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Why democracy will live on even if Republicans sweep the midterms

Some polls are showing that the Republicans are edging out the Democrats in a midterm election cycle that already favors the Republicans. These polls are jim-jamming nervous white liberals.

Why? Obviously, it has a lot to do with winning and losing. But it has more to do with certain expectations, I think, that white liberals have of other white people. The options are clear: a party that can govern or a party that can bulldoze, to borrow Jonathan Bernstein’s framing.

But here we are with polls showing that the Republicans are advancing in generic Democrat-or-Republican opinion surveys.

READ MORE: These 5 MAGA candidates could help Donald Trump steal the 2024 election if they win in 2022: journalist

To white liberals, democracy itself is on the ballot. That’s what the president said. Anyway, Americans are supposed to believe in democracy. Yet a white majority, in swing states like Pennsylvania, seems ready to put the fascists in power, democracy be damned.

Beneath it all is something else that’s working white liberals’ last good nerve: despair – or the dread-awe of discovering that white people, whom you thought would make the good choice if it were clear, have found reasons to make the bad choice.

The people whom you thought were not racist – anyway, not as racist as The Racists – are turning out to be exquisitely receptive to the GOP’s midterm messaging: vote for us and we’ll save you the effort of having to compete with nonwhite people putting in twice the effort. Vote for us and we’ll re-rig the system so you get the best cuts.

Are we surprised?

READ MORE: Democrats see 'ominous signs' and are becoming worried about Florida as midterms approach: report

Democracy is hard work in the end. Voting for Republicans, however, is easy-peasy. White people already have political advantages. The GOP is just protecting them. Even so, white liberals seem to be let down by a majority of white people who are turning out to be as racist as nonwhite people have said they would be. The feeling grows deeper knowing that racism is the lazy American’s road to tyranny.

Bu bu but what about the economy?

To be sure, polls have found that large numbers of voters are worried about “the economy” more than they are about the endurance of democracy and the fall of Roe. “The economy” just so happens to be the same talking point that the Republicans are pitching. There’s also the none-too-suble hint that Democrats stand against white people. Put these together and it looks – I am shocked – like recent polling.

Inflation is a serious thing, but it’s not due to anything that the Democrats did or didn’t. (It’s related to the covid pandemic, supply chains and the war in Ukraine.) But since there’s a public cost to supporting someone who has no business running for the US Senate (ie, Mehmet Oz), it’s better to cite another reason, any reason. Inflation is visible and, well, it’s enough to fool even oneself.

All this points to the problem of hope.

Hope is anarchical, and it tempts us from the future. We go to it. Hope isn’t a story with an anticipated and emotionally satisfying end. Even so, white liberals tend to believe, I think, that racism is a figment of history, not a precursor informing our vision of the present. Such a story tells of an America purified of its original sin, so that we can believe in it again. Take that away, what do you have?

Whatever it is, it’s not hope.

Hope is almost certainly not what we think it will be. We almost certainly won’t recognize it, though it may be right in front of us. I think hope is rooted in lived experiences of human lives, and in their consequences, and in a particular time and particular place. Hope is, as in Hebrews 11:1, a political exercise in religion: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

White liberals are telling themselves a story about democracy and what’s at stake in these midterms. It’s not that that’s wrong, but that’s also not right. Stories are tools of politics, not politics itself. What matters is doing the work to get preferred candidates elected. It’s messy, loud, and anarchical. Democracy is almost always like that.

Even if the Republicans take the House, democracy will not end. America is not one nation. It will endure where the people want it to. It may wither where the people want it to. Democracy will live on, though it may be in form rather than in spirit, because the GOP is by nature prone to keeping up appearances. Even in a desiccated husk of democracy is hope. From there, good people can do good work.

The most democratic thing we can do is presume that the polls are wrong, raise a lotta hell and get out the vote. Democracy is an open practice, not a theory alone. When time comes, put in the work and create quality conditions for self-rule. Oh, and one more thing.

Hope we are lucky.

READ MORE: Why are voters choosing 'the economy' over democracy

Why are voters choosing 'the economy' over democracy

In the last weeks before the 2022 midterms, Democrats have been struggling. A major Times poll indicated that 44 percent of voters said that economic concerns were most important for them in the election, up from 36 percent in July.

That’s important because voters who put economics first favored Republicans by more than two to one.

Polls like this make it sound like the American people are angry about continuing high inflation and have deprioritized issues like abortion rights and voting rights. As a result, they have turned to Republicans.

READ MORE: Anxious Americans are putting prices over principles

That may be part of what is happening. But it also seems likely that voters are turning to Republicans, and that they have therefore started referencing Republican talking points about the economy.

This seems counterintuitive; economic health has a direct material effect on people. You’d expect that to drive vote choice.

But a good deal of research suggests that the opposite is the case. People aren’t pushed into partisan camps by the economy. Rather, people interpret the economy through a partisan lens.

In 2016, for example, the Republican Consumer Confidence Index, based on a weighted value for a series of key questions, was around 77. The Consumer Confidence Index for Democrats was around 105.

READ MORE: Republicans would rather tank the global economy than stop corporations from destroying the planet

Immediately after the election when Republican candidate Donald Trump was victorious, though, those numbers flipped. Republican CCI jumped to 120; Democratic CCI plummeted below 80.

There was a similar dynamic after the 2020 election. Democrats shortly before the election had a CCI of around 76. The Republican CCI was close to 100. After the election of Democrat Joe Biden, Democratic CCI skyrocketed to close to 105, while Republican CCI cratered to under 70.

Similarly, before the 2016 election, less than 25 percent of Republicans said the economy was getting better; more than 75 percent said it was getting worse.

As soon as the election happened, though, those numbers changed dramatically. Suddenly almost 50 percent of Republicans thought the economy was getting better, while a slightly smaller number than that said it was getting worse.

Obviously, the economy didn’t change that much in the week after the election. What changed were partisan signals. When Trump was in control, Republicans told pollsters the economy was better, while Democrats told pollsters the economy was worse.

The fact that partisanship drives economic polling, rather than the economy driving partisanship, is well known now. And it’s even more salient as partisanship has increased and strengthened over the last years. It should be taken into account in media reporting and narratives.

But it rarely is. For example, in 2016, the media was obsessed with the idea that Trump voters were being driven by economic anxiety.

But numerous retrospective studies showed that there was little correlation between economic distress and support for Trump.

Trump voters chose Trump for partisan reasons—because he was a Republican, because he embodied their enthusiasm for white, male, Christian identity politics.

But Republican talking points focused on economic anxiety. So voters signaled their partisanship to pollsters by saying the economy was doing poorly.

Despite the evidence that media narratives were wrong or confused in 2016, you can see the same thing happening again in 2022. The media looks at polls saying that voters are concerned about inflation and the economy, and says that poor economic performance is bad for Democrats.

Inflation does materially affect people, and disruptions from Covid and the war in Ukraine are real. There is plenty of reason to be concerned about the economy at a time of global uncertainty and conflict.

But those concerns don’t necessarily translate into voting choices.

For instance, in the New York Times article on their own poll, the reporter interviews Robin Ackerman, a 37-year-old mortgage loan officer who said she was a Democrat.

Ackerman supports abortion rights. But she said, “I’m shifting more towards Republican because I feel like they’re more geared towards business.”

The vague gesture towards “business” doesn’t really sound like someone who is worried about the economy and is going to vote Republican. It sounds like someone who has decided to vote for the GOP, and is therefore referencing partisan GOP pro-business talking points to justify or rationalize that choice.

So, if the economy isn’t necessarily driving voter choice, what is?

The probable answer is simply that the incumbent party has a large structural disadvantage in midterm elections. According to FiveThirtyEight, the president’s party has performed about 7.4 points worse in the midterm elections than in the previous presidential election.

Based on those numbers you’d expect Democrats to lose the House (which they won by 3 in 2020). They might be able to hold the Senate this year because of the very poor quality of Republican candidates.

Why do voters turn on the incumbent president? Political scientists are unsure, but the best explanation is probably “balancing.”

Voters, perhaps pushed by a press obsessed with both sides messaging, tend to worry that a president has gone too far to the left or the right. They vote for the out party to get what they see as more moderate outcomes.

The Dobbs decision, one of the most sweeping right-wing policy victories of the last twenty years at least, has somewhat undermined the narrative that the country is moving too far left. So has the continued prominence of Donald Trump in the news, a constant reminder of what the Republicans would do if in power.

These factors have helped keep Democrats more competitive in midterm polls than would be expected. Republicans are still only about .5 points ahead on the generic congressional ballot according to 538’s poll aggregator, rather than the 4-point lead you’d expect based on previous midterms.

Still, the swing towards the out party as the midterm approaches is powerful. The Democrats are fighting against long-term structural factors which have shaped elections for decades.

Those factors are pushing voters towards Republicans—and when voters move towards Republicans, they tend to say they’re concerned about the economy, because that’s what Republican partisan leaders are emphasizing.

But it’s not the economy driving the partisanship. It’s partisanship driving economic concerns.

Which means that the problem isn’t really that Democrats are out of touch on the economy, or aren’t appealing to working-class voters. The problem is that many voters continue to behave as they have in the past, despite the GOP’s escalating extremism and escalating attack on democracy.

This dynamic is very dangerous for our democracy, and it’s difficult to know how to address it. But if we are ever going to do so, it’s important to understand that economic anxiety is not what’s driving the backlash.

READ MORE: Bernie Sanders says Democrats should hammer the 'corporate agenda of the Republicans'

Anxious Americans are putting prices over principles

Tom Nichols tweeted recently that America “is facing the greatest danger to its constitutional system since at least the 1950s, if not the 1850s, and millions of people are like: Yeah, but gas, man.”

The Atlantic’s senior editor was expressing what many on the left feel. Americans are willing to vote for GOP candidates who may change the country in disastrous ways. The government programs we rely on - Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – are seen as “entitlements” by Republicans and are on their chopping block.

State legislatures have passed laws curtailing abortion rights and preventing teachers from talking about racism and gender fluidity.

READ MORE: The face of liberal democracy’s enemy is white

GOP leaders have admitted that they want to make it harder for people to vote, with Mitch McConnell saying that, “If we don't do something about voting by mail, we are going to lose the ability to elect a Republican in this country." I could go on, but this is enough.

Oh wait, one more.

Some Republican are tired of this separation of church and state nonsense and say that the church should “direct the government.”

“But gas, man.”

READ MORE: Republicans would rather tank the global economy than stop corporations from destroying the planet

According to several polls, Americans are most concerned with inflation and are willing to ignore major red flags with GOP candidates, believing they are better at managing the economy.

This is a hierarchy of needs issue, with concrete and immediate concerns outweighing abstract and distal ones. This is not new, and many a politician has been ousted because they happen to be in office during an economic downturn. But something’s different here.

If the midterms go as predicted, it will be understood as a repudiation of the Biden administration and its focus on “woke” politics. This explanation does not fit reality. It would be patently false given the administration’s attempts to pass a robust Build Back Better bill aimed squarely at low-income earners’ pocketbooks.

But I would like to venture another explanation: our nation is wallowing in growing economic inequality, weak social services, rising healthcare costs, unsteady gig jobs and weak labor unions.

We are a working-class country. Our citizens will be increasingly drawn to politicians who present emotional appeals offering to assuage the anxieties associated with economic insecurity.

Globally, America is one of the higher-income nations as measured by median income. Objectively speaking, we seem to be doing well. But this is a matter of perspective – not raw numbers.

When your grandparents and parents moved through a world of economic security and capital accumulation, and here you are struggling to pay rent, burdened with college loan and worried that you are a few unforeseen medical bills away from bankruptcy, that $50,000 per year salary doesn’t seem like a whole lot.

This anxiety can make people receptive to emotional appeals from politicians claiming to identify with them, creating scapegoats to direct their pain toward, and then making empty promises to alleviate that anxiety. Scholars (including me) have been using this to explain the rise of Trump and MAGA populism on the right.

But I am talking about a recharacterization of what the soul of America as a nation is right now. I am talking about extending the MAGA explanation outward to all of us. We are not a nation of middle-class strivers that made us the envy of the world. We are an anxious people now. That means we will put prices over principles.

The Times’ David Brooks, on why Republicans are surging:

GOP candidates are telling a very clear class/culture/status war narrative in which commonsense Americans are being assaulted by elite progressives who let the homeless take over the streets, teach sex ed to 5-year-olds, manufacture fake news, run woke corporations, open the border and refuse to do anything about fentanyl deaths and the sorts of things that affect regular people. In other words, candidates … wrap a dozen different issues into one coherent class war story.

I might quibble with some of the examples Brooks gives. Do Republicans talk that much about fentanyl deaths? Is fake news still a viable topic post-Trump? But I agree with the general point that Republicans are on the ascendant, because of a false narrative that Democrats ignore the concerns of everyday people.

Never mind that the ultimate cause of economic insecurity in the United States can be tied to Republican initiatives. They are antagonistic to unions – the presence of which has historically been associated with higher incomes and job benefits, like healthcare and maternity leave. They resist investment in social services. Programs that fund childcare do not put money directly into the hands of people but decrease family outlays, freeing up money for other purposes. For the past 50 years, they have championed a tax regime that would supposedly lift all boats by cutting taxes on the rich. All it did was sink the middle class and buy the wealthy a few more yachts. Never mind all that.

These explanations are vague and academic and do not resonate with something as clear and immediate as “your gas prices have gone up. Vote in the other guy, and they will go down.” It is the difference, as cognitive linguist George Lakoff argues, between hard-to-talk-about systemic causes and easily grasped direct causes.

So there is work to be done in terms of developing a compelling economic narrative.

But we know the problem – economic insecurity. We know the solution – Democrat policies. We know how to communicate - a narrative that speaks to the anxieties of working-class America.

Yes, the Democrats will likely be licking their wounds after these midterms. But there is hope here. When so many are working class, so many Americans are potential Democrats.

We could be on the precipice of a generational shift, where people – especially younger people who are more likely to feel economic anxiety – are more receptive to old-style “look out for the little man” Democratic politics.

Let’s talk about raising the minimum wage. Let’s talk about supporting unions. Let’s talk about increasing the salaries of civil service workers. Let’s talk about taxing the wealthy and having them pay their fair share.

I have a strong belief that in a working-class America, common Republican scare tactics of labeling any reform as socialism will begin to fall flat.

And who knows?

In the process, we might elect enough politicians to keep our voting rights, abortion rights and Medicare.

READ MORE: Bernie Sanders says Democrats should hammer the 'corporate agenda of the Republicans'

Why the deeply psychological war with Donald Trump has only just begun: neuroscientist

Most of us are sick and tired of hearing about Donald Trump. We want him to go away, forever. But the unfortunate truth is that just isn’t happening—not any time soon, at least. Trump’s influence over the Republican party is as great as ever, and if we ignore that, it is like ignoring an infection. It will fester and spread and eat away at the flesh of America unless it is dealt with. But what is the antibiotic that stops the cultural disease that is Donald Trump?

First, we must realize that we are engaged in something like a game of chess. To defeat our opponent, we must be thinking many steps ahead, and we must try to anticipate what they are going to do. We must rely on our rational mind and our reactions must be mindful and strategic, rather than reflexive and impulsive. That may sound like obvious advice, but so far, the Left has been responding predictably, without foresight or strategy, and playing right into Trump’s hand as a result. The more CNN and MSNBC attack Trump and say he is the anti-Christ, the more he is loved by the Right. They think, “If he’s pissed them off that much, he must be doing something right!”

It’s time to acknowledge a failed strategy and try something new. If we don’t, nothing will change, and Trump will keep his influence over almost half the country. He may even get re-elected, as absurd as that sounds in light of the events that transpired on January 6th of last year. But if he does not—whether it’s because he loses or is not allowed to run—there will still be half of the nation following Trump and that influence will be felt in Congress and on the streets. So how can we start playing the game differently?

The intention of this warning is not to prepare us for war, but to avoid it. To prevent the outbreak of a physical war, we may have to engage in a psychological war. It’s the kind of war where no one dies, and our weapon is simply convincing content. But before we entertain some potential solutions and strategies, we should have a sense of how Trump is going to play the game, based on what we know about his psychology. In theory, if we can predict him, we can disarm him.

There’s Nothing More Dangerous Than a Man with Nothing to Lose

My first article about Donald Trump, published in January of 2016, described his narcissistic personality disorder and why it made him a dangerous world leader. According to Raw Story, it was their most popular article ever, receiving an estimated 30 million views over the years. I was not alone in this assessment—more than a few clinical psychologists have identified Trump as a “textbook narcissist.” Two years into his presidency, I wrote a similar piece that explored how Trump might respond to “narcissistic injury,” which occurs when a narcissist loses power and gets disgraced.

When Trump lost the presidency to Joe Biden, he became filled with rage and obsessed with revenge. The first thing he tried to do was overturn the election using an angry mob. Ever since his “fall from grace” (though technically there was no ‘grace’ to begin with), he has nothing to lose, and this makes him more dangerous than ever. His narcissistic injury has created narcissistic rage, and this rage means he will try to destroy all those he has a vendetta against. To achieve his goal, he will play dirty, gaslight, and intimidate at a level that would seem extreme even for him. Right now, he is doing everything in his power to systematically fill the Republican party with loyalists and sycophants who will do his bidding with no regard for laws or fairness. The question is, is there anything that can be done about it?

As long as Trump is the most popular figure with right-wing America, Republican politicians will be forced to fall in line. It would seem that what must be done is changing how Trump is perceived by his followers. To do that, we must understand the worldview of his supporters, and why they see Trump as their savior. If we can socially engineer a “fall from grace” with the majority of his supporters, then Republican politicians and Fox News pundits will all begin jumping ship. It briefly looked like that was going to happen when the Capitol Building was being stormed, but Trump cleverly strong-armed them all back into submission.

We are in a War of Worldviews

As a cognitive neuroscientist who has been analyzing Donald Trump and his supporters over the last six years—in dozens of articles for websites like Raw Story, The Daily Beast, and Psychology Today, and in interviews with progressive voices like The Young Turks and David Pakman—I have come to realize that the war with Trump is a war of worldviews. But it is not as simple as the Right versus the Left, and if we make the mistake of thinking it is, then we are missing a massive factor in his continued popularity and will remain clueless about how to combat it.

Yes, it’s true that Trump has become the messiah for conservative America, and that Christian fundamentalists make up a big chunk of his support. These people feel like the conservative worldview is dying and that their Christian values and customs will fade into oblivion if something drastic isn’t done to reverse the trend towards secularism. Fox News fuels these fears daily, and Trump saw an opportunity to exploit the existential terror. But make no mistake—Trump is not a religious man and at his core he is no conservative. It is commonly known but ignored that he used to be a Democrat and a good buddy of both Bill and Hillary Clinton, not to mention Jeffrey Epstein, whose sleazy values were anything but conservative.

Steve Bannon’s social engineering helped Trump win over conservative America, and similar information warfare could reverse that. A deep and thorough character study of Donald’s anti-conservative past, that forces his followers to see him as an opportunist and not one of them, could go a long way if it were presented by a source that the Right perceives to be a neutral party. His followers will not watch CNN or MSNBC, so the challenge would be to figure out how to deliver the story to them from a source they trust, or at least don’t despise. Truth be told, not all his conservative supporters are racist or bad people. Many just believe everything that Right-wing media feeds them and are convinced that the Left is the real danger to America. If these conservatives can be persuaded that the reality show star is not a true tribe member, it could hurt Trump’s dominance over the Republican party, and reveal to everyone that he’s not invincible. We should not expect this content to make them switch political sides, but if it can weaken Trump’s grip on America, the effort could be worth it.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about what is happening in America is that people want change. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were the most popular presidential candidates because they were the ones promising to take on corruption in Washington and money in politics—even if one of them wanted to do none of those things in reality. People are angry at an economic situation that has led to the highest level of income inequality the nation’s ever seen. Billionaires and corporations on both sides have control over the stories media outlets run and influence the laws to work in their favor. What if we can offer something new to the rational people on the Left and the Right who want systemic change? What if it could be radically progressive—in the sense that the ideas are profoundly different—but in ways that appeal to people across the political spectrum? Is that even possible?

A New Political Party is the Way Forward

Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang and former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman have founded a new party known as the Forward Party, and it has already announced candidates who will be running for office in the midterm elections.

The party is focused on depolarizing America and healing the division, but without proposing policies that are directly in the center, since they also do not move America “forward.” Because it is open to candidates who lean right and left, it is bipartisan, but it also the definition of progressive, because its platform consists of many radical new ideas—like Yang’s plan for universal basic income (UBI). It may sound like an oxymoron, but the Forward Party might just be America’s first “bipartisan progressive party.”

Could a third party be the thing that unites all rational Americans in a war against corruption, political extremism, and Trumpism? It is hard to say, since neither side seems to be too interested in compromise, and divisive issues like abortion and gun control make any kind of reconciliation difficult to imagine. And what new big ideas is the Forward Party offering that make it something radically different from the Democratic party?

I, for one, believe it is a step in the right direction, though I understand if some think the Forward Party is too young to stand a real chance in the next presidential election. However, if there was ever a time that a third party actually stood a chance, it is right now. If the Forward Party’s presidential candidate seems like the best choice for America, a reasonable strategy would be to support that candidate right up until the moment it seems like defeating Trump is no longer possible. At that point, the Forward Party candidate would urge their supporters to vote for the candidate who can ensure Trump never gets back into the oval office. But if the Forward Party’s pick is polling well and has a chance to win, then it would seem like the perfect opportunity to break America’s infamous two-party system. According to the Washington Post, a growing number of experts believe that the way to fix democracy is to move beyond the two-party system.

As a scientist, I believe that a scientific approach to improving society is what America needs. To be clear, that doesn’t mean looking to existing science for answers—most of our problems will not have obvious answers that can be found in any text book. I simply mean that we should always be experimenting with new ways of doing things and collecting data to see what is or is not working. That way we can collectively adapt and evolve and become an optimally-functional system. Evolutionary theory has shown us that organisms that can’t adapt to a changing world die out. Complex systems science says that social systems are similar to organisms in terms of their dynamics and structure. That means societies must also be able to adapt to a changing world. In other words, they have to be self-correcting. In his best-selling book The Beginning of Infinity, the theoretical physicist David Deutsch—father of quantum computing—explained how societies can be structured to be optimally self-correcting. This requires implementing mechanisms for error detection and correction. If the Forward Party wants to truly be forward-thinking, it must look at the strategies for optimizing systems discovered by nature and cataloged by science. This approach is known as “systems thinking,” and it is transforming how both scientists and citizens solve complex problems of all kinds.

In recent years, a growing number of scientists have recognized the societal significance of a statistical reasoning method known as Bayesian reasoning, which is a procedure for updating your theory, model, or belief-system in the face of new evidence. It involves a relatively complex mathematical formula but you don’t need to know any math to use informal Bayesian reasoning in everyday life—as philosopher Julia Galef explains in this short and accessible video. All you have to do is 1) consider all possible explanations for something, rather than relying purely on “gut instinct,” 2) rank and rate each theory according to how likely it is to be true based on all the known facts, 3) test each theory by using it to make future predictions, and 4) update how you ranked and rated the likelihood of each being true to reflect what you learned from the testing phase. Some of our most respected scientists, like cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker and theoretical physicist Sean Carroll, have identified Bayesian reasoning as a powerful tool in the war against irrationality, as it can combat misinformation and bogus conspiracy theories. At the same time, it can reveal real conspiracies should they exist, by demonstrating that a particular theory about a conspiracy explains the facts better than the alternatives, such as the mainstream narrative. What Bayesian reasoning provides in a nutshell is a universal approach to determining truth. Beliefs should not be believed blindly; they should be tested continually. This is another method for self-correction.

With these principles in mind, I created the Road to Omega Substack to sketch out how the sciences of complexity—like systems science, evolutionary theory, and statistical science—can reveal new ways to design optimally functional and resilient social, political, and economic systems. Not only that, collectively these sciences illuminate what could be called a “new cosmic narrative”—a picture of the universe as a creative system that inevitably generates complexity in the form of life, consciousness, and civilization. That means that we are not accidents of nature, we are actually the primary drivers of this complexity growth process. An awareness of this fact can instill within us a purpose, that purpose being to see that our civilization progresses into a more complex, integrated, and intelligent state of existence; one that acquires the ability to get off of the planet before our sun dies and takes all sentient life with it. I have described this new scientific paradigm, which creates a foundation for a unifying worldview, in my new book The Romance of Reality: How the Universe Organizes Itself to Create Life, Consciousness, and Cosmic Complexity.

If a progressive ideology is one that aims to bring about human progress, then it must view society as a whole as an adaptive system, and it must look to the new sciences of complexity to understand the evolutionary mechanisms that drive organisms toward higher organization and computational capacity. The Forward Party is a chance to build a political party that is self-correcting and constantly evolving, rather than dogmatic and rigid. It is young and therefore can be shaped and sculpted into a truly progressive party, one that is not under the influence of billionaires and corporations that don’t have the best interests of the people in mind. It is also a chance to weaken the grip that Donald Trump has on the nation, by offering a new political option that is uncorrupted by money and untainted by extremist elements. The country desperately needs radical change, but change that is rooted in logic and rationality. Those are the requirements for change that moves us forward and not backward; that is, for change to be progress.

Bobby Azarian is a cognitive neuroscientist, an author, and a Psychology Today blogger. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @BobbyAzarian.

Not all men harass. But most women are preyed upon

Not all men.

Except for the man who cursed affirmative action whenever a woman beat him out for a position. When I was old enough to have children, it occurred to me that my father who, not having a clue what to do with his own daughters, might not have known then what to do with a woman in the workplace who wasn’t his underling.

Not all men.

READ MORE: Why Georgia's fetal personhood law is a 'Pandora's box' and a warning to the rest of the country

Except for the boys in elementary school who forced themselves on the girls. I was small but fast. Still, I carry a scar on my chin from stitches, courtesy of one of the days I wasn’t fast enough. Then there were guys in middle school who would run their hands down our backs checking for a bra strap. If it were there, they would snap it. If not, they would grope us and judge our undeveloped breasts.

In high school, we moved on to the ones who copped a feel in the crowded hall between classes, from the safety of anonymity. Or the guys who assumed that going out on a date with them meant they got play, and “how far” to go was solely up to them. The guys who responded to my “no” by spreading gossip about how easy I was. I, a child abuse survivor who was afraid to kiss a boy and refused to “go steady,” had a reputation I didn’t know about until I graduated.

Not all men.

Except for my middle-aged supervisor who sexually harassed me daily. The flagrant abuse of his position went on for six months. When I took it to our superiors, I was told that they’d pay me a severance to quit instead, because he had more experience. It was then I realized I wasn’t the first and was not likely to be the last. I was 19.

READ MORE: Trump suggests threatening journalists who report on leaks with prison time, rape

Not all men.

Except the men nearing their thirties who kept asking me out at the tender age of 17. This included a man who, when he learned my age, didn’t speak to me for months, only to call me on my 18th birthday. Or my bank coworker, who asked me to accompany him to the company Christmas party, then gave me lingerie as a gift just over a week later as an enticement to go out with him again. Or the client who asked me out, and over dinner on our first date, admitted he’d been stalking me for a year. He’d volunteered to bring in his girlfriend’s business deposits just to have me wait on him.

Then later, the funny machinists at a job in another state, who played grab-ass when they got bored, assaulting us with metal rods that left welts on our backs, asses and legs. Or the owner of that company who paid for everyone’s schooling — except me, because he already had put a woman through school to run the office and he didn’t want to pay for a woman to become a machinist, just the guys, every one of which was encouraged to pick up the machining skill of their choice on the company dime.

Not all men.

Except the ones online who send us unsolicited d*ck pics, take any friendliness as consent to demand a more intimate relationship or harass us, even over multiple accounts as they break the Terms of Service and get suspended time and again.

Not all men.

Of course, it’s not all men.

Except when it is.

The greatest issue isn’t that some men harass women. The problem is that harassment of all kinds is so prevalent and pernicious that people refuse to call it predation. It’s “shooting your shot," “miscommunication” or “misreading signals.”

When I posted a thread largely consisting of these anecdotal incidents from my own life, the response was overwhelming and disheartening. It was apparent my experiences weren’t unique.

To be honest, I’ve had less horror in my most traumatic sexual assault than too many others. Women (and men) flooded the thread with their own uncomfortable or painful experiences.

One quote tweet:

“We treat sexual violence like a thing that only happens to women once if they’re really unlucky. But if you ask for a woman’s life history with abuse, it often looks exactly like this.” –Dr. Nicole Bedera

Not all men.

Except those who chose to call me an "outlier,” dismissing me instead of listening. Some suggested that I was “attractive as a victim,” because of my personality. It was argued that I was responsible for what happened to me, because of my choices, not my abusers’.

These arguments ignored that most of my (related) experiences of misogyny were at school and in the workplace. Worse, they neglected that studies, statistics and ethics agree on one thing.

Victims do not cause sexual assault or harassment.

Perpetrators cause assault or harassment.

Most of all, those people ignored the hundreds of women (and men) in the thread sharing their own experiences of the same and the nearly 10,000 who shared it because it spoke to them.

The “not all men” arguments ignore most of all the view that women are considered a commodity. Many men will invalidate some women for being sexually attractive, others for failing to be attractive enough and we all continue to fight for basic bodily autonomy.

But not all men.

I didn’t write the thread to display my trauma. I don’t feel brave for sharing it. What I’m ashamed of, what keeps me up at night, is the percentage of my life spent trying to be what these men said I had to be – to be a good or right or correct or proper iteration of a woman.

I despise myself sometimes for the indignities that I allowed myself to suffer to “get along.” I see some women, even now, who are so desperate to feel equal that they’re willing to step on other people to do so and defend that behavior as normal. We’re capable of more.

We must demand more.

No, not all men.

It doesn’t take “all men” to force women into eternal vigilance.

It must simply be enough to keep us cautious, expending too much energy on safety and survival to have any left to fight for men in power to finally treat women like people.

Not all men.

No selfish choice made by predatory men in this society is about women — unless we’re the victims, at which time the full responsibility and burden become ours to carry.

Not all men.

But damn near all women.

And that should count for something.

READ MORE: 'Not your body': Marjorie Taylor Greene battles Georgia woman over abortion rights

Joe Biden can kiss future Supreme Court nominations goodbye if Republicans win the Senate

Have you heard there’s a US Senate race in North Carolina?

For reals. No joke.

It’s actually happening, even if you probably couldn’t name the two candidates competing for the seat if you were waterboarded or hypnotized – or both.

READ MORE: 'Democrats need to win this': PA independent Senate candidate drops out and endorses John Fetterman

At first glance, it’s easy to guess why this race isn’t getting much attention.

It doesn’t feature a scammy TV doctor from New Jersey with an apparent side hustle in the puppy torture industry.

There isn't an ex-NFL player with a fake police badge now best known for paying for abortions and threatening to kill the mother of his son and his son, according to said son.

Still, Democrats still may regret watching this seat slip away for years, if not decades.

READ MORE: A 'shadow campaign for the presidency': How Ted Cruz’s 'lame' theatrics point to another presidential run

The race to replace retiring inside-trader Republican Richard Burr isn’t just the Democrats’ best chance this decade to pick up a Senate seat in purplish North Carolina, where Joe Biden lost by only 1.34 percent of the vote. It’s one of the closest Senate races in an election year filled with coin-toss Senate races.

Democrat Cheri Beasely, a former chief justice of North Carolina’s Supreme Court, trails Republican Ted Budd, a member of the Congress and Trump fanboy, by about 3 points, according to 538’s poll averages. Even less than that in other reputable polls.

That puts it well within the margin of error of most polls and what would normally be considered an amazing pickup opportunity for Democrats desperately in need of pickup opportunities.

Yet you’ve surely heard far more about Senate races in Wisconsin, Arizona and Florida, where the polls aren’t as tight.

There are many reasons why the Senate race in North Carolina is getting less attention than nearly mathematically impossible attempts to oust rabid Karens who are Lauren Boebert or Marjorie Taylor Greene.

And none of them are particularly great.

First of all, the Republican candidate doesn’t want anyone to pay attention to this race.

Budd is running a “stealth” campaign, according to Michael Bitzer, a professor of politics and history at Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina.

“When you’re doing a stealth campaign, relying on the fundamentals, and letting your TV ads be your main conduit, you can fly below the radar and be restrained enough not to say anything out of the mainstream that will call attention to you,” Bitzer told the New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner.

And apparently Budd’s strategy is working, as evidenced by the almost lack of national focus on the race.

The word “fundamentals” points to why Beasley, the Democratic candidate, may also be eager to keep the race off of MSNBC or Fox.

No Democrat has won a US Senate race in North Carolina since 2008, when Obama’s massive landslide swept in the state and, somehow, Indiana, like some sort of 1,000-year flood.

So Beasley, who would be the first Black woman North Carolina has ever sent to the US Senate, has to “thread a very small needle to have a shot,” according to Bitzer, which requires mirroring the “centrist” approach of two-term Democratic governor Roy Cooper.

And the word “fundamentals” also means that the president's party hasn’t had a good midterm election since 2002, when the entire nation was still suffering a cortisol surge from Sept. 11.

One real exception to this rule was when Republicans picked up two Senate seats in 2018, despite losing their House majority.

What was different in 2018?

Republicans had a very good Senate map that year, but Democrats had excellent recruits in Missouri and Tennessee. What many people think made the difference for the GOP was Brett Kavanaugh who was confirmed to the Supreme Court despite (or because of) a credible accusation of sexual assault.

Republicans rallied around the conservative goal of dominating the courts and, as a result, they were able to overturn Roe at the first opportunity.

Which leads us to why 2022 could be different, and why Democrats should be doing everything they can to help Beasley and win this seat.

Most Americans want Roe back.

Most North Carolinians want Roe back.

But here’s something every Democrat and every honest observer of politics must understand quickly, or eight years ago when Democrats lost the Senate and doomed the nation to rule by a stolen Republican Supreme Court majority: A Republican Senate will never confirm a Democratic president’s pick for the Supreme Court.

Never. Ever. It’s over.

In fact, it’s been over since 1895. That’s the last time a Republican-controlled Senate confirmed an appointee from a Democratic president.

If Democrats don’t hold the Senate in 2022, Joe Biden will not get to put anyone else on the Supreme Court. He probably also won’t be able to fill any cabinet vacancies or openings that may occur on the National Labor Relations Board or any other parts of the government that operate via presidential appointment.

And if Democrats don’t hold the Senate in 2022, the chances of them retaking it for the rest of this decade and beyond are beyond dim. And that means that Democrats may be able to win the presidency if the Supreme Court doesn’t allow Republicans to rig the electoral college, but Democratic presidents will not be allowed to act as presidents by a GOP Senate.

The only way to avoid this constitutional perversion is to somehow hold the Senate and expand the majority by doing everything possible to win a state like North Carolina when there’s any chance of winning in North Carolina.

We’re past the point when money will make too much of a difference, but there are still calls to be made and doors to be knocked.

But most of all, we need to recognize that our only hope of overcoming a Republican majority on the Supreme Court almost entirely appointed by GOP presidents who lost the popular vote at least once is to hold the Senate.

And if we took this realization seriously, no Democrat would be ignoring the North Carolina Senate seat.

READ MORE: Mehmet Oz: Democracy includes 'local political leaders' getting involved with abortions

How a radical third of the electorate dictates the terms of American democracy

USA Today runs a daily poll on its frontpage. On Friday, the public survey results were on gun laws. “If it were harder to obtain guns legally, Americans think there would be ____ mass shootings.”

Sixty-six percent said there would be far fewer or somewhat fewer mass shootings. Nearly 30 percent said no difference. (A smattering of cranks, 5 percent, said there would be more or somewhat more.)

I bring this to your attention not so much to bolster the prospect of tighter gun laws (though it does), but to point out a pretty common demographic pattern – that a radical third stands against the majority with respect to issues concerning us all. Whether gun control, abortion or “indoctrination” in public school, there’s always about a third of the country representing the country’s shame.

READ MORE: Dark money groups have pumped $1 billion into GOP effort to retake the Senate

This alone isn’t noteworthy. After all, every country has its yokels and yahoos. But not every country has a political setup that gives yokels and yahoos more practical power than the majority. Very few countries, if any, give voters in sparsely populated farming areas an effective veto over densely populated areas with large urban centers.

That setup – or the political advantages of it – are apparent when the Republicans slander cities, and in the slandering, they protect those same advantages. Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan said last week: “Do you feel safe in cities controlled by the Left? Cities that defunded the police? Cities that ignore police staffing issues. No. No. No.”

The dynamic of political power between urban and rural is obviously asymmetrical. That’s by design. It’s to prevent liberal democracy from flourishing fully. The thinking at the time of the founding was that a fully flourishing liberal democracy would inflict tyranny on the minority. In the case of the founders, rich white men like them.

But the problem is and has been the opposite.

READ MORE: 'Just out here watching boxes': Armed Arizona 'poll watchers' raise fears of right-wing voter intimidation

A radical minority dictates the terms of American democracy.

I suspect that even people with something better to do than pay attention to politics get this. The Electoral College stands against democracy. So does the US Senate. The courts, especially the Supreme Court, do, too. We liberals say “it’s a republic, not a democracy” is wrong, but we don’t consider whether right-wingers have a point. Saying they’re wrong is more theoretical than empirical.

We should consider something else that’s more theoretical than empirical – the idea that political violence is an exception to the rule. Precisely, that political violence is random, irrational, senseless: something that deviates from the norm. It’s nothing of the sort.

Its origins have always been here.

It’s that place, demographically speaking, where the minority believes, say, that tighter gun laws will make no difference to shooting massacres, even amid mass death, even amid murder rates in Republican-controlled state outstripping those of all other states.

What respect is the truth (or anything) owed when a third controls contramajoritarian institutions built into the system by design? What respect is the political majority owed by a political minority? Why would the politically strong give respect to the politically weak?

But sometimes those contramajoritarian institutions fail (or appear to). If and when they do, this radical third of America is entitled, on account of having political advantages, to resort to violence in order to maintain those same political advantages. While democracy is the point for the political majority, with violence the exception, violence is the point for the political minority, with democracy the exception.

So when a school kid is sent a letter like the one above (regarding the child’s mother, a Loudoun County, Virginia, school board member), it should not be seen as extraordinary, because it’s actually ordinary. After all, what’s more common? People discussing hard topics like “critical race theory” in public school? Or people losing their minds over things they don’t understand and don’t want to understand?

The radical third has been living among us since the founding. They had kids. Their kids had kids had kids. This is how they think. This is what they do. The difference is of degree, not kind. As long as the contramajoritarian institutions hold, all’s well. If they don’t, well …

According to USA Today, “bomb threats at [historically Black colleges and universities] had swelled to at least 57” since February, “leaving administrators and students on edge and rekindling a history of violence aimed at Black students seeking educational advancement.”

The FBI said that it had focused on six subjects in 2021, but arrested no one, according to USA Today. In the meantime, however, “the menacing behavior continued into the next school year.”

“If we allow people to feel like they can continue to do this without being held accountable, they will always be able to be disruptive,” Walter Kimbrough told the newspaper. “We’re the only group where there have been threats, and nobody has been caught” (my italics).

If it isn’t apparent, the source of these threats is the radical third of America, where democracy is undeserving of respect and where the rule of law applies only if it maintains baked-in political advantages.

A radical third dictates the terms of American democracy.

It’s empirical, not theoretical.

READ MORE: Are SCOTUS Republicans in on a plot to end Democratic presidencies forever?

Michael Flynn associate among the first wave of rioters to breach Capitol barricades on January 6th

A close associate of retired Lt. General Michael Flynn was among the first wave of rioters who breached the outer barricades at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Raw Story has confirmed.

Brian Gamble, a US Navy veteran and QAnon promoter who now serves as chief information officer of a nonprofit led by Flynn, showed up at the barricades erected at the entrance to the Northwest Walkway about 30 minutes before a crowd that included hundreds of Proud Boys massed there and eventually overwhelmed police lines. Gamble’s presence has been described in podcasts by Tim Hart, a fellow QAnon promoter who accompanied Gamble on Jan. 6 and is currently facing two felony charges related to his involvement in the attack on the Capitol.

Publicly available video shows Gamble, who was dressed in a black helmet inscribed with the words “Kill the Deep State”, a black tactical shirt and black gloves while carrying a bullhorn and chest-mounted GoPro camera, at the front of the line when three successive barriers were breached, allowing rioters to stream onto the Capitol lawn. Gamble and Hart made their way to the Lower West Plaza, where rioters battled police in riot gear, and eventually rushed up a staircase in the scaffolding erected for Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Patrick Byrne, the former CEO who has financed a string of election-denier efforts while working alongside Flynn since 2020, told Raw Story that Gamble disclosed his presence at the Capitol when he hired him at the America Project in May 2021. The America Project was founded by Byrne, along with Michael Flynn and his younger brother, Joe Flynn.

“On the morning of January 6, Brian decided on this approach: He would walk towards the Capitol until someone told him to stop,” Byrne said in a text to Raw Story. “When someone told him to leave, he would leave. And in between the two, he would do to [sic] keep everyone calm, assist anyone who needed it. And if an opportunity arose to assist the police in keeping things peaceful, he would do so. He followed that plan.”

Hart said in an interview with the QAnon program Bards Logic earlier this year that the sound was bad at the Ellipse, where President Trump was speaking, and he suggested to Gamble, whom he referred to as “my buddy,” that they should “just walk down to the Capitol” so they could “be the first in line.”

Hart has described his movements with Gamble on Jan. 6 on different podcasts, along with an interview for Patriot Soap Box, a QAnon-friendly program, that he joined live after he and Gamble returned to their hotel room following the attack on the Capitol.

“There was three gates; this is the first one that — basically, me and Brian stayed there for half an hour and just chilled and talked,” Hart explained on the program while showing video footage he recorded. “And then a lot of people got up in there. And then they basically just pushed from behind and we were, uh, I mean, like literally bowling pins and just kind of pushing the gates down. And it wasn’t like I was trying. I was talking to the people, the guards there, and they knew we weren’t the ones pushing.”

Hart was playing Trump’s speech on a portable radio, and the timing of Trump’s remarks confirms that Hart and Gamble were at the barrier at 12:28 p.m. — roughly 30 minutes before the initial breach.

During the interview, Hart suggested that he and Gamble assessed the barricades at the Northwest Walkway for vulnerabilities.

Gamble can be seen in the background of the video as Hart turns to him and says, “They weren’t very prepared, were they? We were like, ‘Man, that looks like a weak spot there.’ We would say it to ourselves, and then it wasn’t two minutes later that they’re — I don’t know.”

Brian Gamble and Tim Hart discuss security at US

Gamble told Raw Story he was not familiar with the video, and declined to directly address Hart’s statement.

“It’s a shame that people like you are more about division and not unity, and so that’s all I’ve got to say,” he said before hanging up the phone.

While falsely claiming that nothing was destroyed in the Capitol building, Hart said in the Patriot Soapbox interview: “After the results I seen that the bastards did tonight I’m thinking maybe they should have burned it down. Then they could have at least held the vote off.”

Gamble can be seen in the video directly behind Hart as he made the statement.

In another segment of Hart’s interview, an unidentified woman said she wanted to get someone to read from the Book of Esther, a text embraced by Christian nationalists.

“Esther’s a really good book to read for things in times like this,” the woman said. “Remember, Haman was hung on his own gallows.”

“I’m thinking what they do in times like this is — I’m thinking them patriots that got pepper-sprayed in the face are going back and being like, ‘Damn, I need to clean my guns,’” Hart responded. “I mean, I don’t understand what the other options are after this. We’ll sit back and wait a little bit longer. But this whole Q thing was to keep patriots from storming the freaking White House.”

Byrne said Gamble disclosed to him during his job interview that he had been interviewed by federal investigators, adding that “they let him know that the videos of his behavior had all been examined and it had been broadly noted that he had acted as a good citizen.”

Online researchers who began poring over video footage of the Jan. 6 attack identified Gamble as early as April 2021. Hart was charged with obstruction of justice/Congress and obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder, along with four additional charges connected to his actions inside the Capitol building, in June 2021, but Gamble has not been arrested. The FBI did not respond to an inquiry about Gamble from Raw Story.

In an interview with the Firearms of America YouTube channel shortly after he joined the America Project, Gamble disclosed that he had been fired from his job because of the FBI investigation.

“You know, the FBI contacted my employer,” Gamble told host Frank Valentine. “What do you do? They contact your employer, and say, ‘Although he’s not under investigation or being charged with anything — yet… we just want to let you know, be aware of this person’s extracurricular activities. Which, technically, is code for saying he hangs out with General Flynn. I mean, General Flynn is the most crucified politician.”

After briefly serving as Trump’s national security advisor, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. The Department of Justice later moved to drop its prosecution of the case, and in November 2020 — during the interim period between the 2020 election and Biden’s inauguration — President Trump issued a pardon to Flynn.

Flynn emerged as one of the most visible champions of Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen, simultaneously leveraging his past military service and martyr status as a supposed target of the “Deep State.”

On the eve of the attack on the Capitol, Flynn addressed supporters at Freedom Plaza, using language that invoked struggle and suggested a historic inflection point was at hand.

“Tomorrow, tomorrow — trust me — the American people that are standing on the soil that we are standing on tonight, and they’re going to be standing on this soil tomorrow — this is soil that we have fought over, fought for, and that we will fight for in the future,” Flynn said. “The members of Congress, the members of the House of Representatives, the members of the United States Senate, those of you who are feeling weak tonight, those of you who don’t have the moral fiber in your body, get some tonight because tomorrow we the people are going to be here and we want you to know that we will not stand for a lie.”

Gamble is not the only associate of Michael Flynn who has been identified as being at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Publicly available video shows Geoffrey Flohr, a former Michigan State Police officer who previously served in Flynn’s security detail during a rally on Dec. 12, moving around the east side of the Capitol less than 20 minutes before rioters broke through a barricade there. Flohr was a member of 1st Amendment Praetorian, a volunteer security group that provided protected details to Flynn, Ali Alexander, Brandon Straka and other leaders in the effort to overturn the election. No member of 1st Amendment Praetorian, including Flohr, has been arrested in connection with the events at the Capitol on Jan. 6. But a lawyer for the group has disclosed that Joshua James, a member of the Oath Keepers who has pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy, had been a member of 1st Amendment Praetorian prior to Jan. 6.

During his appearance before the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Flynn asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege to not give testimony that could be used against him a criminal proceeding when asked by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.): “Do you believe the violence on January 6th was justified?”

In a public statement released earlier this year in response to the committee, Flynn said it was "a flat-out lie that I had anything to do with any person or organization who intended to act, or who acted, unlawfully on January 6."

During a pro-Trump event in Fort Myers, Fla. in July 2021, Gamble said he received a phone call from “Flynn” shortly after he was fired from his job. Gamble did not specify whether the call was from Michael Flynn or Joe Flynn, but said the caller put him in touch with Byrne, who interviewed him for the position and ultimately hired him.

Gamble appears to have come to the Flynn family’s attention after organizing the first Red Pill Roadshow event with his wife at the Washington Monument in September 2019. Gamble said his wife asked him to help her put together the event to create a forum QAnon supporters to meet in person after some of her favorite influencers were “censored.” Afterwards, they celebrated the success of the event at the Trump International Hotel, and Gamble said he ran into Brad Parscale, the digital media director for the Trump campaign.

Gamble told Valentine that he attended at a book-signing event for Sidney Powell, who represented Flynn in his effort to get his federal charge dismissed. Gamble said he handed a “Magic Q-ball” — a novelty item he marketed to defray costs for Red Pill Roadshow — to Powell and asked her to pass it on to Michael Flynn.

Suddenly, Gamble recounted, he felt two hands on his shoulders and turned around to find a man saying, “Red Pill Roadshow? The Flynn family are huge fans of yours.”

During an Aug. 20, 2020 interview with QAnon influencer Dustin Nemos to promote an upcoming event in Jacksonville, Fla. that was timed to coincide with the Republican National Convention, Gamble said that he had spoken with a member of the Flynn family earlier that day. Gamble said the topic of the call was about Michael Flynn potentially joining the event remotely or the family providing a pre-recorded statement.

Despite providing a platform for QAnon influencers and marketing QAnon-themed merchandise, Gamble tends to downplay his association with the conspiracy theory. He told Valentine that his wife “was following” the QAnon movement at the time of the first event in 2019, adding, “I don’t agree with what their beliefs are, but I know that they’re Americans and what they’re saying is protected by our First Amendment.”

Many of Gamble’s statements in response to coverage of his Red Pill Roadshow events follow a three-part pattern of denying and deflecting attention from his association with QAnon, emphasizing free speech, and attacking the news media.

Responding to coverage by a local NBC affiliate about Michael Flynn’s appearance at an event in southwest Florida in March 2021, Gamble told a conservative outlet: “To say we’re a QAnon event or anything like that — nothing could be further from the truth. We’re free speech event.” He went on to condemn media coverage of the event as “the typical scare tactic used against our events to try and suppress opposing political views in the public domain.”

Gamble’s criticism dovetails with Flynn’s efforts to discredit the news media.

Flynn ended an interview with an Associated Press reporter in February 2022 after she asked him if he communicated with his brother, Gen. Charles Flynn, on Jan. 6.

“Because of this interview, I will never talk to AP again,” Flynn said. He added, “I’m so sick of this because it’s all so fake and it’s so targeted. It’s all about, ‘We’re gonna get this guy.’”

Gamble told Nemos that he developed a disdain for the news media while serving in the US Navy in the Balkans in the late 1990s.

As a 19-year-old service member with Cosmic Top Secret clearance — giving him access to sensitive information held by NATO allies — Gamble said he would review “message traffic,” and then “come out of my tent” and “see a CNN correspondent saying something that has absolutely nothing to do with the truth.

“My field is information, so yeah, I’ve been a digital soldier — I’ve been a thorn in their side since the nineties, so a digital soldier for some time,” Gamble added. “So, yeah, that’s how I got into this.”

It was in the US Navy, Gamble told an audience in Fort Myers in July 2021, that he received training in psychological operations.

“And I was rushed into this program to where I started learning about information warfare, psychological operations and information analysis and stuff like that,” he said. “So, I had a unique perspective about how the United States military processes information.”

In another interview with Michael Thompson at the Florida Conservative, Gamble said he was discharged from the military under a reduction of forces program during the Clinton administration. After leaving the military, he said he created Yahoo online chat rooms.

“Like, we were Alex Jones in the late nineties on the internet, before it was cool, I guess you could say,” Gamble said.

Gamble’s training in psychological operations mirrors his boss, Michael Flynn’s background in military intelligence. Flynn served as director of intelligence in the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan prior to heading the US Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014.

“America Project — we are information experts,” Gamble told Thompson. “That is one of the reasons I landed there with my background.”

The America Project is described on its website as “the largest support network of America First, pro-freedom organizations, businesses and individuals,” with six focus areas in “election integrity, medical freedom, border security, parental rights, Second Amendment rights and freedom of religion.”

Discussing the nonprofits’ work with Thompson, Gamble described it as a “counterbalance” to liberal financier and philanthropist George Soros, a bogeyman of the far right.

“We’re developing the systems, the platforms, the networks,” Gamble said. “Now, when a bus shows up, we got two buses showing up — and the information and organization and the funding that takes to really counter what they’re doing.”

Gamble has cultivated ties with two extremist groups that featured prominently in the attack on the Capitol. His name is listed on a membership roster of the far-right militia group the Oath Keepers that was leaked through the group Distributed Denial of Secrets last year. The entry for Gamble indicates that he paid an annual membership, but does not include a date for the transaction. Raw Story was able to reach Gamble by calling the phone number listed in the Oath Keepers membership roster.

Five members of the Oath Keepers, including founder Stewart Rhodes, are currently on trial in Washington, DC for seditious conspiracy in connection with their actions at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

More recently, in July 2021, Gamble disclosed that he had met with Enrique Tarrio, at one time the national chairman of the Proud Boys. Tarrio was arrested seven months later, in March 2022, and is also charged with seditious conspiracy, along with four other Proud Boys leaders. In July, Gamble posted a photo on Facebook of himself and Tarrio giving the middle finger to the camera. The text accompanying the photo reads, “Dear Christopher Wray,” apparently addressing the FBI director.

Brian Gamble and Tim Hart at Lower West

After Gamble and Hart joined the group of rioters that pushed through the barricades at the Northwest Walkway entrance on Jan. 6, they followed them to the Lower West Plaza. Video posted on Parler on Jan. 6 shows Gamble and Hart standing on a small staircase surveying the plaza as at least a half-dozen Proud Boys and known associates move in and out of a crowd massed against a line of Capitol police in riot gear.

At 1:10 p.m., Gamble can be seen speaking to a police officer at the top of the stairs as Hart uses a telescoping rod to obtain crowd footage. Gamble can also be seen using his GoPro camera to film the crowd. Meanwhile, a Proud Boy from southwest Florida named James Hoel can be seen coming up the staircase, eventually moving past Hart and Gamble, and speaking with the same officer.

It is unclear whether Gamble and Hoel — both residents of southwest Florida — knew each other at the time, but Hoel has subsequently become infamous as the Proud Boy who was elected alongside Michael Flynn to serve on the Sarasota County Republican Executive Committee.

Roughly around the same time that Hoel was speaking with the officer another man can be seen in the video and wedged himself between Hart and Gamble.

“What are you waiting for?” he yells, becoming increasingly incensed. “We already voted, and what have they done? They stole it. We want our f***ing country back.”

At the same time, Gamble can be seen speaking to Hart, and Hart soon turns towards the crowd on the plaza and starts motioning with his hand.

“Let’s go!” yells the man on the staircase and others. “Come on.”

“We gotta go lawfully, man,” and unidentified man can be heard arguing. “Legally and lawfully.”

But the video shows others prevailing over the man who counseled respect for the law. The video shows a handful of rioters, including Ronald Loehrke, a man who marched with the Proud Boys, pointing towards the scaffolding where the rioters had found a lightly guarded staircase. The rioters began pointing towards the staircase and yelling, “We gotta go,” within 20 seconds of Hart’s hand gesture. They would soon rush up the staircase, eventually allowing them to reach a window that Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola broke out with a stolen police riot shield.

Although there is no evidence Gamble went inside the Capitol, images captured by professional photographers and videographers show that he donned a gas mask and went up on the scaffolding.

Byrne told Raw Story that Gamble assisted the police on the Lower West Plaza and on a couple other occasions.

“They did not have enough men to cover an area they were trying to cover,” Byrne said. “He offered the policeman in front of them that if they wanted him to, he would step up and block this one space that they did not have blocked. They agreed to his cooperation, and he actually stood up at one point at the end of the police line for the police, making sure that no one could squeeze through this crack that was open on the side of the planter. The police thanked him.”

The Republican danse macabre: Trashing the economy even if they suffer too

The House Republicans will hurt themselves to hurt their enemies more. That should have been the takeaway from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s recent interview with Punch Bowl News.

McCarthy said that his conference is set to refuse raising the US debt-ceiling if the party takes the House after November’s midterm elections, as most expect. McCarthy made it sound like the gambit was nothing out of the ordinary. “You can’t just continue down the path to keep spending and adding to the debt,” he said Tuesday.

What would happen if the US defaulted?

READ MORE: Wages are dampening inflation, not supercharging it

The Editorial Board’s political economy correspondent Noah Berlatsky explained: “Refusing to raise the debt ceiling would create a massive financial collapse while simultaneously preventing the US from providing aid to those most in need,” Noah wrote Tuesday. “The cost in human suffering would be nightmarish and long-lasting, permanently weakening global faith in the US economy.”

By one estimate, $15 trillion in household wealth would poofthph.

The conventional wisdom appears to be that the House Republicans don’t really mean what they say. This is all political theater, the thinking goes. There’s no earthly way the Republicans would push the global economy into the valley of the shadow of death. At the very least, they have incentive not to hurt their own, who would be ensnared in the cataclysm just like everyone else in the world.

Why would anyone believe that?

READ MORE: Republicans want to use the debt limit to wreck the economy. Will Democrats stop them?

These are the same people who voted twice against indicting the criminal former president. They voted to overturn the results of the last presidential election. They have subsequently pushed the Big Lie deep into the connective tissue of the body politic, so much so that 45 percent of Republicans say they’ll doubt the midterm results.

In word and deed, the Republicans tell us they can’t be trusted to care for democracy. Why would we trust them to first do no harm to the global economy and hundreds of millions of people? McCarthy suggested that, ackshully, doing harm is the first thing they’ll do.

As far as the incentive to avoid hurting their own – lol wut? These people said the covid was little more than a case of influenza Español, that wearing a face mask was tantamount to nutting a man, and that chugging babyshit brown worm paste was as good as the vaccine.

More people have died of the covid in counties won by the criminal former president than in counties he lost. Another analysis, by the Post, found that the number of white people dead from the covid surpassed every other group in late 2021 and never stopped.

Not only have the Republicans lost the benefit of the doubt. They have lost, or should have, the presumption that they won’t do harm.

The new presumption should be that harm istheir goal, because the only thing that makes rank-and-file Republicans feel good about themselves is the sight of suffering by those they think deserve it.

Yes, even if they suffer, too.

So anyone talking about incentives as if rational choice theory had any bearing is ignoring the Republican’s politics of the macabre.

Politics of the macabre?

More precisely, danse macabre.

“Danse macabre” is a literary, musical and artistic genre originating in medieval Europe that invoked the feeling of life as fleeting and the recognition that efforts to attain power and glory are vain. I like the way Wikipedia puts it. It’s the personification of death, a skeleton or cadaver, that reminds us that in time death comes for everyone:

A personification of death [summons] representatives from all walks of life to dance along to a grave, typically with a pope, emperor, king, child and laborer. The effect was both frivolous and terrifying; beseeching its audience to react emotionally.

I don’t know about you, but there’s a certain frisson – or thrilling shudder of recognition – to the application of danse macabre. If nothing else, I think we can agree that threats to the US debt ceiling, not to mention mass death for political gain, is something we can react to emotionally, as they’re “both frivolous and terrifying.”

To be sure, the Republicans don’t care about the universality of death. They don’t care about the universality of anything. They believe inequality is God’s plan, as are sociopolitical hierarchies, and that democratic politics threatens to pervert “the natural order.”

So not all deaths are equal.

If a few thousand GOP voters die in order to defeat “the enemy” – an inescapable conclusion if the Republicans take the Congress – those deaths will be neither tragic nor vain. They will instead be celebrated as heroes who sacrificed their lives in order for living Republicans to dance macabre to the music of the suffering of those “deserving” it.

Yes, even if they suffer, too.

It’s frivolous and terrifying.

The danse macabre has wide application.

To the body as well as the mind.

After Roe’s fall, states passed laws banning or nearly banning abortion. A consequence was a Texas woman who was forced to carry her dead baby to term for fear of running afoul of the law. “I was left wanting to get either so sick that my life was at risk or that my baby's heart would stop beating so it could be over,” she said.

A Missouri woman’s water broke long before her due date. The baby’s chances of survival at that point were zero. Doctors would have recommended termination. Then the state banned abortions. According to a report in the Springfield News-Leader, “the couple wanted to be able to grieve the loss of their daughter, not sit at home or in a hospital ‘with a baby dying inside me,’” the mother said.

A school district, also in Missouri, decided to reinstate beating children’s bodies (ie, padding) to uphold discipline. The policy states that, "When it becomes necessary to use corporal punishment, it shall be administered so that there can be no chance of bodily injury or harm. Striking a student on the head or face is not permitted." Not only are kids terrorized with violence or threats of it. They’re lied to, too. Beating a kid is harmful. It leaves deep psychic wounds. And yet schoolkids are told there’s “no chance of bodily injury or harm.”

Not only are they beating kids, they’re preventing kids from being who they were born to be. According to Bloomberg, there are at least 40 bills proposed “in around two-dozen Republican-controlled states that would sharply limit or outright ban gender-affirming and transition-related health care, often specifically for minors.” What happens when law prevents children from becoming themselves?

Let’s just say it’s macabre.

Then there’s lying.

The Republicans lie so much, so frequently, with such veracity that it’s understandable when people think it’s so normal as to be OK. But the scale is not harmless. Neither is the point merely to fool you.

It’s to make you feel insane.

So insane that you don’t flinch when the Republicans come right out and say that they can’t be trusted to care for democracy, that they will blow up the world economy if that’s what it takes, and that they will keep lying to the American people so that the conventional wisdom in Washington is that they don’t really mean what they say.

Yes, even if they suffer, too.

It’s frivolous and terrifying.

It’s the Republican danse macabre.

READ MORE: ‘Threatening to crash the economy on purpose': GOP to gut Social Security and Medicare if it wins House

Wages are dampening inflation, not supercharging it

Workers are often blamed for inflation. When they irresponsibly demand higher wages, inflation goes up. To fix the problem, workers are disciplined with higher interest rates and higher unemployment.

“You don’t become a low inflation country with high wage inflation and wage inflation is looking pretty high in the United States,” former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said at a recent conference. He said a recession to bring down inflation was almost inevitable.

The demand for a recession to crush worker wages assumes, first, that wages are driving inflation. It assumes, further, that inflation is the most dangerous threat, always, and that suffering by workers and lower-income people is righteous or at least a tragic necessity.

READ MORE: 'Boom': How Republicans could trigger a 'global financial catastrophe' if they retake Congress

Both assumptions are questionable. Wage growth is not the main driver of inflation. A recession can easily be worse in terms of human suffering than continued inflation. If we want to lower inflation, we should do so in ways that do not immiserate workers and that make the lives of most people better rather than worse.

Inflation harms middle- and low-income people. Affluent people’s resources are often tied up in fixed-rate mortgages and retirement savings, which are less vulnerable to short-term price hikes.

Low-income people in contrast spend most of their paycheck on immediate needs, like gas, food and shelter, all of which have spiked in price in the last few years. As a result, domestically and globally, high inflation is harming the poorest and increasing inequality.

So controlling inflation is important. But boosting interest rates to slow growth and increase unemployment is worse than the problem.

READ MORE: 'Gen-X and Boomer women' are prime targets of the GOP war on Social Security and Medicare: activists

The 1981-1982 recession, engineered by then-Fed chair Paul Volker, is often celebrated for controlling inflation. For those who lived through it, however, it was a brutal experience. Unemployment rose to 11 percent, the worst figure in the post-World War II era.

Manufacturing industries suffered especially. The construction industry hit 22 percent unemployment. The car industry went to 24 percent. To some extent, they never recovered. Much US productive capacity was abandoned as money flowed into financial industries.

Unions were also weakened in the long term. The recession created a crisis in Latin America, where nations like Mexico had taken out loans in dollars and subsequently were unable to repay. A recession can lead not just to widespread pain as unemployment rises, but to domestic shocks and international instability.

Recessions and inflation harm the most vulnerable. This can feel like an impasse. But currently, the trade-off between high prices and suppressing wages and employment is a false choice. That’s because wage growth isn’t the main driver of inflation.

Analysts at the Center for American Progress point that there is no correlation between wage growth and inflation based on industry. Natural gas, for example, has seen the greatest price acceleration from 2018-2019 to 2021-2022, but wages have fallen slightly.

Workers did experience real wage growth early in the pandemic. But since mid-2021, wages have fallen behind inflation. This means wages are actually dampening inflation pressure, not supercharging it.

If wage pressure isn’t causing inflation, what is?

There are two big drivers. One is the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia is a major supplier of oil and gas, and sanctions and production disruptions have caused fuel prices globally to spike.

Ukraine-Russia is an important region in food supply. It supplies 30 percent of global wheat exports and 65 percent of sunflower exports. Sunflower oil shortages pushed margarine prices up 32 percent between September 2021 and last month. Butter rose 27 percent in the same period compared to a 13 percent increase in food overall.

Addressing these inflationary factors is difficult, but the Biden administration has already taken steps to do so.

The omnibus Inflation Reduction Act passed earlier this year creates powerful incentives for moving to green energy, which can address energy costs in the mid- and long-term. The Biden administration is also working to end the war in Ukraine, and to forestall other Russian wars of aggression, by providing aid to Ukraine.

Republicans have framed help to Ukraine as wasteful and useless. But if we want to get gas and food prices under control and stabilize the world economy, the best way is to defeat Putin quickly in such a way that he is deterred from launching further wars of conquest.

Another major driver of inflation is the ongoing covid pandemic. Covid globally affects supply chains. China’s strict lockdown policies have created numerous international bottlenecks.

In addition, the covid creates worker shortages that drive prices up. One study suggested workers disabled by long covid could account for 15 percent of unfilled jobs. There remains a massive shortage of healthcare workers thanks to covid infections and burnout.

Politicians and the public claim to want an aggressive response to inflation. But the pandemic drives inflation. The US has surrendered to the disease, even though it racks up about 300-400 deaths a day.

The world economy is struggling with a global pandemic and a major regional war. There’s no easy or quick way to fix that.

The US should continue to help Ukraine, and it should do more to fight the covid pandemic. But inflicting more pain on workers and the most vulnerable by inducing a recession isn’t the answer.

READ MORE: Republicans want to use the debt limit to wreck the economy. Will Democrats stop them?

The Supreme Court ignores its rulings to keep executions going

The Supreme Court seems determined to execute as many people as possible. Ineffective counsel? Clear evidence of racial animus among jurors? Violation of habeas corpus rights? According to the current Supreme Court, none of these are obstacles to executing someone.

Last week’s Thomas v. Lumpkin involved an ineffectual defense, racial bias and a mentally ill defendant. The court ignored its own precedent to keep a man on death row without hearing his appeal.

In 2004, Andre Lee Thomas, a 21-year-old Black man with a history of mental health issues, murdered his white ex-wife, their 4-year-old son and her 1-year-old daughter (both children were mixed race).

READ MORE: Unequal justice: Donald Trump’s war on the First Amendment will one day reach the Supreme Court

He also stabbed himself three times.

When he didn’t die, he left the house and turned himself into the police. He confessed to the murders but said he killed them because God wanted him to and there were demons inside his body.

While awaiting trial, Thomas removed his own eye with his own hands and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was declared incompetent to stand trial for 47 days. Despite the diagnosis, a psychiatrist, Dr. Joseph Black, wrote a letter to the judge and said Thomas was now competent and his diagnosis was a drug-induced psychosis.

Dr. Black went so far as to say Thomas could be exaggerating his symptoms to “avoid consequences.” The defense attorney later admitted it was a mistake not to challenge the letter’s findings. Prior to the murders, Thomas had attempted suicide at least twice before seeking help multiple times in the weeks right before the murders.

READ MORE: How Clarence Thomas’ conservative activism defies 'a fundamental principle' of US democracy: political scholar

Thomas was tried and convicted for the murder of Leyha Marie Hughes in 2005 by an all-white jury. Four jurors had openly expressed opposition to interracial relationships in their jury questionnaires and were sat without objection. Thomas’s defense was that he was insane at the time of the killings and not responsible, but the state argued that since Thomas voluntarily drank and took drugs in the days leading up to the murder those actions negated an insanity defense.

The prosecutor invoked historical fears of interracial sex and the myth of the Black rapist. During the sentencing phase, the prosecutor asked the jury, “Are you going to take the risk of him asking your daughter out or your granddaughter out?”

The trial was held in Sherman, Texas, in the shadow of a 1930 lynching of a Black man accused of raping a white woman. The prosecutor’s question about future risk was important. To impose a death sentence the jury had to answer “yes” to Thomas being a future danger.

Jurors also had to answer “no” to mitigating factors, which they did, because the defense presented little in the way of mitigation, despite Thomas’s history of abuse, mental illness violence and neglect.

Thomas has been on death row since 2005, during which time his mental illness has intensified. He is now completely blind, as he gouged out his remaining eye and ate it. In 2020, the Fifth Circuit heard Thomas’ appeal on the basis that the jury was racially biased and his defense ineffectual. This case should have been easily overturned based on a number of existing precedents.

But the Fifth Circuit is determined to ignore every precedent if it stands in the way of its conservative agenda. The Supreme Court is either supporting it or disinterested in getting in its way.

In 1986, in Ford v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to execute an “insane” person under the Eighth Amendment and that the principle dated back to common law.

Unfortunately, there is no clear standard on who is too mentally incompetent to be executed. It is left up to individual courts to make that determination. The standard was somewhat clarified in 2007 in Panetti v. Quarterman, which held that a defendant couldn’t be executed if they did not understand the reason for their execution but that hardly seems like an exhaustive definition.

Even if a defendant is ruled incompetent to be executed they are often left on death row. It’s hard to look at Thomas’ history of mental illness and argue that he is mentally competent for execution.

In 2017, in Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, the Supreme Court ruled that clear statements of racial bias by jury members are an exception to the “no impeachment rule,” which prohibits jurors from testifying about their deliberations to discredit a verdict.

In her dissent in Thomas v. Lumpkin, Justice Sonia Sotomayor quoted this case in saying that, “It is ultimately the duty of the courts ‘to confront racial animus in the justice system’ … That responsibility requires courts, including this one, vigilantly to safeguard the fairness of criminal trials by ensuring that jurors do not harbor, or at the very least could put aside, racially biased sentiments.”

Last year the Supreme Court ignored its own precedent in the same case to allow Texas to execute someone. In 2020’s Andrus v. Texas, the court held that Texas could not execute Andrus because of inadequate counsel at trial and ordered the lower court to reevaluate.

But when reevaluating, the lower court simply agreed with its original determination that the “mitigating evidence is not particularly compelling.” Similarly, in 2017, the Supreme Court decided that Bobby Moore couldn’t be executed because he was intellectually disabled, but the lower court reinstated his death sentence and the Supreme Court once again had to overturn it in 2019. The Supreme Court declined to intervene in June 2022 after the Texas court ignored their ruling in Andrus and his execution will continue.

Neither Terence Andrus nor Andre Lee Thomas should be on death row. Both have ample reason to challenge their sentences but the Supreme Court is ignoring its own recent precedent to allow racially biased executions to continue in Texas.

This term, the court is hearing another argument challenging a death sentence from Texas, this time based on claims of innocence, from Rodney Reed. Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments to determine if Reed could seek DNA testing to prove his innocence or if he waited too long to seek the remedy.

We can hope the court will allow the DNA testing but unfortunately it seems determined to let executions continue while ignoring claims of racial bias, ineffectual counsel, insanity and even innocence.

READ MORE: Experts warn Supreme Court supporting this 'dangerous' GOP legal theory could destroy US democracy

In 'correcting' GOP metaphors, liberals reveal their denial

Over the summer, there were record numbers of migrants who had attempted to cross the southern border. We know this because border authorities regularly reported the numbers taken into custody. The Republicans often used them to hammer the president. They claimed Joe Biden was ignoring what they call a “border crisis.”

The liberal reaction tended to zero in on what liberals tend to zero in on – external falsifiable reality. Fact is, there was no “border crisis” on account of border authorities doing what they are supposed to do. Seizing migrants who have crossed the southern border did not indicate an emergency. It indicated a system working as it should.

Liberals were right. But being right didn’t matter. Remember this the next time a pundit tells you the Democrats are doing it wrong in the run-up to November’s election. Again, with feeling: being right is not the same thing as being victorious. Being right is just one of many tools available to partisans when participating in democratic politics.

READ MORE: Republicans want to use the debt limit to wreck the economy. Will Democrats stop them?

To the Republicans, the border is not an international political boundary that has been arbitrarily established to divide two nations and their respective laws. It is not a legal event horizon. It is not a zone of ambiguous constitutional rights. It’s nothing concrete.

The border is a metaphor, a fetish, a symbolic representation of meaning deep and profound as well as impervious virtually to facts, fact-checking and the liberal’s fealty to external falsifiable reality.

Just as a rose in western literature is not a rose, but harmony, romance or honor, the border is not the border but the true soul of America that’s been struggling to manifest what historian Federico Finchelstein called, in a separate but related context, “a transnational ideology that opposes the putative barbarism of liberalism.”

Finchelstein was referring to fascism, but I think his concept aptly applies. To the GOP, the southern border expresses “national traditions as emanating from a specific national self rooted in the souls of individuals.” That is, white people. He added: “Only fascism represented the true intuitive nature of nationalism; liberalism, on the other hand, was an artificial form of conceiving the nation.”

READ MORE: 'Nice political party you got there': Jake Tapper tears apart Marjorie Taylor Greene and her 'crazy talk'

Remember what I said about pundits telling you that the Democrats are doing it wrong in the run-up to November’s election. One of those pundits is Cenk Uygur, host of The Young Turks. He said Tuesday that the Democrats are going to lose becausereasons.

“It looks like we're going to lose the midterms,” he said, responding, I suspect, to Monday’s freakout. “People will look back at Democrat's inability to pass voting rights legislation as the moment we lost everything. Stunning failure of epic proportions. And everyone in DC yawned because they're used to excusing Democratic failures.”

First, never trust anyone who says with authority that something that hasn’t happened can’t happen because of something that didn’t happen. He’s picking your pocket. Given the ambiguous provenance of Uygur’s financial backers, that’s more likely the case than not.

More importantly, however, is that reasons – or external falsifiable reality – will not and cannot overcome metaphor. No matter how many times liberals say that there’s no crisis at the southern border, or that those hyping this fake crisis are exploiting anti-immigrant bigotry, it’s not going to change much, because Republican voters tend to operate according to the laws of a separate political physics.

They believe that the border is under siege and hence the country is being invaded on account of their view of the border as a metaphor for “a specific national self rooted in the souls of individuals,” which is to say, a white nation under God for white people thanks to God.

Meeting metaphor with reality might even deepen its emotional impact given the view that liberalism creates a nation “artificially” rather than “organically” and according to “national traditions.”

At a minimum, liberal fealty to external falsifiable reality can keep the partisans of political metaphor in check. At best, they can erode the metaphor’s power through time-consuming, back-breaking, mind-numbing attrition. But something somewhere at some point has to give. Just hope it breaks in the direction of liberal democracy.

My intuition tells me liberals remain in denial. They don’t want to believe so many Americans, perhaps more than half the country, tend to operate according to the laws of a separate political physics.

More precisely, they fear the work necessary for winning what is essentially a war of attrition. The AP reported that 45 percent of Republicans say they have little or no confidence in the midterms.

It doesn’t matter whether they believe the Big Lie or know the Big Lie is a lie. What matters is that Big Lie is a metaphor for a transcending truth, which is that a “specific national self rooted in the souls of individuals” is under attacked by the “barbarism of liberalism”

Again, it’s not that liberals should abandon their fealty to external falsifiable reality in order to defeat metaphor. I think those who suggest wielding our own are wrong. We don’t need more metaphors. We need more democratic politics. We have to keep on keeping on even when, or especially when, keeping on keeping on is exhausting.

READ MORE: 'The party's over': GOP strategist warns that 'good Republicans' can’t defeat 'lunatics' in 2022’s GOP

John Fetterman and the last consequence-free stigma: How Mehmet Oz weaponized ableism

On May 13, 2022, John Fetterman, lt. governor of Pennsylvania and the Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania’s open US Senate seat, suffered a stroke. Since then Fetterman has been fighting to recover, fighting to win the Senate seat and fighting non-stop ableism.

The candidate’s stroke was due to a blood clot caused by atrial fibrillation – an irregular heart rhythm – with which Fetterman was first diagnosed in 2017. He was hospitalized for 10 days, during which time he had a pacemaker combined with a defibrillator implanted. He was then sent home to recuperate. His cardiologist, Dr. Ramesh Chandra, said Fetterman suffered no cognitive damage and should “be fine” if he took his medication, ate well and exercised.

At the time, Fetterman released a statement to the press corps in which he said, “The good news is I’m feeling much better, and the doctors tell me I didn’t suffer any cognitive damage.”

READ MORE: Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board endorses Fetterman for Congress: Oz 'wholly unprepared to be US senator'

Fetterman’s opponent is world-renowned cardiothoracic surgeon and celebrity TV doctor, Mehmet Oz. Rather than wish him well and confirm what doctors said, Oz began a campaign of ableist and medically inaccurate innuendo about Fetterman. Oz’s campaign said that if “Fetterman had ever eaten a vegetable in his life, then maybe he wouldn’t have had a major stroke.”

On Labor Day, Oz held a presser in Philadelphia after Fetterman, who had been campaigning throughout the state, declined to debate at that time. Oz told reporters that, “John Fetterman is either healthy and he’s dodging the debate because he does not want to answer for his radical left positions or he’s too sick to participate in the debate.”

Since then, Fetterman agreed to a debate with captions and has given a series of interviews, including an in-depth interview with journalist Rebecca Traister for the October cover for New York.

On Oct. 12, Rebecca Traister tweeted, “Fetterman speaks about what it’s like to have a doctor (Oz) mock his recovery — a gross irony, yes. Also ironic is news media clamoring for transparency, then themselves offering distortion: implying challenges are cognitive when they’re not, failing to contextualize accommodations.”

READ MORE: Tucker Carlson’s latest attack against John Fetterman quickly comes back to haunt him

Traister was responding to an on-air interview with NBC News reporter Dasha Burns that had turned into a national furor over ableism and accommodations for disability, which have been law since 1990’s passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Fetterman requested that interview questioned be captioned because he has, like many stroke victims (and also the 40 million Americans who are hard of hearing), auditory processing issues. These are expected to fully resolve in the coming months.

The interview went well. Fetterman had a minor hiccup over a word – “empathetic” – and used it to explain his recovery. The interview was peak transparency. Yet in Burns’ commentary to anchor Lester Holt, she suggested that Fetterman was unable to follow “small talk” without captions and that when the captioning device was off, “it wasn’t clear he was understanding our conversation.”

The GOP, which has portrayed the progressive Fetterman as a radical leftist who’s soft on crime, pounced on the comments and conflated them with the entire interview. Townhall and the Daily Caller used Burns’ comments to bolster Oz. Some pundits and reporters across the political spectrum began questioning Fetterman’s fitness.

Reporter and podcaster Kara Swisher, who had a stroke herself in 2011, was prompted to respond, noting on Twitter that, “This is just nonsense. Maybe this reporter is just bad at small talk.”

Swisher, who has called the ableist attacks on Fetterman “appalling,” had herself done an interview with Fetterman for her podcast. She reposted it on Twitter and said that, “I was really quite impressed with how well he’s doing. Everyone can judge for themselves.”

The blowback via disability rights groups and progressives like Swisher and Traister was swift, prompting her to defend herself. “We were happy to accommodate closed captioning. Our reporting did not and should not comment on fitness for office. This is for voters to decide. What we do push for as reporters is transparency. It’s our job. Fetterman sat down and answered our questions. That’s his job.”

Burns has not tweeted since Oct. 12, the day after the interview.

While Fetterman has continued to campaign throughout the state to large crowds, his wife Gisele has called on NBC News to apologize for comments she called a “shocking.” In an Oct. 17 interview with Eric Michael Garcia of The Independent, Gisele Fetterman said, "I would love to see an apology toward the disability community from

Dasha Burns and NBC News for the damage they have caused."

Two Democratic United States senators, Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen, 61, and New Mexico’s Ben Ray Luján, 50, have had strokes this year. They recovered and returned to the Senate.

There are 61 million disabled Americans – the largest minority group in the US. Yet ableism – attacks by non-disabled people on people with disabilities – is still a socially acceptable form of bigotry. As I wrote last month, ableism is behind the constant and consistent efforts to restrict mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania and other states.

In February, the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) filed a brief with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court supporting the right to choose to mail-in voting. As was proven in 2020, access to mail-in voting increases participation, especially for those with disabilities. A higher percentage of Americans – 67 percent – voted in 2020 than in any election in US history – despite or because of the covid pandemic.

The case against Fetterman points dramatically to how consequence-free it is to dismiss disabled Americans – even those with power. As the PILC brief asserts that, “Voters with disabilities face an especially increased risk of disenfranchisement.” It’s unvarnished suppression against a large but vulnerable population.

What NBC News and others did is unethical and unconscionable. In conflating the use of language-assistive devices with intellectual and cognitive disability, Fetterman has been portrayed as incompetent.

Oz, a doctor, has used his credibility to imply that Fetterman is sicker than he claims. The weaponizing of disability is the ugliest of ploys, portraying the 6'9" Fetterman into a weak and mentally challenged.

With the election weeks away, voters will, as Burns asserted, have to decide. But the ableist stink remains. It impacted not just Fetterman, his family and Pennsylvanians, but also 61 million Americans.

READ MORE: 'Ableist propaganda': Media condemned for criticizing John Fetterman's use of closed captioning

Republicans want to use the debt limit to wreck the economy. Will Democrats stop them?

In what has become an almost annual ritual, the Republican Party is once again threatening not to raise the debt ceiling. If they follow through, they would destroy the US economy, immiserating millions of their own voters.

The fact that they don’t care shows the extent to which the GOP has abandoned small-d democratic incentives in favor of the reckless politics of authoritarianism and extremism.

The debt ceiling is a legislative limit on the amount of money the federal government can borrow to meet its payment obligations.

READ MORE: What Social Security should actually be paying to survive in this economy

The limit was established in 1917, and was routinely raised until the mid-1950s, when conservative lawmakers threatened to refuse President Dwight Eisenhower’s request for an increase.

Since then, struggles over the debt ceiling have escalated. In 1979, lawmakers tried, unsuccessfully, to add a balanced-budget amendment to the debt-ceiling increase.

It wasn’t until the 1990s though, when a radical rightwing Congress actually shut down the government rather than raise the debt limit, requiring the Treasury secretary to shuffle funds to prevent a default.

Republicans closed down the government again in 2011 and then again in 2013, when they demanded that any debt ceiling increase include the repeal of major portions of the Affordable Care Act.

READ MORE: GOP planning 'catastrophic default' if Democrats refuse to cut Social Security and Medicare

These negotiations can look to casual observers like the usual partisan give-and-take negotiations around any legislation.

But they aren’t.

Republicans who refuse to raise the debt ceiling are blackmailing Democrats. And the blackmail is only credible to the extent that Republicans and Democrats alike know that Republicans are happy to ruin the lives of voters and destroy the country.

If Congress refused to raise the debt ceiling, the US would be unable to fulfill its obligations. That means it couldn’t pay Social Security checks. It couldn’t pay US troops. It couldn’t pay federal employees. Veteran pensions would stop. There wouldn’t be money for federal disaster relief.

But that would just be the beginning.

A US default – or even serious concerns about US default – could lead to a sell-off of US treasury bonds. That would raise interest rates in a potentially catastrophic manner.

In 2011, during the worst debt-ceiling stand-off, Moody Analytics predicted the unemployment rate would spike to 9 percent, with a loss of 6 million jobs. At that time, Standard & Poor’s did actually downgrade the US credit rating for the first time ever, leading to a market plunge.

Moody’s also predicted that in a default, stocks would drop by a third, erasing $15 trillion in household wealth. There could be a market crash as bad as or worse than the 2008 recession.

Refusing to raise the debt ceiling would create a massive financial collapse while simultaneously preventing the US from providing aid to those most in need.

The cost in human suffering would be nightmarish and long-lasting, permanently weakening global faith in the US economy. The consequences have been clear and much-discussed for decades.

That’s why Senate Republican leadership compromised with Democrats in December to avoid a debt-ceiling shut-down.

But if Republicans win the House in November (as seems likely), radical members of the caucus with McCarthy’s ear are already threatening to refuse to raise the debt limit.

Representative Jason Smith of Missouri, who has a good chance of being the head of the House Budget Committee, told Axios that he wanted to refuse to raise the debt limit until Biden agreed to “reverse” his “radical” policies.

“If we were trying to bring down inflation ... trying to secure our border, surely [Biden] wouldn't default,” Smith said, testing out the usual garbled GOP talking points.

Republicans don’t like to vote to raise the debt ceiling because the party is supposed to be committed to small government.

But they see it as an opportunity for blackmail, because they’re increasingly disconnected from democracy and its incentives.

In theory, political parties try to avoid devastating economic collapse because immiserating voters leads to those voters tossing you out of office.

But Republicans are increasingly insulated from such democratic checks. Political partisanship is growing, and combined with the rightwing media bubble, that means more voters will vote Republican no matter what.

And because they are the party of rural white voters, Republicans have a huge advantage in the Senate, the Electoral College and even in the House.

Republicans can adopt very unpopular policies and still win elections. They no longer have to worry about democratic incentives, and so those democratic incentives seem increasingly irrelevant and frustrating to the party.

One sign of that is the widespread Republican support for Trump’s coup. The debt ceiling is another. Rather than attain their goals through winning elections and then doing the hard work of legislating, the GOP prefers to win through violence and threats.

If the GOP can’t win through democracy, they’ll end democracy — either through a violent coup or by wrecking the economy out of spite.

There are a couple of things Democrats could do to end the constant debt-limit showdowns. First, they could simply vote to eliminate the debt ceiling all together while they still control Congress.

This would be the best option.

The debt ceiling was always a bad idea. It doesn’t actually limit spending; it just limits paying for what’s already been spent. It’s essentially a law that says Congress can’t pay its past-due bills.

Democrats don’t want to be seen as unilaterally authorizing more government spending, though. And to raise the debt ceiling, they’d have to either include it in a reconciliation bill, which is complicated, or overrule the filibuster, which conservative Democrats won’t do.

Alternately, Joe Biden could effectively eliminate the debt ceiling unilaterally by using his statutory authority to order the minting of a $1 trillion commemorative coin. He could then use the coin to purchase Treasury debt, bringing outstanding debt well below the debt ceiling. (Eric Levitz explains this process in full at New York.)

The trillion-dollar coin gambit would be an unusual exercise of executive power, though, and op-ed writers would squawk. So Biden doesn’t want to do that either.

The situation is familiar. Republicans are willing to wreck democratic institutions and inflict terrible suffering on the American people. The Democrats would rather they didn’t, but also don’t want to have to take even moderately controversial steps to stop them.

So far, Democrats and slightly more responsible Republican leaders (pushed by business interests) have managed to avoid the worst. The GOP is growing ever more rabid though, and there’s no guarantee that we can avoid a debt-ceiling crisis forever.

An unforced default would be a ridiculous way for US democracy to end. But an absurd apocalypse can still be very dangerous.

Democrats need to abandon their timidity and fix this permanently while they still can.

READ MORE: US oligarchs don't care what the majority of Americans thinks about taxing the rich -- here's why

Why we need more democratic politics and less national myth to win the midterms

CNN ran a story Monday with this headline: “Political mood tilts in Republicans’ favor with economy and inflation top of mind three weeks from midterms.” I can’t say for sure, but that headline seems to have been the source of yesterday’s social media freakout.

The freakout was so intense that US Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii felt he had to talk the freaks off the ledge. The Democrat said: “Look, I get on this website and check the latest polls and worry like the rest of you. But the thing is, these races are all close and will be decided by how hard we work over the next three weeks. So get off this website, pick and campaign and volunteer or call or give. Thanks.”

A couple of things about the story and, more important, the liberal reaction to it. Republicans will bend reality to comport with their myths. (That’s classical fascism.) Liberals cherish myths too, but we do the opposite. We bend myths to comport with reality. But reality is contingent, fickle and ever-changing. When liberal myths don’t keep up with the times, the result, I think, is a wholesale freakout.

READ MORE: Georgia early voting is smashing previous records

Eventually, however, liberals adjust.

Republicans never will.

OK, so CNN’s headline is, um, imprecise. Far from showing a public mood favoring the Republicans, each poll cited showed a competitive race for control of the US Congress. By competitive, I mean each result of each poll was within the margin of error, which is to say, within the three- or four-point spectrum of shady grayishness.

The report also cited CNN’s aggregated poll of polls. That showed “an even divide in generic ballot polling, with both Democratic and Republican nominees holding 46 percent support among voters.”

READ MORE: 'His reelection is teetering': Mike Lee suffers the consequences of his 'Trump brownnosing'

This dead heat was apparently the basis for a headline saying that the “political mood tilts in Republicans’ favor.” In September, CNN’s poll of polls showed “a narrow, three-point tilt toward the Democrats.” Those three points are gone. Hence, claims of the mood tilting.

It’s reports like these that put the lie (or that should put the lie) to the ballyhooed practice of objectivity in American journalism. Why? Because there’s no way to write about polls, or polls of polls, without an act of interpretation, and interpretation is inherently subjective.

How do you describe the Democrats losing three points when those three points were themselves in the gray zone? Well, CNN chose to say the numbers favor the GOP. That’s not objective. It can’t be.

Some of my liberal brethren will accuse CNN of bias. (Given its new leadership, there’s more to that claim than mere speculation.) But charges of bias reinforce the fantasy. Reporters are not god-like chroniclers of human events. They are humans operating in a human context within human constraints amid conflicting human interests.

That’s why fairness and accuracy are more important criteria. Under those, CNN’s headline isn’t quite accurate, but it is nevertheless fair.

Now that we have set aside bias as a phony reason for Monday’s social media freakout, what else explains it? Well, hard as it may be for liberals to accept, America isn’t one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Believing that is the root of the problem.

I blame Barack Obama.

To justify his presidency, the first Black president often told a story about a country that began with the evils of slavery but in time found redemption by electing him. Those are my words, but that’s the spirit of his rhetoric, which was, make no mistake, for the benefit of white liberals who were burdened by white guilt. His story “freed” them.

Obama’s story also seemed to reflect the political reality on the ground – a country that was fast evolving into a truly multiracial democracy the likes of which the nation’s founders would scarcely recognize. The GOP war against “demographic change” was not seen not as a war against liberal democracy but instead as a validation of progressive myth.

But as a consequence of unburdening white liberals of their white guilt, I think Obama’s redemption song gave the impression that history moved on its own in one direction and that progress was the inevitable means by which a righteous nation achieves true justice.

So there was an empirical foundation – Obama’s election – from which white liberals could stop thinking of themselves as humans operating in a human context within human constraints amid conflicting human interests. Freed from responsibility, they were now merely along for the ride. What would be was supposed to be.

I suspect last month’s polling – or at least the headlines to stories about last month’s polling – gave the false impression to many white liberals that the course of human events was finally going in the direction it’s supposed to be going and away from authoritarianism. Instead of rethinking Obama’s redemption song, many saw in polling what they wanted to see – that is to say, Obama’s redemption song.

Then came Monday’s headline about the public mood turning to favor the Republicans. That wasn’t supposed to happen. This is America! Here, democracy lives! Here, the law rules! Here, right matters! The Republicans don’t care about any of that. They’d rather bring the whole thing down. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

Unlike the Republicans, who never doubt their myths, liberals do, and in that doubting is a great deal of pain. That, I think, was the impetus for Monday’s freak-out. To the Republicans, myth is right. Reality is wrong. So they “fix” reality. For liberals, reality is never wrong. But fixing myth, getting it to comport with reality will take some time.

But liberals should consider dropping their myths altogether.

The myth of the United States being one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all prevents Americans from seeing that lots of other Americans already don’t believe it, because their myths, about America’s “destiny” in the world, tell them that that’s impossible.

Ironically, by insisting on one nation’s universal liberty and justice – by longing for a repeat performance of Barack Obama’s redemption song – liberals inadvertently create political conditions in which achieving liberty and justice for all is difficult verging on impossible.

We need more democratic politics, less national myth, to win the midterms. Monday’s polling, however erroneously reported it may be, should only remind us of unfinished work. We know what needs to be done. We also know it might fail. But either way, we know we must keep on keeping on. There’s no other country for us. This is it.

There’s no reason to freak out.

READ MORE: Majorie Taylor Greene unleashes on Kevin McCarthy with chilling warning and post-election prediction

Drop the idea that 'no one is above the law' and replace it with meaningful action

The J6 committee stopped short Thursday of saying whether it would send a criminal referral to the Justice Department of Donald Trump’s attempted paramilitary takeover of the US government. (A decision on that is expected by the end of the year, however.)

This sparked yet another round of fear and loathing about the impotence of our justice system. What does “no one is above the law” mean when the Congress won’t tell the Justice Department that Trump is a spectacular traitor who committed spectacular crimes?

It means the system is unfair.

READ MORE: ‘Trump just found out the hard way’: Legal Experts say ‘big win for DOJ’ in case surrounding executive privilege claim

Does this shock you?


While I appreciate the fear of Trump getting away for treason, I want to remind us all of our longstanding state of politics and law, in which lots of people have committed crimes out in the open for everyone to see without being held individually and criminally accountable.

An example outside politics: The Sackler family is a BFD here in Connecticut. They own Purdue Pharma, a company that makes and markets opioid drugs like Oxycontin. Purdue conspired for years to unleash an epidemic of opioid addiction. State and federal authorities have extracted billions in damages but only after family members made billions more decimating communities around the country.

READ MORE: A Republican midterm sweep could mean the end of American self-governance

The family knew what Purdue was doing when it was doing it. They knew people were dying. They knew they were cash-cowing as a consequence of mass suffering. Yet not one of them has been jailed.

So before we complain about the criminal former president getting away with treason – before we get super-mad at the J6 committee or the attorney general – let’s not forget that our justice system was, um, problematic before the criminal former president came along.

If we complain now, why haven’t we complained as obstreperously every time a goliath conglomerates gets away with murder? The answer, I think, isn’t that we aren’t paying attention. It isn’t that we’ve gotten used to spectacles of lawlessness. I think the more persuasive explanation is our dogmatic faith in no one being above the law.

I’ll leave the history of rhetoric to the historians of rhetoric, but I suspect that our dogmatic faith arises from the American civic religion, which itself is a subgenre of American propaganda.

It was invented, I suspect, to obscure the fact of “all men are created equal” not including all men (not to mention that the Declaration of Independence not mentioning women). “All men” was understood clearly at the founding to mean wealthy property-owning white men, like those who now own goliath conglomerates like Purdue Pharma.

“No one is above the law” has functioned similarly to “all men are created equal.” Whenever someone complains that actually not everyone is treated equally compared to wealthy property-owning white men, these same beneficiaries of the status quo can say, “Now, now. What’s all the fuss? After all, we’re all created equal.”

Whenever someone complains about, say, a criminal former president getting away with a failed coup d'état, beneficiaries of the status quo can again appeal to civic religion as the reason why Donald Trump is the exception. Of course, being an exception, at the scale of the exception, kinda sorta actually no really does blow up the rule. But so many of us accept “the truth” of our civic religion that we’re prone to believing it in spite of the evidence of our eyes.

It does more harm than good, I think.

The more we cling to the American civic religion – ie, “no one is above the law” – the more disappointed we are when wealthy property-owning white men are held to a lower standard than normal people are held for the same or similar seditious crimes.

This might not be so bad. Disappointment can lead to political reform. But when faced with systemic flaws, Americans (especially white Americans) have a habit of withdrawing. We retreat into cynicism, as if we knew all along, or nihilism, as if the administration of justice were only for fairy tales and the rule of law were a farce.

Things might be better, it seems to me, if Americans recognized that “no one is above the law” is a product of history, that it’s a result of human choices made in a human context, not a product of God’s will. If we don’t like past choices, we are empowered to make new ones. Choices mean nothing if what’s supposed to happen doesn’t happen.

Therefore, “no one is above the law” does not allow for limits. It promises what should never be promised in a human context in which humans choose. When we fail, we don’t recognize our limits. We don’t recognize the need to expand them. Instead, when we fail, we almost seem to blame God. Our dogmatic faith in “no one is above the law” can lead paradoxically to the loss of faith in the rule of law.

So let’s drop the idea.

Let’s replace “no one is above the law” with a practical human-scale commitment to the rule of law in which justice for a criminal former president is proportional to the effort that goes into achieving it and to the legal and political systems by which it’s achieved. If we fail, it’s then a failure of what could have been, not what was supposed to be.

READ MORE: How Clarence Thomas’ conservative activism defies 'a fundamental principle' of US democracy: political scholar

The January 6th Committee dares Merrick Garland

The J6 Committee summed up Thursday its case that Donald Trump was the central motive force behind the J6 attack on the Capitol.

The focus of the hearing was the former president’s state of mind, and his actions before, during, and after the insurrection. The evidence on this front is so voluminous that the committee could only get through a fraction of it during the televised hearing.

The hearing culminated with a vote to subpoena Trump to testify. There was speculation about whether the committee would make a formal criminal referral. Instead of formally asking Attorney General Merrick Garland to charge Trump with a crime, the committee laid out an airtight case for why Trump should have to answer questions about his lawless behavior under oath. If Trump doesn’t comply with the subpoena, he will be in contempt of the Congress.

READ MORE: 'Central player': January 6th Select Committee unanimously votes to subpoena Donald Trump

Today’s hearing recapped how Trump and his closest advisors had decided long in advance that Trump would cry fraud and reject the results of the 2020 election if he didn’t win.

The committee also recapped the evidence that Trump knew perfectly well that there was no outcome-altering fraud. Trump’s attorney general, his campaign’s data gurus and the federal courts spoke with one voice: He lost.

Trump kept planning the coup anyway, whipping up his supporters with bogus allegations of fraud and summoning them to Washington, DC, on the day the election was to be certified.

As usual, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon couldn’t stop running his mouth.

READ MORE: January 6th Select Committee: Secret Service ignored 'substantial intel' about Proud Boys threats

Bannon was in regular contact with the White House in the days before the insurrection and one of his advisors later said that his assistance was a key factor in Trump’s decision to pardon Bannon for an unrelated fraud charge.

On Halloween of 2020, Bannon explained to a crowd of Chinese associates how Trump intended to preemptively declare himself the winner of the election before the votes were counted, even if he knew he lost.

“And what Trump is going to do is just declare victory, right? He's gonna declare victory, but that doesn't mean he's the winner, he’s just going to say he’s the winner,” Bannon said, adding that “[I]f Trump is losing by 10, 11 at night, it's going to be even crazier. Because he’s going to sit right there and say they stole it.”

Bannon used his popular podcast to keep the MAGA faithful updated on efforts to overturn the election. Each episode of the show, known as The War Room, reportedly gets millions of downloads.

During this time, Bannon was huddling at the Willard Hotel with Trump and his closest advisors, including John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani, plotting to overturn the election, a clique also known as the War Room. Bannon flaunted his inside knowledge of the Trump camp’s plans for J6 on his podcast. “It’s not going to happen like you think it’s going to happen,” Bannon told his podcast listeners, “All I can say is strap in.” Bannon also used his podcast to try to help get Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio sprung from jail on January 5.

The Proud Boys served as the vanguard in the attack. The group even had a detailed written plan to seize and occupy the building. Tarrio was absent on J6 because a DC judge ordered him to get out of town as a condition of his bail on weapons and vandalism charges.

The committee also revealed that on November 11, Trump signed an order to immediately withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan and Somalia; he wanted it all done before he left office on January 20.

The committee introduced this as evidence that Trump knew perfectly well he was leaving office on January 20 because he knew he’d lost. I never want to hear about Biden's rushed withdrawal from Afghanistan again.

The committee took the opportunity to remind us that Congress also has the power to summon a former president to testify. A subpoena is not optional. By voting to compel Trump’s testimony, the committee has thrown down the gauntlet. If Trump doesn’t at least show up to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, he’ll be committing the same crime as Bannon.

Instead of earnestly petitioning Merrick Garland to act with a criminal referral, the committee is daring Garland to do something.

Steve Bannon is already awaiting sentencing for defying the J6 Committee’s subpoena. It could happen again.

READ MORE: House January 6th panel still has 'essential' work and not much time left to do it: law professor

Jamie Raskin reveals what he would ask Donald Trump if he agrees to testify under oath

WASHINGTON — Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) spoke to reporters outside of the House Select Committee on Jan. 6 on Thursday conveying that he thinks the panel has done most of what it sought out to do and that they were able to gather considerable details to ensure the American public understood who the major actors were in an attempt to overturn the election.

"As the vice chair [Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WI)] observed we were actually able to nail down every salient detail and pretty much every area of defense except for a number of things related directly to what Donald Trump was doing and what he was saying. Obviously, we got some of it but we didn't get all of it. So one way of addressing the witnesses who took the Fifth [Amendment] when it came to Donald Trump's own actions is to call Donald Trump himself. It's had for me to imagine any American citizen essentially being accused of trying to overthrow his or her own government who wouldn't welcome the opportunity to come forward and testify."

The former president has railed against the committee, saying that he hasn't been able to have "equal time" to defend himself and has demanded that he be able to speak.

Raskin said that he wants to believe that any American who knew something about the Jan. 6 events would come forward, "and nobody knows more about them than Donald Trump."

He also said that they have successfully litigated contempt of Congress charges for witnesses who refused to cooperate previously and said that they anticipated that they could in this instance as well.

"We have a pretty unbroken track record of winning our cases because all we're asking people do is come forward and testify and the Supreme Court has been clear that Congress has the power to do that," Raskin continued.

Raskin said that he hopes to ask Trump specifically about "a number of places in our investigation where various witnesses refused to say anything invoking the Fifth Amendment, the privilege against self-incrimination, meaning they felt they could be exposing themselves to prosecution, precisely when dealing with President Trump so we would like him to explain what was going on at those various points."

Speaking to Raw Story, Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) called the former president's behavior "treasonous."

"I'm horrified by the truth, but I'm heartened by the patriots in this room," Dean said.

Raskin said that he felt the committee had overwhelmingly achieved the goals that they set out with in investigating the attack and the efforts to overthrow the government with the exception of the legislative recommendations to ensure it doesn't happen in the future. That last piece will be part of their final report.

When asked about the Secret Service bombshells, Raskin said that he still has "some lingering questions about the Secret Service and different things that took place, but we've been able to get a lot of the information and that helped fill in the picture of what the president's shocking inaction and passivity in the face of the violence that was unfolding."

Raskin explained that it's Congress' role to provide oversight of all departments and that oversight should be conducted.

When asked about the Secret Service "bombshell," as Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) called it, Dean too was floored.

"Look at Office Harry Dunn! The Secret Service knew!" she exclaimed. "And did nothing to protect them! They did nothing to protect us. And then strangely lost a lot of messages. They knew the violence, they knew the weaponry, they knew the planning, they knew who was outside the magnetometers, and they knew the president was saying, 'let's go together.' They knew that the president was fighting to lead violent mobs — it's a coup. It's not just some spontaneous insurrection or riot. It was a premeditated coup by a desperate former president. I'm horrified."

What she thinks the Secret Service should have done is "alert everyone of the threat, shut it down and told the president was too risky. Make an address, and use a camera. Shut it down for the protection of the vice president, of these Capitol Police officers. It was a violent coup. Sometimes that's lost. There were 40 police officers seriously wounded. Any one of us could have been killed. They wanted to hang Mike Pence. This was a deadly coup attempt by a former president."

Dean said that "it says it all" that Trump was sitting in the dining room "enjoying watching it." She said that Trump "preplanned it."

With additional reporting by Matt Laslo

Members of Congress stunned by Secret Service 'bombshell' at January 6th hearing

WASHINGTON — After startling revelations revealed in Thursday's House Select Committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Congress, members of Congress told Raw Story how horrified they were about what was known about the threats.

The Committee showed Americans that the Secret Service, the FBI and the White House all knew that the attacks were coming and they not only did nothing, but they kept it quiet.

"You know what's going through my mind is what about the Capitol Police who were having to fight for their lives to protect us and another branch of law enforcement knew what was going to happen? It just leads to a lot more questions," Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) told Raw Story outside of the committee hearing room.

She went on to say that Trump "owes the American public answers, he owes the police officers who fought for their lives, he owes the families of the police officers who lost their lives answers, he owes all of us who were there on Jan. 6 answers."

Bustos also said that the news about the Secret Service being fully aware that attacks were coming was a "bombshell," that she didn't know was coming. "There's a million more questions. How could a branch of law enforcement had known this was going to happen and not done anything to stop it, proactively."

She also said that the House Oversight Committee is likely to look at this for the next steps over the coming months.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) told Raw Story that he was told in a "high-level security briefing," that was private, that there was a possibility of violence. "I've been trying to reconstruct the call, but they knew the possibility was there."

While many knew of the possibility of violence, it was the FBI, the Secret Service and the White House that knew with certainty that it was going to happen. On Jan. 6, ahead of the attacks on the Capitol, the Secret Service knew that there were people with tactical body armor, AR-15s and other guns and weapons.

Butterfield said he's disappointed with the administration for not doing anything to warn the Capitol of the violence.

"It's a sad day for American democracy," he said.

Butterfield also told Raw Story that doing a vote to subpoena Trump is absurd because there's no way he'd appear.

With additional reporting by Matt Laslo

After Salman Rushdie’s attack, is the United States still a refuge for writers in exile?

Two months have now passed since Salman Rushdie was attacked at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York (not far from where one of us grew up). Assailant Hadi Matar, who has pleaded not guilty, ran onstage and stabbed the novelist multiple times. The author of Satanic Verses sustained serious injuries, including to an eye.

Fortunately, Rushdie was taken off a ventilator shortly after being hospitalized. (A friend said he even cracked jokes.) Unfortunately, nearly all public debate has focused on Matar’s motive in what prosecutors called a “targeted, unprovoked, preplanned attack.”

Remember that we’re talking about a globally acclaimed author who spent years of his life in hiding after Iran’s former political and religious leader put a price on his head for writing Satanic Verses.

READ MORE: Author Salman Rushdie attacked and stabbed before lecture in New York: report

But we haven’t seen any commentary addressing the assumption that underscored his appearance. According to Bloomberg, it was “the United States as a refuge for writers and other artists in exile.”

To be sure, the punditariat recounted Rushdie’s history and speculated on whether Matar was motivated by religious animus. But we seem to be dodging the question: Is the United States still a refuge for writers and other artists in exile? Are we the safe haven that those of who grew up in the Cold War years believe us to be?

Salman Rushdie wasn’t stabbed after emerging in the 2000s from nearly a decade of hiding in London. He wasn’t stabbed afterward while living in Manhattan. He was stabbed in 2022. Joe Biden said, after the attack, that Rushdie stood for “essential, universal ideas. Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear.

“These are the building blocks of any free and open society.”

READ MORE: Trump’s War on Words and the Failures of a 'Weaponized' Defense

That’s true, but is that true of America?

If critics of “cancel culture” are to be believed, the answer is no.

The “woke mob” makes it impossible to speak freely. After the attack, The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood said “over the past two decades … we have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding.”

Commentator Bari Weiss, regarding Rushdie’s attack, said “we live in a culture in which many of the most celebrated people occupying the highest perches believe that words are violence. In this, they have much in common with Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.”

Wood and Weiss might sound persuasive except for the fact that ideas (as well as the truth) are the first victims of rightwing politics.

The criminal former president frequently accused the press corps of being the enemy of the people. He led an attempted paramilitary takeover of the United States government. Rightwing gangs regularly threaten educators with threats of injury and death for the alleged indoctrination of their children. A Republican office holder in Nevada literally murdered a reporter. Even more serious is the trend among red-state governments toward censoring speech and banning books.

“Writers in exile” used to be something that happened in places like Stalinist Russia, Maoist China and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Their governments jailed, disappeared or beheaded poets and writers. Comparatively, the United States was a refuge. Ideas flourished here.

But now?

There’s reason for doubt.

According to the PEN America Banned Book Index, there have been 1,586 decisions to ban books between July 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022. This includes decisions to ban books in school classrooms, school libraries, both or decisions that are still pending investigation.

Top banned titles: Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe (30 districts); All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson (21 districts); Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison (16 districts); Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez (16 districts); The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (12 districts); Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin (11 districts).

According to the PEN Center, of the books banned:

  • 41 percent have a Black protagonist or a protagonist of color.
  • 22 percent address race or racism.
  • 18 have a Jewish or Muslim protagonist.
  • ⅓ have explicit LGBT-plus characters.
  • 21 percent of address sexual or health subjects, including abortion, teen pregnancy, sexual assault and puberty.

The Tennessee school district banned Maus, a graphic novel about the Holocaust by Art Spiegelman. The 10-member McMinn County School Board voted unanimously to remove the book from its 8th-grade curriculum. They were supposedly concerned about “rough” language and a drawing of a naked woman in a few panels.

These are not books that the left would howl about. If anything, the left would howl about them not being included in school curricula.

Only the right gets to howl.

Only the right gets to enshrine their howling in law.

Anti-CRT bills (anti-critical race theory) might not specifically ban books, but they are attacks on education and classroom censorship. Since January 2021, 42 states have introduced bills or taken significant steps to restrict teaching about racism, sexism and what they call critical race theory (not actual critical race theory).

The bills limit discussions that teachers can have by restricting the teaching of “divisive concepts.” Oklahoma’s board of education punished two schools by downgrading their accreditation for violating a state law banning critical race theory in schools.

This year, Florida passed the “Stop WOKE Act.” The law “prohibits lessons or trainings that teach that individuals are inherently racist or sexist because of their race or sex, that people are privileged or oppressed due to their race or sex, and other related concepts.”

Students must be allowed to access reading material on all kinds of subjects without the knowledge or control of their parents. They should be able to learn about their bodies, explore their sexuality or gender, or even seek out information about sexual assault.

Students are, of course, the future of any free and open society.

Let’s say that “cancel culture” really is a thing. How do we explain, then, why state governments that are banning books – “the building blocks of any free and open society” – are run by Republicans?

How do we explain why state legislatures that are censoring speech and regulating ideas are dominated by Republicans who are said to be censoring speech and regulating ideas for the purpose of protecting “a free and open society” from “howling mobs”?

We can’t.

These are books targeted by rightwing governments that aim to stop make-believe enemies from influencing their state’s schoolkids.

Book bans are part of the larger rightwing project of closing society and oppressing undesirables. Books carry ideas. Ideas carry political risks. In order to minimize risk, or get rid of it, they ban books.

The left’s go-to is counterspeech followed by political compromise. The right’s go-to is violence followed by the force of law. Is the United States still a refuge for writers and other artists in exile?


There’s reason for doubt.

READ MORE: State and Treasury Departments sanction Iran’s Morality Police over 'systemic persecution of women'

How right-wing cancel culture for me but not for thee paralyzes democratic politics

The debate over the meaning of free speech took another turn recently when a federal judge announced that he would no longer take clerks who had graduated from the Yale Law School, which is down the street from where I’m writing this in New Haven.

US Circuit Judge James Ho told Reuters that Yale Law “not only tolerates the cancelation of views — it actively practices it.” He added: "I don’t want to cancel Yale. I want Yale to stop canceling people like me."

At least one other federal judge heard Ho’s call to join him. In a statement to National Review, a “conservative” magazine, Federal Appeals Court Judge Elizabeth Branch said she would follow suit.

READ MORE: Trump-appointed federal judge vows to boycott Yale law clerks because of ‘cancel culture’

"Like Judge Ho, I am gravely concerned that the stifling of debate not only is antithetical to this country’s founding principles, but also stunts intellectual growth,” Judge Branch said last week. “Accordingly, I accept Judge Ho’s invitation to join him in declining to consider students from Yale Law School for clerkships with me.”

According to Fox pundit Leo Terrell, boycotting Yale Law grads is the right thing to do, because clerks should remain nonpartisan. “You cannot have law clerks who are going to serve as members of the federal court system canceling half this country's viewpoint," he said.

The fundamental requirement for any law clerk is to be fair and to allow a marketplace of ideas. What these law clerks, these students at Yale want to do, they want to indoctrinate Americans from the federal court system and basically use it as a propaganda tool. You cannot cancel half of this country simply because you do not like their viewpoint.

There’s a lot going on here. For one thing, we’re told that “cancel culture” is bad — except, apparently, when it’s the right people doing the canceling and the right people being canceled. That’s the only way to understand “conservative” judges thinking that canceling Yale Law grads is not the same thing they accuse Yale Law of doing.


When they cancel people, it’s a moral crime.

When we cancel people, it’s righteous action.

READ MORE: The other 'cancel culture': How a public university is bowing to a conservative crusade

For another, this apparent hypocrisy is no such thing. It would be hypocritical if they were concerned genuinely about “the stifling of debate [that] not only is antithetical to this country’s founding principles, but also stunts intellectual growth.” But we know they are not concerned genuinely. Here they are, canceling Yale Law.

What they are concerned about is creating a moral pretext – “cancel culture” is “antithetical to this country’s founding principles” – with which to gain a political advantage over perceived enemies. Those perceived enemies are, of course, challengers to the status quo.

That’s the other thing going on. It’s so big, so foundational, to the debate over free speech and “cancel culture” that practically no one can see it. That thing is the status quo itself, a consensus – “just the way things are” – that itself is a product of democratic politics.

Those who accuse the “woke left” of “playing politics” are in fact playing politics. There’s no getting around that truth. They’re defending opinions, interests, compromises, rhetoric and ideologies that together form the establishment of a status quo, which is to say, a social and political consensus acceptable to most stakeholders.

Critics of “cancel culture” share a belief in the status quo as inherently nonpartisan, apolitical, free of interests, conflicts and ideas that arise from the contingencies and randomness of history.

No one made choices in the past. Those choices do not influence and inform the present. No one made compromises or sacrifices. No one lost. No one won. The status quo just is – the natural order of things.

This is where the debate over free speech truly begins. It begins with an ideological conviction that “the way things are” is OK, indeed preferable to the ways things could be if “institutionalists” did not protect the status quo against the outcomes of democratic politics.

When you view the status quo as if it were separate and distinct from human agency and from human history, it’s understandable that challengers to it look to be political or biased, even hateful of its stakeholders. It’s understandable that challengers seem to be politicizing everything, indoctrinating individuals, propagandizing the public square and “shoving their opinions down our throats.”

The solution to this problem, from the point of view of those invested in the status quo, is getting the challengers of the status quo to stop using democratic politics to change the way things are. At the center of the status quo is a paradox that needs attention: in order to stop reformers from acting politically, the status quo must act politically. That easy given that the status quo is the product of past politics

That central paradox, however, reveals the whole truth of the debate over free speech or “cancel culture” or virtually any political issue. That whole truth is that people have a choice to make between one set of legitimate politics (status quo) versus another set of legitimate politics (reform). But if you’re defending the status quo, letting people choose is risky. What if they made “the wrong choice.”

If you can take away that choice, you’re on firmer ground. That’s why pretending that the status quo is “just the way things are” is so effective. It depoliticizes politics. It paralyzes democratic politics.

It’s tempting to ask what Yale Law students did to arouse the ire of federal judges, but honestly, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the reaction to it. That reaction, as silly as it truly is, is recognition, in effect, of the legitimacy of whatever it was those Yale Law students did. Whatever it was, status quo defenders see it as a threat to the status quo or a chance to expand it. When viewed this way, you can see why, whatever they did, it may be better than the way things are.

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