Heather Cox Richardson

Trump and McConnell are finally breaking up

December 29, 2020

There is definitely a feeling of change in the air. For all his continuing insistence that he won the 2020 election, Trump is a lame duck.

Today's complicated fight in the Senate over the one-time stimulus payment of $2000 illustrated that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), not Trump, now controls the Republican caucus. Trump originally refused to sign the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, the bill that contains the coronavirus relief measures, because he claimed he objected to its meager $600 stimulus payments. Six hundred dollars was the amount his negotiators had demanded, but he suddenly said he wanted them to be $2000. Democrats in the House jumped on Trump's demand for the higher payment and they passed a measure on Monday to increase the payments to $2000.

Trump had attacked the bill largely because he is angry at McConnell and Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD) (a whip keeps party members in line behind the party leader) for acknowledging Biden's victory in November. He was trying to illustrate his power by refusing to sign the bill at all. But Sunday night he gave in without winning anything, and yet continued to say he wanted higher payments. The House was happy to give him what the Democrats had wanted all along, but today Trump lost the showdown in the Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced the measure, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) killed it. This enabled the two embattled Republican Senate candidates from Georgia both to support Trump and to claim they wanted higher payments, all without actually having to vote for the higher payments. McConnell bested Trump all around: he had no intention of raising those payments no matter what Trump tweeted… and he didn't.

Trump's influence in Washington is waning in other ways, too. Yesterday, the House repassed the National Defense Authorization Act over Trump's veto. Trump claims to object to the bill for a number of reasons, including that it will require that military bases currently named for Confederate generals be renamed, but this is the measure into which Congress put the Corporate Transparency Act I wrote about a few days ago. It will undercut the country's plague of so-called shell companies, which enable money laundering and other criminal activity because they are owned and operated in secret. The new measure will require that all owners and operators of such companies be clearly identified.

This will likely impact the Trump family, which uses shell companies.

There were other rumblings today that Trump's post-presidential life might have some sticky places. The Manhattan District Attorney's Office has hired forensic accountants to help investigate Trump and his businesses. This investigation is a criminal investigation. New York Attorney General Letitia James is in charge of a civil investigation into Trump's businesses.

But the big thing which showed momentum is moving away from Trump is that President-Elect Joe Biden is forcefully criticizing the Trump administration for its failure to plan for distribution of the coronavirus vaccine.

With more than 330,000 Americans dead of Covid-19 and infections spiking, Biden today noted that the Trump administration has fallen behind on vaccine distribution. The effort got off to a poor start as the administration delivered fewer doses than it had promised and initially blamed Pfizer for a "miscommunication," only to have Pfizer state that it had "millions of doses" in a warehouse but had received no information about where to send them.

The administration promised to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of December, but yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that it had administered just 2.1 million doses in two weeks, although that number is likely somewhat low because of lag times in reporting. At the current rate, Dr. Leana S. Wen writes in the Washington Post, we can expect to achieve herd immunity in 10 years.

The administration at first refused to share information with the Biden camp about distribution, claiming there was a plan, even though, when finally part of discussions, Biden said "[t]here is no detailed plan that we've seen, anyway, as to how you get the vaccine out of a container, into an injection syringe, into somebody's arm."

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar responded that Biden's claim was "nonsense." "[W]e have comprehensive plans from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention working with 64 public health jurisdictions across the country as our governors have laid out very detailed plans that we've worked with them on. We're leveraging our retail pharmacies, our hospitals, our public health departments, our community health centers." Azar said the distribution process was being "micromanaged and controlled by the United States military, as well as our incredible private sector. We do hundreds of millions of vaccinations a year. We're leveraging the systems that are known, and that work here in the United States." Azar assured Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace that, as soon as the vaccines were approved, the government would be shipping them "to all of the states and territories that we work with. And within hours they can be vaccinating,"

It turns out Biden was more right than Azar. The administration planned simply to get the vaccines to the states, and then leave to them the problem of actually getting the vaccines into people's arms. But state Departments of Health are strapped for money after trying to manage the pandemic for nine months, and had been allotted only $6 million apiece to make the distributions happen. (The new Consolidated Appropriations Act that Trump just signed has significantly more money in it for distribution.)

"The Trump administration's plan to distribute vaccines is falling behind, far behind," Biden said today. "As I long feared and warned, the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should."

Finally stung, Trump tweeted tonight that "It is up to the States to distribute the vaccines once brought to the designated areas by the Federal Government. We have not only developed the vaccines, including putting up money to move the process along quickly, but gotten them to the states. Biden failed with Swine Flu!" (Biden was not in charge of the Obama Administration's response to H1N1 in 2009, which broke out three months after Obama took office.)

Biden promised to invoke the National Defense Production Act, a law that permits the president to require companies to produce goods at the same time that it guarantees them a market for those goods, to speed up the production of supplies necessary to distribute the vaccine quickly. "I have directed my team to prepare a much more aggressive effort, with more federal involvement and leadership to get things back on track," he said.

But he warned that we are behind and, breaking with the Trump administration, warned that things are going to get much worse before they get better. The spike in infections along with the fallout from holiday gatherings means we will see high cases in January and high death tolls in February. It will be mid-March, he warns, before we see improvement. "The next few weeks and months are going to be very tough, a very tough period for our nation — maybe the toughest during this entire pandemic," Biden said. "I know it's hard to hear, but it's the truth."

"We are going to get through this. Brighter days are coming," Biden said. "But it's going to take all of the grit and determination we have as Americans to get it done."

We are pleased to be presenting daily posts from Heather Cox Richardson's "Letters From an American" email newsletter. You can sign up to receive it in your inbox here.

Is the Republican Party over?

The theme of the day was the palpable sense of rats leaving a sinking ship as Republicans, administration officials, and administration-adjacent people distanced themselves from the president.

There was a foreshadowing of that exodus on Wednesday, when Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) let loose about the president in a telephone call with constituents. Sasse was an early critic of Trump but toned down his opposition significantly in the early part of the administration. On Wednesday, he reverted to his earlier position, saying he had "never been on the Trump train." He complained about the way Trump "kisses dictators' butts," and went on: "The United States now regularly sells out our allies under his leadership, the way he treats women, spends like a drunken sailor…. [He] mocks evangelicals behind closed doors…has treated the presidency like a business opportunity" and has "flirted with white supremacists." He said: "What the heck were any of us thinking, that selling a TV-obsessed, narcissistic individual to the American people was a good idea?"The theme of abandoning the administration became apparent yesterday, when officials leaked the story that intelligence officials had warned Trump against listening to his lawyer Rudy Giuliani. This was a high-level leak, and suggests that more and more staffers are starting to look for a way off the S.S. Trump.

The audience numbers for last night's town halls was also revealing, as Biden attracted 700,000 more viewers on just one ABC outlet than Trump did on the three NBC outlets that carried his event. Biden's town hall was the most watched event since the Oscars in February. It appears that people are simply tired of watching the president and are eager for calm and reason.

Today, a group called "43 Alumni for Biden" released an ad called "Team 46." It says that they are all lifelong Republicans, but because they recognize the qualities of leadership—including empathy– everyone "on this team" is voting for Biden. "Let's put Joe Biden in the White House." The ad features a number of pictures of President George W. Bush, the forty-third president, and is narrated by someone whose voice sounds like his. Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance notes, "This looks awfully close to an endorsement of Biden from George W. Bush."

Also today, the former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Committee, Jennifer Horn, urged "my fellow Republicans" not to vote for Trump's reelection. In a piece in USA Today, Horn reminded Republicans of "the overwhelming sorrow and grief that this president" has inflicted on the country. Citing Covid-19 deaths, "cultural divides, racial unrest, economic disparity and constitutional abuses," all of which "are just tools to be used to feed his narcissism, advance his political ambitions and line his pockets," Horn indicted both Trump and the Republican Party that enables him.

"This election poses a unique challenge," she wrote. "It will test not Republican vs. Democrat or Trump vs. Biden, but rather, "We the People." It is our role in this constitutional republic, our leadership, and our dedication to the promise of America that is being tested. Trump or America," she wrote. "We cannot have both."

Under pressure, Trump changed course today and approved the emergency declaration for California that he denied yesterday. Such a reconsideration would normally have taken until after the election, but this one happened fast. Earlier this week, Trump tweeted: "People are fleeing California. Taxes too high, Crime too high, Brownouts too many, Lockdowns too severe. VOTE FOR TRUMP, WHAT THE HELL DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE!!!"

Today CNN began teasers for a special on Sunday that will explain how former senior Trump officials believe Trump is unfit for the presidency. According to former White House Chief of Staff, retired Marine General John Kelly, "The depths of his dishonesty is just astounding to me. The dishonesty, the transactional nature of every relationship, though it's more pathetic than anything else. He is the most flawed person I have ever met in my life."

Also today, Caroline Giuliani, the daughter of Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, urged people to end Trump's "reign of terror" by voting for "a compassionate and decent president," Joe Biden. "[C]orruption starts with 'yes-men' and women, the cronies who create an echo chamber of lies and subservience to maintain their proximity to power," she wrote in a piece for Vanity Fair. "We've seen this ad nauseam with Trump and his cadre of high-level sycophants (the ones who weren't convicted, anyway)." Giuliani cheered Biden's choice of Kamala Harris for his running mate, and wrote, "in Joe Biden, we'll have a leader who prioritizes common ground and civility over alienation, bullying, and scorched-earth tactics." "[T]ogether," she said, "we can vote this toxic administration out of office."

And yet another story from the day: a third career prosecutor from the Department of Justice resigned after publicly attacking Attorney General William Barr for abusing his power to get Trump reelected. "After 36 years, I'm fleeing what was the U.S. Department of Justice," Phillip Halpern wrote. "[T]he department's past leaders were dedicated to the rule of law and the guiding principle that justice is blind. That is a bygone era, but it should not be forgotten." Noting that "Barr has never actually investigated, charged or tried a case," Halpern expressed deep concern over Barr's "slavish obedience to Donald Trump's will." "This career bureaucrat seems determined to turn our democracy into an autocracy," he warned.

Georgetown Law Professor Paul Butler, who worked as a federal prosecutor under Barr when he was George H. W. Bush's Attorney General, told Katie Benner of the New York Times that such criticism is "unprecedented," and reflects Trump's pressure on the AG. "I have never seen sitting prosecutors go on the record with concerns about the attorney general," he said.

And yet, Barr's willingness to bend the Justice Department to Trump's personal will may, in the end, not be enough to keep Trump's favor. Angry that Barr did not produce a report attacking the Russia investigation before the election, Trump just yesterday said he wasn't happy with Barr's performance, and might not keep him on as AG if he wins a second term.

There are signs people in the administration are preparing for Trump to lose the election. His cabinet is rushing to change regulations to lock in Trump's goal of giving more scope to businessmen to act as they see fit. Normally, changes in regulations require setting aside time for public comment on the changes, but the administration is shortening or eliminating those periods over changes in, for example, rules allowing railroads to move highly flammable liquefied natural gas on freight trains, what constitutes "contract" work, how much pollution factories can emit, and who can immigrate to America.

Russell Vought, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said in a statement: "President Trump has worked quickly from the beginning of his term to grow the economy by removing the mountain of Obama-Biden job-killing regulations," and that the current push simply continues that effort. But no one is missing the quiet distancing going on in Washington as Republican lawmakers are shifting away from public support for the president.

Meanwhile, at his rally tonight in Georgia, Trump told the crowd "You should… lock up the Bidens, lock up Hillary." The crowd then began to chant "Lock them up." But one thing about a bully: when people finally start to turn on him, there is a stampede for the exits.

Tonight, at his Georgia rally, Trump outlined all the ways in which he was being unfairly treated, then mused: "Could you imagine if I lose?… I'm not going to feel so good. Maybe I'll have to leave the country, I don't know."

We are pleased to be presenting daily posts from Heather Cox Richardson's "Letters From an American" email newsletter. You can sign up to receive it in your inbox here.

Heck of an October Surprise -- or is this just the first of many distractions?

This evening, I talked to a woman who said she cannot read the news any more. It's all just too much. If you feel this way, please understand that it is fine to look away when you need to. We are already exhausted, and we are entering a period that is going to be chaotic. Even a normal campaign year is crazy, but this year, the extraordinary chaos feeds the needs of this president to destabilize the country and emerge as a savior. The current chaos is designed to make you hopeless about creating change so that you give up. To combat that, look away and recharge your batteries. Focus on the things that ground you: family, friends, pets, gardening, movies, books, biking, church… whatever works. Just come back when you can… and remember to vote.

It's going to be nuts from here on out.

In the first draft of this October 1 letter, I wrote that presidential adviser Hope Hicks has tested positive for coronavirus. Trump tweeted that he and the First Lady "will begin our quarantine process!" CNN's White House correspondent John Harwood noted at 11:30 pm: "curious that neither Trump nor WH have disclosed any test results for him more than 3 hours after news broke that Hope Hicks tested positive. Trump's typical approach is boasting that he doesn't worry because he gets tested so much. He told Hannity he doesn't know if he has it." MSNBC justice and security analyst Matthew Miller tweeted "Thank god the White House has a history of being completely honest about the president's health. It would be awful if we couldn't trust them right now."

At about 1:30 am on October 2, the White House announced that Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive for coronavirus. This will be the first time I break my midnight rule—in the past, I have always cut the news off at midnight, no matter what happens at 12:01—but this has such huge implications for national security, the economy, and, of course, the election that it has pushed everything else off the media radar screen and I cannot justify leaving it for a day.

Stock futures plunged more than 400 points immediately after the news broke, but right now that's the only result of this news that we can measure.

The story has been coming clearer in the last three hours since the story broke. Apparently, Hicks tested negative on Wednesday before she boarded Air Force 1 with the president and most of his closest advisers, but developed symptoms during the day. A second test on Thursday morning was positive. Nonetheless, the president and his aides and advisers flew to New Jersey on Thursday, where he attended a fundraiser, gave a speech, and attended a roundtable with supporters, all without a mask. It was only the leaking of the Hicks story that shook loose the information that the Trumps are infected.

According to CNBC, those on Air Force 1 on Wednesday were White House chief of staff Mark Meadows; national security advisor Robert O'Brien; Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani; White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany; Ivanka; Jared Kushner; Donald Jr.; Eric; Donald Jr's girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle; Eric's wife Lara; Tiffany; campaign manager Bill Stepien; campaign official Jason Miller; White House social media director Dan Scavino; White House counselor Derek Lyons; political advisor Stephen Miller; Representative Jim Jordan, (R-Ohio), [and] Alice Marie Johnson, the criminal justice reform advocate Trump pardoned.

Trump also stood inside near Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for an hour and a half on Tuesday, yelling and spitting—the very conditions that are most likely to spread the disease. At the debate, his entourage, which included Hicks, Jordan, and the four older Trump children, refused to wear masks despite the mandate that they do so.

This story proves how crucial it is to have a White House we trust. Immediately, Twitter users noted that someone had suggested this very scenario back in September as a way for Trump to steal headlines away from Biden, emerge victorious over the virus, and claim credit for a new treatment that had cured him. Elections almost always feature an "October Surprise" to move voters in the last few weeks of the election when it is too late for the other side to challenge that surprise move. And while this news certainly looks genuine—the White House doctor issued a statement after Trump announced the test results—there is plenty that the Trump campaign would like to distract us from.

On October 1, alone, we learned that a study of more than 38 million articles about the coronavirus pandemic between January 1 and May 26 published in English shows that Trump was "likely the largest driver of… Covid-19 misinformation." The Cornell University study found that 37.9% of misinformation mentioned Trump.

Trump's former national security adviser, retired Lt. General H.R. McMaster, told MSNBC that Trump is "aiding and abetting Putin's efforts" to disrupt the November election. Trump's refusal to acknowledge that Putin is engaged in a "sustained campaign of disruption, disinformation and denial" helps the Russian leader.

It turns out that Trump's pick for the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, in 2006 signed an anti-abortion "right to life ad" near another ad from the same organization that called for putting "an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade and restor[ing] laws that protect the lives of unborn children." While such a stance will thrill anti-abortion voters, in fact a majority of Americans do not support ending Roe v. Wade, and senators up for reelection have been saying that Barrett would not interfere with the law.

A former senior adviser to Melania Trump today released tapes of the First Lady complaining both about being criticized for her lack of involvement with the children held at the border and for having to decorate the White House for Christmas. "I'm working … my a** off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a f*** about the Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?… OK, and then I do it and I say that I'm working on Christmas and planning for the Christmas and they said, 'Oh, what about the children that they were separated?' Give me a f****** break. Where they were saying anything when Obama did that? I cannot go, I was trying get the kid reunited with the mom. I didn't have a chance — needs to go through the process and through the law." (Under President Barack Obama, children were separated from their parents or someone who presented as a guardian only when officials were concerned for their safety. Under Trump, such separations were routine until a judge stopped the practice.)

Don Jr.'s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, who was a co-host of a Fox News Channel show, was also in the news today. It turns out that she left FNC abruptly after an employee complained of sexual harassment. According to a story by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker, Guilfoyle required her former assistant to work at her apartment, where Guilfoyle would sometimes be naked, and would share with the assistant inappropriate pictures of men, discussing her sexual activities with some of them. Guilfoyle denies any workplace misconduct, but the story grabbed headlines. FNC settled the case against her for $4 million.

Tonight the House of Representatives, controlled by Democrats, passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief measure. No Republicans voted for it.

Right-wing conspiracy theorists Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman have been charged with four felonies in Michigan for intimidating voters, conspiring to violate election laws, and using a computer to commit a crime. The two allegedly sent robocalls to voters in five states to discourage mail-in voting. The calls falsely said that personal information of those people who vote by mail would be shared with police, credit card companies, and the CDC, which would then require vaccinations.

Finally, a story from Texas shows just how concerned the Trump campaign is about the upcoming election. Today Texas Governor Greg Abbott limited the number of locations for dropping off mail in ballots to one site per county. This hits Democratic Harris County the hardest. It is huge, and has the state's largest population count. Currently, it has 12 drop off locations. Democratic Travis County, which includes Austin, currently has four. Other large counties, more reliably Republican, only had one. Abbott argued that this measure would prevent voter fraud, but Democrats pointed out this is a "blatant voter suppression tactic." It should indeed reduce Democratic ballots in the state… and, mind you, this is Texas! That the Republican governor feels the need to suppress Democratic votes in Texas shows just which way the wind is blowing.

As I say, the next few weeks are going to be wild. But don't let it knock you off course.

Republicans' naked power grab will unwind the legal framework of the majority — and replace it with minority rule

September 20, 2020

The big story today is big indeed: how and when the seat on the Supreme Court, now open because of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday, will be filled. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced within an hour of the announcement of Ginsburg’s passing that he would move to replace her immediately. Trump says he will announce his pick for the seat as early as Tuesday.

Keep reading...Show less

Trump's political henchmen are corrupting the administration to keep Americans in the dark

September 12, 2020

Last night, at about 10:30, reporter Dan Diamond posted another blockbuster story in Politico. Political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services have been altering the weekly scientific reports issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) following the course of the coronavirus pandemic. They believe the reports are undermining Trump’s cheery pronouncements about the disease, and claim there is a “deep state” at the CDC determined to hurt the president.

Keep reading...Show less

The signs that democracy is under attack are growing increasingly dire

September 6, 2020

Earlier this week, New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo warned that American democracy is ending. He pointed to political violence on the streets, the pandemic, unemployment, racial polarization, and natural disasters, all of which are destabilizing the country, and noted that Republicans appear to have abandoned democracy in favor of a cult-like support for Donald Trump. They are wedded to a narrative based in lies, as the president dismantles our non-partisan civil service and replaces it with a gang of cronies loyal only to him.

He is right to be worried.

Just the past few days have demonstrated that key aspects of democracy are under attack.

Democracy depends on the rule of law. Today, we learned that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who rose to become a Cabinet official thanks to his prolific fundraising for the Republican Party, apparently managed to raise as much money as he did because he pressured employees at his business, New Breed Logistics, to make campaign contributions that he later reimbursed through bonuses. Such a scheme is illegal. A spokesman said that Dejoy “believes that he has always followed campaign fundraising laws and regulations,” but records show that many of DeJoy’s employees only contributed money to political campaigns when they worked for him.

Democracy depends on equality before the law. But Black and brown people seem to receive summary justice at the hands of certain law enforcement officers, rather than being accorded the right to a trial before a jury of their peers. In a democracy, voters elect representatives who make laws that express the will of the community. “Law enforcement officers” stop people who are breaking those laws, and deliver them to our court system, where they can tell their side of the story and either be convicted of breaking the law, or acquitted. When police can kill people without that process, justice becomes arbitrary, depending on who holds power.

Democracy depends on reality-based policy. Increasingly it is clear that the Trump administration is more concerned about creating a narrative to hold power than it is in facts. Today, Trump tweeted that “Our Economy and Jobs are doing really well,” when we are in a recession (defined as two quarters of negative growth) and unemployment remains at 8.4%.

This weekend, the drive to create a narrative led to a new low as the government launched an attempt to control how we understand our history. On Friday, the administration instructed federal agencies to end training on “critical race theory,” which is a scary-sounding term for the idea that, over time, our laws have discriminated against Black and brown people, and that we should work to get rid of that discriminatory pattern.

Today, Trump tweeted that the US Department of Education will investigate whether California schools are using curriculum based on the 1619 Project from the New York Times, which argues that American history should center on the date of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to Chesapeake shores. Anyone using such curriculum, he said, would lose funding. Government interference in teaching our history echoes the techniques of dictatorships. It is unprecedented in America.

Democracy depends on free and fair suffrage. The White House is trying to undermine our trust in the electoral system by claiming that mail-in ballots can be manipulated and will usher in fraud. While Trump has been arguing this for a while, last week Attorney General William Barr, a Trump loyalist, also chimed in, offering a false story that the Justice Department had indicted a Texas man for filling out 1700 absentee ballots. In fact, in 2017, one man was convicted of forging one woman’s signature on a mail-in ballot in a Dallas City Council race. Because mail-in ballots have security barcodes and require signatures to be matched to a registration form, the rate of ballot fraud is vanishingly small: there have been 491 prosecutions in all US nationwide elections from 2000 to 2012, when billions of ballots were cast.

Interestingly, an intelligence briefing from the Department of Homeland Security released Friday says that Russia is spreading false statements identical to those Trump and Barr are spreading. The bulletin says that Russian actors “are likely to promote allegations of corruption, system failure, and foreign malign interference to sow distrust in Democratic institutions and election outcomes.” They are spreading these claims through state-controlled media, fake websites, and social media trolls.

At the same time, we know that the Republicans are launching attempts to suppress Democratic votes. Last Wednesday, we learned that Georgia has likely removed 200,000 voters from the rolls for no reason. In December 2019, the Georgia Secretary of State said officials had removed 313,243 names from the rolls in an act of routine maintenance because they were inactive and the voters had moved, but nonpartisan experts found that 63.3% of those voters had not, in fact, moved. They were purged from the rolls in error.

And, in what was perhaps an accident, in South Carolina, voters’ sample ballots did not include Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, although they did include the candidates for the Green, Alliance, and Libertarian parties. When The Post and Courier newspaper called their attention to the oversight, the State Election Commission, which is a Republican-majority body appointed by a staunch Trump supporter, updated the ballots.

Democracy depends on the legitimacy of (at least) two political parties. Opposition parties enable voters unhappy with whichever group of leaders is in power to articulate their positions without undermining the government itself. They also watch leaders carefully, forcing them to combat corruption within their ranks.

This administration has sought to delegitimize Democrats as “socialists” and “radicals” who are not legitimate political players. Just today, Trump tweeted: “The Democrats, together with the corrupt Fake News Media, have launched a massive Disinformation Campaign the likes of which has never been seen before.”

For its part, the Republican Party has essentially become the Trump Party, not only in ideology and loyalty but in finances. Yesterday we learned that Trump and the Republican National Committee have spent close to $60 million from campaign contributors on Trump’s legal bills. Matthew Sanderson, a campaign finance lawyer for Republican presidential candidates, told the New York Times, “Vindicating President Trump’s personal interests is now so intertwined with the interests of the Republican Party they are one and the same — and that includes the legal fights the party is paying for now.”

The administration has refused to answer to Democrats in Congress, ignoring subpoenas with the argument that Congress has no power to investigate the executive branch, despite precedent for such oversight going all the way back to George Washington’s administration. Just last week, a federal appeals court said that Congress has no power to enforce a subpoena because there is no law that gives it the authority to do so. This essentially voids a subpoena the House issued last year to former White House counsel Don McGahn, demanding he testify about his dealings with Trump over the investigation into the ties of the Trump campaign to Russia. (The decision will likely be challenged.)

On September 4, US Postal Service police officers refused Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) entry to one USPS facility in Opa-Locka, Florida and another in Miami. Although she followed the procedures she had followed in the past, this time the local officials told her that the national USPS leadership had told them to bar her entry. “Ensuring only authorized parties enter nonpublic areas of USPS facilities is part of a Postal Police officer’s normal duties, said Postal Inspector Eric Manuel. Wasserman Schultz is a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

And finally, democracy depends on the peaceful transition of power. Trump has repeatedly suggested that he will not leave office because the Democrats are going to cheat.

So we should definitely worry.

But should we despair? Absolutely not.

Convincing people the game is over is one of the key ways dictators take power. Scholars warn never to consent in advance to what you anticipate an autocrat will demand. If democracy were already gone, there would be no need for Trump and his people to lie and cheat and try to steal this election.

And I would certainly not be writing this letter.

Americans are coming together from all different political positions to fight this attack on our democracy, and we have been in similar positions before. In 1858, Abraham Lincoln spoke under similar circumstances, and noted that Americans who disagreed on almost everything else could still agree to defend their country, just as we are now. Ordinary Americans “rose each fighting, grasping whatever he could first reach—a scyth—a pitchfork—a chopping axe, or a butcher’s cleaver,” he said. And “when the storm shall be past,” the world “shall find us still Americans; no less devoted to the continued Union and prosperity of the country than heretofore.”

We are pleased to be presenting daily posts from Heather Cox Richardson’s “Letters From an American” email newsletter. You can sign up to receive it in your inbox here

Keep reading...Show less

Bill Moyers: Historian traces the influence of oligarchs in US democracy from the Civil War to Donald Trump

ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Moyers on Democracy. If you want to understand this moment in American politics, here’s a suggestion for you: It’s the must-read book of the year — HOW THE SOUTH WON THE CIVIL WAR, by the historian Heather Cox Richardson. Yes, the Civil War brought an end to the slave order of the South and the rule of the plantation oligarchs who embodied white supremacy. But the Northern victory was short-lived. Slave states soon stripped Black people of their hard-won rights, white supremacy not only rose again to rule the South but spread West across the Mississippi to create new hierarchies of inequality. That’s the story Heather Cox Richardson tells in HOW THE SOUTH WON THE CIVIL WAR, with echoes resounding every day in the current wild and fierce campaign for the presidency. Here to talk with her about America’s ongoing battle between oligarchy and democracy is Bill Moyers.

Keep reading...Show less

Republican senators are suddenly trying to social distance — from Trump

There’s something interesting in today’s news:

Keep reading...Show less

The Republican Tax Bill Is a Poison Pill That Kills the New Deal

Shortly after President Trump took office, House Speaker Paul Ryan could feel just how close he was to finally achieving the goal he and his party colleagues had dreamed about for decades. With Republicans in uncontested power in Washington, he tweeted, they had a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enact real comprehensive tax reform and get our economy moving.” Many Trump supporters thought reform meant relief for the “forgotten Americans” he talked about on the campaign trail. But Republicans had other plans, intending to take a wrecking ball to the system of American government that has been in place since 1933 and replace it with one based in their own ideology. If the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” becomes law, they will have succeeded.

Keep reading...Show less

Trump's Dangerous Strategy: How Inciting His Supporters Could Backfire

When Donald Trump tells his supporters that if he doesn’t get the Republican nomination: “It’s a rigged system; it’s a corrupt system, it’s 100% crooked,” he is resurrecting a theme that created some of America’s darkest hours. Trump is trying to solidify his support by attacking the legitimacy of the political system. While Movement Conservatives since Newt Gingrich have attacked the legitimacy of Democrats in Washington, Trump is going further: delegitimizing the government itself. Americans have been in this place before. In the late nineteenth century, when the nation’s economic and political tensions looked much like today’s, unpopular politicians trying to overcome overwhelming odds did the same thing.

Keep reading...Show less

David Brooks Has Lost All Control: Can't Deal With How the Far Right Stole the GOP

Chaos and carnage are upon us as American voters make war on “the establishment.” On the Republican side, the hoary National Review has declared in a dramatic purple-covered issue it is “Against Trump,” while conservative intellectual David Brooks pines for “gray men in suits” to shut down both Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. On the Democratic side, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders attacks former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for representing“establishment politics and establishment economics.

Keep reading...Show less

How Republicans Convinced White America That Government Was Out to Get Them

The men occupying Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge represent a bizarre contradiction. They howl about the overreach of the federal government, but they are among the biggest beneficiaries of government programs. For 150 years, their brand of logic has pitted individuals against an activist government, Western cowboys against black Americans, and the West against the East. Behind their protest is a uniquely American story that welds racism to anti-government sentiment. It comes from a peculiar coincidence of timing: that Reconstruction after the Civil War coincided with U.S. expansion into the American West.

Keep reading...Show less

Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and a Right-Wing Insurgency the GOP Can No Longer Control

The rise of dictators-in-waiting Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz has left political observers bewildered. How did the establishment wing of a dominant American political party end up with a radical extremist carrying the party’s banner? Will the Republican Party split and die? More important, how will this crisis play out for the nation?

Keep reading...Show less

It Is Time To Get Very Afraid: Extremists, Authoritarians Now Run the GOP and No One Can Stop Them

Movement Conservatives just claimed the head of House Speaker John Boehner. His political death was the price of preventing a catastrophic government shutdown after Movement Conservatives in Congress tied the very survival of the United States government to their determination to defund Planned Parenthood. Movement Conservatives are gunning for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell next. We should be very afraid. Boehner and McConnell are not wild-eyed lefties. They are on the very far right of the American political spectrum: fervently pro-business, antiabortion, opposed to social welfare legislation. But they are old-school politicians who still have faith in the idea of American democracy.

Keep reading...Show less

Donald Trump and the GOP's Demise

Why is Donald Trump so popular? He has captured the moment when voters recognize that Republican political rhetoric has nothing in common with reality. Trump brings rhetoric and reality together in a cartoon caricature of a Republican politician that anyone can understand. That gives him a vital role in history. He is the perfect exorcist to drive a stake through the heart of the modern Republican Party. But he is not the first in history to perform this operation. The same crisis hit the party in the 1890s.

Keep reading...Show less

How Did This Monster Get Created? The Decades of GOP Lies That Brought Us Donald Trump

How did America get to such a place that someone like Donald Trump can command a lead in the Republican primaries? Trump is the product of a deliberate Republican strategy, adopted by Richard Nixon’s people in 1968, to attract voters with an apocalyptic redemption story rather than reasoned argument.  It has taken almost 50 years, but we have finally arrived at the culmination of postmodern politics in which Republican leaders use words to create their own reality.

Keep reading...Show less

GOP’s Fear Of a Black America: The Long, Racist History Which Explains Dylann Roof and Stains the So-Called “Party of Lincoln”

Dylann Roof’s murder of nine people worshipping at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was not about mental illness; it was not about religious freedom; it was not an “accident;” it does not defy explanation. His attack on nine African Americans in a church was a political attack designed to keep the government in the hands of white men. His bullets were a salvo in the fundamental struggle that we have fought bitterly since 1865: Who owns America?

Keep reading...Show less

They Really Are the Party of Stupid: The Real Story Behind Scott Walker’s War on Higher Education

At the turn of the last century, the “Wisconsin Experiment” led the nation as a way to develop government policies that would promote the greatest good for the most people. Gov. Robert La Follette brought together government officials, university professors and business leaders to hash out intelligent state policies.

Heather Cox Richardson is the author of "To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party," amongst several other books, and a professor of history at Boston College.
Keep reading...Show less

Ted Cruz’s Demented Strategy: He Doesn’t Need to Win the White House to Push America Rightward

Buckley’s reactionary ideas began to gain traction in 1954, when court-ordered school desegregation gave Movement Conservatives the opportunity to break the New Deal consensus by appealing to white racists. Many white Americans who liked the idea of an active government that regulated business and kept old people from starving hated the idea of an active government that protected their black neighbors. Buckley harped on this racial wedge in his new magazine, National Review. Movement Conservatism—Buckley’s creation– picked up momentum after 1957, when President Eisenhower sent troops to integrate Little Rock Central High School. This was the first intrusion of federal troops into the South since Reconstruction, and Movement Conservatives deliberately revisited the racist arguments of the late nineteenth century. They explained that integration was simply a redistribution of wealth because tax dollars, paid by hardworking white men, funded the troops that were defending grasping African-Americans. In 1960, Movement Conservatives in Buckley’s mold backed Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona for the presidency. They articulated their principles in “The Conscience of a Conservative,” published under Goldwater’s name but written by Buckley’s brother-in-law L. Brent Bozell. Those principles are Cruz’s playbook.

Keep reading...Show less

Tom Cotton’s Unpatriotic Forefathers: Treasonous Iran Letter Not First Time GOP Has Crossed the Line

The Republican senators who warned Iranian officials that any agreement they made with President Obama would not outlive the present administration appear to have been blindsided by the backlash against their letter. Republicans as well as Democrats have responded to the move with such fury that unnamed sources clumsily suggested the letter was only a “cheeky” reminder that Congress should have a voice in negotiations. Sen. John McCain downplayed the extraordinary letter as business as usual: “I sign lots of letters,” he told Politico.

Keep reading...Show less

It’s Worse than Scott Walker and Ted Cruz: Secrets of Conservatives’ Decades-Long War on Truth

Deep on page 546 of his 1,839-page budget, Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker tucked in a crucial idea. He proposed to strip a principle from the mission statement of the University of Wisconsin, a school that attracts students from all over the nation and from 131 foreign countries. From the core philosophy that has driven the university since the turn of the last century Walker wanted to hack out the words: “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.” Rather than serving the people of the state by developing intellectual, cultural and humane sensitivities, expertise, and “a sense of purpose,” Walker prefers that the state university simply “meet the state’s workforce needs.” In the face of scathing criticism, the governor backtracked and, despite a trail of emails that led to his office, tried to claim the new language was a “drafting error.”

Keep reading...Show less
@2023 - AlterNet Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. - "Poynter" fonts provided by fontsempire.com.