Trump’s 50-Year Mission to Discredit the Justice System

The former president is in unparalleled legal peril, but he has mastered the ability to grind down the legal system to his advantage. It’s already changing our democracy.

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2024/01/12/donald-trump-indictments-legal-system-00135151

[Excerpt:]

Trump and his allies say he is the victim of the weaponization of the justice system, but the reality is exactly the opposite. For literally more than 50 years, according to thousands of pages of court records and hundreds of interviews with lawyers and legal experts, people who have worked for Trump, against Trump or both, and many of the myriad litigants who’ve been caught in the crossfire, Trump has taught himself how to use and abuse the legal system for his own advantage and aims. Many might view the legal system as a place to try to avoid, or as perhaps a necessary evil, or maybe even as a noble arbiter of equality and fairness. Not Trump. He spent most of his adult life molding it into an arena in which he could stake claims and hunt leverage. It has not been for him a place of last resort so much as a place of constant quarrel. Conflict in courts is not for him the cost of doing business — it is how he does business. Throughout his vast record of (mostly civil) lawsuits, whether on offense, defense or frequently a mix of the two, Trump has become a sort of layman’s master in the law and lawfare.

Starting in 1973, when the federal government sued him and his father for racist rental practices in the apartments they owned, Trump learned from the notorious Roy Cohn, then searched for another Roy Cohn — then finally became his own Roy Cohn. He’s exploited as loopholes the legal system’s bedrock tenets, eyeing its very integrity as simultaneously its intrinsic vulnerability — the near sacrosanct honoring of the rights of the defendant, the deliberation that due process demands, the constant constitutional balancing act that relies on shared good faith as much as fixed, written rules. He has routinely turned what’s obviously peril into what’s effectively fuel, taking long rosters of losses and willing them into something like wins — if not in a court of law, then in that of public opinion. It has worked, and it continues to work. Trump, after all, was at one of his weakest points politically until the first of his four arraignments last spring. Ever since, his legal jeopardy and his political viability have done little but go up, together. Deny, delay and attack, always play the victim, never stop undermining the system: Trump has taken the Cohn playbook to reaches not even Cohn could have foreseen — fusing his legal efforts with his business interests, lawyers as important to him as loan officers, and now he’s done the same with politics. He’s not fighting the system, it seems sometimes, so much as he’s using it. He’s fundraising off of it. He’s consolidating support because of it. He’s far and away the most likely Republican nominee, polls consistently show. He’s the odds-on favorite to be the president again.

“He has attacked the judicial system, our system of justice and the rule of law his entire life,” said J. Michael Luttig, a conservative former federal appellate judge and one of the founders of the recently formed Society for the Rule of Law. “And this to him,” Luttig told me, “is the grand finale.”

Lots of People Will Vote This Year. That Doesn’t Mean Democracy Will Survive.

Dictators and even voters can turn elections into mere pageantry.

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2024/01/elections-democracy-autocracy-trump/677037/

 

What Trump will campaign on in 2024

[Excerpts:]

Immigration

At each of his rallies, Trump hammers Biden on the issue and paints a dystopian picture of migrants flooding the country and changing its makeup.

“All over the world, they’re coming into our country. From Africa, from Asia, all over the world,” Trump said at a recent New Hampshire rally, where he controversially claimed immigrants were “poisoning the blood of our country,” a remark that drew comparisons to Nazi Germany.

Inflation

Inflation has come down significantly from its peak in 2022. Data released Dec. 12 showed the annual inflation rate had fallen from 9.1 percent in June 2022 to 3.1 percent as of November.

Energy

 “Drill, baby, drill.”

America First foreign policy

Former Trump aides have warned he would try to pull the United States out of the NATO alliance if he’s reelected, a move that would shake the global order and could spur more aggression from Russia.

And Trump has repeatedly shown an affection for authoritarian leaders like Vladimir Putin of Russia, Kim Jong Un of North Korea and Viktor Orbán of Hungary . . . .

 

“Republicans Launch Two-Pronged Attack Against Voting Rights Act”

TPM:

In their endless quest to further defang the Voting Rights Act and gerrymander their way into permanent control, Republican officials have launched a double-headed attack on the landmark civil rights law. 

The new attacks emerge as Republican politicians attempt to wriggle out of judges’ orders requiring that they draw additional, majority-minority, likely Democratic districts in their states, which could imperil their party’s thin majority in the House of Representatives. 

The attacks on the already-weakened VRA take two forms: arguing that the law doesn’t protect districts controlled by coalitions of multiple minority groups, and that only the U.S. attorney general — not individual voters represented by good government groups, as is most common — can bring lawsuits under the section of the law concerning illegal vote dilution.

The West’s self-deception on Ukraine should not extend to Hungary’s Orban

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/12/26/orban-ukraine-europe-threat-west-hungary/

[Excerpts:]

The risk of that particular self-deception has metastasized largely because of one man: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has made no secret of his intent to destroy Western unity on Ukraine.

It matters little that Orban has driven Hungary’s economy into a ditch, or that its economic output and population of 10 million are tiny fractions of the E.U.’s total. What counts is that Hungary, Putin’s Trojan horse in the heart of Europe, has weaponized the E.U.’s rules on Moscow’s behalf.

Orban, a darling of U.S. Republicans, has gutted Hungary’s democracy and made a sham of baseline E.U. expectations of its members: judicial independence, media freedom, minority rights, fair elections and tolerance.

That tragedy, for Hungarians and for Europe, will become farce next summer when Hungary takes over the rotating E.U. presidency, a role that grants Orban agenda-setting powers for a six-month term.

That bully pulpit will afford him the chance to embarrass the E.U. by showcasing his obstructionism, especially on Ukraine. But the broader threat he represents inside the alliance is real owing to the E.U.’s antiquated voting rules, including the requirement of unanimity of all member states on security and finance questions.

The Only Thing More Dangerous Than Authoritarianism

The forces of Christian nationalism are now ascendant both inside the Church and inside the Republican Party.