Republican Efforts to End Democracy

This group will not willingly cede its power.

“After hours of mysterious closed-door meetings that went past midnight, the Wisconsin Senate convened at 4:30 on Wednesday morning and passed by one vote a package of bills devised to curb the powers of the incoming Democratic leaders.”

.. “In Michigan, where Democrats last month won the governor’s mansion as well as the races for attorney general and secretary of state, Republican lawmakers last week introduced measures that would water down the authority of those positions on campaign finance oversight and other legal matters.”

.. Altering the structure of power in a state to limit the influence of an incoming executive of an opposing party wasn’t something I thought I’d ever see in America, but unfortunately this isn’t even the first time we’ve seen it. This is not the first time Republicans have done it.

.. In 2016, Republicans in the North Carolina legislature also pushed through legislation designed to limit the power of an incoming Democratic governor. Kevin Drum wrote a fascinating column about this in Mother Jones titled “Republicans Are No Longer Committed to That Whole Peaceful Transfer of Power Thing.”

.. Republican anti-democratic tendencies aren’t limited to the transfer of power. They extend to areas like the widespread efforts to enact voter suppression, from voter ID laws to voter roll purges to shortening early-voting windows to gerrymandering.

..  a report this year by the Brennan Center for Justice found that voter purging was on the rise:

We found that between 2014 and 2016, states removed almost 16 million voters from the rolls, and every state in the country can and should do more to protect voters from improper purges. Almost 4 million more names were purged from the rolls between 2014 and 2016 than between 2006 and 2008. This growth in the number of removed voters represented an increase of 33 percent — far outstripping growth in both total registered voters (18 percent) and total population (6 percent).

In some cases it is clear that minority voters are disproportionately affected by the purges. One reason is the method used. The report found that 28 states now submit data to the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, the purpose of which “is to identify possible ‘double voters’ — an imprecise term that could be used to refer to people who have registrations in two states or who actually voted in an election in multiple states.”

.. But many people have the same name, which poses a problem for the database. That problem is heightened for minority voters because, as the report says, “African-American, Asian-American, and Latino voters are much more likely than Caucasians to have one of the most common 100 last names in the United States.”

As for gerrymandering, it is “the biggest obstacle to genuine democracy in the United States,” according to Brian Klaasa political scientist at University College London.

.. eight of the ten most gerrymandered districts in the United States were drawn by Republicans.”

..Even our current immigration debate is far more about future voters than about safety or criminals or the other canards Republicans typically use to oppose it.

.. “among all Latino immigrants who are eligible to vote (i.e. are U.S. citizens) many more identify as Democrats than as Republicans — 54 percent versus 11 percent.”

That is why immigration is such a burning issue on the right and why Donald Trump is able to exploit it: Immigration, both legal and illegal, represents a loss of political power for Republicans.

.. Republican power is increasingly synonymous with white power. The party’s nationalist tendencies are increasingly synonymous with white nationalism.

.. This group will not willingly cede its power just because demographics predict its downfall and current circumstances demonstrate its weaknesses.

If the Republican Party can’t maintain power in the democracy we have, it will destroy that democracy so that its power can be entrenched by limiting the impact of the vote.

An Ocasio-Cortez for the GOP?

Elizabeth Heng, 33 and Cambodian-American, is not your father’s Republican.

Far from the slash-and-burn attacks of so many candidates, Ms. Heng’s pitch to voters is measured and low-key. But it’s no less devastating. A campaign video has Ms. Heng walking past abandoned houses, homeless people and empty storefronts. She says that for 14 years the district has been represented by “a nice man, Jim Costa”—who has done almost nothing to bring a better life to his constituents.

Is Trump the Second Coming of Reagan?

Fox News’s Bret Baier wants you to think he just might be.

.. Bret Baier, chief political anchor of Fox News, President Trump’s favorite network, insists he isn’t living in some alternate reality. He knows that our current President is louder, cruder, and ruder than Ronald Reagan, “a counterpuncher” from New York far different from his genial Republican predecessor.

.. Right before our conversation, Baier had appeared on the radio with Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk-show host who reveres Reagan so much he refers to him as Ronaldus Magnus. Limbaugh waxed on to Baier about “the parallels” between two different men, and Baier agreed. “Exactly,” he said. “One thing you can say is, like Reagan, Trump has changed the paradigm. I mean, the jury’s still out on the end result, but the game changed in the way Washington worked.”

.. Since the start of Trump’s outsider campaign to remake the Republican Party in his own image, his partisans have branded him a Reagan for our times—a brasher and brusquer one, perhaps, but like Reagan in that they were both renegades who fought the party establishment and politically revitalized the G.O.P. with a new coalition of former Democrats like themselves. This is the “heads were exploding then, heads are exploding now” part of Baier’s argument.

.. An establishment figure no less than James Baker, Reagan’s first-term White House chief of staff, has said that Trump’s ascendance reminded him of Reagan’s; he made the remark during a lunch before Nancy Reagan’s funeral, in 2016, as Trump was in the midst of trouncing sixteen other Republicans to take the nomination of a party whose leaders had hardly welcomed him.

.. when they met in the spring of 2016, Baker handed Trump a two-page memo full of advice, which Trump promptly ignored.

  1. .. “Number one,” Adelman told me, “Reagan was a Republican. Number two:
  2. Reagan was a conservative and it’s clear Trump is not. Number three:
  3. Reagan was a very, very decent person…. And number four:
  4. basically, Reagan was very competent.”

.. Kristol told me the Republican whom President Trump most resembles is not Ronald Reagan, but Richard Nixon. “I would say Trump is more like Nixon, though it’s unfair to Nixon in that Nixon was a more serious person,” Kristol said. “He’s more Nixon than Reagan, but of course a much degraded version of Nixon.”

.. In Republican circles, Reagan’s brand remains as golden as the lettering on Trump Tower. The endless Fox News segments with pictures of Reagan and Trump flashing on screen together certainly give the impression of a well-timed and not particularly subtle image-burnishing campaign.

.. A report in New York magazine that was released before we met claimed that Sean Hannity, the Fox prime-time star, talks to the President on the phone as frequently as several times a day, often at night before they go to bed.

 

Ryan, Republicans and the Republic

The ships are leaving the sinking rat.

That’s the moral of Paul Ryan’s unexpected but not surprising announcement this week that he will give up the speakership

.. Many of these Republicans once believed that Donald Trump alone possessed the kind of political virility needed to vanquish Hillary Clinton and make America great again. Only belatedly have they figured out that the virility comes with a case of syphilis.

.. “The litmus test for being a Republican these days is not about any given set of ideals or principles; it’s about loyalty to the man, and I think that’s challenging.”

.. The world will little note nor long remember that in 2017 Republicans cut the top marginal rate to 37 percent from 39.6 percent and otherwise tried but failed to kill Obamacare

.. A conservative rejoinder to this critique is that the speaker had no choice; that Trump was the lemon with which he had to make lemonade. Nonsense. Congress and the White House are coequals, and Ryan and other Republicans who saw Trump for what he is never owed him obeisance. They owed the country an alternative political vision, untainted by Trumpism, which could emerge from the debacle of this presidency with clean hands. Ryan’s failure to deliver one will be remembered as the central fact of his once-bright career.

.. Is there an alternative?

Among Republicans, Ohio’s John Kasich, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, and Arizona’s Jeff Flake and John McCain have sought in different ways to offer one, without immediate success but with integrity, honor and a sense of the long view.

.. “The center-right and center-left are still joined by a broad set of common values, including respect for free speech and dissent, a belief in the benefits of international trade and immigration, respect for law and procedural legitimacy, a suspicion of cults of personality, and an understanding that free societies require protection from authoritarians promising easy fixes to complex problems.”

Mueller Probe May Spell Trouble for Top GOP Lobbying Firm That Worked With Paul Manafort

Did Mercury Public Affairs participate in a scheme to obscure its Ukrainian lobbying?

.. Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman from Minnesota turned DC power-lobbyist, was a foreign policy adviser to presidential candidate Mitt Romney and in line for a top administration job, should Romney win the White House.

.. The work was lucrative—it ultimately netted Mercury more than $1.1 million—but problematic. It might have required Weber to register as a foreign agent for a regime known for its close ties to Russia, which Romney famously denounced as America’s top geopolitical threat. That, in turn, might have complicated Weber’s chances of landing a job in a Romney White House.

.. Prosecutors charge that Manafort and Gates arranged for a Brussels-based think tank, the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, to be “the nominal client” of Mercury and the Podesta Group

.. the former congressman pushed for Mercury and Podesta to avoid registering with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, as agents for Ukraine.

.. The “Centre is funded by a group of Ukrainian business people,” not Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, a spokeswoman for the firm inaccurately told the Daily Beast at the time.

.. The Podesta Group eventually agreed to skip registering under FARA after insisting that the firms also obtain a written certification from the European Centre that it was not funded or controlled by a foreign government or a political party

..  It has kept up its foreign lobbying business, in recent months signing on as one of a number of DC firms lobbying for Qatar.

.. Last month, Mercury registered to represent the Turkey-US Business Council, a group formerly headed by a shadowy businessman, Ekim Alptekin, who in 2016 arranged for Michael Flynn to secretly work for Turkey

.. Gates and Manafort held weekly calls with Mercury and the Podesta Group “to provide them directions as to specific lobbying steps that should be taken,” and “both congratulated and reprimanded” the firms “on their lobbying work,”

..  allege that both Mercury and Podesta “were paid for their services not by their nominal client, the Centre, but solely through offshore accounts” controlled by Manafort.

 

In North Carolina, Some Democrats See Their Grim Future

The GOP’s moves have many on the left worried their bare-knuckle tactics will spread nationally.

The road to political morass began six years ago in North Carolina, when national Republican donors and strategists launched a concerted effort to create a bulwark against the emerging multiracial, center-left coalition that swept Barack Obama into the White House. They sank millions of dollars into cheaply bought local and state races, seizing control of the statehouse for the first time since a now-unrecognizable Republican Party that supported racial integration and voting rights for African-Americans held it during Reconstruction.

.. the new Republican majority gerrymandered districts in which Democrats couldn’t win—which resulted in ever-more-hard-line conservatives winning primaries in each election.

.. Only a third of North Carolina’s registered voters were Republicans, but McCrory and his allies in the legislature ruled as if it were a one-party state—cracking down on abortion, slashing social services and banning state officials from considering climate change when planning development along the state’s vulnerable coastline. It didn’t matter how many would-be voters this angered, because the redrawn districts guaranteed Republican supermajorities in the statehouse and U.S. Congress.

.. Legislators also took advantage of the U.S. Supreme Court’s rollback of the Voting Rights Act to restrict voting in black and other Democratic-leaning communities. When voters unseated McCrory and chose the Democratic attorney general, Roy Cooper, to be governor this fall, the Republican legislature greeted him with a slate of new laws stripping his powers and handing them to the legislature and Republican-controlled agencies.

.. Progressives and moderates watching across the country have been horrified about the evolution of a resolutely purple state into a hard-core bastion of untouchable conservative power—and what that might portend for a country where Donald Trump is in the White House and Republicans will control both chambers of Congress, the Supreme Court and 32 state legislatures—25 of which will have Republicans at the helm of all three branches of government.

.. Much as segregationists had used fears of racially integrated bathrooms as a cudgel during the civil rights era, fear-mongering about the specter of transgender people—imagined by many small-town conservatives to be mostly perverts and deviants

.. “How many fathers are now going to be forced to go to the ladies’ room to make sure their little girls aren’t molested?”