Archives for category: Republicans

Judge Amy Berman Jackson, the federal judge who sentenced insurrectionist Kyle Young, gave a stern lecture to the Republicans who refused to defend the nation’s Constitution and its democratic process.

For those of us old enough to remember the Republican Party of Dwight D. Eisenhower, today’s Republicans are pusillanimous cowards who worship at the feet of a man who has no intellect, no character, no ethics, and no sense of history. The fact that such a man dominates a once-honorable party is appalling.

Judge Jackson did not mince words, according to Politico.

Kyle Cheney writes:

A federal judge delivered a blistering rebuke of Republican Party leaders Tuesday for what she said was a cynical attempt to stoke false claims of election fraud of the kind that fueled the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said former President Donald Trump had turned his lies about the election into a litmus test for Republican candidates and that “high-ranking members of Congress and state officials” are “so afraid of losing their power” that they won’t contradict him. That fealty, she said, comes even as law enforcement and judges involved in cases related to the former president are facing unprecedented threats of violence.

It’s up to the judiciary, she added, to help draw the line against those dangers.

“The judiciary … has to make it clear: It is not patriotism, it is not standing up for America to stand up for one man — who knows full well that he lost — instead of the Constitution he was trying to subvert,” said Jackson, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama.

In addition, Jackson said, Trump and his allies are using rhetoric about the multiple criminal probes connected to Trump that contain dangerous undertones.

“Some prominent figures in the Republican Party … are cagily predicting or even outright calling for violence in the streets if one of the multiple investigations doesn’t go his way,” Jackson said…

She’s not the first federal judge to rebuke Trump in the context of Jan. 6 riot prosecutions. Judge Amit Mehta lamented that many of the low-level rioters were duped by powerful figures, including Trump, into marching on the Capitol, only to suffer criminal consequences as a result. Judge Reggie Walton called Trump a “charlatan” for his conduct related to the election. And a federal judge in California, David Carter, determined that Trump’s actions related to Jan. 6 likely amounted to a criminal conspiracy to subvert the election.

But Jackson’s comments were the most stinging assessment not only of Trump but those in the upper echelons of elected GOP leadership who have echoed him. She also pushed back at claims by some Trump allies that Jan. 6 defendants had been targeted for political reasons.

“You were not prosecuted for being a Trump supporter. You were not arrested or charged and you will not be sentenced for exercising your first amendment rights,” she said to Young. “You are not a political prisoner … You were trying to stop the singular thing that makes America America, the peaceful transfer of power. That’s what ‘Stop the Steal’ meant.”

When Ron DeSantis entered Congress, he joined the Freedom Caucus, the far-right members of the House. His very first vote was in opposition to aid for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, which pummeled New York City and the New Jersey coast.

The New York Times noted:

As a freshman congressman in 2013, Ron DeSantis was unambiguous: A federal bailout for the New York region after Hurricane Sandy was an irresponsible boondoggle, a symbol of the “put it on the credit card mentality” he had come to Washington to oppose.

But any hurricane that harmed a Red state got his vote. Four years after opposing federal aid for Sandy relief, he supported aid for victims of Hurricane Irma, which affected his own state.

The Washington Post wrote about GOP hypocrisy on hurricane relief. When a hurricane hits a Red state, they are for it. In the rare instance when the disaster is in a Blue state, not so much.

The GOP movement to question spending on disaster relief began to pick up amid the debate over Hurricane Katrina aid in 2005. Only 11 House Republicans voted against the $50 billion-plus package, but others cautioned that they’d be drawing a harder line moving forward, particularly if the spending wasn’t offset with cuts elsewhere.

“Congress must ensure that a catastrophe of nature does not become a catastrophe of debt for our children and grandchildren,” said future vice president Mike Pence, then a congressman from Indiana.

After the tea party movement took hold around 2010, members began to hold that line. A $9.7 billion flood relief bill for Hurricane Sandy was considered noncontroversial, even passing by voice vote in the Senate. But 67 House Republicans voted against it, including DeSantis.

Then came a larger, $50 billion Sandy bill. Fully 36 Senate Republicans voted against it, as did 179 House Republicans — the vast majority of GOP contingents in both chambers (again including DeSantis). They objected not just because the spending wasn’t offset, but because they viewed it as too large and not sufficiently targeted in scope or timing to truly constitute hurricane relief.

By the time 2017 rolled around, though, DeSantis wasn’t the only one who didn’t seem to be holding as hard a line. Despite the bill lacking such spending offsets, the GOP “no” votes on a $36.5 billion aid bill for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria numbered only 17 in the Senate and 69 in the House.

Such votes show how malleable such principled stands can be, depending on where disaster strikes.

For instance, only three of 18 House Republicans from Florida voted for the larger Sandy bill, but every one of them voted for the 2017 bill that included aid for their home state.

Likewise, of the 49 House GOP “yes” votes on the larger Sandy bill, nearly half came from states that were directly affected, including every Republican from New York and New Jersey.

One of those New Jersey Republicans was Rep. Scott Garrett, who actually introduced the smaller Sandy bill. Just eight years before, he had been one of those 11 Republicans who voted against the Katrina package.

If you comb through all of these votes, you’ll notice that, the larger Sandy bill aside, lawmakers who come from states that are particularly vulnerable to hurricanes (i.e. along the Gulf Coast) are generally less likely to be among the hard-liners — perhaps owing to the fact that they know their states could be next in line.

That’s where DeSantis’s votes do stand out. On the first Sandy bill, he was one of just two Florida Republicans to vote no, and very few members from the Gulf Coast joined them.

It’s a stand that served notice of his intent to legislate as a tea party conservative; he cast the vote just a day after being sworn in to Congress.

Democrats don’t seem to have the same problem. They typically support disaster aid, even in Red states.

It’s also noteworthy that DeSantis has switched gears in addressing President Biden, whom he usually refers to as “Brandon” (a rightwing synonym for “F… you, Biden”). Now, for the moment, he calls him “Mr.President.” And he can be sure that Democratic President Biden will respond with federal aid for the victims of Hurricane Ian in Florida.

Politifact reports how DeSantis and Rubio voted on hurricane relief.

Dana Milbank knows that the Republican Party is morphing into an authoritarian stance, but they prefer not to called fascists. No, he says, their brand of authoritarianism goes back about two thousand years.

He writes:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears: They have come to resurrect Caesar.


MAGA Republican leaders take umbrage at being accused of “semi-fascism,” which is understandable: Twentieth-century dictators such as Mussolini and the German guy with the mustache gave fascism a bad name. But the MAGA crowd isn’t disavowing totalitarianism, per se. It’s just their taste in authoritarian figures skews toward the classics. They’re old-school — 1st century B.C. old. “Hail, Caesar” goes down so much easier than “Heil Hitler.”


J.D. Vance, the Republican Senate nominee in Ohio, is one resident of this newly platted Caesarian section, as a recent profile in the Cleveland Plain Dealer showed. It referred to a year-old interview Vance gave on a far-right podcast in which he spoke approvingly of Curtis Yarvin, a self-proclaimed monarchist who argues for an American Julius Caesar to take power.

“We are in a late republican period,” Vance said, referencing the era preceding Caesar’s dictatorship. “If we’re going to push back against it, we’re going to have to get pretty wild, and pretty far out there, and go in directions that a lot of conservatives right now are uncomfortable with.”
The podcast’s host, Jack Murphy, endorsed this sentiment, discussing possible “extra-constitutional” remedies to be taken “if we want to re-found the country.” (He told Vance he thought voting an “ineffectual” way to “rip out this leadership class.”)


Vance, who said he had been “radicalized” by the actions of “malevolent and evil” political opponents, described what “wild” actions he had in mind at another point in the podcast. He wants to “seize the institutions of the left” and purge political opponents with “de-Nazification, de-Ba’athification.”

Vance suggested that former president Donald Trump, once elected in 2024, should fire all civil servants and replace them with “our people,” defy court orders blocking such an illegal action, and then “do what Viktor Orban has done,” referring to the Hungarian dictator’s bans on certain topics from school curricula. Vance justified such “outside-the-box” authoritarian actions by reasoning that the United States is “far gone” and not “a real constitutional republic” anymore.
Hail, Caesar!


Vance is far from the only emperor-curious MAGA leader. Former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro called Mike Pence a “traitor to the American Caesar of Trump” because the former vice president refused to help overturn the 2020 election. Another former Trump adviser, Michael Anton, hosted a Claremont Institute podcast with Yarvin about the desirability of an “American Caesar.”


Meanwhile, various tactics that would qualify as “extra-constitutional” have been proliferating on the MAGA right.


This week, Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee confirmed during the lame-duck Republican Congress after the 2020 election, turned the bedrock American principle of equal justice on its head. Cannon, granting Trump’s request for a “special master” to shield the government documents hoarded at his residence, said Trump’s need for protection from “stigma” was “in a league of its own” because of his “former position as president.” A judge granting extraordinary legal powers to the man who appointed her to spare him “reputational harm”? Hail, Caesar!

Last week, the House Jan. 6 committee wrote to Trump ally Newt Gingrich, outlining how the former House speaker encouraged Trump TV ads promoting false election-fraud claims, and how he suggested a “call-to-action” to intimidate election officials. “The goal is to arouse the country’s anger,” Gingrich wrote to Trump advisers, at a time when election officials desperately feared violence. Hail, Caesar!


Some MAGA Republicans have a novel solution to resolve pesky constitutional restraints: Rewrite the Constitution. As Carl Hulse reports in the New York Times, Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Tex.) introduced legislation seeking to compel Congress to call a constitutional convention — the first since the framers wrote it — to overhaul the United States’ founding document. The effort likely isn’t going anywhere, but it shows the contempt MAGA Republicans have for the constitutional order. Hail, Caesar!


Others in the MAGA movement simply reinterpret the Constitution to their own liking. County law-enforcement officials self-styling as “constitutional sheriffs” have assigned themselves power to decide what the law is, according to their own politics. One such sheriff in Michigan sought warrants in July to seize vote-counting machines to try to validate Trump’s false claims of voter fraud, Reuters reported last week. Armed lawmen going rogue to undermine elections? Hail, Caesar!


A few weeks from now, the Supreme Court will open its new term, in which it will decide whether to use a North Carolina case to allow state legislatures to redraw election maps — and potentially to overturn the outcome of elections and to disregard state constitutions — without any review by state courts. The high court blessing a radical legal theory that mocks the will of the voters? For MAGA Republicans, all roads lead to Roman imperialism.


Hail, Caesar!

In a shocking development, Josh Shapiro, the Democratic candidate for Governor, has endorsed a school choice bill that was barely passed by the Republican House.

Shapiro is currently the state’s attorney general. He is running against an extreme Trumper who participated in the January 6 insurrection.

On Saturday, Shapiro told supporters that he favors the “Lifeline Scholarship Program,” which passed the Republican House in April by a vote of 104-98. That was the first time that a voucher bill ever passed the State House. It also was passed by the Senate Education Committee in June.

The bill is supported by the Trump-endorsed Republican candidate and puts Shapiro in the same boat with Betsy DeVos and Charles Koch. Shapiro joins the tiny number of Democrats, like Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who supports school choice.

You can bet that many parent advocates and teachers are shocked. The research is clear that school choice does not improve student’s educational outcomes. What’s up?

Dana Milbank tries to keep up with Republican lies, but there are so many that it’s hard to refute them all. Right now, the biggest lie (other than the claim that Trump won the 2020 election) is that Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act will enable the IRS to hire 87,000 armed agents who will target middle-class Americans and arrive at their doors armed with AR15s. I know this lie has taken hold because a friend of modest means told me that, because Biden’s legislation passed, the IRS would send an armed agent to her door to collect her taxes.

He writes:

It is impossible to keep up with the volume of disinformation churned out by the MAGA-occupied Republican Party. But sometimes it’s worth pausing to examine the anatomy of a particularly egregious fabrication, to understand the broader “alternative fact” ecosystem that misinforms tens of millions of Americans.

Let’s consider the lie, endlessly repeated by Republicans and the Fox News-led echo chamber, that new legislation enacted by Democrats funds the hiring of “87,000 armed IRS agents.” Like the “death panel” fabrication during the Obamacare debate, this is a whole-cloth invention designed to stoke paranoia.

Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.), head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, sent an open letter last week warning Americans not to work for the IRS. He falsely claimed that the Democrats’ climate, energy and tax bill would add “roughly 87,000 agents” at the IRS, creating “an IRS super-police force”:

“The IRS made it very clear that one of the ‘major duties’ of these new positions is to ‘be willing to use deadly force.’ … The IRS is making it very clear that you not only need to be ready to audit and investigate your fellow hardworking Americans, your neighbors and friends, you need to be ready and, to use the IRS’s words, willing, to kill them.”

Where to begin?

The IRS certainly isn’t adding 87,000 armed agents. It isn’t even adding 87,000 agents. In fact, it’s not even adding 87,000 employees.

When you figure in attrition (current funding doesn’t let the IRS fill all vacancies), Treasury officials tell me, the expected increase in personnel would be more like 40,000, over the course of a decade — which would merely restore IRS staffing to around the 117,000 it had in 1990.

Only about 6,500 of the new hires would be “agents.” The rest would be customer-service representatives, data specialists and the like.
And fewer than 1 percent of the new hires would be armed. (The IRS job posting Scott cited, which predated the new law, was specifically for such law-enforcement personnel.) Such officers, who go after drug rings and Russian oligarchs, have been part of the IRS for more than a century.


As for the IRS coming after “hardworking Americans,” Treasury says the new law will result in a “lower likelihood of audit” for ordinary taxpayers, because technology upgrades will enable the IRS to target the actual tax cheats — the super-rich — for more audits. The wealthiest 1 percent defraud the government, and fellow taxpayers, of more than $160 billion a year.


So here we have a Republican Party leadership figure generating false hysteria about armed government agents, hysteria that has increased threats against the people who collect the funds for the U.S. military, among everything else. And he’s dishonestly fomenting antigovernment fury in the service of protecting filthy-rich tax cheats.
It isn’t just Scott.


Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), fantasizing about an “army of 87,000 IRS agents,” proclaimed that “we WILL NOT FUND these 87k armed new IRS agents who will target the American people.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) mused on Fox News about “a strike force that goes in with AK-15s [sic] already loaded ready to shoot some small-business person.”

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) warned that “Democrats’ new army of 87,000 IRS agents will be coming for you.”

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel saw an “IRS ‘SWAT team’ ” invading “your kids’ lemonade stand.”

Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade imagined that IRS agents would “hunt down and kill middle class taxpayers that don’t pay enough.”

Rep. Thomas Massie (Ky.) envisioned “87,000 new agents, AR-15s and 5 million rounds of ammunition.”

Somebody has to keep track of GOP lies. I’m glad Dana Milbank is doing it.

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, reviews Dana Milbank’s new book about the crackup of the Republican Party. As I have often said, Milbank is my favorite columnist in the Washington Post.

Thompson writes:

Dana Milbank’s The Destructionists: The Twenty-Five-Year Crack-Up of the Republican Party is based on his quarter of a century of political reporting. From 1992 to the present the Republicans won the popular vote only once. There were calls for diversity in their party in order to reach more voters, but it went in the opposite direction. In the 1990s, the false and polarizing propaganda of Rush Limbaugh, G. Gordon Liddy, Sean Hannity, and Fox News took off, as Newt Gingrich became the key political driver of an ideology that would dismantle legislative norms and institutions.

This piece only has room for a brief overview of the 90s. I assume that readers will see and will be shocked by the cruelty and lies of that decade, and how they foreshadow today’s assaults on democracy.

Milbank starts with the suicide of the Clintons’ aide, Vince Foster. Rush Limbaugh, who called the 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton “the White House dog,” claimed, “Foster was murdered in an apartment owned by Hillary Clinton.”

The prime donor of Gingrich’s political training organization, the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) was Mellon Scaife. Scaife then joined with Christopher Ruddy, who would become Donald Trump’s friend and informal advisor, to found Newsmax. They said Vince Foster’s death showed that Bill Clinton “can order people done away with … God there must be 60 people who have died mysteriously.” (By the way, such words didn’t keep Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating or Congressman J.C. Watts from helping to lead GOPAC.)

Brett Kavanaugh, who assisted in Ken Starr’s investigations of Bill Clinton and helped draft the Starr Report, knew as early as 1995 that “I am satisfied that Foster was sufficiently discouraged or depressed to commit suicide.” But he spent two years investigating, thus legitimizing, what Milbank called “all of the ludicrous claims.” In Kavanaugh’s files, that were released two decades later, were 195 pages of articles by Ruddy and Limbaugh’s transcript on the case.

Milbank writes that once Gingrich became Speaker of House in 1995, he “threw the weight of the speakership behind the Foster conspiracy theory.” That year, Ruddy, Scaife and Newsmax, would spread the lies further.

(By 2016, Rep. Pete Olson said that Bill Clinton admitted to A.G. Loretta Lynch that “we killed Vince Foster.” And Trump said the charges that Foster was murdered are “very serious.” And Milbank concluded that Justice Kavanaugh was not the most ideological of the Supreme Court’s majority, but he was the most political.)

Milbank explains how rightwingers encouraged violence. After the Waco tragedy of 1993, G. Gordon Liddy said of the ATF agents, “Kill the son-of-a-bitches.” Sen. Jesse Helms said “Mr. Clinton better watch his guard if he comes down here (North Carolina). He’d better have a bodyguard.”

Moreover, even though the Fish and Wildlife Department didn’t have helicopters, Rep. Helen Chenoweth said they were “sending armed agency officials and helicopters” to enforce regulations and “if they didn’t stop, I will be their “worst nightmare.”

In 1995, the Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Building killed 168 people; Timothy McVeigh said his terrorist act was designed “to put a check on government abuse of power.” But some rightwingers claimed the bombing “was really a botched plot” by the FBI.

Also, Limbaugh asserted, “President Clinton’s ties to the domestic terrorism of Oklahoma City are tangible.” And Gingrich responded by defending the “genuine fears” of rural America regarding the federal government, and doubled down on repealing of the assault weapons ban.

Milbank goes into detail recounting how Gingrich “changed forever the language of politics.” Gingrich quoted Mao saying, “Politics is war without blood.” And he repeatedly made charges such as the Democrats “‘trash’ America, indict the president and give the benefit of every doubt to Marxist regimes.”

In 1977, a year before Gingrich was first elected, Milbank reports that a Gallup poll found that 40% of Americans had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress. After 15 years of his “relentless” attacks, that number was down to 18%. Gingrich then undermined congressional norms that encouraged compromise and constructive actions. During his legislative career, committee and sub-committee meetings dropped by nearly half. By 2017, they had dropped by almost 75%. The ability of Presidents to get laws passed was also undermined. Presidents’ legislative victories dropped from 73% of the agenda under Nixon. At the beginning of the Clinton term, he had a victory rate of 87% but by 2016, President Obama’s rate was 13%.

Another pivotal change occurred after the 1996 defeat of Bob Dole. Republican aide Margaret Tutwiler said, “We’re going to have to take on [board] the religious nuts.” A couple of decades later, White evangelicals were only 15% of the US population but about 40% of Trump’s voters.

And with the arrival of Karl Rove’s anti-gay “whisper campaign” against George W. Bush’s opponent, Ann Richards, personal attacks escalated dramatically. Another example of campaign lies was the attack on Sen. John McCain’s mental stability, and the claim he had “fathered an illegitimate black child.” Actually McCain had adopted a daughter from a Bangladesh orphanage.

Although I had been horrified by the behaviors of the rightwing, Milbank’s details provided me a much better understanding of how the views I’ve held allowed me to remain excessively optimistic. I used to believe that it was deindustrialization and the loss of economic opportunity (accelerated by Reagan’s job-killing Supply Side economics) that mostly fed the racism which propelled Trump into the White House. Now I’m convinced by Milbank’s evidence that it was racism – not economics – that spurred Trumpism.

Also, I had misremembered Mitch McConnell’s record in the 1990s. In 1993, McConnell joined Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms in defending the Confederate flag on the Senate floor, saying, “My roots … run deep in the Southern part of the country.” And he stood before a huge Confederate flag at a meeting of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

In 1997, McConnell said in a fundraising letter, “Help to protect our country from a potentially devastating nuclear attack.” And he alleged, Clinton’s White House was “sold for ILLEGAL FOREIGN CASH”

I’m assuming that readers of this blog will quickly understand how the Alt Facts spread by politicians like Gingrich are linked to today’s crises. By 2018, only 16% of Republicans trusted the media over Trump. In 2020, people who said they were “very happy” dropped to 14% compared to the previous low of 29%.

Two years later, the attempted kidnapping of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer showed how the worsening rhetoric was putting people in danger. In 2019, hate crimes increased by 30%, and over 18 months in 2020 and 2021, the FBI nearly tripled its domestic terrorism caseload. FBI director Christopher Wray said, “The violence in 2020 is unlike what we’ve seen in quite some time.” And who knows what the numbers are in the wake of Trump’s response to the subpoenaing of the Secret documents?

The 25-year rightwing siege and Trumpism has put our democracy at risk. Being from Oklahoma City, I’m increasingly worried about the chances of bloodshed. And I’m doubly concerned after reading The Destructionists.

In 1994, Vice President Al Gore explained, “The Republicans are determined to wreck Congress in order to control it – and then wreck a presidency in order to recapture it.” Now, Milbank concludes. “A quarter century after a truck bomb set by an antigovernment extremist … Republicans have lit a fuse on democracy itself.”

This is a startling article about a strange alliance between a theocratic cult and Trump’s friends Michael Flynn and Roger Stone. Jennifer Cohn, an expert on election integrity, digs deep into the world of Christian Dominionism and explores its philosophy. Its ambitions are vast, and it poses a threat to our secular democracy.

It begins:

On July 1, 2022, inside a packed Georgia arena, four religious leaders stood on stage as they recited a blood chilling Prayer Declaration called the “Watchman Decree”:

Whereas, we have been given legal power from heaven and now exercise our authority, Whereas, we are God’s ambassadors and spokespeople over the earth. Whereas, through the power of God we are the world influencers. Whereas, because of our covenant with God, we are equipped and delegated by him to destroy every attempted advance of the enemy, we make our declarations: … 3. We decree that our judicial system will issue rulings that are biblical and constitutional. 4. We declare that we stand against wokeness, the occult, and every evil attempt against our nation. 5. We declare that we now take back our God-given freedoms, according to our Constitution. 6. We decree that we take back and permanently control positions of influence and leadership in each of the “Seven Mountains.”

[Video]

A video of the recitation (shown above) was viewed more than 3 million times on Twitter. In the replies, many people expressed horror at what they had seen. Although few were aware, they had just witnessed the fruits of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). The NAR is a rapidly accelerating and dangerously under-reported worldwide Christian authoritarian movement. It practices faith healing and exorcism and promotes dominionism, a belief that Christians must take control of government, business and culture in order for Jesus to return to earth. The men on stage included NAR apostles Dutch Sheets (who wrote the decree) and Lance Wallhau, along with two close colleagues, pastors Mario Murillo and Hank Kunneman. The fifth man, pastor Gene Bailey, hosted the event for his showFlashpoint on Victory TV, a Christian network that platforms the NAR and pro-Trump Make America Great (MAGA) influencers.

Please open the link and learn about the religious extremists who want to control everything. Learn about their ties to MAGA world figures like Flynn and Stone.

Historian Heather Cox Richardson reminds us of a time long ago when Republicans were champions of public schools. long, long ago.

On August 21, 1831, enslaved American Nat Turner led about 70 of his enslaved and free Black neighbors in a rebellion to awaken his white neighbors to the inherent brutality of slaveholding and the dangers it presented to their own safety. Turner and his friends traveled from house to house in their neighborhood in Southampton County, Virginia, freeing enslaved people and murdering about 60 of the white men, women, and children they encountered. Their goal, Turner later told an interviewer, was “to carry terror and devastation wherever we went.”

State militia put down the rebellion in a couple of days, and both the legal system and white vigilantes killed at least 200 Black Virginians, many of whom were not involved in Turner’s bid to end enslavement. Turner himself was captured in October, tried in November, sentenced to death, and hanged.

But white Virginians, and white folks in neighboring southern states, remained frightened. Turner had been, in their minds, a well-treated, educated enslaved man, who knew his Bible well and seemed the very last sort of person they would have expected to revolt. And so they responded to the rebellion in two ways. They turned against the idea that enslavement was a bad thing and instead began to argue that human enslavement was a positive good.

And states across the South passed laws making it a crime to teach enslaved Americans to read and write.

Denying enslaved Black Americans access to education exiled them from a place in the nation. The Framers had quite explicitly organized the United States not on the principles of religion or tradition, but rather on the principles of the Enlightenment: the idea that, by applying knowledge and reasoning to the natural world, men could figure out the best way to order society. Someone excluded from access to education could not participate in that national project. Instead, that person was read out of society, doomed to be controlled by leaders who marshaled propaganda and religion to defend their dominance.

In 1858, South Carolina Senator James Henry Hammond explained that society needed “a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. That is, a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill.”

But when they organized in the 1850s to push back against the efforts of elite enslavers like Hammond to take over the national government, members of the fledgling Republican Party recognized the importance of education. In 1859, Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln explained that those who adhered to the “mud-sill” theory “assumed that labor and education are incompatible; and any practical combination of them impossible…. According to that theory, the education of laborers, is not only useless, but pernicious, and dangerous.”

Lincoln argued that workers were not simply drudges but rather were the heart of the economy. “The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land, for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him.” He tied the political vision of the Framers to this economic vision. In order to prosper, he argued, men needed “book-learning,” and he called for universal education. An educated community, he said, “will be alike independent of crowned-kings, money-kings, and land-kings.”

When they were in control of the federal government in the 1860s, Republicans passed the Land Grant College Act, funding public universities so that men without wealthy fathers might have access to higher education. In the aftermath of the Civil War, Republicans also tried to use the federal government to fund public schools for poor Black and white Americans, dividing money up according to illiteracy rates.

But President Andrew Johnson vetoed that bill on the grounds that the federal government had no business protecting Black education; that process, he said, belonged to the states—which for the next century denied Black and Brown people equal access to schools, excluding them from full participation in American society and condemning them to menial labor.

Then, in 1954, after decades of pressure from Black and Brown Americans for equal access to public schools, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren, a former Republican governor of California, unanimously agreed that separate schools were inherently unequal, and thus unconstitutional. The federal government stepped in to make sure the states could not deny education to the children who lived within their boundaries.

And now, in 2022, we are in a new educational moment. Between January 2021 and January 2022, the legislatures of 35 states introduced 137 bills to keep students from learning about issues of race, LBGTQ+ issues, politics, and American history. More recently, the Republican-dominated legislature of Florida passed the Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (Stop WOKE) Act, tightly controlling how schools and employee training can talk about race or gender discrimination.

Republican-dominated legislatures and school districts are also purging books from school libraries and notifying parents each time a child checks out a book. Most of the books removed are by or about Black people, people of color, or LGBTQ+ individuals.

Both sets of laws are likely to result in teachers censoring themselves or leaving the profession out of concern they will inadvertently run afoul of the new laws, a disastrous outcome when the nation’s teaching profession is already in crisis. School districts facing catastrophic teacher shortages are trying to keep classrooms open by doubling up classes, cutting the school week down to four days, and permitting veterans without educational training to teach—all of which will likely hurt students trying to regain their educational footing after the worst of the pandemic.

This, in turn, adds weight to the move to divert public money from the public schools into private schools that are not overseen by state authorities. In Florida, the Republican-controlled legislature has dramatically expanded the state’s use of vouchers recently, arguing that tying money to students rather than schools expands parents’ choices while leaving unspoken that defunded public schools will be less and less attractive. In June, in Carson v. Makin, the Supreme Court expanded the voucher system to include religious schools, ruling that Maine, which provides vouchers in towns that don’t have public high schools, must allow those vouchers to go to religious schools as well as secular ones. Thus tax dollars will support religious schools.

In 2022, it seems worth remembering that in 1831, lawmakers afraid that Black Americans exposed to the ideas in books and schools would claim the equality that was their birthright under the Declaration of Independence made sure their Black neighbors could not get an education.

Notes:

Tom Ultican is one of the very best chroniclers of the “Destroy Public Education” movement. He was thrilled to discover a new book that explains the origins of the attack on public schools and calls out its founding figures. Lily Geismar’s Left Behind is a book you should read and share. It helps explain how Democrats got on board with policies that conservative Republicans like Charles Koch, the Waltons, and Betsy DeVos loved. This bipartisan agreement that public schools needed to be reinvented and disrupted brought havoc to the schools, demoralized teachers, and glorified flawed standardized tests, making them the goal of schooling.

Ultican writes:

Lily Geismer has performed a great service to America. The Claremont McKenna College associate professor of history has documented the neoliberal takeover of the Democratic Party in the 1980’s and 1990’s. In her book, Left Behind: The Democrats Failed Attempt to Solve Inequalityshe demonstrates how Bill Clinton “ultimately did more to sell free-market thinking than even Friedman and his acolytes.” (Left Behind Page 13)

When in the 1970’s, Gary Hart, Bill Bradley, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, Paul Tsongas, and Tim Wirth arrived on the scene in Washington DC they were dubbed “Watergate Babies.” By the 1980’s Tip O’Neill’s aid Chris Mathews labeled them “Atari Democrats” an illusion to the popular video game company because of their relentless hi-tech focus. Geismer reports.

“Journalist Charles Peters averred that ‘neoliberal’ was a better descriptor. Peters meant it not as a pejorative but as a positive. … Neoliberals, he observed, ‘still believe in liberty and justice and a fair chance for all, in mercy for the afflicted and help for the down and out,’ but ‘no longer automatically favor unions and big government.’” (Left Behind Pages 17-18) [Emphasis added]

Democrats in search of a “third way” formed the Democratic Leadership Council to formulate policies that moved them away from unions, “big government,” and traditional liberalism.

Historian Arthur Schlesinger labeled the DLC “a quasi-Reaganite formation” and accused them of “worshiping at the shrine of the free market.”

Union pollster Victor Fingerhut called them “crypto-Republicans.”

Douglas Wilder a black Virginia politician criticized their “demeaning appeal to Southern white males.”

Others called them the “conservative white caucus” or the “southern white boys’ caucus.”

Jesse Jackson said its members “didn’t march in the ‘60s and won’t stand up in the ‘80s.” (Left Behind Pages 46-47)

In 1989, From convinced Bill Clinton to become the chairman of the DLC. That same year the DLC founded the Progressive Policy Institute to be their think tank competing with the Heritage Foundation and the CATO Institute. Today, it still spreads the neoliberal gospel.

This is an important book that explains how the Democratic Party lost its way.

Dana Milbank is my favorite columnist in the Washington Post. He is outspoken and documents what he says. I am always informed by reading his work. This is a good one.

He writes:

President Biden on Thursday offered some harsh words about those of the “extreme MAGA philosophy” currently hacking away at our democracy.


“It’s not just Trump,” he said at a fundraiser. “It’s the entire philosophy that underpins the — I’m going to say something: It’s like semi-fascism.”


He expanded on the theme later at a rally. “The MAGA Republicans,” he said, are “a threat to our very democracy. They refuse to accept the will of the people. They embrace — embrace — political violence.”

Good for him. Those who cherish democracy need to call out the proto-fascist tendencies now seizing the Trump-occupied GOP.


Republican candidates up and down the November ballot reject the legitimate outcome of the last election — and are making it easier to reject the will of the voters in the next. Violent anti-government rhetoric from party leaders targets the FBI, the Justice Department and the IRS. A systemic campaign of disinformation makes their supporters feel victimized by shadowy “elites.”

These are hallmarks of authoritarianism.


Americans are taking notice. A new NBC News poll finds that “threats to democracy” has become the top concern of voters, replacing the cost of living as the No. 1 concern. The 21 percent who cite it as the “most important issue facing the country” include 29 percent of Democrats, and even 17 percent of Republicans. (Many Republican voters have been deceived into believing there’s rampant voter fraud, but at least they care enough about democracy to be concerned.)

The Republican response to Biden’s warning? “Despicable,” Republican National Committee spokesman Nathan Brand said in a statement. “Biden forced Americans out of their jobs …” (For the record, the economy has added nearly 10 million jobs during Biden’s presidency, after losing 2.9 million during Trump’s.)
That’s emblematic of the GOP response generally when called out on its assaults on democracy: victimhood and fabrication.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) offered a classic of the genre this week. Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, writing in The Post, had condemned Rubio’s contributions to “a culture of fakery,” saying the senator’s “fake populism and anti-intellectualism … are necessary ingredients of an authoritarian takeover.” Rubio, writing in the Federalist, a Trumpist publication, responded with more fakery, and by portraying himself as the victim. “This cisgender white male reeks of privilege,” Rubio wrote of Wilentz, borrowing the language of the woke left.
Rubio, misrepresenting a Post account of a Biden meeting with historians (including Wilentz), said that those warning about authoritarianism are “peddling … imaginary threats.” Rubio added: “If you’re looking for authoritarianism, look no further than what happened under the watch of Anthony Fauci and his allies in the elite establishment.”
The day after Rubio alleged that the true authoritarian threat is the head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (a job Fauci has held since the Reagan administration), the senator joined Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a campaign event. There, DeSantis said this about Fauci: “I’m just sick of seeing him. … Someone needs to grab that little elf and chuck him across the Potomac.”

Dehumanizing a foe’s appearance and fantasizing about violence against him: Where have we seen this before?


Earlier this month, a man was sentenced to prison for threats against Fauci — including, as the Daily Beast reported, a wish to break every bone in his “disgusting elf skull.” It was one of countless violent threats against the scientist as Republican officials targeted him for, among other things, the “sweeping shutdown” during the pandemic, as Fox News’s Neil Cavuto put it to Fauci this week.
“I didn’t shut down anything,” Fauci replied.


That’s true. All Fauci could do was give advice. Some governors followed it. DeSantis didn’t. Instead, he fueled conspiracy theories, dubious treatments, and hostility to masks and vaccines. And Florida, after vaccines became available, had by far the highest covid-19 death rate among big states.


Since then, DeSantis has devoted himself to book banning, voter intimidation and restrictions on what schools can teach about race, history and sexuality — all while DeSantis, a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, bashes “elites.”


Such relentless attacks on facts, expertise, learning and voting, like fantasies of violence against a nefarious elite, are tools of the authoritarian. But don’t take Biden’s word for it.


At DeSantis’s alma mater this week, Yale President Peter Salovey opened the academic year with a speech on the current “assault on truth,” in which he quoted Hannah Arendt, revered philosopher of the pre-Trump right: “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.”


This is where the MAGA Republicans are taking us. It’s past time to call it what it is.