Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Trumpublican stench in Maricopa's 'audit'

About that pile of bat guano steaming away in Maricopa county …

Charlie Sykes, editor of The Bulwark, thinks that Maricopa is Our Future. Think of it as a rehearsal for 2024.

Following are excerpts.

Even by the standards of crazy set by the Arizona GOP, the bizarre audit of voting in Maricopa County is bat guano with hair on it. Cyber Ninjas, searches for bamboo…

And it is apparently too much for the Republicans who actually run elections there. Yesterday, they had enough.

The Republican-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Monday denounced an ongoing audit of the 2020 election vote as a “sham” and a “con,” calling on the GOP-led state Senate to end the controversial recount that has been championed by former president Donald Trump.

In a fiery public meeting and subsequent letter to state Senate President Karen Fann, the board members said the audit has been inept, promoted falsehoods and defamed the public servants who ran the fall election.

Calling the process a “spectacle that is harming all of us,” the five members of the board — including four Republicans — asked the state Senate to recognize that it is essential to call off the audit, which officials have said is only about one-quarter complete.

“It is time to make a choice to defend the Constitution and the Republic,” they wrote. “We stand united together to defend the Constitution and the Republic in our opposition to the Big Lie. We ask everyone to join us in standing for the truth,” they added, using a term that refers to the false claim that the election was stolen.

There are two ways to look at this: (1) it’s good that responsible Republicans are pushing back; but (2) they are a small minority in the Trumpian GOP and what is happening in Maricopa County is a foreshadowing of what our future looks like.

A new CBS poll underlines (again) why there will be no bursts of rationality or principle in the GOP. “Eighty percent of Republicans who’d heard about the vote agree with [Liz] Cheney’s removal — they feel she was off-message, unsupportive of Mr. Trump, and that she’s wrong about the 2020 presidential election.”

The base (overwhelmingly) wants other Republicans to model themselves on Trump in multiple ways …

Exit take: the next time round, the GOP base will not just tolerate a Trumpian attempt to overturn an election — they will DEMAND it.

Following is the tweet of Stephanie Ruhle’s interview with Sykes in which he makes the case for (1) no chance of salvaging the GOP, and, therefore, (2) anti-Trumpers should leave the party.

Friday, May 14, 2021

'Elise Stefanik in new GOP role promises 'Yes, Daddy' ...

… but what the hey. Any of the House Trumpublicans could have filled that role. Stefanik just bows and scrapes a bit more. It’s the stuff made for satire.

New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz has two commentaries about the elevation of Elise Stefanik to a Republican House leadership position.

Stefanik Solemnly Swears to Defend Trump from Constitution
Elise Stefanik Replaces Ivanka as Trump’s Daughter

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) — In a solemn swearing in as the new House Republican Conference chair, Representative Elise Stefanik vowed to defend Donald J. Trump from the United States Constitution.

With House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy officiating, Stefanik raised her right hand and rested her left on a first edition of “The Art of the Deal.”

"I, Elise Stefanik, do solemnly swear to preserve, protect, and defend Donald J. Trump from the Constitution of the United States,” she recited.

Stefanik became emotional as she finished the oath, in which she promised to defend Trump “from all enemies, foreign and domestic—but especially from that jerk Liz Cheney.”

Perhaps that’s why Trump has taken on Stefanik as an Ivanka replacement.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) — Consolidating her position as America’s foremost Trump loyalist, Representative Elise Stefanik stunned political insiders on Wednesday by replacing Ivanka Trump as one of the former President’s daughters.

According to those familiar with the shakeup, Donald Trump made the move after Stefanik spent months convincing him that she was substantially more loyal than his now former daughter.

In an official statement from Mar-a-Lago, Trump wished Ivanka well, adding, “She had a good run.”

Stefanik, who is running to replace Representative Liz Cheney as chair of the House Republican Conference, put to rest any doubt that she could handle that job while fulfilling her responsibilities as Trump’s daughter.

“They’re basically the same job,” she said. “I just have to say ‘Yes, Daddy.’ ”

Charlie Sykes makes the case for vaccinations and vaccination passports.

Regarding what would get vaccine deniers to do the right thing, in today’s Bulwark Charlie Sykes admits that “We should not have to use gimmicks like lotteries to induce people to do the right thing. But we should continue to use whatever works. Think of it as a stimulus program for people who are bad at math.”

[But] Polls suggest that bribes work:

Nearly 3 in 5 Unvaccinated Adults Say a Big Financial Incentive Would Sway Them to Get a COVID–19 Shot.

Then bring the stick; require proof of vaccination for adults. The more businesses, venues, sports teams, offices, stores, and airlines require vaccine passports, the faster we will get our lives back. The passports provide reassurance, while creating a powerful incentive because they are the tickets to our hot summer of liberation.

And, no, passports are not an assault on our freedom. Until about five minutes ago, it was a principle universally acknowledged that the right to swing your fist stops at another person’s nose.

As Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law, wrote last year: “With coronavirus, your freedom stops when it endangers others….”

Not getting jabbed is a choice. But choices have consequences; and the rest of us are free to shun those who make stupid and dangerous choices that put us at risk.

In the 1905 case, Jacobson vs. Massachusetts, the United States Supreme Court upheld mandatory smallpox vaccinations, ruling that: “Upon the principle of self-defense, of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.”

As Chemerinsky noted: “The court explicitly rejected the claim that ‘liberty’ under the Constitution includes the right of individuals to make decisions about their own health in instances where those decisions could endanger others.”

But this may be beside the point, because COVID vaccine passports are most likely to be required by non-governmental entities, exercising their own constitutionally protected rights.

Naturally, any such requirement will spark fustian and outrage from the anti-vaxxer right. Proof of vaccination, they will insist, is the mark of the beast, or at least incipient tyranny.

But (as I have written previously), wait until they hear about driver’s licenses, photo IDs to vote, Social Security cards, TSA screening, employer drug tests, birth certificates, proofs of residence and citizenship, real passports, and the certificates of vaccination we ALREADY require.

Via Kate Brannen, here’s a list of the required vaccinations children in Florida must have to attend school.

In case you are wondering: “The Form DH 680, Florida Certification of Immunization, must be used to document receipt of immunizations required for entry and attendance in Florida schools, childcare facilities, and family daycare homes.”

Bring it on.

Heritage Foundation issues marching orders to state legislators

In the May 13, 2021 edition of Letters from An American, Heather Cox Richardson reports on how the Heritage Foundation gets Republican state legislatures to think and act with one voice.

[…] the real blockbuster political story of the day came in the form of a video obtained by Mother Jones and written about in a detailed article there by Ari Berman and Nick Surgey. The leaked video shows Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America—the political arm of the right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank—explaining to big-money donors that Heritage Action has worked closely with Republican state legislators to enact voter suppression laws. “In some cases, we actually draft them for them,” she said, “or we have a sentinel on our behalf give them the model legislation so it has that grassroots, from-the-bottom-up type of vibe.”

The story is not entirely new. Heritage (as it is known) published a report last February outlining “best practices” for voting, many of which are in the new bills coming out of Republican-dominated state legislatures. And in a March article for the New York Times, Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein outlined the role of Heritage Action in Georgia’s and Arizona’s voting restrictions, noting that at least 23 of the proposed state bills that dealt with voting had language that looked like that of Heritage. They also wrote that Heritage plans to spend $24 million to change voting laws in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Texas, and Wisconsin before the 2022 election, and that the person behind the Heritage voting policies is Hans von Spakovsky, who mainstreamed the idea of voter fraud in the Republican Party, although experts agree it is vanishingly rare.

What is new and dramatic about the video is seeing Anderson make her pitch to donors for a coordinated right-wing effort to take the vote away from their opponents. She talks of working with similar groups: “We literally give marching orders for the week ahead,” Anderson said. “All so we’re singing from the same song sheet of the goals for that week and where the state bills are across the country.”

Heritage Action is fighting hard against the Democrats’ For the People Act, which would protect the right to vote, end partisan gerrymandering, and limit money in politics. Heritage summarized the bill, which it called the “Corrupt Politicians Act,” in a short sheet for lawmakers. Anderson explained: “We’ve made sure that every single member of Congress knows just how bad the bill is…. Then we’ve made sure there’s an echo chamber of support around these senators driven by your Heritage Action activists and sentinels across the country where we’ve driven hundreds of thousands of calls, emails, place[d] letters to the editor, hosted events, and run television and digital ads.”

Democrats cannot pass the For the People Act through the Senate without buy-in from all 50 of their senators, and Surgey noted that in March, Heritage Action and similar groups bussed protesters to West Virginia from other states for a big rally at the capitol to pressure Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.

The “grassroots” protest against “voter fraud” is, in fact, conceived, funded, and organized by one of the most powerful elite political organizations in the country.

Manchin has suggested he will not support the For the People Act without Republican support, so yesterday, he suggested a different way to address the recent voter suppression measures. Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, states and local governments that had a history of racist election laws had to get clearance from federal officials before they put new election rules in place. The Supreme Court gutted that rule in 2013 with the Shelby County v. Holder decision (which is why all these new laws are going into the books). Manchin called for restoring the old system of preclearance, but applying it to all states and territories, not just the nine to which it had previously applied, thus taking away the Supreme Court’s objection that it singled out certain states.

Manchin’s workaround wouldn’t deal with gerrymandering or big money, but it would certainly be a start toward leveling the electoral playing field, and historically, support for the Voting Rights Act was bipartisan. No longer. Almost immediately, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) shot Manchin’s plan down.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Trump, the 'failed blogger'.

[Hot video ad slamming Trumpublicans for their facistical leanings.

MSNBC’s Ari Melber Comes Up With Damning New Way To Describe Donald Trump. It involves Trump’s blog.

Trump is now just a “failed blogger,” Melber said, commenting on House Republicans’ vote to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from GOP leadership for her failure to embrace Trump’s election lies.

Cheney’s purge was “all to appease one blogger in Florida,” “The Beat” anchor added.

"Today is important and will actually be marked in the history books as a measurable turning point for this troubled party,” warned Melber.

“It’s about the Florida blogger,” he continued. “It’s about his ego, his need to dominate ― even out of office ― and the deceitful vanity of getting millions and millions of people to pretend you won because you can’t handle being the loser of the 2020 race. Because that’s what you are, whether you have a new blog or not.”

“Now if it all sounds a little pathetic, it is.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Cheney ousted by Trumpublicans

Breaking: House Republicans oust a defiant Liz Cheney for her repudiation of Trump’s election lies. NYTimes reports.

Today might be the day our Democratic system dies. And there is no getting it back.

Writing in the NY Times, Thomas L. Friedman reveals The Trump G.O.P.’s Plot Against Liz Cheney — and Our Democracy.

(With thanks to Scriber’s Editor-at-Large sherry.)


I didn’t want to write again about the House Republicans ousting Liz Cheney from their leadership for calling out Donald Trump’s Big Lie. I was going to make this my week for happy news. But to write about anything else on the verge of Trump’s G.O.P. moving to formally freeze out Cheney would be like writing a column about the weather the day after Watergate exploded or about Ford Theater’s architecture after Lincoln was shot. This is a big moment in American history.

One of America’s two major parties is about to make embracing a huge lie about the integrity of our elections — the core engine of our democracy — a litmus test for leadership in that party, if not future candidacy at the local, state and national levels.

In effect, the Trump G.O.P. has declared that winning the next elections for the House, Senate and presidency is so crucial — and Trump’s ability to energize its base so irreplaceable — that it justifies both accepting his Big Lie about the 2020 election and leveraging that lie to impose new voter-suppression laws and changes in the rules of who can certify elections in order to lock in minority rule for Republicans if need be.

It is hard to accept that this is happening in today’s America, but it is.

If House Republicans follow through on their plan to replace Cheney, it will not constitute the end of American democracy as we’ve known it, but there is a real possibility we’ll look back on May 12, 2021, as the beginning of the end — unless enough principled Republicans can be persuaded to engineer an immediate, radical course correction in their party.

If someone tried a dishonest power play at the P.T.A. of your child’s school like the one in the House, you’d be on the phone in a flash, organizing the other parents to immediately denounce and stop it. If you read about something like this happening in another pillar of democracy, like Britain or France, you’d be sick to your stomach and feel like the world was a little less safe. If you heard that a banana republic dictator had forced such a Big Lie on his sham parliament, you’d want to picket his embassy in Washington.

But this is us — today, right now. And I fear that we’ve so defined down political deviance in the Trump years that we’ve lost the appropriate, drop-everything, Defcon 1, man-the-battle-stations sense of alarm that should greet the G.O.P. crossing such a redline.

“It just bothers me that you have to swear fealty to the ‘Dear Leader’ or you get kicked out of the party,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a moderate Republican, said Sunday on “Meet the Press.” “It just doesn’t make any sense.”

But it doesn’t end there. We’re witnessing a daylight mugging of our democracy — and I am not talking only about the voter-suppression measures being passed by Republican-controlled legislatures in swing states.

There are also the new laws to enable Republican legislatures to legally manipulate the administration and counting of the votes in their states. Election expert Rick Hasen explained it all in an essay in this newspaper last month: “At stake is something I never expected to worry about in the United States: the integrity of the vote count. The danger of manipulated election results looms.”

We’re talking about new regulations like the Georgia law that removed the secretary of state from decision-making power on the State Election Board, clearly aimed to curb the powers of the current secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, after he rejected Trump’s request that he “find” 11,780 votes to undo Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia. We’re talking about Arizona’s Republican-led State Senate hiring a company owned by an advocate of the “Stop the Steal” movement to examine the November ballots from Maricopa County. And much more.

According to a new report by Protect Democracy, Law Forward and the States United Democracy Center, “Across the country, state legislators are proposing bills that would give partisan state legislators greater control over elections while hamstringing experienced state and local election administrators who have traditionally run our voting systems. …

“Many of the bills would make elections more difficult to administer or even unworkable; make it more difficult to finalize election results; allow for election interference and manipulation by hyperpartisan actors; and, in the worst cases, allow state legislatures to overturn the will of the voters and precipitate a democracy crisis.”

Had these bills been in place in 2020, it added, “they would have … raised the prospect that the outcome of the election would have been contrary to the popular vote.”

As Stanford University democracy expert Larry Diamond summed it all up to me, while we’re focusing on Liz Cheney and the 2020 elections, Trump’s minions at the state level “are focused on giving themselves the power to legally get away with in 2024 what the courts would not let them get away with in 2020.”

You tell me how American democracy will ever be the same again and how these people can be trusted to cede power the next time they win the White House.

And while you’re at it, tell me how America can ever again be a credible observer and upholder of democratic elections around the world — so vital to our national security and the hopes and dreams of democrats in all these countries who look to America as a beacon of democracy and the rule of law. The next time we want to question election results in Russia or Iran or Poland or Hungary, what do you suppose their elected autocrats will say?

They’ll say: “Listen to you? Your Republican Party turned a blind eye to a guy who told the biggest election lie in the history of the Milky Way Galaxy. And it wasn’t even in the service of some urgent, compelling policy. It was just so he could stay in power, salve his ego and deny he lost.”

So, thank you, Liz Cheney, for doing something vitally important and clarifying — something that only a conservative Republican like you could do: force the G.O.P. at every level to choose whether to stand with Trump and his Big Lie or with the Constitution and the most important conservative principle of all — reverence for the rule of law.

Because, if Trump and friends are not stopped, one day they will get where they are going: They will lock in minority rule in America. And when that happens, both Democrats and principled Republicans will take to the streets, and you can call it whatever you like, but it is going to feel like a new civil war.

I don’t use that term lightly or accidentally. We are all the product of our life experiences, and my first reporting experience was living inside the Lebanese civil war in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

I saw close up what happens when democratically elected politicians think that they can endlessly abuse their institutions, cross redlines, weaken their judiciary and buy reporters and television stations — so that there is no truth, only versions, of every story. And they think that they can do it endlessly — cheat just one more time, break one more rule, buy one more vote — and the system will hold until they can take it over and own it for their own purposes.

Then one day — and you never see it coming — the whole system breaks down. Whatever frayed bonds of truth and trust that were holding it together completely unravel.

And then it’s gone. And there is no getting it back.