Opinion

 

Engage with thoughtful opinion on the right to vote and all that follows . . . 

 

My Unsettling Interview With Steve Bannon

David Brooks

July 1, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/07/01/opinion/steve-bannon-trump.html

[Excerpt:]

Bannon:
The MAGA movement controls the Republican Party and backs President Trump. So yes, Trump is a revolution — remember, General Washington, the revolution and the foundation, and then Lincoln, the birth of the new America. And he’s the most nationalist guy we’ve ever had. Remember, fighting the Civil War as a warlord, to make sure that we were a nation. Remember, he’s a nationalist.

I hate to say this, but Trump’s the third. Trump is taking America back to its more constitutional Republic for the third time, and that drives the credentialed left nuts because he’s not just a class traitor, he’s a low-end guy from Queens. He’s not up to their social — it’s too tacky. It’s the gold. It’s the Trump stuff. They hate him. They hate him to a passionate level. They look at the noise around Trump and miss the signal of what’s really happening, and they can’t get past that, and they’re blinded by it.

 

Scared about America losing democracy? Texas is already gone

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s chilling pardon of the killer of a 2020 BLM protester is a rejection of democracy in a state banning dissent.

Will Bunch

May 19, 2024

 

https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/texas-abbott-pardon-murderer-blm-protester-20240519.html

Between Trump and Biden, what should real Republicans do?

How Republicans should think about 2024 and beyond.

By John Danforth
William Cohen

 and 

Alan Simpson
May 14, 2024 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2024/05/14/trump-biden-choice-republicans

[Excerpt:]

We three former senators, all Republicans, will not presume to tell these people what to do on Nov. 5. What we do want to offer, however, is a framework for thinking about the decision and for helping to secure America’s future beyond 2024, no matter what happens on Election Day.

We believe that our nation’s well-being depends on having the positive, stabilizing influence of a healthy, two-party system, which we currently do not have; and that one of those parties must reflect the traditional Republicanism which we embraced in our decades of public service.

Recently it has become popular to assert that this traditional brand of Republicanism is dead, replaced by a new populist, radical version. We disagree. In our view, traditional Republicanism, though currently in eclipse, is no more extinct than the sun was over portions of the country on April 8. And all of us who believe in it must do what we can to ensure its expeditious return.

 

The Deep, Tangled Roots of American Illiberalism

May 4, 2024

Steven Hahn

Dr. Hahn is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian at New York University and the author, most recently, of “Illiberal America: a History.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/04/opinion/trump-second-term-illiberalism.htm

 

MAGA’s Violent Threats Are Warping Life in America

Opinion Columnist

 

[Excerpt:]
Amid the constant drumbeat of sensational news stories — the scandals, the legal rulings, the wild political gambits — it’s sometimes easy to overlook the deeper trends that are shaping American life. For example, are you aware how much the constant threat of violence, principally from MAGA sources, is now warping American politics? If you wonder why so few people in red America seem to stand up directly against the MAGA movement, are you aware of the price they might pay if they did?

Late last month, I listened to a fascinating NPR interview with the journalists Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman regarding their new book, “Find Me the Votes,” about Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. They report that Georgia prosecutor Fani Willis had trouble finding lawyers willing to help prosecute her case against Trump. Even a former Georgia governor turned her down, saying, “Hypothetically speaking, do you want to have a bodyguard follow you around for the rest of your life?”

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/18/opinion/magas-violent-threats-are-warping-life-in-america.html

 

How Trump is already damaging U.S. national interests

|

 

February 5, 2024

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2024/02/05/trump-world-global-reaction-tariffs/

[Excerpt:]

The Eurasia Group, a risk consultancy, has warned that a Trump return would raise foundational questions about America’s trustworthiness as well as “the credibility of its commitments to foreign partners, and the durability of its role as the [linchpin] of the global security order.” We wish it were exaggerating.

Vote for destruction in November

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2024/01/25/republican-party-future-trump-save/

[Excerpt:]

If you want the GOP to be a serious conservative political party and not a MAGA cult, send Republicans into the wilderness. Vote for Biden. Take away Republicans’ control of the House. Give Democrats a bigger majority in the Senate. Vote Republican officials out of statehouses, city halls and school boards.

Make the metaphorical ashes from which a new GOP can rise.

“The 2024 Election Will Be Fair. People Still Won’t Believe It.”

I have written this piece for Politico. A snippet:

The current backdrop for the 2024 election may seem bleak: Many of those who helped to ensure a fair election and a peaceful transition of power in 2020 have been silenced, replaced or intimidated. Researchers who studied and reported on disinformation have been unfairly attacked as engaging in election interference in collusion with the government. Conservative states have passed new laws barring the use of private funds to help support election administration, derisively calling such money “Zuckerbucks” after Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s foundation provided hundreds of millions in crucial 2020 funding. Lawsuits and congressional hearings by the Orwellian-named House committee on the “weaponization of government” may be deterring some government agencies from reporting election disinformation and foreign interference to social media companies and others. The social media platforms that had deplatformed Trump after he encouraged the violence at the Capitol have restored his accounts.

Some Republican officials have been booted out of the party or out of power, including Aaron Van Langevelde, the Michigan state member of the board of canvassers who confirmed Biden’s 2020 victory in the state, and Republican members of the U.S. House, including Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who lost primaries or chose not to run for reelection. Attrition rates among election officials, who have faced relentless threats and intimidation while earning relatively low pay, are substantial.

And yet there is reason for hope.

Efforts have been made to ensure the 2024 election will be mostly fair. Congress amended the set of rules used for its counting of Electoral College votes to close off some of the shenanigans with alternative slates of electors that Trump and his allies tried in 2020. The Supreme Court last year in Moore v. Harper rejected an extreme theory that would have empowered legislatures to overcome even their own state constitutions and state courts in constricting voting rights. Election deniers who ran for chief election officer in swing states lost in 2022. People are now hypervigilant about attempts to subvert election results and are on guard against new forms of manipulation. Trump, no longer in government, has fewer tools to try to manipulate results. The 2022 elections, without Trump on the ballot, went off smoothly. (Of course, there is much more that can and should be done in law, politics, media and tech to assure a fair and safe election, as a group of us explained in a recently issued report, “24 for ’24.”)

But things look less promising when it comes to voter confidence in the fairness of election results — on both sides of the aisle.

Trump is already laying the seeds for claiming voter fraud in the 2024 elections should he lose, positing without evidence that Democrats are allowing illegal immigration into the United States so that these new arrivals can vote for Biden in the 2024 elections. (Noncitizens are ineligible to vote in U.S. presidential elections.) One of the mistakes I made in the run-up to the 2020 elections was believing that if the U.S. could pull off a free and fair election, it would take the oxygen out of false and outlandish claims of voter fraud. In fact, Trump has been able to manufacture doubt out of absolutely nothing; fraud claims untethered to reality still captivate millions of people looking for an excuse as to why their adored candidate may have lost. The upshot, of course, was an insurrection on Jan. 6. We should be deeply concerned about a sequel, even if Trump is not in the Oval Office this time…..

Mr. Hasen is the author of several books about elections and democracy, including “A Real Right to Vote: How a Constitutional Amendment Can Safeguard American Democracy.”

 

[Excerpt:]

The history of voting in the United States shows the high cost of living with an old Constitution, unevenly enforced by a reluctant Supreme Court.

Unlike the constitutions of many other advanced democracies, the U.S. Constitution contains no affirmative right to vote. We have nothing like Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, providing that “every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein,” or like Article 38 of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, which provides that when it comes to election of the Bundestag, “any person who has attained the age of 18 shall be entitled to vote.”

As we enter yet another fraught election season, it’s easy to miss that many problems we have with voting and elections in the United States can be traced to this fundamental constitutional defect. Our problems are only going to get worse until we get constitutional change.

 

Can Trump Voters Be Persuaded to Reconsider?

Civil Discourse, by Joyce Vance

December 27, 2023

https://joycevance.substack.com/

[Excerpt:]

I had not planned on writing today, but I want to make sure you don’t miss an excellent pieced published in The New York Times today. A Trump Conviction Could Cost Him Enough Voters to Tip the Election.

You’ve likely seen some of this information before. But the authors, Norm Eisen, former White House Ethics advisor and special counsel during Trump’s first House impeachment, Celinda Lake, well-regarded Democratic pollster, and Anat Shenker-Osorio, political researcher and campaign adviser, make a compelling case for the political impact jury verdicts in the criminal cases against Trump will have.

I think their argument suggests at more than that as well. The authors appropriately limit themselves to what they have statistical evidence to prove—that a conviction in a criminal case would swing enough Trump voters away to result in his loss at the polls in 2024. I think that data hints at a more compelling conclusion, that those who plan to vote for Trump can be swayed even without trials if they come to believe he committed criminal acts. A jury’s verdict isn’t the only kind of proof that can convince people to reject Trump’s candidacy. Now that indictments are public and much of the evidence is available it should be possible to persuade folks Trump committed a crime through means short of a jury verdict.

 

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 Opposite of Politics’: A Conservative Legal Scholar Says Kicking Trump Off the Ballot Is ‘Unassailable’

J. Michael Luttig explains why he thinks the 14th Amendment should prevent Trump from running for president again.

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2023/12/21/luttig-14th-amendment-trump-00132792

[Excerpt:]

Do you worry at all about the political blowback that a judicial decision removing Trump from ballots could spark?

I do, but what I would say, though, is this: The Constitution itself tells us that disqualification of the former president is not anti-democratic. Rather, the Constitution tells us that it is the conduct that can give rise to disqualification under the 14th Amendment that is anti-democratic.

I would add that we are a nation of laws, not of men, and it is the Constitution of the United States that is providing the avenue for the disqualification of the former president. This is not politics. This is the opposite of politics. This is constitutional law. And right now, the courts — the state courts and eventually the Supreme Court — will be interpreting the Constitution of the United States without regard to politics, let alone partisan politics.

 

A Trump dictatorship is increasingly inevitable. We should stop pretending.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/11/30/trump-dictator-2024-election-robert-kagan/

[Excerpt:]

But wait until Trump returns to power and the price of opposing him becomes persecution, the loss of property and possibly the loss of freedom. Will those who balked at resisting Trump when the risk was merely political oblivion suddenly discover their courage when the cost might be the ruin of oneself and one’s family?

We are closer to that point today than we have ever been, yet we continue to drift toward dictatorship, still hoping for some intervention that will allow us to escape the consequences of our collective cowardice, our complacent, willful ignorance and, above all, our lack of any deep commitment to liberal democracy. As the man said, we are going out not with a bang but a whimper.

Democracy faces two threats. Trump is only one of them.

Over the next year, the survival of democracy should be the central issue in American politics. To insist on this is to be a realist, not an alarmist. But making that case requires identifying two distinct threats.

The first is Donald Trump, who is already at the center of our national conversation. The second is the ongoing assault on voting rights, which rarely commands the airwaves.

Let’s start with the good news: It has become untenable to treat Trump as a normal presidential candidate, thanks to his own evermore radical rhetoric, starting with his pledges to use the Justice Department as a tool for revenge against political enemies. The result is a partial but welcome shift in journalistic coverage recognizing Trump’s journey into what the New York Times called “more fascist-sounding territory.” The Economist, no avatar of left-wing politics, received wide attention for declaring that Trump “poses the biggest danger to the world in 2024.”

It’s true that most Republican politicians shy away from calling out the former president’s planned assaults on our constitutional democracy, but at least the issue is being joined outside the GOP’s cocoon.

We are paying far less attention to the long-term deterioration of the right to vote, the essential building block of a democratic republic. It’s easier to overlook because chipping away at access to the ballot has been a subtle, decade-long process. It began with the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision that gutted Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, thus sharply circumscribing the Justice Department’s power to enforce the law.

This led to an explosion of state abuses, including discriminatory voter-identification laws, targeted purges of electoral rolls, gerrymanders that undercut minority representation and changes in early-voting rules that often advantaged some groups over others.

Because such moves fall short of the wholesale disenfranchisement of Black voters during the Jim Crow era — it ended with the Voting Rights Act’s passage in 1965 — defenders of today’s restrictions insist they are not discriminating against anyone. But making it harder for some people to vote — often in the name of preventing the falsely imagined “voter fraud” that is at the heart of Trump’s election denial — is no less an attack on democracy.

And the attack continues.

In his decision in Shelby, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. claimed that even without a strong Section 4, the Voting Rights Act bans discrimination under Section 2, which “is permanent, applies nationwide, and is not at issue in this case.”

Permanent? Not if the 2-1 decision last week from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit is allowed to stand.

The court’s majority arrogantly tossed aside what Congress explicitly said it was doing when it passed the law, claiming miraculous powers to read the “text and structure” of the act as preventing private parties, including civil rights groups, from bringing cases under Section 2. As the Atlantic’s Adam Serwer noted, the ruling’s claim that only the Justice Department had this authority ignored “Congress’s intentions, Supreme Court precedent and decades of practice.”

This is no minor bit of judicial activism. Rick Hasen, a law professor at UCLA, wrote in the Election Law Blog that the ruling would eliminate the bulk of the cases aimed at protecting voting rights because “the vast majority of claims to enforce section 2 of the Voting Rights Act are brought by private plaintiffs, not the Department of Justice with limited resources.” Bye bye, Voting Rights Act. Indeed, there were immediate signs (in a key Louisiana case, for example) that the 8th Circuit ruling would be used to overturn earlier voting rights actions.

Preventing Trump from overthrowing liberal democracy is certainly a necessary step, but it’s not sufficient. Renewing the fight for a new Voting Rights Act and the access-enhancing reforms in the Freedom to Vote Act is essential. But it’s also time to address one of the major flaws of our Constitution: It does not contain an explicit, affirmative guarantee of every citizen’s right to vote. Enacting a constitutional amendment that would do so, Hasen argues, would bring our voting wars to an inclusive conclusion. 

“Why do we let the state put barriers in front of people when they exercise their right to vote?” Hasen asked in an interview. The director of UCLA’s Safeguarding Democracy Project, Hasen details his proposed amendment and the case for it in a forthcoming book, “A Real Right to Vote.” A carefully framed amendment, he argues, could simultaneously protect voter access and assure election integrity. He’d link automatic voter registration with a nationwide, universal, nondiscriminatory form of voter identification.

Polarization makes amending the Constitution nearly impossible these days, one reason Hasen addresses fears on both the left and the right. But whatever chances Hasen’s amendment has, it calls on Americans to address the most important question facing our democracy: Are we truly committed to being a democracy? We’ll decide that at the ballot box next November, but we’ll have a lot more work to do even if we get the initial answer right.

[Boldface added]

George Conway, J. Michael Luttig and 

The writers are lawyers. Mr. Conway was in private practice. Mr. Luttig was a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit from 1991 to 2006. Ms. Comstock represented Virginia’s 10th District in Congress from 2015 to 2019. They serve on the board of the newly formed Society for the Rule of Law Institute.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/21/opinion/trump-lawyers-constitution-democracy

What Ron DeSantis doesn’t seem to understand about Ronald Reagan

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/11/06/ron-desantis-choice-trump-republicans-2024/

Gerrymandered districts are not representative democracy

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/11/03/gerrymandered-districts-failure-representative-democracy/

It has become clear that the North Carolina GOP has no interest in American democracy or the input of voters but is interested only in grabbing and retaining power. Abusing an ill-gotten supermajority gained by the state Rep. Tricia Cotham flipping parties after she posed as a Democrat to get elected, Republicans rammed through a grossly gerrymandered election map. This map will eliminate three more Democratic districts and leave only one competitive district in the state.

This is not representative democracy. Partisan gerrymandering is undemocratic and needs to be eliminated. This map dilutes the Black voting population, entrenches Republican supermajorities and renders voters’ input meaningless. It is outrageous and wrong that in a consistently purple state such as North Carolina, the legislature is a supermajority, districts are not competitive and election outcomes are predetermined regardless of turnout.

Perhaps if the North Carolina GOP adopted mainstream policies with strong public approval rather than its current radical, extremist agenda, it wouldn’t need to be afraid of the state’s voters.

Curtis Kelly, Hillsborough, N.C.

[Excerpts:]

Donald Trump claims to be the best, most or first in countless laughable ways, but there’s one endeavor at which he really is peerless: Nobody dishes out humiliation in such heaping, merciless measures.

Just ask Ronna McDaniel. She’s the one feasting miserably on it now.

The chair of the Republican National Committee, McDaniel is responsible for its presidential primary debates, including the one next week at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Trump is skipping it. Dismissing her wishes, ignoring her entreaties, he has made other arrangements, just as he did in August, when he jilted McDaniel and pointedly took a pass on the first Republican primary debate, in Milwaukee.

But that’s just the half of it. When Trump snubs you, he snubs you in neon.

He’s actively competing with her debate by counterprogramming it — again, a repeat of his antics last month, when he did an interview with Tucker Carlson that was shown just as Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley and the gang stood behind their lecterns, unfurling their talking points.

Only this time, he’s staging his rival event, a prime-time speech to striking United Auto Workers members that he could have scheduled for any other night, in McDaniel’s own backyard. She lives just outside Detroit, where Trump reportedly plans to make his remarks, and Michigan is where her grandfather George Romney was governor; where one of her uncles, Mitt Romney, grew up; and where the Romney clan has long been royalty. That’s why she went by Ronna Romney McDaniel until Trump came along and his contempt for Uncle Mitt complicated the luster of that middle name.

Michigan, in other words, is Romney territory. And Trump will be trampling all over it.

What a priceless turn of events. What a perfect spectacle — in the sense that it so vividly captures the mess of the Republican Party and the mortification of Republican “leaders” in the Trump era, when courtesy is obsolete, traditions are damned, loyalty flows to Mar-a-Lago but never from it, and all prosper or perish in accordance with their orange overlord’s whims.

Once upon a time, being the chair of the Republican Party was a prize and McDaniel’s duration in the job (she’s in her fourth term) would have been a triumphant validation of her political acumen and power. Now it just pegs her as a toady. It’s her ticket to disrepute.

She has richly earned that censure. Right after the 2020 presidential election, she was alternately squishy about and indulgent of Trump’s bogus claims that it had been stolen. As Tim Alberta recounted in a November 2020 article in Politico titled “The Inside Story of Michigan’s Fake Voter Fraud Scandal,” McDaniel “sanctioned her employees, beginning with top spokesperson Liz Harrington, to spread countless demonstrable falsehoods.” Alberta also noted that the R.N.C., “on McDaniel’s watch, tweeted out a video clip of disgraced lawyer Sidney Powell claiming Trump ‘won in a landslide’ (when he lost by more than six million votes nationally) and alleging a global conspiracy to rig the election against him.”

That was just a continuation of McDaniel’s fealty to Trump, who handpicked her to ascend to the chair of the R.N.C. after the 2016 election. She thanked him by dutifully playing the sycophant, as two headlines in Politico two years in a row neatly illustrated.

From January 2019: “R.N.C. Chair McDaniel Sides With Trump Over Uncle Mitt Romney.” That was when Romney, freshly elected to the Senate from Utah, wrote an opinion essay for The Washington Post that disparaged Trump’s performance as president. McDaniel in turn tweeted that Romney’s critique was “disappointing and unproductive.”

From February 2020: “Ronna McDaniel Stands With Trump After Uncle Mitt Says He’ll Vote to Convict.” That was when Romney, alone among Senate Republicans, deemed Trump culpable in the “perfect phone call” with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, which prompted the first of Trump’s two impeachments. McDaniel countered Romney’s vote by tweeting that “Trump did nothing wrong, and the Republican Party is more united than ever behind him.”

How faithful she has been. How little it has netted her. She is being reduced to a laughingstock and is learning what Rudy Giuliani did when he had to trek to Mar-a-Lago with a tin cup in his hand and beg for financial help with legal bills that he’d incurred by promoting Trump’s election lies: With Trump, there are no alms for the addled. He doesn’t spare his friends the kind of humiliation that he visits upon his foes. His favors are contingent not on your past servitude but on your present utility.

And when you sell your soul to him, you get no receipt.

 

Jack Smith and Fani Willis have a secret weapon: Donald Trump

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/09/21/trump-confessions-prosecutors/

[Excerpts:]

Four-times indicted former president Donald Trump and his co-defendants are turning out to be special counsel Jack Smith’s and Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis’s secret weapons. Their trail of admissions of wrongdoing, failed efforts at moving their cases to federal court and incriminating documents provide evidence that prosecutors only dream of collecting.

The “advice of counsel” defense posits that if you received and accepted reasonable legal advice, you might not have had the requisite intent for certain crimes.

Trump’s statements and the testimony of his co-defendants point in one direction: He engaged in conduct outside presidential powers and disregarded or overrode advice of counsel. Meanwhile, his notes, statements affirming his willful retention of documents and the testimony of an aide shore up evidence of willful intent and obstruction of justice.

Bottom line: Trump and his cohorts’ arrogance have made prosecutors’ cases all the more compelling.

“Jan. 6 Rioters Have Been Held to Account. That Might Be the Easy Part.”

NYT:

The Trump prosecutions are likely to be a stress test of the country’s commitment to the rule of law at a moment of intense polarization and with Mr. Trump solidifying his position as the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

As if more tension were needed, Mr. Trump has already shown that he intends to make attacking the integrity of the proceedings a central part of his campaign, saying on Wednesday that he plans to take the stand in his own defense….

But Mr. Trump’s trials — especially the two he faces on charges of election interference, which were brought in Washington by the special counsel, Jack Smith, and in Georgia by the Fulton County district attorney, Fani T. Willis — will be of a different nature. They will be wrapped up in a tangled web of legal and political complexities that has never been seen before.

Samuel Buell, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at Duke University, said that Mr. Trump’s election cases were legally challenging not only because they involved intersecting plots with numerous co-conspirators, but also because they were likely to hinge on thorny issues like proving intent and determining liability for crimes that different people may have committed together.

As if to prove his point, prosecutors in the Georgia case said on Wednesday that they expect to call at least 150 witnesses and that the trial there could last four months. (The judge said it might take eight.)

“These cases are much more nuanced and complicated than the riot cases,” Mr. Buell said.

Mr. Whipple is the author of “The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/31/opinion/mark-meadows-georgia-trump

[Excerpts:]

Mr. Meadows failed as Mr. Trump’s chief because he was unable to check the president’s worst impulses. But the bigger problem for our country is that his failure is a template for the inevitable disasters in a potential second Trump administration.

Mr. Trump’s final days as president could be a preview. He ran the White House his way — right off the rails. He fired his defense secretary, Mark Esper, replacing him with his counterterrorism chief, Chris Miller, and tried but failed to install lackeys in other positions of power: an environmental lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, as attorney general and a partisan apparatchik, Kash Patel, as deputy C.I.A. director.

Mr. Trump has already signaled that in a second term, his department heads and cabinet officers would be expected to blindly obey orders. His director of national intelligence would tell him only what he wants to hear, and his attorney general would prosecute Mr. Trump’s political foes.

For Mr. Meadows, his place in history is secure as a primary enabler of a president who tried to overthrow democracy. But his example should serve as a warning of what will happen if Mr. Trump regains the White House. All guardrails will be gone.

[Boldface added]

 

Mark Meadows’s job wasn’t to help Trump steal the 2020 election

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/08/30/meadows-trump-georgia-federal-court/

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows says he was just doing his job when he helped President Donald Trump try to steal the 2020 presidential election. This is how he justifies asking to be tried in federal court for his actions — such as setting up the Jan. 2, 2021, call in which Mr. Trump asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to “find 11,780 votes” — rather than in the Georgia state courthouse where he faces charges from Fulton County’s district attorney.

If Mr. Meadows were to succeed in changing venues, he would widen the pool of potential jurors, who could come from more conservative areas outside Atlanta, and he would avoid having his trial televised. He would also set a bad precedent, encouraging future presidents and their aides to interfere in the administration of local elections, with the expectation that they could later claim they were acting in their official capacities and secure more favorable circumstances at any trial.

Jennifer Rubin: Mark Meadows paints himself into a corner

The law requires defendants to establish three things to move a case to federal court: that they were an officer of the United States or acting under an officer; that they’re facing criminal charges “for or relating to any act under color of such office”; and that they have raised or will raise a “colorable federal defense.” Mr. Meadows has separately filed a motion in federal court to dismiss the charges against him under the Constitution’s supremacy clause, but this will be heard only if his arguments for removal prevail.

 

Trump yearns to govern a mafia state. Fitting that he faces racketeering charges

August 23, 2023

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/aug/22/trump-yearns-to-govern-a-mafia-state-fitting-that-he-faces-racketeering-charges

[Excerpts:]

The Georgia indictment is particularly important: what many have long suspected – that Trump operates like a mafia boss – is confirmed by the ample evidence of Trump and his (increasingly bizarre and brutal) associates forming a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States. Unlike mobsters, Trump used the power of the state itself to try to get his way, even if his making offers one couldn’t refuse ultimately failed. If Trump were brought back to power in 2024, there is every reason to believe that he would not only engage in all-out retribution for alleged wrongs against his political clan, but also erect what some observers describe as a mafia state.

It should have long been obvious that Trump operates with methods familiar from the mob: He tried to make James Comey kiss the ring. He demanded that Volodymyr Zelenskiy do him a favor. He threatens those who try to hold him to account for illegal behavior (“If you go after me, I will come after you”). This pattern is not unique to Trump; rather, it can be found among autocrats, or aspiring autocrats globally, who also happen to be kleptocrats.

The Hungarian sociologist Bálint Magyar has coined the term “mafia state” to describe the creation of “political families” (which can include a ruler’s actual family, as in the examples of Trump’s, Orbán’s, Bolsonaro’s and Erdoğan’s children, with especially nefarious roles reserved for sons-in-law); these families then use the state to enrich themselves.

. . . the methods to keep such a system going are recognizably mafia-style: absolute loyalty is given in exchange for material reward and, equally important, protection for an indefinite future through capturing the judiciary. Unlike with the ideologically driven authoritarian states of the 20th century, the main aim is not, as a Hungarian observer put it, “To persecute the innocent. It is the power to protect the guilty.”

[Boldface added]

 

The Constitution Prohibits Trump From Ever Being President Again

The only question is whether American citizens today can uphold that commitment.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/08/donald-trump-constitutionally-prohibited-presidency/675048/

The best argument for the Georgia indictment doesn’t involve Trump

The best argument for Ms. Willis’s indictment, in the end, has less to do with Mr. Trump than with these lesser-known leaders. They and others like them might confront a similar choice in 2024 and have now been put on notice that robbing voters of their say comes with consequences. Mr. Raffensperger put it aptly in a statement on Tuesday. “The most basic principles of a strong democracy are accountability and respect for the Constitution and rule of law,” he said. “You either have it, or you don’t.” In the 2020 election and its ugly aftermath, we learned how much those principles depend on the presumption that those who are charged with upholding them can be trusted to act with honor.

Mr. Kirtzman is the author of and Mr. Holley the researcher for “Giuliani: The Rise and Tragic Fall of America’s Mayor.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/16/opinion/rudy-giuliani-georgia-indictment-trump

It is easy to forget, and in some ways difficult to imagine, that Rudy Giuliani was once revered for his integrity. He was seen by many as a hero long before Sept. 11, a seemingly fearless U.S. attorney who broke the back of the mob, took on Wall Street titans and sent political power brokers to prison.

With each sensational indictment from his office in the 1980s, Mr. Giuliani spoke like the priest he almost became about good and evil and the seductions of power and money.

“It’s a rare individual in public office who does not eventually become personally corrupt,” he said in 1988.

The comment takes on new meaning when you read through the Georgia grand jury’s indictment, Mr. Giuliani’s first as a defendant. The details make it clear that the crusader of the 1980s and ’90s has completely lost his ability to distinguish right from wrong. He has gone from a moral compass in a city teeming with corruption to a long-ago leader who has descended into a moral void.

Enough With the False Narrative About Trump’s Rise

What exactly does David Brooks want “anti-Trumpers” to do?

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2023/08/donald-trump-david-brooks-new-york-times-liberal-elitism.html

 

 

DAVID FRENCH

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/20/opinion/jan-6-legal

[Excerpt:]

American legal institutions have passed the Jan. 6 test so far, but the tests aren’t over. Trump is already attempting to substantially delay the trial on his federal indictment in the Mar-a-Lago case, and if a second federal indictment arrives soon, he’ll almost certainly attempt to delay it as well. Trump does not want to face a jury, and if he delays his trials long enough, he can run for president free of any felony convictions. And what if he wins?

Simply put, the American people can override the rule of law. If they elect Trump in spite of his indictments, they will empower him to end his own federal criminal prosecutions and render state prosecutions a practical impossibility. They will empower him to pardon his allies. The American voters will break through the legal firewall that preserves our democracy from insurrection and rebellion.

We can’t ask for too much from any legal system. A code of laws is ultimately no substitute for moral norms. Our constitutional republic cannot last indefinitely in the face of misinformation, conspiracy and violence. It can remove the worst actors from positions of power and influence. But it cannot ultimately save us from ourselves. American legal institutions have responded to a historical crisis, but all its victories could still be temporary. Our nation can choose the law, or it can choose Trump. It cannot choose both.

 

Norman Eisen and 

Mr. Eisen is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Mr. Goodman is a law professor at New York University.

[Excerpt:]

We’ve reached a turning point in the effort to ensure there are consequences for those who deliberately attempt to undermine our democracy: Michigan’s attorney general, Dana Nessel, charged 16 Republican leaders in her state on Tuesday for their role as fake electors working to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The charges, coming on the heels of news that the special counsel Jack Smith has informed Donald Trump that he’s a target of the Department of Justice’s investigation into the Capitol riot, mean we are witnessing a new and necessary phase in this quest for accountability, one in which the federal and state wheels of justice work to hold people accountable not only for the violence on Jan. 6, but also for what got us there: the alleged scheme to interfere with the transfer of power.

The charges in Michigan will surely meet criticism on all sides. Some will say the case is not broad or bold enough, that Mr. Trump and the other alleged national ringleaders should have been charged as well. Others will say Ms. Nessel cast too wide a net, pulling in low-level party functionaries who did not know better. We think those critiques are misconceived. Ms. Nessel got it just right, prosecuting crimes firmly within her jurisdiction, while opening the way for federal authorities to net even bigger fish.

Ms. Nessel brought the same eight counts against all 16 defendants. The offenses include conspiracy to commit forgery, since the defendants are accused of signing documents stating they were the qualified electors (they were not), and publishing forged documents by circulating these materials to federal and state authorities. On paper, the penalties for the offenses range from five to 14 years, but sentencing in this case would presumably be lower than that maximum.

Until now there have been no charges centered on the fake electors plot. For that reason alone, Michigan’s action brings a sense of needed accountability for those who fanned the rioters’ passions leading up to Jan. 6 by spinning a false narrative about a stolen election.

 

America Is Doing Just Fine

The United States deserves a robust defense.

July 10, 2023

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/07/uncle-sam-american-military-patriotism

Judge Luttig was appointed by George H.W. Bush and served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit from 1991 to 2006.

[Excerpt:]

When Republicans faced an 11th-hour reckoning with another of their presidents over far less serious offenses almost 50 years ago, the elder statesmen of the party marched into the Oval Office and told Richard Nixon the truth. He had lost his Republican support and he would be impeached if he did not resign. The beleaguered Nixon resigned the next day and left the White House the day following.

Such is what it means to put country over party. History tends to look favorably upon a party that writes its own history, as Winston Churchill might have said.

Republicans have waited in vain for political absolution. It’s finally time for them to put the country before their party and pull back from the brink — for the good of the party, as well as the nation.

If not now, then they must forever hold their peace.

Opinion: As a former AG, I know why Trump’s defenders are wrong

https://edition.cnn.com/2023/06/23/opinions/trump-baier-indictment-jack-smith-justice-department-gonzales/index.html

[Excerpt:]

No one in the nation is above the law. That’s why we all have a stake in the outcome of Trump’s case. It is not just about one person; it is about our system of justice. We all lose — as a country and as a people — if at the end of the former president’s trial, regardless of the outcome, the Department of Justice and the rule of law emerge weaker.

Throughout our history, our democratic institutions have been tested, sometimes to the breaking point. Yet, in the end, those institutions proved capable because of strong, competent leaders who acted with faith and not fear. I encourage today’s leaders to set aside their personal views of the politics of one controversial figure and remain focused on preserving the rule of law.

 

Bill Barr: The Truth About the Trump Indictment

This time the president is not a victim of a witch hunt. The situation is entirely of his own making.

By William P. Barr

June 19, 2023

[Excerpt:]

For the sake of the country, our party, and a basic respect for the truth, it is time that Republicans come to grips with the hard truths about President Trump’s conduct and its implications. Chief among them: Trump’s indictment is not the result of unfair government persecution. This is a situation entirely of his own making. The effort to present Trump as a victim in the Mar-a-Lago document affair is cynical political propaganda.

Here are the plain facts

On voting rights, the justices followed the law. Shouldn’t be news, but it is.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/06/09/supreme-court-voting-rights-ruth-marcus/

[Excerpt:]

It is imperative to call out the conservative majority’s radicalism for what it is. And let’s not get carried away. What passes for a win here is preserving the status quo. Still, when the conservative juggernaut falters, when the three remaining liberals are able to cobble together a victory, it is important to pause — to savor the moment, praise the restraint and ponder how it happened.

“American men are in desperate need of virtuous purpose.”

Opinion Columnist

There is a certain irony in discussions of masculinity. The group that is most convinced of a crisis of masculinity, the American right, is also busy emasculating itself before our eyes. It correctly perceives that young men are facing an identity crisis, yet it is modeling precisely the wrong response.

The release of the Missouri senator Josh Hawley’s new book on manhood is the latest peg for a national conversation about men, but the necessity of such a conversation has been apparent for some time. If there’s anything that’s well established in American social science, it’s that men are falling behind women in higher education, suffer disproportionately from drug overdoses and are far more likely to commit suicide.

Indeed, the very definition of “masculinity” is up for grabs. In 2019, the American Psychological Association published guidelines that took direct aim at what it called “traditional masculinity — marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression” — declaring it to be, “on the whole, harmful.

I strongly disagreed. Aside from “dominance,” a concept with precious few virtuous uses, the other aspects of traditional masculinity the A.P.A. cited have important roles to play. Competitiveness, aggression and stoicism surely have their abuses, but they also can be indispensable in the right contexts. Thus, part of the challenge isn’t so much rejecting those characteristics as it is channeling and shaping them for virtuous purposes.

I should note here that traditionally “masculine” virtues are not exclusively male. Women who successfully model these attributes are all around us. On my recent visit to Kyiv, I was struck by the restraint and courage of the men and women I met. In the face of the greatest of challenges, they exhibited a degree of calm conviction that’s all too foreign to our domestic politics.

If you doubt the need for such stoicism in our own country, I’d point you, ironically enough, to the side of our political divide that is most critical of the A.P.A.’s conclusions: the American right. In its words, the right claims to uphold traditional masculinity; in its deeds, the story is very different.

Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem “If—” is one of the purest distillations of restraint as a traditional manly virtue. It begins with the words “If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you.” The entire work speaks of the necessity of calmness and courage. Do not allow yourself to become too high or too low. (“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / And treat those two impostors just the same.”) Persevere.

It’s a compelling vision — although one that can become an emotional trap, to be sure. Stoicism carried to excess can become a dangerous form of emotional repression, a stifling of necessary feelings. But the fact that the patience and perseverance that mark stoicism can be taken too far is not to say that we should shun those values. In times of conflict and crisis, it is the calm man or woman who can see clearly.

Instead, the new right chooses to shriek about “groomers” on Twitter.

If you spend much time at all on right-wing social media — especially Twitter these days — or listening to right-wing news outlets, you’ll be struck by the sheer hysteria of the rhetoric, the hair-on-fire sense of emergency that seems to dominate all discourse.

In 2016, for example, the single most important intellectual work of the new right was an essay by Michael Anton entitled “The Flight 93 Election.” It began like this: “2016 is the Flight 93 election: Charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You — or the leader of your party — may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees. Except one: If you don’t try, death is certain.”

That’s right: The argument was that electing Hillary Clinton, a thoroughly establishment Democrat, would mean the end of America. It’s an argument that people never stopped making. In 2020, I debated the Christian author Eric Metaxas about whether Christians should support Donald Trump against Joe Biden. What did he argue? That Joe Biden could “genuinely destroy America forever.”

Catastrophic rhetoric is omnipresent on the right. Let’s go back to the “groomer” smear. It’s a hallmark of right-wing rhetoric that if you disagree with the new right on any matter relating to sex or sexuality, you’re not just wrong; you’re a “groomer” or “soft on pedos.” Did a senator vote to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson for the Supreme Court? Then he’s “pro-pedophile.” Did you disagree with Florida’s H.B. 1557, which restricted instruction on sexuality and gender identity? Then “you are probably a groomer.”

But conservative catastrophism is only one part of the equation. The other is meanspirited pettiness. Traditional masculinity says that people should meet a challenge with a level head and firm convictions. Right-wing culture says that everything is an emergency, and is to be combated with relentless trolling and hyperbolic insults.

Twitter, even in its pre-Elon Musk state, seemed as if it had been constructed in a lab to contribute to a constant state of hysteria. Every single perceived left-wing outrage or excess is shared far and wide. “How can you be calm?” right-wing activists demand to know. “Didn’t you see that the North Face is using drag queens in its ads?”

Last month, my friend Jonah Goldberg wrote an important piece cataloging the sheer pettiness of the young online right. “Everywhere I look these days,” he wrote, “I see young conservatives believing they should behave like jerks.” As Jonah noted, there are those who now believe it shows “courage and strength to be coarse or bigoted.”

No one should think that this hysteria is confined to online spaces or that it ultimately remains merely petty or cruel. Hysteria plus cruelty is a recipe for violence. And that brings us back to Mr. Hawley. For all of its faults when taken to excess, the traditional masculinity of which he claims to be a champion would demand that he stand firm against a howling mob. Rather, he saluted it with a raised fist — and then ran from it when it got too close and too unruly.

If the right is going to claim it defends traditional masculinity — through its books, its viral Jordan Peterson videos and its Tucker Carlson documentaries — should it not at least attempt to exhibit the best virtues of traditional masculinity? Yet rather than model the traits of Kipling’s “If—,” the right mimics the attitudes of the countercultural 1968 film “If…,” which offered a sardonic inversion of Kipling’s virtues in its tale of a violent, schoolboy-led insurrection at a British boarding school.

I share many of the right’s concerns about young men. As I argued in one of my first pieces for The Times, American men are in desperate need of virtuous purpose. I reject the idea that traditional masculinity, properly understood, is, “on the whole, harmful.” I recognize that it can be abused, but it is good to confront life with a sense of proportion, with calm courage and conviction. [Boldface added]

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received reflects that wisdom. Early in my legal career, a retired federal judge read a brief that I’d drafted and admonished me to “write with regret, not outrage.”

Outrage is cheap, he told me. And he doubted that I, as a young lawyer, had even begun to understand what true legal outrage looked like. Husband your anger, he told me. Have patience. Gain perspective. So then, when something truly is terrible, your outrage will mean something. It was the legal admonition against crying wolf.

I worry for the young right. As Jonah wrote, all too many of them “have no frame of reference, no meaningful political experience or memory of politics prior to this shabby era; they think being shabby is normal and smart.” But there is a better way. It includes paying close attention to the very masculine values they claim to uphold, and it can start with remembering a singular admonition: “Keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs.” It’s a step toward reason, a step away from the emotional brink and a key to understanding what it truly takes to be a good man.

 

The GOP Is the Party of ‘Fuck You’.     

It was once a political party, now it’s a nihilistic, corrupt, fake populist scam.

David Rothkopf

Updated May. 12, 2023 / Published May. 12, 2023 

https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-gop-is-the-party-of-fk-you?

There is an apocryphal belief that among the Indigenous people of the north there are more than 30 words for snow. Well, I’m from New Jersey and I can tell you that in America’s great Garden State we don’t need so many words. In fact, along our stretch of the I-95 corridor there are probably 30 different ways we deploy just a single two-word phrase: “Fuck you.”

It can be a greeting, an expression of disbelief, a paroxysm of surprise or awe, an expression of affection, a reaction to a particularly delicious meal, and an expression of anger in its many different forms. You get the idea.

All of which is to say, I am an expert in the use of the term. And, because I also am a denizen of Washington, D.C., I have come to understand how it has become central to the politics of our moment.

The Republican Party has become the party of “Fuck you.” “Fuck you” is the motivation of its alienated voters. It is its legislative strategy. It is its views toward the laws and Constitution of the United States. It is its reaction to morality and values. It is its foreign policy mantra with our allies. “Fuck you” is even its message to the historians of the future.

Sadly, we live in an age in which the political discourse of the United States results in every idea floated by Democrats, independents, and even the elusive “reasonable Republicans,” in which every constructive thought floated about the direction our country should take, or how we should behave, or why the law matters is met by a chorus of Republican leaders with their signature “Fuck you.”

As a New Jerseyite, I worry they will discredit the term so much that we will have to find another way to express ourselves. My concern is due to the fact that the MAGA-ized GOP has only gotten more outrageous… which is to say more committed to the politics of outrage, to obliterating norms of decency, as the signature activities to which they devote themselves.

They do it because their base is angry. They do it because it drives social media wild. They do it because they have no ideas and their leaders are profoundly immoral, disgusting people.

We have seen multiple examples of the politics of “Fuck you” this week. We have seen Donald Trump, the leader of the party, the high priest of “Fuck you-ism,” the commander-in-chief of the “Fuck your feelings” army, in a video-taped deposition saying, essentially, “Fuck you” to E. Jean Carroll’s lawyer. We heard him say “Fuck you” to anyone who may have thought sexual abuse was wrong when he doubled down on his famous pussy-grabbing brag, arguing that “stars” like him have been “fortunate” to be able to grab pussies for the past “million years” or so.

Then, when an undoubtedly disgusted jury found Trump liable for sexual assault and defamation in record time, he immediately said “Fuck you” to the American system of justice and to his own hometown in a series of social media posts that soon may be fodder for the next set of defamation suits against him.

He followed that up with a televised Trump rally that was carried on CNN in which he repeated some of his greatest “Fuck yous” to America of the past seven years. He doubled down on the Big Lie. He called Vladimir Putin a smart guy. He refused to condemn Putin as a war criminal. He equated Russia and Ukraine’s role in the former’s invasion of the latter. He promised to pardon Jan. 6 insurrectionists. He said he had a right to the classified government documents he stole. He said the GOP was right to threaten debt default, which he said might have no effect at all. He gloated about his role in making the Dobbs decision happen. And he once again defamed E Jean Carroll. It was a tour de force of what might be called the art of “Fuck you,” complete with an audience of fawning MAGA zombies and a big old “Get fucked” to fact-checkers in the form of his usual tsunami of lies.

While some leaders in the GOP actually had the decency to condemn Trump’s vileness at the conclusion of the Carroll trial, they were very much in the minority. Most GOP lawmakers offered their party’s patented silent “Fuck you” by refusing to say a bad word about their party’s leader after a jury’s verdict that he was a sex abuser. But some went further. Some said “Fuck you” to New York and the nine average Americans who did their duty on the jury (and in so doing offered a “Fuck you” to the entire American system of justice).

Some members of the F.U. Party were not content to merely demonstrate their contempt for our system of law or any modicum of respect for women. Some, like Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, actually said things like the Carroll verdict “makes me want to vote for him twice.”

Tuberville, now vying for Ted Cruz’s crown as the most despicable member of the Senate GOP contingent is emerging as a poster boy for the Fuck you-ist movement on the right. He was off to a good start, of course, when he ran for the Senate despite having zero political or public service background, coming to the post from his prior role as the coach of the Auburn University football team. But having arrived in the Senate unencumbered by any sense of shame due to his off-the-charts ignorance, he has zeroed-in on the most Fuck you-iest possible positions and statements. Most recently, this has involved telling U.S. national security and our military leaders to go take a flying fuck by blocking the promotion of over nearly 200 officers for over two months (so far) as a way of making a point regarding his troglodyte, profoundly anti-woman views on abortion. Then, with a flourish that will have Fuck you-ologists studying his work for years, when asked about efforts to keep white nationalists out of the military he responded, “Well, they call them that. I call them Americans.”

After Trump, the most senior member of the GOP, is of course, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. He, too, has demonstrated where “Fuck your feelings, fuck your Constitution, fuck the world economy, fuck every American” gets you as a policy position by threatening to trigger a U.S. default on its debt for the first time in history.

He does this despite the GOP having held the view that paying the debt was sacrosanct under Trump (as it was for decades previous), and despite having voted for the big GOP measures that have contributed to America’s deficit. Oh, and the “plan” for cutting the deficit he proposes is not only completely unrealistic, it would be a big “Fuck you” to tens of thousands of Americans—like the 81,000 people at the Veterans Administration whose jobs he would put at risk or the hundreds of thousands of veterans they serve.

But what are tens or hundreds of thousands of jobs when the default you are flirting with would trigger a global recession, gut America’s standing on the world stage and possibly put as many as eight million Americans out of work?

“They do it because their base is angry. They do it because it drives social media wild. They do it because they have no ideas and their leaders are profoundly immoral, disgusting people.”

Doing his best Tony Soprano imitation—in response to criticisms of the risks he is undertaking or observations that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits such behavior—McCarthy’s response is, “Fuck me? No, fuck you!” (And he would add, to the voters of New York who were defrauded into voting for the pathological and now indicted fabulist Rep. George Santos, he adds a big “Fuck you, too, I’m going to keep him around as long as I need his vote!”)

When did all this Fuck-you-osity begin to happen? When did the last drops of decency or respect for our system or our people get sucked out of the leaders of the current GOP? It’s hard to say. Contempt for anyone but the donor class has been a clear theme among party leaders since the Reagan years. The message of contempt for our system and values was amplified further by the party’s decision to elevate a series of contemptible leaders in the Congress like convicted sex abuser and former Speaker Denny Hastert, ethically challenged former Speaker Newt Gingrich, or scandal-plagued GOP whip Tom Delay. Certainly, it was not helped by the George W. Bush administration’s chest-thumping about its embrace of torturing our enemies or slaughtering innocents in an illegal war.

But the real golden age of “Fuck you” politics was ushered in by the election of Donald Trump as president in 2016.

After all, by the time he was elected, the world had already seen and heard the Access Hollywood tape; they knew Trump had been accused of sex crimes by dozens of women; they knew of his shady business past; they knew he had reached out to our Russian enemies for help; they knew he was a racist; they knew he had no public service experience; they knew he was as despicable a human being as ever sought public office in the U.S.

They knew all that and their response was to elect him precisely because he sent a message of “Fuck you” to America.

Amazingly, of course, the reason so many Republicans wanted to tell the rest of the country to get fucked was because, of course, they had been fucked over by the system promoted, manned, defended, and advanced by the leaders of their own party and the donors that backed them. The fuckees elected the fuckers because they were tired of getting fucked by them.

What irony. What a scam. What a beauteous way for the GOP fat cats to cackle to each other over brandy and cigars about how well and truly they had fucked everyone but themselves.

 

 

The Briefing: The wrong way to protect election officials

Brennan Center for Justice
May 9, 2023
Armed vigilantes stalked Arizona ballot drop boxes during the 2022 election in a transparent bid to intimidate. It was a chilling reminder of the role that guns have historically played in terrorizing American voters. On Friday, the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill that completely ignores history — guns and voting do not mix.
The bill would permit election judges, early voting clerks, and deputy early voting clerks to carry handguns at polling places. The legislator responsible for the bill said it would ensure “law-abiding citizens who are election judges who want to carry to protect themselves” can do so “without fear of prosecution.”
He got one thing right: election officials around the country are afraid. But they’re not afraid of weapons charges — they’re afraid of armed conspiracy theorists and the risk of gun violence at polling locations. According to a Brennan Center poll, nearly one in three officials has been harassed, abused, or threatened. One in five is worried about being physically assaulted on the job. And 45 percent are concerned for the safety of other election officials and workers.
Arming election officials is not the solution. The presence of guns risks escalating the increasingly fraught and hyperpartisan political climate of the modern era into potentially deadly conditions.
Weapons also scare voters away from the polls, particularly racial minorities who have been the historical targets of voter intimidation and violence. Armed nativists from the Know Nothing party chased immigrants and others from polling places in the mid-19th century. Guns were used to terrorize Black Americans who attempted to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote following the Civil War. It is a long and disgraceful history, and you can draw a straight line from those eras to the vigilantes who used guns to menace would-be voters last year.
The rational response to these incidents is to keep guns away from polls. Last year, Congress considered but failed to pass legislation banning firearms near federal election sites. Because of that failure, gun advocates are reviving the old argument that more guns make us safer. More guns do not make schools safer, and history shows that guns do not make polling places more secure.
This fact has been recognized since the earliest days of the republic. Delaware’s 1776 constitution plainly stated, “To prevent any violence or force being used at the said elections, no person shall come armed to any of them.” I couldn’t put it any better.
There’s a better way to protect election officials than to hand them a weapon and wish them luck. An armed election official is not a trained security officer. Texas could, instead, increase funding for true election security and prohibit the intimidation of election officials. The federal government can help, providing expertise and its own funding to prevent attacks on election officials. (If Texas needs guidance in protecting the people who administer its elections, the Brennan Center’s April report, Securing the 2024 Election, is a great place to start.)
Politicians can also stop lying about election fraud. In a letter cosigned by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the Brennan Center told Texas legislators that “false allegations of election fraud by politicians and others have dramatically raised tensions at the polls.” Drop the Big Lie, and many of these threats will go away without a shot being fired.

 

DAVID FRENCH

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/07/opinion/tucker-carlson-christian-right.html

[Excerpt:]

The great tragedy is that a moment of dangerous national polarization is exactly when a truly Christian message that combines the pursuit of justice with kindness and humility would be a balm to the national soul. A time of extraordinary social isolation, when people report less companionship, less time with friends and less time with family, is exactly the time when a healthy church community can be a beacon of inclusion and hope.

But not when the right-wing pursuit of its version of justice overwhelms its commitment to kindness, much less any shred of humility. This is how the religious right becomes post-Christian. Its “secular prophets” become even more influential than its Christian leaders, and it actively discards clear biblical commands for what it perceives to be the greater good.

That’s not Christianity. It’s a primitive form of consequentialism, the idea that the morality of an action is to be judged solely by its consequences. Many Christians fear that kindness doesn’t work, so they discard it. This is how even decency itself becomes a secondary value. Aggression, not virtue, becomes the touchstone of political engagement, and anything other than aggression is seen as a sign of weakness.

No Labels May Re-Elect Donald Trump

The centrist group’s candidate would take unenthusiastic voters away from Biden.

George Will is the latest commentator to view with equanimity the prospect of a No Labels-led bipartisan presidential campaign. “One or both of the major parties might, depending on their calculations of a third candidate’s appeal, accuse No Labels of being a spoiler,” he wrote in a Washington Post column last week. “Let those parties try to explain how today’s politics could be spoiled.”

I’m happy to accept Mr. Will’s challenge. In 2010 I helped start No Labels to foster bipartisan solutions to our country’s most important problems. Last month, after more than a decade, I felt compelled to resign in disagreement over its decision to launch a bipartisan presidential campaign.

KATHERINE MILLER

 

Mr. Khardori is a former federal prosecutor.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/01/opinion/trump-prosecution-precedent

NICHOLAS KRISTOF

 

Mr. Shields is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College. He has written widely on the American right and the politics of higher education.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/23/opinion/conservative-college-students

[Excerpts:]

Liberal professors have the power to help solve this problem. They can show their conservative students how to become thoughtful and knowledgeable partisans — by exposing them to a rich conservative intellectual tradition that stretches back to Enlightenment thinkers like Edmund Burke, David Hume and Adam Smith. They could mentor their conservative students, set up reading groups, help vet speakers and create courses on the conservative intellectual tradition.

This is easier said than done, of course. One challenge is that there are not many incentives to take undergraduate teaching and mentoring seriously, at least not at research universities, which instead dole out promotions based on research and publication. A bigger obstacle, though, is that very few professors know much at all about the conservative intellectual tradition. Many assume there is little of value in it.

The people now teaching them to think and act like conservatives mostly belong to Trumpist outfits like Turning Point USA, which recruits and trains young conservatives to be campus activists. (Turning Point has taken to hosting deliberate provocations like affirmative action bake sales, in which students are charged different prices, depending on their race.)

The point of these stunts isn’t just to provoke liberal outrage on campus; it’s to alienate conservative kids from their surroundings. Turning Point’s bombastic founder, Charlie Kirk, a college dropout, wants his young protégés to feel every bit as contemptuous of higher education as he does. As he told Fox News, “Anything but college.”

Of course, none of this would fully inoculate the next generation from embracing a reckless populism. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri was close to his thesis adviser, David M. Kennedy. A prominent historian and visiting fellow at the center-right Hoover Institution, Dr. Kennedy even helped Mr. Hawley turn his thesis on Teddy Roosevelt into a book. That didn’t stop Mr. Hawley from going all in on Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud, infamously raising a clenched fist as he entered the Capitol on the morning of Jan. 6.

But this seems just as true: It’s hard to imagine how the next generation of Republican leaders will become thoughtful conservatives if all they’ve ever been tutored in is its Trump-style expressions. Professors have the power to make sure that doesn’t happen; it’s time they use it.

Why Xi and Putin pretend they run democracies

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/03/23/putin-xi-authoritarianism-democracy/

[Excerpts:]

Autocrats using fake elections to claim popular support while consolidating power isn’t new. Xi and Putin aren’t just hiding behind a fig leaf of legitimacy; they are attempting to redefine the world’s understanding of what “democracy” means. This is dangerous, and real democracies must push back.

To some, Putin and Xi’s democracy playacting might seem harmless. 

But this week’s Putin-Xi summit showed that these two leaders are not simply trying to reframe democracy for domestic purposes. They are claiming ownership of the concept of democracy as a key plank of their proposed new world order — one where the actual struggle for democratic progress is demonized and negated. In 2021, China’s State Council Information Office even released a white paper entitled “China: Democracy That Works” and offered it as a model to the developing world.

More broadly, Putin and Xi are trying to hollow out the very notions of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in the international system.

“Once you get a taste of being autocratic in your own country, you want to be autocratic in the world,” Moisés Naím, author of the book “The Revenge of Power: How Autocrats Are Reinventing Politics for the 21st Century,” told me. “What happens in autocracies doesn’t stay in autocracies. It travels.”

Western democracies would be naive to think Beijing’s narrative isn’t spreading. A report last week by the U.S. Institute of Peace detailed the Chinese government’s extensive global campaign to influence media in the developing world through massive amounts of propaganda, corruption of local media, covert influence operations and co-opting of local officials.

Putin’s and Xi’s attacks on the Western concept of democracy are aided by the erosion of support for democracy promotion here at home. Some U.S. experts argue that the United States ought to ignore the ideological component of great-power competition because it shrinks the space for cooperation with dictatorships.

But the sheer amount of time, effort and resources that Putin and Xi devote to ideological projection shows its importance to them and therefore demands a response. The Biden administration next week is hosting the second iteration of its Summit for Democracy, which aims to bolster international support for these values. But one conference per year is just not enough.

Putin and Xi want to have it both ways; they want to run their systems as dictators while claiming the mantle of democracy in the 21st century. The fact they are pretending shows that they know their actual model is neither popular nor just. Leaders in open societies must ensure that democracy isn’t defined by those who oppose it.

 

DeSantis Has No Choice but to Fully Commit to the Trump Bit

The Florida governor’s Ukraine comments put an end to any hope that he’s a Reagan Republican. Now there’s nowhere to go but full MAGA throughout the GOP primary.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/desantis-has-no-choice-but-to-fully-commit-to-the-trump-bit

 

The Real Danger Isn’t Trump or DeSantis

It’s the illiberal desires of Republican voters. 

Shark vs. Alligator vs. Gorilla

I get the appeal of the question. It’s like wondering who would win in a fight—a gorilla, an alligator, or a shark.

But it’s the wrong question because the danger doesn’t emanate primarily from the politician.

The danger emanates from the will of the voters.


We have a number of potential Republican candidates who fit squarely in the middle of America’s political tradition:

Nikki Haley. Brian Kemp. Tim Scott. Mike Pompeo. Glenn Youngkin. Mike Pence.

You may have ideological or policy disagreements with all of them. You might vastly prefer a replacement-level Democrat to any of them. Fine. But none of those figures either has a record of, or is campaigning on a promise to, walk American back from the tradition of liberal democracy.

On the other hand, the field has just two candidates who are explicitly positioning

themselves as . . . I’m struggling to be charitable here . . . in tension with the underpinnings of liberal democracy.

Donald Trump is in tension with the idea that electoral outcomes must be honored.

Ron DeSantis is in tension with liberalism itself. Here I’m not talking about DeSantis policies that you might merely dislike or think are harmful. I’m talking about policies which seek to rewrite the relationship between government and the private sphere.

Here’s Chait on what DeSantis is doing to Disney:

On Monday . . . DeSantis appointed a board to oversee Disney. The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District is stacked with DeSantis cronies, including Bridget Ziegler, a proponent of his education policies; Ron Peri, who heads the Christian ministry the Gathering USA; and Michael Sasso, president of the Federalist Society’s Orlando chapter.

While the board handles infrastructure and maintenance, DeSantis boasted that it could use its leverage to force Disney to stop “trying to inject woke ideology” on children.

“When you lose your way, you’ve got to have people that are going to tell you the truth,” DeSantis proclaimed. “So we hope they can get back on. But I think all of these board members very much would like to see the type of entertainment that all families can appreciate.”

It is worth pausing a moment to grasp the full breadth of what is going on here. First, DeSantis established the principle that he can and will use the power of the state to punish private firms that exercise their First Amendment right to criticize his positions. Now he is promising to continue exerting state power to pressure the firm to produce content that comports with his own ideological agenda.

Pour encourager les autres.

There’s no way to understand this except as a move toward Orbánism. And when you package it with DeSantis’s attempts to use the power of the state to control what can and can’t be said in classrooms and on university campuses and his attempt to regulate the media, we are way, waaaaaay outside the American political tradition.

We’re in new territory.


So don’t ask, “Who is worse, Trump or DeSantis?”

Instead ask, “What do Republican voters want, liberalism or illiberalism?”

And this is the rough answer we have:

The two illiberal guys get 75 percent of the votes. That’s the problem.


Look: Is Trump more dangerous than DeSantis? If you gave me a button that would make one of them president and told me I had to pick, I’d take DeSantis, based purely on (1) cognitive functioning; (2) Trump’s history of actively attempting a coup; and (3) a thin hope that maybe DeSantis doesn’t mean the Orbán stuff and is just maneuvering opportunistically.

But I wouldn’t feel great about (3). Because when the Republican base is given a choice between the conservatism of the last 50 years and an illiberal attempt to renegotiate the foundations of our governing compact—they want the illiberalism. And it’s not even close.

So even if DeSantis is a pure opportunist, the opportunistic path might well be the illiberal path.


At this point, I want to make clear that I’m not wishing for some Never Trump fantasy version of a Republican. I’m not saying, Gee, if only St. Larry were the nominee, then we’d be fine.

Just give me Brian Kemp. Or Mike Pence. Or, God help me, Glenn Youngkin. Because as conservative as those guys are, and as much as you or I might not like their politics, none of them has betrayed an interest in renegotiating the liberal democratic order.

Only two of the potential candidates have. And those two guys are running away with it.

That’s the revealed preference of Republican voters. And that’s the real danger, irrespective of who wins the nomination.

Pat Buchanan’s GOP must tackle racism, not deny it

Mr. Luttig, a former judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, provided advice to then-Vice President Pence on the run-up to the Electoral College count on Jan. 6, 2021.

A New Manifesto for Texas Conservatives

As a lifelong Republican—and, more recently, dedicated Never Trumper—it’s clear to me that the state GOP desperately needs to enter the twenty-first century.

Opinion Columnist

[Excerpts:]

In 2017, the government of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban passed a law intended to drive Central European University, a prestigious school founded by a Hungarian refugee, George Soros, out of the country. At the time, this was shocking; as many as 80,000 protesters rallied in Budapest and intellectuals worldwide rushed to declare their solidarity with the demonstrators. “The fate of the university was a test of whether liberalism had the tactical savvy and emotional fortitude to beat back its new ideological foe,” wrote Franklin Foer in The Atlantic.

Liberalism, sadly, did not: The university was forced to move to Vienna, part of Orban’s lamentably successful campaign to dismantle Hungary’s liberal democracy.

That campaign has included ever-greater ideological control over education, most intensely in grade school, but also in colleges and universities. Following a landslide 2018 re-election victory that Orban saw as a “mandate to build a new era,” his government banned public funding for gender studies courses. “The Hungarian government is of the clear view that people are born either men or women,” said his chief of staff. In 2021, Orban extended political command over Hungarian universities by putting some schools under the authority of “public trusts” full of regime allies.

Many on the American right admire the way Orban uses the power of the state against cultural liberalism, but few are imitating him as faithfully as the Florida governor and likely Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis. Last week, one of DeSantis’s legislative allies filed House Bill 999, which would, as The Tampa Bay Times reported, turn many of DeSantis’s “wide-ranging ideas on higher education into law.” Even by DeSantis’s standards, it is a shocking piece of legislation that takes a sledgehammer to academic freedom. Jeremy Young, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America, described it as “almost an apocalyptic bill for higher education,” one that is “orders of magnitude worse than anything we’ve seen, either in the recent or the distant past.” [Boldface added]

Trump’s enablers must face consequences, too

Accessories to authoritarianism should not be able to launder their reputations.

Opinion by Jennifer Rubin

March 1, 2023

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/03/01/trump-enablers-paul-ryan-held-accountable/

 

To fight defamation suit, Fox News cites election conspiracy theories 

Legal experts say Fox News defense strategy in Dominion defamation case is risky but could help make case commentators truly saw false claims as plausible.

March 1, 2023

By Rachel Weiner

https://www.washingtonpost.com/media/2023/03/01/fox-news-defamation-lawsuit-defense-strategy/

 

Pence Is the Reagan Republican No One Wants Anymore

The former vice president was right to break ranks with Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis in recent days, but it makes him out of touch with today’s GOP.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/mike-pence-breaks-ranks-with-donald-trump-ron-desantis-but-hurts-his-2024-chances

[Excerpts:]

If you want to get a sense of how prolonged exposure to MAGA has shifted the Republican Party’s policy positions these last eight years, use Mike Pence as your control group.

This past week, we learned that, unlike Ron DeSantis, Pence doesn’t think we should use the coercive power of the government to punish private businesses like Disney.

We also learned that, contrary to Donald Trump, Pence thinks reining in our long-term debt crisis will require us to put entitlement reform on the table.

And lastly, we learned that, unlike Fox News’ primetime anchors, Pence thinks it’s vital that America support Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.

As a Reagan conservative, I’d say Pence is now batting 3-for-3. That means he’s probably going 0-for-3 in today’s GOP (though opinions about Ukraine remain mixed). Regardless, right and wrong aren’t determined by the opinion polls.

And the hits kept coming.

“I think it’s important that we hold the line here, support the Ukrainians as they make the fight just like [the] Reagan doctrine said,” Pence told Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

Pence’s positions strike me as correct, courageous, and (in today’s GOP) politically foolish. Then again, he is showing a clear contrast with the frontrunners (Trump and DeSantis) by staking out a clear niche.

That’s more than you can say for other Republicans, who seem to be all over the place on some of the most important issues of the day.

And did I mention that Reagan’s GOP, like Pence, used to believe “the orderly transfer of power” was a uniquely American blessing and a “miracle.”

These aren’t just fringe issues. These were defining tenets of what might be considered conservative (if not American) mainstream thought from 1980 to 2015.

Pence is one of the few remaining Republicans who still believes in the Reaganite policies that were once almost universally endorsed and praised on the right.

And for that reason, Mike Pence is a dead man walking in 2024.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/17/opinion/fox-news-dominion

[Excerpts:]

The brief, a motion for summary judgment in a case stemming from Fox’s egregiously false claims of Dominion-abetted election fraud, offers a portrait of extravagant cynicism. It reveals how obsessed Carlson and other leading Fox News figures were with audience share, and their fear of being outflanked by even further-right outlets like Newsmax.

“It’s remarkable how weak ratings make good journalists do bad things,” Bill Sammon, a Fox senior vice president until 2021, is quoted as saying. It’s a line that would fall flat on “Succession” because it’s too absurdly on the nose.

As the Dominion filing lays out, there was panic at Fox News over viewer backlash to the network correctly calling Arizona for Joe Biden on election night. Despite its accuracy, the call was viewed, internally, as a catastrophe.

“Do the executives understand how much credibility and trust we’ve lost with our audience?” Carlson texted his producer. He added, “An alternative like Newsmax could be devastating to us.” Sean Hannity, in an exchange with fellow hosts Carlson and Laura Ingraham, fretted about the “incalculable” damage the Arizona projection did to the Fox News brand and worried about a competitor emerging: “Serious $$ with serious distribution could be a real problem.”

Hyping false claims about election fraud was a way for Fox to win its audience back. While the Arizona call was “damaging,” Fox News C.E.O. Suzanne Scott wrote in a text to Fox executive Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son, “We will highlight our stars and plant flags letting the viewers know we hear them and respect them.”

When Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich fact-checked Trump’s wild claims about Dominion on Twitter, Carlson was enraged and tried to get her fired. “It needs to stop immediately, like tonight,” he texted Hannity. “It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.” (Heinrich kept her job but deleted the tweet.)

The network knew, of course, that Trump’s lawyer Sidney Powell, a chief promoter of Dominion conspiracy theories, was a delusional fantasist. The legal brief reveals that some of her claims about Dominion were based on an email Powell had received from someone who claimed to be capable of “time travel in a semiconscious state.” On Nov. 18, 2020, Carlson told Ingraham: “Sidney Powell is lying by the way. Caught her. It’s insane.” Ingraham wrote back that Powell was a “complete nut.”

But according to the Dominion brief, an analysis by Ron Mitchell, the senior vice president for prime-time programming and analytics, found that “Fox viewers were switching the channel specifically to watch Sidney Powell as a guest” on Newsmax. A few days after this analysis, Powell was a guest on Hannity’s show.

At one point, Carlson did express skepticism of Powell on-air, noting on Nov. 19 that she had never produced evidence for her claims. “Maybe Sidney Powell will come forward soon with details on exactly how this happened, and precisely who did it,” he said, adding, “We are certainly hopeful that she will.”

Even this gentle note of doubt produced viewer pushback, though most of a message about it from Fox executive Raj Shah is redacted. Afterward, Carlson seems to have given up trying to steer his audience away from total credulity about Trump’s stolen election claims, even though he privately called Trump a “demonic force.”

On Jan. 26, Carlson hosted MyPillow founder Mike Lindell on his show and let him sound off about Dominion without resistance. In fairness, Carlson may have had a motive for indulging Lindell besides grubbing for ratings. As Media Matters for America pointed out, MyPillow at the time was Carlson’s single biggest advertiser.

“Respecting this audience whether we agree or not is critical,” Hannity texted on Nov. 24. It’s a version of respect indistinguishable from contempt.

Even if we can’t impeach media companies, we can do more to hold them accountable for sowing sedition.

Opinion Columnist

[Excerpts:]

As America debates whether to hold former President Donald Trump accountable for inciting insurrection, what about his co-conspirator Fox News?

Fox helped sell Trump’s lie about a stolen election, propelling true believers like Ashli Babbitt — a fan of Fox personalities like Tucker Carlson — to storm the Capitol. Babbitt died in the attack, while this week Fox Corporation merrily reported a 17 percent jump in quarterly earnings.

Fox News and Fox Business didn’t make an honest mistake about election outcomes but deliberately spun nonsense into ratings gold.

“During 2020, Fox News’s caldron of lies and extremism boiled over,” Carusone said. “They made us sicker and put up obstacles to the pandemic response by flooding the airwaves with over 13,150 instances of Covid misinformation. They fomented racial animus and promoted white supremacy as a response to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. And, in the first two weeks after the election was called for Joe Biden, Fox News laid the groundwork for the attack on the Capitol by challenging the results on 774 individual instances with wild conspiracies and flat-out fabrications.”

In other words, the problem with Fox isn’t that it’s conservative but that it monetizes conspiracy theories and disinformation in ways that are sometimes lethal. Researchers have found, for example, that places where Fox News is randomly assigned a lower channel number (and thus gets more viewers) had riskier behavior during the pandemic, and that media markets where Hannity is particularly popular had higher Covid-19 death rates early in the pandemic.

We would agree that advertisers should not support their programs and that cable channels should not force Americans to subsidize them. In other words, we accept that there must be red lines even if we don’t always agree where to draw them — and I believe that Fox crossed those lines in 2020.

I hope Fox returns from the Land of Make Believe to its conservative roots, for America would benefit from a reliable right-wing TV news source. As Tucker Carlson said at CPAC in 2009: “The New York Times is a liberal paper, … but it’s also a paper that actually cares about accuracy. … Conservatives need to mimic that in their own news organizations.”

He was right … then.

Mr. Foner is the author of “The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution.”

[Excerpts:]

The 14th Amendment, added to the Constitution in the wake of the Civil War, has been back in the news of late, mostly because the Supreme Court has taken aim at past decisions, notably Roe v. Wade, that employed it to protect Americans’ liberties. The amendment remains the most significant addition to the Constitution since the adoption of the Bill of Rights. Its magnificent first section established the principle of birthright citizenship and prohibited the states from denying to any person the equal protection of the laws, laying the foundation for many of the rights Americans prize.

Long-forgotten provisions of the 14th Amendment are suddenly crying out for enforcement. Section Two provides for a reduction in the number of representatives allocated to states that deny the right to vote to any “male citizens.” (Today this penalty would apply to the disenfranchisement of women as well.) Even at the height of the Jim Crow era, when millions of African Americans were prevented from voting, this penalty was never implemented. But with many states seriously limiting voting rights, its time may have come.

Section Three bars from public office anyone who took an oath to support the Constitution and subsequently participated in or encouraged “insurrection.” The events of Jan. 6, 2021, have focused new attention on this stipulation, which could be applied to participants in the uprising who previously held military, political, or judicial positions, including former President Donald Trump.

2023 could be the year that exposes populism for the sham that it is

[Excerpts:]

Why is this happening? Populism thrives as an opposition movement. It denounces the establishment, encourages fears and conspiracy theories about nefarious ruling elites, and promises emotional responses rather than actual programs (build a wall, ban immigration, stop trade). But once in government, the shallowness of its policy proposals is exposed, and its leaders can’t blame others as easily. Meanwhile, if non-populist forces are sensible and actually get things done, they defang some of the populist right.

Look at the United States, where President Biden’s moderate style, serious demeanor and practical policymaking have given him large legislative accomplishments without triggering a massive electoral backlash.

These trends are not permanent. The world’s complicated problems will always allow for someone who proposes answers that are simple, seductive and wrong. But let us hope that 2023 will see populism exposed for the sham that it is.

No resolutions for me, but here’s hoping there’s a reckoning for Trump

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/12/30/reckoning-trump-hope-new-year/

CARLOS LOZADA

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/28/opinion/trump-haberman-baker-glasser-draper.html

[Excerpt:]

One of the great questions of this time has always been whether Trump changed the country or revealed it more clearly. The answer is yes; it is both. He changed America by revealing it. On Jan. 6, Trump was the man who could win the country back for those who yearned for him long before they imagined him. If he can’t do it, someone like him will do. Or someone like him, perhaps, but more so.

 

Ms. Edwards, a Capitol Police officer, was injured in the line of duty on Jan. 6.

 

Marjorie Taylor Greene, Racists, and a Newsweek Editor Walk Into a Ballroom

There was violent rhetoric and disreputable company at a Young Republicans event in New York City. Sadly, this is the absolute state of the new right.

They aren’t putting their best face forward. After a disappointing 2022 midterm, Republicans have learned zero lessons, as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is poised to be the face of the GOP in the New Year—if she isn’t already.

The die was cast last month, when Greene broke with the right and endorsed Kevin McCarthy for Speaker of the House, and said that opposing him is a “bad strategy.” You don’t have to be Rasputin to see that Greene is trying to play kingmaker. If McCarthy becomes the Speaker (which seems more likely than not), she’ll be the one pulling the strings.

Meanwhile, Greene continues to provide an endless stream of controversy and demagoguery that is guaranteed to generate buzz and boost her stature. The most recent example came at the New York Young Republican gala on Saturday night, when she said: “If Steve Bannon and I had organized [the Jan. 6 riot], we would have won. Not to mention, it would’ve been armed.” (The insurrectionists should have been armed? )

It would be wrong to write off MTG’s violent rhetoric as an anomaly. In many ways, she has earned her status as queen bee of a Republican Party that reflects her values. Look no further than the aforementioned Young Republican event Greene addressed this weekend for proof.

According to a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the event also included a speech by the group’s president, Gavin Wax, who declared: “We want to cross the Rubicon. We want total war. We must be prepared to do battle in every arena. In the media. In the courtroom. At the ballot box. And in the streets.”

In the streets?

Call me crazy, but it sounds like he’s calling for actual war. The rhetoric isn’t cute or harmless: it is all very literal—especially when put in the context of Greene’s comments about Jan. 6 and armed insurrectionists.

What do people think the end game is going to be? Based on past performance, we shouldn’t dismiss this as mere hyperbole.

The SPLC’s report also highlighted some interesting event attendees, such as Peter BrimelowJack Posobiec, and Josh Hammer.

In case you’re not familiar, Brimelow runs the white nationalist site VDARE. Posobiec is best known for pushing the #Pizzagate conspiracy theory. Hammer is the opinion editor of Newsweek, once considered a premier news magazine, and an advocate of “national conservatism” (which raises the question of whether it’s going too far for me to connect the dots between national conservatism and white nationalism).

It’s hard to imagine the opinion editor of Newsweek, in say, 2015, cavorting with such extremists (according to the report, Hammer “shared jokes” with Posobiec and said he wanted to say “hi” to Brimelow). To be sure, spending time with all sorts of unseemly people is a job requirement (if not fringe benefit) for any curious opinion journalist. But in this situation, the line between observer and collaborator seems to have been crossed.

As I write this, I wonder if I am eliciting yawns from readers who have had their outrage receptors burned out since 2016 and may think this is all no big deal.

Let’s face the facts: We have lost the ability to be shocked anymore.

Once upon a time, talk of fighting in the streets was off limits. Once upon a time, a mainstream Republican event that prominently welcomed white nationalists who mingled with members of Congress and journalists would have been met with disbelief—and outrage.

Today, it’s all been normalized. The important thing to realize is that, by definition, this was not a fringe right-wing conclave, it was a mainstream Republican gala that took place in Manhattan—not the Michigan militia trading posts on 4chan. This was also the Young Republicans, once the anodyne home of Alex P. Keaton-esque conservatives (I know because I was a YR).

Along with Greene and the aforementioned names, former White House advisor Steve Bannon was at the gala. “America’s Mayor” Rudy Giuliani was at the gala. Son of the former POTUS, Donald Trump, Jr., was at the gala. We’re not talking about the fringe anymore. We’re talking about prominent names in the world of politics and journalism.

Aside from being dangerous, this also seems politically stupid.

A month after “candidate quality” issues doomed the Republican “red wave,” as candidates like Blake Masters, Kari Lake, and Herschel Walker all underperformed, Republicans seem destined to repeat history, while Democrats are committed to helping them do just that, partly by making sure Greene becomes the new face of the GOP.

By embracing Marjorie Taylor Greene and the cavalcade of weirdos, cranks, racists, and right-wing extremists she cavorts with, Republicans are preparing for another face-plant.

 

Abandoned: Trump’s election denialism meets 2022 electoral reality

https://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/3731618-abandoned-trumps-election-denialism-meets-2022-electoral-reality/

Opinion: Election deniers aren’t the only threats to democracy this year

Editor’s Note: Joshua A. Douglas is a law professor at the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law. He is the author of  “Vote for US: How to Take Back Our Elections and Change the Future of Voting.” Find him at  www.joshuaadouglas.com and on Twitter @JoshuaADouglas. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion on CNN.

CNN — 

Democracy itself is on the ballot in 2022.

Not only do we have candidates who have questioned the 2020 election or refuse to say they will accept defeat this year, but numerous states and localities also will vote on measures to change how elections are run or who may vote in them. The outcomes of those ballot measures could have a significant impact on the health of American democracy moving forward.

A few states will determine whether to make voting easier. Connecticut will decide whether to amend its state constitution to allow for early voting, a needed improvement given that it is one of the few states without any no-excuse early voting opportunities.

Proposal 2 in Michigan would establish nine days of early voting and would improve the absentee balloting process, such as requiring the state to fund prepaid stamps, provide a ballot tracking system and offer ballot drop boxes. Enshrining these pro-voter policies in the state constitution would immunize them from repeal by the state legislature.

Arizona and Nebraska are on the other side of the ledger, asking voters to approve rules that could make it harder for some people to cast a ballot. Arizona has a proposed voter ID measure, which would require additional identifying information on voter affidavits that accompany mail-in ballots and would eliminate the ability of in-person voters to show two pieces of non-photo identification in lieu of a photo ID. Nebraska voters will similarly decide on a state constitutional amendment that would require a photo ID for voting.

Studies show that strict photo ID requirements can have a disenfranchising effect, especially on minority communities, while they do not improve election integrity given that in-person impersonation rarely occurs. At a time when democracy is under attack, we should focus on ways to improve voter turnout, not make it harder to participate.

There are also ballot initiatives in Ohio and Louisiana to amend the state constitutions to ensure that noncitizens cannot vote in local elections. These measures are likely a response to localities in some places, particularly in California and Maryland, that allow noncitizens to vote.

An appeals court recently put on hold a state trial judge’s decision that the San Francisco law is unconstitutional under the California constitution, meaning that noncitizens can vote in this year’s election.

Similar litigation is underway over New York City’s law; a trial court ruled the law to allow noncitizens to vote unconstitutional, but the case is on appeal. Meanwhile, Oakland, California, residents will vote on whether to allow resident noncitizens who are legally recognized caregivers of a child to vote in local school board elections.

Oakland will also decide whether to adopt a “democracy vouchers” program for public financing of local campaigns, similar to the system for funding campaigns in Seattle. Portland, Maine, has a Clean Election Fund measure on the ballot to create a public financing system for local elections.

Meanwhile, voters in Culver City, California, will decide whether to lower the voting age to 16 for school board and city elections. A handful of cities in California and Maryland have already adopted such a measure. Proponents note that, alongside improved civics education, lowering the voting age encourages young people to engage in democracy while they are in high school and can create lifelong voters. Along the same vein, Hawaii County will determine whether to create a Youth Commission to advise local politicians on youth engagement.

Nevada voters will decide whether to adopt ranked choice voting statewide, similar to how many elections in Alaska and Maine are conducted. The Nevada system would first use a primary to determine the top five candidates, with voters choosing one candidate regardless of party affiliation. Then, in the general election, voters would rank the remaining five in order of preference, though they could also rank fewer candidates if they wish.

If one hopeful receives a majority of first-place votes, then that candidate is the winner. If no one has a majority, however, then the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated, and those ballots have their second-choice count instead. The process repeats until there is a candidate with a majority of votes when counting first-place votes along with ballots whose first choice is eliminated and which selected that candidate second (or third, if the voter’s first two candidates were eliminated).

Ranked choice voting leads to more positive campaigns and greater participation as voters recognize that they aren’t wasting a vote given that their preferences may come into play, proponents argue. Nevada voters will now decide whether to follow Maine, Alaska and numerous cities to embrace this pro-democracy measure.

Several localities are also considering ranked choice voting for their elections. Portland, Oregon, will decide whether to adopt “proportional ranked choice voting” for its City Council, which combines ranked choice voting with multimember districts.

The idea is to have voters select multiple City Council members for each district, using ranked choice voting to make their selections. Proponents say that this voting method gives voters even more choices and helps to elect someone that most people have ranked highly. The same idea is before voters in Portland, Maine.

Ranked choice voting is on the ballot in cities in California, Colorado, Illinois and Washington state as well. Seattle voters will choose between ranked choice voting and approval voting, where voters can select as many candidates as they wish, but not rank them, and the person with the most votes wins.

Come election night, most pundits will focus on whether Democrats have held the House of Representatives and Senate, or whether election deniers have won various offices – especially those who run elections and could be in positions to refuse to certify results in 2024.

But we shouldn’t ignore democracy measures on the ballot all over the country. The rules passed this year will affect the administration of the 2024 election and whether we will have a fair democratic process, where people have easy access to the ballot and voters, not restrictive election rules, determine the outcomes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Pennsylvania, the Big Lie Is Spreading Its Roots

As election-deniers become more involved in local politics, they are bringing with them the propaganda and conspiracies of national politics. 

[Excerpts:]

The Republicans who pledge to ensure that nothing like the 2020 election ever happens again are serious. Their bloviation about ensuring “election integrity” in the future is a front for a more sinister agenda. The increasingly far-right Heritage Foundation has compiled a database going back to 1982, and in all the local, state and national elections over those 40 years can document only 1,384 “proven instances of voter fraud,” many of them individual acts. This supposed threat is the excuse for disenfranchising millions of Americans, whether by keeping them from the polls or delegitimizing the votes they do manage to cast.

The rhetoric of election denial is pure demagoguery, but with real-world menace. In at least two swing states — Arizona and Nevada — true-believer Republican candidates who deny Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump have a good chance of being elected secretary of state, putting them in charge of elections. If they win and the 2024 results are not to their liking, they may simply not accept them.

Trump’s acolytes do have a choice, if not courage or decency. Shame on them for undermining the nation’s faith in the democratic process for personal gain. Vital issues are at stake on Election Day. Abortion rights are gravely threatened after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Voting rights, especially for minorities, are imperiled. Efforts to fight climate change and make the transition to a clean-energy economy would at least be slowed if Republicans took either the House or the Senate.

But the overarching issue is what President Biden calls the fight for “the soul of this nation.” Do we continue our halting but undeniable progress toward making the Constitution’s guarantees of rights and freedoms apply to all Americans? Or do we reverse course?

I hope you care about the answer. And I hope you vote.

 

How to confront the rising power of the GOP’s election-denying wing

 

Mr. Raskin represents Maryland’s Eighth Congressional District in the House of Representatives.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/27/opinion/us-second-amendment.html

OPINION: THE EDITORIAL BOARD

[Excerpt:]

All those who value democracy have a role to play in strengthening and supporting the electoral system that powers it, whatever their party. This involves, first, taking the threat posed by election deniers seriously and talking to friends and neighbors about it. It means paying attention to local elections — not just national ones — and supporting candidates who reject conspiracy theories and unfounded claims of fraud. It means getting involved in elections as canvassers or poll watchers or precinct officers. (Mr. Bannon has the right idea about civic participation; he just employs toxic lies as motivation.)

And it means voting, in every race on the ballot and in every election. To this end, employers have a role to play as well, by giving workers time off to vote and encouraging them to do so.

The task of safeguarding democracy does not end with one election. Mr. Trump and others looking to pervert the electoral process are full of intensity and are playing a long game. Only an equally strong and committed countervailing force will meet that challenge.

Shocker: Most Republicans oppose plan to avert a 2024 Trump coup

[Excerpt:]

The surest solution to the nation’s crisis of trust in our democracy is for the members of the Republican Party still claiming a stolen election to stop — or, more plausibly, for the country’s citizens to keep these reckless myth-makers out of office.

 

Trump should fill Christians with rage. How come he doesn’t?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/09/01/michael-gerson-evangelical-christian-maga-democracy/

[Excerpt:]

“Do the dark pleasures of resentment and anger simply have a stronger emotional appeal than the virtues of compassion and self-sacrifice?”

 

The president condemned Trump-led extremism and cast the midterm elections as a “battle for the soul of the nation.”

PHILADELPHIA — President Biden traveled to Independence Hall on Thursday to warn that America’s democratic values are under assault by forces of extremism loyal to former President Donald J. Trump, using a prime-time address to define the midterm elections as a “battle for the soul of this nation.”

The speech was intended to deliver a dark message about threats to the fabric of the country’s democracy. But aides said Mr. Biden sought to strike a balance just two months before elections that will determine control of Congress, seeking to offer a sense of optimism about the future and urging Americans to fight back against extremism.

“Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic,” Mr. Biden said, noting that not all Republicans follow Mr. Trump’s ideology. “But there’s no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans. And that is a threat to this country.”

Citing the “extraordinary experiment of self-government” represented by the American Constitution, Mr. Biden said that “history tells us a blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence is fatal to democracy.”

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The stakes are high for the president and his political advisers, who believe they must cast the midterms as nothing less than an existential choice for voters between Mr. Biden’s agenda and a return to the extremism of “MAGA Republicans” who have enabled Mr. Trump’s ideology. Mr. Biden plunged into the cultural issues that his party believes could help galvanize Democratic voters, by bringing up reproductive rights and fears that Supreme Court could undo gay marriage.

“MAGA forces are determined to take this country backward,” Mr. Biden said. “Backward to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.”

The focus on threats to democracy is a return to an issue that Mr. Biden said drove him to run for the presidency, after watching white supremacists march through Charlottesville, Va., in 2017. Since taking office, he has often said that the United States and its allies are engaged in a long-running struggle between “autocracy and democracy” that will determine the fate of the rules-based order.

Mr. Biden spoke to several hundred spectators seated in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the country’s political institutions were born and just steps from the Liberty Bell. In his remarks, Mr. Biden made it clear that he believes the political violence and election denial espoused by the former president and his allies have damaged America’s reputation abroad.

The president had sought to avoid casting the conflict as a purely partisan one, according to White House officials familiar with the speech. But he called on Americans to go to the polls in November and reject Republican candidates who have signed on to the former president’s brand of politics.

He said Americans are not powerless to stop extremism and do not have to act like “bystanders in this ongoing attack on democracy” by failing to vote.

“For a long time, we’ve reassured ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed,” Mr. Biden said. “But it is not. We have to defend it. Protect it. Stand up for it. Each and every one of us.”

In particular, Mr. Biden condemned what he sees as an increase in politically violent rhetoric such as the threats against federal agents in the wake of the F.B.I.’s search for classified documents at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. Such threats, he said, threaten to undermine faith in the country’s law enforcement and have no place in normal political discourse.

In Thursday’s speech, Mr. Biden was specific about the threats inside America’s borders, saying that his political rivals have formed a party of extremism, threatening the democratic traditions debated and adopted at Independence Hall almost 250 years ago.

Mr. Biden has been planning the speech since early this summer, according to a Democratic official familiar with the president’s thinking. The official, who asked for anonymity to discuss private conversations with Mr. Biden, said the president has been concerned that the forces that animated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol are not fading away.

Recently, however, the president has grown more motivated to deliver it because of persistent false claims of election fraud as voters prepare to go to the polls in the midterms, a White House official said.

In several recent speeches, Mr. Biden has replaced his usual calls for unity with sharp condemnations of “MAGA extremists,” saying Republicans have embraced “semi-fascism.”

Republicans have cited the president’s language as evidence that he has fallen short of his promise to bring the country together.

“Biden has pitted neighbors against each other, labeled half of Americans as fascist and tarnished any idea of his promise of ‘unity,’” Emma Vaughn, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said in a statement.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said the president’s aggressive tone has “hit a nerve.”

“We understand that they’re trying to hide, and we understand that ultra-MAGA officeholders want to play games here and dodge accountability for their extreme proposals and actions, but they’re just telling on themselves,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said.

Mr. Biden’s combative message coincides with new polling that suggests his party’s fortunes — and his own popularity — have improved after several legislative accomplishments, a decline in gas prices and strong job growth that has given Democrats hope that they may retain control of Congress.

A poll published by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday found Democrats with a small lead over Republicans when voters were asked which party they preferred in their own districts. Five months ago, Republicans held a larger lead over Democrats in the same survey.

The poll also found some improvement in Mr. Biden’s approval rating, which rose to 45 percent from 42 percent in March. That could mean Mr. Biden is less of a drag on his party’s candidates than some Democratic strategists had feared in the spring.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, once vowed that “100 percent of my focus” would be on stopping Mr. Biden from making progress on his Democratic agenda. Recently, the Senate’s longtime tactician has found himself on the losing end of the legislative ledger.

Mr. McConnell has failed to block several of Mr. Biden’s high-profile bills, including a $1 trillion infrastructure package, a bill to improve competition with China, and a vast new investment in efforts to fight climate change and negotiate drug prices.

That has been in part because Mr. McConnell needs to protect incumbent Republican senators from a suburban backlash against the kinds of extreme positions in parts of the Republican Party that Mr. Biden has been raising more frequently in recent weeks.

The president and his allies still face a difficult task: retaining control of the House and the Senate at a time of high inflation and deep concerns among the majority of voters about the direction of the country under the leadership of Mr. Biden and Democrats in Congress. In The Journal’s survey, two-thirds of the registered voters who were polled said they believe the country’s economy is not good or poor.

But Mr. Biden’s political advisers believe the warnings about political extremism and Mr. Trump are an important part of motivating Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans to come to the polls.

The trip on Thursday will be Mr. Biden’s second to Pennsylvania this week, and he is expected to make a third on Labor Day. Pennsylvania, a swing state, will hold crucial races for the House and Senate as well as a closely watched governor’s race.

During his first year in office, Mr. Biden promised to bring a sense of normalcy to the White House and largely ignored Mr. Trump. But the former president is once again at the fore, with continuing investigations into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and an F.B.I. search last month of his residence in Florida for classified documents.

“I think finally the party and the people are waking up to see we have to hold these folks accountable,” said Quentin James, the president of Collective PAC, an organization dedicated to electing African-American officials.

“You may be paying a little more for your groceries, but the reality of what’s on the other side? It’s much more dire,” he said.

The speech comes at a moment of deep national divisions.

According to an NBC News poll released last month, nearly three-quarters of Americans believe the nation is heading in the wrong direction. The F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security have issued several warnings about how false claims regarding election fraud are motivating extremists attacks.

“We are in a crisis in this country. There’s no doubt about it. Not just in terms of the sanctity of the vote or trusting our votes will be counted,” said Allida Black, a historian at the University of Virginia who met privately with Mr. Biden last month to discuss the state of democracy. “We seem to attack rather than embrace responsibility and accountability.”

It is not the first time Mr. Biden has delivered a speech that is not about policies or campaigns but rather the morality of the country. He embarked on a “soul of the nation” bus tour during the presidential campaign and committed to unifying America during his inauguration.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs reported from Philadelphia, and Michael D. Shear from Washington.

 

Trump’s loony rants should remind the GOP his nomination would be disastrous

One does not need a medical degree or a therapist’s license to conclude that defeated former president Donald Trump’s nutty rant insisting that he be made president immediately or the 2020 election be rerun is the sign of an unhinged personality. Under pressure from the increasingly potent espionage investigation, he might be losing his grip. For a change, you don’t hear Republicans rushing forth to support his latest insane demand.

Trump’s posting of QAnon messages and implicit threats (in increasingly unintelligible syntax) suggests that he is losing the ability or desire to control his impulsive outbursts. This is the guy whom millions of Republicans want to nominate for president.

Since the redacted affidavit was released last week, the only two defenses from Republicans are no defenses at all. The first, courtesy of Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), amounts to extortion: Prosecute Trump and there’ll be blood in the streets.

The second is the laughable inquiry: Is that all? It’s not “all,” because the affidavit was heavily redacted. Moreover, the notion that we are talking “just” about documents ignores that most espionage cases are about documents (or equivalent material). That’s where the secrets are.

Trump defenders ignore at their own risk ample indications in the affidavit and news reports that documents were withheld even after a Trump lawyer represented that all confidential material had been returned, that the documents were in an unlocked storage area and that documents were moved.

Any rational adult should be aware that evidence might show that Trump violated statutes the Justice Department cited in the affidavit (concerning obstruction and concealment/mutilation/removal). If so, aggravating crimes in addition to violation of the Espionage Act may be at issue.

Still, there is little to no sign that Republicans are ready to distance themselves from someone who risks an indictment in state and federal court and resorts regularly to incoherent rants that not even right-wing media dare repeat (lest they scare their viewers and listeners). Instead, they mutely march along, taking his advice on nominees and reiterating their support for another presidential run.

Their refusal to confront Trump’s current mental and legal status takes procrastination to a whole new level. Are they hoping that he’ll be indicted well in advance of 2024? Well, if past is prologue, then we shouldn’t discount the possibility that they would still nominate him. (Martyr! Deep state!). Hoping that another candidate comes along to point out that Trump is unelectable is peculiar given their own insistence, amplified by the right-wing media, that he’s the only one to lead the party.

If they are counting on the good sense of GOP primary voters to dump him, they might take a look at the MAGA loonies voters picked in primaries ahead of the midterms (e.g., Jan. 6 attendee and Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano; MAGA provocateur and election-denier Kari Lake in Arizona).

Just how they expect to rid themselves of someone like Trump is unclear. They have delegitimized law enforcement, the media and the few sane Republicans (e.g., Rep. Liz Cheney). So, figuring out who exactly is supposed to now convince the base that Trump is, after all this, too toxic and deranged to be the nominee may be a challenge.

This dilemma is entirely of the GOP’s own making. Years of sycophancy or silence, years of building a right-wing media cocoon and years of selective listening may prevent the party from engaging in rudimentary self-preservation. Maybe party leaders simply intend for him to run, lose, take the party down and set off a more violent version of Jan. 6 — because that’s the direction we’re heading in.

[Boldface added]

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/30/opinion/trump-barr-justice-department

Mr. Katyal is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, was an acting solicitor general in the Obama administration and is a co-author of “Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump.”

The Trump-era memo released last week by the Justice Department closing the book on the report of the special counsel Robert Mueller and his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election is a frightening document. Critics have rightly focused on its substance, slipshod legal analysis and omission of damning facts.

But the process by which that memo, sent in March 2019, came to be is just as worrisome. Delivered to the attorney general at the time, Bill Barr, the memo was written by two political appointees in the Justice Department.

Mr. Barr used the memo to go around the special counsel regulations and to clear President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice. If left to fester, this decision will have pernicious consequences for investigations of future high-level wrongdoing.

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It raises particular concerns because, as a young Justice Department staff member, I drafted the special counsel regulations in 1999 to prevent the exact problem of having partisan political appointees undermine an investigation. The regulations were put in place to ensure that the counsel would make any determination to charge or not and to force the attorney general to overrule those determinations specifically and before Congress.

The 2019 memo tendentiously argued that Mr. Trump committed no crimes — leaving the final decision on the matter to Republican-aligned appointees instead of to the independent special counsel.

The challenge in devising the regulations was to develop a framework for the prosecution of high-level executive branch officials — which is harder than it sounds, because the Constitution requires the executive branch to control prosecutions. So we are left with one of the oldest philosophical problems: Who will guard the guardians?

The solution we landed on was to have a special counsel take over the investigative and prosecutorial functions. That counsel was vested with day-to-day independence in an investigation, but the attorney general would still be able to overrule the special counsel — but, crucially, if the attorney general overruled, to report to Congress, to ensure accountability.

The regulations were written with an untrustworthy president in mind, more so than the problem that Mr. Barr presented, which is an untrustworthy attorney general. Unlike presidents, attorneys general were confirmed by the Senate, with a 60-vote threshold (though it is now a simple majority) — so we assumed they would be reasonably nonpartisan. And we also knew there was no way around the attorney general being the ultimate decider, because the Constitution requires the executive branch to control prosecutions.

We created the role of special counsel to fill a void — to concentrate in one person responsibility and ultimate blame so that investigations would not be covered up from the get-go and to give that person independence from political pressure.

>It is outrageous that Mr. Barr acted so brazenly in the face of this framework. The point of requiring a special counsel was to provide for an independent determination of any potential criminal wrongdoing by Mr. Trump. But the political appointees in his Justice Department took what was the most important part of that inquiry — the decision of whether he committed crimes — and grabbed it for themselves. This was a fundamental betrayal of the special counsel guidelines not for some principle but because it protected their boss, Mr. Trump. It is the precise problem that the regulations were designed to avoid and why the regulations give the counsel “the full power and independent authority to exercise all investigative and prosecutorial functions of any United States attorney.”

Mr. Mueller demurred in making that determination because of a longstanding policy against indicting sitting presidents, reasoning that if he could not formally indict, he then could not say whether Mr. Trump committed crimes. Reasonable minds can disagree with Mr. Mueller’s determination, but the key here is that Mr. Barr thought such a determination could be made.

But instead of doing what the regulations contemplated — namely, tell Mr. Mueller he disagreed and ask him to make that bottom-line determination — Mr. Barr left that intricate determination to two political appointees. He did this in the teeth of a set of regulations that required him to report to Congress if he disagreed with the counsel. Mr. Barr never made such a report and instead, until last week, the memo remained unavailable to the public; a Federal District Court judge recently called the Justice Department’s explanations to keep it secret “disingenuous,” as well as “misleading and incomplete.”

This is a key concern, because America desperately needs an effective system to investigate high-level executive branch wrongdoing. Whether it is a second Trump administration incident or a Biden administration scandal, somewhere, sometime, the executive branch is going to need to investigate itself.

Some people have suggested that we might revisit something like the Independent Counsel Act of 1978, which was structured to mix functions between an outsider and an inside attorney general. But in its actual execution — like the Starr investigation during the Bill Clinton years — it was even worse than the special counsel regulations. By fragmenting decision making, that act allowed the attorney general to blame Congress, for Congress to blame the attorney general, and for the independent counsel to blame both of them, for any controversial prosecutorial steps.

Some people have pointed out that, as Mr. Mueller clearly believed, current policy does not permit the indictment of a sitting president. But that is a flaw not of the special counsel regulations but rather of Department of Justice rules that go back to (not surprisingly) the Nixon administration. I think that those rules go too far and that indicting sitting presidents is permissible, even if they may not be tried until they leave office. Still, in a world where sitting presidents cannot be indicted (or tried) until they leave office, there is a need for a functioning apparatus to allow for the investigation and bottom-line criminality determinations to be made, both to tee up a possible criminal trial and for possible impeachment proceedings.

Just as one has to fear a rogue attorney general, we must fear a rogue special counsel. That is why the regulations required the special counsel to notify the attorney general of “significant events” and to permit the attorney general to overrule the special counsel. There is no purgatory option, in which the special counsel punts on a determination and lets the attorney general make the call; the point is to provide for an independent recommendation to the attorney general and for the call to be made against that backdrop.

What Mr. Barr did must be strongly and swiftly repudiated by Republicans and Democrats alike, because otherwise it will enable attorneys general to sidestep prosecution of not just the president who appointed them but also all those who serve that president.

The regulations can be improved: They should call for earlier congressional notification of significant developments. Instead of requiring attorneys general to report an overrule at the end of an investigation to Congress, a report to Congress (or perhaps a Gang of Eight) could be required very shortly after any important decision. That change would encourage attorneys general to avoid pernicious activity.

It’s no surprise that the Justice Department tried to keep this memo from the light of day. Years later, it packs none of the punch it would have had if it had been released at the time. Yet perhaps that distance provides us with an opportunity to think through the rules and procedures to get it right the next time.

Neal K. Katyal is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and was an acting solicitor general in the Obama administration and wrote, with Sam Koppelman, “Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump.”

The reckless rage of the lawless

William S. Cohen is a former secretary of defense and former Republican senator from Maine. William H. Webster is a former director of the FBI and the CIA and a retired judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit.

The Justice Department’s decision to execute a search warrant of former president Donald Trump‘s Florida home was unprecedented in our nation’s history.

Prominent Republicans reacted with predictable fury and heated threats of retaliation against the attorney general — unprecedented acts of vitriol based on the belief that the FBI’s conduct was politically motivated rather than legally necessary.

In doing so, they recklessly and knowingly undermined respect for a “law and order” institution and the men and women who risk their lives to protect us.

We are confident that Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, both honest and honorable men, gave careful consideration before authorizing a search of Trump’s residence, knowing the historical significance and potential for political backlash.

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The controversy, while significant in its legal implications, should not be allowed to overshadow the far larger issues surrounding the conduct of the former president.

The House Select Committee investigating Jan. 6, 2021, has produced compelling evidence that Trump and his supporters engaged in an orchestrated six-step plan to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, culminating with the assault on our Capitol.

We share disgust and deep disappointment that the Republican Party’s decency and respect for the rule of law has been defined down to a cultish devotion to a demonstrably unprincipled man of greed and blind ambition.

Sadly, the task of rescuing the banner of conservatism has been left to Republican Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Peter Meijer (Mich.) and others who have been willing to fulfill their Pledge of Allegiance to our flag and Constitution. They have been noble exceptions to those who clutch their titles and sacrifice their honor; these heroes will likely be replaced with sycophants rather than serious legislators.

While the House committee’s focus is necessarily directed to recommending legislative measures to help preserve our democratic republic, we should not ignore what is at stake for America’s role in international affairs.

In November 2021, nearly 100 former national security officials, both civilians and military officers of both parties signed a letter decrying the threats that the Trump presidency created for the United States internationally. “The insurrection on January 6th,” the letter stated, “has left other countries to wonder if the American Experiment is failing and if American democracy is the best path forward.”

Our allies are rightly worried about the possibility of a resurgence of Trump and his hyper-nationalist methods of governance. Foreign adversaries who believe that we are in a state of moral and social decline see the deepening racial, ethnic and cultural divisions in our society as target-rich opportunities for exploitation in an age of cyber and social media propaganda. They recognize Abraham Lincoln’s insight that “a house divided against itself cannot stand” and are working to turn those sage words into our reality.

In her book, “How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them,” political scientist Barbara F. Walter raises valid concerns about the United States slipping into a place where civil war is possible. She writes about a netherworld of anocracy — between democracy and autocracy — a breeding ground for political violence, where the grievances and resentments of a large White underclass have greatly increased the potential for civil war.

These predictions once sounded like the fever dreams of far-right lunatics who would welcome such a bloody conflict; today, such predictions are coming from responsible voices such as Walter and others who have carefully studied this phenomenon around the world.

Not long ago, we thought that with the collapse of the Soviet empire, the march of freedom and democracy was in unstoppable ascendancy. Today, the tide is moving in the opposite direction. Autocracies are surfacing even among members of NATO, such as Hungary and Turkey. Similar anti-democratic forces are gaining strength in France and Italy. Without America’s sustainable pro-democratic leadership, this trend is bound to accelerate.

Garland’s actions upholding the principle that no one is above the law reaches well beyond our borders. Surely, he is not eager to be the first person to initiate criminal proceedings against a former president. To do so will establish a woeful, even if justified precedent, and possibly will set off a level of civil strife we have not witnessed in more than 150 years.

But our nation’s senior law enforcer, a man who has an impeccable record of fairness and impartiality as a distinguished jurist, cannot tailor his judgment to accommodate the rage of the lawless.

Mr. Linker, a former columnist at The Week, writes the newsletter “Eyes on the Right.”

Down one path is the prosecution of the former president.

That would set an incredibly dangerous precedent. 

If the matter culminates in an indictment and trial of Mr. Trump, the Republican argument would be more of what we heard day in and day out through his administration. The spectacle would be corrosive, in effect convincing most Republican voters that appeals to the rule of law are invariably a sham.

But the nightmare wouldn’t stop there. What if Mr. Trump declares another run for the presidency just as he’s indicted and treats the trial as a circus illustrating the power of the Washington swamp and the need to put Republicans back in charge to drain it? It would be a risible claim, but potentially a politically effective one.

And he might well continue this campaign even if convicted, possibly running for president from a jail cell. It would be Mr. Trump versus the System. He would be reviving an old American archetype: the folk-hero outlaw who takes on and seeks to take down the powerful in the name of the people.

We wouldn’t even avoid potentially calamitous consequences if Mr. Trump somehow ended up barred from running or his party opted for another candidate to be its nominee in 2024 — say, Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida. How long do you think it would take for a freshly inaugurated President DeSantis to pardon a convicted and jailed Donald Trump? Hours? Minutes? And that move would probably be combined with a promise to investigate and indict Joe Biden for the various “crimes” he allegedly committed in office.

As we’ve seen over and over again since Mr. Trump won the presidency, our system of governance presumes a certain base level of public spiritedness — at the level of the presidency, in Congress and in the electorate at large.

When that is lacking — when an aspersive figure is elected, when he maintains strong popular support within his party and when that party remains electorally viable — high-minded efforts to act as antibodies defending the body politic from the spread of infection can end up doing enduring harm to the patient. 

That’s why it’s imperative we set aside the Plan A of prosecuting Mr. Trump. In its place, we should embrace a Plan B that defers the dream of a post-presidential perp walk in favor of allowing the political process to run its course. If Mr. Trump is the G.O.P. nominee again in 2024, Democrats will have no choice but to defeat him yet again, hopefully by an even larger margin than they did last time.

Mr. Trump himself and his most devoted supporters will be no more likely to accept that outcome than they were after the 2020 election. The bigger the margin of his loss, the harder it will be for Mr. Trump to avoid looking like a loser, which is the outcome he dreads more than anything — and one that would be most likely to loosen his grip on his party.

There is an obvious risk: If Mr. Trump runs again, he might win. But that’s a risk we can’t avoid — which is why we may well have found ourselves in a situation with no unambivalently good options.

Beto O’Rourke’s book spotlights Texans’ struggles for voting rights

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2022/08/19/beto-orourkes-book-spotlights-texans-struggles-voting-rights/

[Excerpt:]

O’Rourke has listed both “The Odyssey” and Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” as his favorite books. (He named his first son Ulysses.) This Ur-story of a long and winding journey infuses the book. Of course, in his picaresque travelogue of Texan political activism, O’Rourke is also telling his own story — as a careful listener and tireless avatar of all those who have fought against injustice, past and present.

But of all the injustices, the contemporary assault on the right to vote stands front and center. Like many Republican-controlled state legislatures, Texas passed laws in 2021 that curtailed access to voting methods favored by Democratic-aligned constituencies (especially voters of color) under the guise of “election integrity.” Since 2013 (following the Shelby County v. Holder decision, which substantially weakened the Voting Rights Act), Texas has closed 750 polling stations.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG

What has strengthened Trump has not been prosecution but impunity, an impunity that some of those who stormed the Capitol thought, erroneously, applied to them as well. Trump’s mystique is built on his defiance of rules that bind everyone else. He is reportedly motivated to run for president again in part because the office will protect him from prosecution. If we don’t want the presidency to license crime sprees, we should allow presidents to be indicted, not accept some dubious norm that ex-presidents shouldn’t be.

The question is how much deference the rest of us should give to this belief. No doubt, Trump’s most inflamed fans might act out in horrifying ways; many are heavily armed and speak lustily about civil war. To let this dictate the workings of justice is to accept an insurrectionists’ veto. The far right is constantly threatening violence if it doesn’t get its way. Does anyone truly believe that giving in to its blackmail will make it less aggressive?

 

I’m a Conservative, and I Don’t Know What the GOP Stands For

KNOW NOTHINGS

Free markets? Nope. Limited government. Uh-uh. Strong foreign policy? No, America first. Rule of law? LOL.