Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Election’ Category

GOP Senator Says Democracy and Majority Rule Are Not What Our Country Stands For

leave a comment »

In New York Jonathan Chait writes about Rand Paul and his radical beliefs:

One of the edifying side effects of the Trump era has been that, by making democracy the explicit subject of political debate, it has revealed the stark fact many influential conservatives do not believe in it. Mike Lee blurted out last fall that he opposes “rank democracy.” His fellow Republican senator, Rand Paul, tells the New York Times today, “The idea of democracy and majority rule really is what goes against our history and what the country stands for. The Jim Crow laws came out of democracy. That’s what you get when a majority ignores the rights of others.”

Paul is a bit of a crank, but here he is gesturing at a recognizable set of ideas that have long been articulated by conservative intellectuals. Importantly, these ideas are not identified solely with the most extreme or Trumpy conservatives. Indeed, they have frequently been articulated by conservatives who express deep personal animosity toward Donald Trump and his cultists.

The belief system Paul is endorsing contains a few related claims. First, the Founders explicitly and properly rejected majoritarianism. (Their favorite shorthand is “We’re a republic, not a democracy.”) Second, to the extent the current system has shortcomings, they reveal the ignorance of the majority and hence underscore the necessity of limiting democracy. Third, slavery and Jim Crow are the best historical examples of democracy run amok.

National Review has consistently advocated this worldview since its founding years, when it used these ideas to oppose civil-rights laws, and has persisted in using these ideas to argue for restrictions on the franchise. “Was ‘democracy’ good when it empowered slave owners and Jim Crow racists?,” asked NR’s David Harsanyi. Majority rule “sounds like a wonderful thing … if you haven’t met the average American voter,” argued NR’s Kevin Williamson, rebutting the horrifying ideal of majority rule with the knock-down argument: “If we’d had a fair and open national plebiscite about slavery on December 6, 1865, slavery would have won in a landslide.”

It is important to understand that these conservatives have taken Trump’s election, and escalating threats to democracy, not as a challenge to their worldview but as confirmation of it. If Trump is threatening democracy, this merely proves that the people who elected him are ignorant and therefore unfit to rule. The attempted coup of January 6, another NR column sermonized, ought to “remind us of the wisdom that the Founders held dear centuries ago: We are a republic, not a direct democracy, and we’d best act like it.”

The factual predicate for these beliefs is deeply confused. The Founders did reject “democracy,” but they understood the term to mean direct democracy, contrasting it with representative government, in which the people vote for elected officials who are accountable to them.

It is also true that they created a system that was not democratic. In part this was because they did not consider Americans like Black people, women, and non-landowners as deserving of the franchise. On top of this, they were forced to grudgingly accept compromises of the one-man, one-vote principle in order to round up enough votes for the Constitution; thus the “Three-Fifths Compromise” (granting extra weight in Congress to slaveholders) and the existence of the Senate.

Since the 18th century, the system has evolved in a substantially more democratic direction: The franchise has been extended to non-landowners, women, and Black people and senators are now elected by voters rather than state legislatures, among other pro-democratic reforms. To justify democratic backsliding by citing the Founders is to use an argument that proves far too much: Restoring our original founding principles would support disenfranchising the overwhelming majority of the electorate, after all.

Even more absurd is the notion that “Jim Crow laws came out of democracy.” Southern states attempted to establish democratic systems after the Civil War, but these governments were destroyed by violent insurrection. Jim Crow laws were not the product of democracy; they were the product of its violent overthrow.

The most insidious aspect of the Lee-Paul right-wing belief system is  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 June 2021 at 6:17 pm

The GOP is disassembling American democracy

leave a comment »

Kevin Drum points out how the US is sliding into becoming a banana republic:

The most dangerous part of all the new Republican voting laws isn’t the hodgepodge of rules about closing times and ballot boxes and so forth. It’s the rules that allow Republican legislatures to replace election officials if they’re unhappy about how the count is going. But the AP reports that these rules might not even be necessary:

After facing threats and intimidation during the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath, and now the potential of new punishments in certain states, county officials who run elections are quitting or retiring early. The once quiet job of elections administration has become a political minefield thanks to the baseless claims of widespread fraud that continue to be pushed by many in the Republican Party.

….About a third of Pennsylvania’s county election officials have left in the last year and a half….The executive director of a clerks association in Wisconsin said more than two dozen clerks had retired since the presidential election and another 30 clerks or their deputies quit by the end of 2020.

….The exodus comes as Republicans in a number of states pursue legislation that imposes new fines or criminal penalties on local elections officials or makes it easier to remove them, as part of the GOP campaign to rewrite rules for voting and administering elections. A new law in Iowa imposes a $10,000 fine on elections administrators for a technical infraction of election rules. A similar law in Florida could lead to $25,000 fines for elections supervisors if a ballot drop box is accessible outside early voting hours or is left unsupervised.

The new Republican rules are apparently just a backup. The real plan is simply to terrorize local election officials into quitting so they can be replaced with true believers who can make sure that next time Donald Trump has all the votes he needs to win. Welcome to the latest installment of Banana Republicanism, my friends.

Written by Leisureguy

14 June 2021 at 11:33 am

“I took a vote that cost me my seat. I know what Joe Manchin is facing.”

leave a comment »

Impressive column in the Washington Post by Tom Perriello, a former congressman from Virginia’s 5th Congressional District and a former U.S. Special Envoy for the African Great Lakes Region, now serving as the U.S. executive director of the Open Society Foundations. He writes:

“Just promise you will never forget that Judgment Day is more important than Election Day.” That was the advice — directive, really — my father offered when I asked about running for Congress. He was born and raised in Dunbar, W.Va., with the deep faith in the community, the Catholic Church and the New Deal that defined many Italian immigrant families recruited by the coal mines or Union Carbide. My dad died a few months after seeing me sworn in as a member of the 111th Congress in 2009, just three weeks after he retired as a pediatrician. He had cared for so many children of every race, faith and class that more than 1,000 people showed up for his funeral.

When I cast one of the deciding votes to pass the Affordable Care Act that year— a vote many warned might cost me my seat — I wore one of my father’s old wool suits. He had opposed Hillary Clinton’s 1993 health-care plan but watched regretfully as the insurance companies spread like a cancer across his profession, choking out the space between doctor and patient. I felt him nodding with approval from on high.

My dad liked Governor Joe Manchin and would have really loved Sen. Manchin for his decency and determination to fight for forgotten towns and workers. This year, the Democratic senator from West Virginia has shown marked political courage by embracing at least the aspirations of President Biden’s agenda to “build back better,” sending a signal to colleagues on both sides of the aisle that this is a time to unite around solutions rather than hide in the shadow of base politics.

[Yes, the Senate is rigged for small states. But not for Republicans]

As his colleagues fail to answer this call, Manchin is rapidly approaching a test of his convictions on what he must do to protect America’s historic experiment with democracy. West Virginia became a state when its citizens had the honor to break away from Virginia to defend our more perfect union. Now, their senior senator may need to break traditions to defend voting rights and the integrity of our elections. Manchin recently indicated his inability to support the For the People Act unless Republican senators show the courage to put democracy over party. He stated no substantive disagreements with the reforms, which would limit partisan gerrymandering, dark money, foreign election interference, and corporate corruption, while adopting existing voting rights and expanded election protections.

Defending voting rights and election integrity should not and cannot be a partisan issue. As the Pew Research Center found, large majorities of Americans support making it easier to vote and reducing the power of special interests through the kinds of policies enshrined in the For the People Act. It’s just the Republicans in Congress who refuse to support it.

One party is attacking democracy, and that same party is blocking attempts to protect it. Citing that as an excuse to disarm unilaterally is like telling a farmer whose cattle are being stolen that he needs the thief’s permission to put up cameras or hire guards. The bipartisanship Manchin celebrates from the 1980s, at its best, represented genuine compromise. Frankly, in this era, anything the diverse body of 50 Democratic senators can agree on probably would have been seen as “bipartisan” back then. My father’s family swung from JFK Republicans to Reagan Democrats, but they’d be at a loss to understand the Republican caucus of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.).

When I came to Congress, I represented a deep red district and dreamed of bipartisanship, and I was proud to retain support from independent and Republican voters and outperform the party brand by double digits. But the one place I found no bipartisanship was on the Hill. A few months after I was sworn in, I knew reelection the following year was a long shot. We Democrats failed to convince Americans that we were focused on the economy, and the quiet recovery was not being felt by fall of 2010.

Biden’s bold approach today reflects an understanding that, had we been able to move bolder and earlier — for instance, passing health-care reform in the summer of 2009 with a Medicare buy-in and cheaper prescription drugs — we would have won over more moderates than by taking the perceived “moderate” path that enabled corporate-captured senators to waste time and water down reforms.

A decade later, I carry three lessons from my 2009 health care vote.

First, no regrets. Why ask the voters for political power if not to use it when it matters most? I still get letters from people thanking me: Parents whose kids are growing up with the security Obamacare provides, or entrepreneurs able to start businesses because they no longer felt tied to their old job for the health insurance. I have also been reminded time and again that there is a job much better than being in Congress, and that’s being a former member of Congress. I have devoted the past decade to issues of justice at home and abroad dear to my heart, with a bigger staff and free from the constant fear that an innocuous remark will be taken out of context to become a viral attack ad.

Second, tough votes are better taken early in the election cycle than late. The months we took debating health care did not make the bill stronger or more popular. It just left more time for it to be demonized and less time for the positive effects to be felt. The reforms in these two new voting rights bills are widely popular — for instance, making Election Day a national holiday and automatically registering eligible voters. They’ll be even more so when voters see how easy and safe it is for them to vote, how much harder it is for politicians to gerrymander districts, and why corporations will have a harder time corrupting our politics.

Manchin has taken a strong stance in favor of protecting voting rights and election integrity. He has said he supports another important voting rights bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, but the voting and election protections in the For the People Act are urgently vital complements to that legislation for addressing 21st century threats to our democracy. Many other reforms Manchin has touted are in the 800 pages of the For the People Act and must find their way into law.

Third, Americans . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 June 2021 at 7:27 am

Koch-and-switch

leave a comment »

Judd Legum writes in Popular Information:

About seven months ago, billionaire businessman Charles Koch’s smiling face was in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. The 85-year-old Koch had spent decades funding a vast network of far-right causes, including the Tea Party, the movement which laid the groundwork for Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency.

Koch said his prior work was a mistake. He vowed that, from now on, he would eschew partisanship and focus on “building bridges across ideological divides.”

Koch’s feature in the Wall Street Journal was part of a broader rebranding effort that coincided with the release of a new book:

Mr. Koch said he has since come to regret his partisanship, which he says badly deepened divisions. “Boy, did we screw up!” he writes in his new book. “What a mess!”

In a separate interview with the Washington Post that was released the same day, Koch congratulated Biden and said he wanted to “work together” with the new Democratic president on “as many issues as possible.”

We’ve got people so hyped on politics now that it seems like they think that’s all there is. You know, ‘If the other side wins, it’ll ruin the country and destroy us forever.’ Both sides are saying that, and feel that, and think this is the most important thing. Well, it is important, but it isn’t going to make any difference unless we all learn to work together and help each other and move toward a society of equal rights and mutual benefit.

Koch said he regretted hiring “ex-Republican operatives” and then “doing nothing” as they engaged in bare-knuckled political combat. Koch insisted that things would be different moving forward. “Let’s get together and make that happen so we can start helping each other, rather than hurting each other,” Koch said.

In the seven months since those interviews, however, Koch has deployed the full resources of his political network to try to stymie virtually every aspect of Biden’s agenda.

Most recently, one of Koch’s primary political organizations, Americans for Prosperity, has pressured Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) to block various priorities of the Biden administration. CNBC reports that Americans for Prosperity has created ads, a video, and a website targeting Manchin. The website calls for Manchin to block a public option for Obamacare, a minimum wage increase, an infrastructure bill, and the For The People Act.

The effort appears to be working, as Manchin announced his opposition to the For The People Act in an op-ed on Sunday. But the campaign targeting Manchin is just one aspect of Koch’s multi-faceted attack on the Biden presidency.

Americans for Prosperity also . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. I find that Popular Information has a lot of good content, though I don’t that often quote it in the blog. But I do read it and find it worthwhile.

Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2021 at 2:03 pm

The Frightening New Republican Consensus

leave a comment »

David A. Graham writes in the Atlantic:

Former President Donald Trump has been speaking publicly about running to reclaim the White House in 2024, but he’s also reportedly expecting to make a comeback before then. “Trump has been telling a number of people he’s in contact with that he expects he will get reinstated by August,” Maggie Haberman, the New York Times’ ace Trump reporter, tweeted Tuesday.

There’s no such thing as reinstating a president, but Trump is echoing claims made by Sidney Powell, the lawyer who briefly pursued his specious election-fraud claims in court after the November election. Trump “can simply be reinstated,” she said this weekend. “A new inauguration date is set, and Biden is told to move out of the White House, and President Trump should be moved back in.” Powell is the same person who argued in a court filing this spring that no reasonable person would believe her election-fraud arguments.

If reinstatement sounds kooky, that’s because it is. Most Republicans don’t believe that Trump is set to return to the Oval Office later this summer. But there is widespread agreement inside the GOP that Democratic fraud is stealing elections, and that Republicans must not let that happen. If there’s a civil war in the Republican Party, it’s not about whether the problem exists, but how to fix it—by trying to undo the 2020 result, or instead by preparing for 2024.

From the most devoted QAnon fringes of the GOP to the surviving redoubts of old-school country-club Republicanism, the party’s leaders have come to a shared conclusion that the party doesn’t lose close elections—Democrats steal them. Republicans grant that Democrats win in heavily blue areas. Hardly anyone doubts that Democrats are winning big in majority-minority U.S. House districts in the South or in urban centers (though Trump did question low vote tallies for Republican candidates in Philadelphia).

But in close elections—which in this divided era include practically every presidential race and many U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races—the GOP has come to largely reject the notions that it didn’t turn out its core supporters, failed to persuade swing voters, or alienated former supporters by nominating fringe candidates. Instead, Republicans insist, they are losing because of rampant and systemic fraud. If this were true (which it is not), then it would stand to reason that Republicans must be able to prevent such theft or, failing that, overturn the results. In the Senate last week, the GOP caucus even filibustered a bipartisan panel to investigate the violent attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 election.

Conservatives have long complained about election shenanigans, especially in urban areas. Historically, there is evidence that major fraud once occurred, but changes to laws and processes make old-school corruption nearly impossible, and even advocacy groups have been able to find only a handful of cases of fraud, despite diligent searching—practically none of it having been enough to swing an election’s outcome. (One rare counterexample, in a U.S. House race in North Carolina, benefited the Republican candidate.)

The new claims are different in scale—encompassing jurisdictions across the country—and popular support. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that more than half of Republicans view Trump as the true president. But even GOP leaders who reject Trump’s allegations of fraud are happy to back stricter voting laws predicated on bogus fraud claims.

The responses of elected Republicans to this new consensus form a spectrum from the ridiculous to putatively respectable. On the far end of the range are chimerical answers such as those that Powell and Trump are apparently spreading, rooted in faith but with no factual basis.

More dangerous, and slightly more realistic—or at least achievable—are calls for a coup to topple the Biden presidency, which these opponents view as illegitimate. Over the weekend,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2021 at 10:35 am

The Capitol Rioters Won

leave a comment »

Adam Serwer writes in the Atlantic:

Republicans say they would like to move on from the 2020 election.

“A lot of our members, and I think this is true of a lot of House Republicans, want to be moving forward and not looking backward,” John Thune, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, told CNN on May 19. “Anything that gets us rehashing the 2020 elections I think is a day lost on being able to draw a contrast between us and the Democrats’ very radical left-wing agenda.”

After Thune and 34 of his Republican colleagues used the filibuster last week to block a vote on creating a bipartisan commission to investigate the Capitol riot, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Republicans of fearing the wrath of former President Donald Trump. “Shame on the Republican Party for trying to sweep the horrors of that day under the rug because they’re afraid of Donald Trump,” Schumer said on the floor.

But Republicans are not blocking a bipartisan January 6 commission because they fear Trump, or because they want to “move on” from 2020. They are blocking a January 6 commission because they agree with the underlying ideological claim of the rioters, which is that Democratic electoral victories should not be recognized. Because they regard such victories as inherently illegitimate—the result of fraud, manipulation, or the votes of people who are not truly American—they believe that the law should be changed to ensure that elections more accurately reflect the will of Real Americans, who by definition vote Republican. They believe that there is nothing for them to investigate, because the actual problem is not the riot itself but the unjust usurpation of power that occurred when Democrats won. Absent that provocation, the rioters would have stayed home.

Americans have suffered through a pandemic, an economic crisis, and a presidential election in the past year; it’s understandable that many would want to disengage from politics. With Trump gone from the White House and banned from his favorite social-media platform, the most visible symbol of the nation’s democratic backsliding is out of office. But Trump’s absence has not arrested the Republican Party’s illiberal turn—on the contrary, he is now a martyr to an election that he falsely claims was rigged. If anything, though, our electoral system is rigged in favor of Republicans; Democrats had to overcome a significant structural bias in the Electoral College, meaning Trump almost prevailed again even as his opponent won 7 million more votes.

As New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait wrote, the “accommodation” that Republicans “have reached between their violent and nonviolent wings is a legal regimen designed to ensure that the next time a Trump rejects the election result, he won’t need a mob to prevail.” Trump did not impose this belief that elections are valid only if they result in Republican victory on the conservative rank and file; he was a manifestation of it. Nor are Republican officials held hostage by a base they fear; falsehoods about election fraud have been deliberately stoked by Republican elites who then insist that they must bow to the demands of the very misinformed constituents they have been lying to. The last thing ambitious Republicans want is to let this fire go out.

Trump infamously refused to concede the 2020 election until after the mob he had incited ransacked the Capitol in an effort to overturn the outcome. But even afterward, most Republicans in the House, and several in the Senate, refused to vote to certify the results. The rioters were outliers in the sense that they employed political violence and intimidation in an attempt to overturn the election. But the rioters fell squarely within the Republican mainstream in sharing Trump’s belief that his defeat meant the election was inherently illegitimate. The main ideological cleavage within the GOP is not whether election laws should be changed to better ensure Republican victory, but whether political violence is necessary to achieve that objective.

The large majority of Republicans are content with simply changing the rules to make it harder for Democrats to win elections, but figures beloved by the party fringe, such as former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Representatives Matt Gaetz and Majorie Taylor Greene, openly flirt with the possibility of seizing power by force.

Greene has warned that freedom is “earned with the price of blood”; over the weekend, Flynn backtracked on a public call for a military coup; and Gaetz, on tour with Greene, told a receptive audience that “the Second Amendment is about maintaining, within the citizenry, the ability to maintain an armed rebellion against the government, if that becomes necessary.” As far as these three are concerned, this is the idle talk of studio gangsters. The issue is that it reflects a very real rejection of liberal democracy and the peaceful transfer of power among Republican voters.

Republicans are not “moving on” from the 2020 election. In state after state, Republican-controlled legislatures have passed laws making it more difficult to vote, in some cases explicitly targeting Democratic constituencies. Over the weekend, Texas Democrats temporarily blocked one such measure that would have not only outlawed methods that Democratic-led counties have used to increase turnout, but also curtailed early Sunday voting, a tradition for many Black churches. The Texas Republican state legislator Travis Clardy later insisted that the limitation on Sunday voting was a “typo”; if lawmakers can’t draw up legislation dealing with Americans’ fundamental rights without egregiously discriminating on the basis of race, they shouldn’t hold office to begin with.

Texas joins 14 other states in attempting to curtail voting rights in the aftermath of the 2020 election. Some Republican-controlled states have purged officials who refused to obey Trump’s instructions not to certify the election results; a few are considering measures that would allow state legislatures to overturn such results outright.

The risks of such measures are obvious. Between the effectiveness of gerrymandering and the partisan polarization of urban and rural districts, in some states winning a legislative majority is well-nigh impossible for the Democratic Party as currently constituted. In the event that  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 June 2021 at 2:34 pm

Democracy at risk

leave a comment »

Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Today, more than 100 scholars who study democracy issued a letter warning that “our entire democracy is now at risk.” The letter explains that the new election laws in Republican-led states, passed with the justification that they will make elections safer, in fact are turning “several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections.”

If we permit the breakdown of democracy, it will be a very long time before we can reverse the damage. As a nation spirals downward, the political scientists, sociologists, and government scholars explain, “violence and corruption typically flourish, and talent and wealth flee to more stable countries, undermining national prosperity. It is not just our venerated institutions and norms that are at risk—it is our future national standing, strength, and ability to compete globally.”

The scholars called for federal action to protect equal access to voting and to guarantee free and fair elections. Voting rights should not depend on which party runs the state legislature, and votes must be cast and counted equally, regardless of where a citizen lives. They back the reforms in the For the People Act, which protects the right to vote, ends partisan gerrymandering, and curbs the flood of money into elections.

They urged Congress “to do whatever is necessary—including suspending the filibuster—in order to pass national voting and election administration standards that both guarantee the vote to all Americans equally, and prevent state legislatures from manipulating the rules in order to manufacture the result they want. Our democracy is fundamentally at stake.”

“History,” they wrote, “will judge what we do at this moment.”

But in Tulsa, Oklahoma, today, President Joe Biden noted that the events that transpired in the Greenwood district of that city 100 years ago today were written out of most histories. The Tulsa Massacre destroyed 35 blocks of the prosperous Greenwood neighborhood, wiping out 1100 homes and businesses and taking hundreds of Black lives, robbing Black families of generational wealth and the opportunities that come with it.

Biden pointed out that he was the first president to go to Tulsa to acknowledge what happened there on May 31 and June 1, 1921. But, he said, “We do ourselves no favors by pretending none of this ever happened or doesn’t impact us today, because it does.” He drew a direct line from the terrorism at Greenwood to the terrorism in August 2017 at Charlottesville, Virginia, to the January 6 insurrection. Citing the intelligence community, he reminded listeners that “terrorism from white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the homeland today. Not Isis. Not al-Qaeda. White supremacists.”

Victims’ trauma endures, too, and it eventually demands a reckoning when “what many people hadn’t seen before, or simply refused to see, cannot be ignored any longer.” Today, Americans are recognizing “that for too long, we’ve allowed a narrowed, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester, the view that America is a zero-sum game, where there’s only one winner. If you succeed, I fail. If you get ahead, I fall behind. If you get a job, I lose mine. And maybe worst of all, if I hold you down, I lift myself up. Instead of if you do well, we all do well.” Biden promised to invest in Black communities extensively to unlock creativity and innovation.

Then the president took on the elephant in the room: . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2021 at 2:44 pm

Interesting finding: Voting is now driven by education, not class

leave a comment »

Read this post by Kevin Drum. Right-click image to open in a new tab, then click it to enlarge.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2021 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Education, Election

What The Rise Of Amazon Has To Do With The Rise Of Trump

leave a comment »

Danielle Kurtzleben reports at NPR:

Amazon was already an economic behemoth before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. But when many Americans ramped up their shopping from home, the company saw explosive growth. In short, ProPublica journalist Alec MacGillis writes in Fulfillment, its fortunes diverged from the nation’s economic fortunes.

The book looks at the American economy through the lens of Amazon — the forces that made it, the trends it accelerated, and the inequality that he argues has resulted from the growth of Big Tech. The NPR Politics Podcast spoke to him about America’s “winning” and “losing” cities, what Amazon has to do with former President Donald Trump’s election, and how much it matters when consumers decide to boycott huge companies like Amazon.

Fulfillment was the latest selection in the NPR Politics Podcast Book Club. Join in the book conversations at the podcast’s Facebook group. The next discussion, in late June, will be about Elizabeth Hinton’s America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s.

The following are excerpts from the full interview with MacGillis, with answers edited for clarity and length. [Audio of the interview here. – LG]

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN: Your book isn’t exactly what I was expecting. I sort of went into it thinking, “this is going to be a book that’s, ‘Amazon [is] bad — it has bad labor practices and it hurts small business, etc.’ ” And while Amazon doesn’t come off as quite a hero, the book is much more about the American economy and American economic history through an Amazon lens. How would you describe what you were trying to do?

ALEC MACGILLIS: Yes, I actually came to Amazon secondarily within the book. I wanted to write a book for years now about regional disparities in America — the sort of growing regional inequality between a small set of what I call sort of winner-take-all cities, cities like Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Boston, D.C., and a much larger set of cities and towns that have that have really been falling behind.

We’ve always had richer and poorer places, but the gap between them has gotten a lot bigger in recent years, and it’s really unhealthy for the country. I especially wanted to write about it after Trump got elected; it was so clear just what a big role these regional disparities had in Trump’s election.

I chose Amazon as the frame for two different reasons. One is that the company is so ubiquitous now in our life, just so omnipresent, that it’s a handy thread to kind of just take you around the country and show what we’re becoming as a country in kind of a metaphorical kind of way. But it’s also a very handy frame for the story of racial inequality, because the company is itself helping drive these disparities. The regional concentration of wealth in our country is very closely tied to the concentration of our economy in certain companies.

DK: I’m not sure what the timeline was of you working on this book, but when you saw the big HQ2 contest happen — it’s like your book’s thesis on steroids. What was your reaction to Amazon holding essentially a Bachelor competition for where its next headquarters would be?

AM: It was quite serendipitous in a way that they embarked on this process while I was working on the book. I actually chose Washington, D.C. as one of the two “winner” cities that I was going to focus on before it got chosen by Amazon to be the second headquarters. [Amazon chose the D.C. suburb of Arlington, Va., as a new headquarters site in 2018.]

I knew that I wanted to focus on Seattle because it already was the Amazon headquarters. And I wanted to focus on Washington because it was so clear that Washington was another winner-take-all city that had been completely transformed by this kind of hyper-prosperity. And then, lo and behold, they go ahead and pick Washington as their second headquarters.

Another reason I wanted to have Washington as a second winner-take-all city is that I found the contrast between Washington and Baltimore so compelling for me.

The sort of spiritual heart of the book is the contrast between Washington [and] Baltimore, these two cities that are just 40 miles apart. I’ve moved between these cities now for the last 20 years, working and living in both places. And it’s just been so striking to watch the gap growing between them, and to me, just really upsetting and disheartening to watch that happening.

You have one city that’s become just incredibly unaffordable for so many people, where it costs, you know, seven, eight, nine hundred thousand dollars to buy a row house, if not more. All these people, longtime residents, mostly longtime black residents, being displaced by the thousands. And then just up the road in Baltimore, you have such deep population decline that you have rowhouses, that are going for seven or eight hundred thousand dollars down the road, being demolished by the hundreds.

That just is not good for people in either sort of city, and Amazon is really at the core of that. They chose Washington as their headquarters. It’s going to get only richer or more expensive.

DK: There’s so much to get at here in terms of the economic forces at work — the way that city government works, NIMBYism in action, de-unionization, companies getting preferential tax treatment, that sort of thing. How did we get here? Is there an original sin that sort of led to where we are, or is it just that we went from a goods-based to a tech-based economy, and this just sort of inevitably happened? . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2021 at 1:32 pm

US government sinks to new depths of dysfunction

leave a comment »

The Republican party has blocked an independent commission (which met  the demands the Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans insisted on). This makes sense if the Republicans were complicit in that attack.

A special shout out to Sen. Joe Manchin, who insisted that the filibuster remain, regardless of the damage it does.

I don’t see much hope for the US government going forward. Nicholas Fandos reports in the NY Times:

Republicans on Friday blocked the creation of an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, using their filibuster power in the Senate for the first time this year to doom a full accounting for the deadliest attack on Congress in centuries.

With the vast majority of Republicans determined to shield their party from potential political damage that could come from scrutiny of the storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, only six G.O.P. senators joined Democrats to support advancing the measure. The final vote, 54 to 35, fell short of the 60 senators needed to move forward.

The vote was a stinging defeat for proponents of the commission, who had argued that it was the only way to assemble a truly comprehensive account of the riot for a polarized nation. Modeled after the inquiry into the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the proposed panel of experts would have been responsible for producing a report on the assault and recommendations to secure Congress by the end of the year.

The debate played out in the same chamber where a throng of supporters of former President Donald J. Trump, egged on by his lies of a stolen election and efforts by Republican lawmakers to invalidate President Biden’s victory, sought to disrupt Congress’s counting of electoral votes about five months ago.

Top Republicans had entertained supporting the measure as recently as last week. But they ultimately reversed course, and the House approved it with only 35 Republican votes. Leaders concluded that open-ended scrutiny of the attack would hand Democrats powerful political ammunition before the 2022 midterm elections — and enrage a former president they are intent on appeasing.

“I do not believe the additional extraneous commission that Democratic leaders want would uncover crucial new facts or promote healing,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader. “Frankly, I do not believe it is even designed to do that.”

Though Mr. McConnell said he would continue to support criminal cases against the rioters and stand by his “unflinching” criticisms of Mr. Trump, the commission’s defeat is expected to embolden the former president at a time when he has once again ramped up circulation of his baseless and debunked claims.

In a matter of months, his lies have warped the views of many of his party’s supporters, who view Mr. Biden as illegitimate; inspired a rash of new voting restrictions in Republican-led states and a quixotic recount in Arizona denounced by both parties; and fueled efforts by Republican members of Congress to downplay and reframe the Capitol riot as a benign event akin to a “normal tourist visit.”

“People are just now beginning to understand!” Mr. Trump wrote in a statement on Thursday.

Democrats denounced the vote as a cowardly cover-up. They warned Republicans that preventing an independent inquiry — led by five commissioners appointed by Democrats and five by Republicans — would not shield them from confronting the implications of Mr. Trump’s attacks on the democratic process.

“Do my Republican colleagues remember that day?” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, asked moments after the vote. “Do my Republican colleagues remember the savage mob calling for the execution of Mike Pence, the makeshift gallows outside the Capitol?”

“Shame on the Republican Party for trying to sweep the horrors of that day under the rug because they are afraid of Donald Trump,” he added.

The six Republicans who voted to advance debate on the commission included . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2021 at 12:25 pm

These corporations broke the commitments they made after January 6

leave a comment »

Judd Legum reports in Popular Information:

It’s been nearly five months since the attack on the United States Capitol. But in many respects, nothing has changed.

None of the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the election on January 6 — fueling the lie that motivated the attack — have expressed contrition or remorse. Several have attempted to recast the riot as a peaceful protest. This month, Congressman Andrew Clyde (R-GA) compared the events of that day to a “normal tourist visit” to the Capitol and Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said the Department of Justice, which has filed criminal charges against more than 400 people, was “harassing peaceful patriots.”

Last Wednesday, of the 139 Republican members of the House who objected to the certification of the Electoral College, all but six voted against the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 attack.

In January, hundreds of corporations announced they were suspending PAC donations to the Republican objectors or all members of Congress. These corporations — explicitly or implicitly — recognized that the Republican members who voter against certification bore some responsibility for the violence.

Since then, most of these corporations have kept their promises. But others have not.

There are hundreds of corporations, each making a slightly different commitment after January 6. And there are a variety of ways the campaign finance system allows corporations to funnel money to campaigns. Each month a flood of campaign finance records are reported to the FEC. The most recent data dump came last Thursday.

But Popular Information has been keeping a close eye on the issue. This is a breakdown of companies that have broken the letter or spirit of their post-January 6 commitments. . .

Continue reading. There’s lots more.

Written by Leisureguy

24 May 2021 at 5:09 pm

Posted in Business, Congress, Election, GOP, Politics

Tagged with ,

America’s Final Descent Into a Failed State

leave a comment »

In Medium Umair Haque lays out a future for the US:

By now, the contours of what look like a strategy are emerging. A strategy to take revenge on American democracy — this time, successfully. The five elements of this strategy — it’s the GOP’s, of course — go something like this.

One, put in place as party leaders those who’ve basically sworn allegiance to Trump, his movement, and his aims, which seem to be the violent overthrow of American democracy. Two, have them propound the Big Lie that the election was stolen. Three, at the state level, restrict voting rights as severely as possible. Four, elevate a new generation of fanatics and radicals — who openly bask in violence, like Marjorie Taylor Greene — to prominence. And five, of course, block any attempt to investigate the coup on Jan 6th.

All of that adds up to a nightmare scenario, come the next election. This fivefold strategy gives the GOP options. Options of the kind it shouldn’t have. To overthrow American democracy in any number of ways.

Let’s consider a few.

One: the Republicans take the house, and refuse to certify the President, if he or she’s a Democrat. What happens then? Constitutional crisis — of the most severe kind. It ends up at the Supreme Court — which, of course, leans heavily, heavily Republican.

Two: the Republicans lose the election — and attempt another coup. Only this time, they’re successful — remember, last time, America got lucky, and it was a minor miracle political leaders weren’t assassinated, which was the explicit goal of the coup. But this time, Republicans do manage to block vote certification through outright violence. What happens then? Chaos does. The GOP claims they’re the “true” winners — and America’s left in a twilight zone.

Three: the many, many ways the Republicans are attacking voting at the state level pay off. Through a combination of gerrymandering, sympathetic officials who are fanatics, restrictions, and “fraudits,” the Republicans manage to swing the election their way — by simply hacking away at the most basic mechanisms of democracy.

I could go on, but the point is this. Trump may seem “gone” — for now — but American democracy is in grave danger. It may be in more danger now than during the Trump years, in fact. Why is that?

Because what all the above means is that the GOP has radicalized. They have made three significant choices, in the last few months, as an institution, as a set of people, as a social group. One, they have doubled down on the idea that if democracy doesn’t serve their ascendance to power, then it’s OK to do away with democracy. Two, they’ve doubled down on the idea that violence is a perfectly acceptable means to take power. Three, they’ve decided that  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 May 2021 at 2:10 pm

“I watched the GOP’s Arizona election audit. It was worse than you think.”

leave a comment »

Jennifer Morrell, a former local election official and national expert on post-election audits, writes in the Washington Post:

When Arizona’s secretary of state asked me if I would serve as an observer of the Arizona Senate’s audit of Maricopa County’s ballots, I expected to see some unusual things. Post-election audits and recounts are almost always conducted under the authority of local election officials, who have years of knowledge and experience. The idea of a government handing over control of ballots to an outside group, as the state Senate did when hiring a Florida contractor with no elections experience, was bizarre. This firm, Cyber Ninjas, insisted that it would recount and examine all 2.1 million ballots cast in the county in the 2020 general election.

So I figured it would be unconventional. But it was so much worse than that. In more than a decade working on elections, audits and recounts across the country, I’ve never seen one this mismanaged.

[I counted votes in Michigan. There’s no way to commit fraud.]

I arrived at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum on the morning of May 4. Security was conspicuously high: At three stations, guards checked my ID and my letter from the secretary of state. No bags were permitted on the floor, and I had to surrender my phone, laptop and smartwatch. I was allowed a yellow legal pad and red pen to take notes, and provided with a pink T-shirt to wear so I would be immediately identifiable. The audit observers hired by Cyber Ninjas, in orange T-shirts, followed me wherever I went and reported random things about me they found suspicious, like that my foot had crossed the tape perimeter separating the work and observation areas. Several times someone asked to test my pen, to ensure it really had red ink. Once, they even demanded that I empty my pockets, in which I carried that pen and a pair of reading glasses. I was allowed to ask only procedural questions of the Cyber Ninjas attorney; I couldn’t talk to anyone else performing the work. The atmosphere was tense.

I was stunned to see spinning conveyor wheels, whizzing hundreds of ballots past “counters,” who struggled to mark, on a tally sheet, each voter’s selection for the presidential and Senate races. They had only a few seconds to record what they saw. Occasionally, I saw a counter look up, realize they missed a ballot and then grab the wheel to stop it. This process sets them up to make so many mistakes, I kept thinking. Humans are terrible at tedious, repetitive tasks; we’re especially bad at counting. That’s why, in all the other audits I’ve seen, bipartisan teams follow a tallying method that allows for careful review and inspection of each ballot, followed by a verification process. I’d never seen an audit use contraptions to speed things up.

Speed doesn’t necessarily pose a problem if the audit has a process for catching and correcting mistakes. But it didn’t. Each table had three volunteers tallying the ballots, and their tally sheets were considered “done” as long as two of the three tallies matched, and the third was off by no more than two ballots. The volunteers recounted only if their tally sheets had three or more errors — a threshold they stuck to, no matter how many ballots a stack contained, whether 50 or 100. This allowed for a shocking amount of error. Some table managers told the counters to recount when there were too many errors; other table managers just instructed the counters to fix their “math mistakes.” At no point did anyone track how many ballots they were processing at their station, to ensure that none got added or lost during handling.

I also observed other auditors working on a “forensic paper audit,” flagging ballots as “suspicious” for a variety of reasons. One was presidential selection: If someone thought the voter’s choice looked as though it had been marked by a machine, they flagged it as “anomalous.” Another was “missing security markers.” (It’s virtually impossible for a ballot to be missing its security markers, since voting equipment is designed to reject ballots without them.) The third was paper weight — the forensics tables had scales for weighing ballots, though I never saw anyone use them — and texture. Volunteers scrutinized ballots for, of all things, bamboo fibers. Only later, after the shift, did I learn that this was connected to groundless speculation that fake ballots had been flown in from South Korea.

The fourth reason was folding. The auditors reasoned that only absentee voters would fold their ballots; an in-person, Election Day voter would take a flat ballot, mark it in the booth and submit it, perfectly pristine. I almost had to laugh: In my experience, voters will fold ballots every which way, no matter where they vote or what the ballot instructs them to do. Chalk it up to privacy concerns or individual quirks — but no experienced elections official would call that suspicious.

At one point, I overheard some volunteers excitedly discussing a stain on a ballot. “It looks like a Cheeto finger,” one said. “Like someone’s touched it with cheese dust!” That had to be suspicious, their teammate agreed. Why would someone come to the polls with cheese powder on their hands? But I’ve seen ballots stained with almost anything you can imagine, including coffee, grease and, yes, cheese powder. Again, when you have experience working with hundreds of thousands of ballots, you see some messes: That’s evidence of humanity’s idiosyncrasies, not foul play.

Their equipment worried me more than their wild theorizing. At the forensics tables, auditors took a photo of each ballot using a camera suspended by a frame, then passed the ballot to someone operating a lightbox with four microscope cameras attached. This was a huge deviation from the norm. Usually, all equipment that election officials use to handle a ballot — from creating to scanning to tallying it — has been federally tested and certified; often, states will conduct further tests before their jurisdictions accept the machines. It jarred me to . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

23 May 2021 at 8:06 am

Polarization is Destroying America

leave a comment »

Michael A. Cohen describes the elephant destroying the room:

Most close observers of modern American politics would agree that we are living in an era of extreme partisan polarization. The political divides between the two parties have seemingly never been greater.

But if polarization is well understood, its impact is gravely underestimated. Polarization is transforming American politics and American society – and bit by bit, it is doing terrible damage to the country. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to start writing about this issue in far more detail because I believe that political journalism is failing to fully grapple with this ongoing sea change in the nation’s politics. There is still a media inclination to view politics through an outdated lens – one in which persuadable voters matter, bipartisanship is still possible, lying, hypocrisy, or blatantly anti-democratic acts are disqualifying, policy outcomes move voters, and there are political rewards for addressing parochial and constituent concerns.

These factors have not disappeared, but their relevance to modern politics is waning. Instead, we’ve reached a political inflection point in which the primary factor in determining voter preferences is whether there is a “D” or an “R” next to a candidate’s name.

Split ticket voting has largely disappeared. In 2009, there were 13 Democratic senators in states won by John McCain. Today, there are 3 Democratic senators in states won by Donald Trump in 2020. In 2009, there were 10 Republican senators in states Obama won. Now there are 3 Republican senators in states where Biden prevailed. In the House of Representatives, a mere 16 members represent districts won by the other party’s presidential nominee. In 2009, that number was 83.

The result of this divvying up by party identification is that most members of Congress run for reelection in districts that are not competitive, and the key to victory comes down to a candidate’s effectiveness in mobilizing the segment of the electorate likeliest to vote for them. For most Republican candidates, the greatest challenge to their political future is not losing to a Democrat but instead being felled in a primary by a more conservative Republican. The same is increasingly true of Democrats. For example, in the Senate, every Democratic candidate up for reelection in 2022 is running in a state won by Joe Biden. This makes the vast majority of Senate Democrats much more inclined to follow the national party – a phenomenon we’ve seen play out in today’s narrowly divided Senate.

For Republican politicians, outreach to Democrats or the shrinking number of swing voters runs the risk of alienating Trump Republicans. As we saw in Senate races across the country in 2020, Republican candidates, when given the choice between upsetting their Trump-supporting base or moderating their positions to expand their political support, overwhelmingly chose the former. And for those running in red states, it ended up being the smart move – they all handily won reelection.

As these dividing lines between the two parties become more sharply defined – and it becomes more difficult to move voters away from their partisan homes – there is little inclination for members of either party to compromise, work across the aisle, or seek bipartisan agreement. Party loyalty trumps all other considerations.

The SALT Fight

One recent example of this phenomenon is the fight in Congress over the state and local tax deduction. Last month, House Democrats from some of the wealthiest districts in America delivered an ultimatum to President Biden – lift the cap on state and local tax deductions (SALT), that was part of the 2017 Trump tax cuts or lose their vote on the tax bill that would pay for Biden’s more than $3 trillion infrastructure bill. With the party’s ultra-slim majority in the House, the defection of a mere handful of Democrats could doom Biden’s legislative efforts.

On the surface, this looks like a classic parochial concern and a clear demonstration of how local issues drive federal legislating. But this drama is playing out in a very different political world – one in which the SALT deduction is not a political bargaining chip to negotiate an agreement between members of Congress from different parties or different regions, but rather a blunt political tool that a handful of Democrats can use to hold their party hostage. The SALT deduction is an issue that affects both Democratic and Republican members of Congress. Indeed, in 2017 more than a dozen House Republicans did not vote for the Trump tax bill because the legislation capped the SALT deduction. (Conversely, Republicans included it in the legislation because they knew it would hurt Democrats).

Those Republicans in California, the Northeast, and the affluent suburbs of Illinois and Virginia, where capping the SALT deduction can cost taxpayers thousands of dollars in higher taxes, who did vote for the bill were wiped out. According to an analysis from the Tax Policy Center, “the largest shift towards Democratic house candidates occurred in the 20 percent of counties with the greatest percentage of tax filers taking the SALT deduction.”

Ironically, taking the opposite position on SALT didn’t do much to help either. On the twelve GOP members who went against their party and voted to protect their constituents from tax increases, five lost reelection, and two retired. Once again, partisan loyalty trumped parochialism, even for voters.

Today, the SALT fight is being fought almost exclusively within the Democratic Party. For the vast majority of Republicans, the political imperative of opposing Democratic bills and a Democratic president dwarfs all other political considerations.

This new reality makes bipartisan legislation  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Later in the article:

In more than a dozen red states, recalcitrant Republican state legislators continue to refuse to accept billions of dollars in federal dollars to expand Medicaid. Doing so is not only depriving 4 million people in these states access to health insurance; it costs money because states still need to provide emergency coverage for the uninsured. Study after study has shown that Medicaid expansion is a financial winner for states – and that’s not even to mention the longer, healthier lives of those who receive coverage.

In Missouri, last Fall, a ballot initiative passed to expand Medicaid, but last month the Republican-dominated state legislature balked at allocating the money. Their rationale was that it would bust the state’s budget. Keep in mind, the federal government pays 90% of the bill for those who received care under Medicaid expansion, and Missouri currently has a budget surplus. In addition, the recently passed American Rescue Plan allocates another 5% of the costs for states that expand coverage.

But none of that matters because Medicaid expansion is associated with Obamacare, and Republicans don’t want to be on the record supporting any aspect of that legislation.

Written by Leisureguy

21 May 2021 at 11:39 am

The headline fight: New jobs vs. GOP craziness

leave a comment »

Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Today President Joe Biden traveled to Dearborn, Michigan, to sell his $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan. Visiting Ford’s Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, he tested an electric version of the classic F-150 pickup and urged Americans to use the race to dominate the market in electric vehicles as a way to create jobs. The American Jobs Plan provides $174 billion to switch the nation’s car industry away from fossil fuels and toward renewables, and Ford’s electric F-150 could help sell the idea.

Union leaders support the idea of constructing the nation’s new electric fleet despite their concern that the new vehicles need less human labor than vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. (Ford says that building the new electric truck—the Lightning—will add jobs.) But Republican lawmakers, especially those whose states produce oil, remain skeptical.

Biden is quietly and deliberately trying to rebuild the American economy, which has been gutted in the years since 1981. Yesterday, he announced that the Treasury would deposit the benefits of the child tax credit, expanded in the American Rescue Plan Congress passed in March shortly after Biden took office, directly into people’s bank accounts on the 15th of every month, beginning in July. The child tax credit will amount to at least $250 per child every month, up to an annual amount of up to a maximum of $3600 per child. About 90% of all families with kids—about 39 million of them—will receive the money; the program is expected to cut child poverty in half. It is a tax cut, but one that benefits ordinary Americans.

Biden appears to be gambling that restoring the economy and rebuilding the middle class will weaken Trump’s hold on the dispossessed voters who cling to his racist nationalism out of anger at being left behind in today’s economy. He gives the impression of a president who is above the fray, simply trying to do what’s best for the nation.

But it seems hard for him to get media attention as the Republicans continue to make more dramatic news.

Today’s headlines were dominated by the fight in Congress over a commission to investigate the events surrounding the January 6 insurrection. Last week, Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, and John Katko (R-NY), the top Republican on the committee, hammered out a deal to create an independent commission patterned on the one that investigated the 9/11 attack. Katko was one of the ten Republican representatives who voted to impeach Trump after the January 6 insurrection.

According to Politico, McCarthy authorized Katko to negotiate and gave him a list of demands, including equal representation for Republicans and Democrats on the committee, power for both parties to subpoena witnesses, and a final report before the end of the year so it wouldn’t still be active before the 2022 election.

Thompson conceded these three big points to the Republicans. And then, this morning, McCarthy came out against the deal. “Given the political misdirections that have marred this process, given the now duplicative and potentially counterproductive nature of this effort, and given the Speaker’s shortsighted scope that does not examine interrelated forms of political violence in America, I cannot support this legislation,” he said.

Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) has repeatedly called for McCarthy to be subpoenaed to testify about his contact with Trump around the time of the insurrection, and Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) says that McCarthy dismissed him when Kinzinger warned before January 6 that the party’s rhetoric would cause violence.

“McCarthy won’t take yes for an answer,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said. “He made three requests—every single one was granted by Democrats, yet he still says no.” A senior Republican House aide told Politico: “I think Kevin was hoping that the Democrats would never agree to our requests—that way the commission would be partisan and we can all vote no and say it’s a sham operation…. Because he knows Trump is going to lose his mind” over the commission.

Indeed Trump later weighed in, saying the deal was a “Democrat trap.” This afternoon, in yet another illustration of how determined House leadership is to protect the former president, it began “whipping” House Republicans—that is, trying to get them to hold the party line— to oppose the creation of the commission. Nonetheless, Politico reported tonight that dozens of Republicans are considering supporting the commission despite how much it would infuriate Trump, because it would provide them political cover in 2022.

The measure will come to the floor of the House on Wednesday and should pass. The real question will be how it fares in the Senate, where seven Republican senators voted to convict Trump of inciting an insurrection in January. Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), who voted to acquit the former president, told Sahil Kapur of NPR News that he wanted a bipartisan commission that would focus on January 6. “We clearly had an insurrection on that particular day, and I don’t want it to be swept under any rug,” he said.

While Republicans try to avoid a reckoning over January 6, there are signs that the hold of Trump loyalists is weakening. Yesterday, the Maricopa County, Arizona, Board of Supervisors sent a spectacular letter to Karen Fann, the president of the Arizona Senate that authorized the “audit” of the ballots cast in Maricopa County by the private company Cyber Ninjas. The 14-page letter tore apart the entire project, pointing out that the Cyber Ninjas are utterly ignorant of election procedures.

It is a devastating take down, saying, for example: “You have rented . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 May 2021 at 10:04 am

The attack on American foundational principles

leave a comment »

Heather Cox Richardson writes:

I wanted to note that on this day in 1954, the Supreme Court handed down the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision, declaring racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. A unanimous court decided that segregation denied Black children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1868 in the wake of the Civil War. Brown v. Board was a turning point in establishing the principle of racial equality in modern America.

Since the 1860s, we have recognized that equality depends upon ensuring that all Americans have a right to protect their own interests by having a say in their government.

Today, that principle is under attack.

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson urged Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act to “help rid the Nation of racial discrimination in every aspect of the electoral process and thereby insure the right of all to vote.” And yet, in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted that law, and in the wake of the 2020 election in which voters gave Democrats control of the government, Republican-dominated states across the country are passing voter suppression laws.

Today, Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) begged their colleagues to reinstate the Voting Rights Act. In 2006 a routine reauthorization of the law got through the Senate with a vote of 98-0; now it is not clear it can get even the ten Republican votes it will need to get through the Senate, so long as the filibuster remains intact.

But here’s the thing: Once you give up the principle of equality before the law, you have given up the whole game. You have admitted the principle that people are unequal, and that some people are better than others. Once you have replaced the principle of equality with the idea that humans are unequal, you have granted your approval to the idea of rulers and servants. At that point, all you can do is to hope that no one in power decides that you belong in one of the lesser groups.

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln, then a candidate for the Senate, warned that arguments limiting American equality to white men and excluding black Americans were the same arguments “that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world…. Turn in whatever way you will—whether it come from the mouth of a King, an excuse for enslaving the people of his country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old serpent.” Either people—men, in his day—were equal, or they were not.

Lincoln went on, “I should like to know if . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2021 at 2:28 pm

Google, Deloitte, and Citigroup quietly collaborate with GOP group pushing voter suppression

leave a comment »

Judd Legum and Nick Surgey report at Popular Information:

Several large corporations that have recently issued public statements supporting voting rights — including Google, Deloitte, and Citigroup — are also funding and collaborating with a top Republican group advocating for new voter suppression laws. Internal documents obtained by Popular Information and Documented reveal the corporations participated in a “policy working group” on “election integrity” with the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), a party organization that is actively supporting new voter suppression bills. Participation in the roundtable required a minimum annual contribution of $15,000 to the RSLC.

For example, on March 31, Google’s SVP for Global Affairs, Kent Walker tweeted that the company is “concerned about efforts to restrict voting at a local level” and “strongly support[s] the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”

A week later, Google’s State Policy Manager, Joe Dooley, was listed as a participant in a private RSLC policy working group led by the organization’s “Election Integrity Committee.” The April 6 presentation, obtained by Popular Information and Documented, details an array of proposals to suppress voting, including purging of voting lists, more stringent voter ID requirements, and targeting of voting centers. The RSLC also opposes any federal action to protect voting rights. The meeting was run by Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R), who has embraced Trump’s lies and conspiracies about election fraud.

The RSLC presentation deck makes clear that the purpose of restricting voting under the guise of “election integrity” is to elect more Republicans. One slide asserts that Republican control of state legislatures is the “last line of defense for the Republican Party.” The RSLC argues that Republicans must act “now” because “2022 is just over the horizon — election integrity is likely to have a major impact.”  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, including charts and slides.

Written by Leisureguy

17 May 2021 at 12:53 pm

Liz Cheney v. her party (especially Kevin McCarthy)

leave a comment »

Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), whom the Republican House conference dumped as chair last week after she refused to kowtow to former president Trump, said some interesting things to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday this morning. She reiterated that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has information about conversations with Trump surrounding the events of January 6 and should be subpoenaed if he will not talk about those things voluntarily (and, by implication, under oath).

Cheney is bringing back into the media cycle a number of things we heard between the election and January 6, but she has said that McCarthy should be subpoenaed enough times that it’s hard to believe she is talking generally.

On ABC’s This Week, Cheney also repeated the information she gave last week: that Republicans were afraid to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial because they were frightened for their lives. You may recall that the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff (D-CA) said something similar in his closing remarks in January 2020 at Trump’s first impeachment trial, and Republicans claimed to be outraged. Senator James Lankford (R-OK) told reporters: “That’s insulting and demeaning to everyone to say that we somehow live in fear and that the president has threatened all of us.”

And yet, sixteen months later, here we are.

Cheney is not the only Republican who is turning on the former president and his loyalists. Last night, Trump posted a statement claiming that “the entire Database of Maricopa County in Arizona”—where the bizarre “audit” is underway—“has been DELETED!” The statement goes on to make sweeping claims about “this unbelievable Election crime,” and so on.

But, in real time, the Republican recorder of Maricopa County wrote on Twitter in response to Trump’s statement: “Wow. this is unhinged,” Stephen Richer wrote. “I’m literally looking at our voter registration database on my other screen. Right now.” He went on: “We can’t indulge these insane lies any longer. As a party. As a state. As a country. This is as readily falsifiable as 2+2=5. If we don’t call this out….”

And Maricopa County did call it out. In a remarkable Twitter thread, the Maricopa County official account destroyed the effort by the private company Cyber Ninjas to recount the 2020 votes in that county. “The 2020 elections were run w/ integrity, the results certified by the county & state were accurate, & the 2 independent audits conducted by the County are the true final word on the subject,” the account said. “We know auditing. The Senate Cyber Ninja audit is not a real audit.” The account went on to list all the many ways in which this audit is simply a propaganda effort to shore up the Big Lie that the election was stolen.

This weekend we also learned that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 May 2021 at 9:08 am

A GOP Civil War? Don’t Bet On It.

leave a comment »

Jeff Greenfield, five-time Emmy-winning network television analyst and author, has a piece in Politico that is somewhat depressing because it seems valid. It begins:

If you’ve been reading the coverage lately, or listened to gloating Democrats, it’s easy to believe the Republican Party is eating itself alive.

The former Republican president literally campaigns against incumbents of his own party. NBC calls it a “GOP power struggle”; The Hill describes “deep rifts”; and the Democratic National Committee exults over “a GOP civil war.” After losing the White House, the House and the Senate, its congressional leadership is now in open conflict; Wednesday, the minority leader is expected to oust his No. 3.

Among Democrats painfully aware of their tiny or non-existent margins in the House and Senate, the prospect of a divided Republican Party offers hope that this “civil war” will redound to Democrats’ advantage in 2022.

They shouldn’t be so sure.

First, beyond a few spats that make headlines, it’s getting harder to detect any serious division among rank-and-file Republicans. In Congress, and at the grassroots, the dominance of Donald Trump over the party is more or less total. The small handful who denounced the former president for his massive lies about the election and his seeding of an insurrectionist riot are now either silent, or have embraced a mealy-mouthed argument for “election integrity.” The same state officials who pushed back against Trump’s attempt to overturn November’s results have embraced a series of restrictive voting measures ostensibly designed to combat non-existent “fraud,” all aimed at hobbling voters inclined to vote for Democrats. Mitch McConnell, who denounced Trump’s behavior in high-minded tones in the aftermath of the riot, also—on the exact same day—voted to exonerate him of wrongdoing.

Second, and more significant, history is littered with times that critics on the left, and in the pundit class, were positive the Republican Party was setting itself up for defeat by embracing its extremes … only to watch the party comfortably surge into power. This time there are structural advantages as well: Given the Republican advantages in the House (through gerrymandering, and the statistically “wasted” votes in landslide Democratic districts), in the Senate, in state legislatures and in the Electoral College, a Trump-dominated Republican Party is a strong contender to take the White House next time around. And, contrarian as it may seem, the lockstep devotion to the former president may actually enhance, rather than lessen, its chances. What we’re seeing isn’t a civil war. It’s a purge, and there’s every reason to believe it will work.

This is not the conclusion you’ll reach if you follow much of the mainstream press. A New York Times story on Saturday about Trump’s hold on the GOP quoted former Rep. Barbara Comstock, former Sen. Jeff Flake, GOP consultant Sarah Longwell and Republican strategist Scott Reed, all warning of the political danger of a Trumpcentric party. These are estimable public figures, none of whom remotely speaks for the Republican base. For the past few weeks, much media attention was focused on Michael Wood, the 34-year-old veteran running for a Texas seat with a message that the Republican Party had to move away from Trump. He wound up finishing ninth, with 3 percent of the vote.

For a broader measure of just how one-sided the “civil war” is, you don’t need to stop at the behavior of House Republicans, who are poised to defenestrate Liz Cheney from her leadership post, and who overwhelmingly voted in January to block the certification of electors. A far better picture emerges when . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2021 at 12:12 pm

The Darkness Descends

leave a comment »

“この世界は, 暗黒に包まれている. 風は止み. 海は荒れ. 大地は腐っていく.” — Final Fantasy

Translation: “This world is surrounded by darkness. The wind stops. The sea is rough. The earth is rotten.”

Noah Smith uses that quotation as the epigraph for his post:

There is a Darkness creeping over our world.

That is a melodramatic thing to say. But when I reach for words to express the profound unease that I feel watching the advance of illiberalism across my planet, the language of fantasy novels, children’s movies, and video games is the only one that seems up to the task. Throughout my youth, I consumed a great many stories that all had the same basic premise — an ancient evil, long ago banished from our world, is now returning, and once again we are called upon to rise up and fight it. Perhaps all those stories shaped my worldview and made me see complex, gritty reality in epic, Manichean terms. Or perhaps the stories were written by people who had themselves lived through a global wave of illiberalism, and were trying to pass down a warning.

There is plenty of darkness in the world even at the best of times. Wars, ethnic cleansing, rights violations, suppression of speech and religion…these things are always, or almost always, happening in some part of the globe. No leader and no country is spotless. And yet observers of comparative government and human rights are able to clearly identify times when respect for the rights and liberties of human beings begins to gutter and wane.

We are now in one of those times. The news headlines from around the world give us a continual stream of dark portents. Concentration camps and forced mass sterilization of minorities in China. Millions rendered stateless by a new law in India amid a retreat of secularism. A coup attempt and election denial as a normalized political strategy in America. Rising authoritarianism in Turkey, in Hungary, in Brazil, in the Philippines, in Israel. Protesters massacred in Myanmarmassacred in Iransuppressed in Belarussuppressed in Hong Kong. Mass surveillance everywhere. Internet shutdowns. “Anti-terrorism” laws.

But headlines are just anecdotes. Unfortunately, data tell the same story.

Freedom House, a think tank that tracks political and civil liberties around the world, warns in its 2020 report that “democracy and pluralism are under assault”. You can quibble with Freedom House’s measurements and definitions, but at least they’re consistent across time, and for a decade and a half now they’ve shown a world inching toward illiberalism: . . .

Continue reading. The charts are chilling. And later in the column:

Trump did various nasty things (family separation, using federal agents as cops, etc.). But the biggest threat here by far is the apparent rejection of electoral democracy by the dominant faction of the Republican Party. Trump’s attempt to brazenly deny the result of the 2020 election and use every means short of civil war to overturn the result might not a one-off thing; they provided a blueprint that the GOP now seems to be embracing for the future:

If electoral democracy in America relies on Democrats never losing an election, it’s doomed. If the GOP doesn’t change its tune and agree that the rules by which Americans choose their leaders are legitimate, the next decade could be one of rolling constitutional crises…or worse.

But beyond America’s flirtation with autocracy, the coalition that it assembled to win the Cold War is just much weaker now than it was in the 1980s. . .

Read the whole thing. There’s much more.

Later in the column:

How did our world begin to fall into Darkness? Why did a 25-year trend of increasing human freedom and human rights stall and go into reverse? Everyone is going to have their favorite answer to this question. Those will include the death of the WW2 generation, the rise of social media, new disruptive technologies, economic inequality, the failures of late capitalism, and so on. Any and all of those might well be contributing factors. But while we’re here, I might as well tell you my answer.

My answer is “fear”.

If Freedom House and V-Dem are to believed, the Darkness began to return right around the mid to late 2000s. Two notable geopolitical events occurred in that decade — the rise of China, and the Iraq War. And both events can be interpreted as being broadly part of the same overarching trend — diminution of the United States of America.

The Iraq War did incalculable damage to the moral standing the U.S. had accumulated since its intercession in World War 2 and its construction of the postwar liberal order. We invaded a non-threatening country on the thinnest of false pretexts (don’t deny it), inflaming an entire region of the globe. Hundreds of thousands died. A few of our troops committed well-publicized atrocities. If I had to tell you a single moment when the Darkness was released from the barriers that sealed it beyond the boundaries of the world, it would be this moment:

Written by Leisureguy

13 May 2021 at 10:37 am

%d bloggers like this: