Bob Sheak, Oct 9, 2022
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
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.”
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 power. Other 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
“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.
“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).
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 a 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.”
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.)