The GOP's new insidious invention: Election police

Republicans have been committing election fraud right out in the open since 1964 and covering it up by yelling about “voter fraud.”

Remember the hours-long lines to vote we’ve seen on TV ever since the 60s in minority neighborhoods? Those are no accident: they’re part of a larger election fraud program the GOP has used to suppress the vote for sixty years now.

This election year Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is raising the stakes: he’s planning to put together a force of “election police” under his personal command to travel the state intimidating voters while pretending to look for “voter fraud.”

As The Washington Post reports:

DeSantis is asking the GOP-controlled legislature to allocate nearly $6 million to hire 52 people to ‘investigate, detect, apprehend, and arrest anyone for an alleged violation’ of election laws. They would be stationed at unspecified ‘field offices throughout the state’ and act on tips from ‘government officials or any other person.’

Meanwhile, the GOP in Texas is quietly recruiting 10,000 white volunteers “courageous” enough to go into Black and Hispanic polling places and confront people trying to vote. As Jessica Corbett reported for Common Dreams:

Common Cause Texas on Thursday shared a leaked video of a Harris County GOP official discussing plans to ‘build an army’ of 10,000 election workers and poll watchers, including some who ‘will have the confidence and courage’ to go into Black and Brown communities to address alleged voter fraud that analyses show does not actually exist.

These efforts to intimidate voters are part of a much larger Republican campaign of widespread and systemic election fraud that the party has been running since the days of Barry Goldwater. Democrats need to start calling it that.

Individual “voter fraud” doesn’t affect elections in modern America. Every election year we hear about a handful of people busted for trying to vote twice or in the name of a deceased relative, but it’s so rare it has absolutely no impact on elections and hasn’t at any point in my 70 years on this planet.

Voter fraud, in other words, isn’t real. But election fraud is very much real and alive, and that’s exactly what DeSantis and the Texas GOP are proposing, right out in the open.

This has a long history, stretching back to the era when the Republican Party first began trying to cater to the white racist vote.

In 1964, Senator Barry Goldwater — who was running for President on the Republican ticket — openly opposed the Civil Rights and the Voting Rights Acts that President Lyndon Johnson was then pushing through Congress.

At the time:

  • 35.5 percent of the citizens of Mississippi were Black but only 4.3 percent were able to register to vote.
  • Alabama was 26% Black: 7% could vote.
  • South Carolina was nearly one-third Black (29.2%) but only 9% of that state’s African Americans could successfully register to vote.
  • Alabama was 26% Black but the white power structure made sure only 7% could vote.

These were not accidents: from poll taxes to jellybean counting to constitution-interpreting requirements, most Southern states had erected massive barriers to Black people voting.

These elections where only white people were allowed to vote in large numbers were fraudulent elections.

After all, isn’t it a fraud to say that a “free and fair” election was held when, in fact, large numbers of people who legally qualified and wanted to vote weren’t allowed their voice?

How can that not be a fraudulent election?

And back in 1964, Goldwater and the Republicans wanted to keep it that way.

But as the issue of voting rights was showing up on the nightly news and people were marching across the country for their right to vote, Republicans on Goldwater’s team realized they needed a justification for the status quo.

So they came up with a story that they started selling in the 1964 election through op-eds, in speeches, and on the news. This story was simple:

There was massive “voter fraud” going on, where mostly Black people are voting more than once in different polling places and doing so under different names, often, as Donald Trump recently said, “by the busload” after Sunday church services. In addition, the Republican story went, “illegal aliens” living in the United States were voting in the millions.

None of it was true, but it became the foundation of a nationwide voter suppression campaign that the GOP continues to promote to this day.

A campaign of actual “election fraud” based on the lie of “voter fraud.”

William Rehnquist, for example, was a 40-year-old Arizona lawyer and Republican activist in 1964, when his idol, Barry Goldwater, ran against Lyndon Johnson for president.

Rehnquist helped organize a program called Operation Eagle Eye in his state to challenge the vote of every Hispanic and Black voter and to dramatically slow down the voting lines in communities of color to discourage people who had to get back to work from waiting what would become hours in line to vote.

As Democratic poll watcher Lito Pena observed at the time, Rehnquist showed up at a southern Phoenix polling place to do his part in Operation Eagle Eye:

“He knew the law and applied it with the precision of a swordsman,” Pena told a reporter. “He sat at the table at the Bethune School, a polling place brimming with black citizens, and quizzed voters ad nauseam about where they were from, how long they’d lived there—every question in the book. A passage of the Constitution was read and people … were ordered to interpret it to prove they had the language skills to vote.”

Rehnquist was richly rewarded for his activism; he quickly rose through the GOP ranks to being appointed by President Nixon, in 1972, to the US Supreme Court, and was elevated in 1986 by President Reagan to Chief Justice, a position he used to stop the Florida State Supreme Court-mandated vote recount in 2000, handing the White House to George W. Bush.

(Interestingly, two then-little-known lawyers who worked with the Bush legal team to argue before Rehnquist that the Florida recount should be stopped were John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh. Bush rewarded Roberts by putting him on the Court as Chief Justice when Rehnquist died. Roberts was also the tie-breaking vote to allow Ohio to continue its voter purges in 2017, and he wrote the 5–4 decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013.)

Rehnquist’s Arizona arm of Operation Eagle Eye was one of hundreds of such formal and informal Republican voter suppression operations that exploded across the United States that year. As The New York Times noted on October 30, 1964:

“Republican officials have begun a massive campaign to prevent vote fraud in the election next Tuesday, a move that has caused Democrats to cry ‘fraud.’

“The Republican plan, Operation Eagle Eye, is designed, according to party officials, to prevent Democrats from ‘stealing’ the 1964 election. Republicans charge that the election was stolen in 1960.

“The Democratic National Chairman, John M. Bailey, has criticized the Republican plan as ‘a program of voter intimidation.’ He has sent a protest to all 50 state Governors and has alerted Democratic party officials throughout the country to be on their guard.

“’There is no doubt in my mind,’ Mr. Bailey wrote the state chairmen yesterday, ‘that this program is a serious threat to democracy as well as to a Democratic victory on Nov. 3rd.’”

Republican positions both then and now are not generally popular. Who’d vote, after all, for more tax cuts for billionaires, more pollution, banking deregulation, gutting Medicare, privatizing Social Security, shipping jobs overseas, keeping drug prices high, and preventing workers from forming unions?

The GOP’s sweet spot, however, is scaring white people about “crime” by minorities, particularly African Americans and Hispanics. Which is why Donald Trump told Congress that “three to five million fraudulent” votes were cast in the 2016 election for Hillary Clinton.

And when they can’t clamp down enough on ID laws or close enough polling places in Black neighborhoods, they fall back on “election police,” the 2022 version of Operation Eagle Eye.

As the conservative Town Hall site notes about the special election just held in Virginia that saw that state’s governor’s office flip to a Republican:

“Not only did the RNC indeed have ‘a robust poll watching operation,’ involving 50 election integrity trainings with over 3,200 attendees, but such an operation produced results. In the 37 [many minority] target Virginia counties, poll watchers covered 100 percent of polling locations, the November memo confirmed.”

This is one dimension of a much larger, nationwide campaign of Republican voter suppression election fraud, using the phony excuse of trying to stop “voter fraud.”

They’ve already started, in numerous states, seizing control of election systems in minority neighborhoods, aggressively purging voter lists, outlawing mail-in voting or making it far more difficult, and closing polling places by the hundreds.

This year, and particularly in 2024, they’re reviving Operation Eagle Eye to have armed militia volunteers and “election police“ confront people in their own neighborhoods on election day, all in a craven attempt to discourage minority voting.

Now that neither the Supreme Court nor Congress are willing to stop them, we must, like Paul Revere, awaken the American people to this long-term strategy that’s worked so well for the GOP since 1964, usually producing widespread disenfranchisement and hours-long lines to vote in minority neighborhoods.

The struggle for democracy in our republic is far from over, and the next battlefield will be the election this November. Republicans are doubling down on every tool they’ve ever used to suppress the vote.

Spread the word.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Will Congress use its unused 232-year-old power — just in time to save our republic?

The founders of this nation, and the framers who wrote our Constitution, created (as Ben Franklin famously said) a constitutional republic: a government "deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed" through citizens' (then white men) right to vote.

They referred to this as "republicanism" because it was based on the Greek and Roman republics (then thousands of years in the past but still remembered and idealized), and when put into law they called it "a Republican Form of Government."

Today that form of government is in crisis in America, as that core right to vote that defines republicanism is under attack by Republican legislators in red states across our nation.

"In emergency, break glass" is the almost-never-used option available should a building catch fire or otherwise be in crisis. There's a similar alarm and safety valve built into the U.S. Constitution that, like that glass in so many buildings, has never before been used to protect our republic.

It's called the Guarantee Clause, and it's the basis of the Right to Vote Act that has passed the House and is stalled by a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

The Guarantee Clause, however, has never been used as a part of our everyday politics or law: Most people, in fact, have never heard of it.

It's never been used or adopted as law by the courts so it's essentially "potential power," a powerful but tightly coiled force quietly waiting for a real emergency, buried deep in our Constitution for 232 years.

But it comes alive when Congress activates it for the first time, which could be right now because the Freedom to Vote Act does just that, explicitly firing it up by name.

Joe Manchin is one of its co-sponsors, although it's mostly an effort by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (its main sponsor), Tim Kaine, Angus King, Jeff Merkley, Alex Padilla, Jon Tester and Raphael Warnock. On the Republican side, it appears to have support from Alaska's Lisa Murkowski.

And when you understand the background of the Guarantee Clause, the urgency and the consistency of the Right to Vote Act with the framers' vision about the possibility of this political moment is unmistakable:

July 18, 1787

It was a brutally hot summer in Philadelphia that year, and a week and a day after a mob chased down Mrs. Korbmacher on the streets outside Independence Hall (then the seat of the Pennsylvania legislature) and beat her to death for witchcraft.

Inside the hall, the delegates were writing the Constitution for a new nation, and the question had come up whether the new U.S. government should have the power — or the obligation — to "guarantee" that no state could so change its laws as to deprive its citizens of a "Republican Form of Government."

This was particularly important, as British law at the time specifically outlawed republicanism: only monarchy was allowed, and citizens had to swear fealty to the king. Nowhere in the "civilized world" of 1787, in fact, was it legal for a nation to elect their own representatives and live under their own laws, all made and enforced "by the consent of the governed" through "a Republican Form of Government."

At the end of the long, intense day, James Madison wrote a short letter to Thomas Jefferson, who was then the U.S. envoy to France and living in Paris, assuring him he was taking "lengthy notes" but couldn't fill his mentor in on the details because he was "still under the mortification of being restrained from disclosing any part of their proceedings."

In fact, those notes taken during the Convention wouldn't see publication for another roughly 50 years, after all the men in the hall were dead, a concession to numerous delegates who'd essentially sold out their wealthy acquaintances by ensuring a republican democracy or allowing slavery to continue (there were compromises on both sides, some of which, like the Electoral College and setup of the two-votes-only-regardless-of-population Senate, cripple us to this day).

Before them for debate that day was proposed constitutional language: "That a republican constitution and its existing laws ought to be guarantied to each state by the United States."

An immediate objection came up from both New York's Gouverneur Morris and New Jersey's William Houston, because that language would allow the new states to keep laws that some delegates thought weren't "republican" in nature.

Morris, in particular, was an outspoken abolitionist and (from the left) wanted slavery phased out, and also opposed (from the right) laws like the one Rhode Island's legislature was then debating that would have equalized all wealth in that state every 13 years. That "Jubilee" idea was a prescription for chaos, Morris believed, and thus a threat to the new republic.

The judgment of history weighed on Morris. Madison later recounted that, "He came here as a representative of America; he flattered himself he came here in some degree as a Representative of the whole human race; for the whole human race will be affected by the proceedings of this Convention."

Thus it was no surprise when Morris rose to object that the proposed language could keep terrible state laws in place.

"Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS thought the resolution very objectionable," Madison wrote. "He should be very unwilling that such laws as exist in Rhode Island should be guarantied."

New Jersey's William Houston, a mathematics professor and abolitionist who served as a captain in Washington's army, concurred — although he was more concerned with not wanting to encourage laws that maintained slavery and debt peonage.

"Mr. HOUSTON," Madison noted, "was afraid of perpetuating the existing constitutions of the states. That of Georgia was a very bad one, and he hoped would be revised and amended."

At which point several men rose to point out they were debating the power of the federal government to "guarantee a Republican Form of Government" to all the states — but what if power-hungry people in a particular state were to rise up in rebellion and seize control of that state's government, thus ending statewide republicanism and creating a minor dictatorship or cult?

And then, what if that state then threatened other states' ability to have a government reflecting the will of the people?

Or tried to take them over either by corrupting them from within or invasion? (This was not an idle fear: Both happened just 74 years later, in 1861.)

Massachusetts' Nathaniel Gorham was particularly outspoken about this, given that there had been attempts by both rich landowners and Pilgrim clergy in his state over the past century to turn the state into a dictatorial theocracy (leading Roger Williams to flee and split off Rhode Island in the 1670s).

If such a thing were to happen again and succeed, Gorham wondered, shouldn't the federal government have the power to intervene so it could guarantee the states around Massachusetts and its residents a republican form of government, where those with political power had to answer to "the people" rather than just the clergy or the rich? What if a wealthy oligarch declared himself a monarch?

"Mr. GORHAM thought it strange that a rebellion should be known to exist in the empire," Madison wrote, "and the general government should be restrained from interposing to subdue it. At this rate, an enterprising citizen might erect the standard of monarchy in a particular state; might gather together partisans from all quarters; might extend his views from state to state, and threaten to establish a tyranny over the whole, — and the general government be compelled to remain an inactive witness of its own destruction."

In response, Pennsylvania's James Wilson, a scholar of Greek democracy and an abolitionist, suggested different language for the fourth section of the Constitution's fourth article:

"[T]hat a republican form of government shall be guarantied to each state; and that each state shall be protected against foreign and domestic violence."

That did the trick.

"This seeming to be well received," Madison noted, "Mr. MADISON and Mr. RANDOLPH withdrew their propositions, and, on the question for agreeing to Mr. Wilson's motion, it passed." The convention then adjourned for the day and Madison went home to write his letter to Jefferson.

That day's debate is what gave us Section 4 of Article IV of the Constitution:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.

It's an amazing sentence, that could be as sweeping in its power as the Commerce Clause (which John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson used to force integration of the South), but has never really been used in any meaningful way since it was written on that hot summer day in 1787.

The first time this "Guarantee Clause" came before the Supreme Court, slavery was the law of the land and Chief Justice Roger Taney, a former slaveholder, was determined to keep it that way by bottling up that clause's power.

Seven years before he tried to cement slavery into the law of every state in the union with his Dred Scott decision, Taney ruled in Luther v. Borden (1849) that his Supreme Court would never be allowed to interfere with states' rights on the basis of the Guarantee Clause.

"Under this article of the Constitution," Taney wrote, "it rests with Congress to decide what government is the established one in a state."

In other words, Taney said: The definition of what a "Republican Form of Government" actually means isn't yet laid out in the law or previous interpretations of the Constitution: Therefore, it's politics. And politics is the province of Congress, not the Supreme Court, which must limit itself to law.

On that foundation, later Supreme Courts repeated Taney's assertion that the question was political and not one to be decided by the courts: Instead, it was up to the politicians in Congress if they were going to "guarantee a Republican Form of Government" to — or within — any particular state at any point in the future.

Taney was quoted "lucidly and cogently" in Pacific States Telephone & Telegraph v. Oregon (1912) and Chief Justice John Roberts noted in 2019, "This Court has several times concluded that the Guarantee Clause does not provide the basis for a justiciable claim."

Thus, to this day, it's up to Congress, not the court, to decide what a "Republican Form of Government" is and how Congress will guarantee it to and/or within every state.

Which brings us to today, and how Congress can end partisan gerrymanders, dial back the power of money in politics and guarantee the right of every American citizen to vote without undue difficulty.

The opening of the Freedom to Vote Act lays it out clearly:

Congress also finds that it has both the authority and responsibility, as the legislative body for the United States, to fulfill the promise of article IV, section 4, of the Constitution, which states: "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a 'Republican Form of Government.'"

The proposed law even notes as justification for its existence how the Supreme Court has dropped — or laid down — the ball and therefore Congress must pick it up:

Congress finds that its authority and responsibility to enforce the Guarantee Clause is clear given that Federal courts have not enforced this clause because they understood that its enforcement is committed to Congress by the Constitution.

The Freedom to Vote Act ensures a "Republican Form of Government" in America through the following reforms:

  • Automatic voter registration and online registration for 16-year-olds who will be 18 and thus eligible to vote in the next election
  • Same day voter registration nationwide
  • Ending partisan gerrymandering
  • Limiting campaign contributions to a maximum of $10,000
  • Criminalizing "pass through" groups to get around campaign finance laws
  • Requiring companies to fully and rapidly disclose all election spending over $10,000
  • Requring all websites (like Facebook) with more than 50 million users to create a publicly available and publicly searchable archive of political ads
  • Bringing web-based election expenditures under the same disclosure rules as TV
  • Making it a federal crime to prevent a person from registering to vote
  • Requiring 14 consecutive days for early voting, at least 10 hours each day
  • Requiring easy access to polling places for rural and college campus voters, and easy access to voting for all voters by public transportation
  • Guaranteeing that all voters, nationwide, can vote by mail with no excuses necessary
  • Guaranteeing that all voters can put themselves on a permanent vote-by-mail list and automatically receive a ballot in the mail
  • Requiring states to give voters the ability to track their mail-in ballots to be sure they're counted or to contest any challenge to their ballot
  • Forbidding states from forcing mail-in voters to have their ballots witnessed, notarized or jump through other onerous hoops
  • Requiring secured and clearly labeled ballot drop boxes in all jurisdictions
  • Requiring the Post Office to process all ballots on the day they're dropped off and without postage
  • Requiring states to keep voting lines shorter than 30 minutes in all cases and places
  • Allowing people waiting in line to vote to receive food or water from others
  • Restoring the right to vote to all felons who have served their sentences, in all states
  • Prohibiting voter "caging," where failure to return a postcard gets you purged
  • Prohibiting states from deleting voters from the rolls because they haven't recently voted
  • Empowering voters to sue in federal court any state or local officials who interfere with their right to vote
  • Criminalizing intimidating, threatening or coercing any election official or election worker
  • Requiring federal prosecution of anybody who tries to harm or undermine public officials by doxxing the personal information of an election worker or their immediate family
  • Making it a federal crime to publish or distribute false information about elections (when, where, etc.)
  • Increasing federal penalties for voter intimidation or otherwise interfering with your absolute right to vote
  • Keeping partisan "poll watchers" at least eight feet from voters in all circumstances, including while voting
  • Requiring paper ballots in all cases and all elections (there are exceptions for disabled voters)
  • Requiring post-election audits
  • Providing criminal penalties for any candidate or campaign that fails to fully and immediately report any interactions with foreign governments
  • Giving lower-income individuals $25 they can use to give to candidates in $5 or more increments

  • The Freedom to Vote Act is more urgently needed with every passing day, as multiple Republican-controlled states openly (and ironically) tear down actual "republican principles" of representative government by continuing to pass laws that pre-rig election outcomes.
    Some have even gone so far as to introduce laws that authorize their legislatures to ignore or reject votes they don't like, in anticipation of the 2024 election.
    IN OTHER NEWS: Morning Joe explains why Trump is suddenly changing his tune on getting vaccinated

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The hidden shamanic history of Santa Claus

It’s Christmas Eve, a connection to some of the most ancient of all known northern European shamanic traditions. Like people living in the north for millennia, we continue to embrace them with regional, national, and religious tweaks.

This article was originally published at The Hartmann Report

It occurs during the week of the shortest day and longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere, when ancient holy men and women lit “yule logs” to push back the darkness and bring back the light of summer.

As Henry Bourne wrote in 1725:

“For as both December and January were called Guili or Yule, upon Account of the Sun’s Returning, and the Increase of the Days; so, I am apt to believe, the Log has had the Name of the Yule-Log, from its being burnt as an Emblem of the returning Sun, and the Increase of its Light and Heat.”

When Louise and I lived in Germany, Herr Mueller led us up a mountainside deep into the Franconian forest on this night where they had covered a pine tree with candles: we sang carols and he read aloud a bible verse. He later told me that in ancient times the shamans would set the tallest tree afire to re-ignite the sun and bring back longer days.

Arctic shamans, around this time of the year, would leave batches of dried amanita mushrooms out in the snow for the hungry reindeer, then follow them as they danced and played, gathering the fresh yellow snow to make into a holiday grog.For millennia across the European arctic circle around the North Pole, from Scandinavia through Siberia, indigenous shamans sought out red-and-white mushrooms (amanita muscaria) and dried them in socks hanging from their fireplaces.

The mushrooms contain a powerful psychedelic, Muscimol, but are also laced with compounds poisonous to humans. Reindeer, however, love to eat these mushrooms and, when they do, they behave oddly, as if their names were Dancer and Prancer.

Their reindeer livers metabolize and thus neutralize the compounds that poison humans, but leave the psychedelic Muscimol largely untouched. Thus, reindeer urine on fresh snow is powerfully psychedelic.

This was also the time of the year that the father of gods in Norse religion, the long-white-bearded Odin, would ride his eight-legged horse Sleipnir (“sleigh-nir”), bringing good people small gifts made by “Odin’s men” in Asgard, his arctic retreat. The story seems to have morphed as it traveled out of Norway from men to elves, and from eight legs to eight reindeer.

Shamans and their communities would light their pine trees with candles, put the north star (the axis around which the world revolves) atop their trees, and consume their yellow-snow drinks on the darkest nights.Odin controlled the powers of Thunder and Lightning, “Donner” and “Blitzen” in ancient Norse and today’s Germanic and Scandinavian languages.

The reindeer’s favorite food, the amanita mushrooms, look like the shamans dressed, red with white trim and white spots. They’re rotund: you could call them “chubby.”

They grow under pine trees because their mycorrhizae or fungal filaments that extend underground transport minerals from the soil into the roots of the pine trees, who return the favor by transporting carbohydrates from year-round photosynthesis in their needles back down through their roots into the mycorrhizae to nourish the mushrooms.

Amanitas are only found under pine and spruce trees because of this symbiotic relationship that keeps them both healthy. And to this day pine and spruce are pretty much the only trees we use to decorate our homes this time of year.

While Christmas Eve was the darkest of times in the north, it also held the greatest promise.

Thus, could use the powers of spirit and nature to fly into the sky to visit the spirit world and resurrect the longer and warmer days for their people, along with spiritual illumination, healing, and the renewal of life.

Several of our modern religions, including Judaism and Christianity, hold this renewal of life at the core of their winter solstice holy days.

During these short, dark days and long nights let’s remember this ancient knowledge that illumination always follows darkness, and that with love and compassion we will re-light our nation and lives.

Merry Christmas and warmest regards for whatever holidays you and yours may celebrate (or not) during this holy and transformational season.

May all your dreams and good work be realized as our sun’s eternal energy returns to full life in our part of Earth this coming New Year…

Why the media needs a true reckoning about serving the public good

Donald Trump — the most corrupt president in our history — is getting better press right now (and has for 6 years) than Joe Biden, who is working to restore democracy and sanity to our country. Where the hell did this come from?

The fact is that our media, particularly our broadcast media, is a business that profits when its viewership and listenership goes up. And Donald Trump, who NBC paid millions to train as a reality TV star, is walking, talking clickbait.

As the former head of CBS, Les Moonves, noted back in early 2016:

“I’ve never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going. … It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

The good news is that some in the media are waking up to how destructive the “if it bleeds, it leads,” and “eyeballs are all that matters” mentality driving this kind of cynical and profit-making-but-destructive coverage.

Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, Eric Boehlert who publishes his Press Run newsletter at PressRun.media, and Brian Stelter on CNN who does a must-watch Sunday show called Reliable Sources have all called out mainstream media for the way they’ve cut Trump slack while panning Biden. And keeping a close eye on the daily lies and misleading coverage over at Fox “News” is Media Matters for America.

But it’s just a beginning: our media industry needs a true reckoning about their role in serving the public good, instead of just exploiting and profiting from people’s need for news by goosing the coverage to make it more sensational and “sticky.”

When I first started in the news business as the morning anchor and State Capitol reporter for WITL in Lansing, Michigan back in the late 1960s the biggest lesson my then-boss Bob Brakeman taught me was to “stick to the facts.”

I was an antiwar and civil rights SDS activist who’d cut his hair and gotten a real job in radio while trying to build an herbal tea business during the rest of my day. I wanted to filter every story through my own lived experience.

Bob made it clear to me that if the day ever came when I had my very own radio show I’d be welcome to do that, but as long as I worked for him I was going to report on the actual facts and let listeners draw their own conclusions.

Of course, we were then operating under the Fairness Doctrine, so there was a certain imperative to actually inform people without prejudice or bias, but that’s still the way the media is supposed to work today.

Opinion columnists like the three mentioned above and opinion radio/TV shows like mine are expected to offer a perspective, but publications and networks that claim they report “news” have an obligation to tell a straight story without spin.

Instead, as Milbank, Boehlert and Stelter have all been at pains to point out, our mainstream media has often been reporting on President Biden and Vice President Harris through a “failure” filter, in marked contrast to how the same outlets treated “successful” Trump as recently as a year ago.

As Milbank notes in the Post:

“Trump got roughly twice as much coverage in 2020 as Biden has received in 2021. And the coverage of Biden is noticeably more negative than the tone of news coverage overall. Predictably, Breitbart and the New York Post are among the most negative outlets, but even liberal ones such as HuffPost and Salon have been negative.”

Boehlert sums it up brilliantly at PressRun:

“Despite the loud claims from journalists that news outlets were tough on Trump for four years, it’s not true. (See: Here, here, here, and here.) On the flip side, scribes reject the claim that they’ve been overly harsh covering Biden in recent months, but they have been. (See: Here, here, here, and here.) …
“Today, Trump and his followers are using lawsuits, legislation, and terroristic threats to curtail the right to vote. And Biden is getting worse treatment than Trump?”

And Brian Stelter regularly points out problematic press bias on his Sunday show and his articles published on the CNN website.

At any other time in American history, this would be a largely academic discussion.

But today, with Donald Trump and the Trump faction within the GOP (now nearly the entire party) openly working to subvert our democracy, Americans must have access to accurate news and information without spin.

Trash-talking Biden or wondering if Harris is afraid of bluetooth (she’s not: it’s a security risk) may increase the profits of news-reporting companies and websites, but they’re biasing the American electorate in ways that may well guarantee Republican victories in the next two elections and an autocratic takeover of our nation.

Joe Biden has, in less than a year, revived the economy, overseen the creation of millions more (and better) jobs than Trump and George W. Bush combined over 12 years, and saved hundreds of thousands of lives in the midst of the worst pandemic since the Spanish Flu.

These are dangerous times, and news organizations putting profits over democracy is a sure path to America ending up like Hungary with a corrupt, strongman “conservative” running the country for his oligarch buddies while crushing dissent, targeting minorities, and shutting down anything resembling a free press.

On radio and TV we used to have pretty strict standards for the news because of the Fairness Doctrine’s requirement to “program in the public interest”: stations and networks that promoted clickbait and BS would lose their licenses.

The same FCC rules forbade media monopolies and required local ownership: every radio and TV station in Lansing that I worked at in the 1960s and early 1970s was locally owned, as was the Lansing newspaper; now none are.

Those requirements for “local ownership” and “programming in the public interest” for electronic media established a baseline or standard for journalism which print media usually followed as well, segregating out tabloids like The National Inquirer and The New York Post in a way everybody recognized as pseudo-news or entertainment.

Reagan ended FCC enforcement of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 and Obama removed it from the FCC code altogether. The rules forbidding cross-ownership and corporate accumulation of radio, TV and newspapers were blown up when Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Within a year of that terrible legislation, giant corporations acquired thousands of radio and TV stations, and newspapers became just another commodity that corporate raiders could suck dry.

Congress needs to take a close look at today’s “news” situation and consider at least bringing back requirements for local ownership of over-the-air media and newspapers, and ownership disclosure for web-based “news” sites.

Next up on GOP’s agenda: Stripping women of political and economic power

In about six months, women in thirty Republican-controlled states will probably lose their right to get an abortion.

The Supreme Court and the Constitution don't “grant” or “give” Americans rights: they recognize rights and define the extent to which they can be infringed upon by our government, theoretically balancing private rights against the public good.

This article was originally published at The Hartmann Report

That said, the Court can take away rights, although throughout their 240+ year history they've only done it in a big way once: in 1896 with their Plessy v Ferguson decision that, until they reversed it in 1954 in Brown v Board, took away the freedom and voting rights of African Americans for half a century.

In the case of Roe v Wade, the Court ruled in 1973 that women have both the 14th Amendment “liberty” right to control their own bodies and the 4th Amendment “privacy” right to keep it between themselves and their physicians.

Now, in a repeat of Plessy, it appears the Court is preparing to take away a constitutional right, this one being the right of women to autonomy over their own bodies.

But that’s just the first of a series of ideas Republicans have to regulate women’s behavior and roll back the clock to the early 1960s when women couldn’t get a credit card without their father’s or husband’s permission, had no legal right to birth control in some states, and faced fully legal discrimination in housing, education and employment.

Next up on the GOP’s agenda to strip women of political and economic power will be banning most forms of birth control used today, including birth control pills and the IUD.

Step one is to hyper-regulate “morning after pills.”

While Texas’s 100% GOP SB8 law that puts $10,000 bounties on friends of women who get abortions receives all the attention, that same week the Texas legislature passed SB4.

This particularly insidious law makes it a crime for women to be prescribed abortion-inducing Mifeprex (works up to 70 days after the last menstrual period), Cytotec (works up to the 13th week of pregnancy) and methotrexate (works up to the 9th week of pregnancy) any later than three weeks after missing a period.

The law specifically criminalizes physicians and healthcare institutions who prescribe or provide these drugs outside of that parameter. When reporter Lauren Windsor asked Texas Governor Greg Abbott straight up if he’d be able to ban birth all control pills in Texas he suggested it was still possible.

Which, of course, is step two in the GOP’s War on Women.

Republicans — most famously Rick Santorum — have run for president saying that states have the right to ban birth control pills, and multiple states are pushing so-called “personhood” bills that specify that human life begins at the moment of fertilization in the fallopian tubes.

“Personhood” bills that would define any birth control method that prevents the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall — which includes IUDs and all birth control pills — have passed at least one legislative branch in Montana, Kansas, Virginia, Tennessee, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Mississippi and been introduced by Republicans in Ohio, Georgia, Maine, Texas, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Iowa and in the US Congress.

The Personhood Alliance has affiliates all across the country, and a huge network of activists: once Roe v Wade is dead next summer, expect an explosion of activity in this next level of the GOP’s War on Women. Many Catholic leaders and multiple hard-right white evangelical denominations are on board as well.

There’s a long history here. Among the earliest laws of the American Colonies were those putting power over women into the hands of men, as I documented in my book Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became “People” And How You Can Fight Back:

  • A married woman was not allowed to make out a will; she was not allowed to own land or legally control anything else worthy of willing to another person.
  • Any property she brought into the marriage became her husband’s at the moment of marriage, and would only revert to her if he died and she did not remarry.
  • But even then, she’d only get one-third of her husband’s property, and what third that was and how she could use it were determined by a court-appointed male executor, who would supervise for the rest of her life (or until she remarried) how she used the third of her husband’s estate she “inherited.”
  • When a widow died, the executor would either take the property for himself or else decide to whom it would pass: the woman had no say in the matter, because she had no right to sign a will.
  • Women could not sue in a court of law, except by the weak procedures allowed to the mentally ill and children, supervised by men.
  • If the man of a family household died, the executor would decide who would raise the wife’s children, and in what religion: she had no right to make those decisions and no say in such matters.
  • If the woman was poor, it was a virtual certainty that her children would be taken from her.
  • It was impossible in the new United States of America for a married woman to have legal responsibility for her children, control of her own property, buy or sell land, or even obtain an ordinary license.

And, as today’s “personhood” advocates will enthusiastically tell you, the roots of this situation are not recent:

  • Pandora opened a box and humanity suffered; Eve ate the apple and her god has been angry with humans ever since.
  • St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians, “wives be subject to your husbands,” a single phrase that became the foundation of British and American law for centuries.
  • In the 4th century, St. Jerome, one of the most influential patriarchs of the early Roman Catholic Church wrote, “Woman is the gate of the devil, the path of wickedness, the sting of the serpent, in a word a perilous object.”
  • Almost a thousand years later, Thomas Aquinas wrote that woman was “created to be man’s helpmeet, but her unique role is in conception…since for other purposes men would better be assisted by other men.”

Next summer it’s safe to assume women will lose abortion rights in at last half of American states. If the personhood advocates in the GOP have their way, that could soon expand to birth control pills and extend across the entire nation.

And now the GOP’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice is on its way. It’s not as if we weren’t warned:

  • During Mike Pence’s first year as governor of Indiana, his state put a young woman in prison for having a miscarriage, alleging that she’d taken an abortion-causing drug. Purvi Patel didn’t have a trace of such a drug in her system, but Pence’s state sentenced her to 20 years in prison anyway.
  • Just a few years earlier, Indiana had also held Bei Bei Shuai for 435 days in the brutal maximum security Marion County prison, facing 45 years to life for trying to kill herself and, in the process, causing the death of her 33-week fetus.
  • Utah charged 28-year-old Melissa Ann Rowland with murder because she refused a C-section, preferring vaginal birth for her twins, and one of them died.
  • Sixteen-year-old Rennie Gibbs was charged by the state of Mississippi with “depraved heart murder” when her baby was born dead because his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck: her crime was that she had cocaine in her bloodstream, according to prosecutors.
  • Angela Carder was ordered to have a C-section to deliver her baby before she died of cancer; both she and the baby died from the procedure.

These cases have exploded in recent years, as the GOP and the nation’s law enforcement system have embraced the American “Christian” version of Sharia law which dictates that women are the property of men and their principal purpose for existence is reproduction.

According to Duke University’s Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, there were 413 documented—and probably thousands of lesser-known—cases of women being prosecuted for having miscarriages or attempting abortions between the time Roe v. Wade became the law of the land and 2005.

Between 2005 and 2014, the Guttmacher Institute documented another 380 cases.

Georgia just passed a law, signed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp, which puts any woman in that state who has a miscarriage at risk of 30 years in prison or even the death penalty. Other states are in line, and in those states, like Georgia, with the death penalty, many are proposing legislation to put women who have abortions to death.

And we know what happens when abortion is totally banned. Romania, with a population slightly smaller than Florida, banned abortion (although, unlike Alabama, they allowed a provision for rape, incest, and congenital abnormalities) in 1966.

While wealthy Romanian women were still able to get abortions by traveling to other nearby nations, that option was not available to poor women. At least 10,000 women died of botched illegal abortions (that’s the official number; the real number is probably 10 times that) before Nicolae Ceaușescu was deposed and the law was repealed.

Few families were spared; maternal death was higher than any other country in Europe by a factor of ten and poverty exploded.

When the country was opened to the world, over 170,000 children were found languishing in brutal orphanages, ignored, emaciated and handcuffed to cribs. Nobody knows how many died in the decades before that.

When Nicolae Ceaușescu was deposed in 1989, his own soldiers gleefully machine-gunned him and his wife to death. The same penalty Georgia would inflict on its women who get abortions.

Given that one out of four pregnancies ends in miscarriage (and new research suggests it may be as many as half of all pregnancies), laws like Georgia’s and Alabama’s may well require a substantial addition to our police systems.

Who is going to monitor all those pregnancies, and examine the women and the remains of their miscarriages to make sure there wasn’t a drug or self-inflicted injury involved?

Who is going to make sure that women who are pregnant are immediately brought to the attention of the authorities if they’re reluctant to do so themselves?

When Governor Mike Pence proudly signed Indiana’s abortion restrictions in 2016, women across the state noted that it required that miscarried fetuses (along with aborted fetuses) be “interred [buried in a cemetery] or cremated,” no matter whether the pregnancy was six or sixteen weeks along when the miscarriage happened.

It led to a movement across the state called “Periods for Pence,” in which women tweeted or called the governor’s office to tell him when their periods had started and ended, so the state wouldn’t mistake a normal menstrual period for a miscarriage.

The press treated it as funny at the time; nobody’s laughing now.

The Republicans could borrow the name from Saudi Arabia for their police who scour the streets looking for badly behaving women; the “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” would hire a few million upright “Christian” men who would each take responsibility for monitoring the menstrual cycles of 50 or 100 women.

Like in Saudi Arabia, it would be a real job-creator, boosting the economy while ensuring public morality.

Thanks to the internet, each woman who’s the ward of a particular commissioner could use modern technology to keep it all simple; like the Saudi Absher app that women use in that country to obtain a man’s permission to leave the house or date, American women could simply swipe “period started” and “period finished normally” when those events happen.

Just like actually happened during the Trump administration when Trump’s appointee to oversee our refugee shelters, Scott Lloyd, maintained a spreadsheet tracking the menstrual periods of every girl in his custody, some as young as 12, so he could flag pregnant girls and women to prevent them from getting abortions.

No doubt Facebook could help out with a handy algorithm based on women’s online activity.

The Supreme Court has already rolled back women’s protections in the workplace and with the current hard-right majority expect them to push even harder to take women back, at least, to the 1960s as mentioned at the opening of this rant.

In the 1960s, employers could fire women for getting pregnant, women had no legal right to a harassment-free workplace, were charged extra for health insurance, and could be legally raped by their husbands, among other indignities.

And this is just the start. Today the Court is hearing a case out of Maine that could require states to pay for the tuition of all students attending religious schools, using taxpayer money that normally funds public schools. This would include forcing states to pay for religious schools that openly discriminate against LGBTQ+ students and staff, and teach children that being gay is a sin.

Once Republicans are done with birth control they’ll be coming for gay marriage and, ultimately, broader civil rights laws themselves including, like in Hungary (their new role model), ending the rights to assembly, free-speech, and due process.

And if you think that’s an over-the-top concern, consider: Just a few months ago, Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that provides immunity to drivers who plow their cars into protesters, if those protestors are on a public street. They’re already going after our right of public assembly.

Winter is coming: next stop, Gilead.

Last night's election proves America is standing on the edge of a new populism

Populism was the big winner in the Virginia election yesterday, after Terry McCauliffe ran on his past as a Bill Clinton Democrat and Glen Youngkin ran as a rightwing populist. As Glen Abernathy noted this morning in The Washington Post:

"The fact that parental rights in education became a central campaign issue shows that populism is still a potent element in U.S. politics. And in the Republican Party, even with Trump out of the White House, populism — not conservatism — remains the GOP's principal identity."

But populism can cut two ways, as the world saw in 1932 when Americans and Germans brought to power two very different types of populists: FDR and Hitler. Bernie Sanders' version of progressive populism is very, very different from Trump and Youngkin's racist populism.

Rightwing or "fascist" populism has overwhelmed numerous countries around the world, including Russia, Hungary and Turkey. America stands on the same edge, as Reaganism crumbles and something new must replace it.

But what will that be? The signs are troubling.

It's gotten so bad that when Americans believe a politician is listening to them and largely doing what they want, they'll overlook a multitude of personal sins. They'll even elect a rapist and convicted grifter to the highest office in the land if they think he's doing the people's will instead of the will of the wealthy elites.

While that may have been a controversial statement a generation ago — and the reason why Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, and Bill Clinton all went to great lengths to hide their extramarital sex lives — Trump has proven it as a modern political truth.

It's also an indication of how completely Americans think their government has detached itself from them: voters in 2016 were willing to throw in with a grifter rapist because they believed he'd put their interests above those of the morbidly rich.

This political moment has been brewing for decades.

The big break between Americans and their government began in the late 1970s when the US Supreme Court, in the Buckley and Bellotti decisions in 1976 and 1978, ruled that when billionaires and corporations (even foreign corporations) bought US politicians it was no longer corruption or bribery, but instead was First Amendment-protected "free speech."

The GOP jumped into the game with its SCOTUS-defined "new rules" in the 1980 election as Ronald Reagan rode a wave of Big Money into the White House. The Democratic Party, suffering from a loss of funding after Reagan destroyed their labor union base, also jumped into the newly defined political game in 1992 with Clinton's "Third Way" DLC.

As Reagan killed labor unions and moved the nation's tax burden from the very rich to working-class people with 18 middle class tax hikes and massive tax cuts for rich people, Americans began to notice their government growing more and more remote from their interests. Reagan undid regulations protecting the environment; people noticed their air and water getting dirtier and more likely to cause cancer. He sold off beloved public lands to drillers and miners for pennies on the dollar. He sided with employers over workers, bankers over debtors.

So Americans turned to Bill Clinton, who promised a "new covenant" with the American people, saying he came from poverty and a broken family and therefore felt their pain. Quickly, though, people figured out that he was just as remote as was Reagan. Clinton gutted the social safety net and declared "an end to welfare as we know it," kept taxes outrageously low on the morbidly rich (and partied with them at Davos), and presided over the second stage of the NAFTA/WTO neoliberal "free trade" experiment that ultimately wiped out American manufacturing and took Wal-Mart from "100% Made In The USA!" to "Low Prices, Low Wages, Everything Made in China."

The Supreme Court intervened again in 2000 and put George W. Bush into the White House, but he wasn't any better. He lied us into two wars to get himself re-elected, began the privatization of Medicare through the vicious Medicare Advantage scam, and handed trillions in taxes taken from working people to military contractors like those in his daddy's Carlyle Group.

The pressure was building. Middle class Americans knew they were now way in the back of the bus, as wages remained flat or fell in the face of 30 years of inflation, while those at the top of the corporate ladder had become richer than even the Pharaohs. People desperately hoped for a return to the normalcy of the New Deal/Great Society years when the middle class was rockin', so along came a charismatic new guy with a funny name and the sales pitch of "Hope and Change."

But Obama was also unable or unwilling to overturn the "new rules" the Supreme Court had given us in the 1970s; in fact, five conservatives on the Court doubled down on them with their 2010 Citizen's United decision, which made it even harder for regular people to run for public office while making it even easier for billionaires and corporations to buy and sell politicians. The best he could do was Obamacare, and conservatives on the Supreme Court made quick work of that, gutting it of its Medicare expansion the same way they gutted the Voting Rights Act.

By 2016, these "new rules" the Supreme Court had handed down — that rich people, and corporations could control the political process and override what the great mass of the people wanted — had brought the American electorate to a populist boiling point.

Bernie Sanders' progressive populist primary candidacy that year particularly roiled the waters, as he told people the painful truth — and they knew it was the truth — that the only reason they didn't have free college or healthcare was because rich people and big corporations wanted to keep ripping them off. The message was sinking in, and people were really, really, really pissed off and ready for change.

So when Donald Trump ran in the Republican primary as a progressive populist (with a racist edge) Republicans and Independents, particularly white voters, loved him.

Trump did a brilliant job of pretending to be a progressive populist.

When he lied that he was going to raise taxes on rich people, they believed him. When he lied that he was going to bring home the 60,000 factories that Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama had sent overseas, they cheered. When he lied that he was beholden to no rich person because he was one himself and was funding his own campaign, they voted for him over the best and the brightest the GOP had to offer.

And Trump as president did the work that a populist would do to convince them it was true. He called out China for taking advantage of policies put into place by Reagan, Bush and Clinton. He traveled the country on a regular basis, meeting with the people in huge rallies, and told them he loved them and lied that he was their champion. He said he was going to keep American jobs in American hands by stopping immigrants from entering the country, and cut legal immigration to a trickle while brutally punishing those families who managed to make it into the country.

It was a fascist form of populism, but for about half of the American electorate it felt like progressive populism. And the rightwing media bubble kept them from the ugly realities of what Trump was really up to, as he cut taxes on rich people, let more poisons into our environment, suppressed wages, and crushed our kids' educational opportunities.

While Trump's racist and paramilitary base gets most of the attention, he represented a genuine populist moment in American history, one in some ways like Andrew Jackson's (and just as ignorant, brutal, and corrupt). His puppet-master, Steve Bannon, was and is a Goebbels-level populist PR and political arts practitioner, both intellectually and morally.

Democrats underestimated the power of the overall populist backlash against 40 years of sold-out politicians who took the deal the Supreme Court offered them.

Trump broke the GOP away from Reagan's neoliberal system: Democrats like Terry McCauliffe don't seem to have yet gotten the memo that they must do the same with their own party.

The neoliberal system Reagan and Clinton pioneered is collapsing under its own weight of corruption and bloated, obscene wealth; like flowers coming out of a cow patty, two new populist movements have been birthed.

One is progressive populism, reminiscent of FDR and Bernie Sanders. The other is fascist populism, reminiscent of Charles Lindberg and the man he defended, Adolf Hitler.

It should have been shockingly obvious to Democrats that something new had taken hold when the American people were willing to overlook Trump's 20+ rape and sexual assault charges, his bankruptcies and fraud convictions, his ties to Putin and attempt to bribe the president of Ukraine, his incompetent handling of the Covid pandemic, his payoffs to porn stars, the wild corruption in his cabinet as member after member was busted for self-dealing (5 criminal referrals), and his Big Lie about the 2020 election and fascist assault on the US Capitol.

But the Democratic Party as a whole missed it, although progressives within the Party totally understood what's going on and have worked hard to have the Party meet this progressive populist moment. But they're being sabatoged by the neoliberal old guard who're still deeply embedded in their wealthy and corporate donors' Citizen's United cocoon.

The simple reality is that Americans are so desperate to once again have politicians — even corrupt ones like Trump — who they believe care about them and act on their behalf that they'll overlook almost any character flaw and even major felonies.

Americans are sick and tired of politics as usual in this new world defined by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. They want populist politicians who think about their needs, talk to them about solutions to the country's problems, and are unafraid of taking on the rich and powerful.

Progressive populist politicians like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Mark Pocan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the rest of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have figured this out and stepped into that space. About half the Democratic Party is with them, and the populist progressive movement is vibrating with energy across the country.

Even President Joe Biden has figured this out, putting Bernie Sanders in charge of writing the Senate legislation for his Build Back Better program, promoting unionization, and championing programs to help average working families instead of the bankers Clinton favored or Obama's insurance companies.

But the Supreme Court's Citizen's United "new rules" of politics are still in place, and there are still politicians completely on the take. On the Republican side, it's pretty much the entire Party. On the Democratic side, it's most obviously Sinema and Manchin in the Senate and Schrader, Rice, Peters, Gottheimer and a large handful of others in the House.

If these Citizen's United piglets in the Democratic Party continue to suckle on the teat of Big Money and block genuine progressive change, we'll be right back where we were in 2016, as last night's Virginia election proves.

And Republicans know it: "Senator raised-fist" Josh Hawley, who wants to be America's first fully open fascist president so badly he can taste it, just published an op-ed in The New York Times calling for a reversal of the Reagan/Clinton neoliberal "free trade" agenda.

"Now we must change course," Hawley wrote. "We can rebuild what made this nation great in the first place by making things in America again." As Bob Dylan once said, it doesn't take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

If Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema continue to echo the neoliberal rightwing talking points of the Koch Network, Big Pharma, and Big Oil/Coal/Gas, Biden's repudiation of neoliberal Reaganism will go down in flames.

With it will go the chances of the Democratic Party in 2022 and 2024.

Instead of progressive populism bringing this country back to its core values of fairness and a government that meets average people's needs, we'll be looking face-to-face at the monster that has now consumed Russia, Hungary, The Philippines, Brazil and Turkey (among others): fascist populism.

And for those who reply that yesterday's election was just about good-old-fashioned-all-American-racism, I'd agree to an extent, but also refer you to the winners of the Virginia Lt. Governor and Attorney General statewide elections: African American rightwing populist Winsome Sears and Hispanic American rightwing populist Jason Miyares.

Neoliberalism is a wounded, dying animal. America is returning to populism, whether our politicians want it or not.

The question now is whether it'll be American progressive populism like that championed by Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, LBJ and now Biden, or a new American version of fascist populism like the movement led by Donald Trump and Glen Youngkin

To a large extent, at least over the short term, that choice is now in the hands of two Democratic senators.

Kyrsten Sinema epitomizes 21st-century political corruption — but she didn't cause it

When Bobby Kennedy went after organized crime in the early 1960s, one of the things he learned was that the Mafia had a series of rituals new members went through to declare their loyalty and promise they'd never turn away from their new benefactors. Once in, they'd be showered with money and protection, but they could never leave and even faced serious problems if they betrayed the syndicate.

Which brings us to the story of Kyrsten Sinema.

For a republican democracy to actually work, average citizens with a passion for making their country better must be able to run for public office without needing wealthy or powerful patrons; this is a concept that dates back to Aristotle's rants on the topic. And Sinema was, in the beginning, just that sort of person. But I'm getting ahead of myself …

After the Nixon and Agnew bribery scandals were fully revealed with a series of congressional investigations leading to Nixon's resignation in 1974, Congress passed and President Gerald Ford signed into law a series of "good government" laws that provided for public funding of elections and strictly limited the role of big money in campaigns.

Just like the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol produced a "select" committee to investigate the anti-democracy crimes of Donald Trump and his cronies, Congress authorized the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities to look into Nixon's abuses and make recommendations.

The committee's 100-page report documented how Nixon had taken bribes (most notably $400,000 from ITT to squash an antitrust lawsuit); used "dark" money from wealthy friends and corporations to set up astroturf "citizens committees" (an early version of the Tea Party) to make it appear he had widespread support among the American public; and used off-the-books money to both support loyal Republican politicians whose help he needed as well as to pay for "opposition research" surveillance, which included the Watergate break-in of the Democratic National Committee's headquarters.

In response to the report, Congress passed an exhaustive set of new laws and regulations, most significantly creating from scratch the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), outlawing secret donations to politicians while providing for public funding of federal elections to diminish the power of big money. (Jimmy Carter was the only presidential candidate to win using such public funding.)

Over the years since, conservatives on the Supreme Court have repeatedly gutted provisions of the 1974 amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), most famously in 2010 with their notorious Citizens United decision.

With that stroke, over the loud objections of the four "liberals" on the court, corporations were absolutely deemed as "persons" with full constitutional rights, and billionaires or corporations pouring massive amounts of money into campaign coffers was changed from "bribery and political corruption" to an exercise of the constitutionally-protected "right of free speech."

Into this milieu stepped Kyrsten Sinema, running from a seat in the Arizona state Senate for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 as an out bisexual and political progressive. The campaign quickly turned ugly.

Following the Citizens United script, the Republican she confronted in that race (Vernon Parker) used corporate and billionaire money to carpet-bomb their district airwaves with ads calling her "a radical left-wing activist promoting hatred toward our country, our allies, and our families" and warning people that she "engaged in pagan rituals."

The district was heavily Democratic (Obama handily won it that year) but the race was close enough that it took six full days for the AP to call it for Sinema. And that, apparently, was when she decided that if you can only barely beat them, you'd damn well better join them.

Sinema quickly joined other Democrats who'd followed the Citizens United path to the flashing neon lights of big money, joining the so-called Problem Solvers caucus that owes its existence in part to the Wall Street-funded front group No Labels.

Quietly and without fanfare, she began voting with Republicans and the corporate- and billionaire-owned Democrats, supporting efforts to deregulate big banks, "reform" Social Security and Medicare, and make it harder for government to protect regular investors — or even buyers of used cars to avoid being ripped off.

Sinema voted with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 77 percent of the time in her first term; in return, political networks run by right-wing billionaires and the Chamber showered her with support. In her first re-election race, in 2014, she was one of only five Democrats endorsed by the notoriously right-wing Chamber.

She'd proved herself as a "made woman," just like the old mafiosi documented by RFK in the 1960s, willing to do whatever it takes, compromise whatever principles she espoused, to get into and stay in the good graces of the large and well-funded right-wing syndicates unleashed by Citizens United.

So it should surprise precisely nobody that Sinema is parroting the Chamber's and the billionaire network's line that President Biden's Build Back Better plan is too generous in helping and protecting average Americans and too punitive in taxing the morbidly rich. After all, once you're in, you leave at your own considerable peril, even when 70 percent of your state's voters want the bill to pass.

And this is a genuine crisis for America because if Biden is frustrated in his attempt to pass his Build Back Better legislation (which is overwhelmingly supported by Americans across the political spectrum) — all because business groups, giant corporations and right-wing billionaires are asserting ownership over their two "made" senators — there's a very good chance that today's cynicism and political violence is just a preview of the rest of the decade.

But this isn't as much a story about Sinema as it is about today's larger political dysfunction for which she's become, along with Joe Manchin, a poster child.

Increasingly, because of the Supreme Court's betrayal of American values, it's become impossible for people like the younger Sinema to rise from social worker to the U.S. Senate without big money behind them. Our media is absolutely unwilling to call this what even Andrew Jackson would have labeled it: political corruption. But that's what it is and it's eating away at our republic like a metastasized cancer.

A guest on Brian Stelter's CNN program this past weekend pointed out that there are today more autocracies in the world than democracies and, generally, democracies are on the decline. This corruption of everyday politics by the rich and powerful is how democracies begin the shift to autocracy or oligarchy, as I document in gruesome detail in "The Hidden History of American Oligarchy: Reclaiming Our Democracy from the Ruling Class."

While the naked corruption of Sinema and Manchin is a source of outrage for Democrats across America, what's far more important is that it reveals how deep the rot of money in American politics has gone, thanks entirely to a corrupted Supreme Court.

In Justice Stevens' dissent in Citizens United, he pointed out that corporations in their modern form didn't even exist when the Constitution was written in 1787 and got its first 10 amendments in 1791, including the first, which protects free speech.

"All general business corporation statues appear to date from well after 1800," Stevens pointed out to his conservative colleagues on the court. "The Framers thus took it as a given that corporations could be comprehensively regulated in the service of the public welfare. Unlike our colleagues, they had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings, and when they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans they had in mind.

"The fact that corporations are different from human beings might seem to need no elaboration, except that the majority opinion almost completely elides it…. Unlike natural persons, corporations have 'limited liability' for their owners and managers, 'perpetual life,' separation of ownership and control, 'and favorable treatment of the accumulation of assets….' Unlike voters in U.S. elections, corporations may be foreign controlled."

Noting that corporations "inescapably structure the life of every citizen," Stevens continued: "It might be added that corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their 'personhood' often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of 'We the People' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established."

Even worse than the short-term effect of a corporation's dominating an election or a ballot initiative, Stevens said (as if he had a time machine to look at us now), was the fact that corporations corrupting politics would, inevitably, cause average working Americans — the 95 percent who make less than $100,000 a year — to conclude that their "democracy" is now rigged.

The result, Stevens wrote, is that average people would simply stop participating in politics, stop being informed about politics, and stop voting … or become angry and cynical. Our democracy, he suggested, would be immeasurably damaged and ultimately vulnerable to corporate-supported demagogues and oligarchs. Our constitutional republic, if Citizens United stands, could wither and could die.

"In addition to this immediate drowning out of noncorporate voices," Stevens wrote in 2010, "there may be deleterious effects that follow soon thereafter. Corporate 'domination' of electioneering can generate the impression that corporations dominate our democracy.

"When citizens turn on their televisions and radios before an election and hear only corporate electioneering, they may lose faith in their capacity, as citizens, to influence public policy. A Government captured by corporate interests, they may come to believe, will be neither responsive to their needs nor willing to give their views a fair hearing.

"The predictable result is cynicism and disenchantment: an increased perception that large spenders 'call the tune' and a reduced 'willingness of voters to take part in democratic governance.' To the extent that corporations are allowed to exert undue influence in electoral races, the speech of the eventual winners of those races may also be chilled."

As if he were looking at Kyrsten Sinema facing a tough choice about her own political survival leading up to the 2014 election, Stevens added:

"Politicians who fear that a certain corporation can make or break their reelection chances may be cowed into silence about that corporation."

And, again looking into his time machine, the now-deceased Stevens pointed to the frustration of average Americans with Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.

"On a variety of levels, unregulated corporate electioneering might diminish the ability of citizens to 'hold officials accountable to the people,' and disserve the goal of a public debate that is 'uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.'"

Stevens and his fellow "liberals" on the Court were both prescient and right.

They warned in their dissent that foreign money would corrupt our elections and we saw that in a big way in 2016. There's apparently no way of knowing how much of today's political turmoil — from school board to election commission to hospital and airplane violence — is being orchestrated and amplified by foreign players on social media masquerading as Americans to weaken our country.

They warned that because of the Citizens United decision Americans would become cynical and reactionary; that's happening today. Armed militias are in our streets, people are regularly assaulted for their perceived politics, and right-wing media demagogues make millions (literally) promoting hate and fear.

And, they warned, it could doom our republic, something that's now within our sight.

Exposed: The insidious cancer at the core of democracy that could take down Biden

If President Biden's Build Back Better plan goes down in flames, you can blame the US Supreme Court. Their Citizens United decision, in fact, is destroying both American politics and the planet.

Case in point: Oil industry executives testified before Congress this week, suffering a barrage of questions, including particularly intense ones from Reps. Ro Khanna, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Katie Porter.

The CEOs exhibited the same sort of arrogant insolence Mark Zuckerberg displayed in July of last year when he was hauled before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. It was, basically, a smug, "Screw you, Congressperson."

Why were the representatives of Big Oil and Big Tech unafraid of the power of Congress?

Because, at the end of the day, they own that power. The Supreme Court gave it to them with their poisonous Citizens United decision.

It turns out that Big Oil has spent, just over the past decade, over $450 million lobbying the federal government. We used to call this political corruption or even bribery until the Court ruled in Citizens United that money in politics isn't money: it's "free speech."

And, the Court added, corporations aren't corporations: they're persons, complete with a First Amendment right to free speech.

Representative Khanna repeatedly asked the CEOs of Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Shell Oil, and BP America if they'd stop funding advertising and PR efforts that are filled with outright lies about climate change. Pretty much every time he asked, he was met with a "screw you" silence.

These CEOs effectively own multiple members of Congress, as the world could see when it was the turn of the meek and obeisant Republican members to ask questions that mostly amounted to, "May I fluff the pillow you're sitting on, sir?"

And it's not just Big Oil. Every industry in America laughs at Congress.

Our elected representatives are there, in the minds of corporate America, to hand out subsidies and tax breaks, but if they take the smallest step toward protecting the American people from giant corporations or predatory billionaires they're simply brushed aside like troublesome lint.

The majority of Americans don't want Medicare privatized: but we're more than 40% of the way there through Bush's "Medicare Advantage" scam.

The majority of Americans don't want our Post Office gutted: Congress sucked tens of billions out of its budget in 2006 after the PO said they were going to electrify their fleet of cars (the largest in America) and DeJoy is using that as an excuse to cut service and raise prices.

The majority of Americans would like debt-free college like every other developed country in the world: the $1.5 trillion student loan industry just makes a few phone calls and the effort dies.

The majority of Americans want a national healthcare system that actually works at little cost to citizens: the health insurance industry hands Joe Lieberman over a million dollars and he kills the public option so we're left with an entirely corporatized Obamacare with $5000 annual deductibles.

The majority of Americans want something done about high drug prices: Big Pharma calls up Kurt Schrader, Scott Peters, Kathleen Rice, Kyrsten Sinema and a few other wholly owned members of Congress and that's the end of that.

The majority of Americans want their banks to stop hitting them with absurd fees for the smallest errors and would like some occasional customer service: Big Banking pulls a few strings and Senators are dancing like marionettes.

The majority of Americans want something done about climate change before our planet becomes uninhabitable: Big Coal and Gas light a fire under Joe Manchin and the entire GOP and that's the end of that.

The majority of Americans would like open and transparent elections and for their democracy to work like in other countries, without barriers to voting or bought-off politicians: neofascist rightwing billionaires will have the final say on that and it's not looking good.

The majority of Americans would like net neutrality and for corporations to stop spying on them: Big Tech just leans on the members of Congress they own and that effort comes to an abrupt halt.

The majority of Americans would like well-funded public schools that teach things like civics and critical thinking skills: the multi-billion-dollar Charter School industry gets last word.

The majority of Americans would like to be free of gun violence in our homes and streets: the gun industry gets final say here.

The majority of Americans would like good union jobs: the nation's giant employers have paid off politicians to gut union protections.

The majority of Americans would like a food supply free of toxic chemicals that harm children and cause cancer: giant fast- and processed-food companies laugh at us while their buddies in the chemical industry hold their beer.

Hell, the President of the United States would like all these things and a few more. He will almost certainly not get them because the Supreme Court gave corporations and rightwing billionaires final say over every single piece of legislation that goes through Congress.

We're ripped off left and right, from airline tickets to cell phone service to cable TV and the internet: citizens of Europe, South Korea and Japan pay, on average, about half of what we do because they all enforce competition and don't allow monopolies.

Here, every industry is now dominated by 3-5 major corporations that function as a monopoly or oligopoly, which is why the average American family pays around $5000 a year more for everything as I documented in The Hidden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream.

The US Supreme Court brought us all of this with the vile Citizens United decision and its progenitors, Boston v Bellotti, Buckley v Valeo, and Santa Clara County.

Thus, we now face a real crisis.

The Court gave control of Congress over to billionaires and their companies, and only Congress can overrule the Court (Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution). But how does Congress do that when none of the corporations or billionaires who now own Congress want it to happen?

There is only one force that can make this happen now: citizen outrage.

People are genuinely disgusted by this corruption, and they're voting with it in mind.

Even Donald Trump was elected on a promise to "drain the swamp" of big money corruption in DC. He claimed that he knew how the game was played because he played it himself, buying off politicians whenever necessary.

During the August 2015 GOP primary debate, he called out all the other Republicans on the stage, saying: "I gave [money] to many people, before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me."

In September he ran that line again at the next primary debate, saying: "The donors, the special interests, the lobbyists have very strong power over these people," as he waved at the other Republicans on stage. "I am not accepting any money from anybody. Nobody has control of me other than the people of this country."

Sadly, enough Americans believed that professional grifter to get him into the White House (with a little help from Russian oligarchs), but the principle remains: even Republican voters are disgusted by this crisis of corruption the Supreme Court has foisted upon us.

More than a decade ago I did a fundraiser for the Congressional Progressive Caucus with its then-chair, Rep. Raúl Grijalva. It was a small affair with a half-dozen politicians and around 100 activists.

Because of citizen outrage with how corrupt and bought-off our politics have become since the Supreme Court rewrote the rules of politics, today almost 100 members of Congress have been elected on "no corporate PAC money" pledges and become members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Today we're watching an epic battle to rebuild America being fought valiantly by progressives like Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Mark Pocan, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They may lose this one battle, but the path they're on is steadily upward.

This is the only way we can now claw back our democratic republic from the corrupt billionaires and corporations.

We have to get money out of politics and the only way to do that is to get more people in office who are not addicted to or corrupted by money.

There's an election coming up in a year, and primaries will be conducted in the months ahead. We must do everything we can to identify, elect and support politicians who openly and sincerely pledge never to sell their souls to the devil of Big Money.

Billionaires who killed the GOP are now turning it into an anti-American insurgency -- along the lines of the Confederacy

Congressman Steve Scalise, the #2 Republican in the House of Representatives and the guy who ran for office from Louisiana as "David Duke without the baggage," has announced he's whipping Republican votes to block a criminal contempt referral to the DOJ from the Jan 6 Select Committee against Steve Bannon.

My father's Republican Party is now the modern-day Confederacy, and Republicans' defense of Steve Bannon defying subpoenas this week pretty much proves it. If it keeps moving in the same direction, our American republic may soon be fully transformed into a racist, strongman oligarchy.

The racist and big-money poisons began to take over the Republican Party in the 1950s and 1960s after the Supreme Court ordered an end to school segregation with Brown v Board, and LBJ and the Democrats embraced the Civil Rights, Voting Rights and Medicare Acts.

In aggregate, Johnson's Great Society offended both the nation's billionaire oligarchs, who saw Medicare and other programs as "socialism," and the white racists who were horrified that they'd now have to share schools, hospitals and polling places with African Americans and other minorities.

Those white racists, particularly in the South where the majority of America's Black people lived, fled the Democratic Party and flocked instead to the GOP. Richard Nixon saw this as the key to his presidential victory in 1968, openly inviting racists in with his "Southern Strategy."

Thus began the transformation of the party founded by Abraham Lincoln.

At the same time, the Libertarian and Objectivist movements found common cause with the anti-communist movement led by the John Birch Society that saw every effort to help working class or poor Americas as a step towards full-blown Soviet-style socialism. They all marched into the GOP.

"The mob," as Ayn Rand used to call us American voters, couldn't be trusted any longer to determine who held power in America, these early leaders of the GOP determined, so they worked out ways to get around a multiracial and politically active populace.

The leading conservative light of the era, William F. Buckley, wrote for his National Review magazine an article titled Why The South Must Prevail:

"The South does not want to deprive the Negro of a vote for the sake of depriving him of the vote," Buckley wrote. "In some parts of the South, the White community merely intends to prevail — that is all. It means to prevail on any issue on which there is corporate disagreement between Negro and White. The White community will take whatever measures are necessary to make certain that it has its way."

His article was grounded in a discussion of the jury system, but he couldn't help veering off-course (or on-course):

"The central question that emerges … is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically?
"The sobering answer is Yes - the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the median cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is a fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists."

It's exactly the philosophy that today animates the new voting laws put into place over the past six months in Florida, Georgia, Texas and multiple other states.

Racists and big money seized the GOP, and the GOP then drained 40 years of wealth from the Middle Class.

The merger of racism and big money reached its first peak in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan, who openly ran on "states' rights" and the argument that government was the cause, not the solution, to the nation's problems. Just leave everything to the morbidly rich and their magical "free market" and America, Saint Ronnie promised us, would become a paradise. At least for white people.

But it didn't work out that way for white people or anybody else; instead, the top 1 percent of Americans succeeded in grabbing well over $10 trillion from the middle class over the next forty years and have now largely ringfenced their wealth with bought-off Republicans declaring they'll never, ever vote to raise taxes on the morbidly rich.

And the billionaires and racists who seized the GOP are now turning it into something not seen in a major American political party since the Civil War. It's become an anti-American insurgency, along the lines of the Confederacy.

Many of the same wealthy individuals and corporations that brought Reagan to power continue to pour billions into the GOP, an effort that in 2016 brought authoritarian Donald Trump to the White House and threatens to do so again in 3 years.

But this isn't even the GOP of Reagan's time: today's GOP has now transformed itself into a full-blown anti-democratic neofascist party.

It's no longer the business-loving white-middle-class GOP of the 20th century: it's now the party of Nazis and the Klan, although they've turned in their cartoonish swastikas and white robes for red caps and camo.

Which is presenting the "funder class" in the GOP with a stark decision.

Are their tax cuts and deregulation of pollution so important to them that they'll continue to fund a neofascist party in order to keep them?

Early signs are not good.

Billionaire-owned rightwing radio and TV are rewriting the history of January 6th and continue spreading Trump's Big Lie about the 2020 election. Rightwing think tanks and billionaire-founded and -funded Astroturf activist groups continue their mischaracterizations and outright lies about President Biden's agenda.

Social media sites continue to use algorithms that drive increasingly extremist views and have become organizing platforms for lies, racism and "political" actions like intimidating school boards and election officials.

They've been so successful that the majority of Republican voters no longer trust our electoral system and are willing to have Republican-controlled legislatures decide how elections came out rather than voters.

While a small but vocal and credible group of former Republicans — from politicians like Jeff Flake and George W. Bush, to GOP operatives like Steve Schmidt and Rick Wilson, to media figures like Jennifer Rubin and Joe Scarborough — are speaking out and doing so in terms often far more blunt than even Democratic politicians, the oligarchs who own the Party aren't listening.

The Republican base, meanwhile, is completely in thrall to Trump and he's showing every sign of running and possibly taking over the country using the 12th Amendment trick I was warning of more than a year ago, this time running John Eastman's scheme in 2024.

And if not Trump, there's no shortage of ambitious fascist-leaning Republican politicians in the mold of Rick Scott, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott who are more than willing to stand-in for him with the same strategy.

The stage is thus set now for the final, irrevocable transformation of Eisenhower's Party — and American democracy. The turning point will be the 2022 election if Republicans can retake the House and Senate.

Nineteen states have already changed thirty-three voting laws to accommodate Trump's and John Eastman's 6-point-plan to ignore the popular vote and throw the electoral college vote into the House of Representatives to put a Republican loser of the 2024 election into the White House.

This will work if Justice Sam Alito and his rightwing extremist friends on the Supreme Court give the scheme their stamp of approval; Trump lawyer Sydney Powell said this week Alito was prepared to do just that.

It's decision time.

Numerous corporations said that they'd stop funding the so-called "treason caucus" of 140+ Republicans who voted to decertify the 2020 election after the January 6th attempted assassination of the Vice President and the Speaker of the House.

Almost all of those corporations, as Judd Legum and David Sirota regularly document at popular.info and DailyPoster.com, have gone back on that pledge.

Eisenhower's GOP no longer exists: it's been replaced by an authoritarian shell that's home to open racists and billionaire oligarchs who don't want their businesses regulated or taxed. They're willing to end democracy in America to get what they want.

German industrialist Fritz Thyssen famously backed Hitler and lived to regret it, penning an awkward but portentous autobiography titled I Paid Hitler.

Will today's rightwing billionaires and the CEOs of our largest corporations one day be writing similar books?

Or, if Trump prevails, will American democracy be so totally wiped out that no future publisher would dare sell such a book?

Trump and his dead-ender's hateful plan revealed

Trump's agenda is to destroy democracy in America, and the GOP and their billionaire donors are going along with it while much of the media are treating it like politics as usual. It's a two-part plan that involves both corrupting our election processes and fomenting a violent "rebellion" by white supremacists to shatter our society.

Part one is to end free and fair elections in America.

The latest bombshell has become the most under-reported and misunderstood story of the week, when Donald Trump threatened the Republican Party.

Wednesday afternoon I got a fundraising email (he averages around 5 fundraising pitches a day) from desk@deskofdonaldjtrump.com that included this statement:

"If we don't solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in '22 or '24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do."

But the media treated this threat of Trump's as either 1) a tantrum demanding more fealty from Republicans or 2) a sign that Trump is losing his grip and probably going to alienate the Republican Party before he's done. It was neither.

This statement from Trump was, instead, a clear and open declaration of war on democracy itself.

What he was really saying was, "If the rest of you Republicans who still hold office don't do like a few states have already done and pre-rig the 2024 election results, you are going to lose office and lose power…and I'll lose my chance to get back into the White House."

Which is true, particularly in swing states. So they're stepping up their game.

"Election Fraud" is the canard Republicans have used since the 1960s and William Rehnquist's Operation Eagle Eye to justify preventing largely Democratic voters — mostly BIPOC, urban, poor, young and elderly people — from either voting or having their votes counted if they manage to get their hands on a provisional ballot.

Now, though, it has an entirely new meaning: they're using it to destroy democracy altogether.

In addition to amplifying the usual barriers to voters in mostly Democratic neighborhoods (long lines, harsh ID requirements, short hours, limiting mail-in voting, etc.), Republicans are now putting open advocates for a Trump Oligarchy into positions to determine which votes to count and which to reject.

Trump and the Republicans going along with him (which is almost all of them now) are playing an old game. Instead of voters selecting their politicians, these Republican politicians are selecting their voters.

Boris Bazhanov was Joseph Stalin's personal secretary from 1923 to 1928, and later served as secretary of the Soviet Political Bureau. In his memoirs published in 1980, he recounts something Stalin told him about voting.

"I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how," Stalin said. "But what is extremely important is this – who will count the votes, and how."

Despite never having to worry about surviving popular elections, and not being a fan of democracy, Stalin nonetheless knew the trick to subverting a republic wasn't in getting your people to vote, but instead was in making sure the votes were counted in a way that made sure your side won.

And now Republicans are setting things up so when they flip elections, à la Stalin, it'll just seem like a normal part of politics. They tried it last year and it failed by a whisker, so now they're setting things up to pull it off in 2024.

Trump and the GOP know that if a dozen or so Republican officials, from local election boards in Michigan to the Secretary of State in Georgia, had simply done what Trump wanted and refused to certify Biden's win in their precincts, counties, or states, the election would have been thrown to the House of Representatives.

There, each state gets one vote, and that vote is determined by the state legislatures back home, who tell their congressional delegation how to cast it. With 26 states solidly in Republican control, Trump wins.

It's the essence of John Eastman's memo, and echoes an article I wrote back on March 13th of last year, warning of exactly this ploy eight full months before the 2020 election. Now they're going to try it again, because they know their time is running out.

And they're getting financial support in it from rightwing billionaires and some of America's largest corporations, just like Franco, Mussolini and Hitler were funded by the wealthy and corporate elite of their countries and their day. (See German industrialist Fritz Thyssen's tragic book I Paid Hitler.)

After all, making money doesn't require democracy. In fact, if you have the ear of those in power, democracy or not, they can rig the rules of crony capitalism to favor you and your companies. Billionaires are regularly made in countries that aren't even remotely democratic; China is probably the most well-known example.

Thus, as Trump really just reiterated, their only hope is to declare war on democracy itself.

College students, for example, are notoriously Democratic in their voting. So the good Republicans of the Montana legislature wrote and passed SB319 and Gov. Greg Gianforte signed it into law on May 12. Section 21 of the bill explicitly outlaws campaign activities on college campuses:

"A political committee may not," the law reads, "direct, coordinate, manage, or conduct any voter identification efforts, voter registration drives, signature collection efforts, ballot collection efforts, or voter turnout efforts for a federal, state, local, or school election inside a residence hall, dining facility, or athletic facility operated by a public postsecondary institution."

Meanwhile, in Georgia, Arkansas and Kansas (and probably soon in Arizona, Texas and Florida) Republicans have passed laws that allow them to remove Black or Democratic-aligned election officials and replace them with Trumpy white Republicans who are newly empowered to decide whose vote gets counted and whose gets rejected.

As The New York Times noted:

"Across Georgia, members of at least 10 county election boards have been removed, had their position eliminated, or are likely to be kicked off through local ordinances or new laws passed by the state legislature. At least five are people of color and most are Democrats — though some are Republicans — and they will most likely all be replaced by Republicans."

Nineteen Republican-controlled states have, as the Brennan Center for Justice documents, passed over 30 laws to make it harder for Social Security-age, college-age, and BIPOC folks to vote, and in many of those states politicians who are now in charge of elections can simply refuse to certify results they don't like.

The goal of these Republicans is simple: to replace democracy in the United States with a Trumpy strongman autocratic oligarchy along the lines of Russia or Hungary.

Given the demographic changes happening all across American right now, the 2022 and 2024 elections may well be their last chance. In 2004, for example, Texas became a majority-non-white state; those babies will be able to vote for the first time in 2024 and many are unlikely to embrace an openly white supremacist party like the GOP.

Part Two: But the plan to destroy democracy and replace it with rule-by-the-rich strongman oligarchy doesn't stop with voting. Part two is to tear our society apart by creating enough chaos they can pull it all off.

Along with an avalanche of voter-suppression and election-overturning vote-subversion laws, rightwing billionaires are funding groups that are scaring the hell out of school boards across the country, as documented by Judd Legum's Popular Information.

Their goal is to shatter Americans' faith in our nation's institutions and set up an apocalyptic Armageddon-style battle between the "good" white "Christian" Republicans and the "evil" blood-drinking, CRT-promoting Democrats as their next step toward eliminating democracy in America altogether.

And they're getting more and more militant, some now declaring their willingness to kill their own neighbors.

As social media algorithms continue to amplify the most hysterical and frantic of the race-baiting Republican claims, a symbol from the Civil War is reappearing all across America. The so-called "Black Flag" — an American flag made entirely out of black fabric (and ironically made in China) — is flying from homes and at armed rallies around the country.

The "no surrender, no quarter" Black Flag, the opposite of a white flag of surrender, was used by Confederate soldiers to signal that they would never be taken alive and would murder any prisoners of war they took. It flew over several massacres of Black people during and shortly after the Civil War as well, including Olustee, Fort Pillow, Poison Spring, and the Crater.

Michelle H. Davis wrote for Living Blue in Texas an article titled: "Are Your Republican Neighbors Planning On Killing You?"

The answer, she writes, is: "Yes, they say civil war, and they say it's already started." And she brings the footage to back up her assertion.

As Gregory J.W. Urwin documents in painful detail in his 2005 book Black Flag Over Dixie: Racial Atrocities and Reprisals in the Civil War, "When the Union's Black defenders responded in kind, the Civil War descended to a level of inhumanity that most Americans prefer to forget." Slaughters of African Americans became the norm for Confederate soldiers, often under the banner of a Black Flag.

This movement to replace American democracy with oligarchy didn't just appear overnight and it's not just Donald Trump. It was kicked off in the 1950s in reaction to the Brown v Board SCOTUS decision back in the days when Fred Koch was funding the John Birch Society to put up "Impeach Earl Warren" billboards; it took flight in the 1970s.

Rightwing billionaires got together in response to Lewis Powell's 1971 "Memo" call-to-arms and created a network of think tanks, media outlets, takeovers of college Econ and PoliSci departments, and political action astroturf groups (like what became the Tea Party).

In the beginning they mostly just wanted to keep Black people out of American schools and business, get their taxes cut, and free their companies from the expensive burden of cleaning up their toxic emissions.

What they've created, though, has taken on a life of its own and is now tearing America apart. This week Steve Bannon, in an echo of Hitler's promise of a Reich that would last 1000 years, predicted, "We're putting together a coalition that's gonna govern for 100 years."

As Bannon and his billionaire backers will be the first to tell you, 2022 and 2024 is probably their last chance to replace American democracy with an oligarchy they can fund and benefit from. And we can't let that happen.

The new 'businessman's conspiracy' authoritarian plot is closer than you think

This week may be the last chance before the next election for Joe Biden and the Democrats to prove they can actually govern and accomplish things the American people want. If they fail, fascism wins.

This article was originally published at The Hartmann Report

History shows that most democratic nations don't realize how serious their fascism problem is until it overtakes them altogether. We saw it in the 1930s in Italy, Germany, Spain and Japan; today it's happened in Hungary, Turkey, Egypt, Russia, The Philippines and Brazil, and is well underway in Poland, India and multiple smaller countries.

Here in America, the GOP today has a serious fascism problem, and it's endangering all of us. It's closer than most of us realize.

Fascism isn't just about the merger of oligarch and state interests; it also requires a repudiation of the rule of law and the institutions of democracy itself.

This is exactly what is happening deep within the Republican Party at this very moment. Trumpism was always about fascism.

Those few Republicans who voted to impeach and convict Donald Trump are finding their local and state parties repudiating them, fueled by the rage of people who've bought into false beliefs of a Jewish- or Black-controlled "deep state" that's working against their savior, Donald Trump.

We've seen this movie before, and, tragically, history tells us most countries only recognize their fascism problem in the rear-view mirror after it's consumed their democracy.

This is very much how Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany a decade after he was arrested and imprisoned for attempting to overthrow the government of Bavaria in 1923. It took his movement and his political colleagues ten more years to worm their way into power in 1933.

They did it by spreading books like Mein Kampf and pamphlets proclaiming deep state socialist and Jewish conspiracies and a Lugenpresse or "lying press," promoting them with a particular emphasis in right-leaning southern states like Bavaria and the economically hard-hit rural parts of the country.

What took the German fascists a decade is happening in a matter of a few short years here in the United States because of the velocity of social media.

It's being amplified by oligarch-owned media and the cowardice or opportunism of senior Republican officials, unwilling to honestly and openly confront the lies pushed by fascist conspiracy theorists or willing to embrace Trump's fascism so they can win elections in 2022 and 2024.

Last January, Democratic senators voted to convict Donald Trump of incitement to insurrection, while Republican senators representing about 40 million fewer voters blocked his removal from office.

Nonetheless, the message in rightwing media and across the fascist underground on social media, often echoed by mainstream media, was that the Senate voted to "exonerate" or "acquit" Trump." (In fact, the vote merely "failed to remove" him, although a majority of the Senate voted to convict.)

To see how pervasive this fascism crisis is within conservative media, just check out the daily newsletter tracking them over at therighting.com.

These are all symptoms of a political party taken over by a fascist element. For six years now, this element has been nurtured and fed online by foreign governments, a small number of American oligarchs, and angry white supremacist Americans.

A country slides into an oligarchy when its legislature ceases to attend to the needs of the majority of the people, and instead only passes laws or promulgates policies that help the oligarchic class.

As several studies have documented, particularly the work of Gilens and Page, this process began with the Reagan Revolution in 1981 and by the early 2000s was so solidified in our national politics that Congress had ceased to pass laws and policies that bore any resemblance to what the majority of Americans wanted, shown by national public policy polling.

Prior to the Reagan Revolution of 1981, Congress typically did what the majority of Americans wanted. That's how we got Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, housing supports, Pell Grants for college, long-term unemployment, a minimum wage, food and drug safety, and laws and agencies protecting our clean air and water.

Since the Reagan Revolution, however, Republicans in Congress have been largely fixated on deregulating industry and unleashing predatory bankers and industrial polluters on the American public. Their singular focus has been tax cuts for morbidly rich people, which have driven tens of trillions of dollars out of the pockets and wealth of the American working class and into the money bins of this nation's oligarchs.

This is extraordinarily dangerous.

Oligarchy rarely lasts more than a generation; it's an unstable form of government, because the people are not getting what they want or need.

Typically, oligarchies flip in one of two directions within that generation: either back to democracy, or into a full-blown fascist police state.

Twice before in American history, oligarchies have risen up and challenged our government itself, and both times we defeated them.

The first time happened in the 1830-1860 era in the South, when southern plantation owners consolidated power in those states and ended any semblance of democracy, rigging elections and imposing a police state. They finally reached out to destroy that bothersome democracy to the north in what we call the Civil War.

We defeated those oligarchs and broke up their political and economic fortunes. The plantation of Robert E. Lee, for example, is now known as Arlington National Cemetery and the Parchman plantation in Louisiana is now a state prison.

Fascist oligarchs rose up again in America in the 1920s and 30s, and in 1933 put together a "businessman's conspiracy" plot to kidnap or kill President Franklin D. Roosevelt and replace him with a "good Republican."

President Roosevelt got ahead of that curve, after Marine General Smedley Butler blew the whistle on the conspiracy, and declared open war on the oligarchs he referred to as "economic royalists."

"These economic royalists," FDR said, "complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power."

Back then, oligarchs funding the Republican Party also complained that helping the average person instead of just giving tax cuts to the rich was "unconstitutional," and cluttered their stages with American flags when they gave political speeches, as if to demonstrate their uber-patriotism.

FDR called them out: "In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike."

FDR called together the American people with his regular fireside chats, and the American people rejected the Republican's fascist oligarchs. As a result, the GOP never controlled Congress for more than a two-year period from 1933 to 1996.

Today, using the cloak of social media that allows their most virulent and poisonous lies to spread invisibly and unchecked, fascist oligarchs, foreign trolls and an authoritarian-loving group within the Republican grassroots are again denigrating democracy and the rule of law in America.

Some Democrats, watching this process and its consequence, are delighting in the internal battles within the GOP. We should be careful what we root for.

Both psychology and history show that about a fifth of the population of any country are people who lean toward authoritarianism. Rather than valuing democracy, debate, and the rule of law, their highest value is safety and stability.

Therefore, they will embrace any oligarch who points to an "other" and provides even the weakest evidence that those "others" are responsible for the country's current crisis.

This is exactly the dynamic we're seeing play out right now. The "others" these fascists are identifying specifically include "socialist" Democrats; Black people in large cities like Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia who Republicans say were engaging in widespread "voter fraud"; and wealthy Jews like George Soros who, they say, are funding them.

This bizarre claim is at the foundation of Donald Trump's "stop the steal" movement, and represents the greatest threat to the future of democracy in America.

Fascist Republican politicians are, at this moment, using it to craft and promote increasingly draconian voter suppression legislation; over 100 such laws have been passed in about two dozen states just since Trump lost the election.

As former Congressman Riggleman told CNN, the GOP's plan for 2022 is to run on "stop the steal" and "ballot integrity."

These are code for making it harder for all but middle-class white people to vote, and represent a direct assault on the very foundations of American democracy.

Most authoritarians are "authoritarian followers," so they're primed to rapidly follow any competent "authoritarian leader" demagogue who claims that he alone can save them.

The spread of this fascist movement within the Republican Party, and its embrace by powerful and high profile people like Senators Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Rick Scott and Josh Hawley, represents the greatest threat America has faced since the 1930s.

All genuinely patriotic Americans must unite to repudiate this quick-spreading cancer in the Republican Party.

If we don't, 2024 in America may simply echo 1933 in Europe.

Santa Claus is about to drop a bomb on Biden

The stock market is falling today, in part a reaction to GOP threats to shut down the government: it's all part of their plan.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen last week warned us that the GOP is about to use Jude Wanniski's "Two Santa Clauses" fraud again to damage Biden's economy and our standing in the world. And, sure enough, Mitch McConnell verified it when he said last week there would be "zero" Republican votes to raise the debt ceiling.

Yellen responded yesterday by telling The Wall Street Journal that if the Republicans force a shutdown of the US government like they did to Obama in 2011, "We would emerge from this crisis a permanently weaker nation." But the GOP is adamant: they have their strategy and they're sticking to it.

Here's how it works, laid it out in simple summary:

First, the Two Santas strategy dictates, when Republicans control the White House they must spend money like a drunken Santa and cut taxes to run up the US debt as far and as fast as possible.

This produces three results: it stimulates the economy thus making people think that the GOP can produce a good economy; it raises the debt dramatically; and it makes people think that Republicans are the "tax-cut Santa Clauses."

Second, when a Democrat is in the White House, Republicans must scream about the national debt as loudly and frantically as possible, freaking out about how "our children will have to pay for it!" and "we have to cut spending to solve the crisis!" Shut down the government, crash the stock market, and damage US credibility around the world if necessary to stop Democrats from spending money.

This will force the Democrats in power to cut their own social safety net programs and even Social Security, thus shooting their welfare-of-the-American-people Santa Claus right in the face.

And, sure enough, here we are now with a Democrat in the White House. Following their Two Santas strategy, Republicans are again squealing about the national debt and refusing to raise the debt ceiling, imperiling Biden's economic recovery as well as his Build Back Better plans.

And, once again, the media is covering it as a "Biden Crisis!" rather than what it really is: a cynical political and media strategy devised by Republicans in the 70s, fine-tuned in the 80s and 90s, and rolled out every time a Democrat is in the White House.

Jude Wanniski hatches the scheme that saves the GOP

Republican strategist Jude Wanniski first proposed his Two Santa Clauses strategy in The Wall Street Journal in 1974, after Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace and the future of the Republican Party was so dim that books and articles were widely suggesting the GOP was about to go the way of the Whigs. There was genuine despair across the Republican Party, particularly when Jerry Ford couldn't even beat an unknown peanut farmer from rural Georgia for the presidency.

Wanniski reasoned the reason the GOP was losing so many elections wasn't just because of Nixon's corruption, but mostly because the Democrats had been viewed since the New Deal as the Santa Claus party.

On the other hand, the GOP, he said, was widely seen as the party of Scrooge because they publicly opposed everything from Social Security and Medicare to unemployment insurance and food stamps.

The Democrats, he noted, got to play Santa Claus for decades when they passed out Social Security and Unemployment checks — both programs of FDR's Democratic New Deal — as well as their "big government" projects like roads, bridges, schools and highways that gave a healthy union paycheck to construction workers and made our country shine.

Even worse, Democrats kept raising taxes on businesses and rich people to pay for all this stuff — and those taxes on the rich didn't have any effect at all on working people (wages were steadily going up until the Reagan Revolution, in fact).

It all added, Wanniski theorized, to the perception that the Democrats were the true party of Santa Claus, using taxes from the morbidly rich to fund programs for the poor and the working class.

Americans loved the Democrats back then. And every time Republicans railed against these programs, they lost elections.

Therefore, Wanniski concluded, the GOP had to become a Santa Claus party, too. But because the Republicans hated the idea of helping out working people, they had to come up with a way to convince average voters that they, too, have the Santa spirit. But what?

"Tax cuts!" said Wanniski.

To make this work, the Republicans would first have to turn the classical world of economics — which had operated on a simple demand-driven equation for seven thousand years — on its head. (Everybody understood that demand — "working-class wages" — drove economies because working people spent most of their money in the marketplace, producing "demand" for factory output goods and services.)

To lay the ground for Two Santa Clauses, in 1974 Wanniski invented a new phrase — "Supply-Side Economics" — and said the reason economies grew wasn't because people had good union jobs and thus enough money to buy things but, instead, because business made things available for sale, thus tantalizing people to part with their money.

The more products (supply) there were in the stores, he said, the faster the economy would grow. And the more money we gave rich people and their corporations (via tax cuts) the more stuff (supply) they'd generously produce for us to think about buying.

At a glance, this move by the Republicans seems irrational, cynical and counterproductive. It certainly defies classic understandings of economics. But if you consider Jude Wanniski's playbook, it makes complete sense.

To help, Arthur Laffer took that equation a step further with his famous napkin scribble. Not only was supply-side a rational concept, Laffer suggested, but as taxes went down, revenue to the government would go up!

Neither concept made any sense — and time has proven both to be colossal idiocies — but if Americans would buy into it all they offered the Republican Party a way out of the wilderness.

Ronald Reagan was the first national Republican politician to fully embrace the Two Santa Clauses strategy. He said straight out that if he could cut taxes on rich people and businesses, those "job creators" would use their extra money to build new factories so all that new stuff "supplying" the economy would produce faster economic growth.

George HW Bush — like most Republicans in 1980 who hadn't read Wanniski's piece in The Wall Street Journal — was horrified. Ronald Reagan was proposing "Voodoo Economics," said Bush in the primary campaign, and Wanniski's supply-side and Laffer's tax-cut theories would throw the nation into debt while producing nothing in growth.

But Wanniski had been doing his homework on how to sell "voodoo" supply-side economics.

Democrats, Wanniski told the GOP, had been "Santa Clauses" since 1933 by giving people things. From union jobs to food stamps, new schools and Social Security, the American people loved the "toys" the Democratic Santas brought every year as well as the growing economy that increasing union wages and the money from social programs in middle class hands.

Republicans could stimulate the economy by throwing trillions at defense contractors, Jude's theory went: spending could actually increase without negative repercussions and that money would trickle down to workers through the defense industry, which had reacted to Eisenhower's warning by building factories in every single one of America's 435 congressional districts.

Plus, Republicans could be double Santa Clauses by cutting people's taxes!

For working people the tax cuts would only be a small token — a few hundred dollars a year at the most — but Republicans would heavily market them to the media and in political advertising. And the tax cuts for the rich, which weren't to be discussed in public, would amount to hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars, part of which would be recycled back to the GOP as campaign contributions.

There was no way, Wanniski said, that the Democrats could ever win again. They'd be forced into the role of Santa-killers if they acted responsibly by raising taxes, or, even better, they'd be machine-gunning Santa by cutting spending on their own social programs. Either one would lose them elections.

Reagan, Greenspan, Wanniski, and Laffer took the federal budget deficit from under a trillion dollars in 1980 to almost three trillion by 1988, and back then a dollar could buy far more than it buys today. They and George HW Bush ran up more debt in twelve years than every president in history up till that time, from George Washington to Jimmy Carter, combined.

Surely this would both "starve the beast" of the American government and force the Democrats to make the politically suicidal move of becoming deficit hawks. And that's just how it turned out.

Bill Clinton, the first Democrat they blindsided with Two Santas, had run on an FDR-like platform of a "New Covenant" with the American people that would strengthen the institutions of the New Deal, strengthen labor, and institute a national single-payer health care system.

A few weeks before his inauguration, however, Wanniski-insider Alan Greenspan and Goldman Sachs co-chairman Robert Rubin sat him down and told him the facts of life: Reagan and Bush had run up such a huge deficit that he was going to have to raise taxes and cut the size of government.

Clinton took their advice to heart, raised taxes, balanced the budget, and cut numerous programs, declaring an "end to welfare as we know it" and, in his second inaugural address, an "end to the era of big government."

Clinton shot Santa Claus, and the result was an explosion of Republican wins across the country as Republican politicians campaigned on a platform of supply-side tax cuts and pork-rich spending increases.

State after state turned red, and the Republican Party rose to take over, ultimately, every single lever of power in the federal government, from the Supreme Court to the White House.

Looking at the wreckage of the Democratic Party all around Clinton in 1999, Wanniski wrote a gloating memo that said, in part:

"We of course should be indebted to Art Laffer for all time for his Curve... But as the primary political theoretician of the supply-side camp, I began arguing for the 'Two Santa Claus Theory' in 1974. If the Democrats are going to play Santa Claus by promoting more spending, the Republicans can never beat them by promoting less spending. They have to promise tax cuts..."

Ed Crane, then-president of the Koch-funded Libertarian CATO Institute, noted in a memo that year:

"When Jack Kemp, Newt Gingrich, Vin Weber, Connie Mack and the rest discovered Jude Wanniski and Art Laffer, they thought they'd died and gone to heaven. In supply-side economics they found a philosophy that gave them a free pass out of the debate over the proper role of government. ... That's why you rarely, if ever, heard Kemp or Gingrich call for spending cuts, much less the elimination of programs and departments."

Two Santa Clauses had gone mainstream.

Never again would Republicans worry about the debt or deficit when they were in office; and they knew well how to scream hysterically about it and hook in the economically naïve press as soon as Democrats again took power.

When Jude Wanniski died, George Gilder celebrated the Reagan/Bush adoption of his Two Santas scheme in a Wall Street Journal eulogy:

"...Jude's charismatic focus on the tax on capital gains redeemed the fiscal policies of four administrations. ... Unbound by zero-sum economics, Jude forged the golden gift of a profound and passionate argument that the establishments of the mold must finally give way to the powers of the mind. ... He audaciously defied all the Buffetteers of the trade gap, the moldy figs of the Phillips Curve, the chic traders in money and principle, even the stultifying pillows of the Nobel Prize."

The Republicans got what they wanted from Wanniski's work. They held power for forty years, made their donors trillions of dollars, and cut organized labor's representation in the workplace from around a third of workers when Reagan came into office to around 6 percent of the non-governmental workforce today.

Think back to Ronald Reagan, who more than tripled the US debt from a mere $800 billion to $2.6 trillion in his 8 years. That spending produced a massive stimulus to the economy, and the biggest non-wartime increase in American national debt in all of our history. Nary a peep from Republicans about that 218% increase in our debt; they were just fine with it and to this day claim Reagan presided over a "great" economy.

When five rightwingers on the Supreme Court gave the White House to George W. Bush he reverted to Wanniski's "Two Santa" strategy and again nearly doubled the national debt, adding over a trillion in borrowed money to pay for his tax cut for billionaires, and tossing in two unfunded wars for good measure, which also added at least (long term) another $5 trillion.

There was not a peep about that debt from any high-profile in-the-know Republicans; in fact, Dick Cheney famously said, amplifying Wanniski's strategy: "Reagan proved deficits don't matter. We won the midterms. This is our due."

Bush and Cheney raised the debt by 86% to over $10 trillion (and additional trillions in war debt that wasn't put on the books until Obama entered office, so it looks like its his).

Then came Democratic President Barack Obama, and suddenly the GOP was hysterical about the debt again. So much so that they convinced a sitting Democratic president to propose a cut to Social Security (the "chained CPI"). Obama nearly shot the Democrats' biggest Santa Claus, just like Wanniski predicted, until outrage from the Democratic base stopped him.

Next, Donald Trump raised our national debt by almost $7 trillion, but the GOP raised the debt ceiling without a peep every year for the first three years of his administration, and then suspended it altogether for 2020 (so, if Biden won, he'd have to justify raising the ceiling for 2 years' worth of deficits, making it even more politically painful).

And now Republicans are getting ready to use the debt ceiling debate to drop their Two Santas bomb right onto President Joe Biden's head. After all, it worked against Clinton and Obama. Why wouldn't they use it again?

And if Republican debt-ceiling default threats could lower the stock market, as they did to both Clinton and Obama, all the better: Republicans could just blame the Democrats in power!

Americans deserve to know how we've been manipulated, and by whom, for the past 40 years. Hopefully Democratic politicians and our media will begin to call the GOP out on Wanniski's and Reagan's Two Santa Clauses scam.

The cancer of money in our politics gives a 'thumbs-up' for corporations to kill more of America

Want to know who owns your member of Congress? Just look at how they vote.

For example, this week Representatives Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Scott Peters (D-CA), Kathleen Rice (D-NY) and, on another committee, Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) all voted with 100% of their Republican colleagues to kill the ability of Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

To put this into context, the VA and every insurance company and hospital group in America negotiates prescription drug prices. Only Medicare is forced to pay around $60 billion a year more than they should. Which echoes as higher retail drug prices through our entire healthcare system.

And this time it isn't just about pharmaceuticals. As Rep. Schrader's hometown newspaper, The Oregonian, noted in their headline: "Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon Helps Kill Drug Pricing Bill, Endangering Biden Infrastructure Plan."

It's a safe bet that none of them did it because they were representing the interest of the people in their districts who helped put them in office. A national poll published just last week found:

An 87% majority of voters over age 65 favor allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices... Among Democratic seniors, 89% are in favor, as are 87% of Republican seniors and 81% of independent seniors.

Instead, these Democrats are enthusiastically and publicly representing the interest of the pharmaceutical industry, which, Senator Bernie Sanders notes, "[H]as spent over $4.5 billion on lobbying and campaign contributions over the past 20 years and has hired some 1,200 lobbyists to get Congress to do its bidding."

Americans pay an average of $1500 a year more for prescription drugs than citizens of any other nation. But the crisis isn't just the rip-off that's making Big Pharma executives rich: it's quite literally killing us.

Dr. Nicky J. Mehtani, a resident physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital, writes about the pain of having to tell a family that their mother and grandmother has died when the most likely reason was because her patient couldn't afford the heart medication she'd been prescribed.

"[I]n this patient's case, there was no truer underlying cause of death than the blatant unaffordability of her prescription medications," writes Dr. Mehtani.

This is an everyday story all across America. Last year 2.3 million seniors (and 15.5 million people under 65) couldn't afford to pay for doctor-prescribed medication. One in four Americans say they "have difficulty" paying for pharmaceuticals, and one-in-eight "ration" their own pills.

Dr. Mehtani notes that the patient who died in her hospital had a prescription for the heart medications she needed.

"But upon arrival to her pharmacy," Dr. Mehtani writes, "she learned that, despite being insured, one of her heart medications would cost over $200 per month. Though she had $200 in her bank account, she also had eight grandchildren to care for and feed. She figured she could skip a few days of medication and fill the prescription two days later, when she was due to receive her Social Security check.
"But two days without these expensive medications was enough to cause her to have a second heart attack — one that would ultimately take her life and drastically change those of her eight grandchildren, some of whom would later enter the foster care system."

Meanwhile, members of Congress rake in the Big Pharma cash, laughing all the way to the bank as people in their districts cut pills in half and die.

It's easy to dismiss Reps Schrader, Peters, Rice and Murphy as corrupt sellouts and, certainly in this case, the label fits. And it's frankly surprising that they were the only ones who publicly sold out their constituents' grandparents: Big Pharma is throwing money around Congress and on TV ads like a kid with a Super Soaker at the beach.

You've probably by now seen the dueling TV ads from AARP and the pharmaceutical lobby about negotiating Medicare drug prices; the industry is trying to provide cover for the members of Congress who said, "How high?" when the big drug companies said, "Jump!"

But the cancer of money in our politics is much deeper than these four corrupted Democrats (and 100% of the Republicans), and it goes back to a corrupted and sold-out US Supreme Court.

In their 5-4 split 2010 Citizens United decision, they concluded not only that corporations are persons and thus able to exercise their Constitutional right to "free speech" by owning pet politicians but that, because corporations don't have mouths, the form of speech they (and the morbidly rich) can use is money.

That's right: that stuff you have in your pocket is "free speech."

At the time there were five Republican appointees on the Court and four Democratic appointees. Justice John Paul Stevens, a Democratic appointee, wrote the main dissent, noting:

"The fact that corporations are different from human beings might seem to need no elaboration, except that the majority opinion almost completely eludes it… corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. … They are not themselves members of 'We the People' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established."

Writing as if he were seeing the "swamp" the Roberts Court's decision left us with today, he added:

"Politicians who fear that a certain corporation can make or break their reelection chances may be cowed into silence about that corporation. On a variety of levels, unregulated corporate electioneering might diminish the ability of citizens to 'hold officials accountable to the people,' and disserve the goal of a public debate that is 'uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.'"

Our problem isn't just a few corrupt, for-sale Democrats; it's pervasive across our political system and mostly because five conservatives on the US Supreme Court chose to corrupt the system to benefit that corporations and billionaires who helped put them on the Court in the first place.

It's why our politics are more polarized than ever before in living memory; corporations and rightwing billionaires are pouring money down the throats of increasingly radicalized Republicans and a few sellout Democrats across the country.

As I document at length in my book The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America, until we overturn these corrupt Court decisions and get money out of politics, every effort to save lives and move this nation forward will face often-insurmountable resistance.

Here is the real crime that General Milley exposed

Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley stepped outside the realm of his constitutional power to prevent Donald Trump from starting nuclear war with China or Iran. It was definitely unconstitutional and probably illegal. But he's not the true villain in this story; the true villain is almost never mentioned in the press.

This article was originally published at The Hartmann Report

Trump's advisors aren't the villains, either, although Trump was just the latest Republican president advised by Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, whose partner in the years after they advised Nixon, Lee Atwater, had passed away from brain cancer after making a public apology for all the damage he did to our nation in the service of Nixon's party and, later, George HW Bush (Willie Horton, et al).

And Nixon, too, presented such a threat to world peace and democracy in America that his own Defense Secretary, James Schlesinger, took actions remarkably similar to Milley's, as was revealed by the Washington Post on August 22, 1974. Schlesinger and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs George S. Brown (who'd just taken that post on July 1, 1974), the Post wrote, "kept a close watch to make certain that no orders were given to military units outside the normal chain of command."

Specifically, Schlesinger and Brown were worried that Nixon would start a nuclear war to stay in power as he became increasingly under siege in the Watergate scandal. Congress relieved them of that burden when Barry Goldwater walked over to the White House and informed Nixon that both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate were going to vote to impeach and remove him from office if he didn't resign immediately.

Which highlights the true villains in the General Mark Milley story who are almost always overlooked in the press: 50 Republicans in the US Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, who twice refused to remove Trump from office after the House had impeached him.

It's not like these senators didn't know that Trump was an unstable narcissist who had both loyalties and financial ties to autocrats in Russia, Turkey and multiple other foreign countries. They not only knew but were informed in great detail during the first opportunity they were given to remove Trump from office in December of 2019.

The impeachment managers laid out in excruciating detail the evidence that Trump had repeated for the 2020 election what he and his children had tried to do with Russia in 2016: solicit foreign interference in a US election, this time by trying to bribe the president of Ukraine with the promise of American weapons. At any other time in American history that would have been prosecuted as outright treason.

For example, in the election of 1800, then-Vice President Thomas Jefferson benefitted from what we'd today call a tabloid journalist, James Callender, publishing stories about the XYZ Affair that explicitly suggested his opponent, then-President John Adams, had provoked the cold naval war with France that came out of the scandal just to help his reelection chances. The charges of treason hurt Adams badly in that election, helping hand it to Jefferson.

While Adams almost certainly hadn't committed treason to stay in office, Trump almost certainly did, or something close to it. But the Republicans in the Senate were apparently unconcerned.

They knew by then that Trump and his family had both openly and secretly solicited and received Russian help in the 2016 election, that he'd trashed American intelligence agencies while elevating Russia's in a public meeting with President Putin in Helsinki way back in July of 2018, and that he'd tried to strong-arm the president of Ukraine to manufacture dirt on Joe Biden.

Compared to Richard Nixon paying to bug the DNC headquarters in the Watergate complex and then lie about it afterwards, Trump's behaviors were monstrous. But Republicans gave him a pass on his criminal behavior. Twice.

If even a bit over a dozen of them had had the courage of the senate Republicans in 1974, Milley never would have been in a position to worry that an American president might start a nuclear war just to hang onto power and thus avoid prosecution.

But Senate Republicans are proudly lacking in courage, patriotism or any sense of loyalty to our nation or its ideals; their only loyalties are to their own power and the billions their donors use to seduce and control them.

Milley (and then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper) shouldn't have had to take actions that may well have saved the republic if Trump had played out what he was considering.

And the American media needs to put the blame for that squarely where it belongs: fifty Republicans in the US Senate who chose their own self-interest over our county when Trump's impeached fate was in their hands.

The GOP's deranged obsession with power will end badly for us all -- including them

Many commentators and pundits have worried out loud that the Texas "precedent" of using vigilantism to end safe, legal abortion in that state is either wildly unconstitutional or, if it stands, will set a precedent to take down other rights like free speech or protest.

Republicans are playing with fire here, but it's not just around abortion rights. They're also explicitly going after a wide variety of other rights that Americans have fought to maintain for centuries.

This article was originally published at The Hartmann Report

If they achieve their endpoint — the direction they're currently heading — they will ultimately see their own rights stripped away as well, leading to the end of our democratic republic.

Just look at the horrors they're pursuing:

— Lacking any meaningful evidence whatsoever of "voter fraud," Republicans have now severely limited voting rights in 7 states and have bills pending with a good chance of passage in at least a dozen others.

— Compounding this, and empowered by the Supreme Court, Republicans are using voter purges to strip people off the voting rolls in heavily Democratic areas of GOP-controlled states (like Brian Kemp throwing over a half-million Georgians off the rolls just before "beating" Stacey Abrams by only about 50,000 votes).

— Ignoring decades of evidence (and common sense) that comprehensive sex education in schools lowers both sexually transmitted diseases as well as unwanted pregnancies, multiple states (Texas the largest) mandate that sex education be limited to "abstinence only" and forbid teachers from discussing birth control.

— Pretending the brutal history of religious fanatics in New England (see Monday's rant) and the warnings of everybody from Jesus to Jefferson that it's vital to separate church and state never happened, Republicans embrace hardcore fundamentalist hustlers who will turn on them as soon as it suits their own twisted purposes.

— Turning their backs on basic science, Republicans are rejecting both teaching evolution and wearing masks in our schools as, ironically, the Covid virus continues to evolve into more and more virulent strains.

— Spitting on the graves of our Founders who in many cases laid down their lives to codify and sanctify the right to protest, Republicans have passed laws giving a legal pass to bigots who drive their cars into protests and kill or injure people.

— Doing their best to prevent young people from learning that around half of our Founders were slaveholders, Republicans think they can whitewash (pun intended) our history rather than confront and learn from it to make our country better.

— Embracing anti-government militia movements, Republicans celebrate and empower people who openly deify the likes of Timothy McVeigh and Adolf Hitler while promoting anti-Americanism and even seditious insurrection.

— Tolerating blatant lawlessness and corruption within their own party, Republicans support politicians who participated in a conspiracy to "hang Mike Pence" and murder Speaker Nancy Pelosi, even calling the conspirators currently in jail "patriots" and "political prisoners."

— Sucking up to an obese orange-makeup-wearing billionaire who made his first fortune by stealing from his own family members and getting his Alzheimer's-addled father to sign papers he couldn't understand, Republicans continue to support a man who turned into a lifelong business model ripping off contractors and customers; lying to banks, insurance companies and the IRS; and taking dirty money from foreign oligarchs and tyrants.

— Taking billions in campaign contributions and other support from fossil fuel industries and its billionaires, Republicans use that support to maintain their power and build their own wealth while denying climate change — as the entire nation is hit repeatedly by "natural" disasters caused or exacerbated by global warming.

— Promoting rightwing media that traffics in hysteria, lies and racial hatred, Republicans replace honest policy discussions with jingoism, sloganeering and the "otherization" of anybody with whom they disagree or who looks, loves or prays differently than they do.

— Congratulating armed bullies in their "Trump trains" like those who drove Kamala Harris' campaign bus off the road and now regularly terrorize communities of color, Republicans embrace these 21st century Brownshirts.

In each case, the GOP — purely to seize and hold power — is moving America farther and farther from the goals and ideals this nation has traditionally held and ever more rapidly toward an authoritarian, oligarchic form of government like has seized Hungary, Brazil, Russia, The Philippines, and many nations across the Third World.

They think they can control this beast they've created, that they'll be able to pull it all back before it ends in utter disaster for our nation. However history, from our own Civil War to early 20th century Europe to today's countries where "conservative" parties have tried the same, gives the lie to their belief.

The monster of fear, hate, and greed that they've created — as it rises from the primordial mud and shakes itself into life — will eventually consume them every bit as enthusiastically as it has consumed dozens of other political parties and nations around the world.