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Joint Chiefs Chairman notes attempt to ‘overturn the Constitution’ on January 6

General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest-ranking military officer in the United States, acknowledged during Congressional testimony this week that the insurrection on January 6 was an attempt to – in his words – “overturn the Constitution.”

According to USA Today:

“What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America?” Milley said of the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump. “What caused that? I want to find that out. I want to maintain an open mind here, and I do want to analyze it.”

Milley’s remarks came in response to Republican attacks on the study of structural racism in the United States, specifically at West Point.

“I’ve read Mao Tse-tung. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist,” Milley is quoted as saying. “So, what is wrong with understanding … having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend? And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military — our general officers, our commissioned and non-commissioned officers — of being, quote, ‘woke’ or something else because we’re studying some theories that are out there.”

Sugarcoating the insurrection is dangerous. Milley understands that perhaps more than anyone.

More important though are the comments acknowledging that Trump supporters attempted to overturn the Constitution on January 6 – some of whom were both active-duty or retired police and military.

Some of us have accurately called the insurrection a coup attempt since January. It plainly was: Trump lied to his supporters for weeks about bogus election fraud claims, summoned them to Washington DC on January 6, and then unleashed his mob of supporters on the Congress of the United States to prevent the certification of the Electoral College.

Milley’s comments are the highest-ranking acknowledgment of what happened on January 6. They come from a decorated general who holds a respected and completely nonpartisan position.

Granted, he didn’t outright call it a coup. But what else do you call a mob of Trump supporters attempting to “overturn the Constitution” at the behest of the then-president of the United States?

Now we just need others – especially elected officials and the news media – to call January 6 what it was and do everything in our power to prevent it from ever happening again.

Photo Credit: Flickr

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We need an independent investigation of police and military involvement in the insurrection

The indictment of a Chicago police officer for his participation in the insurrection once again highlights the need for a thorough and independent investigation of all police departments and the military.

It’s amazing that five months after the insurrection, we do not yet have a national effort to identify and root out police officers and military members who participated in, helped organize, or provided material support to the insurrection. Dozens of active-duty and retired police officers and military have been identified to date. In April, ABC News put the figure at over 50, although it is likely much higher.

January 6 was a seminal moment in our history, one where our fellow countrymen attacked our Capitol. It’s the most disturbing and brazen attempt at overthrowing the government since the 1860s. Had it succeeded, we very likely would be in the middle of a civil war.

Given the gravity of the situation, a little more urgency might be expected. Yet there is no coordinated national attempt to expel seditionists from the ranks of law enforcement and the military. So what in the heck is going on?

It’s not just a matter of accountability; it’s also a matter of public safety and national security.

The police officers and soldiers involved in the insurrection swore an oath to the Constitution. They violated that oath in one of the most outrageous acts possible. The only thing worse than insurrection is aiding a foreign enemy – which they arguably did as well, although indirectly since the US is now in its most vulnerable geopolitical position in decades.

Then there’s also the matter of ongoing risk to the safety of the general public. Insurrectionists within the ranks of law enforcement and the military have already shown a propensity to abuse their power. It’s no wonder why we have an epidemic of police violence against civilians – particularly people of color – when white supremacists have infiltrated law enforcement and the military.

And if you think that January 6 was a one-off event, think again.

Trump’s former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, has already endorsed the idea of a Myanmar-style military coup only months after he urged then-president Trump to declare martial law to overturn the election.

Who do you think will be in the front lines of a second coup attempt?

These people are a clear and present danger to the republic. They are a danger to their communities, particularly people of color. They have no business wearing a badge, let alone having the authority to make arrests or carry a gun.

When are we going to get serious and root out insurrectionists and white supremacists from law enforcement and the military? It’s better late than never. After all, next time we likely won’t be so lucky as a failed coup.

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This Republican governor is bucking the trend and expanding voting rights

It’s not exactly a secret that Republican-controlled legislatures and governors have gone all-in on voter suppression as their means to retain power. However, one Republican governor is an exception to the rule.

Governor Phil Scott just recently signed into law a bill that expands voting rights in the state of Vermont. According to Axios:

The new Vermont law requires the state to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters and give voters the option to fix or “cure” a ballot if it’s submitted incorrectly and considered defective. The law will also allow municipalities to send mail-in ballots for local races.

In a statement, Scott said that he believes “making sure voting is easy and accessible, and increasing voter participation, is important.”

The governor actually wants the legislature to go even further than the bill provides. He is asking state lawmakers to expand its provisions to include primaries and local elections. (The bill allows but does not require municipalities to send mail-in ballots for local elections.)

A former Republican stronghold

You may be surprised to hear that the state with Bernie Sanders representing it in the Senate has a Republican governor, but Vermont was actually a Republican stronghold not very long ago. In fact, Vermont voted Republican in every presidential election from 1968 through 1988. Its transition began in 1992 when Bill Clinton was the first Democrat to carry the state since LBJ. That election proved to be a turning point. No Republican presidential candidate has won the state ever since.

Just as the “Solid South” turned from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican, New England has moved in the opposite direction. Vermont is now one of the most Democratic states in the country at the presidential level – although it still elects moderate Republicans as governor. Prior to electing Bernie Sanders, Vermont sent Jim Jeffords to the Senate, a Republican-turned-independent who caucused with Democrats.

Moderate Republicans are nearly extinct

Phil Scott is less of a template and more of a dying breed. As governor, he supported Donald Trump’s impeachment. The only other Republican governor to publicly back impeachment – Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker – is another moderate Republican from New England.

Essentially, Scott and Baker represent entirely different parties from the national GOP – one that is rooted in the party’s past.

The prototypical governor in the Republican Party today looks more like Florida’s Ron DeSantis, Georgia’s Brian Kemp, and Texas’ Greg Abbott. All three either back voter suppression bills or already signed them into law.

Rather than fight an all-but-assured losing internal battle over the soul of the Republican Party – a battle that Trumpists have won decisively – maybe it’s time for moderate Republicans like Phil Scott and Charlie Baker to lead a new conservative party that actually supports democracy?

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Texas AG says Trump would have lost state if not for voter suppression

In another example of Republicans saying the quiet part out loud, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in an interview that Joe Biden would have won the Lone Star state if not for voter suppression.

Last fall, Harris County – the largest county in Texas and home to Houston – wanted to mail absentee ballot applications to all of the county’s registered voters. Throughout the country, absentee voting was popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several counties and states took the initiative to make the process of mail voting easier.

Texas Republicans would have none of that, though, as the formerly reliably red state transitions to a purple hue. Paxton’s office sued Harris County, and the conservatives on the Texas Supreme Court killed the plan.

According to Newsweek:

“If we’d lost Harris County—Trump won by 620,000 votes in Texas. Harris County mail-in ballots that they wanted to send out were 2.5 million, those were all illegal and we were able to stop every one of them,” Paxton told former Trump adviser Steve Bannon during the latter’s War Room podcast on Friday.

“Had we not done that, we would have been in the very same situation—we would’ve been on Election Day, I was watching on election night and I knew, when I saw what was happening in these other states, that that would’ve been Texas. We would’ve been in the same boat. We would’ve been one of those battleground states that they were counting votes in Harris County for three days and Donald Trump would’ve lost the election,” the Republican official said.

So here we have an elected statewide official bragging on a podcast with an avowed white nationalist that he overruled a local elected official and successfully rigged an election, denying Harris County voters an opportunity to simply receive a mail-in ballot application.

Paxton, by the way, was indicted on securities fraud. Former aides to the Texas AG have accused him of “violating federal and/or state law including prohibitions related to improper influence, abuse of office, bribery and other potential criminal offenses.” Amazingly, he continues to serve as the top law enforcement officer in the state of Texas.

Meanwhile, even as state-level Republicans rush to pass as many voter suppression bills as possible across the country, Senate Democrats (namely Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema) are dragging their feet on a national voting rights law that would protect our democracy.

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Should Donald Trump be permanently banned from Facebook and Twitter?

Free speech and free assembly are essential rights in any democracy.

Average citizens should always have the right to petition their government for redress, peacefully assemble (with reasonable limits during true emergencies, including pandemics), and protest. We hold these values deep in our hearts.

Speech, assembly, and protest are clearly protected under the First Amendment, but they only prevent the government from imposing undue restrictions on the population. It is a failsafe against an unchecked, Chinese-style authoritarian government where censorship is the rule.

That being said, corporations are not the government. They may restrict content on their platforms – and there are many legitimate reasons why they should. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and other social media companies all have sets of rules that define a code of conduct for users – and users agree to those terms in order to use their services.

So when we hear griping from some about how Facebook or Twitter ban high-profile politicians like Donald Trump from their platforms, it is not a genuine First Amendment argument so much as a political or ideological argument. Seeing that Trump routinely broke those platforms’ terms of use with little or no consequences for years, it’s more surprising that he was allowed to continue to use them despite breaking the rules than that he eventually faced a ban.

In fact, it took a coup attempt on January 6 for Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to finally crack down on the former president. Likewise, it took far-right extremists organizing a violent insurrection online for Apple and Google to pull the far-right social media app Parler from the App Store and Google Play. (Parler is already back on the App Store.)

Big Tech’s laissez-faire attitude toward violent extremist groups organizing, recruiting, and spreading dangerous conspiracy theories and propaganda on their platforms is disconcerting, to say the least. They have contributed to the erosion of American democracy, allowing anti-democratic forces to propagate and thrive online while restricting users for artistic expressions of nudity.

So what should Twitter, Facebook, and other social media giants do about Trump?

Until January 20, 2021 at noon, Donald Trump was president of the United States. In effect, as president, he was the most visible representation of the American government with a dedicated communications staff, a press pool, and access to the international press. He was a regular on cable’s highest-rated ‘news’ network, Fox.

Needless to say, Trump enjoyed (as do all presidents) a giant platform, a megaphone – or, as President Theodore Roosevelt would say, a bully pulpit – even without his Twitter account. The idea that Trump’s Twitter and Facebook bans amount to unconstitutional censorship is laughable on its face.

However, just as social media companies have the right to ban him from their platforms, they also have the right to unban him. But should they?

As the lead organizer of anti-democratic and white supremacist forces in the United States, Trump poses a particular threat to American democracy. He has already attempted a coup, inspiring supporters to gather in Washington DC on January 6 and then instructing the mob to go to the Capitol as Congress convened to certify the Electoral College results.

Trump’s actions that day – and in the months both prior and since – have endangered the lives of our nation’s leaders. Former vice president Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi were specific targets of insurrectionists, although all members of Congress can count their lucky stars that the plot was ultimately thwarted.

Indeed, law enforcement was less fortunate on that day. Outrageously, countless Republicans in Congress ignored the pleas of  Gladys Sicknick, the mother of fallen Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. Instead, the focus of the likes of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been to re-write history and cover up Trump’s unprecedented attacks on our democracy.

Facebook’s ban extended but not permanent

In response to news that Facebook would extend Trump’s ban on the platform until January 2023 – while leaving the door open for a return – the disgraced former president yet again repeated the Big Lie.

“Facebook’s ruling is an insult to the record-setting 75M people, plus many others, who voted for us in the 2020 Rigged Presidential Election,” Trump said in a statement.

Should the ban get lifted, Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that he will immediately resume the same behavior that got him banned from social media platforms in the first place. He will use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms to lie, divide, incite violence, and spread conspiracies.

A second insurrection is certainly not farfetched. His supporters – including disgraced former National Security Advisor, retired general, and convicted felon Michael Flynn – are calling for a military coup. Flynn previously called on Trump to declare martial law and overturn the election results.

Should the government sanction Big Tech?

It should go without saying that what Trump and his acolytes are doing is not normal political discourse. It is sedition.

Social media companies who aid in undermining our democracy – either directly advocating the overthrow of a democratic government or simply failing to police their platforms – should find themselves in legal trouble for facilitating violence.

That being said, I do not support governments – federal or state – taking action to force social media companies to restrict or ban speech from any particular individual. Social media companies should, however, face civil penalties if they fail to act when there are credible threats of violence. They should also have clear terms of use that are applied consistently.

I also oppose laws in states like Florida that compel social media companies to host content that violates their terms. A new Florida law makes it illegal for companies to ban candidates. The Florida law directly challenges Facebook and Twitter’s ability to moderate content, including fake news and hate speech. It’s a dangerous law that should be immediately struck down.

We need to strike a balance – one that protects the rights of individuals to express themselves in actual public forums (i.e. on the street) and curtails the ability of violent extremists to organize.

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Michael Flynn Endorses Military Coup in the US

The former and brief National Security Advisor for Donald Trump in early 2017 embraced the idea of a Myanmar-style military coup in the United States. Speaking at a QAnon conference in Dallas, Texas, over the weekend, a flustered attendee asked Flynn: “I want to know why what happened in Myanmar can’t happen here?” At this point, the crowd erupts in cheer. Flynn then responds with: “no reason. I mean, it should happen here.”

At this point, the crowd again cheers at the idea of a Myanmar-style military coup in the United States to apparently overthrow the democratically elected government of Joe Biden.

The exchange can be seen in the tweet below:

Flynn is now saying out loud what many radicalized Republicans have been dreaming of in their post-election turn to authoritarianism.

Back in February, Rolling Stone Magazine published an article revealing that members of QAnon see the Myanmar coup as an emboldening development.

Rolling Stone continued:

…it was an emboldening development for many believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory, which posits the existence of a deep state child trafficking ring made up of Hollywood actors and left-wing politicians. Some prominent influencers within the QAnon community with thousands of followers have promoted the baseless idea that electronic voting companies Smartmatic and Dominion were involved in perpetuating voter fraud in Myanmar, and some have posited that a similar military coup could happen in the United States.

The totally baseless QAnon theory is contingent on Trump retaining power and arresting and eventually executing his enemies. Therefore, in the months following Biden’s election, QAnon believers have been rumbling about the results of the election being fraudulent. Many have been pushing the claim that Trump will return to office, possibly by force of a military coup. And they have been invigorated by watching this exact scenario taking place in the small southeast Asian country.

“The Burmese military has arrested the country’s leaders after credible evidence of widespread voter fraud became impossible to ignore…sounds like the controlled media and Biden admin are scared this might happen here,” one influencer with more than 45,000 subscribers on the encrypted messaging app Telegram wrote. “We will see this headline here soon,” another QAnon believer with more than 50,000 subscribers on Telegram wrote, linking to a tweet from a far-right news website about the arrest of Myanmar’s leaders.

Myanmar joined a troubling rising tide of authoritarianism in some countries around the world when its military arrested the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and imposed a military dictatorship. Myanmar had previously been under a military dictatorship for more than 25 years until 2011 when the country finally elected a civilian government. Since the February coup, the country has been embroiled in a resistance movement and protests against the ongoing military dictatorship.

The last known official numbers put the civilian death toll in Myanmar over 750. As of late April, 3,331 people had been detained by the military. Both numbers are likely much higher now.

This type of violence is exactly what some on the far-right have been calling for in the US, for years.

A CNN article noted how QAnon-Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called for and endorsed violence against Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019:

In one post, from January 2019, Greene liked a comment that said “a bullet to the head would be quicker” to remove House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In other posts, Greene liked comments about executing FBI agents who, in her eyes, were part of the “deep state” working against Trump.

In one Facebook post from April 2018, Greene wrote conspiratorially about the Iran Deal, one of former President Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy achievements. A commenter asked Greene, “Now do we get to hang them ?? Meaning H & O ???,” referring to Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Greene replied, “Stage is being set. Players are being put in place. We must be patient. This must be done perfectly or liberal judges would let them off.”

This isn’t the first time Michael Flynn has endorsed military action against US democracy. Shortly after Trump was defeated in the 2020 election, Flynn promoted the idea that Trump should impose martial law and that the military should oversee a new election in swing states.

The Independent reported on Flynn’s comments in December 2020:

There is no way in the world we are going to be able to move forward as a nation,” General Flynn said. “[The president] could immediately, on his order, seize every single one of these machines.

Within the swing states,” he continued, “if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities, and he could place those in states and basically rerun an election in each of those states.

I mean, it’s not unprecedented. These people are out there talking about martial law like it’s something that we’ve never done. Martial law has been instituted 64 times.

Just weeks after Flynn’s comments, far-right terrorist groups such as the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and other groups, coordinated to attack the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. So far, a total of 31 members of far-right terrorist groups, including 16 members of the Oath Keepers, have been charged with conspiracy to invade the US Capitol and disrupt the proceedings to certify the results of the 2020 election.

The urgency and danger of the moment American democracy faces cannot be overstated. We are in a democratic emergency and an emergency of this type requires bold and swift action by law enforcement agencies and it requires bold and swift political action to neutralize and crush any and all threats to our democratic republic.

We must do everything we can to protect our democracy. Make no mistake, if the far-right is not neutralized now, it will regroup and attempt another January 6th. The Capitol Insurrection was a trial run for them and it would be a great error for everyone who believes in democracy and peace to dismiss the far-right’s aspirations as implausible.

Image Credit: East Asia Forum

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Scholars alarmed at ‘deterioration’ of American democracy

In an open letter, dozens of scholars from prestigious universities warned that American democracy is at risk.

“We, the undersigned, are scholars of democracy who have watched the recent deterioration of U.S. elections and liberal democracy with growing alarm. Specifically, we have watched with deep concern as Republican-led state legislatures across the country have in recent months proposed or implemented what we consider radical changes to core electoral procedures in response to unproven and intentionally destructive allegations of a stolen election. Collectively, these initiatives are transforming several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections. Hence, our entire democracy is now at risk,” the scholars write.

The scholars – who span the ideological spectrum and represent universities like Brown, Stanford, Notre Dame with notable names like Norm Ornstein and Larry Sabato – add that:

Statutory changes in large key electoral battleground states are dangerously politicizing the process of electoral administration, with Republican-controlled legislatures giving themselves the power to override electoral outcomes on unproven allegations should Democrats win more votes. They are seeking to restrict access to the ballot, the most basic principle underlying the right of all adult American citizens to participate in our democracy. They are also putting in place criminal sentences and fines meant to intimidate and scare away poll workers and nonpartisan administrators. State legislatures have advanced initiatives that curtail voting methods now preferred by Democratic-leaning constituencies, such as early voting and mail voting. Republican lawmakers have openly talked about ensuring the “purity” and “quality” of the vote, echoing arguments widely used across the Jim Crow South as reasons for restricting the Black vote.

State legislators supporting these changes have cited the urgency of “electoral integrity” and the need to ensure that elections are secure and free of fraud. But by multiple expert judgments, the 2020 election was extremely secure and free of fraud. The reason that Republican voters have concerns is because many Republican officials, led by former President Donald Trump, have manufactured false claims of fraud, claims that have been repeatedly rejected by courts of law, and which Trump’s own lawyers have acknowledged were mere speculation when they testified about them before judges.

In future elections, these laws politicizing the administration and certification of elections could enable some state legislatures or partisan election officials to do what they failed to do in 2020: reverse the outcome of a free and fair election. Further, these laws could entrench extended minority rule, violating the basic and longstanding democratic principle that parties that get the most votes should win elections.

The consequence of these voter suppression laws is that America may soon cease to be a democracy. In fact, the scholars argue that some states “no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections.”

Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Iowa, and Montana have already passed voter suppression laws that put their status as democracies into doubt. Texas is among the numerous states that is still considering laws to restrict voting.

What can be done?

The scholars argue that the federal government must step in to ensure equal access to the ballot box in order to maintain free and fair elections since state legislatures are moving to undermine democracy within their borders.

The federal government has a history of intervention in order to ensure that voting rights are upheld in jurisdictions where voter suppression is common – particularly in the South. These laws date back at least to Reconstruction and more recently with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The scholars write that Congress should pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, although they argue that that “alone is not enough.” They endorse suspending the filibuster in order to pass a new voting rights law and a “comprehensive set of national standards” to maintain election integrity.

They conclude the letter with a warning: “Our democracy is fundamentally at stake. History will judge what we do at this moment.”

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For Republicans, democracy is the Enemy

It’s not unusual in the current political era to hear the words authoritarianism or fascism or anti-democratic. In previous years, it would have been nearly unheard of for mainstream news network anchors to use these words to describe American politicians and entire political parties. But now, it’s becoming increasingly normalized in an era where Republicans continue to attack democracy at the state and federal levels.

Medhi Hasan, who hosts a show on MSNBC, stated during the summer of 2020:

It’s time in America that we have a proper conversation about the f-word: Fascism… I know, I know. It’s very controversial and people get very uncomfortable when you mention it. But to borrow a line – if not now, when? And if not us, the free press, then who? For far too long, we have shied away from saying the f-word. For a lot of people, calling Donald Trump a fascist was ad hominem, a lazy political insult. It was the liberal who cried wolf. And yet, look what happened the moment he took office.

Dean Obeidallah, a SiriusXM Progress radio show host and MSNBC Opinion Column tributor, noted in an article published one week after the attack on the Capitol:

Experts have documented that the Republican Party in recent years has increasingly rejected democratic norms and embraced autocratic tactics to wield power. An October study by V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden warned that the GOP had already been moving in that direction pre-Trump, but it said that under Trump, with “the disrespect of political opponents” and “the encouragement of violence,” the GOP now more closely resembles authoritarian ruling parties like Hungary’s Fidesz and Turkey’s AKP.

Obeidallah continues:

In fact, a GOP member of Congress told Politico that days after the siege, the message he heard from his constituents was not shock about the attack but more along the lines of “Do you think that Congress got the message?” And some Republicans noted that constituents such as “preachers, school superintendents, churchgoing men and women,” as Politico reported, were actually cheering on the attack rather than condemning it.

If these polls are accurate, that means 1 in 5 Republicans approve of embracing violence to keep political power. That is the textbook definition of fascism. If this extremist wing of the GOP goes unchecked, it is likely to spread as Republicans become angrier with election losses and resort to attempting to acquire power by using force.

Jelani Cobb, writing for the New Yorker further details the anti-democratic slide of the Republican Party:

…the G.O.P.’s steady drift toward the right, from conservative to reactionary politics; its dependence on older, white voters; its reliance on right-wing media; its support for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans; and its increasing disdain for democratic institutions and norms all portend increasing division and a diminishing pool of voters. Republicans, Patterson says, have been depending on a “rear-guard strategy” to “resist the ticking clock of a changing America.” Time may be running out for the Party, as its base ages and dwindles. “Its loyal voters are declining in number and yet have locked the party in place,” Patterson writes. “It cannot reinvent itself without risking their support and, in any event, it can’t reinvent itself in a convincing enough way for a quick turnaround. Republicans have traded the party’s future for yesterday’s America.”

Cobb continues with a rather stark warning from a former Republican official:

Jennifer Horn, the former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party, told me that the G.O.P., in its current incarnation, is “the most open embrace of an anti-democracy movement that we have seen in our country in a very long time.”

We would argue that this is the most open embrace of anti-democracy that we’ve seen at any time in this country’s history.

Horn shows us that not every single Republican has turned against democracy. But Republicans who are desperately trying to salvage a party that crossed the Rubicon into authoritarianism long ago are declining in numbers and influence.

A recent poll commissioned by Reuters-Ipsos poll found that 53% of Republicans believe that Trump remains the “true president.” An additional 8% believe that the election was at least somewhat likely stolen from Trump. It’s not that these numbers for a losing party in a general election are unprecedented, although they are very high. The problem is the context surrounding these numbers where you now have a former president, who incited an insurrection against the US Capitol with members of Congress inside who were certifying the vote of a presidential election, spending months saying that the election was stolen, in addition to the longevity and endurance of Republican election lie intransigence.

Trump’s own officials at the Department of Homeland Security released a statement declaring that the 2020 Election was the most secure in American history. The only reason Republicans are against all of the evidence we have that points to the accuracy and security of last year’s election is that they are turning against democracy itself and embracing authoritarianism.

Republicans won’t necessarily disagree with this. There are some prominent Republicans in Congress who have hinted at democracy becoming a hindrance to their agenda.

Utah Senator Mike Lee stated in a tweet last October:

We’re not a democracy. Democracy isn’t the objective; liberty, peace, and prosperity are. We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that.

The word ‘democracy’ appears nowhere in the Constitution, perhaps because our form of government is not a democracy. It’s a constitutional republic. To me, it matters. It should matter to anyone who worries about the excessive accumulation of power in the hands of the few.

The “we’re not a democracy; we’re a republic” line is often parroted by conservatives. This has always been misleading because they use this to create a false dichotomy between republics and democracies to justify their unpopular political positions. The US is a representative democracy, a democratic republic, and a constitutional republic. It’s all synonymous. It is true that we are not a direct (Athenian) democracy, but we’re not arguing for such a thing.

Conservatives have used this line historically to downplay democracy when it runs against their political ambitions. Senator Lee’s statement came at a time when democracy was already under severe attack from Trump before the 2020 election. So in this context, we can only view Senator Lee’s statement as denouncing democracy itself.

Vox published an article in March with 13 charts showing the depth of the anti-democracy movement in the Republican Party.

Vox notes:

At every level, from the elite down to rank-and-file voters, the party is permeated with anti-democratic political attitudes and agendas. And the prospects for rescuing the Republican Party, at least in the short term, look grim indeed.

The first chart is a panel commissioned in late 2020 and early 2021 by the University of Washington. The study found that anti-democratic attitudes run deep throughout the Republican Party.

By 70% to nearly 100%, the Trump voters interviewed embraced highly anti-democratic ideas such as support for Trump’s Big Lie and believing that voting should be made more difficult. Over two-thirds believed that Trump deserved 3 terms in office – not unlike notorious dictators around the world who spend decades in office and claim to have 99% support in elections.

An American Perspectives Survey completed in January 2021 showed that some 39% of Republicans interviewed supported violence if leaders didn’t “act to protect America.” Violence, of course, being the ultimate authoritarian expression. It represents an ominous turn against democracy.

The Global Party Survey in 2019 found that the Republican Party was one of the most anti-democratic political parties in the world.

While Republicans have increased their attacks on democracy on the federal level, for instance, through the abuse of the filibuster, the largest and most enduring attacks remain at the state level where bills are being created, debated, and even passed to roll back voting rights to an unprecedented level not seen since before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Republicans understand that the only way they win going forward is to seriously curtail democracy. Not only is their embrace of Trump a huge turn-off to a strong majority of the US population, but their policies are also trending more unpopular as time goes on amid technological and demographic changes and younger generations who are coming of age under conditions far different than their more conservative parents.

The conservative policies of previous decades have created an increasing imbalance and tension in US society that they’re now having to fight against. The minimum wage is criminally low while the cost of living continues to rise. The so-called American dream remains out of reach for an increasing number of people. Technology continues to have a huge impact on our society in terms of the information available which is causing many to question what they had been taught by their more conservative parents and teachers during their younger years. The youngest generations only know of life with the internet and information at our fingertips. The suppression and oppression of people of color is also becoming more untenable in our changing society. The unprecedented protests following the police murder of George Floyd and the unprecedented support of Black Lives Matter from whites in 2020 create a major problem for conservative and right-wing politics.

Instead of moderating and modifying their politics to match the changing dynamics of our society, a large portion of Republicans have chosen the authoritarian route. They’ve chosen a literal scorched earth strategy. If they can’t hold on to the dying old society, they will burn both this democracy and this country to the ground. For them, democracy is the enemy.

Image Credit: Shay Horse of Getty Images

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Murkowski slams Republican colleagues over January 6 Commission opposition

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has criticized her Republican colleagues for their opposition to the January 6 Commission.

At the urging of Donald Trump and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the vast majority of Senate Republicans plan to block the bill that would establish an independent commission tasked with investigating the insurrection. The commission would also make recommendations for preventing a future attack on the Capitol.

As we reported earlier today, only three Republicans in the Senate – including Murkowski – have signaled that they would vote against a planned filibuster when the bill comes up sometime tonight. That isn’t sitting well with Murkowski.

CNN reports on her comments:

“To be making a decision for the short-term political gain at the expense of understanding and acknowledging what was in front of us, on January 6, I think we need to look at that critically,” she said.

“Is that really what this is about is everything is just one election cycle after another? Or are we going to acknowledge that as a country that is based on these principles of democracy that we hold so dear. .. One of those is that we have free and fair elections, and we respect the results of those elections and we allow for a peaceful transition of power. I kind of want that to endure beyond just one election,” she continued.

It’s too bad that Senator Murkowski is in the minority within her party. If there were more Republicans like her, Trumpism might have never taken hold in the first place.

Image Credit: AFGE, Flickr

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Senate Republicans likely to filibuster January 6 Commission

Senate Republicans appear likely to have enough votes to successfully filibuster the bipartisan January 6 Commission.

According to the AP:

Senate Republicans are ready to deploy the filibuster to block a commission on the Jan. 6 insurrection, shattering chances for a bipartisan probe of the deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol and reviving pressure to do away with the procedural tactic that critics say has lost its purpose.

The vote Thursday would be the first successful use of a filibuster in the Biden presidency to halt Senate legislative action. Most Republicans oppose the bill that would establish a commission to investigate the attack by Donald Trump supporters over the election.

“We have a mob overtake the Capitol, and we can’t get the Republicans to join us in making historic record of that event? That is sad,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. “That tells you what’s wrong with the Senate and what’s wrong with the filibuster.”

The filibuster is likely to hold despite Gladys Sicknick – the mother of fallen Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick – urging Republicans to support the commission. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came out against the commission last week.

So far, only two Republican senators – Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski – say they will support the commission bill as it is currently written, which passed in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support. Susan Collins says that she will oppose a filibuster but wants changes to the House-passed bill. Ten Republicans would need to join all Democrats for the bill to overcome a filibuster.

What is the proposed January 6 Commission?

The proposed independent commission would be made up of both Democrats and Republicans, most likely former lawmakers. It would be tasked with investigating the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol. Trump supporters ransacked the Capitol to prevent the certification of the Electoral College results in what amounted to an attempted coup that put at risk the lives of members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence.

The commission would have subpoena power to force witness testimony and officially document what happened on that day. It would also offer recommendations to prevent a future attack. Importantly, the scope of the proposed independent commission’s investigation would be broader than anything that individual Congressional committees would have the necessary jurisdiction or expertise in.

McCarthy’s motivation for opposing the commission is clear.

One likely witness is Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who had an expletive-filled phone call with former president Donald Trump as the insurrection took place.

“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Trump said during the phone call.

The former president refused to call off his supporters for several hours, only after it became clear that the coup attempt had failed. When he finally released a video tepidly telling his supporters to “go home,” he repeated his lies that the election was “fraudulent.”

For his part, McCarthy is seeking to become the next Speaker of the House. So he has a clear motivation in not wanting to see a commission force his testimony and upset Trump supporters in the leadup to next year’s midterm elections.

Time to eliminate the filibuster.

Should the filibuster hold, Republicans could only bury the commission depending on whether or not Democrats eliminate or reform the filibuster. Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are the two main holdouts. Aside from the commission, the filibuster also threatens the Democrats’ entire agenda.

We have argued on here that the filibuster is anti-democratic, and it’s time to eliminate it. This latest abuse of the filibuster – blocking an independent commission from investigating and offering recommendations to prevent a future attack on the Capitol – demonstrates yet again why the antiquated obstruction tactic must go.

Photo Credit: John Brighenti, FlickrCC BY 2.0