Is it too late to curtail the progression of climate disrupton and its dire effects?

Bob Sheak, Feb 1, 2023

There are many recent books and reports that give us a good understanding of the dire effects and projections of climate change (climate disruption, climate crisis, global warming), how fossil-fuel corporations and an array of other powerful corporate and political forces in and outside of government have created false, but, unfortunately, narratives denying climate change, deflecting attention away from it, or proffering false solutions (e.g., geoengineering).

The authors provide extensive documentation of the problem, its causes, the concerted efforts to delegitimize efforts to address the problem, and what can be done to save the planet. Kate Aronoff’s book, Over-Heated: How Capitalism Broke the Planet – and How We Fight Back” is one of these books. Other books on these topics include John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark’s The Robbery of Nature: Capitalism and the Ecological Rift, Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin’s Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal, Robert Pollin’s Greening the Global Economy, Bill McKibben’s Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?, and Ian Angus’s facing the Anthropocene: fossil capitalism and the crisis of the earth system.

There are two themes, among others, that stand out. We don’t have much time to prevent the ongoing increase in climate catastrophes from getting worse, and we have the know how to prevent this from happening. In the final analysis, politics will make the difference.

Michael E. Mann’s book, The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet, published in 2021. The concept of “war” in this context suggests that there is an intransigent enemy, prominently the Republican Party and its corporate and wealthy benefactors, that threatens to make life on the planet less and less habitable, and that it will take an equally powerful force to stop them.

Despite the growing body of evidence that we are losing the fight against “climate change” and its myriad and destructive effects, Mann, who is a well-known and published climate scientist, offers an analysis that is designed most fundamentally to reveal what climate scientists have learned and to leave readers with some “hope” about the future. He writes, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.” He continues: “Alone it won’t solve the problem. But drawing upon it, we will” (p. 267).

Mann’s main contention is that it is not too late to radically reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are the principal sources of climate change and, through domestic and international efforts, to limit the emissions enough to keep the global temperature from rising no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over the next decade. That would require at least a 50 percent decline in fossil fuel emissions. To achieve this goal, he argues, policies based on science must be instituted, citizens must be “educated” about the facts and, some at least, must be or become active in the political process. In addition, the disinformation of the fossil fuel interests must be effectively challenged, and the government must, over the next decade or two institute policies to remove fossil fuels from the energy mix and replace them with renewables, energy efficiency, and other environmentally sustainable technologies.

Mann argues, “We need policies that will incentivize the needed shift away from fossil fuel burning toward a clean, green global economy. So-called leaders who resist the call for action must be removed from office” (p. 6). The word “incentivize” suggests that the climate-related policies of corporations and the ideological commitments of the far-right republican Party can be changed through negotiations or, or more plausibly, through elections that remove them from office.

At the same time, it becomes clear as time passes that there is little or no reason to expect the Republican Party or their allies and supporters to negotiate on this issue – or any issue – in good faith. (See Steve Benen’s documentation of this point in his book, The Imposters: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics). Geoff Dembicki analyzes the “far-right conspiracy to cover up climate change,” in his book, The Petroleum Papers (publ. 2022).

Meanwhile, oil, natural gas, and coal continue to provide most of the overall energy and electricity for the U.S, though there is some decline in the contribution of fossil fuels in the energy mix, as renewable energy sources increase their share of energy production. But moving from where we are at to where we need to be will require systemic changes of massive levels, including changes that would phase out fossil fuels over the next three decades.

In this post, I offer evidence documenting that: (1) climate disruption or change is worsening internationally and domestically; (2) the last 8 years have been the hottest on record; (3) there are a host of detrimental effects of climate disruption; (4) there is a lack of sufficient efforts to reduce fossil fuel emissions; and (5) there are some who are  hopeful about replacing or reducing our dependence on fossil fuels with “renewables” (e.g., solar, wind, geothermal) before the problem undermines societal institutions and brings increasing havoc to everyday life. It will take international cooperation and the enactment and implementation of a radical agenda domestically to achieve such a transition.

#1 – Greenhouse gases continue to rise

Internationally

The United Nations Climate Change agency reports on Jan. 18, 2023 on the problem and offers proposals that, if enacted, would “unleash renewable energy’s full potential” (https://unfccc.int/news/unleashing-renewable-energy-s-full-potential). The agency reports that

Speaking at the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Assembly in Abu Dhabi last weekend, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell said the positive outcomes from last November’s UN Climate Change Conference COP27 give the world enormous opportunity to make progress, starting now.

“It requires the cooperation of every single country represented in this room,” said Stiell. “All Parties must come together in order to achieve the level of ambition needed to get to where we need to go, and we have a lot of work to do to get there.”

“There is reason for optimism when it comes to renewable energy because renewables are moving further and faster than projected. Here are just a few examples:

“Renewable electricity capacity additions have been outpacing those of non-renewables since 2014.”
 

“The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Renewables Outlook complements this, noting that renewables are set to account for over 90% of global electricity capacity expansion in the next five years and that renewables will become the largest source of global electricity generation by early 2025, surpassing coal.”
 

“Worldwide renewable energy employment reached 12.7 million last year, a jump of 700,000 new jobs in one year. Solar energy was found to be the fastest-growing sector. In 2021 it provided 4.3 million jobs, more than a third of the current global renewable workforce.


“But there is also reason to be frustrated. As IRENA pointed out in its submission to the global stocktake, regardless of increased ambition expressed by countries at the last two COPs, current climate pledges and overall finance to support the shift to renewables remains insufficient.”

United States

Benjamin Storrow reports in Scientific American that “U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Went Up Again in 2022” (https://scientificamerican.com/article/u-s-greenhouse-gas-emissions-went-up-again-in-2022). “Though renewable energy surpassed coal generation for the first time in 60 years, causing U.S. power emissions to decline, emissions from buildings and transportation went up in 2022.”

“Emissions from buildings grew 6 percent following a particularly cold winter. Transport and industry each saw emissions increase by slightly more than 1 percent. Those sectors of the economy have historically proven difficult to green, and in 2022, they pushed total U.S. emissions up.

“The United States would need to cut emissions by about 5 percent a year over the next decade to meet its 50 percent target in 2030. For context, U.S. emissions fell by an average of 1.7 percent annually between 2011 and 2020, according to EPA figures. Yet even that figure overstates the United States’ past emission progress because it included a 10 percent drop from 2020 that resulted from the pandemic.”

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#2The Last 8 or 9 Years Were the Hottest on Record

This reflects the recent findings of Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, as reported by The New York Times on Jan. 10, 2023, by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on January 12, 2023,and also by Berkeley Earth, Jan 12, 2023.

For example, in the article for The New York Times, Henry Fountain and Mira Rojanasakul report that scientists from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service find this: “The eight warmest years on record have now occurred since 2014” (https://nytimes.com/interactive/2023/climate/earth-hottest-years.html). They continue: “Overall, the world is now 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.1 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than it was in the second half of the 19th century, when emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels became widespread.”

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) finds that 2022 was the “Fifth Warmest Year on Record, Warming Trend Continues,” as reported by Tyler Greene and Jacob Richmond on Jan 12, 2023 (https://nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-says-2022-fifth-warmest-year-on-record-warming-trend-continues). The key point:

“2022 effectively tied for Earth’s 5th warmest year since 1880, and the last 9 consecutive years have been the warmest 9 on record.” Additionally, “Human-driven greenhouse gas emissions have rebounded following a short-lived dip in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, NASA scientists, as well as international scientists, determined carbon dioxide emissions were the highest on record in 2022.”

Berkeley Earth reports Jan. 12, 2023 on its Global Temperature Report for 2022

(https://berkeleyearth.org/press-release-2022-was-fifth-warmest-year-since-1850).

It concludes that the year was nominally the fifth warmest on Earth since 1850 based on land and ocean data, with an estimated 850 million people experiencing local record warm annual average temperatures” and that the “last eight years have been the eight warmest years observed in the instrumental record.” The authors of the Berkeley report add:

“‘Twenty-eight countries experienced their warmest annual average since record-keeping began, including most of Western Europe,’ said Berkeley Earth Lead Scientist Dr. Robert Rohde. ‘This means a substantial fraction of the world’s population has just lived through the warmest year in their local history — with disruptive and sometimes even deadly consequences.’” And:

“‘At the current rate of progression, the increase in Earth’s long-term average temperature will reach 1.5°C (2.7 °F) above the 1850-1900 average by about 2034, and 2 °C (3.6 °F) will be reached around 2060,’ Dr. Rohde said. ‘The increasing abundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities is the direct cause of this recent global warming. If the Paris Agreement’s goal of no more than 2°C (3.6 °F) warming is to be reached, significant progress toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions needs to be made soon.’”

The full report is available at https://berkeleyearth.org/global-temperature-report-for-2022

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#3 – Examples of the deleterious effects

The Trend: More hot days than cold ones

The changing climate is producing more and more “extreme weather events.” Romm writes: “while we will continue to have record-setting cold temperatures in places, the ratio of record-setting hot days to record-setting cold days will grow over time, which has been measured” (p. 32). Climate Nexus tracks all this and substantiates Romm’s contention as follows: “Record-breaking high temperatures are now outnumbering record lows by an average decadal ratio of 2:1. Record highs are occurring more often than record lows due to climate change.” And: “In a stable climate, the ratio of new record highs to new record lows is approximately even. However in our warming climate, record highs have begun to outpace record lows, with the imbalance growing for the past three decades. This trend is one of the clearest signals of climate change that we experience directly.”

Other research findings come to similar conclusions. A study published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres shows that “extreme heat events both in the summer and in the winter are increasing across the U.S. and Canada, while extreme cold events in summer and winter are declining,” so that “there are more extremely hot days during the summer as well as more days that are considered extremely hot for the time of year, like abnormally warm days in the winter” (https://phys.org/news/2018-11-extreme-summer-winter.html). And research by Richard Davy published in the same journal finds that “[o]bservations from the last fifty years have shown that the nights have been warming much faster than the days. Analysis of the causes of this more rapid warming at night shows that this is likely to continue in the coming decades” (https://phys.org/news/2016-03-nights-warmer-faster-days.html)

Billion Dollar disasters in 2022

Adam Smith, considers the costs of “billion-dollar disasters” in an article Oct. 11, 2022 article for Climate Central (https://climatecentral.org/climate-matters/billion-dollar-disasterws-in-2022). Smith is a Ph.D. in “applied climatologist” who works at the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). As of October, “the U.S. has experienced 15-billion-dollar weather and climate disasters so far in 2022—already well above the historical average of seven events per year.” Furthermore, “The frequency of billion-dollar disasters has also increased. In the last five years (2017-2021), there were just 18 days on average between billion-dollar disasters—compared to 82 days in the 1980s.”

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#4 – The Causes

Despite growing recognition of the reality of advancing global warming and its destructiveness, and despite international efforts to reach agreements to stem the problem, the U.S. and the world’s nations have not yet been able to free themselves enough from fossil fuels, the principal sources of this growing existential threat.

In the U.S., the chief hurdles have been continuing support and dependence on fossil fuels, too little investment in renewables, political and economic forces that generally prioritize fossil fuels, a powerful right-wing, reactionary movement under the sway of Trump.

Here’s why the U.S. electric grid isn’t running on 100% renewable energy yet

Catherine Clifford delves into the question of why “the electricity grid is not already free of fossil fuels and running 100% on renewables (https://cnbc.com/2022/12/29/why-isnt-the-us-electrical-gird-run-on-100percent-renewable-energy-yet.html). This is curious, Clifford thinks, because the technology to generate electricity with renewable resources like wind and solar has existed for decades. She makes the following points of what needs to be done.

Scale up technologies like batteries and transmission lines. Work to shift cultural and political “toward solving tomorrow’s problems, instead of maintaining the status quo.” Shift away from fossil fuels in generating electricity for homes and businesses.” The problem is that “the U.S. electrical sector is still dependent on fossil fuels. In 2021, 61 percent of electricity generation came from burning coal, natural gas, or petroleum. Only 20 percent of the electricity in the U.S. came from renewables, mostly wind energy, hydropower and solar energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Another 19 percent came from nuclear power.” There is some progress.

“The contribution from renewables has been increasing steadily since the 1990s, and the rate of increase has accelerated. For example, wind power provided only 2.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 1990, doubling to 5.6 billion in 2000. But from there, it skyrocketed, growing to 94.6 billion in 2010 and 379.8 billion in 2021.That’s progress, but it’s not happening fast enough to eliminate the worst effects of climate change for our descendants.

The power of the giant fossil fuel corporations

Amy Westervelt reports Dec. 24, 2022 on “Subpoenaed Fossil Fuel Documents Reveal an Industry Stuck in the Past (https://theintercept.com/2022/12/24/oil-gas-climate-disinformation). “The industry is still running the same five-step plan, to the same end: preserving power, subsidies, and social license.” She adds:

“As part of its investigation into climate disinformation, the House Oversight Committee subpoenaed documents in November 2021 from four of the world’s largest oil companies; their U.S. trade association, the American Petroleum Institute; and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The chamber did not comply with the subpoena, but the rest submitted a variety of responsive documents, the most salient of which have been published by the Oversight Committee in two batches. The more than 1,500 pages include internal communications about media relations, advertising, and marketing campaigns from 2015 to 2021.

“Taken together, they reveal that the industry’s approach on climate really hasn’t changed since scientists first started warning that the burning of fossil fuels was becoming a problem: push “solutions” that keep fossil fuels profitable, downplay climate impacts, overstate the industry’s commitments, and bully the media if they don’t stay on message. It’s the same five-step plan, deployed to the same end: preserving power, subsidies, and social license.”

Recognition by the US government, but not enough action

There has been an understanding of and concern about the rising Earth temperature for at least 165 years, principally caused by emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Eunice Newton Foote “theorized that changes in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could affect the Earth’s temperature back in 1856 (All We Can Save, p. xvii).

The scientific confirmation of this theory is confirmed again and again over the last century and a half. Jumping to recent times, James Gustave Speth, an internationally environmental expert, writes that it is well documented that “the federal government knew enough in the 1970s and 1980s  [as did Exxon] to begin addressing the climate issue in energy policy and elsewhere. Such understanding is documented during the Carter administration in the 1970s, and has been continuously demonstrated in every subsequent administration up through Trump’s four years. And all of these administrations failed to reduce the rise in fossil fuel emissions (See Speth’s book, They Knew: The US Federal Government’s Fifty-Year Role in Causing the Climate Crisis). The climate denialism of the Trump administration was off the charts in denying or avoiding the problem and in undermining efforts to address it.

The “climate damage” of the Trump administration

Stacey Feldman and Marianne Lavelle consider “Donald Trump’s Record on Climate Change” after four years in the White House (https://insideclimatenews.org/news/02012020/trump-climate-policy-record-rollback-fossil-energy-history-candidate-profile). Here’s some of what they write.

“As president, he has rolled back regulations on energy suppliers at a rapid clip slowed only at times by the courts, while auctioning off millions of acres of new drilling leases on public land. Last year [2019], domestic oil production hit a record high.”

“Trump began the process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate treaty, the agreement signed by nearly all nations to reduce fossil fuel emissions. He replaced Obama’s Clean Power Plan, intended to sharply reduce emissions from U.S. power plants. He took the first step to weaken fuel economy standards for cars, the single most important effort for reining in the largest driver of U.S. emissions.

“His administration has undone or delayed—or tried to—most regulatory and executive actions related to climate change, while proposing new ones to accelerate fossil fuel development. Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law counts 131 actions toward federal climate deregulation since Trump took office. In the absence of any comprehensive national climate law, those moves have led to an erosion of the federal government’s main regulatory levers for cutting global warming emissions.”

Coral Davenport considers the evidence that Trump’s most profound legacy will be “climate damage” (https://nytimes.com/2020/11/09/climate/trump-legacy-change.html). She writes:

“…Mr. Trump’s rollbacks of emissions policies have come at a critical moment: Over the past four years, the global level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere crossed a long-feared threshold of atmospheric concentration. Now, many of the most damaging effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, deadlier storms, and more devastating heat, droughts and wildfires, are irreversible.”

As one example, Lisa Friedman reports on how the Trump administration “traumatized the EPA” and left short of the resources needed to do its job (https://nytimes.com/2023/01/23/climate/environmental-protection-agency-epa-funding.html).

The Biden Administration – the Inflation Adjustment Act

Tobias Burns reports on Sept. 7, 2022, on Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s vow to ‘rid’ the US from ‘dependence on fossil fuels’ (https://thehill.com/policy/finance/3631596-yellen-will-vow-to-rid-us-from-dependence-on-fossil-fuels-in-detroit-speech).

“Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will call out the fossil fuel industry in a Thursday speech on the Biden administration’s economic agenda to be delivered in Detroit, Mich., where oil and gas companies have long held influence in the U.S. auto manufacturing sector.  

“The visit to Detroit comes on the heels of the Democrats’ passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which includes $14.2 billion worth of subsidies for electric vehicles meant to wean the auto industry off of gasoline in an effort to reduce U.S. transportation emissions that are contributing to a rise in global temperatures.” 

“Our plan — powered by the Inflation Reduction Act — represents the largest investment in fighting climate change in our country’s history. It will put us well on our way toward a future where we depend on the wind, sun, and other clean sources for our energy.” At least, this is Yellen’s view.

 IRA neglects public sector

Burns refers to an interview with University of Massachusetts economist Robert Pollin, who agrees that the IRA represents a step forward but is too focused on the private sector to solve the problem. Pollin said:

“The IRA is almost entirely geared toward incentivizing private investment. Between federal, state and local governments, we’re talking about $7 trillion of public spending. Why not take a tiny slice of that and do things like investing in, say, retrofitting every single public building to raise energy efficiency standards, or investing in 100 percent renewable energy to supply public buildings, or having public sector purchases of electric vehicles for public transportation significantly?” 

Other concerns

The editors at the Monthly Review agree with Pollin’s point that the IRA is too focused on the private sector to solve the climate crisis. See the November 22, 2022 issue, Volume 74, No. 6. Specifically, they are concerned that the Inflation Adjustment Act has “no emissions targets, since it relies exclusively on a carrot approach (avoiding all regulatory sticks), provide primarily in the form of tax credits and subsidies to corporations, the wealthy, electrical utilities, and relatively well-to-do consumers.” They add: “even the most optimistic assessment of the IRA would not close the gap between the present U.S. emissions reduction pathway and the pathway needed to reach zero emissions by 2050. (It should also be noted that the U.S. military’s vast and increasing climate emissions are not included in the accounting of U.S. emissions….)”

There is more. The editors write: “…the Biden climate legislation envisions the continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry. A controversial part of the plan, promoted by Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia, is a tradeoff in which solar and wind energy projects are contingent on opening up millions of acres of public land and water to oil and gas leases, while another provision includes locking in drilling off the coast of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.”

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#5 – Reasons for being hopeful in 2023

Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist, professor, and dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan, offers “4 reasons for hope in 2023” (https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/3799154-climate-crises-4-reasons-for-hope-in-2023). 

1) The reality of climate change is sinking in – “More than ever, people in the United States and globally are listening to science and taking action to stop climate change. Public opinion research highlights that fewer than 10 percent of  Americans are dismissive of climate change, and that majorities in all states think global warming will harm future generations, support regulating CO2 as a pollutant and think corporations should do more to address global warming.

2) Climate action across the U.S. is now very real – “States, cities, corporations and universities are leading the way in showing how the transition to a clean energy future can happen. For example, in Michigan, the state-level government is committed to carbon neutrality as a member of the United States Climate Alliance (24 states with 58 percent of the national economy and 54 percent of the population). Many cities in Michigan, including Ann Arbor, are taking real steps toward carbon neutrality, just as the corporations in the state (e.g., the top five: FordGeneral MotorsLearWhirlpool and Meijer) are working to rapidly reduce their carbon emissions. 

(There is a problem with the goal of “carbon neutrality,” that is, it does not seek to reduce emissions but rather only to keep emissions from rising.)

3) The multiple economic benefits of clean energy are becoming too obvious to ignore – “The costs associated with renewable energy continue to plummet and are already becoming cheaper than fossil fuels almost everywhere, even before taking into the account the increasing costs of climate change. Moving quickly into clean energy will not only stave off climate disasters but will enable us to thrive economically. The United States is not alone in this effort: European countriesChinaIndiaAustralia and many more are working to accelerate the global clean energy transition. Accelerating the clean-energy transition, as well as developing all the knowledge and technology involved, is essential if our states and nation are going to compete economically in a world that is going carbon-neutral.” 

“The benefits of clean energy go well beyond halting climate change. Transitioning to clean energy will also eliminate an estimated 8 million premature deaths per year due to fossil fuel air pollution. And the latest 2022 research estimates that the clean energy transition will save the global economy trillions of dollars in terms of energy costs alone, because renewable energy sources are simply cheaper. Finally, the transition will save trillions of dollars associated with avoided climate change impacts, and will also cut dependence on petro-states that use their fossil-fuel profits for corruption and war.”

4) Climate action is increasingly designed to be equitable and just – “The foundation for a more sustainable planet needs to benefit not just the wealthy and comfortable, but those who have been historically marginalized. Here in the U.S., this includes urban, rural and Indigenous communities. In this clean-energy world, the countries that created the climate crisis will be the ones that help and empower the less affluent countries whose actions contribute little if any to the climate crisis, but who suffer the most.”

Also check out Matthew Hoffman’s list of reasons to be hopeful (https://yesmagazine.org/environment/2021/01/12/climate-change-hope-momentum).

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Concluding thoughts

Polls in the U.S. find that a majority of respondents have become convinced that “climate change” is a real and an existential problem that will only worsen if governments and societies do not adequately address it. Bradley Dennis, Chris Mooney and Steven Mufson refer to a report by The National Climate Assessment, compiled by a broad range of federal agencies (https://washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2022/11/07/cop27-climate-change-report-us). They write,

“Many of the harmful impacts that people across the country are already experiencing will worsen as warming increases, and new risks will emerge.” The research evidence indicates the following. (1) Every part of the U.S. is grappling with climate change — but not equally. (2) A warming world threatens reliable water supplies. (3) Extreme events are wreaking havoc on homes and property (4) The U.S. can expect more forced migration and displacement. And (5) Climate change is a growing public health threat.

There is a scientific consensus that the problem is growing and that transitioning away from fossil fuels is a major part of any potential solution. Wikipedia refers to some of the evidence on this consensus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_in_climate_change). On Sept 3, 2022, The United in Science 2022 report is published by the WMOsummarizing latest climate science-related updates and assessing recent climate change mitigation progress as “going in the wrong direction”.[3][4]

And on October 26: “At the 30th anniversary of the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, scientists in a BioScience study concluded that ‘We are now at ‘code red‘ on planet Earth”, presenting new or updated information about tracked ‘recent climate-related disasters, assess[ed] planetary vital signs, and […] policy recommendations.’”[5][6]

As indicated previously in this post, Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist, professor, and dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan, refers to research that finds that “majorities in all states think global warming will harm future generations, support regulating CO2 as a pollutant and think corporations should do more to address global warming” (https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/3799154-climate-crises-4-reasons-for-hope-in-2023). And, according to an article by Brett Wilkins, “shareholder resolutions push big banks to phase out fossil fuels (https://commondreams.org/news/fossil-fuel-finance-iccr).

However, some polls find respondents qualifying their support for an energy transition away from fossil fuels. According to a Pew Research Center survey in March 2022, “69% of U.S. adults prioritize developing alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar, over expanding the production of oil, coal and natural gas,” and to do this by 2050 (https://pewresearch.org/science/2022/03/01/americans-largely-favor-u-s-taking-steps-to-become-carbon-neutral-by-2050). However, only a “small share of Americans (31%) believe the U.S. should phase out the use of oil, coal and natural gas completely; far more (67%) say the country should use a mix of fossil fuel and renewable energy sources.”

Russia’s war on Ukraine rattled the global oil and natural gas markets, as countries in Europe and elsewhere, which have been highly dependent on the Russian oil and gas, rallied in opposition to the war (especially in EU countries) and Russia responded.

David Gelles analyzes the situation (https://nytimes.com/2023/01/14/businesses-environment/davos-energy-climate-ukraine.html). Russia and OPEC tried to take advantage of the situation and raised gas and oil prices while reducing supplies of these energy sources. In the short term, “gas bills [across Europe] nearly doubled and electricity costs spiked some 70 percent in the first six months of the war, according to the Household Energy Price Index, which tracks energy costs.” In short order, however, many countries were prompted “to accelerate their development of renewable energy.” Gelles points out, “From England to Spain to Albania, countries across the European continent are rushing to deploy wind and solar power at record rates.” Unfortunately, in the short term, these countries also increased their use of coal.

Republicans and much of the corporate community are opposed to meaningful government action and have spent billions of dollars lobbying legislators and fostering disinformation to confuse people. In the present political situation, in which Republicans and their allies confound the truth about the crisis and make it a partisan issue, government has been thwarted from advancing and implementing policies that would curtail and reverse greenhouse gas emissions.

Josh Siegel and Kelsey Tamborrino report on the House Republicans plan to “keep Democrats on their heels (https://politico.com/news/2022/11/01/house-gop-2023-energy-bill-00063739). They write:

“The plan, described by a dozen current and former House lawmakers, aides and outside allies, seeks to build on the political momentum that the GOP claimed on energy policy this year, as jumps in fuel and electricity prices battered President Joe Biden’s popularity and complicated his climate agenda.

“The GOP effort would include components of a strategy that top House Republican Kevin McCarthy released in June that called for measures to stimulate oil and gas production, ease permitting regulations and seek to reduce reliance on China and Russia for critical materials.”

One of the counterproductive “solutions” advanced by the supporters of fossil fuels is that natural gas and the fracking boom are “bridges” to a cleaner, lower emissions outcome.

However, as Michael Mann points out in his book, The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet, the reality is that natural gas is “nearly one hundred times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide on a twenty-year time frame.” And when the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is used to break up the bedrock to get at natural gas deposits inevitably allows some of the methane to escape directly into the atmosphere,” the result of “methane releases from drilling operations, pipelines, and storage facilities.”  The Trump administration disbanded regulations issued by the Obama administration to regulate “fugitive gas, claiming it would save industry millions of dollars” (p. `150). This is a serious mis-step in that the “rise in methane is responsible for as much as 25 percent of the warming (p. 150).

In the end, our current energy-use path leads to a climate apocalypse. If we are fortunate and are able to follow an alternative path based on actions and policies that follow the science, acknowledge the growing costs of using fossil fuels, elect legislators who respond constructively to the best science and push for alternatives to fossil fuels, then we have a chance.

Republicans plan to use any means to undermine democratic governance and values

Bob Sheak, January 20, 2023

The focus of this post?

The focus is on the narrow Republican midterm victory in the U.S. House of Representatives and how this increasingly right-wing party plans and is already acting to advance its power in ways to buttress an extremist, anti-democratic agenda. I will refer to 7 examples. First, however, there is a consideration of both the good and bad aspects of the midterm elections. Then: (1) some facts on these elections; (2) the implications of Kevin McCarthy’s controversial fight to become House Speaker; (3) how the McCarthy and House Republicans plan to use and are using their power to undermine democratic governance.

Generally, what to make of the 2022 midterm elections – the good and the bad

Mark Z. Barabak, a reporter for nearly 45 years, discusses the midterm elections and sees both good and bad effects, though democracy continues to be on “the precipice” (https://latimes.com/politics/story/2022-11-22/midterm-elections-deniers-lost-democracy-wins).

The Good News

It was good that there “were no major glitches in the casting or counting of tens of millions of ballots”; there “was no political violence; “voters rejected several high-profile candidates who parroted the ‘Big Lie’ about a stolen 2020 election or who set out to hijack the balloting machinery so they could manipulate the result of future elections”’ and “most of those defeated candidates accepted their loss rather than emulate the Republican whiner-in-chief, former President Trump.

Furthermore, in “the battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as Arizona, voters rejected election-denying candidates for governor.” Big Lie proponents lost Senate races in Arizona, Nevada, and New Hampshire. Additionally, “election deniers lost secretary of state races in the swing states of Arizona, Nevada and Michigan as well as Democratic-leaning Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico and Vermont.”

According to a survey for the Associated Press, more than 4 in 10 of those interviewed “considered the future of democracy to be a pressing concern, just behind inflation. That helps explain why Democrats did better than expected and so many election-denying, Trump-embracing Republicans were defeated.”

The Bad News

“Election deniers won races for secretary of state in Alabama, Indiana, South Dakota and Wyoming. While none of those solidly Republican states are likely to determine the outcome of the 2024 presidential race, that’s still bad news that raises doubts about the conduct and integrity of elections in those states.

“Also, two election-denying Senate candidates were elected, Ted Budd in North Carolina and J.D. Vance in Ohio. In Wisconsin, Sen. Ron Johnson was narrowly reelected even after he schemed to present a fake, pro-Trump set of 2020 electorsto Vice President Mike Pence, whose duty it was to certify Joe Biden’s victory.

“Furthermore, dozens of election-denying House candidates will soon join the scores of Republicans who voted against certifying President Biden’s 2020 victory. And a number of local office seekers were chosen for positions overseeing elections at the city and county levels.” Withal Trump, who has a record of lying while in the White House, is still an influential force in, if not the leader of, the Republican Party and has announced that he will run in the 2024 presidential election. His leadership is grounded in his loyal electoral base of tens of millions of Americans.

The surprisingly close electoral results of the 2022 midterm elections for the U.S. Congress

No “red wave” – but Republicans control House

Many commentators and experts expected a “red wave,” that is, a vote that gave Republicans decisive control of both chambers of the U.S. Congress. As it turned out there was no red wave. Indeed, Democrats and their two Independent supporters won control of the Senate by one vote. At the same time, they lost the U.S. House of Representatives to Republicans, who ended up with 222 seats compared to the Democrats 213. It takes 218 or more seats to have a majority and the opportunity to elect a Speaker. So, the Republicans have just 4 seats (222 – 218 = 4) to have control. (https://www.politico.com/2022-election/results/house).

The controversial path to the election of House Speaker

Subsequently, after 15 rounds of voting by House members, Republican and “election denier” Kevin McCarthy narrowly won the House Speaker’s job. He was only able to win after he offered a host of concessions to members of the House’s Freedom Caucus, an extreme right-wing faction of the House Republican Party. (I’ll identify the concessions below in this post.)

Kevin McCarthy cuts deals to become Speaker

Annie Karni reports on the tense and long-drawn-out process of selecting the Speaker

(https://nytimes.com/2023/01/06/us/politics/house-speaker-vote-mccarthy.html).

“Representative Kevin McCarthy of California won election early Saturday as House speaker in a historic five-day, 15-ballot floor fight, after giving major concessions to right-wing holdouts and weathering a dramatic late-night setback that underscored the limits of his power over the new Republican majority.

“Mr. McCarthy clawed his way to victory by cutting a deal that won over a sizable contingent of ultraconservative lawmakers on the 12th and 13th votes earlier in the day, and then wearing down the remaining holdouts in a tense session that dragged on past midnight, ultimately winning with a bare majority, after a spectacle of arm-twisting and rancor on the House floor.

“The protracted fight foreshadowed how difficult it would be for him to govern with an exceedingly narrow majority and an unruly hard-right faction bent on slashing spending and disrupting business in Washington. The speakership struggle that crippled the House before it had even opened its session suggested that basic tasks such as passing government funding bills or financing the federal debt would prompt epic struggles over the next two years.”

McCarthy is already in sync with the “sedition caucus”

In an article for Common Dreams on January 7, 2023,Jon Queally argues this point (https://commondreams.org/news/mccarthy-elected-house-speaker). McCarthy reflected his hard right-wing, extremist position when he “made dangerous concessions to the most fringe members of the House in exchange for their support in his effort to become Speaker.” This is not so surprising. Queally quotes Sean Eldridge, president of Stand Up America that “Kevin McCarthy has repeatedly put his personal ambitions ahead of our democracy.” For example, McCarthy “voted against certifying President Biden’s victory and obstructed the investigation into the January 6 attack on our country.” McCarthy is hardly alone. Eldridge also points out “that over 70% of the current GOP conference in the House ‘are election deniers, including every single member of GOP leadership.’”

The Speaker’s duties

The speaker has many responsibilities and ordinarily a great deal of power. Here’s Ballotpedia’s summary of the Speaker’s duties (https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_Speaker_of_the_house).

—————-

Presides over the House

Administers the Oath of Office to House Members

Communicates with the President of the United States and the U.S. Senate

Leads his or her party conference or caucus

Chairs his or her party’s steering committee, which is involved in the selection of party members for standing committees

Nominates chairs and members of the Committee on Rules and the Committee on House Administration.


The Speaker also appoints:[2]

Speakers pro tempore

The chair who presides over the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union

Members to House-Senate conference committees

A Member to the Committee on the Budget

Select committees

Certain House staff

The Speaker recognizes Members to speak on the House Floor or make motions during Floor proceedings. The Speaker makes many important rulings and decisions in the House. The Speaker may debate or vote, but typically only occasionally does so. The Speaker also serves as an ex officio member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

By statute, the Speaker is second in line, after the Vice President of the United States, to succeed the President.[2][3]

——————

Voting on the Republican-constructed House Rules package

Jeremy Herb and his colleagues at CNN report on the House vote on the House rules “package,” which occurred the day after the election for Speaker (https://cnn.com/2023/01/09/politics/house-rules-package-vote/index.html). Here’s some of what they report.

“House Republicans on Monday approved a rules package for the 118th Congress, in what marked the first test of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ability to navigate his slim Republican majority.

“The rules were passed on a 220-213 mostly party-line vote, with Texas Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales joining all the Democrats in voting against the measure.

“McCarthy and his allies had to scramble to ensure they had enough support for the rules package after McCarthy’s concessions to GOP hardliners to win the gavel last week frustrated some centrist House Republicans. With little margin for error – and the vote seen as McCarthy’s first test of whether he can govern – GOP leaders left little to chance.”

Examples of how the House Republicans are already using their power to the detriment of democracy

#1 – McCarthy’s concessions to the most extreme members in his conference make legislating very difficult

Arianna Coghill, writing for Mother Jones identifies the Concessions Kevin McCarthy had to make to become House Speaker, Mother Jones, Jan 7, 2023 (https://motherjones.com/politics/2023/01/klevin-mccarthy-house-speaker-concessions-republicans). The concessions will make it yet harder to reach agreement within the Republican House caucus, let alone working out compromises with Democrats

———–

Any member can call for a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair

A McCarthy-aligned super-PAC (the Congressional Leadership Fund) agreed to not spend in open Republican primaries in safe seats

The House will hold votes on key conservative bills, including a balanced budget amendment, congressional term limits, and border security

Efforts to raise the nation’s debt ceiling must be paired with spending cuts

Move 12 appropriations bills individually, instead of passing separate bills to fund government operations

More Freedom Caucus representation on committees, including the influential House Rules Committee

Cap discretionary spending at fiscal year 2022 levels, which would amount to lower levels for defense and domestic programs

72 hours to review bills before they come to floor

Give members the ability to offer more amendments on the House floor

Create an investigative committee to probe the “weaponization” of the federal government

Restore the Holman rule, which can be used to reduce the salary of government officials

——————-

Sasha Abramsky considers the potentially negative effects of “McCarthy’s Concessions to MAGA Diehards” in an Jan. 14 article for Truthout

(https://truthout.org/articles/mccarthys-concessions-to-maga-diehards-have-paved-the-way-to-brutal-austerity). He observes that “McCarthy has signed too many promissory notes, and now there are too many liens on his speaker’s gavel.”

For example, Abramsky writes, “Once the levee had been breached on the notion that a single member could trigger another vote for speaker, it was no surprise that a flood would follow. Sure enough, the demands regarding new House rules came pouring in — rules that would gut the ability of the House to investigate its own via ethics committees; rules promoting a series of rolling investigations not only into Biden and his family, but also into the most basic law enforcement and judicial institutions of government; rules making it harder to raise taxes and easier to cut them; rules gutting funding for the Internal Revenue Service; rules encouraging legislation that would turbo-charge fossil fuel extraction in the U.S.; rules making it harder to increase funding for mandated programs such as Social Security and Medicare; rules forcing a vote every time the government wanted to increase its borrowing power — making it far more likely that, at some point down the road, the right wing of the GOP could walk the U.S. to, and perhaps beyond, the edge of debt-default as a way to force the government to cut spending on social services, on welfare, on education, on environmental policy, and other areas that have long been in the GOP’s crosshairs.”

Abramsky adds: “If McCarthy tries to embrace any sort of bipartisan legislation, individual congressmembers, such as Matt Gaetz, Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar or Lauren Boebert, can immediately — and repeatedly — hold his feet to the fire by triggering what would essentially be recall votes against him. Even if they don’t win these votes, the MAGA-diehards, most of whom came into office from 2016 onward with the express intention of destroying existing governing institutions, can entirely sabotage the functioning of Congress by swamping it with frivolous leadership contests. These would be similar in intent to Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), usually libel or defamation claims brought by corporations against social justice activists, journalists and watchdog groups, and aimed not at ultimately securing judicial wins but at wasting huge amounts of the advocates’ time, money and resources.”

#2 – Republican threats to reject any increase in the U.S. debt ceiling unless there are deep government spending on non-military parts of the nation’s budget. Their goal: to balance the budget

Most of the time, increases in the debt ceiling have many times in the past been approved by both Republican and Democratic Presidents and Congresses. Wikipedia offers the following evidence (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_United_).

“The debt ceiling was raised 74 times from March 1962 to May 2011, including 18 times under Ronald Reagan, eight times under Bill Clinton, seven times under George W. Bush, and five times under Barack Obama. In practice, the debt ceiling has never been reduced, even though the public debt itself may have reduced.”

Republican resistance this time

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich confirms that the right-wing Freedom Caucus in the House “got a promise from McCarthy that he would not approve a simple increase in the debt ceiling unless spending was held back at 2022 levels — which, with more than 7 percent inflation, would require huge cuts in everything from defense spending to Social Security and Medicare.” They have since decided that there would be no cuts in military spending. If McCarthy breaks his promise to support wholesale cuts in federal government spending, any member of the Freedom Caucus can move to remove him from the Speakership (https://commondreams.org/opinion/republican-party-plan-for-social-security).

Reich thinks that the extremist Republican Party will not succeed. But the coming fight over raising the debt ceiling seems likely “to become the defining battle over the next six to nine months. (In 2011, the mere possibility that the U.S. might not be able to pay its bills rattled markets worldwide.)”

A Republican “prioritization plan”

Nevertheless, according to a story by Jeff Stein and his team at the Washington post, House Republicans have already prepared an emergency plan for breaching the debt limit (https://washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2023/01/13/debt-ceiling-gop-plan). The journalists report: “The plan, previously unreported, was part of the private deal reached this month to resolve the standoff between House conservatives and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) over the election of a House speaker. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.), a leading conservative who helped broker the deal, told The Washington Post that McCarthy agreed to pass a payment prioritization plan by the end of the first quarter of the year.”  

“In the preliminary stages of being drafted, the GOP proposal would call on the Biden administration to make only the most critical federal payments if the Treasury Department comes up against the statutory limit on what it can legally borrow. For instance, the plan is almost certain to call on the department to keep making interest payments on the debt, according to four people familiar with the internal deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. House Republicans’ payment prioritization plan may also stipulate that the Treasury Department should continue making payments on Social Security, Medicare and veterans’ benefits, as well as funding the military, two of the people said.” Or they may not.

Jake Johnson reports on Jan. 14 that the extremist members of the Republican House conference have not finally made up their minds, and have not given up on wanting to cut spending on Social Security, Medicare, and other key government programs (https://commondreams.org/news/gop-pentagon-social-security-medicare). He writes: “Republicans who have pledged to use their narrow majority in the House to pursue steep federal spending cuts have sent a clear message in recent days: The bloated Pentagon budget is safe, but Social Security, Medicare, and other key government programs are not.”

Paul Krugman raises the question of  “Why Republican Politicians Still Hate Medicare” and government-supported social programs geneally (https://nytimes.com/2023/01/12/opinion/why-republican-politicians-still-hate-medicare.html). He notes “It isn’t possible to achieve huge reductions in the budget deficit, while at the same time depriving the I.R.S. of the resources it needs to go after tax cheats, without deep cuts in popular social programs. The House Republicans will refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless spending on Social Security and Medicare are “slashed.” But that’s not all they want to cut.

“CNN has obtained a screenshot of a slide presented at a closed-door Republican meeting on Tuesday [Jan. 10]. The first bullet point calls for balancing the budget within 10 years, which is mathematically impossible without deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The second calls for reforms to “mandatory spending” — which is budget-speak for those same programs. And the final point calls for refusing to raise the debt limit unless these demands are met.” If the right-wing Republicans in the House (that’s virtually all of them) achieve their goals, it will affect tens of millions of Americans. If the desired Republican reforms are instituted, it could have political ramifications that benefit Democratic candidates in the 2024 elections, but this would be only after many Americans have been negatively affected.

#3 – Lowering taxes on corporations and billionaires

As President, one of Trump’s most lauded achievements was the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that was passed along partisan lines in 2017 and went into effect in 2018. In an article published Jan. 14, 2023 in Common Dreams, Steven Wamhoff argues that this tax “reform” legislation was a boon to corporations (https://commondreams.org/opinion/gao-report-trumpl-tax-cuts).

He writes:

“The share of these companies who paid zero in federal income tax rose from 22 percent in 2014 to 34 percent in 2018, the first year that the Trump tax law was in effect.

“The tax cuts signed into law by former President Trump at the end of 2017 were a boon for profitable corporations, according to a new report released by the Government Accountability Office. It finds the average effective federal income tax rate paid by large, profitable corporations fell to 9 percent in the first year that the Trump tax law was in effect, and the share of such companies paying nothing at all rose to 34 percent that year.

“The GAO analysis presents many different types of figures, but all show the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was an unprecedented gift to corporations. For example, it finds that the share of all corporations paying no federal income taxes was 67 percent in 2018 and had not changed much over the years. But that is not so surprising because that figure includes tiny companies and companies reporting losses, which are not expected to pay income taxes. (The federal corporate income tax is, after all, a tax on profits, not losses).

Republicans now want more tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. Brett Wilkins reports that Progressive U.S. lawmakers on Monday took House Republicans to task after the Congressional Budget Office said the erstwhile deficit hawks’ first bill before the 118th Congress—a measure critics say is meant to “protect wealthy and corporate tax cheats”—will swell the federal deficit by more than $100 billion” (https://commondreams.org/news/2023/01/14/congressional-budget-office). Wilkins quotes Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.): “They all run on reducing the deficit and now the House GOP’s first… bill will increase the deficit by $114 billion.”

Wilkins cites an estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that the Republican estimated that the euphemistically named Family and Small Business Taxpayer Protection Act would “decrease outlays by $71 billion and decrease receipts by $186 billion over the 2023-2032 period.” He also quotes Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.):

“Today, Republicans in Congress demonstrated their commitment to ‘fiscal responsibility,'” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sardonically tweeted. “The first bill advanced by the GOP adds $114 billion to the deficit—by allowing the super-wealthy to cheat their taxes while everyone else pays. Corporate lobbyists are popping champagne.”

#4 – Attempts to make the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) friendlier to the rich and powerful

One of the first bills to be introduced by Speaker Kevin McCarthy is designed to repeal Democratically-supported funding for the IRS that was intended to help audit the wealthiest Americans, according to a report by Julia Conley (https://commondreams.org/news/kevin-mccartht-irs). She notes that “the proposal little chance of passing in the Senate, but could be used as leverage by the GOP later this year when Congress is expected to debate raising the debt ceiling.”

Last year, the Democrats’ Inflation Adjustment Act was passed, including “about $80 billion to be used to increase audits of households making $400,000 per year or more.” A 2021 poll by the University of Maryland found that this funding was supported by two-thirds of Americans. Nonetheless, Republicans oppose any effort to increase the resources of the IRS. They have falsely claimed this legislation pushed by President Joe Biden has provided the agency with an “army of 87,000 new IRS agents” who “will be coming for you—with 710,000 new audits for Americans who earn less than $75,000.” McCarthy’s plan would, according to ACLU communications strategist Gillian Branstetter”incentivize the agency to target poor people,” for whom audits are less expensive for the federal government because they lack the resources to engage in a legal battle with the IRS. It would also make it easier for rich people to cheat on their taxes,” said political commentator Brian Tyler Cohen.

#5 – Eliminating House Ethics Committee –

Fred Wertheimer, an American attorney, lobbyist, and activist, considers the GOP’s elimination of House Ethics Committee. He is known for his work on campaign finance reform (https://commondreams.org/opinion/house-ethics-committee-gop).

According to Wertheimer, one of the first orders to business by the new Republican-dominated House was to propose a rule that would gut the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), an effective House Office that has been key for more than a decade to House ethics rules being enforced.” “House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) opposed the establishment of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) in 2008, and Republicans have repeatedly targeted the body in the years since its creation.”

Wertheimer continues:

“Without presenting any case against OCE—because there is none—House Republicans, including the 39 Republican freshmen, acted to cripple the agency for only one apparent reason: to enable House Republicans to take actions, free from any oversight or accountability for breaking House ethics rules.”

Wertheimer discusses some of the potential consequences. For example: “The change came as a number of House Republicans—including newly elected Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.)—are facing growing scrutiny for alleged ethics violations that range from potentially running afoul of campaign finance laws to defying congressional subpoenas issued as part of the January 6 investigation.”

“The changes enacted by the House GOP on Monday impose an eight-year term limit on the eight members of the OCE, a change that will force out three of the four Democrats currently sitting on the board.

“The new rules will also require OCE to hire all of its staff for the 118th Congress within a period of 30 days, a restriction that outside ethics watchdogs say ‘essentially limits any hiring for the office, including investigative staffers, to an impossibly brief period that would make it extremely difficult to rigorously assess candidates for these high-stakes jobs.’”

“Additionally,” notes the Campaign Legal Center, “the 30-day hiring period applies to the entire 118th Congress, meaning that regardless of when a vacancy at the OCE occurs under this rule, the position cannot be filled.”

“Any new hires would require the approval of at least four OCE board members.”

#6 – The re-inventing of the dark days of “Joe McCarthy”

Republicans are referring to the “Church Committee,” comparing, according to James Risen, a new committee to launch wide-ranging investigations into what they allege are the ways in which the federal government has abused the rights of conservatives, to “the historic Church Committee of the mid-1970s, which conducted landmark investigations of the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, and the rest of the intelligence community, none of which had previously been subject to real oversight (https://theintercept.com/2023/01/12/house-jim-jordan-church-committee). But, Risen points out, “The [current] panel is widely expected to become a pro-Trump star chamber, investigating the officials and organizations that have previously investigated Trump, including the FBI and the Justice Department.”

It is more akin to the Joe McCarthy hearings of the late 1940s and early 1950s, which were aimed at identifying alleged “communists” in the State Department and other parts of the federal government, and encouraging the firing of those who were so identified. The Church committee subsequently debunked the findings of the Joe McCarthy hearings, but only after the lives of many civil servants, writers, and filmmakers had been smeared and stigmatized. The Jordan subcommittee is in the tradition of the long discredited hearings held by Joe McCarthy. Among other targets, the Jim Jordan committee seems likely to investigate the House January 6 committee, which operated when the Democrats controlled the chamber — “and referred Jordan to the House Ethics Committee for his involvement in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.”

Jeffrey C. Isaac points out that the “committee on the weaponization of the federal government against citizens is a very serious, and ominous, initiative that is clearly intended to counter, and undermine, the now-terminated January 6 Committee” ((https://commondreams.org/opinion/new-mccarthyism-is-coming). He continues.

“The new committee, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, will be chaired by Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan. As the New York Times reports, the Republican initiative will grant Jordan extensive power:

authority to subpoena the Justice Department for information about the special counsel inquiry into Mr. Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election and his handling of classified documents, along with other politically charged matters like an open tax investigation into President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden . . . [it] would also grant Mr. Jordan’s panel the power to receive the same highly classified information that intelligence agencies make available to their oversight committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.”

#7 – Extremists in key House committee assignments

Sharon Zhang takes up this issue in a Jan. 18 article for Truthout (https://truthout.org/articles/a-majority-of-republicans-new-committee-chairs-are-election-deniers). Her main point: “Analyses show that a majority of the House Republicans’ newly chosen committee chairs – people who will have a huge hand in setting the priorities for the House over the next two years – have participated in the extremely dangerous and anti-democratic GOP practice of election denial.” She refers as evidence to a study by HuffPost.

“As first pointed out by HuffPost, 11 of the 17 new committee chairs were among the 147 Republicans who voted against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. Further, 12 of the new chairs had signed onto an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court in 2020 seeking to overturn the will of the voters in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where a majority of voters voted for President Joe Biden.”

They “will be in charge of committees that will help write and pass legislation and hold hearings concerning the climate crisis, immigration rights, social and budgetary priorities, and the future of U.S. democracy itself – a future that they wanted to undermine in 2020 and on January 6, 2021, in trying to carry through Donald Trump’s coup attempt.” Zhang names them.

“Bottom of Form

The election denying chairs in question are Agriculture Chair Glenn Thompson (Pennsylvania); Armed Services Chair Mike Rogers (Alabama); Budget Chair Jodey Arrington (Texas); Education and Workforce Chair Virginia Foxx (North Carolina); Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Washington); Homeland Security Chair Mark Green (Tennessee); Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (Ohio); Natural Resources Chair Bruce Westerman (Arkansas); Science, Space and Technology Chair Frank Lucas (Oklahoma); Small Business Chair Roger Williams (Texas); Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Sam Graves (Missouri); Veterans’ Affairs Chair Mike Bost (Illinois); and Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith (Missouri).

“It is alarming that Republicans would give people who have shown themselves to be vehemently anti-democratic and willing to ignore the will of millions of voters such power in the House.”

Zhang finds Jim Jordan’s appointment to the chair of the Judiciary Committee particularly “insidious.” She writes: “Jordan appeared to have played a key role in supporting the January 6 attack on the Capitol and ended up being one of the four House Republicans who were referred to the House Ethics Committee for their refusal to comply with the January 6 committee’s subpoenas.” She also refers to how “Republican leaders have voted unanimously to allow fascist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to serve on the Committee on Homeland Security, which was created to protect the U.S. against terrorist attacks – not unlike the January 6 attack on the seat of the U.S. government, which Greene has boasted she would have ‘won’ if she were in charge of it.”

In addition, “Greene was also chosen to serve on the House Oversight Committee, one of the most powerful committees in the House, which oversees federal agencies and officials that Greene has spread debunked conspiracy theories about. Other far right Republicans like Representatives Paul Gosar (Arizona), Scott Perry (Pennsylvania) and Lauren Boebert (Colorado) were also picked to serve on the oversight committee.”

Ashley Parker and Michael Scherer delve further into outlandish statements made by Greene in recent years

(https://washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/01/14/marjorie-taylor-greene-mccarthy-republicans).

“In February 2021, Democrats and 11 Republicans stripped Greene from two committees for past social media posts, including falsely claiming that some mass shootings were ‘false flag’ attacks meant to curb Second Amendment rights; that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were a government conspiracy; and that a Jewish cabal had used space lasers to ignite a deadly California wildfire. She also came under scrutiny for a slew of anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and racist views she expressed before joining Congress.”

Philip Bump reports on other incredulous statements by Greene (https://washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/10/03/republicans-greene-trump).

“This is the candidate who rose to national attention in 2020 for her embrace of QAnon, who has spread I-know-better-than-you claims about 9/11 and the 2012 mass shooting in Sandy Hook, Conn., and, perhaps most infamously, suggested that wildfires were caused intentionally by a space-based laser. Just this weekend, she claimed that Democrats want to kill Republicans.”

Concluding thoughts

So, what occurred in the 2022 midterm election and in the post-election calamitous House Republican efforts to accommodate the most extreme elements of the party leave the House in uncharted territory. One thing is clear: The Republicans are pursuing policies and practices that weaken American democracy. And they appear to enjoy this antagonistic, if not nihilistic, role.

The Republican Party remains Trump’s party or at least is a very Trumpian party. And this influence rests in the support Trump gets from this seemingly unquestioning electoral base of some tens of millions of Americans. Trump did not create this multifaceted MAGA movement, but his political fortunes and influence depend on it.

Even now, he is able to use his influence to raise funds, to influence who runs for office, to continue to spout the “big lie” about how the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from him; to use social media and Fox News to propagate falsehoods favorable to his interests; to promote a right-wing agenda emphasizing low taxes, harsh and restrictive immigration policy, deregulation, and privatization; to advance a hyper nationalistic and militaristic foreign policy; and more.

In this unhinged political context, we should remember that the House Republicans operate under the shadow of Trump.

As discussed early in this post, there is some good news. The Republicans did not do as well in the 2022 midterms as expected. And a majority of Americans are concerned about the attacks on democracy, Social Security and Medicare, reproductive rights, tax equity, and want a government that does not generate chaos and economic hardship for most Americans, while Republicans cater to the mega corporations and rich. With luck, the majority will prevail.

Peace or more war in 2023?

Bob Sheak, January 5, 2023

The point

The central point of this post is that, in the U.S. there is a divided government and political system. However, when it comes to increasing the Pentagon budget and support for a militaristic foreign policy, most Democrats in the U.S. Congress join their Republican peers in supporting such legislation.

I have tried to document this point in recent months in several posts. For example, in the introduction to a post sent out through WordPress and Linkedin on Oct. 13, 2021, entitled “U.S. militarism: Some evidence,” I wrote:

“In this post, I review evidence establishing that the U.S. is a militaristic society and power. It is one of a number of major problems besetting the society, but it is among those that have existential implications. Militarism is not only the result of a military-industrial complex, but also of citizens who tend to glorify the armed services and who have little concern for the destruction and civilian deaths and casualties that accompany U.S. wars. At the same time, millions of U.S. troops have suffered the physical, mental, and moral injuries of ill-fated wars initiated by political and military leaders (see, for example, David Wood, What We Have Done: The Moral Injury of Our Longest Wars, or Dina Rasor and Robert Bauman, Betraying Our Troops). With some pauses and despite anti-war movements, militarism and its damaging effects have grown since WWII.

“This analysis doesn’t call for the end of our military services. Rather, it calls for a reduction in military spending; independent audits of the military budget and spending; more effective congressional oversight; a reevaluation of whether the U.S. really needs over 800 foreign bases in 70 countries to ensure the safety and security of the U.S.; stopping the revolving door between the weapons makers and military officers; giving more focus to building up the State Department with the goal of enhancing U.S. diplomatic assets; ending the space force; joining with other countries to phase out nuclear weapons; and finding ways to better educate American citizens about the history of the country’s wars, the options to war, and generally about the limits of military power. By recognizing such limits and rethinking the country’s priorities, resources can then be made available to address the non-military crises that beset the U.S.”

Bipartisan support for increases in military spending

When it comes to military spending, there is – and has long been – a bipartisan consensus. Back in 1960, then president Dwight Eisenhower warned of the problem of “the military-industrial complex,” and the consensus among lawmakers that made it feasible. Here’s some of what I wrote in post on WordPress and Linkedin, “Biden and the Military-Industrial Complex.”

“Three days before President Eisenhower left office on January 17, 1961, he addressed the “American people” by radio and television. One of the most notable and memorable parts of the speech is when the president talks about the political and economic concerns he had about the growth of the military-industrial complex. Here is what he said (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=12086).

“Until the latest world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

“The conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American Experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense without peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together”

The speech was given in a troubled and somewhat unique historical time, at  the height of the Cold War. Eisenhower was concerned about how we would, as a country, achieve some reasonable balance between national defense, the domestic economy, the material well-being of citizens, and democracy. One thing is clear. He was not saying that the military-industrial complex had to be curtailed. Indeed, he emphasized the country would have to maintain strong military forces and the industrial capacity to ensure their strength. The implication was that this emergent military-industrial complex was going to be a permanent fixture in American society. But citizens must remain vigilant to keep it from going too far.

Presently, there are significant problems associated with U.S. military policies and spending. It has encouraged a foreign policy that relies significantly on military force or the threat of such force. It has proven ineffective in achieving military objectives and generally done little to advance peaceful outcomes. It has caused considerable death and destruction, particularly from aircraft, drones, and missiles.

U.S. support for Ukraine against Russia is laudable but probably unsustainable and, so far, unable to prevent the widespread death and destruction wrought by Russia’s attacks. In the final analysis, the end of this war will depend on a negotiated settlement, which is not yet in sight.

Calls for peace and diplomacy from the UN chief Antonio Guterres, have been ignored. Scientists concerned about the prevention of nuclear war have had little effect on U.S. nuclear policies. While there are continuous efforts to pursue peace, they have yet to change the militaristic thrust of US government spending and foreign policies.   

Part 1: On the Peace front

#1 – UN Chief calls for peace

Brett Wilkins reports on the U.N. chief’s New Year’s Address, in which Antonio Guterres says ‘We Need Peace, Now More Than Ever” (https://commondreams.org/news/antonio-gutterez-new-year).

“United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday beseeched humanity to ‘make 2023 a year when peace is restored to our lives, our homes, and our world,’ a message that came as dozens of wars and armed conflicts rage around the world.

“‘Every new year is a moment of rebirth. We sweep out the ashes of the old year and prepare for a brighter day,’ Guterres said in his speech. ‘In 2022, millions of people around the world literally swept out ashes. From Ukraine to Afghanistan to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and beyond, people left the ruins of their homes and lives in search of something better.’”

“In 2023, we need peace, now more than ever,” he insisted. “Peace with one another, through dialogue to end conflict. Peace with nature and our climate, to build a more sustainable world. Peace in the home, so women and girls can live in dignity and safety. Peace on the streets and in our communities, with the full protection of all human rights. Peace in our places of worship, with respect for each other’s beliefs. And peace online, free from hate speech and abuse.”

“In 2023, let’s put peace at the heart of our words and actions,” Guterres added.

In a speech earlier this month [December, 2022], Guterres noted that “geopolitical divides have made global problem-solving ever more difficult—sometimes impossible.”

At the same time, Guterres saw some reasons to be hopeful.

“In Ethiopia, efforts by the African Union to broker peace are a reason for hope. A cessation of hostilities and implementation agreements are in place. A pathway to assistance in the northern part of the country is emerging.

“In the Democratic Republic of Congo, diplomatic efforts led by Angola and the East African Community have created a framework for political dialogue to resolve the crisis in the eastern region of the country.

“The truce in Yemen has delivered real dividends for people. Since then, even if very fragile, there have been no major military operations in a conflict where innocent people have been paying the highest price. Civilian flights have resumed from Sanaa. Vital supplies are finally getting through the port of Hudaydah.
And even in the brutal war in Ukraine, we have seen the power of determined, discreet diplomacy to help people and tackle unprecedented levels of global food insecurity. Despite ongoing challenges, the Black Sea Grain Initiative to facilitate exports of food and fertilizers from Ukraine—and a memorandum of understanding for unimpeded exports of Russian food and fertilizers to global markets—are making a difference.”

#2 – Stop war profiteering

Kathy Kelly decries the “merchants of death” in an article published on Counter Punch and comments on upcoming events in the amorphous peace movement (https://counterpunch.org/2023/01/02/decry-the-merchants-of-death). Here is some of what she writes.

“How can we in the United States prevent the killing that goes on, in our name, in multiple wars, exacerbated by weapons made in the U.S.A? How can we resist the growing potential, acute scourge of a nuclear exchange as warring parties continue issuing nuclear threats in Ukraine and Russia?

“One step we can take involves both political and humanitarian efforts to hold accountable the corporations profiting from the U.S. military budget. Drawing on Phil Berrigan’s steadfastness, activists worldwide are planning the Merchants of Death War Crimes Tribunal scheduled to be held November 10 to 13, 2023. The Tribunal intends to collect evidence about crimes against humanity committed by those who develop, store, sell, and use weapons to commit crimes against humanity. Testimony is being sought from people who’ve borne the brunt of modern wars, the survivors of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Gaza, and Somalia, to name but a few of the places where U.S. weapons have terrified people who’ve meant us no harm.

“‘We render you, corporations obsessed with war profiteering, accountable; answerable!’ declares the Reverend Dr. Cornel West on the Tribunal’s website.

On November 10, 2022, organizers of the Merchants of Death War Crimes Tribunal and their supporters served a “subpoena” to the directors and corporate offices of weapons manufacturers Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon United, and General Atomics. The subpoena, which will expire on February 10, 2023, compels them to provide to the Tribunal all documents revealing their complicity in aiding and abetting the United States government in committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, bribery, and theft.”

#3 – An anti-nuke movement or movements

H. Patricia Hynes writes on “Envisioning a World Without Nuclear Weapons” and refers to evidence of groups that want to ban nuclear weapons (https://commondreams.org/opinion/us-nuclear-weapons).

  • “At their 40th reunion in Los Alamos, New Mexico, 70 of 110 physicists who worked on the atomic bomb signed a statement supporting nuclear disarmament. When have the brightest scientists of their day ever admitted that their most notable work was a colossal mistake?”
  • “On February 2, 1998 retired General George Butler, former commander of U.S. Strategic Air Command, addressed the National Press Club: “The likely consequences of nuclear weapons have no… justification. They hold in their sway not just the fate of nations but the very meaning of civilization.” Sixty other retired generals and admirals joined him in calling for nuclear weapons abolition.”
  • “Against immense pressure from nuclear-armed states, most aggressively the United States, 122 countries agreed in July 2017 to ban nuclear weapons. At the heart of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is an explicit ethical goal: to protect the world’s peoples from the humanitarian catastrophe that would ensue were nuclear weapons employed.”
  • “By the end of 2022, 68 countries ratified the treaty and 23 more are in the process.”
  • “At least 30 more countries have promised to join the treaty.”
  • “Since 2007, ICAN, an international organization with partners in over 100 countries, has mobilized people throughout the world to convince their governments to support a ban on nuclear weapons.”
  • Mayors for Peace from over 8,000 global cities call for the abolition of nuclear weapons.”
  • “The new U.N. treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons bolsters the hope that the United States and the eight other nuclear giants will grow up into pragmatic, if not ethical, adult governments and eliminate forever their genocidal weapons. One nation did so: South Africa developed nuclear weapons capability and then voluntarily dismantled its entire program in 1989.”

#4 – Some Democratic legislative successes, even with large increases in Pentagon budget and a militaristic thrust in foreign policy

Paul Waldman writes on Democratic successes in the U.S. Congress and gives the following examples (https://washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/12/2/1biden-industrial-policy-economic-revolution).

“With the passage of four large spending bills over his first two years — the American Rescue Plan, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Chips and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act — President Biden has inaugurated something of an economic policy revolution. Their near 2,000 pages of programs and initiatives contain a profound shift in how the federal government intervenes in the economy. We now have the closest thing the United States has had to a real industrial policy in decades,” a prospect most Republicans oppose.

The Omnibus spending bill

In an article for The Hill on December 23, 2022, Aris Folley considers highlights from the $1.7 trillion, 4,000-page, omnibus spending bill Congress just passed by Congress and soon to be signed by President Biden. (https://thehill.com/policy/finance/3786614-five-highlights-from-the-1-7-trillion-omnibus-spending-bill-congress-just-passed). This is the budget of the federal government for 2023. It took some Republican support in addition to the Democratic votes in the House and Senate to pass the federal government budget, but the positive vote came mostly from Democrats. It reflects minimal bi-partisan support, except for increases in military spending. The legislation includes $885 billion for “defense,” 45 billion for support of Ukraine, reform of the Electoral Count Act, and provisions to support various health care programs and initiatives.

The Senate passed the measure on Thursday, December 22, in a 68-29 vote and the House on Friday passed it 225-201-1. All 29 negative votes in the Senate came from Republicans, while 206 Republicans in the House voted “no.” Michael Schnell reports that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) was the only House Democrat to vote against a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package on Friday, voting “no” on the measure because of increased funding for defense and federal agencies that oversee immigration (https://thehill.com/homenews/house/3786827-ocasio-cortez-only-democrat-to-vote-no-on-spending-package).

#5 – Americans are split on the issue of increased military spending

Karl Friedhoff reports on evidence from Global Affairs on September 28, 2022, supporting this statement (https://globalaffairs.org/research/public-opinion-survey/americans-split-increasing-defense-spending). He points out that, in his 2023 budget, “US President Joe Biden sought a record $813 billion for national defense. The House of Representatives then piled another $45 billion on top of that. The American public, however, is split on increasing defense spending. And there are deep differences between Republicans and Democrats.”

Here are the key findings.

  • A plurality of Americans (38%) want to keep defense spending about the same with nearly equal numbers wanting to either expand (29%) or cut back (26%).
  • A majority of Americans (51%) say that maintaining US military superiority is a very effective way to achieve US foreign policy goals. Only maintaining existing alliances (54%) is higher.
  • Just 16 percent say military aid to other countries is a very effective way to achieve US foreign policy goals. Another 59 percent say it is somewhat effective.
  • Even so, large majorities support sending additional arms and military supplies to Ukraine (72%) and if needed, to Taiwan (65%).

#6 – A path to peace in Russia’s war on Ukraine

The Russian war against Ukraine has become another extended war. Some call it a proxy war, pitting Russia against the U.S. and NATO. Without a negotiated settlement, it seems to have the making of a new cold war in which even nuclear weapons become usable.

The Russian leader Putin has put the blame for the Ukraine war on the U.S. and NATO policies of militarily encircling Russia with, he says, the goal of dominating his country. M.E. Sarotte has written a book documenting this view, Not One Inch: American, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate. Others point to Putin’s dubious belief that Ukraine has always been a part of Russia and he wants to force it to be so again.

According to the latter view, the Russian President views the entirety of Ukraine as an historical and integral part of Russia and wants to reclaim it all. And, if total Russian control of Ukraine is not achieved, Putin wants to make sure that Ukraine never joins NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), a concern that grows out of the expansion of NATO membership to include countries in Eastern Europe on the border of Russia.

Jen Kirby and Jonathan Guyer quote Putin on the first point saying,

“Ukraine is not just a neighboring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture and spiritual space,” he said, per the Kremlin’s official translation. “Since time immemorial, the people living in the south-west of what has historically been Russian land have called themselves Russians” (https://vox.com/2022/2/23/22948534/russia-ukraine-war-putin-explosives-invasion-explained).

A path to peace in Ukraine

Stephen Eric Bronner, Co-Director of the International Council for Diplomacy and Dialogue (www.icdd.info) and Board of Governors Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Rutgers University, calls for diplomacy in Ukraine (https://commondreams.org/opinion/ukraine-negotiations-diplomacy).

  • Security guarantees are necessary for both nations: Ukraine must agree to become a neutral and non-nuclear state, and agree to remain outside NATO in exchange for permission join the EU. Sanctions on Russia would be lifted in accordance with its de-escalation of the conflict.
  • Monitoring the implementation of peace and investigating human rights violations must involve independent international agencies. For example, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) will need to oversee plans to deal with refugees, exchange of prisoners, collection of corpses, and elimination of land-mines.
  • Creating an international “fund, similar perhaps to the global climate fund, is necessary for the reconstruction of Ukraine.
  • Continuing support for Ukraine is vital, but it must come with conditions. Even speculative suggestions for peace are necessary when there is only talk of war. The humanitarian catastrophe is worsening and the global community must prioritize the material needs of everyday citizens (and soldiers) over those of governments. Not to talk about peace is to perpetuate war—pure and simple—and that is something the people of Russia and Ukraine cannot afford. Negotiate now!

#7 – A multi-polar world

Medea Benjamin considers “Ten Surprisingly Good Things That Happened in 2022 (https://commondreams.org/views/2022/12/21/ten -surprisingly-good-things-happened-2022”).  Here’s one of her examples.

“A multi-polar world is here. China’s enormously ambitious Belt and Road Initiative now encompasses over 80 countries. And with the U.S. abusing its economic power by imposing extraterritorial sanctions against countries all over the globe, the push for alternatives to the dollar has exploded. Over a dozen countries have asked to join BRICS (the alliance of the powerful economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), whose countries account for 40 percent of the global population and 25 percent of the world’s GDP. BRICS members are already transacting their bilateral trade in local currencies. And new or strengthened non-aligned movements have emerged in Latin America and Africa. A multi-polar world is already a reality for much of the world, and this is actually better for people everywhere–even for Americans–than one where the U.S. keeps using war, militarism and coercive financial sanctions to try to prolong its post-Cold War unipolar moment into our new century.” 

Part 2: On War and war preparation

#1 – U.S. increases its already large military budget

Majorities in the U.S. Congress and the Biden Administration have supported large increases in the 2023 Pentagon’s budget, further inflating the already unprecedented and growing national debt and diverting resources away from dealing with such critical issues of poverty, inequality, and environmental sustainability.

Bryant Harris reports for Defense News that the U.S. Congress has authorized a large increase in the 2023 “defense” budget ((https://defensenews.com/congsress-budget/2022/12/16/congress-authorizes-8-defense-budget-increase). Here are the highlights of his report.

“The Senate voted 83-11 on Friday, December 16, to authorize an 8% defense budget increase over fiscal 2022 levels. The FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA] adds $45 billion to what the White House requested in its defense budget proposal.

“The $858 billion NDAA — which includes roughly $817 billion in Defense Department spending — also includes a 4.6% pay raise for troops as well as billions of dollars in additional funding to help the Pentagon cope with inflation, expand capacity for the defense industrial base to produce major weapons systems and continue certain programs the Biden administration had sought to cancel.”

The presumed threat of China is highlighted in justifications for the increase. Harris quotes Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “China is actively, actively trying to undercut American interests and partnerships everywhere from Asia itself to the Middle East, to Africa and beyond,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck., said on the floor ahead of the vote. “This NDAA will strengthen our hand. It prioritizes crucial partnerships in the Indo-Pacific.”

The House passed the NDAA 350-80 last week with a veto-proof majority. Harris identifies some highlights of the legislation.

#2 – Criticisms of the U.S. Military

A – A hollow force?

Harlan Ullman argues that the “$858 billion defense budget will still produce a ‘hollow force’” (https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/3770596-an-858-billion-defense-budget-will-still-produce-a-hollow-force). Here are his main points.

“First, the aims of the National Defense Strategy (NDS) are unachievable and thus cannot be executed. Second, uncontrolled, annual real cost growth of every item, from precision weapons to people to pencils, exacerbated by high levels of inflation, make the current and projected force unaffordable. Third, the current force of 1.4 million is not sustainable given the declining number of civilians who meet the standards for service and those who wish to serve in uniform.”

US military has not been very effective in war

Historian Andrew Bacevich has written extensively about the ineffectiveness of U.S. military forces in virtually all the wars in which it has been engaged since WWII (e.g., https://tomdispatch.com/russia-underperforming-military-and-ours). In a new collection of articles published in the book titled “On Shredding an Obsolete Past” (published in 2022), he writes,

“For decades, the United States has exerted itself to uphold and enhance the advantageous position it gained in 1945. Its tacit goal was not only to hold the communist world in check but to achieve ideological, economic, political, and military primacy on a global scale, with all but the most cynical American leaders genuinely persuaded that US supremacy served the interests of mankind.”

Bacevich continues that through these decades “the United States regularly doubled down on its quest for a global primacy that was to be achieved largely, though by no means entirely, through the use or threatened use of military power.”

The use of this military power was shaped by “a near total absence of competent political oversight; deficient generalship, with senior officers struggling to comprehend the nature of the wars they were charged with waging; unwarranted confidence in the utility of advanced military technology; an excessive reliance on firepower that killed, maimed, and displaced non-combatants, thereby alienating the local population; nation-building efforts that succeeded chiefly in spawning widespread corruption; an inability to inculcate in local militaries the capacity and motivation to defend their country; and, not least of all, determined enemies who made up for their material shortcomings by outpacing their adversaries in a willingness to fight and die for the cause” (p. 346).

B – Arms makers rake in undue profits

Eric Lipton, Michael Crowley and John Ismay make the case that the surge in military spending creates a “New Boom for Arms Makers” (https://nytimes.com/2022/12/18/us/politics/defense-contractors-ukraine-russia.html). Here’s some of what they write.

“Military spending next year is on track to reach its highest level in inflation-adjusted terms since the peaks in the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars between 2008 and 2011, and the second highest in inflation-adjusted terms since World War II — a level that is more than the budgets for the next 10 largest cabinet agencies combined.

“Even more orders are coming in to military contractors from U.S. allies in Europe and Asia, as they too have concluded they must do more to arm themselves against rising global threats. Japan moved this month to double its spending on defense over the next five years, putting aside a pacifist stand it has largely maintained since 1945.

“The push by the United States to arm Ukraine in its war against Russia has already led to substantial new business for military contractors.

“And none of this counts an estimated $18 billion of planned but now delayed weapons deliveries by the United States to arm Taiwan against a possible future attack by China.

“The combination of the Ukraine war and the growing consensus about the emergence of a new era of superpower confrontation is prompting efforts to ensure the military industrial base can respond to surges in demand. The issue has become urgent in some cases as the U.S. and its NATO allies seek to keep weapons flowing to Ukraine without diminishing their own stocks to worrisome levels.”

Furthermore:

“The annual military authorization bill that passed the Senate on Thursday prevents the Air Force and Navy from retiring aging weapons systems that the military would like to take out of service, including certain C-130 transport planes or F-22 fighter jets. At the same time, it includes billions of dollars in extra money to build even more new ships and planes than the Pentagon itself asked for, including $2.2 billion alone for an extra Navy-guided missile destroyer, according to the Senate Armed Services Committee.”

C –The threat of nuclear weapons and war

William Astore,  a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and professor of history, is a TomDispatch regular and a senior fellow at the Eisenhower Media, is concerned about how U.S. nuclear strategy keeps the world on the edge of nuclear war (https://thenation.com/article/world/northrop-grumman-b21-radar-armageddon). Astore writes,

“It’s hard to think of a system more filthy or rotten than one that threatens to destroy most life on our planet, so that this country could in some fashion ‘win’ World War III.”

He gives the example of the B-21 Raider, the country’s latest “stealth bomber” that is made by Northrop Grumman and can carry nuclear bombs. Astore cites how Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin describes it as a weapon that will “fortify America’s ability to deter aggression, today and into the future.”

“…the B-21 is advertised as a multi-role bomber that can carry ‘conventional’ or non-nuclear munitions as well as thermonuclear ones, but its main reason for being is its alleged ability to put nuclear bombs on target, even without Slim Pickens (‘Major Kong’ in Kubrick’s Dr. Strangeloveriding down on one of them.”

The bomber is part of a “nuclear triad,” the foundation of the U.S. nuclear policy. Astore comments on the triad.

“There’s nothing magical about the nuclear triad. It’s not the Holy ‘Trinity,’ as a congressman from Florida said long ago. Even so, it’s worshipped by the US military in its own all-too-expensive fashion. America’s triad consists of bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons (B-52s, B-1s, B-2s, and someday B-21s), those land-based ICBMs, and that most survivable ‘leg,’ the US Navy’s Trident-missile-firing submarines. No other country has a triad quite as impressive (if that’s the word for it), nor is any other country planning to spend up to $2 trillion over the next three decades ‘modernizing’ it. The Air Force, of course, controls the first two legs of that triad and isn’t about to give them up just because they’re redundant to America’s ‘defense’ (given those submarines), while constituting a threat to life on this planet.”

Astore is skeptical about reversing the current military strategy.

“Collectively, it seems that we may be on the verge of returning to a nightmarish past, where we lived in fear of a nuclear war that would kill us all, the tall and the small, and especially the smallest among us, our children, who really are our future.

“My fear: that we’ve already become comfortably numb to it and no longer can take on that culture of mass death. I say this with great sadness, as an American citizen and a human being.”

D – Atomic scientists worry about “a global nuclear order in shambles”

François Diaz-Maurin reviews in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists on “A global nuclear order in shambles”(https://thebulletin.org/2022/12/the-2022-nuclear-year-in-review-a-global-nuclear-order-in-shambles). Here’s some of what Diaz-Maurin reports.

“Russia, losing on the ground, contemplated the use of nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine—recklessly threatening the nuclear taboo, a 77-year tradition of non-use. Also in Ukraine, nuclear reactors and nuclear facilities became targets of military attacks. Elsewhere, North Korea test-launched more ballistic missiles than it ever had in a single year and even seems to be preparing for a nuclear test. Iran resumed construction of its underground nuclear complex, disconnected IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] surveillance cameras, and accelerated its uranium enrichment program, leaving it only months away from possibly testing a nuclear explosive or deploying a crude nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile, if it wishes to do so. In response, Saudi Arabia took further steps toward enriching uranium, also refusing IAEA inspections that would ensure the Kingdom does not conduct covert nuclear weapons-related activities.

“Despite all these concerns,” Diaz-Maurin continues, “efforts of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament failed to achieve any meaningful result this year. Participants in the first meeting of states parties of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), also known as the ban treaty, could not agree on calling out Russia’s nuclear threats and rhetoric in its war against Ukraine. The long-awaited review conference of the parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) ended without an agreement after Russia refused to sign off on an outcome document that referred to the control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. The international community, so far, seems incapable of finding ways to better protect nuclear facilities from attacks, even as the odds of a nuclear accident in Ukraine increase as the war drags on.

“In August, the EU-mediated talks between the United States and Iran failed to revive the 2015 agreement limiting Tehran’s nuclear program, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which former President Trump abandoned in 2018. In the United States, the much-anticipated Biden administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) was finally released in October, only to deceive experts. The NPR has been invariably accused, at best, of maintaining the nuclear status quo and of passing on its chance to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in the US security strategy, if not of being a major step backward.

“Finally, in late November, hopes that on-site inspections under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) could resume soon were cold-showered after Russia postponed a meeting of the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC), the treaty’s implementing body, planned to be held the next day in Cairo, Egypt. New START is the only bilateral nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia, the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. It is set to expire in 2026.”

—————————

Concluding thoughts

The U.S. government and both major political parties remain committed to the maintenance of the nation’s current military supremacy globally. But despite the enormous resources devoted to this goal, bipartisan U.S. military policies have done little to bring peace to the world or victories in war. There are indeed forces for peace in America, though they have yet to alter this military-oriented policy trajectory. We would do better than the U.S. has done in foreign policy by listening to Eisenhower’s 1960 warning on the military-industrial complex.

The challenges from the political right in preventing democratic reform

Bob Sheak, Dec 12, 2022

Introduction

The U.S. political system is at a crossroads. Trump, Republicans and their supporters want to limit ‘democracy,” while Democrats generally want to expand it. The outcome of this struggle is still to be determined.

A definition of “democracy”

The Merriam Webster Dictionary provides a definition of “democracy” (https://merriam-webster.com/dictionary/democracy). Accordingly, the basic characteristic of democracy (1) “involves “government by the people,” or “the rule of the majority” and (2) “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”

The definition needs to be expanded to address “minority rights.” The Constitution US website addresses this issue (https://constitutionus.com/democracy/how-does-democracy-protect-minority-rights).

“In a democracy, whether you lose in a political debate or an election, or belong to a minority group due to ethnic background, geographic location, religious belief, gender preference, civil status, educational experience, or socioeconomic level — you are guaranteed fundamental human rights. No one — not any person, government, nor the majority — can remove these rights from you. This is called the Majority Rule, Minority Rights Principle, which holds the twin pillars of democracy.

“The Majority Rule, Minority Rights Principle practiced in a democracy protects minority rights by ensuring that even if a majority decision is followed, that decision should never impinge on the fundamental human rights of minorities.”

Democratic reforms to strengthen U.S. democracy

The reform(s) that would strengthen U.S. democracy would include opportunities in the political system for citizens in all material conditions (class, “race,” gender, etc.) to find it easy (1) to register or to be registered to vote, (2) to cast their vote, (3) to be informed by education, political campaigns, candidates, and evidence-based media, on the substance and potential impacts of the issues, and (4) to have their votes fairly and accurately counted. In addition, (5) candidates for public office, when they met a certain level of voter support, would be given government financial support so as to have the financial means to run a campaign. And (6) there would be limits on campaign contributions and (7) the elimination of “dark money.”

Flaws in the current U.S. electoral system

Limiting who votes

Republicans in the U.S. Congress and across the country want to limit voting and do so through gerrymandering, voter suppression and intimidation, along with efforts to replace the popular vote by giving state legislatures the power to choose their own electors independently of state courts and with disregard to how voters have voted. The latter is related to the Electoral College provisions of the U.S. Constitution, established in Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution It was included in the Constitution by the founders as a way to limit democracy and protect the interests of those with property and influence. To strengthen democracy, it needs to be phased out.

The Electoral College

Here’s how the National Archives summarizes this complex procedure, one that denies the direct votes of the electorate for presidential and vice-presidential candidates (https://archives.gov/electoral-college/about). It is also a procedure that gives disproportionate influence to states with relatively small populations. To strengthen U.S. democracy, it should be phased out. However, it would require an amendment to the Constitution that makes such change unlikely because of the expected Republican opposition.

“The Electoral College is a process, not a place. The Founding Fathers established it in the Constitution, in part, as a compromise between the election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens.

“What is the process?

“The Electoral College process consists of the selection of the electors, the meeting of the electors where they vote for President and Vice President, and the counting of the electoral votes by Congress.

“How many electors are there? How are they distributed among the States?

“The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. Your State has the same number of electors as it does Members in its Congressional delegation: one for each Member in the House of Representatives plus two Senators. 

“The District of Columbia is allocated 3 electors and treated like a State for purposes of the Electoral College under the 23rd Amendment of the Constitution.

“For this reason, in the following discussion, the word ‘State’ also refers to the District of Columbia and ‘Governor’ to the Mayor of the District of Columbia.

“How are my electors chosen? What are their qualifications? How do they decide who to vote for?

“Each candidate running for President in your State has his or her own group of electors (known as a slate). The slates are generally chosen by the candidate’s political party in your State, but State laws vary on how the electors are selected and what their responsibilities are.

“What happens in the general election? Why should I vote?

“The general election is held every four years on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. When you vote for a Presidential candidate, you are actually voting for your candidate’s preferred electors. 

“Most States have a “winner-take-all” system that awards all electors to the Presidential candidate who wins the State’s popular vote. However, Maine and Nebraska each have a variation of ‘proportional representation.’ 

“What happens after the general election?

“After the general election, your Governor prepares a Certificate of Ascertainment listing the names of all the individuals on the slates for each candidate. The Certificate of Ascertainment also lists the number of votes each individual received and shows which individuals were appointed as your State’s electors. Your State’s Certificate of Ascertainment is sent to NARA [National Archives and Records Administration] as part of the official records of the Presidential election.

“The meeting of the electors takes place on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December after the general election. The electors meet in their respective States, where they cast their votes for President and Vice President on separate ballots. Your State’s electors’ votes are recorded on a Certificate of Vote, which is prepared at the meeting by the electors. Your State’s Certificate of Vote is sent to Congress, where the votes are counted, and NARA, as part of the official records of the Presidential election.

“Each State’s electoral votes are counted in a joint session of Congress on the 6th of January in the year following the meeting of the electors. Members of the House and Senate meet in the House Chamber to conduct the official count of electoral votes. The Vice President, as President of the Senate, presides over the count and announces the results of the vote. The President of the Senate then declares which persons, if any, have been elected President and Vice President of the United States.

“The President-elect takes the oath of office and is sworn in as President of the United States on January 20th in the year following the general election.

Dark Money – an anti-democratic process

Money plays a significant role in who runs for elected office and gives the rich and powerful disproportionate influence, especially in the competition for national and state-wide offices. Dark money is yet another example of how U.S. democracy is compromised.

Open Secrets provides a detailed analysis of “dark money” (https://opensecrets.org/dark-money/basics).

“Dark money” refers to spending meant to influence political outcomes where the source of the money is not disclosed. Here’s how dark money makes its way into elections:

“Politically active nonprofits such as 501(c)(4)s are generally under no legal obligation to disclose their donors even if they spend to influence elections. When they choose not to reveal their sources of funding, they are considered dark money groups.

“Opaque nonprofits and shell companies may give unlimited amounts of money to super PACs. While super PACs are legally required to disclose their donors, some of these groups are effectively dark money outlets when the bulk of their funding cannot be traced back to the original donor.”

“Citizens who are barraged with political messages paid for with money from undisclosed sources may not be able to consider the credibility and possible motives of the wealthy corporate or individual funders behind those messages.”

Both Democrats and Republicans channel large amounts of campaign contributions to national candidates through “dark money” sources. However, Republicans spend more than Democrats in this way. Democrats in the U.S. Congress would like to eliminate or sharply curtail dark money contributions, while Republicans would eliminate all government restrictions on campaign contributions.

On the first point, Dominico Montanaro refers to evidence from Open Secrets to substantiate that Republicans maker greater use of dark money than their Democratic opponents (https://npr.org/2022/10/22/1129976565/dark-money-groups-midterms-elections-republicans-democrats-senate).

“More than $1.6 billion has been spent or booked on TV ads in a dozen Senate races, with $3 out of every $4 being spent in six states — Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada and Ohio, according to an NPR analysis of data provided by the ad-tracking firm AdImpact.

“Most of that money is coming from outside groups, some of which have little-to-no donor transparency — and Republicans are getting a huge boost from them

Outside groups have poured in nearly $1 billion to buoy GOP Senate candidates.

“Just how important have these groups been to Republicans? Eighty-six percent of the money going toward pro-GOP TV ads is coming from these outside groups, compared to 55% for Democrats.”

Democrats want to minimize or eliminate “dark money,” The example of the Disclose Act.

Brandon Lee and Michaela Ross address this issue in an article published by bgov.com on September Sept. 21, 2022 (https://about.bgov.com/news/what-to-know-in-washington-biden-democrats-target-dark-money). They report that President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats want to eliminate dark money, despite the party’s own significant reliance on these anonymous donors. They have proposed the Disclose Act, legislation that would require disclosure of political campaign donations of $10,000 or more.

After having passed in the House, where Democrats have a small majority and there is no filibuster rule, the measure failed in the Senate on Sept. 22, 2022. Lee and Ross write: “At least 60 votes would have been required to end debate on the bill, which has been introduced multiple times in the past 10 years by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D–R.I.). The bill would, among other things, require dark money groups that contribute to super PACs or spend on communications referring to a federal candidate to disclose contributions greater than $10,000.”

“In remarks before the vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) slammed the bill as ‘an insult to the First Amendment’ and warned that it would amount to a partisan Democratic takeover of elections. They quote Whitehouse’s response.

‘Today, Senate Republicans stood in lockstep with their megadonors and secretive special interests to protect the most corrupting force in American politics—dark money,’ Whitehouse said in a statement. ‘Republicans heeded the wishes of dark money donors today, but the fight to pass this bill isn’t over.’ Other subsequent Democratic initiatives in the U.S. Senate that would have included the provisions of the Disclose Act, that is, the For the People Act also subsequently were blocked by Republicans led by McConnell. Earlier in 2022, “Republicans also blocked passage of the Freedom to Vote Act, a Democratic-sponsored voting rights bill that included the campaign finance provisions of the DISCLOSE Act.”

 Right-wing forces in America: a coalition

Unregulated corporate power

Large corporations and the rich wield extraordinary influence in the U.S. political (and other) systems. Thom Hartman, among a host of others, offers evidence to support this view (https://commondreams.org/views/2022/08/24/march-towards-us-fascism-began-corporate-hijacking-democracy). Here is one of Hartmann’s examples.

“Monopolistic consolidation of the American economy is so complete that American consumers are being openly played as the world’s suckers. We pay more—often twice to ten times more—than the citizens of any other developed country for everything from pharmaceuticals to broadband to cell service. There was a time in America when Congress did something about monopolies: that time is now gone, as lawmakers are regularly bribed by the very corporations they would have to pass laws to regulate.”

Geoff Dembicki, investigative climate change reporter from Alberta, Canada, offers another example of corporate power in his book, The Petroleum Papers: Inside the Conspiracy to Cover-Up Climate Change (published 2022). The book focuses on large fossil fuel corporations. One of his striking findings tells it all. He writes that “close to two-thirds of greenhouse gases emitted over the last 150 years could be traced back to just ninety companies, Exxon, Chevron, BP, Shell, and ConocoPhilips were all in the top ten” (p. 196).” Dembicki’s book documents how these corporations have used their resources to lobby against meaningful legislative proposals to phase out fossil fuels and increase government support for solar, wind, geothermal, and energy efficiency.

The solution is to break up the large corporations through the reinvigoration of anti-trust policy. When corporations control vast markets, they can charge higher prices, lobby and influence elected officials to do their bidding, support anti-union legislative initiatives, and be a major force in support of neoliberal policies generally, that is, to support deregulation, low taxes, the privatization of potentially profitable government functions (e.g., the prisons, charter schools), and low spending on social/welfare programs.

In his book, The Hidden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream, Hartmann refers to examples of corporate concentration.

“On Wall Street, the 20 biggest banks own assets equivalent to 84% of the nation’s entire gross domestic product (GDP). And just 12 of these banks own 70% of all banking assets.”

In the food industry, “four companies control 90% of the grain trade. Just three companies control 70% of the American beef industry. And just four companies control 58% of the U.S. pork and chicken producing and processing industries.”

“On the retail side, Walmart controls a quarter of the entire grocery market. And just four companies produce 75% of our snack food, 60% of our cookies, and half of all the ice cream sold in supermarkets around the nation” (p. 39)

The right-wing, increasingly extremist Republican Party

Then there is Republican Party.

For example, Dana Milbank identifies some of the prominent people in the Republican Party who have successfully worked to advance an anti-democratic, authoritarian agenda in his book, The Destructionists: The Twenty-Five Year Crack-Up of the Republican Party. Here’s one revealing quote from the book:

“The GOP’s quarter-century war on facts had come to this: a gargantuan fabrication aimed at discrediting democracy itself” (p. 204).

Having the goal of cutting Social Security and Medicare

Sharon Zhang gives an example of this Republican view. She reports on how “High-Ranking Senate Republicans Reveal GOP Plans to Slash Social Security (https://truthout.org/articles/high-ranking-senate-republican-reveals-gop-plan-to-slash-social-security). She quotes Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota) who “said that slashing such programs would be a ‘solution’ to the national debt — an issue that Republicans only bring up in regards to liberal or left-leaning proposals and programs. Thune added that threatening a default, which would have catastrophic consequences for the economy and risk triggering a recession, could be a viable option for the party to force the cuts.”

The debt ceiling is currently slated to expire in the first quarter of 2023. Thune is not alone among Senate and House Republicans. Zhang points out,

“Bottom of Form

House Republicans are on board with the plan; in October, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) also said that the party is planning to use the debt ceiling to push through Republican priorities like slashing Social Security and Medicare.”

This is not the first time that Republicans have used the threat of opposing an increase in the U.S. debt ceiling. “The party had already engaged in political brinkmanship with the debt default last year [2021],” Zhang notes, “threatening to tank the economy over the Build Back Better Act, a bill that ultimately didn’t pass for separate reasons.”

Republicans in the U.S. Congress appear little concerned about the devastating effects that would accompany cuts to Social Security and Medicare, or that

“Social Security is consistently the most effective program in the U.S. in cutting poverty, preventing tens of millions of people from falling into poverty each year. Medicare and Medicaid are also crucial antipoverty measures, with tens of millions of people dependent on the programs for health care coverage.”

The Republicans pushing this plan disregard polls, like the recent poll by Data for Progress, which “found that 83 percent of voters oppose Republican plans to cut Social Security and Medicare, with results lining up with other polls overwhelmingly finding that voters want increases to Social Security — not cuts.”

Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) proposes expanding Social Security without contributing to the national debt. This can be done by having those with higher job-related incomes to pay a higher wage tax, the financial basis for the program. Zhang explains. “Currently, while those making less than $147,000 a year pay an even 12.4 percent of their yearly incomes into the program, those making more pay a smaller proportion. This is due to the highly regressive structure of the Social Security tax, which stops taxing income above the threshold — meaning that, for instance, those making more than $1 million a year stop paying into the program by the end of February each year.

Other progressive lawmakers and advocates “have called for the abolition of the debt ceiling altogether. The limit ‘serves no function except to create leverage for people who are willing to blow up the economy,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) said earlier this month.” Most other large countries do not have debt limits.

Trump’s anti-democratic record

There is little doubt that Trump has been and continues to be a major factor in Republican Party affairs because of the seemingly unconditional support tens of millions of Americans give him.  Henry A. Giroux, professor and prolific writer, believes the U.S. under Trump/Republican influence is in danger of becoming a fascist country, which, if ever implemented, would represent a negation of democracy based on one-party government. He offers the following summary of the anti-democratic views advanced by Trump during his presidency in his new book, Pedagogy of Resistance: Against Manufactured Ignorance (published 2022).

“flooding America with lies and launching a full-fledged attack on truth and science; enacting racist fear-mongering and a politics of disposability; promoting extreme nationalism and celebrating an alignment with dictators; endorsing a discourse of winners, along with a list of losers and enemies who became the object of contempt, if not violence; he also labelled the American press as an ‘enemy of the people’; legitimated a culture of dehumanization, called immigrants vermin and rapists; reinforced the language of misogyny and xenophobia; and used powerful right-wing propaganda machine to legitimate culture of autocratic power and political corruption” (p.114).

Extremism from the Right is not going away: Examples

#1 – David Leonhardt identifies “the twin threats to American democracy” (https://nytimes.com/2022/09/17/us/american-democracy-threats.html).

“The United States has experienced deep political turmoil several times before over the past century. The Great Depression caused Americans to doubt the country’s economic system. World War II and the Cold War presented threats from global totalitarian movements. The 1960s and ’70s were marred by assassinations, riots, a losing war and a disgraced president.

“These earlier periods were each more alarming in some ways than anything that has happened in the United States recently. Yet during each of those previous times of tumult, the basic dynamics of American democracy held firm. Candidates who won the most votes were able to take power and attempt to address the country’s problems.

“The current period is different. As a result, the United States today finds itself in a situation with little historical precedent. American democracy is facing two distinct threats, which together represent the most serious challenge to the country’s governing ideals in decades.

“The first threat is acute: a growing movement inside one of the country’s two major parties — the Republican Party — to refuse to accept defeat in an election.

The violent Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress, meant to prevent the certification of President Biden’s election, was the clearest manifestation of this movement, but it has continued since then. Hundreds of elected Republican officials around the country falsely claim that the 2020 election was rigged. Some of them are running for statewide offices that would oversee future elections, potentially putting them in position to overturn an election in 2024 or beyond.

“‘There is the [future] possibility, for the first time in American history, that a legitimately elected president will not be able to take office,’ said Yascha Mounk, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University who studies democracy.

“The second threat to democracy is chronic but also growing: The power to set government policy is becoming increasingly disconnected from public opinion.

“The run of recent Supreme Court decisions — both sweeping and, according to polls, unpopular — highlight this disconnect. Although the Democratic Party has won the popular vote in seven of the past eight presidential elections, a Supreme Court dominated by Republican appointees seems poised to shape American politics for years, if not decades. And the court is only one of the means through which policy outcomes are becoming less closely tied to the popular will.

“Two of the past four presidents have taken office despite losing the popular vote. Senators representing a majority of Americans are often unable to pass bills, partly because of the increasing use of the filibuster. Even the House, intended as the branch of the government that most reflects the popular will, does not always do so, because of the way districts are drawn.

Leonhardt quotes Steven Levitsky, a professor of government at Harvard University and a co-author of the book ‘How Democracies Die,’ with Daniel Ziblatt. “We are far and away the most counter majoritarian democracy in the world.”

#2 – Right-wing, Trump/GOP extremism is now more salient and uncompromising  

John Nichols analyzes “The Disturbing World of the New GOP” (https://thenation.com/article/society/republican-party-2022-midterms). Here’s some of what he writes.

“The Republican Party that will take narrow control of the House of Representatives in January 2023 has gone through a dramatic transformation in the two years since Donald Trump and his allies attempted a violent coup to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The party that was once torn over how to respond to Trump’s assault on democratic norms is no more. It was replaced in 2022 by one that did not merely tolerate Trump’s election denialism but embraced it by nominating January 6 insurrectionists and apologists for congressional and statewide posts—a strategy so noxious that it cost Republicans key US Senate contests and the ‘red wave’ GOP strategists were counting on. But postelection pundits who imagine that the party will do an about-face and suddenly adopt a more politically rational course are sorely mistaken. The new Republican Party has a base—and many leaders—that does not merely fall for Trump’s lies. Republican partisans are increasingly looking beyond the scandal-plagued former president and taking inspiration from right-wing European nationalist leaders with politics rooted in a fascist sensibility that employs racism, xenophobia, and a win-at-any-cost approach to elections and governing. This transformed Republican Party will exploit its control of the House and state posts for a 2024 presidential election in which Trump and a rising generation of ruthless partisans will plot a return to unitary power—with a vision that is dramatically more authoritarian than anything seen in the 45th president’s first term.”

Nichols also adds,

“Republicans in the U.S. Congress embrace “an ideology that promises not just retribution for political rivals—and for longtime targets of its vitriol, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci and the liberal philanthropist George Soros—but a wholesale restructuring of federal power.”

#3The House Republicans with a small majority in the incoming 118th U.S. Congress (Jan. 2023 to Jan. 2025) will be even more extremist than they have been. They will certainly carry on with their obstructionist tactics aimed at undermining Democratic proposals, with little concern about the effects on the country.

As one example, Elaina Plott Calabro reports on Marjorie Taylor Greene’s arrival to Congress, her background and her evolving, but always, extremist views

(https://theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2023/01/marjorie-taylor-greene-congress-georgia-election-background/6721229). She writes:

“she was very late. A man named Barry was compelled to lead the room in a rendition of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” to stall for time. But when she did arrive, the tardiness was forgiven and the Cobb County Republican Party’s November breakfast was made new. She wasn’t greeted. She was beheld, like a religious apparition. Emotions verged on rapture. Later, as she spoke, one man jumped to his feet with such force that his chair fell over. Not far away, two women clung to each other and shrieked. I was knocked to my seat when a tablemate’s corrugated-plastic flood the polls sign collided inadvertently with my head. Upon looking up, I came eye-level with a pistol tucked into the khaki waistband of an elderly man in front of me. ‘She is just so great,’ I heard someone say. ‘I mean, she really is just amazing.’

“Marjorie Taylor Greene arrived in Congress in January 2021, blond and crass and indelibly identified with conspiracy theories involving Jewish space lasers and Democratic pedophiles. She had barely settled into office before being stripped of her committee assignments; she has been called a “cancer” on the Republican Party by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell; and she now has a loud voice in the GOP’s most consequential decisions on Capitol Hill because her party’s leaders know, and she knows they know, that she has become far too popular with their voters to risk upsetting her.”

John Nichols points out that, in the aftermath of the 2022 midterm elections, “…Keven McCarthy is promising to restore the committee assignments that Greene was stripped of after a CNN investigation found that she had repeatedly expressed support for executing prominent Democrats (https://thenation.com/article/society/republican-party-2022-midterms).

Robert Draper draws attention to the extreme “policy agenda” of Greene in the following paragraph from his book, “Weapons of Mass Delusion: When the Republican Party Lost Its Mind” (published 2022).

“She wanted to impeach President Biden. She wanted to expel AOC and other members of the Squad from Congress for being communists. She wanted to label Black Lives Matter a terrorist group. She wanted to ban all abortion. She wanted to end all mask mandates, starting within the halls of Congress. She wanted to finish building Trump’s wall and keep immigrants of any kind out of America for the foreseeable future. She wanted to disregard rights for transgendered people. She wanted to start a trade war with China and expel their students from the United States. She wanted to eliminate any and all regulations that were intended to address climate change, because, in her view, ‘The climate has always changed. And no amount of taxes and no government can do anything to stop climate change.’ She wanted to unravel gun-related-control laws. She wanted prayer back in schools” (pp. 276-277).

#4 – The issues that energize and may promote violence amid Trump’s electoral base

Ronald Brownstein considers issues that rile the Trump/Republican’s base (https://theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2022/12/gop-lawmakers-distancing-extremism-trump-fuentes-yet/672328).

“In various polls, preponderant majorities of GOP voters have said that discrimination against white people is now as big a problem as bias against minorities, that Christianity in the U.S. is under assault, and that the growing number of immigrants threatens American values and traditions. About half of Republicans have expressed agreement in other polls with tenets of white nationalism,’ that elites are importing immigrants to undermine the political power of native-born white people, the core Christian-nationalist belief that ‘God intended America to be a new promised land,’ and the assertion that ‘the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.’

“Only a minuscule percentage of those Republican partisans might contemplate violence or join extremist organizations, [Elizabeth] Neumann and other experts point out. But the receptivity of so many Republican voters to arguments, even if less virulent, that overlap with those championed by white- and Christian-nationalist organizations may be a crucial reason for party leaders’ reluctance to confront Trump and others, like Greene, who have associated with such groups.”

Elizabeth Neumann is the former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security under Trump who focused on domestic extremism, and is “now the chief strategy officer of Moonshot, a company that combats online extremism, worries that organized far-right violence could still erupt if Trump ever faces a trial as a result of the various investigations targeting him. But she sees the possibility that the visibility and influence of the extreme right inside the GOP peaked with this fall’s converging events, especially the party’s disappointing election results. ‘I really do think [she speculates] this is, like, a 10-, 20-year process, she told me…” That is, if Republican win control of the U.S. Congress and White House they, with the support of the Supreme Court and right-wing media, will be able to shape the rules by which the government acts for years to come, putting in jeopardy government support of programs that benefit the majority of Americans.

#5 – Advocacy of “white supremacy”

White supremacists are a core constituency of the Republican Party. They are “a persistent and lethal” force in American society, according to a Senate report and as reported by Julia Conley (https://commondreams.org/news/2022/11/29/senate-report-details-failure-confront-persistent-and-lethal-threat-white). She writes,

“Despite the fact that federal law enforcement agencies have in recent years acknowledged that white supremacy represents a major threat to public safety in the United States and is fueling domestic terrorist attacks, a new U.S. Senate report reveals that authorities are continuing to pour resources into fighting international threats instead of addressing extremism stateside.

“After a three-year investigation, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee this month released a nearly 130-page report detailing how the FBI—part of the Justice Department—and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have ‘failed to adequately align resources to address the threat from domestic terrorism, despite the agencies highlighting the magnitude of the threat in their annual strategic intelligence assessments.’”

Conley continues.

“The report notes that the agencies have not complied with a congressional requirement to track and report data on domestic terrorism and have failed to adapt to a new era in which social media has played a role ‘in the radicalization process of perpetrators in over 90% of extremist plots or activities in the United States.’

“For example, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at DHS identified ‘specific threat information” on social media in the days leading up to the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, but did not report on the threats until two days after the insurrection, an oversight that was partially due to ‘inexperienced open source collectors who received inadequate training.’”

The evidence.

“Last year, data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) showed that right-wing extremists had carried out or plotted 267 attacks and caused 91 deaths since 2015. More than a quarter of the attacks and nearly half the killings had been perpetrated by white supremacists, according to Washington Post analysis.

“That analysis was compiled before this year’s mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, after which the shooter reported he was motivated by the “Great Replacement Theory”—a conspiracy-fueled belief that white Americans are being intentionally “replaced” by people of color. The suspect in that shooting, which killed 10 Black people, pleaded guilty on Monday to murder and hate-motivated terrorism charges.

The Great Replacement Theory has been endorsed in recent years by influential right-wing figures including Fox commentator Tucker Carlson, Sen.-elect J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).”

The U.S. Constitution needs remedying, not rejection

Trump wants to dismiss or disregard the U.S. Constitution

Trump has recently called for Americans to ignore or reject the constitution and what it stands for, with little criticism from leaders in the Republican Party. Kenny Stancil reports on this issue ((https://commondreams.org/news/2022/12/04/gop-silence-trumps-call-axe-constitution-reveals-full-embrace-fascism-house-dem).

“‘Last week the leader of the Republican Party had dinner with a Nazi leader and a man who called Adolf Hitler ‘great,’’ said Rep. Bill Pascrell. ‘Yesterday Trump called for throwing out the Constitution and making himself dictator.’”

Then in a viral post on Trump social media platform, Truth Social, Trump keyed the following statements referring to his long reputed “big lie” and the need to reject Biden’s 2020 presidential victory.

“So, with the revelation of MASSIVE & WIDESPREAD FRAUD & DECEPTION in working closely with Big Tech Companies, the DNC, & the Democrat Party, do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION? A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”

The Biden administration responded.

“The administration of President Joe Biden, who defeated Trump by more than seven million votes and 74 Electoral College votes, quickly responded. In a statement rebuking Trump, White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said:

“The American Constitution is a sacrosanct document that for over 200 years has guaranteed that freedom and the rule of law prevail in our great country. The Constitution brings the American people together—regardless of party—and elected leaders swear to uphold it. It’s the ultimate monument to all of the Americans who have given their lives to defeat self-serving despots that abused their power and trampled on fundamental rights. Attacking the Constitution and all it stands for is anathema to the soul of our nation, and should be universally condemned. You cannot only love America when you win.”

Trump continues is make statements in support of the Jan.6 rioters and, if elected in 2024, promises to pardon all of them.

Stancil also reports on Trump’s continuing endorsement of the rioters who attempted on Jan. 6, 2021 to stop the Congress’s legal responsibility for certifying the results of the 2020 presential election.

“Just days ago, Trump reiterated his support for the far-right insurrectionists who participated in the deadly January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, saying in a video played during a fundraiser that ‘people have been treated unconstitutionally in my opinion and very, very unfairly, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it.’

“Trump claimed earlier this year that he was ‘financially supporting’ some January 6 defendants and said that if reelected, he would ‘look very, very favorably’ at full pardons for those being prosecuted. More than 950 people have been charged so far, including two leaders of the far-right Oath Keepers militia who were convicted last week of seditious conspiracy. In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s failed coup, 147 congressional Republicans voted to reverse Biden’s victory.”

Identifying the democratic flaws in the U.S. Constitution – and fixing them

Law professor and scholar Sanford Levinson identifies key Constitutional flaws in his book, “Our Undemocratic Constitution” (published 2006). He lists the following problems, overlooking the racist aspects of the document.

“1. Even if you support having a Senate in addition to the House of Representatives, do you support as well giving Wyoming the same number of votes as California, which has roughly seventy times the population?

“2. Are you comfortable with an Electoral College that, among other things, has regularly placed in the White House candidates who did not get a majority of the popular vote and, in at least two [now three] cases over the past fifty years, wo did not even come in first in that vote.

“3. Are you concerned that the president might have too much power, whether to spy on Americans without any congressional or judicial authority or to frustrate the will of the majority of both houses of Congress by vetoing legislation which he disagrees on political grounds?

“4. Do you really want justices on the Supreme Court to serve up to four decades and, among other things, to be able to time their resignation to mesh with their own political preferences as to their successors?

“5. Do you support the ability of thirteen legislative houses in as many states to block constitutional amendments desired by the overwhelming majority of Americans as well as, possibly, eighty-six out of the ninety-nine legislative houses in the American states?” (pp. 6-7).

The Constitutional founders were concerned about the “unruly masses”

David Frum, staff writer for The Atlantic magazine, argues in an article published by the magazine on Feb 15, 2021, that the “authors of the Constitution feared mass participation would unsettle government, but it’s the privileged minority that has proved destabilizing” (https://www.theatlantic/com/ideas/archive/2012/02/america-must-become-democracy/618028). Frum’s principal point is that just about every author of the Constitution shared this idea, which was “articulated by James Madison at the convention on June 26, 1787.” Frum continues.

“The mass of the people would be susceptible to ‘fickleness and passion,’ he [Madison] warned. They would suffer from ‘want of information as to their true interest.’ Those who must ‘labour under all the hardships of life’ would ‘secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings.’ Over time, as the population expanded and crowded into cities, the risk would only worsen that ‘the major interest might under sudden impulses be tempted to commit injustice on the minority.’”

In response to this concern, the Framers erected erect ‘a necessary fence’ against ‘impetuous councils.’ A Senate to counterbalance the House of Representatives, selected from a more elite few and serving for longer terms, would be one such fence. The indirect election of the president through an Electoral College would be another. A federal judiciary confirmed by the Senate and serving for life would provide one more. And so on through the constitutional design.”

Frum adds: “In no other comparably developed society is voting as difficult; in no peer society are votes weighted as unequally; in no peer society is there a legislative chamber where 41 percent of the lawmakers can routinely outvote 59 percent, as happens in the U.S. Senate.”

The Biden Administration’s approach: make voting easier

One of the proposals to do this is called the For the People Act.

Brennan Center for Justice officers and researchers, Michael Waldman, Wendy R. Weiser, Daniel I. Weiner, consider President Biden’s proposal, the goal of which is to eliminate obstacles to voting (https://brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/brennan-center-urges-congress-pass-people-act). They delve into the provisions of the proposed legislation.

“Among the most important provisions in this historic legislation are:

“Modernizing Voter Registration. The For the People Act would make automatic voter registration, which 19 states and the District of Columbia have already approved, the national standard. Automatic registration is a transformative reform under which eligible voters are automatically registered when they provide information to the government at the DMV or other agencies, unless they opt out. It could add as many as 50 million new eligible voters to the rolls. It improves the integrity of the rolls and saves money. H.R.1 would also require online and same-day voter registration and curtail illegal purges of the voter rolls. Taken together, these reforms would modernize our system and solve almost all of the registration problems that routinely plague elections and keep millions of Americans from voting. No change is more important for giving all eligible voters the chance to cast their ballots.

“Small-Donor Public Financing. The For the People Act would create a voluntary program to amplify the voices of small, private donors, using public funds to match contributions of up to $200 6-to-1. It would also revamp and expand to the general election a similar program for presidential primaries that for three decades was used by every major contender…. If enacted for congressional races, small donor matching would also significantly narrow the fundraising gap for candidates of color (who typically must work harder to raise the same amounts as their white peers), especially women of color.

“Restoring the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The For the People Act would affirm Congress’s commitment to restore the full protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA), the landmark civil rights law the Supreme Court hobbled in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013. The absence of these protections has ushered in a wave of restrictive voting measures and allowed discriminatory changes to voting rules to stay in effect for years. Full restoration of the VRA is accomplished by the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, which Congress should again pass as soon as it has amassed a sufficient legislative record.

“Voting Rights Restoration. The For the People Act would restore federal voting rights to citizens with past criminal convictions living in our communities — strengthening those communities, offering a second chance to those who have served their time, and removing the stain of a policy born out of Jim Crow….

“Redistricting Reform. The For the People Act would create strong uniform rules for congressional redistricting, including strengthened protections for communities of color and a statutory ban on partisan gerrymandering. It would also ensure greater transparency in the redistricting process and add enhanced judicial remedies to ensure that discriminatory maps can quickly be challenged in court and fixed. Absent these measures, extreme gerrymandering and discrimination against communities of color will continue to run rife in the upcoming redistricting cycle.

“Nationwide Early Voting. The For the People Act would ensure that all states have at least two weeks of early voting to boost turnout among working Americans, reduce long lines, and help officials identify and address problems before Election Day. More than 100 million Americans voted early in 2020, a substantial increase over previous years, which additionally helped to ensure a safe and secure election in the pandemic context.

“Shoring up Campaign Finance Rules. The For the People Act would extend common-sense transparency rules to online political advertising and close other loopholes, tighten rules intended to keep super PACs and dark money groups independent of candidates, and overhaul the Federal Election Commission to prevent deadlocks and enforce campaign finance laws more effectively.

“Election Security. The For the People Act would bring needed improvements to election security by requiring states to replace paperless electronic voting machines, promoting risk-limiting audits, creating grants to help states enhance election security on an ongoing basis, and ensuring election system vendors meet security requirements, among other changes.

“Government Ethics. Finally, the For the People Act would bolster enforcement of executive branch ethics rules, slow the revolving door between the private and public sectors, require disclosure of presidential tax returns, tighten restrictions on congressional conflicts of interest, and require a code of ethics for the Supreme Court, among other things.”

Despite the extremist Republican Party, Biden and Congressional Democrats have managed to win some legislative victories

Even amid deep partisan divisions in the U.S. political system, the Biden administration and Congressional Democrats, with a 50-50 seat tie in the Senate, which relies on Vice-President Kamala Harris to break ties, and a mere 8 or so seat advantage in the House have managed prior to the midterms to overcome Republican opposition, by using a reconciliation process that gets around the filibuster, with at times the support of some Republicans, and with executive actions issued by President Biden. And there have been rare occasions when a majority of Republicans have joined with their Democratic colleagues to pass legislation.

Russell Berman considers “What Joe Biden has (and hasn’t) accomplished in an article for The Atlantic, on Nov 7, 2022 (https://theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2022/11/biden-2022/midterms-policy-record-approval/671941). Here some highlights from Berman’s artricle.

“The signing of just three enormous bills—the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law, and this summer’s climate-and-health spending bill—made Biden’s first two years among the most productive of any president in the past half century. The initial pandemic bill, also known as the American Rescue Plan, was about the size of Barack Obama’s two biggest legislative achievements—his initial economic stimulus package and the 2010 Affordable Care Act—combined. The legislation sent $1,400 checks to Americans across the country, nearly doubled the child tax credit, shored up state budget accounts, and funded testing, treatment, and vaccines to fight the pandemic.

“The politically named Inflation Reduction Act is actually the largest climate bill in U.S. history and allows Medicare to negotiate the prices of certain prescription drugs for the first time.

“Beyond those headline bills, Biden more quietly amassed a bevy of smaller legislative wins, often with bipartisan support. A modest gun-safety bill expanded background checks (although not universally), made it easier to prosecute illegal gun trafficking, and provided federal funding for so-called red-flag laws. Congress also passed the CHIPS Act to boost domestic production of semiconductors, a long-stalled postal-reform bill, substantial military aid for Ukraine, and a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act—all with fairly broad support from both parties. Biden’s executive actions on student-loan forgiveness and pardons for marijuana possession answered a pair of progressive demands.”

Coincidentally, the Democrats in the U.S. Congress have just passed legislation to protect same-sex and interracial marriage. Jessica Corbett reports on the legislation (https://commondreams.org/news/2022/11/29/love-wins-again-senate-passes-bill-protest-same-sex-and-interracial-marriage). She writes,

“While not perfect, this legislation ensures marriages solemnized validly anywhere in these United States are valid everywhere in our country without government discrimination based on sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.”

Concluding thoughts.

American democracy is under severe threat from right-wing political forces. They have been able to stifle many, not all, Democratic legislative proposals that would have enhanced Democracy. As it is, however, the Trump/Republicans, their corporate and grassroots supporters, and other right-wing segments of the society continue to oppose most reforms to strengthen U.S. Democracy. The future of the country’s political system rests on which major political party will be able to get out the vote and win elections.

Politics in a divided nation

Bob Sheak, Nov 22, 2022

Introduction

The principal issue addressed in this post is to draw attention to the verifiable evidence that the Republican Party has become a politically obstructionist force in America, with the support of nearly half of the voting population. Its goal is to win power by whatever it takes and the Party has used a host of anti-democratic practices in attempting to reach its goal.

While Republican candidates did not do as well as generally expected in the midterm elections, they remain a major force politically and ideologically. And Trump’s lies, his self-aggrandizement, his vengefulness, his promotion of the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol, his illegal possession of government documents, his unwillingness to allow the public to see his tax records, his admiration for authoritarian leaders like Putin, only seem to add to his influence on tens of millions of devoted supporters. All of this, and more, has been documented by the House Select Committee investigations, the Department of Justice, and investigations into his financial shenanigans

In the aftermath of the midterm elections, Democrats still control the White House and the Senate, and will be able to stop Republicans from advancing their authoritarian agenda, but they will be limited in what they can accomplish. Important issues aimed at addressing the needs of the non-rich will likely be scuttled by Republican obstruction. If they have their way, there will be chaos rather than good governance.

It remains to be seen whether the public will be drawn to Democrats even as Republicans undermine or eliminate the initiatives of President Biden and Democrats in the House and Senate. The country is at a crossroads and its viability as a democratic society will be tested as perhaps never before.

The Midterm Elections

The U.S. midterm elections are over. The almost completed tabulations of the votes indicate that the Democrats have won control of the Senate by the thinnest of margins, 50-49, with one vote in Georgia yet to be counted. At the same time,

Democrats have lost control of the House, but by a margin closer than anticipated by most pundits and experts.

The Senate

There is one Senate race yet to be decided. The Senate race in Georgia will be determined by a run-off vote on December 6 between Raphael Warnock, the Democratic candidate, and Hershel Walker, the Trump-endorsed, Republican candidate.

Chris Walker spells out how a Warnock victory would give Democrats 51 seats in the Senate and the advantages that would come from that additional seat as well as what only holding 50 seats would mean (https://truthout.org/articles/if-democrats-win-in-georgia-they-will-be-rid-of-power-sharing-rules-in-senate). On the latter point, Walker writes that a 50-50 split come with significant limitations.

“Democrats have attained 50 seats in the Senate, which — along with Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote — technically means they’ll run the Senate chamber no matter what. But with 51 Democratic seats, it

would make it harder for Republicans to move to impeach Biden in that chamber. And, Walker notes, “Having 51 Senate seats instead of 50 would mean that Democrats wouldn’t be as beholden to right-wing Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), who have blocked numerous Democratic proposals over the past two years.”

The House

Prior to the midterm elections, the Democrats held 220 seats in the House and had the support of two Independents, while the Republican held 213.

Republicans had hoped to pickup a net of 30 or more seats in the House, which would have given them at least 243 seats. In this case, Democrats (and two Independents who usually vote with the Democrats) would have ended up with 193 seats.

But the actual margin of Republican victory is something else. According to the almost completed tally (as of Nov 20), Republicans have won 218 seats to the Democrats 212 for a pickup that give them control of that chamber, but that fell short of the 30, 40, even 60 vote advantage they had expected.

Aaron Navarro reports for CBS News that, as of Nov. 17, there were 7 races still unresolved. Republican are leading in 4 of these races ((https://cbsnews.com/mews/2022-election-results-house-races-republicans-majority).

The Republicans thus appear to have, according to CBS News, 222 seats to the Democrats 215. But, Navarro adds, “thousands of votes remain uncounted, especially in California.” Nonetheless, this narrow advantage is likely to stand and thus will give the GOP “more power to impede President Biden’s agenda and launch investigations.”

Political scientist Jeffrey C. Isaac points out the Republican “margin of victory will be one of the smallest in any first-term President’s first midterm election, closer to a handful of seats than the thirty or forty or sixty that were predicted to flip. Given expectations, this is almost a victory for Biden and the Democrats, and Biden is not wrong when he says this”  (https://commondreams.org/views/2022/11/13/election-averted-some-disasters-danger-remains).

What happened to prevent the “red wave”?

Republican election subverting and disruptive tactics did not work as fully as planned

Despite the Republican gerrymandering, efforts to suppress the vote, and the continuing promulgation of the big lie; despite the continuing support of tens of millions of Trump supporters; despite the disproportionate campaign funding favoring Republican candidates; despite the attacks on Democrats for allegedly causing inflation, high crime rates, and for allowing the flow of immigrants across the southern border to increase;  despite harassment and threats against state and local election officials; despite a host of conspiracy theories [Qanon] – there was not, as of November 19, a “red wave.”

Ronald Brownstein provides some insight on this question of why Democrats did better in the House races than expected (https://theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2022/11/midterm-election-results-democrats-avoid-red-wave/672050).

#1 – “Attitudes about the former president, and the party he has reshaped in his image, may largely explain the difference. In the exit poll, nearly three-fifths of voters said they had an unfavorable view of Trump, and more than three-fourths of them voted Democratic this year.”

#2 – “Many of the Republican Senate and gubernatorial candidates he helped propel to their nominations also faced negative assessments from voters.

#3 – “And despite predictions from both Republicans and media analysts that abortion had faded as a galvanizing issue, a clear three-fifths majority of all voters in the national exit poll said they believed that the procedure should remain legal in all or most circumstances—and about three-fourths of them voted Democratic. Democrats also won about three-fourths of the voters who said abortion should remain mostly legal in the key Senate states of Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, and two-thirds of them in New Hampshire. In Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer won a stunning four-fifths of the voters who said abortion should remain legal.”

#4 – “… yesterday’s exit polls showed the two parties splitting independent voters about evenly on a national basis and Democrats winning among them in the Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania Senate races.”

#5 – “The other ingredient in decisive midterm losses has been what political strategists call ‘differential turnout.’ Almost always in American history, the party out of the White House has shown more urgency about voting in midterms than the side in power, but when midterms get really bad, that disparity becomes especially pronounced.”

#6 – “Young people gave Democrats preponderant margins in most races, but likely made up slightly less of the electorate than they did in 2018. Among voters of color, the story was similar—some erosion in support for Democrats, but not a catastrophic decline. The exit polls showed Democrats winning about 60 percent of Latino voters and 85 percent of Black voters.

#7 – “The national exit poll showed Democrats slightly underperforming expectations among college-educated whites (winning only about half of them) but still showing much better with them than among non-college-educated whites, who once again broke about two-to-one for the GOP. (College-educated white voters did provide more resounding margins for Kelly, Hassan, and Fetterman, the polls found.)

Does Trump still dominate the Republican Party?

Reid J. Epstein, Lisa Lerer and Jonathan Weisman report on how the Republican loss of the Senate and slim margin of victory in House races are affecting Trump’s dominant position in the Republican Party and in his electoral base.  (https://nytimes.com/2022/11/16/us/politics/trump-republicans-alternatives.html).

In response to Trump’s announcement that he will make a third presidential bid in the 2024 election, some leaders in the Republican Party and wealthy donors want a different, less controversial candidate. Epstein and her colleagues write:

“Within hours of Donald J. Trump announcing his third presidential bid on Tuesday [Nov. 15], some of his former aides, donors and staunchest allies are shunning his attempt to recapture the White House, an early sign that he may face difficulty winning the support of a Republican Party still reeling from unexpected midterm losses.”

There is, they report, “A growing chorus of Republican officials, lawmakers and activists blame the former president for their failure to regain control of the Senate and for what will be a narrow margin in the House.” Many do not complain about policy or style, “but losses the party has taken since Mr. Trump won the White House in 2016.” For example, “Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, a Republican often mentioned as a potential 2024 candidate, said she did not believe Mr. Trump offered ‘the best chance’ for the party in 2024.” And

“Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, a former Trump ally who spoke at the Jan. 6, 2021, rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, put it more bluntly in a phone interview: ‘In 2020, there was no other option. In 2024 we will have candidates who are vastly superior and will do much, much better competing against the Democrat nominee than the loser Donald Trump has proven himself to be.’”

“Representative Kevin McCarthy, who has tied his bid to become the next House speaker to Mr. Trump’s political legacy, wouldn’t say if he will endorse Mr. Trump for president. Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, a staunch ally who won his 2018 election on the back of Mr. Trump’s endorsement and support, said he was rooting for a wide-open presidential primary.”

“Three major party donors — Stephen Schwarzman, Ken Griffin and Ronald Lauder — said this week that they intended to back someone other than Mr. Trump or have no plans to support him this time. Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka said she would not be involved with his campaign, saying that she is ‘choosing to prioritize’ her children. Groups like the conservative Club for Growth, once a staunch Trump ally, are circulating polling showing Mr. Trump trailing Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida by double digits.

There are, nonetheless, question about whether the ranks of critics will grow and, even more importantly, whether Trump’s electoral base will move away from supporting him.

As of this time, the base seems solid in their support. “Officials who are closest to the party’s base — state legislators and county G.O.P. leaders loyal to Mr. Trump — said Wednesday that they had not seen the sort of defections predicted by the Republican elite gathered in the swanky conference rooms of a Waldorf Astoria hotel within a stone’s throw of Disney World.”

“Polling indicates that about one-third of the Republican Party remains devoted to Mr. Trump, making it difficult for another candidate to oust him in a sprawling primary field. That explains why most elected Republicans have remained silent as they wait to see how far Mr. Trump gets and whether possible challengers like Mr. DeSantis will be able to withstand his taunts and assaults or will fold like his rivals in 2016.”

Republicans will push a right-wing, anti-democratic agenda

Richard Cowan reports,

“Many of the Republicans that won midterm elections for the House are hard-core supporters who endorse Trump’s big lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him. They will join their Republican colleagues in the House who already support a right-wing, anti-democratic agenda (https://reuters.com/world/us/republicans-verge-us-house-majority-midterm-elections-2022-11/15).

Michael Kranish provides more details (https://washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/11/15/derrick-van-orden-jan-6-congress).

“While the Republican Party suffered surprising losses in the midterms, including defeats of many who bought into Trump’s false election claims, the arrival of freshman lawmakers who had come to Washington as pro-Trump activists on that violent day underscores the extent to which the House Republican caucus remains a haven for election deniers. As of Saturday, at least 150 election deniers were projected to win House races, compared with the 139 who voted against certifying President Biden’s election on Jan. 6, 2021.”

Deirdre Walsh refers to examples of what House Republicans hope to accomplish (https://npr.org/2022/11/16/11331125177/republicans-control-house-of-representatives).

“A new House Republican majority will mean Biden’s legislative agenda is essentially dead, unless he can find bipartisan support for some narrowly crafted proposals. Biden’s focus during the next two years of his presidency will likely be spent defending his signature accomplishments, like a bill lowering prescription drug prices and investing hundreds of billions of dollars to tackle climate change. GOP lawmakers have already said they want to roll back some of Biden’s programs, or defund many of them.

“The Biden White House will also face an onslaught of investigations on a wide range of issues. Top GOP members on the House Oversight and Judiciary committees have already said they plan to probe the business dealings of Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, the president’s border policies, the origins of the coronavirus and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.”

Scott Walker provides details on the legislative plans of the House Republicans (https://nbcnews.com/politics/2022-election/house-republicans-plan-investigations-possible-impeachments-new-majority-rcna55912).

Investigations

Investigations will dominate the new Congress, from the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic and allegations of politicization at the Justice Department to America’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. But none will attract as much attention as the GOP’s planned investigation into the business dealings of the president’s son Hunter two years before a potential Biden re-election bid.

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the incoming Oversight Committee chairman, has said an investigation into Hunter Biden and other Biden family members and associates will be a priority as Republicans try to determine whether the family’s business activities “compromise U.S. national security and President Biden’s ability to lead with impartiality.”

Republicans allege that Hunter Biden has used his father’s successful political career to enrich himself: He joined the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company in 2019, and an investment firm he co-founded helped a Chinese firm buy a Congolese cobalt mine from a U.S. company in 2016, among other financial endeavors.

SEPT. 23, 202201:27

“Hunter and other members of the Biden family have a pattern of peddling access to the highest levels of government to enrich themselves,” Comer said in a statement. “The American people deserve to know whether the President’s connections to his family’s business deals occurred at the expense of American interests and whether they represent a national security threat.”

At a press conference Thursday Comer and other House Republicans made clear that their investigation is focused on the sitting president.

“We want the bank records and that’s our focus,” Comer said. “We’re trying to stay focused on: Was Joe Biden directly involved with Hunter Biden’s business deals and is he compromised? That’s our investigation.”

Impeachments

Scott Wong delves into the impeachments as well as the investigations planned by the House Republican (https://nbcnews.com/politics/2022-election/house-republicans-plan-investigations-possible-impeachments-new-majority-rcna55912). Here’s some of what he reports on the planned impeachments.

“After House Democrats impeached President Donald Trump twice, some of his staunch allies in Congress are looking for payback. Far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., has filed multiple articles of impeachment against Biden and Garland this Congress, although McCarthy said that so far he hasn’t seen anything that rises to the level of impeachment.  

“However, that’s not expected to satisfy those on his right flank. A growing number of Republicans say they have their sights set on impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, bashing his handling of the border surge. In fiscal year 2022, there were a record 2.76 million undocumented immigrant crossings, 1 million more than in the previous year, according to Customs and Border Protection data. Mayorkas has defended the administration’s border policies.”

Closing down the federal government and economic chaos

This is about the Republican threat to close the government to prevent raising the country’s debt limit unless President Biden and the Democrats in Congress agree to cut spending. Rather than cut spending, Democrats want to raise taxes on the rich and corporations, many of whom pay little or no federal income taxes. Republican want to reduce both taxes and spending.

Jeff Stein and Matrianna Sotomayor consider what the debt-ceiling debate is about (https://washingtonpost.com/us-politics/2022/10/25/gop-debt-ceiling-threats-not-revive-brinkmanship-with-white-house). They write:

“The debt limit will need to be raised sometime next year to allow the government to borrow money to pay for spending Congress and the White House have already agreed on.” If the government fails to raise the debt limit, there will be “a catastrophic default that would rattle global financial markets and could risk throwing the U.S. into a recession, economists say. One study last year, before Congress last raised the limit, estimated that breaching the ceiling could wipe out $15 trillion in wealth and cost as many as 6 million jobs.” They also note: “Last December, Congress raised the limit by $2.5 trillion, and current estimates suggest the debt could begin to approach that ceiling during the winter of 2023. Lawmakers have raised the limit 78 times since 1960, according to the Treasury Department.”

As of November, 2022, the total accumulated national debt is $31 trillion.

But top Republican lawmakers in the House, Reps. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Jim Banks (Ind.), Adrian Smith (Neb.), and Jason T. Smith (Mo.), “plan to demand various changes to federal law in exchange for lifting the ‘debt ceiling.” These Republican legislators “expect Congress to use every tool at its disposal to combat rising prices, to strengthen our economy, to secure our border, to bring down the cost of energy, to fix our supply chains, and to right size the federal government.”

In other words, they want to reduce government spending, except on the military. They want to do away with the guarantees associated with Social Security and Medicare and reduce all non-military discretionary spending on social-welfare programs. They want to eliminate government regulations on businesses (e.g., anti-trust laws). They want to privatize public education. They want to increase “border security,” so as to allow only a small number of immigrants to enter the country. They want to eviscerate the National Labor Relations Board and promote “right to work” laws. And they want to foster an energy system based on fossil fuels, with little concern about global warming and its effects.  

The Democrats’ current position is captured by Biden’s speech at the Democratic National Committee on Monday [Oct. 24, 2022], where he “slammed Republican officials who want to use the debt ceiling to force cuts to Social Security and Medicare, accusing them of threatening to ‘crash the economy’ and refusing to give into those demands.”

“While some Republicans do favor brinkmanship over Medicare and Social Security — the two popular federal entitlement programs for seniors — some aides and analysts think the GOP may be more likely to demand changes to other Democratic priorities.”

“GOP leaders have discussed using the debt limit and government shutdown fights to press for cuts to clean energy spending — which many experts view as necessary to slow climate change — approved as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, Biden’s signature economic legislation, according to several conservative policy analysts, including former Trump adviser Stephen Moore and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist. Republicans are also eyeing demands for the administration to slow or reverse its plans to ramp up Internal Revenue Service enforcement of the nation’s tax laws, although the GOP planning is preliminary and expected to evolve.

Funding the government challenged

Stein and Sotomayor add the following point. “Congress is expected to have to authorize an increase in the debt ceiling sometime in the winter [of 2023], with the precise date uncertain as of now — it would depend on when the national debt approaches the limit. First, lawmakers must fund the government by Dec. 16 or face a broad federal shutdown.” “The freedom caucus, which represents roughly 30 of the staunchest House Republican members, began to signal its intentions last month [Sept. 2022] as they pressured GOP leadership to tell Republicans not to vote to fund the government through December unless significant spending cuts were made.”

What advantages does the slim majority in the Senate give Democrats?

Catie Edmondson and Carl Hulse consider this question (https://nytimes.com/2022/11/13/us/politics/senate-democrats-republicans.html).

“While their margin of control in the chamber will remain razor thin — and far short of the supermajority needed to pass major legislation — it constitutes a lifeline for Mr. Biden, limiting Republicans’ opportunity to wreak havoc on his agenda or to impeach and remove him or other members of his administration.”

#1 – “Senate Democrats will be able to block political messaging bills passed by House Republicans and respond with messages of their own, setting up votes on broadly popular elements of their agenda and highlighting G.O.P. opposition.”

#2 – They will be able to kill G.O.P. legislation on arrival and promote their own policies to voters.

#3 – “Should a Republican-led House make good on lawmakers’ promises to impeach members of the Biden administration — such as the attorney general, the homeland security secretary or the president himself — a Democratic Senate would guarantee that the proceedings would go nowhere.

#4 – “Democrats will retain the power to unilaterally confirm scores of additional Biden-appointed judges.” Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, a progressive judicial advocacy group, said “We have the chance to confirm another 100-plus Biden judges in the next two years. These nominees would have never seen the light of day if Arizona or Nevada went differently, but now they will get to serve for life. This is game changing.”

“The Election Averted Some Disasters, But the Danger Remains”

Political scientist Jeffrey C. Isaac addresses this issue

(https://commondreams.org/views/2022/11/13/election-averted-some-disasters-danger-remains). He views American Democracy as still under assault, positing that “this week’s election results, while not as horrible as many feared, are still in some ways very horrible.”

What was averted

Isaac emphasizes two points. First, there were no reports of “any major election-related violence at polling places or election offices. The processes of both voting and vote-counting seem to have proceeded smoothly and uneventfully, at least in most places (as I write, Arizona might turn out to be the incendiary exception, courtesy of Kari Lake and Blake Masters).” Second, there was no “red wave” – and no blue-wave either.

Republican control of the House a threat to democracy

#1 – “As the New York Times reports, at least 140 of the roughly 220 Republicans elected to the House—roughly 2/3 of the caucus—are election deniers. Every single House Republican who stood up to Trump after the January 6 insurrection is gone, while almost every single House Republican who voted on January 6, 2021 against the validation of the Electoral College count, will return.

#2 – “And the current Republican caucus promises to be even ‘more extreme’ than its predecessor. One sign: Trump acolyte Kevin McCarthy’s Speaker of the House bid is being challenged from the right.” Isaac adds: “Their goal will be simple: to undermine, obstruct, embarrass, and weaken the Biden administration and the Democratic party, to distract from the real issues facing the country—for which they have proposed no solutions—and to destroy the Biden presidency.

#3 – “The Hill and The Post recently reported that House Republicans plan at least five investigations–of Hunter Biden’s business activities, the alleged politicization of the Justice Department under Merrick Garland, COVID-19’s origins and the mitigation policies of the despised Anthony Fauci, the Afghanistan withdrawal, and Homeland Security’s handling of the U.S.-Mexico border under Alejandro Mayorkas.

#4 – “House Republicans will shut down and delegitimize the January 6 Committee—indeed it would not be surprising if they even sought to destroy the Committee’s work-product–and do everything possible to obstruct any Justice Department prosecutions of Trump and those close to him.

#5 – House Republicans will eventually impeach Biden. Isaac quotes election expert Barton Gellman, who recently wrote this: “Sometime next year, after an interval of performative investigations, Republicans in the House are going to impeach Joe Biden. This may not be their present plan, but they will work themselves up to it by degrees.” Biden may be impeached by House Republicans, but the Senate will acquit him.

#6 – Trump will continue to spout his violent rhetoric and the Republican leaders in the House – and Senate – will not criticize him or call for a halt to such volatile and inflammatory language.

Democratic reform proposals likely to go no where

Isaac summarizes: “The kinds of political reforms advanced just a short time ago by Democrats– the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Enhancement Act, the tamer Freedom to Vote Act, and the even tamer Electoral Count Reform Act—these things are entirely off the political agenda. Climate change, economic insecurity, the widespread breakdown of trust to which crime and criminal injustice is connected—so long as Republicans can obstruct, there will be no legislation to address these things through meaningful public policy. And Republicans in control of the House will be able to obstruct with a vengeance.”  

Republicans still depend on Trump’s far right-wing electoral base

Peter Wehner posits that it is “hard to overstate how radicalized and anarchic the base of the Republican Party remains” (https://theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/11/midterms-trump-desantis-dobbs-republicans/672068).

#1 – “Those who inhabit MAGA world are deeply alienated from institutions, including political ones, and therefore a good deal less loyal to the Republican Party than they are to Donald Trump. They view themselves as ‘anti-establishment’ and ‘anti-elitist’; they have contempt for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

#2 – “To complicate matters further, the Republican Party today has more, not fewer, MAGA figures in it than in the past. Marjorie Taylor Greene won reelection; Liz Cheney did not. J. D. Vance is entering the Senate; Ben Sasse is leaving it. Meanwhile, more than 200 election deniers will take office at the national and state level in January.

#3 – “This also needs to be said: If the Republican Party does break with Trump now, it will be for only one reason, which is that he’s costing it power. Everything else he did—the relentless assault on truth, the unlimited corruption, the cruelty and incitements to violence, the lawlessness, his sheer depravity—was tolerable and even celebrated, so long as he was in power and viewed by Republicans as the path to more power.”

The political standings outside of Congress

The Republican Party remains a major – and extremist – political force in the U.S. political system. It is in a position to influence state and local elections, advance voter suppression and gerrymandering, and give the state legislature the power to bypass or negate the popular vote. This power gives them opportunities to support anti-democratic legislation, vigilante justice, a neoliberal agenda of low taxes, deregulation, and privatization, discriminatory white-supremacist policies toward African Americans and other non-whites as well as LGBTQ populations, along with the elimination of the separation of religion from the state, unrestricted gun ownership, and highly restrictive and punitive immigration policies. With enough power, Republicans would end democracy in America.

 State Republican Parties remain under the influence, if not control, of Trump and supports, the “big lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. While some Republicans may have reservations about Trump, there are few who would criticize him publicly.

State governments

Ballotpedia summarizes evidence on “state government trifecta,” which is ‘a term to describe single-party government, when one political party holds the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature” (https://ballotpedia.org/State_government_trifectas). “As of November 19, 2022, there are 23 Republican trifectas, 14 Democratic trifectas, and 13 divided governments where neither party holds trifecta control.”

Secretaries of State


Ballotpedia informs us, “In 47 states—all except AlaskaHawaii, and Utah—the secretary of state is among the top executive offices (https://ballotpedia.org/Secretary_of_State_elections,_2022). The site continues: “Although the duties and powers of individual secretaries of state vary, a common responsibility is management and oversight of elections and voter rolls, which are assigned to the secretary of state in 41 states. Other common responsibilities include registration of businesses, maintenance of state records, and certification of official documents.”


“As a result of the 2022 elections, the partisan control of two secretaries of state changed from Republican to Democrat. In NevadaCisco Aguilar (D) was elected secretary of state, succeeding incumbent Barbara Cegavske (R), who was term-limited. Democrats won the governorship in Maryland, which currently has a Republican secretary of state, giving the Democrats appointment control. The Democratic-controlled office in Wisconsin and the Republican appointment control in New Hampshire remain uncalled.”

As of Nov. 17, the Democratic Party had a net gain of one secretary of state and the Republicans had a net loss of one. At this time, there were 20 Democratic Secretaries of State, and 26 Republican.

Concluding thoughts

A divided country

The 2022 midterm elections revealed how politically divided the country is, how right-wing, anti-democratic forces in the Republican Party have increased their control over the U.S. House of Representatives and control almost half of the Senate seats. They also have control of more than half of all state governments and a sizeable number of Secretaries of State positions. Additionally, they have massive support from wealthy donors. On the latter point, see the examples in Hailey Fuchs’ article, “Two anonymous $425 million donations give dark money conservative group a massive haul” (https://politico.com/news/2022/11/16/two-anonymous-425-million-donations-gives-dark-money-conservatives-group-a-massive-haul-00067493).

Trump’s electoral base

The party’s electoral base, loyal to Trump, support the Republican’s Party’s right-wing agenda. Such grassroots support is not based on programs aimed at improving the material circumstances of Trump’s non-rich supporters. Indeed, according to Henry Giroux’s sources, Trump’s sometimes “concerns for the grievances of the economic disadvantaged was simply a ploy to advance the power of the wealthy elite and of white privilege” (see Giroux’s new book, Pedagogy of Resistance, p. 99).

Republican states have lower longevity

Thom Hartman refers to evidence that longevity is less in counties controlled by Republicans than in counties controlled by Democrats (https://commondreams.org/views/2022/11/21/if-you-want-help-rich-and-die-sooner-vote-republican). Here’s some examples.

“In 2020, per capita murder rates were 40% higher in states won by Donald Trump than those won by Joe Biden.

“8 of the 10 states with the highest murder rates in 2020 voted for the Republican presidential nominee in every election this century.”

“It’s true of Red cities as well….For example, Jacksonville, a city with a Republican mayor, had 128 more murders in 2020 than San Francisco, a city with a Democrat [sic] mayor, despite their comparable populations. 

“In fact, the homicide rate in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco was half that of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s Bakersfield, a city with a Republican mayor that overwhelmingly voted for Trump.”

“And don’t even think about having sex in Red states: they generally lead America in sexually transmitted diseases, presumably because most have outlawed teaching sex education in their public schools.

“The five states with the highest rates of Chlamydia infections are Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and New Mexico. The highest rates of Gonorrhea are in Mississippi, Alaska, South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana. 

Speaking of schools, the states with the lowest educational attainment in the nation are entirely Red states. Ranked from terrible to absolutely worst, they are: Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma, Alabama, Nevada, Louisiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, and West Virginia.”

However, none of this seems to matter. Trump’s base also includes long-standing political movements to advance maximal gun rights, white supremacy, closed borders, abortion bans, and the attraction of a “strongman” leader. (See Ruth Bem-Ghiat’s book, Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present.)

Opportunities for Republican obstruction

In this politically divided country, the Republican Party continues to have the opportunity to stop Democratic legislative initiatives and even to bring the government to a halt if their tax and spending cuts are not supported. They will oppose any Democratic efforts to shift the energy system away from fossil fuels, or to support programs that benefit the working class, or to protect the integrity of public education or any programs that address the economic interests of the great majority of Americans. They reject the very concept of the public good or common good.

What can Democrats do?

Kenny Stancil reviews the highlights of a speech by Sen. Elizabeth Warren she gave at EconCon Presents, a meeting co-hosted by Demos Action, Economic Policy Institute Action, Economic Security Project Action, Groundwork Action, Omidyar Network, and Roosevelt Forward (https://commondreams.org/new/2022/11/17/democrats-can-defeat-gop-extremism-fighting-working-people.html).

Warren refers to Democratic-supported policies that already make a positive difference, like the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), both passed through the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process. Citizens should be reminded of such successes. Then there are issues that need continuing Democratic Party support.

Warren thinks that “Biden’s executive action canceling student loan debt—an attempt to provide financial relief to millions of working-class households that is currently being derailed by a GOP-led lawsuit and Trump-appointed judge—is one reason why ‘youth voter turnout last week was through the roof.’”

Exit polling “conducted by Data for Progress, Groundwork Action, and Economic Security Project Action … found that a majority of voters support Democratic policies to lower prices, including investing in domestic manufacturing and clean energy production, expanding social safety net programs, hiking taxes on corporations and holding them accountable for price gouging, and increasing Social Security benefits.” They need to continue to advance proposals to “to cut skyrocketing housing and child care costs” and protect abortion rights.

Democrat candidates who ran on progressive agenda did well. Warren praised Democratic Sen.-elect John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, in particular, for vowing to take on the CEOs who repeatedly admitted ‘they were boosting their profit margins on the backs of consumers,’ which meant ignoring the ‘Beltway commentators [who] rolled their eyes at the idea that Democrats ought to talk about’ corporate profiteering. She adds: “Candidates up and down the ticket called out price gouging, from Big Oil to grocery chains—and they won.”

With Democrats in charge of the Senate and White House, “Republicans will try to impose economic pain on families so they can blame us and seize power for themselves,” Warren noted. “The incoming GOP [House] majority represents a dangerous new force in American politics. Like their predecessors, they are openly hostile to voting rights, civil rights, abortion rights, and human rights.”

Warren provided a list of talking points:

Republicans are the party that brought us the 2008 financial crash;

Republicans are the party that ran up the deficit with $2 trillion in tax cuts for billionaires and billionaire corporations;

Republicans are the party that is actively working to cut Social Security and Medicare;

Republicans are the party that wants to leave millions of people shackled with student loan debt forever; and

Republicans are the party that doesn’t want Medicare to negotiate prescription drugs and doesn’t want the government to end corporate price gouging and doesn’t want to make billionaire corporations pay a minimum tax.

“Listen to that list,” said Warren. “There shouldn’t be a single voter in the country who trusts Republicans on the economy. And, if we get out there and make our case, there won’t be a single voter who trusts the Republicans on the economy.”

“We need to start fighting back now,” Warren added. “Where we can pursue legislative action to help working families, we should fight aggressively. When Republicans try to obstruct and the president can act by executive authority, he must do so.”

Being partisan to save American Democracy

Bob Sheak, Oct 25, 2022

Introduction

I am a non-violent partisan. Politically, I oppose what the Republicans stand for and, with no better potentially viable option, support Democratic candidates and policies. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “partisan” as follows.

“A partisan is someone who supports one part or party. Sometimes the support takes the form of military action, as when guerrilla fighters take on government forces. But partisan is most often used as an adjective, usually referring to support of a political party. So, if you’re accused of being too partisan, or of practicing partisan politics, it means you’re mainly interested in boosting your own party and attacking the other one” (https://merriam-webster.com/dictionary/partisan#note-1).

I oppose the Republican Party and their supporters ideologically and politically for the following reasons:

#1 –They are the party of climate-change deniers or evaders.

#2 – They want to preserve a fossil-fuel energy system and pay little attention or actively oppose the need for government to support renewable sources of solar and wind energy, along with energy efficiency measures.

#3 – Their policies engender increasing wealth and income inequalities.

#4 – They reject a multicultural, diverse society and are fearful of losing a white majority.

#5 – They accept concentrated corporate power and trickle-down economics.

#6 – They do their utmost to limit the votes of Democrats through voter suppression and intimidation.

#7 – Many of them want to eliminate or significantly diminish the social/welfare state including Social Security and Medicare.

#8 – It is Republicans who call for book bans and efforts to turn public education into an institution that propagates their own reactionary and racist values.

#9 – They, and the right-wing Supreme Court are moving to eliminate the reproductive rights of girls and women under Roe v. Wade and want to advance a ban on abortion not only in the “red” states but in every state.

#10 – They follow Trump’s anti-democratic vision, with his authoritarian ambitions, his admiration of foreign oligarchs, his torrent of lies and disinformation, while excusing him for his central involvement in the Jan.6 attacks and his false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.

I support the Democratic Party, its candidates, and, today, many of the policies of the Biden administration. However, I oppose the Democratic Party’s bipartisan support of ever-higher levels of military spending, their militaristic foreign policy, their contradictory and weak policies dealing with the energy and the climate emergency, and, with the Republicans, their commitment to unlimited economic growth.

In “Part 1” of this post, I present my views on what the Republican Party and its supporters represent and want. In “Part 2,” I focus on “Democrats” and what they have achieved. The upcoming 2022 midterm elections will lay the groundwork for whether the U.S. political system continues to be somewhat democratic or lurches into an authoritarian political trajectory that will affect the country for decades – or more.

With just days before the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans seem on course to win the House of Representatives, with the U.S. Senate still in question. But, as the surprising Trump presidential victory in 2016 taught us, the upcoming election results cannot now be predicted with any certainty.  

Meanwhile, Republicans, in the thrall of Trump, attack Democrats often on baseless or little supported claims, and mobilize adherents to advance anti-democratic interests and values.

Politics and anger

Mark Murray reports on an NBC News poll that voters have “Anger on their minds” and “sky-high interest and polarization ahead of midterms,” according to an NBC News poll of Oct 23. 2022

(https://nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/first-read/anger-minds-nbc-poll-finds-sky-high-interest-polarization-ahead-m-rcna53512). A key finding is,

“Some 80% of Democrats and Republicans believe the political opposition poses a threat that, if not stopped, will destroy America as we know it.” 

———————————————————

Part 1: Republicans

Despite the overwhelming evidence gathered by the Jan.6 Select Committee that Trump and his advisers did their utmost to reverse the 2020 presidential election and reject a peaceful transfer of power, Republicans ignore or reject the committee’s findings and, if they gain control of the House, will disband the committee (See: https://january6th.house.gov.)

Peaceful transfer of power, but only if “we” win

Trump and many Republican candidates running for public office declare that, following Trump’s example, they will only accept the results of the elections in which they are competing if they win. Otherwise, they will claim the election was rigged against them and therefore not legitimate. Ed Kilgore refers to documentation of this all-too-frequent Republican position (https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2022/10/will-election-deniers-deny-their-own-defeats.html). He writes:

“One of the hot topics of the 2022 midterm elections is the remarkable number of Republicans running for major offices this year who have embraced some or all of the MAGA fables about the 2020 election being stolen from Donald Trump. The Brookings Institution recently counted 345… running for statewide office, Congress or state legislatures in November. The Washington Post calculates that over half the GOP candidates for the House, Senate, and major statewide officers are 2020 election deniers. This phenomenon has unsurprisingly led to concerns about the 2024 presidential election, in which Republicans appeared inclined preemptively to challenge any presidential election they lost as ‘rigged’ or ‘stolen.’ That was particularly true with respect to candidates for positions (e.g., secretary of State or governor) who might be in a position to certify or falsify the results in key states.”

Denialism plus

The denier claims, dangerous and anti-democratic as they are, represent only one aspect of the toxic anti-democratic positions held by many Republican candidates and their supporters, positions that will contribute to delays, disputes, chaos in government at all levels, and the further weakening of an already increasingly tenuous and deeply partisan driven U.S. democracy. In such an eventuality, groups on the Right that advocate violence and who view Trump as their “leader” will be left with the disorder in which their aim at limiting or destroying democracy will be nourished.

Extremist rhetoric

Jennifer Valentino-DeVries and Steve Eder lead research efforts by a New York Times team that has extensively documented that Trump backers frequently use “devil terms” to help rally voters. They focus on Republicans in the House of Representatives (https://nytimes.com/2022/10/22/us/politics/republican-election-objectors-rhetoric.html). Here is some of what they report on the rise of “partisan language over the past 10 years.”

“The analysis of tweets, Facebook ads, newsletters and congressional speeches — more than 3.7 million items in all — relied largely on natural language processing, a technique that uses software to extract information from large amounts of text. The Times tallied words that were linked in academic research to divisive political content, as well as those identified by linguists and computer scientists to be used in polarizing ways — ‘fascist’ and ‘socialist,’ for example, ‘far right and ‘far left.’

“Republican representatives have ratcheted up such rhetoric since former President Donald J. Trump took office, the analysis found. In the year and a half after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Republicans on average used divisive words and phrases more than twice as often as Democrats in tweets, and six times as often in emails to constituents.

“At the forefront of this polarization are Republicans who voted to reject the Electoral College results that cemented Mr. Trump’s defeat last year. A recent Times investigation revealed how those lawmakers helped engrave the myth of a stolen election in party orthodoxy. Now, a Times analysis shows that the language of the 139 objecting members is markedly more hostile than that of other Republicans and Democrats. In their telling, those who oppose them not only are wrong about certain policies but also hate their country.”

The Rise of politically-related violence

Rachel Kleinfeld analyzes the rise of political violence in the United States

(https://journalofdemocracy.org/articles/the-rise-of-political-violence-in-the-United-States). Kleinfeld is senior fellow in the Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She was the founding CEO of the Truman National Security Project and serves on the National Task Force on Election Crises. Here’s some of what she finds.

“What is occurring today does not resemble this recent past. Although incidents from the left are on the rise, political violence still comes overwhelmingly from the right, whether one looks at the Global Terrorism Database, FBI statistics, or other government or independent counts.3 Yet people committing far-right violence—particularly planned violence rather than spontaneous hate crimes—are older and more established than typical terrorists and violent criminals. They often hold jobs, are married, and have children. Those who attend church or belong to community groups are more likely to hold violent, conspiratorial beliefs.4 These are not isolated ‘lone wolves’; they are part of a broad community that echoes their ideas.

“Two subgroups appear most prone to violence. The January 2021 American Perspectives Survey found that white Christian evangelical Republicans were outsized supporters of both political violence and the Q-Anon conspiracy, which claims that Democratic politicians and Hollywood elites are pedophiles who (aided by mask mandates that hinder identification) traffic children and harvest their blood; separate polls by evangelical political scientists found that in October 2020 approximately 47 percent of white evangelical Christians believed in the tenets of Q-Anon, as did 59 percent of Republicans.5 Many evangelical pastors are working to turn their flocks away from this heresy. The details appear outlandish, but stripped to its core, the broad appeal becomes clearer: Democrats and cultural elites are often portrayed as Satanic forces arrayed against Christianity and seeking to harm Christian children.”

Vigilantism

In her October 23, 2022, email/podcast, historian Heather Cox Richardson comments on this phenomenon (https://heathercoxrichardson.com/p/october-23-2022?utm_source=substack&utm). She gives the following example.

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

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

Encouragement of bounty hunting

Scott Pilutik considers how Republican states are turning the public into bounty-hunters (https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/09/a-b-8-texas-republicans-conservative-culture-wars).

Pilutik gives the example of the passage of SB 8 by the Texas state legislature and other states.  

“SB 8 outsources enforcement to private citizens, allowing any person to sue abortion providers or people who ‘aid or abet them. In the wake of the law taking effect, many commentators (darkly or excitedly) imagined how else this could be used: Could, say, New York confer standing on its citizens to sue gun shops?

This weapon is already being deployed throughout the country. In Tennessee, students and teachers can now sue schools if they ‘encounter a member of the opposite (biological) sex in a multi-occupancy restroom.’ In Florida, any student who claims to have been ‘deprived of an athletic opportunity’ because a transgender athlete took their place is now bestowed with a private cause of action against the school. Missouri recently passed the ‘Second Amendment Preservation Act,’ which not only serves as an assault on the supremacy clause, but grants $50,000 in damages to any party whose right to bear arms is deprived. And Kentucky citizens can now file a complaint with the attorney general if a teacher within their school district teaches critical race theory resulting in withdrawn funding from the school.

“To see through the stratagem of this tactic, it helps to have a rudimentary understanding of “standing”: The bedrock legal concept that anyone filing a complaint must first show that (1) they’ve been injured; (2) the defendant caused the injury; and (3) a court can address that injury.

“By making everyone except the state a possible enforcer of the law, SB 8 robs potential challengers of a defendant, and thus the standing to sue. Put another way, the state of Texas didn’t cause your injury, women, lawmakers did, and if you don’t like it, your only remedy is to vote them out. (Or perhaps wait around for a doctor to openly violate the law and be sued.)”

“S.B. 8 violates norms in another crucial way too: by granting standing to everyone—parties who otherwise would not have it—to enforce the new law. Consequently, and rather perversely, not only are the people most affected by S.B. 8 deprived of the means to challenge the law, but the court doors were swung open to those affected the least. How can the bounty hunters empowered by this law possibly claim to be injured? That’s the threshold question a court would ordinarily ask before agreeing to hear such a case. There isn’t a good answer to that question, only that the statute itself—S.B. 8—implicitly presumes an injury.

“It’s no small coincidence that the new laws cropping up in Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida all use the same tactic and cater to the trumped-up fears and outright bigotry Tucker Carlson regularly spews for his viewers. Ordinarily, being offended isn’t an injury and won’t get you before a judge. But these laws are another front in the culture war. It is crucial that each bestows standing on persons who would not otherwise have it, because such rights can’t otherwise be found in the U.S. or state constitutions. Laws like Tennessee’s and Florida’s targeting of transgender students serve as a preemptive first strike at activity another court might one day find constitutionally protected.

Republican constituencies

#1 – The rich and powerful

The big donors want low taxes, government subsidies, a rule of “too big to fail,” less or no government regulation, the privatization of any government function that is potentially profitable, access to public oil and gas reserves, and less spending on social/welfare programs. Many U.S. corporations have long invested in China and other low-wage countries, with significant negative impacts on U.S. manufacturing and employment.

To be sure, the bulk of corporations have always put profits before other considerations and wanted a society in which there were few options for employees/workers outside of labor markets, hence, for example, their opposition to unions and workplace safety regulations. Also, since Reagan, corporations have adopted policies that ensure that an increasing share of profits go to top executives and shareholders.

Researchers Lenore Palladino and Kristina Karlsson involved in corporate research at Harvard Law School provide the following analysis (https://corpgov.law.harvard.edu/2019/02/11/towards-accountable-capitalism-law-through-stakeholder-governance) ….

“Corporations today operate according to a model of corporate governance known as ‘shareholder primacy.’ This theory claims that the purpose of a corporation is to generate returns for shareholders, and that decision-making should be focused on a singular goal: maximizing shareholder value. This single-minded focus—which often comes at the expense of investments in workers, innovation, and long-term growth—has contributed to today’s high-profit, low wage economy.

“Many business leaders, policymakers, and average Americans accept this doctrine of corporate governance as ‘natural’ law—the unshakeable reality of business. ‘However, shareholder-focused corporations are not natural market creations, and the idea of ‘maximizing shareholder value’ is relatively recent. This misguided focus, driven by the neoliberal conception of shareholders as the only actor within the firm who is critical to corporate success, is the result of decades of flawed theory in corporate law and policy. Increasing economic evidence suggests that shareholder primacy is not benefiting other corporate stakeholders, including workers, suppliers, consumers, or communities.”

#2 – Trump’s electoral base

The base, which predates Trump’s presidency, is driven not only by the “big lie,” but also by specific interests, variously including support of maximum freedom to own guns, anti-immigrant views (if not closed borders), Christian nationalism (in violation of the constitutional mandate to keep religion separate from the state), and various versions of white supremacy. They reject, ignore, or remain clueless of fact-driven research on the economic policy accomplishments of the Biden administration.

Many in this enormous base of tens of millions of Americans get some or much of their income from Social Security and benefit from Medicare. They appear in this case to put their hatred of Democrats before their personal interests or, more likely, they are not aware of the Republican Congress’s threat to reduce or eliminate both programs.

Along with such political gains, they will have the ability to re-write election laws in favor Republicans, appoint supporters to key state positions, and advance their anti-democratic agenda.

Some in the Congress want to privatize, even eliminate, Social Security and Medicare amid a clueless base

This is a Republican Party goal that can perhaps be traced back to the very origins of the two programs. Joseph Chamie analyzes how the Republicans’ opposition to “elder support” is decades in the making (https://thehill.com/opinion/finance/3620957-the-republicans-war-on-elder-support-is-decades-in-the-making). Chamie is a consulting demographer, a former director of the United Nations Population Division and the author of numerous publications on population issues, including his recent book, “Births, Deaths, Migrations and Other Important Population Matters.” This opposition remains unabated. For example,

“In 2017, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Republicans would defend the tax cuts they passed at the time, and in order to curb the growing deficit caused in part by those tax cuts, they would cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He added that the principal problem in the federal budget has been the steady, rapid growth over the years in spending on entitlement programs.” 

In an article for Truthout on Oct 18, 2022, Sharon Zhang writes:

“If Republicans take control of the House this fall, they plan on using debt limit talks — and the possibility of throwing the U.S. into default — if they don’t get their way on slashing government programs (https://truthout.org/articles/gop-plan-on-threatening-recession-if-they-cant-cut-medicare-social-security). Zhang continues:

“According to a new interview with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California), the party is planning on using must-pass debt ceiling legislation to force through the GOP’s agenda.

“‘You can’t just continue down the path to keep spending and adding to the debt,’ McCarthy said in an interview with Punchbowl News, ignoring the fact that economists view national debt obligations as often signaling the health of the economy. ‘We’re not just going to keep lifting your credit card limit, right,’ he continued. ‘And we should seriously sit together and [figure out] where can we eliminate some waste? Where can we make the economy grow stronger?’

Bottom of Form

When McCarthy refers to eliminating so-called waste, it is likely that he is referring to, among other things, the GOP’s plans to cut Medicare and Social Security, two of the most popular and vital anti-poverty government programs in the U.S.”

“Republicans have been attacking the programs over the past months. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) has threatened to put budgets up to congressional debate every year, which would almost definitely lead to cuts. Alarmingly, earlier this year, the Republican Study Committee, the largest Republican caucus in the House, put out a plan to raise the age at which people receive full benefits from both programs to 70, while implementing a rule that would raise the eligibility age over time.

“The debt ceiling is an effective bludgeon for Republicans to use for this purpose. The debt ceiling accounts for government funding to provide promised payments for programs like Medicare and Social Security, as well as military salaries and other “existing legal obligations,” according to the Treasury Department.

“Republicans had threatened to put the U.S. in default last September, after former President Donald Trump urged the party to do so. They appeared to be posing as deficit hawks — something they only do when a Democrat is in charge — while Democrats were debating the Build Back Better Act.

“If they pull a similar move in 2023, it could be similar to 2011, when the GOP manufactured a debt ceiling crisis that ultimately ‘led directly to the worst recovery following a recession since World War II,’ according to the Economic Policy Institute.

“If the debt ceiling isn’t raised by fall of 2023, when the government is slated to run out of funding, the U.S. could find itself in a situation similar to last year, when it was at risk of defaulting on its loans. This could have triggered a global recession and would have disastrous short- and long-term consequences for the U.S., as the creditworthiness of the country would be ruined.”

#3 – Trump still a dominating influence

At all levels, the Republican Party is still Trump’s party, relying on his steadfast electoral base, including tens of millions of his supporters, many of whom still believe Trump’s big lie that the 2020 presidential election was plagued with fraudulent votes and that in fact Trump won that election by many millions of votes. All along, they seem to disregard his lies, his racism and sexism See, admire his supposed “strongman” characteristics (See Ruth Ben-Chiat’s book, Strongman: Mussolini to the Present),

The anti-democratic character of Trump’s base is further revealed in its disregard, or even support for, Trump’s attraction to autocratic leaders abroad. Dana Milbank writes:

‘Trump admired and befriended autocrats the world over. He claimed a ‘great relationship’ with Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, known for his extralegal killing squads. He called North Korea’s Kim Jon-un, leader of the most repressive regime on earth, ‘very open,’ ‘very honorable,’ and a ‘smart cookie.” He called Egypt’s Abedl Fattah al-Sissi, who violently cracked down on dissidents, a ‘fantastic guy’ who was ‘very close to me.’ He admired the ‘very high marks’ given to Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, known for failing opponents. China’s premier, Xi Jinping, was a ‘great gentleman’ and a ‘very good man.’ And Russia’s Vladimir Putin, with whom he had ‘positive chemistry,’ was ‘getting and A’ in leadership by Trump’s grading” (The Destructionists, p. 286).

Peter Baker and Susan Glasser provide the following summary of Trump’s Russian connections in their book, The Divider.

“Trump’s history with Russia went back long before he was in politics. A Putin cheerleader of long standing, he had written him a mash note in 2007 after the Russian was named Times Person of the Year, an honor Trump himself craved. ‘You definitely deserve it,’ Trump gushed, adding, ‘As you probably heard, I am a big fan of yours!’ For years, Trump had tried to build a tower with his name on it in Moscow potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Ever since American banks stopped doing business with him because he was so unreliable, Trump has been financed by Deutsche Bank, the German institution with close ties to Russia. ‘Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,’ Don Jr. said 2008. Five years later, Eric Trump reportedly said the family did not need American banks because ‘we have  all the funding we need out of Russia” (p. 82).

A failed presidency?

Additionally, Peter Baker and Susan Glasser write that “by many measures” Donald Trump was “the most unsuccessful occupant of the White House in generations.,” a record his followers ignore. They continue:

“He was the first president since Benjamin Harrison to lose the popular vote twice. He was the only president in the history of the Gallup polling never to have the support of a majority of Americans for a single day of his tenure. Instead, surveys showed that he was the most polarizing president in the history of the surveys. And he was the first president since Herbert Hoover to lose the White House, the House, and the Senate in just four years” (p. 648).

Trump’s hold on the party appears little diminished

Despite all this, Baker and Glasser write that Trump remains the undisputed frontrunner of the party’s nomination in 2024 should he mount a comeback. And since the election, He has “cowed Republicans like Kevin McCarthy, purged the party of those who stood against him, and set about stacking primaries for the upcoming 2022 midterm elections with his supporters” (p. 648).

Duplicitous fund raising

Trump has raised hundreds of millions of dollars with “frenetic fundraising appeals to his supporters…. and they responded by filling a war chest with $250 million in the weeks after the election, including for the fund that investigators found did not even exist, with much more to follow in the months to come” (p. 649).

Dana Milbank also documents in his book “The Destructionists” how Trump used government funds for his own purposes.

“After a campaign in which Trump cynically vowed to ‘drain the swamp’ of political corruption in Washington, he used his presidency to funnel millions of taxpayer dollars to his own businesses, pressured federal agencies and international organizations to do business with his personal enterprises, invited foreign governments to pay millions of dollars to his businesses, and ran out the clock on releasing his tax returns, which would have revealed conflicts of interest” (p.259).

Trump’s base remains intact, ignoring the facts

Despite the lying, the opportunism, the bureaucratic gamesmanship, Baker and Glasser write, “millions of his followers “continued to believe his outlandish claims about the ‘stolen’ 2020 election.” Indeed, “by the one-year anniversary of the January 6 attack one poll found that 71 percent of Republicans thought Biden’s victory was probably or definitely illegitimate.” This is so despite the fact that “not one independent authority, not one judge, not one prosecutor, not one election agency, not one official who was not a Trump partisan ever found widespread fraud.” (p. 650).

In her book, Confidence Man. Maggie Haberman notes: “Ultimately, Trump’s legal team filed sixty-five different postelection lawsuits in state and federal courts and lost sixty-four of them” (p. 472).

Funding favors Republicans

Sharon Zhang reports on Oct. 17, 2022 that the Republicans have an advantage when it comes to campaign-related funding and much of it is anonymous or from “outside spending” (https://truthout.org/articles/flow-of-dark-money-has-led-to-record-amount-of-outside-spending-this-election). She writes;

“Outside spending, or spending that comes from groups that aren’t officially affiliated with particular candidates, has sharply risen in every election cycle since the Supreme Court handed down Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission in 2010. That decision has been criticized as one of the largest drivers of the growing amount of influence that corporations and the wealthy can have over elections — influence that is often completely anonymous.”

“According to OpenSecrets, outside groups have spent more on this election cycle than they ever have in a midterm, breaking the previous record set in the last midterm election in 2018. As of Friday, outside spending — the vast majority of which comes from dark money groups — reached roughly $1.34 billion, topping 2018’s record of $1.32 billion….If it continues at this pace, in fact, outside spending could even surpass the amount of money spent by outside groups in 2020, even though presidential election cycles typically see far more spending than midterm elections do.”

“Bottom of FormRepublican-aligned groups have been the largest spenders this cycle so far, the report finds. The GOP’s Senate Leadership Fund and the Congressional Leadership Fund, which support Republicans’ Senate and House races, respectively, have collectively spent $259 million so far. This is far more than the amount that the Democrats’ two main congressional funds have spent, at about $107 million.”

——————————————–

Part 2: The Democrats – on shaky grounds

Democratic optimism has faded, though many races are close

Andrew Prokop reports that Democratic optimism about the midterms is fading

(https://vox.com/policy-and-politics/2022/10/19/23408788/midterms-2022-polls-republicans-forecast).

“In the late summer, the political world was filled with talk of Democrats’ surprising strength in polls and in special election results. And many believed backlash against the Dobbs decision, which ended the federal right to an abortion, had opened the way for the incumbent’s party to avoid the typical midterm wipeout.”

The narrative

“Now,” Prokop writes, “with the election less than three weeks away [less than that as of Oct 25], Democratic optimism has faded — at least somewhat. Numbers for some Senate candidates who had been polling strikingly well, like John Fetterman in Pennsylvania and Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin, have come back down to Earth. Some blue state governor’s contests now seem unexpectedly competitive. Polls show gas prices and inflation are on many voters’ minds again, and that abortion is fading somewhat as an issue. And more pundits are saying Republicans are gaining an advantage.”

Some evidence: only minor shifts in polls

“It’s true that the polls have shifted somewhat toward Republicans in certain key races. On September 15, FiveThirtyEight’s forecast gave Democrats a 71 percent chance of holding the Senate; as of midday Wednesday that number is 61 percent. In other cases, forecasts haven’t changed much: FiveThirtyEight has the GOP’s House takeover chances still above 70 percent. And there have been some contrary indicators, with surprisingly good poll results for Democrats in redder states like Iowa and Oklahoma.”

“The bad economic news, the historical trend of the president’s party performing poorly in midterms, and the tendency of polls to understate Republicans in certain key cycles (especially Senate races) can all be read to suggest that the smart money is on the GOP to do well.”

The state of the battle for the Senate

“Democrats remain the favorites in the battle for the Senate, according to FiveThirtyEight, but their advantage has shrunk in the past month. When you look under the hood of FiveThirtyEight’s model to see why, it mostly comes down to shifts in four contests:

“In Nevada, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) dropped from a 61 percent favorite to a 49 percent slight underdog.

“In Pennsylvania, the chances of John Fetterman (D) winning dropped from 83 percent to 68 percent.

“Meanwhile, the chances of challengers Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin and Cheri Beasley in North Carolina winning each dropped from about 40 percent to 27 percent.

“Other Democratic candidates, like Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA), haven’t seen similar drops in the past month. Kelly is a 78 percent favorite to win, and Warnock is a 57 percent favorite. In Ohio, Tim Ryan remains a 28 percent underdog.

“With the Senate split 50-50, the basic math is that so long as Fetterman picks up that GOP seat in Pennsylvania, Democrats can afford to lose one seat of their own. So, they could lose Cortez Masto or Warnock, but not both. And if Fetterman loses (and no other Democrats campaigning for GOP-held seats win), even losing one Democratic incumbent would flip the chamber.”

Saving democracy is not a priority for many voters

This is a topic on which New York Times journalists Nick CorasanitiMichael C. Bender, Ruth Igielnik and Kristen Bayrakdarian report. The title of their article captures their main point, that is, “Voters See Democracy in Peril, but Saving It Isn’t a Priority” (https://nytimes.com/2022/10/18/us/politics/midterm-election-voters-democracy-poll.html). The cite a “New York Times/Siena College poll [which] found that other problems have seized voters’ focus — even as many do not trust this year’s election results and are open to anti-democratic candidates.”

In fact, more than a third of independent voters and a smaller but noteworthy contingent of Democrats said they were open to supporting candidates who reject the legitimacy of the 2020 election, as they assigned greater urgency to their concerns about the economy than to fears about the fate of the country’s political system.

“The doubts about elections that have infected American politics since the 2020 contest show every sign of persisting well into the future, the poll suggested: Twenty-eight percent of all voters, including 41 percent of Republicans, said they had little to no faith in the accuracy of this year’s midterm elections.”

“The poll showed that voters filtered their faith in democracy through a deeply partisan lens. A majority of voters in both parties identified the opposing party as a ‘major threat to democracy.’”

“Most Republicans said the dangers included President Biden, the mainstream media, the federal government and voting by mail. Most Democrats named Donald J. Trump, while large shares of the party’s voters also said the Supreme Court and the Electoral College were threats to democracy.

“Seventy-one percent of all voters said democracy was at risk — but just 7 percent identified that as the most important problem facing the country.”

A fraying Democratic electorate

Columnist Greg Sargent considers “The mystery of the missing anti-MAGA majority in 2022 (https://washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/10/19/trump-house-democrats-2022-elections-gop-control).

“On one hand, the coalition that elected a Democratic House in 2018 — and then ended Donald Trump’s presidency in 2020 — appears to be fraying, now that Trump is no longer in the White House. This likely means — at minimum — a Republican takeover of the House.

“On the other hand, the threat of Trumpism remains very much alive. Yet that coalition is not mobilizing against it — allowing Trumpism to remain as a durable force in our politics.”

‘The anti-MAGA majority’

“The coalition that ousted Trump in 2020 delivered an unprecedented 81 million votes to Joe Biden. But Democrats simultaneously lost a dozen House seats. This suggested cracks in the anti-MAGA majority. Analysts noted at the time that Republican-leaning voters who were alienated by Trump became ticket splitters, perhaps to elect Republicans to Congress as a check on an incoming Democratic president. For these voters, being anti-Trump didn’t translate into becoming pro-Democratic.

“What’s happening now is complicated. Dan Sena, who ran the Democrats’ House campaign arm in 2018, notes that inflation and rising gas prices are particularly burdensome in suburban and exurban areas, even as voters in those places are already somewhat right-leaning.”

“… Sena argues, Democrats have bled support among the independent women who were key in 2018. For a while, the end of Roe v. Wade appeared poised to reverse this trend, but that’s now uncertain.

“‘You had suburban independent women swing back toward Democrats in fairly large numbers,’ Sena says, but now, with crime concerns mounting, the story is again one of ‘erosion.’ Sena adds that college-educated men who were once alienated by Trump are now drifting back to Republicans.”

Sargent cites Jacob Rubashkin, an analyst with the nonpartisan Inside Elections, who finds that “recent polls suggest erosion for Democrats across the board, but particularly among Black, Hispanic and young voters relative to 2018.”

Still, Democratic legislative initiatives may make a difference

“A Democratic loss is not preordained. Rosenberg, the strategist who coined ‘the anti-MAGA majority,’ notes that Biden has launched initiatives on climate changestudent loans and marijuana sentencing that could keep young voters energized. And Democratic analyst Tom Bonier points to supercharged voter registration among women in states where reproductive rights are at stake.”

The accomplishments of the Biden administration and Democrats.

Janet L. Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury, and Shalanda D. Young, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, have issued a report on the “Budget Results for Fiscal Year 2022, Oct 21, 2022” (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy1043).

The Republican Party, their candidates, and their supporters often claim that the Democrats in Congress are frivolous big spenders that deepen the national debt, cause inflation, and negatively affect the economy. The evidence presented by Yellen and Young indicate the critics are wrong.

The FY 2022 deficit fell

“During FY 2022, the deficit fell by $1.4 trillion—the largest one-year decrease in the Federal deficit in American history. The 2022 deficit of $1.375 trillion was half of the FY 2021 deficit, $40 billion less than forecasted in the President’s 2023 Budget and $1.8 trillion lower than the deficit the President inherited. As a percentage of GDP, the FY 2022 deficit was 6.8 percentage points lower than in the previous year.[1]

Economic accomplishments

“From Day One, the Biden-Harris Administration has been working to build an economy that works for everyone. Under the President’s leadership—and thanks in part to the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and a historic vaccination effort—America has more than recovered all of the jobs lost during the pandemic. Our economy has added more than 10 million jobs since the President took office, and the unemployment rate has returned to its pre-pandemic, 50-year low of 3.5 percent. The President’s economic plan has helped usher in a new era of American manufacturing, with nearly 700,000 new manufacturing jobs added since January 2021. And, the historic Inflation Reduction Act will bring down energy, health care, and prescription drug costs, tackle the climate crisis, further reduce the deficit, and make our tax system fairer.

“Today’s joint budget statement provides further evidence of our historic economic recovery, driven by our vaccination effort and the American Rescue Plan. It also demonstrates President Biden’s commitment to strengthening our nation’s fiscal health,” Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen said. “President Biden’s recently enacted economic plan will build on the economic gains of the past two years. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act will help put the country on a path to sustained economic growth, create new and good-paying jobs across the country, and strengthen American economic resilience for years to come.”

Concluding thoughts

The Republican Party and their supporters appear to be on the cusp of getting enough votes in November 2022 to win control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Given the anti-democratic policies and actions of the Republicans and their allies, this would represent an ominous step toward the further crippling of democratic institutions. We can only hope that, when the votes are counted, there are enough Democratic and Independent votes to prevent this from happening.

The Republican Party efforts to subvert the 2022 midterm elections

Bob Sheak, Oct 9, 2022

Introduction

This post considers what the effects of Republicans victories in the 2022 midterm elections would have and, in the conclusion, what needs to happen to avoid or diminish the likelihood of such outcomes

Congressional elections

The 2022 United States midterm elections will be held on Tuesday, November 8, 2022. All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate will be contested and there will be as well highly partisan elections at the state and local levels. With respect to the U.S. Congress, Amber Phillips points out,

“The party out of power almost always picks up seats in Congress in midterm elections. And Republicans need to pick up a total of just five (out of 435) in the House to grab the majority, and just one out of 35 in the Senate. Their momentum has been blunted by the overturning of Roe v. Wade, but it’s still possible for the party to take both chambers of Congress” (https://washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/10/02/house-senate-control-2022-outcomes).

According to Nate Silver’s data as of September 30, the Democrats are slightly favored to win the Senate, with Republicans slightly favored to win the House (https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/5-reasons-for-democrats-to-still-be-concerned-about-the-midterms). At the same time, Jonathan Bernstein raises questions about the predictability of the polls (https://washingtonpost.com/business/have-you-seen-the-latest-polls-now-forget-them-heres-why). He writes:

“State and local issues, campaign strategy and the skills of individual candidates could determine the outcomes of some contests in ways that aren’t easy to predict at this stage. We don’t know whether Hurricane Ian or fluctuations in gas prices or late-breaking border issues will have any electoral effects. But they, or something we don’t even know about yet, still might matter.

“Barring any big changes, it is starting to look like we will enter election week with a more or less equal chance of one of three possible outcomes: Republicans gain majorities in both the House and Senate; Democrats maintain control of both chambers; or Republicans win a House majority but Democrats still have 50 — or more — senators. Beyond that, we’ll just have to wait for the results.”

democracy.”

Examples of what may boost Republican chances

Thom Hartmann considers how decisions by Fed Chair Jerome Powell, Vladimir Putin, and Mohammad Bin Salman are on the verge of throwing the entire world into a massive depression (https://commondreams.org/views/2022/10/08/powell-putin-and-mbs-are-verge-throwing-entire-world-massive-depression). Specifically,  “Powell’s interest rate increases are compounded by the action taken this morning by Russia and Saudi Arabia, leading the OPEC+ meeting in Vienna, to cut oil production by 2 million barrels a day.”

Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes

“Raising interest rates,” Hartmann writes, “has already crippled the American housing market; mortgage companies are laying off employees and going bankrupt in ways we haven’t seen since the Bush Crash of 2008. Refinance applications are down 45% in just six months, and houses are sitting on the market longer and longer every week.

“Amazon just laid off 100,000 employees, as both Netflix and Google have announced hiring freezes. The signs of impending recession are all around us. Technically we’re already in one, as GDP has contracted for two straight quarters.

But Powell and the Fed are on course for more interest rate increases. Meanwhile, some of our largest and most profitable corporations are on a price-gouging binge which is exploding inflation.”

Opportunities for corporate profiteering and influence

“And now,” Hartmann writes, “these corporate giants, throwing millions into this fall’s elections on behalf of Republican candidates, are using their monopolistic positions to squeeze more and more profits out of the American consumer.

“The UN Conference on Trade and Development has a simple and straightforward solution to the problem of corporate price-gouging driving inflation. They are explicitly calling on:

‘Governments to deploy a pragmatic strategy, including price controls, antitrust measures and windfall taxes on excessive corporate profits and to use these funds to support the most vulnerable.’”

More interest rate hikes?

“Instead, the Republican at the head of our Fed is planning to further increase interest rates, provoking the first serious recession during the administration of a Democratic president since Jimmy Carter was bushwhacked by the Reagan campaign late in 1980.”

Cutting oil production will have political consequences

“Vladimir Putin, and Mohammad Bin Salman are on the verge of throwing the entire world into a massive depression,” Hartmann argues.

“These two leaders of OPEC+ have a visceral hatred of both President Biden and democracy itself: throwing oil prices to or above $100 a barrel and gas prices above $6/gallon here in the US will have massive political repercussions, handing a sword to Republican partisans who openly also hate democracy.”

The Republican House agenda

Susan David reports on the legislative roadmap released by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (https://npr.org/2022/09/22/1124486339/house-gop-unveils-its-legislative-roadmap-if-they-win-back-the-house-in-november). It’s titled “Commitment to America” and “includes four broad pillars focusing on the economy, safety, individual freedom and government accountability. Big on ideas (‘expand U.S. manufacturing’), David reports, “but short on policy specifics, the agenda is in keeping with tradition established in 1994 with Rep. Newt Gingrich’s ‘Contract with America,’ where the minority party releases their agenda priorities ahead of Election Day.” Here are some unsurprising examples, as reported by David.

“Much of the agenda relies on traditional conservative orthodoxy — support for tax cuts and reductions in government spending — but also weighs in on some divisive cultural issues. For example, Republicans pledge to support legislation to ensure ‘that only women can compete in women’s sports’ — which would seek to ban trans women from playing on women’s sports teams. Republicans also broadly pledge to advance federal legislation to restrict abortion access promising to ‘protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers.’ The agenda also signals opposition to any legislation to restrict gun rights, pledging to ‘safeguard’ the Second Amendment.”

President Biden “is unlikely to support much if any of a partisan GOP agenda. But the majority would provide Republicans with oversight and investigative authority over the administration and they plan to use it.” They plan to “conduct rigorous oversight” and “require the White House to answer for its incompetence at home and abroad,” with plans to hold hearings on: the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. withdrawal of Afghanistan, the Justice Department’s investigation into former President Donald Trump and the alleged illegal possession of classified documents at his Florida estate.”

Henry Olsen comments on the shallowness of McCarthy’s agenda (https://washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/09/23/mccarthy-speaker-house-republican-agenda/?itid=hp_opinions). Olsen writes:

“Nothing in the document contains anything particularly innovative, and that’s probably both by design and smart. Genuinely creative ideas can become the lightning rod of a campaign, and the party has no need to put forward potentially controversial proposals. It only needs to gain five seats to retake the House. Why risk that by embracing something that could trump the overarching sense of malaise and unease that Republicans and independents feel?”

Ending investigations into Jan. 6 and Trump’s mishandling of government documents

Republicans will most likely move to disband the Jan. 6 committee and disregard the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. They will bring the committee’s work to a screeching halt. Bear in mind, if Trump runs and wins the presidential election in 2024, he has promised to consider withdrawing all charges against the Jan.6 insurrectionists. On Jan. 29, 2022, Reuters, as well as other news outlets reported on this (https://reuters.com/world/us/trump-says-he-would-pardon-jan-6-rioters-if-he-runs-wins-2022-01-30).

“U.S. former President Donald Trump said on Saturday if he were to run for president and win in 2024, he would pardon people charged with criminal offenses in connection with the deadly Jan. 6 assault by his supporters on the U.S. Capitol.

Trump, who has not said whether he will run for president again after his defeat by Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 election, was speaking at a rally in Conroe, Texas.

“Another thing we’ll do, and so many people have been asking me about it, if I run and if I win, we will treat those people from Jan. 6 fairly,” Trump said to applause. “We will treat them fairly. And if it requires pardons we will give them pardons. Because they are being treated so unfairly.”

The Jan.6 committee’s investigation will end

Amber Phillips considers likely outcomes of a Republican victory in the midterm elections (https://washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/10/02/house-senate-control-2022-outcomes). She writes the House Republicans will, for example, disband the Jan. 6 committee and launch investigations to discredit and even criminalize committee members.

“House Republican leaders have expressed zero interest in investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has ignored a subpoena from the committee to testify about his conversations with Trump that day. Instead, McCarthy has threatened to investigate telecom companies that hand over phone records to the committee, should Republicans gain powerOther House Republicans have considered how to launch investigations against the Jan. 6 committee members themselves.”

In their book, The Steal: The Attempt to Overturn the 2020 Election and the People Who Stopped It, Mark Bowden and Matthew Teague point out that one hundred and forty-seven Republican legislators, 139 House members and eight senators opposed the lawful certification of Biden’s presidential victory on Jan. 6. Some argued that the rioters were not Trump supporters but those affiliated with a left-wing Antifa, or they were just tourists (p. 208). They live in fantasy realm where verifiable facts are just somebody’s opinion and that they can believe anything they want – or that comes from Trump and other Republican extremists.

They will go after Biden

Phillips further reports: “Republican leaders will likely be under enormous pressure — including from Trump himself — to use their newfound investigatory powers in the House to dig into pretty much everything about the Biden administration. That includes how he ended the Afghanistan war (which some Democrats also wanted to investigate), as well as much more politically charged matters, like the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, Biden’s border policy and maybe even investigations that lend credence to Trump’s false election fraud claims…” 

Indeed, Phillips concludes, “you can imagine a groundswell of support in the Republican conference for writing up impeachment articles against Biden or various members of his Cabinet.”

The Republican Party and Election deniers

The Washington Post’s editorial board elaborates on the dire prospect of a Republican electoral victory in the 2022 midterms (https://washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/10/06/election-deniers-republicans-count-congress). They refer to “an alarming investigation by The Post’s Amy Gardner.” Her central point is that “election deniers,” who espouse Trump’s Big Lie, “increasingly dominate the Republican Party – and could soon gain unprecedented power over the nation’s democratic system.”

“Her analysis found that a majority of GOP nominees in congressional and key statewide races this November — 299 in all — have engaged in some form of election denialism. More than 60 percent of the House candidates are running in districts with partisan profiles suggesting they are unlikely to lose. Only two states — Rhode Island and North Dakota — did not nominate a single election denier in any of the races examined by The Post, while Republicans in Montana, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming nominated election deniers for every major race. And The Post’s latest tally captures only part of the threat.”

“The Post analysis counted candidates for Congress, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and attorney general who had questioned President Biden’s victory, opposed counting his electoral college votes, supported partisan ballot reviews or lawsuits seeking to overturn the 2020 results, or attended the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally on Jan. 6, 2021.”

Subverting the electoral process to favor Republicans

The Washington Post editorial board makes this point: “Many of the offices for which these candidates are running oversee critical parts of the election process. Governors could refuse to certify state electors or even certify bogus alternative slates. Secretaries of state not only have authority over election procedures, but they could also spread public distrust after a vote by refusing to certify results or calling for unnecessary audits and recounts. And, as the country saw in 2021, members of Congress can spuriously object to counting the electoral votes states submit.”

Subverting the election process at the local level

“The Post’s count does not even capture the mischief that could take place at the local level. There has been an exodus of experienced poll workers, with conspiracy theorists and partisan operatives increasingly filling the void. Election officials are also increasingly under pressure from harassment campaigns, including coordinated records requests that waste officials’ time and resources. Several states have passed laws empowering partisan poll watchers, forcing election administrators to prepare for more confrontations at polling sites.

“Then there are rogue county clerks and other local officials who could do considerable damage to democracy but often fly under the radar. In Coffee County, Ga., a local elections official told The Post that she had opened her office to election deniers searching for evidence of voter fraud. A criminal investigation into the voting systems breach is ongoing. State canvassers, who are responsible for certifying vote totals, can do significant harm: In Michigan, for example, Republican state canvassers attempted this year to block an abortion rights amendment from getting onto the ballot, forcing the state Supreme Court to intervene. In 2020, Michigan’s canvassers came under pressure to refuse to certify Mr. Biden’s victory in the state — and they nearly buckled. The country might not be so fortunate next time.

“Because states and localities administer elections in the United States, responsibility for preparing the electoral system for another 2020-style assault falls firstly on them. The most immediate task is investing in training and security for poll workers. While they are at it, local officials should seek to remove partisan pressures from the vote-counting process by doing things such as changing the requirements for those seeking to run for state secretary of state to make the office less political.”

Republicans stifle attempts to reform Electoral Count Reform Act

The House passes it

Democracy Docket reports that the U.S. House passed the bill, the Presidential Election Reform Act, H.R. 8873, on September 21, 2022 (https://democracydocket.com/news-alert/u-s-house-passes-bill-to-reform-the-electoral-count-act).

The bill, introduced earlier the third week of September by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), is designed to prevent a repeat of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol during the counting of Electoral College votes. The bill passed 229-203, with all Democrats and nine Republicans voting in favor.” All nine Republicans are not running again for Congress.

Brett Wilkins comments on the vote

(https://commondreams.org/news/2022/09/21/siding-insurrectionists-203-house-republicans-vote-no-coup-prevention-bill).

“The Presidential Election Reform Act, written by Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), seeks to prevent presidents from manipulating the Electoral Count Act like former President Donald Trump attempted to do as part of his effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and prevent the peaceful transfer of power to President Joe Biden.” The legislation aims to prevent Republicans from undermining the legal certification of state electors and replacing them with electors chosen by state legislatures, in which case the votes by citizens would be ignored.

“Speaking of his 203 GOP colleagues who voted against the bill, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chair of the House Rules Committee, told Politico that ‘the idea that they’re siding with insurrectionists, they’re siding with people who are trying to undermine our democracy is really disgusting.’”

In the Senate

According to Democracy Docket,

“In July, a bipartisan group of senators released their own proposal to reform the ECA — S. 4573, the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act — and the Senate Rules Committee will mark up the proposal on Sept. 27. Both chambers of Congress will need to agree on a single bill for it to reach President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature”

Democracy Docket provides additional information on the bill’s status in the U.S. Senate ((https://democracydocket.com/news-alerts/u-s-senators-inroduce-bipartisan-electoral-count-act-reform-bill).

“On Wednesday, July 20, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) introduced the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Act (“ECA Reform Act”), which reforms the Electoral Count Act of 1887 (ECA). Arising out of the disputed presidential election results of 1876, the ECA outlines Congress’ role in election certification. After every presidential election, Congress meets in a joint session on Jan. 6 of the following year to count the presidential electoral votes — a routine procedure in past years that earned more attention in 2021. 

“The ECA Reform Act clarifies that the vice president’s role in these proceedings is purely ceremonial and raises the threshold for members of Congress to initiate objections to results. (Currently, only one senator and one representative are necessary to suspend the joint session and take a vote on an objection to a state’s electoral results. By raising the threshold to one-fifth of the members of each chamber, the goal is to reduce frivolous objections.) The bill also aims to ensure that there is one conclusive slate of electors from each state by clarifying unclear language from the original 19th century bill. Particularly striking, the bill outlines a process for expedited judicial review (meaning, how election certification issues are resolved in the courts) for the defeated presidential candidate through a three-judge federal panel with direct appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Presidential Transition portion of the bill provides guidelines for how federal resources can be used by the president or vice president during the transfer of power.

“After Senate Republicans blocked important voting rights legislation in January, the focus switched to tinkering with the ECA. Eight other Republicans have co-sponsored the new bill: Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Notably, if all 50 senators who caucus with the Democrats and all nine Republicans support the bill, it is still one vote short of overcoming the filibuster.”

The Senate bill is currently stuck in a Senate committee (https://congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/4573). According to the government’s account,

Hard-right Republican candidates running for seats in U.S. House

Dana Milbank takes a look at the Republican “crazies” who are running for House seats (https://washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/10/07/republican-house-candidates-2022-crazy). He identifies Republican candidates who fall into this category in North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Colorado, Virginia, Wisconsin, Washington, New York, Iowa, Texas, New Jersey, and New Hampshire.

“What they all have in common” Milbank writes, “is that they’re in competitive races, which means they could well be part of a Republican House majority in January. And that’s on top of a larger group of GOP nominees in deep-red congressional districts who are a motley assortment of election deniers, climate-change deniers, QAnon enthusiasts and Jan. 6 participants who propose to abolish the FBI and ban abortion with no exceptions, among other things. Some won nominations despite efforts by party leadership to stop them and continue without financial support from the National Republican Congressional Committee.”

“Of course, the People’s House has always attracted the eccentric, and even the shady, from both parties. But the would-be Republican Class of ’22 is extraordinary in the number of oddballs and extremists in its ranks. This is no accident: The trend in Republican primaries, accelerated by Trump, has favored those with the most eye-popping tapestry of conspiracy theories and unyielding positions. GOP primaries are dominated by a sliver of the electorate on the far right.”

—————-

The Trump Factor

Robert Reich thinks that Trump is effectively on the ballot in the midterm elections (https://robertreich.substack.com/p/trumps-upcoming-midterm-election#details). He writes:

“Republicans accept or avoid the claims of Trump, particularly the ‘big lie’ that he only lost the 2020 presidential election because of rampant fraud. Reich notes, ‘Even if he decides not to run, he’s laying the groundwork for authoritarianism, based on lies and disinformation.’”

Reich cites the following evidence.

Overall

“In the upcoming midterms, 60 percent of us will have an election denier on our ballot, most of them endorsed by Trump. In the key battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania, Republican candidates who embrace Trump’s Big Lie have won almost two-thirds of Republican nominations for offices with authority over elections.

Secretaries of State

“Many are running for secretaries of state — the chief elections officers in 37 states, who will be overseeing voter registration and how elections are conducted. In the 2020 presidential election, people who held these positions were the last line of defense for our fragile democracy, upholding Joe Biden’s win despite heavy pressure from proponents of Trump’s Big Lie.” Trump and his lieutenants, including Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn, are now trying to fill these positions with Big Liars.” He refers to examples of right-wing, Trump supporting Republican candidates who are running for secretary of state in Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, Alabama, and Wyoming. For example, he writes:

“In Wyoming, state representative Chuck Gray, who won last month’s GOP primary for secretary of state, faces no opponent. Gray has repeated Trump’s lies about 2020 being ‘rigged,’ traveled to Arizona to watch a partisan review of ballots that was derided as deeply flawed and proposed additional regular election audits in Wyoming. In Alabama, state Rep. Wes Allen, the nominee for secretary of state, says he would have signed onto a 2020 Texas lawsuit to overturn Biden’s win (that case was swiftly thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court).

Governors

Trump-backed candidates for governor are also on the ballot in key states where governors play a critical role in certifying votes and upholding the will of the people. This includes Doug Mastriano, Pennsylvania’s Republican gubernatorial nominee who has been among the leaders in pushing to overturn the state’s 2020 election results. Reich also refers to Kari Lake, Arizona’s GOP gubernatorial nominee, “who has said she does not recognize Joe Biden as the nation’s legitimate president, and would not have certified Arizona’s 2020 election results had she been governor.” The Republican nominee in Wisconsin is Tim Michels, who also “still questions the results of the 2020 election and refuses to say whether he will certify the state’s 2024 president election results.” Michels favors scrapping the bipartisan Wisconsin Election Commission and shifting “oversight of the state’s elections to the state’s Republican-dominated legislature.”

Republican candidates for state attorney general

“Meanwhile, a third of all state attorney general races currently have an election denying Republican candidate on the ballot — including Alabama’s Steve Marshall, Idaho’s Paul Labrador, Texas’s Ken Paxton, South Carolina’s Alan Wilson, and Maryland’s Michael Peroutka.

“Attorneys general also have key roles in election administration — defending state voting laws and election results in court, taking legal action to prevent or address voter intimidation or election misconduct, and investigating and prosecuting illegal attempts to suppress the vote.”

The growing threat of right-wing violence

Chris Walker addresses this ominous development in an article for Truthout on Oct. 5, 2022 (https://truthout.org/articles/the-far-right-violent-rhetoric-is-escalating-and-includes-talk-of-civil-war). He reports,

“Experts on violence are projecting that the coming weeks will see an increase in heated political arguments online — including violent right-wing rhetoric about an impending ‘civil war’ — due to the fast-approaching midterms and continued investigations into former President Donald Trump.

“Analyses have shown,” Walker points out, “a significant rise in far-right violence over the past few years. Much of the right wing’s violent rhetoric has centered around Trump, with some of his loyalists suggesting that violence to protect him from an investigation into his removal of government documents from the White House would be justified.”

Walker cites New York Times report that Twitter posts mentioning “civil war” had increased by around 3,000 percent in the days after it was reported that the FBI conducted a search on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate to retrieve thousands of White House documents, including some that were classified. Talk of civil war also increased on the social media platform after President Joe Biden made a speech in September publicly condemning “MAGA Republicans” who have been threatening democratic norms and institutions.”

For example, last month, “Trump falsely claimed that Biden had threatened his loyalists with military action.” And Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn said at a recent campaign rally in Arizona that “a governor can declare war.” 

Walker refers to research from the Chicago Project on Security and Threats (CPOST) at the University of Chicago, document “that millions of Americans believe violence to achieve their political ends is sometimes justified, especially when it comes to defending Trump.” The project finds,

“One in 20 U.S. adults, for example, believes that using violence to reinstate the ex-president into the White House midway through Biden’s first term would be justified, according to a survey CPOST conducted last month. That amounts to around 13 million Americans. Even more Americans — around 15 million — would support the use of violence to keep Trump from being prosecuted by the Department of Justice, according to the poll.”

New York Times journalists and authors Ken Bensinger and Sheera Frenkel document how talk of “civil war” is “flaring online” after the FBI raid on Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago (https://nytimes.com/2022/10/05/us/politics/civil-war-social-media-trump.html).”

“Posts on Twitter that mentioned ‘civil war’ had soared nearly 3,000 percent in just a few hours as Mr. Trump’s supporters blasted the action as a provocation. Similar spikes followed, including on Facebook, Reddit, Telegram, Parler, Gab and Truth Social, Mr. Trump’s social media platform. Mentions of the phrase more than doubled on radio programs and podcasts, as measured by Critical Mention, a media-tracking firm.”

It is not just empty rhetoric and not just a fringe group. Bensinger and Frenkel report:

“Polling, social media studies and a rise in threats suggest that a growing number of Americans are anticipating, or even welcoming, the possibility of sustained political violence, researchers studying extremism say. What was once the subject of serious discussion only on the political periphery has migrated closer to the mainstream.”

“Some elements of the far right view it literally: a call for an organized battle for control of the government. Others envision something akin to a drawn-out insurgency, punctuated with eruptions of political violence, such as the attack on the F.B.I.’s Cincinnati field office in August. A third group describes the country as entering a ‘cold’ civil war, manifested by intractable polarization and mistrust, rather than a ‘hot’ war with conflict.”

“In late August, a poll of 1,500 adults by YouGov and The Economist found that 54 percent of respondents who identified as ‘strong Republicans’ believed a civil war was at least somewhat likely in the next decade.”

Bensinger and Frenkel refer to the research by Robert Pape, a political science professor at the University of Chicago and founder of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats. That research finds that violence rhetoric is “going into the mainstream.”

“The institute’s researchers tracked tweets mentioning civil war before and after Mr. Trump announced the search on Mar-a-Lago. In the five preceding days, they logged an average of roughly 500 tweets an hour. That jumped to 6,000 in the first hour after Mr. Trump published a post on Truth Social on the afternoon of Aug. 8, saying ‘these are dark times for our Nation.’ The pace peaked at 15,000 tweets an hour later that evening. A week later, it was still six times higher than the baseline, and the phrase was once again trending on Twitter at month’s end.”

“Last month [September 2022], Mr. Trump said there would be ‘problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before’ if he was indicted over his handling of the classified documents that were the target of the F.B.I. search.

Racism in the MAGA movement

Jennifer Rubin reports on a survey that indicates how racist the MAGA movement is (https://washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/09/28/racism-survey-prri-maga-republicans). Rubin reports:

“The connection between racism and the right-wing movement is apparent in a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute. The survey asked respondents about 11 statements designed to probe views on racism. For example: ‘White Americans today are not responsible for discrimination against Black people in the past.’ The pollsters then used their answers to quantify a ‘structural racism index,’ which provides a general score from zero to 1 measuring a person’s attitudes on ‘white supremacy and racial inequality, the impact of discrimination on African American economic mobility, the treatment of African Americans in the criminal justice system, general perceptions of race, and whether racism is still significant problem today.’ Higher scores indicate a more receptive attitude to racist beliefs.”

Among other findings, the poll found that the religious group that makes up the core of today’s GOP and MAGA movement has the highest structural racism measure among the demographics it surveyed.” In addition, “The survey also captured just how popular the ‘Lost Cause’ to rewrite the history of the Civil War and downplay or ignore the evil of slavery is on the right.” Specifically,  

“Republicans overwhelmingly back efforts to preserve the legacy of the Confederacy (85%), compared with less than half of independents (46%) and only one in four Democrats (26%). The contrast between white Republicans and white Democrats is stark. Nearly nine in 10 white Republicans (87%), compared with 23% of white Democrats, support efforts to preserve the legacy of the Confederacy.” Republicans are much more likely to want to preserve Civil War Confederate monuments and renaming schools “honoring individuals who supported slavery and racial discrimination…”

The upshot: “The PRRI poll shows the MAGA movement has done a solid job convincing the core of the GOP base that they are victims. And let’s be clear: An aggrieved electoral minority that believes it has been victimized and is ready to deploy violence is a serious threat to an inclusive democracy.”

Gutting the Voting Rights Act

Lawyer and scholar Marjorie Cohn considers in a Oct. 3 article in Truthout how the Supreme Court “may well legalize election theft in this term” (https://truthout.org/articles/the-supreme-court-may-well-legalize-election-theft-this-term).

“Donald Trump’s installation of three radical right-wingers on the Supreme Court is already yielding frightening victories for religious zealots and racists. Last term, the court’s conservative majority revoked the constitutional right to abortion from half the population in the United States. This term, it is poised to eviscerate voting rights for people of color and legalize election theft.”

“Tomorrow [Oct. 4], the court will hear oral arguments in Merrill v. Milligan, in which the court may well deny communities of color the right to use the Voting Rights Act to overturn racially discriminatory electoral maps.” This is about a case in Alabama “where Alabama’s congressional maps diluted the power of Black voters,” involving the potential gutting of Section 2 of the Act and its relevance for redistricting in the states.

This is justified by right-wing legal doctrine called the Independent State Legislature Theory. The doctrine, if instituted, would allow state legislatures to chose electors for the certification of a presidential election results, while putting aside electors chosen on the basis of the popular vote. In addition, legislatures would solidify their power to gerrymander congressional districts to favor their political party. The legislatures, not the courts, would determine what is acceptable with respect to state constitutions.

Cohn provides documentation of racial discrimination in the congressional districting in Alabama. The Supreme Court’s decision in Merrill v Milligan would give state legislatures the power to manipulate congressional districting in their favor, without interference from the courts.

“The evidence shows that 27 percent of Alabama’s residents are Black but only one of its seven congressional districts has a Black majority, reducing the probability of electing Black representatives. An Alabama district court composed of three judges (including two Trump appointees) unanimously held that Alabama’s GOP-drawn congressional district map likely violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The court ordered the state to create a second district with a Black majority or plurality.” However, in February, “five right-wing members of the Supreme Court put the brakes on the Alabama district court decision while the high court considers the case. That means the discriminatory map is being used in the 2022 midterm elections.”

Cohn quotes Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Berkeley School of Law, who “warns that the conservative members of the Supreme Court could ‘even rule that considering the race of the people in the district in detecting discrimination is unconstitutional.’ They might go even further and ‘rule that any law that prohibits racially discriminatory effects is unconstitutional.’” Continuing, Cohn writes:

“At least 17 states have passed new laws erecting barriers to voting,” according to Cohn. “Michael Sozan at American Progress warns of dangerous fallout if the court adopts the independent state legislature theory: state courts [in red states at least] would then be unable to address voter suppression; partisan legislators would be unconstrained in gerrymandering; pro-voter election rules in state constitutions would be nullified; the discretionary authority of local and state election officials, including secretaries of state, would be limited; and governors would lose their power to veto anti-democratic laws or new congressional maps.”

Republicans now control both houses of the legislatures in 30 states. Cohn quotes Boston University law Professor Jack Beermann on this anti-democratic threat this poses. Beerman said, “If the court adopts the independent state legislature theory, it could result in ‘a situation where the majority of voters choose one presidential candidate and the state gives its electoral votes to a different candidate.”

J. Michael Luttig also provides an in-depth analysis and debunks the unprecedented, right-wing, anti-democratic Independent State Legislature theory, finding nothing in the law that supports it (https://theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/10/moore-v-harper-independent-legislature-theory-supreme-court/671625). “Such a doctrine,” Luttig argues,
“would be antithetical to the Framers’ intent, and to the text, fundamental design, and architecture of the Constitution.”

Fred Wertheimer, founder and president of Democracy 21, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to promote government accountability and integrity, writes,

“If state legislatures are given the power to enact election and other state laws without regard to whether they comply with state constitutions, hyper-partisan legislatures will be free to write election laws that improperly benefit the party in power” (https://commondreams.org/views/2022/09/30/two-key-battles-underway-save-us-democracy-gop-attack).

The Supreme Court loses support

E.J. Dionne, Jr., cites a Pew poll completed this summer. The poll “found that ‘ratings of the Supreme Court are now as negative as — and more politically polarized than — at any point in more than three decades of polling.’” Specifically,

“Just 28 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents viewed the court favorably. Among Republicans and Republican leaners, the court’s favorable rating stood at 73 percent.” The partisan gap is now 45 percentage points and is

“wider by far than at any point in 35 years of polling on the court.”

Supreme Court is fueling partisanship  

Dionne considers the following “And the conservative court’s expected aggressiveness on issues ranging (for starters) from voting, labor and LGBTQ rights, to environmental and firearms regulation, to affirmative action and church-state questions is likely to set off clashes between the elected branches of government and the judiciary not seen since the New Deal era — or, even more dramatically, since the Northern backlash against the Dred Scott decision on slavery that preceded the Civil War.”

Concluding thoughts

This post has compiled evidence that the Republican Party has a chance of winning control of the U.S. House of Representatives, if not also of the Senate, along with continuing control of the political apparatus in a majority of states. Republicans may benefit from the current economic recession, counterproductive Federal Reserve policies, rising fuel and other economic sector prices.

The Republican Party’s agenda is a continuation of neoliberal and radical right policies that favor the rich and powerful and fuel rising inequalities. If they win control of just the House in the midterm elections, they will end investigations into Trump’s role in the Jan.6 capitol riots and commence investigations against committee members on the committee.

Some Republicans and Trump persist in advancing the Big Lie and are establishing the precedent for denying elections they lose. They will go on doing their best to eviscerate voting rights. Some even advance the use of violence against their opponents. They cater, implicitly or explicitly, to white racists and care to do little about ongoing racial and gender discrimination. The right-wing Supreme Court will facilitate the Republican’s drive for more power.

It Republicans succeed in November 2022, they will stymie Democratic policy initiatives and their grassroots supporters (e.g., Trump’s base) will be given a green light to vent their hatred of any opponents. It’s not clear how police and federal agencies will then respond, but they will face concerted Republican obstruction.

What can individual voters do?

Reich has three proposals (https://robertreich.substack.com/p/trumps-upcoming-midterm-election#details).

First, “Spread the word about the Trump-GOP’s plans to capture the election process and undermine American democracy.”

Second, “Make sure you and they vote down the entire ballot.” Elections are often won by small margins.” Reich gives these examples.

“Had Democratic candidates received just 4,451 more votes in the two closest races in the Arizona state House, they would have flipped the chamber. In North Carolina, had Democrats received 20,671 more votes (just 0.39 percent of the votes cast) in the ten most competitive legislative districts, they would have flipped the state House — thereby preventing Republicans from gerrymandering the state and federal maps, which Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has no ability to veto. In Michigan, just 8,611 more votes for state Democratic candidates in the four districts with the closest margins would have flipped this crucial swing state, too.

Third, “Familiarize yourself with state and local candidates, and share this information.”

Support candidates and groups that have a liberal/progressive agenda.

Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election is an example of widespread grassroots activities as well as small and large campaign contributions. Republicans, with their lies and anti-democratic policies, can be defeated.

Also, there are voting reforms that need support, including, as E. J. Dionne, Jr. and Miles Rapoport cite, “expanding same-day voting and automatic voter registration, early voting, mail-in voting, and no-excuse absentee voting” (“100% Democracy, p. xvi). Mark Engler and Paul Engler document the effectiveness of nonviolent protests and movements in their book, This is an Uprising). And Paul Rogat Loeb offers a plethora of examples of what a life of conviction and activism involves in his book, Soul of a Citizen.

A President who wants to encourage a pro-democratic “battle for the soul of the nation”

President Biden has pursued a pro-democracy agenda domestically that should help to energize voters (https://whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2022/09/01/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-continued-battle-for-the-soul-of-the-nation). Here are excerpts from the speech.

“We’re a big, complicated country.  But democracy endures only if we, the people, respect the guardrails of the republic.  Only if we, the people, accept the results of free and fair elections.  (Applause.)  Only if we, the people, see politics not as total war but mediation of our differences. 
 
Democracy cannot survive when one side believes there are only two outcomes to an election: either they win or they were cheated.  And that’s where MAGA Republicans are today.  (Applause.)
 
They don’t understand what every patriotic American knows: You can’t love your country only when you win.  (Applause.)  It’s fundamental. 
 
American democracy only works only if we choose to respect the rule of law and the institutions that were set up in this chamber behind me, only if we respect our legitimate political differences.  
 
I will not stand by and watch — I will not — the will of the American people be overturned by wild conspiracy theories and baseless, evidence-free claims of fraud. 
 
I will not stand by and watch elections in this country stolen by people who simply refuse to accept that they lost.  (Applause.) 
 
I will not stand by and watch the most fundamental freedom in this country — the freedom to vote and have your vote counted — and — be taken from you and the American people.  (Applause.) 
 
Look, as your President, I will defend our democracy with every fiber of my being, and I’m asking every American to join me.  (Applause.)
 

Republicans and Trump drive US democracy to the edge of extinction

Bob Sheak, September 21, 2022

A divided electorate

Democrats face a tenuous political situation, despite advancing a mostly democratic agenda

The record is clear. Biden and the Democrats have advanced policies that, at least in part, often benefit or potentially benefit most Americans but are typically now viewed as threatening to the interests of the powerful and rich, the Republican Party, and the interests of the Republicans/Trump base.

In the current highly politically partisan environment, the more the Biden’s administration accomplishes, the greater the party’s chances of Democratic electoral wins. But such potential outcomes face strong headwinds. If the already tenuous democracy of the U.S. is to continue, then the Democratic Party, imperfect as it is, must prevail politically over the ever-more extremist Republican Party.

The outlook would be far better if the transition to a more energy sustainable transformation was occurring faster than it is and if the society devoted far less to military spending. See Ray Acheson’s on the need to drastically reduce military spending in his book, Abolishing State Violence: A World Beyond Bombs, Borders, and Cages or Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad’s book, The Withdrawal.

The accomplishments of the Biden Administration

According to one source, the accomplishments of the administration as of September 2022 are extensive, and range across 15 policy areas (https://joebiden.com/accomplishments/#). The accomplishments reflect Biden’s executive actions and, in some cases, the ability of Congressional Democrats to win support from a minority of Republicans or pass legislation through a reconciliation process that avoids a Republican filibuster. Often as not, reconciliation requires making compromises with “conservative” Democrats (e.g., Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema) that undermine or weaken the initial intention of the legislation.

Here are the areas of the Biden administration/Democratic accomplishments, and excerpts of what they represent.

—————-

Signed the Inflation Reduction Act 

President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act to bring down costs, reduce the deficit, and take aggressive action on climate – all paid for by making sure the largest corporations and billionaire tax cheats finally pay their fair share in taxes.

Improved health care for veterans 

In his first State of the Union address, President Biden called on Congress to pass legislation to make sure veterans impacted by toxic exposures and their families get the comprehensive care and benefits they earned and deserve. In August of 2022, President Biden signed the PACT Act – the largest single bill to address our service members’ exposure to burn pits and other toxins in American history. 

Signed the CHIPS and Science Act

President Biden signed landmark legislation into law that will accelerate semiconductor manufacturing in the United States. The CHIPS and Science Act will help lower the cost of everyday goods, strengthen American manufacturing and innovation, create good-paying jobs, and bolster our national security. 

Took historic action to address the gun violence epidemic 

President Biden brought together Democrats and Republicans to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, breaking a 30-year streak of federal inaction on gun violence legislation. The legislation took important steps, including requiring people under 21 to undergo enhanced background checks, closing the “boyfriend loophole,” and providing funding to address youth mental health.

Restored American leadership on the world stage

Thanks to President Biden’s leadership, international confidence in the United States has sharply increased. America is back, and our alliances are stronger than ever. 

Ended America’s longest war 

In acting to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, President Biden ended an era of major military operations to remake other countries and refocused our national security efforts on the threats of today – not the threats of 2001.

Took action to address gender-based violence 

Thanks to President Biden’s leadership, the Violence Against Women Act is now reauthorized through 2027 and includes new provisions to expand legal services for survivors and support underserved communities. 

President Biden also signed historic legislation ending forced arbitration of sexual assault and sexual harassment, protecting survivors and making it safer to report harassment in the workplace.

Passed the American Rescue Plan 

President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act into law, an unprecedented $1.9 trillion package that helped combat COVID-19 and supercharge a historic economic recovery. 

Helped get over 500 million shots in arms, distribute millions of therapeutics, and dramatically expand testing capabilities. Over two-thirds of Americans are vaccinated against COVID-19 thanks to the American Rescue Plan. 

Delivered needed relief to families by sending over 160 million checks to Americans, expanding food and rental assistance, and providing aid to thousands of small businesses. The expanded Child Tax Credit led to the largest-ever one-year decrease in childhood poverty in American history.

Safely reopened America’s schools and made a historic investment to tackle learning loss and address mental health. Today, over 99% of schools are open for in-person learning. Before the ARP, only 46% of schools were open in-person.

Biggest year of job growth in American history

President Biden is leading America through a historic economic recovery. In 2021, the U.S. economy added over 6.5 million jobs – the greatest year of job growth under any President in history. At the same time, we saw the largest annual decline in unemployment ever recorded and the strongest year of GDP growth since 1984. 

Took action to combat COVID-19

Before President Biden took office, there was no comprehensive plan to get Americans vaccinated. President Biden got to work immediately on a national effort to get shots in arms. Funding from the American Rescue Plan helped vaccinate over 200 million Americans and administer over 500 million shots.

Thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration, over three-quarters of American adults are fully vaccinated, up from less than 1% before President Biden took office. 

President Biden took action to drastically increase the number of free testing sites around the country and secure millions of rapid, at-home tests. The Administration launched COVIDtests.gov so Americans could order tests to be shipped directly to their homes for free. 

At the same time, the President expedited the development of numerous, effective COVID-19 treatments including life-saving antiviral pills. In total, the Administration secured 20 million courses of antiviral pills that have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by 89%.

Passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a once-in-a-generation, transformational investment that will help create thousands of jobs and set America up to win the 21st century. The law provides billions in funding to repair bridges and roads, begin replacing every lead pipe in America, upgrade our ports and airports, and expand broadband access to all. It also includes the largest federal investment in public transit ever and the biggest investment in Amtrak since its creation. 

In 2022 alone, repairs will begin on 65,000 miles of roads and 1,500 bridges. 

President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will rebuild America’s critical infrastructure,  create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs, and increase our competitiveness for years to come.

Took action to combat the climate crisis and reduce emissions

President Biden has made combatting the climate crisis a top priority. In the first days of his Administration, President Biden rejoined the Paris Climate Accords and committed to cutting U.S. emissions to half of 2005 levels by 2030. 

As part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure law, the Biden-Harris Administration is making the largest investment in clean energy transmission ever. In addition, the law allocated billions to clean up abandoned mines and oil wells, fund research of next-generation clean energy technologies, build zero-emission public transit, and create a national network of EV charging stations. 

Expanded health care to millions of Americans

After four years of endless attempts to strip health care from millions of Americans under the previous Administration, President Biden took action to strengthen the Affordable Care Act by expanding eligibility and extending the open enrollment period.

As a result, President Biden has brought down costs and expanded health care access for millions of Americans. Thanks to tax credits in the American Rescue Plan, a record 14.5 million Americans signed up for coverage for this year through the ACA, including 5.8 million new customers. At the same time, President Biden’s American Rescue Plan made quality coverage more affordable than ever, with millions of families on ACA plans saving an average of $2,400 yearly on their premiums. 

Nominated and confirmed historic judicial nominees 

The President delivered on his promise to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court when he nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Judge Jackson will be the first Black woman and public defender to serve on the Supreme Court. 

President Biden is working to shape a federal judicial system that fully represents America’s diversity. Of the judges confirmed in the President’s first year, 80% were women and 53% were people of color. 

Overall, more than 50 of President Biden’s circuit and district court nominees have been confirmed by the Senate – far outpacing recent previous administrations. In his first year alone, 40 of President Biden’s circuit and district court nominees were confirmed by the Senate – the most in any President’s first year since Ronald Reagan.

Took big steps toward a future made in America 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law made investments to strengthen our supply chains and encourage companies to bring good-paying manufacturing jobs back home. Among other measures, the President strengthened Buy American rules to make sure more of what we buy in America is made in America. These critical steps towards a future made in America will lower costs at home and set us up to win the 21st century.

President Biden’s Made in America strategy resulted in the largest yearly increase in U.S. manufacturing jobs in nearly 30 years.

——————-

Republican attacks on democracy: Examples

Acceptance of 2020 election lies by Trump and his allies

David Leonhardt makes this point, among others (https://nytimes.com/2022/09/17/us/american-democracy-threats.html).

“The party’s growing acceptance of election lies raises the question of what would happen if Mr. Trump or another future presidential nominee tried to replay his 2016 [or 2020] attempt to overturn the result.

“In 11 states this year, the Republican nominee for secretary of state, a position that typically oversees election administration, qualifies as an ‘election denier,’ according to States United Action, a research group. In 15 states, the nominee for governor is a denier, and in 10 states, the attorney general nominee is.

“The growth of the election-denier movement has created a possibility that would have seemed unthinkable not so long ago. It remains unclear whether the loser of the next presidential election will concede or will instead try to overturn the outcome.”

Reject the legitimacy and the documentation of the House Jan. 6 Select Committee investigation

Dana Milbank gives the following examples, among others in his book, The Destructionists: The Twenty-Five-Year Crack-Up of the Republican Party.

“Republican lawmakers began referring to the January 6 defendants as ‘political prisoners.’ Twenty-one House Republicans voted against a proposal to award the Congressional Gold Medal to police officers who defended the Capitol on January 6.

“By early 2022, the Justice Department had brought cases against 791 people for their January 6 actions, according to a George Washington University tally, and 281 had been convicted…. Trump suggested he would pardon them all if he were returned to power – while the RNC officially labeled the insurrection ‘legitimate political discourse’” (p. 304).

Obstruction: The filibuster as a Republican weapon

Sharon Zhang reports on Truthout, September 8, 2022, that “17 of 18 Pro-Democracy Bills Were Killed by Filibuster This Congress” (https://truthout.org/articles/report-17-of-18-pro-democracy-bills-were-killed-by-the-filibuster). She writes as follows.

“According to a new report from Common Cause, the Senate filibuster has been at least partially responsible for blocking the passage of 17 out of 18 pro-democracy legislative texts that have come to a vote in Congress before the House or the Senate in 2021 and 2022, according to the group’s analysis of votes for each piece of legislation. The analysis was first reported by Insider.

“The 117th Congress has considered a number of pro-democracy bills and resolutions, ranging from the For the People Act, which tackles dark money in campaigns and expands voting access, to the impeachment of Donald Trump, for his attempt to stoke a violent overturn of the 2020 election.”

Other bills include the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would have strengthened rules preventing racial discrimination in voting, a bill that would have granted statehood for Washington, D.C. and the Protecting Our Democracy Act, which have would placed limits on presidential power in reaction to Trump.

“None of these bills have passed Congress, likely because they were either blocked by the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold or never came to a vote because of their likelihood of being blocked by the filibuster.”

“Only one of the measures that Common Cause analyzed passed Congress: the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act, which passed unanimously in the Senate and strengthens requirements for Supreme Court and other federal judges to disclose their financial holdings and stock trades.

“In the end, with high levels of support in Congress and an overwhelming outpouring of public support, Congress ran into one of the reasons our democracy needs to be modernized: the filibuster,” Common Cause wrote of Democrats’ attempt to pass the For the People Act last year.

“Even if conservative Democrats Senators Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) and Joe Manchin (West Virginia) had been on board with the bill and given it a majority of 51 votes, “the arcane Senate procedure known as the filibuster requiring super majorities just to debate an issue, prevented the Democrats from passing major democracy reform and voting rights legislation or the Republicans from considering negotiating in good faith to get to 60 votes,” the group wrote.

“…’ Opponents of the filibuster also say that it is used to block climate action that is crucial to keeping a livable planet, action to stave off white supremacy, moves to workers’ rights, advance protections for abortion rights, and more.

“In their analysis, Common Cause also tracked votes for various pro-democracy measures for each individual member of Congress. Of the 535 voting members of Congress, only 101 members earned a perfect score, voting for each measure. All 101 of those members were Democrats or progressives.”

Republican revenge on opponents anticipated, if they take the House and/or Senate in 2022

There is a lot at stake in upcoming elections at all levels of the political system, and certainly this is true of both houses of the U.S. Congress. Robert Kuttner points out that if Democrats lose even one house of Congress, “escalating Republican anti-democratic behavior suggests the kind of retribution that could occur.” Here are his ominous thoughts.

“Progressive Democrats could be censured or expelled from the House or denied committee seats on one pretext or another. The loss of either house in 2022 could also make it easier for Republicans to steal the presidential election in 2024. A legal memo to Donald Trump by attorney John Eastman…provides a cynical playbook whose strategies will again be available in 2024. Several Republican-controlled states could certify electors who would reverse the actual results of the election. If that occurs, either the election will be stolen outright, or the final result will be thrown to the House or decided by a partisan Supreme Court. If a Republican Congress is fraudulently elected in 2022, leading to a Republican president installed in 2024, voter suppression will deepen and America effectively ceases to be a democracy.”

Trump, Republicans and violent extremists

Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, describes Trump as a “sociopathic narcissist who wants nothing more than to divide then nation” (https://commondreams.org/views/2022/09/16/trump-latest-threat-doozy-and-required-four-responses).

He points out that on September 15, 2022, “Donald Trump threatened that if he is indicted on a charge of mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House, there would be ‘problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before,’ adding ‘I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it.’” And, in August, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that if Trump is prosecuted for his illegal handling of government documents, “there would be ‘riots in the street.’ Trump appeared to endorse Graham’s threat, sharing a video link on his Truth Social platform.”

Reich takes the position that there should be four responses to these threats.

—————

1. Trump is daring the Justice Department to prosecute him, in effect asserting he is above the law. He is not above the law. The Justice Department is methodically and carefully sifting through evidence and presenting it to a grand jury.

Neither the Department nor the grand jury should be intimidated by Trump’s latest threat.

2. Trump’s rhetoric is dangerous. We have already seen the consequences of what happens when Trump invites a mob to the streets. Five people died on January 6, 2021. Many more—including members of Congress and the former Vice President—could have been killed on that day. Since the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s incendiary words have fueled death threats to numerous federal officials, judges, and lawmakers.

All Americans should condemn Trump’s latest threat and incitement to violence.

3. We are dealing with a sociopathic narcissist who wants nothing more than to divide the nation over himself. This is not a matter of left versus right, liberal versus conservative, Democrat versus Republican. It is a question of the Constitution and the rule of law versus authoritarianism and tyranny. If Trump prevails—if he intimidates law-enforcement officials from doing their jobs over his attempted coup or his theft from the White House of secret documents—we lose our democracy.

The media must stop covering this as if there are two sides to this story. There are not.

4. The time has come for Republican lawmakers, candidates, and rightwing media owners and personalities to show some backbone and vigorously repudiate Trump. Their failure to do so before now has created a monster that threatens to consume this country. It is up to them to tell their constituents, followers, readers and viewers that there is no place in America for Trump’s threats to law enforcement and his incitements to violence.

Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Lindsey Graham, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Rupert Murdoch, and others must say it loudly and clearly: We repudiate Trump and his threats. No person is above the law

—————-

Qanon on board

Chris Walker considers how Trump has explicitly endorsed the bizarre and violent-prone group Qanon (https://truthout.org/articles/trump-shares-image-observers-say-is-explicit-endorsement-of-qanon). Walker reports in this article published on September 13 as follows.

“Former President Donald Trump shared a post on his Truth Social website this week that appeared to be an explicit endorsement of the QAnon movement.

“Trump has referenced QAnon in the past but has typically feigned ignorance about the false and dangerous conspiracy theories peddled by the far-right movement. During a town hall in October 2020, for instance, he claimed he knew ‘nothing about’ the extremist movement while also seeming to endorse it.

“‘What I do hear about it is they are very much against pedophilia, and I agree with that,’ Trump said.

QAnon followers believe that a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles is running many national governments around the globe, including in the U.S. They believe that Trump is waging a secret, underground war against this cabal — which is made up of Democrats or anti-Trump Republicans, according to the conspiracies — and that he will be restored to the presidency in due time.

“On Monday evening, Trump shared a picture of himself (posted by another account on Truth Social) wearing two lapel pins on his jacket — one with the U.S. flag, the other bearing the letter “Q.”

“Included in the image were the words ‘The Storm is Coming,’ a common saying among QAnon followers that reminds them to have faith that Trump will reveal members of the so-called ‘Satanic ring’ and return to the presidency.”

Walker continues.

“Many followers of the QAnon movement have acted out in violent ways, including attacking those who they believe are part of the conspiracy (whether they be loved ones or political figures). Many of Trump’s loyalists who stormed the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021, cited QAnon conspiracies to explain why they took part in the attack, for example.

“Last year, the FBI warned that QAnon followers may engage in further violence in the coming years. According to the agency, QAnon adherents could shift “towards engaging in real-world violence — including harming perceived members of the ‘cabal’ such as Democrats and other political opposition — instead of continuing to await Q’s promised actions which have not occurred.”

“While the movement has been rejected by most Americans, it is becoming more mainstream in Republican politics, as Trump’s hold on the party remains strong. Several GOP candidates running for Congress have espoused viewpoints that can be traced back to the QAnon movement.”

What policies do the Republican Party and their allies promote?

Consider some examples.

#1 – They push neoliberal economic policies that favor low taxes, deregulation, privatization, and have no quarrel with concentrated corporate power in most industries.

#2 – They oppose government “deficits,” but Republicans are responsible for more of the national debt than the Democrats. Author and journalist Michael Tomasky provides a useful summary to document this contention in his recent book, The Middle Out: The Rise of Progressive Economics and a Return to Shared Prosperity.

“The topic of deficits is especially galling. When Democratic presidents are running up deficits, Republicans carry on like Victorians who just heard someone say the word ‘intercourse.’ But the truth over these last forty years is that it’s Republicans who’ve saddled the nation with deficits. Under Reagan the deficit went from Carter’s $74 billion to $155 billion. Under George H. W. Bush , it shot up to $290 billion. Then Bill Clinton went from that figure to leaving office with a surplus of $236 billion. George W. Bush converted the surplus into a deficit of $459 billion by 2008. Barack Obama went from that figure up to $585 billion, though it’s entirely fair to insert an asterisk in Obama’s defense, in that he also inherited a global meltdown that pushed the deficit to above $1 trillion for his entire first term; he cut it by more than half from is 2011 peak. Donald Trump inherited Obama’s $585 bill and ran it back up to $960 billion in 2019, and that was pre-pandemic. He left office with the deficit at $3.2 trillion. That was pandemic related, but even if we exclude that, we are left with the fact that from 2000 to 2020 the United States dug a more than$3 trillion deficit hole, with the Democratic presidents responsible for only $126 billion of that” (p. 77).

#3 – Republicans support fossil-fuel usage and dismiss, avoid or delay attempts to curtail their use. Michael Mann has documented this in his book, The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet.

Jessica Corbett refers to a memo by Fossil Free Media and the Stop the Oil Profiteering (https://commondreams.org/news/2022/09/14/report-exposes-decades-big-oil-lies-industry-faces-congressional-scrutiny). This is in the context of

“decades of climate denial by the fossil fuel industry, which long knew of the world-wrecking impacts of its products, and months of the sector’s price gouging and war profiteering since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.”

Corbett continues.

“Authored by Fossil Free Media and the Stop the Oil Profiteering, the memo was released as the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s civil rights and liberties panel held a hearing on the fossil fuel industry ‘weaponizing the law’ to stifle protests, and the House Natural Resource Committee’s oversight subcommittee held a hearing on public relations firms’ contributions to crafting and spreading climate misinformation.”

“The memo features sections on the oversight hearings; how companies are ‘adding the pockets’ of executives and shareholders; greenwashing efforts; loopholes in fossil fuel giants’ climate plans; profiles of BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell; the sector’s lobbying against climate solutions; and what comes next.

“Highlighting that Big Oil has hiked prices to rake in record profits, which have funded stock buybacks that serve shareholders—including executives with stock holdings—the report warns that ‘continued reliance on fossil fuels will keep pouring money into the pockets of those who are most protected from the damage of the climate crisis and rising costs, while the vast majority of Americans and people around the world suffer.’”

“Fossil fuel firms may publicly claim they want to help tackle the climate emergency, but their ‘net-zero pledges are the latest round of greenwashing in Big Oil’s decades long campaign of denial and disinformation,’ the memo argues. These ‘false climate commitments are all designed for one purpose: delay. Delay regulations, delay public pressure, delay accountability, delay the inevitable transition to clean, renewable energy.’”

In 2021, fossil fuel companies poured over $115 million into political lobbying, “accommodating a payroll of 746 lobbyists, one of whom was infamously caught on camera bragging about weekly meetings with Joe Manchin,” the document notes, referring to the Democratic senator from West Virginia who has impeded his own party’s climate goals while pushing legislation to benefit the fossil fuel industry.”

There is some good news. As the memo points out, “The House Oversight Committee hearings into climate disinformation are part of a growing wave of regulatory efforts, lawsuits, and public campaigns designed to finally hold Big Oil accountable for their climate crimes.”

“Cassidy DiPaola, a spokesperson for the Stop the Oil Profiteering campaign, compared the congressional scrutiny of the fossil fuel industry to that which was ultimately brought to bear on the nation’s powerful tobacco companies.

“‘For years, the oil and gas industry has been able to erect a mountain of denial and disinformation to stand in the way of climate progress,’ said DiPaola. “But like Big Tobacco, Big Oil may soon have to pay for its abuses.”

“Jennifer K. Falcon of Ikiya Collective and Fossil Free Media stressed that ‘Big Oil’s reckoning couldn’t come a moment too soon.’

“As this summer’s catastrophic heatwaves and record flooding make it clear, the impacts of the climate crisis are already being felt around the world, especially in Indigenous, Black, communities of the global majority and low-income communities,” Falcon said. “Our window to avoid utter chaos is closing rapidly.”

“That warning of the need to act now was also the key takeaway from a United Nations report published Tuesday—which coincided with the release of a peer-reviewed study showing that fully transitioning to clean energy by 2050 could not only save lives and the planet but also save the world $12 trillion.

“Accelerating the transition to renewable energy is now the best bet not just for the planet,” said the lead author of that study, “but for energy costs too.”

#4 -They are anti-union, support “right-to-work” laws, put profits over workers, and typically oppose or want to marginalize government efforts to protect workers (e.g., Occupational and Safety, the National Labor Relations Act). The corporate attitude toward workers is exemplified in the railroad industry. Kenny Stancil reports that the big railroad corporations engaged in stock buybacks while fighting against workers’ demands for humane working conditions (https://commondreams.org/news/2022/09/19/while-fighting-workers-railroads-made-over-10-billion-stock-buybacks).

Stancil refers to research by the Groundwork Collaborative, “based on recent corporate earnings calls from Union PacificCSXCanadian National Railway, and Norfolk Southern.”  He writes:

“Our research shows just how far railroad executives will go to funnel record profits to their shareholders—even if that means stagnant wages, inhumane attendance policies, and throwing our supply chain into further turmoil….”

“At the same time they have fought to deny sick days and other vital benefits to workers in the freight industry, rail carrier executives have been rewarding shareholders with billions of dollars in stock buybacks and dividend bumps.”

“According to Railroad Operators: Bad for Workers, Good for Investors, a collection of data compiled by the Groundwork Collaborative and shared with Common Dreams on Monday, a handful of major rail companies reported more than $10 billion in buybacks and dividends over the first six months of 2022.

“Meanwhile, workers who try to visit a doctor amid a global pandemic continue to be disciplined, leading to higher staff turnover and soaring injury rates.

“Railroads have been enjoying record profits after decades of deregulation, consolidation, and “just-in-time” practices known as “precision railroad scheduling” transformed the industry into what Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, describes as “another monopolized cash cow for Wall Street.”

As Groundwork’s new analysis points out, Union Pacific chief executive officer Lance Fritz told investors on a July call that the company had cut staff by a third since 2018 and said, “We’ve got to do some other unique and creative things with our labor unions in order to make our crews more available and more productive.”

Fritz admitted “that Union Pacific’s workforce “hasn’t seen a raise in 2.5 or three years.”

“He also said that Union Pacific is prepared to make further staffing cuts during an economic downturn, asserting that conductor-less trains would be ‘better for the conductors’ quality of life.’”

“Norfolk Southern’s chief operating officer Cindy Sanborn said that the company is looking into ‘sign-on and attendance bonuses, retirement deferral, and referral incentive[s]’ to boost hiring and retention, but she didn’t say anything about workers’ fundamental demands for sick days, paid leave, and other basic benefits revolving around better “quality of life.”

“Last week, labor lawyer Jenny Hunter and Terri Gerstein, director of the State and Local Enforcement Project at Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program, argued in Slate that railroad companies nearly inflicted an economic catastrophe on the U.S. because they chose profit-maximization over humane workplace policies.

“It should not be controversial to say it, but: People should have sick leave so they do not have to come to work when they get sick. They should be able to take leave to attend doctors’ appointments or deal with family emergencies without risking their jobs. Workers should also have regular time off, not be on call almost every day of their lives. This strike or lockout was threatened because of the railroad companies’ refusal, right up until the last minute, to accept these basic human needs, and their willingness to bring an already weary country to the brink of yet another economic disaster, all in the name of ever more profits.”

#5 – They hate any policy that is aimed at the “public good,” and would, if given the opportunity, dismantle or eliminate government subsidized social-welfare programs, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or any but the most limited benefits – and then they want work requirements.

#6 – They want to create electoral processes at all levels of governments that limit the opponents’ opportunities to vote. On this point, Dana Milbank (referred to earlier) writes:

“… by early 2022, nineteen states had enacted thirty-four laws restricting voting and compromising election integrity; the Brennan Center for Justice, a voting rights group, found an ‘unprecedented’ effort at disenfranchisement” (p. 305).

#7 -They support policies that placate Trump’s base.

#7a – For example, they want unhindered gun ownership, the severe curtailment or elimination of women’s reproductive rights, the endorsement of Christian Nationalism and the end of the Constitutionally mandated separation of state and religion. On the latter example, the Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute notes,

“The separation of Church and State is a phrase that refers to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The phrase dates back to the early days of U.S. history, and Thomas Jefferson referred to the First Amendment as creating a ‘wall of separation’ between church and state as the third president of the U.S. The term is also often employed in court cases. For example, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black famously stated in Everson v. Board of Education that ‘[t]he First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state,’ and ‘[t]hat wall must be kept high and impregnable.’”

#7b -They encourage local school boards to ban books that parents or right-wing groups may deem offensive. Elizabeth A. Harris reports on a report from the free speech organization PEN America which “looked at the role of politics and advocacy groups in the growing number of book bans in schools across the country” (https://nytimes.com/2022/09/19/books/advocacy-groups-book-ban.html). She writes:

“At least 50 advocacy groups pushed to ban books during the last school year, according to a report that the free speech group PEN America released on Monday, highlighting how challenges to reading material have become a political issue across the country.”

Harris continues.

“‘This is a concerted, organized, well-resourced push at censorship,’ said Suzanne Nossel, the chief executive of PEN America. The effort, she said, ‘is ideologically motivated and politically expedient, and it needs to be understood as such in order to be confronted and addressed properly.’”

“Traditionally, when individual parents had concerns about books their children were reading, they would approach a teacher or librarian directly to discuss it. But today, long lists of titles deemed objectionable circulate online, bouncing from one district to the next. Elected officials, including local office holders and governors, have staked out vocal positions on the issue, demanding that ‘obscene’ materials and even specific titles be rooted out from school libraries. Restrictions have also come in the form of district-level policy changes and statewide legislation, the report said.”

“Of the groups that have pushed to have certain books removed from schools, PEN said, Moms for Liberty has grown the fastest. Formed in 2021, it now lists more than 200 local chapters on its website, according to the report.”

“PEN found that more than 1,600 book titles were banned from schools the United States from July of 2021 to June of 2022 — it defined a ‘ban’ as the removal of a book or a restriction of access to it. The state with the most bans was Texas, the organization said, followed by Florida and then Pennsylvania.

“Across the country, PEN said, restrictions occurred in 138 school districts, which included 5,000 individual schools and enrolled nearly 4 million students.”

What can Democrats do?

Tell the true story based on verifiable facts, contest the lies and anti-democratic efforts of the Republican Party, Trump, and their allies, encourage the political education and engagement of citizens, and make voters aware of the accomplishments of the Democratic Party. Here are two examples.

Encourage civic engagement

In the Introduction to his book, Engines of Liberty: How Citizen Movements Succeed, professor of law and public policy at Georgetown University David Cole makes his basic point: “the defense of liberty depends as much or more on citizens engaging collectively to fight for the values they believe in than it does on the courts and the lawyers who appear before them. The preservation of liberty through a written constitution was a major innovation in modern democracy. But it has survived more than two centuries not because the job was assigned to the courts, but because ‘we the people’ have consistently taken up the charge to define, defend, and develop liberty in our own image, so that it reflects our deepest

Commitments, not just those of a privileged elite who do not represent us” (pp. 13-14).

Be clear on what works best in economic policy

Michael Tomasky, whose book was referenced earlier, identifies four “pillars of the Democratic argument” (The Middle Out, pp. 226-245).

#1 – “Attack the idea that Republican administrations are better for the economy.” He writes: “On key economic indicators like GDP growth, increase in the median household income, deficit management, and even performance of the stock market, Democratic administrations have a far better track record than Republican administrations.” Here’s some of his documentation.

“…under sixteen years of Republican administration (Bush, Bush, Trump, and sixteen years of Democratic administrations (Clinton and Obama),” Democrats did far better than Republicans. For example, “Jobs created during the sixteen years of Democratic presidencies: 33.8 million versus 1.9 million…. Average GDP growth: Democrats 3.1 percent; Republicans 1.62 percent. Dow Jones Industrial Average increase: Democrats 185.5 percent; Republicans 26 percent.”

#2 – “Destroy the myth of Homo economicus and replace it with a human being.” That is, the notion “that we are all self-interested and that acting selfishly promotes the common good is inherently right-wing.” His general argument:

“Most of us spend part of our lives being dependent on others: when we are children, when we are sick, when we are old. Most of us also understand and accept that we are members of a society and that membership carries certain obligations. We accept the idea that there is such a thing as the common good.”

#3 – “Tie economics to democracy.” “…if Democrats explicitly connect paid family leave and free community college and the rest to the preservation and strengthening of democracy, and the great democratic purpose of advancing happiness, and link all that back to the nation’s founding, will put Republicans on the defensive.”

#4 – “Tie economics to freedom.” “Democrats today must say this: It is our economic vision that will give people freedom, and the Republican vision of freedom has left millions struggling…. Freedom is not freedom if you work full time and live in poverty. Freedom is not freedom if a single medical crisis can drive you into bankruptcy. It is not freedom if child care is too expensive for you to hold a job, or if you are born poor and at every turn are blocked in your rise: by underfunded schools, overpriced colleges, and usurious college loans.”

Franklin Roosevelt addressed such issues in his famous Four Freedoms speech to Congress from January 1941 and the ideas are embedded in the 1948 United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Trump and his lawyers work to subvert the government’s efforts to obtain illegally-held documents

Bob Sheak, Sept. 6, 2022

Introduction

This post focuses on the DOJ/FBI attempts over months to obtain documents that Trump kept at Mar-a-Lago, his residence and club in Florida. Trump and his lawyers have done their utmost to slow down the process, while at the same time criticizing the government for continuing to pursue the issue, contending (without evidence) that the whole process was partisan, unfair, and aimed at undermining Trump’s political ambitions.

The evidence assembled in this post indicates that Trump did violate federal laws about how former presidents should deal with presidential documents, which belong to the government, not to Trump. The protests and evasions from Trump and his supporters over the FBI search and ongoing analysis of the documents are based on lies and efforts to delay and ultimately end the investigation. Meanwhile, Trump has employed rhetoric based on conspiracy theories and designed to inflame his supporters.

The entire months-long episode is yet another example of Trump’s disregard of the law and his seeming desire to create a right-wing political force that will continue to do what they can to undue American democracy.  

A timeline on the DOJ/FBI attempts to get all of the government documents unlawfully located in Trump’s residence and club

Rosalind S. Helderman provides a timeline of the FBI’s attempts to obtain all the government documents in Trump’s possession and stored at Mar-a-Lago, some classified, how Trump and his lawyers repeatedly delayed, only partially responded, or ignored such lawful requests, and culminating in the August 8 FBI raid of Trump’s Florida club and residence (https://washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/30/mar-a-lago-timeline-trump-documents). Here are some of the highlights of Helderman’s timeline, including references to other sources.

Fifteen boxes with thousands of documents arrived at the archives, at the National Archives and Records Administration, on January 18. In opening these documents, archives officials find documents clearly marked classified, intermingled with printouts of news articles, mementos and items. They made a formal referral asking the Justice Department to investigate the possible mishandling of classified records.”

Legal expert Marjorie Cohn points out:

“A preliminary review of the 15 boxes by the FBI revealed that 14 of them had classification markings. They found 184 unique documents, including 67 marked CONFIDENTIAL, 92 marked SECRET and 25 marked TOP SECRET. Each of these markings respectively indicates an increased threat of harm to national security if the information is disclosed without authorization, according to the unnamed special agent of the FBI who signed the affidavit. Several documents contained what were apparently Trump’s handwritten notes” (https://truthout.org/articles/trump-affidavit-contains-broad-based-probably-cause-of-three-federal-crimes).

According to Cohn, “NARA [National Archives and Records Administration] agents found that the 15 boxes contained more than 100 documents with classification markings, comprising more than 700 pages. Some included the highest levels of classification, including Special Access Program information, which are highly classified data with safeguards and restrictions on access greater than those for ordinary classified information.”

Back to Helderman’s “timeline.”

On May 6, 2021, almost four months after initial inquiries and stonewalling by Trump, the National Archives and Records Administration contacted Trump’s team ‘to say some high-profile presidential documents appear to be missing. ‘We know things are very chaotic, as they always are in the course of a one-term transition,’ Gary Stern, the agency’s chief counsel writes to Trump lawyers. ‘But it is absolutely necessary that we obtain and account for all presidential records.’” Over the next several months, archives officials repeatedly ask for the missing records and Trump resists returning them.”

Then on May 16 to 18, the “FBI conducts a preliminary review of the material held at the archives, according to an affidavit that would be filed several weeks later in support of the request for a warrant to search Mar-a-Lago. Agents find 184 documents with classification markings: 67 marked confidential, 92 marked secret and 25 documents marked top secret. They include: HCS, FISA, ORCON, NOFORN, and SI — acronyms that refer to, among other things, the government systems used to protect intelligence gathered from secret human sources, the collection of information through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and intelligence that cannot be shared with foreign allies. Some documents contain what appear to be Trump’s handwritten notes.”

At the end of May, “members of Trump’s legal team conduct what they characterized as a thorough search of documents still held at Mar-a-Lago, attorney Christina Bobb would later say in interviews. ‘The legal team had done a very thorough search. We turned over everything that we found,’ Bobb told Fox News’s Laura Ingraham. ‘It’s my understanding based on very good belief, based on a thorough investigation, that there was nothing there.’” Bobb’s statements turned out to be false.

In the continuing pursuit of the documents not yet released by Trump to government officials, the FBI requested on August 5 that Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart approve the FBI’s request for a search warrant to examine the documents still held at Mar-a-Lago. Reinhart approved the request. On August 8, “FBI agents in casual clothes and without their guns spend nearly nine hours at Mar-a-Lago searching the club’s storage room, Trump’s residential suite and offices. According to a property receipt they leave behind, they collected more than two dozen boxes of documents, including 11 sets of documents with classification markings. A more detailed accounting in a later court filing indicates the FBI seized more than 100 documents marked classified, from the confidential to top secret level. Seventy-six were found in the storage room. Others were found in Trump’s office, including three documents found in the drawers of desks.”

Subsequent reporting on August 22 by Maggie Haberman and her colleagues at the New York Times indicates that Trump had “more than 300 classified documents” (https://nytimes.com/2022/08/22/us/politics/trump-mar-a-lago-documents.html). They write:

“In total, the government has recovered more than 300 documents with classified markings from Mr. Trump since he left office, the people said: that first batch of documents returned in January, another set provided by Mr. Trump’s aides to the Justice Department in June and the material seized by the F.B.I. in the search this month.”

Probable federal crimes

Marjorie Cohn refers to Judge Reinhart’s view that Trump is probably involved in three federal crimes” in his handling of the documents (https://truthout.org/articles/trump-affidavit-contains-broad-based-probably-cause-of-three-federal-crimes). The crimes: unauthorized possession, obstruction, and mutilation of government documents. Cohn continues:

“After considering the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) affidavit, U.S. District Judge Bruce E. Reinhart had found probable cause that a search of Mar-a-Lago would turn up evidence of three federal crimes: unauthorized possession, obstruction and mutilation of government documents. He issued a search warrant on August 5. When Reinhart unsealed the affidavit on which the warrant was based, half of the 38 pages were redacted, or blacked out.”

Cohn continues: “It is highly unusual to unseal a search warrant affidavit before criminal charges are filed. In fact, affidavits are generally unsealed only after the defendant makes a motion to suppress evidence seized in the search. Defendants often argue that the evidence should be excluded from their trial because the search violated their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. No charges have yet been filed in this case. But due to strong public interest in the search of Trump’s home and seizure of hundreds of classified documents, the judge unsealed the affidavit with extensive redactions. The redactions in the Affidavit were justified “because disclosure would reveal (1) the identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents, and uncharged parties, (2) the investigation’s strategy, direction, scope, sources, and methods, and (3) grand jury information protected by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e).”

The disappearance of classified documents

“On September 2, 2022, the Department of Justice ‘released an inventory of items seized from former President Donald Trump’s Florida home last month, and one aspect of the newly disclosed document raised eyebrows and many questions: Namely, the listing of dozens of empty folders marked as ‘classified,’” as reported by Jake Johnson (https://commondreams.org/news/2022/08/02/where-did-classified-content-go-dozens-empty-folders-seized-trump-home).

“‘Where did the classified content go?’ asked Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), voicing a sentiment also expressed by reporters and watchdogs in response to the inventory, which indicates that the FBI retrieved from Mar-a-Lago 18 documents marked ‘top secret,’ 54 marked ‘secret,’ and 48 empty folders with ‘classified’ banners.”

“The inventory offers no specific details on what the empty folders were supposed to contain, leaving observers to speculate on the sensitivity of the documents and where they may have ended up as the DOJ continues to investigate the former president’s removal of classified documents from the White House.”

“The Justice Department said in a court filing Tuesday that it “developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed” from a Mar-a-Lago storage room as investigators attempted to retrieve them, possibly further implicating Trump’s team and the former president himself in a criminal scheme to obstruct justice.”

Despite Trump’s outcries, the majority of Americans approve of the government’s investigation

Chris Walker reports on an Economist/YouGov poll (https://truthout.org/articles/poll-majority-of-americans-approve-of-search-on-mar-a-lago-for-files-trump-took).

A recent Economist/YouGov poll surveyed Americans about the issue from August 13-16, after portions of the search warrant that was executed last week Monday were unsealed. According to the survey, the vast majority of Americans have heard about the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation, with 50 percent saying they’ve heard a lot about it and 36 percent saying they’ve heard a little about the search of the Trump property. Just 14 percent said they haven’t heard anything about it.

“When survey participants were asked how they felt about the search, most said they approved of the DOJ’s actions, with 54 percent saying so. Only 36 percent said they disapproved. Similarly, only 30 percent of those surveyed said they approve of Trump having taken the records after leaving office, while 52 percent said they disapproved.

Negative feelings increased in regards to reports that Trump took classified documents, potentially illegally, related to nuclear weapons, which sources close to the investigation said he did.

“Among all survey respondents, 57 percent of Americans say they disapprove of Trump taking nuclear weapons-related documents to his Mar-a-Lago estate. Those who voted for Trump in the 2020 presidential election, however, were split on that question, with 35 percent saying they approved of him potentially taking such documents, and 36 percent saying they didn’t (19 percent were unsure how to feel about it).”

The response of Trump and his supporters

Amanda Marcotte, senior politics writer at Salon and the author of “Troll Nation,” reports on Trump and his allies “have been drastically “escalating rhetoric that unsubtly invites political violence in response to the FBI’s efforts to recover classified materials that Trump has been illegally holding on to (https://salon.com/2022/08/31/truth-social-rants-against-the-fbi-inadvertently-undercut-his-main-january-6-defense). She continues: “By blitzing out these conspiracy theories, he’s sending signals to the most unhinged people in his base. And they are most definitely hearing the signals he’s sending.”

Trump embraces violent right-wing conspiracy theories

Marcotte refers to an NBC News report, 

“Users of QAnon forums rejoiced at Trump’s apparent endorsement of the conspiracy theory and its mythology. The top response on the most visited QAnon forum to one of Trump’s posts about the conspiracy theory read simply, “Wipe them out sir.” Others pleaded with Trump to “nuke them from orbit” and to “sir, please finish them off,” referring to QAnon enemies such as Hillary Clinton and President Joe Biden.

Dana Milbank also reports on the influence of QAnon conspiracy theories on Trump (https://washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/08/31/trump-gop-lies-qanon).

The former president used his Truth Social site on Monday [Aug. 29] to demand that he be declared ‘the rightful winner of the 2020 election, and he followed that by posting and sharing on Tuesday a barrage of QAnon slogans and themes, doctored photos and false conspiracy notions, including a claim that the “FBI colluded with Antifa” in the Jan. 6 insurrection, and a forged tweet falsely purporting to be from Ivanka.”

“If it appears the volume of deception coming from MAGA Republicans is increasing, that’s because it is. Two academics from New York University set about documenting the proliferation of rubbish in a study they described this week for The Post’s Monkey Cage feature. They found that 36 percent of the news that Republican congressional candidates shared on social media came from unreliable sources on an average day from January to July, up from 8 percent for the same period in 2020. (The news shared by Democratic candidates from unreliable sources rose to 2 percent from 1 percent.)”

A financial boost

Milbank continues: “Trump, for his part, now appears to be hoping to monetize the QAnon conspiracy movement, whose sometimes violent followers hold that a network of pedophiles secretly controls the government. His Truth Social media venture has struggled — losing money, gaining few users, squabbling with a vendor and seeing its stock price fall nearly 75 percent since March.

“So, Truth Social is wooing the QAnon crowd, banished from more reputable sites.

“NewsGuard, which rates the reliability of media organizations, reported this week that Truth Social awarded its verification badges to 47 QAnon-promoting accounts, each with more than 10,000 followers. In all, it said, 88 QAnon-associated users (32 of them previously banned from Twitter) have more than 10,000 followers apiece on Truth Social. Trump and current and former Truth Social executives have shared QAnon graphics and messages and promoted the QAnon accounts. Trump had done so 65 times, the report said — and that was before his QAnon extravaganza Tuesday.”

Trump encourages his base to embrace violence

In another article, Amanda Marcotti delves further into Trump’s reactions to the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago (https://salon.com/2022/08/16/is-giving-the-fbi-the-jan-6-treatment). She reports: “After FBI agents searched Trump’s Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago, for classified documents, Trump has been using every avenue possible to send a message to the Department of Justice: Stop the investigation or my supporters could become even more dangerous.” She gives the following examples.

“On Saturday [Aug 13], the New York Times reported that Trump ‘reached out to a Justice Department official to pass along a message’ to Attorney General Merrick Garland. “The message Mr. Trump wanted conveyed, according to a person familiar with the exchange, was: ‘The country is on fire. What can I do to reduce the heat?'”

“The message is disguised as helpful, but it’s obviously meant to be threatening. It’s a variation on the cliched mobster threat: ‘Nice place you’ve got there. Shame if something happened to it.” Both Trump and the intended target understand that Trump is the one who lit the fire with his repeated claims of being ‘persecuted’ and the flat-out lies he uses to bolster those claims. So, his ‘question’ is really more a form of blackmail. He’s not actually offering assistance, so much as trying to remind Garland of his continued power over his followers. 

Trump’s base responds with financial support for him

Trump rakes in millions off FBI search at Mar-a-Lago

Josh Dawsey and Isaac Arnsdorf report that Trump raked in millions off the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago (https://washingtonpost.com/politico/2022/08/17/trump-fundraising-fib-raid).

“The former president’s political fundraising surged to over $1 million a day last week after sagging earlier this year.

“Former president Donald Trump bombarded his supporters with more than 100 emails asking for money based on the FBI’s search of the Mar-a-Lago Club for classified materials last week. They paid off.

“Contributions to Trump’s political action committee topped $1 million on at least two days after the Aug. 8 search of his Palm Beach, Fla., estate, according to two people familiar with the figures. The daily hauls jumped from a level of $200,000 to $300,000 that had been typical in recent months, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss nonpublic information.”

Endangering the lives of FBI agents

The search warrant

A search warrant is an order signed by a judge that authorizes government authorities to search for specific objects or materials at a definite location.

Marcotti: “The threatening nature of this rhetoric was underscored by Trump’s game-playing with the warrant release. First, he pretended not to have the warrant and demanded that it be released, even though he did have a copy and could release it whenever he wished. Then his team released the warrant to Breitbart before the DOJ had a chance to release it. By doing so, Trump made sure the version of the warrant that spread most rapidly was one featuring the unredacted names of the individual FBI agents involved in the search, putting them and their families in danger.” 

The Affidavit

Marcotti: “In case there was any doubt that this was intentional, Trump is playing the same game with the affidavit that led to the warrant.

“Trump has been using every avenue possible to send a message to the Department of Justice: Stop the investigation or my supporters could become even more dangerous. 

“The DOJ is resisting the public release of the affidavit underlying the search warrant, which has much more detailed information about what crimes Trump is suspected of and the evidence the FBI has to support their suspicions. Its release would not only be highly unusual, but it would also “likely chill future cooperation by witnesses,” authorities argued. Trump responded with a rant on Truth Social, his far-right alternative to Twitter, in which he demanded ‘the immediate release of the completely Unredacted Affidavit.’ As with the warrant release, the only purpose of releasing an unredacted affidavit would be to expose the identities of people who have provided evidence against Trump. 

Trump pushes his vitriolic message on Fox News

Marcotti: “Monday morning [Aug 15], Trump made his veiled threats to Garland public, going to Fox News to engage in faux-handwringing over how the ‘country is in a very dangerous position,’ as if he weren’t the person who made it that way. 

“There is tremendous anger, like I’ve never seen before, over all of the scams, and this new one—years of scams and witch hunts, and now this,” he said. ‘If there is anything we can do to help, I, and my people, would certainly be willing to do that.’

As Eric Kleefeld of Media Matters reported Monday, Fox News has been heavily hyping ‘Trump’s veiled threats that his supporters will carry out more political violence against federal law enforcement.’ As Kleefeld notes, Trump is using the passive language of faux ‘predictions’ to package his threat, by saying things like, ‘the temperature has to be brought down in the country. If it isn’t, terrible things are going to happen.’ But, of course, he and his targets both know things aren’t just ‘happening.’ They are being provoked by Trump’s hyperbolic language and hint-dropping to his followers. 

Attempts to delay and subvert the investigation

In an article published on Sept. 3, 2022, Marjorie Cohn considers Trump’s request for a “special master,” so that any investigation into the criminal and national security implications of Trump’s actions may be put aside (https://truthout.org/articles/trumps-special-master-request-may-be-bid-to-delay-investigation-beyond-midterms). Cohn suggests that they are making the request to “delay the investigation beyond the midterms.”

Trump and his supporters hope that the Republicans will take control of the House and the Senate in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections. If they take even just the House, they will be in a position to direct attention away from the investigation by the Department of Justice. Some have warned that House Republicans would then move to impeach President Biden. In such a context, the government’s investigation into Trump’s mishandling of documents could be sidelined and Biden’s policy agenda could be subverted. Here’s some of Cohn’s analysis.

“On August 22, Trump filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida requesting the appointment of a ‘special master’ to review the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago. Although the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s Filter Team had already segregated documents that might be protected by the attorney-client privilege or executive privilege, Trump wants a special master (usually a retired judge) to inspect them for privileged or potentially privileged material.

“Trump’s motion is pending before Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee. Judge Cannon indicated she is inclined to agree with Trump and appoint a special master. She held a hearing on September 1, but has not yet issued a ruling. A special master could substantially delay the DOJ’s criminal investigation of Trump and his associates.”

Cohn elaborates this point. “Appointing a special master is unnecessary, the DOJ maintains in its filing. It ‘would impede the government’s ongoing criminal investigation’ and the ‘Intelligence Community from conducting its ongoing review of the national security risk that improper storage of these highly sensitive materials may have caused’ and ‘identifying measures to rectify or mitigate any damage.’”

“Moreover, the DOJ argues, Trump lacks ‘standing’ to seek a special master or the return of the documents since he does not own them. The Presidential Records Act says that presidential records are the property of the government.”

“During the nearly two-hour hearing on September 1, Judge Cannon signaled that she might appoint a special master but she did not order the FBI to halt its review of the files. On September 2, she unsealed a more detailed list of documents the FBI seized during its August 8 search.

“The newly-released inventory includes 31 documents labeled CONFIDENTIAL, 54 labeled SECRET and 18 labeled TOP SECRET. It lists 48 empty folders labeled CLASSIFIED and 42 empty folders labeled for return to a military aide, with no indication of where the missing documents are located.

“This detailed inventory also contains more than 11,000 government documents and photographs without classification markings. Classified documents were commingled in boxes with documents that had no classification labels as well as personal items and media articles.”

Whether a criminal case against Trump and/or his attorneys is every advanced, “the evidence seized during the search of Mar-a-Lago strengthens the such a case against Trump and/or his attorneys and associates.”

Judge Cannon rules in support of a “special master”

Despite the evidence, Judge Cannon grants Trump request for special master to review Mar-A-Lago documents, as reported by Perry Stein (https://washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/09/05/trump-special-master-documents).

“U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon wrote in her decision that the Justice Department cannot continue reviewing the materials seized by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8 or use them in its criminal investigation until the special master concludes his or her assessment.” A special master to sift through nearly 13,000 documents and items seized by the FBI from Trump’s Florida residence will be appointed by a federal judge. Cannon “sided with Trump’s legal team and said that the former president does retain some executive privileges after leaving office — a stance that the Justice Department disagrees with.”

Meanwhile, Cannon ruled, “the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would be allowed to continue its ongoing assessment of the possible risk to national security posed by the removal from government custody of classified documents, some of them related to highly sensitive government and intelligence secrets.”

Some high-profile Republicans oppose the decision. Stein cites an interview that aired Friday [Sept 2], in which former Trump attorney general William P. Barr said there is no reason classified documents should have been at Mar-a-Lago after Trump was no longer president.

“‘People say this was unprecedented,’ Barr said in an interview with Fox News. ‘But it’s also unprecedented for a president to take all this classified information and put them in a country club, okay?’”

Cannon dismissed such views as well as the position of the Justice Department lawyers who told her “they had already sorted through the documents, using a ‘filter team’ to separate out more than 500 pages of potentially privileged documents. That arrangement was approved by a U.S. magistrate judge who authorized the Mar-a-Lago search warrant. Prosecutors said appointing a special master would be pointless, given the previous filter team review — but Cannon disagreed. They also said that there was no legal basis to appoint a special master in this case and that Trump had no rights to possess White House documents once he left office.”

Judge’s competence is questioned

Julia Conley reports on criticisms of Judge Cannon’s lack of competence (https://commondreams.org/news/2022/09/05/unfit-bench-trump-appointed-judge-orders-hald-doj-review-seized-materials). As we know, Trump wants loyalty and compliance, not independence and competence. Conley writes:

“This judge is now an active participant in Trump’s crimes,” said one critic.

“Political observers on Monday said U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon ‘engaged herself in obstruction of justice’ by ruling that the U.S. Department of Justice must halt its review of materials seized at former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago.

“Cannon, who was appointed by the former Republican president and confirmed after he lost the 2020 election, ruled that Trump ‘faces an unquantifiable potential harm by way of improper disclosure of sensitive information to the public’ if the review of the materials, which included documents marked ‘confidential’ and ‘top secret’ continues.

“Political scientist Norman Ornstein noted that lawyers for Trump hand-picked Cannon to oversee the case and, in a tweet, adding that her ruling is ‘a clear-cut impeachable offense.’

“Slate journalist Mark Joseph Stern said he had been assured that “no judge would take Trump’s absurd filing seriously” after the former president sued the DOJ over the FBI raid which was sparked by the department’s finding that Trump had taken classified documents from the White House when his term ended in January 2021.

“‘The problem, of course, is that Cannon is not a real judge, but a Trump judge, and one of the most corrupt of the bunch,” said Stern.”

“The Justice Department now has until September 9 to propose a list of special master candidates. It was unclear Monday whether the Biden administration would appeal Cannon’s ruling.”

Historian Heather Cox Richardson refers on her Sept. 15, 2022, post to some of the reactions against Cannon’s ruling (https://heathercoxrichardson@substack.com). She writes:

“Legal analysts appear to be appalled by the poor quality of the opinion. Former U.S. acting solicitor general Neal Katyal called it ‘so bad it’s hard to know where to begin.’ Law professor Stephen Vladeck told Charlie Savage of the New York Times that it was ‘an unprecedented intervention…into the middle of an ongoing federal criminal and national security investigation.’ Paul Rosenzweig, a prosecutor in the independent counsel investigation of Bill Clinton, told Savage it was ‘a genuinely unprecedented decision” and said stopping the criminal investigation was “simply untenable.’ Duke University law professor Samuel Buell added: ‘To any lawyer with serious federal criminal court experience…, this ruling is laughably bad…. Trump is getting something no one else ever gets in federal court, he’s getting it for no good reason, and it will not in the slightest reduce the ongoing howls that he’s being persecuted, when he is being privileged.’”

At first Trump rally since FBI search, the former president lashes out at the FBI, Biden, and other “enemies”

Katie Glueck and Michael C. Bender report on Trump’s blustering at a rally held in Wilkes-Barre Township, Pa., on Sept. 3, 2022 (https://nytimes.com/2022/09/04/us/politics/trump-rally-pennsylvania.html). They write:

“In his first rally since his home was searched by the F.B.I. on Aug. 8, former President Donald J. Trump on Saturday lashed out at President Biden and federal agents, calling his Democratic rival ‘an enemy of the state’ and the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice ‘vicious monsters.’”

“In an aggrieved and combative speech in Pennsylvania, Mr. Trump stoked anger against law enforcement even as the F.B.I. and federal officials have faced an increase in threats following the search of Mr. Trump’s residence to retrieve classified documents.”

Trump’s tirade “came two days after Mr. Biden warned that democratic values were under assault by forces loyal to Mr. Trump. The former president described Mr. Biden’s address as ‘the most vicious, hateful, and divisive speech ever delivered by an American president.’”

Brett Wilkins reports on Trump’s crazed assertions in his speech

(https://commondreams.org/news/2022/08/04/trump-calls-biden-enemy-state-fully-unhinged-speech).

“What Trump did by calling Biden an ‘enemy of the state’ to his poorly educated crowd is literally threatening the president.”

Making his first public appearance since the FBI’s August 8 raid on his Florida resort home, Trump addressed supporters at a “Save America” rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he stumped for Republican gubernatorial candidate and “Big Lie” supporter Doug Mastriano and U.S. Senate hopeful and celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz.

During his speech, Trump called Biden’s Thursday evening address to the nation [Sept. 1] the “most vicious, hateful, and divisive speech ever delivered by a president,” namely that “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”

Wilkins quotes attorney and author Seth Abramson, who called Trump’s speech “fully unhinged.” Abramson wrote on Twitter that the speech “is quite simply, a speech intended to incite domestic terrorists to kill FBI agents and members of the Biden administration.’ ‘It is shocking that there are no legal consequences for incitement anymore.’” Everything he is saying, Abramson says, “bespeaks future violence.”

Are Trump and his right-wing supporters fascists?

Tom Nichols considers this question and thinks that the U.S. under Trump and the Republicans is in a “pre-fascist interlude” ((https://theatlanatic.com/newsletters/archive/2022/08/fear-of-fascism/671289). Here is some of what he writes.

“I’ve long resisted using the word fascism to describe Donald Trump and his Republican followers, but we have to overcome our reluctance to use strong language and admit that America is now beset by a dangerous antidemocratic movement masquerading as a party.”

“President Joe Biden has been getting a lot of static for referring to the ideology of Donald Trump and his followers as ‘semi-fascism.’ It isn’t surprising that right-wing pundits, such as the Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway, are practically having to take out loans to buy extra strings of pearls to clutch. But even John Avlon at CNN and Matt Lewis at The Daily Beast are trying to warn Biden off from insulting millions of voters.” They are worried that it is unfair to some of Trump’s followers who may not accept everything Trump does or proposes.

Nichols continues: “We cannot, however, let our understandable fear of words such as fascism scare us out of talking about the reality staring us in the face. The GOP itself might not meet the full definition of a ‘fascist’ party—not yet, anyway—but it’s not a normal party, and its base is not an ordinary political movement. It is, instead, a melding of the remnants of a once-great party with an authoritarian, violent, seditionist personality cult bent on capturing and exercising power solely to benefit its own members and punish its imagined enemies among other Americans.

“Is that fascism? For most people, it’s close enough. A would-be strongman and a party of followers enveloped in racism, seized with nostalgia for an imagined glorious past, and drunk on mindless blood-and-soil nationalism all stinks of fascism.”

Nichols hesitancy about using the term is that the political conditions in the U.S. are not yet conducive for the full-blown emergence of a fascist party.

Fascism is more than a romance with a forceful right-wing leader. (And let’s remember: Trump is not a “strongman” in any way—he is one of the weakest and most cowardly men ever to serve as president.) A fascist takeover relies on a disciplined and organized mass party led by dedicated people who, once they gain the levers of government, will zero in on destroying the mechanisms—laws, courts, competing parties—that could dislodge them from power.”

Still, there exists a large and powerful right-wing movement threatening the democratic political system. Nichols puts it this way:

“But something has changed in American life. Trumpism, which has captured the base of the Republican Party, is authoritarian, antidemocratic, anti-constitutional, and anti-American. For now, Trump and the GOP activists are capable only of igniting scramble-brained jacqueries. But Trump’s most faithful followers are headed for fascism, and they will use the GOP as the vehicle to get there unless the rest of us remain true to a pro-democracy coalition.” Trump “has paved the way for them by corroding the guardrails of the American system, normalizing the kinds of rhetoric and attacks on opponents used by actual fascists, and convincing ordinary American voters that mass violence is an alternative to the ballot box.”

What would a Trump second term look like?

Jonathan Rauch considers this question

https://theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/08/trump-2024-election-victor-orban-hungary/671264 — Rauch is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth.

“Ever since the U.S. Senate failed to convict Donald Trump for his role in the January 6 insurrection and disqualify him from running for president again, a lot of people, myself included, have been warning that a second Trump term could bring about the extinction of American democracy. Essential features of the system, including the rule of law, honest vote tallies, and orderly succession, would be at risk.

“Today, however, we can do more than just speculate about how a second Trump term would unfold, because the MAGA movement has been telegraphing its plans in some detail. In a host of ways—including the overt embrace of illiberal foreign leaders; the ruthless behavior of Republican elected officials since the 2020 election; Trump’s allies’ elaborate scheming, as uncovered by the House’s January 6 committee, to prevent the peaceful transition of power; and Trump’s own actions in the waning weeks of his presidency and now as ex-president—the former president and his allies have laid out their model and their methods.”

Their playbook:

“First, install toadies in key positions. Upon regaining the White House, the president systematically and unabashedly nominates personal loyalists, with or without qualifications, to Senate-confirmed jobs. Assisted by the likes of Johnny McEntee, a White House aide during his first term, and Kash Patel, a Pentagon staffer, he appoints officials willing to purge conscientious civil servants, neutralize or fire inspectors general, and ignore or overturn inconvenient rules.

“A model for this type of appointee is Jeffrey Clark. A little-known lawyer who led the Justice Department’s environmental division, he secretly plotted with Trump and the White House after the 2020 election to replace the acting attorney general and then use the Justice Department’s powers to pressure officials in Georgia and other states to overturn Joe Biden’s victory. Only the threat of mass resignations at the Justice Department derailed the scheme.

“Trump has plenty of Jeffrey Clarks to choose from, and a Republican-controlled Senate would confirm most or all of them. But no matter if the Senate balks or if Democrats control it. Trump will simply do more, much more, of what he raised to an art in his first term: appointing “acting” officials to circumvent Senate confirmation—a practice that, the Associated Press reports, “prompted muttering, but no more than that, from Republican senators whose job description includes confirming top administration aides.”

Second,intimidate the career bureaucracy. On day one of his second term, Trump signs an executive order reinstating an innovation he calls Schedule F federal employment. This designation would effectively turn tens of thousands of civil servants who have a hand in shaping policy into at-will employees. He approved Schedule F in October of his final year in office, but he ran out of time to implement it and President Biden rescinded it.

“Career civil servants have always been supervised by political appointees, and, within the boundaries of law and regulation, so they should be. Schedule F, however, gives Trump a new way to threaten bureaucrats with retaliation and termination if they resist or question him. The result is to weaken an important institutional safeguard against Trump’s demands to do everything from harass his enemies to alter weather forecasts.

Third, co-opt the armed forces. Having identified the military as a locus of resistance in his first term, Trump sets about cashiering senior military leaders. In their place, he promotes and installs officers who will raise no objection to stunts such as sending troops to round up undocumented immigrants or intimidate protesters (or shoot them). Within a couple of years, the military will grow used to acting as a political instrument for the White House.

Fourth,bring law enforcement to heel. Even more intimidating to the president’s opponents than a complaisant military is his securing full control, at long last, over the Justice Department.

“….Trump immediately installs political operatives to lead DOJ, the FBI, and the intelligence and security agencies. Citing as precedent the Biden Justice Department’s investigations of the January 6 events, the White House orchestrates criminal investigations of dozens of Trump’s political enemies, starting with critics such as the ousted Representative Liz Cheney and whistleblowers such as the former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. With or without winning convictions, multipronged investigations and prosecutions bankrupt their targets financially and reputationally, menacing anyone who opposes the White House.”

Fifth,weaponize the pardon. In Trump’s first term, officials stood up to many of his illegal and unethical demands because they feared legal jeopardy. The president has a fix for that, too. He wasn’t joking when he mused about pardoning the January 6 rioters. In his first term, he pardoned some of his cronies and dangled pardons to discourage potential testimony against him, but that was a mere dry run.

Now, unrestrained by politics, he offers impunity to those who do his bidding. They may still face jeopardy under state law and from professional sanctions such as disbarment, but Trump’s promises to bestow pardons—and his threats to withhold them—open an unprecedented space for abuse and corruption.

Sixth, the final blow:defy court orders. Naturally, the president’s corrupt and lawless actions incite a blizzard of lawsuits. Members of Congress sue to block illegal appointments, interest groups sue to overturn corrupt rulemaking, targets of investigations sue to quash subpoenas, and so on. Trump meets these challenges with long-practiced aplomb. As he has always done, he uses every tactic in the book to contest, stonewall, tangle, and politicize litigation. He creates a perpetual-motion machine of appeals and delays while court after court rules against him.”

“Yet having been reinstated and never again to face voters, Trump now has no compunctions. The courts’ orders, he claims, are illegitimate machinations of Democrats and the “deep state.” Ordered to reinstate an illegally fired inspector general, the Justice Department nonetheless bars her from the premises. Ordered to rescind an improperly adopted regulation, the Department of Homeland Security continues to enforce it. Ordered to provide documents to Congress, the National Archives shrugs.

“At first, the president’s lawlessness seems shocking. Yet soon, as Republicans defend it, the public grows acclimated. To salvage what it can of its authority, the Supreme Court accommodates Trump more than the other way around. It becomes gun-shy about crossing him.

“And so we arrive: With the courts relegated to advisory status, the rule of law no longer obtains. In other words, America is no longer a liberal democracy, and by this point, there is not much anyone can do about it.

“Of course, there are congressional hearings, contempt-of-court orders, outraged New York Times editorials. Trump needn’t care. The MAGA base, conservative media, and plenty of Republicans in Congress defend their leader with whatever untruths, conspiracy theories, and what-abouts are needed. Fox News and other pro-Trump outlets play the role of state media, even if out of fear more than enthusiasm.

“Meanwhile, MAGA forces are busy installing loyalists as governors, election officials, district attorneys, and other crucial state and local positions. They do not succeed in every attempt, but over the course of four years, they gather enough corrupt officials to cast doubt on the legitimacy of any election they lose. They invent creative ways to obstruct anyone who challenges them politically. And they are not shy about encouraging thuggish supporters to harass and menace “traitors.”

“And so, after four years? America has crossed Freedom House’s line from ‘free’ to “partly free.” The president’s powers are determined by what he can get away with. His opponents are harried, chilled, demoralized. He is term-limited, but the MAGA movement has entrenched itself. And Trump has demonstrated in the United States what Orbán proved in Hungary: The public will accept authoritarianism, provided it is of the creeping variety.

“We should not be afraid to go against the spirit of the age and build an illiberal political and state system,” Orbán declared in 2014. Trump and his followers openly plan to emulate Orbán. We can’t say we weren’t warned.

Concluding thoughts

Despite Trump’s mishandling, most likely criminal mishandling, of government documents, Judge Cannon’s ruling to require a “special master” has the goal of stopping the DOJ/FBI investigation. The future of the investigation is thus jeopardized. The decision could be appealed, but this would take months and the government’s investigation could end up being shelved by House Republicans if they obtain a majority of seats in the 2022 midterm elections. Meanwhile, Trump and his allies at all levels of the political system will continue to spout lies about January 6 and about the FBI search and use their power to advance their extremist policies. Tens of millions of MAGA/Trump supporters will enthusiastically go along.

What will it take to protect US democracy from Trump and the right-wing fanatics and other Republicans who support the former president.

Dana Milbank identifies some of what must happened to prevent an anti-democratic Republican takeover of the federal government in his recently published book, The Destructivists: The Twenty-Five-Year Crack-Up of the Republican. He writes:

“There are any number of things we could do, as a country, to restore democratic institutions, and faith in them: restoring and protecting voter rights; cracking down on social media disinformation; reining in the corruption unleashed by Citizens United; reforming the Supreme Court; rebuilding civics education; rescuing local newspapers. But any of these remedies presupposed that both major American political parties are operating on the level. We don’t have that now. The Republican Party is not a good-faith actor in the democratic system. So there’s not much we can do but ride it out – and vote as if our way of life is at stake, for surely it is” (p. 308).

Indeed, such reforms are necessary. But it will take a broad, majoritarian, pro-democratic coalition to make these reforms and others politically feasible.

Trump and his allies attack the FBI

Bob Sheak, August 23, 2022

Introduction

The central question for this post is whether U.S. democracy can survive the onslaught by Trump and his vast right-wing allies against the constitutional rights of Americans and institutions of the country. There is no doubt that Trump is the leader of the Republican Party. There is no doubt he and his supporters could care less about democracy. The reaction to the FBI raid on Trump’s residence Mar-a-Lago is an example of the willingness of Trump’s base to believe whatever he says, however devoid of verifiable evidence, however outlandish. There is also evidence that some in Trump’s electoral base are willing to engage in violence when Trump claims he is under attack or when he promotes “the big lie.”

Part 1 – Trump at the center of the political disarray and challenge to U.S. democracy

There is little doubt that Trump retains the dominant role in the Republican Party. His power rests on the unquestioning, cult-like support he gets from tens of millions of Americans. Recall that 74 million Americans voted for his presidential bid in 2020. Republicans now running for office at all levels of government tap into this massive force by publicly supporting Trump and his right-wing policies.

#1 – Trump’s base and their interests

Trump has won the allegiance of his large electoral base by supporting unhindered gun ownership, an end to legal abortion, strong anti-immigrant policies, Christian nationalism, a culture of white supremacy, ignoring or being dismissive about global warming and promoting the unlimited use of fossil fuels, and going along with whatever his largest constituency of extremist evangelicals wants. On the latter point, Nicholas Powers reports on how “wealthy donors bankroll Christian Nationalists to sustain unregulated capitalism” (https://truthout.org/articles/wealthy-donors-bankroll-christian-nationalists-to-sustain-unnregulated-capitalism). But there is more. Many of Trump supporters are drawn to support him because he also represents, however ambiguously, opposition to the present political order. Here are some of what stands out from these dark corners of the political system.

#2 – A vision of anti-democratic transformation

From the perspective of Trump and his allies, the values of liberal or progressive democracy are viewed as inimical to the kind of political system they want. They want to limit the vote of black and brown people. (See Kathleen Belew and Ramon A. Gutierrez’s book, A Field Guide to White Supremacy, or Carol Anderson’s One Person, No Vote.) They want to eliminate or censure information in the schools and media that contradicts their anti-democratic views. They attack the right of privacy and other “rights.” They view existing political institutions as posing barriers to their view of “freedom.”

And, for some, if the society’s laws cannot be changed to suit the extremists, then sometimes violence or threatened violence is necessary. See Malcolm Nance’s new book, They Want to Kill Americans: The Militias, Terrorists, and Deranged Ideology of the Trump Insurgency.

Additionally, Trump’s base seems to care little about how Trump lies or his malicious narcissism (Bandy Lee, ed., The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump) or the financial benefits he and his family have accrued during his presidential years (David Cay Johnston, The Big Cheat: How Donald Trump Fleeced America and Enriched Himself and His Family).

#3 – An increasingly violent society

Tom Nichols, an American writer, academic specialist on international affairs, and retired professor at the U.S. Naval War College, considers that a “new era of political violence is here” (https://theatlantic.com/newsletter/archive/2022/08/the-new-ear-of-political-violence-is-here/671146). Nichols does not think that the country is about to enter a civil war like the one fought in the 1860s. Nonetheless, it is serious. Trump and his followers appear to be unrelenting and uncompromising in their beliefs and determination to radically change the system.

“The United States now faces a different kind of violence, from people who believe in nothing—or at least, in nothing real. We do not risk the creation of organized armies and militias in Virginia or Louisiana or Alabama marching on federal institutions. Instead, all of us face random threats and unpredictable dangers from people among us who spend too much time watching television and plunging down internet rabbit holes. These people, acting individually or in small groups, will be led not by rebel generals but by narcissistic wannabe heroes, and they will be egged on by cowards and instigators who will inflame them from the safety of a television or radio studio—or from behind the shield of elected office.

“Occasionally, they will congeal into a mob, as they did on January 6, 2021.”

Nichols delves into what draws them to Trump. “There is no single principle that unites these Americans in their violence against their fellow citizens. They will tell you that they are for ‘liberty’ and “freedom,’ but these are merely code words for personal grudges, racial and class resentments, and a generalized paranoia that dark forces are manipulating their lives. These are not people who are going to take up the flag of a state or of a deeper cause; they have already taken up the flag of a failed president, and their causes are a farrago of conspiracy theories and pulpy science-fiction plots.”

“What makes this situation worse,” Nichols writes, “is that there is no remedy for it. When people are driven by fantasies, by resentment, by an internalized sense of inferiority, there is no redemption in anything. Winning elections, burning effigies, even shooting at other citizens does not soothe their anger but instead deepens the spiritual and moral void that haunts them.

Donald Trump is central to “this fraying of public sanity.” He is lauded “because he has done one thing for such people that no one else could do: He has made their lives interesting. He has made them feel important. He has taken their itching frustrations about the unfairness of life and created a morality play around them, and cast himself as the central character. Trump, to his supporters, is the avenging angel who is going to lay waste to the ‘elites,’ the smarty-pantses and do-gooders, the godless and the smug, the satisfied and the comfortable.”

The danger to U.S. democracy intensifies.

Nichols continues: “When enough Americans decide that a cult of personality matters more than a commitment to democracy, we risk becoming a lawless autocracy. This is why we must continue to demand that Trump and his enablers face the consequences of their actions: To cave in the face of threats means the end of democracy. And it would not, in any event, mollify those among our fellow citizens who have chosen to discard the Constitution so that they can keep mainlining jolts of drama from morning ’til night.

“We are going to be living in this era of political violence for the foreseeable future. All any of us can do is continue, among our friends and family and neighbors, to say and defend what is right in the face of lies and delusions.”

Trump continuously looks for opportunities to incite the anger of his electoral base and to consolidate their ongoing support. Verifiable facts are dismissed or ignored.

#4 – Trump’s record of disinformation

Fred Wertheimer, the founder and president of Democracy 21, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to promote government accountability and integrity, reviews Trump’s record of lying, arguing that he “has no allegiance to the truth or rule of law” (https://commondrams.org/views/2022/08/19/trump-has-no-allegiance-truth-or-rule-law-mar-lago-edition). Here’s some of what he writes.

“Trump constantly attacks the integrity of our government institutions, our constitutional system, and the rule of law in order to support his autocratic and demagogic ways.

“During Trump’s presidency, he made 30,573 false or misleading claims—a stunning average of 21 per day—according to The Washington Post.

“Trump is a bald-faced liar. His nonstop lying that the 2020 election was stolen from him is a classic version of the Big Lie made infamous by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

“Trump also practices the art of ‘lie shifting,’ strategically bouncing from one lie to the next to minimize the ability of the truth to catch up with him.

“Trump’s latest example of “lie shifting” began when the FBI exercised a court-approved search warrant at Mar-a-Lago last week to recover classified government documents.”

—————

Part 2 – Reactions to the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, Trumps palatial property in Palm Beach, Florida

On August 8, the FBI, with the approval of Attorney General Merrick Garland, carried out the search as part of an investigation into whether Trump mishandled classified documents when he was president.

The FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago generated a blizzard of diverse responses. Generally, the majority of Democrats support the action, Republicans criticize it, and Independents lean more toward opposition than support (see, for example: https://today.yougov.com/topics/politics/articles-reports/2022/08/17/trump-fbi-and-mar-lago-raid-economist-yougov-poll).  

#1 – Republicans rally in support of Trump

Republican strategist John Thomas told Newsweek’s Xander Landen,

“The FBI‘s raid of former President Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago property turned him into a ‘victim’ and boosted his support among GOP voters.” From Trump’s perspective, the raid is a “watershed” event for Trump that led “people who liked him but might have softened on him to now run to his support or run to his defense” (https://newsweek.com/mar-a-lago-made-trump-victim-boosts-support-gop-strategist-1735432).

Landen refers to three polls to substantiate the right-wing reaction.

“A poll conducted by Morning Consult and Politico two days after the FBI’s raid showed Trump with his highest level of Republican support since he lost the 2020 election, with 58 percent of GOP voters saying they would back the former president if he ran for reelection in 2024. Nearly 70 percent of the Republicans polled said they believed the search was primarily conducted to damage Trump’s political career.

“Another poll published by The Economist/YouGov on Thursday found 57 percent of Republicans with a favorable view of the former president—up from 45 percent from the same poll taken the week before.

“Another recent poll by conservative-leaning polling firm Rasmussen Reports shows that the Mar-a-Lago raid may also be chipping away at independents’ trust in the FBI. It found 46 percent of voters who don’t identify with the two major political parties trust the agency less after the event.”

#2 – Funds pour into Trump’s coffers

Washington Post journalists Josh Dawsey and Isaac Arnsdorf report on how in the wake of the FBI raid the president’s fundraising rose to over $1 million a day, after sagging earlier this year in 2022

(https://washingtonpost.com/politico/2022/08/17/trump-fundraising-fib-raid). Trump sent out “more than 100 emails asking for money based on the FBI’s search of the Mar-a-Lago Club for classified materials last week. They paid off.”

“The fire hose of [false or misleading] Trump fundraising emails referencing the Mar-a-Lago search exceeded the PAC’s average pace of about nine per day. The messages used alarming phrases in bold and all-caps such as ‘THEY BROKE INTO MY HOME,’ ‘They’re coming after YOU,’ and ‘THIS IS INSANE.’ One message included a poll asking, ‘Do you agree that President Trump is being politically persecuted?’ Another promised ‘an exclusive 1300% MATCH today only!,’ a common tactic used to encourage people to respond immediately.”

Dawsey and  Arnsdorf continue.

“Contributions to Trump’s political action committee topped $1 million on at least two days after the Aug. 8 search of his Palm Beach, Fla., estate, according to two people familiar with the figures. The daily hauls jumped from a level of $200,000 to $300,000 that had been typical in recent months, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss nonpublic information.”

“The influx comes at a crucial time for Trump as he considers an early announcement for a 2024 presidential campaign and has seen dwindling returns on his online fundraising solicitations earlier this year. The former president’s PAC brought in $36 million in the first half of the year, dropping below $50 million in a six-month period for the first time since he left office, according to Federal Election Commission data.”

A record of self-serving deception

“The House Jan. 6 committee has been investigating fundraising emails from Trump and Republican groups that promoted false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. At a June hearing, a committee investigator said the Trump campaign sent as many as 25 emails a day asking for donations to an ‘Official Election Defense Fund’ that did not actually exist. But the solicitations raised hundreds of millions.

“Since leaving office, Trump has raised more than $100 million for his PAC — often with misleading pitches — but has kept most of the money, only spending big on a handful of races and paying for some staff, legal fees and travel, according to a review of disclosure filings. He has told advisers he wants to keep the money and that it shows political strength.”

#3 – Why did Trump resist returning government documents?

Maggie Haberman considers Trump’s motives and his false explanations about the FBI raid on the Mar-a-Lago residence (https://nytimes.com/2022/08/18/us/politics/trump-fbi-classified-documents.html).

Classified government documents treated as his personal property

“For four years, former President Donald J. Trump treated the federal government and the political apparatus operating in his name as an extension of his private real estate company.

“It all belonged to him, he felt, melded together into a Trump brand that he had been nurturing for decades.

“‘My generals,’ he repeatedly said of the active-duty and retired military leaders who filled his government. ‘My money,’ he often called the cash he raised through his campaign or for the Republican National Committee. ‘My Kevin,’ he said of Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader.

Trump also believed that the documents in question were his possessions.

“‘They’re mine,’ three of Mr. Trump’s advisers said that he stated repeatedly when he was urged to return boxes of documents, some of them highly classified, that the National Archives sought after Mr. Trump took them with him to Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Fla., in January 2021. A nearly 18-month back-and-forth between the government and Mr. Trump ended in an extraordinary F.B.I. search for the documents at Mar-a-Lago last week.”

Haberman quotes lawyer Mark S. Zaid.

“‘From my own experiences with him, which is bolstered by those around him who are speaking in his defense, his actions seem to fit the pattern that as ‘king,’ he and the state are one and the same,’ said Mark S. Zaid, a lawyer who frequently handles cases related to national security and security clearances, including during the Trump presidency. ‘He seems to honestly believe that everything he touches belongs to him, and that includes government documents that might be classified.’”

Trump has been careless in handling documents.

“Although Trump White House officials were warned about the proper handling of sensitive material, aides said Mr. Trump had little interest in the security of government documents or protocols to keep them protected.

“Early on, Mr. Trump became known among his staff as a hoarder who threw all manner of paper — sensitive material, news clips and various other items — into cardboard boxes that a valet or other personal aide would cart around with him wherever he went.

“Mr. Trump repeatedly had material sent up to the White House residence, and it was not always clear what happened to it. He sometimes asked to keep material after his intelligence briefings, but aides said he was so uninterested in the paperwork during the briefings themselves that they never understood what he wanted it for.

“He also had a habit of ripping up paper, from routine documents to classified material, and leaving the pieces strewn around the floor or in a trash can. Officials would have to rummage through the shreds and tape them back together to recreate the documents in order to store them as required under the Presidential Records Act.

“On some occasions, Mr. Trump would rip up documents — some with his handwriting on them — and throw the pieces in a toilet, which occasionally clogged the pipes in the White House. He did the same thing on at least two foreign trips, former officials said.

#4 – Violent right-wing reactions are provoked

Hanna Allam reports on the “simmering violence” emanating from Trump’s reactions to the FBI search of his property (https://washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/09/trump-violence-threats-fbi-search)

She points out that right-wing agitators with millions of followers have for months

“peddled the idea that a moment was coming soon when violence would become necessary — a patriotic duty — to save the republic.” Then, within hours of the search at Mar-a-Lago, “a chorus of Republican lawmakers, conservative talk-show hosts, anti-government provocateurs and pro-Trump conspiracy theorists began issuing explicit or thinly veiled calls for violence.” For example, she refers to Steven Crowder, a right-wing podcaster with nearly 2 million followers on Twitter, who described the raid as something akin to “war.”

Research by Caroline Orr Bueno, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Maryland has “compiled a collage of dozens of screenshots of tweets calling for violence in response to the search, or ‘raid’ in the parlance of Trump supporters. ‘I already bought my ammo,’ one person boasted in the sampling. ‘Civil war! Pick up arms, people!’ ordered another.”

Allam also refers to threats to the Judge who approved the search warrant, writing:

“An immediate concern is the safety of the federal judge in Florida who approved the search warrant. Once his name made its way to right-wing forums, threats and conspiracy theories soon followed. Online pro-Trump groups spread his contact information and, as of Tuesday afternoon, the judge’s official page was no longer accessible on the court’s website.”

“Since the search Monday, Telegram channels popular with right-wing militants have been awash with vows to ‘lock and load’ for civil war against what they deem a tyrannical federal government subverting the Constitution and ‘persecuting’ a patriotic leader. NBC News identified one user who referenced civil war on The Donald, a Reddit-like forum for Trump supporters, as Tyler Welsh Slaeker, who is awaiting sentencing for his role in storming the Capitol.

“In mainstream GOP quarters, extremism trackers say, the nudges toward violence are more subtle, with statements delegitimizing the government as a ‘police state’ or a ‘banana republic’ that must be opposed, starting with the dismantling of federal agencies. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) called the search ‘the weaponization of federal agencies against the Regime’s political opponents.’

Consider other points Allam makes about the violent rhetoric stemming from the Right.

Tolerance for violence

“A recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that about 1 in 3 Americans say they believe violence against the government can at times be justified, the largest share to feel that way in more than two decades. Other studies similarly have found a growing tolerance of violent ideologies that historically were confined to fringe elements.

Don’t trust government

“Extremism analysts said that’s what they fear is happening now, with a burst of inflammatory rhetoric this week telling millions of Republicans that they should abandon trust in the FBI, the electoral system, schools — virtually all functions of government.”

Seize power by force

“Holley Hansen, an assistant professor at Oklahoma State University who researches political violence and conflict mediation, cited a description of democracy as ‘governance through conflict,’ a system that encourages vigorous debate but with mechanisms to resolve disagreements peacefully. The problem, Hansen said, is that the 2020 election denial was a catalyst in the militant movement’s long game to undermine democratic institutions and seize power by force.

“‘If you can’t trust the institutions that are designed to peacefully resolve disputes and you begin to see the other side as an enemy,’ Hansen said, ‘the desire to act — and the need to act — really becomes more easily justified.’”

#5 – Attacks on FBI

Aishvarya Kavi reports on how Democratic lawmakers are demanding social media firms stop allowing posts on their platforms that encourage such violence (https://nytimes.com/2022/08/19/us/politics/social-media-threats-fbi-trump.html).

“The leaders of two House panels sent letters on Friday to eight social media companies demanding that they take ‘immediate action’ to address threats on their platforms toward federal law enforcement officials after a surge in right-wing calls for violence following the F.B.I.’s search of former President Donald J. Trump’s home in Florida.

In the letters, Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, and Stephen F. Lynch, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of its National Security Subcommittee, also expressed concern about ‘reckless statements’ from Mr. Trump and some Republican members of Congress. The statements have ‘coincided with a spike in social media users calling for civil war and violence toward law enforcement,’ they said.”

“The letters were sent to mainstream platforms like Twitter, TikTok and Facebook’s parent company, Meta, as well as right-wing social media sites like Gab, Gettr and Rumble. A letter also went to Truth Social, Mr. Trump’s social media site, which erupted with calls for violence last week, after F.B.I. agents carted away boxes of highly sensitive documents from Mar-a-Lago, the former president’s estate in Palm Beach, Fla. Mr. Trump had apparently taken the materials from the White House and refused to return them.

Kavi continues.

“The lawmakers’ letters specifically cited comments from Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, accusing the Justice Department of being ‘weaponized’ against Mr. Trump, and inflammatory tweets from Republican lawmakers. Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, and Representative Lauren Boebert, Republican of Colorado, separately drew comparisons between the F.B.I. and the Nazi secret police. A state lawmaker in Florida wrote that F.B.I. agents operating there “should be arrested upon sight.”

“The House lawmakers asked companies to provide information on the number of threats they had identified against federal law enforcement, how many they had removed and reported to the authorities, and whether they were directly related to the Mar-a-Lago search. The letters also asked for information on the companies’ approaches to removing threats from their platforms.

“In the 24 hours after the Mar-a-Lago search, Twitter saw a tenfold increase in posts mentioning “civil war,” according to Dataminr, a tool that analyzes Twitter data. On Telegram, a messaging platform that the lawmakers also contacted, the Proud Boys, a far-right group, posted in the hours after the search that “civil war is imminent.”

“Truth Social users also posted messages urging others to take up arms and ‘fight back.’ An account matching the name of Ricky W. Shiffer, the Ohio man who tried to breach the F.B.I.’s field office in Cincinnati last week and was killed by law enforcement after exchanging gunfire in an hours long standoff, posted messages proposing war and urging others to kill federal agents. The House lawmakers cited the episode as an instance of how online vitriol had resulted in real-world violence, and they noted other clear threats to kill F.B.I. agents on sites like Gab.

“‘Violent rhetoric and personal threats and attacks toward law enforcement officers have deadly consequences,’ the lawmakers wrote.”

—————-

Part 3 -Trump’s criticisms of the FBI raid don’t hold up

Bill Blum, a Los Angeles lawyer and a former state of California administrative law judge, delves into what the FBI seized and the dubious justifications Trump and his advisers have offered for keeping the documents (https://progressive.org/latest/mar-a-lago-raid-trump-capone-blum-081522). Blum’s article was published on August 15, 2022.

What did the FBI seize?

“The return to the warrant indicates the FBI seized twenty-eight items of evidence, including twenty-one boxes containing unspecified materials, four sets of ‘top secret’ documents and one set of ‘classified TS/SCI [top-secret segmented compartmented information] documents,’ a reference to information concerning intelligence sources and methods that requires special handling and could involve nuclear science and design files. In addition, the FBI hauled away various photo binders, information about the president of France, and Trump’s signed grant of clemency to Roger Stone.” 

Maggie Haberman and her colleagues at the New York Times report that Trump had 300 classified documents at Mar-a-Lago (https://nytimes.com/2022/08/22/us/politics/trump-mar-a-lago-documents.html). They write:

“In total, the government has recovered more than 300 documents with classified markings from Mr. Trump since he left office, the people said: that first batch of documents returned in January, another set provided by Mr. Trump’s aides to the Justice Department in June and the material seized by the F.B.I. in the search this month.”

Trump and his sycophants have floated various “defenses” against a possible future prosecution. Blum reviews the claims.

#1 – “In a post on his Truth Social media platform two days after the search, the former President suggested federal agents may have secretly ‘planted’ evidence against him. The claim has been echoed by at least one of Trump’s attorneys and by rightwing media personalities such as Jesse Waters of Fox News.” 

“No evidence, however, has been made public to support the claim, and subsequent reporting has disclosed that Trump and family members, who were in Trump Tower in New York City at the time of the search, watched the entire operation via a closed-circuit security feed broadcast from Mar-a-Lago.”

#2 – “Trump and his minions have also protested that any documents the FBI found had been declassified before they were removed to Mar-a-Lago while Trump was still in office. Thus, they contend, no crimes were committed. 

“Although Presidents do have broad authority to declassify information, this defense won’t save Trump, either. Detailed procedures must be followed to implement a declassification directive, the directive must be in writing, and even a President lacks authority to unilaterally declassify nuclear secrets. 

“Equally problematic for Trump is that the three statutes he is alleged to have violated do not explicitly require that the records in question be classified. All that needs to be shown is that the records belong to the government, not Trump, and in the case of the Espionage Act, that the records pertain to national defense.” 

#3 – “Apparently realizing that he’s been trapped by a predicament of his own making, Trump has argued that former-President Obama left the White House with ‘33 million pages of documents, much of them classified,’ including items related to U.S. nuclear programs, and that Obama faced no adverse consequences.

However, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) quickly issued a sharp rebuke of the Obama comparison. Obama, according to the agency, turned everything over.” 

#4 – “As the Justice Department’s probe proceeds, Trump also can be expected to reprise his condemnation of Hillary Clinton, who narrowly avoided prosecution for her use of a private email server that contained classified documents while she was Secretary of State. This defense, too, will prove ineffective.

“Clinton was investigated by the FBI. But, as former Director James

Comey famously explained in a July 2016 press release, while Clinton was ‘extremely careless’ in her email use, it could not be shown that she acted with criminal intent to willfully mishandle classified information or obstruct justice.

National Archives first alerted Trump in Jan 2021

“The same cannot be said of Trump. The National Archives first alerted Trump in January 2021 of his obligation to return all official records from his time in office. Trump turned over fifteen boxes of records a year later, but withheld other records. NARA referred the matter to the Justice Department last February, and the Justice Department has been trying ever since to obtain compliance. 

Lying and delaying

“Far from cooperating with the department, Trump hedged, delayed, and prevaricated. According to The New York Times, a Trump attorney signed a written statement in June, asserting that all classified material held at Mar-a-Lago had been returned. That assertion was untrue.

Some Trump supporters now demand to see the affidavit – not a bad idea

“In a sign of growing desperation, some of the former President’s staunchest allies, including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are demanding to see the affidavit filed in support of the search warrant, upon which Judge Reinhart based his finding of probable cause. 

“Affidavits are the heart of any application for a search warrant. In compliance with the Fourth Amendment, they are used to detail the facts and circumstances requiring the issuance of a warrant, and to specify the places to be searched and the items to be seized. They are typically sworn to by federal agents and are rarely released while an investigation is in progress in order to protect the identity of federal agents and any informants who have cooperated with the government. 

“Still, if there was ever a case that merited the early release of a redacted version of an affidavit, the first-ever search and seizure involving a former President of the United States is such a case. And make no mistake: Releasing the affidavit is the last thing Trump and his supporters really should want. They would be well advised to devote all their energy and limited legal talent to suppressing the affidavit along with the evidence seized. If and when it sees the light of day, the affidavit will help to bury Trump.”

John Wagner reports that Trump and his lawyers seem now to agree that releasing the affidavit is not a good idea (https://washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/22/fbi-search-trump-affidavit).

“The affidavit would provide the most comprehensive rationale for why the government pushed to search Trump’s property — and what investigative steps it took beforehand. It would show whom the Justice officials had interviewed, what they believed was potentially on the premises and why they assessed there was probable cause that crimes had been committed.

“Writing on his Truth Social platform, Trump called last week for “’the immediate release of the completely Unredacted Affidavit.’ However, his lawyers have yet to follow through in court.

“The judge noted Monday that in the two weeks since the FBI seized classified documents, Trump has not filed a legal motion about whether the affidavit should be made public.

“‘Neither Former President Trump nor anyone else purporting to be the owner of the Premises has filed a pleading taking a position on the Intervenors’ Motions to Unseal,’ the judge wrote.”

Another Trump defense – material is protected by executive privilege

“On August 14, Trump offered yet another defense, demanding that the FBI return the seized material as some of the boxes taken allegedly contained confidential attorney-client communications, and items protected by executive privilege. The former President apparently doesn’t realize that by raising this objection, he has completely undercut his earlier claim that the documents were planted. 

We may want to see Trump prosecuted for his role in the January 6 insurrection, but holding him accountable for serious records and reporting violations may be the easiest and quickest road to a felony conviction. 

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Part 4 – Potential government charges

Interviewed Aug. 15, 2022 on Democracy Now, Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University School of Law, thinks that Trump faces Espionage and other federal charges (https://democracynow.org/2022/8/15/donald_trump_fbi_investigation_espionage_act). Here’s what she said.

“Well, I think it’s very significant, I think, symbolically, as well as legally. Now, the Espionage Act actually raises the specter of crimes against the country’s national defense. This part of the Espionage Act that’s referred to in the warrant is not the part that’s about spying, but about the handling of national defense information — in their words, gathering, transmitting or losing defense information. It’s illegal to remove documents related to national security from their proper place, which, as we know, is the National Archives, if they could pose a threat to national security. So that’s the big charge that gets all the headlines that was leveled against president.

“But then, there are also two other issues here, and they carry higher charges, and they’re very important. One is the criminal handling of government records, the destruction, alteration or falsification of government records or documents in investigations. And it’s a prison sentence that could be up to 20 years. This is the obstruction of justice charge that is referred to. And finally, there’s the potential charge of making illegal the destruction of, theft of any government document. And we’ve seen in the recent past use of this, for example, with Petraeus and sort of allegations of this with others, but Petraeus is the name that comes to mind by this. And this is punishable by three years.

“So, these are incredibly serious charges, not just in the espionage front, but in other possible charges. Now, he hasn’t been charged. This is what’s just said in the warrant could be what they are looking for. It justifies the search legally…. So, again, he hasn’t been charged, but this is what they’re looking for in the documents that they took away. And remember that some of the documents they took away were reported to be classified. So, we’ll see what happens.”

Concluding thoughts

Trump and his allies have no interest in preserving democracy. They want power by whatever means. There are fascist implications of what they are doing. Their rage and duplicity over the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago is just one recent example. If they get their way, the U.S. will end up with a fascist state that ignores constitutional restraints and that uses social and other media to attack opponents and to generate detailed information on what people think and do.

Bear in mind that after the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration introduced a program called Total Information Awareness. Matthew C. MacWilliams describes it in his book, On Fascism: 12 Lessons From American History.

“In the days immediately following 9/11, President George W. Bush issued a flurry of public proclamations and executive orders. With stroke of a pen, Bush declared a national emergency, ordered the ready reserves of the armed forces to active duty, and established the Office of Homeland Security. Three public pronouncements were accompanied by secret presidential orders that still remain under wraps today. One of these orders, uncovered by the New York Times four years later, authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to warrantlessly intercept telephone calls and emails made with the United States – a direct violation of both the Fourth Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. With a green light from the president to ignore Fourth Amendment protections against warrentless search and seizure, the NSA began a programs of surreptitious snooping into private conversations and communications of Americans far and wide.”

Trump and his allies seem to want a society that will be one that consolidate the privileges of some, while systematically denying it to the majority of Americans. It will be a society in which fear of those in authority and of violent, gun-toting militia is pervasive. It will be similar to other oligarchic regimes around the globe (see Moises Naim’s book, The Revenge of Power: How Autocrats are Reinventing Politics for the 21st Century, or John Feffer’s Right Across the World: The Global Networking of the Far-Right and the Left Response).

It doesn’t have to be. Politically, a majority of Democratic voters could vote for liberal and progressive candidates in the 2022 mid-term elections. Left-of-center social movements could have a positive influence in educating Americans and encouraging their political involvement – at least to vote. And the achievements of the Biden administration may sway some citizens. Fear of what Trump and his allies envision and work for may motivate opposition to Trump and his allies. Such influences, moreover, may be enough to draw independent voters to support Democratic candidates. Presently, the other side is well-organized, well-funded, covered by right-wing media, well-armed, and, with the additional support of a right-leaning Supreme Court, seems willing to ignore the constitution and employ violence to get their way. The question: Will democracy in America prove to be strong enough to weather the autocratic, fascist storm.