2020 was an election theft dry run for Republicans. Next time, they could succeed

Every election starting now and into the foreseeable future is going to be the most important election of our lifetime. Until the Republican Party as we currently know it is ground to dust, scorched, and the earth on which it stands is salted, the threat of white nationalistic fascism will remain. Right now, in 2022, Republicans are running explicitly on undermining representative democracy, from the smallest local positions up through the state legislatures and all the way to Congress. They are converging behind the Big Lie and promising that they are going to fix it so that they don’t lose any more elections. So that Donald Trump (or his stand-in) will take the 2024 election.

They’re not even trying to be subtle about it—it’s explicit in so many campaigns for governor, attorney general, and secretary of state in plenty of battlegrounds, including the states that Trump tried to contest in 2020.

“What we’re seeing right now is unprecedented,” Joanna Lydgate, co-founder and CEO of States United Action, told CNN’s Rod Brownstein. “To see candidates running on a platform of lies and conspiracy theories about our elections as a campaign position, to see a former President getting involved in endorsing in down-ballot races at the primary level, and certainly to see this kind of systemic attacks on our elections, this spreading of disinformation about our elections—we’ve never seen anything like this before as a country.”

RELATED STORY: Republican state legislators are laying the groundwork to overturn the next election

Brownstein reports on a study released last week—commissioned by the groups States United Democracy Center, Protect Democracy, and Law Forward—which determined that 13 states have already approved laws to make sure there will be partisan control over election administration, laws to intimidate election administrators, and laws requiring audits of the 2020 election, as if that is a thing. That’s beyond the orgy they’ve been having for the past decade with voter suppression laws, which hasn’t ended either. Thirty-three states have another 229 bills related to denying the results of the last election, and to limiting the electorate and predetermining the outcome of future elections.

“Taken separately, each of these bills would chip away at the system of free and fair elections that Americans have sustained, and worked to improve, for generations,” the groups concluded. “Taken together, they could lead to an election in which the voters’ choices are disregarded and the election sabotaged.”

“In the leadup to the 2020 election, those who warned of a potential crisis were dismissed as alarmists by far too many Americans who should have seen the writing on the wall,” Jessica Marsden, counsel at Protect Democracy, told Brownstein in an email. “Almost two years later, after an attempted coup and a violent insurrection on our Capitol, election conspiracy theorists—including those who actually participated in January 6—are being nominated by the GOP to hold the most consequential offices for overseeing the 2024 election.”

“It’s all connected,” Lydgate said. “The playbook is to try to change the rules and change the referees, so you can change the results.”

They’ve got a very powerful referee on their side in the form of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

A casual observer might reasonably conclude that Ginni and Clarence Thomas are working in tandem to lay the groundwork for the next coup—with Ginni taking up the politics and Clarence handling the legal side. The symmetry between their work is remarkable. https://t.co/wUh5TiHk4q pic.twitter.com/tooRedMQJk

— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) May 23, 2022

Thomas won’t recuse himself from any of these cases, and as of now, a Democratic Congress doesn’t seem particularly interested in trying to force him to via the threat of investigation and impeachment.

“What’s past is prologue, and what was done sloppily in 2020 is being mapped out by experts for 2024,” Slate’s Stern and Dahlia Lithwick write. “It didn’t work in 2020 because the legal and political structures to support it weren’t in place at the time. Those pieces are being put into place as we type this.” That’s the story Brownstein is also trying to get to Democrats and the rest of the traditional media—anyone who will listen and can do something about it.

There are answers. There are ways to fix this. They start with electing enough Democrats to state offices to make sure the damage the fascists can do is limited. We can also elect enough Democrats to the House and to the Senate to make the two Republican-friendly, obstructionist Democratic senators irrelevant.

Then it’ll be a matter of convincing that Democratic majority and a Democratic president that none of this is blogger hysteria, but a very real threat to our freedoms that has everybody else’s hair on fire. Saving our representative democracy means expanding and reforming the court.

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Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, one of the 10 Republicans to back impeachment, retiring after 18 terms

Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, who was one of the 10 Republicans that voted to impeach Donald Trump last year, announced Tuesday that he would not seek a 19th term this fall. Upton emailed his supporters that he believed “it is time to pass the torch,” though the person who will most likely be claiming that beacon in the new 4th Congressional District is his colleague and would-be primary foe, Trump-backed Rep. Bill Huizenga.

While it’s possible that Upton’s departure will entice someone else to run against Huizenga in the August GOP primary, they’d need to collect at least 1,000 valid signatures by the April 19 filing deadline. No notable Democrats have entered the race so far for the new version of the 4th, a southwestern Michigan seat Trump would have carried 51-47 in 2020.

Huizenga announced back in December right after the state’s new congressional maps were completed that he’d be seeking re-election in the new 4th, and he earned an endorsement from Trump last month. Upton, by contrast, spent months keeping the political world guessing whether he’d go up against Huizenga in the primary or retire, though until Tuesday, he’d sounded likely to run again. Upton in February even launched a $400,000 ad campaign where he told viewers, “If you want a rubber stamp as your congressman, I'm the wrong guy. But if you want someone committed to solving problems, putting policy over politics, then I'm asking for your support.”

Listen and subscribe to Daily Kos Elections’ The Downballot podcast with David Nir and David Beard

Upton, though, said he was still undecided about 2022, and his retirement announcement proves he wasn’t just playing coy. On Tuesday, he insisted that redistricting mattered more to him than any backlash from his impeachment vote, saying, “My district was cut like Zorro—three different ways.” However, it was Huizenga who, at least on paper, was more disadvantaged by the new map: While about two-thirds of the residents of the new 4th are currently Upton’s constituents, Huizenga represents only about one-quarter of the seat he’s now the frontrunner to claim.

Upton’s decision ends a long career in politics that began in the late 1970s when he started working for local Rep. David Stockman, and he remained on his staff when Stockman became Ronald Reagan’s first director of the Office of Management and Budget. Upton decided to seek elected office himself in 1986 when he launched a primary challenge to Rep. Mark Siljander, who had succeeded Stockman in the House in 1981, in an earlier version of the 4th District.

Siljander was an ardent social conservative well to the right of even Reagan: Among other things, he’d unsuccessfully tried to torpedo Sandra Day O’Connor’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 1981 because he didn’t feel she was sufficiently conservative, and he even threatened to vote against the White House’s properties to try and stop O’Connor. Siljander, though, had taken just 58% of the vote in his 1984 primary, which showed that a significant number of primary voters were unhappy with him.

Upton argued that, while both he and Siljander were “conservative Republican[s],” the incumbent had ignored his constituents to focus on international issues. Upton, by contrast, argued that he’d work better with the party’s leadership and seek committee assignments that would allow him to direct his energies to domestic concerns. The race took a truly nasty turn late in the campaign when audio leaked of Siljander telling local clergy members to aid him in order to “break the back of Satan,” arguing that his loss “would send a shock wave across America that Christians can be defeated in Congress by impugning their integrity and smear tactics.”

Upton ended up dispatching the congressman 55-45, a wide result both sides attributed to Siljander’s comments. Upton’s team, while denying that the outcome represented a loss for the religious right, predicted, “Fred’s tactics will be much more moderate and more reasonable.” Upton easily prevailed in the general election and had no trouble winning for decades: Siljander, for his part, was last in the news in late 2020 when Trump pardoned what an angry Upton described as “a series of federal crimes including obstruction of justice, money laundering and lobbying for an international terrorist group with ties to Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida and the Taliban.”

Upton in 2002 easily turned back a primary challenge from state Sen. Dale Shugars 66-32 in what was now numbered the 6th District, but he was more vulnerable to an intra-party challenge in 2010 when the burgeoning tea party turned its wrath on the longtime establishment figure. His opponent was former state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk, who had badly failed to unseat Democratic Sen. Carl Levin two years before but argued that Upton was insufficiently conservative. The congressman outspent Hoogendyk by an 18-to-1 margin but prevailed only 57-43, which enticed Hoogendyk to try again in 2012.

However, while the anti-tax Club for Growth ran commercials this time against Upton, who by now was ​​chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, the incumbent worked hard to emphasize his opposition to the Obama administration and won by a larger 67-33 margin. That was the last time he faced a serious primary challenge at the ballot box, but in 2014 he went through his first expensive general election campaign when a law professor Larry Lessig directed his Mayday PAC, which he called his “super PAC to end super PACs,” against Upton.

Mayday spent over $2 million to aid a previously-unheralded Democrat named Paul Clements, and while Upton didn’t come close to losing in that red wave year, Democrats hoped his 56-40 showing meant he could be beaten in a better political climate. Clements sought a rematch in 2016, but Upton won by a 59-36 spread.

In 2018, though, he faced a considerably tougher battle against physician Matt Longjohn at a time when the GOP was on the defensive nationwide. Upton got some surprising help during that campaign when Joe Biden delivered a speech in his district that was paid in part by an Upton family foundation; Biden, who was apparently motivated to praise Upton because of the congressman's work on a bill called the 21st Century Cures Act, declared the congressman was "one of the finest guys I've ever worked with" and "the reason we're going to beat cancer." Ultimately, the congressman prevailed 50-46 in what was by far the closest race of his career.

Democrats hoped they could finally take him down in 2020, but Upton returned to form and beat state Rep. Jon Hoadley 56-40 as Trump was carrying his seat 51-47. Two months later, Upton responded to the Jan. 6 attack by voting for impeachment, a vote that arguably did more than anything else to close out his lengthy time in Congress.

Republican screwups on infrastructure hurt people from Kentucky to Michigan to Mississippi to NYC

The running joke of the Trump presidency—okay, one of the running jokes—was the constant pronouncements of an upcoming “infrastructure week” or that some kind of infrastructure deal was in the offing. Nothing. Ever. Happened. Meanwhile, ask the people of Jackson, Mississippi—who watched as the government at every level failed for decades to invest in keeping their city’s water system up to date, with some residents unable to access water for weeks—to find humor in Trump’s failure to deliver. We’ll come back to that story below.

Once again, infrastructure is the word flying around Washington, D.C., and it’s no longer a joke. There are ongoing conversations in the House and the Senate. We’ve seen a bipartisan deal announced laying out the framework on funding what’s called physical infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc.), the urgent need for which will be our focus here. However, let me add that our government—with or without support from Republicans—absolutely must fund equally vital human infrastructure needs such as child and elder care, job training, and education, elements that are just as important in making our economy stronger. As President Biden pointed out in La Crosse, Wisconsin, on June 29, “the human infrastructure is intertwined with our physical infrastructure.”

Finally, the grownups are in charge.

For anyone who still needs convincing, the consulting firm McKinsey laid out the data on the benefits of serving the common good by investing in our country’s physical infrastructure: there is little doubt about the value of investing in good infrastructure. In 2015, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that every dollar spent on infrastructure brought an economic benefit of up to $2.20. The U.S. Council of Economic Advisers has calculated that $1 billion of transportation-infrastructure investment supports 13,000 jobs for a year. Beyond the numbers, infrastructure is critical to the health and well-being of the country: the United States could not function without the roads, bridges, sewers, clean water, and airports previous generations paid for.

As you can see below, after a nice bump early in the Obama-Biden years thanks to the 2009 stimulus package, infrastructure spending dropped off and fell to generational lows under the guy who followed them.

It would be impossible to provide even a partial list of the necessary infrastructure projects across the U.S., although this article does a nice job presenting a number of the highest priorities. The Biden White House has produced fact sheets that sum up each state’s physical infrastructure needs, demonstrating what it hopes to accomplish for Americans all across the country.

Images of the horrific water crisis in Flint, Michigan, are burned into all of our minds, but another city’s water-related tragedy may be less familiar. In Jackson, Mississippi, a city of 160,000 inhabitants, over 80% of whom are Black, the majority went without running water for weeks after a brutal mid-February storm. How brutal? An engineer at the state Department of Transportation expressed the following: “I sincerely hope that in 25 plus years from now, we are still talking about this event as the ‘worst one ever.” Even a month after the storm had passed, over 70% of people were still being told to boil their water before using it.

Why did the storm wreak such havoc in Jackson specifically? Because of a century-plus old municipal water system whose vulnerabilities were laid bare by the storm—which also pummeled Texas, killing hundreds and perhaps as many as a thousand people while knocking out that state’s power grid. Jackson residents reflected on the crisis in interviews with Good Morning America.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba specifically blamed Mississippi Republicans, who have dominated the state’s politics for decades, for failing to fund the necessary infrastructure repairs that would have mitigated damage from the storm: “I think that you find less willingness from the state to support a city like Jackson, because they don't necessarily feel that the demographics of Jackson, or even the politics of Jackson resemble the majority opinion.” In other words, they didn’t care one iota about a city full of Black Democrats.

The governor of Mississippi recently murmured something about assisting the city in looking around for low-interest loans. Yip-frickin-ee. The mayor estimated the cost of truly solving the problems faced by the city’s water system—Jackson’s water also has a lead problem rivaling that of the aforementioned Flint—at $2 billion. The Biden plan proposed to send what will hopefully be enough money to make things right for the people of Jackson.

Beyond Flint’s problems, there are dams all over Michigan that are simply falling apart. In May 2020, the Sanford and Edenville dams burst after heavy rains, flooding surrounding areas. Regarding the Edenville dam—aged 96 years—federal regulators revoked its license to generate hydropower in 2018, but the state regulators apparently dropped the ball in subsequent years. Overall, the dams failed because of “years of underfunding and neglect.”

Like in Mississippi, Michigan Republicans have controlled the purse strings for quite some time. They’ve maintained a state Senate majority since 1984, and have run the House since 2010—aided significantly by gerrymandering. From 2011 through 2019, the state’s governor was Republican Rick Snyder. While holding this trifecta of power, Michigan Republicans largely ignored the state’s infrastructure needs. In fact, Snyder, along with other members of his administration, were indicted earlier this year on criminal charges for their actions (or lack thereof) relating to Flint’s water fiasco.

On dams, the kind of flooding residents of Midland and Gladwin counties suffered is common in every part of the country. There are about 91,000 dams in the U.S. Of these, approximately 15,000-16,000 are located in spots where, if they broke, significant loss of life and property destruction would result. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials has determined that around one out of every six of those dams are “deficient.” That is a problem we need to address before the next storm.

The most infuriating, most foolish example of active Republican malfeasance originated in the time before President Caligula had made the transition from reality show buffoon to destructive demagogue. It took place at the center of the region with the largest economy of any in the U.S., and concerned its most important ground transportation hub—the one that connects the island of Manhattan to the mainland by train.

We’re also talking about a problem that Democratic President Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress, with the support of local officials, had actually begun fixing over a decade ago. That was before New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie, doctrinaire conservative that he is, metaphorically stood athwart the train tracks yelling “STOP!” It’s a very long story, but it’s one that demonstrates how Republican ideology, Republican lies, and plain-old Republican shortsightedness put the kibosh on a project that remains just as necessary today.

There is only one train tunnel—which happens to be 110 years old—running beneath the Hudson River. For many years, we’ve known that that’s at least one tunnel too few. What was then called the ARC (Access to the Region’s Core) project would have built a second one, enabling twice as many trains to cross into the Big Apple. Roughly 200,000 people and 450 trains traveled through that sole, aging tunnel on a typical pre-COVID weekday. Other positive effects of the ARC project would have included: “alleviat[ing] congestion on local roads, reduc[ing] pollution, help[ing] the growth of the region’s economy and rais[ing] property values for suburban homeowners.” Oh, and it would have created 6,000 construction jobs right at the point during the Great Recession when unemployment was at its peak, at just about 10%.

The work was already underway when, in October of 2010, Gov. Christie suddenly reversed himself and cancelled the project. As late as that April, shortly after his inauguration, he had reiterated his long-standing support. Why, pray tell, did he take an action that “stunned other government officials and advocates of public transportation”? Even though the federal government, along with the states of New York and New Jersey, and the Port Authority, were all contributing to the bill, Christie claimed that New Jersey would end up bearing the burden of cost overruns, and so he pulled out.

It turned out that, as per a 2012 investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Christie was, to put it charitably, incorrect in just about everything he claimed as justification for cancelling the project. Looking back, it’s clear why he did what he did, based on where the money that had been dedicated to building the ARC tunnel ended up—namely in NJ’s “near-bankrupt transportation trust fund, traditionally financed by the gasoline tax.” In other words, he took the money so he wouldn’t have to raise gas taxes, and thereby earn the ill-will of the people who put him in office. What a bozo.

As bad as that decision was at the time, it was rendered even more foolish by a little thing called Hurricane Sandy, which slammed the region in 2012. A year earlier, what had been the ARC project had been tweaked somewhat and re-proposed as the Gateway project, again centering on the building of a new Hudson River tunnel. After Sandy resulted in severe flooding, an Empire State Building-sized amount of dirty, salty water ended up in the tunnels. Repairing the damage with only one tunnel in operation would cause a nightmare for commuters.

But, after initial steps were taken during Obama’s second term that culminated in a cost-sharing agreement between the states—who together would pick up half the tab, with the federal government paying the other half—a new president took office in 2017. And he was a New Yorker, born and bred, so certainly he’d make sure the Gateway project happened. Unfortunately, The Man Who Lost An Election And Tried To Steal It not only physically abandoned his Fifth Avenue penthouse—he now makes Florida his primary home—he 100% abandoned the city that made him a household name. Progress on the Gateway tunnel ground to a halt, and the funding dried up, as Trump took an “obstructionist stance.”

That brings us back to the Biden-Harris administration, which formally approved the Gateway project just over a month ago. In the last days of June, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg toured the tunnel himself. He made clear that his boss was 100% on board, and fully understood the necessity for the whole of the American economy of the project. Shutting down even one of the two tubes in the existing tunnel for repairs without having first built the additional Gateway tunnel would mean, as the one-time Mayor Pete noted: “you would be feeling the economic impact all the way back in Indiana, where I come from.” To be more specific, a study by the non-profit Regional Plan Association found the impact could run as high as $16 billion, and cost 33,000 jobs.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York gave thanks to the White House on behalf of the region, and took a dig at the twice impeached former Gotham-dweller: “Now we can announce that the hostage that was the Gateway tunnel under the previous administration has been freed,” and added: “We are full speed ahead to get Gateway done.” The project could begin as early as next year, or else in 2023, according to the senator. Still, Christie and Trump set the region back years—perhaps a decade. All of us are still crossing our fingers that not only will the project happen, but also that the new tunnel is completed before the old one gives out.

But of course it’s not only urban centers that have dire infrastructure needs. Martin County is in eastern Kentucky, with a population that is, incredibly, over 99% white. Since 1999, both U.S. Senate seats from Kentucky have been held by Republicans, one of them by Mitch McConnell, who has led the Republican Party in that body since 2007. In the House, Martin County has been represented by Republican Hal Rogers since 1981.

In a video produced by the Biden White House, Barbi Ann Maynard detailed what she and her neighbors don’t have, because their infrastructure is so lacking: “People talk about Eastern Kentucky is poor, and they don't really have anything. Well, how are we ever going to have anything if our government won’t invest in our infrastructure? We’re people too. We’re American citizens. And we deserve access to clean, affordable drinking water.” Running the tap at her kitchen sink, she pointed at the not at all clear liquid flowing out of it and stated simply: “this water disgusts me. I’m afraid of this water.”

Maynard described the language that has appeared “for decades” as a warning on the back of the water bills Martin County residents receive: “If you are pregnant, infant, elderly, have a compromised immune system, consult a physician before consuming this water. If consumed over many years, it causes liver damage, kidney damage, central nervous system damage, and twice it says increased risk of cancer.” I drink New York City tap water every day, multiple glasses of it, without thinking twice. So while my region has its infrastructure deficiencies, folks in Eastern Kentucky have it even worse in their daily lives, right now.

Maynard continued by talking about the need for roads and bridges, which are either in disrepair or nonexistent across the county, as well as other priorities. The Nolan Toll Bridge was the only way for people in the area to get to the interstate. After being damaged badly, it was closed off rather than repaired. She lamented: “When you lose bridges, roads, you lose opportunities to grow. Businesses can’t come if they can’t get their product out,” and added “because we have [a] lack of infrastructure, that causes companies to not want to come and invest in Martin County.” Maynard has been fighting for increased infrastructure spending in her county for more than twenty years, and summarized the situation thusly: “I know what we could have. I know what it could be like. And I want that for my people.”

The Orange Julius Caesar took up shop in the Oval Office in January 2017, and his party controlled the House and the Senate. Using the reconciliation process, they could easily have passed a massive infrastructure package, or even a medium-sized one, with or without Democrats. After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico’s infrastructure on Trump’s watch in 2017, he came up with little more than some paper towels to toss the island’s way. Puerto Ricans continue to suffer from Maria’s damage as well as, for just one example among many, earthquakes that revealed serious vulnerabilities in the design of hundreds of schools across the island—another major infrastructure need.

Even after Democrats won the House in the 2018 midterms, Trump still could have accomplished something major on infrastructure. Trump blew off Speaker Nancy Pelosi, fuming about impeachment. Republicans can bleat about how they believe in infrastructure, how they support infrastructure. When the rubber met the (in dire need of repair) road, they failed to deliver.

The Biden-Harris team, along with congressional Democrats, are going to do the work of funding our country’s infrastructure needs in every region, just as they’ve done the work on so many issues—ranging from carrying out a nationwide vaccination program, to rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, to passing the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, among other accomplishments. This White House knows that strengthening our physical as well as human infrastructure is good politics as well as the right thing to do for the American economy, and for the American people.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of  The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)

Reality bites: Michigan voters go to war with truth and the GOP congressmen who dared to accept it

Ten House Republicans voted to impeach Donald Trump over his incitement of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol—and two of them, or 20%, represent West Michigan. The region once known for the political moderation and modesty embodied by former Congressman and eventual President Gerald R. Ford, a Grand Rapids native, is now home to a contingent of Republican voters awash in conspiracy theories and charged with anger.

That's the reality facing GOP Reps. Peter Meijer, a 33-year old political newcomer elected in 2020, and Fred Upton, a 68-year-old veteran lawmaker currently serving his 18th term.

Meijer, who served eight years in the Army Reserve and deployed to Iraq, was recently informed by a voter of his impending (and completely imaginary) arrest to stand trial before a military tribunal. He told The New York Times that it's nearly impossible to disabuse people of their fervently held and constantly reinforced beliefs.

“People are willing to kill and die over these alternative realities,” said Miejer.

In large part, that is because a bunch of political opportunists are more than happy to capitalize on the fears and disinformation spread by Donald Trump and his allies about the so-called ‘deep state’ and the 2020 election being stolen.

Tom Norton, for instance, who lost to Meijer in the 2020 GOP primary, is pushing for an Arizona-style “forensic audit" and has expressed certainty of widespread election fraud.

Unfortunately for Norton, the GOP-led state Senate in his own state issued a report just last month that found "no evidence" of systemic fraud in 2020. The Republican state senator who led the investigation, Ed McBroom, also said he had reason to believe the conspiracy pushers were "purposely defrauding people."

As the report concluded, “The committee strongly recommends citizens use a critical eye and ear toward those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain."

But the flood of opportunism coming from people like Norton—whether it's driven by shameless ambition or self-delusion—has entirely eclipsed reality for many voters.

Audra Johnson, another pro-Trump activist who plans to challenge Meijer, seems more than keen to capitalize on conservative voters' deep-state paranoia. She helped organize the armed protests of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at the state Capitol and also attended Trump's Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" rally. She said she didn't storm the U.S. Capitol but knows people who did and insists they were peaceful—because nothing is more peaceful than joining a mob of rioters calling for Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi, and others to be hanged.

“Honestly, they’re terrified that the F.B.I. is going to come knock on their door,” Johnson said of the people who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Yep, that's what happens when you join an attack on the U.S. government—the FBI might knock on your door.

“People are terrified,” Johnson added, “We’re heading toward a civil war, if we’re not already in a cold civil war.”

And then there's state Rep. Steve Carra, who has introduced legislation to force another audit of the state vote but hasn't bothered to read the Senate report, according to the Times. Why get into the weeds if it's going to slow your roll? Carra hopes to unseat Upton.

“To say that there’s no evidence of widespread fraud I think is wrong,” Carra said, while providing zero evidence of widespread fraud.

Another Upton challenger, former Marine Jon Rocha, spoke to attendees of the so-called Festival of Truth.

“This country is under attack,” warned Rocha, who is Mexican American. “Our children are being indoctrinated to hate the color of their skin, to hate this country and to believe this country is systemically racist and meant to oppress anybody with a different skin pigment. I can attest to you, as an American Mexican, that is not the case.”

At one point, ‘Festival of Truth’ organizer Larry Eberly told the crowd, “I will die first before they shove that needle into my arm.”

As Meijer said, “People are willing to kill and die over these alternative realities.”

Meijer and Upton both have the advantages of incumbency, high name recognition, and deep pockets. Though Upton has been in office slightly longer than Meijer has been alive, Meijer's great-grandfather founded an eponymously named grocery store chain that has made Meijer a household name in West Michigan.

So they may just survive yet. But that isn't going to solve the problem that many of their constituents have bought into Trump's lies hook, line, and sinker. It’s a nationwide epidemic of delusion, and unfortunately we can’t vaccinate our way out of it.

Mitt Romney Is Awarded JFK ‘Profile In Courage Award’ For Impeachment Vote

On Friday, the John F. Kennedy Library announced it would give its Profile in Courage Award to Sen. Mitt Romney for his “historic vote” to impeach President Trump during his first impeachment trial.

Part of the reasoning was Romney’s willingness to break with the rest of his party to cast a controversial – to Republicans – vote.

Caroline Kennedy, Former Ambassador and daughter of President Kennedy, said in a statement, “Senator Romney ‘s commitment to our Constitution makes him a worthy successor to the senators who inspired my father to write Profiles in Courage.” 

“He reminds us that our Democracy depends on the courage, conscience and character of our elected officials,” she added.

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Romney Was Only GOP Vote In Trump’s First Impeachment Trial

According to The Hill, “Romney was the sole Republican senator to vote to impeach Trump on a charge of abusing his power last February over the former president’s effort to press Ukraine to investigate now-President Biden and his son Hunter’s dealings in Ukraine.”

“In doing so, Romney made history – he became the first U.S. senator to vote to convict a president of his own party on an impeachment charge,” the outlet added.

Romney responded to his award, “I’m humbled by the Kennedy family’s recognition today. But I see courage every week from my colleagues in the Senate, many of whom make tough decisions to do what they believe is right even though it may be politically unpopular.”

Romney And Six Other Republicans Voted To Convict Trump In Second Trial

In Trump’s second impeachment trial over his alleged role in inciting the Capitol riot on January 6, Romney and six other Republican senators voted to impeach Trump.

Romney said on Friday, invoking his father and former Michigan Governor George Romney, that he “did what was right regardless of consequence.”

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“I aspire to his example, though I have failed from time to time,” Sen. Romney said. “We must subordinate our political fortunes to the causes of freedom, equal opportunity and truth, particularly as they are under assault here and abroad.” 

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation created this award in 1989 to honor the 35th president’s commitment to public service and is presented each year on Kennedy’s birthday to leaders who exhibit “politically courageous leadership.”

 

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This Week in Statehouse Action: Spring Cleaning edition

Confession time.

I … [[deep breath]] am a hoarder.

I hoard web browser tabs.

I open something I mean to read or use for research, and four times out of five it just … sits. Unused. Unread.

In the Chrome window I’m using to write this week’s missive, I have 38 tabs open.

I’m not proud.

It’s time to admit that I have a problem.

So I’ve decided: Out with them.

This week, I’ll click on them, and then I’ll use them and/or close them forever.

From right to left—everything to the left of this window is important: Google docs and sheets, necessary-for-everyday-work tabs, that kind of thing.

Campaign Action

Okay, here goes.

Far-leftmost tab: Ah, yes, the GOP-controlled West Virginia legislature is trying to amend the state’s constitution to allow lawmakers to successfully execute the kind of high-court coup they failed to pull of back in 2018.

This is both weedy and based on a political event that was esoteric at the time and ancient history now.

But considering that I covered the Republicans’ attempt to oust and replace Democratic justices with GOP appointees way back when, you’re in good hands.

  • It all started in fall of 2018, when reports began to surface that the justices had indulged in exorbitant spending on expensive furniture amid lavish renovations of their chambers (in the neighborhood of $700,000 for things like fancy couches, elegant flooring, and pricey rugs).
  • Fast forward to June 2018, when prosecutors indicted Republican Justice Allen Loughry on state and federal charges (54 in all!) of fraud, witness tampering, making false statements, and more.
    • He was swiftly suspended from the bench, but he refused to resign.
      • His suspension gave Democrats an ostensible one-seat majority on the court. (Republicans made elections for the state Supreme Court officially nonpartisan after they took control of the legislature in 2014.)
    • Then, in early July, Democratic Justice Menis Ketchum announced his resignation, although he faced no criminal charges or formal allegations of ethics violations at the time. (He did later plead guilty to one count of fraud.) 
  • If impeachment proceedings had been concluded by Aug. 14 of that year, the resulting vacancies on the court would have been on the ballot in November 2018’s general election, and West Virginia voters would have had the chance to elect new justices.

But why would the GOP-controlled legislature want that when foot-dragging would let them game the state’s election deadlines and allow the Republican governor to just appoint the replacements himself?

  • In early August 2018, Republicans in the legislature finally got around to passing 14 articles of impeachment against all four remaining justices, and the full House convened the day before that Aug. 14 deadline to consider the matter.
    • Lawmakers approved 11 of the articles (mostly along party lines), but a trial still had to be conducted by the (also GOP-controlled) state Senate.
  • So by waiting until August to start proceedings, Republican lawmakers essentially guaranteed that the impeachment process couldn’t wrap up in time to let voters select replacement justices.
  • And if the state Senate had voted to remove the remaining three justices, replacement GOP appointees would have served two years on the bench before facing voters.

Remember, prior to this entire debacle, Democrats held a three-to-two majority on the Supreme Court.

  • But just in case you think this is anything but a brazen Republican attempt to usurp an entire branch of government through GOP appointments, consider this:

And why entertain timely steps to remove allegedly corrupt justices when you can slow your roll and execute a Supreme Court coup instead?

  • Anyway, in a surprise move on the morning of Aug. 14, 2018, Democratic Justice Robin Davis announced her resignation just in time to trigger a special election to replace her in November.
    • The crucial timing of her maneuver helped mitigate—but not obviate—Republican lawmakers’ scheme to fill the entire court with GOP appointees.

The drama continued for months.

  • Then-justices Margaret Workman and Allen Loughry and current Justice Beth Walker underwent impeachment trials in the state Senate.
    • Loughry resigned in November 2018, after he was found guilty on some of those 54 charges mentioned above.
    • Justice Walker, a Republican, was acquitted but censured by the Senate.
    • Workman, a Democrat, filed a lawsuit in October seeking to halt the proceedings.
      • Because it’s obviously pretty messed up for state Supreme Court justices to rule on a case impacting their own ability to remain on the bench, five district court judges were temporarily elevated to hear the case.
      • They ruled 5-0 that the House had erred in its adoption of the resolution of impeachment and, in doing so, had essentially run afoul of the whole separation-of-powers thing.
    • The GOP-run Senate tried to continue the Democrat’s impeachment trial anyway, but the justice presiding over the affair didn’t show (the court ruling effectively prohibited him from participating).
  • None of the other justices stood trial.
    • And Republicans in the legislature have been salty about it ever since.

Okay, finally, back to that pesky tab.

  • The article that piqued my interest enough to preserve it in tab form is about an amendment to the state’s constitution proposed by the GOP-controlled legislature.
    • House Joint Resolution 2 specifically prohibits any West Virginia court from intervening in any impeachment proceedings conducted by the legislature.
      • Despite the fact that there are some pretty obvious separation-of-powers issues inherent in such a proposal, the proposed amendment passed the House and is waiting on Senate action.
      • If the state Senate passes it with a two-thirds majority before the legislature adjourns on April 10, West Virginia voters will vote on it in the November 2022 election.

In a nutshell, because Republicans in the state House got sloppy in their fervor to game the impeachment of Supreme Court justices to benefit their own party (remember, the court was 3-2 Democratic when this got underway), they want to permanently usurp the power of a whole branch of government.

Something to remember when the GOP screams about Democratic efforts to expand federal courts, which, by the by, is extremely legal and would very much not require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

… as I found out in my next open tab, the YouTube page with this week’s episode of Daily Kos’ The Brief, for which I was a surprise guest co-host on my first day back from vacation.

But it was fun, and I learned things, and because I’m me, I managed to find a state legislative angle on D.C. statehood.

Which conveniently brings me to my next tab, which is an article about various legislatures debating the merits of (and passing resolutions for and against) Washington, D.C., becoming an actual state.

Which, by the by, it should.

  • To help raise awareness, improve understanding, and build support for statehood, organizers have encouraged lawmakers across the country to introduce resolutions in their legislatures encouraging Congress to make D.C. a state.
  • Republicans, who can’t see past their horror at the likelihood of two additional Democratic members of the U.S. Senate to consider the underlying issues of basic fairness and democracy and taxation without representation and racial equity and self-determination, are pushing their own anti-statehood resolutions in various legislatures.
    • The first legislative push against statehood reportedly came from South Dakota (a state with a population that only barely exceeds D.C.’s), where the resolution’s sponsor cited fear that two D.C. senators would “dilute” his state’s power in the chamber.
    • Meanwhile, in a hearing on Arizona’s anti-statehood resolution, GOP Rep. Kevin Payne had words for residents of the District who want a voice in Congress:

If they want representatives, move. That’s what they made Mayflower for.

Jackass

  • As of last month, Democrats in six states had introduced pro-statehood resolutions.

Of course, none of these resolutions for or against making Washington, D.C., a state have any sort of force of law.

But the fact that they’re being considered at all is quite new, and it speaks to the sudden salience of the issue.

Okay, next tab … 

  • The GOP-controlled Arkansas legislature has passed (and the governor has signed into law) a near-total ban on abortion in the state.
    • The law permits abortions only to save the life of the mother.
    • There are no exceptions for fetuses conceived via rape or incest.

And next tab … oh hey it’s another Arkansas story.

  • A sitting Arkansas state senator has left the Republican Party over its continued fealty to former President Trump.
    • Now-independent Sen. Jim Hendren, who was particularly horrified at the Trump-promoted violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, is the nephew of current Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, which is a nice touch here.

Conveniently, my next tab is story that dropped this week about the growing hold of right-wing extremism in state legislatures.

It’s certainly not the first piece on the topic. And it does a nice job of covering familiar (to you, as an erudite consumer of this missive) legislative leaders who have become standard bearers of Trump-flavored Republicanism.

Like our old pal, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey.

  • You remember, the Mike Shirkey initially feigned outrage at the Capitol violence on Jan. 6 and then privately met with one of the organizers of the earlier, practice riot at the Michigan capitol to discuss the poor “optics” of the situation.
  • The Mike Shirkey who publicly cozied up with members of violent militias and spoke at one of their rallies. 
  • The Mike Shirkey who was caught on video claiming that the Capitol riot was a “hoax” staged to make Trump supporters look bad.
  • The Mike Shirkey who’s arguably the most powerful Republican in Michigan.

But of course, he’s far from alone.

We can’t forget Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem.

Anyway, all this is to say that GOP lawmakers’ extremism might once have been brushed off as a fringe-y distraction with few material consequences, but we can’t afford to take this with anything but grave seriousness now. The Trump wing of the Republican Party holds real power in statehouses.

But not only does their rise to power poses an existential threat in statehouses across the country; the upcoming round of redistricting could cement—even expand—that power for the rest of the decade.

[[shudder]]

Welp, I didn’t clear out all those unused tabs, but I made progress! There’s a little breathing room in my browser window.

I’ll take my wins where I can get them, and you should, too. Maybe knock off early, call it a week, spend some time closing some of your, ah, spiritual browser tabs.

Just print this out and show it to your boss, she probably has more tabs open than I do.

Gretchen Whitmer Defends Cuomo – Whines About ‘Different Standard’ Compared To Trump

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) just spoke out to defend New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) after he was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, whining that he was being held to a “different standard” than former President Donald Trump.

Whitmer Appears To Defend Cuomo 

“Is there a different standard for different sides of the aisle? We just had a president who lasted all four years with numerous allegations against him, so far as rape,” Whitmer told Politico.

“No one on his own side of the aisle was making observations about whether or not he should stay in office,” she added. “So is there a different standard? I guess one could conclude that.”

Cuomo has been accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior in the workplace by multiple female former aides. Whitmer’s latest comments on his situation appear to be her backtracking from prior comments that she made, as she previously called for Cuomo to be investigated.

Related: Gretchen Whitmer Turns On Cuomo – Demands ‘Thorough Investigation’ Into Sexual Misconduct Claims

Whitmer’s Previous Comments On Cuomo

“I think the allegations here are very serious and need to be taken seriously and I do think that an impartial, thorough, independent investigation is merited and appropriate,” Whitmer said earlier this month.

CNN host Jake Tapper then asked the Michigan governor if she thinks Cuomo “sexually harassed (former aide) Charlotte Bennett.”

“These are serious allegations and if accurate and true, and um, I think we have to take action,” she responded, noticeably not elaborating on what “action” she wants to see be taken.

Tapper went on to ask Whitmer about her “emotional reaction” to the allegation, at which time she said that she had a “gut-wrenching” response that she thought “a lot of women in America did.”

Related: AOC Turns On Cuomo – Says He ‘Must Resign’

Democrats Turn On Cuomo 

Numerous Democrats have turned on Cuomo in the wake of this scandal and called on him to resign. As of this writing, Cuomo has stubbornly refused to resign, defiantly telling lawmakers that they will need to impeach him if they want him gone.

This seems like a real possibility, as New York lawmakers have already begun the initial part of the lengthy impeachment process against him.

This piece was written by James Samson on March 15, 2021. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

Read more at LifeZette:
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HR 1 Could Depend on Manchin and Sinema
Pelosi Refuses To Demand Cuomo Resign – Says He ‘Should Look Inside His Heart’ To See If He Can Lead Effectively

The post Gretchen Whitmer Defends Cuomo – Whines About ‘Different Standard’ Compared To Trump appeared first on The Political Insider.

Report: National Guard Members Sickened After Being Served Undercooked Food While Guarding Capitol

Fifty Michigan National Guard troops have complained of “gastrointestinal” issues after being served undercooked meals and food contaminated with metal shavings, Fox News reports.

The tainted food complaints began in mid-February, were initially resolved, and resurfaced this past weekend.

In a letter to the National Guard, the entire Michigan delegation in the House reported that “contracted meals” were being used “to support the entire federal response stationed at the Capitol.”

“However, it is clear that these contracted meals are poorly prepared, oftentimes inedible, and highly inadequate to support our soldiers,” the letter states, urging them to switch contractors.

It goes on to describe as “completely unacceptable” the fact that “men and women serving in Washington D.C. are being hospitalized due to the food they are being provided.”

A spokesman for the National Guard indicated that 50 members had been treated for “gastrointestinal complaints,” but none were hospitalized.

The Detroit News reveals that “service members, who often stand outdoors for shifts of up to 12 hours, are increasingly spending their own money to eat because they don’t trust the food from the contractor.”

RELATED: Biden Suggests Former Military, Police Are Helping To Fuel Growth Of White Supremacy

Contaminated Food Is Just One More Way National Guard Troops Have Been Mistreated

National Guard troops receiving contaminated food comes just two months after they were hauled into the Capitol during President Biden’s inauguration, only to later be banished to a parking garage.

One Guardsman at the time accused lawmakers of using them as a prop, though the order came from the Capitol Police themselves.

“Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service,” he said.

“Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage,” the Guardsman added. “We feel incredibly betrayed.”

Lt. Col. Robert Carver, a spokesman for the joint task force that commands the Capitol security mission, told the Detroit News that the contaminated food problem is not “systemic.”

“So far we haven’t found substantial issues that we’ve recorded,” he told a reporter. “The contractors know that we are watching, and they have been cooperative and responsive to our concerns.”

One soldier last month wrote to a lawmaker, however, indicating “multiple soldiers have been getting sick and vomiting after eating, and most of the food is being thrown away,”

“Morale is very bad,” the message reads. “Many have served overseas and cannot believe the quality of food they are being fed here.”

RELATED: Democrats Seeking To Root Out ‘White Supremacists’ From The Military

Leaving in Mid-March

A spokesperson for the Pentagon believes the National Guard troops will be ending their mission in the nation’s capital sometime in mid-March.

“There’s no incidents to report,” the spokesperson told Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto. “Things are safe and secure right now.”

7,000 troops have remained at the Capitol during the Senate impeachment hearings, due to concerns about “civil unrest,” down from the 25,000 sent there during Biden’s inauguration.

Democrats have been actively smearing the military and veterans ever since the riot at the Capitol on January 6th.

President Biden last month suggested that former military and former police officers are helping to fuel the growth of white supremacy and white supremacist groups in America.

“You see what’s happening — and the studies that are beginning to be done … about the impact of former military, former police officers, on the growth of white supremacy in some of these groups,” Biden said during a town hall.

Leading up to Biden’s inaugural address, National Guard troops were vetted for ‘extremist’ views despite there being “no intelligence indicating an insider threat” to the event.

And last month, Democrat lawmakers reportedly sought to add language into this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would keep alleged white supremacists from joining the military.

The post Report: National Guard Members Sickened After Being Served Undercooked Food While Guarding Capitol appeared first on The Political Insider.

Gretchen Whitmer Rebuffed By Michigan County As Residents Are Told To ‘Self-Determine’ Safety Measures

A Michigan county defied Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) this week by passing a resolution that tells residents to do what is in their own self-interest when it comes to safety measures regarding COVID-19.

Michigan County Rebels Against Whitmer

Missaukee County commissioners directly went against Whitmer in saying that it is “the right and responsibility of individuals to self-determine what is best for their own health, liberty and pursuit of happiness is necessary and ensured by our Constitution, which we have taken an oath to defend and uphold,” according to meeting minutes from February 9.

“The Missaukee County Commission calls upon the Michigan Legislature to exercise their co-equal authority by adopting constitutionally sound measures which limit the unchecked exercise and abuse of executive power, which restore individual responsibility and accountability, and which return Michigan to the ranks of freedom-loving governments everywhere,” the commissioner added.

The Missaukee County Commission went on to say that it would not support county funds being used “for the purpose of arrest and prosecution of any person accused of violating” orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

This is the agency that Whitmer utilized when her executive orders were ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court in October.

Related: Gretchen Whitmer Claims She ‘Can’t Stand People Who Have One Rule For Others, Different One For Themselves’

Commissioner Speaks Out 

Commissioner Star Hughston, the sponsor of the resolution, told Breitbart that the commissioners just want residents to be treated like adults, as they believe they can make their own decisions.

Hughston added that this is not about the science behind COVID-19, and is instead about whether the governor has the right to “come down with these rules.”

“No one had the right, especially her, to tell us that we have to” wear masks, close businesses, and her various other orders, he said, adding, “We are not idiots. We can decide what is best for us, and if you choose to wear a face mask and you have health concerns, then in my opinion, you would need to wear one. But if you don’t choose to wear one, then it’s your right.”

Related: Gretchen Whitmer Finally Relaxes Restaurant Restrictions After Biden Is Inaugurated

This comes one month after Chippewa County called on Whitmer to reopen the state “immediately.”

“At this point it just doesn’t make sense anymore that we’re closed,” Commissioner Scott Shackleton told 9&10 News. “Wisconsin is open for dining—in house dining. Indiana is, Ohio is, Minnesota is, and here we sit closed up tight.”

Whitmer has become infamous in many circles over the past years for enacting some of the strictest COVID-19 measures in the country on her state.

This piece was written by James Samson on February 13, 2021. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

Read more at LifeZette:
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The post Gretchen Whitmer Rebuffed By Michigan County As Residents Are Told To ‘Self-Determine’ Safety Measures appeared first on The Political Insider.

Gretchen Whitmer Claims She ‘Can’t Stand People Who Have One Rule For Others, Different One For Themselves’

Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer spoke out this week to defend her decision to attend Joe Biden’s inauguration last Wednesday. She went so far as to claim that she “can’t stand people that have one rule for others, and a different one for themselves.”

Whitmer Defends Attending Biden Inauguration

WOOD TV host Rick Albin pointed out that many felt it was hypocritical for Whitmer to travel to Washington D.C. for the inauguration when she has been urging people to not travel or gather amidst COVID-19. Whitmer, however, disagreed.

“Anyone who would have watched would have seen that we were spaced out, we were outside, and we were masked up,” she said. “So that is how we can live and enjoy some important aspects to life and stay safe. I have been following the same directives I have asked everyone else to. I can’t stand those people that have one rule for others and a different one for themselves.”

You might recall that back in May, Whitmer’s husband Marc Mallory was accused of trying to use his connection with her to get his boat back in the water faster after his wife’s lockdown closed that industry, which led to a backup.

“This morning, I was out working when the office called me, there was a gentleman on hold who wanted his boat in the water before the weekend,” company owner Tad Dowker said at the time. “Being Memorial weekend and the fact that we started working three weeks late means there is no chance this is going to happen.”

“Well our office personnel had explained this to the man and he replied, ‘I am the husband to the governor, will this make a difference?’” he added.

Related: Michigan Governor Whitmer’s Husband Reportedly Ignored Her Own Guidelines With Boat Request

Whitmer Doubles Down

Whitmer, however, appeared to have forgotten all this in her latest interview.

“I have abided by these precautions but also recognize as the governor of a state — an important state — that played an important role in this inauguration having been invited and having made a decision very close to one when I had to come out here I know that this is a moment that is really important for our state,” she said.

Whitmer went on to say that she had to go to the inauguration to foster a close relationship with Joe Biden and his administration.

“This was something it was an honor to be [at], and I followed all the protocols and I encourage people to do so, as well,” she said.

Read Next: Gretchen Whitmer Finally Relaxes Restaurant Restrictions After Biden Is Inaugurated

This piece was written by James Samson on January 26, 2021. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

Read more at LifeZette:
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Democratic Senator Hirono Reveals Real Goal Behind Trump Impeachment Effort

The post Gretchen Whitmer Claims She ‘Can’t Stand People Who Have One Rule For Others, Different One For Themselves’ appeared first on The Political Insider.