The Republican Confederacy

To quote Mississippi’s William Faulkner, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Senators from states that were part of the Confederacy, or territory where slaveholding was legal, provide the ballast for Cruz’s demands. At least one senator each from Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas is on board.

Apparently, Trump’s defeat at the hands of Joe Biden, formerly vice-president to the first black man in the White House, and Kamala Harris, a black woman, is too much for too many to bear. Said differently, to these Republicans the right to vote is only for some of the people, some of the time – those people being this president’s supporters.

Trump’s equivocation over Charlottesville, his debate shoutout to the Proud Boys and his worship of dead Confederate generals are of the same piece. The vestiges of an older and crueler social order are to be maintained, at all costs.

Likewise, the reluctance of Trump appointees to the federal judiciary to affirm the validity of Brown v Board of Education, the supreme court ruling that said school segregation was unconstitutional, is a feature not a bug.

As for the Declaration of Independence’s pronouncement that “All men are created equal”, and the constitution’s guaranty of equal protection under law, they are inconveniences to be discarded when confronted by dislocating demographics.

“Stand back and stand by,” indeed.

Since the civil war, there has always been a southern party, frequently echoing strains of the old, slave-owning south. Practically, that has meant hostility towards civil rights coupled with wariness towards modernity.

To be sure, southern did not automatically equal neo-Confederate, but the distinction could easily get lost. And to be sure, the Democrats were initially the party of the south. During debate over the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Republicans gave Lyndon Johnson the votes he needed. Not anymore.

Cruz and Josh Hawley, the Missouri senator who kicked off the attempt to deny the electoral college result, are the products of places like Harvard, Stanford and Yale. John C Calhoun, the seventh vice-president, argued in favor of slavery and the right of states to secede. He went to Yale too. Joseph Goebbels had a doctorate from Heidelberg. An elite degree does not confer wisdom automatically. For the record, Cruz also clerked for a supreme court chief justice, William Rehnquist. Hawley did so for John Roberts.

A disputed election, a constitutional crisis, polarization … welcome to 1876

On Sunday, as the new Congress was being sworn in, a recording emerged of Trump unsuccessfully browbeating Georgia’s secretary of state into finding “11,780 votes, which is one more than we have”. From the sound of things, Trump’s fear of prosecutors and creditors, waiting for him to leave the White House, takes precedence over electoral integrity.

Back in May, after Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, predicted 240,000 deaths from Covid, and as armed protests to public health measures grew, an administration insider conveyed that Trump’s America was becoming a “bit” like the “late” Weimar Republic. Eight months later, the death toll is past 350,000 and climbing unabated.

Come nightfall on 6 January, the party of Abraham Lincoln will be no more. Instead, the specters of Jim Crow and autocracy will flicker.
Traitors Trump, Cruz, and Hawley can take a collective bow.

Edited from Lloyd Green opinion in The Guardian

“There are two parties now, traitors and patriots.”

Ulysses Grant wrote in 1861: “There are two parties now, traitors and patriots.” We think that holds true today as well!

On CNN’s “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper led off his Sunday morning show by ripping into Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and the dozen Republican senators who are planning on trying to derail the certification of the 2020 presidential election for refusing to either appear or issue a statement explaining themselves. Calling the group of lawmakers, the “sedition caucus,” Tapper was unsparing in his criticism as his producer showed their pictures behind him.
“On Saturday, 11 Republican senators said they would vote against counting electoral votes in Congress next week calling for, quote, ‘an emergency ten-day audit of emergency returns’ despite there being no evidence of widespread voter fraud,” Tapper began. “The group is following the lead of Senator Josh Hawley who says he will formally object to Biden’s decisive win despite zero credible evidence that would justify such a move — zero.”

“Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska has slammed Hawley and others of the sedition caucus saying, ‘adults don’t point a loaded gun at the legitimate government,'”
“Mitt Romney said on Saturday “I could never have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world.'”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Sunday encouraged his critics to “calm down” and “relax” about the plan to monkey wrench President-elect Joe Biden’s 2020 victory by officially objecting to Electoral College votes on January 6th in hopes of installing Trump as Dictator.

During an interview on Fox News Cruz was asked about the “pressure” he is getting from members of both parties who oppose his plan to object to Biden’s win and install Trump as President. She noted that some of colleagues have said that the Cruz plan borders on sedition.

Cruz whines that “multiple Democrats” had called for him to be “arrested and tried for the crimes of sedition and treason.” Well that’s exactly what should happen to all 12 senators of the sedition caucus and all 140 members of the House version of the sedition caucus.

Source Raw Story

Republican courtesy is just for show, they really don’t give a shit

Well, it seems the Republicans have learned exactly one thing in the 27 years since the Anita Hill hearings: be respectful to the woman in the first 24 hours. Hey, that’s progress. At this rate, they’ll demand an FBI investigation in 2045, and by 2072, who knows, maybe they’ll actually believe the woman!

In a New York Times article from October 7, 1991. It’s the first-day article announcing the explosive news that Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment just two days away from his full Senate confirmation vote.

In it, the reporter writes that the George H.W. Bush White House began pushback against Hill that very day, or the day before: White House staffers gave reporters the name of another woman who had worked with Hill and Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and would vouch for Thomas. The woman said Hill was making the charges up out of spite that Thomas “did not show any sexual interest in her” (the Times’ words, not the woman’s).

Compare to today. Kellyanne Conway said straight out of the chute that Dr. Ford deserves to be heard. Donald Trump said nothing untoward about her. Can you imagine how itchy his Twitter finger was on Monday morning? But they hid his smartphone in the White House gym or vegetable cellar or some other chamber Trump doesn’t frequent.

I’m not complimenting them. I’m observing that they figured out that the narrative on these kinds of things is set in the first 24 hours and so it was crucial that for those 24 hours, they behave themselves. Seem like they learned from last time, or even from #MeToo.

Lindsey Graham, earlier in the week, even uttered the r-word: “I’d have a hard time putting somebody on the Court that I thought tried to rape somebody. Period.” That quote arrested me, as it seemed to indicate that Graham was actually being open to the possibility of an investigation to determine just what Brett Kavanaugh actually did that night.

But within 24 hours, Graham was back on side. “Requiring an FBI investigation of a 36-year-old allegation (without specific references to time or location) before Professor Ford will appear before the Judiciary Committee is not about finding the truth, but delaying the process till after the midterm elections,” Graham tweeted after Christine Blasey Ford’s lawyer said she wanted an FBI investigation before testifying. “It is imperative the Judiciary committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken ASAP.”

So that’s what they’ve learned in 27 years—and evidently, it’s all they need to learn, because it looks like it’s going to get their nominee through. They played it cool at the start so that the first-day stories wouldn’t say the Republicans blew a gasket and immediately started discrediting the woman; so that instead, those stories would say “Republicans agree Dr. Ford should be heard.” Establish them as reasonable people. Then, once they skated through that news cycle, they’d start turning the screws.

That’s what the Republicans do. They don’t walk away so the captive can escape. They stay and watch. They finish the job.

They know exactly what they can get away with, because they know the sad truth of the matter. The sad truth of the matter is that Ford and her lawyers don’t have the leverage to force an FBI investigation or delay the hearing. The only leverage Ford had, potentially, was if Donald Trump had called her a liar and a slut in those first 24 hours. Then, she’d have been a figure of enormous sympathy. Now, alas, she’s mostly a figure of partisan sympathy.

Mind you, she shouldn’t have to demand an FBI probe. If the Republicans were actually interested in learning the truth about what happened on that long-ago night, of course they’d want the FBI to look into it. If the White House was interested, it would have directed the FBI to get to the bottom of her allegations.

By the way, if this isn’t too dog-bites-man, Donald Trump lied about all that. “The FBI said they don’t really do that,” he said Tuesday. No. According to Pete Williams of NBC news, it’s up to the White House to ask the FBI to investigate.

But they didn’t want an FBI probe. They were terrified of what an FBI probe would find, just as they were all mortified at the idea that they might have to be relying on Mark Judge as a character witness.

So they’re getting their way, probably. Although Ford could still show up next Monday and blow people away. She’d need to find just the right tone in telling them, ‘You set me up; you made me come up here with a few days’ preparation while getting death threats and take your best shots, and fine, I’m doing it.’ If she does testify and does it well, she can turn this around one more time.

And if she can’t, well, that’s a hell of a weight to put on someone who was a private person minding her own business until five days ago. I believe her. I bet most people believe her. I bet Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski end up believing her. But I bet they won’t have the courage to admit it.

Just remember: If Kavanaugh does make it, there’s one good way to get revenge. Vote. Vote, vote, vote. Make the Senate Democratic. That should ensure no more Supreme Court choices for Trump if another vacancy opens up (the Democrats just need to stonewall, as the Republicans did to Merrick Garland) and virtually no confirmations of any consequence.

The time to stop Kavanaugh was 2016. But the time to stop future ones? That starts this November 6.

From – https://www.thedailybeast.com

The name of the game is winning, and rigging the system the better to ensure perpetual winning.

WORSE AND WORSE: Republican Rule, Week 55: There Is No Bottom to This Bottom

Under Trump, the GOP has decided not to govern, but to rule.

Democracy? That’s for losers. For the Republicans, the name of the game is winning—and rigging the system the better to ensure perpetual winning.

One year and a month into the Donald Trump presidency, it’s increasingly clear that the Republican Party, drunk on the power of unified government under a man it once despised, has given up on the idea of democracy and decided instead to stand firmly at his side, and to maintain control by any means necessary. They have decided to not to govern, but to rule.

Democracy works only if all of the parties to it agree to its ground rules. We now have entered an era when only one party does so, often to its detriment, while the other continually blows through the guard rails of democratic normalcy in pursuit of perpetual power and monetary gain. The result: the most ostentatiously corrupt administration since Richard Nixon’s is completely off its tether, while his political party’s soul vanishes a little more each day.

The tax cut rammed through the Senate on a party-line basis, which promises to suck $1.5 trillion out of the treasury and which could yet set up draconian cuts to social services for the poor, children and the elderly was but one example of the rot. Holding hostage a Supreme Court seat, which Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell made clear he would allow to be filled only by a Republican president, was another. There are the serial attacks on voting rights in state after state under GOP control that, combined with likely continued Russian meddling, threaten the very democratic character of our elections. And the current determination of House Republicans to burn it all—including the intelligence community and the FBI—to protect Trump, and by extension the Kremlin, is the most outrageous of all.

Trump’s elevation to the White House, thanks to the anachronistic Electoral College, combined with the gerrymandered control of state and federal legislatures made possible by the Obama backlash and the short-sightedness of Democratic voters in 2010, gave Republicans a rare gift. The party has controlled all three branches of the federal government only three times since its founding as the anti-slavery party in 1854.

Since rebranding itself as the party of big business during the Gilded Age and losing losingTeddy Roosevelt in the process, the Grand Old Party controlled the presidency and Congress four times: during the presidencies of Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover from 1925 to 1933, to disastrous results for the global economy; then again under Dwight Eisenhower, due to the deaths of nine Democratic senators and the resignation of another; and finally during parts of George W. Bush’s tenure. (It’s worth noting that Eisenhower, who presided over a period of rare economic stability under a Republican, was so non-ideological, he was offered the Democratic nomination by party bosses in 1948. With Bush, the GOP returned to deficit-busting, tax-cutting, recession-inducing form.)

Even without the White House, Republican control of the federal legislature has been disastrous for anyone but the super rich.

After the “Republican revolution” of 1994, Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole and Trent Lott used their power to force through a wholesale rewrite of welfare and criminal justice law; changes that resulted in the mass incarceration of millions of people, disproportionately black or Latino. During the Obama years, Republican control of Congress resulted in a veritable halt to legislative activity, as Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, followed by Paul Ryan, effected a virtual congressional work stoppage to thwart the Democratic president.

Now, with unified control of government again in their hands, including a Republican majority on the Supreme Court, plus control of 67 state legislative chambers to Democrats’ 32 (with Virginia up in the air), and 34 governor’s mansions to Democrats’ 15 (plus total control in 26 states), Republicans are galloping through their agenda of returning America to the 1920s.

Anywhere Republicans wield control, a familiar pattern emerges: aggressive deregulation and tax cuts for big business, attacks on unionized work, Medicaid, and public education, and the savaging of voting rights for people of color and any other group suspected of potential alignment with Democrats. On a federal level, throw in a wholesale handover of pristine lands, from Alaska to Bears Ears in Utah to the extractive industries, coupled with relaxed rules on how much those oil, gas, and coal companies can pollute the air and water with impunity.

Donald Trump supports this agenda, but he isn’t implementing it on his own. He has an entire party apparatus behind him, which is why Mitch McConnell declared 2017 to be, in his view, the greatest single year in the history of the Republican Party.

Apparently the feeling is so good to Republicans both in Washington and in the states, they have decided that they will never relinquish this unprecedented power.

In Wisconsin, the Republican governor, Scott Walker, has for nearly a full year refused to call special elections, leaving legislative seats vacant rather than risk their being filled by Democrats. This after his administration pulled off the most widespread voter disenfranchisement in the country in 2016 and dismantled his state’s Government Accountability Board, which was supposed to insure fair and ethical elections. That’s banana republic dictator behavior.

In Pennsylvania, having lost appeals going all the way up to the Republican majority Supreme Court, Republicans are now threatening to impeach state Supreme Court justices who ruled against them in a gerrymandering case that could finally break their stranglehold over state and federal legislative seats.

And of course there is the autocrat in training in Washington, who this week declared that not standing and applauding his speeches is tantamount to treason, and who with his party having emptied the coffers on their billionaire tax cuts, has ordered the Pentagon to throw him a grand military parade to “showcase America’s might,” in the style of Kim Jong Un. One shudders at the thought of tanks and troops filing down Pennsylvania Avenue, while the man who ducked out of Vietnam and has denigrated the service of braver men and Gold Star families does his best Mussolini pucker as he and his kleptocratic clan preen in the reviewing stand.

And rather than use the power the Constitution grants the Congress to rein in the would-be American Louis XVI, the speaker of the House, the Senate majority leader, and a cadre of lickspittle Republican marionettes have put the United States Congress wholly in the president’s service. Ryan is too busy urging the peasants to dance in the streets for the dollar-fifty he and his fellow top hatters flung from the Bastille in Washington while handing Exxon Mobil billions, the Koch brothers millions to care. McConnell can only rouse himself to threaten Democrats and take children’s health care and military payrolls hostage while allowing community health center funding benefitting 26 million Americans to languish for months while dawdling on immigration reform (which Ryan insists will only proceed in the House on the Dear Leader’s terms). In short, we now have zero checks on the executive branch in Washington, and an almost frenzied money grab by the wealthiest Americans under the benighted gaze of the once revered Grand Old Party. Abe Lincoln must be spinning in his grave.

Ryan and McConnell are destined to go down in history as twin handmaidens of America’s surprisingly swift descent toward authoritarianism, along with present-day Joe McCarthy Devin Nunes. Their morally decrepit political party has turned its back on every principle of democracy in favor of the naked pursuit of profit and power. Trump will be remembered as a wanna-be autocrat surrounded by beaters, cheaters, grifters, miscreants, and incompetents, and depending on what Mueller finds, maybe a criminal, too.

And he can be assured no one will ever throw him a memorial parade.

Joy-Ann Reid in the Daily Beast

 

It can’t happen here, right? (Civil War? update)

While “wanna be dictator” Trump fans the racist flames of unrest……………….

A group of national-security experts set chance of civil war at roughly 35 percent

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria reports that in the New Yorker, Robin Wright considers the fragility of “the Union, our republic, and a country that has long been considered the world’s most stable democracy.” She cites a Foreign Policy survey that found a consensus among a group of national-security experts of a roughly 35 percent chance of civil war breaking out in the next 10 to 15 years, and interviews one of those experts, Keith Mines, a former diplomat, who puts the chances of civil war at 60 percent.

“We keep saying, ‘It can’t happen here,’ but then, holy smokes, it can,’ Mines told me after we talked, on Sunday, about Charlottesville,” Wright writes.

“Based on his experience in civil wars on three continents, Mines cited five conditions that support his prediction: entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution; increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows; weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary; a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership; and the legitimization of violence as the ‘in’ way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes.”

“The dangers are now bigger than the collective episodes of violence,” Wright writes.

The full Robin Wright story;

After the brawling and racist brutality and deaths in Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe asked, “How did we get to this place?” The more relevant question after Charlottesville—and other deadly episodes in Ferguson, Charleston, Dallas, St. Paul, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, and Alexandria—is where the United States is headed. How fragile is the Union, our republic, and a country that has long been considered the world’s most stable democracy? The dangers are now bigger than the collective episodes of violence. “The radical right was more successful in entering the political mainstream last year than in half a century,” the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in February. The organization documents more than nine hundred active (and growing) hate groups in the United States.

America’s stability is increasingly an undercurrent in political discourse. Earlier this year, I began a conversation with Keith Mines about America’s turmoil. Mines has spent his career—in the U.S. Army Special Forces, the United Nations, and now the State Department—navigating civil wars in other countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia, El Salvador, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan. He returned to Washington after sixteen years to find conditions that he had seen nurture conflict abroad now visible at home. It haunts him. In March, Mines was one of several national-security experts whom Foreign Policy asked to evaluate the risks of a second civil war—with percentages. Mines concluded that the United States faces a sixty-per-cent chance of civil war over the next ten to fifteen years. Other experts’ predictions ranged from five per cent to ninety-five per cent. The sobering consensus was thirty-five per cent. And that was five months before Charlottesville.

“We keep saying, ‘It can’t happen here,’ but then, holy smokes, it can,” Mines told me after we talked, on Sunday, about Charlottesville. The pattern of civil strife has evolved worldwide over the past sixty years. Today, few civil wars involve pitched battles from trenches along neat geographic front lines. Many are low-intensity conflicts with episodic violence in constantly moving locales. Mines’s definition of a civil war is large-scale violence that includes a rejection of traditional political authority and requires the National Guard to deal with it. On Saturday, McAuliffe put the National Guard on alert and declared a state of emergency.

Based on his experience in civil wars on three continents, Mines cited five conditions that support his prediction: entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution; increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows; weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary; a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership; and the legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes.

President Trump “modeled violence as a way to advance politically and validated bullying during and after the campaign,” Mines wrote in Foreign Policy. “Judging from recent events the left is now fully on board with this,” he continued, citing anarchists in anti-globalization riots as one of several flashpoints. “It is like 1859, everyone is mad about something and everyone has a gun.”

To test Mines’s conjecture, I reached out to five prominent Civil War historians this weekend. “When you look at the map of red and blue states and overlap on top of it the map of the Civil War—and who was allied with who in the Civil War—not much has changed,” Judith Giesberg, the editor of the Journal of the Civil War Era and a historian at Villanova University, told me. “We never agreed on the outcome of the Civil War and the direction the country should go in. The postwar amendments were highly contentious—especially the Fourteenth Amendment, which provides equal protection under the law—and they still are today. What does it mean to deliver voting rights to people of color? We still don’t know.”

She added, “Does that make us vulnerable to a repeat of the past? I don’t see a repeat of those specific circumstances. But that doesn’t mean we are not entering something similar in the way of a culture war. We are vulnerable to racism, tribalism, and conflicting visions of the way forward for our nation.”

Anxiety over deepening schisms and new conflict has an outlet in popular culture: in April, Amazon selected the dystopian novel “American War”—which centers on a second U.S. civil war—as one of its best books of the month. In a review in the Washington Post, Ron Charles wrote, “Across these scarred pages rages the clash that many of us are anxiously speculating about in the Trump era: a nation riven by irreconcilable ideologies, alienated by entrenched suspicions . . . both poignant and horrifying.” The Times book reviewer noted, “It’s a work of fiction. For the time being, anyway.” The book’s author, Omar El Akkad, was born in Egypt and covered the war in Afghanistan, the Arab Spring, and the Ferguson protest as a journalist for Canada’s Globe and Mail.

Before Charlottesville, David Blight, a Yale historian, was already planning a conference in November on “American Disunion, Then and Now.” “Parallels and analogies are always risky, but we do have weakened institutions and not just polarized parties but parties that are risking disintegration, which is what happened in the eighteen-fifties,” he told me. “Slavery tore apart, over fifteen years, both major political parties. It destroyed the Whig Party, which was replaced by the Republican Party, and divided the Democratic Party into northern and southern parts.”

“So,” he said, “watch the parties” as an indicator of America’s health.

In the eighteen-fifties, Blight told me, Americans were not good at foreseeing or absorbing the “shock of events,” including the Fugitive Slave Act, the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, the John Brown raid, and even the Mexican-American War. “No one predicted them. They forced people to reposition themselves,” Blight said. “We’re going through one of those repositionings now. Trump’s election is one of them, and we’re still trying to figure it out. But it’s not new. It dates to Obama’s election. We thought that would lead culture in the other direction, but it didn’t,” he said. “There was a tremendous resistance from the right, then these episodes of police violence, and all these things [from the past] exploded again. It’s not only a racial polarization but a seizure about identity.”

Generally, Blight added, “We know we are at risk of civil war, or something like it, when an election, an enactment, an event, an action by government or people in high places, becomes utterly unacceptable to a party, a large group, a significant constituency.” The nation witnessed tectonic shifts on the eve of the Civil War, and during the civil-rights era, the unrest of the late nineteen-sixties and the Vietnam War, he said. “It did not happen with Bush v. Gore, in 2000, but perhaps we were close. It is not inconceivable that it could happen now.”

In a reversal of public opinion from the nineteen-sixties, Blight said, the weakening of political institutions today has led Americans to shift their views on which institutions are credible. “Who do we put our faith in today? Maybe, ironically, the F.B.I.,” he said. “With all these military men in the Trump Administration, that’s where we’re putting our hope for the use of reason. It’s not the President. It’s not Congress, which is utterly dysfunctional and run by men who spent decades dividing us in order to keep control, and not even the Supreme Court, because it’s been so politicized.”

In the wake of Charlottesville, the chorus of condemnation from politicians across the political spectrum has been encouraging, but it is not necessarily reassuring or an indicator about the future, Gregory Downs, a historian at the University of California at Davis, told me. During the Civil War, even Southern politicians who denounced or were wary of secession for years—including Jefferson Davis—ended up as leaders of the Confederacy. “If the source of conflict is deeply embedded in cultural or social forces, then politicians are not inherently able to restrain them with calls for reason,” Downs said. He called the noxious white supremacists and neo-Nazis the “messengers,” rather than the “architects,” of the Republic’s potential collapse. But, he warned, “We take our stability for granted.”

He dug out for me a quote from the journalist Murat Halstead’s book “The War Claims of the South,” published in 1867. “The lesson of the war that should never depart from us,” Halstead wrote, “is that the American people have no exemption from the ordinary fate of humankind. If we sin, we must suffer for our sins, like the Empires that are tottering and the Nations that have perished.”

Eric Foner, the Columbia University historian, won the Pulitzer Prize, in 2011, for his book “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.” Like the other scholars I spoke to, Foner is skeptical that any future conflict will resemble America’s last civil war. “Obviously, we have some pretty deep divisions along multiple lines—racial, ideological, rural versus urban,” he told me. “Whether they will lead to civil war, I doubt. We have strong gravitational forces that counteract what we’re seeing today.” He pointed out that “the spark in Charlottesville—taking down a statue of Robert E. Lee—doesn’t have to do with civil war. People are not debating the Civil War. They’re debating American society and race today.”

Charlottesville was not the first protest by the so-called alt-right, nor will it be the last. Nine more rallies are planned for next weekend and others in September.

 

Robin Wright is a contributing writer for newyorker.com, and has written for the magazine since 1988. She is the author of “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World.

What these Trump supporting Billionaires are up to should scare the shit out of you

Koch brothers

A billionaire-backed “movement” is dangerously close to calling a constitutional convention of states under Article V of the U.S. Constitution. If realized, it would be the first constitutional convention since the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, which replaced the Articles of Confederation with the U.S. Constitution.

After an active start to 2017, proponents are now allegedly seven states away from reaching the needed 34 states (two-thirds) to convene a convention. According to Article V, which lays out all the ways the Constitution can be amended, any amendments proposed by the convention would then need to be ratified by 38 (three-fourths) of the states.

Analysis of email blasts from proponents and a new op-ed shows that an emboldened group of paid pro-convention campaigners are advocating for a convention to go far beyond its professed purpose of passing a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA). Their proposals include the creation of a national identification card.

Apart from the harm a BBA could inflict on the economy and the nation’s economic sovereignty, there are real fears that a BBA convention could “run away,” and open up the constitution to much more drastic changes. There is nothing to guard against a convention being hijacked by special interests, prompting progressive groups like the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Common Cause, as well as pro-convention groups like the Compact for America to warn of the dangers of a runaway convention.

Mercer Family

One group called the Convention of States (COS) advocates a convention to broadly restrict the fiscal powers and jurisdiction of the federal government, as well as to introduce federal term limits. COS has passed 12 resolutions.

In an email sent to supporters, Mark Meckler, a professional Tea Party campaigner for COS, said, “when we succeed in getting 34 states to pass our legislation, a convention will be called where the states can propose amendments to…

Whether Convention of States hopes to itself get to 34 states, or if its strategy is to co-opt and expand a BBA convention is unclear. However, according to Jay Riestenberg of Common Cause, which tracks the movement closely, Convention of States lobbied hard to defend Nevada’s BBA resolution, which was rescinded earlier this year—indicating its strategy aligns with the BBA effort.

In a similar vein, former Alaska state senator and BBA advocate Fritz Pettyjohn said in an op-ed reposted on ALEC’s website in April that a “Article V Convention could…propose any number of solutions. One would be to dissolve Congress and elect a new one. When you’re the sovereign, you can do that.”

Once the convention is called, all bets are off. (According to ALEC, Pettyjohn’s op-ed “was submitted by a subject matter expert and does not necessarily reflect the views of the American Legislative Exchange Council.” Tellingly, Pettyjohn works on the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force, the ALEC and Koch brothers-affiliated and funded group behind the BBA-specific convention, according to the op-ed.)

The 2017 state legislative sessions started with 28 active resolutions. According to Riestenberg of Common Cause, Arizona and Wyoming passed new resolutions this year, while Maryland, New Mexico and Nevada rescinded resolutions—bringing the current total down to 27.

Those 27 resolutions are focused on passing a BBA, to force the federal government to balance its budget on a regular basis. The European Union has imposed BBA-like measures on member states and the concept was central to Margaret Thatcher’s municipal austerity regime in England, for example. If passed in the USA, it would cripple the government’s ability to respond to economic crises, and would put public programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on the chopping block. Some of the 27 resolutions for a BBA date back to the 1970s.

Both the BBA and the Convention of States are endorsed and supported by the Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative corporate group that focuses mainly on state legislatures. According to journalist Brendan O’Connor, writing for Fusion, Convention of State’s recent growth has been funded by dark money groups tied not only to the religious right but also to right-wing financiers like the Koch and Mercer families.

Republican legislatures that have not passed resolutions are now being targeted by the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force and Convention of States, including Montana, Idaho, Minnesota, Kentucky, South Carolina and Virginia. Wisconsin is voting on a resolution on June 14.

An expansive network of national and state-based civil society organizations, convened by Common Cause, have come together to oppose resolutions and to encourage states to rescind old resolutions. Earlier this year for example, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth helped beat back a well-coordinated lobbying campaign to pass a resolution there and last year Common Cause and others lobbied Delaware to rescind its resolution.

But this is a fight about power at the state level. And thanks to decades of campaign contributions and gerrymandering, ALEC, which has played an influential role in the Trump regime, and the GOP currently enjoy historic control. Republicans control 32 state legislatures and 33 governorships, including 25 “trifectas,” where they have majorities in both state legislative chambers and the governorship.

Now they want to cash in that historic—supermajority-like power—for permanent structural change. The convention has become a top priority of ALEC’s, right-wing families like the Kochs and the Mercers, and ironically, groups like the Federalist Society. Politicians like Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and hundreds of state legislators have also made it a defining issue.

As all this dawns on the public, and reports show billionaire funding pouring into the movement, concern surrounding the possible convention seems to be heightening. However, ALEC and company may once again be one step ahead.

On March 30, the same day Trump tweeted about changing libel laws, the Arizona legislature formally invited states to meet in Phoenix this September, to propose rules for the convention and agree on a meeting place.

According to the State Legislators’ Article V Caucus, an ALEC-associated group that convenes state legislators in support of the convention, the “Phoenix Convention,” as it is being called, will be “the first formal convention of the sovereign states to be held since the Washington Peace Conference was held in 1861 as state leaders sought to head off the civil war.”

“In a sense,” claims Pettyjohn in his op-ed, “the Phoenix Convention is a demonstration project, a way to prove the feasibility and trustworthiness of the real thing, the Amendment, or Article V, Convention.” He also says that, “Bill Fruth of the BBA Task Force is responsible for this Convention, along with the indispensable Speaker of the Arizona House, J. D. Mesnard.”

In a vague yet ominous claim of sovereignty, Pettyjohn says that, “if Phoenix succeeds, an organization will have been formed. What is done with it, once the Convention adjourns, is up to its members.”

If the convention never gets called, the organizing behind it will have served to unify numerous state legislatures around the concept of fiscal restraints on government—akin to Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights, which restricts the state’s power to raise revenue. Maybe by aiming for federal constitutional change, ALEC sets the stage for the restraints on state budgets it seeks.

This isn’t the first time ALEC and company has gotten close to a convention or a BBA. They came close to calling a convention in the 1980s, and in the 1990s Congress came one senate vote away from passing a BBA. That Congressional mobilization successfully placed political pressure on Bill Clinton to balance the federal budget.

And now, it appears, some of the ideas being advanced by Convention of States are beginning to win significant support in Congress. For example, one of the seven amendments agreed on at a September 2016 Convention of States Conference proposes that if one forth of either the House or Senate opposes an existing or proposed “federal administrative regulation,” then it must be put to a vote and pass both the House and Senate.

This is strikingly similar to the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act of 2017 (H.R 26), which passed the House this January. The Act would require Congress to approve all new significant regulations within 70 legislative days of being proposed, an idea ALEC introduced five years ago.

Drawing on general calls for self-governance, Convention of States and proponents want to claim a narrative about “who decides.” But they drum up coded racial fears of changing demographics and “what this country is going to look like” to gain support.

Their messages of self-governance are hypocritical. ALEC, which pushes “model legislation” in state legislatures, is largely responsible for a highly coordinated and effective attack on local municipal governments across the country. Thanks in large part to its work, in recent years, thousands of local governments have been stripped of powers to heighten protections for minorities, gender equality, workers, migrants, and the environment. ALEC has also been instrumental in the growth of mass incarceration and attacks on the right to vote.

Those opposing the convention are not fooled by convention proponents’ effort to lay claim to phrases like “self-government.”

http://www.rawstory.com/2017/06/a-trump-backing-billionaire-movement-is-dangerously-close-to-calling-a-constitutional-convention/