Saturday, February 12, 2022
Earlier this week, a new Pew survey found that the share of Americans who believe Donald Trump was largely responsible for the violence of Jan. 6, 2021, has declined by nearly 10 percent over the past year, while the percentage of people who think he bears no responsibility has increased by almost as much. On Wednesday, the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty released a new report that helps explain that shift: The same Christian nationalism that served as the unifying principle behind the Jan. 6 insurrection is also driving efforts among the faithful to rewrite the history of that day.
As two of the report's contributors, scholars Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry, co-authors of "Taking America Back for God," noted in a launch event on Wednesday, Christian nationalist support for Jan. 6 rioters has doubled in the past year, while support for prosecuting those rioters has declined by 20 percent. That suggests, said Perry, "that this ideology is powerfully connected to a reinterpretation of these events" in a way that could become "a powerful motivator for future potential violence."
Within the political and cultural universe of Christian nationalism, America is a special place: It was created as a Christian nation and its founding documents were divinely inspired. Christianity should and must have a privileged position in public life, and "true Americans" are understood to be "white, culturally conservative, natural-born citizens."
That ideology, argues the report, served both as the unifying theme for the various factions that joined in the assault on the Capitol as well as the "permission structure" that allowed participants to justify their violence. To call those fringe ideas is misleading: Surveys repeatedly find that close to half of the country supports the idea of fusing Christianity and civic life.
Christian nationalism also lends itself to a number of other convictions, notes the report. Surveys in early 2021 found strong associations between Christian nationalist views, such as the proposition that the federal government should declare America a Christian nation, and a whole range of far-right beliefs not directly connected to faith. Those include the disproved claim that Antifa or Black Lives Matter caused the violence on Jan. 6, while Donald Trump was blameless; support for various white supremacist and antisemitic beliefs; and even a willingness to accept the outlandish premises of QAnon.
Two-thirds of white Americans who strongly support Christian nationalist ideology believe that the 2020 election was rigged; 40 percent of them think that violence from patriotic Americans might be necessary to save the country; and more than 40 percent are convinced that Democrats are engaged in "elite child trafficking," said Whitehead.
Penn religion scholar Anthea Butler, the author of "White Evangelical Racism," writes that white Christian nationalism began moving more firmly into the mainstream after 9/11, as the "Holy War" coding of the "War on Terror" helped popularize its ideology, laying the groundwork for Trump's rise.
"It's astonishing to so many of us that the leaders of the Jan. 6 attack styled themselves as patriots," Stewart added at Wednesday's event. "But it makes a glimmer of sense once we start to understand that their allegiance is to a belief in blood, earth and religion, rather than to the mere idea of a government of the people, by the people and for the people."
Most of the report was written by Andrew Seidel, a constitutional attorney at the Freedom from Religion Foundation and author of "The Founding Myth." It consists of a meticulous accounting, drawing on hundreds of hours of video footage, of Christian nationalism's ubiquitous role in the lead-up to Jan. 6 and its execution. There are the flags, the signs, the cross and gallows that we've all seen.
There are also some less familiar pieces of evidence, such as the 50-person Christian choir singing about swords and taking possession of the land while the attack was underway. Multiple rioters recounted how God's hand or voice had urged them to enter the capitol.
"They marched around government buildings in state capitals and in D.C., including the Capitol and the Supreme Court, blowing on shofars and claiming to know God's will," said Seidel. "Sometimes I wonder how could we possibly have been surprised by the violence that day."
More than a year later, said the panelists, Christian nationalists continue to march under slightly new banners, leading efforts to suppress voting rights through gerrymandering and new legislation that would require everything from lifetime disenfranchisement of convicted felons to Jim Crow-style civics tests for would-be voters. . . . . Christian nationalism is also animating numerous state and local fights, including culture-war battles like the manufactured debate over critical race theory, as well as efforts to silence dissenting Christians.
Relegating Christian nationalism back to the margins, say the report's authors, will not be easy. That would require a national recommitment to the separation of church and state, countering the historical myths propping up Christian nationalist ideology, and coalition work between secular and religious allies.
"I don't really know if people understand how close we were to losing America that day," said Seidel. "If they decide to get a little more serious next time, we are in big trouble."
"America is really a shared ideal, and Christian nationalism refuses to share," said Seidel. "That's the choice we face: Christian nationalism or America. Because we can't have both."
Be very afraid of these people and their movement.
Friday, February 11, 2022
An enduring mystery might finally have been solved. Remember when Donald Trump ranted about how “people are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once,” and nobody knew what on earth he was talking about? Maybe he was referring to personal difficulties in trying to flush away official White House documents.
A forthcoming book by New York Times correspondent Maggie Haberman, who covered Trump’s White House, reports that staff in the upstairs residence repeatedly found one of the toilets clogged with wads of printed paper. Trump issued a statement Thursday denying any and all document-flushing. But given what else we know about how he handled official paperwork — which belongs to the nation, not to him — I’m inclined to believe Haberman’s version of events.
From reporting in The Post, we learned this week that the National Archives and Records Administration had to recover 15 boxes of documents that Trump wrongly took with him to Mar-a-Lago, rather than sending them to the agency as required by law . . . . now the National Archives and Records Administration has asked the Justice Department to investigate the matter.
We also know that some of the documents Trump did send to the Archives when he left office were pieced together with tape because of Trump’s habit of ripping up papers by hand when he finished with them — despite having been repeatedly warned, including by his chiefs of staff, that federal law required all those materials to be preserved.
“People who have nothing to hide don’t … destroy evidence to keep it from being publicly archived as required under federal law.” That’s not me talking; that’s what Trump himself said at a campaign rally in 2016, as he railed about the earth-shattering importance of how Hillary Clinton had handled or mishandled her emails.
The Justice Department should indeed investigate whether Trump broke the law by destroying, stealing or flushing official documents that he was required to preserve and surrender to the Archives. Granted, it is much more urgent that Justice investigate whether Trump committed the crime of seditious conspiracy by inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. But the question of the documents cannot simply be dismissed with a “Trump will be Trump” shrug.
Unlike his cluttered business headquarters in Trump Tower, the Oval Office never belonged to Trump — or to any other president. It belongs to us, the American people, and so does the flood of paper that passes through.
And while the Justice Department has to be deliberate in deciding whether to launch any investigation, let alone one into the actions of a former president, Congress is under no such constraint. Let’s have some hearings, people.
If the Democrats in charge of the House and Senate have forgotten how to do this sort of thing, they should solicit some pointers from their colleagues across the aisle.
They fished for facts — or politically useful innuendo — from the FBI, the attorney general, the State Department, the office of the Director of National Intelligence and a host of other government agencies, as well as several private technology firms. In one month alone, September 2016, the GOP-led House Oversight and Reform Committee held five days of “emergency” hearings about Clinton’s emails and issued a dozen subpoenas.
Clinton was indeed careless. But Trump appears to have been both deliberate and persistent in his unlawful destruction of documents. Either the Presidential Records Act means something, or it doesn’t. Congress must choose.
A piece at The Atlantic continues this look into Trump lawless behavior and not just in the context of record destruction. Here are highlights:
Donald Trump doesn’t like to read, and, apparently, he doesn’t want other people to read either.
A series of reports this week have revealed how extensively the former president destroyed documents produced by his administration, in defiance of federal laws. When the House committee investigating January 6 and Trump’s attempts to overturn the election received documents it had requested from the National Archives, some of them had been ripped up and then taped back together—the work, respectively, of Trump, who has long handled papers that way, and staffers, who were trying to comply with federal laws requiring records preservation.
When he didn’t try to destroy documents, Trump absconded with some of them. In January, The Washington Post reports, the National Archives and Records Administration had to collect 15 boxes of records that Trump had improperly taken with him to his estate at Mar-a-Lago.
The Presidential Records Act, passed after Watergate, requires that all documents from an administration be preserved and archived by the government to create a historical record and avoid cover-ups. Compliance has sometimes been uneven, but it worsened under the last president. “Trump’s shredding of paper was far more widespread and indiscriminate than previously known and—despite multiple admonishments—extended throughout his presidency,” the Post reported. Crews would come behind the president, sweep up the remains, and then try to reassemble them. Some of these documents could be essential to understanding a singularly corrupt and dangerous administration, whether by congressional investigators today or historians in the future.
The PRA, like many laws dealing with the executive branch, was not designed for a president as lawless and shameless as Trump. These laws were designed to deal with someone like Richard Nixon: a corrupt lawbreaker, yes, but one who cared deeply about American institutions and his historical legacy. As a result, the statutes have weak or nonexistent enforcement mechanisms, because their framers assumed that shame or political pressure would take care of that.
The problem is that the statute doesn’t treat it as “critical” by instituting serious consequences for breaking it. The text doesn’t lay out enforcement, and when lawsuits have asked the courts to step in, judges have shied away from trying to “micromanage the president’s day-to-day compliance,” as a federal judge put it in 2020.
Trump learned early in his private-sector career that it is sometimes more advantageous to break the law and dare someone to call you out than to follow it—and that even if you get caught, the penalty is often a fine dwarfed by the upside of the infraction. He brought that philosophy to the White House . . .T rump’s White House lawyers repeatedly warned him about the legal requirement to save documents, just as they warned him about other possible violations of the law, but he had something more powerful than an attorney’s knowledge of the law: the knowledge that it didn’t matter.
Trump circumvented anti-nepotism rules against appointing family members to top administration positions by simply having the family members he appointed go unpaid. The salaries that advisers such as Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump forwent were small compared with their fortunes, and besides, the family was making money from the government in other ways. . . . they knew they had little to fear, because the person in charge of enforcing the law was the president himself.
These relatively petty violations were just a warm-up. During the 2016 election, Trump welcomed Russian interference, but Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded that he could not indict a sitting president. Emboldened, Trump set about soliciting foreign help even more brazenly. The one body that could punish him was Congress, but he realized that he could run out the clock on investigations by stonewalling—with, you guessed it, little enforcement. Eventually, Congress took the dramatic step of impeaching him, but once Trump realized that the Senate would not convict him, he was back to the same behavior even before the vote occurred. As I wrote in January 2021, his attempts at overturning the 2020 election were the price of failing to punish him then.
The Presidential Records Act was designed to make sure that future generations could understand serious misdeeds like these; it is a bitter irony that the law may fail for the same reasons that the misdeeds went unpunished. Scotch-tape-wielding officials can save only so much, and records that have been destroyed can never be recovered. The problem is one that a famous creator of executive-branch records, Donald Rumsfeld, might have called an “unknown unknown”: Because there is no way of identifying what records Trump might have destroyed or stolen, we’ll never know what we don’t know about the Trump presidency.
Thursday, February 10, 2022
Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., the freshman firebrand who has vociferously backed Donald Trump's baseless claims of election fraud, might face a formal bar from seeking re-election to Congress over his apparent role in fanning the flames of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which put his own congressional colleagues in peril.
On Monday, the North Carolina State Board of Elections argued that it has the power to disqualify Cawthorn's candidacy, an assertion that came in direct response to the lawmaker's challenge against his potential ouster.
In two court filings in federal court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, state attorneys called the congressman's arguments "dubious," adding that the "burden" Cawthorn claimed was "outweighed by the interest of the state and its people."
In January, a coalition of North Carolina voters petitioned the state election board to invalidate Cawthorn's candidacy over his apparent role in stoking the Capitol riot. The group invoked the "disqualification clause" in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, in part:
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same ...
Last week, Cawthorn waged a legal offensive against his potential disqualification, suing the above-mentioned voters and asking a federal judge to dismiss their complaint.
Now the board is asking for Cawthorn's suit to be dismissed, writing that "states have long enforced age and residency requirements, without question and with very few if any legal challenges. ...The State has the same authority to police which candidates should or should not be disqualified per Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment."
Cawthorn may be in more jeopardy than most other Republican members of Congress when it comes to the period just before and after the Capitol assault. In December, just weeks before the insurrection, Cawthorn encouraged his followers to "lightly threaten" their representatives, instructing voters to say, "If you don't support election integrity, I'm coming after you."
During the "Stop the Steal" rally, which presaged the riot, the lawmaker blasted certain Republicans for "not fighting" hard enough against Biden's electoral victory, calling Republican detractors "cowards." He initially appeared elated when rioters breached the House chamber and began vandalizing it, writing on Twitter: "The battle is on the house floor, not in the streets of D.C."
Wednesday, February 09, 2022
Of all the attempts around the country to coddle the snowflakes among us who can’t handle the reality that our shared history is equal parts noble and brutal, the “discomfort” bill in the Florida state legislature is the most idiotic.
The official name of the legislation, part of the bonkers “stop woke” agenda of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, is “Individual Freedom.” One of its provisions directs that classroom instruction not make any student "feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race.”
That protection from “discomfort,” of course, is a one-way street accessible only to White students. What about the unease Black students feel learning history that is sanitized or just plain incorrect? I know I’m going back some decades, but I’ll never forget the discomfort of being one of the few Black kids in a predominantly White school, especially during history class when slavery, the Civil War, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. or the civil rights movement would come up.
No one ever saw my growing alarm as I realized that the (startlingly brief) section on slavery would be intoned by me. I could feel the eyes on me as I read aloud paragraphs that barely scratched the surface of the inhumanity visited upon my ancestors.
The Civil War was merely a costly conflict between North and South that resulted in the liberation of the slaves. And the civil rights movement, in retrospect, was discussed with an odd mix of admiration at how African Americans braved harrowing violence to push for the equality promised in the Constitution — and annoyance at how they disrupted the status quo by doing so. Mostly, though, Black people and our foundational contributions to this country were downplayed or ignored.
[B]ack to that Florida bill. While it says educators “may facilitate discussions and use curricula” to teach about things such as slavery, racial oppression and racial discrimination, the flawed measure includes a big ol’ “but.” It says that “classroom instruction and curriculum may not be used to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view inconsistent with the principles of this subsection or state academic standards.”
“Indoctrinate or persuade” is a giant loophole that could potentially lead to banning anything that twinges the fragile sensibilities of those who can’t handle confronting the truth or being intellectually challenged. Just how vacant this legislation and this movement are was illustrated by Tina Descovich, a leader of the conservative group Moms for Liberty. “To say there were slaves is one thing,” she told The Post, “but to talk in detail about how slaves were treated, and with photos, is another.” This is the very definition of what author Robin DiAngelo calls “white fragility,” which she says is “triggered by discomfort and anxiety" but is “born of superiority and entitlement.”
This past month, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) issued an executive order to “end the use of inherently divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory” — which, I might point out, is not taught anywhere in Virginia public K-12 schools. During a radio interview that followed, Youngkin announced that there is even a tip line for parents to report school officials who they believe are teaching “divisive” subjects.
Singer John Legend had the perfect response to Youngkin’s nonsense. “Black parents need to flood these tip lines with complaints about our history being silenced,” he wrote on Twitter. “We are parents too.”
That’s who gets lost in all this: Black parents and their children. All because some White people can’t bear feeling “uncomfortable” learning about “divisive” subjects. They want a gauzy, feel-good version of history that blinds them to the impact such a mythology has on events unfolding now. Meanwhile, Black people have to live with the real-life consequences of this blissful ignorance.
Imani Perry, an African American studies professor at Princeton University, writes: “Americans are quite good at taking up pleasures of history and leaving its victims to fend for themselves. … If you want to understand a nation, or have aspirations for it that are decent, myth ought to be resisted.”
We’ll never understand this country as long as book banning, tip lines and legislation to bubble-wrap the tender White souls among us continue to flourish. We’ll just have more Black kids reading more rewrites of history, wondering what was left out. And they’ll know their discomfort never mattered.
Reactionary religion and its political lackeys are an evil and need to be recognized as such. Christofascists and Islamic fundamentalists are really little different save for the book they wave around while seeking to harm others and stifle knowledge.
Tuesday, February 08, 2022
DeSantis, a Republican, said it was "entirely inappropriate" for teachers and school administrators to have conversations with students about their gender identity, saying that, in some schools, children are told "Don't worry, don't pick your gender yet."
According to the legislation, which opponents have dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill, school districts "may not encourage discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students." It is not clear what would be considered "age" or "developmentally" appropriate.
In Texas book banning efforts are off the charts. The reality behind these efforts are in no way "grassroots" locally grown efforts. Rather, they are being pushed by far right organizations funded by billionaires and long time Christofascist culture wars veterans whose agenda is not only to ban books but to also siphon funding from public schools and create charter schools run by themselves and their religiously extreme allies. Sadly, the soccer mom's who voted for Youngkn were and likely remain clueless to the fact that they were manipulated by far right deep pockets, many of which are ultimately anything but "pro-family" as they push a vulture capitalism agenda and would shred public funding for education and the social safety net. A lengthy piece in Salon looks at the insidious reality of who is behind the book banning effort and the erasing of blacks, gays and accurate history from public education and public libraries. Here are excerpts:
Until very recently, "book bans" seemed like a term out of the past, or a phenomenon that erupted sporadically in small school or library district in the most conservative areas of the country. But over the last several years, parents' groups aggrieved by the left's alleged influence K-12 education have been working tirelessly to bring them back. All kinds of books have been exiled from library shelves or school curricula in the latest book-ban frenzy, although there's no question that books about slavery, racism and the civil rights movement, along with books about growing up LGBTQ and that community's struggle for equality, are center stage.
This phenomenon has largely been perceived, and framed in media accounts, as a grassroots movement, with local groups of parents or school-board officials leading the brigade in their own towns or neighborhoods. But that may not be the real story. New reporting suggests that certain elements of this broad-based advocacy have been coordinated by some of the country's most influential deep-pockets conservatives, who stand much to gain from fanning the flames of the culture war, even at the most granular levels.
Last week, The Guardian reported that a number of ostensible grassroots groups on the frontlines of the "parental rights" movement have connections to right-wing politicians and donor networks who are highly skilled at "astroturfing" local conflicts on a national scale.
Notable among these groups is Moms for Liberty, a 70,000-member nonprofit with 165 chapters throughout the country. The group is operated by Tina Descovich and Tiffany Justice, two former school board members. But according to its articles of incorporation, Moms for Liberty was originally co-founded and co-directed by Bridget Ziegler, the wife of Christian Ziegler, vice chairman of the Florida Republican Party, as Media Matters noted. Marie Rogerson, a former campaign consultant who now serves as the group's director of development, formerly worked for Republican state Rep. Randy Fine, according to Treasure Coast Newspapers. Fine himself has been a central figure in Florida Republicans' crusade against "critical race theory."
Groups like Parents Defending Education and No Left Turn in Education also operate in the same ecosystem and, like Moms for Liberty, have connections to big players in right-wing politics.
Parents Defending Education — a self-described "grassroots organization" promoting "the restoration of a healthy, non-political education for our kids" — is led by Nicole Neily, whose résumé is littered with connections to the Koch brothers. . . . Neily has also served in leadership capacities at the Independent Women's Forum and the Cato Institute, both of which are direct recipients of Koch cash.
At present, nonprofit law does not require nonprofit organizations such as Moms for Liberty to disclose their donors. But in an interview with Salon, Moms for Liberty co-founder Tiffany Justice . . . "If somebody wants to write me a check to get masks off of kids' faces and to make sure that kids in schools are not being indoctrinated," Justice said, "absolutely, I'm going to take that check."
No Left Turn's funding is, likewise, something a mystery. The group, which had 30 chapters in 23 states as of last June, lists among its supporters numerous high-profile right-wingers, including David Clarke, the pro-Trump former sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, who often speaks at GOP events and has taken money from the National Rifle Association. . . . Other board members include Sharon Slater, president of Family Watch International, an evangelical lobbying nonprofit famous for spreading anti-LGBTQ pseudoscience; and CEO Elana Yaron Fishbein, who reportedly attended a private briefing held by the Heritage Foundation last May with state lawmakers looking to remove "critical race theory" from classrooms, according to NBC News.
In organizing terms, Moms for Liberty, Parents Defending Education and No Left Turn all adhere to a similar formula, as the Guardian noted. In most cases, a parent ostensibly flags a local school for doing something they consider beyond the pale, such as incorporating "controversial" books about gender or sexuality into the curricula. That parent and their allies reach out to one of the aforementioned groups, whose leaders weave the incident into their broader national narrative.
To smoothen this process, some groups provide detailed walkthroughs for parents about how to file open records requests, create press releases, file civil rights complaints and petition school boards.
Taken together, parents' rights groups appear to have a relatively narrow focus: to eradicate what they see as left-wing ideology from public schools. But Dr. Maurice T. Cunningham, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the author of "Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization," argues that their real goals are far more ambitious.
"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind — zero — that what groups like Moms for Liberty and Parents Defending Education are doing is structural and aimed at the destruction and ultimate privatization of America's public school system," Cunningham, wrote by email. "These groups are communications operations and highly networked into The Daily Caller, Breitbart [and] Fox News. They have gotten educators fired and attacked online. They want to create chaos," he concluded, "to destroy trust in public education and draw funding away."
Over the past several months, parents rights' groups have turned their attention from poorly-defined academic concepts like "critical race theory" to removing books they deem objectionable. More often than not, these turn out to be written by authors of color and LGTBQ+ authors, or to deal directly with themes of race, sex and gender.
In Texas, this book-banning fever has now reached the state legislature. . . . Meanwhile, students are already protesting against the bans and numerous youth-led activist groups have begun distributing banned books for free.
The issue, he added, goes well beyond angry parents and school boards. "We now also have a political campaign to pass bills barring the discussion of certain topics in schools," he said, "and there's a new wave of bills that is increasingly targeting all kinds of curricular materials or materials in school libraries."
Indeed, over the past several years, state-level Republicans have led a broader effort to control or restrict certain ways and means of teaching about American history, LGBTQ+ rights, sex education and related topics. To this point, 36 states have proposed bills or otherwise moved to restrict "critical race theory" or the instruction of racism and sexism in the classrooms, according to Education Week.
Friedman said these measures won't just impact how kids build their worldviews, but how also they define themselves. "If students don't encounter a book in school," he explained, "they are being deprived of the opportunity to think about alternative identities, or even to find themselves. They're being deprived of the opportunity to feel like they belong."
These groups are vicious and parents need to wake up to the reality that they are being used just as the GOP has used "god, guns, and gays" to get voters to vote against their own best interests.
Monday, February 07, 2022
The best way to understand a controversial new resolution from the Republican National Committee censuring Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger is not, as some people have suggested, to legitimize the January 6 attack on the Capitol, but as something more primal: Trump service. . . . . designed to pacify the angry ochre god-king and his acolytes.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, the Republican Party prided itself on being a big-tent party. This didn’t mean that anything went—generally, members were expected to adhere to a philosophy of free markets and small government—but the party tolerated the left-leaning Nelson Rockefeller as well as the rock-ribbed Barry Goldwater, the conservative Ronald Reagan and the moderate Arlen Specter. The GOP no longer has many coherent policy goals, mixing free traders and tariff fanatics, entitlement-cutters with populists. The single unifying requirement is paying fealty to Donald Trump. Pretty much anyone willing to do that is welcome. This resolution is a demonstration of that fealty.
Cheney and Kinzinger’s purported sin is that they are serving on the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection and Trump’s attempts to overturn the election. . . . . This is a growing irritant to Trump allies, because the committee has been scoring repeated, though preliminary, successes. CNN reported just yesterday that Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, one of McCarthy’s would-be appointees, spoke with Trump for 10 minutes on January 6. The committee has additionally collected damning evidence about Trump’s machinations before that day, and about communications with his aides during the riot.
The RNC’s resolution says that Cheney and Kinzinger “are participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse, and they are both utilizing their past professed political affiliation to mask Democrat abuse of prosecutorial power for partisan purposes.” After initial coverage of the resolution portrayed it as referring to the January 6 violence as “legitimate political discourse,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel released a statement saying the January 6 committee was persecuting “ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol.”
Even if it stops short of declaring the violence “legitimate political discourse,” the resolution is nevertheless an attack on basic democratic principles. It is part of a push to legitimize the “paperwork coup,” the weeks-long effort by Trump and his cronies to cling to power by stealing an election that Joe Biden had won. Whether such behavior was illegal or simply immoral, dishonest, and dangerous to American democracy is a topic crying out for debate and investigation—by, say, the January 6 committee.
The RNC could have called for Cheney and Kinzinger to be expelled from the House Republican Caucus, but it didn’t do that, because the point is to satisfy Trump—a man who’s always been more concerned with appearances than actions.
Once you start looking for Trump service in today’s Republican Party, you can see it everywhere. The phenomenon of smart, ambitious politicians clumsily attempting to appeal to Trump and earn his endorsement, which I noted recently, is one example. Even politicians who are toying with challenging Trump for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination are engaged in Trump service.
The imperative of Trump service is why former Vice President Mike Pence’s presidential hopes are doomed. Yesterday, Pence once again said that he’d had no power to overturn the results of the 2020 election. . . . Pence simply cannot perform sufficient Trump service without saying that he could have overturned the election, which would, of course, be disqualifying in the eyes of Trump fans.
One might say that these contortions to pacify Trump are really just attempts to respond to the desires of Republican voters, but this defense is flawed. First, pandering to voters who wanted to overturn a legitimate election (and coddling their false claims that the election was stolen) is an abdication of citizenship and leadership.
Second, if Trump service is intended as voter service, it’s at least a second-order effect; the participants seem most concerned about what the former president will do. . . . Some recent polls have even found that fewer than half of Republican voters—including many Trump fans—want to see him run again in 2024.
In 2016, Republican primary voters drove Trump’s success, even as party leaders were horrified by him. Six years later, the voters have cooled a bit on Trump, but the party apparatus has turned itself over to placate him.
Sunday, February 06, 2022
Since January 2021, according to an analysis by Education Week, Republican lawmakers in 37 states have introduced dozens of bills to restrict teaching on the subject of race and racism under the guise of opposition to “critical race theory.” In 14 states, restrictions have either passed into law or been imposed through either executive action or on the authority of a state education commission.
One predictable outcome of this frenzy — which includes state lawmakers scrutinizing K-12 and college curriculums for “indoctrination” — is a chilling effect in classrooms, as any attempt to teach an accurate history of racism in the United States is placed under hostile scrutiny. Educators accused of indoctrinating students with “critical race theory” have reported threats and physical harassment, and some schools — in Alabama, for example — are now defending their Black History Month programs from similar accusations of subversion.
Last fall, around the same time that Republican lawmakers in several states were drafting and championing these bills, the Library of America — a nonprofit publisher of significant works in American writing and literature — released its edition of W.E.B. Du Bois’s groundbreaking “Black Reconstruction in America . . . . There is no direct connection between the book’s republication and the wave of educational gag orders around race and racism. Nonetheless, there is something fortuitous in how Du Bois, writing from 1935, comments on and critiques the politics of history in 2022.
The concluding chapter of “Black Reconstruction,” “The Propaganda of History,” is a polemical essay on the uses and abuses of historical narrative as well as a heated attack on the mainstream of American history writing as it existed in the 1920s and ’30s, when Du Bois’s book was conceived, researched and written.
Du Bois excoriates those historians for acting less as “scientists” in search of something like objective truth and more as propagandists for a social and economic order of segregation, violence and exploitation . . . . Du Bois, by his own account, is “astonished” by the idea that the evil of history must be “forgotten, distorted, skimmed over.” . . . . The difficulty with this approach, he continues, “is that history loses its value and incentive and example; it paints perfect men and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth.”
[Du Bois] believed that history should aspire to be something like a science. And if that was to be the case, “if the record of human action is going to be set down with that accuracy and faithfulness of detail which will allow its use as a measuring rod and guidepost for the future of nations,” then in his view, “there must be set some standards of ethics in research and interpretation.”
Du Bois’s view was that, when it came to Reconstruction and the “American Negro,” American historians had fallen far short of that ideal. Instead, they produced — for the consumption of both students and the general public — a history that cast Reconstruction as a “disgraceful attempt to subject white people to ignorant Negro rule.” Rather than treat history as “a science or as an art using the results of science,” they had used it as a tool of “pleasure and amusement, for inflating our national ego, and giving us a false but pleasurable sense of accomplishment.”
It is not hard to see how this critique applies to present circumstances. Spurred by a wave of youth protest that revealed (and then underscored) the extent to which the conservative movement had failed to inculcate, in the next generation, its view of what America is, this effort to gag any discussion of the United States that doesn’t affirm a triumphant narrative of national innocence is a clear and obvious attempt to make up for lost time.
[T]his effort to censor American history for students is doomed to failure. But I do think that the urgency with which it has been fought is a sign of something important. The ferocity of the drive to keep serious discussions of race and racism out of America’s classrooms is an admission, however tacit, that something has changed, and conservatives are on the losing end of that transformation. Where once they were an establishment — such that Du Bois was a voice in the wilderness — now they are on the defensive.
Put simply, the people and institutions behind the bans on “critical race theory” are fighting a rear-guard action, and they know it.