Joan McCarter

Bill Barr's parting gift: A new rule stripping civil rights enforcement in Justice Department

Call it the last stand of the confederacy: a Republican administration attempting to roll back decades of civil rights protections for American citizens. Before he left office, former Attorney General Bill Barr submitted a regulatory change to the White House that would narrow the department's enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the provision that strips federal funding away from entities discriminating against people of color and other groups, including women, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ people. The rule change would mean the civil rights division would only enforce the cases where it could prove intentional discrimination, getting rid of the "disparate impact" rule.

That rule is based on the legal doctrine that a policy is discriminatory if it adversely impacts a group based on that group's race, color, religion, sex, and, more expansively, sexual orientation. It's been applied in education, housing, transportation, health care—essentially every facet of government policy by previous administrations, but especially expanded under former President Barack Obama. Trump has been chipping away at it since Day One in individual departments like Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Education, but now they're going for the whole shebang, just removing it from consideration overall in the Justice Department.

Civil rights groups have relied on disparate impact to demonstrate when patterns of behavior demonstrate discrimination, despite overriding policies that appear neutral. As an example, it's relevant in education, where patterns of discipline have shown that Black and brown children are more likely to be punished. "Disparate impact analysis is important to create accountability at schools around the discriminatory effects of discipline policies, particularly since it's difficult to prove racially motivated intent behind the policies," Shiwali Patel, senior counsel for the National Women's Law Center, told The New York Times. Patel served in the Office for Civil Rights in the Obama administration, which investigated discipline rates in public schools to "look at policies and take into account harmful outcomes."

Under Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos, that investigation and the guidance document that resulted was actually blamed for the 2018 mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The gunman was characterized as a "troubled" white student who was somehow motivated by, well, who knows, but something to do with the fact that the Obama administration was going easy on Black and brown kids. DeVos rescinded the guidance from the Obama administration, saying it "relies on a disparate impact legal theory, but that theory lacks foundation in applicable law."

Trump's HUD secretary, Ben Carson, tried to do the same thing in housing but was stopped by a federal judge in October 2020. HUD was sued over a rule that would have made it harder for borrowers to prove discrimination claims under the Fair Housing Act. "These significant alterations, which run the risk of effectively neutering disparate impact liability under the Fair Housing Act, appear inadequately justified," Judge Mark Mastroianni of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts wrote in blocking the rule. That rule was even opposed by four of the country's biggest banks. Michael DeVito, executive vice president for home lending at Wells Fargo, wrote to Carson in opposition, saying that the government "should acknowledge that Americans' attention to racial discrimination is more pronounced and expansive."

Barr pushed this through to the White House, which will undoubtedly implement it without submitting the new rule for public review or comment. That's required in the rule-making process, but Barr asserted that because this relates to loans, grant-making, and contracts by federal agencies, it's exempted from the normal procedures. The incoming Biden attorney general, whoever it may be, can basically shelve the enactment of this rule, even though it can't be immediately reversed by the administration. It will also likely be challenged by progressive legal groups in court, which could be dangerous with a Trump Supreme Court that's demonstrably hostile to civil rights.

Dark money group behind Republican state attorneys general organized protest before the insurrection

As more and more detail emerges about the events in the nation's capital Wednesday, it becomes clearer that this was a planned revolt and that it was organized within the Republican establishment. So much so that the Republican Association of Attorneys General (RAGA)—the chief Republican law enforcement officers for their states—used its dark money group to help organize the mob. The Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF), a "nonprofit" set up by the RAGA, appears in a list of groups "Participating in the March to Save America" along with Stop the Steal, Turning Point Action, Tea Party Patriots, and others.

The RLDF sent out a robocall to activists saying: "The march to save America is tomorrow in Washington D.C. at the Ellipse in President's Park between E St. and Constitution Avenue on the south side of the White House, with doors opening at 7:00 a.m." So they're making sure everyone knows where to go. It gets worse. "At 1:00 p.m., we will march to the Capitol building and call on congress to stop the steal. We are hoping patriots like you will join us to continue to fight to protect the integrity of our elections." The call gives a web address, MarchtoSaveAmerica.com, and concludes: "This call is paid for and authorized by the Rule of Law Defense Fund." Again, this is coming from state attorneys general, the people elected to uphold and enforce the rule of law.

RAGA's chair, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, insists he "unequivocally had no knowledge or involvement" in the robocall and "is working diligently to determine how this situation occurred and ensure that it does not happen again."

The executive director of RAGA, Adam Piper, had the gall to issue a statement saying that the RAGA and RLDF "had no involvement in the planning, sponsoring or the organization of Wednesday's event" despite the fact that they are listed on the website as an organizing entity of the event and they sent the goddamned robocall telling everyone where to go and what the agenda for the coup would be. So that's believable. He added: "No Republican AG authorized the staff's decision to amplify a colleague speaking at the event." So we had nothing to do with it, but if we had anything to do with it, it's the staff's fault.

Few are buying that load, particularly the Democratic Attorneys General Association. Co-Chairs Massachusetts AG Maura Healey and Nevada AG Aaron Ford released a scathing statement:

"The continued peddling of conspiracy theories and pandering to President Trump's dangerous lies by the Republican Attorneys General Association, the Rule of Law Defense Fund, and some current and former Republican Attorneys General has gone unchecked for too long. Current and former Republican AGs have been directly involved with efforts to undermine the results of the 2020 presidential election, and now the party of so-called 'law and order' played a role in recruiting the domestic terrorists who breached the U.S. Capitol to attack Vice President Mike Pence for doing his Constitutionally-mandated job to certify the Electoral College." "RAGA, RLDF—and the Republican AGs who blindly take their support—have no legal or moral ground on which to stand here: the organization paid for robocalls to recruit attendees, it was listed as a sponsor of the event, its former Chair spoke at the rally that incited a mob, and former GOP AG Josh Hawley led the effort in Congress to undermine the election."

The DAGA is calling out every state Republican attorney general to "publicly distance themselves from the Republican Attorneys General Association and its leadership," and for every donor to the group, corporate or individual to "abstain from further supporting an organization that makes such a mockery of the rule of law and our beloved democracy." Speaking of those corporate donors, they're a who's who of dark money, including "Koch Industries ($375k), Comcast Corporation ($200k), Walmart ($140k), Home Depot ($125k), Amazon ($100k), TikTok ($75k), 1-800 Contacts ($51k), Chevron ($50k), The National Rifle Association ($50k), Monsanto ($50k), Facebook ($50k), Fox Corporation ($50k), Uber ($50k), Coca Cola ($50k), Exxon ($50k), and Google ($25k)."

Watch: Jon Ossoff brilliantly turns the tables on a Fox News reporter who tried to corner him

Here's a day-brightener if you needed one: Jon Ossoff flipping the script on Fox News' nepotism hire, Peter Doocy, turning the would-be "gotcha" interview into a campaign ad for himself and his colleague, Rev. Raphael Warnock. Doocy's aim, clearly, was to paint Ossoff as inexperienced and unqualified. What he actually achieved was giving Ossoff a platform to talk about what's at stake in this election for Georgians—even those watching Fox News—and the very serious ethical problems of the two Republicans in the race. Doocy tried to interrupt Ossoff's discussion with reporters about the pain and suffering he is seeing around the state. "Folks have credit cards maxed out and can't make rent payments, car payments, can't afford prescriptions or afford child care. People are in dire straits," Ossoff said, explaining how Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue were standing in the way of help.

"We are live on Fox right now," Doocy says, pulling Ossoff away. And at this point, check out the look on Ossoff's face for what he's planning to do next. Too bad for Doocy he couldn't see what was coming. Instead, he stupidly barges in with "you talk […] about health and jobs and justice all. Why not talk more about your relevant experience?" Doocy asks. "I've made my career fighting injustice, exposing war crimes and injustice," Ossoff replied. "I run a business that's exposed terrorism, that exposed sexual slavery by ISIS, that's exposed judicial corruption. And right now, we have a crisis of corruption in American politics."

That corruption, he continues, is why he's running. "And since we're live on Fox," Ossoff continued, "let me take this opportunity to address directly the Fox audience. We have two United States senators in Georgia who have blatantly used their offices to enrich themselves. This is beyond partisanship." He continues, turning back to Doocy, "the reason, to your question, that I talk so much about health and jobs and justice for all the people, is that we can unite behind that program." He goes on to talk about the closure of nine rural hospitals in the state, the need for an investment in infrastructure, living wage jobs, and for "civil rights and voting rights legislation to secure equal justice for all." Then he turns back to the audience and owns Doocy. "I humbly and respectfully request the support of everyone who is tuned in on Fox right now, and I'd love for you to log on to 'elect jon—elect j-o-n—dot com' that's 'elect j-o-n dot com' make a contribution to our efforts here in Georgia." Boom.

Doocy, stupidly, just couldn't leave well enough alone, having just participated in cutting a television ad for Jon Ossoff live on Fox News. Nope—he continued, creating a huge opening for Ossoff to deliver the coup de grace on behalf of his co-Democratic campaigner, Rev. Raphael Warnock. "One more quick one while we've got you," Doocy says. "Any concern that the allegations of wrongdoing against Rev. Warnock could possibly be a drag on the Democratic ticket?"

"None whatsoever," Ossoff responded. "Here's the bottom line: Kelly Loeffler has been campaigning with a klansman. Kelly Loeffler has been campaigning with a klansman. And so she is stooping to these vicious personal attacks to distract from the fact that she's been campaigning with a former member of the Ku Klux Klan. I mean, we deserve better than that here in Georgia." That's for sure. (In case you missed it, yes, Loeffler posed with not just any klansman at a campaign rally, but with Chester Doles, a former KKK leader who runs the white supremacist American Patriots USA.)

Watch this for the look on Ossoff's face when Doocy introduces himself. It's just so good.

Jon Ossoff turns tables on Fox News reporter www.youtube.com

Mitch McConnell is doing a really good job of completely wrecking the economy for Joe Biden

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell continues to prevent COVID-19 relief because he insists that big business needs to be let off the hook for endangering and potentially killing their workers and customers. That's the poison pill he insists on being in any package. But that's not his only demand: He also wants to prevent state and local governments from getting any further assistance—that "blue state bailout" that he talked about last spring and summer before he gave up that framing. Now he just refuses to allow it, but without the incendiary language to justify his obstruction. As the bipartisan negotiations for help teeter because of McConnell's intransigence, states are trying to save small businesses on their own while at the same time bleeding jobs.

"We have done what we can do to pump money into small businesses so that people can continue to work," Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, told The New York Times. "From the jobs point of view and the economy point of view and the workers' point of view and small businesses, we've got to get that help from the federal government. That's the only place we can get it." Colorado's legislature held a special session last week to scrape together emergency economic assistance to small businesses. They came up with $57 million for a grant program for small businesses, while California has established a "rebuilding fund" that will back loans for the smallest businesses, those not served by what Congress has done so far.

Some of the states still have funds from the $150 billion Congress provided to states for a response to the pandemic in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act last spring. They've seen no new money from the federal government since. Because McConnell doesn't want them to have it. He's pointed to the fact that all that money hasn't been exhausted, which is true. That's in part because of the initial restrictions placed on the funds and also because states have been more or less hoarding it because no new money has been forthcoming. Which means the states—which can't run budget deficits—have inadequate resources to save themselves and small businesses.

Even the arch-conservative National Federal of Independent Business (NFIB) is raising an alarm. It released a survey this week showing businesses losing hope and uncertainty increasing along with coronavirus cases. With every business failure, state and local government take a hit from the revenue they would have gotten in taxes, both business taxes and income taxes from the employees who are being laid off—and need unemployment insurance from the state. "It becomes almost a death spiral if you can't keep these businesses running," said Tim Goodrich, executive director of state government relations for the NFIB.

That's the death spiral McConnell seems to be egging on. A destroyed economy will hurt Joe Biden's presidency. It might help Republican prospects in 2022 and 2024. That's all that matters to the Grim Reaper.

This scathing Georgia ad nails GOP Sen. Perdue for fighting stimulus checks

Jon Ossoff makes things crystal clear for Georgians in this new ad: Any help coming from this Senate is not going to be for the people who are hurting the most. "When this pandemic hit, millions of Georgians like me had to file for unemployment," the Georgia worker on camera says. "We needed our senator's help. But for David Perdue we weren't the priority. Senator Perdue voted to give hundreds of millions to big corporations, even if if they lay people off. But he fought against the $1,200 stimulus check for workers and supported cutting our unemployment benefits. Even at a moment like this, David Perdue is there for his donors but not for us."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with the full backing of Perdue, is blocking a COVID relief deal that had support from Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans, and even the White House. Without his majority, he can't hold the nation hostage. If you want help, if you want a $1,200 or $2,000 check, make sure Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff get elected. If McConnell stays in charge, no money, no help. If Democrats take the Senate, money.

"Priority" | Jon Ossoff for Senate www.youtube.com

The quiet member of Trump's 'elite strike force' legal team is also a monster

Jenna Ellis, the senior Trump campaign legal adviser who you can see smugly smirking behind just about any image of Rudy Giuliani, is also special counsel to the Thomas More society. That's a supposed national public interest law firm that focuses on "religious liberty" and regularly shows up in the Southern Poverty Law Centers' "Hatewatch" for having pretty unChristian views toward, well, anybody but straight, white Christians.

Their interest in "religious freedom," for example, extends to voter suppression. The group, under a newly formed "Amistad Project" (and yes, they actually had the gall to name the effort after the ship and revolt of Africans who had been kidnapped and sold illegally as slaves in Cuba in 1839) has filed a lawsuits challenging the election in five states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The Thomas More Society has confirmed Ellis' involvement with the organization but maintains that they're not coordinating at all with her and the campaign's legal efforts to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of voters by throwing out the election. The Washington Post speculates it is "a coordinated effort to flood the nation's courts with repetitive litigation that allows the president to claim the election results remain contested." Seems like a safe bet.

The project formed earlier this year, fighting in state courts across the country to—get this—prevent county election officials from taking federal grants to help them gear up for conducting safe elections during the pandemic. Because safe, free, and fair elections are apparently an assault on religious liberty. But no, they weren't coordinating with the Trump campaign at all in its efforts to suppress the vote. The group said so: "As a tax-exempt organization, the Thomas More Society doesn't support or endorse candidates, but when our election laws and even our constitution are under attack, we take action," the organization said in an October statement, bolstering Trump's attacks on mail-in voting.

Ellis, the background Trump lawyer, is on the "Leadership and Advisory Board" of the Thomas More Society, as well as special counsel to it. It's just a total coincidence, then, that the lawsuit the group is filing mirrors the Trump campaign's strategy of asking courts in states with Republican-controlled legislatures to let those legislatures toss the official election results and appoint their own Trump electors to the Electoral College. Really, though, she and the group keep saying, they're not coordinating at all. Thomas More Society President Thomas Brejcha told the Post that Ellis "has no association or involvement with our Amistad efforts" and that they're not "at all connected with the Trump Campaign."

Maybe she's not, but a retired defense intelligence official who sits on Trump's campaign advisory board named Tony Shaffer seems to be. He is both on the campaign team and showed up at a press conference the Amistad group had on Tuesday, calling himself its "lead investigator" in chasing down what they're calling voter fraud. But really, a spokesman for him says, the Trump campaign and Amistad Project are "not related," not at all. But he wouldn't answer whether Shaffer acted as a go-between.

The Amistad group claims to have shared their "voter fraud" evidence with the FBI, but apparently they didn't even convince Attorney General William Barr, who publicly stated last week that the department has found no evidence of widespread fraud. They're not going to find validation there. And, honestly, they should be sanctioned out of court. This is who they are: "a former Kansas attorney general barred from practicing law due to professional misconduct, and a Minnesota attorney who has advocated policies such as restricting the number of Americans who are not Christian or Jewish." Only the best people.

Those sanctions might be coming. Conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn rebuked the group's attempt to get the court to overturn the presidential election, calling it "the most dramatic invocation of judicial power" he had ever seen, writing: "This is a dangerous path we are being asked to tread." In addition to sanctions, the group is courting losing its nonprofit standing. Philip Hackney, a former IRS official, told the Post the Thomas More Society is "putting it's tax-exempt status at risk" for so clearly working with Trump in election litigation. "It certainly raises the question of whether they have engaged in a way that the IRS could find violated the law," he said.

Ellis is clearly the connection here, and apparently Tump's new favorite after he saw her on TV and he got the campaign to hire her. Senior administration officials told the Post that she eggs him on in his legal efforts. "The president would call her when the other lawyers would tell him no," one said. They also say she has been feeding him false evidence of voter fraud, and that the bizarre 46-minute speech he gave last week about the election was "a Jenna production." She's also told him the coronavirus-infected public meetings she and Giuliani have been having with Republican legislators are real and could help him overturn the election. "She's willing to say anything. Even as Rudy comes up with legal theories that are not able to be executed, she will think of a way to talk about it on television," one official said.

What she's not willing to do? "[S]he has not converted her allegations into legal briefs or appearances in court, where making false statements could have serious consequences." She's not a true enough believer to want to jeopardize her future in voter suppression.

The fight to save net neutrality is back on

Have a few minutes of celebration that Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman and net neutrality killer Ajit Pai is stepping down and leaving the agency on Jan. 20. But only a few minutes, because what he and the Republican Senate have cooked up could keep net neutrality from becoming a reality that again has to be fought for.

Pai's departure coincides with fast-tracking the nomination of Nathan Simington. What appears to be happening here is that the Senate is trying to jam Simington on to the FCC now so that when Pai steps down in January, the FCC will be hamstrung 2-2: two Democratic commissioners and two Republicans. They're engineering it so that Senate Republicans could block a nominee from President-elect Joe Biden.

Simington has been Trump's accomplice in trying to limit free speech on the internet, or as Techdirt says, "the guy who wrote the utterly nonsensical, blatantly unconstitutional Executive Order that President Trump signed after he got mad that Twitter placed two fact checking notices on his dangerous and misleading tweets." On his way out the door, Pai gave the green light to rule-making around Trump's executive order, saying that the FCC's counsel said it has legal authority to gut the protection in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that shields tech platforms (like this one) from being held liable for what their users say on those platforms.

Section 230, in actuality—as Gaurav Laroia and Carmen Scurato, senior policy counsel at Free Press write—is "key to preserving free expression on the internet, and to making it free for all, not just for the privileged. Section 230 lowers barriers for people to post their ideas online, but it also lowers barriers to the content moderation choices that platforms have the right to make."

It's critical to fighting hate speech online, and "modifying or even getting rid of these protections would not solve the problems often cited by members of Congress who are rightly focused on racial justice and human rights. In fact, improper changes to the law would make these problems worse."

It's not clear whether Pai will have time to make the rule cementing Trump's executive order. What is clear is that his departure sets up a disaster for the Biden administration at the FCC. During a pandemic in which the internet is essential.

Here is the best argument yet for crushing Republicans in Georgia's Senate race

It's been 199 days since the House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act, and 63 days since the House passed its compromise $2.2 trillion bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, back in town after a week off for Thanksgiving, once again trolled Democrats and the nation, saying on the Senate floor, "There is no reason why we should not deliver another major pandemic relief package to help the American people through what seems poised to be the last chapters of this battle."

But there is a reason: He is still insisting on a liability shield for businesses that give them immunity from wrongful death lawsuits when they allow their workers to be exposed to a deadly virus. Which has definitely happened. McConnell seized on bad advice from one of former President Barack Obama's economic advisers, Austen Goolsbee, that Democrats should "should take half a loaf, and then let's try to get another half of a loaf." That's of course what McConnell told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to do, leaving out the part where there is no second half, because he won't allow President-elect Joe Biden to have that win when he takes office next January.

So here's what Pelosi needs to do: come back with stimulus to state and local governments that incumbent GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler can't resist. Come back with $2,000 stimulus checks for everyone and restore the $600 enhanced unemployment insurance and do all the things for all the people that have already expired or will expire at the end of December and MAKE IT ABOUT GEORGIA. Make this runoff election a referendum on the stimulus and on Republicans' refusal to help the states. Georgia has already had to slash its 2021 budget by 10%, and cut almost $1 billion from public K-12 education. That hurts the whole state, a state that clearly is embracing change.

Make the case for a unified Democratic government right now—in Georgia—by not backing down and taking McConnell's crumbs, but by throwing everything we've got into Georgia and making the nation's survival the message. Put the pressure on Loeffler and Perdue, and by extension McConnell and his majority.

Ending that majority, and flipping it to the Democrats, is the only way to make sure Biden has the opportunity to push for and pass the big, necessary stimulus package the country has to have.

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The hidden deplorables don't care about Republicans — their world revolves around Trump

It's hard to fully grasp the massive increase in voter participation this general election. This graph, on Georgia's turnout, does a pretty good job of visualizing it:


That's 369,000 new votes for Donald Trump compared to his first election. It took a historically herculean effort for Democrats to overcome the massive wave of disgruntled rural white Americans—594,000 more votes compared to 2016. (You can see the Florida version of that chart here.)

We know where our votes came from—historically underperforming Black, brown, Asian, and young voters, along with gains in the once-Republican suburbs. But theirs? Who were these people who only showed up for Trump in 2016 and 2020, confounding the public polling and horrifying all rational, upstanding Americans? My "hidden deplorables" theory is closing on the answer.

Research shows that these Trump supporters hail from the fringes of society.

In our pre-election survey on the strength of Americans' social networks, we found that nearly one in five Americans (17 percent) reported having no one they were close with, marking a 9 percentage point increase from 2013.1 What's more, we found that these socially disconnected voters were far more likely to view Trump positively and support his reelection than those with more robust personal networks. Biden was heavily favored by registered voters with larger social networks (53 percent to 37 percent), but it was Trump who had the edge among voters without any close social contacts (45 percent to 39 percent).

And this was especially true among white voters even after accounting for differences in income, education level, and racial attitudes. Sixty percent of white voters without anyone in their immediate social network favored Trump, compared to less than half (46 percent) of white voters with more robust social ties.

The disparity between socially connected and disconnected white voters is dramatic. Despite being so strongly Republican as a whole, less than half of socially connected white people are Trump supporters. It drives home just how big an impact this alienation of a large segment of America is having on our politics. As I wrote when introducing this theory:

The hidden deplorables aren't Republican. They aren't even conservative. They're apolitical, otherwise ignoring politics, because their lives legitimately suck. They live in meth country, with dim job prospects (in fact, those two factors are highly correlated). Institutions have failed them—corporations abandoned them for cheaper labor overseas, government seems and feels distant, and it's certainly not improving their lives. Cities feel like walled gardens—unattainable, unaffordable, yet that's where all the jobs are, the culture, the action. These deplorables have been left behind. So their attitude? "Fuck them all."

The NY Times' David Brooks has come to a similar conclusion, talking about those left behind in an information economy that has created a new wealthy class concentrated in urban centers, "While these cities have been prospering, places where fewer people have college degrees have been spiraling down: flatter incomes, decimated families, dissolved communities." As a result, those in meth country have rallied around those speaking to their grievances. "This precarity has created, in nation after nation, intense populist backlashes against the highly educated folks who have migrated to the cities and accrued significant economic, cultural and political power." You really do see this in country after country—rural backlashes against the urban elite.

For those awash in anxiety and alienation, who feel that everything is spinning out of control, conspiracy theories are extremely effective emotional tools. For those in low status groups, they provide a sense of superiority: I possess important information most people do not have. For those who feel powerless, they provide agency: I have the power to reject "experts" and expose hidden cabals. As Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law School points out, they provide liberation: If I imagine my foes are completely malevolent, then I can use any tactic I want.

The GOP's challenge is how to harness that Trump turnout without, well, Trump himself. Because it can't be stressed enough, the hidden deplorables aren't Republican or even conservative. They have no ideology other than the ideology of destruction. Their life is shit. They want to bring down everyone else to their levels. It's that famous Florida woman, who in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, said, "I thought [Trump] was going to do good things. He's not hurting the people he needs to be hurting." It's Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, fighting off a right-wing challenge in November's jungle primary, running ads comparing herself to Attila the Hun, whose claim to fame was raping and pillaging through Europe while extorting the Holy Roman Empire. No one talks about Hun culture and civilization, because there was none.

This all gets tested in Georgia in just over a month in the state's two Senate runoff elections. "I had someone message me just last week saying: 'Nope, I'm done. Can't trust the election. Never voting again,'" Buzz Brockway, a former Republican state representative, told the NY Times. "The president has a very dedicated group of supporters who don't really support the broader Republican Party—they support him."

Remember, Trump campaigned hard for Republican gubernatorial candidates in 2019, as well as his party's House and Senate slates in 2018, and they lost those elections (including in blood-red Louisiana and Kentucky). The hidden deplorables didn't turn out. Remember, they don't care if Trump asks them to vote, because they're not motivated by party building or ideology.

Meanwhile, Trump himself has spent the weeks since the election claiming that he only lost Georgia because of fraud. "I've had very close friends write me and say, 'I have a Republican governor and secretary of state, and they're both useless, so why do I stay involved?'" said former House Speaker and Georgian Newt Gingrich. Trump is apparently heading down to Georgia to campaign for the Republican ticket, but does anyone really expect him to stay on message? Of course not, he'll spend an hour airing his grievances, airing his conspiracy theories, and attacking the state's Republican governor and secretary of state for not stealing the election for him.


Whether Republicans can get these infrequent Trump-only voters will determine just how competitive future elections are. Will they look like the 2018 Democratic wave, or 2019, when Democrats won statewide races in Kentucky and Louisiana, or will they look like 2016 and 2020, when a 50-50 electorate f'd us in heavily gerrymandered down-ballot districts?

About the only silver lining is that broader demographic trends are still in our favor—old white people are "exiting the electorate," suddenly supercharged by Covidiots. The nation's youth is browner and more liberal. The trends that saw Arizona and Georgia flip blue are still happening in places like Texas and South Carolina (even as the whiter parts of the midwest trend away from us).

But we may be entering a new kind of bizarro world political environment, in which higher turnout hurts us, where it becomes easier to turn out our more educated base groups than it is for Republicans suddenly depending on the non-educated.


The flip-side of Trump's 'very good people': Who should Biden fire first?

Here's something to ponder along with your dream team picks for President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet and top officials: Who should he fire first? There are just so many options, and you can thank Republicans for the fact that Biden will be able to jettison some folks, fast. As David Dayen reminds us, the Republican case to try to gut President Obama's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, means that the odious Trump director can be canned summarily by Biden. Because, as they say, elections have consequences.

Republicans tried everything to destroy the CFPB and went to court to have the whole agency invalidated. That didn't work, but the Supreme Court ended up deciding that the director of the agency shouldn't have the scope of power or the protections allowed under the law. So the Supreme Court decided not to do away with the whole agency, but to make sure that the director could be fired at will by the president. Wheeeee! So yeah, Mick Mulvaney's hand-picked successor, Kathy Kraninger, can be gone—just like that.

The Revolving Door Project has scoured the administration to find the people who have to get the boot immediately and who should be demoted. Those they recommend be fired include "Inspectors General, the Directors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and, to some degree, United States Attorneys." As detailed above, no political appointee in the Trump administration can be reasonably assumed to put country over party. To ensure that these offices are working in the public interest from Day One, Biden must start with a clean slate of appointees. Those they want to see demoted from chairmanships to commission membership are the chairs of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). These are people who the president can only fire for "cause," and being a toady to Trump isn't really a cause, though it should be.

There's a whole other set where the chairs traditionally step down with a new administration and who really need to be encouraged to leave. This includes the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Expect to see a lot of petitions to a lot of these people in the coming weeks to encourage them to do the right thing and remove their own sorry asses.

Trump set a new precedent by razing the former Obama administration officials, breaking all previous norms. There are plenty of them that Biden needs to restore, but when it comes to digging out and tossing Trump loyalists and sycophants who have been sabotaging our government for four years, he needs to emulate Trump. If the transition team isn't making their list already, they need to be.

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