Heather Cox Richardson

What I got from her post is that she feels Trump’s collapsing and the Dems will crush the Republicans, but she’s not going to jinx it by saying so. :slight_smile:


I just started her most recent book How The South Won The Civil War. So far, and with the usual caveats (I am a border collie that has learned to type, not a historian, etc., etc.) it’s very good.


That’s how I read it also


October 11, 2020 (Sunday)

Today’s political chatter was just bizarre. The talking point on the Sunday talk shows, pushed hard by Republicans and enabled by the media, was that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden needs to explain his stance on “court-packing,” that is, adding more justices to the Supreme Court. Some Democrats have begun to talk about that outcome if the Republicans ram through Amy Coney Barrett in these last few days before the election.

This is bizarre first of all because the Republican Party did not even bother to write a platform this year to explain any policies at all for another Trump term, and Trump has been unable to articulate any plans for the future, while the idea of “court-packing” is a future hypothetical, dependent on what today’s Republican Senate does.

It’s bizarre because Trump is egging on his followers to violence—just today he urged supporters to “FIGHT FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP.” He is so misrepresenting the reality of the coronavirus pandemic that today Twitter tagged one of his tweets as a violation of Twitter rules and Dr. Anthony Fauci publicly objected to the Trump campaign’s misrepresentation of his statements about Trump’s handling of the pandemic. The campaign quoted Fauci out of context and without his permission, but campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh dismissed Fauci’s complaint, saying that they were indeed Fauci’s words, and Trump agreed. The New York Times has also continued its coverage of Trump’s taxes, showing him to be deep in what amounts to a pay-to-play scandal, in which he has essentially turned the U.S. government over to the highest bidder, revealing himself to be the most corrupt president in U.S. history.

And yet, today the chair of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, told Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face The Nation” that she would not talk about Trump’s financial scandals because “You have a Democrat running on the biggest power grab – the absolute biggest power grab in the history of our country and reshaping the United States of America and not answering the question. That’s all we should be talking about.” The media seems to be taking this distracting bait.

What makes this so especially bizarre is that it is Republicans, not Democrats, who have made the courts the centerpiece of their agenda and have packed them with judges who adhere to an extremist ideology. Since the Nixon administration began in 1969, Democrats have appointed just 4 Supreme Court justices, while Republicans have appointed 15.

The drive to push the court to the right has led Republicans under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take the unprecedented step of refusing to hold a hearing for Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, the moderate Merrick Garland, on the grounds that it was wrong to appoint a Supreme Court justice during an election year. There have been 14 justices confirmed during election years in the past, but none has ever been confirmed after July before an election.

Obama nominated Garland in March 2016, but now, in October, McConnell is ramming through Trump’s nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

Americans are worried that the increasingly conservative cast to the court does not represent the country. Four, and now possibly five, of the current justices were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote, and have been confirmed by senators who represent a minority of the American people: Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate support represented just 44% of the country.

So there is talk of increasing the size of the Supreme Court. This is legal. The Constitution does not specify the size of the court, and it has changed throughout our history. But the current number of justices—9— has been around for a long time. It was established in 1869. Nonetheless, in 2016, when it looked like Hillary Clinton was going to win the presidency, Republicans announced that they would not fill any Supreme Court seats during her term, and if that meant they had to reduce the size of the Supreme Court, they were willing.

Instead, with Trump in the White House, the Republican Senate has pushed through judges at all levels as quickly as it possibly can.

This is no accident. Since Nixon, Republicans have made control of the nation’s courts central to their agenda. But while most voters tend to get distracted by the hot-button issues of abortion or gay rights, what Republican Supreme Courts have done is to consolidate the power of corporations.

In 1971, a corporate lawyer for the tobacco industry, Lewis Powell, wrote a confidential memo for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warning that corporate America needed to work harder to defend what he called “free enterprise.” Angry that activists like Ralph Nader had forced safety regulations onto automobile manufacturers and the tobacco industry, he believed that businessmen were losing their right to run their businesses however they wished. Any attack on “the enterprise system,” he wrote, was “a threat to individual freedom.”

Powell believed that business interests needed to advance their principles “aggressively” in universities, the media, religion, politics… and the courts. “The judiciary,” he wrote, “may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.” He wrote that “left” institutions like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), labor unions, and civil rights activists were winning cases that hurt business. “It is time for American business—which has demonstrated the greatest capacity in all history to produce and to influence consumer decisions—to apply its great talents vigorously to the preservation of the system itself.”

The following year, Nixon appointed Powell to the Supreme Court. During his tenure in office, Nixon would appoint three more justices. Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, would appoint another.

Democratic President Jimmy Carter, who followed Ford, appointed none.

Under President Ronald Reagan, cementing the interests of business in the Supreme Court would become paramount. Reagan’s Attorney General, Edwin Meese, deliberately politicized the Department of Justice in an attempt, as he said, to “institutionalize the Reagan revolution so it can’t be set aside no matter what happens in future elections.” Reagan made 4 appointments to the Supreme Court.

During Reagan’s term, lawyers eager to push back on the judicial decisions of the post-WWII Supreme Court that had expanded civil rights and the rights of workers began to organize. They wanted to replace the current judges with ones who believed in “originalism” and who would thus cut regulations and expanded civil rights.

In 1982, law students at Yale, Harvard, and the University of Chicago organized the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies to advance a legal ideology that opposed what they believed was “judicial activism.” Judges who expanded rights through their interpretation of the laws were “legislating from the bench,” they believed, intruding on the rights of the legislative branch of the government.

By the time of President George W. Bush, the Federalist Society was enormously influential. Members of the society made up about half of his judicial appointments. The society also urged Bush to stop letting the American Bar Association rate judicial nominees, believing the ABA was too “liberal” and therefore rated conservative judges more harshly than others.

During the Obama administration, justices who were associated with the Federalist Society were deciding votes for the 2010 Citizens United decision permitting businesses unlimited contributions to political campaigns and the 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Under Trump, its power has grown even greater. Five of the 8 current members of the Supreme Court—Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh—and now Supreme Court nominee Amy Barrett, are members of the Federalist Society.

While Republicans desperately want to make the Barrett nomination about her religion, the reality is that the members of the Supreme Court who are wedded to an originalist interpretation of the document threaten far more than reproductive rights. Among other things, the court is taking up the Affordable Care Act just a week after the election.

Most Americans believe that the Barrett nomination should wait until after the election, but a key Republican constituency is demanding it. Americans for Prosperity, a pro-business group backed by billionaire Charles Koch, has launched a campaign on her behalf. It aims to mobilize voters to pressure senators who might otherwise try to avoid a confirmation at such a time. AFP also launched fights for Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.


That’s how I read it, too. Also, she gets tired on the weekends (don’t we all) and so she often has needed to take a break. This time, she chose to drop a “teaser” on us in lieu of just stating she needed a break. But also, if you read today’s letter, she does not really resolve that teaser. I think it was wise. I was starting to get a little ahead of myself about the Republican/Trump meltdown last week.

Well, guess what? This week is the week of dirty tricks. The spotlight is back on them and they are controlling the cycle with the confirmation and Trump getting back out on the trail.

I still think they are melting down and will implode. But this is not going to play out like the denouement of the Count of Monte Cristo or Shawshank Redemption. This is going to take a while and be very messy, full of details, and often at times not look at all like an implosion.

So, the caution we are displaying is warranted. Things are going to get worse before they get better. Possibly even a lot worse.


October 12, 2020 (Monday)

According to a proclamation from the president, today is officially “Columbus Day,” when we honor the “many immeasurable contributions of Italy to American history.” The president’s proclamation goes on to complain that “in recent years, radical activists have sought to undermine Christopher Columbus’s legacy” by replacing a recognition of his “vast contributions” with talk of failings, atrocities, and transgressions.

Trump’s proclamation goes on: “Rather than learn from our history, this radical ideology and its adherents seek to revise it, deprive it of any splendor, and mark it as inherently sinister. They seek to squash any dissent from their orthodoxy.” He notes the steps he has taken to “promote patriotic education:” he signed an Executive Order to create a National Garden of American Heroes, set up “the 1776 Commission, which will encourage our educators to teach our children about the miracle of American history and honor our founding,” and signed an Executive Order “to root out the teaching of racially divisive concepts from the Federal workplace.”

For all of Trump’s attention to patriotic education, his proclamation is quite bad history. Aside from its whitewashing of the effects of Columbus’s voyage of “discovery,” the proclamation misrepresents the original point of Columbus Day, which had a lot more to do with putting down white supremacy than celebrating the “enduring significance” of Columbus in opening “a new chapter in world history.”

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt officially instituted Columbus Day in 1934, but the idea for the holiday rose in the 1920s, when the Knights of Columbus tried to undercut the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan by emphasizing the role minorities had played in America. In the early 1920s, the organization published three books in a “Knights of Columbus Racial Contributions” series, including The Gift of Black Folk, by W. E. B. Du Bois. They celebrated the contributions of immigrants, especially Catholic immigrants, to America with parades honoring Christopher Columbus. The Knights of Columbus were determined to reinforce the idea that America must not be a land of white Protestant supremacy.

Trump’s words about patriotic education also ring hollow when the news of the day makes it seem that the administration is more interested in staying in power than in protecting our democratic government.

Today was the first day of early voting in Georgia, and a record 126,876 voters cast ballots. In the state’s Democratic areas some people had to wait in line for as long as ten hours to vote.

Trump’s contribution to early voting today was to tweet “California is going to hell. Vote Trump!” and “New York has gone to hell. Vote Trump!” and “Illinois has no place to go. Sad, isn’t it? Vote Trump!” Once again, he insisted that he has a healthcare plan, although he has been promising such a plan since before his inauguration and none has ever materialized. “We will have Healthcare which is FAR BETTER than ObamaCare, at a FAR LOWER COST - BIG PREMIUM REDUCTION. PEOPLE WITH PRE EXISTING CONDITIONS WILL BE PROTECTED AT AN EVEN HIGHER LEVEL THAN NOW. HIGHLY UNPOPULAR AND UNFAIR INDIVIDUAL MANDATE ALREADY TERMINATED. YOU’RE WELCOME!”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s top infectious disease specialists who is advising the White House, is openly angry that the Trump campaign took his words out of context to make it seem like he was applauding the administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He said that, by using his words misleadingly and against his will, the Trump campaign is “in effect harassing me.” Fauci’s anger hasn’t stopped the campaign, which today broke precedent to use an image of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley in a campaign ad. The image was used without Milley’s knowledge or consent, and violates the military’s strict policies against participation in political campaigns.

An article in the New York Times today outlines how the administration appears to be trying to buy votes by funneling money to key constituencies before the election. Trump has said he is sending $200 cards to seniors to help them pay for drug prescriptions. He approved $13 billion in aid to Puerto Rico, which could help win him votes in Florida (politicians often campaign in territories or even foreign countries from which immigrants come because it helps them win votes at home). He has required the Agriculture Department to enclose letters in both English and Spanish in its food distributions to families giving Trump credit for both “sending nutritious food” and “safeguarding the health and well-being of our citizens.”

The administration will also distribute $46 billion (not a typo) to farmers in the South and Midwest who have been whacked by Trump’s trade war with China and coronavirus, to try to offset the record farm debt accumulating and the rise in farm bankruptcies, although it appears the money goes primarily to big operations.

Instead of using the presidency to protect the interests of the nation, Trump appears to be using it as a money-making operation for his family. The New York Times on Saturday continued its series on Trump’s taxes, showing how he turned his hotels and resorts into “a system of direct presidential influence-peddling unrivaled in modern American politics.” Under terrible financial stress, the president used his office to line his pockets. Foreign politicians, businessmen, and contractors who wanted federal contracts, would throw pricey events, donate to Trump’s campaign, or buy memberships at Trump’s properties—he raised the membership fee at Mar-a-Lago to $250,000-- where Trump would often be there to help them get what they wanted.

Looking at Trump’s record undercutting our democracy, even just for today alone, makes you wonder just what he means by “patriotic education,” and who, exactly, are the “radical activists” he attacks for not honoring “the miracle of our founding.”

Here’s the story: historians are not denigrating the nation when they uncover sordid parts of our past. Historians study how and why societies change. As we dig into the past we see patterns that never entirely foreshadow the present, but that give us ideas about how people have dealt with circumstances in the past that look similar to circumstances today. With luck, seeing those patterns will help us make better decisions about our own lives, our communities, and our nation in the present. As they say, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

If we are going to get an accurate picture of how a society works, historians must examine it honestly. That means seeing the bad as well as the good, because, after all, any human society is going to have both. Sometimes good human actions change society; sometimes bad ones do. George Washington’s heroic refusal to be a king is no truer than his enslavement of other human beings, and both changed our nation in ways that we need to understand if we are to make good decisions about how to take care of our own society.

History, though, is different than commemoration. History is about what happened in the past while commemoration is about the present. We put up statues and celebrate holidays to honor figures from the past who embody some quality we admire. But as society changes, the qualities we care about shift. In the 1920s, Columbus mattered to Americans who opposed the Ku Klux Klan because he represented a multicultural society. Now, though, he represents the devastation of America’s indigenous people at the hands of European colonists who brought to North America and South America germs and a fever for gold and God. It is not “radical activism” to want to commemorate a different set of values than we held in the 1920s.

What is radical activism, though, is the attempt to skew history to serve a modern-day political narrative. Rejecting an honest account of the past makes it impossible to see accurate patterns. The lessons we learn about how society changes will be false, and the decisions we make based on those false patterns will not be grounded in reality.

And a nation grounded in fiction, rather than reality, cannot function.



I knew the KoC were key to making Columbus day a holiday, but not that they had put out such a book that included a WEB DuBois essay, and that they were specifically trying to be anti-racist and inclusive.

I think, also, that people forget about the strong anti-Catholic sentiment of the KKK. While keeping people of color in line was their primary goal, they were certainly also focused on those who were not protestant, too.




It was the Spanish (Castillian) crown who bankrolled, and sent Columbus on his expedition for the glory of Spain. It’s Hispanics, not Italians who were the big winners from those expeditions. Columbus is the reason why we had to go to war with Mexico to conquer the territories of Texas, California, New Mexico, etc. Strange that he is such a “white hero” by the same people wanting to shut the border down against those same people who Columbus claimed the new world for.


October 13, 2020 (Tuesday)

While the media is focused on the predetermined hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court seat formerly held by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the big story of the day is the resurgence of coronavirus.

The nation is back up to more than 50,000 new cases a day, the highest rate since early August, and numbers are continuing to rise. The states currently suffering worst are those in the northern Midwest-- Wisconsin, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota—but more than 30 states are reporting rising numbers. Wisconsin is so overwhelmed with cases it’s opening a field hospital this week, and it seems that Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, and Oklahoma are right behind.

More children are being diagnosed with Covid-19, as well, making up more than 77,000 new infections.

The White House has abandoned the idea of controlling the virus and instead is openly embracing the idea of “herd immunity.” Officials are arguing that the nation should protect our most vulnerable neighbors—the elderly and the infirm—and the rest of us should go about our lives normally, without waiting for a vaccine.

While the White House has been saying this for months, it now has a group of scientists advancing the plan in a document called The Great Barrington Declaration. This idea is being pushed by the libertarian American Institute for Economic Research, and scientists whose work has been dismissed by most epidemiologists. It offers no data or scientific argument; it is a political opinion.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called the plan “unethical” because it “means allowing unnecessary infections, suffering and death.” He explains that the concept of herd immunity is one used for vaccines, achieved “by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it.” “Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic,” he said. “It is scientifically and ethically problematic.”

The idea of simply letting the infection spread is not popular among Americans, especially among the seniors Trump needs to win Florida. In 2016, seniors preferred Trump to Hillary Clinton by 49% to 44%. Now they are turning to Biden rather than Trump by 54% to 43%. Weirdly, Trump took to Twitter today to post a tweet apparently making fun of Biden by picturing him as a resident of a senior home—not calculated to win over more older Americans.

This approach reinforces the idea the president is trying to push after his own bout with coronavirus: that the illness is not a big deal and that those who say it is are simply trying to hurt his chances of reelection. At the Barrett hearings, Republican Mike Lee of Utah, recently diagnosed with coronavirus, refused to wear a mask. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also refused to wear one when talking with reporters, apparently concerned about being filmed in a mask when the official White House position was to downplay the virus.

Meanwhile, another official who attended the celebration for Barrett at the Rose Garden on September 26 has tested positive for the virus.

America leads the world in infections and deaths. Globally, at least 38 million cases of Covid-19 have been recorded as of 6:30 this evening. More than a million people have died. America has had at least 7,850,000 cases and more than 215,000 deaths.

As horrific as those numbers are, an article published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association says they are far too low. Dr. Steven Woolf, the author of the study, says that “for every two Americans that we know of who are dying of Covid-19, another American is dying.” Woolf looked at what are called “excess deaths” from March through July, that is, the increase over the average number of deaths expected in those months. He found 225,530 excess deaths. Sixty-seven percent of those deaths are linked directly to Covid-19, but the remaining 33% are unexplained, suggesting this unusual spike is related to the pandemic.

Erika Edwards of NBC News highlighted this study today, along with another in the same issue of the JAMA that compares U.S. death rates to those of other wealthy countries. The U.S. ranked poorly. According to the article, our Covid-19 mortality rate is 60.3 per 100,000 people. Canada’s rate is 24.6 per 100,000, and Australia’s was 3.3 deaths per 100,000. If we had had the same rate as Canada, we would have lost 117,000 fewer people, and 188,000 Americans would have been saved if we had the same death rate as Australia.

The good news is that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said today that vaccine development is “on a really good track.” Two vaccines have been put on hold as a volunteer in each trial has gotten sick, but Fauci says this is not at all unusual. He says he hopes that by November or December we should know if we have a safe and effective vaccine. If so, it will be distributed first to those who need it most, but will gradually become available to the rest of us.

Once again, Dr. Fauci reminded us to wear masks, maintain physical distance from others, avoid crowds, stay outside when possible, and wash hands. “Those simple things, as simple as they sound, can certainly turn around the spikes that we see and can prevent new spikes from occurring,” Fauci told Shepard Smith on CNBC Monday night. “We know that because our experience has proven to us that that is the case. We just need to hunker down and do that.”


I’m pretty sure Trump is preparing legal battles in Ohio and Florida. If he can doggedly push those states into the courtroom on a technicality, then they can easily get it to the Supremes and they’ll hand him the election. That’s how he wins at this point: by being appointed by the high court. Careful, Supremes. You are doing what Germany did with Hitler.






As bad as Barrett is, even she has hinted that she wouldn’t just hand the election to Turmp. And if she did, how would the court rule? Probably 5-4 against Turmp.

Against: Roberts, Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch, Breyer
For: Thomas, Alito, Kavenaugh, maybe Barrett?


It’s interesting. What do you base your scenario on? A case that comes before the Supremes is likely to be narrow, such as certification of the vote in Ohio, and therefore to stop any recounts, and nothing more. Similar to Gore v. Bush in 2000. But the net result is to hand over the election. I am not sure that Roberts and Gorsuch are such great dudes that hate Trump. No confidence of that. But I want to hear you out.

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It doesn’t depend on them being good people. It depends on who they are. Roberts is obsessed with his public image. He will avoid looking like Turmp’s lackey.

What attracted the GOP to Gorsuch in the first place is his obsession with rules. He’s a stickler. If they violate the rules, he will rule against them.


Interesting. Well here’s to hoping.


Ok, here’s a “counterpoint.” Roberts and Gorsuch could very easily write an opinion that adheres to some rule-based interpretation, and hand the election to Trump, and never talk to the press about it ever again. They could engineer it. SCOTUS enjoys a detachment that no other political body possesses. Why? To ensure that their own positions on future issues are enshrined in law and history. If they gain the compliance of the executive this time, then that ensures their supremacy for the rest of their lives.

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I don’t think SCOTUS justices think that way. They aren’t angling for a better position, or looking to garner favors. They have a massively powerful position for life. They can do jack shit (cough Alito) and coast, be toasted, and just let it ride. They don’t need favors from the President; the President needs favors from them.


RBG eschewed the obvious choice to retire when Obama was prez and had a clear majority in the senate to confirm her like-minded replacement. She was worried about the issues at the time (around equality and health care access) and trying to preserve her legacy. I am arguing that Supremes do indeed concern themselves with their legacies. They have egos. They are 20 to 30 year egos, instead of 5 or 10 year egos, but egos nonetheless.


I totally agree - that’s what drives Roberts. He’s not looking to be popular right now (OK, a little bit), he’s looking to cement his legacy in history. He’s also smart enough to see the high risk of a second Tumrp term as the death of American Democracy. He’s not going to be the Chief Justice who enables that. He would go down in history as a Top 100 Villian.