We Can’t Afford To Be Discouraged

Every so often I step back from the day’s transitory events and consider that a president of the United States recently tried to overturn the results of an election so he could stay in office. With the help of various public officials and propagandists, he has been able to convince millions of Americans that changing the results of the election, i.e. insurrection, was justified. A year later, few Republican politicians refuse to admit he lost.

Furthermore, all around the country, the former president’s supporters are trying to make it harder to vote and easier to change the results of future elections, including an election in which he may again be a candidate.

Support for the Republican Party should have collapsed by now. It hasn’t.

Meanwhile, in Washington, two senators who claim to be Democrats are delaying the implementation of President Biden’s agenda, even though it’s the agenda Biden ran on in 2020. In fact, these two senators refuse to modify the current version of a Senate rule in order to protect the voting rights under assault by members of the other party.

Some voters who ordinarily support Democrats, or might be inclined to do so given the present state of the Republican Party, are discouraged. It’s feared that these voters might not turn out in sufficient numbers in upcoming elections.

The irony is that the situation in Congress and Republican-led statehouses should lead more people to vote and support Democratic candidates. Insuring that the House of Representatives remains in Democratic hands after the 2022 election is crucial. Insuring that there are at least 50 Democrats in the Senate willing to support the president’s agenda and protect voting rights is also crucial. Insuring that more Democrats win local elections is crucial too.

It isn’t fearmongering to point out that America’s political system is on very shaky ground. Majority rule is under attack by right-wing authoritarians. Time is running out to seriously address the climate crisis. This is no time to be discouraged and stop fighting for a better America and a better world.

A Uniquely Dangerous Moment

Robert Kagan of The Washington Post explains why the threat we face is unique in American history. His article is almost 6,000 words. I don’t agree with everything he says, but the threat is real. Here’s 75% of what he wrote:

“Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation.” — James Madison

The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves. The warning signs may be obscured by the distractions of politics, the pandemic, the economy and global crises, and by wishful thinking and denial. But about these things there should be no doubt:

First, D____ T____ will be the Republican candidate for president in 2024. The hope and expectation that he would fade in visibility and influence have been delusional. He enjoys mammoth leads in the polls; he is building a massive campaign war chest . . . Barring health problems, he is running.

Second, T____ and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever means necessary. T____’s charges of fraud in the 2020 election are now primarily aimed at establishing the predicate to challenge future election results that do not go his way. Some Republican candidates have already begun preparing to declare fraud in 2022, just as Larry Elder tried meekly to do in the California recall contest.

Meanwhile, the amateurish “stop the steal” efforts of 2020 have given way to an organized nationwide campaign to ensure that T____ and his supporters will have the control over state and local election officials that they lacked in 2020. Those recalcitrant Republican state officials who effectively saved the country from calamity by refusing to falsely declare fraud or to “find” more votes for T____ are being systematically removed or hounded from office. Republican legislatures are giving themselves greater control over the election certification process.

As of this spring, Republicans have proposed or passed measures in at least 16 states that would shift certain election authorities from the purview of the governor, secretary of state or other executive-branch officers to the legislature. An Arizona bill flatly states that the legislature may “revoke the secretary of state’s issuance or certification of a presidential elector’s certificate of election” by a simple majority vote. Some state legislatures seek to impose criminal penalties on local election officials alleged to have committed “technical infractions,” including obstructing the view of poll watchers.

The stage is thus being set for chaos. . . . Today’s arguments over the filibuster will seem quaint in three years if the American political system enters a crisis for which the Constitution offers no remedy.

Most Americans — and all but a handful of politicians — have refused to take this possibility seriously enough to try to prevent it. As has so often been the case in other countries where fascist leaders arise, their would-be opponents are paralyzed in confusion and amazement at this charismatic authoritarian.

They have followed the standard model of appeasement, which always begins with underestimation. The political and intellectual establishments in both parties have been underestimating T____ since he emerged on the scene in 2015. They underestimated the extent of his popularity and the strength of his hold on his followers; they underestimated his ability to take control of the Republican Party; and then they underestimated how far he was willing to go to retain power.

The fact that he failed to overturn the 2020 election has reassured many that the American system remains secure, though it easily could have gone the other way — if Biden had not been safely ahead in all four states where the vote was close; if T____ had been more competent and more in control of the decision-makers in his administration, Congress and the states. As it was, T____ came close to bringing off a coup earlier this year. All that prevented it was a handful of state officials with notable courage and integrity, and the reluctance of two attorneys general and a vice president to obey orders they deemed inappropriate.

These were not the checks and balances the Framers had in mind when they designed the Constitution, of course, but T____ has exposed the inadequacy of those protections. The Founders did not foresee the T____ phenomenon, in part because they did not foresee national parties. They anticipated the threat of a demagogue, but not of a national cult of personality. They assumed that the new republic’s vast expanse and the historic divisions among the 13 fiercely independent states would pose insuperable barriers to national movements based on party or personality. “Petty” demagogues might sway their own states, where they were known and had influence, but not the whole nation with its diverse populations and divergent interests.

Such checks and balances as the Framers put in place, therefore, depended on the separation of the three branches of government, each of which, they believed, would zealously guard its own power and prerogatives. The Framers did not establish safeguards against the possibility that national-party solidarity would transcend state boundaries because they did not imagine such a thing was possible. Nor did they foresee that members of Congress, and perhaps members of the judicial branch, too, would refuse to check the power of a president from their own party.

In recent decades, however, party loyalty has superseded branch loyalty, and never more so than in the T____ era. As the two T____ impeachments showed, if Republican members of Congress are willing to defend or ignore the president’s actions simply because he is their party leader, then conviction and removal become all but impossible. In such circumstances, the Framers left no other check against usurpation by the executive — except (small-r) republican virtue.

Critics and supporters alike have consistently failed to recognize what a unique figure T____ is in American history. Because his followers share fundamentally conservative views, many see T____ as merely the continuation, and perhaps the logical culmination, of the Reagan Revolution. This is a mistake . . . In fact, the passions that animate the T____ movement are as old as the republic and have found a home in both parties at one time or another.

Suspicion of and hostility toward the federal government; racial hatred and fear; a concern that modern, secular society undermines religion and traditional morality; economic anxiety in an age of rapid technological change; class tensions . . . ; distrust of the broader world, especially Europe. . . — such views and attitudes have been part of the fabric of U.S. politics since the anti-Federalists, the Whiskey Rebellion and Thomas Jefferson. The Democratic Party was the home of white supremacists until they jumped to George Wallace in 1968 and later to the Republicans. Liberals and Democrats in particular need to distinguish between their ongoing battle with Republican policies and the challenge posed by T____ and his followers. One can be fought through the processes of the constitutional system; the other is an assault on the Constitution itself.

What makes the T____ movement historically unique is not its passions and paranoias. It is the fact that for millions of Americans, T____ himself is the response to their fears and resentments. This is a stronger bond between leader and followers than anything seen before in U.S. political movements. Although the Founders feared the rise of a king or a Caesar, for two centuries Americans proved relatively immune to unwavering hero-worship of politicians. Their men on horseback — Theodore Roosevelt, Grant, even Washington — were not regarded as infallible. This was true of great populist leaders as well. William Jennings Bryan a century ago was venerated because he advanced certain ideas and policies, but he did not enjoy unquestioning loyalty from his followers. Reagan was criticized by conservatives for selling out conservative principles, for deficit spending, for his equivocal stance on abortion, for being “soft” on the Soviet Union.

T____ is different, which is one reason the political system has struggled to understand, much less contain, him. The American liberal worldview tends to search for material and economic explanations for everything, and no doubt a good number of T____ supporters have grounds to complain about their lot in life. But their bond with T____ has little to do with economics or other material concerns.

They believe the U.S. government and society have been captured by socialists, minority groups and sexual deviants. They see the Republican Party establishment as corrupt and weak — “losers,” to use T____’s word, unable to challenge the reigning liberal hegemony. They view T____ as strong and defiant, willing to take on the establishment, Democrats, Republicans In Name Only, liberal media, antifa, the Squad, Big Tech and the “Mitch McConnell Republicans.”

His charismatic leadership has given millions of Americans a feeling of purpose and empowerment, a new sense of identity. While T____’s critics see him as too narcissistic to be any kind of leader, his supporters admire his unapologetic, militant selfishness. Unlike establishment Republicans, T____ speaks without embarrassment on behalf of an aggrieved segment of Americans . . .  who feel they have been taking it on the chin for too long. And that is all he needs to do.

There was a time when political analysts wondered what would happen when T____ failed to “deliver” for his constituents. But the most important thing T____ delivers is himself. His egomania is part of his appeal. In his professed victimization by the media and the “elites,” his followers see their own victimization. That is why attacks on T____ by the elites only strengthen his bond with his followers. That is why millions of T____ supporters have even been willing to risk death [to COVID-19] as part of their show of solidarity: When T____’s enemies cited his mishandling of the pandemic to discredit him, their answer was to reject the pandemic. One T____ supporter didn’t go to the hospital after developing covid-19 symptoms because he didn’t want to contribute to the liberal case against T____. “I’m not going to add to the numbers,” he told a reporter.

Because the T____ movement is less about policies than about T____ himself, it has undermined the normal role of American political parties, which is to absorb new political and ideological movements into the mainstream. Bryan never became president, but some of his populist policies were adopted by both political parties. Sen. Bernie Sanders’s supporters might not have wanted Biden for president, but having lost the nomination battle they could work on getting Biden to pursue their agenda. Liberal democracy requires acceptance of adverse electoral results, a willingness to countenance the temporary rule of those with whom we disagree. As historian Richard Hofstadter observed, it requires that people “endure error in the interest of social peace.” Part of that willingness stems from the belief that the democratic system makes it possible to work, even in opposition, to correct the ruling party’s errors and overreach. Movements based on ideas and policies can also quickly shift their allegiances. Today, the progressives’ flag-bearer might be Sanders, but tomorrow it could be Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or someone else.

For a movement built around a cult of personality, these adjustments are not possible. For T____ supporters, the “error” is that T____ was cheated out of reelection by what he has told them is an oppressive, communist, Democrat regime. While the defeat of a sitting president normally leads to a struggle to claim the party’s mantle, so far no Republican has been able to challenge T____’s grip on Republican voters . . .  It is still all about T____. . . .

The T____ movement might not have begun as an insurrection, but it became one after its leader claimed he had been cheated out of reelection. For T____ supporters, the events of Jan. 6 were not an embarrassing debacle but a patriotic effort to save the nation, by violent action if necessary. As one 56-year-old Michigan woman explained: “We weren’t there to steal things. We weren’t there to do damage. We were just there to overthrow the government.”

The banal normalcy of the great majority of T____’s supporters, including those who went to the Capitol on Jan. 6, has befuddled many observers. Although private militia groups and white supremacists played a part in the attack, 90 percent of those arrested or charged had no ties to such groups. The majority were middle-class and middle-aged; 40 percent were business owners or white-collar workers. They came mostly from purple, not red, counties.

. . . Their bigotry, for the most part, is typical white American bigotry, perhaps with an added measure of resentment and a less filtered mode of expression since T____ arrived on the scene. But these are normal people in the sense that they think and act as people have for centuries. They put their trust in family, tribe, religion and race. Although jealous in defense of their own rights and freedoms, they are less concerned about the rights and freedoms of those who are not like them. That, too, is not unusual. What is unnatural is to value the rights of others who are unlike you as much as you value your own.

As it happens, however, that is what the American experiment in republican democracy requires. It is what the Framers meant by “republican virtue,” a love of freedom not only for oneself but also as an abstract, universal good; a love of self-government as an ideal; a commitment to abide by the laws passed by legitimate democratic processes; and a healthy fear of and vigilance against tyranny of any kind.

Even James Madison, who framed the Constitution on the assumption that people would always pursue their selfish interests, nevertheless argued that it was “chimerical” to believe that any form of government could “secure liberty and happiness without any virtue in the people.” Al Gore and his supporters displayed republican virtue when they abided by the Supreme Court’s judgment in 2000 despite the partisan nature of the justices’ decision. (Whether the court itself displayed republican virtue is another question.) [Note: they didn’t]

The events of Jan. 6, on the other hand, proved that T____ and his most die-hard supporters are prepared to defy constitutional and democratic norms, just as revolutionary movements have in the past. While it might be shocking to learn that normal, decent Americans can support a violent assault on the Capitol, it shows that Americans as a people are not as exceptional as their founding principles and institutions. Europeans who joined fascist movements in the 1920s and 1930s were also from the middle classes. No doubt many of them were good parents and neighbors, too. People do things as part of a mass movement that they would not do as individuals, especially if they are convinced that others are out to destroy their way of life.

It would be foolish to imagine that the violence of Jan. 6 was an aberration that will not be repeated. Because T____ supporters see those events as a patriotic defense of the nation, there is every reason to expect more such episodes. T____ has returned to the explosive rhetoric of that day, insisting that he won in a “landslide,” that the “radical left Democrat communist party” stole the presidency in the “most corrupt, dishonest, and unfair election in the history of our country” and that they have to give it back. He has targeted for defeat those Republicans who voted for his impeachment — or criticized him for his role in the riot.

Already, there have been threats to bomb polling sites, kidnap officials and attack state capitols. “You and your family will be killed very slowly,” the wife of Georgia’s top election official was texted earlier this year. . . .  Looking ahead to 2022 and 2024, T____ insists “there is no way they win elections without cheating. There’s no way.” So, if the results come in showing another Democratic victory, T____’s supporters will know what to do. Just as “generations of patriots” gave “their sweat, their blood and even their very lives” to build America, T____ tells them, so today “we have no choice. We have to fight” to restore “our American birthright.”

Where does the Republican Party stand in all this? The party gave birth to and nurtured this movement; it bears full responsibility for establishing the conditions in which T____ could capture the loyalty of 90 percent of Republican voters. Republican leaders were more than happy to ride T____’s coattails if it meant getting paid off with hundreds of conservative court appointments, including three Supreme Court justices; tax cuts; immigration restrictions; and deep reductions in regulations on business.

Yet T____’s triumph also had elements of a hostile takeover. The movement’s passion was for T____, not the party. . . .  T____’s grip on his supporters left no room for an alternative power center in the party. . . . Those who disapproved of T____ could either keep silent or leave. . . . 

All this has left few dissenting voices within the Republican ecosystem. The Republican Party today is a zombie party. Its leaders go through the motions of governing in pursuit of traditional Republican goals, wrestling over infrastructure spending and foreign policy, even as real power in the party has leached away to T____. From the uneasy and sometimes contentious partnership during T____’s four years in office, the party’s main if not sole purpose today is as the willing enabler of T____’s efforts to game the electoral system to ensure his return to power.

With the party firmly under his thumb, T____ is now fighting the Biden administration on separate fronts. One is normal, legitimate political competition, where Republicans criticize Biden’s policies, feed and fight the culture wars, and in general behave like a typical hostile opposition.

The other front is outside the bounds of constitutional and democratic competition and into the realm of illegal or extralegal efforts to undermine the electoral process. The two are intimately related, because the Republican Party has used its institutional power in the political sphere to shield T____ and his followers from the consequences of their illegal and extralegal activities in the lead-up to Jan. 6. . ..  Party leaders, run interference for the T____ movement in the sphere of legitimate politics, while Republicans in lesser positions cheer on the Jan. 6 perpetrators, turning them into martyrs and heroes, and encouraging illegal acts in the future.

This pincer assault has several advantages. Republican politicians and would-be policymakers can play the role of the legitimate opposition. They can rediscover their hawkish internationalist foreign policy (suspended during the T____ years) and their deficit-minded economics (also suspended during the T____ years). They can go on the mainstream Sunday shows and critique the Biden administration on issues such as Afghanistan. They can pretend that T____ is no longer part of the equation. Biden is the president, after all . . . . It is a dodge. Republicans focus on China and critical race theory and avoid any mention of T____, even as the party works to fix the next election in his favor. The left hand professes to know nothing of what the right hand is doing.

Even T____ opponents play along. Republicans such as Sens. Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse have condemned the events of Jan. 6, criticized T____ and even voted for his impeachment, but in other respects they continue to act as good Republicans and conservatives. On issues such as the filibuster, Romney and others insist on preserving “regular order” and conducting political and legislative business as usual, even though they know that T____’s lieutenants in their party are working to subvert the next presidential election.

The result is that even these anti-T____ Republicans are enabling the insurrection. Revolutionary movements usually operate outside a society’s power structures. But the T____ movement also enjoys unprecedented influence within those structures. It dominates the coverage on several cable news networks, numerous conservative magazines, hundreds of talk radio stations and all kinds of online platforms. It has access to financing from rich individuals and the Republican National Committee’s donor pool. And, not least, it controls one of the country’s two national parties. All that is reason enough to expect another challenge, for what movement would fail to take advantage of such favorable circumstances to make a play for power?

Today, we are in a time of hope and illusion. The same people who said that T____ wouldn’t try to overturn the last election now say we have nothing to worry about with the next one. Republicans have been playing this game for five years, first pooh-poohing concerns about T____’s intentions, or about the likelihood of their being realized, and then going silent, or worse, when what they insisted was improbable came to pass. . . . 

The world will look very different in 14 months if, as seems likely, the Republican zombie party wins control of the House. At that point, with the political winds clearly blowing in his favor, T____ is all but certain to announce his candidacy, and social media constraints on his speech are likely to be lifted, since Facebook and Twitter would have a hard time justifying censoring his campaign. With his megaphone back, T____ would once again dominate news coverage, as outlets prove unable to resist covering him around the clock . . . 

But this time, T____ would have advantages that he lacked in 2016 and 2020, including more loyal officials in state and local governments; the Republicans in Congress; and the backing of GOP donors, think tanks and journals of opinion. And he will have the T____ movement, including many who are armed and ready to be activated, again. Who is going to stop him then? On its current trajectory, the 2024 Republican Party will make the 2020 Republican Party seem positively defiant. . . . 

Seven Republican senators voted to convict T____ for inciting an insurrection and attempting to overturn a free and fair election: Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Romney, Sasse and Patrick J. Toomey. It was a brave vote, a display of republican virtue, especially for the five who are not retiring in 2022. . . .  Yet as much credit as they deserve for taking this stand, it was almost entirely symbolic. When it comes to concrete action that might prevent a debacle in 2024, they have balked.

Specifically, they have refused to work with Democrats to pass legislation limiting state legislatures’ ability to overturn the results of future elections, to ensure that the federal government continues to have some say when states try to limit voting rights, to provide federal protection to state and local election workers who face threats, and in general to make clear to the nation that a bipartisan majority in the Senate opposes the subversion of the popular will. Why?

. . .  They can’t be under any illusion about what a second T____ term would mean. T____’s disdain for the rule of law is clear. His exoneration from the charges leveled in his impeachment trials — the only official, legal response to his actions — practically ensures that he would wield power even more aggressively. His experience with unreliable subordinates in his first term is likely to guide personnel decisions in a second. Only total loyalists would serve at the head of the Justice Department, FBI, CIA, National Security Agency and the Pentagon. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs will not be someone likely to place his or her own judgment above that of their civilian commander in chief. Nor would a Republican Senate fail to confirm T____ loyalists. In such a world, with T____ and his lieutenants in charge of all the levers of state power, including its growing capacity for surveillance, opposing T____ would become increasingly risky for Republicans and Democrats alike. A T____ victory is likely to mean at least the temporary suspension of American democracy as we have known it.

We are already in a constitutional crisis. The destruction of democracy might not come until November 2024, but critical steps in that direction are happening now. In a little more than a year, it may become impossible to pass legislation to protect the electoral process in 2024. Now it is impossible only because anti-T____ Republicans, and even some Democrats, refuse to tinker with the filibuster. It is impossible because, despite all that has happened, some people still wish to be good Republicans even as they oppose T____. These decisions will not wear well as the nation tumbles into full-blown crisis.

It is not impossible for politicians to make such a leap. The Republican Party itself was formed in the 1850s by politicians who abandoned their previous party — former Whigs, former Democrats and former members of the Liberty and Free Soil parties. . . . 

Romney & Co. don’t have to abandon their party. They can fashion themselves as Constitutional Republicans who, in the present emergency, are willing to form a national unity coalition in the Senate for the sole purpose of saving the republic. Their cooperation with Democrats could be strictly limited to matters relating to the Constitution and elections. . . . 

Senate Democrats were wise to cut down their once-massive voting rights wish list and get behind the smaller compromise measure unveiled last week by Manchin and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. But they have yet to attract any votes from their Republican colleagues for the measure. Heading into the next election, it is vital to protect election workers, same-day registration and early voting. It will also still be necessary to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which directly addresses the state legislatures’ electoral power grab. . . . 

One wonders whether modern American politicians, in either party, have it in them to make such bold moves, whether they have the insight to see where events are going and the courage to do whatever is necessary to save the democratic system. If that means political suicide for this handful of Republicans, wouldn’t it be better to go out fighting for democracy than to slink off quietly into the night?

“Shamelessness Is Their Superpower”

That’s a quote from Paul Krugman. Read these few paragraphs and see (1) who it refers to and (2) if it’s true. From Jamelle Bouie of The New York Times:

President Barack Obama promised unity. In his 2008 campaign, he said he would heal the nation’s political divides and end more than a decade of partisan rancor.

To keep this promise, Obama needed allies, or at least partners, in the Republican Party. But they said no. If they could block Obama — if they could withhold support on anything significant he planned to do — then they could make him break his promise. Republicans would obstruct and Obama would get the blame. Which, you might remember, is what happened. By the 2010 midterm elections, Obama was a divisive president.

Joe Biden, in his 2020 campaign for president, promised to get the coronavirus pandemic under control. With additional aid to working families and free distribution of multiple effective vaccines, he would lead the United States out of its ongoing public health crisis.

I think you can see where this is going.

Rather than work with him to vaccinate the country, Biden’s Republican opposition has, with only a few exceptions, done everything in its power to politicize the vaccine and make refusal to cooperate a test of partisan loyalty. The party is, for all practical purposes, pro-Covid. If it’s sincere, it is monstrous. And if it’s not, it is an unbelievably cynical and nihilistic strategy. Unfortunately for both Biden and the country, it appears to be working. . . . 

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis rejected vaccine passports and launched an aggressive campaign against mandatory mask-wearing in schools. “It is very important that we say, unequivocally, no to lockdowns, no to school closures, no to restrictions and no to mandates,” he told a gathering of conservative activists in Utah last month. DeSantis has suspended city and county emergency orders, put limits on future mitigation efforts, and signed a law that “shields nursing homes, hospitals and businesses from legal liability if employees and patrons contract the virus on their premises.”

All of this, even as the state has been ravaged by the Delta variant of the virus. Florida has been reporting more than 20,000 new infections a day and has averaged 262 Covid deaths — the most of any state, at least in absolute numbers. More than 16,000 people are hospitalized and thousands have been taken to intensive care units. Who does DeSantis blame for these outcomes? Biden.

“You know, he said he was going to end Covid. He hasn’t done that,” the Florida governor told the Fox News host Jesse Watters last week. “At the end of the day, he is trying to find a way to distract from the failures of his presidency.”

More on the Plot to Wreck America’s Elections

There is Big Money pushing the Big Lie. Charles Pierce of Esquire comments on a new report explaining how and why reactionaries with money are funding the attack on the 2020 election and elections to come: 

Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, indefatigable dark-money gumshoe, has made another major bust, this time in the area of The Big Lie and the lushly financed ratfcking infrastructure of the American right. She begins with the extended farce that is dragging on in Arizona, largely because it has been designed to drag on in Arizona, and elsewhere. She points to Patrick Byrne, the founder of Overstock.com, as one of the major sugar daddies behind this particular exercise in weaponized futility. But Mayer also emphasizes the fact that the entire conservative dark-money machine has been turned away from some of its traditional purposes and put behind a national effort not only to suppress the franchise, but also to delegitimize the electoral process itself. One engine supplies the power to the other.

Ralph Neas has been involved in voting-rights battles since the nineteen-eighties, when, as a Republican, he served as the executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. He has overseen a study of the Arizona audit for the nonpartisan Century Foundation, and he told me that, though the audit is a “farce,” it may nonetheless have “extraordinary consequences.” He said, “The Maricopa County audit exposes exactly what the Big Lie is all about. If they come up with an analysis that discredits the 2020 election results in Arizona, it will be replicated in other states, furthering more chaos. That will enable new legislation. Millions of Americans could be disenfranchised, helping D____ T____ to be elected again in 2024. That’s the bottom line. Maricopa County is the prism through which to view everything. It’s not so much about 2020—it’s about 2022 and 2024. This is a coördinated national effort to distort not just what happened in 2020 but to regain the House of Representatives and the Presidency.”

And, it should be said, to perpetuate that control for the purposes of shoving more of the national wealth upward and keeping it there. Because, for all the high-falutin’ talk about conspiracy theories and democracy, this is now and always has been about establishing a permanent oligarchy and, if a kind of fascism comes along with it, well, bonus, right, folks?

Although the Arizona audit may appear to be the product of local extremists, it has been fed by sophisticated, well-funded national organizations whose boards of directors include some of the country’s wealthiest and highest-profile conservatives. Dark-money organizations, sustained by undisclosed donors, have relentlessly promoted the myth that American elections are rife with fraud, and, according to leaked records of their internal deliberations, they have drafted, supported, and in some cases taken credit for state laws that make it harder to vote.

For example, the Heritage Foundation is in on the game, according to Mayer and to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who is bulldogging the money power in all our political institution. [Right-wing legal activist] Leonard Leo, not content with having warped the federal judiciary unto the generations, is now turning his dark arts to screwing with elections. But Mayer also follows the money back to its source, which happens to be in this case, the most usual of usual subjects.

These disparate nonprofits have one thing in common: they have all received funding from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Based in Milwaukee, the private, tax-exempt organization has become an extraordinary force in persuading mainstream Republicans to support radical challenges to election rules—a tactic once relegated to the far right. With an endowment of some eight hundred and fifty million dollars, the foundation funds a network of groups that have been stoking fear about election fraud, in some cases for years. Public records show that, since 2012, the foundation has spent some eighteen million dollars supporting eleven conservative groups involved in election issues.

I know people in Wisconsin who have spent their entire public careers fighting the poisonous influence of the Bradley Foundation, the reek of which prevails in almost all of the state’s major institutions—including, alas, my beloved alma mater. It was one of the major engines behind the rise of Congressman Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny-starver from Janesville, and behind Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary once known as the state of Wisconsin, and behind Ron Johnson, the continuing blight of the United States Senate. So the Bradley Foundation has managed to damage the national government in so many different ways, including the promotion and election of woeful statewide candidates.

An animating force behind the Bradley Foundation’s war on “election fraud” is Cleta Mitchell, a fiercely partisan Republican election lawyer, who joined the organization’s board of directors in 2012. Until recently, she was virtually unknown to most Americans. But, on January 3rd, the Washington Post exposed the contents of a private phone call, recorded the previous day, during which Trump threatened election officials in Georgia with a “criminal offense” unless they could “find” 11,780 more votes for him—just enough to alter the results. Also on the call was Mitchell, who challenged the officials to provide records proving that dead people hadn’t cast votes. The call was widely criticized as a rogue effort to overturn the election, and Foley & Lardner, the Milwaukee-based law firm where Mitchell was a partner, announced that it was “concerned” about her role, and then parted ways with her. Trump’s call prompted the district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, to begin a criminal investigation.

Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing. Jane Mayer has found the taproot. It isn’t about Donald Trump, or about the My Pillow dumbass, or even the people who attacked the U.S. Capitol. It’s about the money, and who has it, and who wants to keep it, and, here’s a revelation, it’s probably not you.

Here are the closing words of the New Yorker article:

Polls show that, although the Arizona audit is wildly popular among Republican voters in the state, it alienates independents, who constitute approximately a third of the state’s electorate—and whose support is necessary for statewide candidates to win.

For now, though, conservative groups seem to be doubling down on their investments in election-fraud alarmism. In the next two years, Heritage Action plans to spend twenty-four million dollars mobilizing supporters and lobbyists who will promote “election integrity,” starting in eight battleground states, including Arizona. It is coördinating its effort with the Election Transparency Initiative, a joint venture of two anti-abortion groups, the Susan B. Anthony List and the American Principles Project. The Election Transparency Initiative has set a fund-raising goal of five million dollars. Cleta Mitchell, having left her law firm, has joined FreedomWorks, the free-market group, where she plans to lead a ten-million-dollar project on voting issues. She will also head the Election Integrity Network at the Conservative Partnership Institute, another Washington-based nonprofit. As a senior legal fellow there, she told the Washington Examiner, she will “help bring all these strings” of conservative election-law activism together, and she added, “I’ve had my finger in so many different pieces of the election-integrity pie for so long.”

Back in Arizona, where the auditors are demanding still more time, [Republican member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors] Bill Gates believes that the Big Lie has become a “grift” used to motivate Republican voters and donors to support conservative candidates and political groups. “The sad thing is that there are probably millions of people—hardworking, good Americans, maybe retired—who have paid their taxes, always followed the law, and they truly believe this, because of what they’ve been fed by their leaders,” he said. “And what’s so dispiriting is that the people who are pushing it from the top? They know better.” 

In No Uncertain Terms

What kind of language does the current moment deserve? Some prefer measured, unemotional words. Others prefer something more. 

Steve Schmidt is a conservative political strategist who is severely critical of today’s Republican Party. He was John McCain’s senior strategist in the senator’s losing presidential campaign (should we blame Schmidt for the rise of Sarah Palin?). He was one of the founders of the Lincoln Project and is active on Twitter. Here’s some of what he had to say this weekend:

Please watch this and share. I am absolutely fucking outraged and enraged by the nihilistic vandalism of our country for the sake of sustaining T____s’ ONGOING campaign to hold political power at the price of burning it all down. (Twitter)

The immorality of it all is beyond grotesque. It is depraved. It is cowardly. It is shameful and despicable conduct at an epic level. There is a rot, a deep rot within our politics that can only be fixed by purging people like @marcorubio from public life by rebuking them in an election and then silencing them with shame.

No healthy country can have @GOPLeader @marcorubio @mattgaetz @tedcruz @laurenboebert @RepMTG and too many more to conceivably mention in positions of public trust. The cynicism, lying, extremism, weakness, insanity and cowardice combines to create a putrid stench that simply beggars belief. It’s despicable fucking conduct that’s so breathtaking there is no word that comes to mind. The depraved indifference and utter, shocking disregard for the lives of the American people is an act of corruption unequaled in American history.

There are hundreds of Thousands of dead Americans who would be alive but for the stupefying incompetence, carelessness and stupidity of T____, his government, his cabinet secretaries, aides, propagandists, financiers and congressional accomplices. 620.000 Americans are dead yet, the assault on sanity continues unabated. It never ever fucking never ever EVER takes a day off, ever.

Here we are today, the Delta variant raging, the pandemic reignited by an unvaccinated population that has been lied to, deceived by, disoriented by and confused by the deliberate, purposeful premeditated lying of Murdoch, Fox News, Carlson, and hundreds of lesser demagogues and liars. More will die because of this nihilism. Evil.

The country will be consumed by Covid again so that T____, @GOPLeader and all the rest of his nest of nationalists, autocrats, extremists, Racists, fascists and conspiracy loons can blame it all on Biden. They are happy to burn everything down around them for power, including us. Every normal person in this country should be deeply frightened by this. Deeply. I know I am. We have to fight back against the lies and malice that have become virtues to our elected political arsonists. They call themselves Republicans, but that is a disguise for what they have become.

The snarling white faces frozen in photos, screaming in rage and spitting on black children trying to walk into a schoolhouse would no doubt be awestruck at the capacity of technology to allow their children and grandchildren to virtually spit on the greatest champion in the history of her sport, all the way to Tokyo. They would be slack jawed at the progress we have made in America. Their kids and grandkids don’t even have to call black Americans the N word anymore. They just say CRT [Critical Race Theory].

The next chapter of the story, a tragic and deadly farce will be the Blame it all on Biden part. The arsonists will be gleeful in their attacks on the firefighters who are fighting to save lives and extinguish the conflagration. We have to bury this in the next two elections. If we don’t , we lose the country. We will lose it to madness, nihilism; cynicism, greed, hate, racial animus. We will lose it to terrible people, the depraved and extreme, the corrupt and sinister. We will lose it to the T____ family and we won’t get it back next time.

Next:

I’ve driven 1000 miles this week . . . and thought about a lot of things. I’m not sure this is a fair criticism as I’m working through the wretchedness of this dishonest moment and the nihilistic craziness of the overwhelming majority of elected Republican leaders (Twitter).

Many news stories and a great deal of present moment journalism cover our political free fall through a lens that captures each appalling moment, often deeply and compellingly. The stories are framed around an event, something that just occurred, rather than as a puzzle piece, which gives context to a larger, fluid story unraveling before our eyes.

Let’s look at two people as examples. Each has spoken out against T____ in the past. They were precise in their worry and condemnation of his exquisite awfulness. Each knew exactly who T____ was. The one thing T____ deserves great credit for is his absolute consistency, steadfastness and commitment to the truth of sharing who he really is. They all knew what T____ was because they told us. Then they collaborated and discarded every principle they claimed to hold.

We all know this is true. I know it. You know it. They know it and every journalist who ever interviews them knows it.

They are titanic frauds, elected weasels who share a talent for shamelessness, built on a foundation of cynicism and stone cold belief that their supporters are marks, a type of feeble prey that are either too stupid to notice the contradictions and hypocrisy of literally every spoken word or are too lazy and slug-like to care about being abused by constant gaslighting.

How should this be covered? Lie by lie, or is the story the journey of the liar and their deepening commitment to an autocratic movement. For me that is the story. It is a continuum that is dynamic and continually unfolding. This puts a different frame around the consideration @EliseStefanik should be given when she says really stupid and dishonest things like @SpeakerPelosi was the real 1/6 villain and @Liz_Cheney, the pristinely conservative Republican Congresswoman from Wyoming, is a Pelosi Democrat. Why should anyone pretend that @EliseStefanik is on the level about anything? Even she knows she is lying and she knows exactly why she is doing it.

She is doing it for power and self interest. She’s not an actress. She isn’t playing a part in a make believe story. She is an active participant in a movement that is trying to burn down our democracy in both the name of freedom and D____ T____. She is a leader in a movement that has desecrated the compact between us around how we share political power in America. They have rejected the most fundamental aspect of our system of government. What more evidence is needed around her bad faith?

When these members speak they lie. When they lie there seems to be some weird Washington DC courtesy extended in any given story, where whatever it is they are saying is covered through a prism of good faith, despite the accumulation of past statements and gazillions of hours of interviews that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is all an exercise in bad faith.

In short, the individuals who are most effective at demonstrating the depravity of the moment are the collaborators themselves. They indict themselves for the cowards, cynics and opportunists they are with their own words. Shouldn’t the story focus on the cancer that has consumed their public character? American Puritanism turned the question of public character into a sexual one over the last 35 years. Two results followed.

One, previously unimaginable depths of hypocrisy were achieved by @newtgingrich, Ken Starr and legions of others. Second, the concept of public character became so twisted that the behaviors of @EliseStefanik @marcorubio and @LindseyGrahamSC aren’t viewed through a character lens at all. Selling out the country, with purpose and intent for power and self is a betrayal of duty and a despicable act. It is also a plainly obvious one. Why do we have to pretend that the absurdities they utter aren’t easily refutable by them? By their own words.

When @EliseStefanik speaks shouldn’t all of questions that follow be focused on why she is saying the things she is saying as opposed to what she is saying? What is happening in this country is building. It’s gathering. It’s moving, growing and evolving. The signs are everywhere. Yes, a million loathsome moments are all worthy of scrutiny and study. I just wonder if the focus on those moments is causing us to miss the movement towards the destination ahead that while unseen for now is certainly terrible and likely a hellscape from which there is no return. Perspective matters when it comes to orienting to reality and danger.

Sometimes I worry about missing the autocratic forest for the trees.

Finally:

The 1/6/21 attack on America took the form of an insurrection aimed at destroying the Constitutional process that lawfully bestows power to the winner of a Presidential election in the in the the name of the People of the United States who are sovereign in this land. It was incited by a President of the United States and a legion of liars and cynics that include nearly every Republican leader. Of course, that fact alone defines it as the worst and most dangerous attack since the Civil War, but it gets worse (Twitter).

The 1/6 Insurrection by a T____ mob mixed with organized extremist elements including white supremacists, fascists, and violent paramilitary militia groups is the only attack against the nation in our history that has not rallied the whole of the American people to defend America. Instead, tens of millions are broadly sympathetic to the violence and obvious lies that underpin it all. The whole of the Republican Party has weighed in on the matter by siding with the insurrectionists and the defeated disgrace that incited it.

The measurement scale of gauging the insidiousness of their betrayal and collaboration with this Anti-American movement ranges from incitement and active participation in the attack to a dishonest indifference forged by an alchemy of vices; cowardice, fear, ambition, self interest, cynicism and opportunism have overwhelmed any sense of duty, patriotism and love of country.

No other attack against America in our long story has ever produced that response. No other attack has ever produced such sympathy for the attackers. No other attack has ever produced such a fierce determination to deny it occurred at all by politicians who advance their careers on the singularity of their talent to gaslight and deceive the people they swore an oath to serve by preserving and protecting the Constitution of the United States.

There is a name for the Treacherous lot of elected leaders who have forsaken our country. They call themselves Republicans. They serve a master, not an idea or ideal. They serve their leader, T____. The whole world has seen their perfidy. The whole world has seen their rot and the weakness they are spreading in our country. For sure, the Chinese and Russians have seen it.

What they see is a decaying society brought low by the leaders who were elected to strengthen it. They see a country where the lie and truth can stand equally, just like theirs. They must be rejoicing as idealism is being overrun by a cynicism so powerful that it has caused the greatest crisis of faith and belief in the pillars of our Republic since the Civil War. What a tragic moment. It has left us all with a choice. What side are you on?

There are more of us than them but fanaticism, extremism and commitment are on their side. Apathy to the danger through civic disengagement in the name of political exhaustion is what the autocrats are hoping for. Let’s not give it to them.

In fact, let us fight to create a great awakening and fill it with an unyielding resolve to crush the fever dreams of power for people like T____, @EliseStefanik and @marcorubio who have come to hate with deeds what they profess to love with words. Let’s strike them all down in the ballot box. We cannot let freedom slip away in America.