Archives for category: Elections

This is a remarkable document in the New York Times. It details the planning and coordination for violent action that began as soon as the results of the 2020 were clear. The Oathkeepers, extremists who refused to accept Trump’s loss, started their efforts to stockpile weapons and convene in D.C. on January 6. Of course, other groups and unaffiliated individuals joined them.

This account directly contradicts the claims by Trumpers that Antifa or the FBI were behind the riots or that the insurrectionists were peaceful protestors exercising their First Amendment rights.

Victor Ray, a professor at the University of Iowa and a Nonresident Fellow at the Brookings Institution, reminds us that Dr. King warned about the betrayal of the white moderate after he experienced it himself.

He writes for CNN:

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the White moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice.”

In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote these words in the isolation of a Birmingham jail, where he was imprisoned for defying a court injunction to protest the city’s segregation ordinance. In an open letter, initially scrawled in the margins of a newspaper, Dr. King addressed a group of fellow clergymen who claimed to support the Black freedom movement but criticized nonviolent civil disobedience as a tactic to confront the evils of segregation.

In the letter, King differentiated between just and unjust laws, citing measures that prevented Black Americans from voting as a form of legalized injustice. At the time, Alabama, like many states across the South, was governed by a kind of racial authoritarianism that denied Black people a say in how they were governed. The clergymen’s condemnation of King’s activism belied their stated commitment to racial justice and provided cover for the denial of basic citizenship rights, including the right to vote.

By blocking voting reform today, Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are the White moderates Dr. King warned us about.

On Thursday, Sinema said that while she backs the Democrats’ voting rights laws, she would not support an exception to the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold to pass the legislation. Manchin later followed suit, saying he would not vote to “eliminate or weaken the filibuster.” By prioritizing an arcane Senate rule over the protection of voting rights, Manchin and Sinema have chosen “order” over justice.

They are more concerned about protecting a Senate procedure than ensuring the right to vote. Priorities?

Open the link and read more.

Most of us are familiar with left wing sectarianism, the tendency to organize into a circular firing squad. In the 1930s, the U.S left splintered into Democrats, Socialists, Democratic Socialists, Communists, Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Trotskyites, Cannonites, Schachtmanites, Lovestoneites, and many other factions. Most of their infighting was over ideological and doctrinal differences.

Now, as the Washington Post reports, our zany rightwingers are splitting into warring factions, not so much over ideology (which in their case is either nonexistent or incoherent), but over power and greed.

The far-right firebrands and conspiracy theorists of the pro-Trump Internet have a new enemy: each other.

QAnon devotees are livid at their former hero Michael Flynn for accurately calling their jumbled credo “total nonsense.” Donald Trump superfans have voiced a sense of betrayal because the former president, booed for getting a coronavirus immunization booster, has become a “vaccine salesman.” And attorney Lin Wood seems mad at pretty much everyone, including former allies on the scattered “elite strike-force team” investigating nonexistent mass voter fraud.

After months of failing to disprove the reality of Trump’s 2020 presidential election loss, some of the Internet’s most popular right-wing provocateurs are grappling with the pressures of restless audiences, saturated markets, ongoing investigations and millions of dollars in legal bills.
The result is a chaotic melodrama, playing out via secretly recorded phone calls, personal attacks in podcasts, and a seemingly endless stream of posts on Twitter, Gab and Telegram calling their rivals Satanists, communists, pedophiles or “pay-triots” — money-grubbing grifters exploiting the cause.
The infighting reflects the diminishing financial rewards for the merchants of right-wing disinformation, whose battles center not on policy or doctrine but on the treasures of online fame: viewer donations and subscriptions; paid appearances at rallies and conferences; and crowds of followers to buy their books and merchandise.

But it also reflects a broader confusion in the year since QAnon’s faceless nonsense-peddler, Q, went mysteriously silent….

The cage match kicked off late in November when Kyle Rittenhouse, acquitted of all charges after fatally shooting two men at a protest last year in Kenosha, Wis., told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that his former attorneys, including Wood, had exploited his jail time to boost their fundraising “for their own benefit, not trying to set me free.”

Wood has since snapped back at his 18-year-old former client, wondering aloud in recent messages on the chat service Telegram: Could his life be “literally under the supervision and control of a ‘director?’ Whoever ‘Kyle’ is, pray for him.”

The feud carved a major rift between Wood and his former compatriots in the pro-Trump “stop the steal” campaign, with an embattled Wood attacking Rittenhouse supporters including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.); Flynn, a former national security adviser to Trump; Sidney Powell, Flynn’s attorney; and Patrick Byrne, the Overstock founder who became a major “stop the steal” financier….

Each faction has accused the opposing side of betraying the pro-Trump cause or misusing the millions of dollars in funds that have gone to groups such as Powell’s Defending the Republic.
Wood has posted recordings of his phone calls with Byrne, who can be heard saying that Wood is “a little kooky,” and Flynn, a QAnon icon who can be heard telling Wood that QAnon’s mix of extremist conspiracy theories was actually bogus “nonsense” or a “CIA operation.”

Beyond the infighting, both sides are also staring down the potential for major financial damage in court. A federal judge last month ordered Wood and Powell to pay roughly $175,000 in legal fees for their “historic and profound abuse of the judicial process” in suing to overturn the 2020 presidential election. And Powell and others face potentially billions of dollars in damages as a result of defamation lawsuits filed by Dominion Voting Systems, which they falsely accused of helping to rig the 2020 race.

To help cover their legal bills, the factions have set up online merchandise shops targeting their most loyal followers. Fans of Powell’s bogus conspiracy theory can, for instance, buy a four-pack set of “Release the Kraken: Defending the Republic” drink tumblers from her website for $80. On Flynn’s newly launched website, fans can buy “General Flynn: #FightLikeAFlynn” women’s racerback tank tops for $30. And Wood’s online store sells $64.99 “#FightBack” unisex hoodies; the fleece, a listing says, feels like “wearing a soft, fluffy cloud.”

It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. The Trump minions are showing their true colors as a clown car.

Dana Milbank, Washington Post columnist, wrote about the no longer surprising abdication of the Republicans on the anniversary of January 6, leaving Congresspeople Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz as the party’s representative.

He writes:

Exactly a year earlier, in and around the House chamber, Republicans and Democrats hid together, on the floor, behind chairs and under desks, as outnumbered police, guns drawn, kept President Donald Trump’s mob at bay.

Yet out of that shared trauma came one of the most divisive acts in American political history.

Republican lawmakers spent most of the next 364 days trying to erase any trace of the insurrection and Trump’s role in it. They opposed impeachment, they opposed an independent commission, they opposed (then sabotaged and boycotted) an investigative committee, and they embraced as gospel Trump’s “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen.

Even after that record of ruin, Republicans somehow managed to plumb new depths on Thursday’s first anniversary of the insurrection. The House convened to hold a moment of silencefor the police officers who one year ago saved democracy — and lawmakers’ lives — and who died in the attack’s aftermath. Republicans boycotted this, too.

At the stroke of noon on the House floor, Chaplain Margaret Kibben prayed: “On this anniversary of national discord and despair, send your healing spirit among us and tend to the dispiritedness and disagreement here within and around the people’s house.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rose to hail the “defenders of our democracy” on Jan. 6. “Because of them Congress was able to defeat the insurrection, to return to the Capitol that same night, to ensure that the peaceful transfer of power took place.” She called for a moment of silence in memory of four officers who died in the aftermath of the attack and a subsequent attack at the Capitol.

On the left side of the chamber, about 50 Democrats rose. Across the aisle, only one Republican lawmaker stood: Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a pariah in her party because she dared to condemn Trump’s election lies. Next to her rose her father, former vice president Dick Cheney.

Democrats spontaneously lined up to greet father and daughter — a poignant reminder that there was a time, not long ago, when Republicans and Democrats could fight bitterly but be confident that their shared commitment to democracy would preserve the Republic.

No more. By shunning Thursday’s commemoration of the Jan. 6 attack, Republican leaders, as usual, left a vacuum that let the wing nuts speak for the party. Trumpian Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) announced that they would give “a Republican response,” on the Jan. 6 anniversary, and in the absence of any other Republican response, theirs became the Republican response.

“We did not want the Republican voice to go unheard, and we did not want today’s historical narrative to be hijacked by those who were the true insurrectionists,” Gaetz said. And so, in a meeting room in the Cannon House Office Building, two flights up from where Democratic lawmakers were at the same time recalling their personal horrors from Jan. 6, the duo spent 37 minutes telling reporters that Jan. 6 was a “fed-surrection,” a plot perpetrated by the FBI.

“What if those Capitol Police officers are victims?” Gaetz asked. “What if they’re victims of an orchestrated effort by the FBI or other federal law enforcement to increase the criminal acuity of that day?” Such “Department of Justice and FBI assets and informants,” Gaetz alleged, were also responsible for the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D).

Greene, chiming in, also blamed the FBI for the 2014 Bundy land dispute in Nevada. “Another example would be in 1968, the Democratic National Convention, when there were 10,000 protesters and one out of six were federal undercover agents,” she continued.

It was the sort of rant that would cause a C-SPAN host to disconnect a caller. But on Thursday’s anniversary, Gaetz and Greene were the unchallenged voice of the Republican Party — and Fox News’s Laura Ingraham gave Greene a platform to make the same bonkers allegations the night before.

Is it any wonder the Republican Party’s moral integrity has fallen so far, so fast?

As The Post reported this week, at least 163 Republicans who have embraced Trump’s election lies are running to become senators, governors or other statewide officials with sway over elections. At least five candidates for the House were at the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection and at least 12 of the top Republican House recruits have accepted the “big lie.” Six in 10 Republicans say the 2020 election was fraudulent, and 40 percent thought political violence could be acceptable, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found.

In his address Thursday from the Capitol, President Biden asked: “Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth, but in the shadow of lies? We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation.”

But the Republicans’ ongoing attempt to disappear Jan. 6 shows that we already are.

Peter Navarro was Trump’s Trade Advisor. He recently published a book about his time in the Trump administration. The most fascinating part of his book, according to those who have read advance copies, is his story about the plan to overturn the 2020 election and keep Trump as president. He has done several media interviews. This account in Rolling Stone relies on this one that appeared in The Daily Beast.

Navarro says that he and Steve Bannon orchestrated a plan called the Green Bay Sweep.

Rolling Stone writer Tim Dickinson writes:

The plot sought to keep Trump in office by exerting maximum pressure on Vice President Mike Pence to block the certification of the Electoral College votes from pivotal swing states, by drawing out the proceedings on national television for as long as 24 hours. “It was a perfect plan,” Navarro told the Daily Beast. “We had over 100 congressmen committed to it

Navarro is a Harvard-educated economist whom Trump tapped, originally, to escalate his trade war with China. But as coronavirus struck, Navarro’s role at the White House expanded to include pandemic response, in which he pushed the quack treatment of hydroxychloroquine. By the bitter end, Navarro was compiling cockeyed dossiers of (now-exhaustively-debunked) allegations of election fraud — “receipts” Navarro believed justified tin-pot measures to keep Trump in the White House.

So what was the Green Bay Sweep? The plot, Navarro writes, was named after a famous football play designed by storied 1960’s NFL coach Vince Lombardi, in which a Packers running back would pound into the end zone behind a “phalanx of blockers.”

For the 2021 Green Bay Sweep, Navarro writes, Bannon played the role of Lombardi. The plan was to have members of the House and Senate raise challenges to the counts of Electoral College votes from six pivotal battleground states.

“The political and legal beauty of the strategy,” Navarro writes, is that the challenges would force up to two hours of debate per state, in each chamber of Congress. “That would add up to as much as 24 hours of nationally televised hearings,” Navarro writes. The hearings would enable Republicans to “short-circuit the crushing censorship of the anti-Trump media,” Navarro hoped, and broadcast their Big Lie that Democrats had stolen the election “directly to the American people.”

The goal was not to get the election overturned on Jan. 6. Instead, they aimed to create such a spectacle that Pence would be forced to exercise his authority as president of the Senate to “put the certification of the election on ice for at least another several weeks” while Congress and the state legislatures pursued the “fraud” allegations. The dark particulars for how Trump would remain in office after that are not spelled out, and Navarro did not immediately answer an email seeking clarification. But he writes that the Green Bay Sweep was the “last, best chance to snatch a stolen election from the Democrats’ jaws of deceit.”

The problem with the plot was that its success hinged on “Quarterback Mike” — and Pence wasn’t solidly on board. Navarro writes that he tried, with Trump’s backing, to brief Pence on his claims of election irregularities, but that Pence was kept off-limits by his chief of staff, Marc Short. (Navarro seethes that Short was part of the Koch brothers wing of the GOP, having previously worked for a nonprofit backed by the Kochs. When Short came to work for the vice president, Navarro writes, “it was like the Soviet Union taking over Eastern Europe. As an Iron Koch Curtain fell over the vice president, the only way you could speak to VPOTUS was to go through Short.”)

Regardless, Jan. 6 began auspiciously — to Navarro’s view of things. He told the Daily Beast that Trump was “on board with the strategy,” which he writes also had the backing of “more than 100” members of Congress. Navarro elaborated that the plan started off “perfectly” as Congress opened the proceedings to count Electoral College votes. Rep. Paul Gosar objected to results from his home state of Arizona, seconded by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — an action that received standing applause from GOP colleagues in the chamber.

Navarro insist that the violence at the Capitol disrupted the Green Bay Sweep by putting pressure on Congress to conclude the certification. Apparently he forgot to tell Trump to keep his mob away from the U.S. Capitol, because Trump urged them to march to the Capitol, told them that they had ”to fight” or they would lose their country, and egged them on to do what they did: Storm and ransack the Capitol. some were chanting ”Hang Mike Pence,” which may have stiffened his spine.

Two things are clear: Mike Pence didn’t deliver for Trump, Bannon, and Navarro, and Trump was too dumb to remember that he was not supposed to send his mob to disrupt the Congressional proceedings.

Since there is now a deep partisan divide over what happened on January 6, it’s helpful to remember that there is extensive video footage of the events. Some footage was taken by the media, some by video cameras installed in the Capitol, some by police body cameras, and some by the participants who wanted to have a record of what they did. Hundreds of arrests have been made of participants in the riot; many recorded their actions. Others were identified by friends, acquaintances, and family members who recognized faces in the video and reported them to the FBI.

Anyone who believes that nothing unusual happened in January 6 should watch these videos, as should anyone who believes the intruders were peaceful. They were not peaceful. They brutally beat officers of the law that day.

On January 6, our democracy was in peril. If the intruders had managed to capture Vice President Pence or Nancy Pelosi or any other members of Congress, there might have been political assassinations. I give Vice President Pence credit for refusing to turn the election over to Trump, as Trump wanted.

How close we came to a disaster. Imagine this mob beating, abusing, even murdering the leaders of Congress in public view. Thanks to the Capitol Police and other law officers, our nation was spared from such an atrocity.

This is the video that was shown at the first meeting—July 27, 2021– of the House Committee investigating the events of January 6. It lasts 5 minutes.

This is the Washington Post video, published on January 16, 2021. It was the first effort to provide an overall picture of what happened.

This is the New York Times’ video, probably the fullest account available. It was released June 30, 2021. It lasts 40 minutes.

This video was released by CNN on December 24, 2021. It is new video footage taken by security cameras inside the Capitol. CNN wrote:

CNN)—The Justice Department this week released a three-hour video of a battle between rioters and the police at the US Capitol Building on January 6 where rioters brandished weapons, officers were viciously beaten, and a member of the mob died on Capitol steps. The assault on the Lower West Terrace was one of the most violent confrontations between Capitol Police and the crowd. Officers held the line until the building was cleared without letting rioters inside. Some officers have since said they did not know the Capitol had already been breached in other areas. The video, taken from a Capitol security camera, does not have sound. It starts as officers retreat, helping each other as they stumble inside and washing their eyes out with water from chemical spray. Rioters crowd in behind them, coordinate efforts to attack and push through in infamous moments that have haunted the public, and officers, ever since.

The Justice Department released the videos after CNN and other outlets sued for access. It is the longest video from the riot released by the government thus far.

January 6, 2021, was the day we almost lost our democracy. Those who say that nothing happened or that the crowd was peaceful should watch the videos.

January 6 was an insurrection, planned by scoundrels to overturn the election of Joe Biden and maintain a sore loser in power, a man who knows no history and never read the Constitution that he wanted to shred. Having failed, he has spent the past year doing his best to persuade the public that our system of elections is corrupt. Having failed to destroy democracy by mob violence, he now hopes to weaken Americans’ belief in democracy itself. Trump has succeeded this far in destroying and corrupting the Republican Party, which repeats his lies and dutifully accepts his leadership. We cannot allow him or his lackeys to return to power.

Never in the history of the United States has the U.S. Capitol been invaded and ransacked by its own citizens. Never in the history of this nation was there a violent attempt to prevent the Constitutional process of certifying the election of a new President. It happened on January 6, 2021.

The fact that this unprecedented insurrection was encouraged and abetted by the sitting President is also remarkable.

So much about this day was and is unprecedented. Republican leaders called the White House and pleaded with the President to call off the mob. He waited for hours to do so, telling his violent friends, “Go home. I love you. You are special.”

Republican leaders were briefly outraged but soon realized that they dare not offend Trump, whose mob it was. Their outrage soon dissipated, and they agreed that January 6 was nothing out of the ordinary. They blocked a bipartisan investigation of the day’s events. They fell in line with Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen from him. They joined Trump’s campaign to rewrite history and purge any Republican who dissented.

A year after the insurrection, the Washington Post reported the results of a poll conducted by the University of Maryland. The Post wrote:

The percentage of Americans who say violent action against the government is justified at times stands at 34 percent, which is considerably higher than in past polls by The Post or other major news organizations dating back more than two decades. Again, the view is partisan: The new survey finds 40 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independents and 23 percent of Democrats saying violence is sometimes justified.…

Overall, 60 percent of Americans say Trump bears either a “great deal” or a “good amount” of responsibility for the insurrection, but 72 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Trump voters say he bears “just some” responsibility or “none at all.”

Trump’s attacks on the legitimacy of the election have spawned ongoing efforts in some states to revisit the results. No such inquiry has turned up anything to suggest that the certified results were inaccurate. That has not blunted a persistent belief by most of his supporters that the election was somehow rigged.

Overall, the Post-UMD survey finds that 68 percent of Americans say there is no solid evidence of widespread fraud but 30 percent say there is.
Big majorities of Democrats (88 percent) and independents (74 percent) say there is no evidence of such irregularities, but 62 percent of Republicans say there is such evidence. That is almost identical to the percentage of Republicans who agreed with Trump’s claims of voter fraud a week after that Capitol attack, based on a Washington Post-ABC News poll at the time.

About 7 in 10 Americans say Biden’s election as president was legitimate, but that leaves almost 3 in 10 who say it was not, including 58 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of independents. The 58 percent of Republicans who say Biden was not legitimately elected as president is down somewhat from 70 percent in a Post-ABC poll conducted in January shortly after the Capitol attack.

Among those who say they voted for Trump in 2020, 69 percent now say Biden was not legitimately elected, while 97 percent of Biden voters say the current president was legitimately elected.

The poll is here.

Heather Cox Richardson is an American historian at Boston College. I enjoy reading her views, which are always well-informed.

She writes:

December 30, 2021

Heather Cox RichardsonDec 31

On January 6, insurrectionists trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election stormed the U.S. Capitol and sent our lawmakers into hiding. Since President Joe Biden took office on January 20, just two weeks after the attack, we have been engaged in a great struggle between those trying to restore our democracy and those determined to undermine it. 

Biden committed to restoring our democracy after the strains it had endured. When he took office, we were in the midst of a global pandemic whose official death toll in the U.S. was at 407,000. Our economy was in tatters, our foreign alliances weakened, and our government under siege by insurrectionists, some of whom were lawmakers themselves.

In his inaugural address, Biden implored Americans to come together to face these crises. He recalled the Civil War, the Great Depression, the World Wars, and the attacks of 9/11, noting that “[i]n each of these moments, enough of us came together to carry all of us forward.” “It’s time for boldness, for there is so much to do,” he said. He asked Americans to “write an American story of hope, not fear… [a] story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history…. That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived.”

Later that day, he headed to the Oval Office. “I thought there’s no time to wait. Get to work immediately,” he said.

Rather than permitting the Trump Republicans who were still insisting Trump had won the election to frame the national conversation, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as the Democrats in Congress, ignored them and set out to prove that our government can work for ordinary Americans.

Biden vowed to overcome Covid, trying to rally Republicans to join Democrats behind a “war” on the global pandemic. The Trump team had refused to confer during the transition period with the Biden team, who discovered that the previous administration had never had a plan for federal delivery of covid vaccines, simply planning to give them to the states and then let the cash-strapped states figure out how to get them into arms. “What we’re inheriting is so much worse than we could have imagined,” Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, Jeff Zients, said to reporters on January 21.

Biden immediately invoked the Defense Production Act, bought more vaccines, worked with states to establish vaccine sites and transportation to them, and established vaccine centers in pharmacies across the country. As vaccination rates climbed, he vowed to make sure that 70% of the U.S. adult population would have one vaccine shot and 160 million U.S. adults would be fully vaccinated by July 4th.

At the same time, the Democrats undertook to repair the economy, badly damaged by the pandemic. In March, without a single Republican vote, they passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to jump-start the economy by putting money into the pockets of ordinary Americans. It worked. The new law cut child poverty in half by putting $66 billion into 36 million households. It expanded access to the Affordable Care Act, enabling more than 4.6 million Americans who were not previously insured to get healthcare coverage, bringing the total covered to a record 13.6 million.

As vaccinated people started to venture out again, this support for consumers bolstered U.S. companies, which by the end of the year were showing profit margins higher than they have been since 1950, at 15%. Companies reduced their debt, which translated to a strong stock market. In February, Biden’s first month in office, the jobless rate was 6.2%; by December it had dropped to 4.2%. This means that 4.1 million jobs were created in the Biden administration’s first year, more than were created in the 12 years of the Trump and George W. Bush administrations combined.

In November, Congress passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that will repair bridges and roads and get broadband to places that still don’t have it, and negotiations continue on a larger infrastructure package that will support child care and elder care, as well as education and measures to address climate change.

Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal report that U.S. economic output jumped more than 7% in the last three months of 2021. Overall growth for 2021 should be about 6%, and economists predict growth of around 4% in 2022—the highest numbers the U.S. has seen in decades. China’s growth in the same period will be 4%, and the eurozone (the member countries of the European Union that use the euro) will grow at 2%. The U.S. is “outperforming the world by the biggest margin in the 21st century,” wrote Matthew A. Winkler in Bloomberg, “and with good reason: America’s economy improved more in Joe Biden’s first 12 months than any president during the past 50 years….”

With more experience in foreign affairs than any president since George H. W. Bush, Biden set out to rebuild our strained alliances and modernize the war on terror. On January 20, he took steps to rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accords, which his predecessor had rejected. Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized that Biden’s leadership team believed foreign and domestic policy to be profoundly linked. They promised to support democracy at home and abroad to combat the authoritarianism rising around the world.

“The more we and other democracies can show the world that we can deliver, not only for our people, but also for each other, the more we can refute the lie that authoritarian countries love to tell, that theirs is the better way to meet people’s fundamental needs and hopes. It’s on us to prove them wrong,” Blinken said.

Biden and Blinken increased the use of sanctions against those suspected of funding terrorism. Declaring it vital to national security to stop corruption in order to prevent illicit money from undermining democracies, Biden convened a Summit for Democracy, where leaders from more than 110 countries discussed how best to combat authoritarianism and corruption, and to protect human rights.

Biden began to shift American foreign policy most noticeably by withdrawing from the nation’s twenty-year war in Afghanistan. He inherited the previous president’s February 2020 deal with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, so long as the Taliban did not kill any more Americans. By the time Biden took office, the U.S. had withdrawn all but 2500 troops from the country.

He could either go back on Trump’s agreement—meaning the Taliban would again begin attacking U.S. service people, forcing the U.S. to pour in troops and sustain casualties—or get out of what had become a meandering, expensive, unpopular war, one that Biden himself had wanted to leave since the Obama administration.

In April, Biden said he would honor the agreement he had inherited from Trump, beginning, not ending, the troop withdrawal on May 1. He said he would have everyone out by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks that took us there in the first place. (He later adjusted that to August 31.) He promised to evacuate the country “responsibly, deliberately, and safely” and assured Americans that the U.S. had “trained and equipped a standing force of over 300,000 Afghan personnel” who would “continue to fight valiantly, on behalf of the Afghans, at great cost.”

Instead, the Afghan army crumbled as the U.S began to pull its remaining troops out in July. By mid-August, the Taliban had taken control of the capital, Kabul, and the leaders of the Afghan government fled, abandoning the country to chaos. People rushed to the airport to escape and seven Afghans died, either crushed in the crowds or killed when they fell from planes to which they had clung in hopes of getting out. Then, on August 26, two explosions outside the Kabul airport killed at least 60 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. troops. More than 100 Afghans and 15 U.S. service members were wounded.

In the aftermath, the U.S. military conducted the largest human airlift in U.S. history, moving more than 100,000 people without further casualties, and on August 30, Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division, boarded a cargo plane at Kabul airport, and the U.S. war in Afghanistan was over. (Evacuations have continued on planes chartered by other countries.)

With the end of that war, Biden has focused on using financial pressure and alliances rather than military might to achieve foreign policy goals. He has worked with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies to counter increasing aggression from Russian president Vladimir Putin, strengthening NATO, while suggesting publicly that further Russian incursions into Ukraine will have serious financial repercussions.

In any ordinary time, Biden’s demonstration that democracy can work for ordinary people in three major areas would have been an astonishing success.

But these are not ordinary times.

Biden and the Democrats have had to face an opposition that is working to undermine the government. Even after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, 147 Republican members of Congress voted to challenge at least one of the certified state electoral votes, propping up the Big Lie that Trump won the 2020 presidential election. Many of them continue to plug that lie, convincing 68% of Republicans that Biden is an illegitimate president.

This lie has justified the passage in 19 Republican-dominated states of 33 new laws to suppress voting or to take the counting of votes out of the hands of non-partisan officials altogether and turn that process over to Republicans.

Republicans have stoked opposition to the Democrats by feeding the culture wars, skipping negotiations on the American Rescue Plan, for example, to complain that the toymaker Hasbro was introducing a gender-neutral Potato Head toy, and that the estate of Dr. Seuss was ceasing publication of some of his lesser-known books that bore racist pictures or themes. They created a firestorm over Critical Race Theory, an advanced legal theory, insisting that it, and the teaching of issues of race in the schools, was teaching white children to hate themselves.

Most notably, though, as Biden’s coronavirus vaccination program appeared to be meeting his ambitious goals, Republicans suggested that government vaccine outreach was overreach, pushing the government into people’s lives. Vaccination rates began to drop off, and Biden’s July 4 goal went unmet just as the more contagious Delta variant began to rage across the country.

In July, Biden required federal workers and contractors to be vaccinated; in November, the administration said that workers at businesses with more than 100 employees and health care workers must be vaccinated or frequently tested.

Rejecting the vaccine became a badge of opposition to the Biden administration. By early December, fewer than 10% of adult Democrats were unvaccinated, compared with 40% of Republicans. This means that Republicans are three times more likely than Democrats to die of Covid, and as the new Omicron variant rages across the country, Republicans are blaming Biden for not stopping the pandemic. Covid has now killed more than 800,000 Americans.

While Biden and the Democrats have made many missteps this year—missing that the Afghan government would collapse, hitting an Afghan family in a drone strike, underplaying Covid testing, prioritizing infrastructure over voting rights—the Democrats’ biggest miscalculation might well be refusing to address the disinformation of the Republicans directly in order to promote bipartisanship and move the country forward together.

With the lies of Trump Republicans largely unchallenged by Democratic lawmakers or the media, Republicans have swung almost entirely into the Trump camp. The former president has worked to purge from the state and national party anyone he considers insufficiently loyal to him, and his closest supporters have become so extreme that they are openly supporting authoritarianism and talking of Democrats as “vermin.”

Some are talking about a “national divorce,” which observers have interpreted as a call for secession, like the Confederates tried in 1860. But in fact, Trump Republicans do not want to form their own country. Rather, they want to cement minority rule in this one, keeping themselves in power over the will of the majority.

It seems that in some ways we are ending 2021 as we began it. Although Biden and the Democrats have indeed demonstrated that our government, properly run, can work for the people to combat a deadly pandemic, create a booming economy, and stop unpopular wars, that same authoritarian minority that tried to overturn the 2020 election on January 6 is more deeply entrenched than it was a year ago.

And yet, as we move into 2022, the ground is shifting. The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol is starting to show what it has learned from the testimony of more than 300 witnesses and a review of more than 35,000 documents. The fact that those closest to Trump are refusing to testify suggests that the hearings in the new year will be compelling and will help people to understand just how close we came to an authoritarian takeover last January.

And then, as soon as the Senate resumes work in the new year, it will take up measures to restore the voting rights and election integrity Republican legislatures have stripped away, giving back to the people the power to guard against such an authoritarian coup happening again.

It looks like 2022 is going to be a choppy ride, but its outcome is in our hands. As Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), who was beaten almost to death in his quest to protect the right to vote, wrote to us when he passed: “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part.”

Notes:

https://khn.org/morning-breakout/covid-deaths-skew-higher-than-ever-in-red-states/

The “vermin” and “national divorce” quotations are tweets from Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) but I didn’t want to spread them on social media. They were retweeted by several other Republicans.

The Washington Post reports a concerted effort by Trump faithful to increase their base in the House of Representatives by challenging moderate Republicans. As a result of tedictricting, the number of highly concentrated conservative districts has increased. Joe Kent, running in Washington State, believes that the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, are “patriots.”

The defiant far-right acolytes of former president Trump in the House Republican caucus have embarked on a targeted campaign ahead of the midterm elections to expand their ranks — and extend their power — on Capitol Hill.

The effort, backed by Trump and guided by House members such as Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), is part of a broader push by followers of the “Make America Great Again” movement to purge the GOP of those not deemed loyal to the former president and his false claims that the 2020 election was rigged in favor of Joe Biden.

Former Army Green Beret Joe Kent is running for a U.S. House seat in Washington state held by another Republican, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who voted to impeach Trump over his role in the events of Jan. 6 at the Capitol.

Kent said he has little interest in fighting with Democrats if he makes it to Congress. Instead, he wants to force Republicans into tough votes, starting with articles of impeachment against President Biden and a full congressional inquiry into the 2020 presidential election, which he says was stolen from Trump.

“A lot of it will be shaming Republicans,” Kent said. “I need to be going after the people in the Republican Party who want to go back to go-along-to-get-along. It’s put up or shut up.”

The goal, organizers of the effort say, is to supersize the MAGA group in the House from its current loose membership of about a half dozen — and give it the heft that, combined with its close alliance with Trump, would put it in a position to wield significant influence should Republicans win the House majority.

Key to the strategy is to coalesce MAGA-movement support around certain candidates running in Republican primaries in heavily pro-Trump congressional districts where the primary victor is all but assured to win the seat in November. That effort is being bolstered by redistricting, as state lawmakers draw districts even more partisan than the current lines.

In 2020, Trump won 45 districts by more than 15 percentage points. Under new maps already finalized in more than a dozen states, he would have won 78 districts by that margin, according to a Post analysis.

“We should be gaining MAGA seats,” Boris Epshteyn, a Trump ally, said on a recent episode of the radio show hosted by former Trump strategist Stephen K. Bannon. “It’s not just about ‘let’s add some Republican seats,’ it’s about ‘let’s add MAGA strongholds.’ ”

Trump critics warn that a stronger MAGA wing in Congress threatens democracy.

“We’re looking at a nihilistic Mad Max hellscape. It will be all about the show of 2024 to bring Donald Trump back into power. … They will impeach Biden, they will impeach Harris, they will kill everything,” said Rick Wilson, a longtime Republican strategist who is sharply critical of Trump.

If the MAGA crowd succeeds, one of our two major political parties will be controlled by unscrupulous, cynical, anti-democratic forces whose goals are power and greed, fueled by racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and fear of the other.

Denis Smith writes here about the past, present, and hoped-for future of West Virginia. He urges West Virginians to throw out the leaders who undermine their health, safety, and well-being. He reminds us and them of the state’s past progressive leaders. A lifelong educator, Smith retired as an official in the Ohio State Department of Education, where he oversaw charter schools.

He writes:

In her earlier post, West Virginia: The Battle of Blair Mountain, Diane Ravitch not only reminded us about the emergence of the labor movement but also shed light on how, a century later, the coal industry, though greatly diminished in activity from earlier times, still maintains a grip on the state through the misfeasance of its political leadership in the governor’s office and by its representatives in the Congress.

The story goes back to 1921, when 10,000 coal miners, in reaction to the murder of a union-friendly local sheriff, joined together to check the power of coal companies and the low wages, unsafe working conditions, and horrific housing they provided in company towns situated near the mines operated by these representatives of corporate America.

Inasmuch as I completed almost all of my graduate work in West Virginia and lived there for nearly 20 years, I was familiar with the Blair Mountain story and the sad history of exploitation of the land and workers by extractive industries like coal companies. Unfortunately, I thought that this tale of labor history was widely known but learned otherwise about eight years ago.

At that time, I was asked to teach a number of American history courses for Ohio public school teachers so they could meet the then-new content area Highly Qualified Teacher requirements. A review of the draft course syllabus showed, however, that additional content was needed to bolster the students’ knowledge of the Progressive Era and the emerging American labor movement. In particular, there was no treatment of the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire as well as the Battle of Blair Mountain, which remains the largest labor uprising in American history.

I soon learned that none of the students in my class in suburban Columbus, Ohio had any knowledge of either event, and the Blair Mountain post, with its spotlight on West Virginia, sheds light on that state’s history of exploitation by energy companies and the lack of political leadership today to ensure the health, safety,and welfare of its citizens based on that past history.

But in light of the state’s challenges in the past, and with the neglect of the health, safety, and welfare shown by its top political leaders, are West Virginia residents also unknowing of its past history? Or have they been bamboozled by their politicians in not realizing what is at stake in the current political climate?

That lack of leadership to ensure the health and welfare of the populace is shown in the misfeasance and conflicts-of-interest manifested by West Virginia’s Governor Jim Justice and its senior U.S. Senator, Joe Manchin, who also served as the state’s governor before his election to Congress.

As the owner of several coal companies, Justice has a history of exploiting not only the land but of the communities affected. Moreover, like his friend Donald Trump, he also has a history of tax avoidance. In 2019, for example, Justice companies paid $1.2 million in back taxes owed to Knott, Pike, Harlan and Magoffin counties in Kentucky, with more delinquent taxes to be paid at a later date. A review of his tax delinquency showed that he had additional obligations to be paid in Virginia and West Virginia, along with past due mine safety fines.

Yes, mine safety fines owed by companies owned by the governor of the state where 10,000 miners revolted against unsafe working conditions exactly a century ago. But that was then, right? Or are we back to the future and the past simultaneously?

Then we have the case of Senator Joe Manchin, a predecessor of Jim Justice in the West Virginia governor’s office. The current Build Back Better legislation would provide funds to deal with climate change, expand Medicare, and assist families with lower costs for child care and elder care. Yet Manchin, who has interests in the energy industry and a daughter who formerly was the CEO of Mylan, a pharmaceutical company, seems to have a conflict-of-interest when it comes to supporting lower prescription drug costs and dealing with the environment.

When many communities lack safe drinking water caused by years of mining and health consequences caused by such mineral extraction activity in West Virginia, wouldn’t you think that the political leadership on both sides of the aisle would support legislation that would protect the health, safety, and welfare of residents?

If you have financial interests in a top industry, as Manchin and Justice do, that’s asking far too much.

On Sunday, Manchin announced, appropriately enough, on Fox News that he does not support the Build Back Better Act. This is what Bernie Sanders had to say about his colleague, Joe Manchin:

“Well, I think he’s going to have a lot of explaining to do to the people of West Virginia, to tell him why he doesn’t have the guts to take on the drug companies to lower the cost of prescription drugs,” he said. “West Virginia is one of the poorest states in this country. You got elderly people and disabled people who would like to stay at home. He’s going to have to tell the people of West Virginia why he doesn’t want to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing, and eyeglasses.”

When it comes to drug companies and Manchin’s lack of courage in dealing with them, Bernie Sanders is certainly knowledgeable about some family history. And then some. He went on to add this observation:

“If he doesn’t have the courage to do the right thing for the working families of West Virginia and America, let him vote no in front of the whole world.”

Manchin used the canard of not wanting to increase the national debt as one of his arguments in opposing Build Back Better. But he does not acknowledge that West Virginia greatly benefits from all types of federal spending. A study several years ago demonstrated that a number of red states, including West Virginia, receive much more in federal dollars than they receive from the treasury. As examples, West Virginia receives $2.07, Kentucky $1.90, and South Carolina $1.71 for every dollar sent to Washington.

In light of his concern about the national debt, would Manchin favor West Virginia being treated on a par with states like Massachusetts and New York, which receive far less than a dollar back from the treasury for every dollar sent to Washington?

So as I reflect a bit more about the Mine Wars and the Battle of Blair Mountain, I am puzzled by the descendants of these mine workers offering such enthusiastic support to the likes of Governor Jim Justice and Senator Joe Manchin, who obstruct legislation that would improve the health, safety, nutrition, and educational opportunities for West Virginia, one of the poorest states in the union.

There are two great West Virginia Senators who must be turning in their graves as they view the likes of the state’s present political leadership. The first, Jennings Randolph, entered the U.S. Senate in 1933 at the start of FDR’s New Deal and was a champion of Social Security, Medicare, voting rights and the abolition of the Poll Tax. Then there was Robert Byrd, who served with Randolph as the long-time Senate leader who distinguished himself as a check on many of Ronald Reagan’s policies, opposed the Iraq War, and in his last days championed the Affordable Care Act from a wheelchair on the Senate floor.

In a Senate speech on February 12, 2003 that attacked the march toward war with Iraq, Byrd said that “We are truly “sleepwalking through history.” In my heart of hearts I pray that this great nation and its good and trusting citizens are not in for a rudest of awakenings.”

In the same vein, it’s past time for the people of West Virginia to emerge from their sleepwalking and support leaders, unlike Manchin and Justice, who will put the interests of the people first and not those of the pharmaceutical industry and energy interests.

One more thing. Dear West Virginians, the next time you vote, remember your ancestors who fought for justice (small j, of course) and basic human rights at Blair Mountain. It’s now the 21st century. Jennings Randolph and Robert Byrd might be pleased with your awakening.