Trump goes all-in on the 'nightmare scenario' as he openly attacks counting ballots

Repeating his desire for a winner to be declared on the night of November 3, President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday that he doesn't "believe" tallying votes for weeks after Election Day is lawful, a remark observers interpreted as yet another open signal of the president's intention to challenge the counting of legally submitted ballots.

"It would be very, very proper and very nice if a winner were declared on November 3, instead of counting ballots for two weeks, which is totally inappropriate, and I don't believe that that's by our laws," Trump said before departing the White House for a campaign rally in Lansing, Michigan. "I don't believe that. So we'll see what happens."

It is, in fact, perfectly legal for states to count ballots for weeks after the election; some states allow mail-in ballots to arrive up to two weeks after November 3 as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. Due to the unprecedented surge in mail-in voting sparked by the pandemic, the process of tallying ballots and determining the election winner is expected to take longer than usual.

"He wants to throw out legal votes. That's what he's saying here," tweeted Garance Franke-Ruta, executive editor of GEN magazine.

Watch Trump's comments:

Progressive critics and election analysts have long been warning of a "nightmare scenario" in which Trump falsely declares himself the winner on November 3 based on an early lead in in-person votes and proceeds to declare all votes counted after Election Day illegitimate. The president's comments Tuesday bolstered those fears.

"Donald Trump is planning to everything he can to make sure your vote doesn't count," progressive advocacy group Indivisible—part of a coalition planning mass protests should Trump attempt to steal the election—said in response to the president's remarks Tuesday, which came hours after the conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the battleground state of Wisconsin cannot extend its Election Day deadline for the arrival of mail-in ballots.

In his concurring opinion in the case, Trump-nominated Justice Brett Kavanaugh parroted the president's attack on the common state practice of counting ballots that arrive after Election Day—a possible indication that Kavanaugh is, as Slate's Mark Joseph Stern put it, "open to stealing the election for Trump."

The implications of Kavanaugh's reason could reach beyond Wisconsin. As Stern pointed out on Twitter, North Carolina Republicans are already citing Kavanaugh's argument to justify their own push for the Supreme Court to limit the state's absentee ballot deadline.

"Brett Kavanaugh's stunning opinion last night should be a huge story today," said Stern. "It cast aspersions on mail ballots. It's riddled with errors. It endorses a theory too radical for the Bush v. Gore majority. It's a preemptive attack on our election's integrity.

news & politics

Justice Barrett is the culmination of the right's five-year misogynist temper tantrum

It was five years and two months ago that candidate Donald Trump became livid that a mere woman — Fox News host Megyn Kelly — had the temerity to talk back to him, and responded with a vile sexist dig. Kelly is no friend to feminists, but for once in her miserable career as a right-wing troll, she had done the right thing: Standing up to Trump's sexism.

During a Fox News debate in August of 2015, Kelly had questioned Trump's long history of calling women "'fat pigs,' 'dogs,' 'slobs,' and 'disgusting animals.'"

Trump responded by going on a multi-day rampage to silence and punish Kelly, calling her a "bimbo" and telling CNN's Don Lemon that there was "blood coming out of her eyes" and "blood coming out of her wherever."

There was loud outcry at this sexist sneering, but it was also clear that Trump gambled correctly in believing that the Republican base would be thrilled at this misogynist outburst and would embrace his candidacy as a weapon against any women who injured their sensitive-snowflake feelings by speaking up against sexism.

Now, five-plus years later, Trump and the Republicans are still at it, swearing in Amy Coney Barrett as the newest associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. Barrett isn't there because she's especially qualified or intelligent. No, the entire purpose of her nomination in the last days of the campaign is to get in one more giant fuck-you to feminists before the women's vote throws Trump out on his butt.

It's all part of the same project: The right is using Trump's presidency as a weapon to punish women for speaking out against sexism, and to put women in their place.

Of course picking Barrett over any other cookie-cutter right-wing ideologues was about trolling feminists. The "joke" is that they've replaced a legendary feminist — the recently departed Ruth Bader Ginsburg — with a woman who believes husbands are the "heads" of their wives and who refused to agree with the 1965 Supreme Court decision that legalized birth control.

In case there is any lingering doubt that Republicans view Barrett's nomination mainly as a way to trigger the feminists, the Republican House Judiciary Twitter account announced the confirmation with this tweet:

That the first impulse of whoever runs the official account of a House committee's minority was to snap Clinton's bra strap, virtually speaking, tells the whole story about how much sexism has pickled right-wing brains. The entire GOP now exists primarily as a weapon to lash out at liberals for daring to make conservatives feel bad about sexism, racism and other forms of bigotry.

The years between Trump mocking women's menstrual cycles and Republicans putting Serena Joy on the Supreme Court have been one long, miserable temper tantrum by right-wing men who are furious at feminists for demanding equality, furious at Hillary Clinton for believing that a woman could be president, and furious at the #MeToo movement for demanding women's right to go through life unmolested by sleazeball men.

It's impossible to catalog the amount of abuse that has been heaped on American women over the past five years. There was the "grab 'em by the pussy" tape and the "lock her up" chants. There's the way Trump lashes out at any female reporter who challenges him and the way he and his supporters obsessively hate on any woman, from the members of the "Squad" to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who talks back to him. There's Trump's reflexive use of the word "nasty" to describe any woman who speaks out. There's the utter fury of Brett Kavanaugh at attempts to hold him accountable for an accusation of sexual assault, which spread like wildfire through the right, as conservatives nationwide screamed in outrage and fear at the very thought that violence against women should ever be held against a white man, especially an upstanding upper-class conservative.

Then there were the policy assaults on women. Trump's administration has waged war on contraception access, trying to end coverage by health insurance and cut off funding for clinics that offer birth control at discounted rates. Republicans took yet another whack at trying to ban abortion with Kavanaugh on the court. That effort failed because of the legal sloppiness of the case, but there's little doubt that with Barrett on the court, the next pass will succeed. (Unless, of course, Democrats are able to expand the court!) The Department of Education has rolled back protections against sexual harassment and assault, for both college and K-12 students. The Department of Justice has tried — and so far failed — to argue that taxpayers should fund a legal battle between Trump and one of the two dozen women who has accused him of sexual assault.

Much attention has been paid to the role that racism played in the election of Trump, but research shows that misogyny was right up there, too. Holding sexist beliefs was nearly as strong a predictor of a vote for Trump as holding racist beliefs.

Plenty of feminists saw this coming years ahead of time, sounding the alarm about pre-Trump misogynist movements like Gamergate and the bizarre but loud tantrum many men had about lady Ghostbusters. There's also been significant evidence that the neofascist movement uses misogyny as a recruiting tool, to get bitter and insecure young men in the door before indoctrinating them with white nationalism.

But those warnings were largely ignored by a mainstream media that was not just male-dominated but run in part by sexual harassers and abusers who were later outed by the #MeToo movement. It was made worse by those on the left who hated Hillary Clinton, often for reasons that reeked of sexism, and were quick to shame woman who objected to the Hillary hate as "vagina voters."

This whole situation is depressing as hell, but there is hope, possibly more than on any other progressive front: American women are extremely angry about all this.

The misogyny of the Trump administration and their supporters has been met with a feminist uprising unlike any that's been seen since the '70s, from the Women's March to the #MeToo movement to the 2018 midterms in which a record number of women were elected. If Trump is defeated at the polls next week, it will largely be because of women, as polls show they support Joe Biden by huge margins, while more men still support Trump.

It's a bummer it had to get this bad before so many women woke up, of course. But feminist momentum is real, even if it's fueled by so many Jill-come-latelys. With that kind of power, there's a chance to right this ship. By being so over-the-top with the misogyny and electing a man who literally brags about how much he enjoys committing sexual assault, Republicans may have pressed their luck too far. The feminist backlash they're facing could change the world.

election '20

The feeling of powerlessness and despair felt many voters is emblematic of a much deeper problem in America

Donald Trump is not the central problem in American politics, and neither is the 2020 presidential election, as dire and urgent as those things seem at the moment. Our real problem is that our democracy is not a democracy, and that many Americans — most of them, I would argue — feel powerless, disenfranchised and despairing, confronted with a dysfunctional system that thrives on massive inequality and serves the interests only of the richest and most powerful. Those systemic problems made Trump's presidency possible in the first place, and created the circumstances that make this election seem like a last-ditch struggle against autocracy.

I'm here to tell you there are signs of real hope — but they have almost nothing to do with the question of who wins next week's election. Don't get me wrong: I'm invested in the outcome too. But I also suspect that in the longer arc of history, it might not matter all that much.

If you're reading this during the last days of October 2020, almost anywhere in the world, you don't need me to tell you that the final stretch of this presidential campaign has been agonizing. It's probably closer to the truth to say that the last four or so years of our nation's history have felt agonizing, not to mention draining and dispiriting, and that the coronavirus-dampened 2020 campaign has distilled all that into its purest form.

Time has simultaneously been stretched and compressed by the surreal theater of the Trump presidency, which has felt endless largely because the same damn things keep happening over and over — disguised as brand new outrages — in an atmosphere suffused with dread, as if we were trapped in some art-student horror movie. Lenin's supposed remark that there are decades when nothing happens and weeks when decades happen (which he almost certainly did not say) needs reworking: There are days that contain years of turmoil and suffering, and entire years that vanish into memory like bad dreams.

There is just a week to go, as I write this, until we reach the culminating stage (perhaps) of an election that we have told ourselves is a crucial turning point in the history of American democracy — but may well be remembered by posterity more in comic or pathetic terms. It looks from here as if a majority of American voters are poised to deliver a sweeping repudiation of Donald Trump and the psychotic, zombified Republican Party that he nominally rules, quite likely in the form of a "wave" election that will reshape the political landscape for years to come.

At least that would be the logical conclusion: As I've written before, no incumbent president can reasonably hope to survive this much bad news. But logic and reason have little purchase in America's dreamscape, and right now nobody much wants to listen to conventional bromides about what could happen or might happen or will probably happen. Odds are you just want the whole damn thing to be over: the campaign, the pandemic, the rising tide of social unease and constant low-level threats of political violence, the perennial suspension of disbelief of the "Trump era." Who could blame you?

You certainly don't want me to tell you that none of that stuff will actually go away, no matter what happens on or after Nov. 3. Or that electing Joe Biden and a bunch of Democratic senators won't actually fix anything about our broken political system or resolve the deep-rooted social and economic contradictions that got us here.

Democrats and "liberals," of course, remain anguished and haunted by the never-to-be-resolved trauma of 2016, and by the subsequent years of ineffectual hope that somebody would make it all go away, or make it never have happened in the first place: God or Congress or the New York Times or Robert Mueller and his posse of establishmentarian white knights.

Trying to stir up drama in a race that has remained virtually stagnant ever since Biden locked down the Democratic nomination in March — at virtually the same moment as the coronavirus shut down the country — the mainstream media keeps gleefully reminding us that it remains possible Trump could win again, by fair means or foul. There's something to be said for steeling yourself against bad outcomes, but too many people in the left-liberal quadrant of politics — as in almost all of us — seem to be obsessed or paralyzed by those possibilities. We devour the latest polls but tell ourselves not to believe them, casting salt over our shoulders and muttering incantations to the numinous entities of our choosing.

Like frightened children left alone in the dark, we invent bogeymen and invest them with immense power: "Shy Trump voters" will come out of the woods and turn the tide; the Postal Service will delay or destroy millions of votes; Republican legislatures in swing states will defy the voters and appoint their own slates of electors; Justice Amy Coney Barrett, newly fitted for her robes, will write an eloquent Supreme Court opinion finding that according to the Constitution's original intent, votes in heavily Democratic precincts simply don't count. Somehow or other, Trump will refuse to yield power even after a conclusive defeat, and somehow or other — with the help of Russian propaganda, Bill Barr's devious machinations and the fine print of the 12th Amendment — he'll get away with it.

I'm not saying that there's no basis in reality for some or all of those fears, and it's only human to resort to magical thinking in times of great stress. As bizarre and unlikely as the outcome of the 2016 election was, it happened — and it did indeed feel like the hand of fate, punishing America for its arrogance and hubris. Mathematically speaking, it could happen again. But taken together, all that fear and fatalism have created a paranoid landscape in which ordinary Americans feel powerless, waiting in finger-chewing, insomniac anxiety for the verdict of history to be handed down. That will happen in just seven or eight days, as I said earlier. Or perhaps it will be more like 14 or 15 days, when a final vote count should be completed. Or maybe 40 days, the approximate deadline for the states to send their electoral votes to Washington. Or, hell, it could take 70 days or so, right up to the moment in early January when the new Congress must count those votes and certify the victor.

I know, it's torture, and it feels like it will never go away. But this waiting, this dread, this feeling of powerlessness and despair are emblematic of a much deeper problem in America's so-called democracy, next to which the question of President Biden or President Trump is nearly an afterthought. The real problem, as I said above, is that our democracy is not much of a democracy, a problem that is doubly or trebly multiplied in presidential elections. (I live in a state where my vote for president makes literally no difference at all. There's better than a two-thirds chance that you do too.)

Voting, the central ritual of American-style democracy, has become the subject of much conflict this year. It is endlessly fetishized and treated with mournful, religious reverence — both by those who would expand it and those who desperately seek to limit or suppress it. What neither side says out loud is that voting is always the most minimal and compromised form of political power, and that treating it as the be-all and end-all of democracy often distracts people from other, more effective, means.

I'm not saying that voting is not important. I'm not rolling out the old leftist line that both major parties are servants of the same corporate masters and there's no point even bothering. That's a half-truth that has metastasized into a lie, as is especially obvious here and now, and we have seen enough close elections in enough different contexts over the last few years to understand that exercising the franchise can be crucial.

But voting is just one helpful but minor aspect of democracy — and in a locked-down, binary political system, always involves a set of negotiations and compromises. It isn't sanctifying or virtuous, and when smug commentators start saying it is, I get that impulse to check whether my wallet is still there. People who don't vote because they think it's pointless and the whole system is bullshit may be overly cynical, but they've got a point. National elections in the United States have become a bizarre form of symbolic theater or public therapy. If you donated money to Amy McGrath's unwinnable Senate race against Mitch McConnell this year, I hope that made you feel better — because it certainly didn't accomplish anything else.

America's climate of near-permanent electioneering, in which the next presidential campaign starts as soon as the midterm elections are over, is itself a symptom of unhealthy democracy. Our quadrennial search for a messiah, or for the least bad option — staged as a mediocre, long-running entertainment spectacle — sucks up so much time, so much psychic energy and so much money that it is better understood as an impediment to democracy than as its demonstration or its instrument.

We don't have to go all the way to Mao Zedong's famous maxim that political power comes from the barrel of a gun in order to free ourselves from electoral hypnosis — although one could say that the armed militiamen who occupied the Michigan state house earlier this year had absorbed part of Mao's lesson, without any of his party-building discipline. Violence and threats of violence are certainly expressions of political power — and can effectuate change far more rapidly than the slow grind of electoral democracy — but in the 21st century more tolerant and tolerable examples are all around us, well short of the guillotine or the Bolshevik Revolution.

Indeed, America's election hypnosis sometimes conceals the obvious truth that direct action — peaceful or otherwise — is what moves the political process forward, not the other way around. In their famous White House meeting, Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr. both understood that the constant ground-level pressure of protests (and the impending possibility of something more than nonviolent civil disobedience) was the only force that would compel reluctant Southern Democrats to support the landmark civil rights and voting rights laws that followed. According to Bill Moyers, the only other person in the room, LBJ told MLK, more or less, "You've got to make me do it."

Or consider the early to mid-1980s, when gay men and drug users were dying in large numbers from a mysterious illness, and neither political party wanted to touch the issue. People with AIDS were treated at best with pity and condescension, and at worst as disgusting sodomites who had brought a divine plague upon themselves. As Anthony Fauci could tell you, it was the often angry and controversial activism of groups like ACT UP and Gay Men's Health Crisis that changed the course of that epidemic and ultimately revolutionized the relationship between medical science, pharmaceutical research and the human beings those institutions were supposed to help.

In the late 1990s, the mainstream media was largely mystified or bemused by what was called the "anti-globalization movement," a series of confrontational protest actions that sought to unite labor unions, environmentalists and the anti-capitalist left, culminating in the "Battle of Seattle" during a 1999 conference of the World Trade Organization. Those protesters were depicted as '60s throwbacks, unwashed tree-hugging lunatics or (at times) violent anarchist radicals, and their movement was generally deemed an incoherent failure.

But it wasn't. Two decades later, both American political parties have largely abandoned neoliberal "free trade" agreements — and the vision of a new left activism, which seemed like a ludicrous dream in the Bill Clinton era, has come to fruition in multiple ways. That relatively tiny activist moment 20-odd years ago wasn't a '60s flashback: It was a new seedling that produced many offshoots and tendrils; leading more or less directly to Bernie Sanders' political campaigns and the resurgence of socialism, the more radical strains of climate activism, the street-action tendency now called antifa, Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter.

In our own time and a far more mainstream register, the Women's March emerged as a direct and extraordinary response to Trump's election — but can anyone doubt that the Democratic "blue wave" midterm election of 2018 was a direct result of the Women's March? In terms of restoring a sense of hope and possibility, along with the real potential of democracy, which of those things was more meaningful: Millions of women and men and children in the streets, proclaiming their rejection of an illegitimate misogynist president elected by a political fluke, or Nancy Pelosi?

In terms of conventional political outcomes, the recent explosion of activism among younger adults and teenagers, from the post-Parkland student movement to Greta Thunberg and the climate strikers to the massive Black Lives Matter protests all across America (and the world) this past summer, has not actually accomplished anything. But those are unmistakable expressions of political power that announce the rising consciousness of a new generation.

These younger activists have noticeably shifted the national temperature and the national discourse on guns and the climate crisis and police violence. (Consider how far the Biden campaign's rhetoric has moved since the beginning of the primary season.) They have helped create an environment where the widespread popular rejection of Donald Trump and the Republican agenda seems not just possible but nearly inevitable. There is no way to know what long-term political impact they will have, but they offer far more lasting hope for the renewal of democracy than whatever President Joe Biden and a hypothetical Democratic Congress may accomplish.

This year's election will come and go — and that can't happen soon enough. But Americans are beginning to understand what political power is, and how it works. Maybe they'll learn to use it before it's too late.


Trump claims he created a ‘booming’ economy. Economists say he inherited it from Obama

With the 2020 presidential election only a week away, President Donald Trump continues to brag that he single-handedly turned the U.S. economy around after taking office in January 2017. But journalist Rebecca Carballo, in a report for the Houston Chronicle, stresses that according to economists, Trump inherited an economy that was already in recovery when he took office.

"Despite Trump's claims of an economic renaissance under his administration," Carballo explains, "data show the pre-pandemic economy growing along trends established during the second term of former President Barack Obama. The coronavirus, however, disrupted those trends, reshaping the debate not only over who should get credit for the earlier boom, but also, how to respond to unprecedented hardships created by the pandemic and manage what economists say could be a long, difficult recovery."

Obama took office in January 2009 during the Great Recession, which was the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Economically, 2009 and 2010 were brutal. Unemployment in the United States reached 10% in December 2009 but decreased considerably during Obama's second term. In December 2016, Obama's last full month in office, the Bureau of Labor Statistics' official unemployment rate was 4.7%.

In other words, Trump's claim that his presidency alone created a "booming" economy is bogus. The president who oversaw the United States' recovery from the Great Recession was Obama, not Trump — although unemployment continued to decrease in 2018 and 2019 before soaring in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Trump's argument for another term has focused on the three years of prosperity before COVID-19," Carballo notes. "But even Trump's favorite indicator — the stock market — shows the economy's performance during the Trump Administration is similar to Obama's second term. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 45% during Obama's last four years, compared to 50% under Trump when the market peaked in February and 44% as of Friday's close."


'Follow Trump off a cliff’: Psychological analysis reveals 14 key traits of people who support the president

As he himself said even before he won the presidential election in 2016, "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters." Unfortunately for the American people, this wild-sounding claim appears to be truer than not, at least for the majority of his supporters, and that is something that should disturb us. It should also motivate us to explore the science underlying such peculiar human behavior, so we can learn from it, and potentially inoculate against it.

In all fairness, we should recognize that lying is sadly not uncommon for politicians on both sides of the political aisle, but the frequency and magnitude of the current president's lies should have us all wondering why they haven't destroyed his political career, and instead perhaps strengthened it. Similarly, we should be asking why his inflammatory rhetoric and numerous scandals haven't sunk him. We are talking about a man who was caught on tape saying, "When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy." Politically surviving that video is not normal, or anything close to it, and we can be sure that such a revelation would have been the end of Barack Obama or George Bush had it surfaced weeks before the election.

While dozens of psychologists have analyzed Trump, to explain the man's political invincibility, it is more important to understand the minds of his staunch supporters. While there have been various popular articles that have illuminated a multitude of reasons for his unwavering support, there appears to be no comprehensive analysis that contains all of them. Since there seems to be a real demand for this information, I have tried to provide that analysis below.

Some of the explanations come from a 2017 review paper published in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology by the psychologist and UC Santa Cruz professor Thomas Pettigrew. Others have been put forth as far back as 2016 by myself, a cognitive neuroscience and psychology researcher, in various articles and blog posts for publications like Psychology Today. A number of these were inspired by insights from psychologists like Sheldon Solomon, who laid the groundwork for the influential Terror Management Theory, and David Dunning, who did the same for the Dunning-Kruger effect

This list will begin with the more benign reasons for Trump's intransigent support, and as the list goes on, the explanations become increasingly worrisome, and toward the end, border on the pathological. It should be strongly emphasized that not all Trump supporters are racist, mentally vulnerable, or fundamentally bad people. It can be detrimental to society when those with degrees and platforms try to demonize their political opponents or paint them as mentally ill when they are not. That being said, it is just as harmful to pretend that there are not clear psychological and neural factors that underlie much of Trump supporters' unbridled allegiance.

The psychological phenomena described below mostly pertain to those supporters who would follow Trump off a cliff. These are the people who will stand by his side no matter what scandals come to light, or what sort of evidence for immoral and illegal behavior surfaces.

1. Practicality Trumps Morality

For some wealthy people, it's simply a financial matter. Trump offers tax cuts for the rich and wants to do away with government regulation that gets in the way of businessmen making money, even when that regulation exists for the purpose of protecting the environment. Others, like blue-collared workers, like the fact that the president is trying to bring jobs back to America from places like China. Some people who genuinely are not racist (those who are will be discussed later) simply want stronger immigration laws because they know that a country with open borders is not sustainable. These people have put their practical concerns above their moral ones. To them, it does not matter if he's a vagina-grabber, or if his campaign team colluded with Russia to help him defeat his political opponent. It is unknown whether these people are eternally bound to Trump in the way others are, but we may soon find out if the Mueller investigation is allowed to come to completion.

2. The Brain's Attention System Is More Strongly Engaged by Trump

According to a study that monitored brain activity while participants watched 40 minutes of political ads and debate clips from the presidential candidates, Donald Trump is unique in his ability to keep the brain engaged. While Hillary Clinton could only hold attention for so long, Trump kept both attention and emotional arousal high throughout the viewing session. This pattern of activity was seen even when Trump made remarks that individuals didn't necessarily agree with. His showmanship and simple language clearly resonate with some at a visceral level

3. America's Obsession with Entertainment and Celebrities

Essentially, the loyalty of Trump supporters may in part be explained by America's addiction with entertainment and reality TV. To some, it doesn't matter what Trump actually says because he's so amusing to watch. With the Donald, you are always left wondering what outrageous thing he is going to say or do next. He keeps us on the edge of our seat, and for that reason, some Trump supporters will forgive anything he says. They are happy as long as they are kept entertained

4. "Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn."

Some intelligent people who know better are supporting Trump simply to be rebellious or to introduce chaos into the political system. They may have such distaste for the establishment and Democrats like Hillary Clinton that their support for Trump is a symbolic middle finger directed at Washington. These people do not have their priorities straight, and perhaps have other issues, like an innate desire to troll others, or a deranged obsession with schadenfreude.

5. The Fear-Factor: Conservatives Are More Sensitive to Threat

Science has unequivocally shown that the conservative brain has an exaggerated fear response when faced with stimuli that may be perceived as threatening. A 2008 study in the journal Science found that conservatives have a stronger physiological reaction to startling noises and graphic images compared to liberals. A brain-imaging study published in Current Biology revealed that those who lean right politically tend to have a larger amygdala — a structure that is electrically active during states of fear and anxiety. And a 2014 fMRI study found that it is possible to predict whether someone is a liberal or conservative simply by looking at their brain activity while they view threatening or disgusting images, such as mutilated bodies. Specifically, the brains of self-identified conservatives generated more activity overall in response to the disturbing images.

These brain responses are automatic, and not influenced by logic or reason. As long as Trump continues his fear mongering by constantly portraying Muslims and Hispanic immigrants as imminent dangers, many conservative brains will involuntarily light up like light bulbs being controlled by a switch. Fear keeps his followers energized and focused on safety. And when you think you've found your protector, you become less concerned with offensive and divisive remarks.

6. The Power of Mortality Reminders and Perceived Existential Threat

A well-supported theory from social psychology, known as Terror Management Theory, explains why Trump's fear mongering is doubly effective. The theory is based on the fact that humans have a unique awareness of their own mortality. The inevitability of one's death creates existential terror and anxiety that is always residing below the surface. In order to manage this terror, humans adopt cultural worldviews — like religions, political ideologies, and national identities — that act as a buffer by instilling life with meaning and value.

Terror Management Theory predicts that when people are reminded of their own mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they will more strongly defend those who share their worldviews and national or ethnic identity, and act out more aggressively towards those who do not. Hundreds of studies have confirmed this hypothesis, and some have specifically shown that triggering thoughts of death tends to shift people towards the right.

Not only do death reminders increase nationalism, they influence actual voting habits in favor of more conservative presidential candidates. And more disturbingly, in a study with American students, scientists found that making mortality salient increased support for extreme military interventions by American forces that could kill thousands of civilians overseas. Interestingly, the effect was present only in conservatives, which can likely be attributed to their heightened fear response.

By constantly emphasizing existential threat, Trump creates a psychological condition that makes the brain respond positively rather than negatively to bigoted statements and divisive rhetoric. Liberals and Independents who have been puzzled over why Trump hasn't lost supporters after such highly offensive comments need look no further than Terror Management Theory.

    7. The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Humans Often Overestimate Their Political Expertise

    Some support Donald Trump do so out of ignorance — basically they are under-informed or misinformed about the issues at hand. When Trump tells them that crime is skyrocketing in the United States, or that the economy is the worst it's ever been, they simply take his word for it.

    The Dunning-Kruger effect explains that the problem isn't just that they are misinformed; it's that they are completely unaware that they are misinformed, which creates a double burden.

    Studies have shown that people who lack expertise in some area of knowledge often have a cognitive bias that prevents them from realizing that they lack expertise. As psychologist David Dunning puts it in an op-ed for Politico, "The knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task — and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at the task. This includes political judgment." These people cannot be reached because they mistakenly believe they are the ones who should be reaching others.

    8. Relative Deprivation — A Misguided Sense of Entitlement

    Relative deprivation refers to the experience of being deprived of something to which one believes they are entitled. It is the discontent felt when one compares their position in life to others who they feel are equal or inferior but have unfairly had more success than them.

    Common explanations for Trump's popularity among non-bigoted voters involve economics. There is no doubt that some Trump supporters are simply angry that American jobs are being lost to Mexico and China, which is certainly understandable, although these loyalists often ignore the fact that some of these careers are actually being lost due to the accelerating pace of automation.

    These Trump supporters are experiencing relative deprivation, and are common among the swing states like Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. This kind of deprivation is specifically referred to as "relative," as opposed to "absolute," because the feeling is often based on a skewed perception of what one is entitled to.

    9. Lack of Exposure to Dissimilar Others

    Intergroup contact refers to contact with members of groups that are outside one's own, which has been experimentally shown to reduce prejudice. As such, it's important to note that there is growing evidence that Trump's white supporters have experienced significantly less contact with minorities than other Americans. For example, a 2016 study found that "…the racial and ethnic isolation of Whites at the zip-code level is one of the strongest predictors of Trump support." This correlation persisted while controlling for dozens of other variables. In agreement with this finding, the same researchers found that support for Trump increased with the voters' physical distance from the Mexican border. These racial biases might be more implicit than explicit, the latter which is addressed in #14.

    10. Trump's Conspiracy Theories Target the Mentally Vulnerable

    While the conspiracy theory crowd — who predominantly support Donald Trump and crackpot allies like Alex Jones and the shadowy QAnon — may appear to just be an odd quirk of modern society, the truth is that many of them suffer from psychological illnesses that involve paranoia and delusions, such as schizophrenia, or are at least vulnerable to them, like those with schizotypy personalities.

    The link between schizotypy and belief in conspiracy theories is well-established, and a recent study published in the journal Psychiatry Research has demonstrated that it is still very prevalent in the population. The researchers found that those who were more likely to believe in outlandish conspiracy theories, such as the idea that the U.S. government created the AIDs epidemic, consistently scored high on measures of "odd beliefs and magical thinking." One feature of magical thinking is a tendency to make connections between things that are actually unrelated in reality.

    Donald Trump and his media allies target these people directly. All one has to do is visit alt-right websites and discussion boards to see the evidence for such manipulation.

    11. Trump Taps into the Nation's Collective Narcissism

    Collective narcissism is an unrealistic shared belief in the greatness of one's national group. It often occurs when a group who believes it represents the 'true identity' of a nation — the 'ingroup,' in this case White Americans — perceives itself as being disadvantaged compared to outgroups who are getting ahead of them 'unrightfully.' This psychological phenomenon is related to relative deprivation (#6).

    A study published last year in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found a direct link between national collective narcissism and support for Donald Trump. This correlation was discovered by researchers at the University of Warsaw, who surveyed over 400 Americans with a series of questionnaires about political and social beliefs. Where individual narcissism causes aggressiveness toward other individuals, collective narcissism involves negative attitudes and aggression toward 'outsider' groups (outgroups), who are perceived as threats.

    Donald Trump exacerbates collective narcissism with his anti-immigrant, anti-elitist, and strongly nationalistic rhetoric. By referring to his supporters, an overwhelmingly white group, as being "true patriots" or "real Americans," he promotes a brand of populism that is the epitome of "identity politics," a term that is usually associated with the political left. Left-wing identity politics, as misguided as they may sometimes be, are generally aimed at achieving equality, while the right-wing brand is based on a belief that one nationality and race is superior or entitled to success and wealth for no other reason than identity.

    12. The Desire to Want to Dominate Others

    Social dominance orientation (SDO) — which is distinct but related to authoritarian personality syndrome (#13) — refers to people who have a preference for the societal hierarchy of groups, specifically with a structure in which the high-status groups have dominance over the low-status ones. Those with SDO are typically dominant, tough-minded, and driven by self-interest.

    In Trump's speeches, he appeals to those with SDO by repeatedly making a clear distinction between groups that have a generally higher status in society (White), and those groups that are typically thought of as belonging to a lower status (immigrants and minorities). A 2016 survey study of 406 American adults published last year in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that those who scored high on both SDO and authoritarianism were those who intended to vote for Trump in the election.

    13. Authoritarian Personality Syndrome

    Authoritarianism refers to the advocacy or enforcement of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom, and is commonly associated with a lack of concern for the opinions or needs of others. Authoritarian personality syndrome — a well-studied and globally-prevalent condition — is a state of mind that is characterized by belief in total and complete obedience to one's authority. Those with the syndrome often display aggression toward outgroup members, submissiveness to authority, resistance to new experiences, and a rigid hierarchical view of society. The syndrome is often triggered by fear, making it easy for leaders who exaggerate threat or fear monger to gain their allegiance.

    Although authoritarian personality is found among liberals, it is more common among the right-wing around the world. President Trump's speeches, which are laced with absolutist terms like "losers" and "complete disasters," are naturally appealing to those with the syndrome.

    While research showed that Republican voters in the U.S. scored higher than Democrats on measures of authoritarianism before Trump emerged on the political scene, a 2016 Politico survey found that high authoritarians greatly favored then-candidate Trump, which led to a correct prediction that he would win the election, despite the polls saying otherwise

    14. Racism and Bigotry

    It would be grossly unfair and inaccurate to say that every one of Trump's supporters have prejudice against ethnic and religious minorities, but it would be equally inaccurate to say that many do not. It is a well-known fact that the Republican party, going at least as far back to Richard Nixon's "southern strategy," used tactics that appealed to bigotry, such as lacing speeches with "dog whistles" — code words that signaled prejudice toward minorities that were designed to be heard by racists but no one else.

    While the dog whistles of the past were subtler, Trump's signaling is sometimes shockingly direct. There's no denying that he routinely appeals to racist and bigoted supporters when he calls Muslims "dangerous" and Mexican immigrants "rapists" and "murderers," often in a blanketed fashion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a recent study has shown that support for Trump is correlated with a standard scale of modern racism.

    Bobby Azarian is a neuroscientist affiliated with George Mason University and a freelance journalist. His research has been published in journals such as Cognition & Emotion and Human Brain Mapping, and he has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Psychology Today, and Scientific American. Follow him on Twitter @BobbyAzarian.


    Here's what water on the moon means for the future of exploration

    Earth news is a bit anxiety-provoking these days, which might be one reason why the Internet pulled out all the stops to communicate collective enthusiasm over the discovery of vast amounts of water on the moon.

    The finding could be useful to humans who want to leave Earth immediately and live on the moon. (We're only half-joking).

    While scientists previously suspected that water existed in the shadowy, cold parts of the moon — such as its poles, where it would stay frozen — a pair of studies published on Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy confirm that there is a large amount of water on its sunlit regions, too.

    "We had indications that H₂O – the familiar water we know – might be present on the sunlit side of the Moon," Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement. "Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration."

    Yet even the data on water in the moon's darker, colder regions was always iffy. Part of the challenge of finding water on the moon is that the Earth's atmosphere, which has plenty of evaporated water, interferes with ground-based attempts to see water on the moon without the atmosphere interfering. Space telescopes or very high altitude telescopes can alleviate this problem. In this case, NASA used the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), an infrared observatory mounted on a Boeing 747 airplane, which takes observations from the air. SOFIA data suggests strongly that yes, water is present on the sunlit surface of the moon.

    That's particularly unusual given the temperature cycles on the moon: the moon during the day is a scalding 250 degrees Fahrenheit, well above water's boiling point. So why doesn't said water immediately evaporate? As explained in the study, titled "Molecular water detected on the sunlit Moon by SOFIA," scientists detail evidence that hypothesizes the water observed may be trapped in naturally-formed glass on the moon's sunlit regions. Being encased in glass means that the water is impervious to the heating and cooling cycles that would usually evaporate the water. Since the moon doesn't have an atmosphere and there's very little gravity, it's impossible for water to just hang out on its surface like it does here on Earth.

    The second study, titled "Micro Cold Traps on the Moon," catalogs all the potential sites that are cold enough for ice to remain stable, and where water could exist without being trapped in glass.

    "Our results suggest that water trapped at the lunar poles may be more widely distributed and accessible as a resource for future missions than previously thought," the authors state.

    To put the discovery into context, NASA says that the Sahara Desert has 100 times the amount of water than what was detected on the moon's surface.

    Intriguingly, it turns out that there is no shortage of potential places where water could exist on the moon without being trapped in glass. According to the study, the moon's southern polar region may hold nearly 40,000 square kilometers of lunar surface with water ice.

    These studies are changing the way scientists look at the moon. Perhaps it is more than a dark, dry, and rocky place.

    "Without a thick atmosphere, water on the sunlit lunar surface should just be lost to space," Casey Honniball, a lead author of one of the studies, said in a statement. "Yet somehow we're seeing it. Something is generating the water, and something must be trapping it there."

    According to NASA there are a few ways the water could be stored— in either "beadlike structures in the soil," or "hidden" between "grains of lunar soil and sheltered from the sunlight."

    So, what does this all mean for moon colonization? Well, it might not mean that humans can move there once climate change gets us. But it does mean that NASA astronauts could perhaps spend significantly more time on the moon before needing to come home for a resupply.

    "The existence of significant amounts of water on the lunar surface can be helpful for establishing a sustainable base there in the context of NASA's Artemis program with its international partners," Avi Loeb, chair of Harvard's astronomy department, told Salon via email. "This will be the first step in advancing humanity to more distant destinations, such as Mars and beyond."

    Loeb added: "There is no doubt that our future lies in space, not only for national security and commercial benefits but mainly for scientific exploration aimed at opening new horizons to our civilization."


    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...

    more news

    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

    Here's the case for impeaching Clarence Thomas — the most corrupt Supreme Court Justice

    With the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, the radical right has completed its long and painstaking project to seize control of the Supreme Court, and to reshape constitutional law for generations to come. Barrett's elevation will give conservatives a 6-3 majority on the court and usher in a crisis of legitimacy for the third branch of government not seen since the 1930s.

    The right's triumph has prompted anger and soul-searching among Democrats and progressives, sparking calls to expand the number of Supreme Court justices, echoing Franklin D. Roosevelt's unsuccessful effort to add additional seats to the high tribunal in the midst of the Great Depression.

    Enlarging the Supreme Court is entirely within the power of Congress, as the number of justices is not set by the Constitution. The court's composition has, in fact, varied over time, ranging from six justices when the Constitution was ratified to 10 in 1863. The panel was reduced to nine by an act of Congress in 1867 and has remained there since then by statute.

    While Democrats should definitely demand court expansion if they retake the White House and the Senate and hold the House, there is at least one additional step they should take to address the court's legitimacy crisis—the impeachment of its most corrupt member—Clarence Thomas.

    Thomas should be impeached on charges of perjury for allegedly lying in his annual financial disclosure statements for over a decade and, more fundamentally, for lying in his 1991 confirmation hearing about his disgusting history of sexual harassment.

    Although federal judges are appointed for life, their terms are subject to "good behavior." Like all civil officers of the United States, they can be removed, under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, "on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

    The impeachment process, as we were reminded by the experience of President Trump, consists of two basic steps: First, members of the House of Representatives impeach an official by adopting, on a simple majority vote, one or more articles of impeachment, which read very much like a criminal complaint or a grand jury indictment. Step two proceeds with a trial in the Senate, which has the power to convict on a two-thirds ballot. Ouster from office follows conviction automatically, and cannot be appealed.

    Only three presidents—Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Trump—have been impeached in our history, and all were exonerated in their Senate trials. A fourth, Richard Nixon, resigned in the face of near-certain impeachment and removal for his role in the Watergate scandal.

    The impeachment of federal judges, by contrast, has been far more common. To date, 15 federal judges have been impeached, and eight have been convicted by the Senate. Indeed, the only Senate impeachment trials resulting in convictions have involved judges.

    Since 1988, three federal judges have been impeached and removed on charges involving perjury. The last judge to be impeached was G. Thomas Porteous Jr. of the Eastern District of Louisiana, a Clinton appointee who was convicted by the Senate and ejected from office in December 2010 for accepting bribes and, among other derelictions, signing false financial declarations under penalty of perjury.

    Thomas, if targeted, would become just the second Supreme Court Justice to be impeached. In 1804, the House charged Associate Justice Samuel Chase with eight articles of impeachment for engaging in arbitrary and oppressive conduct and expressing political bias while serving as a trial judge in certain Sedition Act cases during an era when Supreme Court justices also conducted trials. An outspoken Federalist and supporter of John Adams, Chase incurred the ire of Thomas Jefferson and his Republican allies. Chase was acquitted the following year in a Senate trial presided over by Vice President Aaron Burr. (The chief justice of the Supreme Court presides only in presidential impeachment trials.)

    As the Senate's website instructs, Chase's exoneration has since been construed to insulate the "judiciary from… congressional attacks based on disapproval of judges' opinions." Guided by the Chase example, an impeachment proceeding against Thomas could not be initiated because of policy differences Democrats may have with him, even though Thomas has demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the constitutional rights of minorities, women and criminal defendants during his tenure on the Supreme Court.

    Like Porteous, however, Thomas is vulnerable to perjury allegations.

    Under the 1978 Ethics in Government Act, all high-ranking federal officials are required to file yearly financial disclosure statements for themselves and their spouses to safeguard against conflicts of interest. But for 13 years, Thomas failed to report his wife Virginia's earnings on the mandatory annual financial disclosure forms that he signed under penalty of perjury, indicating that his spouse had no non-investment income when in fact she was steadily employed in high-level jobs as a policy analyst and an outspoken conservative activist.

    According to Common Cause, Virginia—who is also a lawyer and a one-time aide to former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey—received more than $686,000 between 2003 and 2007, working for the Heritage Foundation. In 2011, claiming incredulously that he had misunderstood his reporting responsibilities, Thomas amended his financial disclosures, which can now be examined on the website.

    As University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos pointed out in a 2011 Daily Beast article, "The relevant question on the disclosure form isn't complicated: Even if Justice Thomas wasn't a lawyer, he shouldn't have needed to hire one to explain to him that the box marked NONE next to the phrase 'Spouse's Non-Investment Income' should only be checked if his spouse had no non-investment income." In Campos' view, Thomas' omissions were "criminal."

    Thomas' alleged perjury in his testimony before Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 was of a far greater magnitude, centering on his denial under oath that he harassed Anita Hill and other female colleagues while he served as the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

    The clash between Hill and Thomas was televised and made for riveting viewing, even more so than the rancorous battle over the 2018 confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. Thomas was treated with kid gloves by the all-male members of the Judiciary Committee, who sat largely in silence as he denied ever engaging in inappropriate behavior and claimed that he was being "subjected to a 'high-tech lynching.'"

    Hill, who is now a professor of social policy and law at Brandeis University, was treated with scorn and contempt by the Judiciary Committee. Some members called her "delusional," suggested she was mentally "unstable" and was a "scorned woman" out for revenge against Thomas for rebuffing her romantic advances.

    In addition to assassinating Hill's character, the committee, under the chairmanship of Joe Biden, then the senior Democratic senator from Delaware, declined to call three other female Thomas accusers to testify at the hearing. One of those accusers, writer Angela Wright, remains an outspoken critic of Thomas, and has publicly called for his impeachment. Anita Hill, too, has never wavered, insisting she told the truth.

    Unlike criminal trials, impeachment proceedings are not governed by statutes of limitations. In any event, it is never too late to do justice and provide Hill and Thomas' other accusers with the fair hearing they never received.

    Even assuming Thomas would avoid conviction in the Senate, his impeachment trial would be nothing like the farce of Trump's proceeding. With Democrats holding a majority in the Senate and Kamala Harris presiding as vice president, documents would be subpoenaed and witnesses, including Thomas, would be called to testify.

    The impeachment of Thomas would also offer Biden a full and final opportunity to make amends for the past. Above all, combined with a move to expand the number of seats on the Supreme Court, impeaching Thomas would restore the legitimacy of the judiciary as a bulwark of constitutional rights, and send a message that the nation has had enough of Republican efforts to return the country to the dark days before the New Deal and the civil rights movement.

    Before any of that happens, of course, Donald Trump and his GOP enablers must be defeated at the polls.

    Bill Blum is a retired judge and a lawyer in Los Angeles. He is a lecturer at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. He writes regularly on law and politics and is the author of three widely acclaimed legal thrillers: Prejudicial Error, The Last Appeal, and The Face of Justice.

    This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

    A Fox host throws Lindsey Graham under the bus as he struggles to keep his Senate seat

    Fox Business host and indefatigable Trump ally Lou Dobbs ripped into Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., over the weekend, telling his overwhelmingly conservative audience in the final countdown to Election Day that he did not know "why anyone" would vote for a candidate who had "betrayed the American people."

    "Just to be clear I don't know why anyone in the great state of South Carolina would ever vote for Lindsey Graham," Dobbs said on his Friday broadcast. "It's just outrageous. This is the guy who keeps saying, 'Stay tuned.' He said he was going to get to the bottom of Obamagate with the Judiciary Committee, which has been a year and a half, actually longer, of absolute inert — inert — response to these pressing issues of our day."

    "Obamagate" is a reference to a widely discredited conspiracy theory alleging that former President Barack Obama ordered his administration to spy on then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

    Dobbs then invoked President Trump's own words in a stinging series of critiques of the Republican senator, who a recent poll found trailing Democratic rival Jaime Harrison, a fundraising powerhouse, for the first time.

    "I believe that the president's words about the senator then apply today," Dobbs said, reading Trump's remarks from a Feb. 17, 2016, campaign event in Graham's home state of South Carolina:

    I think Lindsey Graham is a disgrace, and I think you have one of the worst representatives of any representative in the United States. I don't think he could run for dogcatcher in the state and win again. I really don't. Other than that, I think he's wonderful. He's one of the dumbest human beings I've ever seen. That guy is a nut job.

    At the time, Trump was responding to Graham's prediction that the Republican Party would get "slaughtered" if Trump won the nomination.

    Casting Graham as a turncoat on the Trump administration, Dobbs again invoked Obamagate as his sole example.

    "Graham has betrayed President Trump at almost every turn. He has betrayed the American people and his oath of office," Dobbs concluded. "He's done absolutely nothing to investigate Obamagate, except to tell everyone stay tuned time and time again: 'Stay tuned.' Senator Graham needs to be tuned out in South Carolina."

    Graham has found his campaign foundering in recent weeks under the pressure of Harrison's war chest and strong debate showing. A Morning Consult poll released Thursday showed Harrison ahead of Graham 47% - 45%, with 12 campaign days remaining.

    "Lindsey Graham is scared right now, and he should be," campaign spokesperson Guy King told Salon in a statement. "As Lindsey scurries off to Washington to play another round of political games, our grassroots movement is catapulting forward. South Carolina is ready for a leader who will stand up and fight for them — something Lindsey Graham fails to do."

    Harrison has sought to cast Graham as out of touch and divorce him from the interests of voters in the state, and that strategy appears to have yielded results. Graham's slipping poll numbers coincide with his return to Washington to chair the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

    Quinnipiac polls have shown the two neck-and-neck for months, and the pollster recently acknowledged that Graham was in "the fight of his political life." Election analysts at Cook Political Report recently shifted the race in the typical GOP stronghold to "toss-up."

    "It's a jump ball at this point," a Republican strategist in the state told Cook. "Jaime is peaking at exactly the right time, and he's got a deluge of money. [Harrison] is blocking every pass there is from Republicans."

    After one hearing last week, Graham, who has begged for cash in several recent Fox News appearances, was accused of illegally soliciting campaign donations in the halls of the Senate building.

    "I think people in South Carolina are excited about Judge Barrett," Graham said. "I don't know how much it affected fundraising today, but if you want to help me close the gap . . . Lindsey Graham dot com — a little bit goes a long way."

    After congratulating Harrison on a record-setting $58 million raised last quarter, he added: "I never felt better about my campaign than I do right now."

    'Face of white privilege and nepotism': Jared Kushner eviscerated after mocking racial justice p​rotesters

    Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner—who like his boss and father-in-law President Donald Trump is a product of his family's fortune—was mercilessly lambasted on social media on Monday after he mocked Black Lives Matter activists and suggested that many Black people don't want to be successful.

    Appearing on the Fox News morning show "Fox & Friends," Kushner—some of whose $1.8 billion family fortune was amassed off the misfortune and suffering of Black people—and the hosts discussed economic issues facing the Black community. Racism was not mentioned. Kushner did touch upon the subject, albeit in a decidedly derisive fashion. After mentioning George Floyd, the unarmed Black man killed in May by Minneapolis police, Kushner accused people who expressed support for Black lives of "virtual signaling."

    "They'd go on Instagram and cry or they would put a slogan on their jersey or write something on a basketball court," he said. "And quite frankly, that was doing more to polarize the country than it was to bring people forward."

    While admitting that Black Americans overwhelmingly vote for Democrats, Kushner asserted that Trump's "Platinum Plan"—which seeks to help Black people through capitalism-based solutions without acknowlegding the existence of racism as an obstacle to opportunity—and other policies "can help people break out of the problems that they're complaining about, but he can't help them be successful more than they want to be successful."

    The Democratic National Committee released a statement blasting Kushner for demeaning racial justice protests as mere "complaining."

    "This dismissive approach to the issues that Black voters care about is indicative of Trump's callousness and disregard for the lives of Black people," the statement said.

    Reaction to Kushner's remarks came fast and fierce on social media:

    A letter to my neighbor, a churchgoing Trump supporter

    by Debi Smith

    Hi neighbor!

    How are you and your family? I hope this letter finds you each doing well despite the challenges the pandemic has presented. What a year, right? Like some cosmic test to see how much we humans can handle.

    Our family is good, thankfully, though I've been out of work since May. Less money, but more time for doing the things I love—like getting out the vote! And this election season, due to Covid-19, I am writing letters instead of knocking on doors. Good ol' snail mail!

    (Hopefully you get this letter soon, considering the cuts to the USPS that happened after Trump installed one of his donors who then set about a restructuring, which a federal judge in September described as: "an intentional effort on the part of the current administration to disrupt and challenge the legitimacy of upcoming local, state and federal elections.")

    I did notice your Trump/Pence sign. Maybe you noticed when I replaced my Bernie sign with a Biden/Harris sign a few months ago? I'm wondering if you'd be up for chatting politics again soon? Along with catching up with each other on all the other things in life of course!

    I enjoyed those chats we had shortly after the 2016 election when we bumped into each other on the train we were taking across the country. Such a small world! You explained your reasons for voting for Trump then, and I explained some of my reasoning against that choice. I was pleasantly surprised at how lovely and open our conversations were, at the mutual listening, and at how many things we actually agreed on.

    It was refreshing, too, without social media and 24/7 partisan news blaring at us for those few days, how devoid our conversations were of vitriolic animosity. We were just neighbors talking to each other!

    But then I came home to my bubble, and drank too much from the constant stream of divisiveness. I did take a break from it while volunteering at the fire relief shelter for a couple of weeks recently, where it was just humans helping humans. That's an interesting facet of disasters, don't you think? Our personal politics swiftly fade into the background and we just pitch in and help each other.

    The fire was such a tragedy. Hundreds lost everything. Their homes and everything inside reduced to ash and twisted metal. We were fortunate the winds weren't blowing our direction that fateful day, but what about the day when they are, and there's another fire? I received another red flag warning just this morning. Are you signed up for community safety alerts?

    What are your thoughts on climate change, and the cause of these horrific fires? Trump always wants to point to lack of forest management as being the cause, even though not all catastrophic fires, such as the recent fire here, are forest-centric. I can agree that forests could be better managed, but what Trump doesn't like to acknowledge is that the federal government is in charge of nearly half of the forests on the West Coast.

    Regardless of who needs to manage the forests, I believe the scientific evidence is clear: we are in the midst of a climate emergency, and fires are much more catastrophic now because of it. Does this concern you as well? How our lives, right now, are being dramatically impacted by the effects of climate change? And how this will likely be a far worse situation for our grandchildren to deal with if we don't take drastic measures now? Personally, I believe it's one of the number one issues we should be tackling.

    Anyway, especially this year with Covid, I've pretty much been glued to the various rectangular-shaped digital devices in my home. And from my aghast perspective, Trump's presidency has consisted of mostly four years of unhinged chaos, with so many continually mounting and multiplying absurdities I've felt frozen in disbelief—like a deer-in-headlights-frozen—unsure the best way to respond. It doesn't usually bode well for a frozen deer, I know, so maybe a poor analogy, but again, I'm pretty sure that rule by chaos has been Trump's primary modus operandi.

    I admit my views may be polarized, though I do tune into Fox News occasionally, and try to read a wide variety of information to better understand all sides. But I haven't done a very good job reaching out to people who have different viewpoints. It's one reason I'm finally reaching out to you.

    Hard to believe election day 2020 is already upon us. I remember election day 2016 so clearly, partly because my three-month-old grandson was with me that day. I felt bad that he had to listen to MSNBC's Steve Kornacki and CNN's John King as I frantically switched back and forth between channels for hours, versus my usual reading of Dr. Seuss stories and singing lullabies. Though, considering I can't sing, maybe my grandson preferred Kornacki's and King's voices, lol!

    How are your kids and grandkids doing? Have you been able to see them during this pandemic? What about your involvement together at the church? I know that was important to you; have you found ways to do that safely?

    I mentioned on the train that I grew up in a religion where studying the bible and learning about Jesus was a big deal. My views on religion and spirituality have changed over the years, but I still feel Jesus's example was a good one to emulate, especially with those love your neighbor and love your enemies concepts.

    That's one of the things I've found most perplexing about people who support Trump, the issue I can least wrap my mind around: what would Jesus think about Trump? No doubt he'd show him love, but would he support him? I mean, my goodness, even before he was elected, Trump said he could stand on 5th Avenue and shoot someone and he still wouldn't lose any voters. And if that wasn't shocking enough, he next said that his fame allowed him to grab women by their pussy.

    When we talked on the train, you agreed you didn't necessarily like Trump's vulgarity but you hoped he would make good on draining the swamp, standing up for the working class, and be like a bull in a china shop—disrupting the status quo of a government that seems ever farther from us ordinary citizens, and filled with people, many on both sides of the aisle, only bent on enriching themselves.

    I agree with you on all three of those points and admit that after it was clear Trump would be president for at least the next four years, unless impeached and removed from office, I hoped maybe you were correct and he would accomplish those tasks. But it just doesn't appear to have played out that way.

    The following are just a few of the things that deeply concern me about Trump as president, and I'm curious about your thoughts on them:

    • He has repeatedly insulted veterans and war heroes, even calling them suckers and losers
    • Russia offered bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops and coalition forces in Afghanistan. Trump likely knew then and did nothing. He knows now and still has done nothing
    • He continually acts deferentially to authoritarians and dictators while at the same time thumbing his nose at our allies
    • Kowtowing to corporate interests, Trump and his administration have reversed nearly 100 environmental regulations designed to protect all of us, and future generations
    • He regularly disparages women
    • He is loved by racists, goes on racist tirades, and refuses to call out white supremacy
    • His administration shot rubber bullets and canisters of toxic pepper spray at peaceful protesters outside the White House so that he could have a bible photo-op outside St. John's Episcopal Church. Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, leader of The Episcopal Diocese of Washington, strongly repudiated Trump's photo-op, as did other religious leaders
    • In Trump's world, citizens exercising their right to protest peacefully are "anarchists," "thugs," and "animals." In contrast, an armed militia storming Michigan's capital to protest the stay-at-home order are "very good people."
    • He is a pathological liar, with over 20,000 lies documented since he took office
    • He continually makes false claims about mail-in voting fraud, says he might not accept the election outcome, nor will he commit to a peaceful transfer of power
    • There are thousands of documented instances of Trump seeking to enrich himself, his family members, and his companies
    • His nepotism and cronyism have only deepened and muddied the swamp rather than draining it
    • Many of the family, friends, and business acquaintances Trump has hired had zero experience for the positions they were hired for
    • Hundreds hired have resigned or have been dismissed, many under a cloud of ethics violations
    • Seven former Trump White House advisers have been criminally charged
    • Not only have many administration officials enjoyed using our dollars to enrich themselves, their lack of qualifications have been part of the reason for the catastrophic failure of the Trump Administration's response to Covid-19

    Trump's response (or lack of ) to Covid-19 requires a lengthier description. For months following his swearing-in, he failed to fill hundreds of positions at the CDC, and other health organizations and efforts were also disbanded. The following year, he shuttered the White House Global Health Security office, which had been set up under Obama to prepare and prevent the next disease outbreak from becoming an epidemic or pandemic.

    Trump has repeatedly downplayed the virus, in the beginning saying they had it "totally under control" and later saying: "We're going to be pretty soon at only five people. And we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time. So we've had very good luck."

    After multiple studies proved the effectiveness of masks, Trump could have instituted a mask mandate that likely would have saved thousands of lives. But he refused to wear a mask or institute a mandate, and instead belittled mask wearers. In so doing, he turned a health issue into a partisan and political issue that has had deadly consequences.

    A Columbia University study published on October 22 says that anywhere from 130,000-210,000 Covid-19 deaths so far could have been prevented, and are directly attributable to Trump's mishandling of the crisis. A different study out of the University of Washington published the following day suggests that universal mask-wearing could save approximately 130,000 lives between now and the end of February 2021.

    When states urgently needed federal assistance to obtain critical PPE or ventilators, etc., Trump and his administration threatened to withhold aid to states because, according to Trump, "It's a two way street they have to treat us well."

    And, according to Vanity Fair's reporting, when the virus was hitting Democratic states the hardest, some on Jared Kushner's team said it had been deemed unnecessary to go forward with a national testing plan because: "The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy."

    In addition, unbelievably, in the middle of a pandemic, with almost nine million cases, and millions having lost their employer-provided healthcare (Medicare for All, please), the Trump Administration's efforts to kill the ACA are intensifying, and there is no plan for replacing it if he succeeds.

    Now Trump says we are "turning the corner."

    We never did get down to five people. And yeah, eight months later, we are turning the corner all right . . . and hurtling towards 9 million cases and 300,000 deaths, with scientific models suggesting we are in for far worse.

    And now the administration has apparently given up on trying to control the virus.

    In 2001, we went to war (not that I agreed with it) to avenge the deaths of the nearly 3000 lives lost on 9/11. And in 2020, we are invited to vote for a man who is so far directly responsible for, at the very minimum, 130,000 lives? I just don't get it. Maybe you can help explain it to me.

    And then there's the inhumane separation of children from their families at the border. Children were put in cages! Some of them so young they hadn't even learned to speak yet. Yes, thankfully, Trump ended his cruel zero-tolerance policy that separated families, but now, two years later, authorities have been unable to locate the families of 545 of the children? These families were trying to come here to escape horrific living situations, hoping for a safer/better life. How did we go from being a beacon of hope and welcoming the huddled masses, to a country known for separating families and caging children?

    I mean, really, what would Jesus say to all these things?

    I am heartened to see that many religious leaders are calling for voters to support Biden/Harris, but how do you and your fellow church members feel? And if still supporting Trump, how do you reconcile your religious beliefs against the fact he does not come anywhere close to emulating Jesus?

    Maybe you support Trump because of the economy? I keep hearing that about his supporters. I don't know a helluva lot about the workings of economics, but I've read a few things that suggest we ordinary citizens aren't much better off under Trump. Especially when things such as higher tariffs are eating away at any small temporary gains we might have gotten from the tax cuts, which mostly benefit the wealthy and corporations.

    Or maybe it is because you align as pro-life? For the record, if that's true I don't hate you for that. I know that it's continuously pounded into everyone's head that Democrats, specifically liberals, want the right to kill babies right up until the time of birth, but this just isn't true. The data shows that most Americans' views on abortion lie somewhere in the middle, and the truth is, abortion is a complicated issue that comes in quite handy for the powers that benefit from us hating each other.

    Yes, I align predominantly as left/progressive, though I've long resisted labels designed to pigeonhole us or keep us divided. It might surprise you to learn, for instance, that I'm not a huge fan of abortion. It doesn't mean I'm hoping for an overturn of Roe v. Wade; it just means I see the issue as far more complex than merely for or against abortion.

    Some would probably call this next idea "too simplistic," but what if we were to get together in our communities across the country and discuss the abortion issue with skilled facilitators? With all views being shared and debated calmly, thoughtfully, and compassionately? Not only would this help us to learn from each other, and humanize our views versus demonize them, I believe we could shape and agree on policies that would go much farther towards making abortion a more rare choice, while—at the same time—honoring a woman's right to make decisions about her own body.

    Let's get real, more and better access to healthcare and birth control, and changing the tone of education and the conversation, would go a long way towards preventing unwanted pregnancies.

    In this vein, and looking up more information just now, I ran across an interesting pro-life viewpoint on the election at Pro Life Evangelicals For Biden:

    Knowing that the most common reason women give for abortion is the financial difficulty of another child, we appreciate a number of Democratic proposals that would significantly alleviate that financial burden: accessible health services for all citizens, affordable childcare, a minimum wage that lifts workers out of poverty.

    Notably, they end their argument: "We believe, that on balance, Joe Biden's policies are more consistent with the biblically shaped ethic of life than those of Donald Trump. Therefore, even as we continue to urge different policies on abortion, we urge evangelicals to elect Joe Biden as president."

    And what if we get together in our communities and discuss the 2nd Amendment? Again, given the proper atmosphere—and absent NRA lobbyists and NRA-backed members of Congress—I believe that we could design policies that adhere to our 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms, while also including some common-sense protections that safeguard the innocent. After all, isn't that one of the primary things we are all trying to achieve? The ability to protect ourselves and our family?

    Doing another online search here (yeah, I love going online and looking things up!), I typed in "Americans' views on guns" and found a fascinating TIME magazine piece about an experiment conducted in 2018 with 21 people from all sides of the gun issue. It wasn't a study setting out to change laws, it was about humanizing people on both sides and helping them to hear each other. One woman, for example, went from calling liberals "Dumb idiot morons" to considering all of the participants, including the liberals, "friends for life." What if we start there?

    Are you still with me? Sorry. Guess I kind of went off. Isolation will do that to you! Not trying to offend, I'm just passionate about these issues and trying to help facilitate people coming together to create solutions that work for the benefit of all.

    I'll wrap up here with a quote I ran across the other day. It was posted on a church website, written by a poet named Eric Overby. "The only way we will love our neighbor as ourselves is by getting to know our neighbors, even in the midst of our differences." I love that.

    Let me know if you're up for a socially-distanced-masked-meet-up at the park in the next day or two. Be great to see you, and hear your thoughts on all of this. In the event we can't get together until after the election, can I ask a favor? If you haven't already voted, will you please at least consider voting Biden/Harris? Because I am deeply concerned that another four years of Trump would be catastrophic for our country.

    Take care,

    Your neighbor

    Debi Smith -- wife, mother, grandmother, and concerned American and human being traveling aboard this small mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam--writes from her home in Ashland, Oregon. She welcomes your thoughtful comments, and ideas about how we can come together in search of common ground, at

    Ocasio-Cortez: Republicans don't think Democrats 'have the stones to play hardball'

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had just three initial words to say Monday night after Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as the latest Associate Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court following her confirmation by a 52 to 48 margin in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate earlier in the evening.

    "Expand the court," tweeted Ocasio-Cortez, a sentiment widely shared as the only just recourse after the GOP under President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rammed through the third justice for the nation's highest court in less than four years.

    "Republicans do this because they don't believe Dems have the stones to play hardball like they do," the New York Democrat added subsequently. "And for a long time they've been correct. But do not let them bully the public into thinking their bulldozing is normal but a response isn't. There is a legal process for expansion."

    Ocasio-Cortez is correct. Democrats—if they are able to regain control of the Senate and the White House, and also retain the House, in next week's national elections—would have the power to make sweeping changes to the Supreme Court, including increasing the number of seats from the current nine. As

    MarketPlace recently noted: "Nine isn't a number that's set in stone—the Constitution doesn't state how many justices must be on the Supreme Court. There were originally six justices on the court, with that number fluctuating throughout the country's history."

    Shortly after Ocasio-Cortez's tweet, her House colleague and fellow progressive Squad member Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) re-shared the message.

    "Remember that Republicans have lost 6 of the last 7 popular votes, but have appointed 6 of the last 9 justices," added Omar. "By expanding the court we fix this broken system and have the court better represent the values of the American people."

    Author and activist Naomi Klein joined about 350,000 others (as of this writing) by sharing, commenting on, or liking the message on the social media platform.

    And other progressives with similar messages followed.

    "If the current batch of Democrats won't pack the court, we're going to replace them and do it ourselves," said radio host Benjamin Dixon.

    Winnie Wong, political strategist and former advisor to the Bernie Sanders president campaign, tweeted: "Pack the court. Abolish the filibuster."

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said that while Republicans "are popping champagne tonight to celebrate how they for shoved aside the wishes of the American people to steal a Supreme Court seat and impose their radical agenda on the country," Democrats are not about to give up the fight.

    "Every option needs to be on the table to restore the Supreme Court's credibility and integrity," said Warren. "Every option to expand our democracy. Every option to ensure that all Americans have equal justice in our courts and representation in our institutions."

    Following Barrett's confirmation vote, progressive groups vowed to mobilize en masse nationwide to win the November elections and begin the immediate work of undoing the untold damage wrought by the Trump presidency and GOP control of Congress.

    "By ramming through a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court that could be the deciding vote to overturn the Affordable Care Act in the middle of a pandemic, Senate Republicans have once again shown that they care more about power than people's lives and livelihoods," said Sean Eldridge, founder and president of Stand Up America. "Now, they will answer to the voters."

    "The only way to protect our health care, our democracy, and our fundamental rights is to elect Joe Biden and flip the Senate in eight days," Eldridge said. "This illegitimate power grab leaves Democrats no choice but to reform our courts next year, including enacting term limits and expanding the number of seats to restore balance to the judiciary."

    Demand Justice, which has focused on stopping the rightward shift of the judiciary under Trump, vowed to fight back with a bold set of progressive reforms to the courts—including expansion:

    "Amy Coney Barrett is a threat to the health and safety of millions of Americans," said Meagan Hatcher Mays, director of democracy policy at Indivisible, the progressive advocacy group. "Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate are a threat to the health and safety of our very democracy. And despite what McConnell may claim from the Senate floor, this isn't over. If he thinks that we 'won't be able to do much about this,' he should think again. We can and will defeat his disastrous agenda and restore balance to the courts. It all starts on November 3."

    All eyes are focused on Pennslyvania — but does Biden really need it to win?

    If former Vice President Joe Biden wins every state that 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won four years ago and flips Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — all of which Trump won four years ago — that would get him over the 270 electoral votes he needs in order to win the election. But what if Trump wins Pennsylvania a second time? Polling expert Nate Silver examines that possibility on his FiveThirtyEight website.

    Silver notes that although polls are showing Biden with an advantage in Michigan and Wisconsin, "The polls have been tighter in Pennsylvania." Citing FiveThirtyEight's polling analysis, Silver explains, "Biden's current lead is just 5.1 points, and in 2016, polls were off by 4.4 points in the Keystone State — Trump won it by 0.7 points after trailing in our final polling average by 3.7 points there. So, with a 2016-style polling error in Pennsylvania, Biden would be cutting it awfully close — perhaps even so close that court rulings on factors like 'naked ballots' could swing the outcome."

    Silver poses the question: "Is Pennsylvania a must-win for Biden?," and his answer is, "No, not quite."

    "(Pennsylvania) is close to being a must-win for Trump, who has only a 2% chance of winning the Electoral College if he loses Pennsylvania," Silver argues. "Biden, however, has a bit more margin for error. He'd have a 30% chance if he lost Pennsylvania, which isn't great but is also higher than, say, Trump's overall chances on Election Day 2016."

    If Biden loses Pennsylvania, according to Silver, he still has some paths to victory, but minus Pennsylvania, the Sun Belt becomes even more important for him. Sun Belt states in which Biden is competitive include Florida, Arizona and Georgia, among others.

    Outside of the Sun Belt, Biden is competitive in Ohio. But Ohio, Silver notes, is a Rust Belt state that is even closer than Pennsylvania. Democrats struggle more in Ohio than they do in Pennsylvania.

    "Here's the thing: yes, Biden and Democrats should be nervous that he has only about a 5-point lead in Pennsylvania, the most likely tipping point state," Silver writes. "Five points is more than a normal-sized polling error, but not that much more. And Biden does have some backup plans. A regional polling error in the Midwest or the Northeast wouldn't necessarily doom his chances in states like Arizona, for instance. It wouldn't be the blowout that Democrats hope for, but Biden would still retain an edge in the Electoral College even without winning his birth state."

    Why a new opinion from Brett Kavanaugh is disturbing to so many readers

    Just about the time the Senate was voting 52-48 to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to become the ninth justice on the Supreme Court, the court itself released a decision Monday night on an election case centered on Wisconsin, a key swing state.

    By a 5-3 ruling, the conservative majority upheld a decision blocking a district court from extending the state's deadline for accepting mail-in ballots. Because of the court's decision, Wisconsin voters' mail-in ballots won't count unless they arrive at the election office by Election Day itself, Nov. 3, even if they're postmarked before that day. That means anyone mailing in a ballot in Wisconsin who hasn't done so already should try to find alternatives to mailing in their ballots if they're not confident the postal service, which has recently faced longer delays than normal, will deliver it on time. Some election offices will accept ballots delivered in person, and some set up official drop boxes where voters can deposit their ballots without having to rely on the postal service at all. (Wisconsin voters can find more information here.)

    But while the decision was disappointing for those who would like to voting access expanded and for as many ballots as possible to count, it wasn't unexpected. The conservative majority, which will shortly be expanded to six out of nine justices with the addition of Barrett, has proven itself hostile to efforts to expand the franchise.

    What really disturbed many close readers of the case wasn't the predictable if unfortunate conclusion — it was a concurrence written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

    One passage, in particular, drew a lot of attention, because it seemed to echo many of President Donald Trump's disturbing efforts to delegitimize the elections ahead of time:

    For important reasons, most States, including Wisconsin, require absentee ballots to be received by election day, not just mailed by election day. Those States want to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election. And those States also want to be able to definitively announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter. Moreover, particularly in a Presidential election, counting all the votes quickly can help the State promptly resolve any disputes, address any need for recounts, and begin the process of canvassing and certifying the election results in an expeditious manner. See 3 U. S. C. §5. The States are aware of the risks described by Professor Pildes: "[L]ate-arriving ballots open up one of the greatest risks of what might, in our era of hyperpolarized political parties and existential politics, destabilize the election result. If the apparent winner the morning after the election ends up losing due to late-arriving ballots, charges of a rigged election could explode." Pildes, How to Accommodate a Massive Surge in Absentee Voting, U. Chi. L. Rev. Online (June 26, 2020) (online source archived at The "longer after Election Day any significant changes in vote totals take place, the greater the risk that the losing side will cry that the election has been stolen."

    Had this been a throwaway sentence, it might have been ignored. But instead, Kavanaugh went on at length casting doubt on election results that take awhile to fully count, even though this is commonplace in the United States. And it seemed in line with many comments Trump has made trying to cast doubt on the election, including a tweet he sent Monday night (partially censored by Twitter because it violates rules around election misinformation):

    Trump has also said he expects a dispute about the election to go before the Supreme Court, clearly suggesting he thinks he can't win unless the conservative judiciary hands him victory. Kavanaugh might be indicating that the president would have at least one receptive justice.

    In a dissent, Justice Elena Kagan criticized Kavanaugh's remarks:

    JUSTICE KAVANAUGH alleges that "suspicions of impropriety" will result if "absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election." Ante, at 7. But there are no results to "flip" until all valid votes are counted. And nothing could be more "suspicio[us]" or "improp[er]" than refusing to tally votes once the clock strikes 12 on election night. To suggest otherwise, especially in these fractious times, is to disserve the electoral process.

    However, it's possible Kavanaugh's remarks were being over-interpreted by critics. In the context of his ruling, he was arguing that states may have the concerns he cites as a reason for having a strict Election Day deadline for receiving ballots, and that federal judges should respect that decision. That's not the same as saying the considerations are overriding or definitive in all cases, and he admitted in the subsequent paragraph that other states may legitimately make different decisions:

    One may disagree with a State's policy choice to require that absentee ballots be received by election day. Indeed, some States require only that absentee ballots be mailed by election day. ... But the States requiring that absentee ballots be received by election day do so for weighty reasons that warrant judicial respect. Federal courts have no business disregarding those state interests simply because the federal courts believe that later deadlines would be better.

    Still, the length at which he went to describe the concerns about ballots coming in after Election Day and the credulity he showed is understandably concerning.

    There's another portion of Kavanaugh's remarks that also caused significant alarm among some court watchers, though the issue is more technical. In a footnote, he approvingly cited former Chief Justice William Rehnquist's concurring opinion in the infamous 2000 election case Bush v. Gore, which handed the Republican candidate victory in the year's disputed presidential election.

    Kavanaugh's footnote echoed one part of the concurrence, which was so extreme that not even all five conservative justices in the majority would sign on to it and which asserted the power of the Supreme Court to overrule state courts on matters of state law. This assertion is a massive expansion of the federal judiciary's power, a particularly notable gambit at a time conservatives are securing a two-thirds stranglehold on the highest court. It also suggests that the Supreme Court could have even more power to insert itself into a disputed election than might otherwise be the case.

    "This is a red alert," said Slate's Mark Joseph Stern. "I can't believe he put it in a footnote. This is terrifying."

    Others pointed out, however, that it's notable that Kavanaugh alone signed his concurrence, suggesting that the views he expressed therein are not widely held on the court. Chief Justice John Roberts even wrote a short concurrence explaining that there was a difference between the current Wisconsin case, which involved the Supreme Court ruling against the actions of a federal district court, and a recent Pennsylvania case, in which the question was whether to overturn the actions of state supreme court. Roberts did not expound on what these differences are.

    Donald Trump is hardly the ‘Republican Jesus’

    by Tony Keddie, University of British Columbia

    It's yet unknown how U.S. President Donald Trump's attempts to position himself as the Christian candidate of choice will influence Christian voters in the United States — and how Democrats' attempts to speak to Christians may sway previous Trump voters or those not publicly declaring their intentions.

    “Dems want to shut your churches down, permanently," Trump tweeted in early October. A few days earlier, his son, Eric Trump, declared that his dad “literally saved Christianity."

    These statements fit a wider pattern: Trump has called himself “the chosen one," proclaimed that God is “on our side" and warned that Biden will “hurt the Bible, hurt God."

    The Trump administration and its Christian supporters have been using Christianity to draw battle lines in this high-stakes election. This Republican political strategy that uses Christian language to cast Trump as a divinely appointed protector of Christians warrants more scrutiny than it's received.

    In my book, Republican Jesus, I identify key trends in the way today's right-wing influencers interpret the Bible: they view Jesus as a prophet of free-market capitalism who opposes taxes and is against any regulation that supports social welfare programs, protects workers or prevents discrimination.

    More than religion

    The Trump administration and their Christian supporters promote a form of Christianity that scholars call “Christian nationalism." That's an ideology that isn't just about religion, but “includes assumptions of nativism, white supremacy, patriarchy and heteronormativity, along with divine sanction for authoritarian control and militarism," according to sociologists Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry.

    They've demonstrated with survey data that about half of Americans support some form of the idea that America is, and should be, a Christian nation. Christian nationalists are especially fond of boundaries — not just walls, but also social boundaries that cast liberals as outsiders.

    These sociologists say about 20 per cent of Americans are “ambassadors," an overwhelmingly white group that insists the U.S. has always been and must remain Christian. Another 30 per cent are “accommodators," who lean toward supporting Christian nationalism but hold somewhat more ambivalent views (for example, they say that “Christian values" should influence society but might allow that non-Christians also advance these values).

    When pro-Trump Christians use the language of Christianity under siege, their foremost objective is to court the votes of these “accommodators."

    Corporate backing

    As historian Kevin M. Kruse argues, “the belief that America is fundamentally and formally a Christian nation originated in the 1930s when businessmen enlisted religious activists in their fight against FDR's New Deal." These corporate-funded conservatives claimed that the social safety net breaks the commandment not to steal — that the government steals taxes from individuals to reward the indolent.

    They cast Christianity as the free-market antidote to “pagan stateism": a menace they created to conflate progressive forms of Christianity with communism, socialism and Nazism.

    Dogmatic adherence to free-market capitalism and limited government is the common thread in the history of the American Christian right. By this logic, anyone who favours a more regulated form of capitalism attacks Christianity.

    In the Civil Rights era, some religious conservatives insisted that the desegregation of public schools was government overreach and a threat to religious freedom. Since Roe vs. Wade, they have characterized abortions as the government robbing unborn citizens of their rights.

    Politics of exclusion

    On Sept. 26, Rev. Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and among the most influential pro-Trump evangelicals, hosted a massive prayer march that drew thousands to Washington, D.C.

    The broadcast's refrain was “this is not a political event, but a prayer event." Yet speakers repeatedly invoked the myth that America was founded as a Christian nation as the march proceeded on a path through the National Mall (with no social distancing and limited masks).

    It was scheduled just before Trump's announcement of a conservative Catholic judge who has ties to a charismatic and secretive Christian group as his Supreme Court nominee later that day.

    Every speaker was a vocal Trump supporter, Vice-President Mike Pence made a “surprise visit," and marchers wore both “Make America Great Again" and “Let's Make America Godly Again" hats and chanted “Four more years!" Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, prayed for law enforcement because “lawlessness has been unleashed" in America — an indictment of the Black Lives Matter protests.

    A political strategy

    It may be obvious that American Christian Democrats and some Christians are outraged by pro-Trump Christians. But as an American teaching Christianity at a public university in Canada, I have noted that a number of my students and colleagues who identify as “evangelicals" or “conservatives" are similarly outraged by how Trump's top evangelical advisers cherry-pick and distort biblical verses to justify xenophobic immigration policies and restrictions on the government's role in regulating health care, environmental protection, gun control, employment and the social safety net.

    Whereas conservative Christians outside the U.S. tend to share the same “family values" positions (traditional marriage, pro-life) as conservative American Christians, they are less often inclined to agree with their economic conservatism.

    The Christian nationalism and economic conservatism advocated by Trump can be perplexing to Christians unfamiliar with the American Christian right's history of reading the Bible as a blueprint for unfettered free-market capitalism at the expense of the poor. In the New Testament, after all, Jesus calls on the rich to sell their possessions and give them to the poor, and speaks of loving one's neighbours and enemies.

    To some who advocate Jesus's platform of social justice, advancing different views in the language of Christianity can warrant being called a “fake Christian" or a deluded devotee of the “cult of Trump." I caution against these labels, however, since such exclusionary rhetoric diverts attention from how the American right is busy redefining what it means to be “Christian" for their own political agenda.

    Shaping the election?

    Democrats' efforts to challenge the right's attempt to own Christian identity and values could be critical in the final days of the campaign. In the vice-presidential debate, Kamala Harris stated: “Joe Biden and I are both people of faith" in response to Mike Pence's insinuation that Democrats are attacking Christianity. If it were not for the attention the right's influencers receive, Harris would not have had to make this statement.

    The Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is calling for “coming together to confront the interlocking evils of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the war economy, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism." Christian activists Rev. Dr. William J. Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis helm this movement organized on the basis of values. It's supported by interfaith bodies like The Islamic Society of North America and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

    Meanwhile, the mainstream media, politically moderate and liberal Christian leaders and progressives on the whole must hold the Christian right accountable for their exclusionary doublespeak and their highly selective readings of the Bible and American history.The Conversation

    Tony Keddie, Assistant Professor of Early Christian History and Literature, University of British Columbia

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

    Expert details the secretive ‘shadow network’ behind America's radical right for the past 40 years

    ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Moyers on Democracy. What is the shadow network behind the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court? Who selected and groomed her for this moment? Who's financing the campaign to get her confirmed? Who's counting on her to side with President Trump if he's losing the election and wants the Supreme Court to declare him the winner? For the answers, Bill Moyers talks to journalist and investigator Anne Nelson about her book: SHADOW NETWORK: MEDIA, MONEY, AND THE SECRET HUB OF THE RADICAL RIGHT. In it, she exposes the powerful and little-known Council for National Policy, the organization behind the conservative movement of the past 40 years – from Ronald Reagan's secret war in Central America to their success in turning the Supreme Court into the Trump Court. Ms. Nelson has received the Livingston Award for her journalism and a Guggenheim Fellowship for historical research. Here to talk with her is Bill Moyers.

    BILL MOYERS: Welcome. It's a pleasure to talk to you.

    ANNE NELSON: My pleasure.

    BILL MOYERS: Let me begin with the most current part of the story, which comes just a little bit after your book is published when the conservative movement is facing a very decisive encounter with the very forces it's been trying to defeat now for 40 years. How do you think the shadow network reads the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court? What are they making of it?

    ANNE NELSON: Well, I think that they consider it a great triumph and a kind of culmination of 40 years of effort. And I demure a bit at the term conservative because this is, for me, the radical right. It is so far to the right of mainstream American public opinion that I feel that it's in a different category both in terms of its ideology and its tactics. But they decided way back in the day of Paul Weyrich, one of the architects of the movement that they–

    BILL MOYERS: In the early 1970s, right?

    Read an excerpt

    ANNE NELSON: We're going back to the '70s and even earlier, because he was active on the Barry Goldwater campaign. And he was frustrated time and again by moderates in the Republican Party and people who were willing to work with Democrats to advance policy and solutions to public problems. And he created organizations and tactics that he openly declared should destroy the regime, as he called it, which would be the U.S. government as we've known it for the last century.

    BILL MOYERS: Paul Weyrich is the man I remember saying–

    PAUL WEYRICH: I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populous goes down.

    BILL MOYERS: He was essentially saying, as a newly anointed leader of the religious right, what their philosophy was. The fewer people vote, the better their chance.

    ANNE NELSON: That's right. And from the beginning, in terms of their electoral tactics, it has been a matter of weaponizing certain churches and pastors and really exerting tremendous pressure on them to use churches as instruments of a radical right ideology. And then using similar tactics to suppress votes for Democrats, especially in key battleground states.

    BILL MOYERS: So that's why you conclude in your book they were to the right of the Republican Party. They were not just an offshoot of the Republican Party. They were not just fundraisers for the Republican Party, but they were ideologically and organizationally taking the Republican Party far to the right.

    ANNE NELSON: Absolutely, and somewhat to my surprise, I found that their prototype was the Southern Baptist Convention, where they decided that in order to move it to the right, they had to use questionable tactics to elevate their supporters to key positions of influence and purge the Southern Baptist Convention of moderates in the seminaries and in the colleges and among the pastors. And it was a fairly ruthless process, and once these tactics were developed, they applied it to the Republican Party. And you had the same kind of tactics going on of purging moderates, some of whom had been in office for years.

    BILL MOYERS: I should point out to some of our younger listeners and readers that the Southern Baptist Convention at the time and still today was the largest Protestant denomination in America. You know, something like it eventually reached 16 and a half million members scattered throughout the South and the West. We'll come back to them in a moment. What do you think about the NEW YORK TIMES' assessment that Amy Coney Barrett represents a new conservativism rooted in faith. That's how their headline described a three-page portrait of her life and career. Does that make sense to you?

    ANNE NELSON: Not entirely, because as a conservative Catholic, she follows in the footsteps of others such as Brett Kavanaugh and Antonin Scalia. So that's not very new. And what I look at in my book SHADOW NETWORK is how these interlocking organizations support each other. The book is about the Council for National Policy– a radical right-wing organization that is very secretive, and it brings together big donors like the DeVos family and oil interests from Texas and Oklahoma and political operatives. And, for example, members include the leadership of the Federalist Society. Well, Amy Coney Barrett was a member of the Federalist Society for a number of years and is still a speaker at their events. It includes the head of Hillsdale College, which is one of their campus partners. Amy Coney Barrett was commencement speaker for Hillsdale College this year. So, there are all of these organizations that have been turning their wheels to promote her really for several years going back. She appeared on previous lists of potential nominees for the Supreme Court, and I don't believe she would have been included in those lists had she not confirmed to their traditional idea of an activist judge.

    BILL MOYERS: They knew what they were looking for.

    ANNE NELSON: And I should add that one of the most powerful components in the Council for National Policy is the anti-abortion movement. Organizations such as the Susan B. Anthony List and Concerned Women for America and other interests, which are anti-environmentalist interests from the fossil fuels industry. So, I think that we've seen a roadmap of what to expect moving forward.

    BILL MOYERS: Tell me, who does make up the Council for National Policy?

    ANNE NELSON: So, the Council for National Policy has traditionally been around 400 members. From the beginning, it's included people with big money, a lot of them from the Texas and Oklahoma oil industries, but also the DeVos family of Michigan from the Amway fortune, and Betsy DeVos, of course. So, it has the big money to pay for things. It's got the leaders of so-called grassroots organizations. Now, I say so-called, because they do not spring from the grassroots the way that you would expect from the name. They are organized with a great deal of money from the top down. So, for example, the National Rifle Association– their leadership is part of the CNP. They get money from the donors, they organize their millions of members, and you combine these with the strategists and the media owners. And I spend a lot of time in my book talking about the power of fundamentalist and conservative radio in swing states. Things that people on the East Coast overlook to a terrible degree. And the same thing with fundamentalist broadcasting, which has really several of these broadcasters — the Christian Broadcasting Network, the Trinity Broadcasting Network have really turned into outlets replicating the messaging from this organization. So, you have them interlocking and interacting and each supporting each other's function. And I should explain something here, which is that they represent historically a white, Protestant, I'm sorry, but male-dominated patriarchy–

    BILL MOYERS: No, that's okay.

    ANNE NELSON: And I have to say that demographically its time has passed. The United States has become more diverse religiously, ethnically, and racially. And they recognize that their core positions are not supported by the majority of Americans. So, they went to the limit, pulled out all the stops to get Trump elected by a tiny margin, but they doubt that they can do that again. The signs are not good. What they can do is make their hold on the federal courts concrete through the Supreme Court, and therefore, get majorities in cases like gerrymandering, voter suppression, and their political activation of the churches with tax-exempt status. And further their hold on power through the courts.

    BILL MOYERS: So which part of the shadow network do you think chose, mentored, and groomed Amy Coney Barrett for this moment?

    ANNE NELSON: Well, I have to speculate here. But I would see a fairly straight line from her position to Leonard Leo's. Now, Leonard Leo is a very conservative Catholic. He was the operational figure of the Federalist Society for a number of years, and recently he shifted from that position to an even more activist position. Amy Coney Barrett was already a member of the Federalist Society. The Federalist Society has a pipeline through the lower federal courts, which she benefited from. So, in terms of this Catholic interaction they would be quite close to each other. Another key figure is Carrie Severino, who is from the Judicial Crisis Network, which was co-founded by Leonard Leo. And again, very right-wing Catholics who have tended to be overlooked while people focus on the fundamentalist Protestants. But Ralph Reed, who has been somebody who's been active with the fundamentalist politicization for decades declared openly years ago that the next step to their campaign was to enlist the Catholic vote. And they've been aggressively doing that in recent years.

    BILL MOYERS: And then there's Don McGahn who was for three years Donald Trump's chief White House counsel, graduate of Notre Dame, admirer of Amy Coney Barrett, who was scouting himself for recruits to bring up, train, groom, and put into the mix for potential Supreme Court justices. And I read that he was highly enthusiastic about her, had talked to Leo and that they had you had both these White House and legal forces behind her, knowing that she was one of them.

    ANNE NELSON: Yes. And I would guess that they suffered enough embarrassment over the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and the discussion of possible sexual harassment that was involved, that it was a convenient moment to bring a female to the top of the list to avoid that. So, there were a number of elements in her favor. I should add that in the process of these nominations Trump cut a deal in 2016 with this movement, and it was publicly reported that he was going to accept lists of nominees from three organizations run by Council for National Policy members: the Heritage Foundation, the Federalist Society, and the National Rifle Association, believe it or not. And he has actually followed suit with that. The Federalist Society has taken the lead on this, but you will find the Heritage Foundation in the background of all of these proceedings, as well as the NRA.

    BILL MOYERS: Did you see anybody from the shadow network at the White House when President Trump announced her nomination? Could you identify any there as members of the Council for National Policy?

    ANNE NELSON: Why, as a matter of fact, I could. I've got the September 2020 membership list. So, I went through U.S.A. Today's publication of who was present at that event, which has been called the COVID superspreader event on September 29th. And what I found was that they had six members of the White House staff, nine members of congress, and 14 current members of the Council for National Policy.

    BILL MOYERS: Fourteen?

    The moment of truth in those hearings came when she [Amy Coney Barrett] was asked if it was against the law to interfere with the vote in a federal election. And she couldn't answer that. Which to me demonstrated either an ignorance of the law or a disregard for the law that is truly alarming on the eve of an election.

    ANNE NELSON: Fourteen, and 12 of them were from the leadership bodies, the board of governors, and the gold circle elite members. So, they were there in force. They were having a victory dance this was a culmination of plans that had been in the works for decades.

    BILL MOYERS: But if she is willing to put people at risk that way, to go along with the president in ignoring guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, are we okay in asking questions about her judgment? I mean, could she not have said, “Mr. President, I'm honored by this nomination, but can you wait until there's better days for us to do this?"

    ANNE NELSON: I think that statement would have required someone who could restrain their ambition. And for me, the moment of truth in those hearings came when she was asked if it was against the law to interfere with the vote in a federal election. And she couldn't answer that either. Which to me demonstrated either an ignorance of the law or a disregard for the law that is truly alarming on the eve of an election.

    BILL MOYERS: I was noticing in a story in THE WASHINGTON POST that the Council for National Policy had a three-day meeting in Southern California. And one member — a woman named Rachel Bovard — described Ginni Thomas, the wife of Justice Thomas as a crucial link to the White House. “She is one of the most powerful and fierce women in Washington. She is really the tip of the spear in these efforts." Did you come across Ginni Thomas in your book?

    ANNE NELSON: I came across her repeatedly, and she has risen to the rank of the executive committee of CNP Action, which is their lobbying arm. She also is very active with another CNP member named Charlie Kirk who runs something called Turning Point U.S.A. She's also a so-called correspondent for a right-wing media platform called The Daily Caller, which is owned by members of the Council for National Policy. So, Ginni Thomas, who is from Omaha is married to a Supreme Court justice and is both a public and behind-the-scenes radical right-wing activist across the country. I don't know what the protocol is for spouses of Supreme Court justices, but I find it difficult to believe that people think this is appropriate.

    BILL MOYERS: But what struck me about that is that so many of the characters that are now on stage in the third and fourth year of Trump's administration are clearly linked by the Council for National Policy, something few Americans have heard of. How did you come upon it?

    ANNE NELSON: In my early 20s, I was a reporter in El Salvador. And from there, I joined the staff of Human Rights Watch. And so, I knew a lot about death squads in El Salvador, and learned in writing this book that the Council for National Policy and its partners had hosted death squad leader, Roberto d'Aubuisson, in Washington. An idea that was just shocking to me. They were heavily involved in the Contras during the Reagan administration. The support for the extreme right wing in El Salvador. I didn't know that at the time. I circled back to them decades later. I was in my hometown of Stillwater, Oklahoma, driving to Walmart and had the radio on. And started hearing some radio accusations against John Kerry who was running for president at the time, that shocked me, because the local preacher was claiming that John Kerry would make heterosexual marriages unsanctified by promoting marriage equality. And it was a very strange statement. So later I started tracking who owned that radio station, and then I found out it belonged to a group of radio stations owned by members of the Council for National Policy. And then I said, “Well, what's that?" And, as you know, an investigative reporter just keeps pulling at the thread until something emerges. They were incredibly secretive, and I think it's only thanks to the internet and things that they've inadvertently published online that's made this research even possible.

    BILL MOYERS: Let me summarize what I take away from your book the SHADOW NETWORK. You say that, for these past four decades, it's been a strategic nerve center for channeling money and mobilizing votes out of sight, correct?

    ANNE NELSON: Yeah.

    BILL MOYERS: How did they get away with that?

    ANNE NELSON: Well, I say a few times in the book that I think the Democrats have been asleep at the wheel. But part of the problem is rooted in our crisis in journalism. Because when I was growing up, you had lots of vibrant local newspapers that published AP and New York Times syndicate stories on international and national news, as well as the local news and the basketball scores. And you had a population across the country that was working from the same page, as it were. These newspapers have been dying off. They have lost their business model due to the digital revolution and the economic crises. And nature abhors a vacuum. In their place, these fundamentalist radio stations and this engine for misinformation has taken their place. And it makes me angry. When you lose the local professional news organizations, the substitutes can lead people down a terribly damaging path.

    BILL MOYERS: How do you connect that to the growth of the Council for National Policy.

    ANNE NELSON: They use a lot of stalking horses in terms of their organizations. So, I think most people wouldn't think of the National Rifle Association as primarily a political organization. Certainly, they didn't in the 1970s. It was kind of a shooting club. It's been converted into a political organization. And that has happened with tens of thousands of churches. And I grew up in those communities. I don't think my friends and neighbors and family members went to church thinking, “We're going to go get told how to vote." That's not what they went for. But now that's what they get. And they are given voting guides in the sanctuaries inserted into the church bulletin, right? You turn the page from the hymn, and there you get the voting guide basically telling you to vote for a Republican. But it doesn't have the signature of the Council for National Policy. It just says, iVoterGuide produced by the Family Research Council, whose president has been the president of the Council for National Policy. So, you've got t0 connect the dots, but the dots are all there and highly connectable. You have people who are identifying with organizations, and they're looking at news media such as The Daily Caller, such as the Christian Broadcasting Network, such as Salem Media, which are tied into this system. And it's not about journalism. It's about messaging: we're going to tell you what to think.

    BILL MOYERS: But this organization started, with a handful of people. How did they multiply their effect so thoroughly throughout our political system that they now dominate. How did that happen?

    ANNE NELSON: Well, I think that what you had is this odd element of our electoral system where the electoral college carries this weight. And a lot of candidates for national office focus on the popular vote, but the strategists like Paul Weyrich and others realize that the popular vote is actually irrelevant. The electoral college is what elects our president. So, what they figured out how to do was identify critical bands of voters who were corresponding to these mostly religious organizations in critical states. If you could reach these millions of voters, many of whom were not engaged, and convince them that it was a sin to vote for a Democrat, then you could win the state. And if you won the right states, you'd win the electoral college. And they worked on this approach over various decades. And they kept going to various Republican candidates and bringing their voters to them and trying to cut a deal where they would deliver the response in terms of power. And I have to say that, a number of presidents including Reagan and the first President Bush had those conversations and reneged on the deal, right? They did not deliver the cabinet appointments. They did not deliver the reactionary social policies. And what they found with Trump was a transactional president who didn't really care about abortion or gay marriage or any of the rest of it. He just wanted the office. So, he cut a deal and he honored it. And he gave the former president of the Council for National Policy, Tony Perkins, carte blanche to write elements of the Republican Party platform in 2016, which have been just renewed for 2020 without amendment. So, they worked behind the scenes. It's been influence peddling, and it's been big, big money. The book traces hundreds of millions of dollars that have sloshed around in this circular way where the DeVoses fund the Koch brothers' operations. And the Koch brothers fund the DeVoses and Foster Friess funds The Daily Caller. And when you have the Democrats not paying sufficient attention to the swing states, when you have the local media in a state of collapse, that is the window of opportunity.

    Strategists like Paul Weyrich and others realize that the popular vote is actually irrelevant. The electoral college is what elects our president. So, what they figured out how to do was identify critical bands of voters.

    BILL MOYERS: So, we have the pastors on one side and the plutocrats on the other side. You have this alliance between very dogmatic, religious zealots and men of huge wealth whose interest is not in piety. What joins them?

    ANNE NELSON: Well, I think that, in religious terms, it's all about mammon.

    BILL MOYERS: Mammon being the biblical term for money.

    ANNE NELSON: That's right.

    BILL MOYERS: The biblical metaphor for money.

    ANNE NELSON: Yes. I keep looking at their so-called positions of principle. And, you know, you scratch at them and they don't go very deep. But what you do have with the Kochs' and the DeVoses and the various fossil fuel interests are people who've made immense fortunes and are terrified of losing their economic power. But also, these people don't want to pay taxes, and so pushing through a tax bill that favored the fraction of a 1% was a priority. And Donald Trump and the Republican Senate delivered it.

    BILL MOYERS: The Washington Post last week released some video of the August meeting of the Council for National Policy. Let me just read a few things that were said at that meeting. Videos provided to the Post covering dozens of hours of CNP meetings over three days in February and three in August offer an inside view of participants' obsessions. Here are some of the things that were said:

    BILL WALTON: This is a spiritual battle we're in. This is good versus evil. We have to do everything we can to win.

    BILL MOYERS: –said the Council for National Policy's executive committee president, Bill Walton. Ralph Reed, chairman of the nonprofit, Faith and Freedom Coalition told the CNP audience that conservatives are going to be harvesting ballots in churches. “We're going to be specifically going in, not only to white evangelical churches, but into Hispanic and Asian churches and collecting those ballots.'" And then, here's the one that really stands out. At that meeting, J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department official and the president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a charity, described mail-in voting as the number one left-wing agenda. He urged the activists not to worry about the criticism that might come their way. Quote, “Be not afraid of the accusations that you're a voter suppressor." Any of that surprise you?

    ANNE NELSON: Not in the least. On the contrary, you'll find the footprints of those statements in my book. One of the techniques that this movement has used is using data profiles and directing information to voters to either get them to vote for Republicans or to suppress the vote if they're not likely to. The Koch brothers brought state-of-the-art political data operations to the table with an organization called i360. And that was harnessed to organizations that were run by CNP members. So, for example, one of them was the Susan B. Anthony List, which is anti-abortion. One of them was the NRA. They also combined data from churches and from political data and consumer data. So that allowed canvassers for these organizations to do their door-to-door canvassing having a huge amount of information about each individual voter, and a tailored individual script for them. So, for example, if you are canvassing in Springfield, Missouri, and you're working for the Susan B. Anthony List, you know that at such-and-such an address, there's a Catholic housewife with six kids there who watched an anti-abortion film on Netflix and ordered LIVES OF THE SAINTS from Amazon. You have all of that in your cell phone, and you also have a script that's been prepared and tailored for that voter, right? But you're going to have a totally different script based on the data for the next-door neighbor who's a gun owner who's all about the second amendment. And the Democrats have lagged behind, not in terms of the data they have, but the way they've networked data across state lines and to organizations that are doing their political groundwork. So that's been a factor. The use of data has been very important in the last few campaigns, and not always well-understood. But there's also a really important matter of how data is used to suppress votes. And that's where I would direct people to a news story done by Channel Four in Britain. The Council for National Policy partners and the Koch brothers' data platform i360 used data from Cambridge Analytica with several hundred million voters, with some 2,000 data points for every voter. So that includes you and me, Bill, okay? They know a lot about us, and so what they did in this story documenting what happened with African Americans in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was find that if voters were not likely to vote for Republicans. If they leaned Democratic, they would target them with misinformation that would disincline them to vote at all. And in other cases, such as what's been documented in Michigan, some 90,000 African American voters were persuaded not to vote for the top of the ticket for Hillary Clinton by these methods. So, in these states, they always go by very, very narrow margins. So, I would argue that a lot of these data operations, some of them of questionable legality, have actually changed the course of electoral history.

    BILL MOYERS: What do you think they're doing for this election in two weeks?

    ANNE NELSON: Well, we know that the Trump 2020 app has highly questionable practices, in terms of its privacy and the way it accesses people's cell phone directories, all of their contacts, friends and family, and then sends messages out to them, often without the user knowing that they're doing it. They also combine that with consumer data. So, for example, if you downloaded their app on one phone that was a different account, they could trace your credit card records back to your own account. They also use geolocation, so once you download the app, they figure out where you are and what kind of messaging would appeal to you and leverage you to attract other voters. And they use this through beacons that are placed around areas like political rallies and churches, right, to locate the people with the apps and then engage them for political purpose. It has been recently revealed that these beacons had even been implanted in Trump yard signs. So, they're really, I would say, on the cutting edge of political technology. And it's in this very murky area of law where there are abusive practices involving privacy, but there's no clear legal framework to govern it.

    BILL MOYERS: And what stuns me is their ability to connect this very sophisticated information gained by very up-to-date, modern technology to a lot of poor pastors in East Texas and Southern Alabama who are concerned about the state of the world. And here, they've been led into, one of the most sophisticated political campaigns that really has not their interest at heart. And they become soldiers in the crusade–

    ANNE NELSON: Absolutely. And again, these are the people I grew up with, and I see a lot of cases where the pastors have been bullied into it. And they say, “Wait a minute, I want people to come to church and reflect on spirituality. We're not here to run a political campaign."

    BILL MOYERS: Yet the fact remains, as you make clear in the book, that they have a very acute grasp of electoral college politics. How do you win the 270 votes of the electoral college, even if you lost the popular vote? How did they get there?

    ANNE NELSON: Well, they work harder at it. I think they worked harder at it than the Democrats have. They've got a pollster named George Barna.

    BILL MOYERS: Yeah.

    ANNE NELSON: And he has paid a lot of attention to these voters. He has identified characteristics to them, and one of them is that older white evangelicals from largely rural areas have a 91% turnout at the polling places. That is powerful. And that's something where it's not exactly fashionable in Democratic circles to talk about that. And why we should have a dialogue with these voters. So, when you get that information, and when you work over and over again to refine messaging that will touch a nerve with these groups, some of it's misinformation, and some of it's just hard work and smart strategy.

    BILL MOYERS: And they have enlisted these fundamentalist white churches to serve as their political proxies by doing smart things, like inviting them on junkets that the CNP pays for, writing sermons for them to download, producing their church bulletins for them, and delivering voter guides to them for distribution to their congregations. That's down at the very grassroots. And they do it.

    ANNE NELSON: They've even constructed a multi-million-dollar Museum of the Bible, steps from Capitol Hill. And it's really a kind of monument to conservative fundamentalist political ideology.

    BILL MOYERS: It's really a remarkable turn of American politics in the last 40 years, and you have written a very smart, detailed, informative, and narratively-driven book on it. You say, in your epilogue, in the beginning, there were the Southern Baptists, and there were two of them in particular, Pastor Paige Patterson — who became president of the Baptist seminary I had attended long before him — and a state judge named Paul Pressler. In effect, you say, they started it all. The Southern Baptists were the core.

    ANNE NELSON: They were kind of the godfathers, I would say, yeah.

    BILL MOYERS: Southern Baptists had long believed in the inerrancy of the Bible, that the Bible is literally God's word. But my generation of Baptists were discovering historical criticism of the Bible and began to change the denomination. And what Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler did was to alarm the Baptists who still believed in the literal meaning of the Bible and said, “They're going to take it away from you if you're not careful." And so they were able to drive the moderate leaders out of the Southern Baptist Convention and replace them with literalist, fundamentalist pastors from churches around the country, including some very large churches. And before we knew it, the Southern Baptist Convention had become a radically conservative Republican denomination.

    ANNE NELSON: Yeah, and I see that as tragic, because it divides families, it divides communities. It changes the nature of spirituality in these communities. But then you see those tactics, which are all about power, right? And they're replicated in the Republican Party. Same thing happens. You drive out the moderates, you defeat the moderates, and you replace them with ideologues or card-carrying members of the movement. And I think we can look at Amy Coney Barrett as another iteration of the same thing. What you're doing is weeding out the moderate and liberal judges and replacing them with people who will march to this beat. And traditionally, that's not been the principle for our court. People could say, “The courts need to have some kind of standard that's open to all Americans," not something that's driving a particular minority ideology. So, for me, that's the glaring danger that's facing our democracy.

    BILL MOYERS: And you sum up the Council for National Policy as, “An elite club of high-powered fundamentalists, oligarchs, and their allies, deploying a media empire to flood the country with propaganda, bankrolling handpicked colleges to promote extremist Libertarian ideas, and to groom up and coming politicians," and I would say judges, “to advance its cause." And you say this is all aimed at the very heart of democracy.

    ANNE NELSON: Well, democracy is the blind man and the elephant, because my democracy is an America where people from diverse religions and national backgrounds came together and chose to live together under the rule of law. It aspired to give everyone equal opportunity and rights as citizens. And I don't want another religion imposing its practice on me, that's not my idea of being an American or respecting my fellow Americans. If their idea of the American ideal is so different, I would think they'd have to show some evidence that the majority of Americans saw it their way. And the evidence is all to the contrary and moving in the opposite direction. So that's why we're seeing so many manifestations of questionable maneuvers for securing power, as opposed to winning it through the ballot box. We've got two weeks before the elections. Then we've got another period which is the interregnum until the inauguration. But then we're going to have this entire cohort in the judiciary which is going to be defining our public life for years, perhaps decades to come. So I'm afraid it's going to be no rest for the weary. The cliche is, “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom." And I think that eternal vigilance is going to be very important for everyone who wants to defend other people's rights.

    BILL MOYERS: Anne Nelson, thank you so much for SHADOW NETWORK: MEDIA, MONEY, AND THE SECRET HUB OF THE RADICAL RIGHT. And thank you for your time today.

    ANNE NELSON: Thank you so much, Bill.

    ANNOUNCER: Thanks for listening to Moyers on Democracy. On our website, you can read an excerpt from Anne Nelson's book. Until next time, you'll find all this and more at

    How capitalism is leading us to instability, inequality, and fascism

    The looming election has brought forward intensifying debates over a capitalism in crisis, rising nationalism and state power, and the possibility of a renewed fascism. Polarized politics and ideologies alongside long-accumulated social problems and movements shape the objects and tones of debate. Can fascism happen here; is it underway? Or can current capitalism avoid a return to fascism? Such questions reflect the high stakes of the election and this moment in history.

    Should the state—the institution that organizes, enforces, and adjudicates the rules governing our behavior in society—exist in capitalism? That question has been important chiefly for certain ideologues who defend capitalism. Their major idea is that the problems of modern society are caused by the state. They are not caused by the employer-employee structure of capitalist enterprises or the markets, unequal distributions of wealth, and other institutions those enterprises support. Those ideologues imagine a pure, perfect, or good capitalism undistorted by any state apparatus. The capitalism they seek to achieve is very utopian. They conclude that by reducing the state (bad by definition), modern capitalism's problems can also be reduced. By eliminating the state, a thereby purified capitalism will solve those problems. From libertarians to Republican Party hacks, this ideology serves to deflect the justified resentment and anger of capitalism's victims away from capitalism and onto the state.

    A contrary view holds that the state always existed throughout the history of societies in which the capitalist economic system prevailed. In them, the state—like other institutions—reflected each society's particular conditions, conflicts, and movement. The capitalist economy rested on a foundation of enterprises whose internal organization divided participating individuals into a minority (employers) and a majority (employees). The minority owned and operated the enterprises, making all of its basic decisions: what, how, and where to produce and what to do with output. The majority sold its labor power to the minority, owned little or nothing of the enterprise, and was excluded from the basic enterprise decisions. One result of that basic economic structure was the existence of a state. Another result was a pattern of state interventions in society that reproduced its prevailing capitalist economic system and the employers' dominant position within it.

    Of course, the many internal contradictions of societies in which capitalism prevailed also influenced and shaped the state. Employees, for example, could and often did press the state for interventions that employers did not want. Struggles over the state and its interventions ensued. Individual outcomes varied, but the pattern that emerged over time was a state that reproduced capitalism. Likewise, in pre-capitalist societies such as slavery and feudalism, parallel patterns characterized their states. For considerable periods, those states also reproduced their class structures: masters and slaves in slavery and lords and serfs in feudalism. Usually, when a state no longer reproduced a particular class structure, its end was near.

    The evolving conditions and conflicts in each society determined the size, activities, and history of its state. This includes determining whether state power is decentralized, centralized, or a mix of both. Social conditions and conflicts also determined the closeness, the intensity of collaboration, and even the possible merger between the state apparatus and the dominant class within each society. In European capitalism, initial decentralization gave way to a strong tendency toward state centralization. In certain extreme conditions, a centralized state merged with a capitalist class of large, concentrated employers into a system called fascism. The 20th century saw several major examples of fascism rise and fall. Now again fascism looms as a possible resort of capitalisms in trouble.

    Usually, the transition from decentralized to centralized states reflected social conditions in which dominant classes needed strengthened state power to reproduce the system they dominated. They feared that otherwise, social conditions would provoke a collapse of their system and/or movements to a different economic system. In either case, their social dominance was at stake. Because that situation now looms on our historical agenda, so too does fascism.

    Slave systems could persist in decentralized conditions. State power, perhaps localized within each slave master's hands, oversaw the reproduction of the system's two production positions: master and slave. Eventually, when reproduction was threatened—by disruptions to slave markets, slave revolts, or divisive struggles among masters—a separate state was created, given an apparatus, and strengthened. It often had slaves of its own ("state" slaves we might differentiate from "private" slaves owned by persons outside the state). Such a strengthened state was often more closely integrated with masters in a tighter, more coordinated reproduction of slavery. Violence by masters and the state conjointly against slaves recurred often.

    In decentralized feudalisms, lords wielded state-type powers alongside their economic positions directing production by their subordinated serfs. Eventually, when pandemics, long-distance trade, serf revolts, or divisive warfare among lords (as dramatized in Shakespeare's plays) threatened feudalism, a centralized state arose from among contending lords. That state—a supreme lord or king—shared social power with the hierarchy of what we might call "private" lords to reproduce feudalism. In medieval Europe, strengthened feudal states evolved into absolute monarchies. Those were tight alliances between kings and hierarchies of lords within boundaries defining different nations. Those tight alliances deployed violence against serfs, serfs' revolts, rebellious lords, external threats, and one another.

    Capitalism, like its slave and feudal predecessors, emerged in small, decentralized units of production. Capitalist enterprises, like slave and feudal production units (plantations, manors, or workshops), also displayed a system of two basic production positions. In the case of capitalism, those two positions were employer and employee. The differences were that in capitalism, no person owned another (unlike slavery), nor did one person owe religiously sanctioned labor obligations to another (unlike feudalism). Instead, a market in labor power was established over time. Employers were buyers and employees were sellers in a market exchange.

    When problems eventually threatened the reproduction of early capitalism, it strengthened its state apparatus much as slavery and feudalism had done. One such problem was opposition by centralized slaveries and feudalisms to the capitalism that had emerged from them. Likewise, as capitalism grew and expanded across the globe, it disrupted other systems in ways they resisted. Violent interventions by strengthened state apparatuses subdued and reorganized them into what eventually became capitalism's formal and informal colonies. Such interventions encouraged a strong capitalist state and vice versa. The demands and revolts of employees also drove capitalists to construct state apparatuses that could discipline and suppress them. Likewise, "cutthroat" competition among employers required a powerful arbiter to manage and control them.

    Even as capitalism spawned a strong state, there was a remarkable hesitancy in doing so that has confused the history of capitalism to this day. The hesitancy arose because early capitalism—the period when emerging capitalist enterprises were relatively small and hampered by powerful slave or feudal states—saw those states as its enemy. Capitalists and their spokespersons wanted the state kept out of the economy, blocked from favoring noncapitalist over capitalist enterprises. They wanted capitalist enterprises and the markets they increasingly dominated to be left alone by the state. Hostility to and thus hesitancy about strong states went from advocating "laissez-faire" in the 17th century to celebrating "the free market" in modern times. In the latter form, it is utopian, an imaginary construct useful for ideological projects justifying capitalism (as "efficient") and for libertarian slogans. No actual capitalism in recent centuries ever had a free market without state interventions and regulations.

    From the 18th through the 20th centuries, capitalism spread globally from its initial centers in western Europe. The state was crucial to that spread via warfare ("opening" regions to trade) and colonizations. Conflicts among capitalists, especially the endemic struggles between competitive and monopoly capitalists and between capitalists from different nations, necessitated state interventions. Capital-labor conflicts and battles were always goads to state strengthening and interventions. Massive standing military establishments, routinized after World War II, generated military-industrial complexes. Those complexes, especially in the leading capitalist and military power after 1945, were just the kind of mergers of state and big capitalists that became models for parallel mergers among other industries and the state.

    In the United States, one such parallel merger yielded the medical-industrial complex. There the role of the state was to protect a monopoly shared among four industries: doctors, hospitals, drugmakers and medical device-makers, and health insurance companies. The government enabled and sustains its merger with the medical-industrial complex. It does so in multiple ways. It exempts the complex from antitrust action. Government-subsidized Medicare and Medicaid—public health insurance for the elderly and the poor—carefully leave the younger, healthier, and more profitable clientele to the private health insurance companies. The government avoids buying pharmaceuticals in bulk and passing savings onto the public. Finally, the government has usually blocked and mostly denounced genuinely progressive reforms of this privately profitable medical system as "socialism."

    De facto, if not de yet de jure, mergers of state and capitalist industry punctuated the growth of state power alongside the concentration and centralization of capital.

    Now we have much the same happening in finance. Central banks—largely state institutions—long marched in close formations with major private banks in capitalist countries. The Federal Reserve has responded to the three capitalist crashes so far this century by not only greatly increasing its money creation and interest rate reductions but also by extending credit to nonfinancial corporations. The Fed buys corporate bond exchange-traded funds, corporate bonds in the secondary market, and asset-backed securities based on corporate debts. The Fed likewise now owns a third of residential mortgages. Government credit becomes ever more important relative to private credit. The government will soon coordinate its decisions on who gets how much government credit with other government policies including which Chinese companies get banned and which European companies get sanctioned. These financial developments mark more milestones on the road to state-capitalist merger.

    Behind the racism, nationalism, and war-mongering that Hitler championed lay the core economic system of fascism. That involved a merger of the state and private big capitalists. The former enforced the conditions of profitability for the latter. In turn, the capitalists accommodated the running of their enterprises to finance, produce, price, and invest in ways supportive of the fascist state's policies. Expropriation of privately owned means of production targeted selected social sub-groups (such as Jews). Aryanization—not abolition—of private capitalism was the state's objective.

    In contrast, socialists favored the socialization of private capitalists' enterprises. It was not the merger of the state with private capitalism that socialists sought; it was rather the dispossession of private capitalism. The state was to seize sole possession of means of production to operate a state capitalism. Most socialists saw state capitalism as an intermediate stage necessary to enable the transition to communism. That communism was understood as capitalism's antithesis: social (not private) property in means of production, government planning (not markets) to organize distribution of resources and products, workers' control of and running of enterprises, and distribution of output based on need as socially determined.

    Fascism's economic organization is where economic development is now taking capitalism in general and U.S. capitalism in particular. U.S. capitalism now replicates a parallel tendency toward merger with a strong state that characterized slavery and feudalism earlier. Systemic challenges to capitalism's reproduction are met with growing state power, growing big capitalist business, and eventually their merger into a fascism. Exactly how and when capitalism evolves into fascism varies with the particular conditions and challenges of each national context. Likewise, the internal contradictions of capitalism—for example, its cyclical instability and its tendency toward deepening wealth and income inequality—can provoke mass resistances that can slow, stop, or reverse the evolution, at least for a while, or even redirect economic transition to socialism.

    But the tendency of capitalism is toward instability (its cycles), inequality (its upward redistribution of wealth), and fascism (state-capitalist merger). The first 20 years of this new century display these tendencies in stark relief.

    This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

    New analysis shows the dangerous cost of Trump's reckless campaign rallies

    Half of the 22 campaign rallies held by President Donald Trump between June and September were followed by county-level increases in Covid-19 cases, suggesting that these frequent in-person events attracting thousands of people may be unnecessarily intensifying the spread of coronavirus and "endangering host communities" throughout the United States.

    That's according to a new analysis from the Center for American Progress (CAP), based on an examination of county-level data on Covid-19 from the New York Times.

    By comparing the number of daily new cases and the seven-day moving average of new cases during the 21 days before and after each rally, researchers were able to discern the extent to which Trump's rallies "were associated with heightened cases."

    While the authors stress that "multiple factors prevent a definitive, causal connection," CAP found "unambiguous increases" in county-level cases after rallies in the following cities:

    • Mankato, Minnesota
    • Bemidji, Minnesota
    • Henderson, Nevada
    • Londonderry, New Hampshire
    • Swanton, Ohio
    • Middletown, Pennsylvania
    • Old Forge, Pennsylvania; and
    • Newport News, Virginia

    CAP also detected a more "subtle" increase in the county-level case count trend after Trump's rallies in Vandalia, Ohio; Latrobe, Pennslyvania; and Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

    According to the analysis, "counties that had a lower Covid-19 incidence—a measure of new cases per capita—prior to the rally were more likely to have a visible increase in cases after the rally, perhaps because any uptick in cases was more likely to stand out against the pre-event level."

    "By virtually any standard, Trump's rallies ignore every public health recommendation to mitigate the spread of Covid-19," said Thomas Waldrop, policy analyst at CAP and co-author of the report, in a statement released Tuesday.

    "They involve thousands of people, packed closely together, with few people wearing masks and no attempts at social distancing," he added.

    Emily Gee, a health economist at CAP and co-author of the analysis, noted that "eight months into the pandemic, we know the factors that can stop the spread of the coronavirus."

    "The president and his team have flouted the rules at every turn," Gee said. "These rallies offer a boost to the president's ego but risk leaving behind a trail of sickness and increased strain on local public health departments and medical systems."

    Trump announced Tuesday morning via Twitter that he has "three BIG rallies today" in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. In response, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) pointed out that Wisconsin on Monday passed 200,000 Covid-19 cases, with half occurring in "just the last 36 days."

    According to CAP's report, the majority of Trump's rallies—where attendees typically do not wear masks or spread out—"have been in violation of local or state restrictions on gatherings to limit the spread of Covid-19."

    Calling Trump "nothing but a thug," The Daily Beast's Michael Daly on Monday described the president's insistence on holding dangerous rallies with closely-packed audiences in spite of public health precautions prohibiting large gatherings as a criminal act that flies in the face of Trump's professed respect for authority and law enforcement.

    "The self-declared law-and-order president," Daly wrote, "proved to be a flat-out gangster by declaring himself willing to place the lives of who knows how many [people] in jeopardy."

    Eric Feigl-Ding recently commented that "the biggest difference between public health and astrophysics is that rocket scientists don't have to convince a science denialist for mission success."

    "But we epidemiologists have to fight... denialism" about the risks of coronavirus exposure and the efficacy of masks in minimizing it, he added. "And if we fail, people die."

    A recent report (pdf) by researchers at Columbia University estimated that of the more than 217,000 lives lost to Covid-19 in the U.S. as of October 16, "at least 130,000 deaths and perhaps as many as 210,000 could have been avoided with earlier policy interventions and more robust federal coordination and leadership."

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Monday registered his disgust with Trump's "pathetic" mishandling of the public health disaster relative to other countries:

    Compared to many other countries, the U.S. pandemic response has been hobbled by a lack of universal healthcare, paid sick leave, and additional structural disadvantages.

    But, as CAP's new analysis shows, the country has also been hampered by the Trump administration, which has consistently eschewed the guidance of public health officials throughout the crisis and has "fostered a culture that discourages common-sense mask-wearing and social distancing."

    "It's unbelievable," said Waldrop, "that the president has continued to hold these events, which present a risk to public health, despite contracting Covid-19 and being hospitalized himself."

    '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:

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