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Pennsylvania’s next governor may be a 'full-blown insurrectionist': analysts

In Pennsylvania’s 2022 GOP gubernatorial primary, Republican voters in the Keystone State went with their most extreme option: Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Christian nationalist and far-right conspiracy theorist who has promoted the Big Lie and falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump in his state. The primary election, held on Tuesday, May 17, wasn’t even close: Mastriano defeated fellow Republican Lou Barletta by 24% and will be going up against Democratic Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in the general election.

Mastriano’s primary victory is being described as a troubling development by a variety of his critics, ranging from liberal Washington Post opinion columnist Greg Sargent to Never Trump conservative Amanda Carpenter. Sargent, in his May 18 column, stresses that Pennsylvania Republicans went with a flat-out “insurrectionist” when they chose Mastriano.

Sargent has been complaining that mainstream media coverage of Mastriano fails to capture just how dangerously authoritarian his views are. And now that Mastriano is officially Pennsylvania’s 2022 gubernatorial nominee, Sargent is sounding the alarm even more.

Pennsylvania has had a variety of governors in recent decades, from Republican Tom Ridge (a moderate conservative and Never Trumper who was popular in the Philadelphia suburbs during his two terms) to centrist Democrats such as Ed Rendell (a former two-term Philly mayor who chaired the Democratic National Committee in the early 2000s) and the late Bob Casey, Sr. (father of Sen. Bob Casey, Jr.). But if Mastriano defeats Shapiro in the general election, the Keystone State will have a dangerously authoritarian governor who is way to the right of even former Sen. Rick Santorum.

“For the love of democracy, please stop using the phrase ‘election denier,’” Sargent writes. “Now that Doug Mastriano has won the GOP nomination for governor in Pennsylvania, countless news accounts are describing him with that phrase. This is meant to convey the idea that Mastriano won’t accept Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential reelection loss.”

Sargent continues, “That’s true, but it’s insufficient. Let’s state this plainly: Pennsylvania Republicans just nominated a full-blown insurrectionist who intends to use the power of the office to ensure that, as long as he is governor, no Democratic presidential candidate wins his state again.”

The Post columnist also points out that “Christian nationalism” is a key element of Mastriano’s ideology. In other words, Mastriano believes that God Almighty wants him to throw out election results if they favor Democrats.

“Mastriano’s victory also highlights another story that’s bigger than this one contest: the role of Christian nationalism in fueling the growing insurrectionist streak on the right,” Sargent explains. “This nexus underscores the danger this movement poses in a way that also demands more clarity about the worldview of candidates like Mastriano.”

Sargent adds that Mastriano “is running on what is functionally an open vow to use the power of the governor’s office to nullify future election losses, even if they are procedurally legitimate, and even if he knows this to be the case.”

“When Mastriano tried to help Trump in 2020,” Sargent notes, “he adopted the radical argument that the Pennsylvania legislature had the ‘sole authority’ to reappoint new electors for Trump, because (Joe) Biden’s win was ‘compromised.’ Mastriano’s claim of a ‘compromised’ Biden win, of course, wasn’t tethered to actual facts. But here’s the crucial point: It didn’t have to be. The aim of overturning the election was itself such a righteous goal that the creation of a pretext for accomplishing it was justified on that basis.”

Meanwhile, in an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on Tuesday night, May 17 after the Republican primary election was called for Mastriano, Carpenter declares, “Doug Mastriano is an insurrectionist, period.”

Sargent and Carpenter have their differences politically. While Sargent is liberal, Carpenter is among the Never Trumpers who has been condemning the MAGA movement from the right. But one thing they obviously agree on is that Mastriano is quite dangerous. Mastriano, Carpenter notes, “bused supporters to the Capitol on January 6th, was photographed on the Capitol grounds, and ever since has sought to use his limited political powers as a Pennsylvania state senator to overturn the election.”

Carpenter points out that “behind the scenes, Republicans have fretted about Mastriano’s candidacy” — fearing that Shapiro would defeat him in the general election. And Shapiro himself, during the primary, said that Mastriano would be the easiest Republican primary candidate to defeat. But Carpenter isn’t so sure.

Carpenter writes, “Do you want to assume Mastriano is going to get shellacked by the super popular, likable, nice man that is Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro? The same Shapiro that was so confident that he put out an ad during the GOP primary that looked like he was trying to boost Mastriano’s prospects with Trump voters?”

The conservative adds that in 2016, some pundits insisted that Donald Trump couldn’t defeat Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania. Indeed, the Biden campaign left nothing to chance in the Keystone State in 2020 because they remembered some famous last words from four years earlier: Trump can’t win in Pennsylvania.

Like Sargent, Carpenter points out that the Pennsylvania secretary of state position is chosen by the governor.

“Republicans are still willing to bet our democracy on someone else cleaning their own house for them,” Carpenter warns. “Oh, and keep in mind that in Pennsylvania, the secretary of the commonwealth — the top elections official — is appointed by the governor. Does anyone doubt that Mastriano would fill that position with someone willing to do whatever it takes to ensure Republicans win the state in 2024?”

Carpenter continues, “There’s an obvious lesson: Hoping that Democrats will solve the problems of the Republican Party has been a grave mistake. It’s not often countries get second chances. But if the GOP now gets behind insurrectionists like Mastriano, it’s January 6th forever. Which is exactly what Mastriano is campaigning on.”

Las Vegas newspaper editorial board: 'We are struggling to identify' Republicans 'who are not an active threat' to democracy

On Tuesday, May 17, the Big Lie and the “Stop the Steal” movement enjoyed a major victory when Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano — a far-right Christian nationalist and QAnon ally — won the 2022 GOP gubernatorial nomination in the Keystone State. Mastriano has been a forceful supporter of the claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, but he is hardly alone in that regard. From Pennsylvania to the southwestern swing state of Nevada, the Big Lie has become a litmus test in the Trumpified GOP — and the Las Vegas Sun’s editorial board, in a biting editorial published on May 15, poses the question: Are there any Republicans left who are willing to stand up for democracy?

The answer to that question is that yes, some right-wing Republicans are willing to aggressively stand up for democracy — in the U.S. House of Representatives, for example, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois have been blistering critics of the Big Lie. But Kinzinger isn’t seeking reelection, and Cheney will be gone from the House in 2023 if she loses a GOP congressional primary in Wyoming. Cheney and Kinzinger are the exception, not the norm, in the MAGA-oriented, increasingly authoritarian GOP of 2022.

The Sun’s editorial board focuses heavily on Nevada politics, but its message is relevant whether one lives in Nevada, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida or Maine.

“No one knows better than Nevadans when it’s time to put our cards on the table,” the Sun’s editorial board writes. “The editorial board, and Nevadans as a whole, are facing an agonizing problem. We have endorsed Republicans in the past and might do so again in the future. Yet as we survey the field of Republican candidates across the state, we are struggling to identify those who are not an active threat to American democracy or the institutions of government that have sustained our republic for 250 years. Those are the stakes here for the GOP. For Nevada. For our voters.”

The Sun’s editorial board goes on to describe the “violent insurrection” of January 6, 2021 and the vicious assault on the U.S. Capitol Building as “one of the darkest days in U.S. history” — arguing that the Big Lie is just as toxic now as it was then.

“Since the insurrection,” the Sun’s editorial board warns, “Republican leadership across the nation has worked to disenfranchise voters, allow themselves to defy the will of voters outright and to allow partisan interference in the vote count…. (Nevada) gubernatorial candidate Joey Gilbert was actually at the Capitol that day, spinning unfounded conspiracy theories about election fraud and accusing those Republicans who believe the vote was legitimate of being ‘RINOs (Republicans in Name Only)’ who should be removed from the party.”

The editorial board continues, “(Gilbert) didn’t think that those who vandalized the halls of our Capitol or threatened police officers should be tossed out; he cheered them on. And he’s not alone…. As we wrote last October, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo disgraced himself by not condemning the violent right-wing groups that have been welcomed into the Nevada GOP, leaving Southern Nevadans to wonder whether their sheriff will protect and serve everyone in our community regardless of political persuasion.”

Nevada’s Republican and Democratic primaries will be held on June 14.

“Of the five leading Republican candidates for the governorship of Nevada, every one of them has gone on record as both supporting and contributing to the Big Lie,” the Sun’s editorial board laments. “In doing so, they have all made a choice to subvert our democracy, undermine the integrity of our elections, and ignore the Constitution of the United States. Will GOP leaders stand up for the rule of law and free and fair elections by rejecting autocracy and lies? Or will they continue to debase themselves and their formerly great party by kneeling to their unhinged demigod, Donald Trump, and his dreams of authoritarianism?”

GOP senator denies he's heard of 'great replacement' — while espousing replacement theory

Last month, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., went on Fox News to deliver a diatribe about the apparent ills of open borders, a policy that President Biden has never supported but was nevertheless cited by the senator as an attempt to "remake the demographics of America."

But now, in the wake of a deadly mass shooting carried out by white supremacist who echoed a similar sentiment, Johnson's comments are coming back to bite him, with many commentators arguing that the senator supports a racist conspiracy theory that's likely to lead to more violence in the months to come.

The uproar stems from a shooting this weekend in Buffalo, New York, where ten people were killed and three were injured as part of a racially-motivated attack on a predominantly Black neighborhood in the city. Prior to the attack, the 18-year old killer, Payton Gendron, published a 180-page manifesto online, making multiple references to the "Great Replacement," a baseless right-wing conspiracy theory alleging that the Democrats are attempting to loosen borders in order to replace the white electorate with more pliant citizens from the Third World.

Two days after the shooting, Johnson took to Twitter to express his condolences, saying that "Americans around the country are praying for the victims of the horrific attack that occurred in Buffalo. We mourn for their loved ones and thank law enforcement for their heroism."

But with no apparent segue, Johnson then turned his attention to Biden's "open border policies," arguing that criticizing the administration's stance on immigration is not tantamount to subscribing to the "Great Replacement."

"Pushing the lie that criticizing this admin's policies in any way supports 'replacement theory' is another example of the corporate media working overtime to cover up the Biden admin's failures," Johnson tweeted.

But the conservative lawmaker has, at the very least, tacitly supported the theory without naming it directly.

In one Fox Business interview last month, the senator baselessly claimed Biden "wants complete open borders," adding: "And you have to ask yourself why? Is it really they want to remake the demographics of America to ensure their – that they stay in power forever? Is that what's happening here?"

And on Tuesday, Johnson employed a similar line of inquiry after being asked to condemn the "Great Replacement."

"Why are [the Democrats] letting millions of people in this country … [Biden] ought to answer why are they doing that?" he told the Wall Street Journal. "It doesn't make any sense to me at all. None. It makes no sense. I can't explain a lot of things. Why are they pushing for mail-in ballots?"

Johnson's spokesperson, Alexa Henning, has described any allegations of Johnson's belief in the "Great Replacement" theory as "100% false."

"The senator has spoken extensively on the inhumanity of the Biden administration's open border policies, not some racist 'theory,'" she said in a Tuesday statement, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Johnson, elected in 2011, as an adamant opponent of illegal immigration. Back in 2017, the senator supported Donald Trump's decision to defer the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which provided children with temporary relief from deportation

Economist Paul Krugman explains why MAGA’s ‘paranoid’ mindset has overtaken the GOP

When Paul Krugman was on vacation in late April and the first half of May, he actually acted like he was on vacation; the liberal economist and New York Times columnist didn’t do much tweeting, and there was a two-week gap between columns. But Krugman had a lot to talk about after he returned from vacation, including the mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York supermarket on Saturday, May 14.

In his first post-vacation column, published on May 16, Krugman has two observations about the American right: (1) “voodoo economics” is still a failure, and (2) at least the Reagan Republicans who promoted “voodoo economics” during the 1980s didn’t encourage violence.

Back in the days when Madonna, Prince, Duran Duran and Run-D.M.C. reigned supreme, President Ronald Reagan’s economic policy was described as both “trickle-down economics” and “voodoo economics.” Reagan and his allies believed that when millionaires and billionaires are given major tax cuts and become even more prosperous, they inevitably share their economics gains with the middle class and the poor — a school of economic thought that Krugman rejected when he was younger and still rejects in 2022.

Krugman writes, “It was shocking, at the time, when a crank economic doctrine — the claim that tax cuts pay for themselves — became, in effect, the official Republican party line…. And voodoo economics continues to do real damage to this day. The Republicans who control Mississippi, a poor state with desperately underfunded educational programs that’s closing hospitals, recently moved to boost the state’s economy by cutting taxes. As far as I know, however, diatribes about the evils of high marginal tax rates haven’t inspired any acts of domestic terrorism.”

Law enforcement officials believe that the May 14 shooter in Buffalo was inspired by far-right white nationalist doctrine and the racist conspiracy theory known as the Great Replacement. The deadly attack was carried out in a heavily Black area of Buffalo, and most of the people shot were African-American.

“As has been widely reported, the suspect accused of fatally shooting 10 people in Buffalo is a devotee of ‘Replacement theory,’ which claims that sinister elites — especially Jews, of course — are deliberately bringing in immigrants to displace and disempower White Americans,” Krugman explains. “So were the men charged with massacres at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 and an El Paso Walmart in 2019.”

Krugman continues, “Replacement theory used to be a fringe doctrine, but these days, in at best thinly disguised form, it is attracting significant mainstream support within the GOP. And this mainstream acceptance helps it spread. As The Times has documented, Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show has amplified the doctrine more than 400 times.”

The Great Replacement theory, Krugman notes, has also been promoted by well-known Republicans ranging from Rep. Elise Stefanik to “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance, the GOP nominee in Ohio’s 2022 U.S. Senate race.

The “paranoid style,” according to Krugman, has been “taking over the Republican Party,” including “Republican elites” — who “used to push back against conspiracy theories but now cheerfully embrace them whenever it seems politically expedient.”

Krugman explains, “The rise of supply-side economics coincided with the rise of movement conservatism — an interlocking network of elected officials, media organizations, think tanks and lobbying firms…. Who was attracted to this movement? Many were careerists: people happy to serve as apparatchiks, following whatever the party line happened to be at the moment. They may have signed up to promote low taxes and a weaker safety net, but most of the party immediately went MAGA when the winds shifted.”

The columnist cites Vance and one-time “Paul Ryan protégé” Stefanik as examples of former Trump critics in the GOP who flip flopped and “went MAGA” because it was expedient.

“What we now know is that the embrace of crank economics presaged the general moral collapse of the Republican establishment,” Krugman observes. “This collapse opened the door for paranoia and conspiracy theorists of all kinds — and the consequences have been deadly. There is, I would argue, a direct line from the Laffer curve, to January 6, (2021) to Buffalo.”

New analysis explores how GOP lawmakers are fueling far-right extremists like the Buffalo mass shooting

The latest mass shooting, which claimed the lives of 10 Black victims in Buffalo, N.Y., has reignited concerns about dangerous rhetoric perpetuated by far-right media and conspiracy theorists. The Guardian's Cas Mudde recently explored how right-wing media and Republican lawmakers have contributed to this ongoing problem.

"The problem is, we can talk endlessly about better regulating social media or calling for even more funding and powers for public and private 'counter-terrorism' organizations, but none of that will make us safer as long as the broader conservative movement embraces and propagates far-right propaganda," wrote Mudde, who is also a professor for the University of Georgia's School of Public and International Affairs. "This is a point worth repeating, even if I and others have made it many times before."

Mudde went on to validate his point by highlighting how the Buffalo shooter's manifesto echoed dangerous talking points from far-right media. The disturbed terrorist referenced concerns about "the Left," America's "open borders," and immigration.

"The so-called 'manifesto' of the terrorist included a lot of the standard tropes of the far-right, including the so-called Great Replacement Theory. Often linked to antisemitism, this conspiracy theory holds that 'the Left' is supporting 'open borders' to replace the 'original people' with 'immigrants,' who are inferior and therefore easier to control. Variants of this theory go back to at least the original Populists of the mid-19th century, but in its current iteration it has been around since the start of the 1980s postwar far-right in Europe."

He also expressed concern about Republican lawmakers' conflicting position on this topic. "Since the storming of the Capitol on 6 January 2021, I have had various informal conversations with people who work in Congress or in other state agencies about the far right," Mudde wrote. "They tell me that they want to talk about the threat it poses, but then rapidly narrow the focus to 'online radicalization' and violent groups with scary names like Atomwaffen Division or Feuerkrieg Division. This is not just because these groups get disproportionate attention in the media and the counter-terrorism industry, but because they are politically safe. These groups are so extreme that they are out of bounds for almost all political elites, even on the right. But they are also small and marginal."

He added, "This is not the case for most other more mainstream actors and ideas of the far right. In fact, their power is now so great in Washington, that it is almost impossible to come up with a term that is acceptable to both sides of the political spectrum. Republicans are skeptical about terms like 'far-right' and 'racism,' fearing this would include groups and ideas they sympathize with. This is not without reason."

"The Grand Old Party has become a far-right party that advances racist arguments in both implicit and explicit form. And many organizations within the broader “conservative” movement have followed suit, from Fox News to Turning Point USA."

With the direction the Republican Party is going toward, Mudde emphasized the reality America is facing as he offered a piece of advice to President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party.

"The sad reality is that fighting the far right has become a highly partisan affair in the United States," Mudde wrote. "Any attempt to make this a bipartisan effort means watering down of measures and limiting them to the most extremist fringes. If Biden and the Democrats really want to fight white supremacy, including institutional racism, they must do it without the Republican party."

Conservative warns that 'own-the-libs trolling' can 'radicalize' violent extremists

Right-wing trolling of liberals and progressives didn’t start in the Donald Trump era; the late radio host Rush Limbaugh, in 2010, infamously described then-President Barack Obama as “uppity” (a word with a very racist history) in the hope of offending the left as much as possible. But own-the-liberals trolling greatly accelerated thanks to former President Trump’s MAGA movement. Defenders of such trolling will argue that it’s done in an “ironic” way, but conservative Daily Beast opinion writer Matt Lewis — in a May 17 column — argues that it is by no means harmless.

Lewis’ column was published three days after a May 14 mass shooting at a supermarket in a heavily African-American area of Buffalo, New York. Ten people were killed, and law enforcement officials believe that the 18-year-old suspect — who, they say, embraces White nationalist views and embraces the Great Replacement conspiracy theory — targeted the victims simply because they were Black.

This frightening incident, according to Never Trump conservative Lewis, serves as an example of why own-the-liberals trolling is not harmless fun as its defenders claim.

“In a purported manifesto published online,” Lewis writes, “the alleged shooter says he was radicalized on the anonymous web bulletin board 4chan, which he sought out as a result of pandemic-generated boredom. And what is the content like on these forums?”

Lewis answers his question by quoting the New York Times’ Nicholas Confessore, who described that content as “openly racist” and “anti-Semitic” but “done with irony and humor.”

“One way to suck people into radical ideas is to make the water warm,” Lewis explains. “You can do this by giving people plausible deniability to tell others, and themselves, that the evil they are dabbling in is merely irreverent satire. In other words, it’s about being rebellious and revolutionary and outrageous. It’s all a game. It’s all about freaking out the normies.”

Own-the-libs trolls, Lewis observes, typically say buffoonish things like, “You’re triggered, snowflake! The right’s just getting better at comedy, and you can’t handle it.” But when violent, deadly attacks inspired by racist ideas occur, the Never Trumper warns, there is nothing “ironic” about their actions.

“This same sort of ‘owning the libs’ trope that can be casually confused as internet humor often serves as a pathway to radicalization,” Lewis warns. “That appears to be what happened with the alleged Buffalo shooter. Troll culture should not be used as an excuse to forgive or forget the political rhetoric now occurring in more mainstream places, such as cable TV, podcasts, or tweets from some Republican politicians.”

Lewis cites Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and journalist David French as two examples of conservatives who should be “commended” for calling out MAGA Republicans who “promote racist conspiracy theories.”

“Cable news is merely laundering these pernicious ideas,” Lewis argues. “I’m more concerned about the so-called jokes and ironic message board memes that even I — someone who is fairly internet-literate — cannot always suss out.”

Lewis continues, “Cable news is for old people. If you want to stop the next generation from being radicalized into violence, keep your eye on the breeding ground and fever swamps of the internet forums.”

The racist ‘Great Replacement’ theory is now ‘mainstream’ Republican thought

Payton S. Gendron, the 18-year-old suspect in a Saturday, May 14 massacre in Buffalo, New York that left 10 people dead, has been, according to law enforcement, an aggressive promoter of the Great Replacement — a far-right conspiracy theory associated with White supremacist and White nationalist ideology. The Great Replacement theory claims that liberals and progressives are actively trying to “replace” Whites in the United States and other countries with non-White immigrants.

The Great Replacement theory has been promoted not only by extremist groups that openly identify as White supremacists or White nationalists, but also, by many MAGA Republicans serving in Congress or state legislatures. Washington Post opinion writer Dana Milbank, in a May 16 column, laments that what was once considered fringe ideology has become mainstream thought in the GOP.

“This past weekend’s massacre in Buffalo has put a deserved spotlight on Elise Stefanik, Tucker Carlson, Newt Gingrich, Matt Gaetz, J.D. Vance and others trafficking in the racist ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory,” Milbank explains. “But the problem goes well beyond the rhetoric of a few Republican officials and opinion leaders. Elected Republicans haven’t merely inspired far-right extremists. They have become far-right extremists.”

To make his point, Milbank discusses a report by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR) that was released on Friday, May 13 — the day before the Buffalo massacre. The Institute has been tracking far-right White nationalist and White supremacist extremism, and Milbank notes that its report/study “found that more than 1 in 5 Republican state legislators in the United States were affiliated with far-right groups.”

“The IREHR, which conducted a similar study with the NAACP in 2010 on racism within the Tea Party, cross-referenced the personal, campaign and official Facebook profiles of all 7383 state legislators in the United States during the 2021-22 legislative period with thousands of far-right Facebook groups,” Milbank notes. “The researchers found that 875 legislators — all but three of them Republicans — were members of one or more of 789 far-right Facebook groups. That works out to 22% of all Republican state legislators.”

For his May 16 column, Milbank interviewed IREHR’s Executive Director Devin Burghart, who told him, “The ideas of the far right have moved pretty substantially into the mainstream not only as the basis for acts of violence, but as the basis for public policy.”

The “far-right groups” discussed in IREHR’s report, Milbank points out, “range from new iterations of the Tea Party and certain anti-abortion and Second Amendment groups to White nationalists, neo-Confederates and sovereign citizen entities that claim to be exempt from U.S. law.”

“The IREHR largely excluded…. historically mainstream conservative groups such as the National Rifle Association and…. pro-Trump and MAGA groups, focusing instead on more radical groups defined by nationalism or anti-democratic purposes,” Milbank explains. “Some might call the IREHR’s list overly broad, but Burghart says the study understates the true overlap between the legislators and the far right.”

The Great Replacement theory drew a great deal of attention in 2017 when, during the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, extremists were chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” And in France, it is promoted by the National Rally — the far-right party led by Marine Le Pen, who in April, lost France’s 2022 presidential election to incumbent President Emmanuel Macron. France dodged a bullet with that election, but the fact that Le Pen performed as well as she did is a troubling sign of the inroads that White nationalist ideology has been making in France. Members of the National Rally, formerly the National Front, often talk about the Great Replacement — claiming that French liberals and progressives are making a concerted effort to “replace” France’s White population with non-White immigrants from Africa and the Middle East.

On Fox News, similarly, far-right pundit Tucker Carlson hasn’t been shy about claiming that Democrats want to “replace” White Americans with non-Whites from developing countries.

“Burghart said proponents of ‘Replacement theory’ come from all categories of the far right and have been growing in number since Fox News’ Carlson has been championing their conspiracy claims,” Milbank writes. “Though based in actual demographic trends — Americans of color will gradually become a majority in coming decades — ‘Great Replacement’ holds that Democrats and the left are conspiring by nefarious means to supplant White people. This idea, expressed by the alleged Buffalo killer — 11 of the gunman’s 13 victims were Black — has found support from Stefanik (N.Y.), the No. 3 House Republican. She accused Democrats of ‘a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION’ in the form of an immigration amnesty plan that would ‘overthrow our current electorate.’”

Milbank adds that Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida has said that Carlson is “correct about Replacement theory” and that Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has said that Democrats “want to remake the demographics of America to ensure.... that they stay in power forever.”

“Are these people directly responsible for the massacre in Buffalo? Of course not,” Milbank writes. “But they, like the 1 in 5 Republican state legislators trafficking in far-right groups, have mainstreamed the extreme. The consequences have been, and will continue to be, catastrophic.”

St. Louis newspaper slams Supreme Court as 'political hacks in black robes' in scathing editorial

Faith in the U.S. Supreme Court continues to decline. Morning Consult, in a poll released on May 8, found that only 49% of U.S. adults trusted the High Court compared to 57% on April 23. And other polls have also shown public trust in the High Court eroding; Gallup, for example, has found that approval of the Supreme Court is down to 40% compared to 62% in 2001.

In a scathing editorial published on May 15, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s editorial board argues that the U.S. Supreme Court has become much too politicized for its own good — and that the likely demise of Roe v. Wade will only cause the public’s view of the institution to erode more.

The Post’s editorial board writes, “The breakdown of U.S. Supreme Court legitimacy may already have begun as the public perception of the Court morphs from one of respectful observances of the law as interpreted by the nation’s top judicial scholars to a view of them as little more than political hacks in black robes…. The Court’s politicization is no longer something justices can hide. The three most recent arrivals to the bench misled members of Congress by indicating they regarded Roe v. Wade as settled law, not to be overturned.”

The arrivals that the Post-Dispatch’s editorial board is referring to are Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Neal Gorsuch, all appointed by former President Donald Trump. President Joe Biden’s nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate but won’t replace the retiring Justice Stephen Breyer until later this year.

A leaked majority draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito finds that the George W. Bush appointee joined Barrett, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch and Justice Clarence Thomas in a 5-4 argument for overturning Roe.

The editorial board adds, “Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife is an open supporter of former President Donald Trump and his efforts to subvert democracy…. If states choose simply to ignore the Court following a Roe reversal, justices will have only themselves to blame for the erosion of their stature in Americans’ minds.”

Why Black voters could be the 'sleeping giant' in Florida’s gubernatorial race

If polls are any indication, far-right Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has reason to be optimistic in the Sunshine State’s 2022 gubernatorial race. Polls released earlier this year found that in a hypothetical race against former Republican turned Democrat Charlie Crist — the Democratic primary frontrunner — DeSantis leads by 8% (Mason-Dixon) or 6% (USA Today/Suffolk). But journalist Anthony Man, in an article published by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on May 16, poses the question: could African-American voters’ frustration with DeSantis awaken a “sleeping giant” in the Sunshine State’s 2022 gubernatorial race?

Conservative strategist Rick Wilson, a Florida-based Never Trumper and former Republican who absolutely despises the MAGA movement, has described Florida as a state where Democrats “struggle.” And MSNBC’s Joy Reid, a liberal/progressive pundit who lived in Florida in the past, has lamented that she now considers Florida a red state rather than a swing state.

One of the bombshells of the 2020 presidential election was the fact that President Joe Biden won Georgia and Arizona but lost Florida, where DeSantis campaigned for former President Donald Trump. In addition to having a Republican governor, Florida has two Republican U.S. senators: Sen. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running for reelection.

When DeSantis defeated former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial election, it was a narrow victory: DeSantis won by less than 1%. But polls have been showing DeSantis to be in a more comfortable position in this race.

Man, however, reports that DeSantis’ unpopularity among Black voters could be a liability for him. Some of the Democrats quoted in his article — including Florida State Sen. Shevrin Jones, Florida State Sen. Rosalind Osgood and State Sen. Bobby Powel — believe that DeSantis’ policies have been bad for Black Floridians.

Jones told the Sun-Sentinel, “The governor and the Republicans in the state of Florida have awakened a sleeping giant with Black people in the state. For the past two years, Black people in the state of Florida have been walked on.”

Jones argued that Democrats are going need a really aggressive Black voter outreach in the gubernatorial race — and he recommends a lot of in-person campaigning.

“We have to go back to the streets to get Black voters,” Jones told the Sun-Sentinel. “We’ve gotten so comfortable with social media that it has.… made quite a few people lazy when it comes to organizing, because people believe that they can organize from the computer. We have to take us outside of this small box.”

Man, in his article, noted that DeSantis has given Black Floridians a lot to be frustrated about — from voter suppression to restrictions on protesting. But Jones stressed that Democrats need to do more than give Black voters reasons to vote against DeSantis; they also need to show them why their policies are better.

Jones told the Sun-Sentinel, “They’re seeing it on their timelines, they’re seeing it on their newsfeeds, they’re seeing it on their TVs. Now that we have their attention, give me something to vote for. You can campaign on Ron DeSantis. Or you can campaign on what you’re going to do for people.”

Supreme Court hands Ted Cruz lucrative $555,000 win by declaring campaign finance rule violates free speech

In a 6-3 decision Monday the U.S. Supreme Court handed Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz a lucrative win, declaring a federal rule limiting the amount a candidate who loans money to their own campaign can be repaid violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.

“With the latest SCOTUS decision to further deregulate campaign finance, the Texas senator will be able pay himself back with fresh donor money,” HuffPost reports, adding that Cruz can now “hit up donors to help pay himself back for the $555,000 he loaned to his campaigns in 2012 and 2018.”

Possibly the most consequential result of the ruling is it “could also enable politicians to personally make money on their campaigns by charging interest on loans later repaid by donors.”

Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion, which was joined by all conservatives on the bench. Justice Elena Kagan authored the minority opinion, which was joined by the liberals.

“And as they paid him, so he will pay them,” Justice Kagan, warning of corruption, wrote in her dissent. “In the coming months and years, they receive government benefits ― maybe favorable legislation, maybe prized appointments, maybe lucrative contracts. The politician is happy; the donors are happy. The only loser is the public. It inevitably suffers from government corruption.”

“Cruz,” HuffPost notes, “will be able to raise $555,000 and put it in his own pocket immediately. For that, he can thank the six conservative justices ― three of whom he voted to confirm.”

'Enabled white supremacy': Liz Cheney goes on attack against Stefanik and GOP leaders after Buffalo mass shooting

In the wake of the Buffalo, NY mass shooting that killed 10 Black people, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) Monday morning leveled strong charges against the leadership of the House GOP, accusing them of enabling “white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism.”

In the wake of the Buffalo, NY mass shooting that killed 10 Black people, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) Monday morning leveled strong charges against the leadership of the House GOP, accusing them of enabling “white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism.”

House GOP leadership includes Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), and the Chair of the House Republican Conference, Elise Stefanik (R-NY).

Over the weekend, after the Buffalo mass shooting, Stefanik became the face of the Republican Party’s embrace of a white supremacist, white nationalist, far-right conspiracy theory known as the “Great Replacement Theory.” It promotes the false, baseless, and racist belief that people of color are “replacing” white Americans – often by being systematically brought into the country – to disenfranchise white voters, to take their jobs, in college admissions, and in other areas of society.

NPR reports that “Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old white male accused of killing 10 people and wounding another three in Buffalo, allegedly said in his screed that the decrease in white birth rates equates to a genocide.”

It is being investigated as “a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism.” Gendron’s 180-page “manifesto” references what he claims is the dwindling size of the white population, according to CNN.

The Washington Post reports that “Stefanik has not pushed the theory by name,” but “she and other conservatives have echoed the tenets of the far-right ideology as part of anti-immigrant rhetoric that has fired up the Republican base ahead of the midterm elections.”

A “series of Facebook ads published in September 2021 by Stefanik’s campaign committee … charged that Democrats were allowing undocumented immigrants into the United States as a ploy to outnumber, and eventually silence, Republican voters,” The Post adds, noting that GOP Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) Sunday tweeted Minority Leader McCarthy should be asked about it.

“Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive move yet: a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION,” reads one of the ads, which shows a reflection of migrants in sunglasses Biden is wearing. “Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.”

Sanders: Manchin and Sinema 'sabotaged' Biden agenda because they lack 'Guts'

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday called Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema out by name for undercutting their own party's legislative agenda, including desperately needed action to rein in carbon emissions, reduce income and wealth inequality, and protect abortion rights.

"It should not be a head-scratcher," Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, told MSNBC's Chuck Todd after the host expressed confusion as to why congressional Democrats ended up with nothing to show for months of negotiations on Build Back Better, a central component of President Joe Biden's domestic agenda that proposed billions in spending on climate action and poverty-reducing social programs.

The legislative package passed the House in November but died in the Senate due largely to Manchin and Sinema's obstruction.

"You’ve got two members of the Senate, Sen. Manchin and Sen. Sinema, who have sabotaged what the president has been fighting for,” Sanders said Sunday.

When Todd interrupted to suggest "sabotaged" was a "strong word," Sanders replied: "Well, you help me out with a better word here. You got 48 members of the Senate who wanted to go forward with an agenda that helped working families, that was prepared to take on the wealthy and the powerful. You got a president who wanted to do that. You had two people who prevented us from doing that."

"You have a better word than 'sabotage'? That's fine," Sanders continued. "But I think that is the right word."

Sanders went on to urge the people of West Virginia and Arizona to bring pressure to bear on Manchin and Sinema, both of whom receive substantial campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry, Big Pharma, and other corporate sectors that had a financial interest in tanking the Build Back Better package.

"Why don't you stand up for ordinary Americans and not just your wealthy campaign contributors?" Sanders asked in a message directed at his Senate colleagues. "Why don't you have the guts to take on the drug companies and the insurance companies and the fossil fuel industry?"

Sanders' remarks came days after Manchin teamed up with Senate Republicans for a second time to filibuster legislation that would enshrine abortion rights into federal law as the U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing majority appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade—and as the GOP strategizes for a potential nationwide abortion ban.

Next Monday, a coalition of grassroots progressives in West Virginia and Arizona plan to engage in marches, protests, and other nonviolent direct actions at Manchin and Sinema's home-state offices to pressure them to drop their support for the 60-vote legislative filibuster, a key obstacle to the Democratic agenda in the Senate.

"Bernie says it's time for Arizonans and West Virginians to put pressure on Sinema and Manchin to stop sabotaging Biden's plans," Kai Newkirk, an Arizona-based activist and one of the organizers of next week's demonstrations, wrote on Twitter Sunday. "If you agree, join us to rally, march, and sit in on 5/23 in Tucson and Charleston."

'Corrupt to the core': Clarence Thomas blasted for whining about 'trust' in the Supreme Court

Controversial Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas received harsh criticism on Saturday for his take on what is eroding trust in the nation's highest court.

On Friday, Thomas spoke at the Old Parkland Conference, where he was interviewed by torture memo author John Yoo, Politico reported.

Thomas complained about the leak of a draft ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

“When you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder,” Thomas said. “It’s kind of like infidelity that you can explain it, but you can’t undo it.”

And he complained about women's rights activists protesting the court's plan to end abortion rights.

“You would never visit Supreme Court justice[s’] houses when things didn’t go our way,” Thomas said. “We didn’t throw temper tantrums. ... It is incumbent on us to always act appropriately and not to repay tit for tat.”

Legal experts were shocked by his analysis of what is ailing the court.

Attorney Maya Wiley, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, explained that the broken trust was outside of the building.

"The 'trust' Justices [should] be concerned about is that of the American people. The leak of the Alito draft opinion was not the trust-breaker. It’s the ideological content in the draft that ignores principles of precedent on fundamental rights!" she explained.

"For US Justice Clarence Thomas, the leak of the draft opinion overturning the right to an abortion 'has done irreparable damage to the Supreme Court.' But not the prospect of reversing a right to reproductive freedom that has been recognized for ~50 years?" asked Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth.

"Nobody has destroyed the “trust” in the Supreme Court more than Clarence Thomas, who refused to refuse in a case involving his own wife," wrote Daniel Goldman, who served as majority counsel for the House of Representatives during Donald Trump's first impeachment.

Historian Kevin Kruse noted, "His wife urged Trump’s chief of staff to challenge the election results and then spurred on the January 6th insurrection, but please, tell us more how it’s liberals who are throwing 'temper tantrums.'"

"Clarence Thomas and John Yoo complaining about how *other people* have been eroding trust in our government institutions. Unbelievable," Kruse said.

Political scientist Norman Ornstein wrote, "Clarence Thomas, corrupt to the core."

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said, "Clarence Thomas really wants us to believe what's undermining the legitimacy of the Supreme Court is a leaked draft opinion and not him sitting on cases about an attempt to overthrow the government that his wife was involved in."

"Clarence Thomas doesn’t have to look over his shoulder," wrote former prosecutor Katie Phang. "He can just look at Ginni and see how compromised the institution has become."

Paul Begala, who served as counselor to the president during the Clinton administration, wrote, "Just so I’m clear: public employees, doing public policy, demand that they be allowed to make decisions that affect the public in private. But a woman has no right to make the most private decision one can imagine in private."

The Supreme Court guards its privacy. Too bad it doesn't care about yours and mine

To use Justice Samuel Alito's criteria in his recently-leaked draft opinion overruling Roe v. Wade, where is it written in the Constitution that practically everything that happens at the Supreme Court is secret?

The answer, my worthies, is that it is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. Secrecy — or, if you will, privacy — at the court is another one of those invented rights Alito and his pals are so fond of yapping about. The secrecy of that august body is almost absolute: Everything that happens at the Supreme Court, with the exception of its hearings and the publication of its decisions, is secret. The court maintains complete secrecy about how and why it chooses which cases to hear. The conferences held by justices during which they decide cases and record their votes is so secret they don't even allow their clerks inside the doors when they consider the arguments on either side of a case. Most justices demand that their clerks take an oath to keep secret everything they learn while carrying out their jobs.

There are no federal laws which mandate or govern the secrecy enjoyed by the Supreme Court. In fact, whoever leaked the Alito draft opinion cannot even be prosecuted, because he or she broke no law. There is nothing in federal statute or in the Constitution itself, for that matter, which mandates that draft opinions — or any other document produced at the court by the justices or their clerks or anyone else — be kept away from the prying eyes of the press or the public which, by the way, pays the salary of everyone working in that pile of Vermont and Georgia marble located just behind the Capitol.

If you listen to the justices themselves or so-called court-watchers or even members of the bar who practice before the Supreme Court, the reason for all the secrecy is tradition. It's always been that way, and so it should remain. In other words, everything at the Supreme Court is secret because they say so.

The assumption has always been that the court can make its own rules because, well, it's the Supreme Court. It's like saying the court is so supreme, it's the highest law in the land.

Except it isn't. The highest law in the land is the Constitution, and all that document does is establish the existence of the court and mandate that judges be paid a salary and serve lifetime appointments and that they can be removed if they don't maintain "good behavior" and lay out what kinds of cases over which the court has original and appellate jurisdiction. One clause in Article III has been interpreted to say that the Congress has power to regulate the court, such as to write the laws setting the number of justices and of course to pay for the court by using its power to raise taxes and pay for the various parts of the government, of which the court is one.

But the secrecy the court maintains for itself and the way it goes about its business? Nope. Nowhere to be found. What the court keeps to itself and what it makes public is not a matter of law; it's a raw assumption of power it does not statutorily have.

The court does not allow the public to witness its deliberations, which take place within its super-secret conferences of justices, nor does it publish any notes or records of those deliberations. The nine justices could be behind those closed doors trading votes or talking about friends of theirs who have interest in the case before them or doing favors for each other or for powerful interests within the country or even within the political parties or other branches of government, and we would have no way of knowing it. They could be exposing their own prejudices or extolling religious doctrine and beliefs and we wouldn't know about that either.

What little we do know about how the court does its job comes from the papers of a few justices who upon their deaths have donated them to universities or, in the case of Justice Thurgood Marshall, to the Library of Congress. There is no Official Records Act that applies to Supreme Court justices, and because of that gaping hole in the law, they wholly own and control all the records they produce while on the court, and have full freedom to release them or refuse to release them or, as several justices have done, command that their papers are burned upon their deaths. The records of their service on the court are thus private. As citizens, we may pay for those papers with our tax dollars, but they don't belong to us, to the government or even to history. They are the private property of the justices, and by what convention is this so? Because they say so.

Most justices during recent times have donated their personal papers to colleges or universities with restrictions on when they can be released. The most common restriction is that a justice's donated papers may be made public after the retirement or deaths of all the justices who served with him or her, apparently because they don't want their buddies to suffer any embarrassment. The reason for this convention is because of what Justice Marshall did: upon retiring, he donated his personal papers, some 170,000 items in all, to the Library of Congress and allowed them to be released upon his death, which occurred only two years later.

The Washington Post and other news organizations quickly published several series of articles on the inside information about the court revealed in Marshall's papers. His colleagues were sufficiently perturbed by this invasion of their privacy that they prevailed upon the Senate Government Affairs Committee to hold hearings on what should be done to protect judicial papers.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist made it clear that the justices were not pleased by the quick release of Marshall's papers, but the Senate took no action to regulate the personal papers of the justices because, as the committee explained later, "the separation of powers and the traditions that surround the court, it is not clear what, if anything, Congress should do about regulating preservation and access."

We could write this off to typical congressional stasis and inaction if it weren't for the fact that the Congress had no such compunction when, after the Watergate scandal, it passed the Official Records Act, mandating that presidents preserve and keep all their records. It was correctly pointed out at the time that presidential records were the product of work paid for with taxpayer dollars. The same is true of the work papers of Supreme Court justices, of course, but at least until now, the impenetrable mysteries of the court have survived attempts to open up its records and deliberations to more public scrutiny.

The leak of the Alito opinion has changed things a bit, even though it was not technically the first leak of a Supreme Court decision. The original Roe decision, in fact, was leaked to a reporter for Time Magazine in 1972 and appeared in the magazine a few hours before it was publicly announced. That caused a brouhaha that, while now forgotten, created quite a political stir. The Time reporter was roundly attacked from all sides, including the Supreme Court bar and the press corps that regularly covered the court, for his outrageous violation of … well, what did he violate exactly?

Protocol. That's what he violated, and that's what the reporter or reporters for Politico who leaked the Alito draft violated, too. What is protocol? Well, the dictionary defines it as an official set of rules governing affairs of state or other governmental occasions. Protocols can be established by laws, but in the case of the Supreme Court, they aren't. The court's protocols exist because they say so.

The whole thing about the Alito leak is something of a tempest in a teapot containing leaves we're supposed to read about the court. The court has increasingly been seen as politicized in recent years, not least because one of our two political parties, the Republican Party, and the last president did not conceal their intentions to appoint arch-conservative justices who would carry out the will of the party and its adjunct, the Heritage Society, to overturn Roe v. Wade. The hypocritical political machinations gone through by Mitch McConnell to deny Barack Obama his appointment of Merrick Garland to the court — while performing an insta-confirmation on Amy Coney Barrett just a month after she was appointed and eight days before Joe Biden was elected president — have been beaten to death, so I won't go into any of that now. Suffice to say that any claim that the Supreme Court is apolitical (which was always doubtful) has now become ridiculous.

What remains is an uncomfortable truth about the Supreme Court: The justices, the clerks, and everyone who works there are public employees paid with taxpayer dollars. The Supreme Court building itself, constructed with tax funds during the public building surge of the Depression, "is a relatively new addition to its image," having been constructed in 1936, as Politico pointed out in a story following its publication of the leaked Alito opinion. Before that, the court conducted its business out of the Capitol building, where only the chief justice had an office. The other eight justices worked at their homes.

But even back then, the work the Supreme Court did was paid for by the public, and a good argument can be made that the public should have had more access to the court's business, including its hearings, which while technically held in public are almost impossible to attend. It took the COVID pandemic, which forced the court to hold hearings by phone, for the Supreme Court to open itself to live broadcasts. Before that, if a reporter or member of the public wanted to hear the Supreme Court consider one of its cases, they had to stand in line, sometimes for hours or even days, to get one of the prized seats in the court reserved for the public.

The court has consistently resisted calls to televise its hearings, citing bogus reasons, such as fear that lawyers will grandstand for the cameras or that demonstrators may interrupt the court seeking to publicize their opposition to one side or the other in the case being argued. This despite the fact that courts across the nation have opened themselves to televised coverage of trials and other proceedings without any major problems.

In answer to a question in 2018, Chief Justice John Roberts even had the gall to assert, "It's not as if we're doing this in secret. We're the most transparent branch in government in terms of seeing us do our work and us explaining what we're doing." Roberts appeared to be referring to the publication of Supreme Court decisions with their lengthy reasoning. But the court's recent use of the so-called shadow docket to dispose of some of its most controversial decisions — such as an appeal of the recent Texas "heartbeat" anti-abortion law — without publishing opinions or even the individual votes of the justices proves that is just bullshit.

The only law to which Supreme Court justices are subject that even marginally opens them up to scrutiny is the requirement that senior government employees file an annual financial disclosure form. But even that document, while revealing outside income and stocks and bonds held by justices, does not require them to list the amount of money they receive as gifts from corporations or overtly political organizations (such as the Heritage Society) in the form of free flights on corporate jets or stays at luxury resorts in the Caribbean or luxury hotels in Zurich and Rome while they give speeches or receive awards. And Supreme Court justices, like members of Congress and the president, are free to trade stocks and bonds based on information gleaned from the cases they decide. Justices don't have to tell anyone what they're doing because they say so.

Justice Antonin Scalia was notorious for accepting the largess of wealthy individuals, corporations and political organizations. Between 2004 and 2014, he took 258 subsidized trips to places like Hawaii, Ireland and Switzerland, according to the New York Times, without having to list the amounts of money involved in the payments made for his travel, accommodations, meals or anything else. In fact, Scalia died while on a hunting trip at a luxury preserve in Texas owned by John Poindexter, a wealthy industrialist from Houston whose firm had had cases before the Supreme Court while Scalia was a justice. Just before he died, according to the Times, Scalia had been on all-expenses-paid jaunts to Singapore and Hong Kong. Neither he or any other justices are required to list the amounts of free stuff they are given, nor are they required to recuse themselves from cases involving the people who have given them gifts of luxury travel and accommodations at resorts like the Texas hunting preserve owned by Poindexter.

Supreme Court justices officially earn just north of $200,000 a year, but they are able to live like millionaires on weekends and during their annual breaks for Christmas and summer holidays. They own all the product of the work they do, and they can use it to write books or give paid speeches and profit from the work we pay them to do. And they don't have to tell us a thing about it.

Last week, the curtain was pulled back just a bit on all the secrecy and privacy enjoyed by the justices of the Supreme Court when Politico got hold of the draft opinion overturning Roe written by Alito, a longtime abortion foe. Chaos ensued. How can the court be expected to do its job when its right to privacy is invaded in such an outrageous manner? That was the chorus heard from the conservative commentariat and sold-out congresscritters seeking to curry favor with their favorite justices.

What right to privacy? The same right to privacy guaranteed by the 14th Amendment they're about to throw in the trash when they throw out the right to abortion in Roe? It's hard to keep a straight face as I type these words: Like everything else in the Constitution, the right to privacy is a right afforded to the following people, first among them Supreme Court justices. Supreme Court justices enjoy the right to the privacy of their chambers, the privacy of the conferences during which they decide the fates of others on a weekly basis, and the privacy of their personal papers, which they can do with as they please, because they say so.

Everybody else, get in line over there with your hands out, and we'll see what privacy rights you're entitled to. For the time being, you can marry whomever you want, you can practice sodomy in the privacy of your bedroom, you can use contraception to prevent pregnancy, and you can marry or have a relationship with a person of a race different from your own. All of those privacy rights are yours because they say so.

For now.

Meanwhile, stop peeking under our robes. What we're wearing under there is private, don't you understand?

Philly Republican fired after alleged ballot-harvesting scheme

When it comes to promoting bogus conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud, MAGA Republicans often turn their attention to the swing state of Pennsylvania — falsely claiming the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump in the Keystone State. But journalist William Vaillancourt, reporting for Rolling Stone in an article published on May 12, observes that in Pennsylvania, it is Republicans who “seem to be the ones trying to game the system to their advantage.”

Vaillancourt points to the example of Billy Lanzilotti, a 23-year-old South Philly resident and former ward leader who chairs a PAC, the Republican Registrational Coalition. Although Philadelphia is overwhelmingly Democratic — the city’s last Republican mayor, Bernard Samuel, left office in January 1952 — it has a GOP minority, and Lanzilotti is part of that minority.

Vaillancourt notes that Lanzilotti, according to reporting in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “was signing voters up to receive mail-in ballots, but having the ballots sent not to the homes of the voters, but to the PAC’s P.O. box.”

“Republican leaders voted, on Saturday, (May 7), to remove him from his post as the leader of Philadelphia’s 39th Ward, and the Inquirer reported, on (May 11), that two state party staffers were fired because of their affiliation with Lanzilotti’s PAC,” Vaillancourt explains. “The terminations of 27-year-old Shamus O’Donnell and 24-year-old C.J. Parker were the result of last week’s report, four party sources familiar with the matter told the Inquirer.”

Vaillancourt adds, “The report detailed how dozens of mail-in ballots were being delivered to the P.O. box instead of to the voters.”

Lanzilotti told the Inquirer, “I didn’t do anything that, to my understanding, was against the law.” And he said he planned on delivering the ballots himself.

But according to Vaillancourt, “When the Inquirer spoke to some of the voters whose ballot applications listed Lanzilotti’s P.O. box, several of them said they didn’t even remember signing up to vote by mail. Only two of them who did said they were aware that the P.O. box is where their ballots would be sent…. The legality of Lanzilotti’s actions is unclear, but they have certainly raised concerns.”

Matt Haverstick, an elections lawyer, discussed Lanzilotti’s actions with the Philadelphia Inquirer, saying, “If the circumstance is, it’s mail delivered at a retirement home, and some kindly ward person gets them from the mailroom and hands them out, that’s one thing. Going to a P.O. box at the address for a PAC? I have to think about that one. It’s certainly one that would give me pause under the election code.”

WaPo analysis explores what could happen next with House GOPers' historic subpoenas

A Washington Post analysis is exploring a number of possibilities that could occur now that House Republicans are facing subpoenas for their alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 plot to overturn the presidential election.

Aaron Blake, a staff writer for The Post, noted that the truth remains uncertain. He acknowledged: "Precisely what happens next is anyone’s guess, thanks to what we mentioned at the top — the lack of precedent. But it’s worth reviewing the few analogous situations we have, along with the practical and strategic considerations for the Jan. 6 committee,"

He also developed a list of the legal options that may arise with the latest subpoenas. "Setting aside the question of who would win a legal fight over the committee’s powers, there’s the method for how it gets resolved," Blake wrote.

"Generally speaking," he wrote, "there are three legal options on the table and a fourth administrative option for the House if the members resist the subpoenas, as expected:

  1. Refer members who defy subpoenas to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution.
  2. Go to civil court to compel the testimony.
  3. Have the sergeant-at-arms arrest and detain the member.
  4. Punish the member through fines or by stripping them of committee assignments."

Out of all four options, Blake highlighted that the fourth alternative might actually be the most effective. Last week, University of Chicago law professor Albert W. Alschuler also expounded on the fourth option.

He wrote:

Better still would be daily fines, which could escalate for every day or week of noncompliance. One judge doubts that resurrecting the use of Congress’s inherent power to sanction contempt remains a realistic option. He worries that Congress would risk “physical combat with the Executive Branch” by “dispatch[ing] the Sergeant-at-Arms to arrest and imprison an Executive Branch official.” But ordering a contemnor to pay a fine to the sergeant at arms for every day of noncompliance would be unlikely to lead to a shootout.A House resolution imposing this fine could authorize the sergeant to use all available civil processes to collect it. The contemnor could challenge the legality of Congress’s action by bringing an injunctive action against this officer. She also could take the riskier path of waiting to present her defenses until the House sought recovery of her accumulated fines in a civil lawsuit. If the contemnor refused to pay after a court ordered her to do so, the House could use the same collection procedures other judgment creditors employ — for example, garnishing the contemnor’s wages. Guns, handcuffs and hotel rooms wouldn’t be needed.

The sneaky way the right to protest is becoming imperiled

The right to peaceably assemble and protest is dearly held in the American imagination dating back to the Boston Tea Party.

While the response to peaceful protests by non-white people and women was not always embraced at the time, the narratives of suffrage parades and Civil Rights marches have been embraced in American history as the “right” way to protest free of violence or incitement.

Despite the near-universal praise for peaceful protests of the past, when activists take these historical lessons to heart and protest current injustices, those in power must be reminded anew each time that peaceful protest is vital to American history and a thriving democracy.

And so we are once again left to educate Supreme Court justices and senators on the Bill of Rights and assure them that people holding signs outside their homes are not a threat, but simply exercising one of our most treasured freedoms – the freedom to tell a powerful person they’ve royally screwed up.

This past week protests erupted outside Justices Kavanaugh, Roberts and Alito’s homes to protest the likely overturning of Roe v. Wade after Justice Alito’s draft opinion was leaked for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.

The protests outside the Justices' homes, and the terrifying sidewalk chalk incident outside of Senator Collins’ home, have been peaceful. Yet many are clutching their pearls at the idea that someone could face protests at their private home.

It’s not clear why these protests are so offensive to people or why the private home of people questioning a constitutional right to privacy should be off limits.

Some have claimed these protests aren’t fair to their neighbors but the protests in front of Justice Kavanaugh’s home were organized by a neighbor and protestors felt pretty supported by Justice Alito’s neighbors with some even offering wine and cheese to a reporter covering them.

When asked about these protests, Senator Schumer shrugged them off and said such peaceful protests are “the American way.” He would know since he faces protests at his home in Brooklyn multiple times a week (without calling the police as far as I know).

The right of “freedom of assembly” is held in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which protects freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The Supreme Court has also repeatedly protected this right in the face of government intrusion.

In De Jong v. Oregon in 1937, the Supreme Court said the state could not interfere in De Jong’s right to organize a protest against police brutality. This case was particularly important in that it emphasized a difference between “advocacy” and “incitement” in that advocacy for communist ideas did not necessarily incite violence to overthrow the government.

It struck down Oregon’s “criminal syndicalism” law, which outlawed which prohibited advocacy of “any unlawful acts or methods as a means of accomplishing or effecting industrial or political change or revolution.”

In Edwards v. South Carolina in 1963, the Supreme Court overturned the convictions of students for supposedly “disturbing the peace” when they were protesting segregation. The majority opinion wrote that the students were exercising their First Amendment rights in the “most pristine form.”

Freedom of assembly clearly has limits with one built right into the language of the First Amendment in that the assembly must be “peaceable.”

Violent action, like speech that incites violence, is not protected.

While this is a reasonable limit, it also provides an unfortunate method of delegitimizing protest – those in power can claim protests are inciting violence or lawlessness.

In Justice Clark’s lone dissent in Edwards v. South Carolina, he employed the threat of violence to justify the police’s actions in arresting the peaceful protestors. Clark claimed the protestors were not engaging in a “passive demonstration” and that the police were preventing a possible riot.

The fear of possible violence supported laws passed after the Nat Turner rebellion in 1831 to prohibit the assembly of free Black people all over the south.

The majority of these assemblies were peaceful and often devoted to schooling or religious worship. But the threat of another rebellion was enough to justify outlawing this basic constitutionally protected freedom. Theodore Dwight Weld said these laws were indicative of “‘the right of peaceably assembling’ violently wrested” in 1836.

At the same time in the north, abolitionists, including free Black people and white women, were taking advantage of this constitutional right to hold meetings, conventions and give speeches.

While these abolitionist tactics set the stage for the suffrage movement and the Civil Rights movement, many at the time criticized an assembly of a mixed gender and interracial group.

The behavior of the abolitionists were criticized while mobs disrupted their meetings and speeches. At an 1835 meeting of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society, the mayor burst in with his constables to demand the women go home rather than control the mob of people disrupting the meeting.

Racial justice protests in recent years have been delegitimized with claims of violence and looting even though data shows that 93 percent of such protests were completely peaceful.

While there have been no reports of violence as a result of abortion protests this week, even though Susan Collins called the police about sidewalk chalk, the Senate has still decided to pass a bill to increase security for Supreme Court justices.

While not a big deal on its face (who cares if they have security), the need for the bill implies a threat of violence that there is no evidence for.

Once again completely peaceful protests are being maligned with the mere possibility of future violence which would delegitimize their constitutional protection.

The governors of Maryland and Virginia are trying to stop the protests by demanding that the Department of Justice enforce a federal law that prohibits demonstrations intended to influence judges on decisions.

This is a particularly obnoxious attempt to stop the protests considering justices are clearly influenced by politics and conservative justices regularly give speeches at political gatherings. Clarence Thomas won't even recuse himself from January 6 cases despite his wife’s involvement.

It’s ridiculous to think any of these justices would be swayed by public opinion and enforcing this law to stop the current protests could set a dangerous precedent that limits constitutional rights if protesting anything related to a Supreme Court case.

The real history of protesting in the United States is that those in power are always threatened and seek to find ways to suppress protests, but the public imagination forgets those actions and fondly remembers successful protests as deeply American. Senators and justices concerned with their legacy might want to reread how much our history books love a good protest.

This far-right, anti-gay Islamophobe is gaining on Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania — and Trump is worried

This Tuesday, May 17, two major GOP primary elections will be held in Pennsylvania: one for governor, one for the U.S. Senate seat presently held by conservative Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who isn’t seeking reelection. And in the Senate primary, an unexpected development has been the last-minute surge of far-right candidate Kathy Barnette — who, according to polls, is now within striking distance of the frontrunner, Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Oz, who, in the past, was a moderate conservative along the lines of the late Sen. John McCain and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge but is now jumping through hoops to show how MAGA he is — including railing against Dr. Anthony Fauci in his buffoonish ads. Barnette, however, is claiming that Oz is really a liberal in disguise and that she is the true MAGA Republican in the primary. And that messaging may be working with Republican primary voters; a Fox News poll released on Tuesday, May 10 found Oz only 3% ahead of Barnette and 2% ahead of candidate David McCormick.

As ultra-MAGA as Barnette is, her last-minute surge is not news that everyone in Trumpworld is welcoming. Trump himself, in a statement, described Barnette as unelectable, saying, “Kathy Barnette will never be able to win the general election against the radical left Democrats.”

Reporting in the Daily Beast, journalists Will Sommer, Sam Brodey and Justin Baragona observe, “McCormick and Trump-endorsed Oz weren’t the only ones startled by Barnette’s sudden rise. Sean Hannity took time on his show to slam her attacks on Muslims, including her claim that Barack Obama is a Muslim. Newsmax’s Greg Kelly called her a ‘race card-playing scammer.’ Former Trump Acting Intelligence Director Ric Grenell called her ‘unfit for office,’ highlighting a 2015 tweet in which Barnette said ‘pedophilia is a cornerstone of Islam.’ Pro-Trump accounts have circulated a misleadingly edited video meant to portray Barnette, who is Black, as a radical Black Lives Matter supporter.”

Barnette is far from a Black Lives Matter supporter. Her politics are ultra-MAGA, and she is a far-right conspiracy theorist who has promoted QAnon’s wacky beliefs, falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump, railed against gays and made hateful anti-Islam claims.

In a Facebook video posted in late December 2020, Barnette called for Trump supporters to use a “sword” on January 6, 2021. Barnette has a lot in common with Infowars’ Alex Jones, but little or nothing in common with Black Lives Matter.

When Barnette lost to Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean by double digits in Pennsylvania, she refused to concede and claimed — with zero proof — that the election was stolen from her.

Barnette is also an anti-abortion zealot who opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest, and she is even campaigning on rape victims being denied access to abortion if they become pregnant. In a debate with Oz and others, Barnette said she was “the byproduct of a rape” — adding, “My mother was 11 years old when I was conceived, my father was 21.”

The Fox News poll was not an outlier. A Trafalgar Group poll found Barnette trailing Oz by only 2%.

Like Oz, Barnette lives in Montgomery County in the Philadelphia suburbs.

GOP senator faces intraparty opposition over his push to have abortion protesters arrested

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark) is advocating for the arrest of demonstrators who are protesting in favor of abortion rights outside the homes of Supreme Court justices.

According to Yahoo! News, Cotton penned a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday, May 10. In that letter, he chastised "'left-wing mobs' that have protested outside the homes of conservative justices after the draft opinion leaked."

Further backing his claim, Cotton argued: “There is a federal law that prohibits the protesting of judges’ homes. Anybody protesting a judge’s home should be arrested on the spot by federal law enforcement. If [protesters] want to raise a First Amendment defense, they are free to do so.”

He added, “I don’t advocate for arresting people protesting on public streets in Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital. I do believe they should be arrested for protesting in the homes of judges, jurors, and prosecutors. Federal law prohibits an obvious attempt to influence or intimidate judges, jurors, and prosecutors.”

However, some Republican leaders and lawmakers argue that he may be going a bit too far. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, (R-Wyo.), who is a former member of the House Freedom Caucus, pushed back as she noted that such actions could violate demonstrators' First Amendment rights.

“I think if they’re being peaceful and are staying off their property and are not disrupting neighborhoods or causing or inciting fear, it’s probably a legitimate expression of free speech,” Lummis said on Wednesday.

“First Amendment rights are so, so special. … We should all be erring in favor of the First Amendment, in favor of freedom of speech, in favor of freedom of religion, in favor of the freedom of assembly,” she said. “Because if we start fearing our rights to speak and express our religious convictions, and if we fear assembly, the consequences of parsing those rights are extremely dangerous.”

During a recent interview, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) also expressed apprehension about taking such aggressive actions for peaceful protesters. He, too, cited the First Amendment in his argument. “I’m a First Amendment guy, and I think that cuts both ways,” Braun said. “If they’re there and they’re doing it peacefully, you know, I’m for that ability on either side of the political spectrum.”

Why Lauren Boebert’s 'straight-talking small-town business owner' image is a total sham: report

Not unlike Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado is a far-right MAGA Republican who has gone out of her way to court controversy since being sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2021. The 35-year-old Boebert, a QAnon supporter and conspiracy theorist, is running on a pseudo-populist platform in her 2022 reelection campaign. But journalist Abigail Weinberg, in an article published by Mother Jones on May 12, demonstrates that Boebert’s image as a “straight-talking small-town business owner” is a sham.

“A close look at Boebert’s past reveals cracks in the narrative she’s built,” Weinberg explains. “And for several people who worked at her restaurant and know her personally, Boebert’s American dream has been more like a ‘nightmare.’”

Boebert owns Shooter’s Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado.

“Former Shooters employees tell me that, in the early years of Boebert’s fame, people visited the restaurant from across the country, and that the dining room was often packed with tourists on summer days,” Weinberg reports. “But they also say that the reality of working at Shooters was far removed from the lighthearted atmosphere shown on TV. In fact, five former Shooters employees tell me that Boebert frequently failed to pay her employees on time. Two of the former workers wished to remain anonymous because they feared retaliation; another did not want to be named and publicly associated with Boebert.”

A big part of Boebert’s hyper-MAGA narrative is that she had a tough working-class upbringing and that Democratic policies did nothing to help someone like her. But according to Weinberg’s sources, the Shooters owner has a history of not treating her employees well.

A former Shooters waitress told Weinberg, “The second the restaurant blew up, her head blew up — and it became something entirely different. And I got to meet a new version of her that is a monster.”

Weinberg reports, “Multiple employees say that they were paid in cash, either out of the register or from Boebert’s husband’s wallet, without any taxes deducted. While many workers were struggling to make ends meet, they say Boebert spent exorbitant sums on breast implants, private schooling for her sons, and a new Cadillac Escalade. They describe her as alternately absent, showing up only when news crews were at the restaurant, or demanding.”

Another former Shooters employee told Weinberg, “If she would come into the restaurant, everyone just knew we were just gonna have a bad day, because she would just walk around and nitpick.”

Josh Boyington, who worked as a cook at Shooters before leaving in 2017, alleges that Shooters was losing money in the late 2010s. Boyington told Weinberg, “Shooters don’t make no money. I left because I don’t even think we were topping $500 a day.”

Weinberg managed to get Boebert on the phone. But when the far-right MAGA congresswoman found out that Weinberg writes for Mother Jones, she hung up on her.

But Boyington was glad to talk to Weinberg, saying that while he agrees with many of Boebert’s right-wing views, he has issues with her as a person.

Boyington told Weinberg, “She’s an easy person to love if you don’t know her. It’s just, once you get to know her, you just don’t love her.”

Even NC 'bathroom bill' defender Pat McCrory is now too 'liberal' for extremist MAGA Republicans: report

Back in 2016, then-North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory was praised by many social conservatives for supporting NC House Bill 2 —the so-called “North Carolina bathroom bill,” which banned transgender Americans from using public restrooms for the gender they identified with. Christian fundamentalists praised McCrory for, as they saw it, being willing to defend “traditional values.” But in the 2022 midterms, ironically, the right-wing McCrory finds himself being slammed as a RINO (Republican In Name Only) by MAGA extremists.

McCrory ran for reelection in 2016, losing to Democrat Roy Cooper by less than 1%. Now, in 2022, McCrory is seeking the nomination in North Carolina’s GOP U.S. Senate primary, and MAGA Republicans, insanely, are accusing him of not being far enough to right.

Journalist Natalie Allison, in an article published by Politico on May 12, explains, “Former Gov. Pat McCrory served on the frontline of the culture wars in 2016 when he signed North Carolina’s controversial ‘bathroom bill,’ which curbed protections for transgender people. When he was defeated for reelection later that year by a razor-thin margin, he raised questions about the voting process and didn’t concede until nearly a month after the election.”

Allison continues, “Those experiences would seem to make McCrory an ideal nominee in a post-Trump GOP animated by claims of election fraud and the politics of transgender rights. Instead, in the run-up to North Carolina’s Tuesday primary, he’s dropping in polls and being dismissed by MAGA faithful as a liberal RINO.”

McCrory, now 65, finds it “ironic” that he’s now being accused of being too liberal, especially in light of all the angry protests from liberals and progressives that he experienced for defending the “North Carolina bathroom bill” in 2016.

The former North Carolina governor and U.S. Senate candidate told Politico, “It is kind of a unique situation at this point in time. But to have it be said I’m liberal is ironic, because four years ago, I was being branded the exact opposite…. I’m the same person.”

Republican Jim Martin, another former North Carolina governor, also finds it ironic that McCrory is now being accused of being too liberal.

Martin told Politico, “Anybody who really knows Pat and pays attention, whether they’re liberal or conservative, they’re not going to call him liberal.”

McCrory is running for the U.S. Senate seat presently held by Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who is retiring. One of his competitors in the primary is Rep. Ted Budd, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump as well as the Club for Growth. The Club’s super PAC has been paying for ads slamming McCrory as a “liberal faker.”

McCrory told Politico, “I was probably the original person who was canceled, and now, I’m the one being called a liberal. Someone came up to me the other day and said, ‘McCrory, you were (Ron) DeSantis before DeSantis.’ I said, ‘That’s a unique perspective.’ I stood up to some things that were contrary not just to liberals, but to the power elite of my party.”

A Co/Efficient poll released on Monday, May 9 found Budd continuing to surge in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate primary and leading McCrory by 28%. And a CBS 17/The Hill/Emerson College poll released on May 11 found McCrory trailing Budd by 27%.