Heather Cox Richardson

oh, my sweet summer child…

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January 12, 2022 (Wednesday)

The struggle between the Trump-backed forces of authoritarianism and those of us defending democracy is coming down to the fight over whether the Democrats can get the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act through the Senate.

It’s worth reading what’s actually in the bills because, to my mind, it is bananas that they are in any way controversial.

The Freedom to Vote Act is a trimmed version of the For the People Act the House passed at the beginning of this congressional session. It establishes a baseline for access to the ballot across all states. That baseline includes at least two weeks of early voting for any town of more than 3000 people, including on nights and weekends, for at least 10 hours a day. It permits people to vote by mail, or to drop their ballots into either a polling place or a drop box, and guarantees those votes will be counted so long as they are postmarked on or before Election Day and arrive at the polling place within a week. It makes Election Day a holiday. It provides uniform standards for voter IDs in states that require them.

The Freedom to Vote Act cracks down on voter suppression. It makes it a federal crime to lie to voters in order to deter them from voting (distributing official-looking flyers with the wrong dates for an election or locations of a polling place, for example), and it increases the penalties for voter intimidation. It restores federal voting rights for people who have served time in jail, creating a uniform system out of the current patchwork one.

It requires states to guarantee that no one has to wait more than 30 minutes to vote.

Using measures already in place in a number of states, the Freedom to Vote Act provides uniform voter registration rules. It establishes automatic voter registration at state Departments of Motor Vehicles, permits same-day voter registration, allows online voter registration, and protects voters from the purges that have plagued voting registrations for decades now, requiring that voters be notified if they are dropped from the rolls and given information on how to get back on them.

The Freedom to Vote Act bans partisan gerrymandering.

The Freedom to Vote Act requires any entity that spends more than $10,000 in an election to disclose all its major donors, thus cleaning up dark money in politics. It requires all advertisements to identify who is paying for them. It makes it harder for political action committees (PACs) to coordinate with candidates, and it beefs up the power of the Federal Election Commission that ensures candidates run their campaigns legally.

The Freedom to Vote Act also addresses the laws Republican-dominated states have passed in the last year to guarantee that Republicans win future elections. It protects local election officers from intimidation and firing for partisan purposes. It expands penalties for tampering with ballots after an election (as happened in Maricopa County, Arizona, where the Cyber Ninjas investigating the results did not use standard protection for them and have been unable to produce documents for a freedom of information lawsuit, leading to fines of $50,000 a day and the company’s dissolution). If someone does tamper with the results or refuses to certify them, voters can sue.

The act also prevents attempts to overturn elections by requiring audits after elections, making sure those audits have clearly defined rules and procedures. And it prohibits voting machines that don’t leave a paper record.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA) takes on issues of discrimination in voting by updating and restoring the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) that the Supreme Court gutted in 2013 and 2021. The VRA required that states with a history of discrimination in voting get the Department of Justice to approve any changes they wanted to make in their voting laws before they went into effect, and in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, the Supreme Court struck that requirement down, in part because the justices felt the formula in the law was outdated.

The VRAA provides a new, modern formula for determining which states need preapproval, based on how many voting rights violations they’ve had in the past 25 years. After ten years without violations, they will no longer need preclearance. It also establishes some practices that must always be cleared, such as getting rid of ballots printed in different languages (as required in the U.S. since 1975).

The VRAA also restores the ability of voters to sue if their rights are violated, something the 2021 Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee decision makes difficult.

The VRAA directly addresses the ability of Indigenous Americans, who face unique voting problems, to vote. It requires at least one polling place on tribal lands, for example, and requires states to accept tribal or federal IDs.

That’s it.

It is off-the-charts astonishing that no Republicans are willing to entertain these common-sense measures, especially since there are in the Senate a number of Republicans who voted in 2006 to reauthorize the 1965 Voting Rights Act the VRAA is designed to restore.

McConnell today revealed his discomfort with President Joe Biden’s speech yesterday at the Atlanta University Center Consortium, when Biden pointed out that “[h]istory has never been kind to those who have sided with voter suppression over voters’ rights. And it will be even less kind for those who side with election subversion.” Biden asked Republican senators to choose between our history’s advocates of voting rights and those who opposed such rights. He asked: “Do you want to be…on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?

Today, McConnell, who never complained about the intemperate speeches of former president Donald Trump, said Biden’s speech revealed him to be “profoundly, profoundly unpresidential.”

The voting rights measures appear to have the support of the Senate Democrats, but because of the Senate filibuster, which makes it possible for senators to block any measure unless a supermajority of 60 senators are willing to vote for it, voting rights cannot pass unless Democrats are willing to figure out a way to bypass the filibuster. Two Democratic senators—Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV)—are currently unwilling to do that.

Nine Democratic senators eager to pass this measure met with Sinema for two and a half hours last night and for another hour with Manchin this morning in an attempt to get them to a place where they are willing to change the rules of the Senate filibuster to protect our right to vote. They have not yet found a solution.

This evening, Senate Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that he would bring voting rights legislation to the Senate floor for debate—which Republicans have rejected—by avoiding a Republican filibuster through a complicated workaround. When the House and Senate disagree on a bill (which is almost always), they send it back and forth with revisions until they reach a final version. According to Democracy Docket, after it has gone back and forth three times, a motion to proceed on it cannot be filibustered. So, Democrats in the House are going to take a bill that has already hit the three-trip mark and substitute for that bill the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. They’ll pass the combined bill and send it to the Senate, where debate over it can’t be filibustered.

And so, Republican senators will have to explain to the people why they oppose what appear to be common-sense voting rules.

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Simple: they will lie, and say anything to the people other than the truth they only speak amongst themselves: that they can’t win without cheating, and given the choice between changing to make themselves electable and burning down democracy, they have decisively chosen the latter.

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January 13, 2022 (Thursday)

While all eyes today are on the fight over the newly combined voting rights bill before the Senate—it is now the “Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act”—there are plenty of stories out there right now that make clear what is at stake if the Republicans are permitted to rig the rules so that they will win the next election.

Today the Department of Justice acknowledged that there was a seditious conspiracy behind the January 6 insurrection against our government.

The Justice Department indicted Oath Keepers leader [Elmer] Stewart Rhodes III and 10 other members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right antigovernment militia that specializes in recruiting veterans, for a number of crimes including seditious conspiracy in relation to the January 6 insurrection. Sedition is the crime of inciting a revolt against the government, and these men allegedly established training sessions and areas for staging equipment around Washington, D.C., before the insurrection to support an attack on that day. They also brought knives, tactical vests, radio equipment, and so on, to the Capitol on January 6.

Rhodes stated that, should Biden assume the office of the presidency, “We will have to do a bloody, massively bloody revolution against them. That’s what’s going to have to happen.” He wanted Trump to use military force to stop the transfer of presidential power. On Christmas Day, he messaged his co-conspirators about the January 6 joint session of Congress, “We need to make those senators very uncomfortable with all of us being a few hundred feet away…. I think Congress will screw him [Trump] over. The only chance we/he has is if we scare the shit out of them and convince them it will be torches and pitchforks time is [sic] they don’t do the right thing. But I don’t think they will listen.” On December 31, he wrote: “There is no standard political or legal way out of this.”

Officials produced a lot of evidence from encrypted messaging channels—suggesting they have access to encrypted messages—to support their argument that the conspirators intended to overturn the government. “You ain’t seen nothing yet,” one messaged another; and “We aren’t quitting!! We are reloading!!” They plotted going to Washington, D.C., getting hotel rooms, and stashing weapons, and then continued to communicate as they stormed the Capitol, evidently seeing themselves as the modern-day version of the patriots of the American Revolution (calling to mind Representative Lauren Boebert’s [R-CO] tweet the morning of January 6 that “Today is 1776.”).

After the insurrection, the conspirators continued to stockpile weapons and prepare for “next steps.” On January 20, the day of Biden’s inauguration, one messaged another: “After this…if nothing happens…its [sic] war…Civil War 2.0.”

The Oath Keepers provided security to Trump loyalist Roger Stone on January 5 and January 6. Stone has denied any involvement in the insurrection.

Tess Owen of Vice reported on January 5 about a similar right-wing gang active at the Capitol. Owen said that after the January 6 insurrection, for which nearly 50 members of their gang have been charged, the neofascist street-fighting gang the Proud Boys turned from the national stage to local right-wing culture wars. From January 6 to December 21, 2021, the Proud Boys appeared in uniform at least 114 times in 73 cities and 24 states, working to embed among local activists opposing critical race theory and vaccine mandates in order to expand their base of support. The Proud Boys are the gang Trump told to “stand back and stand by,” when reporter Chris Wallace, then of the Fox News Channel, asked him to condemn white supremacists.

It was not just members of street gangs who were involved in overturning the 2020 election. Last week, a new website called Insurrection Index, published by the voting rights organization Public Wise, established that more than 1000 people in elective office or positions of public trust around the country either spread the Big Lie that the 2020 election was fraudulent or participated in the January 6 insurrection.

Over the past several days, news has broken that lawmakers or partisan officials in various states forged documents claiming that Trump won the 2020 election. This links them to the insurrection; as conservative editor Bill Kristol of The Bulwark notes, false electoral counts were part of Trump’s plan to get then–Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count a number of Biden’s electoral votes on the grounds that the states had sent in conflicting ballots.

Interestingly, on December 17, 2021, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity that in four states there were an “alternate slate of electors voted upon that Congress will decide in January.” McEnany talked to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol yesterday.

The January 6th Committee also asked House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) yesterday to testify. He promptly refused, saying the committee is illegitimate (a court has said it is legitimate). The committee’s 6-page letter requesting McCarthy’s voluntary cooperation made it clear they have a lot of information.

In an interview with Greg Sargent of the Washington Post, New York University School of Law professor Ryan Goodman suggested that McCarthy might be able to shed light on whether Trump believed the rioters were helping his effort to overturn the election. Lawmakers who talked to McCarthy in January about his expletive-laden conversation with Trump as McCarthy tried to get him to call off the rioters reported that Trump’s answer to McCarthy was: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

Sargent’s article suggests that, among other things, the committee wants to know if Trump tried to make a deal with McCarthy or others, indicating that he would call off the rioters if the Republicans either overturned the election results or delayed the count.

House Republicans have already begun to map out how they will retake the government, planning to investigate the Biden administration aggressively if they win control of the House in 2022, trying to stoke the culture wars before the 2024 election.

Last week, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said on a podcast that the Republicans might well impeach Biden if they retake the House in 2022, “whether it’s justified or not.” He claimed the Democrats had “used [impeachment] for partisan purposes to go after Trump because they disagreed with him,” and that there would be “enormous pressure on a Republican house to do the same.”

Democrats impeached Trump, of course, not over policy differences but over two extraordinary acts. The first was Trump’s July 2019 attempt to strongarm Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky into smearing Trump’s leading challenger for the presidency, withholding congressionally appropriated money for Ukraine’s defense against Russia until Zelensky would agree to tell media that he was launching an investigation into Biden’s son. (It would be ironic if the Republicans acquitted Trump of just such a quid pro quo with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky only to have him suggest a similar quid pro quo over their own lives.)

The second was inciting the January 6 insurrection.

And yet, despite all this, the Republican Party is lining up behind Trump’s wishes. Today the Republican National Committee announced that it plans to change its rules, refusing to permit any of its candidates to participate in debates run by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates. The commission was founded by the Republicans and Democrats in 1987 to make formal debates part of the election process, and is actually supposed to arrange the debates with candidates, not party officials. Debates are not Trump’s strong suit, and he insists the commission is biased against him.

Tonight, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has adjourned the Senate tonight out of concerns about Covid and an upcoming storm. It will reconvene on Tuesday to debate voting rights.

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January 14, 2022 (Friday)

Yesterday, by a vote of 6 to 3, the Supreme Court struck down the Biden administration’s requirement that businesses with more than 100 employees address the coronavirus pandemic by making employees either get vaccines or, if they choose not to be vaccinated, to test weekly and wear a mask at work. Employees who work exclusively at home or mostly outside were exempted from the requirement, as were those with a religious exemption.

President Joe Biden took office vowing to get the coronavirus pandemic under control. By April 2021, his administration’s efforts to make vaccines available and get them into people’s arms were so successful that in early May he vowed to reach a 70% vaccination rate among those then eligible for the vaccine by July 4. Promptly, political opponents began to undermine confidence in the vaccine, and vaccination rates fell off dramatically.

In July, the administration tried to encourage vaccinations by requiring vaccines or testing for federal workers and for those contracting with the federal government. In November, the administration expanded those requirements with a new one under the authority of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), established in the Department of Labor under Republican President Richard M. Nixon in 1970 to “assure safe and healthy working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” OSHA announced a vaccine or testing requirement for businesses with more than 100 employees.

The mandate would have covered about 84.2 million Americans (our population is about 332 million). OSHA estimated (before Omicron) that the rule would save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over a six-month period.

Employers claimed that the mandate would cost billions of dollars to implement and hundreds of thousands of employees would quit (although the actual numbers of those quitting their jobs over vaccine mandates turned out to be significantly lower than threatened). A number of Republican-dominated state legislatures, including those of Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, and Tennessee, fought the mandate by extending unemployment benefits to those fired for refusing to get the vaccine.

Those objecting to the mandate got the extremely conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which covers Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas and which Trump skewed even more extremely to the right, to stop it.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, also right-leaning but less extreme, lifted the stay, permitting the rule to go into effect. Now, in a case titled National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor, the Supreme Court has restored the stay.

The six justices in the majority ruled that OSHA did not have the authority to require vaccinations or masks and testing because the coronavirus is not specific to the workplace. OSHA’s responsibility is only to make sure that conditions related to the workplace are safe; it cannot regulate a workplace for a virus that is everywhere, even if people catch it at work.

The three justices who dissented, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, seemed incredulous:

“COVID-19 poses grave dangers to the citizens of this country—and particularly, to its workers,” they wrote. “The disease has by now killed almost 1 million Americans and hospitalized almost 4 million. It spreads by person-to-person contact in confined indoor spaces, so causes harm in nearly all workplace environments. And in those environments, more than any others, individuals have little control, and therefore little capacity to mitigate risk. COVID-19, in short, is a menace in work settings. The proof is all around us: Since the disease’s onset, most Americans have seen their workplaces transformed. So the administrative agency charged with ensuring health and safety in workplaces did what Congress commanded it to: It took action to address COVID-19’s continuing threat in those spaces.”

At stake in the case is not only many thousands of American lives and restoring the stability of society, but also the same issue at the heart of our current struggle over voting rights: the relationship of the federal government to the states.

Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito began their decision opposing the mandate by saying, “The central question we face today is: Who decides?” Can a federal agency charged with workplace safety mandate vaccines, or should the work of combating coronavirus belong to state and local governments and Congress?

The right-wing justices came down firmly against the federal government, using two doctrines that, if fully deployed, will destroy the modern U.S. system.

In his opinion, Gorsuch explicitly raised the concept of the “nondelegation doctrine” and the related concept of the “major questions doctrine.” The nondelegation doctrine relies on our government’s separation of powers. It says that, as its own branch of government, Congress cannot delegate regulatory authority to the executive branch, where agencies like OSHA live.

But, since Congress has, in fact, been delegating authority to the executive branch since the administration of President George Washington, those who want to reduce federal authority sometimes rely instead on the more limited major questions doctrine, which says that although Congress can delegate minor authority to administrative agencies, it cannot delegate major questions (although just how to define a major question is unclear).

A recent study by University of Southern California professor of public policy Dr. Pamela Clouser McCann and University of Michigan professor of social science Dr. Charles R. Shipan, both experts on intergovernmental delegation, found that 99% of today’s federal laws involve delegation. Unwinding them and requiring Congress to make all its own regulatory decisions would paralyze the modern government.

Those who support the idea of nondelegation argue that it guarantees government by the people rather than by an unelected bureaucracy, and this is a worthy thought. But unfortunately, it depends on the goodwill of those elected to state legislatures, and because those lawmakers also get to decide who votes in their states, that goodwill can be thin on the ground.

At heart, this is the same states’ rights argument that the U.S. has grappled with since the 1830s. Since that time, while some state legislatures have used their power to reflect the will of the people, others have limited the vote, putting a small group of people into power. Once in power, they have used the state government to promote their own interests. States’ rights advocates have consistently said that any federal interference with a state’s unfair laws is tyranny.

Since the 1930s, though, lawmakers have used the federal government to combat unfair state laws. They have regulated businesses when state lawmakers wouldn’t, protected civil rights from discriminatory state laws, and, ultimately, guaranteed the right to vote in states that kept their citizens from the polls, with the expectation that if everyone could vote, they would, indeed, create state governments that reflected the will of the majority.

The Supreme Court—which, in an ironic echo of Gorsuch’s complaints about unelected bureaucrats, is not elected—is working with today’s Republicans to dismantle this modern system, yesterday embracing the nondelegation doctrine to undercut federal regulation, even though this decision clearly will cost American lives.

Also yesterday, the court upheld a mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services requiring vaccination for healthcare workers in facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid, both of which are funded by the federal government. It supported that mandate only by a vote of 5 to 4; four of the justices did not believe the Department of Health and Human Services has the right to require vaccines in a healthcare facility.

Meanwhile, Biden is deploying another 1000 military personnel to hospitals, which are overwhelmed with unvaccinated coronavirus patients.

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Isn’t gravity everywhere? You know, that thing that makes people fall down and other things fall on people? Shall they get rid of hard hat and properly secured ladder regulations next?

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Look Here Reaction GIF by Paul McCartney

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Yes, that logic is totally fucked.

It’s like who was it, Alito? When the SCOTUS declared a stop to the 2000 Florida recount, writing that it was because continuing the recount would “cause harm.” Harm, that is, to Shrub’s chances of “winning” the election. :rage:

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January 15, 2022 (Saturday)

Already asleep in my chair. Will turn it over to my friend Peter on this cold January night with an image of his that is one of my favorites. It really does look like this around here in the winter-- quite different than the summer, but just as pretty.

Sleep well, everyone.

[Photo, “Island Farm,” by Peter Ralston.]

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January 16, 2022 (Sunday)

Republicans say they oppose the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act because it is an attempt on the part of Democrats to win elections in the future by “nationalizing” them, taking away the right of states to arrange their laws as they wish. Voting rights legislation is a “partisan power grab,” Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) insists.

In fact, there is no constitutional ground for opposing the idea of Congress weighing in on federal elections. The U.S. Constitution establishes that “[t]he Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations.”

There is no historical reason to oppose the idea of voting rights legislation, either. Indeed, Congress weighed in on voting pretty dramatically in 1870, when it amended the Constitution itself for the fifteenth time to guarantee that “[t]he right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” In that same amendment, it provided that “[t]he Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

It did so, in 1965, with “an act to enforce the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution,” otherwise known as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a law designed to protect the right of every American adult to have a say in their government, that is, to vote. The Supreme Court gutted that law in 2013; the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act is designed to bring it back to life.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a response to conditions in the American South, conditions caused by the region’s descent into a one-party state in which white Democrats acted as the law, regardless of what was written on the statute books.

After World War II, that one-party system looked a great deal like that of the race-based fascist system America had been fighting in Europe, and when Black and Brown veterans, who had just put their lives on the line to fight for democracy, returned to their homes in the South, they called those similarities out.

Democratic president Franklin Delano Roosevelt of New York had been far too progressive on racial issues for most southern Democrats, and when Harry S. Truman took office after FDR’s death, they were thrilled that one of their own was taking over. Truman was a white Democrat from Missouri who had been a thorough racist as a younger man, quite in keeping with his era’s southern Democrats.

But by late 1946, Truman had come to embrace civil rights. In 1952, Truman told an audience in Harlem, New York, what had changed his mind.

"Right after World War II, religious and racial intolerance began to show up just as it did in 1919,” he said. ”There were a good many incidents of violence and friction, but two of them in particular made a very deep impression on me. One was when a Negro veteran, still wearing this country’s uniform, was arrested, and beaten and blinded. Not long after that, two Negro veterans with their wives lost their lives at the hands of a mob.”

Truman was referring to decorated veteran Sergeant Isaac Woodard, who was on a bus on his way home from Georgia in February 1946, when he told a bus driver not to be rude to him because “I’m a man, just like you.” In South Carolina, the driver called the police, who pulled Woodard into an alley, beat him, then arrested him and threw him in jail, where that night the police chief plunged a nightstick into Woodard’s eyes, permanently blinding him. The next day, a local judge found Woodard guilty of disorderly conduct and fined him $50. The state declined to prosecute the police chief, and when the federal government did—it had jurisdiction because Woodard was in uniform—the people in the courtroom applauded when the jury acquitted him, even though he had admitted he had blinded the sergeant.

Two months after the attack on Woodard, the Supreme Court decided that all-white primaries were unconstitutional, and Black people prepared to vote in Georgia’s July primaries. Days before the election, a mob of 15 to 20 white men killed two young Black couples: George and Mae Dorsey, and Roger and Dorothy Malcom. Malcom had been charged with stabbing a white man and was bailed out of jail by Loy Harrison, his white employer, who had with him in his car both Malcom’s wife, who was seven months pregnant, and the Dorseys, who also sharecropped on his property.

On the way home, Harrison took a back road. A waiting mob stopped the car, took the men and then their wives out of it, tied them to a tree, and shot them. The murders have never been solved, in large part because no one—white or Black—was willing to talk to the FBI inspectors Truman dispatched to the region. FBI inspectors said the whites were "extremely clannish, not well educated and highly sensitive to ‘outside’ criticism,” while the Blacks were terrified that if they talked, they, too, would be lynched.

The FBI did uncover enough to make the officers think that one of the virulently racist candidates running in the July primary had riled up the assassins in the hopes of winning the election. With all the usual racial slurs, he accused one of his opponents of being soft on racial issues and assured the white men in the district that if they took action against one of the Black men, who had been accused of stabbing a white man, he would make sure they were pardoned. He did win the primary, and the murders took place eight days later.

Songwriters, radio announcers, and news media covered the cases, showing Americans what it meant to live in states in which law enforcement and lawmakers could do as they pleased. When an old friend wrote to Truman to beg him to stop pushing a federal law to protect Black rights, Truman responded: “I know you haven’t thought this thing through and that you do not know the facts. I am happy, however, that you wrote me because it gives me a chance to tell you what the facts are.”

“When the mob gangs can take four people out and shoot them in the back, and everybody in the country is acquainted with who did the shooting and nothing is done about it, that country is in pretty bad fix from a law enforcement standpoint.”

“When a Mayor and City Marshal can take a…Sergeant off a bus in South Carolina, beat him up and put out…his eyes, and nothing is done about it by the State authorities, something is radically wrong with the system.”

In his speech in Harlem, Truman explained that “[i]t is the duty of the State and local government to prevent such tragedies.” But, as he said in 1947, the federal government must “show the way.” We need not only “protection of the people against the Government, but protection of the people by the Government.”

Truman’s conversion came in the very early years of the Civil Rights Movement, which would soon become an intellectual, social, economic, and political movement conceived of and carried on by Black and Brown people and their allies in ways he could not have imagined in the 1940s.

But Truman laid a foundation for what came later. He recognized that a one-party state is not a democracy, that it enables the worst of us to torture and kill while the rest live in fear, and that “[t]he Constitutional guarantees of individual liberties and of equal protection under the laws clearly place on the Federal Government the duty to act when state or local authorities abridge or fail to protect these Constitutional rights.”

That was true in 1946, and it is just as true today.

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January 17, 2022 (Monday)

In this moment of struggle over voting rights in America, it is important to distinguish between voter fraud, which is vanishingly rare and has not affected the outcome of elections, and election fraud, which is coming to characterize a number of our important elections.

Voter fraud is about an individual breaking the law and is almost always caught. It is not a threat to democracy.

Election fraud means that people in power have rigged the system so that the will of the voters is overturned. When it happens, it threatens to destroy our nation.

Now, as the contours of what happened on January 6, 2021, are becoming clearer, they appear to show a number of different schemes to overturn the election through fraud. At least one of those schemes appears to have been a coordinated attempt by members of the Trump administration and sympathizers around the country to overturn our government by committing election fraud.

As early as November 6, 2020, three days after the presidential election but before it had been decided, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who handled communication with the president, texted with a member of Congress about appointing alternate electors in certain states. Meadows told the lawmaker: “I love it.”

Biden was declared the winner of the election on November 7, 2020. That day, Meadows received an email suggesting “the appointment of alternate slates of electors as part of a ‘direct and collateral attack’ after the election.”

On December 1, 2020, then–Attorney General William Barr undercut Trump’s claims of voter fraud by telling the Associated Press: “[W]e have not seen fraud on a scale that could have [caused] a different outcome in the election.”

The true electors met in the states on Monday, December 14, 2020, and cast their ballots for Biden’s victory. Their states certified those ballots.

On the same day, on Fox & Friends, Trump advisor Stephen Miller announced that the campaign would overturn the election results and certify Trump as the winner. “As we speak today,” he said, “an alternate slate of electors in the contested states is going to vote, and we’re going to send those results up to Congress.” Ultimately, fake electors in seven states—New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin—sent fake ballots to Washington. Election law experts dismissed the possibility that these fake electors could accomplish anything; the certified ballots were the true ones.

That same day, December 14, 2020, Trump announced that Attorney General William Barr was resigning. His last day at work was December 23, 2020.

Barr’s deputy, Jeffrey A. Rosen, stepped up to become the acting attorney general. Meanwhile, at the Department of Justice, the freshly appointed acting head of the civil division, Jeffrey Clark, circulated a draft letter written to officials in Georgia, dated December 28, 2020, claiming falsely that the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states, including the State of Georgia.” The letter attempted to make that charge seem real by calling for an investigation (a technique Republican candidates have used since 1994 to allege voter fraud when they lost elections). The letter claimed that two sets of electors had met “in Georgia and several other States… and that both sets of those ballots have been transmitted to Washington, D.C., to be opened by Vice President Pence.” The letter asked the Republican-dominated Georgia legislature to choose which set of electors was the right one after taking the alleged voter fraud into account.

Clark circulated the draft letter to Rosen and Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, asking them to agree to it. “I think we should get it out as soon as possible…. Personally, I see no valid downsides to sending out the letter," he wrote. “I put it together quickly and would want to do a formal cite check before sending but I don’t think we should let unnecessary moss grow on this.” Clark told them he wanted to send similar letters to “each relevant state.”

Several days later, Donoghue responded: “There is no chance that I would sign this letter or anything remotely like this.” He rejected Clark’s allegations: “[T]he investigations that I am aware of relate to suspicions of misconduct that are of such a small scale that they simply would not impact the outcome of the Presidential Election.” Later, Rosen wrote: “I confirmed again today that I am not prepared to sign such a letter."

In early January, Clark talked to Trump, who decided to fire Rosen and put Clark into Rosen’s place as acting attorney general. The remaining leaders in the Justice Department promised to resign all together if he did any such thing, and Trump backed down.

If the states themselves could not be used to invalidate the legitimate Biden electors, though, Vice President Mike Pence could. As vice president, Pence would be responsible for counting the states’ certified ballots on January 6. Lawyer John Eastman of the conservative Claremont Institute (and former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas) wrote a memo suggesting that Pence, “or Senate Pro Tempore [Chuck] Grassley, if Pence recuses himself,” could claim that “because of the ongoing disputes in the 7 States, there are no electors that can be deemed validly appointed in those States.” Rejecting them would mean there were only 454 legitimate votes, and 228 would make up a majority.

In that scenario, “[t]here are at this point 232 votes for Trump, 222 votes for Biden,” Eastman wrote. “Pence then gavels President Trump as re-elected.”

Eastman’s memo continued: “Howls… from the Democrats…. So Pence says, fine…. [Since]… no candidate has achieved the necessary majority,” the matter goes to the House of Representatives, where each state gets a single vote. “Republicans currently control 26 of the state delegations…. Trump is reelected there as well.”

Eastman concluded: “The main thing… is that Pence should do this without asking for permission…. Let the other side challenge his actions in court,” where he expected the lawsuits would get thrown out because courts refuse to decide political questions.

The fly in this ointment turned out to be Pence, who, after conferring with advisors, steadfastly refused to act the part he had been assigned, a part that would have made him the leader of an insurrection and the obvious fall guy if things didn’t go as the conspirators had planned.

He also, though, refused to step aside, although there were clearly plans to make him do so. On January 5, Senator Grassley (R-IA) told a reporter that “we don’t expect [Pence] to be there,” and that he, Grassley, would “be presiding over the Senate.” His staff immediately walked that announcement back, saying it was a “misunderstanding.”

But Grassley’s statement reveals that the plan was widely known. Senior legal affairs reporter for Politico Kyle Cheney noted this weekend that Pence undercut those pushing him to deal with the fake electors by changing the language that explained what would be counted. The law says that the vice president must introduce all “purported” electoral votes. Pence added to the standard language that had been used for decades, saying that, according to the parliamentarian, the only votes that could be considered “regular in form and authentic” were those that had official state certification. Surely he would not have made such a change unless he felt the need to push back on those who would demand he acknowledge the fake ballots.

Frustrated by the vice president, Trump called on his followers who had planned a violent attack on the Capitol, possibly hoping to put enough pressure on Pence that he would change his mind; or to hold the lawmakers hostage until they agreed to his plan; or to slow down the process enough that the election would go to the House; or to slow it down enough that the Supreme Court, to which he had appointed three justices from whom he expected loyalty, would decide in his favor. At least four times on January 6, Trump tweeted about counting the forged ballots.

Miraculously, the plan failed, but Trump loyalists have been working ever since to make sure a repeat will not fail, passing new laws to suppress Democratic voters and take the counting of electoral votes out of the hands of nonpartisan officials and give it to Trump supporters.

This weekend, Trump told Republicans in Pennsylvania why he is focusing on races for supervisor of elections in 2022. “We have to be a lot sharper the next time when it comes to counting the vote,” he said. “There’s a famous statement: ‘Sometimes the vote counter is more important than the candidate,’ and we can’t let that ever, ever happen again. They have to get tougher and smarter.”

Voter fraud in America is vanishingly rare and has not affected the outcome of elections, and it is almost always prosecuted. But Trump loyalists used cries of voter fraud as an excuse to commit election fraud. Whether they will be prosecuted for it is an open question.

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January 18, 2022 (Tuesday)

Three big chunks of news today focus on voting rights before the Senate, Russian aggression in Ukraine, and the January 6 committee.

First, voting rights: Today, the Senate began to debate the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act to protect voting rights. Not a single Republican spoke up for the bill. All 48 Democrats and the 2 Independents who caucus with them—who together represent 40.5 million more people than the 50 Republicans do—support the voting rights bill, but two senators, Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), do not support a carve-out for the voting rights bill so that it can avoid a filibuster by the Republicans.

That is, by demanding a supermajority to pass the bill, Republicans can stop the Democrats from passing voting rights measures that are so popular that, as Jane Mayer outlined in a March 2021 New Yorker article based initially on a leaked phone call, Republicans’ own polls told them they could not convince voters to oppose them, so they had better rely on the filibuster.

The Democrats caucused this evening, and observers expect that they will call a roll call vote on the voting rights bill tomorrow. The Republicans are expected to filibuster the bill. Then the Democratic leadership is expected to try to change the filibuster rules to a talking filibuster with some percentage of the senators present, a return to what the filibuster looked like for most of its history and a measure that should answer the concerns Manchin and Sinema had about getting rid of the filibuster altogether. The Republicans will likely vote against that change. Whether Manchin and Sinema will side with the Democrats in favor of voting rights or with the Republicans against them is the key question.

If this measure doesn’t pass, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) says the Democrats will break it up into individual pieces, forcing senators to take positions against the various pieces of the law, all of which are popular.

Next, Russia: A senior official in the State Department gave a briefing today to say that Russia is moving troops into Belarus and it is unclear who is currently in charge of that country. The official said that Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko has become so weak at home that he has turned to Russia for support, and now Putin is calling in the IOUs. The two countries are currently engaging in “joint exercises,” but they might well be a ruse to move troops into Belarus for an attack on Ukraine.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov today, and the two agreed to meet Friday in Geneva, Switzerland, after Blinken travels to Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday and Berlin, Germany, on Thursday. The U.S. and its allies are trying to pull Russia back from again invading Ukraine. The U.S. has threatened massive economic retaliation for such an invasion and has marshaled the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries—members of a defensive organization designed to hold the line first against the USSR, and now against Russia—to stand firm to protect the right of countries to self-determination.

Today, Germany’s new foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, spoke with Lavrov before reporters in Moscow, firmly placing blame for escalating tensions at the feet of the Russians and insisting on the rule of law.

And yet, here at home, Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson is echoing Russian propaganda, suggesting that the U.S. is the aggressor against Russia rather than that Russia is moving against Ukraine without provocation. He appears to be taking a stand against the U.S. president, who is standing with NATO and our traditional democratic allies, and instead standing with Russia much as Trump did.

January 6 investigation: Today, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol subpoenaed Trump’s attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Boris Epshteyn, who were allegedly present in the “War Room” planning the January 6 insurrection, as well as Trump’s lawyers Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis, who were active in trying to overturn the election with accusations of voter fraud.

“The four individuals we’ve subpoenaed today advanced unsupported theories about election fraud, pushed efforts to overturn the election results, or were in direct contact with the former President about attempts to stop the counting of electoral votes,” committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) wrote. The committee has asked for documents and depositions.

On January 13, the committee issued subpoenas to four social media companies. It had asked for cooperation but felt the companies were responding inadequately. Thompson wrote: “Two key questions for the Select Committee are how the spread of misinformation and violent extremism contributed to the violent attack on our democracy, and what steps—if any—social media companies took to prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds for radicalizing people to violence.” The subpoenas went to Alphabet, which is the parent company of YouTube; Meta, the parent company of Facebook; Reddit; and Twitter.

CNN reports that the January 6 committee has subpoenaed and obtained phone records for Eric Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump, Jr. Both were involved in the January 6 rally at the Ellipse before the attack on the Capitol. This appears to be the committee’s first subpoena to a member of the Trump family, although Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows voluntarily handed over text records from Donald Trump, Jr.

Last week, Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a Constitutional law professor and a member of the January 6 committee, said that the committee hearings, planned for later this year, will “blow the roof off the House.” "This is the most bipartisan committee I’ve ever been on, with a great Democratic chair and a great Republican vice chair and what I see is constitutional patriots working every single day and every single evening to get the truth out to the American people before it’s too late,” Raskin said.

A statement by Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) on NBC yesterday suggests that Raskin’s predictions are right. Romney called the January 6 investigation an “important and legitimate effort,” countering the Trump loyalists who are calling it illegitimate and perhaps getting ahead of whatever is going to turn up.

Finally, the case against one of Trump’s key loyalists, Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who has been under investigation for sex trafficking, appears to have gotten hotter. His ex-girlfriend, who was with him and the underage girl alleged to have crossed state lines with Gaetz for sexual predation, has received immunity in exchange for her testimony before a federal grand jury.

The Senate will resume debate on the voting rights bill tomorrow morning at 10:00.

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Day ending in “y” again? Figures

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Of course he is… Biden’s a democrat, which is the worst thing one can be… duh! /s

Yep.

I saw his interview on CNN… I hope he’s right.

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January 19, 2022 (Wednesday)

Just before midnight last night, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that her office has “uncovered significant evidence indicating that the Trump Organization used fraudulent and misleading asset valuations on multiple properties to obtain economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions for years” and is taking legal action “to force Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump to comply with our investigation.” She concluded: “No one is above the law.”

James is overseeing a civil case against the Trump organization and is cooperating with a criminal case overseen by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, who recently took over from Cyrus Vance, Jr. When Eric Trump testified in the investigation overseen by James, in 2020, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to more than 500 questions.

This morning, Maggie Haberman of the New York Times reported that the news of James’s insistence that he and his family testify has pushed former president Trump to decide to run for president in 2024. CNN’s Jim Sciutto pointed out Trump seems to think that so long as he is running for office, he can persuade people that investigations are all political. In addition, since the Department of Justice decided internally in 1973 that sitting presidents cannot be prosecuted, it is reasonable to assume he thinks that the White House would protect him from ongoing civil or criminal lawsuits.

Those lawsuits might well include some related to the events of January 6. Today the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol issued subpoenas to Nicholas J. Fuentes and Patrick Casey. The two men are leaders of the “America First” or “Groyper” movement, extremist white nationalists trying to inject their views into mainstream politics through trolling and provocation. Both spread lies about election fraud and were at the January 6 insurrection.

The committee’s letter to Fuentes notes that he urged his followers to “storm every state capitol until January 20, 2021, until President Trump is inaugurated for four more years,” and told supporters to show up at the homes of politicians to push their views. Fuentes received more than $250,000 in Bitcoin from a French computer programmer; Casey received $25,000 from the same donor. The FBI is interested in those donations.

This evening, the Supreme Court denied Trump’s request to block the National Archives and Records Administration from sending documents from the Trump administration concerning the January 6 insurrection to the January 6 committee. The vote was 8 to 1. Justice Clarence Thomas, whose wife, Ginni, supported the January 6 rallies, was the dissenting vote.

The Big Lie from the former president that he had won the 2020 election and been cheated of victory led to the January 6 insurrection; it has now led to a crisis in voting rights, as Republican-dominated state legislatures have rewritten their laws since the 2020 election to suppress Democratic votes and hand election counting over to partisan Republicans.

That, in turn, led the Democrats to try to establish a fair baseline for voting rights in the United States by passing the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. The new bill would end partisan gerrymandering, stop dark money in elections, establish early and mail-in voting systems, provide for online registration, and make sure votes are counted fairly. It would modernize and limit the protections for minority voting that Congress first established in 1965 and the Senate renewed unanimously as recently as 2006.

The bill became a lightning rod, as it illustrated the gulf today between Democrats, who want to use the federal government to regulate business, protect civil rights, provide a basic social safety net, and promote infrastructure, and Republicans, who want to stop those things and throw the weight of governance back to the states. If Republican-dominated state legislatures are permitted to keep the laws they have passed limiting voting, they will continue to pass discriminatory laws, including ones that limit women’s constitutional rights, stop the teaching of any material that legislators see as “divisive,” and so on.

Today, the voting rights bill was before the Senate, which is evenly divided between 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats and 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats. While the numbers of senators on each side are equal, the numbers of constituents are not: the Democrats and Independents represent 40.5 million more people in our nation of about 332 million than the Republicans do.

But the changing Senate rules have permitted Republicans to stop any legislation they dislike with a mechanism called the filibuster, which means that it takes 60 votes to bring any measure to a vote. This essentially requires a supermajority for any legislation to pass the Senate. But there is a loophole: financial bills and judicial appointments—the two things Republicans care about—have been exempted from the filibuster. That leaves Democrats fighting to find ways around Republican obstructionism to pass the measures they care about.

Today marked the showdown between these two visions. It was instructive first because it was an actual Senate debate, which we haven’t seen for years now as Republicans have simply dialed in filibusters. When debate began this morning, while few Republicans showed up, most Democrats were present.

It was instructive also because Democrats defended the right to vote in a democracy, while Republicans insisted that the Democrats were trying to get a leg up over the Republicans by grabbing power in the states (although the federal government protected voting rights in the states until 2013). Passionate speeches by Georgia Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, Angus King of Maine, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and all their Democratic colleagues, sought to bring Republicans around to defending the right to vote.

It didn’t work. Tonight, Senate Republicans used the filibuster to block the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act from advancing to a final passage by a vote of 49 to 51, with all Democrats except Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) voting yes (he voted no for procedural reasons). But when Schumer brought up a vote to change the filibuster to a talking filibuster for this bill, meaning that Republicans would actually have to debate it rather than just saying no to it, Democrats Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) joined the Republicans to kill the measure. In addition to stopping this law, they badly undercut Biden and the Democrats who have wasted months negotiating with them.

Voting rights journalist Ari Berman noted that the 48 senators who voted to reform the filibuster represent 182 million Americans, 55% of the United States population, while those 52 senators who upheld the filibuster represent 148 million Americans, 45% of the country.

After the vote, Republicans lined up on the Senate floor to shake Sinema’s hand, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) assured reporters that concerns about Black voting were misplaced because: “African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.”

Independent Senator Angus King of Maine, who has struggled mightily for voting rights for many months and who was a reluctant but firm convert to the talking filibuster, fought hard today to rally support for voting rights and filibuster reform. He quoted President Abraham Lincoln’s warning to lawmakers during the Civil War that “we cannot escape history. We of this congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves…. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation.”

In light of the vote’s outcome, though, perhaps more to the point was something King said to David Rohde, published in the New Yorker today. In 1890, the Senate rejected a measure designed to protect the voting rights of Black men in the South, where southern legislatures had forced most of them from the polls. Southern Democrats and their northern allies killed the proposed law.

King told Rohde, “The result was seventy-five years of egregious voter suppression in the South. That was a mistake made by a few senators. I honestly feel that we may be at a similar moment.” He added, “I’m afraid we’re making a mistake that will harm the country for decades.”

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this has been on loop all morning

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and there it is: Black Americans are not “Americans” in Mitch’s mind.

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Well, that makes perfect sense, now doesn’t it?

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And to think, it’s damn near impossible to fire a SCOTUS justice. Unthinkable even.

Just another example of what an archaic system the Federal government is. I’m surprised the justices don’t still wear wigs!

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