Watch: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez teaches CNN how a representative democracy is supposed to work

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was on CNN Sunday morning with Jake Tapper on his State of the Union show. In part because Democratic reps going on Sunday shows, like Republican reps going on Sunday shows, is about this coming election, and in part because newscasters are not particularly deep or creative when it comes to talking about politics, Tapper decided to spend a lot of time trying to get Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to attack Joe Biden for their differences of political opinions. Newsflash: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, progressive hero, co-author of the ambitious Green New Deal environmental package, and Vice President Joe Biden aren't exactly on the same page as to how to handle climate change.

More to the point, Tapper asked Ocasio-Cortez whether or not she was bothered by the fact that Joe Biden has not said he would outright ban fracking. The move to ban fracking in states across the country has been a seesaw battle of fossil fuel interests fighting against progressive environmentalism and science. Biden's refusal to provide whole-throated support for a ban on fracking is disappointing to many of us on the left, but it isn't surprising. Even more importantly, it is below the most essential first step the progressive movement—and the country for that matter—needs to take: getting rid of Donald Trump from the White House, and getting rid of the Republican majority in the Senate.

Let's send the corporate welfare class of elected officials packing. Donate what you can to help take back the Senate.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez isn't going to be pulled into a pointless argument about fracking with Jake Tapper. Her position is well-reported. So is Joe Biden's. AOC explains very clearly that this is how politics work in a representative democracy.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: It does not bother me. I believe, and I have a very strong position on fracking. You know, the science is very clear, the methane emissions from fracking are up to 64 times more powerful than CO2 emissions and trapping heat in the air, and from a perspective of stopping climate change there is a scientific consensus. However, that is my view. Vice President Biden has made very clear that he does not agree with the fracking ban and I consider that, you know—it will be a privilege to lobby him should we win the White House but we need to focus on winning the White House first. I am happy to make my case but I understand he is in disagreement with that issue.

Tapper now wonders whether this will depress the youth vote, a vote that AOC represents more closely than Joe Biden. This, of course, is literally the only reason Trump and his surrogates have been bringing up this difference of positions the last couple of weeks. The hope is that it will depress the more progressive vote, while spooking some more conservative-leaning folks in fossil-fuel heavy states like Pennsylvania and Texas. Ocasio-Cortez points out that the youth vote over the past couple of years has not simply become more sophisticated since 2016, it has brought in more progressive candidates and officials into local elections. The turn out in 2018 showed that, and Ocasio-Cortez believes that this election is very clearly a choice between Donald Trump, someone who is a non-starter of a human being, and Joe Biden.

Tapper then plays a clip of Biden telling reporters that he isn't "getting rid of fossil fuels for a long time," but that he's talking about getting rid of the subsidies the fake free-marketeers enjoy in the fossil fuel industry. While Tapper is hoping that this will illustrate how Biden isn't AOC and the youth vote may be turned off by this statement, Ocasio-Cortez sees it as an important step in the right direction.

REP. OCASIO-CORTEZ: When he says we are eliminating subsidies, I think that is, frankly, an important first step. A lot of folks who like to tout themselves as free market capitalists, while still trying to make sure they get as much government subsidy, and propping up of the fossil fuel industry as possible. If you do believe in markets, solar and renewable energies are growing less and less expensive by the day in many areas. They are starting to become less expensive than fossil fuels. When you eliminate government subsidies, it becomes more difficult for fossil fuels to compete in the market. I think while the Vice President wants to make sure that he is not doing it by government mandate or regulation. I do believe we are moving towards that future. I believe that there's a way and that we should push that process along but the vice president and my disagreements are, I believe, recorded and that is quite all right.

Get out and vote.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez explains how democracy works to Jake Tapper

news & politics

All eyes on Wisconsin as partisan gridlock at state elections commission frustrates voters and local officials

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As ballots began pouring in by mail after Wisconsin's April 7 primary, local election officials became increasingly perplexed over which ones to count.

A federal judge had ordered that ballots arriving as many as six days after the election should be accepted, but the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed that window, ruling that ballots should be counted only if they were postmarked by Election Day.

The trouble was that many ballots were arriving without postmarks, or the marks were unreadable. Other mail ballots were lost or delayed, threatening to disenfranchise thousands of voters. Desperate for guidance, the 1,850 municipal clerks who run Wisconsin's elections turned to the state agency tasked with helping them: the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Three days after the primary, the commission's three Democrats and three Republicans wrangled over the issue for two and a half hours in a virtual meeting. The Democrats wanted all ballots received in the mail by April 8 — postmarked or not — to be accepted; the Republicans pushed to reject all ballots with missing or illegible postmarks.

“We're going to sit here all night, 3-3, if we can't even agree the mail takes more than a day," said Commissioner Ann Jacobs, a Democratic appointee and lawyer, pursing her lips and shaking her head as she peered into her computer screen. “We're not going to ever agree on whether these marks count or not — we're wasting our time."

Dean Knudson, a former Republican lawmaker who was chairman at the time, retorted, “Can you envision supporting any motion that would exclude any ballot?"

In the end, the commission deadlocked 3-3 not once but twice over motions to deal with the disputed ballots, leaving each of Wisconsin's municipal clerks to decide on their own what to do. For the state's top agency overseeing elections, such standoffs have become the norm. With the national spotlight on Wisconsin as a swing state that could sway the presidential election, the commission has become increasingly stalemated and ineffective, according to an investigation by Wisconsin Watch and ProPublica.

Although the commission has reached consensus on a handful of important issues, such as the mailing of ballot applications to voters, it increasingly stalemates along party lines. Commission members have strayed far from the apolitical approach of the panel's predecessor board, which was considered a national model for effective election administration. Both Democratic and Republican members often take their cues from their party leaders.

The commission's format is “a recipe for gridlock," said Jay Heck, the executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin. “We've returned to where we were in the late 1990s, with partisan control of the body that oversees Wisconsin elections. … And so what that means is that if you have a 3-3 tie on any matter that's under consideration, nothing happens. Nothing moves ahead."

The commission has deadlocked at least 19 times in the 28 meetings it has held since the start of 2020, but only five times in the prior four years, according to meeting minutes, video recordings and live coverage. (No data was available for five meetings this year and one last year, either because there was no video recording or the commission met in closed session.) Most of the tied votes in the commission's four-year history have occurred since Robert Spindell Jr., a Republican donor who promotes unfounded allegations of vote-by-mail fraud, joined the commission in late 2019.

The latest deadlock was Oct. 20, two weeks before the election, over how to handle a complaint that the Milwaukee Election Commission had been tardy in informing voters of a massive reduction in polling locations before the April 7 primary. When Spindell began to address the merits of the complaint, Jacobs interrupted, saying it didn't come under their purview. “Are you trying to muzzle me?" Spindell shouted at her over Zoom.

The inaction has shifted responsibility to courts and municipalities, at times sowing confusion, delays and inconsistency. The commission gridlocked over whether the Green Party presidential ticket should be allowed on the ballot and whether to follow a judge's order to purge a quarter-million Wisconsin voters from the rolls; both issues ended up in court. During an Aug. 5 hearing on four cases related to rules changes for the Nov. 3 election, U.S. District Judge William Conley expressed astonishment that the commission had been “frozen by gridlock over such simple issues."

The Wisconsin commission's dysfunction mirrors that of the national Election Assistance Commission, which was established in the aftermath of the disputed 2000 presidential election to help states and localities administer elections. It is made up of equal numbers of Republican and Democratic appointees and at times has been paralyzed by partisan disagreements. Besides Wisconsin, eight states have an appointed board overseeing elections.

Because of the commission's deadlock over disputed ballots, the village of Cambridge counted those it received without postmarks after primary day, but the city of Janesville didn't. There were even disparities within families. Christopher Koschnitzke's vote-by-mail ballot was among the 5,640 spurned statewide for arriving too late, although his wife's — mailed at the same time — was not. His absentee ballot envelope showed that his ballot had been signed by a witness and mailed on April 6, the day before the primary, but a clerk rejected it, noting that the postmark was not “readable."

“I did everything I needed to do. My wife did everything she needed to do," said Koschnitzke, 40, a Lutheran pastor who was living near Waterloo, Wisconsin, at the time. “It makes you wonder: How valid is the process and how many more people are in the same position that I'm in?"

“A Genuinely Nonpartisan Institution"

It didn't have to be this way. The commission replaced Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board, made up of six retired judges who rarely deadlocked during its eight-year history.

The GAB was formed in 2008 in the wake of the so-called legislative caucus scandal involving lawmakers who illegally used state-paid aides to run private political campaigns. The scandal resulted in criminal charges against lawmakers and staff, including the top two legislative leaders, Republican Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala. Jensen's felony convictions later were dismissed, on condition that he paid a fine and agreed to never seek public office again. Chvala was sentenced to nine months in jail, serving most of the time on home electronic monitoring.

The GAB was composed of retired judges specifically to avoid partisanship. Although judges are elected in Wisconsin, they run without party affiliations. Potential board members were chosen by a panel of appeals court judges for appointment by the governor. The GAB had the power to conduct independent investigations that did not require legislative approval.

“Wisconsin's GAB is unique among state election authorities in the United States," wrote Daniel P. Tokaji, now dean of the University of Wisconsin Law School, in a 2013 UC-Irvine Law Review article. “It is a genuinely nonpartisan institution, in an era of fierce and acrimonious partisan competition."

The board was abolished in 2015, however, by Republican lawmakers furious over its role in investigating former Gov. Scott Walker's 2012 campaign after he was recalled. Leading the charge to abolish the GAB was Knudson, then a state representative. He was appointed in 2017 to the Wisconsin Elections Commission — which he helped to create — to fill out the term of another commission member, Steve King, who was named ambassador to the Czech Republic by President Donald Trump.

Among the casualties of the GAB's demise was its longtime election chief Kevin Kennedy, who was forced out in 2016 — one day before the new commission was set to launch.

The new commission unanimously nominated the GAB's elections administrator, Michael Haas, to replace Kennedy, but in 2018 the Senate refused to confirm Haas in what Democratic-appointed Commissioner Mark Thomsen labeled an episode of “dirty, dirty politics." Haas left the agency and is now the Madison city attorney.

Wisconsin's current setup gives most of the power over the commission to the Legislature, where Republicans have nearly insurmountable control thanks to gerrymandering that survived a U.S. Supreme Court challenge. The top four legislative leaders appoint four of the six members, with Republicans and Democrats equally represented. Wisconsin's governor, Tony Evers, is a Democrat, but he appoints just two members to the commission — former county or municipal clerks, one from each major party, from a list provided by those legislative leaders.

All appointments are subject to confirmation in the GOP-run state Senate, including commissioners' choice for the administrator to lead the agency. Campaign-related investigations are now handled by a separate Ethics Commission.

Pushing Partisan Agendas

Both Republican and Democratic appointees of the Wisconsin Elections Commission interviewed by Wisconsin Watch say they have consulted with the legislative leaders who appointed them before voting on key issues.

Calling himself “an officer of the Republican Party," Spindell said he plots strategy with Scott Fitzgerald, the Senate majority leader, and Andrew Hitt, chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. Hitt and Mark Jefferson, RPW executive director, both talked with Spindell about a proposal to send request forms for absentee ballots to all registered voters in Wisconsin.

Hitt said he let Spindell know that he supported the idea. “Anybody who thinks Bob Spindell takes 'marching orders' hasn't met Bob," Hitt added.

“I believe most of the discussions I've had with Bob have been over the Elections Commission," Jefferson said in a July deposition. Fitzgerald did not respond to requests for comment.

Spindell said his presence on the commission adds balance. “I think that it's my job to watch out and protect the interests of the Republican Party, because I'm appointed by an elected official of the Republican Party," said Spindell, who is a senior vice president in Milwaukee for a national merger and acquisitions firm.

“Before I got on the commission, both the GAB and the Wisconsin Elections Commission were thought of terribly by the Republican Party," he said. “I think I've changed that."

Like Spindell, Democratic commissioner Jacobs does not shy away from the partisan nature of her appointment, saying it makes the commission more transparent. Her “mantra," she said, is that “every eligible voter who wants to vote should be able to cast their vote, have it counted."

She added, “We know where people stand on certain issues and the like, so I don't think there's anything wrong with it being partisan."

Commissioner Thomsen, a Milwaukee attorney, said he, too, sometimes consults the legislator who appointed him, Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, a Democrat from Oshkosh, on issues before the commission.

Matthew Kirkpatrick, an election law attorney based in Menomonie, Wisconsin, said it's almost inevitable that, in a polarized political landscape, tensions sometimes erupt.

“This commission, while having a noble goal, sometimes gets down to political infighting, jockeying for position," Kirkpatrick said. “The national vitriol has made it down to all the local governing, which is sad."

“Everything is contentious. Everything is an 'us-versus-them,'" he said.

A Controversial Figure

Before joining the state elections commission, Spindell served on the Milwaukee Election Commission. A campaign donor who has given at least $60,000 to state and federal GOP candidates, Spindell served as a Republican National Convention delegate in 2016 and was an unsuccessful candidate for a suburban Milwaukee Assembly seat in 1992.

Even then, Spindell was a controversial figure. While running for the Assembly, Spindell was facing arrest warrants over two unpaid municipal forfeitures. He said he wasn't aware of the warrants until he learned about them from news reports, and then he paid the fines promptly.

Like Trump, Spindell routinely spreads misinformation about widespread absentee vote fraud. He's pushed the accusations with political ads as chairman of a dark-money political group, Wisconsin Patriotic Veterans. He said he is speaking in the ads for himself, not as an elections commissioner.

Just before the November 2016 presidential election, Spindell had an “irate exchange" with an election worker at a polling place, retired Milwaukee Election Commission executive director Neil Albrecht recalled. Spindell, then a member of the Milwaukee commission, accused the worker of telling a voter how to vote, and he demanded that Albrecht reassign or remove her from the site. According to Albrecht, the voter had asked for help identifying Democratic candidates, and the worker was legally providing assistance.

Spindell defended his behavior. “What I said to him was exactly correct, because it just wasn't one voter. This lady was doing it to every single one," he said. “She was giving the ballot to somebody and then pointing to ... the Democratic names on the ballot."

“That certainly is something that is not allowed," he added.

Soon after Spindell was appointed to the state commission, members clashed over updating the voter rolls. In October 2019, the commission sent 232,000 letters to Wisconsinites who were believed to have moved, asking for them to either confirm their current address or update their voter registration. Those who did not respond would be removed from the rolls in 2021, the commission decided, based on an earlier effort that had deactivated thousands of voters incorrectly targeted for removal.

The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty sued the elections commission, arguing that state law required the commission to act within 30 days to remove voters flagged as possibly having moved or died.

In December, Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Malloy agreed, ordering commissioners to immediately purge the voters from the rolls. Faced with Malloy's order, the commission split along party lines three times on how to proceed, with Republicans, including Spindell, voting to comply and Democrats refusing to do so.

Finally, in February, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals overturned Malloy's order, ruling that the law applies to municipal clerks who run elections — not the state elections agency. The matter is now before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which has a 4-3 conservative majority.

Rebuffing Kanye and the Green Party

On Aug. 20, all eyes were on Wisconsin again as an attorney for Kanye West tried to argue the erratic rapper's way onto the presidential ballot. West's unexpected candidacy was widely seen as a Republican effort to take votes away from Democratic candidate Joe Biden to benefit Trump, who won Wisconsin in 2016 by less than 1 percentage point.

After deliberating more than four hours, the commission ultimately deemed West ineligible because his attorney missed the deadline by about one minute to submit nomination papers, which were sprinkled with names of fake Wisconsin electors including Mickey Mouse, Kanye West and Bernie Sanders.

The vote was 5-1. Two Republican commissioners crossed the partisan canyon to join the three Democrats. The only holdout was Spindell.

Another flashpoint was the August debate over Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins and vice presidential candidate Angela Walker. The pair had gathered enough signatures to be put on the ballot. But they had filed documents that listed two different addresses for Walker, who had moved during the circulation of the nomination papers, raising questions about which of the signatures were legally valid.

The commissioners split 3-3 along party lines over whether to allow the Green Party — another perceived source of votes to be siphoned away from Biden — on the ballot.

After the commission deadlocked twice, Knudson offered a workaround: Certify 1,789 of the signatures presented by the party, short of the required 2,000 to get on the ballot, and let a judge sort out the remaining 1,834 signatures. The motion passed 6-0, and the Green Party was denied ballot access.

Afterward, Spindell emailed a Green Party official, apologizing for the commission's decision. The party asked him to recommend an attorney and he supplied the name of “the best election lawyer in the city," he said. The party sued the commission, but the state Supreme Court on a 4-3 vote declined to take up the case, saying it came too late in the election season.

Embracing the Divide

Not surprisingly, members of the commission disagree with the notion that it has taken a backward turn.

Knudson, the architect of the Elections Commission, said in a June video interview with the -

election '20

This Democrat is beating his GOP opponent — so the right-wing is lying about him dressing up as Hitler

Arizona senatorial candidate Mark Kelly is currently beating his Republican challenger Martha McSally by about 5 percentage points. So a right-wing media outlet decided to try and take Kelly down by posting a photo and lying about him dressing up as Nazi leader Adolf Hitler during his school days at the Merchant Marine Academy.

On Friday, the right-wing website the National File shared photographic "proof" that Kelley had dressed as Hitler, and the post quickly went viral. But Kelly's former classmates Jennifer Boykin, Peter Lindsey, Mark Baden and Ed McDonald have all said that the image isn't of Kelly.

Lindsey in particular said someone contacted him with the image via the professional social network LinkedIn asked "and asked if the person in the costume was Mark Kelly. I told them no, and want to say again, Mark is not in those photos. I have spoken to numerous classmates about this evening, and they concur that he is not in any of these pictures. The people spreading these lies should stop."

"The person who reached out to Lindsey was identified by the campaign as a paid consultant for a super political action committee aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-K.Y., that is spending millions of dollars to help defeat Kelly," reports.


Pennsylvania small business owners have a drastically different take on Trump than they did 4 years ago

Small business owners in Pennsylvania are sharing their reaction to life after four years under President Donald Trump, the only Republican president to win the state since 1988.

With all that has occurred over the last several months, many voters are having reservations about the possibility of Trump winning a second term. It is no secret that small businesses have been hit particularly hard amid the ongoing pandemic.

Joshua Mast, who owns a small business venue and restaurant in Scranton, Penn., happens to be one of them. He expressed concern about Trump's presidency as he admitted that his business is not better off than it was four years ago. He also shared his concerns about health care.

"I would have to say over the past four years we have not been better off," Mast said. "It would definitely take one level of stress away if [health] insurance was paid for or even reasonable. For any small business, that's a huge burden."

Mast also noted some of the characteristics he expects the president to have. Not only does he expect the president to have extensive knowledge of Washington, he also wants a president who will be proactive in the advancement of small businesses.

"I feel right now we need somebody who knows Washington, who is going to do something for the small-business owner and who's going to get something done."

Mast admitted that while he can manage to keep the doors of his business open, he knows that it will not be able to grow with Trump in office another four years.

"I will continue to have side hustles, as they say, to be able to keep my business open," he said. "But I will not be able to grow if we have another four years of this president."

Like Mast, many other Pennsylvania business owners are also facing financial difficulties due to the pandemic. In fact, according to PennLive, requests for COVID relief funds for small businesses in Pennsylvania are reportedly outpacing the state's funds available by more than $600 million. The staggering deficit signals are major problem that could lead to long-term, and possibility permanent impacts, on small businesses in the state.

In addition to business owners like Mast, the Post-Gazette also reports that at least 33 mayors in Pennsylvania cities have also announced their support of Biden.


Political scientist dismantles the 'folk theory of democracy': Trump revealed that 'truth and reason' don't matter in politics

Public opinion polls and other data show that Joe Biden has a double-digit lead over Donald Trump, with just over a week to go until the election. Biden's campaign also has substantially more money. As judged by conventional standards, Biden won the two presidential debates. Nate Silver's much-cited FiveThirtyEight site gives Joe Biden an 87 percent chance of defeating Trump.

If Biden and the Democrats win by a landslide — an outcome that seems increasingly likely — one of the dominant narratives will be that a multiracial coalition of Americans rose up against Donald Trump and did so loudly and bravely in a time of plague, when gathering in public could quite literally be a death sentence. Trump's defeat will be heralded as true populism as compared to the authoritarian, white-supremacist faux-populism that won Trump his flukish Electoral College victory in 2016. Normalcy will have returned; the healing can begin. It will feel good, for a little while. Of course, matters in the real world are far more complicated.

What if that does not happen? What if Trump somehow manages to steal another implausible victory through both legal and illegal means, combining foreign interference, voter suppression and intimidation, and perhaps even a usurpation of the public's will by the Supreme Court? America will slide further into the abyss of full-on fascism and an authoritarian "managed democracy." A good many Americans, already afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder because of Donald Trump and his allies' collective assaults, will come to feel that resistance is futile. Both "people power" and the normal operation of electoral politics will appear impotent against the Age of Trump.

With either outcome, dangerous myths about American political culture will remain unchallenged, left as assumed truths and conventional wisdom created by throwing uncomfortable facts down the memory hole.

These myths are numerous, but perhaps begin and end with American exceptionalism, the delusional idea that the United States is fundamentally different from all other nations, and not subject to the laws and patterns of history. Beneath that overarching belief, we find these dogmas: America's democratic institutions, norms and values are strong and permanent; the free press serves as a resolute guardian of the country's democracy; the American people are fundamentally decent and American society is healthy; Americans will always reject authoritarianism and fascism, along with large-scale political violence and terrorism are rejected; white supremacy, nativism, misogyny and other antisocial values are largely things of the past; our multiracial democracy, whatever its flaws, is a settled fact.

It is these myths that helped to create the disaster of American fascism in the form of Donald Trump and his movement. Even if Trumpism in its present form is defeated, these uninterrogated myths almost guarantee that American fascism will spring forth again.

These myths are tied together by an assumption on the part of American political elites and other influentials that the American people are reasonable, rational, politically engaged and at least somewhat ideologically consistent. There is no basis in logic or fact for any of those assumptions.

How does this folk theory of democracy lead to incorrect understandings and conclusions about American politics in general, and about the Age of Trump and its aftermath? What is the role of "ethnic antagonism" and authoritarianism in voting and other political behavior in American politics? What does the data actually reveal about the fabled voters of the "white working class" voters and their support of Trump and the Republican Party? Do American voters actually factor in disasters such as the coronavirus in how they assess presidents?

In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with political scientist Larry Bartels, who holds the May Werthan Shayne Chair of Public Policy and Social Science at Vanderbilt University. Bartels is the author of several books, including "Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age" and "Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government" (with Christopher Achen). His commentaries and other writing have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times and other leading publications. Bartels is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

Toward the end of our conversation, Bartels shares his thoughts on the reliability of the various models offered by historians, political scientists and others who claim to be able to predict the outcome of presidential elections and the likely defeat of Donald Trump. (I will not spoil his remarks for you here.) As usual, this interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What are some of the major assumptions about American democracy that Donald Trump's time in office has shattered?

Among people who think and write about politics for a living, there is a kind of assumption that truth and reason, especially in American democracy, are the driving forces of people's behavior. These years with Donald Trump have stripped away some of those assumptions.

In 2016, I predicted that Trump would win the election. I argued that the average American voters is not rational or sophisticated. There was an incredulous response to my conclusion. In these four years of Trump, it took a long time for prominent people to state plainly that he is an authoritarian if not a fascist. Even as the facts reveal that to be true, there is deep anger at the truth and a profound denial among many in the commentariat and among the American people more generally. Why the anger? It almost seems like a type of narcissistic injury.

I believe that we all have, in some way or another, an attachment to what my co-author Christopher Achen and I describe as the "folk theory of democracy." That framework and narrative is a reassuring and comforting way of thinking about politics in this country. If we study the relationship between the political views that people espouse and then who they should vote for, there was this assumption that political views are causing political behavior, when in fact our research shows that it is probably more the reverse. Other variables are also involved in political decision-making as well, which are outside of many traditional rationalizations and explanations.

I was surprised by Donald Trump's election, not because I expect voters to be ideological, but because I viewed the identities that he was appealing to as being too narrowly focused. I was also surprised by the extent of loyalty among everyday Republicans, for whom white identity may be an inclination to their behavior and decision-making but is not a part of their identity on a day-to-day basis. Sheer partisanship motivated many people to vote for Trump who otherwise might have been put off by him and what he stands for.

Why does Donald Trump have such a stable and deep level of unwavering support among Republicans? It endures to this late date, no matter what he does.

Partisanship is an identity in and of itself, one that has become increasingly important in the last 10 or 20 years in American politics. One reason that partisanship has become more important is that is it more strongly correlated with many other identities, of which race is an important one, but certainly not the only one.

In some new research, I examined attachment to democratic values. I included prompts such as "The president should take the law into their own hands," "The results of elections can't be trusted," "Patriots may have to resort to force to save the American way of life" and other such items. We were surprised by how much agreement with those items there was among Republicans.

In trying to understand the data, I applied an index for "ethnic antagonism." This consists of questions about immigrants having too much access to government resources, the political influence of black people, "discrimination" against whites and questions of a similar theme. Ethnic antagonism was by far the most powerful predictor of these anti-democratic attitudes.

The cutting edge of the strong emotions and enthusiasm in the Republican Party for Trump, although not all Republicans exhibit high levels of "ethnic antagonism," is basically grounded in a kind of ethnic panic that some people have about the possibility that "their way of life" or "their America" may be swamped by demographic changes.

"White working-class" voters are still being obsessed over by the mainstream news media and too many Democratic political strategists. What do we know empirically about the white working class and its political behavior?

I think the first thing to figure out is what people mean by white working class. "Working class" is usually understood to be "people without college degrees," which is the majority of white voters. They did disproportionately switch to Trump in 2016, but those numbers were pretty small. It is easy to exaggerate the numbers and to imagine that these people who made an important difference at the margins are representative of Trump's supporters more generally. That is not the case. Donald Trump's supporters were generally more upscale, for example, than Hillary Clinton's supporters.

The typical Republican is someone who did not go to college but did pretty well in life despite that fact. He or she attributes that success to hard work and expects other people to be able to do the same thing. I believe that most such voters were already Republicans before 2016. But the people who switched to Trump in 2016 were disproportionately that person. Education has a role in Trump's rise in another way as well. Donald Trump's behavior is unappealing to those people who went to college and internalized a particular set of norms and values about American political culture.

The New York Times kept running these long pieces where they would explain to the readers how Donald Trump was violating some cultural and political norm, with the assumption that if readers understood that fact then the public would turn against Trump. For many people in the United States, those norms are not very salient. Their allegiance to what we understood to be "democratic norms" is pretty shallow. People who respected Donald Trump for "saying it like it is" and not being restrained by "political correctness" are disproportionately people who were less educated, although not less affluent.

What are some of your largest frustrations in terms of how supposed "political experts" in the news media analyze the country's politics?

Many professional political observers in the news media and elsewhere want to interpret politics in terms of ideology. They also want to interpret politics in the country by focusing on the most intense people on each side, as though they are representative of the public as a whole. One of the main arguments about Trump's voters and racism is that he appealed to a fragment of the American public that had been underserved by racism and related values, even as compared to Republican politicians, before he came along. There is evidence in support of that conclusion.

Prior to Trump there was a concerted effort among Republican elites to try to appeal to racism, but not in overt terms. They tried to appeal to anti-immigration sentiment, but not in a way that would cut off their chances to build support among immigrant communities.

One of the other common narratives is that Trump's election is a function of some huge upswing in racism. But if you track these measures of racial resentment over time, the big shift in the last decade has been that the public as a whole has become less racist and racially resentful. But this is largely because Democrats have increasingly learned what they are supposed to say in response to questions from pollsters and other researchers about race and racial inequality. Republicans have not.

There are more major shifts in American politics in terms of media coverage than there are in reality. Every time there is some major announcement about shifts in attitudes, one should be skeptical. However, public attitudes and values do sometimes change fairly rapidly. In terms of race and politics, my intuition would be that what has changed in the Age of Trump is mostly a verbal attachment to one position or another, rather than people's deep-seated feelings about race.

How ideological is the average American? And how does ideology relate to the folk theory of democracy?

The folk theory of democracy is a belief that America is a representative democracy, and that we the voters decide on who the political leaders are and basically give them a mandate to pursue some set of policies. If these elected officials do not live up to expectations, then they are voted out and replaced by someone else.

There are some elements of that story which are true. But most Americans do not have a very well-developed or sophisticated political ideology. Their views about politics are shallower, more contingent on circumstances and more subject to self-contradiction than people who spend their careers thinking about politics would likely be able to to imagine.

Now, this does not mean that the average American is without meaningful attitudes about politics and related topics. They are not a blank slate. But the average American thinks about American politics sporadically, when they are forced to or when there is something happening in terms of political life that they cannot easily ignore. In all, journalists and scholars of politics think about politics much more than the average person.

What do we know about how the average American factors in calamities and disasters such as the coronavirus pandemic in terms of their voting behavior?

There are many debates about that question among political scientists and others who study politics. One view, which our book "Democracy for Realists" adopts, is that people are not very critical about assessing the responsibility of elected officials for certain kinds of calamities. In "Democracy for Realists", Achen and I wrote about shark attacks in New Jersey and also how the public reacts to droughts and floods.

There is some existing and still in-progress research on the American people's reaction to the Spanish flu pandemic [of 1918]. We examined that work and it was surprising, because one would imagine a large backlash. But we did not see that in the data. [President] Woodrow Wilson was not punished. State governors were also not being punished by the public. One of the explanations is that no one of public prominence at the time was constructing the Spanish flu as a political issue or attaching blame to elected officials.

By comparison, when the coronavirus pandemic was taking hold and people were asking me about the political implications, I told them there that there is no way that it is not going to be politicized, and that once it becomes politicized, people are going to associate it with Donald Trump.

The alternative view is that voters attempt to assess the quality of elected officials' response, and that the backlash against Donald Trump is not simply a reaction to the pain of the pandemic and resulting economic collapse, but rather an assessment of Trump's performance. Therefore, if Donald Trump were performing better than average in terms of his response to the coronavirus pandemic, then he would have been rewarded rather than punished for the pandemic. We will need to do more research in the future, of course, but my sense is that someone has to be blamed and held responsible for the failures of the pandemic response — and for the public that is Trump.

There are various models from historians, political scientists, economists and others which purport to predict the outcome of presidential elections in this country. Is there a consensus on how accurate these models are?

There are a number of these predictive models. My first observation is that if there are seven factors, for example, then an intervention could be made so that the model is made to fit the data which the researcher already has.

But there are in fact models that have a pretty good track record in terms of accounting for election outcomes over time. In these predictions and models, the two most important factors are the state of the economy in the election year and how long the incumbent party has been in power. Those two things appear to work well in terms of predictive power. In 2016 they predicted an outcome which was not much different from what happened.

Many of the people responsible for these models said at the time, "This is what the models predict, but it certainly will not apply to Donald Trump because he is such an unusual candidate." Nevertheless, the models did turn out to apply to Donald Trump. I interpret that outcome to be a statement about the extent to which partisan behavior was shaped by the usual partisan factors, rather than by anything specific about Trump or the 2016 election. Those same models now predict that Donald Trump is going to lose substantially.

Here is a qualifier: There has been an increase in partisan polarization in this country. That probably means there are fewer people who are sufficiently undecided to be swayed by the state of the economy in the election year. Therefore, the magnitude of Donald Trump's loss, if he does in fact lose, will be less than one would predict based on the historical record.


Investigation reveals just how dangerous Trump's rallies are for public health

An investigation into the latest accelerated spread of coronavirus in multiple states appears to be linked to President Donald Trump's string of campaign rallies over the last several weeks.

As coronavirus plagues states all across America, Trump continues to blatantly disregard how dangerous his campaign rallies are for his campaign staff, White House advisors and aides, and everyone who attends his political events. Now, USA Today has explained the extent of the spreads in several counties following the president's rallies.

According to the analysis released by USA Today, case rates in at least five counties—Blue Earth, Minnesota; Lackawanna, Pennsylvania; Marathon, Wisconsin; Dauphin, Pennsylvania; and Beltrami, Minnesota—increased at a faster pace after Trump's rallies. Collectively, these counties reported 1,500 additional new cases in the two weeks after Trump's campaign rallies. The previous number of 8,069 jumped to 9,647 cases.

As President Donald Trump jetted across the country holding campaign rallies during the past two months, he didn't just defy state orders and federal health guidelines. He left a trail of coronavirus outbreaks in his wake.

While the absence of full contact tracing will make it a bit more difficult to definitively determine whether or not Trump's rallies were the sole cause of the coronavirus' accelerated spread in multiple states, the upticks in the counties highlighted clearly indicate that the president's events likely influenced the spread.

Public health officials have also managed to link some cases and hospitalizations in Wisconsin to the president's recent rallies.

Public health officials additionally have linked 16 cases, including two hospitalizations, with the rally in Beltrami County, Minnesota, and one case with the rally in Marathon County, Wisconsin. Outside of the counties identified by USA TODAY with a greater case increase after rallies, officials identified four cases linked to Trump rallies.

The USA Today report comes as the United States battles its highest number of coronavirus cases in a single day, now surpassing the massive surge over the summer. According to the Wall Street Journal, the United States topped 80,000 cases in a single day on


Faith and spirituality run deep in Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matters (BLM) has been portrayed by its detractors as many things: Marxist, radical, anti-American. Added to this growing list of charges is that it is either irreligious or doing religion wrong.

In late July, for instance, conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan tweeted that BLM was “incompatible" with Christianity.

He isn't alone in that belief. Despite receiving the backing of diverse faith leaders and groups, BLM has been attacked by sections of the religious right. One evangelical institution felt compelled to issue a statement warning Christians about the movement's “Godless agenda." Other evangelicals have gone further, accusing BLM founders of being “witches" and “operating in the demonic realm."

Joining conservative Christians are some self-proclaimed liberals and atheists who have also denounced BLM as a social movement that functions like a “cult" or “pseudo" religion.

As scholars of religion, we believe such views fail to acknowledge – let alone engage with – the rich spiritual and religious pluralism of Black Lives Matter. For the past few years, we have been observing the way the movement and affiliated organizations express faith and spirituality.

Since 2015 we have interviewed BLM leaders and organizers as well as Buddhist leaders inspired by the movement. What we found was that BLM was not only a movement seeking radical political reform, but a spiritual movement seeking to heal and empower while inspiring other religious allies seeking inclusivity.

A love letter

Black Lives Matter was born from a love letter.

On July 13, 2013 – the day of the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who had killed an unarmed black teenage named Trayvon Martin – soon-to-be BLM co-founder Alicia Garza, posted “A Love Letter to Black People" on Facebook. She declared:

“We don't deserve to be killed with impunity. We need to love ourselves and fight for a world where black lives matter. Black people, I love you. I love us. We matter. Our lives matter."

Since its inception, BLM organizers have expressed their founding spirit of love through an emphasis on spiritual healing, principles, and practices in their racial justice work.

BLM leaders, such as co-founder Patrisse Cullors, are deeply committed to incorporating spiritual leadership. Cullors grew up as a Jehovah's Witness, and later became ordained in Ifà, a west African Yoruba religion. Drawing on Native American, Buddhist and mindfulness traditions, her syncretic spiritual practice is fundamental to her work. As Cullors explained to us, “The fight to save your life is a spiritual fight."

Theologian Tricia Hersey, known as the “Nap Bishop," a nod to her Divinity degree and her work advocating for rest as a form of resistance, founded the BLM affiliated organization, The Nap Ministry in 2016.

In an interview with Cullors, Hersey said she considers human bodies as “sites of liberation" that connect Black Americans to the “creator, ancestors, and universe." She describes rest as a spiritual practice for community healing and resistance and naps as “healing portals." Hersey connects this belief to her upbringing in the Black Pentecostal Church of God in Christ, where, she explained, “I was able to see the body being a vehicle for spirit."

The movement is committed to spiritual principles, such as “healing justice" – which uses a range of holistic approaches to address trauma and oppression by centering emotional and spiritual well-being – and “transformative justice" which assists with creating processes to repair harm without violence.

Black Lives Matter protesters pray near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Transformative justice, central to the beliefs of many in the BLM movement, is a philosophic approach to peacemaking. With roots in the Quaker tradition, it approaches harms committed as an opportunity for education. Crime is taken to be a community problem to be solved through mutual understanding, as often seen in work to decriminalize sex work and drug addiction.

BLM affiliated organizer Cara Page, who coined the term “healing justice," did so in response to watching decades of activists commit themselves completely to social justice causes to the detriment of their physical and mental health. She advocates that “movements themselves have to be healing, or there's no point to them."

'Without healing, no justice'

BLM-affiliated organizations utilize spiritual tools such as meditation, reiki, acupuncture, plant medicine, chanting, and prayer, along with other African and Indigenous spiritualities to connect and care for those directly impacted by state violence and white supremacy.

For instance, Dignity and Power Now or DPN, an organization founded by Cullors in Los Angeles in 2012, hosts almost weekly wellness clinics on Sundays, often referred to as “church" by attendees.

On July 26, 2020, they held a virtual event called Calm-Unity, to remind people that “without healing there is no justice." Classes included yoga, meditation, African dance, Chinese medicine, and altar making.

In interviews, movement leaders described honoring their body, mind and soul as an act of resilience. They see themselves as inheritors of the spiritual duty to fight for racial justice, following in the footsteps of freedom fighters like abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

BLM leaders often invoke the names of abolitionist ancestors in a ceremony used at the beginning of protests. In fact, protests often contain many spiritual purification, protection and healing practices including the burning of sage, the practice of wearing white and the creation of sacred sites and altars at locations of mourning.

'More religion, not less'

BLM's rich spiritual expressions have also inspired and transformed many American faith leaders. Black evangelical leader Barbara Salter McNeil credits BLM activists in Ferguson as changing the Christian church by showing racism must be tackled structurally and not just as individual sin.

U.S. Buddhist leaders presented a statement on racial justice to the White House in which they shared they were “inspired by the courage and leadership" of Black Lives Matter. Jewish, Muslim and many other religious organizations, have incorporated BLM principles to make their communities more inclusive and justice oriented.

As University of Arizona scholar Erika Gault observes, “The Black church is not the only religious well from which Black movements have historically drawn," and with Black Lives Matter, “We are actually seeing more religion, not less."

Religious pluralism

Attempts to erase the rich religious landscape of Black Lives Matter by both conservative and liberal voices continues a long history of denouncing Black spirituality as inauthentic and threatening.

[Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation's newsletter.]

The history of white supremacy, often enacted within institutional Christianity, has often vilified and criminalized Indigenous and African beliefs, promoted the idea that Black people are divinely destined to servitude, and subjected communities to forced conversions.

As Cullors said to us in response to current attacks against BLM as demonic, “For centuries, the way we are allowed to commune with the divine has been policed; in the movement for Black lives, we believe that all connections to the creator are sacred and essential."The Conversation

Hebah H. Farrag, Assistant Director of Research, Center for Religion and Civic Culture, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and Ann Gleig, Associate Professor of Religion, University of Central Florida

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

human rights

Election holds future of young, undocumented immigrants in the balance

SAN DIEGO — Among the many policies that will be on the ballot Nov. 3 is what will happen to the lives of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.The Trump administration has tried to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which began under the Obama administration. For the past four years, Trump officials have argued that the program is illegal and should be stopped.DACA has so far survived only through court intervention. Even after the Supreme Court issued a decision in June that it should be fully restored because it wa...

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Democrats are missing a big chance to increase turnout and take down the Trump machine

The anxiety over changes and irregularities with the United States Postal Service (USPS) in August finally spilled over. A functioning postal service undergirds many of our society’s most basic functions, so there was no shortage of reasons to be alarmed. However, one concern—the threat to November’s election—overwhelmingly rose to the top. And the public outcry over that threat pushed a normally lethargic House majority into action, winning some mild but incomplete reversals from USPS.

Keep reading... Show less

'What's going on?' Mitch McConnell refuses to explain to voters why he's bruised and bandaged

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday was photographed with what appear to be disturbing bruises on his face and hands, and with bandages on his hands as well, but he is refusing to share with voters what health issues he is suffering from.

McConnell told CNN there are "no problems." When asked if he had any health problems the 78-year old said: "Of course not."

The Kentucky lawmaker "did not respond when asked if he was being treated by a doctor. An aide to McConnell also declined to provide any additional details when asked multiple times about the majority leader's health."

The Courier-Journal reports McConnell earlier this month "refused to say whether he had recently been tested" for coronavirus.

"Have I ever been tested? Yes," he said after reporters repeatedly asked him about that. "But I'm not going to answer questions about when."

McConnell, who has been blocking coronavirus legislation for months, is seeking re-election. He is challenged by Democrat Amy McGrath. He is nine points ahead of her according to a recent poll.

On social media, many are speculating about the Majority Leader's heath since he refuses to share with voters what has caused his appearance.

Some images and responses via Twitter:

Watch: Obama drowns Trump in a flood of mockery in a brutally hilarious speech

Former President Barack Obama took the stage in Miami, Florida, for a drive-in rally where people could social distance safely. That didn't stop Obama from bringing the heat against the president, however. Speaking to a honking crowd, Obama mocked Trump for the overwhelming ignorance and cruelty that has persisted throughout his four years in office. "When the daily intelligence briefings are flashing warning signs about a virus, the president can't be AWOL," Obama said. "When Russians put bounties on the heads of our brave soldiers in Afghanistan, the commander in chief can't be MIA. He can't be somebody who doesn't read the briefings. Joe Biden would never call the men and women of our military suckers and losers. He knows those troops are somebody's husband, somebody's wife, somebody's kids, somebody's spouse, somebody's father. And when a hurricane devastates Puerto Rico, a president is supposed to help it rebuild, not toss paper towels withhold billions of dollars in aid until just before an election. We've got a president who actually suggested selling Puerto Rico." The former president then went on to blast Trump for being so weak he couldn't even handle a "60 Minutes" interview. Obama continued: "Believe it or not, could have been worse. He once asked national security officials if he could nuke hurricanes. I mean, at least he didn't do that. A nuclear hurricane seems like it would have been bad. I mean, it would be funny if it wasn't. Look, some of the rhetoric you're hearing down here in south Florida, it's just made up. It's just nonsense. Listening to the Republicans, you think Joe was more communist than the Castros. Don't follow for that baloney. Don't fall for that okie-doke. Joe Biden was a senator from Delaware; he was my vice president. I think people would know if he was a socialist by now." See the videos below:

'This isn't over': Lincoln Project issues lawyer letter mocking Jared and Ivanka's billboard threat

The Lincoln Project is staffed with a slate of Republicans using a unique set of ads to bring down President Donald Trump. One of the latest is a billboard in New York City's Times Square, where many tourists often visit when they are in town. The ad features a photo of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, which prompted the first family to lash out at the organization demanding the billboard be taken down or they would sue for "what will doubtless be enormous compensatory and punitive damages." In response to the letter, the Lincoln Project's lawyers fired off a letter of their own: "Please peddle your scare tactics elsewhere. The Lincoln Project will not be intimidated by such empty bluster," the letter says. "Your clients are no longer more Upper East Side socialites, able to sue at the slightest offense to their personal sensitivities. Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump are public officials. They have been public officials since President Trump, in a gross act of nepotism, awarded Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump senior White House positions in 2017. The placement of Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump in these high-level White House offices has been disastrous for Americans everywhere, but it is now also devastating to the prospects of your would-be lawsuit." They included a footnote saying that to have standing for such a case, Jared and Ivanka must "satisfy the First Amendment 'actual malice' standard to bring a libel claim." "The Lincoln Project plans to avail itself of these constitutional protections to duly criticize Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump until they cease to be public officials, at approximately Noon Eastern Standard Time on January 20, 2021," the letter goes on. Contrary to your claim that 'Mr. Kushner never made any such statement,' Vanity Fair reported in a widely circulated article that Mr. Kushner did indeed say that New Yorkers "are going to suffer and that's their problem" during the time that he was entrusted to lead our nation's COVID-19 response," the Lincoln Project lawyers continue. "The Lincoln Project explicitly cited Vanity Fair as the source for Mr. Kushner's featured statement. Please contact us again if, at some point, you somehow succeed in convincing Vanity Fair to retract its article, but I trust that this supplemental explanation settles the matter for now as to Mr. Kushner's reported remark." They went on to dispute that Ivanka Trump "never made any such gesture." Ms. Trump took a photo of herself, "in violation of federal ethics rules," to promote a commercial product in July 2020. The photo was of her holding a can of Goya beans. They explained that the photo of her endorsing Goya beans and in the Lincoln Project's photo, she "endorses the Trump Administration policies that have led to an unacceptable number of American deaths every bit as much as she once endorsed that can of beans." They closed by saying that'd love an opportunity to "establish their truthfulness through litigation and discovery," which would be one of the most disastrous things the Trump children could face. It would mean they would be required to turn over a host of documents, emails and other things about Kushner's communications about the COVID-19 pandemic. "This isn't over," the Lincoln Project letter says. "Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump will hear more from The Lincoln Project soon." Read the full letter below:

Here are the questions that caused Trump to walk out of his ‘60 Minutes’ interview with Lesley Stahl

The reason President Donald Trump stormed out of a "60 Minutes" interview with Lesley Stahl was that she asked about the Michigan rally in which his supporters began chanting "lock her up" about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Trump held the rally over the weekend attacking her for not opening up the state back up when he wanted it.

"So you don't want to lock her up?" Stahl asked.

"That's such a vicious thing you just said," Trump claimed. "When did I say lock her up?"

Trump laughed when his audience chanted it and repeated the phrase. He then said that he hopes they "send her packing soon."

"I never said lock up the governor of Michigan," Trump disputed. "I would never say that. Why would I say that? Because she's doing lockdowns."

"You want to lock up the Bidens?" Stahl asked Trump.

"No, but they certainly should be looked at," Trump said. Over the past several days he's encouraged "lock him up" chants at rallies talking about the Biden family.

"You want to lock up Obama?" Stahl asked.

"No, I don't want to lock him up but he spied on my campaign," Trump falsely claimed. "You know what that is? Do you know what they did? Do you know how horrible it is what they did? You don't get it."

Trump never told Stahl what the FBI proved was done by Obama or Biden, but he did bring in a special counsel to investigate it and Trump's own Department of Justice hasn't been able to find anything.

Trump said that Biden likely will because he's "dishonest" and that Barr has been "very nice" and that he's ignored the "evidence." He didn't clarify what the evidence was.

"You know, I didn't want to have this kind of interview," Stahl then said.

"Yes, you did. Yes you did," Trump said. "Well, you brought up a bunch of subjects that were inappropriately brought up. They were inappropriately brought up. Right from the beginning. No your first question was, 'This is going to be tough questions.' Well–"

"You're president. Don't you think you think you should be accountable to the American people?" she asked.

"No, no, listen, your first statement to me, 'This is going to be tough questions,'" Trump said. "Well, I don't mind that. But when you set up the interview you didn't say that."

A staffer ultimately interviewed and said that they only had about five more minutes, but Trump said that they were finished and walked out.

See the video below – about the last five minutes.

Why one neurology expert says Trump’s ‘forward-leaning posture’ and ‘body tics’ are cause for serious concern

A professor of Neurology at George Washington University says he believes there may be legitimate concerns over President Donald J. Trump's "forward-listing posture" that goes beyond the comical memes and gif responses normally shared on social media.

"I know something about political figures and observable signs of illness from afar," Richard E. Cytowic M.D. wrote in Psychology Today. "… The American public deserves an accurate account of our president's health."

"While most frequently observed in Parkinson's Disease, the bent posture so evident in Trump may also be seen in Alzheimer's Dementia, movement disorders of the basal ganglia, and as the side effect of certain medications," Cytowic continued. "Also noted are the sudden, jerking movements of Trump's right arm. Since they occur only on one side, the prefix "hemi" is applied, while "ballistic" means sudden or flinging in the manner of a projectile. Trump's hemiballistic arm movements are evident in news clips from Memorial Day (also here via C-Span) at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as are his uncontrolled swaying and forward tilt. He is seen to grab his wayward arm with the left one in an effort to keep it under control."

President Trump at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Memorial Day.

While Trump "aced" a 10-minute mental status screening in August, Cytowic said "the test is one an average adult should easily pass. To a neurologist, his way of walking, posture, and jerky movements are concerning and in want of explanation."

According to Cytowic, "It is true that individuals who have balance and gait issues similar to those observed in Trump can have degenerative brain disease in the frontal lobes, such as fronto-temporal dementia or Pick's Disease. Other possibilities are normal pressure hydrocephalus, sensory ataxia, peripheral neuropathy, small lacunar strokes in the basal ganglia, supranuclear palsy, the effects of too many medications, and Parkinson's Disease, which can begin on one side and also show early cognitive impairment."

Regardless, "The president is a public figure whose judgment we must trust," Cytowic said. "The American public is entitled to know about his neurological health given the enormous responsibilities placed on our Commander in Chief."

An agency Trump created just debunked his lies about 'massive' mail-in voting fraud

For months, Republican President Donald Trump has been crowing about how expanding mail-in voting during a pandemic will create widespread voter fraud, even though there's no evidence supporting this. And the head of an agency Trump created just contradicted Trump's bogus claims as well.

Christopher Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), said on Friday, "I have confidence that your vote is secure, that state and local election officials across this country are working day in and day out, 24/7, that the 2020 election is as secure as possible." He added that "bad guys" are trying to "sow chaos, sow doubt" about the election's integrity.

Krebs and CISA are actually directly responsible for "monitoring the election amid the inevitable voting glitches and delays," according to Edge Media.

On Thursday, Krebs said the tens of millions of votes already cast by mail and early voting have shown no signs of any foreign interference either.

Trump's smile falls from his face as his attempt to get a foreign leader to attack Biden backfires

In a now-infamous phone call, President Donald Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to insert himself into American politics by announcing an investigation of his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. That call and the scheme surrounding it led to Democrats impeach Trump, alleging that he had corruptly leveraged his office and congressionally approved funds to benefit his own political campaign.

Trump appeared to be taking a shot at similar gambit, if on a much smaller and less elaborate scale, on Friday during a televised call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

While discussing a new plan for Israel to normalize relations with Sudan on speakerphone in front of reporters, Trump tried to goad Netanyahu into attacking Biden.

"Do you think Sleepy Joe could have made this deal, Bibi? Sleepy Joe?" Trump asked, smirking. "Do you think he would have made this deal? Somehow, I don't think so."

Of course, the ask wasn't as duplicitous or egregious as the on Trump made of Zelensky. It involved no withholding of military aid, and he was simply asking for Netanyahu to disparage his opponent, not open a criminal investigation of him. Still, it was wildly inappropriate and corrupt, both from the perspective of domestic and international politics.

And despite the fact that Netanyahu has made no secret for his preference for Republicans and his fondness for Trump in particular, the Israeli prime minister refused to bite on the president's bait. He pointedly avoided disparaging Biden.

"Well, Mr. President, one thing I can tell you is that we appreciate the help for peace from anyone in America," Netanyahu said. "And we appreciate what you've done enormously."

The smile dramatically fell from Trump's face, and he gave a deflated: "Yeah." It was clear he was disappointed that Netanyahu didn't join him in attacking Biden, which would have given him a de facto campaign ad with the endorsement of one of his favorite foreign leaders.

Many pointed out, though, that despite Netanyahu's fondness for Trump, he can read polling data as well as anyone. And the polling quite clearly indicates that Biden is heavily favored to win in the 2020 election. Netanyahu is likely to have a more fraught relationship with Biden regardless, but he wisely doesn't want to intentionally aggravate the Democrat in the last days of an election.

Netanyahu seemed to try to make up for the disappointment his remarks surely caused by adding: "This will be registered in the history books. History registers who did what, I think it does." But the damage was done.

Watch the clip below:

More than 2 dozen constitutional law experts endorsed a bill to create 18-year term limits for Supreme Court

Over two dozen constitutional law experts on Friday endorsed legislation recently introduced by a trio of House Democrats that would establish 18-year term limits for U.S. Supreme Court justices.

The endorsement letter (pdf) signed by professors and scholars across the country, along with a former U.S. senator and a former chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court, comes as the Senate GOP is trying to confirm right-wing Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump's third nominee to the high court, before the November general election.

The ongoing political battle over the Supreme Court vacancy that resulted from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death has elevated discussions and proposals to reform the high court. The term limits bill (pdf) was unveiled last month by Reps. Khanna (D-Calif.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), and Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.).

"We can't face a national crisis every time a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court," Khanna said while announcing the Supreme Court Term Limits and Regular Appointments Act (H.R. 8424), which would allow presidents to nominate two new appointees per four-year term.

The legal experts said in their endorsement:

We are pleased that a formal legislative proposal to limit future justices to 18 years of high court service has been introduced and is advancing public discourse on court reform.
Though the bill is not perfect, we believe it to be a critical piece in prescribing how our country's leaders can work to depoliticize the Supreme Court and its confirmation process.

Their support for the bill came just a day after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and the rest of the panel's Republicans flouted their own rules—in the face of a boycott by Democratic members—and voted to advance Barrett to the full chamber.

Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said earlier this week that he expects Trump's nominee to be confirmed on Monday, just over a week before Election Day, when Trump formally faces off against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who is leading in national polls.

Biden explained in a promotional clip of a forthcoming "60 Minutes" interview released Thursday that if he is elected, he will form a bipartisan commission of constitutional scholars to offer recommendations for "how to reform the court system," which he said is "getting out of whack."

While the former vice president said the possible reforms would "go well beyond packing" the court, attorney and activist Miles Mogulescu declared in an opinion piece for Common Dreams last week: "It's time for Biden and the Dems to call bullshit! It's Republicans who are the true court-packers."

Mogulescu also detailed various ways that a victorious Biden and Democratic lawmakers could "begin to unpack the courts," from increasing the number of Supreme Court justices to introducing term limits for those appointed to the nation's highest court, noting Khanna's bill.

"A more indirect way would be to grant statehood to the District or Columbia and Puerto Rico," Mogulescu wrote. "This would represent justice in its own right, since residents of those jurisdictions are tax-paying American citizens without voting representation in Washington."

"But it would also add four new senators," he explained, "diminishing the impact of the current situation where the Republican Senate 'majority,' which is about to confirm Barrett on a party-line votes, was elected by nearly 15 million fewer voters than the Democratic 'minority.'"

Trump walked into a trap on Obamacare — and the Lincoln Project pounced

The Lincoln Project quickly fired back at President Donald Trump when he revealed his true intentions regarding the Affordable Care Act, known commonly as Obamacare.

During the president's debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, he admitted that the goal is to "terminate" Obamacare. As Trump offered multiple baseless excuses to justify his administration's reason for wanting to terminate healthcare for more than 20 million Americans, he walked into another debacle. When asked how he would replace Obamacare, the president failed to provide any serious answer to that question.

Instead, he pivoted and promised to deliver a "beautiful healthcare plan." But once again, Trump offered no substance to detail what that means. His remarks influenced The Lincoln Project's response.

The anti-Trump Republican group took to Twitter with highlights of the president's so-called healthcare plan. With a video compilation of the president's previous remarks about healthcare, The Lincoln Project shed light on what Trump really meant during the debate.

The tweet read, "JUST LEAKED: President Trump's healthcare plan."

Since January 2017, Trump has volleyed on healthcare often spewing lies about forthcoming release dates for his plan. On multiple occasions, Trump has claimed his full healthcare plan would be released in "two weeks," "one month," "soon," and so on, the truth is that it has been three and a half years and Trump still has not released a plan. The president's failed war on healthcare also sheds light on how reckless his decision would be to terminate healthcare for millions of Americans. The Lincoln Project's clip made that very clear.

The group's latest video is one of several clips that have been released to highlight the inconsistencies in Trump's promise to voters and his ability to execute. Over the last two weeks, The Lincoln Project's support on Twitter has surpassed that of the Republican National Committee which suggests there are many Republicans that may be jumping ship as Election Day approaches.

'Nuts!' Lincoln Project mocks Jared and Ivanka for their 'comical' threat to sue over Times Square billboards

The Lincoln Project on Friday night fired back at White House advisors Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump for threatening to sue over billboards in Times Square attacking their response to the coronavirus crisis.

The ads show the couple smiling alongside coronavirus death tolls for New Yorkers and Americans.

Kushner and Trump's attorney, Marc Kasowitz, on Friday sent a letter to the Lincoln Project warning that the billboards were defamatory. “Those ads show Ms. Trump smiling and gesturing toward a death count of Americans and New Yorkers, and attribute to Mr. Kushner the statement that “[New Yorkers] are going to suffer and that's their problem" (alteration in original), with body bags underneath," the letter read.

"If these billboard ads are not immediately removed, we will sue you for what will doubtless be enormous compensatory and punitive damages," the letter continued.

“Nuts!" the Lincoln Project replied, an allusion to commander Anthony McAuliffe's response when German forces demanded the U.S. 101st Airborne Division surrender during the Battle of the Bulge.

"The level of indignant outrage Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have shown towards The Lincoln Project for exposing their indifference for the more than 223,000 people who have lost their lives due to their reckless mismanagement of COVID-19 is comical," the group added in a statement.

View their full statement below:

The 'Q' movement is a pro-terrorist Trumpian cult

Well, we seem to be getting closer to the national realization that this thing that calls itself "QAnon" is, at heart, just another partisan iteration of the same far-right conspiracy theories that have plagued conservatives since forever ago. The New York Times has another look at the growth of "Q" nonsense in the Republican mainstream, and while it doesn't contain anything new, it does more forcibly connect the batshit conspiracy theorizing of gullible, gullible supporters to the cowardice—and complicity—of Republican leaders.

The most plausible explanation for the Q hokum, in which an anonymous supposed member of the Deep State drools out accusations against anyone deemed to be enemies of Donald Trump in comically performed pseudo-riddles, remains the obvious one: It is the work of chan-style trolls, part of that internet corner's grand tradition of crafting gaudily improbable hoaxes to distribute for no other purpose than to see who they can draw in. It may turn out to be the first domestic terrorism group founded for funsies—though at this point, those connected to the movement have focused their claims and targets enough to make it clear that stoking incidents of real-world terrorism is, in fact, the current goal.

Like the 2016 proliferation of European "fake news" sites aiming to generate advertising traffic by inventing hoax political stories, Q conspiracies have been tailored to American conservative tastes because American conservatives are the richest (read: most gullible) targets. Fox News conservatives have been fed decades of tawdry but false information, all packaged with advertising pitches to buy gold, or "survival" equipment, or hyper-expensive pills sold through conservative mailing lists and on conservative programs relentlessly. It is an audience of laboratory-grown suckers, people who have been whittled down over the years to a base of the most credulous, and therefore profitable, marks.

But—and this is a big but—there's an undercurrent here that's getting more and more ... let's say blatant, as actual news events slap Q claims back and forth and sideways month after month after month.

The QAnon claim is that most or all of the world's most famous powerbrokers, including politicians, actors, nonpartisan government figures and so on, are secret ultra-pedophiles and child traffickers. But the revelation of Trump ally Jeffrey Epstein as precisely that did not make a ripple. Instead, the "real" traffickers are unanimously people who oppose Donald Trump, and most especially those who report what looks to be criminal behavior by Trump.

The QAnon claims burst into Republican popularity after Donald J. Trump was accused of sexual assault by two dozen women, after his taped bragging about committing sexual assaults, and after a long public history of being an eager pervert—whether it be the purchase of a top beauty pageant as apparent ticket to ogle nude teenagers or the mysterious and Epsteinesque "Trump modeling company." Instead, the movement holds Trump up as the mockingly dubious "hero" fighting against society's sex predators. He is alleged to be doing this secretly, with Good Genes and near-godlike powers, and the movement remains absolutely immune to news cycle after news cycle in which their own predictions prove to be fan-fiction bunk.

This week, Trump ally Rudy Giuliani was revealed to have been secretly filmed (as part of a new Borat movie, of all things) fondling himself in front of a youthful female "interviewer." Without getting too far into a description of that particular chunk of nightmare fuel, it continues the pattern of 1) Republican 2) conservative 3) Trump-allied 4) powerbrokers revealed as tawdry often-sexual-assaulting ultrapervs. From Wynn to Epstein to Broidy to Falwell to Rudy, there is a very robust claim to be made that the QAnon suspicions of an enormously powerful cabal of sex freaks are indeed well-founded—and that they radiate from the Republican National Committee's finance offices, from Mar-a-Lago, or both.

All these real-world crimes and bizarre improprieties, however, are dismissed by the QAnon faithful. Nope: They are convinced that the True Pedophiles are "Democrats" and "globalists," and that four years of the nation's top Republican figures getting caught with their pants around their ankles are the fictional part.

It should be obvious from that history, then, that isn't a conspiracy base that gives a damn about pedophilia and child sex trafficking, and if anything the "movement" has sabotaged law enforcement's attempts to pursue sex traffickers by flooding lines with false claims pointing to everyone but the true culprits.

This is a group born to defend criminal acts by the powerful, not combat them. It does so using the precise playbook Trump himself uses when caught committing apparent tax fraud, foreign extortion, or embezzlement: The projection defense. It's not me, it was that other guy. It has always been that other guy. No matter how much the evidence proves it was me, the evidence is mere conspiracy and the truth is its opposite.

As Trump's charity foundation was revealed to be little more than a passthrough for the Trump family's personal spending—resulting in the family being barred from future charity boards—an organized effort to portray the Clinton's own family foundation as corrupt erupted from longtime conservative hoax-peddlers. As Trump personally profited off the presidency with the aid of his sons and favorite daughter, a new hoax emerged claiming that Actually it was the Biden family that was doing that thing. It is the far-right response to revealed Republican wrongdoing. Even Benghazi!, a far-right led claim that four American deaths in a terrorist attack were the result of something-something Hillary Clinton (it was never, even at the end, consistent in what the something-something was supposed to be) was a cheap version of the inquiries held after 9/11, probing what the Republican-led government knew in advance and why that information was not processed into action.

In that context, QAnon's relentlessly partisan far-right claim that a Republican Party visibly awash in corruption—with a series of Trump lieutenants and allies being led off in handcuffs for everything from sex trafficking to foreign influence-peddling to election crimes—is "actually" a group of heroes working to expose the corruption of their enemies looks less like a coincidence than a pattern.

Isn't this just a more spittle-flecked version of what Fox News personalities have been peddling for years? That the news as it is reported by your eyes and ears is false, promoted by "elites" in order to deceive you, and that the real news is how ingenious conservative figures are despite policies that have caused clear ruin, and how malevolent non-conservative figures are for opposing them? Is that not the very definition of Sean Hannity's evening broadcast? The theme of every conservative book?

There's not a lot of daylight between the QAnon version of reality and that promoted by Glenn Beck's now-famous chalkboards, or Tucker Carlson's parade of "alt-right" fascist-adjacent guests. The online versions of each conspiracy are always more vigorous than the versions the Fox hosts themselves provide, but they each grow from similar stock. They intertwine more often than not.

Then there is the other, deeper origin of QAnon claims. The movement's guides insist not only that there is a secret global cabal of child sex traffickers, but that the ultimate purpose of the plot, run by "globalist" figures, is to harvest those children's fluids for consumption.

There's not an educated person alive who doesn't recognize that theory. It is the blood libel conspiracy theory that has been promulgated by anti-Semites for literally hundreds of years, but made most famous in Nazi Germany for a variation very close to the Q version.

The QAnon claim does not bother to go too far afield from the versions peddled in the 1920s and 30s. "Globalists" is used to mean "Jewish," as it is by most modern neo-Nazi adherents; rather than "blood" of children, a specific compound is named this time around in near-comical pseudoscientific gibberish. The premise of a secret group of global "elites" running the world from the shadows is the claim from the Henry Ford-peddled hoax Protocols of the Elders of Zion; the omnipresent inclusions of George Soros and "Hollywood" as alleged conspirators are lifted directly from neo-Nazi fever dreams, anti-Semitic tropes that were willingly taken in as staples of Republican Party rhetoric long before Q-anything arrived on scene.

So it's clear that the originators of QAnon are well-versed in neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic propaganda, and are particularly interested in repopularizing it for a modern audience. Why those messages reverberate so very strongly among the Fox News-watching Republican base, and the merging of these conspiracies to become inextricably linked to Trumpism, is not hard to imagine. That it would achieve true cult status, with some adherents willing to commit terrorist acts in deluded efforts to prove conspiracies invented in someone else's head, may only be evidence of the omnipresent undercurrent of good violence that has burrowed itself into the American psyche in a hundred other forms.

If anything, the rise of Q belief as increasingly mainstream Republican phenomenon, complete with its own candidates and in-movement codes, appears to be the natural culmination of multiple conservative trends, all balled together in one malevolent, hyper-cynical lump:

Fox News and conservative talk radio provided a large Republican base already trained to disbelieve news uncomfortable to the party, a base literally willing to deny reality in favor of pleasing fictions. A set of gullibles that could easily be transformed into deplorables.

The white supremacist and white nationalist movement provided the conspiracy itself, a bog-standard edition of "evil global cabal that has secretly undermined world governments" that has been a staple of neo-Nazi movements in this country and in others.

American militia movements are providing, in a literal sense, the ammunition: A far-right collection of malcontents who insist that violence against nonright citizens is essential, glorious, and nigh.

The Republican Party's own widespread embrace of corruption, nearly all of it centered around Trump, has all but required more and more outrageous conspiracy theories as official party defense.

That all of this would combine into kleptocratic fascism is not surprising. That its enablers did not, at any point along the way, reflect on the likely outcome of the combination is damning.

It remains vitally important to see QAnon for what it is, and no more. It is an amateur-led trolling effort based primarily on the same ambiguous nonsense-spewing used by fortune-telling hucksters, but one led by amateurs steeped in anti-Semitic claims and rhetoric popular among neo-Nazi and "alt-right" subcommunities. It is Alex Jones by way of fortune cookie, or Jim Jones by way of sudoku. It is a scam intended for the most gullible. Its adherents should be pitied. It is the fascist version of the hula hoop or the pet rock, a hip new trend that will someday be confined to your parents' attic, mysterious artifacts of pop culture tremors since vanished.

And mocked. As racism-embracing nitwits incapable of discerning truth from fiction despite having access to nearly all of human history tucked in the space before a single wandering thumb, its adherents should be mocked. There is not enough mocking of willful, self-absorbed, self-interested gullibility these days, which is why it spreads so prolifically. If you willingly listen to Fox News hosts lie to you night after night and become irate at contrary information, you are a self-built fool and should be treated as such. If you believe that Donald Trump, serial sex abuser, pedophile-adjacent thug is the good Christian hero who will secretly reveal that everyone aside from him is the dribbling pervert he appears to be, however, you are something closer to a half-sentient wart. You should be pilloried as one of the true suckers of the planet.

Congratulations, all those willing to fall for transparent anti-Semitic gobbledegook rather than admit you got played by a skeevy lifelong con man. You certainly have revealed yourselves.

Paul Krugman explains why Ayn Rand's libertarianism is absolutely deadly

During the coronavirus crisis, President Donald Trump and many of his Republican allies have not only downplayed the severity of the pandemic — they have also vehemently opposed social distancing restrictions, mask wearing and other measures meant to slow down the spread of COVID-19. Liberal economist Paul Krugman discusses that mindset this week in his New York Times column, slamming it as "libertarianism gone bad" and the toxic influence of the late right-wing author Ayn Rand.

"If you look at what Republican politicians are saying as the pandemic rips through their states," Krugman explains, "you see a lot of science denial. Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota has gone full Trump — questioning the usefulness of masks and encouraging potential superspreader events…. But you also see a lot of libertarian rhetoric — a lot of talk about 'freedom' and 'personal responsibility.'"

Noting the autumn surge in COVID-19 infections that is occurring across the U.S., Krugman writes, "Donald Trump's disastrous leadership is, of course, an important factor. But I also blame Ayn Rand — or, more generally, libertarianism gone bad, a misunderstanding of what freedom is all about."

Krugman agrees with libertarians that there are many times when the government needs to butt out and mind its own business. But when a pandemic poses so great a threat to public health, Krugman argues, it isn't government overreach to encourage social distancing or ask someone to wear a mask in public.

"Many things should be matters of individual choice," Krugman argues. "The government has no business dictating your cultural tastes, your faith or what you decide to do with other consenting adults. But refusing to wear a face covering during a pandemic, or insisting on mingling indoors with large groups, isn't like following the church of your choice. It's more like dumping raw sewage into a reservoir that supplies other people's drinking water."

According to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 1.1 million people worldwide and over 223,600 in the United States — and some health officials fear that the worst is yet to come if the pandemic follows a path similar to that of the 1918/1919 Spanish flu pandemic, which went from bad to worse during its second wave. Whatever happens this winter, COVID-19 has already killed a staggering number of people. And in light of all the misery the novel coronavirus has inflicted, Krugman stresses, it is hardly unreasonable to ask Americans to take precautions.

"Many prominent figures still don't seem to understand, or aren't willing to understand, why we should be practicing social distancing," Krugman explains. "It's not primarily about protecting ourselves — if it were, it would indeed be a personal choice. Instead, it's about not endangering others. Wearing a mask may provide some protection to the wearer, but mostly, it limits the chance that you'll infect other people…. Trump may complain that 'all you hear is COVID, COVID, COVID.' The fact, however, is that the current path of the pandemic is terrifying — and we desperately need leadership from politicians who will take it seriously."

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