Election '20

Republicans learned an extremely dangerous lesson from the 2020 election

When candidates lose a presidential election, their party typically performs an "autopsy" and tries to figure out exactly where they went wrong. President Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign, for example, was arguably the result of three "autopsies" — as Democrats had lost three presidential elections in a row during the 1980s. But Never Trump conservative Jonathan V. Last, in a column for The Bulwark published this week, argues that the Republican response to former President Donald Trump's loss to now-President Joe Biden in the 2020 election was to double down on Trumpism.

"In the days after Democrats unseated an incumbent president and won unified control of Congress," Last writes, "the victorious party went through a round of self-analysis and recriminations. The Republicans, who managed a trifecta of losing that hadn't been accomplished since Herbert Hoover, doubled down. Then they backed up their bets, split 4s, and doubled down again."

Last adds that with the GOP having doubled down on Trumpism following Trump's loss, one of the talking points of "Conservatism Inc." is "how beside-the-point 'democracy' is, anyhow." And Last points to a recent tweet in which conservative writer David Harsanyi wrote, "I'm not pro-democracy, I am pro-freedom. If democracy erodes freedom, (then) it's not something to celebrate."

The conservative Bulwark columnist argues that the GOP, with its post-election "autopsy," isn't trying to figure out how to appeal to a wider range of voters, but trying to discourage voting.

"When Republicans conducted their autopsy," Last writes, "they skipped 'How to Win: Option 1' and went straight to Options 2 and 3 — leapfrogging the question of how to get more votes and focusing on how to use institutional leverage to take power even while losing popular majorities. Option 2 — the path of least resistance — is for Republicans to change voting rules at the state level in the hopes that they can drive down the number of Democratic votes cast and win the Electoral College despite being a persistent minority. A lot has been written about these various initiatives, some of which are more grotesque than others."

With biting sarcasm, Last adds, "But the real cutting-edge work being done as a result of the GOP autopsy concerns Option 3: figuring out how a Republican can win the presidency even while losing the popular vote and the Electoral College."

After the 2020 presidential election, Last writes, some Republicans in the state governments in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia had enough integrity to resist Trump allies who wanted them to defy the Electoral College results. But with Option 3, according to Last, the GOP could try to purge state governments of Republicans who will accept Electoral College results even if they don't like an election's outcome.

"So, the key parts of the Republican autopsy have been: (1) building the political will to use raw power next time, and (2) removing the Republican officials who were not willing to comply last time," Last explains. "That's why Republican state parties have censured nearly every Republican who did not participate in Trump's attempted coup."

Last continues, "That's why (Secretary of State) Brad Raffensperger is the target of a primary challenge in Georgia…. That's why Nevada Republicans are attacking Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, the only Republican to have won state-wide office in 2018. Even though she is a Republican, Cegavske refused to go along with the attempt to overturn Nevada's result."

As much sarcasm and scathing humor as Last uses in his column, the Never Trumper concludes it by making a disturbing point and stressing that many Republicans have become overtly "authoritarian" and are undermining checks and balances.

Last writes, "This is how authoritarianism starts. A society goes from the rule of law, to rule by law — where the minority gets just enough power to change the laws so that they can amass more power. And here is a serious question: If Republicans managed enough votes to sustain an objection to counting electoral votes, what would our recourse be? Crossing our fingers and hoping that the Supreme Court steps in?.... The time to fight against authoritarianism isn't December 2024. It's now."

Republicans rally behind biggest election liars just three months after Capitol riot

Just three months after political pundits predicted a seismic shift in the Republican Party in the wake of the deadly Capitol riot, the GOP is all but embracing the members blamed for inciting it.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, awarded former President Donald Trump with the group's newly-invented "Champion for Freedom Award" over the weekend as top Republican donors descended on Trump's adopted hometown of Palm Beach to hear him bitterly relitigate baseless complaints about his election loss.

"President Trump is a proven champion for all Americans," Scott said in a statement alongside a photo of him presenting Trump with a small ceremonial bowl, reminiscent of a third-place trophy in a local golf tournament. "Throughout his administration, he made clear his commitment to getting government out of the way of people's success, paving the way for American families and job creators to reach new heights. … We are grateful for his service to our country and are honored to present him with the NRSC's first Champion for Freedom award."

The award came ahead of Trump's speech to donors at a Republican National Committee retreat near Mar-a-Lago, where the former president ripped into Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as a "dumb son of a bitch" for not backing his efforts to overturn his electoral defeat. Much of Trump's speech was devoted to bashing fellow Republicans who did not support his attempt to block the certification of votes in certain states, including former Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump has vowed to campaign against Republicans who voted to convict him of inciting the riot, like Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. That could soon put him against groups like the NRSC after Scott vowed to back her re-election campaign.

Trump's speech was widely panned by attendees, some of whom left early, according to The Washington Post. "It was horrible, it was long and negative," one attendee told Politico, which noted that donors are worried about their "money going toward his retribution efforts."

But donors and lawmakers are afraid to speak out publicly against the former president because of the grasp he maintains on the party's voter base. Even potential presidential contenders are nervous to tip their hands because Trump has continued to tease a possible third run himself.

"No one knows what the Trump effect will be in 2022 or 2024. He has promised to primary [Republicans who don't support him], so a great number of them don't want to risk that," GOP donor Fred Zeidman told CNN. "He has not made a statement about not running in 2024, so it limits what anyone can do now, for fear of alienating the Trump supporters."

Republican voters have widely rejected the clearly visible images of Trump supporters hunting lawmakers through the halls of Congress, with a majority instead buying into false (and contradictory) claims that the riot was actually a peaceful protest or the work of left-wing activists "trying to make Trump look bad." Polls suggest that a majority of Republicans would back Trump in the 2024 primary campaign if he decides to run again. A straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this year found that 68% of attendees want him to seek another term while a whopping 95% want the party to advance his policies and agenda. Trump has continued to raise staggering amounts of money off his election falsehoods, with his Save America PAC reporting 10 times more money in the bank than his campaign had in the first three months after he took office in 2017.

But it's not just Trump. The biggest supporters of Trump's election lies have cashed in on the controversy as well.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who led the Senate objections to the certification of election results in several states, raised more than $3 million in the three months since he pumped his fist to the mob that would soon attack Capitol Police officers and overrun the halls of Congress. That number is more than 10 times what some of his colleagues raised at a similar point in their terms, according to Politico, and a massive increase from the $43,000 he raised in the first quarter of the last election cycle. He even brought in nearly $600,000 in the two and a half weeks immediately following the riot despite temporarily pausing his fundraising efforts.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., also one of the most ardent backers of Trump's election lies, raised an even more eye-popping $3.2 million in the first three months of the year despite largely having to self-fund her campaign in 2020 — and despite representing a deep-red district where Democrats are unlikely to mount meaningful opposition.

But while Republicans have long relied on big-money donors, support for the likes of Hawley and Greene is coming from the party's grassroots, primarily through the donation platform WinRed, despite the scam-adjacent tactics employed by Trump's campaign and Republican fundraising groups. Hawley received more than 57,000 donations with an average contribution of $52. Greene received 100,000 donations, averaging $32 each.

Corporations that swore off making political donations in the wake of the riot have also started to reverse course. Just months after the attack, companies like AT&T, Intel and Cigna already appear to have broken their pledges to stop donating to Republicans who voted to overturn the election, making big contributions to the NRSC and the National Republican Campaign Committee.

JetBlue Airways' PAC became the first to end its pause on direct contributions to Republicans who voted to block the election results with a donation to Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., who continued to echo Trump's lies even after the deadly insurrection of Jan. 6.

There’s a surprising ending to the Supreme Court's most controversial decision in the 2020 election

by Richard Pildes, New York University

One of the most heavily contested voting-policy issues in the 2020 election, in both the courts and the political arena, was the deadline for returning absentee ballots.

Going into the election, the policy in a majority of states was that ballots had to be received by election night to be valid. Lawsuits seeking an extension of these deadlines were brought around the country for two reasons: First, because of the pandemic, the fall election would see a massive surge in absentee ballots; and second, there were concerns about the competence and integrity of the U.S. Postal Service, particularly after President Trump appointed a major GOP donor as the new postmaster general.

The issue produced the Supreme Court's most controversial decision during the general election, which prohibited federal courts from extending the ballot-receipt deadlines in state election codes. Now that the data are available, a post-election audit provides perspective on what the actual effects of these deadlines turned out to be.

Perhaps surprisingly, the number of ballots that came in too late to be valid was extremely small, regardless of what deadline states used, or how much that deadline shifted back and forth in the months before the election. The numbers were nowhere close to the number of votes that could have changed the outcome of any significant race.

Changing deadlines in Wisconsin

Take Wisconsin and Minnesota, two important states that were the site of two major court controversies over these issues. In both, voters might be predicted to be the most confused about the deadline for returning absentee ballots, because those deadlines kept changing.

In Wisconsin, state law required absentee ballots to be returned by Election Night. The federal district court ordered that deadline extended by six days. But the Supreme Court, in a 5-3 decision, blocked the district's court order and required the deadline in the state's election code to be respected.

Writing for the three dissenters, Justice Elena Kagan invoked the district court's prediction that as many as 100,000 voters would lose their right to vote, through no fault of their own, as a result of the majority's ruling that the normal state-law deadline had to be followed. Commentators called this a “disastrous ruling" that “would likely disenfranchise tens of thousands" of voters in this key state.

The post-election audit now provides perspective on this controversy that sharply divided the court. Ultimately, only 1,045 absentee ballots were rejected in Wisconsin for failing to meet the Election Night deadline. That amounts to 0.05% ballots out of 1,969,274 valid absentee votes cast, or 0.03% of the total vote in Wisconsin.

If we put this in partisan terms and take Biden as having won roughly 70% of the absentee vote nationwide, that means he would have added 418 more votes to his margin of victory had these late-arriving ballots been valid.

Changing deadlines in Minnesota

The fight over ballot deadlines in Minnesota was even more convoluted. If voters were going to be confused anywhere about these deadlines, with lots of ballots coming in too late as a result, it might have been expected to be here.

State law required valid ballots to be returned by Election Night, but as a result of litigation challenging that deadline, the secretary of state had agreed in early August that ballots would be valid if they were received up to seven days later.

But a mere five days before the election, a federal court pulled the rug out from under Minnesota voters. On Oct. 29, it held that Minnesota's secretary of state had violated the federal Constitution and had no power to extend the deadline. The original Election Night deadline thus snapped back into effect at the very last minute.

Yet it turns out that only 802 ballots, out of 1,929,945 absentees cast (0.04%), were rejected for coming in too late.

Even though voting-rights plaintiffs lost their battles close to Election Day in both Wisconsin and Minnesota, with the deadlines shifting back and forth, only a tiny number of ballots arrived too late.

Where deadlines didn't change

What happened in states that had a consistent policy throughout the run-up to the election that required ballots to be returned by Election Night?

Among battleground states, Michigan provides an example. Only 3,328 ballots arrived after Election Day, too late to be counted, which was 0.09% of the total votes cast there.

Finally, Pennsylvania and North Carolina were two states in which litigation did succeed in generating decisions that overrode the state election code and pushed ballot-receipt deadlines back – in Pennsylvania by three days, in North Carolina by six days.

These decisions provoked intense political firestorms in some quarters, particularly regarding Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court's three-day extension of the deadline became the primary justification that some Republican senators and representatives offered on Jan. 6 for objecting to counting the state's Electoral College votes.

How many voters took advantage of these extended deadlines? In North Carolina, according to information that the state Board of Elections provided to me, 2,484 ballots came in during the additional six days after Election Day that the judicial consent decree added. That comes to 0.04% of the total valid votes cast in the state.

In Pennsylvania, about 10,000 ballots came in during the extended deadline window, out of the 2,637,065 valid absentee ballots. That's 0.14% of the total votes cast there. These 10,000 ballots were not counted in the state's certified vote total, but had they been, Biden would likely have added around 5,000 votes to his margin of victory, given that he won about 75% of the state's absentee vote.

These are not the numbers of ballots, of course, that would have come in late had the courts refused to extend the deadline in these two states. They show the maximum number that arrived after Election Day when voters had every right to return their ballots this late. Even so, those numbers are still far lower than the 100,000 that had been predicted in Wisconsin.

But had the statutory deadlines remained in place in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, there is no reason to think the number of late absentees would have been much different from those in similar swing states like Michigan, where the statutory deadlines remained fixed and 0.09% of ballots arrived too late.

Highly engaged voters

The small number of absentee ballots that came in after the legal deadlines occurred despite a massive surge in absentee voting in nearly all states. What explains that?

Voters were highly engaged, as the turnout rate showed. They were particularly attuned to the risk of delays in the mail from seeing this problem occur in the primaries. Throughout the weeks before the election, voters were consistently returning absentee ballots at higher rates than in previous elections.

The communications efforts of the Biden campaign and the state Democratic parties, whose voters cast most of these absentee votes, got the message across about these state deadlines. Election officials did a good job of communicating these deadlines to voters. In some states, drop boxes that permitted absentee ballots to be returned without using the mail might have helped minimize the number of late arriving ballots, though we don't have any empirical analysis on that.

In a highly mobilized electorate, it turns out that the specific ballot-return deadlines, and whether they shifted even late in the day, did not lead to large numbers of ballots coming in too late.

That's a tribute to voters, election officials, grassroots groups – and to the campaigns.The Conversation

Richard Pildes, Professor of Constitutional Law, New York University

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

Fox News tried to trip up Jen Psaki with a bogus voting law claim — but she quickly set the record straight

Major-League Baseball has decided to voice its opposition to Georgia's new voting laws by moving its 2021 All-Star Game from the Peach State to Colorado. Fox News reporter Peter Doocy brought up decision on Tuesday during a White House press conference, trying to claim that Colorado has "very similar" voting rules to Georgia — and Jen Psaki, White House press decretary for President Joe Biden, explained why Doocy's statement was misleading.

Psaki told Doocy, "Let me just refute the first point you made. First, let me say, on Colorado: Colorado allows you to register on Election Day. Colorado has voting by mail, where they send to 100% of people in the state, who are eligible, applications to vote by mail — 94% of people in Colorado voted by mail in the 2020 election. And they also allow for a range of materials to provide — even if they vote on Election Day, for the limited number of people who vote on Election Day."

The White House Press secretary continued, "I think it's important to remember the context here. The Georgia legislation is built on a lie. There was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Georgia's top Republican elections officials have acknowledged that repeatedly in interviews. What there was, however, was record-setting turnout, especially by voters of color."

Psaki went on to tell Doocy — who is the 33-year-old son of "Fox and Friends" co-host Steve Doocy — that Georgia Republicans are making it harder to vote because they were disappointed by Democratic victories in the state. Biden won Georgia in the 2020 election, and two Democrats were elected to the U.S. Senate via Georgia in January runoffs: Sen. Raphael Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff.

Psaki told Doocy, "What we're seeing here, for politicians who didn't like the outcome — they're not changing their policies to win more votes, they're changing the rules to exclude more voters…. It's up to Major-League Baseball to determine where they're holding their All-Star Game."

'The carnage needs to come': Man accused of threatening Schumer over Trump's election lies to plead guilty

In November, Brian Maiorana — a 54-year-old Staten Island resident, white supremacist, Donald Trump supporter and registered sex offender — was arrested for making death threats against then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats. And now, according to Law & Crime reporter Adam Klasfeld, court papers indicate that Maiorana plans to plead guilty.

A Brooklyn court paper dated April 6 states that "defendant" Maiorana has "asked for permission to enter a plea of guilty." The district judge listed on the document is 86-year-old Frederic Block of the Eastern District of New York.

The far-right Maiorana bought into the false and debunked claims that Trump was a victim of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, and according to prosecutors, he viewed Schumer as one of the people who helped now-President Joe Biden steal the election. On November 8, the day after the Associated Press and other major media outlets reported Biden as president-elect, Maiorana, according to prosecutors, wrote, "Soap Box, Ballot Box…that was fraudulently stolen from us, Now Cartridge Box."

Maiorana, the court papers said, showed his anti-Semitism in his anti-Schumer comments, writing, "As the Jew Senator from Jew York said nothing is off the table."

The "nothing is off the table" reference was quoting Schumer's remarks about the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. But while Schumer wasn't advocating violence — he was hoping, in vain, that Senate Democrats would somehow find a way to derail her confirmation — prosecutors believe that Maiorana was.

On November 5, two days after the presidential election, Maiorana wrote, "The carnage needs to come in the form of extermination of anyone that claims to be democrat…as well as their family member."

After Maiorana was arrested in November, Assistant U.S. Attorney Artie McConnell argued that he shouldn't be granted bail and noted that during a search of his home, FBI agents found a loaded semi-automatic weapon, an expandable baton and a taser. Because Maiorana had been convicted of statutory sexual assault in Pennsylvania in 2007 — which made him a Level 1 registered sex offender — it was illegal for him to be in possession of firearms.

McConnell said of Maiorana, "This defendant greatly exceeded what can be characterized as political hyperbole, using words like carnage, extermination, assassination."

Prosecutors, in their complaint against Maiorana, also said that his choice of reading material underscored his anti-Semitism. On November 8, according to the complaint, Maiorana wrote, "'The Turner Diaries' must come to life. We blow up the FBI building for real. All the alphabet agencies assassination will become the new normal now…that the electoral process is finished."

Maiorana, according to prosecutors, called for attacks against liberal and progressive protesters on October 19 when he posted, "Its come to the point where pipe bombs need to be thrown into these mobs of … protesters."

William Luther Pierce's racist 1978 novel, "The Turner Diaries," depicted the overthrow of the United States' federal government and the extermination of non-Whites. And one of the terrorists who considered "The Turner Diaries" a source of inspiration was the late Timothy McVeigh, whose attack on the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 was the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history prior to 9/11.

Airline CEO slams Georgia’s 'unacceptable' voter suppression law as inconsistent with 'Delta’s values'

One of the ways in which Democrats are attacking Georgia Republicans in response to the voter suppression bill that Republican Gov. Brian Kemp recently signed into law is by reaching out to Corporate America and trying to show that voter suppression is bad for business. And one corporate CEO who has come out against Georgia's law is Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian, who attacked it in a memo published this week.

Bastian, addressing his colleagues at the Atlanta-based company, wrote, "I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta's values."

In a variety of ways, the law makes it more difficult to vote — from making it harder to obtain an absentee ballot to reducing voting hours. An especially mean-spirited part of the law, which President Joe Biden has slammed as "Jim Crow in the 21st Century," is a prohibition on giving food or water to someone waiting in line to vote.

Bastian wrote: "After having time to now fully understand all that is in the bill, coupled with discussions with leaders and employees in the Black community, it's evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives. That is wrong."

Kemp has denied that the law is a form of voter suppression, claiming that it is merely designed to promote secure and fraud-free elections. But Bastian believes that the law was passed in response to a major lie: that former President Donald Trump was a victim of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. That lie has been totally debunked by elections officials and security experts. In a statement released on November 12, officials for the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency declared, "The November 3 election was the most secure in American history."

In his memo to others at Delta, Bastian wrote, "The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections. This is simply not true. Unfortunately, that excuse is being used in states across the nation that are attempting to pass similar legislation to restrict voting rights."

Why Virginia and Georgia are taking opposite courses on voting rights

As a mass shooting, possible tornadoes and school closures drew Georgians' attention on St. Patrick's Day, Republicans in its GOP-majority legislature in Atlanta raced to push a massive rewrite of an election bill to "drastically change" the state's voting laws toward passage.

"HAPPENING NOW: Georgia House Republicans led by Rep. Barry Fleming are rushing out a 93-page substitute to SB 202 right before a key committee meeting to try and ram through their anti-voting agenda as part of their unconstitutional attacks on Georgians' voting rights," tweeted Fair Fight, an Atlanta-based voting rights group, on March 17.

"There are nearly 80 voting-related bills about voting+elections in Georgia. Most won't go anywhere. Others keep changing faster than you can read them," tweeted Stephen Fowler, Georgia Public Broadcasting's reporter, echoing the alert.

Such hardball tactics are not unique to Georgia's legislature. Following 2020's election loss, ex-President Trump's supporters are using their power as lawmakers to try to change the rules of voting to their perceived benefit. In Georgia, currently the nation's foremost swing state, the legislative melee also reflects fierce responses from voting rights advocates.

"They got more pushback than they expected," said Andrea Miller, who runs the Center for Common Ground, which advocates for Black voters in the South and coordinated 3,700 phone calls from their districts to the Republican legislators sponsoring the rollbacks, and helped to shepherd 40,000 emails opposing the legislation.

Other groups have also pressed Georgia's biggest employers to oppose the bills—and gained some traction. Some of the most draconian proposals, such as ending no-excuse absentee balloting, automatic voter registration and restricting early voting on Sunday—favored by Black clergy and congregations—are being withdrawn. Rep. Fleming was fired as Randolph County attorney for sponsoring suppressive legislation. But bills regulating voting keep hurtling forward.

"It's such a moving target," Miller said, speaking of the GOP's tactics. "We are seeing every legislative trick in the book. A bill comes over from the Senate. You totally rewrite it in the morning and then have the hearing, the committee vote, that afternoon."

Georgia's voting war is one front line in the national battle over the options to get and cast a ballot. While many Georgia Republicans are reviving old fears about empowering their critics to vote, hold office and possibly make decisions affecting their lives, another key Southern state, Virginia, has taken the opposite course. Since 2020, Virginia Democrats have vastly expanded voting options and rights, embracing the state's growing diversity and setting a different example.

"Virginia's work in 2021 is a model of voting rights expansion for states," said Jorge Vasquez, power and democracy director for Advancement Project, a civil rights group. "Governor Ralph Northam's [March 16] announcement [restoring voting rights to 69,000 ex-felons] is the capstone of a successful legislative session in which advocates successfully passed the Voting Rights Act of Virginia, the most expansive piece of voting rights legislation in the South."

There may be no wider contrast between the politics and polarities surrounding voting rights at the start of the post-Trump era than between Georgia Republicans' efforts to restrict voting and Virginia Democrats' recent efforts to expand the franchise. Since the November 2019 statewide elections in Virginia—which returned a Democratic state legislative majority for the first time in 20 years—the state had adopted several waves of inclusionary reforms.

"Virginia is the gateway," said Miller. "Virginia is the former capital of the Confederacy. So which direction does the South go? Does it follow Virginia? Or does it follow Georgia?"

Virginia's 2020 legislative session, which ended in February before the pandemic struck, passed a catalog of reforms. A longer no-excuse absentee voting period beginning 45 days before Election Day was instituted. The list of documents that would be accepted as voter ID was expanded. Election Day became a holiday. Automatic voter registration would be done at state motor vehicle offices unless residents opted out. A bipartisan redistricting commission was created for 2021. Same-day voter registration would begin in July 2022. It passed the federal Equal Rights Amendment.

In August 2020, a special session to address the pandemic further expanded voting options in Virginia. Registrars were required to contact voters to fix any mistakes they had made when filling out their ballot-return envelopes. A witness signature requirement for returned absentee ballot envelopes was suspended. Those envelopes had prepaid return postage. Drop boxes also were put into use to collect ballots.

"2020 was an incredible year where there were huge changes," said Deb Wake, League of Women Voters of Virginia president. "Before the changes in voting laws, Virginia was… [ranked 49th in the list of states based on how easy it was to vote there]. After the 2020 legislative sessions, we moved to the 12th [easiest state in which to vote]."

In Virginia's 2021 legislative session, which ended in February, most of the emergency responses to the pandemic were made permanent—except for suspending a witness signature on ballot return envelopes. Legislators also passed a state constitutional amendment to re-enfranchise ex-felons—a process that takes several years to enact. (It also abolished the death penalty, legalized recreational marijuana and allowed state health plans to cover abortions.) Gov. Northam is expected to sign all of these measures into law, advocates said.

A state Voting Rights Act was also passed. It bars the "denial or abridgment of the right of any United States citizen to vote based on his race or color or membership in a language minority group." It notably also creates a process where any change in voting rules can be contested—and reversed—if it rolls back prior voting options. This preclearance is akin to what the U.S. Supreme Court removed from the federal Voting Rights Act in a 2013 decision—which led numerous Southern states to quickly enact new barriers for voters.

"With the preclearance requirement of federal law eliminated by the U.S. Supreme Court, Virginia replaced that rule with its own preclearance requirement," wrote Janet Boyd in a March 1 legislative summary for the League of Women Voters of Virginia. "The preclearance rule provides two pathways for a locality to clear changes, either through a process of providing public notice and receiving comments or through approval by the Office of the Attorney General."

"The legislature did flip from Republican to Democratic control in 2019, and that did allow for many of these voting/election laws to pass," said Wake. "One of the things leading to the flip was the redrawing of racially gerrymandered [legislative districts]. … We now have our own VRA [Voting Rights Act], and we have a bipartisan, citizen-led redistricting commission. It's not independent, but it's a huge step forward."

What Happened in Virginia?

Despite the inclusive voting rights legislation, Wake was "not prepared" to call Virginia a blue state. "I can attest that more people are engaged than were before 2016. I also note that the election/voting meetings since the November [2020] election have been full of new faces concerned about voter fraud—and all of their questions and objections fall on the incorrect assertion that there is massive voter fraud. Many people do not understand the system, and many people live in a partisan echo chamber. The challenge is to inform voters in a way that they hear, and [to] accept truths and processes that prevent the thing they fear."

Wake's prescription of informed engagement is precisely what led Virginia's progressives—arguably more than its centrist Democrats—to start focusing on local politics after the 2016 defeat of Bernie Sanders in the presidential primaries, and the defeat of its U.S. senator and 2016 vice presidential nominee, Tim Kaine, in that year's general election.

Miller, who lives near Richmond, said Virginia's political landscape was similar to Georgia's. "People tend to look at Georgia and look at their legislature and say, 'Oh, there's no point in trying to do anything in that state.' Virginia looked exactly like Georgia five years ago."

Virginia is among a handful of states with statewide elections in odd-numbered years. In 2015, the year before the presidential campaign that elected Trump, 61 out of 100 seats in its House of Delegates, its lower chamber, were uncontested. After Sanders' and Hillary Clinton's loss, many progressives, including men and women of color who never held elective office, decided to continue their activism by running for delegate or supporting candidates, said Josh Stanfield, who created a widely signed pledge not to take donations from the state's biggest utility companies.

In November 2017, many candidates—including men and women of color who in 2021 are now running for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general—were elected without the initial support of Virginia's Democratic Party, Miller said. Many of the national groups that were active in 2016 refocused on the state's legislative races in 2017, Stanfield said, which helped boost voter turnout.

"The majority of the increase in voter turnout was anti-Trump backlash," Stanfield said, "but what do we mean by anti-Trump backlash? It could include people who were fed up with xenophobia. It was not necessarily Trump-specific… There was so much more mobilization and organization on the ground. Among the grassroots activists, so many more people were involved."

After the November 2017 election, partisan control of the 100-seat House of Delegates came down to a tie in one contest. On January 4, 2018, a Republican was declared the winner of that race—giving the GOP a 51-49 majority—after the state election board's chair drew a slip of paper out of a bowl.

One year later, federal judges approved a court-ordered redrawing of 26 House of Delegate districts before Virginia's 2019 elections, after a federal judge found that the Republican majority had used race-based considerations when drawing the districts' boundaries after the 2010 census. In November 2019, 70 House of Delegate seats were contested. Democrats won a 55-45 seat majority. Democrats also won a 21-18 seat majority in the state's Senate. (One seat is vacant.)

"One of the things leading to the flip in the legislature in 2019 was the redrawing of racially gerrymandered maps," said Wake. "Besides the party flip—and more importantly—we see increased representation of minorities in Virginia. More women and more Black people are serving as legislators. Some legislators have served time. One is transgender. Some are Muslim. This means better representation, and we see this in the laws being passed."

Virginia's expansion of voting options and redrawing 26 lower legislative districts to be more representative have also led to the most diverse pool of Democratic and Republican candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in upcoming party primaries and nominating conventions. There are more women, people of color, and religiously diverse candidates than in any prior election.

"The state's Democratic gubernatorial primary, taking place in June, features the most diverse set of candidates in Virginia's history," noted Jewish Insider. "There's Jennifer Carroll Foy, one of the first Black women to graduate from the esteemed Virginia Military Institute; Jennifer McClellan, a corporate attorney and vice chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus; Justin Fairfax, the current lieutenant governor and just the second Black politician ever elected to statewide office; Lee Carter, a 33-year-old self-proclaimed socialist in the House of Delegates; and Terry McAuliffe, who served as governor once before and has been a Democratic Party fixture since the Clinton administration."

"Virginia has four Black candidates running for governor in 2021. Who saw that coming in 2015?" Miller said. "Maybe the people of Georgia can look at Virginia and say, 'Oh my. Maybe there's hope for us. Virginia did it. Why can't we?' And Georgia has a bigger community of color population than Virginia—much bigger."

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, the American Prospect, and many others.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

I was not a big fan of Joe Biden — here's why I now think he's the right man for the job

J.M. Opal, McGill University

Growing up in the United States, I was not a big fan of Joe Biden.

I remember Biden at the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings in 1991, looking out-of-depth as his colleagues berated and belittled Anita Hill. I recall him during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush years, holding forth in Senate hearings and casting about for middle ground that no one really wanted.

Biden was the face of establishment “meh," the epitome of could-be-worse complacency. He vaguely sympathized with working people but went along with the neoliberal mania for lower taxes, fewer regulations and “freer" markets. He assumed the Civil Rights era had put America's demons to rest, and he never saw the dark forces gathering behind his predecessor, Donald Trump, until it was too late.

One year ago, during a bruising primary against more progressive rivals, Biden looked like a man history had left behind.

Recently, however, Biden has shown that he understands how the modern U.S. presidency works, both in terms of policy and the nation's psyche.

First among equals

Early U.S. presidents mostly focused on America's relations with non-Americans. The Constitution of 1787 assigned domestic policy to Congress, not to the president. Besides, the early United States was a chaotic and ill-defined country, requiring most presidents to focus on enforcing federal law as best they could.

This changed for good under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who held the office between 1933 and 1945. In the face of the Great Depression and fascism, FDR moved away from his centrist impulses and shifted U.S. social and economic policy well to the left. His New Deal vastly expanded the executive branch of the U.S. government and made it far more relevant to most Americans.

To be sure, congressmen resisted, not just as rival Republicans but also as members of a separate and equal branch of government. So did governors who embraced the American tradition of local self-government over centralized rule.

The modern-day president lives with these duelling legacies. On one hand, he now sets the priorities for domestic as well as foreign affairs and wields enormous discretionary power over a sprawling federal government. On the other hand, he must work with allies in the House and Senate and respect the stubborn independence of each of the 50 states.

Biden gets this.

He knows how and when to propose a bill and how and when to let others fight out the details. He understands how and when to frame an issue and how and when to let the arguments unfold on MSNBC and Fox News.

Most importantly, he understands that the dominant ideologies of the past 50 years, especially the neoliberal dictum that markets know better than nations, simply won't do in the face of a pitiless virus and the human wreckage it has left behind.

This is why Biden, the ultimate moderate, was able to pass the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, arguably the biggest decision made by the U.S. government since the the FDR era.

Consoler-in-chief

Besides making policy, the modern American president must console the people in times of trauma. This, too, traces back to FDR, who was the first president to address the people by radio. During his “fireside chats," FDR spoke directly to a mass audience, trying to preserve some kind of emotional unity among the American people.

Canadians may well pause here to ask why such unity is necessary. Why does America require such emotional togetherness? Why can't its 330 million people just feel what they feel and still agree to get along? Why can't they live together as a big and complex society, different but not divided?

It's complicated.

But after studying American nationalism for many years, I think the reason is that Americans aren't nearly as nation-minded as we long to be. Our nationalism isn't obvious or intuitive. We don't have a distinctive language or ancient culture. We don't even have a clear or stable sense of any homeland, a common patrie to which we can feel attached.

Much of American history and culture is about moving away from wherever we're from to settle in the U.S., usually at the expense of Indigenous populations. (This is especially true for white settlers, although Black Americans also sought freedom by heading west or north.) Our cherished individualism and mythic frontier spirit makes us isolated and alienated, even — or especially — from other Americans.

That's why someone needs to address us when something terrible happens. They need to look us in the eye and share our distress, in effect telling us that we're not as alone as we feel.

Here again, Biden understands his job.

Presidential behaviour

In many ways, he became president the day before his inauguration, when he led a memorial for those lost to the virus.

He did the same thing when the death toll passed 500,000. And after recently signing the Rescue Plan into law, he talked about our shared hardships and common sadness.

“I carry a card in my pocket with the number of Americans who have died from COVID to date," he said.

He's not the most eloquent man. But over his long career, Biden learned a thing or two about making policy. And at some point over his long life, he found the strength to carry on through tragedy, to walk through dark canyons in hope of dawn.

All of this makes him the right person to steer America out of its recent calamities and towards a better version of itself.The Conversation

J.M. Opal, Associate Professor of History and Chair, History and Classical Studies, McGill University

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

New intel report reveals 'evidence of cooperation' between Russia and Trump Campaign: historian

Max Boot, a Russian-American author and historian and a fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations, says the U.S. Intel Community's just-released report on Russia's attack on the 2020 presidential election is "evidence of cooperation" – at least – between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

The report details that Russian President Vladimir Putin once again interfered in the election, again to help President Donald Trump, and to hurt now-President Joe Biden.

"I would say this is certainly evidence," Boot says, "it may be evidence of collusion, but it's definitely evidence of cooperation and congruence between the Russians and the Trump campaign."

Boot praised the Biden administration for authorizing the release of the report, which he says Americans would not have seen under the Trump administration, while singling out Acting Trump DNI and DNI Rick Grinnell and John Ratcliffe, who "consistently tried to minimize and downplay Russian election interference."

Importantly, Boot notes the report shows "just how closely the Russian messaging during the election echoed the messaging of the Trump campaign of Fox News and this kind of whole right wing media industrial complex."

"It's fascinating to see the extent to which the Russians were pushing the same messages about alleged Biden corruption, about his supposedly corrupt son, about you can't trust mail-in ballots, that the Democratic Party is trying to interfere with the election. These were the things that Trump was saying, but these were also the things that the Russians were saying, and in fact, the report highlights the close ties between Russian agents of influence like Andrii Derkach from Ukraine. Ukraine and Rudy Giuliani the president's lawyer, Konstantin Kilimnik is another one, who is a former business partner of Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, so these ties are a copious and disturbing and to use a word we haven't heard in a few years, I would say this is certainly evidence. If not, it may be evidence of collusion, but it's definitely evidence of cooperation and and congruence between the Russians and the Trump campaign."

Watch:

Top U.S. officials lay waste to the right-wing lies about the 2020 election in conclusion of a sweeping probe

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a joint statement addressing right-wing claims of foreign interference in the 2020 elections — and found that according to an investigation, there is no evidence that such interference occurred in the ways that were alleged.

DOJ and DHS, in their statement, explained, "The Departments investigated multiple public claims that one or more foreign governments owned, directed, or controlled election infrastructure used in the 2020 federal elections; implemented a scheme to manipulate election infrastructure; or tallied, changed, or otherwise manipulated vote counts. The Departments found that those claims were not credible."

The foreign governments mentioned in the press release include those of China and Iran. DOJ and DHS note, "The Departments found no evidence that any foreign government-affiliated actor manipulated election results or otherwise compromised the integrity of the 2020 federal elections."

Following the 2020 presidential election, then-President Donald Trump and attorneys who supported him — including Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis — claimed that Trump had been the victim of widespread voter fraud. But that claim was totally debunked, and according to former DHS cybersecurity official Christopher Krebs, the election was quite secure. Trump fired Krebs for debunking his own conspiracy theories.

Powell and other pro-Trump attorneys baselessly claimed that the voting technology of Dominion Voting Systems was used to help Joe Biden steal the 2020 U.S. presidential election, suggesting it had nefarious ties to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Dominion, debunking Powell's false claims, responded that its voting technology had never even been used in Venezuela, and brought a wave of defamation lawsuits against those falsely making such claims.

Politico reporter Kyle Cheney notes that DOJ and DHS have investigated "Sidney Powell-fueled claims that Venezuela, China and Iran had some sort of control over U.S. election infrastructure" and found no evidence to support such claims.

The DOJ/DHS statement released on Tuesday notes that in 2020, election officials went to great lengths to maintain election security.

"During the 2020 election cycle, federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, non-governmental, and private sector partners nationwide worked together in unprecedented ways to combat foreign interference efforts and support election officials, political organizations, campaigns, and candidates in safeguarding their infrastructure," the DOJ/DHS release states. "The Departments remain committed to continuously strengthening the nation's cybersecurity, critical infrastructure, supply chain risk management, public-private partnerships, and public messaging to enhance the resiliency of our democratic institutions."

Trump is exploiting a journalist's mistake to whitewash his potentially criminal conduct

Former President Donald Trump and his allies tried to use a new correction in the Washington Post on Monday to paper over some of his most egregious conduct after the 2020 election.

Here's what happened. Back in January, the Post reported on a call Trump had with elections investigator Frances Watson in Georgia. Trump had been openly trying to discredit the results of the election and enlist other officials to help him overturn his loss to Joe Biden in key states, including Georgia. The Post reported that when he spoke to the investigator, he told her to "find the fraud" in the Georgia ballots and that it would make her "a national hero."

We now know that's not precisely true — Trump didn't use the words in that quotation, based on a new recording of the call published by the Wall Street Journal. The Post updated the original story with a lengthy correction on Monday, noting that instead Trump told Watson she'd find "dishonesty" in her investigation and that she had "the most important job in the country right now." He also said: "When the right answer comes out, you'll be praised."

It's a good thing the Post and reporter Amy Gardner issued a correction. The recording indicates that Trump did not use the exact quotes the outlet attributed to him. As far as I can tell, no one was demanding the Post issue this correction, and doing it has drawn fire to the outlet, so it wasn't an easy decision to make — but clearly the ethical and responsible one.

In the end, though, the errors don't affect the substance of the original story. Trump's overall message to Watson was the same, even if the precise wording differed from what was reported. He told the investigator what he wants her to find (something he'd already made clear publicly) and suggested she'll be rewarded, at least by the public, if she does so, as a part of his effort to undo a legitimate election. This is corruption, plain and simple. The mistake the Post and Gardner made was taking the source — described as "an individual briefed on the call" — too literally when describing Trump's words, and using the source to put words directly in Trump's mouth. This is incredibly common in journalism but should probably be avoided in most instances. Recalling exact wording of conversations is surprisingly difficult, as anyone who transcribes recordings knows, and reporters shouldn't rely on sources for verbatim recounts of others' words unless there's corroborating evidence or the uncertainty is made clear.

Trump and his allies have seized on this mistake by the Post and blown it entirely out of proportion, using it to rewrite the history of a saga that is undeniably damning for the president. In a statement, the former president said:

The Washington Post just issued a correction as to the contents of the incorrectly reported phone call I had with respect to voter fraud in the Great State of Georgia. While I appreciate the Washington Post's correction, which immediately makes the Georgia Witch Hunt a nonstory, the original story was a Hoax, right from the very beginning. I would further appreciate a strong investigation into Fulton County, Georgia, and the Stacey Abrams political machine which, I believe, would totally change the course of the presidential election in Georgia.

North Carolina Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn, a freshman member of Congress and staunch supporter of the former president, pushed a similar line on Twitter:

Both of these statements are wrong — Cawthorn's even more so than Trump's. With somewhat more subtlety, Trump elided the difference between two record phone calls he had with Georgia officials. By referring to a "reported phone call I had with respect to voter fraud in the Great State of Georgia," he conflates the call with Watson with a separate call he with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. That call was reported prior to the Watson call, on Jan. 3, by the Post. And the Post had the full recording when it published that call, so it didn't suffer from any of the inaccuracies described in the report on the second call (which were, nevertheless, not sufficient to alter the substance or meaning of the call).

Trump's claim, therefore, that the Georgia investigations into his efforts to influence elections officials are a "Witch Hunt" and a "Hoax" is false. Many legal commentators have said there is more than enough evidence for investigators to justify launching a criminal investigation into his conduct.

The former president is almost certainly creating this confusion on purpose to discredit any potential charges or allegations that may arise out of the Georgia case. Cawthorn, on the other hand, just seemed uninformed and confused as he incorrectly identified the person who Trump was talking to on the call in question. He also falsely claimed that the Post "admits that they LIED" — which is not trued, since a mistaken claim is not the same as a lie. Trump, at least, acknowledged that the Post did the right thing in issuing the correction. Cawthorn, on the other hand, didn't seem to realize that the fact of the correction undercuts the idea that the press is working with Democrats to lie. Instead, the most reasonable interpretation is that reporters like Gardner are doing a complicated job, and sometimes they make mistakes. But they're trying to get the facts right — unlike the congressman from Norht Carolina.

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