The Right Wing

'Hillbilly spoof': How the team that pushed the 'Big Lie' in 2020 plotted together in Kentucky's 2019 election

When election night returns came in for the Kentucky election on Nov. 5, 2019, Matt Bevin, the Republican incumbent governor trailed Democratic challenger Andy Beshear by about 5,000 votes.

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A brash businessman who antagonized the state’s teachers, Bevin had gone into his reelection campaigns as one of the most unpopular governors in the country. But with Republicans prevailing in every single remaining statewide race, his supporters couldn’t believe it was possible for Bevin to lose.

One the day after the election, Bevin refused to concede, making baseless allegations to reporters, as the Courier Journal reported, “that absentee ballots were illegally counted, people were turned away from the polls, voting machines malfunctioned and ballots were stored in open boxes” — claims that were systematically refuted by state and local election officials.

By Saturday, with Bevin still refusing to concede, two far-right influencers jointly appeared on a podcast cross-published on their respective platforms to herald what sounded like an earth-shattering development.

“We have literally been given the motherlode of leaked documents from a whistleblower that appears to be someone who might be working inside the elections,” declared Millie Weaver, an Ohio-based media provocateur who was a correspondent for the conspiracy theory hub InfoWars at the time.

Weaver introduced Terpsehore “Tore” Maras, a pro-Trump podcaster who lived in North Dakota. Weaver said she and Maras had been on the phone the night before when she checked her email and discovered “that some whistleblower, anonymously, decided to send me hundreds of documents — hundreds — these documents are confirmed legitimate documents — we have official, like, ballots, Kentucky ballots, audit logs, you know, all this crazy information, bank transactions, checks, papers that have literally been taped back together that went through shredders. Somebody must have been doing a lot of work to compile all of this information. But this information looks like there’s significant amount of voter fraud going on in Kentucky.”

Indeed, someone had broken into Harp Enterprises, a Lexington-based company that supplies voting machines, and had accessed checks received by the company and other internal documents. Roger Baird, the company’s owner, told Raw Story he believes either a disgruntled former employee or someone associated with a losing campaign put a janitor up to stealing the documents.

But almost nothing about what the two women said about the documents — starting with Weaver’s claim that Harp Enterprises “runs the electronic voting machines for the entire state of Kentucky” — was true. Harp Enterprises, which exclusively purchases voting machines manufactured by Hart InterCivic, services only some of the precincts in Kentucky’s 120 counties. Voters in Jefferson County, which includes Louisville and holds the largest share of Democratic voters, vote on ES&S machines.

Maras claimed that the documents included hand-written notes showing employees coaching each other on “how to manipulate the votes.” And based on a financial transaction from a company with foreign ownership, Maras concluded, “You can’t get any more smoking gun with regards to foreign-entity meddling, let’s say.”

Chagrined to see his private documents tweeted out and displayed on a video stream, Baird showed Weaver’s video presentation to his banker.

“He was like, ‘This is like a hillbilly spoof,’” Baird recalled. “There was just enough little droplets of real information that you might scratch your head, and say, ‘Huh, maybe there is something there.’ When they started connected me to George Soros….” As he recounted the story, Baird’s voice trailed off in incredulity and he burst into laughter.

As the joint podcast crept into its second hour, Weaver noted with approval that her boss, Alex Jones, was in the chat watching her video.

“This is election fraud,” Maras said. “Kentucky was a dry run. In 2020, they’re coming for everything.”

“We need to blow the lid off this now before they steal the 2020 election,” Weaver agreed.

“Yeah, but look at the losers they’ve got running on the Democratic ticket,” Maras chimed in. She ticked through the list of Democratic presidential primary contenders, noting each candidate’s unappealing attributes and weaknesses, while assigning insulting nicknames to them, before concluding with Trumpian logic that none of them could win fair and square.

“So, what they’re gonna do is they’re gonna steal it,” Maras concluded.

Weaver also attended a press conference at the state Capitol in Frankfurt, and spread many of the same baseless allegations to her followers in a livestream on Periscope. Weaver could not be reached for comment for this story.

The Kentucky election in 2019 was a harbinger, but in a different sense than Maras likely intended.

Many of the same players who would later turn up in Washington, DC after the 2020 election and promote a battery of conspiracy theories falsely claiming the election was stolen were also involved in investigating election fraud claims in Kentucky, according to at least two people involved.

Joshua Merritt, a Dallas area information technology consultant, indicated in a Twitter thread last month that Patrick Byrne, the former CEO “contracted” the Texas-based company Allied Security Operating Group to work on the Kentucky election.

In response to an account with the username @AmericanRE15 who asked him to confirm that he was saying “Byrne contracted you guys to work on the Bevins [sic] fraud in f***ing 2019,” Merritt replied, “Bingo….”

He added in a separate tweet: “And then there are all the people we briefed after 2018… We investigated Bevins case, Florida, Dallas, Maryland… And others.”

Josh Merritt responds to a question on a Twitter thread by @AmericanRE15 on April 30Screengrab

Merritt could not be reached for this story, and he blocked this reporter on Twitter during the reporting of this story.

Russell Ramsland, the founder of Allied Security Operating Group, began pushing election fraud claims after Democrats made gains in Texas during the 2018 mid-term elections, and would go on to push specious claims about the 2020 election on Lou Dobbs’ show on Fox Business Network, and then file a declaration alongside Maras to support federal lawsuits seeking to overturn the election.

Weaver also confirmed Allied Security Operations Group’s involvement in the Kentucky election, which has not been previously reported.

“I went down to Kentucky to go hand-deliver an SD drive or a USB stick to Governor Bevin himself at his office,” Weaver recounted in a December 2020 livestream. “And I also met with a group called ASOG. So, there’s this group called Allied Security Operations Group, and they’re heading a lot of the election fraud efforts that have been happening.”

Weaver said in the same livestream that she had provided the documents to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and described working with Allied Security Operations Group.

“Yeah, we met with them,” she said. “We essentially went over the information. They already had seemed to have gotten it, which means they probably got it from Grassley or something.”

Messages to Grassley’s office seeking clarification on whether the senator received the documents or anyone from his office passed them on to Ramsland were not returned before press time.

In November 2020, Weaver, Maras and Weaver’s partner Gavin Wince came to Washington, DC as the nucleus of a conspiracy-happy group that would come to be known as “Team America.” Patrick Bergy, who was also part of the group, previously told Raw Story that Byrne paid for their hotel rooms at the Westin Arlington Gateway hotel in northern Virginia.

Merritt also indicated in the April 30 Twitter thread that Byrne and Maras together connected with Allied Security Operations Group during the efforts to uncover fraud in Kentucky. In response to a question from the @AmericanRE15 account on whether he had disclosed that he worked with Maras on the Kentucky fraud claim, Merritt replied, “She was brought in with Byrne when we were working with them through ASOG.”

Raw Story could not independently confirm Byrne’s involvement in the Kentucky 2019 election. Byrne and Maras have previously said in a podcast published two months ago that they did not formally meet until November 2020.

“The first time that I think of myself as meeting Tore, we were in a restaurant in Alexandria; it was a week or two after the election,” Byrne said in the podcast. “She was with some people. I was with some people. Somebody took me over to meet her people. Boom boom boom. When I shook hands with her, after looking at her or listening to her for a few seconds, I said, ‘Gee, I’ve met you somewhere, haven’t I?’ And she actually turned away, didn’t answer. I thought it was funny.”

Byrne went on to share a cryptic story about how a couple of nights later Maras made an admission to him that suggested she had spied on him eight years earlier. According to Maras, she had been Byrne’s “waitress” at a restaurant in London in 2012 and he was her “target.”

Neither Byrne nor Maras could be reached for comment about Merritt’s assertion that they worked together on the 2019 election in Kentucky.

As previously reported by Raw Story and ProPublica, Byrne has described tasking a group of intelligence professionals with interviewing Maras after she submitted a declaration to support lawsuits filed by Sidney Powel that sought to overturn the 2020 election. Byrne said the team that interviewed Maras concluded that “we cannot rely on her for anything factual because we caught her in too many lies and exaggerations.”

Despite Byrne’s determination in December 2020 that Maras was not credible, the two continue to appear together on podcasts, where they promote election fraud conspiracy theories and praise one another.

Maras and Weaver have both said they worked with Phill Kline, a former Kansas attorney general on examining alleged election fraud in Kentucky. In December 2020, Kline reportedly promoted a scheme to submit pro-Trump electors in the six swing states carried by Joe Biden, talking up the plan on far-right media outlets like One America News and former White House strategist Steve Bannon’s podcast.

Weaver mentioned Kline’s involvement in the Kentucky election in her December 2020 livestream, and Maras said she worked with Kline “in 2019 on the election fraud in Kentucky” in a podcast earlier this year. Kline could not be reached for comment for this story.

Warning signs in Kentucky

“I had said back then and have said all along that 2019 was a mini version of what potentially could happen in 2020, and did happen,” Joshua A. Douglas, a law professor at the University of Kentucky, told Raw Story. “I said then that we need to pay attention to what happened in Kentucky for fear of that happening on a larger scale with the presidential election.”

Douglas said he sees one critical difference in how Bevin’s baseless fraud claims played out in 2019, compared to the firehose of the spigot of falsehoods issued by President Trump that culminated in the attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. After the 2019 election, Douglas said, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell issued an ultimatum to Bevin to present evidence of voting problems or concede. In contrast, McConnell waited for more than a month after the 2020 election as Senate majority leader before congratulating Joe Biden on his win.

For conspiracy theorists, Kentucky in 2019 was a ripe target.

“Twenty-nineteen is an off-election year, so you could really focus on Kentucky,” said Roger Baird, the Harp Enterprises owner. “You get a lot of attention all of a sudden when you’re the only one having an election. We get more attention in an off-election year than we do in a big year like 2020.”

Similar to the feverish claims about election fraud in the 2020 election, Maras’ theory about the Harp Enterprises documents quickly expanded to include claims about official betrayal to explain why no one was being prosecuted.

“If you had asked me, I would tell you: Everyone in Kentucky government is guilty,” Maras said during the Nov. 9, 2019 podcast. “And maybe this is why the secretary of state is like, ‘Oh, just leave it alone.’ Yeah, leave it alone because everyone’s gonna be going to jail.”

Maras said she called the Kentucky State Police hoping that she could bring the documents to the attention of Governor Bevin. She said a detective called her back and tried to get her to explain how she obtained the documents. A spokesperson told Raw Story he couldn’t confirm that the agency received a complaint about the matter.

The Kentucky Attorney General’s office, which would typically investigate allegations of election fraud or other criminal misconduct, did not respond to inquiries.

Baird told Raw Story he asked Homeland Security to try to determine how his company’s internal documents were stolen, but they never reached any conclusions.

In the weeks following Bevin’s loss in Kentucky, Maras continued to refine a fanciful theory of electronic vote-swapping.

In 2019 and 2020, according to the Washington Post, Ramsland and Merritt from Allied Security Operations Group appeared on a podcast called “Economic War Room” and claimed that hackers or rogue operators could direct vote data to a remote location and manipulate it. During his media appearances, Ramsland also circulated baseless claims about Scytl, a Spain-based company that provides election-night reporting services, asserting that “they’re housing all of our vote, and they’re doing it in an insecure fashion,” the Post reported.

Maras appears to have been exposed to the same baseless claims about Scytl in November 2020, roughly the same period when Merritt and Weaver indicated Allied Security Operations Group was looking at the Kentucky election.

In a podcast two weeks after the 2019 election, Maras spent an hour offering a breezy discourse on how various election technology companies supposedly carry out electronic vote manipulation, asserting that “the Hart-Intercivic software” was “working together” with Scytl.

“So, this phase is shuffling ballots, mixing them,” Maras said, adopting the professorial air of an adept instructor breaking down a complex formula for undergrad students. “Picture a bag of Scrabble tiles, and you’re mixing them. That’s basically what they do to all your votes. And during this mixing phase is where you can swap a vote for some other vote.”

In a previous podcast, on Nov. 10, Maras had acknowledged that “elections aren’t my thing,” and admitted she knew little about how voting machines work. Now, on Nov. 19, Maras was saying that it had taken her a week to figure out what a highly compensated cybersecurity contractor in northern Virginia who was paid to safeguard US elections would have known for at least 10 years.

What Maras missed — and what election deniers in 2020 missed and continue to miss as they go around the country sewing doubt about the election system — is that vote data that is reported on election night is separate from the votes that are tallied up and certified by local and state elections officials.

In Kentucky, two poll workers — one Republican and one Democrat — hand-deliver a tape displaying a printout of the aggregate vote and a media card in a sealed bag to the county election office. A duplicate of the tape is displayed at the polling place as a record of the precinct tally. At the county office, the media card is inserted into a machine that tallies the votes from across the county. Like the voting machines, the machine that tallies the votes is not connected to the internet. To ensure that the votes remain secure, an election worker uses a clean thumb drive to pull the data off the tally machine and then walks it over to a networked computer to upload it to the election-night reporting site.

“Our job is to make sure nothing touches the computer that does the tally,” Baird said.

“Common sense tells you that if you hook up your voting machines to the internet, you’re plumb dumb,” he added.

References to Scytl and foreign servers purportedly housing votes would prove to be a ubiquitous feature in declarations sworn by Maras and Merritt for the lawsuits filed in November and December 2020, along with video documentaries and livestreams by Weaver during the same period. Maras’ 37-page declaration, executed on Nov. 29, 2020, alone contains 23 references to Scytl.

Ensconced in Washington, Weaver addressed her followers on Periscope around the same time, outlining her qualifications to be part of an elite team churning up dubious evidence to aid in the effort to overturn the election.

“I want to give you guys a little bit of background as to why I know what I know and I’m in the situation where right here where I’m even being invited to some of the groups that are heading these efforts, where you see people like Phill Kline, and you see people like Sidney Powell and these other people out here heading these movements,” Weaver said. “Why would they care what little Millie has to say?... So, I’ve been making these videos for over a year now, talking about the plan that the Democrats and really the establishment has had to throw Trump out of office, to get rid of him.”

Virginia school board may bring back old names honoring Confederate officers

After the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020 set off massive protests in the United States and many other countries, the Shenandoah County School Board in Virginia voted to change the names of two public schools that were named after Confederate officers. But now, according to NBC News, that board is considering going back to the old names.

In 2020, Stonewall Jackson High School became Mountain View High School, and Ashby-Lee Elementary School became Honey Run Elementary School. Gen. Robert E. Lee, Gen. Stonewall Jackson and Col. Turner Ashby, Jr. were high-ranking officers in the Confederate Army during the 1860s.

At a meeting in mid-May, according to NBC News reporters Elisha Fieldstadt and Maya Brown, Shenandoah County School Board Vice Chair Dennis Barlow announced that 4000 people had signed a petition calling for the schools’ old names to be resorted. Barlow was highly critical of those who pushed for the name changes in 2020, slamming them as “creepy” and “elitist” as well as from “the dark side.” Moreover, Barlow described Jackson (who died of pneumonia in 1863) as a “gallant commander.”

But another member of the Shenandoah County School Board, Cynthia Walsh, is opposed to changing the names back and believes that Mountain View High School and Honey Run Elementary School should continue to have those names. At the meeting, Walsh told her colleagues, “Most people who vote for elected officials then count on them to do the right thing on their behalf. We do have a representative democracy. We don’t have a direct democracy.”

Walsh went on to say, “Times have changed, the makeup of our schools has changed. And I sincerely believe that revisiting the name change is not what’s best for kids.”

Virginia was among the southern states that was part of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. In modern-day Virginia, there has been a considerable amount of debate over whether or not Confederate monuments should be displayed on public property — especially after Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, on May 25, 2020.

Proponents of the name changes, including Black Lives Matter activists, argued that African-American students shouldn’t have to attend schools named after Confederate officers who defended slavery during the 19th Century. And some activists argued that asking Black taxpayers to support, with their tax dollars, schools named after Confederate officers would be like asking Jewish taxpayers to support a school named “Josef Mengele High.”

According to U.S. News & World Report, enrollment at Mountain View High School in Stafford, Virginia is 69% White, 11% Black, 18% Hispanic and 2.9% Asian.

“After Floyd’s death,” Fieldstadt and Maya Brown note, “statues, monuments, schools and buildings named for Confederate leaders became a focal point of the racial justice movement around the country. A number of the statues and monuments have come down…. The (Shenandoah County School) Board decided, at the meeting, that they would poll constituents on whether they believe the names should be changed back. But the Board could not settle on whether to poll only the residents who live within the schools in question, or the whole area.”

Comments from Clarence Thomas suggest ‘antagonism’ with Chief Justice Roberts: legal expert

Over the years, far-right U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has had his conflicts not only with the liberals and centrists on the High Court, but also, with some of its right-wingers — most notably, former Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose libertarian leanings on abortion and gay rights were a sharp contrast to Thomas’ severe social conservatism. Thomas has also had his share of disagreements with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, and the disagreements between Thomas and Roberts were evident when Thomas spoke at a conference in Dallas recently.

President George W. Bush appointed Roberts in 2005. Discussing the atmosphere on the High Court before 2005, Thomas told the Dallas crowd, “We actually trusted each other. We may have been a dysfunctional family, but we were a family — and we loved it.”

Thomas’ comments come at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to overturn Roe v. Wade. A leaked majority draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito makes an argument for overturning Roe; Alito is joined in his 5-4 opinion by Thomas, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Justice Amy Coney Barrett and Justice Neal Gorsuch — while the four dissenters are Roberts, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Stephen Breyer (who is retiring and will be replaced by President Joe Biden’s nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson).

CNN legal analyst Joan Biskupic, in an article published on May 20, explains, “Thomas' blunt remarks suggest new antagonism toward Roberts and added to the uncertainty regarding the ultimate ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, expected by the end of June. Roberts, with his institutionalist approach, is positioned as the one justice who might generate a compromise opinion that stops short of completely overturning Roe v. Wade, at least this year. That would thwart an outcome that Thomas has worked toward for decades.”

Biskupic observes that “Thomas' sudden aim at Roberts' leadership is new. In the Dallas appearance, his message to the chief justice came down to: The Court was better before you arrived.”

“Thomas and Roberts have different negotiating patterns,” Biskupic explains. “Thomas is known for putting his cards on the table and abhorring gamesmanship. The first attribute he ascribed to (Justice Ruth Bader) Ginsburg was revealing: ‘You knew where she was.’ Roberts, in contrast to Thomas, has a reputation inside the Court for being guarded, even secretive.”

It’s so secret where Thomas stands on Roe v. Wade, which he believes was wrongly decided by the Berger Court back in 1973.

“Roberts has a steep climb to craft a compromise that will keep Roe partially intact,” Biskupic notes. “The right-wing bloc allowed Texas' virtual ban on abortions to take effect last year, and during oral arguments in the Mississippi case, it appeared to be holding together to eviscerate Roe.”

Republican rancher takes down a Trump-backed extremist in Idaho’s gubernatorial primary

Former President Donald Trump had his successes and disappointments on Tuesday, May 17, when more GOP primaries were held. Some Trump-endorsed Republicans were victorious in their primaries, including Rep. Ted Budd in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race and Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race. And as of early Friday morning, May 20, Dr. Mehmet Oz, who Trump endorsed, had a razor-thin lead over hedge fund exec Dave McCormick in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race.

But Trump ally Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina was voted out of office via a GOP congressional primary. And in Idaho, the former president suffered a major disappointment when Idaho Gov. Brad Little defeated Trump-backed challenger Janice McGeachin, Idaho’s far-right lieutenant governor, by 21%.

One of McGeachin’s outspoken critics in Idaho is Jennifer Ellis, a rancher and conservative Republican who heads the political action committee Take Back Idaho.

During an interview with Politico published on May 20, Ellis discussed her group’s activities.

Ellis, Politico’s Ryan Lizza notes, founded Take Back Idaho in 2021 to “beat back the growing tide of extremist candidates” in her state. She formed the group, Lizza notes, after she “noticed a dramatic shift within the Republican Party.”

Ellis told Politico, “I started seeing this name calling. People that I knew (who) were very, very conservative in their personal lives and in their policy making started getting called RINOs, and I kind of thought, ‘What’s that? That’s coming from inside the party.’”

Little is definitely right-wing; no one will mistake Idaho’s Republican governor for a liberal or a progressive. But McGeachin is way beyond conservative; she’s an extremist. McGeachin has allied herself with members of the Three Percenters, a far-right anti-government militia group — and she was a speaker at the 2022 America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC), an event organized by holocaust denier and White nationalist Nick Fuentes.

Ellis said of McGeachin, “She didn’t just jump the shark, she ate it on the way over. I mean, far right is one thing. Alt-right is a whole other thing.”

Politico asked Ellis to discuss the battle between establishment Republicans and far-right MAGA candidates in her state.

The Take Back Idaho founder told Politico, “I think there are so many bigger concerns than who Trump wants. In a state like ours, we’ve got a lot of challenges. We’ve got drought. We’ve got wildfire season coming. We have got infrastructure that needs to be rebuilt. I mean, we have real-world problems, not political problems. And we need grownups to fix them. And that’s the folks that we tried to get elected. So, I think it’s a waning influence over time.”

At least 3 members of a pro-Roger Stone group are facing charges in connection with Jan. 6 riot

Three or more members of a pro-Roger Stone, pro-Donald Trump chat group called Friends of Stone are now facing charges in connection with the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building, according to the New York Times.

The Friends of Stone members are the Proud Boys’ Enrique Tarrio, Alex Jones associate Owen Shroyer and Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes. Times reporter Alan Feuer describes Friends of Stone as a combination of “‘Stop the Steal’ organizers, right-wing influencers, Florida state legislative aides and more than one failed candidate loyal to former President Donald J. Trump.”

“The focus of the chat was always the man whose photo topped its home page: Roger J. Stone, Jr., a long-time political operative and adviser to Mr. Trump,” Feuer reports. “While little is known about what was said on the chat, the membership list of Friends of Stone, provided to the New York Times by one of its participants, offers a kind of road map to Mr. Stone’s associations, showing their scope and nature in the critical period after the 2020 election. During that time, Mr. Stone was involved with a strikingly wide array of people who participated in efforts to challenge the vote count and keep Mr. Trump in the White House.”

Right-wing radio host Pete Santilli told the Times that Friends of Stone goes back to at least 2019.

Santilli told the Times, “The primary reason for the chat was to have a place for supporters to share stuff. You drop a link, and everyone shares it on their nontraditional channels.”

Feuer reports, “The group chat’s membership list…. (includes) activists like Marsha Lessard and Christina Skaggs, leaders of a group called the Virginia Freedom Keepers who helped to organize an anti-vaccine rally scheduled for the east side of the Capitol on January 6. Ms. Lessard and Ms. Skaggs worked with another anti-vaccine activist, Ty Bollinger, who was also on the list.”

Republican Party extremists are gaining ground in the East while falling flat in the West

Still, fringe candidates are luring GOP voters and winning key races.

The Republican Party’s radical right flank is making inroads among voters and winning key primaries east of the Mississippi. But out West, among the five states that held their 2022 primary elections on May 17, a string of GOP candidates for office who deny the 2020’s presidential election results and have embraced various conspiracies were rejected by Republicans who voted for more mainstream conservatives.

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

In Pennsylvania, Douglas Mastriano, an election denier and white nationalist, won the GOP’s nomination for governor. He received 587,772 votes, which was 43.96 percent of the vote in a low turnout primary. One-quarter of Pennsylvania’s 9 million registered voters cast ballots.

In Idaho, by contrast, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who also claimed Joe Biden’s election was illegitimate and has campaigned at white supremacist rallies, according to the Western States Center, an Oregon-based group that monitors the far right, lost her bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination to incumbent Gov. Brad Little.

Idaho also saw two 2020 election-denying candidates vying for the GOP nomination for secretary of state lose to a career civil servant and election administrator who defended 2020’s results as accurate. On the other hand, an ex-congressman who is an election denier won the GOP primary for attorney general.

“In addition to Janice McGeachin, who was defeated in her bid for governor, a number of other anti-democracy candidates were rejected by voters, including Priscilla Giddings, who ran for [Idaho] Lieutenant Governor; Dorothy Moon, who ran for Secretary of State; and Chad Christensen, Todd Engel and Eric Parker, who mounted bids for the state legislature,” the Western States Center’s analysis said. “In Ada County, antisemitic sheriff candidate Doug Traubel was soundly defeated, alongside losses for Proud Boy and conspiratorial candidates in Oregon.”

Voters in Western states with histories of far-right organizing and militia violence have more experience sizing up extremist politics and candidates than voters out East, the center suggested. However, as May 17’s five state primaries make clear, the GOP’s far-right flank is ascendant nationally.

Various stripes of GOP conspiracy theorists and uncompromising culture war-embracing candidates attracted a third or more of the May 17 primary electorate, a volume of votes sufficient to win some high-stakes races in crowded fields.

Low Turnouts Boost GOP Radicals

The highest-profile contests were in the presidential swing state of Pennsylvania, where Mastriano, a state legislator, won the gubernatorial primary with votes from less than 7 percent of Pennsylvania’s 9 million registered voters.

In its primary for an open U.S. Senate seat, several thousand votes separated two election-denier candidates, a margin that will trigger a recount. As Pennsylvania’s mailed-out ballots are counted and added into totals, the lead keeps shifting between hedge-fund billionaire David McCormick and celebrity broadcaster Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Mastriano campaigned on his rejection of President Joe Biden’s victory, chartered buses to transport Trump supporters to the U.S. Capitol for what became the January 6 insurrection, is stridently anti-abortion and often says his religion shapes his politics. On his primary victory night, he sounded like former President Trump, proclaiming that he and his base were aggrieved underdogs.

“We’re under siege now,” Mastriano told supporters, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer report. “The media doesn’t like groups of us who believe certain things.”

That “siege” appears to include a cold shoulder from pro-corporate Republicans who campaigned against Mastriano as the primary crested, fearing that he would lose in the fall’s general election. A day after the May 17 primary, the Republican Governors Association downplayed his victory, a signal that it was unlikely to steer donors toward him, the Washington Post reported.

Other election-denying candidates sailed to victory across Pennsylvania, including five GOP congressmen who voted against certifying their state’s 2020 Electoral College slate: Scott Perry, John Joyce, Mike Kelly, Guy Reschenthaler and Lloyd Smucker. Their primaries, while not garnering national attention, underscore Trump’s enduring impact on wide swaths of the Republican Party.

It remains to be seen if any of the primary winners will prevail in the fall’s general election. It may be that candidates who can win in crowded primary fields when a quarter to a third of voters turn out will not win in the fall, when turnout is likely to double. But a closer look at some primary results shows that large numbers of Republican voters are embracing extremists—even if individual candidates lose.

That trend can be seen in Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor’s race. The combined votes of three election-denying candidates (Rick Saccone, 15.69 percent; Teddy Daniels, 12.18 percent; Russ Diamond, 5.93 percent) was about 34 percent. That share of the party’s electorate, had it voted for one candidate, would have defeated the primary winner, Carrie DelRosso, a more moderate Republican who received 25.65 percent of the vote and will have to defend conspiracies as Mastriano’s running mate.

Fissures Inside the GOP

While Trump-appeasing candidates won primaries in May 17’s four other primary states—Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Oregon—some outspoken and badly behaved GOP radicals, such as North Carolina’s Rep. Madison Cawthorn, lost to a more traditional conservative Republican.

Cawthorn was defeated by Chuck Edwards, a pro-business Republican and state senator described by the Washington Post as “a McDonald’s franchise owner [who] was head of the local chamber of commerce.”

Edwards campaigned on returning the House to a GOP majority and backed a predictable obstructionist agenda to block the Biden White House, as opposed to Cawthorn’s embrace of 2020 election conspiracies and incendiary antics—which included taking loaded guns on planes and accusing other GOP congressmen of lurid and illegal behavior.

Edwards’ focus, the Washington Post reported, “will be on ‘removing the gavel out of Nancy Pelosi’s hand, and then taking the teleprompter from Joe Biden and restoring the policies that we enjoyed under the Trump administration, to help get this country back on track.’”

Cawthorn’s defeat came as North Carolina Republicans chose a Trump-praising candidate, Ted Budd, for its U.S. Senate nomination over an ex-governor, Pat McCrory.

As Tim Miller noted in the May 18 morning newsletter from the Bulwark, a pro-Republican but anti-Trump news and opinion website, McCrory had “criticized Trump over his Putinphilia and insurrectionist incitement… he lost bigly to Ted Budd, a milquetoast Trump stooge who will do what he’s told.”

As in Pennsylvania, a handful of incumbent members of congress in North Carolina who voted to reject their 2020 Electoral College slate easily won their primaries.

“Virginia Foxx and Greg Murphy voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election after the events of January 6 and have been endorsed by Trump in their 2022 campaigns,” said a May 16 fact sheet from the Defend Democracy Project, which tracks the GOP’s election-denying candidates. “Foxx was later fined $5,000 for failing to comply with security measures put in place in the House after the January 6 attack and Murphy has claimed that antifa may have been responsible for the violence at the Capitol.”

Foxx won her primary with 77 percent of the vote. Murphy won his primary with 76 percent of the vote.

Idaho Republicans Clash

The election-denial and conspiracy-embracing candidates fared less well in May 17’s primaries out West, the Western States Center’s analysis noted.

“Yesterday in elections in Oregon and Idaho, anti-democracy candidates were defeated in several marquee races,” it said on May 18. “Most notably Idaho gubernatorial hopeful Janice McGeachin, whose embrace of white nationalism and militias was soundly rejected by voters.”

In the GOP primary for secretary of state, which oversees Idaho’s elections, Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane narrowly beat two 2020 election deniers, state Rep. Dorothy Moon (R-Stanley) and state Sen. Mary Souza (R-Coeur d’Alene). McGrane had 43.1 percent or 114,348 votes. Moon had 41.4 percent, or 109,898 votes. Souza had 15.5 percent or 41,201 votes.

“Donald Trump carried Idaho by 30 points in 2020, but… State Rep. Dorothy Moon has alleged without evidence that people are ‘coming over and voting’ in Idaho from Canada and called for the decertification of the 2020 election,” said the Defend Democracy Project’s fact sheet. “State Sen. Mary Souza is part of the voter suppression group the Honest Elections Project and has blamed ‘ballot harvesting’ for Biden’s victory. Only Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane has stated that he believes that Idaho’s elections are legitimate and that Joe Biden was the winner of the 2020 election.”

Another way of looking at the contest’s results is that an election-denying candidate might have won, had Idaho’s Republican Party more forcefully controlled how many candidates were running for this office. Together, Moon and Souza won nearly 57 percent of the vote, compared to McGrane’s 43 percent.

McGrane will be part of a GOP ticket that includes an election denier who won the primary for attorney general. Former congressman Raul Labrador received 51.5 percent of the vote, compared to the five-term incumbent, Lawrence Wasden, who received 37.9 percent. Labrador accused Wasden of “being insufficiently committed to overturning the 2020 election,” the Defend Democracy Project said.

On the other hand, another 2020 election defender won his GOP primary. Rep. Mike Simpson won 54.6 percent of the vote in Idaho’s 2nd U.S. House district in a field with several challengers who attacked him for being one of 35 House Republicans who voted in favor of creating the January 6 committee.

What Do GOP Voters Want?

But Mastriano’s victory in Pennsylvania’s GOP gubernatorial primary, more so than any other outcome from May 17’s primaries, is “giving the GOP fits,” as Blake Hounshell, the New York Times’ “On Politics” editor, wrote on May 18.

“Conversations with Republican strategists, donors and lobbyists in and outside of Pennsylvania in recent days reveal a party seething with anxiety, dissension and score-settling over Mastriano’s nomination,” Hounshell said.

That assessment may be accurate. But one key voice—or GOP sector—is missing from the New York Times’ analysis: the GOP primary voters, a third or more of them on May 17, who embraced conspiratorial candidates—though more widely in the East than in the West.

“For decades we’ve seen that our [Western] region has been a bellwether for white nationalist and paramilitary attacks on democratic institutions and communities, but also home to the broad, moral coalitions that have risen up to defeat them,” said Eric K. Ward, the Western States Center’s executive director. “The defeat of anti-democracy candidates with white nationalist and paramilitary ties up and down the ballot is evidence that those of us committed to inclusive democracy, even if we have vastly different political views, do indeed have the power to come together to defeat movements that traffic in bigotry, white nationalism and political violence.”

Abortion restrictions are also voter suppression

Earlier this month, a draft leaked of the likely majority opinion for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health overturning Roe v. Wade and declaring that abortion is no longer a constitutionally protected right.

The moment many of us have feared is here. In a last ditch effort to express public opinion, thousands took to the streets to march for abortion rights in protests across the country. Many of those marching and raising their voices are women, trans men and non-binary people but their voices can’t be fully heard at the ballot box until voting laws that suppress women’s votes are addressed.

We know abortion is popular in this country with about 70 percent of Americans supporting abortion rights in some capacity. We also know that women can be a driving force behind political change and that white women might finally be moving away from the Republican party.

Despite this, many pundits continue to ignore women as an important political demographic and dismiss abortion as a political issue driving voters. They are missing a crucial element – voter suppression.

Of course, Republicans in Texas aren’t being hurt as a result of the horrible vigilante abortion law there. Texas has some of the worst voter suppression laws in the country! Unfortunately, voting, like abortion, has become a partisan issue. So many of the states passing abortion bans have made it difficult to vote. It’s clear how voter suppression laws target people based on race, but women also face increased obstacles to voting as a result of gender norms.

Voter ID laws are one of the most common methods of voter suppression. They often suppress the votes of marginalized people, who don’t drive or have access to documents to get an accurate ID.

Surprisingly, voter ID laws can also make voting difficult for women across incomes and race because around 80 percent of women change their names when they get married.

Many states require original documentation of every name change to get an ID, so women must provide evidence of marriages and divorces.

This can be costly and logistically impossible depending on the state and the number of name changes. According to a Brennan Center for Justice survey, 33 percent of women could lack the documentation.

Additionally, women are also overrepresented in the group of people making less than $25,000 per year, who are more than twice as likely to lack access to documentation proving their citizenship.

Domestic violence can also increase obstacles to voting and 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women. An abuser might hide their partner’s documentation or an abuse victim might be forced to flee without managing to take their documentation with them.

Any voting type that doesn’t guarantee privacy also makes it difficult for abuse victims to vote differently from their abusers. Caucuses require everyone to vote in public and vote by mail can be monitored.

Even when victims escape, they often need to worry about keeping their address private for years after. Some states have “address confidentiality programs” to allow domestic violence survivors to keep their locations private. However, those programs don’t always seamlessly extend to voter registration. They’re not widely publicized. Many are insufficient in protecting abuse survivors’ information.

There are eight states with no program to protect domestic violence survivors’ privacy. Additionally, these procedures only help survivors who have restraining orders or some official record of their abuse.

Felon disenfranchisement is another common method of voter suppression. Women are the fastest growing prison population. They are more likely to be incarcerated awaiting trial than men.

People detained awaiting trial are legally allowed to vote but often aren’t given access to the ballot. Since women are disproportionately detained while awaiting trial, since they lack the financial resources for bail, incarcerated voting obstacles in pretrial detention are suppressing the votes of low income, Black and brown women.

As abortion criminalization laws spread across the country, felony convictions will increase among women and trans people, which means abortion criminalization is also a voter suppression issue.

Closing polling places, limiting voting hours and lessening early voting options increases long lines at polling places, which of course serves to suppress the vote.

Women make up 69 percent of the workers in the lowest paid hourly occupations. Across race, immigration status and education level, women are more likely to work in the lowest paid jobs than men.

These jobs make it harder for women to take off work or to get to the polling place during normal work hours. Women also remain the primary caregiver for most children. Without childcare options it can be difficult to wait in long lines to be able to vote.

Every type of voter suppression mentioned in this article disproportionately affects Black and brown women, and trans people.

Trans people face steep obstacles in getting documentation that matches their correct gender, which can make it difficult to vote in states that require identification. Black and brown women are more likely to be criminalized and to work in low wage hourly jobs.

Disabled women also face increased voter suppression as there are obstacles for disabled voters from voter registration to voting in person with the majority of polling places not being ADA compliant.

To truly analyze the impact of abortion on voting patterns, we must take voter suppression into consideration.

Women and trans people are facing obstacles to voting that many don’t even consider. Women are facing increased criminalization and policing as states pass abortion bans or eventually birth control bans.

Domestic violence, societal norms about name changes and now abortion bans are all tools of patriarchal control that disenfranchise women at home and at the ballot box.

House January 6th panel seeks info from Republican lawmaker who gave a Capitol tour on insurrection eve

Georgia GOP Rep. Barry Loudermilk is facing scrutiny from the House Select Committee Investigating the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol.

"Based on our review of evidence in the Select Committee's possession, we believe you have information regarding a tour you led through parts of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021," Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) wrote in a letter to Loudermilk on Thursday.

"The foregoing information raises questions to which the Select Committee must seek answers. Public reporting and witness accounts indicate some individuals and groups engaged in efforts to gather information about the layout of the U.S. Capitol, as well as the House and Senate office buildings, in advance of January 6, 2021," read the letter, which was also signed by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY).

"In response to those allegations, Republicans on the Committee on House Administration—of which you are a Member—claimed to have reviewed security footage from the days preceding January 6th and determined that '[t]here were no tours, no large groups, no one with MAGA hats on.' However, the Select Committee’s review of evidence directly contradicts that denial," the letter stated.

The letter proposes a meeting during the week of May 23.

"The letter comes more than a year after some House Democrats accused Republicans of providing tours in the days leading up to January 6 to individuals who later stormed the Capitol," CNN noted. "Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a Democrat from New Jersey, accused Republicans in the days after the insurrection of providing tours to people who then used the information they learned from their visit about the complex's layout to aid in their attempt to interrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election results."

Sherrill said she saw members of Congress leading groups of people through the Capitol on a "reconnaissance" tour on Jan. 5. Her comments came on Jan. 12, 2021.

The committee investigating the 2021 US Capitol assault plans to stage public hearings in June and release its findings at the height of the midterm election campaign later this year.

Across eight hearings, key witnesses interviewed by the congressional probe will testify publicly for the first time on the alleged plot that led to the January 6 insurrection as well as the events of the day itself.

"We'll tell the story about what happened," Thompson told reporters.

"We will use a combination of witnesses, exhibits, things that we have through the tens of thousands of exhibits... as well as the hundreds of witnesses we deposed or just talked to in general."

The hearings are expected to make for blockbuster television -- potentially on a par with the Watergate hearings or Donald Trump's two impeachments -- as America relives minute by minute the day a mob of the defeated president's supporters stormed Congress to prevent the peaceful transfer of power to 2020 election winner Joe Biden.

The bench of seven Democrats and two Republicans will explore allegations that Trump inspired the violence through months of false claims about election fraud, as part of an illegal plot to stay in power.

Trump and his inner circle deny all accusations of wrongdoing, characterizing their election disinformation and alleged machinations to overturn the results as a good-faith attempt to clear up widespread corruption.

Trump's ultra-loyal Republican base argues that the investigation is a "witch hunt" to distract from rampant inflation and a burgeoning immigration crisis ahead of elections in November that could see the Democrats lose control of Congress.

With additional reporting by AFP

How lawmakers can distinguish real versus phony religious tests for judicial nominees

A number of years ago, I sat on a long plane ride next to an orthodox Jewish man. We struck up a conversation and found out that we each had three children. I have three daughters, while he told me he had two daughters and a son. When I told him I was a law professor, he told me with delight that both of his sons had expressed some interest in going to law school. I asked him about his daughter and he said that she would, of course, be a wife and mother and take care of the home.

I expressed surprise at this (naive, I know) and asked him what his teen daughter thought about these differing expectations based on gender.

The man said that she didn't have a choice but in any event, his daughter was quite comfortable with this life plan.

I asked him if I could speak freely and he kindly responded in the affirmative. I asked how he could justify limiting his daughter this way, especially in light of how proud he sounded about his sons wanting to be lawyers. His response was that this is the way they live, it works, and he saw no need to alter this lifestyle for his daughter.

Here is my question: if this man were nominated to be a federal judge, should his views on gender disqualify him from the position?

The judicial outcomes of sincere belief

Before turning to that question, let's agree on one thing.

A federal judicial nominee who in a confirmation hearing testified that he did not think women should be CEOs, senators, lawyers or bankers – because their proper place is in the home and that we would all be better off with more precise gender roles – would not be confirmed.

Does the calculus change if the nominee testifies exactly the same way but says his views are based on sincere religious faith?

Hold that question.

The US Constitution provides in no uncertain terms in Article VI that "no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public trust under the United States."

I am glad we have this provision. No one should ever be asked about their faith as a precondition for Senate confirmation as a federal judge.

But does Article IV prohibit all questioning about a nominee's views that are part of his faith? The answer to this, I think, has to be no.

If it were part of a person's sincere religious faith that sometimes children have to be sacrificed to the gods in cases of terrible climate events, it would be more than fair to disqualify that person from holding judicial office based on that opinion irrespective of its basis.

If a nominee said his faith requires him to believe that white and Black school children should never go to school together, he too should not become a judge, not because of faith, but because of his racist views.

Test of religion or character?

So returning to my orthodox Jewish friend:

If he testified that he believed the only legitimate career path for girls and women is to be wives and mothers, and he was rejected for holding that view, is that a religious test for public office?

I think the answer has to be no. He would not be rejected for his faith, ie, his views on the afterlife or membership in a religious group. He’d be rejected because of values he holds that affect the secular world.

What if the nominee who holds these kinds of sexist or religious views says he can and will put them aside when deciding cases?

At first that may seem like a more difficult question, but is it?

Imagine a nominee who says that his personal views are that white people are superior to Black people, and that men are superior to women, but that he would put aside those views in his role as a judge.

Could and should that person be given a federal judgeship?

Of course not.

Views of faith, views of public office

Now imagine that the racist and sexist views above are expressed as part of a wholesale and sincere religious belief system.

Does and should that matter?

I don't think so. There is no reason to think a religious bigot will be any more capable than the secular bigot of discarding his personal views.

Moreover, do sexism and racism become more tolerable because they are based on religious, not secular, ones? I don't think so.

This is not to say that the government should interfere in the internal affairs of religious organizations that hold such views. That is quite a different question. In most contexts, the answer should be no.

But the government not interfering with religious activities and the government requiring people to not hold racist and sexist beliefs as a prerequisite to public office are very different things indeed.

I think it would be fair to say to my orthodox Jewish friend that his views on the proper role for girls and women disqualify him from being a judge, just as he would be disqualified if he believed white people and Black people should be separated under law even if he says that's only a personal, religious view that he can set aside as a judge.

Applied to Roe

Now imagine a nominee who said her faith teaches her that life begins at conception and that abortion must be banned at all times and in all places with no exceptions, and she would not put aside those views when deciding abortion cases and would not recuse in such cases.

Would her rejection be the same as a religious test for public office?

I think we would all agree the answer is no.

What if she said that she would put aside those religious views when deciding cases? Would her disqualification be illegal as a religious test for public office by pro-choice senators? I don't think so.

Her rejection would be based on her views about abortion, not her association with a particular religion.

In other words, to disqualify a person based on a view that they happen to hold because of their religion, when one would also disqualify a person who held the same view based on secular premises, is not imposing a religious test for public office.

Imagine the following dialogue.


Professor Smith, I want to ask you whether you agree with your church's position that women cannot be leaders in your church. Do you agree with that rule?

Professor Smith:

No Senator, I do not. I am proudly (name a religion) but I do not agree with all of the policies and rules of my religious leaders and that is one I do not agree with. However, I want to add that I am also a proud American and I do not agree with many of President Biden's policies. But I can no more shed my Americanism than I could shed my _ism.

I think we can all agree that this church's position on women should not disqualify this nominee.

Imagine a different dialogue.


Professor Smith, I want to ask you whether you agree with your church's position that women cannot be leaders in your church. Do you agree with that rule?

Professor Smith:

Yes I do, Senator. I would not allow that view to affect my decisions as a judge, including in gender-related cases, but I do agree with my church that women should not be leaders in the church.

Proper or improper questions about religion

Before the answer, let's remember a person who said he thinks the world would be a better place if women (or Black people) were excluded from being mayors, governors, CEOs, judges and presidents would surely not be confirmed and surely shouldn't be confirmed.

Of course, that hypothetical isn't the same because a church is different from the government or a private organization.

But is the view that women (or Black or LGBT-plus people) shouldn't lead any less pernicious because it's based on faith, not secular values?

I think the answer might depend on the reasons the nominee gives for her agreement that women (or Black or LGBT-plus people) should be excluded from leading whichever faith she is associated with.

But would such a line of questioning be improper?

I think not.

If that’s true, questions about a nominee's views on abortion should be proper, regardless of whether from faith, reason or something else.

If a Senator believes women can never be equal without control of their reproductive destinies, or if a Senator believes that abortion is always murder, then asking prospective judges about their views on abortion, or any other issue with secular consequences should be allowed. It is not barred as a religious test for public office.

The potential for political violence lies with normal people harboring extreme racist attitudes

On May 15, a young white man carrying a semi-automatic rifle opened fire outside a supermarket in a predominantly Black eastside neighborhood of Buffalo. The rifle barrel had the N-word written on it along with the number 14, a well-known white supremacist slogan.

Payton Gendron killed three outside the grocery store and wounded another. Then he went inside. When it was over, 10 people were dead, including a security guard with whom he had exchanged fire. Of the 13 people shot, 11 were Black. Gendron, clad in body armor, live-streamed the shooting on Twitch. (Twitch has since deleted the video).

Gendron, 18, is from a rural town 200 miles from Buffalo. There he assembled and posted online a 180-page manifesto. According to CNN, he wrote about “his perceptions of the dwindling size of the White population and claims of ethnic and cultural replacement of Whites,” and “attributes the internet for most of his beliefs and describes himself as a fascist, a White supremacist and an anti-Semite.”

Mass shooting equation

The public discourse around these tragedies follows a predictable pattern. News reports and commentary discuss how extremism was cultivated in online spaces. Once down the extremism rabbit hole, they took advantage of lax or questionable gun laws to arm themselves. They methodically identified a location where the target would be congregating, and then decided to execute as many as they could.

This is the extremism + guns = mass shooting equation.

It is correct.

To a degree.

The set of beliefs up to and including the belief that terrorism is an appropriate plan of action is clearly extreme. There is a spectrum of racist practices. Gendron was on the far end of that. No doubt.

He’s an extremist.

There is no doubt that readily available firearms are a powerful means by which extremists terrorize minority populations.

If they live in a state with no waiting period for gun purchases, the ink on the manifesto may not have dried by the time they commit mass murder. The potential for carnage, moreover, is exponentially greater if the extremist uses a rapid-fire weapon, like a semi-automatic rifle.

Clearly, the extremism + guns = mass shooting equation is right.

But we’re missing the forest for the trees.

Extreme normal people

The trees are deciphering a shooter’s manifesto. The trees are the patchwork of gun sale and ownership laws and their loopholes in the US. The trees are the quality of the numerous research papers dedicated to understanding how someone becomes radicalized online.

But we need to zoom out for the forest.

If we could look down on the American population from 30,000 feet, we would see large swaths of everyday white Americans grappling with changes in their status vis-a-vis Black people and people of color:

Racial minorities, especially Black Americans, have been pushing for more visibility in the media and more representation in institutions.
The behaviors of people of color, again especially Black Americans, have always been under scrutiny. Increasingly, the behaviors of white Americans are being scrutinized.
For the first time, possibly, since the Great Depression, white Americans are experiencing economic distress, like Black people.

These very real trends amount to a loss of privilege and status. Gone are the days when being white was the most fungible currency. White Americans are more than ever on equal terms with people of color.

This should be celebrated.

But for many white Americans, it generates deep feelings of precarity – a sense that they must do something before all is lost.

With that precarity, and sense of loss, we get a series of problematic behaviors. It would be unwise to assume those behaviors are only random acts of violence. Instead, it’s a collection of opinions and behaviors amounting to a culture of normal people who are extreme.

They are, as Jonathan Metzl argues, literally “dying of whiteness.”

They refuse to support universal health care even though they need it because they see it as a benefit to Black people and people of color.

They support deportation, voter suppression and book burning.

They fill the ranks of the Oathkeepers and other citizen-militia groups.

They are election deniers so devoted they became J6 insurrectionists.

They go to school board meetings and howl at educators to keep “CRT” out of classrooms even if there is no such thing being taught.

They vote for candidates who have no legislative or political experience but pander to their identity as aggrieved white people.

I could go on.

These are accountants, Uber drivers, custodians, lawyers and software engineers. They are normal people with extreme racist attitudes.

So even if we were able to repeal the Second Amendment and find a way to erase all the conspiracy theories and hate speech from the internet, they would find ways of acting out their racist aggression.

Is it really surprising that out of the millions of people in this culture, a Payton Gendron would eventually wake up one morning, write the N-word on the barrel of his rifle and kill 10 Black people with it?

Herschel Walker failed to disclose millions in earnings over several months: report

Herschel Walker, the Georgia Republican candidate running for the U.S. Senate endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is facing scrutiny for failing to report more than $3 million in earnings over a five-month period as part of his federal financial disclosure.

According to Business Insider: "Walker's original candidate report, filed in December 2021, listed him and his spouse cumulatively earning $927,886 from late 2020 to the end of 2021 through various corporations, including a $100,000 salary from 'Renaissance Man Food Services, LLC.'"

Five months after filing the original candidate report, Walker reportedly amended it to include that he'd garnered an additional $3.2 million through a company called "H. Walker Enterprises." Business Insider's review of the amended documents indicates that he "amended his overall income in the disclosure to $4.1 million, more than four times higher than the original candidate report."

Per the H. Walker Enterprises' website, the company stated that its mission is to "establish a business structure capable of servicing food service, corporate and retail customers with a variety of products on a national level." However, it remains unclear what Walker's role is within the company as his campaign report describes the "partnership distributions."

Speaking to Business Insider, Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, who serves as the government affairs manager for the Project on Government Oversight, weighed in on Walker amending his reports. According to Hedtler-Gaudette, Walker's decision to do so at such a late point on the campaign trail "undermines 'the basic compact between a person running for office and the people they are trying to recruit to support them.'"

"There's some potential a voter who may find him supportable may have already contributed some money on the basis of the information they had at that point," Hedtler-Gaudette said. "But as we're seeing now, that information was incomplete."

Under the laws stated in the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics, all candidates are required to submit candidate reports that disclose "their honoraria payments, income, assets, liabilities, compensation, and other personal financial details within 30 days of becoming a candidate," per Insider.

Candidates that do not may face a number of different penalties including but not limited to a fine or an inquiry launched by the U.S Department of Justice (DOJ).

Ron DeSantis ignored a real crisis in Florida because he is obsessed with owning the libs: columnist

From far-right Gov. Ron DeSantis to the GOP-controlled Florida State Legislature, Republicans in the Sunshine State have been aggressively fighting the culture wars, defending the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, railing against critical race theory and punishing Disney for not being on board with their agenda. Washington Post opinion writer Lisette Alvarez, in a biting column published on May 19, argues that Florida Republicans have been putting so much time and energy into owning the liberals that they neglected a very real problem: Florida’s “property insurance crisis.”

That crisis, Alvarez writes, is so “dire” that DeSantis has “ordered state lawmakers back into a special session” that is scheduled to start on Monday, May 23. In Florida, property owners are facing a combination of canceled policies and major rate hikes.

Republicans in the Florida State Legislature, Alvarez observes, “squandered weeks of the regular session trying to control what teachers and corporations can say and do instead of addressing a mess that alarms millions of Floridians: a meltdown in the home insurance market.”

“Let’s look at what Floridians face: skyrocketing property insurance premiums, up 25% from 2020 to 2021 on average, but in some cases tripling in one year, according to the Insurance Information Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit trade group that tracks industry trends,” Alvarez writes. “The average cost of homeowner’s insurance in Florida was $3600 in 2021, double the rate for the rest of the country. That’s if you can even get insurance.”

Alvarez continues, “In the past 12 months, more than 400,000 Florida home policies have been dropped, most of them in the past 90 days, according to the Institute. One insurance holding company, this week, announced 68,200 cancellations.”

Mark Friedlander, spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute, has described Florida as the “most volatile property insurance market in the country,” warning that it is “headed for collapse.”

In Florida, Alvarez notes, private insurance companies are “reluctant to take new clients” — which is why “many homeowners have no choice but to enroll with Citizens, Florida’s state-run, nonprofit insurer.”

“Funded by premiums and taxpayers, Citizens was designed to be a last-ditch insurer, yet it is now the largest in Florida,” Alvarez explains. “The 420,000 policies it had in October 2019 have more than doubled. Soon, it will top 1 million, according to the insurance institute. If a large hurricane hits Florida, Citizens will quickly deplete its reserves — it had $166 million in underwriting losses last year — and taxpayers will have to make up the difference.”

Alvarez adds, “Plus, Citizens is limited: It only insures houses valued less than $700,000, or $1 million in Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys.”

Alvarez points out that because of its insurance crisis, Florida is becoming increasingly “inaccessible” for first-time homeowners.

“Those who do have private insurance often face new, arbitrary rules — such as requiring roofs to be younger than 15 years old — or risk being cut loose, even by Progressive and other large insurers,” Alvarez warns. “The spiraling costs of property insurance have made Florida, one of the most expensive housing markets in the country, even more inaccessible, especially for first-time and middle-class buyers.”

'One trick pony' Donald Trump torched for defaulting to voter fraud myth in close Pennsylvania primary

Former President Donald Trump is facing deep criticism for his latest remarks suggesting voter fraud might now be an issue in Pennsylvania.

On Wednesday, May 18, Trump took to Truth Social with a brief statement amid the reporting of midterm elections results in Pennsylvania, a state he has been fiercely focused on while endorsing MAGA-inspired candidates that align with his political interests.

"It makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they 'just happened to find,'" Trump posted on Wednesday. He also said, "In Pennsylvania, they are unable to count the Mail-In Ballots. It is a BIG MESS. Our Country should go to paper ballots, with same-day voting. Just done in France, zero problems. Get Smart America!!!"

While the former president might believe his actions could create a political storm similar to the post-election legal war he stirred up back in 2020, critics have quickly chimed in with less-than-favorable remarks in response to his latest stunt. SiriusXM radio host and columnist Dean Obeidallah offered a prediction of Trump's antics. "Trump is now getting ready to claim voter fraud in Pennsylvania—in reality, Trump should be getting ready to head to the prison's lunchroom for feeding time."

In a tweet also posted on Wednesday, David Axelrod, a known Democratic strategist who also served as senior adviser to former President Barack Obama, offered a stinging assessment of Trump's remarks describing him as a "one-trick pony."

"Trump, a one-trick pony, is playing the fraud card again, urging Oz to act like a Wizard and just declare himself the winner in PA!" Axelrod tweeted along with a link to a WashingtonPost article with details about the Pennsylvania election results.

The New Yorker's John Cassidy also weighed in with a critical response. "You can't keep a good seditionist down," Cassidy tweeted along with a link to one of his pieces related to Trump's antics titled, "Trump Brings His Big Lie Playbook to the GOP Primaries."

But despite Trump's antics, political analyst Tom O'Brien noted that even a Trump endorsement didn't help some Republican candidates cross the finish line.

"Trump's 'power' = 1/3 of the vote in a Republican primary," O'Brien tweeted. "Trump couldn't push Oz across the finish line so now he's advising crying fraud." O'Brien also said Trump is an "ongoing threat to democracy" because of his latest remarks.

'Horrific' and 'heartless' 'pro-life' House Republicans vote against boosting baby formula production

Republicans just voted against two bills to ease the baby formula shortage they have spent weeks falsely trying to pin on President Joe Biden.

In tweets and in floor speeches, Republicans have been attacking President Biden for the nationwide baby formula shortage caused by one manufacturer’s recall and closure of its plant for bacterial infection after two infants died. The shortage has been exacerbated by a trade agreement signed by then-President Donald Trump that makes it extremely difficult and expensive to import formula from other countries, and the fact that 90 percent of baby formula in the U.S. is manufactured by just four companies. Also, hoarding, and price-gouging.

Last week President Biden sat down with manufacturers and retailers to map out a plan to get more formula onto store shelves immediately and directed the Food and Drug Administration to help get the plant reopened. This week he went two steps further: he invoked the Defense Production Act to force manufacturers to produce more formula and produce it ahead of other products and created a program to use federal planes to import baby formula from other countries.

House Democrats last week also opened an investigation into the baby formula shortage.

On Wednesday the House voted on two emergency bills to further ease the shortage.

One example of Republicans falsely attacking President Biden and the left is House GOP Caucus chair Elise Stefanik‘s now-infamous tweet accusing Democrats of having “no plan” as she labeled them “pedo grifters.”

One bill would give FDA $28 million to add staff, work to help get more formula to consumers, and create a long-term strategy, including increased safety inspections so this cannot happen again. The second would dramatically increase supply from foreign sources to consumers using the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program.

192 House Republicans voted against giving FDA $28 million to help fix the crisis and ensure it does not happen again.

Nine House Republicans voted against making it easier for WIC customers to get access to baby formula.

Many Americans are becoming outraged as the news from last night’s votes is spreading online.

Why banning abortion is antisemitic and means 'lights out' for 'freedom of religion and freedom from it'

We ought to revive that old-time, pre-Roe, religion according to which an embryo is an embryo, not a person. That’s what I said last week.

Before 1973, the year the US Supreme Court decided Roe, the most opposed to abortion were Catholic dioceses. Other religions were indifferent or in favor of women’s ultimate authority over their bodies.

Indeed, to argue that an embryo is an embryo, not a person – or that a fetus is a fetus, not a person – was to push forward the cause of freedom of religion and freedom from it. Choice covered both.

Analysis by the Southern Baptist Convention found that Roe was consistent with this double-sided liberty. W. Barry Garrett, in 1973 a correspondent of The Baptist Press, said that the ruling was not just tolerable. It advanced “religious liberty, human equality and justice.”

“Does the decision on abortion intrude on the religious life of the people? Answer: No. Religious bodies and religious persons can continue to teach their own particular views to their constituents with all the vigor they desire. People whose conscience forbids abortion are not compelled by law to have abortions.”

He continued:

The reverse is also now true. … Those whose conscience or religious convictions are not violated by abortion may not now be forbidden by a religious law to obtain an abortion if they so choose.
The decision to obtain an abortion or to bring pregnancy to full term can now be a matter of conscience and deliberate choice rather than one compelled by law. Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision.

That’s one pro-Roe religious angle. There’s another.

By coincidence, it was given fresh circulation Wednesday by a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee during a hearing about the Supreme Court’s imminent decision on Roe.

Here’s Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who, like the entire House Republican Conference, favors stripping abortion rights:

When I was young, before I learned how babies came about, I thought when they said, 'my main my body, my choice,' they were talking about whatever was inside of the woman was part of her body.
The baby is not the body of the woman that it's inside of.
It's another life. It's not the body of the woman.

To the casual political observer, this seems ordinary. After all, the power of the anti-abortion movement rests of the idea that the “baby” is a life unto itself, completely separate from the life of the mother. Abortion, we are told, is murder on account of a “life” being taken.

Pert near everything about the half-century-long “pro-life” movement presumes, and indeed depends on, two lives being in question. Anti-abortionists believe the law should privilege the “baby’s” life. This sincere religious faith drives the movement for “fetal personhood.”

But what if they are not separate? What if there’s only one life?

What if that, too, were a matter of sincere religious faith?

Well, there’s no if.

According to Rabbi Karen Kriger Bogard, abortion is not only a matter of a women’s personal autonomy. Access to it is required by Jewish law.

“In the Torah, there's a story about two men fighting,” she told me. “One accidentally pushes a pregnant woman. There’s no other damage. She has a miscarriage. Exodus says the one responsible shall be fined.

“The very next verse talks about a life for a life, an eye for an eye. Clearly there is a distinction between what life is and what life isn't.”

Put another way, if the “baby” were a life, the life of the man who caused the miscarriage would be forfeit. After all, justice calls for “a life for a life, an eye for an eye.” However, “the baby” isn’t a life, according to the Book of Exodus. Therefore, a fine is all that’s required by law.

This is not a fringe Jewish view, Rabbi Bogard told me. Indeed, according to a prominent rabbi commenting in the Torah – or “the law” – “a fetus is considered a part of the pregnant person's body,” Rabbi Bogard said, “which is equivalent to their thigh” (my italics).

There’s more.

“Jewish law distinguishes between when a person is pregnant and when a person is giving birth,” she said. “It says in the Talmud when a person is having trouble giving birth, they should abort the fetus and ‘take it out limb by limb.’ In Jewish law, existing life comes before potential life.

You’re required to put the living before the not-yet living.

“However, if most of the child is born, we don't touch it. We don't trade one life for another. It's explicit in our text about when life starts.”

Again, this isn’t fringe.

This is the consensus across reform, conservative and orthodox Jewry. A truly marginal view comes from “pro-life” ultra-orthodox Jews aligned with the larger white evangelical Protestant community.

Today, in a letter to the editor of the New Haven Register, Cecily Routman, president of the Jewish Pro-Life Foundation, said the Jewish consensus is upside down. “Abortion is prohibited in Judaism,” she said. “It is judged to be the unwarranted taking of a life within a life.”

I don’t think Thomas Massie, the Kentucky congressman, intended to express a tenet of his sincere religious faith. (Maybe he did.) But it’s pretty clear, when taken with Cecily Routman’s claim, that believing that the body of the “baby” and the body of the woman are two separate things is an expression of a tenet of sincere religious faith.

It’s also pretty clear, to my way of thinking anyway, that the “pro-life” program depends on getting the rest of us – from atheists to Jews to Unitarians to Hindus – to think the same way. By cementing that view in the public mind, the path toward “fetal personhood” is made clear.

If this court upholds a state law based on a tenet of a sincere religious faith like the idea that a fetus is a person, it’s not only lights out for abortion. (“Personhood” would mean abortion is murder.) It’s lights out for that double-sided liberty: freedom of religion and freedom from it.

So repeat after me with as much (religious) feeling as you can.

A fetus is a fetus.

It’s part of its mother.

They are one.

Republican primaries underscore Donald Trump's chokehold on the GOP: Senators

After the horrors of January 6, 2021, Donald Trump’s critics — from liberals and progressives to centrists to right-wing Never Trump conservatives — were hoping his influence on the Republican Party would end. But 16 months into Joe Biden’s presidency, countless Republican primary candidates are begging Trump for his endorsement. And some of the Trump-backed GOP candidates who have prevailed in high-profile races, journalist Alexander Bolton reports in an article published by The Hill on May 19, underscore the influence he still has on his party.

Republican primary candidates who have received Trump’s endorsement and gone on to win the GOP nomination include “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race, Rep. Ted Budd in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race and Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano in the Keystone State’s gubernatorial race. But far-right Trump ally Rep. Madison Cawthorn was voted out of office via a congressional primary in North Carolina on Tuesday, May 17, and the disgraced and scandal-plagued but Trump-backed businessman Charles Herbster lost to GOP nominee Jim Pillen in Nebraska’s Republican gubernatorial primary. Nonetheless, the Republican U.S. senators interviewed for Bolton’s article believe that Trump’s endorsements appear to be helping more often than not.

“Senate Republicans say the strong performances by Trump-backed candidates in the Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Ohio GOP primaries show former President Trump maintains a vice-like grip on their party and will be the heavy favorite heading into the 2024 presidential election,” Bolton reports. “Trump has not only picked winners in various key gubernatorial, Senate and House primaries, but his endorsements in several high-profile instances appear to have propelled lagging candidates to victory. Lawmakers say this is most apparent in the Pennsylvania and Ohio primaries, where Trump’s involvement appears to have altered the outcome of the election.”

Bolton adds, “Even if Trump can’t take all of the credit for producing winners, there’s no question his endorsement moves poll numbers, GOP senators say.”

In Pennsylvania’s GOP U.S. Senate primary, the Trump-endorsed Dr. Mehmet Oz had a razor-thin lead over hedge fund executive Dave McCormick as of Thursday morning, May 19. But the votes were still being counted.

One of the Republican senators The Hill interviewed for Bolton’s article was Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah. Although Romney is a Trump critic who voted “guilty” in Trump’s second impeachment trial in 2022, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee told The Hill, “There’s no question in my mind that he would become the nominee in 2024 if he decides to run for the Republican nomination…. He has a significant impact on state races, and he’ll win some and lose some. But surely, people will want his endorsement if they can get it.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, meanwhile, described Trump as “still the most significant person of influence in the party,” adding, “What he did in Pennsylvania is not insignificant if Dr. Oz pulls it out…. There’s just no question he’s still got a broad influence over a broad swath of Republican primary voters and activists.”

Nonetheless, Sen. John Thune of North Dakota cautioned against giving Trump too much credit in 2022’s Republican primaries.

Thune told The Hill, “The pundits will be interpreting these results…. In many of these cases, the people he endorsed performed well…. It’s not real clear-cut in the sense that you have, in most of these races, multiple candidates who are taking votes away from each other. So…. you can make some generalized assessments, but I don’t think you can make very specific ones.”

More men need to defend abortion rights because 'the bullies are preparing to go after the entire schoolyard'

Robert Lipsyte, Abortion – Not for Women Only

It’s easy to forget just how long we’ve been waiting for Samuel Alito’s “opinion,” signaling that Roe v. Wade is going down the tubes. Back in 2019, I already took it for granted that the Supreme Court would indeed put an end to Roe and wrote then that, as I did, I couldn’t help but think “of my own involvement with abortion as a man.” My wife and I had indeed decided to abort a fetus because of a medical anomaly, even though we both wanted a child then. That was 10 years after Roe v. Wade became the law of the land. Now, I feel nothing but horror and sadness for couples like us who will indeed face such crises in an increasingly Trumpian America.

And honestly, I also remember the years of my youth before Roe became the law of the land in 1973. In fact, there was a moment then when, filled with horror, I ventured into the back-alley world of illegal abortions to help someone I cared deeply about who was, I thought, pregnant. We were lucky. She proved not to be, but I’ve never forgotten the fear (and, strangely enough, the fascination) of that abortion journey into what was then an everyday American underworld and undoubtedly will be again. More than a half-century has passed since then and I still haven’t forgotten that moment, which makes me truly sad for all the young people today who are going to face a similar hell on Earth thanks to Donald Trump, Samuel Alito, and crew.

They have no hesitation, I know, about sending the rest of us into the flames of hell. Looking back, the failed coup at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, may not have been the worst of Donald Trump. His seizure (with the help of Mitch McConnell) of the Supreme Court will, I fear, leave that riot in the dustbin of history when it comes to changing this country.

And they have a nerve. Truly they do. Which is why, today, I turn this site over to Robert Lipsyte, former New York Times columnist, TomDispatch regular, and author most recently of SportsWorld: An American Dreamland. Let him remind us all of what it was like, not just for women but for men, too, in the pre-Roe years and why it’s up to us not to let this stand. Tom

Where Are the Men? No More Bystander Boys in the Post-Roe Era

For 50 years now, people have told desperate, heart-breaking stories about what it was like to search for an abortion in the days before Roe v. Wade. These were invariably narratives of women in crisis. They sometimes involved brief discussions about economic inequality, police-state intrigue, and unwanted children, but for the most part men were invisible in them, missing in action. Where were they? And where are they now that a wall of fundamental rights seems to be crumbling away not just for women, but for all of us? This is another example of what I used to call the Bystander Boys.

As a sportswriter, my work over these decades often brought me into a universe of male entitlement and the sort of posturing I thought of as faux masculinity. Even in that chest-beating environment, I was struck by the absence in abortion stories of what in another time would have been called manliness. What happened to that mostly storybook ideal of the brave, modest, responsible, big-hearted protector? I figured out early on not to waste time searching for him among football quarterbacks or baseball coaches, or even cops and Army officers. Much, much later, I found more people with the right stuff — that “manly” ideal — among single mothers and feminist lawyers.

As it happened, there weren’t a lot of male heroes during the women’s movement of the 1970s or even the more recent #MeToo upsurge. Most men, except for the power boys who treated everyone else as girls, were too fearful or starstruck to intervene. The most grotesque models were, of course, the athletes who stood by silently while their teammates raped stoned or drunken women.

In the pre-pill early 1960s, when unwanted pregnancy was a constant chilling specter for my pre-Boomer “silent” generation, men usually talked about abortion only if their girlfriends had missed a period — when they were trying to track down that coal-country Pennsylvania doctor who performed illegal abortions with relative impunity. They might even share their fears of what an unwanted kid would do to their careers, but rarely did they bring up the typical back-alley butchery of abortion in those years that came from the hijacking of the most fundamental of rights.

Where are those guys even today, much less their sons and grandsons, presumably still active partners in the reproductive process? Forget about moral responsibility — what about the jeopardy our lives are in as the possibility of a Trumpian-style authoritarian future closes in around us? Sixty years ago, it already seemed remarkably clear to me how crucial it was that men stop leaving women to face this nightmare essentially alone — and it still does.

The Dismissal

With that in mind, let me tell you my own ancient abortion story, though it always felt somewhat pallid compared to others — what my kids would have sneered at as a “first-world story” if I had told them. Still, I think it does capture the fear and helplessness of a time which, sadly enough, just might be coming around again.

The year was 1961, 12 years before Roe v. Wade. I had already been married to my first wife for two years and she was justifiably convinced that we were still too shaky, emotionally and professionally, to have children. We were both 23. She was an undergraduate, working on the side in a doctor’s office. I was an ambitious New York Times reporter, covering sports for that paper and cops for its Sunday magazine. When she discovered that she was pregnant, we briefly argued about what to do. I liked the idea of fatherhood and was convinced that it wouldn’t hamper my career. (No wonder, since in the spirit of the time, I assumed she’d be doing all the work.) But I did at least understand that, in the end, it was her choice, not mine.

Through her medical connections, she found a Fifth Avenue doctor who would perform the then-illegal operation for $500, which we could just barely scrape together. We called that upcoming operation “the dismissal” in what we both understood to be a pathetically smart-assed way of avoiding a confrontation with the actual fears and mixed emotions generated by our choice. At that time, it was, of course, criminal, dangerous, and (in what passed for proper society) largely despised.

I was scared for Maria’s well-being and the possible consequences of acting illegally. I was particularly fearful that the Times might find out and, in some fashion, hold it against me. In a confused and twisted way, I was also disturbed about acting against the moral conventions of my society and time. It made me feel like a bad person and, believe me, those were wrenching feelings that began to bubble back into my memory recently as the most humane of judicial amendments came under assault by truly evil forces.

I was also — however contradictory this might sound — righteously angry on that crisp, clear fall afternoon as Maria and I walked to the doctor’s ground-floor office across from New York’s Central Park. I knew even then that religious bigots and the mercenary politicians backing them stood in the way of our health and freedom. Admittedly, I could never have imagined that, more than half a century later, the same combination of forces would be using abortion as part of an authoritarian plot to seize control of all aspects of our lives. Back then, I probably would have smirked at such seeming paranoia, had I seen it in some sci-fi film.

The doctor’s door opened before I rang the buzzer and the arm of an older woman — the doctor’s wife I later discovered — shot out, grabbed Maria’s sleeve and began pulling her inside. We kissed quickly. I noted how terrified Maria’s eyes were. And then she was gone.

I had been instructed to leave the area and call in two hours (from a payphone on the street, of course, since no one then had a mobile phone). After wandering in the park for a while, I found myself drifting back toward the doctor’s office. Reporters always have that urge to stay near the action. As dusk was settling, I noticed nondescript black and gray sedans beginning to double-park illegally along Fifth Avenue and in the side streets flanking that office. They disgorged athletic-looking women in non-chic clothes. In that fashionable neighborhood, they were distinctly not local residents.

The Raid

As they clustered on the sidewalk, I remember thinking that they looked like a women’s semi-pro softball team I had once covered, as well as the women cops I had met recently doing a Times magazine piece about a squad of Manhattan detectives.

I realized then that I was watching a raid. I felt ice water in my veins as I hurried to a telephone booth from which I could observe the cops closing in on the doctor’s office. What should I do? Warn the doctor? Less than an hour had passed since Maria had gone inside. If they aborted the abortion now, would that spare them criminal charges? What if she was numbing into the anesthesia? I imagined the doctor, scalpel in hand, panicking and injuring my wife. I couldn’t bring myself to take that chance. So, made powerless by my decision, I simply waited and watched.

Soon enough, the cops swarmed the office door and went inside. I moved closer. Several of them were standing guard there and others were stationed along the block. They briskly collected a middle-aged couple heading toward the office and stuffed them into a parked sedan.

It seemed like a long time before the office door opened and the cops came out with the doctor’s wife, a white-bearded man in a white coat, a teenage girl wrapped in a blanket, and Maria, pale and shaking after the operation. I couldn’t be a bystander for one more second. Nobody stopped me as I ran to her, yelling, “That’s my wife!”

The cops were matter of fact, almost kindly. They assured us that if Maria agreed to accompany them to Bellevue Hospital and submit to an examination to ascertain whether she had an abortion, there would be no charges against her. I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to do or who to call.

Gripped by a certain desperation, I asked whether the medical exam would be the end of it? No, I was told, she would need to appear before a grand jury trying the doctor. I insisted on going to Bellevue with her. The cops conferred. Okay, they said, and took me along.

I sat in the chilly hallway of that hospital for a long, long time. Passing cops chatted with me in a relatively friendly way. Several of them all but apologized. Abortions were against the law, they pointed out, shrugging, as if to say, what can we do? Finally, I took Maria home. She slept for a day. There were visits from a nurse at the doctor’s office where she worked.

Sometime later, she did indeed testify before a grand jury. The doctor’s name eventually appeared in a splashy New York Post story. He was running an abortion “factory,” so the claim went, and the raid on his office was considered a big bust.

The Choice

And that was pretty much the end of it for us, not to speak of our marriage a year later. The only related event: a call from the Police Department’s public information chief, a deputy commissioner, demanding an apology and a retraction of things I had written in my recent magazine article about the squad of women detectives. He said he knew just why I had written so negatively about them and assured me that if I didn’t send him that apology, he would inform key people at the Times about my recent “unlawful activity.” He let that phrase hang in the air.

I felt chills. My career, I feared, was over. At that moment, I remember thinking about how my dad had talked me into getting a junior-high-school English-teaching license as a backup to my risky journalism career.

Still, I felt I had no choice and told that deputy commissioner to go to hell. He snickered and hung up. I never heard from him again. Sometime later, a magazine editor from the Times discreetly indicated to me that he’d brushed off some complaint from a police flack and told me not to worry.

End of story, although I thought about it again when Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1973 and, with Maria’s permission, I wrote about what happened to us as part of a boomlet of pre-Roe horror stories published then. The bloody wire coat hanger that women so notoriously used to try to induce abortions at home, which once seemed all too real to me, was becoming a quaint symbol of another age. We could breathe easy on this, as it was obviously settled law for all time.

In retrospect, I realize that I was surprised by how blithely a new generation took for granted legal access to safe abortions. As a feminist married to a feminist journalist in the 1970s, my nascent thoughts about those Bystander Boys of the pre-Roe era transformed into far better images of “liberated males” I knew, mostly writers and academics, who supported the women’s movement, even if the mainstream media wrote them off as softies.

Everything started coming back to me, though, with Politico‘s scoop on Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion that threatens to end Roe v. Wade (and potentially so much more). In that “opinion,” you can see one of the many bullies of this era at work. When it came out, the Republican congressional crew were, of course, already well launched on the tactics they had undoubtedly learned so long ago in some schoolyard, intimidating any onlookers who wanted to stop them from terrorizing the girls.

Meanwhile, the everyday dudes, starting with President Biden, were generally cutting and running from both the reproductive nightmare Alito’s opinion had set loose in our world and its larger social implications, including the Trumpist campaign to control us all.

It’s time, though, for the boys to become men, to step out on the streets, organize, demonstrate, march (maybe wearing knitted penis caps), guard clinics, escort patients, make noise. Older men like me who can evoke the terrible pre-Roe days should tell their stories, at least to their grandsons, especially the ones who claim that their impractical progressive ideals prohibit them from voting in lesser-of-two-evils elections (too common these days, it seems.)

Just hold your nose, sonny, if it means doing the right thing.

And perhaps it’s most important to keep reminding ourselves and everyone we know that abortion isn’t the whole abortion story, that the bullies are preparing to go after the entire schoolyard, not just the girls, and (as has become so common these days) they’re going to stomp into the school-board meeting as well. Sooner or later, they’ll try to take over the school itself and, eventually, the mind and soul of this country thanks to the holes they’re about to tear in the Constitution. There are more of us than them and, if we stand together and fight, we can still win. No place for bystanders now.

Watch: MSNBC’s Ari Melber torches Tucker Carlson — and highlights the only case where he makes excuses for mass shooters

MSNBC News' Ari Melber offered a critical assessment of Fox News' Tucker Carlson and his reporting on mass shootings. On Wednesday, May 18, Melber noted the "double standard" in Carlson's broadcasts when it comes to crimes committed by white suspects as opposed to crimes committed against white victims.

The portion of Melber's segment on Carlson began with a brief series of clips highlighting the conservative prime time television host's reporting on the mass shootings — beginning with the recent one in Buffalo, N.Y. that claimed the lives of 10 victims and left an additional three wounded. The shooting took place at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Reports have even offered details about the shooter's manifesto and the reasoning behind his disturbing decision to open fire on grocery shoppers.

According to HuffPost, the shooter's 180-page document, which was uploaded online, included his intent to “kill as many Blacks as possible” as he referenced the unfounded “replacement theory” that had previously been circulated by Carlson.

However, while reporting on the shooting, Carlson made it a point to stop short of defining the document as what it really is: a "manifesto." “It is not a blueprint for a new extremist political movement,” Carlson said, adding, “Because a mentally ill teenager murdered strangers, you cannot be allowed to express your political views."

Melber noted the distinct difference in Carlson's reporting on the parade attack that took place in Waukesha, Wisconsin last year. A blog post published by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) explained how that tragic event was exploited by white supremacists who used the tragedy to ”[sow] racist and antisemitic conspiracy theories.”

“Waukesha has become yet another current event, as seen through the white supremacist lens, supporting unsubstantiated but perceived claims of escalating crimes targeting white victims,” the ADL stated.

Per HuffPost, Carlson took a similar approach as he attempted to link "Black nationalism and the Black Lives Matter movement to the 'slaughter' in Wisconsin."

Conservative explains why Democrats’ 'stranglehold' on once-red California is a warning sign for Trumpified Republicans nationally

California is so dominated by the Democratic Party these days that it’s easy to forget just how Republican it once was. Before the 1990s and the Bill Clinton era, California was a red state — from San Diego to Bakersfield to Glendale and Burbank. Orange County south of Los Angeles was a hotbed of right-wing Republican politics. But the GOP lost a lot of ground in California after the 1980s, and the American Enterprise Institute’s Brent Orrell — in an essay/think piece published by the conservative website The Bulwark on May 19 — argues that former President Donald Trump and the MAGA movement are creating a California-like effect in suburban swing districts all around the United States.

Orrell opens his article by noting that the “political outlook for Democrats” looks “grim” in the 2022 midterms and that between inflation, President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings and a “sour public mood,” election forecasts are predicting a major red wave that will put Republicans back in the control of both houses of Congress. But Orrell quickly adds that the Trumpified GOP is “bent on alienating itself from the political center of the country” and that “the decline of conservative politics in the Golden State is very much the model for the decline of Republican politics nationally.”

According to Orrell, the “political tragedy of California Republicanism” serves as a warning to the GOP in suburban areas all over the U.S.

“There are still pockets of the state where the GOP is strong,” Orrell writes. “But in most heavily populated urban and suburban areas, Republicans have become a pariah party, settling for semi-permanent minority status in a state over which liberal Democrats now have basically unchallenged hegemony…. Donald Trump’s candidacy, election and presidency set off a reenactment of the slow-motion California GOP debacle at the national level.”

Thanks to the MAGA movement, Orrell stresses, the Republican Party has been alienating “moderate” suburban voters more and more. But even though Trump was voted out of office in 2020, the American Enterprise Institute senior fellow adds, his stranglehold on the GOP remains.

“The Trump presidency may have been a failure, but Trumpism has proven to have real and enduring appeal,” Orrell explains. “GOP elected officials, whatever their private doubts, have overwhelmingly acquiesced and become complicit in Trump’s 2020 election fabrications and toed the line on anti-immigration policy out of fear of facing a primary opponent endorsed by the former president. As the 2022 field of candidates comes into focus, the cost of allowing Trump’s election lies to fester is becoming clearer. In state after state and race after race, Republican primary voters are opting not just for Trump-endorsed candidates, but the Trumpiest candidates, the ones most closely tied to Trump’s Big Lie of 2020 voter fraud, whether they have Trump’s endorsement or not.”

Orrell points to far-right Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano’s victory in the 2022 Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial primary as a prime example of how extreme and Trumpified Republican primaries have become.

Orrell observes, “Mastriano is known for his frequent sharing of QAnon-related materials via Twitter and for speaking at a recent QAnon-heavy conference in Pennsylvania.... The pattern in Pennsylvania and elsewhere is clear: The GOP frontrunners or near-frontrunners are, in almost every case, not just Trump-endorsed or Trump-affiliated candidates; they are Trump-consumed candidates with bellies full of that hot, hot MAGA fire. As Steve Bannon recently noted, referring to the Pennsylvania races, the contest isn’t between old-line Republicans and MAGA candidates, ‘it’s MAGA vs. ultra-MAGA.’”

Orrell wraps up his essay/think piece by stressing that Democrats’ “stranglehold on state government” in California serves as a warning sign for the GOP nationally.

“In California, where the radicalization of the GOP has had the longest time to work its way into hearts and minds, the Republican Party has reduced itself to rump status,” Orrell writes. “Once solidly conservative congressional and state legislative districts in suburban communities along the Pacific Coast have mostly adopted various shades of blue, while Republicans have largely receded to the inland districts in the Central Valley and other more rural areas of the state…. Unless Republicans find the nerve to call a halt, they risk seeing their party’s long-term political prospects devoured by xenophobia and conspiracism.”

House votes almost unanimously to condemn antisemitism – but one Republican voted 'no'

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday in a near-unanimous vote passed a bipartisan resolution condemning antisemitism. The final tally was 420-1.

Congressman Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, was the only “no” vote, as local Kentucky news producer for Spectrum News John Park, and Punchbowl News co-founder Jake Sherman noted:

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was the sponsor of the resolution, H. Res. 1125, “Condemning rising antisemitism.”

The resolution makes noncontroversial statements like, “the Jewish-American experience is a story of faith, fortitude, and progress and is connected to key tenets of American identity,” and “antisemitism is an insidious form of prejudice stretching back millennia that attacks the humanity of the Jewish people and has led to violence, destruction of lives and communities, and genocide.”

The importance of the resolution comes after a self-avowed white supremacist and antisemite slaughtered ten Black people at a Buffalo supermarket on Saturday.

The resolution also says the House “calls on social media platforms to institute stronger and more significant efforts to measure and address online antisemitism while protecting free speech concerns,” and says it “supports the right of Americans to freely exercise their religious beliefs and rejects all forms of terror and hate.”

Congressman Massie has a disturbing relationship with the Holocaust. Last year he posted, and subsequently deleted, a vile meme equating proof of vaccination to the genocide of up to 17 million people by Hiter’s Nazis, as this tweet from a former Obama White House official shows:

Here’s Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz speaking on the resolution:

Holocaust meme-tweeting House Republican casts only 'no' vote on resolution condemning antisemitism

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday in a near-unanimous vote passed a bipartisan resolution condemning antisemitism. The final tally was 420-1.

Congressman Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, was the only “no” vote, as local Kentucky news producer for Spectrum News John Park, and Punchbowl News co-founder Jake Sherman noted:

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was the sponsor of the resolution, H. Res. 1125, “Condemning rising antisemitism.”

The resolution makes noncontroversial statements like, “the Jewish-American experience is a story of faith, fortitude, and progress and is connected to key tenets of American identity,” and “antisemitism is an insidious form of prejudice stretching back millennia that attacks the humanity of the Jewish people and has led to violence, destruction of lives and communities, and genocide.”

The importance of the resolution comes after a self-avowed white supremacist and antisemite slaughtered ten Black people at a Buffalo supermarket on Saturday.

The resolution also says the House “calls on social media platforms to institute stronger and more significant efforts to measure and address online antisemitism while protecting free speech concerns,” and says it “supports the right of Americans to freely exercise their religious beliefs and rejects all forms of terror and hate.”

Congressman Massie has a disturbing relationship with the Holocaust. Last year he posted, and subsequently deleted, a vile meme equating proof of vaccination to the genocide of up to 17 million people by Hiter’s Nazis, as this tweet from a former Obama White House official shows:

Here’s Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz speaking on the resolution: