Naomi Wolf has been promoting 'absurd' COVID-19 conspiracy theories — with the help of Fox News: report

Liberal author Naomi Wolf is well-known for her feminist commentary of the 1990s and her warnings against the Patriot Act during the Bush Administration's two terms. Recently, Wolf has been promoting COVID-19 conspiracy theories — and Media Matters' Matt Gertz reports that Fox News has been more than happy to hear them.

Gertz explains, "The feminist writer Naomi Wolf garnered fame during the 1990s for her book 'The Beauty Myth' and her work as an adviser to the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton and Al Gore. But in recent years, she's been better known for promoting an array of unhinged conspiracy theories, most recently regarding the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This combination has made her a perfect guest for Fox News."

Fox News' coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic has been dramatically different from that of MSNBC or CNN. When MSNBC and CNN, in 2020, were showing how enormous a threat COVID-19 posed, Fox News joined former President Donald Trump in downplaying the pandemic's severity.

"Fox is far more interested in turning coronavirus into a political cudgel than in giving users accurate health information," Gertz observes. "And so, the network's hosts lean on Wolf's liberal credentials while giving her a platform to claim that the Democratic response to the pandemic is aimed at dissolving society and enacting a totalitarian state comparable to Nazi Germany."

Gertz notes that Wolf has "appeared at least seven times on Fox" since mid-February to "discuss her views on the pandemic: twice apiece on 'Tucker Carlson Tonight' and 'The Revolution with Steve Hilton,' and three times on 'Fox News Primetime.'"

"It is irresponsible for a news outlet to give Wolf that sort of credulous attention," Gertz writes. "Her social media channels are littered with absurd claims about the virus and its vaccines. Between her first and second Fox appearances alone, she tweeted that a new technology allowed the delivery of 'vaccines w nanopatticles that let you travel back in time'; that the Moderna vaccine is a 'software platform' that allows 'uploads'; and that due to face masks, children now lack 'the human reflex that they when you smile at them they smile back' and have 'dark circles under (their) eyes from low oxygen."

Biden and Trump actually agree on a policy — and Lindsey Graham can't stand it

More often than not, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is likely to agree with former President Donald Trump rather than President Joe Biden. But this week, Graham vehemently disagreed with Trump for saying some nice things about Biden's decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by September 11 — which will be the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Trump planned to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 1 if he was reelected, and in an official statement, the former president criticized Biden for withdrawing four months later than he would have.

"We can and we should get out earlier," Trump said in his statement. "Nineteen years is enough. In fact, far too much and way too long."

Nonetheless, he shared Biden's basic aim. Trump wrote, "Getting out of Afghanistan is a wonderful and positive thing to do."

Graham, in an official statement of his own, slammed Trump on Monday for agreeing with Biden.

"I could not disagree more with former President Trump regarding his support for President Biden's withdrawal of all forces from Afghanistan against sound military advice," the South Carolina senator wrote. "With all due respect to President Trump, there is nothing 'wonderful' or 'positive' about allowing safe havens and sanctuary for terrorists to reemerge in Afghanistan or see Afghanistan be drawn back into another civil war."

Graham went on to say, "The intelligence regarding withdrawal is ominous for U.S. interests, and no one believes the Taliban can be trusted to police al-Qaeda and ISIS as envisioned by the Trump-Biden plan. We will see if 'General' Biden and General Trump's withdrawal strategy turns out to be sound national security policy."

Unfortunately for Graham, of the three men, all have run for president. And only Biden and Trump were elected to be commander-in-chief of the U.S. military — while the senator from South Carolina never came close.

A seedy Trump loyalist tried to stay in government under Biden -- but it didn't work

Over the weekend, the Washington Post's Ellen Nakashima reported that long-time Trump loyalist Michael Ellis had resigned from his position as top lawyer for the National Security Agency after almost three months of being "sidelined" during Joe Biden's presidency. Journalist Steve Benen, in an op-ed for MSNBC's website, lays out some reasons why Ellis' departure from the NSA is an important development and a positive thing.

"Last fall, the day after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential race, Team Trump tapped Ellis to serve as general counsel of the National Security Agency, but the news wasn't well received," Benen explains. "Gen. Paul Nakasone, the NSA's director, didn't want Ellis for that post. In response, Christopher Miller, Trump's acting defense secretary, ordered the NSA director to install the Trump loyalist as the agency's top lawyer, whether Nakasone wanted him or not."

Benen notes that after Biden was sworn into office almost three months ago, "a gradual process began in which the new administration cleaned house, at least to the extent possible" — and Nakasone placed Ellis on administration leave.

"NSA general counsel is an important job, and not a position for partisan operatives," Benen points out. "With this in mind, it didn't come as too big of a surprise when Nakasone put Ellis on administrative leave literally the same afternoon as Biden's inauguration — at which point, the NSA director no longer had to worry about Team Trump's directives."

To understand just how Trumpian Ellis' history is, one should take a look at his activities during Trump's presidency. Ellis is a major ally of GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, and he was a counsel to the House Intelligence Committee when it was still being chaired by the far-right California congressman. During the Trump era, Ellis and fellow Trump loyalist Ezra Cohen-Watnick were the two White House officials who gave Nunes intelligence reports claiming to show that former officials in ex-President Barack Obama's administration had improperly "unmasked" members of the Trump transition team in late 2016/early 2017. Sen. Richard Burr, chairing the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that the "unmasking" narrative was "all created by Devin Nunes."

Ellis' name was also heard in connection with the Ukraine scandal. Trump's first of two impeachments stemmed from a July 25, 2019 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who Trump tried to pressure into helping him dig up dirt on now-President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. And Ellis was the White House lawyer who ordered NSC officials to move the transcript of that conversation to a classified server.

Biden was the Democratic presidential hopeful Trump feared the most in 2019, and it isn't hard to understand why he dreaded the possibility of Biden receiving his party's nomination. Biden, in November 2020, defeated Trump by more than 7 million in the popular vote.

Trump was hardly the first politician to pursue opposition research on a political rival, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — when she called for Trump's impeachment in 2019 — stressed that it was wildly inappropriate for Trump to make that request from a foreign leader. And to make matters worse, Pelosi said, Trump made that opposition research a prerequisite for military aid to Ukraine.

In March 2020, Politico's Kyle Griffin reported that Ellis had been named senior intelligence director on the NSA.

Benen wraps up his op-ed by making it clear that he is glad to see Ellis resigning from his NSA position.

"There are still plenty of Trump appointees who've 'burrowed' into career civil-service positions," Benen observes, "but as of now, they won't be in the NSA's general counsel's office."

'Pot calling the kettle violent': CNN host throws Cruz's own words in his face after GOP senator feigns outrage over Maxine Waters

With the defense having rested in former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial, Rep. Maxine Waters of California was asked how "justice for George Floyd" activists will response if Chauvin is found not guilty. And the congresswoman called for a vocal response if that happens, saying, "We've got to get more confrontational. We've got to let them know that we mean business." Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was among the far-right Republicans who claimed that Waters was advocating violence — and CNN's John Berman called Cruz out and reminded viewers of the ways in which the Texas senator's false claims of widespread voter fraud encouraged the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building.

On CNN's "New Day," host Berman explained, "She didn't say what type of confrontation. Still, this is not the language that business owners in Minneapolis want to hear or that people calling for calm, including the president or the family of George Floyd (want to hear)."

But he went on to explain why Cruz is the last person who should be accusing a congresswoman of overly incendiary rhetoric.

Berman told viewers, "House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called it incitement of violence and said he will take action if Speaker Nancy Pelosi does not. But this is how Ted Cruz chose to respond in a tweet: 'Democrats actively encouraging riots and violence, they want to tear us apart.' That's Ted Cruz of the not accepting the election results before or after the insurrection Cruzes, which might lead one to wonder if this a case of the pot calling the kettle violent."

The "New Day" host went on to show a clip of former President Donald Trump giving his "Stop the Steal" speech on January 6 hours before a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol Building as well as clips of Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani using inflammatory rhetoric while promoting bogus election fraud claims. Giuliani said, "Let's have trial by combat" — and Berman pointed out that Cruz had no problem with that rhetoric.

"So, I don't recall the Republicans-encouraging-violence tweet from Ted Cruz after that," Berman told viewers before airing an inflammatory "Stop the Steal" speech from Cruz.

Berman said, "It's not like this guy is some peaceful prophet of gentility. This is the man who wants to do unspeakable things to books that say mean things about him, asking his supporters to vote on whether we machine-gun John Boehner's book, take a chainsaw to it or burn the book and light cigars. Where does that rank on the they-are-tearing-us-apart meter?"

Watch the video below:

CNN / Ted Cruz

Noam Chomsky: GOP is the ‘most dangerous organization in human history’

Although many progressives were disappointed that the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination didn't go to Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont or Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, they rallied around now-President Joe Biden when he received the nomination — arguing that having a centrist Democrat in the White House would certainly be preferable to four more years of Donald Trump. Two people on the left who had strong reservations about Biden but endorsed him anyway were author Noam Chomsky and firebrand pundit Mehdi Hasan, now with MSNBC. But when Chomsky appeared on Hasan's MSNBC show on April 18, the author told Hasan how pleasantly "surprised" he has been by Biden's presidency in terms of domestic policy.

The 92-year-old Chomsky told Hasan, "On the domestic front, I am surprised. It's better than I expected. In fact, quite reasonable, particularly considering the nature of the opposition."

The author added, however, "On foreign policy, it's pretty dangerous. (There is) a lot to be desired."

Despite his criticism of Biden from a foreign policy standpoint, Chomsky vehemently disagrees with people on the left who argue that Republicans and Democrats are equally bad. Chomsky has been highly critical of the Democratic Party over the years, but he considers them to be by far the lesser of two evils in 2021.

Hasan asked Chomsky why he considers the modern GOP "the most dangerous organization in human history" — to which the Philadelphia native, born in 1928, responded, "They're the only organization in human history that is dedicated, with passion, to ensuring that human survival, survival of organized human society, will be impossible. That's exactly their program since 2009, when they shifted to a denialist position under the impact of the Koch Brothers juggernaut."

By "denialist," Chomsky was referring specifically to climate change, telling Hasan that climate change denial has grown worse and worse in the GOP. At least Democrats, Chomsky has been stressing, have enough common sense to realize that climate change is a perilous reality.

Presidential historian lays out the reasons why George Floyd’s death sealed Trump’s fate as a one-term president

Historian Jon Meacham is great at explaining how modern events fit into the big picture and how events of the past offer insights on the present, and he did exactly that when — during an April 16 appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" — he weighed in on Derek Chauvin's trial and far-right evangelical Pat Robertson's response to it.

Chauvin is the Minneapolis police officer who has faced murder charges because of his role in the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. The defense rested its case in Chauvin's trial on April 15, and Robertson — the long-time host of "The 700 Club" and founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network — shocked viewers by being highly critical of Chauvin and citing him as a glaring example of someone who never should have been in police work. Robertson is a very divisive figure who is disliked by many liberals and progressives as well as right-wing libertarians, but his comments on Chauvin have been applauded by some of his most vehement critics.

Meacham, an Episcopalian, said of the 91-year-old Robertson, "If somebody does something right, you welcome him — and you welcome it." And Meacham stressed that the videos of Chauvin's knee on Floyd's neck were shocking even to Robertson.

Noting Robertson's influence on the Republican Party, Meacham explained, "Robertson was kind of the official embodiment of the rise of the Religious Right. I think it began with the school prayer decision in 1962. It was slow in developing. A lot of White evangelicals stayed out of politics in the mid-1960s because they were uncomfortable with civil rights, which was a space that was clearly associated with the Black church."

The historian told "Morning Joe" hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski that Floyd's death intensified a "conversation" that Americans have been having for generations — a "conversation on race" — and served as a painful reminder that "systemic racism exists" in the United States and "police reforming is necessary." And Meacham also argued that Floyd's death led to the end of Donald Trump's presidency.

A week after Floyd's death, on June 1, 2020, nonviolent protesters in Washington, D.C.'s Lafayette Square were demanding justice for him when they were violently removed by police so that Trump and his allies could walk from the White House to St. John's Episcopal Church — where Trump gave a speech and had his much maligned "Bible photo-op."

That day, Meacham argued, sealed Trump's fate in the 2020 presidential election and convinced millions of Americans and "a lot of White people" to vote against Trump and reject "a culture of White supremacy."

"The death of George Floyd, in many ways — if you look back on the year of 2020 — in a lot of ways, Lafayette Square, the events that unfolded in that terrible period really brought home to people…. that the Trump era had come to manifest many, many of our worst impulses," Meacham told Scarborough and Brzezinski. "I have a theory that in the national mind, to some extent, Joe Biden kind of became president-elect during Lafayette Square."

Morning Joe 4/16/2021 6AM | MSNBC Breaking News Today April 16, 2021

'Nightmare scenario' for democracy: 'Desperate' GOP may sink to new depths to fight election reform

While Republicans in state legislatures are proposing voter suppression bills all around the U.S., Democrats are pushing the For the People Act at the federal level — a comprehensive voting rights bill that has passed in the U.S. House of Representatives but now faces a steep uphill climb in the U.S. Senate. Democrats have a narrow majority and must contend with the filibuster for most legislation. Far-right pundits have been railing against the act, known as HR1, on conservative media outlets like Fox News, Fox Business and Newsmax, and observers warn Republicans will take extreme efforts to fight any such reforms.

Some of these tactics were highlighted in an analysis by Crooked Media's Brian Beutler and on the Democracy Docket website.

Beutler contemplates various scenarios and how they could affect voting rights if they come to pass. Some scenarios to consider, Beutler writes, include 82-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court becoming available, Democrats losing their narrow Senate majority, and the court attacking voting reforms if Democrats somehow manage to get them passed in the Senate.

"Here's a nightmare scenario I encourage everyone — but particularly, Breyer and Senate Democrats — to imagine having to endure," Beutler writes. "Through illness or untimely death, Democrats' 50-50 Senate 'majority' becomes a 49-50 Senate minority. They don't retain the seat. Joe Biden loses reelection. We're all left hoping Breyer can survive into his 90s so that the Supreme Court doesn't swing from 6-3 to 7-2. Mitch McConnell gets Charlie Kirk fitted for a robe."

He continues: "Now consider this less speculative nightmare scenario. Democrats let bygones be bygones, leave court reform out of their larger democracy-reform project, change the filibuster rules, pass both HR 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act — and the existing Supreme Court takes a hatchet to it. We should know to expect this, because Republicans declared the For the People Act 'unconstitutional' sight unseen, as a kind of bat signal to their allies on the courts to make sure democracy reform can't take effect."

Beutler adds, "We can't know in advance which provisions of these bills the Supreme Court would invalidate, but it's trivially easy to step into the shoes of conservative justices and extend the same pseudo-constitutional arguments they've used to degrade American election law over the last decade to new reforms. Campaign-finance regulations? Well, those obviously violate the 1st Amendment. Non-partisan gerrymandering? The federal government can't dictate that kind of thing to the states!"

But Democrats don't just face dangers from the right-wing Supreme Court. Republicans controlling key state legislatures, often heavily gerrymandered to protect their majorities from swings in public opinion, are actively considering how to thwart efforts to make elections fairer.

Democracy Docket, in a "legislation alert" published this week, describes Texas House Bill 4507 — which has been proposed by Republicans in the Texas House of Representatives and would "essentially create a two-tiered voter registration system, in an effort to evade federal voting rights protections that could pass into law this year."

Democracy Docket explains, "HB 4507 establishes two different registration processes: one for federal elections, which would be required to comply with national legislation such as the For the People Act — and one for state elections, which Texas Republicans claim could ignore these federal requirements. Any voter registering to vote in a federal election would not be automatically registered for local and state elections, unless they meet the much stricter and more exclusionary requirements of Texas' election code. Instead, they would have to apply and register again separately for their local elections."

On Twitter, attorney Marc E. Elias, founder of Democracy Docket, described HB 4507 as an example of "how desperate Republicans are to prevent all voters from participating in elections":

After liberal Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent tweeted Beutler's Crooked Media column, law professor and election law expert Rick Hasan noted:

GOP insider reveals the truth about 'scam' Republican fundraising

Both Republicans and Democrats can be incredibly aggressive when it comes to fundraising. But conservative pundit and former GOP insider Tim Miller, in a video that is at once comic and scathing, argues that as bad as Democratic fundraising can be, Republicans have become even "skeevier" when it comes to over-the-top fundraising pitches.

Miller — a Never Trumper who left the Republican Party because of his total disdain for former President Donald Trump and his sycophants — certainly doesn't let Democrats off the hook in his video, which appears in text form on the conservative website The Bulwark. But for all its Democrat-bashing, Miller's video bashes Republicans even more.

"The Democrats were the trailblazers on the obnoxious online fundraising," Miller says in his video. "They love bombarding supporters with pushy messages of doom: Kiss any hope, goodbye! We're desperate! Love Me! Give us money now! But during the Trump years, the corporate donations that used to fund the Republicans started to dry up. So, the GOP copied the Dem's tactics, but made it skeevier. You can always count on the Trump brand for a good scam."

Miller goes into specifics about a Trump campaign fundraising "scam," drawing on New York Times reporting about GOP donors who wanted to make a single donation but were slammed with recurring payments instead.

"When new Trump donors signed up," Miller explains in his video, "the campaign would leave a fine print disclaimer pre-checked which committed people to making that donation every month. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Trump supporters contributed money they didn't mean to. Stacey Blatt, a 63-year-old with cancer, said his utility and rent payments bounced — and he wasn't alone. Banks got so many complaints about fraudulent charges from the Trump campaign that they had to refund $122 million back to supporters after the election. 122 million!"

He continued:

Republicans in Congress saw that, and their response was, "Hold my hemlock". What they were doing was even more sus than Trump. Here's how it worked: They sent a text message asking people if they wanted to sign up for Trump's new social network. (Which, by the way, doesn't exist.) When you put in money to sign up, there were two pre-checked boxes. The first makes your contribution monthly. And it says, if you uncheck it, they'll tell Trump that you're a defector. The next doubles your contribution and says if you uncheck it that you've abandoned Trump. Getting out of this window is harder than canceling an Equinox membership.
These schemes prey on older voters, people who aren't tech savvy, and gullible Trump supporters.

The boom in small donations, Miller complains, is "empowering the most extreme politicians in both parties, but especially on the right."

"After the insurrection," Miller observes, "insane Congresswoman Marjorie 'QAnon' Greene and pro-coup Sen. Josh Hawley raised $3 million from small dollar donors, setting a record."

One of the problems with Democratic small-dollar fundraising, Miller argues, is that liberal donors are being given false hope in deep-red states.

"On the left, it's resulting in viral candidates, with no hope of winning, taking money that could be better used elsewhere," Miller argues. "Last cycle, Amy McGrath and Jamie Harrison raised $200 million, half the GDP of Micronesia. And they both got crushed! They used cherry-picked polling to lure in liberals who were salivating at the possibility of beating Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, even though it was never gonna happen."

Watch the video below:

Not My Party Episode 209 | WE'RE DOOMED send us money

How the far right is plotting to kill voting rights ‘behind the scenes’: journalist

With Republicans in state legislatures all over the U.S. pushing voter suppression bills, Democrats are offering an antidote at the federal level: House Resolution 1, a.k.a. the For the People Act — a voting rights bill that was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in early March but now faces a steep uphill climb in the U.S. Senate, where Democrats have a razor-thin majority. Journalist Luke Savage, in an article published by the democratic socialist website Jacobin on April 14, takes a look at right-wing groups that are trying to kill HR 1.

Savage notes that HR 1 "would establish automatic national voter registration, expand mail-in voting, create independent redistricting commissions for House districts to crack down on gerrymandering, and introduce measures designed to limit the influence of dark money."

"HR 1 would, in short, make elections freer, fairer, and more transparent," Savage explains. "It should come as no surprise, then, that it's been greeted by strong opposition from Republicans, who've been engaged in a wider offensive against civil and voting rights for decades. What's novel in this case, however, is that we now actually have a glimpse into what this campaign looks like behind the scenes — and how nakedly explicit its antidemocratic aims really are."

The "behind the scenes" part is important. Some far-right Republicans are openly railing against HR 1 — for example, Savage notes, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has publicly slammed HR 1 as "a brazen and shameless power grab by Democrats." But behind closed doors, as Savage points out, the campaign against HR 1 has been heating up. Savage cites reporting by The New Yorker's Jane Mayer, who obtained a recording of a private January 8 conference in which right-wing strategists and operatives discussed ways to combat HR 1. One of the participants was Kyle McKenzie, research director for the Koch Industries-associated group Stand Together.

"Taken as a whole, nothing revealed in Mayer's reporting is perhaps all that surprising given the right's longstanding — and transparently partisan — opposition to voting rights and fairer elections," Savage observes. "Nevertheless, it's nothing short of extraordinary to hear the billionaire-backed Republican opposition to democracy expressed in such blandly explicit terms. If voters from across the political spectrum hear a neutral description of HR 1, as McKenzie explains in tones of barely concealed disappointment, Republicans will lose."

Elections, as countless political strategists have emphasized, are all about turnout. In Western Europe, younger people are more likely to vote consistently than their U.S. counterparts — which is one of the things that gives liberals and progressives a greater advantage in that part of the world than they have in the United States. But in 2020, the U.S. had huge voter turnout. And that type of turnout frightens the GOP, which has been pandering to a shrinking base (older White voters and Christian fundamentalist evangelicals in red states) more and more.

Savage says of the January 8 conversation, "All in all, it's perhaps the most lucid exposition we've heard in recent years of something many already knew: that the political power and long-term durability of the Republican Party ultimately depend on the restriction of democracy and the protection of minority rule."

Viewers stunned as Fox News host praises Biden for 'iconic' speech

Fox News' Harris Faulker is great at reciting GOP talking points, like so many of her colleagues. But on Tuesday, the conservative cable news host had something surprisingly nice to say about President Joe Biden — who she praised as "iconic" after he gave a speech in memory of Billy Evans, the Capitol Police officer killed during the April 2 attack in Washington, D.C.

Faukner told viewers, "We have just watched the president of the United States give his words, kindness and empathy like he does so well. He's iconic at it. He is so present and so kind."

The Fox News host added, "He was speaking to the family of Officer Billy Evans and to (his) children to think ahead. In the future, those words will come into focus for them."

Faulkner's words come as a surprise in light of how much Biden is vilified by far-right Fox News pundits such as Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. But then, not every conservative at Fox News has been consistently hostile to Biden. Fox News' Chris Wallace has interviewed Biden and members of his administration — including White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki — on his show, asking them tough questions but maintaining a polite, respectful tone.

Twitter has been full of reactions to Faulkner's comments. Here are some of them:

Republicans learned an extremely dangerous lesson from the 2020 election -- according to this conservative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of Arizona's kookiest pro-QAnon ‘Stop the Steal’ wingnuts wants to be secretary of state

Arizona State Rep. Mark Finchem will not be mistaken for a Never Trump conservative anytime soon. The far-right Republican conspiracy theorist, who comes from the Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene/Rep. Lauren Boebert school of extremism, has voiced his support for QAnon, praised the Oath Keepers, promoted former President Donald Trump's bogus election fraud lies and falsely claimed that antifa attacked the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6. And now, Finchem is running for Arizona secretary of state — which, journalist Cameron Joseph stresses in an article published by Vice on April 12, would put him in charge of elections in the Grand Canyon State.

"Some Republicans worry that Finchem could be a force to contend with in primary, given how virulently pro-Trump much of the GOP base is in the state," Joseph observes. "And Democrats are terrified at the prospect of Finchem in charge of Arizona's election system heading into 2024 — when the state could once again be at the epicenter of the presidential map."

One of the Arizona Democrats who is sounding the alarm about Finchem is Bonnie Heidler, who chairs the Pima County Democratic Part. Heidler told Vice, "I'm totally freaked out that he's running. He cannot hold that position. If he does, democracy is completely out of the question."

Heidler is right to be concerned given Finchem's history. After now-President Joe Biden defeated Trump in the 2020 presidential election, Finchem joined Trump in promoting the false claim that the election had been stolen from him because of widespread voter fraud — and he claimed that Trump really won Arizona. Finchem, like Trump, was furious when Gov. Doug Ducey, a conservative Republican, certified Biden's Electoral College victory in the state.

On his website, Finchem claims, "Since my very first election, I knew something was very wrong with our elections process. Then on November 3rd, 2020, the unthinkable happened: Americans witnessed real-time reallocation of votes from one candidate to another, broadcast on national television."

Such claims have been totally debunked by cybersecurity experts for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, but that hasn't prevented Finchem from promoting them. And on January 6 — before the storming of the U.S. Capitol Building — he was in Washington, D.C. for Trump's Stop the Steal Rally.

During a March 4 appearance on Victory News — a Christian Right outlet — Finchem pushed the QAnon conspiracy theory, saying, "They're finding so many kids. We've got a serious problem in this nation. And that's one of the things that disturbs me so much about our current congressional state of affairs. There's a lot of people involved in a pedophile network and the distribution of children, and that makes me absolutely sick. And unfortunately, there's a whole lot of elected officials that are involved in that."

In order to become Arizona's secretary of state, Finchem would have to win the GOP primary, followed by the general election. A Republican strategist in Arizona told Vice that a Democrat will easily win the general election if Finchem is the nominee — saying, "If he wins the primary, we're done."

But Democrat Tony Cani, who worked on Biden's 2020 campaign in Arizona and is now working on an effort to get Finchem thrown out of the Arizona House of Representatives, told Vice, "I think that he is a legitimate threat to not only win the nomination, but to ride a wave of lies and conspiracy theories into office. Elections in Arizona are a wild card, and we have a history of people with extreme views navigating their way into office."

Director Antoine Fuqua, Will Smith move major production out of Georgia to protest 'regressive' voter suppression law

Director Antoine Fuqua was planning to film his movie "Emancipation" — which stars Will Smith and is about a runaway slave who fled Louisiana during the Civil War — in Georgia. But in light of the GOP-sponsored voter suppression law that Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp recently signed into law, Fuqua and Smith have decided to move the production out of Georgia and film "Emancipation" somewhere else.

Georgia's voter suppression law makes voting more difficult in a variety of ways, from reducing absentee voting to limiting access to ballot drop boxes to making it a crime to give food or water to someone waiting in line to vote.

Variety's Brent Lang reports that in a joint statement, Fuqua and Smith explained, "At this moment in time, the nation is coming to terms with its history and is attempting to eliminate vestiges of institutional racism to achieve true racial justice. We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access. The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting. Regrettably, we feel compelled to move our film production work from Georgia to another state."

Fuqua and Smith aren't the only ones in the business world who are speaking out against Georgia's new voter suppression law, the so-called Election Integrity Act of 2021. Major Georgia-based companies like Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola have condemned the law, and Major-League Baseball expressed its opposition to the law by deciding to move its 2021 All-Star Game from Georgia to Colorado.

The 52-year-old Smith rose to prominence during the 1980s as half of the Philadelphia-based hip-hop duo, D.J. Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince. Like fellow rappers Ice-T, Ice Cube and Queen Latifah, Smith successfully made the transition from rapping to acting.

Fuqua, the nephew of singer/producer Harvey Fuqua — who founded the famous doowop group the Moonglows — is known for films that include "Tears of the Sun," "The Equalizer," "Brooklyn's Finest" and a remake of the western "The Magnificent Seven."

"Emancipation" was scheduled to begin filming in Georgia on June 21. It remains to be seen where Fuqua and Smith will move the production.

'Repugnant ': GOP's Josh Hawley slammed as he tries to play the victim in the wake of his attack on democracy

During a Thursday-night appearance on Fox News this week, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri railed against the "woke corporations" that have been speaking out against Georgia's new voter suppression law. Georgia-based companies like Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola have been among the law's outspoken opponents, and Major League Baseball has decided to move its 2021 All-Star Game from Georgia to Colorado because of the law — all of which infuriates Hawley. Liberal Washington Post opinion writer Greg Sargent is vehemently critical of Hawley's comments in his Friday column, stressing that although the far-right Republican senator promotes himself as a populist, there is nothing populist about voter suppression.

On Fox News, the far-right Hawley complained, "What's happening in Georgia is what they tried to do to those of us who stood up for election integrity back in January. Anyone who has said that our elections need to be free, they need to be fair, we need to consider election reform — they try to cancel you. And now, the woke corporations are trying to do the same thing to Georgia. And they're going to try to do it to anybody, any state, any person who stands up for election integrity."

Hawley was trying to paint himself as a victim. But as Sargent points out, the far-right Missouri senator was being very anti-democracy when he refused to honor the results of the 2020 presidential election — and he is being just as anti-democracy now by supporting voter suppression in Georgia.

"Hawley is referencing his lead role in the campaign to subvert President Biden's electors in Congress," Sargent explains. "Hawley has insisted he was merely 'representing' constituents concerned about the 2020 election. In fact, he actually misled them with extraordinary cynicism, by sustaining the deception that the outcome was questionable and might be reversed."

Sargent continues, "After those lies inspired the violent assault on the Capitol, Hawley took scalding criticism, which he has now tossed into the right-wing media victimization machine — magically converting it into an effort to 'cancel' him. But this really shows how repugnant this current crusade really is."

The columnist goes on to slam Hawley and other Republicans for speaking of "election integrity" when their real goal is suppressing Democratic voters.

"Republicans are justifying their voter suppression efforts everywhere with this Orwellian 'election integrity' phrase," Sargent observes. "But far from seeking 'free' and 'fair' elections, as Hawley says, they're designed to place hurdles in the way of voting, based on the ubiquitous claim that GOP voters need 'confidence' restored — which is disingenuous nonsense."

Conservatives are attacking Biden’s economic agenda as ‘socialism’ — just as they did with FDR and LBJ: journalist

Conservative economist Michael R. Strain, director of economic policy for the American Enterprise Institute, has been critical of President Joe Biden's expanded child tax credit — which he believes "has the potential to" negatively "change the relationship between the citizen and the state." And other conservative economists share Strain's viewpoint. But liberal journalist Jonathan Chait, in an article published by New York Magazine on April 9, lays out some reasons why expanding the child tax credit to the American middle class is good policy on Biden's part — noting that conservatives have a long history of attacking social programs as a move in the direction of socialism.

"Biden's child tax credit expansion is mainly designed as an anti-poverty program," Chait explains. "So, why does so much of it — more than three-fifths — go to households that are not in poverty? The answer is that giving money exclusively to poor families is a design choice that creates problems of its own."

Chait continues, "One is political: Programs with narrow, politically disempowered constituencies are easy to cut, and Republicans have long focused their welfare state rollbacks on programs targeted to the poor. The second is economic. If you create a benefit that only poor people can receive, then by definition, you have to remove that benefit as they become non-poor. This creates a work disincentive: People who earn more money are punished by having their benefits taken away."

The journalist notes that "Biden's child tax credit plan does phase out, but only by extending the phaseout well into the comfortable middle-class income range." And Strain, Chait points out, "frets that giving middle-class people regular checks will broaden their expectations of government."

Chait notes that conservatives have long claimed that any liberal efforts to expand the United States' social safety net — whether it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal during the 1930s or Medicare and Medicaid under President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society during the 1960s — represented "an unstoppable slide down an icy slope toward socialism." But the U.S., Chait stresses, has a "meager" social safety net compared to other major developed countries.

"The slippery slope critique of any welfare-state expansion relieves conservatives of any obligation to debate the merits of a specific program," Chait observes. "Their target is not just Biden's child tax credit or (former President Barack) Obama's health-care reforms, it is all the other programs that will inevitably follow."

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