A good day for Democracy

Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American

Heather Cox Richardson

November 9, 2022

Yesterday was a good day for democracy. Americans turned out to defend our principles from those who denied our right to choose our own leaders. There was little violence, the election appears to have gone smoothly, and there are few claims of “fraud.” As I write tonight, control of the House and Senate is still not clear, but some outlines are now visible. 

Usually, the party in power loses a significant number of congressional seats and state seats in the first midterm after it takes the presidency. Today, President Joe Biden spoke to reporters and noted that the Democrats had the best midterm elections for governors since 1986 and lost fewer House seats than they have in any Democratic president’s first midterm in 40 years. 

That this election—the results of which are still coming in as I write—is so close is an endorsement of the nation’s current path, despite the shock of inflation. As Biden said: “the overwhelming majority of the American people support the elements of my economic agenda—from rebuilding America’s roads and bridges; to lowering prescription drug costs; to a historic investment in tackling the climate crisis; to making sure that large corporations begin to pay their fair share in taxes.” 

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) agreed with Biden on the Fox News Channel tonight, but for him it was a complaint: “Why did Democrats do better than expected? Because they have governed as liberals.” And people appear to like a government that works on their behalf.

Voters appear to have been far more motivated to protect abortion rights than many pundits thought. In Michigan, California, and Vermont, voters amended their state constitutions to protect abortion rights. In Kentucky, voters rejected a state constitutional amendment that would have restricted abortion rights. 

Former president Trump and his loyalists had a bad day. Trump endorsed more than 330 candidates in yesterday’s races, including a number of high-profile people he had urged to run. They were extremist candidates whose key attraction was that they backed Trump’s allegations that President Joe Biden stole the 2020 election from him, and he remained bullish on their chances until the end, telling a host for NewsNation: “I think if they win, I should get all the credit. If they lose, I should not be blamed at all.” 

But when many of Trump’s candidates lost yesterday, former supporters did indeed blame Trump. Former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro tweeted: “Trump picked bad candidates, spent almost no money on his hand-picked candidates, and then proceeded to crap on the Republicans who lost and didn’t sufficiently bend the knee. This will have 2024 impact.” 

It is not at all clear that the election results will, in fact, end Trump’s political career, but they do open up the possibility that Republican leaders will not be unhappy to see him moved offstage, particularly by events they can blame on opponents—events like indictments. In any case, Trump’s status as the party’s undisputed kingmaker is no longer secure. 

This seems likely to bring the Republican Party’s simmering civil war into the open. Yesterday, Trump warned Florida governor Ron DeSantis not to run for president, hinting that he would tell reporters dirt about DeSantis if the governor did announce. (“I would tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering—I know more about him than anybody—other than, perhaps, his wife,” Trump said.)

But DeSantis came out of yesterday’s elections with a second term as Florida governor and looking strong indeed. He fared well with Hispanic voters and won his state with about 60% of the vote (it should not be overlooked that his new election security police clearly intimidated voters). If, in fact, the Republicans do end up taking control of the House of Representatives, presumptive speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will have a delicate dance between MAGA Republicans who back Trump and those trying to move beyond Trump while keeping his voters. 

But the biggest winner yesterday was democracy. 

More than half of the Republican candidates on ballots were election deniers and either would not say that they would honor election results going forward or openly said they would not. That position appears to have hurt their chances of winning their elections. While some election deniers won their elections, more lost.

Most notably, the story in Michigan was that of democracy, as Democrats won control of the state legislature for the first time since 1984. Governor Gretchen Whitmer was heavily targeted by former president Trump and made abortion rights central to her reelection. Both factors appeared to have helped her win, hold onto a Democratic attorney general and secretary of state, and flip both chambers of the legislature.

There is a larger story here. For decades the Republicans who controlled the Michigan legislature had drawn heavily gerrymandered districts, the most recent so extreme that in 2019, federal judges called them a “political gerrymander of historical proportions.” Voters amended the state constitution to require an independent, nonpartisan panel of 13 citizens to redraw the maps. While political competitiveness was not central to the criteria they used, it was the result. 

Michigan Republicans have challenged that new map through the courts, but on Monday the Supreme Court dismissed their appeal. The outcome of yesterday’s elections suggests that what scholars have been saying for years is true: Republicans have won by gaming the system.

The importance of that partisan gerrymandering—and the importance of today’s Supreme Court in upholding that gerrymandering—showed up yesterday in the cases of four states in which Republican lawmakers simply refused to change maps that state courts had determined were illegal. In Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Ohio, heavily gerrymandered maps stayed in place despite state court decisions that they were unconstitutional. 

Those four states make up almost 10% of the seats in the House of Representatives. According to congressional redistricting specialist David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, those illegal maps were likely to hand five to seven seats to the Republicans that they would not have won without them. At the same time, Florida governor Ron DeSantis put in place heavily gerrymandered districts—so extreme that the Republican legislature balked—that were expected to turn four seats Republican and create a House delegation more than 70% Republican from a state that Trump won with just over half the vote in 2020. 

Gaming the system sets up a structural problem for democracy, of course, but also for the party in power. In safe districts, candidates don’t have to worry about attracting voters from the other party and so worry only about being challenged by those more extreme than they are in the primaries (which are always dominated by the most fervent partisans). The party becomes more and more extreme and can stay in power only by continuing to manipulate the system.

Eventually, though, they become so extreme they lose even members of their own party, as the Republican Party has done since Trump took it over. A new influx of voters—as we saw last night—can win elections, and then they will demand that the playing field be leveled back to fairness. Jack Lobel of Voters of Tomorrow, which is mobilizing Gen Z voters, told NPR’s Rachel Martin today: “The far right is trying to attack us, they’re trying to restrict our rights, and they’re trying to take us back in time. [Young people] want to go forward….” 

Lobel mentioned abortion rights, economic rights, and building a better future, and he noted that the Democratic Party has stepped up for Gen Z. Certainly, organizers like strategy director of Voters of Tomorrow Victor Shi have been pounding the pavement to turn out their people. 

Exit polls from last night show voters in the 18–29 age bracket making up about 12–13% of the vote and preferring Democrats by much larger margins than any other group: as much as 70%. In 25-year-old Maxwell Frost (D-FL), elected last night, Gen Z has its first member of Congress.

150 years ago Susan B. Anthony led a group of women to the polls. Today, the fight continues

Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American

Heather Cox Richardson

November 5, 2022

One hundred and fifty years ago today, American women turned out to vote in the presidential election, exercising their right to have a say in their government by choosing either Democratic candidate Horace Greeley or Republican incumbent Ulysses S. Grant.

Except they didn’t have that right explicitly. They were claiming it.

After the Civil War, lawmakers discussed what a newly reconstructed nation would look like and who would get to decide its parameters. Women who had worked for the survival of the United States government, given their sons and husbands to it, invested their money in it, nursed and sometimes fought for it, believed they had demonstrated their right to have a say in it. When Congress began to discuss the Fourteenth Amendment, overturning the 1857 Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court denying that Black Americans could be citizens and protecting Black Americans from racially discriminatory laws in the South, suffragists demanded that their citizenship be included in that constitutional amendment.

Instead, the Fourteenth Amendment included the word “male” in the Constitution for the first time. The amendment specified that it protected the right of men—not women—to vote with its attempt to pressure states into allowing Black male suffrage by threatening to reduce congressional representation for any state that kept a significant number of men from the polls. It provided that “when the right to vote…is denied to any of the male inhabitants of [a] state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States…, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced [proportionally].”

Outraged that they had been excluded, suffragists set their sights on the Fifteenth Amendment, protecting the right to vote. But when Congress passed it and sent it off to the states for ratification in 1870, the amendment said nothing about women’s suffrage. Indeed, it distinctly avoiding the word “sex” when it established that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Fed up with trying to gain their rights through lawmakers, in 1872, suffragists took matters into their own hands. They decided to vote in the presidential election, arguing that the Fourteenth Amendment recognized their citizenship by virtue of its first section, which said: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” They were born in the United States, they pointed out, and therefore, according to the Fourteenth Amendment, were citizens.

In Rochester, New York, suffragist Susan B. Anthony led a group of women to the polls in November and successfully cast her vote for Grant. But Anthony was already famous for her long career as a reformer, making her a perfect figure for officials to use as an example. Three weeks after the election, authorities arrested her for voter fraud. She could not testify at her own trial and the judge wrote his opinion before it began, directing the jury to find her guilty. Anthony was fined $100 but refused to pay it, instead going on a speaking tour of New York in which she declared: “This government is not…a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex….”

Anthony’s case grabbed headlines, but it was the story of Virginia Minor that would change the next hundred years of our history. Minor was a suffragist in St. Louis, Missouri. She and her husband, Francis, had been instrumental in developing and publicizing the idea that women had the right to vote under the Fourteenth Amendment and that they should force that issue in 1872 by showing up at the polls.

On October 15, 1872, Minor had tried to register to vote in her St. Louis district, but the registrar, Reese Happersett, refused to enroll her on the grounds that she was female. Virginia’s husband sued—as a married woman she had no standing to sue on her own account—and the case wound its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On March 29, 1875, the court handed down the Minor v. Happersett decision.

“There is no doubt that women may be citizens,” it said, but it went on to say that citizenship did not necessarily convey the right to vote. “[T]he constitutions and laws of the several States which commit that important trust to men alone are not necessarily void,” it wrote.

According to the Supreme Court, state governments, elected by white men, could discriminate against their citizens so long as that discrimination was not on the grounds of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

The next year, white supremacists would take control of the South with the argument that Black men should not vote because they were poor and would vote for lawmakers who would promise roads, schools, and hospitals that could only be paid for with tax levies on white men. Such rules accumulated until in 1890, Mississippi codified this state-based system by putting into place a new constitution that limited voting to white men by imposing education requirements to be judged by white officials, lack of criminal record, and proof of tax paying. Soon, state constitutions across the country limited voting with all sorts of requirements that cut Black people out on grounds other than race.

In 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which provided that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex” overruled Minor v. Happersett on the issue of women’s suffrage. But the Supreme Court continued to use its guidelines for other restrictions until the 1960s, upholding literacy tests, poll taxes, and other rules designed to keep Black people from voting.

Finally, in 1966, almost 100 years after Virginia Minor sued, the Supreme Court decided that voting was a fundamental right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

And 50 years later—and 150 years after Anthony cast her vote—those of us who have not been cut out of the right to vote by one or another of the measures states are now imposing on their voters can exercise that right, and determine what our nation will look like, once again.

The aim of those attacking our elections is to discredit our democracy

Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American

Heather Cox Richardson

October 28, 2022

At about 2:30 am, police in San Francisco responding to a call discovered that an assailant had broken into the San Francisco home of House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and attacked her husband, 82-year-old Paul Pelosi, with a hammer, shouting, “Where’s Nancy?” The attacker apparently tried to tie Mr. Pelosi up “until Nancy got home” and told police he was “waiting for Nancy.”

Mr. Pelosi suffered a fractured skull and serious injuries to his right arm and his hands. He underwent surgery today. He is expected to recover.

Speaker Pelosi was in Washington, D.C., at the time. The House speaker is the third-ranking officer of our government, second in line to succeed the president. An attack on her is an attack on our fundamental government structure.

Those who knew the alleged attacker, 42-year-old David DePape, say his behavior has been concerning. His Facebook page featured conspiracy theories common on right-wing media, saying Covid vaccines were deadly; that George Floyd, the Minneapolis man murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin, actually died of a drug overdose; that the 2020 election was stolen; and the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol was a “FARCE.” He reposted a number of videos by Mike Lindell, the Trump loyalist and chief executive officer of the MyPillow company, lying that the 2020 election was stolen.

Matthew Gertz of Media Matters reviewed DePape’s blog and found it “a standard case of right-wing online radicalization. QAnon, Great Reset, Pizzagate, Gamergate and all there, along with M[en’s] R[ights] A[ctivist]/misogyny, hatred of Blacks/Jews/trans people/’groomers,’ and anti-vax conspiracy theories.”

According to Harry Litman, the legal affairs columnist for the Los Angeles Times, DePape has been booked so far only on state crimes, including attempted homicide and elder abuse. According to Joyce White Vance at Civil Discourse, evidence that he went after Mr. Pelosi in order to intimidate Speaker Pelosi or stop her from performing her official duties would constitute a federal crime.

The attack on Mr. Pelosi comes after right-wing figures have so often advocated violence against the House speaker that the rioters on January 6 roamed the U.S. Capitol calling for her in the singsong cadences of a horror movie. Before she ran for Congress, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said Pelosi was a “traitor” and told her listeners that treason is “a crime punishable by death,” and House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) once “joked” about hitting Speaker Pelosi with the speaker’s gavel if he becomes speaker himself, prompting laughter from his audience.

Whipping up supporters against a perceived enemy to create a statistical probability of an attack without advocating a specific event is known as “stochastic terrorism.” Without using that phrase, Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) explained it today: “[W]hen you convince people that politicians are rigging elections, drink babies blood, etc, you will get violence. This must be rejected.”

Right-wing media channels immediately spun the home invasion and attack into Republican talking points, saying that “crime hits everybody” and that “this can happen anywhere, crime is random and that’s why it’s such a significant part of this election story.” Some tried to pin the attack on President Joe Biden, blaming him for not healing the country’s divisions; Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin said of Pelosi and her husband: “There’s no room for violence anywhere, but we’re going to send her back to be with him in California.” Aaron Rupar of Public Notice called out how few Republicans publicly condemned the attack and how many tried to pin the blame for it on Democrats.

Late yesterday, Twitter’s board completed the $44 billion sale of the company to billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. Musk has promised to be an advocate for free speech and to reopen the platform to those previously banned for spreading racist content or disinformation—including former president Trump—but his actual purchase of the site might complicate that position.

In the technology magazine The Verge, editor Nilay Patel wrote, “Welcome to hell, Elon.” The problems with Twitter, Patel wrote, “are not engineering problems. They are political problems.” The site itself is valuable only because of its users, he points out, and trying to regulate how people behave is “historically a miserable experience.”

Patel notes that to attract advertising revenue, Musk will have to protect advertisers’ brands, which means banning “racism, sexism, transphobia, and all kinds of other speech that is totally legal in the United States but reveals people to be total a**holes.” And that content moderation, of course, will infuriate the right-wing cheerleaders who “are going to viciously turn on you, just like they turn on every other social network that realizes the same essential truth.” And that’s even before Twitter has to take on the speech laws of other countries.

Musk clearly understands this tension. Trying to reassure advertisers before the sale, he tweeted: “Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!” Car manufacturer General Motors has temporarily stopped running ads on Twitter until its direction becomes clearer.

Today, racist and antisemitic content rose sharply as users appeared to be testing the limits of the platform under Musk. The Network Contagion Research Institute, which studies disinformation on social media, noted that posters on the anonymous website 4chan have been encouraging users to spread racist and derogatory slurs on Twitter. The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism, which focuses on civil rights law, backed this observation up today when it noted that on October 27, an anonymous post on 4chan, which users immediately spread to extremist Telegram channels, told followers how to increase antisemitic content on Twitter.

In the first 12 hours after Musk acquired the site, the use of the n-word increased nearly 500%.

After a few high-profile accounts appeared to have been reinstated, this afternoon, Musk tweeted that he is creating a council to figure out a content moderation policy, and that no major content decisions or reinstatements will happen until it creates a policy. At the very least, this should protect Twitter from becoming associated with new accounts promoting violence before the midterm elections.

And that is a concern. Today, the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, National Counterterrorism Center, and U.S. Capitol Police warned of violent extremism surrounding the upcoming midterm elections, including attacks on “candidates running for public office, elected officials, election workers, political rallies, political party representatives, racial and religious minorities, or perceived ideological opponents.”

The aim of those attacking our elections is to discredit our democracy.

Trump: “A man’s man”?

Posted on Quora by Mark Zaborowski 8/31/22

I recently received a comment on another post. The commenter informed me that I was remiss for not understanding that Donald Trump was “a man’s man who said whatever he was thinking and didn’t care what anyone thought about that”. I think he also believed that Jesus sent him to save America, but that’s another story. Rather than immediately firing off a snarky reply, I looked up some definitions of the term. First, it doesn’t mean “gentleman’s gentleman”. That is just another way to say “valet”. Somehow, I don’t see Donald Trump running a bath or picking out which XXL red tie to wear for another man.

So, back to “man’s man”. There are any number of definitions, some espousing physical toughness, courage, and aggression, some concentrating on shouldering responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and dependability. As a bit of a side note, FOX News personality Tucker Carlson touts Trump as that strong guy that America needs. Carlson also seems very concerned with the sagging testosterone levels of American men, going so far as to promote testicle tanning as a way to jack up “manliness” in the male population. But since this was the look he preferred until Jon Stewart called him out on it some years ago, I think we can safely exclude Tucker from any discussion about easily recognizable masculinity.

Being a man’s man is supposed to mean that you are the epitome. You are the one that other men acknowledge as a prime example, the one that they aspire to be like. If that is the case for Donald J. Trump, why stop there? There are many other categories where he sets the standard, right? He is the:

Liar’s liar – 30,000 plus documented instances.

Tax-dodger’s tax-dodger – He doesn’t pay them because – as he said in a 2016 debate – “I am smart.”

Braggart’s braggart – He is the expert on any and every subject. Just ask him.

Draft-dodger’s draft dodger – 5 deferments, including one for “bone spurs”. Not a record, but still…

There are many more in his public life, but what about the more “intimate” stuff?

Man’s Man?

Voyeur’s voyeur – Walked unannounced into dressing rooms of any pageant he owned.

Adulterer’s adulterer – Has had 3 wives and cheated on each of them.

P***y grabber’s p***y grabber – OK, he claimed, because he was famous.

Finally: Pisser’s pisser, Moaner’s moaner, and Snowflake’s snowflake – Trump sets the gold standard for pissing and moaning and whining and crying about everything from “fake news”, to losing a free and fair election, to being endlessly “persecuted”, to having stolen documents forcibly retrieved from his sweaty clutches and put back where they belong. I think he fails the smell test for being a man’s man by the length of a walk from the White House to the Capitol building.


Quora is a social question-and-answer website. Users can collaborate by editing questions and commenting on answers that have been submitted by other users.  As of 2020, the website was visited by 300 million users a month.

Source: Quora