Allan Lichtman has a track record of accurately predicting presidential elections, and is generally an astute observer of the American political scene. So I paid attention when Lichtman, a political science professor at American University, told me it would be disastrous for President Biden to go war against Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and the other centrist Democrats jamming him up in Congress.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Lichtman was fully aware that progressives were eager to purge obstructionist Democrats, or at least punish them somehow for constricting or defeating Biden's legislative agenda. I had already spoken to a historian — Harvey J. Kaye, the editor of "FDR on Democracy" — who pithily summed up the logic behind that point of view.
"Look, there's two choices," Kaye said. "For the sake of the future, he should literally go after them, period." His "them" clearly referred to Manchin and Sinema. "But for the sake of democracy in the near term, what happens if the Republicans win?" Kaye added that he could not understand "why Biden hasn't called Manchin" and the others and told them that their political survival depended on toeing the line.
In my conversation with Lichtman, he quoted humorist Will Rogers' famous quip: "I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat. Kaye said basically the same thing. I reached out to both of them Salon about the most conspicuous example of a president turning against legislators from his own party: Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempt to purge right-wing Democrats in the 1938 midterm elections. My primary question was about what lessons Biden could learn from that moment, given that his own presidency may go down in flames because of intransigent "moderate" Democrats.
FDR certainly wasn't the first Democratic president to turn against members of his own party. In 1918, Woodrow Wilson campaigned against five Southern legislators who opposed his World War I policies, and only all one of them actually defeated his Wilson-backed challenger. But that was a different era, when the Democratic Party's chaos led to an ideological vacuum. Instead of trying to fill that vacuum, Wilson weeded out politicians who opposed him on a specific set of policies that were widely supported by both parties. So there's no clear parallel to Biden in 2021.
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Roosevelt's situation was at least somewhat similar. He explicitly wanted the 1938 midterm elections to realign the Democratic Party in a more liberal direction. Speaking to the nation in a "Fireside Chat" on June 24, Roosevelt characterized the coming primaries as containing "many clashes between two schools of thought, generally classified as liberal and conservative." Liberals recognized "that the new conditions throughout the world call for new remedies," he said, while conservatives do not "recognize the need for government itself to step in and take action to meet these new problems." Concerned that obstructionist members of Congress might roll back his achievements in creating unemployment insurance, old age pensions, anti-monopoly measures and regulation of the financial industry, Roosevelt accused them of wanting a return "to the kind of government that we had in the 1920s." He didn't need to remind his listeners that those policies had plunged America into the Great Depression. As he saw it, Democrats needed to rid themselves of the conservatives who hindering his vision before they destroyed his new liberal coalition.
Well: It didn't work. FDR targeted Rep. John J. O'Connor of New York, then chairman of the House Rules Committee, along with 10 Democratic senators, and only O'Connor was defeated in a primary. This was more than an immediate political setback for Roosevelt, although it definitely counted as that. (Democrats lost seven seats in the Senate and 72 in the House, although they started out with such a huge margin they still retained control of Congress.) But in a way, his desire to realign American politics along more ideological lines worked. Right-wing Democrats from the South realized they had common cause with conservative Republicans from the Midwest, and their "conservative coalition" controlled Congress for a generation, shaping national policy regardless of which party officially had a majority. If anything, Roosevelt weakened the liberal cause rather than strengthening it. His only consolation was that many of the policies he was worried would get targeted wound up staying intact.
While the parallels between Roosevelt's predicament and Biden's are inexact, they are similar in the big ways that count. Biden's critics on the left want him to wage political war against the likes of Manchin, Sinema, and Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, middle-path Democrats who appear willing to sacrifice his entire agenda in the interest of "bipartisanship." It sounds like strength. It almost certainly would not work.
As Kaye pointed out, Biden simply doesn't have the votes that FDR did, either in Congress or the nation at large. Roosevelt was a deeply beloved figure who had won re-election in 1936 in what at the time was the biggest electoral landslide in history. Biden, although he won decisively in 2020, has a narrower mandate. Lichtman noted that attacking moderate Democrats would imperil the Senate, where even one lost seat would swing the 50-50 body to the Republicans. If Democrats wanted a coalition large enough to render the "centrists" irrelevant, they would need to turn out in larger numbers and elect more Democrats to Congress and local offices. That hasn't happened, and at this moment Biden's legislative coalition is not large enough, nor is his popular support deep enough, even to contemplate Roosevelt's strategy — which, again, did not even work out for the most popular president of the 20th century.
The underlying problem, perhaps, is that the Democratic Party, in its current form, is fundamentally incompetent. Salon executive editor Andrew O'Hehir addressed this a recent article about Democrats' failure to eliminate the filibuster and protect voting rights.
This isn't a nice thing to say about a bunch of mostly sane and approximately reasonable people, but here's the truth: If you set out to design a left-center political party that was fated to surrender, little by little, to authoritarianism — because of circumstances beyond its control, because of internal indecision and ideological fuzziness, because it faced an entrenched and deranged opposition party, because of whatever — you could hardly do better than the current version of the Democratic Party.
This isn't just about Kyrsten Sinema flipping on prescription drug prices right after taking large campaign donations from Big Pharma. Democrats seem incapable of addressing the fundamental problems with our economy and lacks the internal cohesion to stand up to Republicans who are using Trump's Big Lie about the 2020 presidential election to erode or eliminate democracy. Those issues can't be corrected by defeating Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema — which is also probably impossible and likely undesirable. The Democratic Party's best hope is to make itself relevant and vital again, which is a much larger problem.
Late Saturday, the editors of the conservative Wall Street Journal slammed the Republican Party for continuing to indulge former president Donald Trump in his attempts to contest an election that is over ten months old, with the Journal using the Arizona audit results as a prime example of wastefulness and futility.
On Friday it was revealed that multi-million dollar audit by an outside group called Cyber Ninjas not only found no evidence of voter fraud -- but instead found that President Joe Biden won the state by even more votes.
According to the WSJ's editorial board, enough is enough.
Under a scathing headline that read: "Trump loses Arizona -- Again," the editors wrote, "Former President Trump claims Arizona's ballot audit found 'massive fraud,' yet the new recount says he actually lost the state by 360 more votes than originally reported. He is now demanding an audit of the 2020 election in . . . Texas, which he won by nearly six points. When are Republicans going to quit playing this game?"
"True to his nature, Mr. Trump is claiming vindication based on the audit's analysis of voter files. As the biggest example, he says Arizona's results include "23,344 mail-in ballots, despite the person no longer living at that address. Phantom voters!" No. Did he read the report?" they continued.
After breaking down the particulars from the Cyber Ninjas report -- while also noting that it is littered with errors, sloppy accounting and unfounded suppositions -- the editors dropped the hammer on the Republican Party as a whole and said it was time to get back to doing the people's business and stop catering to the former president.
"The GOP should quit chasing him down rabbit holes. Mr. Trump lost last year by 74 electoral votes, so even flipping Arizona would have left him two states short. He can't admit to his fans that he lost, since it would undermine his rally attendance, fundraising and teasers about 2024," they wrote before adding, "Democrats this coming week are going to try to pass $2.1 trillion in new taxes and $5 trillion in spending, the greatest expansion of government entitlements since LBJ, or maybe FDR. Where's a Republican leader who wants to pick up the party's mantle and talk about that?"
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QAnon attorney Lin Wood accused of trying to abscond with settlement money in battle with former law partners: report
According to a report from the Daily Beat's Will Sommers, controversial attorney Lin Wood could be in more legal hot water after emails he hid from a judge reportedly reveal he was plotting to abscond with settlement money he had previously planned to share with his former law partners.
Wood, who has been most notable recently for his involvement with the QAnon conspiracy movement which believes -- among other things-- that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump, was also at the center of lawsuits filed against CNN and the Washington Post by former Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann received that resulted in out of court settlements.
That money is now at the center of a dispute between Woods and his former law partners, Nicole Wade, Jonathan Grunberg, and Taylor Wilson, reports Sommer.
Wood "quit his practice in 2020 after a series of bizarre incidents involving Wood, including an alleged assault on one of the lawyers. For his part, while Wood concedes he described the lawyers as his 'partners,' he says they were never truly partners in his firm," the Beast report reveals with Sommer adding, "As part of the firm's break-up, Wood agreed in a March 2020 agreement to pay his ex-partners an undisclosed amount of what he would receive from Sandmann's settlements. But now, the plaintiffs in the case say Wood was already scheming behind the scenes to dupe them out of the settlement money."
The report goes on to state that Wood sent out an email to another attorney who worked on the Sandmann case, "...to sign an agreement that would take advantage of a Georgia legal rule about payments by objecting to the three other lawyers receiving any money from the Sandmann cases," with Wood reportedly writing, "In short, I need your help and the help of [Disputed Client] to nip this nonsense in the bud quickly and quietly… Will you help me?"
"In July 2020, when Wood was due to hand over the agreed share of the Sandmann money to his ex-partners, he instead insisted that he couldn't give them any money because the unnamed client had objected to anyone besides Wood receiving money. Wood would later claim that he had no role in the client's decision not to share the funds—an allegation undermined by his own emails, according to his ex-partners," the Beast is reporting. "Complicating Wood's position in the case, his ex-partners say he didn't hand over the emails during discovery, the process in which opposing sides exchange relevant documents in a case. Instead, they say Wood concealed the emails' existence, lying under oath that he had provided them with all of the documents they asked for."
Pressed by the Beast over the accusation, the attorney "called the accusations that he had lied to a judge about the alleged existence of the scheme and the emails 'provably false,' and went on to accuse the Beast report of being part of "'Operation Mockingbird,' a conspiracy theory popular with QAnon believers that holds that the CIA controls media outlets."
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