Holocaust denier, neo-Nazi Fuentes dines with Trump

Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American

Heather Cox Richardson

November 26, 2022

I hate to break up a holiday weekend with a political post, but I want to put down a marker for the record.

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, November 22, former president Trump hosted the antisemitic artist Ye, also known as Kanye West, for dinner at a public table at Mar-a-Lago along with political operative Karen Giorno, who was the Trump campaign’s 2016 state director in Florida. Ye brought with him 24-year-old far-right white supremacist Nick Fuentes. Fuentes attended the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in its wake, he committed to moving the Republican Party farther to the right.

Fuentes has openly admired Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and authoritarian Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is currently making war on Russia’s neighbor Ukraine. A Holocaust denier, Fuentes is associated with America’s neo-Nazis.

In February 2020, Fuentes launched the America First Political Action Conference to compete from the right with the Conservative Political Action Conference. In May 2021, on a livestream, Fuentes said: “My job…is to keep pushing things further. We, because nobody else will, have to push the envelope. And we’re gonna get called names. We’re gonna get called racist, sexist, antisemitic, bigoted, whatever.… When the party is where we are two years later, we’re not gonna get the credit for the ideas that become popular. But that’s okay. That’s our job. We are the right-wing flank of the Republican Party. And if we didn’t exist, the Republican Party would be falling backwards all the time.”

Fuentes and his “America First” followers, called “Groypers” after a cartoon amphibian (I’m not kidding), backed Trump’s lies that he had actually won the 2020 election. At a rally shortly after the election, Fuentes told his followers to “storm every state capitol until Jan. 20, 2021, until President Trump is inaugurated for four more years.” Fuentes and Groypers were at the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, and at least seven of them have been charged with federal crimes for their association with that attack. The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol subpoenaed Fuentes himself.

Accounts of the dinner suggest that Trump and Fuentes hit it off, with Trump allegedly saying, “I like this guy, he gets me,” after Fuentes urged Trump to speak freely off the cuff rather than reading teleprompters and trying to appear presidential as his handlers advise.

But Trump announced his candidacy for president in 2024 just days ago, and being seen publicly with far-right white supremacist Fuentes—in addition to Ye—indicates his embrace of the far right. His team told NBC’s Marc Caputo that the dinner was a “f**king nightmare.” Trump tried to distance himself from the meeting by saying he didn’t know who Fuentes was, and that he was just trying to help Ye out by giving the “seriously troubled” man advice, but observers noted that he did not distance himself from Fuentes’s positions.

Republican lawmakers have been silent about Trump’s apparent open embrace of the far right, illustrating the growing power of that far right in the Republican Party. Representatives Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) have affiliated themselves with Fuentes, and while their appearances with him at the America First Political Action Conference last February drew condemnation from Republican leader Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), now McCarthy desperately needs the votes of far-right Republicans to make him speaker of the House. To get that support, he has been promising to deliver their wish list—including an investigation into President Joe Biden’s son Hunter—and appears willing to accept Fuentes and his followers into the party, exactly as Fuentes hoped.

Today, after the news of Trump’s dinner and the thundering silence that followed it, conservative anti-Trumper Bill Kristol tweeted: “Aren’t there five decent Republicans in the House who will announce they won’t vote for anyone for Speaker who doesn’t denounce their party’s current leader, Donald Trump, for consorting with the repulsive neo-Nazi Fuentes?”

So far, at least, the answer is no.

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.

GasLit Nation: The leaked DOJ memo and Joe Manchin’s role in destroying the planet

July 20, 2022


This week we take on shady internal affairs (the enormous number of people in the Trump crime cult circle who died violent or mysterious deaths) and burning external affairs (the horrors of climate change and Joe Manchin’s role in destroying the planet). But before we get to that, we examine yet more confirmation of what we already knew – that Merrick Garland is a mafia state enabler. We discuss the leaked DOJ memo that Rachel Maddow discussed on her show Monday night, Bill Barr’s influence over the DOJ, and shadow mentor Jamie Gorelick, who is still molding both Garland and the January 6 committee.

GasLit Nation: End of the Line

July 12, 2022


We’re ba-a-a-ack! Like a poltergeist of civic conscience, Gaslit Nation has returned to tell you all the things you do not want to know but need to hear. We were off for three months while Andrea had a baby (welcome to the family Chloe!) and Sarah had her bodily autonomy signed away by the Attorney General of Missouri. An eventful spring for all!