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Posts Tagged ‘DEMOCRATIC PARTY’

AN EVERYDAY THREAT TO GOVERNMENT

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 14, 2021 at 12:05 am

It’s wonderful to believe that when you have a problem, you can write your local / state / federal representative and s/he will “give it my fullest attention.”

Unfortunately, it’s also usually a mistake.

Two cases on the futility of expectations:

Case #1: On August 12, a man I’ll call Mark, wrote a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. The subject: The disgraceful performance of San Francisco’s Municipal Railway (MUNI) bus lines during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mark had previously complained to MUNI and his member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors—without result.  So now he decided to literally make it a Federal case:

“MUNI bus drivers are the highest-paid in the nation: The average MUNI driver makes $79,617, 51% above the national average bus driver salary of $52,730. This pay is 27% higher than the combined average salaries of drivers in Dallas, Boston and Atlanta.

“Yet  for  more  than  a  year,  many  of  these  drivers  have  been  ‘earning’ their pay by staying at home—or  going on  what  amounts to  an  extended vacation at the expense of San Francisco voters and MUNI riders.”

Muni | SFMTA

Many bus routes, Mark wrote, had been eliminated. This forces riders to cram themselves aboard the first bus available—making it impossible to “maintain social distancing” as recorded messages aboard MUNI buses advise.

Other routes have been substantially altered, with passengers learning this only after they are deposited far from their expected drop-off point.

These changes are especially difficult for elderly and/or disabled riders.

Mark suggested that Buttigieg threaten MUNI with:

  1. The loss of the Federal monies it now receives through the Department of Transportation; and
  2. An Americans With Disabilities lawsuit on behalf of San Franciscans now unable to receive the transit services they need.

To date—one month later—Mark has not received even the courtesy of a reply, let alone seen a positive change in MUNI’s operations.  

Pete Buttigieg official photo.jpg

Pete Buttigieg

Case #2:  Janet, a chef in Los Angeles, was fed up with getting Spam calls on her cell phone. Each time she got one, she blocked the number. Being on the national Do Not Call Registry, she believed she had an airtight case to take to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which regulates the airways.

So she called the FCC and spoke with one of its representatives.

She said that she had saved to her phone the numbers of Spam callers—and she was prepared to turn these over to the FCC.

The FCC’s rep applauded Janet’s willingness to turn over this information.

“Then what happens?” asked Janet.

“We’ll put it into our files.”

In short: the FCC had no intention of acting on the Spam-caller numbers that Janet was prepared to turn over.

Did you submit a net neutrality comment to the FCC? Are you sure?

Janet didn’t hide her disappointment: “If someone went to the FBI and said, ‘I’m being shaken down by the Mafia,’ and the FBI said, ‘Well, we’ll put this into our files’ but wasn’t willing to do anything more, how many people do you think would be willing to report crimes to the FBI?”

The FCC rep admitted that this would greatly reduce the willingness of the public to report crimes to the FBI. But she made no effort to help Janet stop the harassing Spam calls.

Incidents like the ones above are a potent reason why so many people have lost their trust in government—at all levels.

Untold numbers of average citizens feel their elected officials—and the agencies they administer—don’t care about their problems. Even worse, they believe—accurately—that if they were wealthy contributors to the Democratic or Republican party, their complaints would be addressed promptly.

On April 24, 2016, CBS’ longtime documentary series, “60 Minutes,” aired a segment titled “Dialing for Dollars.”  

It opened with the following: “The American public has a low opinion of Congress. Only 14 percent think it’s doing a good job. But Congress has excelled in one way. Raising money. Members of Congress raised more than a billion dollars for their 2014 election. And they never stop. 

“Nearly every day, they spend hours on the phone asking supporters and even total strangers for campaign donations—hours spent away from the jobs they were elected to do. The pressure on candidates to raise money has ratcheted up since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. That allowed unlimited spending by corporations, unions and individuals in elections.”

Coat of arms or logo

In short: Members of Congress—the branch that writes the laws governing the lives of 328.2 million Americans—have essentially become telemarketers.

People who write to their members of Congress expect at least the courtesy of a reply addressing their concerns within a reasonable period of time. Many constituents will not receive even that.

Or the “reply” they receive arrives weeks or months later—and opens with: “Thank you for writing me to support my bill….”

Usually they haven’t even heard of the bill cited—and couldn’t care less about it. As they scan the letter—no doubt drafted by a low-level staffer—they search in vain for an offer of help, or at least empathy. 

Millions of Americans will have no other contact with government officials than this. And it will convince them that if government isn’t their enemy, it’s certainly not their friend.

WHAT REPUBLICANS KNOW AND DEMOCRATS DON’T: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 12, 2021 at 12:22 am

On the May 27, 2016, edition of The PBS Newshour, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks analyzed the use of insults by Republican Presidential front-runner Donald Trump. 

“Trump, for all his moral flaws, is a marketing genius. And you look at what he does. He just picks a word and he attaches it to a person. Little Marco [Rubio], Lyin’ Ted [Cruz], Crooked Hillary [Clinton].

“And that’s a word.  And that’s how marketing works. It’s a simple, blunt message, but it gets under.

“It sticks, and it diminishes. And so it has been super effective for him, because he knows how to do that.  And she [Hillary Clinton] just comes with, ‘Oh, he’s divisive.’”

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Donald Trump

Hillary Clinton wasn’t the only Presidential candidate who proved unable to cope with Trump’s gift for insult.  His targets—and insults—included:

  • Former Texas Governor Rick Perry: “Wears glasses to seem smart.”
  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush: “Low Energy Jeb.” 
  • Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders: “Crazy Bernie.” 
  • Ohio Governor John Kasich: “Mathematically dead and totally desperate.”

Only one candidate has shown the ability to rattle Trump: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. 

As liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields noted on The PBS Newshour.

“Elizabeth Warren gets under Donald Trunp’s skin. And I think she’s been the most effective adversary. I think she’s done more to unite the Democratic party than either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.”

Added David Brooks: “And so the tactics…is either you do what Elizabeth Warren has done, like full-bore negativity, that kind of [get] under the skin, or try to ridicule him and use humor.” 

Words are weapons—or can be, if used properly.

Republicans learned this truth after World War II.

  • Richard Nixon became a United States Senator by attacking Helen Gahagen Douglas as “the Pink Lady.”
  • Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and other Red-baiting Republicans essentially paralyzed the Democratic party through such slanderous terms as “Comsymps,” “fellow-travelers” and “Fifth Amendment Communists.”

As a whole, Democrats have shown themselves indifferent to or ignorant of the power of effective language.

Many of them—such as former President Barack Obama—believe: “I’m not going to get into the gutter like my opponents.”

Thus, they take the “high ground” while their sworn Republican enemies undermine them via “smear and fear” tactics. 

As far back as the early 1950s, slander-hurling Wisconsin U.S. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy demonstrated the effectiveness of such tactics. Wrote Pulitzer-Prize winning author David Halberstam, in his monumental study of the origins of the Vietnam War, The Best and the Brightest:

“But if they did not actually stick, and they did not, [McCarthy’s] charges had an equally damaging effect: They poisoned. Where there was smoke, there must be fire. He wouldn’t be saying these things [voters reasoned] unless there was something to it.”

Joseph McCarthy

President Donald J. Trump:

  • Solicited aid from Russian Communists to win the Presidency in 2016;
  • Solicited aid from Chinese Communists to retain it in 2020′
  • Attacked countless Americans and world leaders—including those who preside over America’s NATO alliance.

Yet he has never dared criticize Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

As a result, Democrats could legitimately refer to him as

  • “TrumPutin”
  • “Commissar-in-Chief”
  • “Putin’s Poodle”
  • “Red Donald”
  • “Putin’s Puppet”
  • “Trumpy Traitor.”

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The Kremlin

But Trump got a free pass on treason from Democrats and news media alike.

Tyrants are conspicuously vulnerable to ridicule. Yet here, too, Democrats have proven unable or unwilling to make use of this powerful weapon.

In this YouTube-obsessed age, Democrats could effectively assail Trump with a series of ridiculing videos. For example, Trump’s well-established “bromance” with Putin could be turned into a parody of the famous Beatles’ song, “With a Little Help From My Friends”:

What do I do when the bank calls me in?
(Does it worry you to be in debt?)
How do I feel when I need rubles fast? 
(Do you worry Vlad might say “Nyet”?)

No, I get by with a little help from my Vlad.
Mm, I can lie with a little help from my Vlad.
Mm, you’re gonna fry with a little help from my Vlad.

Image result for Images of memes of Trump as Putin's puppet

Many of Trump’s fiercest defenders in the House and Senate have taken “campaign contributions” (i.e., bribes) from Russian oligarchs. They could be pointedly attacked by turning the Muppet song, “The Rainbow Connection,” into “The Russian Connection.” 

Why are there so many
Tales about Russians
And Right-wingers taking bribes?
Russians are Commies
And have lots of rubles
For traitors with something to hide.
 
So I’ve been told
And some choose to believe it.
It’s clear as the old KGB.
Someday we’ll find it
The Russian Connection–
The bribers, the traitors–you’ll see.

 

Trump has repeatedly shown that he doesn’t take well to ridicule. Admittedly, late-night comedians like Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah have inflicted huge comic damage on Trump’s image and ego.

But it’s one thing for a professional comedian to serve up such barbs—and another for a major political party to do so through a series of blistering TV ads. 

Humorists could easily provide the material. But it will take courage by the Democrats to use it.

WHAT REPUBLICANS KNOW AND DEMOCRATS DON’T: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 11, 2021 at 12:13 am

On January 19, 2012, moderator John King opened CNN’s South Carolina Republican debate by asking candidate Newt Gingrich: 

“Your ex-wife gave an interview to ABC News and another interview at The Washington Post and this story has now gone viral on the internet.

“In it, she says that you came to her in 1999 at a time you were having an affair. She says you asked her, sir, to enter into an open marriage. Would you like to take some time to respond to that?”

Gingrich, who as House Speaker had loudly championed “family values” as his personal cause while Bill Clinton was President, angrily replied:  

“No, but I will. I think — I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office.

“And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that. The story is false. Every personal friend who I had during that period said it was false. We offered several to ABC to prove it was false. They weren’t interested because they would like to attack any Republican.”

During that interview, Marianne, Gingrich’s second ex-wife had said Newt had told her he wanted an open marriage.

“I found out during our conversations that it was occurring in my bedroom in our apartment in Washington and he always called me at night. He would always ended with I love you while she was there listening. In my home.”  

In August 2000, Gingrich married Callista Bisek four months after his divorce from Marianne was finalized.

Newt Gingrich

During his tirade to CNN moderator John King, Gingrich said: “Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person here has had someone who’s gone through personal things.

“To take an ex-wife and two days before the primary [raise] a significant question in the presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine….I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and open the debate.”

One person who was not moved by Gingrich’s sympathy-inciting rant was National Public Radio reporter Tamara Keith:

“That someone else [whom Gingrich was having an affair with] was Callista Bisek, a congressional staffer two decades younger than Gingrich. They had an affair for six years.

“Callista Gingrich is now his third wife, and stands by his side at campaign events nodding adoringly. Their affair in the 1990s spans the period when Gingrich led the impeachment of President Clinton, giving speeches about morality along the way.”

In 1996, Newt Gingrich, then Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, wrote a memo that encouraged Republicans to “speak like Newt.”

Entitled “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” it urged Republicans to attack Democrats with such words as “corrupt,” “selfish,” “destructive,” “hypocrisy,” “liberal,” “sick,” and “traitors.”

Even worse, Gingrich encouraged the news media to disseminate such accusations. Among his suggestions:

  • “Fights make news.”
  • Create a “shield issue” to deflect criticism: “A shield issue is, just, you know, your opponent is going to attack you as lacking compassion. You better…show up in the local paper holding a baby in the neonatal center.”

Image result for boxing gloves touching

In the memo, Gingrich advised:

“….In the video “We are a Majority,” Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. 

“As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates we have heard a plaintive plea: ‘I wish I could speak like Newt.’

“That takes years of practice. But, we believe that you could have a significant impact on your campaign and the way you communicate if we help a little. That is why we have created this list of words and phrases….

“This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media.

“The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used.”

Here is the list of words Gingrich urged his followers to use in describing “the opponent, their record, proposals and their party”:

  • abuse of power
  • anti- (issue): flag, family, child, jobs
  • betray
  • bizarre
  • bosses
  • bureaucracy
  • cheat
  • coercion
  • “compassion” is not enough
  • collapse(ing)
  • consequences
  • corrupt
  • corruption
  • criminal rights
  • crisis
  • cynicism
  • decay
  • deeper
  • destroy
  • destructive
  • devour
  • disgrace
  • endanger
  • excuses
  • failure (fail)
  • greed
  • hypocrisy
  • ideological
  • impose
  • incompetent
  • insecure
  • insensitive
  • intolerant
  • liberal
  • lie
  • limit(s)
  • machine
  • mandate(s)
  • obsolete
  • pathetic
  • patronage
  • permissive attitude
  • pessimistic
  • punish (poor …)
  • radical
  • red tape
  • self-serving
  • selfish
  • sensationalists
  • shallow
  • shame
  • sick
  • spend(ing)
  • stagnation
  • status quo
  • steal
  • taxes
  • they/them
  • threaten
  • traitors
  • unionized
  • urgent (cy)
  • waste
  • welfare

Yes, speaking like Newt—or Adolf Hitler or Joseph R. McCarthy—“takes years of practice.”  

And to the dismay of both Republicans and Democrats, Donald Trump learned that lesson well.

THE NRA: GIVE ME THAT GUN-TIME RELIGON

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 26, 2021 at 12:07 am

On February 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz slaughtered two faculty members and 15 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

His weapon of choice: An AR-15 assault rifle, often favored by gun massacre killers.

Eight days later, on February 22, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA) attacked those he held responsible for the series of massacres plaguing American schools.

And it wasn’t crazed gunmen armed with automatic weapons designed for military use. 

Image result for Images of Wayne LaPierre

Wayne LaPierre

With funerals still being planned for some of the victims, LaPierre blamed “the elites,” “saboteurs” and “new European-style socialists” for this and other gun massacres.

He did so at the Conservative Political Action Conference (C-PAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

“They hate the NRA, they hate the Second Amendment. They hate individual freedom. In the rush of calls for more government, they have also revealed…their true selves.

“The elites do not care about America’s schoolchildren. If they truly cared, they would protect them. For them, it is not a safety issue. It is a political issue. 

“Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms, so they can eradicate all individual freedoms.”

His C-PAC congregation gave him a wild ovation.

And he accused the Democratic party of being “infested with saboteurs who do not believe in capitalism, do not believe in the Constitution, do not believe in our freedom, and do not believe in America as we know it.”

These “saboteurs” were “new European-style socialists.”

Which was ironic: In 2016, the NRA spent $30 million to elect Donald Trump—who fiercely defends Russian Communist dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, NSA and CIA.

He then outlined his solution for protecting America’s schoolchildren: Turning schools into virtual concentration camps patrolled by heavily-armed security guards. 

The highlight of LaPierre’s speech came at its close: “And there is no greater personal, individual freedom than the right to keep and bear arms, the right to protect yourself, and the right to survive.

“It is not bestowed by man, but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright.”

Anyone who’s seen the 1970 sci-fi movie, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, remembers the final scene: Where seemingly normal underground dwellers strip off their human face masks and reveal themselves to be radiation-scarred mutants.

They wear white robes, and stand silently during a sermon or shout “Amen!” in what is clearly a dark parody of a religious service. It’s immediately clear what they are worshiping: An atomic bomb standing upright.

Image result for Images of bomb worshipers in Beneath the Planet of the Apes

And they pay tribute to the engine of obliteration that has destroyed human civilization and brought about a world ruled by apes.

Their leader, Mendez, chants:

“Glory be to the Bomb, and to the Holy Fallout. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen. 

“His sound has gone out to all lands, and his light unto the end of the world.

“Almighty and everlasting Bomb, who came down among us to make Heaven under Earth. Lighten our darkness. O instrument of God—grant us thy peace!”

Reading Wayne LaPierre’s eulogy to the Gun and his passionate invoking of God, it’s easy to re-imagine his giving a slightly altered version of the sermon offered in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. It’s also easy to imagine this taking place during an NRA convention.

WAYNE LAPIERRE: The heavens declare the Glory of the Gun. And the body-count showeth His handiwork.

NRA CONGREGATION: His sound is gone out to all lands; and his Light unto the end of the world.

WAYNE LAPIEREE: He descendeth from the outermost part of Heaven; and there is nothing hid from the lead thereof. There is neither speech nor language after His voice is heard among them.

NRA CONGREGATION: Praise Him! Praise Him! My Strength and my Redeemer!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Glory be to the Gun, and to the Holy Bodycount! As it was in the Beginning, is now and ever shall be, massacres without end. Amen!

NRA CHORUS: Amen! Amen! Amen! Amen!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Almighty and Everlasting Gun, who came down among us to make Heaven unto Earth. Lighten our darkness with your muzzle flashes. O instrument of God, grant us They peace.

NRA CHOIR: Almighty Gun, who destroyed all men—to create corpses! Behold His glory!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Behold that Truth that abides in us. To reveal that Truth unto that Maker.

WAYNE LAPIERRE AND NRA CONGREGATION:  I reveal my inmost self unto my God.

NRA CHORUS (singing): Unto my God!

NRA CONGREGATION (singing):

All guns bright and beautiful. All creatures dead with lead.

The good Gun makes us what we are!

He takes out eyes to see with, and lips that might yet speak.

How great the Gun Almighty, who has made all things dead. Amen!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: May the Blessing of the Gun Almighty and the fellowship of the Holy Bodycount descend on us all, this night and forevermore! 

* * * * * *  

On December 14, 2012, a psychotic gunman using military firepower slaughtered 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since then, at least 2,654 mass shootings have erupted nationwide, with at least 2,908 killed and 11,088 wounded.

GREAT MOMENTS WITH KEVIN MCCARTHY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on February 8, 2021 at 12:45 am

On September 30, 2015, during an appearance on Fox News Network, Kevin McCarthy proved that your best friends can sometimes be your worst enemies.

McCarthy, the Republican member of the House of Representatives from Bakersfield, California, was feeling relaxed. He was, after all, not being grilled by such “enemies” of the Right as The New York Times or MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

Instead, he was being interviewed by Sean Hannity—a Right-wing political commentator and the author of such books as Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama’s Radical Agenda and Deliver Us From Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism.

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Sean Hannity

John Boehner had recently announced he would resign as Republican Speaker of the House and leave Congress in November. So Hannity asked: What would happen when the next Republican Speaker took office?

And McCarthy—who was in the running for the position—replied: “What you’re going to see is a conservative Speaker, that takes a conservative Congress, that puts a strategy to fight and win.

“And let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?

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Kevin McCarthy

“But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her [poll] numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.”

In 51 words, McCarthy revealed that: 

  • The House Select Committee on Benghazi was not a legitimate investigative body.
  • Its purpose was not to investigate the 2012 deaths of four American diplomats during a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
  • Its real purpose was to destroy the Presidential candidacy of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
  • To accomplish this, its members spent 17 months and wasted more than $4.5 million of American taxpayers’ funds.

But in August, 2019, McCarthy sang a different tune.

On August 5, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) tweeted out a list of 44 San Antonio donors to President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign for re-election: “Sad to see so many San Antonians as of 2019 maximum donors to Donald Trump. Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders.’”

Joaquin Castro, official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg

Joaquin Castro

On the morning of August 3, 2019, a lone gunman had killed 22 people and injured 24 others in El Paso, Texas. The killer—Patrick Wood Crusius—reportedly targeted Latinos.

Just 27 minutes before the massacre, Crusius had posted an online manifesto warning about a “Hispanic invasion.” Its language was similar to that used by President Trump.

It was the third-deadliest mass shooting in Texas history and the seventh deadliest in modern United States history.

According to ABC News, when police arrested Crusius, he said that he wanted to shoot as many Mexicans as possible.

That was when Rep. Joaquin Castro—whose brother, Julián, was running for President—decided to fight fire with fire.

He decided to “out” 44 San Antonio donors who had contributed the maximum amount under federal law to Trump in 2019.

Trump had aggressively tried to shame his critics. Castro obviously sought to do the same with Trump’s supporters.

Predictably, Republicans were outraged. They claimed it spotlighted Trump donors and potentially endangered them by publicizing their names and professions. 

One of these critics was House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who blamed the shooting on video games.

“Targeting and harassing Americans because of their political beliefs is shameful and dangerous.” tweeted McCarthy. “What happened to ‘When they go low, we go high?’ Or does that no longer matter when your brother is polling at 1%? Americans deserve better.”

But Castro refused to back down. He pointed out that his information came from publicly-available records at the Federal Election Commission.  

“No one was targeted or harassed in my post. You know that,” Castro tweeted to McCarthy. “All that info is routinely published.”

“What happened to ‘When they go low, we go high?’” must rank among the all-time statements of political hypocrisy.

After all, McCarthy was the man who unintentionally admitted the real purpose of the “Benghazi Committee.”

From the late 1940s to the mid-1950s, Republicans unhesitatingly hauled prominent and ordinary citizens before House and Senate subcommittees. The purpose: To force them to confess to past membership in the Communist Party or inform on those they knew to have been or be members.

And as a Presidential candidate and President, Trump had repeatedly used Twitter to personally attack hundreds of Americans—especially blacks, Hispanics, women and members of the media. 

Perhaps Castro remembered what happened the last time Democrats—in the words of Michelle Obama—waged a “when they go low, we go high” campaign.

Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton proved no match for

  • Russian Internet trolls and
  • The hacking of state election offices and American voting machine makers by Russian military Intelligence.

And since Trump took office in 2017, he and his Republican Congressional allies had fiercely resisted all Democratic efforts to tighten election security. 

Even during the 2020 Presidential campaign, many Democrats still refused to “get into the gutter” with Trump by using his own tactics against him.

But some—like Joaquin Castro—have clearly decided that when your opponent is aiming below the belt, you only lose by sticking to Marquis of Queensberry.

THE PERILS OF COWERING TO FASCISM

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 26, 2021 at 12:09 am

On November 9, 1923, Nazi Party Fuhrer Adolf Hitler tried to overthrow the government in Munich, Bavaria.

About 2,000 Nazis marched to the center of Munich, where they confronted heavily-armed police. A shootout erupted, killing 16 Nazis and four policemen. 

Hitler was injured during the clash, but managed to escape. Two days later, he was arrested and charged with treason.

Put on trial, he found himself treated as a celebrity by a judge sympathetic to Right-wing groups. He was allowed to brutally cross-examine witnesses and even make inflammatory speeches.

At the end of the trial, he was convicted of treason and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

Serving time in Landsberg Prison, in Bavaria. he was given a huge cell, allowed to receive unlimited visitors and gifts, and treated with deference by guards and inmates.

Hitler used his time in prison to write his infamous book, Mein Kampf-–“My Struggle.” Part autobiography, part political treatise, it laid out his future plans—including the extermination of the Jews and the conquest of the Soviet Union.

Image result for Images of Adolf Hitler outside Landsberg prison

Adolf Hitler leaving Landsberg Prison, December, 20, 1924

Nine months later, he was released on parole—by authorities loyal to the authoritarian Right instead of the newly-created Weimar Republic.

Hitler immediately began rebuilding the shattered Nazi party—and deciding on a new strategy to gain power. Never again would he resort to armed force. He would win office by election—or intrigue.

On January 30, 1933, those intrigues made him Chancellor of Germany. 

Writes historian Volker Ullrich, in his monumental 2016 biography, Hitler: Ascent 1889 – 1939: “Historians have perennially tried to answer the question of whether Hitler’s rise to power could have been halted….

“There were repeated opportunities to end Hitler’s run of triumphs. The most obvious one was after the failed Putsch of November 1923. Had the Munich rabble-rouser been forced to serve his full five-year term of imprisonment in Landsberg, it is extremely unlikely that he would have been able to restart his political career.”

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The United States Senate—and Justice Department—now face the same dilemma faced by the judges of the Weimar Republic. 

On January 6, thousands of Donald Trump’s supporters—incited by the then-President—attacked the United States Capitol. Stormtrumpers ransacked the building while legislators—protected by only a small cadre of police—huddled fearfully. Five people—including a Capitol Hill policeman—were killed.

The Stormtrumpers’ goal: To illegally overturn Trump’s defeat in the November 3 Presidential election.

The storming of the United States Capitol

TapTheForwardAssist, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

On January 23, the Daily Mail carried a story under the headline: “Justice Department Debate NOT Charging Up to 800 MAGA Rioters at Capitol”:

“The FBI and prosecutors at the Justice Department are debating whether to decline to charge some of the MAGA rioters who stormed the United States Capitol on January 6 in an attempt to derail President Joe Biden’s certification.

“There is concern among DOJ officials that bringing charges against all of the estimated 800 rioters who ransacked the Capitol building could flood the local federal courthouse in Washington, DC, with cases.

“There have been internal discussions about forgoing charges against those who were not involved in any violence or vandalism but were simply trespassing or ‘going along with the crowd,’ The Washington Post reported.”

Meanwhile, many Republicans are strongly opposing Trump’s second impeachment trial—which is set to open on February 8. 

Some claim that the only way to “heal” the country after four divisive years of Trump is to forgive his every crime.

This amounts to Right-wing hypocrisy, since Trump himself wanted his Attorney General to “lock up” those who had not broken the law—former FBI Director James Comey, former President Barack Obama and former First Lady and Senator Hillary Clinton. 

Other Republicans are asserting that since Trump has left office, his crimes cannot be prosecuted.

Yet no other United States official has ever been granted such immunity. If an ex-Senator is found to have taken bribes, he can be tried for bribery—so long as the statute hasn’t expired

More than 500 years ago, the father of political science, Niccolo Machiavelli, examined the issue of rewards and punishments. He concluded: 

…No well-ordered republic should ever cancel the crimes of its citizens by their merits. But having established rewards for good actions and penalties for evil ones, and having rewarded a citizen for conduct who afterwards commits a wrong, he should be chastised for that without regard to his previous merits. And a state that properly observes this principle will long enjoy its liberty, but if otherwise, it will speedily come to ruin. 

For if a citizen who has rendered some eminent service to the state should add to the reputation and influence which he has thereby acquired the confident audacity of being able to commit any wrong without fear of punishment, he will in a little while become so insolent and overbearing as to put an end to all power of the law.  

For those who require more contemporary advice, the example of the Weimar Republic offers a continuing warning.

Right-wing judges and police, sympathizing with men like Adolf Hitler—who had publicly sworn to destroy the fledging Republic—ultimately made that a reality.

They must not be allowed to do the same to the American Republic.

THE TRUE LEGACY OF TRUMP’S IMPEACHMENT–ONE YEAR LATER

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 11, 2021 at 12:08 am

On December 10, 2019, Sarah Jones, editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA, did what Senate Republicans fear to do: She openly declared Donald J. Trump to be an illegitimate President whose removal is entirely justified.

She did so in an editorial titled, “Adam Schiff Tells Trump That He Won’t Be Allowed To Cheat In 2020.”

“On Tuesday as House Democrats made the formal announcement of articles of impeachment against President Trump, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff gave a perfectly accurate rebuttal to the plea that Democrats should ‘just wait’ on impeachment, saying that those who argue ‘just wait’ are actually arguing ‘just let him cheat in one more election’ and ‘let him have foreign help just one more time,’” wrote Jones. [Italics added]

PoliticusUSA - Politicus News With Sarah Jones: Trump's Crumbling Presidency | Facebook

Sarah Jones

“This matters because after three years of pretending that Trump is the rightful president, it is finally being acknowledged that not only is he trying to cheat in 2020, but it is again, because he cheated in 2016.

“For three years this nation has endured the abuses of this pretender and his entire party of lock step enablers, save for Rep. Amash of Michigan.

“For three long years those who suggested Trump was not a legitimate president were shamed and silenced, even after the Mueller report made it clear that the Trump campaign sought illegal help and took illegal help from Russia in the 2016 election….

“A cheating cheater.

“A loser.

“A man who can’t win an election and did not win an election of the people fairly.

“Donald Trump can’t win an election without cheating. He knows that, and that’s why it upsets him so much to be called out for his illegal actions.

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Donald Trump

Trump is used to getting away with his criminal entitlements, but today, even if just for a moment before Republicans in the Senate betray their country again by letting Trump off as he attacks the United States, justice has been spoken and served.”  [Italics added]

In September, 2019, the House Intelligence Committee began investigating Trump’s attempt to coerce Ukraine to smear a 2020 political rival for the White House—former Vice President Joseph Biden.

And every day of its hearings, Republicans loudly and brutally defended that extortion.

  • They didn’t offer any evidence that Trump didn’t try to extort an ally.
  • They simply attacked the witnesses who dared to come forward and testify to their own knowledge of it.
  • They attacked Schiff, who heads that committee, demanding self-righteously that he resign.

And they continued to do so throughout the Senate “trial”—where they banned witnesses from testifying about Trump’s impeachable behavior.

On February 5, 2020, the Republican-dominated Senate—ignoring the overwhelming evidence against him—acquitted Donald Trump on both impeachment articles: Obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. 

On January 2, 2021, Trump once again proved he couldn’t win without cheating: He called the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The reason: To pressure him to “find” enough votes to overturn former Vice President Joe Biden’s win in the state’s presidential election.

“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump said. “Because we won the state.”

Actually, he didn’t.

He even threatened Raffensperger with criminal prosecuted if he did not change the vote count in Trump’s favor: “That’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen.”

But there is a way to put the impeachment effort into historical perspective.

In 1960, David Hackworth was a young Army captain stationed in West Germany. The end of World War II had revealed the horror of Nazi death camps and the extermination of millions. To everyone, that is, but the Germans.

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David Hackworth

Dale Cruse. (Flickr profile.) / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

One winter’s day, Hackworth took his wife, Patty, to Dachau, the infamous concentration camp. In his 1989 memoir, About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior, he describes that experience:

“The horror of Hitler’s vision was alive and well in this grim death camp: the barracks, the ovens, the electrified barbed wire fences, remained intact. A mound here held the bones of 10,000 Jews; one over there held the bones of 12,000 more.

“The place was a monument to the darkest side of man, and yet—despite the smoke and ash that rained down on their homes from camp incinerators, despite the sickly smell of burning flesh and hair….the villagers claimed they hadn’t known. I couldn’t square it….”

Nor could Hackworth accept that “not one of the laughing, backslapping, congenial comrades I met…had fought the Americans in the West. All assured me they’d been on the Eastern Front, fighting ‘the real enemy,’ the Russians….

“In 15 years the Germans had come a long way in their rewrite of history. But at least there’s Dachau, I thought to myself, to remind them of the truth.”

So, too, will the impeachment of Donald Trump stand as a monument to the sheer evil and infamy of himself and the Republican party.

And it will remind future generations that there were decent Americans who dared to confront that evil in a stand as hopeless and glorious as that at Thermopylae and the Alamo.

HOW THE TRUMP DISASTER COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 3, 2020 at 1:23 am

The election of Donald Trump—and the subsequent dictatorial, vindictive and even treasonous behavior that followed—was not inevitable.

There were at least six instances where the Justice Department of President Barack Obama could have utterly changed the outcome of the 2016 election. Yet, for reasons still unknown, it chose to do nothing.

The first instances has been highlighted in Parts One through Three of this series. These consisted of:

Case #1:  The Obama Justice Department did not indict Trump and/or the Attorney Generals of Texas and/or Florida for bribery in the Trump University scandal.

Case #2:  The Justice Department did not indict Trump for the series of threats that he made—directly and indirectly—against Republicans and Democrats throughout the 2016 campaign.

Case #3: The Justice Department could have indicted Trump and/or his followers for voter intimidation.

Case #4 Making threats against anyone under protection by the U.S. Secret Service is a felony. Yet Donald Trump was never held legally accountable by the Justice Department for his “dog whistle” threat against Hillary Clinton.

Case #5 The Justice Department did not invalidate the results of the 2016 election, despite overwhelming evidence that Russia intervened to elect Donald Trump as Vladimir Putin’s chosen candidate. 

And now the final—and fatal—miscarriage of justice:

Case #6: The Justice Department did not prosecute Donald Trump for treason, even though he solicited aid from Russia, a nation hostile to the United States. And no major official of the government—including President Barack Obama—publicly condemned him as a traitor.  

At a news conference in Doral, Florida on July 27, 2016. Trump publicly invited “Russia”—i.e., Vladimir Putin—to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails: “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Even Trump’s Trump’s Vice Presidential running mate, Mike Pence, said: “If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences.”

Throughout 2016, the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency (NSA) found numerous ties between officials of the Trump Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. Among these:

  • Future Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
  • Future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn  and
  • Future Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The discovery of such contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian Intelligence agents led the FBI to launch an investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election. 

It was that investigation—totally justified by law and common sense—that Trump later claimed had been a “deep state” coup to prevent him from reaching the White House. 

To their shame, the federal agencies charged with safeguarding America failed to take action against these abuses. And, to their shame, the news media, to date, has failed to indict them for their negligence.

Future historians may well indict President Barack Obama for his failure to decisively act, and whose negligence led to the rise and destructive reign of Donald Trump.

Ninety-three years earlier, a similar series of circumstances led to the rise and reign of an even more destructive tyrant.

On November 9, 1923, Nazi Party Fuhrer Adolf Hitler tried to overthrow the government in Munich, Bavaria.

About 2,000 Nazis marched to the center of Munich, where they confronted heavily-armed police. A shootout erupted, killing 16 Nazis and four policemen. 

Hitler was injured during the clash, but managed to escape. Two days later, he was arrested and charged with treason.

Put on trial, he found himself treated as a celebrity by a judge sympathetic to Right-wing groups. He was allowed to brutally cross-examine witnesses and even make inflammatory speeches.

At the end of the trial, he was convicted of treason and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

Serving time in Landsberg Prison, in Bavaria. he was given a huge cell, allowed to receive unlimited visitors and gifts, and treated with deference by guards and inmates.

Hitler used his time in prison to write his infamous book, Mein Kampf-–“My Struggle.” Part autobiography, part political treatise, it laid out his future plans—including the extermination of the Jews and the conquest of the Soviet Union.

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Adolf Hitler leaving Landsberg Prison, December, 20, 1924

Nine months later, he was released on parole—by authorities loyal to the authoritarian Right instead of the newly-created Weimar Republic.

Hitler immediately began rebuilding the shattered Nazi party—and deciding on a new strategy to gain power. Never again would he resort to armed force. He would win office by election—or intrigue.

Writes historian Volker Ullrich, in his monumental new biography, Hitler: Ascent 1889 – 1939: “Historians have perennially tried to answer the question of whether Hitler’s rise to power could have been halted….

“There were repeated opportunities to end Hitler’s run of triumphs. The most obvious one was after the failed Putsch of November 1923. Had the Munich rabble-rouser been forced to serve his full five-year term of imprisonment in Landsberg, it is extremely unlikely that he would have been able to restart his political career.” [Italics added]

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Thus, it isn’t just what happens that can influence the course of history. Often, it’s what doesn’t happen that has at least as great a result.

HOW THE TRUMP DISASTER COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 2, 2020 at 12:05 am

The election of Donald Trump—and the subsequent dictatorial, vindictive and even treasonous behavior that followed—was not inevitable.

There were at least six instances where the Justice Department of President Barack Obama could have utterly changed the outcome of the 2016 election. Yet, for reasons still unknown, it chose to do nothing. 

Two of these have already been described:

Case #1:  The Obama Justice Department did not indict Trump and/or the Attorney Generals of Texas and/or Florida for their roles in the Trump University scandal. 

Case #2:  The Justice Department did not indict Trump for the series of threats that he made—directly and indirectly—against Republicans and Democrats throughout the 2016 campaign.

Case #3: The Justice Department could have indicted Trump and/or his followers for voter intimidation.

Now for the next ones:

Case #4 Making threats against anyone under protection by the U.S. Secret Service is a felony. Yet Donald Trump was never held legally accountable by the Justice Department.

  • On August 9, 2016, Trump told a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina: “Hillary [Clinton] wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
  • Reacting to Trump’s “dog-whistle” threat against Clinton, Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) said: “Well, let me say if someone else said that outside of the hall, he’d be in the back of a police wagon now, with the Secret Service questioning him.”

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Hillary Clinton

Case #5: The Justice Department did not invalidate the results of the 2016 election, despite overwhelming evidence that Russia intervened to elect Trump as Vladimir Putin’s chosen candidate. 

In July, 2016, the Russians hacked the Democratic committee’s servers—but not those of the Republican National Committee.

Admiral Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and US Cyber Command, said in mid-November, 2016, that Russia made “a conscious effort” to sway the results of the Presidential election by the hacking of 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee.

“There shouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind,” said Rogers. “This was not something that was done casually. This was not something that was done by chance. This was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily. This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.” 

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In October, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

On December 16, 2016, FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House.

Trump, however, has steadfastly denied any such role by Russia: “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it….No, I don’t believe it at all.”   

These were solid grounds for the Obama Justice Department to indict Donald Trump or invalidate the results of the 2016 election. Yet no action was taken.

Case #6: The Justice Department did not prosecute Donald Trump for treason, even though he solicited aid from Russia, a nation hostile to the United States. And no major official of the government—including President Obama—publicly condemned him as a traitor.     

On July 9, 2016, high-ranking members of his Presidential campaign met at Trump Tower with at least two lobbyists with ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. The participants included: 

  • Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.;
  • His son-in-law, Jared Kushner;
  • His then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort; 
  • Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with ties to Putin; and 
  • Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer suspected of “having ongoing ties to Russian Intelligence.”

The purpose of that meeting: To gain access to any “dirt” Russian Intelligence could supply on Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton. 

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Donald Trump

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Early reports traced the leak to Russian hackers. 

At a news conference in Doral, Florida on July 27, 2016, Trump publicly invited “Russia”—i.e., Vladimir Putin—to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails: “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” 

Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targeted Clinton’s personal office and hit more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts.

This was essentially treason—calling on a hostile foreign power to interfere directly in an American Presidential election. And it was seen as such by both Democrats and even Republicans: 

“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” Hillary for America policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.” 

Brendon Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said: “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. Putin should stay out of this election.”

HOW THE TRUMP DISASTER COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 1, 2020 at 12:11 am

The election of Donald Trump—and his subsequent dictatorial, vindictive and even treasonous behavior that followed—was not inevitable.

There were at least six instances where the Justice Department of President Barack Obama could have utterly changed the outcome of the 2016 election. Yet, for reasons still unknown, it chose to do nothing.

The first instance has been highlighted in Part One of this series: Case #1:  The Obama Justice Department did not indict Trump and/or the Attorney Generals of Texas and/or Florida for their roles in the Trump University scandal. 

Here is the next one:

Case #2:  The Justice Department did not indict Trump for the series of threats that he made—directly and indirectly—against Republicans and Democrats throughout the 2016 campaign. 

Threatening political opponents with violence is a crime under Federal law. Yet making threats against his Republican and Democratic opponents played a major role in Trump’s Presidential campaign.  

Amazon.com: Wall Plaque of Seal of Department of Justice (DOJ), Official Colors: Wall Art

Seal of the Justice Department

  • On March 16, 2016, Trump warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”
  • An NBC reporter summed it up as: “The message to Republicans was clear on [March 16]: ‘Nice convention you got there, shame if something happened to it.’” 
  • That Republicans clearly saw this as a threat is undeniable. Paul Ryan, their Speaker of the House, said on March 17: “Nobody should say such things in my opinion because to even address or hint to violence is unacceptable.”
  • Philip Klein, the managing editor of the Washington Examiner, wrote on the eve of the Republican National Convention in July: “Political commentators now routinely talk about the riots that would break out in Cleveland if Trump were denied the nomination, about how his supporters have guns and all hell could break loose, that they would burn everything to the ground. It works to Trump’s advantage to not try too hard to dispel these notions.”
  • On July 29, 2016, Roger Stone, a notorious Right-wing political consultant acting as a Trump strategist, told Breitbart News: “The first thing Trump needs to do is begin talking about [voter fraud] constantly. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.”
  • At a town hall meeting where Trump’s Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence appeared, a woman named Rhonda said: “For me personally, if Hillary Clinton gets in, I myself am ready for a revolution.”
  • In Cincinnati, a Trump supporter threatened to forcibly remove Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, from the White House if she won the race: “If she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it,” said Dan Bowman, a 50-year-old contractor. “We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take….”

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Fergus Cullen

Even Fergus Cullen, former chairman of the New Hampshire GOP, expressed fear of what might happen if Trump lost the election:

“That’s really scary,” Cullen said, recounting the violence at Trump rallies around the country leading up to the Republican National Convention. “In this country, we’ve always had recriminations after one side loses. But we haven’t had riots. We haven’t had mobs that act out with violence against supporters of the other side.

“There’s no telling what his supporters would be willing to do at the slightest encouragement from their candidate,” he said. 

Case #3: The Justice Department could have indicted Trump and/or his followers for voter intimidation.

18 U.S. Code Section 594 states: “Whoever intimidates, threatens, coerces, or attempts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose…shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”

Trump even began encouraging his mostly white supporters to sign up online to be “election observers” to stop “Crooked Hillary from rigging this election.” He urged them to act as poll watchers in “other” [non-white] communities to ensure that things are “on the up and up.”

Many of his supporters promised to do so.

“Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure,” said Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio.

“I’ll look for…well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”

Knowing that large numbers of angry—and possibly armed—Right-wingers planned to descend on polling places could only have had a chilling effect on untold numbers of Democratic voters. And this would have been especially true in heavily conservative states.

But the Justice Department refused to act.

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