Salon

Young Democrats are right: There is no reason to date or befriend Trump voters

You have to give it to Axios: They know how to throw out some tasty bait. Their latest is irresistible for conservatives, who love any story that frames them as victims, and gives them the chance to blame the left for "incivility." Never mind obvious counter-examples such as the storming of the Capitol, gun-waving Christmas cards, and the entire person of Donald Trump.

"Young Dems more likely to despise the other party," blares Tuesday's Axios headline, noting in the article that "5% of Republicans said they wouldn't be friends with someone from the opposite party, compared to 37% of Democrats," and "71% of Democrats wouldn't go on a date with someone with opposing views, versus 31% of Republicans."

Unsurprisingly, this delicious bait worked exactly as intended, at least in social media reactions.

On the right, there was a lot of trumpeting how this supposedly proves the left are the ones who are "really" intolerant. Radio talker Matt Murphy whined that liberals "don't believe in our republic cannot abide people who think differently than them." As if not getting to have sex with or go to parties with liberals is exactly the same as having your basic rights as a citizen stripped from you. "This doesn't bode well," complained GOP lawyer and ABC commentator Sarah Isgur, who previously defended the Trump administration's policy of separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border as a former spokesperson in the Justice Department.

"My most fascinating friendships have always come from 'the other side,'" MSNBC host Joe Scarborough tweeted, noting that, as a Republican, he "always benefitted" from those conversations. As many people pointed out in response, however, that a Republican like Scarborough gained from friendships with people like "John Lewis, Elijah Cummings, Ron Dellums, and Maxine Waters" doesn't mean the reverse is true. And that is most likely what this polling is picking up.

This is about desirability, not "tolerance." Democrats are desirable as friends and lovers, not just to their fellow party members, but to Republicans, as well. But Republicans? They apparently don't have much to offer to Democrats as friends, and certainly not as lovers. Digging into the polling shows why this is.

As the Axios write-up by Neal Rothschild notes, young Democrats believe that GOP positions "spearheaded by former President Trump — are far outside of the mainstream and polite conversation." In particular, "human rights, and not just policy differences, are at stake." Which, no duh. Just last week, the GOP-controlled Supreme Court made it clear they plan to strip basic bodily autonomy rights from everyone with a uterus. The Republican Party is rallying around violent and white supremacist rhetoric.

Relatedly, a Harvard poll from last week shows "[m]ore than half of young Americans feel democracy in the country is under threat, and over a third think they may see a second U.S. civil war within their lifetimes." This isn't about a dispute over marginal tax rates. If you — quite correctly — believe that Republicans are plotting to destroy democracy, then why would you want to be friends with people who support that?

Unsurprisingly, female Democrats were more likely than male Democrats to reject dating someone who "voted for the opposing presidential candidate," i.e. Trump. Which isn't just about personal taste, but safety. Trump not only bragged about how he likes to "grab 'em by the pussy," but has a long track record of aggressively defending men who have been accused of sexual or domestic violence. It's just common sense to refuse to be alone with men who are fine with that attitude, and no different than watching your drink at a party or having a friend walk you home at night. In addition, having sex with men who back the party of forced childbirth is just ill-advised.

And that gets to the crux of it: Dating and friendship aren't about merely tolerating someone, it's about inviting someone into your life, as a confidante or even on an intimate level. Relationships take work to maintain. Why waste that effort on someone who can't meet the baseline requirement of seeing you or the other people in your life as full human beings? And no, being "personally" pro-choice or pro-LGBTQ rights hardly counts, when you keep voting for the party that opposes both.

The anger on the right over this polling, in turn, shows that this isn't really about liberal "intolerance," but an ugly sense of entitlement among conservatives. It's fueled by a belief that they should be as obnoxious, cruel, and bigoted as they want, without having to pay any social penalty for it. That attitude is especially troubling when it comes to dating, and is tied to long-standing sexist assumptions that women owe men their time and attention, even when they don't find them attractive. Indeed, this entitlement itself is a red flag. Someone who doesn't respect the right to choose who you spend time with is someone who is likely to violate other boundaries.

That's what all this whining and crying about "cancel culture" from the right is about. It's very rarely, if ever, about actual government censorship. On the contrary, conservatives are all for government censorship, especially of books and other materials that tell the truth about American racism. Conservatives are angry rather over the social penalties for their repulsive opinions, like being criticized publicly, being excluded from certain conversations, and generally being disliked. It's conservatives in D.C. whining to the press that they can't get hot dates.

Sure, conservatives can and occasionally entertain the idea of creating their own social networks and even universities, so they can hang out with each other, instead of constantly demanding attention from liberals. But apparently, they don't like each other's company any more than liberals do, and so they always circle back to yelling at liberals, accusing the left of "intolerance" for finding right-wingers unpleasant people to be around.

Ultimately, however, it comes back to this: No one is entitled to anyone else's social attention or friendship, much less a dating relationship with them. If friendships and romantic relationships with progressive are so desirable — which, as a progressive, I totally agree is true! — then the way to obtain them is to suck less. (Which yes, starts with not voting for Donald Trump.) The strategy of whining about "cancel culture" and scolding Democrats for "intolerance" isn't going to open up those cocktail party invitations any faster. Yelling at people to like you isn't a way to be liked. It just reaffirms to progressives that, for mental health reasons, time exposed to right-wingers is best kept at a minimum. Good on young Democrats for seeing clearly what the Joe Scarboroughs of the world don't want them to see.

The U.S. is at a dangerous 'level of polarization,' political scientists warn

Politics in the United States have become an increasingly polarized affair for decades, driven largely by the right moving further to the right. Observation of political polarization is not merely anecdotal; studies repeatedly bear this out.

Now, some researchers say the partisan rift in the United States has become so extreme that the country may be at a point of no return.

According to a theoretical model's findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the pandemic failing to unite the country, despite political differences, is a signal that the U.S. is at a disconcerting tipping point.

"We see this very disturbing pattern in which a shock brings people a little bit closer initially . . . but if polarization is too extreme, eventually the effects of a shared fate are swamped by the existing divisions and people become divided even on the shock issue," said network scientist Boleslaw Szymanski, a professor of computer science and director of the Army Research Laboratory Network Science and Technology Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. "If we reach that point, we cannot unite even in the face of war, climate change, pandemics, or other challenges to the survival of our society."

As I've reported before, sociologists and experts in disaster resilience studies often observe that a "therapeutic community" surfaces in the wake of a disaster — whether that's a hurricane, wildfire, or a terrorist attack. While that was the case to some extent after 9/11, the pandemic hasn't united the nation the same way. Experts have argued that any possibility of unity was doomed from the start of the pandemic, in part because of how politically divided and polarized the nation was before the novel coronavirus began spreading. This latest paper adds to this theory, and suggests that the U.S. is so divided that it is at an irreparable point at which unity is not possible.

Szymanski and fellow researchers reached their conclusion by simulating the views of 100 theoretical legislators around 10 polarizing issues. The researchers had their theoretical legislators interact and network with theoretical neighbors and like-minded groups to see the influence these interactions had on polarization, too — akin to a "Sims"-like video game. When manipulating the group's "control parameters" — such as increased party identification, intolerance for disagreement, and extremism — the model found that polarizing behavior among politicians is one reason why the country is as politically divided as it is today.

At various points, the research team introduced an outside threat, like a pandemic, and then recorded how the group behaved. Interestingly, it appeared that when the group introduced an internal threat that failed to unite the country, that meant that the level of polarization was beyond repair.

"If the polarization is very, very deep in these 10 issues, then we are at the very dangerous stage in which it is very difficult to reverse polarization by democratic means," Szymanski told Salon. "When that tipping point is passed, there are no constitutional means that can reverse polarization."

Indeed, graphs displaying the relationship between polarization and the control parameters showed that in many situations a high amount of polarization that couldn't be rectified by an external threat meant that a society was in a "phase transition," where measures of polarization began to increase exponentially. In some scenarios, if the polarization was dialed down the trend could be reversed. In other cases, a recovery wasn't possible.

"Although political polarization is nothing new, expanding political division is creating an unpredictable environment that threatens the capacity of government to respond rationally in a crisis," said Curt Breneman, dean of the Rensselaer School of Science. "This research is designed to enhance societal resilience by predicting when the level of political polarization within an influential group is nearing the point where a sudden threat will no longer produce collective action."

Szymanski said he hopes people take away from this study that this "theoretical model confirms intuition."

"If the external strong signal does not unite people, we are in danger of getting into this irreversible polarization," which Szymanski alarmed is bad for democracy. "In a divided society, it's of course very difficult to maintain that democracy which requires agreements of all people and the people who win elections and lose elections."

Szymanski added that the research shows the U.S. is at a "dangerous level of polarization," but perhaps electing less polarizing politicians could reverse the trend the U.S. is facing.

"It's almost the last call," Szymanski said.

Good news: Study says third shot of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine protects well against omicron variant

Fears about the omicron variant's ability to evade vaccines may end up being overblown — at least, if enough humans are inoculated with a third dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine.

According to Pfizer-BioNTech, the third dose or "booster" dose of their patented vaccine protects patients against the mutant SARS-CoV-2 virus strain with an effectiveness comparable to how two doses defend against other common strains.

The company determined this based on laboratory studies which revealed analogous levels of neutralizing antibodies, or the proteins produced by the immune system to identify and kill pathogens. There was a 25-fold drop in these neutralizing antibodies among patients who had only received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, suggesting that the omicron variant may be able to more easily evade the protections in people who lack the extra dose. By contrast, if future research replicates these results, it indicates that three doses of the Pfizer shot will likely be enough to keep the vast majority of patients from developing serious infections.

The challenge when fighting an infectious disease like COVID-19 is making sure that vaccines can protect patients even after the pathogens have evolved. Vaccines work by training the immune system to identify specific markers within a given pathogen; if that pathogen mutates beyond recognition, it weakens the body's ability to detect and stop invading viruses.

Experts are concerned about B.1.1.529 (the omicron variant's formal name) because it has 50 mutations, 32 of which are in the spike protein. The spike protein is so-named because, like spines on a sea urchin, it pokes out from all sides of the SARS-CoV-2 virus; such proteins are intrinsic to the virus' ability to enter and infect human cells. The mRNA viruses work by training the immune system to identify those proteins, meaning that any alterations to their structure could theoretically help the virus beat the vaccine's protection.

"The 32 mutations across the spike protein doesn't mean that it evades immunity, but it is the most [mutations] we've seen," Dr. Monica Gandhi, infectious disease doctor and professor of medicine at the University of California–San Francisco, told Salon last month. "In one region in South Africa, cases [of omicron] are going up really fast — it's really just dominating the screens there — and that made some people say, 'it looks like this is really transmissible' because we thought that delta was the pinnacle of being transmissible right now."

The new research about the latest Pfizer study follows up an earlier announcement in which scientists revealed the company's vaccine offered at least partial protection against omicron. The leader of that study team, Dr. Alex Sigal of the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban, noted that humans are lucky the omicron variant infects cells through the ACE2 receptor. This allows existing vaccines to still partially work against the variant.

"Imagine if this virus had found a different receptor to bind to," Sigal commented. "Then all of our vaccines would have been trash."

It remains to be seen if the news about the Pfizer booster is a game changer in the fight against the omicron variant. Before the news was announced, virologist Dr. Jesse Bloom from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle told The New York Times that "given the very large drop in neutralizing antibody titers that are seen here with omicron" it makes sense to move "as fast as possible with making omicron-specific vaccines, as long as it seems like there's a possibility it could spread widely."

The civil war within the GOP is heating up as Dan Crenshaw lashes out at 'grifters' in his party

Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Tex., slammed the House Freedom Caucus on Sunday, calling lawmakers like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., "grifters" and "performance artists" who tell "lie after lie after lie."

"We have grifters in our midst," Crenshaw said during a campaign event later shared online. "I mean in the conservative movement. Lie after lie after lie because they know something psychologically about the conservative heart — we're worried about what people are going to do to us, what they're going to infringe upon us."

Crenshaw's comments were directed at "everybody in the Freedom Caucus," which, aside from Greene and Gosar, includes Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C. – all of whom have become notorious for their ability to draw headlines with inflammatory remarks.

"There are two types of members of Congress: there is performance artists and there is legislators," Crenshaw claimed. "Performance artists are the ones who get all of the attention, the ones you think are more conservative because they know how to say slogans real well. They know how to recite the lines that they know our voters want to hear."

Crenshaw also defended the likes of his fellow GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois who has been alienated from his most party's more extremist elements as a "RINO" (i.e., Republican only in name).

The Texas lawmaker noted that GOP voters would likely "cringe" to learn that Kinzinger – one of the few House Republicans to vote for Trump's impeachment – actually voted with Trump almost 99 percent [of the time]" when it came to legislation. In fact, it's lawmakers in the Freedom Caucus, he added, who rank among the lowest when it comes to their votes aligning with the former president's.

Crenshaw's Sunday comments have drawn a wave of expected scorn from far Republicans.

Alex Bruesewitz, CEO of X Strategies, a political consulting firm for right-wing politicians, took to Twitter to express his grievances.

"@DanCrenshawTX defends RINO @AdamKinzinger while TRASHING the @freedomcaucus," Bruesewitz tweeted. "What is going on with Dan?"

"Crenshaw on his radio show today. I [sic] new this guy was a phony a long time ago," echoed pro-Trump user Vince Langman. "Dan Crenshaw is the Liz Cheney of Adam Kinzingers."

Ryan James Girdusky, a political correspondent at One America News Network, also joined the chorus tweeting: "Make Texas Republicans great again.. and primary Dan Crenshaw."

It isn't the first time Crenshaw has come under fire from his own party.

Earlier this year, Crenshaw tore into the conservatives who helped organize the January 6 Capitol riot, saying that "all of the members who called for everyone to come and fight … were scattered like cowards while the Capitol Police had to do the fighting."

More recently, Crenshaw was lampooned by his followers for voting in support of a bill that allocated more state funding to update state immunization records – legislation that Republicans decried as creating a "vaccine database."

Destroying democracy can make you very rich

In any time before, leaving Congress to work for Donald Trump would be a huge financial step down in the world, like trading a job as a corporate lawyer for selling handmade Christmas ornaments in the park. Trump is, after all, one of the most spectacularly incompetent businessmen of all time. He is a man who was gifted a real estate empire and a billion dollars by his father and producer Mark Burnett, yet somehow managed not only to burn through all that money but also to go another one billion dollars into debt. Leaving your cush job as a congressman on the verge of chairing a prominent House committee to work for the guy who somehow lost $2 billion seems like a bad bet. But it's a bet that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is taking.

On Monday, the Trump loyalist announced that he's leaving the House to take a job as the CEO of the newly-formed Trump Media & Technology Group, even though, as Jon Skolnik reports for Salon, "Trump's new social media platform is reportedly under investigation by federal regulators." While it's tempting to snicker at Nunes and hope this business venture fails as badly as every other Trump business, the depressing truth is that Nunes is probably right that this is a cash cow. Due to the huge right-wing base that can be endlessly milked for profit, being a fascist stooge these days is like printing money.

For proof, look no further than this new report from the Washington Post, exposing how lucrative it was for Trump lawyer Sidney Powell to spread lies about President Joe Biden "stealing" the 2020 election. In the months after the November election, Powell raised an eye-popping $14 million "from donors inspired by her fight to reverse the outcome of the vote," the Post reports. Unsurprisingly, "questions about where the money was going" have led to "acrimony between Powell and her top lieutenants," as they scuffle over these ill-gotten gains.

Or take the example of former White House advisor Steve Bannon, who seems to be doing just fine, grifting-wise, even though he literally got arrested in 2020 on charges of defrauding donors for his phony "border wall" project. Bannon was pardoned in the hours before Trump was finally forced to leave the White House, but got right back to shaking down gullible MAGAheads for money. As a report by ProPublica published last month shows, Bannon has set up an elaborate scheme to make money off Google Ads, despite the company's policies against funding violently fascist propaganda. Bannon's front page on his website tricks the ad algorithim with "innocuous stock content, such as tips on how to protect your phone in winter weather." Right below, however, is a video player that "routinely portrays participants in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot as patriots and airs false claims about the 2020 election and the COVID-19 pandemic." All funded, inadvertently, by "prominent brands as Land Rover, Volvo, DoorDash, Staples and even Harvard University."

Right-wing politics have always been deeply intertwined with sleazy and even illegal grifting schemes meant to separate elderly racists from their kids' inheritance. Nearly every right-wing figurehead has an email newsletter that directs readers to dish out money for fake cancer cures, gold bug scams, and useless "survivalist" goods. But after the failed January 6 insurrection, there's expanded opportunity for pumping the right-wing base for money, with promises that democracy will be overturned and power restored to a shrinking conservative minority.

To be certain, Trumpists like Powell and Bannon are entirely sincere about their hopes that they can gut electoral systems and install Trump as an illegitimate authoritarian president. But they also recognize how the millions of Americans who share those hopes are only too happy to turn over their retirement accounts for the fascist cause.

Right-wing politics have always been deeply intertwined with sleazy and even illegal grifting schemes meant to separate elderly racists from their kids' inheritance. Nearly every right-wing figurehead has an email newsletter that directs readers to dish out money for fake cancer cures, gold bug scams, and useless "survivalist" goods. But after the failed January 6 insurrection, there's expanded opportunity for pumping the right-wing base for money, with promises that democracy will be overturned and power restored to a shrinking conservative minority.

To be certain, Trumpists like Powell and Bannon are entirely sincere about their hopes that they can gut electoral systems and install Trump as an illegitimate authoritarian president. But they also recognize how the millions of Americans who share those hopes are only too happy to turn over their retirement accounts for the fascist cause.

As Judd Legum of Popular Info reports, the people involved in this scheme seem less interested in building a company than "than fleecing retail traders for a quick buck," by artificially driving up the price of stocks and flipping "these stocks immediately." No wonder the whole shady deal is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Still, Nunes is running towards this scheme and not away, and it's no wonder.

Even if, as it seems likely, the whole thing is a scam, there's no reason to think that it will backfire on the scammers. Trump and most of his buddies haven't paid a single legal penalty for trying to overthrow the U.S. government. Of course, they feel confident that they'll get away with shaking down a bunch of gullible investors who mistakenly think Trump, who couldn't manage his own checking account if he had to do so himself, is somehow going to create a major media company. Yes, some of the low-level fraudsters in Trumpworld do face legal penalties, but Trump's ability to skirt justice seems bulletproof, especially when Attorney General Merrick Garland seems afraid to actually deal with the former president.

On one hand, it's hard not to laugh. Who cares if Trump and his buddies separate MAGA fools from their money? On the other hand, the problem is these frauds aren't merely frauds. They really are financing what is so far an extremely successful effort to lay the groundwork for stealing the 2024 election.

The fascist movement is very real, even if there's a lot of fraud wound into it by leaders hoping to get their beaks wet while they end democracy. Our legal system's inability to deal with the fraud aspect is just a symptom of a larger problem, which is a failure to deal with these arsonists of democracy at all. If that doesn't change, this country will have a lot more to worry about than idiot retirees emptying out their bank accounts for the latest "stop the steal" scam.

Joe Manchin sides with GOP — moves to block Biden’s vaccine mandate for businesses

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., recently joined a GOP effort to overturn President Biden's private sector vaccine mandate, backing a resolution that would effectively shut the requirement down.

"Let me be clear, I do not support any government vaccine mandate on private businesses," Manchin said in a statement last Thursday. "That's why I have cosponsored and will strongly support a bill to overturn the federal government vaccine mandate for private businesses."

"I have long said we should incentivize, not penalize, private employers whose responsibility it is to protect their employees from COVID-19," he added.

Manchin's remarks came just following a temporary bipartisan agreement to avert a government shutdown amid the Senate's ongoing debt ceiling standoff. The stopgap measure will allot a similar level of funding to the federal government as last year's, during the Trump administration, POLITICO reported. During the vote, Republicans introduced an amendment to bar the use of federal funds for the enforcement of Biden's mandate, but the amendment failed.

Still, Republicans have signaled that they won't pare back their longer-term crusade against Biden's mandate, which requires that private businesses with more than 100 employees enforce a vaccine requirement or force employees to undergo routine testing.

Aside from Manchin, the GOP-backed resolution – introduced by Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., in mid-November – has support from Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

"I hope that more Democratic Senators and Representatives will follow Senator Manchin's strong lead and stand up against this federal overreach that will wreak havoc on our recovering economy and trample on the rights of millions of Americans," Braun said this week.

Amid legislative pushback, Biden's vaccine mandate is also facing challenges in state courts across the country, Newsweek noted.

This week, a federal judge in Louisiana formally blocked Biden's requirement by issuing a nationwide injunction, arguing that "civil liberties face grave risks when governments proclaim indefinite states of emergency."

In Missouri, a federal judge last week likewise shot down Biden's mandate – which applies to Medicare and Medicaid employees – for certain healthcare workers across 10 states.

"Congress did not clearly authorize CMS to enact this politically and economically vast, federalism-altering, and boundary-pushing mandate, which Supreme Court precedent requires," the Missouri judge wrote, calling the requirement "arbitrary and capricious."

The Biden administration is set to appeal state rulings against its mandate.

Hillary Clinton was right about the 'deplorables' — and the end of Roe v. Wade

During her 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton warned us that Donald Trump and his "basket of deplorables" were a threat to American democracy. She wasn't a prophet. She was simply offering a reasonable analysis based on the available evidence — and she paid an enormous political price for daring to tell that truth in public.

Two things can be true at the same time. Russian interference may well have played a role in Donald Trump's unlikely electoral victory in 2016. But it is also true that Clinton's truthful but politically unwise comment about the "deplorables" helped to swing the momentum — with the help of an eager and compliant mainstream news media — in Trump's direction.

Clinton's description was in fact about much more than the disreputable people who flocked to Trump's banner. It was also a warning about the regressive politics and antisocial values that Trump's followers represented (and still do), including cruelty, racism and white supremacy, sexism and misogyny, collective narcissism, anti-intellectualism, an infatuation with violence, proud ignorance and support for fascism and authoritarianism.

Whatever you think of her as a person and a public figure, Clinton clearly perceived that Trumpism would be a disaster for American democracy and the world, pushing the United States towards the brink of full-on fascism including an attempted coup. Clinton's campaign strategy against Trump had numerous evident flaws, but her diagnosis of Trump and his movement' was overwhelmingly correct.

One thing Hillary Clinton clearly perceived, even if she didn't put it this way, was that Trump's authoritarian politics would involve a campaign to limit human freedom, in accordance with the needs and goals of the Trump movement. Specifically, limiting and controlling the bodily autonomy of those groups and individuals deemed to be Other, the enemy or otherwise subordinate to the dominant group.

Such an exercise of power is central and foundational to American fascism in its various forms, as the history of slavery and Jim Crow ought to make clear. In America now, the fascist movement longs for the subordination, control, and domination of women's and girls' bodies to the sexual, emotional, financial, physical and psychological needs of men — especially, of course, white conservative "Christian" men. Restricting women's reproductive rights and freedoms, especially by attempting to force women to conceive and bear children, are recurring features of fascist-authoritarian political projects and societies.

Hillary Clinton warned us about this as well, as Colbert King noted several months ago in the Washington Post:

I'm also sick at heart because five years ago, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton put the country on notice that this day could come.

While celebrating the Supreme Court's June 27, 2016, decision rejecting two restrictive provisions in a Texas House bill regulating abortion, Clinton warned in a campaign release that the fight for the right to access health care, and for women to make their own decisions about their bodies and their futures, was "far from over."

She stated, presciently, "The fact that our next president could appoint as many as three or four justices in the next four years" is a striking reminder "that we can't take rulings like today's for granted."

Clinton left no room for speculation. "Just consider Donald Trump, the Republicans' presumptive nominee. The man who could be president has said there should be some form of 'punishment' for women seeking abortions. He pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. And last year, he said he'd shut down the government rather than fund Planned Parenthood."

And Clinton made clear the consequences. "If we send Trump to the White House and a Republican majority to Congress, he could achieve any — or all — of these things. And that's why this election is so important."

"The outcome of November's contests," she declared, "is going to be a deciding factor in whether our elected officials and our courts defend or attack a woman's right to health care for generations to come."

Transforming a democracy into a fascist-authoritarian state is usually a process, not a singular spontaneous event. In the United States in this decade, this has taken the form of one of our two institutional political parties becoming increasingly and openly hostile toward the very idea of multiracial and pluralistic democracy.

More specifically, the Trump-controlled Republican Party and the larger neofascist movement it represents is the symptom of deeper societal problems, rather than their cause. This moment must also be understood as the result of long-term planning by right-wing elites.

Once again, Hillary Clinton was eerily prescient. During an interview in 1998 with NBC's "Today," she famously warned of the "vast right-wing conspiracy" that sought to destroy her husband's presidency. Less noticed at the time, she also spoke larger truths about American society and the forces working to undermine its most fundamental rights and freedoms.

In 2016, Clinton revisited that warning during a televised town hall meeting in New Hampshire. Here's how CBS News reported that event:

"At this point it's probably not correct to say it's a conspiracy because it's out in the open," Clinton said. "There is no doubt about who the players are, what they're trying to achieve. ... It's real, and we're going to beat it." ... [R]eferencing GOP financiers like Charles and David Koch, Clinton said the right wing is now "even better funded."

"They've brought in some new multibillionaires," she said. "They want to control our country. They want to rig the economy so they can get richer and richer.

"They salve their consciences by giving money to philanthropy," Clinton continued, "but make no mistake, they want to destroy unions, they want to go after any economic interest they don't believe they can control."

The Supreme Court is now signaling, in bright lights, that it intends to follow through on the decades-long plan by the Republican Party, its Christian fascist elements and other "movement conservatives" to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision and otherwise sharply restrict women's reproductive rights and freedoms. Taking away women's bodily autonomy to this extent is another step in the Republican-fascist assault on the human and civil rights of all Americans.

In a new essay, author and talk-show host Thom Hartmann warns that this is "just the first of a series of ideas Republicans have to regulate women's behavior and roll back the clock to the early 1960s when women couldn't get a credit card without their father's or husband's permission, had no legal right to birth control in some states, and faced fully legal discrimination in housing, education and employment." He continues:

In the 1960s, employers could fire women for getting pregnant, women had no legal right to a harassment-free workplace, were charged extra for health insurance, and could be legally raped by their husbands, among other indignities.

And this is just the start. Today the Court is hearing a case out of Maine that could require states to pay for the tuition of all students attending religious schools, using taxpayer money that normally funds public schools. This would include forcing states to pay for religious schools that openly discriminate against LGBTQ+ students and staff, and teach children that being gay is a sin.

Once Republicans are done with birth control they'll be coming for gay marriage and, ultimately, broader civil rights laws themselves including, like in Hungary (their new role model), ending the rights to assembly, free-speech, and due process.

And if you think that's an over-the-top concern, consider: Just a few months ago, Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that provides immunity to drivers who plow their cars into protesters, if those protesters are on a public street. They're already going after our right of public assembly.

Winter is coming: next stop, Gilead.

Last week, Hillary Clinton spoke to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow about America's democracy crisis and the Republican threats to human and civil rights. She was describing the plot of the fictional thriller she co-wrote with Louise Penny, "State of Terror," but also America at present: "[T]here is a plot against the country by people who truly want to turn the clock back. They believe that the progress we've made on all kinds of civil rights and human rights, the cultural changes that have taken place, are so deeply threatening that they want to stage a coup."

America's crisis of democracy is in a wild and dangerous moment, where unpredictable and horrible new realities are being born and where hope is diminishing. The choice between democracy and fascism may have narrowed so far that the real choice at this moment is more about how bad the emerging American fascist regime will be and what possibilities for effective resistance will remain. That may sound hyperbolic, but matters are rapidly becoming that dire.

Defending American democracy in the time that remains requires setting aside factional differences within the Democratic Party — and within the political "left" and "center" more generally — and uniting around the common goal of defeating the Republican-fascist movement. "Hillary derangement syndrome," in the form of the extreme hostility and rage some leftists and progressives still feel toward Clinton, is only a distraction.

Hillary Clinton tried to warn the American people what would happen if Trump and his regime took power — she was proven to be correct. She continues to warn the America and the world about the all-too-real "vast right-wing conspiracy" that continues to push forward, winning victory after victory in its war against human rights, human dignity, social democracy and freedom.

In various ways, Hillary Clinton's unexpected "defeat" by Donald Trump in 2016 offered an important preview of what was to come, with American democracy increasingly under siege. Many people perceived it as a fluke or an anomaly at the time, but it was nothing of the kind. It was a sign. Love her or hate her, the fact remains that Hillary Clinton understood the danger clearly.

CNN’s 'Epic News Bro' fail: Why Chris Cuomo's unethical blunder isn't solely his to own

When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

How strange it is to apply this famous goon's wisdom to the situation CNN finds itself in with its top-rated personality Chris Cuomo. Strange, but not entirely unexpected.

On Saturday the WarnerMedia-owned cable news channel announced that it has fired the host of "Cuomo Prime Time" after the New York Attorney General's office presented CNN with a cache of transcripts, texts and emails showing that the anchor assisted his brother, disgraced former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, more extensively than was previously acknowledged.

Chris Cuomo's firing comes days after the network announced his indefinite suspension pending further investigation. According to Saturday's statement, CNN "retained a respected law firm to conduct the review."

"While in the process of that review, additional information has come to light," the statement reads. "Despite the termination, we will investigate as appropriate."

Mind you, an independent review from that respected law firm would have been appropriate and more timely back in May, when The Washington Post broke the news that Cuomo took part in strategizing conference calls with his brother Andrew, along with members of his staff, attorneys and other advisers.

When Andrew Cuomo resigned in August, Chris Cuomo acknowledged that he provided insight to his brother's aides until CNN told him to stop, following that story's publication.

At the time Chris Cuomo apologized on his show, and CNN was content with that, declining to discipline him further. The network also walled him off from coverage of the allegations against Andrew Cuomo citing his inability to be objective.

"When Chris admitted to us that he had offered advice to his brother's staff, he broke our rules and we acknowledged that publicly," CNN said in an earlier statement. "But we also appreciated the unique position he was in and understood his need to put family first and job second."

The statement continues, "However, these documents point to a greater level of involvement in his brother's efforts than we previously knew." This is mind-boggling until you allow for Chris Cuomo's star status.

CNN has had a Chris Cuomo problem for a long time. Until this development, which Cuomo recognized as "embarrassing" in his Sirius XM radio show, it hasn't been compelled to recognize that.

Cuomo was referring to himself presumably, but CNN's brass should be embarrassed too. It was scooped twice on a story sitting at their own desk. That didn't have to happen the second time if it engaged the most basic review it claims to be engaging in now back when the first story came out.

Included in the latest batch of documentation were texts between Chris Cuomo and the former governor's top aide Melissa DeRosa, back in March, when the first sexual harassment allegations against Andrew Cuomo were becoming public. "Please let me help with the prep," Chris Cuomo texted to DeRosa on March 3. So that additional information must really be something.

The outcome might have been the same. Or Chris Cuomo and CNN could have spun the situation into a teachable moment knowing his viewers probably wouldn't care. To everyone impotently bellowing, "But . . . but . . . ethics!" I acknowledge that's a depressing supposition. And you're right.

But that ignores the reason that this situation went unaddressed for so long: Chris Cuomo was CNN's most popular anchor.

Cuomo is combative and brash, styling himself as the network's Rocky Balboa to Fox News Channel's stable of Ivan Dragos – more character than journalist. "The Daily Show" awarded him the title of Epic News Bro, partly referencing the meathead comedy routine he created with his brother, New York's top government official, across multiple "Cuomo Prime Time" episodes back in 2020.

The public ate it up, growing a loyal fanbase that defends Chris Cuomo even now – and after he was the subject of his own sexual harassment allegation, don't forget.

Variety's Daniel D'Addario wrote a scathing analysis of how Andrew Cuomo used the media to gild his reputation as being tough on coronavirus throughout 2020, rising to national prominence as an exemplary public official and a voice of reason.

As his administration contended with mounting evidence that it underreported COVID-related deaths at nursing home facilities, the media glommed on to the odd "Cuomo-sexual" movement further establishing Andrew as a tough, level-headed hero while the White House doubled down on dispensing dangerous misinformation.

This was already in progress when Chris had his brother on the air multiple times to joke and banter, capitalizing on his direct family connection to a prominent politician.

Journalists who adhere to ethical standards would be right to flinch at all this, unless the goal is become bigger than the news itself and above the standards to which your peers are held. That bravura worked for Chris Cuomo's erstwhile boss Jeff Zucker, the former top NBC executive who brought Cuomo to the network in 2013 shortly after he was named the president of CNN Worldwide in 2012.

Among Zucker's greatest accomplishments at NBC was to elevate a couple otherwise average entertainers by providing them with a national broadcast platform. One is former "Fear Factor" host Joe Rogan. The other said the two sentences that open this article while boasting about groping women. He went on to become President in 2016 and lost re-election in 2020.

Zucker followed that up by coddling a cable news anchor who goes shirtless and gives fitness tips on an Instagram feed that John Oliver dubbed a "thirstpit" that "feels a little desperate for approval" back in 2018.

That very same social media trap helped establish Cuomo's popularity. His CNN show recently attracted an average viewership of 959,000, with 212,000 of those viewers fitting within the advertiser-attractive 25-to-54 demographic.

Nevertheless, it's extraordinary that Chris Cuomo copped to what his bosses deemed to be a misdemeanor level of unethical behavior and no one at an organization with a wealth of resources and investigative talent thought to do more than simply take him at his word for half a year. With a little digging, they could have made sure Cuomo wasn't under-representing how extensively he crossed lines he should not have.

Worse, perhaps it did and assumed none of what was discovered would ever become public. Either way, we have yet another very public example of an institution risking its reputational integrity by trusting in its star's power.

"You've got media critics condemning Chris calling on CNN to take action," CNN's chief media correspondent Brian Stelter says in a report that aired in the wake of Cuomo's suspension. "You have some colleagues here at CNN who are mad at Chris Cuomo for putting the network in a tough spot and wanting to see action. You also have a lot of viewers though, who love Chris Cuomo and are now ticked off that he's off the air and they want to see him back. So there's a mixture of relief, disappointment.

"It's a complicated situation," Stelter adds.

As it turns out, not really.

CNN, like MSNBC, has blurred the line between news and opinion/entertainment for many years. (Fox News has erased it almost completely, although its execs will claim it hasn't.) That means Chris Cuomo's dedication to performance isn't anything that anchors who came before him, and a few who are still employed at CNN, haven't done in some fashion. He was simply more bald-faced about it.

Cuomo may a punchline now, but he remains very famous. It's tough to say what moral future cable news hosts will draw from this story, aside from an unequivocal caution to never use one's position as a newscaster to assist corrupt family members.

That, and the lesson to avoid unfortunate catchphrases. Chris Cuomo's was, "Let's get after it." The New York Attorney General's office took him at his word . . . and look at him now.

Watch this clip of "The Daily Show-ography of Chris Cuomo: Epic News Bro" on YouTube.


MAGA moms meet Madison Cawthorn's challenge: Why right-wing women raise their sons as 'monsters'

There's much to be learned still about the role that James and Jennifer Crumbley played in the mass murder their son, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, is accused of committing in Oxford, Michigan last Tuesday. But, at a bare minimum, we know that the couple indulged their son's unhealthy fascination with guns and violence, even buying the boy the weapon he allegedly used to kill four teenage kids. In the name of MAGA politics, Jennifer Crumbley has left a long digital trail of evidence demonstrating how she celebrated her son's gun worship. In 2016, she posted a long letter defending her decision to vote for Donald Trump on the grounds that she could not let Hillary Clinton "have control over my son's future." She thanked Trump "for allowing my right to bear arms," and bragged about how she's not scared of Trump's "big personality and quick temper." Finally, she signed the letter as someone who is "sick of getting f*cked in the ass and would rather be grabbed by the pussy."

Crumbley's husband shared the letter by writing, "My wife can be spot on. Sometimes."

In the cult of MAGA, women need to be kept in their place. Yes, even loyal women who worship toxic masculinity to the point of pretending that being sexually assaulted is no big deal.

On the day before Ethan Crumbley allegedly killed four people, he was caught in class looking at pictures of ammunition. His mother's response, in text: "LOL I'm not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught."

It is important to recall that in October, one of the more noxious trolls in the House's GOP caucus, Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, gave a speech aimed at the mothers of MAGA in which he encouraged the women to raise their sons to be "monsters." Cawthorn claimed that "[o]ur culture today is trying to completely de-masculate all of the young men," and argued that it's on mothers — who he called "the most vicious in our movement" — to counter this supposed emasculation by training their sons to be "monsters and lions." Predators, essentially.

That Cawthorn only addressed mothers is no mistake, of course. In MAGA-land, fathers who are present in their kids' lives are viewed as emasculated. And a lot of MAGA moms were hardly waiting for Cawthorn's instructions.

Take the relationship of Kyle Rittenhouse and his mother, Wendy Rittenhouse. Every step of the way, she's been a proud MAGA mom, treating her son — who shot three people, killing two, at a Black Lives Matter protest — like he's a hero, and blaming his victims for their own deaths.

"A lot of people shouldn't have been there," she raved to NBC News during her son's trial. "He brung that gun for protection, and to this day if he didn't have that gun, my son would've been dead."

Last January, Kyle Rittenhouse was spotted in a bar partying with his mother and a group of Proud Boys. As the young Rittenhouse flashed white supremacist signs, his mother stood by, clearly unbothered that her 18-year-old was drinking with a group of men known for promoting violence in the name of authoritarian politics.

Or take Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, a prime example of a woman who waves a gun around in a bizarre psychological battle with her own tribe's belief in female inferiority. Boebert has been heavily criticized for her repeated shows of contempt for the idea of gun safety. But the worst moment was no doubt over the summer, when, as Zachary Petrizzo reported for Salon, Boebert released a video showing her 8-year-old son "singing, dancing and playing with cigarette lighters — while left alone in a room a few feet away from a high-capacity rifle."

By August, there were at least 259 unintentional shootings by children in 2021, which resulted in 104 deaths and 168 injuries. But raising boys to care about safety is viewed in the MAGA world as, to use Cawthorn's word, "de-masculating." Boebert has routinely blown off critics who point out how dangerous it is to leave loaded guns around, claiming they need to be "ready for use."

In a typical sexist fashion, Cawthorn framed his demand that mothers raise "monsters" in terms of female duty and even sacrifice. But, as these examples show, for a lot of MAGA moms, raising monsters is really more about living vicariously through their sons. And really, it's no wonder. In MAGA-land, being a woman sucks. Sure, as the Boebert example shows, plenty of MAGA women wave around guns and act the part of the tough guy. But at the end of the day, women are simply second class in the Trumpist movement. They are the pussy to be grabbed, not the pussy-grabber.

The ultimate example of the MAGA mom raising up a monster, of course, is the mother-and-son team that stormed the Capitol on January 6.

Video shows Lisa Marie Eisenhart and her son Eric Munchel in tactical gear, armed with zip ties, screaming nonsense about "treason" and vowing that they are done "playing nice" —apparently intent on kidnapping members of Congress. In MAGA mom fantasies, this is the ultimate goal: To not just raise a monster, but be able, through your monster son, to taste the power of political violence yourself.

It's a world where men are viewed as superior to women, and masculinity is defined in the most toxic way possible, in predatory and violent terms. Women can't be equal, so their only way to taste power is through men, especially their sons. That's what Cawthorn's speech was about: Instructing women to sublimate their "vicious" urges by raising boys who are themselves vicious monsters. All too many are already heeding the call.

Turmoil at influential Koch-backed right-wing advocacy group Americans for Prosperity

One of the United States' most influential right-wing political advocacy groups, Americans for Prosperity, is in turmoil after its soon-to-be departed leader was caught in the middle of an alleged affair at the same time it deals with an exodus of donors and board members, as well as the repercussions from a gender discrimination lawsuit, a new report found.

Earlier this week, the group's longtime president Tim Phillips announced his resignation due to what he called "challenging personal matters" — though subsequent reporting from several outlets pinned the reason as an extramarital affair with a Republican official that one AFP insider told CNBC "was a matter of integrity that violated our principles."

Phillips said in a statement first reported by the Washington Examiner: "This morning, I announced my resignation as president of Americans for Prosperity in order to focus on some challenging personal matters that require my full attention. It is difficult to leave this organization, but doing so now is in everyone's best interest."

AFP is the powerful Virginia-based libertarian advocacy organization backed by the industrialist Charles Koch and his late brother David, which has more than three million volunteers spread across the country.

Phillips' departure comes on the heels of three other high-profile resignations late last year from the group's previous six-member board — which leaves just two members left to helm AFP through a crucial midterm election year: Chairman Mark Holden and the group's CEO, Emily Seidel, who also holds a seat on the board, according to the group's required 990 tax disclosures.

A spokesperson for AFP, Bill Riggs, downplayed any lingering turbulence from the leadership exodus.

"AFP has grown into a world-class organization with hundreds of staff across 35 state chapters with more donors and more resources than we've ever had before. In 2020, AFP and AFP Action engaged in – and won – more races than ever before, and we fully expect to exceed those numbers in 2022," he said in a statement to CNBC.

Indeed, though a number of notable Republican donors have backed away from the group as it attempted to readjust its messaging during the Trump years, it doesn't seem to have affected AFP's bottom line. Tax forms show $64 million in revenue in 2020 — an increase from the $54 million in cash it managed to raise in 2019. Like most similar 501(c)(4) political advocacy groups, AFP does not disclose the names of its donors or the amounts of individual donations.

Despite its ability to stay flush with cash, there have been other challenges for the libertarian group — CNBC also uncovered a recent settlement in a lawsuit filed by a female employee in the group's North Carolina Branch, after she was allegedly passed over for a promotion and fired by a man who she claimed was clearly less qualified for the role. The former AFP official, Anna Beavon Gravely, sued the group last year for gender discrimination, retaliation and wrongful discharge.

A spokesperson for AFP told the network: "We reached an amicable resolution in each matter. AFP is committed to a respectful, rewarding, and inclusive work environment."

Gravely's lawsuit also mentioned a separate class-action workplace discrimination case against AFP, though details of that suit were not immediately apparent.

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