GOP’s Florida Debacle Raises Question: Will Coronavirus Change the Way Americans Think About Unemployment?

2018 08 29T011929Z 1 LYNXNPEE7S01J RTROPTP 4 USA TRUMP

Americans enduring unemployment have typically, in the culture of the U.S. political economy, not been responded to with sympathy but rather with disdain, judgment, and blame.

And this has been true, we see, even when the nation has faced conditions of great economic austerity, begging the question, how can we blame people for not working when there is a scarcity of jobs? read more

Let’s Connect the Dots of Democracy’s Demise Before It’s Too Late

right wing militia

Remember in 2016 when an armed Oregon militia group, led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy, occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Princeton, Oregon? They viewed the federally managed land as an encroachment on their land use rights as ranchers and as an example of the federal government’s overreach in asserting its authority against the people.

When the militia solicited public support for their occupation, they were barraged with packages of dildos through the mail—to their great dismay. They responded in videos, yelling “STOP SENDING US DILDOS!”  They looked like the idiots they were.

The tactic of sending dildos, as I’ve elaborated elsewhere, was a brilliant and joyous act of resistance to the armed takeover of public lands, building on a long tradition of using humor as a form of non-violent resistance to armed force.

As the nation watches—or perhaps ignores—the current impeachment hearings, the outcome of which will reveal much about whether the nation’s political leadership will endorse or undo an autocratic regime that has sought to undermine U.S. democracy, we have to connect the dots of several recent events which, assessed together, highlight the very ever-increasing threat to our democracy and the individual and collective rights our system bestows on us.

Dildos simply will not be enough this time. As much as laughter and humor can fuel resistance, we require an alertness and a “woke”-ness  to the destruction of democracy happening before our eyes well beyond, though no doubt encouraged and ignited by, Trump’s complete disregard for the Constitution, basic laws, civil rights, and the norms and procedures of democracy.

Here are just a few recent examples—dots to connect—that make clear the disregard for and destruction of democracy in our country that, more than a threat or worry for the future, is an actuality.

*Let’s return to Oregon where last June Republican state senators fled the statehouse and went into hiding to prevent a vote on a climate change bill to establish a carbon cap to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Despite the Democrats enjoying a majority, without some Republicans present the quorum necessary to even allow a vote was lacking.  While this behavior disregards the truism that elections have consequences, to be fair this tactic has been used in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike as attempts to spur conversation and compromise to give the minority party a voice.  In 2011, Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin absconded to Illinois to avoid a vote on a bill designed to eviscerate collective bargaining rights for public employees. These lawmakers eventually returned and had to endure Governor Scott Walker’s bull-dozing of workers’ democratic rights.  Earlier this year, the same Oregon Senators pulled the same stunt in order to garner a compromise on another piece of legislation.

The shenanigans last June, though, reached a new level of defiance of democracy—and did not receive much national press coverage.

When Governor Kate Brown indicated she was contemplating deploying state troopers to round up the derelict senators, Senator Brian Boquist threatened to shoot and potentially kill any troopers who sought to apprehend him, telling the superintendent of the state police, “Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.”

And the police received what they believed to be credible threats from militias around the state that the state capitol would be stormed in defense of these senators.

Let’s think about this situation and Boquist’s language. He said he wouldn’t “be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon.” And yet he’s the one not following governmental rules and breaking the law! This kind of dangerous and Orwellian language play echoes that in which we see Trump engage. As I’ve written about in the pages of PoliticusUsa, Trump refers to the process of impeachment, clearly detailed by our founders in the Constitution as a necessary mechanism to preserve our democracy against autocratic abuses of power, as a coup; that is, he presents democratic behavior as mob-like violations of democratic order and his own thuggish illegalities as normative.

In Oregon, democracy has been rejected by the likes of Boquist, who simply want their way and will engage in armed violence to get it—or at least threaten to.

*And remember last September 11 in North Carolina when House Republicans held a surprise vote to override the Governor’s veto of a two-year budget.  Democrats, who were attending a 9/11 memorial service, were told there would be no votes that day until the afternoon, and no votes were on the legislative docket. Republicans secretly convened early in the morning to vote on the override. House Speaker Tim Moore told CBS,

“It’s a great day for North Carolina.” read more

Anti-Worker Venom also Fueled the Government Shutdown


Though the U.S. government has opened for business again, it is worthwhile to understand the anti-worker venom that perhaps motivated and certainly prolonged Trump’s Republican-backed government shutdown, which has the notoriety of being longest shutdown of the federal government in American history.

Justifiably, the lion’s share of the media coverage and political debate around the shutdown has focused on Trump’s anti-immigrant racism embodied in his obsessive insistence on, desire for, funding to build that infamous wall, whether literal or metaphorical. This insistence he rationalizes and roots in a mythical border crisis he has rhetorically manufactured, which, saner minds show us, bears no relation to reality, as even some Republicans admit.

An undercurrent to the shutdown that has received little to no attention, however, is the anti-worker venom that fueled and even possibly played some role in motivating the shutdown. Indeed, while Trump often frames his anti-immigrant racism as support for the American working class, recycling the hackneyed argument that “illegal” immigrants drive down wages and steal jobs from “real Americans,” we actually need to understand Trump’s anti-immigrant racism as working hand in hand with his assault on the U.S. working class as a whole.

The shutdown, if we listen closely to the loudmouth Trump whisperers, reveals these links.

Certainly, there has been coverage of the way the shutdown constituted an effective assault on workers as well as workers’, and particularly unions’, responses to the injustices the shutdown perpetrated on workers, such as forcing certain groups of federal employees to work without pay. Articles have covered in detail Trump’s complete lack of concern for workers, revealed in his repeated lies that he would somehow prevent plant closings.

And certainly the callous responses from voices in the Trump administration made clear both their thorough ignorance of how the average worker lives in America, such that they couldn’t comprehend the devastating impact of the shutdown on people’s lives, as well as their complete lack of clear. This combination of ignorance and carelessness was clear in Wilbur Ross’s dismissal of people’s hardships in suggesting workers just take out loans to survive the shutdown; in Lara Trump’s assertion that the “little bit of pain” workers were enduring was worth the sacrifice for the bigger racist ideal; in the glib characterization of the shutdown by one of Trump’s economic advisor as a lovely “vacation” for workers; and in Trump’s blithe assurance that he, of course, could relate to the struggles of those going out with pay during the shutdown and that he was confident that, as always, workers would “make adjustments.”

I’m talking, though, about more than this lack of care and this severe ignorance of how the other 99% of people in America live.  I’m talking about an anti-worker venom that enabled and perpetuated the shutdown and the suffering.

This anti-worker fuel and possible motivation for the shutdown became clear when self-proclaimed Trump whisperer Ann Coulter revealed in a recent interview the content of some of her conversations with Trump and her attitudes about federal workers.  In this interview with Michael Moynihan of Vice News, Coulter insisted, “I’ve been advising the President on twitter, in columns, in conversations you don’t get to know about since his election.”

More interesting than her revelations about her advisory role to the presidency were her comments about shutdown.  She declared it ridiculous that Democrats would hold up funding the government “while they’re weeping for the federal employees with much better benefits, retirement plans, and vacation and sick leave than anyone watching this program.”

Hmmm. The seeping out and stoking of this type of resentment toward well-remunerated workers suggests another layer and another method behind the madness of the government shutdown besides the substantial anti-immigrant racism of the insistence on a wall.

Sure, it’s plausible that Coulter just doesn’t want to miss the opportunity a good crisis presents to resurrect the stale rhetoric of demonizing public sector workers as a way of speciously dividing workers as a whole, making it seem like fat-cat government workers are responsible for other workers’ substandard wages and benefits and not an exploitive ruling class. (Of course, just to be clear, we all know from the many testimonials from federal employees waiting in breadlines, facing evictions, and otherwise living paycheck to paycheck, that Coulter is peddling the well-worn myth of the fat-cat public sector employee, not a reality.)

But consider that last December, shortly after the shutdown commenced, Trump issued an executive order freezing pay increases for federal workers, claiming the government could not afford it, despite the fact the government could afford a 1.5 trillion dollar tax cut for the wealthiest of Americans, not to mention the $11 billion the shutdown cost, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

This executive order seemed like salt on the wound, like an oddly-timed piling on.  And while reported in the media, the story was quickly swallowed up by coverage of the stand-off over funding the wall.  We should keep this in mind when considering Coulter’s January 16 interview and her advice to Trump to stay the course and focus on immigration. “As long as people are talking about immigration, you’re winning,” she addressed Trump in the interview.

Analyzing the shutdown and Trump’s freezing of federal employee wages through the lens of Coulter’s interview, we have reason to believe the shutdown wasn’t just about the wall and anti-immigrant racism; it was also likely about Trump’s larger agenda  of assaulting workers by attempting to destroy gains made in the passage of the Affordable Care Act to ensure working Americans could access health care, by undermining unions by appointing Supreme Court Justices who would eliminate declare fair-share dues unconstitutional, by opposing federal minimum wage standards, and more.

This is what the persistent attack on public sector workers has been about. Think about Coulter’s rhetoric.  She pretends to side with non-governmental worker, bemoaning that the federal employees reap so much more than they do.  Notice that she doesn’t encourage non-government workers to realize they deserve decent healthcare and benefits, a vacation, and a dignified retirement and to demand this justice for all workers. Rather, she urges these workers to resent federal employees, to see them, and hence all workers, as undeserving of humane remuneration, benefits, and basic dignity.

She invokes the strategy popularized by former Republican Governors Scott Walker (Wisconsin) and Mitch Daniels (Indiana) of blaming public sector workers and their wages and benefits for the woes other workers are suffering and for austere state budgets.  This mantra was their rhetorical sledgehammer for attacking workers’ rights and power.

Daniels, for example, called state workers “the new privileged class,” and on his first day in office in 2006 rescinded their collective bargaining rights.

To justify gutting the bargaining rights of state employees to the public back in 2011,

Walker read more

Republican Operative May Be Charged As a Foreign Spy


Maria Butina is a Russian spy who has been accused of all kinds of nasty things. She is currently sitting in a federal prison awaiting trial. And as she does so, more information keeps surfacing concerning her illicit relationships with Republican operatives and office holders.

Butina has been closely linked to the National Rifle Association and to various leading GOP politicians, including Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

And Butina’s boyfriend, GOP operative Paul Erickson, has been told he may face similar charges of acting as an agent illegally involved in espionage against the United States.

According to The Daily Beast, they have reviewed a “target letter” sent by federal law enforcement authorities to Erickson’s lawyer. The letter said the federal officials are planning to charge him with the crimes of operating as an agent of a foreign government, and for conspiracy against the United States.

The letter was to Erickson was just made public but it was actually sent to him in September.

If he is ultimately charged with a crime, according to the Daily Beast he would be the first American charged under the applicable law, Statute 951. This little-known law makes it a crime for Americans to serve as agents of any foreign government.

A source told The Daily Beast that federal law enforcement officers have spoken to people who know Erickson well, and some of them have met with the FBI and given them formal statements. The source said that Erickson’s contacts were asked about the GOP operative’s business dealings and his reputation in conservative political circles.

In a separate case, the U.S. attorney’s office in South Dakota is investigating Erickson for fraud. Several of his former business partners have filed complaints with law enforcement saying that he defrauded them.

South Dakota public records show Butina and Erickson established a company in 2016 together called Bridges LLC that lists its address at Erickson’s home and cites Butina as an authorized person for the company.

Erickson has also been interviewed by the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee. That panel is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Erickson’s lawyer told the committee staff that his client would plead the Fifth Amendment if they try to force him to testify.

Butina has been in the news a lot in recent months. In September we reported:

Accused Russian agent Maria Butina arranged a meeting between the National Rifle Association and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and shopped access to Russian President Vladimir Putin.” read more

NBC Poll Shows Governor Scott Walker Trailing Democrat by 13% in Wisconsin

scott walker meet the press

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is trailing his likely Democratic challenger by double-digits, according to a new poll from NBC News and Marist College.

This new poll is the latest in a series of opinion surveys in recent days which have shown that approval of Republicans in Midwestern states has significantly fallen since Donald Trump became president.

The NBC/Marist poll showed Walker way behind Wisconsin state education superintendent Tony Evers, the Democratic primary front-runner. In the poll Evers is favored by 54 percent of respondents compared to Walker’s 41 percent in a head-to-head matchup.

Walker has expressed his concerns over recent months, warning Republicans that will need to step up their efforts and become more active if he is to win third term as governor of the Badger State.

Walker’s warnings came after Democrats won several down-ballot elections in Wisconsin earlier this year, including judgeships and

seats in the state legislature. read more

Republicans Admit Trump Won Wisconsin Due To Voter ID Law


In the 2016 presidential election Donald Trump won Wisconsin by about 22,000 votes.  Much analysis has been done as to why Hillary Clinton lost Wisconsin, but most Democrats have agreed that one of the main causes for this surprising loss was the existence of a strict voter I.D. law that kept many Democrats from voting.

And now something even more surprising has happened:  a top Republican official in Wisconsin has publicly stated his opinion that it was indeed the voter I.D. law that caused Trump to win Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes.

The voter I.D. law went into effect in 2016, requiring that before voting people must show at least one form of government-issued photo identification to vote.

“We battled to get voter I.D. on the ballot for the November ’16 election,” said Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel on a conservative radio show. “How many of your listeners really honestly are sure that Sen. [Ron] Johnson was going to win reelection or President Trump was going to win Wisconsin if we didn’t have voter I.D. to keep Wisconsin’s elections clean and honest and have integrity?”

In a story last year, Mother Jones reported that the voter I.D. law kept so many Democrats from voting that it probably gave the state to Trump.  In 2014 a federal court stated that 9 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin didn’t have the photo I.D. they needed to cast votes. They concluded that about 45,000 voters statewide didn’t vote because of the law, most of them Democrats.  This is more than twice Trump’s 2016 margin of victory in Wisconsin.

One insight into Republican motivations for supporting the I.D. law (which was defended in court by Schimel) is shown by this statistic: African American voters were three times as likely as whites to say they could not vote because of the I.D. law.  And African Americans in Wisconsin favored Hillary Clinton over Trump by an 88-to-8 margin.

Neil Albrecht, the executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, agreed that the voter I.D. law likely caused Trump to win. “It is very probable that between the photo I.D. law and the changes to voter registration, enough people were prevented from voting to have changed the outcome of the presidential election in Wisconsin,” he said.

Though Schimel said the I.D. law was needed to “keep Wisconsin’s elections clean and honest,” he was not able to show in court even one case of voter fraud or voter impersonation.  This proves that the law did not solve a real problem, but was intended only to keep Democrats from voting.

And since t

he voter I.D. law is still on the books, it will affect the 2018 elections in Wisconsin.  This means it will help both  read more